Tick. Tick. Tick.
The clock always goes slower when you look at it, but Rainbow Dash didn't care. It was 2:27, just three minutes to freedom. The teacher was rambling on about the progress reports mailed out to everyone. Dry. Dull. Monotone. And sooooo boring!
It didn't help that the walls were painted beige, or only one of the three lines on each fluorescent light was on, or that the air conditioner had broken a month prior, or that there were a bunch of squiggly lines and letters on the front board that were supposed to be solving the quadratic formula or something, or that it was still only 2:27, come on!
Rainbow glanced to the front of the room where Twilight sat, fully rigid and bolt upright, deigning to take notes even though the lesson was officially over and the teacher was only talking about how everyone needs to study hard for the next month so they can do well on the exams. Thbbbpt. Exams are dumb.
It's finally 2:28. Two more minutes to the beautiful outdoors!
Rainbow thumped her head on her desk, turning her head slightly to try to make eye contact with Pinkie sitting immediately next to her. She was folding a little piece of paper in what seemed like random directions until suddenly the piece of paper looked like a little bird. She grinned and shoved the bird into her fluffy hair.
Rainbow turned her head to the other direction to Applejack, who was click-clacking away on her flip phone reserved solely for business. Must be real important if she's on it during school hours. AJ was a real stickler for school rules no matter how dumb they were. She used to be a fellow rebel like Rainbow when they constantly dress coded her for wearing her hat on school grounds. When Celestia became the new principal, however, and was significantly more relaxed on rules and such, Applejack started being more heavy on Rainbow when she broke the rules as long as they were ones that the farmer had no trouble following.
Hey, it isn't Rainbow's fault that she broke the trophy case while skateboarding through the halls, she wasn't the only one who tripped on the extension cord that day!
Still 2:28. Will this day ever END!?
Rainbow turned back forward to face the board, or what she could around the bulky frame of, well, Bulk. It looked like the teacher was writing something but it might as well have been in an alien language for all she could tell. Oh well, it wasn't really a big deal.
Her thoughts absentmindedly wandered to what the other girls were doing. Rarity and Fluttershy were in home economics, Sunset was in machine shop, Juniper went to work at the start of seventh period, and Starlight had gone back through the portal, because apparently there was some invasion going on or something in Equestria. Rainbow wished she was there, it sounded way more exciting than sitting in drudgery. Plus there was apparently another Rainbow Dash over there too. Double awesome!
Rainbow reached into her bag and grabbed her book, only to remember she'd finished it during history. She inaudibly groaned and thumped her head on her desk again. The incessant droning of the teacher practically bored holes into her ears and through her skull, embedding itself so deeply into her brain that she could literally taste the annoyance.
Another chance glance at the clock. 2:29? Yes! Only one more minute before these walls were nothing but a distant memory, forgotten for the two and a half glorious days that were the weekend, left behind in the caffeine and alcohol induced haze of blaring rock and roll in AJ's truck going way past the speed limit on the dusty country roads, pulse pounding action movies with a surround sound system so powerful it rattled the windows, and, oh yeah, there was Fluttershy's thing at the animal shelter in the morning on Sunday. Can't forget that.
Rainbow slung her messenger bag around her neck, slipped her feet out from under the desk, and made a mental beeline for the door as she stared at the second hand. She watched as it moved from the 6 to the 7, the 7 to the 8, and so on. When it was at the 10 she glanced at the teacher and accidentally made direct eye contact. He sighed before turning to make final remarks to the class.
3... 2... 1...
By the time the second hand had reached the 1, the only sign that Rainbow Dash was ever even there was the papers slowly fluttering to the ground. Pinkie and Applejack exchanged a look before shrugging and joining Twilight on a much more normal pace on their way out of the school.
You're such a beautiful fish
Floppin' on the summer sand
Lookin' for the wave you missed
When another one is close at hand
Rainbow was having trouble getting her dollar to actually go into the vending machine when she felt a gentle yet hearty thump on her back.
"Hey Rainbow!" cried a chipper voice.
"Hey Sunset," Rainbow responded. "Do you, uh... have any change?"
Sunset nodded, pulled her wallet out of her purse, and proceeded to deposit the proper coins. Rainbow pressed the neon green button labeled "Electric Fizz" and reached down to grab the bottle of liquid sugar out of the receptacle before she handed Sunset the useless bill.
"Thanks, man!" she cried before depressurizing the bottle. "Want any?"
Sunset simply waved her hand, rejecting the foreign chemicals, and merely watched as Rainbow shrugged and chugged. The last time Sunset had eaten anything that wasn't organic vegetables she was sick for an entire week. Living entirely on food fit for horses for your entire life doesn't exactly bode well for being suddenly deposited in a world where ponies didn't even talk.
Once the bottle was empty, Rainbow let out a satisfying "Aaahhh" before turning and shooting it at a nearby trash can as if it were a basketball and the garbage was a hoop and the cafeteria was a gymnasium and all the loud voices running into each other were all the screaming cheers of a loving crowd. It bounced once before spinning in the air and falling straight into the bag. Rainbow gave jazz hands and said "Ta-da!"
Sunset rolled her eyes and chuckled a little as she turned and walked to the parking lot. Rainbow jogged for a moment to catch up to her before falling into stride.
"So what'd I miss in shop?" She inquired. Rainbow hadn't been able to take it this year because she had to retake algebra for missing credits, unfortunately leaving Sunset alone in a class full of students who were still wary of her after the whole awkward turning-into-an-evil-demon-and-almost-killing-and-enslaving-everybody fiasco.
"We're just doing midterm reviews," Sunset replied with a shrug. "Nothing big."
Rainbow nodded. "Cool."
"How was math?"
"Ugh!" Rainbow cried in disgust. "It was horrible! I was so bored that I think I would honestly rather have been trapped in the magic mirror again, and there was literally NOTHING to do there."
"That bad, huh?"
"It's fine though, it's over now." Rainbow cracked her knuckles before resting her hands behind her head. "Time for a kick-ass weekend with some awesome ladies and even awesomer movies!"
Sunset smiled as she stuck her hands in her jacket pockets. They were heading down the hallway that lead to Rarity and Fluttershy's lockers, hoping to meet up with the duo on their way out to figure out transportation. There was no point in everybody driving their own vehicles, after all. Fuel economy and whatnot. Gas didn't grow on trees, you know? Although... Fluttershy's car did run on vegetable oil, so it technically doesn't grow on trees but- oh, you know what I mean.
Luckily the two were still chatting by the time Rainbow and Sunset approached. Rainbow stepped up behind Fluttershy and draped her arms over her friend's shoulders. "Sup Shy. Rarity."
Everyone exchanged hellos before Fluttershy turned around to give her oldest friend a proper hug. She had a few years of affection to catch up on, thanks to the Shimmer Schism. After they pulled away, the four walked to the school's rear doors towards the parking lot.
They weren't met with the trio they expected to.
"Hi sis!" Sweetie Belle cried. She was flanked on either side by Applebloom and Scootaloo, who gave a shy wave to Rainbow (who then returned it in kind). "Can I carry your bags for you?"
"Sure, Sweetie..." she said, placing her own messenger bag into her little sister's waiting arms. "But you're still not coming with us."
The beaming grin on Sweetie Belle's face melted along with her confident posture. She turned her face back up with the strongest puppydog eyes that she could muster. Everyone stared expectantly at Rarity, who looked at each and every single pair of eyes before she hesitatingly answered.
"Eh, worth a shot. See you later sis! Love you!"
"Love you too, Sweetie."
Fluttershy let out a small 'aaawww' as Rainbow let out a small 'gaaaay'. I'll give you two guesses as to which one Rarity glared at for a moment before the four began giggling amongst themselves as they walked outside.
