Rainbow had no trouble sleeping last night. It could have been due to a lessening of her anxiety concerning the Wonderbolts… or it could have been because of the extra, yet long awaited “exercise” between her and Mac. Twice in the shower, and one more time on her bed. It was everything she had hoped their first intimate night to be, certainly worth the wait in her mind.
Dash was exhausted, but in a good way. Sure she was a bit sore from her training yesterday, but she knew if she wanted to be a Wonderbolt, she would need to work through the stiffness and the sore muscles. She rolled over, facing Mac as one of his forelegs was still casually wrapped around her. She knew she could probably spare a few more minutes of comfort. She dug her cheek into his chest and began to drift back to sleep before a knock at her door denied her any additional rest.
Oh come on, Derpy! Your daughter's birthday can't be today and yesterday! she thought, grudgingly removing herself from her warm bed, assuming the mailmare had a delivery of some kind that couldn't be left in her mailbox.
Flinging the door open with an unamused glare, she found Fluttershy waiting outside. Her expression instantly softened, replaced by a curiosity for the nature of the visit.
"Fluttershy? What's up?" she yawned, inviting her in.
They sat down on the couch in her living room as Rainbow fought to keep her eyes open.
"Well, I thought about what you said yesterday, and I decided I'm going to go for it," she said with as much pride in herself as she could muster.
Rainbow smiled, she loved to see her foalhood friend happy, especially since she Dash couldn't recall a time when Fluttershy even had a coltfriend. In fact, she was probably still a virgin! Still, Rainbow was glad to see her buddy taking charge of her romantic life.
"That's awesome Fluttershy! Ready to tell me who the lucky stallion is yet?" Rainbow asked, shifting on the couch to a more comfortable position.
"Uhm... I was thinking I'd wait till I knew how he felt before I named any names," she admitted.
A stirring from her room reminded Dash that their conversation had roused a sleeping stallion, ready to head back to the farm to start his chores. Macintosh wandered down the long hallway into the living room where he had heard the voices of other mares.
"Mornin' Ms. Fluttershy," he said cordially, his yoke already on and ready to be hitched to a plow.
The timid pegasus' cheeks flushed bright red as AJ's brother turned to the half asleep Rainbow on the cloud couch beside her.
"Ya'll want anythin' for breakfast?" he asked.
"Uhm... no thanks, I have to get going!" Fluttershy said quickly before fleeing the house as though she'd just seen a manticore.
After a brief silence, Rainbow asked "What do you think that was about?"
"Couldn't tell ya," Mac said, turning back to the kitchen.
Fluttershy zipped back to her cottage faster than she had ever flown before. She was certainly not expecting to see her crush at Rainbow's house so early! She had gone early to avoid any other ponies.
I wonder what he was doing there so early? she thought naively. Maybe she still owed them some bits for the windows?
Still, she would make Rainbow proud, and tell Mac just how she felt! She just needed some time to compose herself for such a big announcement, even if it was to one pony. It just may take a week. Or two.
Rainbow had that day off, thankfully. More time for her to practice, and sharpen her routine. Mac had left to start on his chores, but mentioned he would stop back by to watch her practice. A full twelve hour session left her quite hungry, with only a short lunch break to tide her over. Macintosh appeared below her house as she settled near him, but not before executing a perfect stall into a double roll.
"Lookin' good, Dashie," Mac teased.
Rainbow raised an eyebrow, "I better not catch that name come out of your mouth again."
"Pinkie Pie came by the farm today. Needed more apples for Sugar Cube Corner." He grinned, "She stayed and had a little chat about some nicknames she has for her friends."
"You heard what I said. I better not hear Dashie come across those lips again," she threatened.
"Oh yeah? Or what?"
Rainbow grinned, she knew exactly what kind of ransom would stop Mac in his tracks. "See this?" she asked, waving a foreleg over herself.
"It's off limits if I hear that name again."
Mac smiled, "Fair 'nuff, no need to get drastic. So what have you been workin' on?"
"Check it out!" she called taking flight and starting her routine.
