The Challenge

This story is a sequel to Hurricane's Way
It's no secret that pegasi have a long, proud history as the warrior tribe. Their race boasts some of ponykind's greatest military minds, fearless legions that struck fear into the hearts of any who dared oppose them with their mighty lightning lancers and thunderhead squads.
Honor, duty, and protecting their own kind were the very foundation of the old legions, a notion that holds true to this very day. The strong protect the weak, and the weak stay safe under wing, grateful for their care.
But just how do they make such a big decision? Who determines the stronger pony out of two so closely bonded?
For all those questions, there is but one answer:
The Challenge.
Preread by Cynewulf, Jondor, and Timaeus. Thanks, guys.
Cover art by FairDahlia.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/337287/the-challenge

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1. By the Rites of Pegasus Courtship

Twilight couldn’t study while somepony stared a hole in the side of her head. The hairs of the back of her neck stood up, her tail twitched in agitation as she did her best to ignore Starlight sniggering across the table.

“You’re gonna have to look,” Starlight said, her voice tinged with poorly suppressed mirth.

She set her mouth in a thin line and let out a deep sigh through her nose. “Thank you, Starlight,” she ground out, cursing her newest friend’s penchant for snide little comments. Slowly, Twilight turned away from her reading to meet her fiancée’s gaze. “Hello, Rainbow,” she said with a stiff nod. “Is there a particular reason you’re trying to pierce a hole in the side of my head today?”

“Hey, Twi. And, yeah.” Rainbow gave a single nod in reply. Her lips curved into a small frown, like she were trying to solve a Daring Do riddle.

Another bout of sniggering brought forth another sigh. Twilight fought the urge to bring a hoof to her forehead to stem the oncoming headache.

It seemed she’d be practicing her dentistry today, since getting answers out of Rainbow could be like pulling teeth some days.

Not that she didn’t love Rainbow dearly—far from it, in fact. Rainbow was as rough and tumble as anypony came, but she had her tender moments.

That lovely trip up to Cloudsdale a few months back was still fresh in her mind. Hurricane’s Way, as she learned it was called.

Meeting Piazzo’s family, seeing the backroads, and walking the same path Rainbow took to and from school every day made a smile spread across her face each time she thought back to it. Especially after she managed to cajole a trip to meet Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistle afterward.

Come to think of it, Rainbow had been awfully shifty around that time, too. And she still hadn’t arranged a visit.

Her ears perked up. Was that it?

She turned so she was sitting sidesaddle in her seat to give Rainbow her full attention. She’d have to be gentle. Pressuring Rainbow for anything she didn’t want to say only led to her getting defensive and clamming up. “Is something wrong?”

Rainbow blinked a few times. “Huh? No, nothing wrong.” She shook her head. “Just thinking about how I wanna do this.”

“Typically, one answers a question with words,” Starlight quipped.

Twilight shot her a sidelong glare and drew a hoof across her throat. The last thing she needed was for Rainbow to get defensive about whatever she was thinking about, and turn this into a big argument.

But it never came. Rainbow just pursed her lips and propped her elbow on the table. Her eyes never left Twilight’s. She was completely focused on her task, whatever it might be.

“Rainbow,” Twilight began, reaching out to touch her foreleg. “What’re you thinking about? Is there something you need my help for?” She leaned closer and set the bait. “Something you need to tell me, maybe?”

Silence held for a moment. Rainbow looked down at the floor, breaking her stare for the first time since she’d come into Twilight’s study. She nodded to herself, like she was psyching herself up for a flight through the Wonderbolts’ obstacle course, then raised her gaze to meet Twilight’s.

Her eyes narrowed. Deftly, she maneuvered her leg out from under Twilight’s hoof, pausing a second to give it a light squeeze in thanks. Then, her own hoof trembling, she reached for her wing and plucked a single, blue primary out.

With a wince, Rainbow held the feather up in front of Twilight’s nose. “I’ve made up my mind,” she said.

Confused, Twilight glanced at Starlight, who simply shrugged. What was she on about?

