• Published 26th Sep 2013
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Flying in Place - Atosen



Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash have been friends for a long time. Fluttershy has been in love with Rainbow Dash for a long time. Rainbow Dash is waiting.

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The Invitation

Twilight Sparkle’s new room in Canterlot Castle was luxury unlike any Rainbow Dash had ever seen. The floors were carpeted in thick velvet that muffled even the heaviest hoofstep. The bed was broad enough for six ponies, with impossibly soft downy pillows and midnight-purple curtains. Tall glass doors opened onto a small balcony from which most of the city was visible and the rise and set of the Moon and Sun could be observed.

But most important, apparently, were the rows and rows of bookshelves lining the walls. Dash was almost getting dizzy from flying back and forth between bookshelves and suitcases, shelving Twilight’s books in the unicorn’s crazy-specific ordering. Dash really didn’t see what the big deal was if she happened to file “Diamond Dogs” after “Elements of Harmony” instead of before. But hey, it was the egghead’s room, so she did as Twi asked no matter how fussy it seemed.

Finally all of the suitcases were empty and the last of the books were shelved away. Twilight turned to Dash and grinned. “All done! Thanks again for your help, Dash.”

“No worries. Wouldn’t want a princess to have to break a sweat.” Rainbow smirked at Twilight, who rolled her eyes in response.

“Hey,” added Rainbow. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright here in Canterlot without us?”

Twilight nodded. “I’m a princess now, Rainbow. I have duties to uphold and a court to host. Besides, I’ll have Spike and the Princesses to keep me company.”

“Whatever you say. Keep in touch though, okay? Anything goes wrong, just send one letter and I’ll fly straight over.” Rainbow stepped out onto the balcony and spread her wings. “Anyway, I’d better be heading back. I told ‘Shy to help me with my practice today.”

Twilight bid her farewell, and Rainbow took off. The hot city air rose beneath her wings and lofted her high into the sky. Within minutes she was above the clouds, leaving Canterlot behind as she glode across the landscape.

The grand expanse of Equestria yawned out below her. Endless acres of farmland, lush forests, sparkling streams, and rolling verdant hills stretched from one horizon to the other. Little white puffs of cloud speckled the view like powdered sugar on a muffin. As she got further from the city there were fewer and fewer signs of civilisation, with the obvious exception of the Canterlot—Ponyville railway which wound between the hills below Rainbow, its path hilariously squiggly to the pegasus who soared in a straight line above it.

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes. The air was fresh and crisp in her nose, firm and supportive beneath her powerful wings. The breeze streamed through her mane and tail. She savoured the warmth of the sun on her back.

She would never admit it to her friends – come on, she had a reputation to uphold – but Rainbow Dash didn’t have to be racing and doing stunts all the time. One of her favourite things in the world to do was simply … fly. Up here, far above the world, it was impossible to feel anything but calm and free.

Within a couple of hours, she arrived above Ponyville. She caught sight of a butter-yellow pony and a hovering green tortoise on the front step of her cloud home. She descended in a wide, gentle spiral and alighted next to the pony. “Heya, ‘Shy. Hope I didn’t keep you waiting.”

“Oh no, not at all. Tank was keeping me company! Weren’t you, you adorable little guy?” Fluttershy nuzzled the tortoise.

Rainbow opened the door and invited Fluttershy in with a toss of her head. The inside of Rainbow’s house was spacious and spartan. Partly that was because, in an earthen town like Ponyville, it was hard to find things that were enchanted to stay on clouds. But mostly it was because she was Rainbow Dash, and Rainbow Dash was too cool to tie herself down to objects.

The front door opened into her living room, which featured a couch, a table with a discarded letter and a couple of Daring Do’s on it, and a single Wonderbolts poster on the wall. A gap in the ceiling led to the kitchen on the next floor up.

“Psh! Adorable?” Rainbow replied. “Tank is awesome!”

“Well, um.” Fluttershy glanced at Rainbow and looked away, a small smile on her face. “Those aren’t always mutually exclusive.”

“He’s like, an armoured knight or something,” Rainbow went on smoothly, pretending Fluttershy wasn’t being so … so Fluttershy. She tapped Tank’s shell, and he raised his head proudly. “Best, pet, ever. Look at him! He could stand up to a tiger!”

“Oh, dear. I really wouldn’t recommend …”

Rainbow lit into the kitchen. She wasn’t really bothered that Fluttershy had trailed off: the timid pegasus often did. Rainbow poured a couple of bowls of oats and held them in the crooks of her forelegs as she glode back into the living room.

She found Tank and Fluttershy seated on the couch. Fluttershy was grinning widely, her eyes alight, as if she’d just seen a seal do a triple flip in the air. Whatever it was, she didn’t say anything as Dash returned and hoofed her a bowl.

The couch was meant to seat two ponies, so with two ponies plus a tortoise, it was a tight squeeze. Rainbow flopped down, feeling Fluttershy’s coat rubbing against her own. Fluttershy wouldn’t let many ponies touch her, but with as long as they’d known each other, Rainbow Dash was one of those ponies. Dash took a strange pride in that.

Something felt off, though. Her wing was pressed against Fluttershy’s, and something was jabbing her. “Your feathers are crooked,” she said.

“Oh! Thank you.” Fluttershy extended her wing to look at it, but the crooked feathers were on her upperwing, which was always a bit tricky to reach.

