• Published 5th Dec 2011
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Flying High, Falling Hard - Soundslikeponies



Twilight, Dash, and Spitfire have a trainwreck of a relationship.

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Chapter 11: Contender

Contender

Flying High, Falling Hard by soundslikeponies

The ponies in the stands seemed to be moving slowly as Dash dove through the air. The crowd waved and cheered, jumping up and down in their seats for her. She had been waiting for a moment like this all her life, everypony’s eyes on her, watching her with excitement.

She planned to exceed their expectations.

The wind rushed past with heart-pumping speed, and its roar drowned out the dull noise of the crowd, sharpening her focus. Air bent and curved around her wings as they pushed against it, and it spurned her to beat them even faster. Leveling out, she sped towards a series of cloud pillars. Her first act.

White passed on either side of her in a blur, the tips of her wings brushing up against the pillars as she sped past. Each weave through them required her to angle her wings perfectly and change direction with flawless timing or she’d end up crashing head first into a cloud pillar. Clouds are soft, and it probably wouldn’t be the most painful thing ever, but then again she had never crashed into one of them at the speed she was going. She felt a grin forcing its way onto her face as she approached the last pillar, but it faded as her wing clipped the cloud pillar. Already tilting, she thought fast to cover her mistake. Sharply angling her wings up, she continued rolling into the tilt and turned it into part of an immelmann roll, pulling up in a half loop and changing direction.

She came to a stop and glanced at the pillars and allowed herself a toothy grin, but quickly schooled her features. She wasn’t done yet. And with two more tricks to go, she couldn’t afford to get caught up in the moment.

Climbing high above the stadium, she spotted three clouds perfect for the next part. Speeding to the closest one, she circled it in an almost lazy fashion as she made it turn. All she had to do was fly in a tight circle with her wings tilted towards the center of the loop around. Still, she tried her best to do the trick as fastly and cleanly as possible. She darted to the second cloud, and then the third, glancing back at the clouds she’d visited previous to make sure they were spinning in sync. The audience’s cheers built up as she made each cloud spin, reaching a fever pitch as she left the third cloud.

Heartbeat pounding in her ears, she looked down at the stadium full of ponies below. They looked like ants from how high up she was.

Dash angled into a dive with her hooves stretched out in front of her as she let gravity do its work to speed her up. The wind battered her, and wind-stung tears began to leak out of the corners of her eyes as a familiar wall of resistance formed in front of her to slow her acceleration. She tried pushing it to its limits, but the harder she struggled against it, the more resistant it became. It was practice all over again, and it was impossible to beat. She had tried—and failed—to break through it time and time again.

As Dash passed by the stadium, she opened her eyes, gaining a single moment of clarity as she plummeted past the crowd. It was only a split second as she bombed through the air, but the world around her froze.

She opened her wind-stung eyes, and she saw Twilight, watching her.

Then the moment passed. The wind tugged at her wings and pushed at her hooves, bringing her back to what she was doing. With a renewed effort, Dash fought to punch a hole through the barrier that was keeping her from finishing her routine.

The wall of resistance bent more than it ever had before. Feeling it falter, Dash used all the strength she had left to fight it. The air bent around her and pressed in on her from all sides. It felt for a moment as though she was swimming, like water pressed down all around her.

Then, the pressure vanished. The force trying to halt her in her tracks disappeared in an instant with a deafening clap and her speed doubled almost instantly.

Dash glanced over her shoulder. A shockwave of rainbow light rippling across the sky, and trailed behind her as she rocketed down towards the ground.

The ground! Dash pulled up sharply, avoiding becoming a crater by less than a second. She soared back up to the cloudiseum and glided over the stadium in an arc, painting a rainbow over it.

A smile spread across her face, and even from how high above the stadium she was, she could still hear the excited cheers from the ponies down below. Closing her eyes, Dash took a moment to relish in the sound. She could barely believe that after all the failed practices she had actually managed to pull it off.

She had done a sonic rainboom. The second one in her life, and the world.

Dash didn’t think the cheering could get any louder, but when she descended down to the arena, the cheering became deafening. Ponies were screaming themselves hoarse over her performance as she landed in front of the contestants’ waiting area.

Everypony in the waiting lobby eyed her nervously. A smirk crept upon her lips. She had created an intimidating act to follow.

“You managed to do it after all.”

Dash’s head spun around at the sweet sound of Twilight’s voice. Twilight was smiling at her with a mix of pride and adoration.

