The reception was just starting up, with Twilight first on the microphone, singing a tune to celebrate her brother’s union with her favorite foalsitter.
Rainbow Dash had to stop in awe at her friend’s excellent voice. No wonder Shining Armor was so adamant of her singing the opening song.
The pegasus sighed as she made her way through the crowd, looking at all the happy couples hitting the dance floor. The wedding had been much less stuffy than the Grand Galloping Gala, but it was still far from her usual tastes. She was still here merely to make sure her damaged friendship with Twilight wasn’t broken anymore. Despite the unicorn’s insistence that all was forgiven, that she felt no ill will to the other Bearers, guilt still tugged at her heart.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” a voice sounded from in front of her.
She jumped, having been so caught up in her thoughts that she had failed to notice the stallion standing in front of her. He was out of his usual uniform, but the pegasus recognized him regardless.
“Soarin?” she asked, more than a hint of glee in her voice.
Indeed, the second-in-command of the Wonderbolts stood before her, for once not wearing his regulation flight suit. He tilted his head in a friendly manner. “So now you’re a bridesmaid at a royal wedding. You’re just full of surprises, aren’t ya?”
A slight blush crept onto her face as she kicked her front hoof awkwardly. “Well, my friend Twilight was the groom’s sister, so I got lucky.”
“I see,” he laughed, his eyes moving up and down to take in the unusual sight of the tomcolt in a dress, with flowers in her hair. Realizing she was being looked over, Rainbow blushed and looked away, while at the same time hating herself that she was acting more like Fluttershy than herself.
“I usually don’t dress like this,” she explained. “Heck, I hardly wear clothes at all. But...well, you can’t really worm out of it for an event like this.”
The stallion smiled. “Well, don’t feel embarrassed about it, you look very nice.”
Rainbow Dash’s face turned the same shade as the top of her mane.
“Don’t tell me you’re still star struck,” Soarin said, actually looking disappointed. “You know I’m still a regular pegasus, you don’t need to...”
“No, it’s not that,” the mare assured. “It’s just...stallions don’t usually give me this kind of attention.” She looked away, embarrassed to admit this. “I mean, my friends Rarity and Fluttershy have no problem...well, Fluttershy wouldn’t if she’d just grow a backbone and...”
“Would you like to dance?” Soarin asked suddenly.
Rainbow turned and looked at one of her heroes with surprise. “Wh...wha...”
Now Soarin was blushing. “I mean, it’s just a shame that you get that dressed up and not get to dance with a handsome gentlecolt. And since I’m the closest thing around, I thought I’d make the offer.”
“Um...I really don’t know how to dance. I mean, not like Canterlot ponies...”
Soarin just grinned. “Neither do I.”
Rainbow Dash offered no further resistance as the Wonderbolt pulled her into the crowd, eventually coming to a stop. They then began to dance. Well, calling it dancing might have been generous. It was more making jerky movements which, if one squinted right, could have been seen as being in rhythm with Twilight’s singing.
Fortunately, by this point the bride and groom were dropping formal dancing as well, and beginning to let their happiness intoxicate them. As a result, none of the guests noticed the two pegasus Ponies making complete foals of themselves.
As Twilight finished her song, the two broke apart, laughing like school foals at their own antics. A second number started up, this time with Pinkie taking the microphone and singing out her own tune. They went back to making jerky movements some more, which seemed to fit with anything the pink earth pony sang. Another song, this one passed back to Twilight, resulted in another dance.
Finally, the microphone was passed to Octavia, who turned out to have quite a lovely singing voice to go with her skills on the cello. However, she sang a slow song, so Rainbow Dash and Soarin excused themselves from the dance floor, heading to a table.
“Well, that was fun,” the pegasus mare was giggling. “I think I was only slightly more horrible than Twilight’s dancing.”
“She’s that bad, huh?”
“You should have seen her at her last birthday party. Really freaked out the upper class,” she said as she took a seat.
