It's winter, shortly after Hearth's Warming.
Soft snowflakes fall outside the windows of the Castle, giving a magical muffled candor.
Twilight is a part of that magic, albeit in a completely opaque way: sitting on soft cushions, she has her arms crossed on the windowsill of the turret and has melancholy face.
She puffs and sighs, thinking back to a special person. Person, not pony.
Flash Sentry, the high school boy who captured her heart and then crystallized it in a bottle. There is no way for them to live together and meet constantly. She is a princess and couldn't (and wouldn't even want to) shy away from her commitments; in the same way he has home, family and friends in a parallel world, and it wouldn't be right to force him to leave everything.
"Twilight?" Starlight calls her, making her turning around.
"Mh?" she says absently.
"It's twenty minutes you're staying still without caring for anyone. What are you thinking about?"
Twilight doesn't shield herself, she prefers to tell the truth.
"I'm thinking of a dear friend, a person with whom I would have liked to share something..."
"Person? From the human world?"
"Won't him be that Flash Sentry Sunset presented to me?"
Starlight has got the habit of going to the parallel world occasionally to encounter her new friend Sunset Shimmer, who introduced her to her entire company, including Flash. Unfortunately for him he failed to make a good impression on Starlight.
"Forgive me if I tell you, Twilie, but that guy is a real amoeba. We spent a day together and he might have spelled out three words in four hours. In addition, the three things he has uttered have been assorted platitudes. Seriously, how do you like such an ordinary guy?"
Twilight observes her: she would like to be offended, but she can't.
"I don't know, Starlight... I just know that I miss him."
The former student looks up and meets Spike's eyes, who doesn't know how to intervene, although Twilight is his older sister.
Starlight then decides to launch a provocation:
"Go to him, Twilight."
Twilight doesn't answer and Starlight is ticked off.
"Where are you going?" Spike asks her, seeing her go down the tower stairs quickly.
"In my room. Try to make her reason, I've lost hope."
While trotting rapidly to her room, however, she cannot help but think about how similar they are: Twilight with Flash, she with Sunburst. Two confused klutzes.
"I talk the talk but don't walk the walk... typical... even when I was a dictator I was like that. Nice, Starlight..." mumbles to herself, closing the door behind her and losing herself in dreaming of a future with her childhood friend, that Sunburst for years forgotten in a corner of a parched heart. It's hard to know what's on his mind, he's always very correct and gentle, but never particularly passionate. Not with her, at least.
Starlight breathes lightly; the chances that he wants to build something with her are very scarce, but she will try anyway.
In the afternoon, Spike goes to the Apples, invited by Applejack.
Tasting the wonderful cakes his friend prepares, in collaboration with her grandmother and Apple Bloom, is always a party for him. Lately, with the addition of Sugar Belle to the family, the delights have multiplied, with his immense pleasure.
The adolescent dragon is already mouth watering when he passes the farmers' property, but it fades away when he sees Rarity sitting at the table, busy talking with the blonde mare.
Spike has not yet come out of the crush for the beautiful white Unicorn that has enveloped him five years before, and thinking of spending an entire afternoon with her is something unexpected and wonderful.
On the other hoof, Rarity's lips were imperceptibly bent down to the sight of the dragon, which naturally escaped the latter, adoring and entranced.
Applejack is instead a careful observer, and knows very well that Rarity will try to force herself and swallow the frustration that has already bitten her depths. After all, smelling the lack of honesty, however small, is her specialty.
"Hello guys! Hey, Rarity, are you one of us too?"
"Y-Yes..." she murmurs.
Apple Bloom, Sugar Belle and Big Macintosh greet him with energy.
A few moments later Sugar Belle's delicious raspberry tart is already served and cut; Spike, cocky from his beauty's presence, devours three slices one after the other, while Rarity is devoid of appetite and nibbles a small portion.
"Something wrong?" he asks, his mouth dirty with crumbs.
"No, Spike. Most likely I'm harboring a cold..."
"Come to the bathroom, so ay'll give ya the handkerchiefs." Applejack suggests, and it's clear to everyone the excuse for the seamstress to get away. Everyone, except Spike, who is picking up the remaining bits of cake left on the plate to eat them not very elegantly.
Once in the bathroom, Applejack immediately confronts her friend:
"Rarity, don't miss the chance! Tell him their's no story!"
"Applejack, I would ruin his holidays..."
"Rarity, stop it! For years this whole thin' has been goin' on. Do you think you can consider him a potential companion in the future?"
"No!" Rarity answers, blushing slightly.
