Two little ponies danced.
Silver Spoon twirled, reaching out to Featherweight, as his tiny wings flitted him in dizzy arcs around his earth pony lover. He struggled to keep his hoof against hers, and was successful now and then.
Featherweight landed. “Do you really think it’s okay?” he asked.
He blushed. “It seems like cheating. You said Diamond Tiara’s dad told you dancing was about lifting your hooves, but I’m not really lifting them at all, I’m just flying! And when I tried to lift them the regular way, I was terrible. And I bet Diamond Tiara’s gonna make fun of me…”
Silver Spoon frowned at him. “Don’t even say that name. We’re going to win this thing, and we’re going to rub it in her face. In her face! Promise you’ll take pictures of her when she loses, and run them in the paper.”
Featherweight blinked. “Silver? I’m not the staff photographer anymore. Remember? It’s Shady Daze who takes pictures for the paper now.”
“Whatever,” shrugged Silver Spoon. “The important thing is that we can’t lose.”
“But I’m sure I’m supposed to be dancing, not just flying circles around you! And you’re not lifting your hooves as high as you did when you first showed me,” protested Featherweight.
“Are you complaining?” said Silver Spoon, raising an immaculately groomed eyebrow.
“Oh, no, no!” said Featherweight hastily. “I’m only worried that we won’t do as well as you hoped. I mean, you’re beautiful and I know you told me that should be enough, but…”
Silver Spoon smiled at him intoxicatingly, and his heart leapt—and not just his heart.
“I know how to make those worries go away,” she purred.
Featherweight gulped as she prowled forward and began to flip him over onto his back. He didn’t resist, though he did gulp again as her head dipped down between his legs.
“Shouldn’t we be practicing?” he squeaked. “The prom’s tonight!”
Silver Spoon mumbled something dismissive. He couldn’t make it out. Her mouth was full, after all.
Featherweight shivered, and bared his teeth. Silver Spoon moaned happily, and nuzzled in closer, while she could.
“Yeah, not worried at all,” he said weakly, and laid his head back, surrendering to the feeling. Privately, he vowed that if Silver Spoon was upset by losing the contest, he’d do whatever it took to make her feel better.
Oddly, it was exactly the same plan he had for if they won.
Two little ponies danced.
Apple Bloom scowled with concentration, lifting her hooves high in a defiant prance, pirouetting around Diamond Tiara as they twirled and trotted. Apple Bloom struggled to arch her neck the way Diamond did, squinting with effort…
“No, no!” cried Diamond Tiara, ceasing her frisky trot, stamping her hoof. “It’s t—t—too strained!”
“Ah’m sorry!” said Apple Bloom. “Ah’m tryin’ my hardest, dammit!”
“But that’s just the p—point!” squeaked Tiara. She was shaking, and not entirely from exhaustion. “It must seem effortless, you know the form, now you’ve g—got to relax and do it with style! You’re trying so hard! You’re trying TOO hard!”
“Ah am only doin’ what you tell me, Diamond Tiara! I’m doin’ as good as I kin! Ain’t I?”
Diamond’s face twisted in woe. “You’ll just have to do it b—b—b—b—b—b…”
Apple Bloom gaped at her darling. “Diamond! Easy! Spit it out, sugarcube!”
Diamond stared miserably at Apple Bloom, and burst into frustrated tears.
In a moment, she was caught up in a country pony hug, and Apple Bloom was stroking her mane and soothing her. “There, there. What the hay, honey? What’s got into you? Why y’all stammerin’ at me all of a sudden?”
Diamond gulped, snuggling against Apple Bloom, and took several deep breaths. She buried her face in Apple Bloom’s mane, and took another few breaths, just inhaling the scent of the light of her life. When she spoke, it was more calmly.
“I want so b—badly to win. But ever since I almost fell off that scaffolding… it’s like my life started over, b—but the old me tries to come back and when I need things to b—be a certain way…”
“Easy, honey,” soothed Apple Bloom. Diamond Tiara squirmed in her embrace.
“B—but we can’t lose, we can’t! They’ll all l—laugh and if we just practice and do what my D—D—D…”
“Daddy?” said Apple Bloom gently.
Diamond Tiara glared sulkily at her. “I call him Dad. Daddy’s what little foals say. And I know this shouldn’t matter that much, he might love me even if I don’t win, but I just want to do it p—p—P—P—PERFECT!”
Apple Bloom hugged her tightly. “Aw, Diamond. We’ll try. Okay?” She frowned at nothing, thinking about Mr. Rich. That fellow had sure enough raised a big fuss about the greatness of dancing. Apple Bloom’s expression darkened. If Mr. Rich really did think less of his daughter for failing a silly contest, it explained a lot but it was also mighty sad. Since Diamond had snapped and been rescued from the brink of a fatal drop, she’d been more brittle than ever, haunted by the prospect of old expectations… and there seemed to be no end to them.
“Ah’m tempted to call th’ whole thing off,” she grumbled.
Diamond shrieked, pulling away, staring at Apple Bloom. Her mouth opened, and then she promptly abandoned the idea of trying to get a word out and just drilled Apple Bloom with her desperate, horrified eyes.
Apple Bloom’s heart was wrung.
