It was the biggest thing this side of the Summer Sun Celebration. The ribbons were hung, the streamers were flying, and dozens of merchants had set up stalls or sales-wagons in the main square of Horseshoe Corners.

With this much bustle happening and traders from the nearby towns and beyond setting up shop where the trade roads crossed, Rough Rider had been a bit shocked, in the way of foals, when he’d learned that the oddly-named First Harvest Fair was just a local thing, not something celebrated across Equestria. Even more than the holidays that were in fact that widespread, this was the day everypony looked forward to. No Summer Sun formalities or Heart’s Warming pageantry or Nightmare Night offerings – instead there were games, foods from near and far, and wonders from all across Equestria to see as their little town turned into one big market for a day.

The older ponies had hinted at more, of course, calling First Harvest an even worse day to not have a special somepony than Hearts and Hooves Day. This was the first year he’d attended as a grown stallion, and so far Roughie didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Oh, he wasn’t clueless – he knew where foals came from, he knew there were more births in the months before First Harvest than the rest of the year put together, so obviously the after-dark goings-on they’d been hinting at involved breeding those foals. But Roughie wasn’t ready to be a father just yet – not until he really found his calling, at the very least; dancing was nice and the shows brought in some bits, but it didn’t quite feel right – and without that, well, his experiments on his own had suggested that it was a lot of hype and a good bit of effort for not much payoff. It was okay, sure, but it wasn’t that great.

Adult life, he concluded, was weird.

A few bits from his modest supply got him a lei of braided vines and wildflowers, generously laden with candied dandelions; the shopkeeper, a pale yellow mare about his own age, hung it around his neck with a kiss on the cheek. That felt pretty nice; he was glad to have the chance to nuzzle back, tug one of the dandelions free with a quick bit of magic, and levitate it in place for her to bite out of the air, and she smiled that much broader at him for it. “See you at the dance, handsome,” she said, tail brushing his flank as he went on his way.

No doubt she would, he mused, plucking and munching on the next flower. He’d be happy enough to dance a few turns with Sweet Primrose, and with a number of other fillies who traded smiles with him as they all milled about the market square. But he didn’t really feel that special draw to them that all the songs went on about.

He had nothing in common with Sweet Primrose but age and hometown. With Grapevine and Springshower it was a bit better – Springshower was sporty and as down-to-earth as any pegasus he knew, and Grapevine had always been a forthright, hard-working filly who wasn’t afraid of getting tangles in her mane. But she could be a little too driven and practical, reluctant to ever kick back and relax, just like Springshower could be a bit too focused on who was winning or losing and wasn’t much one for having fun for its own sake. There wasn’t a filly in town with whom he’d ever felt the easy camaraderie he’d enjoyed with other colts and stallions, however pretty those fillies were.

There had to be something he was missing. So many ponies looked forward so much to this fair. It wasn’t just for the treats, local or otherwise – there were always some of each in town, whatever the time of year, and a lot more of them around Nightmare Night than First Harvest. The weather had been nice for months, so that wasn’t it either. Where was the magic?

He was passing by some out-of-town merchants when one of them called out, “Young stallion! You look like a pony with a taste for the finer things in life – come take a look!” A glance around revealed nobody else nearby who fit the bill of “young stallion,” and the red-maned white unicorn stallion was smiling right at him.

Well, what else did he have to do? He took a few steps closer, only to hesitate when he saw the older unicorn’s cart piled with books. “That’s what my dad thought I would be, but it really didn’t turn out that way,” he demurred.

“Oh, indeed! But it’s not jewels and silks I’m talking about. Aren’t you the tailor’s son?” With a grin and a voice dropping to a conspiratorial murmur, the salespony added, “The talk of half the eligible fillies in town and some from out of it?”

“What, me?” Roughie laughed nervously. “I mean, yes, I’m Silk Stirrup’s son, but…” Okay, fillies his age giggled and winked at him, but they did that with all the colts, didn’t they? He’d certainly seen it happen to some of his acquaintances.

“It’s not just your horn I’m looking at,” the salespony went on. “It’s the way you stand. Even if I hadn’t heard you described by all manner of fillies today alone, that would have told me that you’re a pony in search of new experiences, new sensations, am I right?”

