• Published 18th Dec 2012
  • 5,656 Views, 431 Comments

Our Time to Fly - Shokinaw



Flight and life lessons mix for Rainbow Dash, Spike, Scootaloo, and all of their friends as everpony reaches for the sky, supporting each other's dreams and hopes no matter where they may lead them.

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Chapter 2: The Freefall

Chapter 2
The Free Fall

The grass was wet with dew and rain from the previous night. It glistened in the caress of the sunlight, reflecting all the colours around it. Close by, a small, constant spray of water fell into a brook beneath it, forming a near permanent rainbow plummeting from a house made of clouds. In the brook a small tortoise stood on a rock, its head moving side to side, watching his pegasus pace angrily back and forth. The weather broke the night before, but here a storm was still clashing, just a very different type of storm.

“I can’t believe this!” The affronted cyan pegasus gaped at the very official-looking roll of parchment, before crushing it into a ball and furiously hurling the paper ball to the ground at her hooves with an satisfyingly light bounce. “How could you do this to me, Twilight?!”

“I didn’t mean for it to happen! I’m sorry, I really am! I thought the Mayor made a mistake; I had no idea you were just, um...” The purple unicorn hesitated as she searched for the words to describe her friend’s actions, “...spicing up the work day.” Twilight Sparkle finished with what she hoped looked like an innocent smile, but the flat look from her friend told her Rainbow Dash wasn’t buying it.

“Look, you’ve got to believe that I never wanted this!” The familiar glow of magic unwrapped the offensive paper ball with the official seal of Ponyville. In large print and very formal writing, the letter stated the following;


Rainbow Dash,

You have been hereby suspended from your duties as Weather Team Captain for three months time due to negligence and direct violation of orders.

Under your duty, in Celestia’s light of the fifth month on the fifth day, a scheduled rainstorm had been replaced by a thunderstorm, disrupting the peace for all residents of Ponyville, as born witnessed to by Twilight Sparkle, concerned citizen. This neglect of proper duty cannot continue and further violations of scheduled weather will result in an immediate termination of your position.”

By Official Order of her Honour,

The Mayor of Ponyville

The note ended with another very official-looking seal.


“Horse apples! Twilight, I’ve had like, a bunch of rainstorms that turned into thunderstorms before and never received any backlash from it.” Rainbow rolled her eyes at the letter and turned away from Twilight as they argued in front of the clouds and rainbows that made up her house. She loved Twilight Sparkle, but her friend could be so dense about the stupidest things, and right now Rainbow couldn’t much stand to look at her. “You decide you don’t like it, and suddenly I’m suspended! The captain of the weather ponies, suspended! It’s insulting! It’s humiliating! And it’s because you felt the need to whine to the mayor about the trivial differences between a rainstorm with or without thunder!”

“Well, they’re not completely trivial, I mean Derpy could have destroyed the town hall again.” Twilight couldn’t stop herself. She knew, the moment it left her mouth, it was the wrong thing to say, but something inside her just tended to seize up if someone got the details wrong.

“Everyone watches Derpy when she’s on the team! It’s when she’s flying solo that she’s dangerous. That isn’t even the point. You are my friend Twilight, not my boss!” She wheeled around and pointed a hoof at Twilight’s chest for emphasis. “And I’m getting really sick of you trying to be. You got a problem with the weather, you should have talked to me! You don’t go around my back and talk to the mayor! I get the checklist thing. I do! But I don’t follow checklists, Twilight! I don’t want to see a checklist, and I’d honestly like to see Spike sneeze fire on every one of yours so you could try living without one for a single day!”

“I... I was just trying to help...”

“You want to help? Fine! Go tell Fluttershy she needs to watch Tank for three months.” She gestured roughly towards the tortoise.

“Well... okay. Why does she need to do that though? I mean with the suspension and all, I thought you would probably have plenty of time to look after him.”

“Because I’m going on vacation! If the mayor wants to give me time off, then I’m gonna use it! I’ve been meaning to visit Cloudsdale again for awhile, and now seems like a pretty good time.”

“You’re... going away for three whole months?”

“Yeah, Twilight, I am, and if you’re lucky, I may finally be cooled down enough by the time I get back to look at you without wanting to force feed you this letter!” Rainbow snatched the letter from Twilight’s magic aura, crushed it up once more and threw it towards Tank’s pond. The tortoise, following Rainbow Dash’s mood, deftly caught the notice before it landed in the pond. He quickly dug around the inside of his shell for a match; lighting the match by striking it off his shell, he fed the notice to the flame, and let the resulting ash fall to the pond. Rainbow Dash wandered over to pat the tortoise on the head.

“Okay, now you and the mayor are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. A three month long suspension is ridiculous, and you leaving your home for three months is even worse!”

“Okay. Point number one: just who is it, you think, that blew the situation out of proportion to begin with, Twilight? Point number two: Ponyville is not my home. Ponyville is your home. Ponyville is Fluttershy’s home. Ponyville is Applejack’s and Rarity’s home. My home is Cloudsdale.”

“What? How can you say that? I know you’re angry, Rainbow Dash, but you can’t convince me that you don’t consider Ponyville your home! You have fantastic friends here, you’re the captain of the weather team, the master of the dojo, and you love the ponies here! Every pegasus for miles idolizes you!”

“Yeah... you’re probably right, Twilight. That was going too far.” Rainbow let the anger fall away from her now, and something new began taking it’s place. A strange tone of voice took over the Rainbow Dash Twilight was unfamiliar with. The pegasus flew up and opened her door, and gestured for Twilight to follow her in. “Why don’t you come in for something to drink? We’re not getting anywhere out here. I promise I won’t fly away as long as we can sit in my home like a couple of regular ponies. “

“Finally, you’re seeing some sense. Just one minute I need to concentrate on that spell-”

“No magic.”

