• Published 6th Mar 2012
  • 12,765 Views, 450 Comments

The Risks of Braving a Storm - Wintergreen Diaries

Storm Blitz, a massive pegasus, comes to Ponyville after his grandfather dies.

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Chapter 9: Fragile

The timid knock on the door of the shop signaled Fluttershy’s arrival to Carousel Boutique. It was time for their weekly trip to the spa, and the lack of a response could only mean that Rarity was thoroughly ensnared in her latest project. Knowing it would be useless to continue knocking, Fluttershy gently eased open the door and walked inside to find Rarity putting the finishing touches on the harness. Using some of the leftover fabric from making Rainbow Dash’s gala dress, she had managed to transform the dull, leaden weights into what looked like bold fashion accessories, perfectly suited for a pegasus in any occasion.

“Oh wow, Rarity. Those are, um, interesting. What gave you the idea?” Fluttershy inquired, attempting to pick one up and dropping it to the floor, not expecting them to be heavy.

“Oh, well the idea came from Storm, you see. Just look at this dreadful design! I would be remiss if I hadn’t altered it to something less of an eyesore.” Fluttershy glanced over the designs and grew quite peeved. Even a pegasus that flew as little as she did knew that weights were bad, bad things. What was Storm trying to do, break her back? “Fluttershy, whatever is wrong?” Rarity asked, instantly worried by the fact that something was causing the demure Fluttershy to scowl. It was then that Storm and Rainbow Dash returned, and Storm was suddenly confronted by the cream colored mare whose voice remained quiet while still managing to be utterly terrifying.

“Just what are you trying to do to Rainbow Dash, mister? Any and every pegasus knows that weights like these cause back pain, neck pain, leg pain, brain pain, and every other kind of badness a pegasus can have. And here you are trying to make Rainbow Dash wear them?! You should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking such a thing!” Storm was unable to comprehend how a mare that couldn’t even say “hello” to him at the party could have such a sudden change of personality. He opened his mouth to speak when she turned and laid into Rainbow Dash.

“And you, Rainbow Dash! How can you let him just bully you into something like this? After everypony telling me to stand up for myself, you turn around and let him make these things?”

“Fluttershy, I’m sure they have a perfectly good explan...” Rarity started, but Fluttershy would have none of it.

“Rarity, you’re just as much to blame for making those horrible things! Get rid of them.” Nopony made any motion to move, and Fluttershy decided to take matters into her own hooves. However, due to her stature, she was barely able to lift them, let alone do them any harm, and had soon worn herself out.

“Fluttershy? Take it easy, it’s not as bad as it seems,” Rainbow Dash ventured cautiously, relieved when Fluttershy turned to face her, small beads of sweat dripping from her brow. “These aren’t like normal weights, they’re special ones. And the harness will also help reduce the strain. A great Wonderbolt designed them, so you don’t have to worry about me getting hurt.”

“And, for the record, I didn’t bully her into it,” Storm added, not wishing to have anypony embittered against him. “She all but begged me, really.” Dash shot him an annoyed glance before turning back to Fluttershy, who was notably more calm.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry for yelling at everypony.” Storm found it hard to consider it yelling given that her voice was never raised above a normal speaking level.

“Come, Fluttershy, the spa awaits. It will be a perfect chance to unwind after getting your feathers ruffled.”

“Oh, Rarity, before you go I just wanted to say I don’t get paid for another week or so, since I just started. I will pay you when I can,” Storm assured her.

“Payment? Oh, don’t worry about that, anything for Rainbow Dash. Have a good afternoon~” she sang as she exited, excited about the coming treatment. Storm walked over an examined the weights and harness, testing them with a hoof. As requested, the weights came in three different sets, and he got started fixing the lowest weighted set to Rainbow Dash’s legs. She stood patiently, feeling her body grow about twenty pounds heavier by the time he was done, and was perfectly fine until it came to attaching the harness. It wasn’t something that could be done alone, and it attached to each wing in three different spots.

