• Published 31st May 2021
  • 705 Views, 105 Comments

A Soarindash Memoir - Crystalline Waters

Rainbow Dash and Soarin Skies attempt to find what they've been silently craving for a while: love.

  • ...

You Say I'm Strong When I Think I'm Weak

Author's Note:

Bear with me guys. This idea was in my head before I even started writing this fic. As I said earlier in the story, this was supposed to be a book of one-shots, and this was supposed to be a one-shot. I felt bad for thinking it, and even worse for flushing it out in writing.

Warning: Mild violence and some descriptions later in the chapter.

Rainbow Dash quickly walked through the streets of Cloudsdale. She had attended her August weather meeting during the day that had lasted a few hours. She was dreading facing her captain, as it was nearly two hours later than she had planned on being out. She cursed herself for reading the schedule wrong. Spitfire hadn't been very pleased to let her take the afternoon since it was early August, and no storms had popped up yet. The captain was very paranoid that one could spiral out of control at any given moment. Having herself miss their evening practice was not something she was on board with either. Rainbow walked hurriedly from the weather management building to a clearer area to take off from. She was almost there, when she heard voices that made her blood run cold. She turned to find the source of the voice, and squeaked once she confirmed who it belonged to. Standing a few feet from her were Dumbbell, Hoops, and Score. She hadn't seen them since the best young fliers competition, and wanted things to stay like that. She quickly found a small alleyway to hide in until they left. Unfortunately, her squeak had been much louder than she had anticipated, and her movements were too sudden and too frantic to be missed by the three bullies. Since the area was open and empty, they found her very quickly. They peeked into the alley to identify the source of the noise. Once they did, sneers overtook their faces, and they quickly advanced with Dumbbell in the lead.

Rainbow's heart was pounding in her ears, and she lowered herself into a protective position. She wondered what she was doing. She was cowering while three very large stallions towered over her threateningly. Remembering that she had to be strong and not give into them, she stood up straight and puffed herself up to make herself seem larger and more confident. It didn't work at all, as the bullies just laughed at her. Her scowl wavered as Hoops threw his head back and guffawed loudly. "Wow. I didn't think we'd have the chance to talk to you again, Crash."

"Yo-You're not going to talk to me. I'm leaving," she announced shakily. She tried to skitter around to run, but they blocked her path.

"Woah , woah. Slow down Crash, you're not going anywhere. Where would a pony like you have to go that's so important?" asked Dumbbell mockingly.

"Wonderbolts practice," she shot back. This elicited an eye roll from all three stallions.

"Ugh, how did such a failure get into that team in the first place. Don't tell me they actually fell for the 'I can do anything because I'm a tough pony' act." Rainbow recoiled from them, her small amount of spark dying out with an almost audible fizzle.

"I-I just made it. I flew well and... and.. I add something to the team." She was unsure of what to say. It was like her brain had stopped in its tracks and so had any coherent thoughts.

"You really believe that don't you?" asked Hoops with a condescending tone. "Do you actually think that anything you say or do could matter?" She tried again to run again, but something reached out and caught her in the wing. She found herself slammed against a wall with his hooves pressing hard against her wing joints. It shouldn't have hurt that badly since she was pressed against cloud, but he was putting so much pressure on her wings that they were quickly unable to be used. She was caught even more off guard as he suddenly removed his hooves before jamming her hard with them. She whimpered as she felt the hard impact on her joints. He let go, letting her fall to the floor and putting more pressure on them once she was down. Hoops had successfully rendered her unable to fly away. Score approached her next. He was the smallest of the three, but she knew from past experience that he was the most aggressive. She quickly sat upright, feeling her wings unfolded behind her.

"You know it's kinda sad that you actually believe that. No matter where you go Rainbow Crash you’ll always be a failure compared to those around you. In your friend group, you’re the annoying one with an overinflated ego. The one that holds no value. You may be a Wonderbolt, but they’re leagues better than you. You don’t deserve to be on the team and they probably all hate you. Just wait and see." With that, he very suddenly leaned forwards and delivered a few swift punches to her chest. She gasped as any air was completely knocked out of her lungs. The force of the punches was so strong and unexpected. Rainbow shook, too afraid to fight back. She wasn't the only one who noticed.

"Well Crash?" jeered Dumbbell. "You still can’t even defend yourself. You’re all pumped up as this hero to the rest of Equestria but cower because some colts from flight school hurt her feelings years ago. You’re weak, and a phony! Your fans and friends would be ashamed of you if they knew how much of a failure you were without your fake bravery. You’re pitiful and useless." Even more blows came. It was so hard to take a breath. His large hooves pummeled her, before he delivered a powerful buck with his hind leg. She knew her chest would be very damaged after this, but she saw no way out. Hoops stood up next, but was interrupted by Rainbow, who had forced herself to verbally retort.

"My friends don't seem to think so," she grunted out.

