It's almost sunrise.
There's a storm raging outside.
I oughtta be out like a light, so why the hay am I not asleep? I mean sure, there's this beautiful mare asleep and snuggled against me, which is a cool new thing, but you'd think it'd help, right? I mean, I can normally fall asleep in no time, but tonight is just special I guess.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here, and nopony ever gets ahead of Rainbow Dash. Heh.
* * *
My work tonight was supposed to be a cinch. All I had to do was whip up a big thunderstorm that would last most of the night. I should have been back home chillin' before the storm started, but just as I'd gotten the clouds ready to start pouring, I noticed this big wild thunderhead blowing toward Ponyville from the Everfree Forest. Obviously I couldn't let that happen. Wild weather mixing with pegasus weather makes for some seriously bad mojo, so I had to spend like another three hours up there keeping those storms apart.
Finally, the Everfree storm started to break up. So I was flying back to my place, being careful and everything, when ZAP!, this bolt of lightning comes this close to hitting me. I dove out of the way, but just as I was about to pull up, this sudden gust of wind took the air out from under me.
The next thing I remember, I was wiping mud out of my eyes and trying to get the pain in my side to let up. I had hit the ground hard, but I'd crashed in this big patch of mud, so nothing was broken, or I didn't think it was, anyway. My whole left side ached, and my left wing couldn't stretch out all the way, so there was no way I could get back up to my place in the storm.
The wind was blowing wicked hard, and the rain was coming down in sheets. It was--er, is--almost winter, so I needed to get out of this storm pronto. Looking around, pretty much all of Ponyville was dark. I mean, it was the middle of the night. I had hoped that Twilight might be up late studying, but the library was just as dark as everything else. I was pretty screwed. With the storm winds howling like they were, I didn't think I could wake anypony up. I was about to head over to Sweet Apple Acres to see if AJ had left the apple cellar unlocked, but then I saw it: a light in a high window. I was saved!
I galloped toward it as fast as I could. It took me a bit to realize that the light was coming from the Carousel Boutique. Yeah, Rarity's place. I couldn't think of anypony who'd be less happy to find a wet and muddy pegasus at her door, even one as awesome as me. I hadn't seen Rarity in a while. It was almost like she'd been avoiding me. Just, that really didn't seem like her style, you know?
If Rarity wasn't my friend, I probably would have headed for the apple cellar instead, because, well, you know she can be about dirt and stuff. But she is my friend, so I started pounding on her door as hard as I could. Well, I could have kicked it in if I'd wanted to, but I wanted her attention, not to break down her door.
I must have been banging my hooves on that door for a couple of minutes before she came downstairs. I'm a proud pony, and I don't like having to ask for help when I can avoid it, so banging on that door was real hard for me. I was worried that Rarity wasn't going to let me in, because she was just standing there for, like, half a minute before she finally did. And when she did--! I mean I've been grateful before, but I don't think I've ever been so happy to see anypony as I was to see Rarity in that doorway. She didn't seem upset, but there was this look in her eyes that I couldn't place. It was like a mixture of happiness, surprise, confusion, and something else. Hard to describe, really.
I can't remember what I said, or tried to say then. It was probably something about being sorry for disturbing her, but Rarity cut me off before I could make any more of a foal out of myself. "Hush, Rainbow Dash," she said. It's kinda weird how she almost always uses everypony's full name all the time, isn't it? "Get yourself inside before you catch your death of cold."
She stepped aside, and I think I just sort of stumbled in. I must have limping a bit from the fall and the cold, because I saw her wince a bit as she watched me walk in. I'm pretty sure it wasn't out of concern for her doormat. I tried to say something again, expressing my gratitude, but she cut me short again.
"Not another word until I have you soaking in a nice hot bath," she said, turning around and starting back upstairs. I kept trying to thank her for not leaving me outside in the storm. She wouldn't have any of it, of course, just hushing me whenever I tried to talk. When I got to the stairs, it was pretty clear that I wasn't in the best of shape, so she came back down and helped me up to her apartment. She didn't even seem to care that I was getting mud all over that nice robe of hers.
* * *
I didn't really know Rarity all that well before that whole Nightmare Moon and Elements of Harmony thing happened. I met her when Fluttershy moved down here, and I knew her from all of Pinkie's parties and stuff after I moved to town for the weather gig, but we never really had much reason to deal with each other before Twilight came to town. I saw more of Rarity after that, but we still weren't exactly close. It's not that we didn't get along. Our interests just seemed so different. Like, she was always wanting to put me in some frilly outfit, or give me a makeover or whatever. I just don't really care about that sort of girly stuff, you know? It's fun sometimes, but not worth the effort.
