Pair the Spares

by Sharp Spark

Chapter 1: Pair the Spares

The bright pink bowling ball glimmered as a field of cerulean magic surrounded it. It floated up from the ball return to lazily swing in the air as Rarity trotted up, her hooves clacking against the wood floor. She paused to pose thoughtfully, one forehoof raised to her chin and a backhoof frozen mid-step. Then, with a particularly mischievous grin, she glanced back to where Pinkie was sitting, giving her a wink.

“Oh no,” Rainbow Dash said, a hoof pressed to her forehead. “What are you doing? No, Rarity, no.”

The magic aura disappeared, and Rarity caught the bowling ball with one hoof, the abrupt heavy weight almost causing her to drop it. With a properly-ladylike grunt of effort, she managed to hold it upright, still balanced precariously on the upraised hoof. “I think I’m going to try it Earth-pony style, darling.”

“Surely you can’t be serious,” Rainbow groaned.

Rarity turned up her nose. “Of course I am.”

“Yeah! And don’t call her—mph!” Pinkie found Rainbow’s hoof suddenly stuck in her mouth.

Rainbow’s eyes narrowed. “This isn’t the time to screw around, Rarity.”

“Pish posh, I’m sure it will be fine.” Her hoof wobbled, almost dropping the ball. “Now how do I… Hm. Hoo-ah!”

With an awkward thrust of her foreleg, Rarity shoved the ball forward. It landed with a loud bang against the lane, bouncing on the hard wood.

“Whoops,” Rarity said.

All six of them watched the ball roll down the lane at a snail’s pace, slowly but inevitably drifting off to the side. Thirty seconds later, it finally reached the neatly arranged pins, only to tap gently against the one furthest to the right. The ball itself promptly bounced into the gutter as the single pin fell over.


Rainbow winced, realizing the high-pitched squeal was actually coming from Rarity, whose hooves were pistoning up and down to dance in place.

“I got one!”

“That’s my Rare-Bear!” Pinkie exclaimed, bouncing up to join Rarity in front of the lane. They rubbed noses as they shared a grin, and then started in on an elaborate ritual halfway between dance and secret hoofshake that involved far too much choreographed weaving and swaying.

Rainbow groaned again, louder. She turned where Fluttershy sat meekly beside her. “Can you believe those two? Ever since they started dating, they’ve been completely insufferable.”

“You mean ‘inseparable’?” Fluttershy asked.

Rarity and Pinkie Pie bumped flanks, then reared back to shimmy past one another, employing what could only be properly described as ‘jazz hooves’.

“I know what I said,” Rainbow muttered darkly. She looked down at the scorecard in front of her, with ‘TEAM SONIC LANE-BOOMS’ scrawled across the top in her messy mouthwriting. Underneath were score lines for Rarity, Rainbow, Applejack, and Fluttershy. Rainbow had to stifle a grimace as she marked down a one for Rarity’s first throw.

“I don’t know,” Fluttershy said. “It’s kind of… cute?”

“Sure as sugar is.” Applejack said, grinning. “Sounds to me like somepony’s sour cause she’s jealous ‘bout not having a marefriend of her own.” Twilight, who was wearing Applejack’s stetson and currently lying mostly on top of Applejack, just giggled.

Pinkie and Rarity trotted back. “My Rarity is the very best at balling,” Pinkie said proudly.


“Silly Rainbow! Bowls are what you eat soup out of. We’re using the heavy balls with the funny holes in them, remember?”

“Indeed, darling.” Rarity’s brow furrowed. “Though you raise an excellent point. I always wondered what those holes were for.”

“It’s where you store your extra bubblegum!” Pinkie chirped.

“Not... quite,” Twilight cut in. “Griffons originally invented bowling. It’s for their talons to fit in.”

“Aw, you’re so smart,” Applejack said, turning to nuzzle Twilight.

“Yeah, well, nopony asked for a history lesson.” Rainbow Dash pursed her lips, standing up and trotting over to roll the powder-blue bowling ball on her back safely between her wings. “Out of my way, you two,” she groused, stepping up to the lane.

Fluttershy leaned forward, watching intently, but found her concentration abruptly broken as Rarity and Pinkie Pie squeezed in on either side of her.

“Hiiiii Fluttershy,” Pinkie sang out, vibrating in place.

“Um, hello,” Fluttershy said.

