• Published 18th Dec 2012
  • 5,658 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.

  • ...
7
 431
 5,658

Chapter 4: Spreading Wings

Chapter 4

Spreading Wings

Rays of light flowed over the waves of Old Lake, distorting and dispersing in the rippling water. The little sunbeams played upon its surface, skating and scattering with the crest of each wave. Every small breeze on the water sent a twinkling of sunshine into a careening caper of disorder and dance to the fish below. Frogs and crickets chirped at the water's edges, hiding amidst the reeds. A sandy beach skirted the lakeshore and a wide field of grass met the sand at its edge. A few wild rabbits and field mice dotted the area here and there, going undisturbed in their daily morning routines. Birds called from overhanging branches in the tall trees overlooking it all. An abundance of peace and serenity emanated from the scenic setting.

"Fledglings! Front and Center!" And thus all signs of tranquility was broken utterly by the sudden shout of a vibrant coloured pegasus who landed hard on the ground after a rocketing flight. The dust from the landing cleared, revealing Rainbow Dash standing tall and proud loudly calling for her students.

Orange and purple blurs appeared in a flash in answer to the call. Rainbow Dash cocked an eyebrow and nodded approvingly at their quick response. Fast and attentive, just the way she liked them. She wasn't one for tradition but razzing recruits was always fair game in her book. More than that, the first day was the most important for setting rookies up for what to expect. Start strong and work hard, and that's what they'll expect to do the next day and the day after.

"Report!"

"Scootaloo present!" The young orange pegasus said with a quick salute, looking like the perfect flight school student. Rainbow Dash held back a chuckle trying not to be impressed. Scootaloo must have been looking into Flight School general procedure, because the way she held herself was all too familiar.

"I'm here too!" Spike panted out. He'd barely made it to the field on time, even after running the whole way.

"Spike, what the heck were you doing last night? I told you to rest up before we started today!"

"Yeah sorry, I had... something that 'really' needed doing. Don't worry," He yawned and blinked heavily, "Keep going, I'll keep up Dash, I promise."

"Captain." She corrected with a frown. "While we're at flight camp, I am your Team Captain. I will be responsible for your every injury, your every weakness, your every strength, and your every ounce of exhaustion and pain. By the day's end I can assure you there will be a lot of those last two. There will be no coming in tired, if you do it again, stay home. You'll be tired enough by the end of our training days without having full time jobs on the side. Twilight is just going to have to find another assistant to take over for awhile. Scootaloo, how's that eye?"

"Seeing straight Captain!" She stood rigidly still, but Rainbow Dash could tell she was almost bursting at the seams with energy. She paused to inspect the mare's eye for herself all the same.

"Alright you two, I have three months to whip you both into shape! After that I'm back on the weather team, and I want you two fledglings to be able take your self-training from there."

Rainbow Dash began pacing back and forth in front of the two recruits, eyeing them up and down with every turn.

"You both have two completely different focuses in your training. Spike wants to be able to do solo long distance flight. He can't do that without a licence to fly, and he can't get that unless he can qualify for the Fledgling Flier Competition. Scootaloo wants to outright WIN the Fledgling Flier Competition. I'm here to somehow turn these two contrasting motives into a Flight Team worthy of competing. No Flight Team has ever tried taking in a flightless teen pony and train them to victory. No Flight Team had the guts to put a dragon into the sky, or will have to overcome the obstacles you two will have to overcome! No Flight Team has ever had to push themselves as hard as you 'will' have to, gain as much experience as you 'will' have to, or be trained as hard as I 'will' train you! No Flight Team has ever only just started training three months before a competition and carried home the prize! Now I'm asking are you willing to be THAT team?!"

"Yeah!" Two eager voices erupted in a simultaneous cheer.

"Well, you got the enthusiasm so lets give you the know-how. First lesson! Landing! Learning to fly is full of falls. The purpose of landing is to make sure those bones stay in place down here no matter what happens up there. We don't have time for injuries, so we're going to make sure we get this right. Its going to take effort, its going to take bruises, and going to take time."

"Uh... Captain," Scootaloo raised a hoof, she knew she asked this before but her mentor never did give her a straight answer. "How can we practice landing before we learn to fly?"

"With this!" Rainbow Dash excitedly flew off to the middle of a tree not far away, unbound some branches she had tied together, and there, lying hidden beneath them was a strong looking black chord, a harness, and a sliding handlebar. Both students recognized the device immediately.

"Zip lining?!"

"That's right! I'm a genius aren't I? With this you can practice controlled landings without any flight experience or the use of clouds. Clouds won't be available to land on for Spike anyway. We'll start off at low angles, and the better you get the more I'll step it up. First up I'll show you how you want to look during a landing, then you get to try it out for yourselves."

"This is going to be so cool!" Scootaloo's eyes opened wide with delight.

"Am I supposed to land on my hands too? I'm bipedal you know." Spike was still not convinced.

"Spike, I have to tell you this now. Everything's going to be a bit different for you. When we were doing that whole migration thing I got to see a bunch of the dragons your age fly, and I gotta say, not impressed. Here you're going to have to land with some flair and style. They all seemed to come to a slow stop and hover straight down. I'm going to require you to keep on the move. For ponies that normally means pressing forwards and coming in at a bit of a trot. You should try a few different ways and see what works best for you, but I'm not letting you go out to that competition with any of that tap down rookie stuff.”

"Well, I'll give it a shot, I guess..." hesitance crept its way into his reply.

"I'll show him! I'll show him!" Scootaloo was already jumping at the bit, up the tree and holding the handle, ready to make the leap.

