“There,” Twilight cried, dumping a stack of books in front of Rainbow Dash. The Pegasus jumped at the clatter and Twilight barely concealed a smirk. “Every other hint of the Elements of Harmony, all for your reading pleasure.”
“Wha? What happened?” Rainbow asked, rubbing her face and blinking up at Twilight.
Twilight rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you fell asleep. You’re the one that wanted to find out where these stupid Elements are.”
“Hey, I've had a rough day,” Rainbow defended, “Well, rough couple of days. Plus, we've been searching this library for hours.”
“Five hours and twenty-six minutes to be exact,” Twilight retorted. Though she still thought the Elements of Harmony were a dead end, Twilight couldn’t help but be impressed by Rainbow’s persistence. Everyone else had helped search through the underground library at first, but ponies slowly trickled out to sleep or do other tasks in the Rebellion. Eventually, it had come down to Twilight and the stubborn Pegasus. Twilight almost admired her for the sheer determination.
“Exactly,” Rainbow said, “A pony gets sleepy after five hours in a quiet library with only a little dragon to keep her company.” She whipped her head around with a frown, her ears flicking back and forth. “Actually, where is your dragon?”
“Spike,” Twilight punctured the name with a scowl, “Went back to his mother half an hour ago. He wanted to stay, but he's a growing boy that needs his sleep.”
Rainbow’s mouth opened and closed like a fish. “He has a mom? I thought he was yours.”
Twilight raised a brow at that. “As amusing as me owning my own dragon would be,” Twilight snarked with an eyeroll, “No, Spike has a mother. Adopted, perhaps, but still a mother. He was one of those orphan dragons sent to Canterlot to be born.”
Rainbow blinked owlishly at her.
Twilight sighed. “Of course, you don't know about that. Listen, dragon eggs need magic to be born. Egg without mama means no magic. Celestia gives eggs she finds magic and sends them back to the dragon kingdom. With me?”
Rainbow frowned at her not-so-subtle insult. “I'm not stupid you know. You don't have to act like I'm three.”
“Well, you think I could be an Alicorn and that Nightmare Moon can be defeated with glowing rocks, so, yes. I do indeed think you’re stupid. Or at least completely crazy.”
“Hey,” Rainbow snapped, standing up, “At least I'm actually trying to stop her.”
Twilight rolled her eyes. “Oh yes, now that showing your belly won't work you've decided to go out with style. Is that it?”
Rainbow hesitated at that, her gaze going to her hooves, and Twilight felt the cold chill of being right seep down her spine. “I at least would hope you didn't have to drag innocent ponies down with you.”
Rainbow shook her head. “That's not… I didn't… Look, at least I'm not pretending to be some big hero while just sitting in a cave doing paperwork.”
Twilight ground her teeth. “I'm not trying to be a hero. I'm just trying to help. How do you not understand that if we make a big spectacle we'll all get killed?”
“Who's the lap dog now?” Rainbow snapped, “You’re doing exactly what Nightmare wants by giving into fear.”
Twilight's forehead itched as her eye twitched. “Excuse me? I've done everything I've can to oppose her. I'm trying to help ponies here!”
“By locking them away,” Rainbow yelled, throwing her hooves up, “By making them cower in fear and then hiding in your cave. Oh, yeah, you're totally helping ponies. Heck, you're helping just as much as Moony is!”
“How dare you!” Twilight seethed, “I have built my whole life on keeping ponies safe. I have done everything I can to build something here, and I am not just going to let some half-witted Night Guard with a two-bit plan come and tear down the only good I've ever done in my life!”
Rainbow Dash’s jaw had dropped in almost perfect sync with Twilight’s rising headache. What started out as a dull throb now seemed the equivalent of someone trying to force a spear into her cranium.
Or force something out.
Twilight realized Dash’s eyes were trained not on her own, but on the giant ball of energy hovering over Twilight’s head, and pointed straight at the Pegasus only moments before it was too late.
“No!” Twilight yelled, jerking in her horn up just as the pulsating sphere of raw magic ripped itself from her horn and flew across the room.
The Unicorn had just enough time to dive under the table before the energy ball collided with the wall and sent an avalanche of books crashing to the floor.
After waiting a few tense seconds to make sure no other books were going to tumble onto her head, Twilight took to the task of climbing out of the sea of literature she had created.
She felt a pang of grief as she pushed aside a few blackened books. They had made copies of all them for this reason but it still hurt to see the books destroyed because of her.
But these were just books. It would have been terrible if her magic had actually hit Rainbow Dash.