“Ah was jokin’!” she said, earnestly, and kissed Diamond. “Breathe. There’s a good pony… Ah was only jokin’, you know ah would never let you down, ever! Uh—want to git a-hoppin’ again, sugarcube?”
Diamond trembled. “D—don’t DO that. Oh, Apple Bloom, I’m not sure I can! But I m—must!”
“Easy, girl,” said Apple Bloom firmly. “Y’all gettin’ stuck in the mouth when you need to be actin’ like what you was? Is that it?”
“Rather,” admitted Diamond unhappily. “Horrible, b-but there it is. I’ve sprained my bitch mode, curse it.”
“You okay with lettin’ me take th’ reins for a bit? I got an idea that might help ya.”
Diamond Tiara nodded gratefully. “Please! I’m tied in knots, Apple Bloom. You think you can get me what I w—w—want?”
Apple Bloom stroked her mane, and Diamond Tiara gasped. The other hoof had slipped down to tickle her nipples, and she stared wide-eyed at her confident young lover.
“I kin relax you,” said Apple Bloom. “That’ll help. Won’t it?”
“Oh, Celestia, yes! That’s the best idea you’ve had all day, and much better than my relentless whip-cracking,” moaned Diamond Tiara, without a trace of stammer. “Yes! When you touch me like that I forget that I have to be p—p—p…”
That stuck word, ‘perfect’, was overriden by a sultry moan as Apple Bloom hastily began fondling Diamond’s eager mound.
“You jes’ forget your troubles, darlin’,” urged Apple Bloom. “Let me melt you. Then we’ll get back to dancin’ together and we’ll proper mean it!”
Diamond sagged gratefully into Apple Bloom’s sturdy embrace, her legs parting, her tail already twitching with pleasure, and allowed her world to become loving touches and strokes, fond cuddling… on and on, until Apple Bloom’s beloved head was nuzzling into her crotch and transporting her to realms of joy and freedom.
When she did return, with Apple Bloom, to artistic trotting, her legs were wobbly and barely supported her. But all the same, she persevered, less fretted by her worries, forcing her body to her formidable will.
Apple Bloom smiled, watching her lover prance so gracefully.
She’d known all along Diamond would return to dance practice without slacking off. Her problem wasn’t slacking, it was being strung too tight—but there were ways to deal with that.
Hell, it was so good helping Diamond Tiara through these struggles that she didn’t give a damn if they won or lost.
But between her and Diamond, that prom dance contest would know it had been in a fight!
Two little ponies danced.
“…ow!” wailed Sweetie Belle.
“Are you OK?” panted Scootaloo.
Sweetie tossed her mane in exasperation. “How are you supposed to bend that way? It isn’t even possible!”
“Sure it is! You saw her do it!”
“Yeah, for like three seconds!” objected Sweetie. “And then she made a face and she stopped right away!”
There were dark circles under Scootaloo’s eyes. “So? Don’t you remember later that night? She snuck us into that party and played the craziest music and we saw a whole crowd of ponies doing it!”
Sweetie glared at her lover, edgy and exasperated. “They were grown-ups, Scootaloo! It must have been magic. Like, some of those unicorns MUST have had their spines replaced.”
“With what?” squawked Scootaloo.
Sweetie considered. “Jelly! And you can’t possibly move like those pegasi. I still don’t believe what I saw. And stay over there unless you’ve quit trying! It’s scary!”
Scootaloo glowered darkly. “I bet you I can. I can feel it. I’m sure I can get those moves.”
“You almost broke your neck!” wailed Sweetie.
“I got it!” insisted Scootaloo. “I spun when I should have flipped. Or flipped when I should have kicked. Or maybe I kicked when I should have spun?”
“I think you should have quit three hours ago,” said Sweetie, crossing her forelegs.
Scootaloo laughed wryly, and took up her position, stretching her legs and wings, a grim expression on her face.
“Let’s take a few minutes and have some terrific sex and then we can keep going. Okay?”
Scootaloo didn’t answer, and Sweetie hesitated, suddenly worried.
She caught her breath, for the look she got back was misery itself.
“It’s not the same, Sweetie.”
“What are you telling me?” said Sweetie, uncertainly. “Do you not want to touch me? N—not want to taste me?”
She flinched, for Scootaloo had stamped the floor with a startling bang.
“I didn’t say that!” yelled Scootaloo. “I just… Sweetie, you know what I want. You know me, I shouldn’t have to explain this!”
“I’ll steal Rarity’s bit for you,” promised Sweetie. “I’ll steal it if it kills me. I’ll go right now and get it, you wait here…”
“Stop,” said Scootaloo, and Sweetie immediately stopped and listened to her fiery little mate.
Scootaloo sighed. “I told you, I don’t want you doing wrong things. I don’t want to do wrong. I can at least have that, okay?”
“But you need a penis to feel okay in yourself!” protested Sweetie.
“Stop,” repeated Scootaloo. “Listen. Seriously, listen to me. Tonight the prom will be over. I’ll hold you all night, I’ll give you all the orgasms you want until you can’t even stand up. I’ll even like it! But for now, please can we work on what my friend showed us? I swear I’ll be able to adapt to being a mare with a marefriend, I promise, it’s just that when I dance this way I feel like I’m sort of awesome…”
“But you are,” said Sweetie, tearing up. “You still are. You’ve always been.”
