Dash bit back her sigh, and along with it the urge to just flare her wings and take off. Instead, she kept staring out the window and into the cool, blue sky. It called back to her, teasing her with its complete lack of clouds, mocking her with the epic thermals it was giving to the other pegasi that were floating around it and not using those things properly, and, most of all, reminding her that this was supposed to be her day off from weather patrol.
Of course, Rarity just had to pick today to invite them all together for a little chat over biscuits and… ugh. She really didn’t want to think about what was in those cups.
“Oh, Applejack,” crowed Rarity, pausing to take another sip of her poison. “I haven’t told you what your darling brother did last night!”
AJ glared at her, and Dash had a sudden suspicion that she’d seen that look before. From between splintered branches, probably. “If it’s anythin’ like the last time you said that, Rare, then I don’t wanna’ hear it.”
“Oh! Oh, no, nothing like that, Applejack. You know how sorry I am for what I said last time, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I know that.”
“Thank you, Applejack.” A lazy smile eased itself across Rarity’s muzzle. “Still, you must understand, darling, your brother is… oh, those hooves…” Her eyes glazed over, and she took a moment to snuggle into her own forelegs.
Dash propped her head up against a fore-hoof, and finally let her sigh pop out. Still trying to bore a hole through the glass with her eyes, she spotted a lone cloud drifting just above the rooftops. It was a small, flat little thing, but it looked the perfect size for one of her take-offs.
Yeah. She’d swoop straight down off it and through the rows of houses, wowing anypony brave enough to not dive out of the way and cower like a little foal with her Super Speed Strut. Then she could shoot right back up to where her breath misted and the chills tingled her wings, just so she could come all the way back again and let her hooves graze the rooftops for her Peregrine Pulse.
Then, if she didn’t break anything this time, the whole town would go wild! She’d look around, and be met with ponies as far as she could see, all of them roaring and cheering her name. Foals would be leaping everywhere, their faces cracking into adorable grins the instant they caught sight of her. The Mayor would be there too, standing on a balcony, declaring that this day forever be known as Rainbow Dash Day!
The sea of ponies poofed out of existence. So did all of those adoring—not. adorable.—foals, and The Mayor, and those banners that were just being unfurled. Instead, she found herself staring at Fluttershy, who looked like she was trying her hoof at Pinkie’s clown costume. If a clown were to ever hide from their audience behind their mane. Or shrink away into a little ball, their hooves curling up against their chest. Or leave behind the massive rainbow wig.
She’d gotten the red splotches on her cheeks right, though.
“Oh… Fluttershy…” Rarity slapped a hoof over her mouth, her eyes welling up. “I-I apologise… I shouldn’t have been talking about something so… so private. That was most unladylike of me…”
They all turned to look at Applejack, who glared at Rarity as a greenish tinge spread across her cheeks. The tears in Rarity’s eyes vanished as they narrowed, and her lips curled into a smirk.
“Well, I would say that your imagination’s to blame there, Applejack—”
“Just get to the part ’bout last night, Rarity.”
Rarity pouted. “Fine, Applejack.” In an instant, she cracked into another warm smile. “It was after I finished those designs for Ruby Ring. I had just put the last of those little silk strips that she’d requested on the pleats, when who should appear at my door but my handsome prince!”
Dash looked over to where Rarity had thrown her hoof out in one of her dramatic flourishes. And ponies said that she took things too far! Her eyes quickly landed on the frilly, lacy mess of pink, white and more pink that she’d sooner rip all her feathers out than be caught wearing.
“… He gave me the most marvellous bouquet…”
Dash huffed. Rarity had already figured out the frilliest, most girly way to earn a living, and yet she’d managed to find a way to make it even more embarrassing to even look at!
“… And then he… regarded me with those gentle eyes…”
Sure, it wasn’t like Dash particularly minded Rarity designing her clothes. Making money was making money. And she had to admit that some of Rarity’s designs did look kind of cool. Especially that blue suit in the corner, tucked behind the mass of pink and purple and white.
Still, would it kill her to make stuff a little less… sickly-sweet?
“… And you should have seen the spread he laid out for us! There were these divine little sandwiches, and of course he’d filled them with all of my favourite things, and for dessert he produced a lovely apple crumble…”
“Actually, Rares, I did see it.”
“I was the one who helped him with it.”
“… Applejack… I… thank you…”
Could it be?
Could it be an order from one of the most amazing flyers that Equestria had ever known?
It… could. No matter how far she leaned back, or how she twisted her head, she couldn’t quite get a good enough look at anything other than the muzzle to say yes or no. Even so, those lightning bolts did look very familiar…
“… Aw, shucks, Rarity. S’all right. Besides, I’m gettin’ a fair amount o’practice whenever Soarin’ stays over.” She chuckled. “Poor guy. Might end up needin’ a new flight suit ‘cause of me…”
Dash scowled. The papers had just lapped that one up when it broke; city-slicking Wonderbolt finds his sweetheart out in the sticks. And then when that became old news, not a single picture of Soarin’ in the news was complete without him about to plant his maw in some kind of dessert. Sometimes they’d even find the nerve to pack in close-up of the guy’s gut.
And it looked like he’d exhaled for Celestia’s sake!
He was a Wonderbolt! Those guys spent hours every single day soaring through the skies and throwing themselves through training courses that had even made her eyes water the first time she looked at them. A little, anyway. There was no way kicking back for a few days out on Sweet Apple Acres was going to make him ‘let himself go’, as those hacks had put it. She’d even seen him help AJ with the harvest.
“Oh, Rares… I know it’s not like me to go all gaga over anypony, but he’s just so Celestia-durn adorable! I mean it! Why, just the other evening he offered t’help me with the rest of my work, even when it was his last night away from all that training he does. An’ he really put his all into it, too. ‘Course, he didn’ ‘xactly keep up with me, but he screwed up his face an’ really tried.
“I’ve… None of m’other coltfriends ever helped out like he did… And then when we were done, we just kinda’ laid there next t’each other, and he put his hooves aroun’ me…”
Besides… How could they criticise one of Equestria’s heroes? When the guy was standing at the top of a huge platform, the weight of the crowd on his shoulders, their roars almost shaking him off the edge, and a massively-complex and exhausting routine just a few seconds ahead of him, the last thing he needed was to be pressured about his eating. She knew that, why didn’t they?
“Dash, I can’t thank you enough for introducin’ me to him.”
Not that top athletes should let the pressure get to them. No. Not that she did, either.
Dash shook her head, and found herself staring at Applejack, who looked back at her with a neat little smile. “Nice of you t’join us again, Dash.” She chuckled, shaking her head for a second. “I was just tryin’ to thank you for tellin’ Soarin’ about me… I can’t tell you how happy he makes me…”
Applejack’s smile spread and made itself a comfortable home with a sigh. Only then did Dash see just how wet and shiny her eyes looked.
She snorted, her own mouth stretching into a smirk. “Ah, it’s nothing, AJ. Just as long as you,” she pointed a hoof at AJ, “remember to count me in on those ‘family and friend’ tickets.”