"Alright, give it a try, Squirt!" Dash called up to her, and waved her down. "Don't worry about a thing, if you lose your grip, I'll catch you looong before you hit turf."

Scootaloo didn't wait even a second before jumping off the low tree limb and beginning her slide. She was going so slowly at the low angle though, she couldn't help but want to push it along a bit. Where was a whisper in her ear, of what could be, of a rush of wind, and a ruffle through her feathers.

Her wings started buzzing behind her instinctively, forcing her to pick up speed along the rope. Rainbow Dash was shouting something, but she couldn't hear her over the sudden rush of wind in her ears and the sound of the handle against the cable. She began to bounce along the rope as she slid and then the sand was right there! Already at her hooves! She let go, but her torso moved much faster than her legs, leaving her with a face full of the local terrain, and her back hooves hanging over her head. It was in that position that she struggled to look up at the two that stood over her. One was holding in his laughter the other was looking nonplussed.

"Too fast?"

"Ya think?" Rainbow Dash remarked sarcastically, "Stand up and try it again. This time, I want to see your wings open the whole time. No flapping! You want to feel the wind pushing them back, practice edging your wings back and forth little by little until you get a good feel of how to position them to speed up and slow down along the line. Don't sit there like a slug on a log Spike, follow her!"

Days passed and the two cadets rode the line time and time again, adjusting their wings for their descent, soon able to slow down and speed up their decline on command by their ever observant Captain. Scootaloo didn't take long before she had her landings down pat. Spike on the other hand was still trying to deal with the excess forward momentum, needing to slow down far more than any pegasus to land upright. Still, the two were landing easily at 45 degree angles, and strangely enough the higher the incline climbed the better the dragon was able to control his landing. Or at least until a certain point, anything higher than 65 degrees sent either two of them sprawling to the ground, and spitting out sand, much to their Captain’s amusement.

The end of each training day saw Rainbow Dash flying off into the clouds as fast as she had arrived that morning, and two very bruised and exhausted new friends trudging their way home through the overgrown path through Whitetail Woods. Scootaloo and Spike had always gotten along well in passing on the street, but one could never consider them more than acquaintances in a small town where every pony knew every pony.

In truth Scootaloo always looked up to Spike somewhat. His work as an assistant librarian was well known to every pony in town, and in spite of the usual stigma that comes along with bookworm types, Spike had managed to keep a fair amount of 'cool' factor to him. If she wanted some good ideas of new crusader missions, Spike always had something after a quick moment of thought. He was that guy that was too cool for school, never having to go, but he still probably knew more about every subject they learned than any of her classmates. His wisecracks could always keep a pony laughing, he was a dragon and that's awesome all on its own, and on top of that he was good friends with the coolest pony in Equestria!

If anything his maturity, full-time job, and hard working nature left her feeling pretty intimidated by him when she was younger. Hanging out with Spike would have been like hanging out with your older brother and his friends. You would feel cool doing it, but also feel awkward and out of place at his side.

At some point though, somewhere throughout several hard days of lessons, she grew more comfortable around him. She didn't have time to be tense around Spike with Rainbow Dash constantly on her about tilting her wings, and his easy-going nature made him more welcoming than the un-relatable mental image she conjured up of him earlier in her youth. It might have something to do with his constant mistakes and teasing he'd throw back at her idol. In all honesty she was really nervous about the training as a whole when it first started.

Rainbow Dash originally came from some prestigious flight school in Cloudsdale, they had a whole different sort of protocol up there. They were full of tradition and discipline, flight squads and formations, all forms of certain etiquette that were foreign to some small earth pony village. It left her rigid trying to copy from what she read.

Spike was having none of it though, he kept things casual between Captain and team and threw back what teasing he took from their Captain, dishing out as good as he got. The traditions were still there, but it was more personal, like respect between friends instead of the usual inferior to superior.

Riding the line in that context became closer to a competition Rainbow Dash was refereeing rather than some strict flight class at school. Turns out the young dragon was just as competitive as herself, and just as cocky after a win. It only spurred her on to try harder and entertained their coach that much more.

Their Captain said they made a lot of progress today, and the truth is, weariness and aching limbs aside, Scootaloo felt exhilarated! It was gratifying! Something she hadn't felt since... well she couldn't even remember the last time. She really felt like she was flying down that rope, and for once it didn't involve some form of crash or tree sap at the end. Just a whole lot of sand.

"So what was your favourite part so far?" Scootaloo interrupted her own reverie as she wondered out loud to her new teammate.

"It'd have to be the parts where I wasn't coughing up sand afterwards." He scrunched up his face as he continued to taste a few grains of it left in his mouth.

"I thought dragons ate rocks anyway."

"We eat gems, and jewels, and precious metals, not rocks!"

"So what? They have to be 'shiny' rocks before you eat them?"

"They have to be igneous rock, crystallized from magma, aged and grown with tender love and care! I mean, comparing a gem to regular old rocks is like... you confusing a zap apple with a pine cone."

"Okay yeah, that sounds... not as good." Scootaloo copied Spike's earlier look of distaste as she pictured eating a pine cone. "Well, my favourite part was when the wind caught my wings like that, I swear if I let go of the line I would have been flying, 'right' there!"

"You probably would have been gliding, if you could keep adjusting your wings with the lift. At least that's what I read. I think that's what she's building us up to, but I don't think she's done with the landing quite yet."

"Gliding? Really? We're already gliding?!"

"Well, theoretically anyway. I'm kind of worried what she has planned over the next week though, I mean we covered a lot on landing today, 65 degree angles are pretty steep! How much more do you think she'll want us to land at?"

"Well, she almost always lands straight down. What angle is that?"

