• 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 28: Book Worm, Party Animal, Adventurer

Book Worm, Party Animal, Adventurer

Flying High, Falling Hard, by soundslikeponies

Dash sat in the library, bouncing a tennis ball against a shelf. Twilight was reading her books nearby. It had been just over a week since their failed date. They spoke to each other the day after. Twilight apologized for the way she left, Dash accepted her apology, and then Twilight kissed her on the cheek and thanked her for being so understanding. It all happened quickly and without any hiccups. At least it could be said they were getting better at making up. For what that was worth.

The ball hit the corner of the shelf, bouncing out into the middle of the room with a series of lessening thuds. Dash watched it go, blowing her mane out of her eyes. Reluctantly, she got up and walked over to it, picking it up with her mouth. She glanced over at Twilight, who was sitting at her desk where she was poring over a stack of books.

Dash walked over. She tried reading a few lines of text over Twilight’s shoulder, but most of it was intellectual gibberish to her.

Atcha eading?” she asked.

Twilight blinked, snapping out of her reading zone. “Hmm?”

Dash spat out the tennis ball, letting it roll to the corner of the room, and ran her tongue around to get the fuzz out of her mouth. “Whatcha reading?” she asked, again.

“‘Anatomy of the Pegasine, Volume—” She lifted the side of the book and glanced at its spine. “Four.”

Dash sat down next to her, trying to give the book a look of interest. “So, uh, what’s it about?”

Twilight quirked an eyebrow. “Pegasus Anatomy...”

Dash winced, wanting to kick herself for the lame question. Instead, she settled for biting her lip. “Oh, well of course.” She tried reading a few more lines of it from over Twilight’s shoulder. She recognized some of the words in it. Not many, but some. “So is it any good?”

Twilight gave her another odd look. “I guess so?” she answered, weakly.

“So this book will tell you how to make wings?” Dash asked.

“Well, no. Not exactly. It tells me how wings work.” She paused, then turned away from the book to face Dash. “Did you know one in five pegasi can’t fly for more than ten minutes?”

“No, I didn’t,” Dash admitted.

“There’s a hundred things that could go wrong with how I make the wings. The bone structure could be malformed, or the feathers might not be strong enough. Pegasi wings have been categorized into over one hundred different airfoils. Nopony’s sure which ones have the most effective lift-to-drag ratio in most given circumstances, and depending on which kind I decide to go with, the length and shape of the humeri, ulnae, and radii all have to change.”

Dash blinked. “Uh...” She tried to think of something intelligent-sounding to reply with. “Humeri, ulnae, and radii?”

Twilight nodded. “Plural form for the humerus, ulna, and radius,” she listed, poking Dash’s wing in three different places leading from its base to its tip. “Pegasi have four humeri: two in their front legs, two in their wings.”

Dash lifted her front hoof, glancing between it and her wing. “Huh, didn’t know that.” She lowered her leg back to the floor, looking at the book once more. “So I guess there’s a lot of thinking stuff that goes into this.”

Twilight snorted. “Don’t even get me started on the circulatory system.”

“Noted,” Dash said, absently, as she turned away from the book with a yawn. “Say, want to go out and get a bite to eat? You do owe me a date.”

Twilight gave her a forced smile and Dash knew what the answer was before she even said it. “I’m really busy with these studies, and I feel close to some kind of breakthrough, but you can go without me.” Dash sighed. Twilight clasped her hooves together. “I promise we’ll go out once I finish this spell. We can go on two—or even three dates, maybe.”

Dash tried to give her a smile, but it was weak and her heart wasn’t in it. “Okay, well in that case, I think I’ll just head home for the night. Don’t want to be distracting you from your reading.”

Dash stood. Turning, she started towards the door.

“Hey,” Twilight said, standing and facing her. Dash saw the beckoning look in her eyes and walked back over. Twilight gave her a warm peck on the cheek and smiled. “Thank you for being so patient and spending so much time with me. You’ve been really great this whole time I’ve been gluing my nose to my books, and I know how bored you must get.”

