by MyOwnNameWasTaken

4 - Intervention

Rainbow Dash still lay crying, crumpled up against her bedroom door, when she felt something give her a gentle nudge. She looked up and recognised the curved green blob even through the blur of her tears.

“Oh, hey Tank,” she said, managing a small smile in spite of everything. “Sorry, did I wake you up?”

Aw, who am I kidding? The whole neighbourhood would have heard that if this house were on the ground!

She dragged herself to her hooves, picking up her pet and balancing him on her croup before walking slowing back to her bed, wings trailing limply at her sides.

“Oh, Tank, I really messed up with Fluttershy.” She clambered onto her bed, shifting Tank around to her front before lying down, as the tortoise wouldn’t be supported by the cloud-mattress beneath the covers.

“She was just worried I’d get hurt again, ‘cause she cared, you know? I could’ve just said something -- I can never talk when it really counts.... And I hurt her! I said -- I said....”

Rainbow could not bring herself to repeat it. She could not imagine a worse insult, and she had screamed it at her friend! She hugged Tank tightly to her chest, feeling new tears running down her face.

“And then I yelled at her to get out! Like it was her fault! She’s probably flying home crying right now. I bet she’s real upset.... How am I ever going to face her again? I ruined everything! I... I don’t deserve a friend like that....”

“Rainbow Dash?”

Rainbow gave a start at the soft voice, sounding suddenly, and so close. She glanced around wildly -- and found Fluttershy standing in the middle of the room. Rainbow quickly rolled over onto her right flank and spread her left wing out to screen herself. The bedroom door was still closed....

“How -- how did you get in here?” she asked, desperately trying to wipe the tears off her face with a forehoof.

Yeah, right! She’ll see the streaks in your coat. You can’t hide those!

“Through the balcony door: you’re not the only one with wings.

“Listen, Rainbow,” continued Fluttershy in an uncharacteristically firm voice, “I know you asked me to leave, but you’re obviously upset, and I just don’t think you should be by yourself right now.”

“I’m not,” tried Rainbow, holding her pet up for Fluttershy to see, “I have Tank, haven’t I?”

Tank looked over at Fluttershy, nodded slowly, and retracted his head and limbs back into his shell.

Traitor, thought Rainbow, plopping him down onto the floor.

“You have me, too.”

“Aw, come on! L-look, I asked nicely, didn’t I?”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“Fluttershy, please! I -- I don’t want you to see me like this....”

“Then I won’t look,” her friend answered simply.

Rainbow bit down on one hoof in helpless frustration. Of all the days for her to become more assertive, why did she have to pick today?!

She heard the clip-clop of Fluttershy’s hooves on the flooring and felt the cloud-mattress shift as her friend stepped onto it. Cringing, Rainbow snatched up a pillow and stretched her wing further, to hide her face. She twitched as something cool and hard touched her back. The touch lingered a moment, then gently, if fumblingly, felt its way up to the base of her outstretched wing, and from there onto her shoulder, where it gave a reassuring pat.

It’s her hoof. What in Equestria is she doing? It’s like she’s -- Rainbow bent her wing down a little and gave Fluttershy a tentative glance -- blind....

Her eyes were closed. She was standing over Rainbow with her muzzle tilted back and her eyes closed, feeling her way along her friend’s body.

She said she wouldn’t look.... Rainbow almost wanted to laugh -- there was something ridiculous about the whole situation -- but at the same time, she felt suddenly and intensely grateful.

Her friend’s hoof slid off her shoulder and felt its way along her neck. Once Fluttershy was sure she was not stepping on Rainbow’s mane, she lay down beside her. Her weight made the cloud shift and tilted Rainbow’s spine back against her flank. Without a word, Fluttershy extended her left wing and gently folded Rainbow’s wing down, before spreading her own wing over her friend’s body, although she was careful to avoid touching her directly.

“C-come on, Fluttershy! I’m not a baby!”

“I never said you were.”

Rainbow lay there clutching her pillow defensively, feeling humiliated and vulnerable, but at the same time, strangely afraid to move away.

