Hearts and Hooves day is a pain in the flank.

For starters, it's a holiday, which means everypony gets really picky about the weather being exactly right. Celestia forbid there's a single cloud out of place messing up somepony's perfect romantic sunrise, sunset, moonlit night, or whatever. On top of that, everypony who crosses my path for the two weeks leading up to the day itself wants some little tweak to the weather schedule that's going to make their day just a little more special. It's not a big deal at first, but pretty soon all those favors start adding up. And just to make things better, most of my normal weather crew wants the day off so they can get a bit of time with their special someponies. Sure, technically I can call up any pegasus in Ponyville for weather duty, but I like having pegasi who know what they're doing. Last time I had to go a day without my regulars, I wound up having to call in Derpy of all ponies, and that ended with Town Hall in ruins and me promising the mayor that unless it was an emergency I'd never use Derpy for weather work again.

So of course, I end up having to pick up the slack for everpony who wants time off, and when I'm not doing everypony else's work I'm busy keeping an eye on whatever amateurs I've had to grab for weather duty.

I'm up before sunrise, don't get to go to sleep until a couple hours after the sun's gone down, and there's no chance of grabbing a quick nap to help get me through the day. Besides, if I stayed in one place for more than a couple minutes, I'm sure ponies would start finding me and asking for more of those tiny little favors to make their day just a bit more romantic. Sure, any other day of the year everypony can go on a date without a nice little rainbow in the background, or live with there being one cloud blocking a bit of sunlight, but on Hearts and Hooves Day it's gotta be perfect.

And then there's the fact that my wing had healed up from that nasty crash two weeks back just in time for me to get tossed right into the thick of one of the craziest working days of the year.

Like I said, the entire day is a huge pain in the flank.

"No no no no NO! What the hay is going on here Cloud Kicker? Did you even read the weather schedule for today? The sky is supposed to be completely clear over the park!" I thrust a hoof at the very much not clear sky. "What do those look like to you? 'Cause they sure as hay look like a whole bunch of clouds to me!"

By the time I finished, Cloud Kicker had gone from her usual unflappably confident self to seeming a bit shaken over getting chewed out. Maybe I was being a little hard on her, but I'd been up since an hour before sunrise, hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast, and things had not been going well all day. That'd make anypony grumpy. It wasn't fair of me to take it all out on Cloud Kicker though. "Look, I know it's one of the busiest days of the year and we're short a couple ponies, but we need get the weather taken care of on schedule."

"Sorry boss," the lavender pegasus apologized, giving a mildly annoyed flick of her head to get her blonde mane out of her eyes. "I would've had it handled, but Flitter and Cloudchaser skipped out on the last second to go on a double date, and I can't really clear all these clouds by myself."

"What?" I buried my face in my hooves and let out a frustrated snarl. "Those featherbrains! They're supposed to tell me before they go running off like that! Argh! This messes up everything!" Well, now I felt like kind of a jerk for yelling at Cloud Kicker when the reason she was behind schedule was that the rest of her team had flaked out on her.

I did some quick mental re-arranging of the weather teams. "Alright, I'll send Lightning Bolt and Wind Whistler to help you out."

"Uh, yeah, about that…" Cloud Kicker pointed down into the park, and I spotted two very familiar looking pegasi, each snuggled up with a colt.

"Right, they've got the day off." Well, so much for that. Great. That's just great. "What about Thunderlane and Raindrops?"

"Also out on a date. With each other."

"Darn it!" This is why I hate Hearts and Hooves Day, nothing goes smoothly and I'm the one who has to deal with all of it. "Maybe I could get Parasol … no, she's got the day off too." I sighed. "I think Dizzy Twister's free…" A thought struck me, and I frowned over at Cloud Kicker. "Actually, I'm kinda surprised you're still around."

"I'm not a Hearts and Hooves day kind of gal," Cloud Kicker answered breezily. "I don't do romance."

"What are you talking about? Everypony knows you're always running around and–"

"I said I don't do romance, boss." Cloud Kicker smirked. "I'd rather skip all that and just jump straight to the fun stuff. Does kinda leave me alone on Hearts and Hooves Day, but I can always snag some single pony who's feeling down about being dateless later on."

Right. More than I wanted to know about Cloud Kicker's love life. Luckily, somepony calling up to me yanked me away from that particular line of thought. "Hey Rainbow Dash! Need any help with the weather?"

I looked over at the new arrival; for a moment, I was really tempted to fly over and hug the white pegasus flying up to the two of us. "Blossomforth! Thank Celestia!"

"Hey Blossom." Cloud Kicker gave a casual wave of her hoof. "I thought you had a date?"

"Yeah, but he turned out to be a jerk," Blossomforth grumbled and gave an annoyed flick of her pink-and-green tail.

"You alright? Need somepony to give him a buck in the head?" I tend to get just a bit peeved when someone's a jerk to my friends. Well, I guess technically Blossomforth wasn't a friend. We don't really hang out together, so the only time I see her is when we're on weather duty, but she is one of my best workers. Guess that's close enough to make me get mad when somepony's mean to her.

"No, I'll be fine," Blossomforth assured me. "But if Cloud Kicker needs any help…well, you know, kicking clouds, I wouldn't mind having something to kick for a while." Blossomforth flew over to the nearest cloud and gave it one hay of a kick. "Stupid jerk," she grumbled under her breath. "Why did that jerky jerk-faced jerk have to act like a total jerk on my first Hearts and Hooves day with a real date?"

With Blossomforth's help, Cloud Kicker and I managed to clear out the clouds that had been messing up everypony's sunny day without taking too long. I guess Blossomforth must've really been mad at her date, because she was almost managing to keep up with me. I made a mental note to find out just who she'd been dating, and 'accidentally' lose a rain cloud somewhere that would completely drench the no-good jerk that had hurt her feelings.

"Good work everypony." I felt pretty happy about how we were doing until I did a quick check of the time. "Oh come on!" Just when I thought I was finally about to start getting a handle on things, the universe kicks me in the flank. "We're about to run late on the rainbow the mayor wants, and I've only got five minutes to set up that rain shower I promised Lyra and Bon Bon!" I could probably get it taken care of if I flew my wings off, but then… "Aw hay, at this rate I'm never gonna have time to get to Sugarcube Corner, and I've been trying to get a chance to go there for hours!" Like I said, I haven't eaten since breakfast.

"Is it really that bad?" Blossomforth asked.

"Let me put it this way. If Derpy wasn't out on date, I'd be bringing her in." Sure, stuff goes wrong around her all the time, but at least she'd be another set of hooves.

Blossomforth winced. "Yeah, that's pretty bad."

"Well, I'm not gonna complain about Derpy being busy," Cloud Kicker commented. "Maybe I'll actually get a chance to eat a muffin while she's not around."

"You should know better than to try and eat muffins around her by now." Seriously, anypony who spent any time in Ponyville should have picked up on the fact that Derpy loves muffins.

"But I like muffins!" Cloud Kicker whined. "I mean, not as much as Derpy does, but sometimes a pony just wants to eat a muffin! And I can't! Every time I try to eat just one measly little muffin Derpy steals it and eats it in one gulp! It's just not fair!"

I really wasn't in the mood to listen to listen to Cloud Kicker complain about Derpy stealing her muffins. I get that Derpy taking away your muffins could get on a pony's nerves, but I really don't wanna have to listen to somepony else talking about it. Besides, Derpy's one of my friends; I get along with Cloud Kicker alright, we were in same year at flight camp and all, but I'm a lot closer to Derpy. Yeah, she shouldn't be stealing Cloud Kicker's muffins, but it's not like Derpy was doing it to be mean or anything. She just gets excited when it comes to muffins.

