Flying High, Falling Hard by soundslikeponies
High above Ponyville, Dash dove. The sun beamed down on her back, cold wind whipped past her—lashing at her eyes—and a ghost-white cone of air took form in front of her. Running out of room, Dash pushed harder, egging herself on. Just a little more... After trying every day for the past month, today was the day she was finally going to succeed. She tightened her form and held her breath, struggling to go just a little bit faster.
But she was too late, and the ground was too close. More specifically, the Ponyville Library was too close.
Dash spread her wings to slow her fall, but it wouldn’t be enough. She closed her eyes and braced for impact, as she hurtled towards the imposing tree. Twigs cracked, scratching and whipping her. She came to a stop, colliding hard with a thick branch, the impact knocking the wind out of her and shaking the entire tree. Legs dangled limply over either side of the branch, she groaned, her head spinning.
Tomorrow, she told herself. Tomorrow would be the day she succeeded.
There was the distinctive click of a metal latch being undone. Dash opened her eyes with a low moan, and saw she landed outside one of the library’s oval windows. It was open, the side of its purple frame stuck out towards her, and Twilight stood behind its sill, her eye twitching.
“Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said, her voice holding barely restrained frustration. “That’s the third time this week you’ve crashed near here when I’ve been busy studying.”
Dash shook her head to clear the dizziness she felt. “Yeah, sorry about that,” she said, rubbing the back of her neck. “At least I had all these branches to break my fall. It wasn’t nearly as bad as that one time with the window.”
Twilight rolled her eyes, her lips drawn tight. “Yes, I’d imagine a few branches and leaves are softer than glass. They also don’t leave me with a hospital bill for removing half a dozen shards of glass.”
“You paid for that?” Dash asked.
Twilight snorted, fixing her with a blank look. “You were unconscious, and somepony had to.”
“Right.” Dash sat up and rubbed her head, tilting it side to side.
Twilight sat down by the window. “Listen, you can’t just keep crashing into the library every other day like this. Can’t you find somewhere else to fly?”
“Hey!” Feathers ruffled, Dash flew over to the windowsill and hopped up on its ledge, poking her nose right in Twilight’s face. “I’ve been flying around here since before you were in the library! If anything, you should move this stupid tree!”
“What?” Twilight blinked, her face scrunching up. “Trees don’t—” Putting a hoof to her forehead, she sighed. “Never mind. You weren’t crashing here when I first came to Ponyville. What in Equestria have you been doing up there?”
Dash flew to the center of the room and turned to face her. “Only practicing for the most important competition ever!” Darting over, Dash fixed her with a look of glee. “In a few days, every pegasus in Equestria is going to be flying to Cloudsdale for the Best Young Flier competition. Even Princess Celestia and the Wonderbolts are going to be there!” She grabbed Twilight by the shoulders. “Don’t you get what this means? It means I get a chance to show my stuff to the Wonderbolts!”
“What happens if you win?” Twilight asked as she wriggled out of Dash’s grip.
“Oh, I almost forgot, that’s the best part! The winner of the contest gets to spend the day with the Wonderbolts!” Dash giggled, an excited gleam in her eye. “Don’t you see? After going up there, showing them how awesome I am, and hanging out with them, they’ll be dying to have me as a member!”
Twilight shook her head at Dash’s antics. “That still doesn’t explain why you’ve been crashing into the library.”
Stopping in her tracks, Dash lowered to the ground. She rubbed the back of her neck, sucking air in through her teeth. “Practice has been going sort of... less than awesome.” She bit her lip. “See, I have this plan for my finale. I want to finish my show with a sonic rainboom, this really super cool trick, but I haven’t managed to pull one off since flightschool.”
“What’s a sonic rainboom?” Twilight asked, tilting her head.
“It’s something I did once in a race during flightschool. I think I’m the only one who’s ever done it—and most ponies don’t even believe I ever did it.” A frown tugged at the corners of her mouth, and she sat down on the floor, pouting. “I haven’t even come close to pulling another one off though.”
“Hmm...” Twilight circled Dash, reaching out and lifting one of Dash’s wings to inspect it. “Are you properly developing your wing muscles, stretching to increase your flexibility, and sticking to a proper diet?”
Dash blinked twice, her head swiveling around to track the mare circling her. “Wait, what?”
“There are steps you need to take to make sure your body is operating at its full functionality,” Twilight explained. She stopped and leaned down, poking Dash’s belly.
