My Kind of Crazy

by Novel-Idea

First published

Skystar never got a chance to make friends. Pinkie’s determined to show her how. Clearly, this will involve swing dancing.

Skystar never got a chance to make friends. Pinkie’s determined to show her how.

Clearly, this will involve swing dancing.


Concept inspired by just how adorable Pinkie and Skystar are and a conversation with Corejo and DwarvishPony in Cynewulf's Discord Server! You can find a copy of the conversation in this blog!


Covert Art: Little-Tweenframes
Cover Text & Section Break Design: Novel Idea
Pinkie Pie Cutie Mark: BlackGryph0n


Cast: Pinkie Pie & Lady Skystar
Co-Starring: Ambassador Novo & The Canterlot High Seven with Principal Celestia & Vice Principal Luna


Beta Reader & Editor Credits!
Ebon Quill - Author, Cackling GM, Audio Director & Quest Designer on The Manehattan Project
Little Tinker: Bouncy Cheer Pony, Master of Systems at Poniverse & Scripting Engineer on The Manehattan Project
Beltorn: Commenter-at-Large on FimFiction
JayMan155: Artist & Author Extraordiane!
Cursori: Reader of Many a Pony Word
Heartshine: Smol Pegsus, Big Heart
Painted Heart: Wife of the Author :pinkiehappy:

Special Thanks!
Rose Quill: Brilliant Swingin' Lyricist and the one who perfected the song "My Kind of Crazy!"
Aragon: Brilliant Synopsis Engineer
Monochromatic: Brilliant Synopsis Tailor

Word Count: 30,000 words
Version: 3.0

A String of Pearls

View Online


"A String of Pearls" by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra

Pinkie Pie did a little two-step, spun on the ball of her right foot and jumped down to the sandy boardwalk with a wonderfully loud clack. A few little girls nearby building a sandcastle clapped and giggled. Pinkie gave them her very best ‘ta-da’ grin as she kept her feet flying across the sunbaked wood.

She loved the sound of her Mary Janes clicking against the boardwalk on the beach! A few early-morning joggers went by and looked at her weirdly, but that was okay. Lots of people gave her looks like that. Sometimes, her friends got annoyed when people did that, but that was them just being silly and overprotective. Not that she didn’t love them for it!

Anyway, with those trumpets and drums blaring through her earbuds, there wasn’t anything in the whole wide world that could make her stop smiling.

Pinkie did a bunch of little spins and her skirt flared all bright, wide and—of course—pink! Even the gray ruffles beneath the skirt fluttered around her, caught up in the ocean breeze. The little black shawl flapped a bit, but that was cinched nice and tight along the top of her dress. She had decided to skip the hat today. The last thing she wanted to do this morning was run through the sand trying to catch her cute black top hat because of some sneaky gust of wind. Rarity would probably get mad at her for messing up her new Mary Janes. And Rarity had worked for a really, really long time on the outfit and she’s done such a great job! It even had a little metal belt in loops that jingled when she spun, hopped or jigged.

She did a few spins, hops and jigs to enjoy the little metal clinks. She giggled and smiled at the rising sun.

“I love mornings like these,” Pinkie said to the world.

The jogger going past her the other way didn’t seem to notice.

She really, really did love mornings like these. She kicked it up a notch and tried some advanced moves. Nothing like an early morning dance along the beach to make her extra-special happy for the day. After all, she had to practice, right?

Her feet never resting for more than a second or two, Pinkie Pie spun out of the way of bikers, jitterbugged left to dodge a track team and even paused to make a few silly faces at a crying little girl, who burbled happily after only three seconds!

That’s close to a personal record! Pinkie smiled and waved at the girl’s mom and dad. They waved back and she jumped, spun and clicked her heels.

A few seconds after she landed, her feet suddenly stopped. For the first time since she’s gotten out of her car, the sound of her tapping shoes didn’t echo down the beach. It was actually kind of sad, but then again, the girl at the end of the pier on her right looked pretty sad, too.

The girl was around Pinkie’s age and really pretty. Definitely someone who shouldn’t be looking sad. She had big, flowing, twisty light blue hair so long it went almost all the way down her back. It kinda reminded Pinkie of those wavy bits of kelp she had seen when she’d gone scuba diving with Maud.

The girl was even dressed real fancy, like the kind of thing Rarity brought out for the super special occasions. Since the girl was facing away from Pinkie, Pinkie couldn’t get a real good look at the dress, but it had a fluffy orange collar that swirled down into a bright teal pattern, kinda like looking out at the ocean at sunrise.

And while all that was nice, the girl’s posture was all wrong! She cupped her head in her hands as she stared out over the ocean. Pinkie couldn’t see anything out there. Maybe the girl could? The girl’s shoulders were all hunched up, too. A surefire sign of someone having a rough morning… maybe even a rough week!

Pinkie hesitated and bit her lip. She had to figure out what to do! First impressions were super important. Then again, she’d had plenty of friends who had made really bad first impressions. Like Sunset Shimmer! She’d even turned into a raging she-demon, but now Sunset definitely qualified as a bestie.

In the end, Pinkie decided that dancing up to the girl probably wasn’t the best idea. It might startle her, and she didn’t want the girl to fall into the ocean! ‘Startle someone into falling into oceans’ was on her list of the top fifty really bad first impressions.

So, Pinkie took the time to wrap up her headphones and stick them in a pocket. Then, she walked toward the girl. She made sure to make enough noise so the girl could hear her, but strangely, the girl didn’t seem to notice. Just kept staring out at the sea. Even sighed once.

Pinkie chewed her lip a little more. The girl was definitely in a funk. A serious one.

Oh well, there’s only so much Pinkie could do to prepare. She’d leave ‘subtlety’ to her friends. It wasn’t really Pinkie’s style anyway.

Pinkie hopped forward, heels clicking on the sun-drenched wood. Then, she plopped down next to the girl.

“Hi!”

The girl glanced at her, looking really uninterested in talking. She did have pretty blue eyes, but they were as sad as the rest of her. Her freckles didn’t look sad though. Those were cute! So was the pretty strand of pearls around her neck.

The girl fingered her pearls and said with a tiny voice, “Um… hi.”

“I’m Pinkie Pie!” Pinkie declared and held out a hand, making sure to wear another of her best smiles. This time she used the special one she brought out for meeting new friends.

The girl stared at Pinkie’s hand and blinked a few times. Pinkie squinted a bit and almost slapped her own face. Seriously, she’d been so distracted by the freckles, she’d somehow missed the look in the girl’s eyes.

She was sad, but she was also… hmmm…

Though girl looked nervous, she did finally shake Pinkie’s hand. “Um… hi. I’m… uh… Skystar.”

Now, if there was one thing Pinkie took seriously, it was making friends. Well, and parties, but that was part of making friends. Parties fit under the whole ‘friend’ umbrella, so to say! And since making friends was serious business, Pinkie had studied. She didn’t study through books—though she’d read plenty about friends and parties in books. Instead, she really studied people.

Hand’s clammy, like she’s been holding something. Little indentations on her palm. Maybe the pearls around her neck? Strong grip feels... practiced? Kinda strange. Someone who's used to shaking hands with strangers? That’s a bit weird. Pretty blue nail polish, looks even better than what Aloe and Lotus did for me for the Winter Formal. But the shake itself… that’s really hesitant, but more hesitation than fear.

People always said you could tell what kind of person someone was from the way they shook your hand. And even though they said that, most people didn’t really take it seriously. Pinkie Pie knew better.

“Pleasure to meet you, Skystar!” Pinkie chirped.

Skystar nodded quietly and went back to staring out over the ocean.

Pinkie tried to follow the other girl’s gaze, but all she saw was lots and lots of water.

“What’cha looking at?”

“Huh?” Skystar blinked and looked at Pinkie, like she was surprised Pinkie was still there. “Oh… um… Nothing really. Just sort of… looking back where I came from.”

“All I see is water.” Pinkie said. Then she thought about it for a minute. “Oooh! Is that it? Are you really a mermaid?”

Skystar turned at stared at Pinkie with huge eyes. She blinked a few times.

“What?” Pinkie shrugged. “If you don’t want to talk about being a mermaid, that’s okay. I have friends who are actually magical talking ponies from another dimension!”

Skystar kept staring.

Pinkie winced. “Oops! I forgot. They don’t usually like talking about that. So, I’d appreciate it if you kept that to yourself, okay? Let’s pretend I totally didn’t just tell you that.”

Skystar’s mouth opened and shut a few times, like she was imitating a giant fish or something.

Pinkie smiled back at her, this time using one of her happy casual smiles.

Finally, the other girl jerked a little bit. Pinkie blinked, a bit unsure what had just happened. The girl jerked again. This time Pinkie heard it.

Skystar had just snorted. Then she snorted again! Pinkie’s smile grew way bigger as she watched Skystar break down into a fit of giggles so huge she actually started holding her stomach!

Nailed it! crowed a little Pinkie in her head.

“You look so honest when you say that!” Skystar kept giggling and wiped away a tear.

“That’s because I’m telling the truth!” Pinkie Pie wiggled a bit and made sure she still wasn’t sitting on her dress. “One of them usually spends most of her time back home where she’s a princess! The other one goes to school with me. She’s like… probably the smartest person there. Well, her and Twilight. It’s hard to tell which one’s smarter, sometimes.”

Skystar actually smiled. It was a really pretty smile. To Pinkie’s surprise, her heart did a little spin of its own at the sight of that pretty smile.

This is definitely a girl who shouldn’t be looking out over the ocean being sad!

“I… I can’t even tell if you’re being serious!” Skystar leaned back and rested her hands on the pier, staring up at the wispy clouds wandering around in the deep blue sky above the water.

“I can introduce you to them sometime if you want!” Pinkie offered. “Well, Princess Twilight is usually pretty busy being a princess, but Sunset’s around!”

“I thought you said that Twilight and Sunset went to your school.” Skystar cocked her head.

“Oh yeah!” Pinkie shrugged. “It’s a bit confusing the first time. I’ve got two friends named Twilight Sparkle! One’s this super-powerful alicorn who’s a princess on another world! The other Twilight lives here in this world. She’s kinda different from the other one. Really loves science and studying all the magic that’s snuck over here from Equestria.”

“There’s magic now, too?” Skystar looked like she was having fun, so Pinkie went for it.

“Oh yeah!” Pinkie replied and pulled out her geode to show Skystar.

Skystar leaned forward to take a closer look. “Huh… a balloon?”

“This is one of the cool magical geodes we found at Camp Everfree. All of my best friends have one. Rarity has one that creates awesome diamond shields! Twilight’s geode makes things float! Sunset’s got one that lets her understand people. She can totally read their minds!” Pinkie sighed and played with a stray bit of her hair. “Too bad it isn’t the other way around. Maybe then Twilight would figure out that Sunset has a huge crush on her! Even if Twilight already has this thing with Timber, she has to drive like four hours to get back to Camp! I dunno. I don’t think that’ll keep. Anyway, I know Sunny and Twi would be super cute together.”

“And who’s Timber?” Skystar asked. She fiddled with a bit of her own pretty hair and giggled.

Pinkie knew that kind of giggle! It was the kind that told her Skystar didn’t really believe her, even though Pinkie was being totally serious. That didn’t really surprise her. Her family had reacted pretty much the same way until she actually showed them.

Marble had squeaked even higher than Fluttershy when the sprinkles had exploded into pretty fireworks.

But Sunset had made her promise to stop blowing things up to show off her cool magical powers, so she couldn’t show Skystar like that. Otherwise she’d have to break a Pinkie Promise. And no one breaks a Pinkie Promise.

No one.

Still, Pinkie decided she didn’t mind if Skystar didn’t believe her. After all, she’d made the girl giggle and smile. And that smile was definitely too pretty to be stuck behind a sad face.

“Oh, he’s just one of the Everfree camp counselors,” Pinkie shrugged. “But, you never answered my first question!”

“Oh yeah? What was that?” Skystar giggled. “Sorry, I got distracted with the magical talking ponies.”

“That’s okay!” Pinkie replied. She dangled her legs over edge of the pier and watched her reflection in the water. “They can be pretty distracting! But I was asking you if you were actually a mermaid!”

“That would be fun, huh?” Skystar smiled in a sorta wistful way and looked out over the ocean, but this time she didn’t look even half as sad as before. “Being a mermaid and living in the sea, doing whatever you want? I’d never run out of shells down there.”

Then she looked a little sad again. She pulled a small purse onto her lap and rustled around inside of it. Pinkie studied the purse. It was decorated with all sorts of shells. Big ones, little ones, some as tiny as Pinkie’s little fingernail! The purse even had Skystar’s name written out in blue and yellow shells. They were all pretty, too.

“That’s a really pretty purse,” Pinkie said.

Skystar paused and looked up at Pinkie. She almost looked suspicious for some silly reason. “You… really mean that?”

“Yeah! Why wouldn’t I?”

Skystar looked at her purse as if seeing it for the very first time. “My mom says I should probably stop doing this with shells. She thinks it’s kinda… um… strange?”

“Strange?” Now that was just silly talk. “What’s strange about shells?”

“Well...” Skystar blushed a little. It made her cute freckles stand out a lot more. “She thinks I might be too old for Shelly and Sheldon here.”

Pinkie gasped when Skystar pulled out a red clam and a purple clam. Each were just big enough to nestle comfortably in the palms Skystar’s hands and they had the best googly eyes Pinkie had ever seen. They even flopped open and closed a little when they moved!

“Oh. My. Gosh.” Pinkie’s let out a little squee of glee and clapped her hands together. “They’re amazing!

“They… they are?” Skystar peeked out from behind a strand of hair. She looked totally shocked.

This girl is definitely a little weird. It’s like she’s never got a compliment before!

Pinkie leaned down and gently booped the purple one—probably Shelly—on the nose. She giggled as Shelly’s mouth wobbled open like she was going to nip Pinkie’s fingers. Shelly’s eyes seemed to roll in her little clam head, as if she were used to dealing with this sort of thing.

“Yeah, of course they are!” Pinkie suddenly gasped. “I just had the greatest idea! We should totally introduce Shelly and Sheldon to my sister Maud!”

“Your… sister? Does your sister… like clams?”

Skystar’s eyes were back to being huge again. She did that a lot. Then again, a lot of people did that around Pinkie. Maybe Pinkie just noticed it more when Skystar did it because she had really pretty eyes, like the color of ocean waves.

“Uh…” Pinkie leaned back and scratched her head. Clams weren’t really rocks, though Maud had once told her their outsides were made of the same minerals that made up some kinds of rocks! “Maybe? I’m not sure, really. I was thinking about Boulder. He can kinda get lonely when Maud has to leave him home when she goes to work.”

“Who’s Boulder?” Skystar drew Shelly and Sheldon back, as if she were protecting them from something.

“Maud’s pet rock! Seriously. Best. Behaved. Rock. Ever. Way better than that jerk Tom. Maud had Tom when she first went to school for her geology doctorate.” Pinkie frowned. “He just loved to smash things. I’ve never seen a rock with such an attitude problem!”

Pinkie paused and tapped her chin. “I never could figure out why Rarity hated him so much though.”

“You… you’re serious?” Skystar’s smile reminded Pinkie of a timid kitten, unsure if it should come out and play. “You don’t think… you don’t think they’re… um… weird?”

Pinkie blinked a few times. “Weird? Why would I think they’re weird?”

“I… uh…” Skystar didn’t seem to know how to respond to that. “You really are being serious, aren’t you?”

“Of course!” Pinkie said. She poked Sheldon’s nose and jerked back. He looked like he was glaring at her. She’d have to keep an eye on that one.

“Well, okay.” Skystar giggled. “Shelly and Sheldon have sorta been my best friends for… a really long time.”

“They seem like they’d be really great listeners!” Pinkie said. “Maud talks to Boulder all the time. And even I have Gummy!”

Skystar looked like she wanted to ask another question, but instead just smiled again.

“You’re the first person I’ve ever met who doesn’t think they’re weird. Mom goes on and on about it. Though she’s not really helping.” Skystar snorted. “Moving all the time. Ugh. I’m so sick of moving. Here, there, everywhere!

“Moving?” Pinkie kicked her legs over the swells in the ocean. The sun was getting higher, but the nice ocean breeze kept them cool. “Why are you moving all the time?”

“My mom’s an ambassador.” Skystar glared at the ocean, like it had stolen the toy surprise in a box of cereal. “We’re from a bunch of little islands out west. She’s always going all over the place for these summits and talks and negotiations and trade agreements and blah, blah, blah!”

Skystar let out a little huff of frustration and then looked down at her two friends. Shelly and Sheldon’s mouths were open in what Pinkie was pretty sure were smiles.

“I haven’t been able to stay in one place for more than a few months since I was like… twelve,” Skystar muttered. “And… well, apparently our home is really important because of some sort of fancy mineral with a crazy long name that like, the whole world wants. So, she’s always going everywhere and she drags me along. So, anytime I ever meet anyone… I always have to say goodbye.”

Skystar tapped her two clam friends on their noses. “At least I don’t have to do that with Shelly and Sheldon.”

“You…” Pinkie stared at Skystar and had to fight back a sudden case of the sniffles. “You’ve really haven’t had a friend since you were twelve?

“Not one that I got to keep,” Skystar said glumly. “I’ve seen a lot of really great places! But… when it’s just Mom, me and the staff, it’s… well…”

Skystar beat Pinkie to the sniffles and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. Sheldon didn’t seem to mind.

“So, I came out here!” Skystar said, waving at the sea. “We’re usually by the ocean, at least. When I was little, back before Mom became the ambassador, I used to play with the other kids on the beach. There wasn’t a lot to do back home, so we always were doing things with shells! I kinda… keep that with me. Helps me remember a time when I had more than shells.”

Pinkie hesitated for a moment. Being friends with Sunset Shimmer—especially right after the Fall Formal—had taught her that not everyone liked hugs from people they didn’t really know. But Skystar just looked so sad right now! And Pinkie wasn’t made of stone!

Plus, she wanted to see that pretty smile again.

Pinkie scooted over and decided to ignore the fact that her dress was going to get dirty. She took a deep breath, hoped Skystar wouldn’t respond like Sunset did to Pinkie’s first attempt at a hug and just went for it.

In one quick motion, Pinkie wrapped her arms around Skystar. Skystar let out a squeak of surprise and went super stiff, almost as if Pinkie were trying to attack her or something. But that lasted only a few seconds. Then, the pretty girl from the sea turned into the hug and rested her head on Pinkie’s shoulder. Before Pinkie knew it, Skystar was holding Pinkie really tight, almost as if she had been deprived of hugs for like years.

Pinkie really hoped that wasn’t the case. That was too much sad to handle on such a pretty day.

They were like that for a while. Pinkie didn’t talk. She didn’t need to. After all, she knew plenty about making friends. And a while ago, she’d learned that, sometimes, friends just needed some quiet. Sometimes, they needed to know that someone else was there. You didn’t need words to be there for someone. And being there for your friends was really, really important.

And Skystar just needed someone to be there.

Then some other people decided they needed to be there.

“Hey! What are you doing!”

“Get away from her!”

Pinkie pulled back from Skystar and looked behind her at the pier. Four big guys in black suits, gold sashes, dark sunglasses and those funny squiggly earpiece things were charging toward them. They looked really mad, too.

