• Published 18th May 2013
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Them: Part 1 - Chaotic Dreams



Rainbow Dash... isn't supposed to be Rainbow Dash.

  • ...
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Chapter 1

Them

Chapter 1

Run.

Cloud Buster complied. He didn’t know who had spoken. He didn’t care either; it seemed like a good idea, especially since he was in the middle of a dark wood and...something... seemed to be chasing him. The setting wasn’t exactly helping matters; the dark, dead trees tried to scratch and trip him at every turn with their sharp, clawing, skeletal branches. What little he could see of the sky above was blood red, and he couldn’t even properly see the ground through all the dead leaves littering it. The crunching of said leaves with every hoofstep was definitely not helping him lose the attention of whatever it was that was chasing him.

He couldn’t see it, but that was mainly because he refused to turn around and risk a glance. He could certainly hear it, though. It snorted, it cried, it released sounds the stallion didn’t have a name for. Worst of all, though, was that each unearthly scream, or whatever they were, was louder than the last.

Run, or They will have you.

Cloud Buster didn’t know who ‘they’ were, but he didn’t want to find out. Increasingly, though, it was looking like he wouldn’t have much choice. The sharp, black, spiky arms of the dead trees above prevented him from simply flying away. No flight; it was like his worst nightmare come true. Perhaps that’s exactly what this was?

Run, or They will change you.

Cloud Buster’s brow furrowed.

No! Flee, for They are almost upon you!

What was he so afraid of? Why was he bothering to listen to some voice in his head when he didn’t even know who was really speaking? Cloud Buster didn’t run from fights, he made fights run from him! That’s the way he had always operated, so why would that have suddenly changed now?

There was only one explanation for it. For the ethereal disembodied voice, the nightmarish black woods, and the rampant fear that had thus far gripped his heart.

He was dreaming. Or, rather, he was having a nightmare. But nopony made Cloud Buster turn tail and flee in fear. He wasn’t afraid of anything! The stallion skidded to a halt and declared as much to the woods, turning to face whatever was chasing him and daring it to trot closer.

Run away, Cloud Buster, while you’re still you!

While he was still himself? What kind of malarkey was that?

“I’m not afraid of you!” the pegasus boldly proclaimed, stamping his thick, strong hooves and snorting threateningly. “And nopony tells me what to do!”

I’m not ordering you, I’m warning you!

“Warning me against what?” he chuckled, convinced now that this was all a dream. He was probably conked out on his bed of clouds right now, safe and snug in his cumulo-nimbus home, floating just outside the south end of Ponyville. Perhaps he had fallen asleep reading one of the creepier Daring Danger novels? No, that couldn’t be right; Cloud Buster distinctly remembered finishing his last book a while ago—in all likelihood, he was snoring under the latest issue of Sports Weekly’s swimsuit edition. “Whatever it is, I can take it on!”

That’s just it... It’s the one thing you can’t take on...

...it’s you...

...or rather, who you’ll become...

“Huh?” Cloud Buster wondered aloud. “What are you—”

Too late!

The otherworldly roars and sinister cries were almost deafening now. If this wasn’t a dream, it was too late to run, not that the proud pegasus would have done so in real life anyway. Instead, he braced himself, planting his hooves firmly in the dirt and instinctively flaring his wings.

“Come on, then!” he roared right back at the oncoming monstrosity. “You want to do this the hard way? Then we’ll do this the hard way!”

The screams reached an overwhelming crescendo, and just like that, silenced instantly. The quiet proved to be more deafening than the sound had ever been. Cloud Buster looked around uncertainly, confused.

“Is that it?” he laughed after a moment.

“...Is...that...it...?” echoed a voice.

“Who said that?” Buster demanded, his eyes narrowing as he crouched, ready to spring into an offensive maneuver.

“Who said...that?” the voice mimicked. Odd, it sounded vaguely familiar, yet so alien at the same time. It was almost as if it was his own voice, yet stretched and spoken at an incredible speed, like one of those high-pitched distorted sounds he sometimes heard on records. It was very scratchy, but definitely lighter than anything his deep vocal cords could ever manage. “Why are you copying me?”