"90 degree." Spike shuddered, "I hope we're not doing that! That's landing from complete freefall! Fluttershy said that's even faster than most pegasi fly!"

"Well... we are trying to win a competition here Spike."

"You're trying to win, I'm just trying to fly solo from city to city, to do that I need to be able to 'survive'. She doesn't even know if I even 'can' land like that!"

"What's a matter Spike, getting scaaaared?" Scootaloo taunted.

"What? No I'm not scared, I'm just... using cautious foresight." He sniffed.

"You'll be fine." Scootaloo laughingly pointed out, "Remember, Rainbow Dash, THE best flier in all Equestria, will be right on hand. She won't let anything happen to us."

"I guess..."

"Besides, I can't enter the competition alone, I gotta do this, and I'm depending on you to keep up on your end!"

"..." Spike felt himself go silent as he took a moment to think about that. Several days ago he didn't even want to fly, let alone be one of the best this year's new fliers had to offer.

"Hey Spike!" Scootaloo stopped him, sensing his hesitation. She put her hooves on his shoulders and looked him dead in the eye. "You said you had the guts to go all the way with this, right? You're not backing out on me now are you?"

"Of course not! I just..." He struggled trying to put his thought into word, "I never really considered stunt flying before, you know? I've never thought about any of this up until now. The whole idea is new to me, I have to get used to it."

"Well, you better get used to it soon." She let out a short 'hmph' and turned away to start down the path again at a quickened trot. "I gotta do this. It's my one big chance to prove I'm not some failure!"

"Did I miss something here? Hey hold on." Spike had to suddenly hurry to catch her with the change of pace. "Proving you're the best isn't the same as proving you're not a failure. You know that right?"

She paused mid-step and looked up past the tree cover and into the slowly darkening sky, her thoughts turned towards the escapades of the Cutie Mark Crusaders along with all the mayhem and celebrations that came with each crusade. All the lessons learned and friendships earned over the years played out in her mind. All those trials they contended with, all the courage it took to try every new thing that came to mind in pursuit of discovering their natural talents. After every time they had to stand up to put their next hoof forward to try again, doing the very best they could.

Every single time, without fail.

"If you're gonna do something... Aim for the top! Don't leave any regrets by not giving it everything you got."

Spike stopped with her and squinted as he followed her gaze, trying to see whatever it was that caught her attention. The last rays of a sinking sun streamed through tree leaves as a deep red sky began to darken into a dark blue backdrop as night fell, casting a cool shade over the two as they stood beneath the canopy of green vibrant plant life. Spike never did catch what it was she was looking at before she began moving again, even though he chose to stay behind and continue to look. Letting her go on ahead, he quietly stood staring up while mulling over what she said. He wasn't sure how it all pertained to him. He still wasn't sure how far he was willing to go with all of this. There was only one thing he was sure about, and he said it aloud to himself when she was long out of earshot.

"Scootaloo, that isn't something a failure would say."

******

Scootaloo continued to walk into town, only noticing Spike was missing from her side when she turned to say good bye where they’d normally part ways. She pondered the idea of going back to make sure he was alright, but decided against it. She was already late for meeting the others in the park and pretty confident Spike could handle the nature trail on his own. It was times like these she missed her recently broken scooter the most, she’d be there and back again if it was still intact. As it was everything felt like it was moving about as fast as cold molasses. This whole ‘walking’ thing didn’t suit her, but Rainbow Dash hadn’t been lying about the sore muscles and hooves they’d be walking away with. Galloping all the way to the town center was out of the question to her protesting limbs.

Her whole body ached, every step felt strained and stiff, and while she wasn’t ‘fall into bed’ tired, she was most certainly ‘sit down and do nothing’ tired. She was a half hour late by the time she caught up to Sweetie Belle and Applebloom who sat in the park giggling over something. She waved half-heartedly as she trudged her way past the triangle of trees to meet them.

“Scootaloo! Y’all never guess what Sweetie Belle got t’day!” Applebloom jumped up and raced to meet her, apparently too excited to wait for Scootaloo to come to them.

“I dunno, what?” She offered a smile in greeting, too tired to offer much more than that.

“Horse feathers, Scoot, yah look like yah went and got in a tussle with some Everfree Forest critter.” Applebloom said, forgetting instantly what she was talking about after observing the current state of her fellow crusader. Scootaloo looked at herself for the first time since the training day ended. She was never one to be concerned with appearance much, so she never paid much heed until some pony mentioned it. Dirt, scratches, and the certain discolouration of forming bruises dotted her sides and legs. She imagined her mane looked as dishevelled as the rest of her felt. The feathers in her wings were ruffled and many out of place. She sighed, opened her wings and preened them as well as she could for a few moments.

“Yeah, Rainbow Dash hasn’t been going easy on us, and it doesn’t look like she’s going to calm it down any. It felt great though, we’re doing really well! If you guys ever want to try zip lining again, I think I’m pretty much an expert now.” Scoot replied around a mouthful of feathers before spitting the offending objects out with a sour look.

“Wow… well I guess we can’t do any cutie mark crusading tonight with you looking like that.” Sweetie Belle frowned as she took in her friend, bending over to lift up one of Scootaloo’s legs to inspect a particularly purple looking bruise.

“Yeah, I probably overdid it today.” Scootaloo agreed with a sigh, forgetting the mess of her wings, and instead slumping down on her stomach on the grassy park field.

“Well that just ain’t gonna do. We ain’t got many chances left for crusadin’ together for a whole ‘nother year!”

“What?!” That caught Scootaloo’s attention real fast.