Before she could give voice to her question, Rainbow placed the feather in her hoof. “Twilight Sparkle,” Rainbow began, “I, Rainbow Dash, in accordance with the rites of pegasus courtship, challenge you to a contest at our pet play date spot in Ponyville Park tomorrow.”

Twilight drew back. “Pegasus courtship—challenge?” Wrinkling her snout, she looked at the feather in her hoof then at Rainbow.

Those cerise eyes shone with passion, Rainbow’s lips curved into a smile. Not her usual cocky smirk, but a genuine smile.

Her heart skipped a beat. A rosy hue crept into her cheeks as Rainbow leaned in and nuzzled her nose.

“Tomorrow,” Rainbow repeated. “Ponyville Park at five. Don’t be late, or that counts as a forfeit and I get you under wing.”

“Under what?” Twilight pulled away, holding Rainbow at hoof’s length. “Rainbow, you’re not making any sense right now. What is this thing you’re challenging me for?”

Rainbow grinned. “You’re smart, you’ve got a smart student and a bright dragon downstairs to help, and—” she made a point to look around Twilight’s study “—I see a ton of books in this room alone. I’m sure you can find something on pegasus traditions and read up on it.”

“Or you could just tell me and, you know, not leave me in the dark like you did for Hurricane’s Way.”

“That was part of the tradition,” Rainbow countered with a waggle of her ears and a little fluff of her feathers. “And I don’t recall you complaining after.”

Twilight fixed her with a glare. “Is not telling me part of the tradition this time?”

“Nope!”

“Then tell me!”

“Hmm, let me think about that.” Rainbow brought a hoof to her chin, feigning thought for a moment before scoffing and sticking out her tongue. “Nah, it’s more fun this way!” Quick as a flash, she slipped out of Twilight’s grip, pecked her nose, and darted over toward the door. She pulled it half closed, sticking her head around to add, “Oh, and just so you can’t try to wheedle it out of me tonight, I’ll be sleeping on Fluttershy’s couch. Later!” With one last grin, she shot off in a rush of feathers and prismatic trail.

“Rainbow! You get back here and—” Twilight broke off, groaning and bringing her hooves to her head. “Ooh!That mare!”

Across the table, Starlight chuckled. “She certainly knows how to get you wound up, doesn’t she?”

Twilight dragged her hooves down her face, turning her glare upon her smugly grinning student. “You could’ve helped me grab her or something.”

Starlight gave a big, fake gasp. “And ruin dear Rainbow’s plan for you to research her traditions?” She brought a hoof to her chest. “I would never!

“You’re a real comedian,” Twilight deadpanned. With a shake of her head, she took a deep breath and looked down at her textbook. “Now, let’s focus.” She made to tap her hoof on the page, only to find Rainbow’s feather still held in her grasp.

Furrowing her brows, she shook her head and set it aside. She’d deal with that later.

“Albert Einstallion’s theory on relativity. Fitting, I think, since we’re both rather versed in time traveling spells, and he was one of the first to explore the flow of time since Star Swirl himself.”

“Not a bad place to start,” Starlight noted, the smugness still present in her tone.

Twilight sighed. “I’m not breaking from this. We have a schedule, this is magic study time. Figure out why Rainbow is being vague time will come later. Maybe.”

“Of course.”

“Yes. Of course.” Twilight looked up, frowning at the way Starlight grinned back at her. “So,” she began, “the theory of relativity. How can we look at this related to Star Swirl’s spell?”

“To Star Swirl’s spell? I’m not sure.” Her grin widened. “But, relative to when you said ‘later’—”

“Don’t go there.”

“—If you break now to look up pegasus culture, it’s technically later.”

There it was.

Twilight grimaced, laying her ears flat against her scalp. “You know we have a schedule,” she said slowly. “So, please, don’t help Rainbow nag me while she’s not even here!”

Shrugging, Starlight stood and trotted around the table, floating her chair along behind her. “Alright, if you say so!” she practically sang. “But you know you’re not going to be able to focus until you find out.”

“That’s not true!”