Hoops snorted, continuing his attacks, both verbal and physical. "You think ponies actually like you? You’re a nuisance and a piece of work to be around. Nopony actually wants or needs to know you. You're not a pony worth knowing, and the only pony who can't seem to see that.. " he pulled his hoof back before jamming it into her chest. "Is you!" She felt a crack when it made contact with her. She cried out as the three stallions delivered a few more blows to both her ribs and wings. In between blows, they'd hurl nasty words at her, lashing out with their tongues, puncturing deeper than any injury. Then without any warning aside from a nod from their leader, they stepped back and looked down at their victim. She was curled into a ball, coughing and shaking. She couldn't look the stallions in the eyes. She was completely at their mercy, just waiting for their assault to continue. Fortunately for her though, all physical contact ceased. With wide eyes and her lips parted a tiny bit, she looked up at the figures looming over her. Dumbbell leaned his head closer to hers, but backed away again when Rainbow flinched and pulled her head away. His smug expression remained as he forced his presence over hers.

"Crash. We'll leave you alone for good after today. Just listen to us for a minute. We're not going to bother you again. You're not worth it, but I guess it does work out for you. We just wanted to go out with a bang, you feel us? I mean, you probably do, with you always wanting to show off your 'skills.'" Rainbow could hear the disgust in his facial expression. "You never did understand just how much of a bother you were to everyone. You could never just sit still. Never just leave anypony alone. You were always boasting and bragging, acted like you were some tough shit. But you never were." His tone wasn't resentful or aggressive. He sounded calm and... disappointed. It stung so bad. He was right. "You were always a coward. You were afraid to show your face anywhere. You used to cling to your dad whenever he dropped you off for classes. Don't think we started to pick on you for nothing. You gave us plenty of ammo. If you had just been able to grow up a bit, or maybe.. I don't know...just fix everything about yourself, you'd be fine. We're just saying." He seemed to be finished with his little rant, leaving it a bit incomplete, like there was more to it that he chose to leave out. It unnerved her.

"Hope we don't see ya, Crash," Score joked as the three took flight and left the scene. She heard Hoops faintly echo with another 'yeah Rainbow Crash!' before she could no longer hear anything other than her ragged breathing. She lay there, motionless. She was beyond distraught, and her body was killing her. She dared not look herself over for fear of what she might see. She needed to get out of there.

With the destination of Wonderbolt HQ long forgotten, Rainbow's wings somehow managed to lift her off the ground and into the air. She was completely on autopilot. With an absurd amount of difficulty, she began her slow, uncontrolled, and excruciating flight home.

Soarin was flying to his marefriend’s house from HQ to pick her up. She had told him that she’d be in Cloudsdale for the day to take care of some business for the Ponyville Weather Team. She had said something about dropping off a few files and having a meeting with the heads of other weather teams concerning the next upcoming Tornado Day. She was supposed to be back at HQ by 4:30 that evening, but it was nearing 6:40 now and she had yet to show up. Spitfire had sent him to go see what the hold up was. Rainbow Dash was never late.

He spotted Rainbow Dash as she was flying back towards her house. He became concerned as it quickly became apparent that something was very wrong. Her flight pattern was erratic and uncontrolled, and she almost looked heavily intoxicated. He was shocked that she was managing to stay in the sky at such a pattern and pace. The final straw was when Rainbow made it to her cloud home and dropped hard onto her front step. She struggled to pull herself up to open the door using one hoof while hugging herself tight with the other. She managed to get the door open and drag herself in, wings hanging completely limp at her sides.

Reacting in alarm, Soarin picked up his speed and rushed the remaining distance to her house. Rainbow had left the door open so he had easy access to her house. He gasped upon entering. His marefriend was lying still on the floor, using her forelegs to grab her wings and hug herself tightly with all four appendages. Her face was taut with pain and heavy breaths escaped her nostrils. She opened her eyes and released a gasp of her own before wincing heavily and letting out a pained moan upon seeing Soarin.

“Dashie!” he exclaimed. He rushed to her side and gently picked her up to bring her to the couch. “I’m sorry!” he added as she gave a yelp of pain upon being moved. Trying to keep her as still as possible, Soarin cautiously laid her down on her side and put a hoof in her mane to comfort her. What in Equestria happened to her? Did she crash? Rainbow wasn’t doing any extreme flying that day and was always careful while doing so. On top of that, she had an extremely high pain tolerance, so if she was hurting this much unexplainably, he had no idea what could have occurred. He looked her over and noticed dark bruising around both of her wing joints, which would explain why her wings were completely limp. She had her forelegs and wings wrapped around her chest and ribcage, so he assumed that the majority of the pain was centered around that area. He began to move his hoof up and down Rainbow’s mane and thought about what to do next.

All the Wonderbolts had basic medical knowledge, but the top three had much more than the rest. Soarin knew that based on how she was flying, how she was remaining still, and how she was reacting to the pain, she might have broken a rib or two. They were a very sensitive area of the body, especially for pegasi since they were connected to the wings, and what was worse, took at least a couple of weeks to heal depending on the break. He hoped for Rainbow’s sake that she was only injured externally but they had to be tested to know for sure. He would have to bring her to the medbay to be examined, but if his suspicions were correct, they wouldn’t be able to do much unless the breaks were severe. Rainbow seemed to be breathing fine, though probably with a lot of pain, and wasn’t having any other severe reactions such as coughing blood or extreme dizziness. So he decided to assess the situation first and possibly get a rundown on what happened to her. He decided to give her a description of what he was going to do. “Dashie, I need you to let go of your wings and let me see your rib cage and stomach. I just want to know what to tell the medics when I bring you back to HQ."