“Its alright Applebloom. I mean look at her, she’s dead tired. I don’t want her to hurt herself. We can try to put something together for tomorrow, maybe we can just have a picnic today?”

“Hang on, what’s all this about Sweetie Belle?”

“Sweetie Belle had a letter o’ confirmation arrive t’day! Show her Sweetie!” Sweetie Belle quickly retrieved the envelope and held it up for Scootaloo to see. It had a broken seal, signed by some sort of studio Scootaloo never heard of. Of course, she was never really that big into music to know what studio had what singer. She assumed this had something to do with Sapphire Shores.

“It’s certainly important looking, what’s the letter say?”

“Just lots o’ legal stuff mostly.” Applebloom answered for Sweetie as she put the letter back into her saddlebag, “The important part is what it says at the end of it all.”

“And that is?”

“It says Gemstone Studios is assigning me as Sapphire Shore’s apprentice!” The young unicorn hopped with glee, finally answering for herself before Applebloom could.

“Wait, so its official now? You’re the real deal?! That is so awesome! We gotta celebrate!”

“We sure do! We were just waitin’ on yah tah show up. We were fixin’ tah put together a crusade. Guess that’s gonna have to wait til tomorrow with yah all messed up like that.”

“Uh… how about Thursday?” Scootaloo proposed sheepishly. “Rainbow Dash said she can’t train us every day, cause we need some time to let our bodies heal up. Thursday will be our first day off. Any other day I’m probably gonna end up just as messed up.”

“Alright, Thursday works for me. Sweetie Belle?”

“Oh umm… yeah, Thursday is fine, but what should we do this evening then?”

“Yah said picnic earlier right? That sounds like a great idea tah me.”

“Well Picnics mean treats, and treats mean…” Scootaloo grinned widely. “Sugarcube Corner!”

Her friends cheered in agreement before the trio made their way to small town’s favourite hangout for delectable sweets.

Anypony that lived in Ponyville knew Mr. and Mrs. Cake’s business had become far more than any simple pastry shop. You could see the married couple catering almost any event that found its way to the small town. Even during Princess Celestia’s visits you would catch the two scurrying about in the back kitchen setting everything up just right or serving the throng of ponies. However, while their small town enterprise hosted most major events it was for their day to day services they were most widely known by the town’s ponies.

The services had little to do with the treats they served and everything to do with the atmosphere they had developed for their little store. Somehow Sugarcube Corner had risen to become everypony’s favourite rendezvous point, often becoming the axis the town seemed to revolve around. Friends would meet in its parlour at the beginning of the day, and later be found on their way back to the pastry shop before parting ways.

This happy little shop seemed to magically transform almost every stranger that came to town into a friend, managed to introduce them to more, and eventually turned friends in to family. It took a great deal of self-control, tolerance, and perseverance in order to build this bewitching feeling of friendship, and to do so Mr. and Mrs. Cake first had to learn how to harness the very power of chaos. Do not mistakenly think it was some demented god able to change the fabric of the material plane to their whim, or some curse that brought about strange effects on the unwary. Nothing so spectacular was hidden beneath their floorboards. This force of chaos took the humble form of a pink cheerful pony who often handled the sales and joined the Cake’s family as their tenant.

Pinkie Pie held the very essence of random in her hooves, and was utterly oblivious to any such thing. Around this pony common sense twisted and turned into a convolution of strangeness that only the pink pony herself could interpret, which she did. Daily presenting the insanity to her friends, often served on a tray with streamers, confetti, and cupcakes. The greed of this embodiment of pandemonium was all-consuming. Never having enough lives to effect, it craved more and more friendship. It would seek out every pony the town could muster, every stranger that walked its streets, coveting each and every one of their affections before wrapping them up in invitations to its bizarre gatherings where each pony would take part in dementedness with joy and laughter. The very joy and laughter the pink pony would thrive on.

This was no easy power for the Cake family to manipulate, for as with any force of chaos it came bearing destruction. Supplies, kitchen utensils, integral structural supports, and difficult to make delectable goods of all shapes and sizes found themselves ruined, vanished, or outright destroyed in the proximity of the well intentioned Pinkie Pie. However it was her that the Sugarcube Corner customers would often drop in to see. It was also her parties that allowed the Cake family to visit every pony in town, in turn becoming friends with every friend Pinkie Pie would make. Mr. and Mrs. Cake could never decide whether the costs of keeping their tenant outweighed the sales she brought in. They did know for certain that there was no dollar value they could ever place on the joy she brought into their lives.

It was into this parlour Applebloom, Sweetie belle, and Scootaloo were cheerfully welcomed into, so it was not altogether unexpected to find the pink pony doing a swaying one hoofed balancing act on a step ladder while holding several balloons in one hoof and attaching streamers to the ceiling with her other.

“Hi Pinkie Pie!” The trio of friends said in unison, surprising the unbalanced pony.

“Eep!” The wobbly ladder slipped from beneath her, leaving her flailing wildly attempting to steady herself, resulting with the streamers flying across the room while Pinkie Pie found herself entangled in balloon strings. The three young ponies found themselves laughing underneath many vibrantly coloured lines of paper with the sales clerk being held up by the balloons, strings attached to every limb, making her look like a marionette hovering in the air.

“Hi girls!” Pinkie Pie giggled out while waving at the three, completely unperturbed by her current defiance of physics. The balloons bounced above her as she began making swimming movements through the air towards her place behind the counter.

“Whatcha celebratin’ this time Pinkie Pie?” Applebloom smiled while trying to make her way out of the pile of streamers. “Ah can’t think o’ any pony with a birthday tomorrow.”

