• Published 15th Oct 2013
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I Wish I Had Met You Yesterday - 8686



A day in the life of the lucky pony who plays Daring Do as she attends a book signing in Ponyville.

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I'm Glad I Met You Yesterday

I'm Glad I Met You Yesterday

I exist. In blissful coma. Caught in the twilight between sleep and wakefulness.

I am content.

I feel consciousness pursuing me. A predator that I constantly dance, evade and outwit, yet never hope to defeat. Across the plain of Nod he chases me, constantly gaining as I apply cunning, skill and experience to keep him at bay for a few more precious seconds of wonderful ignorance.

But I cannot sleep forever. Consciousness backs me to a precipice made manifest. He pounces. Sinks his teeth in. I feel sleep receding, and all is black.

I wake.

Strangely, I wake with a smile. I lie perfectly still, eyes closed, trying to figure out why.

I had been dreaming. Oh, what was it? I concentrate and figments and images come back to me in a disjointed haze.

I was at home, in the house I grew up in. I don't remember seeing my family there, but in the manner of dreams, knew they were around. Instead I was with someone else. In the living room. Talking. Laughing. It was with me, and I with it. Together. Happy. I can't remember what it looked like, or even if it had a form, but I felt satisfaction knowing it was there, and always would be.

Then it was gone. Consciousness had begun its inexorable pursuit and chased me away from my dream.

I lie still, trying to piece together a few more fragments, as much to avoid thinking about reality as to cling on to that strange happy feeling. But there's no more. Reluctantly I open my eyes, sit up, and take stock. The last cobwebs of slumber vanish.

Ugh. Where did all that come from? The brain sure does weird things when you're not paying attention.

I'm in Canterlot. The embroidered motifs on the lavish furnishings indicate I'm in one of the nice suites in the Horsechester Hotel. It's well into the morning judging by the sun streaming through the plush curtains, and it looks to be a fine day out.

Memory finally begins to engage, and I immediately wish it hadn't bothered as the events of the previous day begin to come back.

Sigh. Yesterday was...not a good day. In fact I can't remember a worse one off hand. I'd signed my life away for another year, done the worst show I think I've ever put on, and then come oh so close to making an actual friend before having it snatched away from me forever.

And after leaving Ponyville it had continued to get worse, believe it or not. Once I was safely checked into my room here I got a visit from one of the Publishers themselves. Some middle-management pony I think, just senior enough to give me a verbal dressing down. They'd had the report on the Ponyville performance from the Suit and they were less than impressed. The word "fiasco" was trotted out, as was "unacceptable", and then "disappointed." That one had stung more than I expected.

On another day I might have argued back. Knowing I’m in the wrong has never stopped me before – I’ve had belligerent arguments in the past where I haven’t really had a leg to stand on – but last night I had been too upset to even think about responding. So I'd just sat, silent and still while he said his piece, looking at the same spot on the floor until he'd finally left with a strange look of concern.

Then I'd cried myself to sleep. The prospect of another year of this had seemed unbearable.

But as is often the case, things don't look quite so bad the next day. It's a new morning and, fuelled by the bright shining sun, the prospect of coffee, and the strange warm glow I'm still getting from whatever that dream was, I clamber out of the far-too-soft bed and resolve to forget all about yesterday. The show's gotta go on.

And I'm still Daring Do. Even if I secretly wish I weren't.

First things first, though: coffee.

I make my way over to the dresser where the tea and coffee supplies are stored in a quaint drawer. I pull it out and begin to remove the overly-fancy cups and saucers when something catches my eye, right at the back. I peer in and see on the back wall of the drawer, carved inexpertly into the wood, is my own name.

Footlight.

I give myself a little grin. I've stayed in this suite before. I can actually vaguely remember carving it, now that I've seen it. It must have been a couple of years ago. Back when I'd first started to get sick of Daring Do. I wanted ponies to know who I was instead. I'd even started to envy Twice Bright. After all, she had her own friends and her own life even when she was in the role. Why didn't I have that too? I had been so desperate to scream my own name from the rooftops that I had rebelliously carved it in small letters at the back of a drawer in a hotel room where no-one would ever see it.

I can't help but laugh at myself. 'Footlight: Self-indulgent hypocrite!'

There's a serious thought there though. I've clearly been feeling the same way for a long time. So why have I never done anything about it? I have only myself to blame.

I mean, it's not like I'm not allowed to have a life, or friends. In fact, I came very close to making...

No. I'm not thinking about yesterday. It never happened. I signed the contract, so I'm in the role for at least another year and that's all there is to it. Maybe in three-hundred-and-sixty-three days I can consider trying to make friends again, but not now.

Something dies with a sad pang in my chest – I think it might have been hope – crushed under the hoof of cold professionalism.

I'm Daring Do.

Ugh. This coffee tastes terrible. Did I just make that?

Never mind. I figure I'll get some fresh stuff as well as some breakfast downstairs, until I catch sight of the clock on the wall. Oh, no.

It's later than I thought. Barely two hours to curtain time. I have to get to make-up right now otherwise this hastily cobbled together promotion isn't going to happen at all. And with me on thin ice with the Publishers as it is, I don't want to think about how many contractual breaches they might throw at me if today doesn't go perfectly. I'm surprised they haven't already to be honest.

And I still haven't read the damn book.

So I sigh heavily for what seems like the hundredth time since yesterday. No time for breakfast after all. No time for a lazy, good-humoured stroll through the most glamorous and cultured city in the land. No time to even take the stairs. I know it's the height of bad manners to leave a hotel through the window, but I'm late. I spread my wings and leave my luxurious, generously paid-for, lonely suite.

I make my way towards the Canterlot Amphitheatre where I've performed as Daring Do several times in the past, catching sight of all the ponies preparing the show as I descend. For something put together so quickly it's clearly going to be a big, extravagant affair. If there's one thing that never ceases to amaze me, it's the ability of the Publishers to pull something extremely professional-looking together at a moment's notice. The resources they have seem limitless at times.

Circling low, nopony pays me any mind. Why would they? There's the familiar stab of regret as I spy the colourful patchwork make-up tent. After being myself for less than half an hour, Footlight is about to disappear from the world for yet another day.

And no-one will even notice I'm gone.

As usual, Argento has set the tent up out of the way in the quietest corner he can, and after I'm done it'll vanish without a trace until the next show. I land with a little flourish and turn to see that nobody cares. I turn to the tent and force a smile. After all, Argento won't have any idea of how badly things went for me yesterday. I can’t ruin his day with my problems.

I pause an instant before lifting the tent flap. Voices? From inside? Argento is talking to someone. Two someones in fact, whose voices are oddly familiar. It sounds like they're disagreeing about something.

I duck inside to see Argento, and two other ponies. The reason the voices sounded familiar is immediately apparent.

Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Pony – ugh, no...Dash, it was Rainbow Dash wasn't it? – all turn as one to face me.

Argento's face lights up as he sees me before falling into a look of anxiety. Rainbow Dash cocks a suspicious eyebrow, and Twilight Sparkle squints at me carefully. She addresses me, phrasing my name as an uncertain question.

It takes me a moment before I realise that I'd still been in costume and make-up when we talked yesterday evening – scratch that, when I'd ranted at her yesterday evening. She doesn't know what I really look like. And she'd wanted to be my friend anyway...

Argh. So much for not thinking about yesterday.

I nod in response to my name, still unsure what to make of this whole scene.

Twilight's face lights up and she walks over and gives me a quick hug. Oh, there's that warm, happy feeling from my dream again. She apologises for not recognising me. I say that's...fine and all...but I'm confused as to why she and her friend are here. Not that I'm sad to see her or anything, but I'm supposed to be preparing for a show and I'm so late as it is.

Twilight puts on a wry grin. Rainbow Dash sports a smug one. Argento now looks nervous. It begins to dawn on me that several discussions about my immediate future have already taken place between the three of them...

The plan, as outlined by Twilight, is for her to take me out for a day around Canterlot, just as friends, while Rainbow Dash fills in for me by playing Daring Do during the show. Simple.

Are. They. Crazy?!

I really don't want to rain on her parade, because it's a sweet gesture, and the way she explained it made her sound so pleased with herself for thinking of it, but...I have to point out all of the blatantly obvious reasons why that will never work.

Okay, firstly, her friend doesn't know the lines so she won't be able to do the scene. Secondly, she won't be able to respond to questions from the audience like Daring Do is expected to. Thirdly, her voice won't sound right. Fourthly, her mannerisms, her style, her stage presence will all be so different that even if the casual fans don't notice, there's no way the hardcore fans will be fooled, much less the Publishers with their meticulous eye for detail.

I try to let her down easily, but instead of the crestfallen expression I'm expecting, her smile widens. As though she's about to do something really enjoyable.

She starts explaining.

Rainbow Dash does know the lines. Not only did she see my performance yesterday, but they've read the book together and the scene those lines come from. Huh? In one night? Both of them? Yes, apparently. They devoured it. I suppose it says something for my professionalism that they've both managed in a few hours what I've been putting off for days.

Responding to questions? Easy. Dash is apparently a much bigger fan than I realised. She's read all of the previous books multiple times and Twilight paints her as an encyclopaedia on the subject. Strange. She doesn't strike me as the geeky sort, but then I think back to the hopelessly obscure question she asked me yesterday and I suppose I can see her point.

The voice? Rainbow Dash herself interjects now and gives me a lighthearted reassurance in a very convincing approximation of my own Daring Do accent. For a second Argento and I are taken aback. Twilight quips that apparently she does a fantastic Timberwolf impression to boot. I don't know who Timberwolf is, but I'll take her word for it.

Showmanship? Well she won't be able to pull off an identical performance, admits Twilight. But Rainbow Dash would be able to do a better job than anypony else, and they've been practising on the train all the way here, trying to get it down. Twilight then correctly notes that the most important part of my job is pleasing the fans, and Dash is no stranger to performing in front of – and pleasing – large crowds. As for the Publishers, even if they do notice, her logic runs along the argument that as long as the fans are happy, the Publishers won't complain.

I'm not sure about that. I was pretty sure I'd left the fans happy yesterday...eventually...and the Publishers had complained plenty. But before I can say anything else she's insisted on giving me a 'demonstration.' She and Rainbow Dash exchange nods, then Twilight lights her horn and a purple aura appears around her friend.

I watch, entranced as Rainbow Dash's blue coat and multi-hued mane fade into ochre and grey-scale. The aura dissipates and there before me, absent the shirt and hat, is a very convincing replica of my character. Then, in what sounds astonishingly close to my own stage-voice, Rainbow Dash begins reciting the lines from the script with a confident smirk.

She gets about halfway through before I have to hold up a hoof to cut her off. I bring it to my head, suddenly a little dizzy and feeling slightly sick. Things are getting out of hoof here. It's not that I'm ungrateful – in fact I'm genuinely touched by the effort that they've gone to for me. But they really expected to roll up with this half-baked plan...well credit where it's due, it's actually a fully baked plan...and expect it to work?

I look to Argento. He looks back sympathetically.

I turn to Twilight, trying to figure out how best to say this. I have to tell her that I'm really grateful that she came all this way and for what she and her friend have tried to do. But after yesterday, this show has to go as smooth as silk otherwise I'm in big trouble. It's not like I don't want to trust her friend – I'm sure she would try her best – but I can't afford to take the risk.

