(Timeline position: Two months after the events of That's Not Quite How He Told It...)
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“Rgh!” Applejack grunted as she grinded her elbow into the table. She glared with her eyes forward, locked on her smug opponent. Their right hooves were clasped together, and she forced all of her strength to her left. She could barely move it.
“Ohboy,ohjeez,ohman,ohwow,ohcripes,ohdarn,ohmy,” Pinkie Pie peered over the edge of the table with her eyes wide and a smile hidden by the tabletop. She bounced giddily as she watched the hoof wrestling match continue.
Behind Pinkie, also present in the quiet environment that was Sugarcube Corner after business hours, were Twilight, Rarity, and Fluttershy. Unlike Pinkie, they sat one table length away as they observed. Twilight watched with interest, keeping calmer than the rest. Fluttershy peeked out from behind her. She had pulled out one of Twilight’s alicorn wings and mostly hid behind it. She wasn’t very fond of these contests. Rarity sat a little close, not anywhere near as close as Pinkie, but she kept leaning closer. Her mouth hung agape as she stared at Applejack’s opponent.
Applejack grunted again as she tried to force her hoof down with a sudden lurch, but her opponent held firm.
“Ain’t gonna work A.J.,” a smug voice taunted.
Applejack was hoof wrestling Rainbow Dash.
“I ain’t losin’ to you!” Applejack growled and ground her teeth together.
“Bring it!” Dash smirked. Applejack was strong. It took a lot of effort for Dash to resist being pushed down, but that was just it: She was able to hold firm. The two of them competed in a lot of things, but hoof wrestling was the one thing Applejack ALWAYS won. It was a contest of pure strength. Who would ever bet on a pegasus beating an earth pony? At least an average pegasus.
Over the past few months, Dash had become far above and beyond average.
“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, OH MY GOSH!” Pinkie bounced up and down beside them, “It’s too intense! I’m not hyper enough for this shit!” She darted behind the counter, ripped open a full bag of sugar, and started guzzling it down.
The mere sight of a pegasus overpowering an earth pony was unbelievable. It was even more incredible because the earth pony being overpowered was Applejack. She was a naturally strong, hardworking, and heavy lifting farm pony. She was strong amongst her own kind.
If it were a Wonderbolt with a strength role like Soarin, this wouldn’t have been quite as exciting. All of Dash’s friends knew she had been training hard, but they never thought they’d see the day she overpowered Applejack.
“Damn!” Applejack cursed as Dash began to push her hoof down. She strained against it, but her arm was getting tired. Their strength seemed about equal, but Dash was now proving her endurance. Applejack just couldn’t keep it up as the long match went on.
“C’mon!” Dash called out as she had Applejack’s hoof halfway to the table. Applejack tried as hard as she could to resist, but she couldn’t stop it.
“Ah!” Applejack exhaled as her strength gave out. She lurched to her right, her hat fell off her head, and the back of her hoof struck the table.
“HAHA! YES!” Dash instantly lifted off from the table and pumped her hooves in the air. Applejack panted lightly as she looked at her hoof resting on the table. Her arm was slightly numb from all the stress.
“That ain’t right,” Applejack shook her head as she scooped her hat off the floor. She placed it firmly back on her head, crossed her hooves, leaned back in her chair, and pouted.
“Can’t beat these guns!” Dash gloated while flexing her right arm and kissing it. Right after she did a pang of discomfort shot through it. “Oo! Ow!” Dash shook her arm out as it throbbed.
“Careful Dash,” Twilight chuckled as Dash hovered back down and rotated her arm a few times. “Let’s avoid celebration injuries,” she suggested as Dash grinned sheepishly. Pinkie Pie popped up behind Applejack.
“Aww, why the long face?” She asked while rubbing Applejack’s shoulders. Pinkie had bits of sugar speckled all over her nose and mouth and she was vibrating slightly.
“Whaddya think Pinkie?” Applejack snapped.
“I think you look funny when you shake like that!” she giggled as she began to bounce a little harder. Fluttershy fluttered up behind Pinkie, placing her hooves on Pinkie’s shoulders to try and stabilize her. As soon as she touched Pinkie, Fluttershy started shaking in midair and was quickly thrown off with a quiet yelp.
“Don’t be a sore loser Applejack,” Dash waved a hoof at her. Applejack glared, but Dash only shrugged. “You’re still up fifty seven to one in hoof wrestling,” she chuckled. Applejack sighed.