“Wait, what?”

“I said, ‘if we can go into my home and sit like a couple of regular ponies.’ Regular ponies don’t normally have magic spells to walk on clouds.”

“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight began, exasperated, just when she thought her friend was seeing sense, and now this? “Your home is on the clouds, how can I go in there without using magic?”

“Could you repeat the first part of that question? I didn’t quite catch it.” A smug smile seemed to play across the pegasus pony’s face.

“I said ‘Your home is on the clou-’ Oh...” Realization suddenly hit Twilight like a kick in the head.

“Twilight, don’t get me wrong. You guys are great! I’ve never had any friends as close as any of you, and I have five of you! But not a single one has ever darkened my doorstep. Not you, even after you learned your spell to walk on clouds; not even Fluttershy and she’s a pegasus! Not because she avoids me, but because all of you avoid this place. My home is an inconvenience for all of my friends. Tank can’t even come inside! Would you really call some place your home, if no friend you’ve ever had has ever paid a visit? I can’t stand this place! I have to sleep on random clouds in town just to catch my friends half the time. You want me to spend three whole months locked in this place? It might as well be a jail sentence!”

“Well, if you built it on the ground-”

“Hold it right there, Twilight. I’m a pegasus; actually no, I’m not just a pegasus. I’m THE pegasus. I’m the pegasus everypony thinks about when they think about a pegasus. When I was a filly, I walked, ran, and played on the clouds. I ate with my parents on a cloud. I went to sleep on a cloud. I met my first friend on a cloud. I shared my first kiss on a cloud. My father went to work on a cloud. My mother raised me on a cloud. I want you to take all that into account when you finish that sentence.”

“If you built it on the ground... then it wouldn’t be your home.” Twilight’s ears fell as she looked into the grass at her hooves. She had so much fun when she moved to Ponyville, and in no time it had become the greatest place in the world to her. She felt like she belonged there. It rang so true in her heart that she couldn’t fathom the idea that any of her friends didn’t feel the same way, let alone the one representing the element of loyalty.

“Don’t let it get you down, Twilight.” Rainbow jumped easily from the 40 ft height to land in front of her friend, before putting a hoof on her shoulders and giving her a smile. “I do love this town, and the ponies here. You guys are the greatest bunch of pals anypony could ask for. It’s just that home isn’t your friends or just some place to sleep. It's a place you belong, where you really feel like you’re contributing. A weather pony here is the only real use I have and its outright boring.”

“Boring?”

“Twilight, I can clear skies in under 10 seconds flat. I can deliver a rainstorm in less than 10 minutes. Do either of those things and you’re done for the rest of the day. There’s no challenge to it! It normally doesn’t bother me because it gives me plenty of time to work on my signature moves, but watching rain fall is about as fun as watching paint dry. If sprucing things up bothers you and the mayor so much, then well...” Rainbow moved past Twilight before taking a seat on the grass and staring up into the sky as the wind seemed to pick up around her. She closed her eyes and let the wind rush over her, ruffling her mane. Once more she felt the sky call, its booming voice pounding in her head. She felt the edge fall off her voice, as if she were talking more to herself than than Twilight. “Then maybe you’re both right. Maybe I shouldn’t be a weather pony at all...”

Twilight Sparkle felt her jaw go slack.

Thousands of arguments defied that logic. Within her head, each fought tooth and hoof for dominance, leaving the unicorn attempting to wrap her mouth around words that wouldn’t come. Rainbow Dash took this gaping speechlessness as consent and approval.

“Maybe you’re both doing me a favour.” Dash stood, staring up at that calling sky, the intent obvious. She was ready to go right now.

“Wait a minute! Just hold on a second here... Aren’t you deciding this kind of fast?”

“A pony’s gotta follow her instincts!” The reply held some form of renewed confidence that only worried Twilight Sparkle that much more.

“Uh...” Twilight began to reach for something, anything to delay this. “How about packing? You’re going to be gone for three months after all! You’re probably going to need some things.”

“I don’t need that much; I’m not a material mare.” Rainbow Dash grinned wryly and began stretching out her wings.

“How about where you’re gonna stay?!”

“I got tons of friends that’d put me up for a while, and my parents’ place can be a last resort.” She crouched down, wings raised, that familiar thrill ran through her fur as she readied for takeoff. The sky beckoned, its voice deafening; she could barely hear her friend over it just a few feet away.

“What about them?! You should at least send a message to let them know you’re coming, they’ll probably want to set up a welcome home party, right?!” Twilight was shouting now, she didn’t know why. Things hadn’t gotten any louder, but desperation was leaking into her pleas as she seemed to be fighting a losing battle.

“Huh...” Rainbow Dash hesitated that time. “You think so?”

“Yes!” Twilight shouted, one part confirmation, three parts cheer she’d gotten through, “I would definitely want some notice if a friend I hadn’t seen in years dropped in. I’d want to welcome her back right! Wouldn’t you?”

“I guess I would...” The sky’s call that had flooded her senses just a moment ago, seemed to have softened to a whisper as she began to doubt her actions. “But it will take a whole couple days to get a message to Cloudsdale.”

“Good, because Pinkie Pie would never forgive you if you just took off for months without letting her throw a farewell party.”

“Yeah, that’s true.” Dash chuckled picturing the pink pony somehow following her all the way to Cloudsdale just to tell her off.

“Alright, I’ll head off in a week. that should be plenty of time to get things set up on their end.”

