• Published 3rd Jun 2012
  • 2,915 Views, 23 Comments

One Simple Choice - Tayman



Rainbow Dash must choose between pursuing the Wonderbolts, or staying in Ponyville with her friends.

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Chapter One (Original)

Dear Rainbow Dash,

In honor of the hard work you have put in over the past few years as head of the Ponyville Weather Squad, the Equestria Weather Team would like to offer you a full time position within its ranks. Your record indicates a clear commitment to your duties and exemplary talent , and we are confident you are prepared for this job should you choose to accept it.

Your duties as a member of the Equestria Weather Squad would include, but are not limited to:

-Scouting Equestria for any stray clouds

-Performing traditional weather duties for smaller towns that do not have full-fledged weather teams

-Consulting with cities in advance to determine how much rain they need for the year

-Coordinating and planning heavy storms

-Determining which water sources are to be tornadoed up to Cloudsdale during the rainy season

-Handling any complaints concerning lower-level weather squads, as well as providing
periodic training

-Handling weather requests from Princesses Celestia, Luna, and Cadance.

This job requires a permanent residency in Cloudsdale. Should you choose to accept this position, your training would begin within several days of your confirmation.

We understand this may be a difficult decision for you to make. Your duties would be challenging, yet fulfilling. Take some time to think it over. There’s no rush. Again, congratulations. You’ve earned it.

Equestria Weather Team Member
Spitfire

Rainbow Dash sighed as she set the letter down on her nightstand, following the same routine every day for the third week in a row. Get ready for bed. Read the letter yet again. Rack her brain in a fruitless attempt to make a decision.

Come on, Rainbow. You need to decide. You knew this was coming.

Her eyes drifted around the room. The comforter on her bed was still emblazoned with a rainbow lightning bolt upon a solid-blue background. Wonderbolts posters still plastered the wall behind her, in pristine condition even though they had been in her room for years. Against one wall sat an old, beat-up oak desk, which she used for the sole purpose of writing weather reports. Twilight had been kind enough to provide it several years back when Rainbow was finally able to admit she needed one.

----------------------

“Wipe that smirk off your face, Twilight. I’m still nowhere near the egghead you are. I’m just going to use it for weather reports.”

Twilight giggled. “You’re just making excuses. Soon you’ll be a regular bookworm!”

“Very funny.” Rainbow rolled her eyes. “You’re just jealous that I know more about weather than you do.” Her sarcastic glance melted into a playful smirk.

“Well, I am more sufficiently educated in mathematics, biology, engineering, pony anatomy, neuroscience...” Twilight grinned.

“Oh yeah? Well you can’t fly!” Rainbow flared out her wings.

“Well you can’t do magic!”

The two glared at each other, before collapsing into a fit of giggles.

----------------------

A small bookshelf, no taller than a pony on its hind legs, stood against the wall, its shelves packed with Daring Do novels and weather planning books. Rainbow had learned nearly everything there was to weather planning and production during her time spent working for the weather team. How to get a rough feel for the amount of rain in a cloud by its shade of grey and sponginess. How to kick a cloud with the correct amount of force to obtain the desired intensity of a shower. How to fly in the proper formation with other pegasi in order to efficiently push clouds into their correct spots.

A reminiscent smile flickered across Rainbow’s face as she recalled her way of getting a cloud to rain all those years ago: buck it as hard as she could. She had learned that this method wasn’t appropriate in most situations. Too heavy a shower didn’t give crops and flowers enough time to absorb the water. Rainbow had been chewed out plenty of times for her mistake before she learned the right way to do it.

At that moment, the matter at hand popped into her head once again, interrupting her distracting thoughts. She shook her head, trying to shoo the mental image of the letter away, but like a pesky swarm of parasprites, it kept returning. With a hopeless sigh, she picked up the parchment and scanned it several more times.

This job requires a permanent residency in Cloudsdale.”

