Sunlight streamed in through the large arched window, falling in a graceful beam onto a sleeping, sky blue pegasus. Yawning loudly, Rainbow Dash stretched her legs out under her warm blanket of cloud and blinked drowsily around her sunlit room.
Shelves affixed to fluffy walls contained miscellaneous objects and fond memories: A jar of rainbow from her first day working as a weather pony, her first moulted feather, a tome on advanced aerial maneuvers, one of the few books in her house, gifted to her by Twilight Sparkle. Posters adorned other sections of wall, mostly of her idols, the Wonderbolts.
Suddenly wide awake, she shot up, the blanket poofing back into the cloud that formed her bed. Rainbow Dash darted out of her room, and down the large spiral staircase, pausing only briefly in her kitchen to grab a banana. She leaped out of her front door and into the vast blue expanse of the sky, front-flipping gracefully as she arced towards the ground. Snapping her wings close to her body, Dash hastily ripped the banana out of it's skin and shoved the fruit into her mouth. She fell faster, the wind making her coat ripple like a storm tossed sea. Her jaw working furiously, the cyan pegasus barely savored the energy rich breakfast. She fell even faster, her mane almost vertical behind her head due to the rapid fall. She finished the banana and threw the skin away, the waste quickly flying upwards as she continued to plummet. Finally, right before hitting the ground, Rainbow Dash opened her powerful wings and pulled out into a smooth curve, softly landing on the grass, which was usually accompanied by a small filly's applause.
Except today there was silence. No orange filly waited expectantly beneath her cloud house. Puzzled, Rainbow scratched her head.
“Squirt's normally waiting here for me to wake up. We always train together on a Saturday,” she mused. But Scootaloo was nowhere in sight. Rainbow shrugged and began the short flight towards Ponyville, her house being slightly outside of the large village. “I guess I really was late,” she muttered as she saw the sun hanging at the top of it's ponderous arc across the sky. “Scoot must be having lunch!”
The wind whipped across her rainbow coloured mane as she gleefully cheered. Flying was her favorite thing to do. Ever. As she cleared the small hill that divided her house from Ponyville, she was greeted with the usual... silence? Now this was weird.
Ponyville was usually teeming on the weekends, families taking advantage of their days off to spend time with their children and to browse the busy market place. Now, however, it was barren. Streets lay empty. Shops stood closed and lifeless. Even the market square where Applejack sold her delicious farm products was devoid of ponies. Stalls stood abandoned yet pristine, fresh produce neatly displayed under vibrant overhangs.
All thoughts of finding Scootaloo quickly vanished as Rainbow struggled to suppress a small twinge in the center of her chest. It was a feeling she did not like one bit. She carried on flying over the empty town, occasionally swooping low and peering into windows in the vain hope of seeing somepony. Anypony. The twinge in her chest was now a cold hand clutching at her heart. She burst into buildings, the doors all unlocked. Yet the houses, while undamaged, were empty. The twinge in her chest was now undeniably the feeling Rainbow Dash, bravest and toughest pony in all of Equestria (in her opinion anyway), hated above all else. Fear. She tried the apple family barn, Twilight's tree house, Rarity's boutique and Fluttershy's cottage. All were empty. Finally, panting from exhaustion and fear, she burst into sugarcube corner.
There, at last, was another pony. Pinkie Pie slowly turned around, her eyes filled with hatred as she glared at Rainbow Dash. The pegasus took a nervous step backwards. This wasn't like Pinkie at all. She was usually the most friendly pony anypony could ever hope to meet, an active volcano of friendship and laughter. Now that volcano was inexplicably frozen over. “P-Pinkie pie? Where is everypony?” she asked nervously.
“Why should you care?” Pinkie coldly responded. “Its not like they need you anymore.” Her words pierced Dash's heart like an icy blade, leaving Rainbow unable to do anything but gape at her. What in the hay was going on?
“Please, Pinkie, I don't understand!” the confused pegasus finally struggled to say.
“Well isn't that a surprise,” Pinkie drawled sarcastically. “I'd love to stay and chat, but I have friends who need me. Goodbye, foreeeeeeeever...” The pink pony slowly faded away, turning transparent before dash's eyes.