“Oh no,” Skystar moaned. “No, no, no…”

Pinkie glanced at Skystar. She’d buried her head in her hands.

All four came to a sudden stop. Three of them reached inside their jackets, but the one in the lead—he had a bright shock of light purple hair—he just loomed over Pinkie.

“You’ve got about ten seconds to back away from the Lady Skystar,” the big guy growled.

“Um, why?” Pinkie cocked her head, trying to figure out why these guys were so mad. She’d been giving Skystar a hug, that’s all! Unless they needed hugs. They probably could use a hug, but they didn’t exactly look like they wanted one.

“Because if you don’t, we’re authorized to use—”

“Stratus!” Skystar shouted. “Leave her alone!”

Pinkie stared at her new friend as Skystar pushed herself to her feet and glared at the guy in the front. Skystar had apparently slipped Shelly and Sheldon into her purse, because Pinkie couldn’t see them anywhere.

When Skystar stood, it let Pinkie see just how gorgeous the blue and orange dress looked on the girl—and that was really gorgeous. Secondly, there was a whole new attitude. Skystar looked annoyed… but also a little angry? And Pinkie could have sworn she saw a flash of protectiveness in Skystar’s eyes!

Pinkie squealed, but she kept the squeal inside of her head. This didn’t feel like an outside squeal moment.

“Lady Skystar, your mother has warned you about the consequences of you running off again!” Stratus snapped. Pinkie realized he had a small teal symbol on his golden sash, though she couldn’t figure out what it was. “We’ve been looking for you for over an hour!”

“Mom worries too much,” Skystar said, folding her arms. “This is Canterlot. It’s like, one of the safest cities in the country.”

“Nevertheless ma’am, I am under direct orders to immediately escort you back.”

“You mean like every other time?” Skystar rolled her eyes and sighed.

Pinkie could tell what that sigh meant. Pinkie sighed too and climbed to her feet. Her Mary Janes made sad little tapping noises on the pier when she got up. The other three guards eyed her warily, but at least they weren’t reaching inside their jackets anymore. Pinkie frowned at the three of them then turned her frown to the guy called Stratus.

“We were just sitting here,” Pinkie pointed out. “What’s so bad about that?”

Stratus drew himself up. He was almost as big as Bulk Biceps, but Pinkie knew Bulk was just a big softie at heart. This guy didn’t look like a softie at heart. Or anywhere else.

“It is our duty to ensure the Lady Skystar’s security at all times.” Stratus glowered at Skystar. “And we cannot perform that duty when she decides to scamper off whenever she gets bored.”

“You try sitting in a hotel room for sixteen hours a day with no one to talk to and see how you like it!” Skystar glared up at the guy. The guy had to be almost a foot and a half taller than Skystar, but she didn’t seem to care. She just put her hands on her hips and kept glaring as hard as she could.

Pinkie smiled a little, but even she wasn’t really sure why.

“Well, thankfully, that’s not on the agenda for today,” Stratus replied, all stormy and stiff. “Today, you’ll be touring the educational institutions of Canterlot.”

Skystar didn’t look like she’d been expecting that. She blinked a few times and cocked her head. “Huh?”

“Don’t ask me.” Stratus shrugged. “That’s what’s on the schedule. You and Ambassador Novo are to take a tour of every secondary education facility in the area.”

“But… why?”

“I’m not privy to that information, ma’am.”

Skystar rolled her eyes.

“Wait!” Pinkie said. “You mean… Skystar’s going to be touring all the high schools? Today?”

Stratus glowered at Pinkie. Pinkie didn’t really care. If he wanted to be a sourpuss, that was his problem. He was the one being all grumpy to Skystar.

“I don’t see why it’s any concern of yours,” Stratus said. “But yes. And if you interfere with our ability to safely—”

“Stratus!” Skystar snapped in a voice that was way colder than anything Pinkie had heard from her since Pinkie had sat down. “She was trying to be my friend.”

Stratus’s eyes flicked to Skystar’s purse, back to Skystar and then to Pinkie. Pinkie tried to play it cool by just raising an eyebrow at him and crossing her arms. Stratus didn’t really look intimidated, but that’s because he was too busy upgrading from grumpy to super-grumpy.

“I see,” Stratus sniffed. “That’s all well and good, but you are still required to accompany your mother on this tour, ma’am.”

Pinkie turned and grabbed Skystar’s hands. A few of the guards twitched. Stratus let out a growl. What? Did he think he was a bear or something?

Skystar looked surprised and blushed a little.

“Listen!” Pinkie said, ignoring the others and focusing on her new friend. “I go to Canterlot High! If you’re visiting there, I can give you a personal tour! You can even meet my magical pony friends. Wait! Sorry, friend. Only Sunset’s there right now. I hope that’s okay. Don’t worry, she’s really cool!”

Skystar giggled and broke out into the biggest smile Pinkie had seen from the girl yet. It was so sparkly it almost blinded her. Her heart even did another little jig.

“That sounds great,” Skystar said. She obviously really meant it. She was even blushing a lot now for some reason. Pinkie could have counted Skystar’s freckles if she wanted to! So, she did! “Um… but I can’t give you my cell number. My mom would totally kill me.”

“That’s okay!” Pinkie replied. “I’ll give you mine!”

Pinkie whipped out her phone, brought up her contact card and showed it to Skystar. She’d learned a while ago people can usually type things faster when they read rather than when they talk. Twilight had told her all the reasons why, but it had involved a lot of really fancy words for really simple things. Twilight did that a lot. But that was Twilight being Twilight.

Skystar pulled her phone from her purse—a really fancy new model that had been released like last week—and did something Pinkie couldn’t see while pointing her phone at Pinkie’s.

Then, to Pinkie’s surprise, Skystar smiled a little mischievously and held up the phone.

“Smile!” Skystar said.

Well, if there was one thing Pinkie was really good at, it was smiling. So, she brought out her ‘I’m-super-happy-because-I-made-a-new-friend’ smile. Skystar snapped the picture and blushed a little harder. Then, Skystar turned the phone over so Pinkie could see.

Pinkie burst into giggles. She’d forgotten she’d even been wearing her little dancing outfit! Now, she wished she’d done some cute pose or something. But that was okay. There was always next time!

“Lady Skystar,” Stratus said. “We will be leaving now.”

Skystar outright ignored him, smiled at Pinkie and then lunged forward. Pinkie almost fell off the pier from the force of Skystar’s hug, but her Mary Janes saved her. That and her pinwheeling arms.

Stratus growled something Pinkie couldn’t understand.

Pinkie laughed and Skystar laughed with her. Then, to Pinkie’s surprise, Skystar slipped something into one of her hands. The girl squeezed Pinkie a little tighter and pulled away, though she looked like she really didn’t want to.

At least Skystar was smiling now! It was an almost shy little smile. Pinkie returned it with the same kind of smile. It just… sorta felt like the best smile to use right now.

Then, with a little sigh, Skystar turned and let Stratus and the other big guys walk her down the pier toward the boardwalk. In the parking lot beyond the boardwalk, a large white limo sat there.

“Oh, Pinkie?” Skystar turned and her smile brightened.

“Yeah, Skystar?”

“You’re a really good dancer.”

Pinkie blinked a few times. “I… you saw me?”

Skystar shrugged and her eyes glittered just a bit, like the sun reflecting off a big wave. “Think you could teach me, sometime?”

“Of course!” Pinkie said instantly. She didn’t even need to think about it. “I’d love to!”

Skystar blushed a bit more, gave her an even bigger smile and turned to follow the big guys to the limo. She waved at Pinkie when she got to the door. Of course, Pinkie waved back.

Then Skystar disappeared inside the big car. It was only when Pinkie put her hand down did she realize what Skystar had slipped into her hand.

She lifted the clam up to eye level. Shelly seemed to be studying Pinkie just as much as Pinkie was studying Shelly. Their staring contest lasted at least a few minutes before Pinkie lost by blinking when the sun slipped out from behind a few clouds.

Then Pinkie booped the clam.

Shelly bounced and smiled at Pinkie.

Pinkie smiled right back at her.

It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

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"It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" by Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington

“For the last time, Pinkie, they’re called T-straps, not Mary Janes!” Rarity sighed and held one elegant hand to her forehead. “I’ll have you know those were somewhat difficult to acquire, so I’d take it as a personal favor if you could at least use the proper term!”

Pinkie giggled and plopped over onto her side on top of the grand piano. Then she propped her head up with a hand and grinned. “You totally sound like Twilight right now.”

Rarity blinked once or twice. “I do not.”

“You… really do.” Sunset said with a little curl of her lip. She was sitting on the stairs, tuning her electric guitar with the occasional strum.

Sunset used that special smirk she loved to use on Rarity. It usually got Rarity all flustered. Sometimes it even made Rarity sputter. Normally, Pinkie wouldn’t like making her friends sputter, but Pinkie had learned a while ago that Rarity actually liked to sputter once in a while. Pinkie could always see it in Rarity’s eyes.

Like right now!

“That’s… that’s absurd!” Rarity sputtered. “I’m simply requesting that you respect the care it took to get those wonderful shoes for your outfit—which you look smashing in, dear. It’s the difference between a hairtie and a hairbow. These are very impor—”

Rarity stopped for two seconds. Sunset sniggered really hard, but she at least tried to hide it by doing a few quick chords on her guitar. Pinkie twisted a bit so she could kick her feet—with her T-straps—in the air.

After a few moments of composing herself, Rarity faced the truth.

“Oh dear, I really do sound like Twilight, don’t I?”

“Who sounds like me?” Twilight asked as she stumbled into the room holding a stack of books almost taller than she was. Spike walked beside her, watching warily, though Pinkie couldn’t tell if it was to help or to dodge. “What’s going on?”

“Twilight!” Rarity gasped as she ran forward to snatch half the pile away from Twilight. Rarity instantly staggered under the weight and stumbled to the side to drop them in a small heap at the top of the nearby stairs. She turned to stare at Twilight with really big eyes. “Whatever are you doing? Were you trying to hurt yourself?”

“Um… no. Not really?” Twilight sounded sheepish, but Spike rolled his eyes. Twilight stepped over and placed the rest of the books in a very neat stack next to Rarity’s pile. “I’ve never taken the time to study the evolution of dance orchestra and jazz music into the swing music era! It’s a fascinating concept, one that has a multitude of possibilities in tracking the development of cultural norms in areas outside of music and into art, literature and any other creative endeavor!”

“And this explains why you have a book stack as high as you… why?” Sunset grinned at Twilight.

“Well… I didn’t really realize it was that big…” Twilight hesitated and blushed a little.

Sunset’s grin widened.

Pinkie’s eyes flicked back and forth between them. It was kinda funny how Sunny had this totally huge crush on Twilight, but could still talk to Twilight like she was just one of the other girls. On one hand, Pinkie thought it was pretty neat that Sunset had that much control.

On the other hand, Pinkie thought it was a little sad Sunset could hide her feelings that well. It meant that she was sorta cut off from the rest of them sometimes. But, she tended to have a pretty cool head though. That’s why she’d sorta turned into their ‘leader’ when Princess Twilight couldn’t be around.

After all, Sunset had been the one to really help their Twilight deal with all that ‘overwhelmed by evil magic’ junk.

Now if they’d only figure out that they’d be totally adorable together! Even Rarity agrees with me! Though she went on a lot about color compliments, so I’m not sure she was talking about the same thing. Oh well!

“Vice Principal Luna told her to stop juggling books with magic in the hall,” Spike said with a smirk almost as bad as Sunset’s—and that was pretty bad.

“I didn’t know you could juggle, Twilight!” Pinkie felt a little slighted. Why wouldn’t Twilight tell her something like that? “We should totally do a juggle-off after you’ve practiced. Then again, you do have the whole magical floaty thing, so you’d have to promise not to use it in the competition!”

“Spike!” Twilight protested as Sunset and Rarity started laughing. “Sorry, Pinkie, not that kind of juggling.”

“Aw.” Pinkie pouted a little, just enough to make Sunset giggle.

“Be that as it may,” Rarity said with a cocked eyebrow. “Spike’s telling the truth, isn’t he?”

“Ugh. Yes,” Twilight groaned, rubbing her hand over the little purple geode wrapped up in a black necklace Rarity had made her. “Doesn’t mean I like it.”

“Why the secrecy?” Sunset asked. She strummed out another few chords on her guitar, frowned and again tweaked a few of the tuning knobs. “I’m pretty sure everyone at school knows what we can do by now.”

“Apparently, there’s some visiting dignitary arriving before lunch.” Twilight adjusted her glasses and knelt down to rearrange the books Rarity had dropped. “Some ambassador? Seemed kinda strange to me.”

“Why would an ambassador visit CHS?” Sunset frowned. Then she blinked a few times. Pinkie knew her well enough to realize Sunset had just had an idea, and it was an idea she didn’t like. “Unless… they’re going through the portal.”

Rarity laughed, though there was a bit of an edge there. “While I believe our gifts may have become public knowledge within our little community and even entered into the urban lore, I suspect at least one of us would have been informed if a diplomatic envoy would be arriving to visit Equestria. At the very least, Princess Twilight would have told you, Sunset.”

Sunset nodded, but she still didn’t look entirely convinced. “She hasn’t said anything, but… maybe I should double check.”

Sunset pulled that cool magical journal that let her write back and forth to Princess Twilight out of her backpack and flipped through the pages.

“Let me see…” Sunset muttered. She chewed her lip as she scanned the book.

Pinkie stared at the picture on the front of the book and scratched her head. Sunset had once told Pinkie and the rest of the girls all about the pictures ponies had on their butts called ‘cutie marks.’ Sunset’s old journal had Sunset’s own cutie mark on it, since it had been a special present from the Celestia from Equestria—who was some super-powerful alicorn who’d been around forever. But the new one was different.

Obviously, half of the design was Sunset’s cutie mark. The other half confused her. It seemed to be a star like the one Princess Twilight wore on her dress—or their Twilight had on her geode—but it was funny looking.

Was it supposed to be Princess Twilight’s cutie mark? If that were true, why did the colors remind her of that other girl Sunset had brought from Equestria, Starlight Glimmer?

Pinkie shook her head and pulled out Shelly. She smiled at Pinkie and her eyes spun a little. Apparently, Shelly thought her friends were silly too.

“She hasn’t written a word about any visits to Equestria.” Sunset flipped through a few more pages, frowning. “But I don’t understand. Why would—”

Oh, wait a minute! Silly me!

“Oops!” Pinkie cried. “I’m sorry, I totally forgot. Skystar’s coming here with her mom!”

Everyone stopped and stared at Pinkie.

“Whoever might that be?” Rarity asked as she stepped over to look at Shelly.

“She’s the one who gave me Shelly here!” Pinkie replied, holding out Shelly for everyone to see. Shelly gave a really big grin—though her eyes spun around a bunch. She’d have to ask Skystar about why her pet clam did that so much. Maybe Shelly just didn’t take things seriously. “I met her during my early morning dance on the beach! She’s really nice and pretty!”

A Lyropecten nodosa? I mean… it might be.” Twilight frowned as she peered through her glasses and studied Shelly with a critical eye. “I’m at least sure it’s a member of the Pectinidae family.”

That’s Twilight. Pinkie smiled. Always has to use fancy names for everything.

“That’s… a clam.” Beside Twilight, Rarity stared at Shelly. Rarity looked really confused. “And while the googly eyes do give it a somewhat whimsical appeal, I wouldn’t call it pretty.”

“Not Shelly, silly!” Pinkie laughed. “Though Shelly’s much prettier than her brother Sheldon. After all, Shelly’s purple.”

“I’m afraid you may have lost us, Pinkie.” Rarity chuckled.

Twilight just looked a bit confused. Sunset—as usual—snickered.

“I meant Skystar’s really pretty!” Pinkie said. She may have helped Shelly roll her eyes at her friends. “Like I said, I met her while dancing on the boardwalk! She and her mom are coming around to all the high schools today, though Skystar doesn’t know why.”

All the high schools?” Sunset raised an eyebrow. “You sure, Pinks?”

Pinkie nodded happily. “That’s what her grumpy bodyguard said before she left. She said she’d give me a text before she arrived—” Pinkie frowned. “Actually, no she didn’t. I just gave her my number. Anyway, she totally wants to meet you, Sunset!”

Rarity and Twilight turned to look at Sunset. Sunset, on the other hand, stared at Pinkie, looking really surprised.

“Me? Why me?”

“Welllll…” Pinkie blushed a little and played with a lock of her hair.

Sunset’s expression fell into a flat stare and she cocked an eyebrow at her. “You told her I was a magical talking unicorn, didn’t you?”

“Nope!”

“Oh good.”

“I told her you were a magical talking pony. I didn’t get a chance to mention the fact that you were a unicorn.”

Sunset facepalmed.

“Pinkie!” Twilight waved her hands in the air, obviously exasperated—but she did that a lot. “You can’t just go around telling people that Sunset’s a magical talking pony!”

“But…” Pinkie frowned. “She is!”

“Guilty as charged,” Sunset said with a shrug and played a few chords that sounded suspiciously like that song everyone had sung in the cafeteria before the Fall Formal.

“How can you be so cavalier about this?” Twilight demanded, refocusing her annoyance on Sunset. “I mean, I’m already trying not to worry about getting locked away for having magic superpowers. I can’t even think about E.T. anymore!”

“Why?” Pinkie asked. “If you need to phone home, just use your cell.”

Sunset burst into laughter. Even Rarity giggled a little.

Twilight just glared at Pinkie. “Not what I meant!”

“I know!” Pinkie declared. “But it was still funny.”

“Yeah, it was.” Sunset said. “Look, Twi, all of us grow pony ears when we play music or do something in line with our Elements. Heck, Fluttershy and Rainbow even grow wings! So do you, though I can’t figure out why… er… no offense.”

“I told you!” Twilight rolled her eyes. “Princess Twilight and I discussed it. It has something to do our morphological matrices being in sync through the dimensional rift between realities. Anyway, not the point! You keep trying to distract me!”

“And apparently I’m not doing a very good job.” Sunset shrugged and inspected one of the knobs on her guitar. “I could try harder, if you want.”

Rarity stepped back to Pinkie as Twilight stalked toward Sunset to berate her better. She leaned against the piano and dropped her voice to little more than a whisper.

“They really are adorable together, aren’t they?” Rarity sighed wistfully. “I can’t imagine how I didn’t see it before Camp Everfree.”

Pinkie nodded and Shelly joined in.

“Oh well.” Rarity shrugged. “We’ll just have to wait and see. It would be most uncouth to intentionally break up Twilight and Timber.”

“They’ll figure it out, don’t worry.”

“You sound so confident, darling.” Rarity eyed her suspiciously. “Any particular reason?”

“Just a hunch!” Pinkie rolled over and stared at a very upside-down Rarity.

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “The last big hunch you had, you determined that our other dear Twilight was, in fact, a transformed pony princess on a quest to recover a magical element to help protect her world.”

“I know! Wasn’t that great?” Pinkie beamed at her.

“Oh, Pinkie.” Rarity laughed and shook her head. “Never change.”

“Wait a minute!” Twilight suddenly cried. Her hands were on her hips and she was staring at Sunset. “Why am I angry with you?”