“Your duties would be challenging, yet fulfilling.”

Fulfilling.

Rainbow dropped the letter and stared at the wall.

Isn’t that what I’ve always wanted? To feel important? To feel accomplished? Isn’t that the entire reason I started taking weather patrol so seriously?

Heck, isn’t that the entire reason I love flying?

Rainbow knew just how important a position in the Equestria Weather Squad was. They coordinated weather for all of Equestria and were necessary in keeping structure and balance in all the other weather teams. Only the best of fliers and weather handlers were ever offered a spot; pegasi had to possess both speed and endurance in order to push clouds all the way from Cloudsdale to every corner of Equestria, as well as handle heavy storms. Members occasionally went on to become full-fledged members of the Wonderbolts. That’s how Spitfire did it.

The Wonderbolts. Her lifelong dream, finally one step closer, if she chose to take that step.

Rainbow thought back to all the time she had put in as head of the Ponyville Weather Squad. She spent her entire day in the skies, wind blasting through her mane and tearing at her coat as she soared in complete freedom, every muscle burning with satisfaction as she commanded pegasi around, coordinating cloud patterns to make sure the weather was completely perfect. And it was perfect every single time. Ponies had stopped her in the streets to thank her for the sunny weather, since Dash and her crew were always able to catch any stray clouds rolling in from the Everfree Forest. Farmers had told her just how well their crops were growing due to a perfect balance of rain and sun.

Another record harvest, it looks like!”

“Well, of course! You have the best weather pony there is taking care of your crops!”

The grateful voice of one of her team members rang in her head.

“Hey Rainbow Dash, thanks a lot for helping me learn all that cool weather stuff you do. I was so nervous when I first joined, but you made it look so easy!”

“No problem! It’s really not that bad once you learn. It just takes practice!”

“Yeah, but you’re the best! I mean, I’m pretty good, but sometimes I still kick the clouds too hard. You could probably work in the Equestria Weather Team someday!”

“Hehe, probably... but let’s not get carried away. I just got promoted to Ponyville Weather Head a few weeks ago. There are tons more other weather heads out there that I’d have to compete with.”

And she had beaten them. Her trophy was floating right in front of her. All she had to do was grab it.

I’m finally being recognized and rewarded for my talents.

Yet she couldn’t fully grasp this realization; it remained suspended in murky water, glimmering faintly just out of reach.

A heavy groan escaped Rainbow as she stuffed the letter inside the nightstand drawer and slammed it shut. “Come on, Rainbow! You’re a pony of action, not moping and reflecting! Take the bucking job! Why in Equestria wouldn’t you?” She pounded a hoof into the mattress.

“This job requires a full time residency in Cloudsdale.”

Rainbow sighed before pulling herself out of bed and trudging over to the window. The sun was disappearing over the horizon, its last rays about to fade to nothing. Ponyville shone below like a beacon in the darkness. The faint buzz of evening activity reached her ears; a night scene had developed over the last few years, as the city had more than tripled in both size and population. Rainbow knew how Ponyville’s weather was supposed to be run, but she hadn’t been able to fully keep up with everything else about the city in which she’d spent a large chunk of her life. New restaurants, new parks, new faces, all unfamiliar to her, as if Ponyville were a friend that had grown distant and foreign.

But it’s still home. It’s still a friend.

A friend.

The realization struck Rainbow like a stray lightning bolt.

Rainbow sighed heavily as she slumped down to the floor and stared at the wall. How could I forget about you guys? Even for a moment?

Then again, it’s not like we ever get to hang out that often anymore.

A bleak wave of loneliness suddenly swelled over and cast its shadow onto the pegasus.

Maybe if I didn’t start taking weather patrol so seriously, you guys wouldn’t have needed to find other things to do to fill the time without me. We could still spend all our time together. What happened to those days? How did they just disappear?

