Photo Dash

by SS Nomad

Chapter 8: A Tolerable Outcome

Staring into her now-empty bowl of ice cream, Rainbow felt just the slightest bit better. It was almost sickeningly stereotypical, but it had always worked for her. Something about a few scoops of ice cream covered in chocolate sauce helped get her mind off of things. Dumping her bowl in the sink, Rainbow tried to decide her next course of action.
She knew that in that moment, she could use a good friend. Just the normalcy of it would help her. Thinking it over, it occurred to her that she could knock out two birds with one stone and go talk to Fluttershy. She still wanted to understand what had caused her friend to bolt off, and solving one of her many problems would feel like progress.
One quick cruise across town later, Rainbow set down outside Fluttershy’s tree home. The sound of hammering was coming from around the side of the building, so Rainbow peeked her head over in interest. Applejack was standing there, hammer in mouth, fixing a different window from the one Rainbow had broken. Before Rainbow could even ask, AJ had tossed an invoice to her.
“Once Ah looked it over, Ah realized if only one window looked new, it’d be weird,” AJ quickly explained.
Rainbow looked over the invoice, finding a penciled in note dividing the cost of everything to the cost of a single window. Looking up at AJ in exasperation, Rainbow grumbled, “Lemme guess, you’re gonna tell me I only have to pay for the one.”
A little confused, AJ replied, “Well, Ah mean, yeah. Ah can’t rightly charge you for work you didn’t agree to.”
“So you’re gonna do all the work and pay for almost everything?” Rainbow asked grumpily.
Applejack set down her hammer to look over at her friend, clearly confused, “What you gettin’ mad about?”
“I’m not letting you take all the blame for this,” Rainbow asserted, “We agreed you do the work and I pay the bill. I won’t feel right about things otherwise.”
As Rainbow folded up the invoice, Applejack replied with pleasant surprise, “Alright then, you won’t hear any complaints out of me.”
Rainbow turned back to the front door and reached for the handle. Something in her made her hesitate. She pulled her hoof back and looked at it for a moment. Maybe she was afraid of what she’d find out. Maybe she was worried Fluttershy was still in a panic. Probably both. She reached forward again and knocked on the door.
That little asshole rabbit poked his head up past the side window frame and glared at her for a second. Rainbow never really liked Angel. He always treated Fluttershy like trash and that really pissed her off. Dash glared through a fake smile at him as he bounded away. She was just happy to remember the little prick was rapidly closing in on the end of his natural life span.
Eventually, Fluttershy peeped through the door’s window, stress clearly in her eyes until she saw it was Dash. With a sigh that was nearly audible through the wall, Fluttershy opened the door with a smile, “Hello, Rainbow. Come on in.”
“Heya, Shy,” Dash said, following her friend inside, “Just came to check on how AJ was doing with the work.”
Fluttershy beamed as she sat back down, “You know you two didn’t have to go this far.”
Struggling to not take the credit, Rainbow replied, “Of course we did. I think AJ had a great idea.”
Fluttershy poked at where Rainbow had been injured, which earned her a confused stare, before nodding, “Looks like you’re fine already. I’m still amazed with how fast you heal.”
Rainbow shrugged, “Yeah, I’ve always been good at that.”
There was a pause in which the only noise was the sound of hammer on nail from the next room. Eventually, Rainbow found her words and broke the silence, “So, why were you so freaked out to open the door?”
Fluttershy blushed and hid behind her mane, “I just… I made a total foal of myself earlier today, I was worried it would be related.”
Well, you were right, then. Rainbow put on a teasing smile, “What’d you do this time?”
Fluttershy pouted at her old friend in a frustration that covered a hint of playfulness, “It’s not like I always make a mess of things like you do.”
Rainbow was taken aback, putting a hoof to her chest in pantomime of being stabbed in the heart. Breaking into silent chuckles, she stared at her friend in amazement, “Damn, Shy, I always forget you can be stone cold when you want to.”
Fluttershy flashed a smile before falling into a short panic, “Ohymygosh, you know it was a joke, right?”
Dash sat down on the couch next to her friend and patted her on the back in a reassuring manner. After a moment, Rainbow offered, “Hey, serious. You want to talk about whatever happened?”
Fluttershy weighed her options for a second before plainly stating, “No, not really.”
Rainbow looked in confusion at Fluttershy, but only got a noncommittal shrug in response. Looking for a way to get more out of her, Dash followed up, “Could you at least tell me who was involved so I could help you avoid them?”
The offer caught Fluttershy off guard, and she let a little information slip, “I mean… I don’t really want to avoid her. I’m just not ready for how awkward it’ll be to finally talk to her again.”
