• Published 15th Oct 2020
  • 1,012 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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Stage Four, Fear of Trying

“Come on, old mare! Is that all you got?” young Lightning shouts as she does a loop in the air.

“Who you calling old?” Whitey replies, right on her tail.

The two shoot off into the air again, leaving the rest of us in their dust. Whitey is estatic that she finally has someone to race with, even if young Lightning is demolishing her right now. It’s probably the most fun Whitey’s had in years.

And of course to celebrate my success… I’m throwing up into the station trashcan while the janitor gives me the stink-eye from the corner.

I shudder, squeezing my eyes shut and trying to do absolutely anything to dispel the nausea.

Someone gives me some comforting pats on the back. “You good, Dusty?” Fiddle asks.

“Fine, yeah,” I reply neutrally. “I’m just, y’know, throwing up in the trash can. As one does.”

Fiddle sighs. “I thought you said your stomach wasn’t that bad.”

“I may have lied to you about that,” I mutter, pulling my head out of the can and wiping my mouth.

As my vision clears I see Fiddle staring at me, holding me in a concerned gaze. “Lying? Dusty, tell me the truth.”

My stomach grumbles in discomfort, and I feel my ears droop. “I… Yeah, it’s not good, Fiddle. My stomach is still just murdering me. I haven’t slept well in ages. Haven’t done much either. I’m just… I’m so tired.”

“Oh, Dusty,” Fiddle whispers, lifting up my chin. “You sure that’s all that’s bothering you?”

I know the answer. After all, I’ve been asked this question dozens of times already today. But now I don’t have the strength to lie. I chew my cheek, feeling another rumble in my stomach. “No. I miss you, Fiddle. And I’m sorry I wasn’t enough for you,” I whisper.

Against the odds, she hears me and frowns. “Dusty, you were there for me. That was all I ever wanted. You were there to listen, to understand, to talk to me… that was more than enough.”

I wince, feeling a warm blush forming on my face. “I… thanks, Fiddle. You’ve just done so much for me… I wish I could do the same for you.”

“You already have, Dusty,” Fiddle answers. “Hey, why don’t you swing by tonight? Finally pick up that box of stuff that’s been sitting around.”

I manage a smile. “Yeah. Sounds good. I’ll be there.”

We tip our hats at each other, and she turns away. I watch as she trots away before a thud from my right distracts me.

“Is that the mare you were talking about?” young Lightning asks, pulling up her flight goggles.
I nod. “Yeah, that’s her. Fiddlesticks. She’s my… well, she was my world.”

Young Lightning chuckles. “Was? Look, I’m definitely not as sappy as you are, but I can tell you still love her. Did she break it off or did you?”

“I did,” I reply with a raised eyebrow. “I just… I didn’t feel like I was good enough for her.”

“Really?” Young Lightning narrows her eyes. “From what I saw, I think she still loves you. And if you still love her, what are you waiting for?”

I turn around to face her. “What the hay are you on about?”

Young Lightning jerks her head towards the platform. “You want her back, don’t you? So why don’t you just go get her? You’ve been telling me to face my fears, so how about you go and face yours?”

I try to respond, but my brain sputters out.

Young Lightning pokes my chest with a competitive grin. “What’s wrong? You scared?”

“Me? Scared?” I puff out my chest and laugh. “I’m Lightning Dust. I’m not scared of anything!”

We exchange a chuckle before Whitey stumbles to the ground next to us.

“Dear Celestia,” she pants, pointing an accusing hoof at young Lightning. “She… is fast.”

I smirk as Whitey picks herself off the platform. “Told you, I was wild in my prime.”

“I believe you, chief, I believe you,” Whitey mutters, fanning herself.

“Lightnin’,” calls Braeburn from behind us. He quickly trots down the platform, with a waving form of violet and a contingent of guards behind him.

Our eyes all widen, and we instinctively kneel. “Princess Twilight! I thought you’d be coming by train,” I stammer.

She laughs. “Oh, I find it much quicker and easier to teleport. Lightning Dust, I’m glad to see you’re doing well.”

“I… thank you, Princess,” I answer.

Young Lightning raises an eyebrow in confusion. “You’re not Princess Celestia.”

Princess Twilight laughs again. “No, I’m not, although I do have large horseshoes to fill.” She turns to me with those wide, kind eyes and smiles. “Lightning, I must say I was shocked to learn about your wing.”

I flinch a little bit. It’s not everyday you have the Princess in front of you asking about an old injury. “Oh… thank you, Your Highness.”