She pulled her body off the floor and stared out the window once more. Her eyes drifted towards the outskirts of town where Fluttershy’s cottage stood. Rainbow recalled a time where the modest abode had stood a short distance away from the outskirts of Ponyville, now the city was slowly creeping up on the dwelling like an approaching swarm of locusts.

Her expression lit up as she noticed that a light was still on in the cottage.

I hope you’re happy, Fluttershy.

She didn’t see Fluttershy nearly as often as she used to. Perhaps once a week at most, when they could find time to spare for lunch, or on the weekends, assuming Rainbow didn’t have to manage clouds on those days. Vets could take the weekends off, but the weather followed no such schedule. It always tore her apart when she had to turn down an invitation to spend time together, even if it was to have tea, an activity she used to hate.

Because if you aren’t...

The black wave came crashing down upon her.

Turning back towards the nightstand, she opened the drawer and pulled out the letter. She slipped on her saddlepack, dropped the letter in one of the pockets, and bolted out the window in a rainbow streak that cut across the sky.

----------------------

Fluttershy yawned as she finished cleaning up for the day. She opened a drawer, setting her stethoscope among the syringes and scalpels. Various herbs in. An X-ray machine sat next to the counter she used for examining animals. A large firefly lamp hung from the ceiling, illuminating every nook of the room in its warm glow.

“Well, I think that’s everything.” Fluttershy turned towards her planner sitting on the counter and opened to the following day. Appointments from sunup to sundown.

She sighed. It had been a particularly rough day for her. Normally, her customers tended to be polite and understanding, but right before closing time, a particularly pushy mare had burst in.

------------------

“My dog has been scratching himself like crazy ever since you gave him that weird herb stuff!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I did mention that was one possible side effect, though.” Fluttershy gulped and struggled to make eye contact as the emerald-green mare gave her a cold stare.

“I didn’t hear anything about that!” The mare stomped a hoof down and snorted. “And now he’s getting hair all over the living room.”

Fluttershy took a quivering step back. “Well, I suppose I could have been a bit louder, but if you would have read the instructions I gave you, they did mention—”

“Don’t make excuses!” The pony spat and shook her head. “You know what? I think you gave him the wrong medicine on purpose, just so you can have repeat business! Why else is it so hard to get an appointment here?”

Fluttershy whipped her head up, her insecure demeanor vanishing as she shot the mare a glare of pure daggers. “Excuse me?” She took a step forward, pushing her face right up against the mare’s muzzle. “I’ve been working with animals my entire life! You will not accuse me of risking any animal’s health just so I can make a few extra bits!”

Now it was the mare’s turn to cower back as Fluttershy towered over her. “Your dog will be fine,” she snarled. “Now get out.”

The mare turned and galloped out of the cottage before Fluttershy slammed the door shut, panting heavily for several more moments.

-----------------

What happened to me?

The scene was still etched deep in her mind. She thrashed her head about, as if to dislodge the event from memory.

No, it’s okay. You were just being assertive. You can’t let ponies push you around like that. You learned that so long ago. Why feel bad about it now?

A light yanking of her tail caused her to turn around and smile down at her pet rabbit, who was tapping his foot impatiently. “I’m so sorry, Angel Bunny. You must be really hungry, aren’t you?” Angel folded his arms and continued to tap his foot. “Well okay then, how about some nice apple and orange slices?” Fluttershy trotted over to the fridge, opening it and pulling out a bowl of fruit slices, which she set in front of the bunny. Angel yanked the bowl off the floor and scarfed the food down before licking the bowl completely clean. Fluttershy chuckled. “Sorry, Angel, I had forgotten how long it was since you last ate. Here, you want some more?” She grabbed a whole apple from the cabinet, which the impatient pet yanked out of her hooves and downed in two bites. Angel rolled over onto his back and rubbed his swollen tummy as Fluttershy smiled at the spectacle. Well, at least some things don’t change.