Awaiting them in the parking lot was Applejack, who was still texting, Twilight, who was reading something, and Pinkie, who paused from blowing bubbles to wave at the incoming quartet.
"Y'all was in a real hurry, huh Rainbow?"
"Were." Twilight subconsciously uttered, unaware she'd even said it. She adjusted her glasses before slipping a bookmark into her book: Withering Widths, it was titled. "Are you as excited as the rest of us about this weekend's planned activities?"
"Heck yeah I am!" Rainbow cried, emphatically raising a fist in the air. "This is gonna be so awesome. Dibs on shotgun in AJ's truck!"
Nobody was particularly disappointed. The only ones who actually enjoyed riding in Applejack's car were Applejack herself and Rainbow Dash. It smelled like diesel fuel, rumbled hard enough to loosen any fillings in your teeth, and it either turned like a zeppelin with the lines cut, or like a pretzel stick being snapped, depending on how fast it was going, and the way Applejack drives it is very very fast. The music that the duo loved was also a few shades different than what the rest enjoyed, and it was enjoyed at a much higher volume than everybody was comfortable with. Although, to their great surprise Starlight Glimmer had really liked it too.
"Dibs on the backseat in AJ's truck!" cried Pinkie, much to everybody's shock. Then again, after thinking about it for a moment, everybody gave a collective shrug. It made sense if you didn't really think about it, like most of the energetic girl's zany antics.
The four who weren't going with Applejack and Rainbow piled into Fluttershy's car, Rarity taking the passenger seat. Since Sunset had a motorcycle, Twilight used public transportation or her own legs, and Rarity adamantly refused to drive her own vehicle on any road that wasn't pavement, that left Fluttershy's little yellow 'vegan cruiser', as Rainbow put it.
When the timid girl turned her own key, the engine slowly began to hum. When the farmer turned her own key, however, the horrible grating screech of metal scraping metal was drowned by the engine roaring to life like a great mighty dragon of legend. If one was looking carefully, they'd have seen Fluttershy's car tilt slightly from the pressure differential.
"I'll see y'all at my house!" Applejack cried.
"WHAT!?" cried Rarity from the passenger seat of the significantly smaller car.
"I'LL SEE Y'ALL AT MY HOUSE!" Applejack screamed, hoping she could hear this time.
"I'm sorry darling, I can't hear you!" Rarity mouthed. Or maybe she spoke it, but Applejack couldn't hear. AJ rolled her eyes and tapped out a quick text to her fashionable friend on her personal phone. After a moment she saw Rarity check her phone, then gave a thumbs up and turned to speak to Fluttershy.
Applejack threw the gearshift into reverse, carefully backed out so as not to crush any unaware teenagers who spent their time laying down in parking lots. Once she was clear, she cranked the stick into first gear and stomped on the gas. Almost instantly she hit the clutch and shifted into second, continuing to apply throttle. She let her foot off the gas for a brief second as she turned onto the main road, before slamming down again and shifting into third. Soon enough she found herself cruising comfortably in fourth gear.
It was when she ceased acceleration that the engine became quiet enough (or at least not as loud) to let the two girls in the front seat hear Pinkie yelling "Whee!" at the top of her lungs with her arms in the air.
She's going away, she's going away,
what's wrong with my life today?
Rainbow's mp3 player sat on the dashboard, hooked on the auxiliary cord that lead into the truck's tape deck. She and Applejack were howling on to the incredibly high-volume music of some indeterminable genre. If in the backseat Pinkie had deigned to call it something it would be rock and roll but louder and way angrier. Broken glass in a blender? A definite departure to the type of music they themselves played.
Whereas Pinkie had a bit of trouble figuring out what it was the clearly troubled about something or another singer was saying, the girls in the front seats seemed to know every single word and were even harmonizing together. Applejack's right forefinger tapped rhythmically on the steering wheel as the fingers on her left hand seemed to dance in a very specific pattern that only made sense to herself. Rainbow had her feet up on the dashboard and was doing a lot more accurate of an air guitar than most non-musicians would attempt. Pinkie felt her foot tapping in line with the thump-thump of the bass drum and her hands tapping on her thighs with the clicks of the snare and the crashes of the various types of cymbals.
It was loud, fast, and chaotic, but there was a method to the madness.
Eventually the song ended and another one was about to begin. However, after Applejack turned into a familiar street, Rainbow paused the music and brought her legs back down to a normal position.
"Takin' a shortcut, AJ?" she asked, curiously. "Because I'm pretty sure you just turned west... and your house is to the east."
Applejack raised her brow and met Rainbow's eyes. "Y'all stayed the night at my house yesterday, remember?" she said. "We got progress reports in the mail this mornin' so I'm rollin' by your house so y'all can pick it up."
Rainbow's eyes darted back and forth and she sat up in the seat. This wasn't the plan! This weekend was supposed to get AWAY from the evils of public education! And then she remembered.
Twilight- the one from this world- thought it would be a cool idea for everyone to unveil their grades to one another before the party proper started. She would have been a nervous wreck constantly thinking and worrying about whether she had her perfect 4.0 or not, and having a nervous Twilight around typically didn't ever end well for anybody involved. Rainbow reluctantly agreed, loosely throwing together a plan to spare the public humiliation of reading off her own grades to everybody else. Unfortunately she'd forgotten about it until now.
"I mean, you don't have to do that!" Rainbow exclaimed, hoping to convey the message 'please don't do this to me' without actually saying it.
"I know." Applejack retorted, promptly. "But I wanna do it. Yer my friend, Dash, and I ain't gonna letcha miss out."
Rainbow began chewing on her lip. Applejack glanced over and read her nervousness.
"If yer worried about gettin' embarrassed by Twilight's As, I'm gonna be there too and we all know how much trouble I have with school."
Applejack had trouble reading. She could read books just fine if she had a piece of paper and slowly went down a line at a time, it was just when it came to nonlinear stuff like math. The lines and stuff all just sorta squiggled together, so she had to write formulas and such in very specific ways for her to be able to go back and read it. But even with all of the setbacks, she still always managed to get flat Cs in at least every class.
"And we're not gonna be a bunch of big ol' meanypantses about it!" Pinkie chipped in from the back. "We're your friends, Dashie!"
Rainbow turned her head to face the window, down the street of her childhood home. Up ahead in the distance she saw it: her family's mailbox. Sky blue with white trim. "The Hotfoot Residence" it said.
The gears in Rainbow's head began to spin, panic setting in and churning her mind into overdrive.
"My parents probably already took it in and framed it by now," she said, with a fake air of calm that only she herself could see through. "You guys know what they're like. We might as well just go ahead and turn around now, we don't want Fluttershy to beat us there!"
A bark of laughter from Applejack cut her off at the mention of Fluttershy. "Yeah, okay Dash," she said sarcastically. "I'm real sure Fluttershy's gonna break the speed limit as much as I did an' get to my house before I do."
"And aren't your mom and dad out of town, Dashie?" Pinkie asked after Applejack's laughter faded. "It's probably still there so there's nothing to worry about!"
Rainbow cursed herself for letting that piece of information slip yesterday. She'd needed a place to keep her pet tortoise, Tank, during the weekend since otherwise he'd be alone for a couple days. Rainbow asked Pinkie if Tank and her toothless alligator Gummy could cohabitate for a little bit, and after a brief consult with both Fluttershy and Twilight to make sure it was biologically safe, they arranged to pay Pinkie's sister to feed both animals during the weekend.
Rainbow internally slapped herself for digging herself into this inescapable hole of inevitable despair. She glanced back at the mailbox, now too close to conceivably push off anymore. Applejack was braking.
