The day before the race was spent doing a little more than nothing as the pair tried not to tire themselves out. Most of the time was spent in front of the fireplace, keeping warm while Twilight read a book out loud. It was a classic, The Filly In The Fireplace. Both Rainbow and Spike were mesmerized as the story about a young colt in love enraptured them within the heat.
The day flew by, with Twilight finishing the book as the sun was about to set. Soon enough, the morning of the race would be there and they all headed off to sleep.
The day of the race arrived, with the ponies in the library rising with the sun. Rainbow was downstairs before Twilight had even gotten out of bed, poking Spike to make them some breakfast. “Come on, we need something to get us going!”she said, leaving the baby dragon no time to refuse.
As Twilight walked downstairs, Spike shot her a glare before finally getting up himself. “As long as you two promise to get out of my scales and I can go back to bed, I'll get baking.”
Dash smiled widely as Spike meandered into the kitchen. Twilight lit a fire in the fireplace to heat up the library, and lay down on a pillow nearby. She would have fallen back asleep if it wasn't for the thud of a pegasus landing next to her.
“Are you ready Twilight?! I'm so excited! We're gonna win, and....” Dash kept talking but Twilight was no longer listening. She hadn't slept much the last night. Most of the time was spent formulating a plan. A plan, the plan, to finally get Rainbow to admit her feelings to everyone. It had to work, even if it would kill them. Well, killing them could be too far, but... she was quickly brought back to the world by the cyan pegasus now poking at her. “Hay, are you still in there Twi?”
“Hmmm?” Twilight said, coming back into the conversation. “Oh, yes I'm fine. I guess I'm still a little tired and just spaced out for a second. What were we talking about?”
Dash sighed before starting over. “I was discussing how we were going to run. Now, I know that you can't run too far before taking a break to walk and sight-see. That means our times in between will need to be fast, practically sprinting. Are you up for that? We can take it slower if you want...”
“We'll be fine, Dashie.” Twilight replied while teasing her slightly. “Also, there is nothing wrong with sight-seeing. Nature is so wonderful this time of year, especially in the early morning.” The purple pony started to drift off into thought again. She knew that her plan might break the trust she had with Rainbow Dash, but certain risks were necessary...
The smell of scones wafted through the air, breaking Twilight's concentration once again. Coming back, she managed to attract the pegasus' attention with the thought of food. “How about we go grab a bite to eat before we head out for the day? Spike seems to want to get back to bed if he already managed to finish with breakfast!”
The two ponies shared a laugh as they walked over to the table. Spike was carefully maneuvering out two plates piled high with food. As soon as they were sat down, the dragon disappeared back to his bed, not to be heard from anymore.
“Sooo...” Dash began, her mouth full of scones and butter. “What do we have planned for after the race?”
“I thought that we could play that by ear, see where the day leads us.” Twilight had much better manners, using her magic to manipulate a knife and fork to cut her delectable breakfast. “You never know, we may do something with our friends after the race. They will all be there.”
“Oh... right!” Dash said, almost spraying her food across the table. “Man, I bet they will be soooo excited when we cross the finish line first! We'll be on the podium, get our medals, everyone will cheer...” She drifted off, making cheering noises with her breath. Soft muttering could be heard.”Ya... Dash and Twi... fastest ponies... town hero's...”
“Come on back to me, Dashie. I don't think we'd be town hero's for coming first in the race. It’s just to clear the leaves off the trees, and it's supposed to be fun.”
“Sure, whatever you say Twi,” Dash said, a smirk upon her face. “All I know is that we are gonna win, and that 's all that counts. Say, do you think the mayor would give us the key to the city...?”
Twilight managed to suppress most of her laughter at the fantasizing pony. “I highly doubt that, Dash.” Noticing that they were both finished with their food, Twilight floated their plates away from the table and into the sink in the the nearby kitchen. “Now, how about you go wash up. You have food stuck almost everywhere in your fur, and we don't want to be late.”
Dash flew off to the nearby bathroom as Twilight got together everything they would need for the run. Not much, but a couple of water bottles just in case. Soon enough, Rainbow was clean and they were on their way to the event.
By the time the pair arrived at the event, a couple of other ponies had gathered near the starting line. Some had set up small stalls, selling everything from simple toast and jam to warm cups of coffee. The crowd mostly consisted of the serious racers, Rainbow and Twilight's competition. There were none of their friends to be seen yet, as almost everypony else was still asleep. The pair found an empty spot of grass next to a tree and began their pre-race warm up.
Other ponies started arriving shortly thereafter and, soon enough, the park was filled with activity. Ponies everywhere were preparing to run. “Well, we certainly have our work cut out for ourselves!” Dash said, turning to Twilight.
