• Published 24th Jun 2012
  • 12,956 Views, 377 Comments

LOYALTY - Crowne Prince

Rainbow Dash and Soarin's friendship turns out to be one heck of a wild ride and a whole lot more.

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8 - Do Not

“Is there any pegasus better than Soarin’?”

“I do not think so.”

Soarin’ ignored the commentators and selected a fresh bunch of asparagus from the market stand. He added the green stalks to his Wonderbolt saddlebags and took them back with him to headquarters. The kitchen had a bigger refrigerator than the one in his suite and space where he could store the new snacks.

Three other ‘Bolts were having drinks at the kitchen island when he got there. Soarin’ dumped the contents of his bags onto the counter across from the trio.

“Aww sick. Are you gonna eat that?” Spitfire looked incredulously at the long, thin vegetables.

“Heck yes! I’ve got a taste for asparagus now. Hated it as a colt, though. If you cook it too long it’ll turn into a gooey, stringy, mushy mess of sweet green glop.” He drew out the last part in detail, sticking Spitfire with every word. She shuddered and made a bleh face. Rapidfire and High Winds were immune to the grossness of the asparagus.

High Winds’ mug ground on the countertop as she pushed it away. “Soarin’, did you know we got a new trainer? I hear she’s very dashing.”

Soarin’ loaded a few things into the fridge. “I said I was going to train her, not trainer.”

“No, this was a rumor I heard. Of course, I took the knife out of it before it could spread.”

Great. Another piece of gossip running amok. Ah, well, it happened every few weeks or so. That was the problem with being located so close to Canterlot. Every place in Equestria had its own crazy thing. “You don’t think any pony else will get confused?” he asked High Winds.

“I do not think so.” High Winds and Spitfire exchanged snarky grins, like they had an inside joke. Soarin’ didn’t get it.

Rapidfire’s deep gray muzzle tipped towards the clock on the kitchen wall. “Say, Soarin’, aren’t you going to be late to your date with Dash?”

Soarin’ cuffed his own ears in frustration. “Argh! It’s not a date! Neither of us even realized Hearts and Hooves day was exactly a week away when we set up a time to have lunch. Who even goes around thinking about that stuff anyway?”

High Winds made a face that showed she agreed. “Hearts and Hooves Day is the bane of every single pony’s existence.”

“Nice double entendre High Winds,” said Rapidfire.

“Thank you.”

- - -

Soarin’ saw Rainbow Dash coming long before she caught up to him. He hovered in the air space above the tiled roof of Pony Joe’s shop. Every so often a passerby would recognize him and wave, despite the lack of his Wonderbolt outfit. He could pick up fragments of conversations, like “Is that Soarin’?” and “I do not know,” followed by a fit of giggles. He tried to smooth down the part of his mane that always stuck up. It sprang back into place.

“Hey Rainbow Dash,” he shouted over the distance, “think you can move any faster?”

Suddenly she was in front of him. “Like this?” She beamed arrogantly.

He was impressed, but he kept playing his game. He pawed the air. “You’re late! You were supposed to be at the practice field an hour ago to put us through our paces. What kind of a trainer misses their first day?” The reaction he hoped for was comic shock of some sort, but instead Rainbow Dash radiated embarrassment.

“You heard about that? None of the Wonderbolts are upset, are they?”

Soarin’ chuckled. “You mean about some silly Canterlot gossip, or in general? 'Cuz Rapidfire is pretty grumpy all the time." He mentally recorded that one for future use on Spitfire. It had to be good for a point or two. "Ready to get lunch?”

“I do not think so,” Dash said cheekily.

Even though he was flying, he managed to throw his hooves up in the air. “Not you too. Why does everypony keep saying that? You all sound funny when you do it.”

Rainbow Dash floated down to the storefront and landed neatly on the cobblestones. He followed suit. She faced him and jabbed a back hoof at a decal on Pony Joe’s glass double doors. “I got you a new catchphrase.” She started laughing at his dumbfounded expression, or the gag she’d pulled off, or both. “Isn’t it lame? It’s gonna take you forever to shake this one. Ponies will be quoting it back to you for months!”

