• Published 15th Jun 2012
  • 16,009 Views, 205 Comments

Windfall - Warren Hutch



Timeskip foalbirth friends gathering to celebrate

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Chapter 3

A pair of pegasi lounged on a terrace outside the VIP suite at Madison Mare Gardens, looking down at the busy street in front of the stadium's main gates. Down below, a cyan pegasus mare with a multicolored mane and tail stood with folded wings amongst a throng of colts and fillies, looking for all the world like a swan swimming in a lake of swirling manes, tails, stubby horns, and small fluttering wings. She was dressed in a sweat stained, form fitting blue and yellow bodysuit with jagged lightning motifs, the signature uniform of the celebrated Wonderbolts Stunt Flying team.

Shootin' Star popped a grape from a nearby fruit tray into his mouth and cast a scathing glance at the spectacle below. "Just lookit' that show boatin' glory hog down thar." He muttered, his Appleloosan drawl more pronounced than usual. "She just cain't git enough, can she?"

The lean, blaze yellow mare reclining on a deck chair next to him shook her head, ruffling her fiery orange mane, and chuckled, fixing the younger stallion with a wry gaze accentuated by deepening lines in her face . "I think you need to consider a couple things when it comes to Rainbow Dash, rookie."

The stallion shook out his dusky purple wings and returned the older pegasus' gaze, rising to the challenge with his ears laid back to either side of his stark white mane. "Oh yeah, like whut, Miz Spitfire?"

She shook her head slowly, and turned her attention back down to the milling, multicolored crowd clustered around the bright rainbow nucleus below. "Well, for starters it's been what... an hour and a half, two hours since the show wrapped up? The rest of us have gotten back to the locker rooms, showered, had a brush down, hit the buffet..." She glanced down the length of the terrace at a slightly paunchy, sky blue stallion who was devouring a stack of pies at one of the umbrella shaded tables and rolled her eyes. "... a couple times in Soarin's case, and have been sitting out here enjoying the cool night breeze and a fine selection of fruits and sparkling spring water. Meanwhile, our gal Dash down there's still suited up and has been workin' that crowd of kids since her hooves hit the ground."

She turned back to look at him with a knowing smile. "I know you're jealous of all the attention she gets as our solo headliner. She spent plenty o' years flyin' formations like the rest of us, y'know. She worked her tail off and then some to get her place at the front of the stage."

The rookie Wonderbolt sighed and nodded, his defiance softening a bit. "Aw shoot, I know it. And even I gotta admit the fans love her."

Spitfire grinned and looked back down at the bustle below. "Sure, but the real secret, my young bucking bronco, is that that mare is absolutely head over hooves in love right back at the fans. She'd rather pull out her own pinfeathers than send a single one of those kids home disappointed if she can help it."

The older mare sighed as she watched Rainbow Dash work the crowd. "Which is why I gotta sit here watching you slobs decimate the catering instead of going back to the hotel for a shot at that nice soft bed. I'm gonna give her fifteen more minutes before I have to pull rank and drag her tail outta there."

Spitfire's sharp pegasus eyes narrowed as a small green flash popped over Rainbow Dash's head, coalescing into a glowing roll of parchment that unfurled in front of the rainbow maned pegasus. The blazing yellow mare pursed her lips. "That's a new one. Guess some unicorn really wants her autograph..."

She cocked her head as Dash reached up and grasped the parchment in her hooves, her cyan wings flaring. Her brow furrowed as she intently watched the colorful pegasus dust off from the middle of the crowd of fillies and colts and hover above them, reading and re-reading whatever it said on the sparkling roll of paper. Spitfire got to her hooves and craned her neck over the railing as down below her teammate cast wildly about and darted for a nearby concession stand, gesticulating her hooves and wings wildly to the heavyset earth pony who was busily stowing his stock of Wonderbolts memorabilia and closing up shop.

