"Yes?" Rarity asked, stepping away from her sewing machine. Her younger sister had been following the unicorn around all day, sighing every five minutes. Rarity did her best to ignore it, trying to focus as much as she could on her work. Although, based on previous experience, it would probably be better just to let the filly talk.
"Oh, nothing," Sweetie Belle said, casting her sad gaze downward. Rarity rolled her eyes and waited for the 'but' that was sure to follow. "But..."
There it was. Now it was Rarity's turn to press. If she didn't, Sweetie would just keep repeating the word for an hour, and then resume sighing.
"But what?" Rarity asked.
"Rarity, have you ever been," the filly paused for dramatic effect, "in love?"
"Wha?" Rarity fell onto her haunches in surprise. "You're - oh Sweetie - you're in love? Who's the lucky filly? Or colt? I don't judge, I mean, it does make sense biologically, but... Oh Sweetie! You're in love!"
The younger unicorn backed away from her sister, scared a little by the elder's excitement. "No," she blurted out, feeling guilty for some reason, "Yes. Maybe? I don't know... How can you tell?"
"Well..." Rarity paused. Truth be told, she had no clue what to say. Sure, the unicorn had been in love before. Not true love, not yet, but love of some form all the same. However, she had no clue how to describe it. The summer of '69 was long ago, and she hadn't ever really felt the same way since. Still even if it wasn't a distant memory, Rarity wasn't sure if she could translate the feeling into words. "Well," she repeated, "You know you're in love if... Well, it feels like. Imagine spending every single day of your life with the same pony. It never grows old, you never feel tired. You're happy." Rarity sighed, memories flooding back to her. "You just know."
Sweetie Belle rushed toward the Cutie Mark Crusader's Headquarters. For once, she was late. The little unicorn was never late. She was always the first to arrive, and usually she did so twenty minutes early. But today she had been, er, delayed. She spent far too much time in the library. Her sister turned out to be absolutely no help at all. Rarity just kept asking her about her crush. Twilight's library, conversely, was extremely informative. In fact, it was almost too informative. Sweetie Belle did manage to find a book that suited her needs perfectly though. After getting Twilight to vow to secrecy, the little filly checked out a book entitled How to Woo a Mare in Ten Easy Steps.
However, all that time spent in the library meant she was now late for the daily CMC meeting. With any luck, she wouldn't be later than Scootaloo.
Just as Sweetie reached the entrance to the treehouse, her favorite pegasus flew out of the bushes. Well, she really scooted out of the bushes. But Scootaloo did so with such alarming speed, that it seemed as if the flightless pony flew. The orange pony cleared the bench outside the treehouse and circumnavigated the base before screeching to halt.
"Heya Sweetie," she said, shaking off her helmet.
"Hi Scootaloo! That was amazing," Sweetie said, letting her friend just know how much awe she was in.
"Nah," Scootaloo said, a slight brush gracing her face, "it was nothing."
Sweetie Belle would have protested this if not for Applebloom. The young earth pony came pounding outside. She did her best to look angry and intimidating but, at the sight of her friends, broke into a large smile.
"Where were y'all two? We were supposed t'meet fifteen minutes ago."
"Sorry Applebloom," Scootaloo waltzed inside the headquarters, "I had to stay after school a bit." Her tone denoted that it wasn't a happy stay.
"And I was, uh, busy helping my sister," Sweetie lied.
"Well, better late than never, right? C'mon, I have the sap all ready!"
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle just stared at their friend. They blinked simultaneously.
"Uh, tree sap?" The pegasus asked.
"I thought we learned our lesson with the zipline," Sweetie said, recalling just one of their many tree-related experiences.
"This is a special sap. We're gonna make maple syrup." Applebloom's smile seemed to stretch beyond the confines of her face. The cheeriness was infectious, and despite Sweetie Belle's hatred of all things gooey, she shouted the obligatory Cutie Mark Crusader chant with just as much excitement:
"CUTIE MARK CRUSADER MAPLE SYRUP MAKERS - YAY!"
