Hurricane's Way

Long ago, Commander Hurricane set an example that still resonates with all pegasi who fall in love with their ground bound kin. Every pegasus knows the story, the tradition is deeply engrained and held dear to their hearts.
Now, if only Twilight could curb her curiosity long enough to enjoy and appreciate just how important she is to Rainbow.
Pre-reading and editing assistance by Melon Hunter and Timaeus.
Art originally by ELZZombie

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/312483/hurricanes-way

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1. It's Tradition

Twilight couldn’t help but smile in wonder as she stared at the cloud city floating overhead. Somehow, Cloudsdale always seemed to hold some sort of elegant majesty to it, rivaling even Canterlot’s beauty.

She wasn’t quite sure if it was the traditional pegasus architecture—which, despite their nature being as changing and volatile as the weather they controlled, had stayed rather stagnant over the centuries—or the sheer magnificence of seeing the clouds shaped and formed into tall towers, grand arenas, or even small family homes on the outer edges and neighboring clouds. Though even those homes didn’t hold a candle to the one Rainbow Dash lived in. Either way, it was a sight to behold with baited breath.

Though as her thoughts turned to Rainbow, who stood at her side, eagerly bouncing on her hooves, Twilight’s smile fell a little. “I still say it doesn’t make logical sense,” she said, breaking the silence between them.

Rainbow stopped bouncing, sighing heavily. “We talked about this, Twi. Thought we agreed that we were doing this together. So hush up, and just let me carry you up there.”

Twilight gave a derisive snort. “No, you decided we were doing this. I still think it makes no sense that I don’t fly up!” She unfurled her wings, giving them a meaningful flap. “My wings work perfectly fine—you of all ponies should know since you taught me how to fly!”

Another sigh, Rainbow shook her head. “I know you can fly, but that’s not how this works, okay!” She closed her eyes and stomped a hoof into the dirt, giving an agitated flick of her tail. “It’s—ugh—look, it’s an important thing for us pegasi, okay? It’s a thing we do, and I really wanna share it with you!”

“I’m not trying to downplay it, Rainbow.” Twilight moved to stand before her, reaching up to lay a hoof on Rainbow’s shoulder. “I’m touched, I really am!” She planted a soft kiss on Rainbow’s lips, nuzzling her nose to offer a bit of added affection. “I just don’t understand why you’re so adamant that I can’t fly for this!”

“Because that’s not how it’s done!” Her eyes opened, her nerves almost written upon her face as though Twilight were reading an open book. “Please, Twi. It’s tradition for us!”

Tradition.

She fought back a little shudder at the word, the memory of her first Winter Wrap-Up in Ponyville was still fresh in her mind. To some ponies more than others, tradition was as important as education and research was to her.

Rainbow was, among other things, a proud pegasus. While she would stomp, flick her tail, and refuse to study, when it came to her heritage, Rainbow embodied her race’s legacy.

Competitive, brash, headstrong, and embodying the very nature of the sky in her flight, Rainbow was a pegasus the likes of which Commander Hurricane would’ve gladly taken into his famous legions during the days before the Unification.

Post Unification, she would’ve probably been courted into the first incarnation of the Equestrian Army, actually, since there was no Wonderbolt equivalent at the time.

Twilight let her ears pin back. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, nosing against Rainbow’s cheek. “I know it’s important to you, and I don’t mean to diminish it.” Planting another kiss, this time on her cheek, she added, “I just don’t understand why.”

Rainbow’s cheeks flushed red. Her eyes flitted away, she reached up to rub at her shoulder. “I’ll, uh—can’t you just trust me for now?” she asked, a pleading tone to her voice. “I just wanna try to do something nice for once.” She flicked her tail again, glancing at Twilight before quickly averting her gaze and mumbling something under her breath.

Perking up her ears, Twilight lowered her head to meet Rainbow. “You do nice things for me all the time, Rainbow.” Again, she nosed against her girlfriend’s cheek. “Remember the time you changed the weather schedule so I could see the Secretariat Comet?”

“I got in so much trouble for that,” Rainbow muttered in reply, a tiny smile spread across her muzzle. With it, came a more pronounced blush. “When you found out, you grabbed me out of midair and kissed me in front of everypony.” Her feathers fluffed and twitched. “‘Course, that was after we sat together on the balcony.”

Twilight bobbed her head, the memory of Rainbow’s sheepish grin when Mayor Mare confronted her in the middle of town was still quite vivid—the same one that just made Twilight want to kiss her silly, if only to give her a real reason to look so dopey.

“Yes. I’d say that was quite nice, wouldn’t you?”

Rainbow thought a moment, then nodded. “Yeah, but that’s not what I—” she broke off, looking down at the grass again. “I wanna do something like what other mares might do. Like, nice, but more just for us.”

It clicked.

With a coy smirk, she dotted kisses along Rainbow’s cheek, delighting in the way her girlfriend’s breath hitched as she drew closer to her ear. “Rainbow Dash,” she purred, “you know you don’t have to hide when you want to do something romantic for me!”

Rather than squirm and mumbled under her breath, or draw back with a scowl and sputter denials, Rainbow just gave a crooked smile and fluffed her feathers. “Y-Yeah,” she stammered, a hint of a squeak in her tone. “I know.” Her wings rustled as she began to chew on her bottom lip. She looked over her shoulder, then around the clearing, checking for any signs of other ponies before she moved to rub her cheek against Twilight’s.

Slowly, with a bit of hesitation to their touch, she wrapped a hoof around Twilight’s neck and pulled her into an embrace. An act Twilight was happy to reciprocate.

The very moment she returned the hug, Twilight felt Rainbow’s hold on her tighten, as if she were clinging to a blanket on a cold winter morning.

She rubbed a small circle into Rainbow’s back, smiling softly. “I wish you’d just tell me why it’s so important that I don’t fly up with you,” she whispered. “You don’t have to carry me all the way up there.”

“Yes I do!” Rainbow replied stubbornly, still holding her grip. She drew back just enough to meet Twilight’s gaze, staying close enough that their snouts touched. “It doesn’t matter that you’ve got wings now—you weren’t born a pegasus. I have to carry you.”

Twilight sighed and made to argue further, but she found herself silenced by a kiss.

Lingering a moment, Rainbow held her tight, running her warm, wet tongue along Twilight’s lips in a way that always drew a shuddering gasp forth from the back of her throat. She pulled away, a small smile gracing her muzzle as she nuzzled against Twilight. “Please, Twi. I’ll explain everything when we get up there. Can’t we just do this the pegasus way, just once?” She dotted the end of Twilight’s snout with a kiss, then, in a breathy whisper, added, “For me?”

Her ears twitched at the tone; a hint of flirting, but tinged with a bit of nervousness Rainbow hadn’t shown since the first time she’d asked Twilight out on a date. Or their first night together.