Dash grinned, the compliment giving rise to a blush. “It’s no biggie. I racked up a bunch of vacation days this year, and they disappear if I don’t use them by the end of the month.” She paused, scratching the back of her neck. “So, uh, I guess I’ll drop by tomorrow after practice,” Rainbow Dash said. Upon receiving a distracted nod, she left.

In some ways things had gotten better, in others they had gotten worse. They had never been more agreeable, and they had never been more distant. As she walked away from the library, she stretched her wings, finally feeling free and finally outdoors. She tried countless times over the past week to peel Twilight away from her coffin filled with books, only to be met with an apologetic smile, a laugh, and a gentle ‘no’.

Still, there were moments that gave her hope. Moments when the old Twilight, from before they began dating, would show herself with a harmonious laugh and a smile that you couldn’t help but smile along with. That was the one Dash wanted to be with. Not because she was cool, but because Dash felt like she could completely let her guard down around her and be totally at peace. Not because she made her laugh, but because she made her feel at home. She’d never really had someplace where she felt she belonged as much as she did at Twilight’s side. It pained her that Twilight wanted to change for her sake, not realizing how perfect she already was.

Dash stamped the ground, biting back a grumble. She wasn’t really looking forward to getting back home. She’d probably just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour or so before she fell asleep. It wasn’t that late; the sun was still partway above the horizon, and a few shops were still open. It was about the time that Pinkie Pie usually cleaned up the bakery after closing—which Dash only knew because she used to visit her often during closing hours.

The bell hanging over the door rung as Dash entered Sugar Cube Corner and stepped up to the glass counter. The counter display was filled with all sorts of cakes, tarts, pies, cookies, and some confections Dash didn’t recognize that looked like square blocks of coffee-colored icing. In the back, she could hear Pinkie Pie wrestling with a bucket and mop.

“I’m sorry! We’re closed for the night! I guess I forgot to put the sign—” She came around the corner and spotted Dash. “Oh! Hey, Dashie. It’s been a while since you’ve dropped in like this—not that it’s not fantastic to see you!”

“Yeah, I was just at the library all day and I figured I’d stop by before I go home and hit the hay.”

“Oh?” Pinkie said, smiling and wagging her eyebrows. “Everything going great with Twilight?”

“Actually...” Dash hesitated. She didn’t really want to get anyone else involved, but she had to tell somepony. “Actually things haven’t been so great.”

Pinkie Pie’s smile faltered. “Oh, um...” She crossed her forelegs and pawed at the ground. “You want to talk about it?”

“Yeah, I do,” Dash said, taking a seat at the counter and propping her head upon her forehoof on it. “I’m starting to get worried about her. She’s spending an awful lot of time reading.”

“She is a librarian, Dashie,” Pinkie said, with a giggle.

Dash rolled her eyes. “Well, yeah, but she’s spending too much time reading, even for her. She barely remembers to eat, and she was only sleeping for four hours each night until I hid her alarm clock.”

Pinkie Pie frowned and a look of concern grew on her face. “Oh, my. That does sound troubling.” She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Did you try talking to her about it? Maybe try convincing her to take a break once in a while?”

“Yeah, and it’s like prying nails from a board with my teeth,” Dash said. Dropping her head onto the counter, she let out a long groan. “What am I going to do?”

“Have you tried just putting your hoof down? Maybe if you’re insistent she’ll listen.”

Eh...” Dash looked away with a sheepish frown. “I’m not very good at doing that with her.”

Pinkie Pie blinked. “Why not?”

Dash sat upright and shrugged. “I want to take a firm stance with her, but whenever I’m about to she just smiles at me.” Dash’s frown spread into a smile as she spoke. “I swear she puts magic in her smile, the way it makes me forget what I was thinking just seconds ago. It’s kinda amazing, but also pretty annoying.”

Pinkie Pie stared at Dash oddly. “You’re four hooves head over for her, huh?”

