by MyOwnNameWasTaken

1 - A Crack in the Armour


“Oh my goodness! Rainbow Dash, are you alright?”

“Unf! No problem, Fluttershy,” insisted the blue pegasus pony, once she’d peeled her face off the trunk of the library tree. “ ‘Guess I need to shift my trailing wing a bit more during those tight turns.” She dropped off the tree and let her wings catch her in mid-air.

“Are you sure you’re not hurt?” Fluttershy glided in to hover next to her, forehooves pressed over her mouth in worry.

“Argh!” An angry exclamation sounded from within the library and a window was thrown open, revealing a rather put-out purple unicorn.

“Why is it that every single time I get every single last book and scroll in this library perfectly organised and properly shelved, somepony -- and usually one very specific somepony -- has to knock her head into it and send every last book and scroll tumbling to the floor?!”

“Heh, heh. Sorry, Twilight,” chuckled Rainbow, rubbing the back of her head in contrition, “I’m just working the bugs out of a new routine.”

Twilight gave a long-suffering sigh. “Rainbow, you’ve got to find something softer to crash into when you lose control. The welfare of the library’s books aide, I’m worried that you’ll hurt yourself one of these days.”

“Ah, lighten up, Twilight,” scoffed Rainbow as she let herself drift to the ground. “Any crash you can walk away from, right? OW!” She yelped in pain as soon as she touched down, instinctively spreading her wings to maintain her balance as she abruptly drew up her right hind leg.

“Oh, Rainbow,” gasped Fluttershy in alarm, diving down to her friend’s side. “Are you hurt? That sounded painful!”

“I’m OK, really!” Rainbow assured her with a wince, “I must've landed on a pebble or something....”

“Oh, let me see! It could be serious!” The worried pegasus darted around her to catch hold of her hovering hoof.

Rainbow twitched her leg back and hopped around awkwardly, trying to slip away. “Fluttershy, don’t be such a worrywart!”

“What did I just say?” intoned a burst of purple sparkles as Twilight materialised before her. “You’re going to hurt yourself!”

“Relax, Mom,” laughed Rainbow, smiling at the unicorn’s worried expression.

“Oh. Oh, my...” said Fluttershy in a soft voice.

“W-what? What's going on back there?” asked Rainbow, somewhat more quickly than she had intended.

“Rainbow... I’m afraid you’ve split your hoof.”

Twilight gasped in horror. “What?! That sounds awful! Let me see!” With that, she dashed around Rainbow to get a look for herself.

“Get real, Fluttershy! There’s no way I could’ve split my hoof just from landing like that,” Rainbow protested, as both her friends now crowded around her hind leg.

“I’m afraid it’s true, Rainbow,” insisted Fluttershy, “you must have split it when you crashed.”

“But it only hurt when I put my hoof down!”

“It’s very fine, and it doesn’t go all the way up to the coronet. But please don’t put your weight on it again! You might widen it!”

“Just great,” groaned the injured mare. Her head drooped in a combination of annoyance and resignation. “This means another trip to the hospital, doesn’t it?”

At least this time I can borrow a few books off Twilight, she thought, but every day I spend in the hospital is another day I fall behind in my training. What lousy luck!

“Actually,” Twilight cut in hopefully, “you may be able to avoid that. I happen to know a few mending spells that might help. I couldn’t heal a coronet injury, at least not easily, but you only split the lower capsule. That’s not living material -- not any more -- so I think a spell can mend it. Unless being attached to a living being complicates matters....” Twilight’s brows furrowed in thought.

“I think I’d better read up on this first,” she concluded. “But don’t worry, I know just which book I need, and where it -- oh.” All three ponies looked to the library, gazing through a window at the sea of tumbled books.

Twilight moaned, putting one hoof to her face. “I think it’ll take me a little longer to find it than I thought. Look, why don’t you two just fly up to my bedroom? Rainbow, you can lie on my bed or something so you don’t aggravate the injury.”

“Uh, sure Twilight,” conceded Rainbow, “good idea.” She took wing and glided through an open upper floor window.

“Um, Rainbow?” asked Fluttershy as the blue pegasus settled herself on their friend’s bed, “if you don’t mind, there’s something I’d like to check as well.”

“What’s that? Hey!” She snatched a forehoof back as Fluttershy tried to take it up in her own. “What are you doing?!”

“I -- just -- need -- a look -- at your -- hooves,” panted Fluttershy as she tried to clasp her friend’s foreleg, which Rainbow kept pulling away.

“Well look then -- ouch!” Rainbow winced as a sharp stab of pain shot up her injured leg: she’d managed to bump it while trying to squirm away.

She snorted in annoyance, both at her friend and at herself. You’re acting like a filly. She’s gonna think you’re weird.

“Fine,” she said with some effort, and grimly stuck out a forehoof. “There! OK?” In spite of her determination, she still flinched a little when Fluttershy took hold of her hoof. But true to her word, all her friend did was look. She pored appraisingly over each of Rainbow’s hooves in turn, taking extra care with her injured leg. Rainbow found it a little unnerving.