“It so is.”

“You don’t know that! I can ignore her baiting easily!”

“Right.” Starlight raised an eyebrow. “Then why are you still holding her feather?”

Twilight took a deep breath through gritted teeth, her eyes clenched shut. She exhaled, then turned to look at the offending feather. With a scowl, she slapped the feather down on the table, right beside her book. “There. Now I’m not. So can we please focus!”

Shrugging, Starlight set her chair down on Twilight’s right side and slid into it. Her teasing smile stayed in place, she fixed Twilight with a knowing look, then began to skim over the text. “Two minutes,” she said.

“I’m sorry?”

“You’ll last two minutes before you get fed up and abandon this to go look up what Rainbow mentioned.”

“Oh, shut up!” Twilight snapped. “I have better self control than that!”

“Uh huh. Sure you do.”

Huffing, Twilight made a point to push the feather away from her book before beginning to read. A quick refresher on Einstallion’s theory before they launched into their discussion would be nice.

Not to mention, it would take her mind off Rainbow Dash’s habit of being a nuisance at the most inopportune times, even though they were for rather nice reasons.

She shot a sidelong glare at the offending feather. Tradition or not, Rainbow clearly left the silly thing just to taunt her. Like she was standing right there, wearing that blasted smirk while she just stared at Twilight, waiting for her to break down and ask what she was so smug about.

Stupid feather.

Sitting there, all fluffy and soft, and as blue as the wide open sky.

Just like the insolent little punk of a mare she called fiancée.

Jerk.

Twilight stared a moment longer. Come to think of it, why did Rainbow pluck out a feather when she issued her challenge? Better yet, why even bother making it in the first place? They were already engaged.

What other hurdles could there be besides walking down the aisle, reciting vows, and saying “I do” in front of one of her fellow princesses?

Come to think of it, which princess should she ask?

She blinked. How long had she been staring at the feather? Slowly turning, she met Starlight’s eye and found herself faced with that damnable smug grin.

Even more smug and knowing than ever before.

Oh for the love of—buck it in the head. Sighing, Twilight marked the page and flipped the book closed. “When Rainbow gets home tomorrow and asks, don’t you dare tell her I caved that quickly or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Starlight stood. “My lips are sealed.”

“Good. Now, pegasus courtship should be in the cultural section, but there is a slight chance it could’ve gotten mixed into romance. Depending on which organizational system Spike and I used when we restocked the library …”

Twilight skimmed through the index of a book on pegasus culture during the pre-Unification era. Commander Hurricane, naturally, was the first place she opted to look. He was the shining example of pegasus pride, to most of their kind. Headstrong, resolute, and devoted to the safety and security of his tribe’s future through their military might.

What went unsaid, though, was his devotion to how their culture was maintained, even after they signed the Treaty of Three Tribes and formally joined Equestria. Why else would the nation acquiesce to having a floating city, one where the old customs were still practiced and pegasi alone could walk without the aid of magic, within its borders but to satisfy his pride?

Sadly, this text seemed more focused on the military side. Equipment, training, armament, strategy, use of weather in combat, and even the treatment of captives.

Nothing about courtship. Though, there was a section about treatment of civilians or honoring the loved ones of fallen enemies.

How very peculiar. A force that honored its fallen along with those of its enemies, calling them brother and sister bound by bravery and devotion to the state.

She’d have to set that aside for another time. Perhaps Rainbow might enjoy looking over that together.

Twilight set the book aside, joining several of its brethren in a steadily growing pile. With a sigh, she turned toward Starlight. “Have you found anything?”

Starlight hummed to herself. Her brows furrowed, she narrowed her eyes as she scanned over the text. “Hang on a second,” she muttered. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she tapped on one of the pages of her book. “I think Keen Eye just might have something for you.”

Her ears perked up. Twilight bolted around the table in an instant, sidling right up to her student. “What is it? The challenges? Their history?”

“Slow down a second! I’m still reading!” Starlight slid the book just out of reach, a playful gleam shone in her eyes as she read. “A little patience goes a long way.”