She only really started warming up to me after I won the Best Young Flyer competition, though that was probably more because I saved her life. Anyway, she was a bit less pushy after that, and a lot more fun to be around. Well, up until the Gala anyway. Rarity got a bit depressed after that, I think. She'd been holding onto that fantasy of hooking up with Prince What's-His-Mane for so long that having things not work out just sort of took the air out of her. I did what I could to be a good friend, but well, I'm not so good with words and emotions. It was around then that she started acting kind of weird around me. I started seeing less of her, and when I would see her, I would catch her giving me these funny looks. I guess it should have been obvious what was going on, but I just didn't see it.
* * *
Pretty soon, I found myself stretched out in the tub. The water was so hot it was steaming, but I was pretty much a Dash-cicle, so it probably could have been boiling and I would have liked it. It felt so great to be warm again, even if my muscles were sore and my whole left side ached. Once I was feeling less frozen, I tried to apologize again. You know, the stuff about her not wanting a wet pony there in the middle of the night, even if it was somepony as cool as me. I actually managed to get the whole apology out this time. I followed that up by giving her one of my winning Rainbow Dash smiles. I held that grin for a while, waiting for her to respond, but there was just silence. Nothing. I felt like a complete foal. I slipped all the way under the water, hoping that maybe she'd leave if I was down there long enough. I'm not so great at holding my breath, though. I had to come up for air after a few seconds, but Rarity must not have noticed when I went under, seeing as how she was in the middle of talking.
"--would let you in. You're my friend, and even if it is the middle of the night and you are wet and..." She stopped for a second, trying to find just the right word to tell me how dirty I was. "...filthy, I couldn't just let you stand out in that awful storm." And then she looked at me, expecting me to say something, anything.
I had no idea how to answer. I'd already said I was sorry. Twice. What else did she want me to say? So I did that thing where you rub the back of your neck and look away while you start to talk. "Kinda a funny story there. See... I'd just finished putting the storm together. Mayor Mare said it had to be a big one..." But I've already told you that story. I think I probably made it sound more cool and heroic when I told it to Rarity, but hey, keeping those storms apart wasn't exactly bobbing for apples, you know.
By the time I finished, I was feeling pretty relaxed. Most of the mud had soaked off, so I went to get up, reaching up so Rarity could give me a hoof, but she was giving me this look -- those eyes of hers were just sort of stuck on me. I mean, I know I'm the coolest pony in Ponyville and all of that, but Rarity isn't the type to just stand there and gawk. She was staring at me the way I'd seen her stare at one of her sketches or half-finished designs, like I was a puzzle she was trying to solve, or something. I'd never noticed what an awesome shade of blue they were before that moment, I don't think.
"Um, everything OK there, Rarity?" I asked. She was still just looking at me. It was so weird. "I'm sorry for the mud... and stuff. I can dry off and go curl up downstairs until the storm blows over if you want..." No reaction. She didn't move, she didn't talk. She just just stood there, looking at me. "Um, Rarity?" I was just about to make sure she hadn't fallen asleep or something when she smiled and leaned over towards me.
Phew, she was all right. I'd really been worried there, but then Rarity made me worry again: She started running her hoof through my wet mane, caressing it like some exotic fabric. Then she spoke, her voice a bit softer than normal, "Have I ever told you how much I envy your mane, my dear?"
I squirmed away from her. This was just weird, not to mention seriously confusing. "But Rarity, you have the prettiest mane of anypony I know," I said. I meant it then, and I still mean it now. I don't think Rarity understands just how gorgeous she really is.
She backed away for a moment, thinking over what I'd said, her eyes even looking away from me for a split second. "The most nicely styled, perhaps, but hardly a match for yours." She brought her hoof up to her own mane. "It's just... so beautifully prismatic." She paused. This was getting awkward. "There's so much possibility. If only it were longer..." When she reached out to touch it again, I shifted away. Her hoof ended up on my cheek for a second before I scooted back. I managed to somehow flop my way out of the tub, scrambling to get my hooves back under me.
Now, don't get me wrong here, it's not like I don't like physical contact. I've just never been the most touchy-feely filly, and Rarity doesn't just go around randomly sticking her hooves in other ponies' manes. I was kinda freaked out. "Rarity, what the hay is going on with you?" I asked, finally standing up. I think I might have been yelling. I'm not sure. My mane and tail were dripping water all over the floor, but I really wasn't thinking about needing a towel right then.
