Rainbow Dash soared across the skies above Ponyville, heading towards the bar. She was, uncharacteristically, flying at a leisurely speed, and even more uncharacteristically, early.
It allowed her the opportunity to think.
Am I ready for this?
Yes. Yes she was. Rainbow Dash wasn’t afraid of anything! Carpy D.M., and all that. Pausing was for sissies.
And yet, when she tried to descend, her wings somehow had a moment of totally involuntary stiffness that forced her to continue gliding. Instead, she spent another fifteen minutes dithering through the clouds and eventually circling the airspace above the bar.
It’ll be fine, she thought. They’re my friends, and they’ll like me no matter what.
She didn’t feel all that reassured. Pinkie Pie would, of course, probably not care at all. But Twilight and Rarity were incredibly straight-laced, and Applejack could be pretty judgmental at times. Starlight Glimmer was also kind of new to their group and there was no telling how she would react. But what worried Rainbow most of all was how Fluttershy would take the news. Fluttershy had been her best friend for years, and Rainbow had been lying to her all this time.
She was suddenly gripped by another bout of quickened, panicked heartbeat. Rainbow shut her eyes tight and repeated to herself yet again that Fluttershy would never hate her for any reason at all, let alone something as simple as her sexual orientation.
And so it was with a last few hesitant flaps that Rainbow Dash landed outside the bar and nervously stepped inside.
It was a bustling weekend night, and even though the bar was full, it still wasn’t too noisy. Seated in an extra-large booth at the far end of the room came the joyful conversation and boisterous giggles of her six friends. Spike was of course absent, being too young to drink.
She joined them and was greeted with a chorus of hellos.
“So what’s up, Sugarcube?” asked Applejack. “I’m just dyin’ to hear what exactly your big news is.”
Rainbow looked around the table. All of them were giving her an encouraging look, though Pinkie seemed to be especially tense for some reason. Rainbow steeled herself…
“I-I need a drink first.”
Twilight raised a hoof for the waiter, looking at Rainbow quizzically as she did so. “That bad, huh?”
The mares all ordered another round of drinks. One order arrival later, Rainbow Dash still had yet to work up the courage to speak.
This is ridiculous, she thought to herself. I’m a Wonderbolt. I’ve faced gods and monsters of legend to save the world. And I am THE Ponyville ball-bouncing champion! Coming out to my friends should be a cinch!
She grabbed the mug of hard cider right off the table and downed it in a single gulp. Then she stood up, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Girls… I’m gay.”
There was silence. It went on for quite a while.
Rainbow Dash opened her eyes. Her friends were still staring at her, but oddly, not in shock. Instead, they looked at her with the same interested expectation as they did earlier.
Eventually, Rarity broke the silence.
“Uh, what?” asked a confused Rainbow.
The girls stared at her in bewilderment.
Applejack facehoofed. “Rainbow, are you sayin’ that you called us here tonight to… come out to us?”
“Err… yes?” Rainbow looked at the faces of her friends. Fluttershy and Rarity were smiling sympathetically. Twilight seemed somewhat puzzled, and Starlight was looking at the others with equal curiosity. Applejack still hadn’t removed her hoof from her face. Pinkie, however, was practically brimming with excitement.
“Can I do it now?” she whispered.
Applejack sighed. “Go ahead.”
Pinkie yanked on a rope that seemed to have come out of nowhere and the booth was immediately showered with confetti. She took out a dragon party whistle and blew on it, and then shouted, “CONGRATULATIONS ON COMING O–”
Rainbow immediately stuffed her left hoof into Pinkie’s mouth. She looked nervously around the bar, where several heads had turned in response to the outburst. “Pinkie! I know I’ve just told you girls, but I don’t want anypony else to know!”
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Rainbow, ya really have no idea at all, do ya?”
“Now, now Applejack,” said Rarity, “Rainbow is our friend, and we should treat her like one, even if she is rather clueless sometimes.” She turned to Rainbow and explained, “Rainbow, telling us was a very brave thing to do, and I’m sure it took a lot of courage, but we sort of already assumed you were gay.”
Rarity giggled. “I mean, the rainbow mane and tail are rather a dead giveaway.”
“This is my natural mane color, you know! My dad has almost the same colors and he isn’t gay!”
"Well, there is also your apparent love for sports…"
"Hey now, ain't nothin' gay about a mare likin' exercise," said Applejack pointedly.
"Yeah!" said Rainbow, her voice tinged with just a tiny bit of annoyance.
“Well yes, making that assumption is a little judgmental,” said Twilight diplomatically. “We shouldn't rely on stereotypes like that as evidence. But you have to admit that you did move to Ponyville of all places without any apparent reason.”