It was impossible to miss. The large, colorful image of Soarin' in his Wonderbolt outfit emblazoned the doughnut shop door. In one hoof he held a scrumptious looking doughnut. As his head and neck filled the greater part of the corner of the poster, it was easy to see the look on his face. How would he describe it? With one eyebrow cocked, his expression was equally daring as it was sultry. Big block letters stamped out the words “Is there anything better? I do-nut think so” in the upper corner of the whole prank.

Soarin’ groaned and put his head in his hooves. “That is the worst pun ever. High Winds will never let me live this one down.” He peered through the crack between his self-made blindfold. “I don’t even think I can make that face.”

“Nonononono, you have to try. It’ll be a riot.” Rainbow Dash pushed Soarin’ up to the doors. She lined herself in front of him like she was going to coach flight school. “Great! Now give me your second best daredevil grin. Come on, don’t look so shocked. We’re having some fun for all of the bored ponies in Canterlot.”

Now that certainly was a challenge. He narrowed his gaze and grinned.

“Okay, now bring that left eyebrow down a little more. Whoops, I mean your left. Come on, put some fire into it Soarin’! You gotta be absolutely confident. Think of how it feels to win a race. Like that, except fold your wings down. You have to be the cool guy without using your wings. See? Ha, I didn’t think you could do it. Now tip your head a little more – awesome!”

He felt like a superstar posed there with the spring wind blowing through his mane. Rainbow Dash gave him a hooves up. She had been snickering though much of the process to get him to his current position, but at that moment she was quiet. “Hey, you actually look kinda cool, you know? Let’s get some doughnuts and sandwiches now. Uh, Soarin’?” He hadn’t moved.

“I think my face is stuck.”

Her magenta eyes went wide. “What?”

“Psych!” He let himself relax. “Got ya.”

The shop bell chimed when Rainbow Dash pushed the door open and let them into the room. The place was packed with ponies enjoying sandwiches and doughnut snacks – more so than usual. They didn’t even take notice of the two new customers.

Pony Joe greeted them at the counter. “Hey Soarin’! I’m surprised you didn’t come back sooner after you brought that herd of camera ponies in here last time.”

“Oh,” Soarin’ said with a sly side look at Rainbow Dash, “I didn’t want to get overrun by fans, so I thought I’d wait it out.”

Joe turned his attention to Soarin’s multicolored companion. “Rainbow Dash! I haven’t seen you since the last Grand Galloping Gala. How ya been? What’re you doing with this guy? He’s nothing but trouble.” It only took the doughnut maker one more good look at the rebellious rainbow mare to reconsider. “Come to think of it, maybe somepony oughta keep you two apart.”

While Rainbow Dash rapidly caught Pony Joe up on the latest Ponyville disasters, a completely average earth pony behind the counter came over to their end of the bar. Soarin’ recognized him, but he couldn’t remember the stallion’s name at all, just that his cutie mark was a sandwich speared with a green olive. The plain brown pony worked here in the afternoons so there would be more to eat for lunch besides dessert. There was really nothing remarkable about him, except for the fact he was so amazingly average he stuck out like a loose horseshoe. “C’mon now Joe, let these two order a’fore the next wave of ponies gets here,” sandwich guy said in an everyday friendly way.

They ordered their sandwiches and doughnuts. Rainbow Dash collected their food into two separate paper bags while Soarin’ piled some bits on the counter. Neither of them planned to eat in the crowded shop, so with a parting wave they pushed out the glass doors and took to the sky. Rainbow Dash passed him the sandwiches and pulled up a cloud for them. They sat and ate, watching the ponies on the ground below and talking about whatever.

He said, “I hear no pegasus has seen Luna in a few weeks. Wonder where she got off to?”

“The moon still comes up every night, though, doesn’t it?”

“Well yeah, but how do we know Celestia isn’t the one bringing it up?”