Twilight fixed her with a flat stare. “You say after you teased me about getting wound up.”

“Yes, and now I’m making sure this is what you’re looking for,” Starlight replied, her eyes never once leaving the page. “You want something that explains it in detail, right?”

“Of course.”

“Then hush up and let me read.”

Huffing, Twilight flicked her tail. She tried to sneak a peek over Starlight’s shoulder, but each time she did, her friend-slash-student shifted just a bit so she couldn’t make out the words.

She was having far too much fun with this.

A low growl escaped her lips as she saw Starlight’s jaw drop and the corners of her mouth twitch. Slowly, she turned to meet Twilight’s gaze, a wide grin spread across her muzzle.

Starlight made as though to speak, but stopped short in thought. Then, she slid the book over to Twilight. “I think I’ve found it,” she said, her voice strained with mirth. “I think you’re about to have a great time!”

Blinking, Twilight glanced at the book, then Starlight herself. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, just read it! Read it!” Starlight waved a hoof at her. “You’ll get it in just a moment!”

Curious.

Twilight quirked a brow, but did as asked. Humming idly, she read over the text, her anticipation mounting with each passing second.

… While it is true that each of the three former tribes have held onto their own traditions in some respect, we have seen courtship become a bit more uniform in modern times. In a sense, courtship—now dating—is a hybrid of each tribe’s old customs. However, my pegasus friends would be quick to remind me they have many of their old ways with an almost rigid discipline. One might say, a bit too rigid to be casual. Military, even.

Let’s discuss that a bit. We have made mention of Hurricane’s Way in the previous chapters. Per tradition, details were kept to a minimum, as it is the pegasus suitor’s honor and privilege to explain. Having conferred with my wife and several of our pegasus friends, I can indeed say that it is an equivalent to the earth pony tradition of offering a wreath of flowers matching both ponies’ coats (or those of multiple partners’, if that is the case) or that of unicorns offering a ring—it’s a proposal. However, that is all I’m allowed to say on the matter, or I will commit a very big taboo in their culture.

I am loathe to incite the wrath of my sweet Whimsy Mimsy, so we’ll press right on.

One of the aspects of pegasus courtship that seems strange to an outsider is what most refer to as “the challenge.” More formally, this is a part of the rites of pegasus courtship, as is the aforementioned Hurricane’s Way.

The challenge can come at any time in a relationship. In those of mixed races, it is entirely up to the pegasus to determine the appropriate time. Most often, though, the challenge will come up rather close to when Hurricane’s Way takes place, as it determines the “flow” of the relationship, so to speak.

Its origins are deeply rooted in pre-Unification era, dating all the way back to the founding of ancient Pegasopolis—farther back than even the first Grypho-Pegasus War. In those days, it was typical that one pegasus take role as protector, the other(s) as protected. The protector in the relationship was referred to as the “over wing,” so named because they would lay their wing across the protected, or “under wing,” and hold them close as they walked or sat down for dinner—a gesture to the under wing that they were, naturally, protected and to others that any action against them would draw the over wing’s ire. Traditionally, when offered the over wing’s protection, the under wing sidles up close and rubs his or her cheek against the over wing as thanks. Some take it a step further and actually say it for all to hear.

Determining these roles, of course, is where the challenge comes into play. I remember my experience quite well …

Twilight leaned in closer, her tongue poked between her lips as she sat in rapt attention and poured over Keen Eye’s words.

It was like being a student at Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns all over again. Here she was, sitting hunched over a book, with a fellow student close by her side while she worked.

Okay, so this challenge is some sort of tradition to determine roles of under wing and over wing. Interesting. That’s almost an alpha-beta nature in wolf packs. Scrunching her snout, Twilight turned to face Starlight. A question leapt to the tip of her tongue.

But Starlight shook her head. “Keep reading,” she ordered gently, rolling her hoof forward. “This is the good part.”

“How so?”

Another shake of her head. Starlight just smiled and gave a pointed stare toward the book.

