• Published 10th Jun 2016
  • 6,428 Views, 494 Comments

Photo Dash - SS Nomad



Ever notice you've never seen Photo Finish and Rainbow Dash in the same room?

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Chapter 5: A Series of Headaches

Photo’s head hurt. It was a stabbing pain, coming from slightly above and to the right of her right eye. In the instant she woke up, that was the only thing she could really process. She was groggy and felt like she was upside down. As her senses slowly came online, she felt what seemed like hardwood floor pressed against her face, with her back legs still up on something soft, like a couch or bed.

“Vere ze Hell am I?”

Slowly collecting herself and sitting up, she found herself in an unfamiliar room. It had the look of a living room, but one wall was simply missing and extended out onto a sort of patio or garden. Standing from the couch that she had apparently slept on and past the opened wall, Photo stepped out into the garden.

Squinting from the daylight that assaulted her eyes, she took a quick look around the area. There were four main structures with covered walkways connecting them and a central garden plaza. It was large, but honestly barely larger than her own penthouse. The whole thing had a sort of classical air to it, almost like an old keep. It was far from her normal style, but something about the design spoke to Photo. Stepping over to one of the covered walkways, she looked out a window to see where she was.

She wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but seeing a multiple hundred foot drop right outside the window was not it. Looking out over the familiar skyline of Canterlot, there was something odd about seeing it from a different point in the city. After some searching, she even managed to spot her tower in the distance.

Stepping back into the garden area and around what looked to be a large pool or tub, she decided to go hunting for a restroom. Headache medicine was the order of the morning. That and maybe going back to sleep. As she struggled to find her way around and tried to remember her day’s schedule, something abruptly occurred to her.

She was in Canterlot. Yes, okay, she’d already noticed that. The thing was, she hadn’t been in Canterlot the night before. She redoubled her efforts to recall the previous night. What had even happened?

Finding a closed door, she gently tried the knob and found it unlocked. Peeking inside to see if it happened to be a bathroom, she got her next surprise for the morning. It was a bedroom. In the center of the room, on a massive four post bed, was a sprawled out sleeping form. Sure she was in far from an elegant pose and she was drooling on her pillow, but Photo was blind to those faults, frozen solid by the beauty before her and the shock of seeing someone usually so strong completely defenceless. There, on her bed and clearly trying to sleep off the night before, was Spitfire.

Photo calmly closed the door and stood stock still, staring at the door knob. Images of the night before slowly rushed back to her. She had gone to the bar with AJ first. AJ being AJ and Dash being Dash, they both had a bunch to drink and started competing at pool. By the time Spitfire got there, the details were already a haze, but one thing hung in her memory and wouldn’t let go. Spitfire laughing cheerfully. She had a great time. Towards the end of the night, she couldn’t even remember AJ being there anymore, just Dash and Spitfire sitting at the bar chatting about Celestia knows what. They had a wonderful night.

Resisting the urge to peek in again and realizing the adrenaline spike had cleared the worst of her hangover, Photo stepped backwards into the hall. She had spotted a kitchen on her way in and decided to go do the only rational next step of her life. Make coffee.

After just a short bit of rummaging around, she found a kettle and pour over coffee maker. Setting the pot on to boil, she sat down to wait and think. They must have flown back to Canterlot together, maybe spent some more time hanging out. Looking up to a clock on the wall, it was a bit after ten in the morning. Photo never slept this late unless she was up until well after midnight. Thinking about the time reminded her that she might have something scheduled for the day. As she started to panic about possible forgotten deadlines, the kettle finally began to whistle.

Shocked out of her short fit, Photo turned to start pouring the hot water through the coffee. The strong aroma filled the air and helped Photo calm back down a little. It’s already late, deal with it when you deal with it. Coffee now. She saw something abruptly out of the corner of her eye. Spitfire’s head was poking around the corner of the doorway suspiciously. Surprised, Photo jumped and just barely managed to avoid swearing.

Spitfire jumped as well before laughing at herself, “Oh wow, I totally forgot you were here. I heard the whistle and-”

Photo let out a single noise halfway between a laugh and a sharp exhale, “Ja, ja.”

