• Published 15th Oct 2020
  • 1,008 Views, 62 Comments

Stomachaches - The Red Parade

Lightning Dust’s life has been a perpetual mess. As she struggles to put her life back together and repair her relationships, the last thing she needs is another version of herself appearing on her doorstep.

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From what I remember, the buffalo call this cave the Mouth of the Monster. They say the sharp edges near the entrance are like teeth, and the rocky path that leads deeper into it is its tongue.

Sure does feel like I’m headed into the belly of a beast right now.

I shudder, pulling the zipper of my bomber up a bit higher. The sound of dripping water echoes through the cave. Shadows creep and dance in the corners of my eyes. Sunlight trickles in from cracks in the ceiling, shimmering in the damp air.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts to chew on as I make my way through the Monster’s Cave. The conversation with Fiddle hangs heavy in my head, but I try to focus on finding young me.

“Can’t approach her like I know everything, or that I even know what’s best for her,” I mutter. “She’s got something to prove. She’s angry at the world. Use that.”

The wind suddenly carries with it a different sound. My ears perk up as they detect the distant sound of crying.

Sitting in the dim light of the afternoon is young Lightning, facing away from me and shaking slightly.

I take a silent, deep breath. Here we go.


We both wince as my voice cracks slightly. Young Lightning turns her head to glare at me. She tenses up, but otherwise doesn’t move. “What do you want?”

I hold up a hoof. “I just want to talk.”

“Yeah?” She scoffs. “You want to tell me about how I should listen to you because you know better?”

“Nah. Not exactly,” I answer. I take a step closer to her. “I know you hated it when I said that we were the same. I think you’re right, it was wrong of me to just assume we are.”

Young Lightning ruffles her feathers and raises an eyebrow. “So why are you here?”

“I want to find some common ground,” I offer. “See how related we really are?”

She rolls her eyes and crosses her forehooves. I sit on the rock next to her, but she doesn’t reply.

“Stop me if anything’s different,” I say, easing back onto the smooth surface of the rock. “I was born and raised in Cloudsdale. My family wasn’t all that well-off, but I still got off better than most.”

Young Lightning continues staring at the wall. I have no idea if she’s even listening, but I have to hope she is.

“My mom… my mom was great. Always supported me, no matter what. Saw things in me that I could never see in myself. She always said it was only a matter of time before a lucky star fell on me. But my dad…” I sigh, glancing up at the cave wall in front of me. “My dad was the other way around. He never understood taking the risk to dream. The want to be better. It never made sense to him.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see young Lightning glance at me. I can only hope that’s a good sign.

“So that put me in a weird place. I got it into my mind that my mom was right, but if I could prove it to my dad, then all of my problems would have gone away. Found my calling in speed and flying. Did those joyrides they’d hold at midnight and flew until the sun came up. Great fun that was. Dad didn’t like it though. He didn’t understand what was so wrong with a comfy, safe job in weather administration.”

Young Lightning nods her head slightly. That gives me enough confidence to keep talking.

“Left me in a weird state. And it kind of molded how I viewed my life. It just… it felt like I owed it to mom to be that successful. And that I had to prove dad wrong.” I let out a sigh before continuing, “Problem was… I never was much of a team player. All that mattered to me was being the absolute best. Whatever the cost.” Slowly, I turn to look at her. “Any of that sound familiar to you?”

She hesitates, and I can see the tips of her wings twitch nervously. Her eyes shift to my back, and I can tell she’s staring at my scar. Finally, she takes a shaky breath and nods.

I let out a soft chuckle. “I guess you’re the same way then. When I got accepted to the Academy… It was the best day of my life. My mom was so, so proud of me. I thought I had finally made it, all by myself. And what did my dad have to say to me?”

“What the hay is a Wonderbolt.”

I blink and look at young Lightning. A few new tears are shimmering in her eyes now.

“He… he didn’t even know. How could he not have known?” she mumbles.

I hum in agreement. “Dad never was the type of pony who was up to date with the times. Mom did her best to pull me up, but that shook me pretty badly. But… he sat me down that night, told me that he would always be proud of who I was. Even if he didn’t quite understand it.” I chuckle again, glancing up at the cave roof. Small bits of dust drift about in the glow of the sun. “If only I was smart enough to know what that meant. To me, Lightning Dust was a winner. Lightning Dust was unstoppable, and nopony would get in her way.”

Young Lightning perks up at that. Guess that sounds familiar to her. Then she sees my wing scar and the unease claims her mind again. “How… how did you get kicked out of the Wonderbolts?”

“Heh. What a story, that one.” I lean back and flex out my remaining wing. “They had us working in teams again. We were tasked with… breaking up some clouds if I remember correctly. I had the genius idea of whipping up a tornado and using it to blow out the competition.”

Young Lightning’s eyes light up. “That sounds awesome!”

“It was, for the five or so seconds I had it under control. Then it slipped out. Got away from me. Bowled right over some of Rainbow’s friends in a hot air balloon nearby.”

“Huh?” Young Lightning scrunches her face up in confusion. “How was that your fault? Shouldn’t they have not even been there in the first place?”

I shrug. “It doesn’t really matter, because it just proved Rainbow’s point. That I was reckless and had no regard for my own actions.”

Young Lightning pauses. “What does that mean?”