Rainbow nodded and loosened her forelegs from her chest which let the wing underneath her fall back to the couch. Her wings must have hurt too badly to move on their own, because she began to lift the one facing upwards up with her forelegs, cringing. Soarin stopped her as soon as he saw it. “Hey hey, I’ve got it,” he assured her and very slowly moved her wing and folded it at her side. Now that her underside was visible, Soarin recoiled at the sight. How in the name of Celestia did this happen? Her ribcage was covered in dark bruises. Where some of the impacts were, there were splotches of dried blood. There were three bruises that were much worse than the others. One was on the bottom right side of her ribs, another in the middle of the left side, and the worst one of the three just a bit above the first. The last was bigger, darker, and had more blood than the others. Soarin wanted to clean the wounds before he brought her back to the compound. He felt awful that he was going to have to touch an area that looked so painful. He took one of her hooves in his and gently rubbed it as he spoke. “Okay Dashie. I'm taking you to the medbay at HQ, but first I want to clean you up. There's blood in some areas. I'm going to sit you up so that there's no more pressure on your wings. Just try to take some deep breaths while I do it. It’s going to hurt a lot so please try to be strong, okay?”

“Mmhm,” was the only reply she gave, eyes still squeezed shut. Soarin moved his hoof under her shoulder closest to the couch and slowly helped her sit upright while keeping her torso in a straight line. “Ooh,” she exhaled when she was fully seated, ears flopping to the sides. Soarin gently folded her other wing to her side and rubbed her shoulders briefly, before going to her bathroom to get her first-aid kit. She had one just because of the frequency at which she dealt with minor injuries, either on herself or her little sister. When Soarin arrived back into the living room, he held his breath and sat down in front of Rainbow. He got out a packet of antiseptic wipes, and got to work.

Rainbow had her eyes shut as she focused on keeping her breaths deep and steady. Every lungful hurt like hell and now her bruises were about to be pressed on. What was worse were the memories and insults that came with each bruise.

She clenched her jaw as Soarin began wiping the blood off of her torso. She didn't want to open her eyes, fearing the look she would see on his face. He started on the left side of her ribs. She was able to stifle any sounds that built up in her throat and managed to stay still. The wipes stung so badly it was all she could to not jerk away. If she was being honest, she could cope with the pain because the words hurt so much worse. As Soarin’s went on, he reached the first of the worst three bruises. The one on the middle left, where Hoops had walloped her while yelling.
You think ponies actually like you? You’re a nuisance and a piece of work to be around. Nopony actually wants or needs to know you. You're not a pony worth knowing, and the only pony who can't seem to see that.. is you!
It made the flare up that much harder.

Soarin had been watching Rainbow’s reaction to his touches. She seemed to be in moderate pain from the start. He could hear Rainbow trying to steady her body and breathing and suck up the pain. However, when he got to the first of her three major bruises, her face contorted and she sucked in a breath that only appeared to bring her more pain. “You okay?” he asked. She didn’t say anything, but nodded, calming herself again so he proceeded. A new emotion bubbled up besides the concern he felt for her. This was no crash. The bruises had a distinct hoof shape to them, meaning that they were deliberately put there. He was angry. He had no idea who would just attack Rainbow out of nowhere, or how they had successfully done so much damage. Rainbow was tiny yes, but she was no flower. She was incredibly strong and agile, and was very good in combat. Whomever did this either had to be good as well, or had caught her by surprise.

Rainbow heard Soarin ask the question, but didn’t answer for fear of her voice breaking.
She felt him move down on to the bruise on the bottom right of her ribcage. The one given to her by Score's hoof.
No matter where you go Rainbow Crash you’ll always be a failure compared to those around you. In your friend group, you’re the annoying one with an overinflated ego. The one that holds no value. You may be a Wonderbolt, but they’re leagues better than you. You don’t deserve to be on the team and they probably all hate you. Just wait and see.
Rainbow's eyes teared up. She was lucky her face was already in position to prevent liquid from squeaking out. Yet, it hurt so bad she couldn’t hold in a yelp.

“Ahh!” Soarin heard his marefriend yelp. Her face scrunched up even tighter and she inhaled quickly a few times. He brushed her bangs back and nuzzled her cheek.

“Shh Dashie. It’s almost done okay? I have one more area to clean and we’ll be done.” At this point, he was ready to scoop her up and get her to the medic as soon as possible. He couldn't imagine the pain she was in, as he was only touching her exterior and leaving her interior pretty much alone. He wasn't pressing down that hard at all.Rainbow had failed to keep her reactions at bay, and this last one was going to be a doozy for her. He frowned and moved onto the remaining area of her chest.