I run that through in my head a few times, but no matter how many different ways I try and phrase it, it still sounds like "Thanks, but get lost." That's not really the impression I'm going for.

In the end, I settle for three pathetic words.

I just...can't.

Argento pipes up unexpectedly. He asks if Twilight and Rainbow wouldn't mind waiting outside for a second. They politely duck out of the tent and Argento, my make-up artist every day for five years, and probably the pony I trust most in the world, looks at me. He hesitates a little before he starts talking, as though unsure whether it's his place to say anything at all, then seems to find some resolve.

I can't go on like this, he says.

He sees it. Every day he sees me, and every day I look a little worse; a little sadder. I used to walk with a spring in my step, and brighten the day of anyone I met – in character or out. But it's been a really long time, he says, since he's seen me smile a real, honest smile.

He admits that when two strange ponies appeared at the door to his tent this morning asking after me, and speaking of a crazy-sounding plan, his first thought was that they were nutty fans. He was about to tell them to go away and leave me alone. Then he got talking to them. They convinced him that they genuinely want to do their best to help me. Because they've seen it too.

I need a break desperately. He doesn't know if this is a good idea, or if it will work. But this is an opportunity that won't ever come again. And I can't go on like this, he repeats.

I can't stop a small surge of annoyance rising. Not at Argento, but at myself. Am I really that transparent? I'm meant to be an actor. In character or not, I'm meant to be able to effortlessly control every aspect of my performance, movement and emotion. I'm only supposed to show the audience what I want them to see. Have I really let it slip that much?

My alleged professionalism takes another knock.

And, oddly, that sense of annoyance isn't fading. Instead, it's building into irrational anger and a completely unjustified sense of righteous indignation.

You know what? If I'm going to be unprofessional, then I'm not going to do it by halves. I'm going to be as unprofessional as I can possibly be! Argento's right. Footlight is having a day off. She's not feeling well. Her understudy will have to step in. Oh, what's that Mr Publisher? You don't have one? Well it's lucky I know somepony who will do it for free! They should be thanking me already!

I'm aware on some level that this sudden surge of arrogance is unlike me, but bizarrely that realisation is only spurring me on more.

Footlight is supposed to be helpful and nice. She's supposed to keep the promise she made in her contract. She's supposed to make the fans happy. She's not supposed to have friends.

And that's how it's been for five years! The Publishers have been lucky to have me. I've always done everything they've asked of me, even when I thought it was unfair, and look where it has got me! I'll bet Twice Bright never cried herself to sleep.

Well it's time for a change. Just once, just for today, Footlight is going to be more important than Daring Do. I strut to the tent flap and invite the two evictees back inside. Twilight Sparkle and Daring Dash – as my brain has now decided to call her – enter the tent and stand before me.

I tell Twilight that I would like to take her up on her gracious offer and, turning to Dash, I ask her – quite formally actually – if she wouldn't mind helping me out by playing Daring Do on stage today.

Twilight smiles broadly and nods while Daring Dash leaps up into the air. She proclaims this to be Awesome, and tells the tent at large that she'll put on the best show Canterlot has ever seen. I can see in her eyes the same sense of joy and wonder I felt when I first started playing the part. I miss that feeling, but it's never coming back.

"Not looking like that," Argento interjects from behind me. His voice has gone from hesitant to that confident tone he only gets when he's talking about his work. Twilight looks surprised and slightly affronted. Dash queries what he's talking about, but I think I know what's coming. He's such a perfectionist.

Argento politely compliments Twilight on her magical disguise, but explains that if this is going to have any chance at fooling anyone then Dash needs to look perfect. Then he rattles off the top three ways in which she doesn't. Her left cutie-mark is off-centre, the coat is three shades too light, and her tail scales from light grey to dark when it should be reversed. I know he sees more, but he holds back. He's right though, and once you see it you can't un-see it. Twilight grumbles something under her breath about it being harder than it looks, you know. Then there's a small flash-pop as something is released, and Daring Dash gradually fades back to Rainbow Dash.

Argento is already getting his supplies ready. Rainbow Dash impatiently asks how long this is going to take. Argento replies about two hours. Rainbow Dash's face contorts into one of the most horrified expressions I've ever seen. Argento covers his brush in khaki make-up and makes as though to begin applying it to Rainbow Dash's coat. Dash steps away and, frowning, asks just exactly where that stuff is going to go. Argento professionally – and apologetically – replies, everywhere.

Twilight, now next to me, is struggling not to grin and trying very hard not to chuckle. I wish I could see the humour. After all, I trust Argento but Rainbow Dash doesn't know him at all. She has every reason to call this whole thing off. In fact, I forget why she even agreed to this.

Glaring at Argento, Rainbow Dash informs him in no uncertain terms that he is not putting that stuff on her hooves. Apparently she doesn't like having her hooves touched. Argento forlornly replies that unless he makes her up properly, there's no point. Time's wasting and if she won't agree, then...

He lets the sentence hang, but glances sadly at me. He's right. The show will have to go on, one way or the other.

There's a long silence. Twilight is quiet too, her grin gone. I feel like it's up to me to act and with the sullen knowledge that fate has once again decided to snatch something nice away, I approach Argento. I thank Rainbow for what she's tried to do, but I understand. We've practically only just met, and it wouldn't be fair to–

She stops me with a Whoa-whoa-whoa, and gives me a strange look. As though she's somehow insulted by the fact I've given up so easily. Glowering back at Argento but addressing me, she tells me to go have my fun day with Twilight. She and Argento will...'work something out.' Argento looks distinctly nervous under her gaze.

Then, on the subject of having only just met, she looks past me to Twilight and asks something along the lines of, don't I know how this works? Before I can ask what she means, Twilight assures Rainbow that she'll explain it to me. Before I can change my mind, I'm being whisked out of the tent into the cool late-morning air and the tent flap falls closed behind me.

I look back, but the flap is already shut. There is no possible way I can go back through it. That thin piece of canvas is now an impenetrable wall. It's the point of no return, and I'm already beyond it. And now that the decision is irreversible, all of the arrogance and sense of entitlement that helped fuel it has evaporated, leaving only insecurity and thoughts of everything that is inevitably going to go wrong in my near future.

It's not until Twilight starts gradually guiding me away from the tent that I realise I've just been stood there, staring blankly for several seconds. I feel like a filly playing truant from school. All I can think about is how long it'll be before I have to explain myself to the headmaster.

As we walk through the amphitheatre to the exit, I can't help but notice that, again, nopony is paying me any mind. There are stagehands, lighting technicians, prop guys, security, you name it. And none of them care that the star of the show is just walking off with a strange pony, and not coming back.

As we leave and exit into the surrounding grounds and Canterlot proper, I do manage to relax a bit into the situation. After all, there's no going back, so I might as well make the most of this. The consequences will be terrible, sure, but they can be for later. I'm not going to ruin this for Twilight by being a stick-in-the-mud. I turn to her and I ask just what did her friend mean when she said I didn't know how something worked?

She chuckles and as we carry on walking, explains that Rainbow Dash is the kind of pony who will always be there to help a friend in trouble, no matter what. I say it must be nice to have a friend like that, and she rolls her eyes and tells me that's the point, silly. I do.

What? I assumed she was here because Twilight asked her for a favour. I mean, I've only met her for like five minutes yesterday and in the tent just now. How could she possibly know whether she likes me enough to be my friend?

Apparently the answer, according to Twilight, is because Twilight told her that we were friends. So that somehow automatically made Rainbow Dash my friend too.

Again. What? That can't be the rule. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm really grateful that Twilight still considers us friends after the kind-of-awful way things ended last night. But how can one of her friends just decide to be my friend without having that whole conversation thing that we had?

Apparently the answer, according to Twilight, is because Rainbow Dash has known her for a long time, and she trusts her without question. Wow. It must be really nice to have a friend like that. Twilight stares at me for a second, then she rolls her eyes even harder. She says, that's the point, silly. I do.

Ugh. Okay, we're now officially going in circles and I'm starting to get dizzy. Twilight puts on that sweet little grin she has and chuckles again. She says that I'm worrying about it too much and suggests coffee and doughnuts at this great little place she knows.

You know, I never did get that coffee earlier on...

She leads me through Canterlot to a doughnut shop she calls 'Joe's' and we settle in. Twilight starts talking and I finally get an explanation as to where all of this has come from.

Shortly after I had left the library yesterday, Rainbow Dash had returned eager to get started on the new book. Twilight had told her about me and how upset I had been. Rainbow had reacted with disbelief – how could someone with the best job in the world be upset? Twilight had showed her the dedication I'd written in the book, and that had started to convince her. Twilight had said that she was determined to help me...somehow, and Rainbow Dash had volunteered too.

They'd tossed ideas around for an hour until, with no small measure of excitement, Rainbow Dash suggested replacing me on stage herself. Twilight admits that at first she thought it sounded crazy – much as I still do! But then as she thought about it, she had decided that all of the obstacles were surmountable. She'd come up with the nuts and bolts and formed the full plan, and then they'd worked through the night reading the book and practising her disguise spell.

Hold on, my plot-hole sense is tingling: If she thought her spell was going to be enough on its own to convincingly transform her friend into Daring Do, then why did they show up at the make-up tent? They wouldn't have thought they needed make-up. But Twilight reminds me that she didn't know what I really looked like. All she knew was that I was in Canterlot, and the make-up tent was the one place I would have to go to before the show. They had apparently planned to 'ambush' me outside. Getting talking to Argento had been a happy accident.

The amount of effort and thought she and her friend have put into this staggers me. And for what? Just to give me a few hours as myself? And what is she getting in return? My company? That...feels like really inadequate compensation.

Just then the proprietor – Joe, I assume – comes over, bringing the fabled coffee and doughnuts. He addresses Twilight by name, and remarks that he hasn't seen me round here before. Twilight introduces me proudly and without hesitation as Footlight, her new friend. Oh, it feels nice to hear my name spoken out loud, and damn if there isn't that warm fuzzy feeling again.

Joe bids me a good morning and leaves the coffee and doughnuts on the table. Twilight and I fall back into dialogue.

She immediately picks up where the conversation dropped – that being Argento and her efforts to convince him to go along with the plan. He'd discovered them both lurking outside, asked them what they thought they were doing, and when Rainbow Dash had come up with the worst lie imaginable Twilight had had to come clean to keep him from going to the Suit and getting them thrown out.

She talks about the subsequent conversation they'd had in the tent before I arrived. Argento, not exactly known for being the most assertive of ponies, had actually had a bit of a stand-off with Twilight. She was convinced her plan would work, while he saw only the many horrible ways it could fail. He was adamant that he wasn't going to let anything happen that would get me in trouble.

And himself too, I add. After all, if he was caught intentionally dressing the wrong pony, he'd be out of the job.

Twilight looks at me as though I've missed the point. She reminds me that her disguise spell was supposed to mean that Argento wouldn't have to make anypony up at all. He'd have been off the hook. When they were talking, he was only concerned with how bad things might have been for me. He really likes me, she says.

Yeah, he's a sweet guy. He clearly thinks that what he's doing will help fool the Publishers and keep me out of trouble, but I'm under no illusions. No matter how perfect Rainbow Dash looks, this will only end...hang on a minute.

I stare open-mouthed at Twilight. He really "likes" me? As in, that kind of "likes?"Argento "likes" me? In a 'very special somepony' kind of "likes" way? Argento? Me? I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a great guy, but...he's never said anything to me about anything like that. In fact he barely talks at all. No. Twilight must be wrong. If he "liked" me, he would have told me. That's how it works isn't it? If you like somepony, you tell them you like them. It's not as if he's never had the chance.

