My home has never been particularly quiet, despite the fact that I live in a library. The first night I ever lived here was spent tossing and turning, trying to drown out the sounds of loud music from a surprise party in my living room.
"Libraries are supposed to be quiet." I had told Pinkie Pie. Either she hadn't heard me, or she didn't care. Still, these days, the library was relatively peaceful. No major friendship problems, no natural disasters, no evil masterminds threatening the well being of Equestria. My life has been pretty quiet lately, in general.
But tonight, sleep eludes me because some strange noise is coming from my balcony. It sounds sort of like a low growl, but perhaps it's mechanical. It almost reminds me of the creaking of a wooden ship rocking in the ocean.
I'm terrified to go out and check what it is. What if it's some monster I've never heard of? What if a bear has miraculously scaled my house, and is waiting on my balcony, waiting for me to step out so he can tear me to pieces? Maybe if I ignore it it'll go away...
For a moment, it's silent. I can feel sleep pawing at me.
The sound comes again, louder than ever, and I shoot up in my bed. That's it, enough stalling. I stand up confidently and begin to walk to the door. As the sound comes again my cadence slows, but I press on.
I slowly open the door, which creaks as I peer around its threshold. And I find the source of the mysterious noise. Lying in front of me, deadly still, is...
Rainbow Dash, snoring.
I'm filled with relief, but also with confusion. Why is Rainbow Dash sleeping on my balcony? I should ask her.
"Rainbow Dash!" I whisper-shout. She snores loudly, rolling over. I roll my eyes and nudge her with a hoof.
"Five more minutes." She mumbles.
"Rainbow Dash, why are you sleeping on my balcony?"
She freezes for a moment, then quickly sits upright, taking in her surroundings. Her eyes go wide as she realizes where she is, and then she relaxes her brow in a show of forced non-chalance.
"I was napping." She says.
"Napping?" I echo incredulously. "In the middle of the night? On my balcony?" A gust of wind blows across the balcony and I shiver. It's freezing. "Rainbow, it's really cold outside. Come inside before you catch the flu."
"I'm fine, really, Twilight." Rainbow assures unconvincingly. I gaze at her, unconvinced. Another gust of wind passes and Rainbow shivers slightly.
"Come inside." I say again, and begin walking toward my bedroom. When I hear nothing behind me, I turn around to see Rainbow sitting with her forelegs crossed. I gesture again to the door and she gives an exasperated sigh, begrudgingly walking into my bedroom. She closes the door behind herself.
"Now, why were you sleeping on my balcony?" I ask again.
"Look, I'm sorry. I'll go find somewhere else to sleep." Rainbow offers.
"I don't 'mind' you sleeping on my balcony, in principle." I clarify. "It's just a strange thing to do. And as your friend I would rather you be indoors than on my balcony."
"Ugh. Fine. You promise not to tell anypony?" Rainbow asks. I cross my heart and bring a hoof to my eye. Rainbow sighs and averts my gaze.
"My house got foreclosed." She says. I'm shocked. I had no idea Rainbow was in financial trouble.
"Why? How did that happen?" I ask, concern in my voice.
"I ran out of money. Couldn't pay the mortgage."
"I know how a foreclosure works. I mean...how did you manage to run out of money?"
"Well, it's been dwindling ever since I got the house, actually." She confesses. "I saved up a bunch of cash to buy the place, relying on getting into the Wonderbolts. I figured by now I'd be good to go, but as you can see..." She doesn't need to finish her thought. "Being a weather pony doesn't exactly pay the bills on a mansion."
"I never knew... Rainbow, I'm so sorry." I say. "Hang on a minute, I'll go put some sheets on the guest bed."
"No way, Twi." Rainbow declares. "I'll be fine on my own."
"Dash, I'm your friend. I want to help you out."
"As your friend, I don't want to impose."
"You're not imposing. Really, I have the space. Besides, what's one night?"
"And what about tomorrow night? And the night after that? I can't just depend on other ponies for food and shelter. I've gotta get myself through this."
"You don't have to do it alone!" I'm shouting by this point. "Look. Why don't you spend the night, and I'll help you get back on your feet again starting tomorrow."
"You'd... do that for me?" Rainbow asks, touched. "You're sure you want to do this? I don't want to drag you into my problems."
"Absolutely. What are friends for, right?" I smile warmly at Rainbow, who gives a sad but grateful smile.
"Thanks, Twilight. It means a lot."
"Don't mention it. Now let me go get those sheets."
I go to my closet and grab some sheets. I take them to the guest bed and make it neatly for Rainbow, who lies down in it. I turn out the light and turn to leave before I hear Rainbow's voice.