Applejack chuckled. “Sure thing, Dash.”
Dash let her huge grin off its leash, but held back on the squeal. That was only for when nopony was looking and she had just found out there was a new Daring Do book and she couldn’t handle the sheer awesomeness of it. Or for when the Wonderbolts pulled off one of their secret training moves in the valley just on the other side of Whitetail Wood and they didn’t know she had been taking a nap beneath them. Or for—
Ah, screw it. She was going to see the Wonderbolts in a private, air-conditioned booth on plush seats with waiters bringing her all the hay fries she could eat! She could squeal if she wanted!
And clop her hooves together loud enough to get everypony staring at her, too.
“Rainbow…” said Twilight, sharing a look with Rarity.
Sheesh! Since when was her mouth so dry? Dash sighed. It must have been from all those biscuits that she’d eaten earlier. Why couldn’t those come with a warning for ‘Will Suck Out All Moisture’ rather than just ‘High Fat’? Those were just for lazy ponies who never exercised.
As Dash stared at the only liquid—or sludge—nearby, sitting in that flowery little cup with the handle she was never going to get her hoof through, steam coiling off the top of it.
Thinking about it, that… gunk she’d tried over at Twilight’s did have its own warning label on it. Well, she’d been told a warning, anyway. About it being a medicine, from Zecora, and being used to treat Twilight’s inability to unload her—
“We don’t want to intrude, you understand, but… well… you’ve never brought up any of your relationships.”
She eyed the cup. She’d already seen Rarity heap a couple of spoons of sugar into it, so it was hardly going to taste bad. Plus Pinkie’d already downed at least a couple of these, and that pony practically lived on sweets. And hot sauce.
“Well… is there anything like that in your life?”
What was she waiting for again? She grabbed the cup with both hooves.
“No? You mean… you don’t have a coltfriend—or fillyfriend,” she added, glancing at Twilight, “whom you’ve kept hidden from us? Or somepony you gaze at from afar, hoping that you’ll catch their eye? Or an ex whose memories you’d rather forget?”
Dash drained the last drops from her cup, smacking her lips together. Not bad. Maybe not something she’d have too often, especially with that fuzzy feeling it left in her mouth, but all right, she supposed. Could probably have been a little sweeter, though.
She set the cup back on it’s dainty little saucer with a chink, and looked Rarity right in those wide, quivering eyes.
She shrugged. “Nope.”
Those big eyes of Rarity’s stayed on Dash for so long she could practically feel them boring into her chest. It would definitely explain why everything around her middle suddenly felt so tight.
Did they all have to stare at her like that?
That loosened everything up again. At least, it made everypony else take their eyes off Dash and lay them squarely on Rarity, as she huffed and she shook her hoof so hard she came close to ruining her precious hooficure on the table.
Rainbow smirked, and finally let out the breath she’d meant to hold.
And immediately grimaced. It stank!
She glared at that… that cup. It was that tea! It had tricked her! Sure, it had acted all innocent and sweet with its sugar and the cake next to it and those disgustingly pink flowers on the cup, but she knew better. Or she should have, anyway.
Twilight sighed, slumping her shoulders. “Rarity…”
“Oh no. No. This simply won’t do…”
Dash put raised a hoof to her mouth and puffed against it.
Actually, maybe it wasn’t that. Those were definitely peppers from last night’s pizza she could smell. Had she brushed her teeth lately?
She shrugged. Nothing one of those creamy biscuits that she’d smiled a little too hard at the first time she saw them couldn’t fix!
“Now, stay calm, Rarity. You know what to do…”
Grinning, Dash reached out a hoof and aimed it squarely at the little plate in the centre of the table.
Only to see the last one disappear into Pinkie’s gaping mouth out of the corner of her eye. Dash’s grin collapsed into a scowl. Pinkie’d already taken at least half a dozen of those things, plus there was that empty packet of popcorn next to her cup.
Rainbow raised an eyebrow. Where did she even get those things, anyway? And why couldn’t she share?
“… although that Gryphon… oh, what was her name… Gilda! Yes, she might fit the bill, too…”
Before she could stop them, all sorts of images flew before Dash’s eyes. Of a Gilda’s claw bumping against her hoof after she nailed her first attempt at a loop-the-loop that she hadn’t been distracted for by a cloud or the wind. Of Gilda punching the air and then doing the same to her shoulder after she showed off her cutie-mark. Of Gilda’s beak stretched into the biggest smile that she’d ever seen on it, while they threw up those silly little black hats they wore for graduation.
Of Gilda, something gross dribbling out of her nose, narrowing bloodshot eyes at her. Of Gilda disappearing behind a door before Dash could get her hoof in…
Something coiled and tightened in Dash’s gut, squeezing a sigh out of her. Maybe it was time for another trip to Cloudsdale.
Dash looked over at Twilight, and so did everypony else. Especially Rarity, although she could also see that her eyes were focussed on the little cloud of red sparkles hovering around Twilight’s horn.
“This isn’t something that needs to be fixed, Rarity.”
Dash shivered. That was fine, though. She wasn’t scared. No way. She was the most awesome pegasus in Equestria—outside the Wonderbolts—and the only one ever to brave the other side of the sound barrier.
But even the most awesome of pegasi was allowed to feel a little nervous when their friend had the power to level Canterlot in her horn. Particularly when she was pointing it right at them.
And then let out a deep breath and not a sigh when those sparkles vanished. “Rainbow,” began Twilight, “are you saying that you’ve never had any desire to be intimate with somepony?”
Dash cocked her head. “What?”
“Might wanna’ bring it down a notch, Twi,” said AJ, chuckling.
They both scowled at her, and Dash noticed Fluttershy had disappeared behind her mane again. Even so, she could still see her eyes shining brighter than—
Rainbow looked away, her lips twitching for just a second. It was better than what had happened the last time, when she’d gotten stuck just staring into those big, wet eyes… Like a pair of giant holes just sucking out anything happy…
She shuddered. Maybe not that…
“Fine, Applejack. Dash?”
Her eyes flicked back to Twilight, whose normal smile had returned. “What I meant was ‘Have you ever wanted a relationship with anypony?’”
Rainbow snorted, shaking her head. “No… How many times do I have to say that?”
Twilight’s smile grew. “Not anymore!”
Dash leaned back into her chair, letting her eyes scour the table for anything. She thrust her lips into what would probably be a pout. If Rarity were doing it, anyway.
“… But Twilight…”
It was only then that she remembered where that final biscuit was. There was still a slice of cake, though…
“… It’s perfectly normal for a pony to not want a relationship, Rarity. There’s a whole book devoted to this in the library, and, while rare, it’s not unknown for ponies to eschew this sort of thing completely.”
“Oh, I understand, darling. I was just… curious, that’s all…”
Rainbow licked at her hoof, letting a smile loose as she swept up the last crumbs of cake. She couldn’t help it; it just came with eating a cake that Pinkie had made. Probably something to do with the amount of sugar and chocolate she loaded them with, Dash supposed, her lips curling.