“Because I’m way more realistic about the fact that if the government was to haul us away, they would have done it already?” Sunset said, leaning back on the stairs and looking super smug. “And the fact that between the six of you, no one’s taking anyone anywhere they don’t want to go. Seriously, you girls would wreck anyone who tried anything.”

“But that’s not the point!” Twilight snapped. “I was angry with Pinkie for just telling some random stranger about us! Well, you in this case. More you.”

Pinkie smiled at Twilight. She suspected that Twilight secretly enjoyed panicking, a bit like Rarity enjoyed sputtering every so often.

Still, calling poor Skystar a ‘random stranger’ seemed kinda harsh.

“Skystar is super nice,” Pinkie said as she poked Shelly. Shelly tried to nip at her fingers. “And really lonely. She’s been moving around for years because her mom’s an ambassador for a bunch of islands! She needed a friend, and after I asked if she was a mermaid, it just kinda came up.”

“Why’d you ask her if she was—” Twilight shook her head and rubbed her temples. “No, never mind. So, why didn’t you tell us about this earlier?”

Pinkie flopped back over onto her stomach. She crossed her legs in the air and shrugged. “Sorry, I’ve been distracted all morning.”

Rarity’s eyebrow rose. Like Sunset’s smirks or Twilight’s levels of panic, Rarity had a lot of different eyebrow poses. Not as much as Applejack of course, but Applejack’s were really obvious. Rarity’s were way more subtle.

Though, the twinkle in Rarity’s eyes wasn’t subtle at all. Pinkie wondered if Rarity knew how totally not subtle she was being. Not that Pinkie would be much help. Subtlety wasn’t exactly something Pinkie was really good at.

“Distracted by what, Pinkie?” Rarity asked in a semi-sing-song sort of way that told everyone in the room she had some very strong suspicions what the answer might be.

Pinkie booped Shelly again, trying not to look Rarity in the eye. Rarity had a sense about this sort of thing. It was probably already too late, but Pinkie could definitely try!

“Um… nothing?”

Rarity let out a little noise halfway between a squeal and a gasp. “Could it be?”

“Could it be what?” Twilight asked, scratching her head. “I don’t get it.”

“I think our dear Pinkie Pie may like someone! As in like like!” Rarity clapped her hands together and did that little bounce she did when she was super-duper-extra happy. “I don’t believe it!”

“Rarity?” Sunset asked from the other side of the room. She’d stashed her journal and was now fiddling with a file folder. “Don’t you think you might be seeing things… again?

“Oh, please!” Rarity huffed and stopped a foot on the ground. She even gave Sunset an icy little glare. “Just because I was mistaken about Big Mac’s crush on Cheerilee doesn’t mean I don’t possess at least some powers of romantic deduction!”

Twilight nodded and raised a finger. “Rarity did accurately predict the development of the relationship between Flash Sentry and Ditzy Doo after Camp Everfree.”

“See! There!” Rarity cried, throwing her hands into the air in triumph. “Validation!”

“I notice you’re not adding anything to this, Pinks,” Sunset said as she flipped through the song sheet for tonight. “In fact, you’ve been a little quiet all day. Well, quiet for you.

“And when Pinkie Pie is quiet…” Rarity added, “that usually means something is very, very wrong… or occasionally, very, very right!”

Pinkie blushed a little and smiled to herself. Shelly smiled back at her from the comfort of Pinkie’s nice warm hand.

Sunset paused for a few seconds before laughing. “Rarity, I think I owe you an apology.”

“I should think so!” Rarity put her hands on her hips and wiggled them a little. That lasted for just a few seconds before Rarity shoved herself into Pinkie’s face with a rather silly grin—and Pinkie knew silly. This was really silly. Rarity had almost climbed on top of the piano with her!

“So, I’m going to need to know everything, dear Pinkie! Whoever is this Skystar and however did you meet? I want details, darling! All of them!”

Pinkie glanced at Twilight, Spike and Sunset. All of them had stopped what they were doing. All of them were watching Pinkie really closely, all with really big smiles, too.

Unless she wanted to blow up the piano, Pinkie was pretty sure she wasn’t getting out of here without an telling them all about this morning. And she didn’t think Miss Free Beats, the Canterlot High music teacher, would be very happy if she came in later to an exploded piano.

Plus, blowing up musical instruments to get away from her friends was pretty rude. To the piano and her friends!

So, Pinkie told them about dancing along the boardwalk, finding Skystar all sad and frowny, learning about Skystar’s mom, meeting Shelly and Sheldon, that tight hug and all the way up to Skystar’s cute blush where Pinkie could count the freckles. She didn’t mention that she’d been counting them in her head all morning. Then Pinkie remembered and added all the parts about Stratus and what he’d said about visiting the schools.

When she was done, Pinkie herself would have had trouble matching Rarity’s grin. Sunset’s grin was almost as bad. Twilight was just blushing a lot and playing with a strand of hair. Spike was sniggering so hard it sounded a little like he was coughing up a hairball, which was totally silly since he wasn’t a cat.

“Oh yeah, you got it bad,” Spike said.

I wonder if all dogs are as sassy as Spike? Pinkie thought idly. I should ask Fluttershy.

“Wow.” Sunset burst into another round of laughter. “When Spike calls you out on something, it’s pretty serious.”

Pinkie gave a little sigh and made Shelly roll her eyes at all of them.

“Someone appears to be quite smitten with one little mermaid,” Rarity said in that same silly sing-song voice. “I believe you did spend at least four minutes talking about her freckles.”

“Five,” Twilight corrected automatically. “If you count it all aggregately.”

“I like her freckles.” Pinkie shrugged. “A lot.”

Pinkie wasn’t really sure what she thought about Rarity’s idea. She had just seen a lonely girl on the pier this morning and thought she’d been pretty! The girl had needed a friend and Pinkie was always up for a new friend.

Huh. Now that I think of it, she kinda reminds me of… no, that couldn’t be it! That’s just silly. Silly heart doing silly things! Stop that!

Skystar was just her newest friend! That’s all! Nothing to get all worked up about, but everyone else around her seemed so excited, she couldn’t bring herself to tell them otherwise. So, she’d play along. It might be fun!

“Hmmm.” Rarity pulled out her glasses from her purse. She looked at Pinkie critically, as if she were analyzing her dress again, but now from a completely new perspective.

“What color did you say Skystar’s dress was, Pinkie?” Rarity produced a sketchpad and took a few notes.

“Orange and blue. It made her look like the ocean at sunrise.”

Rarity let out a little squeal and scribbled furiously.

“Uh…” Twilight once again raised a hand, as if she were in class—well, technically, this was the music classroom, so she was in a class, but there wasn’t a class in session right now, so it didn’t really count. “Can I just point out that Pinkie’s known this girl for… what? A few hours? You’ve met her only this morning and—

“And how long did it take you to start making eyes at Timber Spruce, hm?” Rarity asked without turning around.

“Ooh!” Sunset said in her best Pinkie impersonation, waving her hand wildly back and forth. “I know this one!”

“I think we all do, Sunset.” Rarity chuckled mildly.

“I’ll… um… be quiet now…” Twilight mumbled, blushing furiously.

“Anyway,” Rarity continued. “It’s not as if dear Pinkie is professing her undying love or anything as cliche as that. It’s just been quite some time since I’ve seen Pinkie interested in anyone.”

Sunset winced, but Pinkie smiled at her really hard. Pinkie still had to remind Sunset every so often that she had forgiven her a really long time ago for what had happened sophomore year. Sunset had a nasty memory though, one that liked to nip at her sometimes, like a mean yappy dog.

Still, Pinkie could see that little memory go run off and hide when Sunset smiled back. Another win for Pinkie and Sunset!

It also helped distract her from Rarity’s last words. So, it had worked for both of them!

Rarity suddenly stopped scribbling and removed her glasses. “Pinkie?”

“Huh?” Pinkie glanced up at her.

Why did Rarity look so worried? She was all happy just a second ago!

“Are you alright?” Rarity asked, her voice suddenly a little bit concerned. “You do seem a tad quieter than normal.”

Pinkie looked at Shelly, but this time, Shelly wasn’t smiling. Her eyes weren’t rolling either.

“I just feel bad for her,” Pinkie murmured. “I keep thinking of what it would be like without any friends at all, constantly having to move all over the world? Her mom sounds… really mean to make her do that.”

She kept the little heart backflips to herself. Those were probably just a side effect of the… cereal she had this morning? Maybe she hadn’t gotten her proper intake of sugar? Yeah, that was probably it. She was absolutely positively sure of it!

Mostly.

“If she’s an ambassador, Pinkie,” Twilight said, “then her mom’s responsibility is to her country first. From your descriptions, I can’t think of her being anywhere other than from the Aris Islands. Their population is very small, but they have a powerful economy. Come to think of it, her title probably isn’t ‘Ambassador,’ but ‘Ambassador-At-Large.’ Especially if she’s moving around a lot. Traditional ambassadors or ‘ambassadors-in-residence’ stay in one country at an established embassy, even if they’re from small countries.”

Pinkie could hear every quotation mark Twilight used.

“But that doesn’t help Skystar,” Pinkie insisted. “She’s still alone! And what if she ends up leaving tomorrow?”

“We cannot choose our family.” Rarity put a hand on Pinkie’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. “And sometimes a family’s legacy is a difficult one.”

Sunset put down the music sheets and walked up to Pinkie. All three of them were around her now. The piano didn’t feel so comfortable to lie down on anymore, so she decided to sit up instead. Pinkie stared at her shoes before glancing back up at her friends, not really sure what to say.

“She might leave tomorrow, Pinkie,” Sunset said slowly, as if she was saying something she really didn’t want to say. “You can’t control that. But if she is coming here, then maybe you should ask Principal Celestia if you could show them around?”

“Like… a tour guide?” Pinkie blinked a few times. “Wait! I already offered to do that for her!”

“There you go!” Sunset grinned. “Or you could just sneak her off and show her the really fun parts of Canterlot High. After all, I can’t think of anyone who could pack months of fun into an hour or so.”

“Oh!” Pinkie gasped as another of the best ideas ever struck her. “Oh! I could… what if I find a way to keep her here until tonight?”

“Why? What’s tonight?” Twilight asked.

Rarity rolled her eyes. Pinkie helped by rolling hers too. And Shelly’s.

“Twilight, I’m quite sure you heard about tonight’s festivities,” Rarity said, sounding super exasperated. “You were there when we announced it!”

“In her defense,” Spike said from where he’d curled up on the floor, “she probably had a book in her hands at the time.”

“Stop helping me,” Twilight muttered.

Spike chuckled.

Sunset laughed. “Rainbow got the Rainbooms booked tonight at the Tempest Jazz Club on Venture Lane.”

“Oh, so you aren’t just dressed like a swing dancer for fun?” Twilight asked, sounding honestly surprised. Then again, on Monday, Pinkie had gone to school in her best jester outfit for the first time in months, so Pinkie could understand if Twilight was a little confused.

“No, silly!” Pinkie said. “I only do my swing dancer outfit on Wednesdays for fun. If it’s on a Friday, it’s something special.”

“Ah,” Twilight said. She was obviously pretending that explained everything, even if Pinkie knew it wasn’t actually enough for Twilight. But that was okay. Sunset had once told her that if she really tried to answer all of Twilight’s questions, she’d be doing it for weeks or maybe even longer. And it would probably end with Twilight’s hair on fire.

Heck, just seeing Sunset trying to figure out their magic had been really funny and that had only been one day! Sunset still got a little nervous anytime Pinkie got too close to her with balloons for some strange reason.

“Oh my, I just had the most marvelous idea!” Rarity’s eyes lit up. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment!”

Sunset and Twilight shrugged as Rarity rushed over to the corner of the room where she’d placed her backpack. She pulled out her cell phone and started quickly typing away.

“Do you have any idea when Skystar and her mom are going to be here?” Sunset asked.

Pinkie shook her head, so, of course, that’s when her phone suddenly started singing about smiling.

“Thanks, Sunny!” Pinkie chirped as jumped off the piano and dove behind the drums to get her backpack.

“For what?”

“For asking!” Pinkie shook her head and pulled her phone out.

“Why are you thanking me for that?” Sunset blinked at her a few times. “I’m missing something.”

Pinkie rolled her eyes. “It’s obvious, silly! That’s the best way to make something happen! It’s kinda like asking that question in a movie. The ‘what else can go…’ question? Since you asked if I knew when she was going to be here, and I didn’t, she would obviously text me now!”

“That makes no logical sense.” Twilight pointed out with a huff. She even crossed her arms.

“Since when has that stopped Pinkie?” Sunset said with a smirk.

Twilight apparently didn’t have an answer for that.

Pinkie giggled as she finally got her phone unlocked. Then her heart did that little flipping thing again!

Silly cereal.

“She’s here!” Pinkie squealed. “Her and her mom are here! They’re pulling up right now!”

“Excellent, Pinkie!” Rarity declared as she marched over. “Then you must go meet her at once.”

“But… free period is almost over!” Pinkie protested. “Class starts in like ten minutes!”

“Leave that to me, darling,” Rarity replied. Her eyes were glittering again. Rarity was definitely plotting something! “I shall handle all of your affairs.”

“It’s not like anyone in this school really cares about class attendance anyway,” Sunset said with a shrug. “Seriously, with the amount of time we spend out of class, it’s a miracle we haven’t gotten kicked out.”

“Don’t even joke about that!” Twilight cried. “Oh my. I… I should make sure to be there early! I can’t have a bad record! Being tardy is a sin!”

“A sin?” Sunset asked flatly. “Seriously?”

“Gah!” Twilight grabbed her backpack and scampered out of the room.

Spike looked up, did a little doggie shrug and went back to sleep under the piano.

Sunset cocked an eyebrow at Spike. “Aren’t you technically her therapy dog? Shouldn’t you be going with her?”

Spike opened one eye, looked at Sunset and laughed. “I’m a therapy dog, not a wonder dog.”

Ba-dum tish!

“Pinkie, get away from the drums.”

Pinkie whistled innocently, since she just happened to be near the drums. Didn’t mean she was doing anything with them though. Totally random happenstance!

“I’d better go after her,” Sunset said with a sigh as she tossed on her backpack. “Otherwise she might do something crazy.”

“You do realize our definition of crazy is rather wide, right?” Rarity asked as she shouldered her own backpack.

“Yeah, yeah.” Sunset rolled her eyes. “Have fun, Pinks!”

“Thanks, Sunny!” Pinkie gave Sunset a little wave.

“Now!” Rarity declared as soon as Sunset had left. “You are to immediately report to the front of the school to meet your dear Skystar, her mother and her entourage.”

“But…” Pinkie suddenly remembered just how serious Stratus had looked. Her mother was probably gonna be even more serious! “What if—”

“Tut tut!” Rarity tapped Pinkie’s lips with a single finger. “I won’t hear of it! Go now and be yourself. Your only objective is to make sure Skystar has a wonderful time for as long as she’s here! However, I do recommend against blowing anything up.”

Pinkie nodded, snatched her backpack from the floor and decided to head out on her new mission. If Rarity said she’d handle everything else, then Pinkie knew Rarity would handle everything else.

Before Pinkie could get all the way out of the door though, Rarity called back to her.

“Oh, and Pinkie?” Rarity asked.

“Yeah?”

“How many freckles does the lovely Miss Skystar have?”

She didn’t even need to think about it. She just knew! Not that she wouldn’t mind counting again. Just to be sure, of course.

“Five above her nose, four on her right cheek and six on her left.”

Rarity let out another squeal.

Pinkie smiled and hurried toward the front of the school.

Rarity could be so silly sometimes!

Sing, Sing, Sing

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"Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)" by Benny Goodman

The limo in front of Canterlot High was way bigger than the one Skystar had gotten into this morning!

Pinkie stood on the steps and gaped at the huge white car—complete with pretty blue flags with some kind of bird on them—pulled to a stop. There were two other official-looking cars too, one in front and one behind. Immediately, the same guys in the black suits she’d seen earlier piled out of the cars. Most of them just stood around, looking really menacing.

Then Pinkie saw the big Stratus head for the door of the big white limo.

Pinkie’s phone buzzed. It was a message from Rarity.

You’re the welcome party! Principals will join you soon!

Pinkie smiled at the message. If Rarity wanted her to be the welcome party, she would be the best welcome party of all time! It was too bad the party cannons were at home, though. She only had her prototype backup one and that didn’t seem like a good idea right now. Especially if those scary guards were going to be around. They seemed the jumpy type.

So, Pinkie decided to take the direct route. She hopped down the stairs two at a time and put on her top-of-the-line ultimate best smile ever. It was the one that Sunset had said she should get patented. Which was silly, because who could patent a smile? How would she even collect royalties on something like that?

Actually, she couldn’t do that. Charging for smiles would be just… wrong.

It helped that it was a super-nice day. The sun shone all bright and cheerful. There were a few white fluffy clouds, but they just made the sky look more awesome. Like right now, Pinkie could see a dragon, a siren and some sort of flying Pac-Man thing in the clouds. She wondered what Skystar would see. Probably shells. And that would be awesome, too!

If she tilted her head just right, she could see some now!

When Pinkie passed the Wondercolts Statue—they’d finally got it fixed last week—Skystar stepped out of the car, still in her super-pretty dress that made her look like a sunrise over the ocean.

Stratus’s head swiveled back and forth like some weird periscope. He saw Pinkie before Skystar, which was too bad. Stratus went all stiff. He was probably glaring at her behind his mirrored sunglasses.

That guy really needs a hug. Maybe later though.

“Skystar!” Pinkie shouted, jogging up and waving.

Skystar’s pretty ocean eyes darted up and a huge grin appeared on her face. “Pinkie!”

A few of the guards looked alarmed, but Stratus lifted a hand in a really bossy way and they all relaxed. Well, they didn’t look like they really could relax, so they just sort of… didn’t do anything as Pinkie approached the big white car.

Skystar glanced over at Stratus, like she was daring him to say something, and then rushed forward to meet Pinkie. To Pinkie’s total surprise, Skystar actually hugged her! That made Pinkie’s heart do all kinds of leaps, jumps, bounces and dances, like it was trying out for some parkour competition!

Um… maybe it was the cereal and hot chocolate? Or maybe I got my hot chocolate mixed up with Maud’s coffee again this morning?

Pinkie didn’t let herself get disappointed when Skystar pulled away though, even if she sort of was. But when Skystar’s hands held Pinkie’s, all the disappointment flew away like a runaway balloon.

That little touch did all sorts of things to her! Pinkie squealed inside, doing lots of mental noises like the ones Rarity had made back in the music room. Her whole body felt warm! Skystar’s hands were soft and warm, too. Pinkie could feel the little bubble patterns on each of Skystar’s painted nails. They felt like they’d been in the sun a lot, but were still super smooth. Pinkie sorta kinda didn’t ever wanna let go.

Pinkie winced a little as all of her friend’s theories rushed back to her. Okay… well… um… maybe I do like Skystar as a little more than that just a friend.

Just a little though! Nothing to get all super-crazy excited about!

“I can’t wait to introduce you to my mom!” Skystar said. Her eyes were all bright and shiny. “She’s got a surprise for me today, though she won’t tell me what it is!”

“Maybe it’s a really good one!” Pinkie said. “Like an amazing birthday present or something!”