"If it's there it's there, an' if it ain't it ain't," she said. "But it'd be a real bummer if y'all missed out just cuz we didn't check for ya!" Her smile conveyed nothing but friendly compassion but Rainbow still couldn't help but feel a pit in her stomach.
The truck had stopped, right in front of her house. True to form the driveway was empty, family station wagon gone from its usual spot. They'd left the decals for the Canterlot Wondercolts up though, proudly emblazoned on the living room window. Rainbow ground her teeth together as she gingerly reached out to the mailbox. She glared such fierce daggers into it that she hoped literal lasers would appear from her eyes and make the mailbox explode from sheer willpower. Unfortunately that was Pinkie's specialty; all she could do was run really fast.
That actually gave her an idea and she gently fingered the necklace hiding under her shirt...
"What, worried it's gonna bite ya?" Applejack asked as Rainbow hesitated.
No, she couldn't just run away from her problems. Besides, she was looking forward to this weekend since the last weekend, like five whole days. Maybe a brief period of shame and humiliation could be easily forgotten about and never mentioned again, right?
Rainbow opened the mailbox only to behold... it. The solitary piece of evil paper that was dead set on ruining her life. Or at least just the next two days. She slowly crept out to pick it up, grimacing as though it was drenched in acid or lava or Zephyr's equally as noxious body spray.
In the end it was just a piece of paper, and she pulled it out of its dark blue home. She stared at it for a moment, and she briefly contemplated tearing it up there and then, or throwing it into the storm drain, or crumpling it up into a ball and eating it. Instead, she folded it up and slipped it into her pants pocket before leaning back, defeated.
"By the way, is there anything y'all need from yer house fer the weekend?" she asked, blissfully unaware of the ideas rushing through her friend's head. "You've got clothes and stuff already but I just wanna make sure yer fine on the other fronts."
Rainbow nodded her head no. "It's all cool, I'm set."
"Cool," Applejack responded. "Odds are we ain't gonna be sober enough to drive back here for a while, so I'm just makin' sure."
Rainbow continued nodding, hearing Applejack's voice but not her words.
The envelope burned a hole in her jeans.
It doesn't matter if she dyes her hair
Or the color of the shoes she wears
She's the worst thing in this world
Applejack pulled into the gravel driveway leading up to her house. Listening to thrash and groove metal on the country roads distracted Rainbow entirely from the inevitable awkwardness that was sure to ensue. On the way she'd concocted another plan, this one fully foolproof.
She'd just distract everyone from the fact that she didn't read off her own grades! It was indestructible, incorruptible, clearly one of the greatest and most airtight of plans she'd ever concocted in her entire life!
Her mental self-pat on the back caused her to only catch the second half of Applejack's sentence.
"Huh?" She asked, still processing what she'd heard.
"I said I told ya Fluttershy woul-"
"Wouldn't beat us back here, yeah, I don't know what I was thinking there," she said, laughing only a little nervously. "Silly me, right?"
Applejack closed her mouth, slightly put off by Rainbow's... to quote Pinkie, her brief un-rainbow-ness. Speaking of Pinkie, she'd somehow ended up on the front porch, texting. The back doors didn't open. Weird.
'Damn it!' Rainbow cursed inwardly. 'I need to keep it cool if I have any chance of this weekend not blowing up in my face! Just chillax, Dash. Just. Chillax.'
Rainbow was awoken from her inner monologue by Applejack shutting the truck door with a mighty thwumpf, almost knocking the truck to its side before panicking and grabbing it before it turned all the way over. She gently set it back down, coming face to face with Rainbow who currently had one hand on her chest and the other on the roof.
"Sorry!" She said, sheepishly. "Must've accidentally hit my geode!"
"No shit!" Rainbow cried, still trying to regulate her heartbeat. "Why is it even on your key ring in the first place!? Wear a necklace like normal people!"
"Normal people don't have superpowers, dum-dum!"
DON'T CALL ME THAT
"I know you are!" Rainbow volleyed back. "But what am I?"
Applejack rolled her eyes. "Okay, Pinkie," she said before heading up to the house. When she stepped on the porch an excited barking began and she gave a fake gasp. "Is that my favowite Wynona???"
Rainbow unplugged her phone and slipped it back in her pocket. She craned her neck, feeling two of the vertebrates slide back into place with a satisfying *cra-ack!* before she hopped out of the car. Applejack had unlocked the door and been met with a face full of sloppy dog kisses. She and Pinkie were showering the furry little puppy with love and affection when Rainbow came up. At least, that's what Applejack called Wynona despite the fact that she was nearly Applebloom's age. Still, a puppy is a puppy no matter how old it is; that's what Fluttershy says, anyway.
Rainbow stepped past the duo and into the house proper. She wasn't a big dog person. Tortoises were cooler.
The house was build a hundred or so years ago, and definitely looked it. The amenities were all modern: the fridge, sink, oven, tv, and thankfully the showers. However, the musty furniture and the tacky wallpaper and the creaky floorboards and basically everything else was about as old as AJ's granny Smith. Maybe even older, hard as that is to imagine.
Rainbow logged into the internet on her phone and checked her messages. Her parents had sent her some embarrassing selfies while on their business trip, one of which was almost entirely covered by her mom's thumb. She lightly smiled and nodded at her parents' antics. Sometimes they were too much, but they were great parents. Her smile faltered. Then why is it so hard to ask them for help...?
She shook those thoughts out of her head. Now now. This was a sacred place. This was a place of a 65" flat screen decked out with every major video game console of the past five years and one of the highest end green-ray players on the market and the most intense surround sound system that money could buy. It was really cool of Applejack's brother to give her full unfettered access to it all: Mac had saved his cash for years saving up for all this stuff. You really make a lot of money doing private landscaping projects for the richest man in the entire county.
The rapid thumping of little feet came charging in, swooped around Rainbow's legs, and launched themselves onto the couch. Pinkie came in and followed suit. Then Applejack, delayed for a moment for stopping by the refrigerator, tossed Rainbow a bottle and cracked her own open.
"Drink up, Dash," Applejack promoted, tossing Pinkie her own bottle. "I think it's time for a little fun."
Rainbow grinned and opened her own before taking a long, satisfying swig. It burned, slow and sweet, and beckoned the tongue to taste more. Pure golden apple-y perfection.
By the time Fluttershy had arrived, the trio had downed two bottles each and were currently on water. They weren't getting smashed, they were getting buzzed. Besides, the cider is enjoyed for its taste, not its alcohol content. That's what the moonshine is for.
The girls shuffled in, giggling about one thing or another. Rainbow had already expected them before she heard or saw them, as they smelled very strongly of a bit of a special green surprise courtesy of Fluttershy's stoner friend, Tree Hugger. Fluttershy herself was leading the pack, stride confident as if she owned the place. Rarity had taken off her infinity scarf and the several accessories that tied her outfit together; Twilight had her arms wrapped firmly around Sunset's hips, and she was blushing heavily. Sunset was grinning and her eyes were unfocused. Clearly they had smoked at least a little bit on the way here.
"Applejack. Darling. I need empty calories and I need them now. Please and thank you." Rarity delivered, deadpan, while Twilight kissed Sunset on the cheek. Sunset didn't react, and Fluttershy had gone immediately into the bathroom without even asking Applejack if it was okay first.
Okay, so maybe it was a lotta bit.
Applejack gave Rarity a knowing nod and slipped into the other room. She came back out with a basket full of goodies: chips, cookies, crackers, candy bars, and fruity gummies: the communal partying snacks fund definitely got cracked into for this one. Rarity clapped her hands together and squealed in delight before asking "May I?" and reaching for the basket, grabbing it upon confirmation in the form of Applejack nodding.