“So does anypony wanna’ hear about the party I threw last night?”
A familiar itch spread through her wings, and Dash looked back through the window. The sun had moved a little across the sky by now. Too far for those updrafts she‘d been waiting three whole days to get a chance on to have anything near their top output left. A couple of pegasi lay on the nearest one, probably laughing and joking about all the fun they’d had just hovering on them!
“… Um… no offence, Pinkie, but I think I need to get going soon. Cheerilee‘s bringing her class to the library for their weekly trip.”
They’d moved her cloud, too. That perfect little one just ripe for a real stunt flier to launch from it. She frowned, letting her head fall onto her waiting hoof.
“Although, you could tell me this afternoon, Pinkie. I should have some time after I finish off Dew Drop’s ensemble…”
Although… they had left another cloud hanging around near town hall.
A smile crept onto her lips. It was bigger, and a lot greyer than the one she’d seen earlier, so it probably wouldn’t take all her energy when she took off, but if she could split it into smaller pieces…
“… Okie dokie lokie, Rarity!”
“Although, Twilight… Will Cheerilee be… spending the night with you, again?”
Then they’d make the perfect Wingmare’s Weave training route!
Yeah! If she lined it up right this time, right by one of the roads into town, then she could just use that for a run-up. She’d gallop towards those silent-but-deadly balls, her eyes on them but drawing the eyes of everypony to her. A little jump later and she’d be blasting towards them so fast she’d be a blur, ready to zip between through her course with her wings just missing the clouds. The ponies would love it!
But she’d have to be careful to actually miss the clouds, this time. She sighed. It hadn’t been quite so hot to stand there, her wings black from all the lightning, trying to coax some teary-eyed little filly out from under a park bench…
“… Oh, Rarity… But yes, she will be staying with me tonight…”
So why were her eyes feeling all hot, now?
“… Who knows, maybe we’ll finish off Practical Learning Applications together!”
The heat vanished as she looked at Twilight, and she snorted.
Twilight was such an egghead! She could be the definition of it, or something like that.
Not that there was anything wrong with being an egghead. No. Not when it meant Twilight learned all those freaky sort of spells that nopony else knew, but always managed to get them out of trouble. Even if those things got them into trouble, too…
“… Well, anyway, I think I’d best be off, now…”
Besides, Dash was a bit of an egghead herself, so being an egghead didn’t mean a pony couldn’t be cool. If reading the adventures of another of the most awesome pegasi ever to exist made her an egghead, anyway.
Dash smirked, and then it disappeared as she tapped her hoof against her chin. Wasn’t there supposed to be another Daring Do book out soon?
“… Reckon I better get goin’ too, girls. ‘S’much as I’ve liked chattin’ today, those apples aren’t gonna’ buck themselves.”
“Yes… I suppose we have been sitting around for a while now…”
There’d been something in the paper about it last week, if she remembered it right.
A full-page picture of Daring with her eyes narrowed and he teeth clenched so hard they should have been cracking, pumping her wings hard while her hooves clutched this weird medallion thing… Yeah, it hadn’t really explained what it was that Daring was adventuring for this time. But considering there was an enormous dragon behind her, shooting a massive column of fire right for her, it had to be important!
“… Ta-tah, girls!”
“Um… Rainbow? …”
Knowing how much they packed into a Daring Do book, that wouldn’t be the end of it, either. Maybe they would finally let Herpy reunite with that long lost sister—
Dash looked to her left and found herself locking eyes with Fluttershy, who immediately tucked her head down. She kept those big, green eyes locked on Rainbow, though.
“I’m sorry, Rainbow,” she mumbled through a fading smile, “but I was just wondering if you were… um… still coming over tonight?”
Dash raised an eyebrow. Oh… that.
That was tonight?
“I mean, If you’re busy at all—”
“Whoa, ‘Shy, relax,” she said, laying a hoof on Fluttershy’s shoulder and giving her a soft smile. It was Fluttershy. She was allowed to do that. Especially when it teased one back out of her. “I’ll be there. And even if I was busy, I‘d make time for you. You know that.”
Fluttershy looked straight at Dash, sighing as her smile spread further. “You’re right, Dash. Thank you.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it,” she said, shaking her head a little before her smirk made a triumphant return. “Besides, you’re helping me out this afternoon, remember?”
Now Dash was sure she could see ‘Shy’s pearly little teeth. “Oh, yes! I remember.” Her wide smile shrank back to its usual size, and she looked away for just a moment. “I’m sure your tricks will be amazing today, Rainbow…”
Dash stood up just a little bit taller, her smirk deepening.
“And when haven’t my stunts been amazing?”
Fluttershy let out one of her light, soft-as-an-old-cumulus chuckles, and then looked away to the door. “Um… well, I’d better get going too, Rainbow. Angel’s probably getting antsy…”
“All right, I’ll see you later, then.”
Fluttershy gave her one last, wide smile and trotted outside with Pinkie right behind her.
Leaving the way clear for the Dash!
She rolled her neck, teasing out and stretching away all the tightness that came with sitting on her flank without napping, before levelling her stare at the cloud. A little wisp of it flailed in the light breeze, taunting and beckoning her.
She smirked, taking a step forward.
Rainbow shuddered as a hoof landed on her side. “What, Rarity?”
The hoof jumped a little on her side, and she heard it clop to the floor. Dash turned around.
And found herself looking right into Rarity’s big, shiny eyes, staring at her with little pools shimmering at the bottom of them.
“Rainbow… darling… I-I have to apologise for earlier…”
She fought the groan back into her throat. How…
How were her friends so good at those! Those big, stupid, puppy-dog eyes! She’d already had enough of those this week to kill somepony who wasn’t as tough as her. There were the ones Twilight had given her when Spike had woken up with a bad head-cold and asked her to fetch Nurse Redheart—cause she was the only pony fast enough! Plus there were the ones Pinkie’d let loose on her after that special cake she’d baked turned out to have too much lemon juice in it. And she didn’t even want to begin to think about Fluttershy’s when they’d found one of her rabbits out in the Everfree with a sprained ankle… Hay, even AJ could do them when her sister was hurt!
And there was that long, lingering look that Tank had given her when his magical propeller ran out of energy… poor little guy…
Wait. Why was she even thinking about this?
“What I was saying was completely unacceptable!”
Dash looked at Rarity. Maybe it was those little streaks of black snaking their way down her cheeks.
“Look, Rarity…” she began, her words coming out thick.
“No, I mean it, Dash!” screeched Rarity, flinging her hoof out and her mane back. Her lips trembled for a moment. “I had no business prying into your love life like that. That was for you to talk about when you felt comfortable…”
Rarity kept those… eyes on her for a few more seconds, before she finally looked away, her head slumping down. “And I knew that…” she croaked. Dash could see her mouth wobbling again.
Sheesh! Rarity was right to call herself a drama queen!
“Rarity, I’m not mad,” was how it came out.
Instantly, Rarity snapped back to her, those eyes more wide than wet now. “You’re not?”