Rarity blinked a few times, as if she was snapping out of a trance. She looked down, her cheeks flushing as she just stared at the floor for a few seconds. "I--I'm sorry, Rainbow Dash. I don't know what came over me there... but your mane is... the styles you could..." Her words trailed off into silence. She looked so embarrassed. It's a look I was used to seeing on Fluttershy sometimes, but it totally didn't belong on Rarity.
I had over-reacted a bit to the touch thing, and now I felt bad for making her feel bad. She just looked so alone and scared. Sometimes I forget how small Rarity is, probably because her personality is so big. I moved toward her. I wanted to show her that I wasn't mad at her or anything. "Come on Rarity, don't worry about it. I mean, what you said about my mane was cool, and--"
And now she was the one backing away from me. She had reared up and she wasn't looking behind her and she slipped in some of the water on the floor. She fell. If I hadn't run in to catch her, I'm pretty sure she would have hit her head on the edge of the sink. So yeah, I caught her. All this flinching away from each other and now we were as close as two ponies could be, pretty much.
Time kinda froze for a while. I was holding her, she was clinging to me, her eyes were staring into mine. Her huge, beautiful blue eyes. They were wet with tears. She was so warm. I could feel her heart galloping in her chest. Water was trickling down my back from my mane. We stayed like that for a few seconds before I looked away. I got Rarity settled on her hooves and stepped back, taking the opportunity to find a towel finally.
After I'd run the towel over my mane a couple of times, I turned back to find Rarity curled up in a tight little ball, her face totally hidden. "I seem to have made quite the foal of myself," she sighed softly, though without the usual harshness she used when beating herself up. She looked up at me, tears running down her cheeks. "Can you forgive me... Dashie?"
'Dashie'. All of the other girls had called me that once or twice except for AJ, but she had her own weird farmpony vocabulary. But hearing Rarity call me that... I was floored. And then something just clicked into place in my brain. I mean, it was pretty obvious at that point, but I can be kinda dense when it comes to emotional stuff.
Suddenly all the weird looks she'd been giving me made sense. So did all the times she'd tried to give me makeovers or dress me up all girly... I mean, I'd known she thought I was pretty and stuff, and a rainbow mane is pretty unique, yeah, but in that moment, I got it. Rarity liked me. Liked me liked me.
* * *
OK. We gotta stop here for a minute to address something. I've liked my fair share of ponies, and I've been on both ends of crushes with colts and with fillies, and some non-pony types too.
Yeah, yeah, laugh all you want about me and Gilda, but she didn't used to be such a jerk, you know. I was even thinking of trying to get back together with her that time she visited me here, but well, that visit was a total bomb.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say here is that I know my way around attraction. I just hadn't felt that vibe from Rarity before. That was probably why she'd been avoiding me. I guess when you save a pony's life, she's likely to think of you as some big hero or something.
* * *
I leaned down and pulled Rarity up onto her hooves again. I put my front hooves on her shoulders and pulled her in a little bit, smiling one of my big smiles again. "I can't forgive you, Rarity," I said.
"There's nothing that needs forgiving," I finished. And then I hugged her, wincing a bit as my shoulder complained. I just held her, and she held me as tight as she could. She buried her muzzle in my mane and I did the same. The situation was a still a bit awkward, but I felt more at ease now that I understood all the weird looks.
After about a minute, she loosened her grip on me and looked me in the eyes again. "Rainbow Dash," she murmured. I smiled at her and waited for her to say something else, but she must have just wanted to say my name. It was weird but kinda cute. But I didn't want to give her the wrong idea, really.
"Rarity," I said, doing my best to keep calm, "I'm..." I wanted to tell her that I didn't see her that way, that I thought it was cool that she liked me and everything, but I just didn't feel the same for her. The words just wouldn't come, but I needed to say something.
"Rarity, I'm sorr--sore. Really sore." That's what came out when my mouth finally decided to work again. And I was sore. Now that I was out of the tub, my side was aching again, though not quite as bad as before. She blinked up at me, then slipped out of the embrace, looking me over with a critical eye.
"Oh yes, the fall, I'd--I'd forgotten, I suppose." She blushed a little, but was still smiling as she nudged my flank with her own and then started walking out of the bathroom. "Come along, Rainbow Dash. I need to examine you." She blushed, realizing how that must have sounded. "... for injuries, that is."
I laughed a bit, but followed along behind her. It was a good idea to have her make sure that nothing was actually broken, or whatever. As I followed her, I couldn't help but give Rarity the once over. I wasn't crushing on her or anything, but now that I knew she was into me, there was no reason to not size her up a bit.
