“Hey, Sunset, think fast!”
Sunset caught a blur of movement out of the corner of her eye and reacted without thinking. She lurched backwards, throwing her arms up in front of her face just in time to deflect whatever was speeding towards it.
A soccer ball bounced off of her and rolled down the sidewalk. It left a spray of loose dirt and freshly cut grass behind on her arms, and Sunset brushed it off, scowling.
Rainbow Dash cheered, pumping her fist into the air. “See, I told you, Coach. She’s got great reflexes, it’ll be a perfect fit.”
Spitfire grunted and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I’ll give you that, but that doesn’t mean she’s got what it takes to be a Wondercolt.”
Sunset stared in disbelief at the two girls. “Uh, I’m sorry, did I hear that right? Become a Wondercolt? Is assaulting students with soccer balls while they’re walking home now a part of your recruitment program?”
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, then walked over and picked up the soccer ball. She stood in front of Sunset and twirled the ball on her finger. “Don’t be such a baby. You easily blocked one of my best kicks. And that’s exactly what we need in our new goalie!”
“You can’t be serious. Dash, I don’t know a single thing about soccer. And last I checked, Cloud Chaser was your goalie, and a pretty good one at that.”
“Yeah, well, she got in a car accident. Broke her leg.”
Sunset flinched. “Crap, I had no idea. Is she okay?”
Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Yeah. Other than the broken leg.”
“Right.” Sunset rested her arm on her hip, then glanced over at Spitfire, who was leaning against the school’s chain link fence. “That doesn’t explain why you’re bugging me about it. Shouldn’t you have backups?”
Rainbow Dash placed a hand on Sunset’s shoulder, and looked her in the eyes. “We have backups, sure, but they aren’t goalies. The state semi-finals are this saturday. Away game. That’d give you four days to practice and learn how to be an awesome goalie. Our ringer. Come on, Sunset, we need you. You’re good at, like, literally everything you do; I know you can handle it.”
Sunset let out a long sigh and rubbed at her temples. The sun beat down on her brow, and she could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on. “You’re serious. Is she serious? You’re really supporting her in this?”
Spitfire lowered her sunglasses and stared at Sunset. “I don’t like this plan of hers either. But quite frankly, I don’t have a lot of options. We’re up against the Trottingham Seaponies. They’re one of the best. But if we can beat them and make it to finals, then the championships are practically ours. Crystal Prep got knocked out of the bracket early thanks to a fluke, so we don’t have to worry about losing to them like we usually do.”
“Real life isn’t a sports movie,” Sunset grumbled. “I can’t become a professional soccer player in a three-minute montage.”
Rainbow Dash threw her arm around Sunset’s shoulder. “That’s why you’re the goalie! I’m not saying it’s an easy job or anything, but you won’t have to learn any of the complicated teamwork stuff that we’re all doing on the field. Just keep the ball from going into the net. Simple.”
“And I don’t know if I’d call it a three-minute montage,” Spitfire said with a rather sadistic looking grin. “I’ve only got four days to whip you into shape, and if you’ve got even half the natural talent Rainbow Dash thinks you do, then I plan to break you.”
“Uh-huh. Look, I haven’t agreed to anything yet.”
Rainbow Dash elbowed Sunset in the side. “Don’t be like that. Come on. Please? I’ll owe you big time, I promise.”
Sunset pursed her lips together and scratched at her chin. “Well, there is one thing I want…”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes went wide and her cheeks turned scarlet. “I, uh… you want to go on a date? I mean, that’s… yeah, sure, whatever, I guess I could go for that.”
Sunset blinked, then shook her head. “Sorry, I should’ve been more clear. I mean I want you to set me up on a date with Fluttershy.”
“...Oh.” Rainbow Dash pulled away and stuffed her hands into her pockets. “Yeah, that makes sense. Wait, no it doesn’t. You’re a big girl, why can’t you just ask her yourself?”
Sunset winced, then glanced over at Spitfire. She leaned in close to Rainbow Dash and whispered, “Look, I hurt Fluttershy a lot back in the day. I know she’s forgiven me and all, but I still think she’s a little jumpy sometimes and, I just—I dunno. It’s awkward.”