"So tell him now. You have already lost enough time."
The two girls come out of the bathroom and head to the kitchen.
"Here you are! How's the cold?"
"Spike, would you like to come to the garden with me?"
The dragon's heart starts to gallop crazily: she, the beautiful Rarity, is asking him to go out with him alone, on the blanket of freshly fallen snow... who knows if there might be also a kiss of the mistletoe...
... Hell no, because Rarity's expression is funereal, but Spike is convinced that it's only effect of the tension.
Applejack leans against the windowpane and nods to her.
Applejack's gaze softens and that's when Rarity finds the courage to break Spike's dreams forever:
"... I feel the love of a sister for you. I'm sorry."
A shot reaches Spike's heart. After all, he has always imagined it, but the blow is as dull and cruel as a lash.
The day after Twilight, Starlight, Spike, Applejack and Rainbow Dash head for Fluttershy's house.
Spike wouldn't want to come, given the disastrous afternoon just past, but Twilight and Starlight have practically forced him to put aside the sadness and be of company. Or at least try.
Rarity and Pinkie Pie, engaged with their respective professions, couldn't come. Better that way, Spike would have found unbearable to be next to the one who rejected him, and who could have been his girlfriend at this time.
On the way, Spike taps Applejack's arm:
"What did you and Rarity say yesterday?"
"That she shoulda been honest with you. Once and for all."
"Thank you for helping destroying my romantic dream." The teenager is sarcastic.
Applejack stands in front of him.
"What would you wanted? Spendin' another five years baskin' on your pink cloud? It's time to grow Spike. Their is a limit to ridicule."
The dragon's emerald eyes pierce her, before looking at the road and paying no attention anymore to the orange mare.
Rainbow Dash flanks her.
"What's all the fuss?"
"Rarity gave him the sack yesterday. 'Bout time."
Fluttershy's cottage is delightful with snow framing it. The mare opens to her friends and offers them a cardamom herbal tea.
"Discord has made me discover a range of unimaginable tastes." she exclaims enthusiastically, and the rosy color that goes to dye her cheeks hits Spike, he doesn't really want to hear that other couples or possible ones are sailing at full speed. Not now.
"Er, Fluttershy..." Starlight points out, mischievously, "... And these heart-shaped canapés?"
"Oh, these... I would like you to taste them, because I would like to offer them... to..."
"Discord? Hey there, Flutter... we're brave, huh?" teases Dash.
"Yes..." the yellow Pegasus replies timidly, hiding the snout behind the now empty tray.
"Hasn't he told you anything yet?" Twilight asks.
Fluttershy shakes her head.
"No, he is rather skeptical about love. It will be hard to change something..."
"Tsk! And he's good to be it!" mumbles Spike rudely, receiving in return a nudge from Twilight and a look from Starlight.
"He doesn't want to tell you anything? And then you go to him!" offers Rainbow Dash.
"What if he tells me no?"
"Discord has a hard time resisting your eyes, Flutter... and in any case you couldn't say you didn't try!"
The mare with pink hair ponders a few seconds, then her eyes fill with determination.
"Wanna know something, Rainbow? You're right. This afternoon I will go to him with a new tins of canapés and I will propose!"
"This is the spirit!"
A group hug follows. Only Spike remains on the sidelines, watching his sister, who manages to hide her feelings for Flash with a nonchalant ease. The interest he feels for Rarity is inherent in every fiber of his being, and it throbs painfully.
While is returning home, Rainbow Dash notices Thunderlane heading straight for Ponyville, and decides to chase him for a greeting.
"Hey Thunder, how are you?"
"Hi Rainbow Dash. Do you know if Rarity is available?"
"I think so, why?"
"I need her: Spitfire wants to commission her the new Wonderbolts uniforms!"
"Wow, I didn't know!"
"She said it today, it was a surprise. She also said that she would address to Ponyville's best tailor shop!"
"So you're going to her?"
"Precisely. Can you accompany me?"
The two teammates fly to the Carousel Boutique.
"Oh, good afternoon Rainbow Dash! And you are…"
"Thunderlane. We met at the Wonderbolt Academy."
"My savior..." she exclaims dreamily, "... What can I do for you?"
"Get ready!" Rainbow is looking forward for it.
"A bombshell is coming!"
"We would like you to manufacture our new uniforms."
"Y-You mean... those official... OF THE WONDERBOLTS?!"
The dark gray Pegasus nods satisfied.
Rarity's irises literally form stars and a huge smile makes its way onto her mouth, beaten only by the one she had the day they had told her to create the dress for Cadance's wedding.