A sticky mess and long bath later, Scootaloo was rushing toward the openness of Ponyville's park. Unsurprisingly, they three did not turn out to be expert maple syrup makers. In fact, they only managed to create a huge mess and burn down a small part of Whitetail Woods. The fireponies had arrived in time to keep their "little" flame from spreading, but the three weren't saved from a stern lecture. Cheerilee wanted Scootaloo to stay after school for the entire next week! The orange pony was definitely not looking forward to that. However, she had a lot of fun and the fire gave her an idea for the next crusade. Though it would probably take a little more convincing that most.
"Rainbow Dash!" Scootaloo called out, waking the named pony from her cloud. Dash peered out from her cloud, smiling broadly at the filly.
"Hey there, Squirt. Where you been?"
"Sorry Rainbow Dash," Scootaloo dismounted her scooter, "I was, uh, sidetracked by crusading."
Rainbow chuckled. "You mean starting a fire?"
"No!" Scootaloo protested, "Well, yes. But we didn't mean to. It's just-"
"It's cool, kid," Rainbow held up a hoof, "Celestia knows I've had my fair share of accidents. Still," the pegasus looked west, "we don't have too much sunlight left. Why don't we just focus on getting lift. You're too young to start night flying."
Their training session went as usual. Dash had the little filly start with a warm up and then pushed her as hard as she could. Usually, Scootaloo did her best to impress the older pegasus, and she even managed to succeed sometimes. Today, however, the young filly just seemed to be distracted. She tacked when she should have jibed, and vice versa. A year ago, Dash wouldn't have thought much of it. But she'd come to know the pegasus over their daily practice sessions. A lack of focus meant the orange pegasus had either lost interest in flying, which was doubtful, or was upset over whatever things little fillies got upset over.
"I think that's good, kid," Dash said, ending the session. Scootaloo thudded onto the ground, panting. Sweat dripped from her brow. Rainbow let the filly catch her breath before asking, "Hey, Squirt, are you, uh, are you feeling okay?"
"No, I mean, have you been okay? You were a tad off."
Scootaloo bit her lip. She cast a shy gaze up at the older pegasus. "Rainbow Dash, have you..."
"Nothing, nevermind. It's just, Cheerilee's making me stay after school for a while."
Rainbow gave her a questioning look, but accepted the answer. "Well, I hope it won't affect our flying. I think you're ready to start learning some tricks."
Scootaloo's eyes lit up. She bounced around the older pegasus talking so fast her words became nonsense. Rainbow chuckled to herself. So much for being tired.
Sweetie Belle sighed. She'd spent a good three hours going through the book she borrowed and it offered her nothing. First of all, the book was written for colts. Sure, she could still use some of the tips, assuming she actually understood what they meant. And that was the other problem. The book was full of diagrams and words even the little dictionary couldn't comprehend. And, again, her sister wasn't helpful. When Sweetie asked her what a certain word meant, the white unicorn just gasped and fainted.
So Sweetie did her best to understand the book. She didn't know what pick-up lines were really, though she heard of them before. According to the book, they were really effective at 'seducing' (whatever that meant). She also read that alcohol helped, but she wasn't allowed to even look at the stuff. Still, the book offered several foolproof pick-up lines that were sure to "guarantee any mare."
The week went by uneventfully. The Crusaders decided to temporarily halt their hunt. The entire town was on high alert since the fire, and they had been more or less banned from trying. Well, Applebloom had been grounded "until the end of Celestia's reign," Scootaloo had multiple detentions to serve, but Sweetie had managed to sweet-talk her way out of major punishment. It didn't really serve her too much though. She spent the entire week being bored and sitting in the library. By the end of the week, she'd gone through the entire section on dating advice, a few books on biology, and one about a vampire with a soul. The latter-most wasn't very informative, but it was interesting at least.
