Chapter Eight: Gentle Snows

Pinkie’s alarm rang, to which she immediately sprang up and hit the clock. She merrily trotted to Gummy’s tank, where she picked him up and nuzzled him against her cheek. “Today’s the day, gummy!” she cried. “I’m gonna go and get Dashie’s book today!”

After she had fed Gummy, Pinkie tied a scarf around her neck (it had been growing chilly lately) and hummed as she bounced down the stairs. “Good morning!” she said to the Cakes, who were busy feeding Pumpkin Cake and Pound Cake.

Mr. Cake turned to Pinkie, smiling. “Good morning, Pinkie!” he said. Pumpkin finished her bottle, then let out a small burp. Mr. Cake then put the cream, orange-maned little unicorn over his shoulder and began gently patting her back. “So, you going to get that Daring book today?”

“Yep!” Pinkie cheerfully replied, approaching him. She walked up to Pumpkin and rubbed her nose with her own affectionately. “You’re getting so big, Pumpkin!” she said. “I can’t wait until I get to play with you!”

Mr. Cake chuckled nervously. “Just remember to be gentle with the babies, Pinkie.”

Pinkie grinned. “I will!”

Pinkie located and donned her saddle-bags, which held her bits and an empty space for the book. Mr. and Mrs. Cake had given her the day off so that she could go to the Daring Do auction in Canterlot today. After she had gathered up her tickets, given Scootaloo her daily breakfast muffins, and had eaten a few herself, she said to Mrs. Cake (who was preparing a red velvet anniversary cake in the kitchen), “Make sure you feed Gummy, okay, Mrs. Cake?”

Mrs. Cake smiled back at Pinkie. “Don’t worry, Pinkie. Gummy’s going to be perfectly okay with us.”

Once Pinkie reached the doorway, she cheerfully waved back to her employers. “Bye, Mr. and Mrs. Cake!” she called.

“Bye, Pinkie!” Mr. Cake called back.

Pinkie exited Sugar Cube Corner and bounced down the road as she hummed to herself. After a few moments, she realized that she was humming her favorite love songs. She stopped and allowed herself a small blush and giggle. Pinkie grinned enormously as she continued hopping towards the train station.

Pinkie had been on the train before, and this time was little different. However, the cashier who sold Pinkie her ticket, a Mare she accidentally bumped into, and all the ponies who ended up in the same car as her found themselves smiling at the highly contagious cheerfulness Pinkie carried. If anypony told her how pretty and adorable they thought she was with her love stricken smile and ecstatic aura, she would feel little self-consciousness when she asked Rainbow on a date later that evening.

Once the train stopped, Pinkie immediately bought a map of Canterlot from a stand in the station and located Inkblot’s. She then went to it, where she found that it was an enormous, three-story corner store built of deep-green brick with great windows displaying a staggering assortment of books on every subject. Pinkie, who was herself stunned and excited by this marvelous sight, wondered how Twilight would react to coming here. Of course, Twilight probably had, considering that she used to live here in Canterlot, but nonetheless Pinkie still wanted to see what her reaction was the first time she came.

When Pinkie pushed in past the doors, she was greeted by the scent of coffee and pastries. She hummed with simple pleasure at the sensations as she trotted into the store. She didn’t have to look for the raffle; there were several large signs, all with boxes at their feet, advertising the raffle and directing all participants to write their names on a slip of paper and insert it into the box. Pinkie did so; after all, there was no reason to not try to get for free what she came to buy. Once she had, she looked back at the sign. It declared that the raffle would be held at eight o’clock that evening.

Pinkie looked over at a clock on a nearby wall. It was six twenty-two. Pinkie groaned in frustration. “Come oooon!” she shouted. “I’ll have to wait foreveeeeer!”

Several of the shop’s customers and employees angrily turned and shushed at Pinkie, who embarrassedly crouched down. “Sorry!” she whispered.

With a sad sigh, Pinkie began perusing the shelves. She was able to occupy herself with children’s picture books with some success, but she was never able to quite keep herself from glancing at the clock to see how much longer she had left. It was agonizingly long.