I know Cloud Kicker wasn't trying to be nasty, but it's just kind of an instinct with me; if somepony's talking bad about one of my friends, even if they've got a good reason to be a little upset, I start getting mad. There's a reason I got Loyalty when the Elements of Harmony were being passed out.

"Wait a minute!" Blossomforth cut in before I could tell Cloud Kicker to shut it. "Rainbow Dash, did you just say you haven't had a chance to see Pinkie Pie all day?" Blossomforth was frowning at me, and sounded really worried considering the fact that I was just complaining about missing a chance to grab a snack.

"Well she does kind of work at Sugarcube Corner." I pointed out the obvious.

Cloud Kicker and Blossomforth shared a look, and nodded to each other. "I can handle the rain," Cloud Kicker declared.

"I'm alright with rainbows," Blossomforth chimed in. "We'll take care of the weather Rainbow Dash; you take a break and go see Pinkie Pie."

Forget about Pinkie Pie. Don't get me wrong, running into her would be cool, but right now my number one priority was to put some food in my belly. "Thanks gals. I'll be back in five minutes, tops."

"No need to rush," Blossomforth assured me.

"Yeah, take your time boss," Cloud Kicker added.

Well, kinda weird, but if they really wanted to handle the extra work in order to to let me take a break, I wasn't about to complain. Maybe they were just in a nice mood. Or maybe they'd heard that rumor that I was thinking about adding a couple backup shift managers to handle things whenever I'm busy. Between some of the crazy stuff that'd been going on ever since Twilight moved here and missing two whole weeks 'cause of my broken wing, I figured having one or two more ponies to handle things while I wasn't around seemed like a good idea. Cloud Kicker and Blossomforth must have decided that running the show during one the crazier weather days of the year would prove they were up to handling the job. Hay, if they could manage to run things during Hearts and Hooves Day, I probably would end up giving them the job.

"You gals are awesome. Thanks." I gave into the impulse to give them a quick hug before I shot off towards Sugarcube Corner. The siren song of delicious food was calling me. I'd have to find some way to pay them back for this. With Pinkie's help I could probably find a way to get some muffins to Cloud Kicker without Derpy finding out about it. As for Blossomforth, her jerky date just got upgraded from getting rained on to getting a big nasty thundercloud after him.

Maybe I could ask Pinkie about that too. She's good at knowing what ponies were up to, so she'd probably know who I needed to go after, and she might even have a couple ideas to add in. She was my number one pranking buddy, after all.

Sugarcube Corner was doing pretty heavy business. With it being sappy-happy love day, lots of ponies wanted to buy sweets and stuff. Lucky for my rumbling stomach, it seemed like most of the couples there had already gotten their food, since they were mostly sitting down and eating together instead of waiting in line. Having fewer obstacles between me and food was good.

On the downside, the entire place had been done up with decorations for Hearts and Hooves Day. Bleh.

Pinkie Pie was working the counter, at least until she saw me. Then she wasn't so much working as bouncing up and down while waving her hooves in the air to attract my attention. "Dashie! Hi Dashie! Rainbow Dash!" 'Cause you know, I definitely wouldn't have noticed her if she wasn't making a scene like that.

"Hey Pinkie. 'Sup?"

"Oh my gosh! I wasn't sure if I was gonna see you at all today, but then I got an itchy back, and then right after it was an ear flop, knee twitch, and eye flutter, and usually when that happens it means you're coming by! And you did!"

"Awesome." Pinkie Sense is just another one of those you have to learn to take in stride when dealing with Pinkie Pie. "So anyway, you think I could get something to –"

"Well, except for when they're completely unrelated," Pinkie chattered right over me. Oh Celestia, tell me she's not about to– "After all, there's supposed to be a rainbow scheduled for today anyway so that'd explain the combo, and I guess the itchy back could've meant there were gonna be lots of leftover treats that we couldn't sell. Like cupcakes, or turnovers, or the chimicherrychongas and kumquat croissants or maybe even the–"

"Pinkie Pie!" I wasn't quite shouting, but I turned the volume up enough to get her attention. "I'm starving here. Can I get some food?"

"Okie dokie lokie wacky Dashie-washie! Just sit down somewhere and I'll bring you something yummy for your tummy!" Oh Celestia, that was even Pinkie-ier than usual. I could put up with her usual level of Pinkie-ness, but if she was gonna start acting extra-Pinkie…

Any worries about Pinkie being randomer than usual went out the window once I was sitting at one of the few unoccupied tables, and saw Pinkie trotting over with the world's biggest cupcake riding on her back. "I was hoping I'd get to see you today, so I made a super-duper extra special cupcake just for you!"

"No kidding." Considering how much time I spend hanging out with Pinkie Pie, saying that it's the biggest cupcake I've ever seen in my life means that it is one hay of a huge cupcake. The rainbow frosting on top was an appropriately awesome touch. "Um, hey Pinkie? You didn't do something crazy like make frosting out of concentrated liquid rainbow, did you?" Rainbows are awesome and all, but they're not meant for eating. Most ponies would've figured that out after actually trying it once, but Pinkie's not most ponies. I can never figure out what's going on in that heard of hers.

"Nopey dopey!" Well, that was a relief; the cupcake looked huge and delicious, but not so tasty that it was worth getting a mouthful of liquid rainbow. "I found a way to make zap apple frosting! It was tricky, but I wanted to make an absolutely perfectly perfect cupcake for you today, because you're the coolest, awesomest, and radicalest pony in all of Equestria!"

"Thanks Pinkie." Must be warm in here or something, 'cause my face was feeling kinda hot right now. It's not like Pinkie talking about how cool I was embarrassed me or anything; everything she said was just the truth, after all.

Without further ado, I dove right into the cupcake. It tasted like sugary apple-y awesomeness. Pinkie's cupcakes are awesome. Zap apples are awesome. So, Pinkie cupcakes made with zap apples were double awesome. Not even Twilight could argue with perfect logic like that. "This is great, Pinkie!"

"Yes!" Pinkie Pie started bouncing around the room in joy and babbling in excitement. Spend enough time around Pinkie, and you get used to that kind of thing. "I was worried you wouldn't like it, but Mrs. Cake was like 'Don't worry Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash always loves your cupcakes.' But then I was like, 'But I wanna make her super-special one for today and it has to be the best cupcake ever!' And then Mr. Cake was like…"

I mentally tuned Pinkie out. You wanna spend any time hanging with Pinkie, you've gotta learn how to just not listen to her when she starts babbling. That, and you've gotta learn not to ask too many questions about all that weird stuff she does. Trying to listen to everything she says and figure out what's going on in her head and how she does all those crazy things she does is just asking for trouble. Even Twilight figured that out, and she hates not knowing things.

I took a couple more bites of the most awesome cupcake in the history of awesome cupcakes while Pinkie's usual babbling faded into the background noise around me. Hmm, well now that I had the food problem sorted out, I guess I needed to figure out what to do with the rest of my free time. I'd kinda figured I'd be busy all day with weather stuff, so I didn't know if anypony had plans. They were probably all busy doing boring sappy-holiday stuff anyway.

Practicing my stunts was out. After that crash a couple weeks ago my wing was good enough to fly on and do my job, but I was supposed to give it bit more time to heal up before I did anything too awesome with it. I guess I could just grab the next Daring Do book and find a comfy cloud. A nap would be nice, but knowing my luck as soon as I got comfortable something would go wrong, and I'd need to fix it. A five-minute nap would just give me enough time to realize how much I wanted a nap, but not enough time to actually get any real sleep. For that matter, napping and just taking it easy both meant staying in one place for way too long. I wasn't gonna get much of a break if I had a small crowd of ponies gathered around me, asking if I could just do them one little favor to help make their Hearts and Hooves day perfect.