"Do I have absolute freedom or I have to abide by any rules?"
"Only one: aerodynamics. For the rest, free rein."
"That was what I wanted to hear..."
Leaving the boutique, Thunderlane and Rainbow give each other company on their return home. As she doesn't want to get bored while here, Rainbow asks Thunderlane if he wants to stop by her for a chat.
"Are you sure? I don't want Soarin to kick me for it!" he laughs.
His only wanted to be a joke, but Rainbow is offended by it, strangely enough.
She stops on a cloud, looking down.
"I don't care what Soarin thinks."
Thunderlane loses his smile and becomes serious, placing a hoof on her shoulder and sitting next to her.
"Have you discussed?"
"I used to like him once."
The mare's magenta eyes rest on the friend's golden ones.
Thunderlane doesn't insist and accepts Rainbow's invitation. Until the evening, the two crash with laughter reading comics and remembering their difficult and funny debuts in the Academy. The 'Soarin' argument would seem to be archived, if it weren't for the mare to retrieve it.
"Is Soarin interested in me?"
"I would say it's clear, Rainbow... he always looks at you with bright eyes. I don't think it's just admiration..."
"He arrived too late."
Thunderlane knows that Rainbow wants to open up and listens to her willingly.
"... The crush I had for him evaporated the day he unjustly accused me of sending Spitfire off with a vile excuse, her mother's illness. And all because I wasn't yet a first flier and I couldn't fly alongside Wind Rider... that... asshole."
Thunderlane's gaze is encouraging.
"... He had no doubts, for him the fact that I was a sort of 'last wheel' gave him the right to judge me guilty without proof. Now I don't feel a grudge against him and I consider him a very good friend, but of the feeling I felt there is no trace... I could never be with someone who lacks faith so easily."
A week later Pinkie announces herself to her friends by jumping and dancing like a crazy top.
"PINKIEE! You've already risked twice to make me fall!" Twilight complains.
The girls are in the main square of Ponyville, and immediately Pinkamena Diane Pie's good mood has wrapped the icy town like a warm blanket.
"He wrote to me! Cheese Sandwich wrote to me!"
"Really? Will he visit Ponyville?" asks Rarity.
"Yes, he will come this spring! I'm ultra-mega-super-happy!"
"Cheese is the party planner you told me about, right?" Starlight questions, who has never seen him before.
"Affirmative, Captain Starlight!" Pinkie is in seventh heaven and struggles to contain herself.
"So you're going to get engaged, too?" Fluttershy has taken a seductive look away from her image of a shy and composed girl.
"Eh eh..." Pinkie is red like a tomato, "... By the way, Fluttershy... you and Discord?"
"I-I didn't find him at home! He left me a bell that once played automatically leads to his Dimension... but nothing, days spent empty. He never showed up." she comments, disappointed.
Applejack approaches her and encourages her by caressing her hair.
"Perhaps he was alarmed, perhaps he felt pressured..."
"Pressured? By you? My dear, if he feels like choking for so little what should I say?" Rarity lets out, immediately incinerated by the cowgirl's green irises.
"Don't let yourself down, Fluttershy! When Cheese arrives I will organize a wonderful engagement party for you and Discord!"
To Pinkie's disarming joy Fluttershy can only oppose a smile.
"I wonder if he went in Yakyakistan... It would be cool to see him interact with Prince Rutherford..."
"From what I understand, he has become a very good friend of Braeburn..." points out Applejack.
"Of course! Cheese is a tornado of sympathy!"
"Yet when you two bickered for my birthday you didn't consider him so nice!"
"Come on, Dashie... it's ancient water, or rather chocolate! Now we're as close as two marshmallows in a bag!"
"You mean... as sticky?" suggests Rainbow, with a fake-disgusted expression.
"Nah... we are two free souls."
The friends laugh.
Spike is absent, he has returned to his adoptive parents' house in Canterlot. Seeing him always so depressed, Twilight decided it was a good thing to turn him away from what has never been such a living obsession, that is, the crush never realized or overcome for Rarity.
She didn't go to meet Flash, she didn't follow Starlight's advice.
The young princess wonders if it will ever be possible for some of them to crown a dream of love. And if so, with whom? With whom it does seem they are predestined? Or with someone totally unexpected? Or with anyone even?
She recalls the story between Cadance and her older brother, so simple and linear in its reassuring banality. But on balance, perhaps their story born, grown up and matured without jolts is just the least obvious and trivial of all.