The sound of Rainbow's hooves beat the hardwood floor of the first story of Twilight's library. The lowlight poured in through the windows as the atmospheric nightlife of the building caught up to Dash's senses. The small dragon walked ahead of her, calling up the stairs, “Twilight, Rainbow Dash is here!”
The reality of the situation simmers in Dash for a little bit, accented by the lack of any artificial lighting, bringing in a hint of loneliness that keeps reminding her that she may not be all she pegs herself up to be. Her ears pinned down onto her scalp, her mane still disheveled from the whipping wind of flying, she let out a sigh of anticipation. The moments between then and when Twilight and Rarity descended the staircase from the lit room above felt like ages as Dash began to dwell in her thoughts as if they were a world of their own, calling and trampling her with their cheap insults.
The voice of her friends reached into the dim world and pulled her back into Ponyville, welcomed by gracefully unaware faces, smiling, some curling accessories plastered into their manes. They beckoned her with cheerful greetings and then briefly thereafter welcoming her to Twilight's lit bedroom.
She smiled and accepted the happiness for the moment it was delivered to her and clung to it, following suit up the stairs, followed quickly by Spike.
“So what brings you here, Rainbow Dash?” Twilight asked, using her magic to close her sleepover instruction booklet and push it aside, and then calmly sitting next to where make-up, although still organized somewhat, was scattered along the ground. Rarity took a seat next to it, and then hurriedly lifted some mascara and continued applying it gingerly.
“Well, you see...” Rainbow fidgeted in her spot. Unsure of how to word it, she took a seat and paused to gather her thoughts. “I'm not... ugly, am I?”
There was an awkward silence. The movement of the mascara as it hovered near Rarity's face paused, and her deep blue eyes were firmly focused on Dash. Their stare was piercing, but also thoughtful. It was clear to see there were delicate thoughts tossing around in Rarity's mind.
Twilight, on the other hand, wasn't half as composed. The pressure of the self-esteem reliant question appeared to weigh on her, and her ears were folded backwards in response. The only sound in the air was the sound of a hoof nervously hitting the ground as Twilight's foreleg limped and placed itself down.
The silence was louder than anything Rainbow had ever experienced.
“Well, you're no supermodel.”
Spike was the first to speak, his nonchalant mannerisms drove him to not care for reactions. His little claws on his hind legs made a pitter-patter sound as he got closer to Dash, one eyebrow graciously raised high. The blunt and brutally honest response gave Dash's heart a painful lunge. She winced slightly and backed from the approaching purple dragon with hesitant instinct.
“Spike!” Rarity interjected in her slight accent, sounding ever so subtly insulted. “You need to watch your manners!”
The sound of the pony he loved scolding him smashed him like a brick and he backed from Dash, regathering his thoughts.
“Now Darling, who told you that you were ugly?” Rarity stood, setting her make-up down. Her lips bent into a concerned frown.
“You are most certainly not ugly.” Twilight said, now not afraid of being the first pony to respond. “Look at yourself.”
“Rainbow Dash,” Rarity started, “where did that question come from?”
A kick of Dash's front hoof against the ground signaled a massive discomfort as it brushed through her. The eyes of everypony burned and itched, causing her flank to shiver from nerve. There was more silence.
“...oypro...” Dash muttered quietly.
“Huh?” Both unicorns leaned in closer eagerly.
“Just come out with it!” Spike exclaimed impatiently.
“I'M HAVING BOY PROBLEMS, OKAY?!”
A flustered pegasus burst from the ground, slightly lifted above into the air. Her cheeked flushed red, she crossed her front legs and looked away. “Never mind, I'll just leave.”
As she began to fly down the stairs, a powerful force of magic held her still and pulled her back to where Twilight and Rarity was.
“Now hold on.” Twilight said bluntly. “You're not leaving yet.”
As Dash struggled, the situation seemed overbearingly in their favor, eventually causing her to give in. As her body limply flopped, Twilight gently set her on the ground.
“Who is the boy you're having problems with, Rainbow Dash?” Rarity asked delicately.
“Well it's like, I mean, ugh!” She yelped in defeat. Throwing her front hooves in front of her frustratingly, she let out a loud grunt. “Nopony seems interested in me! I've asked, like, I don't know, a bajillion stallions out and they all seemed so disgusted!”
Rarity's head cocked slightly. “And you were close to them?”
“Well, no.” Dash said. “But, does that even matter?”
“Of course it matters!” Rarity responded, aghast with this news. She got really close to her pegasus friend and put a hoof on her shoulder. “The whole basis of a boyfriend is to feel that intimate feeling of closeness. That moment when you and he come together and you feel like you've been together for a year each second you're with each other!”
