• Published 5th Nov 2020
  • 594 Views, 52 Comments

Scenes From a Life in Equestria - Bicyclette

Ellie finds herself in a world of magical talking ponies. Surely, this is just some weird dream. Or is it??!?

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Part 5: School of Friendship

“Ellie!” Rainbow Dash shouted down at her, snapping her out of her reverie. “Ball?”

Ellie suddenly remembered what she was actually here to do. She squared up the buckball in her arms and tossed it upwards. As it came down, she revved up a kick and sent it flying towards Rainbow Dash.

Well, “flying” was a strong word. Rainbow Dash had to rush down to save the kick with a spin of her wings, sending the ball expertly into the inert basket propped up behind Ellie.

“Yeah, you really need that running start!” the pegasus said. “You’ll never make the School of Friendship mixed-species buckball team at this rate!”

“I told you and Twilight a thousand times, Dashie!” Ellie shouted as she retrieved the buckball from the basket. “I am not going to attend a school with a bunch of kids!“

She flung the buckball upwards in a lazy arc, then ran at it at full speed, getting under it just in time. Her kick hit the buckball with force, launching it into the air at a satisfying velocity. It would have been very impressive had it gone in a direction anywhere close to her target.

“I got it!” Rainbow Dash shouted as she dashed off to fetch the buckball in a blur. In another blur, she was suddenly in front of Ellie, hovering lazily above the ground. She gave Ellie the buckball.

“Grown creatures take our classes too, you know! Twilight can’t be your personal friendship teacher forever. She has a little thing called ‘getting ready to rule all of Equestria’ to prepare for.”

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea!” Ellie protested. “I was more than happy to keep spending all my time eating carrot cake on top of that rooftop with Princess Luna. Twilight’s the one who’s really into it.”

She kicked the buckball again. It did better than the first time, but the result was still pretty bad. Rainbow Dash simply caught it in midair instead of bothering to send it into the bucket.

“Honestly, I think she likes giving personal friendship lessons more than the idea of ruling all of Equestria,” Ellie continued.

“Eh, maybe…” Rainbow Dash flew down to give the buckball to Ellie again. She tried to change the subject.

“So, what kind of a name is ‘Ellie’, anyway?”

“Oh, you know… a human name?” Ellie shrugged, confused. “Do names have to be things?”

“No, I mean, like how you called me ‘Dashie’, earlier! ‘Ellie’ sounds like it could be short for something too.”

“Huh, yeah, Pinkie Pie said something similar…” Ellie weighed her thoughts. She decided to confess. “Yeah, it is short for something.”

“Well, what is it?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“It’s short for Elena. Elena Dorzhieva.”

Rainbow Dash stifled a chuckle. “Sorry. Elena just sounds like a name Fluttershy gives to one of her animal friends.”

“Yeah, sure!” Ellie retorted. “I’m the one with a funny name, Rainbow Dash. With her best friends Twilight Sparkle and Applejack and Pinkie Pie and…”

“Yeah, so?” Rainbow Dash said, puzzled. “Those are all normal names! Nouns and adjectives! Though mine’s the coolest, of course.”

She crossed her forelegs smugly while hovering in the air. “It runs in the family, though. My parents can be huge dorks sometimes, but even they have cool names!”

“Oh really?” Ellie gave a doubtful smile. “What are they?”

“Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles!” she announced, proudly. “Both awesome names!”

“Yeah,” Ellie admitted. “Those are pretty awesome names.”

“Hey!” Rainbow Dash said encouragingly. “I’m sure your name means something awesome to the creatures of your world!”

“Not really,” Ellie muttered. “It mostly just makes them wonder why I have such a Russian name if I’m not white.”

Rainbow Dash gave her a puzzled look.

“Never mind that.” She shrugged. “Point is, if my name did mean something, I couldn’t tell you. Besides, and seriously, though, only my mom calls me ‘Elena’.”

“Hey, I get it! You’re not the only creature on this field to be embarrassed by what their mom calls them. Speaking of…” Rainbow Dash looked around at the empty buckball field. “Think it’s about time to call it a day?”

