• 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 6

Chapter 6

Once again, the fate of all Equestria rests in the hooves of six young mares from the unassuming town of Ponyville.

Nervously, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony bearers gather at the edge of the Everfree Forest. They stare into the depths of the woods with uneasy eyes and fluttering stomachs. Although Twilight Sparkle has assured them that she is reasonably certain that they won’t die a horrible, painful death on this mission, none of them feel very comforted.

Slowly, cautiously, they edge their way into the dark and intimidating woods. Rainbow Dash takes up the rear, flying high enough that she can keep all five of the other ponies in sight at all times. Twilight and Applejack take the front, mostly silent except for some brief logistical discussions, while Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rarity follow several paces behind. Fluttershy and Rarity chat quietly with one another, for the most part. Occasionally one of them directs a comment or question towards Pinkie, but the earth pony only answers with a single word or shrug. In fact, not only is Pinkie unusually taciturn, but she walks along in a slow, plodding trudge, with not a hint of a bounce in her step.

Rainbow has told everypony that doesn’t know what’s wrong with Pinkie--because she’s the first pony they all asked--but really, she knows exactly what’s wrong. It’s … sort of, maybe, kinda her fault.

A little bit. Maybe.

She has, in fact, been steadfastly avoiding and ignoring Pinkie all day, ever since they all first arrived at Twilight’s library this morning to hear about Princess Celestia’s latest request. The Sun Princess, Twilight explained in that serious and reverent way she has of talking about her mentor, has asked for all six of them to venture into the Everfree Forest to fetch a very rare, very important flower that is to be used in a very important spell that will … well, Rainbow doesn’t really remember.

To be honest, she didn’t really pay much attention after Twilight mentioned “Everfree,” “magic flower,” and “dangerous.”

Now, after several hours of silent treatment from the blue pegasus, Pinkie seemingly has given up trying to get Dash’s attention and has instead sunk into a sullen depression. Her mane’s even a bit straighter than usual--just a bit. When Fluttershy gives the sad earth pony an affectionate nuzzle, though, Pinkie does allow a small smile.

The smile is absolutely heart-breaking.

But I’m not the one who started this, Dash thinks with sudden, stubborn resolve. I’m not the one who ignored my totally awesome best friend and went out to lunch with my other friend’s stupid and totally non-awesome brother.

Every so often, Twilight glances over her shoulder and fixes the pegasus with a glare. She’d definitely noticed the tension between Pinkie and Rainbow back at the library, and she’s definitely convinced that Rainbow Dash is the party responsible.

Rainbow just glares right back.

The afternoon passes quietly but tensely. The woods are almost beautiful, with the late-day sun filtering down through all the leaves of the trees. Almost.

Then, just as they reach a small clearing, the sound of a howl--deep rumbling, supernaturally loud--rips through the surrounding trees. The six ponies freeze at the blood-curdling sound.

“Oh, my goodness!” Fluttershy immediately drops to the ground, trembling, and buries her head in the grass as much as she’s able. “Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness …”

Applejack trots over and gives the pegasus a gentle nudge. “C’mon, sugar cube. We gotta get a move on.” She glances around, nervously eyeing the forest towering over them on all sides. “We’ll be sittin’ ducks if we stay out here where there ain’t any trees.”

“Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness …”

Her patience already badly frayed, Dash can’t help rolling her eyes. And her tone is a little harsher than she means it to be when she says, “Oh, for crying out loud! Why don’t one of you unicorns just grab her with your magic?”

“Oh, yes, Dash,” retorts Rarity, her voice thick with sarcasm, “that’s a brilliant idea. Is there no problem that you wouldn’t suggest solving with the application of brute force?”

“Hey, it’s better than just stayin’ out here and waitin’ to get gobbled up!”

“P-please,” squeaks out Fluttershy, tightly shutting her eyes. “Please don’t fight …”

Frustrated, Twilight stomps her front hooves. “Girls! We are the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, remember?” She shoots another accusatory look in Rainbow’s direction. “We have to stick together.”

The toxic, sludgy mixture of awful emotions that has been roiling inside Rainbow Dash all day finally bubbles to the surface--and quickly sloshes over. As fast as a bolt of lightning, Dash lands on the ground just a few inches from Twilight, her wings fanning out as far as they can go and her feathers quivering with anger.