“That’s cause its not a birthday! I’m not sure what its for.” She paused, tapping her chin in thought, “I’ve been getting twinges in my knees and a tingle in on my cutie mark, that means somepony close has something to celebrate coming up! I’m not sure who it is, but I’ve been getting it for weeks now. It must be a duesy! And then I thought ‘Wow! I should get started preparing now to be ready when the moment it comes!’”

The three friends gave each other knowing looks. They weren’t able to tell about Sweetie Belle’s confirmation letter yet at her big sister’s request, so few ponies in Ponyville knew. The strangely keen pinkie sense could well spoil any surprise Rarity was going for, leaving the Crusaders looking for something to change topics to. The problem was unthankfully resolved by the entrance of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon into the parlour.

“Oh look Silver Spoon, Scootaloo’s here and it looks like she’s celebrating how good she is at falling down.” The light pink pony smiled at the mess of streamers Scootaloo was trying to untie herself from. Further scrutiny changed the smile into a frown. “You’re even more beaten up than usual, I thought you were going to invite me every time you wanted to show off your flight show.”

“That’s like, so rude! Watching her crashes is like the best source of entertainment we have!” Silver Spoon added, her face almost instinctively copying the sarcastic expression that found its way to Diamond Tiara’s.

“For your information I’ve been out training with Rainbow Dash all week!” Scootaloo stuck out her chest with no small amount of pride. She had been dying to see the look on her face after that little reveal!

“As if!” Diamond Tiara smirked, “What could she teach a flightless pegasus? How to run faster? I suppose she’s pretty well known for that too.”

“We’re training for the Fledgling Fliers Competition!” Scootaloo managed out while grinding her teeth. That wasn’t the expression she was going for.

“Did you hear that?” Diamond Tiara grinned to Silver Spoon, “It sounds like she’s taking her comedy act for all of Cloudsdale to see. Rainbow Dash is probably getting as much a kick out of it as we do! Well I just won’t allow it. You were my source of entertainment first. Don’t you have any sense of loyalty to your audience?”

“It is NOT a comedy act! Just you watch, I’m not just going to qualify, I’m going to take first place!”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah!”

“Fine then, why don’t you prove it?”

“Name the time and place!”

“Oh, but you already did.” That smirking look took over her features once more, “No, what I mean is, if you really believe that, you’ll be glad to make a wager with me.”

“Another bet?” Scootaloo groaned out loud. She had been making bets with Diamond Tiara since she first began going all out trying to fly. She hoped the confidence and pressure of the debt would push her past her limitations, but it had been less than successful. She was in debt to her for a whole ton of bits but Daddy’s little princess never bothered coming to collect. It had gotten to a point Scootaloo would bet huge amounts in exaggeration, and Diamond Tiara would readily accept whatever stupid thing she quoted. Most of which weren’t even real numbers anymore. She was sure Diamond Tiara was just saving for some huge favour to throw back at her one day. It tended to be the pony’s way with any bets she’d make.

“Yes, exactly. Or do you just want to admit you’re a lost cause?”

“I am no lost cause! Fine! I’m game. If I take first place you have to wipe me and my pals a clean slate. That means no more debt, no more insults towards me and my friends, and no more talking behind our backs!”

“Very well, and if you don’t take first place at the Fledgling Flier’s Competition You have to work for me. I plan to take that little comedy routine you like to call flying on the road! You’ll be the laughing stock of every town in Equestria before I’m done. Aaaannnd you get to keep it up until you’ve paid me back for ‘all’ of our previous arrangements.”

“Woah! Hold on jus’ a second now Scootaloo! Are you sure about this? What’s all this ‘bout previous arrangements?”

“Its just some stupid bets I made with her about flying, Applbloom.”

“What bets?” Sweetie Belle paused in thought. She never recalled hearing about anything about this.

“While you two were off following your cutie marks, I may have been betting bits that I could learn to fly a couple times, that’s all.”

“If by couple she means every day for the past year and most of last.” Diamond Tiara cut in with a grin. “She’s worked herself into quite a debt. I feel kind of bad about it though.”

“You have feelings?” Scootaloo snorted.

“Well of course I do! I felt like it was so unfair! There you were, providing me with soooo many hours of entertainment that I really should have been paying you for! That’s how I know you’ll make such a good road show. I know personally it never gets old watching you run yourself into a tree, or wall, or however else you’ll end up a pile of pegasus on the ground. Its always a surprise ending!”

“Gah! You’re gonna eat your own bet this time, once and for all! When I take home that trophy the only thing that will be left lying on the ground is your jaw!”

“Hah! Your endings aren’t that much of a surprise. Either way I wish you the best of luck in our little wager.” She stuck out a hoof waiting to seal their deal. Scootaloo smirked, spit on her hoof and jammed it against the prissy pony’s own before she had a chance to jerk it away.

“Ewww!” Diamond Tiara quickly let it go and began scraping her wet hoof against the floorboards, much to the giggling of the crusaders.

“Annnnnd done.” Pinkie Pie announced while still floating above the sales counter. She had been scratching away with her quill the entire time the two young ponies had been going back and forth at each other, taking the dictation the moment the bet was announced. At the end she held a very official looking scroll which she immediately nailed onto the shop’s wall for the entire world to see.

“Wait… what’s that?” Scootaloo read the paper then looked mortified as she stared at the bottom corner. There sat a seal in wax with the official signature of Ponyville’s mayor. The fillies all quickly turned their heads to said mayor who sat waving to them from her table. Pinkie had somehow already gotten it signed!