A wave of relief rolled over Rainbow. With a smile, she patted her friend on the back once more, “Well hey, if you don’t want to tell me anything, that’s fine. I just worry about you, is all.”
“Thanks for that,” Fluttershy replied with an awkward smile.
Standing, Rainbow stretched before gesturing up toward her home in the distance, “Well, I should probably go. Things to do. Just wanted to check in on stuff and see how you were doing.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” Fluttershy replied cheerfully, “Thanks for visiting.”
Making sure to not leave behind AJ’s invoice, Rainbow headed out the doorway in a much better mood than when she’d come in.

As the sun eventually set, Photo decided to take a break from layouts again. She’d been more productive than the night prior, but the weight of what she’d have to do was still heavy on her mind. Pouring herself another cup of tea, she stared out the window at the twilit sky to think. She still had some tiny, lingering hope that she would have been able to come up with a solution other than canceling, but at the same time she knew Twilight was right. It was more risk than it was worth.
It was a damn shame, but she knew the only option was to go as Photo and stick to it. The only reason the party was even happening was because Spitfire had invited her, Photo backing out would probably be devastating. Taking a long swig of her tea, Rainbow lamented that she was at a point in her life where she had to minimize ruining her long time idol’s weekend.
Sitting back down to work, Photo found her mind kept flitting back to the tabloid she’d borrowed from Rarity. Deciding to give it one more look over, she reached into her bag and pulled it out. Opening back up to the center spread, she looked the article over once more. Toward the end of it, there were the same sentiments that Rarity had put forward to her. Why would she be ashamed of being a pegasus? The thought hit her hard, but she pushed it out of her mind and got back to her task.
Glancing at the photo of herself, something felt off. Rummaging through her desk, she found a collapsable loupe and quickly opened it up. Looking through the small magnifying lens, she looked carefully at the color alignment of the tabloid pages. Comparing to the majority of the pages, she found the center sheet and cover were both notably less quality checked. Suspicious, she looked at what was on the opposite side of the center pages. In both cases, they were advertisements. She chuckled to herself as she caught on. They took their planned magazine and just crammed the article on her in the center last minute, replacing the cover as well.
Photo sat back, relieved. There had been no plan for this article, they just threw it in last second with their “big new scoop,” that’s why it was late to deliver. She had to admit, it was a clever move. Suddenly filled with the need to out-play them, Photo looked over at her layouts. What could she- Almost instantly she thought of something perfect. With a smirk, she got back to work.
After just a few hours of fervored inspiration, Photo was staring down at her layouts, finding herself mostly done. Quickly checking the time, it was rather late. Remembering her meeting the upcoming afternoon, she decided it was as good of a plan as any to fly back to the penthouse and spend the night in Canterlot.
Packing her things into a bag, Rainbow made sure everything in her house was in order before stepping outside to look off into the late night sky. A light, distant whistle caught her attention, and she turned to find the source. Pinkie Pie was standing on her own balcony, waving at Rainbow. Seeing no reason to not, Rainbow floated her way down to Sugarcube Corner, landing beside the pinkness.
“Hiii~ Rainbow,” Pinkie said in a tone that make Rainbow worry she was about to break into song.
“Heya, Pink. What’s got you up late?” Rainbow asked, hoping to cut off any potential musical number.
“Having trouble sleeping,” Pinkie explained, “I forgot hot chocolate had caffeine in it.”
Rainbow made a face in confusion, “But there’s like… barely any in it.”
Pinkie nodded vigorously, “Yeah, that’s why I forgot. The problem is it adds up.”
After a beat, Rainbow asked flatly, “How much hot chocolate did you drink?”
“What’s got you up so late?” Pinkie deflected, “And what’s in the bag?”
Caught off guard, Rainbow stumbled over her words, “Uh, nothing, no reason, why do you ask?”
Pinkie’s face filled with the smile of seeing something adorable, “Lemme guess, I like guessing games. Are you… off to spend the night in a certain Canterlot penthouse?”
Rainbow blanched instantly, “How…”
Pinkie broke into the giggles, “I was right, wasn’t I? Gosh, you two are so cute. I spotted you two nights ago flying off together.”
Rainbow held in her huge sigh of relief as she realized the misunderstanding, “Oh, quit it. It’s not as serious as you seem to think.”
Pinkie nudged Rainbow’s ribs with her elbow, winking, “Maybe not yet, amiright?”
Rainbow simply responded with a disapproving stare.
Pinkie giggled with a snort, “Sorry, Dashie, but you’re just so fun to tease. You take it so seriously.”
“I’m leaving, Pinkie,” Rainbow asserted with a groan.
“Oh, sure, go ahead,” Pinkie said with a grin, “Don’t let me hold you back, I’m sure you have someone better to be doing.”