“Fine, fine. Read.” Twilight turned the page, her ears twitched at the familiar rustle of parchment. “Now, let’s see. In ancient times, the contest was a demonstrative show of strength, most notably in the form of …”

Her jaw dropped.

“She wants me to what?!

Twilight almost didn’t notice the loud thump to her left, the flailing violet legs, or the familiar cackling of her friend-slash-student. But it all seemed to come from miles off, like she was hearing it through earmuffs. All she knew were the words on the page staring back at her tauntingly.

Slowly, she looked over at the blue feather resting on the table. She could picture Rainbow’s cocky smirk, the way she’d fluff up her feathers and crouch low, with mischief dancing in her eyes.

The words played over again in her mind, her own inner reading voice lost in favor of that raspy, cocky tone she’d come to love:

“In ancient times, pegasi preferred to determine their roles through combat. The strongest became over wing, the weakest became under wing. Nowadays, they have trended away from such fierce fighting to suit their non-pegasus lovers, with some adaptation to appease those less inclined to such things. However, the test of strength remains the most popular form of their challenge.”

Twilight swallowed a lump in her throat. Tomorrow promised to be quite an evening.

True to her word, Rainbow didn’t come back all night, nor did she pop by for breakfast in the morning.

Twilight felt the anticipation building in her chest with every step she took as she trotted briskly through Ponyville Park. Her eyes flitted about, searching for any sign of Rainbow’s familiar colors. It didn’t take long before she found Rainbow, along with Fluttershy, standing beside what looked to be a rather modest picnic.

A smile tugged at her lips as she watched her friends chatter back and forth, Rainbow was practically bouncing on her hooves, her feathers twitched in excitement as though she were ready to fly.

Likewise, Fluttershy rustled her wings, a more restrained smile graced her muzzle. She nodded as Rainbow spoke, adding in a couple choice words of her own when she could find space to interject.

Licking her lip, Twilight made to approach, her hooves thudded against the soft grass. A shudder ran through her wings, to the very tips of her feathers. Anticipation or excitement? She wasn’t quite certain.

Fluttershy and Rainbow flicked their ears toward her. The former offered a bright smile before turning to give Rainbow a hug, whispering something in her ear.

After a few seconds, the foalhood friends parted. Fluttershy turned and trotted toward Twilight.

They stopped but a couple steps from each other. Purple eyes met bright blue.

“I’m happy for you two,” Fluttershy whispered. She closed the distance, wrapping her hooves around Twilight’s shoulders in a tight hug. “She’s been waiting for this for some time now.”

Twilight leaned into the hug. “Thanks.” Rubbing her cheek against Fluttershy’s, she whispered out of the side of her mouth, “Any hint as to what I’m in for?”

Fluttershy gave an amused snort. She drew back and fixed Twilight with a hooded stare, a playful smile that didn’t quite seem to belong spread across her muzzle. “I can’t tell you that,” she replied. “I’d be inviting Rainbow to do the same if I ever found a stallion I wanted to date.”

Darn.

Twilight stole a quick glance toward Rainbow, who was now bouncing lightly on her hooves and rolling her neck to work out the kinks.

Her full blue lips curved into a wicked smirk, she waggled her ears in silent show that she heard everything.

Double darn.

Wrinkling her snout, Twilight sighed. “Fair enough. Any advice, then?”

“Um, well, don’t hold back, or she’ll take it as an insult.” Fluttershy released her shoulders and stood on all fours again. “Oh! And have fun.”

She stepped around Twilight and trotted away without another word, humming a happy tune to herself as she went.

Twilight glanced over her shoulder to watch her friend head toward the same entrance she’d come through, straight for Ponyville proper. A small part of her wanted to see if she could press for a bit more information, just a hint of what Rainbow had in mind for this “test of strength.”

“Keep staring and I’ll think you wanna drag Flutters in for a three-way!” Rainbow teased.