It’s tradition. And she’s going the extra mile to be romantic.

Out of the corner of her eye, Twilight caught sight of a familiar pair trotting into the clearing—well, one trotting and pushing the other forward as he ducked his head low, whimpering and gaping up at the cloud city.

Caramel and Sassaflash. Twilight tilted her head, eying the pendant around his neck—the same one Sassaflash had her enchant with a cloud-walking spell the day before.

A bright smile spread across her muzzle. She leaned forward to whisper, “Looks like we’re not the only ones here.”

Rainbow furrowed her brows, then turned to look over her shoulder. As soon as she saw the pair, a wicked grin split her muzzle. She held a hoof to her lips and waggled her ears, a silent order to keep quiet and enjoy the show.

The pair before them didn’t disappoint.

“A-Are you sure about this?” Caramel stammered, his ears pinned back flat against his scalp.

Sassaflash giggled. “Relax, honey! We practiced, remember? I can carry you just fine!”

Caramel’s entire body seemed to shake the closer she pushed him to Cloudsdale’s shadow, his hooves digging small trenches in the dirt as Sassaflash pushed with all her might. “Th-Those times were all to clouds that were just overhead! C-Can’t I just take a balloon?”

Quick as a flash, Sassaflash flared her wings and darted around to stand in front of him. “Absolutely not!” she cried, placing her hooves on her hips. “You know how important this is!”

Caramel flinched and hung his head low. He mumbled something under his breath, his eyes downcast.

Sassaflash’s glare melted away. She landed before him and cupped his chin in her hoof. “I know you’re nervous, honey, but you’ve gotta trust me.” Dotting his forehead with a kiss, she nudged his head up so she could look into his eyes. “I promise I won’t drop you.” Her tone took on a more affectionate tinge as she made one last effort. “Please do this with me, I’ve been waiting a while to bring you here.”

His cheeks flushed red. Caramel gave a little whine of uncertainty, but relented, raising his head just enough to nuzzle beneath her chin. “If it’s that important to you, I’ll do it,” he said. Then, he added, “Can we please just take it slow, though?”

“I’ll take you up as fast or as slow as you want, honey!” Beaming, she pecked the end of his snout. Sassaflash trotted around him and unfurled her wings, playfully trailing them along his side before she took flight. She looped her hooves around his barrel and held him tight against her chest. “Ready?”

Caramel screwed his eyes shut and sucked in his lips, tucking his tail between his shaking hind legs. “R-Ready!”

“Okay, on three! One! Two! Three!” With a cheer and a big grin across her muzzle, Sassaflash beat her wings as hard as she could, pulling Caramel off the ground, laughing as he gave a little flail of his hooves. A quick kiss to his cheek and a few soothing whispers settled him enough that he relaxed in her grasp, though he seemed staunch in his refusal to look until he had his hooves on the clouds.

“Wow!” Twilight gasped, bringing a hoof to her mouth as she watched the pair ascend. She squinted, a smile played upon her lips as she noticed Caramel’s nervous grin.

Rainbow nudged a shoulder into her side. “Yeah. Wow.” With about as much subtlety as booming thunder, she threw a hoof across Twilight’s withers, and nosed just beneath her ear. “Your turn next,” she whispered, her breath ghosting over Twilight’s cheek. “Trust me? I’ve been working out, y’know.”

Twilight bit her lip to fight down a happy hum. “With my life,” she replied. “You still owe me an explanation, though.”

Chuckling, Rainbow pressed her lips against her cheek. “I plan to. Takeoff on three?”

This is ridiculous, the more logical side of her said. I have wings, I can fly perfectly well. Tradition is well and good, but it shouldn’t mean that Rainbow has to try to carry me all the way up to Cloudsdale.

But it’s important to her. Twilight smiled and nodded. “On three. Don’t you dare drop me,” she teased, eying Rainbow to see if she could catch a glimpse of that fiery competitor inside her. “Or else I’ll make you read my textbooks with me before bed instead of Daring Do.”

Instead, Rainbow just smiled and pecked her cheek before she wrapped both legs tight around Twilight’s barrel. “Princess Celestia couldn’t make me drop you, Twi. I’ve been waiting too long for this.”

Twilight’s left ear flicked, her muscles seemed to lock up. Not even a hint of hesitation. She didn’t quite register Rainbow counting to three, her mind still a half step behind as she tried to figure out just what sort of tradition this whole thing was.

A few quick beats of Rainbow’s mighty wings pulled her into the air, the ground beneath them seemed to shrink away as they left the clearing behind and flew toward Cloudsdale.

Perhaps for the first time since her ascension, Twilight felt herself returned to her younger days; whether in her balloon or safely carried in the hooves of Cadence or Celestia, or even her first night with the girls, she had always been a passenger when it came to flying.

It was that feeling of letting go, of control being taken out of her hooves as she put all her trust in somepony else that she hadn’t felt since.

Her heart raced, her lips tugged into a big, toothy grin as she relaxed and let Rainbow take control. With a merry swish of her tail, she threw back her head and called over the rushing wind, “Faster!”

Rainbow’s grip tightened. “Faster, huh?” she asked, the familiar, playful edge tinging her voice. Nosing into Twilight’s mane, she grinned. “You got it!”

Just as promised, Rainbow beat her wings faster, laughing with Twilight as they soared toward Cloudsdale. Twilight gave a jaunty wave as they sped passed Caramel and Sassaflash, who simply nodded in return and kept her more sedate pace so not to startle her boyfriend.

Twilight closed her eyes and arched her neck back, tucking her head beneath Rainbow’s chin as she held her hooves out to the side like a pair of wings. If she couldn’t fly with Rainbow, she could at least enjoy the feeling of wind rushing against her coat as she was carried.

“Almost there,” Rainbow said. “Feel up for a little loop-de-loop action?”

“Is that tradition?” Twilight shot back.

“Nope!” she chirped. “But there’s nothing that says we can’t! Hang on tight!”

Now, that was the Rainbow Dash she knew.

Grinning, she crossed her hooves over Rainbow’s and readied herself for the move. She leaned back with Rainbow as they flew passed the fluffy cloud surface and arced high against the backdrop of the midday sun.

As they reached the peak of their climb, both arched their backs, almost in perfect synchronization. Twilight looked up, the soft cyan of her love’s coat a contrast to the snowy white of Cloudsdale.

“Here comes the dive!” Rainbow called. “Ready?”

“Ready!”

With practiced ease, Twilight mimicked Rainbow’s posture, streamlining her body and letting gravity do the work for them. She strained to keep her eyes open against the bite of cold wind that whistled past her ears. Cloudsdale seemed to grow before her eyes, like she was flipping through the settings on her magnifying glass for more detail.

She squinted, picking out the tiny shapes of pegasi flitting from cloud to cloud, some escorting earthbound visitors, guiding them along the floating city’s pathways with a comforting wing draped across their back.