“But I need to believe it,” said Scootaloo. “I need to believe it without stealing a magic dick just to give me a fake thing that’s not even real. This is real! Just give me this, okay? It’s the last day! We only have a few hours left to practice!”
Sweetie gulped. She gazed sidelong at Scootaloo. Without a word, she trotted over to her love, gazing deeply into her eyes.
She extended a hoof, invitation to a dance, but she reached out in an odd way. A movement began with a ripple of her tail, seemed to flow across her body, down her foreleg, to end in her hoof—a strangely elegant gesture, beautiful, fluid—but for all that, there was somehow a hint that the boneless ripple had been less than comfortable.
However, it was very sexy, and Scootaloo’s eyes widened at the obvious sensuality her lover exuded throughout the move.
Sweetie’s eyes challenged. Scootaloo’s responded with a proud and ambitious gleam.
With a flicker of movement, the little pegasus tumbled end over end to rise with perfect coordination on her rear hooves, her forehoof snapping into place exactly where Sweetie’s waited.
Sweetie flicked her hoof as if hurling her beloved over her shoulder, and Scootaloo flipped audaciously over her with a flail of filly limbs, and two little ponies danced on, tirelessly.
One little pony cleared her throat.
“Ladies and gentlecolts,” said Mayor Mare, “it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Ponyville Prom!”
Rows of ponies applauded, stamping their hooves eagerly on the floor, awaiting a grand show.
Mayor Mare smiled, a little too brightly. It was indeed an honor to be asked to emcee the Ponyville Prom, and judge the young dancers who celebrated the end of their school year.
That was why Twilight Sparkle had been asked to do it, and as she’d refused to leave her room or cooperate, Mayor Mare had stepped in with barely ten minutes to spare, to replace the balky and unwilling Twilight.
She shuffled her papers… well, paper. She had a few pitifully sketchy notes, a room of expectant ponies, a disk jockey who was watching her closely for performance cues, and a double row of eager competitors waiting for their chance to shine.
From the judge’s stand, Bon Bon blew her a kiss. The Mayor’s eyes moistened, and her smile suddenly became a lot more specific.
“Please give a rousing cheer for our first contestants, Twist and Truffle Shuffle!”
The ponies cheered, settling in for a long, entertaining night, and two little ponies ran eagerly out onto the dancefloor as music played…
“And next, we have, ah,” said Mayor Mare, reading from her list, “Featherweight and Silver Spon!”
The grey filly prancing beside her and gazing out with a satisfied smirk at the audience froze with a look of shock… and then turned her tail towards Ponyville’s Mayor.
“Ow!” squeaked Mayor Mare, hopping to the side with a startled look.
“Spoon!” hissed Silver Spoon, lowering her rear hoof.
Mayor Mare, wide-eyed with astonishment that a contestant had kicked her, stepped forward to the podium again. “I’m sorry. Please welcome Featherweight and Silver Spoon!”
At the turntable, DJ Pon-3 hastily replaced the needle on her record, having paused it in a hurry when she saw Silver Spoon kick the Mayor rather than begin dancing. Out went Silver Spoon, lifting her hooves high in a stylized trot. From the wings, Diamond Tiara glared, trembling, until Apple Bloom reached out and snuggled Tiara’s petulant head into her red mane, obscuring her view. For that reason, Diamond didn’t see how Silver Spoon’s professionally trained form quickly deteriorated, seconds after she’d begun. Apple Bloom, in turn, was too busy murmuring reassurances to notice.
Behind Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo looked on interestedly, taking just a moment to glower at the dancing ponies out on the floor. Dancing pony, rather: Silver Spoon trotted on without much concern for where her hooves fell, and a normal dance partner might have been in danger of being trodden on. Featherweight didn’t run that risk, however, because he’d lifted off right away, and simply flew circles around Silver Spoon, beaming proudly at her.
The judges murmured among themselves, Bon Bon looking particularly unimpressed. She glanced over to where Mayor Mare rubbed her kicked shin with her other hoof, and her expression darkened further.
“Yes,” called Mayor Mare eventually, as Silver Spoon continued to pirouette and prance. “Thank you. That’s a minute longer than any of the other contestants, dear.”
Silver Spoon squeaked, and ran up to face the Mayor, ignoring Featherweight and leaving him to hover forlornly in the middle of the dancefloor he’d not touched since he started.
“Did we win?” cried Silver Spoon happily. She turned to favor the perplexed audience with a smug little smirk.
“That,” said Mayor Mare, “is for the judges to decide later.” Her ear flicked as it tried to lay back. She forced it into a perked-up, friendly attitude with the skill of a well-practiced politician, and smiled.
Silver Spoon beamed, curtseyed with a dip of her head, and trotted off to join the other finished dancers, leaving only two couples remaining. Featherweight flew eagerly after her, obviously relieved to be out of the spotlight.
Diamond Tiara watched Spoon go, jaw tight, her hind legs trembling: trying to gauge the success of her performance by her apparent attitude. The signs weren’t encouraging. There was more than a hint of panic in Diamond’s eyes.
Apple Bloom gazed staunchly into those eyes, silently urging courage—or, better yet, the ability to settle down and just enjoy the game. It didn’t seem as if the message was getting through.
