• Published 4th Jun 2012
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Rainbooms and Royalty - Trinary



Alternate Universe: Filly Rainbow Dash has just performed her Sonic Rainboom when she gets a visitor

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Rainbow in the Night

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Blissfully unaware of what had transpired in the library, the party continued on. Rainbow Dash returned to finish her story to the foals albeit with much less enthusiasm and energy than she had when she started it. Afterwards she just sort of floated through the party, not staying still long enough for anypony to approach her.

She watched all the smiling, happy faces as they laughed and played. Pinkie Pie was whooping it up with a white unicorn with an electric blue mane (who looked a lot like Shining Armor, Rainbow Dash mused) wearing giant purple glasses as she operated the record player, blasting loud party music all over town. She had been elated when a party was thrown for the two royals.

“So we have TWO princesses now?” Pinkie had said, delight in her eyes. “That means two—TWO—times the fun! The fun has been doubled!”

Shining Armor was holding a cup of punch and trying desperately hard not to laugh as he watched Twilight trying to get into the spirit of things by dancing. And by dancing, Rainbow Dash meant spastically jerking this way and that, shaking her rump with her tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth that more closely resembled a seizure than anything recognizable as dancing.

Applejack was with her family serving up piping hot apple delicacies like pies and fritters. The extended Apple Family was milling about and playing fiddles and performing hoe-downs alongside techno-beat pony musicians. Rarity, dressed to perfection, floated through the crowd like the social butterfly that she was. Fluttershy was content to keep to herself, away from the thronging crowds and quietly sip at her punch.

Dash wanted to go over and talk to one of them, or all of them…but held back. As badly as she wanted to offload her worries, she didn’t want to ruin the great time they were having. It wouldn’t be fair. Instead, she sighed and slowly flew off to be by herself. But her departure wasn’t entirely unnoticed as she was tracked by a pair of golden, somewhat off-kilter, eyes.

It was late afternoon and the shadows were stretching themselves out when Rainbow Dash was discovered. She had spent the last few hours sitting on a hill overlooking Ponyville, hugging her legs close to her chest.

So focused on nothing, she failed to notice when company arrived behind her. A soft throat clearing alerted her to their presence. “Rainbow Dash?” The soft voice made Dash’s ear twitch in acknowledgement.

“Eh?” Rainbow twisted her head around. “What do—YOU?!” Her voice became a shout of anger as she saw who was standing behind her. It was Princess Luna. Once known as Nightmare Moon. The young pegasus snorted, pawing at the ground and readying herself for an attack.

The princess of the night lowered her head, flinching away like a frightened foal. “Rainbow Miriam Dash!” Where the presence of an alicorn princess and the one-time Nightmare Moon failed to intimidate Rainbow Dash, the sound of her full name, with THAT inflection, by THAT voice made her tremble.

“Ditzy Doo!” Rainbow couldn’t keep a whine from her voice. “Enough with the middle name already. And what’re you doing here? With HER?” She jerked her head at Luna.

Ditzy gave Rainbow a certified look, that seemed all the more magnified for being focused out of only one eye. “I thought that you two should sit down and talk. From the looks of it, I think you need some company.”

“But Ditzy…” She lowered her voice. “She was Nightmare Moon! She’s the one who took you away from Dinky and turned you into a Shadowbolt! How can you even trust her?”

“I know.” The gray pegasus said gently. “But you said it yourself: she WAS Nightmare Moon. She’s not that pony anymore.” She rested her hoof across Dash’s back. “She was so sad and lonely during the party…Dinky went up to her and gave her a hug.” Ditzy beamed. “Dinky is a great judge of character. If she likes Princess Luna, then she must be a nice pony!” She smiled a touch goofily, her argument foolproof. “And she apologized for the whole night lasting forever thing and she even gave me a muffin! So I forgave her!”

Rainbow Dash bonked her head with her hoof. “Ooof course you did.”

Ditzy nudged her. “Come on, give her a chance. I can tell you need to talk to somepony.”

“A huh. And how do you know I need to talk to HER if you don’t know what’s bothering me?” The younger mare rolled her eyes as Ditzy just grinned at her. “Wait, don’t tell me: because you’re a mom.”

