Chapter 4 – Friday
When Twilight arrived at Canterlot High the next morning, she did so with very mixed feelings. While she was of course excited to see Rainbow Dash again, the fear of the athlete finding out that she was in fact responsible for the slime disaster made her feel woozy. The grey clouds that had rolled in during the night and the cool drizzle they had brought only seemed to amplify her sullen mood.
At the same time, a sense of stubborn determination had taken ahold of Twilight. She could simply not allow for Rainbow Dash to find the journal in the debris and let her new connection with her long-time crush be destroyed willy-nilly. The memories of all the wonderful moments of the day before were still fresh enough to have a giddy grin creep up on her face whenever her concentration wavered, and Twilight wanted to keep it that way.
She wanted more Rainbow hugs.
Above the main entrance, the banner announcing the Fall Formal had had a small sign added to it stating that the dance had been postponed by a week without specifying any reasons. A pang of guilt rushed through Twilight, and she gulped. She had caused this. She had done this to everyone in school. Some students sitting on the stairs outside glared at her, and Twilight realized that there was no need for explaining the reason on the banner – literally everybody already had heard the rumors that she was to blame along with Rainbow Dash.
Twilight found it hard to appreciate the irony in that technically she was only guilty by association, yet legitimately to blame at the same time.
She entered the big atrium and, for a moment, was unsure of where to go. On any other morning, she would have wandered to the library to say hello to Zecora and probably read a chapter or two in her current book, happy to be in a safe spot where her more prank-happy fellow students would leave her alone. The nasty glares that quite a few students were giving her as she entered only made the library appear like an even more desirable place to be.
But today, she believed she had reason to hope to run into Rainbow Dash before classes started, and she would definitely not find her in the library.
“Loser,” someone audibly said to her right. She didn’t even turn to see who it was; it didn’t matter.
“Whatcha gonna ruin today, dweeb?” someone else sneered. Twilight pulled in her head, her determination to face the school corridors trying to find Rainbow Dash quickly faltering. Instead, she started for the library, overly aware of the students lining the corridors and the looks following her, not to mention their snide remarks. Just to be on the safe side, she began walking faster and faster until she was almost jogging down the hallway.
Then someone tripped her.
Twilight barely managed to break her fall without slamming her face into the ground. Her bag slid off her shoulder and skidded along the hallway as everyone around her burst out laughing. Her cheeks flushing, she scuttled over to her bag, but someone gave it a kick and slid it further away from her. The laughing only grew louder.
Twilight wanted to just disappear into the ground. She debated crawling after her bag again and probably having it kicked away again, or getting up and probably being shoved to the ground again, and found both alternatives equally undesirable. Not knowing what to do, she just remained hunched on the floor, hot tears of anger and shame filling her eyes, while the laughing and shouting around her kept increasing in intensity. Quickly, it broke down into a rhythmic chant: “Party pooper! Party pooper!”
Someone grabbed her arm and pulled her up. Twilight flinched, expecting to be punched, but her savior put an arm around her and led her to her bag, picking it up for her. Only then Twilight recognized the person steadying her as Rainbow Dash.
“Get lost, jerk!” Rainbow yelled at a student standing in their way as she lead Twilight out of the hallway, and her hot flaring anger made the boy back away quickly. Behind them, the chanting and laughing slowly died down, but Twilight thought she could still feel the nasty looks of literally every other student resting on her. Then Rainbow pushed her through a door and into an empty classroom and sat her down on a desk. “You okay, Twi?” she asked, the anger in her voice impossible to miss, but it was obviously not aimed at Twilight.
Twilight snuffled and finally raised her head to look at Rainbow who was standing in front of her in what turned out to be an empty classroom, looking at her concerned. She was overly aware of the tears running down her face, of her swollen eyes and her snotty nose. It was really not how she had hoped Rainbow Dash would see her. Still, she nodded and said, “Yes. Thank you.” Her voice was hoarse.
“Don’t mention it,” Rainbow waved it off and began pacing in front of Twilight. “We should probably stick together. As long as everyone’s being such an ass about the stupid dance, you know.”
“It won’t keep them from picking on us,” Twilight pointed out. “Like last night at Donut Joe’s.”