That struck a chord, yes, but he was still skeptical. “Sure, but I’ve never been one for reading about someone else’s,” he said, starting to turn away.

“Just bear with me, good stallion,” the salespony urged. “What I have for you isn’t a history, some dry retelling like you’d find in a schoolroom, full of yawnsome yarns and forgettable figures. It’s not a tome of parables to teach you wisdom or morals. It’s not even a record of recipes or spells. I have those too,” indeed, books floated by in a bright blue aura as he spoke, fluttering their pages before tucking back into place, “but for you I have something to amuse and arouse, to entertain and inspire, to put pictures in your mind of amazing places and people such as you’ve never seen around here! Art, my young friend – art that can make you feel.

Well, he did know how to pique Rough’s interest after all. If he thought a book could do all that, maybe there was something to it – it wasn’t as though Roughie had anything against books, he just hadn’t found one he liked yet. But still…” And how much would this amazing book cost me?”

The salespony turned – for the first time, Roughie glimpsed a fancy compass rose on his flank, the kind drawn on the better sort of maps – and unlocked a cabinet on his cart, levitating a fair-sized black-bound book. “The latest volume of Scarlet Ink tales would fetch nine bits on the shelves in Croupenhagen…”

“Nine bits?” Roughie blurted. He wasn’t a pony of great means, and he didn’t want to ask his parents for a spending allowance if he could possibly avoid it, which he could; after the snack that still hung half-stripped of candied flowers around his neck, he’d hoped to spend no more than ten bits for the remainder of the fair. He turned away. “I can’t…”

But I’m so confident that you’ll like it and want more later, I’ll take four bits off that price!”

Five bits? Well, that was a bit more manageable, but it was still a lot to put down on something so different from his usual delights…

“And if you don’t like it, just bring it back to me before I leave in a week, and I’ll refund your five bits, no questions asked!”

If the pony was that sure, maybe there really was something to it. And at this point he didn’t have much to lose. “Okay,” he offered hesitantly, “I’ll try it.”

“Splendid! Here’s my card, our catalogue, a little something to hold your place, and I’ll draw up my offer in writing, just so there’s no question later.” A little rectangle of cardstock lifted off a neat stack and tucked between a few pages, followed by a rolled-up scroll lifting from a box, unrolling, and folding itself into thirds, and then a strip of patterned cloth; finally, a brightly-coloured quill pen dipped itself in ink and started scratching on a blank page. “Your name, good pony? I mustn’t rely on gossip for formal documents, after all!”

Rough Rider introduced himself as he shook some bits onto his upturned hoof, levitating an extra one back into his pouch and spilling the other five onto the older stallion’s countertop.

“Excellent,” the white unicorn crowed. “Five bits, as agreed – and this here is your assurance that I won’t forget my offer of a full refund. Such is my certainty that it won’t be necessary!” He waved the paper in the air to dry the ink, then set it and the book atop the counter. “If you want more, see me whenever I’m in town, or mail my sister at our store in Croupenhagen.”

“I’ll see,” Roughie offered hesitantly, turning his head to peek into a saddlebag and start rearranging it.

“Of course! Now, I won’t keep you from the rest of the fair. Ta ta!”

Roughie tucked the book into his saddlebag, stuffing it in deep to be sure it wouldn’t fall out, and with that he went on his way, munching on another dandelion. With what that salespony had said about gossip, every time a mare smiled at him he felt a bit anxious. He even thought he saw a little something of that from Tumbledown, one of the other dancers in his troupe, and that set his heart a-flutter for some reason – but when he looked again, the earth stallion was just another figure ambling through the crowd.

It was probably just his imagination. He’d just been told that all kinds of people were interested in him; of course he was going to see it everywhere, now, whether he wanted to or not, whether it was really there or not.

He was still trying to shake off the apprehension when a familiar voice called his name.

“Well, hi there, Roughie,” Berry Bushel greeted when the unicorn had trotted over to her kiosk. “Having a good time today?”

“I’m mostly looking forward to later on,” Roughie admitted. “The games and dancing and all that. But it sure smells delicious out here!”

