Why Can't Rainbow Dash Manage To Become A Princess?

by Autumn Bramble

Chapter 1

"You'll never get away with this!" Princess Twilight Sparkle shouted.

"What?" Forbidden Fruit shouted back.

"You'll never get away with this!" Princess Twilight Sparkle shouted again, a tad bit louder.

"Uh hold on," Forbidden Fruit shouted. She pushed back the lever on the giant doom machine and the deafening crackle of magic in the air puttered out. She said, and still a bit loudly because her ears were ringing, "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"

"She were sayin'," Princess Applejack said, "you'll never get away with what yer doin!"

Forbidden Fruit pushed her goggles up with her hoof. Sparks sputtered from her horn as it tried to do the job only her hoof had the strength for anymore. "Oh, was that all? Fine sentiments, my dear princesses, but you're all strapped into my Royalty Equalization Pods. Your earth pony strength, your unicorn magic, and your pegasus dexterity, none of it is strong enough to overcome my science!"

Princess Pinkie Pie gave up on chewing on her restraints long enough to ask, "Wait, if your science is more powerful than our princess powers, why do you want to steal them?"

Princess Fluttershy added, so quietly that Forbidden Fruit hardly heard, "If you wanted us to help you with something you could have simply asked."

Forbidden Fruit stood up on her hindlegs, sweeping her labcoat behind her dramatically, secretly wishing that they were wings. Soon. "Because! Once I have alicorn magic behind my science, I will be unstoppable! No longer will earth ponies suffer as a slave caste–"

Princess Applejack interrupted with, "Uh, we ain't nothin' of the sort."

Pinkie agreed, laughing. "Silly! Slavery isn't legal in Equestria! Although, indentured servitude..."

"–no longer will a crippled horn be cause to treat a unicorn as an invalid–"

"A doctor," Princess Twilight Sparkle said. "Did you ever think to visit a doctor about it? Ever? We know how to fix chipped horns."

"Really," Princess Rarity added, "how often does one break one's horn in the first place?"

"–no longer will pegasus be mere jocks of the sky–"

"But I don't even like sports," Princess Fluttershy mumbled.

"–my point," Forbidden Fruit said, now getting very flustered, "is that we shall all be princesses when I am done here today!"

Princess Rarity, whom Forbidden Fruit had to admit still looked so composed and elegant despite the twenty surgical-steel reinforced leather straps restraining her against upright tube's interior, opened her silky-white mouth and said, "Now really, not everypony needs to be a princess. Each pony is already important and special because of who they are."

Forbidden Fruit had images of herself pointing dramatically and shouting, "Only the sort of thing a privileged princess could think to say!" but as she raised her hoof her eyes lingered on Rarity's full eyelashes and the soft curves of her face and she faltered and what she actually said was, "Well, I still think things are unfair."

"And I'm sure you have your reasons," Princess Fluttershy said, "but do you think this is really the way to fix everything?"

Forbidden Fruit turned back to the giant lever. "Yes! I do! And now, I shall harness the power of all the princesses of harmony, and become a queen!" She wrapped her pasterns around the lever and pulled, and the metallic hum of science filled the air again. Green sparks arced from the machine to the pods all the five princesses were held prisoner in. Gold rays vomited out of the tops of the Royalty Equality Pods. Rainbow colors shot through the air–and then a hoof smashed through Forbidden Fruit's goggles.

She felt herself skid and bounce and skitter across the polished laboratory floor. Who? How? She had captured all five princesses. The Royalty Equality Pods were inescapable. Was it the royal guard? Had they found her so soon? Forbidden Fruit felt around for her goggles and found them laying on the floor.

Before she could reach them a strong, lean hoof slammed down and crushed them. Forbidden Fruit followed the blue pastern up past the thick fetlock, up along the cannon and bony knee and muscular forearm and thick shoulder, to the dazzling smile framed by rainbow mane.

"Who are you?" Forbidden Fruit demanded. "You aren't one of the royal guard!"

