The wood banged under Fluttershy’s hooves and the door flew back on its hinges under the force. She galloped inside with her characteristic lack of coordination. The fact it was Fluttershy bursting frightened the queens favored student.
“Rarity, Twilight! Angel ran away!” Tears streamed down Fluttershy’s cheek, and the words nearly tripped over themselves as she let it out in a rush. “I just got up this morning and he had left his bunny-house so I thought he must have been in the fields, but he wasn’t there, so I searched the gardens and the river and he wasn’t there either. I’ve been looking everywhere, but he left! He ran away.” She collapsed her hindquarters and threw her head down so pink hair veiled most of her face. Tear drops fell to the floor as she tried to subdue loud sobs.
Rarity and Twilight stared in shock. The tiara Rarity had been prepping for Twilight fell to the floor in a clatter. Twilight sat with confusion, shock, inexperience, and concern melting into a bath of indecision. The intensity of the emotions left her overwhelmed and underprepared. She was still new to this friendship thing, and had never seen anyone so distraught.
Between the two, Rarity acted first. “Oh, you poor darling.” She moved to Fluttershy’s side and straightened out her hair with a warm, magical touch. “We’ll help you look. Clean yourself up in my bathroom, have you had breakfast? Twilight and I will get Rainbow Dash, Pinkie, and Applejack to help. Maybe Wynona can sniff out the bunny’s trail? Well now, off you go. Get some refreshments and we’ll start the search anew.”
Fluttershy nodded and slowly walked to the other room, heavy footfalls clomped on the floor with each step.
Twilight, clothed in a half complete outfit that Rarity had been working on, stared after Fluttershy. Relief washed over her to see Fluttershy comforted. Yet still, a nagging doubt plagued her mind. “Rarity?”
Twilight struggled off the unfinished dress. “I get that Fluttershy cared for that bunny, but Angel is a bit of a . . . problem hare. Maybe it’s better for Fluttershy that he actually left.”
Rarity closed her eyes in a moment of silent contemplation. “I can see why you’d say that Twilight. You haven’t known Fluttershy as long as I have. Angel is more than that than a mere problem. Especially,” She gestured with her nose toward the bathroom. “To her.” Rarity exhaled a regretful sigh. “We all have our talents, dear. You have your magic. I have my unbelievably good eye for color, arrangement, fabric, as well as sophistication and grace.” Rarity let out a short laugh before her face turned serious again. “Angel was the first animal she ever tried to care for. Perhaps she made a few mistakes, spoiled him or what not. But Angel is . . . Twilight, imagine if all your grades at Canterlot had been a mistake, and they sent you an updated diploma filled with Fs.”
Twilight grimaced and did her best to resist the thought. “I see. Angel is proof to her that she does have talent mothering, in addition to the mere attachment. If Angel ran away, she’d see herself as a failure.”
“You’ve always understood quickly, darling. Come on,” Rarity gestured to the door. “Let’s start a search party.”
Rainbow Dash soared high overhead. If her gaze could burn, scorch lines would be drawn all over the field. Twilight had gathered every pony and organized a search based on abilities and skills. Pinkie took to asking around town. Applejack traveled with Wynona through the woods. Rainbow Dash, her pegasus view and speed, was suited for the fields and places a little too distant for others to reach. After Twilight broke down the search pattern, she brought in Fluttershy. Fluttershy gave tips on places to look out for, things Angel enjoyed and would be around. It had been painfully obvious to all that she had been crying mere moments before, and talking about Angel brought up the tears anew. She did her best to put on a brave face, but her voice squeaked too much to be understood and she was led back to the bathroom.
Now, the sun crested halfway on the horizon—the signal to return. Dash took one swing back over the fields and returned for Ponyville. By the time she arrived, having the widest searching ground, all the rest had gathered. Fluttershy came at a gallop with Rarity in tow, her hind and front quarters bobbing on each step in her awkward way.
“Did you find anything?” She beamed with a fleeting hope, looking at each pony in turn.
One by one, they shook their head no. Applejack and Wynona, Twilight, even Pinkie Pie realized the gravity of the moment and answered with a somber shake of her head. Each time Fluttershy’s eyes fell on one of them and was answered with nothing, her hope crumbled some small amount. Her eyes watered half way through and her lip quivered as she sensed the coming answers.
The last, her face turned to Rainbow Dash, the first of her tears rolled down her cheeks. Dash felt her insides twist up and shred themselves against that look, the last glimmer of hope lingered with a sense of doom. Dash knew her answer would destroy the last of it and break her. Excruciating pain tightened its grip on her heart, chest, and stomach, and forced Dash’s own tears to the surface. She closed her eyes, turned, fled, and bolted into the sky.
