"There's no such thing as a curse!"
Twilight Sparkle's words from months ago echoed through Rainbow Dash's mind, taunting her. She felt no ill will towards Twilight, of course — the unicorn was just as devastated over what had happened as all her other friends — but Twilight had been wrong. Curses did exist, and, to Rainbow's horror, Pinkie Pie was the victim.
Rainbow Dash had a crush on the party pony for a while now, ever since they started hanging out regularly after the incident with Nightmare Moon. Every time Dash saw Pinkie, she just wanted them to spend more time together. The only obstacle was that Rainbow Dash had a hard time admitting these feelings to herself, and couldn’t tell Pinkie or anyone else about them. She was a proud pony and always viewed such “mushy” stuff as frivolous (she had an image to maintain, after all). Even when Pinkie began to hint that she harbored the same feelings for Dash, the pegasus could not bring herself to ask the pink pony out. Suddenly, this foolishness was becoming something that Rainbow Dash was really beginning to regret.
As Dash looked down at the softly-breathing pink pony lying on the bed, she recalled the events that led to this tragic turn. It had all happened so suddenly: two weeks ago, Princess Celestia asked Twilight to gather the Elements of Harmony and search the ruins of the old castle for some relic or other. Rainbow Dash couldn't remember the details anymore — just that they had found it and were on their way back when she discovered an odd-looking mirror rimmed with polished jet.
Rainbow Dash didn't even know that Pinkie Sense had a combination for "your best friend is about to be hit by a curse," but just as she was about to look at her own reflection, Pinkie ran up and shoved her out of the way. During this heroic act, however, Pinkie caught a glimpse of her own reflection and immediately collapsed. As soon as Twilight determined that Pinkie was still alive and not immediately dying, Rainbow Dash flew her back to Ponyville Hospital as fast as she could.
Pinkie was asleep. That was the diagnosis. The only difference between this and a normal night's sleep was that Pinkie could not be roused. Not by anyone: Rainbow Dash, Twilight, the Doctors, even the Princesses all tried and all failed. Princess Celestia could not even determine what spell Pinkie had fallen under, but told her friends that this was something that only Pinkie could fix (although Dash wondered exactly how her friend could fix anything while she was still asleep). All they could do was take care of her physically.
Being useless was not something that Rainbow Dash just accepted. And so Dash stayed with Pinkie every moment that she didn't have to attend to her weather duties. She did her best to remain strong for her friend; even now, she didn’t want anyone see her crying. When the asked about it, Rainbow Dash replied that she had to be strong; that crying wouldn’t help Pinkie.
However, holding it in was becoming harder by the minute. Tonight, though, it was too much. Just looking at the slumbering pink form reminded her that this was all her fault. That if she wasn’t reckless, Pinkie wouldn’t have had to save her. That she should be the one in an endless sleep, rather than the pony she loved. Yes, she realized that her feelings for Pinkie now ran deeper than a mere crush. Pinkie, the pony who put everything on the line to save Dash from her own foolishness, and who now laid helpless in bed because of it, had become the center of Dash’s world.
Finally, Rainbow Dash couldn't hold it in any longer. No longer able to stem the flood of tears, she grasped Pinkie's hoof and sobbed loudly.
"Pinkie! I love you! I know that now; I love you! Wake up! Please, please wake up!" Rainbow Dash wailed, not caring who heard her. Out of words, she pulled her friend’s body up into an embrace and cried. After Celestia knows how long, the tears ran out and Rainbow Dash released her most precious friend. Looking at Pinkie's face once more, Rainbow Dash saw something. Something wondrous, something that made her hope once more. Pinkie had moved for the first time since she was stricken.
The pink pony’s mouth had curled up into a faint smile.
Deep inside Pinkie's mind, a game of cat-and-mouse was about to end.
For the first time since entering the shadowy dreamscape, Pinkie Pie was unafraid. No longer was she the skittish, exhausted wreck that she had become since she blacked out. Instead, she now acted carefree, hopping down the path and singing to herself. Because, as bleak as things once were, this time she knew that she would win.
"Yoo-hoo! Mister Meanie! Come out!" she called.