Closer and closer they came. Twilight released her hold on Rainbow’s legs, holding out her hooves and bending lightly at her knee for a running landing.

Rainbow, however, pulled up, flaring her wings out wide to slow them enough that she could set Twilight’s hooves down on the clouds as if she were carrying precious cargo. A far cry from her typical landings.

Before she could turn and ask, Rainbow landed at her side and pecked her cheek. “Welcome to Cloudsdale, Twi,” she said, nosing against her. “Can I show you around?”

Twilight opened her mouth, a bit of snark fresh on the tip of her tongue. She caught herself just in time.

I’ve been here before, but never just Rainbow and me. And I wasn’t with her at the time.

Giving a small smile, Twilight bared her cheek, allowing Rainbow free rein to kiss and nose against her. An invitation her girlfriend was all too eager to take. “I’d be happy if you would,” she replied. Then, she turned her head and caught Rainbow in a chaste kiss. “So,” she breathed, her lips brushing against Rainbow’s, “is this the big tradition? A guided tour, just for me?”

Rainbow grinned. “Kinda,” she said, stealing another kiss. “But it’s a lot better than that.”

“Oh?” Her feathers fluffed. She gave an excited rustle of her wings. “What do you have planned?”

Rather than give a straight answer, Rainbow turned and unfurled her wing, baring her side to Twilight. “Come on and get under my wing, and I’ll show you Cloudsdale—not that tourist routine you got before the flight show, real Cloudsdale. Our home.”

“Our home”?

Her heart leapt to her throat, Twilight felt a fire burning beneath her cheeks. Ducking her head, she stepped in close, slipping under Rainbow’s wing and pressing against her side.

As Rainbow wrapped her wing around her barrel, Twilight couldn’t help but notice that she just seemed to fit perfectly; she basked in the shared warmth, the soft touch of those downy feathers and sleek cyan coat, like she was just meant to be there.

My girlfriend, she hummed, rubbing her cheek against Rainbow’s, giggling at the way she bit her lip to hide a big, cheesy grin, those beautiful cerise eyes darting left and right before she stole a quick kiss. And “our home”, apparently.

“Well, well! If it isn’t Rainbow Crash!” A stallion’s voice called, carrying a mocking laugh with it.

Rainbow’s smile faltered. “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” she ground out through gritted teeth, her ears swiveled back to lay against her scalp. Turning, she aimed a heated glare toward a grinning stallion. “Hoops. Now is reallynot the time.”

Hoops landed a short distance before her, smirking and tossing his long brown mane, before giving a confident flex of his wings. “What’s the matter, Crash? Can’t stop and say hi to your old friend, Hoops? I’m hurt!”

“We’re not friends,” she deadpanned. “You made fun of Fluttershy and me for years, then did it again when I came back for the Best Young Flyers Competition, and only wanted to hang out after I won. Now, really, take a hint and fly off. Go fool around with Dumb Bell or something, for all I care.”

The confident smirk wiped off his muzzle. He ducked his head between his shoulders. “You don’t have to be so snippy about it,” he mumbled. “Just trying to have a little fun.”

Rainbow snorted. “And this really isn’t the best time! Take a hint and read the freaking mood, cloud-for-brains!” She tightened her grip around Twilight, almost as if using her for comfort.

“Huh?” He tilted his head, looking back and forth between Rainbow and Twilight a few times. Slowly, his ears perked up, then began to droop. His jaw fell. “Oh. Oh! Oh, shoot!” Hoops backpedalled and tripped over his hind legs, falling hard on his haunches. “I am so sorry! I had no idea you’d brought her up for—”

Shut up, stupid!” she snarled, stomping a hoof. “Are you trying to ruin the tradition?”

To Twilight’s surprise, Hoops gave a horrified squeak and took wing as though Rainbow had lit his tail on fire. “No! I’m sorry! I’m going!”

He took off without another word, flying from their presence as fast as his wings could carry him.

Curious. Twilight brought a hoof to her chin, humming in thought. She cast a glance to Rainbow, a frown marred her face as she watched her girlfriend close her eyes, her chest heaving as she took several deep breaths and counted backwards from ten. I don’t know if I’ve seen her this angry in a long time. This really is important to her.

Important for both of them, if Rainbow’s attitude was anything to go by. Why still remained to be seen, but no date should be ruined by a foalhood bully.

Nosing her way beneath Rainbow’s chin, she gave a breathy chuckle and whispered, “Lead on, Rainbow.”

To her delight, Rainbow perked up. With a bounce in her step, and a merry swish of her tail, she guided Twilight away from the landing and into Cloudsdale proper.

All the while, her wing stayed tight around Twilight’s barrel, almost possessive as it held her fast against Rainbow’s side.

It sure is something, this pegasus way. She hid a coy smile in favor of an excited grin as Rainbow pointed out some of the different cloudmarks and gave a quick rundown on the old battlements. I can hardly wait to see what “real” Cloudsdale means to her.

Or why this is so special for both of us.

Never before had Twilight seen Rainbow so animated, so passionate, about something other than flying or her Wonderbolt Reserve practice.

Her bright grin was matched only by her energy as she lead Twilight off the big walkways with tourists and guides dressed in silly hats and vests, toward the same cloud streets she used to walk with her parents on the way to school, or the old alleyways she used to play in with all the other foals.

“Real” Cloudsdale was not the Weather Factory or the liquid rainbow fountains. It was all the places Rainbow walked or flew by every day with her parents and friends. It was the back streets, the hole in the wall restaurants, and the pegasi who flew home to the West Nimbus district, tired after a long shift at the factory or out working with the clouds. Even a few of the older Wonderbolts officers flew by on their way to the Stratos district, eager to get home to their families.

It was all quite wonderful. Every so often, Rainbow would stop, her ears perked straight up as she caught sight of some shop owner out peddling their goods to passerbys, or restaurant owner in their nice suits standing at the door to greet guests, and call out their name, waiving a hoof at them from across the street.

“Hey, Pizza Pony!” she called, grinning at a portly stallion with a well-trimmed orange goatee when he turned and fixed her with a mock glare. “How’s the wife?”

Fighting back a smile that tugged at the corner of his lips, the stallion flicked his tail. “Enjoying a few quiet years, since there’s no rainbow-maned puledra flying about our restaurant, causing a big ruckus every time she comes in!” Then, he scowled and shook a hoof at her. “And it’s Piazzo, you little diavola!”

Rainbow scoffed. “Yeah, whatever, Pizza Pony!” She snickered, pulling her wing tighter around Twilight as Piazzo sucked in his lips and snorted at her. She leaned in to whisper in Twilight’s ear. “Piazzo’s got the best Istallion food in town. His family moved here from Istallia a few generations back and opened the Cloud Bistro when my great-grandpa was a colt.” Her eyes softened, the wicked, teasing smirk dropped into a small smile. “He always used to let me do mini routines out back while I waited for mom and dad to finish up at the weather factory.”