She really is something to look at. Those curls she puts her tail in just pull your eyes up to her haunches, and, well, I don't need to tell anypony how much she fusses over her figure. But yeah, taking a fresh look at her then, knowing that I could have her if I wanted her... Let's just say that I was blushing a bit by the time I realized we were in her workshop.
"Um, Rarity? Why your workshop?" Being surrounded by those creepy mannequins and all that fabric and stuff, it was just more weirdness that I didn't really need to be dealing with.
"Oh," Rarity laughed a little as she used her magic to float a folding table out from a corner of the room. "Well, this room has the most open space, and it's where I keep my massage table," she said, setting it up in the middle of the room. She hummed to herself as the thing unfolded and adjusted itself.
"And you have your own massage table because...?" I eyed the contraption nervously, making sure it didn't have weird straps on it or anything.
Rarity giggled, seeing the look I was giving the massage table. "Oh no dear, nothing like that." She sighed dramatically, "I swear, I go to one masquerade in a leather ensemble and all these nasty little rumors start spreading. But no, some nights, I just need a massage when the spa is closed. That dear stallion Quake doesn't have his own studio, so he'll come here, but the floor or the bed just won't do when he's being so... vigorous." Her cheeks flushed as a shiver ran down her spine, imagining who-knows-what.
"Okaaay," I said, "but you were just gonna look me over for injuries, right ?" I stepped up to the table, looking it over. I'd had a few massages before, but they'd always been before or after competitions, so I hadn't exactly been focused on the equipment.
"Of course, dear, but there's better light here," she said, helping me up onto the table. Soon I was laid out on my stomach and Rarity was poking and prodding at my side. Well, she was gentler than that sounds, but having my sore spots touched wasn't exactly fun. It took her a few minutes to make sure that nothing was broken or cracked. I just had a few nasty bruises on my side and my wing, thank Celestia.
"Really, Rainbow Dash, you are so tense. No wonder you hurt yourself so often if you never stretch out after flying." Her forehooves were running down either side of my spine. It felt really nice.
"But it's sooo boring doing all that stretching. I'd rather be out flying or napping or hanging with you and the other fillies. I'm kinda an on or off pony, if you haven't noticed."
"Be that as it may, it's not healthy to treat one's body that way. You must be good to your body so that it will be good to you," Rarity whispered into my ear. Her muzzle couldn't have been more than an inch from my ear and her hooves were working on my shoulders. "No question about it, Rainbow Dash, you need this massage and it is my duty as a good hostess to provide it to you."
"Hmm wha?" I asked. I was lost somewhere in all that tension she was working out of my muscles. When I turned to look back at her, her face was right there above mine. Our eyes met, and I think all of Equestria stopped for a second as I got lost in her eyes again. Those gorgeous, bottomless eyes. I must have been staring pretty hard because her cheeks flushed and she moved her head away, part of her mane rubbing over my nose as it went. It smelled amazing, like a bunch of different fruits and flowers and spices. It fit Rarity perfectly. Part of me just wanted to bury my nose in that mane...
Okay, what? Where had that come from? This was all getting pretty confusing: a beautiful mare was giving me a massage. She wanted me. I wanted her, or at least my body did. It really did. Like, I was starting to feel pretty warm all over, and my wings had spread out all the way. Well, the right one did, and the left one had tried to, but got about halfway before it gave me a nice fresh shot of hot pain. But yeah, the only problem is that the mare in question was Rarity. Rarity. It just didn't feel right to be feeling that way about her, but why? Maybe it was how she carried herself, all ladylike and proper. No, I mean, Fluttershy is a little like that too, and she and I had... when we were younger... No. So what was it?
Suddenly I realized that Rarity wasn't above me anymore. I looked around, but couldn't see her. "Rarity?" I called. How had I managed to get so lost in thought? And where had that unicorn gone? What if she had expected me to follow her somewhere and I'd missed whatever she'd said? What if she'd told me something intimate and thought that I was rejecting her because I hadn't answered? I looked around again. Nothing. All I could hear was the storm raging outside.
As I tried to roll myself off the massage table, I pictured Rarity crying from earlier. What if she was like that again, all curled up in some corner somewhere? What if--
I hadn't been paying attention to what I was doing, so I'd overbalanced the table, tipping it and myself over onto the floor. Ow! Of course I'd fallen on my left side again. Must have been my lucky night, right?
