It was yet another sunny summer day in Ponyville. There wasn’t a cloud in sight and the life of the town was evident everywhere. Ponies moved out on the streets in their masses, conversing and enjoying the sunshine.
Somewhere, high above, the pegasi flew freely through the skies, creating their aerial displays for the unicorns and earth ponies far below. The fastest of which flew circles around her fellows, leaving a trail of Rainbows behind her as she looped, spun and twisted gracefully through the air without a care in the world.
Further above the non-existent clouds and dancing pegasi, a lone unicorn watched, perched high on her carpet of magic and obscurity. She watched them all with longing and envy as they laughed and smiled, free to enjoy the unlimited potential of the sky.
No-one knew she was there, she’d been careful to make sure of that, hiding herself carefully so that a pony looking for her would only see the sun directly above her, not her silhouette against the skyline.
She’d made a promise to herself long ago, that she’d stop doing this, that she’d stop watching her friends and neighbours with envy as they flew freely through the sky, that she’d stop searching for a spell to give her wings and let her soar.
She’d succeeded in half of that promise anyway. One part of her desire was a pipe dream; there were no spells, no potions or ancient magical rituals, that could abate her desire. She’d turned to science, flicking through several journals on the genetics of pegasi and unicorns, looking for a treatment for her aching heart.
She’d turned to her friends, two of which were pegasi and one of which flew below her at this very moment, turning circles around the rest of her race and leaving her tell-tale trail of many colours. She’d not told them what she was doing of course, she’d done that once before, talking to a pony she’d considered a friend.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Unicorns are not meant to have wings, you were born with magic inside you, some of the most powerful magic I’ve ever seen in a unicorn, and you want to give it up? For what? A chance to fly and perform tricks in the air?
He hadn’t liked her answer all those years ago; she doubted he’d have changed his mind since. But she’d never told another soul again. She’d never trusted her mentor enough to spill her secrets and dreams, one secret among many. Her friends had no idea, how she secretly envied two of them for something which she could never have.
And she planned to keep it that way. She’d invited the fasted flier in Equestria and the kindest pony she knew into her house, asking to examine their birthrights for a project. They’d never suspected a thing. Anatomical drawings, the constituent parts of a feather and numerous x-rays and measurements could not help her.
They were somewhere below her now, hidden deep within the archives of her house. Somewhere that no-one would ever know about. They wouldn’t understand anyway, they’d just be like that other unicorn, they’d question her and call her wrong, a freak, for wanting something that she could never have.
But what did it matter? There hadn’t been a single possibility; she was stuck, a pegasus, born a unicorn and trapped on the ground far below. What good was her magic if she couldn’t do what she wanted to do with it?
But again… it didn’t matter. She’d been careful to hide her longing and her envy from everypony, allowing herself these small breaks where she’d indulge in her desires and grasp her own slice of the sky. She knew that she was the most powerful unicorn in centuries to appear in Equestria, she knew she was a national asset, that if she gave up her affinity for magic through a horn, she’d be gambling with the elements of harmony.
Born as the most magical unicorn in decades, born a bearer of an element of harmony. It wasn’t fair. If she hadn’t been either of those, no-one would have given a damn as to what she perused. It was a farce; she’d never been given the choice of whether she wanted to be a bearer or not, but it’d happened, and her dream was further from her reach than ever before.
And again, it boiled down to the elements of harmony. She’d studied each individual characteristic in detail after she’d first encountered them, looking at each individual trait and how they all represented a particular slice of harmony within ponies.
Honesty, Kindness, Laughter, Generosity and Loyalty. Five of the six elements that kept harmony across Equestria, borne by five friends which had stood by her through thick and thin. She wondered what they would have said, to the bearer of Magic as she gave up her horn for two wings.
Would they have encouraged her? It was somewhat likely, she could hardly imagine that the flier of their group would have been disappointed with another friend to share the limitless skies with.
Or would they have shook their heads at her and called her wrong, abnormal and stupid for wanting to be something she wasn’t. Well… maybe they wouldn’t have gone that far, but the stakes were too high.
Another glance down showed her that the display was coming to a close as the pegasi all fell towards the ground, landing to the cheers of the audience below, audible even from all the way up here. She almost thought that she could see one of them puff her cerulean chest out as her ego swelled.
The sun had moved in the time she’d been up there, but she wasn’t worried about being spotted, she was too high in the darkening sky for them to see her without careful searching. Not that they’d look up and search for her anyway, but she was getting off-topic.