Dash blinked and wrinkled her snout. “I’m what?”

Pinkie Pie rolled her eyes. “You’re in love with her.”

Dash pulled her head back, her nose wrinkling. “In love?” she said, staring at her snout as she said it. “I don’t know if I’m in love with her. I mean, I do have strong feelings for her, but love is like that fairy tale stuff where everything’s perfect and wonderful. What we have is more like...” Dash tried to think of some way to describe it. “It’s like we’re best friends—only more than that.”

“Well, yeah, but isn’t that—” Pinkie cut herself off and shook her head. “Nevermind. You probably know more about it than me, anywho.”

“Sure as heck doesn’t feel like love,” Dash said. She snorted, a slight tug at her lips forming a smirk. “I think I knew more before all this happened. What’s the way that saying goes? ‘Love may be blind, but it’s also deaf and dumb.’”

Pinkie Pie giggled. “I’ve never heard that one before.”

“Yeah, I read it in some book.” Dash frowned, her eyes narrowing. “Can you imagine that? Something actually being so boring that you want to read just to pass the time? It’s completely crazy! This whole situation stinks. I want to make sure Twi’s okay, but spending all day inside’s killing me.”

“You could just stop by once in a while to check up on her instead,” Pinkie suggested, shrugging.

“I tried that. Every time I leave she gets worse. Even if it seems like she’s off in another world when I’m there, I think she still tries to put on an act so I don’t worry. Second I’m gone she stops taking breaks, she stops remembering to get up and move, and she gets... well, weird.”

Pinkie Pie pursed her lips, staring at Dash with no real answer. With a huff, Dash pressed her nose against the display counter, looking at the treats inside. The fruit tarts there looked delicious, a bed of blueberries surrounding three kiwi slices propping up a plump and luscious strawberry. Then again, everything in the shop looked equal parts evil and scrumptious.

“Hey, think I can get a lemon square?” Dash asked, setting a few bits on the counter and pointing at her choice.

“Sure,” Pinkie Pie said, tugging the parchment paper the square sat on to the edge of the case, where she balanced it on her nose. She set it on the counter.

Dash took a bite. It was sticky and sweet with a strong kick of the lemon’s citrus. “I think Twi’s going crazy,” she commented, licking her hooves.

Pinkie Pie got out a lemon square for herself and took a bite. “Yep,” she said, through a mouthful. “Sure sounds like it!”

Dash took another bite, then sat up straight. “There has to be something we can do about it.”

Pinkie Pie sat upright as well and rubbed her chin. “Well,” she said, after some thought, “what if you just made her go to this one thing? Do you think you could do that?”

“Probably,” Dash said at first. But after thinking for a moment, added, “Depends. What is it?”

“I’ve been thinking of throwing a party here this Saturday, since it’s been a while since I’ve had one here and I bought a box of two hundred glow rings that need using up.” Pinkie gave a sheepish laugh. “I might have gone overboard on that one,” she said. “But anyways, if you think it’d help Twilight, I could start sending out invites first thing tomorrow.”

“It sounds good, but, uh,” Dash said, scratching her neck. “I don’t know whether or not I’ll be able to convince her to go.”

Pinkie just smiled. “Oh that’s no problem. If it turns out she can’t make it, there’ll still be tons of other ponies there, and it’ll still be a really fun time.”

“So you think if I get her to go, this party will make her want to spend a bit more time out of the library?” Dash asked.

“My parties are the best place for a pony to forget about their troubles and worries!” Pinkie said, her chest swelling with pride. “At any rate, if you manage to get her to spend a night out of the library wouldn’t that be a good thing?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” Dash said. “So is there anything for the party you want help with? I still have the rest of the week off from work and I don’t really want to spend all of it cooped up in the library.”

Pinkie put the rest of her lemon square in her mouth and dropped the parchment paper in a wastebin sitting against the back wall. “I usually get Applejack to help make food for the party,” she said, her cheeks stuffed. “You could hop yourself on over to Sweet Apple Acres and ask her to help for me. She gets to come, too, of course.”