“Maybe!” Skystar beamed at her, sounding hopeful, but more like she wanted something a little different. “Anyway, come on!”

Skystar did—sadly—let go of Pinkie’s hands and guided her back to the giant white limo just as a very tall woman in a shimmery pure white gown stepped out. Pinkie had never seen anyone get out of a car so regally! It was so regal that Pinkie stopped in her tracks and stared. Skystar giggled.

The woman looked around and didn’t really seem very impressed with CHS. Then again, considering she looked like she was from one of those crazy super-fancy fashion magazines Rarity sometimes had imported from overseas, it didn’t really surprise Pinkie. The woman’s gown—because calling it a dress wouldn’t be doing it justice—had a shining blue collar with a single bright yellow feather down the front. Violet peacock feathers had been woven into her bright purple hair. She even wore a giant blue feather with two smaller ones atop her head. The feathers were the same color as Skystar’s hair, so Pinkie really liked the feathers.

“It doesn’t look like much,” the woman said. She had a really strong voice. She’d never heard a voice like it before. It was pretty, but in a sort of scary way.

“Mom!” Skystar called with a huge smile. “Mom! Come here! I want you to meet Pinkie Pie, my new friend!”

“Hi!” Pinkie said with a cheerful wave. “It’s really great to meet you!”

Skystar’s mom walked toward them. No, it wasn’t a walk. It was a little like the way Rarity sometimes like to have her models walk down the runways when she did fashion shows. Pinkie had to think for a moment to come up with the right word. It didn’t seem quite like a sashay...

Right! Saunter!

Skystar’s mom sauntered toward them. She was like a foot and a half taller than Pinkie Pie, so Pinkie had to crane her neck a little. The woman took in Pinkie’s pretty swing dancing outfit, complete with the jingly belt. Then she cocked an eyebrow, looking really imperious—and imposing.

Pinkie swallowed and cringed back just a little, which she thought was a little weird. She didn’t get scared often. So why was she so nervous about Skystar’s mom? Why did all those butterflies start racing around her stomach like they were all competing for the title of best Rainbow Dash Butterfly?

“Mom, stop it!” Skystar whined with a stomp of a foot. “You’re doing your super intimidating thing again!”

Skystar’s mom rolled her eyes and let out that kind of sigh Rarity sometimes used on Pinkie. Then, suddenly, the woman’s face softened a little and Pinkie could breathe again.

“Mom,” Skystar began. She sounded all formal now, as if she were at some state function or something. “I’d like to introduce Pinkie Pie, student at Canterlot High School. Pinkie, I’d like you to meet Ambassador Novo, emissary of the Aris Islands!”

“Hi!” Pinkie Pie quickly brought out her top-of-the-line ultimate best smile ever again and tried to use it on Ambassador Novo.

Ambassador Novo didn’t seem impressed.

“So,” Novo declared as she leaned down to study Pinkie. “You’re the one who Stratus caught hugging my daughter?”

“Mom!” Skystar squealed. She looked embarrassed, but for a whole bunch of reasons. She was blushing too, bringing out her cute freckles again.

“Skystar, hush,” the Ambassador snapped. Her eyes were really intense again and they were totally focused on Pinkie. “An ambassador must always know what others intend when it comes to her people. Now, young lady, you will answer my question. Are you the one who hugged my daughter this morning?”

The Ambassador loomed over her and Pinkie had to fight the urge not to run away. It was so weird! Strangers didn’t freak out Pinkie Pie. Why was she so scared?

Well, she knew what to do when she was scared, but giggling right now probably wasn’t the best idea. So, she did the next best thing.

“Yup!” Pinkie chirped, bouncing a little on her Mary Jan—no, Rarity had said they were T-straps. Pinkie bounced on her T-straps and looked Ambassador Novo square in the eye, never letting her smile crack for even a second!

Ambassador Novo blinked. Then her eyes narrowed again and got even more intense.

“Why?” The Ambassador’s voice was almost like a growl.

Pinkie broke eye contact with the Ambassador to glance at Skystar. The pretty girl chewed her lip. She was still blushing and her hands played with her dress nervously. She looked scared too, but not of her mom.

Pinkie felt the lightbulb go on. She’s scared what my answer will be!

So, Pinkie did what she did best: she smiled at Skystar. This was a new smile, too. One that she had made just for Skystar. She even made it up on the spot, too! Pinkie did have a gift for smiles, after all.

As soon as Skystar looked up and saw Pinkie’s new Skystar Smile, she went bright red, but her eyes looked so happy. She returned the smile, showing bright white teeth. Then she didn’t look nearly as scared. In fact, she looked giddy.

It was probably one of the prettiest smiles she’d ever seen. None of her friends could smile like that.

Pinkie vowed at that moment, she would do anything to make sure Skystar stayed at least that happy for as long as she could!

Pinkie turned back to Skystar’s mom and stared her right in the eye… again. Then she said in her sternest voice—which really wasn’t all that stern, “Because she was lonely and needed a friend!”

A flash of anger passed over Novo’s face and it got all twisted.

“My daughter has everything she could ever need, provided by me or my staff!” Novo snapped. “Who are you to say differently?”

Pinkie reached out, grabbed Skystar’s hand and pulled her close. Skystar let out a little squeak of surprise, but she didn’t pull away. In fact, she squeezed Pinkie’s hand really tight, like she never wanted to let go.

Eeeee! Pinkie’s heart started to dance again, but she kept her face serious.

Okay, not the cereal. That was a silly theory anyway!

“I’m her friend,” Pinkie declared, refusing to back down to Skystar’s mom’s glare.

Novo didn’t look impressed. “And if we were leaving tomorrow? What about then?”

Skystar gasped. “Mom!”

Pinkie didn’t miss a beat. She just squeezed Skystar’s hand back. “Then I’d still be her friend. I’d be really sad and I’d miss her a whole lot—especially her pretty smile and cute freckles—but I’d still be her friend!”

Skystar’s mom straightened and studied Pinkie as if seeing her for the first time—which she sort of was. Then she looked at Skystar.

Skystar’s eyes were locked on Pinkie… and she was still blushing a lot. So, Pinkie counted her freckles again and smiled back.

“I see.” Skystar’s mom seemed to come to some sort of decision, since her whole body relaxed. “Well, you seem to be the only one here, though I’m sure your school’s administration knew I was coming.”

“They did!” Pinkie replied, her smile growing a bit warmer now that Novo didn’t seem so mad. “They sent me ahead to welcome you! I’m your welcoming party!”

“Just you?” Novo raised an eyebrow at Pinkie. “Well… I’ve seen worse. And, who knows? They might actually know what they’re doing here after all.”

“They totally do!” Pinkie said. She had to stick up for her school, after all. “CHS is the best school anywhere!”

Novo scoffed at that. “We’ll see, Miss… Pie, was it?”

“Uh-huh!” Pinkie nodded. “But feel free to call me Pinkie!”

Something close to a smile appeared on Novo’s face. It was really quick and if Pinkie wasn’t super observant, she might have missed it.

“Very well, Pinkie… ah, look. Here comes the rest of your ‘welcome party.’”

Pinkie glanced behind her to see Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna striding down the steps. Both of them looked a little worried, but they masked it really well. Pinkie wasn’t sure if Skystar’s mom would be able to see it. With their long legs, they made it to the big limo real quick.

“Ambassador Novo,” Principal Celestia said with her best smile and reached out her hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you at last.”

Novo considered Celestia for a moment before nodding with a tiny smile on her face. She shook Celestia’s hand in what looked like a really tight grip. “Likewise, Principal Celestia.”

“May I introduce my sister, Vice Principal Luna?” Celestia said, gesturing to Luna. Celestia didn’t seem to mind that Novo had just tried to crush her hand.

What was that about?

Luna and Novo nodded to one another, smiled and shook hands.

“I do hope you enjoyed our little welcome wagon. When we learned that one of our best students had already had the privilege of meeting your daughter, we thought it only fitting that she be the one to welcome you to Canterlot High School.”

“That was… nice?” Skystar commented, looking suspiciously between Celestia and her mom. “Mom? What’s going on?”

Pinkie narrowed her eyes. She thought something was up too, but she wasn’t quite sure what it was.

“Skystar, I told you,” she replied, sounding like she’d already said this a few dozen times or something. “We’re simply investigating the educational facilities of the city. It’s for a report for the Council of Ministers.”

“It is an honor that our school would be selected to represent the nation’s education system,” Luna said.

Her voice even sounded more formal than usual, and Luna always had a certain ‘majesty’ around her. Maybe it had something to do with her being an immortal alicorn princess in Equestria! Yup. Pinkie was pretty sure that was the reason why, even if Luna had been like that even before Sunset Shimmer came through the portal. After all, the portal had to have already been there, right?

Principal Celestia… well, she was Celestia. Probably for the same reasons!

“Come, Skystar. Why don’t you bring your new friend along for the tour?” Skystar’s mom said before turning to Celestia. “As long as that’s acceptable, Principal Celestia.”

“Of course!” Celestia said brightly. Her wavy multicolored hair shone in the sun. “In fact, Pinkie is taking the day off from all her classes to make sure you and your daughter have an excellent time here.”

Pinkie’s eyes went huge as all the butterflies in her stomach did little happy loopty-loops. As soon as Novo turned to tell Stratus something, Pinkie made eye contact with Principal Celestia. She knew her smile was almost totally out of control, but she didn’t care. Even better, Principal Celestia winked at her.

I’m going to bake Rarity the biggest and best cake of all time! Pinkie decided right then. Everything she loves!

That’s when Pinkie realized she was still holding Skystar’s hand. Skystar hadn’t tried to move away either. She was really close to Pinkie, like within a foot or two. When Pinkie turned her bright smile onto her, well, she didn’t really have words for what her heart and her butterflies were doing then. Maybe some sort of huge airshow, combined with a party with clowns, jugglers and those crazy art-dancer type people? That’s was the best thing she could come up with. She could figure out a better analogy later.

Then, something very strange happened to Pinkie Pie. Something that didn’t happen very often at all.

She didn’t know what to do.

She was standing in front of Canterlot High School with Principals Celestia and Luna looking at her and Skystar with barely-hidden smiles, with a bunch of security guards around them. Ambassador Novo was still saying things to Stratus in a super-quiet voice.

A few silly thoughts passed through her head, like running off with Skystar and introducing her to all of her best friends, but that should probably wait. After all, Stratus might get all grumpy and chase after them.

She could also just run off with Skystar and wait to introduce her to all of her best friends. That might be fun, too! But that still left the problem of Stratus.

“Principal Celestia,” Novo suddenly said in a super-loud voice. “We should begin the tour now. Afterward, I shall need a private word with you and your sister.”

Celestia seemed startled by this. It was strange seeing the Principal caught off-guard. Really strange. As if, Novo had said something she hadn’t been ready for.

“Of course. If you’ll follow me?”

“Oh!” Skystar’s mom said as she turned to stare at her daughter and Pinkie. “And I do require that Miss Pinkie Pie remain at my daughter’s side at all times. I would very much like to have a student’s perspective about the school. For the report, of course.”

Celestia looked like she was trying not to smile, but Pinkie wasn’t quite sure why. Maybe she heard something in Novo’s words that Pinkie wasn’t catching? Skystar’s mom made it really hard to figure out what she was thinking. Probably had to do with being an important ambassador and stuff.

Still, Pinkie wasn’t going to complain. In fact, Skystar squeezed her hand even tighter!

Dang it! Pinkie thought as her heart and butterflies did synchronized backflips. I think my friends were right! I’m going to have to bring them extra cupcakes on Monday!

Then Novo’s eyes landed on Pinkie and Skystar’s hands. It took both Skystar and Pinkie a second to realize what Novo was doing… and more importantly, what they were doing. Both of them blushed and pulled away from each other, giggling nervously.

Novo rolled her eyes. Luna smiled. Celestia winked again.

“Shall we?” Novo said with another one of those long sighs.

Principal Celestia nodded and led the way. Then came Novo and Luna, with Skystar and Pinkie behind them. Thankfully, only the big purple-haired Stratus followed them. The rest of the scary security guards stayed behind with the cars. That was good, they would have been really distracting.

“How’s Shelly?” Skystar whispered as they passed the statue.

“Happy as a clam!” Pinkie replied.

They both burst into giggles.

In The Mood

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"In the Mood" by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra

After over an hour of touring Canterlot High—and a really in-depth look at their new oceanography lab—Pinkie had been shocked when Ambassador Novo ordered Stratus accompany her to her meeting with Celestia and Luna in the teacher’s lounge.

Then, Skystar’s mom told the two girls to behave and shooed them away.

She’d been so surprised, she hadn’t been able to get out a word. And while a bit of Pinkie was sorta suspicious about the sudden change in attitude, she wasn’t going to waste this chance!

Because, just like that, Skystar and Pinkie were free!

Even better, lunch started in just a few minutes! Pinkie could introduce Skystar to all of her friends!

This is the best day ever!

Pinkie did a little two-step and her heels clacked on the shining blue floor. Skystar broke into giggles and clapped her hands, which only encouraged Pinkie on—not that she needed much encouragement today! Skystar bounced and weaved a little, but she didn’t join in. That was okay. Pinkie could hear the music perfectly in her head as she did all the little steps to the song they were going to debut tonight. She really hoped Ambassador Novo would let Skystar see the Rainbooms play!

“You’re really good at that.” Skystar laughed. “It looks so fun.”

Pinkie offered a hand. “Wanna try?”

Skystar shied away, flushing red. “Oh, oh no. That’s okay! I… don’t really know how to dance.”

Pinkie spun to face her and gasped.

“How could anyone not know how to—” She stopped and thought of Princess Twilight at the Fall Formal. “Okay, sorry! There are plenty of people who don’t know how to dance. Like my alicorn friend, Twilight!”

Skystar blinked a few times, but she didn’t stop smiling. “Alicorn? What’s an alicorn?”

Pinkie thought about it, trying to remember how Princess Twilight had described it. “I think… it’s a horse with wings and a horn.”

“That sounds pretty funny… and a little weird,” Skystar admitted.

Pinkie shrugged.

They started walking again. Pinkie decided it would be better if they got there before the lunch bell rang, that way, they could claim their traditional seats and have everything ready for her friends to meet Skystar! This time, Pinkie only had a little extra skip to her step, but Skystar didn’t have any trouble keeping up.

“Well, my friends and I grow pony ears and tails and wings when we play music and other stuff, so maybe we’re just used to weird!”

Skystar shook her head and her blue hair flowed around her face like she was underwater. “You’ve really gotta show me that.”

Pinkie was tempted to use her geode, but she’d made a promise. “Well, I can’t. I promised not to blow up anything unless strictly necessary. Maybe one of my friends can use their powers though!”

“You… can blow stuff up?” Skystar’s eyes went wide, though for a split second, Pinkie couldn’t tell exactly why.

“Uh-huh,” Pinkie replied, watching her new friend carefully.

“That’s really neat,” Skystar whispered. She clapped her hands together, looking all kinds of excited.

Fantabulastic! She thinks it’s neat! I have a superpower and Skystar thinks it’s neat!

Pinkie danced on sunshine all the way to the cafeteria, right beside Skystar. Well, not literally on sunshine, though she wondered how someone would do that. It would be a really cool trick. She should try it sometime! Somehow. Maybe Twilight could help levitate her or Rarity could do something with her diamond shield-thingys? Or they could go to Equestria! They probably did that sort of thing all the time there!

Thankfully, the cafeteria staff were all ready for lunch when they came in. Since Pinkie liked to help in the school kitchens every Wednesday, they were more than happy to offer Skystar and Pinkie first dibs on the food.

Pinkie had to help Skystar, though. Apparently, she wasn’t used to this sort of thing. It was almost as if she’d never been in a cafeteria before! It wasn’t until they sat down at the Rainboom’s traditional table a few minutes before the lunch bell rang when Pinkie finally got it.

“You’ve never been to high school, have you?”

Skystar shook her head as she played with her salad. She made the croutons go around and around and around with her fork. Pinkie got a little dizzy watching her, though she liked seeing Skystar’s nice painted nails.

“But…” Pinkie struggled to understand, while being very glad that she’d had this conversation before Twilight had shown up. “How did you get to learn… you knowanything?”

“Oh!” Skystar said with a little smile. “I had tutors. They were great! Still, it was always just me and the tutors. And I kept having to switch those too whenever we moved.”

Skystar blinked a few times like there was something in her eye. Her smile faltered and she opened her mouth to say something, only to be cut off by the lunch bell.

“They’re coming!” Pinkie cried as students started to pile into the cafeteria.

CHS took lunch time seriously. After hearing the stories of helping Princess Twilight get her crown back and Dazzlings, their Twilight had theorized there was something in the way the room was built that made people inside easy to manipulate. She used the phrase ‘subliminal acoustics.’

Rainbow had laughed at that for a good five minutes, which had made Twilight very huffy. That had been the first time Pinkie had realized Sunset watched Twilight like, all the time.

“Wow… that’s… um… a lot of people,” Skystar said as she shrank back and scooted closer to Pinkie. Pinkie didn’t mind.

“You okay?” Pinkie asked.

“Mmhm.” Skystar nodded and bit her lip. “Just… not used to so many people my age.”

Flash and Ditzy waved at Pinkie as they went by. Ditzy bumped Flash on the shoulder and he blushed. Pinkie let out a little giggle. Ditzy was perfect for Flash. He hadn’t even looked at Twilight since they’d started dating. Well, of course, he’d looked at her, just not looked at her. Twilight had been really happy about that. Things had been pretty awkward for a while.

Pinkie decided the best way to handle things with Skystar was to help her feel closer to them. So, Pinkie pointed out all the students and named them one by one as they walked by. Skystar hung off of every word and even gave a few waves back before too long.

In fact, before her first friend arrived at the table, Skystar had almost completely relaxed. To Pinkie’s expert eye, she looked just like another student, only way prettier.

Rainbow Dash looked a little surprised to see someone else sitting at their table, but it didn’t stop her from plopping down. Pinkie was about to introduce Rainbow to Skystar when she felt something… something she hadn’t sensed since… an hour ago!

Pinkie could feel Rarity’s smile before she saw the purple-haired girl. When she found her friend and met Rarity’s eyes—she was near the end of the lunch line with the rest of their friends—Pinkie smiled back.

Rarity looked utterly ecstatic. She looked ready to bounce off the walls! And for Rarity to look like that… well, it was a pretty big deal.

Pinkie blushed under her grin… at least until Twilight poked Rarity in the back to make her slide her meal card through the little slot.

And then, Pinkie’s friends came over.

“Now, don’t be nervous!” Pinkie whispered to Skystar. “They’re all super nice! You’ll love them.”

Skystar nodded, but she looked nervous anyway. Then again, Pinkie couldn’t blame her. Suddenly, Pinkie felt nervous. Almost like how she’d felt meeting Skystar’s mom. Which was silly, because Pinkie met new people all the time.

“Pinkie, darling!” Rarity declared as she slid into her seat next to Pinkie. Her voice so full of glee it sounded like it might explode! “Whoever is this beautiful young lady at your side?”

Sunset snickered a little as she sat down, but smiled at Skystar. Twilight sat down next to Sunset—as usual—and she seemed more curious than anything else. Applejack tipped her hat to Skystar in a very traditional Applejack greeting. Fluttershy gave Skystar little wave. Skystar returned it with a wave just as small.