"Twilight," she says. "You're an awesome friend." I chuckle.
"I know." I say dramatically. "Good night, Rainbow Dash."
This is going to be perfect. This morning I bought a surprise for Rainbow Dash. It'll be a fascinating and informative experience for me, and a fun day out for Rainbow Dash.
Surprise tucked away in my saddlebag, I open the door to my home to find Rainbow happily munching on a bowl of cereal. Her ears perk up as I walk in.
"Hey, Twilight, where you been?" Rainbow asks.
"Close your eyes." I say, approaching her.
"What?" She asks, dropping her spoon and cocking a brow.
"It's a surprise!" I say giddily. "Now close 'em."
She complies, and I set the surprise down on the table.
"Okay, open them." I say. She does, and she looks down at the table. In front of her lie two colorful tickets to--
"The Wonderbolts?!" Rainbow reads ecstatically. "You got us tickets to see the Wonderbolts?"
I nod. She smiles emphatically, but after a moment gives a confused look.
"Why?" She asks me.
"You want to get into the Wonderbolts, right? Well then we're gonna go see exactly what kind of tricks they like to do. I'll take notes, and you just enjoy yourself. Then I'll come up with a plan on how to impress them." I explain.
"Oh my gosh, this is so awesome!" Rainbow cheers. "Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"
"It's an investment. Spend some bits learning the moves so you can make some bits performing with them! Capitalism." I punctuate.
"Yeah, capital 'C', for 'Cool'!" Rainbow exclaims. I giggle and decide to let it slide without a correction.
"The performance is at noon, so finish up your breakfast and let's get going!"
From what I can tell, the Wonderbolts' main focus is on maneuvers while spinning or flipping. It seems awfully difficult, and I can see why Rainbow is so entranced by them.
I look over and Rainbow's eyes are glued on the flying group. She's practically glowing with admiration. It's nice to see her so happy, especially considering how grim her situation is.
Spinning and twisting will require a lot of torso workouts. Staying smooth while doing it will require balance exercises. I suppose if do one day of core, followed by a day of balance, followed by cardio, then a rest day...
"Twilight?" Rainbow's voice snaps me from my thoughts. "Thanks again for taking me. It's awfully nice of you."
"Oh, it's no problem! It's nice to get some quality time with you. Speaking of which, do you need a place to stay tonight?" I ask.
"Uh..." Rainbow hesitates. "That's okay, I'll figure something out."
I can understand that. She's too proud to accept too much help. But there's no way I'm just letting her rough it in the cold again.
"Okay, how about we have a sleepover? At my place?" I offer. Rainbow brings a hoof to her chin in thought.
"Well, when you put it that way..." She observes. "Sure, we can have a sleepover."
"Fillies and Gentelcoats," the announcer's voice brings an end to our conversation. "I'd like to thank you for coming out today! And a special thanks to the Wonderbolts for performing today. Let's make some noise!"
I have no idea where I am. I can't see a thing. I try to move my legs but they seem to be shackled. Heat suddenly burns my skin through my fur as fire explodes in the distance, and my setting is revealed.
I appear to be in a damp cavern, near a sheer cliff face that extends to a fiery pit below. I'm not sure what's down there. In front of me stand my five friends, each with a shackle attached to a weight, standing in a line. In front of them stands an old enemy.
"Hello, Princess Twilight." His low voice grumbles. "I don't believe we've actually met."
"Sombra." I say. "What are you doing with me and my friends?"
"You? I'm doing nothing with you. You just sit back and watch your friends die." He explains with strikingly little emotion.
"No!" I plead. "Please, you can't do this!"
"Oh I think I can." He says, as he drags Rainbow Dash to the rim of the cliff. Her silhouette lights with the fire. She looks back at me with tears in her eyes. She whispers, but I hear her voice crystal clear.
"Help me, Twilight." She chokes. "Please."
Sombra laughs and bucks her into the flames.
I shoot up in bed, sobbing and sweaty.
It was just a dream.
My heart is racing faster than it ever has, and I'm trembling with fear and anguish. Sleep has been officially ruled out for tonight. I stand, and pace about my room. I know it was just a dream, but I'm in a full-blown panic attack.
I pace around the room for several minutes to no avail. My heart is still racing, and I can't stop trembling.
Maybe if I just go check on Rainbow Dash, and see that she's okay, maybe that'll calm me down. I pace for a few more seconds, eyeing my door.
"I'm gonna walk through that door on three." I say. "One, two, three!"