"Hah!" the pegasus laughed. Forbidden Fruit could see age lines crease her cheeks and eyes, but she still held herself with a firm power. "You don't know who I am? I'm Rainbow Dash! Element of Loyalty! The pony you forgot to capture when you kidnapped the rest of the elements!"

Forbidden Fruit gave Rainbow Dash a really stupid look. "But you're not a princess."

Rainbow Dash sputtered. "I–It doesn't matter! I'm still the element of loyalty! Who cares if I don't have a stupid horn! I'm just as good as the rest of them and I'm here to end your scheme!"

Forbidden Fruit sat up. The princesses convulsed and writhed against their binds as the machine drained them of their princess powers, but their faces showed signs of hope and victory. So was it true? "If you're one of them," Forbidden Fruit said, slowly, and Rainbow Dash leaned in to hear her over the sound of the machine's whirring, "why aren't you a princess?"

Forbidden Fruit could taste the bitterness in her response. "It's none of your business!"

Forbidden Fruit eased herself back onto her hooves and Rainbow Dash didn't stop her. "I overlooked you," she said. "Just as your friends did. Ignoring your friendship again and again, seeing you are just a mere pegasus. Isn't that right? Isn't it?"

Rainbow Dash stammered.

"My machine–" and here Forbidden Fruit gestured dramatically at the giant machine as it noisily sucked the energy from the princesses, "–will take the power of the princesses and allow me to give it to everypony. Allow my experiment to finish, and you will be their equal at last. I can see it in your face. It's what you always wanted, isn't it?"

Rainbow Dash gave Forbidden Fruit a long, conflicted look. Finally she sighed, lifted her hoof, and punched her across the room.

Rainbow Dash caught Princess Rarity as she fell out of the weird science thing. Her mane was still perfect, and the sweat on her pristine white coat smelt like fine powder, lace, and kisses. "Oh, Rainbow," Princess Rarity sighed. "In the nick of time, as always."

"Well," Rainbow started. She looked back at the rest of her friends. They all stood half-a-head taller than her by now, with massive gradient-colored wings, tall, regal horns, and shimmering manes. The machine had hardly scuffed the finish of their royalty. Carefully she set Rarity down on her hooves, who drew herself up to her full, glamorous height without any further help. Rainbow was exhausted. Her whole hoof hurt from punching out Forbidden Fruit. "A bit later than my usual rescues, really. Startin' to get a bit too old for this."

"Nonsense!" Princess Rarity said. She said that every single time, and it felt just a little bit more insincere with each decade.

Princess Twilight, who stood taller than the rest, stepped forward. "We do owe you our thanks, Rainbow. It was only through your quick-thinking and loyalty we were saved!" Princess Twilight said something like that every single time, and it felt just a little bit more condescending with each decade.

"Yeah, you know," Rainbow said. And she took a step away from the princesses, so she didn't have to lift her head so much to look them in the eyes. "You know, that crazy scientist said if I let her finish her scheme, everypony would be like a princess. And, deep down, I think I felt really tempted. But you all, you're all my friends. You're more important to me than becoming a princess myself."

The princesses smiled, and Rainbow Dash waited.

The princesses still smiled.

And nothing.

No beams of light. No cascade of rainbow harmony. Rainbow Dash was right where she was a second ago. No ethereal hall showing off all her accomplishments. No song. No horn.

"So uh," Rainbow Dash said.

"Well," Princess Twilight Sparkle said finally. "I supposed we should get back to our kingdoms."

"Ah' reckon so," Princess Applejack agreed. "Somepony's gotta organize Equestria's harvest!"

"Oh yes," Princess Fluttershy agreed. "I was right in the middle of fixing a gargoyle's broken wing!"

"And there's seventy-three birthday parties I have to throw today!" Princess Pinkie Pie shouted.

"To say nothing of all the foreign dignitaries I must entertain this evening," Princess Rarity added.