“NO! Please don’t go. Please don’t leave me -,” Dash begged, as pinkie faded into thin air.
“ - alone...”
Rainbow dash screamed, jerking rapidly awake. She bolted upright and glanced around at her room, not sunlit but instead draped in a blanket of soft moonlight. Her chest rose and fell rapidly as she recalled her nightmare. For that was what it had been. She hoped. Flying down the stairs and out the door, the cool night air that greeted her quickly made her sweat soaked body shiver; and she made a beeline for Ponyville.
Clearing the small hill, she was greeted once again by silence. Then again, it was midnight, she reminded herself. Without hesitation, she flew over row upon row of thatched roofs before reaching one that seemed to be made of gingerbread; Sugarcube Corner. Flying up to the upper window, Rainbow Dash looked into the dark room... and sighed in relief at the sight of the small pink blob that slowly rose and fell on the bed.
“See, she would never abandon you!” Rainbow berated herself, “You stupid, stupid pony...” She turned and flew away, the moonlight glinting off of tears that were falling thick and fast from a sobbing, sky blue pegasus.
Meanwhile, a bright pink earth pony woke with a start. “Ooh, my pinkie sense is tingling!” she cried. “Ear flop, Knee twitch, Eye flutter,” she intoned, her ears flopping, knee twitching and eyes fluttering on her bed. “A rainbow? But its the middle of the night.” Her face screwed up in thought. “This must be a weird dream: my pinkie sense never lies. This is almost as weird as that one dream when I ate a huuuuuge cookie that was made of apples because a walrus needed to find ...” she happily rambled on to a sleeping baby alligator.
When morning finally came to Ponyville, it was to find a tired and disheveled looking Rainbow Dash that woke from a restless sleep. She ate lethargically before leaping expertly out of her house and gliding towards the ground. Her heart wasn't in her flying today. The nightmare kept replaying over and over in her head. Yet despite the average performance, the orange filly waiting on the grass below still cheered and clapped as Rainbow descended from her house in the clouds. Scootaloo stopped clapping though when she caught sight of Dash's face.
Her mane, though usually slightly unkempt, was a total mess, sticking out at odd angles like a multicoloured thorn bush. Dash's usually bright eyes were now red and slightly swollen, framed by dark rings.
“Uum, Dash, have you been... crying?” Scootaloo asked.
“What? No, of course not,” Dash replied nervously, mentally kicking herself for not checking her appearance. “I Just, um, was flying through some storm-clouds without my goggles on a, erm, special delivery mission. Yeah! I was on a special delivery mission for princess Celestia! Come on, crying? Who do you think I am, Fluttershy? I'm the bravest, toughest pony in Equestria!”
“Wow! So cool!” Scootaloo gasped. “Sorry about that.”
“That's fine,” Her idol replied with a tired grin, “Lets get this show on the road! Right, now I think you've been making good progress, and you almost flew last time! So today we'll focus on the take off and, with any luck, the landing.” Rainbow Dash watched with pride as Scootaloo, following her instructions to a tee, tried again and again to take off. At first, she just fell over, her wings flapping furiously as she flipped over onto the grass.
Gradually though, she retained control and as Celestia's sun slowly reached the peak of its path across the sky, Scootaloo finally did it. Admittedly, it was only really hovering slightly off the ground. And it only lasted for about 2 seconds before the filly face-planted into the dirt. But from the look on her mud covered face anyone would think she had just out-flown the Wonderbolts.
“D-did you see that?” the filly stammered excitedly, “I flew! I really did it!” Dash beamed at her ecstatic pupil.
“You did really well kid,” Dash chuckled as she ruffled Scootaloo's mane. “Maybe when I’m captain of the wonderbolts I can find a place for you on the team.”
“Thank you so much for this! Just wait until I show Applebloom and Sweetie Belle!” the filly said, turning towards Ponyville and beginning to gallop back. “Same time next Saturday?”
“You know it!” Dash called the to the shrinking orange pegasus, giggling as Scootaloo tried to fly as she ran, resulting in several crashes into bushes and trees.