A loud knock rang out, and Fluttershy froze, the smile vanishing from her face. Every muscle tightened as she slowly crept towards the door. “Um, yes? Who is it?” she asked, trying to hide the discomfort in her voice.

“Fluttershy, it’s Rainbow Dash. You still up? Can I come in?”

Fluttershy’s face lit up as she yanked the door open. “Rainbow Dash! I haven’t seen you in forever! How are...” she trailed off upon noticing Dash’s sullen expression. A smile tugged on her lips, but to Fluttershy it seemed forced and unnatural, and her eyes were limp and full of uncertainty. “Rainbow? Are you okay?”

Any trace of a smile that had once graced Rainbow’s complexion disappeared, a heavy sigh escaping her as she stepped into the cottage, and closed the door behind her. “I’m fine. How about you? How’s the vet business treating you?”

“Um...” Fluttershy concealed a confused look on her face as she stared at the ground. “It’s going fine, I suppose. Pretty busy, but I manage.”

“Are you happy being a vet?”

Fluttershy blinked a couple times. “Well, I do enjoy it, yes. I mean, it’s not perfect, and it can be very stressful at times, but what job isn’t? As long as I’m helping animals out, I’m happy.”

Rainbow Dash simply nodded, a blank look on her face as she gazed around the room, snickering as she noticed Angel Bunny lying on his back with a bulging stomach. “Hehe, you’ve really spoiled that rabbit lately, haven’t you?”

Fluttershy grinned, also glancing back at Angel. “Well, I just feel bad because I haven’t had as much time for him lately, so I let him eat what he wants. It’s not like I can’t afford it.”

Rainbow Dash nodded. “What about the rest of your animals? Where are they?”

“Well...” Fluttershy paused, blinking several times as she continued to stare at the floor. “I had to move them all into the garden. I can’t have animals running around during appointments.” She lifted her head and gazed at Rainbow’s sullen face. “Um, Rainbow? Why are you asking me all of this? You know already. I’ve been a vet for years.”

Rainbow didn’t respond immediately. Instead, she trudged over towards the counter and picked up a framed photograph in her hooves, staring at the bright, shiny faces contained within the picture.

“Why did you become a vet, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy swallowed a gasp. “Wh-what do you mean?”

Rainbow turned and stared at her friend with narrowed eyes. “You heard me. Why did you become a vet? Wasn’t life good enough for you? Why did you decide to put that extra stress on yourself?”

Fluttershy cowered back several steps, avoiding eye contact with Rainbow’s imposing magenta eyes. “Um, well...”

“You don’t know, do you.” Her voice oozed with disappointment.

“I do know!” Fluttershy shook her head. “It’s just—I can’t put it into words...”

Rainbow let out an exasperated sigh as she let the photograph clatter back on the counter, before turning to slump down on the couch. Fluttershy stood in silence, breaking her gaze from the floor and examining Rainbow’s expression. Her eyes carried a distant, foreign look, her mouth set in a neutral line.

Rainbow Dash is actually thinking hard about something? Pondering?

“Rainbow... what’s wrong?” Fluttershy took a seat next to Rainbow and stared reassuringly into those sagging magenta eyes.

Rainbow turned her head and managed another small smile. She leaned forward so her saddlebag wasn’t squashed against the couch, and reached with a wing towards one of the pockets. As her the wingtip reached the pocket flap, she paused before sighing and flopping back against the couch. “Nothing. Guess I’ve just been a little worn out from my weather duties. Nothing that’ll keep me down, of course.”

“Oh, I see.” Fluttershy said, her eyes drifting towards the saddlepack, noticing that the pockets seemed empty. “Well, how has your job been lately? Keeping you busy?”

Rainbow yawned and stretched out her wings. “Brutal. We have rain showers scheduled all week starting tomorrow. There’s a huge shipment of clouds coming from Cloudsdale in the morning, so we all have to be up at dawn to get them. I should really be in bed right now, but you know how hard it can be for me to get asleep with all the energy I have.” She grinned sheepishly. “Still, Spitfire is going to be there to help with the delivery! It’s going to be awesome!”

