It was raining. Little droplets of water peppered the window. The force of the speeding train pulled them back, leaving long, slippery trails across the glass in their wake.
Rainbow Dash leaned her head against the window. The cold glass felt nice against her forehead. She looked past the rain, past the misty haze, at the scenery rushing by outside. It was all so sickeningly familiar. She’d ridden in a dozen different identical train cars down those same tracks. She had rattled past and gazed at those same trees and hills more times than she could count. She’d bought a one-way ticket from Canterlot this time. It would be her last trip.
A deserted old barn loomed on a hill overhead. ‘Barn’ was a generous term. The ratty, broken heap of darkened wood was little more than a shack, if that. In past trips her heart had skipped at the site of that old barn. Her wings would flare as she smiled and fidgeted on her hooves. Ponyville was close.
She didn’t smile this time. A deep sickness spread through her stomach as she watched it pass by. Soon, she would be back. She would be face-to-face with her marefriend. She would explain to Pinkie Pie exactly what she had done and why she had done it, and Pinkie would hate her for it.
Exhausted, she closed her eyes, focusing on nothing but the rhythmic clatter of the train’s wheels.
“Why not?” Pinkie Pie whined. “Rainbow Dash loves my party cannon.”
Twilight groaned and massaged her temples. It wasn’t the first time she had to answer that question. “Pinkie, I understand that you want to cheer her up, we all do, but now isn’t the time for party cannons.”
Pinkie gasped at the ultimate blasphemy, her jaw nearly dropping onto the floor of the train platform they were gathered on. “All the time is a time for party cannons!”
“No.” Twilight groaned again. “Now is not a time for party cannons. Rainbow Dash has been through a lot. It would be best not to surprise her.”
“Yes, dear,” Rarity said, glancing up at the wide umbrella floating over her and Fluttershy’s heads. “What Rainbow Dash needs now is peace, quiet, and understanding.”
Applejack snorted, drawing questioning glances from her friends. She remained silent, standing at the edge of the platform, away from the rest of the group. Her face was clouded by the shadows of early evening.
Pinkie dropped down on her haunches with a huff and crossed her forelegs over her chest. Her pink tail spread out over the soaked wood of the train platform around her. Her mane, dripping rainwater, snaked its way down her face and neck.
The Ponyville train station was usually a lively place, full of ponies coming and going. Now, the only movement was the seemingly limitless downpour of rain. There were only a handful of other ponies on the platform, all hiding beneath their umbrellas.
“And absolutely under no circumstances is anypony going to mention the Wonderbolts, Canterlot or anything else that could remind her of what happened,” Twilight said, looking at each of the four ponies in turn. Rarity nodded back, Pinkie was still busy pouting, Fluttershy merely blinked. Only Applejack refused meet her gaze.
“Why?” Applejack asked.
“Because she’s been dealing with it for weeks,” Twilight replied. “She deserves a break.”
“Deserves?” Applejack’s mouth creased in a tight frown. “I reckon she’s already gettin’ what she deserves.”
Rarity gasped and covered her mouth. “Surely you can’t mean that.”
“Applejack, she’s your friend!” Twilight shouted, eyes widening.
Fluttershy looked away, her face unreadable.
“Friend or not, what she did was wrong, and everypony here knows it,” Applejack said with a sigh. “She lied to all of us.”
“Please don’t say that.” Pinkie sniffed. Her voice was low, all its usual bounce gone.
Applejack passed her a sympathetic frown. “Pinkie, I know this must be hard for you, but it’s the truth.”
Pinkie sniffed again but didn’t answer. It was hard to tell if the moisture gathering in her eyes was due to the rain or something else.
“She hurt that poor mare—”
“Applejack!” Rarity shouted, shooting the farm pony a glare. She wrapped a foreleg over Pinkie’s wet shoulder and floated her umbrella over so that it was covering Pinkie instead of herself. “With all due respect, shut up.”
Applejack huffed and pulled her hat low over her eyes.
“The train’s here,” Fluttershy murmured, raising her hoof in the air.
Four heads turned to look where she pointed. In the distance, the outline of a train could just barely be made out through the cloudy drizzle.
Rainbow Dash walked down the hallway, past the many doors of the Wonderbolts’ main office in Canterlot with her head held high. The blue tiles that made up the floor were shining in the fluorescent glow of the lights. When she looked down, she could see a broken pegasus hazily reflected in the floor below her. She didn’t look down.
Everypony she passed stopped to watch her walk by. They whispered to each other and stared. Some gave her disappointed frowns, but most just stared. She returned every one with the same bitter scowl.
She pushed the door open at the end of the hall, the word, “Captain”, inscribed on its front, and stepped inside without any hesitation.
Spitfire stood waiting for her behind a desk. She was turned away, facing the wall. Awards and pictures of Wonderbolts in their signature uniforms, soaring in tight formations, covered the walls.
“Do you know why you’re here?” Spitfire asked.
Rainbow Dash didn’t answer.
Spitfire sighed and turned around. “Do you have anything to say for yourself? Anything at all?”
“I didn’t do it.” Her voice sounded hollow and weak, even to Dash’s own ears.