Sweetie Belle nudged Scootaloo, murmuring something unheard, gesturing to where Apple Bloom locked eyes with Diamond Tiara. Scootaloo’s eyes narrowed, and then she lifted an eyebrow and she and Sweetie exchanged a knowing look. It was hard to miss the concern in Apple Bloom’s face, or fail to notice how frightened Diamond Tiara seemed…
“Next, we have Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara!” called Mayor Mare, brightly.
Diamond made a little squeak of dismay. She seemed frozen to the spot, glaring at nothing, hind legs trembling in fear.
In the audience, ponies stirred. Filthy Rich frowned. Applejack nudged Braeburn, whispering “What’s th’ matter with her?” a little too loudly.
Apple Bloom stepped forward a step, and looked back imploringly at her partner.
“Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara?” said Mayor Mare.
Apple Bloom turned, walking back a step, allowing her eyes to close, ignoring the astonished stares of Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle… and kissed Diamond full on the lips, lingeringly, as the room fell absolutely silent.
When she drew back, Diamond’s eyes glistened with tears, and the little pink filly stood totally vulnerable, crossing her fore-hooves bashfully.
Apple Bloom’s eyes glinted playfully, full of mischief. Her right eye closed in a wink. She gave a twitch of her head, as if goading Diamond on, invitation to the dance. Her face began to smile like dawn breaking through the long night-time.
It struck a spark in Diamond Tiara, and the smile was answered… and then, the audience gasped. Diamond Tiara sprang forward, breaking into a high-stepping, collected trot nose to nose with her lover. Apple Bloom didn’t lose a second: she instantly matched Diamond’s gait, just as they’d practiced it, and the two ponies headed out into the center of the dancefloor, a spotlight picking them up.
“Woo hoo!” cried Pinkie Pie, aiming the spotlight. Soon, she was too busy with that to shout encouragement.
Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara twirled and pranced, lifting their hooves spectacularly high in perfect equine form. They trotted together in piaffe, in perfect synchrony, then began turning in caracole and dodging and going forward and back, and then in half-pass diagonally. Their motions were so finely matched that there might have been a mirror, reflecting a single pony dancing.
In the audience, a tear came to Filthy Rich’s eye. Applejack slapped him on the back, crying out, “Yeehaw! Lookit them go, Mr. Rich!” but he didn’t speak, though his lip trembled and he stared as if a ghost had come to life before him.
Though both little ponies danced in perfect classical form, there was somehow a distinction between their motions. Apple Bloom’s prance exuded coltish virility, the country filly’s gestures bold and athletic, tireless. The power in her gait was amazing, and she held her head high, moving forward in passage with her hooves rising far off the floor. When they struck the floorboards, it was with a fierce crack perfectly in time with the music.
Beside her, Diamond Tiara performed exactly the same movements, but somehow the whole character of her motion was different. Where Apple Bloom pounded the floorboards and seemed to levitate on nothing but her own audacious cockiness, staring boldly and delightedly out at the watching crowd with a happy smile, Diamond Tiara had eyes only for her mate, and she seemed to float. Every gesture was gracefulness incarnate and Diamond seemed to have forgotten everything but her partner. She didn’t even appear to see the audience, giving no sign she was aware of them. She gazed only at Apple Bloom, and trotted and spun with magical effortlessness, her small pink body transformed. Where Apple Bloom seemed to caper with gleeful power, the moves seemed to come through Diamond Tiara as if she wasn’t even physical anymore. Though her hooves struck the ground in perfect synchrony with Apple Bloom’s, her dance seemed weightless by contrast.
Apple Bloom’s hooves punished the floor with rowdy authority. Diamond’s hooves barely acknowledged the floor’s existence.
In the audience, Filthy Rich wept with joy, overwhelmed at the sight.
Together, Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara reared, and the crowd gasped. They weren’t disappointed. The two girls kicked the air in a perfectly synchronized mezair, their hooves striking out in graceful quick arcs while they balanced on hind legs, and then as the audience began to stir and chatter excitedly, Diamond and Apple Bloom’s forelegs met… and together, holding forehooves, the two ponies did one, two, three courbettes, hopping foward off their hind legs without their forelegs touching the ground.
The crowd went wild, screaming and hollering, and even as they rose up and began stomping the floor in rapturous applause, Diamond Tiara balanced in levade and held her graceful pose on her hind legs only, gazing at Apple Bloom who began to spring into the air again…
Apple Bloom sailed up off her hind legs, and kicked wildly out behind her in a flicker of movement, and landed on all four hooves with a single resounding thud.
The audience completely lost its mind. She’d pulled off a capriole, ‘the leap of a goat’, which strong adult pony dancers found difficult at best. The next moment, Diamond had grabbed her in a frantic hug, and the two fillies embraced and kissed as the crowd cheered their greatness.
Filthy Rich wiped his eyes, and returned to cheering and stomping for all he was worth. Applejack was screaming and waving her hat, as was Braeburn. The judges had risen to their hooves and were stamping and applauding along with everypony else.
In the audience, toward the back, jade eyes stared entranced. “Celly!” cried Chaos. “Did you ever see such a thing? That was wonderful! I mean, she’s but a child!”
“Growing up, too! That ‘child’ is Boss Mare of the Apple family now!” replied Celestia, also applauding. “I liked their synchrony. My goodness! If I’m not mistaken, those amazing little ponies have taken home the grand prize…”
“Mares and gentleponies!” called Mayor Mare, sternly. “Please! We’re not done here!”
