• Published 5th Jun 2014
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Wear Flowers in Your Mane - jkbrony



On a day she spends with her surrogate little sister, Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash receives news that will change her life forever. Everypony must deal with loss at some point or another....

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Chapter 2 -- Home

Rainbow Dash sat slouched in an office chair, boredom wearing heavily upon her mind. Sitting at the desk across from her, the funeral director wrote upon a sheet, and his expression indicated that he was growing just as bored and impatient as she was. A quick look at the clock that hung just above the desk informed her that it was 1:26 PM. It had been about 24 hours since she first heard the news that shattered her dream forever—the news that her father was no longer around to see her proudly wear a Wonderbolt uniform when that day eventually came. Her life had been at a standstill for her since that moment. The letter that she had been anticipating with so much excitement the day before still lay untouched in her mailbox, as the loss of her dream had left her without any desire to open it. She still found herself to be unable to cry, and unwilling to reflect upon what his death would mean for her. The thought of arranging his funeral had been weighing heavily on her mind, so she had decided to get it out of the way. Unfortunately, the process was not as quick or easy as she had anticipated it to be.

"And would you like the stone to be separate, or shared with your mother's?" asked the director after he stopped writing.

Rainbow Dash sighed with annoyance. This was the fiftieth question she had been asked—or at least that's how she perceived it in her increasingly boredom-riddled mind.

"I don't care," she answered with a huff.

The funeral director cocked an eyebrow at her apathy. It could not have been any more apparent that she would have rather been anywhere else in the world at the moment. He shook his head and continued writing upon the sheet.

"Well, all I need to know now is the estimated number of attendees," he said.

Rainbow fidgeted in her chair and turned her head to the side.

"I...really don't know right now."

The director struggled to maintain his composure, but his irritation was swiftly rising to its breaking point. No client had ever annoyed him in such a way.

"All right, how about a guesstimate, then? Like maybe five? Ten?"

"Sure."

"Sure what?"

"Five or ten, I guess."

He sighed with annoyance the same way Rainbow had.

"Well, that'll do it," he said with relief, after writing upon the sheet for a final time. "The funeral is set for one week from today. I guess we'll see you then unless you want to change anything, or if you know more about how many are attending. Of course, as is traditional custom for a pegasi funeral, you and all other attendees will be expected to wear flowers in your mane."

"Right, whatever" Rainbow said lethargically, standing up and hastily making her way out of the small office as though fearful that he had one more question he had forgotten to ask.

Scootaloo was seated in the lobby with an extreme sports magazine, reading bitterly through an article about a trio of fillies from Baltimare who were being cited as the first pony zip-liners, one of which had even received a cutie mark for it. Just as she was struck with an urge to throw the magazine against a wall, she looked up to see Rainbow Dash walking towards the exit.

"Let's go," Rainbow said as she passed her. Scootaloo returned the magazine to its rack and followed after her as she left Fallen Skies Funeral Home.

****

The high-altitude air struck them both hard as they emerged. It had been quite some time since Rainbow Dash had visited Cloudsdale. It still looked the same as it always did; the Weather Factory churned out fresh-made clouds every few seconds, the rainbow falls added a colorful contrast to the monotonous white and blue that made up nearly everything from the roads to the houses, and a hoard of shouts and cheers could be heard from whatever event was being held at the Cloudiseum. As they walked along the road, Scootaloo looked around the city in astonishment, particularly thankful that her inability to fly had not affected her ability to walk upon clouds.

"So...when is it?" she asked as she watched a group of pegasi zip by overhead.

"A week from today," answered Rainbow.

"Umm, by the way, how do funerals up here work? Because it's not like you can bury—." She stopped instantly and bit her tongue. "I'm sorry. You don't have to answer that."

Rainbow shook her head. "It's fine, Scoot. In Cloudsdale, the only burial option is a burial at sky. A casket is made out of a very light cloud and the body is placed inside. During the funeral, it's released into the sky. It floats up and never comes back down. A gravestone is laid in the cemetery after that."