Spitfire’s eyes shot open, her gaze suddenly as fiery as her mane. “You’ve disgraced every pegasus who’s ever put on that uniform!” she spat, pointing at one of the pictures covering the wall. “You’ve disgraced the Wonderbolts, you’ve disgraced me, you’ve disgraced yourself. And now you have the audacity to lie to my face? Again?”
Dash winced at the anger in her one-time idols’ voice. She should have said sorry. Some part of her wanted to, but it got lost somewhere on the way to her mouth.
Spitfire sighed again and turned back around, rubbing her forehead. “As of today, you’re no longer a Wonderbolt and, as long as I have anything to say about it, you never will be again.”
“Get out,” she barked, jabbing at the air with her leg. “I don’t want to have to look at you anymore.”
Dash opened her mouth to reply, to explain, to retort, to say anything. But when she saw the pain on Spitfire’s face, she closed it again. She turned and opened the door.
Dash turned back around, impossible hope sparking in her chest.
“Make sure you leave the suit and goggles in your locker. They aren’t yours anymore.”
Dash’s eyes flew open as she was thrown to the side of her seat. The train car quickly came to a stop, screeching and shaking. She couldn’t remember when she’d fallen asleep.
“This is Ponyville Station!" a gruff voice called out over the intercom. "Ponyville Station. Please check your overhead compartment for luggage. Thank you for choosing Canterlot Express."
She quickly turned and pulled the curtain down over the window before her friends could see her.
She slid off her seat and slung her saddlebags onto her back. Those saddlebags contained her entire life now. At least what was left of it. She slid the car door open and trudged out into the dark corridor.
She walked in line with the rest of the disembarking passengers, past the train car’s many compartments and towards the exit. Her saddlebags were heavy, too heavy. They weighed her down and slowed her legs. But for the first time in her life, she didn’t mind going slow.
When she reached the door, she stopped. Pinkie Pie was on the other side.
“Excuse me,” a middle aged mare standing behind her said. “Could you hurry up? Some of us have places to be.”
She took one final deep breath, pushed the door open, and stepped out into the rain.
And then she saw her. Pinkie Pie was sitting on the wood of the train platform, surrounded by the rest of her friends. Her mane was soaked. Dash felt the steady beat of raindrops on her head. Her own mane probably didn’t look much better. The sun had gone down, and the only light came from a few glowing street lamps nearby.
She wasn’t sure what she expected to happen when she first saw her friends. She thought they might gather together in a hug and cry. They might understand. Or they might scream at her until their voices went hoarse. They might leave, willingly forget they had ever been friends.
But, for what seemed like the longest time, they didn’t do anything. In the cold, steady rain, they stood on one side of the platform and she stood on the other.
Rainbow Dash dropped her head, unable to meet their stares. Ponies streamed past her, greeting waiting friends and family, or cantering away to find shelter from the rain.
Dash became vaguely aware of the sensation of somepony holding her and the familiar blasting of a party cannon nearby. She looked up. Pink forelegs were wrapped around her neck. Pinkie Pie pulled back, her smile just as big and full of laughter as Dash had ever seen it. Pinkie said something about how happy she was to see her.
Dash wanted to respond. She wanted to tell Pinkie how happy she was to see her too, and how much it meant to her that she had been waiting with her smile ready. She wanted say sorry, to explain everything. But when she opened her mouth, her throat choked.
Twilight and Rarity, repeating Pinkie’s greetings, smiled and grabbed her in for a close hug, but Dash couldn’t hear them. Their voices were drowned out by Pinkie’s. Her voice was just as animated and loud as Dash remembered. She looked past their shoulders. Applejack and Fluttershy were standing off to the side, looking away.
She focused her attention back on Pinkie. A party. Pinkie wanted to throw her a party. Dash almost snickered as Pinkie blathered on. Everything was already set up at Sugarcube Corner. Cupcakes and punch, just for the six of them. Did she want to go?
No, she didn’t. She wanted to go lie in bed and never have to try or fail at anything ever again. But Pinkie did, that blessedly innocent, beautiful mare did. So she nodded yes.
Pinkie smiled the biggest smile Dash had ever seen. They were going to have so much fun. They were going to play pin the tail on the pony, and dance all night, and eat a gazillion cupcakes...
Rainbow Dash sighed.
She silently walked alongside Pinkie on the dark road into town, her hooves splashing in little pools of water with every step. At some point, an umbrella had begun floating over her head. Twilight and Rarity exchanged mysterious glances to each other over the sides of their shoulders. Fluttershy and Applejack followed somewhere behind where Dash couldn’t see.
“Have you heard what Concerto did at the Canterlot Symphony Orchestra Anniversary last week?” Rarity asked, her voice dripping with false enthusiasm.
Rainbow Dash slowly shook her head. It hadn’t taken long to reach Sugarcube Corner. Just like Pinkie had said, a party was waiting for them. Streamers, balloons, and confetti littered the floor. It was almost like everything was back to normal.
“Oh.” Rarity’s smile faltered for the briefest of moments before returning. She rested her hooves on the table she, Dash, and Twilight were gathered around, leaning forward. “Well, have you visited the Canterlot Royal Gardens recently? I hear their newest displays are quite breathtaking.”