“Yeah, but it’s still better if we can have each other’s back,” Rainbow said. “I mean, your only other friend around here is the librarian, and… I really wanna make sure you’re alright.” She chuckled. “Wow, that sounded cheesy.”
Twilight couldn’t hold back a smile as Rainbow made a step towards her and looked deep into her eyes. She brushed back a strand of Twilight’s hair from her face and said with a ridiculously deep voice, “Don’t worry none, little lady, I’ll keep you safe.” They both burst out laughing, and Twilight was quite glad that the laughter obscured the shiver that Rainbow’s soft touch on her cheek had sent down her spine as Rainbow withdrew her arm to hold her stomach.
“Now that was cheesy!” Twilight finally managed to say between to chortles.
“It just needs sunglasses,” Rainbow replied smugly. More seriously she continued, “So what do you say we have lunch together? I can also walk you to class if you want. I don’t mind being late, happens often enough.”
“Actually,” Twilight said, “it’s better if I walk you to class. I can afford being late. Teachers… kinda like me.”
“Heh, they definitely aren’t too crazy about me, even without the gym-cident,” Rainbow chuckled. “Okay, sure, whatever. I have English now, on second floor.” When Twilight got up and started for the door, she added, “You got a tissue or something? You still look pretty—”
“Ohmigosh!” Twilight squealed, hiding her face in her hands. “Thanks!” She pulled a tissue from her bag and began cleaning her face, scolding herself that she had let Rainbow Dash see her like that.
After she was done cleaning herself up, they left the empty classroom. There were fewer students in the hallways now, most of them having made their way to their classes before the first period started. The few that were still around shot them nasty looks and whispered behind their backs, but compared to the tripping and chanting, Twilight found that rather harmless.
On the stairs, they ran into Rainbow’s pink-haired friend Fluttershy again, along with a group of friends. Upon seeing them, the girl lowered her head like she had done in the diner, hiding her face behind her hair.
“Dashie!” one of the other girls, with pink skin and poofy pink hair, chimed in, “I want you to know that I’m just a teensy-weensy bit disappointed, mostly because there’s no sadder thing than a cancelled party. Except for maybe a party that wasn’t even planned. But it’s okay. I don’t blame you! And there’s even going to be another party, so actually no harm done!” And, unbelievable to Twilight, she reached out and patted Rainbow Dash on the head like a puppy which left the athlete flabbergasted.
Then she turned to Twilight with a bright smile, grabbing her hand and shaking it forcefully, and said, “Hi! I’m Pinkie Pie! I’m the dance organization committee. Nice to meet you, despite your ruining my work!”
“Twilight Sparkle,” Twilight replied mechanically, completely confused by the pink girl’s demeanor. “Nice to meet you too?”
“Rainbow Dash,” another girl, with alabaster skin and dark violet hair that fell over her back in carefully undulated curls, chimed in, “even at the risk of you not wanting to hear it, I wanted to tell you in person that what you did in the gym was a really despicable act of unwarranted vandalism! You—“ Rainbow flinched at the tirade.
The fourth girl in the group, with tan skin and a long blonde ponytail, interrupted her. “Hold your horses there, Rarity. Rainbow, was it you?” she asked.
“Hey, AJ. No, it wasn’t me.”
“You?” the girl called AJ turned to Twilight with suspiciously narrowed eyes. Twilight startled and shuffled a bit closer to Rainbow for support, brushing against her arm.
“It wasn’t Twi either,” Rainbow answered in her place.
The blonde girl’s expression relaxed. “Good. I believe y’all. Jus’—“
Rarity, who was now staring at her, mortified, just stammered, “Ohmigosh… Rainbow… darling… I’m so sorry… I should have believed you and ignored all the…”
The bell rang, cutting her short. “We better get going,” Rainbow said. “It’s cool, Rares.” She exchanged a fistbump with the girl called AJ and continued climbing the stairs, closely followed by Twilight.
“Bye, Dashie and Twilight!” Pinkie Pie called after them.
“Your friends are probably the only people in this place who won’t hate us on sight right now,” Twilight remarked when they had reached Rainbow’s classroom.
“Heh, yeah. They’re really cool. We should all hang out some time. They’ll like you.” She gave Twilight a friendly bump against the shoulder. “See you later!”