But she could still be in danger. Twilight climbed to the surface in a flurry of hooves and swept her gaze about the landslide of books, searching for blue.
Except that the entire library was just shades of blue and purple.
“Rainbow!” Twilight cried instead. She could be unconscious, suffocating in in the pile of books and it would all be Twilight’s…
“Oh bleh, ugh. Ink in my mouth.”
Twilight felt herself relax as the Pegasus sputtered her way to the surface. “Rainbow Dash, I am so sorry, I didn't mean to attack you like that, it’s just that s-sometimes my magic is terrible and…”
“What are you talking about? That was awesome!”
Twilight did a double-take at the grinning Pegasus. “Wha… what?”
“And you don't think you're Alicorn material,” Rainbow crowed, diving back into the books and resurfacing closer to Twilight. “That was some wicked magic right there and trust me when I say I've seen some wicked magic.”
Twilight gawked. “How can you be smiling? You could have been seriously hurt!”
Rainbow snorted. “Puh-lease, you don't spend years around a crazy Goddess and not know how to duck magic blasts or heavy debris. You know, you're way cooler than I first thought Egghead.” The Pegasus lightly punched Twilight in the shoulder with a friendly smile.
“Cool?” Twilight sputtered, “Why are you acting like this, we were just fighting and I almost blew your head off!”
Rainbow shrugged casually. “Yeah, but now we got that all off our chests. Don't you feel better? Less angry?”
“I…” Twilight stopped. She did feel less angry. Flabbergasted? Yes. Exhausted? Extremely. But she wasn't as mad at the other pony as she had been. “How… how did you get to be so smart?”
Rainbow rolled her eyes and leaned back with her hooves behind her head. “Boredom mostly. I read when there's nothing better to do.”
“I'm sorry,” Twilight blurted, prompting a raised eyebrow from Rainbow. “I do still think you're crazy, and even now I don’t really trust you.” She took a breath and lowered her head. “But, I shouldn't have started attacking you when we met and I certainly don't want to see you hurt because of me. So… I’m sorry.”
Rainbow smirked. “You know, that's super mature of you. I'm so proud you're growing up from the raging Unicorn I first met. Who knew one day stuck in a library could completely 180 someone.”
Twilight couldn't hold back her own tiny smile. The Pegasus was… nice, in a very odd way. “Oh har har. You know, to be fair, you did start raging first.”
Rainbow frowned. “Well, yeah, but you were scaring Pinkie. I had to do something.”
Twilight's mouth fell open. “Scare… scared Pinkamena?” She squawked, “Do you have any idea who that pony is?”
“Well, I…” Rainbow replied but Twilight just talked over her.
“She's a warrior, a legend. One of the few ponies, while everyone else was running around like chickens with their heads cut off, who actually took a stand against The Nightmare. And do you know the implications of her being alive? Somehow she escaped before she was killed. She escaped Nightmare Moon! I bet she's spent the last two years planning on reuniting with her sisters and--”
“Stop!” A blue hoof cut off Twilight’s rant as it shoved itself into her mouth. “Just stop, okay.” Twilight hadn't noticed it before but Rainbow now looked… pained, uncomfortable, and perhaps even sad. “Pinkie may have been like those stories in the past, but right now she is the exact opposite of what you're describing. You want to know where she's been the past two years? She's been sitting in Nightmare’s castle serving drinks to jerks and spitting puns at me.”
“Bu…” Twilight tried to protest around the hoof in her mouth.
“You want to know how she survived?” Rainbow continued, “Same as everyone else. She kept her head down. Look Twilight, I don't want to be your enemy, but you have to realize we're all in the same boat. No one's better or worse off than each other, understand?”
Twilight nodded and Rainbow removed her hoof and clambered to a standing position with a grimace. “We should probably clean this place up and get back to looking huh?”
“I still think you're crazy,” Twilight whispered, “But I can respect your kind of crazy.”
Rarity awoke to crying.
It was something she was used to doing and did almost with the same air one would awake for work. Sweetie Belle would always wake up, without fail, at least once with some terrible nightmare during her week long visit with Rarity.
But Rarity wasn't at home, and Sweetie was still safely visiting the minotaur kingdom Minnos with her parents. That meant some other pony was in need of comfort.
Though she could feel her body protesting, Rarity clambered out of bed and to her hooves. The room she was in was small, evidently it was all the rebels had available on such short notice, but managed to accommodate three beds at once.