Twilight held a hoof to her chest, only just withholding a tiny coo. “That’s a sweet story!” Sneaking a little glance to Piazzo, she raised a brow. “So, where did ‘Pizza Pony’ come from?”

Rainbow’s smile fell. Giving an awkward cough, she rubbed at the back of her mane, her cheeks went bright red. “W-Well, there’s a, um, funny story about that! Y’see—”

“Oh, I think I can tell this one, my little diavola!” Piazzo flapped his wings and flew across the street, landing on Twilight’s opposite side. With a playful smirk, he examined his hoof as if checking for dirt. “This is one of my favorite stories about our dear Rainbow Dash!”

“P-Piazzo, c’mon!” Rainbow stammered, her ears pinned back against her scalp. “Twi doesn’t wanna hear this!”

Laughing, Twilight turned and kissed her cheek. “You wish!” she whispered, turning to Piazzo with a faux innocent smile. “By all means, Mister Piazzo! I’d just love to hear your story!”

“Piazzo, don’t you dare!” Rainbow tried to lunge at him, but Twilight shifted so she couldn’t leap over.

Piazzo’s eyes shone with mirth. “Well, when this diavola was just a little filly, her parents brought her to my restaurant for dinner one night—”

“I swear, one more word and I’ll—eep!” Twilight cut her off with a quick kiss beneath her chin, right at the spot that always made her squeal and squirm.

With Rainbow caught off guard, Twilight quickly wrapped her hooves around her shoulders, holding her tight so she couldn’t slip away. “Go on,” she said, glancing at Piazzo out of the corner of her eye, a smirk playing upon her lips.

He grinned. “Well, when little Rainbow’s mama introduced her to me, the poor little filly had trouble with my name. Oh, how she tried and tried to say it, but she always stumbled when she tried sounding it out. But then, she realized that it sounded almost like pizza—the very thing her parents had brought her out to eat.”

A hoof leapt to her mouth. Twilight let out a gasp, her smile growing into a full-blown grin. “You mean?”

Rainbow made a last ditch effort to swipe at him, but Twilight held her fast. “Piazzo, no! I’ll do anything! I’ll come wash dishes for a month!”

“Some things just don’t have a price, little diavola. The look on your face right now is one of them,” he said, giving her a cheeky smirk before turning his attention to Twilight again. “Si, signora. Since she couldn’t say Piazzo, little Rainbow pointed a hoof at me and said…” He held a hoof out to Rainbow, motioning for her to finish his sentence.

With a heavy sigh, she hung her head. “I said ‘it’s the Pizza Pony, mommy’.” Drawing in a sharp breath through her nose, she leveled a glare at him. “You are so gonna get it!”

Piazza threw back his head and laughed, his rotund belly shook with each breath. “I’m sure I will, little diavola, I’m sure I will!” He wiped a hoof across his eyes, chasing away a few tears of mirth, then took a deep breath. “So, you’ve come back, eh? And with a rather bella cavalla tucked tight underwing, no less.” As she squirmed beneath his gaze, he raised an eyebrow. “Care to introduce me?”

“Uh, right. Yeah.” Rainbow coughed, rubbing at the back of her mane with her free hoof. “Piazzo, this is my girlfriend, Twilight Sparkle.” She gave another cough. “She’s the, uh, Princess of Friendship, too. I probably should’ve said that first.”

He fixed her with a quizzical look. “What thunderhead do you think I’ve been living in, little diavola? I know a princess when I see one!”

“I thought you said every mare was a princess…”

“And so they are! It looks like you learned something from me!” Piazzo bowed his head to Twilight. “I’m delighted to meet you, Princess. Truly, it’s an honor.”

Twilight gave her wing a little rustle. “It’s nice to meet you as well, Mister Piazzo.”

He laughed and shook his head. “The pleasure is mine, Your Highness. Nice to see our little diavola decided to bring her special somepony up like a proper pegasus.”

Twilight waggled her ears, her eyes flitted to Rainbow’s startled face. Curious. “Rainbow?”

“Later,” she mouthed, then fixed a grin on her muzzle. “C’mon, you old cloud-sniffer! Who else would I bring her to see? Those three losers from flight school?” Snorting, she flicked her tail. “Besides, I’m showing her around the actual city, none of that tourist-y stuff!”

Piazzo stomped a hoof and nodded. “That’s my girl!” With a smile, he jerked his head toward the restaurant and said, “Well, since you’re showing her the real Cloudsdale, why not bring her in for dinner?”

“Trying to make a little coin offa me?” Rainbow asked, waggling her eyebrows. “You hustler.”

“Ha! You know me better, little diavola! I’m trying to give your mare a proper introduction to our fine city! Besides—” he grinned and took wing, flying toward the Cloud Bistro’s front door “—the Missus would skin us both if she found out you didn’t drop in for dinner with your special somepony.”

Rainbow cringed, a visible shudder ran through her body. “Yeah, Angel Hair would have my wings.” She gave a sheepish grin and nosed against Twilight’s cheek, muttering, “Don’t suppose you mind entertaining them and having Istallion for dinner?”

Twilight smiled and shook her head. “Not at all. I’d be happy to.”

With a little hum of excitement, Rainbow wrapped a wing around her once more and tugged her along. Piazzo held the door open to admit the pair, and as soon as they crossed through the threshold, Rainbow cupped a hoof to her mouth and called out, “Mama! Put the garlic rolls in the oven, the Dash is back!”

Ponies young and old perked up their ears and glanced toward the door. Twilight watched their eyes light up as soon as they saw Rainbow, each waving and greeting her like she was family.

Perhaps she is to all of them. Twilight thought, biting her lip to hold back a little coo as a tiny filly at the table nearest to the door bounced in her seat, beaming when Rainbow reached down to tussle her mane and go on about how much the little one had grown.

Real Cloudsdale, huh?

There was a loud bang as a rather small mare burst through the kitchen door, her snow white coat and blonde mane clean, a contrast to her messy white apron, stained with flour and sauces. Her eyes narrowed, darting around until they finally settled on Rainbow Dash, then softened. A warm smile settled on her aged muzzle. “There’s my bambina!” she called, trotting forward and weaving around tables and patrons with ease. “Get over here and give your second mama a hug!”

Rainbow lifted her wing to release her hold on Twilight, then bounded over to meet Angel Hair, sweeping the smaller mare up into a tight hug. “Hey, mama! Glad to see you haven’t let Pizza Pony burn the place down!”

“Oh, he tries!”

From his place by the door, Piazzo snorted. “I leave a dishrag by the stove one time, and you turn me into an arsonist. I ought to charge you double, diavola!”

Silence, mi amore!” Angel Hair shot back, smiling coyly. “You stand by the door like a good stallion and leave the cooking to Mama Angel! I’ll take care of our little bambina!”