“Uh-huh.” Rainbow Dash sighed. She glanced over at Spitfire, then muttered, “If you’ll help us out, I’ll see what I can do. Doesn’t mean Fluttershy will be into it or anything, but I’ll try.”
Sunset stood up straight and turned to Spitfire. “I suppose I’ll give it a shot, then. No promise that I’ll be any good, but I’ll try my best.”
Spitfire nodded. “Meet us on the field in the hour. We’ll see.”
Sunset threw herself to the side, stretching her fingers out as far as she could. They just barely grazed the soccer ball, but knocked it far enough off course to ricochet off the goalpost instead.
The ground met her soon after. Her breath fled from her lungs, and she slid across the grass, leaving yet another stain on her borrowed uniform.
Spitfire chirped twice on her whistle. “Great block, Shimmer, but if you’re going to make dives like that, you’ll need to learn how to fall without hurting yourself.”
Sunset groaned, weakly pushing herself up on her arms. Sweat poured down her face, and her entire body burned from exhaustion. Spitfire’s reputation as a brutal taskmaster was well-deserved. Sunset was glad she had never tried to mess with the alumnus back when she was still a student.
Rainbow Dash knelt at her side, lifted Sunset into a sitting position and handed her a bottle of some fruity sports drink. “You doing alright?”
Sunset gave a weak thumbs up and happily accepted the drink. The glorified sugar water was a little too sweet, but the mere fact that it was ice cold made it one of the best things she’d tasted all day.
Spitfire looked up at the sky, then glanced at her watch. “Looks like some storm clouds are rolling in. And it’s getting late anyway. This is just day one, after all—don’t want to break you yet. You’ve made the team, Shimmer. I expect to see you tomorrow at o-eight-hundred hours.”
“Whoo,” Sunset muttered. She leaned all of her weight against Rainbow Dash, who moved and let her fall to the ground. Her arms and legs splayed out as she stared up at the darkening sky. The grass felt cool against her body.
“This is going to be so awesome.” Rainbow Dash grinned, then sat down next to her. “The Seaponies are going to have no idea what hit them!”
“You really think this is a good idea? You got a lot more goals than I was able to block.”
Rainbow Dash shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. I mean, we are talking about me, here. Besides, it’s only been a few hours, and you’re already way better than you were when we started.”
“If you say so. All I know right now is that I could use a nice long shower.”
“Don't get too comfy. There’s still plenty more to do tonight.”
Sunset turned towards Rainbow Dash, raising an eyebrow. “Dash, I know you’re really into this, but there’s a limit to how far I can push myself in one day.”
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Not like that. I mean you gotta learn more about the game itself. Come stay over at my apartment, I’ve got a ton of the most famous matches ever on DVD. Even if you’re just the goalie, you’ve got to be able to know what's happening on the field, and when and how they’re going to take the shot.”
“If I didn’t know you better,” Sunset said with a grin, “I’d say that you were suggesting we do research. Isn’t that a little on the egghead side of things?”
“Shut up,” Rainbow Dash said with a scowl. “It’s not like that at all.”
Sunset laughed, then turned back up to the sky. “Hey, I know how much of a big deal the school used to make about it, but what does it really mean if we make it to the state championship? Like, on a personal level.”
Rainbow Dash bit her lip and idly pulled out some clumps of grass. “I mean, it’s the championship. Kind of self-explanatory, right? It means we’re the best. We get a chance to compete on the national level, and all of the players get the best scholarships.”
“Is that what you’re hoping for?”
“Kind of? Look, I don’t like to think that far ahead, but it’s not like I have any other hope of getting into college.”
Sunset sat up and stretched. “What about your dream of being a rock star?”
Rainbow Dash blew her bangs out of her eyes. “What about it? No reason I can’t do both.”
“I think they both have pretty demanding schedules.”
“Yeah yeah.” Rainbow Dash crossed her arms over her chest. “Look, I’m not an idiot. Being a ‘rock star’ isn’t really much of a thing anymore these days. I was talking with Rarity about it the other day, and she kept going on about how if I want to make a name for myself, I have to ‘build a brand’ by releasing songs online. Not exactly sex, drugs, and rock & roll.”