“An absolutely brilliant idea from you both! I love it! One way it leaves the Best Fledgling Flier Champion in Ponyville to join our already number one Best Young Flier Champion! And if the bet falls the other way we have a travelling show spreading word of Ponyville all over Equestria! I am so thrilled by the dedication to Ponyville by our children. It is truly inspiring how much we ponies can give back to our communities.”

Mayor Mare wiped away a genuine tear.

Scootaloo glared at the official paper as Applebloom gathered the treats for their impromptu picnic from Pinkie Pie. She felt Sweetie Belle put a hoof on her shoulder. “Is everything alright Scootaloo? You don’t have to do this, you know...”

“Yeah, I do.” She turned and left the shop to wait outside with Sweetie Belle not far behind.

“So these bets,” her unicorn friend continued in a worried tone, “They’ve been going on for two years now? How come you never told us anything about them?”

“I didn’t want to distract you guys from your work. You’ve both been super busy with your apprenticeships. It was just a way to kill time anyway.”

“Sounds like it was a good deal more ‘n that!” Applebloom answered with a small amount of heat to her words as she hefted a bag of goods out of the shop. “Sounds tah me like you were out gettin’ yerself in a big heap o’ trouble, and yah didn’t even come tah us fer help.

“I didn’t need anypony’s help, besides its not like she ever held me to any of them.”

“Well she’ll have to hold it to you this time with it on public display like that.” Sweetie Belle sighed, “Just how much did you lose in those bets?”

“Umm… lets just say a lot. Look, it doesn’t matter anyway. With THE Rainbow Dash training me, I’ll take first easy. You should see the landings I can pull off already!”

Sweetie Belle and Applebloom gave each other knowing looks before turning back to Scootaloo.

“Alright, even if it don’t matter none if yah win or lose, we’re supposed tah be friends Scoot. You’d tell me off somethin’ fierce if Ah ever hid somethin’ like this from y’all.”

“Applebloom’s right. Do you really think we were so busy that we wouldn’t have come to cheer you on, or help you out? You two are the most important things in the whole world to me! It kinda hurts that you never came to talk to me about it. I tell you guys everything, even when I’m not supposed to.”

“Darn tootin’! Ah already know yah can do it on yer own. But yah can git ‘er done a whole lot easier when yah have help, and yah shoulda asked us fer ours. Wasn’t the whole point of being Crusaders to help each other out?”

“But you guys have been working towards everything you want to be and you’re both doing it without any help from me!”

“What?! Are yah not thinkin’ straight? Yah been scootin’ around every construction site Ah’ve worked at! Yah run fer supplies, water, and pretty much anything we need, helpin’ every worker there! Why yer the best help we have sometimes.”

“And I wouldn’t have anything to sing about if I didn’t have you and Applebloom to talk to. I get all my song ideas from hanging out with you both.”

“I guess I never thought about it like that…”

“Well yah better start! This ain’t no small thing, its somethin’ yah went and done fer years! It wasn’t very crusadin’ of yah.”

“I know that now, and you’re right. I’m sorry.”

“Forgiven but don’t you forget it! Next time you have troubles with somethin’ Ah wanna be one o’ the first tah know. We’ll see it through together, like we always oughta whenever we can.”

“That goes for all three of us, no matter where we end up, or what we do, right?” Sweetie Belle added before holding an outstretched hoof. Her friends grinned and joined her hoof with theirs before answering together.

“Right!”

******

Dear Rarity,

So much happened this week, its hard just figuring out where to begin! Rainbow Dash stuck around after all, I’m not sure why but I’m really glad she did! She decided to give Scootaloo and me flight lessons during her three month suspension. The first week just ended and I’m sore just about everywhere but it really has been a blast! She just has us practicing landings using a zip line for now, and has us touching down at different angles. Apparently dragons have a difficult time landing at low angles that’s because I don’t have as many feet to land on. I find it’s a lot easier if I can lean back and let my tail help level me out.

Scootaloo looks like a real professional at landings already! She’s practicing skids as she lands now while I’m still trying to make sure I stay upright. Rainbow Dash is really impressed with it actually. We think it has a lot to do with the practice she’s had at landing her scooter. She’s got a great sense of balance and can match any landing pose Rainbow Dash has been able to come up with. I’m going to have to work extra hard just to keep up! I don’t mind though, I’m more worried about Twilight.

Twilight has been super busy lately. I have to be really thankful for everything she’s going through so I can attend these lessons but I’m getting a little worried about her. She’s keeping up with her magic studies for Princess Celestia, and taken over all my duties at the library. That’s not easy just on its own, but every day I come back she’s showing a lot of magic fatigue! Twilight never used to suffer from that for very long. I don’t know what she does all day while I’m not there, I think there’s more to it all. I know she’s been talking with Applejack a whole lot, and I see paperwork for Sweet Apple Acres floating around the place every now and then. I come back after training in the evening and I finish anything she was too tired to see to. I think she’s trying to take on too much. Again. Yesterday I found her asleep on the stairs. I didn’t even think it was possible to sleep on stairs.

I’ve started taking Pee Wee with me to all my flight training sessions just to make sure he stays out of her fur for the day. Pee Wee’s doing great too. He’s really smart, and he loves chasing us as we slide down the rope. I think its going to be pretty cool when we can both fly. Fluttershy taught me all kinds about training him, and he responds to just about everything. Unfortunately he also likes to get into trouble and play tricks on ponies when I’m not watching him closely. Rainbow Dash likes watching him go, but there’s no way I can leave him in Twilight’s hooves like this.