My line of thought on what to do with my free time trailed off as I noticed that something didn't seem quite right. It took me a second to put my hoof on what exactly was going on; Pinkie Pie had finally stopped talking, and she was looking at me expectantly. Aw hay, she must've asked me a question or something while I was zoned out. "Run that one by me again, Pinkie."

If she noticed or cared that I hadn't been paying attention to her, she didn't show it. "I just wanted to know what you're doing for Hearts and Hooves Day. Got anything planned with a special somepony?"

"C'mon Pinks, you know I'm not into all that namby-pamby stuff." Well, technically I'd agreed to do a Hearts and Hooves thing once, but I'd just used that as an excuse to get out of work and take the day off after I'd ditched my date. That's not to say I didn't get offers, I just didn't want to waste my time with boring stuff like that.

Well, actually nopony had asked if I was free this year. Not that I cared. It was probably just because everypony knew I didn't wanna waste my time on stupid sappy lovey dovey day. If I'd wanted a date, I totally could've gotten one. Hay, I could've done something crazy awesome, like go out with Flitter and Cloudchaser at the same time, 'cause I've heard dating twins is supposed to be really cool, so obviously it's the kind of thing I would do. Or, you know, something else really radical. I just don't wanna bother with it, that's all.

Well, maybe if one of the Wonderbolts asked me out…nah. I'm the future captain of the Wonderbolts, not a groupie.

"So…" Pinkie was smiling, but that was pretty much her default facial expression. "You're saying don't have any plans for Hearts and Hooves Day?"

"Nah." Wonder why Pinkie was asking anyway. Kinda a weird thing to talk about. Well, not really. Well, I guess talking about a holiday on the day of holiday isn't weird, but…never mind.

Oh wait. Holiday. Pinkie probably had some sort of party planned. No wonder she's asking if I'm busy, she probably wanted to invite me. "You got plans Pinkie?"

"Nopey dopey. I'm a completely free and unattached pony." Pinkie frowned thoughtfully and started tapping a hoof under her chin. "Although…if a certain somepony who shall remain nameless wanted to spend the day with me, that'd be A-OK!"

Yeah, whatever. I really didn't need to know about my friend's love lives. Anyway, moving away from that vaguely uncomfortable line of thought, I still needed to figure out what to do with my free time. Napping and reading were out, and I couldn't really fly around practicing my tricks when I was trying to avoid attention. if I went around being too amazing everypony would notice me, and then I'd be stuck with a crowd of ponies who all just wanted one tiny little favor. Sometimes it can be a real pain the flank to be as awesome as I am.

So, if doing my three favorite things to do by myself was out, that left spending time with my friends. Obvious starting point was obvious. "Hey, you wanna hang out Pinkie?"

Pinkie was grinning at me wide enough that I was kind of amazed she could fit that big of a smile on her face. "You want to spend Hearts and Hooves day with me, Dashie?"

"Well, yeah." Sheesh, she can be a real weirdo sometimes. "That's why I asked."

Pinkie looked like she was about to explode in happiness. I guess she really wanted to hang out. She took a really deep breath, and then shouted back into the kitchen. "Mister and Misses Cake I'm spending Hearts and Hooves Day with Dashie gottagonowbye!" Somehow, she managed to cram all those words into about two seconds, while screaming at the top of her lungs. The fact that her shouting had gotten everypony else in the shop staring at us didn't help.

"So, what do you wanna do?" I was in the mood for some pranking. All those ponies being all lovey-dovey totally wouldn't see us coming until it was too late. Now, we'd have to be careful to keep things fun and all; some ponies get real worked up about this Hearts and Hooves Day. I love a good prank, but making somepony cry 'cause we just ruined their special day was undeniably, unquestionably, uncool.

"How about we just go for a walk in the park?" Pinkie suggested, much to my surprise.

"What, just going for a walk? Sounds kinda boring, but whatever." I mean seriously, what's the point of walking around slow and stuff when I could be flying around all fast and awesome? It's not that I mind staying groundbound to hang out with my friends, but I've never really gotten the whole walking just for the sake of walking thing. Walking to somewhere? Sure. But just walking around to see the sights or whatever? Why would I wanna do that when I could fly around seeing everything instead? It was faster and cooler.

Still, I'd asked Pinkie what she wanted to do. Shame she can't fly though. Wait…maybe I could get Twilight to cast that wings spell on Pinkie? That way we could go flying together, which would be very awesome. Ever since the whole thing with Gilda, I didn't really have anypony (or griffin) I could just go flying with. Most of the pegasi I knew were on my weather squad, and you can't ever really be completely normal friends with somepony who works for you. Of my really close pegasus friends that don't do weather work, Fluttershy can't keep up with me most of the time, and Derpy…well trying to do any sort of fast flying with her is just asking for trouble. But Pinkie…hay, when she wanted to chase me I couldn't get away from her even when she didn't have wings. Pinkie with some Twilight's magic wings could totally keep up with me. Sure, Rarity's wings had burned up, but that was because she'd gone all crazy and gotten too close to the sun. Pinkie wouldn't do something like that.

Wait…this is Pinkie Pie I'm talking about. She'd do something way, way crazier than just fly too close to the sun. And even if she didn't…well I like Pinkie, but sometimes I need a break from her. She's my best friend and all, but too much time around her will drive a pony crazy. If she went and got some magic wings from Twilight, I'd never get a moment's peace for the rest of my life!

So yeah. Taking that idea, putting it in a lockbox, burying the box, and then destroying the key. I really don't wanna spend the rest of my life waking up at two in the morning because Pinkie Pie had a crazy dream or a fun new party idea that she felt like she just had to tell me about.

The park was still full of ponies getting all romantic and stuff. Great, just great. I'm not quite as bad as Applejack when it comes to dealing with anything girly and frou-frou, but sappy love day was too much for me.

To get my eyes off all the lovey-dovey pony couples infesting the park, I made a quick check of the weather. It looked like Blossomforth had taken care of the rainbow we were supposed to get up; not quite as awesome as the rainbow I would've made, but pretty decent. Let's be fair, no way anypony could make a rainbow better than I could, because I was both the awesomest pony around, and I had 'rainbow' right there in my name. It wasn't fair to expect anypony else to be able to match what I could pull off.

That train of thought came to an abrupt end when Pinkie Pie bumped into me. Well, not so much bumped into me as just got really into my personal space. I was used to her doing that kind of thing by now though. I don't think Pinkie Pie's even heard of personal space. Whenever we hang out she's constantly hugging me, snuggling with me, stuff like that. It's just one of her things. I guess she must have been in an extra-friendly mood though, cause she was close enough to me that we couldn't even walk through the park without our shoulders and flanks constantly brushing into each other.

Oh well, that's Pinkie Pie for you.

We managed to spend almost half a minute just walking along before I got a Pinkie-hug. I'm surprised it took her that long to get around to trying to break my ribs.

"I like spending time with you, Rainbow Dash!" Pinkie's forelegs tightened to the point where I could barely even breathe. "I like you, Rainbow Dash."

"Yeah, same here." I barely managed to get the words out over the vise-like grip Pinkie had on my chest. "Can't breathe, Pinkie."

"Oops, sorry Dashie!" The pink jaws of death removed themselves from my ribs, and their owner gave a sheepish little giggle. "I guess I got a little too excited there. And … maybe I was just teeny-tiniest little bit nervous you didn't like me back."