“Could you possible spread your...” and with a poomf they were fully outstretched and shaking slightly. An uncomfortable silence descended as Storm tried to attach the harness as gently as possible, though Rainbow Dash flinched each time his hoof stroked her wing. Storm was feeling just as embarrassed, and he had great difficulty keeping his mind focused on the task at hoof. The process only took a few minutes, but it required an equal amount of time for them to both calm down and let the color in their faces return to normal.

“So... training?” Rainbow Dash ventured, and Storm nodded quickly as they both left the shop. Storm took off and Rainbow Dash followed, the added weight not being enough to bother her but still noticeable. “So what’s first on the list?” she asked as they rose above the cloud coverage, landing lightly atop it so as to not agitate the cloud.

“Hmmm, let’s start with something you’re familiar with. One hundred loops, go.” Rainbow Dash stared at him. Did he even realize what kind of number he was requesting? That was, like, three days worth! “Hello, Rainbow Dash? Hop to it.” With a sigh she took off and began the routine, the first twenty or thirty coming easy but the rest becoming increasingly difficult as a culmination of dizziness and fatigue from the added weight set in. She still had some energy left when she finished, but she was far more tired than she was planning on being. “Well done, Rainbow Dash. Now, one hundred corkscrews.”

“You can’t be serious!” she exclaimed, horrified at the prospect.

“Hmmm, we’ll cut it down to seventy since this is your first day. Now get a move on!” he laughed, shoving her forward. With a groan she again took flight, wondering if she really had what it took to become a Wonderbolt.

“What do you mean, ‘Storm’s the best big brother ever?’” Applebloom replied, slightly annoyed with the proclamation. Big Macintosh had been around forever, and he was strong and kind and... strong... “Scootaloo, you thought yer brother was the biggest hooligan this side of Equestria until two days ago. Ahm sorry, but I think Big Mac is better.”

“Oh yeah? Well, does your brother have wings?”

“Does yer brother make zap apple jam?”

“Is your brother related to a famous Wonderbolt?”

“Is yer brother the second best hoofwrassler in Ponyville?” The trade off continued for nearly thirty minutes before Sweetie Belle could take no more, having plugged her ears early on in an unsuccessful attempt to block out the noise.

“Enough!” Both friends dropped silent and stared at her. “This is ridiculous! They’re both great brothers and they’d be ashamed of you two for going on like this! Applebloom, Big Mac does not have magical powers over dust motes. Scootaloo, Storm doesn’t sneeze tornadoes! At least you ponies even have an older brother!” Suddenly their argument seemed extremely petty as they both stopped to consider what their lives would be like without their siblings, super powers or not.

“Wow Sweetie Belle, you’re right. I guess I kinda got carried away,” Scootaloo apologized, giving her an apologetic grin.

“Yeah, sorry ‘bout that.”

“It’s ok. So, what should the Cutie Mark Crusaders try today?”

“Whoa, Rainbow Dash, hang on!” Storm called out as she spiraled out of control, catching her before she fell through the clouds. It was obvious she had worn herself out but she kept pushing herself anyways, determined to complete the training. “Ok, that’s enough for today. You need to rest.”

“No, I gotta finish!” she argued, struggling feebly to escape his grasp.

“If you overwork yourself now, there’s no way you’ll be able to practice tomorrow. Come on, I’ll fly you home.” She said nothing as he carried her back to her cloud home, where she wearily flopped into bed. It was late afternoon, but she was too drained to even consider cooking a meal or bother removing the weights. Storm followed her in and began detaching the gear, setting them down beside the bed and searching her face. Was that sadness? Anger? He couldn’t tell, but whatever it was, it wasn’t happy. “Rainbow Dash, you did great. Take it easy and rest, and we’ll start again tomorrow.” Rainbow Dash said nothing as she lay staring at the ceiling, not bothering to watch him go. His words felt hollow to her. She hadn’t even been able to complete the first set of training on the lowest difficulty... How would she ever be able to get to the top? When it came down to it, she just felt like a failure.