“Sure does! And hey, this is the first year you’re hear as a full-grown stallion, isn’t it? Hey, Berry Bunch, pour out a cup for the most reliable helper we’ve had, would ya? On the house,” she added to Roughie with a wink, while her older sister set a cup under a spigot.

“Wait, I couldn’t have missed the start of cider season, could I?” Roughie asked, confused. “We haven’t even had harvest yet!” As Berry Bushel had touched on, helping out with the harvest – levitating as many apples as he could grab off the trees and dumping them into a cart behind him – was one of the ways he’d brought bits in over the last few years.

“Sure haven’t, but this stuff takes a fair bit longer to go off,” the older sister said, setting the cup down in front of him. “Careful with that, fella, it’s got a bit of a kick to it.”

Roughie started to take a sip, only to stifle a cough as the fumes wafted into his nose. She wasn’t kidding about the kick – but under it, he could still smell good cider. A bit more carefully, he took a sip, then a swig. It made his head spin, but it went down cold and sweet as ever.

“I like it,” he declared once he’d worked his way through the cup.

“Well, that’s plenty for you right now,” Bunch laughed. “You’ve always been a good sport so that one’s on the house, but if you still want more later on – and you’re still walking straight – we’ll give you the best deal we can.”

They chatted for a while about the upcoming harvest – normally those details bored him in a hurry, but the cider had put a pleasant haze over his thoughts that made everything seem more tolerable, or even enjoyable. At length they shooed him off so they could serve other ponies, but not before accepting a flower each from his dwindling wreath.

Clarity came back over the next hour or so, and he wasn’t quite so fond of that softness to everything – nor so blessed with bits – that he went back for more of that, though he did pick up some of their excellent berry punch. Mostly, he was passing time until things turned more lively. Then the real fun of the fair began, as far as he was concerned. Six-legged racing, tugs-o’-war, all kinds of active sports – and while he was smaller than most of the ponies taking part, he did pretty well, picking up red second-place ribbons on the six-legged race with his old friend Stormchaser, and in the hurdle chase on his own.

Placing that highly was nice, sure, but racing alongside Stormy had felt really good. A little closer to whatever it was he ought to be doing with his life, he supposed; so he waved off the pegasus’s concerns that their size mismatch had kept Roughie from first place. Let Springshower enjoy that; she’d think more of it anyway.

Then the square cleared out and the music started racing, and it was time for the dance. He lost track of how many ponies he partnered up with, rushing from one turn to the next, heart racing just from the feeling of being alive with all those ponies around. By the time the sun set, he was winded and sore-hoofed, but happy; good and ready to find a free patch of riverbank to sprawl out on.

Once he’d caught his breath, though, the question loomed of what he was supposed to do with the night. After all, he was a stallion now; all the other grown-up ponies looked forward to the night most of all. And that thought led him back to the dancing, scanning faces in his memory, wondering if there was some clue he’d missed, some look he should have noticed and acted on if he hadn’t been so caught up in the motion.

Well, fretting about it wasn’t going to do any good, and he did have one thing he could distract himself with. He trotted back to the main square to fetch a firefly lantern and brought it back with him to his patch of riverbank, and with that light, he fished the book he’d bought earlier out of his saddlebags. It was signed with what was presumably the author’s cutie mark, a red heart-shape with a trailing squiggle that looped around to a white quill. The card tucked into it proved to belong to one Trail Blazer, proven the same salespony by that compass-rose mark; the refund offer was everything the older unicorn had said it would be.

The cloth bookmark, it turned out, had been tucked in right at the start of the second story in the volume, and that seemed as good a place as any to start. In a few lines, Roughie had been introduced to a young stallion named Boldheart, curious about all the romance going on around him but not quite sure what all the fuss was about.

Somewhat uncomfortably feeling like the bookmark hadn’t been put there by accident, Roughie nonetheless read on.

That was far from the last thing he really identified with in the story’s star pony. Boldheart always wanted to be doing things – the bigger, the better – and though he thought the fillies he knew were pretty, it wasn’t until he met a go-getter like himself, the unicorn Shining Light, that he really found someone he felt like he could spend his life with. Sure, she was from a rich Canterlot family, but she didn’t much show it; she was right there in the wild with him, venturing through the Everfree Forest and all, whenever there was someone that needed help.