The veteran stunt flyer turned to Shootin' Star with a concerned look on her face. "Somethin's up. You boys stay here and guard the buffet."

With that she launched over the rail and fluttered down toward the streets below.

The blaze yellow mare touched down next to Rainbow Dash to find her shoving something soft and lumpy down the front collar of her body suit, muttering to herself all the while. "OhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygosh"

Spitfire cleared her throat and leaned in to establish eye contact. "Uh, somethin' goin' on that I should know about, Rainbow Dash?"

Dash started and turned to her team leader, passing her the rolled parchment as she pulled her cowl back up over her ears and put her flight goggles back on. "Uh, yeah. Something really big has just come up. I'm sorry to do this to you guys, but I gotta take a little time off, like right now. A couple days at least."

The older mare scanned the writing on the note. "Well, you've certainly racked up plenty of frequent flyer miles, girl. Normally I'm the one begging you to take a little time off."

She handed the parchment back to Rainbow Dash with a quizzical expression. "Care to translate this for me? Who'd ever mistake you for Princess Celestia, for starters, and what the hay is a "doozy"?"

The rainbow pegasus let out a clipped chuckle and shook her head as she tucked the letter under a wing and lowered her goggles in place. "Long story short, one of my oldest, best friends, like ever, is giving birth to her firstborn foal as we speak and if I wanna be in Ponyville when it happens I've gotta go like right now, okay?"

Spitfire's eyes widened, then her face cracked into a grin as she shook her head and reached out a hoof to give the younger mare a playful shove. "Yeah, I know, I know. "Never leave a friend hangin'." Permission granted. Just promise me you won't break too many windows on the way there, okay?" Two mares shared a brief hug. "Give your friend my congratulations."

Dash stepped back and snapped her a salute with a lopsided grin. "Will do, now if you'll excuse me I've got a few more ponies I don't wanna leave hangin'."

With that she trotted over to the milling throng of young ponies and flapped her wings, rising into the air over them. She cleared her throat and addressed them in a loud stage voice. "Hey fillies and colts! Something really huge for me personally has just come up and I gotta take off now. I'm really sorry I'm not gonna get a chance to talk to each and every one of you."

She held up her hooves for quiet as the assembled youngsters protested. "But as a way to make up for it I'm gonna do a special stunt that they don't let me do very often, dedicated to you, the colts and fillies, who did us, the Wonderbolts, and me, your pal Rainbow Dash, the totally awesome honor of coming to see our show."

She pointed a hoof to the southwest. "If you'll all keep your eyes trained on the horizon over there, you're gonna get to see something really cool, if I may say so myself. So I guess this is so long for now. Stay awesome! Stay cool! Stay in school, be good for your folks, and remember this. I might not be the best pegasus in the world, but you all are the best little ponies in the world."

The young ponies cheered and clomped their hooves on the cobblestones as Rainbow Dash saluted them. She then beat her wings to gain some altitude. With a powerful thrust, she launched into the twilight sky, trailing a rainbow contrail behind her as a blast of wind blew discarded programs and stray candy wrappers and scattered popcorn into the air.

The throng of fillies and colts stared raptly as the streak of colors narrowed to a distant point, before suddenly blossoming into a radiating halo of rainbow hues that lingered like a beacon against the velvety purple backdrop of Princess Luna's night. A chorus of wonderment rose from the little ponies' throats, crescendoing as about a minute later the distant roar of an explosion reached them on the heels of a stiff breeze from the direction their heroine had vanished.

Spitfire leaned against the concession table, smiling fondly. She was sure that she saw the twinkle of a couple cutie marks coming in on some of the young pegasi hovering over the cheering crowd. She looked up at the terrace above, and suppressed a chuckle as she spotted Shootin' Star craning his neck with his hooves hooked over the rail, his wings flared, his jaw hanging slack, and his eyes as wide as saucers.

She shook her head as she took wing. "And that, my little cowpony, is how you get the fans' attention."