It really did feel like forever for the clock’s big hand to circle up and then back around a second time. Pinkie almost felt like it was taunting her. As the seconds ticked by and her impatience built, Pinkie began growing red-faced and felt an increasingly powerful urge to scream. Tick-tick, tick-tick…

Pinkie paced around the shop, walked outside, walked back in, flipped rapidly through some books, pulled tufts of her mane straight only to let them spring back to curls, and continued to watch the clock. Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven…

Pinkie bought a donut, ate it in less then three seconds, went back outside to do some cartwheels, then came back inside to stare at the clock some more. Forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty, fifty-one…

Pinkie nervously paced in place. Fifty-four, fifty five…

Pinkie nervously nibbled at her hooves. Fifty-seven, fifty-eight…

Pinkie bit her lip and trembled with anticipation. Fifty-nine…

When the big hand at last clicked into its perfectly vertical orientation, Pinkie left up with an enormous cheer of “HOORAY!!”

The other occupants of the shop again angrily shushed and yelled, “Shut up!” or “Quiet!” at Pinkie, and she again said (with some cheerfulness), “Sorry!”

A grey unicorn stallion with a microphone cutie mark stood in the center of the store. His horn lit up with a silvery-blue aura and projected his voice around the building.

“Inkblot’s official raffle for Daring Do and the Fountain of Madness is about to begin! All who have entered, gather ’round! We will draw ten names, and all who hear their names called will receive a free, signed copy!”

The ponies in the shop cheered, and most gathered at the floor around the announcer Stallion as two other Unicorns, each magically levitating five copies of the book, walked to him and sat beside him.

After holding up one and displaying it for all to see, the announcer sent the other Unicorns to gather up the ballot boxes from around the store, then they dumped all of the papers together in a large cauldron. After using his magic to mix up the slips, he cast a spell that resulted in an audible poof resounding from the cauldron. He smirked knowingly at the audience. “Now everypony is entered only once,” he said.

After a few audience members groaned, the announcer Unicorn pulled a slip from the cauldron and read the name it bore aloud. “Our first winner is… Black Jack!”

A small, coal-grey colt cheered excitedly cheered and ran forward to claim his prize. The announcer announced nine more winners and gave away nine more books, but Pinkie wasn’t one of the winners.

When the raffle ended and the announcer wished all of the shoppers a wonderful evening, Pinkie shrugged and said, “Oh, well. That’s what I brought my bits for.”

One of the winner stallions held his copy up in the air, then exited the shop. Several other ponies followed him, causing Pinkie to deduce that he’d indicated an intention to auction it. Excited, Pinkie followed after them.

The winner Stallion led his makeshift crowd to a small, public garden near the town square, where he stood up on a stone bench. “Mares and gentle colts!” he announced. “I am offering this, a signed copy of A.K. Yearling’s Daring Do and the Fountain of Madness for sale! It’s not been released yet; this is an early copy! Let’s begin the bidding at ten bits; do I hear ten bits?”

“Ten bits!” pinkie heard another Mare yell. “Twenty bits!” a Stallion yelled.

Pinkie shouted, “One hundred bits!”

The crowd around her oohed. The winner Stallion smiled. “Hey, this lovely Mare has offered one hundred bits! …Do I hear a hundred and fifty?”

“Hundred fifty!” someone called.

“Two hundred!” Pinkie answered.

The winner Stallion chuckled. “She offers two hundred! Can anybody top that?”

“Three hundred!”

“Three fifty!”

“Five hundred!” Pinkie screamed.

“Six hundred!”

“Six fifty!”

“Six seventy-five!”

“Eight hundred!”

“One thousand!” Pinkie shrieked.

Some of the crowd gasped in unison. After a moment another Mare called, “Thousand fifty!”

“Thousand two hundred!”

“Thousand two hundred seventy-five!”

“Two thousand five hundred!” Pinkie cried.

The crowd began nervously glancing at one another. Pinkie was panting through fiercely bared teeth. They all wondered: exactly how far was she willing to go to get this book?

A wealthy-looking blue middle-aged Mare announced, “I bid two thousand six hundred!”

Pinkie turned to glare at her. “Two thousand eight hundred!”

“Two thousand eight fifty!” the wealthy Mare answered.