Rainbow Dash shook her head again, not noticing the hoof Twilight jabbed into Rarity's side. She did notice Fluttershy standing by the snack table, filling what must have been her hundredth glass of punch. Applejack was sitting in a booth by herself, hat drawn low over her face. She couldn’t see Pinkie anywhere. Maybe she'd left.
“So...” Twilight began, searching for something to say not related to Canterlot, the Wonderbolts, or flying, but drew a blank. Instead, they all sat together in heavy silence.
“Who wants to play pin the tail on the pony?” Pinkie cried, jumping on top of the table from nowhere.
“Well, that sounds lovely,” Rarity answered. “How about you, Rainbow?”
Rainbow Dash shook her head. At least her mane had finally dried.
“Oh.” Rarity’s smile faltered again. “Perhaps later then.”
“What’s with all these mopey faces?” Pinkie asked, a truly puzzled expression on her face. “This is a party, and parties are for happy faces!” She bounced over to where Fluttershy was scooping more punch into her glass. “Hey Fluttershy, let’s dance!”
Fluttershy drew back. “Oh... um... I’m not really in the—”
“Yes you are!” Pinkie shouted, grabbing Fluttershy by the waist and dragging her across the floor.
Fluttershy attempted to wriggle out of Pinkie’s grip, but it was no use. She was trapped. “Pinkie please, I really don—”
“Let’s go!” Pinkie grabbed Fluttershy by the shoulders and spun her around in a circle. “Woo!”
“Pinkie!” Fluttershy shouted, drawing stares from everypony in the room, including Rainbow Dash. “I said no.”
Pinkie’s smile never once wavered, but her eyes closed. “Okie dokie. No dancing then. That’s totally fine.”
Fluttershy muttered an apology and returned to her place by the punch, leaving Pinkie Pie standing alone in the middle of the room.
“Alright, fine.” Applejack stepped out from the corner she’d been sitting in. “I’m the pony who’s gonna have to say it then.” She looked right at Rainbow Dash, ignoring the angry glares from the two unicorns. “Why did you do it?”
Pinkie’s smile vanished, her eyes still closed.
“Do what?” Dash asked.
Applejack rolled her eyes and scowled. “You know exactly what I’m talkin’ about. How could you do something so awful?”
All eyes were on Rainbow Dash again, but she didn’t answer.
Applejack rolled her jaw back and forth. “So that’s how it is then?”
“I didn’t do it,” Rainbow Dash whispered, not even bothering to lift her head up off the table.
“I didn’t do it,” Dash repeated, a small fire sparking behind her eyes.
“What?!” Applejack asked, incredulous. “I talked to her, Rainbow. I know it was your fault.”
Dash's head shot up into the air. "What?"
"That's right." Applejack stepped forward. "I went to Canterlot. I went to the hospital right after she woke up, because I didn't believe it. I couldn’t. But I talked to her myself. She told me what you did to her during the race at those tryouts."
“Sh-she lied...” Dash said, looking back down.
“I can tell when somepony’s telling the truth, and she was telling the truth,” Applejack said, stamping her hoof on the floor.
Dash’s wings fluttered a little. “I won. She lost. I never did anything to her.”
“Why do you keep lying?” It was more of a plea than a question, and Applejack’s eyes looked more tired than angry.
“I didn’t do it!”
Applejack sighed and sat back on her haunches, holding her head in her hooves. “Please tell the truth. Just one time.”
“...I didn’t do it,” Dash repeated, quieter that time.
For a long while, Applejack didn’t respond. She just sat on the floor, staring at the pegasus, her face blank.
“Whatever,” she finally said, standing up. “I’m leaving. Whenever you’re ready to tell the truth, you’ll know where to find me.” Passing Dash a sad frown, she walked out the front door.
“I should go too,” Fluttershy said, quickly following Applejack out the door. She stopped in the threshold, but she didn't look back, and walked out.
“But...” Pinkie Pie looked up at the open door. “This is a party... everypony likes parties...”
Rarity stood up and patted the Pinkie on the shoulder. “I’m sorry, but I think the party is over now. Twilight,” she said, frowning. “I believe it is time for us to take our leave.”
Twilight brushed her muzzle against Dash’s forehead in a quick nuzzle before going to stand by the other unicorn. “I’m glad you’re back. Everything’ll be okay. See you two tomorrow.”
Rarity nodded to Pinkie and Dash before turning and trotting out the door, soon followed by Twilight. The door closed behind them.
Silence fell over the bakery once again. Dash rested her head back down on the table.
Rainbow Dash trudged past the other potential recruits, ignoring their compliments. She sat back down in her spot on the field they were gathered in and crossed her hooves over her chest. An elaborate cloud obstacle course floated in the blue sky over her head.
“Alright everypony,” the guy who had been supervising their tryouts said, hovering above them. He’d told them his name at the start, but she couldn’t remember it. “That concludes the agility portion of today’s tryouts. The results have been recorded. Now if you’ll follow me, I’ll take you all over to the next testing area.”
