“Ohhhh, I can't wait! I'm so excited to see how she did!”
“Well, if you don't calm down, you won't see how she did because you fell out of the chariot on the way up!” Twilight told the ecstatic Pinkie Pie, as she and her four friends rode the Pegasus-drawn chariot up to the royal city of Canterlot.
“Boy howdy, look at how excited and nervous we all are, and we didn't even try out! Ah' can't imagine how Rainbow must be feelin'.” Applejack added.
“I just hope she was able to keep it together long enough for her tryout, and she didn't have a repeat of her stage fright at the Young Flier's Competition last year.” Rarity replied.
“You wouldn't have had anything to do with that, now would you have, Rarity?” Twilight said, remembering how she had thoughtlessly entered the competition last minute, and changed half of Rainbow Dash's plans for her routine. Rarity just laughed nervously at the comeback.
“Calm down, everyone. I'm sure she did fine. Rainbow Dash is the best flier we know, and we all know how much she's been practicing this last month. The Wonderbolts are sure to have her as their newest member.” Fluttershy interjected.
The time had finally come; the official Wonderbolt Auditions were under way, and Rainbow Dash was now old enough to try out. She had started planning her routine over six months ahead of time, and she had asked all her friends for critiquing that entire time, and they had all been happy to oblige. They had seen her perform it so many times even they could do it in their sleep.
Now the day had finally come, and Dash had gotten a very early morning start, and told them she'd meet them at Pony Joe's Doughnut Shop in Canterlot after the auditions were over. They were all expecting her to have an excitement comparable to Pinkie Pie, and they were absolutely certain she would make it.
So when their chariot arrived in Canterlot, and after the short walk to the doughnut shop, they found no sign of their rainbow-maned friend.
“Maybe the auditions are taking a little longer then she thought.” Twilight offered as a possible excuse.
After 15 minutes of waiting around, a pair of Pegasus joined the five friends in the lobby. They both had numbered stickers on their flanks.
“Man, I had no idea it would be so hard.” “I guess that's why they're the best.”
Twilight approached them.
“Excuse me, did you come from the Wonderbolt auditions?” “Yeah, we were there. We didn't make it though.”
“Sorry to hear that. We're just waiting for our friend Rainbow Dash. She tried out today too.”
“Oh, the rainbow Pegasus. She was one of the first to audition. Might've actually been the first one there this morning, too.”
The two Pegasus hopefuls exchanged nervous glances.
“Uh, she left right after her tryout. Looked pretty upset, too. I, uh, I don't think she made it, either.”
Nopony in the group of five was sure how to feel or what to think at the revelation that Rainbow evidently didn't make the cut for the Wonderbolts, and was now nowhere to be found.
“But...but how? We all saw her do her routine. She was flawless!” Applejack questioned.
“In front of us, maybe. I'm afraid she might've gotten too nervous when she auditioned in front of the Wonderbolts.” Twilight offered.
“This was her life's dream! Oh, she must be devastated!” Rarity said worriedly.
“We've gotta find her! She has to know that we're there for her no matter what!” Pinkie said.
“You guys take the chariot back down and see if Rainbow's anywhere around Ponyville. I'll stay a little while longer and see if the Princess knows anything. I sure hope this isn't one big misunderstanding.”
“Alright. See ya back down in Ponyville, Twi.” Applejack said.
With that, the five friends departed the doughnut shop, Twilight heading towards Princess Celestia's tower.
Princess' Audience Chambers 30 Minutes Later
“Sorry, Twilight. I don't have any authority over the Wonderbolt auditions. They control their own roster.” was the Princess' response after Twilight had explained the situation.
“And even if I could, do you think that would be such a good idea?” she asked her star pupil.
“But she's got it! She won the Best Young Flyer competition last year! She's the only one to do the Sonic Rainboom! She's-”
“She clearly has the skill, but are you so sure she has the nerve?” Celestia interrupted.