“Great! I’ll go let the other girls know.”

“Alright, I better get those letters sent. Seeya, Twilight.”

Five friends were gathered around a table at the Carousel Boutique where a bewildering amount of arguing and impenetrable chatter took place. An uncommon closed sign hung in the entrance window. Twilight was massaging her temples with her hooves in the middle of the noise, utterly frustrated. Even if there was a valid option somewhere in this pandemonium of blame and hoof pointing, she wouldn’t be able to hear it.

“Enough!” It was Applejack that saved her the trouble, and silenced the table. All eyes went to the farm pony as she glared down at the table. “We don’t got no time for all this hoo-hah. We need tah figure this out and pronto. Ferget any parties or going away gifts, the point o’dis git together is to stop the goin’ away from happening at all. Now does anypony here got any ideas?”

Continued silence was all that answered her call as each pony held their thoughtful expressions.

“Well... maybe it’d help if we went over the issues Rainbow Dash has been having, and try to come up with solutions to each one separately?” Twilight suggested.

“Yes... perhaps organizing our thoughts would do us some good, Darling.” Rarity agreed. “I’m not even certain where all this stems from. Its only a few months vacation, is that so rare?”

“Not if that’s all she was going for, Rarity, but she’s going for all the wrong reasons!” Twilight stood up and concentrated. After a second a chalkboard appeared behind her, and a piece of chalk began scribbling a number of points. “Rainbow Dash is having several problems finding her place here in Ponyville. This has been complicated further by her recent suspension from her work with the weather ponies. Her first issue is finding a way to help out Ponyville while using her talents and skills in a way that challenges her enough to stay interested in the task; lack of meaningful work has made her feel unnecessary.”

“That’s just silly. Who wouldn’t want a pony around as cool as Rainbow Dash around?” an utterly perplexed Pinkie Pie exclaimed rather loudly. “She’s only the most unbelievably awesomest, most super duper pony EVER!”

“Bein’ wanted an’ bein’ needed are two different things altogether, Sugarcube. Lots a ponies like havin’ me around, but Ah’d be lost without the farm tah go back tah. It’d be Twilight without her library, Fluttershy with no critters tah look after, Rarity without dis here Boutique, or you without a Sugarcube Corner.”

“Except the dear does her job so well it barely has enough time to hold her attention at all.” Rarity sighed dramatically. “Our Rainbow Dash was born for the sky, but outside of the weather, Earth pony villages have little use for a pegasus. It really is rather sad.”

“But Ponyville does need her! She helps ponies all the time! She’s always looking out for others, she’s practically Ponyville’s very own superhero! I can’t think of a single pony in town that doesn’t admire or look up to her in some way. What could be cooler than that?!”

“That does sound like something she’d be very interested in, Pinkie,” Fluttershy answered quietly, “but... I mean... I think... maybe our Mare-Do-Well lesson might have worked tiny bit too well? I mean ...we stopped her from being conceited, but ... we may have also taught her that it was something anypony could do?”

Twilight frowned at that thought. That whole superhero plan was a scheme she cooked up to take Rainbow Dash down a notch from the arrogance she began to exhibit. Now Twilight felt she was the source of two of the complications for one of her friends. Similar thoughts were running through the minds of those around the table. That was a plan they’d all taken part in. There was a long drawn-out moment of silence as everyone attempted to think about some form of event that could help keep the local speedster busy for any real length of time. After a few minutes of quiet contemplation, Rarity sighed in some amount of frustration.

“We don’t seem to be getting anywhere on that particular front right now. Perhaps we could look to one of the other problems we have a better chance at resolving, hmm?”

“Good idea Rarity.” Twilight considered the next issue a moment before the chalk went to work writing it out. “The second point of issue is the limitation of her house and the amount of visitors she receives. Since no one has ever stopped by, it doesn’t feel much like a home.”

“Oh my... If I had known I would have visited her before now, I’m so sorry... I was there when she finished it, but I don’t know why I never went back... This is all my fault...”

“No Fluttershy, it isn’t.” Twilight protested quickly, “None of us have ever made the extra effort to come find her there. In fact, outside of Pinkie Pie, she has always had to find us. The problem is that Earth Pony and Pegasi cultures really clash with each other, making it difficult for everypony involved. Rainbow Dash gets homesick, and her house is really about the only thing that reminds her of Cloudsdale, and who she is. She doesn’t want to give it up, and I don’t think I’d want to if I were her, either.”

“So we have to look for some way of making it feel like a real home for her? Then I’ll throw her a welcome home party she’ll never forget! All we need to do is get Twilight to magic us all up on clouds for the day, gather all the pegasus ponies and have a real bash!”

“You want to welcome her home after she gets back, Pinkie? I was kind of hoping to solve this issue before she leaves. Three months is a long time, and she might end up deciding to stay. After all, she has a lot more chance to get into the Wonderbolts if she trains in the same skies they use.”

“Yah really think she won’t come back, Twilight? Ah mean, Ah know she’s biting at the bit over this whole suspension thing, but if she didn’t even like bein’ a weather pony that much, why’s she been doin’ it all these years? She’s gotta have a reason tah be here in Ponyville.”

“Hmm... You know? You’re absolutely right, Applejack. She must have had some kind of motive to move here. No offense, Fluttershy, but I sincerely doubt she came purely to keep up with an old friend, I mean you said she has a lot of friends in Cloudsdale. Why doesn’t she ever go check up on them?”

“Oh no, no offense taken, Twilight. I mean, I don’t think she’d have stayed this long just for that either. I can take care of myself after all, anypony can see that.”