“Two thousand nine hundred!”

“Three thousand!”

“Three thousand five HUNDRED!!” Pinkie shrieked at the top of her lungs. There was a moment of stunned silence. The blue mare shook her head in resignation; she could see that Pinkie was deathly determined to get the book.

The winner Stallion nervously coughed and said, “…Are there any more bidders?”

When no one answered, he gave a Pinkie a large but still mildly concerned smile. “Congratulations, young lady! This is yours for three thousand five hundred bits!”

Pinkie cheered, “HOORAY!!” and blew a noisemaker as she rushed forward to get the book. She gave the Stallion several huge, bulging brown bags of bits and yelled, “Thanks!” before putting the book in her saddlebag and merrily trotting away.

The Stallion stared at the several huge bags of gold that laid before him. He wondered three things: one, how did Pinkie carry it all? Two, how did she know that the bags held exactly three thousand five hundred bits? And three… where did they come from?

Pinkie was brimming with excitement as she went back on the Friendship Express. She did it; she got the book!

Pinkie was a little tempted to sit down and start reading it; after all, she was as anxious for its release as the next pony!

But Pinkie shook her head determinedly. “Nope! This is Dashie’s present. She gets to be the first pony to read it.”

Pinkie was anxious for the train to arrive at Ponyville again, but not nearly so much as she was for the raffle; this was a relatively short ride, and she found it reasonably bearable to wait for it to stop.

When she reached to train station, Pinkie immediately darted out. In an astonishingly short time she was at the field below Rainbow’s house. “Rainbow Dash!” She called up.

Soon Pinkie saw Rainbow poke her head out from behind one of the clouds. Rainbow smiled. “Hey, Pinkie!”

Rainbow hovered down to the ground before Pinkie. “What’s up?” she asked.

Pinkie squealed excitedly, but she began to blush as her eyes darted around nervously. Her smile became anxious. “I…”

Pinkie giggled. “I was wondering… Would you…”

She closed her eyes and began nervously giggling again. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know why I’m so nervous…”

Rainbow chuckled. “It’s alright, Pinkie. Go ahead.”

Pinkie giggled a little more before she bowed her head, looking Rainbow straight in the eyes. “Would you… would you like to… um…”

She closed her eyes and blurted, “WouldyouliketogoseetheWonderboltsandhavedinnerinCanterlotwithmenextweek?”

Rainbow blinked. Pinkie had spoken so quickly she hadn’t caught a word of what she said. “Huh?”

Pinkie cringed and repeated, “WouldyouliketogoseetheWonderboltsandhavedinnerinCanterlotwithmenextweek?”

Rainbow blinked again. She was listening carefully this time, and she thought she caught what Pinkie had said. “Uh… did you say, uh… watch the Wonderbolts and have dinner in Canterlot with you next week?”

Pinkie quietly squeaked, “Mm-hmm.”

Rainbow blushed mildly and broke into a huge grin. “Yeah! That sounds awesome, Pinkie!”

Pinkie gasped elatedly and leapt straight into the air. “YYYYYEEEEESSSSS!!” she cried.

Pinkie caught Rainbow in a rib-cracking embrace. “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou-!”

“P-Pinkie…” Rainbow wheezed.

Pinkie released Rainbow and squealed excitedly. “Ooooh, yes!”

She danced in place for a moment before darting off, crying, “The show’s on Monday! I’ll see you then, Rainbow!”

The first thing Pinkie did was rush to the market, where she ordered first-class Wonderbolts show tickets and reservations for a restaurant known as Countess Orange Sherbet’s Palace through the mail. Once she had placed her orders, Pinkie counted her remaining bits and whimpered despairingly. “Three hundred twenty-six bits…” she muttered. She was hoping she’d be able to purchase a really nice, sexy evening dress for Rainbow’s pleasure from Rarity, but with this much she’d barely be able to get a passable dress.

Pinkie sighed, then smiled sadly. “Ah, well,” she said, “I guess I’ll just see what Rarity can make me for this.”