“Why are—” Cloud started to say before cutting himself off with a gasp. “How did you know I was—”

“—about to say that?” the scratchy voice interrupted. “Because I am you.”

Something was approaching through the darkness, emerging from the shadows of the dead, dark wood. It was an equine figure, but the further it stepped into the light and the more details it acquired, the more it became clear that it definitely wasn’t another Cloud Buster. In fact, it looked like anything but Cloud Buster.

Instead of a muscular stallion, this newcomer was a lithe mare. A vibrant, vivacious multicolored mane flowed down her neck and hung low over her magenta eyes. A similar explosion of color made up her tail, and a pair of sky-blue wings covered her curved form with the softest feathers Cloud had ever seen.

However, none of that was what drew Cloud’s attention the most. It was more surprising than finding that a mare, rather than a monster or some nightmare version of himself, had been chasing him. It was even more striking than her sultry beauty. What drew his attention the most was the look he saw in her eyes, that glare of determination...

...it was the same look he saw whenever he looked in a mirror.

“Who are you?” Cloud asked, thoroughly confused. This wasn’t the first time he’d dreamt of mares, though those dreams usually involved the scenes in the magazine that was probably resting on his sleeping face back up in reality. Or, when he was particularly lucky, his mare-related dreams would drift to a certain creamy yellow, pink-maned childhood friend of his agreeing to be something more than just a friend. However, this dream was neither wet nor heartwarming. Instead, it was beginning to make him feel uneasy. He almost would’ve preferred to face a nightmare monster than see his very essence reflected back at him in the eyes of some alien mare.

“My name is your name,” she replied almost mockingly in her scratchy, high voice.

“Your name is Cloud Buster?” he wondered, suspicion riddling his voice. What was her game? What was this dream supposed to mean? Because whatever it meant, it was seriously starting to freak him out.

“No,” the mare chuckled, shaking her head and sending her light-burst of a mane swishing back and forth. “My name is Rainbow Dash.”

“My name isn’t Rainbow Dash,” Cloud Buster asserted, still ready to pounce into an attack should she try anything tricky.

“It will be,” the mare laughed.

Quicker than Cloud Buster could react, the mare leapt at him like a streak of multicolored lightning. Buster braced for impact, but it was in vain. He felt an electric jolt as the thunderbolt zapped into his chest, wracking his entire frame with horrific pain. He screamed, his voice rising higher and higher, squeaking and scratching as he could never have managed. Finally, everything fell apart, shattering into darkness.

. . .

Cloud Buster awoke with a gasp, checking his hooves as cold sweat slid down his forehead. After a moment of staring at them, he put them down, shaking his head. What had he expected to find? They were the same thick hooves he’d always had, clad in a blue coat as dark as the sky before dusk.

Swinging his hind legs over the side of his cloud bed, Buster stretched his forelegs before falling forward and trotting shakily to the window.

What was that dream all about? he wondered to himself as he watched the first tendrils of dawn come shining over the horizon. Well, whatever it was, Cloud Buster knew he certainly didn’t feel like going back to sleep. Thankfully it wasn’t the middle of the night; the pegasus did begrudge getting up this early on his day off, but now at least nopony could blame him for sleeping in so late.

Trotting back over to his bed, Cloud used his wing to scoop up the issue of Sports Weekly that had indeed been open on his face, having fallen off in his startled awakening. Perhaps somepony in here had given him the idea for that mare in his dream? No, Buster didn’t even want to know. He could do without ever seeing that nightmare of a rainbow-maned menace ever again. The odd thing was that she hadn’t really done anything except zap him at the end, so why had she been so... unnerving?

The stallion shuddered, shoving the unpleasant memory to the back of his mind. He’d rather not think about that now, or ever, for that matter.