With a startled squeak, Twilight jumped and flared her wings out wide. “What—Why—No! That’s not what I—I was just thinking—”

“That she’s got a cute set of wings?” Rainbow cut in, her eyes shone with mischief. “Well, sure, no arguments there. But she’s like a sister to me, so I’m gonna have to pass on that, Twi. Now, if we were talking about Spitfire,on the other hoof—”

Twilight huffed. “Oh, shut up! You know that’s not what I was doing!”

Rainbow sniggered. “Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s still funny though.” Shrugging, she sauntered to Twilight, rubbing her side against Twilight’s and trailing her sky blue feathers around the outside of Twilight’s wing. She stopped as their cutie marks brushed together, fixing Twilight with a hooded stare.

A lump formed in Twilight’s throat. She knew that look all too well.

“You got questions for me?” Rainbow asked.

“A couple, yes.”

What to pick? More historical context? Something about just them?

Work, mouth!

“I read about some of the details of the old pegasus challenges. I’m, er, a little curious.”

“How so?”

“How is your version of this contest going to work? My book mentioned adaptations over the years.” Twilight shuffled her hooves in the grass. “Are … are we fighting? Because I’d rather not … you know.”

Rainbow’s smile fell. She nosed against Twilight’s cheek. “Of course not,” she whispered, dotting her with a kiss just beneath her ear. “Do you really think I’d ever wanna hit you like that?”

Twilight ducked and let her ears droop, her wings came unfurled as though to shield herself from her fiancée’s gaze. “No? Yes? I don’t know, it’s just tradition and I know it’s important to you and all.”

Those soft lips pressed against her cheek again, then again closer to the corner of her mouth. “Pegasi don’t throw punches for the challenge, Twi.” She chuckled, her breath ghosted over Twilight’s face. “That’d’ve really messed with the old legions’ numbers with under wings too injured to fight.”

She drew away and sidestepped around Twilight so she could lay her hooves upon her shoulders. “Nowadays, there’s a few variants. We could race or match wit, but I think we can both agree the odds are rather slanted there.”

Twilight’s ears perked up. “Odds?” she parroted. “You’re trying to keep things fair?”

“Well, duh!” Rainbow crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue. “What the hay do you take me for? That’s part of the rite! I pick something we’re just about equal at and we see who’s best. Simple, easy, and no crying or hurt feelings after. Just a nice, feathery hug and the winner taking full advantage to claim victory kisses.” She waggled her eyebrows. “And I want my darn victory kisses.”

A laugh bubbled forth, Twilight covered her mouth and shook her head. She just couldn’t help herself.

Of course Rainbow would want “victory kisses.” Could there ever be a notion so very Rainbow Dash in and of itself?

But to that end, she could hardly just take such a boast laying down. After all, Fluttershy told her not to hold back.

Quipping was an integral part.

Twilight made a show of fluffing her feathers and gave her tail a swish. “Or,” she said in sotto voce, “maybe I’llcollect them while I hold you under my wing.”

“Oh, we’ll see about that,” Rainbow growled playfully, unfurling her wings and pawing at the ground. “Wrestling’s the challenge, just like the old days.”

“Wrestling?” Twilight scoffed. “That’s your idea of leveling the field?”

“Hey, I saw you at the wedding! You kicked changeling tail!” Shrugging, she added, “And this is just me trying to narrow the gap a little. So, for what it’s worth, you do have a chance.”

Well, if she had a chance …

Twilight took a deep breath. It was part of Rainbow’s tradition, just like Hurricane’s Way. An expression of love.

There was just one concession she needed, though.

“When we do get married,” she began, “we’re doing it the unicorn way.”

Rainbow raised her brows, but nodded. “That’s fair.”

“And you still need to introduce me to your parents.”

“Also fair. We can definitely figure that out. Among other things.”

“Yes.” Another deep breath. Twilight closed her eyes and smiled.

There wasn’t really a way to lose in this. But, truth be told, there was just something about the image of Rainbow sitting under her wing, blushing and scrunching her snout because she knew Twilight had beaten her at her own game that just made it utterly enticing.

Rainbow took a step back, crouching low. “Ready?”

Nodding, Twilight mimicked her stance. “Ready.”