Pinkie placed her remaining bits back in her saddle-bags before setting of for the Carousel Boutique. However, after a few moments, she stopped. She pulled her copy of Daring Do and the Fountain of Madness from her bag and stared at it. Finally she smiled, placed it back into her bag, and changed her course towards Sugar Cube Corner. She decided she could use some cheering up before she bought her dress, and so she’d wrap Rainbow’s present before seeing Rarity.

After Pinkie had returned to her home, she greeted the Cakes and their babies before going up to her bedroom to wrap Rainbow’s present. She chose her favorite wrapping-paper, which was white and covered with vibrantly-colored polka dots of every size and color. She wrapped the book with great care, and after taping the folded paper down she tied a beautiful bow around it using a silk, rainbow ribbon.

After admiring her handiwork for a moment, Pinkie placed the present on her desk and walked back downstairs. She again told her employers that she’d be out and set off for Rarity’s boutique.

When Pinkie Pie pushed open the boutique’s purple door, she caused its bell to ring as she called out, “Hi, Rarity!”

Rarity was sitting at her drafting desk, bespectacled in her red glasses, sketching up concepts for a client. She turned to Pinkie, then smiled. “Ah, hello, Pinkie,” she said. She levitated her glasses off of her nose, folded them, and set them aside. “What can I do for you?”

Pinkie smiled embarrassedly. She pulled her pouch of remaining bits from her saddlebag and set it on the ground. “I have three hundred twenty-six bits. Do you think you can make a decent dress for this?”

Rarity’s eyes widened as she gazed at the pouch before her. “Pinkie, dear, I doubt I could make a half-decent dress for this much.”

Pinkie sighed. “I thought so. Do you think you could try anyway?”

Rarity raised a brow. “What, exactly, is this dress for?”

“I’m going on a date with Dashie next Monday. I wanted to wear something nice for it.”

Rarity smiled surprisedly. “Really, Pinkie? In that case, I’ll make you a suitable dress free of charge.”

Pinkie gasped. “Really, Rarity? But-”

Rarity held up her hoof, firmly frowning. “No ‘buts,’ Pinkie. You’re one of my closest friends, and this is obviously a very important date for you. I feel that it is my obligation to help my friends in their romantic pursuits in any way I can.”

Pinkie laughed delightedly and embraced Rarity. “Thank you so much!”

“Not at all,” Rarity said nonchalantly. “But know this: if you get a second date with Rainbow and want to get a completely new dress for it, I will charge you for THAT one.”

“That’s okay!” Pinkie replied cheerfully.

Rarity trotted over to one of her platforms. “Stand here, please, so I can measure you,” she said to Pinkie.

Pinkie happily complied, and as Rarity levitated measuring tape over to Pinkie and began wrapping it around her torso she asked, “I presume you wish to have an evening gown for your date?”

“Mm-hmm!” Pinkie replied.

Rarity smiled. “Well, you’re quite an ideal model for one. You have a darling figure.”

As Rarity began writing down Pinkie’s measurements, she added, “You’ll be stunning. Rainbow won’t be able to look away from you the whole night.”

Pinkie blushed and giggled. Rarity gazed at her for a moment before nodding and walking to her draft table. “I think I know what I’ll do. You may leave now.”

Pinkie hopped down from the platform. “Thanks, Rarity!” she said as she exited the shop.

Rarity hummed as she stroked her chin. “What color should I use, though…?”

* * *

Rainbow was very excited for her date with Pinkie. Not only did she expect it to be very fun (it was Pinkie, after all), but there was also a chance that they would become girlfriends as a result of this. There was actually some appeal in the idea for Rainbow; Pinkie was a very pretty girl. She also really, really liked Rainbow, and was devoted to her almost to the point of worship.

However, Rainbow knew she had to be careful; Pinkie was a little naive, and was so eager to please Rainbow that she’d probably be vulnerable to exploitation. With little effort, Rainbow could probably get Pinkie to do whatever she wanted.

But Rainbow was determined not to do that anymore. This was just a friendly date; nothing more. Before Rainbow tried anything with Pinkie, she had to be sure of how she felt. After all, Rainbow didn’t want to jeopardize the overly emotional and hopeful Pinkie’s well-being unless she was more sure that they wanted the same thing.

But did they want the same thing? Rainbow wasn’t sure. She would have sex with Pinkie in an instant, but was that all Rainbow wanted?