“Well, now that we’ve successfully embarrassed ourselves at a high society event, how about a drink?” her companion offered.
“That’d be nice.”
“Great. Wait here, I’ll be right back,” he assured, excusing himself over to the buffet table.
Rainbow Dash sat back as she took in what was going on. She was on what could possibly be considered a date with one of her idols. Even though he was only about a year older than her, Soarin had risen through the ranks of the Wonderbolts to become Spitfire’s number two. The fact that someone so powerful was being so friendly with her was beginning to sink in.
She took a few deep breaths. She couldn’t go into fan girl mode again. Soarin clearly liked her, so there was no need to try so hard. All she had to do was relax and be herself.
“Rainbow Dash?” a tiny voice asked.
The rainbow maned pony turned to see Scootaloo standing at her side, looking excited. “I saw you dancing with Soarin! Are you guys on a date? Is he your special somepony? What’s he like?”
Rainbow Dash racked her brain, trying to think of a polite way to get rid of her number one fan. “Well, kid, you see...”
Then she stopped as a certain thought entered her head. You already let one friend down today...
“Actually, yeah. We danced together, then he went to get me a drink. Why don’t you stick around and meet him? I’m sure he’d love you.”
The younger pegasus’ eyes went wide, her mouth grinning so wide her mentor was sure her head was going to split in half. “Really? I get to hang out with you and a Wonderbolt?!”
Rainbow just grinned. “Sure, why not? Come on, have a seat,” she said, motioning to one of the empty chairs. The young filly practically tackled the chair her idol had motioned to, looking as excited as if it were Hearths Warming Day.
At that point Soarin returned, carrying two mugs of the Apple Family’s Quality Cider. The family always saved some to ferment in case of a special occasion, and it didn’t get much more special than a Royal Wedding.
“One drink for the lovely lady, and...” he trailed off as he saw the wide eyed filly. “Well, what do we have here? Weren’t you one of the flower girls?”
“You’re a Wonderbolt!” Scootaloo exclaimed, apparently not having heard the question.
“I am?” Soarin said in mock surprise. He looked down at the medals on his uniform. “Well, what do you know?”
Instantly Scootaloo went into the kind of excited babbling she usually reserved for talking about Rainbow Dash. “Oh my gosh this is so cool! How fast can you fly? Was it hard getting in the Wonderbolts? When are you letting Rainbow Dash join?”
Rainbow Dash cringed, afraid that this attitude would put Soarin off, but he just laughed, putting a hoof on the bouncing filly’s head. “Easy there, remember to come up for air now,” he joked, getting her quiet down. “Well, I wasn’t told I’d be treating two lovely mares tonight,” he said with a grin, causing Scootaloo to blush. “Wait here, I’ll get another drink for her.”
“Uh, wait,” Rainbow started, but Soarin knew what she was going to say.
“Relax, non-alcoholic, I promise.”
As the blue pegasus took off for the buffet table, Scootaloo couldn’t contain her glee. “I don’t believe it! You were right, he really likes me!”
The older mare just smiled. “Was there ever any doubt? You’re a real cool kid.” After giving her number one fan a chance to soak up the praise, she spoke again. “Hey, Scoots? I owe you an apology.”
The young filly looked at her hero, confused. “For what?”
“For how I acted during the whole Gabby Gums thing.”
Now Scootaloo was truly puzzled. “What do you mean? We were wrong to gossip about you, you had every right to be mad.”
“Yes, what you did was wrong, I’m not saying otherwise. And it’s good you learned your lesson. But I loved Gabby Gums before it was my turn to be gossiped about. All of us did.” Except for Twilight, she thought, guilt rising in her heart.
“I really had no right to be as angry with you as I did when I was laughing at everyone else before.”
“Oh, well, it’s okay. But why are you bringing it up now?”
The elder mare sighed. “Just…everything that happened today. Don’t you worry about it, pipsqueak, it’s something between me and my friends.”