“Absolutely! She's the most confident friend I've ever had!”
“Confidence and nerve are two different things, Twilight. The Wonderbolts perform some of the most daring and dangerous aerial moves ever. If Rainbow doesn't have the focus during a performance, she could seriously injure a wingmate, or herself, or worse.”
“Princess, this...this was her lifelong dream. She always talked about being a Wonderbolt...”
“I know Rainbow Dash is a very dear friend of yours, Twilight. But sometimes life doesn't have the ponytale endings we want it to have. Besides, even if I could do anything about it, I'm not sure Rainbow would appreciate it. She'd want to prove herself to get in, not be shooed in as a royal favor.”
“But we haven't seen her since this morning. We're...we're worried about her.”
“Then I suggest that you go down back to Ponyville and help find her, and when you find her, find out exactly what happened, and help her come to terms with it. You've learned a great deal about the magic of friendship since you came to Ponyville, my faithful student, and now it's time to put those lessons to use, and perhaps learn a bit more.”
“Thank you for hearing me out, Princess.”
With that, Twilight gave a short bow, and made her way out of the Princess' chambers, to the next chariot down to Ponyville.
When Twilight landed in the center of Ponyville, she immediately started coordinating a search pattern for Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy checked her house of clouds, Applejack started to check her acres of farmland, Pinkie Pie and Rarity took the blocks around Sugarcube Corner and Carousel Boutique, respectively, and Twilight and Spike began searching the meadows around Ponyville.
“What if she doesn't want to be found right now, Twilight? If she's as upset as we think she is, wouldn't she want some time alone?” Spike asked, riding along on the purple unicorn's back.
“She said she'd meet us at Pony Joe's after the auditions. Until we find her and make sure she's alright, time alone can wait.”
“But I'm sure she was planning on meeting you guys with good news. Joining the Wonderbolts meant the world to Rainbow. Maybe she just needs a little time.”
“Not with disappearing without a word to anyone, Spike.”
Suddenly, off in the distance, there was a loud bang and flash of white light, followed by an expanding rainbow in all directions.
A Sonic Rainboom.
That had to be Rainbow Dash! Twilight immediately took off for the origin of the expanding rainboom. As she closed in on the meadow, she saw a rapidly-moving figure in the sky, whirling and spinning, and she instantly recognized it as Rainbow's routine for this morning's audition.
As she entered a thicket of trees separating the adjacent meadow, there was another explosion, and the resulting burst of wind rushed through the small forest. A second Rainboom.
Twilight quickened her pace to make it to the other side of the forest patch. She knew Rainbow's routine by heart, and wanted to get to her before the third and final Rainboom and she ended up taking off someplace else.
Spike held on for dear life.
Twilight came to the second meadow just as Rainbow Dash was careening towards the earth in a bomb dive, a mach cone forming around her figure, and pulling up just time as the mach cone shattered, and a third Sonic Rainboom erupted in her wake, as she skidded to a halt on the grass, her back to Twilight.
As the last Rainboom subsided, Twilight hurried to catch the sky blue pegasus, whose chest was heaving from her routine.
Dash turned her head to the source of the sound, and Twilight saw her friend's eyes glazed with tears. Rainbow didn't seem the least bit pleased with her friend's presence, as she abruptly took to the skies again, towards her cloud home low above Ponyville.
“Twilight!” she heard from multiple directions. The other four came from all directions into the meadow, also having seen the multiple-rainboom spectacle.
“Where'd she go?” Applejack asked.
“I think it's time to dig out that Cloudwalker spell again.”
“I can see it now. Everyone would be watching the sky, their eyes riveted on the Wonderbolts.”
Twilight and company hopped off the hot air balloon and landed swiftly on the cloud doorstep of Rainbow Dash's home.
“So, how do you go about knocking on a door made of a cloud anyway?” Pinkie Pie asked.
“Look, I don't care how long it takes, but we have to get her to talk to us.” Twilight said.