“Wow, that’s great, Rainbow!” Fluttershy said before cocking her head. “Wait, Spitfire? Why is she going to be there?”

“Spitfire works part-time for the Equestria Weather Squad in Cloudsdale during the offseason.” Rainbow placed her forehooves behind her head and propped her legs up on the side of the couch, breaking her gaze with Fluttershy and staring straight ahead at the wall. “I’ve met her a bunch of times in my years as weather head. No big deal.”

“Oh, that’s really neat. Knowing your idol personally must make you really happy.”

Rainbow continued to stare into space. She didn’t reply for several long moments.

“Well, I don’t know her that personally. Usually we don’t have much time to talk when we see each other. It would be cool, though.”

Fluttershy noticed a twinkle in Rainbow’s eyes as she nodded. “I guess that makes sense, with you two being so busy with weather duties and all.”

“Yeah.” Rainbow sighed, her head drooping and her mane concealing one side of her face. “Sorry about that, Fluttershy.”

“What? What are you sorry for?”

“For being so busy with work. I know we haven’t had the chance to hang out together much lately.”

Fluttershy smiled. “Oh Rainbow, you don’t have to apologize. I’ve been just as busy. If you’re going to apologize, then I should too.”

“Yeah, but...” Rainbow bit her lip. “I feel like it’s my fault somehow.”

“But why? You’re not the one who decided I would become a vet and take on all these appointments.”

The silence stretched on as Rainbow continued to stare at the wall, the stillness broken only by Angel’s delicate snoring.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Sorry. Forget I said anything.” She shook her head. “And sorry I kinda jumped on you earlier. I don’t know what I was thinking there. It’s probably just stress.”

Fluttershy chuckled. “I know what you mean. Earlier today, I actually yelled at a pony for accusing me of giving her dog the wrong medicine on purpose.”

“What? Fluttershy yelled at somepony?” Rainbow gasped as a wide grin split her face.

“Well, I tried to be calm, but she accused me of not caring about animals, and I... kinda lost it.”

A laugh of pure glee escaped Rainbow. “Wow, I wish I could’ve been there for that! I still can’t believe it. Flutter-rage!”

“Hehe, well I wouldn’t call it that...” Fluttershy muttered.

The two continued to sit in content silence. After several minutes, Rainbow spoke again.

“So, Fluttershy, have any plans for the next couple weeks?”

Fluttershy frowned. “Well, I am pretty busy with appointments this week, but I think Rarity and I are going to the spa on Thursday, when I finally get a day off. I’m really sorry, but I don’t really have any other free time besides that for a while.”

“Oh.” The hopeful grin faded from Rainbow’s face.

“I mean, I could try to find some time for lunch this week, if you really wanted—”

Rainbow lifted her head and gave Fluttershy a reassuring smile. “I’ll try to make it.”

Fluttershy gasped. “Y-you will? But Rainbow, you hate the spa! You don’t have to go if you don’t want to!”

“I want to, though.” Rainbow’s smile widened, eyes shining with an unfamiliar softness.

“Well, if you really want to... but why?”

Rainbow chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. If I can grab somepony to cover my shift for a couple hours, I’ll be there.”

Fluttershy managed a smile. “I really hope so. But you’re the head weather pony. Can any other pony really take your spot?”

Rainbow nodded. “There are some other pegasi who can take over for a bit.” She yawned and stretched out her wings before hovering off the couch. “Well, I’m beat, so I’m going to take off. Thanks, Fluttershy. It was cool seeing you again.”

Fluttershy stood up and trotted to the door with Rainbow. “Of course, you too. I hope you can make it to the spa.” She fell silent as she bit her lip, her smile fading as her eyes drifted towards the ground. “Oh—Rainbow?”