“…Move to Ponyville?”
All of Rainbow’s friends were seized by another round of awkward silence.
Applejack sighed in exasperation. “Rainbow, you are aware that Ponyville is the fillyfooler capital of Equestria, right?”
Rainbow’s mouth dropped open.
“Fillyfooler… cap…” she stammered.
“Yes, Rainbow,” said Twilight. “’Fillyfooler’, etymologically originating from the Minoan word philophile, meaning lover of love–”
“Wait, really?” said Starlight Glimmer. “I thought it was just a word that meant you liked fooling around with fillies.”
“Eww, Starlight! That sounds like they’re messing with underaged foals! Though the male equivalent coltcuddler did use to have some poulophilic implications…”
“I know what ‘fillyfooler’ means, Twilight,” said Rainbow flatly, having finally recovered from the shock. “What did Applejack mean about Ponyville being Fillyfooler Central?”
“Well, Rainbow, they do often say that Ponyville is the gayest town in the country,” said Fluttershy.
“Doesn’t that mean we’re all really happy all the time?”
Twilight groaned. She motioned with her head at the booth opposite theirs, where a white unicorn in purple shades sat with a gray earth pony. “Rainbow, who do you see over there?”
“That’s DJ Pon-3 and Octavia,” replied Rainbow, easily recognizing the two celebrities.
“She prefers to be called Vinyl Scratch when she’s not performing,” said Pinkie.
Twilight nodded. “Thanks, Pinkie. That’s good to know. Rainbow, don’t you remember at all that they moved here from Canterlot three months ago, right after D…Vinyl got outed in the Daily Mare?”
Vinyl Scratch reached under the table and pulled out a large cardboard box. She slid it slowly across to Octavia, who cautiously lifted the lid. The sight of its contents made her excitedly pull it open.
"Prench chocolates!" she squealed, picking one up and popping it into her mouth. "Vinyl, these are exquisite. You really shouldn't have!"
Her partner just shrugged.
Octavia beamed at the gesture. "Aww, I love you too."
Vinyl casually rubbed her muzzle. A slight smile broke on her features.
Octavia blushed. "Oh gosh. That-that's pretty naughty, don't you think?"
Vinyl replied by lowering her shades, waggling her eyebrows and spreading her smile into a full blown smirk. Her expression made Octavia giggle girlishly.
"Oh Vinyl, you know I love it when you talk dirty to me."
Rainbow scratched her head with a hoof. “…I must’ve missed that article.”
“Fair enough, I guess…” said Twilight. She pointed at two nearly identical pegasi lounging against each other on the couch facing the pool table. “Then, how about Cloudchaser and Flitter? They work on the weather team. You have to have seen them around, too!”
Rainbow gagged at the implication. “They’re twin sisters! Nothing strange about them hugging each other all the time!”
Cloudchaser smiled as she tenderly nuzzled her sister, relishing the warmth of Flitter's body against her own. Even in the insulated bar, the air was just a little too chilly, but her wonderful sister's presence made all that unimportant. Despite this, Flitter's usual affectionate touch felt undermined by distraction.
"Is something wrong, honeycakes?" asked Cloudchaser.
"It's not important," replied Flitter. She turned to reciprocate her sister's love, but then rethought her decision and decided to voice her concerns. "Chasey, have you ever gotten the feeling that maybe the reason we're in love is because of some powerful external force deciding that, since attractive incestuous twin sisters is such a popular male masturbatory fantasy, our relationship would improve the appeal of our universe to some nebulous demographic?"
Cloudchaser's eyes widened slightly in surprise. "Actually, yes. Does it bother you, sweetie?"
Flitter considered the question. "Well, no, actually."
"That's good." Cloudchaser sighed in relief. "Want to make out in public?"
"Oh yes, please!"
Rarity watched the two pegasi sisters tenderly lock their lips together. "They do have a… unique sibling relationship.”
“AIN’T NOTHIN' WRONG ABOUT LOVIN’ YOUR KIN!”
Applejack's outburst plunged the entire group into yet another awkward silence.
“Uh…” Applejack pulled her hat down, covering her face. “Ah mean, it’s just another thing we keep an open mind about in Ponyville…”
“…I think that’s a discussion best saved for another day,” said Twilight quickly, trying her best to smooth over the awkwardness. She pointed at another booth. “Look, there’s my old classmate Lyra. She and Bon Bon were from Canterlot too, but they moved here together about a year before I arrived.”
"Lyra, I am not going to put on that ridiculous costume!"