After giving a salute to his Wonderbolt poster, Buster retreated to the bathroom. He splashed some water on his face and fully shook the sleep from his sky-blue eyes, checking his square jaw for any signs of stubble. There was a bit, but not enough to bother with at the moment.

As quietly as he could, Cloud Buster trotted out into the hall, passing his little sister’s room. Peeking in through the cracked doorway, he saw Scootaloo still sleeping soundly, cozy in her cloud covers. A soft smile appeared on Buster’s face, and he silently moved on. He’d let her sleep in for now. Today was Saturday, and her day off as well, though she’d probably have some homework he’d have to help her with later. Cloud Buster would be the first to admit he wasn’t the best tutor, but even the horrors of math and science weren’t enough to prevent him from helping his sister.

Strolling into the kitchen, the stallion beheld with a sigh all the empty cupboards. He’d intentionally left them open so he wouldn’t bother rummaging through them, searching for something to eat. He knew he should have gone shopping a while ago, but when was there time in a busy pegasus’s life for shopping? Well, there would be time today, he supposed, but he didn’t want to waste the whole day shopping... perhaps just a quick trip to Sweet Apple Acres to pick up some breakfast for Scootaloo? He could always munch on a few of the delicious treats himself on the flight back home, of course, and then he would do some actual shopping later in the day.

He picked up his saddlebags and slipped them on. Trotting to the front of his modest yet beloved home in the sky, Cloud Buster threw open the cloud door and launched himself into the air. As he soared over the slowly waking Ponyville below, he remembered teaching Scootaloo how to fly, a nostalgic smile creeping onto his face once more. She’d had some trouble at first, but now she could give even the best fliers at her school a run for their bits. According to her, she still held the record for flying the highest out of all of her classmates... and she had brought home the teacher’s detention note she’d earned to prove it.

He’d never been more proud of her.

All across the town square below, ponies were slowly and often still drowsily shuffling out of their homes and setting up market stalls. Pleasant scents were wafting up from Sugar Cube Corner, where Ponyville’s own party pony Pinkie Pie was sure to be baking sweets. Maybe he could buy one as a special treat for Scootaloo on the way back home? Then again, it would involve dealing with Pinkie Pie, and Cloud wasn’t so sure he was ready to listen to her incessantly random rambling this early in the morning.

He brushed his wispy cloud-white mane out of his eyes as he flew on and passed over the Ponyville library, wondering idly what crazy magical experiment Twilight Sparkle would be working on today. He’d even met the famous student of Princess Celestia and the hero of Equestria a few times, but they were acquaintances at best, as he really only knew her through Fluttershy. Who would have guessed that his childhood friend from Cloudsdale would wind up being friends with the Bearer of the Element of Magic, as well as being a Bearer of one of the Elements of Harmony herself? If anypony deserved to represent kindness, though, Cloud Buster knew it was Fluttershy.

He felt butterflies flittering about in his stomach just thinking about her. How fitting that butterflies also graced her flank. He never would have told her that to her face, of course; she was much too sensitive for that. But maybe today was the day he should tell her something about how he’d been feeling about her lately... and maybe, just maybe, she’d reveal that she felt the same way.

Sweet Apple Acres finally came into view, and Cloud Buster glided down to the dirt pathway leading up to the barn and the Apple family farmhouse. Technically, apple business was conducted at the market in a few hours, after Big Macintosh had collected enough for Applejack to take to town.

However, he knew the sturdy red stallion wouldn’t mind his unannounced visit. They went way back, after all. Not as far back as he and Fluttershy, but he’d been best buds with Big Mac practically since his first day in Ponyville, when they had hoof-wrestled and Cloud lasted longer against the crimson powerhouse than anypony who’d previously challenged him. Cloud wouldn’t give up until he’d bested Big Mac in something, though, and the friendly rivalry born that day had soon become a genuine friendship. Consequently, Buster spent almost as much time on the farm as any of the Apples, and he sometimes felt as if he was part of the family anyway.

