"Are you sure you can handle this?"
"Of course, sir!" the light-green colt in the white jacket replies. "You needn't worry! I may be young, but I've been studying as much as I can about being an effective head chef!" He speaks with an air of young boldness, going so far as to give you a sharp salute with his forelimb. You let out a little smirk at his display of determination while wondering if he forgot that you're not his drill sergeant.
"Okay, you've convinced me," you say to your sous chef Caesar Salad while trying your darnedest to avoid chuckling. Truthfully, you were already convinced a few days ago, but you kept asking him just to be extra sure.
Channeling the magic inside your horn, you levitate a set of keys over to him, which he promptly grabs out of the air with his mouth. "Open at eight, close at eight. Don't forget to clean the kitchen and restock ingredients in the morning, and my quarters are off-limits unless it's an emergency." He eagerly listens to every last piece of your parting advice, keeping his leg sharply angled towards his head as if you were the commander of the Equestrian Royal Guard.
"’Ou can coun’ on meh, sir!" Caesar says through grit teeth. In his fervor, he seems to have forgotten that he too possesses a horn that he could levitate the keys with.
"Heh, alright then," is all you can say to his enthusiasm. His experience may be as green as his horn, but the passion is certainly there.
You turn your head to take a glance outside, and spot the thing to remind you that it's time to leave: A purple-coated unicorn sitting outside at one of the patio tables, a pair of saddlebags lying beside her chair. She appears to be engaged in a conversation with another unicorn sitting across from her, this one sporting a brilliant white coat and a stylish curly purple mane. The white-coated mare, who you know by proximity as Rarity, seems to be enjoying the discussion more than her violet counterpart, if her dreamy stare and smile are anything to go by.
Your attention, however, is fully on the purple mare....no, not just any purple mare. The purple mare. The head of the Ponyville Library. The Element of Magic. The star pupil of Princess Celestia. The filly that you count your blessings every day for being able to call her your marefriend.
It's not until Caesar speaks up that you notice how long you've been staring at the two fillies outside, and that you've gained a grin that you often saw Twilight's dragon assistant carry whenever her friend Rarity was around.
"Oh! Er, yes, of course," you babble as you try to return your focus to your sous chef. "I need to be on my way now. Take care of yourself. I'll be back in a few days" With your words, you grab the saddlebags sitting next to you and toss them onto your back. You move towards the open door leading to the outside portion of the cafe and take a step outside when you remember one last detail that needed to be relayed.
"Oh, and Caesar?"
"Just relax and take the orders as they come. I have faith in you."
With those last words of encouragement, you step outside into the bright daylight, leaving the rookie chef to stand in awe as the weight of running an entire restaurant, if only for a couple days, began to sink in. You hear your keys hit the ground just as the door shuts behind you.
Now that there is no turning back, you return your attention to the table housing the two friendly fillies, still engaged in their discussion. Like before, the white unicorn is doing most of the talking with the same dreamy expression, while the mare of your dreams merely gives her a quizzical look. You slowly approach the table, picking up on their conversation as the distance grows shorter without them noticing you.
"....and I've just reached the part where she dragged her unconscious lover all the way back to her home and vowed to nurse him back to health! Oh, I really don't know how that Lionheart does it! It's all so romantic!"
"...I don’t know, Rarity, that sounds kind of clichéd to me-"
"Ready to go?"
You never realized how high unicorns could jump out of a seat until this moment.
You stand in quiet embarrassment as the two mares struggle to regain their composure. Since opening up shop here, you have gained a bad habit of occasionally sneaking up on the customers and not revealing your presence until it's too late.
"Will you stop doing that!?" Twilight shouts once her memory of the Equestrian language comes back. It is a few decibels higher than you expected, but you probably deserve it.
"Indeed!" Her friend Rarity chimes in, shooting a high-class glare at you. "There are few things ruder than sneaking up on somepony while they're deep in discussion." You feel a blush poking through your cheeks now that both fillies are ganging up on you. You lower your head towards the ground out of guilt. Because of this move, you don't catch Rarity turning her head away and muttering "Although I'd like to learn that talent for myself," under her breath.
"...er, my apologies," is all you can muster. They may not even be customers, but they've temporarily robbed you of your experience in waiting on tables.
"...don't worry about it," Twilight responds, her words preceded by a deep sigh. The scowl on her face quickly turns to a friendly smile as she remembers her relationship status with you. "So, I take it you're all set?"
"Yep," you reply, raising your head back up to hers. "Just handed off the keys to my sous chef. I'm ready to go when you are."
"Just as planned," Twilight says with a hint of satisfaction. You knew about the small sense of accomplishment she always got when things went according to her detailed plans. It had become one of the many little things you liked about the lavender mare.