"What the hay are you talking about?" Pinkie could get some really weird ideas in that head of hers sometimes. "Of course I like you. We're friends."

"Oh." For some reason, saying that punctured Pinkie's good mood as if I'd stabbed a needle right into one of her balloons. "Yeah. Friends."

Aw darn it, I'd gone and said something stupid, hadn't I? It happens every once in a while; I get annoyed at somepony, or I don't watch what I'm saying, and next thing I know I've gone and said some dumb thing that makes somepony feel bad. I'm not good at the whole being sensitive and thinking about other ponies' feelings thing. It's not like I'm trying to be a jerk or anything, but if I don't take the time to think about what I'm saying, I've got a real knack for sticking my hoof in my mouth.

So, how do I make Pinkie stop feeling all sad about whatever dumb thing I'd said? I scanned the park, desperately searching for something fun and happy, and finding nothing but a sea or lovey-dovey pony couples. I even spotted Wind Whistler, Raindrops, and a couple other pegasi from my weather squad. That's when I struck gold.

Applejack and Rarity. Hanging out together. On Hearts and Hooves day. In the middle of the park. I'd been hoping for fun, but this? This was pure gold. "Hey gals! What're you up to?"

"We ain't on a date!" Applejack hastily blurted out, giving me a broad and very obviously fake smile while nervously shifting her eyes. "Just havin' a friendly cup of tea with mah friend Rarity. As friends. Because that's what we are. Friends. Why would you think we're on a date? Nopony said this was a date! "

"Right. Hello to you too, Applejack." Oh yeah. This was gonna be good.

"Why's everypony think we're on a date?" Applejack continued on belligerently. "Can't two ponies just go out on a nice day like this and have a friendly cup of tea without everypony thinkin' there must be some kinda romance to it?"

"Relax AJ, I'm with you." And now for the next bit of fun. "I totally believe that you two are just having a friendly romantic date out in the park on Hearts and Hooves Day."

"Exactly." Applejack gave a contented nod of her head satisfied that the matter had been settled. A second later the exact words I'd used processed through her apple-filled brain. "Wait, what exactly didja say there?" Applejack hastily brought her forehooves up in front of herself and waved them about in denial. "No no no! I ain't datin' her! Why would I wanna date Rarity? Me an' Rarity datin'? That's crazy talk, is what it is." Applejack let out a very forced chuckle.

"Well, I never!" Rarity turned her nose up at Applejack, before dramatically turning her back on the farmpony with a loud sniff of disdain. "I'll have you know I'm considered one of Ponyville's most eligible bachelorettes! Many a stallion would give their left hoof to be sitting in your position, Applejack! I shall not endure such boorish treatment from you on today of all days, you ruffian!"

"Aw hayseeds. Er – look Rarity, I was just…"

While Applejack tried to stumble her way through an apology, Pinkie and I hastily moved to Rarity's side. Rarity looked to both of us, and let out a carefully hidden little giggle. "Oh goodness, it really is too much fun to push her buttons sometimes."

"So you're not on date with Applejack?" Pinkie sounded confused, and maybe just a tiny bit disappointed.

"Oh Celestia no," Rarity confirmed. "I simply wished to be out and about, basking in the ambiance of Hearts and Hooves Day, but of course a lady of my stature and reputation could hardly be seen out and about on a day like today unescorted, so I simply had to bring Applejack along. I certainly wouldn't be interested in her. Those barbaric manners, that rough-and-tumble attitude, those sleek, rugged muscles. Really now, a farmpony and a fashionista; can you imagine the scandal? The inappropriateness of it all?

"Can't you just see how it would all go? We would try going out on a date, and naturally I would force her into a proper high society affair. She would try to act the part and fit in, but it would be obvious to everypony there that she didn't truly belong. Then I, being a proper lady and feeling somewhat badly for placing her in such an awkward position, would naturally agree to let her arrange our next date, which would be a horrendously uncultured affair. I would try to let my mane down and just have fun, but it would be just as clear that I didn't belong in Applejack's world as it was that she could never truly fit into mine.

"We would both convince ourselves that there was no way it could possibly work out, that there was simply no future for us, and filled with in sorrow and heartbreak, we would break up. But then a tragedy would bring us back together, make us realize that life was too short, and in a flurry of wild emotions we would decide to cast caution to the wind and embrace our doomed romance. Applejack would take the lead of course, ripping off my dress, and shoving me down onto the bed. I would protest, but we would both know I didn't really mean it. And in the heat of the moment, we would make passionate love. My hooves would roam down her muscular flanks and –" Rarity, now looking quite flushed, fanned herself with a hoof. "Goodness, is it just me, or is it getting a bit warm out here?"

The unicorn delicately cleared her throat, and stuck her nose primly up into the air. "In any case, I am sure you can see now that I could not possibly be interested in Applejack."

"Oh yeah, you definitely don't have a thing for her," I deadpanned.

"Uh, Rainbow Dash?" Pinkie Pie whispered to me. "Were you listening to the same conversation I was, 'cause it sounded to me like Rarity–"

"Pinkie, how can you be friends with me and Twilight and still not understand sarcasm?"

"What does it taste like?" I just stared at Pinkie Pie in blank incomprehension for several long seconds, as my brain tried to process what Pinkie just said.

Rarity delicately cleared her throat, and turned around to face Applejack once more. "Now then darling, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie have asked me to forgive you for that remark, and so as a proper lady I shall overlook your unforgivably rude behavior. I do trust, however, that you will not do anything further to humiliate me on today of all days."

"Um … right." Applejack looked like she was halfway between confused and remorseful, which was probably right where Rarity wanted her. "Reckon I oughta say a little somethin' to ya. Shucks, I know a lotta fellas and a couple gals that'd be right glad to be yer special somepony. Ain't no denyin' yer awful purdy. In fact, I reckon if'n there was a mare I wanted to take an interest in and ask her to be my special somepony, it'd be a gal who's a lot like you."

"Oh really?" The two ponies looked at each other, both blushed, and then hastily averted their gazes. "Yes, well… more tea?" Rarity desperately suggested.

"Some tea sounds real nice." Applejack agreed.

I traded a look with Pinkie, and we both nodded. "Okay. Well then... Pinkie and I are gonna leave you two to do…whatever the hay it is that the two of you are doing." The two of us trotted off, leaving our friends to keep acting like total weirdoes instead of doing the sensible thing and just hooking up already.

"They were having lots of unresolved sexual tension." Pinkie explained to me once we were safely out of earshot.

"No, really? I hadn't noticed." I remembered too late that Pinkie's sarcasm detector was completely broken.

"Dashie! Didn't you see how they were making googly-eyes at each other? And how Applejack got all nervous just because we saw the two of them spending Hearts and Hooves Day together? Or how Rarity got all ga-ga over Applejack when–"

My hoof in her mouth made Pinkie stop talking. "I noticed it, Pinkie. Everypony who saw them noticed it. Everypony within a hundred miles noticed it. Princess Celestia herself could probably feel the sexual tension all the way from Canterlot."

I removed my hoof from Pinkie's mouth, which was probably a mistake. "Ooo really? I'm not sure about that, I mean, yeah, there was a lot of tension there, but Canterlot's really, really far away. Oh! We could write a letter and ask her, just to make sure."

'Dear Princess Celestia: Rarity and Applejack totally wanna do each other, right?' Yeah, that'd go over real well. Actually, it might almost be worth doing just to how much Twilight would freak when she found out about it. From what I'd seen, the princess was pretty cool, but Twilight always seemed to act like if she did the tiniest little thing wrong Celestia would hate her forever and kick her to the moon or something.