The orange filly tilted her head in confusion, but nodded. “It’s okay, Rainbow Dash. The whole thing was really our fault anyway.”
Rainbow smiled, rubbing her head affectionately. “It’s forgotten.”
At that point, Soarin returned to the table with another mug. “And one mug of apple juice for the little mare,” he said affectionately, passing the mug to the young foal. Scootaloo muttered a quick “thank-you” before taking the drink and having a sip.
“So, what, are you RD’s little sister?” Soarin asked.
The older mare laughed. “She wishes. This is Scootaloo.”
“I’m the president of the Rainbow Dash Fan Club!”
The Wonderbolt lifted an eyebrow in amusement. “Fan club?” Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but blush.
“Yeah! She’s the coolest! She’s always flying around and doing cool things in the sky, and she’s always helping the ponies in Ponyville! She saved it from two dragons, and helped defeat Nightmare Moon, and Discord, and now the changelings!”
At the last name, a pain shot through her heart. She knew her “help” had amounted to ignoring a warning until it was too late, then of getting caught by an army just a few feet away from their goal.
“Yeah, I know the last parts, but…”
“Wait, you do?” Rainbow Dash asked, looking at her idol in shock. “Most ponies outside of Ponyville…”
“Yeah, I know,” Soarin said, the distaste in his voice obvious. “Most ponies in the Canterlot upper class don’t worry about anything beyond social standings. They barely noticed anything about either of those guys, even though we were right near Equestria falling.”
It was true. Since Nightmare Moon had only show up in Ponyville, to many of the citizens of Equestria the night had only lasted a few extra hours. During Discord’s short reign, the mad god had been fully concerned with breaking the Bearers of the Elements, and as a result focused most of his efforts on Ponyville. His only other action being to trap Celestia and Luna within their castle to make sure they couldn’t ruin his fun. To many, the day was merely an inconvenience at not being able to access the castle.
Soarin shook his head in disgust. “It just ticks me off the way nopony around here seems to know who you guys are.”
The mare shrugged. “Eh, I don’t really care what a bunch of prissy ponies think of me.”
Soarin nodded in approval. “Still, you defeated two dragons? Was one of them that dragon that Spitfire and the others went to stop while I was busy in Cloudsdale?” he said.
The cyan pegasus blushed once more. “Uh, no, not really. I mean, I tried to stop them both, but the credit for those goes to my friends Fluttershy and Rarity. And yeah, the Wonderbolts came to try and stop the second one.”
“Ah, I see. Well, aren’t they both part of the team that stopped Nightmare Moon and Discord with you?”
Rainbow Dash nodded, then turned to Scootaloo. “You need to remember, as cool as I am, I don’t do everything alone.”
“I know, but you’re still awesome! You’re the best flyer in Equestria!”
“Well, yeah,” the cyan pegasus agreed, in a bit of a smug tone.
Soarin arched an eyebrow. “What about the Wonderbolts?”
“Oh, you guys are cool too,” Scootaloo assured, “and you’ll be even cooler when Rainbow Dash joins.”
“You say that like there’s no doubt,” Soarin said with amusement.
“And you say that like you doubt me,” Rainbow challenged right back. “Is there really any doubt I’ll be joining the team one day?”
The Wonderbolt just grinned. “I like your confidence,” he said, taking a sip of his cider.
“That didn’t answer my question.”
“Very perceptive,” Soarin agreed. He turned to Scootaloo. “I know plenty about Rainbow here. What about you? How’s your flying?”
“Oh, um,” the filly stuttered, caught off guard by the Wonderbolt’s question. “I kinda haven’t learned how to fly yet.”
“Yeah, what’s up with that?” Rainbow couldn’t help but ask. “I mean, by your age most pegasi usually have at least some basic skills down. Haven’t your parents taught you anything?”
Scootaloo shifted, obviously looking uncomfortable. “Um, they’re…busy,” she said slowly.
“Too busy to teach you how to fly?” Soarin asked incredulously.
“Um…yes?” the response was more a question than answer.