The other dozen or so pegasi began gliding away. Dash wiped a bit of sweat out of her eyes and squinted up at the scoreboard one last time.
1. Razorwind - 53.10
2. Rainbow Dash - 53.40
That was it. She wasn’t going to make it. She could already tell. She absently followed behind the crowd of pegasi. She’d had a chance to actually become a Wonderbolt. That one chance she’d been waiting her entire life for, and she was blowing it. She abruptly bumped into something hard.
“Hey!” The pony she’d run into turned around to glare at her.
Dash muttered an apology and lowered herself down to the ground. They’d arrived in another empty field. Just like the last, the clouds had been arranged into some sort of obstacle course. It looked simple enough. Dash felt her confidence begin to return. She could make it through this one easy.
The supervisor hovered above them again, waving his leg to get their attention. “Okay, this one’s a simple race. First pony to pass through each of the markers in order wins. Easy as that.”
Dash looked over at the blue mare who’d introduced herself as ‘Razorwind’. She didn’t look particularly impressive. Her white mane was tied up in a stupid little ponytail, and she was a little bit smaller than Dash herself. Her wings didn’t look like they stretched as far as Dash’s did either, but somehow she always managed to be just a little faster than her. Dash just needed to find some way to even the playfield.
She noticed Razorwind was looking back at her, smirking. Dash turned back to the obstacle course. No doubt about it, she could do this. All she had to do was win this race, and she would prove once and for all who the real Wonderbolt was.
“Remember,” the supervisor continued. “You’ll all be flying together on this one. Get enough ponies going through a single turn at speeds this high, and it’ll only take one careless mistake to cause a serious accident. Be careful.”
“I believe you.”
“What?” Dash asked, breaking out of her quiet musings. She wasn’t sure how long it had been since all her friends had left. She and Pinkie hadn’t moved in what seemed like hours, or maybe it had only been minutes.
“I believe you.” Pinkie’s smile had returned. It was smaller than usual, but it was there.
Dash looked up at her, meeting her sky blue eyes. She loved the sky. “Why?”
Pinkie shrugged. “Because you said you didn’t do it.” As if it was that simple.
“...But I did.” Dash dropped her head, a sob creeping its way into her chest. “I just wanted to mess her up. I didn’t know she would get hurt so bad.”
She felt a hoof under her chin, pulling her head back up. Pinkie’s smile was still there. “I forgive you.”
“What?!” Dash cried, surprised at the force of her own voice. “But... why?”
Pinkie leaned forward, wrapping a foreleg around the pegasus’s shoulder and pressed her lips against her forehead. “Because I love you,” she said, her breath hot on Dash’s skin.
Dash gently pushed her away. “You’re such a stupid idiot.”
Pinkie Pie blinked, at a loss for words for what must have been the first time in her life. “...What?”
“You’re a stupid idiot,” Dash said, simply. She didn’t shout or sneer, there was no anger in her voice. “You’d have to be to love somepony like me.”
“Dashie,” Pinkie said quietly. “Just because you mess up one time—”
“Shut up!” Dash held her hooves up to her ears. “I hurt her.”
“I know, and that’s really bad, but that doesn’t make you a bad pony.” Pinkie moved forward to grab her in another hug, but Dash jumped out of her chair, out of her marefriend’s reach.
Dash shook her head. “You don’t get it. I did it on purpose.” She slumped onto her haunches. She felt so tired. “I did it on purpose and I didn’t even care. I was so happy I won that I didn’t even care. Everypony hates me now, and you should too.”
Pinkie smiled again and reached a hoof out to touch Dash’s shoulder. “There’s nothing you could do that could ever make me hate you.”
“Why?” Dash cried, knocking Pinkie’s hoof away. “Why are you doing this? Why would you forgive me?”
Pinkie rested her hoof back on Dash’s shoulder. “Because you’re a good pony. Because I love you, even if I really hate what you did, and I know you love me too.”
Dash opened her mouth to retort, but Pinkie shoved a hoof in her mouth.
“Because even that time when I was being a sad, grumpy pants and having parties with turnips,” Pinkie continued, leaning forward. “You came for me and showed me that my friends still cared about me. So even though you’re being a sad, grumpy pants now, I’m gonna stay here for you and show you that your friends still care about you. Even if it means we have to hug, and snuggle, and cry, and yell at each other all night. Because I never smile as big as I do when you’re around, and it isn’t even worth smiling at all if you’re not smiling too.”
Dash let out a long sigh. “Pinkie... I really messed—”
“And never doing anything about it but being sad all the time is only gonna make it messier,” Pinkie said, jabbing her in the shoulder. She leaned forward and kissed Dash’s forehead again, lowering her voice, “You just have to be as good a pony as you can be.”
Yesterday morning, Mr. Cake asked me to watch some cinnamon rolls while he changed the twins’ diapers, but I forgot.” Pinkie’s voice dropped. “And they all got burnt. Mr. Cake got mad at me, and I felt really bad. But I just kept on going, and we made a whole new batch of cinnamon rolls, and they were the tastiest cinnamon rolls we ever made. Mr. Cake even said so too!” Dash could feel Pinkie’s lips spread in a smile against her forehead.