"I see...," Scootaloo said uncomfortably with a glance towards the sky, wondering how many bodies were lying up there.

"You know, you didn't need to come here with me, Scoot," said Rainbow Dash. "This really wasn't any big deal."

"It's okay. I wanted to come," she replied. "Besides, I wasn't about to miss a chance to visit Cloudsdale. I've never been here before. It's incredible!"

"Yep, that's what I always thought," said Rainbow with a chuckle. "When I was a filly, I didn't think there could possibly be a better place in the world to live."

"Then why did you want to move to Ponyville?"

Rainbow paused for a moment as though searching through her mind for an answer.

"Well, when you live here, you're generally expected to work in the Weather Factory when you get older, unless you actively pursue some other line of work. Even in school, they teach you things like how snowflakes and rainbows are made. The only career plan I had in mind was to become a Wonderbolt, but since I wasn't about to get in anytime soon, I kept getting pressured to pursue another one. So that's when I decided that I was probably better off living somewhere else. I chose to live in Ponyville mostly because that was where Fluttershy was living."

"So where are we going now?" asked Scootaloo. "Are we heading back to Ponyville?"

Rainbow shook her head. "Not yet. There's something I need to do first."

Scootaloo nodded in understanding, lacking any interest to ask about it.

They walked in silence for several minutes. Though flying was undoubtedly Rainbow Dash's preferred method of movement, her wings remained closed while hooves were firmly attached to the road, showing not even the slightest desire to fly to their destination. Scootaloo assumed that wherever they were headed, it was a place that she really wanted to take her time getting to.

"You seem to be doing a lot better," she said, breaking the silence between them.

Rainbow looked down. "I'm just trying to keep my mind off of it."

"Oh. Sorry," said Scootaloo, biting her tongue again.

"Don't worry about it," replied Rainbow with a shake of her head. "Besides, it's going to be impossible not to think about it soon."

Rainbow's legs kept moving, even though part of her did not want them to. There was scarcely an inch of Cloudsdale that was not nostalgic to her in some way, and that nostalgia would only become painful to reflect upon when she reached her destination.

"So...you and Fluttershy have really been friends a long time, huh?" Scootaloo attempted another conversation. "Back when she was telling us her cutie mark story, I remember her mentioning how you were the only one who ever stood up for her when she was being picked on."

"Since this is the home of the Wonderbolts, Cloudsdale has an image to maintain as being the place where the best flyers in Equestria are born. So if you're seen as a weak flyer...let's just say there's not a whole lot of love for you here."

"Oh...," Scootaloo replied, looking down at her wings mournfully.

"Fluttershy had it pretty rough," Rainbow Dash continued. "Whenever we did exercises in Flight Camp, she was barely able to keep up with the rest of us. The other fillies in camp teased her for it, usually until she ran off crying. Sometimes the instructor made the exercises harder for her, which led to her getting teased even more."

"Gosh, that's terrible...," said Scootaloo, suddenly struck with an urge to hug Fluttershy the next time she saw her.

They turned into a residential area. Rows upon rows of cloud homes were aligned on both their left and right sides. Most of the houses were only one story, and many looked so alike that Scootaloo wondered how anypony could tell them apart.

"Since I was one of the more popular fillies at camp, I thought that she would be left alone if I stood up for her," said Rainbow. "It didn't really help that much, and it got even worse after the race. Fluttershy started getting teased for her cutie mark since she had discovered her destiny on the ground, which is a rare thing for a pegasus from Cloudsdale. They even said things like 'this is even more proof that you should have been born an earth pony.'"

"Are you serious?!" Scootaloo exclaimed, her jaw dropped in shock. The notion of actually being teased for having a cutie mark seemed inconceivable after she had endured years of being teased for not having a cutie mark.

Rainbow Dash nodded. "The instructor refused to do anything about it, so I decided to take matters into my own hooves."

"What did you do?"