“You most certainly do, dear.” Rarity trotted up behind the pegasus, giving her a small fright. “Don't worry, I have the utmost confidence in you two.”
“Thanks Rarity!” Twilight said. She looked around, seeming a big confused. “Wait, didn't Fluttershy say she was going to come with you?”
The tree above them shook slightly as Fluttershy poked her head out from the leaves. “Oh, I'm here Twilight. I just don't like crowds....” She looked around nervously before disappearing back into the foliage.
The three looked up, surprised as the rest of the tree slowly began trembling. “We really need to get her some help...” Rainbow finally said.
A sudden sound cut through the early morning air. The feedback from a megaphone blared, causing everypony to cringe at the noise. Soon enough Pinkie Pie appeared on a stage set up next to the starting line. “Hello all!” she blared across the crowd. “Who's ready to run!?”
A cheer erupted, causing her to jump slightly. “Wow, that's a lot of ponies! How are you all going to fit on the track?” After being met with silence, she continued on. “Alright! I'm gonna get up in the balloon, and then we can get started!” Another cheer rang out as she trotted off stage.
“Well, with Pinkie on her way up, Fluttershy and I should find a place to watch. We'll be at the half-way mark, and then move on to the finish line. Why, I’ll bet that you fillies might even win the whole thing!!”
As she trotted away, Fluttershy once again popped out of the tree. “Good luck you two. I have to... um... go catch up to Rarity”. She flew off after the unicorn, trying to stay as close as possible to her for fear of everything else around her.
“Well, it looks like we should head to the starting line. Pinkie is just about up” Twilight said. “We do want a good starting position.” Rainbow nodded as they started over.
With the pink pony high in the sky, and everypony on the ground in position, the countdown began. “On your mark... get set....” All the runners tensed, ready for what would come next. “GOOO!” Pinkie yelled as the starting horn sounded. The group took off, with Twilight and Rainbow in the lead immediately. The pack was quick, sprinting just behind them. Slowly, they all began to drop back as the pair pulled away.
“How ya doing!?” Dash asked in between her breaths. The sound of their hoofs on the dirt was deafening.
“Fine!” Twilight managed to yell back. Her breathing was heavier, more labored. Although she had been training, the lead that they had built up was tiring her out. She pushed on, despite the burning in her legs.
The leaves fell around them, shaken loose by their pounding hooves. They obscured their vision, displaying a world of only red, orange, and yellow. Eventually, Twilight’s pace started to slow. “Mind if we walk for a minute?” she called out.
Rainbow nodded, slowing down with her partner. The thunder of hooves behind them sounded far off, and they could afford the rest. Twilight had impaled several leaves on her horn, leaving her more colorful than usual. The pegasus fought to stifle a laugh as the leaves were removed by a purple aura of magic.
“We're doing well so far, just try to keep running. We can stop again later,” Dash said.
“Sounds good,” Twilight replied.
They walked, admiring the early morning around them. The sun filtered down through the trees, leaving bright patches on the ground. Off in the distance, the sound of approaching hooves was growing, along with the commentary of Pinkie from her overhead view. “Shall we?” Rainbow said, starting to speed up. Twilight nodded and followed suit.
After another cycle of running and walking, the race route took a turn out into a field. They had finally reached the halfway point in the race. Rarity was waiting, waving a miniature Equestrian flag surrounded in the white glow of her magic. Because of the lack of foliage to hide in, Fluttershy was up on a cloud. As the pair bolted past, they made sure to wave and show that they noticed their fans. Shortly after, they were back in the woods. Not needing to sprint anymore, they kept at a steady pace. At this rate, they would just need to keep jogging to win. Pinkie had caught up with them, and was both commentating and cheering as they went along.
“Go Rainbow! Go Twilight! You can do it! Now, in third place...” She rambled on about the other ponies, something that wasn't a big concern to the pair... or was it?
“Dash, I don't know how long I can keep this up!” Twilight was almost gasping for breath, despite their slowed pace. “It's getting hard for me to breath!”
A look of despair crossed the pegasus' face, but she slowed down with her partner. Twilight managed to keep walking, but the race was taking it's toll on her bookwormy physique.
“Come on, we're sooooo close!” Rainbow whined. “As soon as we come across Sweet Apple Acres, we’ll be on the final stretch!”
Regaining what remained of her composure, Twilight stood up straight. The sound of hooves was gaining on them. “You know what, if it means so much to you, I'll try. But if I stop, keep on going.”
A smile from the pegasus reassured her. “Don't worry, nopony's getting left behind!”
They set off again, keeping what pace they could as the others slowly caught up. They finally reached their friend’s apple farm and began to sprint as fast as they could manage. They pushed hard, but it was Twilight and Dash neck-and-neck with Carrot Top. Being a farmer by trade, she provided a good competition to the pair of ponies.