She stood on weary legs and looked around herself. She was so high up; she’d had to be to make sure that none of the aerial stunt team below would find her. She shivered in the cold air and smiled self-consciously. There was always this to look forward to though. At the end of every week, she’d make her way up here, using a specialised teleport to a carefully concealed cloud.
She’d wait for night to fall, as it had started to do now, when the sun was far, far away from her. That would be when she’d jump into oblivion and fall, down, down, down, before her wings of light and magic would unfold and twist her into flight, high above the ground below and cloaked in the shadowy dusk of twilight.
I took a bow in front of my audience, soaking up the cheers and praise all around me, my smile wide as the ponies stomped and whistled in admiration. I took another bow, pausing to blow a lock of flame-red hair out of my eyes.
It had been a brilliant day, all-in-all. I didn’t have to work on Sundays, which was already a bonus, and the sun had shone brilliantly all afternoon; providing the perfect companion for our impromptu air show. I glanced around at the spectators before me, recognising the majority of faces in the crowd.
Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Spike, all applauding me and the team around me. But my good mood was already forgotten, my mouth pressing into a thin line. She was missing again.
It was yet another Sunday that she’d remained absent. I’d asked Spike where she was before, and he’d just shrugged, telling me that she was gone before he’d awoken. I knew where she was of course. She was somewhere above me, around eight-thousand hooves, give or take.
I straightened up in the air, my wings righting myself even as the applause started to die down and ponies got to their hooves, leaving the square. I waved goodbye to my team, telling them that I’d see them in the morning behind a false smile.
I registered their compliments, smiling and nodding half-heartedly at them before making my own exit, my expression troubled. I’d pieced the puzzle together over time, adding up the small clues and tell-tale signs. I doubted anyone else would have put two and two together though… hell, the only reason I got my concrete answer was by seeing it first-hoof.
I glanced around myself, looking for any observers before I pulled back, rocketing into the sky. I rose fast, camouflaging myself against the setting sun and rising much further than I’d done just a few minutes earlier.
The sky was growing darker already, the moon already becoming visible upon the horizon. I looked around me, searching for somewhere to wait, somewhere to watch. I settled on a lone cloud, solid enough to bear me and keep me hidden from any potential watchers.
A glance towards the sun showed me the last few rays of light before it dipped behind the horizon completely, hiding itself from the world as the moon rose to take its place. I looked from my cover at the sky around me, glowing the dusky violet of twilight.
I’d seen it quite by chance really… one night, just like this one, when I’d been unable to sleep and I’d chanced a look at the stars, when I’d seen a lone pony flitting about the night sky. Then I noticed the wings which glowed ethereally in the night sky, leaving a ghostly trail against the darkness.
I slipped out of my house, curiosity already wearing down my walls and inviting me to take off, keeping my eyes on the pony that flitted through the night sky. I settled on a cloud, digging myself in and trying to keep hidden as I watched the pony, the fact that it wasn’t a stallion quickly becoming clear.
She’d flown smoothly, beautifully even, executing perfect loops and banks, leaving the trail of light and magic behind her all the while. She didn’t fly fast, she didn’t accelerate or slow down, she just flew. I found myself looking at the pony herself, wondering who would, or could for that matter, fly so well when their own wings weren’t their own.
I watched her pull back, using her momentum to propel her upwards into the patchy moonlight that had shone through the clouds. I could barely believe my eyes, unwilling to accept the evidence before them. I was amazed, for her to have learnt such control and balance on wings of magic was beyond belief.
I was about to go out and greet her, to congratulate her and to invite her for a race, when something else caught my eye.
As she pulled back at the peak of her rise, performing a flawless stall turn, I thought I saw a tear, glinting in the silvery moonlight.
That hadn’t been a tear of high-speed racing - she’d been far, far from those speeds. No. She was crying.
She was going down again, building up speed without bothering to flap her wings.
I kept watching, willing her to pull up before she hit the ground far below, yet watching as she continued to plummet. I stood up, placing my hooves on the edge of my cloud and preparing to dive after her when she pulled back, levelling out and flying above the treetops far below, going out of sight moments later.
All the while… I found myself wondering… Why?
I couldn’t quite put my hoof on it at the time… but there had been something so… so… bittersweet about the whole flight. Something else that seemed obvious then… that was private, nopony was supposed to see that. It stopped me from diving there and then to question her about it.
But something that remained resolutely obtuse for me was the tears.
Why was she crying?