"I uh," Rainbow Dash said. "I guess I'll go home and rub one off to Wonderbolts porn."

The princesses looked at Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow blushed. "They sell them in these little comics you can get–"

Rarity's perfectly curved hoof pressed gently on Rainbow's shoulder. "It's quite all right, dear. None of us judge you for how you spend your time."

"Yeah, great," Rainbow Dash said, turning from the rest. "So I guess I'll just go back to my cloud house and do that. Have fun at your castles!"

Rainbow was gone before any of them could say anything, because she was still Rainbow Jennifer Dash, and she was the fastest pony in Equestria. Well, she had been, like, thirty years ago. Her right wing was getting really stiff these days, and it'd been a decade since she could pull off a sonic rainboom. Rainbow couldn't lie to herself, it really upset her, but what could she even do about it?

It wasn't like it was her friends' fault that she wasn't a princess yet. Over the years, all the adventures they'd had, all of them had faced great tests, and they'd all passed, and they'd all become princesses. Except for Rainbow. Her loyalty and speed had been tested again just now and it still hadn't been enough.

Rainbow landed on the balcony of her cloudhouse and stumbled in. Tired. She was so tired these days. On the way to the bathroom she passed by a glass picture frame. As recently as seven years ago she had hid this, but now, by now, nopony ever visited her. None of her friends ever came over. Not even Princess Scootaloo or any of her friends. There was no reason to hide that she had torn this scrap of paper from the Canterlot Archives, no pony to discover that she read it every single day.

It was a page torn from a book of prophecies. It said, simply, in a neat, straight script, "@WanWeengedAnjil: Twilight will not outlive her friends." The prophecy had been made shortly after Twilight's ascension, and for the longest time none of them had known what it had meant. When Fluttershy's work with Discord had come to a climax, however, and she had disappeared in a ball of light and had returned with a horn on her head, it pretty much made perfect sense.

They were all going to become princesses.

"Yeah, right," Rainbow Dash said, knocking the stolen prophecy off the wall. "Maybe I'm just not a good enough friend. Maybe I'm just a nuisance these days."

Rainbow Dash let herself slump against the walls of her cloudhome. "I don't even care. I'm just gonna go to sleep right here. Not like there's anypony who worries about me who'd care. Might as well get drunk too. Go out cruising for some stallions." Rainbow Dash put on her best sultry voice, which was honestly really unattractive, because she was starting to cry. "Hey there handsome, you know I used to be a Wonderbolt? Yeah that's right. I am the Rainbow Dash. Don't you want some of this?"

Rainbow Dash sunk against the floor.

"Please? Doesn't anypony want any of this?"

"Rainbow," Princess Fluttershy whispered. "Do you know why you're here?"

Rainbow looked up. Princess Twilight Sparkle's study. All the princesses were gathered–at least, all the ones who were her friends. She didn't see Princess Celestia or Princess Luna or Princess Cadance or Princess Shining Armor or Princess Scootaloo or Princess Applebloom or Princess Sweetie Belle or Princess Lyra Heartstrings or Princess Bon Bon or any of the others.

Spike was there, too. Since dragons only get huge when they get greedy and Rarity had trained him into perfect submission he was still a baby dragon, and he was still making awkward baby eyes at Rarity, and, Rainbow thought, it was seriously getting way too creepy.

"I don't know," Rainbow Dash said. She hardly remembered the invitation that called her here. Hardly remembered the flight. Was her memory going? "Are you having some royal tea party and you need me to keep the sky clear for you?" She let her head drop against her chest and she stared at the floor. "You might want to find a weatherpony who can still kick."

Princess Twilight Sparkle sighed. "No, Rainbow Dash. We're here because you're not a princess yet."

Rainbow Dash felt the words penetrate her heart like a princess' perfectly shaped horn. "Oh, you noticed that, huh? I guess I just don't feel like it yet..."

"That isn't how it works," Princess Twilight Sparkle said. Oh Twilight. She really had lost her sense of humor over the years. "Your loyalty–the element of harmony that you represent, that you embody–has been tested again and again and you still haven't reached princesshood."