“Hey!” Dash cried indignantly.
Twilight ignored her and went back back to examining her. “Are you exercising, stretching, and dieting properly?”
“Uh, a little bit of the first two, I guess,” Dash answered with a shrug.
“Only a little?” Twilight asked, stopping and looking at her with an arched eyebrow.
“Well, yeah. I’ve been mostly—you know—going up there and flying for a couple hours each day.” Dash spotted the deadpan look Twilight was giving her. “I mean, what better way to get good at flying than doing it, right?”
“Flying alone won’t properly train many important parts of your body,” Twilight lectured, taking a seat on the floor.
“Really?” Dash puzzled for a moment, and an idea lit up her eyes. “Hey, do you think you could help me with that stuff?”
Twilight stared blankly at her. “Huh?”
“Like, you could help me set up a schedule, or something.” Dash paused as a light bulb turned on over her head. “You could be my coach!”
Twilight shifted uneasily, fidgeting with her hooves. “Rainbow, I don’t think that’s—”
“Please, Twi!” Dash shot over and threw herself in front of Twilight, clasping her hooves together in front of her. “You gotta help me with this stuff! I only have a few days before the competition!”
Twilight grimaced as she looked down at Dash’s puppy dog eyes, letting out a resigned sigh. “Alright,” she said, raising her head to look back up at Dash. “I’ll help coach you up until the competition.” She glanced back at her desk to the open scrolls and piles of unread books laying on it, waiting for her. “It’ll only be a few days, right?”
“Yep!” Dash pulled her frowning friend into a hug, playfully mussing her mane with a hoof. “C’mon! It’ll be fun! Maybe they’ll even let you stand next to me on the podium or something!”
A hint of a smile tugged at Twilight’s lips. “I guess it might be fun.”
Dash let go of her friend and hovered just off the ground. “Of course it will be! I’ll make sure of it!” she said, flying over to the door. Looking back at Twilight, she flashed her an eager grin, stretching from ear to ear. “Let’s go, I’ll show you what I’ve got so far!”
“Alright.” Twilight trailed behind her out of the library, Dash’s infectious grin spreading to her a little.
Dash stepped out of the library, the sun shining down on her coat. A few loosely spread clouds broke up the great blue sky as they drifted overhead.
Dash unfurled her wings and turned to Twilight. “Stay here,” she said, before leaving Twilight and the ground behind.
Building speed, she angling her wings and swerved to a line of narrow poplar trees to perform her first trick. With a tip her wings she weaved between them, her feathers grazing the trees as she passed them.
The last tree cleared, she flew up and stopped level with the clouds. They were a bit far apart, but otherwise perfect for her next trick. She stole a glance down at Twilight, wondering what she thought so far. It was impossible to make out Twilight’s expression from up in the clouds, but she seemed to spot Dash looking and waved at her.
Dash smirked and turned her attention to the clouds floating nearby. Darting up to them, she began to circle one, picking up speed until the cloud itself turned with her. Drops of moisture from the cloud sprinkled her feathers, slowing her wing beats. She shook off as much of the water as she could, before zipping to the next closest cloud. She made it spin at the same speed as the first, and then repeated the process with the last cloud, making all three clouds spin in a synchronized pattern.
She flew down to Twilight with a self-satisfied smirk. “So what did you think?”
Twilight looked unconvinced, holding a hoof over her eyes to shield them from the sun. “What about the sonic rainboom?”
“Huh?” Dash landed, tucking away her wings and trotting to Twilight’s side. “What about it?”
“Well...” Twilight said, looking at her as though she should already know the answer. “Aren’t you going to try it?”
Dash kicked a hoof back and forth, pawing the ground. “Well, I could. But I mean, I didn’t want to ruin the show by crashing or something.”
“Come on, Rainbow Dash. Try it,” Twilight pleaded. “You asked me to be your coach, not your audience. How am I supposed to help if you don’t show me your whole routine?”
“Hmm...” Dash glanced to the side, her lips drawn tight. “I guess so.” Unfolding her wings with a snap, she lifted herself into the air. “I’ll give it my best shot. Just for you, Twilight.”
Twilight smiled and a small giggle escaped her lips. “Good luck!”
Dash darted up towards the clouds. “As if I need it!” she shouted over her shoulder, wind whipping through her mane.