"Pleeeeease?" said Lyra, forehooves clasped together as she begged. "It's not that weird!"
Bon Bon rubbed her temples. "The hoof-sleeves have these ridiculous bits at the end, like blunt claws. They look like tiny penises!"
"Those are called fingers, Bonnie. Minotaurs have them too–"
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Lyra. This crazy obsession of yours is really getting out of hoof." Bon Bon huffed and grumpily looked away.
"Hey, it's not crazy, okay? Humans do exist! Someday I'm gonna find the mirror from that book and– look, tell you what. You remember that time when you made me dress up as a sexy bugbear so we could play 'hunt the prey'? I'm calling that favor in right now."
"You wouldn't!" Bon Bon blushed, visibly shrinking.
Bon Bon sighed in defeat. "Fine. Gimme that bag. I'll put it on when we get home."
Rainbow watched the two arguing ponies in the adjacent booth. They did look very close, and the way they were bickering reminded her of how her parents used to ‘have a talk’ with each other. However, she wasn’t so sure it meant that they were dating.
“But they keep calling each other best friends!” she said.
“Rainbow, you do know that’s a common Canterlot euphemism for a same-sex relationship, right?” said Twilight. “Even though I grew up there, I have to admit that Canterlot is a really conservative and old-fashioned city. In fact, most of the fillyfooler population is slowly moving to Ponyville.”
Rainbow thought hard for a moment. This had to be some kind of prank. How could she have lived in Ponyville for years without noticing all the gay mares in town?
Or hadn’t she?
“Is… is that why there are so many mares in Ponyville?”
Twilight chuckled and nodded. “Surely you’ve noticed them canoodling in the streets?”
“I thought they were just being friendly with each other!”
“And the occasional open-mouthed kiss in public?” asked Twilight.
“…Really friendly with each other.”
Twilight facehoofed. “In the very least, didn’t it occur to you that maybe all those stories, about Cloud Kicker having casual encounters with half the town, could possibly be an indicator of something?”
“Well duh,” replied Rainbow. It was pretty much impossible to miss the many, many jokes that had been made at the weather office about Cloud Kicker’s promiscuity – usually involving an unflattering comparison with a see-saw. “I know Cloudy is bisexual.”
“Omni-sexual, more like,” muttered Twilight under her breath. “Yes, that’s right, but you also have to realize that she has to have a lot of mares and stallions to have those encounters with?”
“Oh,” said Rainbow. It seemed obvious now that it was being pointed out to her. “But… why are all your examples mares? Why don’t more coltcuddlers move here?”
“Well,” Twilight thought carefully. “Most gay stallions prefer Manehatten. Probably because of the Bridleway musicals.”
Rainbow cringed slightly. “Isn’t that just a stereotype?”
“Let’s ask an expert, then,” deadpanned Twilight. She stood up and shouted out to a brown-maned orange stallion at the bar. “Caramel, could you tell us why so many gay stallions live in Manehatten?”
“Bridleway musicals!” he yelled back. “Woo!”
Twilight sat back down with a self-satisfied smirk. “Some stereotypes exist for a reason, you know.”
Rainbow gaped at the stallion. “Caramel’s a coltcuddler?”
Rarity nodded. “Yes he is, darling. One of the very few in town. You wouldn’t have guessed, would you? He looks the very picture of a perfect gentlecolt.”
Rainbow slumped in her seat. “This is so much to take in all at once.” She gulped as a sudden realization hit her. “Wait, does that mean all of you girls are… y’know?”
The mares all looked at each other for a few seconds… before erupting in collective laughter.
Rarity was the first to recover, wiping a tear from her eye with a paper towel. “Oh, dear. No, no, Rainbow. Just because we live here doesn’t mean we are all gay. Applejack and I were born in Ponyville, and we aren’t moving away just because we’re straight.”
Applejack beamed. “We Apples have lived here long before Ponyville became famous for fillyfoolin’. And we’re right proud the town’s so well known for bein’ so progressive-like.”
“Oh,” said Rainbow. “What about Twilight, then? She moved here from Canterlot, just like Lyra and Bon Bon…”
“…Because Princess Celestia ordered me to come here and oversee the Summer Sun Celebration two years ago,” explained Twilight. “I made friends with all of you and wanted to stay, even if I am straight myself–“
She was interrupted by a fit of coughing coming from Starlight Glimmer.
Twilight glanced at her pupil. “Err, is there something you want to say, Starlight?”
Starlight smiled innocently. “Oh, it’s nothing. I just found what you said a little surprising, considering what happened at breakfast yesterday morning.”