The horde descended upon the basket and within minutes there was a box or bag of snacks everywhere within arms reach. On the tables, the chairs, the bookshelves, everywhere in the living room that wasn't in danger of making a mess on, near, or around the tv. Fluttershy, who had come out after food got spread amongst everywhere, sat next to Wynona (who was waiting patiently) and fed her a treat from her bag, and began scratching the dog's belly. The puppy wouldn't be getting into anything she didn't need that day as long as Mama Fluttershy was around with her magic bag of infinite treats.
Applejack opened a chest in the next room and pulled out a stack of blankets, setting them on the floor. She also collected the jackets, purses, and... a pair of pants??? Oh, good, Twilight was at least wearing gym shorts underneath; mandatory phys ed. Anyway, Applejack took everything and set them on Granny Smith's bed. She and Mac were on a business trip, and Applebloom was staying at Rarity and Sweetie Belle's parents' house, so it was fully empty for the whole day and most of tomorrow.
Pinkie had turned on the television and set up a music player; she settled on a nice mix of ambient electronica and trance music, which she knew the names of because of her friend Vinyl. The music was high enough that it could be heard, but still low enough that one wouldn't have to strain their voice to carry on a conversation. She then sat upside down on the corner of the couch, legs rested up against the back and head sitting over the edge, hair floofing to the floor.
Rarity was ravenously digging into a bag of thin wheat crackers, paying no heed to the crunches, lunges, and situps she would need to do at her next gym session in order to work it off. She didn't care about the plights of Future Rarity, and Future Rarity was currently cursing the sky. For the future. Or something. It makes more sense if you're high.
Twilight and Sunset were cuddling on the couch. Well... Twilight was cuddling Sunset, and Sunset was snoring. They both lay in blissful contentment, entirely unaware of the mess and the noise.
Rainbow simply sat back, observing. Applejack handed ciders to the new girls who were awake, and they gladly accepted. In exchange, Fluttershy handed Applejack a freshly-rolled blunt, "So you, Dashie and Pinkie don't feel lefted out," she said, hiccuping over the grammatical inconsistency. Now, she may have had a high tolerance for the herb, but the girl could not hold her liquor to save her life.
Applejack took a hit before passing it to Pinkie, who followed suit. The weed passed its way down the line, being rejected by Rarity, accepted by Twilight, and ignored by Sunset on account of she's asleep, and it found its way to Rainbow. She shrugged and took one hit before taking it over to Fluttershy. Rainbow decided to sit next to her oldest friend, and draped her arm over the no-longer-timid girl's shoulders. She reached into a box of mini chocolate chip cookies sitting on the coffee table in front of her, pulling a half dozen out, and sat back, slowly eating the cookies.
This is SO much better than school!
You pretend you're high
You pretend you're bored
You pretend you're anything
Just to be adored
"Come on, come on!"
"Hit the button!
"I'm trying, I'm trying!"
Pinkie gave Rainbow the controller, and a sheepish grin. Star Destroyer 8 may have had a better story and game engine, but Star Destroyer 7 clearly had the edge in controls for newcomers, especially if you were a filthy casual fan of Star Destroyer 5 (clearly the worst in the series) like Pinkie was.
After the shots, impromptu dance party, and drunken attempt at charades, the girls were all mostly sobered back up by now, but for a few differences. For example, Rarity was drinking her third (or fourth?) of what Applejack had called a redneck martini, which was gin and vermouth in a mason jar that used to hold olives. However, the fashionista certainly knew how to handle her alcohol and she didn't appear to have been inebriated in the slightest.
Pinkie had smoked a little bit to settle her restless legs (hmm, so maybe that's why her reaction time was so slow?), Twilight was drinking a shandy, and Sunset... was awake now. She and the rest were sober enough to not get chewed out by their respective parents if they appeared.
The seven girls were now sitting in a rough circle. Applejack was sitting in an armchair on the side wall, texting Juniper directions to her house for when she got off work just in case she'd want to come later (but she would most likely politely decline like she did last time). Fluttershy was sitting on the corner of the couch stroking a sleepy Wynona. Next to her were Sunset and Twilight, no longer embracing each other, and next to them on the far end was Rarity. Rainbow and Pinkie were of course at the television.
Sunset stretched her arms in the air, removing the excess tiredness from her body. "Okay," she said, nestling back into the couch. "I think I'm awake now."
"Thanks fer joinin' us, sleepin' beauty. Almost thought y'all was Rarity for a second."
"Were." Twilight cut in, absentmindedly checking her own phone.
"Ha, ha!" Rarity laughed with the sincerity of a bratty four year old who just got told to say sorry for not playing nice. "Maybe if you actually did sleep as much as Rainbow Dash or myself then you could possibly understand the benefits of being fully rested."
"Pretty sure I sleep more than you do though, Rare," Rainbow interjected. "Considering school."
"Oh!" Twilight cried, pocketing her phone. "That reminds me!" As she continued to speak, Rainbow's heart dropped through the floor. "We should read off our grades now that we're all awake and sober!" She looked down at the drink in her hands. "...ish."
"That sounds like a good idea," Sunset said, rolling her shoulders before she pulled the envelope out of her bra and shirt where it had been sitting the whole time. As she unfolded it, everyone else reached for their own and began to open them. Everyone... except for Rainbow Dash, who could feel the beads of sweat forming in her forehead. Quickly she wiped it away with the back of her hand, hoping that nobody noticed. They didn't.
"So, uh..." Twilight began, trying and failing to come off as nonchalant. "Who wants to go first?" She asked, attempting to be dismissive.
"Twi, do you wanna go fir-" Applejack began before she was cut off.
"Oh well I mean sure if you really want me to start then I can, it really isn't any big deal or anything... okay fine I'll do it!" She giggled gleefully as she tore into the envelope like it was the first present on Hearth's Warming morning.
Rainbow gave everyone a quick once over. They were all focused on Twilight. Soon their gazes would all be collectively be glued to her. This is bad, this is really bad!
Twilight's grin persisted as she unfolded the paper and scanned the document. Her smile faded slightly as she got about halfway down. "Oh..." she muttered, disheartened.
"What's up?" Sunset asked, suddenly concerned. She moved her head over, then put a hand to her mouth. "Oh no..." she said.
Rarity also leaned over to read, and Twilight leaned the paper over to her. Rarity looked at the paper and then at Twilight, frowned, and rested her hand comfortingly on Twilight's leg. Fluttershy and Applejack gave each other an uneasy glance before both getting up and walking towards Twilight.
She set the paper on the coffee table in front of her, now in full view of everyone. Morbid curiosity more than anything else is what drove Rainbow to look, and what she saw made her want to throw up.
Twilight had removed her glasses, and her face was hidden in her hands. The room had fallen silent sans only the bleep-bloop of the video game. Rainbow reached over and pressed the power button on the console since clearly it wouldn't be getting much more use for the time being. She had to try very hard to force herself not to roll her eyes at the spectacle before her, but they did anyway. But just a little bit.
Everyone was offering her condolences, sympathy, and affirmations that she could totally bring it up by the end of the semester. Oh Twilight you're so smart, oh Twilight you're such an academic, Twilight can do anything she puts her mind to! Rainbow felt physically sick, and her heart felt like it was going to tear its way out of her skin, pull her stomach out through the hole, tear it open, and begin suffocating her with it.
Twilight finally looked up, and brushed away the moisture that had welled up inside her eyes before putting her glasses back on. "I'm sorry, guys," she said, nervously glancing between the sympathetic faces of her friends. "I just... expected better of myself..."