It was a challenge, to not fly down and knock on her door there and then, asking and demanding answers… but that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. This was her secret; I wouldn’t intrude on that, no matter how much my curious mind begged me.
The next night, I’d kept an eye on the window, watching for a recurrence, but finding none. The sky had remained resolutely empty, alleviating my worry as I told myself that it was just a one-time occurrence.
But of course… that theory was blown away when I caught a glimpse of a shadow, a week from when I’d first seen her in the air. Already becoming worried again, I stepped outside and watched her, biting my lip as I caught the tell-tale glimmers of tears, reflecting the moonlight above. I had debated with myself, whether or not to confront her, to ask her why.
And again, I caught myself, refusing to intrude on somepony else’s private life, especially that of my friends. But from then on… I started looking for clues to why she’d come here at all. There was something about the whole affair that didn’t add up. Why would she fly if it only drew sorrow? Why was she doing this in secret?
I was still missing half the pieces of the puzzle, my own knowledge being limited at best… but it was better than nothing. I was going to change that today, right here, right now. I’d find out why she flew.
I looked out from my cloud, scanning the skies for her, and watching as, from seemingly nowhere, she jumped. Her wings were back, pale glowing lines against the dark, which opened after a few moments, allowing her to glide and loop back on herself.
Swallowing nervously, I stood and prepared to make my entrance. I took off silently, using the cloud to point myself in the right direction and to give me a boost. I had no doubts that an intrusion on my part would be met with an adverse reaction, I just hoped it would be one I could talk my way out of.
I was only slightly behind her now, following in the trails of light that followed her wings.
She spun in front of me, flipping herself over before spotting me. Her eyes widened in surprise and… was that fear? I wasn’t given much time to dwell over that as she righted herself and shot off, diving through the clouds and trying to escape. I wouldn’t let that happen though, not today.
I sped after her, dodging clouds and following the tell-tale trail that she left, whether she liked it or not. I gritted my teeth, pushing on the speed and gaining on her. Apparently it wasn’t that she couldn’t fly fast, she just didn’t. She was certainly fast when she wanted to be, but no-one was faster than me.
‘Would you just stop for a sec? I just want to talk!’ I yelled across the decreasing gap between us.
She didn’t reply, putting on a burst of speed instead and increasing the gap again. ‘Oh because that’s mature…’ I muttered to myself, matching her, wing-beat to wing-beat. ‘I just want to talk to you!’ I yelled again over the roar of the wind.
She ignored me again, glancing back over her shoulder before turning back and trying to speed up.
It was like I’d thrown a switch. She turned again, looking me in the eyes before something went out of them. Maybe it was the fight, maybe it wasn’t. She just offered me a sad smile before her horn lit up and she winked away.
I cursed, spreading my wings and braking hard before coming to a hover in mid-air. Now there was no telling where she’d gone. I grimaced, looking around, hoping that she’d only gone so far. There was no sign of her.
I knew where she’d eventually be though, and that was the second-best option.
I turned in mid-air, aiming myself towards the centre of Ponyville this time. The wind whistled around me as I tried to puzzle out why… why run, why hide? What was so important, so damning, that she didn’t want anypony else to know about it?
I could see her home, zooming up in front of me. All the lights were out inside so it looked like Spike was asleep at the very least. I braked, spreading my wings out to the side before alighting on the balcony beside the window. A glance inside showed me that Twilight had not teleported back here quite yet.
I looked around again, noting the stars, glittering in the sky. It was a brilliant night to fly. There was hardly a cloud in sight, and the moon shone brightly, casting the world in a pearly glow.
I focussed upwards again, seeking out the constellations of the stars. Each one of them twinkled back at me, lighting the nightscape in a deep purple hue. All save for a single silhouette that flitted and floated, high, high in the air.
I sat up, startled, and immediately sought out the silhouette, dancing in the sky. I smiled to myself as I caught the faintest lines of light and magic, following the dancer. It was her.
My wings spread on either side of me, preparing to send me skywards before I stopped them. Twilight had reacted badly the first time I’d confronted her… the second time wasn’t going to be much better. My wings folded back into my sides as I took a step back, hiding myself in the darkness of the tree.
Here I was again, spying on one of my best friends’ private lives. Except… this time… I’d ask. My mouth twitched upwards a bit further as I watched her. No-one would ever suspect her to have such grace and poise in the sky, or to even enjoy flight at all. Yet there she was… dancing in the moonlight… crying in the moonlight.