Macintosh watched as the object of his affection danced gracefully on the winds. Back in Prairieville, he wasn't sure what exactly attracted him to her in the first place, but as time went on, he thought he realized why he felt the way he did about her. It was her unbridled passion for the air. It was similar to how he felt about the farm. He was proud of it, and it was his life, just as flying was Rainbow's.
He loved the way her eyes shined like Luna's full moon when she was in the sky. He wished he could fly with her, to soar among the clouds like she did, right beside her. However, he knew his limitations as an earth pony. He'd give the very strength his father bestowed upon him to be in Rainbow's element, to fly with her, and be with her always, be it in the heavens, or on the earth.
Once she finished her routine, she landed next to him softly. "Well?" she panted. "Whaddya think?"
"Ah think the Wonderbolts won't know what hit them," he assured her.
Rainbow stepped closer to him, nuzzling his chest. Even though he was still sweaty from the fields, she didn't mind. In fact, that was one of the things she liked about him. He wasn't afraid to get his hooves dirty.
"Well, ya still got a few weeks ta train. Think you can improve what you got so far?" Mac asked, returning her affection.
"If you think it's perfect now, wait till I make the squad," she shot back confidently.
"You know... Applejack probably wouldn't wonder where I am for another... hour or so." He smiled deviously.
"Is that right?" Rainbow asked, taking his hint. "Well, the house is right there... and you're still dirty from the fields aren't ya?"
"Eeyup. And Ah still got some of that special juice that lets me visit your house without fallin' through th' floor."
"Well, I suppose I could let you shower up at my place... but I'm running low on rainclouds, so we'll have to share."
Mac smiled, "It wasn't a problem last time."
As if on queue, Rainbow's stomach growled loudly, ruining the moment entirely, much to Mac's amusement.
"I'm gonna need you to take care of that."
"Now Ah gotta feed ya too?"
Dash grinned. "Eeyup."
The two weeks seemed to pass too quickly for Rainbow. Every day she practiced, and every day drew her nearer to the start of tryouts. Her form was perfect, her moves were precise, Dash could think of nothing else she could improve upon! She was the fastest flier in Equestria, after all. The only pegasus ever to attempt and perform a sonic rainboom. What did she have to worry about?
Still, the lump in her throat didn't care how confident she acted, it refused to retreat. The rest of her friends gathered outside Sugarcube Corner, just after her good luck party. It turned out the tryouts were invite only. Apparently the Wonderbolts had more than their share of secrets to their performances. Dash had even heard the new recruits have to sign contracts pledging not to reveal any and all secret techniques or maneuvers under penalty of death. Some of that was probably exaggeration, but still, they clearly meant business.
"We know you'll come back a Wonderbolt, Sugarcube!" Applejack chimed happily.
Rainbow blushed. Sure, she loved unending praise as much as the next pegasus (false, loved it more), but she had heard everything they were saying a million times before.
"Yeah," she agreed, "I'm sorry you guys couldn't come with, but I'm glad you could all see me off."
"We wouldn't miss it Dashie! Just wait until you try your victory cake! Who do you think would taste better as a cake, Spitfire or Soarin?" Pinkie asked, bouncing happily around the group.
"Surprise me," Dash answered.
After a brief silence, Twilight spoke up "Well, good luck Rainbow! When will you be coming back?"
"I'll be back late tomorrow night." she replied, "The tryouts last a week, starting at five a.m. and ending at seven."
"Five a.m.? My word, with the commute to Cloudsdale, that doesn't leave you much time for anything else," Rarity commented, knowing if anypony valued sleep as much as she did, it was Rainbow.
"Yeah, but it's cool, I didn't have any more vacation days, so I just quit my job," she answered with the same inflection one would use to respond to a 'hello' on the street.
"You what?!" they gasped in unison.
Rainbow cast them a look of confusion. "What's the big deal? I won't need to buck clouds anymore when I'm a Wonderbolt!"
The rest of her friends didn't want to rain on her confidence parade, but...
"Well... have ya ever considered what you'd do if... fer some reason... ya... uh... didn't make it?" Applejack asked quietly, trying to get her sometimes single minded pal to see the other side of the coin.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dash shot back indignantly.
