• Published 23rd Dec 2011
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A Bluebird's Song - Ardensfax



Rainbow Dash is struggling against her own past. Is it time for her rising star to fall?

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All I Never Told You

A Bluebird’s Song

~~~
Take me by the hand
You’ll either kill me or you’ll save me
Take me to the island
Show me what might be real life
~~~

All I Never Told You

The next morning was grim and overcast, the rain thrumming and stuttering as it hurled itself intermittently against the library’s windowpane. The occasional bolt of lightning split the sky outside, but it was not sufficient to wake the unicorn sleeping contentedly in her bed, exhausted from the previous night’s study. Two piles of books had been constructed beside the bed, the smaller consisting of psychology textbooks, the larger bearing titles relating to pegasine physiology and flight. Atop the desk on the other side of the room lay pages of hoof-drawn diagrams and calculations that Twilight had meticulously worked through the previous night. Tacked to the wall above the desk were two more diagrams, one of a Pegasus’ wing-bone, the other of a bird’s, each heavily coated in hastily-inked annotations.

With a rattle, the door swung open, and Spike entered. He halted for a moment, slightly wrong-footed by the room’s sudden and radical redesign, taking in the sheets of parchment pinned to most available surfaces, and what appeared to be the majority of the Pegasus Physiology section built into a pillar by the bed. After a second, he shrugged, having been granted quite well-fortified walls of cynicism by years spent living with Twilight’s eccentricities. He pottered across the room, and prodded the sleeping unicorn gently in the shoulder. “Twilight?” he whispered, not wanting to startle her. She mumbled something incoherent, but did not stir. “Twilight? It’s almost ten,” he said, a little louder, shaking her shoulder slightly.

Twilight stirred, blearily half-opening one eye. “Rainbow?” she murmured, still mostly asleep.

Spike was a little nonplussed, but after a second came to an interpretation of what she had said. “Don’t worry,” he said, a little proudly, “I sent off to Cloudsdale for some more crude Rainbow myself yesterday. Should be here in a few days.”

By this time Twilight was considerably more awake, and realized what she had said while still half-asleep. She blushed slightly, her dreams having contained a rather different, but no less volatile, Rainbow to the one Spike thought that she talking about. She could recognize a lucky escape when she saw one, and decided to leave the subject there. “Thanks, Spike.” She smiled blearily at him. “Sorry about the mess in here.”

Spike looked around at the state of the room, one eyebrow raised. “Isn’t the basement enough?” he asked, wryly. “I’m sure there’s a rule somewhere that says ‘only one mad scientist room per house’.”

“Probably.” Twilight was not much of a morning pony, and was heavy-eyed as she dragged herself out of bed. “Look out coffee, here I come,” she muttered.

“What’s all this stuff about, anyway?” Spike gestured around at the somewhat repapered room.

“Pet project of mine,” Twilight grinned, running an eye over her calculations from the previous night. “Been working on it for a while now. I couldn’t sleep too well and I’d finished all of the other stuff I was reading up on,” she glanced at the small pile of psychology books with a satisfied glint in her eye, she should have plenty of information to give Dash when she came over today. “So, I decided to try and finish up this other project.”

“I’m guessing it’s something to do with pegasi?” Spike tapped an anatomical wing diagram that had fallen from the desk, and was lying on the floor by his foot.

Twilight nodded. “Yes, everything.” She cleared her throat a little, and Spike rolled his eyes a little, regretting his curiosity as he recognized Twilight’s Lecture Face. “I’ve double checked the calculations, and I’m sure I’m correct. I need to do some tests on a live subject, but I’d bet my last bit that I’m right. You see, I first became interested in Pegasus flight at the young flyer’s contest. I noticed there that a lot of Pegasus flying styles didn’t conform to the usual flight techniques exhibited by most avian creatures. In fact, many maneuvers resulted in effects contrary to-”

She broke off with an exasperated sigh. Spike’s eyes had glazed over, and he was clearly not taking a word in. Twilight shook her head, half-amused by Spike’s lack of attention span. In his boredom, he had picked up the diagram, and was glancing with mild interest down the list of attributes associated with the Pegasus wing. “Do their wings really have hollow bones?” He asked, in a barely-veiled attempt at heading her off. Twilight nodded, and was about to elaborate when Spike caught onto another item further down the list. “What’s an erogenous zone?” he asked, with genuine interest.

“I- Uhh- Let’s get some breakfast!” Twilight exclaimed loudly, yanking the parchment magically out of Spike’s claws and rolling it up. There were some questions that you just don’t want to have to answer so soon after getting up.