“Please, call me Twilight,” she answers. “But you do know there are prosthetic options in Canterlot? The development has really picked up over the years, and the technology is now safer than ever.”

My ears pin back, and I glance around the platform. “I… I have looked into it, Twilight, but I could never afford them.”

“I would be happy to help cover the cost,” the Princess insists. “I think that every pony deserves a second chance.”

I scuff my hoof against the wooden platform. “Wow. I’m… I’m honored. Really, this is like a wish come true for me. It’s just…” I pause again and look behind me. I can make out Fiddle and Whitey, watching me curiously. “I don’t know if I deserve it.”

The Princess blinks in confusion. “Oh? What makes you think that?”

I squeeze my eyes shut and take a deep breath. “I… I think I’ve had plenty of second chances already. And I don’t think I need another one. Your Highness—Twilight, I think I’m happy with what I’ve got right now.”

A strange look crosses her face. “Are you certain? Is there truly nothing that you want right now?”

I nod confidently. “Yes, Twilight. I’m sure.”

She tilts her head but smiles. There’s an odd twinkle in her eye as she speaks again. “Then it seems you have learned a lot, Lightning. That makes me proud. Very well. It is your choice, but know that my offer still stands. Don’t hesitate to ask if you need anything.”

I nod, and she turns to young Lightning.

“Now then, I must apologize for your unexpected interdimensional travel. My personal student still has a long way to go, but Luster is very sorry for dragging you here.”

Young Lightning waves her hoof dismissively. “Wasn’t a problem… I think I might have learned something from all of this.”

She trots over to me and extends a hoof. I laugh and return the gesture.

Princess Twilight giggles. “That truly is great to hear. Now, I think it’s time we try and get you home.”

Young Lightning looks around and nods. “Sounds good to me, Princess.”

The Princess’s horn lights up, and a hazy purple circle appears, slowly growing larger and larger to form a portal. “I’ll make sure everything goes correctly,” she says. “But don’t worry, you’ll be completely safe.”

“I wasn’t scared for a second,” young Lightning replies, pulling down her flight goggles. She steps up to the mouth of the portal before looking back and grinning at me. “Hey, other me. I think it might do you good to lose some weight. Can’t have future me looking like a hog now, can we?”

I scoff and roll my eyes. She laughs and sticks out her tongue. Then, she scans the crowd and fires off a salute, before hopping through the portal, followed by the Princess.

As soon as they're gone, I exhale in relief. I hear the sound of hooves behind me.

“Sounds like you did good, chief,” Whitey declares.

“I can only hope so,” I reply. “But I’d like to think I made a difference.”

Fiddle nods. “Hey, how about we head back to my place? I think Brae can take care of things from here.”

I shrug, glancing up at the sky. Looks like a few clouds are rolling in. The sun’s starting its descent over the horizon, drenching the world in a warm red and orange.

“Yeah. Let’s go.”


A chorus of crickets start their song from outside the farmhouse. Their sound rises and falls in the wind, echoing through the endless sea of sand and dust before coming through the orchard.

Other than that, it’s quiet.

I ease back into the armchair, gently pressing my hoof against the glass of a photograph. This was taken a long time ago, at one of the Appleloosa County Fairs. Fiddle and I are laughing, with me hoisting a giant plush teddy bear above my head. A prize for winning some silly carnival game.

Wonder where that bear is now.

I tap the side of the photograph in thought as Fiddle reenters the room. She sets a tray of tea on the table and sits on the sofa next to me. “What’s on your mind, Dusty?”

“Something young Lightning told me before she left,” I reply. “She pointed out that if I was telling her to face her fears, I should be facing my own.”

Fiddle sips from her cup and nods.

“I think… I think I’ve realized something from that.” I set down the photograph and look around the living room. A few months ago this used to be my living room, as much as it was Fiddle’s.

It still feels like home.

“I’ve been running away from these fears for a long time, Fiddle. When I couldn’t deal with them anymore, I just… left. A part of it was because I was scared. But… I don’t know. I think more of it was just wondering. Wondering if everything was going to magically get better or not after I’ve dealt with what I’m scared of.”

I pick up the photo again and turn it over in my hooves.

“I… I don’t think they will just get better. But it’ll be a start.”

Fiddle sets her cup down and regards me carefully. “Lightnin’... what are you scared of?”