“Everyone!” Pinkie said in a voice loud enough to be heard around the table. “I’d like you all to meet Skystar! She’s my new friend! I met her on the beach this morning!”

“You just met her on the beach?” Applejack asked. “What were you doing all the way down on the beach this morning?”

“Dancing!” Pinkie replied.

“Of course!” Rainbow laughed. “What else would she be doing?”

“I need to be in tip-top shape for tonight, but I decided to stop practicing when I saw Skystar,” Pinkie continued. “But, I need to introduce you properly!”

Pinkie quickly introduced everyone around the table, until she reached Twilight and Sunset on Skystar’s left. As soon as she said their names, Skystar’s eyes lit up in recognition.

“Oh, that’s right!” Skystar cried with a huge smile and pointed at Twilight. “You’re the one who’s a magical talking pony!”

Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Applejack all gaped at Pinkie. Rarity and Sunset both snickered a little. Twilight just sat there, looking like her brain had just completely locked up. That happened sometimes. Sunset called it a ‘Twilight-Incompatible Data Conflict.’

“Actually…” Sunset raised her hand. “That would be me. This Twilight is just as human as you are.”

Twilight blushed under the attention and adjusted her glasses.

“Oh, right!” Skystar nodded and bit her lip. “Sorry, I got confused trying to keep straight who’s a magical talking pony.”

“No problem,” Sunset said casually with a look at Pinkie. “It’s not like it comes up in normal conversation.”

Sunset can be so smooth sometimes!

“Wait…” Skystar looked a little closer at Sunset before her eyes lit up again. “That’s it! You’re also the one who has a massive crush on Twilight, right?”

Pinkie’s fork dropped to the metal table as everyone went totally silent. Then they all turned to stare at Skystar with huge eyes and dropped jaws.

Skystar blinked and cringed back a little. “Oh… um… I wasn’t supposed to say that, was I?”

Then, everyone’s heads slowly turned to Sunset.

The expression on Sunset’s face was almost exactly the same one she had after using her empathy power on Pinkie. She was also bright red, almost the same color as the stripes in her hair! She opened her mouth once, closed it and then tried again. Nothing came out. Pinkie couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t looking at Twilight.

“Eh-heh.” Skystar rubbed her neck, turning almost as red as Sunset. “Sorry?”

“I’m… ah… guessing that since you’re all reacting in this manner,” Twilight said very slowly with her fork halfway to her mouth. “That this… uh… isn’t a joke?”

“Um…” Sunset laughed the most awkward laugh Pinkie had ever heard. “Err… um. Yeah, I’m going to go with ‘um.’ ‘Um’s’ a good word.”

Rarity let out a little squeal as Sunset slowly turned—along with everyone else—to look at Twilight.

Twilight obviously wanted to be anywhere but here, because she was even redder than Sunset. She kept adjusting her glasses, over and over again. Her eyes darted back and forth, as if looking for an escape. She even chewed on one of her bangs a bit and Pinkie hadn’t seen her do that in months!

“I… I should probably go…” Skystar whispered as tried to get up and slip away while everyone was distracted.

Pinkie instantly grabbed her hand and yanked her back down. She was firm, but still gentle. She didn’t take her eyes off of Twilight and Sunset.

“I… I um…” Twilight still wasn’t looking at Sunset. “I don’t suppose now would be a good time… to um… say that Timber and I… er… well… we decided to call it off last weekend?”

If Pinkie’s eyes could have burst from her head, they would have. A collective “What?” came up from the entire table—save for Skystar.

“And you didn’t tell us this before now, Twilight?” Rarity almost shouted. “That’s five days! Five days!

“I… I wanted to be sure?” Twilight offered quietly. “The drive back and forth was really hard on both of us! And he’s a bit older than me… and a few other things… so…”

She trailed off.

Pinkie’s heart did a super fast little sprint around her chest. She had to fight to keep from squeezing Skystar’s hand too tight.

“So, uh…” Sunset rubbed the back of her neck and bit her lip. “That’s… I’m sorry?”

“Well,” Twilight said. Now, she was staring at her sandwich. And playing with her geode. And her eyes were darting from side to side even more. “There was… um… another reason… one that took me a while to figure out…”

“Perhaps it might be best if the two of you continue this conversation elsewhere?” Rarity interjected like a popping balloon.

Part of Pinkie wanted to pout, because she wanted to see how this all turned out! Like really, really wanted to see how this all turned out! Timber and Twilight were sort of cute together, and she felt a little bad for Timber, since Timber had really liked Twilight. She would have to send him some cupcakes. If he was sad about it, that would help!

If not, well, then free cupcakes! And who didn’t like free cupcakes?

The other part of her—the part not considering what flavor of cupcakes to use—knew it would be a lot better if Twilight and Sunset handled this without an audience.

Though, Pinkie had a sense for this sort of thing. Rarity—well, she tried really hard, but her sense wasn’t as good as Pinkie’s. Pinkie’s hunches were amazing. This time though, the hunch was a pretty easy guess.

Twilight hadn’t run from the room or outright denied it. In fact, if Pinkie could read the emotions on Twilight’s face, she’d have to say that Twilight looked… hmmmm

Happy! Really embarrassed and awkward and a little scared, but under all that she’s happy! She hadn’t scooted away from Sunset when Skystar outed her and that made it pretty clear that she didn’t think it was a horrible idea!

“Yeah… uh… that’s probably a good idea,” Sunset murmured.

“Might I suggest the music room?” Rarity said. She tried to keep her little sing-song voice down, but she couldn’t keep it all the way out. “I believe it’s unoccupied at present.”

“Uh… sure.” Twilight nodded and stood up so quickly she banged her knee on the underside of the table.

Pinkie winced.

“You okay?” Sunset asked, automatically reaching out to steady Twilight before she could fall.

That’s when Twilight really blushed. “Uh… uh… yeah.”

And a bright happy balloon of sunshine burst inside of Pinkie’s chest. She managed to contain the squeal. Rarity’s squeal snuck out a little before Rarity got it under control.

Silly Rarity.

Neither Sunset nor Twilight seemed to notice their reactions. Instead, the two girls took their food trays back to the return counter, grabbed an extra apple and left.

“Darling!” The word rolled off Rarity’s tongue like the best lemon drop of all time as she turned to Skystar. “I could simply kiss you for that!”

It was now Skystar’s turn to go bright red. Pinkie felt something weird inside of her heart, something she didn’t like. So, she stomped on it and kicked it away.

“Well…” Applejack blinked a few times. “That just happened.”

Fluttershy just stared at the open door, but when she turned around, she was smiling one of her happiest smiles. And she aimed that smile right at Pinkie and Skystar.

“Yeah it did!” Rainbow chortled. “Took ‘em long enough. They’ve been making eyes at each other since the Friendship Games!”

Skystar’s hand started to shake a little bit and she sniffled quietly.

Fluttershy, Applejack and Rarity turned to demand how in the world Rainbow Dash had noticed before they did—though Rarity was a lot louder than the others.

But Pinkie turned to look at Skystar.

She looked almost ready to cry… but she was smiling?

“It’s okay!” Pinkie assured her, patting the hand she still held with the other hand. “It’s fine! Really! Actually, it sounds like your timing was perfect since Twilight just—”

Skystar’s smile broke and fell apart as tears started to stream over her freckles. “I have to go.”

Then, before Pinkie could react, Skystar yanked her hand away from Pinkie’s, scrambled to her feet and ran out the door. Pinkie watched, her mouth wide open, as the crying girl left her behind.

Just like that, every balloon in her chest seemed to deflate. Even her heart deflated a little. The butterflies seemed to decide to hibernate or something. She didn’t know if butterflies actually hibernated. But if they did, hers were definitely hibernating.

“What’s her problem?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Applejack and Fluttershy both seemed at a loss for words. Rarity, however, looked a little panicked.

“Pinkie Pie!” Rarity cried. “You must go after her!”

“What are you on about, Rares?” Applejack asked.

“Well, for one, I’m fairly sure her mother will be most upset if she finds Skystar unattended.” Rarity leaned forward and stared at Pinkie really hard. “But more importantly, there’s a girl out there who needs to be comforted, dare I say, Pinkie Pie Style!

“You’re right!” Pinkie shouted as she leapt from her seat and onto the bench. Most of the cafeteria turned to look at her, but Pinkie didn’t care. “I’ll find out what’s going on! And I promise to bring back the best smile ever!”

Pinkie ran over the table. Rainbow rolled her eyes. Applejack chuckled. Fluttershy smiled. Rarity looked triumphant.

They also moved their trays out of the way just in time.

Then Pinkie was on the floor and off like a shot, on her dire quest to find her fleeing mermaid and give her back her smile.

Ain’t Misbehavin’

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"Ain't Misbehavin'" by Billie Holiday

Pinkie Pie knew Canterlot High like the back of her hand. Though she had always thought that saying was a little weird, since she didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the back of her hand. Who did that, anyway? It would be silly to be constantly walking around staring at the back of your hand. You’d run into things!

Hand or no hand, Pinkie had spent a lot of time at Canterlot High. In fact, she’d spent so much time here, it was practically like a second home. After all, being the best party planner in the school required an excellent knowledge of your party environment.

Still, that didn’t help much when you were looking for a girl who’d never been here before and had just run away crying. And that thought reminded her that this was no game of hide-and-seek. She needed to find Skystar. After all, she had vowed to make sure Skystar was as happy as possible at all times! Even though she hadn’t told a single person about that promise, she had to keep it!

It was the principle of the matter.

Pinkie forced herself to stop in the main lobby and carefully thought about her options. Skystar probably wouldn’t go running back to her mom or back to the limo. That didn’t seem likely. The music room didn’t seem like a good choice. Where would she—

Pinkie blinked and pulled out Shelly from her pocket. Those smart googly eyes seemed to consider her. Pinkie could almost see Shelly’s raised eyebrow, telling her that Pinkie knew exactly where Skystar was. She nodded at the clam, put Shelly back in her pocket and scampered to the north side of the second story of CHS.

It had been strange that Mister Catfish had suddenly transformed one of the Canterlot High science labs into a super high-quality oceanography laboratory a month ago. In fact, now that she thought about it, during the tour, Principal Celestia had taken a really long time in the lab, making sure that both Skystar and her mom saw every single station and display.

Skystar had been really hard to read in there, though. Pinkie hadn’t been sure what was going through her head during that part of the tour! Sometimes she seemed happy, sometimes sad, sometimes thoughtful and sometimes she just got out Sheldon and stared at him. It had been a little weird, but Pinkie hadn’t minded.

Still, now that she thought about it, the reason why Celestia had taken so long seemed so obvious. It even made sense why there had been such a rush to get the new lab set up!

If I was a principal and I knew an important ambassador was coming here from a bunch of islands, I’d probably make sure the school had an awesome lab all about the ocean to show off… and then really show it off!

Principal Celestia could be pretty sneaky when she wanted to be.

Pinkie scampered down the north hallway and skidded to a stop when she spied a single open door.

Sure enough, it was the oceanography lab. Pinkie strode up to the door… and paused. She had intended to just march straight through, but now she had to suddenly swallow super hard. Her heart was doing a kinda sick-feeling flip-flop thing now. It wasn’t anything like the flip-flops this morning or the ones she’d had when she’s seen Skystar come out of the limo.

Pinkie Pie was scared.

Now, to be honest, a lot of things scared Pinkie. What would happen when they all graduated really scared her. How distant Fluttershy could sometimes get scared her. Even some of the stunts Rainbow did—or the crazy stuff Sunset did on her motorcycle—those scared her, too. She’d had to face up to the fact that there were some fears you couldn’t giggle away.

She thought that fact was really stupid, though. If that fact had a face, she’d draw a silly little mustache, giant eyebrows, an eyepatch and a drunk parrot on its shoulder! And she’d do it all in black permanent marker, too. That would show that fact who’s boss!

This kind of scared was different from all of those. Well, it was a little bit like the scared she got about Fluttershy, but not really. Because what really scared Pinkie, right here and now, was just how much she didn’t want Skystar to have to leave.

Then again, Skystar had already sorta left. She’d ran away. But Pinkie had made a vow to bring back Skystar’s smile. And if there was one thing Pinkie had plenty of, it was smiles.

Pinkie took a breath, then slowly pushed opened the door.

It was dark in the lab. A few of the tanks were full of all sorts of seashells, fish, clams and other sea-things. A lot of them were lit with soft blue lights. One or two were even using blacklights, making everything all neon and glowy.

The biggest—and coolest—part of the lab was the main touch-tank, a large boxy thing that ran along the center of the room. It held all sorts of clams, starfish and even some coral. Mister Catfish had said all the things inside were specially chosen to be studied without causing harm to the animals. That had made Fluttershy really happy. In fact, Mister Catfish had even consulted Fluttershy on the design—but that had been a secret.

The lights over the touch-tank were usually on all the time, but someone had turned them off.

That someone sat on stool, staring into the salt-water touch-tank. All Pinkie could see was a little bit of her blue hair.

“Skystar?” Pinkie called softly.

The shadow sniffled and rubbed her nose.

“Hi, Pinkie,” she said in a very quiet voice.

Pinkie stepped inside, her T-straps clacking on the hard white floor of the lab, then she closed the door behind her.

“You know, it’s a lot prettier if the touch-tanks lights are on.”

“I’ve seen it all before,” Skystar said. She sniffled again. “It’s not like there’s anything new.”

Pinkie slowly walked forward until she stood directly opposite Skystar. She looked down. She could make out all the strange creatures who lived in the water… and she could make out the vague shape of Skystar’s face. Something fell from Skystar’s eye and mixed with the salt water, sending little ripples out until they touched the very edges of the tank.

Pinkie thumbed the light switch. It took a moment, but the soft lights hanging above the tank buzzed to life.

Then Pinkie smiled at Skystar’s reflection.

“How about now?” Pinkie asked.

Skystar’s eyes were red and puffy, but a hint of a smile appeared on her lips. Just a tiny flitter of one, but it was enough. Skystar looked up. So did Pinkie.

“I’m sorry,” Skystar said. She swallowed hard and rubbed at her eyes with her right hand. Her left clutched Sheldon.

“It’s okay,” Pinkie assured her. It wasn’t okay, because Skystar wasn’t okay, but she knew her friends wouldn’t be upset at her for running away. But when you were dealing with something like this, you had to say it was okay, even if it wasn’t. “But… I don’t know why. And I want to understand.”

“Why?” Skystar frowned. The frown looked really wrong on Skystar’s pretty face. “Why do you care?”

She thought about what each of her friends might say right now. Rainbow Dash would probably say something about being awesome—or act like it was no big deal. Fluttershy would probably be crying with Skystar and bonding with her like that. Twilight would try to get all psychological and overanalyze her. Rarity would probably try to do something crazy romantic—and then calm down and try to find out what was really going on. Applejack would be totally honest with Skystar. And Sunset… well, Sunset would probably already know why Skystar was sad. Not because of her geode, but because she understood people now in a way that Pinkie thought was pretty amazing.

Why did Pinkie care? Well, she didn’t really have to think that long about it.

“Because I do,” Pinkie said. “I want you to be happy. And to be happy, I have to understand what makes you not happy.”

“It’s stupid,” Skystar muttered. She stared at Sheldon a bit.

“No, it’s not,” Pinkie insisted. “I want to know! I want to help!”

“Why?” Skystar snapped. Her eyes went all narrow and now they were the color of a stormy sea instead of gentle ocean waves.

“Because someone as cute and pretty as you shouldn’t be all frowny!” Pinkie answered before she could stop herself.

Skystar went so scarlet it looked like she might burst into flames. She rocked back hard and almost fell off her stool. “You… you think I’m cute? You think I’m pretty?

It was Pinkie’s turn to turn red. There was no going back now!

Pinkie nodded and bit her lip. “Yeah. And I’ll fight anyone who says differently!”

Skystar sniffled again, but this time, she wore a wide grin too. “You don’t stop, do you?”

“Stop what?”

“Trying to make other people happy, huh?”

Pinkie shook her head extra hard. “Nope!”

Skystar’s eyes softened and went really big. “That’s… wow, that’s really special.”

Pinkie played with a super-springy lock of her hair and finally went back to staring at the touch-tank. She poked the water with a finger and watched the ripples. Before the ripples could reach Skystar’s side of the tank, Skystar poked the water, making the ripples run into each other, until it was totally impossible to tell whose ripples were whose.

“I ran away because I really like your friends,” Skystar whispered. “I like them a lot.”

Pinkie blinked and looked up at her. “But why would that make you run away?”

Skystar looked sad again. “Because I didn’t want to make more friends and have to say goodbye again.”

Pinkie finally got it. “Ohhh…”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry! I didn’t understand!”

Skystar shook her head. “It’s okay, I’ve gotten used to it.”

“No, you haven’t!” Pinkie declared. “And I don’t think your mom gets just how much this hurts you!”

Skystar hunched her shoulders and shook her head again. “She’s got an important job. Being an ambassador is something passed down from generation to generation on the Aris Islands. It’s something our country needs! My mom had to move all the time when she was my age, too.”

“It’s still a dumb thing!” Pinkie growled. “And I don’t mind telling her exactly that!”

Skystar’s eyes went wide again, though Pinkie couldn’t be sure if it was because she was amazed or worried. “You would, huh?”

“Of course I would!” Pinkie said, punching her fist into her palm. “I would totally march up to your mom and tell her that it didn’t matter how important her job is, it’s not worth making you say goodbye to your friends every single day!”

Skystar went pale. “And… and you’d do that? Just for me?”

“Absolutely!” Pinkie said. “If she were here right now, I’d say—”

“You’d say what, young lady?”

Pinkie whirled and her heart did a triple-flip while buzzing like an alarm clock on way too much expresso.

Ambassador Novo loomed in the doorway. Stratus was right behind her and Pinkie could see both Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna behind him.

For just a moment, Pinkie thought about backing down. After all, this was somebody really important. A foreign diplomat! Like, Twilight could tell her all about the sort of international incidents that could happen if she was rude to an ambassador, large or small! Even Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna were making signs for Pinkie to be quiet.

But Pinkie Pie wouldn’t be Pinkie Pie if she didn’t try to make her friend smile.

“You’re being totally mean to your daughter!” Pinkie shouted, hands on her hips.

Stratus let out a growl. Novo’s eyes glittered darkly. She put one hand on one hip—as if she only needed one as opposed to two. Luna groaned. Celestia sighed.

“Is that right?” Novo asked in a strangely calm voice.

“People need friends!” Pinkie said, marching up to the really tall woman. “Especially girls as fun and bright and cheerful as Skystar!”

“You’ve known her for a few hours at most?” Novo cocked an eyebrow. “Who are you to say how I should treat my daughter?”

“I’m her friend! And I really like her!” Pinkie snapped back.

“Oh? And just how much do you like her?”

“Enough to stand up to someone as tall and scary as you!”

Novo calmly stared at Pinkie, like she was a questionable cupcake.

Pinkie’s heart was trying to get out of her chest now, so it could run around the room a few times in a blind panic. Or something like that. She ignored it.

“You’re quite the spunky one, aren’t you?” Novo said slowly. She almost smiled, but it didn’t seem like a nice smile. In fact, it reminded Pinkie of one of the old Sunset’s smiles. Those were not good smiles.

