Moisture streamed down Applejack's skin as she slowed to a halt just in front of her friends. The grill of the truck towered over Fluttershy's light pink hair, unhelped by the short girl ducking her head in discomfort. Wiping her brow off with the shirt hanging over her shoulder, Applejack gave her a friend a questioning look.
"I'm sorry, Applejack, I'm not trying to seem like a stalker or anything..."
"It's fine, sugarcube" Applejack replied, still confused. "But what brings you 'round here? Didn't reckon you were one for sports."
The last quip was meant as a joke, since Fluttershy had attended nearly every meet of Applejack's and Rainbow Dash's. "Well...I knew you were going to go look for Rainbow after this, and I just wanted...I just wanted to say that you won't find her where you're going to."
While it didn't surprise her that Fluttershy had made that guess, Applejack still raised an eyebrow at her. "You walked all the way here just to tell me that?"
"Well, no," Fluttershy stammered, rubbing the sleeve of her light jacket. Applejack always found it absurd that even in this blaze, her friend insisted on wearing a hoodie of some sort, but she had long given up on trying to tell Fluttershy otherwise. "Twilight drove me here. I felt bad about asking her to go out of her way, but this is really important and she thought so too."
"Twi?" Applejack searched the parking lot for any sign of the purple car, but was confused when she didn't see it.
"Spike needed a ride to the high school for orientation and her parents couldn't do it, so she left already. She really wanted to be here though..."
"Couldn't Shining Armour have done it?" Shaking her head, Applejack continued. "Nevermind, I done wasted too much time."
"Ain't your fault, sugarcube," Applejack said hastily, regretting her word choice immediately. "I should have looked for her when you mentioned something a while back, instead I let it go. Don't know who you were trying to fool last we talked, but I really did let Dash down this time. I'm hoping to make this all better though. Say, I don't reckon you do know where she at? You mentioned she ain't at her parents, or at least hinted?"
"Do you know where Cranky Doodle's shop is?"
"Why in the hay is Dash doing all the way over...nevermind. Get in the truck, Shy, let's go get Dash."
Fluttershy nodded and scrambled inside the truck, since Applejack normally left the doors unlocked, and moments later, the vehicle roared to life and was tearing away from the parking lot. It was a well kept secret that Applejack liked to drive fast, even with her beat up old truck; many a weekend, her and Rainbow Dash would race in the back roads behind Sweet Apple Acres, something that only the two of them could fully appreciate. It was no question that Rainbow Dash's sportier car would always come out on top, but the roads were kinder to the truck who hardly noticed the terrain. Still, as a result of all those secret races, Applejack had learned to drive fast on windy roads in her bulky vehicle.
Something that Fluttershy didn't really appreciate. Guilt wormed through Applejack as she caught glimpses of Fluttershy clutching on to the side handle, gulping nervously. A large hill swept the road from beneath the wheels, and the truck landed with a harsh thud. Tires squeeled and Fluttershy squeaked and closed her eyes as Applejack regained control and sped on. This was certainly not helping her anxiety any, and normally Applejack was considerate, but caution was thrown to the winds, and she silently prayed that there wouldn't be any cops patrolling this area.
The sign for the Doodle Donkey waved to get her attention and Applejack pulled into the parking lot, pulling a face when she saw Rainbow Dash's car. An ominous thunder cloud speared a rainbow coloured lightning bolt, ripping through the blue flesh of the sports car's side. It was her pride and joy, so seeing it here meant that Fluttershy was right.
Applejack was already out of the truck and about to go inside when Fluttershy finally caught up to her, perhaps just recovering from that drive. Cursing under her breath, Applejack laid a comforting hand on Fluttershy's shoulder and said, "You alright there, sugarcube?"
"I'm okay," Fluttershy whispered, giving a timid smile. "Rainbow drives even worse than that all the time. I just wasn't expecting it from you. You must really care about her..."
There was a guarded expression in those teal eyes that Applejack couldn't quite read, but she answered anyways. "'Course I do. I care about all my friends. If you were in hot water, I'd fish you out too."
"I know," Fluttershy answered, taking the first step forward. "I still remember."
Before Applejack could reply, Fluttershy opened the door, a small bell alerting of their appearance. Swirls of dust danced around them, lifting the smells of the old carpenter shop fresh to their noses and almost causing Applejack to sneeze. Standing behind a counter not too far away from them was an all too familiar face.
"A.J?" Rainbow Dash's brightly hued hair flipped behind her as she jerked her head up, her magenta eyes widening at the sight of them. "Flutters? What are you guys doing here?"
"I'm wondering the same thing, Dash," Applejack shot back, narrowing her eyes. "You know that practice was today? And ain't you a little far from Ponyville?"
