"So then I said, 'you mean this scarf?' Seriously, I got it all the way from the mountaintop before he even finished talking!"
Fluttershy gave an appreciative laugh at Rainbow Dash's story, holding a hoof up to her mouth as she did so.
"Oh my. I bet he was shocked!"
"He was practically dragging his jaw on the floor! Seriously, it was like a Pinkie Pie moment!"
The two chuckled good-naturedly as they breathed in the cool night air. Hearth's Warming was underway in Ponyville, and this year Dash and Fluttershy had chosen to claim a pair of seats at the corner of an outdoor table, goofing off and catching up on each others' shenanigans.
Dash slugged back another mouthful of cider and sat back thoughtfully, contemplating her near-empty tankard. This season always brought funny feelings to her chest, but she'd never sat back to consider it in specific before.
"You know, it's funny. When it's cold out like this, that's when you really notice how warm you are inside."
Hearing no response, Dash glanced over, to see Fluttershy staring at her. Dash hurried to explain herself.
"I mean, hanging out with friends and stuff—"
"Oh, I understood, sorry. I just, that was really pretty. You should write that down somewhere."
Dash just rolled her eyes and scoffed. "I'm not a writer, 'shy."
"Well, maybe you should be. You read a lot, these days."
Dash contemplated her drink a little further and smirked. "Well, if I ever do decide to write, you get to deal with proofreading. I may be awesome, but even I have my limits."
Fluttershy choked on her drink slightly, snickering. "I think I'll leave that to Twilight."
"What? Afraid you couldn't handle my writing?"
Fluttershy quirked an eyebrow in confusion, though she retained a good-natured smirk. "What kind of writing would be hard to handle?"
"I dunno! Maybe I'll write something really horrible, or something really smutty, or something."
Fluttershy blushed slightly and waved a hoof in protest, though her grin indicated it was only in jest. "Dash! You wouldn't write smut."
"Well if I did, it'd be awesome smut. Like, with dragons, and treasure, and stuff."
"You want to write smut about dragons?"
Dash suddenly froze, and facehoofed. "No, I mean—"
"Does Spike know about this?"
Dash was fighting hard to throttle her laughter as she shook her head violently. "Sh~y, c'mon, you're killin' me here."
Fluttershy managed to take on an entirely calm demeanor, with only the faintest twitches of a grin betraying her amusement as she sternly addressed her friend.
"Now Rainbow, I know our work at the school requires us to focus on the ideas of racial integration, but that's simply taking things too far."
Dash reeled back with laughter at this point, waving her hooves frantically at the air as she tried to gain purchase on some oxygen.
"I give, I give! Just sto~op, ahahahaha!"
Fluttershy, undeterred, leaned in to press onwards. "Just imagine what the parents would think! Why, I've half a mind to—"
"Well hello, ladies! You two looking for company?"
An earth-pony stallion with a beige coat and brown mane neither of the mares recognized – presumably some relative over for Hearth's Warming – had approached the isolated pair while they were distracted, and their laughter came to a swift halt as they regarded the newcomer with some measure of confusion.
Dash was the first to recover. "Uhh... no? We kinda sat back here specifically not to—"
The stallion suddenly leaned in close to Fluttershy, hoof extended, eliciting a peep of anxiety from her. "The name's Smoked Oats, but you can just call me Smoke. Or Prince Charming, gorgeous."
Something not entirely unlike a fuse blowing out occurred in Rainbow Dash's mind. She leapt to her feet and leaned across the table towards Smoke, her hoof curled up menacingly.
"Alright, listen up, creep. We were having a good time here before you dropped yourself into the conversation uninvited, so just back off or else the expression 'where there's smoke there's fire' is gonna get a lot more literal in your case!"
Though she internally reproached herself for the exaggerated nature of her threat, Dash held firm with a glare at the suddenly taken-aback stallion.
Besides, ridiculous or not, that threat sounded pretty awesome, she thought. In any event, it had the desired effect, as Smoke started backpedaling quickly, gesturing placatingly with a hoof.
"Whoa, whoa, okay! Jeez! I didn't realize you two were an item or whatever!"
Dash glared after him as he left, until Fluttershy's voice suddenly snapped her out of her focus.
Dash's attention suddenly swung to her side, where Fluttershy was staring up at her with genuine incredulity. Fluttershy shook her head. "Rainbow, he was just trying to be friendly! You didn't have to threaten him!"
Rainbow Dash couldn't fully compute what she was being told. "Friendly? How do you get that from how he was acting?"
Fluttershy just shook her head. "Rainbow, I'm not a little filly anymore! You don't have to stand between me and other ponies anymore! I mean, he seemed like he was..."
Fluttershy trailed off as her eyes widened. "Oh no. He thinks we're dating. That'll be all over town by tomorrow!"
Dash silently blinked a few times, processing what she had just heard. "Huh. He did say something like that. Wonder why."
"Well... you did act kinda like a jealous marefriend. Oh, I need to go talk to Applejack about this! And I should apologize to Smoke!"
Rainbow stared in disbelief as Fluttershy hopped up from the table and ran off to seek Applejack's help in preventing rumors from circulating.
Meanwhile, far deeper, more dramatic concerns troubled the pegasus.
Far deeper. Mariana-trench deeper. And sillier.
"So that's what happened."
Spike nibbled on a ruby while he listened to Rainbow Dash recount the events of the previous evening, nodding along. "Uh-huh... so... what's the deal? Why'd you need to talk about this so much?"