The noise of the stadium faded away, as Dash walked up to her marefriend and leaned her forehead to rest against Twilight’s. “Yeah. I think all I needed was a bit of motivation,” Dash said.

Twilight closed her eyes, and stood there with their foreheads resting against one another, a content smile on her lips. Dash’s eyelids fell shut, the two in their own world, as though no one was watching. Dash wasn’t sure how long the two of them just stood there like that, nor was she inclined to care. At that moment, everything was perfect.

“Rainbow Dash! Twilight!” a quiet voice barely managed to speak up over the crowded stadium.

The spell over her broke. She was jarred back to reality and the dull roar of the ponies around them. The quiet voice belonged to Fluttershy, who flew over to her.

“Congratulations, Dash!” Fluttershy landed on the cloud next to them. “That sonic rainboom was even bigger and more amazing than the one you did back in flight school!”

“Heh, you really think so?” Dash scratched the back of her neck. “Listen, sorry about the way I was before. It means a lot that you showed up to cheer me on.”

Twilight stepped beside Fluttershy throwing a hoof around her shoulders. “You should have heard her, Dash. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her shout as loudly as she did when you performed that final trick.”

Fluttershy blushed and looked down at her hooves. “I was really excited and happy for you, and—um, sort of lost myself for a bit.”

“Don’t sweat it, Fluttershy. That’s what these type of events are for in the first place!” Dash turned to Twilight. “Hey, Twi, can I talk to you about something over there really quickly?”

Twilight nodded, and followed Dash over to a more secluded corner of the room. “What’s this about?” she asked in a low voice.

“Did Fluttershy see before... you know... when we kissed?”

Twilight glanced back at their friend. Fluttershy was smiling without a care in the world, and she waved politely at a stallion as he walked past her.

“I don’t think she noticed anything,” Twilight said as she turned back to Dash. “She would have said something if she did.”

“Well, should I go tell her?” Dash spotted a frown tugging at Twilight’s lips, and one tugged at hers. “You said you wanted this right? We can’t keep hiding this from our friends!”

Twilight winced at the accusatory tone Dash used. “I know, I know.” She looked over her shoulder at Fluttershy one more time briefly. The yellow pegasus was waiting patiently for them to finish talking. “Can’t we tell them all at once though? I think it would be better if we made an announcement at the library, and invite all the girls over.”

“Alright,” Dash said. “But it better be soon after we get back.” She began walking over to Fluttershy.

“It’ll be the day after we get back, promise,” Twilight said, following Dash back to their friend.

“Hey, sorry about that, Fluttershy. I just had something to ask Twilight about real quick.”

“Oh, it’s alright, I don’t mind,” Fluttershy replied.

The booming voice of the announcer rang out in the stadium, “The award for Best Young Flier this year will go to contestant number sixteen, Rainbow Dash!”

Dash’s eyes lit up. Even though it was hardly a surprise after how well she performed, it still felt amazing to hear those words spoken. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!”

Celestia, her entourage, and the Wonderbolts landed on their cloud. Twilight and Fluttershy looked at each other and smiled, backing up and letting their friend have the spotlight. Princess Celestia approached Dash, and the pegasus remembered to bow in respect, although the gesture felt awkward and foreign to her.

“Rainbow Dash,” Celestia said, addressing her. “You’re friends with my student, are you not?”

“Uh...” Dash rose and glanced off to where Twilight was standing. “Yeah. Yeah, I am.”

“It’s so nice to see Twilight has such talented friends.” Celestia glanced back at the crowd, and her guard, who had an ornamental pillow on his head, carrying a thin golden crown. The crown was ornamented with a lightning bolt in its center and two wings on either side.

Celestia turned to the crowd and spoke loudly and clearly. “I’m pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Best Young Flier competition, is Rainbow Dash!”

The crowd erupted in cheers as Celestia placed the crown atop Dash’s head. Rainbow Dash was grinning like a madmare and waving at the crowd. As somepony who loved the spotlight, it was a dream come true. Princess Celestia leaned in close to whisper in her ear.

“It’s also nice to see Twilight learning about more than just friendship.” Celestia’s insinuation made Dash freeze, her eyes widening. Celestia continued. “Just make sure she’s happy, and do get her to write me a letter about what she has learned from being with you. It would be an interesting lesson to read about, I’m sure.”

Dash swallowed a lump in her throat as Celestia pulled back and smiled at her. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding.

“Hey, Rainbow Crash!”

Dash turned to see the three jocks standing in front of her. She recognized the voice as belonging to the dark brown pegasus on the left. His friend nudged him with an elbow.