Twilight asks me if I like him too.

What? I thought I just decided that she was wrong. I mean, sure I like him. But I've never thought about it like that before. He's always just been the sweet, professional make-up guy who I trust more than anypony else, and I've always been...well...Daring Do. Daring Do has never had time to think about things like that.

Twilight giggles at me as I stumble and trip over my own words, trying my hardest to make this idea go out of my head. I mean it's not as if I wouldn't like to have him as a special somepony, it's just – Argh! Stop! And Twilight is continuing to giggle.

After a few minutes of pointless floundering, Twilight finally lets me off the hook and says it's about time for us to go. She gives Joe a goodbye wave and we leave the cafe.

I eagerly ask where we're off to now – if only to confirm the change of subject – and with a little smile she replies that we're going to see her teacher.

Okay, that's...weird. Like, her old teacher from school? That she's kept in touch with? And maybe they're friends now? And she's taking her new friend to meet them? To meet her old teacher? No, it still sounds weird.

I'm trying so hard to find a not-weird explanation that I don't even notice entering the castle courtyard. Then we're outside the castle doors and the guards are just waving us through. Did one of them call Twilight by name?

We're walking through the castle. Towards the throne room. Why are we walking towards the throne room? Why are we outside the throne room doors? Why is she opening them? We can't just go in there! She's going in there! The guards are going to...stand idly by and watch, apparently?

The throne room. Princess Celestia. And Twilight is walking up to her. I can't stop myself. I'm walking too, kind of caught in her wake. We stop before her. And Celestia smiles. And speaks.

Twilight Sparkle. My faithful student.

No. Way.

Oh, what have I gotten myself into here?

Twilight bows. I practically headbutt the floor. This shouldn't be that big of a deal. I've met Princess Celestia before. Twice, actually. Once in a brief publicity shoot in the castle for The Shield of Razdon, and once at a charity fundraiser about a year ago. But those times...I had things to say. A character to be in. A loose script to follow and a way to respond to what she might say or ask or order. To Daring Do, meeting the ruler of the land was just another day at the office. To Footlight...this is really really scary.

Twilight introduces me as her new friend. But instead of that warm fuzzy feeling, all I'm getting now is a sense of dread.

And then Celestia starts talking to me and...somehow it all melts away. Her voice is so sweet and kind that it makes you feel like there's no way anything bad could ever happen in her presence. She could make all the bad things go away. I’d forgotten how nice it was.

After a brief introduction in which I manage to add several accidental syllables to my name, she comments that she feels like she's met me somewhere before. I offer a rather tongue-tied explanation of our previous encounters and she smiles in understanding. She says it's always a pleasure to meet one of her subjects, and asks why I've come to see her today.

What!? I didn't...I mean, it wasn't my idea...

But Twilight interjects for me. She gives a succinct account of the way she and I met yesterday and how vehemetly I'd described my disaffection with the role I'm expected to play. She tells Celestia that, by mistake, I'd committed myself to it for another year, and asks her – ostensibly on my behalf – if there's anything she can do to help.

Oh, I'm furious! I've gone from terrified to serene to apoplectic in ten seconds flat. Silent rage builds inside me like a runaway freight train. Celestia's focus is on Twilight though, a look of sympathetic uncertainty on her face. The Princess can't be expected to go sorting out the lives of other ponies!

And then with no warning, in front of the princess of Equestria and about five heavily armed guards, I explode at Twilight Sparkle.

How dare she! Yes, signing that document yesterday had been a mistake, but it was my mistake! I made it. And I wasn't bullied or pressured into anything. I knew exactly what I was getting into. And I made it anyway. It's the one time of the year I can say I made a decision as Footlight, not Daring Do. And she's trying to take that away from me! To say it doesn't count!

Of course it doesn't count, does it!? Everything Footlight does is wrong! If Daring Do had made that choice, no-one would ever think to question it, but since it was me it's automatically regrettable!

I'm screaming at her now. Five years of perceived under-appreciation is being spat in the face of the pony who least deserves it.

And there's worse to come. Because while I'm on a roll, I say maybe that decision isn't the only 'mistake' I made yesterday. Maybe the other mistake I made was thinking I wanted her for a friend!

...

I’m a horrible, horrible pony.

The look of hurt on Twilight’s face as I apparently renounce our friendship is poignant enough that it shocks the rest of the rage right out of me. But I've already gone too far. The words are out and I can't take them back. I try to put on an expression of arrogant anger, pretending I don't already regret what I've just said. But Twilight is trying to reply, and I realise I can't take it.

Like the coward I am, I take to my hooves. I gallop at full tilt at the grand door to the throne room while the two guards between me and it stand ready. I brace myself, certain that in any moment I am going to be tackled, pinned, manacled and thrown into the dungeons. It's what I deserve. But as I race towards them, they look over me to the ponies I've left behind and then smartly step aside.

Then I'm past them, out the door, running in no direction whatsoever as fast as my hooves will carry me. It becomes difficult to see where I'm going; my eyes are thick with tears. I have no idea where I am or where I'm headed. The castle all looks the same. I don't know the way out. I just...have to keep...running away.

I tire. I don't know how long I've run for, but my adrenaline is spent. I find myself on a high, wide and flat semi-circular balcony overlooking the plain of Equestria below, with the opening to the castle arching behind me. I approach the railing and gaze out across the beautiful country under the warm early-afternoon sun.

I wait. I listen, expecting to hear heavy hoof-falls and the sounds of pursuing guards coming to arrest me. But they don't come. There is only silence. I'm alone.

This is...it's...

Numb. I'm numb. I can't think. My brain is refusing to process. What have I just done?

An audition. That's it. I've just had an audition for the part of 'Pony Who Deserves to Have Friends,' and I didn't get it. They were looking for somepony nice. Not somepony like me. Nopony should ever have to play the part of my friend. Not after that performance.

I feel like I need a brand on my head or something, for the sake of other ponies. Warning: do not befriend.

Deep breath. So, that's it. I was given the chance to have friends and I blew it. The latest in a long line of mistakes I've made. In fact...that is pretty much all Footlight does, isn't it? Make bad choices. What's the point of a pony who can only make mistakes?

I look down at the countryside below. I could leave, you know. Right here, right now. Just spread my wings and leave it all behind. Have the sweet, empty, lonely freedom I've always told myself I wanted. I'm going to be alone forever now anyway. I place my forehooves on the railing, as though I'm seriously considering this. I spread my wings, just to get a feel for the breeze in my feathers. Maybe I flap them a couple of times...feels nice.

But I'm too cowardly to really do it. I can't make the leap. My forelegs come off the railing and return to the floor. My wings furl. It would just be yet another mistake.

You know who doesn't make mistakes? Daring Do. She's confident, decisive, her choices are always black and white, and she never makes the wrong one. When I'm Daring Do, Footlight can't get angry or hurt anypony's feelings. When I'm Daring Do...I'm a better pony.

I should never have abandoned the show. Chalk yet another mistake up to Footlight.

I find myself subconsciously turning my gaze back towards the castle, through it, to the direction I know the amphitheatre is in. Where the show will even now be just getting started. Too late to do anything about–

And she's stood there. Twenty feet behind me, at the entrance to the balcony platform. Twilight Sparkle. The pony who wanted to be my friend, once. She came after me.

She should be angry. Enraged. She should be tearing me to pieces. Instead, there are tears in her eyes and she looks upset.

And...all I can think about is how I'm the one who upset her. How all she wanted to do was help me. To try and make me happy. And in return, I've hurt her.

I'm a horrible, horrible–

She asks if I'm okay.

Oh...please, make it stop. I can't do this. Why can't she be angry at me? Why can't she unleash a wave of righteous fury upon me? Why hasn't she got the Princess to lock me up and throw away the key? I deserve these things and so much worse. And she's showing me sympathy and kindness?

I can only stand there, open mouthed in shock. I have to do something. I have to say something. She starts walking towards me, and I'm trying to find some words but I can't.

And she apologises. She should have told me what she was planning. It wasn't fair of her to spring that surprise on me without asking. She's sorry. She hopes I can forgive her.

She hopes I can forgive her!?

That finally seems to be enough to get my stalled vocabulary moving. I manage to tell her she's not the one that needs forgiving. I just about articulate that I don't know what came over me. But I know all she was doing was trying to help me. I didn't mean it when I said it was a mistake to be her friend. I shouldn't have said that. I know it must have been hurtful. I...I never wanted to hurt anyone.

I understand if she never wants to talk to me again.

I turn away towards the balcony and the vista below, expecting her to quietly make her way back into the castle. She should go and get on with her life. Twilight Sparkle is a nice pony. She should have nice pony friends like Rainbow Dash. Not horrible pony friends like...like me.

I cry. I can't help it. I must be such a pathetic sight. Daring Do would be disgusted if she saw me like this. This would never happen to her.

Then there's a gentle hoof on my shoulder and a kind voice in my ear.

It's okay, she says. She understands that I was upset. We're still–

Stop this, Twilight Sparkle. Don't you understand? You don't deserve to be treated like that. Nopony does. Nopony should have to have me as a friend.

To which she replies, nopony should have to be alone.

After all this, she still wants to help me. I feel so guilty. I ask how many second chances friends are supposed to get before you decide they're no good.

Always one more, she says with a smile.

Sobbing, I say I feel like I must be the luckiest pony in the world to have met her. She really is one-in-a-million. And she turns to me.

She says she’s glad she met me yesterday.

I have to admit, I'm not sure why. I'm pretty sure all I've done since I met her is cry and rant. In what possible way have I been an improvement on her life?

She grins. She says it's not every day she meets a real-life fake-hero.

That's it. She's got me laughing. The joke wasn't even that funny if we're honest, but I smile and laugh a real, genuine laugh. The first occasion I've done so in a very long time.

And once you're laughing with somepony, there's no way you can do anything but fall at ease with them. Whatever sense of awkwardness was in the air until a few moments ago, just evaporates. Like it never existed. Like the last half-hour never happened. We're just two friends who happen to be up here on this balcony enjoying the view.

I say that we should probably leave before we're asked to move along. Twilight leads me through the castle with an air which suggests she knows it well. We descend two flights of stairs I don't recall climbing.

Then we're walking past the throne room again, and by coincidence Princess Celestia is at that moment exiting, no doubt on her way to another important meeting.

Fear grips me, but I stifle the impulse to run. I find some resolve from somewhere and approach her. I know she's busy. I know she has better things to do than talk to a troublemaker like me, but I just need to say I'm sorry.

And I do. I tell her I'm sorry. I must look really pathetic right now. I’m still half-expecting to be arrested.

She looks at me, noting Twilight Sparkle close behind. She smiles and nods slowly, and in that sweet, serene voice tells me that it looks like I've learned a valuable lesson about friendship...

Strange. She kind of left that sentence hanging, as though she were expecting me to elaborate. Oh...she actually is!

Oh...okay. Um. I've learned that...a real friend will always try and help you, and will always be there for you, no matter how badly you treat them.

What!?

I turn and gawp at Twilight. In a plaintiff tone I beg her: please tell me that isn't what I've learned!