“Like hell we ain’t!” yelped Braeburn in delight. He’d run forward to hug Apple Bloom. Beside him, Filthy Rich was nose-to-nose with his own child, smiling at her in his dignified way. She gazed up at him as if she wanted to ask a question but wasn’t sure how to…
“Please!” called Mayor Mare. “Please clear the floor… for Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle!”
At the turntable, DJ Pon-3 grinned, and cued up two records with great care.
The floor cleared, the crowd flocking around Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara and their adoring families. Braeburn, however, lifted his head. Apple Bloom was a cousin—but Scootaloo was more. Scootaloo was his daughter, and his eyes widened to see her. It seemed as if she’d have to be disheartened by the rapturous response to the preceding act. But Scootaloo and Sweetie were already trotting forward, the music starting up again, the collected gait of the dance horse once more rapping the floor along with the beat.
The crowd quieted. Sweetie and Scootaloo made their way out to the middle of the floor… and froze, just as the beat unexpectedly stopped.
A strange noise like the unclogging of a magical drain ripped out of the speakers, and the audience’s jaw collectively dropped.
Scootaloo’s eye glinted.
In synchrony with another unnatural sound, she reared in an odd, mechanical fashion—and a ripple of motion started at her hoof and raced across her body, into Sweetie, right to the end of her outstretched rear leg and then back as if it had been reflected, into Scootaloo again, and then back to the hoof where it’d started.
She could have heard the petal of a daisy drop, as she stared out at the shocked crowd. They’d never seen anything like that before.
Scootaloo smiled defiantly… and a new music began to throb out of the speakers, and she and Sweetie began to dance like the future.
Sweetie began to flow from pose to pose, as if there were no bones in her supple little body. Her form rippled lithely, in a frankly sensual way, and parts of her held still while other parts flowed like liquid. Beside her, Scootaloo’s body began to flick from position to position in athletic, calisthenic leaps, hooves flying this way and that and forming geometric paths and angular gestures. Her wings described their own figures with insouciant grace and agility, and several pegasi in the audience paled as they realized that, while Scootaloo’s wings were freakishly small, all the same they were ogling them.
The music zapped and thumped and put forth a beat that seemed to compel dancing, a sound that hadn’t been heard outside the more daring Fillydelphia nightclubs. It was a weirdly forbidding sound, but made more sense when you saw Sweetie, and especially Scootaloo, dancing to it. Their lithe young forms, each in their own style, brought meaning and purpose to the music.
The crowd began to buzz, increasingly impressed by the feats of dancing they were witnessing. The beat intensified.
Sweetie began to rub up against Scootaloo, even as Scootaloo flashed through a series of dervishlike twirls. The little white unicorn’s flowing moves began to interlock with her lover’s, in ever-perplexing ways. One moment she was rolling over the top of Scootaloo’s back, her hooves swirling in the air like the waving of ribbons in the breeze, then she was flowing under Scootaloo like she was the stream the young pegasus swam in. The motions became sensuous, then mysteriously fluid and seemingly unmoored from the constraints of anatomy, as Sweetie reared and her body flowed like water in a boneless writhing that continued through to her tail. Her eyes glowed, dreamy and half-lidded.
Beside her, Scootaloo’s limbs flew through a series of striking, vivid poses, and then she too reared, but rather than melt into the pony equivalent of a shifting cloud, she began to hop off her hind legs and the crowd started to buzz, realizing that she meant to do something akin to the capriole that had so impressed them. Sweetie ducked and rolled and got out of the way, and Scootaloo soared into the air, her wings whirring…
She kicked out, and she kicked out again, and then rather than landing on all four hooves she tumbled headlong and then before anypony could work out what she’d done, she was standing on her forehooves, hind legs in the air. They scissored and spun, and she whirled on her head and then did another forward roll and was rising on her rear hooves, except it was just one rear hoof and her body seemed frozen in slow motion as she came upright and tumbled slowly forward, pose locked—and then she rolled again and was upright, but this time her arc was in brief strobelike intervals and nopony could see how she could possibly move in discrete clicks rather than continuous motion…
“Swirlie,” breathed Princess Celestia, “don’t tell me that’s you?”
Chaos shook her head. “No–but I love it!”
Sweetie had rejoined her mate, and the two joined to rear up and make neatly synchronized rapid geometric gestures with their forehooves, and then Scootaloo dove again and rolled onto her back, wings bracing her, and Sweetie leapt into the air… and landed, balanced neatly on Scootaloo’s hooves, the two forming a graceful, elegant pose like a little pony statue.
The music stopped when they did, and the silence resounded for a second.
Then, the crowd went wild, as Sweetie and Scootaloo hugged, shaking and exhausted.
Up at the judges’ table, Bon Bon and Carrot Top conferred with Davenport and Fancy Pants, who was visiting from Canterlot. It seemed a fierce discussion, but before long a consensus arrived. Fancy Pants rose to his hooves, rapping on the table.
“Mares and gentlecolts!” he announced. “In recognition of the skills and creativity displayed today, and in appreciation of the special challenges posed by this modern sort of dance, we hereby award the Grand Prize of the Ponyville Prom Dance Contest to… Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle!”