“Sure!” She slammed the buckball into the bucket with a satisfying finality, secretly glad it was over. “Was thinking of going on a walk through the campus after. Care to join me?”

“Why not?” Rainbow Dash shrugged. “I’ve got nothing planned til’ the evening.”

They left the school’s buckball field, Rainbow Dash flying in circles around Ellie in a way that communicated that while she could always walk faster, the pegasus wasn’t displaying impatience. They were mostly silent, just enjoying the sights of the manicured gardens and fountains. Ellie smiled. She loved school campuses when students weren’t around.

“Weird to think how busy this whole place will be next week,” Ellie remarked. “I’m glad I got to hang out here so much before then.”

“Oh, the new semester will be great!” Rainbow Dash insisted. “I’ve got so many awesome Element of Loyalty lessons planned. Between that and the rest of the Wonderbolts season, I’m going to have a busy autumn.“ She crossed her forelegs behind her head and began to hover-fly backwards in front of Ellie. “Though if I had to choose one, I’m looking forward to the Wonderbolts part more. I’m getting paired with Søren for our show at the Friendship Festival, so we’ll finally be able to spend more time together training! I mean, all my squadmates are awesome but Søren is just, extra awesome, y’know?“

“Oh, really?” Ellie raised an eyebrow. It was the first time Ellie had heard that name, and knowing ponies it probably was something dumb like “Soarin’” instead of like Kierkegaard, as she had heard it. Which meant…

“What makes Soarin’ so awesome? Are they super fast or something?”

“What, do you think I think ponies are only awesome because they’re fast? How shallow do you think I am?” Rainbow Dash protested. “No, I’m actually way faster than he is. That’s actually sorta the reason we first met! I mean, met as in had an actual conversation. It was the Equestria Games…“

Ellie momentarily tuned out as she made another mental tally. Though this one disappointed her the most. She remembered well the first time she had met the tomboyish, raspy-voiced, rainbow-maned pegasus. It was all she could do to not yell “Babydyke!”, tackle her, and squee as she hugged her to death.

But the markers that would have been so clear to her back home evidently did not mean the same things here. The tally overall looked grim. Every romantic relationship and even every avowed crush she had had heard of so far had been between a mare and a stallion, or whatever a mare and stallion would be for donkeys, or a mare and whatever Discord was.

Of course, it’s not like it mattered to her what these colorful talking horses did with each other. Well, it would matter a great deal if it turned out that these otherwise very nice creatures she had gotten to like reacted badly or were put off by, well, herself, or any theoretical ponies like her. But if it truly just wasn’t a thing here and had no connotations positive or negative because nopony had those inclinations, well…

No, it would still be sad. Worse, even. A world where the bastards were right, and it really wasn’t “natural”.

So, yeah. She didn’t want to bring it up.

She tuned back in.

“He was just so understanding. Like, with how he and Spitfire and Fleetfoot are now, it really is like nothing ever happened. Emotional maturity is awesome, too, y’know?”

“Yeah, he does sound pretty cool,” Ellie said supportively.

“Ah, I’m sorry for going on like this.” Rainbow Dash rubbed the back of her neck with a foreleg. “I don’t really talk about this kinda stuff with my friends. I just get really embarrassed, you know? But since you’re not from here, I don’t feel like I have to keep up this cool pegasus image as much. Like, you don’t even know what the Wonderbolts are, do you?”

“No, not really,” Ellie admitted. “But I’d like to see for myself. Let me know next time you guys are performing in Ponyville?”

It surprised her that she meant it, unlike the many times she had said similar things just to be polite to friends of friends back home. But an aerial show put on by magical flying ponies would be, at the very least, more novel than yet another incomprehensible experimental play or an indistinguishable punk rock set put on at a bar she would otherwise hate.

“We actually don’t have any more Ponyville events this season… Closest would be the Friendship Festival in Canterlot. But practically all of Ponyville will be there anyway. You should come!”