“Um, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. I haven’t really spoken to her since me and Twilight announced that we were dating.”

“You mean you still haven’t made up with her on that?” Pinkie asked, her mouth hanging open with crumbs falling out. She let out a groan and slapped a hoof over her nose. “Oooh, boy. Why haven’t you gone and spoken to her and Fluttershy yet?”

“I spoke to Fluttershy,” Dash said. “We’re cool now.”

“Oh, well that’s good,” Pinkie replied. But then she gave Dash an odd look. “So... why haven’t you spoken to Applejack yet?”

Dash squirmed in her seat. “Well, you know...” She trailed off, chewing her lip. “She can be... difficult.”

“And you aren’t?” Pinkie asked, giving her a deadpan stare.

“Hey!” Dash shouted, folding her hooves in front of her chest. Then she stopped to think about it. “Well, yeah, okay, I can see how somepony might see me that way.”

Pinkie Pie covered up a giggle. “I think being with Twilight’s mellowed you out a bit.”

“Nah.” Dash’s shoulders sagged. “I’ve just been feeling tired a lot lately, and I’m not really looking forward to confronting Applejack about what happened.”

Well...” Pinkie Pie said, her snout held high as she tapped a hoof to her chin in thought. “If I were Applejack, I’d be hurt that it’s taken you this long to try making up with me.”

Dash had nothing to say to that. Her ears drooped, and she looked at the floor sullenly.

“She came asking about you, you know,” Pinkie said. “That’s why I thought you two made up.”

Dash’s ears perked up. “About a week ago?” she asked. Pinkie Pie nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense. We were probably in Canterlot.”

Dash finished her lemon square quitely. She rose, setting her wrapper on the counter, and said firmly, “I’ll make sure Applejack gets your invitation, Pinkie.”

A smile broke across Pinkie’s face, and as Dash turned to leave, Pinkie emphatically waved her goodbye. “Good luck!”

Dash stopped in the doorway and looked back, a slight smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “Thanks,” she said, then left.

In Canterlot, Fleetfoot led the Wonderbolts through their up-and-coming routine for their performance at the Las Pegasus Stadium. Spitfire had taken Fleetfoot’s usual spot in the middle of the left flank, next to Soarin’. True to her word, she had spent a full week, and slightly more, helping smooth the transition of Fleetfoot becoming the new leader of the team.

“Split S, ninety degrees left!” Fleetfoot shouted.

With precision that comes from years of practice, the five of them tilted their wings up and to the right, performing a half circle up while turning away so that by the end of the half loop they’d wind up facing exactly where they wanted to go. Spitfire and Soarin’ were on the outside of the turn. Spitfire flapped her wings furiously to keep up, her jaw clenching. Soarin’, however, seemed to be dropping behind slightly.

“Tighten formation! Keep up on the outside!” Fleetfoot barked back, lighting a fire under Soarin’s tail. Soarin' grit his teeth against the wind, beating his wings and pulling himself back into proper formation.

Soarin’ looked visibly strained throughout the practice, though he didn’t fall behind again. As they finished up their routine, Spitfire followed Soarin’ to a cloud platform near the exit to the lockers. She grabbed a water bottle from the cooler there, handing it to him and watching as he quaffed it down.

Spitfire giggled. “She reminds me of when I was first captain.”

Soarin’ pulled away from his water bottle and gasped for air, his wings shaking. “You were never this much of a hardass.”

“Oh, come on. She’s just sweet and passionate.”

“A wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Soarin’ slurred, finishing his water and tossing the bottle back in the cooler.

Spitfire smirked, raising an eyebrow. “You want to be team captain instead.”

Soarin’ shuddered. “Oh, no no no. Responsibility and me don’t mix.” He cast his eyes downward. “I just want to keep the captain we have now.”