Dash grinned. “Nope. Well, not about that, anyway.” She looked back out the door. Still there. Her grin grew. “There’s a cloud out there with my name on it still waiting for me.”
Rarity let out a wet little chuckle. “Well, quite…” A smile sprouted on her lips, and made it almost all the way across them before it vanished under a sigh. “I suppose I just got caught up in the idea of everypony having somepony to call their own…” Her head slumped.
Dash scoffed. “Remember who you’re talking to here, Rarity.” She stepped forward and draped a foreleg around Rarity’s leg. “I’ve got the five best friends in the world. Why would I need a special somepony?”
Rarity stared at her for a long time. Long enough for that itch to tingle at her primaries, anyway. But she kept her hoof around Rarity and grinned at her. Slowly, a little one of Rarity’s squirmed and wriggled out in return.
“That’s… that’s rather sweet of you, Rainbow…”
Dash’s grin creased into a smirk. “Eh, you guys must be rubbing off on me…”
Rarity chuckled, a little stronger this time, and her smile stayed put. “Thank you, Dash…” She cocked her head. “No hard feelings?”
“Sure!” Dash leaned in even closer. “As long as I can go fly, now.”
And there was that high Rarity laugh she’d been waiting for, complete with a smirk of her own. “Deal.”
“Deal,” Dash replied, taking back her hoof and walking towards the door.
“Goodbye, Rainbow!” called Rarity, her voice light again.
“Bye, Rarity,” she called back, before finally feeling the warmth of the sun on her fur again. Head down, wing fluttering a little at her sides, she took in a deep breath of the sweet, fresh air, and looked up…
… At a totally clear sky.
Dash sighed through a smile as she eased herself back along the branch, the little notches and grains gently teasing at all the little tensions in her back. Her wings fluttered a little as the occasional big one found a sweet spot and sent tingles racing through her spine. Once her head found that familiar little bowl on the side of the trunk, she let her eyes close softly.
Her smile deepened. This, no matter what Rarity said about her darling spa—and how comfortable those weird chairs that place had were, come to think of it—was the way to relax. The high sun keeping her nice and toasty, the quiet puffs of wind ruffling through her mane and unwinding all the knots on her forehead, the sweet scent of apples filling her lungs?
“Yeah…” she sighed, folding her fore hooves over her chest and peering up through the branches. What better way was there for an awesome pegasus to spend their afternoon?
Through the leaves and the twigs, the big, blue, completely-clear-with-nopony-in-it-to-get-in-the-way sky answered for her. Dash scowled, a third sigh rushing out of her nostrils and her shoulders slumping. She turned her head away and closed her eyes.
It wasn’t that talk. No. Not even with Rarity giving her those… eyes. And that little wobble in her voice. And those—
Dash shook her head.
Besides, it had been nice to remember that big fruit-growers’ competition last week, even if it meant AJ spending about half an hour reminding them all who the greatest apples in Equestria were grown by. Dash snorted, but she kept smirking. And they said she was full of herself! Plus, now she knew just when she had to book time off the weather patrol for next week’s trip to Pinkie’s old farm for her Ma’s fiftieth. Hay, she was even going to see the Wonderbolts in a couple of weeks.
Dash grinned, but held back on the squeal this time; that sort of sound could carry out here. Still, any morning where she found that out had to be a good one.
No. It hadn’t been the talk. Although, maybe if they hadn’t been talking about all that mushy stuff, she wouldn’t have ploughed her way through all those sweets and that… ugh.
Now Rainbow frowned, and she bit at her lip.
Ordinary flying on a full stomach? Nothing to it. Hay, even the Wingmare’s Weave she’d wanted to pull off would have been a cinch. But with a totally empty sky, the only tricks that still sent her blood pumping were high speed ones. And flying right up where the cold stung at her eyes and summoned water and not tears to do battle against it, pumping her wings so that the ground was nothing more than a blur far below, before swooping around in a massive arc and feeling the air press against her wings, her insides churning and squirming around…
Dash cringed, her cheeks puffing up for just a second.
Nothing a little nap couldn’t fix, though. Besides, she was probably due for one, anyway; she had been up for a whole seven hours, now.
Her smile returned and made itself much more comfortable this time. She closed her eyes.
Besides, if she timed this right…
She nestled closer to the trunk, her breaths deepening.
… by the time she woke up…
One hoof fell off her middle, and she left it dangling by her side.
… she’d be ready…
Dash jolted, her eyes shooting open and her wings flaring. Then she grimaced, and she raised a hoof over her eyes as they creaked nearly all the way closed again.
That couldn’t have been more than a minute. Right?
She flipped over, and eyed the orange mare standing below. Applejack stared back, her eyes bright and perched above a little smile.
“Yeah, Appleja…” was as far as she got before her words dissolved into a yawn, and she had to raise a hoof to her mouth. Her gaping mouth titled her head back, and her brows furrowed as her eyes raked the sky.
Hadn’t the sun been right above her when she got here?
“Sorry ‘f’I’m interruptin’ your busy day, Rainbow.”
Dash’s eyes snapped back to AJ and narrowed at her. “Hey!”
She leapt off the branch and flared her wings, landing with a heavy thud before walking over to Applejack. From here, she could see AJ’s smile had curled into a smirk.
Her eyes narrowed just a little further. “This was supposed to be my day off, Applejack. Or don’t you know what those are?” She grinned.
Applejack did the same, before letting out a chuckle that faded into a smile. Then AJ’s lips wriggled between her teeth, and she looked away.
Dash raised an eyebrow. “Applejack?”
Before she could take more than a step, Applejack sighed and hung her head. “Dash… I’ve… I’ve been meanin’ t’ask you somethin’ for a while, now…”
Dash had to hold back a gasp as AJ turned to look at her again, and she felt something cold jab at her. Her eyes…
No. She shook her head. She was not going through this again!
“No, Dash,” she said, raising a hoof, her eyes clearing a little. Enough for Dash to make sure of that, anyway. “I need to know… and what we were talkin’ ‘bout at Rarity’s made me remember that…”
Dash had a sudden vision of big, wet blue eyes, wobbling at her—
Nope. Not going there.
Her face softened, and she looked up from her scowl to find AJ staring right at her, something that looked like a smile stretching across her muzzle. At least, she hoped that’s what it was. “Yeah?”
AJ bit her lip again. “Dash… what you said ‘bout not wantin’ a special somepony… it hasn’ got anythin’ to do with what happened in Canterlot, has it?”
Dash stared at her. “What? You mean Soarin’ hasn’t told you that?”
“Well…” AJ tapped her chin with a hoof, just starting to smile. “He said you were kinda’ angry with ‘im, and you were kinda’ quiet the whole way back t’Ponyville.” That smile creased into a smirk. “And then I saw you storm back t’yer place…”
“Okay, I get it.” Dash aimed her glare right at that smug smirk of AJ’s before it softened under AJ’s… smugness. She sighed. “Yeah, I guess I did get kind of angry with him, you see…”
Dash dragged her hoof through her mane, pulling the lingering, sweaty strands away from her eyes before they could sting. Not that they’d bother her too much. No. Not when she’d already fought off a huge swarm of changelings with her friends, helped put back together some of the tents and marquees the wedding was using, and pulled off a Sonic Rainboom right over the castle with barely a hoofball-field’s worth of dive.
