Where They Understand You

by Loganberry

7. Out to the Undiscovered Ends

Rainbow Dash’s stomach was turning somersaults as she knocked at the cottage door. The wood had deteriorated further in the weeks since she had last been here, and she only narrowly avoided a nasty splinter. At first, there was silence from inside, which made Rainbow feel bad. When she heard Fluttershy’s soft hoofsteps approaching, she felt much worse.

The door opened.

“Dashie!” Rainbow didn’t know what she had been expecting, but it wasn’t this. Fluttershy pulled Rainbow inside and kicked the door closed with a hind leg, before wrapping her wings around her friend in a warm hug. “Oh, Dashie! I’ve missed you so much. I was so worried I’d gotten everything wrong and I just didn’t know what to do.”

“Wait, what?” said Rainbow, blinking. “You worried you’d gotten everything wrong?”

Fluttershy let go of Dash and sighed, her eyes downcast. “When you were here before, and I made you feel bad. I felt awful about that, and I really wanted to apologise—but when you didn’t come back, I thought I’d made you mad. I waited and waited and you didn’t come, and I thought it would be too late. I thought—”

“Too late? You thought I didn’t want to be your friend any more?” Rainbow’s mouth dropped open and she stared at the other pegasus.

Fluttershy shook her head rapidly and shuddered, screwing up her eyes as though to put the thought out of her mind. “No!” she squeaked. “Of course not! It wasn’t that. It was that, well, I really wanted to talk to you about something. I know I could have come see you in Cloudsdale, but I really had to care for an orphaned mouse. The poor thing was shivering with cold when I found him in the garden.”

Rainbow Dash dabbed the corner of her eye with a hoof, she hoped surreptitiously, and declared, “Well, I’m here now!” spreading her wings expansively. “But what’s up, ‘Shy? You could have just sent me a letter.”

Fluttershy looked flustered and said, “I, um, well, that’s the problem, really. I have something I really need to give you—give you in pony, I mean. But I was getting worried you wouldn’t be back for a long time after the mailmare told me that you had some major weather event coming up in Cloudsdale.”

“Yeah,” said Rainbow, nodding. “Though it’s not exactly for Cloudsdale. We got a big order in from Canterlot. Big order; they want a whole bunch of rainbows for somepony’s cute-ceañera next month. Won’t tell us whose it is, but I guess it’s some big-shot unicorn at the Castle or something. So we’ll be working double time on that until it’s all done and dusted.” She sighed. “And I’m lead mare on this job. Which means I have to be there all the time; I haven’t been able to try out my Wonderbolts routine for three weeks now.”

“Oh, you poor thing. Why don’t you sit down? Then we’ll have a nice cup of tea and you can tell me all about it.” She trotted lightly to the stove without waiting for an answer.

Rainbow hesitated before taking a chair, surreptitiously prodding it with a hoof as she hovered above it to make sure the cracked wood would take her weight. She flicked her mane out of her eyes and settled into her seat.

“Sure,” she said. “Not that there’s a lot to tell. It’s just... I can’t get any time to myself, you know? It’s all work, work work. I mean, yes, it’s nice to have a whole load of weather pegasi looking up to me and trusting the calls I make – but sometimes I really miss the old days in the Factory.”

“You miss your old co-workers?”

“Heh. No. Not those lunkheads. What I miss is being able to get away from them. Go have a nap or... or...” Rainbow waved a hoof, unable to find the right word.

There was quiet for a while, then the kettle sang and Fluttershy prepared the tea. When the pot was ready, she filled the two ponies’ cups. Rainbow was actually slightly surprised that the liquid didn’t leak out of the crazed, chipped china containers. Still, the tea was good. Very good. Rainbow wondered idly where Fluttershy had learned to prepare it so perfectly. She was starting to think she might actually ask for some tips when something occurred to her.

“Hey, ‘Shy,” she said.


“You said you wanted to give me something?”

“Oh. Yes.”

Rainbow leaned forward and waggled her eyebrows. “Aaand?”