Sure, they had things in common; they were both emotional, energetic, and passionate. They were both party animals with a taste for a good prank. They were both hot (Rainbow noted with a smirk). However, Rainbow wasn’t certain she quite… felt it. She might, but she wasn’t yet sure; for this reason, she was determined to keep her hooves off of Pinkie for this whole date. Only when she was more aware of exactly how she felt about Pinkie would she do anything about it.

However, Rainbow noted one more, somewhat minor benefit of this date with Pinkie; it would allow her to see exactly where her relationship with Scootaloo was.

Rainbow and Scootaloo had gotten much closer over the past few weeks. They had hung out several times, one of which was a camping trip with Applejack, Rarity, and their sisters Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. Rainbow vividly remembered that one because Scootaloo had confided in her her deep fear of disappointing her, and Rainbow had offered to be her mentor. Scootaloo had then asked if she could sleep with Rainbow, to which Rainbow allowed Scootaloo to snuggle beside her and sleep under the protection of her wing.

Rainbow wasn’t entirely sure how comfortable she was with this. Her fears of being sexually attracted to the pegasus filly had only increased the more time they spent together. Rainbow began finding more and more that some things Scootaloo said to her sounded surprisingly… suggestive. Rainbow at first wondered if Scootaloo was doing this deliberately, but then she remembered: Scootaloo considered her to be her sister. She was also a filly. Sure, Rainbow began being sexually active when she was a filly, but she was a bit older than Scootaloo when she did. She also had her dad, who wasn’t exactly shy of his conquests nor sheltering of Rainbow from the world of vice and pleasure. Rainbow Blaze never showed the slightest inclination of forbidding his daughter from porn, nor was he anything more discouraging than a cheerleader towards her own conquests. Indeed, Rainbow Dash couldn’t think of an environment more accommodating to an early sexual awakening than her own home, and that was most definitely not the environment Scootaloo had. Rainbow decided that Scootaloo would have to be a very early bloomer to already want a physical relationship with her.

So the nearly-inescapable conclusion was that Rainbow was twisting the naive little filly’s innocent words into dangerous, lecherous invitations. This deeply worried Rainbow, as she began to wonder if she truly was a pedophile who should get away from Scootaloo before she put her in more danger. But Rainbow was also worried that if she did, Scootaloo would be crushed by being abandoned by her mentor and closest confidant. Which should she do; gamble Scootaloo’s safety, or endanger Scootaloo’s emotional well-being?

Rainbow had decided that this date could be used to determine some of these things; perhaps Scootaloo was coming onto her, and if that was the case she could see how Scootaloo reacted when she told her about her date with Pinkie. If Scootaloo panicked and exposed herself as having less-than-innocent intentions, Rainbow could relax a bit; that would mean that she wasn’t just gutter-mindedly objectifying Scootaloo, since that was exactly Scootaloo’s intention. Rainbow would then be able to gently let Scootaloo down, and then they could just be friends. If Scootaloo didn’t act with panicky jealousy, Rainbow would possibly have to decide on another course of action.

Rainbow had one more comforting thought: perhaps she wasn’t a pedophile, even if she was starting to strongly desire Scootaloo. After all, it had been some time since she last picked up a Mare for a one-night stand, and she found that she increasingly, frustratedly, torturously missed it. Rainbow found that she was more concupiscent than she’d ever been, which was one of the biggest reasons she was so worried about her date with Pinkie Pie. Perhaps she was just getting so desperate that even Scootaloo was beginning to seem appealing. Maybe she’d even start considering Stallions next.

“In other words,” Rainbow smirked to herself, “maybe I just need to get laid.” If this was the case, Rainbow was determined to get a girlfriend as soon as possible.