Sunset shrugged. “Can’t say I know much about the business myself. Still, what you’re saying is that us winning this game might change your entire life?”
Rainbow Dash grimaced. “Try not to think like that. That kind of pressure just screws you up.”
Sunset laughed, then stood up, reaching her hand out to help Rainbow Dash up. “On the contrary, I shine under pressure. It’s one thing to just do you a favor, but if there’s something real riding on this, I promise I won’t let you down.”
Rainbow Dash stared at her in silence, cheeks coloring.
A few raindrops splashed against Sunset’s face, and she sighed. “Guess we wasted too much time talking. Let’s hurry to your place before it gets worse.”
Sunset stepped out of the bathroom, dressed in a tight fitting pair of Rainbow Dash’s pajamas, her hair still damp from the shower.
“Well, I feel a million times better,” Sunset called out. She crept through Rainbow Dash’s apartment, past empty takeout boxes and piles of dirty laundry. “Although I know I’m going to feel it in the morning.”
Rainbow Dash looked up as Sunset entered her bedroom and grinned. The old TV had a soccer match playing on it, the announcer barking something in a language Sunset didn’t recognize. “You’re just going to have to fight through the pain. I’m sure you could use the exercise anyway.”
Sunset tensed up and flexed her arm towards Rainbow Dash, then winced in pain and collapsed onto the bed instead. “I take good care of myself, you know. Farm work with Applejack, dancing with Rarity; if I can handle them, I can handle you.
“There’s a big difference between farm work and sports,” Rainbow Dash said. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, Applejack is strong and has some good legs on her, but she doesn’t have the reflexes or the head for a team sport. That’s why I asked you and not her.”
“I’m not disagreeing.” Sunset rolled off the bed, then propped herself up on the carpet and tried to make out what was happening on the low resolution TV. “So what’s the deal here?”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes lit up. “Alright, so pay real close attention to what these guys are doing right here. This formation, the way they keep passing the ball? They’re doing it to psych out the goalie, keep him guessing on where they’re gonna take the shot from. Will the defense be able to get the ball back, or is he going to have to block it? Look, they passed it again. And he takes the kick! Gooooooooooaaaaaaaaal!”
Sunset burst out laughing at Rainbow Dash’s outburst.
Rainbow Dash quieted down, turning to glower at Sunset. “What?”
“Nothing,” Sunset said, still trying to stifle a few giggles. “You’re just really enthusiastic about this. It reminds me of Twilight when she talks about a new book or something.”
Sunset smiled. “Relax, Dash, I’m not judging you or anything. This stuff is probably super important. I should be taking notes.”
“Whatever,” Rainbow Dash said with a huff. Before their conversation could continue, the doorbell rang. “Sweet, pizza’s here.”
When Rainbow Dash left to grab the food, Sunset took the chance to pull her notebook out of her bag, and she began the messy process of studying the game. She’d never paid too much attention to human sports in the past, but she knew that they tended to attract rather large followings, and that there was a depth in every level of play that she was just barely scratching the surface of.
Still. Sunset Shimmer was no slouch to doing research, and she wasn’t going to half-ass it.
“Hey, Sunset, you still awake?” Rainbow Dash asked.
“Mmmhmm,” Sunset mumbled. The two of them lay side by side in darkness. The bed really wasn’t big enough for the both of them, but the floor was hard and uncomfortable, so they made do.
“How come you want to go on a date with Fluttershy?”
Sunset opened her eyes, and let out a sigh. “I dunno. Because I like her, I guess. Do I really need more of a reason than that?”
The bed rustled beside her and Rainbow Dash sat up. Her pink eyes shone in the darkness. “You like all of us, don't you? So why Fluttershy? Is she just your type?”
“To the extent that I have a type, sure.” Sunset shrugged. “You have to admit, she’s super cute.”
Rainbow Dash bit her lip, and she wrung her hands into the bedsheets. “Do you even know if she's into girls?”
“Oh, right.” Sunset sat up as well, and they took up cross legged positions across from each other. “Bisexuality is a lot more common in Equestria, so I forget it's an issue here sometimes. Look, it’s really just a minor crush. Not something really worth rocking the friendship boat over, but you said you’d owe me, and I thought about how you’re Fluttershy’s best friend, and I guess I just kind of spat it out.”