The brighter blue pegasus thought about it. “Yeah, what if Celestia is covering for Luna while she goes on some super secret mission?”

“Nah,” they both said at the same time. Secretly, in the back of his mind he thought it might still be true. The dark princess had been quiet and secretive ever since her return. She had to be doing something besides raising the moon. On the rare night flights when he spotted her standing on the highest balcony of Canterlot Castle, she always looked healthier than the last time he saw her. She had been so small and scrawny and dull the evening she returned with Celestia all those moons ago.

Soarin’ was out of sandwich. “Alright Rainbow Dash, now you owe me an answer.” He dug his hoof into the other paper bag and pulled out a doughnut with pink frosting on top. It was a little squished from the paper wrapping separating it from the other pastries, but he didn’t mind. He removed the wrapper and some of the frosting peeled off onto it. Man, that always happens.

His friend kicked some bread crumbs off the cloud and watched them fall to the ground. She looked around to see if other pegasi were nearby. “Fine. But first you gotta Pinkie Promise me you won’t tell my friends about this.”

“Pinkie Promise? What’s that?”

“Oh you know, cross your heart, hope to die, stick a cupcake in your eye. I don’t have a cupcake right now, so I just do this.” She covered one eye with her blue hoof.

“I think we need a cupcake.”

Her tail swished spiritedly. “Shut up and eat your doughnut!”

Rainbow Dash began, “This might be surprising, but ever since I was a filly I wanted to be a Wonderbolt.”

x x x

I liked it. A lot.

The tiny, stubby filly’s mane spilled out into a rainbow behind her. She pierced the sky and beat the feathers off those two losers who’d been ganging up on that long-legged yellow pegasus. Rainbow Dash was fine with them picking on her. She could take it. It was when they teased other pegasi that she felt a spark to step in.

She sure had outdone herself this time. She’d never flown like this before. Cheering caught her ears as she raced into the distance. The speed, the adrenaline, it was incredible!

"Whoa," said Soarin'.

"Soarin', what're you doing in my flashback? You don't belong in here. Shoo, shoo!"

Over the next few days at summer flight camp she started to realize something. The flight instructors were always saying sappy stuff like, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it,” which was totally dumb because an earth pony couldn’t turn into a unicorn just because they tried really hard. Duh. I mean, come on.

She had always felt like she really could do anything if she wanted to, though there was one thing she hadn’t even considered until now: being a Wonderbolt. The Wonderbolts were the single most amazing flying team in all of Equestria. They were so exciting to watch that she’d never even thought about joining the team. Now that she knew she could fly like that too, that possibility was suddenly in her mind. She wanted to be the best. She wanted to be a Wonderbolt.

x x x

“After that day, I started to take my flying seriously. Summer camp got really boring because I was so far ahead of my classmates. Sometimes the cool teachers gave me more challenging tricks to do on the side. I was so excited to show off in class, but at the same time it made some of the students really jealous. I tried to hide how good I was so the others wouldn’t feel bad, but I still got picked on a lot. You know how foals are.

I didn’t know exactly how to get an invitation to the Wonderbolts, so I just kept flying. I took a job in Cloudsdale on the weather team because I knew I’d get the chance to deal with tornadoes and stuff, things where I had to fly fast. I became the team leader for the area around Ponyville, but I wasn’t a very good leader. It seemed like I was always sending the wrong pegasus to do the wrong job.”

Rainbow Dash puffed up her cheeks. “Okay, I’m still not a very good leader. It’s hard to organize so many ponies when I know I could get it done faster by myself.

Anyway,” she continued where she’d left off, “that’s when I got the invitation.”

x x x

Rainbow Dash’s heart stopped.

“Derpy, are you sure you didn’t get my mail mixed up again?”

“Nope! This one’s for you Rainbow Dash.”

She grabbed the envelope and rushed inside, breaking the winged seal and tearing the envelope open. Her eyes raced across the single page.

