Rainbow Dash laid wide eyed in bed, holding her pet tortoise tightly against her chest. The room was dark and outlines of furniture loomed in the shadows, like predatory monsters appraising their next meal. The restless pegasus had just awoken from yet another feverish dream. This time, she’d relived one her final days at flight school. She could still hear the biting sounds of pointed laughter and cries of fillyf—
“No!” Dash yelled, quickly rising out of bed and sending a cascade of blankets to the floor.
She had left because she was too good for the school; she had gone above and beyond all of her classmates. Rainbow Dash didn’t need flight school. She was already the fastest pegasus in Cloudsdale. That was why she left and that was the end of the story.
Dash rubbed her tired, swollen eyes. She had spent the entire night flitting between bouts of insomnia and decidedly un-cool dreams. Once or twice, she thought she heard knocking and somepony calling to her from the other side of the door, but those apparitions had passed into silence after a time. A crisp breeze floated in through her bedroom window and around her legs, rustling her fur. It was as if the morning sky, pure and unspoiled by the rising sun, was beckoning her.
After laying the sleeping tortoise onto her blankets, Dash slumped out of bed. She stretched her legs and back, reveling in the feeling of her muscles coming back to life. She extended her wings broadly to examine them. There were multiple feathers out of line, sticking out at odd angles from the rest. She would have to preen them. Dash groaned at the thought; she hated preening. That could wait though. She flapped her wings twice in preparation, working out the early morning stiffness, and then leaped out the open window and into the cool air.
Rainbow Dash lost herself in the feeling of wind tearing through her mane and past her head as she looped through the sky. She flared her wings outwards, catching the wind and decelerating into a tight turn. She’d lost track of time, but the sun had risen many hours earlier, tracing an arc across the sky. She bent her wings inward again, towards her sides, accelerating up and out of the turn into a wide spiral. Her muscles were on fire, but she continued on, pumping her wings harder and moving faster.
She was flying inside a small clearing outside of the town proper. Dash had been there all morning, practicing her stunts and maneuvers over and over again. She kept her mind solely on the flight and off of everything else. She focused on ensuring she was at just the right speed, her body was at just the right angle, and that she beat her wings at just the right moment. Whatever problems she might have had, they would have to wait until she was finished. Right at that moment, all she wanted to do was fly alone and free without worry.
Racing through another curve, Rainbow Dash noticed a yellow and pink blur standing out among the scenery below. What could Fluttershy possibly want now? she asked herself. Her problems had found her, and were now sitting obstinately in the grass below. She had hoped to avoid all of her friends to delay the inevitable, but it appeared that was no longer an option. Dash began her descent, tightening her stomach in preparation for the coming confrontation.
She almost immediately collapsed on the ground after landing next to the other pegasus, her legs sprawled out around her. Now that they were no longer working, her muscles informed her just how exhausted they were. Dash breathed quickly and shallowly, resting for the first time since she’d gotten out of bed.
Fluttershy flashed her a wide smile. “That was really good. You’ll be a Wonderbolt in no time if you keep flying like that.”
Dash smiled despite herself at the compliment, but it didn’t last long. She had played this game before, pretending to be nice. “What do you want?” she asked curtly.
Fluttershy shrunk back as her own smile dissolved. “I thought, maybe, you’d want to talk now?”
Dash broodingly wondered how long her “friend” was planning on keeping up the charade. She felt a wave of anger crest in her stomach. She was not in the mood for playing games. “You know what? I get it,” she said, standing up. “I’m gross and ugly and terrible, and you don’t want me hanging around you or being your friend anymore.”
“See?” Dash asked angrily. “I already know it all. Now go away, and just leave me alone.” She turned away, praying silently that the other pony would just walk away.
Instead, a foreleg wrapped around her shoulders. “Pinkie was right, you really are acting silly.”
Dash moved to get away, but Fluttershy tightened her hold, twisting her back around so they were face to face. “First of all, nothing you do could ever make me not want to be your friend.” She smiled gently. “We’ll be friends forever, no matter what.”
“B- but I’m a…” Dash’s voice trailed away, unable to finish the sentence.
“Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy cooed softly, “I’ve always known, and I never cared.”
Dash felt her jaw drop. “What? How?” she sputtered. She had always been so careful to make sure no pony found out. There was no way she could have known.
Fluttershy shrugged. “I don’t know. We’ve known each other for so long; it’s always been pretty obvious. You never really seemed interested in colts. When all the other fillies were off trying to get coltfriends, you were just talking about how cool Spitfire was.”
“Oh no, oh no, oh no...” Dash’s head began to feel dizzy.
“What’s wrong,” Fluttershy asked, sounding worried.