Still, most everything was written for an older audience. They all talked about things the young filly couldn't understand. To be honest, judging on the few biology books she picked up, Sweetie wasn't really sure she even wanted to understand.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Twilight asked the young filly on her fourth day's second trip.
Sweetie Belle shook her head sadly. "No. None of this helps."
Twilight bit her lip, trying to decide what she should say. Sweetie Belle was Rarity's younger sister, and it was Rarity's place to provide advice. But if the other unicorn acted the same way as when Twilight sought her advice, then the purple one completely understood why Sweetie was not seeking her counsel. In an attempt to alleviate the young filly's confusion, Twilight pressed on. "Sweetie, sometimes the answer just can't be found in a book. I would know." Twilight sat down besides the little unicorn. "I've been where you've been," she whispered.
The filly stared at Twilight surprised. "You mean... You have a crush on Scootaloo too?" She seemed almost on the verge of tears as she said that.
Twilight laughed. "Well, not exactly where you've been. But, yes, I had a crush on somepony."
"What do you mean had?"
Twilight sighed happily. "Well, I haven't told anypony this yet, but it's become love."
Instead of the happy, or sappy, reaction Twilight expected, Sweetie Belle just groaned. "Ugh, love. Everypony just keeps talking about love, but nopony will tell me what love really is."
Twilight shook her head and chuckled. "Sweetie, that's because nopony can tell you what it is. Love isn't something you can just look up or ask about. It's something you have to discover for yourself."
Twilight left the filly with that comment, hoping Sweetie Belle would understand enough to take the next step. After a moment of silence, the pitter-patter of small hooves and the ding of the library's bell told the older mare that she had hoped right.
"Scootaloo?" Sweetie Belle poked her head into the classroom. It was empty except the orange pegasus. She was busy peering at the blackboard and muttering to herself. Sweetie cleared her throat and repeated the call.
"Oh, hey Sweetie Belle. What are you doing here? Did you get detention also?" Despite the fuss she made about it outside of school, Scootaloo seemed awfully cheery.
"Oh, um, no I didn't."
Scootaloo's ears drooped a bit. "Oh," she said. The pegasus turned her attention back toward the blackboard.
"Um, Scootaloo?" Sweetie's heart was racing. She'd taken a little time to think about what Twilight said. Perhaps not enough time but, for better or for worse, she was going to do it. She was going tell her friend. "I have something I need to tell you."
"Yeah?" Scootaloo said distractedly.
"I think that..." Suddenly her mouth wouldn't work. She wanted to tell Scootaloo about her feelings, but she couldn't. So she did the next best thing. "If I could rearrange the alphabet, I would flip the M and W."
Scootaloo just blinked. "What?"
"I'm feeling a little off today. Would you like to turn me on?"
Scootaloo raised her eyebrows. "Uh, Sweetie Belle? Where did you hear that?"
The unicorn sighed. These 'foolproof' lines weren't helping her at all. There was no way around it. She just had to tell Scootaloo. "Scoots," she said timidly. "I like you."
"I like you too, Sweetie," Scootaloo said, a confused look gracing her face.
For a second, Sweetie Belle's heart thumped louder and faster than ever before. But the pegasus didn't mean what she said. At least not the same way Sweetie did.
"No, Scootaloo, I... I like-like you." The unicorn moved closer to her friend as she said this. Scootaloo just stared at Sweetie Belle. The latter moved even closer, but the former just backed away.
"Sweetie. I just... I need to go." Scootaloo darted past the unicorn and out of the classroom. Sweetie didn't follow her. Instead the unicorn just sat on the floor, dejected. She messed up. She should have waited. Or, better yet, she should have never said anything. Ever.
"Rainbow Dash! Hey, Rainbow Dash!" Scootaloo called, running as fast as she could through the park. She scanned the skies for her mentor, hero, and official advisor. Surprisingly, the rainbow maned pegasus wasn't resting on a cloud. Nor was she flying at mach large number. In fact she was nowhere in the air.