Chuckling, Piazzo shook his head, then blew her a kiss before stepping outside once more to greet potential patrons.

Angel Hair gave a wistful sigh, then turned her gaze upon Twilight. She arched a brow. “Do my old eyes deceive me?” she asked, her smile growing a bit more playful. “Bambina, did you finally bring a special somepony up? After all those years of being ‘too cool’ for romance?”

Rainbow ducked her head between her shoulders, fixing Twilight with a sidelong look and pointedly ignoring a few teasing whistles and merry thumping of hooves against the wooden tables. “Yeah,” she said, her tone soft. “Her name’s Twilight Sparkle. And—” she drew in a deep breath, as if readying herself to go on a trial run “—she’s definitely worth it.”

Twilight felt her heart leap into her throat.

“Is she now?” Angel waggled her ears.

She looked Twilight up and down a moment, surveying her as if she were looking at fresh vegetables in the market. Humming, she slipped out of Rainbow’s embrace and trotted over to stand before Twilight. Her eyes flitted from the pair of wings to the horn, her brows raised just slightly. “A princess?” she asked, a sly smirk playing upon her lips. “Your Highness, you do know what you’re getting into, don’t you?”

“Hey!” Rainbow cried indignantly.

“Hush, bambina,” Angel replied, glancing over her shoulder. “The grownups are talking. Don’t be rude.” Returning her gaze to Twilight, she placed a hoof on her shoulder. “Our bambina is a beautiful little rainbow, with a drive Hurricane himself would’ve held as standard, but she truly is a diavola in disguise. You sure you’re ready to stand by her side.”

Twilight blinked, then, as the words registered, she narrowed her eyes. “As ready as I was when we stood against Nightmare Moon on the night I first met her.” Casting a glance to Rainbow, she gave a tiny smile. “You could say I’m happy to have her as my diavola.”

Angel beamed, then removed her hoof. “Well, any mare my bambina says is worth it and gives an answer like that is welcome. And a princess, no less! Just when I thought I’d seen everything this little diavola had…” She shook her head in bemusement, turning to wave a wing at a small, two pony table along the back wall. “You two girls sit down over there. I’ll have Marsala come out to get your order.”

“Marsie’s still here?” Rainbow grinned. “I thought she was gonna marry that goofball from Manehattan and moved in with him!”

Angle turned to walk toward the kitchen, still giving that coy little smile. “You missed all the fun, bambina. Marsala went a month away from home, then missed it so much she convinced Nor’easter to transfer to the Cloudsdale City Guard. They’re happy as can be now.”

“Good for her! Knew she’d end up bringing him back!” She lead Twilight over to their table, moving to pull Twilight’s chair out for her and giving a bright smile as she sat down, then trotted around to take the seat across from her. Rainbow scrunched up her snout in thought. “Hey, Basil’s still here, right?”

“Basil?” Angel scoffed and gave a dismissive flick of her tail. “He’s a mama’s colt, no matter how big he’s grown! We couldn’t get rid of him if we tried!”

Snickering, Rainbow rustled a wing. “Can he come out and say hi? Or can you at least tell him that his favorite little sis is here?”

She scoffed again, rolling her eyes. “Oh, please, bambina. Your call could wake the dead, Basil will come out as soon as he finishes up his orders, then you can cause all the—”

As if on cue, the kitchen door burst open again to reveal a stallion of dark green coat came trotting through, a black tray was laid across his withers, bearing several plates of steaming hot food. “Wake the dead? Mama, don’t underscore her!” he said, giving a booming laugh that seemed to make the cloud floor vibrate. “Little Rainbow could wake Hurricane himself if she tried!”

Humming to herself, Angel nodded. “True, bambino.” She trotted passed him, sidestepping him so not to disturb the tray of food, before she slipped back into the kitchen, fondly trailing her feathers over his side as she went.

Twilight clapped her hooves over her mouth to hide a bout of giggles, earning a sidelong glare from Rainbow.

The doors flipped once before a second mare trotted out, this one with tan coat and deep red mane, and a hint of red in the tips of her feathers. As soon as she saw Rainbow, she gave a big smile and waved, careful not to tip the tray of drinks on her back. “Be with you in a second, Rainbow!”

Rainbow beamed and leaned back in her chair to call back, “No worries, Marsie!” Then, she turned to face Twilight again, a mock scowl on her muzzle. “Something funny, Twi?”

She shook her head. “Nothing, dear!” she replied in a faux innocent tone that made Rainbow’s ears twitch.

“‘Nothing’ my hoof.” Rainbow placed a hoof on the table, slowly standing to loom over her. A menacing gleam shone in her eyes. “Do I need to tickle it out of you?”

Twilight stuck her tongue out. “You forget who wins all our tickle fights!” She channeled magic through her horn, engulfing Rainbow in the soft magenta glow of her aura and letting it run along her sides in a soft caress.

With a little squeak, Rainbow sat down, her cheeks fiery red. “Aw, c’mon!” she whined, her eyes darting to Basil, ducking low to hide from his gaze. “You’re not supposed to tease me on my own turf!”

“Too bad, Rainbow,” Twilight replied, fixing her with a playful smirk. She leaned over to nuzzle her nose, another bout of giggles bubbled forth as Rainbow struggled to fight back a little smile. “You seem rather close with them,” she noted, her voice low. “‘Second mama’ and ‘favorite little sis’?”

“Yeah.” Rainbow nodded. “Like I said, my parents were always working, so when they weren’t around, I just hung out with my classmates or I came here. They’re kinda my not-blood family.”

A correction was fresh on the tip of her tongue, but she managed to bite it back. “Your ‘not-blood’ family?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah, I mean, I saw them almost as much as I saw my real parents, so why not?” She shrugged. “It worked fine, I think I turned out alright.”

Twilight bobbed her head. If that’s how Rainbow wanted to rationalize it, who was she to judge?

It was sweet. In a way that was very much Rainbow Dash—nice gestures to show affection, but without actually saying how much it meant or what exactly it was until she felt comfortable enough.

Is this it, then? Her big thing was to bring me up, show me where she lived, and introduce me to the ponies she knows?The gears in her mind turned. It wasn’t all that different from traditions held by unicorns, or earth ponies as far as she knew. That still doesn’t explain why she had to carry me…

Her curiosity piqued, Twilight decided to press for details again. “Rainbow?”

“Hmm?” Rainbow tilted her head. “What’s up, Twi?”

“You promised you’d explain,” she replied. Twilight folded her hooves on the table, regarding her as though she were looking at a text that needed translating. “Everypony else seems in on something I’m missing.”

Rainbow blinked twice, confused. Then, her eyes lit up. “Oh! Yeah, I did. Uh, right.” She shifted her weight from side to side, her eyes looking anywhere but Twilight’s. “The, uh, explanation is supposed to come at the end. Right when the sun sets. That’s how Commander Hurricane did it way back when, and that’s how we’ve done it since.”

