Dreams and Nightmares

by Geographew

The Big Day

It’s 7:00 in the morning. The streetlamps in the rising sun cast sharp, long shadows on the clouds underhoof. High Flyer, Rainbow Dash, and I stand still for a moment, gazing up at the colossal Cloudsdale Flight Arena. It’s a behemoth of a stadium, and in the morning fog, it’s difficult to see from one end of the square building to the other. Being so early on a Saturday, the street out front is empty and calm. The only sound comes from the trickling water of the fountain fixtures that decorate the plaza we’re standing in, near the entrance to the stadium. It’s just enough noise to keep the silence from being deafening.

“This is it,” High Flyer breathes, looking straight ahead.

“The big day,” Rainbow agrees. High Flyer lets out an incredulous chuckle.

“I can’t believe you two talked me into this,” She says, a little louder. 

“What are we waiting for?” Rainbow Dash says, looking between High Flyer and I. “Let’s get inside before you change your mind!”

We walk slowly and deliberately into an archway in the front of the stadium, which opens into a large atrium. It’s sparse, save for a small table manned by two pegasi -- a pink one, who is reading a magazine and doesn’t notice our entrance, and a lavender one who appears to be asleep. As we approach the table, the pink one looks up and quickly elbows the lavender one, who sputters awake, seems annoyed for a moment, and then dons a professional demeanor as she notices us.

“Name?” The pink one prompts, picking up a pen. I look down and notice a list of names on the desk next to a tangled pile of name tags attached to lanyards. It’s hard to read upside down, and there are about ten names. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think I see Checkered Flag’s name. I let myself be optimistic to calm my nerves.

“High Flyer,” the eponymous pony says with just a hint of forced bravado to cover up her otherwise shaking voice.

“Are these your trainers?” The lavender pegasus asks. High Flyer pauses and looks between Rainbow and I.

“Yeah,” she decides. “They can come back with me, right?”

“Of course,” the lavender pegasus assures. She reaches down to the name tags, and, after some effort untangling them, hands High Flyer hers. 

After being equipped with two blue wristbands, the pink pegasus leads us down a long hallway toward the area where we’ll be waiting for High Flyer to compete.

After Rainbow’s injury, we told the rest of our friends not to bother coming. It would have been nice to see them, but it seemed silly to drag them all the way to Cloudsdale if Rainbow wasn’t competing. Besides, we’d be back in a day or two. Rainbow and I only got to see High Flyer’s routine a few times, as we had to get back to Cloudsdale from Canterlot in time to sleep at the hotel and get up in time for the competition. Even in her emotionally battered and physically drained state, she seemed to be in top form. Having been at the practice sessions the week prior, Rainbow and I had seen most of the other competitors, and after seeing High Flyer perform, we were certain she could win. As we watched her practice, I snuck several glances at Rainbow. Every time, she had the same look on her face -- a tumultuous combination of pride, determination, concentration, and bittersweet resolve. Looking to her now, I notice she has the same look on her face as we walk. My eyes drift to the bandages around her midsection.

Heavens, what must be going through her mind right now. The pain of broken bones, the pain of losing her dream, the nervousness and hope for High Flyer, and the confusion of where our relationship stands now. 

We arrive at our destination. It’s not so much a room as it is the end of the hallway as it opens to the air of the arena proper. There’s no lighting inside the hallway, but the light from outside spills in and bathes the area with natural light. There’s a bench and water fountain, and not much else.

“The bathroom is down the hall and to the left. We’ll be back at the check in table if you need us!” Our escort offers.

The time passes slowly. As the grogginess of morning leaves us, we become a little more lively as we’re filled with nervous energy. There’s plenty to talk about, from how Rainbow and I first met, to how High Flyer grew up, to the Elements of Harmony, to working at the Amore. We steer clear of discussing High Flyer’s austere living conditions, operating under the assumption that by the end of the day that situation will be a thing of the past. 

After an hour or so, another pegasus comes to let us know that the doors are opening and that the competition will be starting soon. She explains the rules: you have five minutes to do your routine, the time starts when the announcer says your name, and entering the arena early will disqualify you. With the start of the competition imminent, the weight of the event begins to press on High Flyer, who begins warming up and stretching. She is contestant number four of nine, and by contestant three, all three of us are pacing nervously. 

Lightning Dust is contestant three. As the announcer begins introducing her, High Flyer goes to stand at the entrance to the arena to wait her turn. Rainbow and I look at each other expectantly. Unsure of what to say, I chime in.

“High Flyer, we’re really proud of you for doing this,” I venture. I look to Rainbow to gauge the appropriateness of my statement. 

“Yeah, we know this is really tough for you,” Rainbow adds. “And coming out here anyway is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”

As Rainbow speaks, High Flyer turns to face us. At first she’s beaming, but her eyes widen and her smile falters as she looks past us and sees something.

“We had a deal, Fly,” An ominous voice calls from behind us. Rainbow and I whip around to find a gray stallion walking towards us several feet down the hall.