“So, this is my fault?” Rainbow demands, knowing full well what Twilight’s answer is going to be. “Yeah, that’s real convenient, isn’t it? Just blame everything on good, old Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash never does anything right!”

“I didn’t say that!”

Another unearthly howl echoes through the forest, sounding nearer than it had before, but Rainbow barely even notices it.

“No, you didn’t say it.” She snorts. “You’ve just been givin’ me dirty looks all afternoon, for absolutely no reason.”

At that, Twilight narrows her eyes and whinnies a bit, and Dash can tell the unicorn’s just been pushed a little too far. She feels a strange, grim sense of satisfaction in knowing she’s gotten Twilight as upset as Twilight has gotten her.

“You know the reason, Rainbow.” Twilight angrily shakes her head. “I warned you about what would happen, but you didn’t listen. You never listen!”

Applejack sighs deeply, the sigh of the long-suffering. “Please, y’all, can this wait? ‘Til after we’re out o’ these creepy woods, maybe?”

“I must say that I quite concur with Applejack, for once,” Rarity adds. She moves over to where Applejack stands beside the still-prostrate Fluttershy; together, they look like odd, mismatched sentinels. “Certainly this little spat can wait until we’ve--”

“And you two!” Dash whirls on the both of them, her anger quickly spiraling into an out-of-control tornado. “How come I get yelled at just because Pinkie’s got a thing for me, but the both of you get to be all secret fillyfriends or whatever, and nopony makes a peep!”

That shuts them up. Rarity and Applejack trade utterly shocked glances with one another, while everypony else stares at them in startled silence. Even Fluttershy cracks open a curious eye.

It should make Rainbow feel flush with victory, but instead, all she feels is nausea. Another roar cuts through the trees, and Fluttershy whimpers a bit.

“Um,” says Applejack, the very epitome of eloquence.

Rarity nervously clears her throat. “Yes, well … ah, ha, ha ...”

But Dash still isn’t done yet. She still hasn’t addressed the pony who’s actually the source of all the jumbled, jangling feelings tearing at her sanity.

“And let’s not forget about Equestria’s favorite party pony,” Rainbow starts in again, her words filled with false cheer. “I mean, Pinkie went on a date with Applejack’s brother yesterday, which could totally lead to all kinds of unharmony-ful consequences and stuff, right?” She’s completely on a roll and completely incapable of stopping these stupid, stupid words from tumbling out of her stupid, stupid mouth. When Pinkie doesn’t respond, Dash snaps, “Isn’t that right, Pinkie?”

Slowly Pinkie Pie looks over to Dash, her face twisted in pain and confusion. The sick feeling in Rainbow’s stomach intensifies. She begins to think that she may actually throw up.

Then, something happens that Rainbow never expected.

“How could you, Pinkie Pie?” Twilight whispers. The unicorn’s voice betrays pain and confusion every inch as much as does Pinkie’s face. “I mean, you knew that I … and you promised …”

In an instant, Pinkie is bounding over to Twilight and rapidly shaking her head. “No, no, no! Big Macintosh and I were just hanging out as good buddies, Twilight. We’re just friends.” She turns back towards the Rainbow Dash, her eyes full of reproach and naked, undisguised hurt. “We are just friends, Dash!”

There’s something in those guileless blue eyes that cuts through Dash like a hot knife. Guiltily she looks away and hangs her head. She can feel both of her wings droop as the last of her rage drains away, leaving behind only cold, hard, desolate regret. She clamps shut her eyes so she doesn’t have to see any of her friends or the hatred that must surely be written on all their faces.

“Rainbow!”

It takes her a split second to recognize that the voice yelling her name isn’t angry, as she might have expected, but, rather, is absolutely terrified. By the time she’s lifted her head and reopened her eyes, all she can see is fangs and claws and scales and blazing red eyes. The creature’s huge, gaping maw comes rushing down towards her very, very fast.

But then something crashes right into her from the side, and suddenly she’s tumbling head over hooves. When the world stops spinning, she finds herself upside down, tangled up in a nearby bush, with the tiny leaves of its branches pricking her wings.

The monster smashes face-first into the exact spot of ground where she’d been standing just a moment before.

It is, impossibly, even larger than it had sounded. It towers as high as some of Cloudsdale’s larger buildings, all muscles and brawn and shiny, scaly, rippling skin.