“Dash? Dash!” Twilight’s voice called, but Rainbow Dash did not turn back. Ponyville was left in her multicolored wake. She let wind wipe away the fledgling tears and steeled herself up to resume the search, sun or no.
The moon was full, and for that Rainbow Dash let a little thanks pass through her thoughts for Luna. Dash tried new paths, places she did not have time to search, and did so on sheer intuition and luck, no organized pattern. Off on a cliff side, her sharp sight spotted a single white dot that moved every few seconds. High overhead, she circled the dot and made out the distinctive features of Angel.
Dash folded her wings and dove like a hawk down on its prey, giving Angel the least chance to slip away. “Gotcha.” But Angel made no move to escape, only looked up and waited. Dash opened her wings and slowed the descent at the last instant and coming to a hard landing which knocked Angel off his feet.
“You little jerk! You grump with big ears! You . . . ” words began to escape her. “meanypants!” She reared up and stomped her feet back to earth, resisting the urge to pound him into dust. Towering over the rabbit, she leaned down, face to face and snorted with flared nostrils. “I ought to trample you right here.”
Much to her amazement, Angel calmly rose to his feet and stared her down without so much as a flinch.
The intensity of the stare made Rainbow stand straight again. “You have any idea what you’ve done?! Why did you leave?”
Defiance in his stance, Angel raised one bunny paw and pointed straight to Rainbow Dash.
“ME?!” Her wings flared with anger and her gaze filled with rage. “MY fault? No, what WILL be my fault is all the bruises on your white heinie when I kick you from here back to Ponyville.”
Angel merely crossed his arms.
For an instant, Dash considered pounding that look off his face. “I’m taking you back to Ponyville.” Dash went to scoop him up, but he ducked her hooves and hopped away.
“Get back here, you little—” She leaped to follow, but skidded to a stop when she saw Angel holding out one paw with the gesture to halt. What caused Dash to stop, she wasn’t sure. She labeled it curiosity. After all, forcing Angel back might not solve the problem. “Alright, you rascally rabbit.” She narrowed her gaze with skepticism. “Why is it my fault?”
The bunny started to hop around, making various gestures and expressions and poses.
Dash groaned, a hoof rising to her face. “A three legged donkey went to a dance off and placed second?”
He shot her a confused expression and shook his head violently. Looking to both sides, Angel found a stick and crudely etched a stick-figure of a pony. But the long hair and wings made it recognizable.
He nodded. With a paw he pointed down at the drawing, then pointed at Dash.
“Fluttershy . . . . what me?”
Angel let out a sigh of resignation. He clasped his hands in front of him, blinking rapidly at Dash, making the biggest eyes he could manage as he swooned.
“Fluttershy . . . likes me!” She retreated a step back. Her rear legs gave out so she sat on her haunches. For a long moment, the message sunk in and she stared blankly to the side. “Why?” She finally spoke up again to the rabbit. “Why would she like me?”
Using the stick, Angel sketched a scary face on the ground, full of teeth and angry eyebrows. To the face, he turned and lowered himself ready to pounce or fight.
“Because I’m brave.”
Standing up tall, Angel stuck out his little bunny arm and flexed confidently.
“Because I’m strong.”
Licking both paws, Angel slicked both ears back and shot Dash the finger guns.
“Because I’m cool.”
Angel seemed satisfied and sat down, waiting.
Dash let the thoughts sink into place. As they did, another question arose. “So why did you leave?”
He pointed to her. He swooned again. Then, gestured down to Fluttershy.
Dash’s wings shot out in surprise, and she tried to hop backwards with a surprised whinny, but only managed to scoot her hindquarters back a few inches. “Mares liking mares?! That’s ridiculous!”
His stern eyes narrowed at her. Those eyes knew a misdirection when they saw one.
“But,” Dash shied away from his gaze. Her ears and neck lowered in shame. “Mares with mares. Ponies will talk. What will my friends think?”
Angel placed his paws on his hips. That answer would not fly with this bunny.
Dash let out a sigh. “So what will it take to get you back?”
The little white rabbit turned and hopped behind a bush. After a rustle, he emerged with a flower, cut cleanly at the stem by his bunny teeth. In the bright moonlight, the features could be easily seen. Vibrant, light blue petals that stretched out from the center in a color reminiscent of Dash’s coat. Inner petals of magenta, the same as her eyes. And a center bulb of yellow, like the strand of hair she wore closest to her face. Angel must of spent some time in search of a flower so unique.