"Well yeah." Shrugging, Rainbow Dash looked away, but Applejack kept going forward until the only thing separating her and Fluttershy from Rainbow Dash was the counter. "Flutters, you knew I wasn't living in Ponyville anymore."
"Yes, but you didn't say you quit the team..." It struck Applejack that Fluttershy just knew that Rainbow Dash had quit the team, though how, she didn't know; she blamed it on how perceptive she could be.
"I don't need the team anymore." There was a stubborn look on Rainbow Dash's face that Applejack knew too well, which only caused her temper to raise. "I'm better than all of them anyways, and I don't need to prove how awesome I am. You just have to look for yourself."
"How 'bout you tell me what's really going on, 'stead of giving me this hogwash?" Applejack demanded.
"Look, A.J., it was nice of you to drive all the way out here, but you didn't have to. I don't need a stupid medal, or championship or your stupid team. I can be a badass without any of you guys."
"A badass of what?" Applejack shot back. "Watching dust collect? Come on, Dash, what about your scholarships? What about all that fuss with the Wonderbolts? You reckon that college is even gonna look at you if you quit your senior year?"
"Damnit, A.J, I'm not going back. I already told Spitfire I quit. Just get over it already."
"And I told Coach that you and I taking that trophy home this year. You gonna make a liar out of me?"
"There's a first for everything."
Applejack's hands stung as they slammed against the countertop, but she ignored it as she jutted her head forward. "What in the hay you think you're doing, Rainbow Dash? Throwing your life away?"
Though Rainbow Dash wasn't nearly as loud as Applejack, she put her hands on the counter and met face to face. "I don't care about your stupid trophy, A.J. I'm not going back."
"We need you, Dash. I need you."
"I don't care."
"This ain't like you, Dash!" Applejack nearly shouted, temper nearly firing out of control. "This ain't even about some trophy no more. Why ain't you coming back?"
"Because I quit!"
"Because I quit school."
Applejack's fist curled, ready to strike, as her temper got the best of her. A sharp sound rang through the small shop, and Rainbow Dash yelped as she went backwards, clutching her face and throwing a hurt look in their direction. Applejack quickly became confused as she stared at her fist which never made contact, until she looked up to see Fluttershy's furious gaze.
It was rare when the timid girl got like this, but it happened from time to time, and it was formidable enough to earn its own name; the Stare. And Rainbow Dash was on the receiving end this time.
"How could you?" Fluttershy demanded. "You promised!"
"I got kicked out of my house, Flutters!"
This was news to Applejack, but judging by Fluttershy's unrelenting glare, it was no surprise to her. "You promised, Rainbow. You said no matter what, you would never drop out!"
At this point, Applejack said nothing else, deciding to let them sort it out, but she still continued to give Rainbow Dash a scornful look from beside Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash didn't seem to have anymore to say either as she looked from one to another, swallowing before turning her back on the two of them. "I know what I said, Flutters, but I didn't think it would ever get this hard!"
Empathy returned, pushing away the unnatural harshness out of Fluttershy's voice. "You could live with me, Rainbow, since Lyra moved out. You'll have somewhere to live in Ponyville, and you can keep going to school. But you can't give up, Rainbow, or you'll let your dad win."
"And you ain't one to lose, Dash," Applejack chimed in. The anger she had washed away upon seeing her friend in distress and she reached over the counter to grab her shoulder.
Fluttershy however, did one better and went around the counter to embrace Rainbow Dash, who held her back. The way that Rainbow Dash's shoulders shook, Applejack knew that she was overwhelmed, so she soothed her friend's back silently. It took a little bit, but at last Rainbow Dash straightened herself, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. "Thanks, guys. You're the most awesome friends a girl could ask for."
"Are you coming back then?" Applejack asked, allowing herself to get hopeful.
"I guess I should let the boss know I'm moving back to Ponyville. Beats living in the car."
"What the hell is going on?"
The new voice caused all of them to turn and see an elderly dark man glaring at them from beneath his bushy grey eyebrows. Rainbow Dash was the only one who responded. "Cranky Doodle, um, these are my friends..."
"Friends, eh? They come talk some sense into you?"
"Yes, boss, they did."
"Good." A sly grin formed on his grumpy features and he started to waggle his cane at Rainbow Dash. "Then go on. Git. Young'un's thinking they can just quit school and make it big. At least you got some sensible friends."
"Thanks, boss." With a look at Applejack, Rainbow Dash gave a small smirk and said, "I guess I missed practice already?"
"Reckon you'll be running laps until nightfall tomorrow."
"That's it? I could run laps in my sleep," Rainbow Dash laughed, which made Applejack smile in relief. Her friend was back. Fluttershy had the same expression, and Rainbow Dash must have seen it. "Thanks, guys. I don't know what I would do without you."
"Just remember to let us help you next time."
"I won't forget again."