“Dear, I happened to overhear at the market when you were speaking with Carrot Top,” Rarity said, her eyes sparkling. “You’re planning on a vacation next week?”

“Yes.” Fluttershy forced a quick smile as she leaned forward again, watching Rainbow Dash shift back and forth and consider her angles. “I’m going to go watch the fuchsia foxfalcon migration as they pass near the Whitetail Woods. We’ll camp out overnight, in order to see them as they pass by early in the morning.”

Pinkie’s grin reached an alarming width. “Weeee…?”

“Rainbow is coming along too.”

Rarity raised one hoof, covering her mouth. “How positively romantic!”

Fluttershy frowned. “I… suppose? It is the mating season for foxfalcons after all, but they’re not particularly monogamous. In fact, they have a very interesting communal structure, in which the various males—”

“No, no,” Rarity interrupted. “I meant… ehem.”

“It must be really pretty!” Pinkie said.

Yes,” Fluttershy whispered as loud as she dared, as Rainbow’s ball crashed into the pins at the end of the lane. “Yay!” She tapped her hooves gently against the floor in applause, eyes darting side to side to make sure she wasn’t disturbing anypony. “Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, they’re very beautiful.”

“It’d certainly be a good opportunity to talk to somepony about something special…”

“No, not particularly,” Fluttershy said. “The foxfalcons are quite, um, loud.”

Rarity sighed. “No, I mean, maybe it’d be a chance to tell Rainbow something? Maybe something you’ve been thinking about for a long time?”

“Foxfalcon facts? Rainbow isn’t usually very interested in critter trivia.” Pinkie opened her mouth to respond, but Fluttershy turned to give her a stern look. “Really, you two. I’d be glad to talk about this, but can’t it wait? Rainbow’s trying to pick up the spare, and I think we’d all appreciate it if you’d take things a little more seriously.”

Pinkie and Rarity shared a guilty glance. “So sorry, darling. I didn’t realize you were so into… bowling.”

“It’s important to Rainbow, so it’s important to me,” Fluttershy said firmly, looking forward again. “She’s my oldest friend. She took the time out of her schedule to go watch the migration with me, because she cares. It’s the least I can do to support her too.”

“Of cooooourse!” Pinkie said, bouncing up and down all over again. On the other side, Rarity was doing the same for some reason.

Ahead of them, Rainbow narrowed her eyes as she stared at the couple of pins remaining. Both on the right side, to be specific, which should have been easy but she knew she had a tendency to hook too far in that direction, and couldn’t risk making a mistake this early in the game.

“Having trouble?” Applejack drawled out. “Normally ya wanna try and knock ‘em all over.” Twilight giggled again.

“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow Dash muttered. She crouched down, shaking her hindquarters as she lined up the shot, and then sprung upwards, flipping into a concise loop-de-loop as the momentum shot the ball down the lane.

It rolled straight and true, smacking down the last two pins. “That’s more like it,” she said, holding her nose up high as she trotted back to her seat.

Applejack let out a whistle. “Not too bad, Rainbow. But I reckon it’s time somepony showed ya how to do it right the first time.” She stood up, taking the time to stretch before languidly walking over to retrieve her ball, a deep purple speckled with pink.

“Show them how it’s done, AJ!” Twilight cheered. “I believe in you!”

Applejack walked up to the lane, then paused, tapping a hoof to her chin. “Shucks, almost forgot my good luck charm.” She turned around and trotted over to Twilight.

“Oh, do you need your hat?” Twilight said. “I can—” Applejack stopped her with a quick peck on the lips.

“That oughta do it.” Applejack grinned. She headed back to the lane, leaving her marefriend staring back red-cheeked. In one casual motion, she dropped the ball to the floor, turned around to wink again at Twilight, and then bucked both legs back.

The ball flew down the length of the alley without even touching the lane, and when it hit the pins, Rainbow Dash could swear she heard the crack of some of them breaking.

She rolled her eyes. “Showoff.”

“Ya see,” Applejack said smugly, “It’s all about element’ry principles of physics. With the right kind of angular velocity, ya don’t have to worry so much about the friction coefficient and the result is downright constant, relativityally speaking.”

Twilight had turned crimson as she chewed on her lip. “Oh gosh, oh gosh.”

“You alright, sugarcube?” Applejack said.

“You know how turned on I get when you talk science.”