“What’s wrong?!” Dash cried in disbelief. “You know, the Cakes know, who doesn’t know? You may be fine with it, but what about everypony else? What about Rarity, and Applejack, and—“
“They’ll support you, we all will.” Fluttershy said, cutting her hysterics short. “What kind of friends would we be if we didn’t?”
Rainbow Dash remained silent.
Fluttershy pressed on, “You know, all those ponies at flight school, Lillie Breeze and the others, they were never your friends.”
“No,” Fluttershy responded, shaking her head. “They were just bullies. We’re your friends. Who you like won’t change that.”
Looking back, she had never had as much fun with her old friends as she did with her new ones. They had never been as nice or supportive of her either.
“Do you promise?” Dash asked quietly.
“I promise,” her friend answered, embracing her closely again. “So, you and Pinkie are together, right?”
“N—“ Dash began denying it out of habit before catching herself, “…yeah.” There didn’t seem to be any point in lying about it anymore. “Or, at least, we were.”
“Are you in love with her?” Fluttershy asked bluntly.
“I don’t know,“ Dash said, throwing her hooves into the air in exasperation. “How are you even supposed to know something like that?” Dash had had crushes in the past, and even a couple other fillyfriends, but nothing that could have been considered “love”, whatever that was.
Fluttershy paused to consider the question for a moment. “Well, what do think of her?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just talk about Pinkie Pie,” she explained, “whatever comes to mind.”
“Whatever comes to mind, huh?” Rainbow Dash’s eyes pointed up, as if they could find the answer somewhere in the sky above them.
“I guess… she’s cool. Not like Wonderbolts cool, but more of a…” Dash searched for a better comparison, but her mind was drawing a blank. Nothing really compared to Pinkie Pie. “A Pinkie cool,” she concluded. “She’s her own kind of cool.”
With the ice broken, a torrent of memories and emotions flowed through her head. “And she’s the best cheering section I’ve ever had,“ Dash continued, reminiscing. “Every time I practice and she’s watching, I always do a hundred times better. She gets so excited, even when I do the simplest tricks.” Dash closed her eyes, imagining she was flying through the air again, watching the excitable pony bounce up and down beneath her.
“Even when I mess up, she looks so happy, like I actually did really well.” She paused momentarily. “You remember when I won the Best Young Flyer’s Competition? And that whole stadium was cheering and clapping for me? Pinkie’s just like that.” Even when she was all alone, Pinkie sounded like an entire marching band. “Every time she cheers for me, it feels like that whole stadium is cheering for me again.
“And she’s so much fun to be with. Other ponies are so serious all the time,“ Dash made a face and lowered her voice, “like ‘all we do is work and no fun allowed, ever!’ But Pinks isn’t like that.”
Rainbow Dash was no longer thinking about what to say next. The words came to her almost as if by instinct. “Anytime I want to hang out, or pull a prank, or a play a game, or just take a break; she’s there too. I can always count on her. Even when I’m doing something boring, like work, it’s fun if she’s around.
“A lot of ponies think she’s always off the walls, jumping around like crazy, and knocking over buildings and stuff. But she’s not like that at all,” Dash explained, shaking her head.
“There’ve been tons of times when we’ve just sat around, you know, hanging out or taking a nap,” Dash finished, her thoughts floating back to just a week prior.
It had been after a scheduled storm when she was supposed to go out and clear the clouds to stop the rain. Instead, she had just lazed around with Pinkie all day. They both curled up underneath a mountain of blankets, eating cupcakes, while Rainbow Dash read aloud from the newest Daring Do novel. Occasionally, they would act out a scene together, Dash as Daring and Pinkie as the villain. They’d wrestled and jumped around the bed, sending sheets and cupcakes flying around the room.
Dash had received dozens of complaints from angry street vendors and shoppers about the rain. She’d even received a full lecture from Mayor Mare, something about “punctuality” and “reliability”. Dash hadn’t minded any of that though. It was all worth it.
“Are you sure don’t know?” Fluttershy’s voice tore through her memories, dragging her back to the present.
“Don’t know what?”
“Well, you’ve been standing there with that goofy smile on your face for a couple minutes now,” Fluttershy replied with a smirk. “It seems pretty clear to me how you feel about her.”
Dash snorted. “How do I feel then?”
“You love her,” Fluttershy said simply.
Rainbow Dash was taken aback. She was certain she liked Pinkie, she liked her a lot. But love?
“Yeah, I guess I do,” she answered her own question. She was surprised by the answer, but it was true. Now that she had said it out loud, there wasn’t any doubt.
“I am. I totally am!” Dash said, her voice rising as her excitement grew. “Fluttershy, you’re so right!” she cried, giving the startled pegasus a quick hug before jumping into the air. “I’m in love with Pinkie Pie!”