"Well, every one of us had a thermos full of water to keep ourselves hydrated in the hot sun. On a day we had to do laps, I finished first, long before anypony else did. I took the thermoses of Fluttershy's most persistent tormentors and poured all the water out of them, then I quickly flew over to the Weather Factory and filled them up with rainbow. You would think that rainbows would taste sweet, but they're actually hotter and spicier than anything you can imagine—just ask Pinkie Pie. Anyway, I returned to camp and set their thermoses back where I found them. Naturally, they were dying for a drink of water when they finished their laps, but that sure wasn't what they got."

Scootaloo chuckled. "That must've been amusing."

"Yeah," Rainbow said with a small chuckle. "It was pretty funny. Their eyes were watering, they were zipping all over the place, and they were stuffing chunks of cloud in their mouths just to cool their throats off. The entire camp got a good laugh out of it."

"Did they stop teasing Fluttershy after that?" Scootaloo asked as the thought of doing the same thing to Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon passed through her mind.

"For a while, at least," Rainbow answered. "Unfortunately, I didn't get away with it. The instructor automatically suspected me, and the ponies who had seen me at the factory wasted no time ratting me out when he stopped by to ask about it. So, I ended up getting suspended from camp for a month."

"Well, that's harsh," Scootaloo said with distaste.

Rainbow sighed and lowered her voice. "Yeah. Dad sure gave me a load over that..."

Scootaloo looked down with discomfort. The clouds she walked upon may as well have been thin ice. It did not seem as though there was a single conversation she could make that would not eventually come around to her father. Before she could change the subject again, Rainbow Dash continued on.

"Anyway, being suspended didn't bother me too much," she said. "I used the time I had off to continue trying the Sonic Rainboom. Every day when camp was dismissed, Fluttershy flew down to the ground to spend time with her animal friends. That's what got her through camp after I was no longer able to defend her. It didn't surprise me at all when she told me that she was planning on living on the ground when she was older. I had always thought that a pegasus living on the ground didn't make much sense, but I could understand why she wanted to leave. Never would have thought I'd end up leaving Cloudsdale, though."

"Well, I'm glad you did," said Scootaloo with a smile.

"Me too."

They walked in silence for a few more minutes until Rainbow finally stopped just in front of a house. It was two stories high, but otherwise did not stand out much from any other house nearby. Scootaloo noted that Rainbow's own cloud-based home looked much nicer.

"Whose house is this?" she asked.

"It's mine," Rainbow Dash answered. "This is the house I grew up in."

"You lived here with your dad?"

"Yeah," Rainbow nodded. "I just wanted to see it one last time."

"Well, didn't he leave a will or something?" asked Scootaloo. "Maybe this house belongs to you now."

"If it does, I'm going to give it away," said Rainbow. "I've long stopped calling this place my home."

She slowly walked up to the front door, taking a deep breath before opening it. An icy wave of memories splashed over her as she stepped inside. The house had not changed much since she saw it last. The foyer was bare and empty, save for a few paintings hung on the wall. The room to her left was the dining and kitchen area, where she and her father had eaten meals together for years. The room to her right was the study, where shelves of books that she had never cared to read collected dust. And just in front of her were the stairs that led up to the bedrooms.

Rainbow Dash found herself standing in the middle of the foyer, soaking in her memories of the home that had been one of the few constants in her life. They swirled through her mind in such a way that it was almost as though they were battling each other for dominance. She remembered taking flight for the first time in the backyard, lying awake in bed while she imagined what life as a Wonderbolt would be like, and the fateful day when she had decided that she was going to leave.

A warm hoof touched her neck, almost instantly pulling her away from the cold memories.

"Are you okay?" Scootaloo asked with concern.

"Sure," Rainbow answered after exhaling a deep breath. "It's just that it's been a long time since I was here."

She slowly ascended the stairs with Scootaloo following closely behind her.

"So...I've kinda been curious about something," said Scootaloo. "Your house has stairs, Fluttershy's house has stairs, and this house has stairs. Why is that? I mean, you don't really need to use them, right?"