Ponies mobbed forward to hug and congratulate them.
“NO FAIR!” cried a shrill voice, and the celebrations halted.
Silver Spoon was standing, shaking with fury, and she advanced on the two victors.
“That’s not dancing! That’s not what dancing is supposed to be, it’s just exercises and jumping around! How dare you? This is a travesty! I learned how to do real dancing and I deserve that prize, not her, or her!” insisted Silver Spoon. She whirled, glaring at the crowd.
Not five feet away, Diamond Tiara stared at her old cohort and now rival. She, too, looked angry, but it was in a curious way. Diamond looked as if she’d wanted to complain as well, yet when Silver Spoon came forward to do it, Diamond found herself wanting to argue the exact opposite from sheer spite. She looked sick with envy after her hard-won victory had been stolen away, but the next moment, Apple Bloom had nuzzled her mane, and she turned with a startled expression.
Diamond Tiara gazed into Apple Bloom’s amused, understanding eyes, and the spite just melted away from her. She smiled ruefully, and she snuggled up, relieved. Apple Bloom looked over at Scootaloo and Sweetie, grinned, and called out “You were awesome! …dang it!”
“They were HORRIBLE!” insisted Silver Spoon, as Diamond Tiara haughtily ignored her.
“You got a problem with my filly dancin’ up a storm?” said Braeburn. “She was the best, was young Scootaloo!”
“That’s not any kind of dancing!” said Silver Spoon. “It doesn’t count at all! There’s no dancing like that!”
“Oh yeah?” snapped Braeburn. He trotted angrily over to DJ Pon-3 and whispered at her. The DJ’s eyes widened, but she rifled through her records and soon found something in the back of her box which she threw hastily onto a turntable.
Cowpony music rang out over the speakers, and Braeburn jumped into the middle of the dancefloor.
From the crowd, Applejack whooped. “You show ‘em! Wild West dances, Braeburn! Git wild!”
He reared, kicking the air, and then cut loose. This was no classical dance form, no stylized ‘mezair’ kicking of forehooves—Braeburn hopped awkwardly about on his hind legs, clomping the floor in a rowdy display of cowpony ebullience. He grinned like a maniac, whipped his hat off with a forehoof, and waved it around as he bounced. All through the audience, mare eyes widened as they watched his hindquarters bulging with muscle, effortlessly holding him up.
Braeburn couldn’t have been more stallion-y if he’d been doing the whole thing with an erection, and the irresistible twinkle in his eye said that he knew it. He waved his hat some more, spinning around and punishing the floor with his mighty rear hooves, hopping again and again in his outrageous two-legged posture. The watching mares’ eyes grew wider and wider, looking at his stamina. And before long, at something else that showed up when Braeburn noticed all that feminine attention in the audience…
“Whoa,” laughed Applejack. “WHOA there! Mild West! Mild West! That’ll do, Braeburn, this is a kid’s dance, dammit!”
Braeburn dropped to all threes with a resounding clatter of hooves. It would’ve been all fours, but he was grinning and holding his cowpony hat under himself for modesty.
“I’mma need a bigger hat…” he said. He turned to Silver Spoon, who stared, appalled.
“THAT’S dancin’, ya lil’ varmint,” panted Braeburn triumphantly, “and my kid’s the best. Top that!”
“Ahem…” came a stern, dignified voice from behind him.
Braeburn turned and saw Filthy Rich standing there, standing very still and calm…
…but his eyes burned.
“One side, sir,” said the wealthy businesspony.
Not a pony spoke as he walked over and spoke hushed words to DJ Pon-3. Her eyes widened, and she dove for her box of spare records and hunted like mad.
He didn’t spare another glance for her, though it was hard to tell if it was scornfulness or just complete trust in her professional abilities. Sure enough, by the time Filthy Rich reached the center of the dance floor, the DJ had thrown a record on and was watching him hectically, biting her lip and waiting for her cue.
Filthy Rich’s tail flicked to the side once, twice, three, four times… and music exploded from DJ Pon-3’s sound system unlike anything that had been played that night. It was drums, horns, saxophones: a fanfare to stir the blood, sassy and audacious as it burst out of the past to cavort before the future.
Filthy Rich’s head hung low for a moment as the overture played, and he was seen muttering something that couldn’t be heard over the music. Then, his head snapped up wearing a brave, confident smile, and he seemed to toss himself into the air as the downbeat loomed, and it began.
First, jaws dropped all across the audience. They’d not expected it from the wealthy businesspony, as fit as he’d always seemed, but he started with the classical forms, prancing and switching among the different gaits effortlessly, even the sideways ones. It was perfect. In the audience, Diamond Tiara watched in awe, her eyes wide and worshipful. The music lifted, and he paused.
A percussive burst roared out of the speakers, a drum solo, except it was too loud somehow. That was when the audience realized Mr. Rich was tapping out every drumroll with his hooves, without moving.
His head lifted again, his eyes fixed on the far horizon… and he reared.
There was a shocked silence, and then a mare in the audience screamed shrilly. Filthy Rich was dancing about, on his hind legs, twirling and drifting across the floor in graceful swoops like some hovering pegasus… but his rear hooves continued to rattle out the drum solos, and then denser patterns of beats that intermingled with the music, surging and flurrying along with his gracious movements. Another mare screamed, as he drifted in a slightly eccentric orbit around the center of the dancefloor, holding his foreleg out as if offering a precious gift.