*

The members of the weather team were not entirely happy with Rainbow Dash for vanishing from active duty the previous day, especially so close to a storm. In all honesty, she had not thought about her weather commitments ever since reading the article and suffering from her unwanted epiphany. She was only reminded when she met several members of her team heading towards her house in varying degrees of irritable sogginess, just as she was leaving for Twilight’s library. The news of her accident outside the farm the previous day had filtered back to the weather team, but they had heard the news of Dash crashing into solid objects once too many times in the past. As such, there was little sympathy to be had from any of them, with the exception of Ditzy Doo, who had smiled, and silently handed her a damp get-well card with the enigmatic message: ‘Elephants are not afraid of strawberries” scrawled within in what appeared to be wax crayon. Dash had appreciated the gesture nonetheless.

A few minutes after this uncomfortable meeting, Dash could be found flying above the cloud layer to avoid the rain, heading towards the library. She had explained to the weather team that she was having ‘personal problems’, and guiltily requested a few days of leave. They had reluctantly agreed, although Dash could have sworn that she heard a few unsavoury remarks thrown her way as soon as she was facing the other way. She felt that she deserved them, if she was honest, although she was trying hard not to be too negative about herself. It’s gonna get worse before it can get better, you saw that yesterday, she told herself sternly. The pit of her stomach was fluttering a little as she approached the treehouse. The sensation was reminiscent of how she had felt before the Young Flyer’s Competition the previous year, only much less intense. It took her a second to realize that she was actually feeling nervous. Come on! She shook herself, mentally. Why’ve you got the jitters now? It’s only Twilight, you’ve liked her for ages, it’s not like today’s any different.

But it was different, no matter how much she told herself otherwise. Yesterday, as she explained how she felt to Fluttershy, it was as if her feelings had crystallized into a form that she could examine. Previously, at Flight School and in her life generally, her attraction towards the other mares had never been more than a crush. If they did not return her feelings, it had never really mattered, she could move on with perfect ease. With Twilight, however, it was important to her. She had only now realized just how important it was. Maybe it was because they had been friends for a long time, or perhaps it was because she knew how awkward things would be if it didn’t work out. Whatever the reason, it was causing her heart-rate to rise as she headed towards the library. She had always been able to act calm and collected around the subjects of her crushes, but now it felt as if something important were at stake. She could not help but see the irony of the situation. There you go, Dash, she thought, yesterday, you didn’t know if you wanted to be cool anymore. Well, you’re not so cool now, are you?

She could see through a gap in the clouds, and spotted the spire of the library approaching fast on the right. Banking, she flipped over and smoothly arced down into a dive. As she reached the cloud layer, she pulled herself to a halt, touching down on the rain-cloud directly above the library with a muffled squish. Bracing herself, she hoofed the cloud hard with her back legs, and it dissolved into a shining cloud of mist, wispy strands of cloud fraying off the edges and floating away as it evaporated. Looking down with a satisfied grin, Dash saw that her landing zone was now rain-free. Dropping out of her hover, she plummeted down a few hundred feet, only flaring her wings at the last second to come to a mid-air halt outside the library window. She was just about to knock, when an internal voice stopped her, remembering something that Twilight had said yesterday. Oh yeah. Use doors. Right.

Alighting on the waterlogged ground, she trotted squelchily over to Twilight’s front door. Before she had the chance to knock, however, she found herself overtaken by sudden, irrational nervousness. I’m not too early, am I? Wings behaving? Do I look okay? I’m not too muddy, am I? ...Dear Celestia, I sound like Rarity… She shook her head, stamping her hoof in frustration. She might be trying to make changes, but she had no intention of becoming a soppy, bothered-about-personal-appearances sort of pony. Come on, Dash! Pony up! It’s not like you’ve got to tell her any time soon! Determinedly, she raised a hoof and knocked three times at the door.

*

Twilight was halfway through a hay-and-daisy roll when the door knocked. She put down the plate in a hurry, swallowing a little too fast and coughing a few times to dislodge a mutinous daisy. Attempting to regain her composure, she trotted over and opened the door. She could not help but break into a genuine smile at the sight of the Pegasus standing there. “Hey Dash!” She greeted her friend enthusiastically, then hoped that she had not been too enthusiastic. If Dash had fallen into another bout of depression since yesterday it could seem insensitive to be so cheerful. She was relieved when Dash grinned back.

“Hi, Twi, sorry about the mud.”

“No problem, come in!”

Dash trotted inside, wiping her hooves on the doormat. Twilight chuckled. “I’m honoured,” she remarked, “normally you just track mud everywhere!”