No answer came. Rainbow had gone silent again as another memory slipped through her mind—the memory of the first time she ascended to the second level of the house with only her wings. It had happened the day after she first learned to fly, and she remembered how thrilled she had been at the very notion. Stairs had suddenly seemed so outdated and old-fashioned. Even walking itself had begun to feel like an inferior method of movement.

"Rainbow Dash?" Scootaloo once again pulled her back to the present.

"Uhh, well, stairs are mostly for when pegasi injure their wings and can't fly for a while," Rainbow finally answered.

On the second level of the house was a hallway with two rooms on opposite ends. Along the walls of the hallway, between the two rooms, hung framed photographs depicting memorable moments of the past that had been deemed worthy of framing and hanging upon a wall. Rainbow Dash avoided looking at them as she made her way towards the room on the left end of the hallway. She paused just outside the door, allowing her thoughts to settle. She knew that the moment she entered the room, everything would come crashing down upon her as though she were hovering just under an enormous, gray cloud while freezing rain fell relentlessly upon her head. She looked over at Scootaloo, who was taking interest in the pictures on the walls, scanning them over thoroughly as though they were the answers to whatever questions of Rainbow's past she thought were too personal or too painful to ask about.

After a few minutes, once she felt that she was ready to face what lie in the room before her, Rainbow Dash finally opened the door. Like the rest of the house, the room had not changed much since she last saw it. It was mostly tidy, though the bed was unmade. More framed photographs sat upon the leg-high dresser to her right. Two shelves of random trinkets were hung on two opposite walls. A closet was situated at the upper left corner of the room. Just to the right of the bed was a record player with a large case full of albums sitting beside it. The windows were shielded by the curtains, allowing very little light to penetrate through the room, adding a somber mood that matched the way Rainbow felt.

Sighing, she walked inside. The icy wave that had washed over her earlier now impaled her like a cold spear through the heart. After years upon years of associating this room with her father's presence, it was a harsh feeling to know that he would never occupy it again. It now felt like a hollow shell of everything he had left behind—everything that might have now belonged to her, whether she wanted it or not.

"Was this....his room?" asked Scootaloo, following her inside.

Rainbow nodded without looking at her.

Scootaloo turned her attention towards the pictures on the dresser, and the centermost picture caught her eye almost instantly. It depicted a pegasus mare lying in a hospital bed holding a bundled foal whom she instantly recognized as Rainbow Dash. Her coat was of beige, but it was her mane that truly stood out. It was one of the most gorgeous manes Scootaloo had ever seen. It appeared to be about as long as Fluttershy's, though it was wavy instead of straight. Its color was a rosy red with three streaks of azure, violet, and gold running down prominently from the top. The mare looked down at Rainbow Dash with a smile of so much love and warmth that Scootaloo could almost feel it emanating from beyond the frame. She wondered why the mare had not been in any of the pictures in the hallway.

"Yeah, that's my mom," Rainbow Dash said from behind her. "She died before I was a year old."

"She's beautiful," Scootaloo responded, in spite of herself. "What was her name?"

"Sunstreak Shine," Rainbow answered after a brief pause. "When she died, dad stowed all her pictures away in his closet—all but this one. He never could bring himself to stow this one away."

"How did she...?"

"It was a flight accident," Rainbow answered with discomfort. "Don't ask for details—I don't know them. Dad never really told me much more than that. I used to just sit in here, looking at this picture for hours wondering who she was and what she was like. Dad told me a lot about her, but I never really felt like that was ever enough. I didn't want to hear about her, I wanted to actually know her. But that would never happen."

Scootaloo looked down sorrowfully, as though she was familiar with the feeling.

"We visited her gravestone every year on her birthday," Rainbow Dash continued. "Dad used to have these long conversations with her, but I only ever said a few words. To me, all we were doing was having a talk with a stone in the ground. She wasn't buried there, and even if she was, she wasn't listening. She would never respond. And yet, he still kept on jabbering away as if she was actually standing right there in front of him. It was so stupid that I actually felt embarrassed for him."