“Well, I think its quite clear that she has an underlying reason she hasn’t told anypony. Oh! Maybe it’s a stallion! No wait! I know, it has to be some scandal she’s hiding from? That would be just like her!”

“Rarity please.” Twilight rubbed the bridge of her muzzle with her hoof. “No adding scenarios with no evidence to support them.”

“But Twiliiiight,” Rarity replied with a small whine, “with nothing else to go on, any idea we have won’t have any real ground to stand on. If we’re just going to guess, than we might as well make it thrillingly tragic!”

“She actually has a point, Twilight.” Applejack chuckled. “Everythin’ else would jus’ be hearsay til we figure out what brought that pegasus down this way tah begin with.”

“I suppose that’s true. We have one week before she takes off. We need everypony to figure out something she could do to contribute to the town in that time, and figure out why she came here in the first place. We MUST succeed!”

“I hope you don’t need every pony Twilight. I’m afraid I simply won’t be here. Oh maybe I should just cancel, this is important after all...”

“Oh right, your trip is today isn’t it? Your business is important, too, Rarity, you have to go. It wouldn’t be right to keep you from it.”

“Well... if you’re sure you can handle this without me, I can cancel. I can’t say it won’t cause trouble, but it’s more than worth it.”

“Ain’t no chance Rarity, you’ve worked somethin’ fierce to get these trips tah Canterlot goin’. There’s no point helpin’ out one friend only tah put another out. We’ll handle this.”

“Very well.” She sighed standing up, “but you will keep me posted? I’ll want to know everything!”

“Absolutely.”

“Alright then, I better get going, Spike has probably already worked himself to the bone with all that luggage the poor dear, I wouldn’t want to be late to see him at the station. Thank you so much for lending him to me before every trip Twilight.”

“Somehow,” Twilight giggled, “I don’t think he minds.”

******

She loved this feeling, this familiar scrape of wheels against road with gravel spitting up at her back. The vibration grinding against her hooves as the exhilarating acceleration left the passing ponies, trees, and houses a blur at the side of her vision. She tore along Ponyville’s roads and alleys, her wings an indistinct haze of motion, pushing her ground velocity to levels no other pony could touch. Her pinkish-purple mane whipped back and forth behind her from the blasting force of air, nervous sweat soaked into her orange fur and she narrowed her purple eyes in concentration. Determination plastered all over her face as she focused on the rickety piece of wood they had leaned over a cinder block.

This time it was gonna work. Even without Applebloom and Sweetie Belle there to cheer her on and overcome Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara and their jeering and insult-slinging psych outs. They were all just distractions drowned out by the thunder of her scooter’s wheels. They would not dissuade her. Today was the day her life was gonna change.

Today, she was going to leave the scooter behind.

Today, she was gonna fly!

The scooter hit the makeshift ramp with practiced ease and lifted high into the air. She fought the terror, the frantic need to hang on to her precious instrument of speed, her mental crutch that had held her back for all these years. She felt herself let it go. She clenched her teeth hard and squeezed her eyes tight as she strained to push her wings in an even pattern as fast as she could, concentrating completely on leaving everything behind and finally taking that first flight she’d been longing for.

Her wings continued to buzz behind her, the rush of wind rang impossibly loud in her ears, its voice deafening, dizzying! She fought to ignore it, to push it all to the back of her mind, fought to keep her wings even, pushing against the wind beneath them.

This was it, she realized, this really was it! She was flying! She opened her eyes to gloat over the two fillies who were both smirking widely at her still.

But why would they-

A sudden resounding CRASH rang out and her world fell to darkness.

“Hey silly filly, are you alright?” It was a bright cheery voice that Scootaloo woke up to, at least she thought so. It was difficult to tell past the ringing in her ears. She shook herself fully awake and made an attempt to assess her injuries, finding a couple lumps on the side of her head, and swelling in one of her eyes making it unable to open completely. She worked her jaw and was pretty sure a tooth or two were loose, but none were completely knocked out. She shook her head again to clear the fuzziness still left in her vision and looked up to see a brilliant pink coloured blotch standing over her head. She squinted hard attempting to bring the fuzz into focus.

“Ow…Wow… Pinkie Pie is that you?”

“I sure hope so, if I’m not me I don’t know who else to be!” The pink fuzz giggled. “I probably wouldn’t be very good at being anypony else. Need a hoof?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Scootaloo accepted the outstretched leg, and let it pull her back onto unsteady feet. “What happened?”

“I think you got a really, really, REALLY big urge to come visit me! I guess using the door would have took too long. When I really, really, really need to come visit me I normally use the window, but you went right through the wall! That’s way more urgent than I get!”

“When you visit you? What? The wall?!” The Pinkie Pie language barrier was hard to deal with in the best of mind frames, so saying comprehending her immediately after a head injury was more difficult would be a severe understatement. In answer, Pinkie only smiled and gestured towards the Scootaloo-shaped hole in the wall, the debris surrounding it, and the remnants of a scooter broken in two. The sight left a very clear idea of the situation.

“Oh.” Scootaloo stared at the scene, not certain if she should be more upset by the loss of the precious scooter, or by the huge mess she just caused.

“Pinkie Pie? What was that crash? What are you doing up there?” Mr. Cake’s voice floated from the downstairs shop. Scootaloo’s eyes went wide. She’d be in so much trouble if-

She didn’t have time to finish the thought as Pinkie answered.

“The usual!” Pinkie called back.

“Uuh… Oh… just be sure to clean up afterwards.” Mr. Cake wasn’t exactly sure what ‘the usual’ entailed; only that it often involved crashes and other loud noises. The only thing he was truly certain about, is that he’d regret the answer if he asked ever asked what it was.