Neither of them spoke for a while.

“Rainbow,” said Fluttershy at last, “every pony has things she’d rather keep private. You don’t have to tell me anything that you don’t want to, or don’t feel comfortable talking about. I’ll understand. Only, please don’t ever feel you have to run or hide from me! That’s... very upsetting.”

“Fluttershy, I hit you,” Rainbow interjected.

“Rainbow, I lost my balance. That’s all. And that was my fault, anyway. Bringing up all those unpleasant memories... I should have known you wouldn’t react well to another pony touching you, no matter the intent. I wanted to help, but I only made things worse, and I apologise for that.”

Rainbow stubbornly shook her head.

“I... I shouted at you. Again. I’m always shouting at you. I don’t mean to! You’re my oldest friend, why would I want to -- but I never really noticed! I know it sounds horrible, but I didn’t notice! And, and then I did notice, and I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again. Only I did... I made a promise and I couldn’t keep it. I’m sorry. I -- I don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry....

“And... you’re not like -- like her at all! I swear I don’t think that....”

There was another long silence, finally broken by Fluttershy’s voice. “Is that why you ran from me?”

Rainbow sniffed and gave a small shrug.

“I’m very lucky to have such a caring friend,” said Fluttershy, “but you’re being far too hard on yourself. Rainbow, you weren’t shouting at me back there, you were venting. It’s not the same thing at all! We all have have feelings; sometimes they can be hard to bear. I know I’ve felt so frustrated I just had take a moment and scream -- more than once, even.”

Rainbow gave a short snort of laughter in spite of herself. She hadn’t meant to, but the picture of Fluttershy screaming in frustration somehow couldn’t quite come to her.

“R-really?” Rainbow asked, still not quite believing it.

“Oh, yes. We all feel angry or afraid or upset sometimes. And when we do, it’s usually best to work those feelings out, rather than keep them bottled up inside.”

“I... didn’t want to hurt you,” said Rainbow.

“That was very thoughtful of you, Rainbow, but it wasn’t necessary. I know I can be a little shy, but I’m not a porcelain doll. And I’m your friend. You can tell me anything!

“...And it’s better that way,” she added after a pause. “Feelings like that are powerful, and no-pony can keep them locked away forever. Eventually, they’ll find their own way out, and that’s when you’ll really hurt the ponies you care about. I... I know I did,” she finished sadly.

“What, you? No way! You’re the kindest, sweetest pony ever! You couldn’t hurt a --”

“You weren’t there to see it, Rainbow,” she said quietly, “but I could. And I did.”

This time, Rainbow did not laugh: there was something in Fluttershy’s voice that stopped her. “What happened?” Rainbow asked her friend softly.

“I hurt Pinkie and Rarity, Rainbow. I hurt them very badly. Oh, I felt just awful once I realised what I’d done. I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had never wanted to speak to me again. In fact, I was afraid to go near any other pony, in case I hurt them, too.

“And do you know what happened then? They came to see me. They were worried -- about me! I don’t think I really told them how grateful I was. Honestly, I don’t think I ever could. We’re so lucky to have such good friends, Rainbow.”

“Yeah,” said Rainbow earnestly, “we are.”

After a moment, Rainbow spoke again. “Uh, look.... That whole story about that foalsitter.... I know it sounded pretty bad -- and it was pretty bad, and it... it left a mark, but.... Look, I don’t cry myself to sleep over it every night or have nightmares about it or anything! I mean, I’m older now, and a lot bigger and stronger -- if I met that creep again, I’d probably just give her a good kick to remember me by! I’m mostly over her.

“It’s just... sometimes, something reminds me, you know? And all the feelings I had back then come rushing back and.... Remember when you girls talked me into trying a hooficure?”

“I remember.”

“Yeah, well, I thought I’d be cool with it, but then I had to lie down on that couch, and feel my wings pinned under me, and just lie there and wait while some strange pony fiddled with my --” She shivered. “I felt trapped, like the walls were closing in, and I -- I just had to get out of there!