Each wipe was torture for Rainbow. She could feel him getting closer and closer to the worst spot. She dreaded it. It was physically and mentally the most painful of all the punches. It was where Dumbbell had kicked her with his back leg. Remembering the insult made breathing difficult and made even more tears threaten to make their presence known.
Well Crash? You still can’t even defend yourself. You’re all pumped up as this hero to the rest of Equestria but cower because some colts from flight school hurt her feelings years ago. You’re weak, and a fake! Your fans and friends would be ashamed of you if they knew how much of a failure you were without your fake bravery. You’re pitiful and useless.
It was too much for Rainbow to handle. Everything came out the moment Soarin pressed down on it.

Soarin cringed as he felt himself getting closer to the last bruise. He looked up at his marefriend as he felt her chest start to waver. He hesitated before pressing lightly on it with the wipe. He flinched hard as Rainbow burst out into tears. He quickly finished what he was doing and cupped her face with his hooves. She looked up at him with such a pained expression, it scared him. Her normally bright, cheery pools of cerise were full of pain and fear. He didn't like it in the slightest.

“Dashie? How badly does it hurt?” She brought one of her hooves up to her face and squeezed one of his with it. She let out an indiscernible sob, the only part of it he could understand was 'hurts' and 'bad'. Soarin rushed into the kitchen and grabbed an ice pack from her freezer. It was long and thin, like a sheet of ice. He quickly wrapped it in a thin towel and returned to a hysterical Rainbow Dash. He placed it very carefully over her entire rib cage, where she wrapped her forelegs around herself once more to hold it in place. Soarin leaned forward and let her bury her face into his shoulder. He did his best to soothe Rainbow by stroking her mane and the back of her neck. It was then he decided that he could wait until she got treated to ask her about this. He could clearly see that she was upset and in severe pain. That being said, Soarin knew that crying would only make things worse.

“Shh. I know it hurts Dashie, but try not to cry. It'll only make things worse. Nice, easy breaths,” he encouraged. Slowly but surely, Rainbow started to calm down and breathe easier. Once her tears had gone from torrents to small, steady streams, he leaned back and looked at her. “There you go. Better,” he said as he kissed the top of her head. “You don't have to explain anything right now Dashie.” He watched as Rainbow’s eyes drifted away from him for an instant and then came back. He caressed her cheek. "Let's head to HQ. They'll be able to make it feel better hopefully." She nodded and allowed him to pick her up off the couch. She groaned again as she was being lifted, but relaxed once she was in a better position. Soarin had one foreleg holding her neck and shoulders, and the other very gently supporting her back and legs. He took off with the still crying mare in his hooves and flew as steadily as he could towards the Wonderbolt compound.

It was around 7:10 when he arrived back. Practice had ended at 6:45, Spitfire had let him go early out of worry for their friend. He hated that her worries had turned out to be legitimate. He knew that at this time she'd be in her office for a few minutes to sort out her to-do lists and updates about how practice went. He stopped in the rec room, knowing that the team always met there after showers. He stopped there and poked his head in. "Hey Soarin!" greeted Lightning. "Did you find-" He was cut off as he along with everypony else saw the condition that Rainbow was in. And they hadn't even seen the damage yet, as she still clutched the ice pack to herself. He put a hoof up to his mouth. "What happened to her?"

"She hasn't said yet. Can one of you go get Spitfire and tell her that we need her in the medbay as soon as she can come?" Sun Chaser was the first one on her hooves.

"I'll do it." With that, she took off in the direction of Spitfire's office. Soarin followed suit on his way to the medics.

The Wonderbolt medic who was on duty that day was a unicorn mare named Althea Amethyst, but who went by Thea. She had a long, curly black mane and a shiny, light grey coat. She was a perfect example of a comforting nurse. Her sky blue eyes were so full of tender kindness, and she had such a gentle touch. Most of the physical examinations that the Wonderbolts had to take included their wings, the most sensitive part of their bodies. Thea was great at examining their wings without startling them or making them feel uncomfortable. How she did this without being a pegasus was beyond any of them.

As soon as Soarin entered the med bay, his eyes darted around, looking for Thea. She saw him first, obviously, as he had come in in a rather loud manner. She initially looked cheerful, as the medbay wasn't needed for injuries too often. More so for illnesses, day to day aches, or hangovers. Once she saw the distressed pegasus with him however, she went straight into medical mode. She approached the pair with an expression of both compassion and professionalism. "What happened here?" she asked, getting to the point straight away.

"She hasn't told me anything yet. Her chest and ribs are hurt, and so are her wings. She's in a lot of pain."

"I can see that," she remarked. "How long has the ice pack been on?"

"Um, I left her house maybe fifteen minutes ago, and I put the ice pack on a few minutes before that." The mare nodded in approval.