Twilight giggles behind her hoof at me. She grins at the Princess and tells her not to worry, I'll get there. The Princess is giggling now too, though she's doing a slightly better job at hiding it. Then she bids us good day and good luck, and Twilight finally leads me out of the castle.

Whew! We're outside and the fresh air is such a relief. It's no different to the fresh air on the balcony of course, but now that we're outside the castle it's like all of the bad stuff that just happened can stay in there, behind that really sturdy-looking door.

Now that we're back in Canterlot proper though, I can see the amphitheatre in the distance and the banners everywhere proclaiming that Daring Do will be appearing there today. I can't help but feel like I've made a liar out of someone. I feel like I should be there.

Twilight catches my gaze lingering. I think she senses what I'm thinking, and in an understanding voice asks if I want to go and see how the show is going.

The truth is that I do. And I tell my friend the truth.

Well then, let's go.

It's not a long walk, and as we enter the amphitheatre grounds I spy Argento walking away from the theatre. He’s struck his tent and packed it along with the rest of his supplies into a rickety wooden cart that looks too small to contain it all. He’s hauling it away at an angle to us as we’re walking towards the gates, and he hasn't noticed us yet. His posture is slumped, and he looks dejected.

He’s probably headed for Trottingham, the venue for the show tomorrow. I have to admit, I’m surprised he’s leaving already. He could be enjoying the sights of Canterlot.

By...himself...?

You know, I never thought about it before. Argento arrives, pitches his tent out of the way, arranges his equipment and...waits for me. Then he does his job for between ninety minutes and two hours, after which he quietly packs his tent and supplies and moves on to wait for me again. Rinse-repeat ad infinitum.

And when he’s with me, he looks a lot happier than he looks right now. He really...likes me?

There’s a heavy shove on my rump pushing me in Argento’s direction, and as I look around for the source I notice Twilight now deliberately walking several paces behind and suddenly utterly fascinated by absolutely nothing over there.

Yeah, I get it! I’m not incapable of coming up with nice gestures on my own you know.

I trot over to Argento, who expresses surprise when he sees me. I say a friendly hi, and ask where he’s headed.

With a weary expression he confirms that, with his work done, there's nothing for him to do but head for the next venue in Trottingham. I tell him I'm sad to see him leaving already. I was kinda hoping he'd stay around for a while.

That perked him up. I swear he’s blushing slightly. I point out that there's no rush for us to leave Canterlot, and wonder if he’d like to come with me to this great show I want to see. Then we could travel to Trottingham together later on. It would be nice to have some company for a change.

Yeah yeah, I know. It’s cheesy and a little forward, but I’m trying to do something nice here! Plus...you know, I’ve never done this before.

For a second he seems about to question which show I had in mind. Then realisation dawns and he gazes behind himself at the walls of the amphitheatre. He looks back at me and, just to make sure he’s understanding things correctly, asks me if I want him to go with me to watch the rest of the show I’m supposed to be in.

Yes, I'd like that. I smile.

He smiles back bashfully. He really can’t hide the fact that I've just made his day. He’d make a terrible actor.

I look around for Twilight who is doing an awful job of trying to inconspicuously watch us as she pretends to examine a floral arrangement nearby. Well, she’s not getting away with that! This is totally her fault.

I grab her, and with a huge grin lead my two new friends toward the amphitheatre so I can watch another friend pretending to be me-when-I’m-pretending-to-be-someone-else.

When we arrive, the pony on the gate doesn't even give me a second look as he waves us in. I've been the star of this show for five years and it comes as no shock to anyone that I'm apparently able to be in two places at once. I know I shouldn't, but the mischievous side of me is already thinking that if, by some miracle nopony notices my switcheroo with Rainbow Dash, I should totally ask her if she wants to do like a timeshare thing with me. We could take turns!

Yeah, I know I know, she's got her own life and this is just a one-off. But a girl can dream, can't she?

Considering this whole show was announced, advertised and thrown together in less than twenty-four hours, there are a huge number of ponies here. Hundreds, if not a thousand. The size and architecture of the amphitheatre spreads them all out though, so the general impression is of a sparse crowd.

The amphitheatre is a rather classical design. The focus is a large central, round stage about thirty-feet across. Rows of marble-white benches surround it circularly, extending outwards and upwards in diagonal fashion such that the impression is that you're performing at the bottom of a huge shallow bowl, with the entire crowd looking down on you. It's pretty intimidating if you're not used to it. I just hope Rainbow Dash is doing okay with it.

I lead Twilight and Argento through the gate which brings us to a row of seats about half-way up the theatre. I immediately spot a group of my faithful hardcore fans close by. Several of them were at the Ponyville performance yesterday. They must have been lucky enough to hear about the change of venue before leaving for Las Pegasus. Heck, the way the Publishers are with the fans, they probably told them before they told me!

But I'm still happy to see them here. They're familiar and comfortable. I lead my small entourage over in their general direction and we take a seat not far away. I finally turn my attention to the pony on stage.

Daring Dash.

She's past the intro and the scene with Ahuizotl by now, and on to the audience ask-me-anything. I have to say, even with my critical eye on, she's doing a pretty good job. Argento's work is spot-on as always, but Dash is doing well in the role.

She's not perfect. For a start she's spending too much time in the air, whereas it's generally implied that Daring Do prefers to stay on the ground where there's more cover. But the design of the amphitheatre alleviates that problem in a way that makes it natural to watch. She can, and does, zip up, down and around the crowd with an enthusiasm that I wish I still had.

There are a couple of other, minor things. She's wearing the hat at ever-so-slightly the wrong angle, and her enthusiasm is perhaps a little much for a character who is supposedly a gruff, hardened adventurer. But I really am nitpicking now. Overall, I'm decidedly impressed. She really has put a lot of work into getting it right.

And so has Argento. And Twilight.

For me.

Wow. I have some awesome friends. I make a silent promise that, somehow, even if it takes the rest of my life, I will find a way to repay them all for this.

As I watch, an odd sense of discomfort slowly rises inside me and it takes me a while to pinpoint why.

For once it's not me. It’s actually the fans sat a little way to my right. The ones I recognise. A small group of five or six of them. While most of the other fans in the theatre are decidedly happy and enjoying the show, the loyal ones are looking disgruntled. I realise I’ve been subconsciously catching snippets of their conversation, and the source of the uncomfortable feeling is revealed.

They aren’t happy. The Publishers have replaced ‘their’ Daring Do. Without telling them. How could they! This new one is all wrong. Where’s the 'real' Daring Do? Do you think she’s sick? Do you think she’ll be back for the show in Trottingham tomorrow? She’d better be! I'm not going all that way just to watch this imposter again! What if she got fired because of that show yesterday? What if they’ve given the part to this new pony? Oh, they’d better not have. She’s just terrible! Yeah, she’s too different. Not like Daring Do at all!

Argento, sat next to me, slumps visibly. The fans know. And if they know, the Publishers certainly do. I know he'll be thinking he's let me down.

I put a hoof on his shoulder. Of course they know. That was always how this was going to play out. I promise him he hasn’t got anything to worry about, though. When the Publishers call me to explain myself, I’ll tell them about Twilight's disguise spell and say he had nothing to do with it. Whatever happens to me, he’ll still be in a job. He can work on the next Daring Do.

He shakes his head a little. He says if they got rid of me, he’d quit. He doesn’t think he could work on anypony else.

Huh? Really? I ask why. I know he’s worked on me for a while, but...there’s nothing special about me.

Yeah there is, he says. When I first got the job, he was terrified that I’d be just like Twice Bright. But instead, well...I was always nice to him. He’s blushing again, and fidgeting with his hooves.

I smile and tease him a little. I say, if he's so sure he would never work on any other pony...and deliberately indicate Daring Dash who’s still zipping round the crowd answering questions. He fumbles and trips over several words. It’s not...but that’s...it’s different because...!

I grin and, just because it feels right, I lean over and plant a small kiss on his cheek. I confess to him quietly that the feeling’s mutual. He smiles, his cheeks go a deeper shade of red and, very tentatively, he risks putting his hoof lightly around me. I respond by pulling him into a tight hug.

So at least we know where we stand. We’re either both in serious trouble, or we’re both fired.

Besides, I tell Argento, whatever happens there's still a show tomorrow, and they're not going to replace us by then. I suggest that maybe later after we're both checked into the hotel, we can go to the restaurant together. I'm sure they can combine our reservations. I'm getting bored of tables-for-one. I smile at him again.

That's odd. I'd expected that suggestion to make him happier. Instead he sort of shifted uncomfortably. I ask him what's up?

He looks at me. There is no hotel. Not for him. Never has been. He arrives at the venue the day before, finds a quiet spot, erects his tent...and sleeps in it. There's no table-at-the-restaurant for him either. He usually finds himself a place where he can buy a sandwich or something. Then he just waits for me.

I...I had no idea. All this time? For five years the pony I trust most in the world has been sleeping rough and living off sandwiches! You know, I’m aware that I’ve got my share of flaws – a fragile temper and a hypocritical streak among them. But I’ve never thought I was particularly selfish or self-centred, until now. How could I not know? I'm very conscious of the fact that I'm going to be in no position to start demanding things like an extra seat at dinner from the Publishers any time soon, but I'm not just going to abandon Argento in favour of a fancy meal and a warm bed. Not now, or ever again. That’s not what a friend would do.

I hug him a little tighter and tell him it looks like it’ll be sandwiches for two this evening then. Argento’s face is an open book – he clearly regrets telling me, and now he’s putting on that look which is supposed to convey his desire that I not worry about him, and that I should go have my fancy dinner like always. Aw, he’s cute when he’s trying to be noble but that’s just not going to fly. I tell him that I’m looking forward to camping out with him too, and give him another kiss on the cheek while that sinks in.

Please, Twilight. If you’re going to try and pretend to look interested in something, find something interesting to look interested in! The back of your hoof isn’t going to suddenly turn into a claw or anything. I chuckle.

My attention is drawn back to the nearby unhappy fans. They’re plotting something now. They’re going to sabotage Dash’s performance so she looks foolish. How? Booing? Slow hoof-clap? No, it’s gotta be something better. Something that’ll both really faze her and show the Publishers how unhappy they are with this ‘new’ model. That'll force ‘em to bring ‘their’ Daring Do back!

Wow. So on the one hoof I have a bunch of loyal fans who really enjoy my performances, so much so that they’re willing to do something like that to show their support for me. That’s a nice ego-boost right there. On the other hoof there’s Rainbow Dash – a friend who has gone out of her way to help me, and who doesn’t deserve to be humiliated for it.

It sounds like a dilemma. Do I side with my loyal fans, who have been with me through thick and thin, supporting me through most every show I've ever done? Or with the pony I met just yesterday who decided to help a stranger. I suppose I should be conflicted, but I'm not.

The fans have their idea. One of them is going to ask this new Daring Do the same question that horrible Rainbow pony asked me in Ponyville yesterday. The one that threw me off track so much. Then, when she can't answer it – and if the 'real' Daring Do couldn't then what chance has she got? – they'll start jeering and giving her a hard time. That'll not only humiliate her, it'll show the Publishers that they can't just replace Daring Do and expect to get a better performance. They'll have to bring the original back! Their logic is so faultless that they're practically slapping themselves on the back already.

There's actually a macabre perfection to their plan that only I will ever appreciate. The fans themselves don't realise that they'll actually be using Rainbow Dash's own question against her. And by definition she doesn't know the answer, otherwise she wouldn't have asked it yesterday.