The two older pegasi shot each other a quick, but clear look. Something was up.
“Well then,” Rainbow Dash said slowly, putting a hoof on her shoulder. “How about I give you a few lessons when we get back to Ponyville?”
“Uh…that’s okay…you don’t have to.”
Rainbow’s eyes opened in shock. Scootaloo looked for any excuse to be around her, and now she seemed most unwilling to take a golden opportunity.
Apparently Scootaloo noticed the look on her idol’s face. “Uh, well, thanks for the drink,” she said quickly, getting up, “but I think I’ll go see what Apple Bloom and Sweetie are up to.” With that, she dashed off before either of the older ponies could question her.
There was a stunned silence from both of them. Finally, Soarin spoke. “I take it that seemed weird to you.”
“It did,” Rainbow Dash agreed. “She was hiding something. The way she ran off like that…she was panicking.”
“I think so too,” the stallion agreed. “A pegasus parent too busy to teach their kid to fly? I have heard of it before, but still...”
“Her dad works for the mail service in Ponyville. He mostly does the out-of-town stuff, but given that Derpy does all the express, no-stop deliveries, I doubt he could be that busy. Besides, from what I understand her mom just stays home.”
“Have you ever met them?”
Rainbow shook her head. “Never. Applejack and Rarity have…their little sisters are her best friends, I learned everything about them from them. They both said they seem alright, though they haven’t seen them much.” She paused, thinking a moment. “Come to think of it, she’s never talked about her parents in front of me before.” Concern had crept into voice. “You think they’re what’s making her act that way?”
“I don’t know,” Soarin admitted. “But something’s bothering her.”
“I can tell. And I’m going to find out what. Tomorrow, when we get back to Ponyville, I’ll see what I can find out.”
“I really hope this turns out to be nothing,” Soarin sighed. “But if it is, she’ll have you, right?”
Rainbow’s response surprised the stallion. She dropped her ears and lowered her head. Then she tilted her mug of cider to her mouth, emptying its entire contents in one gulp.
“Are you okay?”
Rainbow Dash looked at the stallion with sad eyes. “Can we go somewhere private to talk about it?”
Both pegasi rued the fact that a sunny day had been scheduled for the wedding, meaning there were no clouds for them to rest on. Instead, they had opted for Rainbow’s suite at the castle. Lying down on the Queen-sized bed, they both spent a moment examining the bed’s canopy. Finally, Soarin spoke.
“Alright, what’s up? Why are you so depressed?”
Rainbow Dash just sighed. “I let down a friend today.”
Soarin blinked. “Who?”
“Twilight. You know, that pony who came in with the real Princess Cadence? She had seen right through that overgrown bug’s disguise and tried to warn us during the rehearsal. And none of us believed her. We just told her off, then left her alone while we let the Changeling Queen get more powerful.”
Soarin looked unsure of what to say. “Well, if it’s any consolation, when she busted in during the first ceremony I thought she was just some crazy mare until the real Cadence walked in.”
“Yeah, but I know Twilight!” Rainbow shouted. “It wouldn’t have been just me blindly believing her. She’s gone to Tartarus to keep Equestria safe. Literally! She lured Cerberus back there when he got out! And she’s always been there for us, and we let her down.”
Soarin was quiet for a moment. “Is she mad at you?”
“No,” Rainbow Dash answered, her voice trembling. She rolled on her side, her back to the stallion. “That’s the worst part. She forgave us all easily. She even told us that we had every reason not to believe her with how she accused the fake Cadence. She may be right about that, but that’s not the real problem.”
Soarin looked at her like she had just sprouted an extra head. “But…okay, maybe I don’t follow small town logic very well, but I don’t see how that’s bad. What’s the real problem?”
“I wanted her to yell at me,” she said. She was close to crying. “I wanted her to call us idiots, for her to tell us that we let her down. To make us move mountains to earn her forgiveness. Because…that’s what I would have done.”