“It’s Dash!” he hissed out of the corner of his mouth.

“Uh, Oh! Right. Sorry—Rainbow Dash—we just wanted to congratulate you on winning the competition,” the pony with the dumbbell cutie mark said.

Dash felt a smirk creep onto her lips. So they had shown up to watch after all.

“That sonic rainboom was awesome!” the lighter pony exclaimed.

“We’re sorry we gave you such a hard time earlier, we were just fooling around, you know?”

Dash waved a hoof dismissively. “That’s ok, don’t worry about it.”

“So, listen,” he said, not skipping a beat. “Do you want to hang out later? Maybe you can show us how you did that incredible trick!”

Dash saw, with a grin, the Wonderbolts making their way over to her. Dash turned to Fluttershy and Twilight and nodded, before turning back to the jocks. “Sorry, boys,” Dash said, walking over to stand by the Wonderbolts. “But I’ve got plans.”

Dash flew away with the Wonderbolts, leaving the three jocks to watch her leave.

“I wish I could be that cool,” one said, the other two nodding in agreement.


After a brief tour of where the Wonderbolts were staying in Cloudsdale as well as meeting some of the supporting staff who helped arrange the Wonderbolts’ events, they had taken Dash to one of Cloudsdale’s nicer restaurants, Sea Salt’s Bistro, where the dinner was on them. It was all a part of the ‘day with the Wonderbolts’ package that the winner of the competition got to go on.

It had been awesome to spend a bunch of time with her idols. They were all really cool and fun, and they talked and joked with each other like a group of friends who had known each other for a long time. It was easy for Dash to picture herself doing this each and every day in the future, once she became a Wonderbolt, that is.

“And after I let that slip to the press, it was all over every newspaper in and out of Canterlot by the next day!” Soarin’ took a sip of the sparkling pear juice he had ordered, bubbles racing to the top as he tipped the glass. “Spitfire didn’t let me live that down for months!”

The table broke out in laughter, aside from Spitfire who gave Soarin’ a playful glare. “That was a PR disaster! You know how many events and reservations we had to reschedule because of that?” Spitfire asked as she lifted her a glass of lemonade to her snout. “So how about you Dash, have there been any other competitions you’ve been in besides this one?”

“Not really,” Dash answered, stirring the ice cubes sitting at the bottom of her glass with a straw. “Ponyville’s an earth pony town. Most of the pegasi that are in it aren’t all that into flying.” Dash noticed the mood at the table die down a little. “But, I mean, this one was totally awesome. And winning my first competition ever? Doubly awesome! I don’t think I’d have it any other way.”

Fleetfoot nodded at her. “You put on a great show, but that last stunt you pulled off, well... after that I’m pretty sure we were all unanimous about who the winner of the contest was! You totally earned it!”

“Thanks.” Dash smiled back at the Fleetfoot, a small giggle escaping.

A black stallion with with a red bowtie walked up to their table, silently leaving a receipt in the center of the table.

“I’m stuffed!” Soarin’ said as he stood up, grabbing the slip of paper and looking over the orders. “I gotta say, Dash, I really thought this spending a day with a fan thing would turn out kinda lame, but you’re pretty cool.”

“Soarin!” Spitfire hissed, nudging him with an elbow. She shook her head and turned to Dash. “You wouldn’t believe how much effort it takes to keep his mouth in check.”

“We all need to get going,” Fleetfoot said, standing up next to Spitfire and Soarin’ with the other three Wonderbolts following suit. “Heading back to Canterlot first thing in the morning! Not exactly looking forward to getting up early.”

“You never look forward to getting up early,” Spitfire mumbled under her breath, and Soarin’ snickered.

“Anyways, it was great meeting you, Dash!” Fleetfoot continued. If she heard them, she didn’t act like it. “Maybe if you come to one of our events sometime we could all hang out again.”

“That would be really cool,” Dash agreed. Getting invited to hang out backstage with the Wonderbolts at one of their shows? Dash felt like pinching herself, but at the same time if this was a dream, she never wanted to wake up from it.

Spitfire was the only one who was still sitting at the table, just across from Dash. “You guys go ahead, I’ll get the tab and catch up with you later,” Spitfire said, receiving nods from the rest of the Wonderbolts as she dropped a small pouch of bits on the table, before walking toward the restaurants balcony.

Spitfire stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Well, are you coming, or not?”

Dash stood up. “Oh! Yeah, sure!” Trotting to catch up to Spitfire, Dash glanced back over her shoulder at the other Wonderbolts as they left the restaurant. “So what are we doing?”