Applejack snickered. “And here I thought I was just making that up as I went along.”

“Oh, it was a load of nonsense,” Twilight whispered, “but hot nonsense.”

Rainbow mimed an overexaggerated gagging, before biting on the pencil to mark the score down. “All I care about is that we win.”

Twilight turned away from staring at Applejack and smiled brightly. “It’s just for fun, Rainbow. Of all the flying competitions you’ve medaled in and races you’ve won, is it really so important to be on the championship team of Ponyville’s Casual Amateur Bowling League?”

Captain of the championship team,” Rainbow said. “And absolutely. We can’t lose, not here! We’re up against our biggest rivals!”

“We have rivals?” Applejack said.

“Of course we do!” Rainbow’s eyes narrowed as she shot a glare across at the four ponies one lane over. The big one in the orange sunglasses glared right back, but their leader just gave a relaxed wave. “Them right there. There’s… uh. The dopey one. And… Walter, maybe? And that one dude. I hate that dude the most!”

“Of course.” Twilight rolled her eyes. “Those rivals. I had forgotten.”

Applejack raised her hoof to hide a grin. “Shoot, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think ya were trying to impress somepony.”

“Applejack,” Rainbow Dash said. “You know who you’re talking to, right? I impress everypony, like all the time.”

“Um,” Fluttershy said. “I’m done now. Sorry to interrupt.”

Rainbow’s head jerked around. “What? I didn’t even— How did you do?”

“I got six this time...” Fluttershy said, head drooping. “I’m getting better though. I’m trying, honest.”

She felt Rainbow’s wing pull her in for a quick hug. “I know you are, ‘Shy,” Rainbow said, her voice momentarily shifting to a tone of earnest encouragement. “You’re doing fine.”

Applejack glanced over at Twilight, one eyebrow arching. Twilight just grinned.

Rainbow Dash’s ball flew into the pins with a mighty crash. She sucked in a breath as she punched one forehoof in the air. “Perfect!” she said, trotting back to mark down the strike in the final square on her scorecard. “That’s me done. We’re close— so close. We only need ten points to put us over the top. Which means Applejack can probably do it in one go. Right, AJ?”

When no answer came, Rainbow looked up, glancing around. “Applejack?”

There was a distinct lack of orange farmponies in the vicinity. Just Pinkie Pie and Rarity sitting curled up on the bench, with Fluttershy behind them, pacing back and forth with nervous energy as she muttered encouragements to herself.

Rarity noticed Rainbow Dash’s attention and waved a hoof dismissively. “I think she and Twilight ran off to go find a closet to snog in.”

“Rarity!” Pinkie gasped.

“I said ‘snog’! It’s Trottingham slang for ‘kiss’, not anything dirty.”

“Oh, I knew that,” Pinkie said. “I meant there are closets that we could be making kissytimes in and you didn’t tell me?!”

Rarity giggled. “Pinkie Pie, you incorrigible flirt.”

Rainbow stomped one hoof down. “You’ve gotta be kidding! This is the last frame. What are we supposed to do?”

“Find a replacement?” Rarity suggested.

Rainbow Dash’s eyes lit up. “Yes! Pinkie Pie, you can take over.”

“Sorry Dashie,” Pinkie said. “I can’t. I’m already on a team.”

Rainbow tilted her head. “No you’re not. You’ve been here the whole—” As she blinked, she realized that Pinkie was suddenly gone. Whipping her head around, Rainbow saw her two lanes away, bowling a strike. When she glanced back, Pinkie was in her seat again. “You—” Her teeth shut with a click. “Nevermind, not even going to acknowledge that. Fine. But there’s got to be somepony who can fill in.”

“Hey girls,” Spike said, walking up. Trailing behind him were Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and a giant pile of tickets with part of a big red bow sticking out. “We ran out of quarters at the arcade.”

“...And we have no idea how the skeeball machine broke,” Scootaloo chimed in.

“...And we were wonderin’,” the pile of tickets said. “What d’ya think’s a better use of our tickets, an AM/FM radio?”

“...Or six thousand plastic spiders?” Sweetie said, jumping up in the air for emphasis.

Rarity’s eye twitched. “Sweetie, darling, I don’t think—”

“Rarity, this is an emergency.” Rainbow Dash began pacing back and forth. “Let’s solve the important problem first before we talk about how to fill your house with spiders. We just need somepony to substitute in. Anypony!”

