"She was annoying as heck, but it was impossible not to love her," Rainbow Dash murmured, lying on folded limbs before the crest of a new dawn. A brisk, morning wind blew on her and Bellesmith's face alike as she continued. "No matter what the situation, at any given time of the day, you could count on Pinkie Pie being happy, and wanting to make you smile."
"Hmmm..." Belle's lips curved at the notion. "It's nice having a pony to depend on... especially when it comes to feelings."
"It was almost as though she wasn't afraid of anything." Rainbow Dash's glazed eyes meandered over the glowing horizon. "I used to think that I wsa the only one not scared."
"Perhaps she found something infectious in you."
"Pinkie? Nah..." Rainbow Dash took a deep breath. "Whatever gave her strength, it came from within. She was—like—as super deep well of happiness. It was Fluttershy who..."
Rainbow Dash bit her lip, blowing a tuft of mane hair out from her brow. "She was a total scaredy cat when we were fillies, but somewhere along the way, she got more assertive, less skittish."
"You think you had an effect on her?"
"Mmmm..." Rainbow Dash stretched a forelimb out and played with a few blades of grass. "Yeah. I guess I did."
"I mean, she didn't stay in that cottage the whole time, did she?" Belle asked. "She eventually moved into town, started talking with other ponies?"
Rainbow squinted aside at the unicorn. "You really have a lot of details in that head of yours, don't you?"
Belle blushed slightly. "You and I were... pretty intensely integrated. I think Whitemane is responsible for most of it."
"Well, it's true. Fluttershy became a social pony. There was a time when she'd be afraid of her own shadow. But that all changed with Twilight."
"Was it all Twilight, though?"
"How do you mean?"
"Well, Fluttershy first made friends with you, Rainbow," Belle said. "If you ask me, I'd say that you were the bridge that connected her to a happier life."
"Hmmm... Sure, why not."
Belle giggled lightly.
"If you wanna talk about a pony who rarely got out of the house much, Rarity belongs in that category. There were days—I swear—where she looked as though she hadn't seen sunlight in months. Feh. Friggin' vampire."
"Same thing as with Fluttershy and me. Twilight Sparkle showed up."
"She was the Element of... Magic, right?"
"Yup. I'm guessing 'Bookworms' was taken."
"Yeah, all our lives changed when Twilight showed up," Rainbow Dash said. "And, like, it wasn't as though it was a big deal. I mean, it was a big deal. We were the living bearers of these ancient Elements. But it never really felt like that, y'know?"
"We were just..." Rainbow Dash's nostrils flared. "A couple of gals..." She gulped. "We had sleepovers. We went on trips. We ate together, slept together, laughed together, cried together..."
"Did you, now?"
"Well, some of us."
"Mmmhmmm..." Belle gently smiled.
Rainbow Dash squinted. "Don't give me that look."
"Rainbow, if you ever wanted it, I'm quite certain they would have loved to let you show your feelings—both the good and the bad."
"It was never my place."
"'Cuz it just wasn't!" Rainbow sighed. "So many of my friends... tchhh... they were friggin' softies, y'know? Like you."
"Er... no offense."
"Heh. None taken."
"They all had so many crazy issues and stuff. When Pinkie Pie couldn't distract them or Twilight couldn't zap their troubles away..." Rainbow shrugged. "It was my place to... y'know... carry the burden."
"I dunno! I just did!" Rainbow ran a hoof through her prismatic bangs. "I'd have us go places, see some sunshine. I'd talk about random stuff. I'd lend my ear to Twilight and Rarity whenever they wanted to talk about whatever. Heck, the only pony who didn't need me to lift their spirits was..." Rainbow's face paled as her voice lingered.
Belle stared fixedly.
Rainbow gulped and lowered closer to the earth. "Yeah, well. She didn't need any help from me."
"Could you have lent her your help... regardless, Rainbow?"
Rainbow took a deep breath, staring ahead into effluent space.
Belle bit her lip. "Did... did she ever know?"
Rainbow closed her eyes. "Mmmm... no."
Belle smiled. "You sure?"
Rainbow's ears flicked. She reopened her eyes, glancing up at Belle.
Belle shrugged, smiling.
Rainbow shook her head. "It wouldn't have been right."
"I mean... she would never... she was not the type of pony..." Rainbow Dash winced. "She had a family... and a farm..." Her hooves dug circles in the earth. "And it didn't take a genius to know that she wanted to keep things that way."
"You were afraid of imposing...?"
"It was imposing just to even think about it." Rainbow gulped hard. "Besides... there was too much at stake, and I didn't want to lose that." She breathed out and whimpered, "I didn't want to lose her."
"Rainbow, even if... even if things didn't go the way you would have liked, I'm sure she would have understood." Belle gazed at her gently. "I really don't think it would have ended things."
"You don't get it. It wasn't her place to decide that. It wasn't anypony's place... but mine." Rainbow shut her eyes again. "So long as things remained the way they were, with her happy—as all my friends were happy—then it was just fine, y'know? It was all... just fine..."
Belle stared off in thought, a breath of wind kicking at her brown mane. She smiled and said, "Something tells me you knew a great deal about giving up stuff even long before you started traveling east."
"Yeah, well..." Rainbow Dash stood up, stretching her limbs. "I never asked to be the Element of Loyalty. It just happened." She bit her lip. "The best and worst things in life do just that."
Gently, Belle reached her hoof out and clasped one of Rainbow's forelimbs. She drew the attention of the pegasus' ruby eyes as she said, "I am glad that you happened, Rainbow." She smiled, her eyes moist. "For my sake and my beloved's. I know you have a lot of pain in your past, but you've been nothing but healing to us. And I think it's time that you allowed some of that peace into your life. Don't you?"
Rainbow Dash blinked. There was a light gurgling sound, and she winced with a blush. "Yeah... well... I think I'd like to allow some fruit into my tummy first, ya dig?"
And both mares giggled into the sunrise. It was a warm one.