In the audience, Granny Smith gasped. “Ah seen this. Ah seen him before! Applejack, do you remember? Or was ya too little?”
“It’s amazin’, Granny!” she replied. “Who’d a thunk it? But ya know Braeburn, he kep’ in the middle of the floor. This feller, he’s drifted off to the side a mite.”
Granny stared with a gimlet eye, as Filthy Rich danced on and the mares squealed. “Naw. Naw, Applejack, it ain’t that. Ah seen this dance before. It’s for…”
Filthy Rich began a rippling movement with his shoulder and it coursed down his body with exactly the same fluidity the crowd had seen from Sweetie Belle. It wasn’t the least bit feminine when he did it. As the motion passed his hips, his tail twitched in such a way that a neat wave of rippling hair exactly matched the motion of his hind legs. Then, another ripple began at his rear right hoof, surged up through his body and out his left foreleg, which he held out solicitously to the empty space at the middle of the dancefloor, smiling, his eyes luminous. He continued to sway and revolve, orbiting a spot at the exact center of the dance floor, as if somepony else was there to balance him.
“It’s for… two…” muttered Granny. “Celestia preserve me, what was her name?”
The crowd began to stamp its hooves, unable to restrain its applause as Filthy Rich whirled through more gymnastic motions, all the while rapping out percussive patterns with his hooves. He came down on his forehooves, kicked the rear ones high in the air, and his strong hind legs froze for a moment in the shape of a capriole, a ballet-like pose nopony could quite believe he was doing. He fell back, still tapping up a storm and looking at that empty space in the middle as if it was echoing his moves, and then he reared and twirled on his hind legs, forelegs describing a tilted arc around him, tail and mane flying as the crowd cheered and screamed and stamped…
Filthy Rich came to rest, bending over with one foreleg slung under him in a cradling gesture and the other stretched out behind at a dramatic, graceful angle, and there he stayed, beaming at the empty space his front leg embraced.
The audience leapt as one and drowned him in rapturous applause, Braeburn rushing forward to grab him, shake him, crying out “Boy howdy, Mister Rich! Amazing! Where’d you learn that stuff?”
Suddenly, Filthy Rich’s trance broke. He shuddered, and looked at his empty foreleg again.
Ponies surrounded him, cheering, obscuring him from view. Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara fought their way through, trying to reach him. Behind them, Applejack and Granny Smith pushed through the crowd as well.
“No, Ginger, no…” moaned Filthy Rich. He began to sag, all the life ebbing out of him, looking out at the cheering faces in seeming helplessness and then, despair. Tears filled his eyes and wouldn’t stop. His face twisted, his lip quivering.
Braeburn blinked. “You okay, Mister Rich?”
Filthy Rich gazed up at nothing, and he gave a tormented scream of agony that stopped all the celebration.
Suddenly, there was nothing but shocked silence, as Filthy Rich crumbled to the ground brokenly and curled up in the middle of the dance floor, shaking with grief, bawling like a very little colt, all his elegance forgotten.
“Make me a space, Applejack!”
It was Granny Smith.
Applejack shoved a few stunned, unresisting ponies aside, and Granny Smith hobbled forward with determination. She bent down, and called, “Mister Rich! Look at me, Mister Rich!”
He looked up, his face wobbly with emotional anguish, and Granny Smith stared right back at him.
“Ah remember her,” she said. “Ah remember, Mister Rich. Perty goldy-brown thing she was. Ginger Snap was your partner, an’ your wife, now ah remember. You’re gonna be okay, Mister Rich. She’d be right proud of you.”
He seemed to hang there, hypnotized, his eyes pleading for her to say something… to tell him that it was a mistake, to somehow continue on and say ‘here she is, look how proud she is’, as if another pony remembering his beloved could somehow bring her back to him.
Tears came to Granny’s eyes, a bit. She could feel how badly he needed it, but there was nothing she could do.
“Aw, Mister Rich. Ah’m sorry.”
Filthy Rich crumpled again, emitting harsh awkward sobs, his eyes flooding with tears. Then, he felt another pony grab him in a frantic hug, and he tried to wipe his eyes and see who it was.
“Dad!” cried Diamond Tiara. “Please don’t be sad, please! You were so beautiful!”
He looked, to see his foal clinging to him, her eyes moist as well. He struggled to get his composure, tried horribly to smile, and he failed, turning his head away from her. “Oh, Diamond, I’m sorry! I’m so ashamed! Can you forgive me?”
“I don’t understand!” wailed Diamond, distraught. “Me, forgive you? For what?”
Filthy Rich gulped. “You are so like her, Diamond, nothing ever defeats you. I wanted to live up to what you and Ginger Snap would expect of me… I’m so sorry, I’ve broken down and you must think your poor Dad is one of those loser ponies and crybabies you always talked about, but I j—just can’t help it…”
“Daddy!” squeaked Diamond. He met her eyes.
“I LOVE you, Daddy,” she said, and she flung her forelegs around his neck and hung on tight like she’d never let go.