And without even a scratch on her, if the mirror wasn’t lying. She smirked at her reflection.
Yep. All in a day’s work for the most awesome pegasus in Equestria—
Ah, who was she kidding. Today could easily top her list of ‘Best Days Ever’, and it was up against some stiff competition. Even so, those others would have to beat the fact that she’d got to spend the whole evening hanging out with and talking to the most awesome pegasi in the world!
A little squeal eased itself through her grin, but she was too busy clopping her hooves to care. She’d got to talk to Fleetfoot about her technique for maintaining high speed through curves—all in the shoulder, according to her, and Dash didn’t have any reason to doubt her! She’d spoken to Storm Surge about where he’d started out—the Hoofington weather patrol! And, best of all, she’d been able to ask Spitfire about those flames that the Wonderbolts always had coming from their tails—something about food from Maredras…?!
She pumped the air with a hoof, her grin squeezing her eyes shut.
Aw, yeah! Could this day get any more awesome?
She spun around and instantly felt her eyes widen. Right in front of her, lit up by the pale moonlight, stood a stallion. A tall, light blue stallion, with a dark blue mane swept back like he’d just flown in through a gale, looking more than a little out of place in a shiny blue suit. He gazed at her with soft green eyes, an awkward little smile on his lips.
Yes. Yes it could get more awesome!
His smile flickered for a moment, giving her a glimpse of perfect white teeth. “Hey, Rainbow Dash…” He bit his lip, taking a step forward. “I need to ask you something…”
Dash felt her jaw swing open. That was fine, though. This was Soarin’! Still, it didn’t hurt for her to close it, but she could keep her eyes the size of dinner-plates.
“I know this might be a bit of a surprise to you…” he continued, getting ever closer.
Rainbow’s wings fluttered, and so did her chest. A grin slowly began to stretch itself across her muzzle. Could… could he be—
No. He was a Wonderbolt. He wasn’t going to be asking her for tips!
But still, maybe…
She gasped. A little. Maybe it could be…
“Or maybe not, actually.” He chuckled, flashing her a grin. “After all, this isn’t the first time we’ve met…”
Yes! Yes it was!
It had to be!
She could see it now…
“I don’t know what the rest of the ’Bolts are gonna’ think when they find out…”
She would stride confidently down the cloud steps, her eyes focused on the light at the end the poured in through the opening. The opening that led to the greatest honour a flier could receive!
She would step out the hole, and the crowd would roar for her. Ponies would hold up banners declaring her to be the greatest ever, or that they knew she’d make it. Foals would have their manes died so they could be just like their hero. Her parents would be there, too; Mom’d be bawling her eyes out with a hoof over her mouth, while Dad would be leading the applause with one tear streaking down his muzzle.
“… Actually, I don’t think Spitfire’ll mind all that much,” he said, shaking his head with a chuckle. “Might get rid of some rumours…”
And there, in the stand right above her entrance, would be all her friends. Pinkie’s squeaky yells would cut through everypony else’s, as she bounced around like she’d downed another three bags of sugar. AJ and Twilight would both be trying to keep up—Twi taking the odd glance at Cheering for Eggheads, or something, and AJ hurling her hat almost to the rim of the Cloudiseum. And in the corner, Rarity and Fluttershy’d be leaning against each other, both smiling so hard that it wouldn’t matter if they were crying.
She’d give them a wave, and a grin so wide it’d probably give a less-tough pegasus jaw cramp, before carrying on towards… them.
“So… Dash?” He stood right in front of her now, his head cocked a little.
He’d be there in the Cloudiseum, too. So would all the Wonderbolts. Him, and Rapidfire and Fleetfoot and Storm Surge and Raindrop Flare and Whirlwind and Lightning Flash and Banana Milkshake. Well, the A Team would be there; the other Wonderbolts would probably be off someplace else doing their showstopper, or getting the training grounds ready.
And they’d all be smiling at her as she walked between the rows of them. Maybe Milkshake’d even hold out a hoof for her to bump, and before she’d know it she’d be face-to-face with the most awesome pegasus in the stadium.
“Yes?!” Okay she’d squealed a little too high, there, but this was so worth it!
Dash’d grin, her wings fluttering a little at her side. Spitfire would smirk, and then she’d reach behind herself for something. That smirk would soften a little, and she’d hold the… something out for Dash as the roars around them grew to their loudest.
A neatly folded, slightly shiny suit of dark blue, complete with little yellow lightning bolts, and a pair of goggles perched on top!
“… would you mind introducing me to that orange mare you came with?”
In an instant, Spitfire no longer stood in front of her. Instead, she was still staring at Soarin’, who looked back with a goofy smile and his eyes shining a little in the moonlight.
“What?” she grunted.
Soarin’ raised an eyebrow. She could feel the racing beat in her chest start to ebb away like a dying storm. “You know… the mare with the apple cutie-mark? And the hat?”
“Applejack?” All around her, the other Wonderbolts began to fade into the murky darkness.
Soarin’s smile eased itself wider, and he heaved a quiet sigh. “Yeah… I mean, I know it’s weird that I didn’t even know her name and I… I can’t stop thinking about her…”
The crowd slowly started to disappear, too. All those banners and stamping hooves and rainbow manes. And foals with their eyes twinkling in that same way hers had when she’s seen the Wonderbolts for the first time. And her parents, still crying and whooping and cheering her on.
Poofed back into the darkness of her head.
“I guess it kinda’ started back at the Gala. You remember that pie you saved? Well, she’s the one who sold it to me. Thing is, though, when I rock up in my flight-suit, ponies usually bend over backwards when I wanna’ buy something. They’re all ‘Oh yes, Mister Soarin’’ and ‘Right away, Mister Soarin’’ and ‘Can I shine your hooves, Mister Soarin’’.” He shook his head, before that dreamy smile stretched even further. “But Applejack… she just gave me the sweetest little smile, and then I looked into her eyes, and oh… I didn’t know it at the time—probably too busy eating that awesome pie she’d baked—but when I thought about her after the gala, her eyes just seemed so… pretty. Not, like, supermodel pretty, or the kind of pretty that makes you stop and stare, but a kind of… nice, quiet pretty… Like… like I’m lying on a low cloud out in the middle of nowhere, just watching a little stream wind through a big, open field of flowers with the sunset turning everything gold…” He titled his head back, eyes softly closing.
All of her friends started to fade away, now.
Pinkie was first to go, bouncing right into the darkness without her smile even flickering once. Applejack followed her out, grabbing to hat just as she slipped away, and then Twilight went as she took one last look at her hooves. Finally, Rarity and Fluttershy faded together, never once looking away from her, and not letting their eyes dry…
“And then when I heard she was coming here… I… I just had to meet her! So I kind of kept my eyes open and tried to find a moment when she was alone so I could talk to her, but she’s just so… so friendly, you know? Every time I’ve seen her tonight, she’s always been talking to somepony like they’ve known each other for life, or playing around with… well, now I guess she’s her little sister… or she’s been making sure everypony’s enjoyed her cooking. Celestia knows, I have!”