"Alright hon. Can you set her down on this table right here?" She led them over to the closest training table to them. "Sitting upright please, if that's possible." Soarin complied, setting her lower half onto the table. Thea stepped in to ease her the rest of the way using her magic, which was also a light blue color. Rainbow was now fully upright, with her forelegs wrapped around her and her wings again limp at her sides. Before Thea had the chance to start examining her, the doors to the medbay opened once more to reveal a worried looking Spitfire and Fleetfoot in the entryway. They rushed over to the group, and looked Rainbow over.

"Sun just came to get us," Spitfire said. "She said that it was urgent. How are you holding up Crash?" Her question didn't have the desired effect, as Rainbow just grit her teeth and cried harder. Thea interjected upon seeing the concern grow on all three faces in the room.

"Alright, alright, take it easy with the questions. Sweetie, you're okay," she assured Rainbow gently. She placed a hoof on her shoulder while using her magic to coax the mare's forelegs away from her midsection. Once she had access to her chest, she levitated the ice pack away from her. It now had small patches of diluted blood on it. Fleetfoot gasped, Spitfire's mouth fell open, Thea raised her eyebrows, and Soarin winced once again.

"Thweet Luna, Rainbow," Fleetfoot breathed. Now that the blood had been wiped away, it was very obvious that the bruises were made by someone's hooves. "Did thomepony do thith to you?" Rainbow looked down, gritting her teeth harder. Again, Thea came to her rescue, standing next to her and laying a hoof on her upper back.

"Girls, I know you're worried about her. So am I, but I want to see to what extent she's hurt before we start asking things. Though Soarin, she'll probably need a hoof or two to cope with the pain." He nodded and sat next to his marefriend, taking her hoof in both of his own and rubbing it. She looked at him with her watery eyes and squeezed his hoof in return. Eyeing Rainbow's wings, Thea asked, "Can you fold or move your wings on their own?" The mare tried and failed, the only thing that came out of the attempt was a sharp hiss of pain through her teeth. With a serious nod, Thea's horn lit up once more, releasing what looked like a hologram without an image. The beam of light travelled up and down Rainbow's body a few times, before dying out. She looked relieved as her magic passed her wings, but frowned as it went slower around her chest area. "Sweetie, it looks like you've taken some serious hits to the ribcage. Is that right?" Rainbow nodded, making Spitfire's eyes narrow and Fleetfoot's widen. "Alright, my scan turned up a few areas of concern. I'm going to press down on your back in these areas. I would do your front if there wasn't so much damage, but your back will probably provide a better assessment anyways." She moved to the left side, pressing a hoof into the area an equal distance from the bruising and the wing. Rainbow's eyes widened, her grip on Soarin's hoof tightening as a grunt escaped the back of her throat. The medic retracted her hoof, frowning. She waited until Rainbow was ready for the second round. She repeated the process a second time on the right side, but this time just below her wing. A sound almost identical to a scared Fluttershy came out this time, something that took everypony by surprise. "Oh dear. Based on both my scan and physical evaluation, we're looking at two breaks on the right and one on the left." The reactions of the top three 'bolts was the same. Shocked, and very concerned. Thea turned to soothe Rainbow. She ran a hoof gently up and down one of her arms comfortingly. "Honey, you're doing great okay? All that's left to do is make sure that the damage stayed on your ribs. I'm just going to listen to your breathing to confirm that everything's in order with your lungs." She levitated a stethoscope over to where she was and held it in between the wings. "Give me three slow, deep breaths," she ordered. Rainbow complied, closing her eyes and feeling Soarin's hooves clutching hers tightly. "Good job," Thea said with a smile. "Everything sounds excellent. Now, I have good news and bad news." She walked over so she could look the injured mare in the eyes. "The bad news is, there isn't much I can do to treat you. Even with magic, ribs are just something you've got to let do their thing. Also, I don't want you flying at all for about four weeks. You can fly with the team after five. Though I know you already knew most of that." Everypony nodded sadly. "The good news is though, that I can give you pain relieving spells, and you can continue basic daily activities. Walk a bit everyday. My biggest concern at the moment is all the bruising. It shouldn't be a problem for now though, just be careful. As for your wings, they're not too poorly and will heal in about a week or so. Any questions?" After a minute of silence, Spitfire spoke up.

"So she'll really be out for over a month?" she asked, though she knew perfectly well that there would be no other answer. "Never mind," she said after receiving a firm look from Thea.

"Now," said the medic in a much more serious tone than what she had just been using. "What happened to you sweetie? Those don't just come from nowhere." Rainbow's eyes had stopped leaking for a few minutes, but with this question, her eyes watered once more. She found that her torso was suddenly wrapped in magic, making everything stop hurting so much. "It's a pain relieving spell, and I'm keeping your injuries stable," Thea explained. She moved away from the mare to allow Soarin to take her place once more. "Let it all out Rainbow."

For the second time that day, Rainbow Dash unleashed a heavy volley of tears. In an instant, Soarin had his forelegs wrapped around her, letting her sob into him once more. He stroked her mane and rubbed the base of her neck, waiting a few minutes for her sniveling to die down.

"Sorry," she finally said, addressing everypony. "I'm a freaking train wreck right now. Look at me just crying and crying."