“Thanks for making the coffee, Rainbow.”

Rainbow cleared her throat to try and shake the accent and slid a mug of coffee across the counter to Spitfire, “Yeah, no worries. Took me a bit to find everything, but here you go. Just how you like it.”

Spitfire glanced down at the mug of black coffee and took it without hesitation. After a healthy sip, she pondered, “How’d you know how I like my coffee?”

Damn it, Dash, stop slipping for just one second and focus here. Just because you’ve seen her sleeping face- I said focus. “Eh, it was mostly a joke, but I kinda pegged you for the type to not do cream and sugar when I didn’t, you know, find any.”

Spitfire nodded as if that rambling sentence was sage wisdom, before glancing up at the clock and grumbling, “Looks like I don’t have much time to hang around, sadly. Gotta get a stack of paperwork pushed. Love that desk work.” Turning back to see Dash slowly deflating, she paused before continuing, “I could probably put that off for a bit though.”

“Well, I don’t want to make you late or anything, but it’d be cool to hang out some more,” Rainbow offered.

“Yeah,” Spitfire returned, “You’re good company. Last night made me really regret not spending more time at the Gala with you. Would have been way better than standing for photos all night.”

Dash smiled widely, “Yeah, the bits I remember from last night were good.”

Spitfire laughed, “You were pretty smashed by the end of it. I was amazed you could fly so well.”

“What was I even drinking? I remember them being delicious and purple and that’s it.”

“I think your friend called it ‘Any Port in a Storm.’ She also mentioned that every ingredient was alcohol,” Spitfire explained.

“Well that explains a lot,” Dash mumbled, sipping at her coffee and feeling a pang of headache.

The room was quiet as they both sipped their coffees and nursed their respective headaches. It was a pleasant quiet, the type when nothing needs to be said. Something about being around Spitfire was just comfortable. She couldn’t really explain it, but she liked it.

Dash was the first to break the silence, “You know, I gotta say, this is a really nice place.”

Spitfire smiled wistfully, “Yeah, it used to be my dad’s. I’ve always loved it here. Lots of memories.”

Dash was kind of blindsided by the sentiment and didn’t really know how to respond. Spitfire seemed to catch that, because she continued, “I’ve slowly made it my own over the past few years. Some things it just feels wrong to replace, but most of the rest is rather new. Like the garden.”

“You do that yourself?” Dash interjected.

“Yeah,” Spitfire calmly replied, “I’ve always liked taking care of plants.” After a pause she turned to Rainbow and defensively announced, “Hey, not every hobby I have has to be macho.”

Dash laughed, “Don’t worry about it, our secret.”

Idle chat continued for as long as their coffee did, but eventually Spitfire stood up and sighed, “Yeah, I should get to work.”

Dash grudgingly accepted, “I probably have things to do today, also.”

As Spitfire stepped out to the garden and prepared to take off, she paused and turned back to Dash, “Hey, uh… What about Saturday? You busy then?”

“Probably not, why?” Dash replied without thinking.

Spitfire shuffled a bit, “I’m throwing a bit of a get together, just a kind of casual thing with some ponies I know and a hot tub. Probably not exactly your crowd, but hey, thought I’d make the offer. At the very least, I’ll be here. And hey, Rarity too. You know her, right?”

FFFFFFFFFFFFF-

“Alright, uh…” Rainbow stumbled over her thoughts, “I mean I can check my schedule and stuff. If I can make it, I’ll be sure to.”

“Great,” Spitfire beamed, “it’d be good to have you there. You seem like you’d liven things up.”

With a quick salute goodbye, Spitfire took to the sky, leaving Dash stumbling over her thoughts. She just stood there, watching the retreating form of her Idol. She knew she could have been happy about this. It should have been some of the best news of her life.

All she felt was dread.