Rainbow stopped with a hoof on the doorknob. “Yeah?”

“Um—I kinda know why I became a vet now. In a way I can say, if you still want to know, I mean.”

Rainbow beat her wings more and more slowly, and she dropped to the ground, a glazed expression darkening her complexion. She turned and glanced around the room, eyes stopping on the shelves and drawers of vet equipment that took up an entire wall of the cottage.

“No, I don’t think I want to know anymore. It was a stupid question. Forget I even asked.”

She turned to open the door and hovered into the air once more.

“Wait!” Fluttershy lifted her head and stared at her friend.

Rainbow was halfway out the door when she turned to face Fluttershy once more. “Come on, Fluttershy, what’s the holdup? I told you, I’m tired.”

Fluttershy didn’t back down from Rainbow’s glance of annoyance.

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

Rainbow jerked her head to face out the door. “Nothing’s wrong, Fluttershy! Seriously.”

Fluttershy sighed. “Rainbow... talk to me. I’m your friend, remember? You can talk to me about anything.”

Rainbow instantly dropped to the floor and stomped a hoof down, whipping her head around again. “Fluttershy. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you at the spa, okay?”

Before Fluttershy could get another word in, Rainbow slammed the door. Fluttershy immediately yanked it open and stepped out, eyes darting around the moonlit night, but her friend had already disappeared into the sky.

Sighing, she dragged herself back inside, her head hung so low that her pink hair brushed against the floor. She closed the door and fell down on her haunches as she surveyed the room once more.

No bird houses hung from the ceiling. No mice or squirrels darted about, trying to sneak into the pantry or tugging on Fluttershy’s mane for attention. There was only Angel Bunny, fast asleep in his little basket next to the fridge, which contained not only fruits and vegetables, but medicines to treat any ailment that might be bothering one of her furry patients. The table where she’d hosted tea with friends over the years had been shoved into the closet, brought out only when she could find a spare moment to use it.

“Why did you become a vet, Fluttershy?”

In the time that had passed, Fluttershy had grown used to the silence that accompanied the night since she had moved her animals into the back garden. No skittering of claws in the middle of the night, no waking up to the clattering of a bowl being knocked out of a cupboard downstairs. She had tried to let them visit her after hours at one point, but tidying up for the following morning proved to be too much of a chore after the long day.

Now, a deafening silence consumed the cottage as more thoughts crept into Fluttershy’s head.

“You heard me. Why did you become a vet? Wasn’t life good enough for you? Why did you decide to put that extra stress on yourself?”

Fluttershy let out a long, hopeless sigh as she was crushed under a weight whose origins she couldn’t quite pinpoint. She continued to gaze around the room, which suddenly appeared completely foreign to her.

I mean, I do know why I became a vet, kind of.

Her mind flickered back to just a few minutes ago, when Rainbow Dash had towered over her, glaring down at her as she posed such a simple question. Yet she had spoken with such firmness, such desperation, as if the question had been clawing at her for days.

“No, I don’t think I want to know anymore.”

Fluttershy sighed again.

I think I know why you didn’t want me to answer that question, Rainbow Dash.

-----------------------

Rainbow Dash lay on a puffy cumulus that drifted lazily high above Ponyville, the silver moonlight giving the cloud an eerie, ethereal appearance in the night. It had to be nearly midnight; she would have to wake up at the crack of dawn with nothing approaching a full night’s rest. Yet the swirling, pulsing sensation in her head made sleep impossible. She closed her eyes in an attempt to clear her mind and reach a state of contentment.

No use.

Shifting about on her haunches, she glanced back down at Fluttershy’s cottage, where the lights had gone out.

She returned her gaze towards the horizon, where Sweet Apple Acres stretched off into the distance, the farm having expanded its fields even further in recent years. The farmhouse was just a small, dark blob in the distance.