Storm couldn’t get Rainbow Dash’s expression out of his head. It dominated his thoughts until he came to the perfect solution. If she was discouraged, he’d just have to cheer her up! But how? What do mares like? Rarity seemed like the epitome of a lady, so he decided to see if she was still at the Boutique. Instead he found her and Fluttershy just exiting the spa, chatting excitedly and looking extremely pleased. They stopped talking as Storm landed in front of them, noting that Rainbow Dash wasn’t present.

“Hey Rarity, Fluttershy, I have a question for you two. Hypothetically, if a mare you know is feeling down and you want to cheer her up, what’s a good thing to try?”

“Hypothetically, hmmm?” Rarity said with a sly smile, letting him know that whether or not Fluttershy had caught on, she knew exactly who he was talking about. “Well, hypothetically, if the mare was a pegasus, and if she had been perhaps worked to the bone then just maybe she’d like a nice massage from a big, strong stallion to help unwind? Hypothetically, of course.” Storm was thankful for having a black coat, as it made it easier to hide when the blood rushed to his cheeks. However, he couldn’t deny that the idea was a good one. But, how would Rainbow Dash react to the kind of physical interaction? “It would be quite well received, I shouldn’t wonder.” Was this unicorn clairvoyant or something? Fluttershy was rather lost by the situation, but too relaxed to let it bother her.

“Thank you for the advice, Rarity.” As he turned around he heard Rarity voice once more, before taking off as quickly as he was able.

“Do be gentle, won’t you?” Storm made a hasty escape, thankful for the cool wind as it brushed past and help lower his body temperature back to normal. While he had originally intended to go to the library to ask if they had any books on the subject, it occurred to him that maybe his grandfather’s manual might have some after-training tips. He was spot on, with a rather large and in depth guide to proper massage techniques to help ease the stress of ones limbs and wings after a heavy day of training. He copied down a few pages of the information before rolling the papers into a scroll and stuffing the book back in his saddlebag.

“Where you off to, son?” Quakehoof asked, raising an eyebrow as his son grabbed the door knob. The sun had already set and the last rays of light would soon be lost to make way for the moon.

“I’m gonna go hang with Rainbow Dash for a bit. Oh, and the new job is working out great, so I’ll be able to help with rent and food.”

“That’s great news, I’m glad you’re getting settled in nicely. Have fun, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he said with a chuckle.

“Well, that leaves me a lot of options now doesn’t it?” Storm responded with a grin before quickly leaving, his father having stood with a start and clearly not amused by the joke. Rainbow Dash was asleep on her side when he arrived, and he let himself in quietly without bothering to knock. The impressions from the weights could still be seen around her legs, and the muscles were stretched taught from the strain. Storm gently placed a hoof on her shoulder and closed his eyes. This mare had more passion and determination than anypony he’d ever met, and it was at that moment, staring at her exhausted form that he realized that admiration wasn’t the only thing he felt for her.

The firm though gentle hoof strokes along her spine eased Rainbow Dash into consciousness, and she moaned softly as relief flooded through her over taxed muscles. It took her a full minute to realize that said motion had to be coming from somepony, and the hooves drew back as she rolled over.

“...Storm? What are you..?”

“It’s part of the training,” he said quickly, afraid he had crossed a boundary and hoping that the explanation would be satisfactory. The training... Rainbow Dash hadn’t been thinking about it until he mentioned it, and the feelings of defeat and inadequacy came flooding back.

“I’m such a failure,” she whispered to herself. Storm returned his hooves to her back, realizing exactly why the look on her face had bothered him so much even without hearing her statement.