And when she slid up alongside Boldheart and suggested they get to know each other better…

Roughie shivered. The way the stallion’s feelings were written made him feel a rush of longing himself, and a tightness in his sheath that made him squirm, trying to settle a bit more comfortably. Just reading about what that pair was doing together put stronger sensation in him than anything he’d managed on his own.

He could picture it, could almost feel it – the wind in his mane, the snow under his hooves, her body sliding under his, her head tilted back so her breath washed over his ear, murmuring, “So this is where you got off to, Roughie?”

He came back to the here-and-now with a yelp. What was supposed to be a light touch of magic to turn the page turned into more of a yank, and the book collided with his snout and bounced off in a flutter of pages.

“Sorry,” said the slate-grey pegasus who’d spoken, stepping closer and looking down at the book. “No worse for the wear, I think. Really got into it, huh?”

“Um, yeah.” Not quite willing to discuss just what he’d been reading, Roughie tucked the bookmark in between two random pages and stuffed the book back into his saddlebags. “What brings you out here, Stormy?”

“Just wandering, but I saw you here and thought I’d see if you were up for some company.”

“Sure,” said Rough’s mouth even before his mind could shape the same thought. “Um, make yourself comfortable,” he invited, hoping the pegasus wouldn’t suggest going somewhere else. At least not quite yet.

“Good spot for it,” said Stormchaser, flopping down onto the bank a body-length away. “So you finally found something you can enjoy and relax at the same time, huh? Good for you!”

“Hey, I can enjoy myself just fine while I’m relaxing,” Roughie shot back. “Especially with weather like we’ve had today. Amazing job on that, by the way, since I didn’t get a chance to say so earlier. Just enough cloud and breeze to keep everypony from overheating.”

“Heh, thanks, Roughie,” the bigger pony said, ducking his head, ears splaying. “We all wanted to enjoy the fair too, so getting it done right and done fast seemed like the way to go. In fact…” Perking up, he twisted around to rifle through his own bags. “Barleyhoof was so happy with how fast we got it done, he gave me a little something. Might as well share.”

It was a small clay bottle, enough for maybe two full mugs – nothing like the big casks cider normally came in – but it had the Flim Flam Bros. mark on it, and was labelled, “Special Reserve Finest Twice-Distilled Applejack.” Come to think of it, there had been a couple of bottles like it at the Berry sisters’ stand, though he hadn’t got a close look at them at the time. “Applejack?” Roughie asked out loud.

“Yeah. Had some of the hard cider yet? It’s kind of like that, but more. A sniff’ll make you dizzy, and a sip will bite, but it sure feels good once it’s down. Already shared some of it with the team, but the last half can be all ours!”

Stormchaser wasn’t kidding about the applejack. They didn’t come even close to finishing the bottle, but it was enough to have them both laughing, happy and relaxed. It didn’t seem like such a big thing when the pegasus settled right against the unicorn’s side so the bottle was right there for them both; in fact, it felt very nice indeed. And the alcoholic buzz made it a little easier to talk when Stormy asked, “So what brought you so far out here from the crowd? I had four mares asking if I knew where you’d gone.”

If he’d tried, Roughie could probably name all four. “I dunno,” he sighed. “It was nice enough to be dancing with them all, but none of them really made me feel… special, y’know? Not like you are right now.”

It took him a beat to realize he’d said that out loud. He certainly hadn’t meant to. And by the time he noticed, he felt Stormchaser growing tense beside him.

“Oh… sorry, sorry, sorry,” he blurted. Ears pinning back, he pushed his snout into the soft, dewy grass and covered it with his forehooves. “You must think I’m really weird now…”

“Hey…” A feathery wing draped over his back; a warm nose nuzzled into his mane. “If that’s weird, I’m fine being weird together, Rough Rider. No mare ever made me feel like you do.”