Her heart started beating again and she took an impossibly deep breath. “A Wonderbolt! I’m going to be a Wonderbolt!” Before her mind could catch up with her, she was dancing and bucking the air and rolling on the floor and doing backflips in the sky. The letter was a little worse for wear after that, but the words were still on it.

I have to tell Fluttershy! No wait I have to tell Applejack! What about Gilda? Ohmygosh which way do I go? Her chest felt like it was going to burst with elation as she zipped haltingly back and forth in the sky, undecided. The letter was clutched in her hoof.

Understanding hit her like an adult dragon’s fist. I’m not a Wonderbolt yet. I still have to pass the Wonder Trial.

What if I fail?

What if I… succeed?

x x x

“And that’s just it. If I succeed, Soarin’, then what do I have left? What happens at the end of a dream? There’s not anything more to strive for. It will all be over.

I don’t want it to be over.”

She spread her wings and looked away.

How many of us have the chance to reach the end of the road we’ve followed for so long?

“Dash, let me tell you something someone told me a long time ago.” He too looked away. “There’s always more.”

"Come on Soarin, nopony really believes that."

He'd have to show her. "Follow me." He nabbed the paper bags in his mouth and took off.

"Huh? Hey, wait up!" Rainbow Dash trailed behind him.

Soarin' landed at the base of the mountain range by Canterlot Castle. His friend looked around, confused as to what they were doing here. The stark gray rocks loomed above them, blotting out the sky. He pointed way up to a towering mountain nearby that speared the sky. "I'll race you to the top of that mountain peak to prove I'm right," he challenged. Setting the doughnuts down, he faced the monstrous rock and got ready to fly.

Rainbow Dash's eyes focused on the top of the mountain with utter determination. "Oh yeah? You're not gonna beat me that easily." Blue wings flashed open and she settled into a starting position, gaze never wavering from the imaginary finishing line.

"When I say three. One, two, THREE!"

They both erupted into the sky. He wasn't dead set on winning the race, but even so he had to flap hard just to keep up with her. The two pegasi crested the mountain in a matter of seconds. A rainbow circled into a loop as Rainbow Dash did a victory flip. "Yes! I win!"

He folded his legs smugly. "I didn't say the winner was right; I said I'd race you to prove I was. Look." He turned his head to the land on the other side of Equestria spreading out before them. It was impossible to see from the ground with the mountains in the way. “When you fly to the top of a mountain, the only thing you notice is the peak. It’s not until you get there that you see the other side."

The mare's gaze swept the scenery as those words sunk in. She'd been so focused on getting to the top of the mountain, it hadn't occurred to her there was an entire landscape on the other side she couldn't see before.

"Regular ponies let their fears keep them from doing what they truly want. You’re not a regular pony, Dash.”

The light reflected on the violet flecks in her eyes, and she smiled. “Thanks Soarin’.”

They went back to their cloud above Pony Joe's and ate doughnuts, watching the pony folk come and go. You could invent stories for different ponies about what they were doing or where they were headed. Another fun version of this was to explain how they got their cutie marks. It was like cloud gazing for pegasi.

Soarin' munched on the last bit of a glazed doughnut. “Say, what happens if you break a Pinkie Promise?”

Rainbow Dash crouched low on the cloud and looked around. She whispered, “Don’t say that! If you break a Pinkie Promise, Pinkie Pie will ‘get’ you.”

He didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded ominous. “’Get’ me?”

“Seriously Soarin’. Don’t break a Pinkie Promise.” Rainbow Dash was casting around like the pink earth pony might pop out of nowhere, despite the fact they were on a cloud in the middle of the air. The otherwise unshakable pegasus’ antics made him believe it might actually happen.

- - -

Soarin’ was on the way back to the Wonderbolts’ camp after spending the rest of the evening flying solo around Equestria when he bumped into a familiar face. The fit flyer was outfitted in a posh black tuxedo. A dazzling pegasus mare flew at his wing.

“Soarin’! How was your date, mate?” Lightning Streak asked.

“It wasn’t a date!”

“I do-nut believe that.”

Soarin' groaned and smacked a forehoof to his head.