With a jolt, the pegasus who stood in front of Sweetie Belle lurched forward and managed to trip on her gown as she did so. Sweetie Belle winced in sympathy as Sunbeam caught herself and continued trotting across the small stage. Blushing furiously, poor Sunbeam accepted the diploma held out to her by the gray-bearded president of the Canterlot Music Observatory.
Sweetie Belle took a deep breath as the young pegasus quickly made her way off-stage.
There came a roar from the gathered crowd, and Sweetie couldn’t help but grin as she began slowly, carefully crossing the stage. It seemed that half of Ponyville had shown up for her graduation ceremony. Not only were her parents and Rarity out there, but Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had both taken time off work to come, too. Not to mention both Mr. and Mrs. Cake, Pound and Pumpkin, plus her sister’s friends.
Fluttershy, who’d first encouraged her to sing. Applejack, who’d taught her how to play the violin and harmonica. Rainbow Dash, who’d whistled and stomped her hooves at Sweetie’s very first performance, as though it was a sports game, much to Sweetie’s shock and delight. Twilight Sparkle, who’d urged her to apply to the observatory and written her a letter of recommendation.
And Pinkie Pie. Pinkie Pie, who’d taught her how to sing—how to really sing. Pinkie Pie, who’d been her duet partner through the years, as Sweetie grew both in stature and in talent. Pinkie Pie, who was beautiful and brilliant and kind and infuriating and impenetrable. Pinkie Pie, who was untouchable, always.
Sweetie’s grin faltered. But by then, the observatory president was murmuring words of congratulations and giving the young unicorn her diploma. Giving her head a shake, Sweetie Belle thanked him and took the diploma within her magical grasp.
It wasn’t until she made it safely off-stage that she dared look out into the audience of family and friends. Almost immediately, without even trying, she found a pair of achingly familiar eyes that were the exact same shade of blue as the sky on a perfect, cloudless day in April.
Pinkie smiled at her, a smile that was bright and happy and hopeful.
Sweetie Belle didn’t smile back.
Rarity had arranged for her graduation party to be held at one of the swankiest restaurants in Canterlot and had refused to listen to any protests that it was too big or too much. Rarity was not a pony who believed in the concept of “too much.”
And so Sweetie didn’t bother to protest. She simply chatted with her friends and loved ones, indulged questions as to which of the job offers she’d received she would take, and ate more French food than any pony should ever eat in a single setting. She laughed at her father’s terrible jokes, and she rolled her eyes in good-humored tolerance whenever Scootaloo grabbed her and ruffled her mane.
Pinkie Pie was at the opposite end of the table, with the rest of Rarity’s friends. As long as Sweetie Belle didn’t glance over, it was almost as though Pinkie wasn’t there. It was almost as though it didn’t hurt.
“Heya, Sweetie Belle.”
Sweetie froze. Her body went cold, and her mind went completely blank.
“I was wondering … do you wanna go on a walk with me?”
No. No, she didn’t. Really, if she never had to see or talk or hear Pinkie Pie ever again, it would be too soon. It would be entirely too soon, and yet the very presence of Pinkie so near, so close and so very, very real, had set the unicorn’s heart to racing.
“Sure,” Sweetie heard herself say. “A walk sounds nice.”
Apple Bloom shot her a worried look, while Scootaloo was openly glaring at the pink earth pony.
It was Rarity who actually spoke up, however. “Well, don’t keep her out too late, Pinkie. We’re doing brunch in the morning.”
And then Rarity was herding the others off, presumably toward the hotel, which left Sweetie standing alone with Pinkie Pie outside the restaurant. The warm candlelight from the restaurant spilled out onto the street, and the crisp night air caused Sweetie to shiver.
Pinkie was still smiling. It wasn’t as bright or as big as the smile from earlier, but it was still hopeful.
Sweetie Belle felt sick.
“We didn’t really get a chance to talk very much tonight, you know! Which is totally okay, ‘cause it’s been a while since you’ve seen Rarity and your parents, and everypony else, of course, but I was thinkin’ maybe we could—”
“Pinkie, you said no.”
The older mare glanced down at her hooves.
“I told you how you felt, and you said …” Sweetie Belle slowly shook her head. “And you said no. You told me no.”
“I … I remember.”
Sweetie had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from crying. “W-why? Why wasn’t I good enough? Was it because I’m too young? Is it because I’m not smart? Or was I not a good enough singer? Or did I—”
In the blink of an eye, Pinkie Pie was right in front of her, those eyes huge and dark under the moonlight, and then Pinkie was kissing her. It was a moment that Sweetie Belle had spent years dreaming about, fantasizing over, longing for, and yet it was nothing like she’d thought it would be. Pinkie Pie’s mouth wasn’t as soft as it had been in all those dreams, and her kiss was urgent, demanding, and not gentle or romantic at all. Pinkie tasted vaguely of blackberry wine.
It was awkward and overwhelming and scary and amazing.
It was real.
“Don’t ever think you’re not good enough,” whispered Pinkie fiercely, when she finally pulled away. “You are too good enough! For me or—or—or for anypony!”
Sweetie Belle simply stood there, gasping for air and trembling on all four hooves. She listened to the roaring of her blood through her ears as she tried to think of something to say. Something to do. Finally, she settled on simply asking, “Then, why?”
Pinkie reached forward and ran an affectionate hoof through Sweetie Belle’s mane. Sweetie tried, and failed, to hold back a shudder at the other mare’s touch.
“Sweetie, if I’d said yes … would you have still gone to the observatory?”
The unicorn frowned. She opened her mouth to reply, hesitated, and then shut her mouth again.
“Uh-huh. That’s what I thought.” Pinkie’s laugh was warm, soft, and rose up into the night air like a balloon. “I’m really super sorry, though. I know … I know that wasn’t the answer you wanted, and I know it hurt a bunch.”
Sweetie licked her lips, which still tingled slightly from the sheer force of Pinkie’s kiss. “Pinkie? Do you wanna … would you still like to go on a walk? I could show you the gardens on the observatory campus.”
“That sounds like a really great idea! Um, if you still wanna go on a walk, that is.” And then, suddenly, that little smile from before was back, pleading, wheedling, irresistible. “Do you still wanna go on a walk with me?”
Sweetie Belle smiled back at her, a smile that was bright and happy and hopeful. “I would love to go on a walk with you.”
Heh, this was a really nice story. Sweetie’s sadness surrounding Pinkie came through really strong throughout the story, how she kept coming back to thinking about her even though she didn’t seem to want to. It’s good to see them reconcile after what Pinkie did though, and the end is just as “bright and happy and hopeful” as Sweetie’s smile. Nice story!