The formless void around her echoed back, "You seek me this time, simple fool? Why do you still resist? Laughter has indeed proved far more difficult to conquer than I had anticipated, but it is a hopeless fight. You will fail; why not make it easier on yourself and pass on quietly? It will save you a lot of pain."
"You've been cheating, Mister Meanie!" Pinkie replied. "You're trying to make me think that I have no hope, and that I'll lose this silly game. But I'm good at games! I love games! But I know you’re a sneak and you didn’t tell me all the rules!" Pinkie giggled.
"You still think that this is a game!" the echo returned with the violence of a hurricane. "You pathetic creature. I will claim your life and your soul. I will then claim the life and soul of every pony you have touched. And you think that this is a game?" The darkened sky shook.
"Nuh-uh! I know it's a game! And I know how to win!"
"What makes you think you have any chance?"
Pinkie laughed, louder this time. "I heard something. Something that you tried to keep me from hearing. But you slipped up! I heard it! And now I'll win, because you never said that I couldn't play two-against-one!"
"That is your hope? That you can bring someone else to share your fate? Who would ever do that for you? Your friends know you're useless. The temporary happiness you claim to have brought them has all faded. I have seen your fears, your insecurities. And you are correct. They no longer care about you, now that you cannot dance, or sing, or do whatever silliness you think cheers them up. You are very much alone, little pony. Give up, and accept your fate."
“Oho! Trying that move again, silly? It won’t work this time!” Pinkie smiled. This time, it was a serene smile, filled with pure joy. The smile of somepony who had been on a long, hard journey and is now heading back home to be with their beloved. Pinkie Pie’s very next words cut through the darkness like a knife.
"It won’t work because you're wrong, Mister Meanie. I'm not alone."
She said yes!
This singular thought bounced around Pinkie Pie’s head for what must have been the thousandth time tonight. It had been the best afternoon ever! Not only did Pinkie suddenly find the courage to ask Rainbow Dash out on a date, but it turned out that the pegasus felt the same for Pinkie (and, in fact, planned to ask her out on this same day)! What’s even better is that their first date was tomorrow! They were to spend the whole day at the Harvest Festival together! Pinkie was so happy she could just burst!
Unfortunately, that was precisely the problem: Luna’s moon had risen hours ago and the pink pony was no closer to sleeping than she was when she skipped back home before the sun even set. While Pinkie oftentimes stayed up late, tomorrow was special; she couldn’t be a tired wreck for her first date! And so, Pinkie tossed and turned in bed, thinking of any way she could calm down enough to finally close her eyes.
Granny had once told her to try to count sheep jumping over a fence to lull herself to sleep. Indeed, this worked on most nights Pinkie was having trouble getting some shuteye. But tonight, she couldn’t even get to four before the imaginary sheep morphed into certain sky-blue pegasi. Then one of the Dashes would get bored with the whole fence thing and ask Pinkie to dance. Pinkie began to accept, but then realized where she actually was. Disappointed (in more ways than one), Pinkie had to abandon that idea and find another way to help her sleep.
Next, she tried to clear her mind of all thoughts. This was much harder than it sounded. Just seconds after she stopped thinking, Pinkie would mentally check back to see if her mind was still clear, ruining any peace that she might have gained. She tried to remember what that book about meditation in Twilight’s library said, but that just made her think about how that book had fallen open in front of her after Rainbow Dash crashed into the bookcase. And, of course, the thought of Dashie erased any progress she made on the meditation front.
And so, Pinkie decided to head downstairs to the kitchen. Rarity had always said that warm milk helped her whenever she had a sleepless night. Again this backfired: just as Pinkie was warming the milk, she thought of the imaginary dance she almost had with Dash and lost track of what she was doing. When she finally came back to reality, she found that she had subconsciously made hot cocoa — complete with whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate syrup, and a cherry on top. While this was delicious, it did little to help her sleep.
Almost desperate now, Pinkie finally decided that she had to talk to somepony else, at least until she could stop thinking about Dashie long enough to calm down. It was starting to get really late, and the twins were enjoying a rare moment of sleep — and the Cakes were taking advantage of the reprieve by joining them in slumber. Gummy, too, could not be roused (the little alligator was not very good for conversation, anyway). Pinkie then thought of her friends, when she remembered something.