I lower my head into my forehooves. “Myself, mostly? I… I’m scared that I’m going to get confident again. That I’m going to regress to who I was before. And when I do… what if I hurt someone else? What if I hurt you?”

“Listen to me, Dusty. You ain’t gotta worry about that.” Fiddle slides off her chair, trotting over to me. “You were able to talk some sense into yourself, weren’t you? To me, that just means deep down, you’re a great pony.”

I sigh, giving her a wary smile. “Heh. If only you could hear the dreams I’ve had… then maybe you’d see.”

“See what?” Fiddle asks.

“See me for what I really am. I’ve always thought you saw a lot in me. And I could never figure out where it came from. I mean, just look at me, Fiddle. I’m a mess. I’m handicapped, miserable, stuck-up, my stomach is trying to kill me…”

Fiddle puts a hoof on my shoulder and shushes me. “Dusty, you said it yourself. You’ve been runnin’ from your fears for a long time. But I want to help you. Whitey wants to help you, so does Strongheart. We all do. So please, Dusty, stop runnin’. Come home.”

I look around the living room again. A peaceful wind comes through the window, carrying the echoes of crickets and sounds from the town. I can see the silhouettes of the apple trees from beyond the window, becoming mere shadows in the night.

“Fiddle, do you think that all our best days are behind us?” I ask, tapping the picture again. “Just gone? Trapped in these photographs?”

“I think we’ve still got a long way to go,” Fiddle whispers.

I bite my lip and sigh. “I… I hope we do.” Slowly, I look up into those pale blue eyes that have held my heart captive for so, so many years. “Fiddle… I’ve missed you.” I waver.

“I’ve missed you too,” she answers.

And that’s really all I need to hear.

“Can we…” My vision starts to blur and my voice cracks, but I don’t care. “Can we start again?”

“I’d love to.”

I get off the couch and hug her. We squeeze each other, as if we’d fade away if we let go. I bury myself in her mane and let the tears flow. She sobs into my shoulder, and we stand there, crying and shaking in the living room.

I’ve spent a large part of my life reaching for stars that I’d never catch. But those stars never did reach back out to me.

My life’s been a mess. I’ve been a world destroyer, and I’ve been my downfall. I’m missing a wing, and I’m weak. My stomach is still tied in knots, and my heart aches for a life I could have had.

But tonight, my head feels clearer. The knots in my stomach finally unclench. I feel like I can breathe again.

I’ve traveled a long way, just to end up back home. And honestly, I couldn’t be any happier.

What do you want from life?

I have her back. So right now?

All I want is nothing. And that’s a hill I’ll die on.


The End.


Comments ( 43 )

This is a good one! How does it not have more views?

Er, hold on a second. Who's White Lightning?

10483854

It's more of a reference to an old character I used and a wild west legend but I'm inconsistent in spelling anyways

10483877

Thanks! glad you liked it :)

Sequel or what if story of that other dimension's events?

10484079

Not sure if I follow your question but the "other dimension" is essentially just Wonderbolts Academy as it's happening.

Fairly straightforward but very good, enough introspection to get invested in older Lightning without feeling like you've had an exposition dump.

Oomph, the feels. I admit I haven't read much Lightning Dust, never really a pony that stood out to me.
the way you captured the raw emotion in her as she struggles with what she wants in life. Is powerful.
Great work.

10484240

Thanks, glad you liked it!

And then Lightning Dust died of stomach cancer. The end.

(Seriously, if it's ulcers or just general stress it should be made a bit clearer).

“Now then, I must apologize for your unexpected interdimensional travel. My personal student still has a long way to go, but Luster is very sorry for dragging you here.”

Oh dang luster did that wow that's a powerful magic she has

Wow this was a pretty good story same lightning Dust change for the best even convincing her younger self to change her ways and somehow things turn out pretty well but it's the Wonders what's the timeline change her life or anything like that because this is like a Back to the Future type of thing things would change but anyway this was a good story so nice job on it

10484455

Of course it matters that Rainbow´s friends invaded restricted airspace without permision or authorization. Also, why didn´t Spitfire have any Wonderbolts in charge of oversee the training of recruits?
Not everything was Lightning´s fault.

10484728
Who said it was "restricted airspace"? The balloon came in from the opposite direction from the cloud-busting exercise. It wouldn't have been a problem if Lightning Dust hadn't impulsively decided to create a tornado to remove the last of the clouds.