The racers all fought for the lead, sprinting faster and faster until they could barely keep their speed up. Eventually, and against her will, Carrot Top began to slow. The speed they were going was hard to keep up, and she just couldn’t. Being a natural born athlete, the cyan pegasus saw their chance and pushed as hard as possible. They crossed the finish line, Rainbow and Twilight winning by a muzzle length.
The manage to walk upright towards the nearby grass under an apple tree, collapsing as soon as they could. Even Rainbow was breathing heavily, while Twilight was laying on her back and staring up at the tree. As soon as their was breath back in their bodies, the pair started laughing. The race, the day, they had won. They had succeeded.
“Congrats, Dashie,” Twilight managed to say, still slightly out of breath. “We did it.”
“Didn't we! We were like zoom, and everypony was just sooo far behind us, and we kept...” A hoof was placed over her mouth to quiet her down.
“What do you say we go over to get out medals?” Twilight asked.
“Uhh, sure,” Dash said, somewhat spacey as she was still thinking about the race. Eventually, Twilight was able to push her over and onto the podium by the time the awards were being given out.
“Thank you, everypony, for coming out to this year's Running of the Leaves!” Mayor Mare announced to a cheer from the crowd. It seemed as if everypony in Ponyville had come out, with Rarity, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Pinkie at the front of the herd. “Now, we're here to announce the winners of this year's race!” Another roar came from the crowd.
“This year is special, everypony. We have not one, but TWO winners! Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash!” As she spoke, two medals were levitated over and onto the waiting ponies. “Take a bow, fillies!”
It's now or never... Twilight thought. As Rainbow went to wave to the crowed, she reached towards the pegasus. Before anypony, let alone Dash, could react, she pushed their muzzles together in front of the crowd. A silence fell over everypony, hanging in the air as the two on the podium stood frozen together. Slowly, they all erupted into yet another cheer.
Horrified, Rainbow pulled away from her marefriend. She looked to the crowd with everypony watching her, but didn’t hear their cheering. She saw her friends there, but not their looks of joy or acceptance. She only saw their eyes. Staring, accusing. Fearfully and quickly, she extended her wings and took off. She needed to get away. Far away.
The herd watched as the cyan mare flew away. They slowly turned back towards Twilight and the podium as soon as she was out of sight. Their faces all looked saddened at what Twilight had just done to her friend. The fact that she was with another mare didn't bother them, but the fact that something like this had happened did. Accident or not, they didn’t know. They had only seen the fearful expression on Rainbow’s face. They looked on, expecting a response or explanation from the unicorn, but all she could do was hang her head and slowly walk off stage.
The rest of the mane six caught up to Twilight back on her way to the library. “Now Twi, what was that all about?” Applejack asked. “Ah thought Rainbow didn't want anypony to know about you two!”
“She didn’t!” Twilight replied, raising her voice. “But she can't hide who she is! I did what I could to get her to be true to herself!”
“Twilight, dear, I agree with what you’re saying but that went a little far,” Rarity said. The shock of learning about her friends hadn't really affected her.
“You did hurt her feelings...” Fluttershy said. She wasn't hiding anymore, but standing up for her oldest friend. For all of the times that Rainbow had helped her in Cloudsdale, this was her chance to hopefully show her that she cared. “Couldn't you have given her time?”
“That's the point! I did give her time!” Twilight yelled. “She didn't realize what she needed to say to everypony!” They had reached her tree, and Twilight was standing by the entrance. “She didn't realize how hiding hurt me as much as her...now if you fillies don't mind, I need time alone.”
She walked inside and shut the door before anypony else could say something further. Spike was still asleep, so there was nopony to see her walk up to her room while tears began to fall from her face. “What have I done...”
The town was eerily silent for the rest of the day. Fluttershy tried many times to console Dash, but each time was stopped at her door. Only sobs could be heard from inside.
Word spread to anypony who wasn't at the race, and soon it reached the ears of a certain mint-green unicorn. “I'll bet Bon Bon will want to hear about this!” she said to herself while heading home after shopping for some groceries.
She found her partner where she often found her, cooking up something sweet in the kitchen. “How are you this fine afternoon?” Lyra said, trying to sound as macho as possible. The response she got was a small giggle.
“I'm fine, honey. How was town?” She turned her head to look at what Lyra had brought. “Can you bring over a couple of eggs for me?”
Trotting over with the eggs floating in her magical aura, she gave Bon Bon a small kiss on the cheek. “Well, apparently Twilight and Rainbow had some big kiss at the race today. It seems like Rainbow was pretty hurt by the whole thing...”