“Yeah, well, workin’ on being more considerate,” replied Dash, shrugging.

“So…” Twilight’s brain worked feverishly trying to work out something to say next. She had very little idea of how to act around somepony for whom she was concealing feelings. She had always been very open in the past with her opinions of other ponies, but she knew that her feelings for Dash would have to wait for their airing until a later date, if at all. “Do you want anything to drink?” she asked, finally hitting on a way to break the stretching silence.

“Sure, whatever ya got, I’m parched.”

Dash waited in the main library while Twilight trotted into the kitchen. “Okay,” her voice floated through the open door to Dash, “we’ve got tea, coffee, apple juice, that’s about it, really.”

Dash yawned a little. “I could do with a coffee,” she replied, gratefully.

A few moments later, Twilight trotted back out of the kitchen, the sound of a kettle beginning behind her. “We’ve got a lot to talk about,” Twilight said, smiling at Dash.

“Yeah, we do…” Dash’s voice petered out towards the end of the sentence, and she realized that she was staring at Twilight’s eyes, lost in her smile. The unicorn’s expression changed from a cheerful grin to a look of concern.

“Are you okay, Dash?”

“Huh?” Dash blinked. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Didn’t get much sleep.” Nice save, she thought to herself, relieved. Then, it struck her what she had done. Hang on a second, since when did I get this gooey over her? Why the hay did I have to get it so bad for her now? We’ve got stuff to do, I can’t be distracted!

Twilight broke into her internal self-disciplining. “How’re you feeling this morning? Have you worked out what’s behind all this?”

Dash sighed, brought forcibly back to reality by the question. “It’s still a mess,” she replied, not meeting Twilight’s eyes, “but I went around to Fluttershy’s for a bit, yesterday. I told her all about this stuff, and she got all… perceptive on me.”

“Perceptive?” Twilight raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I guess.” Dash shrugged. “I’ve known her since we were both foals, I guess she knows me.” She looked at the floor, voice dropping. “…She knew my dad too. I reckon that helped.”

She looked back up into Twilight’s eyes. “I don’t want you to talk about anything you’re not comfortable with,” Twilight said, gently.

“No, no.” Dash shook her head. “What 'Shy said doesn't really matter right now. Ya need to know about my Dad.” She took a deep breath, never having told anypony other than Fluttershy about her history with her father. As she looked at the unicorn, however, she knew that there was nothing that she could not tell Twilight, and that there was nothing she could say that Twilight would not listen to with kindness and understanding. Her nerves and awkwardness melted away, and for the first time in as long as she could remember, she did not feel the need to impress. She knew that she could be herself, and Twilight would accept that. Maybe it was the first step to recovery, but right now that did not matter to her. Dear Celestia, she thought, eyes widening in surprise, I think I’ve fallen in love with her.

Her courage bolstered by this knowledge, she began to speak.

*

For quite some time, Twilight said nothing. She listened to Dash’s story, sympathetic tears forming in her eyes at how unfair her friend’s early life had been. Dash told her about how her mother had left when she was a filly, as a result of her father’s bullying behavior and drinking. How her father had been left with nopony but Dash as the target of his temper and casual violence. How the other foals at Flight School had tormented her mercilessly. As she talked, Dash kept going with a rugged determination, never letting a single tear fall throughout her explanation. Twilight saw that Dash was avoiding her eyes as she spoke, but understood her reasons, understood how hard this was for her.

The previous night, Twilight had read chapter after chapter cherrypicked from her psychology books, and all of the evidence seemed to point to Dash suffering from Impostor Syndrome. Now, she could see the cause. Her friend, throughout her early life, had seen her achievements rubbished and denied so regularly that she had almost started to believe her detractors. To avoid this, she had forcibly convinced herself that she was superior to all of them, that she was in the right. She had begun boasting and showing off her skills at every opportunity, to try and prove them all wrong. She had set herself impossible standards, and that what had brought her down. She had not been crushed by the bullying as many other, weaker ponies would have been. Instead, she had grown to expect too much of herself. Yesterday, she had seen that no matter how hard she tried, however high she rose, she could never live up to what she expected of herself. That realization had convinced her that she was a fraud, a failure. It had convinced her that she did not deserve her achievements, and was not good enough for her friendships. The only thing that she could see were the negative sides of her personality, the ones that she had hidden away from her own sight for as long as she could remember. She felt as if she were an imposter in her own life.