As Rainbow finally reached the tower that her penthouse was in, she got a strange feeling. Something was off. Trusting her instincts, she quietly glided into a passing cloud and started to survey her surroundings. Her rooftop garden looked normal, the blinds were down, and the doors were closed, just as she’d left it. If it wasn’t her apartment itself-

That’s when she spotted them. Two ponies with cameras aimed up at the building from either side. Photo knew immediately what she was dealing with.

“Paparazzi…”

She stopped to think. Why would they be watching the roof from ground level? Shouldn’t they be watching the main door to the building? If they were trying to spot her, they had no reason to think she’d be visible from the ground. Maybe they’d gotten the tip-off that Spitfire had stopped by the day before and were hoping it was something to put in their rag.

Photo Finish Secretly a Pegasus?

Oh.

Looks like flying in wasn’t an option. How much did they already know? She needed to get her hooves on that magazine again. It was a decently popular tabloid, so it had to be somewhere. She could just buy one. She absentmindedly reached for her saddle bag, realizing half way through that she wasn’t wearing it. Thinking back, it was probably still in Ponyville with all of her money. Okay, new plan.

Descending from the clouds, Rainbow landed at the front door of her building. A suspicious pony was standing by the door, likely also with the paparazzi looking to get a shot of Photo. She smugly walked by him, not even a twitch of recognition on his face that his target was within reach. Stepping into the lobby, the desk guard looked her over with suspicion.

Reading that she wouldn’t be able to just breeze through, Rainbow stepped up to the mare at the desk, “Hi, uh… not really sure how things work here, but I’m trying to get up to the penthouse.”

The guard snorted in a mixture of derision and amusement, “So is everypony today, it seems. Look, we take the privacy of our tenants very seriously here, we can’t just let anypony waltz in because they want to.”

Good, so nopony was waiting for her inside with a camera. With a quick glance over her shoulder to notice that the loitering pony had vanished, Rainbow offered up something that might work, “Well, you see, Photo told me to go pick up some outlines she’d left on her desk after her meeting up there yesterday. She’d said I could just fly in, but I spotted the paparazzi and decided to avoid them.”

The guard looked at her incredulously, “I’m fairly certain Miss Finish would have sent one of her usual assistants to collect her things for her. Perhaps it’s time for you to be on your way.”

Whelp. A risky idea flitted to mind, but she’d rather avoid it if she could. She had meetings to get to and her schedule was up in her penthouse. Flying back to ponyville to grab her bag was an option, but going both ways would be exhausting and she wasn’t sure she’d have the energy needed for the day ahead by the time she got back. Photo needed to get into her penthouse. She had things to do. She wouldn’t let something like this get in the way of her career. Risk or no risk, this was the only option she had.

With a mildly dismissive laugh, Rainbow leaned in and spoke softly, “I’m her sister.”

“Excuse me?” the guard said looking her over.

Rainbow stood with poise and fell into the accent, “Jou heard me. Look at my face, my coat, my eyes. Listen to vhat I sound like when I shpeak like normal. Ve are sisters.”

“But you’re a pega-” the guard trailed off as she turned to look out the window in the general direction of the two ponies with cameras, “Wait, so they’re right? But wh- Nevermind that’s not my business.”

“I take it jou-” Rainbow cleared her throat loudly, “you understand the circumstances.”

The guard flopped back in her seat, “I’m still not sure if I should let you in or not.”

“The longer I stand here, the more likely zat pony comes back with a camera and starts snapping pictures through the window while you’re on duty,” Photo rebutted, struggling to not let the accent slip.

The guard perked up at that comment, glancing again out the windows, “Yeah, alright. But if I find out this was all some ploy, I’m making it personal.”

Dash laughed as she stepped through the door to the stairwell, “Fair enough.”

With yet another excuse she’d have to remember having dropped, Dash approached the large spiral stair, looking up the open air shaft in the center, and kicked hard off the ground to rocket skyward. Bleeding speed in order to not slam through the huge skylight that lit the entire vertical room, she landed on the top floor and turned to her doorway.