“I stand up for my friends,” Pinkie said with a stomp of her foot. It made a super loud clack. Even Pinkie winced at the sound, but she didn’t back down. “Especially when their moms are making them all frowny. Skystar’s way too pretty to be all frowny!”

Novo’s eyes totally gleamed in the light coming from above the touch tank.

“And there’s the truth,” Novo hummed.

Pinkie Pie blinked and she ran what she’d just said through her head.

Oh fiddlesticks! She probably thinks I—

“Skystar?” Novo said suddenly.

Something crashed behind them and Pinkie whirled to see Skystar standing on her tiptoes. The stool she’d been on lay halfway across the room.

“Yes?” Skystar asked sheepishly.

“Principal Celestia was just talking about Miss Pie’s band here—the Rainbooms, I believe—and how they were playing at a small venue along the beachside. I believe they are playing… what was it?”

“Swing music,” Celestia supplied helpfully—though even she looked a little lost.

“Yes, swing music.” Novo nodded. “Would that interest you?”

“Uh… can I go with Pinkie?” Skystar asked quietly.

Novo’s eyes landed on Pinkie. Pinkie swallowed, fought down her blush and looked Novo right in the eye. She wasn’t about to let this meanie get away with this anymore!

“Is that what you want to do?” Novo asked, not looking at Skystar.

“Yes,” Skystar answered, though she sounded a little funny saying it. “I… um… I really do.”

Novo stared Pinkie down, but Pinkie had won staring contests with Gummy. And no one could stare like her favorite cuddly pet alligator—even if he was technically her only pet alligator. She wasn’t about to be beaten by some fancy pants ambassador!

Still, Novo was almost as good as Gummy. She lasted for a really long time before she smiled.

“Then it’s a date,” Novo said. “Stratus, accompany Miss Pie and my daughter for the rest of the day at a discrete distance. Make sure Skystar is properly attired for an evening of dancing.”

“Wha?” Pinkie said.

“Huh?” Skystar said.

“Ma’am?” Stratus said.

“There’s an old saying among our people,” Novo said with a smile at Pinkie. “‘One small thing can lead to another.’ Well, today I’ve seen a lot of small things in Miss Pie’s eyes and a few big things in my daughter’s. Let’s see where they lead.”

“Uh… thanks, Mom?” Skystar sounded really confused.

“Oh, and don’t have too much fun,” Novo replied. “I’ll be in the audience tonight. I happen to enjoy any variety of jazz.”

“Uh… okay!” Pinkie replied.

“Though, Skystar, I do expect for both Shelly and Sheldon to be reunited by the end of the night.”

Pinkie tried to ask how Novo knew they were apart, but she didn’t get a chance to. Skystar’s mom swept out of the oceanography lab. Celestia and Luna both glanced at Pinkie—both of their expressions as confused as Pinkie felt—then they followed the ambassador. Stratus stayed outside—though he didn’t seem to like that one bit.

Then Pinkie turned… only to have Skystar throw herself into Pinkie’s arms! Pinkie squealed and pinwheeled for a second before catching her balance. Skystar clutched her like she was a life preserver!

“You… you actually…” Skystar pulled away. Her eyes shone like twin suns. They’d never looked so bright before. Pinkie’s heart just about flopped over from exhaustion. “You actually stood up to my mom! No one’s ever done that for me! You… you were totally amazing!

“Aw.” Pinkie blushed. “I just… I wanna make you smile.”

Skystar was definitely smiling now and that smile made Pinkie’s mouth suddenly feel really dry. Pinkie swallowed really hard when she realized Skystar still had her arms wrapped around Pinkie and Pinkie still had her arms wrapped around Skystar.

“So… uh…” Pinkie licked her lips. “We should probably make sure you have a dress for tonight! I mean, I totally love your dress, but it’s going to be hard to go swing dancing in it!”

“You’re… you’re okay with teaching me, right?”

“Oh yeah!” Pinkie nodded emphatically. “I’m always happy to teach other people how to dance! But trying to do a two-step in that dress will end up with you flat on the floor!”

Pinkie giggled nervously, but then Skystar joined in, making her feel a lot better.

“I don’t suppose you know any good dressmakers?” Skystar asked hopefully. “Especially ones that can work on super short notice?”

Pinkie beamed at her. “I might know someone who can help out!”

Jump, Jive an' Wail

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"Jump, Jive an' Wail" by Louis Prima

Rarity had outdone herself. Both Pinkie and Skystar had said so! A lot! In fact, Rarity had to almost throw them out of her boutique just to get them to stop thanking her!

They had still thanked her from the door though. After all, they needed to be sure Rarity felt appreciated!

Now, while the sun slipped under the ocean, Pinkie and Skystar slowly wandered their way toward the Tempest Club. Stratus was somewhere behind them, but Pinkie wasn’t paying attention to him anymore. The sounds of the Friday night filled the air, everything from happy chattering folks along the streets to music coming from people playing guitars on the corners. There were cars, a band in the occasional restaurant, and the hum of a city that was totally alive.

It was a pretty night. A pretty night to be walking with a pretty girl. Every so often, Pinkie would glance at Skystar and blush. She sometimes saw Skystar do the same thing. Every time either happened Pinkie wanted to start dancing right then, even if there wasn’t someone playing a guitar on that particular corner!

She managed to keep it under control. After all, her mission was to show Skystar a good time. And not get too worked up until they got to the really fun part. Rarity had been very forceful about that!

Still… a little fun now couldn’t hurt, right?

Pinkie decided she wanted to see Skystar twirl one more time, so, two blocks away from the Tempest Club, Pinkie snatched Skystar’s hand, brought it up and spun the other girl with a quick twist of her wrist. Skystar squealed in surprise and delight as her deep blue dress flared out beautifully, the pretty gemstones in the hem sparkling in the gas street lamps of Old Canterlot. Pinkie caught the wildly spinning Skystar and giggled.

Skystar joined in, still swaying a little with the suddenness of the spin. She clutched Pinkie, trying to catch her breath. She obviously hadn’t been ready for yet another twirl.

“That’s… that’s the sixth time you’ve done that!” Skystar said between laughs. “I’m starting to think… think you’re having too much fun.”

“No such thing!” Pinkie crowed. Then she blushed. “Unless… um… you want me to stop.”

Skystar beamed up at her, straightened herself and managed to get her bearings. She tapped Pinkie on the nose and smiled a very, very happy smile.

“I never saidddd that!” Skystar sang. “Never said that at all!”

“Okay!” Pinkie grinned right back at her and then spun her again with another snap of her arm.

Skystar yelped as her dress flared again. This time, Skystar had been ready and spun around on the ball of one foot twice before toppling over with a squeal.

Of course, Pinkie caught her in the nick of time.

And once again, Skystar was in Pinkie’s arms. Both of them were laughing and getting some really strange looks. But those looks were nothing compared to the look Skystar was giving Pinkie.

Skystar’s eyes were like the ocean. They were wild, free and a little bit crazy.

Pinkie liked that kind of crazy.

For a second, Pinkie really wanted to lean forward. They were only a few inches apart after all. It would be really easy! And from the way Skystar was looking at her, she definitely wouldn’t mind.

But Pinkie pulled back and stumbled upright. Skystar seemed disappointed for a split-second, then let Pinkie help her up.

“You okay, Pinkie?” Skystar sounded worried. That wouldn’t do.

Pinkie beamed at her. “More than ever!”

“Then… um….” Skystar turned red in the soft yellow light of the street lamp above them. She tapped her fingers together, looking a little scared. “Why…?”

She left the question just hanging there like a half-inflated balloon. But Pinkie knew the rest of the question. It wasn’t that hard to figure out.

“Being a party planner is about timing,” Pinkie said with a teeny bit more confidence than she felt. “And so are smiles. The right smile for the right moment!”

She licked her lips, though she couldn’t meet Skystar’s eyes.

“And I wanna make sure that moment is a really happy moment.”

Skystar reached out and grabbed Pinkie’s hand so tight something could’ve broke.

“Even if I leave tomorrow, Pinkie,” Skystar whispered in a voice so low Pinkie could barely hear it over the sounds of the cars and the people around them. “I’m really glad I met you.”

“Me too,” Pinkie said. She swallowed the knot in her throat and tried to push that thought away. It wasn’t a happy thought and it had no place in her head tonight! “Now come on! We’ve got a party to get to!”

Pinkie pulled Skystar along as she scampered off down the block, dodging random couples and streetlights, Skystar laughing all the way.

The Tempest Club was probably one of the oldest clubs in Canterlot. According to Twilight, it had been built almost a hundred years ago, back when they had places called ‘speakeasies.’ Apparently, that meant it had been a secret party place during a time when certain kinds of parties weren’t allowed.

Pinkie did know what kinds of parties those were, but those weren’t her style. Honestly, if someone needed something like that to have fun at one of her parties, she wasn’t doing her job right at all! And everyone knew that Pinkie Pie parties were parties done right. Still, she didn’t need to worry about that tonight. Tonight was going to be the right kind of party, even if she didn’t have to throw it herself!

The Tempest Club had a dance floor the size of a large classroom. There was a big stage where some of the Rainbooms—plus a some people from a few other bands—were setting up. Pinkie waved at Rainbow, Fluttershy and Rarity as she came in with Skystar.

“Wow,” Skystar said as she looked around. “This place is amazing. It’s like I walked back in time!”

Pinkie nodded. It was really cool! There were big blue velvet curtains all over the brick walls, with some spots for posters of famous jazz, blues and swing musicians. A large bar took up almost half of the back wall—decorated in all sorts of fancy-looking shells. There were classy seats all around the dance floor, some with normal chairs and some with super-comfy-looking sofas complete with teal and blue cushions!

The floor even had cool wavy patterns in green, blue and teal flowing through it, like they were waves crashing against the rock of the dance floor and flowing around it to the back of the club.

Even better, everyone in the room had gotten dressed up for tonight. The Tempest Club had a reputation for being really big on dressing the part—probably why Rarity loved this place. Everyone wore fancy gowns or really sharp-looking suits. Heck, even Brawly Beats—the drummer from Flash Sentry’s band—wore a suit with a bowtie and he never went anywhere without that beaded necklace of his!

The dance floor itself was all shiny hardwood, while the dark upper section wrapped around it, so people could move from one side to another without having to go through the dancers. Even the lights in the old-fashioned club looked like they were right out one of those old detective movies Sunset sometimes liked to watch.

Skystar spun in place and tried to take it all in. Her dress flared out again and Pinkie giggled. Skystar was too lost in the moment to even notice. She seemed to squeal every time she saw another shell—and the Tempest Club had a lot of shells. A lot more than last time. In fact, Pinkie had a sneaky suspicion the banners with fancy ocean scenes in between the velvet curtains hadn’t been here last time.

“Wow,” Fluttershy said as she walked up to them. She looked amazing in a flowing light pink gown with pink lacy top that sorta looked like a super classy wedding dress! “You two look great!”

Skystar stopped spinning, turned to Fluttershy and smiled. “Thanks! So do you!”

Pinkie squealed and hopped up and down. It was the first time Skystar hadn’t acted shy or nervous around her friends!

Since Skystar’s mom said we could do this, it’s like she’s taken off that icky coat of fear! No more scared Skystar!

At that moment, Pinkie knew all the way down to her little toes that this Skystar was the real Skystar. She’d just been too scared to come out, because she didn’t want to have to say goodbye again!

Pinkie beamed at the entire world until Fluttershy waved a hand in front of her face.

“Uh, Pinkie?” Fluttershy asked. She sounded like she was trying to fight back a laugh. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fantastic!” Pinkie shouted and jumped in the air like a Wondercolt cheerleader. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Skystar burst into laughter as the entire club stopped to stare at her. The sound of Skystar’s laugher made Pinkie’s heart practically start singing. The rest of her almost sang too, but since this was a club, she didn’t want to distract people from the cool jazz music coming in through the speakers. And she wanted to make sure everyone focused on the Rainbooms tonight, even if they weren’t playing yet. It seemed a little rude to try and steal the spotlight.

“You should be fantastic, Pinkie.” Fluttershy smiled a really big smile. “Rarity wanted to tell you not to worry about tonight.”

Pinkie cocked her head. “What do you mean?”

Her friend’s eyes couldn’t have gotten any bigger or happier. “Brawly Beats is going to take over drums for you tonight. I’m under orders from Rarity—and the rest of the girls—to make sure you don’t worry about the band.”

Pinkie gasped. In all the excitement about Skystar—who had sidled up next to Pinkie, though she wasn’t quite close enough to touch—she’d totally forgotten that she was supposed to be on the drums tonight!

“But… are you sure?” Pinkie gasped. “I mean… I can’t leave you all—”

“Pinkie.” Fluttershy put a hand on her arm and squeezed. “Really, it’s okay! Brawly’s played drums for lots of jazz concerts before.”

Pinkie bit her lip. She didn’t like the idea of leaving her friends in the lurch… but if she had to play tonight, it meant she couldn’t spend nearly as much time with Skystar as she wanted to. And she kinda wanted to spend almost every second of every minute of every hour she had tonight with the pretty girl.

It was fine. After all, Rarity had set everything up! And she was really thorough. There shouldn’t be any problems. She trusted her friends to take care of things!

“Ooh!” Skystar sounded excited. And that filled Pinkie’s heart tank like helium—and totally distracted her from feeling a little icky for forgetting about her friends. “Are all your friends going to be playing tonight?”

“Yeah, all of us.” Fluttershy blushed a little, nodded and began listing them off with her fingers. “Rainbow’s on guitar and Applejack’s on bass. Rarity’s really excited she’ll finally get to perform on a grand piano. Jazzy Tones is the first trumpet in our marching band and she offered to help. Her boyfriend, Wind Slide, is going to be on trombone. Octavia’s on upright bass—she’s a regular player here, along with Bluenote—he’s playing saxophone.”

“But, what about you?” Skystar asked, cocking her head. It made her hair spill all over her shoulder in a little blue waterfall. “What are you playing?”

Now Fluttershy turned really bright red. Which could only mean one thing!

“Fluttershy!” Pinkie squeaked. “Are… are you really?”

Fluttershy smiled nervously, but she nodded too! Pinkie jumped up and down and clapped her hands together before leaping on Fluttershy to give her an enormous hug.

“That’s superfantasticial!” Pinkie cried, squeezing her friend extra tight. “I know you’re probably really scared, but you’ll do great!”

“I don’t understand,” Skystar said with a sheepish smile. “Why would she be scared?”

“Well,” Pinkie said, her arm still around Fluttershy—who looked all blushy and proud at the same time, “Fluttershy doesn’t really like being in front of other people. But she’s been working really hard on it—especially after a little thing earlier with a light—”

Fluttershy coughed and ducked her head. Pinkie had already apologized like a bajillion times for yelling at her that day and she knew Fluttershy had forgiven her, but it still made her a little sad to see her friend embarrassed. Maybe this hadn’t been the best time to bring that up. Time to make her feel better!

“She’s been working with the Ponytones—this really cool a capella group we have at school—trying to work up the courage to sing on stage!”

“And… heh…” Fluttershy shifted a little from side to side. “Tonight’s the night! I had to since… well…”

She trailed off and played with a lock of her hair. That’s when Pinkie put it together.

“Wait.” Pinkie blinked. “What about Sunny and Twi?”

“Twilight wasn’t going to be in the band tonight, remember?” Fluttershy gave them both a huge smile. “Sunset was going to sing—Rarity kept saying she had the perfect voice for swing and jazz—but after what happened at lunch…”

“Oh no.” Skystar’s hands flew to her mouth. “Don’t tell me they’re—”

“No!” Fluttershy waved her hands quickly. “Nothing bad! You actually did a really good thing!”

“I did?” Skystar looked between Pinkie and Fluttershy.

“Yes!” Fluttershy said. It was her turn to bounce a little. “They’re going on their first date tonight!”

“No. Way.” Pinkie gasped and grabbed Fluttershy by the shoulders. “Really?”

Fluttershy nodded. She was blushing a really pretty pink color, but it was one that showed just how excited she was! “Really! They might stop by later, but first they’re going out to Canterlot Observatory for a picnic under the stars!”

Pinkie did a little jig. It was really hard to keep all her squeals on the inside, but she did a pretty good job of it.

“Aww!” Skystar cooed. “That sounds so sweet! Isn’t it a little fast though? Especially if Twilight just broke up with that other guy…”

Pinkie giggled.

Fluttershy shook her head. “No, they’ve been good friends for a while now. Honestly, I’m just surprised it took them so long!”

“Well...” Skystar fiddled with her dress a little. She was really cute when she was being bashful. “I’m glad I could help out.”

Fluttershy nodded, beaming at Skystar. “They also asked me to tell you something, Skystar.”

“Me? What did they want to tell me?”

“They wanted to say thank you. If you hadn’t… um… ‘outed’ Sunset, they probably would have been too awkward to do anything for a really long time. At least, that’s what they said.” Fluttershy’s smile never went away.

Pinkie felt like she could have floated away on pure happiness right then and there. Two of her best friends had finally realized the truth! And they were on a date, right now! Because Pinkie’s new… errr… friend… had accidentally said what Pinkie had told her this morning!

“I’m really glad it turned out like that!” Skystar said. She didn’t look embarrassed at all. In fact, she laughed! “It sounds like they’re both really excited! I’m kinda surprised!”

“We’re not.” Fluttershy shook her head, still smiling. “I’ve secretly thought they’d be great together ever since Twilight transferred to CHS. I didn’t know Pinkie and Rarity thought the same thing until today!”

“They’re totally adorable together!” Pinkie cried. “Especially after Sunny helped Twi get over her fear of magic thing!”

Skystar giggled. “You’re still going on about that, huh?”

Fluttershy cocked her head to the side. “What?”

Pinkie giggled right back at Skystar and turned to Fluttershy. “Skystar here doesn’t believe we have magic. And since I promised not to blow anything up, I couldn’t show her anything.”

“Well, Rarity’s—” Fluttershy suddenly stopped and her hands flew to her mouth. Now it was Pinkie’s turn to look confused, especially when Fluttershy pulled her hands away to reveal an enormous smile. “I… uh… Pinkie, I’ve got an idea about how to show Skystar our magic, but it would be best if it was a surprise.”

“Oh!” Pinkie nodded. “That sounds great! I mean, if that’s okay with you, Skystar?”

Skystar giggled at both of them. She still didn’t believe them. That was okay. It would just make showing off their magic so much more special when it happened! Still, Skystar looked like she wanted to be a good sport, so she nodded. “If that’s what you want to do, sure!”

“Trust me, you’re going to love it!” Fluttershy squeaked. “I need to go get everything ready. You two have fun, okay?”

“That’s one thing I’m sure we can do!” Pinkie replied.

With that, Fluttershy scrambled back to the band just as another student walked in from the back, lugging what was probably a trombone behind him. Pinkie recognized him instantly—which wasn’t hard since she did know everyone at school. Then again, anyone who’d ever gone to a sports game at CHS knew him, since he was the best trombone player in the school. Wind Slide had just gotten a full ride scholarship to go to Canterlot Musical Academy after graduation!

Wind gave Jazzy Tones a huge hug. They’d started dating last year and seemed really happy together, something that always made Pinkie smile. Jazzy gave him a peck on the cheek, then helped him get his trombone set up.