"Rainbow, she didn't mean it like that, it's just... it probably would have been a better idea to wait until you knew you made the team to quit your job," Twilight explained, stepping towards her.
Rainbow's confidence bordered on arrogance as she assured her friends she knew what she was doing. The sun began to set on what could have been Dash's final day in Ponyville as a non-Wonderbolt. She hugged every one of her friends goodbye, as she would be out of town before any of them (save Applejack) would be awake. A quick flight back to her place put her back on the porch, collecting the mail that had been delivered on time that day.
Just more junk mail and bills, though a silver lining in the daily mail, her newest issue of Stunt Flyers Monthly had arrived.
Spitfire and Soarin stared confidently back at her from the cover, both mid flight in their uniforms with the rest of the Wonderbolts flying in formation behind them. The header screamed: The Wonderbolts are ready for new recruits! Do YOU have what it takes to rule the skies?
Rainbow smiled, flicking between the deep green eyes of Soarin, the captain of squad one, and the fiery intensity of Spitfire's amber orbs, the captain of squad alpha. Why they chose the designations that way, she hadn't the slightest, but would be sure to ask them the next morning.
Stepping inside her darkened house, she noticed something was amiss. The blanket she usually kept on the couch was now on the floor, as if someone, or something had been sleeping on it. A soft rustle from her bedroom drew her attention. Her ears were now standing straight out, sensitive to any out of place noise. Slowly, she began to walk towards her room, swearing if Macintosh was trying to surprise her again, he'd have to do better than this!
Rainbow paused right outside her bedroom door, listening intently to any sounds coming from beyond. She heard nothing for a minute, then flung her door open, an accusing hoof pointed at where she believed the intruder to be.
"Gotcha ya big red... Scootaloo?"
The orange filly nearly jumped out of her skin when her hero had burst through the door. Rainbow had walked in on her seated in front of the mirror, in a black leather coat Dash recognized as her old Junior Speedsters jacket.
"Slow down squirt," Rainbow said calmly, trotting over to her bed and laying on it. Her calm tone put the young filly at ease, relived to not be in trouble with her idol.
"Do your parents* know you're here?"
Scootaloo looked away in shame, "Not exactly... they think I'm with Applebloom and Sweetie Belle at the clubhouse..."
Lying to your folks to go hang with somepony your parents didn't want you around... she's more like me than I thought.
Rainbow knew Scootaloo's folks didn't exactly like her. Despite having saved the entire kingdom on more than one occasion, and even personally rescued their daughter from a few harrowing situations, some ponies just couldn't be reasoned with, no matter how many times you save their sorry flanks, indirectly or otherwise.
"So what are you doing here?"
"I heard you were leaving for Wonderbolts tryouts tomorrow. I just wanted to tell you good luck, but you weren't home and your door was unlocked. I wanted to tell you at your party, but my parents wouldn't let me go," Scootaloo lamented. She supposed they meant well, but their overprotectiveness got old rather quickly.
Rainbow smiled warmly from her bed, turning over on her side to face the young filly still clad in her jacket, propping her head up on her hoof.
"Thanks Scoots, that means a lot." Annoying as she could be sometimes, deep down, Rainbow was glad to have somepony who had confidence in her abilities, even when she wasn't so sure.
"Wait a second, you can't fly yet!" Dash recalled, "How did you even make it up here?"
Scootaloo shot her a confused stare, "You know you have a rope ladder hanging off your house, right?"
"Ah, right. I see you like my old jacket."
Scootaloo quickly removed it, forgetting she had been posing in the mirror with it before she was surprised.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to go through your stuff, I just saw it in your closet and-"
"It's okay, kid, I'm not mad at you," Dash assured, hovering over to her, and putting it back over her shoulders.
"It looks good on you," Rainbow complimented as they looked at each other in the mirror.
"You think so?"
"Eeyup." It appeared as though Mac's mannerisms were beginning to rub off on her. More than a little embarrassed at letting that slip, she decided somepony else might make better use of her old jacket than it would collecting dust in her closet.
"I want you to have it."
Scootaloo gasped, turning to face Dash. "You... you mean it?"
"I sure do. The Junior Speedsters was the first squad I ever tried out for."