“Yeah… TO ONE,” she shook her head, “I lost to a pegasus in hoof wrestlin’. Now I gotta live knowin’ that,” she sulked. Pinkie slowly rose up from the floor behind Applejack. She held up a small bottle of jimmie sprinkles and shook the bottle so it made rustling noises. Applejack shot a glare at Pinkie, who bounced away while giggling.
“A.J., I’m not just any pegasus,” Dash smirked at her, “I’m not a little flower like Thunderlane. Just cause you can overpower him doesn’t mean I’ll go down as easily,” she winked. Applejack stood up roughly from her spot and glared daggers at her. Fluttershy quickly hovered up between them, placed her hooves lightly on Applejack’s chest and shook her head with wide eyes. Applejack grunted and sat back down. Fluttershy sharply turned to Dash.
“Stop it,” she said quietly with an angry pout. Dash obeyed, not wanting to fluster her little friend. She flinched as Pinkie bounced by behind her at double her usual rate of pronking.
“Applejack,” Twilight walked up to her and smiled, “Rainbow Dash has been training real hard to become a Wonderbolt. You saw what they were capable of. If anything you should be happy she’s made such great progress.”
“I’m doubling my workload,” Applejack ignored her.
“Applejack, what did I just—,”
“I ain’t lettin’ this go Twilight, stop tryin’,” she put sternly. Twilight sighed and shook her head. Rarity made her way over to Dash while looking her up and down.
“Darling, I don’t mean to tread upon your—,” she poked Dash lightly on the arm, “new, well-earned, physique…, but does your dress even fit anymore?” She had an unnecessary amount of concern in her eyes. Dash flattened her ears.
“Rarity, I’m not that much bigger than I used to be,” she looked herself over. She had built up some muscle, but she wasn’t bulging all over. Still sleek and aerodynamic, just a little stronger than she used to be, “I’m not gonna turn into Bulk Biceps, I severely lack the required testosterone, thank Celestia,” she rolled her eyes. Rarity was still looking at her with worry as if she hadn’t heard a single word. Dash flattened her expression to match her ears, “Rarity, how often do I wear my dress anyway?” Rarity suddenly looked up, alarmed.
“It’s not about how often it’s worn!” she grabbed Dash by the cheeks. “It’s about having one ready at all times! Stop working out so much! I want to finalize adjustments!” she shook Dash lightly. Dash quickly reached up and gently pulled Rarity’s hooves off her face.
“Well actually,” Dash began, “I got something to tell you all,” she said a little louder to get all of their attention. Even Pinkie stopped bouncing and glanced over, but still shook a little.
“What is it?” Twilight asked while tipping her head to the side. Dash looked between all of them and smiled.
“In a week,” she began, her hooves lightly tapping on the floor in excitement, “the Wonderbolts are having open tryouts!” she beamed happily. A collective wave of surprise rushed over her friends.
“I need more sugar,” Pinkie stated before zipping back behind the counter.
Piercing the Heavens
By: Calm Wind
A loud *CLANG* rang throughout the gym as Soarin dropped a barbell back into its rack. He shook his head out, whipping bits of sweat from his mane. He hated hind leg workouts. So much more stress on the body and he would feel it just walking for two days after. He had to keep his body even though, unless he wanted to look like their over-inflated, top heavy strength coach.
He grunted to himself in discomfort as he rubbed a hoof against his forehead. Damn headache just wouldn’t go away. His head had been giving him hell lately. He wished he could figure out why. It was probably just the dark power again. He thought by now he’d be used to it.
His head had been in a tizzy frequently lately. Maybe he was overworking himself despite the inner power keeping him energized at all times. Nah, maybe it had just been too long since he saw Dash. Every time he visited her, it went away for a while. His recent visit to Ponyville was much longer. Maybe that’s why the repercussions came back harder this time.
“Huh?” he blinked as he picked up his towel. He turned to his right and saw Spitfire glaring at him, Fleetfoot giggling behind her. “What?”
“Soarin, what the hell?” she tipped her head to the side, “I’ve been trying to get your attention for the past ten minutes!” she flattened her ears, “I know you get super focused when you lift weights, but you were off in your own little world there.”
“Uh… sorry?” Soarin wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. In fact he was surprised to see a lot of other Wonderbolts now occupied the gym. It was just him Spitfire, and Fleetfoot earlier. How did he miss all the others? He wasn’t paying attention at all.
“As I tried to ask about five times,” Spitfire continued, “I was wondering if you’ve got your selection criteria ready for the tryouts next week.”
Soarin sat down on a gym bench behind him and wiped his face off with his towel. He blinked and then looked back at Spitfire.