“That’s right!” Ditzy grinned. “Now go on…be nice.” She nudged her towards Luna. “Do it!”

Rainbow Dash grumbled as she let herself be pushed towards the reticent princess. “So…hi.” She grunted, keeping an eye on Ditzy Doo as she backed away, leaving the two of them be.

“W-well met, Rainbow Dash.” Luna stammered, half turning her head away in a very Fluttershy-like gesture. “We cannot thank thee enough for saving us from our wicked half…and apologize for all the trouble we caused.”

“We?” Rainbow looked at her funnily. “What, do you have a tapeworm or something?”

Luna shifted. “It is tradition to use the royal we when speaking to our subjects.” She paused. “Has Celestia never spoken to you thusly?”

“No. She doesn’t use any thees, thys or thous either.” Of all the things Rainbow Dash expected to happen, having a grammar lesson with the former Nightmare Moon was not one of them…especially since she was the one GIVING the lesson.

Luna shrank in on herself. “Oh. We, um I, suppose that much has changed in the last millennium.”

“Guess so.” Rainbow said guardedly.

“I—suppose the Royal Canterlot Voice is no longer considered proper?” Luna asked.

Rainbow looked at her. “The what now?”

“THE ROYAL CANTERLOT VOICE!” Luna bellowed. Rainbow Dash felt her hair shift to one side. “IT IS THE TRADITIONAL VOICE USED IN ORDER TO…” She stopped when she saw Dash’s lips being pulled back from the sheer force of her voice. “…too much?”

Nodding numbly Rainbow had a strange moment in which she imagined one of the Princesses in the old days shouting for more toilet paper in the royal Canterlot voice. Then she imagined using it in the bedroom when…she forced her brain into shutdown mid-thought, pushing that thought to the back of her mind, digging a hole, burying it, constructing a house to hide the hole and then throwing the loudest party imaginable in the house in order to obscure any possibility of said thought resurfacing.

Shaking her head, Rainbow Dash decided to back the conversation up a bit. “So, you’re sorry?” Luna nodded quickly, almost pathetically eager to express her apology. It just made the pegasus’ face harden. “Sorry for what exactly? Threatening to plunge Equestria into everlasting night, toying with my emotions, turning my friends into your puppets, attempting to kill my other friends or just sorry in general?”

Luna swallowed, dipping her head. “For everything, though I know words can never mend what I have done. If it is of any consolation, I will be carrying the guilt and scars of my actions far longer than you will. Even so, you have every right to be angry with me.”

“No argument here.” Dash grumbled. “You and Celestia really are sisters: you even apologize the same way.”

The alicorn blinked. “Celestia…apologized to you? What for?”

“What for?!” Dash looked at her like she was crazy. “For tossing all this junk on my back, for not telling me ANYTHING about this earlier…hay, you said it yourself—sorry, NIGHTMARE MOON said it—she used me like a weapon because she didn’t have the guts to.”

Luna gaped at her. “You are aware that everything she said—I said—was meant to hurt you? What I said was an amalgamation of half-truths, innuendos, suppositions and bald-faced lies about my sister designed to keep you off balance. How could you take any of it seriously?”

“Because Celestia confirmed it herself!” Rainbow’s wings flared up. “She told me so! She knew from the moment she met me that I would be the one to stop Nightmare Moon and never said a word! Hay, she even said she didn't want to tell me because she thought I'd freak out or snap under the pressure and abandon her. I would never!” She huffed angrily.

A sad sigh was Luna’s response. “Oh Celly…” She shook her head. “Always thinking she knows what’s best for everypony.”

“I know right?” Rainbow Dash was so desirous of somepony to understand and agree with her that she forgot that a scant few hours before she was prepared to beat the alicorn next to her to a pulp.

“You want to know the worst part?” Luna asked in a hushed voice. Rainbow nodded eagerly. Slowly, the dark alicorn leaned over and whispered in her companion’s ear. “The worst part is…she’s usually right.”

Rainbow’s jaw dropped. “B-but, you—I—BWAH?”