She flew high above the clouds she had used for her last trick, which had since stopped spinning, and paused high above the ground. Looking down, Twilight was just a purple speck against the fields. Preparing to dive, Dash steadied herself, taking a few deep breaths.
“Come on... somepony’s watching this time,” she muttered to herself.
After taking one last deep breath, she plummeted.
Hooves pointed in front of her, Dash built speed and was forced to squint as the wind became cool and sharp. The air around her formed a familiar white cone, pressing down on her from all sides. She clenched her teeth shut, her lips pulled back by the wind in her face.
Almost there! Her eyes shone with a rush of adrenaline as she flapped her wings harder. A small slit formed along the tip of the cone, a break in the barrier. It wavered in front of her, pushing her, even as her wings began to tire. But she began to slow, the gap in the cone closing. The strain from a repeat attempt, and her bruises from crashing into the library, were taking their toll on her.
Her eyes snapped open. The ground was closing in. Her instincts shot into overdrive and she angled her wings sharply, pulling up from the ground. Her downward momentum shifted, and it strained her wings with back-breaking pain, but she managed to pull up.
At least, a little bit.
With the ground closing in, and no way to pull up in time, Dash yelled. Her hooves clipped the ground, and the traction of them hitting the grass pulled the rest of her body face-first into the dirt. As she tumbled across the field, everything spun around in nauseating motion.
Her crash ended abruptly. Coming to a halt with one final overhead somersault, she hit the grass with with a small ‘umph.’
She lay on her back for a moment, unmoving, her body feeling numb all over. Letting out a low groan, she attempted to sit up. Pain spiked through her back, causing her to slip and fall back onto the grass with a pain-filled grunt.
“Ow...” she whined, looking up at the sky and biting back the nausea she felt from watching it spin. The rumble of galloping hooves reached her ears. Looking up, she saw Twilight rushing over, her face red from sprinting over.
“Are you...” Twilight looked at the scuffs Dash had gotten from the fall and winced. “Are you alright?”
“Peachy,” Dash replied, halfway between a smile and a grimace. She tried to sit up again, flinching from the pain in her back.
Twilight saw her struggling, and leaned against her, bracing her as she sat up. “I’m so sorry. I just didn’t think you would... crash.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Dash let out a deep breath. “It happens more than you would think.”
“Would you like me to go get some ice?” Twilight asked, a look of guilt all over her face.
“Sure. That’d be great,” Dash answered, figuring Twilight would feel bad if she didn’t have something she could do to help.
Twilight’s face lit up as she nodded, running away to fetch ice from the library.
Dash watched her trot away, and despite the pain in her wings, hooves, and back, her mouth curved into an unintentional smile. It was different having somepony there when she fell.
Deciding that standing up wouldn’t be worth the effort, she lay back down on the side of the hill. The second her back hit the hill, her right wing spasmed in pain. She flinched and drew it back to her side. Rolling to her other side, she reached back to touch her wing. It was badly bruised. Even stroking it as lightly as she could caused sparks of pain.
Twilight came running back, levitating a plastic bag of ice in front of her. “Here.” She floated the ice over to Dash’s side, its bag dripping with condensation.
Dash looked at her wing with a scowl. “So much for practicing,” she said, sighing.
Twilight circled around her, leaning down to take a closer look at her wing. “We should take you to the hospital and make sure everything’s alright.”
“Oh please, that place is sooo boring.” Dash inched away, moving her wing away from Twilight’s prying eyes. “I hate going there. They make you wait, and there’s absolutely nothing to do!”
“Well, you need to go lie down somewhere. Even if it isn’t at the hospital.” Twilight glanced over her shoulder. “You could rest in the library.”
“Oh.” Dash looked down at her hooves, tapping them together. “I wouldn’t want to cramp your studying, or... whatever it is you do.”
Twilight shook her head. “You wouldn’t at all,” she said with a comforting smile. “Do you want help getting up?”
“Sure,” Dash replied. Rolling onto her stomach, she pushed herself up, her legs trembling as she forced them to move.
Twilight rushed over to help her stand up. Reluctantly accepting her help, Dash leaned against Twilight’s side, her soft coat providing welcome comfort from the pain she felt.
She threw a hoof around Twilight’s shoulders and began to limp towards the library, Twilight helping her there.
“Thanks,” Dash said as they walked, Twilight turning to look at her. “For the ice, I mean.”
“You’re welcome,” Twilight replied, smiling as she spoke.