Roughie blinked, lifting his head, curious in spite of himself. “But…” If there was any stallion in Horseshoe Corners he’d have thought would be the talk of the town’s fillies, Stormchaser was it. Big, strong, athletic enough for an earth pony; confident, well-proportioned, he was the successful captain of the town’s weather ponies, and there were rumours he’d applied to the Wonderbolts Academy with good odds. He was a pony who was going places, not a no-account like Rough Rider who might as well still be a blank-flank for all the direction he had in life. Whenever Roughie had overheard the fillies gossip, Stormchaser had come up as often as every other colt or stallion put together – they all wanted to be the one to finally catch his eye.

Stormy nuzzled at the base of his horn, sighing over it. “This is the fourth year I’ve been coming here as a stallion,” he murmured, “and I’ve tried to smile for the mares and get to know them like I’m supposed to, and it’s just never worked out. Come the end of the night I’d still be off by myself, wondering what I was missing. I think… just maybe, I think what I was missing was you.” He set a hoof atop one of Rough’s. “Rough Rider, would you… this may be a bit, heh, weird, like you said, but… would you be my special somepony tonight?”

It felt like the unicorn’s heart was trying to wrestle out of him and fly away. It was so unexpected, yet it felt so right. How it happened, he wasn’t quite sure; he just knew that before long, his mouth was against the bigger stallion’s, the pegasus’s breath warm and quick on his cheek, their bodies pressed close.

“Heh… now that was worth waiting for,” the pegasus whispered once the kiss had parted. His wing drew a bit tighter around the unicorn’s body. “Guess it still leaves us with a quiet night ahead, though – it isn’t like we can have a foal together.” Though he’d started out wistful, his voice turned more playful, almost teasing, towards the end.

“That’s… I’m pretty sure that’s not what they’re trying for,” Roughie said, feeling a blush coming on. “Not all of them, anyway. Sure, it’s what happens a lot of the time, but I think they’re doing it ’cause it feels… amazing, somehow.”

“’Somehow’, you say?” Stormy chuckled over Rough’s ears. “Is that the sort of thing that’s in the book you were so wrapped up in?”

“Something like that,” said Roughie with a nervous laugh. “I mean, sure, we might not fit together like a mare and stallion, but maybe there’s still something we can do…”

“You know, I think you’re right,” the pegasus whispered. “’cause suddenly, I’m really curious about you… and I always did like learning by doing.”

There was something in his voice – a longing like Roughie had never heard, a need that made him tremble to hear. When the older stallion nudged his shoulder, he flopped right over despite the gentleness of the touch, turning belly-up by the time he managed to catch himself. But that seemed to suit the pegasus just fine; he nuzzled the unicorn’s jaw, then trailed kisses down from there along his throat, then lower still.

His sheath was uncomfortably tight by the time the older stallion’s attention got down past his chest, and with all the nervous tension he was suddenly feeling, that didn’t seem likely to change; but then Stormchaser gave that firm ridge a gentle nuzzle and kiss, and something just… gave way. He melted down against the grass, letting out a thoroughly pleased whicker as his shaft started to slip out of that confining tightness and into the open.

Maybe Scarlet Ink would have words for the feeling as Stormchaser’s tongue slid over his now-bare tip, but he certainly didn’t.

His response was strong enough that the pegasus jerked back, looking up at his face in wide-eyed alarm. “Roughie? Did that…?”

“That felt unbelievable,” the unicorn panted. “Beat anything I’ve been able to do on my own by miles.”

“Heh, so I’m not the only one who’s resorted to a quick rub somewhere, huh?” Stormchaser shifted sideways, stepping up alongside him to nuzzle at his cheek. “You look really nice like this, Rough Rider.”

The motion drew the unicorn’s attention, specifically to the bobbing underneath the bigger stallion’s body. He apparently hadn’t had much trouble dropping into the open… and that sight made him shiver. “So do you, Stormchaser.”

Muzzle met muzzle for another breathy kiss. “So have those studies of yours turned up any other possibilities for us?”

Maybe one of the other stories did, for all Roughie knew, but that one had been mare and stallion; no help there. Still… “We could just try,” he suggested. “Make the most of it, even if we don’t quite fit the same way.”