“Wait, did you say tryouts?” He asked quickly. Spitfire’s eyes widened as Fleetfoot fell over laughing behind her.
“Soarin! Are you joking?! Please tell me you’re joking!” Spitfire slapped a hoof to her face.
“I’m… not?” He answered truthfully. Spitfire sighed heavily and let her head hang down.
“Soarin, this has been schedule priority one for a month! Have you paid attention in any of our last three meetings?! I’ve brought it up every time! Augh~!” She swung her head back in frustration. Soarin really had not remembered a single instance of it.
It was true, his mind had been very occupied, but unlike previous months, it was a mix of things. The constant on his mind was obviously Rainbow Dash. There weren’t many moments where she wasn’t on his mind in some shape or form. That was no mystery to his friends. The other he had kept to himself. He had been fighting throbbing headaches recently that seemed to come and go quickly. He had figured out ways to feel them coming and fight them, but at times it required intense concentration. It had happened in all three of the previous meetings he had had with Spitfire and Fleetfoot. Talk about bad timing, apparently he missed something about a tryout?
“Soarin, we have to make adjustments due to our loss of Rapidfire. We can’t have a three pony squad,” she explained, “Obviously we will have to move somepony qualified up to the lead squad, but we need a replacement to fill their spot in their squad. We are having an open tryout for recruits and the general public to find out who will join the elite squads. Got it?” she looked directly at him, but he just stared.
“Oh! Uh… yes?” he answered. She was not convinced.
“Hold up Spitfire, I know that look and so do you,” Fleetfoot leaned on Spitfire’s shoulder and snickered. It took Soarin another moment to break his vacant gaze and see that Fleetfoot was pointing at him. “I think somepony is making love to his lady up in here,” she tapped her hoof to her head. Spitfire gave Fleetfoot a very uncomfortable look as Fleetfoot burst out laughing. Soarin flattened his eyes and ears.
“Soarin, do we need to have the focus talk again?” Spitfire reminded him of her threat. If he focused on Dash instead of his job, he’d be demoted. Soarin was well aware. That wasn’t the case.
“No, we don’t. And Fleet, that’s not why—,” Soarin was cut off as a sharp throbbing felt like it squeezed his entire forehead in a vice. “ARGH!” he flinched really hard, stood from the bench, and slammed his hoof against his head. His eyes were shut tight, but when he squeaked them open he saw both Spitfire and Fleetfoot looking at him with surprise and concern.
“What was that!?” Spitfire trotted up to him and placed a hoof on his shoulder. Soarin quickly tried to change the subject.
“Nothing! It was nothing!” He put his neck up straight and hid any sign of pain from his face.
“Don’t give me that Soarin!” Spitfire scolded him. “It’s the dark magic again, isn’t it?” she was too sharp. Soarin sighed and nodded.
“Yes,” he rubbed his hooves softly against his temples, “for a while actually,” he decided just to tell her. It would save him the trouble of Spitfire breathing down his neck about it for weeks. “I’ve been focusing hard not to show it, that’s probably how I missed all the info. Was there anything else important in those meetings?” he asked.
“Pfffft,” Fleetfoot held in a laugh as Spitfire rolled her eyes.
“Yes, but we’ll talk about that later,” she pointed at him, “You’ve seen Luna about this right? Like I suggested?” she asked. Soarin averted his eyes. “You… have… right?” she looked at him sternly again.
“No,” Soarin admitted. Spitfire let out a long, annoyed sigh.
“Soarin, I feel like your mother. This is your well-being we’re talking about. Why haven’t you? Are you waiting for your brain to explode?” she berated him. She was right, but Soarin was getting tired of it. It was his problem, not hers! Why was she getting on his ass about it? He quickly turned and grabbed his towel.
“Okay! Okay! I’ll go tomorrow, just let me finish my workout!” he snapped.
“Soarin!” Spitfire called after him, but he trudged off.
“You two are a great a source of drama,” Fleetfoot chuckled as Spitfire sighed again.
“How did I get put in the drama category?” she made a head motion in the direction of Soarin, “He’s the one with the spooky powers and crazy long distance fillyfriend.”
“Speaking of Dash,” Fleetfoot changed the subject, “think she’s gonna show?” Fleetfoot followed Spitfire as the two made their way over to the stretching mat.
“She better,” Spitfire scoffed as they sat down and began stretching. “She’s… probably…” Spitfire grunted as she reached her arms as far past her back hooves as she could, “the best… prospect… ever,” she exhaled as she sat back up, “I sent her ten invites, I hope she’s figured it out.”