As she reached for the door, a chill shot down her spine. She was being watched. Looking around, she saw nopony. No cracked doors with cameras, nopony using the stairs down below, nothing. Then she spotted it. A single pigeon. Sitting up in the cornice work of the stair shaft, just below an open panel in the skylight. Staring. Confused, dash took a closer look at it. It just looked like any other pigeon, really. Nothing particularly distinguishing about it. Still suspicious, she slowly opened her door and stepped in.

As Photo closed the door behind her, much of the stress melted away. Here in her sanctum, with all the blinds closed, she felt safe. After grabbing her planner off of her desk, Photo walked over to and collapsed in her bed. Looking over her schedule, she’d planned to spend most of the morning on layouts, so that was good. She could just do that some other time, stay up late that night. The deadline for handing it off to the publisher was still days away, so she wasn’t stressed yet. She had shoots and meetings for most of the afternoon, but those were routine and would honestly be a welcome distraction from everything else going on with her life.

It occurred to her that the most recent response letter from Rarity was likely downstairs, and that they’d likely have to meet to plan the shoot for her new line in the next few days. That… would surely prove interesting. Holding character would be trying, but she expected to be able to make it work.

Glancing at the rest of her obligations, for the week to find a good time, her eyes flitted three days ahead. Saturday. Huge, bold, excited letters. The party that both Photo and Rainbow were invited to. Bile welled up in her throat at the thought. What was she going to do? Her mind raced, failing to gain traction anywhere.

Struggling to force the thought from her mind, Photo announced to the air, “Ve vill deal vis zat later.”

Simply covering Saturday with a hoof, Photo went back to planning the next two days. Other than today’s shoots and finalizing her layout work, the upcoming few days were a welcome reprieve from the normal fast pace of her job. Just a meeting with the editors of her magazine on Friday afternoon and not much else. She could slot Rarity in tomorrow and still have plenty of time to panic about what in Equestria she was supposed to do about the party. At least it was just her social life falling apart and not her work.

Rainbow slapped her cheeks to snap out of the mental death spiral she was in. She just had to make it work. She was good at that. Despite her constant mistakes for the past few days, she always managed to cover for herself. She just had to take everything she’d learned and just… do it. She could sit here panicking about every little thing or she could just keep moving. This was her life and she’d been living it for so long, she knew how to make things work. She’d think of a way.

From the living room, she heard a clock chime. Standing and leaning around the doorway, she saw that her first meeting was in half an hour. She’d just have to dress and leave. Or… no. That wouldn’t work. Rainbow had to be the one to walk out the front door, otherwise the story for the guard would fall apart. Okay, new plan.

Carefully putting everything she needed to look like Photo in a non-descript saddle bag, Rainbow dabbed on some light makeup and headed for the door. She’d find somewhere out of the way to change. Like a superhero. The thought took hold and she couldn’t help but bust out laughing. Don’t worry, citizens! Photo Finish is here to save the day! Rainbow had to support herself against the wall, waiting for the stupid thought to pass.

Eventually her laughter reduced to just a light chortle and she stepped out the door. As she closed the door behind her, she stared at the door lock. It wasn’t exactly in her nature to lock up. She’d never had any issues in the past, as the front desk was good at their job and crime in Canterlot was basically not a thing. Staring at the lock, and growing slowly paranoid, she reached into her bag for the key and locked up. With the paparazzi circling, it was better to be safe than sorry.

Just as she thought that, she heard a coo from behind her. The pigeon. It was still there. Staring. Rainbow stared right back, blurting, “What, you got a problem?”

It… did it just glare at her? The pigeon flew up and out the opened skylight, taking to the skies. Rainbow had no idea what to think, but just hoped it was nothing as she descended through the open stairwell and back to ground level. After quickly grabbing all of her mail, Rainbow re-entered the lobby just as the guard was finishing up shooing away the pony that kept loitering by the door. Breezing by, Rainbow was out the door and on her way to work. Another long day ahead, but at least it’d give her some moments to think.

After making sure she wasn’t being tailed, Rainbow ducked into the restroom of a quiet cafe to get changed. Not the most elegant of places, but it did the job. Double checking her mane in the mirror, Photo Finish slipped out of the restroom and then the back door, disappearing into the streets beyond.

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