"Because! Like! The idea of us dating never even crossed my mind! Should it have?! I'm supposed to embody loyalty, right? So does that like, mean that I should be open to stuff like that?"
Rainbow Dash suddenly leaned in uncomfortably close across the kitchen table towards Spike.
"Where is the line drawn, Spike? IS THERE EVEN ONE?!"
Spike leaned back, raising a claw to placate the pegasus while he prepared to launch into his usual 'stop freaking out over nothing, Twilight' routine. But then he paused, and cupped his chin.
"Huh... wow. That is a tough question."
Rainbow Dash flung herself back in her chair and flailed at the air. "I've read enough adventure books to know the whole loyalty-and-love thing, how they're supposed to go hand-in-hand or whatever! So am I screwing all this up?! Shouldn't I have thought of that sooner? What if she's been interested all this time and it never even occurred to me?!"
Spike whistled appreciatively. "And you've known her since middle school, right? Wow. That would be one huge oversight."
Rainbow Dash pointed a hoof at Spike, triumphant. "Yes! Yes! That! Exactly! How could I call myself the element of loyalty if I missed something like that?!"
Spike frowned, rubbing his chin further as he took another thoughtful bite of his gemstone. "Y'know... you're the expert on loyalty, here, Dash. Maybe you should just trust yourself on this."
Rainbow Dash stared at Spike like he'd grown a second head for a few seconds before she suddenly leapt up and clapped her front hooves together. "That's it!"
"So that's what happened."
Two Rainbow Dashes – one native to Equestria, now in human form and dressed in a bomber's jacket, while the other wore her soccer outfit – leaned back on the bleachers outside of Canterlot High.
The natively human Rainbow Dash shook her head. "Wow. Just... Dude. Fluttershy. I never thought of it either."
"Really?! Dang! I thought for sure that couldn't have slipped past two of us."
"Yeah. I mean we're usually pretty in-tune on stuff like that."
"Totally! Like with Pinkie Pie and her constant baking!"
The native Dash groaned. "I swear if I have to hide any more of her pies, I could feed a whole town. I'm probably like an elite spy or something by now with all the sneaking around I do."
Equestria's own Dash sighed. "You're still doing that? You've gotta stop. It caused problems."
"Oh. Thanks for the heads-up."
The two sat on the bleachers, ruminating in frustrated silence for a time. Finally, the Equestrian Dash flung her hands up.
"I mean, do people normally have to deal with this? Like, what if I'm making a lot out of nothing? Maybe Fluttershy isn't even interested in the first place!"
"Interested in what?"
Fluttershy's voice carried to the two Dash's from the side of the bleachers. On seeing the two doppelgangers, Fluttershy froze in confusion. But the once-equine Dash saw opportunity.
"So that's what happened."
Fluttershy listened politely, making the occasional sound of acknowledgement or nodding silently as her friend's counterpart recounted her tale. She chewed her lip over.
"Well... have you considered that being the element of loyalty has nothing to do with this? I mean, it wouldn't be right to pretend you're okay being with someone if you're not. You need to be sincere with your feelings, so if you aren't interested in her – er, the other me, that is – then you shouldn't make things more complicated overthinking it."
The two Rainbow Dashes listened attentively. Equestria's Dash rubbed her chin as she'd seen Spike do so many times – and now she understood why he did that! Hands! – and hummed.
"Well... okay. If you say so."
Fluttershy frowned. "Well, you said she seemed pretty upset with how you acted, right? Maybe you should be more concerned with her feelings on that, first."
The typically-quadrupedal Rainbow Dash nodded, sighing. "Yeah, you're right. Just, once I got the idea in my head, I realized how much worse I might make it by shooting my mouth off about it all. I'll go talk to her."
The more-typically-human Dash caught her counterpart by the shoulder. "But not before we get a game in first, right?"
"So that's what happened. But when Rainbow Dash went back to see Fluttershy, she was aghast to find her friend in tears!"
The foals pulled in tighter around Pinkie, listening closely. The ambience of the basement made every story feel like a spooky ghost story.
"For you see, when Fluttershy had tracked Smoke down to apologize, he revealed himself to be... a huge jerk! Who said awful things to her!"
Some of the foals chuckled as Pinkie gesticulated wildly, as though she were describing some fell beast.
"And Fluttershy was distraught all the way until morning over it! When Rainbow Dash learned of this, she swore vengeance on Smoke, and so the Great Prank War of Ponyville began! And that is how Equestria was unmade!"
Just as Pinkie uttered the finale, the lights suddenly came on. Twilight Sparkle stared at the gathering of foals in her basement, and asked the obvious question.
"Pinkie, what are you all doing in here?"
"Cheerilee told me to keep the kids occupied while they put out the fire at the school!"
"Well, the fire's put out, and they caught the culprit – turns out it was just Smoke, in his latest escalating prank with Dash. They're giving him a night in the jail before they ship him back off to Baltimare. The kids can go back, now."
"Oooh! Did they also arrest Rainbow Dash in an act of arbitrary parallelism to teach her a lesson?"
Twilight squinted at her friend in confusion. "What? No, of course not. Come on, I need help setting up for the Hearth's Warming day celebration in the square."
And with that, Twilight Sparkle ushered the kids (and her kid-at-heart friend) out of her basement, glanced around, and locked the door, and all was at peace in Ponyville on Hearth's Warming Day.
So that's what happened.