“And-uh, thanks for helping me stand up, too,” she nervously added, drawing a gentle laugh from Twilight.
“No problem.” Twilight opened the door, a waft of stagnant summer air coming out of the library as she helped Dash inside. Twilight’s look of worry was forgotten, and she returned Dash’s smile. “You can go lie down upstairs if you want, or I could set out some pillows on the floor next to my desk if you’d like to keep me company.”
“I wouldn’t mind hanging out down here,” Dash replied with a smile and a shrug.
Twilight helped Dash over to her desk, levitating a few pillows over and arranging them in a bed next to it. Removing her hoof from around Twilight, Dash ungracefully flopped down onto the makeshift bed.
Twilight perked up as she sat at her desk. “Oh! There’s this adventure book I found myself rereading the other day, and it would be a perfect thing to read while you’re busy resting! The protagonist in the story reminds me quite a bit of...” Twilight trailed off as she turned to Dash, seeing the flat look she was being given. “Right. I’ll just go back over here. To study. And you just... lie there?”
Dash stretched and let out a yawn. “Sounds good to me.” She curled into a ball atop the downy pillows, shutting her eyes and drifting off as if she were on a bed of clouds.
“What if I read the first few chapters out loud?”
Dash snorted, but a smile spread across her face. “Not a chance.”
Dash heard a faint sigh.
“I guess I’ll go back to working on this spell.”
Dash opened one small, curious eye to look up at her. “What kind of spell?”
Twilight shook her head dismissively. “It’s nothing.”
Dash opened both eyes and craned her neck up towards where the desk, although she still couldn’t see over the edge. “What kind of spell?” she repeated.
“I’m not sure yet.” Twilight said, shuffling the papers on her desk. “I’m looking at a few different spells, but none of them are quite what I’m looking for.”
Dash stopped straining her neck to sneak a peek and settled for asking Twilight about it. “What do you mean?”
Twilight tore herself away from her papers to look down at Dash. “I mean they all work differently, and none of them do what I want.”
Dash crossed her hooves in front of her and lay her head down, closing her eyes again. “Why don’t you just make one that does then?”
Twilight tilted her head back and let out a short bark of laughter. “Hah!”
Dash flinched, pressing her ears against her skull, and opened her eyes.
Twilight turned to her with an apologetic frown. “Sorry,” she said. Turning back to her desk, she shook her head. “It’s just that making a spell from scratch is very complicated. It takes even the most talented of ponies months to do so.”
“But you’re really talented.”
Twilight looked at her in surprise. “Me?” she asked, pointing to herself. “No way. I’m just—”
“—Princess Celestia’s student?” Dash finished for her.
Twilight looked back at her desk. She lifted a hoof and tapped it against her chin as she studied the papers she had spread out. “Maybe if I...”
The corners of Dash’s mouth tipped up in a smirk, watching Twilight’s eyes flit back and forth between pages as she puzzled.
Then, Twilight waved her hoof dismissively. “It’s not really worth the trouble,” she said, looking at her notes with disappointment. Closing her scrolls and books, she tucked them away on a shelf near the desk. “Besides,” she said, turning to Dash. “I want to talk about your training.”
“What?” Dash asked, agitation in her voice. “What training? I’ve got an injured wing!”
“That’s why I thought it would be a good idea if we did land exercises tomorrow!” Twilight exclaimed.
Lifting her head, Dash recrossed her hooves, before laying back down on them again and looking at Twilight skeptically. “How is training on land supposed to make me better at flying?”
Twilight stood and walked over to a shelf on the opposite side of the room, scanning it. “It’s a good chance to work on your...” She let her statement trail, moving to the next shelf over. “I could have sworn—Aha! Found it!” Pulling a small red and yellow book from the shelf, she brought it over to Dash and began to pore through it. “‘It’s a good chance to do some cardiovascular exercise! It says here that it helps strengthen your heart and lungs, causing them to work more efficiently!’” she said, pointing to the words with her hoof as she read them aloud.
“So this cardiosacular thing can be done on the ground?” Dash asked. “And it’ll make me what? Not get tired as easily?
“It’s Cardiovascular, and yes.” Twilight took the book over to her desk and set it down. “I wonder what else this book has. . .”
As Dash snuggled into the pillows, she didn’t listen to the words Twilight was saying, only her voice. Dash's eyes fluttered shut, her breathing slowing to a calm and steady pace, and she fell asleep.