Rainbow Dash saw Princess Applejack's elegant fetlocks stomp into her vision. She felt a nuzzle press down into her withers. Applejack. They used to be rivals. Remember that? It used to be fair, even competition. A princess now. A princess. "And ah' don't mean to be crass, but that just ain't right. Yer gettin' real old now, Rainbow, and it'd sure be awful if we outlived ya."

"Honest AJ, huh," Rainbow Dash said. "Can't bear to leave a friend behind is that it? Well news flash for you all, no matter what I do, I don't get it! I've saved Equestria like a dozen times with my loyalty, and a dozen times with my speed, and at least three times with my loyalty and with my speed, and none of it was good enough! So you know what that means? It means I'm not good enough to be a princess! So there! Let's just all accept it and you can start looking for a replacement now!"

Princess Fluttershy drew Rainbow Dash into a hug. No matter how much time she spent with animals all she ever smelt of was a warm summer breeze blowing over the trees now. Rainbow Dash missed the old smell of animal, layered on animal, layered on pony. It was like this Fluttershy wasn't even the same gangly filly she had saved from bullying almost a full lifetime ago. Some stranger.

"We are not abandoning you, Rainbow," Princess Twilight Sparkle said. The other princesses all voiced their agreement. "We're going to go through the old diary, and find out what's missing."

Rainbow lifted her head up. "Well you have fun with that," she said.

Princess Pinkie shoved her face against Rainbow's cheek. "We'll all have fun with it!"

"We should start with our first step towards princesshood," Princess Twilight Sparkle said. She had set the old diary on a small table and was relaxing on a modestly ornate pillow. "I earned my princesshood when I invented a new kind of magic, the kind not even Starswirl the Bearded had managed to understand."

Rainbow Dash sighed. "Hey did we ever find out if Discord used to be Starswirl or what? We've had so many adventures I can't keep them straight in my head anymore."

Princess Twilight ignored Rainbow Dash. "But after that, I got my rainbow key by learning to trust in the magic of friendship to save us from Tirek, even when all seemed lost. Magic, my special talent, earned me my crown, but it was the magic of friendship, my element and talent, that awoke our destinies."

Princess Applejack used her alicorn magic to summon a hay stalk into her mouth to chew on while she talked. "Well that's great Twi, but what's that mean for Rainbow?"

"I'm getting there. Fluttershy, your element is kindness. You earned your rainbow key when your element of kindness was tested against the breezies, and you learned that kindness means sometimes seeming unkind. Your special talent is with animals, and..." Princess Twilight mumbled the rest of it awkwardly.

Princess Fluttershy walked over to Princess Twilight on her long, elegant legs, and nuzzled Princess Twilight's cheek softly. "It's okay Twilight. You can say it."

"Your special talent is with animals, and when you uh, tamed Discord and he spared Equestria from destruction–"

"Now was that the sixth time or the seventh time 'e done tried to destroy Equestria?" Princess Applejack asked.

"The eighth," Princess Fluttershy said.

"Whatever it was, when your your special talent won out and Discord realized he was tamed with the strength of kindness, you became a princess."

"That's right," Princess Fluttershy said.

"And then ya' married 'im," Princess Applejack added.

Princess Rarity, who had spent the past half-hour in a corner being pampered by Spike, lifted her head from the ongoing hooficure and said, "Well, you know how they say. You become responsible for what you tame. Spike, do mind my frog." Rarity probably had changed the least, Rainbow Dash thought. Perfect Rarity. Always so perfect. Did she even think of Rainbow as a friend anymore? Could she?

Rainbow Dash let herself sink onto the floor. This was so pointless. It was almost reassuring seeing Twilight face-deep in books, at least. After all this time at least some of her was still the same pony she had known years and years and years ago. Princess Pinkie Pie joined Rainbow on the floor and began to roll around, not a single hair coming out of place on the fluffy, spiraling mane that flowed endlessly from her head. Rainbow Dash sighed. Princess Pinkie Pie rolled over her. Pinkie. Pinkie was the same too she guessed. Sorta.