“Well?” she demanded when Fluttershy had finished, “What was that about?”

Fluttershy opened her mouth to answer when, with a sudden poof!, Twilight Sparkle materialised behind her. Giving out a startled squeak, the spooked pegasus bounded over the bed, to cower on the far side.

“We’re good to go,” exclaimed Twilight, levitating several books, an abacus, and a small blackboard full of equations and diagrams. “I was worried for a while that a re-structuring of the disrupted α-keratin aggregates would be hampered by your inherent morphologic field, since it can generally be a problem with transmutational and polymorphic spells, providing ontological inertia that resists the magic, but in this case we’re in luck, as we’re altering an organic but relatively biologically-inert structure by returning it to its prior molecular arrangement before your morphologic field has adjusted to the injury, meaning that ontological inertia assists the magic rather than opposing it!”

She favoured her confused friends with a beaming smile.

“So...?” began Rainbow Dash.

“I -- I heard we were in luck,” ventured Fluttershy, peeking over Rainbow.

“Does that mean you can do it?” asked Rainbow, her ears perking up hopefully.

“I sure can,” Twilight assured her. “That’s what I just said,” she added somewhat reproachfully, waving a hoof at her calculations. “Anyway, just hold still, this should only take a few seconds....”

Twilight’s horn shone brighter as she brought her magic to bear on the injured hoof. Rainbow gasped and kicked her leg involuntarily.

“Rainbow, you have to hold still! Does it hurt?”

“No! It just... feels weird.”

“Oh, is that all?” Twilight smiled. “Well, it won’t be too long. You can hold it steady for a couple of seconds, can’t you?”

“Sure I can! W-watch!” Rainbow gritted her teeth and tensed every muscle in her leg, willing it to stay still as the tingling sensation of Twilight’s magic began to spread through her hoof once more. She shut her eyes in concentration. Her leg trembled a little, but it stayed put. Eventually, the feeling of the magic faded.

“There you go; good as new!” chirped Twilight, happy to have been of service.

“Um, actually...” said Fluttershy, raising a hoof and timidly trying to cut in.

Rainbow took a deep breath to help herself relax. She wiggled the formerly-injured hoof, then twisted off the bed to place it against the floor. She gingerly shifted weight onto it, and found it to be completely sound.

“Awesome! Thanks, Twilight! I really wasn’t looking forward to another stay at the hospital.”

“Oh, you might still have to go, if --” Fluttershy tried, only to be interrupted by Twilight.

“Think nothing of it, Rainbow! I was glad to help. Now, if you wouldn’t mind helping me put a few books back in order....” She gave Rainbow a meaningful look.

Rainbow chuckled nervously. “Yeah, I guess I owe you one....”

“You’re not in the clear yet, Rainbow!” Fluttershy finally exclaimed, flying down between the two ponies, forelegs outstretched to either side.

“What do you mean, Fluttershy?”

“Yeah, what gives?”

Fluttershy turned to her fellow pegasus. “Rainbow, when was the last time you had your hooves trimmed?”

“My...? Well, that was... uh....” Rainbow scratched her head nervously with one hoof, not quite able to meet Fluttershy’s unusually intent gaze. How long ago had it been? She couldn’t quite remember the last time....

“You simply must get them trimmed soon, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy insisted. “They’re getting far too long!”

“Hold on a minute,” asked Twilight. “What is this so important? I don’t think I’ve ever had my hooves trimmed in my life, not until you and Rarity started taking me to the spa, anyway.”

“Oh, I understand your confusion, Twilight,” said Fluttershy. “This isn’t a problem for unicorns and earth ponies because you walk everywhere. You hooves wear down naturally, all on their own. Only a pony who’s been bed-ridden for a long time ever needs to get them trimmed -- unless you’re a pegasus pony, that is.

“We spend a lot of time flying, and clouds are far too soft to put any wear on our hooves. Every pony in Cloudsdale needs to get her hooves trimmed back on a regular basis. Overly-long hooves are unhealthy: they become brittle, and that makes them prone to chipping or splitting when we do walk on a solid surface.”

“So you’re saying that Rainbow’s hoof split in that crash because it was too long?”

“As if! That was just a fluke,” objected Rainbow.

“I don’t think so, Rainbow,” said Fluttershy. “With your hooves like that, you’re just waiting for another accident. You really need to get them trimmed!”

“Wow. I had no idea being able to fly could cause such a problem,” said Twilight. “So all pegasus ponies have to do this?”

“Not really. It’s usually only a problem for cloud-dwelling ponies. My hooves haven’t needed trimming once since I moved to Ponyville: everyday walking wears them down just fine.”

“Hang on,” interjected Rainbow Dash, unwilling to give in, “I live in Ponyville too!”

“Yes, but you never walk when you can fly,” Twilight pointed out, “and you live on a cloud.”

“I’m afraid she’s right, Rainbow. You spend so much time in the air that your hooves just aren’t wearing down enough on their own.”

“OK! OK, fine,” she conceded at last, “I guess I’ll have to give them a trim.”