Rainbow Dash winced. “Well, whatever. You do you, I guess. Me, I’m looking for someone who can keep up with me, and is just as awesome as I am.”
“Not a particularly plentiful pool of prospective paramours,” Sunset said with a grin. “Have you found anyone up to snuff? Rarity is similarly picky you know, and it’s not doing her any favors.”
Rainbow Dash coughed. “There’s… nobody like that, no. But it’s not like I care.”
“It’s just high school, don’t worry about it.” Sunset cracked her knuckles, then leaned back against the headboard. “I had a few casual relationships back in Equestria. Of course, I was just as much of a shithead back then, so they were just as superficial as my time with Flash. Who knows. Just because I’m a better person now doesn’t mean I’ll make a good girlfriend.”
Rainbow Dash snorted, and shook her head. “A guy asked Fluttershy to prom once, and she just stood there, staring blankly at the wall until he left. I’ve never even seen her show any interest in anyone, so I couldn’t even tell you how she swings, but… if anyone would make a good partner for Fluttershy, it’d be you.”
“Well, it’s probably worth a shot.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow Dash muttered and rubbed at her temples. “Look, if it’s really something you want, I can talk to her and see if she’s open to the idea. But the rest is on you, okay? You know more than anyone just how fragile Fluttershy is. I don't want to see either of you get hurt.”
Sunset smiled and put a hand on Rainbow Dash’s shoulder. “Thanks. You're a good friend.”
Rainbow Dash blushed and turned away. She gave Sunset a weak smile, but it quickly faded. “No problem. That's what friends are for, right? I'm… gonna go back to sleep.”
“Hey, ho, let's go! Wondercolts united together!”
Sunset sat in the back of the bus as the rest of the team cheered and chanted, getting themselves psyched up for the game that was only a few hours away now. She didn't know the rest of the team that well, but she admired their spirit.
“Not one for chanting, huh?” Rainbow Dash flopped down in the seat next to Sunset. The dark brown pleather squeaked under her weight.
Sunset gave a weak smile. “Just trying to focus, going over everything I've practiced in my head.”
True to her word, Spitfire had been a brutal taskmaster. But Sunset had learned more about soccer in four days of sweat and blood than she had during her previous four years in the human world. Her body ached all over, but she felt ready.
“What do you do when you get nervous before something like this?” Sunset asked, looking up.
Rainbow Dash scoffed. “Please, as if I even need to worry.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Come on, Dash. I've seen you freak out and get stage fright before. But when the lights hit you, you always manage to shine. We're friends; you don't have to put up the tough girl front.”
“Yeah, well…” Rainbow Dash sighed, then glanced at the rest of the team. She leaned in close to whisper, “Alright, look. Maybe I've gotten a little up in my own head from time to time. But then I just remember how awesome I am, and I'm good to go. And maybe I also know that I've got girls like you backing me up.”
Sunset giggled. “Good point. All about the team, right? And the rest of our friends will be in the stands, cheering as loud as they can.”
“As quiet as she is sometimes, Fluttershy can be freaking loud when she gets excited about something.” Rainbow Dash laughed, then gave a wicked grin. “If you start dating her, I'm sure you'll find out first hand just how loud she can…”
Rainbow Dash trailed off, her cheeks coloring and her grin twisting into a scowl. “Whatever. Point is, we've got this.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. She was no stranger to Rainbow Dash making lewd jokes, but a hanging punchline was a rare occurrence. She decided not to push further, and just accepted the subject change. “Go Wondercolts, right?”
Sunset, for lack of a better term, was in the zone.
Cameras flashed and fans screamed but all she felt was a buzz, a tingle in her veins. The game had her attention on lock, her awareness hyper focused on the net. It was hers, and she knew where she had to be at any given moment to defend it.
The enemy striker charged across the field. She had already managed to sneak a goal past Sunset during the second quarter. The score was one to one, the clock was counting down, and Sunset suspected the striker wasn't particularly keen on the idea of overtime.
Sunset had no intention of letting her get what she wanted.
The striker closed in, ducking and weaving past Sunset’s defenders. This close, she could see her face, see the look of smug challenge towards a newbie goalie.