You know there was a point yesterday, after Rainbow Dash asked me that question, when two or three of those fans shot her an ugly look. I remember feeling happy about that at the time. The thought of my loyal fans dishing out such poetic justice to Rainbow Dash would have made me happy yesterday.

I feel disgusted that I felt that way now.

Because those fans were only ever there for Daring Do. That's all they care about. My friends are here for me, and I'm going to be there for my friends.

I stand and march the few steps to the fans. I place myself in front of them – which owing to the rows of seating actually puts me at a significant height disadvantage – and I confront the group.

How dare they! Don't they have any idea how nerve-wracking it is to perform in front of such a large crowd? Don't they know how intimidating it can be to know you have to try and meet everypony's expectations? And just because that pony's doing it a little different than they're used to they want to show her up? To ruin the whole show for everypony else?! How selfish can you get?

That pony on stage is doing a great job as Daring Do! Not only that, but she's doing it out of the goodness of her heart, to help a friend. She shouldn't have to put up with their nonsense, and I'm gonna make sure she doesn't! So whatever they're plotting, they can forget it. Because if they cause any trouble, the 'real' Daring Do is gonna be very upset with them...understand?

All of their attention is on me. To a pony, they look like I've just slapped them in the face with a wet sponge. Then they start muttering nervously among themselves.

Dude, that's her. No way. It is, it totally is! What's she doing here? Why isn't she performing? I don't know, ask her. You ask her. No way, she looks mad!

The fact that a couple of them actually recognise me is a little unexpected, but helpful right now. I stand there glaring at them for long enough that eventually they realise that one of them is going to have to speak to me. Pushes and hard stares are exchanged between the group until finally one of them – I wouldn't call him the 'winner' – nervously meets my gaze. I think he's realised that his only responses at this point are Arrogant Sense of Entitlement, and Apologetic Submission. Wisely, he chooses the latter.

He – they – are sorry. They were just worried that I'd been ditched after what happened in Ponyville yesterday. They really like my interpretation of the character, and wanted to do something to convince the Publishers that they needed to take me back. They didn't think I deserved to just be cast off like that.

He sounds genuine enough, and he clearly thinks that's going to be enough to get them off the hook. But I'm not done yet.

Look, I say. It's nice that they think they were looking out for me and what I deserve. But did any of them, for one moment, think about what the pony they were going to try and humiliate deserves? What if this wasn't a one-off? What if she'd worked hard to get this job? Do they think it's fair that in her first performance she should have to be treated like that by the series' biggest fans?

They collectively shake their heads solemnly.

I tell them that I'm not going to be in the role forever – and I realise as I say it that I've made that decision without consciously making it, if you know what I mean – and if and when the Publishers do cast a new Daring Do, I'm relying on the loyal, hardcore fans like them to give them the support they need until they get comfortable in the role. And just because they might do things slightly differently, doesn't mean they deserve to be treated badly.

Damn, I'm good. Where's Princess Celestia? I'm on a roll here!

They seem to get the message. I leave out the fact that there's a good possibility that I'll be losing the role fairly imminently, and fairly permanently too. Satisfied that I've reached an understanding with them I leave them with a courteous nod and return to my friends.

Twilight smiles at me. That was a very nice thing I just did, she says.

Yeah, well. I'm still getting the hang of this whole 'having friends' thing, but it seems like if one of them does you a favour, you're not supposed to let them suffer for it.

I plop myself back down next to Argento. He lifts his hoof and hesitates, unsure whether he's supposed to...

For pony's sake you big goof, come here. I wrap both hooves around him and hug him close. He hugs me back.

The rest of the show passes without incident. One of the loyal fans does ask Dash a question, but it's the kind of real question I would have expected if it were me, and Daring Dash handles it impeccably. As she finishes and flies to another section of the audience she swoops past and gives us a quick wink. I catch the fans murmuring amongst themselves and giving each other approving nods. One catches my eye and smiles. I take that as a good sign.

The final question answered, the Suit finally makes an appearance, materialising from a seat on the front row. A little spark of relief ignites in me, because he's one of the Suits I recognise. I don't know his real name, like most of the Suits, but for some reason when I first met him my brain decided to call him Dervish. He's one of the older guard. He's been with the Publishers a long time, and he's one of my favourites because he lets me get away with breaking the format and getting involved with the audience more than the others. He understands that the audience's enjoyment is paramount, not following the script to the letter.

Daring Dash lands beside him onstage and he gives a short closing speech, thanking everypony for coming. He hopes the audience enjoys the next exciting adventure of Daring Do, and hopes she'll see them all again soon!

There's a raucous applause which eventually dies away and ponies begin filing out of the theatre. As they start to leave, Dervish and Daring Dash have a quiet conversation on the stage. It's immediately apparent that he knows she's not me, and has done since the show started. The talk they're having ends with Dash raising her hoof and pointing us out in the crowd. Dervish follows her gaze to me and makes eye-contact. With a very neutral expression, he beckons me down to the stage.

Gulp.

I wait for the crowd to thin a little more before I get to my hooves and pick my way down the terraced stone benches towards the Suit. I'm immensely grateful that both Twilight and Argento choose to follow me without a moment's hesitation. As I reach the floor of the amphitheatre all of that bravado and cocky self-confidence I'd started to build up just vanishes, as though it was never there. Suddenly I'm the timid, lonely Footlight from yesterday as I make eye-contact with the Suit.

Dervish casts his gaze over me, Twilight, Argento, and finally Dash who is still stood next to him.

He gives a curt nod and in a first-things-first manner, compliments Rainbow Dash on her performance. Indeed, if this were any normal showing, he would have nothing but good things to report back. Rainbow Dash grins like the cat-who-got-the-cream, while Dervish turns to me with a disappointed expression.

He asks whose idea this was. I look at the floor and say it was mine. Only to hear that same word spoken at the same time by three other voices. I snap my head up and look around at my friends. Rainbow Dash's idea, Twilight's plan, Argento's facilitation. I suppose they did all have a hoof in it. But I can't let them do that for me. I open my mouth to begin to protest that this is my responsibility, and no-one elses. But Dervish doesn't want to hear it.

He looks at me. He suggests it might be best if we speak alone. I tell him that I know what he's going to say, and he can say it in front of my friends. Very well.

He says it's a good thing I came back. The Executive Publishers were unhappy after I was spoken to last night in the Horsechester. They didn’t think I was taking their concerns to heart. They have decided to personally come and speak to me after the show, and will be arriving any minute. If it had turned out that I wasn't here to meet them, things would have...become much worse.

He doesn't know what they're going to say or do, but he does know that they'll want his report on the performance before they speak to me.

He can't lie to them. He makes that very clear. He has a duty, and the Publishers are going to know that Rainbow Dash took my place on stage today. I look horrified and shoot Dash an expression of pure apology before Dervish interrupts. No criticism will be levelled at Rainbow Dash, he assures me. She will be presented as the heroic fan who saved the show when the performer went AWOL. Nor will anything be said about Twilight. As far as he's concerned, she is not involved at all.

The Publishers will question Argento's involvement, he says. Ah, no, I pipe up. You see, there's this disguise spell and...

Dervish looks at me again with that disappointed expression, as though he knows I am playing him for a fool. He firmly puts a hoof on Rainbow Dash's withers and drags it along her back. Pulling it away reveals his hoof is very obviously covered in khaki stage make-up. I gulp again and feel sick in the pit of my stomach. If Argento gets in trouble because of me...

Argento, he presses on, is a consummate professional, and the Publishers will be told that they are very lucky to have somepony so talented as to be able to immaculately re-create Daring Do's look on a pony who looks so different to me at the drop of a hat. He has done a most creditable job under such pressure.

Which only leaves the question of me.

He approaches me. He needs to know what to tell them. The obvious conclusion that the Executives will jump to, is that I'm an irresponsible, selfish performer who abandoned her show, breached her contract, and risked letting hundreds of innocent fans down.

But – he forces me to look at him – he knows that's not me. He would rather tell them the truth, but first he needs to know what the truth is. He asks me what happened. I look back down at the floor. I can't really say anything because...there's nothing wrong with that explanation. I got selfish and I abandoned the show, didn't I? I just about manage to squeak out that, I just wanted a friend. For one day, I wanted to have a friend. As defences go, it's decidedly weak.

Dervish looks disappointed. I think he was hoping I would give him more to go on. A bit more scope to spin things in my favour, but it is what it is.

Then Twilight speaks up. She steps right up beside me and eloquently begins telling Dervish all about our conversation yesterday at the library, and earlier today in the castle. She tells him how upset I’ve been, and she makes the argument that I've been Daring Do for so long, that I've forgotten what it's like to be Footlight. She just wanted to show me what that was like again, today.

Now Argento steps up. He says he's worked with me for five years. But recently, each day I've been getting more and more unhappy. He’s been worried about me for a while but didn’t know how to help. Then today, when I first walked into the tent and saw Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash waiting, it was the first time he's seen me smile in months. He just wanted to see me keep smiling.

And finally Rainbow Dash throws her two bits in. Come on, she says. Does he have any idea how hard they had to persuade me? I totally didn't abandon the show. Not without seeing how awesome she was first!

Dervish listens patiently throughout, then looks at me. He asks me if that's the truth. Without taking my eyes off the floor, I nod.

He looks to the sky and rolls his jaw a couple of times. Then, coming to some sort of conclusion, he looks back at me.

It seems...that I haven't been feeling particularly well today. Nor yesterday for that matter. It was a very responsible thing that I went out of my way to find such an excellent replacement before the show was put in further jeopardy. The Publishers wouldn't have wanted a repeat of the Ponyville performance. It's also good that I've been taking steps to try and make myself feel better, and that I've brought this to his attention as soon as possible. The Publishers will surely want to take steps to safeguard the well-being of their performer.

He asks me if that sounds about right? He's clearly not going to take no for an answer. I nod again, but I'm able to meet his gaze now.

Good. Just in time too, he notes. Another Suit approaches and informs Dervish that the Executives are outside. Dervish bids me to wait here, and the two Suits leave the stage.

There's silence between the four of us now. I feel like I should say something. And there is only one thing I can say.

Thank you. Whatever happens, thank you all.

There's a moment of quiet contemplation, which is then broken by Rainbow Dash asking loudly, exactly how she's supposed to get all of this 'gunk' off her coat and mane. I laugh and tell her that a hot shower normally does it for me. Argento looks a bit put out that the tools of his trade are being referred to as 'gunk', and I can't help but notice that he and Rainbow Dash can't quite look each other in the eye. I ask what that's about?

Well...begins Rainbow Dash, there was an...incident in the tent.

She kicked him.

It was an accident!

He was about to start dyeing her tail.

He said he was going to start from the tip!

No, he said he was going to start from the 'top'...

There was a surprised whinny, a reflexitive kicking motion–

A kick...

–and it happened to connect with Argento.

Surprisingly accurately!

Sending dye and make-up everywhere.

They're both laughing now as they describe the scene of muti-coloured destruction that befell the tent. Then Twilight and I are laughing too.

The brief moment of levity is cut short as Dervish reappears. He summons me, telling me the Executives are ready. As I begin to follow him, my friends move to do the same. Dervish stops them. In a tone that brooks no argument he insists that this conversation is for me alone. I look back at my friends and nod gratefully. Then I follow Dervish out of the amphitheatre, to where the Executives are waiting in their limousine.