“Okie dokey lokey!”

“Thanks for covering for me.” The filly looked up gratefully.

“Covering for you? I wasn’t covering for you. I really am doing my usual. You just came to visit before I could finish.” She giggled. “So what brought you up to see me in such a hurry?”

Scootaloo grinned back. This pony was crazy, in an awesome way, but still utterly crazy. Sane or not, Scoot figured she owed her an explanation.

“I uh… wasn’t actually looking to visit you in particular. I was trying to fly, but your wall got in the way.”

“Yeah, it does that.” Pinkie glared at the offending wall for a moment, remembering several incidents when practicing with her flying bicycle. “It works better once you learn how to turn.”

“Yeah, well I guess I’ll figure out how to turn once I figure out how to stay up in the first place,” Scootaloo grumbled, nonplussed at the reminder of her ineptitude.

“Oh! You don’t know how to fly? Than how’d you get all the way up here?”

“Well, I kinda thought that if I hit the ramp with my scooter at full speed, I’d be able to get high enough to fly on my own. I guess it didn’t work out.” She kicked a piece of debris, frowning at the results of her best idea yet to get her into the sky.

“Well… you got halfway up, so it halfway worked, right? You just need to get the other half.” Pinkie Pie smiled in attempt to bolster the disheartened pegasus.

“You don’t understand, just flying isn’t enough! I’m not only the only pony to not have their cutie mark in my grade, but I’m the only Pegasus that can’t fly yet! Its humiliating! I have to do more than just fly, I have to prove to myself that I’m not this pathetic! I even made a Pinkie Promise to myself that I’d be able to win the Fledgling Flier Competition next Fall, and I can’t even get into the air yet! I’m the laughing stock of the entire school.”

Scootaloo glared at the floor and waited for some form of response; she looked up when she never received one. Pinkie Pie seemed to have stopped listening before Scoot finished, the pink pony seemed stalled in front of her.

“Y..you… p…p..p.Pinkie p..promi…” Pinkie Pie stuttered with each word, her pupils shrank to the size of a pin pricks, her fur stood on end, and she stared off into a world only she could see. She went still for a full minute; a terrified expression took over her demeanor as her vibrant pink fur began to go pale.

“Uh… Pinkie Pie… are you okay?” Scootaloo asked with no small amount of trepidation, trying to wake the older pony from this disquieting trance.

“AAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!!” The startling scream left Scootaloo too stunned for action as a second hole in the wall appeared beside the first, this time Pinkie Pie-shaped. The filly peeked outside through the shattered wall to see a pink blur screaming through the small town and towards the horizon.

“Was it something I said?”

“Pinkie Pie? What was THAT crash?” Mr. Cake’s voice once again floated from down the stairs.

“Eep!” Scootaloo panicked, snagged the pieces of her scooter and followed the pink pony’s escape plan through one of the holes before fleeing the disaster scene.

******

"Here it is now." The pristine white unicorn stood from her spot on the boarding platform, her perfectly styled purple curls tossed in the wind as the large machine whistled loudly, clouds billowing out from its smokestack as a hundred wheels squeaked to a slow stop. Everypony at the station winced at the loud clamour, this strange hint towards progress that contrasted greatly against the rustic little town of Ponyville.

There was always a crowd at the station as ponies moved quickly to unload and load belongings and crates of produce on their way to bustling cities with bigger sales, deeper pockets, and greater opportunities.

Rarity was just such a pony. Mounds of luggage sat beside her on carts

and trolleys, the last of them came along, being pushed by a young dragon. The traveling ponies on the train had only recently started to get used to of the idea of a dragon in the small village; he still turned the heads of any ponies new off the locomotive. The sight of the savage fire breathing beast left him plenty of room, no matter how thick the crowd, to push Rarity's carts along. Most were more than willing to give the mythic rare sight however much space it needed to get through. He was always polite about it, minding his pleases and his thank you's. She paid them no heed as she turned to greet her old friend with a smile.

"Whew." He wiped the sweat off his brow, smiling down at Rarity. "It seems like you have more stock every time."

"That's because I do darling, and I simply must thank you again. You really needn't do all of that on your own, I could always employ some ponies to deliver it."

"Nah, I don't mind. I'm used to carrying stockpiles of books and they're way heavier than a bunch of dresses, anyway. Besides, somepony should be here to see you off."

The first couple of times Rarity had left for Canterlot and Manehatten their entire group of friends had shown up to bid her well wishes and a good journey. Pinkie Pie had thrown a farewell party right there at the station for her; it was more than a little embarrassing for Rarity, but she adored her friends for it all the same. Spike had to attend to the library that day, but he came around the middle of the party only to volunteer to get her bags for her. It was only one mound of luggage back then, compared to the many piles of it now, but he was still fairly small, he spent the entire party loading the train.

As the trips grew more common, fewer friends could show up to say goodbye, but the luggage piles would grow and Spike continued to volunteer his help. Every single time without fail she could count on him to see her off and to await her arrival.

"Oh Spikey-wikey, you're such a dear." She laid a hoof on his arm, a sign of genuine gratitude, "but I make so many of these trips, it's a weekly routine now. You really needn't bother, but I do appreciate it."

The light touch on his scales sent shivers up his arm, and a blush took over his face as he suddenly found the piles of suitcases very interesting, or the train, the loading platform, or the crowds. Anywhere but Rarity's azure eyes.

"It's a good thing I won't have to burden you with it much longer." Rarity allowed herself a silent giggle as he averted his eyes. The rosy tint that spread along his cheeks clashed horribly with his purple scales making it impossible to hide. It was still utterly adorable, even after all these years.