As I was trying to pick myself up off the floor, Rarity ran into the room at a full gallop, a blanket slung across her back. "What happened? Are you hurt? Well of course, but more so, I mean... Oh, Rainbow Dash!" Bright light from Rarity's horn made me squeeze my eyes shut as she used her magic to push the table away from me, sending it sliding into the wall with a loud thud.
She leaned down and tucked her muzzle under my side. As she was trying to help me up, her horn got tucked under my hurt wing, sending a tingling feeling through me. I twitched away from the sudden shock, but was on my hooves again, if a bit unsteady.
I slumped against Rarity pretty heavily. I was shivering as I spoke. "Where did you go, Rare? You were just... not there all of a sudden. I was-- I was worried." I shivered again.
Rarity sat me down and began nosing at my side, looking for fresh injuries; it seemed I wasn't the only worried pony in the room. "Oh, well, you had gotten so quiet and still while I was giving your massage. I thought you had fallen asleep." Finished with her examination, she nuzzled at my ear tenderly. "You must be so exhausted from your ordeal. I had just gone to fetch a duvet to cover you up..." She frowned, giving me a concerned look that had a bit of self-doubt at its edges.
I hadn't fallen asleep, had I? No... I remembered the whole massage, her smooth hooves on my shoulders, my neck, my wings, all down my back. "No, I wasn't asleep. I was just thinking. About you." I mumbled the last two words, still not fully sure where I wanted things to go from here.
"Thinking? About me?" she asked, her voice full of hope. Our sides were pressed close together again, and she felt very warm and very soft. I blushed.
"Yeah, well, how could I not, with everything that's happened tonight. Right? But... it's a lot. I need more time to sort this stuff out, I think." I didn't want Rarity to get the idea about us. I don't think I could've lived with myself if I'd disappointed her then.
She shifted a bit, leaning away from me just a little bit. "No, of course... this all has been a bit sudden, I agree. I apologize for acting so unladylike."
I waved off the apology with a flap of my wings and leaned in to nuzzle at her neck. "I'm not saying no, Rare. Just... not yet." So why was I showing her so much affection? Like I said, confusing as all get out.
Rarity nuzzled back and I could just feel that a smile had lit up that gorgeous face of hers again. I smiled back at her, both the smile and the blush on my cheeks hidden as I buried my nose in her mane. She smelled so wonderful.
I tried my best to keep from yawning, but it had been a long night, and I was still hurting and tired, even if my adrenaline was up a bit. Rarity didn't say anything, but just took me by the hoof and led me to her bedroom. "You should rest, dear," she said, turning down the covers. I was exhausted, so I just went along with it, climbing into her bed. She tucked the covers in again, perfectly. She was acting at least close to normal. This was good.
I looked up at her again, still trying to untangle my feelings for her. She really was something special. Even if I couldn't figure out what it was that was keeping me from just going for her. I decided then that I would ask her out to dinner in the morning. I smiled up at her, relaxing in her awesome bed. "Thanks for everything, Rarity. I mean it." There would be time to sort out my feelings the rest of the way. For now this was a good thing and--
And she kissed me. On the lips. Wow! I went with it, wrapping my forelegs around her and pulling her in closer. She let out a happy sigh, but she stopped the kiss before it could get too spicy. I blinked up at her, stunned and lost for words as she slipped out of my arms.
Rarity was humming to herself as she wriggled under the covers next to me. I really liked watching that. Once she was settled in under the covers, she used her magic to snuff out the lights. "Goodnight, Rainbow Dash," she said, kissing me softly on the lips again. She snuggled up against me as I just sort of laid there, a million thoughts racing through my brain.
"Rarity, are you sure that"
"Hush," she whispered as she silenced me with another kiss.
I kissed back, but I still had so many questions, I just had to ask some of them. "But what"
So she kissed me again.
"Mmm, I just"
Rarity's hoof pressed in softly against my lips. The moonlight coming through the window reflected off of those stunning eyes as she spoke. "Really, Rainbow Dash, we can discuss whatever is on your mind in the morning," she let out a soft sigh as her hoof moved down from my side. "Please."
"All right," I yawned, "Goodnight, Rarity." This time I kissed her. She giggled. She should do that more often.
"Goodnight... Dashie." And she kissed me again, like the very first time, only better.
* * *
You know, I guess there is a good reason why I can't sleep right now: I don't want the morning to come. I mean, I guess Celestia could take a day off, but that's not going to happen.
I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. It might be the start of something amazing, it might not. What I do know is that tonight is special and I don't want it to end.
I want to save tonight.