"Stop it, Rainbow," Spitfire interjected. "Somepony hurt you. Badly. You have every reason to be upset. Cry if you need to cry. Nopony here is going to fault you for that."

"But it makes me weak! I have to be stronger than this! I let them hit me! I was a coward!" she countered, projecting her voice as hard as her chest allowed her.

"You let them hit you? And who are they?" Fleetfoot asked. She moved closer and took one of Rainbow's hooves as Soarin hopped onto the training table to sit next to her and lay his arm around her shoulders. Rainbow answered neither question, instead just recalling the events of the day.

"I was in Cloudsdale for a weather meeting earlier. I read the meeting schedule too quickly and thought that it was supposed to end at four fifteen. When I went, I found out that it actually ended at five forty five, and that I accidentally read the column for next month's meeting. That was a mistake on my part, and I'm sorry Spitfire." The fiery mare just nodded silently. "When I finally left the weather building, it was about six. I was walking down a street when I was leaving and I ran into three stallions who I haven't seen in years. I was hoping I wouldn't have to see them again. I go to Cloudsdale once every other month, and I haven't ever seen them." She rubbed more water out of her eyes. "They started off by taunting me. I was ready to run as soon as they started talking. But I just couldn't. I didn't do anything. That was one problem on its own. Then they started getting physical. It was too fast for me to do anything. They were talking and then one of them just pressed me up against the wall by the bases of my wings. He kept pressing until I couldn't use them, then hit them really hard." A shiver ran through her. "They kept insulting me and just kicking and punching me. Not a single hit landed anywhere other than my ribs or wings. When they were finally done, they left and I flew back home. I forgot all about coming back to HQ. I just wanted to get away from them and home is where I ended up." It was a very brief and vague description, but it got the point across.

"But who did it, Rainbow?" Fleetfoot asked again.

"Bullies. From flight school." she sniffled. "They just popped up out of nowhere and I froze. I couldn't fight them, I was too scared! A freaking coward." Her ears and head drooped shamefully.

"Why did they thcare you tho badly?" Soarin squeezed his marefriend tighter, already knowing some of what they had done to her in the past.

"First of all, they're huge. Two of them are almost your height Soar. Not quite there, but they're close. And they're sturdier than Silver or Thunderlane! But mostly because they're the reason that I am how I am. I try and try to be this pillar of strength and confidence because I've needed to be to make it through my life. But I'm not! I never stopped being the scared filly that needed to hide in my best friend's chest feathers, and hide behind Fluttershy! I play this brave hero, but I'm weak. Nopony wants somepony like that." Her voice went from a near shout to barely a whisper. "I'm not worth keeping around. And I don't deserve any friends to hide behind. I didn't even fight back today. I'm a coward, a failure. I'm so pathetic," she finished, voice breaking. Her explanation sounded messy, as if she didn't want to say what she did. The others on the other hand were glad that she was letting some things out, even if she didn't want them to come out.

"Is that what they've told you?" Spitfire growled. "You've been believing that your whole life?"

"Yeah. Everypony seemed to always agree with them too. Somepony important to me left because they thought that I wasn't even worth protecting. And another group of different ponies when I had left flight school told me the exact same things. I'm stupid, and good for nothing!" She gave a muffled wail and turned to hide her face in Soarin's stomach.

"That's not true Dashie," he spoke up. His voice was as strong as his grip on her. "You are an amazing pony. Look at it this way. Only those three have continued to bully you after you left Cloudsdale right?" She turned her head back to face Spitfire and Fleetfoot and nodded.

"Aside from the Blitz incident, yeah." Spitfire and Fleetfoot looked confused, but Soarin motioned for them to not worry about it.

"How many ponies do you still know that went to school with you?" he asked. Her eyes drifted to the upper right corner as she thought.

"Kind of a lot. Thunderlane is one of them, so is Shy obviously, and a few others who work on the weather team."

"Right. How many still try to make you feel bad about yourself?" Her eyes widened a bit at the question.

"None of them really. They tease sure, but nothing like when I was a kid."

"Exactly," he kissed her in between her ears. "Those bullies scared everypony into following their lead. They were afraid too." Rainbow shook her head, squeezing Fleetfoot's hoof.

"They weren't back then. Most of them.." Another sniffle escaped as she relived some of the memories. "You should have seen the looks on some of their faces. Their smirks and smiles were so... weird. They looked like they really did believe everything they told me, and they enjoyed telling me them. They never left me alone, they chased me. I almost felt like something being hunted." The other three Pegasi and unicorn in the room just listened, unsure of how to make her feel better.

"What changed? You were there for over a decade, there must have been some changes in either you or them," Spitfire tried to get more information. "Why did it keep happening?"