Princess Twilight cleared her throat. "As I was saying, Fluttershy's element and talent united in one act, and made her a princess. Rarity, you earned your rainbow key when your generosity gave a pony an opportunity that you had wanted. This was your hardest lesson in your element of harmony. And you got your princesshood when you invented that new fabric whose intellectual property rights you released to the public, allowing for cheap fashions for everypony! Another merger of element and talent, in this case, generosity and fashion!"

Rainbow made a noise like a cow. "Look, this is great and all, going over all the adventures we used to have together? But this is going nowhere."

Princess Twilight Sparkle looked up at Rainbow. Her serene, regal face seemed only slightly upset. "The answer must be here, Rainbow, or else where would it be? We have to keep going."

Rainbow groaned. She didn't have the endless years everypony else had. She couldn't keep it to herself anymore. All of her frustrations, she felt them vomit out of her mouth, even though horses are incapable of vomiting. "Well you know what? I don't have the time that you all have to figure this out. I'm getting old, okay? I haven't managed a sonic rainboom in forever, and when I met some Wonderbolts fans last week, they were surprised that I was still alive. Okay? I don't have the time to sit here as you go through all your books! Twilight! I have no more time left!" Rainbow felt her voice crack and she could see tears forming in the corners of her eyes. Princess Pinkie Pie wiped them away for her.

Rainbow stood up, and it took her a hot minute to do it, too. Her legs creaked sorely under her. "I'm old, and even if I'm decades younger than Granny Smith was when she died, my body has had it! I've raced so much I'm already at my breaking point! If I didn't become a princess last time I won't become one! I'm out of chances! I'm worthless, okay? Just a normal pony! They'll say, oh, who was Rainbow Dash? Oh I don't know! She certainly wasn't as important as Princess Twilight Sparkle is, or Princess Applejack, or the rest of you! I mean even Lyra! Even Lyra Fucking Heartstrings is a princess and her girlfriend, and her girlfriend is a garbagemare!"

Princess Pinkie Pie tried to touch Rainbow Dash but she pulled away. Not that Rainbow Dash, three-fourths Princess Pinkie Pie's size, could have really stopped her anymore if she had to. Powerless. At least compared to her friends. If she could even call these glowing giants her friends.

"I mean with your princess powers," Rainbow was shouting now, "I bet you all could do a sonic rainboom! Even Fluttershy! Even Fluttershy!" And that's when Rainbow Dash felt everything break around her, and she gave up, and she let herself fall.

Princess Pinkie Pie caught her. Rainbow gave in and pressed her face into Princess Pinkie's endlessly flowing mane and cried. She could see the shimmering pink lights glow through her eyelids.

Princess Twilight Sparkle, tactfully, allowed Rainbow Dash to calm down before she continued reading.

"Pinkie Pie, element laughter, got your key by prioritizing laughter over being the one to cause the laughter. Got your princesshood when you threw Rarity's coronation ceremony party, and made it as elegant and sophisticated as she wanted, despite your usual party predilections. Element and talent."

Princess Pinkie Pie was still holding onto Rainbow, but she said "Yeppers!"

"And Applejack, you got your rainbow key when you told the truth about Flim and Flam's tonic, even though it meant Granny Smith's disappointment..." Princess Twilight trailed off, staring dumbfounded at the diary.

"What's that, Twilight?" Princess Applejack asked.

"No," Princess Twilight whispered. Her horn burned incandescent as she sped through the pages of the diary. Her eyes were a blur of motion as she read, and then, when she reached the end of the book, she focused them perfectly still and level on Applejack. "You got your rainbow key because you told the truth about Flim and Flam's tonic, but you had kept it a secret because you wanted the best for Granny Smith. You told the truth not because you learned that honesty is hard, but because you learned that LOYALTY means sometimes destroying somepony's happiness for their own good! Applejack!"