Fluttershy was often up this late at night, feeding and caring for her owls, raccoons, and other nocturnal animals. Of course! She would certainly be glad to have company over! Maybe she would even have some sort of tea to help Pinkie relax a little. Without further hesitation, Pinkie bounced out the door and headed towards the shy pegasus’ cottage.
High above Ponyville, a wisp of cloud dispersed with a quiet poof.
“This just isn’t working,” Rainbow Dash muttered. The clouds tonight were all wispy, and their similarity to cotton candy was not helping one bit. “Pinks, I love you, but you have to get out of my head! Maybe if I go someplace where I can stop thinking about you, I can finally get some sleep.”
Rainbow Dash suddenly had an idea. There was somepony who might be able to help. She would probably even be up at this time! Surely talking with her oldest friend would distract her. Rainbow Dash circled slowly over town before flying towards a certain cottage on the edge of the Everfree.
It was the most unusual evening of Rainbow Dash’s life. Well, every date with Pinkie Pie turned out to be one of the pegasus’ more unusual evenings, but this one was far more strange than even those. Pinkie had hardly acted like herself all night. Everything she did was uncharacteristically subdued, from the way she calmly called up to the cloud house to wake Dash from her nap (calling her by her full name instead of the usual “Dashie,” no less), to how she trotted — rather than bounced — to the restaurant, to her almost unnatural composure during dinner.
Throughout it all, Rainbow wondered what had gotten into her friend. Was something wrong? Apart from her restrained behavior, Pinkie seemed just fine; she still wore her smile and told jokes and laughed. Was she preparing to gently break up with Dash? This thought sent a shiver of fear through the pegasus — until she looked into her partner’s shining blue eyes, where she saw nothing but the joy and love that had occupied them ever since Rainbow Dash agreed to start the relationship almost a year ago. What was it, then? At long last, no sooner than dessert was served, came the reason. Rainbow Dash would never forget the words, nor the excitement behind them that Pinkie was now trying her utmost to contain.
Rainbow Dash, you have made me happier than I have ever been in my life. I know I have been acting really supe-. Er, acting different tonight, and I am so sorry if I made you nervous. You make me so, so happy, and if I didn’t use every little tiny bit of my willpower keeping my composure I’d be way, wa-. I would be too excited to ask you what I want to ask you now.
Dashi- Rainbow Dash, will you please, please, pl-. Will you do me the honor of being with me forever and ever? W-will you be my wife?
Of course, the party pony’s carefully maintained control broke immediately when Dash gave Pinkie her answer. Rainbow smiled; the memory was definitely worth every bit they had to pay the restaurant owner to repair the damages, which amounted to several glasses and plates, the table, and a section of nearby wall (Pinkie also had to make one of her eponymous promises to never bottle up that much excitement again). And tonight, as Rainbow Dash snuggled up against the sleeping — yet somehow still grinning — pink pony beside her, she couldn’t help but to think: it had indeed been the most unusual evening of her life. But it was also the happiest.
The library’s door suddenly burst open, and through it charged one cyan pegasus. “Where is it?!” Rainbow Dash demanded.
“Where is what?!” Twilight Sparkle answered. “Why’d you just-”
“The time machine! The one you just finished! Where is it?!” Dash was frantic now.
Twilight wondered how Rainbow even knew about the device. She tried her best to keep it absolutely secret; apart from herself, only Princess Celestia and Spike knew that she was even working on the project — let alone had a prototype. The unicorn decided that there wasn’t any point trying to deny it; if Dash knew, then Dash knew.
Twilight tried to calm her friend. “It is not a time machine. It simply projects your consciousness and will into your past-”
“I don’t care! I just need to use it!” The pegasus bellowed.
“I-” Twilight started, but then stopped, as she suddenly realized that there was only one reason Rainbow would want access to the device. Her expression became sullen. “You can’t help her, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said sadly. “I know you love Pinkie, but she died saving all of us. If she didn’t, we’d all be-.” The unicorn couldn’t bring herself to continue.