Twilight’s ears stood up straight. Now, there’s something. “What does Commander—”

Before she could press further, Rainbow cut her off, her voice betrayed a hint of desperation for a change of subject, “Here—” she reached to the side and pulled a menu out of the holder, holding it out for her “—take a look. They’ve got a ton of good stuff.”

Lighting up her horn, Twilight accepted the menu in her magic. I see we’re going to play it her way all the way through. With a sigh, she began skimming over the selection, pausing to add, “I’m going to hold you to that explanation at the end, Rainbow. You know you’re just playing with my curiosity now.”

Rainbow waggled her ears, her eyes lit up like it was Hearth’s Warming. “It’ll be good, I promise! It’s just gotta wait or it’s not gonna be right.”

Just as she finished, Marsala trotted over to their table, her tray folded neatly under her wing. “Sorry about that, you caught us in the middle of dinner rush!” Her eyes flitted to Twilight, then back to Rainbow. Her tan and orange tinged feathers fluffed. “So, level with me, is mama telling tales or is this the mare you’ve brought up for…” she trailed off, giving a the slightest raise of her brows.

“Yeah, so hush up. Telling her is my job.” Rainbow gestured toward Twilight. “This is my girlfriend, Twilight Sparkle. Twilight, this is Marsala, only daughter and youngest of the Pizza Pony clan.” At Marsala’s raised brow, she hastily added, “Er, second youngest if you count me.”

“Very nice to meet you,” Twilight said with a little bow of her head.

“The pleasure’s mine, Your Highness.” Marsala’s eyes gleamed, she fixed Rainbow with a little glare. “You never said you were dating into royalty.”

Rainbow gave a nervous chuckle. “Y-Yeah. You know me, just trying to play it cool.”

Marsala arched a brow. “Hey, Basil!” she called, her eyes never leaving Rainbow. “You ever know our diavola to play something ‘cool’ that didn’t involve backflipping through the air or crowing to everypony who’d listen?”

Across the room, Basil turned to fix her with a smirk. “Can’t say I have. Not unless she was trying to hide her report cards from mama and papa.” His smirk grew into a full, toothy grin. “Even then, she always still had those shifty eyes.”

Gah!” Rainbow cried. “You both suck!”

The siblings shared a laugh. Marsala shook her head, reaching out to tussle Rainbow’s mane. “You’re too easy, little sis.” Looking toward Twilight again, she grinned. “Keep an eye on her, would you? She’s the baby sister I never really had.”

“Oh, I think I can manage that.” Twilight grinned at the way Rainbow squirmed in her seat.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re both hilarious,” Rainbow grumped, ducking her head between her shoulders. She gave a little cough and snatched the remaining menu out of the holder. “So, uh, food. I guess I’ll get—”

“Who are you kidding? You know you’re going to get pizza and a soda.” Marsala rolled her eyes. “Princess?”

Twilight bit her lip, trying her best not to laugh. “I’ll go with pizza as well. And water for me.”

“I’ll let Linguini know, and I’ll bring the drinks in just a second.” Nodding, Marsala turned and trotted toward the kitchen.

Rainbow blew a raspberry at the mare as she disappeared into the kitchen. “Smart mouth,” she grumped.

“Somepony had to keep you in check all those years,” Basil quipped from a couple tables over. He smiled and nodded to Twilight. “Basil Pesto, Your Highness. Pleasure to meet you.”

Again, Twilight gave a little bow of her head. “Nice to meet you as well, Mister Pesto.”

“Take away the ‘o’ and you’ll have what he really is!” Rainbow cut in, sniggering at her joke. “You’re nothing but a great, big pest, Basil!”

Basil grinned. “Is that so?” Folding his tray beneath his wing, he picked up one of the few empty seats and dragged it over to their table, plopping himself down in it. He cast a meaningful look from Rainbow to Twilight, then gave a slight raise of his brows. “Well, since I’m such a pest, I think it’s story time. Princess? How would you like to hear about the time Rainbow played ‘Batmare’ in the middle of a dinner rush?”

Rainbow reared back and squawked. “You guys all swore that’d stay in the family! I mean, uh—” her eyes darted between the pair, a strained grin crossed her muzzle. “C’mon, Basil, Twi’s already heard that story about your dad’s nickname!”

“If you brought her up, she’s already on her way,” he shot back. “Unless, of course, Her Highness doesn’t want to hear it.”

Two sets of eyes fell on Twilight; one gleaming with mischievous intent, the other sending a silent plea for mercy.

She folded her hooves over her stomach and reclined in her seat. Really, there was only one answer.

“Tell me everything.”

Later, Twilight would bemoan that she didn’t have a camera on hoof to capture the horrified look on Rainbow’s face as the words left her mouth. “Oh no,” she whimpered.

Basil’s ears perked up. “Well, let’s just see how much I can tell before the food comes out. If I recall, Rainbow had just turned seven…”

Twilight laughed heartily, calling a happy goodbye over her shoulder as she left the Cloud Bistro with Rainbow. “Oh, dear Celestia! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat again!” she moaned. “I think I’ve gained about twenty pounds!”

Sniggering, Rainbow nodded and wrapped a wing around her, pulling her in tight. “Yeah, I should’ve warned you that Angel’s kinda like the Apple family. If you’re not bursting at the seams, you haven’t eaten enough.” She licked her lips. “Good stuff though, eh?”

“Amazing, some of the best I’ve ever had.” Twilight scrunched up her nose, a shudder ran down her spine as a thought came to her. “Don’t tell the Apples. I can’t take a repeat of my first day in Ponyville.”

Rainbow let out a laugh and shook her head. Both knew exactly how the Apple family might take any claim their food was anything less than king in the culinary world. Especially if they got wind it came from somepony outside Ponyville.

So much pride in their home. She glanced at Rainbow, her eyes lingering on the big grin spread across her muzzle. Those beautiful cerise eyes alight and soft, downy feathers tickling against her side as Rainbow lead her toward Thunderhead Alley—which, as it so happened, wasn’t actually an alleyway, but the only street that lead up to the second cloud level. Or, as Cloudsdale natives called it—

“The seventy-five climb,” Rainbow said, nodding to the inclined cloud street ahead. “Some of the cloudscapers got really creative when they were making these older parts of town. There was still a little bit of worry that the three tribes couldn’t work together, namely that the unicorns would use cloud walking spells and try to invade.” She paused to nudge Twilight’s shoulder. “‘Cause you’re all just cheeky with that magic of yours.”

Twilight stuck her tongue out, then returned the nudge. “Says the mare whose ancestors built a seventy-five degree street as a defense.”