“You’re the expert,” the pegasus teased, crouching down to the ground, the white-streaked black plume of his tail flagging upwards.

Some expert. But maybe there was some truth to it; if Stormchaser knew even less than he did… that was kind of a scary thought. But he tried to think to how, after their mutual inspection of one another, Boldheart had approached Shining Light. He slid alongside the other stallion, nuzzling into his lightning-streaked mane, murmuring, “You’ve made my heart race for years, Stormy. I think now I’m starting to see why.”

The pegasus grinned over his shoulder. “Roughie,” he breathed, “you make me feel good.

Simple words for a simple truth – profound enough to set him trembling. He nuzzled the pegasus’s flank, right over the lightning-wreathed tornado; then, turning about, he shifted his weight onto his hind feet, setting his fore hooves on Stormy’s back. “Let me know if this isn’t working, okay?” he urged. “I haven’t actually done this before.”

“Gotcha,” Stormy promised, the firm, solemn pledge all the reassurance the younger stallion needed.

Roughie eased forward, meaning to let his shaft slide under Stormy’s body, to rub against him that way. He hadn’t quite accounted for how being propped up would change the angle of things, and he got treated to a dizzying burst of sensation as his tip nudged square against the other stallion’s rear.

They both gasped; the sound of Stormy’s breath brought Roughie enough presence of mind to draw back a bit, stammering an apology, but then Stormy just grinned at him. “Actually,” the pegasus said, “that felt pretty nice. Weird, but really nice. Maybe there’s somewhere you can fit after all?”

Well… there was some space in the body there, wasn’t there? Even if it wasn’t anything Roughie would have associated with anything fun. “I… guess we can try, if you say it felt all right.”

“Not just ‘all right,’ Roughie,” Stormchaser rumbled. “That felt awesome.

Well, if he thought so, Roughie was willing to try. This time, he took a bit more care aiming himself, trying to line up with that very spot. Whispered corrections and encouragement from the other stallion got him to the right place, though not before enough rubbing on his sensitive tip to make him dizzy; and once there, he tried to ease forward a bit.

Stormchaser’s breath caught, the pegasus quivering under him, but he wasn’t telling Roughie to change anything, so the unicorn kept trying to push forward in spite of the tension barring his way. But then Stormy stammered, “Wait, wait, wait, ease up,” with such obvious discomfort in his voice that the unicorn’s ears pinned back; he slid back a few inches, breaking contact.

“I’m sorry, Stormchaser,” he murmured into the pegasus’s mane. “Maybe it’s just… not supposed to happen.”

“But it was so close,” Stormy protested. “I wanted it to happen – there was something to it that felt unbelievable. I just… couldn’t quite let it in…”

Something about the pegasus’s words tugged at him. “I could try making it hurt less,” he said dubiously, “but that could wind up causing trouble and you not feeling it in time…”

“But – maybe this is silly – but it feels like it’s only hurting so much because of that first bit. Like if I could just get past that, it’d be easier. I just can’t make myself let it happen…”

Touched by his friend’s distress, Roughie tried to bring his magic to bear, to ease, not just pain, but the tension in the bigger stallion’s body… and then something truly remarkable happened: a degree of awareness such as he’d never known, a depth of insight into his friend’s form that he could scarcely understand. And yet understand he did – he could feel where the pegasus was tense, where he was sore, where he was clenching and resisting the intrusion in spite of how much he craved it.

And he remembered the day when he’d got his own linked-horseshoes mark, how he’d been stuck in a press of bodies and unable to make progress, and then his magic had flared up unbidden, slickening his body and letting him shoot forward. Could he focus something like that on part of himself?

He focused, golden light sparkling on dewdrops as his magic came to life.

Stormchaser shivered under him. “Oh… oh, wow,” he panted. “Dunno what you’re doing there, but that feels nice.

“Wish I’d thought of it before,” Roughie murmured into his mane.

The pegasus twisted his neck around, managing to blow a warm whicker over the unicorn’s ears. “One more try? I think… I think maybe I can do it, with whatever you just did.”

“And I’ll try something on myself, too,” Roughie assured him. Easier said than done – focusing magic on his bare, sensitive shaft brought a wash of feeling that almost overwhelmed his concentration – but he thought it worked.