She kicked the ball.
Sunset moved with perfect timing, diving to the left. This way, she could block it and pass it over to another teammate.
The world slowed down. Sunset found herself in that perfect moment of absolute clarity. Not only was she going to block the ball, but she could win the game right here and now.
The other team had pulled their defenders in too close. Both of Sunset’s strikers were in the perfect position to make a goal. Rainbow Dash was wide open and waiting.
But so was Fleetfoot, and Sunset was at a better angle to pass to her.
Sunset twisted, practically upside down, and delivered a tremendous kick to the ball before gravity remembered she was there, and she landed in an undignified heap.
Her body screamed in protest. But even from her awkward angle she watched as the ball soared halfway across the field.
Fleetfoot met the ball with her head, chased it for a second-and-a-half, then kicked. The ball flew past the stunned goalie, and the horn sounded the end of the game.
The crowd roared, their voices shaking Sunset’s very being. The announcers screamed unintelligibly, their excitement destroying their clarity.
Sunset supposed that from the outside, it must have looked absolutely incredible.
All she could do was lie on the grass and laugh.
“Way to go, Sunset!”
“Seriously, girl, you were amazing out there! It was just like a movie!”
Spitfire grinned, then raised a red plastic cup in salute. “I knew you had it in you, kid. I’m proud of you.”
Sunset snorted and rolled her eyes. “Is that a quote from something?”
“Probably. I don’t remember.” Spitfire grinned, her eyes a little unfocused. “But seriously, if you have any interest, we’d love to have you for the finals in a month.”
“I’m glad to help, but I don’t think soccer is really my life’s calling,” Sunset said, smiling politely. “Still, I’ll think about it.” She glanced around the hotel suite, the rest of the team all drunk on victory, chittering and chattering about that amazing last second play.
Sunset glanced over at a trio of girls, hunched over their phones. The roar of an audience blared from the tinny speakers. Their stunt had already made it to the internet, and would probably go viral soon if it hadn’t already.
“I think I need some fresh air,” Sunset muttered.
She made her way out into the hallway, then out onto an outdoor stairwell leading to the first floor of the hotel.
“I thought I’d find you out here.” Sunset leaned against the railing. “What’s up?”
Rainbow Dash grunted and continued to stare off into the streets below.
Sunset tracked Rainbow Dash’s gaze towards an empty street. “I feel like I've been doing a lot of musing on balconies lately. They just feel right for it, you know?” When her lame quip didn’t even crack so much as a smile, Sunset frowned, turning to face Rainbow Dash proper. “What, nothing? Dash, are you feeling okay? You’ve been quiet ever since we won. Wasn’t all of this the whole point?”
Rainbow Dash was silent for maybe twenty seconds longer before she finally growled, “You cheated.”
Sunset blinked. “I what now?”
“That shot.” Rainbow Dash turned, her knuckles white against the railing. “There’s no way you could’ve pulled that off on your own. You’re a complete newbie to this, and you used Equestrian magic to cheat.”
“That's ridiculous.” Sunset crossed her arms over her chest. “I didn't use any magic.” Did she? She hadn't felt the surge of Equestrian energy, but it was an almost impossible maneuver, and in the video it almost seemed superhuman.
Rainbow Dash clenched her teeth. “So what then? You're just that awesome, after four days of practice?”
A cool breeze picked up, blowing strands of Sunset’s hair into her face. She sighed. “I guess I'm a quick learner? I don't know what you want from me, Dash. You asked me to be your ringer. I did the best job I could. I suppose I got lucky at the end there, but we still won. Isn't that what matters?”
“What I want is—” Rainbow Dash blinked, then took a step back. She turned back around and went back to staring over the balcony. “It doesn't matter what I want now. You're the team hero. You and Fleetfoot can go celebrate your amazing victory together. Just leave me out of it.”
Sunset rested a hand on her hip and raised an eyebrow. “Is that what this is? You're mad because I passed the ball to Fleetfoot instead of you? It’s a team sport, Dash. I thought you learned your lesson about wanting to hog the spotlight back during the Battle of the Bands. I made a split second tactical decision and it worked out in the end. I'm sorry I ruined your moment of glory.”
