• Published 7th Dec 2011
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Not Unless You Mean It - Donnys Boy



Pinkie Pie's crush on Rainbow Dash is possibly the worst-kept secret in all Equestria ...

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Chapter 3

Chapter 3

After her little chat with Applejack, Rainbow Dash decides that she’s on track to having a good week, Wonderbolts or no Wonderbolts. She’s got her friends behind her, and that’s pretty awesome. She’s still the fastest flier to come out of Cloudsdale, which is super extra awesome. Plus, she’s the originator of the world-renown Sonic Rainboom, and that has to be worth something. The Wonderbolts try-out, she decides resolutely, was an aberration. An aberration that will not be repeated next time around. Because she’ll have trained better and fought harder and flown faster.

And, just like that, Rainbow is over her funk. She’s ready to have a great week.

---

Mondays mean story time at the library.

Mondays mean Twilight.

Weekly story time had been Twilight’s idea--bring in some of the local school foals, read stories to them, get them interested in literature and whatever. The theory was sound, but Twilight’s initial execution of the plan proved a wee bit lacking. The students simply wouldn’t sit still for her stories. They bounced around, they talked, they fidgeted, they passed notes to one another. It reached such a crisis point that the frazzled unicorn finally had to resort to desperate measures: Rainbow Dash.

From Rainbow’s very first story time, which involved lots of shouting and flying and shadow-boxing, the kids never moved an inch or made so much as a whinny. Cheerliee had nearly fainted dead away from the shock of how still and quiet her class would become during Rainbow’s story-telling theatrics. Although Twilight disapproved a bit of the way Dash would sometimes … enhance … the chosen stories with her own very special, very Rainbow Dash additions, but she had to admit that the rapport the pegasus had with the kids was something magical.

And so, every Monday since then, Dash drops by the Ponyville library to do her dramatic interpretation of whatever story Twilight has picked out for the week. In return, Twilight plies her with fresh-baked muffins bought from the Cakes. All in all, it’s a pretty good gig.

Rainbow doesn’t ever mention that she’d keep doing story time even if she never got a single muffin out of the deal. It’s an irrelevant detail, after all, not worth mentioning.

This Monday, however, Dash knows things aren’t going to go as planned as soon as she steps into the library and spots the grim, determined look on Twilight’s face. She almost steps right back out of the library again, to make a run for Cloudsdale or the Everfree Forest or maybe Appleloosa, but she knows the unicorn could put the kibosh on her escape attempt if she really wanted.

So Dash reluctantly resigns herself to her fate and trudges over to the large, solid bookshelves, near where Spike is busy dusting. She starts poking at the books with a fore hoof, just to give herself something to do, and waits for Twilight to drop whatever bomb she’s been waiting to drop.

“I’d like to speak with you, Rainbow, before Cheerliee and her kids arrive.” It’s an unnecessary preamble, of course, but Twilight always has liked rules and procedures. “I want to talk about you and Pinkie.”

“That’s old news, Twi! Applejack’s already lectured me, so I’m good to go. Lecture quota is all met for the week.”

Spike chuckles softly, and Twilight shoots him a dirty look. He shuts up, but Rainbow can see he’s still grinning as he turns away and resumes his dusting.

“Please don’t deflect like that,” Twilight murmurs. She almost sounds like she’s pleading. “I’ve been researching into this. A lot. And I’m … worried.”

“You’re always worried.”

But the unicorn isn’t deterred. “This isn’t just about you, Rainbow Dash. Or about you and Applejack, or about you and Pinkie. Or even all six of us.” Twilight meets Rainbow’s eyes with a serious gaze. “This is about all Equestria.”

“Um. Say what?”

“We’re not just a random group of friends. We’re the bearers of the Elements of Harmony. If we fall … if our relationships, our friendships, become damaged … Equestria itself will fall with us.”

Rainbow is shaking her head, too hard and too fast to really be hearing what her friend is saying. “That’s silly. Nothing’s gonna happen to any of us! We’re always gonna be friends.”

“Not if you keep breaking hearts, Rainbow Dash!” Twilight snaps back. She sounds utterly frustrated, oddly scared, and nearly at wits’ end. “First Fluttershy, then Applejack, and now Pinkie Pie ...”

Spike gasps and drops his duster.

At the exact same moment, a jolt of some unidentifiable emotion shoots straight through Rainbow Dash’s heart. “What do you mean, ‘first Fluttershy’?”

Twilight halts dead in her tracks. Blinks. Blinks again. It’s a truly excellent Owlowicious impersonation.

“Oh, Celestia,” she exhales, her voice little more than a whisper. “I … I can’t believe I said that out loud …“

Dash’s brain just stops.

Then, before she can even begin to regain her bearings, Cheerliee and a dozen children are pouring through the door of the library, shouting, laughing, clamoring all over Dash and happily chanting her name. Twilight excuses herself and disappears for the entire story time. Dash makes sure to leave before she returns.

---

Tuesdays mean aerial trick practices.

Tuesdays mean Fluttershy.