“Yeah, maybe!” Ellie did kind of cringe at the thought of going back to Canterlot. She had been rude to a lot of creatures there those first few days in Equestria. To be fair, at the time she was sure she was in a fever dream and was trying to wake up, but still…

A thought struck Ellie. “Hey, earlier you said that you were way faster than Soarin’. Are you the fastest pegasus in the Wonderbolts?“

“Of course!” Rainbow Dash said matter-of-factly. “I’ve been super-fast ever since I was a filly! Doing a Sonic Rainboom is how I got my cutie mark, and most pegasi have to train for years to do that.”

“Wow!” Ellie was as impressed as she could be about a magical horse having more magic than other magical horses. “But you said you only got on to the Wonderbolts a few years ago? Thought you would’ve been recognized earlier for your talents.”

“Being a Wonderbolt isn’t just about being fast, you know.” Rainbow Dash crossed her forelegs. “I had to learn a lot about teamwork and discipline and self-control before I was really ready. And even with all that, I almost got disqualified from joining forever, and not even for anything I did!”

“Really?” Ellie was intrigued. She turned her gaze from appreciating a fountain to look at the pegasus. “Tell me that story.”

And so, Rainbow Dash told Ellie the story of how Wind Rider tried to frame her in order to stop her from breaking his long-distance speed record, punctuated with a lot of surprisingly evocative imitations and demonstrative zooming. Though Ellie could not quite believe that her imitation of this “Rarity” character could possibly be accurate. All in all, she enjoyed it. Twilight and her friends just had so many neat little three-act stories like that to tell.

“All that to preserve a long-distance speed record?”

“Well, yeah!” Rainbow Dash confirmed. “He lost everything for it! Dishonorably discharged from the Wonderbolts, lost his book deal, lost his job. And the current holder of that speed record?” Rainbow Dash puffed out her chest fluff in pride. “You’re looking at her!”

“Neat!” Ellie smiled. “It’s really cool, the way magic works here.”

“Yeah, it is?” Rainbow Dash was confused. “Sorry, are we suddenly talking about something else now?”

“Oh yeah, sorry! Seemed natural from in here.” Ellie pointed at her head. “Was thinking about how pony magic isn’t limited to unicorn spells and pegasus wings. It’s really everything, isn’t it? Like, your physical abilities are not limited by your physical frames.”

“Yeah, I guess?” Rainbow Dash was puzzled.

“I mean, the other day I saw Maud punch a rock to death. I’m pretty sure that if I kicked a tree half as hard as Applejack bucks them, I’d break my tibia. You ponies are tough, and the forces you can bring to bear way exceed the ATP your muscles could possibly process. You have to be using another energy source.”

Rainbow Dash rubbed the back of her head.

“ATwhatnow? I’m not sure I’m the best pony to talk this science stuff with. You might want to talk to somepony like Dr. Hooves or something. I know his marefriend Rose,“—Another one! Ellie thought with dismay—”I could introduce you to them.”

“Oh no, I don’t mean for this to be a science thing. It’s just that…”

She flexed her bicep. It was a bit more defined than it had been when she first came to Equestria, but it was hardly impressive.

“This is all I get. If these muscles can’t do it, I can’t do it.”

Rainbow Dash was confused. “Y’know, you’re the only human I that know. Are you saying that you’re strong or weak or what?”

“Oh, I tried to be really strong once.” Ellie smiled. “I was really into lifting weights. Like, I looked forward to doing actual competitions. Winning medals and stuff. Or more likely not winning them, but trying my best and seeing if I had the what it took.”

That Rainbow Dash definitely understood. “Yeah, that stuff is great!” She was smiling, but Ellie wasn’t. She frowned. “So it didn’t turn out well?”

“Oh, I just… stopped before I got there.” Ellie was hesitant. She stopped walking, having spotted a bench.

“It’s a story. Mind if we sit down?”

“Sure, you can sit down! If you don’t mind though, I’ll keep flying.”

Ellie sat down.

“It was in coll— I had just started living on my own as an adult. I met a bunch of guys who were really into lifting weights.”

“Like Bulk Biceps? He’s a sweetheart!”