For a moment there was a spark in Rarity's eyes that intrigued Dash. A sense of familiarity brushed through her for a moment, feeling as if maybe, at some point, the sensation Rarity explained had indeed brushed cheeks with Dash before. But when?
“Maybe that's your problem, Dash.” Twilight said as she came closer to the two of them. “You're just jumping ahead instead of building a friendship with them first! I have this fabulous book you can borrow! It's a classic!”
“I believe Rainbow Dash, here, may need more than a book Twilight Darling.” Rarity said, pausing in thought. “I have an idea. Come stay with me in Canterlot! We can split the bill, and there's a Wonderbolts show this weekend. I'm sure a little vacation can be all you need!”
Twilight laughed quietly. “I'm starting to think travel is your answer to everything, Rarity.”
“Absolutely not! Now a makeover, that would do you wonders, Rainbow Dash. But it is safe to assume you do not welcome the idea.”
Judging by the rainbow pony's face, Rarity assumption proved correct.
“So, what do you say?”
Instead of answering, Rainbow spent a moment to weigh her options. As if responding to her uneasy mind, a gust of wind picked up and rattled the leaves outside the window. She glanced out to the open skies, as if wishing she could fly far away and spend an eternity in the sky to gather herself. However, life wasn't that easy and the choice had to be made now.
Dash breathed out in sync with the heavy wind. On one hoof, she could see the Wonderbolts and only worry about that for a while, but on the other, she wouldn't change anything. As much as it would make her feel better, it won't make her more appealing, and it most definitely won't get her a boyfriend.
The pleading look in Rarity's eyes pierced into Dash. Unable to joint their gazes together, she glanced at the ground.
Then it dawned on her.
Canterlot is a whole new palette. A whole new set of stallions. Although it is true that she'd been there before, they'd only recognize her as the daring pony who saved them not once but twice. As the pony who did the sonic rainboom at the wedding. Maybe her reputation there may be enough to dislodge her from this terrifying rut.
“Yeah, you know what, heck yeah. I'll go with you.”
“Fabulous! This will be so fun!” Rarity said excitedly. “Now, darling, we are leaving tomorrow! You should probably pack!”
“Yeah, I'll go do that.”
As she turned and prepared to leave, Dash caught a glimmer in the corner of her eye. It was Spike, his eyes inexplicably glossy. Noticing Dash's attention, he blushed and pulled his face away. Smiling, Dash nudged him. “Come on kid, walk me to the door.”
“Uh, yeah, okay, sure.”
The two walked down the stairs into the now darker living space of the lower floor. Spike was quiet and quick to arrive at the front door.
“Hey, Spike, what's wrong?” Dash asked, leaning in closer to him. Spike was quiet for another second longer, contemplating being honest with his response.
“Actually, I tried asking Rarity to be my date to the gala earlier and it... it just...”
She should have know. Rainbow felt stupid.
“Right, sorry I asked, Spike.”
When there was no response, Dash widened her eyes to catch a better look at Spike's face.
“What exactly happened?”
“She just... ignored me, that's all. I want to try asking again tomorrow before she leaves.”
“Hey, if you need my help let me know! I'll be there too you know.”
If Dash weren't focusing so hard on his solemn face, she wouldn't have caught the small flash of his brief smile.
“I might have to take you up on that.”
“Alright, I'm going to go pack now. I'll see you tomorrow, Spike!”
The morning sunrise poured over the landscape like a prancing deer. In Fluttershy's airy cottage, the light of the morning was welcoming; by gently tapping her shoulder and waking her up, it was showing her compassion and love. It was her brisk wake up call. It was her friend.
Angel Bunny stirred by her back legs, clearly not as affectionate towards Celestia's handy-work as Fluttershy. With a yawn, he sat upright and pounded one of his legs in frustration. The waking pegasus giggled at his antics and nuzzled against his face. The soft feel of his fur was also a lovely feeling, giving her no reason to find any distaste for the morning air.
“Come on, now, Angel. We need to feed the early birds and then I will make you your breakfast.”
He wordlessly argued his point, but clearly accepted his defeat when Fluttershy simply stood and prepared for her morning ritual. He slammed his foot down again to get her attention but afterwords he simply let the subject rest.
The morning ritual was simple, brush and manage her mane and tail, prepare food, and then awake the slumbering animals and tuck in all the nocturnal sleepers. It was fun, to say the least, even if Angel would playfully protest.
The morning rays did not bring much warmth with them, so the tight fur that wrapped around her body failed to provide her with heat after the sanctity of her blanket was breached, but she still opened her front door, taking a breath of the brisk air.
She blindly stepped forward and paused as her hoof tapped against something hard. She paused and looked down – another neatly wrapped gift box.