Rainbow Dash, bed pushed against the far wall, had not stirred from the crying or Rarity’s movements. Driven by a passion Rarity had not seen before, the Pegasus had been scouring the library for who knows how long, and Rarity expected she would sleep for hours if given the chance.
The other bed, unlike Rainbow’s motionless sleep, was shuddering with movement. The sheets churned and the bed creaked and every so often the silence was punctured by a whimper or a sob.
Rarity’s heart clenched at the sound. While Rainbow had been reading, Pinkie had taken the opportunity to tell Rarity, well, everything.
She would have never guessed such horrible things had happened to her sweet friend and shuddered at what nightmares the poor filly’s memories could conjure.
With little hesitation, she moved over to the other bed and gently prodded her friend. “Pinkie? Pinkie, darling, wake up. You're having a nightmare.”
Pinkie’s eyes snapped open and Rarity saw two panicked, blue eyes before a pink hoof connected with her cheek.
Rarity stumbled back and fell to the ground with a thud as her vision swam. A panicked squeak and another thud echoed around the room as Pinkie fell off the bed and joined Rarity on the floor.
“Huh? Wha… what's happening?” Rainbow mumbled from her bed.
Rarity rubbed the stars out of her eyes and looked around. Rainbow was sitting up her bed, hoof on the light switch and squinting at them through the harsh light.
Pinkie Pie was staring at Rarity with a horror stricken expression. Her hooves were clamped shakily on her mouth and tears leaked gently from her glassy, sapphire irises. “Rarity, I'm so sorry. I'm so so sorry.”
Rarity brought a hoof to her throbbing face and gently touched her cheek. She winced in pain when she made contact and Pinkie let out a small whine and cover her eyes.
Rarity’s hoof trembled as she brought it back down. “Is there… is there a bruise? Is my face bruised?”
Pinkie shrunk back and Rainbow cambered off her bed. “Hey, she didn't mean it Rarity. It was just an accid…”
Rarity waved away her words as her shoulders rose and fell. Her soft airy breath was the only sound in the now dead silent room.
Then the giggles started to escape the Unicorn and soon she was laughing full out.
Both Rainbow Dash and Pinkie stepped back as Rarity fell to the floor in a fit of loud laughter
“I have a bruise!” She giggled, “I have a bruise on my cheek. Ha!”
“Dashie…” Pinkie whispered, “I think I broke Rarity.”
“No, no, no,” Rarity interrupted, rising back into a sitting position, “I'm part of the club now darling. We all have bruises on our cheeks. We're like a terrible three pony gang.”
Rainbow Dash leaned against the wall and let out a snort as Rarity descended back into giggles. “Seriously, Rares?” She muttered, touching her own fading bruise, “I had this whole revenge plan going to get you back for that faceplant and my bruise and you just…” She gestured her hoof vaguely, “You just up and ruined it by being nice.” She snickered and sat down heavily, “So lame Rares, so lame.”
Rarity smirked back at her and coyly tossed her mane, “Well you did indirectly paint me green, darling, I don’t think you really deserve to retaliate again.”
Rainbow stuck out her tongue.
“So you’re alright then?” Pinkie asked. The panicked had drained from her face at her friends’ teasing, but she still shifted nervously on her hooves. “Cause I really really didn’t mean to hit you.”
“Of course not, darling,” Rarity dismissed, “Really, it was about time I joined in on our matching beauty marks.” Her tone lost it’s playfulness as she studied her pink friend. “But what of you, dear? You seemed to have been having a terrible nightmare. Are you alright?”
Pinkie stared at her hooves. “I’m… I’m ok. It was just… I… I was just…”
Her stuttered reply was cut off as Rainbow Dash wrapped her hooves and wings around her in a tight hug. “Alright, I can not deal with sad friends this early in the morning. Everything’s fine and we’re going to kick Nightmare’s butt, cool?”
Pinkie nodded as best she could. “Cool.”
Rainbow turned her head to Rarity. “Now get in here Rares, this is a serious group hug and it needs more hugs.”
With a soft smile Rarity complied. The three stayed interlocked for a time before a loud rumble interrupted the soft silence.
Rainbow Dash blushed. “Alright, mushy time’s over. I need some breakfast pronto.”
Applejack shoved another spoonful of tasteless, rationed food into her mouth. She sat with her siblings in the nearly empty food hall. Apparently, Rainbow Dash and Twilight had found something important in their studies last night and the meeting to determine how they would attack Nightmare Moon would happen in just over an hour.
The cafeteria door opened and Applejack chomped down on another bit of breakfast. Rainbow Dash and her friends entered, laughing and chatting with one another.