”Yeah, that’s exactly right!” Ellie smiled. “They kind of all looked like him, and were all really nice and humble and supportive, too! I felt bad about the assumptions I’d made otherwise.”

Ellie laughed.

“This one guy, Geoffrey. Every time I’d break my own record on any lift, he’d stick out a fist and say ‘That’s awesome, dude.’ He was just so earnest about it that I even started doing it myself.” She stuck out her own fist. Rainbow Dash recognized the proper response right away, and swooped down to clap her outstretched hoof against Ellie’s knuckles.

“That is awesome!” Rainbow Dash said. “Sounds like a great group of friends!”

“Yeah, they were!” Ellie smiled. Then she sighed.

“Thanks in part to these guys, I got really into lifting. For, like, two years or so. I never missed a day of training. I made sure to sleep eight hours every night. I drank disgusting protein shakes. I ate a lot of meat. That’s one of the reasons I stopped eating meat altogether. I’d already eaten a lifetime’s worth in those two years.”

Rainbow Dash put a brave face over her discomfort with that remark.

“It was a lot of work! I sacrificed so much. But my numbers went up. My muscles got bigger. Gi—” She stopped herself just before it was too late. “People started noticing. It was worth it.” She smiled weakly. “Then there was Jake.“

“Wow, your names really are all like that. Was that another one of your gym friends?”

“No, he never was, and that’s the point. He was from my other friend group, and pretty typical for a guy from it. Nerdy. Lanky. Never lifted a weight in his life. Never exercised in his life, being honest. But he figured that he wanted to make a change.”

Ellie paused.

“He was a good guy! He never seemed the least bit embarrassed that I was the one teaching him all the lifts. He respected my knowledge.”

“Why wouldn’t he?” Rainbow Dash was confused. “You said you did that stuff for two years, and that he was new at it. Why would he ever be embarrassed that you were teaching him?”

She smiled sadly, and did not answer the question.

“He’d skip exercise days all the time. He kept pulling all-nighters for class. He kept up his diet of pizza and Oreos. In three months, he’d beaten all my lifts.” Ellie paused. “He was a good guy. The first time it happened, he actually said ‘Sorry.’ That was when the fact became real for me.”

“The fact?”

“That I’d have to work hard to get as strong as the average male of my species. That I’d have to dedicate my life to get as strong as a strong one. I felt so stupid and sheltered then.“

Ellie sighed.

“Because I’m pretty sure most women just… knew that? And I knew that, rationally. But I guess some part of me believed deep inside that I was an exception, like how I was an exception to a lot of things. But to finally realize that no matter how hard I worked, I would never come close to even being the hundred-millionth-strongest human…”

Ellie groaned.

“It’s so stupid! Nothing bad happened to me. Nobody was mean. There were no consequences for my life. It really shouldn’t have affected me, but it did. It really shouldn’t have, but it felt unfair.”

For once, Rainbow Dash wasn’t being silent not because she couldn’t relate, but because she could relate too much. She could see the wheels turning in her head as it spun up a simulation of an alternate world. A world where Wind Rider never tried to cheat his way into preserving his record. Not because he was an honest pony, but because it would have been biologically impossible for Rainbow Dash to break it anyway. Ellie could tell it made her uncomfortable to even consider.

“But you know, unlike basically everything else that’s a consequence of that fact, who gets to hold world records isn’t even a problem. It’s just a difference. An inconsequential difference. But then it’s all the more meaningful that even that inconsequential difference doesn’t exist here.“ She smiled. “It’s nice.”

It had felt good to release her brain thoughts, but Ellie immediately regretted it. It was clear that the pegasus didn’t even have a context to put any of what she had just said in. There was an awkward silence.

Ellie tried to break the awkwardness. “But, hey! In Equestria, I am the world record-holder in everything!” She smiled, and flexed. “Strongest human alive.“

“Yeah!” Rainbow Dash chuckled weakly. “Strongest human alive!” She held up a hoof. “That’s awesome, dude!”

Ellie smiled, and returned the gesture.

“That’s awesome, dude.”

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