Something twitches atop Dash, and she cranes her neck and spots Pinkie Pie there, breathing heavily, her heart pounding so hard that Rainbow can feel it through both their chests. Pinkie stares down at the pegasus with large, scared eyes. With a jolt, Rainbow Dash realizes how she must have escaped becoming the monster’s snack.

Good old Pinkie sense, she muses, with more than a touch of awe. Still reeling from the impact, she then groggily wonders how she’s supposed to get out of the bush with Pinkie weighing her down like a very soft, very fluffy boulder.

The monster lets out another deafening roar.

In a flash, Pinkie Pie is out of the bush, back on her feet, and standing right between Rainbow and the beast. “No big, mean monster-face is going to get away with trying to eat my girl!” she declares with a growl that’s comical in its very seriousness.

Then, everything happens all at once. Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

The monster lunges, and Pinkie quickly scampers out of harm’s way. At the exact same time, Twilight jumps forward and directs a beam of magic at the beast, which causes it to turn towards the unicorn. Then, just as Twilight gets a hold of one of the monster’s massive paws, Applejack charges in. She kicks the beast in the shin, hard, and stomps on its toes.

A bit farther away, Rarity levitates Fluttershy into the air and begins carefully carrying her away from the scene of battle. She’s speaking to Fluttershy as she does so, but they’re too far away for Rainbow to hear what Rarity is saying.

Meanwhile, after fumbling with the bush’s stranglehold for a few, frustrating seconds, Rainbow Dash finally breaks free and hurtles towards the monster like a rainbow-maned missile. Her aim proves true, and she smashes directly into the monster’s left eye. The beast snarls in pain and rears up on its back legs.

With the paw that isn’t held by Twilight’s magic, the monster reaches out and takes a swipe at the flying pegasus. Dash dodges nimbly. Then she flies in close again and kicks the creature in the throat, earning a very satisfying, very choked gurgle for her efforts.

By now, Rarity has joined the fray, too--she’s no longer carrying Fluttershy. She plants her hooves firmly then levels her horn at the monster with a steely glower. The beast’s second paw goes suddenly motionless as it, too, is grabbed firmly by unicorn magic.

Out of the corner of her eye, Rainbow Dash can see Pinkie standing next to Fluttershy. The scared yellow pegasus is standing upright now, albeit on shaky legs, and leaning heavily against the earth pony. Pinkie’s mouth is right against Fluttershy’s ear, whispering non-stop, but Dash still can’t hear what’s being said. She decides they’re both safe enough that she can keep her focus on fighting the monster, though, and she swoops down low to avoid the beast’s snapping jaws.

Applejack takes out her trusty rope from one of her saddlebags, and she gives it a mighty throw. As soon as the rope lands, she begins running around the monster’s rear legs. The rope pulls tighter and tighter with every lap the earth pony makes around the creature, and soon all four of its limbs are immobilized. Applejack begins tugging on the rope, straining, her leg muscles shaking as she tries to topple the beast. But the beast doesn’t so much as budge.

Swiftly landing on the ground, Rainbow steps up behind Applejack and grabs the free end of the rope in her mouth. Immediately she begins pulling, too, yanking with all her might, and finally the monster comes crashing to the forest floor.

From its vulnerable, prone position, the creature bellows its rage. Dash can feel the roar rattle through her bones.

Then, out of seemingly nowhere, Fluttershy is suddenly right there, standing just inches away from monster’s snarling jaws. She no longer looks scared, only determined. Rainbow sucks in her breath and crouches down, ready to take off and tackle the monster if it so much as twitches in Fluttershy’s direction.

“Now, that wasn’t very nice,” Fluttershy begins, in a voice that’s quiet but clear as a bell. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself, trying to eat Rainbow Dash like that.”

The beast pauses in its bellowing. Lets out a soft, mewling growl.

Fluttershy takes a cautious step forward. “If my friends let you go, will you leave without causing any more trouble?”

Those horrible red eyes blink, once, then twice. Finally, the creature utters a grumbling sigh.

Seemingly satisfied, Fluttershy gives a small nod. “All right, then. Thank you.” She turns to Applejack. “Would you please untie her?”

“Her?” Applejack mutters, almost under her breath. But after a moment’s hesitation, she goes ahead and obligingly loosens the rope.