“I'm with you, Twi. This is the worst time for her to be alone.” Applejack agreed.
The five of them walked up to the front door, among two tall pillars and a fountain of liquid rainbow. Twilight approached the door.
“Rainbow? It's us. We'd like to talk.” she said.
“Guys, I...I know you mean well, just...just please leave me alone. I don't...want to be seen like this.” replied a shaky Rainbow Dash from inside.
“But then, in would fly, Rainbow Dash!”
“We know you must be feeling just awful, darling, but we're not going to leave you like this. Just let us in and tell us what happened.” Rarity chimed in.
“Rainbow Dash, you told me that I had to be more assertive. And I think that you shouldn't shut your friends out right now.” Fluttershy added.
A few seconds of silence followed, and then the door slowly opened, revealing Rainbow, eyes red. It was evident she had done quite a bit of crying, and she still looked upset.
“I would draw their attention with my Super Speed Strut!”
“Do...you guys want to come in...?” she said just above a whisper.
“We can go anywhere you want, Rainbow. Anywhere you feel comfortable talking to us.”
“Not here then...anywhere else.” she replied, walking out of the doorway, closing it behind her, and walked to the balloon, her friends right behind her. When all six were in, they slowly floated down to the ground, Rainbow resting her head on her front legs as she leaned on the edge of the basket. When they all had their hooves on the ground, they didn't stay in any one place. They slowly strolled through Ponyville.
“Then, I would mesmerize 'em with my Fantastic Filly Flash!”
“So what happened, Rainbow? I saw you perform your routine just a little bit ago, it was perfect.”
“I know. It was perfect last night too. I choked, and I don't know why. It was the same feeling at the Young Flyer's Competition last year. If...if I can't get a hold of my nerves when it really matters, maybe I don't belong in the Wonderbolts...”
“Then, for my grand finale, the Buccaneer Blaze! The ponies would go wild!”
“Dash, I know that right now, it must feel like the end of the world to you. We all know how much this meant to you. But there's gonna be something else out there for ya.” Applejack encouraged.
“Like what? Am I gonna spend the rest of my life moving clouds around?” Rainbow snapped, and then sniffled.
“Sorry, I don't mean to snap on you guys. You're my best friends. I just...I really wanted this...more than anything.”
Then an idea hit Twilight.
“Even more than your friends?” she asked.
“What's that supposed to mean?” Rainbow asked, stopping in her tracks.
“Twilight, what a thing to say!” Rarity said, shocked. Her other friends seemed surprised at her choice of words as well.
“Sorry, Rainbow. I didn't mean it like you thought. But do you remember when we were at the Grand Galloping Gala last year, and you went to the VIP section with Spitfire and Soarin'?”
“Yeah...not the best experience...” Rainbow said.
“Well, I think that if you made it, that's what would happen to your friendship with us. We'd still be friends, sure, but you'd hardly have any time to be with us. Would that be what you really want?”
The rainbow Pegasus didn't answer.
“My point is, a flashy flight suit and pair of goggles doesn't change who you are, Rainbow Dash. To us, you're still the best flier around, and I'd say you're already part of a group that's entirely more special than the Wonderbolts.”
The other four smiled and nodded in agreement.
Fresh tears flowed from Rainbow's eyes, and she swallowed as a lump formed in her throat.
“Thanks, guys. Thanks a lot. You're the best!”
The group of six came in for a group hug.
“Alright, enough with this mushiness. Who's hungry?” Applejack asked, and a discussion was started to where to eat as the friends continued through Ponyville.
Dear Princess Celestia
Today I learned that even if you think you're meant for something, that doesn't mean that it's always meant to be. One of the most important parts of friendship is being there when you're needed, but not necessarily wanted. There are times when your help isn't welcome, but you've got to stand by and support your friends anyway. Hopefully in time, they see that friends are only there to help. A true friend has your best interests at heart, every day, and every night. And with great friends, you can get through whatever life throws at you, and see what the next day brings.