"Its no burden, really!" Spike protested quickly, as he always did when she spoke out against his coming to see her off, but something about what she said wasn't the same as always. "Wait... what do you mean ‘much longer’?"

"Oh dear, I've went and said too much, haven't I?" Rarity shook her head, maybe he was too adorable, she let slip something she really wished she hadn't. "Promise you won't tell the others yet? I wanted so much to announce the news properly."

"I promise! I promise! What news? Are you going to be around more often?"

"Oh Spike, just the opposite I'm afraid." Rarity sighed with a frown. Sharing the news early was only part of the problem. Sharing it alone with Spike at the train station, specifically while he was just about to see her off, was far from her ideal moment. It certainly had the dramatic flare she tended to look for, but it had the potential to be very painful news, particularly so in his case. He stared at her expectantly now. It was too late to back out. She gathered herself and smiled gently before continuing.

"I've purchased another boutique in Canterlot. That's why the last few trips have been so laden with luggage, Spike. It’s all stock for filling up the shelves and racks with material and dresses for the grand opening."

She felt her stomach flutter when she spoke about it aloud. It was so exciting, it was finally happening. After years of sales, savings, meetings and working her hooves to the bone, she had finally acquired a shop in the capital city of Equestria. She was excited, she was scared, everything could go so well, and everything could go so wrong! There was still more at stake than just her career, all her family and closest friends resided here in Ponyville. Leaving them behind would be no small hardship, and she had been putting off the announcement for just that reason. There was still so much to do from a business side of things, trying to handle that and personal issues with the business venture would be utterly overwhelming. She had hidden her anxieties from her friends easily with her many absences and work orders, but they began to gnaw at her insides now that one of them knew. She looked up to read his face only to be startled as she was pulled into hug and twirled around.

"That's amazing Rarity! You really did it! I mean, we all knew you could, but that isn't the same as going out and actually doing it! Your dream is really coming true!" The dragon continued to hug her tightly after the brief spin.

"Spike!" She gasped, hardly the reaction she was expecting! One she was overjoyed to receive, though. She had to hang onto him a few moments after having her world spun around so suddenly, just until she regained her balance of course. Nothing to do with that strong, stable back that held her up so easily. Hugging tightly back was only proper appreciation as well.

"Please dear, there's no need to be so enthusiastic, it's still a very risky business venture, one that could fall through."

"Yeah right, you're going to do great! Canterlot will love having you. And I would know, I'm from Canterlot after all!" He gave her one of those boyish grins he was just so good at. The bright cheerful laughter in his words left her smiling widely, and she felt her anxieties fade a little at his encouragement. She hadn't been sure he understood that she was actually talking about leaving for good at first, but he did. He did know and he was still so excited for her. Maybe breaking the news wouldn't be as difficult as she thought it would be after all.

"All aboard!" Behind her the train whistle blew, and the familiar call of the conductor flooded the station.

It was time to go. She pushed off Spike's chest to look at the train, before looking back at him.

"Remember, its just between you and me, I'll give the announcement when I come back. Oh thank you my dear little Spikey-Wikey!" She hugged him again quickly before turning to bound towards the train. She quickly opened a window and waved a handkerchief. "Goodbye! Take good care of Twilight! Oh and remember to send me any news about Rainbow Dash!"

"I will! And I want all the details when you get back!"

She watched him wave, an excited smile plastered all over his face.

"Rarity, you were fretting over nothing, you silly mare.” She sat back, taking out a sketchbook and a pencil, and floating up her reading glasses to place on her muzzle.

He watched the train leave until the last car was gone, standing there with a well practiced smile and wave as that heart crushing steam engine stole her away once more like so many times before. For years now he had watched her leave. Smiling and waving as was appropriate, he'd suspected all along it was leading to this as the trips became more frequent all the time.

He missed her.

She was gone so often nowadays, and even when she was in town she was often so busy she had little time to give. He missed her when she was gone, and he missed her when she was still here. Each send-off was devastating, every welcome home was an elation. He felt his emotions go up and down and twist around inside him, but he'd grown accustomed to the constant extremes.

He watched the worry creasing her eyes as she sought the right words to tell him, he could see the anxiety there, the doubts, concerns, and distress that plagued her. When he heard the news, what was happening in her life that she had been so secretive about, his heart jumped up and did a spin! Everything she had worked so hard for was right there, on the horizon.

The weight of its meaning for him would undoubtedly leave him fighting tears by the time he was alone in his room. For now, the stunningly happy tidings were just overwhelming. Almost as overwhelming as the feeling of her weight in his arms. He blushed vividly as he recalled her fur pressed against him. Somewhere in the hidden torrent of feelings below, a young hatchling was squealing in cheer. He actually managed to bring himself to hug her. It was stupid to be so happy in the face of something so inevitably sad, but emotions were rarely so easy to understand. He coughed a bit, with a smile wider than the sky, before turning towards home.

******

The littlest of fillies and colts laughed and played around the green grass, pushing each other on the swings, putting together intricate sand castles in the sandbox, and running through a sprinkler set up on the rolling lawns on the hot summer day. The laughter and noise of foals floated all around as they pretended to be super heroes or villains, their sticks and balls were imagined to be fantastical fabled weaponry and spells of old.