Pinkie made sure to tell Skystar all about Jazzy and Wind, too. After she was done telling them about how they’d managed to get together despite the whole lemon pepper cupcake disaster, Pinkie grinned. “Aren’t they cute together?”

Skystar nodded and bit her lip.

Jazzy and Wind did a few notes together and stopped to tune their instruments as Pinkie and Skystar watched. Then Pinkie heard the high-pitched squeal of Rarity and a loud shush from Fluttershy. Pinkie glanced back to see Rarity looking totally thrilled and Fluttershy blushing and grinning. Both of them glanced at Pinkie and Skystar, and then they started giggling.

“Why are they giggling at us?” Skystar giggled with them, though she obviously didn’t know why.

Pinkie had to admit she didn’t really know why either. But Pinkie trusted her friends.

“I don’t know. But I’m sure it’s going to be great!”

The Rainbooms weren’t set to take the stage until eight o’clock, so Pinkie and Skystar found a little booth in the back where they could talk. Skystar had a ton of great stories from all the places she’d been to. She’s been all over the world like twice! Pinkie hadn’t been overseas even once! Skystar seemed to get embarrassed that so many of her stories somehow ended up involving shells—even the stories where she was like a thousand miles away from the ocean! That is, she was embarrassed until Shelly came out to give Skystar a very stern look.

Then Skystar fell out of her chair laughing. After Pinkie helped her back up, Skystar told her even more stories about shells, including where she’d met both Shelly and Sheldon.

“I had no idea seaweed could be so mean!” Pinkie said at the end of the story.

“Shelly and Sheldon helped me through it!” Skystar said. “Who knows what would have happened if they hadn’t been there to save the day?”

Shelly looked a little bashful. Sheldon looked a little smug. Pinkie narrowed her eyes at him, but he didn’t really seem to care.

That clam reminds me a little bit of Tom. I don’t trust him!

She’d have to keep a sharp eye on that clam. Still, if Skystar liked him, Pinkie could give him the benefit of the doubt.

“Well, don’t you two seem like you’re having fun,” said someone from behind Pinkie.

“Hi mom!” Skystar said with a super-happy smile. “How’d your meetings go?”

Pinkie turned to see Ambassador Novo in a new dress, this one made of a super-deep purple satin-like fabric, though it still sorta looked like peacock feathers to Pinkie. Stratus was there, looking like he needed a hug—so pretty much like every other time she’d seen him today.

“Oh yes.” Skystar’s mom looked all cryptic and mysterious. “I’m quite happy with the new arrangements.”

“What arrangements?” Pinkie asked.

“Don’t you mind that, now,” Novo replied. “You two just have some fun tonight.”

After that, she walked away and took a booth in one of the far corners. Pinkie watched her, trying to figure out what in the world she was doing. Novo was being really silly.

“My mom’s definitely up to something,” Skystar said while rubbing her chin.

Pinkie turned back to her. “Whatcha think she’s got planned?”

Skystar shook her head. “I dunno. She’s never really acted like this before. It’s pretty great to see her like this, actually. She looks like she’s having fun.”

“Your mom doesn’t have a lot of fun?” Pinkie’s hair went a little limp. How could Novo not know how to have fun when she had such an amazing, wonderful and happy daughter?

“Not like that.” Skystar shook her head again. “I mean, the happiest I see her is usually after she gets back from her weekly massage treatment.”

“Hm. Maybe I can find a way to get Principal Celestia to be friends with your mom!”

Skystar smiled. “You’d totally do that, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course I would!” Pinkie nodded. “Why wouldn’t I? Everyone needs a friend!”

“Well, that doesn’t sound all that—”

Before Skystar could finish her sentence, a beat started up on the stage in front of the dance floor. Pinkie’s whirled around to see Brawly Beats thumping out a snappy little tune, nodding his head as he went. The rest of the band were already in rhythm, tapping their feet or nodding their heads.

“Oooh!” Pinkie cried and jumped to her feet. “They’re starting!”

Just as Skystar got to her feet, Rarity came in on her grand piano, picking up the tune with a smile that dazzled everyone in the club even more than her sparkly black dress! Octavia joined in on her bass, her fingers flying with almost scary levels of precision. Applejack started a few beats later, plucking notes from her bass guitar as easily as she could pluck an apple from a tree. Rainbow came in last as part of the rhythm section—Pinkie ended up learning all the fancy terms for music after they’d started the Rainbooms—and while she played great, she looked kinda awkward.

Probably not used to playing for a swing band! Rainbow’s always loved rock and pop stuff more, Pinkie thought.

Jazzy Tones belted out a few notes on her trumpet. Somehow, it sounded like there were like a dozen trumpets on stage with her! Wind Slide slid into Jazzy’s music with perfect timing—but they were always in sync. Finally, the blare of Bluenote’s saxophone erupted through the Tempest Club to wild cheers from the younger clubbers and applause from the older crowd. While everyone knew Octavia, Bluenote was the only professional musician in the ensemble tonight, but he’d just graduated CHS a year earlier, so he was good friends with most of them.

The music flowed out for almost a full minute until a spotlight pierced the dim light of the club, making it really hard to see the rest of the band. To Pinkie’s delight, Fluttershy floated into the spotlight. Her whole face was red, but she was smiling.

Pinkie let out a huge whoop and stomped her feet in thunderous applause. Skystar joined in next, then the whole club went a little crazy. Fluttershy’s smile turned into a very embarrassed grin… but she didn’t run or try to hide! She had come so far! Pinkie couldn’t have been prouder.

Then Fluttershy closed her eyes, took a deep breath and began to sing.

Her soft voice flowed through the club like water through kelp. Pinkie recognized the song as one of those old-timey classics Rarity loved so much. This one was called “A String of Pearls,” which seemed just perfect for Skystar and Pinkie.

Pinkie managed to last about ten seconds before the song demanded to be recognized with an offering from her feet. She grabbed Skystar’s hand and pulled her close.

“You wanna dance?” Pinkie asked.

Skystar looked a little scared. “But… in front of all these people?”

“Yes!” Pinkie brought out her mega-eager grin.

“I thought we would get to do some slow stuff first!” Skystar called over Fluttershy as the shy girl’s voice entered the first chorus.

“No time like the present!”

Skystar still didn’t look convinced.

“Please?” Pinkie turned on the pout just a little.

Even Skystar couldn’t resist that. No one could, but Pinkie knew she had to dance with Skystar. Like, right now.

“Okay…” Skystar said hesitantly. “If you’re su—eep!”

A few seconds later, Pinkie and Skystar were on the dance floor. Applause sounded echoed through the club, even as Skystar’s eyes swam in her head.

“You really wanted to dance!” Skystar laughed, her nervousness seemingly forgotten in their sudden rush to the dance floor.

“Okay, you ready?” Pinkie asked as the first solo—a drum solo—started.

Skystar nodded.

“Just follow my lead!” Pinkie encouraged her with a wink and then looked down at her own feet as she did a simple rock-step.

Brawly knew his stuff and kept the beat perfect for just a basic lesson. Pinkie would bake an extra-special cupcake for him on Monday!

It took a few tries, but Skystar didn’t get frustrated. Instead, she just kept trying. And again. And again. She did it until she got the basic move down. The crowd around the dance floor helped a lot by applauding, though Pinkie couldn’t really see much of them because of the bright lights shining down on the dance floor.

“Okay! Great job!” Pinkie cried as she grabbed Skystar’s hands and started a few beginner steps. Skystar fell into it pretty easily, though she slipped a few times.

Skystar blushed a little, but she looked happy. Most of the time, Skystar’s eyes were locked on Pinkie’s feet, but whenever she looked up, she smiled, her eyes shining with light.

Gosh, she’s so pretty

Pinkie almost fell flat on her face when she got too distracted by Skystar’s freckles.

Skystar giggled and caught her as Rarity’s piano solo started and was met with thunderous applause.

Pinkie picked up the pace and went into a full Lindy Hop. To her total amazement, Skystar seemed to be keeping up, though the other girl still looked a teeny bit nervous. She bit her lip every so often, so Pinkie was there to make sure to steady her every time she slipped or fumbled.

The first song came to a close and Pinkie took a chance. She snatched Skystar’s hand and flung her out with a snap of her arm. Skystar squealed again, but she laughed too! Her dress exploded with lines of fabric. At the very end of her reach, Pinkie yanked her arm back and jerked Skystar back to her.

She did it a little too hard, because Skystar crashed into her and sent them both sprawling to the floor!

A few people gasped as Pinkie landed on top of Skystar. Pinkie quickly scrambled off and away, worried that Skystar might have been hurt. Instead, something magical had happened.

Skystar was laughing. She was laughing so hard, tears were in her eyes. Pinkie stood and grinned like a silly little girl. Skystar reached out a hand and Pinkie helped her up, though she was pretty sure Skystar didn’t need to fall into Pinkie’s arms again.

“You two okay down there?” Rainbow’s voice called from the stage.

“We’re great!” Skystar cried between gasps of air. “Never better!”

Pinkie burst into giggles and Skystar followed a second later.

The next song was a duet with Fluttershy still singing, though this time she was accompanied by Rarity, still playing on her piano. Rarity’s rich bell-like voice rang through Tempest Club, while Fluttershy’s soft and delicate voice swam through it.

And Pinkie and Skystar danced.

Skystar had a bit more trouble with the East Coast Swing. Pinkie learned that the hard way when Skystar accidentally kicked Pinkie in the shin. Pinkie had yelped, bounced around a few times on one foot and then fell over… but she giggled all the way down.

The next song was all instrumental. Fluttershy took a break as Rarity and Brawly battled it out for the first improv section and then Applejack and Rainbow went at each other with notes way too wild to dance to, though that didn’t stop Pinkie or Skystar from trying.

Jazzy Tones did all sorts of musical fencing with Wind Slide. Both of them looked like they were having the time of their lives. They grinned at each other over and over again and it became less a battle and more a special song just for them. Even Skystar cooed at them!

By then, some of the crowd had come down to join Pinkie and Skystar. Once they were lost in the dancing people, Skystar seemed to cut loose, like she was a dolphin in the water.

Octavia and Bluenote fought the final battle and it would be one remembered for years! Pinkie had no idea a double bass could make such gorgeous music. And Bluenote’s sax erupted with blast after blast of wild melodies, all going so fast Pinkie could barely keep up herself!

Finally, while Pinkie’s body ached in all the right ways, the entire band came together for one final flourish. Pinkie dipped Skystar super low and she giggled like crazy. Her eyes were wild again… but something in Pinkie told her to wait for that perfect moment.

It wasn’t quite here yet. But it was so close.

After the applause had ended, the spotlight had come back on, focused entirely on the microphone. Pinkie thought she saw something strange about the band behind the spotlight, but she hadn’t really been paying a ton of attention. She’d been distracted by the really cute girl she’d been dancing with.

She didn’t think they’d mind.

A round of applause, hoots and hollers erupted around her—only then did Pinkie realize she’d been counting Skystar’s freckles again. Pinkie turned and gasped.

Sunset Shimmer had just walked into the spotlight alongside Fluttershy. Not only that, but Sunset had gotten all dressed up and then some.

She wore her dress from the Winter Formal, the one that made her look like a firework soaring through the air! It was all flares of red, golds, yellows, and oranges. She looked more ready to salsa than swing, but the dress was amazing no matter what.

“Wow,” Skystar whispered next to her.

“Yeah!” Pinkie smiled and waved at Sunset. “She looks like a firecracker, huh?”

Skystar nodded, looking a little lightheaded. Pinkie couldn’t blame her. When Sunset wanted to, she could take anyone’s breath away.

Sunset grinned and blew a kiss over the heads of the dancers. Pinkie tracked the kiss with the precision of an expert party planner and watched it zero in on a brightly flushing Twilight Sparkle in the back. She looked like she’d taken the night sky and wrapped around her in the form of a gorgeous dress of deep purples and midnight blues.

Pinkie wanted to squeal so loud she actually shook trying to keep it all in.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” Sunset called out over the microphone. “Please give up for the Jazzbooms!”

“Oh for Pete’s sake!” Rarity cried. “I never agreed to that name!”

“Why not?” Rainbow demanded. “It’s awesome!”

The entire crowd laughed. Sunset laughed even harder. Pinkie and Skystar laughed the hardest. Sunset went through and introduced every member of the ‘Jazzbooms,’ all save for the one who’d been singing most of the night.

“Finally,” Sunset shouted. “Let’s give it up for the Jazzboom’s—”

Rarity groaned.

“—new lead vocalist, Fluttershy!”

Fluttershy tried to hide behind her long pink hair, but Pinkie could see her smile and her bright red cheeks. She got even more applause than the rest of the band—probably because the band helped a lot! Skystar and Pinkie both bounced up and down cheering her name.

And she was running away from a light a few months ago! Working with Rarity and the Ponytones really helped!

“Now!” Sunset said after the crowd had settled. “Don’t worry, she’s not done just yet. In fact, the best is yet to come. Most of you have probably heard about our band’s ‘special effects.’”

There were a few knowing chuckles in the crowd.

“Well, you’re probably wondering why you haven’t seen any of them tonight!” Sunset said, her smirk only getting bigger. “That’s because we were waiting for the right moment! And that moment is now! Hit it, Brawly!”

Brawly attacked the drums, quickly whipping up an almost frantic tempo that thrummed through Pinkie. She didn’t even know what dance to do, but she knew how to do it. Skystar’s head started bobbing in rhythm.

The rest of the band joined in a few seconds later, the pace far faster than anything they’d danced to before. That’s when Pinkie realized what song they were playing!

Sunset started things out, crying into the microphone, her eyes closed and her other hand high in the air. “You and I, we’re called insane! Just because we like to dance in the rain!"

Fluttershy came in next, not nearly as animated at Sunset, but her voice was just as strong. "You and I, we’re called out of touch! Just because nothing bothers us much!”

The two girls sang one after another, each of them belting out the words like they were doing some sort of sermon. Pinkie had never seen the two do anything like this before!

And Pinkie and Skystar danced. Neither knew the steps, but they did them anyway. They whirled and twirled, hopped and bounced, spun and jigged.

“Try to stop us, to no avail!”

“Try to halt us, you’re doomed to fail!”

The rest of the room danced too, but Pinkie only saw them out of the corner of her eyes. She had more important things to look at right now. Like Skystar!

“Oh yeah, we’re here to stay, even if you don’t get our way!”

“Best of friends, tried and true, brought together in the ocean blue!”

Sunset and Fluttershy pressed their backs together as their voices joined up into a perfect harmony. Each of them gripped their microphones in their hands, held them up and all but shouted the next two lines!

“When the world gets wild and things get hazy…”

“I’ll always know, you’re my kind of crazy!”

Pinkie knew it was coming. She could feel it in her toes. With a few quick whirls, she plopped Skystar down right in front of her, with her arms wrapped around Skystar’s belly, both facing forward. Skystar seemed confused for a second, but she did snuggle into Pinkie! Pinkie almost lost control of her bottled squeals. She had almost reached maximum squeal capacity.

Then, she didn’t need to, because Skystar gasped.

In a blaze of light, Sunset and Fluttershy transformed together! Cute little pony ears burst out of their hair in flashes of white light. Their hair became super-long manes, sweeping all the way down to becoming what Pinkie liked to think of as their tails! Fluttershy even grew wings!

Behind them, Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow all ponied up too!

“Oh. My. Goodness.” Skystar whispered.

As Skystar said that, Pinkie felt the transformation overtake her as well. She giggled and shivered as that wonderful happy feeling rushed over her. She didn’t know why it hadn’t happened before now. Maybe it was because now the whole place was one giant party and all of her friends were here, too!

Maybe it was just because Skystar had snuggled into her. She was good either way!

“This song’s for Pinkie Pie and her new friend, Skystar!” Sunset belted out. “Rarity! Go for it!”

Sunset and Fluttershy ducked.

“What—” Skystar started to ask.

There was a flash of brilliant white light and two massive shards of diamonds erupted from the stage as Octavia, Jazzy Tones and Wind Slide took over the music. Skystar squealed and jumped into the air in fright, but Pinkie knew exactly what they had in mind, so she jumped too!

It helped that Pinkie’s arms were still around Skystar.

Both of them came down on Rarity’s diamond shields.

“Pinkie!” Skystar squealed twirling in place to stare at her, then took a step back in surprise. “What’s going on?”

“Magic!” Pinkie laughed. “Now come on, let’s dance!”

Skystar’s eyes were the biggest Pinkie had ever seen. It looked like even she was glowing, but from the inside!

Skystar looked at Pinkie’s now extra-colorful, super long hair. For giggles, Pinkie twitched her ears and grinned. Skystar squealed with joy and clapped her hands.

“That is… if you don’t mind dancing with a girl all ponied up?” Pinkie winked at her and held out a hand.

Skystar didn’t even hesitate. She grabbed Pinkie’s hand as Sunset and Fluttershy began to sing out the next verse of “My Kind of Crazy.”

Rarity lifted their diamond platforms into the air until they were above the heads of everyone in the room. Then—with Rarity making sure to keep the shields perfectly in sync with Pinkie and Skystar’s steps—they danced on diamonds to the wild swing music of the Jazzbooms.

Pinkie sorta lost track of time after that. The rest of the world vanished. There was just Skystar, their pretty diamond shields, the song coming through her soul and the need to dance.

Somewhere toward the end of the song, they’d started to get closer and closer. They spun around each other like they were on the Canterlot Faire’s teacup ride. Pinkie could barely breathe, between the dancing and being this close to Skystar. Pinkie knew she was as pink as her hair right now. Skystar was just as pink, too!

Finally, Pinkie took Skystar’s hand and spun her out, letting her dress flare explosively over the dance floor.

At the end of her arc—supported by Rarity’s diamond shields—Skystar jerked and gave Pinkie a smile that made her know without a doubt that she could fly right now even if she didn’t have Rarity’s help or Rainbow’s wings.

“When the world gets wild and things get hazy…”

“I’ll always know, you’re my kind of crazy!”

Bluenote belted out the final notes to the song on saxophone.

Pinkie yanked Skystar back into one final spin. At the last second, Skystar spun right off her diamond and onto Pinkie’s. With a gasp, Skystar slammed into Pinkie, but Pinkie had been ready. She caught the other girl in her arms. She didn’t even need to take a step back!

Then it was just them. Spotlights shone all around them. They couldn’t even see the floor because the diamond beneath their feet made everything super-extra sparkly. The world was gone. It was just Pinkie and Skystar, floating in a haze of light.

Both of them were gasping for breath. Both of them were blushing—both from the dance and being right there. Both of them were staring into each other’s eyes.

Pinkie didn’t know what Skystar saw, but Pinkie knew what she saw. Something wild, something free, and something just a little crazy.

Pinkie swallowed, leaned forward and kissed her.

Skystar melted into it, wrapped her arms around Pinkie and held her extra tight, squeezing them together on a little floating shard of diamond.

Skystar tasted like the ocean. Not all salty and wet, but wild and fun and bubbly and crazy and happy!

The kiss was like an entire year of smiles, hugs, giggles and squees all rolled up into one neat package with a super-cute bow.