I haven’t seen much of Pinkie Pie or Applejack lately. We do all our training at Old Lake for most of the daylight hours, so Sugarcube Corner is too far to go for lunch. I kind of miss seeing them around. Fluttershy brings out lunch for us because it is such a short flight from her place, and she likes to spend the time talking to the animals out that way. She also manages to keep Pee Wee back when we’re doing the more dangerous landings, and she’s full of advice on gliding. Its her favourite form of flying and Dash told us we should listen up when she has anything to say about it. Especially since she said we’ll be learning how to glide next week.

I hope everything is going well for you in Canterlot. Rainbow Dash said if I qualify for the Fledgling Flier’s Competition this fall, I’ll get a flight specialist licence and I’ll be able to come visit you on trips all the time! Well, not all the time, I mean whenever it’s appropriate for you of course. Its not going to be easy though. It means I have to be good enough to be a professional stunt pegasus, and I’ve only just begun to learn how to land! Scootaloo wants to win the entire competition, but you need a team to enter. The minimum is a Captain and two fledglings. We barely reach that, and Scootaloo hasn’t flown yet either. It is her dream though, so she’s chasing it with everything she has. She reminds me a lot of you actually. I don’t want to disappoint her, so I’m giving it my all too.

Scootaloo says your sister is going to be on tour with Sapphire Shores! I know you wanted it to be announced with more flair, so don’t worry we’re not telling anypony else. It was just really surprising! So Rainbow Dash says training us will help her get into the Wonderbolts, Scootaloo is going for the MVP award for the Fledgling Flier’s Contest, Sweetie Belle is going to be leaving for a year to learn singing with a superstar, and you’re opening new outlet stores in bigger cities. Twilight is still studying everyday to be some kind of master of the arcane arts under Celestia. Everypony seems to be chasing their dreams, and I don’t even have one yet. I thought everything I’d ever want was right here in Ponyville, but sometimes it feels like Ponyville is growing up and leaving me behind. I have decided to look into finding something that suits me, some larger goal I can aspire to like everypony else. I don’t know what it is yet, but when I do, I’ll write you about it. Rainbow Dash said you’d like that. I think for now, what I want to do is just help everypony reach their goals, at least until I find my own.

How is everything with your store? When I do learn how to fly, would you mind if I paid you a visit? Have you seen Princess Celestia while you’re there? I’m sure she’d appreciate a visit. If you do see her please let her know I said hello.

Wishing you the best,

Your friend forever,

Spike


Rarity set her glasses and the letter down on the night table next to her bed, and stared at the scroll. It was the third time she’d read it, and she was tempted towards a fourth. On the matching night table that had its place on the other side of the bed, sat a small pile of letters signed and sealed by Twilight Sparkle. They contained list upon list of highly detailed equipment costs, maintenance costs, repair costs, along with a complete comparison to the original assessment Big Macintosh had put together. Many letters, lists, bills, and official documents had arrived through her curtains in a surprisingly large gout of green flame. She had been comparing the figures all evening, tiredly browsing through each. It was fairly interesting, and she’d already found a few contradictions, especially in the sales area. She had just finished deciding that there was no more she could do that night without leaving it full of revisions and necessary to redo tomorrow.

She enjoyed it, actually, in spite of the work involved. It felt like she was able to still hang on to something of the little town of her birth. Fancy Pants had looked after her very well here in Canterlot, and with his interest in her work came the interest of his friends. Though she appreciated the business immensely, it was all very exhausting dealing with life in Canterlot. She felt she fit in more here than she ever did back home but at the same time, it left her missing the simple life the small town offered. The quaint items on the lists Twilight made would spark memories of the farm and village. The sales prices reminded her of the farmer’s market in the town square, and the familiar sights and sounds echoed in her mind as she lost herself in recollection.

She had just wiped away some water from the edge of her eyes when she spotted a scroll different from the others. A roll of paper with the seal of a certain young dragon. She left the work aside, took the scroll to her bed, and gazed at the flowing script. She’d never really seen Spike’s writing before, they would dictate to him and he’d immediately set it ablaze and away it would go in a gust of flame. She was more than impressed. It was professional, flowing and very stylized, and looked very distinguished. Like…

“Like a Royal Letter.” She said out loud to herself in surprise.

It was true, you could tell the differences between it and the invitations from the princesses, but you would have to be paying very close attention. He was truly quite the talented scribe! The whole letter was a crafted piece of art, but at the very top of it, her eyes kept being drawn back to her name. The thin to thick flowing lines wound their way around to form the loops of letters so artistically, expertly, and exquisitely.

It was far better quality than the rest of the letter, a masterpiece sitting there alone, noble and proud, separated from the masses, leaving the rest of the well crafted script looking poor and amateurish compared. She simply couldn’t understand why. She scrutinized her own name, thinking of the differences. Why was the whole letter not of the same quality? If it had been, she may have framed it then and there with a permanent place on her wall. She pondered it for several moments before finally smiling softly as comprehension came.

He practiced writing it just to get her name perfect. She contemplated on how many crumpled pieces of paper lay at the dragon’s feet, her name written hundreds of times on each.

“What have I ever done to have you push yourself so much on my account? You always treat even the smallest things between us with such importance and care that they might as well hold bearing over all the heavens.”

The answer hung in the air. It was something that never bothered with nuances like logic or reason. It was far more powerful, and far more than any amount of words could explain. It spoke only through actions and emotions. She gave a happy sigh, skimming the letter a fourth time. If Twilight Sparkle’s lists had left her with a sense of homesickness then Spike’s heartfelt letter had left her with some form of chronic illness born of nostalgia. Twilight brought her a sense of the town, while Spike brought her an update of all the ponies most important to her within.