“Now I can’t even let a friend trim my hooves,” she added miserably. “...Stupid.”

“Rainbow... I don’t mean to presume, but from what you’ve told me, the trouble you have with other ponies touching your hooves seems similar to the trouble I had with performance flying. Not that I mean they’re exactly the same! I’m sure you’ve had a worse time that I have. But, still....”

“Yeah... I guess I never thought about it that way....” And I wasn’t half as nice when you told me, she added guiltily to herself.

“And if that’s the case,” Fluttershy continued, “then you should be able to overcome it -- given time. Now, it’s not going to be easy -- trust me, I know how hard that sort of thing can be -- and it will take a lot of effort and courage, but I know that won’t be a problem for--”

Rainbow felt her whole body tense; she sucked in a ragged breath through gritted teeth. Oh, no. Please don’t go there. I can’t take this right now!

“-- a brave pony like you. Why, you’re practically fearless. We all think so...” Fluttershy went on inexorably, and every word cut like a knife, because it was so heartfelt and sincere. Rainbow folded her ears flat against her head and ground her face further into her pillow to choke out a sob.

She would think that, wouldn’t she? Whenever her timidity gets the best of her -- when she has something to say but isn’t able to cut in, if she wants something but some pushier pony gets there first -- there’s probably a little voice inside her saying “Oh, if only I could be as brave as Rainbow Dash!”

Rainbow felt ill. It was a cruel joke on both of them: Fluttershy admired Rainbow for her bravery.

Tell her. You owe her that much. Tell her.

“Fluttershy --” Rainbow started, interrupting her friend’s ‘pep talk,’ “Fluttershy, I’m not... I’m not brave, OK? I -- I’m not.”

“Oh, don’t be modest,” Fluttershy answered soothingly, “everypony knows --”

“Well, everypony’s wrong, then! ...Look, Fluttershy, do you want to be ‘brave’ like me? It’s easy: just close your wings and dive. That’s what I always do -- it’s all I ever do.” She gave out a bitter chuckle. “I’m a one-trick pony: whatever the problem is, I just jump right in. I don’t give myself time to think, so I don’t have time to get scared. That’s all. That’s not ‘bravery.’

“Do you remember that time when that big dragon set himself up on that mountain for a long, smoky nap?”

A shudder ran through Fluttershy’s entire body at the memory of that particular adventure. Rainbow felt it though her own back, running from her withers to her dock. “Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day,” muttered Fluttershy.

“Yeah, me neither. But look, we got to the dragon’s cave, right? And I was all fired up to send him packing, and the first chance I got, I flew right in there and kicked him in the snout! And then... well, then I was nose-to-nose with, like you said, a huge, gigantic, terrifying, enormous, teeth-gnashing, sharp-scale-having, horn-wearing, smoke-snoring, could-eat-a-pony-in-one-bite, totally all-grown-up dragon -- and I’d just gotten him good and mad.”

She hugged the pillow to her chest. “I got scared, Fluttershy. Really, really scared. I said something -- I dunno, some lame excuse I guess -- and then he sent me tumbling out of that cave just like a leaf on the breeze, and then he came rearing out, and....”

Rainbow blinked a few tears away. “I thought that was it. We all did! And then -- and then you came swooping in, and you totally schooled him! I mean, you made him cry like a little foal!

“...That was the bravest and the coolest thing I’ve ever seen any pony do in my life. And... and I didn’t... I didn’t....” The words stuck in her throat.

“Didn’t what?”

I didn’t want you to come!” sobbed Rainbow. “I thought you’d get in the way -- that you’d slow us down! We would have died without you, and I didn’t want you to come! I nearly killed us all... all our friends -- it would have been my fault!

“Oh, Rainbow, you can’t blame yourself for that! No-pony can know the future -- well, not without Pinkie-Sense, anyway -- and I didn’t want to come along either! I never would have made it up that mountain without all of you to help me. And we were all scared! It’s nothing to be ashamed of....”