“That's not—” Rainbow Dash cursed under her breath, then spat off the balcony. “‘Learned my lesson.’ You sound like my freaking stepmom. Maybe I am pissed because you didn't pick me. I was perfectly happy moping out here on my own. I'm not a kid. I don't need your friendship lessons to make me feel better.”
The hairs on the back of Sunset’s neck bristled and she tensed up in anticipation of a real argument. Instead, she forced herself to take a deep breath. Rainbow Dash was clearly hurting, and a lecture wouldn't help right now.
“I'm sorry,” Sunset said. She took a step back. “I’m being too presumptuous. If you want to talk, I'm here for you. You can tell me your problems. If you want your space, I'll go.”
Silence passed between them, marred only by the rustling breeze and the screeching cicadas in the distance.
Sunset turned to go.
“You want to know what my problem is?” Rainbow Dash asked, her voice low. She spun, her face red and her eyes glistening. “My problem is you!”
“You're too fucking perfect!” Rainbow Dash took a step forward and grabbed the corners of Sunset’s jacket. “Yeah sure, I’m great at soccer. I've been playing it since elementary school. But here you are, four days of practice and you’re already a master goalie. Yeah, sure, I can shred like a beast. But oh hey look, you can match my guitar skills any day of the week. What else do I got?” Rainbow Dash kept advancing until she pushed Sunset against the wall. “I’m a complete dumbass, but you’re nearly as smart as Twilight! I’m pretty okay with people, I guess, but you were able to take over the whole school back when you were a bitch, and now that you’re not, everyone loves you. I’m hot, sure, but you’re practically on fire! And not to mention the whole part where you’re a magical heroine horse-wizard who’s saved the world twice over! How the hell can I ever compete against that? And even then, I still…”
Rainbow Dash trailed off, her words failing her as her eyes burned holes into Sunset’s.
Sunset hung motionless, pressed against the wall and overwhelmed by the sudden rant. “Rainbow Dash, that’s not true, I… Is that really how you think of me?”
Rainbow Dash wilted and pulled back. Her hands clenched into fists, and she trembled, staring at the ground. “It was easier when you were just a bully.”
Without another word, Rainbow Dash turned and stomped down the stairs.
Sunset watched her go. She wanted to call after Rainbow Dash, to stop her, to apologize. But for what? What words would really make her feel better?
“Dammit,” Sunset muttered. All she could do was wait. Rainbow Dash would cool down over time, as long as she was given her space.
Space was one thing, but wasn’t this a little too far?
Sunset sat down at the cafeteria table, only for Rainbow Dash to get up and leave without saying a word. It had been, what, a week already?
Applejack clicked her tongue. “That girl sure knows how to throw a temper tantrum.”
“Tell me about it,” Sunset muttered. “I just want to make things right. I know she’s hurting, but there's more to it than she's saying, and how am I supposed to help her if she won’t even talk to me?”
“I’m not sure if she understands herself.” Applejack bit into an apple, chewed, and swallowed. “She ain’t exactly talking to us about it either Still, I figure things will work out eventually.”
Sunset sighed again, resting her hand on her chin. “Uh-huh. Doesn’t make it any easier for me in the meantime.
Applejack took another bite, then snapped her fingers and pulled something out of her pocket. “Oh, right, almost forgot. I was supposed to give you this” She handed a yellow sticky note to Sunset.
“Meet me in the music room after class.”
“Is this from Rainbow Dash?” Sunset asked. “It doesn’t look like her handwriting.”
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Just go see for yourself.”
Sunset shrugged, then stuffed the note into her pocket.
“Hello? Dash, are you in here?” Sunset pushed open the door to the music room. Fading sunlight filtered through the blinds, capturing motes of dust that floated around their enshrined instruments.
She heard a rustle of movement from the back corner and rounded a shelf to find Fluttershy standing up and putting a book away.
“Oh, hi, Sunset.” Fluttershy brushed off her skirt, her face creeping into a blush. “I’m surprised you really came.”
Sunset blinked. Fluttershy was always a sight for sore eyes, but… “Hey. Can’t say I was expecting you. You have my number; is a note like that really necessary?”