That's what it's called, apparently. It's a big impressive thing. A huge, low, and freakishly long carriage pulled by a team of six stallions. It's painted all in black with gold accents. There are two cartwheels on each side at the rear, and the windows are coated in something black that makes it almost impossible to see into.

As he leads me to the carriage, Dervish explains that the Executives are slightly late because on the way here they were unexpectedly summoned to the Royal Court for a very brief meeting with the Princess. He knows no more than that. As we reach the carriage door, he stops me and offers one final piece of advice.

They know what he's told them, but they aren't fools and they aren't evil. Tell them the truth, and I'll be fine.

He pulls the door open and I helplessly step into the carriage. The door shuts behind me, and I'm suddenly in the presence of the two senior Publishers themselves, who both look very serious.

They introduce themselves, but as is usual my brain has already assigned them names. They are to be Head Honcho and Big Cheese for the purposes of this meeting. I respond that I'm Dari–, uh, that I'm Footlight, and that I understand that they wanted to see me. I just about manage to remain composed.

You might remember that yesterday I described the relationship I had with the Publishers as a strange one? Well, I'm about to be reminded of just how strange it is. Because the first question they ask me, absent any tone of anger or disappointment, is whether they've done anything wrong.

That's caught me off guard straight away. I was just about ready to defend everything I did today, and already I have to admit that, no, they haven't done anything wrong.

I brace myself for the follow up, thinking I know where this is going. 'Well, if we haven't done anything wrong, it must be you...' etcetera, cue Angry Honcho and Angry Cheese.

But no.

Big Cheese takes a breath. He says their first priority is to look after the fans. But their next is to look after their employees. They're not in the business of brow-beating ponies into work if they're not happy. It's not good for anyone. And it's been brought to their attention both yesterday and today, by...various sources...that I am not happy, and may not have been for a while. And if that's the case, they want to know why.

Head Honcho looks me in the eye. He asks me seriously, what is wrong?

Dervish's advice to tell the truth rings in my ears. I look back at Honcho, and start.

When I first got the role five years ago I was thrilled beyond measure. All my dreams had come true. But five years is a long time. Five years living somepony else's life. Five years of crushing schedules; of constantly travelling to the next performance, the next photo shoot, the next publicity stunt. Five years alone, without even somepony to talk to. Five years without being...Footlight.

And then there was yesterday in Ponyville. I come right out and say it; I feel like signing my new contract was a mistake. It depressed me no end. Then I totally lost it on stage, and if that wasn't bad enough, I then had to deny to the world I even existed. And just as I hit rock bottom, I found somepony who wanted to talk to me. Not Daring Do, but to me. For the first time I had a friend. And then it was snatched away because suddenly I had another performance to travel to. I felt so frustrated! Like I was being tossed around like a rag-doll.

And finally today. I don't run through the specifics – they've already had that from Dervish. But I tell them that all I wanted was to spend a day with my friend. To spend a day as Footlight, without the pressure of keeping fans and Publishers happy. Without having to be Daring Do. Just for a day.

I say I don't have a problem with the performance. I enjoy being on stage, and I enjoy playing to the fans. And while I've gotten disenamoured with Daring Do, it isn't playing her that I don't like...it's the sense that she always takes priority, that she's somehow more important than me in spite of the fact that she doesn't really exist.

Honcho and Cheese exchange a queer look at that, but it's only brief. As though they're in on something I'm not. I let it go. If they want to have their big executive secrets, let them.

Then there's a long pause. They're very good at communicating without words and it's clear that each knows exactly what the other is thinking, while I have no idea. I hold my breath without realising it, not sure whether I want the silence to end or not.

I've left them in a difficult position, they explain. They don't want to force me to adhere to the conditions of my contract out of spite – They're not slave-drivers and that's not how they do business. But we are halfway through a tour, with dates already booked in and fans that are eagerly expectant. And while my friend Rainbow Rush – Dash, I correct them instinctively, and then hope I haven't spoken out of turn – Ahem, Rainbow Dash has done a capable job today, she is not a permanent replacement. Nor will they be able to find such a replacement in the immediate future. I am – apparently – a rare commodity, and they don't want to lose me or my talent.

So, Head Honcho explains, the upshot is that if they can make me happier so as to ensure a return to form, then they are willing to bend the rules of the contract in my favour.

Big Cheese notes to Honcho that the last date in the current two-week tour happens to be Fillydelphia. Head Honcho nods slowly, and asks what the next commitments are after that? A five-day photo shoot out in the jungle. And after that? A week-long series of interviews in Manehatten for various publications. I visibly slump where I'm sat. Days of sitting in the stifling jungle – why does the author never write Daring Do and the Tropical Island of Relaxation? – followed by days of sitting in one room for hours on end, being interviewed by dozens of journalists and reviewers, one after another, for their various papers, magazines, and what-have-you's. Always answering the same basic questions while trying to sound spontaneous. Those are not my favourite parts of the job. Honcho looks at me.

Cancelled, he says. All of them.

I blink. Just like that? They're going to take away some of the worse parts of the...

Then it finally sinks in what they're doing. They're going to leave me alone in Fillydelphia for nearly two weeks. They're going to leave me...at home. I haven't seen my family for almost nine months now, and I'm going to get to spend nearly two weeks being with them. Without having to worry about Daring Do at all!

Then before I can quite recover, Head Honcho looks at me. He asks if there's anything else – any other 'corrections' to my current circumstances that will, ah, ensure I'm able to perform at my best for our fans from here on out.

He's basically telling me I can have anything I want!

But I’m not selfish.

Argento, I say without hesitation. I tell them that they have to guarantee he’s my permanent make-up artist and nopony else, and from now on he gets the same treatment I do. No more sleeping in his tent; he travels and stays with me wherever I go. And when they book a table at a restaurant, they book it for two, not one.

Big Cheese nods and begins writing on a blank piece of parchment. Head Honcho looks back at me, expectantly.

Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash. They get free V.I.P. passes to any shows they want, so they can come see me. And Ponyville gets put on every tour calendar from now on.

More writing happens. Another expectant look.

I'm out of ideas. The Executives exchange a nervous glance. Big Cheese asks me if I'm sure that's all. He's worried that they haven't cured the root of my disaffection, and fears that without doing so, another incident like today may occur. They would rather try and fix everything here and now.

I look back at them with honest resignation. I tell them all I want – all I've ever wanted – is a little time away from Daring Do every so often. A little time with the ponies I care about and the chance to be appreciated for who I am, not who I'm not. Uh...if that makes sense?

The Executives look at each other once more and nod in agreement. They say they believe they can accommodate that. Big Cheese rolls up the parchment and assures me that everything I've asked for will be implemented as soon as possible. I don't doubt it for a second. The Publishers have always been straight down the middle with me when it comes to my contract, and considering what I could have asked for they know they've gotten off lightly indeed.

In the meantime, they say, I have a table at the Rohirrim Restaurant in Trottingham this evening, and they will have their representative – he means Dervish – ensure that the reservation is for two. They will be unable to secure a second room at the hotel for Argento, however. It has been fully booked for a while. They trust that will not be an issue on this one occasion...? With a sly smile I tell them that I don’t think it’ll be an issue on any occasion.

They exchange self-satisfied nods with the air of a job-well-done, and finish by saying that, if that is all, they are...optimistic of a good report from the show in Trottingham tomorrow evening. Big Cheese knocks twice on the floor of the carriage, and the door is opened from outside.

As I step to the door, I can’t help but give them a little riposte to slightly sour their spirit of self-congratulation. I make eye-contact with Head Honcho and ask: these tour dates were booked in weeks ago, yet I signed my new contract yesterday. What would they have done if I hadn’t?

The look of fleeting panic they exchange makes it clear that they’ve never even considered that as a possibility. I think they’re finally realising just how much they’ve been taking me for granted.

I tell them by way of parting, that I may still think signing my contract yesterday was a mistake, but when Footlight makes a mistake she accepts the consequences. So I’ll be their Daring Do for one more year, but after that they'd better have a replacement ready to go. And the same is probably true of Argento too.

They nod slowly in respectful understanding. Then I step outside. At a gesture, Dervish enters the limousine, and before I know it, the carriage is pulling away.

I feel rather pleased with how that went.

Twilight, Rainbow, and Argento are all waiting for me. They're on tenterhooks, eager to know if I've just been fired.

I shake my head, smile, and tell them everything's fine. There are sighs of relief.

It's taken a moment to click, but I notice that Daring Dash is absent and that Rainbow Dash has made a triumphant return. At least for the most part. There are still a few smudges of ochre greasepaint on her flanks and she hasn't quite got all the grey streaks out of her mane which, along with her tail, is now wet through. I raise my eyebrows in puzzlement, and they offer me an explanation in return.

It seems during my absence they had their own conversation with Dervish. Daring Do is supposed to remain in character for the rest of the day after a show, so that she can mingle with the locals and interact with any fans who want to come talk casually. It's part of the illusion that she's a real pony who does real-pony things. In small towns it's fine but in big cities and after big shows like this it can sometimes degenerate into a bit of a mob, but it's just another thing that Daring Do is expected to handle. It seems though that Dervish has insisted Rainbow excuse herself from that obligation, as well as the after-show book signing. So she can be here for me...? You know, if Dervish wasn't already my favourite Suit, he's shot straight to the top now.

Rainbow mentions that in the absence of the hot shower I suggested, a quick cloud-bath is what's got her mostly back to her usual awesome self. My eyebrows climb even higher and she apparently can't believe I've never tried one before. I have no idea what one even is. A pegasus I may be but I'm not even a novice when it comes to clouds or weather. I've never even been to Cloudsdale – it's too difficult to organise logistically. Now it's Rainbow's turn to be surprised, but it passes quickly. With a grin she promises me that the next time we see each other she'll show me what I'm missing. I can't help but feel a little swell at the casual way she's decided that we're going to see each other again. It's just a fact to her. We're friends.

Speaking of seeing them again...with a little hesitation I make mention of the fact that, though I don't know when the next tour will be yet, if they do want to come to any shows in the future I've arranged it so they can come for free, and the Publishers are going to ensure that they're treated like royalty the whole time. I feel a little nervous actually. I don't want it to feel like I'm bribing them into coming to see me by promising them luxury and a private audience with Daring Do...I want it to feel like I'm doing something nice for my friends.

And when I finally manage to drag my abashed, self-conscious gaze off the floor to look at them, that's exactly how it does feel. Rainbow Dash's eyes are practically sparkling and she's flapping her wingtips excitedly while babbling in a comically high voice that's almost a squeal. I'm used to that good feeling I get from making fans happy but somehow this...making a friend happy...it's like that feeling has been multiplied by ten. And then there's Twilight's reaction, and that's what really gets me.

She's excited too, it's obvious, but her initial, thrilled smile quickly falls into something softer. They'll come, she says to me...but it won't be to see Daring Do. Wow.

But in the here and now, I've suddenly got places to be and another show to think about. And you know what? I figure it's about time I actually read the book. I've been lazy and inattentive for too long, and if this is going to be my last year in the role, then I'm determined to make it the best year yet.

I tell Argento that we had better get to the train station. I mention that, though sandwiches sounded nice, we now have a table at the Rohirrim Restaurant this evening, and nonchalantly comment that it's pretty much the ideal place for our first date. Argento blushes so furiously it looks like his head is about to explode. He's so adorable. I kiss him on the cheek again. Later on I’ll let him be the one to decide whether we share the room in the hotel or if we camp in his tent. If any more blood rushes to his cheeks right now he may just pass out!