In stark contrast to her surroundings one of the oldest of the fillies in the park waited by a trio of trees, a sullen mood had taken over as she held a bag of ice over her injured eye. Though she couldn’t really be considered a filly anymore, now that she thought about it. They had graduated the elementary school in the spring, but here she stood, in the park, still without a cutie mark, still unable to fly. In one of the trees beside her were carved the initials SB, AB, and SL with CMC in big emboldened letters above it and underlined even. This had long been the ‘in-town’ meeting spot for the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

A flush of embarrassment marked Scootaloo’s features as she remembered their many antics. It had only ended a year ago, and it was hard remembering just how immature it all was. No regrets though, no matter the humiliating predicaments they had placed themselves in time and again, there never would be a regret.

They had enjoyed every single one.

In the past years, two of the three friends had found their calling somewhere in their crusades. It seemed so obvious now when she looked back. Sweetie Belle had always had a tune and love for music, and showed it so many times. They just never connected it with being her special talent for whatever reason. They were looking for all the wrong signs, thinking if they managed to do their special talent even once, its mark would appear magically at their flanks. It wasn’t true however. It took something special, something that showed them how much they enjoyed their special gift. Now several music notes along side of a trio of magical looking stars adorned Sweetie Belle’s flank.

With the new information at hoof, Apple Bloom’s flank was displaying a hammer, screwdriver, and saw crossed one over another, placed upon a large red apple not long after. All it took was another huge renovation of the Crusader Clubhouse, something that was special to all three friends. The place was now fit to hold a bedroom large enough for their slumber parties, a small kitchen area where they stored treats, tire swings built from old parts from abandoned farm vehicles, and even a second story built into the surrounding trees, with ladders and rope bridges.

It did not just increase in height but also expanded to the surrounding area as its own little park. At Apple Bloom’s talented hooves and supervision of their efforts it developed a small skate stunt park, several slides, an oversized jungle gym, and its own child-sized sport’s field. Even Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had to begrudgingly admit the Crusader Clubhouse was utterly awesome, though it was falling to disrepair for the last year for lack of use. The Crusaders simply didn’t have enough time anymore to make full use of it, and that was kind of a shame considering all the work the three put into it.

Her own Cutie Mark Crusader story hadn’t worked out so well. The trio were all pretty sure of her talent with the scooter, and arranged impressive scooter stunt shows that went off perfectly. Still no mark had ever appeared. They couldn’t figure out why, though Scootaloo had begun to suspect and feel guilty over taking up all their time. They spent the better part of the last five years searching for a way to gain the esteemed mark and they were running out of ideas.

She couldn’t bare to tell them, but Scootaloo was losing interest in the idea altogether, she wasn’t even sure if she wanted a scooter Cutie Mark anymore. For a long while now her interests had turned towards flight, but she just couldn’t touch the sky no matter how hard she tried. The earth pony school held little in the way of flight classes, and what attempts were made usually ended in disaster. Pegasi learned quickly it was better to be home schooled in that particular study. The trouble was Scootaloo’s parents were both earth ponies, she inherited her wings from her grandfather who currently lived in Cloudsdale. Even so, most pegasi her age had learned how to fly naturally, and she could barely manage to hover a meter off the ground on her best day. She was beginning to wonder if her talent for the scooter was to make up for an inability to fly, and this suspicion turned to a secret grudge towards the broken instrument at her side. Between full out flight, and being good at some scooter stunts, could the two gifts even be compared?

“Howdy Scootaloo! Sorry Ah’m late!” The familiar twang of accent associated with the Apple family farmers signaled the arrival of one of her steadfast friends. Apple Bloom’s red mane bounced happily along with her, still tied back neatly in the same bow she always had, though it no longer seemed exaggeratedly large for her, as the yellow furred earth pony trotted casually along.

“Ah got caught up in the plans fer the new town hall. Looks like she’ll be right nice once its all done up. Sweetie Belle not here yet?”

“I’m here!” Called out the weary, out of breath unicorn, she fell down dramatically upon reaching the clearing. “Whew! Fluttershy lives ridiculously far away from the park. Why would a pony that’s scared of the Everfree woods live that close to it?”

Scootaloo and Apple Bloom laughed as they walked over to help their friend back to her hooves. Sweetie Belle casually dusted off the dirt and grass from her white fur, and the curls of her light purple and pink mane. Once finished she looked up at her friends with a smile, before gasping at the ice pack on her friend’s face.

“Scootaloo! What happened to your eye?”

“My scooter and I met a wall earlier.” Scootaloo gestured back to her broken mode of transportation. Apple Bloom gave a low whistle as she walked over to inspect it.

“Yah musta been goin’ at some speed Scoots, it snapped right in two. That’s sayin’ something considerin’ the oak this was made outta. Ah made it tah take a beatin’.”

“Here let me see that eye. Wow, its swollen completely shut, put the ice back on. Have you been to the hospital yet?”

Sweetie Belle didn’t concern herself with the scooter, instead choosing to inspect the injury. Scootaloo sighed as she let her friend fuss over her, as always. Injuries were a common occurrence to the Crusaders and Sweetie Belle had taken to nursing the team back to health, usually putting to use some of what she gleaned from Fluttershy’s work with her animals. But large bruises, black eyes, and swelling were the usual for a stunt pony like Scootaloo, and the idea of going to the hospital over something this small was not an option as far as she was concerned.

“Its fine Sweetie Belle, its not that serious.” Scootaloo shrugged away her friend’s efforts after putting the ice pack back on, and changed the topic towards the scooter and Apple Bloom. “Do you think you can fix it?”

“Ah don’t think so.” Apple Bloom shook her head. “Ah mean, Ah might be able tah, but Ah don’t think yah’d want it. It’d be easier tah break than ever if Ah just patched it up. It will probably be better if we put together a new one for yah.”