“Hey, Big Mac!” Cloud Buster called after spotting the crimson stallion bucking an apple tree and nearly uprooting it. He galloped over to his friend, and they knocked hooves in greeting. “Good morning.”

“Eeyup,” the workhorse agreed. Big Macintosh may not say much, but he made up for that with his character. “You’re up early.”

“I had the weirdest dream,” Cloud Buster explained as his friend began collecting the barrels which had caught the falling apples. Cloud pitched in and helped load them onto the waiting cart. “There was this crazy mare, and... I don’t even know how to describe it. I didn’t much feel like going back to sleep after that.”

“You, Cloud Buster, didn’t want ta’ go back ta’ sleep because of a dream about a mare?” Big Mac chuckled, trotting over to another tree. “Ah never thought Ah’d see the day.”

“It wasn’t like that!” Buster protested. “It was all... freaky. Definitely not a mare I’d want to meet in real life. And mind if I take a swing at this one?”

“Be mah guest,” Big Mac agreed, stepping away from the tree and gesturing at it with a hoof.

Backing up to the tree, Cloud Buster gave it his best buck, his powerful hind legs sending a reverberation through the trunk. Scores of apples fell into the waiting barrels. Not all of them, as when Big Mac had done it, but more than half. Another buck and the tree was empty. He’d have to work on that, but there would probably be plenty of time to practice when the actual applebuck season came and he pitched in. After all, Big Mac had years of practice bucking nothing but apple trees, and the pegasus spent his days busting clouds. Still, it was hard enough work in its own right; when on duty with the weather team, he had to fly all over town and buck storm clouds into nothing.

“Speakin’ of mares,” Big Mac noted as they moved the barrels into the cart. “Have you worked up the nerve to talk ta’ Fluttershy yet?”

“I was thinking about doing that today, actually,” Cloud Buster replied, gulping slightly and trying not to look nervous.

“Glad ta’ hear it,” Big Mac replied with an encouraging smile. “It’s about time. You’ll do fine.”

“Thanks, bro,” Cloud Buster acknowledged. “Anyway, is it cool if I buy a few apples? I should probably be getting back home before Scootaloo wakes up.”

Big Mac nodded, and Cloud slipped out a bit from his saddlebags with his wing, flipping it towards the other stallion. The workhorse caught it in his mouth, and Buster scooped a few apples from the cart into his bags.

“Hey, if you have some time after work today, we should hang out,” the pegasus noted. “Maybe grab some cider down at Berry Punch’s place?”

“Sounds good,” Big Mac agreed. “I’ll see ya’ then. Maybe you could even bring Fluttershy?”

“Here’s to hoping,” Cloud Buster announced sheepishly. He took wing, leaving his friend to his work.

Here’s to hoping I don’t chicken out asking her out again, he thought as he soared back over Ponyville. No, you’ve waited too long, Cloud Buster. You can do this, and you’re going to do it today.

While flying over Sugar Cube Corner for the second time, Cloud gave into the alluring scents and descended to the town plaza. A few other shops and vendors’ stalls were already open by now, but only the Cake’s bakery actually had a line built up. Thankfully it wasn’t out the door this early in the morning, but it probably would be sometime today.

So how should I ask her? Buster thought to himself as he waited in line. Simply pop over there and say “Hey, Fluttershy, I just thought I’d say hi, see how you were doing, and ask if maybe you wanted to, you know...go out sometime?”

He imagined her reaction to such a direct approach, and it didn’t end well. Perhaps he should ease into things far more subtly. He wanted to grow closer to her, after all. He didn’t want her timid nature to end up pushing him father away.

Maybe if I get her talking about animals for a while, she’ll open up more, and then when I finally do ease into the question she’ll say

“Hiya, Cloud Buster! What’ll it be?”

“Huh?” Cloud uttered confusedly, shaking his head. He’d been so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t realize he’d reached the front of the line. Pinkie Pie was staring at him expectantly, her bright blue eyes almost unnerving in their piercing focus. “Oh, hey, Pinkie. I’ll just have a cinnamon swirl for Scootaloo, please. Actually, make it two; I’ll have one myself. they smell extra-good this morning.”