Dash snorted. “That’s not the same at all, and you know it.”
“Yes it is,” Pinkie said, moving back to look Dash in the eyes. “It doesn’t matter how big or small the mistake is. You don’t just give up. That would be silly. You keep going until you make tastier cinnamon rolls!” She wrapped both of her forelegs around Dash’s chest and held her close.
Dash let herself melt into the embrace. Maybe it was finally confessing what she’d done, maybe it was the realization that somepony still loved her, maybe it was being forgiven for the first time, maybe it was just the feeling of being held, or maybe it was the tale of the burnt cinnamon rolls. Whatever the reason, finally, Rainbow Dash cried.
She grabbed Pinkie in her hooves, laid her muzzle against her marefriend’s shoulder and, for the first time since it had all started, cried. She let all the frustration, sorrow, confusion, anger, and hurt pour out of her eyes in wet tears. She cried for what seemed like forever, just leaning against Pinkie’s warm chest, feeling a hoof stroking her mane.
Even after the tears had stopped, and Dash’s chest had long since ceased shaking with silent sobs, they stayed that way. They held onto each other, separated from the rest of the world.
“Pinkie, I really screwed up, and I don’t know what to do to fix it.”
It seemed like an eternity before Pinkie answered, when she finally did, her voice was quiet, “I don’t know either.”
Dash almost laughed, she would have if Pinkie’s words hadn’t felt like a permanent damnation.
“But.” Pinkie kissed her on the snout. “I think if you stop lying, and say you’re sorry, that would be a good place to start.”
Dash rubbed her eyes with her hoof to wipe away the last of the moisture, and pressed her head against Pinkie’s chest, listening to Pinkie's steady heartbeat. “I can try. But everypony will still be mad at me. ”
“It might take a really long time. But no pony can stay mad forever, especially at somepony as cute as you.” The vibrations in the Pinkie’s throat tickled Dash’s head. “Especially if you stop being such a grumpy pony and start acting nice like you used to.”
“What about Applejack?” Dash asked, looking up. “I’m pretty sure she hates me.”
“You say the silliest things sometimes.” Pinkie giggled, tightening the embrace. “Applejack could never hate you. She’s really mad at you. But she still likes you, she just wants you to tell the truth.”
Dash sniffed. “I’ll try.”
“No you won’t,” Pinkie said. “You’ll do it. I know you will.”
Dash frowned. She couldn’t remember the last time somepony had actually believed in her. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d deserved it. But she realized Pinkie still did. After everything she’d done, somehow Pinkie still believed in her.
“Thank you,” Dash said, reaching up and pulling Pinkie in for a quick kiss. She silently swore to herself on her own life she would never let her marefriend down again.
“That’s what Pinkie Pie’s here for,” Pinkie chirped. “Hey, do you wanna play pin the tail on the pony now?”
“I’m sorry, Pinkie. I’m really not in the mood right now.” Dash remembered what she’d just sworn. “But tomorrow. I promise I will tomorrow.”
“Hmmm...” Pinkie rubbed the bottom of her chin with a hoof, deep in thought. “Do you wanna go snuggle in my bed and make out?”
Dash snickered, smiling for the first time that day.
“Yeah, that sounds great.”
“Awesome!” Pinkie started bouncing towards the stairs, still not letting go of Rainbow Dash.
Dash allowed herself be half dragged-half carried up the stairs without any protest. She wrapped her tail around Pinkie’s, just enjoying the feeling of being held by another pony.
The hall past the stairwell looked the same as the others. A long, straight hallway stretched in either direction, punctuated by tight corners rounding off to more hallways, all with the rigid conformity of an engineer. They all looked the same, and Rainbow Dash suspected that every other hallway in every other apartment building in Fillydelphia probably looked just like this one. There shouldn’t have been anything frightening or intimidating about it. But still, she hesitated.
Pinkie Pie blindly bounced past her up the stairs and into the hall. Rainbow Dash, briefly forgetting her anxiety, hurried to follow her marefriend.
She walked past the smudged, off-white walls and brown doors as slowly as she could. She looked up at the numbers fastened by each door, 411, 413, 415. There was something funny about seeing the precise distance to her sentence marked on the walls. She could see just how far away her fate stood with a quick glance. She wondered if this was how those few ponies sentenced to death in ages long past felt on their walks to the gallows. The hallway was empty, and she felt alone.
A gentle warmth pressed against her side. Pinkie Pie had stopped bouncing, walking to match her slow pace. Pinkie looked over and smiled, and Rainbow Dash immediately swore she would do anything to keep that smile. She pressed closer to Pinkie Pie, finding some strength in her comfortable, almost careless, optimism. She walked on, feeling a little less alone.
She looked back up at the numbers, 423, 425, 427. She looked down and quickly trotted past the next door, not daring to look up. Abruptly, Pinkie’s warmth left her side. Dash stopped and reluctantly peered over her shoulder.
“This is it,” Pinkie said, pointing at the number.
Rainbow Dash looked up at 429. “Oh, uh, is it?”
“Yep, remember? 429, rhymes with peanut vine!” She giggled. “We almost walked right by it.”