“Yeah. The thought was apparently that you guys would be slowed down enough for us to just roll out thunderheads, give ‘em a good kick, and then just watch the making of some Cloudsdale-fried unicorns.” She shrugged, brushing her coat against Twilight’s. “Nowadays, it’s residential and all. And, y’know, a nice lead up to all the big government buildings, the Cloudiseum, the Wonderbolts’ base and Academy, and the Flight School.”

Her ears twitched. Twilight cocked her head to the side and scrunched up her snout.

“Don’t gimme that look,” Rainbow said with a smirk as they began their trek up Thunderhead Alley. “Commander Hurricane liked unifying, but he was still cautious. Nearly didn’t make any streets for visitors until Private Pansy convinced him to do it as a symbolic gesture.”

With a happy hum, Twilight pressed close against her side. “That was a rather nice step in relations. Same with the weather management coordinating with earth pony famers and unicorn businessmen in old Canterlot.” She let her wing unfurl, trailing her primaries along Rainbow’s side. “Bringing me on a tour through historical sites and your favorite places, this must be a special thing for you!”

Rainbow gave a shake of her head. “Not me. Us.”

“Yes, as you’ve told me a few times.” Twilight made a show of perking up her ears. “It’s almost sunset. Isn’t it about time you told me about this thing Commander Hurricane did and how it involves us?”

Another shake of her head. “Not yet,” she replied, barely above a whisper. “Almost, though. One last stop to make.” She pulled Twilight along with a sharp tug of her wing. Then, she nodded toward the top of the cloud hill. “We’re gonna hang a right up there and head toward the Flight School.”

Blinking, Twilight stopped. “Flight School?” she repeated. With a playful smirk, she leaned forward, fixing Rainbow with a narrow-eyed stare. “Who are you and what have you done with Rainbow Dash? She’d never go near a school of her own volition!”

Rainbow’s smile faltered, she stopped to cast a sidelong look at Twilight. “Funny,” she said, her tone betraying a hint of irritation. “I’m being serious.”

“Oh.” Her ears drooped. Twilight ducked her head and muttered a quick apology under her breath. She bit her bottom lip as she resumed walking, the steady fwump of her hooves against the fluffy cloud surface a welcome break from the silence.

When they reached the top of Thunderhead Alley, the first thing Twilight noticed was the biting chill in the air. She shivered and pressed herself closer against Rainbow’s side, doing her best to use the wing around her barrel for protection.

A little chuckle escaped Rainbow’s lips. She wrapped her wing tighter around Twilight as they turned right and came to the edge of the cloud surface. Twilight looked out across the empty sky at the Flight School’s lone administration building and the courses floating in the distance.

“So, flying the rest of the way?” she asked.

“Nah, I thought we’d swim.”

Rolling her eyes, Twilight flicked her tail across Rainbow’s flank. “Now who’s being the funny mare?”

“Hey, if you wanna play, I get to play too.” Rainbow flared her wings and gave them a little flex, smiling back at her before she took to the air. “Come on. I’ll carry you again.”

“Still not letting me fly, huh?”

“You’re still not a natural-born pegasus. Or alicorn. So yes.”

Twilight nodded and took a step closer, lifting her legs to allow Rainbow to loop her hooves under. “No tricks this time,” she warned. “No more delaying.”

Soft lips pressed into her mane. “Wouldn’t dream of it,” Rainbow replied as she took off, slowly flying toward the school. “Breaks tradition if I don’t tell you at sunset.”

So very vague! She flicked her tail, fighting back the urge to let out a low whine as they passed over the administration building and flew toward the obstacle course.

Without looking up, she knew Rainbow was grinning. She just had to be loving every second—not knowing something but having the answer within her grasp drove Twilight crazy, and she knew it.

A poorly suppressed bout of snickers all but confirmed her suspicions.

This mare, I swear.

Rainbow veered to the left, following along the outer edges of the course. She carried Twilight toward a few smaller clouds, specially set aside for spectators and instructors to watch young foals fly through the obstacles.

“Going to let me watch you go through your foalhood track?” Twilight asked as she was set down on one of the spectators’ clouds.

“Pfft! Good joke, Twi.” Rainbow landed next to her and sat back on her haunches, her wing pulling Twilight to sit with her. “This stuff is literally for newbies. We’d both fall asleep before I was halfway through the first leg.”

Shrugging, Twilight leaned against her to share their warmth. “I don’t know. I think it might be fun to see you do it. Kind of like how it feels whenever I go back to the School for Gifted Unicorns.” She turned to press her lips against Rainbow’s cheeks, trailing her snout along until she neared her ear. Her breath washed over the blue haired tip, bringing forth a shuddering gasp from her love’s lips. “I heard that,” she teased.

“It’s just cold,” Rainbow shot back, a whimper tinging her voice. She flinched as Twilight breathed against her again, pinning her ear back to hide it. With a squeak, she ducked low and nosed her way beneath Twilight’s chin. “You stop that,” she growled, nipping at her neck. “It’s almost time.”

Twilight bit her lip, the corners of her mouth tugged into a happy smile. “Yes it is.” Arching her neck, she gave happy squeal, then pushed Rainbow away with a hoof. “That means you have to behave too!”

The only response she received was a crude raspberry blown mere inches from her cheek, before Rainbow settled in beside her again, laying her head atop Twilight’s as they watched the sun begin its steady descent.

Slowly, the sky was stained with a mix fiery orange and soft purple, a slow ceding of Celestia’s bright, sunny day to the cool embrace of Luna’s night.

Rainbow coughed to draw her attention. “So, um, this thing.” Her feathers twitched, tickling against Twilight’s side. “I kinda have to tell you an old story for it to make sense.” She gave another cough and rubbed at the back of her mane. “Did you ever hear the one about how Commander Hurricane proposed to Clover the Clever?”

Twilight flicked her ear. “I’d read about them marrying a few years after they’d sorted out the first Equestrian Parliament system, but not the full story. I was a bit more interested in the historical context of their union at the time.”

“Most ponies are. But to pegasi, it’s something important.” Another fidget, Rainbow’s tail flicked. “The way the story goes is that he invited her to visit Cloudsdale around sundown. He came to meet her in Old Canterlot, but didn’t have a balloon ready for her. All he had was a carriage for them to ride in so they could get to where Cloudsdale was floating at the time.”

“I imagine that must’ve been a bit jarring,” Twilight cut in.

With an awkward chuckle, Rainbow nodded. “Yeah. The way the full story goes, she was kinda like—” she stopped to bring a hoof to her mouth, fighting back a bout of snickers.

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “A lot like what?”

“Like you, Twi.” Rainbow sat up straight, furrowing her brows and cocking her head to the side. “I don’t understand why you couldn’t just bring a balloon, Hurricane!” she said, mimicking Twilight’s voice. “We could’ve just gone straight to the city instead of taking a carriage! What in the sun’s name are you planning?”