Ponies stirred all around them, upset by the dizzying changes in tone, so suddenly taken from wild delight to apparent tragedy that they didn’t know how to react. Too pent up to simply leave, they milled so agitatedly that Apple Bloom cried “Hey!” in alarm, adding “Quit crowdin’, y’all!”
“Make way, my little ponies!” called a clear, firm voice. Princess Celestia walked solemnly over to join them. Filthy Rich peered up at her, trying to blink away his tears. Diamond didn’t even look up.
“Mister Filthy Rich,” she declaimed, “you have honored us with the first performance of your art in many, many years. Truly, we are in your debt.” She looked around. “We have seen many wonderful things tonight, including the amazing and innovative dance by our contest winners Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, and a delightful and, ah… daring cowpony dance from our Mister Braeburn…”
Braeburn grinned sheepishly.
“But,” continued Princess Celestia, “it is not only triumphs of dancerly form we have seen tonight, but the triumph of the pony heart. Filthy Rich, I too remember your sweet Ginger Snap, and I grieve with you. We now know why you retired from the stage rather than perform again without her. It seems that now the loss is real to you, though you’d not wished to face it; I am so sorry, my good pony. Yet mayhap I can tell you in a way you’ll believe: this too will pass, and you’ll remember the joy, both that she gave and,” she said with a glance at Diamond Tiara, “that she left behind…”
Filthy Rich sobbed openly, but didn’t look away. Diamond turned at last to see Princess Celestia’s face, and the royal eyes also glistened with tears of sympathy.
“I promise you, the pain will recede, now that you have allowed yourself to experience it,” said Princess Celestia. “I wish I could spare you the grief, but remember that she was worth every bit of it, and also that by surviving her you spared her ever having to suffer that loss. This is the cost of that gift to her, Mister Rich, and it is a gift dearly bought. I know these things.”
The Princess broke off for a moment, overcome with emotion, then went on.
“I cannot heal you, for only time can do that, but in recognition of your personal journey tonight, and in recognition of your artistry that was lost to Equestria for years… I give you this, sir.”
The deepening silence was broken by the clacking of hooves. Princess Celestia stamped her feet, applauding the stricken dancer, tears in her eyes.
It set off the crowd. First one pony began applauding, then another, and then suddenly everypony was stamping until their hooves were sore, cheering their lungs out, screaming encouragement until the air rang with the sounds of their praise.
Filthy Rich looked out, and all Ponyville was weeping with him… but ecstatic to have him, all the same.
Scootaloo gazed at him in awe, and nudged Sweetie. “Didja see him? It was amazing! He’s like the best dancer ever!”
Sweetie pouted. “I think you are,” she said, and gave her a kiss.
Scootaloo kissed her back. “Yeah, right. Not after we saw that stuff. Maybe he can teach me! And me and you can be dancing ponies like him and… and Diamond’s mom, I guess.” She gulped. “Poor guy.”
Sweetie nuzzled her pegasus lover. “Look. Apple Bloom’s hugging him too.”
Scootaloo nodded. “Yeah. And Applejack told him something.” She laughed. “Huh! Applejack and Rainbow Dash hugged him without waiting for Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara to let go!”
“They’re good at that,” said Sweetie. “Oh! Bon Bon wants us over here, Scootaloo!”
“Now, hold the trophy in your teeth, Scootaloo, that’s the way,” said Cheerilee. “Higher, you’re obscuring Diamond’s face!”
Diamond Tiara pouted. “Hmph!” She straightened her tiara for the fifth time.
“Don’t make faces, Diamond Tiara,” chided Sweetie Belle. “We all know your Dad was really the best dancer in all Ponyville, but he isn’t a kid, so he can’t win the Prom.”
Diamond sulked, but Apple Bloom kissed her, and she brightened.
“And you’re in my picture because you are a kid and came in second,” called Shady Daze, readying his camera.
Diamond pouted again, and felt Apple Bloom’s teeth gently nipping her ear.
“C’mon, Diamond,” said Apple Bloom. “We got a right to be here as runner-ups, an’ be in the picture. Ah know better’n anypony: you worked really, really hard for this.”
She smiled out at the camera…
“And LOST!” called Silver Spoon, cattily, from the crowd.
Sweetie Belle looked around, offended. Scootaloo struggled with her heavy trophy and it knocked off Diamond Tiara’s tiara. Apple Bloom held her pose staunchly… and Diamond looked out at the audience, with wide glistening vulnerable eyes, in second place, with her tiara toppled.
“Now! Take it now!” urged Silver Spoon. “That’s perfect, take it NOW!”
Diamond, startled by the cry, glanced over to see what Apple Bloom’s reaction was. She saw that Apple Bloom’s chin was high, her smile unwavering, that her fillyfriend was proudly undaunted by the heckling and truly did not care. Diamond Tiara’s heart leapt, soared. She forgot the photographer for a moment and nuzzled Apple Bloom under the chin, snuggling up endearingly and giving the country filly a loving gaze not lost on Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, who watched the display of pony affection with innocent surprise…
Shady Daze’s eyes widened. He gave a hoof-pump of triumph. “Yes. YES! That was adorable! Oh my gosh! Best picture ever!” He began dancing around in glee.
Silver Spoon’s jaw dropped, and she sat down heavily on the floor and pouted, Featherweight petting her mane.
Diamond paid no attention. Apple Bloom was snuggling her back, and all was right with the world.