Rainbow took off and got a few feet before Pinkie’s statement registered properly in her head, “HEY!”
Laughing, Pinkie dove back into her room and shut the door.

The morning light seeping through her curtains, Photo slowly shook herself awake. Something had woken her, and she wasn’t entirely sure what. Then she smelled smoke. Bolting out of her bed, she scanned her penthouse bedroom. Everything in order, she looked out into her living room. On the center of her glass coffee table was a single piece of paper, smoldering at the corners. Highly suspicious, she sidled over to the table, looking down cautiously at the note. Immediately relieved to see it in Twilight’s script, she read it over.
I’ll need a 2” x 2” photo of you as you want to look. If this teleported to the right place, you will know what I mean.
Amused with her friend’s excessive use of magic, Photo tried to think of a photo of herself that she happened to have in that size. Failing to think of any, she decided to just develop one before her meeting.
A thought hit her like a train. Rainbow still had to go cancel with Spitfire. With a defeated sigh, she realized that the best time to find her would be right that moment. She had to catch Spitfire before she left home, because otherwise she had no good idea of how to find her.
As she was about to step out into the garden balcony, Rainbow paused. She was probably still being watched. Peeking out the blinds, she couldn’t get a good line on where she’d last seen the cameras set up. Quickly tossing her wig and robe on, she stepped outside to scout the area. Surely enough, there they were. She even thought she heard the quiet click of a shutter as she stared at them over her hedge. Looks like flying out as Dash wasn’t an option. Reminding herself that they’d probably relocate after being spotted, she stepped back inside.
The remaining question was who to leave the building as. Realizing she’d never taken the time to make sure she could get back into the building as Rainbow, the question was quickly proved moot. She’d have to leave the building as Photo, change, and fly to Spitfire’s. Logistically, she didn’t particularly like that plan, but she couldn’t see a better approach. Also, that way she could get the right paperwork filed to be able to re-enter the building as Dash.
Quickly rounding out her disguise, Photo made sure her mane was properly put on before getting ready to step out the door. She nearly stepped outside before remembering she’d need a bag to put the disguise in after changing. Solving that, she reached for the door. Startled it wouldn’t open, she remembered she’d locked it the last time she was here. Well, still being locked was a good sign, if anything.
Stepping out the door, she quickly double checked that creepy stalker pigeon wasn’t perched in the stairwell. Satisfied, she made her way down the stairs, part of her desperately begging to just drop the distance by wing instead of walking for what felt like forever. Eventually at the bottom, she stepped into the lobby to spot a familiar security guard.
“I hope my sister vasn’t too much of a bother,” Photo remarked in passing.
The guard turned around in surprise before smiling, “I’d have appreciated a heads up that somepony new would be coming, but it wasn’t a problem.”
“It vas a bit of an emergency. I hope jou understand,” Photo offered
After a quick discussion and filling out a short form, Photo had sorted the matter and was on her way. Quickly changing in a different business from the last time, Rainbow hesitated. She wasn’t ready for how awkward it would be to talk to Spitfire. With a quick look in the mirror, her expression immediately reminded her of how Fluttershy had looked, peering through the doorway in fear of spotting Photo. She quickly slapped her cheek to snap out of her thoughts. She had to do this.

Setting down on the edge of her idol’s garden, Rainbow called out, “Hey, Spitfire, you around?”
As silence greeted her, Rainbow’s expression grew sour. Maybe the kitchen? Stepping to the right section of the apartment, she poked her head through the doorway. The empty kitchen greeted her. Calling out Spitfire’s name once more in vain, Rainbow slowly accepted that they’d missed each other.
So… now what?
Rainbow still had to tell Spitfire she’d not be attending, but if not now then when? Could she come back that night? Would the next morning be too late? She stopped and thought it over. She had no idea what Spitfire’s schedule tended to be, so she might have to wait hours to try and catch her after work. The next day felt too close to the event to really get away with. Her options both looking poor, she casually glanced around the room for inspiration.
Her eyes locked on a notepad, likely for jotting down grocery lists. It was far from ideal, but maybe just leave a note? She immediately felt like the worst type of pony, giving bad news by letter instead of face to face, but her options were slim. Would being terrible like this be better than canceling short notice? Her mornings always managed to become absolute messes somehow, so she had no way to be certain she’d be able to catch her tomorrow if she’d failed today. Looking down at the notepad and pen, she thought carefully and started her letter
Heya Spitfire,
Sorry I missed you, I was hoping to catch you before work. Some things came up, and I won’t be able to make it to the party. I know you were really hoping I’d be there, but it’s just not possible. Prior obligations. I really wish I could have been there for you, but it’s just not an option. I promise I'll make it up to you somehow.