“Cool. Oh, one last word of advice: keep your wings tight.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

A wicked grin spread across Rainbow’s muzzle. “Because wing locks hurt a lot more than you think. Still ready?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Then start!”

Rainbow closed the distance before she could blink, sweeping her forelegs out from under her and tugging her forward. Twilight let out a yelp as she tumbled head over tail, her wings flapped wildly as she tried to take flight so she didn’t end up on the ground.

But a solid shove to her back sent her sprawling. Her world went sideways, the sky and ground switched places twice over until a pair of strong hooves tried to lock around her belly.

Twilight jerked herself to the left, lashing out with her left hoof to brush Rainbow’s hooves away. She rolled over onto all fours, stopping herself so she was nose to nose with Rainbow.

Cerise eyes shone with glee. Rainbow gave a cheeky grin and pecked her snout. Then she lunged.

“Ah! No!” Twilight leapt to the side, shoving Rainbow so she had to roll forward or go sprawling.

Rainbow shot her a hooded look over her shoulder, her prismatic tail whipped side to side. With a low growl, she charged at Twilight again, reaching for her left hoof.

Again, Twilight leapt to the side, only for Rainbow to shoot around her side and latch onto her barrel. A sharp tug sent her tumbling sideways.

This time, though, she stopped herself in mid roll, just in time to throw her hooves up and catch Rainbow in the stomach when she tried to pounce.

Rainbow’s eyes went wide. “Oh, horseapples …”

Grinning, Twilight kicked her hind legs up and sent Rainbow somersaulting through the grass. She leapt to her hooves, her wings rustled excitedly.

Rainbow stood slowly, spitting a bit of dirt out of her mouth and shaking the grass out of her wings. She turned, the confident gleam in her eyes was gone. In its place, a heated glare, like a hoofball player lining up on the goal line.

You,” she growled despite the grin tugging at her lips, “are submitting just for that. No pins. Submitting.”

Twilight’s breath came in ragged, panting gasps. Still, she maintained her own grin and replied in kind, “You’re going to look adorable when I hold you under my wing.”

The moment the words left her mouth, Twilight knew she’d just fanned the competitive flames that lay behind Rainbow’s eyes.

Rainbow took a step forward, then another. She slowly stalked toward Twilight, all her previous pouncing and leaping cast aside. The ground beneath her hooves seemed to shake with each step as her eyes bored deep into Twilight’s very being.

Twilight felt her heart skip a beat. Okay, Twilight, you’ve really stirred things up now and she’s about to make you pay if you don’t think of something! She took a few steps back, her mind raced.

Trying to out wrestle Rainbow just wasn’t working. No matter what she tried, Rainbow was too quick, too nimble for her to keep pace. She could dodge and squirm all she wanted, but eventually she’d run out of options.

Wrestling Rainbow and kicking around a few changelings were entirely different. For starters, she had magic that day and she really didn’t care how much it hurt.

Wait.

That was it.

Twilight stopped backpedalling. A smile played upon her lips as Rainbow took a running leap with her hooves outstretched. She reared up to catch Rainbow’s legs, letting herself fall backward.

She rolled, using Rainbow’s own momentum against her so she would switch places. Her horn flashed to life, Twilight caught her stunned fiancée in her magic’s deep purple glow and used it to pin her shoulders to the ground.

“Pin!” she called, leaning down to capture Rainbow’s lips in a quick kiss.

Rainbow gawked up at her, blinking a few times to clear the cobwebs. “What? You—No!” She squirmed, trying in vain to fight against the weight of Twilight’s magic. “That is so cheating!”

Twilight laughed and shook her head. “You never said I couldn’t use magic!” she replied, leaning forward to nuzzle her nose. “All you said was that this was a test of strength—you used your speed, so I used my magic!” A thought came to her. Beaming, she dotted Rainbow’s nose with fluffy kisses. “Do you concede, or do you want to try struggling more?”

Huffing, Rainbow tried to wriggle free. A whine sounded from the back of her throat as Twilight moved to kiss along her jawline, her cheeks flushed rosy pink. “St-Stop it!” she cried despite the smile threatening to spread across her muzzle. “That’s distracting!”