Rainbow was determined for her date with Pinkie to go well so that if she indeed would make a good girlfriend for her, there’d be as few things in the way of making that happen as possible. It was for this reason that Rainbow grudgingly decided to wear a dress, and so she dug through her closet for the flowing, classical-esque dress Rarity had provided her for the Grand Galloping Galla half a year ago. As she sorted through the towering piles of magazines and sports equipment, she wondered to herself: how many dates should she go on with Pinkie before she invited her into bed? Of course, Rainbow knew that there might not be a second date after this one, but she knew she had so set a concrete quota of some kind for herself to prevent herself from acting too hastily. Her closet was thoroughly chaotic and so she had plenty of time to deliberate this, and eventually she decided that she would require of herself to go on at least three dates with Pinkie before trying to have sex with her. She knew that it would probably be wise to wait longer, but she was also really, really horny, so she had to make a compromise that was more reasonable than “when we get to the hotel after the show” but was not so difficult it was impossible to obtain. Three dates. Fairly reasonable.

Rainbow pulled out her silk, technicolor dress and golden laurel wreath. She groaned a little at the imminent discomfort and restriction it would create, but sighed and put it on anyway. Once she had it on, she walked to a mirror in her bathroom to check herself out. When she saw her reflection, she smirked. As hot as ever. She wondered vaguely for a moment if she should have her hair done or wear some make-up, but she quickly dismissed the idea; not only would she rather make out with Granny Smith than prissy herself up, but she didn’t want to risk being too hot and raise the odds of Pinkie making a move on her tonight.

As ready as she’d ever be, Rainbow flew to the train station, where she’d arranged to meet Pinkie. As she was approaching it, she saw Pinkie down below, balancing a small, box-like present on her back and ginning up at her. “Hi, Dashie!” she cried.

Rainbow’s jaw dropped. As she landed before Pinkie, she stared in stunned amazement at her.

Pinkie was in a tight, scarlet silk evening gown. Its top was folded over itself, like an oriental robe, with a flaring, ruffled skirt that was slitted up her right thigh, showing off her cutie mark. She was wearing red lipstick that matched the dress, and her cheeks were powdered with light coral blush. Her blue eyes demanded attention through black mascara and night-blue eyeliner. Her hair was pulled into two pigtails of sweet-scented ringlets. This was, without a doubt, the sexiest Rainbow had ever seen Pinkie.

Rainbow blinked a couple times. “Wow,” she said. “You look… amazing.”

Pinkie giggled and began bouncing. “Thanks, Dashie! You look great too!”

Rainbow chuckled and shook her head. As seductive as Pinkie looked tonight, she was the same as ever.

Pinkie turned to the train and gestured for Rainbow to come forward. “Let’s go, Dashie!” she said.

After they had gotten onto the train and Pinkie had given the conductor their tickets, they sat together at one of the train’s booths, where Pinkie fidgeted and giggled excitedly. “This is gonna be so great, Dashie!”

“I have no doubt,” Rainbow replied. They were rather silent for a while.

Eventually Pinkie broke the silence by asking, “How’s Scootaloo?”

Rainbow flinched. “What?”

“How’s Scootaloo? Is she doing well?”

Rainbow anxiously shrugged. “She’s doing well, I guess.” Please stop talking about Scootaloo, she thought.

“What’s she been doing?”

“Oh, just trying to get her cutie mark and stuff.”

Pinkie smiled. “Okie dokie!”

Rainbow let out a small, relieved sigh. Unfortunately, this date was starting out pretty awkwardly.

The awkward silence continued until the end of their train ride. When they disembarked at Canterlot’s station, they went outside to find that it was lightly snowing.

“Hooray!” Pinkie cried, bouncing out into the street, opening her mouth at the sky. She laughed elatedly as she caught a snowflake on her tongue. Rainbow found herself smiling with amusement and fondness at Pinkie.

They went to Countess Orange Sherbet’s, a palace-like fine restaurant that worked diligently at all times to remain in the Canterlotian upper-class vogue. When they were seated, Pinkie ordered a kiwi fruit salad and Rainbow ordered a large pea pie. When their waiter asked if they wanted drinks, Pinkie told Rainbow to order whatever she liked, so Rainbow ordered a glass of Royal Sparkling Cider, one of Canterlot’s most premier vintages. When she drank it, she found for the first time since Flim and Flam a cider that could rival the Apples’.