His smile stretched into a grimace, and he looked away for a second. “But… but every time I tried to colt-up and just walk in there to ask her… I-I get this knot in my gut… I mean, she’s amazing… She’s saved Equestria!”
Her own huge grin finally slipped away. She let out a big sigh, her wings hanging limp at her sides. The heat that she’d felt in her eyes disappeared, fading under the aches in her cheeks…
“So… I was wondering if you could help me out here, Dash?”
She kept trying to bore through the floor with her eyes.
Rainbow’s head jerked up, looking right at Soarin’ and that stupid, goofy smile of his. She forced a small one of her own out. “Sure…”
“… and that’s when I told him that you’d been wanting to see him. After that, it wasn’t hard to get both of you to that fountain,” Dash finished, shrugging. And stopping her mind before it could go over them going all mushy over each other in the moonlight.
A shiver rippled up her back. Actually, it wasn’t that bad, what those two did. Still, she could have done without seeing AJ practically melt against him after their third word to each other…
“So…” Dash found Applejack staring at her, eyebrows shoved right up to her mane. “… You thought’e was askin’ you to join the Wonderbolts? Hoo-eee…” She shook her head, a smirk curling its way out. “That must’a been all kinds of awkward when he found out.”
Dash smirked. “Yeah… I told him last time he was here.” She snorted.
Applejack chuckled back. “I was wondrin’ why’e was all torn up, that day.”
It was Rainbow’s turn to raise a brow. “You mean he didn’t tell you that, either?”
Applejack hummed, her lips twisting. “Not really. I mean, when I found ‘im, he looked kinda’ shook up ‘bout somethin’, so I asked him if anythin’ was wrong… and I believed him when he said it was nothin’.”
Dash grinned. “Sounds about right. You should’ve heard him when he was talking to me, though…” Her grin stretched wider, and a chuckle escaped. “I swear, I thought I was talking to Fluttershy’s cousin, or something.”
Although… it had been worth sitting through all those apologies to hear that the Wonderbolts were keeping their eyes on her!
Aw, yeah! Yeah!
She smirked, looking across at AJ, who turned away and bit her lip. Dash took a step closer, and saw her friend’s eyes growing wet with— oh no.
She walked right over to AJ. This wasn’t happening now.
“Applejack?” She meant that wobble to be in her voice. Really.
AJ sniffed, and brought those big, shiny eyes around to look at Dash. That shiver came back. “I…I-”
“Look, AJ,” she said, braving those… eyes and trotting even closer to Applejack, “I really meant it when I said it was nothing to do with Soarin’.” She grinned. “Seriously. I’m happy for you and the big lug.”
AJ chuckled, and her eyes cleared again. “It’s not that, Dash, it’s just…” She sighed. “It’s just I never realised Soarin’ felt that way about me for that long…”
Dash stopped herself from actually groaning, but rolled her eyes and threw her head back anyway. What was with her friends, today?
And what was with the sun being that far across the sky?
She squinted at the sky, biting at her lip. Maybe she’d been asleep for a little more than a minute.
Dash looked back at AJ, who still stared into nothing, smiling that same goofy smile she was probably seeing in her head. “Sure you’re all right, AJ?”
Applejack jumped, her eyes landing on Dash. “Yeah, I’m fine now, Dash.” They narrowed as she smirked. “Why? Am I interruptin’ one o’your super-important naps, again?”
Dash grinned back, then she flared her wings and pumped hard.
In moments, the greens and reds of the trees around her fell away into a clear light blue. She took in a deep, chilly breath, which sent a familiar tingle racing away from her chest and down to the tips of her wings.
Down below, she could see AJ scrambling around for her hat, that smirk wiped off her face.
And in a field a little closer to town, she spied a familiar yellow dot waiting as patiently as always for her…
“Hey, ‘Shy!” Dash called out, landing just as Fluttershy squeaked and stood bolt upright. Fluttershy slowly turned around, and Dash couldn’t help but smile a little wider as she caught sight of ‘Shy’s.
“Hello, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy said, those big blue eyes twinkling and making Dash grin even harder.
Until she noticed that part of one still hid behind her mane.
Dash sighed, her smile collapsing so fast she felt a lip snag between her teeth. “Hey, sorry I’m late, Fluttershy.” Something felt tight and awkward in her chest. Probably just a build-up of flying energy. She hoped. “I got kinda’ caught up talking to AJ…” she finished, looking over at the maze of apple trees.
“Oh, that’s all right, Rainbow,” Fluttershy said in that pillow-soft whisper that always sounded so right. Like it was a little pat on the back all on its own. No wonder Dash’s smile had come right back. After all, it was Fluttershy; that was just what she did.
“In fact…” Fluttershy took a step back. “If you hadn’t been late, I wouldn’t have been able to catch up with one of my old friends!”
Fluttershy pointed a fore-hoof out to the side, out to a little blob of brown sticking out of a slightly bigger blob of brown. Except that the first blob had two beady little black eyes that Dash could only just see. And two tiny pink paws that clung to the rim of its dirt mound. And a thin nose, that twitched and shuffled about in that way that was just a little too oochie-coo for those shudders to not ripple down her back.
No wonder it was one of ‘Shy’s friends.
Still, it was Shy’s friend. Those ripples could have earthquakes and they wouldn’t matter.
“Moleville here hurt one of his paws last year when he tried to tunnel up into my living room.”
Dash stared at her. “He did what?”
Fluttershy’s eyes shot wide. Or as wide as they ever went when a dragon wasn’t nearby. “Oh! He didn’t mean it,” she said, patting his head, and he eased into her hoof with a big smile on his face. “He just lost his way after looking for something to eat. So I took him in and made sure that he had somewhere warm and cosy to stay while he healed.” Her gentle little smile spread out again.
And stayed there until the little guy started chirping.
“Oh, what’s that?” ‘Shy titled her head.
More chirping. That smile of hers was back in a moment.
“Oh, of course you can help me out when I’m gardening, Moleville. But only if you really want to, okay?”
The little guy nodded, before he disappeared back into the mound, a few flecks of dirt spraying out behind him.
Fluttershy kept her eyes locked on the hole for a few moments, and Dash was sure she heard a little sigh whisper out of her friend’s nostrils. She definitely saw the little heave of her shoulders, anyway.
And the much bigger one a few moments later, after which Dash could feel the weight of those soft eyes on her.
At least they weren’t wet this time. Thankfully. She didn’t know how she’d kept breathing after the last time she’d seen… those.
“Sorry, Rainbow… I-I know you’ve already missed flying this morning…” Fluttershy’s head slipped further and further down with each word, a little more hiding behind her mane, too.
“Eh, don’t worry about it, Fluttershy.” That perked her right back up, and pulled back the covers. Dash grinned. “Guess I’ll just have to fly even faster, now.”