The four of us make our way to the station through the early evening bustle, and it's only when we arrive that I realise this is the end of the day for us. We're about to go our separate ways. Trottingham is about the same distance from Canterlot as Ponyville, but in the exact opposite direction. As the train to Trottingham pulls in, I turn to Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash, and say a sincere thank you to them both.

I say that if somepony had told me this time yesterday, that I'd be standing here not alone, but with three good friends, I wouldn't have believed them. I owe them so much, and I don't want to leave. Twilight hugs me and makes me promise to keep in touch by letter. She jokes that she's really good at writing letters...which seems an odd thing to be proud of, but in a strange way, so like her. I do promise to keep in touch, and I mean it too. There's that warm fuzzy feeling one last time.

Rainbow Dash gives me a wink and a shove on the shoulder. She tells me to come back to Ponyville anytime. There are, apparently, other friends there that would love to meet me. Whoa, slow down. Let me get the hang of just having a couple of friends first! Then she looks at Argento and sheepishly apologises for the whole kicking-in-the-face thing. He smiles and simply asks her not to make a habit of it.

Argento and I board the train and find an open window. As it pulls out of the station I bid final goodbyes to my two best friends. I'm sure I'll see them again, but for now I echo the sentiment that Twilight shared with me earlier.

I'm glad...so, so glad...that I met you yesterday.

Author's Note:

I couldn't leave this alone. Sorry. I couldn't leave Footlight all alone with no friends. I think she'll be alright on her own now.

I dread to think what would happen if the real Daring Do got hold of her. But I'm totally not writing that. Seriously.

Anyway, stay safe and have fun.

--The Author

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Comments ( 42 )

Alright, I teared up at the end. That was really good. You are amazing at getting emotions across the literary medium.

--The Author

Damn straight, you're the author. Dear God.

I know you're probably not the type of guy that is keen on flattery, and I know I've probably already said this before on one of your other stories... but you are, without a doubt, one of the best authors on the entire site. I know I look like such a squealing fangirl saying that, but I'm dead serious. Your stories are criminally underappreciated, and the fact that I have more followers than you right now is absurd.

In fact, it makes me wonder if you are actually a real published author in real life. Because if you haven't considered writing original fiction and sending it off to be published(and I'm not saying this to diminish what you've written on here; all of it is bloody-bleeding fantastic), then you need to start. At SOME point. And if you are feeling unconfident about the quality of your writing(I have no clue if that is the case or not), then let me just say, once more for good measure, that your stories on here are some of the best I have ever seen on all of FimFiction. And I mean that sincerely. You could submit all four of your stories to Equestria Daily, and they'd approve every single one of them without a strike.

I'm serious.

Thank you so much for writing this continuation to an already marvelous story, and I look forward to more of whatever you have to offer.

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I know you're probably not the type of guy that is keen on flattery

Whoa, not so fast. I'm always up for a bit of flattery! Seriously though, I do really appreciate it when folks take the time to tell me they liked something I wrote. It only encourages me to write more words. So, thank you.

I wish I could respond to everyone who liked, favourited or watched me but quite apart from the fact that I don't have that much time, I prefer to take a step back and watch from a distance.

In fact, it makes me wonder if you are actually a real published author in real life

:rainbowlaugh: Ha! I wish! Nah, this is just a hobby. Your estimation of my ability is humbling, but I don't have the patience to write a full length novel. 20,000 words is about my limit. Then I want the darn thing finished so I can see if folks like reading it.

And if you are feeling unconfident about the quality of your writing(I have no clue if that is the case or not)

Yep. Always paranoid that the next chapter will be the one everyone hates and undoes all my good work. Is that just me?

I look forward to more of whatever you have to offer.

Dunno what the next one will be yet. I have a couple of ideas knocking about up there, none of which are ready for paper. They need to bake a bit longer,

Thanks once again for taking the time to encourage me. I know your time is valuable and I sincerely appreciate you spending some of it on me. With fortune and a fair wind, you'll get something else to read from me down the line.

Though...it'll probably end up being the story that everybody hates and undoes all my good work. :twilightsmile:

-8686

This was excellent. To begin with, I think the most impressive thing about this story was the incredibly natural and believable way you meshed all of the OC's (Footlight is an OC correct?) with Dash and Twilight. I think many authors struggle with characterization and staying true to established characterization. No such issues here.
Furthermore, your premise was beautiful! The presentation of Footlight's discontent over her role is engaging and again, presented in a completely believable manner. Twilight and Rainbow Dash are the perfect characters to shine a light on her day in the initial chapter and light that spark of hope in Footlight. On it's own, chapter one is perfect, if rather sad, but then you added a second chapter and it makes me want to *squee* :yay:
Chapter two takes the progression you started in chapter one and furthers it flawlessly. Again, Twilight and Dash are written perfectly, not to mention Argento and of course, Footlight. *Spoilers* The debate over Dash taking Footlight's place in the show is very real, and you conveyed a sense of drama. I was genuinely concerned that Footlight would be caught and punished, and yet I was shouting in my head "GO FOR IT YOU FOAL!"
Other details, love your little ship. :heart: It was hilarious to read Footlight's reaction to Celestia. I often think about how ponies should react when their casual acquaintance Twilight Sparkle reveals how powerful her social connections really are. You hit that nail on the head. The style you wrote this story in was surprisingly engaging. I believe you said it was "First person present tense." Interesting. Normally I'm an advocate of the fourth wall. This story is an exception. I believe it really works to convey a pony dealing with as much mental turmoil as Footlight.
Final opinion? Absolutely a 10/10 buddy. :twilightsmile:

Right in the feels, man.

Right in the fucking feels.

Look, I'mma be honest here. As someone who has struggled with something very similar to what Footlight undergoes in this story in general, and with crippling depression in particular, you nailed it. There were tears shed. I don't know whether they count as manly or not, and I don't particularly care.

I don't know whether to offer you a digital fistbump for writing something so damn amazing or stab you with something so as to keep you from publishing anything in future. As someone who hopes to be a professional writer some day, I'm seriously floored by this story, and I'm not sure I want you as competition.

Faved, upvoted, burned into my brain. That is all.

As heartwarming as the first was soul-crushing, excellent work!

Its amazing you manage to portray conversations without actually quoting them, and everything somehow flows perfectly.

I've just never seen that style before, but I guess it plays on not adding unnecessary details to a scene, and keeps the world viewed from how Footlight thinks of it.

No doubt about it, this story is one of the best of the best.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

So far as I can tell, the real Daring Do would be fairly indifferent, if maybe slightly annoyed, by a performer playing her.

She seemed to actively avoid attention and write the books to support herself...because I doubt she sold any of the relics she found for a cheap buck.

CCC

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

I especially liked the characterisation of the Executives; they're businessponies, they're interested mainly in profit, but they're not inhumane about it. (Inponye?) And I can just imagine what their 'brief meeting with Celestia' was about...

Very nicely done! I do have to say that I found the somewhat detached, contemplative tone that comes from it being in first person with no dialogue and little detailed description to suit the first chapter better than the second, but I still really enjoyed it overall. :twilightsmile:

This was really beautiful. I simply don't know what else to say. I'm dumbstruck by that sad-content feeling I get after finishing a really good story.

I'm going to have to look at your other stories later, when I have time again.

An audition. That's it. I've just had an audition for the part of 'Pony Who Deserves to Have Friends,' and I didn't get it. They were looking for somepony nice. Not somepony like me. Nopony should ever have to play the part of my friend. Not after that performance.

:pinkiegasp::fluttercry::raritycry::raritycry::raritycry:

*sniff*

For a show dedicated to the power of friendship, I actually don't come across fanfic driven by that ideal very often. Maybe one-shots aren't enough room for the idea to fully unfurl. In any case this was a breath of fresh air I didn't know I needed.

I also liked how you kept the focus on the situation and its consequences. Nopony is a villain here, nor does anypony need to be. The problem is the circumstances and the fact that nopony understands that something is truly wrong until a friend decides to help a friend. Outstanding effort all around.

Arwhale seems to have beaten me to the feature recommendation, so all I can add is a like, a fav, a user page spot, and a ribbon:
i.imgur.com/6MrWqNZ.png

And, since it seems Mayhem just told me to moonlight as feature chooser this week, I'mma making this the TL spotlight fic, and nobody's gonna tell me otherwise:ajsmug:

4451622

all I can add is a like, a fav, a user page spot, and a ribbon

:pinkiegasp:

Jaw. Dropped.

You do me too much honour, sir.

However this little flight of fancy came to your attention, I infer that you enjoyed it. That being the case, I consider my time writing it well-spent.

Thank you most kindly.

Stay safe, and have fun.

--Author

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I think it was Arwhale that added it to the Twilight's Library personal recommendations folder. Granted, we were so behind that folder was forgotten until now. I happened across the feature suggestion, when trying to figure out what to promote this week, saw the story wasn't technically processed, and here we are :twilightblush:

Either way, very good read.

a3V

This was well worth the read. Thanks for writing this.

I don't think I'll ever be able to write something as fantastic as this, but heck if I won't try... maybe a few years down the line. :derpytongue2:

Very cute. :twilightsmile: I think I would've preferred it if the story had proper dialogue, but this was excellent all the same.

I like this a lot--both chapters, equally. Sweet but not cloying, an interesting choice of narrative voice which you've used quite adequately, an interesting, sympathetic and believable OC and a deft use of the show's characters.

Your use of "stood" sounds rather odd to me, I'm guessing it's a regionalism from--Australia? New Zealand? Anyway it's creditable. Use of "worse" for "worst" is less so, however.

And for heaven's sake, watch the following video. It could change your life! ;-)

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At first I was like :rainbowhuh: Then I was all, :twilightsheepish:

"Stood." Yeah. You got me. I can totally see where you're coming from. 'Stood' is properly the past tense of the verb 'to stand.' And I've kind of butchered it into the present tense everywhere with, 'I am stood.' 'She is stood.' I can see how that would be weird, but yeah, it's a natural, local way of talking for me and I never even noticed it until you pointed it out.

"Worse." I assume you mean:

They're going to take away some of the worse parts of the...

That's probably bad phrasing on my part. You might have tried to read 'They're going to take away some of the worst parts of the...' but that wasn't quite the intent. Footlight's job has many aspects. Some are better than others, and some are worse than others. Those parts that are being taken away are worse parts. But they are not the worst parts. That's what I was driving at, but I probably should have done it better.

And that...video...
quickmeme.com/img/b4/b4d8f4b53ffa03fe2039b25b10352cfefe442bd9cba8cbca5e6e83fc30daca90.jpg

...but the sentiment is appreciated. :pinkiesmile:

Stay safe, and have fun out there.

--The Author.

4567576

"Worse." I assume you mean:

They're going to take away some of the worse parts of the...

That's probably bad phrasing on my part.

Aha! I see what's going on here, I think.

The word I've seen used in this circumstance is "worser" (formed as per "dumb" and "dumber"), but that's an archaism, nonstandard in current speech, and in any case unnecessary except when "worse" is, as it is here, the correct word, but somehow sounds wrong.