“Well… think of it like this. Each one of the Wonderbolts might be impressive individually, in some way or form, right?” She nods, and I continue, “But they’re impressive because of what they do as a team. They’re impressive because of their ability to work together. Pulling off maneuvers like the Mythic Moonshot and the Seer’s Gambit take more than one pony, after all.”

Young Lightning bites her lip, trying to process that thought. “So… you’re saying they’re strong because they’re a team?”

“Remember what they told you on day one?” I ask. “Being a Wonderbolt is about becoming more than yourself. I never understood it, but looking back… I wish I had.”

“But… that sounds hard. Having to worry about others besides myself? There are hardly any ponies on the face of Equestria who can keep up with me.”

I nod in understanding. “Right, but after I lost my wing, I learned something else. That maybe it wasn’t about everyone keeping up with you. Sometimes you have to slow down for others. And when you do move at someone else’s pace… you really do learn a lot.”

Young Lightning hesitates before giving my back another look. “What about your wing? How’d you lose that?”

A small smile falls upon my face. “After I got booted from the Wonderbolts, I spent a lot of time wandering around Equestria, my faith in myself and my sense of direction shattered. Spent some time founding my own stunt flying team, actually.”

“That sounds cool!”

“We barely lasted a month before the Equestrian Flyer’s Association shut us down for reckless endangerment.”

Young Lightning blinks at that. “Oh.”

“Yeah, it… wasn’t my finest hour. When the Washouts burned out, it made headlines everywhere. I ended up scrambling to find a town where ponies didn’t know my name or face, and were willing to give me a chance.” I glance up at the cavern roof again. “And I ended up out here, in Appleloosa.”

I glance down at my bomber again, pulling the zipper down slightly.

“The weather team was hiring, and at that point it was the only thing I knew how to do. So I spent some time learning how to buck clouds and how to counter-spin a dust devil. But for a long time I wasn’t happy. I was still lost, bitter, and angry at everything. Then one day… one day I met Fiddle.”

Young Lightning is quiet.

“Something about her fascinated me. And just like that, I had someone to prove myself to again. Fiddle was a strange challenge, though. She was an earth pony and didn’t really care for my fancy flying tricks. But she was a good sport, took me up on offers to have a friendly race.” I glance down to my right, drawing a circle on the rock with my hoof.

“She sounds like a cool mare.”

I laugh. “Oh, she is. She really is. After a few years… I got comfortable again. I felt like I was myself, and… that meant I got cocky.” I blink a few times, turning to look at young Lightning. “You remember what I said earlier about the dust devil?”

She nods.

“We were called in to break up an oncoming storm. Of course by this time I had gained a bit of a reputation amongst the fliers. A lot of them looked up to me. So when I sized up the storm, I figured we could take it head on. What a disaster that was.” My voice drops a bit lower as I continue. It’s never an easy thing to remember. “Ended up going… right into the heart of that thing. It… it didn’t stop. Just got bigger and bigger. But of course, I was too arrogant to quit. So I kept going. Ended up getting thrown straight through the side of a building.”

Something warm presses into my shoulder. I blink and realize young Lightning’s tenderly put a hoof there. “I… that sucks,” she mutters. “It sounds horrible.”

I shudder as some of the memories bubble to the surface. “Yeah. It was. Look… I think it’s safe to say we got off on the wrong hoof when we first met. But I hope you’re really getting what I’m telling you here.”

Her ears fold down. “Yeah… sorry about that. It’s just… when I first saw you, I was scared. I didn’t know where I was, then I saw an older version of myself with only one wing… and then I had to listen to all the things you were telling me. That I wouldn’t be a Wonderbolt. That I’d get kicked out of the only thing I cared about. It just… it scared me. In a way not a lot of things can.”

I sigh and nod. “Yeah, I think I came in a little hot then. I was scared too. You came out of nowhere, you know? But, listen to me, kid. You have a shot here. You can be something great… far greater than I ever was.” I pause again and take a deep breath. “Because… I hate my weaknesses. But at the same time, they’ve made me who I am. I am my own greatest enemy.”

Young Lightning taps her chin before hesitating. “You… you really think I still have a chance?”

“I know it,” I answer with a nod of my head. I reach over and pat the lightning bolt on her flight suit. “As long as you don’t do what I did… you’ll make a great Wonderbolt.”

She smirks at that. “Heh, never a doubt in my mind.” The smirk falls away pretty quickly though. “But… what you’re telling me to do, it sounds hard.”

“It is hard, kid. Nopony ever said that changing yourself would be easy. It took me years and years to realize that the world was bigger than me, and by then it was too late.”

Young Lightning sighs. “Thanks, I guess. Being a Wonderbolt, being the best I could be… it’s all I ever wanted.” She shoots me a sympathetic glance. “I can’t imagine just losing it all like that.”

“Don’t worry about me, kid,” I say, ruffling her mane. “You just do what you do best.”

She smiles again, then tackles me in a hug.

“Thanks,” she whispers, wiping away a few stray tears.

“No problem, kid,” I answer, hugging her back.

A voice calls from the cave’s mouth, “Chief? Strongheart says we better get moving!” Whitey rounds the corner, pausing when she sees us. “Everything good?”

“Yeah,” I answer with a grin. “Everything’s just fine.”