***

A blare of brass rose from the gramophone in the corner, a bright sting that heralded the rise of a driving bossanova beat formed by a backbone of piano, rhythm guitar, bongos, and maracas. A vibrant orange pegasus mare sashayed out onto the compressed clouds of the studio floor, a gauzy skirt of purple, red, and gold swaying and floating around her hips as she shook them in time to the music, the butterfly and flowers cutie mark that adorned them seemingly brought to life by her movements. She clenched the long wire stem of a silk rose in her teeth, with a spitcurl of her magenta mane hanging down roguishly over her right eye.

As the trumpets began to shimmer around the core of the rhythm, she was joined by a strutting pegasus stallion wearing an embroidered jacket and a wide brimmed hat with little red pompoms hanging at intervals around it's circumference, a picture of a mango adorning the lime green hide of his flanks.

The two circled, drawing ever closer as the driving tempo and flamboyant brass heated up. Their eyes locked, and the mare went into a rapid spin around the rearing stallion, making it seem like he was suddenly dancing with a small, orange and magenta tornado. She stopped with a flourish in front of him, her colorful skirts coiling and uncoiling around her. The stallion hoisted her into the air over his head. With a flap of her wings she lifted off, followed closely by her partner as they ascended rapidly in a crisscrossing flight path that mimicked the swoops and surges of the brass, meeting near the ceiling as the music reached a crescendo.

A huge boom shook the building, causing the record to scratch and begin skipping. The two pegasi were jarred out of the air and plummeted to the compressed clouds below, landing in a tangled heap of limbs and wings in the middle of the dance floor.

The upended male's left hind leg twitched spastically and a low moan escaped him as the young mare bounced to her hooves, her eyes wide as she stared at a blaze of colors flickering in through the large windows near to the studio's ceiling. She spat out the bent stem of the silk rose and dusted off, coming to a stop in a hover with her fore-hooves and nose pressed against the glass. Her elegantly curled magenta tail lashed behind her and a broad smile rose to her lips as she spotted the tell tale circular ring of colors generated by a sonic rainboom.

She narrowed her eyes as she noted the direction of the rainbow contrail running through the expanding rainboom ring's center. "Hmm. Ponyville, huh... I wonder if..."

She was startled out of her thought as a small burst of green flame spiraled into the shape of a rolled up bit of parchment next to her head. It fluttered down toward the cloudy floor below, but the orange pegasus mare pushed off from the window and dove, catching it up in her fore hooves at the last second. She hovered for a moment, reading the note's contents with a wide smile growing across her face.

The orange pegasus let out a whoop and shot across the dance studio, banking hard and vanishing behind a rattan changing screen. Her colorful skirt flew up over the top and drifted gently down to the floor as she emerged from the other side clad in a black bomber jacket festooned with a myriad of colorful buttons each bearing the image of a cutie mark.

When she reached the door she screeched to a sudden halt and turned to look back at her dazed dance partner, who had managed to get himself seated upright, his eyes spinning and the little red dinglebobs that dangled from his crumpled hat still waving crazily as he weaved back and forth.

She gave him an apologetic smile as she called out to him. "Sorry, Mango Salsa, I gotta scoot. I'll be back from Ponyville before the end of the week."

He shook his head to clear it, a look of alarm crossing his face as he turned to her with wide, pleading eyes. " But Senorita Scootaloo, the regional championships, they are this weekend! And we still need to work on the cha cha!"

She gave him a lopsided grin. "Tell you what, you work on your cha, I'll work on mine, and we'll put 'em together when I get back. Gotta go!"

With that, she zipped out the door with a beat of her graceful wings, sending a little puff of mist up in her wake.

The pegasus stallion slouched on the floor and brought a hoof to his forehead. "Ach du lieber..."