"No!" Scootaloo cried, suddenly full of anger. "No, it wasn't stupid! You might not have known her well enough to miss her, but he did! Besides, how could you know she wasn't listening? She could have been!"

Rainbow Dash blinked with surprise at her hostility.

"What does it matter?" she grumbled irritably. "Besides, you think I'm going to talk to his gravestone? I'm not! Why would he even want me to? He didn't even bother telling me that he was sick! He stopped caring about me a long time ago."

Anger gradually washed away from Scootaloo's face. Rainbow turned her head back towards the dresser and glared at one of the pictures that her father was in.

"At times we were just strangers living in the same house. I don't think he ever really knew that much about me apart from my dream of becoming a Wonderbolt, which he ripped to pieces at every opportunity he could."

"Does that mean...?"

"Yeah. He was the one, Scoot," Rainbow Dash replied. "He was the one who didn't believe that I would ever become a Wonderbolt. He was the one I wanted to prove wrong."

Scootaloo lowered her eyes as though accepting defeat.

"I figured as much," she whispered.

Rainbow continued glaring at the picture. At that moment, there was only one memory that had wedged itself into her thoughts—only one memory that she could reflect on.

"We were in a heated argument five years ago on the day before my birthday. He said that I was too old to be pursuing this 'fantasy' of becoming a Wonderbolt, and that it was time I sought after a career. This had been going on for years, and I was so sick of listening to it. So that was when I told him that I was going to leave, and the next time he would see me, I would be wearing a Wonderbolt uniform. All he did was shake his head and brush me off, like he didn't think I was serious. And to be honest, I didn't think I was that serious either when I said it. It took me a few hours of thinking it over, but I decided that I was going to go through with it. I spent the night packing up, and the very next day, I moved to Ponyville. And that was it—I never saw him again after that. I never came back for his birthdays, for Hearth's Warming, or for any holiday at all. I was determined to make sure that he would not see me again until I was a Wonderbolt. I thought that he would always be here, just waiting for me to return when I was ready."

Rainbow glanced towards her father's unmade bed, staring silently at it for several seconds before going on.

"He's gone. He's never coming back. And now it's as though all of it was for nothing. For five years I held onto the dream of showing up on his doorstep with my Wonderbolt uniform on, and now that dream has been lost forever. And that's all I've been able to think about. The loss of my dream upsets me more than the loss of my only father. I don't know how I should feel about that, but I don't exactly feel bad about it. Maybe it's because that was the last thing I really needed him for."

Silence fell between them. Scootaloo continued to stare down at her hooves, unsure of what to say. Rainbow looked around the room, suddenly numb to all of the memories that were swirling around her head. For every positive memory that made her regret never seeing her father again, there were several negative memories that made her glad that she had not.

"I wish I hadn't come back here," she said, grunting with frustration. "This house has nothing for me but memories that I want to forget. I don't want any of it."

She turned and briskly exited the room. Scootaloo remained in place, thinking hard on everything she had said. In one day, she learned more about Rainbow's past than she had in all the years they had known each other. The house itself seemed like a treasure trove of information that Scootaloo would have loved to have access to years ago, but with everything she had just learned, she began to wish that it was all still a vague and elusive mystery.

She looked back to the pictures on the dresser. The picture to the far left depicted a young, cutie mark-less Rainbow Dash looking down at her wings with unbridled excitement as she hovered in midair. Her first time flying, perhaps?

The next picture over depicted a birthday party being held in a place Scootaloo didn't recognize, but looked somewhat similar to Sugarcube Corner. Rainbow Dash, still a cutie mark-less filly, was wearing a party hat and surrounded by several fillies of the same age. Her father stood just behind her, smiling down upon the young birthday girl as she beamed widely for the camera.

The next picture that sat to the right of the picture of Rainbow's mother depicted a less-than-enthusiastic Rainbow Dash as she stood just outside what appeared to be a school with a saddlebag hanging along the side of her body.