“Hang on, I got it,” said Dash. She leaned in and took the worst-offending feather between her teeth, gently teasing it straight. She eyed the wing critically and did this a few more times. She could feel Fluttershy’s warm body next to her. Fluttershy’s downy feathers tickled her muzzle, and the weird mixed smells of spa perfume and animal fur filled her nostrils.

“There.” Rainbow sat up again. “That feel any more comfortable?”

“Yes. Th-thank you.” Fluttershy was blushing.

“Nah, what friends are for. I keep telling you, ‘Shy, you gotta look after your wings. How else are you gunna get into the Wonderbolts?”

Fluttershy giggled. “I’m not the one trying to get into the Wonderbolts, Rainbow. But congratulations.”

“… Congratulations?”

The yellow pony gestured at Rainbow’s table. There was a letter sitting open on it, where Rainbow had left it the previous night. It was too far away to read from where they were sitting, but the top of the letter bore the Wonderbolts crest.

A pit opened in Dash’s stomach. “Oh, yeah … That.”

“I’m so excited for you!” Fluttershy flung her forelegs around Rainbow’s neck. “We should get Pinkie to throw you a party!”

“Oh, no. No no no no.” Dash held up her hooves. “It’s really not a big deal.”

Fluttershy let go. “I, well, if you say so. But you’re finally in, right? That’s what the letter is?”

“I … I’ve got the invitation, yeah. To the training squad, I mean. … Look, ‘Shy, I just don’t want to make a big fuss.”

Fluttershy nodded empathetically. “Oh yes, I can understand that. But a small party, at least? Just us girls?”

Rainbow looked at her excitedly wriggling friend, and she sighed. “Okay. We can have a party.” She put aside her untouched bowl and made for the door. “Hey, you know what? Let’s start with that flying practice.”

Fluttershy followed her outside and watched as she soared through the air, doing cloud slaloms and death spirals and showy kaleidoscopic displays. Dash couldn’t concentrate on her moves. Her mind kept leaping forward to that party. But Fluttershy cheered so loudly that Dash could almost actually hear her, so … maybe somehow it wouldn’t be so bad.



*



Rainbow Dash’s confidence had evaporated by that evening.

Pinkie Pie had somehow acquired a whole bakery’s worth of Wonderbolts-themed decorations in a matter of hours. Balloons, streamers, flags, confetti – everywhere Dash looked she saw white wings and yellow lightning bolts on blue. Rarity was sipping from blue punch. Applejack and Fluttershy were dancing to the poppy music beneath a “Congratulations on the Wonderbolts Dashie!!!!” banner. Pinkie herself was wearing an impressively bad Wonderbolts Nightmare Night costume.

Rainbow stood at the side of the room, watching the festivities glumly. Pinkie Pie sidled up next to her. “What’s the matter?”

“Hngh?” said Rainbow. “Oh, nothing. I’m fine.”

“Nuh-uh. I can tell when somepony’s not having fun at a party, Dashie, and somepony’s not having fun at this party.” Pinkie sat herself down next to Rainbow. The pegasus closed her eyes wearily, feeling the attention of all her friends falling on her. “Is it the music? I didn’t think it was Wonderbolts-y enough. Or did you want a bigger party?”

“No, really, Pinkie. I’m fine. The party’s great.”

“Is it ‘cause Twilight’s not here? I’m pretty sure she’d come visit if we asked! This is a pretty big occasion!”

“No, Pinkie.” Rainbow put a hoof over her face. “Look. This is all wrong. You shouldn’t be celebrating anything. I’m … I’m not accepting the invitation.”

Nopony said anything, and the music alone filled the room. Rainbow’s eyes traced the tiles in the floor. She swallowed, but the lump in her throat wouldn’t go away.

“You’re … not going to join the Wonderbolts?” Rarity asked hesitantly, as if unsure what she was actually hearing.

“No. I mean, yeah, eventually! It’s my dream! But I’m not ready.”

“O’course you are, Rainbow,” said Applejack. “You’ve been trainin’ day in and day out for as long as I’ve known y’all. You’re the readiest mare I ever knew.”

“Yeah! You can do it!” said Pinkie. “We believe in you, Dashie!”

“No, girls.” Rainbow raised her hooves to ward off the attention. “I know I can do it. I’m awesome. I just don’t want to do it right now. You know I can’t be a Wonderbolt in Ponyville, right? All the ‘Bolts live in Cloudsdale. I’d have to leave you all.”

“Darling, wherever you need to be to achieve your goals, we’ll support you. We won’t lose touch. We are pony friends forever, you remember?”

“That’s not the point!” Rainbow’s tone was sharp. “I just …” She felt her eyes lifting. She wasn’t sure why, exactly, but her gaze was drawn to Fluttershy. She looked into her oldest friend’s eyes and said, “Things are fine as they are. Can’t it wait?”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened at those words. Then her brows drew together in a frown. “I thought you wanted to be a Wonderbolt, Rainbow Dash.” The pegasus spoke slowly, carefully, and with a coolness and firmness that Rainbow Dash very rarely heard from her timid friend – and always feared.

Rainbow flicked her tail and half-opened her wings defensively. “I do! Of course I do!”

Fluttershy ignored her. “I thought this was your passion. I thought you were chasing your dreams. I thought …” She closed her eyes and breathed out. “I suppose I thought a lot of things.” She turned away and stalked towards the door.

“… ‘Shy?” croaked Rainbow.

Fluttershy opened the door but paused on the threshold, chilly night air flooding into the room. “You can’t keep waiting forever, Rainbow Dash.”

The door swung shut behind her, but the warmth didn’t seem to return.