Fluttershy let out one of her light little giggles, while Dash took a moment to chuckle and definitely not giggle.
All right, maybe it was kind of like a… giggle. A little. But she was with Fluttershy; that made it okay.
Dash smirked. “Ready to cheer?”
She needed only a glimpse of Fluttershy’s smile and nod for it to finally happen. In the blink of an eye, she inched her fore-hooves ever so slightly further apart, levelled her brows, flared her wings to their fullest extent, tensed her legs…
And took off.
With one beat of her wings, she was already high enough that she could only just hear Fluttershy saying, “Oh yes, Dash!”
With another, a smirk dragged all the way across her muzzle farther than it had all day. Or maybe it was just the wind forcing it out?
Or maybe it was the great rush of pure awesomeness and energy she could feel surging through her.
Yeah, it was probably that.
Dash narrowed her eyes, and she raised her fore-hooves above her head. Their proper position for proper stunt flying.
With every beat of her wings she could feel the wind rush through her coat ever more quickly. The tension squeezing across her forehead? The tightness yanking her shoulders together? Those little niggles and grumbles that just built and built and built across the last week, like Derpy accidentally setting off a lightning fork into her tail even if she would never actually mean to do it and she’d apologised for hours after it, or the post-office forgetting about her subscription to Wonderbolts Weekly, or the weather patrol putting her on for two three-hour shifts back-to-back yesterday, or the Cakes’ foals choosing her tail to chew on?
Lost to the blur of the field and houses below, and the whistle of the wind through her mane, and the thundering of her own heart.
Aw, YEAH! She’d needed this!
Dash finally reached her target, where the chill tingled through her wings even though they were like a blur by her sides, and only the best fliers could stay up with the thin air. She smirked.
And pushed her wings behind her, angling them so they almost flattened against their sides on their own. She could feel her primaries occasionally whip against her side, more and more as she dove and picked up speed like Tank inhaled lettuce.
She somehow found the time to raise an eyebrow. Bad example.
Either way, the ground rushed up towards her, even with the cold wind stinging at her eyes. She paid that no mind; she lived for this.
Just a little further…
The dark green lines around the edges of the field sprang and branched out into hedges.
A little more…
Fluttershy stood out clear as a rainbow across a clear sky, her eyes huge and staring and her smile somehow even wider. Hay, she was so excited that her wings had popped up and she was even leaning forwards!
She could suddenly see every blade of grass a few feet from her hooves, looming and threatening like the traps from a Daring Do book.
She threw her wings out, grimacing as the full brunt of the thicker air whacked against them and they strained so hard she almost let out a groan. But she didn’t. Instead, she arched her back and tilted her wings back just a tad, and watched with an ever-growing smirk as the greens suddenly gave way to clear, pure blue.
And then she felt the little tickle against her hooves that told her she’d pulled up at just the perfect moment.
For a tiny moment, she could hear Fluttershy cheering with a whole chorus of those soft little yays that just never got any louder no matter how hard she tried. And tried she did. Dash could actually hear them while flying, now, so that counted as progress, she guessed. Tiny progress, definitely, but progress.
And at least ‘Shy was actually down there.
Dash smirked and levelled off into a smoother climb. Besides, if this all went well, she wouldn’t need Fluttershy to be cheering and making herself all uncomfortable and working herself up every other month or so and making Dash feel squirmy enough inside to have to hug her while she went all… ugh, teary-eyed because she thought she wasn’t a good enough support when she was—she so was, and she’d kick the flank of anypony who said otherwise—and—
Why was she doing that again?
That thinking about that?
Dash scowled, and she tilted the very tips of her wings so that the world whirled between green and blue.
As she was thinking, if all of this went well… she’d have a real cheering section. In a real stadium!
She threw her hooves right, arching her back again. Fighting to keep her eyes open and her mouth closed, she focussed on keeping herself as tight as she could as every force slammed into her. Wind resistance… centrifugal… some others that Twilight told her about once…
Eh, those didn’t matter; the world was spinning too quick for that.
She gritted her teeth, staring at the flash of colour she knew as her own tail, while the world spun around above and below in the corners of her eyes. Harder and harder she pumped her wings, until finally she forced one out.
And shot away from her little circle in the sky, smirking all the while before pulling to a series of routine loop-the-loops. So she could catch her breath. The little she need to, anyway.
She let herself take a quick look back at her perfect Tornado Twist, just as the last of her rainbow flare faded.
Best start to a routine ever!
Her cheering section’d definitely go wild for that. Little foals would be shouting her name and saying she was the greatest and declaring that they wanted to be just like her when they grew up! Her fellow ‘Bolts’d be giving her those little nods and smirks that everypony knew meant a job well done. The stadium would be filled with ponies, all waving banners with every colour on them, or letting off party-poppers and streamers, or standing far below, talking to Pinkie!
Dash cocked a brow, and looked down again.
Sure enough, there was ‘Shy, her head darting about as Pinkie bounced all around her.
Eyes still glued to the pink blur that could pop up at any time and destroy all the tension of a Daring Do climax, Dash floated back down to her friends. After all, Pinkie wasn’t supposed to be there…
She heard Pinkie’s faint chirp. “Really?”
Sure, she would have liked it if Pinkie showed up to her practicing. Hay, she’d have liked it if any of her friends would come and cheer for her as she cheated death and forced the wind to do her bidding. Yeah!
“Oh, yes, Pinkie. It’s just that, um… Rainbow…”
And if Pinkie showed up, she’d probably bring her party cannons and her streamer launchers and all sorts of things that all just seemed to make everything at her parties better. And they were already completely, one-hundred percent awesome to begin with.
“So nothing’s going on at all?”
But wasn’t Pinkie supposed to be planning another party? For tomorrow?
“Hey, Pinkie!” Dash called out as she landed.
“Hi, Dashie!” Pinkie chirped.
And Fluttershy jolted again, crouching behind her mane.
Dash’s brows creased, and she aimed them at Pinkie. “What’s up?”
Pinkie gave her one of those huge, face-splitting grins that chased off the hardness that had been in her voice. “Oh, nothing’s up, Dashie. Well, except for you, but you’ve come all the way down here now!” She let out one of her little snorty giggles, and Dash couldn’t help but smile.
“I just wanted to ask Fluttershy about something I saw earlier when we were all at Rarity’s.”
“Ah-huh,” Dash grunted, taking a look at Fluttershy. She was back out from behind her mane, now, but her smile still looked kind of weak.
“I mean, you were just totally ignoring everything Rarity and AJ were saying when they talked about their colt-friends. It was kinda’ funny, really. They were both like I love him so much and he’s so lovely and he completes me, and you were just sitting there in your own little world—guess it must be kinda’ like the world I go into when I plan my parties but with rainbows instead of streamers and where you can just think about flying or the Wonderbolts—and then you said you never wanted a special somepony!
“But then I saw you and Fluttershy being all secretive and you trying not to look at her when you were at the table, and then you said something about meeting up together tonight!”
Pinkie may have grinned, but Dash felt her hackles rise. “And there’s something wrong with that?”