Class was not pleasant that day. Usually, Twilight enjoyed class—she was always well prepared, she was always eager to learn new things, and she happily answered the teachers’ questions. Other students would sometimes roll their eyes, and she was aware that some considered her a teachers’ pet, but normally that would not faze her when there was something new to learn or a question to answer.
But the nasty glares as she entered late and the snide remarks that were whispered not quite lowly enough to be missed were harder to take than the usual casual exasperation. The atmosphere in the classroom immediately made her wish Rainbow Dash was back with her for support, which immediately reminded her of how crucial it was that she kept the lost journal from Rainbow Dash if she wanted to be able to hang out with her ever again, and the potentially devastating consequences if she failed.
The combination of feeling guilty for the slime, worrying over the journal and the dire outlook if she failed to keep it away from Rainbow, the hostility of her peers and, last but not least, her missing her new friend and long-time crush left her subdued enough for most of the morning that she didn’t raise her hand once and only answered questions in the briefest possible way when teachers directly asked her. She noticed one or two of them, especially Miss Cheerilee, casting her worried looks, but thankfully no one said anything.
The only redeeming factor was that after each period, she got to meet with Rainbow. Even though it was only for the few minutes it took to get to the next classroom, every time she saw Rainbow waiting in front of her classroom seemed to infuse her with new energy. She didn’t complain to Rainbow on these occasions, not wanting to kill the mood. So instead they had short chats about virtually anything that wasn’t related to blue slime, and infallibly Rainbow would bump her shoulder companionably when they split for the next period which left a warm, tingly sensation radiating from the spot of the touch and a sinking feeling that she didn’t deserve it.
All in all, when lunch break finally came, Twilight was pretty exhausted by the constant emotional rollercoaster the day had been so far, and she would have been ready to call it a day if there hadn’t been their cleaning duty after school. She met Rainbow in the cafeteria, and they queued up for lunch together.
“You gotta keep your eyes everywhere,” Rainbow explained while picking a muffin for desert. “Some wannabe prankster is gonna try and flip your tray if you’re not careful.”
“Great,” Twilight commented.
“Meh, it’s no big deal if you’re aware of your surroundings. Pretty much like in soccer. Or paintball.” She snorted disdainfully. “And seriously, someone who’s lame enough to pull something from Pranking 101 like tray-flipping is probably not the cleverest prankster anyway.” When Twilight continued to look at her doubtfully, she gave her an encouraging smile and added, “Never fear, your friendly most awesome prankster of the century is here. Whatever they throw at us, I’ve done it in junior high already.”
“As comforting as that sounds,” Twilight said, starting to grin, “are you going to have macaroni with all that cheese?”
Rainbow stared at her for a second, mouth hanging open, then she started laughing. “Good one!”
Despite her teasing, Twilight decided that prudence was the better part of valor and suspiciously looked around as they made their way through the cafeteria looking for a place to sit after they had gotten their lunches. A few nasty glares and headshakes convinced them that they did not want to sit with anyone else.
“Screw this,” Rainbow growled. “I’d say let’s eat outside on the football field, but not with weather like this.”
In the end, they withdrew to the gym, the one place where definitely nobody would follow them. There were some tables from the dance preparation that were still in usable shape, and they sat down on them, balancing their trays on their knees as they ate without speaking much.
“So see you after next period?” Rainbow asked after they had returned their trays to the cafeteria—as late as possible in order to avoid unnecessary run-ins with other students. Twilight nodded, and Rainbow gave Twilight the by now habitual shoulder bump. “Take care, Twi”
When they met in the gym after the last period, Twilight immediately noticed that Rainbow Dash was even more downbeat than earlier. Her head hanging, she carelessly dropped her bag on the floor and gave the wall a halfhearted kick.
“Rainbow?” Twilight asked, concerned about her friend. “What’s wrong?”
Rainbow didn’t look up as she replied in her deep fake manly voice. “’In light of recent events, and seeing as you’re going to miss vital training units, I’m going to have to nominate a replacement for you for next week’s match.’”
“That’s what Coach Thunderlane just told me,” Rainbow explained. “Gave me some more crap about me bringing unrest into the team and how being a great player doesn’t mean I don’t have to care about discipline or whatever.” She sighed. “But yeah. Technically he’s right; if you miss a training session, you can be pulled for the next game. And I’m missing a session right now.” She kicked the wall again. “This stupid slime just doesn’t stop piling it on.”