The candy pony froze. She knew what was up, and that it wasn't good. She sighed, and turned to look at her partner. “Lyra, we need to go see Twilight tonight.
“Now!?” Lyra complained. “But it's already 8:30!”
Looking at the clock, Bon Bon noticed how late it was. “Fine, tomorrow then. I'm sure they want some alone time anyways. But still, you're gonna help me help them out of this mess.”
Lyra mocked a salute, before turning to head back to the groceries on the table. “Sounds like a plan. For now, though, we need some dinner!”
Clouds covered the sky as the sun rose over Ponyville, casting everything in gray. The weather team, even without one of their lead pegasus, had set up the day.
In the library, Twilight was awakened by a knock at the door. She was clutching a tear-stained pillow, and her eyes were bloodshot. Of what little sleep she had managed to get, her dreams were filled with thoughts of Rainbow Dash. The look of horror, her flying away, these memories plagued her.
The knocking came again, but was answered by Spike. “Oh! Hi! What do you guys need?” The responses were too quiet to be heard. “Ya, she has been up there since yesterday morning. Hasn't come out again. Can you help?”
Something was said, and the sound of hoofs came up the stairs followed by a small knock on the door. “Twilight? Lyra and I came by to talk. Open up.”
Begrudgingly, the unicorn rolled out of bed and attempted to straighten her mane before opening the door for her guests. Based on the look of surprise from their faces, she hadn't done a good job. “Come on in.” She tried to manage a smile, but failed.
Once the door shut, she lit a couple of candles for light. She wanted the curtains to remain closed. “I'm fine, you two. Thanks for coming, but there's no problem...” Twilight started, but her words trailed off. Even she could hear the lies in her voice. She sat down, head in her hooves. “Oh Celestia, it's all my fault!” Fresh tears began to well up in her eyes.
Bon Bon trotted over, placing a hoof around the crying mare. “Don’t worry, Twilight. You need to talk it out.”
“Why don't you explain what happened?” Lyra asked, finally bringing some attention to herself.
“Well...” Twilight sniffed, and began the story. She told everything, from when she had planned everything right until she got back to the library.
“She just doesn't see how she's hurting ME!” Twilight said, finishing her tale. “I know she cares about what everypony thinks of her, but denying her true self is worse for her... and for me...” She said, holding back a new wave of tears.
Sighing, Lyra walked over and sat on the other side of the unicorn. “I know how you feel Twilight. Before I met Bon Bon, I was so secluded and hid who I really was.” She looked across to her smiling wife. “She taught me, in a less diabolical way, just what you're trying to say to Rainbow. All I've heard about you two has been positive, apart from that stunt, and Dash really needs to see that. Almost everypony in Ponyville doesn't mind it.”
“The only real ponies who would be concerned would be those snobby Canterlot elite,” Bon Bon cut in.
“Exactly. We just need her to see it that way,” Lyra concluded.
Sniffling, Twilight got up and trotted over to the door. “Well then, I guess I better go talk to her. Would you two mind coming with me...?” she asked, nervously. She did appear more confident, but it was evident that she still had to put a lot of effort in to stay stable.
“I wouldn't expect you to go alone.” Bon Bon smiled as she stood up. “Don't worry, I'm sure we can get her straightened out.”
The three ponies walked outside to Twilight's hot air balloon. The only way to get up to Dash's cloud house was to fly, and with the lack of wings on any of them, some assistance was needed. Twilight cast the cloud-walking spell and they set off.
Eventually they arrived in front of the fluffy home. Disembarking, they were faced with the same closed door that Fluttershy had found. However, this time the place was silent. Knocking on the door, it swung open as Twilight’s hoof made contact with the soft material. Together, the group entered cautiously.
The house seemed to be a mess, things strewn about in anger and panic. They searched every room, calling for Rainbow, but there were no responses. Finally, they reached her bedroom. It was in a similar condition as Twilight's, with tear marks going straight through the pillow. In all the chaos rested a small envelope with the words Give To Twilight Sparkle written on it. Nervously, she floated it over and opened the letter. After reading it for what seemed like and eternity, Twilight dropped to the ground. Fresh sobs filled the room as the paper lazily floated to rest on the floor.
As Bon Bon comforted the unicorn, Lyra picked the letter back up. It was a short, simple note. Simple, but devastating.
I do not know what you were thinking, or whether that was intentional or just heat of the moment, but I cannot deal with what you did. I was happy the way I was and I honestly thought you were too. I hope you can see that and maybe, one day, we can see each other again. For now, I'm heading back to Cloudsdale. Do not try to follow me. I'll find you when I'm ready.
Lyra understood. The pain she caused both her marefriend and herself must have been tearing Twilight apart. She knelt down to help comfort the crying unicorn. “Don't worry, she'll be back. She'll be back...”