"They thought it was fun I guess. I got more and more scared as the years went on. It gave them more and more to make fun of me and hurt me for. Everypony saw me as an easy target because I was small and skittish. Finally, when I was fourteen, I just changed. Well, I didn't really change. I just pretended that I was okay, that I wasn't scared. I made myself act brave, and cocky, and always pushed my limits when I flew. I couldn't afford to give them more ways to pull me apart. I act like this because I couldn't give them any more reasons to hurt me. They already had so many. They still do. I just can't d-do it," she ended with a sob. Unable to take any more, Spitfire got up and moved to stand in front of Rainbow. Fleetfoot backed up a bit and Soarin let go of his marefriend, letting Spitfire get close and rest a hoof on her shoulder.

"Rainbow Dash," she began. Her eyes were comforting and friendly, but her voice was stern. It wasn't quite her captain's voice, but it was close. It grasped Rainbow's attention. "For just a minute, ignore everything. I know, easier said than done. But I just want you to know something. We are here, and we are your friends. We care about you, all of you. You don't ever have to act invincible around us. If you're ever nervous, or down, or need help with anything at all, we will never hesitate to help. Same with your other friends. You're not weak for having emotions or needs." She reached forwards and gave her friend a gentle embrace, rubbing her upper back. "They might have made you think otherwise, but I need you to know that you don't have to hide anything from us. You matter to us and all of your friends and we just want you to feel safe and happy. None of us can erase the past, but we can help you going forwards. You are not weak, and never were. It took so much bravery to last all those years in such a toxic environment. It took so much strength to live and learn though all of that. Please acknowledge that, okay?"

"O-Okay," replied Rainbow shakily. She leaned against Spitfire, rubbing her eyes. Her posture and expression still looked sad and defeated, but she let herself be comforted by her friends. "Thanks for that. I needed that."

"Hey, it's kind of our job to set you straight." Spitfire smirked a friendly smirk. Fleetfoot spoke up nervously at that moment.

"Um.. They athaulted you Rainbow. Are you going to report it? Did anypony thee what happened?" The mare's eyes widened and she felt Spitfire's grip on her tighten. She very quickly moved her head from side to side.

"N-No. Nopony saw it. I'm... not going to report it. Yes it was assault, but they said that it would be the last. I want to believe them on that. A-and I don't think they'd attack anypony else like that." Thea stepped back into the group to offer her two cents.

"Honey, I see where you're coming from. I respect your thoughts on the matter, but I really do think that you should report it. They broke bones, Rainbow. You'll be out for the rest of the summer and the first week of the fall season!"

"It could have been worse, and they left on their own."

"It was three grown stallions against a tiny mare. I'd say you're very lucky that you managed to even get home by yourself." The medic was calm in her arguments, but anypony could tell that she was very bothered by the situation.

"I know, Thea." Rainbow was not as calm, becoming defensive and a bit frantic. "I think they really did mean that this was the last time. I want it to be true, and I don't want to make them angry." Spitfire piped in next, still holding onto her friend to keep her calm.

"You don't have to report them if you don't want to. I think you probably should, but we're not going to force you. If you have to go to Cloudsdale, I won't let you go alone if that makes you feel any safer." She earned a squeeze in return from Rainbow, signifying her gratuity.

"I think you should, Dashie. I don't trust them. Look at yourself! That worries me," Soarin added softly.

"Rainbow, I agree with Thpitfire. We'll thupport you no matter what, but I think you should." Everypony in the room thought that she should report them. Nevertheless, the mare stuck to her initial mindset.

"I don't want to. I don't want to make things harder than they need to be for everypony. I'll go with somepony should I need to go back anytime soon. I just want to trust them on this. It sounds freaking ridiculous, but it's how I feel." Thea looked the most uneasy, but she gave a nod of reluctant approval.

"Alright sweetie. I appreciate you telling us the full story and opening up a bit. It was very brave of you." She gave a kind smile. "You must be exhausted though. Are you ready to go to bed or do you want to stay here for a while longer with your friends? I know it's still early but you look like you could use the rest." Everypony could agree, having seen the physical damage and the emotional toll the day had taken on the pegasus. Her under eyes were lined, her eyes themselves were dark, and even with Thea's magic supporting her, she had begun to slump. Spitfire released her from her embrace, her hoof re-assuming its position on her shoulder.

"Go to bed, Rainbow. We'll be here for you tomorrow if you need us, and will be anytime you do. Take care of yourself okay?" Fleetfoot zipped up to give her a quick hug.

"Jutht let uth know if you need anything. Not just uth, but the retht of the team too. We're a family, you know."

"Thanks guys. You're great friends," Rainbow whispered. She turned to Thea, waiting for further instructions. The medic perked up, ready to explain.

"I would recommend sleeping upright for the next few nights. I know all you want to do right now is lie down, but that's actually one of the worst things you can do for broken ribs. Especially since yours are on both sides. Just prop yourself up against your bedframe, take lots of deep breaths, and try to get some shut-eye." She was right. Rainbow just wanted to rest and take all pressure off her body. "I'm going to levitate you up onto the bed to make things easier, but you're going to walk there. It's not good to stay still for too long." She levitated Rainbow off of the table, keeping her stabilizing spell in place. "I'm going to remove the spell in a second. Take a big breath now," she instructed. Rainbow did so, preparing herself for the return of the pain. Her legs nearly buckled when the soothing magic was released, and she cried out once more. Soarin was quickly at her side, offering a nuzzle to help her cope. When she had regained most of her composure, she started walking next to Soarin, followed by the three mares. Once they had reached the door, muffled voices were heard from the other side. The unicorn flung open the doors to reveal the entire team on the other side. Their eyes all widened, and some took a step back upon seeing their injured teammate. Based on how they looked like foals who got caught snooping, it was safe to assume that they had heard the whole thing, yet they hadn't seen her. Surprise stepped forwards and gave a very gentle hug. Rainbow couldn't do anything to reciprocate the action, so she gave a weary hint of a smile instead.