A small rueful smile crossed Luna’s face. “I see that even after a thousand years Celestia is still Celestia. It’s hard to remember that she’s lived a long time, has a lot of experience, seen things no other pony has. It gives her a perspective few ponies can match. It has also given her time to mask what she’s thinking and feeling most of the time, giving her the appearance that nothing phases her; making everything she does look so effortless, so perfect.” Luna sighed. “It may be of considerable comfort to most ponies who look to her for strength and stability, but it can be really irritating when exposed to on a daily basis.”

That prompted a chuckle from Rainbow Dash before she could stop herself. “Heh, amen.”

Luna smiled. “While Nightmare Moon was just trying to ensnare you and lure you to her side, I think there was some truth when she said you and I had much in common.” She waited to ensure she had Rainbow’s full attention. “We both deeply love my sister, but we also feel the need to establish ourselves out from under her shadow.”

Dash nodded. “Celestia’s so graceful and elegant and smart…and I have to work so hard to get better. She makes everything seem so effortless and easy, it’s almost as if she’s taunting how hard we work to improve ourselves, knowing we can never catch her.” She sighed. “But she isn’t. It’s all in our heads.”

“I wish I had realized that.” Luna sighed. “It might have saved me a thousand years of loneliness.” She sat back, getting comfortable. “It doesn’t help that she isn’t used to explaining herself to other ponies, giving the impression that she is aloof and distant. She tends to keep her own counsel. The only pony she ever really confided in was…” Luna hesitated for a second. “…me.”

Curious and intrigued, Rainbow Dash found herself looking at Luna in a new light. “I do not know everything that transpired between the two of you, but I can offer some of my perspectives on Celestia, should you care to listen.”

“Um, okay.” Rainbow was still mad at Celestia and part of her *wanted* to stay mad. But another part of her wanted to hear more about her mentor and what made her tick. “It’s, uh, a little weird you saying that Celestia is usually right. I mean what with…” She gestured awkwardly.

“You would be referring to my thousand year banishment or do you mean her inability to prevent my…fall, in the first place?” Luna queried.

Dash shrugged. “Little of column A, little of column B…”

“Fair enough.” She conceded. “Celestia is two of the most terrible things in the world: a ruler and a big sister.” Luna shivered demonstratively and it wasn’t entirely forced. “Either one of which can give a pony the notion that they are a goddess, all-knowing and infallible. It is to Celestia’s considerable credit that she has not let those two positions go to her head. Otherwise she would be completely unbearable.” She rolled her eyes and mumbled something under her breath. Rainbow Dash shook her head…Luna couldn’t have just uttered the words “alfalfa monster” right? She must’ve misheard her. Clearly.

Rainbow Dash cleared her throat. “Okay, so anyway...about Celestia?”

“Hm? Oh yes, right.” Luna shook her head, bringing herself back to the here and now. “You have to remember that as much as Celestia cares for you or I, at the end of the day she is responsible for the well being of all of Equestria. She is often called upon to make tough choices, ones that often pain her far more than you would expect.” Luna closed her eyes. “My…descent into anger and madness hurt her deeply, just as her actions hurt you. A wise pony once said that there can be no great pain without great love. And Celestia was hurt twice: first by my fall and secondly by her decision to banish me.” She looked at Rainbow Dash. “With the presence of Nightmare Moon gone I can say that Celestia made the right decision…however much it hurt me.”

Dash was surprised. “How can you say that?”

“Because the fate of Equestria was at stake.” Luna replied. “No matter how much it hurt her, she had to put Equestria ahead of her own wants and ahead of our sisterhood. Blood may be thicker than water, but right and wrong is thicker than blood.” She shifted, getting comfortable. “Celestia was in an impossible position, one that I think you can relate to: her loyalties threatened to divide her in twain. Her loyalty to me on one hoof…and to Equestria on the other. Being put in that decision, being made to make that sort of choice…it would destroy a lesser pony.” Luna shut her eyes. “Which is why Nightmare Moon attempted to put you in just such a place, back at the castle.”

Rainbow Dash flinched, giving the princess the old stinkeye. “I noticed.” She bit off sharply.