“Yeah, that would’ve been a shame,” Dash mumbled, walking up to the door. She stopped. It looked like all the others, but so much more terrible.
Pinkie Pie nudged her in the side. “You have to knock if you want to go in. I’ve tried staring before, it never works. Except that one time, but Twilight said it was just a coincidence.”
Rainbow Dash nodded and frowned, but didn’t knock.
“You can keep trying for as long as you want though,” Pinkie said after a while. “Sometimes I think Twilight makes things up.”
Dash shook her head. She slowly raised her hoof up and held it still before the door. Finally, she rested her hoof flat against the door, an attempt at knocking so pitiful even Fluttershy would have been embarrassed.
Pinkie simply giggled beside her. “You have to do it harder than that or no pony’ll hear you.”
Dash looked down, letting her hoof slide down the front of the door. “Maybe we should—”
Suddenly, Pinkie Pie cupped Dash’s face in her hooves and kissed her, long and warm and deep. For a fleeting moment Dash forgot everything else. When Pinkie began to pull back, Rainbow pushed forward, fighting to keep that feeling. She held on as long as she could, but she knew they couldn’t stay that way forever.
Pinkie nuzzled her neck, brushing her soft, curly mane against Dash’s face. “We don’t have to do this right now, you know. We can wait till later,” she said, looking up. “Or you can keep on staring at the door, if you want.”
Rainbow Dash sighed, pushing her muzzle into Pinkie’s sugary smelling mane and breathing deep one last time. “No, you’re right. I have to do this.”
Pinkie nodded. “I’ll be right next to you the whole time.”
“No!” Dash said roughly, pulling back “I—I’m gonna do it myself.”
“It’s okay,” Pinkie said, backing away and looking puzzled. “I don’t mind—”
“No, Pinkie,” Dash said, working as much command into her voice as she could muster. “I have to do this alone.”
Dash’s wings twitched along her sides. “Just because.”
“I think I should go in, what if—”
“I don’t want you to see her, okay?!” Dash cried before she realized what she was saying. “…It doesn’t matter. Just stay out here.”
Pinkie Pie stood away, her smile wavering a little.
Dash sighed. “Pinkie Pie, please wait out here.”
“Yepperdoodles, ma’am,” Pinkie said, giving a salute, her smile returning to full force.
Dash scowled. “Pinkie, I’m serious. Wait out here.”
Pinkie smiled again, smaller than before. “Okay,” she said, quietly this time.
“Alright.” Rainbow Dash turned quickly and knocked on the door before she had time to think, or feel, or talk herself out of it.
They waited together in silence in the otherwise empty hallway. They waited just long enough for the realization of what she had just set in motion to come crashing down over Rainbow Dash’s head. She waited just long enough that she could have run away, taken to her wings and flown back down the stairs as fast as she could go.
But before she could even turn around the door swung open.
It wasn’t the mare she had expected, or even a mare at all, but a dark stallion pegasus who appeared in the doorway. He stood over Rainbow Dash, at least a head taller and much leaner, but not quite lanky. His mouth set in a frown. “Can I help you?” he asked.
Rainbow Dash couldn’t do anything but stare, shocked still. Luckily for her though, very little in this universe could hush Pinkie Pie’s tongue.
“You’re not Razor Wind!” Pinkie cried, pointing up at him, like an accusation.
The stallion blinked, his frown staying put. “No, I’m not.”
“Oh, do you know where she is?” Pinkie asked. “Isn’t this her apartment?”
The stallion paused, examining her carefully. “Yes, this is our apartment.”
Rainbow Dash took a deep breath and swallowed to steady her nerves, steeling her face. She stepped in front of Pinkie Pie. “Is she here?” she asked quickly. “I need to talk to her.”
The stallion turned his gaze onto Dash, his frown deepening. “Who are you?”
Dash hesitated. “I—I’m Rainbow Dash. I really need to see her.”
“That’s what I thought.” He stepped back, blocking the doorway. “Go away.”
For a fleeting moment, Dash almost did as he said. But she glanced at Pinkie Pie, and then raised herself up a little on straightened legs instead. “No. I need to talk to her. It’s really important.”
The stallion’s face remained unchanged. “She doesn’t want to talk to you.”
Dash leaned forward, flaring her wings as if to rush past him and into the apartment. “Listen, I—” Her mouth froze as she looked into his eyes, her wings falling.
She had seen that same look so many times, on the faces of former fans and disappointed friends. It was some part contempt and some part pity, and it was all unbearable to be at the receiving end of.
She looked down, lowering her voice before speaking again, “I—I’m sorry. I’m not here to mess anything up any more than I already have, I swear. I just need to talk to her, and I think she needs to talk to me too. She should get the chance to say whatever it is she wants to say to me, because I know she does.”
She looked up at him again. “She couldn’t—she never—she didn’t see me do it. I thought she should get to see me face to face this time. And she deserves an apology.”
The stallion stared down at her for a long while, his jaw rolling back and forth. He made to close the door again, but stopped when he turned to look at Pinkie Pie. She smiled back at him, smiling like only she could. Something in his face changed as he looked at her, it softened just a little.