Twilight rushed over to Rainbow and, with only the slightest hesitation, hugged her. Rainbow briefly returned the hug and buried her face on Twilight’s shoulder. After pulling back she gave Twilight a weak smile. “Thanks,” she said. “Let’s get this over with. I’m sick of this slime.” Twilight just nodded, trying to fight back the guilt that was resurging inside her with full force.
Rainbow grabbed one of the shovels and started for the locker room, but turned around after a few steps. “You know, the only good thing that has happened since this crapsplosion was meeting you,” she said, still smiling. “I mean, I never woulda run into you in your library, and you’re actually pretty cool.”
Twilight could only lower her head to hide her flushed cheeks, muttering “Thanks” as she followed her.
“Hey, don’t worry about me,” Rainbow said as she noticed Twilight’s gloomy mood. “I’ll be back in the starting formation in no time; coach can’t afford benching me. It’s gonna be fine!”
“Okay,” Twilight unsteadily replied. “That’s good.” But she still felt bad about the still-growing heap of trouble she had caused Rainbow Dash.
They went to work in the locker room. It wasn’t as bad as they had feared; only the main corridor was filled with a significant amount of slime while the side corridors were only covered in a shallow layer of the blue goo. In silence, they went to work.
They made good progress, cleaning out the majority of the slime in the locker room within less than two hours. It seemed like there was an unspoken agreement between them to at least get the major slime reservoirs cleaned up before the end of the day.
“How cool would it be if we just had a fire hose and could just flush all that gunk away!” Rainbow exclaimed some time later when they had finally uncovered the restroom entrance. She grabbed her shovel with both hands and pointed it at the slime. “Swooosh! Take that, stupid slime!”
Twilight giggled at her antics, happy that her mood had improved again. “I don’t think it’s water-soluble.”
“No fun!” Rainbow complained, pouting exaggeratedly. “Meh. So shovellin’ it is.”
They had had to swipe the lamps in the locker room in order to work; they had been covered in the turquoise slime and had only given a gloomy blue light that made it virtually impossible to safely maneuver on the treacherous slimy floor. In the bright light of the cleaned lamps, Twilight noticed that the slime that waited for them inside the restrooms looked different, its color a little lighter, less satiated than what they were used to by now.
“An air bubble?” she asked pensively. “I wonder—“ She saw a motion from the corner of her eye and instinctively yelled, “No!” Rainbow Dash, who had her shovel raised high above her head, ready to strike on the slime bubble, froze mid-motion and quizzically looked at Twilight.
“It’s…” Twilight’s brain was running in overdrive, trying to come up with a way to salvage the situation. She had a very clear idea of what they would find inside the bubble, and she needed Rainbow out of the way for that! “It might be dangerous!” she burst out. “If there is some sort of dangerous gas in there, or even just carbon dioxide, we could actually choke. We need… gas masks! Yes! Can you get gas masks?” She fought the urge to facepalm at her completely ridiculous request. Gas masks!
Rainbow lowered her shovel and warily took a step back from the suspicious slime formation. “Gas masks, huh.” Twilight forced herself to a nod, trying her best not to blush. “I think Rarity got a hazmat suit for the decoration committee, will that do?”
“A hazmat suit?” Twilight repeated, flabbergasted. “What does the decoration committee need a hazmat suit for?” She shook her head, not quite believing her luck. “But yes, that would do.”
“Don’t know, don’t wanna know,” Rainbow cheerfully replied, turning to leave the locker room. “Be right back!”
Twilight consciously counted to thirty until she started to act, trying to push back her guilty conscience for blatantly abusing Rainbow’s ignorance of para-organic chemistry. Judging from the ingredients of her failed potion, she was sure that there was nothing worse than nitrogen inside the bubble. Well, that and the journal.
She carefully poked her shovel at the bubble and was surprised that it was much thicker and sturdier than she had expected. A surge of panic rushed through her as she pictured herself hammering at the congealed bubble, unable to break through before Rainbow returned.
She shook her head. Not willing to admit defeat, she thrust the shovel at the slime with full force and almost fell forward as she broke through the obstacle. With the gas inside the bubble finally able to escape, it deflated with a rather anticlimactic farting sound, and Twilight struggled to maintain her balance and avoid falling into the goo.