It was almost too much happy for Pinkie to handle. Her knees wobbled all over the place. Her heart spun like a top. Her mind went super fuzzy. But she held on tight. She kept the kiss going as long as she could. She needed to! Nothing was more important right then and there!

All the while, Skystar held on just as tight as Pinkie.

It was only when their feet touched the ground did Pinkie and Skystar finally break apart.

Skystar’s eyes went wide as she realized what she had just done. Pinkie blushed furiously. She didn’t mind hugs and stuff in public… but this was a little much, even for her!

Then the cheering started.

It almost deafened Pinkie—and Pinkie had super good hearing. Skystar winced, but then she met Pinkie’s eyes.

For a split second, Pinkie had been worried Skystar might regret what they’d just done. But when she looked into Skystar’s gorgeous happy ocean-like eyes, she knew it had been a silly thought.

Skystar smiled at Pinkie. Pinkie smiled right back.

“I tell you,” someone said in the crowd, “these kids are crazy.”

Pinkie giggled. Yeah, maybe they were crazy. Skystar, too! But even if Skystar was crazy, she was definitely Pinkie’s kind of crazy.

The next song started up. Pinkie held out her hand. Skystar took it.

And they kept dancing.

It's Only a Paper Moon

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"It's Only a Paper Moon" by James Darren

It had been a while since Pinkie had run through the sand barefoot. She decided right then and there that she was going to make it a super important part of her routine! Once a week, Pinkie would go running in the sand barefoot.

Well, as long as Skystar would come with her.

It wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without her. And it wouldn’t be nearly as special without her.

As the girls ran down the beach, a chill wind flowed off the waves. Moonlight and starlight reflected off of every ripple stretching out as far as the eye could see. It was a perfect night for laughing and playing on a quiet stretch of beach.

Skystar darted up a slope into the drier sand, Pinkie close on her heels, but not too close. She happened to like the view, after all! She giggled at the thought and wondered how this had all happened in less than a day.

It had been weird. After the “Jazzbooms” had finally taken an intermission, Skystar’s mom had come down—still followed by the grumpy-looking Stratus. She’s stared at Pinkie for a super long time, though Skystar had never let go of Pinkie’s hand. That had helped a lot.

Pinkie had done her best to look brave. She didn’t really know if she succeeded. She thought she had though.

Then, out of nowhere, Novo had ordered Stratus to drive Skystar and Pinkie to the beach where they’d first met. After that, Novo had walked away, humming “My Kind of Crazy.”

Stratus was still glowering down at them from the parking lot overlooking the beach. Pinkie didn’t mind, especially since Skystar didn’t seem to mind. So, she let the grump be a grump and focused on Skystar.

Neither saw the half-fallen sand castle until it was too late.

Skystar yelped as she tripped over the enormous lump and went crashing to the ground in a huge geyser of sand. Pinkie squealed in fear, but Skystar laughed and flopped back on the sand with a delirious little happy sigh.

“You look comfy,” Pinkie said she walked up.

“I am!” Skystar said. Moonlight reflected off her grin. “I am super comfy. I am super sandy. And I am super happy.”

“Yay!” Pinkie bounced up and down. “Sounds super perfect!”

“Almost!” Skystar sang and offered a hand to Pinkie. “You can help make it super perfect though!”

Now, Skystar had a little glint in her eye. Pinkie was pretty sure she knew what was going to happen. She grabbed her new friend’s hand anyway.

Sure enough, Skystar yanked Pinkie right off of her feet. Pinkie landed on top of Skystar and they both fell into huge giggling fits.

After a little bit, they made themselves comfortable, set their purses to the side, then stared up at the bright stars and the cheerful moon.

“You know, it’s funny… I thought this would be just another city. Another boring old town.” She let out a really long sigh. “I haven’t danced in a super long time.”

“Why not?” Pinkie asked. Her hand went for Skystar’s and found it easily. “Everyone should dance!”

Skystar hummed a little bit of a song. Pinkie didn’t recognize it at first, because it wasn’t a swing song. In fact, it sounded a little bit like a country song.

Then Pinkie smiled and squeezed Skystar’s fingers.

“My mom loves that song.” Skystar sounded a little wistful. “She’d sing it to me when I got sad we were leaving somewhere. It helped a little. Some parts, it still helps.”

“Like what?”

Skystar lifted her head to look out over the water and giggled. “I do still feel small when I stand beside the ocean.”

“Well, the ocean is pretty big.”

Skystar gave her a sidelong glance, though she was still smiling. “You know what I mean.”

Pinkie blushed a bit. “Yeah, I do.”

Skystar’s head flopped down.

“So, whatcha think of our magic?” Pinkie asked with a smirk.

“I still can’t believe it.” Skystar turned over in the sand to study the top of Pinkie’s head. “You actually have pony ears.”

“Yup!” Pinkie wiggled her ears just a little bit. It was weird, like her brain just automatically knew how to use them. Probably magic. “We have ever since Princess Twilight arrived and helped save the school!”

“So, magic’s real, huh?”

Pinkie nodded. Skystar reached out and touched an ear gently. Pinkie giggled and shivered a little and Skystar yanked back her hand.

“Sorry! Did that hurt?”

“No, silly. It just tickles!”

Skystar’s hand gently traced the line of bright blue through Pinkie’s mane. “And the color?”

“That one’s special!” Pinkie replied. “That only happens when there’s lots of music involved… and some other stuff. Twilight could tell you all about it. And I mean all about it. She interviewed us all for like… weeks when she first came to the school.

Skystar’s smile grew. “They looked like they were having a good night, too.”

“Sunny and Twi?” Pinkie nodded. “Yeah. They did! I knew they’d be cute together.”

“Still wish I hadn’t just blurted that out… like… blah.” Skystar looked a little awkward. Okay, a lot awkward. “But I know, you already said, it worked out okay.”

They lay there for a bit longer, neither saying anything. It didn’t bother Pinkie. She wasn’t usually a big fan of silence, but right then, it felt like the thing to do.

“So… if magic is real, are mermaids real?” Skystar asked.

“Huh?”

“When we first met… you asked if I was a mermaid!”

“Oh yeah.” Pinkie snorted and looked over at her. “I don’t know if they’re real. That would be cool, though, right?”

“Yeah…” Skystar played with her hair. “I’ve kinda always wanted to be one.”

“Really?”

“Yeah! I think it would be super cool to be able to swim around underwater, see all those neat fish and plants—not to mention all the shells. Just to be there… up close and see it with my own two eyes! Just… something magical about the sea…”

Welllll… Pinkie said hesitantly, stretching the word like a piece of taffy. “So far, we’ve seen raging she-demons, teenage zombies, flying fish girls who also did a zombie-lite thing, more demon girls, a crazy plant girl, and… some giant movie star? That last one confuses me.”

“You’re not even joking are you?”

“Nope!”

“It’s funny, but I totally believe you now.” Skystar giggled.

“Who knows?” Pinkie chirped. “Maybe we’ll find you some sort of special magic that lets you turn into a mermaid! I mean… crazier stuff has already happened!”

“Really?”

“We could always ask Sunny or Princess Twi!” Pinkie replied. “I’m sure they’d be happy to help.”

“I think I’d like that.” Skystar went back to staring at the stars, sounding far away. “I’d like that a lot.”

Pinkie pushed herself up and started gathering sand from the fallen sand-castle. Without ceremony, she started dumping it on Skystar’s legs.

“Uh… Pinkie?” Skystar giggled, watching her. “What are you doing?”

“Well, duh, turning you into a mermaid!”

Skystar’s smile was like the sun coming up. “You’re a genius.”

“You know, a lot of people say that! Though they usually sound more surprised.”

“I’m not surprised at all!”

As Pinkie went to work, Skystar lay there in the sand. Rarity would probably be a little mad that they’d gotten sand in their dresses, but it wasn’t like they were going swimming in them! And Pinkie knew a really good dry cleaner.

“So, heh…” Skystar fiddled with her hair. Sand fell from it, glittering faintly in the moonlight as waves crashed a little ways down the beach. “I think my mom likes you.”

“Really?” Pinkie stopped constructing the tail around Skystar’s legs for a moment to look up at her. “You think so?”

“Well, um… don’t you remember? She was there when we… you know… um…”

“Oh!” Pinkie giggled awkwardly. “Right. Heh.”

“Since she sent us out here with Stratus… yeah, I think that’s a good sign.” Her smile faded a little. “But for all I know, all this could be letting me have some fun before we leave tomorrow.”

“Don’t talk like that.” Pinkie frowned. “You can’t be sure. Can’t you just…”

Pinkie blushed and cut herself off as she finished the fin. She knew she was being silly.

“What?” Skystar asked, her voice super encouraging and gentle. “You can say it! Please?”

Pinkie hesitated. It sounded kinda needy. And not all stuff with friends could be controlled.

“Can’t you just be here? With me?” Pinkie asked in a teeny tiny voice. “Just for now?”

Skystar looked like she wanted to jump up and hug Pinkie, but she also didn’t want to ruin all of Pinkie’s hard work. So instead, she just said, “That sounds like a great idea!”

“Really?”

“Mmhm!” Skystar nodded. “I’m totally okay with just being here. Right now. With you. Especially with you.”

Pinkie continued her delicate work of transforming the stunning Skystar into a stunning… err… sky-mermaid? Skymaid? Mersky? Something like that. She was extra careful to make all the little shapes in the sand, even going down to get some wet sand—though she made sure there was enough dry sand on Skystar first—to make all the scales and other details on the fluke. It was kinda like working with really finicky sugar frosting! Kinda.

They talked about everything and nothing as Pinkie worked. They talked about Pinkie’s life back when she’d been a kid and the legend of her family finding Holder’s Boulder. They talked about Skystar’s life on the Aris Islands and the first time she’d gone kayaking in the ocean. Pinkie talked about some of the adventures she’d had. Skystar talked about some of the places she’d seen.

Pinkie hadn’t really been paying attention to the clock on her phone. It didn’t seem important. All that was important was making Skystar into the perfect mermaid.

She had just about finished on Skystar’s hips when she heard the sound of feet sliding through sand.

Pinkie looked up and hesitated.

Ambassador Novo walked toward them, barefoot. She’d changed into a simple-looking dress of pink with purple and blue bands running around the hem. She didn’t look like an ambassador right now. She looked like just a normal lady.

“You two seem to be having a good time,” Novo commented dryly.

“Hi Mom!” Skystar waved at her, though Novo looked upside down from her point of view.

“Hello, Skystar,” Novo said, her voice tender. “Mind if I join you?”

“Sure! Pull up some sand!”

Skystar giggled at her own joke. Pinkie joined in. Even Novo chuckled. Then, the big fancy ambassador plopped down on the other side of Skystar. Novo held her knees to her chest as she looked out over the ocean.

“You okay, Mom?” Skystar asked.

Pinkie watched Skystar’s mom. Her eyes seemed really distant, but she had a sad sort of smile. She had something on her mind. Something big. Something… something she wasn’t sure of! That was it! But that wasn’t all of—

That’s when Pinkie realized where she’d seen that expression before.

She’d seen it this morning.

“I’m fine, Seafilly.”

“Mom!” Skystar protested, her cheeks going red enough to be seen clear as day in the bright moonlight. “Don’t call me that!”

Pinkie blinked. “Seafilly?”

“On our first trip away from home, we ended up staying at a large ranch complex along a beach. Skystar begged me every single day to take her out riding on the beach.”

Mooom…Skystar whined.

“She had a favorite little horse too, a young mare by the name of… what was it, Skystar?”

“Griffy,” Skystar muttered, crossing her arms all pouty-like.

“Right, Griffy.” Novo chuckled. “Anyway, she was sad when we had to leave, so I started calling her Seafilly to cheer her up. It made her laugh at the time.”

Pinkie giggled so hard she almost fell over.

“And now it’s super embarrassing!” Skystar said. “Can we talk about anything else? Please?”

“Yes, actually,” Novo replied. “We can.”

Her voice had changed. Now, it was serious. Completely serious. Not like ‘Ambassador’ serious, but ‘Mother’ serious.

“Mom? What’s going on?” Skystar sounded worried.

Even Pinkie was worried.

Novo took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I’ve been watching you all day, Skystar. Or having Stratus report on you. The whole time.”

Skystar didn’t seem upset. She looked confused. Pinkie couldn’t blame her.

“Why?”

“I’m sure you’ve wondered why our visits to cities in the last month have usually only been a few days long,” Novo said.

Pinkie hesitated, then put the final touches on Skystar’s tail. She quickly brought out her phone and snapped a few pictures. Novo didn’t seem to notice, but Skystar did give a big smile for each one.

“Yeah…” Skystar shrugged, shifting some sand around her. “I thought things were just busy.”

“They have been, but not that busy. I’ve been watching you. Watching how you interact with others. You’ve been so quiet in the last few months—” Novo’s voice suddenly broke. “I’ve… I’ve missed my baby.”

Skystar’s mouth dropped open. So did Pinkie’s.

“When we first started doing this, you loved seeing the world. You loved meeting new people. Until… you had to say goodbye too many times. Then you started to hide in your shell like a sea turtle, staying a little deeper every time.”

“But…”

“Hush, let me finish,” Novo said, though she didn’t sound angry. In fact, she wiped a tear away. “Three months ago, I sent a message to the Governor’s Office. I gave them an ultimatum.”

Skystar stared at her mom. She looked really scared. “W-what was the ultimatum?”

Novo licked her lips and stared down at her daughter. “For them to arrange for a permanent embassy here.”

“A permanent… you mean you won’t be an Ambassador-at-Large anymore?” Skystar obviously couldn’t believe her ears. “You’ll be… an Ambassador-In-Residency?”

“Ambassador-in-Residence,” Novo corrected gently and then nodded. “Yes, Seafilly.”

“Does that mean…”

A smile slowly spread on Novo’s face. “No more moving.”

Skystar squealed and tried to haul herself up to tackle her mom—but Pinkie had done a really good job on Skystar’s tail and she was totally stuck.

Skystar looked down at her lower half. So did Novo. Pinkie did too. Then all three burst into laughter. Novo instead came down to her daughter and squeezed her tightly in a hug. Both of them started to cry and Pinkie found herself crying, too.

Skystar is going to finally get a home with real friends and everything! Pinkie thought.

Novo pulled back, now sitting cross-legged on the sand. “I’m sorry these last few years have been hard on you. I got so caught up in my duty to our country that I forgot my duty to be your mom.”

“It’s… it’s okay Mom…” Skystar said through sniffles and tears.

“No, it’s not. But I’m going to make it okay.”

Novo’s eyes turned to Pinkie. Pinkie swallowed hard.

“Since I started looking for a place to use as an embassy, I’ve been watching my daughter, Miss Pie. In six months, you are the first person to draw her out. You made yourself her friend instantly. You gave me back the daughter I loved. The happy, bubbly and cheerful girl that loved to dance on the beach when she was little. You were even willing to stand up and fight for her happiness back in that lab.”

“I… I just did what I always do!” Pinkie protested.

Novo waved the comment away. “When Skystar came back to the hotel after seeing you this morning, I could see the cracks in her mask. I could see the girl she’d been peeking out. You let her out. You fought to let her out and keep her out. And for that… I owe you my thanks… in a… a way I can’t really express.”

To Pinkie’s surprise, Novo stood and reached out a hand. Pinkie took it—a little scared—and let Novo pull Pinkie to her feet. Then, to Pinkie’s utter shock… Novo hugged her.

Novo was crying again. “Thank you for giving her back.”

Pinkie tried to comfort the way taller woman, but it was kinda hard. Even she didn’t know what to do right now.

Then Novo pulled away, wiped the tears from her eyes and glanced between Skystar and Pinkie.

“And because of that—and my own research into this city—I’ve decided Canterlot will be the home of the new Aris Islands Embassy. I don’t care if it apparently has magic pony girls. I don’t care if it’s a hundred miles away from half the other embassies in the country. This is where I found someone who brought my daughter back to me. And this is where we’ll stay.”

Skystar gasped.

Pinkie gasped.

Novo smiled.

Then Pinkie dropped down and gave Skystar a huge hug. Skystar returned it with just as much force as Pinkie. Pinkie could feel both of their ribs protest, but they didn’t care.

Now, everyone was crying again. Seemed to be a lot of crying tonight. Silly, happy crying. The good kind. The best kind.

Then Skystar yanked her down to give her a kiss on the cheek. Pinkie went bright red and sputtered a little.

“Skystar, your mom is like… right there!” she hissed.

“I don’t even care. She can ground me for a month!”

“I could,” Novo commented. “But, as I think you two make a cute couple, I think I’ll let it slide. For now.”

Pinkie looked up and saw the warning in Novo’s eyes.

“I’ll be good!” Pinkie squeaked.

“Me too!” Skystar added

You I trust,” Novo said, pointing at Pinkie. Then she pointed at Skystar. “You, I know better.”

“Hey!”

Pinkie giggled.

“After all, you did just meet this morning,” Novo continued. “Still, you don’t get as far as I have without learning to read people. Skystar, honey?”

“Yes, Mom?”

“Hold on to this one. She’s got a good heart. And the pony ears are pretty cute, too.”

Novo winked—she actually winked—at Pinkie and walked off, humming “My Kind of Crazy” again.

Then, it was just the two of them again. Pinkie slumped to the sand beside Skystar.

“I… I can’t believe that just happened,” Skystar whispered. “I… this is my new home?”

“Looks like it!” Pinkie said. She was a little bewildered herself! She hadn’t been expecting this.

“So… um…” Skystar flushed, stared at her sandy tail and fiddled with her blue hair. “I should probably tell you this… but I’ve never actually dated anyone before. Isn’t… this sorta fast?”

“Maybe?” Pinkie wiggled her toes in the sand. “My friends like to tell me I’m a little crazy. I think that’s great, because normal’s boring.”

“And what about me?” Skystar pulled out her purse and brought out Sheldon. “Am I crazy?”

“Yup!” Pinkie replied, pulling Shelly out of her purse. “But you know what?”

Skystar rolled her eyes. “You’re so silly, Pinkie.”

“I haven’t even said it yet!”

“You were going to.”

“Okay, yeah, maybe!” Pinkie pouted a little. “Does that mean I can’t?”

“Depends, are you going to help me break out of this sand prison?” Skystar stuck out her tongue at Pinkie. “Or did you actually use your magic to turn me into a mermaid?

“That would be super cool,” Pinkie admitted. “But kinda awkward to explain to your mom.”

“Probably,” Skystar nodded. “So… um… help me up?”

“You gonna let me say it?” Pinkie put on her best puppy dog eyes and unleashed them on Skystar.

“Only after.” Skystar giggled. “Deal?”

“Deal!” Pinkie declared.

With that, Pinkie got to work breaking Skystar out of her mermaid tail. Pinkie thought it might be fun if they ever got enough magic to turn them both—because she was not about to let Skystar have that much fun on her own—into mermaids. But until then, she was totally happy with the cute freckled girl as she was right now.

About ten minutes later, Skystar did actually let Pinkie say the words. But only after Skystar had snuggled up against her.

Pinkie had wrapped her arms tight around Skystar. Shelly and Sheldon were nestled in former mermaid’s lap. As they looked out over the ocean together, Pinkie smiled to the world. Inside, she danced. Outside, she sighed happily. It was a new feeling, but definitely something she could get used to.

After all, it was the small things that usually turned to be a whole lot of fun.