Fluttershy blushed. A moment later, Rainbow felt warmth in her own cheeks. The room suddenly felt uncomfortably hot; Rainbow was relieved when Fluttershy spoke again.

“Well, I knew your birthday wasn’t very far away, and I really wanted to give you a present. But then you didn’t come to visit all that time, and I started to get worried. And with how busy you’re going to be over the next few days, I don’t know whether I’ll see you again before then – so I think I’d better give you the gift now.”

“Okay, I guess that makes sense. Though... how’d’ya know my birthday was coming up, anyway?”

“Um, because I know you?”

Rainbow gave a mirthless chuckle. “Oh, yeah. Right. So, uh, what is it?”

Instead of answering her friend, Fluttershy glided out of the room and disappeared upstairs. Rainbow could hear her muttering as she rummaged through drawers in her bedroom, though she couldn’t make out the words. Dash looked around the kitchen, noting without surprise that the cracks in the ceiling had lengthened a little more; that the damp patches on the ceiling had spread a little further.

After a little while, Fluttershy reappeared, a slight sheen of sweat visible on her forehead. She was holding a tubular parcel about a foot long, simply wrapped in cyan paper and tied with a bow of ribbon in rainbow stripes. She didn’t offer it to Rainbow, however, instead pointing to the front door and saying, “Come on, I think we should go outside for this.”

“Huh? Why?”

“Um, because it’s a lovely evening?”

Rainbow gave Fluttershy a sideways look, but shrugged and said, “Well, I guess that’s true at least. Let’s get moving, then.”

The two pegasi landed on the far side of the lawn, close to the chicken coop. Fluttershy stood on the western edge of the grass, her back to the sun, her soft shadow just clipping one of Rainbow’s forehooves. A chicken clucked briefly and Fluttershy paused to listen, ears pricked, brow creased, eyes wide and attentive. She never really stops, mused Rainbow.

The clucking ceased and Fluttershy relaxed. She turned her attention back to Rainbow, holding out the package for the other pony to take. “Happy Birthday, Dashie.”

Rainbow Dash accepted the parcel, if a little hesitantly. She ran a hoof across the smooth wrapping, then raised it to her ear and shook it, prompting a half-stifled giggle from Fluttershy.

“What? Don’t tell me you never do that!” She shook the parcel again. “Okay, I give up. What’s so special about this thing that we have to come out here, anyway?”

“Oh, I really can’t tell you that before you open the package, Rainbow Dash,” said Fluttershy, smiling slightly. “It’s a surprise gift, after all; you’ll need to read it for yourself.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Rainbow’s face crinkled into a frown. “‘Read’? You’re giving me a book for my birthday? Flutters, I’ve told you before, I do not do reading. I’m an all-action mare, not some fusty library nerd. So yeah, nice thought, thanks a lot for the gift and all, but... maybe you should give this to somepony else?”

Fluttershy’s voice was barely above a whisper, but it was firm and strong.

“No. It’s for you. And it’s not a book; it’s a scroll. Please, Rainbow, at least open it first.”

Dash relented rather gracelessly. “Oh, all right, I’ll open it. But I’m only doing this because it’s a gift from you, Fluttershy. I’m not gonna be guilt-tripped into becoming some kind of desk-jockey egghead. I’m still the future captain of the Wonderbolts; my cutie mark isn’t a pile of dusty old library books, you know.” She gripped the bow carefully in her teeth and began to untie it.

Fluttershy brushed her mane out of her face and looked at the ground, nodding to a tiny shrew that scurried past. A songbird called his challenge from atop a rose-bush, from somewhere in the middle distance a train whistle sounded its mournful note and there was the ever-changing yet constant whoosh of the wind soughing in the unnatural treetops of the Everfree Forest. A tiny cumulus cloud scudded just above the line of the cottage roof, momentarily dimming the shadows still inching their way along the well-nibbled grass. Otherwise, the sky was clear and still.