Spitfire sighed, shaking her head. “I’m not going to stay, Soarin’. I want to startup a group with Rainbow Dash.”

“But what if she says no? Then all this would be for nothing,” Soarin’ said.

“Well... if she’s not interested in trying it then I’ll just do something else,” Spitfire said. “I’ve hit a point in my life where I want to move on and try new things, Rainbow Dash or not.”

Soarin’ still looked unconvinced. “Fleetfoot’s still so young, though. Are you sure she’s ready to takeover for you as captain?”

“I planned to have her take over for me since the day we recruited her,” Spitfire said, her lips forming a thin line. “You know that.”

“Yeah, but she’s even younger than you were when you became captain.” Soarin’ grinned at her. “Maybe you could stay—just for a year or two. Things might even change, maybe.”

Spitfire took a deep breath, letting it out as she smirked and shook her head. “And spend another year putting up with your bad habits?”

Soarin’ laughed. He flopped down on his back, resting and staring up at the sky. “Can’t blame a guy for trying,” he said, then fell silent.

Spitfire lay down next to him, watching the clouds passing by with him. It was a comfortable silence. She tried to guess how high up the clouds were, based on their type and how big they were.

Soarin’ had a carefree smile as he watched them, looking for all the places in the world perfectly content right where he was. “So,” he said, after some time, breaking the silence. “What’s your grand scheme once you get out of here?”

“Well, believe it or not, Ponyville’s actually a pretty nice place,” Spitfire said, remembering the time she had spent there. “I don’t think I’d mind living there?”

“Yeah?” Soarin’ looked at her, his brow raised. He grinned. “Maybe when I retire I’ll move there then. I don’t plan to leave the Wonderbolts for at least another five years, but when I do it’d be nice to have a friend around.”

“I’ll visit,” Spitfire said, seriously. Soarin’ looked at her. “I will. I still plan to do a lot of traveling.”

Soarin’ let out a laugh, turning to her with a slight smile. “That’s a relief. And here I thought you were going to become some boring country bumpkin.”

Spitfire glared and swatted at him. He dodged it with another laugh, grinning at her. She couldn’t help but start to grin a little as well, eventually chuckling alongside him.

“So where do you think you’ll be traveling?” Soarin’ asked, as the laughter died down.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Spitfire admitted. “Probably the ocean. Maybe the desert. Maybe even someplace outside of Equestria.”

“You planning to drag Dash along with you?”

Spitfire shrugged. “If her marefriend lets me.”

“Marefriend?” Soarin’s eyes widened and he sat up, his mouth hanging open. “Did you...” He shook his head and started again. “I mean, did you two...?”

Spitfire smirked, nodding slowly at him. “Well, not really. Kind of.”

Soarin’ lay back down on the clouds and stared up at the sky, blinking. “Huh, well that explains a lot.” His eyebrows furrowed and he turned to her. “What happened?”

Spitfire shrugged. “It didn’t work out.”

A look of understanding dawned on Soarin’s face. “So, then...” he said. Spitfire realized he was trying to figure out why she wanted to go.

“I still want to fly with her,” Spitfire said. “Just as friends. Just as two pairs of wings.”

Standing, Soarin’ turned to her and forced a smile. “So you’re leaving today?”

“Yeah,” Spitfire said, getting up. “I probably won’t be back in Canterlot for a couple months.”

Soarin’ scratched the back of his neck, trying to think of something more to say. Spitfire stepped up to him. She pulled him into a hug, resting her chin on his shoulder. She then pulled away, looked up at him, and smiled. “It was great flying with you, Soarin’.”

“Uh, yeah,” Soarin’ said, smiling in a more subdued fashion. He gave her a salute. “You, too, Cap’n.”

Spitfire glanced over her shoulder at where the rest of the Wonderbolts were busy talking. She took a deep breath, then turned to Soarin’ and smiled. “C’mon. I want to go say goodbye to the others.”

Soarin’ nodded, and they flew over to the rest of her team.

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