“No, we were scared. You were terrified! And you did it anyway! That’s what bravery really is. And that’s the thing: you have... something inside you, Fluttershy, that I don’t think I have.”

Rainbow waved a hoof absently as she searched for words. “Sometimes, I feel like... like a hollow eggshell, you know? Eggshells are pretty tough; if you squeeze ‘em right, they can take a lot of strain.” She held her hooves up, facing each other, in front of her face, miming the act of holding an egg. “But one crack, one little weakness and --” she brought her hooves together with a click -- “Crunch.”

Rainbow let her head drop back limply onto the cloud bed. “So there you are: the great Rainbow Dash. ...Pretty lame, huh?”

“Never,” said Fluttershy firmly. “None of us think that; you certainly shouldn’t think it about yourself!”

“Yeah, sure. I guess.” Rainbow pushed her pillow away. “Whatever.” She felt drained. Spent.

Fluttershy nuzzled her ear. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“For what?”

“For trusting me enough to share all that with me. It couldn’t have been easy.”

“Yeah,” scoffed Rainbow, “I’m real brave.” She regretted her words instantly: her friend was only trying to make her feel better, after all.

“Oh Rainbow Dash, I wish I were better with words. Pinkie Pie would know just what to say to cheer you up, but I’m... a little at a loss.”

I guess neither of us is all that good with words. “It’s OK, Fluttershy,” Rainbow said aloud, “only, um....”

“What is it?”

Suddenly Rainbow felt shy. “Could we just... stay like this? Just for a little while? It’s... nice.”

Rainbow craned her neck around to take a peek at her friend. Fluttershy’s head was cocked to one side, ears swiveled forward to listen and eyes still closed. It made her expression somewhat blank, and hard to read.

“Of course, Rainbow. Whatever you like,” she said with a small smile, before laying her head down next to her friend’s. Slowly, haltingly, Rainbow hooked a hoof around the edge of Fluttershy’s wing and pulled it down against her. Without a word, Fluttershy bent her wing to better hug the contours of Rainbow’s body.

The moment stretched. Rainbow’s eyes swept around the room, but nothing caught her attention. She felt awkward, and yet.... It was oddly comforting to just lie there under her friend’s wing. Fluttershy was warm; the warmth of her body seeped into Rainbow’s back. She could feel Fluttershy’s flank rise and fall softly with her breathing; it helped steady her own.

She hadn’t done anything like this since her last sleepover with Fluttershy, and that had been when they were still fillies, long before either of them had left Cloudsdale. She had never been all that fond of those sleepovers herself -- perhaps if Fluttershy had been more interested in pillow-fights -- but she found herself missing them now.

Fluttershy’s mane was partly draped over Rainbow’s neck. Rainbow drew in a deep breath through her nose. Working with animals everyday as she did, a pony would expect her friend to smell like a barnyard -- or at best like clean hay -- but she didn’t. She smelled of meadowflowers. She’d smelled of meadowflowers for as long as Rainbow had known her.

Now that had been a crazy couple of days, when they became friends. Getting their cutie marks had only been the start of it....

She had been elated at finding her special talent -- not to mention pulling off a sonic rainboom! -- but when she tried to find that yellow filly she had defended, she was nowhere to be seen. When it was realised she was gone, the teachers tried to organise search parties, but they couldn’t leave the other fillies and colts unattended, and most of the stronger fliers in Cloudsdale had been dispatched to hold back a storm front that was drifting out of the Everfree Forest. By the time a proper search could be arranged, it was late afternoon. They had looked, but had had to call the search off at dusk, to start again the next morning.

Rainbow had gone looking as well, all by herself. She was not allowed, of course, but she felt responsible. That, and it bothered her that she had had to ask a camp leader what ‘that yellow filly’s’ name was: all she’d ever heard anypony call her was “Klutzershy.”