Princess Twilight's magic flooded the room. Scrolls and books flew into a stack before her. Letters, especially. Reams of letters. "Applejack! Even from the beginning! Your bet with Big Mac about the harvest! It wasn't about being true to your word about some bet! It was learning that your friends will loyally help you if you just ask them! Flim and Flam! The first time! You said the lesson you already knew was that your friends are there to help you! When we took on that dragon! I have the whole thing written down here!" Princess Twilight began to read the transcript from the Dragonshy episode. "Applejack: Hold on, now. I think we should all go up together. Safety in numbers an all. A few minutes later, Rainbow Dash, the supposed element of loyalty: Are you sure you want Fluttershy to come along? I mean, that pony's afraid of her own shadow. She's just going to slow us down." Princess Twilight put the episode transcript down and stared at Princess Applejack.

"Why you givin' me that look, Twi?"

"Which one of you was being loyal, and which one of you was being brutally honest right then?"

Rainbow gently slipped out of Pinkie's hug. Her hooves made loud clops on the floor as she took a step forward. "Twilight, what are you saying?"

Princess Twilight looked at Rainbow Dash, and then Applejack, and back at Rainbow Dash. "Applejack was never the element of honesty."

Princess Applejack's jaw nearly fell off, and Princess Pinkie's literally did, and it bounced and jumped around on the floor for a while, because that's the sort of thing Pinkie did with absolute power.

"But if she isn't the element of honesty," Rainbow Dash started. "If she isn't the element of honesty, then she's the element of loyalty? Does that mean I'm the element of honesty? I'm–I'm the element of honesty?"

Princess Twilight tapped her teeth with her hoof. "It makes sense. In the first Derring Do episode you didn't learn so much that your friends will be loyal to you, no matter your hobbies, but more that it's okay to be honest with your hobbies."

It came together in Rainbow Dash's head like a perfectly executed stunt routine, the kind her body was too worn to even pull off anymore. "Even my rainbow key I earned by telling the truth, instead of lying about injuries. It wasn't really about being loyal to Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps, because they didn't even want to be in the race! They were only doing it for me! If I had been honest with them from the beginning they would have been happy to drop out and let me do what I wanted! It wasn't even an issue of loyalty at all! It was actually an awful lesson about loyalty!"

Princess Twilight's excited face was right up in Rainbow Dash's grill now. "Rainbow Dash, you caught onto that quick! Quick... quick! Your talent. Your element! RD quick! Tell the truth! Tell the truth of why you think you didn't realize this DECADES EARLIER. Element and talent coming together, this is your moment! Why didn't you realize you were the element of honesty? Tell us all, with the truth in your heart!"

All the princess' regal eyes were on Rainbow Dash. She felt herself blush. "Well," Rainbow Dash said slowly, "if I had to be honest... I'd say it's because I'm kind of dumb."

The world turned white and her friends disappeared.

Rainbow Dash found herself in a glowing, ethereal hall. Images of her life floated all around her, all her accomplishments, every time she had told the truth despite another pony's feelings. Every time honesty had saved the day. Honesty to her friends, to strangers, honesty to herself. In front of her, tall and ancient and perfect, stood Princess Celestia.

"Me-damnit, Rainbow Jennifer Dash," Celestia said. "How old are you? Like fifty? Sixty? It took you this long? Do you know how long I've waited? I don't even remember the speech I had prepared. There was a song."

"I'm sorry," Rainbow Dash muttered.

"Oh what the fuck ever," Celestia said. "Here's your horn, try not to break it."

White filled Rainbow Dash's eyes, overpowering her and becoming her, and she became it, and when she realized where she was again, she was standing on the floor in Twilight's castle. She could see, just in the periphery of her vision, reaching out from the rainbow of her mane, a spiraling blue horn.

"Wow," Twilight said, smiling proudly. "Princess Rainbow Dash, you really are kind of dumb."