All except three. Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Sweetie Belle weren’t mentioned except in passing. She almost cursed the fortunes for not bringing them into his path. If only everypony were fully intertwined she’d be able to hear about them all through the deft claw of her dearest dragon. She knew of course what it was that kept Twilight so busy. Evidence of her work with gem collecting and Sweet Apple Acres finances were sitting on her night table. She blamed herself. She had put these tasks on Twilight even though she knew she tended to go overboard with such things. Now she was responsible for working her friend into continuing exhaustion. There had to be some other way to help, but it was so hard with that stipulation of needing the farm’s destined financial difficulties kept secret from the town.

Rarity rolled over on her bed, thinking of all that was going on back home, wishing she was back there personally to help them. The six friends working everything out together again, facing down any challenge the chaotic little village could toss their way. If only it were that way now.

“Seven friends.” Rarity corrected herself, staring at Spike’s letter. Always left to take care of things, they trusted him with the library, their homes, and everything else even when he was so small he couldn’t reach their backs without a tremendous leap on his part. Still he had always managed, volunteering to stay behind on any trip he might have really wanted to go on if it meant allowing the six of them to go instead. He always gave so much of himself, but she rarely saw him in any of their past pictures she kept in photo albums here and there. Seemed he was always the one taking the picture, and never the one in them.

“Oh everypony, what am I supposed to do?” she said it aloud, laying with her back on the bed she pressed the back of a hoof to her forehead, closing her eyes. She was working towards everything she ever dreamed she wanted but had left so much behind. She had only been away a week this time. She’d been away many times before and for much longer at that. Somehow it was different now, knowing she would be living here soon. She hadn’t even fully moved out of the Carousel Boutique yet and already she missed every pony so much. Is this how it would be like living here? Was it to be a blissful paradise by daylight amidst colleagues and peers, only to fall before a gripping pang for home when left alone as night fell? It was all so… well it was just so dramatic!

She secretly loved it.

“Dear Opalescence, what is wrong with me?” She rolled over to the side of the bed and began petting her grumpy feline companion. The feline in question opened a single lazy eye to acknowledge Rarity’s existence, before settling back to ignore the hoof tracing through her fur. Rarity equally ignored the cat’s lack of affection, and continued as if her companion had responded with deep interest.

“Its like something out of one of those silly novels. A relationship of which two will not speak out loud, secrets between friends, tragic bittersweet goodbyes, dreamers chasing impossible dreams, and growing up to find one’s place in the world! What fate will befall us by the end I wonder? Something happy I hope. I’ve enjoyed a tragedy from time to time, but I don’t think I could bare it if such an occurrence found its way into our lives!”

The cat ignored the unicorn’s dramatic performance taking more interest in cleaning her paws.

“Well I guess I’ll have to make certain there is no such ending to our tale, won’t I? We’ll have to do something about Twilight to start. I simply will not have her work herself into an early grave. If we cannot tell ponies about the farm, we can most certainly tell them about needing assistance at the library. But who to tell? I’d love it to be Pinkie Pie or Applejack, if only to give Spike reason to write about them, but of course neither will do. Applejack is just as overworked, and Pinkie Pie, darling that she is, would be more work than help I fear. It needs to be some pony organized, able to handle children, able to stand up for herself if need be, and since it’s a library of course they’d have to be…?”

Rarity’s eyes opened wide with delight, hopping up from her bed, a quill and paper floated into the air as the unicorn grinned.

“Ideeee~aaaa! Rarity, you are a genius! She’d have to be quiet! Well Fluttershy, of course, has been bringing out lunches to Rainbow Dash and the others, but that could easily be something Pinkie Pie could do! Why the dear pony would love it, since it would also give her a chance to cheer for the others as they train. That would leave the library out of Twilight’s hooves, and put her mind towards helping the farm where it belongs! Oh, but Twilight would still overwork herself with studying in the spare time wouldn’t she? Of course she would Rarity, you silly thing, there must be something else you can do.”

The quill continued to scribble behind her as she paced back and forth thinking. She headed towards the window, taking in the wonderful view of the palace. The stars were fully out as Luna put another brilliant piece of sparkling night on display for her subjects, one that left the palace towers dazzling in moonlight. The palace was always so beautiful. When she first arrived, she’d spent several nights just staring out at the mystical fortress as golden armoured guards passed through ivory white towers with perfect symmetry and perfect step, chariots flying this way and that, and tonight, out on the balcony stood the ever watchful Princess Celestia herself. Whatever was she doing out there at this hour? And then Rarity watched a wisp of green glowing flame appear in front of the princess before the ruler of Equestria turned to go back inside.

“Twilight’s studies arriving by Spike’s flame.” Rarity explained needlessly out loud to herself, before pausing after that thought. Her eyes closed and such a wide smile played upon her lips that it threatened to split her face in two. If you couldn’t stop a pony from overworking herself, than what else could you do but talk to her boss? Spike’s letter floated over and she quickly searched it from top to bottom. It was there, she knew it was there! Yes, there it was at the very end. Considering the relations between Spike and the Princess, not to mention the royal script, well this was a royal invitation for a word with Princess Celestia herself wasn’t it?

“Spike you’re simply marvelous!” Rarity suddenly jumped and kicked in joy as everything seamlessly came together, “You darling dragon! You’ve given me everything I could possibly need and you don’t even know it! Can you visit me upon learning to fly, indeed! If you didn’t, why I’d hunt you down myself.”

Author's Note:

So The third Season has wiped this thing clean outta cannon! I'm still going to include what elements I can from Season 3 where I can, but I suppose all I can ask is reader forgiveness where the continuity splits off. Mind you my readers seem to be stingy with their thumbs anyway, so who am I to be finicky over such details? =p
...
I'm still going to be finicky over this aren't I? Yes. Yes I am.