For months, maybe years, Fluttershy has met Rainbow Dash at the same empty field just outside Ponyville every Tuesday to cheer on her friend during her training. They don’t usually talk much, but it’s nice. Comfortable and cozy. The timid pegasus’ cheering is even getting better. A little. Sort of.

Well, not really. But Rainbow tells her friend that her cheering is getting better, which Fluttershy seems happy to hear.

But today, the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife, and nothing is at all comfortable or cozy. Fluttershy doesn’t mention it, though. She’s patient, and they both know she’ll wait until Dash is ready to talk. Which is a bit of a double-edged sword--Dash isn’t sure when or even if she’ll ever be ready to ask what she needs to ask. So, she defaults to pretending everything is just fine.

Fluttershy allows it, gracious as ever.

Instead of talking, Dash throws herself into her flying, body and soul. She cuts through the bright blue heavens like an arrow from a taut bow, plunging, soaring, banking. She doesn’t even attempt many stunts--just pushes herself as hard and as fast as her wings will go, until finally, at the end of her practice, she collapses to the ground in an exhausted heap.

She’s still panting hard from all her exertions when Fluttershy walks over, smiling at her with concerned, loving eyes. Rainbow feels herself start to crack apart under the other pegasus’ gaze.

“Twilight yelled at me,” Dash blurts out. “About the … y’know … with Pinkie Pie.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’s not really angry. She’s probably just worried,” Fluttershy soothes, sounding almost motherly.

Rainbow sets her jaw. “She said I should stop breaking hearts. Said that I …” She hesitates here, and she almost chickens out. Almost. “She said that I broke your heart.”

Fluttershy’s eyes dart away. Nervously, her wings unfurl then resettle against her back. The seconds stretch out between the two old friends like hours. Finally, Fluttershy murmurs, “That was a very long time ago.”

Suddenly, Rainbow Dash feels sick to her stomach.

“You were strong, brave, fast--all the things I wasn’t. You stood up to the bullies for me. Of … of course I fell for you.” A pause and a smile, both bittersweet. “But it was just a silly little fillyhood crush. It wasn’t your fault.”

Not unless you mean it ...

“I gotta go.” Dash jumps up and gives her wings a brisk shake.

“Oh, Rainbow, please don’t--”

But she’s already crouching down, tensing her muscles, getting ready to launch herself into the sky. “Sorry, but I gotta … I gotta go.”

And, with that, she’s gone.

---

Wednesdays mean therapeutic massages down at the spa.

Wednesdays mean Rarity.

When Rarity had first suggested that Rainbow Dash accompany her to the spa, Rainbow had actually and literally laughed in the unicorn’s face. The spa? All that frou-frou nonsense couldn’t interest her less. But after rolling her eyes, Rarity had explained that she just meant for them to get massages. Massages were good for conditioning the body, she’d said, and for loosening up cramped muscles. Muscles that might get cramped during lots of flying, for instance.

Rainbow had tried hard, during that very first massage, to stifle her groans of pleasure, but she’d failed. Rarity had just about glowed with smug triumph at that, and grudgingly Rainbow had agreed to make the massages a regular thing.

She’s never told Rarity how much she enjoys them or how she’s been able to fly faster and with greater endurance. Maybe she will. One of these days.

Today, she enters the salon with no small amount of trepidation. She feels justified in this, given how poorly her week is going. The overpowering scent of flowers and incense doesn’t help, either. It fills up her head and makes her thinking cloudy and sluggish. It’s unnerving, though she’d never admit that to anypony.

But she brightens a bit when Rarity greets her with the exact same greeting she always does on spa day: “Oh, darling! Your mane!” She clucks disapprovingly. “Perhaps today we can do a little something with--”

“No way.” Rainbow grins, almost despite herself. “You know the rules. No touching the mane.”

Rarity sighs, in that annoyingly exaggerated way of hers, as she always does, but lets the matter drop. They settle in for their massages.

Rainbow tries to relax and almost accomplishes her goal. The hooves of one of the spa ponies--whose names she never can quite remember--feel wonderful on her back and on her wings. But lying face-down like this feels risky and unsafe, as though she’s leaving herself vulnerable to … she doesn’t quite know. It’s a silly feeling, and she realizes full well how silly it is, but she still can’t fully shake off the discomfort.

A quiet, cultivated voice disrupts her thoughts: “You really ought to go speak with Fluttershy sooner rather than later.”

Dash screws her eyes shut. Maybe if she ignores Rarity, this talk won’t happen.

Of course it doesn’t work, and Rarity continues on in a pleasantly conversational tone, “She isn’t upset with you, you know. She’s just worried about how you are coping with things. You know how worked up over others’ well-being that poor girl can get.”

Rainbow silently chastises herself for not having seen this coming. She should have known that Fluttershy would blab to Rarity. Even since the Photo Finish debacle, the two of them tend to tell each other everything. Rainbow sighs. She can feel her shoulders tense up, and her masseuse makes a disapproving noise in the back of her throat.