"S'okay," Applejack said, hand on Twilight's shoulder. "Trust us when we say that we all know what disappointment feels like. But we'll be here to help out if y'all need a study buddy or somethin'." She reached into the cooler that had been brought in at some point earlier, for easier access to drinks. "But for the time bein' it's time for you to forget about school and get to partyin', whaddaya say?" she asked, offering a frosty vodka lemonade.
Twilight gave a small smile at this, and reached for the bottle. "Thanks Applejack. I guess you're right that it's not the time and place..." she took a long swig, before pulling the bottle away and inhaling strongly through her teeth. "That burns... and it's not like these are final grades anyway."
The conversation turned cheery again as another round of drinks got passed around but Rainbow's aura darkened considerably unbeknownst to everyone else.
Really? REALLY? Are you freaking serious? It's just a B, no need to be such a drama queen. You're not gonna die if you don't get a 4.0, Creator forbid you get a 3.9 instead! Oh no, what a nightmare! Are you gonna cry about it??? If you really are then I hope you do!
Rainbow shook her head of the toxic thoughts running through it. 'Twilight's my friend,' she chided herself. 'I shouldn't compare myself to her, I'll just be miserable if I do...'
"So who's up next?" Pinkie asked, before taking a sip of cola spiked with cinnamon whiskey. Everybody had returned to their previous seats, drinks in hand. "Are we still doing this thang?"
Sunset shared a glance with Twilight, who shrugged. She turned back to Pinkie and said "I don't see why not."
Sunset was the only girl drinking water: she was still new to alcohol and had a very low tolerance. Last time she had a single drink she got a hangover so bad that she literally went back through the mirror and begged Twilight (the other one) to magically seal it away. Unfortunately for her, no such spell existed, but she did get a poultice. It might as well have just been over the counter at the local pharmacy though, for all the good it did.
"Anybody wanna go next?" She continued, before picking up the envelope she'd placed on the table during Twilight's upset. "We could just go counter clockwise."
A round of affirmations from everybody besides Rainbow gave her the all clear, and she unfolded the paper. Clearing her throat, she read:
"B, A, C plus, B, B minus, A, and A minus." She paused to take a sip as Pinkie gave a cheer. "I can take the C in history since I've only lived here for a couple years, right?"
"History's dumb anyway," Applejack said with a shrug between drinks of a craft beer. She cocked her head to the side and adjusted her seat as she continued. "No point in knowing who did what if ya don't tell us the why."
"But darling, the finer points of history are important enough to suffer through the brutish aspects of it, no?" Rarity interjected, still on her 'martini'. "Surely if not culture then at least the economics and technology of olden times concern you?"
"Eh." the farmer bluntly replied.
"Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it," Twilight quoted, defensively at first but warming up as she spoke. "Or something like that. Although if we focus too much on events that happened in the past, we can lose sight of the present. We once believed the sun revolved around the earth, after all." At this Sunset's eyes darted suspiciously back and forth.
Applejack merely shrugged and took another drink. Rainbow couldn't help but feel the slightest twinge of envy, as it felt really hot in the room. She knew, though, that if she got up for another drink now she could be forced into the spotlight, and for once in her life, Rainbow wanted to avoid the attention at all costs.
Sunset's sooo smart. Sunset's sooo nice. Sunset's sooo perfect. She's so much better than you, and to think she was evil just a couple years ago. She's made leaps and bounds of progress. What have YOU made?
'Stop it.' Rainbow internally said to the smarmy niggling voice that resided in the back of her mind. 'I helped make a web of friendship for someone who had nobody else. I helped her to where she is now!'
"Regardless," Sunset said, having the floor again. "I think I did pretty well all in all. I'm not too disappointed. Fluttershy?"
Upon her name being called, Fluttershy looked up from the sleeping Wynona and set her wine glass down. "Should I go next?"
"If you want."
Fluttershy looked between Sunset, the envelope, and the rest of her friends (who each offered comforting smiles, Rainbow included), and then back the the envelope again. She took a large drink of her wine and ripped into the paper. Well, she opened it very gently, but with a zeal only her friends could tell existed. Upon reading the results she gave a half smile before looking back up at the rest of the girls.
"What's it say, Shy-Shy???" Pinkie asked, visibly impatient. She was practically vibrating on the floor.
"Well..." she began, nervous despite the liquid courage. "I um... got two Cs... four Bs... and an A."
"OH! EM! GEE!" Pinkie cried, suddenly standing. "You got an A!" She pulled a balloon out of her hair and began blowing it up. On it was printed 'Congratulations' in block letters. Fluttershy brushed her hair behind her ear, shyly.
The phrases "Yeehaw!", "Get it, filly!", "All right Fluttershy!", and "Oh darling, I'm so proud of you!" bled together in a singular exclamation of praise. Fluttershy's eyes avoided everybody who was yelling though, and found themselves on Rainbow's.
Rainbow nodded and gave her a supportive smile and a thumbs up. The smile didn't reach her eyes, but Fluttershy returned it and dared to look back at everybody else. The next few moments were a blur.
Wow. Good for Fluttershy. An A, isn't that lovely? Remember when you got As? Huh? That sure was a long time ago. Maybe if you bothered to pay attention one day a week-
Rainbow stood up, and walked to the cooler. 'Shut up!' she silently screamed. 'Fluttershy works hard, and she deserves this! I'm proud of her, so why the fuck cant you be too?' She pulled out a cherry vodka and tore the cap off with a bit more force than was necessary. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Rarity raise a brow at this, but didn't say anything.
"...don't really think that Home Ec counts though..." Fluttershy murmured, catching Rainbow's ear.
"Nonsense, Shy!" Applejack cried, dismissing her timid friend's deflection. "Only reason I didn't take it is 'cuz there wasn't nothin' else I coulda learned. Y'all got cookin', budgets, makin' clothes, an' all sorts a other stuff you'll need when yer older. Heck, between me an' my brother an' granny last week we probably did everything yer learnin' this year!"
"Well... I guess you have a point there."
"Sure as shootin'! Maybe one day you'll use this stuff when you settle down with a nice bo... uh, girl, sorry. But yeah."
Fluttershy gave a warm smile. "Thank you Applejack. We've studied a few things that I'll be using for when I get my sanctuary ideas up and running, so there's that too."
"You just let me know how we can do business when it gets to that point, and I'd love to be there to help every step o' the way."
"I appreciate that." both girls took a drink. "Would you like to go next?"
Applejack set down her now-empty bottle and cracked her knuckles. "Well I figure I should get it out of the way." She took the paper tucked in her hat and unceremoniously opened it. "Eh. Got a couple Cs and a D in algebra but the rest are low Bs. Still, passing's passing."
Twilight's eye twitched.
"Yay!" Pinkie cried. "No Fs!"
"Ha!" Applejack barked. "The day I get an F is the day I eat my hat and wear one of Rarity's favorite frilly little dresses." Rainbow grit her teeth.
"Oh no, darling!" Rarity cried, aghast. "None of my personal wardrobe would complement your features well at all! Haven't you paid attention to anything I've told you!? Your aesthetic is completely different!"
Applejack shrugged. "I wasn't actually gonna do it, Rares," she placated. "I know you're all for wearing stuff that flatters yer curves an' such but ain't nobody needs to see my curves except my future husband." She opened another beer before sitting back in the chair. "Besides, I ain't a genius but I ain't stupid, and I'm never gonna let things get so bad as to get Fs anyway."
Did you catch that? Huh?
"Stop it..." Rainbow growled under her breath. "You are really killing the mood today."
"Did you say something, Rainbow Dash?" Rarity asked, concerned. She placed her hand on Rainbow's thigh, which prompted her attention.