“Sure thing!” the pink party pony announced, bagging two of the sweet-smelling treats and handing him the bag. He passed over two bits, and was about to leave, when she asked “Are you sure you don’t want something else? Because you know we do have just the most scrumdidlyumptious cupcakes in Ponyville and they’d make a great gift and if you want I can even do it up extra-special, maybe even with a sweetly-worded message, and I don’t know about you, but I think that would be just the perfect way to ask a certain special somepony, whose name starts with ‘F’ and ends with ‘-luttershy,’ if they want to be your special somepony, and—”

“Pinkie Pie!” Cloud gasped. “How do you know about that?! Did Big Mac tell you?”

“Don’t be silly, you silly!” Pinkie laughed. “I felt with my Pinkie-sense that something big and romantic was going to happen to you soon, and it’s not like you’re very good at hiding the blatantly obvious, even if Fluttershy is oblivious, or maybe she isn’t, maybe she’s just nervous about the whole thing and wants you to make the first move, but once you do I’m sure she’ll say—”

“That’s enough!” Cloud Buster declared, stuffing the treat bag in his saddlebags and quickly trotting towards the door.

“The Pinkie-sense is never wrong!” the party pony called after him. “Good luck, casanova!”

If she knows, then who else knows?! Buster wondered worriedly as he hastily exited the bakery and trotted towards home, as flying would’ve disturbed the pastries too much. His feelings for Fluttershy weren’t exactly something he wanted publicized, at least not until he had a chance to break the news to her himself. But if Pinkie was right, then what if the creamy yellow pegasus already did know something was up? Would that make her more agreeable to his question, or harder to ask because of it?

“Cloud Buster!” a voice he didn’t recognize interrupted his thoughts. “Thank Celestia I found you. I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

He turned, seeing a unicorn mare come galloping over to him. He’d never seen her, though she clearly knew who he was, as relieved recognition shone in her eyes. But who was she? He knew he would remember meeting somepony like her. She had nothing on Fluttershy, but she was gorgeous in her own right, with a gleaming off-white coat and a shock of electric-blue striped mane. Her cutie mark was a simple music note.

“Hello?” he said, trying not to let on that he didn’t recognize her. He’d been in situations like this; everypony had. However, that didn’t make it any less awkward trying not to be rude despite the fact that he had no recollection of her. “Um... how have you been?”

She skidded to a halt in front of him, all the relief draining from her eyes in an instant.

“You mean you really don’t know who I am?” she asked, distress rising in her voice.

“I didn’t say that!” Cloud claimed, trying to salvage the situation. “I mean, not off the top of my head, but I remember you... vaguely.”

“It’s me, Bass Blaster!” she asserted. “I’m your best friend! We’ve known each other ever since you moved to Ponyville! We saw each other just yesterday!”

“I... think you must have me mistaken for somepony else,” Buster said. “Sorry, miss.”

“Don’t call me ‘miss’!” she snarled, making him jump at her sudden flash of anger. “I’m a stallion!”

He begged to differ. She definitely looked like a mare, and pretty one at that.

“Are you alright?” he inquired. “Maybe you’re confused.”

“I know what I look like right now, but you’ve got to believe me!” she insisted. “If I was lying, then how would I know that you used to sing Sapphire Shores songs to Scootaloo when she was afraid of the dark, even though you always thought they were too girly? Or how it’s your secret dream to get into the Wonderbolts despite thinking that you’re too slow and bulky to be accepted? Or how you’ve been in love with Fluttershy for nearly forever?!”

“Does the whole town know about that?!” Cloud exasperated. “Is Pinkie blathering my private life to everypony she meets? Did she use her freaky ‘Pinkie-sense’ to tell you the rest of that stuff as well?”