Twilight’s towering oak library stood near the center of town, no lights illuminating the windows. Of course. She had to get up even earlier nowadays for her job at City Hall.

Rainbow couldn’t even pick out Sugarcube Corner or Carousel Boutique in the mass of moonlit buildings beneath her. The lights had finally gone out in the city below as the call for sleep had become too much to overcome.

Geez. I really made a fool of myself back there. What was I trying to accomplish?

She sighed, letting her entire body sprawl out on the cloud as she stared into the night.

Don’t kid yourself, Rainbow Dash. You know exactly why you went there.

Rainbow glanced back at her saddlepack, where the letter remained untouched in one of the pockets.

“Tell me what’s wrong.” Fluttershy’s imposing gaze still burned brightly in her eyes.

“Nothing’s wrong,” she muttered.

“Rainbow... talk to me. I’m your friend, remember? You can talk to me about anything.”

“No. I’m not going to do that to you.”

Her eyes closed as the encounter flickered in her head again: Fluttershy, overjoyed at Rainbow’s unexpected visit, but more importantly, her determination to help Rainbow feel better when it became apparent something was clawing at her. Not just determination, but assertiveness. If Rainbow had stayed any longer, Fluttershy likely would’ve barricaded her in the house until she accepted the yellow mare’s help.

Help that she just couldn’t accept, no matter how desperately her heart cried out for it.

I’m not going to make anypony worry about me. This is my problem.

I’m your friend, remember?“

I know!Her scream echoed into the night. Every fiber in her body burned as she fought the urge to pound a hoof right through the cloud. “Shut up, Fluttershy! Stop worrying about me so much!” Rainbow rolled over onto her back and flared her wings out as she stared into the sapphire abyss that stretched out above her, dotted with twinkling, shimmering stars. She closed her eyes, attempting to shut out the countless thoughts surging into her mind, like water gushing against a closed dam.

I never should have talked to you. I just made things worse. Now you know something is wrong. But I’ll never tell. Because what happens if you need me, and I’m not there? I mean, I guess our other friends could help you...but I still wouldn’t be able to. What if it’s a problem only I could help you solve? I would be stuck up in Cloudsdale while you struggled on your own.

“I can’t do it.” The words were spoken so softly, Rainbow was unsure if she had even said them at all. “I can’t do it.”

“I’m not going to do it.”

She continued to lie on the cloud for several more minutes, silver moonlight cascading off her mane as it blew lightly in the wind. Eventually, she rolled over so she was facing the cumulus and reached in her saddlepack. She pulled out the letter, clutching it tightly in her hooves.

Under the moonlight, she was just able to make out the words that she had pored over so often she could nearly recite them by memory.

“Your duties would be challenging, yet fulfilling.”

She sighed.

A powerful gust of wind nearly caused the letter to blast out of her hooves, the corners of the page flapping violently in her grasp.

It would be so easy to loosen her grip ever so slightly and let the letter disappear into the night, with no hope of ever finding it again, blown off into the farthest reaches of Equestria where it would eventually decompose into nothing. But she still wouldn’t be able to erase it from memory.

The question that she had forced upon Fluttershy echoed in her head once more.

Why did you become a vet?”

At that moment, she desperately wished that Fluttershy would’ve turned the question right on its head.

Why did you start taking your weather duties so seriously?

The wind continued to howl, the eerie, dark sound pulsing in her ears.

“I don’t know,” she muttered.

Yes, you do. Don’t kid yourself. Nothing in life happens on accident. You realized that making a team takes work, not lounging around on clouds all day. Rewards don’t just fall from the sky.

I mean, you’re happy with what you do, right? Why do you want to stop now? Is this really the time to give up? After all these years?

Are you really, though? Are you really happy?

Rainbow fought the wind and shoved the letter back into the pocket before beating her wings and lifting into the air. As she hovered, she glanced back and searched for her friends’ dwellings once more; she was only met with darkness.