She had had no better luck than the search parties, but had stubbornly stayed at it until it was too dark to see anything. She finally went to sleep curled-up on a low-lying cloud, and woke up the next morning -- to meadowflowers. Specifically, a large bouquet of them being shoved into her face by an excited Fluttershy trying to say “Look, look!” around the stems she was grasping in her mouth. She wore a crown of woven flowers on her head. And she was surrounded by butterflies.

Neither of them had ever seen these things up close before. Oh, they had read about them in books at school, but that didn’t compare to the genuine article. It was hard to believe the ground was so colourful: it just looked like large patches of greens, browns, and blues from Cloudsdale.

“What do flowers need so many colours for?” Rainbow remembered asking.

“They come in all the colours of the rainbow,” Fluttershy had rapturously explained, “just like your mane!”

And then she had insisted on weaving a second crown of them for Rainbow to wear, in thanks for standing up for her. Rainbow did not object -- she had to admit, they looked pretty cool. Even the butterflies were kind of cool, although they creeped her out a little. After Derpy had shown them how to weave --

That’s when we met Derpy, Rainbow recalled with a sudden pang. The way that pony acted sometimes, it was so easy to forget she was years older than they were. Ponyville’s newest mailmare had gotten lost looking for an address and had found Fluttershy instead, just before dark. They had spent the night together under a tree, and in the early morning, as Celestia’s sun began to warm the land and the air currents shifted, Derpy had taught Fluttershy how to ride thermals, so she could get back up to Cloudsdale despite being an under-powered flyer. And Derpy had gone up with her to make sure nothing went wrong.

Rainbow found it odd: Fluttershy had been pushed and prodded through weeks of flight camp and it hadn’t helped her at all, but Derpy had needed only a couple of hours to show her how to ride air currents “like a stream of bubbles.” And she looked like a bubble herself, her belly stretched wide and tight over the foal she was carrying.

She shouldn’t have been flying like that... I wonder if she realised that. The thought certainly had not occurred to Rainbow or Fluttershy, but they were only fillies at the time....

Derpy had let them feel the foal through her skin. Neither of them had any younger siblings, so it was another new experience, strange and wonderful at the same time, and doubly so once she taught them to recognise the hard little nub that was the foal’s horn. A unicorn. Every pony in Cloudsdale was a pegasus by necessity; every pony they had ever known had been a pegasus -- but this pegasus was carrying a unicorn inside her. It was unthinkable. It was... magical.

The foal shifted when their hooves put pressure on its horn, and the movement caused the little stub to depress their frogs. It tickled -- Rainbow remembered the sharp, shooting pains -- but she did not pull her hoof away, not for a long time. It had felt worth the discomfort to feel that little horn, to know that it was real.

Eventually, the three of them had drifted back up to Cloudsdale together. Even Rainbow learned something from Derpy -- she had always relied on her wings to fight through adverse currents, but if you stopped struggling and rode them just right, you could cut clean through with little resistance. And she would have landed in a whole heap of trouble when they got back to camp -- after all, the search parties were now looking for two fillies instead of one -- but Derpy had said something. What did she say? Rainbow couldn’t remember, but it was something that had made a strange sort of sense. You simply could not argue with it. The same thing had happened when Rainbow had laughed at Derpy’s eyes:

“How come your eyes are like that?” she’d giggled.

“How come your mane is like that?” Derpy had asked in return.

“I dunno. It’s always been like that.”

“Same here,” said Derpy, and she had winked, and when her eye had opened again, it was looking in another direction. They all laughed then.

I guess I shouldn’t really have laughed, thought Rainbow somewhat guiltily, but she didn’t seem to mind....

And Derpy left them with one last miracle to round out the day: she gave them her firefly lamp. Fluttershy simply could not stop gushing about it, but Rainbow did not believe a word. “Glowing bugs? Hah! I’ll believe that when I see it!” And come nightfall, she did. They flared rainbows for light in Cloudsdale; neither of them had seen the like before.

Rainbow had wanted to show every filly in the dorm, but Fluttershy felt uncomfortable at the idea of getting up in front of everypony, so instead they had made sure all the windows were closed, and had simply let the fireflies free. Then they had made just enough noise to wake a couple of the lighter sleepers. Rainbow smiled remembering what happened next.