She settled into a slow spin, a corkscrew, that drew her closer and closer to me with every slow spiral. It looked like her night was over as she drifted closer and closer, the balcony merely a glide away from her closed eyes. I took a breath, steeling myself. This was the moment where everything would hang in the balance, whether she’d run away again, or kick me out.
She landed quietly, her arrival prompted only by two taps on the wood.
Her eyes snapped open, focussing on me. She didn’t run though. She didn’t fly or try to hide. Even if it looked as if she wanted to. Her wings fluttered nervously behind her, yet she didn’t drop eye contact. She just stared at me; a rabbit, caught in the headlights.
Once again though, the fight just dropped from her eyes as her body visibly slumped. ‘Hey, Rainbow.’ Her reply was just as quiet as my own. I stayed silent; she already knew why I was here. Sure enough, I became aware of the door to the house swinging open beside me. I paused, glancing at her inquisitively and waiting for her consent to enter.
She nodded and I slipped into the dark room, closely followed by its’ owner. The door was shut behind us and the curtains were drawn, the only light left being the ghostly trails from the two wings on her body. I settled into an unoccupied space, somewhere in the room, listening for her steps as she moved around.
The bedsprings creaked as she sat down, making to moves to lighten the room.
‘I suppose…’ she started, her voice wavering slightly, ‘I suppose you want to know about all… that.’
I nodded before realising that she couldn’t see me in the darkness. Not that it mattered; she took my silence as assent and took in a deep and shaky breath.
‘Rainbow… before I tell you… I want you to promise me something.’
I nodded again.
‘I need to hear you promise me that you’ll keep what you’ve seen and what I say private.’
I nodded, rolling my tongue around my dry mouth before I spoke. ‘I promise.’ I heard my voice crack slightly, but it was enough. I heard her let out a sigh and the bedsprings creaked a bit more as she laid back.
‘I want to be a pegasus. There, I said it.’
She pronounced each word clearly, leaving no room for misinterpretation on my part. My jaw was hanging loose though. I tried to move it back up, I tried to speak, but she continued before I could.
‘I suppose I’d better start at the beginning,’ she started, her voice resigned. ‘It was something I started to notice back when I was being taught as Celestia’s student, when I was shown off to the nobles and the aristocrats. Everything was so stuffy and dull, there were so many rules and regulations, I couldn’t do a thing without someone telling me off.’
She paused to sigh. ‘I guess I wanted a bit of freedom, a place where I could just get away from the dresses and the finery, where I could just get away from Canterlot to put my mind at ease.’ I could almost see the wistful smile on her face through the darkness. ‘I was in class one day, I think it was chemistry, but I wasn’t that well. It had been the Gala the night before and I was all-but ready to just run away to get some time to myself.’
‘I was looking out the window for half the lesson, watching a few pegasi flying around. It was so simple then, they looked so free, so happy. I never even noticed that the lesson had ended.’ A pause. ‘But my teacher waited for me to turn back. He asked me what was wrong and I…’
I could almost see the path the tear took, ‘I trusted him more than I ought to have,’ she finished briskly before taking another breath. ‘Suffice it to say, he thought he’d dissuaded any further thought on the matter. I think that’s probably the reason he didn’t tell Celestia.’
‘He didn’t succeed of course, but I was much more careful now. I didn’t tell anyone else. I took an interest in flight and pegasus history, researching a way to aid me under the pretence of expanding my knowledge into the other races. I don’t think the princess ever guessed my true intents. But… moving on… a few years later, I moved to Ponyville.’
‘But you know most of that already. I kept most of my research, hoping that one day I’d find a way to fulfil my dream and now… now you know.’
I was speechless. I’d never guessed that it was something as monumental as that, how could I have done? But I knew now, that was what mattered. I swallowed my anxiety and stepped forwards. I had no idea how to deal with any of this. I’d never heard of someone wanting to change their race before for that matter.
She was still my friend though. Friends stuck by one another through thick and thin. I knew that much. I stepped forwards again, drawing alongside the bed. ‘Twi…’ I started, my voice slightly rusty. I didn’t hear any change, maybe her breathing sped up, I couldn’t tell. ‘I… thank you for trusting me with this.’
I felt slightly humbled, almost guilty for forcing this secret out of her. I leant down, wrapping her still form in a hug as best I could from the awkward angle. ‘I promise I’ll do what I can to help,’ I whispered quietly, silently hoping that I could actually help her. I felt her wrap her hooves around me and return the hug.
‘Thank you.’ The reply was quiet, almost lost in the dark room. I felt a few tears roll onto me and I smiled sadly.