“Checkered Flag…” High Flyer whimpers. Rainbow and I look at each other. Her face reads fury, and I’m sure mine reads terror.

“Checkered Flag?” I echo. “But the police…”

“Yeah, they stopped by,” He admits, stopping a few feet away from us. “And I told them the honest truth. You guys know it’s not illegal to give someone money, right?” 

Rainbow and I exchange sheepish glances. High Flyer walks away from the entrance to the arena toward her backpack, which is sitting on the bench.

“Oh yeah?” She says, her voice shaking with a mixture of suppressed rage and terror. She reaches into her backpack and pulls out her wallet. She throws it across the room, bits spilling across the floor. “You can have your money back. I don’t want it anymore. I’d rather starve.” Checkered Flag laughs, shaking his head with a look of pity.

“This isn’t about money anymore,” He says darkly. “It’s about principle.”

As he begins to walk toward High Flyer, Rainbow steps between them.

“What do you think you’re doing, creep?” Rainbow demands.

“Get out of my way, you little gnat,” Checkered Flag sneers.

“Make me,” Rainbow tests. 

Checkered Flag gives a mirthless smirk and a small chuckle. Without warning, he lifts his left foreleg, smacking it into Rainbow’s right side -- the injured one -- and shoves her to the ground. 

“Rainbow!” My voice cracks and tears well up in my eyes as I cry out. Checkered Flag continues his menacing walk towards High Flyer. 

“You leave her alone!” I scream, tears streaming down my face. “You hear me?” He doesn’t seem to care.

“Yo, Fly, just go, he’s not gonna follow you out there,” Rainbow croaks, the wind clearly having been knocked out of her.

“But I’ll be disqualified!” She pleads. The echoing voice of the announcer begins to sound through the hallway. The introduction should only last thirty seconds or so. As soon as he says High Flyer’s name, she’ll be allowed to fly out into the open.

“Time’s running out, Fly,” Checkered Flag says menacingly, getting dangerously close to High Flyer, who backs away slowly. Checkered Flag raises a hoof to strike her, and my instincts kick in. I use my magic to hold his raised hoof in place.

“What the…?” Checkered Flag turns to face me, his hoof still caught in my magic. He looks between me and High Flyer, and his confusion turns to fury.

“...please welcome, High Flyer!” The announcer’s voice finally comes.

“Go!” Rainbow and I shout simultaneously. High Flyer blasts out into the arena.

“What’s going on back here?” A voice comes from further down the hallway. I keep my magic grip firm on Checkered Flag’s hoof. As the staff member arrives, accompanied by two uniformed security guards, he stops abruptly as he surveys the situation. Rainbow, who is slumped against the wall next to the bench, is wheezing as she tries to catch her breath. The three strangers look between me and Checkered Flag, before the staff member’s eyes light up with recognition.

“Checkered Flag?” He says. “You were disqualified for bribery, you’re not authorized to be here! Boys, detain him!”

I relinquish my grip just in time for the two security guards to apprehend Checkered Flag. As they escort him out, he looks back at me with a look of pure hatred. As relief washes over me, I simply beam at him. 

“Are you okay?” The staff member asks. As realization hits me, I look to Rainbow, who is still slumped against the wall, on her back, her face clenched in pain as she tries to steady her breathing. 

“I’m fine, but I think my friend needs medical attention,” I explain.

We leave the arena before High Flyer is done with her routine. Rainbow tries to protest, but the medics won’t have any of it. I follow them to the hospital. After a couple of hours and a series of x-rays, Rainbow is surprisingly unfazed to learn that she has another broken rib, bringing her grand total to three broken ribs in a single week, not even on the same occasion. Knowing her, she’ll wear it as a badge of honor soon enough. 

We’re in the same hospital we were in just a few days ago, albeit a different room. I still get a sense of deja vu; I’m sitting on the bench under the window, looking tiredly out, and Rainbow is lying in bed, eyes closed but not asleep.

“Miss Dash?” A stallion’s voice comes from the doorway. “You have a visitor, shall I send her in?”

“Sure,” Rainbow says, finally opening her eyes, exhaustion coating her voice. The stallion steps aside and in walks none other than High Flyer. She bolts over to Rainbow’s bedside, taking Rainbow’s hoof in hers. 

“Oh my goodness, Rainbow, are you okay?” She asks, and then looks up at me. “Twilight, are you okay?” She doesn’t wait for us to answer. “I’m so sorry I dragged you both into this.”

“High Flyer, we dragged you into this,” I assure. “And I wouldn’t change a thing.” 

“Thank you, Twilight,” She softens a bit. “But if I had just faced my problems on my own, you guys wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”

 “Some problems are too big to face on your own,” I offer. “But there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished with some help from your friends.”

High Flyer gives a sentimental smile and pauses for a moment.

“In that case, at least let me pay for this hospital visit,” She proposes.

“Um… no offense,” I say cautiously. “But how would you be able to afford that?”

“Well, actually...” She begins, a smile creeping across her face. She reaches into her saddlebag, pulls out a pin of some kind, and hands it to Rainbow Dash. It’s too far away to see, so I walk over next to High Flyer. My heart leaps as I realize it’s a Wonderbolts pin.