"Are you feeling well, Dash?" Rarity reiterated. "You've been acting strangely, are you sure you should be drinking more?"
"Oh..." Rainbow looked down at Rarity, then to Sunset and Fluttershy who also held their gazes. Twilight and Applejack were leaning towards each other and discussing something and Pinkie... was gone, presumably to the kitchen. "I'm fine." She took another large swig. "I'm probably just crossfading a little, or... something." She hoped the burn of the alcohol explained the rush of blood to her cheeks and didn't reveal she was lying.
"I'm worried is all," Rarity continued. "You don't usually act like this, drunk or stoned. Or both." She took one final sip of her own drink. "I'd hate to know that you weren't enjoying yourself."
"Yeah, are you sure everything's okay?" Sunset supplied. "You look like you'd rather be literally anywhere besides here with us."
"It's not that!" Rainbow cried. "It's just..." Thinking quickly she found her escape. "I came here to get away from school, you know?"
"Oh..." the girls chimed simultaneously. The gears in their heads started turning and Rainbow thought she was home free. Until...
"Well we're already over halfway done," Pinkie gleefully pointed out. "Me next, me next!"
"Yeah, Pinkie's got a point," Sunset indicated, shrugging. "It wouldn't really be fair to you three who haven't gone yet, you know?"
Rainbow shot Rarity a pleading glance, hoping and praying that she would say something argumentative, but alas.
"If you'd like then you can go next so you can tune out for a moment if it's really that boring," Rarity supplied, either ignoring or just not recognizing the look that said 'please do me a solid and spare me some major humiliation, Rares'. More likely the second option. "But I've been wanting to know my own grades as well. I'm sure that Twilight was looking forward to this unveiling as well."
"Do you wanna go next, Dashie?" Pinkie asked, innocent as can be. Creator damn your selflessness, Pinkie!
"No, that's cool..." Rainbow took another swig. "You can go on ahead of me." She contemplated chugging the rest but figured if would have been unfair to the rest of the girls if she did so.
"Okie doki loki!" She exclaimed before tearing open the envelope that she most definitely wasn't holding just a moment ago. Stars shined in her eyes as she beheld the letters she'd earned.
"Woohoo!" she exclaimed, jumping in the air as she did so. "I got straaaaaiiiiight Bs!"
A round of affirmations went around again and a cold sweat broke out on Rainbow's back.
I hope you're ready for the judging stares and the pointed fingers and the laughing you miserable failure. You pathetic idiotic child. Look how happy they all are. Twilight is doing amazingly well. Sunset is doing good. Fluttershy is improving markedly. Applejack is doing subpar but she's clearly doing a lot better than you ever will. And Pinkie? She's PINKIE for the Creator's sake!
'Shut up shut up shut up shut up SHUT UP!'
'They're not gonna do that, they aren't like the next class, they aren't mean and taunting and ruthless like they are, like you are! They're my friends and they're going to be fine and Pinkie is really really smart and they deserve this. Why can't you just see that and get out of my head!?'
"She's out of it. Go ahead and go, Rarity."
If that's so... if they're different. If they're ~nice~. If they won't be mean to you or treat you differently when they see how dumb you really are...
"All right then, I shall."
Then why is your heart beating so fast? Why are you sweating? Why are you so AFRAID?
"Well it seems I let my language arts slip. I had a dress order take up my time so my essay was a bit rushed. But still, a C on an otherwise clean spread of As and high Bs isn't the worst thing in the world."
Because you know they will.
"Are you with us, Rainbow?"
First Applejack will taunt you. Then Fluttershy will give you that pitiful stare she reserves for lost causes. Twilight will roll her eyes and go to her phone, making a snarky comment that she later won't remember having made. Sunset will raise her eyebrows and jeer, Pinkie will start laughing, and Rarity will start tsk'ing. You might as well do it now and get it over with.
A hand on her shoulder woke Dash from her reverie. Everybody in the room now had their eyes locked on her own. Even the dog. The bottle felt heavy in her grasp, palm sweat causing her to grip it tighter. The refrigerator started humming, and a bead of sweat dripped down her back.
Pinkie was holding Rainbow's paper in front of her face. She had apparently taken it out of Rainbow's pants pocket, somehow, but pondering the when and more importantly the why was the least of her concerns. This is it, the paper that ruins her life, her friendships.
With her free hand, Rainbow took the paper, trembling the whole way. Pulse racing, ears ringing, everything seemed to stop for a moment.
Pinkie must have asked if she should hold the bottle because Rainbow felt it leave her hand. Everybody's eyes were so loud, their gazes hot and piercing. Judging. They can tell, they already know, they're just waiting, circling like vultures, counting down the seconds until they could release the torrent of their jeering and insults. Finally a reason to make fun of Rainbow!
"Aren't you gonna open it, silly?"
Rainbow's hands disobeyed her as she carefully unwrapped the paper. 'Put it down!' she cried to no avail. 'Just book it and run! Now's your chance!'
The trifold page was now out in the open, and the envelope fell slowly to the ground. Wispy, graceful, elegant. Now laying upon the floor. The creamy paper was thick, and it couldn't be seen through by the light. Hands shaking almost uncontrollably. Every detail burning vividly, brightly. Someone's phone buzzed.
Crinkling paper, sliding against itself, becoming straight. Eight and a half by eleven. Educational jargon from a template laid over a simple grid, classes across from letters.
One F became a smudge; wet. Rainbow took in a shallow, shuddering breath as her vision distorted. Another drop fell. Then another. And another. Her body became racked with sobs as her hands clenched into fists, irreparably damaging the paper. Her jaw clenched and she hunched over.
Did you really think this could have gone any better? And now you're crying. The amazing Rainbow Dash is crying because she's failing all of her classes. Stupid girl.
She turned on her heel, dropping the page and covering her wet eyes with one forearm, reaching for her necklace with the other. She took a step before becoming a blur, leaving behind a gust of wind, a rainbow, an anguished cry, and six shocked friends.
Pinkie grabbed the paper out of the air and quickly scanned it. "...oh." She looked up at the rest of the girls who had stood up, sharing confused glances.
Pinkie opened her mouth as if to say something but closed it, looked back at the paper, and handed it to Sunset. She looked down, stared for a moment, and then slammed it down on the coffee table.
"Fluttershy, give me your keys!" Sunset cried, holding her hand out.
"Th... they're in my p-purse!" she said, having war flashbacks to evil Sunset.
Sunset was up and in the bedroom, and went directly to the pastel yellow bag. She stuck her hand in, rifled through the rodents, birds, and what she hoped was a gecko, looking for the keys. She found them and pulled them out, clamping them in her teeth before slipping on her jacket and shoes.
When she exited the door, she had her necklace in one hand and set the other on Fluttershy's bare shoulder. Her eyes began to glow while Fluttershy blushed. After a moment of this she pulled her hand away, grabbing the keys.
"Alright, Fluttershy, I need to use your car. You're all drunk and Rainbow is who knows where right now and we need to find her. I need you," she turned to each name as she pointed. "Twilight, and Rarity. Pinkie, Applejack, you two stay here in case she comes back."
Pinkie snapped a salute as the rest of the girls (sans AJ) gave each other uneasy looks before entering the bedroom, grabbing their things, and following Sunset out the door.
"Hold on," Applejack proclaimed. "What's goin' on?"
"I'll have Fluttershy text you," Sunset responded, opening the door for her recruited trio. "But right now Rainbow needs us. I saw how uncomfortable she was when it was her turn. I should have done or said something earlier but I didn't, and now she's hurt, bad. We'll be back!"
Sunset shut the door and left Applejack stunned and silent. She tried to put pieces together but her mind was too slow and sludgy to do so. She felt a tap on her shoulder so turned around to see Pinkie standing behind her. Upset.