“…So, in the end, Fluttershy dropped out of Flight School. I came with her, I couldn’t live with it anymore. For three, four years I couldn’t even look at Cloudsdale anymore, so we came over this way. ‘Shy had her eye on Ponyville ‘cause of the wildlife, she’d wanted to set up a place here for years. Living space costs so much in Cloudsdale, but out here you can get it for practically nothin’. ‘Shy got that old cottage for free, they just gave it to her so it wouldn’t sit there rottin’ for years, all she had to do was spend a few bits fixing the place up properly. I basically built my place myself, and bunked with ‘Shy while I was waiting for the clouds to get settled.” Dash let out a sigh, looking at the floor, her voice suddenly tiny. “I only saw my dad a couple more times, he was in and out of the cells all the time after I went. Usual stuff for ponies like him. Drunken brawling, petty theft, that kind of thing. He’s probably inside now.” For the first time since she had begun speaking, her voice shook and a tear appeared in the corner of her eye. “I don’t even know if he’s still alive. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t, the way he was screwing himself up with Old Thunderhead.” She wiped the moisture from her eyes forcefully, almost angrily. “That’s pretty much it. The rest’s history.”

For a few long moments, Twilight could only stare at Dash. Conflicting emotions flitted through her brain, each battling to be acknowledged and acted upon. She felt enormous respect for Dash’s courage in telling her this, and sympathy for her thoroughly unpleasant past. However, the predominant emotion was anger. Anger at Dash’s father, at the bullies, at everypony who had done this to her friend. Twilight was not a violent pony, but now she wanted nothing more than to hunt down those responsible and make them go through what they had made her friend go through. Not because of the bullying, or even the violence. Not because they had hated Dash. Because they had made Dash hate herself.

Twilight opened her mouth, with no idea what to say. The weight of the past that Dash had just confided in her was staggering, and she felt immensely touched that the Pegasus trusted her enough to tell her this. “I… I never had any idea.” Of course you didn’t! What an idiotic thing to say! she thought, irritated with herself. “Thank you for telling me, Dash,” she said, voice low, “it’s an honour that you’d trust me with something like this.”

“Of course I do, Twi’,” Dash looked her in the eye again, for the first time since she had begun her story. “I’d trust you with anything.”

Twilight noticed that the Pegasus was flushed in the face as she said that, but was too preoccupied to pay it any mind.

“Does… Does anypony else know?”

“Nah, not except ‘Shy, and she lived through it with me. She's like a sister to me. She basically saved my life back then. I dunno what I’d have done without her. It wasn't a fun few years.”

Twilight's heart broke at the brave understatement. “Oh Dash, I’m so sorry.” Acting almost entirely on instinct, Twilight ran across the room and wrapped Dash in a tight hug. “You didn’t deserve any of it,” she whispered in her friend’s ear. “Not one minute. You’re the best friend that a pony could ask for, how dare they do this to you?”

Dash’s face was scarlet, but her eyes were closed in contentment as she hugged the unicorn back. “Not as good a friend as I could’ve been,” she replied. “So, now you know why I’m like I am. All I need to do is do something about it.”

Twilight sighed. “I think that this is all the change you need. You’ve looked your past in the eye, that’s the first step to acceptance. The rest should happen on its own.”

The Pegasus still seemed depressed. “I just wanna be who I should be. I want to deserve you guys as friends, that’s why I want to change.”

Twilight felt a surge of something between frustration and fiery courage. Now that she truly knew Dash, could see beyond her exterior to the damage that she kept locked up inside, she finally appreciated how she felt for the Pegasus. Looking at her was like staring into the sun, it was beautiful and painful.

She pulled back a little so that she could look Dash straight in the eye. They were both blushing violently now, but Twilight was beyond caring. She could see how much persuasion Dash would need to convince her that she deserved her friends. She needed to persuade her. It was time for desperate measures. “What if I don’t want you to change?” she said, fiercely.

Dash’s eyes widened. “Huh?”

“What if I wouldn’t want you to be any different?” Twilight took a deep breath, steeling herself. “What if I said I couldn’t live without you, just as you are?”

Dash’s eyes went still wider, as a million thoughts cascaded through her head. “Twilight, are you saying…?”

Twilight’s eyelids drooped a little. No turning back now, she thought. Her heart was hammering, roaring in her ears. To her, the library was gone. The world had faded away. She felt wonderful and terrible at the same time, pride and guilt and sheer nervousness crashing down in waves and overtaking her. Suddenly, she did not care about consequences. All she wanted, more than anything, was to make Dash’s life a little brighter.

“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, I am.”

With that, before her friend could react, she pressed her lips tightly against Rainbow Dash’s.

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