“Ten?” Fleetfoot chuckled as she finished her stretch and rolled onto her back, grabbed one of her hind legs, and extended it upward, “Careful, she might get a different idea,” she winked.
“Must you always go sexual with everything?” Spitfire lifted an eyebrow at her. “Oh,” she stopped mid stretch, “I’ll have to tell Soarin later, but let’s get this clear right now. No favors.”
“What was that about me being sexual?” Fleetfoot bounced her eyebrows.
“Dammit Fleet…” Spitfire groaned as Fleetfoot laughed, “I’m talking about the selection process. We’re looking for the best possible candidate, which means more than straight strength and skill. It means character and integrity as well. When I said no favors, I meant for Dash. We’re good friends with her, but we cannot choose her based on that. Everypony gets a fair chance, hence, no favors.”
“Of course,” Fleetfoot replied with very little thought.
“I figured you already had that down. It’s Soarin I’m worried about,” she thought out loud as she motioned for Fleetfoot to help her with a stretch. They faced each other. Spitfire spread her back legs out and held her hooves forward. Fleetfoot grabbed them and pulled lightly to stretch Spitfire’s lower back.
“Let me guess,” Fleetfoot asked as she tugged, “you don’t want him to be swayed by her irresistible, sassy charm,” she smirked.
“It’s weird hearing you call somepony sassy,” Spitfire scoffed comically, “Yes and more. Of course I’m afraid of their relationship being a factor in his decision. I’m also worried about his focus. It’s bad enough with these apparent headaches he’s been having, but it will probably be even worse with her around,” she brought it up again. Fleetfoot tugged harder once and let go. “OW!” Spitfire whipped backward and rolled back slightly before sitting up, “What was that for?” she questioned as Fleetfoot stared at her flatly with her hooves crossed.
“You need to drop this whole distraction thing, Spitty,” Fleetfoot’s ears flopped down, and then back up.
“Thing?” Spitfire blinked in confusion. Fleetfoot looked past her.
“Oh wow, perfect timing,” she tipped her head to the side. Spitfire followed Fleetfoot’s eyes over her shoulder. Squad two had just entered the gym.
“C’mon! Hop to it!” Silver Lining barked through the doors. High Winds walked in first, releasing a big yawn as she passed.
“Heard ya the first thousand times, jackass!” Blaze barked back at Silver as she passed. He didn’t even look at her.
“Sir! I’m here sir!” Wave Chill burst through the doors and saluted.
“Then go!” Silver pushed him along.
Spitfire kept her eyes trained on Wave Chill for a brief moment, but quickly broke it, hoping Fleetfoot didn’t see.
“What are you talking about Fleet?” She tried and failed to play it off.
“Nice try. Maybe you should start practicing what you preach,” she pointed back towards squad two. Spitfire followed her hoof and her eyes landed on Wave Chill as he hit the weights with a little too much gusto. Again, she stared longer than intended.
“Wait, NO!” She shook her head. “Fleet, Wave doesn’t distract me!” She tried to defend herself.
“And Lightning Streak is the perfect model stallion,” she called Spitfire’s bluff instantly while leaning forward. “Yesterday you pushed a door labeled 'pull' for like, twenty seconds cause you were trying to watch him run the obstacle course at the same time,” she snickered as she recalled.
Art by: Those Kids In The Corner
“Er—,” Spitfire blushed and grimaced. She was hoping nopony had seen that.
“Go easy on Soarin alright? Now that you know what it’s like to have your own distraction.” Fleetfoot smiled contently, but Spitfire tried to retaliate again.
“There’s nothing between—!”
“Stop,” Fleetfoot put a hoof over Spitfire’s mouth, “Look me in the eye and tell me there’s nothing between you two. I dare you,” she had her eyes set sternly on Spitfire. Spitfire held her breath, puffing her cheeks out.
“Ugh! Fine, I get it.” She crossed her hooves and pouted. Fleetfoot clapped her hooves together.
“Good!” she scooted herself over the mat into Spitfire’s view, “just trust Soarin okay? Yeah, he and Dash are head over hooves in love with each other, but Soarin is a professional. He will do his job, and Dash will appreciate it. At least I hope she does.”
“Fair enough.” Spitfire answered plainly, rising to her hooves, and trying to leave quickly.
“Hey!” Fleetfoot got up and chased her. “You’re not even gonna say hi to your hubby!?” she joked as she chased Spitfire out of the gym.