“Surprise didn’t tell me anything!” the mare pleaded. “I mean, Pinkie didn’t. Well, she used to be Surprise, but then she was changed too, but that’s beside the point. Please, Cloud, you have to help me! I don’t want to be stuck like this!”

“I’m sorry, whoever you are,” Buster sighed, giving up all pretense of trying to be polite. “But I’ve had enough of Pinkie’s craziness today, and craziness in general. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get home.”

“At least help me for the sake of helping yourself!” she demanded, her anger spiking again. “When They were doing this to me, I overheard Them talking about how They were going to change you next! You’re going to turn into a mare named Rainbow Dash, and pretty soon that’s how everypony will remember you!”

Cloud Buster had by now turned and poised himself to fly away, regardless of whether or not he was carrying delicate cargo. However, the mention of that name gave him pause. He shuddered as he remembered the pony from his nightmare. How in Equestria did this zany unicorn know about that? To be honest, he didn’t want to know.

Before she could say anything else, he launched himself into the air and sped back home, leaving the very distressed-looking mare watching him flying away.

“Scootaloo, I’m home!” Cloud announced as he soared back into his house, trying his best to shove the episode with Pinkie and the unicorn into the back of his mind with the nightmare. He trotted into the kitchen and plopped the apples and treat bag onto the table. “Scoots?”

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” announced a young and slightly irritated voice from the hallway. The tiny orange-and-lavender filly trotted into the kitchen wiping the sleep from her eyes, her mane a tangled rat’s nest. She hopped up into her seat and smiled as she smelled the breakfast, taking a bite out of a particularly luscious-looking apple. “Thanks for breakfast. Can I go see if Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle can play afterwards?”

“Sure,” Buster replied, snagging another apple for himself. “Just don’t forget to do your homework sometime today. I can help if you need me to.”

“How about we make a deal?” Scootaloo inquired slyly after tapping her chin in thought for a moment. “I’ll promise to do my homework all by myself—and I’ll work extra hard at it—if you promise to ask Fluttershy out today.”

Cloud Buster nearly choked on his apple.

“How do... Pinkie told you, didn’t she?” he spluttered.

Scootaloo nodded, smiling cheekily.

“I’m going to have to have a serious talk with that mare,” he sighed. “And you’ll be happy to know that I had already planned to do that today anyway. Ah, no take-backs on the deal! But just make sure you don’t forget to do your homework. You can always ask for help if you need it.”

“Thanks, big brother,” Scootaloo laughed.

After finishing breakfast, Scootaloo flew into town to seek out her friends. Cloud Buster, meanwhile, tried not to let his nerves get the best of him as he readied himself for a visit to Fluttershy’s. He showered, preened his feathers, and brushed his mane and tail. After putting on some cologne, he showered again to wash it off, deciding it was too much. The odd scent might scare her off, making her think it was too big of a deal. It was a big deal, at least to him, but he didn’t want the enormity of that to make Fluttershy nervous. Deciding he should simply settle on the casual approach, Cloud dried off, combed his mane and tail again, and preened his wings once more.

Thinking it was now or never, he then flew out into the warm blue sky of late morning—only to fly back in to remedy the fact that he’d forgotten to brush his teeth. Finally convinced all was ready, he took the air once more.

The butterflies seemed to have multiplied in his stomach as he soared over town for the third time that day, and then beyond it, towards a lonely little cottage on the edge of the Everfree Forest. He gulped as he touched down outside Fluttershy’s door, hoping desperately that he wouldn’t fumble his words, or start sweating from nervousness, or—

Calm down, Cloud Buster, he commanded himself, taking a deep breath. Everything is going to be okay.

He knocked on the door.

After a few moments, hoofsteps approached from the other side, and the door opened.

“Oh, hello, Cloud Buster,” Fluttershy greeted, smiling in her small way, looking up at his taller form. “Please, come in. I was just about to feed Angel.”

“Thank you,” Cloud said, trotting in after her as she disappeared back into the cottage, trying his best to hold himself together. He was more nervous than he’d ever been in his life.