She found her pacing suddenly interrupted by three crusaders latching onto her forehooves.

“Oh, no, not a chance. We need somepony who can at least manage to not set the bowling alley on fire.” Rainbow grimaced, having to avert her eyes from the weapons-grade cuteness of the puppydog eyes the three were deploying, but then she happened to see their fourth. “Or maybe somedragon.”


“Spike! Congratulations, you’re the new Applejack. Somepony get this dragon a cowboy hat!”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Spike said, wringing his claws.

“C’mon, you gotta help.”

“I… um…”

Rainbow glanced over to Fluttershy with a pleading look, and Fluttershy nodded firmly. She took a deep breath, and lowered her head down to Spike’s level, giving him her most supportive, nurturing look, the one she normally reserved for baby chipmunks. “It’s okay, Spike. I understand it can be scary. We only expect you to try your best, and we’ll be proud of you no matter what.”

“It’s not that.” Spike’s eyes darted to the side. “I mean, I don’t think it’d be fair for the other team. I… kind of... won the under-ten youth bowling championships back when Twilight and I lived in Canterlot. Uh. Three years in a row.”

Several pairs of wide eyes all turned on Spike at once.


Rainbow cantered hastily over to the four ponies idly watching from the next lane over. “Hey, you, dude. One of our team came down with, um, the feather flu, and so we’re going to make a quick substitution. Sound good?”

“Bummer. The earth pony caught the feather flu?” The goateed stallion shrugged at her. “Figures, just when you least expect it. Yeah, go ahead. It’s, like, fine by us.”

Rainbow flew back in a flash. “See? They’re good with it we’re great everything’s perfect.” She flashed a toothy grin at Spike. “Now just get us a strike!”

“Uh, okay,” Spike said. He walked up to the ball return, picking out the smallest one he could find and slipping his claws into the holes. When he stepped up to the lane, he kept the ball easily balanced in his claws, taking the opportunity to carefully swing it back and forth and test its balance.

His form was confident and assured as he let go of the ball, that arm curving forward in a smooth arc. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t quite let go of him. It made it a hoofslength away, but the pink chewing gum plugged into the holes was still very much connected to his claws, and then the weight of the ball dragged Spike screaming halfway down the lane.

“Oops,” Pinkie Pie said, wincing slightly.

Rainbow’s hoof thunked into her forehead.

“I think that’s a double fault,” the dude in the next lane over opined.

“Your face is a double fault,” Rainbow fired back.

“Well, that’s just like your opinion, man,” he muttered.

Rainbow Dash threw her hooves up. “That’s it. It’s over. We’re doomed.”

“No we’re not,” Fluttershy said. She struck one hoof down against the floor. “I still get to try.”

Rainbow looked up at her. “I know, but... you haven’t even gotten a spare all night.”

“Do you believe in me?” Fluttershy said, staring Rainbow right in the eyes.

Rainbow’s mouth formed a line. She looked back in silence for a long moment before nodding. One hoof reached out to Fluttershy’s shoulder. “You can do this? You can win?”

“Yes.” Fluttershy’s smile was small, but completely assured.

Rainbow Dash met it with a grin of her own. “Then absolutely. I believe in you.”

“Okay. Let’s do this!”

When they turned towards the lane, neither one of them noticed Rarity and Pinkie Pie watching, their giddy smiles and slight blushes mirroring one another.

Fluttershy marched up to take her ball. She sat it firmly down on the wood. Then she closed her eyes as an expression of serene calm overtook her face. Taking a deep breath, she held it in, for a moment completely motionless even in the noise of the bowling alley. Then in one swift strike, she pushed out with all her strength, sending the ball rolling forward with considerable speed.

She didn’t even open her eyes until she heard the sound of ball striking pins.

When she did look, at first she thought she must have been staring at the wrong lane. There weren’t any pins standing in it, after all.

And then Rainbow Dash let out a deafening whoop, flying forward to tackle her in a huge hug.

The two broke into giddy laughter, wings flapping as they spun in a circle, twisting and twirling in the air as they held each other tightly. “You did it!” Rainbow gasped out.

We did it!” Fluttershy laughed.