He turned back to Dash and stepped out of the way. “Come in then. But if you do anything to upset her I’ll throw you back out myself, and then I’ll call the police.”
Rainbow Dash nodded, took another long, shaky breath, and stepped forward. Pinkie swiftly leaned towards her, giving her a quick nuzzle. Dash nodded back and stepped past the stallion, into the room.
“Aren’t you coming?” he asked, looking to Pinkie.
She shook her head. “Nope.”
After a short pause, he shrugged and closed the door, leaving Pinkie Pie alone in the hallway.
Pinkie Pie, still smiling, watched the door for a while, her ears perked, waiting for something to happen. The door stared back, but it didn’t smile. Eventually, she looked for some other diversion. She tried running up and down the hallway as fast as she could, but that got boring quick. Then she tried listening to a radio playing behind one of the doors, but all the voices sounded warbled, like they were singing underwater. Finally, she settled on naming each smudge on the hallway’s wall. She’d just finished christening Mr. McSmudge when the door opened again.
The stallion walked out, closing the door behind him.
“I think they want to be alone,” he explained with a shrug.
Pinkie shrugged backed and said, “Okie dokie.” She went back to staring at the wall.
“What are you doing?” the stallion asked after a few moments watching her.
Pinkie frowned and pointed at a particularly dirty smudge on the wall. “I can’t remember if this one is Fluttersmudge or Smudge Sparkle. And I’m pretty sure Ditzy Smudge is still looking at me funny even though I already told him I had a marefriend.”
“Never mind,” she huffed, shooting a glare at the coquettish Ditzy Smudge.
“Uh, okay?” the stallion tried.
Pinkie turned her head around and pulled her emergency card deck out of her tail. “Wanna play Go Fish while we wait for them to get done?” she asked, holding it up to him.
The stallion blinked at her for a few more moments before replying, “Uh, sure. I guess.”
“Awesome! I’m Pinkie Pie,” Pinkie said, setting the cards on the floor and smiling her best ‘I’m Pinkie Pie’ smile.
The stallion moved across from her and sat down, settling his wings against his back. “Silver Lining,” he said.
Pinkie Pie giggled as she shuffled the cards and slid a hoof-full across the floor. “That’s pretty.”
Silver Lining shrugged, gathering up his cards. “I suppose. Would you like to go first?”
“Okay, hmm…” Pinkie looked very seriously down at her cards. “Uh, do you have any… threes?”
“Yep,” Silver Lining replied, dropping two cards on the floor.
“Yes!” Pinkie cried, pairing the two new cards with two others, and laying them together on the floor. She beamed up at Silver Lining. “Your turn.”
Silver Lining paused, looking curiously down at Pinkie, still taller than her even while sitting down. Pinkie stared back and wondered when they’d started a staring contest, not that she was complaining.
After a while, Silver Lining eyes widened and he looked about himself as if he had forgotten where he was. “Uh, any fives?
Pinkie shook her head. “Nope, sorry. Go fish.”
The stallion carefully picked another card up out of the pile before looking over at Pinkie again. “You know she almost killed her, right?”
Pinkie Pie froze. Most of the time it was easy to smile; there was so much worth smiling for. Like how pretty Rose’s flowers looked so pretty every morning, or how Sugarcube Corner always smelled like cake and frosting, or the way Gummy pretended not to laugh at her jokes. Sometimes it was hard not to smile even if she didn’t want to, not that she could ever want such a thing. Like when she got one of her friends to laugh, or when Rainbow Dash wrapped a wing around her shoulder and held her close. And then sometimes, times like right then, she had to fight with everything she had to keep on smiling.
Silver Lining’s face set itself into a horrible little frown. “So, you must think she’s something pretty special to be worth standing by now.”
Pinkie nodded again. “I do, and she is.”
“She is what?”
“She’s special,” Pinkie replied. “And worth it. Totally, totally worth it.”
After another pause, Silver Lining grunted and looked down at his cards. “I believe it is your turn.”
“Alrighty.” Pinkie shook her head to clear her wandering thoughts and looked down at her cards. “Got any sixes?”
“Yeah,” Silver Lining said, dropping another card onto the floor.
“What’s Razor Wind like?” Pinkie asked as she picked up her new card.
“She’s… she’s…” Silver Lining smiled for the first time, to Pinkie Pie’s delight. “She’s incredible. I guarantee you you’ve never seen a pony with more drive or with a stronger desire to better themselves, to make herself a better pony. She—well, she’s just beautiful.”
Pinkie Pie smiled back. “She sounds really nice.”
“No.” Silver Lining shook his head. “She’s more than nice. She’s everything.” He blushed, looking away and rustling his wings. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Pinkie replied, thinking that Razor Wind sounded very familiar. “It’s still your turn though...”
“Oh, right.” Silver Lining lifted his cards back up. “Uh, any fi—”
“I’m really, really super sorry,” Pinkie blurted out. The pegasus looked down at her in surprise. She sniffed and continued, “I’m sorry. I wish Rainbow Dash didn’t do it. I’ve wished on every shooting star I’ve seen, and it hasn’t worked yet. But maybe it isn’t something we can just wish away.”