With the bubble collapsed, everything that had been dry and safe inside was now covered in a thick layer of slime—including the journal that had to be in there. “Clock is ticking,” Twilight muttered to herself and frantically started attacking the slime, carelessly throwing it behind herself. She was going to have to make up some story about the bubble suddenly collapsing all by itself, but that didn’t matter right now. The journal!
After a minute or two of hectic shoveling, interrupted by panicked looks over her shoulder, she suddenly hit her Bunsen burner, or rather its mortal remains. The mount for the flask had turned into a heap of twisted wires. The flask itself had been shattered to smithereens which were buried in the bottom layer of the slime and were twinkling in the thin layer of slime.
“Where are you?” she mumbled. She was almost sure that the journal would be to her right. But if she as wrong? She would lose valuable time if she would dig in the wrong spot!
Twilight shook her head. Hesitating and second-guessing would lose her even more time! She went to work where she suspected the journal and quickly saw a suspicious rectangular shape underneath the thinning layer of slime. Unable to contain her impatience any longer, she just thrust her arm into the slime and, with some feeling around, finally managed to grab the journal. With a jerk, she pulled it out of the slime.
She got up and tried to force the journal shut as she made her way to her bag in the vestibule. The journal was drenched in the blue goo, impossible to close, all its pages sticking together and only the ones where it had been opened still being readable. It didn’t matter; she could get a new journal. All that counted was that the danger of Rainbow Dash finding out what she had done was dealt with. She could finally start looking forward to spending more time with Rainbow Dash, to milkshakes, to all the possible—
“I’m back!” Rainbow shouted from the door. Startled, Twilight stumbled over the shattered remains of the locker room bench and fell into a puddle of slime with a loud splat, still stuck open. As she tried to break her fall, she threw the journal forwards in a low arch, and it landed right in front of Rainbow Dash.
“Twi, are you alright?” Rainbow asked worriedly, dropping the hazmat suit she was carrying.
Panic taking over, Twilight jumped up. “I’m fine! I’m great! I just—“
“What’s that?” Rainbow asked curiously, looking down. “’Operation Rainbow Dash’? ‘TS + RD’?” She looked at Twilight, confused. “Twi? What is this?” she asked hoarsely.
“This… Rainbow… I can explain—“
“’Recipe for a Courage Potion. Gym restroom should be free Thursdays last period’,” Rainbow continued reading. As the realization hit her, she slowly raised her head and stared at Twilight, her eyes narrowing. “You did this?” she asked, her voice shaking. “You caused all this crap? You lied to me?!” The last words she yelled at the top of her lungs, anger taking control of her. “What is wrong with you, Twilight?!”
“Rainbow… I’m so sorry…,” Twilight stammered. “I…” But the angry, unforgiving look Rainbow gave her was too much for her to bear. Concentrating on not bursting into tears before she was out of sight, she pushed past Rainbow Dash, grabbed her bag from the vestibule and ran away. For a few moments, Rainbow just stared after her. Then she slowly slid down until she sat on the floor right next to the slimy journal, emptily staring into the trashed locker room.
Rainbow didn’t move until a few minutes later she heard footsteps approaching. Raising her gaze, she saw Vice Principal Luna standing in the door, looking down on her. “Rainbow Dash,” she said coolly. “I’m afraid there was a mix-up. The real culprit for this just turned herself in. You are freed of all charges. My apologies for the unwarranted punishment.”
“Yeah,” Rainbow said flatly. She slowly got up. “She here?”
“She excused herself for a minute, but she will resume working right away,” Vice Principal Luna replied. “Oh, and by the way, your key privileges are hereby restored.” She reached into her pocked and handed Rainbow Dash a key ring. Rainbow took it, but didn’t otherwise move. Luna slightly cocked her head. “You are free to go, Rainbow Dash,” she said with a hint of bemusement in her voice. “I think the soccer team is still practicing on the football field.”
“Thanks,” Rainbow said, her voice still shaking. “I think I’m not feeling well enough for training though.”
“Is everything quite alright?” Vice Principal Luna asked.
“No,” Rainbow just said and brusquely walked past her, picking up her bag. Absentmindedly she stuffed the journal into her bag and left the gym.