“What happened yesterday morning?” asked Twilight, with genuine confusion. “I don’t remember anything…”
Twilight waltzed through the castle, practically spinning with delight as she wandered into the kitchen, humming a cheerful tune. Even though she seemed exceptionally light on her hooves, the eyebags and disheveled mane indicated that she probably had yet to get any sleep.
“Hmmhmmhmmhmmmmm… la la la hmmhmmmmm…”
Spike and Starlight watched her prance gaily to the refrigerator and pull out a carton of orange juice.
“Uh… you look happy,” said Spike curiously.
“Oh!” exclaimed Twilight, as if she hadn’t noticed the two sitting down for breakfast. “I-It’s nothing. Sunset and I spent last night going through why human-world physics doesn’t work in Equestria! This is so exciting! If all goes well, Sunset says she might even teach me a little about…” she clapped her hooves gleefully, “electrodynamics!”
“…and you’ve been like that every day for about a month and a half now,” finished Starlight.
A long, playful “Oooooooooooh!” came simultaneously from the other five mares present.
“S-Sunset Shimmer and I are just friends!” sputtered Twilight.
Starlight grinned smugly. “Best friends?”
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The alicorn shrank in her seat, trying her very best to look unobtrusive.
“Oh, I think that you do,” said Starlight, smirking.
Rainbow giggled as Twilight sank onto the table and covered her head with her hooves. “So uh,” said Rainbow, addressing Starlight, “if you don’t mind me asking, what about you? You just moved here.”
Starlight rested her head on her hooves cheerfully. “Me? I moved here because Twilight took me in as her student–”
“Some student,” mumbled Twilight, still hiding under her hooves.
“Yes,” said Starlight, still grinning. “Well, I’m not gay myself. Although…” Her expression suddenly fell, and she looked guiltily down at the table. “When I ran my little village I did use to discourage same-sex relationships because I wanted everypony to conform to what I thought was ‘normal’. I didn’t realize how much distress I was causing to ponies like Double Diamond. I’m surprised he was willing to forgive me after everything that happened.”
Fluttershy pulled her close and gave her a hug. “That’s okay. You don’t do that anymore, and that’s what counts.”
Starlight smiled. “Thanks a lot, Fluttershy. It means a lot to hear you say that.”
“So…” Rainbow sighed. “I’m still the only fillyfooler in our group, I guess.”
Starlight coughed again, tilting her head slightly in Twilight’s direction.
“Only open fillyfooler in the group.”
“Actually…” began Fluttershy.
“Still wrong, Dashie!” Pinkie Pie popped up, throwing another hoofful of confetti into the air. She pulled out a sign straight out of her mane and waved it above her own head. On it was a bright red arrow pointed straight down and the colorfully printed words, “TOTES BI!”
“When did she have that sign made?” whispered Starlight to Twilight. The latter simply shrugged.
Rainbow laughed. “I guess that isn’t really all that surprising.”
“Uh huh!” Pinkie nodded. “That’s why I picked this town to move to, even though my parents' rock farm is hundreds of miles away!”
“I’m actually quite surprised they’re so tolerant,” said Rarity. “They sound like very traditional ponies.”
Pinkie didn’t say anything for a while. Her back drooped a little and her entire posture slowly deflated.
They girls could all sense that something was definitely wrong. Their chatter quickly ceased.
“I haven’t told them,” she said soberly. “Only Maud knows.”
The group remained silent.
Rainbow wasn’t sure what to do. She didn’t know enough about Pinkie’s parents to say anything. The first thing that came to mind was that she should reassure Pinkie that her parents would love her no matter what. But it felt incredibly empty and presumptuous.
But it was all solved when Fluttershy got up from her seat and wordlessly flew over to Pinkie before giving her a big, warm hug from behind.
Fluttershy didn’t have to say anything at all. Pinkie just turned her head and smiled gratefully.
The rest of the girls immediately got the hint and joined in for a big group hug.
The mood lightened a little after that. Applejack had the sense to call for another round of drinks, and Rainbow downed yet another cider. The girls had settled into the usual chatter and gossip, and after a few more drinks Rainbow was feeling pretty happy. She felt a little light-headed after four pints, but she was absolutely sure she wasn’t too far gone yet.
Apparently, Applejack thought otherwise. “Okay Rainbow, I think you'd best take it easy on the drinkin'.”
“Why? I feel fine!”
Applejack just rubbed her forehead. “Look, Rainbow, I didn’t wanna bring this up, but there's a third reason we all knew you were gay before tonight.”
“What?” Rainbow flared up. “No way!”
“Applejack, if I may?” said Rarity.
Applejack shrugged and crossed her forehooves.