Luna opened her eyes and winced slightly before hurrying on. “I am merely attempting to illustrate the depths of my sister’s dilemma. Or rather, dilemmas, past and present. She had to choose between the fate of a single pony, one she cared deeply for, and the fate of all of Equestria.”

“You—Nightmare Moon, I mean—did put me in a position to choose between my wants and Equestria and then again between which of my friends to save.” She narrowed her eyes. “You’ll notice that I didn’t choose to sacrifice any of them.”

“Then you were fortunate.” Luna rumbled. “Sometimes, making sacrifices is unavoidable.”

Rainbow Dash set her face. “I will NEVER sacrifice my friends!”

“Even if Equestria hung in the balance?”

The pegasus stomped her hoof. “I’d find a way to save them both!”

Luna sighed, half-weary and half-heartened by the pegasus’ fervor. “You are young. You don’t understand. Sometimes the needs of the few must be sacrificed to safeguard the needs of the many.”

“Don’t go bringing my age into this.” Rainbow tossed her head. “If you’re trying to say that just because I’m young that I don’t know what I’m talking about, what does it say about you—the second oldest pony in Equestria—and you made the worst mistake anypony could ever make?” She snorted. “So much for wisdom equaling age.”

Luna was a bit taken aback at that, both her fervor and her free tongue. “Watch yourself.” The princess warned. “You are not MY student and as grateful as I am to you, I will not tolerate your rudeness as easily as my sister.”

Dash flinched, but rallied. “Then don’t be rude to me and try to brush off what I’m saying as just the words of a little filly who doesn't know any better.” She huffed before taking a breath to cool off a bit. “You think I never heard that whole, ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ thing before? Yeah, I have.” She flexed her wings. “One of the things Celestia taught me was about ethics and morality and stuff. Had me read a lot…most of it was just plain confusing.” Luna nodded, showing that she was listening. “But here’s my take: the thing about sacrificing the few for the sake of the many is that if you keep it up for too long, the many become the few, then the one…and then none.” She looked up firmly at the ancient alicorn sitting next to her. “I’m not saying that sacrifices aren’t necessary sometimes and if my friends or Equestria need me, I’ll be right there in front ready to sign up for anything. But making sacrifices of ponies without their consent? Without their knowledge? That’s where I draw the line.”

The princess gave a soft smile. “It’s been a long time since somepony sat down to argue ethics with a princess.”

“Hey, I’m no philosopher!” Rainbow stuck out her tongue. “Way too lame. It’s just, I dunno, common sense? I mean, if you want somepony to do something, shouldn’t you tell them? If Celestia had come up to me and said: ‘There’s this freaky evil mare trapped in the moon and I need you to stop her’ I would’ve said yes!”

Luna looked at her sideways. “Would you?”

Rainbow Dash had the presence of mind to look sheepish. “Well, I might suggest that she lay off the hard cider first, but I would’ve said yes! I would do anything Celestia wanted me to—so long as it didn’t involve boring parties or frilly dresses. But if it was important, I’d always be there for her.” She amended. “I owe her so much…” Dash sighed, furling her wings back to her sides again. “I trusted her and she…she didn’t trust me. She had to go behind my back because she didn’t think she could count on me.” The raw hurt in her voice was enough to make even the normally reserved Princess Luna want to simply wrap the young mare up in a hug.

“If it is of any consolation, I think you can blame me for my sister keeping things to herself.” She said, giving Rainbow Dash an encouraging smile. “Celestia and I were always very close, as you might expect. Perhaps it was that closeness that kept her from seeing what I was becoming.” A frown crossed her face. “My anger and bitterness became like an addiction: I enjoyed the sensation of being angry. You don’t know how alluring it is to be mad. It is invigorating, to be so sure that you are right and everypony else is wrong. It makes you feel big, like you can let all your inner restrictions and inhibitions go and do whatever you wish. I was literally drunk on my anger.” She shook her head. “But Celestia’s trust in me was so absolute that she refused to see what I was becoming, right under her very nose, until it was too late.”

Rainbow Dash didn’t follow and said as much. “So…” she prodded. “What’s that got to do with her and me?”