“Tryout’s?! That’s wonderful!” Twilight was the first to speak up after Pinkie’s initial sugar binge reaction. “What’s the—,”
“WHARRGARBL!” Pinkie cut her off as she poured more sugar into her mouth. All of them glanced over to her, slightly disturbed. She stopped briefly and looked at all of them calmly. “I’m sorry you all had to see this,” she apologized before tipping the sugar bag back into her mouth and falling over with it onto the floor.
“A-hem!” Dash cleared her throat to pull the attention away from Pinkie. “So, because Rapidfire is… missing,” she wanted to say dead, but they never found him after the Shadowbolt compound fell, “they need to fill an elite squad spot,” she puffed her chest out, “To make it more interesting, they’re letting outsiders into the tryouts alongside already existing recruits! I’m a shoo-in for the elite spot,” she whisked her mane around, “but if I somehow don’t they’re gonna recruit any others that look good too!”
“Oh, and you’ll get to see your prince too.” Rarity batted her eyelashes with starry eyes. Dash had gotten used to Rarity trying to barge her way into her love life.
“Trust me, I’ve thought about that.” Dash smirked. “He’ll be busy, but he can’t escape me.” She said smugly while beating a hoof against her chest.
She was, indeed, beyond excited for Soarin as well. Why wouldn’t she be? This could be the chance to dissolve the long distance! At last, she could be near her stallion every day. She envied the hell out of Fluttershy and Applejack. They had their stallions in town. Fate was a twisted bitch. Dash and Soarin were by far the most into each other compared to the other two couples, yet they were forced apart. Just the mention of him suddenly gave Dash the urge to find him and pin him to his or her bed ASAP if she could.
His last visit during her farm work was long and awesome. They spent so much time together, she had never been happier! It was the longest she had ever gotten to be with him, and it destroyed her inside out even more than usual when he had to go. Now her heart was scratching and clawing for what she had to do to never be without him again. The tryouts gave her the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: Become a Wonderbolt, and effectively be within reach of her love.
“That’s great!” Twilight smiled and glanced at her friends, but most of them suddenly looked sad. “Oh, but…” Twilight caught on. Dash sensed the change in the mood. They figured it out. Time for the hard part,
“Yeah,” Dash had thought about this. This is exactly why she gathered all of her friends together tonight at Sugar Cube Corner, “If I get selected, I might be moving away...,” she swallowed and looked away, “For a long time if I’m made a recruit, or for good if I’m selected for the elite spot,” her ears drooped. She wasn’t as prepared for this as she thought. This was her dream, but did you have to leave your friends behind to follow your dreams? They were gonna be okay without her, right?
“W-w-w-why t-t-t-the l-l-l-l-long f-f-f-f-faces?!” Pinkie appeared next to Dash, eyes almost wider than her face, and shaking all about due to sugar overload. “I-i-i-if i-i-i-i-I k-k-k-know—,” Dash rolled her eyes and slammed her hoof over Pinkie’s head, holding her steady, “Oh! Thanks! If I know Dashie, she’ll still be the bestest friend to all of us forever and will visit us as often as possible!” Pinkie finished as Dash felt her arm lose grip. Pinkie was sent into a fit of uncontrollable fast paced pronking and bounced right out the front door.
“She’s right,” Rarity smiled and gave Dash a hug. “We’re being selfish. This is very important to you! We’d be terrible friends if we didn’t show our support,” she turned and looked as Twilight and Fluttershy smiled. Applejack was still brooding. “Applejack!” Rarity snapped at her with a whisper. Applejack sighed and put on a fake smile.
“I’ll miss you so much Dashie,” Fluttershy hovered up and gave her a very big hug. Dash hugged her back and chuckled.
“I’m not leaving yet Fluttershy,” Dash squeezed her back lightly. “I still want to get in a few tune-up workouts in, but I promise, on my element of loyalty, that I’ll spend as much time as I can with all of you before I go,” she assured them.
They all flinched as a loud *POOM* came from a window nearby. They all turned to see Pinkie flat against the window with her face pressed to it. They cringed as she slowly slinked off the window, making an ear wrenching rubbing noise against the glass as she slid off. Dash chuckled and shook her head.
“Rest assured, I’m gonna miss all of you so bad. How could I ever forget the best, most fun friends in existence?”
Dash had a dream to follow. Sure, she'd have to leave her friends behind, but she'd be back. Ponyville would always be home. It was time to be awesome, and she had awesome friends who would always be there for her.
---To Be Continued---