• Published 8th Apr 2014
  • 1,149 Views, 46 Comments

Where They Understand You - Loganberry

Rainbow Dash moved to Ponyville on her birthday. This is the story of how – and why – it happened

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5. Thy Yesteryears be Buried Deep

Notch Lapel was waiting for Rainbow as she touched down on the outskirts of Cloudsdale. She glared at him fiercely.

“What are you doing here? I told you already; I won’t tell you again. Fluttershy isn’t interested in a lech like you. I’m warning you, buster, you lay one single feather on her and I’ll—”

With a start, Rainbow realised that the stallion’s eyes were red and puffy. She broke off her tirade, landed on a small cloud fragment nearby and raised her eyebrows questioningly.

Notch swalllowed hard and said, “Ms Dash, I am afraid I’m here on formal business, to give you some very bad news. Fluttershy’s father was... well, no point in my sugar-coating this now. He was found dead a little while ago. I’m not aware of the exact circumstances, and the Royal Guards are still investigating. But I really would like to express my deepest condolences to Fluttershy. However, she will need to come back up to Cloudsdale for the formalities. So... would you go and get her, please? I volunteered to go myself, but in the circumstances, I felt...”

He trailed off; there was a long, uneasy silence, broken only by the passing breeze and the unceasing roar of the weather machines in the distance. Rainbow stared high into the sky, her mane and tail ruffled by the wind but the rest of her body stock-still and rigid.

At length, she shook her head forcefully and looked Notch squarely in the eye. “She’s not coming.”

Notch drew back and blinked. “What do you mean?”

“What. I. Said. She’s not coming. No way could Flutters cope with something like that right now.”

The stallion looked at the ground and sighed. “I really am sorry, Ms Dash.”

Rainbow gave a half-growl, but didn’t say another word. Instead, she turned away from Notch and set herself for take-off. She went through a mindless ritual of checking her feathers; a moment later, she was gone, arrowing downwards towards Ponyville.

Why Fluttershy? thought Dash as she flew. Why? It makes no sense. She recalled a line from a fable of long ago, suddenly standing out bright and clear from the dim murk of her early fillyhood. “What is, is what must be,” she murmured to herself, hoping that the simplicity of the phrase would at least allow her a little solace.

It didn’t.

As she approached Fluttershy’s cottage for the second time that day, a cheerful tune reached Rainbow Dash’s ears. She flattened her ears sadly; Fluttershy really didn’t deserve this. Nor did anypony, of course, but Fluttershy even less than most. Rainbow briefly considered turning back, almost immediately snarling at herself in anger. No! she thought harshly. That’s the coward’s way out. That’s how to hurt Fluttershy even more. No. It has to be me.

She landed smoothly and quietly in the garden. Fluttershy had her back turned and was tending some scrubby plants that Dash couldn’t identify, so the blue pegasus stood awkwardly for a few moments, unsure of what to do. She was making ready to trot up to her friend when Fluttershy turned round and smiled. It wasn’t quite the sunrise smile, but it was close enough that when it faded as Fluttershy saw the look in Rainbow’s eyes, Dash shivered in a sudden cold wind, one that may have existed only in her mind. She couldn’t tell, but it didn’t matter.

“Something’s wrong, Dashie,” said Fluttershy at once, her own ears flattening to match those of the other pegasus. Rainbow screwed up her face in agony at that last word. She associated it with joy and laughter and friendship and freedom; it seemed so utterly out of place here. Still, she thought, I guess I gotta do this now. You gotta be here for her, Rainbow. You.

She took a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah... yeah, it is. I’m sorry, ‘Shy. But you have some pretty bad news.” Rainbow waited, half-expecting Fluttershy to speak, but when no answer came she continued. “It’s about your dad. Soon as I got back to Cloudsdale, that Notch Lapel guy was waiting for me and he said they... found your dad at home earlier today.”

Fluttershy blinked and frowned. “Found him? Wh- why did they need—”

She broke off and her eyes widened as realisation dawned. Rainbow bit her lip hard, feeling the salty tang of blood on her tongue, and looked at the ground, the sky, the trees, the cottage; anywhere but at her gentle friend. When she finally forced her gaze back to the other pony, she saw that Fluttershy was standing utterly motionless, barely even a feather moving in the still, late-afternoon air.