Fluttershy’s blush deepened, and she lowered her eyes. “Well, I’m not entirely sure how these things are supposed to work… but Rainbow Dash told me you wanted to talk to me about, um… something.”
“Wait.” Sunset’s mouth fell open. “Rainbow Dash actually followed through with that? Even after everything? What exactly did she tell you I wanted with you?”
Fluttershy swallowed, and hid even further behind her hair. ”That you thought I was cute, and wanted to date me. Um, I’m really flattered, Sunset, but I don’t know if I’m really the kind of girl that can make you happy.”
Sunset rubbed at her eyes. Well, Rainbow Dash was nothing if not loyal.
This was Sunset’s chance. All she had to do was put on a little charm. Fluttershy was such a sweet girl, and Sunset had always been touched by the kindness she had shown to her, even after all the brutal torments Sunset had put her through in the past.
“Come on, Fluttershy, don’t sell yourself short,” Sunset said, taking Fluttershy’s hand in her own. “You already make me happy as a friend. I’m just hoping to…” She trailed off, the right words suddenly missing from her mind.
“Sunset? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, I…” Sunset took a step backward, then collapsed onto a nearby chair and buried her head in her hands. “Ugh, I’m sorry. I had a whole thing for this planned out but… I can’t focus. I’m too worried about Rainbow Dash.”
Fluttershy’s embarrassment fled and she placed a hand on Sunset’s shoulder. “You really care about her, huh?”
Sunset shook her head. “You’ve been her best friend since forever. Is she… does she hate me?”
“She did, once.” Fluttershy tightened her grip, and whispered, “Um, so did I. Not anymore, of course. But Rainbow Dash tries to do everything big, and when she hated you, she hated you a lot.”
“So what then, she’s still holding onto that?” Sunset asked, biting her lip.
Fluttershy rubbed at her chin. “I don’t think so. It's complicated? When you first changed, she really didn’t know what to think, but once you proved yourself, I think she started to admire you, to see you as someone she could stand both beside and against. A friend and a rival. And, maybe she…”
Fluttershy moved in front of Sunset, then took both of her hands and smiled. “Well, maybe I shouldn’t be saying this, but if Rainbow Dash has a tendency to overdo things, and she used to hate you, then, well…”
Sunset blinked, then her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open. “Oh.”
Fluttershy giggled, then backed away. “Like I said: I don’t think I’m the girl for you, Sunset.”
Sunset’s heart pounded. She stood up and took a deep breath, clenching her fists. “Thanks, Fluttershy. I think I know what I have to do now.”
Sunset stood outside the door to Rainbow Dash’s apartment and knocked. Judging by the melodic guitar she could hear coming from inside, it was probably a futile gesture. Luckily, Sunset came prepared.
The music tripled in volume once the door opened, but Sunset pushed her way inside, hands over her ears. The song sounded rough, but catchy. Probably something new Rainbow Dash planned to add to her playlist.
Sunset made her way through the kitchen. A stack of dirty dishes had built up in the sink since the last time she was here, but it was hardly unmanageable.
Rainbow Dash slid into the room, shredding out a rather intense guitar solo. She wore little more than her underwear, a loose collared shirt, and socks.
It was an impressive performance, and a rather striking look, though Sunset felt like she had seen something similar on TV once.
Rainbow Dash fell to her knees. Her music flew faster and faster, reaching its climax. She happened to glance up, and her eyes met Sunset’s.
The music died in the air. A blush slowly crept up Rainbow Dash’s face, her eyes wide.
“Hey,” Sunset said. She casually leaned against the kitchen counter. “That was pretty good. I'm looking forward to hearing the full version. Do you have lyrics yet?”
Rainbow Dash pulled herself to her feet and unslung her guitar. She rather pointedly avoided making any eye contact. “No, I don't have any lyrics yet. This one is… personal. Look, why are you here? And for that matter, how? I'm pretty sure I locked the door.”
Sunset held up a key. A little butterfly charm dangled from the chain. “We were worried, and I wanted to check up on you, so Fluttershy gave me her spare key.
“Of course she did,” Rainbow Dash grumbled. She rubbed at the bridge of her nose, then sighed. “Well, as you can see, I’m fine.” She tightened her shirt around her chest, then turned and made her way over to the fridge.