Rainbow Dash
Looking down at her words, Rainbow felt even worse. It felt like a breakup letter. Tearing off the sheet of paper, she set it on the center table under the mug she’d used two mornings prior. With a sigh of shame, she turned to leave the room. That’s when she heard a voice.
“Wait, what? What are you doing here?”
Dash spun around to see Spitfire, looking in from the doorway nearest her bedroom. In one swift motion, she slid the note out from under the mug like a magician pulling a tablecloth, ripped the note in half, and shoved it in her bag.
Panic still in her eyes, Rainbow responded awkwardly, “Hi. I… thought you weren’t here. How are you? Today?”
Spitfire blinked like she was trying to clear the sleep from her eyes, “I, uh… I just woke up. I thought I heard something out here, so I came out. What are you doing here?”
Rainbow’s look of panic turned to resignation as she stepped toward Spitfire, “I… Well… Honestly I’m glad I’ll get to tell you this face to face.”
Spitfire looked surprised and honestly eager to hear where this was going, “Tell me what?”
Scratching at the floor and staring down at her hooves, Rainbow answered, “I’m busy tomorrow night.”
Spitfire's air of excitement immediately deflated, “Oh…”
“Yeah, I know,” Rainbow continued dejectedly, still failing to make eye contact, “I was really looking forward to it, but... things came up.”
Confused, Spitfire pressed, "What happened?"
Struggling to come up with a quick excuse, Rainbow just dropped the first thing that came to mind, "I forgot I'd promised to help my friend with her work. She's got a deadline to meet, so it's not like we can reschedule. She asked me to like... a week ago, so it's not like I can ju-"
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Spitfire said as she dropped a comforting hoof on Rainbow’s shoulder, a forced smile of acceptance on her face, “Like I said, it might have not been your scene anyway.”
Rainbow’s eyes finally flicked up to meet Spitfire’s. Something in that shared moment felt familiar, like this wasn’t their first emotional conversation. Staring into the eyes of the mare she’d looked up to for so long, Rainbow felt something. A bond. Spitfire’s expression betrayed a deep care for Rainbow, and something in that melted her worries away.
“Hey,” Rainbow offered with some level of confidence back, “Some other time, I promise.”
Spitfire’s smile began to feel more genuine, “Of course.”
As the moment broke, they both quickly recovered from their slumps. Things settling down, Spitfire turned toward the stove and gestured at the kettle. Nodding silently, Rainbow watched as Spitfire began to make them both coffee. Something in watching her move was fascinating. She was so used to seeing Spitfire be fast, strong, and commanding, it was strange to see her moving with grace and purpose like this.
As she waited for the water to come to heat, Spitfire sat down on a stool by the island in the center of the room, suddenly realizing, “Wait, so you flew all the way here just to tell me?”
Rainbow snapped back to attention and blushed slightly, “Well, I mean yeah. It’s not like I would just be a no show.”
Spitfire looked impressed, “Ponyville’s pretty far to fly for something like this.”
With a shrug, Rainbow answered, “Yeah, I guess for most ponies.”
“You never stop surprising me,” Spitfire chimed in as the kettle began to steam.
With a prideful smirk, Rainbow changed the subject, “So what’s the deal with you only just waking up?”
“Got the morning off,” Spitfire replied, standing from her stool to get ready for the water to be done, “decided to sleep in.”
Rainbow thought things over quickly, feeling a moment of trepidation, and suggested, “You wanna hang out? I don’t have anything to do until the afternoon.”
Spitfire turned to her in mild surprise, but quickly smiled, “Sure, sounds good. Anything in mind?”
Rainbow shrugged as the kettle finally started whistling, “Yeah, no idea, just felt like spending some time.”
After pouring the water over the coffee grounds, Spitfire replied happily, “Sure, let’s just see what happens.”
The morning that followed was amazing. A week prior, Rainbow could barely hope for a moment like this. Sitting there with Spitfire, chatting like friends, was amazing. Dash could barely process the scene. As best she could tell, she’d made a big impression on Spitfire that night at the bar, but she really didn’t want to admit she forgot why. She was more than happy with the results.
As the morning wore on, Spitfire finally wistfully admitted, “I really wish I could have introduced you to my other friends tomorrow. I dunno, I suppose I’m just hopeful you’ll get along.”
“I…” Dash paused with regret once more, “If I can find any way, I’ll show up. At least for a little while.”
A spark of hope lit up Spitfire’s eyes, “Thank you, but seriously. If you can’t, you can’t. I get that.”
"I mean, I can't guarantee anything," Rainbow continued, "but if I can find a way to make this work, I will."
“Seriously, don’t worry about it,” Spitfire commanded, “I owe you too much as is.”