Some ponies were awed, some freaked out completely, everypony was flapping around in confusion.... Even the leader who came in to check on all the ruckus had never seen fireflies up close before. She was quite moved by the sight. And Rainbow and Fluttershy lay together under the covers of Fluttershy’s bunk, shaking with laughter and each with one hoof in the other’s mouth to keep her “partner in crime” quiet.

Best. Night. Ever!

She and Fluttershy had been fairly close after that, and while Fluttershy never pulled another prank in her life, for Rainbow there had been no going back. She could not say, however, if she had ever managed to top that first time.

But Fluttershy could no longer keep her head in the clouds. She was always riding the currents down to the ground, and coming back up with baskets of flowers. Rainbow often went with her: she was not all that crazy for flowers, but seeing the many different types of animals Fluttershy kept befriending was interesting, and some things down there -- like the challenge of jinking through tangled tree branches or the thrill of skimming over ponds and watching your wake carved out on the water -- were really cool.

Fluttershy moved down to the ground as soon as she was old enough to leave the nest. Rainbow had not been sure she would actually do it, being so timid, but she moved to Ponyville, where she already knew one pony: Derpy had kept in touch, even delivering the letters herself, when she could, although Rainbow had never seen the point of writing a letter if one was then going to show up in person.

Rainbow followed Fluttershy within six months. She loved Cloudsdale; it would always be a second home to her... but she missed the scent of meadowflowers.

“Hey, Fluttershy...” said Rainbow at last.


“Derpy’s little filly... what was her name again?”

“You mean Dinky?”

“Oh, yeah! That was it. I’d... forgotten somehow.” Rainbow pushed the tip of her left forehoof into the base of her right, depressing the frog. She let me feel her through her skin... and I forgot.

“Don’t you and Derpy work together whenever she helps out with the weather? She talks about you often. She’s very proud of you: she says you work hard.”

“Really? We don’t... talk that much, I guess.” Rainbow did tend to zip ahead of her: Derpy’s double-vision threw off her depth perception, so she had rely on her talent for reading air currents to manoeuvre, and simply could not fly as fast as most pegasi, let alone Rainbow Dash. She even spoke slowly. And Derpy was pretty clumsy... sometimes -- most times -- Rainbow simply shot ahead and did the whole job herself. And she thinks I work hard? Hearing that didn’t make Rainbow feel proud.

“I guess, uh, Dinky’d be about old enough to get her cutie mark now, huh?”

“She’s at that age, yes,” Fluttershy agreed, “although she doesn’t have hers yet. What’s brought this on all of a sudden?”

“Oh, just... thinking about stuff.”

“I was wondering,” continued Fluttershy, “considering... everything, have you ever -- had a massage before?”

“Huh? Uh, no. I’ve... never had one.”

“Would you like to try? I’ve -- I’ve got a bit of practice, and it might help you relax.... Don’t worry, it won’t tickle -- in fact, it can’t! A tickling touch is light and fast, but a massage is slower and uses much more pressure. It’s not the same at all. A-and you can tell me to stop at any time, if you want. I promise I’ll stop right away!”

“Calm down, Fluttershy,” said Rainbow, patting her friend’s wing, “I know I can trust you.”

Well, why not? It can’t make things worse.

“OK, Fluttershy. Let’s... let’s try it.”

“Wonderful! Now, this is a cloud-bed; it’s no good for a massage. We need a firmer surface. I think we’ll have to use the floor, but we can pull the covers off the bed and use them to pad things out a little. It doesn’t have to be rock-hard.

“Sure, whatever. You’re the expert,” said Rainbow, sliding out from under Fluttershy’s wing to bite down on part of the coverlet and begin pulling it back. Then she caught a glimpse of her friend, and had to spit it out, giggling.

“Um, Fluttershy....”

“Yes, Rainbow?”

“You can open your eyes, now.”

“Oh, thank goodness! It was getting a little awkward.”