Fluffing her wings, Twilight sucked in her lips. “I don’t sound like that!” she said, laughter tinged her tone.

“Uh huh, sure, Twi.” Kissing the top of her mane, Rainbow grinned. “Anyway, when they showed up, there was still no balloon or anything. Not even a sky-chariot. She wasn’t to thrilled, and thought he’d done something without planning, so she scolded him a little.” She waggled her ears. “Hurricane just let her lecture him for a bit, then cut in when she stopped to catch her breath; he unfurled his wings and told her he didn’t need help bringing the mare he loved home, and offered to carry her himself. Took her a bit to wrap her head around the idea, but once she did, Clover kinda complained about how he didn’t have to do something like that. But—”

“Hurricane wouldn’t have it,” Twilight finished for her. “He was probably as bull-headed as you about it!”

“Yeah, well, he’s the one who started this whole thing, so show a little respect!” She leaned up and nipped at Twilight’s ear, holding it a moment and giving a little twist.

A warning.

Rainbow let go of her ear and spared a quick kiss before she picked up where she’d left off. “He wouldn’t take no for an answer. Eventually, Clover gave up and let him carry her to the city. Again, she expected something different out of him—probably a big dinner or celebration, something like a lot of old unicorn affairs.”

Twilight felt the tickle of feathers against her coat as Rainbow’s wing tightened around her. She looked down in muted fascination at the beautiful cyan primaries touching against her belly, brushing against her as light as a soft kiss from the very mare holding her so.

She licked her lips. When had they become so dry?

Rainbow pressed on, “There was no party or anything. Hurricane lead her through the city, showing off some of pegasus innovation in cloudscaping and the way they’d kept the old Pegasopolis military feel while changing some of it to show the newer age of peace, he even brought her to eat with a few of his top legionnaires, including Private Pansy and her wife, Flutterwing. It was all just small-scale, very low key for him. Kinda the opposite of him being, y’know, the Commander Hurricane and all.”

She took in a deep breath and held it a moment, as if readying herself for a race. “And then he took her to the edge of the city and carried her up to a lone cloud, just big enough for the two of them to sit on and talk while they watched the sun set.”

A heavy silence fell over the pair. Twilight made to speak, but any words she could think of caught in her throat.

The sun touched the horizon, giving off its last gleam of the day, a brilliant light against a backdrop of the coming night.

“S-So,” Rainbow said, her voice cracked with emotion, “he, uh, told her that he wished he could’ve shown her Pegasopolis so she could see where he grew up, all the places he loved as a foal. But Cloudsdale was his pride and joy, and it had bigger value to both of them since it was part of Equestria. It was the best he could do at the time.” She shifted a trembling hoof over to touch Twilight’s, her touch a bit hesitant as she made to take hold.

The other reached up to touch Twilight’s cheek.

Her breath hitched in her throat. “Go on,” she whispered, her ears standing straight up.

Rainbow’s hoof left her cheek. “Hurricane told her that, in pegasus culture, the sky belongs to us. Not griffons, not dragons, us.” She thumped her hoof against her chest. “We shape the clouds and control weather like nothing else can, so it’s ours. And, well…” her voice trailed off, Rainbow ducked her head low. She stole a quick glance toward the sun, a low whine sounded from the back of her throat. “Oh, horseapples!”

Curious, Twilight followed her gaze.

The last edges of the sun were slowly sinking behind the horizon—Rainbow’s time was almost up.

“Okay, taking too long!” Rainbow cupped her cheek and turned her head, bringing Twilight muzzle-to-muzzle with her.

Warm breath washed over her face, Twilight felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. She tried to speak, instead a tiny squeak slipped through her lips.

Rainbow’s eyes flashed with determination. “The gist of it is that Hurricane offered her everything—all he loved about Cloudsdale, the sky itself, and all his love. Since then, pegasi have all done the same whenever they fell in love with an earth pony or a unicorn any time they want to… y’know.”

Everything clicked at once for Twilight. Her wings twitched, ready to take flight.

She watched Rainbow for a moment, the trembling in her hooves returned in earnest. “So, uh, that brings us to everything today.”

Hesitating. Her nerves were starting to kick in. Behind all her bravado, Rainbow still needed to know she had support.

Twilight took Rainbow’s hoof. “Go on,” she whispered. “Tell me.”

“J-Just gimme a sec.” Rainbow closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I’ve waited to do this while,” she said in a rather shaky tone. “Just bring you up here and show you everything I loved about this place, because it’s really important to me. And so are you. S-So, I, uh—the sky! Yes, the, uh, sky. And stuff. Oh, crud.” She ducked her head low, her voice dropped barely above a low murmur. “I’m sorry, I had a thing to say all planned out, and it was nice, but I can’t—”

Twilight pressed a hoof against Rainbow’s lips. “Yes,” she said, her lips slowly tugging into a bright grin.

Rainbow blinked twice, then she brushed Twilight’s hoof away. “Really?”

Quick as a flash, Twilight pounced. She pinned Rainbow’s shoulders to the cloud base, slowly nuzzling her nose in a circle. “Yes. The answer is yes. I accept all of it; the sky, Cloudsdale, your love, you, us, everything. I don’t care if you forgot whatever you were going to say,” she said. “Today was great, I had an amazing time seeing Cloudsdale with you, the story was sweet, and if you don’t kiss me right now, I’m going to turn your coat pink for a month.”

Grinning, Rainbow maneuvered her hooves to wrap around Twilight’s waist, then leaned up to capture her lips in a deep kiss.

Twilight let her eyes flutter shut as she gave a contented sigh into the kiss. She drew back to plant a soft kiss at the end of Rainbow’s nose, smiling down at the mare pinned beneath her.

A thought came to her. Her smile shifted from happy and content, to coy and mischievous. “Hey, Rainbow,” she said, playfully drawing out her name.

Rainbow’s ears perked up, her brows knitted together. “Yeah?”

“How would you like to participate in a unicorn tradition? Similar to the one we just shared.”

“Uh, sure.” She tilted her head to the side. “Wait, why are you asking me now? What happened to kissing?”

Twilight giggled and kissed her nose again. “There’ll be more kisses in a second, but there’s just one more thing we need to take care of.” She leaned in, bringing her mouth close to Rainbow’s ear to whisper, “I still have to meet your real parents.”

Rainbow gaped. “T-Twi, c’mon! You don’t really wanna—I mean, you already got to have a laugh with the Pizza family, that’s all the family embarrassment we need!”

A quick peck to the lips silenced her. “Now, now, Rainbow,” Twilight scolded, her tone husky as she leaned in for another. “This is very important to me. You’ve already met my parents, now I get to meet yours. After all—” she unfurled her wings, her feathers brushed against Rainbow’s, bringing forth a shuddering gasp and a tiny squeal from the back of her throat.

“—It’s tradition.”

   
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