"Now all we need to do is wait for our ride to get here."
"...er, our ride?" You ask. Unfortunately for you, Twilight neglected to mention exactly how the two of you were going to get to your destination when she discussed her plan with you a week ago, so you assumed that magic would be involved.
"Well, of course," she replies, taking on a tone that made you feel like you just missed a kindergarten math question. "It's too far away for me to try and teleport the two of us there. I'm not that good at magic...well, not yet, anyway."
"Okay then," you say after a few seconds of silence. You feel both relief and worry at her words. As skilled as Twilight is at all things magic, some of her spells didn't always work as they were supposed to, and you had unfortunately been on the receiving end on some of those spells gone wrong. You cringe slightly as you recall one particularly catastrophic spell that stripped your coating clean off and made you too embarrassed to leave your home and restaurant for several weeks.
As relieved as you are that the possibility of horribly merging together with Twilight due to her teleportation spell going awry is now very low, you still have no idea as to what she has planned for transportation. You want to be mentally prepared for whatever she has in store, so you decide to come out and ask her.
"But Twilight, how exactly are we going to get........oh."
Your question trails off into nothing as you divert your attention to a new sight: A large balloon, sporting a sizable basket almost the same shade of lavender as Twilight, was approaching the cafe, gingerly dropping in altitude as it floated along. Eventually, the balloon sets down in the middle of the road, causing quite a stir amongst the other ponies in the vicinity.
The door to the basket swings open, and out steps its pilot, a purple dragon with green spikes. You know this dragon as Spike, Twilight's faithful assistant. Judging from the unkempt scales and sleepy stare, it seems as if Twilight has been putting him through plenty of work in getting ready for her leave.
"...Uh, sorry I kept you waiting," He says to his friend and guardian right before letting out a yawn. "I kind of dozed off while the balloon was airing up."
"Not to worry, Spike," Twilight smiles, "You're actually right on schedule."
"...What, really?" Spike perks up, looking genuinely surprised at his own punctuality.
"Well, yes and no," Twilight confesses. "You're still late, but I figured you would be, so I adjusted my schedule to account for the lost time. Technically, that makes you on time and late at the same time."
"Oh." Spike sighs, his surprised look drooping into one of disappointment and annoyance.
You hear Twilight giggle a little in her throat before she talks again. "Cheer up, Spike. You're going to have a whole weekend to yourself. I bet you'll like not hearing me order you around for a few days." She rubs a hoof on his head in a playful manner as she finishes talking.
"...Well, yeah, that's true," the dragon responds, already looking a little bit happier. "But I still gotta run the library and stuff. You don't have to do anything but relax where you're going."
"Indeed," Rarity chimes in again, albeit in a cheerier voice than before. "I really do envy you, Twilight. A weekend stay at the Hot and Happy Hot Springs Resort with your coltfriend! I've always wanted to go, myself. I hear their massages and baths blow the Luxury Lotus Spa right out of the water...or bath, in this case." She adds a proper feminine giggle at her own joke.
"Well, I kept telling you that if you wanted to go the resort, I would've given you my reservation," Twilight remarks, "I'm not really into that kind of thing."
"Oh no, I couldn't do that," responds Rarity, "You deserve it the most out of everypony for all you've done. Besides..." She leans forward and motions with her hooves for Twilight to do the same. Twilight complies, and Rarity puts her hoof between you and the two unicorns. Despite her attempt at keeping the next line a secret, you can still hear her quite clearly.
"...They have private springs there, and I've heard that some time together in them can do wonders for a relationship."
"Rarity!" Twilight stammers as she jerks her head back in embarrassment. You can already make out two pink spots breaking through the coat on her cheeks, and feel pink spots of your own forming as well.
"I may have said too much," Rarity giggles. "Well, I suppose I should let the two of you be on your way. Do have a good time, Twilight. I think both of you have earned it." She flashes a smile at the two of you as she gets out of her seat. "Ta-ta for now." She waves a hoof, and then turns to leave.
"...uh, bye Rarity, I guess." Twilight calls out as the white unicorn walks away. You can tell from her voice that she hasn't fully recovered from Rarity's suggestion. She turns to you and gives you another smile, but this smile looks a bit more coy than usual. "Well, looks like it's about time for us to head out."
"....of course," is all you can say. You notice that the blush on Twilight's face is still present, and judging from the warmth on your own cheeks, so is yours. You try to return the smile the unicorn is giving you, but you're sure that it comes off with the same level of embarrassment as hers.