***

After Twilight had arrived the waiting had turned much more convivial. Once the lavender unicorn had cleaned up and gotten some tea and pie in her, the old friends had fallen to chatting, catching up on all the events both large and small that had transpired since she'd left Ponyville to begin her doctorate at Canterlot University. She saw Rarity on a fairly regular basis as the alabaster mare had begun to split her time between her old boutique and her new one in Canterlot, but it had been months since she'd gotten to talk with Applejack or Pinkie Pie. The blonde farm pony was happy to finally have something to occupy her mind that didn't involve tip hoofing a furrow in the parlor floor, but Pinkie was unusually withdrawn. The constant vibration of her Pinkie sense and attendant queasiness it brought was getting to her. For her part, Rarity loved to gossip, even if she'd heard most of the stories her friends were telling, and had perked up immensely.

The white unicorn stirred a spoonful honey into her tea as she looked wistfully over her shoulder at the closed door they were all waiting to see open with good news. "I'm hoping once she's recovered I'll be able to drag Fluttershy back to the spa. The poor dear stopped going on our weekly visits when she started to show. Didn't like all the attention from the other mares in town, even though it was nothing but compliments and well wishes. You know how she is."

Twilight nodded with a smile as she sipped her tea. "Mmm. I miss joining in on those sessions myself. None of the spas in Canterlot are quite the same as Aloe and Lotus' place, and they're all far too pricey for a grad student."

Applejack cocked an eyebrow as she munched on a pfeffernusse. " Don't ya got a royal grant from th' Princess, Twi?"

The lavender mare rolled her eyes. "Well, I forgot to add pony pedis and mud masks to my proposal when I submitted it, AJ." She gave a shrug and set her cup back onto the gently floating saucer. "I don't think I could justify those to the Chancellor of the Exchequer."

Rarity drew herself up in sudden enthusiasm. "Oh! Ideee-a! We should all go together while we're here. I for one will undoubtedly need a couple of sessions to get myself back in proper form after tonight."

Applejack grinned over at Pinkie Pie. "If we brought Pinkie along, we could get a whirlpool bath without them even runnin' th' water jets."

The pink mare's eyes narrowed grumpily, as far as could be determined in their constant up and down oscillation. "Oh Ha Ha."

The blonde earth pony's eyes softened along with the tone of her voice. "Aw, I'm just joshin' ya, Sugarcube. How ya holdin' up over there?"

PInkie let out a shuddering sigh and swallowed hard. "Oh I'm d-d-doing okay, I g-g-guess."

Twilight shot her friend a pitying glance. "I wish I'd gotten around to somehow understanding your Pinkie Sense better, then maybe I'd be able to help you."

The shuddering pink pony shrugged. "Thanks T-t-twilight, b-b-but I g-g-guess I just gotta ride it-t-t..." She paused in her staccato reply, her blue eyes going wide "Ooh! C-c-c-combo!"

All eyes turned to face her as a look of concentration formed on her vibrating face. "Ear f-f-flop, knee t-t-twitch, eye f-f-flutter!"

Rarity cocked an eyebrow at her over her tea cup. "Darling, how in the world can you tell that?"

Pinkie stomped a hoof, an edge of frustration on her voice as she shouted at them. "EAR FLOP-P-P, KNEE T-T-TWITCH, EYE FLUT-T-TER!"

Galvanized by this proclamation, all the other ponies began to look around warily. Twilight called out in alarm. "Stay back from the doors!"

Pinkie Pie let out a tsk that sounded like the tapping of a typewriter and rolled her jiggling eyes. "N-N-NO! Not-t-t that c-c-combo! The r-r-rainbow one!"

Twilight, Applejack, and Rarity all looked at one another, each trying to process this information as they spoke in unison. "Rainbow?"

Their eyes went wide as the sound of a distant boom echoed in the distance. Applejack and Twilight leapt to their feet, the lavender unicorn carelessly tossing aside her teacup which was caught in midair by Rarity's magic. The two mares ran to one of the side windows and peered out, and saw a circle of bright colors expanding in a glorious radius over the horizon.