Scootaloo bumped into a large, blue thing.
"Oh, heya Squirt," Rainbow said cheerily. "You're early."
Scootaloo glanced at the older pegasus' company. Twilight was blushing a bit as she back off a few steps.
"Um, Rainbow Dash, can I ask you something?"
Scootaloo glanced toward Twilight. "Uh, privately?"
"Oh, um" Rainbow bit her lip.
"I actually should get going," Twilight said with a knowing wink. "I have a new spell I need to try out. Talk to you later?"
"Sure thing." Rainbow nodded, watching the unicorn leave. After she'd gotten out of earshot, the older pegasus turned toward the other. "What's up, kid?"
"Rainbow, do you... uh, like anypony?"
Rainbow rolled her eyes, and gave a soft laugh. "You could say that."
"What would you do if that pony liked you back?"
"Squirt," Rainbow smiled, "I'd take her and kiss her. Right here, in the middle of town."
Scootaloo gave her hero a disgusted look. "Ewwwwwww."
Rainbow couldn't help but snort at the young filly's reaction. "I guess you're too young for that. Good thing you didn't come sooner," Rainbow chuckled. "I would just talk to her. Tell her how - wait," Dash gave the filly a suspicious stare, "it is a her, right?"
Scootaloo nodded rapidly. "Yes."
"Alright," Rainbow let out a relieved sigh, "Well, you should just talk to Sweetie Belle. It doesn't have to-"
"How did you know it was Sweetie?" Scootaloo asked with an accusatory tone.
"Oh, uh, I... Gotta go!" Rainbow took off, leaving a gust of wind in her wake.
Scootaloo righted herself from the blast and sat in thought for a minute. She shrugged and turned back downtown.
Sweetie Belle sat glumly on the floor of her sister's workroom. Her sister was busy working on some new design and not paying attention to her sister. Sweetie Belle was determined to fix that though. The young unicorn started sighing loudly. Rarity, however, just pressed on, doing her best to ignore the little filly. However, Sweetie wouldn't allow herself to be disregarded so easily. She started sliding around the workroom, making as much of an annoyance of herself as possible. Rarity, however, could also be stubborn. The unicorn bent over her work, ears flat. A few minutes into the battle of wills, the doorbell clanged.
"Sweetie Belle," Rarity said, straining to keep her voice calm, "would you go see who that is?"
Sweetie was tempted to refuse, but thought better of it. She mumbled and trudged downstairs.
Sweetie had spent the afternoon torturing herself over her friend. She cursed herself for being too forward. At least two of the dozens of books had recommended being more or less aloof. At best, she expected Scootaloo to never speak to her again. At worst, she expected exile. What she hadn't expected, however, the orange pegasus to randomly appear in her fortress of... well, solitude wouldn't be right considering it was her sister's place, and the only reason she hid at the Boutique was to speak to her sister. Still, seeing Scootaloo was a surprise.
"Oh, heya Sweetie Belle," Scootaloo said, an embarrassed blush on her cheeks, "I, uh, was just looking for you."
Sweetie Belle didn't say anything. Instead she just continued down the stairs.
"I've been thinking about what you said for a long time, and -"
"It's been two hours," Sweetie said.
"And I've been thinking for at least ninety minutes!" Scootaloo protested. "Anyways, I just wanted to say that..." Scootaloo took in a deep breath, the embarrassed blush spreading, "I kinda, sorta, maybe like-like you too."
Sweetie Belle's eyes widened. No, they didn't just widen. They flew open with the force of a hurricane. She certainly hadn't expected Scootaloo to say those four, possibly five words.
"I like-like you. I have a crush on you. I - you're kissing my cheek."
And that is exactly what Sweetie Belle was doing. She hadn't meant to be so forward, half a dozen of the books recommend starting things off slow, but her emotions got the better of her. She pulled back from the pegasus, blushing a little. Scootaloo blinked at her for a few seconds and smiled. That smile soon faded.
"Uh, what do we do now?"