Some excellent heavy stuff in this one. Lightning's unspoken fears hanging over everything like a shroud, her interactions with everyone around her (especially herself,) the everpresent theme of what she wants from life after squandering so much of it... And that bit in the cave, with each Lightning offering the other something in return? Brilliant work. Thank you for this. Best of luck in the judging.

10484796
Thank you for hosting! ^^

Also, this story is definitely under-rated.

Thank you for making it.

Yeah, so, I was planning on doing a comment after every chapter like I did for chapter 1, but just... god damn. I had to keep reading. I had to see what happened next, where things would go. And wow. What a fucking fantastic ride. I loved this. This might be my favorite story you've written? It's so damn good. Let me struggle to be more articulate instead of just endlessly complimenting you and your story.

So, first off, Lightning Dust is great here. Both of them are. The older Lightning, our POV Lightning, is so different than the pony we see in the show, and yet she still feels like Lightning Dust. This genuinely feels like who she could end up as, which is great. Her struggles throughout the fic, with her emotions, her fears, herself... they're all so real and relatable and god damn it hurt. I could relate more to Lightning here than I would care to admit.

The arc she follows here, from depressed and lying about it to everyone, to helping her younger self avoid making the mistakes she made, to her younger self helping her in turn find the courage to stop lying, to lay herself bare to the pony she loves... It's beautiful, frankly. It's also very tight, and I really don't think there's a single word or scene wasted here.

God, the scene in the cave... I know there's a spoiler tag but I don't even want to say anything even with that. It's really one of those things people need to experience themselves. It made me tear up though.

Fiddlesticks is also great. The love and care and concern that she has for Lightning, the way she just wants Lightning to talk to her but also respects her personhood (ponyhood?) enough to give her space too? It's fantastic. And god, after everything, that ending was so satisfying and I'm not above admitting that I cried a little.

I don't know what else to say, really. You should seriously be proud of this one, because it's something special.

10486867

Thanks wish, really glad you liked it ^^

Hope this makes you feel a little better :U

10486740
Thank you for reading! Glad you liked it!

My life’s been a mess. I’ve been a world destroyer, and I’ve been my downfall. I’m missing a wing, and I’m weak. My stomach is still tied in knots, and my heart aches for a life I could have had.

But tonight, my head feels clearer. The knots in my stomach finally unclench. I feel like I can breathe again.

As a result of knowing people with a variety of chronic stomach-affecting problems, I admit that I wondered what the cause was the whole time. I'm still not entirely sure if that's saying that she's going to recover from her stomach aching in general or just gets some relief for the night?

That aside, this was an excellent dive into Lightning Dust giving her younger self some much-needed advice; the reciprocity in that regard ties it together nicely.

10491973

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

My reasoning was that the primary cause was stress rather some specific ailment. So in a way, your second answer would be correct. As she says in the chapter, things aren't going to just magically get better once she faces her fears, but it'll be a start.

10492006
Thanks for clarifying! I'm no stranger to what stress can do, and I did have my money on that option after the first couple of chapters. I just… couldn't be sure.

10492014
Indeed. Perhaps I could have made it more clear and definitive but at the time I didn't feel it was necessary.

Another fantastic piece, Red. Nice job.

There are far to few views likes and faves on this but i did my part to remedy the tragedy.

holy fuck this was devastating. everything about this was so grounded and real and lightnings feelings surrounding her failures is just so visceral its impossible not to identify with her. youve done incredible work with her character and really with every character that appears here. the last chapter definitely nearly brought me to tears. i wanted lightning to learn, to get better, and watching her make those first steps really hit me. absolutely fantastic work

10601848

:O

Thank uuuuu dawn! That rlly means a lot coming from an author I look up to!! Thank u for reading and I’m v happy you liked it! ^^

This was a good morning read. This definitely goes in my top 3 of Lightning Dust stories. There's also plenty of notes to take in the way you did introspection, so I imagine I will find myself coming back to this story.

Have a review.

Also, thank you for writing one of my new favorite stories. Well done.

Your story has been reviewed here!

What an amazing, sad and very real story. Really love the characters and their interactions, the journey of self reflection and the start of the healing process. :heart:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Darnit, I wanted to know what was wrong with her stomach. :|

10827241

Maybe the real stomachache was the friends we made along the way

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

10827437
Oh, well why didn't you just say so? XD

10827476

Where’s the fun in that?! I’ve got to make it at least a little confusing :P

This was incredible. I can't believe it took me this long to read this, but it really is you just flexing on everyone with your grasp on characterization and prose. It's such a beautiful story, and a damn good argument for FiddleDust to boot.

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