“You… you won?” I breathe. High Flyer nods, an excited smile on her face. 

“I’m a Wonderbolt,” she quietly sings, shifting sheepishly, as if she’s trying out the words for the first time. We both look down at Rainbow, who is staring intently at the pin, her expression brimming with emotion but ultimately unreadable. Tears begin to well up in her eyes. Finally, she reaches her forelegs out and hugs High Flyer as tightly as she can, crying loudly in a mixture of relief, pride, sadness, and joy. 


“You remember what we talked about?” I ask.

“Professional. Confident. Uh…” Rainbow forgets the third word.

“Polite,” I finish for her.

“Polite!” She echoes. I give her a proud smile as I adjust her necktie. She’s dressed in a black blazer with a striped rainbow tie.

“You’re gonna do great, Rainbow,” I assure. 

“Duh, of course I am!” She agrees. “I’m the best flyer in Ponyville, they’d be crazy not to hire me! I mean -- ” she stammers for a moment and then clears her throat, putting on a serious face. “I would be a great asset to the Ponyville EFL branch office.”

“That’s the spirit! Now get in there and knock their socks off!” I cheer. I spin her around to face the door, and, feeling a bit confident myself, give her a loving smack to her rear, which sets her in motion. She looks at me with a blush and look of shock and embarrassment, but keeps walking nonetheless.

As Rainbow disappears behind the door to the building, I find a bench next to the sidewalk out front and sit down with a sigh. It’s been a few days since we returned from Cloudsdale, and Rainbow approached me shortly after we arrived about the Ponyville EFL Representative job I had jokingly mentioned to her earlier. While I was kidding at the time, the job was real, and Rainbow was interested in applying as it would be a significant pay raise from her current weather-pony job, and a way to get her hoof in the door with the Wonderbolts. And here we are, with Rainbow having landed an interview with ease -- everyone around here knows her name from the city and regional competitions she won.

Nearly all is well -- we made it home safely from Cloudsdale, and High Flyer won the competition. But Rainbow and I still haven’t talked about what happened between us in Canterlot, and I’m not sure where our relationship stands. Usually in the romance novels I’ve read (Yes, I do read fiction!) after the ‘big kiss’ they live happily ever after. But after all of the excitement of last week, Rainbow is acting like nothing happened. Not that I’ve brought it up or anything. Rainbow Dash flies very fast, but maybe she likes to take relationships slowly? Has she ever been in a relationship?

These thoughts dance through my mind for the half an hour that Rainbow is in the EFL office. Finally, she emerges, a glowing infectious smile plastered on her face.

“How’d it go?” I ask excitedly.

“They gave me the job on the spot!” Rainbow exclaims, looking about ready to launch into orbit.

“Rainbow, that’s amazing!” I congratulate, pulling her into a tight hug.

“Heck yeah it is!” She agrees. We pull apart. “Now I’ll get to help up-and-coming flyers, I’ll have some money, and I can get my own place!” The last part stings badly, and my face falls with the realization that Rainbow will be moving out now that she’s back on her feet. She notices my expression, however, and concern washes over her face.

“Twilight?” She prompts. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” I steel myself. “I just… like having you around.”

“You… don’t want me to move out?” She asks slowly.

“Look, I know we never really talked about what happened between us in Canterlot,” The gears in my mind turn for a moment. “And I know this probably isn’t the time to bring it up, but I meant what I said. I have romantic feelings for you.” It feels weird to put it so matter-of-factly, but I figure clarity is more important than waxing poetic right now.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in the same boat,” Rainbow says, rubbing the back of her neck. “But I’d also be lying if I said I know what to do. I’ve never been in a relationship with anypony before.”

“Me neither,” I admit. “I just figured as soon as I put my feelings out there we’d live happily ever after. I know real life is more complicated than that.”

“Yeah…” She trails off, and we stand in awkward silence for a moment, looking at the sidewalk. “We could ask Rarity.”

Her comment breaks the tension and we both laugh.

“We could ask Rarity,” I concur. “You’re willing to give this a shot?”

“Yeah,” she smiles. “It could be fun. We can split the rent at the library.”

“I’d like that,” I say with a relaxed smile. There’s another awkward silence.

“So, should I, like, kiss you or something?” Rainbow asks, looking away.

“Hmm…” I ruminate. “Nah, it’d be kind of weird right this moment.”

“Yeah, definitely weird,” Rainbow agrees quickly. “We really need to talk to Rarity.”

“Like right now,” I agree, nodding my head enthusiastically. We start walking in the direction of the boutique. I feel Rainbow drape her wing around me, and my face heats up.

All at once, the future is more certain than ever and less certain than ever. I guess that’s what happens when you put Rainbow Dash and me together. On the one hand, Rainbow has a steady job now, and we know where she’ll be living for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, a relationship is totally uncharted territory for both of us.

But that little bit of uncertainty isn’t scary anymore. It’s exciting.