As Pinkie and Rainbow ate, they idly spoke of their friendship studies and their recent lives and other such small things. Their conversation wasn’t terribly exciting, but Rainbow liked it; it was relaxing. It was nice. When the waiter asked what they wanted for dessert, Pinkie requested a piece of fudge chocolate cake, and Rainbow requested the same. They finished their dessert soon after, and by then it was six thirty-three. Less than thirty minutes until the Wonderbolts show.

Pinkie and Rainbow walked to the arena, where Pinkie gave their tickets to a counter and they took a small, private box in the stadium’s middle seats. Rainbow excitedly discussed some of the tricks the Wonderbolts were likely to perform with Pinkie for a few minutes before some trumpets sounded and an announcer heralded the beginning of the show.

It was spectacular; the Wonderbolts were in peak condition and the winds were minimal, so their tricks were executed flawlessly. As they performed their precarious corkscrews and daring dives, Rainbow cheered them on at the top of her lungs. As they performed their final trick, which consisted of flying in a close formation before darting in all directions in a “starburst,” fireworks whistled, streaked, and exploded behind them, eliciting wondrous gasps and applause from the audience.

As Rainbow was staring wide-eyed at the colorful display against the stars, she felt a pressure on her shoulder. She turned to find that Pinkie was leaning on her shoulder, gently smiling. Rainbow blushed, gulped, and trembled mildly, but after a few moments she hesitantly wrapped her foreleg around Pinkie’s shoulders. Pinkie giggled softly and snuggled closer to her.

When the show ended, they began walking again. Rainbow followed Pinkie to the Sol Hotel, yet another high-class establishment, where she relievedly found that Pinkie had booked them each their own rooms. When they had climbed up the stairs to the second floor and had reached their suites, Pinkie gave Rainbow her key and said, “Here you go.”

Rainbow took it and smiled at Pinkie. “Thanks, Pinkie,” she said. “Tonight was amazing.” She then hugged Pinkie and turned to go into her room.

“Wait, Dashie!” Pinkie said, and Rainbow turned back to her. Pinkie continued, “There’s just one more thing.”

Pinkie produced the present Rainbow had seen earlier, then gave it to Rainbow. She stared at Rainbow eagerly, and with some nervousness Rainbow carefully untied the bow and unwrapped the paper.

When she saw what it was, her eyes widened enormously. “Daring Do and the Fountain of Madness?! This hasn’t been released yet!”

Pinkie closed her eyes and grinned. “I got it early!” she sang.

Rainbow opened it to the title page. “Oh my gosh!” she cried. “It’s signed by A.K. Yearling! Pinkie! This is the best present ever!”

Rainbow looked up at Pinkie to find her gently smiling and gazing at her with pure joy and affection. Rainbow blinked. “Wow…” she said. “Pinkie, I…”

“Mm-hmm?” Pinkie replied.

Rainbow was speechless. She was stunned at all Pinkie had done for her. As Rainbow looked into Pinkie’s fawning eyes, she suddenly realized: Pinkie loved her. Really, truly loved her, with all of her heart. Rainbow felt utterly unworthy of it, and quite guilty that she’d given Pinkie nothing to earn it.

Rainbow began blushing. She really, really wanted to give something back to Pinkie. She could never give Pinkie anything to deserve all of this, but she knew of one thing that Pinkie must desperately want…

Rainbow closed her eyes. No, she thought. Not yet. She still didn’t know how she felt, and the absolute worst thing she could do to Pinkie was crush her hopes.

However, Rainbow was beginning to grow desperate; not only did Pinkie want her, but Rainbow also quite wanted to give herself to her. Both Rainbow’s desires and conscience were compelling her to do the same thing, and she had to sate them somehow.

However, Rainbow realized: she could thank Pinkie, give her something, even if she couldn’t give her everything yet. With that, Rainbow opened her eyes, smiled, and said, “Thank you so much, Pinkie.”

Rainbow leaned forward and kissed Pinkie. For the first time in a long time, Rainbow held back; this kiss was short, chaste, and sweet. When Rainbow pulled back, she felt some of Pinkie’s lipstick still on her own lips. Strawberry. Rainbow’s face burned as hotly as it was possible to.

Pinkie smiled euphorically before entering her room. Snowflakes drifted gently behind the windows.

Pinkie said softly to Rainbow, “Good night, Dashie,” before closing the door.

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