"Those two are just being such silly ponies," Pinkie announced seriously. "That's not really a surprise though. Everypony knew a long time ago that Applejack is a silly pony. Remember that time when she launched into Twilight's library? Or the time when she helped me make those baked bads? Or the bunny stampede? Or when she–"

"Yeah. I remember Pinkie. I was there."

"Well duh! Of course you were." The pink menace continued with her non-stop stream of words. "But Rarity's not a silly pony like Applejack. She's more of a drama queen, which I guess is still kinda silly, but not really proper silly. I mean, if she was going on and on about something being, 'The. Worst. Possible. Thing.' I'd understand, but this just goofy. She's a smart pony, so why's she being so silly now? It's so obvious how much they like each other!"

"Eh, you want my opinion, all that lovey-dovey stuff makes ponies get goofy in the head," I declared wisely. "It's like you said, normally they're both pretty smart and stuff, but all the hormones and emotions and everything are making Rarity and Applejack go crazy. Hay, I bet Twilight could come up with some sort of egghead scientific proof of it or something if she studied it all. Love makes ponies stupid and crazy. It'll get them to the point where they completely miss something incredibly obvious that's sitting right in front of their face. That's why they spend all their time acting weird and dancing around the subject, instead of doing the smart thing and just biting the bullet and taking care of it all in five minutes. If there was somepony I wanted to be my special somepony, I'd just go up to them and be like, 'Hey, you wanna be my special somepony? We can go on a date, and then we'll bang, OK?'"

Pinkie Pie looked at me skeptically. "And that works?"

"Sure." Well, I'd never actually tried it, but Cloud Kicker told me that it was what she did, and it worked for her. So if I did the same thing, it would work. Because I'm awesome.

"Okie dokie." Pinkie Pie stepped in front of me, looked me dead in the eyes, and said with surprising seriousness. "Hey, Rainbow Dash, do you wanna be my special somepony? We can go on a date, and then we'll bang, OK?"

Oh wow. I actually tried to keep straight face for a second or two, but nopony could pull that off. The way she'd delivered that ridiculous line so dead-serious was just too much. Soon I was rolling on the ground laughing my flank off. Not even those stone-faced guards of Celestia could've stood up to that. After half a minute I finally managed to recover enough to speak a coherent sentence. "Oh wow Pinkie! You totally had me going there for a second! That was great! Pinkie Pie, you are so random!"

Oh hay, I was laughing so hard I couldn't even breathe. I finally had to stop laughing, not because it wasn't still funny, but just because I didn't have any more laughs left in me. And that's when I finally noticed that there was something terribly wrong.

Pinkie Pie wasn't laughing.

Pinkie Pie will laugh at anything. She got the Element of Laughter for a reason, after all. You can crack her up just by saying something like pickle barrel or kumquat. If she just dropped a hilarious joke, and wasn't laughing along with me, something was seriously, seriously wrong.

I got back on my hooves, and took an oddly tentative step towards her. "Pinkie? Everything alright?"

"Yeah, just fine." Pinkie smiled, but it was the most obviously forced smile I'd ever seen out of her. Fine my flank. I'd heard more believable lies from Applejack.

"Aw horseapples." I hissed under my breath. I hate it when stuff like this happens. "Look, Pinkie, whatever dumb thing I did that's got you feeling down, I'm sorry. I just…you know me, I'm an idiot. I say stupid things all the time. Don't take it seriously, I'm just being dumb. I'm not very good at the whole subtle social interaction thing. You're an awesome friend, really. Coolest pony I know." I paused to shine a hoof against my chest, and made a half-flanked joke. "Well, the coolest pony aside from myself, of course."

"Thanks Dashie." Well, at least she sounded less miserable. That was progress, right? At least I hadn't made things worse. "Don't worry, it's not your fault I'm being all frowny-faced." She put on a slightly more genuine seeming smile. "You're my bestest best friend, and we're supposed to be going out and having fun, so let's go have some fun!"

Well, she wasn't quite back to normal yet, but she was definitely getting there. Sure, I might stick my hoof in my mouth every once in a while, but when it was important I could turn on the old Rainbow Dash charm and talk through things. Okay, maybe I wasn't charming per se, but I made up for whatever lack of social skills I might have by being awesome.

I was about to get down to planning future awesomeness with Pinkie when something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. "What the…hey! All the glow just came right off of our rainbow!" Having all the glow fall off of a rainbow was a pretty big deal, especially on a day like this, where ponies are keeping an extra-close eye on the weather. Rainbows are supposed to be, well, rainbow-colored. Not grey and boring.

The fact that the rainbow stretched across Ponyville for Hearts and Hooves Day had suddenly gone grey was already attracting attention from all the ponies out and about to enjoy happy love day. Once the complaints started coming in about how the weather problems had ruined somepony's special day, nopony was going to go easy on me just because I said I was on break when it happened. It's one of the things that stinks about being in charge of Ponyville's weather; unless something's gone wrong up at Cloudsdale, I can't shift the blame up the chain of command. Like the saying goes, the bit stops here.

Well, the fact that sometimes the weather schedule calls for it to rain from midnight to sunrise instead of keeping all the weather in the nice daylight hours kinda stinks too.

"Give me a sec Pinkie, I gotta go fix this." I took off into the sky, and despite the situation I still felt that momentary thrill that always accompanied getting off the ground and into the air. I don't know how the Earth Ponies and Unicorns can handle just being on the ground their entire lives. It felt so…limiting. I mean, there's just so much up here that all those other ponies will never get to experience. Sure, there are hot air balloons and pegasi carriages and stuff, but it's not the same as getting up in the air on your own two wings.

I was halfway to the base greyed out rainbow, on the edge of the Whitetail Woods, when I spotted a familiar white pegasus with a pink and green mane up ahead who was headed in the same direction. "Hey Blossomforth! You see what went wrong with your rainbow?"

Blossomforth pulled a quick 180, and faced me. "Rainbow Dash! I thought you were still on break?"

"Well, somepony's gotta fix the rainbow," I pointed out quite reasonably. "We leave a glow-less rainbow up on Hearts and Hooves day, and I'll never hear the end of it. You sure you got the glow on there right?" Blossomforth had been the one who made the rainbow after all, and getting the glow to stay on a rainbow was weather 101 stuff.

"I know how to make a rainbow." Blossomforth sounded just a touch defensive as she frowned over at the decolored rainbow. "I saw a couple ponies running off from around its base. I think they might have stolen the glow off of it." A hint of annoyance entered her voice. "Who does that? Why would anypony steal a rainbow's glow?"

"Probably somepony's idea of a prank." Pinkie and I were the best pranksters in Ponyville, but not the only ones. Still, stealing a rainbow's glow? Seriously lame for a prank. I flew in and gave the grey rainbow a quick check, just to confirm that Blossomforth was right. She was; the rest of the rainbow had been put together right, and the glow hadn't just fallen off the rainbow and down onto the ground or anything. "Alright, well let's get to work fixing this."

"Wait, I can handle this on my own Rainbow Dash," Blossomforth assured me. "You don't need to interrupt your da-"

"It'll get done faster with both of us," I interrupted. The longer that rainbow was grey, the better the chances were that somepony might start complaining about it. The last thing I needed was for the word to get out that Rainbow Dash's weather team can't even make a rainbow right.

Blossomforth still didn't seem too happy about having me help. I guess she really wanted to fix her rainbow by herself, or maybe she was still trying to prove she had what it took to run things when I wasn't around. Either way, with both of us working together we had the rainbow back to normal in less than a minute.