I quietly go to my door and open it. I walk down the hallway to the guest room, and I open the door. Sure enough, Rainbow is sleeping soundly in her bed, breathing softly. I breathe a silent breath of relief and I immediately feel better. I turn to leave, but I hear Rainbow's voice.
"Twilight?" She whispers. "You okay?"
"Yeah," I sniffle. "I'm fine." Rainbow sits up in bed and squints at me.
"Have you been crying?" She asks. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," I lie. "Just a bad dream."
"Do you wanna talk about it?" I desperately do, but I couldn't interrupt Rainbow from her sleep. She has her own problems to deal with. "Come here."
I comply. I sit down on the bed across from her and take a shuddering breath.
"King Sombra strapped me to a wall and made me watch as he threw you and the rest of my friends into a fiery pit." I explain, trying my best to keep my composure. "You asked me to help you, but I couldn't." I choke on the last word. "I couldn't, I'm so sorry, Rainbow!" I cry, breaking down into sobs, putting my head between my forelegs. I feel Rainbow's hoof on my shaking back.
"Hey, it was just a dream, Twi." Rainbow offers. I continue sobbing. She gingerly rubs my back. "There, there."
After a few mostly silent minutes, my sobbing gradually dies down, as does my heart rate. Eventually I feel the sweet sensation of sleep wash over me.
"Okay, for your first task, I want you to do a loop," I say.
"A loop? Easy-peasy." Rainbow says confidently.
"I wasn't finished. I want you do a loop while you do a barrel roll." I explain.
"Oh." Rainbow says.
We're standing in the middle of an open field on the outskirts of Ponyville. The grass is a bit damp with dew, as it's morning. Today is the first day of my training with Rainbow Dash. I figure I’ve got a half hour to train today before I have some studying to do.
“Alright, I’ll give it a shot.” Rainbow says, and she kicks off the ground, soaring into the sky. She pauses for a minute, then darts forward, arcing up and twisting. She ends up going at an angle perpendicular to the angle at which she started.
“Pretty good!” I say. It’s true, even if I had wings, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to anything near that complicated. “Try to stay in a straight line.”
I sit there and watch her perform her stunts, giving her pointers every now and then. I feel kinda bad, just relaxing while she works her tail off trying to achieve her dreams. I gaze up at the sun. Based on the fact that the trees are more or less 90 degrees off the horizon, and the sun is… horseapples.
“I’m sorry, Rainbow, I’ve gotta get going, I have some studying to do. Finals next week and all. You can keep practicing or come with me, your choice.” I explain hurriedly.
“You have finals next week?” Rainbow asks. “Do you want any help studying?”
“Oh, it’s fine, you don’t need to--” I begin.
“Oh, come on, it’s the least I can do. You’re practically letting me live with you.” Rainbow offers.
“Well…” I say. “Okay. Why don’t you quiz me?”
“Awesome! I’m done practicing for now. Flips and loops make me dizzy if I do ‘em too long anyway.” Rainbow says casually, and lands on the ground next to me.
"Okay, who pioneered the first transformation spell?" Rainbow asks.
"Shooting Star." I answer. Lucky me, that one was easy.
"Correct!" She says. "Now what was--" A knock comes at the door. I stand and walk to the door. It's the mailmare, Derpy Hooves.
"Afternoon, Derpy!" I greet.
"Hi, Twilight!" She says happily. "Letter for you, from Spitfire in Cloudsdale."
"Whoa, what?!" Comes Rainbow's voice from the living room.
"Thanks, Derpy." I say, and hand her two bits. She waves and closes the door. I turn around to find Rainbow's face inches away from mine.
"Rainbow, what are you doing?" I ask.
"Go on, open the letter!" Rainbow says enthusiastically. I comply.
"It's hardly a surprise, Rainbow." I say. "I sent a letter two days ago asking her a question."
I inquired about the selection process the Wonderbolts use to pick new flyers. This must be her reply.
"Dear Twilight Sparkle," I read aloud. "Thank you for your interest in the Wonderbolts. Our selection process encompases several steps. We choose candidates from the national level of the EFL, the Equestrian Flight League.
The EFL, as you may know, operates at three levels: city, region, and national. Since you're writing to me from Ponyville, your friend would have to go to the Ponyville town hall and talk to an EFL representative about entering the competition. It's probably pretty short notice, but the contest is next Friday."
"Next Friday? Isn't that when your finals are?" Rainbow asks.
"Yes, but they're late in the evening. I'm sure I'll be able to make it to the competition." I explain. I look back at the letter and continue reading.