"If it makes you feel any better," said Fire Streak. "We all think that you're very strong. Possibly the bravest mare we've ever seen." He spoke as if it was just a continuation of the conversation that was just being had inside. His statement earned nods all around.

"Totally," agreed High Winds. "We're each other's wings." Each pony gave a few words of comfort, making Rainbow feel slightly better. They stayed for about three minutes before her ribs were screaming, and Thea shooed everyone away. They walked until Soarin suddenly stopped at his door.

"You can stay with me tonight, Dashie," he offered. "I have a bigger headboard, and I kinda just... want to keep an eye on you for now." He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly as he said it.

"I'd like that," she answered. She still really needed his comfort, and wanted to be with someone who really had her trust. She, Soarin, and Thea all entered his room.

"Get on the bed first, Soarin. Sitting up against the headboard," the medic ordered. He removed some of the pillows, but kept one behind his head as he was taller than the headboard. Thea then levitated Rainbow over to the bed, nestling her upright with her back against Soarin's stomach. Once she was comfortable, she released the levitation spell, and offered a pain relief spell, which Rainbow eagerly accepted. She gave her farewell and told them that she'd check up on Rainbow the next day, before leaving the two alone again.

Feeling pretty comfortable against her coltfriend, Rainbow focused on taking deep breaths. He brought the blankets up to cover both of them and snuggled her from behind. Out of nowhere, her eyes started to water again, and she shuddered lightly as the rest of her emotions flowed out of her eyes. She wasn't sure exactly why she was crying at the moment, but she just knew that she needed to be relieved. She had no doubt she'd be needing a lot of reassurance for a while, but felt just a tad bit better than she had earlier. Soarin tensed when he heard her sniffles and whimpers, quickly leaning down to kiss her head. He let his lips linger there for a few minutes, nuzzling her and stroking her cheek with a hoof while her eyes leaked for what would probably be the last time that day. Her usually soft cheek fur was now matted with tears which she was sure didn't feel the nicest under his hooves. She felt bad that he had to deal with her. She was absolutely exhausted, but sleep evaded her yet. "Soarin?" she croaked out.

"Shhh. I'm here Dashie. What's up?" He wrapped the arm he wasn't using to pet her across her chest and shoulders to reassure her.

"Thank you so much. It means the world that you're still here. A-and that Spit and Fleet are too. I don't know what I'd do without you all." She moved her head backwards to half nuzzle him. He kissed her head more firmly this time.

"You deserve somepony who cares, Dashie. You need somepony to always be there for you. I am honored to be that pony, and will gladly be there. You need to believe in yourself more often. I love you, and all of you. What did you say in that song when that journal of yours came out a while ago? You've got dents and you've got quirks, but it's your flaws that make you work?" Rainbow was touched that he remembered so clearly. He paid attention to the lessons she had told him about. "You have so many amazing attributes. You're an amazing flyer. You're the best friend a pony could have. You're kind, caring, protective, loyal. I love your spunk and bravery. I admire your hard work and dedication. But I also love your excitement, your softness, your weak points. I love how you can put a positive spin on just about anything, how you always make quesadillas on your cooking nights because it's the only thing that won't give us food poisoning. I love how you geek out over your sister's books. I don't love some of you, and then wish away the parts that you hide. It's okay to need comfort, to want to feel safe. It's normal to be sensitive and awkward sometimes. The only pony who really cares that you have emotions or about little flaws are those bullies, and I haven't the slightest idea why. They're sick stallions Dashie, and I can't even begin to express how disgusted I am by them. They wouldn't stop until they broke you, and that makes me so angry. I hope that with our help, you can feel genuinely confident and embrace all of you, just as we do. Just as I do." He sounded so sure it hurt. He sounded so sure it felt wonderful.

"I- I love you too, Soarin." Celestia it felt so good to say. "You're so good at saying the right things. You always know how to make me feel better. Thank you." At this point she couldn't cry any more. Her eyes hurt just as much as the rest of her.

"No need to thank me," he chucked softly. "I just needed you to know. You could stand to be reminded more often. We'll talk more about the specifics of what they said tomorrow. If, and only if, you're comfortable though. Now, sleep. You really need it."

"Goodnight Soar." His response was another nuzzle. He continued to nuzzle and comfort her to the best of his abilities. She fell asleep in his loving, warm arms that night. It was just the thing she needed to ease her distressed mind. She was eternally grateful to have him there for her.