"Nice job Rainbow Dash! You too Blossomforth!" I looked down, and wasn't even surprised to see that Pinkie had followed me over here. Sure, most ponies would've had trouble getting from Ponyville park to end of the rainbow on the outskirts of Ponyville proper in the two minutes it had taken me to fly here and fix the rainbow, but most ponies weren't Pinkie Pie.

Pinkie Pie tapped a hoof thoughtfully on her chin, and called up to me, "You were gone a lot longer than a sec though." Trust Pinkie to take me literally when I said something would only take a second to fix. "You don't have to feel bad about it though Dashie! I'm totally, absolutely, 100% completely okay with giving you lots and lots of secs if that's what you need!"

Right after Pinkie said that, Blossomforth covered her mouth for a few seconds, and then started having a really nasty coughing fit. She was coughing so hard she was kind of having a hard time staying in the air, and her face was redder than one of Applejack's apples. "You okay there, Blossomforth?"

"Yeah, just fine," she managed to croak out.

"Dashie!" Pinkie shouted up at both of us. "Do you need me to give you more secs?"

Blossomforth's entire face turned an even brighter shade of red. "Gottagonowbye!" I have to say, she managed to fly off at a pretty impressive speed for a pegasus who's normally not anything all that special as a flyer.

I dismissed Blossomforth's odd behavior with a shrug, and got back down to ground level. "Sorry that took so long Pinkie."

"Oh I don't mind Dashie," Pinkie Pie reassured me. "In fact, while I was waiting I came up with a new song to sing for you."

Oh great. Here we go. Pinkie Pie started eagerly bouncing around me from various angles that I'm sure wouldn't be physically possible for any other pony, and launched into another one of her crazy little random songs.

"Dashie you're a great pony, the bestest one of all

You're the very fastest flier and know how to bounce a ball

You kicked a dragon in the face, and compared to him you're small

Dashie what I'm saying here is you're totally a doll

You might not be a smarty pants or know how to apple buck

But you're still really awesome and you have a lot of pluck

And maybe finally today, I'll have a bit of luck

We'll lie down somewhere comfortable, and then we'll … Oh hi there Derpy!"

I was a little startled when Pinkie suddenly stopped singing, but I wasn't about to complain about anything that got her out of one of her musical moods. Pinkie's songs can be fun sometimes, but hanging out with a pony that can't go more than five minutes without bursting out into another crazy random song can get a little annoying sometimes. Well, it wasn't so bad when they were just short little ones, but sometimes she got into it enough to just keep singing and singing, until it got to the point where it could drive a pony nuts.

I gave a grateful wave to the young gray mare who'd rescued me from Pinkie's musical ministrations. "Hey Derpy! What's up?" A second later, the smile on my face faded as I got a good look at her. Derpy looked pretty down, and that's bad considering the fact that Derpy's generally one of the few ponies out there who can give Pinkie Pie a run for her money in the perpetual cheerfulness department. "What's wrong?"

Next thing I knew, I had a grey pegasus clinging to me and babbling out an explanation. Derpy spilled it all out so fast I could barely make out what she was saying; if not for all of my practice dealing with Pinkie's rapid-fire chattering, I probably would've been completely lost. From what I could make out, the guy she'd been hanging with for Hearts and Hooves Day had to run off to Manehattan to take care of some sort of thing involving something called baleks or something, and had left her behind. No wonder she was down; her date had ditched her.

Note to self: find whathisface whenever he got back from Manehattan and kick him in the head. Hard. Well, maybe I'd give him a chance to explain himself; if he had a good enough story, maybe I'd only kick him hard enough to leave a black eye.

I looked down at the depressed pegasus in my hooves, and came to a decision. "Tell you what Derpy, how about you hang with me and Pinkie for the rest of the day?" To be honest, I was just a bit nervous about the risk of combining Pinkie's knack for making things get incredibly weird with Derpy's tendency to make things go catastrophically wrong, but when I suggested she spend the day hanging with us it seemed to perk Derpy up a bit, and got a tentative smile out of her. As long as we didn't end up accidentally blowing up half of Ponyville by the end of the day, that made whatever happened worth it. "Go get Dinky, and between me and Pinkie we'll give you gals an awesome day, right Pinkie?"

"Oh." Pinkie didn't sound quite as enthusiastic as I'd expected her to be, but a second later she was all smiles. "Yeah! Sure! We'll have tons of fun!"

Derpy was right back to her innocently cheerful self for a moment, before she paused, looked nervously between the two of us, and asked. "Um. I won't be messing up your special day together, will I?"

"Oh no no no." Pinkie Pie assured her, though I caught just a little hint of a lie in her voice. Weird; usually Pinkie was all for having as many ponies around as possible, and especially would've loved a chance to hang out with a kid. Probably because she never quite got around to growing up herself.

"Don't worry your pretty little head about me and Dashie." Pinkie Pie assured Derpy, giving her a friendly pat on her head with her hoof. "There's no way we could enjoy spending Hearts and Hooves Day together if we knew you were feeling all sad and blue. After all, cheering up my friends is what Pinkie's here to do!"

"Alright then," Derpy agreed. "I'll go get Dinky and–"

That's when Cloud Kicker went flying by, a paper bag clutched in her hooves. "Gee," Cloud Kicker was speaking so woodenly and loudly that there was no question about the fact that she meant for all of us to hear her. "I sure hope Derpy doesn't find out about this bag of freshly baked muffins I just bought."

"Muffins!" A second later both pegasi were a pair of rapidly dwindling dots in the distance as Cloud Kicker fled the scene with Derpy hot on her tail.

I turned to the party pony at my side. "Pinkie Pie."

"Yeah Dashie?'

"You're not the only pony I know who can be so random."

The two us started trotting back to Ponyville, just enjoying the weather I'd helped make and each other's company. Sure, flying will always be a superior way of getting around, but I don't mind going on my hooves to spend more time with my friends.

Pinkie Pie bumped into my shoulder. Not like an aggressive shove, or a clumsy 'oops I got in your way' kinda bump. Just a friendly sort of 'Hi, here I am' bump. "Hey Dashie?"

"Yeah, what's up Pinkie?"

"Are you having a good Hearts and Hooves day so far?"

"Yeah, it's been pretty cool. Well, not cool exactly. It's been kinda weird, but fun."

"I like weird but fun." Pinkie commented idly.

The two of us trotted along in companionable silence, which was a pretty rare thing when you're hanging out with Pinkie Pie. Unsurprisingly, it was Pinkie Pie who finally broke the silence. "Um, Dashie? There's something I wanna tell you."

Whoa. She sounded nervous. Not the fun happy giggly kind of nervous, the scared and worried kind of nervous. "Alright, go for it."

"I…" Pinkie hesitated for a moment, and then blurted out. "There's somepony I'm interested in."

Oh. Wow. I'm–I'm not quite sure how I felt about that. Kind of pissed off, now that I think about it. "Oh really?" I asked, playing it cool. "Who? Anypony I know?"

"Yeah, I'd say you know her pretty well," Pinkie answered with a bit of a giggle in her voice. "You're really close."

She couldn't be talking about…from the way she said that it sounded like… "No way! It's one of our friends?" Whoa. That was gonna change a lot of things. "It's not Applejack or Rarity is it? 'Cause we both know that they wanna…you know…"

"Nopey dopey," Pinkie answered with a smile and a shake of her head. "Guess again."

"Twilight?" The detail-obsessed egghead didn't really seem like Pinkie's kinda pony, but it's not like I should expect her choices when it came to the pony she had a thing for to make any more sense than, well, anything else she's ever done in her life, and Twilight could use somepony to loosen her up a bit. I bet she's been spending all of Hearts and Hooves Day with her one true love, books. Sure, I've learned that a good book is awesome and all, but that pony can take it a little too far sometimes.