Better than he could have dreamed, apparently; this time, when he pushed forward, there was the barest moment of resistance, and then the other pony’s body parted before his shaft, and he was sinking into smooth, snug warmth.

“Oh – oh, yeah…” Stormy squirmed under him. “That’s the stuff! Keep going, stud…”

That wasn’t a word he’d ever thought of hearing applied to himself; he couldn’t help but giggle. But keep going he did, shifting his hooves to stand a bit closer to the other stallion, sinking his shaft in deeper. To have such silken heat wrapped tight around every bit of his shaft’s forward end, and taking in more of it each moment, was indescribable – already leaps and bounds past anything he’d managed alone, so far beyond that comparing it was just ludicrous. And it was getting better all the time.

Stormchaser suddenly tensed, arching up under him, the tightness of his body surging around Rough’s length. “Oh – oh, wow,” he panted. “Roughie, you just hit something in there that felt amazing. More, please more…!”

So the unicorn gave him as much more as he had to offer, and even when their bodies were pressed right up against one another, he strained to give more still, to feel the last bit of his shaft wrapped in that welcoming heat. All he wound up accomplishing was squirming, with each motion shifting the sensations on his needy length, and Stormchaser squirming that much harder in response.

And then a mind-blowing rush of sensation swept over him.

It was the same sort of thing he’d felt in the past, when he’d managed to work a few sticky white pulses out of himself, but that was like saying a candleflame was the same sort of thing as a bonfire. That had been a quick, mild surge of pleasure; this was a torrent of it that swamped his senses – for a few moments he knew nothing but the tight heat around his bucking length and the rush of his own seed down it, and pure, twice-distilled bliss.

When the surge receded, he was gasping for breath, sagging atop the other pony. He’d cried out, he was pretty sure – his throat was raw enough for it to have been a scream, though he was pretty sure he’d muffled it in his friend’s mane. That same friend – his very own special somepony – seemed just as thoroughly affected, slack under him, wings flat to either side, gasping for breath.

“Wow,” Stormchaser said, some time later. “And I thought the kiss was worth waiting for…”

Part of the unicorn’s mind wanted to cuddle up a bit closer – maybe to nestle in under the bigger pony instead of the other way around; maybe face to face – but that would have needed him to pull out, and right at the moment he couldn’t even begin to draw his aching shaft free of its comfortable new home. “That was,” he started, then shook his head. “I don’t even have words.”

“If it was even half as good as what I just went through… wow.” The pegasus laughed, stretching out a little under him. “Maybe we should try it the other way around sometime and compare, huh?”

Roughie shuddered. For the moment, he despaired of ever putting in words just how right the thought of being under the bigger pony felt. “I think… I think maybe this is what I’m really meant to do,” he confessed. For a moment, the physical bliss was eclipsed by epiphany.

“I can believe it,” said Stormchaser, setting a hoof atop one of Rough Rider’s where it had slipped to the ground beside him. “And anytime you want some practise, I’m your pony!”

“It wouldn’t be just that!” the unicorn protested. “Not with you! You’re…”

Words failed him, but they didn’t seem to matter. “I know, Roughie. You’re special to me, too,” he murmured. “Wherever we wind up, whatever we’re doing, I won’t forget you, or this night.”

Straight-spoken as it was, in that moment it seemed as apt as any clever arrangement of words could ever be. He sighed into the pegasus’s mane. “Stormchaser, I… I think I love you. I think I have for years and just never knew what to call it – or what to do about it.”

“Took the words right out of my mouth… love,” Stormchaser murmured, patting his hoof.

A moment later, the pegasus added, “But I think I’m starting to stick here. Maybe we should take a dip in the river, huh?”

Rough Rider blushed, suddenly remembering something he’d never thought to make sure of. “You, uh… made a mess, did you?”

“Oh, yeah,” the bigger pony laughed. “Not sure quite when, but it was a big one, and I owe it all to you.”

They pulled apart with a fair bit of squirming, and then raced each other, laughing, to the riverbank and right into the cool water. In that moment, that was all the unicorn needed in life; for that night, everything was fine.