Then their celebration slowed, as they gradually became aware of the sudden silence. You could have heard a pin drop in the bowling alley. More relevantly, you couldn’t hear a pin drop because they were all left standing upright because everypony had stopped bowling to stare at the two of them instead. Even Twilight and Applejack had trotted over from somewhere in the back, both still looking a little disheveled.

Everypony in the alley seemed to be staring at them. “Kiss her!” somepony shouted from the back of the crowd.

Rainbow blinked. “What? Who?”

Fluttershy frowned. Her face had gone pink. “I, uh, think they’re talking about us,” she mumbled.

“Kiss you?” Rainbow said. “Ugh. That’d be like kissing my sister.”

“H-hot,” Scootaloo whispered from underneath a table.

“I mean, uh,” Rainbow looked at Fluttershy, who she still held in a close hug. “Do you want me to kiss you?”

“No thank you,” Fluttershy said firmly.

“Thank Celestia,” Rainbow muttered. She flapped her wings, settling the both of them down on the ground and letting Fluttershy go.

“But— But darlings!” Rarity protested, as she stepped forward from the crowd. “You make such an adorable couple! The signs are so clear!”

“We’re just friends,” Fluttershy said.

Rainbow nodded. “Best friends.”

Pinkie’s eyes lit up with hope. “Like Bon-Bon and Lyra? Do you already have bedroom-only best-friends tongue-wrestling competitions?”

“Um, no.” Fluttershy said. “Why would you even think—” Her eyes narrowed as a tiny frown crossed her face. “Excuse me, but... Have you guys been trying to get us together?”

Rarity and Pinkie Pie suddenly seemed to find opposite corners of the room to be very interesting. Even Applejack wouldn’t meet Fluttershy’s eyes.

“Are you kidding? That’s totally not cool!” Rainbow crossed her arms in a huff. “I think I speak for both of us when I say you all should just butt out of things that are definitely not your business. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be taking my bowling trophy and going home.”

“There’s not a trophy, man,” the dude at the other lane said. “It’s just for fun, you know?”

“Ugh. Fine, I’ll just have to go pick out a suitably big trophy and have it engraved as a sign of our awesome victory.” Rainbow glanced over to the pony next to her. “Fluttershy, would you like to accompany me? As a friend?”

“I’d be delighted,” Fluttershy said. With one last disdainful look directed towards the crowd of ponies, the two pegasi linked forelegs and took flight, heading out of the bowling alley.

Everypony in the alley seemed a little embarrassed by the whole thing, shuffling their hooves and awkwardly trying to pick back up where they had left off in their games. Applejack shook her head as she walked over to Pinkie Pie and Rarity. “Well, shoot. I thought that was really workin’, too.”

“Now we’re back to square one,” Pinkie groaned, resting her head on Rarity’s back.

“Sure seems like it.”

“Maybe we were going about this the wrong way,” Rarity mused. “Applejack, is your brother still single?”

“Yup. What’re ya thinking? Maybe I can talk him into goin’ to a fancy restaurant and we could spring some kinda happenstance meeting, only one table open, that kinda thing?”

“Clever.” Rarity pursed her lips as she thought. “And I could pull some strings, try to get in touch with that one Wonderbolt captain for Dash...”

“Wait,” Applejack cut in. “Ya mean set up Mac and Fluttershy? Boy howdy, that date wouldn’t go well. Wouldn’t be much more than a game of ‘Shhh!’ with breadsticks.”

“You think he’d be more appropriate for Rainbow? I know opposites attract but—”

“I can’t believe you three!” Twilight trotted up, a deep frown etched onto her face. “I think you need to take a step back and look at this with some perspective. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash are our friends. Do you really care that little about their own feelings on the matter?”

Applejack doffed her hat, holding it to her chest. “Shucks. Sorry Twi, you’re right.”

“Indeed.” Rarity sighed. “I think we’ve learned an important lesson today.”

“Affairs of the heart are private and personal, and it’s not our place to intrude upon the love lives of our friends,” Pinkie solemnly stated.

“No, no, no. Don’t be silly. I just meant we need more data on their feelings.” Twilight clapped her hooves together. “Which is why we’ll get them to fill out a detailed questionnaire regarding ideal romantic partners, and then crossreference it with the relationship matrices I’ve already constructed. Ooh, I’ll get Spike to send a letter to Cadance, and she can double-check my math. This will be fun!”

Applejack grinned. “We really are great friends, aren’t we?”

“The very best,” Rarity agreed.

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