The blonde earth pony reared up and put her hooves on the sill, shouting in amazement. "Sweet Celestia's unshaven fetlocks! Sonic rainboom!"

Twilight pushed her muzzle against the glass, furrowing her brow as she muttered equations under her breath. She turned to Applejack with alarm. "We've only got a couple minutes."

The farm mare pushed off of the windowsill and galloped back into the parlor. "Incoming! Everypony shake a leg!"

Granny Smith stayed in her rocking chair knitting merrily away as all the younger ponies in the parlor leapt to their hooves and went thundering out the front door into the drizzling rain of the darkened courtyard. The wizened mare shook her head and chuckled to herself over the clack of her needles.

Applejack skidded to a stop and started to bark orders, her tail lashing behind her. "Apple Bloom! You go and rustle up as many lanterns as y'can, light 'em up, and git Rarity t' help ya hang 'em in the treetops in a line toward th' barn! Caramel! You come with me to the barn and help me drag th' big hay wagon out into th' yard. Twilight! I need you t' whip up any spells you might think'll help! Stay here and keep an eye peeled, and holler if ya see her! She'll be comin' in hot! Pinkie, you..."

As the other ponies scattered to their tasks, the blond farm mare paused and looked back at Pinkie Pie, who stood jittering up and down on the porch with an expectant look on her face. Applejack pursed her lips with a slight shake of her head. "Pinkie... Carry on!"

The pink mare raised her hoof to her forehead in salute, producing a sound like a woodpecker tapping on a coconut. She winced and lowered her hoof to the porch where it and the other three hammered out a steady cadence, her wide blue eyes watching as the others launched into their frantic preparation.

Pinkie barely sidestepped in time as Apple Bloom came galloping out the door with a half dozen or so lanterns balanced on her back or with their handles clenched in her teeth, with Rarity following close behind her. The young mare stumbled when she cleared the porch steps, sprawling in the mud with her hooves pointing in all directions, scattering the lanterns with some breaking as they hit the ground. She scrambled to her feet, kicking and shattering another one as she stomped her hoof. "Aw, horseapples!"

Applejack's strained, grunting voice sounded out from the barn. "Apple B-bloom, you do NOT use that sorta language when we... g-got company!"

The younger Apple sister, Rarity, and Twilight turned to see the orange earth pony hopelessly entangled with Caramel in the draft harnesses but still trying to drag the huge, tottering wagon out through the barn doors with what legs she could manage to bring into contact with the slippery ground. The tan stallion hung upside down from the wagon's central pole with his hooves in the air, a stunned look on his face, which began to grow red in the cheeks as a stream of expletives issued forth from between Applejack's teeth with rising vehemence and volume.

Apple Bloom shouted across the courtyard at her as she tried to gather intact lanterns. "Applejack! If'n that's the kinda language YOU use around company I don't even wanna think about how y'all talk when yer by yerself! I don't even know what half o' them words mean!"

Rarity turned her attention to the shattered glass on the ground and began to pluck it up piece by piece, while Twilight galloped over to the trundling hay wagon, set her hooves, and sparked her horn to life. The wagon inched along a bit faster, but not by much.

Applejack grimaced at her as they both fought against the haywain's bulk. "Can't your consarned magic pull this dadgummed heap any flippin' faster, Twilight?"

The lavender unicorn gritted her teeth at the strain and screwed her eyes tightly shut. "I'm sorry! I still haven't recovered from that long distance teleport! I'm sorry! This is the best I can do! I'm sorry!" The farm mare lapsed back into a whole new stream of blistering language in response.

Twilight's ears laid back tightly to the sides of her head as she tried to pour on more mystical juice. Behind her, Apple Bloom and Rarity had begun bickering about whether they should light the remaining lanterns or pick up the broken glass, which the white unicorn maintained was dangerous to leave lying about.