“Oh, and Rarity? Twilight? If you two could, um, also ... you know …”

The two unicorns both trade nervous glances then nod in reply. Rarity releases her magical hold first. After the beast makes no effort to continue its attack, Twilight lets go, as well.

Fluttershy takes one more step forward, and she’s now nose to nose with the beast. Her gaze is unwavering. “You can leave now,” she tells it, in a half-loving, half-stern way. “Just remember to be nice to any other ponies you meet, okay?”

Slowly, carefully, the beast rises to its feet. It looks over the ponies with an inscrutable expression and, then, with one last soft rumble, lumbers off into the woods. Once it’s gone, calm tranquility quickly returns to the clearing. The bearers of the Elements of Harmony are alone, once again.

They all let out the collective breath they’d all been holding in. They all take an instinctual step towards one another, to reconnect, to nuzzle, to hug--but then they remember. They freeze in their collective tracks.

Things are right back to being tense and stomach-churning.

“I’m sorry, guys,” Rainbow mutters at last, breaking the silence. “That … was really uncool of me.” It’s as much apology as she can muster up at the moment, as exhausted and emotionally battered as she feels.

Twilight awkwardly clears her throat. “I’m sorry too, Rainbow.” She glances at Dash for just a moment, embarrassed, before turning her attention to study her hooves. “You were right that we … I mean, that I was being a bit hypocritical.”

Rainbow paws at the ground. She hates receiving apologies almost as much as she hates giving them. She’s not sure why. “Don’t sweat it,” she finally says, feeling flustered. “It’s all good, Twi.”

Applejack, meanwhile, is giving Rarity a look that’s an interesting mixture of amusement and annoyance. “I told ya we shoulda told everypony sooner.” She shakes her head. “Lie of omission is still a lie, Rare.”

Rarity purses her lips. Then, with a relenting sigh, she allows, “Perhaps … perhaps you’re correct.”

“Gotta admit, though,” Applejack adds, with a slight smile, “that I’m surprised it was RD who figured it out. Never took her for the observant type.”

Almost reflexively Dash snorts. “I’m not, really. You guys just aren’t subtle. At all.”

“I think it’s lovely,” Fluttershy chimes in, blushing even as she speaks. “Y-you two make a very cute couple!”

“Oh, darling, I’m so happy you know.” Rarity smiles at her shy friend as her eyes brim with joyful, unshed tears. “You can’t begin to realize just how many times I wanted to tell you …”

But Rainbow Dash has checked out of the conversation. Frowning, she glances around and realizes they’re missing a pony, and an acute panic grips her chest. She turns her head this way, then that, senses on high alert. She tries to recall if she saw Pinkie after they’d tied up the monster, but she can’t remember. Did the monster manage to … ? No, no, no. Dash would have noticed. Right?

She isn’t sure. Everything just happened so fast ...

Suddenly, she feels a gentle hoof on her shoulder. She turns and sees Twilight peering at her with a strange look on her face.

The unicorn gestures towards a group of smaller trees near the edge of the clearing. “I saw her head over there,” she explains quietly. Then, after biting her lip, looking painfully uncertain: “Can you go try to … just ... bring her back to us, Rainbow. Please?”

Dash isn’t entirely clear on what Twilight means by that, but she does realize that Twilight has just entrusted her with something big. Something important. She straightens her shoulders and executes a nearly militaristic salute. “You got it, chief. Will do.”

Ignoring the discomfort creeping up her spine and reminding herself that everypony is counting on her, Rainbow Dash quietly approaches the fallen tree where Pinkie sits with hunched shoulders and straight mane. She winces as she feels a sharp stab of regret. Her fault. All her fault. Just as it always is.

Always, always, always.

Without preamble, Dash sits down beside Pinkie on her log. They both stare straight ahead in uncomfortable silence. For once Dash knows exactly what she needs to say, but she’s not sure she can actually make herself say it.

But she’d told Twilight she’d fix things, so …

Deep breath. Here goes nothing.

“I, uh, just wanted to say thanks,” Dash begins, in a low, thick voice that’s almost a growl. “For savin’ my flank back there. And for being my friend all these years.”

Pinkie says nothing.

Rainbow swallows over the lump in her throat. This is hard. But she can do this--she’s Rainbow Dash, for Celestia’s sake. “It’s meant a lot to me, Pinkie, and I’ll miss being your friend,” she continues on doggedly, “but I … don’t worry, I’ll make sure you can hang out lots with everypony else without havin’ to see me.”