4569512
Yeah. I know. :ajsleepy: Criticism accepted.

If you ever read Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower' saga, there is a point, right before the end of the final book, where the author literally puts the narrative aside and talks directly to you, the reader. Almost in as many words, he says this:
"You can have that ending if you want it. The characters are content, and the world is largely put to rights. If a happy ending is what you want, then please, you are welcome to stop here. If you read on you will likely be disappointed, and you may even end up hating me. Because while that's a nice ending, it's not quite the right ending, and there is one more chapter to go."

When I decided to do the second chapter, I almost put a similar disclaimer in the author's notes at the end of chapter one. Because I knew I'd kind of done the reverse. I'd already given you the 'right' ending, and I was practically inviting you to read on just to give you a...well, 'wrong' one isn't quite fair, I think, but you know what I mean.

In the end I thought better of it for two reasons: 1) I'm not Steven King, (surprise!) He can get away with such pretentiousness and I can't, and 2) Well...nobody ever stops reading.

Why do chapter 2 at all? I'll admit I got rather attached to Footlight. I couldn't help but think of what would happen to her if nothing changed...and it lead to some pretty tragic, ultimately dark places. So I broke rule number one and put the character before the reader, just this once, just so I could set her straight...then she'd be okay. Hopefully no-one would mind.

I knew it was wrong. I'm not proud of it, but I don't regret it either.

Does she get everything she ever wanted? Yes and no, I suppose. She's still not overly thrilled at playing Daring Do for another year, and her reprieve from some of the unpleasant parts of the job is only temporary. I'd argue the only thing she really got out of the Publishers by the end was a two-week holiday and equal rights for Argento. But to go with it, she now has what she desperately wanted in the first chapter:- someone to talk to and a shoulder to cry on. That makes all the difference in the world to her, and she certainly feels like she got everything she wanted.

Because all she wanted was a friend.

Friendship is magic. :twilightsmile:

--The Author

There is an allegory somewhere in here...

Anyways, I enjoyed the turn in this chapter. My typical rule of thumb for character endings is to trust that the author knows what he/she wants for them. They might not get the ending I expected or wanted, but I can pretend they did in my head. Subtext!

And the best part about this is you neatly leave a wide-open door for a sequel that's already neatly dodged the "Daring Do is really AK Yearling" bit, without disturbing a single chunk of canon. Heh. Imagine if Footlight accidentally ended up with part of the next novel from first-hand knowledge...

I'm almost more impressed by this now than I was when I read it a couple of weeks ago. Why? Because I've been at BUCK, where we had Dave Polsky and G. M. Berrow talk about Daring Do in various ways, and this fic doesn't get in the way of anything either of them said. I think that's worth a favourite!

I really, really enjoyed this. It's quite tell-y, but I think that works; it also makes for an interesting contrast with Daring Do's all-action image, and since the contrast between who Footlight's playing and who she is is at the heart of this story, I found that rather satisfying.

There's very little that irritated me. The very occasional typo ("appearence", "vehemetly") and I'm afraid I just groaned at the "major plot points" line, but there really wasn't much. I did giggle at the mention that "somepony screwed up" at Las Pegasus. Well, yes. Quite. :twilightsheepish:

The first chapter is probably better than the second, which is maybe a little overlong and perhaps wraps things up conveniently neatly (though I can live with that) but they're both good reads. Mainly because the whole exploration of friendship is so nicely handled. Sad without being mawkish, and that's impressive. Good stuff! :twilightsmile:

I've been grinning my way through much of this new chapter that I just now learned was here. Glad I checked back! :twilightsmile:

Chapter 1: Less then a thousand words in, and I was already invested enough in Footlight's dreams to get a sense of her crushing disappointment, not to mention very much compelled to reach the outcome of her story. This was a pretty nice surprise, as I wasn't expecting to enjoy a story with the [sad] tag, nor a Daring Do story that lacks the [adventure] tag.

And major props to you for typing "cutie marks", plural. I think it may be cultural twist in equine terminology that has them refer to both marks as a single unit, but it's refreshing nonetheless to hear them described as a set.

...and [most] importantly I was unknown with no agent.


Chapter 2: My favorite kind of character-driven drama is the kind that's exhilarating without being melodramatic, and has enough optimism to relieve me from the loss, anger, dark feelings, and downfall that typically permeates such stories. This is definitely my kind of drama.

On its own, the first chapter works well as a standalone about a character sacrificing her identity. Then the second chapter turns it into a prologue for the real story. I always find that kind of duology to be interesting, because it demonstrates how something that is already original still has room to expand into even bigger ideas. Such is the case with George Lucas's movie Willow and the trilogy of novels by Chris Claremont that followed it. Or the ultimate example: Red Vs. Blue.

It was cool to see Footlight come full-circle in how she felt about her familiar fan group, and the way Rainbow Dash was used as a fulcrum for that change made for a very well-executed development. Another example of a nice development was setting the publishers up as the snooty, uncaring bureaucratic villains, then pulling back the veil of misunderstanding to reveal that they're just regular people doing their jobs.

Thing is, I was disappointed that I couldn't hate them after that revelation, and it took me a few seconds to get why: they wrote her contract, and knew what conditions she worked under. It seems ridiculous that they could go five years and fail to realize that those conditions might be detrimental to their top employee's well-being. … That ellipses right there marks where I stopped reading to type this part of my review. I see you understood already that those guys weren't sin-free. Footlight's “riposte” was very gratifying!

Dammit this was good. I felt as if I was actually there with the characters! Well played. Well played indeed.

So have the following: a thumbs up, a fave, annnnd....

five moustaches. :moustache::moustache::moustache::moustache::moustache:



~ Super-Brony12

Almost perfect (the whole "sharing a room the very day we decide we're in love" seems ... sudden, and also tacky). Very nice little story, though, filled with all manner of genius.

So this story made me follow 8686, and also made me wish I had checked for more stories after reading Friend of a Friend, since I only checked for more stories after I though the style was familiar.

I don't have much to write about after reading this. The writing style is fluid; it doesn't let the words get in the way of the story. It's one of the rarest traits a story can have, and is hard to recognize, even harder to pull off. The somewhat foreboding usage of Titles in place of names (Suits, Publishers, Executives) was interesting, but didn't detract from the reader's ability to realize them as people (or ponies, as it were), and the choice not to give them names (except ones 'assigned' to them) fit well with the characters detachment from the Publishers. At the same time, I felt they were fairly treated, which can be somewhat hard to do with characters that can hardly be called such, they feel more like a force, or an organization.

I liked the story, I loved the way it was told, and I gained no small amount of attachment to the characters, but at the same time, it felt like they told their story; I don't need to know anything else about them, but could picture it easily. For a story that was really about original characters, it's an accomplishment. For fitting everything into just over 22,000 words, without feeling like anything was left out, or worse, stretched out far longer than it had any right to be, I can safely say this might be one of the best, and most critically underrated shorter fics I've read.

4571169 Sorry for replying for your old post, but I need to share my two cents. And you feel (at least it's looks like) conflicted about the second chapter and that spur me on. So the first chapter was awesome. And the second one? It's hard to put into words (mostly because english is my second language). But I feel if MLP:FiM tackled more mature themes (or simply the target audience was older) this could be an episode.
What I'm trying to say the second chapter put it more into the MLP role for me, where everything is good at the end. And it was a great help for this that the story core was about friendship what this show is all about.
So yeah I think I just repeat myself, but I think the first chapter was a really good fanfic, while with the two it is a great MLP fanfic.
And an after thought song

Wow, that was great! I particularly like how you used the perspective to lend to the feeling of detachment Footlight describes throughout the story. I really felt for her through the whole thing, I could easily believe that Footlight was a real person and not a magical pony from your imagination.

This story has a fluid pace that reminds me of other writers like Estee or The Descendant. This has become one of my favorites.

Welcome to Tag-A-Long's Book Club

i.imgur.com/BF6x9JM.png

Wow. Just...wow. Wowee. Definitely in my top faves, this one. Just...wow. Well-done. Very well-done. If this was a steak, it'd be ash, this is so well-done. Great, fantastic, stupendous job.

I turn and gawp at Twilight. In a plaintiff tone I beg her: please tell me that isn't what I've learned!

I believe you mean "plaintive".

I normally hate stories written in this semi-dialogue-less style.

But I love it.

The second chapter truly took the cake.

PHR

Thanks to you, I only got 4 hours of sleep last night. Could not stop reading this masterpiece.

You've earned another follower, my friend.

This was a really good read. I like Footlight as a character...and I see no reason why "Yearling Do" (let's call her that) wouldn't already know about and approve that she has a paid actor doing the promotional scutwork while she is busy tapdancing on wildcats in the jungles turning field notes into the next book. :p

Footlight really does need to meet the author, though. She doesn't think it odd that in five years she hasn't once met the pony whose brainchild she is responsible for portraying?

...especially if it happened to be when she's visiting Twilight and Rainbow. After they've had their little introduction episode and know exactly who they are bumping into. Oh how confused any poor fans in the area would be if there were suddenly two Derring Dos nose to nose in front of them! :rainbowlaugh:

I dread to think what would happen if the real Daring Do got hold of her. But I'm totally not writing that. Seriously.

Hehe... How ironic that I'm reading this after the conclusion of Sunken City.

8499133
Oi, that's my line! :trixieshiftright:

8677840
I'll fight ya for it :raritywink:

Secretly, though, I stole it from you for, uh, certain fics...

8678390
Ah-hah, I knew it! Thief! Thieeeeeef!

...

Yeah, I don't really mind. Imitation and flattery and all that. :raritywink:

FTL

Why do chapter 2 at all? I'll admit I got rather attached to Footlight. I couldn't help but think of what would happen to her if nothing changed...and it lead to some pretty tragic, ultimately dark places. So I broke rule number one and put the character before the reader, just this once, just so I could set her straight...then she'd be okay. Hopefully no-one would mind.

Two things:-
One> You are the author so you can do as you wish. Sure, you may disappoint some readers or even yourself, but ultimately you have the say. To leave such a character languishing in that situation may be purity of literature for its own sake... but is it fitting to the world it is written in?
Two> You created a side character who engages your reader's empathy with a story of catching your dream and then realising the dream has caught you. That you did this using such a non-standard story telling style makes it even more outstanding. You then allowed FiM to recapture a piece of that dream and introduce a new one thus making Chapter 2 complete this as an MLP:FiM story. As someone before me mentioned, this could be made into an episode of the series and it would fit in easily.
All that said, Footlight is a pony that almost anyone can relate to and that is something I appreciate in a story. You also did not make the Publishers be evil for the sake of it, you portrayed them as powerful but fair ponies who appreciate having an employee who fills a role so well. The fact that both they and Footlight have failed to communicate problems as they developed is shown as being a combined issue, Footlight failing to think of simply saying "I need more time off because I am getting burnt out" and the Execs for realising too late that their valued employee is unhappy because they have begun to take her for granted. Some would say that ponies of that calibre would have had a fallback plan but, as anyone knows who has worked in a large business knows, it is just as likely that five years of seemingly smooth sailing has led to complacency.
All in all, a great little story that draws you in, takes you for a ride and makes you believe it and all in just twenty thousand plus words... far less than many others take to still get far less of an attachment between the reader and an OC. Very well done.

This is a real gem!

I love how you depicted the corporate structure, no one being evil but rather concerned for their own job and how much they can allow, with things not being noticed until they become a real problem. How she doesn't notice that Twilight uses her name, not Daring, and how she reacts.

As I stated this is a real Gem. :twilightsmile:

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