When Scootaloo was out of sight, Dash was still in an exceptionally good mood. Scootaloo reminded her of herself when she was just a little filly back in - As quickly as they had gone, the memories of her nightmare came flooding back like the bursting of a dam. “Pull yourself together Dash!” she told herself angrily, “Stop worrying about a silly little nightmare. You know it would never happen!” At this, she cheered up slightly, but the little grain of doubt in her mind refused to leave. “Well... those rainclouds aren't gonna drive themselves off!” And with that, Rainbow Dash flew off towards an incoming patch of bad weather.
Twilight Sparkle trotted contentedly through Ponyville, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her deep purple mane. She looked up and down the busy high street, before turning her head slightly. “What's next on the list Spike?” she asked her assistant riding on her back. The baby dragon reached into one of Twilight's saddle bags and checked a large scroll, neatly organized and meticulously triple checked earlier in the morning.
“We need to get some more ink,” he noted, “And get some winter coats from... Rarity...” His eyes glazed over and his voice seemed to come from a great distance as he pronounced the seamstress' name. Twilight giggled, and waved her hoof in front of Spike's face.
“Equestria to Spike, come in Spike,” she chuckled. Her assistant snapped out of his trance, shaking his head and muttering under his breath, all the while blushing a delightful shade of scarlet. Twilight carried on walking down the street, occasionally greeting a friend or a shopkeeper, when she spied Applejack at her stall. Deciding she had enough time to fit in a conversation with her schedule, she trotted over to the orange pony.
“Hey there Applejack!” she called. Applejack turned round and beamed at the pair.
“Well if it isn't Twilight and spike. What can ah do you for?” she asked. Hearing a low rumbling sound from her back, Twilight fished out some bits from her saddle bag and passed them over to her friend.
“We'll have two apple turnovers please!” she replied. “I think a certain dragon and I are in need of some lunch.” As she and Spike munched on the pastry treats Applejack handed over, the orange earth pony leaned over her stall and motioned for Twilight to come closer.
“You, er, notice anything strange about Rainbow today?” she whispered.
“Look over there,” Applejack said, pointing with a hoof towards the sky. Even from a long distance, Twilight had no trouble identifying the rainbow coloured mane of a pegasus battling against some rainclouds.
“She's just doing her job, Applejack. Whats strange about that?” Twilight asked.
“Sugarcube, this is Rainbow Dash we're talkin' about here. She's normally goofin' off up some tree 'bout this time of day. She keeps the sky nice and clear, don't get me wrong, but she usually leaves it till the last second, know what ah mean?” At these words, Twilight stopped and thought. Applejack was right; Rainbow Dash always kept the sky clear, but she left it as late as she could most of the time. Something was definitely wrong.
“I see what you mean,” Twilight conceded, “But its probably nothing to worry about. Knowing Dash she's taken some kind of bet from the weather team.”
“Yeah,” Applejack sighed, “maybe you're right. Anyway, you enjoy your food now y'hear?”
“We will, thanks!” Twilight replied, waving as she trotted away from her friend, Spike being too hungry to care about anything except the mangled remains of the apple turnover in his now sticky claws. Applejack had a point, something was definitely up. She made a mental note to speak to Rainbow Dash the next day and get to the bottom of it.
But for now, she had a shopping list, an apple turnover and a love obsessed dragon on her hooves. It was going to be a long day.
Rainbow Dash flew down from the reddening sky as evening spread its warming hue across the land. She had hoped work would take her mind off of her... minor fright (The Dash was never scared), and it did. To some extent. Her muscles seemed to glow from physical exertion, and the endorphins her body released from it left her in a state of calm happiness.
For now, her thoughts were focused on two things: a nice, relaxing bath and her welcoming cloud bed. She enjoyed the cooling wind on her sweat matted mane. It was a nice evening. Dash entered her now orangey house and trotted wearily up to the bathroom. Rarity had given her some bubble bath from the spa for her last birthday, and although she didn't really care much for all this herbal mumbo-jumbo, it was definitely relaxing.
Twenty minutes later, Rainbow Dash exited the gurgling mountain of pink bubbles that used to be a bath, scrubbing herself roughly with a towel and yawning loudly. As the last of the bubbles drained away, she was already snuggling up under her wonderfully soft cloud blanket. In a few seconds, she was asleep.