Without another word, Twilight turns and walks into the basket of the hot air balloon. You follow behind her, trying as hard as you can to not stare at her flanks as you climb into the basket. The apprehension you felt from when you didn't know how the magically-talented mare was going to transport the two of you to the resort begins to creep back. You had never traveled through the air by any means, and you certainly don't know just how adept Twilight is at piloting this craft. For all you know, your vacation could be spent fighting for survival after crash-landing in the middle of some uncharted territory.
Your brain creates an image of the two of you stranded alone in a dark jungle in the middle of the night, potential danger on all sides, as you both huddle together to derive some warmth from the cold, her lavender fur brushing against yours and imparting what little heat it has onto you....
You shake the image out of your head before it can go any further. The least you can say about this random thought is that it distracted you from staring at Twilight's backside like "that" kind of coltfriend.
You turn back to Twilight and see that she now has her hoof in the air and wrapped with a string leading to the device that creates the open flame. You don't quite know the finer details of flying a hot air balloon, but you do know that when the flame shoots up, the balloon also goes up.
"Spike!" You hear Twilight call to her assistant. You glance over the basket to look at the dragon, and notice that he's staring into the direction that Rarity walked off with a smile on his face. You could almost swear his eyes were temporarily replaced with big pulsing hearts before Twilight's call jerked back him out of it.
"Huh, what?" He responds to the call, looking a bit sheepish after being caught lovestruck. Does he really have a thing for a pony? The further mysteries of dragons....
"We're leaving now. Are you sure you can handle taking care of the library by yourself?" asks Twilight.
"Of course!" Spike replies, his sheepish expression replaced with one of determination.
"...okay, I'll hold you to that," says Twilight, "Library opens at six and closes at six. My friends are supposed to check up on you once in a while, and don't forget to re-organize the books every morning."
"You can count on me, Twilight!" Spike says, remembering his position as her most faithful assistant. He even goes so far as to give a sharp salute with his claw.
You're not sure how, but you feel the strangest sense of Deja vu right now. Great minds think alike? is the only explanation you can come up with.
"Alright then, we're off," Twilight responds, "Take care, Spike!"
You could almost hear the sound of a carriage wheel squealing to a stop on a concrete road as Twilight just manages to avoid pulling down on the string far enough. "Yes, Spike?" she says with a slight twinge of irritability.
"Sorry, but I, uh, just remembered that I need to speak with your coltfriend real quick."
"Me? Really?" You ask. You hardly spoke with Spike when Twilight wasn't around, so you're understandably a little surprised that the dragon has some words for you.
"Yeah, just a couple quick words. We'll talk right over here." Spike says, motioning you to follow him.
You oblige, following the small dragon almost to the door of your cafe. He stops just short of the door, well out of earshot, and turns back to you. He waves for you to come closer, and starts speaking again once you do.
"Hey, listen, Twilight's friends wanted me to tell you to make sure that she has a good time on vacation."
"Sure thing, Spike," you reply, "but why did you need to tell me this in private?"
He takes a quick look at Twilight to make sure she can't hear him before he continues. "Well, it's just that she's been pushing herself pretty hard lately, and we're all concerned for her. She doesn't want to admit it, but she really needs this." He pauses to rub a sore spot on his back. "Not to mention I could use a break, too."
"I'll do my best, Spike," you reassure the dragon. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I probably shouldn’t keep her waiting any longer.”
“Good idea,” Spike agrees. You turn and walk back to Twilight, letting yourself back into the basket.
“What was that all about?” Twilight asks as you shut the door.
“Oh, er...nothing,” you say, trying to come up with a lie on the spot. “He just...um, wanted to know if the guy running the place in my absence was going to offer gemstones on the menu.”
Twilight gives you a hard stare, and for a moment you think she’s about to ask you for the truth, but instead her expression softens. “That does sound like something Spike would ask,” she muses. “Well, let’s get going while we still can.”
With this, Twilight gives a tug on the string, causing the open flame to shoot up into the balloon. Before you can brace yourself, the basket jerks slightly as it slowly lifts off the ground, throwing your balance off for a second.
"...er, sorry about that," you hear Twilight say to you. "I should have given you a little more warning there."
"No worries," you reply, trying to mask the nervousness in your voice. For the first time in your life, you are travelling through the air, your safety entirely in the hooves of the pilot.
Against your better judgment, you look down and see a waving Spike, your cafe, and the rest of Ponyville sink beneath you. To your surprise, the worry in you is already starting to dissipate as you take in the thrill of seeing the world through a new angle. Surely, this must be what it feels like to be a pegasus. Well, minus the elaborate contraption, of course.
For the next long while, you let yourself go and enjoy your new-found appreciation for flight as you and the love of your life fly towards a weekend of rest and relaxation...
"Are you sure you can handle this?"