Rarity smiled and continued, “You see, Rainbow, it’s just that when you have more than a few drinks, you… well, you start making highly inappropriate advances to other mares.”
Rainbow gaped. “I do not!”
“Then perhaps you might consider letting go of Fluttershy. The poor dear is looking very uncomfortable.”
Rainbow looked down. All wrapped up in her insistent hooves, practically pressed against the seat cushion, was a very intimidated yellow pegasus.
Rainbow Dash sobered up in a hurry.
“Woah, s-sorry!” she said, straightening up right away. “I-I didn’t even realize…”
“See, I knew we shoulda told her!” exclaimed Applejack. “She don’t even remember any of it!”
Twilight peered at Rainbow carefully. “Are you sure you don’t remember at all?”
Rainbow didn’t say anything. She just sat, mortified at the thought of what exactly she couldn’t recall.
“Oh my,” Rarity said. “And here we all thought you were just too embarrassed to mention it afterwards.”
“An’ you said we should be too polite to mention it, too!” said Applejack to Rarity. “She plumb didn’t know what she was doin’ at all!”
“Oookay.” Twilight took a deep breath. “I think we should just be glad we caught her before she had too much this time.”
“How bad am I usually?” Rainbow squeaked.
"Hey cutie, you wanna go search for the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?"
"Filly, you must be a banana, cuz I find you a-peelin'!"
"Hey, we should go find the letters O, U and T so we can make out!"
"Rainbow, that's one of my ponyquins you're attempting to come on to."
Rainbow winced. "Is that why we don't have alcohol at our slumber parties any more?"
“Oh yes.” Rarity nodded. “Also, you might want to note that the disclaimer ‘no homo’ doesn’t quite count after the fifth time or so you shove your tongue down a mare’s throat.”
“Oh, and while we're at it," added Applejack, "you should be real glad that Cloud Kicker has a strict policy against takin' home a drunk mare.”
Rainbow stayed as sober as she could until the night was over. It hadn't been quite so bad. The girls laughed and joked and mercifully avoided bringing up her past humiliations. But it did put a distinct damper on her confidence for the rest of the evening.
One by one the girls slowly excused themselves and left for the night, until it was only Rainbow and Fluttershy alone in a nearly empty bar. Fluttershy watched her somewhat rattled friend with concern.
Rainbow looked up from her long self-reflection. “Hey Flutters…”
“Sorry about all that earlier. And for whatever else I might’ve done on other occasions.”
Fluttershy smiled beatifically. “It’s all right.”
“Especially since, y’know, you are one of those ponies I know who is definitely straight.”
Fluttershy wasn’t usually easy to read. But on this occasion she saw fit to immediately perform, right on the table, a perfect demonstration of the subtle body language maneuver colloquially known as ‘headdesking’.
In fact, she performed it perfectly three whole times.
It took nearly ten full seconds for the implications to sink into Rainbow’s head. “Oh my gosh. You’re gay?”
“Yes, Rainbow,” said Fluttershy, her voice somewhat muffled by the table in her face. “I did move to Ponyville from Cloudsdale, after all.”
“I thought it was because you loved animals on the ground!”
Fluttershy finally peeled her face up from the table. “Yes, but it was also because I am a raging fillyfooler.” She shook the numbness out of the muzzle. “Well, I’m not raging very much. I don’t like being angry. And I’m not very good at fillyfooling either. I don’t know how to talk to any mares,” she softly lamented.
Rainbow wasn’t particularly good at discerning subtleties, but she did understand enough to figure out what Fluttershy was hinting at.
“So uh...” Rainbow scooted nearer to Fluttershy. “Maybe we could go over to your place. I could get a couple bottles of cider to go, and we could um… talk.”
Fluttershy turned towards Rainbow and smiled happily. It was a graceful yet relieved smile, made all the more stunning by Fluttershy’s honestly ethereal beauty, even if it was slightly marred by the reddish bruise on her forehead. For a moment Rainbow felt as if the sun had dawned and its light had shone right into the bar, illuminating Fluttershy’s peacefully beaming face. It was the Luna Misa of bar smiles. And then she spoke. Her voice was soft, yet clear and firm.
“I said no, Rainbow. I like you a lot, but you are really scary when you get drunk.” Fluttershy put one hoof on Rainbow’s shoulder. “And even though we know each other really well, I just don’t think we should start off like this.”
“Oh,” said Rainbow. “Well, uh… slowly, then?”
Rainbow thought for a moment. “Wanna grab dinner at Café Hay tomorrow evening?”
Fluttershy nodded again.
“I would like that very much.”