“So, what brings you here today?” she inquired, lifting a bag of rabbit food and pouring it into the bowl next to Angel Bunny, who was impatiently tapping his foot as he watched it fill.

“I, uh... um...” Cloud Buster stammered. Then, unable to stop himself, he blurted “Fluttershy, I’ve liked you ever since we both moved to Ponyville. I think you’re the kindest, most amazing pony I’ve ever met, and I was wondering if you might... want to... go out with me?”

The only sound that could be heard throughout the cottage was the pitter-patter of rabbit food falling into, and overflowing, and forming a small mountain over Angel’s bowl. The bag fell from Fluttershy’s mouth as she raised her head, facing away from the other pegasus. Angel, meanwhile, bore a gigantic smile as he literally dove into the pile of rabbit food and promptly began stuffing his face.

Other than Angel’s chowing, the silence was deafening.

After what seemed like an eternity, Fluttershy turned back to face Cloud, peeking out from under her waterfall of a pink mane.

“Do you... really want to... go out with me?” she squeaked.

Terrified of what might come next, or rather, what might not, Cloud Buster nodded.

“I...” Fluttershy uttered. Buster almost fell forward as he leaned closer to hear. “...I like you too. I was always too nervous to say anything. I thought you might not like me back.”

“How could I not like you?” Cloud asked, relief and elation lighting up his eyes as he trotted over to Fluttershy and put a wing around her, pulling her close. She nuzzled against him, clearly nervous, but smiling all the same. He thought his heart might explode, and he nuzzled her back.

“But...” Fluttershy stated hesitantly. Buster’s bliss almost broke. “...can we start small? I’m... I’m afraid I’m new at all this...”

Cloud Buster mentally released a heavy sigh of relief.

“Of course,” he answered. “Say, I was going to see Big Mac at Berry Punch’s this evening. Would you like to come? Maybe you could bring a friend too, if you want? An informal gathering?”

“That sounds lovely,” she replied.

They stood there for a moment, simply enjoying each other’s presence. A loud belch interrupted the serenity, causing Fluttershy to gasp as she saw Angel Bunny sitting in his now empty bowl, stuffed with every last bit of rabbit food.

“Angel!” she scolded. “You know you’re not supposed to eat that much!”

She rushed out from Cloud’s wing and scooped up the now very pudgy rabbit, who belched again in her face, looking quite content.

“Don’t worry, Momma will make it all better,” she soothed. Then, turning to the rather dazed Buster, she apologized “I’m so sorry, Cloud, but I need to take care of Angel or he’ll be terribly sick. He should be fine by this evening; can I meet you at Berry Punch’s at sunset?”

“That sounds great,” Buster affirmed. “I mean, about meeting at sunset. Not about Angel’s, uh, condition. I’ll see you then!”

Fluttershy nodded and flew into the other room, whispering soothing things about medicine and Momma’s love to the bunny as she did so.

Cloud Buster quietly trotted to the door and let himself out. He looked up at the blazing golden sun, the bright blue sky, and the birds flitting between the trees and seeming to sing his victory anthem.

“YES!” he cheered, zooming off into the sky. “She said yes!!”

The sun warmed his wings, and the breeze ruffled his mane as he soared high up over the countryside separating Fluttershy’s cottage from Ponyville proper. His spirit soared as well, rapt with glee. He had done it. He had actually done it, and she had said yes.

At that moment, Cloud Buster was the happiest he’d ever been, and his life felt complete.

Fate, however, seemed to have an ironic sense of interpreting just how complete his life felt.

Cloud wasn’t paying attention, his eyes closed as he flew freely, simply enjoying the rush of the air. Thus, he didn’t see that air coalesce in front of him, thickening and shimmering like the air above hot pavement. However, this patch of space was just as high in the sky as Buster was, and it had appeared right in front of him.