“Come on. We need to get going,” said Rainbow.

There was a fractional pause, so still that Dash fancied she could hear the machinery of home in the far distance, before Fluttershy nodded her head and said, “I need to make sure the critters will be all right at home, Dashie. Will you wait for me, please?”

“Huh? Of course I’ll wait for you, Flutters. That’s what I do.” (Another tiny pause.) “What would I do on my own?” Dash’s voice caught in her throat a little as she said the last words and she looked into the distance beyond the cottage, flexing each of her shoulder muscles pointlessly in turn.

It was several minutes before Fluttershy emerged. She was wearing saddle bags, but they looked to be almost empty and flapped oddly against her barrel. She looked at Rainbow Dash and, a moment later, the two pegasi had left the earth behind, moving smoothly upwards towards the distant bank of cumulus that marked the near edge of Cloudsdale.

* * *

The two mares were on the threshold of Fluttershy’s house, one hovering and one standing. Rainbow looked at her friend with stinging eyes and heard her soft yet rapid breathing, saw the sheen of sweat that soaked her hide, smelt her desperate terror. This, she thought. This is... what do I do here? What can I do here? As she felt her own pores moistening further, she turned her attention back to Fluttershy.

“You want me to stay out here, Flutters? I know this is a kinda private thing for you. I can fly around out here or something.”

Fluttershy merely looked at Rainbow. “No, Rainbow Dash, please come inside with me. My... my dad isn’t here any more. There’s nothing I need here except you.”

Rainbow shuddered as she realised that Fluttershy’s eyes were entirely dry. She said nothing, but landed and followed Fluttershy inside, gently kicking the door closed behind her with a hind hoof.

The house was clean, tidy and utterly empty. Apart from a slight, lingering smell of Royal Guard and a record propped up against the gramophone in one corner of the living room, it was like the show home for a newly built development. The furniture was modern and functional; the mail was stacked neatly on a side table; the gramophone itself was spotless. There was no mess, no rounded-off corners, none of the everyday clutter that made a house a home.

“Wow, Flutters,” said Rainbow in a low whisper. She wandered over to the far corner to take a look at the record sleeve. Märehead. “Whoa,” she murmured as she turned away.

Fluttershy brushed a forehoof along a wall, examining it for dust. There was none; none at all. She selected a couple of pieces of unopened mail and slid them into her saddle bags, then joined Rainbow in the corner, her eyes moving slowly to different patches on the almost featureless cloud-wall. They never darted, but always slid as though the air had been oiled.

Rainbow shuffled her wings awkwardly, half-spreading them as she approached the point of returning to her more comfortable hover, but caught her companion’s eye and fell back at once. “Okay then,” she said with forced brightness, “d’ya reckon we’re about done here, ‘Shy?”

“City Hall,” replied Fluttershy. “And then the Archives. That’s where they’ll have taken my dad’s will.” She made a sour face. “They won’t be able to turn me away this time.”

“And then go grab something to eat? Have a drink, maybe? I mean, I’m sure you wanna go someplace with a little more life to it.”

“All right, Rainbow,” said Fluttershy, blinking evenly as she watched Dash's sudden squirming. Her tone was completely without emotion, and it struck deep into Rainbow Dash’s core. She picked up the record and stuffed it awkwardly into a saddle bag. She looked at Rainbow again and the two mares walked steadily towards the door, Rainbow looking all around, Fluttershy’s eyes never leaving the exit.

When they again reached the cloud, Fluttershy closed the door of the house without a word. Now Rainbow did start to hover once more, and she raised an eyebrow as she saw Fluttershy follow suit. The pair hung in the air for long moments, bobbing gently in the eddying breeze and listening to the flap and swish of each other’s wings. The wind had changed, and there was the thrum of some new piece of industrial equipment. Rainbow didn’t recognise the sound.

“Wow, Fluttershy,” said Rainbow Dash at last. “I mean, that was... I don’t... I’m really sorry. That was weird. Did you really live in this place? This was your home?”

“No,” said Fluttershy. “No. It wasn’t.”

Without another word, and in perfect unison, the two pegasi spread their wings wide and accelerated into flight with strong, powerful beats, making straight for City Hall.

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