“This is just guess work, but I believe that my—turn—made it hard for Celestia to trust as fully and completely as she once did.” Luna explained. “I think that she felt that she could not take a risk in telling you what was in store for you, even if she was totally convinced in your readiness to serve. Celestia might have known that Rainbow Dash would never let her or Equestria down, but PRINCESS Celestia, ruler of Equestria, could not take a chance that you might say no or be resentful of the task laid down for you—not with all of Equestria hanging in the balance. After all,” she mused wryly, with a small trace of bitterness. “If her sister could become a creature of nightmares, then how could she take a chance, however slim, that you might be up to task of stopping Nightmare Moon?”

“So, you’re saying Celestia didn’t trust me enough because she trusted you too much a thousand years ago?” Dash raised her eyebrow skeptically.

“That’s a touch simplistic…but yes.” Luna confirmed.

Rainbow sighed. “Basically, you’re telling me I should forgive her, right?”

But the princess surprised her. “No.” The pegasus spun her head around so fast that she almost gave herself whiplash. “I am not saying that I agree or disagree with what my sister did regarding you nor can I determine whether or not your anger with Celestia is justified. I do not know enough to render such a judgment.” She added. “It is, in any event, not my place. I merely offered to give you some insight into what might have been behind some of Celestia’s actions. The only thing I know for certain is that my sister cares for you very deeply and that my return will not change that. I am not your replacement, nor your rival.”

“Okay.” Shifting slightly, Rainbow Dash bit her lip. “C-can we talk about something else now?” Her voice cracked slightly.

“Alright.” Luna agreed. She paused for a moment in thought. “Does Tia—sorry, Celestia—still enjoy her practical jokes?”

Dash snorted. “Are you kidding? She’s like the Queen of Pranks!”

Luna pouted. “I’ll have you know that used to be my title—not for a want of trying on my sister’s part. What’s she done?”

“Well, this one time at the reception for a griffon ambassador…” As the stars came out, the two ponies swapped stories of Celestia and her idiosyncrasies, giggling to themselves as they found out things about Celestia that neither had known before tonight as well as retelling a few of their own favorite stories about her.

“She fell for the whoopee cushion on the throne trick?” Luna laughed. “Again?”

Rainbow hugged her sides. “Yeah! I didn’t even know you had whoopee cushions a thousand years ago!”

“We made do.” Luna said with a touch of pride. “I think she was just grateful that it WAS a whoopee cushion…that time. She never did know when to turn down a mushroom and bean salad.”

“You mean—?” Rainbow tried to bite down on a giggle. “Pfff-bwahaha!” She flopped on her back and kicked her legs. Luna joined her in lying down on the grass, looking up at the night.

When Dash’s giggles had finally subsided she turned her head to look at Luna. “Heh, you’re alright, you know that?”

Luna turned her head away, suddenly embarrassed. “Thank you. I must confess that I find your forgiveness of me to be very sudden. I am not sure I have done anything to warrant it.”

“You haven’t.” Dash pointed out with her typical bluntness, causing Luna to blink owlishly. “Ditzy and my friends…well, I guess they’re a bit more free with forgiveness and friendship than I am. As for me? I think that unless you work for it and prove you deserve it, forgiveness is meaningless. So, no, I haven’t completely forgiven you. Yet.” She added with a small wry face. “But keep doing what you’re doing and you know, NOT be Nightmare Moon for a bit and we’ll be cool.”

Nodding, Luna agreed. “Your terms sound most agreeable. I accept.”

“Cool.” Rainbow Dash looked back up at the night sky. There was another silence that fell between them. “Say Princess?”

“Yes Rainbow Dash?”

“I—I don’t know if anypony’s told you this lately but the sky at night, with the moon and stuff? It’s really cool.” The cyan pegasus mumbled awkwardly. “I like flying at night.”

Luna sniffled, hastily wiping a tear from her eye. “T-thank you Rainbow Dash. That was…most kind of you to say.” A smile spread across her face. “Please…call me Luna. And might I add that your flying was truly remarkable.” She added. “The best I’ve ever seen.”

“Heh. Thanks.” Rainbow smiled.

The two ponies, one ancient and withdrawn, the other young and brash turned back to watch the stars.

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