"After making city, you get a month to prepare for regional competition. Since you're in Ponyville, you're a part of the Canterlot-Cloudsdale region. After region, of course, you'll make the short trip to Cloudsdale for the national competition.
I hope to see you soon!
Rainbow is practically twitching with excitement. I chuckle and put the letter down.
"Looks like we'll be kicking the training up a notch, huh?" I muse.
"I can handle it. I could really join the Wonderbolts!" Rainbow says dreamily.
"I really think you can do it, Rainbow!" I assure. She suddenly holds me in a close embrace.
"Oh, thank you so much, Twilight!" She says, and breaks her hold on me. "You're really helping me get my life in order."
"What are friends for, right?" I say.
I had nightmares again last night. It's the third time this week I've had to sleep at the foot of Rainbow's bed. This time the nightmare was about hanging from a fragile branch above a massive dark void, listening to it slowly crack. I woke up as soon as it had broken. I'd felt really bad about waking Rainbow again; I'd given her an especially hard workout that day, and I couldn't even let her rest.
Tonight, though, there were no nightmares. There was no sleep in which to have nightmares. It's Thursday night. Tomorrow's a big day. Rainbow has her first EFL competition at 11:00 AM, and I have my History of Magic final that evening. I'm seriously freaking out. Unsurprisingly, I'm pacing around my bedroom. But I'm certainly not about to wake Rainbow up the night before her big day. So I'll just pace. If I just walk for, say, an hour, I'll be so tired I'll have no choice but to get some sleep.
I pace like that, for a few minutes, and I don't really feel much better. I am getting quite tired though, so, the plan is working I suppose.
I freeze as I hear my bedroom door open. Oh, horseapples. I woke up Rainbow with all my pacing.
"Twilight? You okay in here?" She inquires groggily.
"I'm fine." I say, my voice wavering more than I thought it would.
"More nightmares?" Dash asks, her concern obvious in her voice.
"No." I say, panicked. "I never got to sleep. I'm just freaking out."
"About the finals?" Rainbow asks.
"Yep." I say. I'm still pacing, and I don't even look at her as I talk to her.
"Hey, come here." Rainbow says, eyeing me uneasily. I stop walking and freeze. I take a deep breath and look at her. Finally, I walk towards her, and she brings me into a gentle hug.
"I've studied with you every day this week, Twilight." Rainbow says. "You are gonna rock that test."
"Thanks, Rainbow." I say. I'm genuinely thankful. "I know I've studied my hardest, but I'm just so nervous!"
"Let me tell you a story." Rainbow says, and walks to the bed. I follow her, and sit down next to her. She wraps a foreleg around me, and I notice for the first time how badly I'm trembling.
"Back when I was in flight school," She begins. "We had to stay in bunks over the summer. Every bunk had a counselor. I had the most strict counselor ever, her name was... eh, I forget. We always used to call her 'Miss Medusa', 'cause she had dreadlocks." I chuckle at the nickname.
"Anyway, one morning, 7 AM sharp, just like usual, Miss Medusa comes into our bunk and blows her whistle, to wake us up. But get this: the whistle was stuck to her lips! Somepony put glue all over her whistle!" Rainbow cackles.
"Oh my gosh, was she okay?" I ask.
"Oh yeah, it came off with water. But here's the best part: you know who did it?" Rainbow says. "Fluttershy."
"Fluttershy? No way!" I say incredulously.
"Yes ma'am! Turns out when you're not nice to Fluttershy, she's not nice back." She says. I laugh at the ridiculousness of the story.
"That's hilarious!" I say. "But, what does that have to do with my test tomorrow?"
"Oh, nothing!" Rainbow declares casually. "But don't you feel better?"
I do. It's amazing, but being so distracted by Rainbow's story has actually calmed me down. I start to feel tired, but at the same time, I don't want Rainbow to leave. I don't want to be all alone.
"We'll go on, you've got to have some more stories in you." I muse, and I notice I've stopped trembling altogether. I curl up at Rainbow's hooves and close my eyes, listening to her story.
She's an excellent storyteller, but by this point I'm just listening to the sound of her voice. She's so expressive! And the little cracks in her voice are oddly soothing. She doesn't speak too fast, or too slow, and for someone with such a huge personality, her voice is subdued in this quiet setting. Like a lullaby. I can feel myself drifting off to sleep, ever so slowly.
I'm so lucky to have a friend like Rainbow Dash. I've never had somepony to be there for me when I'm anxious. Just like how I found how lonely it was with no friends, Rainbow has shown me how lonely I was when I lived alone. She's here for me.
She sure is special.