Very carefully, Soarin put a hoof on the shaking mare, who continued:
“After her outburst at the rehearsal, we all talked about what to do about it. I kept arguing that she really messed up, that she needed to learn her lesson, that she had to do a lot to earn back our respect. Then when she busted in with the real princess, I felt like a complete jerk. We all did. That entire time we were running for the Elements of Harmony, we were praying that they’d still work. We were all worried that Twilight had lost so much faith in us her Element would be useless. Then, before the reception, we went up to apologize. All of us were expecting to have to beg for her forgiveness, but she just brushed if off like it was no big deal.”
To Soarin’s surprise, Rainbow Dash turned over, wrapping her front hooves around the stallion and pulling close to him. He was momentarily taken aback, but soon returned the embrace, hoping to calm her down.
“I’m supposed to wield the Element of Loyalty. But today I turned my back on a friend for someone I’d just met. And then that friend proved that she was more loyal than me. I thought I knew what loyalty was, but now...”
Soarin was quiet for a moment as he let his date cry softly. When the sobs had slowed enough, he spoke. “It sounds like…it sounds like you’re embarrassed by how you acted.”
“I am,” she choked.
“Well, that’s all the proof I need that you’re a good friend.”
Rainbow pulled away, looking at him. “Wh-what?”
“I wouldn’t trust anyone who was never ashamed of anything they did. It means they’re not learning anything. A terrible friend would be pinning all the blame on Twilight and none on herself.
“Look, think of it as your flight training, because I know you’ve trained for the Wonderbolts. You’ve crashed when you were trying to perform some of the more advanced moves, several times, I’m guessing.”
“Of course,” she answered.
“It didn’t make you a bad flyer to make those mistakes, it just meant your technique needed work. Now look, you can do the Sonic Rainboom on command, if your performance after the ceremony was any indication. Well, your friendships work the same way. Today you crashed, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend. It just means your technique needs a little work. Does that make sense?”
Rainbow Dash was silent for a moment. “…Yeah. I don’t feel much better though.”
“I wasn’t expecting you to. The only place a few words can completely heal somepony up is in fantasyland. It takes time.”
“Unfortunately for me,” Rainbow sighed, sitting up. “I’m sorry, our first time really talking and I’m dumping all this on you. Must be the cider.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m pretty sure PTSD is a good excuse for a bad first date,” Soarin assured, sitting up as well.
“First date?” the mare asked, hoping to sound coy, but her hope crept into her voice.
“Well…yeah. This was a date, wasn’t it?”
Rainbow Dash blushed once again. “Um...yes?”
Soarin grinned. “How about I drop by Ponyville next week, we’ll get lunch?”
“Really! Ye- I mean, yeah, that’s cool, whatever.”
Soarin just smirked, seeing right through her attempts at being smooth. “So, you wanna just stay here for a while? You know, hang out and talk?”
“I would,” she said, “but I need to get back to the reception to see the bride and groom off. I owe them that much. But...I wouldn’t object to another dance.”
The stallion smiled. “It would be my honor.”
As the pair flew back toward the reception, Rainbow Dash’s thoughts turned back to Scootaloo. The image of the little filly squirming in her chair, afraid to tell her idol something, lingered in her mind.
A month ago, she had made her and her fellow Cutie Mark Crusaders come crawling to her with an apology for making her the subject of the gossip that she had previously enjoyed. Seeing Twilight so readily forgive her for a much bigger mistake filled her with shame.
But now she saw a chance for redemption. Scootaloo had a problem. It may just be one of those trivial little things that school foals let themselves get worked up over, or it could be something truly important that she was keeping from everyone for a foalish reason.
If it was the former, she’d help her understand that it was nothing to worry about. If it was the latter, she’d help her through it. Exactly how depended on the circumstances, but she’d figure something out. And then, hopefully, a chance to make it up to Twilight, regardless of her insistence, would present itself.
She looked at Soarin flying beside her. For now, she’d enjoy the evening. And after it was over, she had work to do.