Spitfire spread her wings. “I was wondering if you’d be up for a bit of late night flying. I want to see a bit more of you in action.”

Spitfire’s words made Dash break into an wide smile, and her wings twitched with anticipation. “Are you kidding? I’m always down for a bit of flying!”

A slightly sinister smirk spread across Spitfire’s face. “Alright.” Spitfire stepped onto the balcony railing, giving her wings an experimental flap. “Try and keep up!”

Spitfire leaned to the side and fell off the railing. Dash raced up to the edge of it, only to see the Wonderbolt burst through a cloud as she came back up in front of her. A smile found its way on Dash’s face. Climbing onto the railing, Dash wobbled, almost falling forwards off of it. Once she found her balance, she crouched down on the railing, and jumped off the edge of the balcony. As she flew towards Spitfire, the other mare turned and began to dart away from her.

Dash followed her. She let Spitfire set the pace, and tumbled through clouds after her. They flew under a rainbow arcing over the Cloudsdale weather factory. All its colors were dim and subdued, but sparkled under the star and moon light like millions of gemstones on display.

As they flew over another building, Dash decided it was her turn. Accelerating ahead, Dash passed by Spitfire, letting out a holler. “Try to keep up!” Dash called back to her, taking the lead as she snickered at the surprised look on Spitfire’s face.

Spitfire’s eyes narrowed and a grin split across her face as she chased after Dash’s chromatic trail. They jostled back and forth, switching between leading and following, and soared all over Cloudsdale, laughing like a pair of fillies at play.

After some time, Spitfire stopped atop a cloud on the edge of the floating city. Dash landed beside her. The whole city was a royal blue, the young night sky reflected by the water vapour that made up the buildings and seldom-used walkways of Cloudsdale.

“It’s getting pretty late,” Spitfire stated, “and the others are probably wondering why I’m not back yet.” Spitfire held out her hoof. “I haven’t had that much fun flying in a while, thanks for that.”

Dash grinned. “Anytime,” she said as she bumped Spitfire’s hoof. “It was a blast. I can’t even begin to tell you how cool it was to hang out with you guys.” Dash turned away from Spitfire, kicking a corner of the cloud they stood on. “And what you said back at the market, it really helped. So, uh, thanks for that.”

“No problem,” Spitfire replied.

A comfortable silence passed between them, broken by the occasional howl of the wind. They stood on that cloud, both having said their goodbyes, yet reluctant to leave just yet.

“You know...” Spitfire finally said.

“Yeah?” Dash asked, failing to veil her enthusiasm.

“If I ever find myself in the same skies as you again, I wouldn’t mind going for another flight like this.” Spitfire chuckled and looked up at the sky. “Maybe when it’s not so dark out.”

“Yeah,” Dash agreed, “That’d be great.”

“I’ll check our schedule and see when the next time we go near Ponyville is.” Spitfire took to a hover in front of Dash. “Catch you later, Dash!”

Spitfire turned and flew away, leaving Dash standing on the cloud and looking at the night sky. Up in Cloudsdale, above the clouds, the stars were pristine and beautiful. They seemed bigger and brighter than any other time Dash had looked upon them. She had to resist the urge to raise a hoof up and try to touch them.

The stars reminded her of Twilight, and the night they had spent beneath them, laying on a field of grass side by side, watching them. The cloud she stood on suddenly seemed lonesome, and the night air more frigid than she remembered.

Dash spread her wings and flew back to the hotel.


Twilight was lying in bed half asleep, waiting for her marefriend to get back. It was much later than when Dash said she’d be back, but Twilight couldn’t begrudge her for wanting to spend more time with the Wonderbolts, knowing how much it meant to her.

The sound of a door closing reached Twilight’s ears, and she sat up in the bed to see Dash. She looked slightly worn out, but she also had a huge smile on her face.

"Did you have fun?" Twilight asked in a sleepy voice.

"Yeah." Dash walked up to Twilight, a soft smile on her lips, and wrapped her hooves around Twilight.

"So back to Ponyville then?" Twilight asked as they parted, looking back at her marefriend.

"Yeah," Dash answered. "As much fun as I had up here, I miss our friends."

Twilight nodded. She turned and looked out the window with concern. "Yeah... me too." Twilight felt a wing wrap around her, and turned to see Dash standing beside her looking out the window with her.

"We'll tell them together. There's nothing to worry about," Dash reassured her. Her wing gently stroking Twilight’s coat.

"I hope you're right."

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