“Your guitar skills are still pretty top notch.” Sunset smiled, but it quickly faded. She took a deep breath. “I’m glad you’re doing alright. I’m not.”
Rainbow Dash’s head snapped back. “Huh? What do you mean? What’s wrong?”
Sunset drummed her fingers on the counter. This was going to sound so cheesy, but she had to try. “Well, I just won a soccer game. It was pretty awesome, but now I don’t have one of my best friends around to celebrate with me. I miss her a bunch.”
“Oh.” The tension in Rainbow Dash deflated, and she turned back to the fridge. “Want something to drink?”
“Whatever you’ve got is fine.”
Rainbow Dash passed her a bottle of Coke, and they stood on opposite ends of the kitchen table.
Sunset sipped her drink and waited.
Rainbow Dash sighed. “I’m sorry, okay? I wasn’t feeling good and I… kind of freaked out on you a little.”
“I’m sorry too.” Sunset set her bottle down and held Rainbow Dash’s gaze. “I mean, well. I’m not apologizing for being awesome. I know you wouldn’t. But I am apologizing for not noticing that something was bothering you sooner.”
“Well, you’ve got that right.” Rainbow Dash grinned weakly. “I am awesome, and I won’t apologize for it either. But…” She sipped at her drink some more, then shook her head. “It feels like you’re on another level than me, you know?”
Sunset walked around the table and put a hand on Rainbow Dash’s shoulder. “I’m good at a lot of things, I know that. It’s natural talent. People called me a prodigy. I let it go to my head, and it turned me into a monster. But… while I’m good at stuff, most of it doesn’t matter to me. The way you approach music and sports, your passions… I’m a little jealous myself. Those are things that define you. That drive to improve yourself, to be the best? I don’t have any of that. And, well, you know the old saying. ‘Jack of all trades, but the master of none.’”
Rainbow Dash pursed her lips together. She glanced down at Sunset’s hand on her shoulder, and her cheeks colored a little. “Okay, yeah yeah, I get it. Like I said, I’m sorry for freaking out. There’s room for both of us to be awesome. We cool?”
“We cool.” They bumped fists, then Sunset turned her attention back to her drink.
They drank in silence until Rainbow Dash finished. She tossed the bottle into the trash, then cleared her throat. “So, uh, are you and Fluttershy an item now?”
Sunset smirked. Once again, Rainbow Dash was trying her best to avoid eye contact. It was kind of cute. “Nah. We talked it out and realized it just wasn't meant to be,” Sunset said.
“Wait, what?” Rainbow Dash spun around, her jaw to the floor. “Why? I thought for sure that you two would… I mean, that sucks. Sorry.”
“There's nothing to apologize for. I'm fine with it. Was always just an idle thought on my end anyway.” Sunset took a step forward. “Plus, there's an old pegasus proverb that comes to mind. ‘Don't buck the clouds on the horizon when it's raining on your house.’”
Rainbow Dash blinked. “What the heck does that mean?”
Sunset moved even closer, leaning in so their faces were only inches apart. “That maybe I'm looking for someone a little more awesome in my love life.”
The words hung in the air. It seemed to take awhile for Rainbow Dash to process them. Her face flickered with confusion, recognition, horror, embarrassment, and then finally…
Their lips met. For all of Rainbow Dash’s spark and fire, it was a surprisingly timid kiss.
Rainbow Dash pulled away, her breath shallow. “I'm never going to be cute like Fluttershy, you know.”
Sunset took both of Rainbow Dash’s hands in her own and smiled. “I know. And right now, I'm not asking to go out with Fluttershy. I'm asking to go out with you. I'd like to think that we make a pretty good team. If you'll have me, that is.”
“So what. That’s it? It’s that easy? I was freaking out for nothing?”
“Love can be complicated and dramatic and messy.” Sunset shrugged. “But quite frankly, I prefer it when it’s not. And hey, there’s still the finals game coming up. I’m sure there’s still a lot I have to learn.”
Rainbow Dash took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She squeezed Sunset’s hands, and when her eyes opened again they were full of the fire and passion of the Rainbow Dash Sunset knew and loved.
“This is going to be so awesome!”