Scootaloo frowned at this. She had that scooter a lot of years, and there was an unexpected pang of hurt over its loss. While scooting around was becoming old compared to her desire to fly, it was always something that was there for her. That little scooter held a lot of memories for her and the Crusaders. Sweetie Belle took in her friend’s expression and took a moment to think of how to cheer her up

“Well, it was kind of getting a bit small for you lately, so maybe it was time to retire it. We should put a new one together, and customize it perfectly for you!”

A new scooter? Customized specifically for her? Scootaloo walked over beside Apple Bloom and put a hoof on the broken remains. It sounded pretty cool actually, a scooter specifically put together by the crusaders.

“How long would it take, Apple Bloom?”

“Tah make one from scratch? Well if we wanna do it right, it’d take time to research what we need for materials, get yer measurements, and test yer preferences, that’s before we even begin makin’ the parts. Tah make it proper it might take a good month a work.”

“Are you sure you want to do that, guys? Sounds like it might take up all of our time, and you two have been real busy lately. It might be easier to just to put together some bits to buy a new one. I don’t want it to be months before I can drive one again, and I don’t want to have to sink what time we can manage to hang out into this.”

“Um… yeah, it might be better to do that then.” Sweetie Belle supplied a bit quieter about the topic than she was before, “I might not actually be in Ponyville in a month’s time to help, so…”

“Where else would you be?” Scootaloo asked as she paused and looked at Sweetie Belle, puzzled.

“Well… my sister kinda, sorta has me… goingontourwithSapphireShores.” Sweetie Belle rushed the end of her sentence quietly, embarrassed. Scootaloo and Apple Bloom looked at each other hesitantly.

“What now? Say that last part again, would yah?” Apple Bloom pressed trying for something with a bit more clarity.

“… going on tour with Sapphire Shores?” Sweetie Belle gave her two friends an apologetic look.

“THE Sapphire Shores?!” The jaws of her friends dropped to the ground. When Scootaloo finally managed to find her voice, she could only repeat what she heard, trying to confirm the idea to herself. “You’re going on tour with Sapphire Shores?!”

“Well yes, but only as a background singer! She heard me singing upstairs when she was talking to Rarity and said she had to have me. Rarity told her she could have all the outfits she needed for free if she took me under her study, but since she’s always on tour she said she could only do that between concerts. And nothing is for certain yet! Miss. Shores said she had to confirm it with her manager first, we’re waiting for word back.”

“That’s darned amazing, Sweetie Belle! Congratulations! When were you planning on lettin’ us all know?” Apple Bloom’s smile grew as she wrapped her friend up in a hug.

“Well, Rarity wanted to make a large show out of it and turn it into and announce it during Pinkie Pie’s next party.”

“Guess we should have known that.” Scootaloo laughed and took Sweetie Belle up in another hug as soon as Apple Bloom let her go. “How long will you be gone for if everything goes well?”

“Well...” She nervously started, trying to pick her words carefully, they came out as a quiet whisper as she looked away, “Its a yearlong tour...”

Sweetie Belle found the hug she was in suddenly get a LOT tighter, so tight she was starting to have trouble breathing. Scootaloo hadn’t seemed to realize the strength of her grip for a long moment as the trio became dead silent. Apple Bloom shook herself out of the daze only once she noticed Sweetie Belle’s predicament, before prying her friends apart.

“A year?” Scootaloo questioned, more to herself than to her friends, as the world seemed to spin around her. She had to be without one of the crusaders for a full year?!

“I’m sorry I kept it from you guys, but I didn’t want to say without knowing for sure, and I’m honestly kinda worried about it, and I’m not sure about singing in front of a crowd still; I’m still not even sure I want to go! It just happened so fast I...”

“No way! You don’t got nothing to be worried about! Sapphire Shores better watch out, cause our Sweetie Belle will steal the show right out from under her!” Scootaloo shook away sluggish thoughts and declared loudly. Maybe a bit too loud, there was a tremble trying to break out somewhere in that proclamation and none of the close friends missed it

“I guess…” She bit her lip, and looked at her two best friends in the world. “I’m not sure I’ll do it even if the answer comes back yes...I mean a year-”

“Well o’ course yer gonna! Why would yah even need tah think about somethin’ like that?” Apple Bloom interrupted, ignoring the wetness burning at the edge of her eyes. “This is a great chance for yah, Sweetie Belle! Yah can’t miss it over a few nerves. Besides, Sapphire Shores wouldn’t just ask anypony outta the blue. She’s a darned professional. If she thinks yah can do it, then yah can do it. More’n that, we know yah can!”

“But we’ve been together so long, I just don’t really know if I could without you two by my side. Singing in front of a crowd and everything? What if I mess up and I ruin Miss Shore’s concert?”

“You’ll do great, Sweetie Belle, I just know it.” Scootaloo stated with enough confidence to squash any attempt at argument. “Besides, just because we’re not together doesn’t mean we won’t be cheering for you. When you’re up on that stage, you just remember we’re up there with you. You can even shout it out right before you go on stage, Cutie Mark Crusaders Singing Sensations!”

The three friends couldn’t help but laugh at the embarrassing nostalgic call back to their youth. It was a strange laugh that took them, mixed with hidden tears, and wiped eyes, filled with feelings of great loss and pride, best wishes and strained farewells to come. The three fillies shared another hug, but then, they didn’t feel much like fillies anymore.

Author's Note:

Chapter 2 has now been edited and proofread by the very esteemed MrMinimii. He has done much to fix my tripe of a text block and continues to go hard at work on chapter 3 as I type. He gets to put up with questions like 'Semi-colon, the hell is that for?" so you don't have to!