"Nopey dopey."

"You can't mean Fluttershy." Don't get me wrong, Fluttershy's cool in her own way, but I'm pretty sure Pinkie would give her a heart attack within a couple hours of them getting together. A pony that is so sensitive and nervous that she's scared of her own shadow doesn't combine all that well with Pinkie's crazy and unpredictable spontaneity.

"Nopey dopey." Pinkie grinned and got nose-to-nose with me. "Ya need a hint, Dashie?"

Well, considering the fact that she'd already ruled out all our friends, I was kinda lost about who she meant. "Yeah, that'd help, 'cause right now I got no idea who you're talking about."

"Well, she is a pegasus," Pinkie informed me playfully.

Oh. That explained why Pinkie said I knew whoever this mystery mare was. Between growing up in Cloudsdale and the fact that my day job is weather work, most of my casual friends are pegasi. Wings kinda are a requirement for pushing clouds. "You don't mean Derpy, do you? I'm pretty sure her barn door doesn't swing that way."

"Nopey dopey." Pinkie was still smiling at me, like this whole thing was just some big game she was playing. "But she is one of the bravest ponies I've ever known."

"It better not be Cloud Kicker," I growled. "She promised me that my friends were off-limits." I don't have any problems with Cloud Kicker's habit of turning on the charm whenever she finds a pony that catches her eye, but I have a big problem with her doing that where my friends are involved. I brought the topic up once, and she told me that not messing around with my friends was one of her rules, which goes to show that she's not an idiot. Sure, I can't fire a pony for what she does in her personal life, but I can sure as hay make the rest of Cloud Kicker's time on the weather team intensely unpleasant if she pisses me off.

"No, it's not Cloud Kicker." Pinkie was starting to sound a bit less enthusiastic about this game. "She won the Best Young Fliers competition in Cloudsdale."

Hmm. That's a tricky one; not many Ponyville ponies win the Best Young Fliers. "You like Dizzy Twister?"

"Her first name is Rainbow." Pinkie said flatly.

"No way!" That certainly narrowed it down. "You've got a crush on Rainbowshine?"

Pinkie let out a frustrated growl and turned her back on me, only to look over her shoulder and snap. "You can be a real poopy-head sometimes, Dashie!" Pinkie Pie trotted off, leaving me behind in her dust.

I stared bemusedly at the rapidly disappearing pink pony. "So…not Rainbowshine?"

I was left right there in the middle of Whitetail Wood, feeling vaguely confused about why Pinkie had gotten annoyed with me in the first place. Hay, all those hints she'd given me didn't even add up!

Before I could try to puzzle through all of this, I heard a rather familiar voice calling out to me. "Psst! Rainbow Dash!" A white hoof gestured me over towards the nearest tree.

"Blossomforth?" The pegasus gave me a rather sheepish grin from her hiding place in the tree. "What are you doing? Why are you hiding in a tree?"

Blossomforth blushed slightly and mumbled. "Um, I was gonna give you these flowers." She pulled a set of flowers that probably would've really impressed somepony like Rarity out from the tree.

Okay. That was unexpected. "Er, wow. I'm flattered and all Blossomforth, but I'm not really interested in–"

"Oh!" Blossomforth went from a slight blush the a full-blown one. "No! It's not–I'm not! No! They're for you to give to Pinkie Pie!"

"Why not just give them to her yourself then?" Good thing Blossomforth wasn't a brave Best Young Fliers winner, or the fact that she had flowers to give to Pinkie Pie would've been a big problem.

"But–but I was–I'm trying to–"

"Alright, settle down Blossomforth." I guess one advantage of being friends with Fluttershy for so long is that I've got some idea of how to deal with a pony that's in middle of working herself into a nervous wreck. "Stop panicking. Deep breaths." It was weird, normally Blossomforth was a pretty levelheaded pony.

Blossomforth took a few deep breaths, and seemed to regain her composure. "Sorry, it's just this kind of thing makes me really nervous, and when you thought I was–um–well, you know." Blossomforth cleared her throat, and managed to calmly say, "These flowers are for you to give to Pinkie Pie once Cloud Kicker is done convincing her to come back here."

"Okay then." Aren't explanations normally supposed to leave you with fewer questions, not more? "Why are you giving me flowers to give to Pinkie Pie, and why is Cloud Kicker talking to her?"

"We overheard the two of you arguing, and Cloud Kicker thought we should help out," Blossomforth answered. "After all, we would hate to see your Hearts and Hooves Day end badly."

"Alright. Well, thanks, I guess." Kinda weird they would go to so much trouble just to help out after I got into an argument with a friend, but whatever. Besides, these flowers did look kind of tasty, and nopony said I had to give all of them to Pinkie.

"No problem Rainbow Dash." Blossomforth took off into the air.

Just as Blossomforth had told me she would, Pinkie came back a minute or so later, looking slightly abashed. "Um, Dashie? Sorry I called you a poopy-head. I was being a big mean grumpy mean meaniepants." She shot a slightly scared look in my direction. "Are you mad at me?"

"It's fine Pinks." Compared to having to put up with being called Rainbow Crash or dealing with all the stuff Fluttershy and Derpy went through back at Flight Camp, Pinkie getting annoyed with me wasn't anything to get worked up about. "Sometimes friends get into arguments, doesn't change the fact that we're still friends. It's not a big deal."

"Thanks Dashie." She smiled at me, and then gave me an entirely expected mega-hug.

I smiled, went along with it, and hugged her back, right up to the moment when my right wing gave a nasty little twinge. "Ow!"

Pinkie immediately loosened her crushing hold on me and pulled back in concern. "You okay Dashie?

"Yeah, I'm fine." I gave a casual flap of my wings to demonstrate as much. "Nothing big, it's just my wing's still a little tender from that crash." Flying and stuff like that was easy, but a full-strength Pinkie-hug will put a pony's wings under a lot more stress than most of the basic flying I'd been doing.

"Okay then," Pinkie chirped agreeably, putting the matter entirely out of her mind. The fact that there was something else to grab her attention probably helped. "Dashie, are those flowers?"


"Are those flowers for me?" Pinkie Pie was nose-to-nose with me again, a huge smile on her face.


"Oh thank you Dashie!"

I should've known she would go right into hugging mode after I gave her a present. "Watch the wing Pinkie! Watch the wing!" I guess my words must have gotten though, cause this time she only tried to break my ribs. I swear, being friends with Pinkie Pie is more dangerous than playing professional hoofball.

Pinkie bounced over to the flowers, gave them an appreciative sniff, and then gobbled half of them up rapid-fire. "Mmm! Tasty!" Once she managed to swallow enough of the flowers to speak without spraying petals everywhere, Pinkie paused long enough to shoot a curious look my way. "Hey Dashie, how'd you get flowers so fast anyway? Didja do some really fancy flying?"

"Nah, Blossomforth gave 'em to me."

Pinkie spat the flowers out. "Excuse me?" A hint of fire entered the party pony's voice. "Did you just say that Blossomforth gave you flowers? Today? On Hearts and Hooves Day?"

"Yeah, but she said-"

Pinkie bit her lip as her entire face twisted into an expression of barely contained fury. Like with a lot of things about Pinkie, it didn't stay contained for very long. "NO PARTIES FOR BLOSSOMFORTH!" Pinkie shrieked. "NO PARTIES FOR HER EVER EVER EVER EVER AGAIN! NO PARTIES FOREVER!"

"Whoa Pinkie, calm down! She was just –"


"Pinkie Pie!"

Just like that, her sudden explosion of rage snapped off, and she grinned at me and batted her eyelashes playfully. "Yes, Dashie?"