He flew through it, and his body shimmered with the air. For just a moment, his heart skipped a beat. Though he later couldn’t find words to describe it, at that moment he felt as if he had been somehow pushed just a fraction out of sync with the rest of the universe, before reality readjusted itself. His wings faltered as images, sounds, and sensations rushed through his mind, and he fell a few feet before righting himself.

It had all happened so quickly that it took him a moment to sort through everything that had just been pushed into his head. It had mainly consisted of hushed whispers, and he had only been able to make some of them out.

Is he the one?

Yes.

Is now the time?

Yes.

And he shall be she?

Yes.

And she shall be Rainbow Dash?

Yes.

And she will have always been Rainbow Dash?

Yes.

Then it shall be so.

Cloud shook his head, trying to clear it from... whatever had just happened. What had just happened? He’d never heard whispers from the air. He’d never even heard of anything like it.

But, more importantly, there was that name again. Rainbow Dash. It seemed to be following him everywhere he went. What was going—

Cloud gasped as he fell sideways, his left wing suddenly unbalancing him. He turned to see why, having only ever had this problem once when his wings had begun molting at slightly different times, but he saw that he wasn’t losing feathers. Instead, his feathers appeared to be...no, that was impossible... they were shrinking.

His entire wing was following suit. His feathers slimmed down and shortened, as did the wingbone supporting them all, slightly pulling into his back. He began falling, flapping his wings desperately, but only managed to slow his descent into a slow spiral as his larger right wing struggled to compensate for its newly shrunken counterpart. Then his right wing began to shrink.

“What the—” Cloud Buster exclaimed, stopping when he heard a scratch in his voice as it jumped an octave. “What’s happening to me?!”

His wings were both smaller now, and unable to support his bulky frame. He descended faster despite flapping harder than he ever had, though at least by this time he was low enough to land relatively safely, if ungracefully.

He brought a wing forward for inspection but had to pull it forward with his hooves, as they were no longer long enough to adequately present themselves to his front. That’s when he noticed that his hooves were shrinking as well. They constricted, pushing in on themselves, and his legs were following suit. His muscular mass simply faded in on itself, transforming into smaller, thinner, more wiry muscle.

Cloud’s body was now too large for his legs, which struggled to hold it up, before it too slimmed down and narrowed. He became almost skinny as what mass remained rearranged itself, moving to his hips, his bulkier body smoothing out and bending into a more curvaceous form.

Oh, no! Cloud thought frantically, not daring to speak again lest he hear how high his voice had become. I’m turning intobut that’s not possible! None of this is possible!

His body seemed to disagree.

Buster’s coat was already lightening, transitioning from a dark blue to a bright cyan. The cutie mark on his now noticeably fuller flank mutated as well, changing colors from a storm cloud with a thunderbolt to a white puffball with a multicolored streak striking out of it. His mane and tail were next, six colors racing along the wispy white hair from the roots until they reached the tips and then continued on further, his mane and tail growing out full and long.

This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening! Cloud repeated endlessly in his mind as he watched the final changes, unable to do anything to stop them.

His thick neck had scrunched into something much thinner, and now his squarish snout was pulling in and shrinking, making his head almost spherical save for a short muzzle. He could no longer see his nose.

“THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!” Cloud Buster demanded, his eyes widening when he heard his fully changed voice. It was much, much higher, and riddled with scratches. That confirmed it. It was happening. He fell back onto his new rump, which now felt considerably more plush, as he stared at his smaller, sky-blue hooves.

He closed his eyes—hard—and opened them again, only to find that his hooves were still small and cyan. He did it again, with the same result. He began to hyperventilate, his tinier chest breathing in and out at an incredible pace.

If there were anymore changes, he didn’t experience them until after, because he fainted. When Cloud Buster he woke up, he wouldn’t be a ‘he’ anymore, and he definitely wouldn’t be Cloud Buster.

Is he a she?

Yes.

Is she Rainbow Dash?

Yes.

Has she always been Rainbow Dash?

Yes.

Does everypony know she has always been Rainbow Dash?

Yes.

Does she know she has always been Rainbow Dash?

...Error.

. . .