The final picture on the dresser, the one Rainbow Dash had glared so fiercely at, depicted her now with a cutie mark, turned to the side as though she was showing it off for the camera. Her father stood beside her, his hoof around her neck and a sense of pride visible in his face that matched that of his daughter. Scootaloo stared at the picture for several minutes. She assumed that it had been taken on the day Rainbow had received her cutie mark. Anypony who saw it would have probably thought that they had a relationship that a father and daughter ought to have. There did not appear to be anything in any of the pictures Scootaloo had scanned through that would have suggested the antagonistic relationship that Rainbow Dash claimed she had with her father.

Scootaloo finally left the room, unable to obtain any concrete answers from the photographs.

"Rainbow Dash?"

There was no response. Looking around, she noticed that the door of the second room was opened where it was previously closed.

She slowly made her way into the room, which she surmised as being Rainbow's old bedroom. It was mostly empty except for a bed and a small bedside table. Rainbow Dash was sitting upon the bed, looking forward out the window with the same emotionless expression from the day before. Scootaloo sat down beside her.

"This feels so stupid now," Rainbow whispered. "Maybe I should have come back."

Scootaloo leaned against her. "You didn't know. You couldn't have known."

Rainbow said nothing, her eyes lowering to the floor.

"I know you cared about him," said Scootaloo. "And he cared about you, too. Why else would he have kept those pictures on his dresser?"

"It doesn't mean anything. He was just as happy to have me out of his life as I was to have him out of mine," replied Rainbow.

"Maybe at first. But I think he might have missed you. Besides, can you really say that you didn't miss him these last five years?"

"Well, I guess I won't ever find out, will I?" Rainbow responded as though she had not heard the question. "It's over with, and the only thing I have left to do now is leave this place behind the same way I did five years ago, but for good this time."

Scootaloo grunted with frustration. "It seems like you're just trying to reject your feelings. I know this affects you. You don't have to keep it in. Just let it out."

"What do you want?" asked Rainbow with sudden hostility in her voice. "For me to just break down right here, right now? For me to say how much I'm going to miss him, and how much my life will be different without him? It's not going to happen. Because when I truly think about it, I think I'm going to get through this just fine in the end. And besides, crying has never really been my thing."

Scootaloo sighed, accepting defeat once again.

"There's nothing left for me here, Scoot," Rainbow Dash said as she removed herself from the bed. "You can't move forward if you keep looking back. Let's go."

Scootaloo made no argument as she stood up and followed Rainbow back down to the front door. Just as they exited the house, Mr. Grimmtock landed in front of them, wearing the same solemn expression he had the day before. His sudden appearance took them both by surprise.

"I had a feeling I would find you here," he said.

"What is it now?" Rainbow moaned, as she had hoped that she had seen the last of him.

"Forgive me, but there's something I need to give you."

He pulled an envelope out of a pocket in his dress suit. "Your father wrote this a few days ago while he was in the hospital. It's addressed to you. I would have given it to you yesterday, though unfortunately, I was not informed about it until this morning. I was going to drop it off in your mailbox, but I decided that it should be delivered personally."

"Uhh...thanks," said Rainbow Dash. She took the letter cautiously, as though expecting this to be some sort of prank.

Grimmtock bowed and flew away without a word. Rainbow looked at the back of the envelope. Scrawled in what she recognized as her father's penmanship was a single line:

To my daughter, Rainbow Dash

Rainbow squinted her eyes. As far as she knew, what she was holding in her hoof were her father's final words to her—the words that he was not able to say to her in person. And what would they be? Was he simply reminding her one final time that she would never become a Wonderbolt, or were they something a little more meaningful—something that would truly make her regret not seeing him again before his death?

"Aren't you going to open it?" asked Scootaloo, eyeing the letter with great curiosity.

Rainbow shook her head. "Not right now. Let's head back."

Scootaloo hopped on Rainbow's back and she took off to the sky, taking a final look at the house before she climbed too high and could no longer tell which one it was.

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