They looked so darn happy and carefree, even though Rarity, who Applejack apparently had known as a filly, was now sporting a large bruise that hadn't been there the night before.
The three got their breakfast and Applejack suppressed a groan as they made their way over to the Apples’ table. Pinkie Pie didn't wait for an invitation and sat down next to Apple Bloom, the two immediately jumping into a conversation as Rainbow sat next to them. Before Applejack could protest, however, Rarity took the seat next to her and started talking.
“Applejack, darling, I'm so sorry our conversation was cut short yesterday. There was… a lot going on you understand. “
“Course,” Applejack grunted, keeping one eye on her sister and listening to the Unicorn with half an ear.
“So how exactly has life been since elementary school?”
“Fine. Plantin’ crops, workin’ hard adjustin’ to life under a tyrant.” Applejack cast a particularly hard glare across the table as she said the last bit.
“Isn't that the truth,” Rainbow interjected around her food, “I really think we have a chance of changing that, though.”
“Uh huh,” Applejack drawled, barely glancing at the Pegasus.
Rarity silently regarded Applejack for a few moments and then loudly cleared her throat. “Rainbow, darling, didn't you need to go talk to Twilight with Pinkie?”
“Oh yeah.” Rainbow nodded, looking up from her meal. “I needed to go over some things we found last night and I wanted Pinkie and her to actually meet on slightly better terms.” She then dug back into her food.
Rarity’s smile stretched. “Don't you think you should go do that now, darling?”
Rainbow frowned. “But breakfast…”
Rarity shot her a look and the Pegasus pushed her dish away with a grumble. “Right, going to talk to Twilight. Come on Pinkie.”
“Can ‘ah come?” Apple Bloom asked.
Applejack opened her mouth but Rarity beat her to the punch. “Of course darling, you can show them the way. You probably know your way around here very well, don't you?”
Apple Bloom stared up at her. “Sure, ah guess.”
Applejack tried to stand up but Rarity pressed firmly on her hind leg, keeping her seated. “Big Mac can you be a dear and run along with them please?”
Applejack locked eyes with her brother and he nodded back to her before following the others out the door.
Once they were alone Applejack turned to Rarity. “Ya got somethin’ on yer mind sugar?”
“Actually, yes,” Rarity said with a smile, “Why were you shooting death glares at my friend?”
Applejack turned away. “Ah was doin’ no such thing.”
“Darling, you're as subtle as a yak and an equally bad liar. Rainbow told me you were all for our idea until you actually got here. What changed?”
Applejack clenched her jaw. “Ya didn't… no one told me Pinkie led the first rebellion.”
Rarity raised a brow. “And? It seems here that's a thing to be celebrated.”
Applejack snorted in return. “Twi’s just got this stupid hero worship thing going on. I'm pretty sure she's memorized some of those speeches even, and Shining’s a soldier through and through. He'll respect anypony that he served under.”
“Alright then,” Rarity said, nodding, “But then what makes her past so off-putting to you?”
“After the rebellion was when things started gettin’ worse,” Applejack muttered.
Rarity blinked. “Call me crazy darling, but I'm pretty sure Nightmare Moon was in charge long before that.”
“But she wasn’t as bad,” Applejack snapped back, “Sure the eternal night thing wasn’t any nicer than a fox in a chicken coop but it was only after that disaster that she started demandin’ more than we could handle and harassin’ our children. If they would have just left well enough alone everythin’ would have been alright.”
“Darling,” Rarity said calmly, “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are in a rebellion at this very moment.”
Applejack snorted a laugh devoid of humor. “That’s cause there ain’t no other choice. We’re going from bad to worse and I have to do something to protect mah loved ones. It’s the only thing left to do.”
“Applejack...” Rarity squeezed her hoof and gave the Earth Pony a very long look, not breaking contact even as Applejack turned her glare on her. “I understand that you want to blame someone for your troubles, and your accusations might even be true, but please, don’t let your feelings get in the way.”
Applejack stared as the Unicorn got up and began to walk away, seemingly ending the conversation. “Get in the way off what exactly?”
Rarity stopped but didn’t turn around. “In the world we live in, ponies always appear to be untrustworthy, and a threat to our delicate lives. I understand that, everypony understands that. But if you, perhaps, drop the walls you so carefully built and actually trust somepony, trust them almost completely, you’ll find that they are so much better than they first appear.” She turned her head just enough to give Applejack a coy smile. “I think you should trust me on this one, darling.”