Before I could explain what had happened to her and try to figure out why she'd freaked out so much, two very familiar pegasi came walking down the road together. Cloud Kicker and Blossomforth. What were those up to now? Pinkie spotted the pegasus that had apparently just become her nemesis, and planted her hooves to get ready for a charge. So much for calming Pinkie Pie down.

Right as Pinkie was about to charge, Cloud Kicker very loudly asked, "So Blossomforth, what do you think of your entirely platonic friend Rainbow Dash?"

"I think she is an entirely platonic friend who I have absolutely no romantic interest in whatsoever." Blossomforth was talking just as loudly and woodenly as Cloud Kicker. Looks like these were up to some crazy scheme again. I guess I should've expected it after they'd jumped in a couple minutes ago; Pinkie had certainly been shouting loud enough that everypony within a couple miles of us had heard her.

"In fact," Blossomforth continued on for Pinkie's benefit. "I don't even know Rainbow Dash all that well. We're really more like casual acquaintances than friends. Entirely platonic casual acquaintances."

"I'm glad we've established that you have no romantic interest in Rainbow Dash," Cloud Kicker said one final time for our benefit, before turning to face us and doing what probably would've been a passable imitation of surprise if not for the fact that she and Blossomforth were being pretty much the complete opposite of subtle. "Rainbow Dash! Pinkie Pie! What a surprise! I didn't expect to run into you gals again."

"We've run into you and Blossomforth three times in the last fifteen minutes, so I can see how it would be such a surprise that you'd run into us again," I deadpanned. I was a little tempted to just sit them both down and wring a straight answer out of them about what the hay they were up to. At least their crazy little play had accomplished what it had set out to do, since Pinkie had stopped ranting about un-inviting Blossomforth to all her parties.

But getting answers wasn't nearly as much fun as some of the other things I could do to them.

"So." I drew the word out while I brushed a hoof against my chest. "Cloud Kicker. I can't help but notice that you and Blossomforth have been hanging out quite a bit today. On Hearts and Hooves Day. What's up with that?"

The two pegasi froze for a moment, and then Cloud Kicker tossed a foreleg around Blossomforth's shoulders, and pulled the protesting mare up against her side. "Oh yeah, me and Blossom are a thing now," Cloud Kicker announced casually "I went up to her, and I was like, 'Hey Blossom! I've got reach, and you've got flexibility. We should bang.' And she said, 'You're right, the sex would be great!' And that's how it happened."

Blossomforth was back to blushing intensely, and seemed to be trying to find some way to extract herself from Cloud Kicker's hooves without being too obvious about it. Not quite sure what the hay these two were up to, but Cloud Kicker must have gone off of whatever plan they had. "So anyway," The crazier of the two pegasi continued. "We're going for a walk, and once we're done we're gonna go back to my place. Presumably, to bang. Right babe?"

Judging by how much she was blushing and the look of mingled embarrassment and horror on Blossomforth's face, it was very much not right. Cloud Kicker let out a nervous chuckle, and gave the two of us a grin that lacked its usual confidence. "She's just being shy. Anyway we're gonna go bang now. Later."

The two pegasi trotted off down the path, leaving the two of us to wonder just what they hay that had all been about. Lucky for us, we weren't the only ones. "Cloud Kicker!" Blossomforth's voice rang out with seconds of them crossing around a bend in the path and getting out of sight. "What were you thinking?"

"I was improvising," The other pegasus answered a bit defensively.

"Improvising my hoof." A second later Blossomforth's voice hit another high note. "Speaking of hooves, why is your hoof on my flank?"

"Sorry, force of habit." A second later, Cloud Kicker added in an impressed tone. "Wow, you are really toned back here! Do you work out?"

"Cloud Kicker!"

"Right. Hooves off. Sorry."

"Um, gals?" Pinkie called out to the two crazy pegasi. "We can hear everything you're saying. Just thought you'd wanna know."

After a long, awkward pause, Cloud Kicker summed up her thoughts on that with a single word. "Feathers."

"Great plan, Cloud Kicker," Blossomforth snarked.

"Wait Blossom, I've got the perfect plan to fix this." Cloud Kicker assured her friend.

"I'm not going to do … that with you." I couldn't see her to confirm it, but I'm pretty sure Blossomforth was blushing again.

"Sheesh Blossom, not all of my plans involve sex." Cloud Kicker sounded just a touch offended, but a second later she was right back to her normal self "Just the best ones. Besides, you know that like, half of the rules I've got make you seriously off-limits for banging."

"We can still hear you," I called out.

"Oh yeah." Cloud Kicker didn't even sound all that bothered that we'd just overheard what for any other pony would be a very private conversation. "Guess we owe you an explanation, right boss?"

"I would kinda like to know why you've been acting so crazy. Well, crazier than usual, anyway."

One ashamed looking white pegasus and a lavender pegasus doing her best to look completely cool and unbothered strode back. "Hey boss," Cloud Kicker said, as if we were just casually passing by each other in the street.

"It was all Cloud Kicker's idea!" Blossomforth blurted out. A second later her eyes widened in surprise, and she slammed her hooves over her mouth.

"Gee, thanks for that show of solidarity, Blossom." Cloud Kicker took a step forward. "She's right though. It was all my idea; she was just along for the ride and following my orders. So, if you're mad at us, just don't take it out on her, 'kay?"

"Right now, I'm more curious than mad," I told the two pegasi. "I'll figure out if I need to move along to mad after one of you tells me what was going on here."

"We were just trying to help," Blossomforth said. "And, um, also, I was lying earlier. It was all my idea; Cloud Kicker's trying to protect me."

"Blossom, shut it." Cloud Kicker turned back to me. "Ignore her boss, it was all me."

"The flowers were my idea!" Blossomforth objected. "And we wouldn't have even gotten into this mess if I hadn't suggested that we let Rainbow Dash take a break so she could –"

"Blossom, what part of 'shut it' are you not getting?" Cloud Kicker snapped at her friend, before returning her attention to me. "Look, boss, she was just trying to help. Go easy on her. It was my fault that things –"

"No Cloud Kicker! I'm not letting you take all the blame for –"

"Blossom, just be quiet and let me handle this!"

"It's my fault too!"

Alright, that was enough of that. "Both of you shut up!" That finally managed to stop the two of them from arguing over which one of them deserved to be punished more. "If the two of you are done trying to be all noble and self-sacrificing, could one of you get around to the part that I actually care about, and do some explaining?"

"Oh. Right. Sure thing boss." Cloud Kicker gave a sheepish chuckle and awkwardly tucked a foreleg behind her head to straighten out her mane. "Well, Blossom and I figured you'd wanted to spend Hearts and Hooves Day with Pinkie, so when we saw it wasn't working out, we took over the weather for you. Then after the whole rainbow-losing-its-glow thing, well, Blossom and I were both right there anyway, and I guess we figured that since we'd already kinda given the two of you a helping hoof once, why not help out some more?"

"We really were just trying to help," Blossomforth apologized.

"Yeah, what Blossom said," Cloud Kicker agreed. "I mean, I'm kinda the last pony who should be talking about romance and stuff, but even I can tell you two are crazy in love with each other."


"Cloud Kicker and I just wanted to help you two have a nice date for Hearts and Hooves Day," Blossomforth added.

No seriously. What the hay?

I turned to Pinkie Pie, who in this bizarre world-turned-upside-down had somehow become my last bastion of sanity.

"Well, this wasn't exactly what I had planned Dashie." Pinkie smiled at me. "But I can work with it."

And then Pinkie kissed me.



Well that came completely out of nowhere.