Even if another friend were up at this hour, though, what would she do? Go down and make a fool of herself again? Talk about nothing and pretend everything was all right?

She tore her gaze away from the ground and flew the short distance back to her cloud home. A firefly lamp still illuminated her room as she landed and folded her wings in, panting slightly as her chest rose and fell with each heavy breath. Rainbow slipped the saddlepack off her back with her mouth, letting it dangle from her teeth. She stood there for several moments in silence before lashing her head around in a burst of fury and hurling the saddlepack against the wall, hitting with a satisfying whump and tumbling to the ground. With a snort, she trotted over, yanked the letter out of the pocket and shoved it in the nightstand drawer before collapsing on her bed.

Stop worrying about it, Rainbow. There’s still time. But how much time?

Rainbow closed her eyes.

Don’t do this to yourself. Tell your friends.

No. I’m not going to do that to them. They have enough to worry about these days.

She rolled over and stuffed a pillow over her head, plunging her view into darkness. She attempted to relax and stop the endless pounding in her mind, like a blaring record player she couldn’t shut off.

It was no use. She might as well have been attempting to fall asleep during a Pinkie Pie party. A Pinkie Pie party that she hadn’t attended in weeks.

Rainbow sat up with a jerk, whipping the pillow at the floor as she faced the opposite end of the room, where her desk sat under a window. She lifted herself out of bed and dragged herself over towards her desk. Several weather books were stacked against the wall next to a pot of ink. A sheet of parchment lay centered next to a gold-tipped quill. For an instant, she felt as if she were standing in Twilight’s library.

“Heh... stupid Twilight...” Rainbow muttered to herself.

You could help me with this problem. You can fix any problem. You’d ask me for a list of variables, or whatever you call them, and spit out an answer. If only I could tell you.

Something snapped inside Rainbow Dash. She let out a hopeless scream that rattled the very walls as she bucked up on her hindlegs, before driving her forehoofs into the ground with such force that her bookshelf wobbled and threatened to tumble over for an instant. “But what pony can I tell?”

At that moment, a familiar phrase rang in her head. One that had she had heard spoken, either by herself or from her friends, so many times, that the words had nearly lost all meaning.

“Dear Princess Celestia.”

The tip of the quill seemed to flash in front of her as the light cascaded down from the firefly lamp.

No. I couldn’t.

She gulped and took a shaky step closer to the inviting setup the desk presented. You can let it all out, Rainbow Dash, the quill seemed to say.

But... it’s Princess Celestia! She’s not going to give two flying feathers about a pitiful pegasus like me!

Her entire body quivered and her legs wobbled as she took another step. The sheet of parchment, begging to be written on, lay directly below her now.

It’s one thing to write the Princess a friendship letter.

Rainbow lowered her head and picked up the quill in her mouth.

It’s another thing to ask her for help.

She hadn’t seen with Princess in quite some time, but at that moment, her bright, sunny face, her reassuring smile, her soft, soothing voice all flashed brightly in Rainbow’s mind. She took a deep breath, dipped the quill in ink, and began.

Dear Princess Celestia,

The quill twitched in her teeth as she wrote the words that any other pony would likely consider taboo. With a gulp, she made a motion to continue writing. She set the quill back on the page, racking her brain in an attempt to pull out one of her constant blurring thoughts and put it into words.

It was a fruitless effort. She might as well have been trying to pick a fish out of a raging river with her bare hooves.

A hopeless sigh escaped her as she dropped the quill down next to the solitary sentence she had written.

Then, somehow a smile crept across her face. She felt the raging battle inside subside into nothing.

This doesn’t have to be written now. There’s still time. Tomorrow. Everything will be fine.

As her restlessness faded, the weight of the hour came crashing down, and Rainbow let out a long, heavy yawn. She struggled to keep her eyelids open as she trudged back over to her bed and slipped underneath the warm, inviting covers.

You’ll make the right decision.