There’s a beat of silence. It’s torturous.

Rainbow is proud of herself for being strong, for not breaking, for not crying. She’s a brave pony, after all. The bravest in Equestria. And brave ponies don’t cry.

“Dashie? What are you talking about?”

The completely confused tone in Pinkie’s voice is what causes Rainbow to finally turn her head. Pinkie is staring at her with a small, thoughtful frown.

“Well, I mean … you’re gonna break up with me, right?” the pegasus replies, puzzled. “And then we … we won’t be friends any more. Right?”

“Oh, Dashie! I’m not breaking up with you!” Pinkie shakes her head, seeming almost amused. “And we’re always gonna be friends. Always, always, always.”

“But--but I mean--”

“You have such silly-filly ideas sometimes, Rainbow Dash.”

And then Pinkie’s hugging her, and her thick mane is tickling Dash’s nose, and everything is warm and soft and wonderful, and Rainbow Dash feels all her racing thoughts slam to a sudden halt. She allows herself to wrap her legs around the other pony. Dash hugs her tightly, fiercely, as she stares out unseeing at the trees beyond them.

She’s half convinced that this isn’t really happening until Pinkie speaks again.

“I’m still really mad at you, you know.” But Pinkie’s tone is gentle, almost airy. “All day you’ve been acting like a big stupid-face jerk.”

“Yeah,” agrees Dash, feeling strangely giddy. “I kinda have.”

Pinkie pulls away, and the sudden absence of her body against Dash’s makes Dash feel as though she’s just been doused with cold water. But Rainbow perks up a bit when she sees that the other pony’s mane is once again bouncy, curly, and very, very pink.

“Dash, there’s something I need you to understand.” Pinkie’s tone is determined, almost grave, but still not angry. “I’m a very friendly pony. I like other ponies, and I like parties, and I like being around lots of ponies.”

Thoughtfully, Dash bites her lip. She thinks she can see where this might be going.

“I think Twilight said I’m an extrovert, once. Though I kinda don’t know what that means, not exactly.” Adopting a slightly guilty expression, Pinkie whispers conspiratorially, “Sometimes, I don’t really listen that much when Twilight explains things.”

“Oh, my gosh!” Rainbow blurts out before she can think better of it. “Me, too!”

“Really? It’s not just me?” Pinkie grins a bit before seeming to realize that they’re supposed to be having a Serious Discussion. She schools her facial expression into something more somber. “But oh, wait, where was I … oh, yeah, friends! I have other friends, Dash, and I need my friends. I wouldn’t be the same Pinkie Pie that everypony knows and loves if I didn’t have all my friends.”

Dash mentally flashes back to Pinkie’s last birthday. Slowly, she nods her understanding.

Seeming pleased with the nod, Pinkie continues, “And sometimes I’m gonna hang out with my other friends, ‘cause I really like spending time with my friends. But that doesn’t mean you’re not my very bestest best friend, Dash. It doesn’t mean that I don’t lo--”

The earth pony abruptly cuts herself off. Her eyes skitter away from Dash’s like a startled little deer.

It’s weird. Dash doesn’t understand at all--things have been going so well the last few minutes--and she decides she’d better step in before things can go off the rails again. “Hey,” she says, gently, reaching out and nuzzling Pinkie’s shoulder with her snout. “I … I get it. Okay? And I don’t want you to be anypony but you. I promise.”

When Pinkie finally turns back towards the pegasus, she’s all smiles again. “I’m gonna have to think of something really neato you can do to make things up to me,” Pinkie Pie muses aloud, sounding more than a bit gleeful at the prospect. “Maybe baking brownies for me? Or, ooh, chocolate chip cookies?”

“Or how’s about chocolate chip brownie-cookies?” Dash tries hard to keep the laugh out of her voice. She fails, utterly.

A sudden, loud gasp echoes through the trees. A few birds take to the air, startled, and fly away.

Yes! You are so smart, Dashie! Yes! Chocolate chip brownie-cookies!” Pinkie’s gaze is adoring, rapturous.

For her own part, Rainbow Dash just grins and grins and grins.

---
Author’s Notes: This chapter’s musical accompaniment is Paul McCartney’s “Fine Line,” the first song off his 2005 album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.