“But... but you’ve been forgetting, haven’t you? We might have caught it this time, but what if they grow out again? You might hurt yourself much worse next time! Oh, that would be just awful!” Tears of sympathy sprang to Fluttershy’s eyes at the very thought of her friend suffering another accident.

“What you need is a nice, firm schedule to keep yourself on track!” Twilight was clearly eager to extol the virtues of a well-ordered life. “You should make an appointment at the spa! There may not be any pegasus ponies over there, but I’m sure they can file your hooves down just right.”

“What a wonderful idea, Twilight! A full hooficure would take care of everything!”

“A -- a hooficure?!” Rainbow was aghast.

“And you could schedule them regularly; that way you’ll never neglect your hooves again,” Twilight continued, trying to impart her love of schedules.

“L-look, girls! We covered this: I don’t do hooficures! They’re just not... me!” With one flank pressed against Twilight’s bed, and two overly-enthusiastic friends pressing in on the other side, Rainbow felt good and cornered, but was determined to hold what ground she had.

“Now, Rainbow,” Twilight began soothingly, “I know you may be worried about your image --”

“ ‘Worried’?! I’m not -- Who says I’m worried?!”

“But this is for your health, Rainbow,” Fluttershy implored. “You just can’t ignore this!”

“Think of it as sports medicine!”

“You don’t want another injury, do you?”

“Alright already!” cried Rainbow Dash, throwing up her forehooves. “I’ll go, I’ll go! I’ll just fly over there right now and make an appointment, OK? Are you two happy now?!”

“Gee, you don’t have to get all huffy,” said Twilight.

“I’m sorry, Rainbow. I never meant to put so much pressure on you....” Fluttershy guiltily scuffed at the floor with a forehoof.

“I didn’t mean --” Rainbow gave an exasperated sigh. “Anyway, I’ll just go there. Now. Y-yeah. Bye,” she added absently as she flew out the open window.


Rainbow Dash flew high over Ponyville, beating angrily at the air with her wings as she approached the spa with growing apprehension. She pulled up into a hover as it came into view.

Well, it looks inviting enough. It’s nice inside too -- big and roomy. The ponies there must be decent: Fluttershy wouldn’t keep going back if they weren’t. How bad can it really be, right?

Her attempts to reassure herself were not working. She felt as though there were eels writhing around inside her stomach. Unpleasant twinges kept shooting up from her hooves, and her breath was coming in short gasps. Worst of all, she could hear a sneering voice rising up from the back of her mind, lilting --


“AAAAH!” Rainbow yelped as her mane and tail stood on end. She rounded on the pony who had surprised her. “Fluttershy!

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Rainbow,” replied her friend, abashed. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” She wrung her hooves, eyes downcast.

Rainbow forced herself to take a deep breath. “So? What is it?”

“Well, um... I was worried.... Rainbow, you are going to get your hooves trimmed, aren’t you?”

Rainbow waved angrily in the direction of the spa. “I’m going there, aren’t...!” She wrestled her voice back under control. “Yes, I’m going, OK? I said I would, didn’t I?”

“It’s just that you seem to be, I don’t know, a little nervous.”

“Nervous?! Me? Aw, c-come on! W-why would I be....” Rainbow found she couldn’t look her friend in the eye.

That’s not true. I’m lying to her. She’s never lied to me... not really lied. Not once.

“I-I guess... yeah. I am -- a little.” It was a wrench to admit it. She could feel her cheeks growing hot.

“But why?”

“I just....” She crossed her forelegs and looked away. “I just don’t like other ponies touching my hooves,” she muttered through gritted teeth.

She looked back at the spa, waiting for her down below. She sagged. “But I gotta do this. I know you’re right, Fluttershy. I remember those grooming lessons we had back in school too. It’s just... hard.”

“Um, Rainbow...?”

She groaned. Oh, what now?Yes, Fluttershy? What is it?”

“I was thinking... if it really bothers you... I could trim your hooves for you -- if you like.”

Rainbow started, then turned to stare at her. “You?!”

“Well, um,” Fluttershy stuttered, fidgeting, “it was just an idea... I know the spa ponies can do a better job, but every Cloudsdale pony knows how to trim a hoof, and if it bothers you so much, I thought maybe it would be easier if... if it was somepony you knew....”

“No, it’s cool!” exclaimed Rainbow, sweeping her friend up in a tight hug, “Great, even!” She meant it: all the constriction around her chest had vanished when Fluttershy had put herself forward. After all, she was a friend, and more to the point, she was Fluttershy. If Rainbow couldn’t trust her, she couldn’t trust anypony.

“Alright, then,” said Fluttershy, “do you want to do this today? I had planned to spend the afternoon watching you practice, after all, and you’d better not try any more stunt flying until we’ve gotten your hooves trimmed back. We have time.”

“Uh, sure! ’Guess we’d better take care of that ASAP,” admitted Rainbow. “So... your place or mine?” That last sentence sounded a little strange to her.

“Your house is probably closer,” said Fluttershy, considering. “You have a grooming kit, right?”

“Sure do!” Somewhere....

“Wonderful! It’s settled then,” smiled Fluttershy.