The week has gone right back to being awful. Dash is unable to hold back the irritation in her voice as she asks, “So now you’re gonna get on my case, too, huh?”

“No, no. Quite the contrary, my dear.”

Surprised, Rainbow lifts her head and glances over towards her massage buddy. The unicorn is staring at Rainbow with appraising eyes. It’s a strange expression on her face, but it’s not angry or hostile in the slightest.

Dash frowns. “I don’t get it.”

Rarity nods at that, in a sympathetic but mildly condescending way. “Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow,” she says softly, almost as if she’s talking to herself. “When are you going to realize that pushing ponies away only ends up hurting them more than … well, more than whatever it is you are so afraid you’ll do to them if you were to just allow them close enough to love you?”

The words hurt more than if Rarity had hauled off and kicked her right in the teeth.

“Afraid?” Rainbow latches onto the one word in that sentence that she’s comfortable dealing with. Her voice sounds strange in her own ears, far away, tinny, almost dream-like. “I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of anything!”

Rarity just smiles at her in response and reaches out between their two massage tables, giving Dash’s hoof a small pat. Her smile isn’t one of her mocking smiles but is completely sincere. Kindly, affectionate, even generous, yes.

But sad. It’s a very sad smile.

---

Thursdays mean playing horseshoes and drinking nice, cold apple juice.

Thursdays mean Applejack.

Flying along the dirt road up towards Sweet Apple Acre’s farmhouse, Rainbow spots Applejack step out the door and hold it open behind her. She’s about to shout out a hello when Rarity walks out the door next. Dash crinkles her nose in confusion, as the two other ponies quietly exchange words, then part ways. Rarity comes primly clip-clopping up the path towards her, while Applejack hangs back and begins half-heartedly throwing some of the horseshoes that are spread all over the yard.

Dash raises an eyebrow as she meets Rarity on the path. “Uh … hi?”

Rarity quickly plasters a too-large smile across her face. “W-why, hello, Rainbow Dash! It’s so lovely to see you today!” she tosses out, quickly passing by the pegasus and hightailing it for Ponyville. “Wish I could stay to chat, but I must be off. Late to meet a client. You understand, I’m sure!”

Dash just shakes her head. It’s weird, definitely, but it’s probably the least weird thing that’s happened to her all week. So she ignores the rapidly retreating unicorn and heads over to the farm pony.

Even before she’s reached Applejack, Rainbow Dash can tell that her week is not going to improve. Applejack’s eyes are moving around, quickly, tensely, looking at everything and nothing and never once resting on Dash.

Dash comes to a stop and hovers in place right in front of Applejack. She stares down at the horseshoes nestled in the dirt. The breeze coming down from the river ruffles her mane and gives her a small shiver.

“RD, there’s somethin’ I gotta tell ya. But I don’t think yer gonna like it none.”

Rainbow feels strangely tranquil. Like nothing can really faze her at this point. “Okay, Applejack.” She gives a calm nod. “Lay it on me.”

“Big Macintosh, he … well, he …” The strong, tough farm pony almost sounds like she wants to cry. At last, she looks into Dash’s eyes. “He went and asked Pinkie Pie out on a date.”

Rainbow had been wrong about nothing fazing her.

She shudders as though she’s taken a cannonball straight to the chest. Landing on the ground with a soft thud, she can feel her legs collapse underneath her. She just sits there, too stunned to speak, for several long moments. Then, her eyes narrow suspiciously.

But Applejack heads her off at the pass: “Now, it ain’t like that! I swear, I didn’t know he was gonna do this!”

“Oh, you didn’t? Really?” She can’t stop the words from escaping her lips, even though the torment written all over Applejack’s face is enough of an answer.

But feeling angry with Applejack is a familiar, almost reassuring feeling--unlike this new and jagged ache that’s threatening to crush in her chest and tear open her heart.

Not unless you mean it ...

“No, I did not!” The earth pony snorts through her nose and anxiously paws at the ground. “He just asked me if’n it’d be all right if he was to court one o’ my friends, and I said … shoot, Rainbow, I thought he meant Fluttershy! Or maybe Twilight, I dunno!”

Rainbow looks around, frustrated, helpless, trying to find something concrete and solid to focus on. But there’s only dirt and grass and trees. And horseshoes. Abruptly, she leaps up and grabs one in her mouth and, after a few running steps, throws it as hard as she can. Then she picks up and throws another, then another, feeling spiteful satisfaction as they connect with some of the nearby trees and chip off the bark.

She’d been right. Apples are dumb.

Once she’s out of horseshoes, she rounds on Applejack. “What’d she say?” she says with a snarl in her voice. “What did Pinkie say? Did she say yes?”

Applejack’s face crumples in on itself. “Oh, sugar …”

---

Fridays mean prank-planning and prank-pulling.

Fridays mean Pinkie Pie.

Usually, Friday is Rainbow Dash’s favorite day of the week. But not this Friday.

---

Author’s Notes: The musical accompaniment for this chapter, by the way, in case you’d like a multimedia experience, is Tori Amos’ “Winter.”