"I didn't know Dashie was having problems like that," she said. "Am I... a bad friend?"
Applejack stepped forward and put her arms around her distant cousin. "Y'all are one o' the best friends any person could ever have, Pinkie." She stepped back and looked her in the eyes. "Y'all didn't even know there was a problem. T'ain't yer fault. None of us knew." Applejack kissed Pinkie on the forehead before pulling her head in to her chest, and began to stroke her hair. "So don't go beatin' yourself up over this. No feelin' guilty allowed, you hear me?"
Pinkie wrapped her arms around Applejack's waist before nodding.
"Good." she said. Then after a brief pause, "To getcher mind off it you wanna cuddle and play Star Destroyer 5?"
Disease's growing, it's epidemic
I'm scared that there ain't a cure
The world believes it and I'm going crazy
I cannot take any more
I'm so glad that I'll never fit in
That will never be me
Outcasts and girls with ambition
That's what I wanna see
"...and if you or any of your friends see her at all, please come find me and let me know, mister-" SQUAWK! "Oh my, I'm sorry, missus crow."
The bird nodded its head and flapped away, straight towards a power line with dozens of other birds perched upon it. After a brief moment, they all got up and flew in scattered directions.
Fluttershy let go of her necklace and then turned from looking back at the crows to glance at Sunset, who was driving at a speed that Fluttershy had never before felt while inside her own car. It was scary but the look on Sunset's face, the look of steely determination, eased any anxieties she had. Well, most of them.
"What'd he say?"
"Oh, um... well, she said she'd ask her friends to look and HURK-" Sunset jerked the car to the side to avoid a pothole. "And someone would come find me and let me know where Dashie was."
"That's good, thanks." Sunset said without turning away from the road. "Okay so now I need you to tell Applejack that I brought you to gather an avian search party and I brought those two," she addressed Rarity and Twilight by motioning her head. "To use their kinesis and barriers to maybe fly us over fields and see if we can find a trail. And then I need you to give me a list of some of Rainbow's favorite secluded places around town are."
Fluttershy tapped out the message and hit send before she turned to Sunset. "But Dashie doesn't have any favorite secluded places!"
Sunset huffed. "Of course she wouldn't. What about you?"
"What are some of your favorite quiet places?"
"Um... okay... there's this one clearing in the White Tail Woods that I like to go to-"
"Never mind, that doesn't help me."
"Well..." Twilight interjected into the dialogue. "Her parents aren't home right now."
Sunset glanced at Twilight in the rear view mirror before looking back at the road and smiling.
She grabbed Fluttershy's hand and then squealed the tires as she did a U turn and headed in the opposite direction. Fluttershy blushed and turned to face Twilight, who was biting her lip and staring at their interlocked hands. She turned away and back to Sunset, whose eyes were glowing again. After a minute of this, Sunset stopped, blinked, and let go of Fluttershy's hand.
"Sorry," she said. "It's faster than GPS if I just borrow directions from your memories."
"It's okay," Fluttershy said. "I know you wouldn't do anything evil or scary." Sunset smiled at this, which made Fluttershy smile as well.
"Sunset, darling," Rarity said from the back seat. "Where exactly are we going? I'm afraid I'm not quite sober enough to put things together."
"If I know Rainbow as well as I think I do, or as well as Fluttershy does- sorry, again- then she probably went home to cry in a place where no one can see her."
"But what would she be crying about?" Twilight asked. "She clearly doesn't care about school. And you guys probably didn't see her eyes rolling when you were all trying to comfort me over my grades."
"Rainbow cares about school," Fluttershy said. "She just has always had trouble focusing, so she acts aloof and pretends it doesn't bother her. It's a pride thing."
"But when it's a class she loves, like shop," Twilight said to Sunset, "Then she's always completely riveted! ... No pun intended."
"Shop is different, Twi," Sunset interjected. "That's less writing notes and taking tests than it is being given a goal and any way to accomplish it."
"Rainbow is better at finding her own way of doing things," Rarity added. "She hates doing things the way others want her to do them. Trust me, I've engaged in plenty of debates on how I should design clothes for her, and most compromises have been far more in her favor than in mine. She's stubborn like that but it isn't always a bad thing. She's just... different."
Twilight looked out the window, pondering this. She remembered her parents saying the same things to her old headmistress at Crystal Prep about herself. When she was given specific instruction on what to study, Twilight excelled. She'd written so many great research papers from strict rubrics, but none worth anything from open ended ones. She remembered all the nights she spent crying herself to sleep because not only her teachers but she herself were all dissatisfied with the work she submitted.
It was just lucky that her preferred method of study coincided so well with the preferred methods of teaching that everyone at Canterlot High used.
"I... suppose that makes sense," Twilight conceded. "I guess I was just being a little unfair."
"It's not a problem, Twi," Sunset said, winking at her in the rearview mirror. "You two are just different from the rest of us in your own ways, but that's why we all love both of you."
Twilight blushed and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear at this, before resuming her glance out the window.
Fluttershy looked between the three girls and broke the silence by turning on the radio. A bouncy bass groove accompanied by a horn section and an electric organ came out of the speakers; quietly, of course. She pulled out her phone before suddenly realizing she'd forgotten to keep Applejack posted. Quickly she tapped out a response that essentially apologized profusely and said they found out where Rainbow was. After a moment she got a reply in the form of a thumbs up emoticon. Strange. Applejack never used emoticons.
Eventually the car made it to Rainbow Dash's house. The evening sun was setting, yet all of the lights were out and there was no evidence that anybody was home. Sunset turned the car off and offered the keys to Fluttershy, who politely declined, asserting that she was still a bit tipsy and probably wouldn't be ready to drive for a while. There was still a chance that the house would be vacant, after all.
The four girls piled out of the car and Sunset headed straight to the front door. She tried the knob but it wouldn't budge. Behind her Fluttershy presented a key ring, and after finding the right one, unlocked the door.
Immediately inside the house was a landing; to the left lead downstairs, comprised of dark chocolate colored wood and had caramel shaded carpeting. To the right lead upstairs, with pure white paint on the walls and a cream saxony on the floor. Rarity's eyes were fixed on the colors and stylings of the house's interior as the other three, who had been inside before, headed up the stairs on the right. As they were halfway up, Rarity snapped out of her reverie and followed after them, but stopped again at the top and took in the surroundings.
To the left of the stairway was a long, dark hallway. Straight ahead was the kitchen, and to the right was the living room. It was fairly well furnished with a full couch and a recliner, and had a fairly large but not ridiculously so television set in front of a large window decorated in Wondercolts decals. Rarity would have stayed to observe longer but noticed she was alone in the room, and turned to follow the other girls down the hallway.
Fluttershy knocked on one of the doors, whispered "Dashie, are you in here?", and slowly opened it inwards. The curtains were drawn and the lights were all out, but the girls could faintly make out a shape, a human sized lump, in the blankets on the bed. A lump that was sniffling.
"Rainbow?" Fluttershy asked again, a little louder. No response. She looked back between the other girls, who nodded in affirmation. Fluttershy looked back towards the bed and stepped forward, tentatively reaching her hand out towards Rainbow's shoulder. Suddenly an arm shot out from under the blanket, and the music player being held up shined.
Rainbow's thumb started swiping, skipping past songs before hesitating. Then, she clicked the screen off and began to put her arm back down but she stopped and turned it a little. She gave a heavy sigh before turning it back on and pausing the music before taking her earphones out and tossing them near her feet.
"Hey." she croaked before sniffling again.