“I’ve gotta go!’ With one strong flap of her wings, Rainbow Dash was speeding back in the direction of Ponyville.
Mr. Cake smiled and nodded to the teal unicorn blathering away before him. He had been actively feigning keen interest in the state of the older stallion’s cousin’s housing affairs (which he now knew far more about than anypony could possibly care to know) for some odd twenty minutes.
“Oh, yes of course,” he replied absent mindedly to a question he could no longer remember, distractedly counting the number of sprinkles on the cupcakes in the front display.
One hundred fifty-eight. One hundred fifty-nine. One hundred sixty. One hundred sixt—
By some merciful act of Celestia, Mr. Cake heard the words, “Well, I really must be going now,” emanate from the chatty unicorn’s mouth. He silently praised the heavens as the customer walked towards the door.
To his horror, the unicorn abruptly turned back around just before reaching the door. “Oh, did I tell you about—“
“Didn’t you say you had somewhere you needed to be going?” Mr. Cake asked politely.
“Aww peanut brittle, you’re right!” the customer answered, trotting through the door.
“Have a nice day!” Carrot Cake called after him. He waited several more moments to make sure the nightmare shopper wasn’t returning before relaxing his face. His mouth creased in a frown. The truth was, he didn’t much care whether or not the unicorn had a nice day. In fact, a little part of him hoped he wouldn’t.
Mr. Cake sighed, noticing that the cake he had just boxed was still lying on the counter. The unicorn had forgotten his order, guaranteeing that he would be returning later. And he would almost certainly be bringing the latest details about his cousin’s new condo along with him.
On any other day, Mr. Cake would have been happy to deal with the customers of Sugarcube Corner. But somewhere between having to clean up the previous night’s mess of party decorations all by himself and Pinkie Pie’s emotional breakdown, he had decided he was having a bad day.
Hearing the door open, he pasted on his fake smile again, but immediately scowled when he saw who it was. It was her. Rainbow Dash was flying right past him, in the direction of the stairwell leading up to the second floor.
“Excuse me miss”, he called, stopping her mid-flight. ”Just where do you think you’re going?”
She anxiously hovered towards him. “I need to see Pinkie Pie,” Dash answered, out of breath and breathing heavily.
The mare looked almost as bad as Pinkie had that morning. Her mane was frazzled, jutting out in all directions and her red rimmed eyes appeared puffy. Her legs dragged dully against the ground as she flew, as if she was about to collapse from exhaustion. Good, Mr. Cake thought to himself. She was getting what she deserved. There was some justice in the universe.
“Pinkie Pie isn’t here,” he announced coldly.
“I seriously doubt that she wants to see you after what you did.” The comment had the desired effect, Rainbow Dash looked genuinely hurt and her eyes were watering.
Uh oh. He silently scolded himself. She appeared to actually be on the verge of tears. The last thing he wanted to do was make a filly cry.
“But I know I can fix this is if I—“
“Fix this?” he replied incredulously. “You broke her heart. How are you going to fix that?”
Mr. Cake watched a sole droplet of moisture slide down her face.
“Because I... I…” her voice trailed away.
“You what?” Carrot Cake asked impatiently. The sooner this situation was over and he could move on with his day the better.
“I love her!” Rainbow Dash cried suddenly, standing up taller.
Mr. Cake was taken aback by the sudden outburst, but he wasn’t one to be easily fooled. “If you really loved her, you wouldn’t have left her crying and embarrassed in front of all her friends last night.”
“I know I messed up, and I acted like a jerk,“ she admitted, her voice steady. “But I love Pinkie Pie, and I know I can make this right, if you’ll just give me the chance.”
Carrot Cake searched her face intently, looking for some sign of deceit. She seemed sincere. “How?” he asked. “What will you do?”
She paused momentarily before answering, “I don’t know yet, but I’ll think of something.” She must have noticed the look of skepticism on Mr. Cake’s face. “But it doesn’t matter if you tell me where she is,“ she declared confidently. “I’ll find her no matter what, no matter how long it takes. I will find her.”
This time, there was no doubt, she was telling the truth. “Fine.” Mr. Cake sighed, already regretting his decision. “She’s at Sweet Apple Acres.”
Rainbow Dash turned to leave. “Wait!” Mr. Caked marched up to her, standing up straight, trying to appear as big as possible.
“If you ever hurt my dau— uh… Pinkie Pie ever again, I’ll… I’ll…” Carrot Cake racked his brain. What could he do? “I’ll make you wish you hadn’t!” he said threateningly.
Dash nodded solemnly before bolting out of the bakery. In a flash, she was gone. The only evidence she had ever been there was a rapidly dissolving rainbow trail leading out the door.