“Nope! Nothing at all!” Dash could not stop her frown from melting under another Pinkie grin. “It’s like Fluttershy told me; you’ve known each other since you were both teeny-tiny, little Splashy-Dashie and Flutter-Wutters! Well, she didn’t use those names, since I just made them up, but it still means the same!”
Pinkie leapt over to Dash’s side, wrapped a hoof around her middle, and squeezed all the air right out of her. “This is just something that you and Fluttershy like to do together. Like when you go pranking with me, right Dashie?”
Breathing deeply, but not too deeply, Dash looked at Pinkie. At her sugary-sweet smile, and the mane that still bounced along with her, and the bright blue eyes that she could see twinkling.
Dash had to hold back a sigh. This was the pony who’d thrown the biggest party ever last week, just ‘cause she felt like celebrating the fact that she had such good friends by her sides. The pony who was always there with cupcakes and muffins and sweets, all out of the goodness of her hear—
Yeesh! When did she get so cheesy!
Pinkie shifted a little at her side, hugging her even tighter, and Dash felt her guts shrivel and writhe.
The same moment she’d thought something not cool about one of her best friends forever that she’d ever-ever had. That’s when.
She managed a smile. “Yep.”
“Actually, Pinkie…” They both looked over at Fluttershy. Her smile was the same neat little one as always. “I don’t mind you joining us tonight. Um…” She looked away for a second, “but if Rainbow—”
“Nah, that’s cool with me, Fluttershy.” Dash grew her smile into a full-on grin.
Pinkie took away her hoof, and she tapped it against her chin. Then she giggled, shaking her head. “I don’t think I can make it tonight, really. I’m hosting one of my special parties.”
The moment Pinkie shifted her shoulders, and made that little jerk of her head, Dash couldn’t stop her grin from flattening into a smirk. After all, everypony knew what one of Pinkie’s special parties were.
So she hardly batted an eye as she noticed ‘Shy curl away behind her mane again, her eyes fixed on the ground and her cheeks glowing pink.
“… Oh, did I tell you guys about last night’s?! …”
Fluttershy shifted a little on her hooves again, and Dash was sure she heard that tiny little squeak.
The same one she’d heard all those… well, not that many years ago, really, but it was back at Flight Camp anyhow.
“… Caramel and Lucky both came along for some fun, this time…”
There she’d been, laying down on the floor looking up the latest epic routine that the Wonderbolts had shown off in Hoofington, and working out just how she was going to do it, when Fluttershy just burst into her room.
“… And then I got out my secret stash of super-squirty cream and caramel—well, why wouldn’t I, Caramel himself was there! …”
And Fluttershy never burst into anywhere before. Of course. Fluttershy. So she’d looked up from her magazine, and that was when she’d seen just how… heavily ‘Shy was breathing. If she’d been panting any harder she might have blown the window out the cloud frame. That’s what it‘d felt like, anyway. And her cheeks had gone bright red, and she’d looked all over the room with those big, wide eyes.
That was when she’d gotten visions of those… those dumb colts, crowding around her and calling her Clutzershy and just being… argh…
“… So we all went upstairs to my party palace…”
But she didn’t even get chance to ask Fluttershy what’d happened before she just shot under her comforter and wrapped it completely around herself. Completely. Like it was a cocoon, or something. And then every time she’d tried to peel back the cover—and been really gentle with it—or just even tried to talk to Fluttershy, all she’d get in return was a little tremble, or a whimper, and she’d curl herself up even tighter.
Or she’d get a little sniffle.
Dash shivered in the present. Fluttershy… crying…
“… Even I don’t know how they both did that at the same time…”
She shuddered again.
So… she’d stood next to her bed for what felt like forever, just watching ‘Shy as she trembled under the covers, feeling like that one time she’d tried to fly through a hail cloud and come under fire from thousands of these little ice shards.
“… Hay, I didn’t even know ponies could bend like that! …”
And just as her cheeks’d started to ache from all the awkward grimacing, and her eyes had started to get a little warm for some reason, her door’d opened again, and this skinny little green filly let herself in.
But Dash hadn’t minded; it was Minty Fresh. Fluttershy’s room-mate.
“… But I guess I’ve said enough about last night’s fun…”
The two of them had gone back over to Fluttershy, only to find that she’d poked her head out from under the covers. With two dark tracks under her eyes…
“… Altho-ough, this does explain why you never came along too, Dashie…”
And then the next few seconds had kind of passed in a blur. Fluttershy said she was sorry for taking a peek at something, and Dash had had to look away ‘cause her eyes started to bubble up again, but this had left her staring at the magazine that Minty had poking out of her saddlebag.
The latest Flying Fancier. The one with Solar Flare on the cover, flying through a waterfall.
Dash had smirked.
She’d heard her own room-mate bouncing on her cloud through the night to pretty much the same magazine to know exactly what was in it.
And that it’d not be something Fluttershy’d want to see.
Then before she’d known it, Fluttershy and Minty had both made up what hadn’t actually been anything at all, and Dash had been able get back into her magazine. With a smile on her face. Sure, her sheets had been a little clammy that night, and that hadn’t been so hot, but it was worth it to see ‘Shy smiling again as she went back to her room.
Dash shook her head and looked over at Pinkie, who immediately started giggling. “See? You’ve done it again, Dashie!”
Then Pinkie’s grin vanished as her mouth shot open wider than Ghastly Gorge, and her gasp echoed in Dash’s ears. “It’s that late!” She didn’t take her stare away from the sky, which Rainbow was sure was looking more orange and less blue by the second.
She could already feel her groan tickling at her throat.
“Sorry, girls, but I’ve got a party to get to!”
As Dash stared at the ground, she just noticed Pinkie bouncing away in the corner of her eye. She heaved her shoulders, finally letting out that groan.
Then a set of light-yellow hooves trotted to beside hers.
She looked up, her eyes landing on Fluttershy’s, and hers were very much facing the other way.
“Um… I-I’m sorry, Rainbow…”
Dash stared at her. “Eh, don’t be, Fluttershy.” That made her turn those wide, staring eyes onto Rainbow. “It’s just Pinkie being Pinkie… and it’s my fault for coming down here, anyway.” She gave Fluttershy another of those… soft smiles, and, sure enough, it brought another right out of her. “It’s just…”
She looked up at the sky, and she couldn’t hold back another sigh. Or stop her shoulders from sagging.
She could practically hear Fluttershy nibbling at her lip. “Uh… Rainbow, if you want to keep flying on your own—”
“Nah.” Dash forced her smile back, aiming it at Fluttershy. “I’m still up for tonight.”
Maybe it was the sun being so low, but Dash thought she could see something sparkle in Fluttershy’s eyes. Or maybe it was her teeth; she was definitely grinning hard enough to show those pearly-whites, now.
Dash countered it with a smirk and squared her shoulders. She looked up at the sky again. “But I gotta’ go make sure Tank’s okay, first.”
She had just enough time to hear ‘Shy gasp an, “Of course!” before it faded into the whoosh of the wind.