Twilight’s sudden change of mood seemed to strike the pegasus. Landing next to Twilight, she spoke just a little more calmly: “I need to help her! She was my marefriend, for goodness’ sake! I should have been there with her! The only reason I wasn’t was that I didn’t know she would turn back. It was too late before I could do anything!” Tears now flowed shamelessly from Rainbow Dash’s eyes. “Please send me back there, Twilight. I could help her. We all owe it to her.”
Twilight put a hoof on her friend’s shoulder. “I can’t let you do that, Rainbow. It’s too dangerous. I don’t know how Pinkie stopped that thing, but it cost her her life to do so. I can’t bear to lose you, too!”
“You wouldn’t have lost either of us! We’d have beaten it! Pinkie and I could do anything as long as we did it together!” sobbed the pegasus. Her expression then languished. “And if we couldn’t, then at least I could’ve died with her. It’d have been better than going on like this.”
“Rainbow! Do you know what you’re saying?” Twilight was shocked at her friend’s despair. “I-I can’t, Rainbow. I just can’t-”
Rainbow Dash deflated even further. Still crying profusely, she now pled with a broken voice: “You can’t let that happen to us, Twilight! Not when you can change things! How could you know what it’s like? To wake up every morning knowing that you’ll never see her again. To never be at a party thrown just for you again? I still hear her voice every night, singing as if nothing happened! I’d give anything to hear her call me “Dashie” once more. To listen to utter nonsense again. To feel her touch again. I need her!” How would you feel if Fluttershy-.” Rainbow couldn’t continue as her voice was overcome by heart-wrenching sobs.
It hurt Twilight to see her friend in so much anguish — hurt so deeply that she wanted to give in and let Rainbow have her wish. She needed to try to return to a rational approach soon, or else she’d lose her resolve. “You’re right; I can’t know what it’s like. But we can’t go altering the timeline, especially for personal reasons. You have to-”
“If you don’t let me go, I’ll hate you forever.” Rainbow Dash abruptly cut in. Twilight's argument stopped dead in her throat. Rainbow's voice, as wretched and broken as it was just moments earlier was now like a blade of ice, cold and serious. The unicorn looked into her friend’s magenta eyes and saw only steel. These were not just words; this was an oath. She meant what she said with every fiber of her being. If Twilight didn’t help her, she’d take it to her grave and, quite likely, beyond.
Twilight’s resolve crumbled. Losing Pinkie was hard enough. She couldn’t lose a friend like that, especially when she could prevent it. Even the idea that she could be easily sending her friend to her death paled in comparison to that of Rainbow hating her forever. “Besides,” some selfish, idealistic part of her mind spoke up, “maybe Rainbow Dash can save Pinkie. Maybe you will see the party pony once more. Isn’t that worth the risk?”
Twilight had no further words. Closing her eyes, she sighed, nodded once, and walked towards her lab. Leading Rainbow to the device, she opened the door and motioned inside. “Go on, but please be careful,” she said, tears leaking from her eyes.
The cyan pegasus wrapped Twilight into a tight hug. For the first time in a long time, Rainbow Dash cracked a smile and hope shone in her eyes. “Thank you for this, Twilight. This means so much to me. Don’t worry — I’ll see you soon. Both of us will.”
After Rainbow stepped into the chamber, Twilight slowly closed the door. Reluctantly throwing the switch, she hoped and prayed to the Princesses that her friend would still be there when she opened the door again.
Rainbow Dash flew through the door of the arcade and out into the moonlit street. Pinkie Pie hopped out after her, as excitedly as she had ever been. Both ponies were chatting with each other and giggling loudly.
“I knew that we’d have an awesome time together, Pinks!” The pegasus said, laughing at some joke made by her pink friend.
“Yeah, that was the mostest fun I ever had! And the best first date ever!” Pinkie replied cheerily. But then the pink pony’s face fell, taking on a more serious expression in stark contrast to her euphoria. “But…”
“But!?” came Rainbow’s shocked response.
“I mean, tonight was really, really great, Dashie! And I want another night like this more than anything! But one little thing bothers me. Why? Why’d you ask me out? You of all ponies know that I’m not serious and completely random and Twilight says I have no attention span. Why would somepony as awesome as you want to date me?”