“I guess I may have lied a little just then. The truth is I wanted to do something to cheer you up. You looked so dejected when I called off the training for the day, like I had just said that you couldn’t join the Wonderbolts or had blown the tryouts.” If this was his attempt at comforting, he really needed to learn not to introduce additional topics to worry about. “Rainbow Dash, I didn’t call off the training because I thought you couldn’t handle the rest. I just... I don’t want to see you get hurt, and I knew it was a lot to throw you right into Lightning Wing’s training. Honestly, I was thoroughly impressed as I watched you. Your speed, precision, grace... it was all first rate, Dash.”

It was becoming quite difficult to massage from the side, kneeling on the ground with his hooves outstretched, and Rainbow Dash felt her slowly rolled onto her stomach. The bed gave no noise or vibration he climbed up, kneeling beside her and continuing his soothing treatment of her muscles. As the relaxation combined with his gentle touch and kind words, she offered no fight as her tired wings spread out to give him full access to her back. “Your passion was awe inspiring, Rainbow Dash. I don’t know what you think of yourself, but you’re anything but a failure. If anyone could break the speed of sound, it’s you. I believe in you, Rainbow Dash. We’ll win those tryouts together, you’ll see.” He pulled back his hooves as she rolled over to face him, tears brimming her eyes but refusing to fall.

“It’s not fair.” Storm wanted to say something but nothing came. “How come I let you in so easily? You don’t even realize it I’ll bet.”

“Rainbow Dash, what do you...”

“Every word, every action, every stupid thing you do hits me a million times harder than anypony else I’ve ever met! I’ve never felt so weak and vulnerable in my life!” Her voice was frantic, frightened even. “I’ve never, ever told anypony the weaker points of my flying! And yet all you had to do was ask. I used to hang out with stallions all the time, and I never felt embarrassed, but I’ve blushed more in the last three days than the last three years combined... I had a stable, normal life and then you... you just waltz in and turn everything upside down!”

Storm sat staring at her, desperately wanting to hold her, but too afraid to move. He had no idea what to make of the sudden burst of emotions, but he knew that he had to do something. “And then... then there’s this feeling I get when I’m around you, like somepony lit a fire in my stomach. When you praise me, it makes me feel like I can do anything, and when you’re angry I just want to disappear. And the worst part is I don’t even know if you like me the same way! It’s like I’m caught in the middle of a... a storm. I’m terrified... I don’t know what to do...” She paused, slowly turning her head to make eye contact with Storm. “But even still, I won’t run away. I’m glad to have met you, and they don’t call me the Element of Loyalty for nothing. I’ll stick by you, even if you won’t do the same for me. Even if it hurts...”

That was enough. Storm couldn’t sit idly by while the mare that had helped him so much fell apart at the seams looking for something thought provoking or encouraging to say, so he did the only thing he could think of. Rainbow Dash felt his arms encircle her and draw her close, holding her as she tried to stop her shoulders from shaking, but it only made the tremors worse.

“You know... if I had to try and describe how I felt, I’d basically just have to repeat most everything you’ve said. You’re kind, supportive, encouraging, and you make me feel like I can overcome my past. But I have no idea what I’m doing, or how to go about relationships, or even how to not be a total jerk sometimes.” A small laugh gave Storm the courage to continue. “Rainbow Dash, I really like you too, but I’m terrified of messing everything up. So please, be patient with me?” He felt her nod, and he continued to hold her in silence. She calmed down fairly soon afterwards, and he let go as she shifted, looking over at him.

“It’s really not fair. Just like that, I feel better.” Storm grinned a little, and it was thankfully returned. Still, something she had said had bothered him.

“What’s the Element of Loyalty?” Oh, right. There was no way he would know that. Starting from the night Twilight arrived in Ponyville and on to battle with Nightmare Moon, she explained about the Elements of Harmony and the role they played in maintaining balance in Equestria. He didn’t say anything, but he was quite impressed that she chose her friends over being given the deepest desire of her heart, and a startling revelation occurred to him. That kind of loyalty was the same kind that he saw in his mother and father, often apart for years at a time, yet wholly devoted to one another. To have that offered to him was hard to conceptualize, and he quickly came to an obvious conclusion; he had way too much thinking to do.