“So was kissing my nose,” Twilight purred, giving Rainbow’s a quick lick before nuzzling it again. “Now, submit, or I’ll start tickling.”

Another whine. Rainbow stopped struggling, looking down and away from Twilight. “Fine,” she mumbled, her blush spread to the very tips of her ears. She brought her hooves up to her chest, her feathers fluffed and ruffled as she said the magic words, “I submit.”

Letting out a happy squeal, Twilight canceled her spell. She cupped Rainbow’s cheeks in her hooves and captured her in a deep kiss. She felt Rainbow tilt her head to the side and part her lips invitingly.

Rainbow gazed up at her through half-lidded eyes, she spread her wings out wide and laid back against the grass.

Twilight ran her tongue along Rainbow’s lips, smiling into their kiss as Rainbow let out a happy sigh. She drew back, nosing against Rainbow for a moment. “Mine now,” she whispered.

Rainbow stayed quiet for a moment, glancing down at her chest. Then she leaned forward. Slowly, she licked Twilight’s nose, her cheeks burned a deep red. “Yours now,” she mumbled. With a crooked smile, she nosed her way beneath Twilight’s chin. “Could you let me up?”

“Sure.” Folding her wings, Twilight placed her hooves on the ground and lifted herself off Rainbow, scooting to the right so she could lay close by her side.

Without a word, she unfurled her left wing, holding it out over Rainbow and tried to keep herself from grinning too broadly.

She felt a light, fluffy feeling creep into her chest as she watched Rainbow roll onto her stomach and sidle up against her. Her lips betrayed her. Twilight let her grin show as she draped her wing across Rainbow’s back and held her close. She turned her head slightly to offer Rainbow her neck and cheek.

True to tradition, Rainbow took the invitation. She maneuvered her head beneath Twilight’s chin, rubbing her cheek against her neck. “Thank you,” she whispered. “For offering me your strength and protection.”

Biting her lip, Twilight turned so she could kiss Rainbow’s cheek. “I’m happy to have you,” she replied in kind.

“Yeah.” Rainbow closed her eyes and sighed in content. “I still say that was a dirty trick, though.”

“If there’s no rule against it, then it’s fair.”

“Still though.”

“Are you arguing with your over wing?” Twilight quickly nipped at her ear, grinning at the way Rainbow shuddered. “Well?”

Rainbow squeaked, then nosed her way beneath Twilight’s chin. Whether to hide or appease her, Twilight wasn’t entirely sure. “No, no! I’m good! Just playing!”

“I know. So was I.” Chuckling, Twilight kissed the same ear. “I love you.”

“Love you too, Twilight.”

Silence fell over them, broken only by their contented sighs as Rainbow made sure to keep her cheek against Twilight’s coat.

Twilight let her eyes flutter shut as Rainbow rubbed their cheeks together. With a merry swish of her tail, she turned so she could press her nose against Rainbow’s.

“I am happy,” Rainbow whispered. “If we were in Pegasopolis, I’d never feel safer. And I wouldn’t want to be anypony else’s under wing.”

That fuzzy feeling crept back into Twilight’s chest. Her hoof shaking, she reached up to cup Rainbow’s chin. “I feel the same,” she whispered back, stealing a quick kiss as she opened her eyes again. “And I feel safe with you at my side, regardless of under or over wing.”

Rainbow let out a short laugh. “You better. Anypony messes with you gets a full speed right cross.”

“I know better than to argue that.

“Good.”

Another beat of silence.

“So …” Rainbow ducked her head, the rosy hue returned to her cheeks. “You know, uh, what we’re supposed to do now, right? Like, right now.”

Ah, yes.

Twilight stole another kiss, then stood, prompting Rainbow to follow so she could stay under wing.

“I get to show off my prize to all the ponies in Ponyville while we walk home,” she replied, her eyes shone with glee. “I think I’m going to love this little tradition quite a lot.”

   
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