Dash’s expression turned into one of great relief before settling into an earnest smile. “To tell the truth, Pinkie, I like all that about you! You can keep up with me better than anypony I know. You never slow down for a second, and I know that I can always have fun while you’re around. You can always make me smile, even when I’m feeling down. It’s like you’re some kind of …happiness generator. And I’m even happier that you like me back!”
“…And,” Dash continued quitely, as if she were sharing some embarrassing secret, “you’re the first pony that makes me happy when I’m on the ground. I live for flight and I’d never give it up for anything, but if I had to be stuck on the ground, I’d go crazy if you weren’t there with me. You’d be my wings for me.” Dash immediately hushed up, as she suddenly realized that she said much more than she meant to.
The full weight of what Rainbow had accidentally revealed wasn’t at all lost on Pinkie, however. The pink pony beamed and leapt up and hugged her friend, forcing Dash to land. “Thanks sooooo much, Dashie! That was so sweet!”
As soon as she got her bearings, Rainbow decided to return the question. “So, when I asked you out, why’d you accept? I was certain that you’d say no. I’m stubborn, I spend too much time training, and I’m distracted all the time. I was sure I’d be a terrible date!”
“Oh, Dashie! I like you for the way you are, and for lots of other reasons, too! But what I really, really, really like is that you make me think of the first rainbow I ever saw – even if I didn’t know you made it back then!”
“Get out of here! You never saw a rainbow before you got your cutie mark?”
“Never-ever!” Pinkie calmed down again. “I grew up in a frontier town. That meant there was no local weather team. Sometimes a lone pegasus would open up holes in the clouds, but that was it. We didn’t have anything fancy, like snowfalls, bright sunshine, …or rainbows. Not until you! You gave it all to me! And that made me so happy! If I’m your wings, then you’re my snowy day, my sunshine, and my rainbow!”
Rainbow Dash was taken aback. She never expected to hear her friend say anything like that. As she looked up into Pinkie’s eyes she realized something. Something that she thought that she had never felt before, but she now knew was always there.
Wow! This must be what love feels like, the pegasus mused. And, if the look in Pinkie’s blue eyes and on her face was any indication, her friend must have been feeling the exact same thing.
And, as their lips met in a passionate kiss, Rainbow knew that as amazing and wonderful as this first one was, the innumerable ones that would follow would be even better.
Rainbow Dash was unusually restless. It was time for her afternoon nap, but she could just not get any sleep the past few days. Instead, she sat perched upon a cloud above Sugarcube Corner. The reason for her unease was clear to her: she had feelings for Pinkie Pie. Not just friendship; this was much stronger. The pegasus wanted nothing more than to tell her pink friend how she felt. However, one thing stood in the way.
Rainbow Dash was a brave pony. No monster or challenge she faced ever fazed her a bit. In fact, the only thing capable of frightening her was herself – particularly her own insecurities. And these self-doubts asked questions. Hard questions. What if Pinkie didn’t feel the same way? What if it got in the way of their existing friendship? And thus, as much as Rainbow wanted to get it off her chest, she could never work up the courage to ask Pinkie out.
So instead of focusing on her angst, the pegasus tried to think of other things. The Wonderbolts. Flying. The weather. While Rainbow was ruminating on this last subject, she suddenly found herself comparing it to Pinkie. Feeling uncharacteristically thoughtful, Dash decided to continue the comparison.
Pinkie was the sun. Always warm and cheerful, she brought a smile to everypony’s face, regardless of how bad they were feeling.
Pinkie was a storm. Loud and chaotic and tumultuous, she often appeared suddenly and left just as quickly.
Pinkie was fog. Light and airy, yet impossible to ignore.
Pinkie was rain. Life seemed to follow her everywhere she went.
Then, something miraculous occurred. For just a split second Rainbow Dash once again achieved the impossible: she understood Pinkie Pie. All the chaotic pony’s actions, desires, and aspirations were suddenly laid clear for Dash.
The insight faded a mere moment later, but the knowledge it imparted was enough. Rainbow Dash now knew that her fears were unfounded. Pinkie did indeed feel the same way about Rainbow – it was now obvious. Rainbow Dash could have Pinkie; all she had to do was ask. She never had an easier decision to make. Diving off of her cloud, the pegasus glided down to the bakery below and knocked on the door, thinking of the words that will change her life forever.