Fluttershy sat down on the bed next to Rainbow's back and set a hand on her friend's arm. Sunset sat facing Fluttershy near Rainbow's feet, and Twilight stood behind her. Rarity stayed at the doorway and began texting Applejack, telling her that they found Rainbow and she was safe.
"At least I'm not failing all of my classes," she said with the ghost of a laugh. "I only need one credit to stay on the soccer team." She started crying again, but she didn't have the strength to sob anymore. She tucked the blanket further around her shoulders. "So I'm not a complete failure."
"Oh Dashie," Fluttershy sobbed as she hugged Rainbow and bent her head in. "Why didn't you tell us you were having trouble?" She wiped her own eyes. "Why have you just been suffering in silence?"
Rainbow shrugged as best as she could underneath Fluttershy. "It's my problem, not yours."
Sunset placed her arm on the other side of Rainbow's legs, leaning over enough so they could see each other's eyes. "We're concerned for you, Dash." She said. "We care about your well being. We care about you."
Rainbow turned her head to look at Sunset better; behind her, Twilight was nodding. Rainbow turned her head back to where it was before and wiped her eyes.
Rainbow sat up, and Fluttershy rose with her. She looked between the girls and sighed.
"Sorry for freaking out, I guess..." she said. "I know you all know I'm dumb, but I was just worried about you guys finding out just how dumb."
"Rainbow Dash!" Twilight cried, authoritatively. "You. Are not. Dumb."
She crossed her arms and stepped forward to lean on the bed between Fluttershy and Sunset.
"So you don't care about school. Big deal. I don't care about sports but that doesn't mean that I'm weak and fragile, right?"
Rainbow looked up and leaned back slightly, a look of surprise frozen on her face, written right in the space between her eyebrows and upper lids.
"I'm good at taking tests. I'm good at writing essays and research papers. I can probably recite at least half of the periodic table by pure memory. But don't you remember the huge rift in time and space that happened because I thought I was smart enough to mess with magic?"
"That was pretty dumb of me to do, right?"
"Never mind, don't answer that," Twilight continued, uncrossing her arms and waving her hands in front of her face. "But it was incredibly stupid. You know what else is stupid? Getting emotional because I got an eighty nine percent in AP calculus, and so was getting offended when you rolled your eyes."
"So you saw that?"
"I would have assumed you did it even if I wasn't looking. Grades don't mean as much to you as they do to me because these grading systems are suited for the way I learn, not the way you learn." She adjusted her glasses and put her fists on her hips. "You're a voracious reader, you know more than I ever will about sports and movie trivia, and you're a musical genius. Just because you can't identify a prepositional phrase or factor out a quadratic equation or tell me the difference between the rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum doesn't mean that you're dumb."
Sunset put a finger up and contemplated for a second before speaking. "Yeah, we didn't exactly have biology back home in Equestria, so I can't do the last one either."
"One's got rye bow soams." Rainbow muttered.
The three girls snapped their eyes and attention to hers and she looked up, confused.
"What? You guys were studying it last fall when I was stretching before a track meet. I overheard you. Doesn't mean I know what a rye bow soam is."
"Wait," Twilight said. "You remember that from that long ago?"
Rainbow shrugged. "I guess. But what does it matter? I appreciate that you're trying to make me feel better and stuff but I'm still gonna fail all of my classes and have to go and do summer school again. Remembering a couple big words isn't gonna help me do anything besides read Daring Do without texting and asking you what something means every five minutes."
"That won't happen," Twilight said, pounding a fist into her open palm. "The, uh... the summer school, not the texting me all the time. Yearling has a pretty expansive vocabulary. But whatever, the point is that now that we know you're struggling we can all help you out!"
"No thanks," Rainbow responded, dismissively. "You guys all have your own studying to worry about. I'm just not cut out for school. Let's just go back to AJ's and pretend this all never happened, I'm starting to get a hangover or something. You don't have to worry about me, I'll be fine."
"It's not fine!" Fluttershy yelled. Well, she spoke at a normal volume, but that was very loud for her. "I won't be fine knowing that you're sad about your grades. I won't be able to focus because I'll just be thinking about what you're going through. You're important to me, Dashie; you're important to all of us. And if we all just pitch in a little then it isn't going to be a problem for any of us."
"Yeah," Sunset added, standing up. "It isn't fair to you for us to just ignore when you need help."
"Well what if I don't want any help!?" Rainbow shouted, angrily. The other girls were struck silent. She took a breath before continuing. "I tried studying. I tried reading the books. I tried paying attention in class. I've even tried smoking a little bit beforehand to see if it makes it easier but it just doesn't! I just can't do school, okay! Maybe I'm smart in other ways, but when it comes to book smarts and other egghead stuff, I'm too stupid to waste time on."
She threw the blankets off, revealing she didn't even remove her shoes before getting in her bed, and launched herself off between the girls.
"This weekend is for forgetting about school, not for talking about how I'm gonna waste my time studying for something that's never ever gonna work out!"
Rainbow turned and faced Rarity, who was standing between her and the door frame.
"What do you mean no?"
"The Rainbow Dash that I know would never just give up at the prospect of doing something challenging. The Rainbow Dash that I know would jump at the chance to tackle a problem head-on. That Star Destroyer series got significantly more difficult after the fifth installment, but that doesn't mean that you stopped playing it!"
Confused disbelief met her gaze as she rolled her eyes. "Sweetie Belle's boyfriend talks about video games a lot, I learned a few things. The point is that it isn't like you at all to just give up. Why is it so different to at least try to earn passing grades so you can go back into machine shop and other classes with us rather than rehash with the underclassmen?"
"Well, I-" Rainbow sputtered for a moment before looking between the determined expressions set on her friends' faces.
Because you know that you're not good enough.
Because you know that it's useless to even try.
Because you know that they don't want to help you for any reason other than-
"Come on Rainbow!" Twilight yelled in an exasperated tone. "I even have a hypothesis behind why you- wait a minute, did you just say okay?"
Rainbow shrugged. "You guys aren't gonna stop bugging me about it until I say yes so I might as well say yes now. Sooner we get this taken care of, the sooner we can get to partying and worry about how to study and stuff later on in the weekend. What's your high potha whatever?"
Twilight shared a confused look with Sunset before shrugging and looking back at her friend. "Well," she began. "I think you just need to occupy the active part of your mind so that the passive part, the subconscious, does the learning for you." She paused and opened her eyes before continuing. "...I can tell by the look on your face that you don't fully understand what I mean, but it doesn't matter. I'll explain later. But for right now, this has probably been a really stressful ordeal for you and I think you're deserving of a party for the next twenty four hours."
Rainbow's arched eyebrow gave way to a small half-smile as she nodded. "Alright, that sounds fair. ...first one to the car gets shotgun!" And with that she sped off, leaving Rarity's coiffure ruffled in the sudden breeze. Fluttershy giggled at this as Rarity pouted and began trying to fix it, and the two left after Rainbow.
Sunset put a hand on Twilight's shoulder. "You know, the other Twilight was telling me about something that happened like this with the other Rainbow. You're a lot more like her than you think."
Twilight blushed as she looked from the hand up Sunset's arm and to her radiant smiling face. She placed her own hand over top of Sunset's and turned to face her straight.
"That's interesting," she said. "Maybe you can tell me more about it tonight?" Twilight raised her eyebrows. "Alone?"
Sunset nodded as she pulled her hand back and slipped it into her pocket. "Of course! We can put together your plans for Rainbow's studying while everyone else is asleep. It'll be fun!" And with that Sunset turned and headed out of the room.
Twilight blinked. Her eye twitched before she sighed. "Next time..."
I'm sorry for all the clouds in your life;
you always were the kind who loved the rainy nights.
You're not a stupid girl