Meanwhile, Applejack had exhausted her surprisingly thorough vocabulary of vulgar phrases and had simply resorted to bellowing incoherently at the top of her lungs, which in turn set a disoriented and spooked Caramel screaming in unison and flailing his legs at the sky. Twilight Sparkle's head began to throb, with a feeling like her horn was going to burst like a firecracker, and she joined in the howling chorus with a high pitched shriek of her own.

"EEEEAAAGGHHH!!!"

The unicorn mare felt the tap of a hoof on her shoulder as she paused to draw in a ragged breath, and turned with slitted eyes to see a cyan face cocked quizzically to the side, looking at her through a pair of goggles with familiar, maroon eyes. "Uh... Hey Twilight. What the hay is everypony doing?"

Rainbow Dash ruffled her wings and folded them down alongside her blue and yellow bodysuit, surveying the suddenly frozen tableau with a bemused look on her face. The silvery tinkle of another lantern dropping to the ground and shattering broke the stunned silence, with only the staccato of Pinkie Pie's hooves on the porch and the soft patter of the receding rain otherwise producing any sound.

The rainbow maned pegasus took in the scene, then looked at Twilight and Applejack with a smirk on her face as she reached up and pushed back her goggles. "Wait... Let me guess. You guys were prepping a landing zone for me, right?"

She cocked an eyebrow at her friends as they fidgeted with embarrassment. "Look, I know I deserved the name Rainbow Crash back in the day, but what kind of Wonderbolt would I be if I had a dirt dinner every time I went groundside?" At that, her stomach rumbled, and she blushed slightly. "Speaking of dinner, I'm starved. You guys got anything to eat?"

Caramel's tremulous voice sounded from down by the ground, his hoof waving vaguely toward the farmhouse as the blood rushed to his head. "P-pinkie made pimple knuckles..."

Applejack cleared her throat. "Uh... yeah, I reckon we could fix ya up with some vittles if somepony'd help me n' Caramel outta this..."

At this Rarity tossed her disheveled mane and set aside the glass shards she'd gathered in a neat stack on the ground. She walked up and brought her glowing horn to bear on the straps and buckles lashing the two earth ponies together. "Here, darling, let me help."

Apple Bloom looked ruefully down at her mud caked chest and belly and turned toward the house with a weary sigh. "I'll go draw a bath. Again..." She cast her sister a smug glance. "And I'll be savin' ya an extra cake o' soap for your dinner, big sis."

When Caramel and Applejack had finally been disentangled, with Twilight lending a telekinetic assist to Rarity's deft skill with all things woven, tied, or stitched, Rainbow Dash surged forward and scooped the blonde farm pony along with the two unicorns up in a group hug, smiling fondly as she drew them close and nuzzled their cheeks. "I miss you guys SO MUCH out on tour. It's good to see you."

She looked up expectantly at the porch. "Hey Pinkie, care to... join... us..." She trailed off in disbelief.

The earth pony mare had become little more than a pink blur, shimmering in place to a steady buzzing of hooves on wood that grew louder and more intense with each second. Caramel stood with eyes wide and jaw dropped, uncertain of what to do. If his fiancee was going to explode he wasn't sure if the proper response was to be by her side 'til the end or well clear of the blast radius. Rarity, Twilight, and Applejack all turned and adopted a similar dumbfounded expression.

Pinkie suddenly stopped vibrating and launched into the air, her outline squashing and stretching into non-euclidian contortions for a few reality warping seconds before she snapped back to normal. She bounced to a stop on her hooves with a stunned expression on her face and let out a little "ooh!". Her legs splayed out beneath her and she flopped down onto her belly on the porch, panting for breath.

Caramel galloped over to her and caught her up in a hug. "Oh, sweetheart, are you okay?"

She hugged him back and kissed him on the cheek as the other four mares came trotting up. "Yeah, but my back right ankle is tingly."

Pinkie looked up past her fiancee's shoulder to her mare friends with a knowing smile and spoke in a soft voice. "That means, it's a filly..."