“Flu-Fluttershy?” Rainbow’s voice had entirely lost its brashness and impatience. “’Shy, is this seriously what it looks like? It’s not some weird prank? You bought the...? Is the Cloud House...?” She brought a hoof hesitantly to her chest.

Fluttershy looked up, and answered with her eyes. Rainbow steadied herself for a moment, letting the box fall and clutching the precious paper tightly between her forehooves. Her vision was growing blurry as her eyes began to fill.

Rainbow Dash still didn’t like crying. It was still silly and fillyish. But there was another way. She laughed, loud and long, the sound bouncing off the wall of the cottage and echoing through the garden. Eventually, she collected herself and looked straight at Fluttershy.

Fluttershy looked straight back.

“But how?” asked Rainbow Dash at length. “How the hay did you...?”

“My dad never gave me a home,” said Fluttershy. “Not a real one, at least. But he can give you a home.”

Rainbow screwed up her face in confusion, then all at once her eyes were wide and staring and her jaw had dropped open. “No. No, you can’t have. No way.”

Fluttershy rolled her eyes, an action so unexpected that Rainbow almost dropped the deed scroll. “Yes, Rainbow. I can have. And I did.”

“But the Cloud House was so—”

“Expensive,” interrupted Fluttershy. “Yes, it was. To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to afford the price, even with Dad’s money and the little extra I was lent by Ra—by a really generous pony whose pet I sat for sometimes. The bidding went even higher than I was expecting it too, and I, well, I sort of got carried away at the end.” She dropped her eyes to the ground, the edge of one forehoof scuffing along the grass.

“So... you didn’t even have enough left to mend all the cracks in the plaster and buy a few plates and stuff?”

“Well, um, I would have, even with having to pay for this, but then I wouldn’t have been able to afford to care properly for all my little animal friends. I really couldn’t have borne that.”

“You could still have told somepony about it! ‘Shy, you could have told me. I’m making plenty from the weather job now, and I’d have been able to help you out. You’re absolutely crazy!” A sudden grin split Rainbow’s face. “Hey, how about we both go crazy? I’ll accept this gift from you if you accept my help in fixing up your house? Do we have a deal or what?”

Fluttershy laughed. “I guess we do.”

The pegasi embraced.

A short while later, the sun sank beneath the cottage roof, setting on two ponies standing in silence and sharing their moment. There would be many other moments, but never again would there be this moment.

The spell was broken by the arrival of another pony into the deepening shadows of the evening garden. It was Rarity, resplendent in a deep red gown with richly metallic, burnished-gold accents. Fluttershy couldn’t help noticing the jagged claw marks that marred the hem.

“Good evening, Fluttershy,” said Rarity. “And good evening to you, Rainbow Dash. I know it’s terribly rude of me to barge in on you like this, Fluttershy, but do you think you could possibly manage to give me a spot of help with dear Opalescence tonight? She’s been dreadfully fidgety all day, and I don’t really know what’s causing it. I do worry about her.” She patted at her ruined hem. “And I was supposed to be wearing this dress in Canterlot next week.”

“Of course, Rarity,” replied Fluttershy. “It’s always lovely to see Opal again; I’m sure she’s grown so much since I last saw the adorable little thing. Though I do hope you’ll excuse me if I wait here a little while longer, just until Rainbow and I have been able to talk some more.”

Rarity frowned and turned to the other pegasus. “Far be it from me to quibble, Rainbow Dash, but shouldn’t you perhaps be thinking about flying back to Cloudsdale? It’s already starting to get dark.”

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth, but Fluttershy raised her head and said, “Oh, I think she’ll be staying here in Ponyville tonight.” Seeing Rarity’s eyes begin to widen, she blushed and said hurriedly, “Um... no... I didn’t mean... well, um, maybe it would be best if Rainbow explained it all for herself. Dashie?” She turned to look at her fellow pegasus and the embarrassment drained from her face, replaced by the simplest of smiles.

Almost lost from sight in the gathering gloom, Rainbow Dash didn’t answer at once. She was watching the sun rise in the west.