The sun shone down on a sky blue pegasus as she weaved through the air over Ponyville. The birds were singing, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the residents of Ponyville were leaving forever...
Wait. Dash halted in mid air and stared down below. In the town square, everypony had gathered with all of their possessions and had began a march down the main road out of the village. “Where's everypony going?” She wondered aloud. “They can't leave without me.” She flew down toward the crowd of slow moving ponies. But when she got down there, they were gone. Baffled, she looked further down the road and there they were, plodding along at a snails pace. So how did she miss them? Rainbow galloped down the road, but as fast as she went the ponies just seemed to get further and further away. Panting, a familiar feeling beginning in her chest, Dash ran as hard as she could. Yet the crowd of agonizingly slow ponies was still miles ahead.
She took off and flew, faster than she had ever flown before. The trees and hills beside the road became blurs as she sliced through the air. But try as she might, she couldn't catch up. Finally, exhausted, she fell to the ground in a heap. “Wait!” she cried hoarsely. “WAIT! YOU FORGOT ABOUT ME!” The crowd of happy, laughing ponies carried on, oblivious to the pegasus' cries.
“Please,” Dash weakly called, tears forming in her eyes, “please wait...” Suddenly, like mana from heaven, she heard hooves from behind her. Turning hurriedly around, she saw Pinkie Pie hopping happily up the road, her saddlebags full of streamers and balloons. “Pinkie!” Dash croaked. Her friend hopped up to Rainbow Dash and looked down at the exhausted pegasus.
“Well, if it isn’t the pony without any friends,” she laughed. A cold, harsh laugh that sent shivers down Dash's spine and drove a familiar icicle into her heart. “Hey there, aloney-pony!”
“W-What?” was all she could stammer back. Pinkie Pie glared down at Dash with barely concealed anger.
“You disgust me.” She coldly replied, before hopping on towards the crowd of ponies. “Wait for me!” she cried, causing the crowd to slow down and wait for her, many waving at the pink party pony, or else chuckling at her ridiculous luggage. But no one paid any heed to the poor blue pegasus, sobbing in the road.
For the second time, Rainbow Dash awoke screaming, sitting up so quickly her cloud blanket evaporated from the force. She curled up into a ball in the centre of the bed, her shivering occasionally broken by racking sobs that shook her from head to tail. This wasn't supposed to happen. She was The Dash. She was fearless, brave, strong. Right now she felt terrified, weak and worst of all, alone.
Sniffing loudly, she flew downstairs and out of her house, into the velvety night. It didn't take long for her to reach sugarcube corner. She felt foolish, but she had to check that her nightmare was just that. She had to check that Pinkie was still there. The occasional light from a window in the town told her that at least Ponyville hadn't up and left without explanation. She hovered outside her friends room and peered inside cautiously.
The bed was empty. Dash stared at it in total disbelief. She began to break out in a nervous sweat. That hand was back in her chest, and she found it hard to breathe. She darted around the window, peering in at every angle she could, trying in vain to catch a glimpse of pink. She had just about given up, when she heard something from behind her.
“What are we looking at?” a voice asked. Rainbow squealed and span around, pressing her body up against the window in alarm as she tried to get away from her assailant. Then she saw who it was.
Pinkie Pie revolved slowly in the air, dangling from several bright party balloons tied to her waist. She smiled and cocked her head at Dash as she awaited a reply. Dash just didn't know what to do. Her emotions were having a battle – actually, scratch that - her emotions were having a full scale nuclear war in her head, her thoughts a turbulent sea of supersonic warheads primed to explode at any moment. She just gaped at the floating party pony, speech having completely eluded her. Pinkie's grin faded when she took a closer look at her friends condition.
Rainbow Dash's sweat soaked body was trembling like a leaf in a hurricane. Her eyes had lost their usual brightness, instead having receded into tiny pinpricks, while her mane was so haphazard it would cause Rarity to have a fit. Yet even the limp, messy fringe couldn't hide her friend's tear stained cheeks.
“Maybe you'd better come inside,” Pinkie gently told her friend.