"You made the team on your first try?"
"That's right, and when you go to flight school, you'll have the same chance!" Dash added.
Scootaloo's expression dropped significantly. It appeared as though Rainbow had struck a nerve.
"What's the matter?" Dash asked in a motherly tone.
"Well... my parents aren't sure if they can afford to send me to flight school in Cloudsdale."
Rainbow was horrified. How could Scootaloo call herself a pegasus without having at least attempted flight school?
"You... can't afford it?" Dash started, "But they provide everything for you, what... how could you not..."
Tears began to well in the once bright eyes of the young pegasus. Rainbow ceased questioning her immediately and instead set about improving her mood.
"Hey now, there's no crying in this cloud house," she whispered comfortingly, drawing Scootaloo in for a hug.
"If your folks can't afford to send you to learn to fly the right way, then I'll teach you."
The teary eyed filly's mood shifted in an instant. "You will?!"
"You bet, as soon as you're old enough, we'll start."
"Thankyouthankyouthankyou, Rainbow!" she shouted, going in for another hug.
"No problem kid, but I need to get you home so I can get some rest," Dash said, walking her to her front door and stepping outside into the crisp night air.
"Hop on, I'll give you a lift." she said kneeling in front of her.
"Everypony at school is gonna be so jealous of my new jacket!" Scootaloo chirped happily, hopping onto Rainbow's back.
Rainbow smiled, making sure her cargo was secure before taking off into the sky.
A short trip over Ponyville brought her to the few neighborhoods the small town had.
"Um... Rainbow?" Scootaloo asked, "Do you think you could drop me off a few blocks away, so my folks will think I was where I said I would be?"
"Sure kid, I'll cover for ya," she responded, landing a few houses away from where she was told Scootaloo lived.
"Thanks for the jacket! I'm never taking it off!"
Dash grinned as her number one fan bid her goodbye and took off down the street to her house.
Rainbow flew back to her home, entering quickly and staring longingly at her bed.
Not yet, she thought going to her nightstand and preparing for a ritual she performed before every contest, or competion, whenever she faced a challenge. She did it before she tried out for the Junior Speedsters, and before the Best Young Fliers competition. Now she would do it before the Wonderbolts tryouts. She removed from the nightstand a worn, gold locket on a thin chain. Dash set it on the bed, rubbing a hoof across its weathered surface.
"Hey Dad... tomorrow's the big day." She smiled, as though it was going to say something back to her. Pressing the small latch on the side, the locket opened to reveal a small photograph. Inside was a tall, deep blue pegasus stallion with a steel mane, a foreleg around a beautiful mare with a cyan coat and magenta mane and rose colored eyes. Her mother lived in Cloudsdale, but her father... he had died when she was just a filly. It was an accident; nopony was to blame. No pegasi would ever willingly enter a thunderstorm, but as an instructor at the flight school, he was responsible for his students, even the foolhardiest among them.
One had flown into a developing thunderstorm on a dare, and so it was her father, the only one brave or foolish enough to go in after him. Unfortunately, neither made it out alive.
Why?! Dash would cry, nights after her fathers passing. Why couldn't Cloudy's dad have gone in to get him! It was his stupid kid's fault my dad is dead!
Tears began to flow down her face as she recalled the nights she and her mother would cry, holding each other until morning. Her father supported her in everything she did, and even took her to her first Wonderbolts show. He knew how much this meant to her, and she always made it a point to talk to him before a big event.
"I know you'll be right beside me," she whimpered, glad nopony was here to see her at her most vulnerable. She flipped the locket over, revealing an inscription, in a language Rainbow wasn't entirely certain her father didn't just make up.
Illegitimi non carborundum
Nonsense... she thought, feeling the raised letters of the inscription. Still, a longing in her heart demanded to know what it said. Unfortunately, not even the learn'd Twilight Sparkle and her library treehouse could decode it. The language, as well as its creators seemed to be lost to time.
Rainbow lay herself onto her bed, draping the locket around her neck, resting it on her heart, simply to feel closer to her father.
"I'll make you proud, dad. I swear..." she yawned, tears finally drying as she fell into an easy sleep.