She looked up, almost pleading. “But I don’t think being mad at her forever is any better, even if it was really bad. I mean, it’s okay to be mad at your friends for a little while, but what if you never stopped being mad and then you stopped being friends instead?” She shuddered at the thought. “I know she’s really sorry too, and she wants to make up for it somehow. And…” Pinkie Pie sighed, not feeling very much like Pinkie Pie. “And I don’t know what else, I guess.”
Silver Lining sighed and laid his cards on the floor. “Is that why she’s here? To make up for it?”
“Yeah, and to say sorry.”
“Do you really think you can make up for something like that?”
Pinkie Pie wanted to say yes, but instead she shrugged a pitiful little shrug. “I don’t know. But I think you should try your best, and Dashie is trying.”
Silver Lining tilted his head and stared at her for a long while. He didn’t say anything, but Pinkie thought he looked a little sad.
“Maybe,” he finally said. “A long time ago me and my dad went—well, I guess it doesn’t matter what it was. Something happened, and we got into an argument, a bad one. Afterwards, I never talked to him again. I knew for years that I should try to see him again, but I just never did.”
“That seems silly,” Pinkie said, her mouth crumpling. “If you knew you should do something, why didn’t you do it?”
Silver Lining nodded. “It was silly, but there are some things you can’t forgive.”
“Oh,” Pinkie said quietly. She poked at the deck of cards, pushing it over. When she looked back up Silver Lining was smiling again, just a little.
“But you are right,” he said. “We should try.”
Pinkie heard the door unlatch and looked over just in time to see it open. Rainbow Dash walked out, alone. It was obvious that she had been crying, or still was. She shut the door behind her, sniffling and wiping at her eyes. Pinkie Pie jumped up to her hooves and rushed over to grab her in a hug.
Rainbow Dash slumped against her, resting a wet muzzle deep in Pinkie’s mane. When Pinkie looked back up she saw Silver Lining standing over her on his thin legs, holding out her deck of cards.
“Don’t forget this.”
“Oh, thanks.” Pinkie looked at her forelegs, still wrapped around Dash’s withers, before holding out her head.
After a moment’s hesitation, he placed the deck on top of her forehead. He smiled. “It was very nice meeting you, Pinkie Pie.”
“You too,” she replied, doing her best to wave without shaking the pegasus between her legs or the cards on her head.
Rainbow Dash sniffed one final time and pulled back to look up at him.
After glancing at Pinkie again, Silver Lining offered her a curt nod. “Thank you for coming. I’m sure it will mean a lot to her.”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened. “Uh, I…” She looked at Pinkie Pie, who nodded to her. Suddenly, she darted forward and hugged him. It was so quick that it could barely even be called a hug, and Rainbow Dash jumped back almost immediately. “Sorry,” she said, rubbing the back of her neck.
Silver Lining looked just as surprised as her. He nodded again and opened the door to step inside.
“Wait!” Pinkie Pie cried. “Tell Razor Wind I said hi!”
“Of course,” Silver Lining replied before shutting the door.
Rainbow Dash wiped her face again and started walking away. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Okie dokie,” Pinkie replied, walking beside her. She looked over at Dash, but it seemed like one of those extraordinarily rare occasions when she shouldn’t talk. Instead, she moved close to her marefriend and offered what little warmth she could.
They walked down the hall, and Rainbow Dash kept quiet. They pushed open the door leading to the stairwell and slowly walked down. Finally, on the landing, Dash stopped and sighed. Pinkie Pie waited patiently for her to start.
Rainbow Dash spread her wings and folded them back against her side a few times before speaking. “She was surprised at first, I guess. And then she was pretty mad,” she explained, pawing at the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Pinkie said, moving in for another hug.
Rainbow stopped her with a hoof. “No, then she listened to me and we talked for a while. She was really nice, really cool. A lot better than she should—” She frowned and looked away from Pinkie. “They think she’ll be okay to fly in a week or so, and I’m gonna come back then.”
Rainbow Dash looked back at Pinkie again and smiled. “Thank you.”
Pinkie Pie closed her eyes and leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together. She sighed, feeling like a tired balloon letting out some air after an extra big party, losing a tightness in her stomach she hadn’t even noticed building up. She felt the soft down of Dash’s wings sweep over her back.
A little bit of her wanted to stay there forever. She and Dash could fall asleep together on the top of those stairs. They could sleep for days or weeks, happy and not have to think about Wonderbolts or mistakes. But a big bit of her was hungry too, especially her stomach.
“Hey,” she said, drawing back, “do you wanna go to that pizza place we saw now? I think they totally had a ball pit!”
Rainbow Dash chuckled tiredly. “No, I’m beat. I’m gonna go find the hotel and get some sleep.”
Pinkie Pie pursed lips in a pout, just like Rarity had shown her. Right when she and Dash had started dating, Rarity said that if she could make that face correctly Rainbow would do whatever she wanted.
Rainbow Dash laughed and rolled her eyes. “And we can go check out the ball pit first.”
Pinkie Pie lit out a little cheer and bounced down the stairs as Rainbow Dash fluttered close beside her, feeling, instead of just believing, for the first time in a long time that they would both be okay.