“You want me to give her this?”
Rapidly, he gave a nod of his head.
A blush rose slowly on her cheeks. “But . . .”
Angel shot her a glare.
She exhaled a choking sound. “Fine!” She stood up. “I’ll give her a flower. But,” she lowered herself on her front legs, face to face with Angel. “I bring you back first.”
Angel thought for a moment, then spat in his paw, offering it to Dash.
Dash did likewise, touching wet hoof to wet paw. “Deal. Don’t you ever do anything like this again.”
He turned his back and crossed his arms. He made no promises.
For a moment, she looked Angel up and down, a slight smile coming over her face. “You really care about Fluttershy, don’t you?”
Angel nodded in his rapid bunny way.
“You know you’ve made her cry.”
His shoulder quivered, but he stiffened it up and kept his nose high and away from Dash.
“Come on, time for you to come back.” She turned around and stretched out her tail. “But remember this. From here on out, I’m watching you.”
Angel turned and shot her a fearless look, but hopped on over. Tucking the flower in the protective layers of Dash’s tail, Angel climbed on her back.
The night grew late by the time they returned. The streets long sense emptied, gas and fairy lamps glowed at each intersection, and nearly every house was dark and still with sleep. Still feeling a little resentment, Dash resisted the urge to give Angel a hard landing as she swooped low to Fluttershy’s house, a living space that vaguely resembled a tall hill with its roof.
Dash’s hooves trotted on the stone as she touched down and slowed to a walk. A single light showed in one corner of the house, having never been shut off. Holding her breath, Dash knocked her hoof against the door. From inside, she heard a tumble and spill of something wooden and rolled her eyes. “That scaredy-cat . . .” but the comment was softened with a smile. As troublesome as that habit was, there was something endearing about it.
Lights came on, one by one, and in a moment, the door unlatched. Hovering at the crack, Fluttershy peaked out. She must have never gone to bed, her hair was as nice as when Rarity cleaned it off for her after the meeting. But her eyes still had the look of recent tears. “Rainbow Dash?” Her voice squeaked at high pitch, pain mingling with a kind of relief at the company.
“Fluttershy . . . I . . .” Angel hopped from her back and sprung toward the yellow pony.
She gasped and threw open the door, scooping up Angel and forgetting any demeanor of shyness. “Angel! Angel, you’re back!” She hugged the bunny tight in her arms, nuzzling it with her cheek as she went on and on like a mother reunited with a child. “. . . I was so worried! I searched everywhere, you left without a note. Don’t ever, I repeat, ever do that again . . .”
Angel took it all in stride, the affection and gentle scolding, hugging himself to Fluttershy’s embrace.
“Oh, thank you, Rainbow Dash! Thank you so much!”
“Yeah, I just . . .” Dash kicked at the ground. “He never did run away, by the way. He just had something to do.”
“Still, thank you, Dash.” In the embrace, Angel had cleaned up her coat, under her eyes. Now that she smiled, with her hair still nice, it was beautiful.
Angel squirmed out of the embrace and shot a look at Dash.
“Oh, I-ah . . .”Dash craned her neck and rifled through her tail, taking the flower in her mouth. A profuse blush grew sharper and sharper on her cheeks and she half turned away, but held out the flower’s bloom toward Fluttershy. “For you . . . just found it or something.” She cast her eyes away, trying her best to look disinterested despite the blush.
Fluttershy gasped quietly and pulled up alongside the blue pegasus. She looked into the bloom, then leaned forward to smell it’s fragrance. “It’s beautiful, Rainbow Dash. This is my favorite kind of flower.” She even smiled as a confused lady bug crawled across the stem. Taking the bug with a gentle hoof, she helped it to the ground. “Could you . . .” She turned her head away, with her own blush. “Tuck it in my hair, Dash? I can’t do it myself and I want to wear it.”
Wordlessly, the blue pegasus complied. She nuzzled aside the mane and pushed the stem into the pink hair, at the parting next to her ear.
“Thank you, Dash.” She flicked her ear, getting it comfortable. A breath of awkward silence past. Fluttershy turned back to her house, but stopped when Angel used his foot to thump her flank. “Oh, umm,” she turned back around. “Dash, would you like to come in with me for tonight?” Her voice grew quieter with each word. “I mean, I know you have this beautiful house in the clouds with colors, and probably very comfy beds . . .” She cut herself off with a timid mew.
Dash glanced down at Angel. No threat or intention shot back, he just waited with interest. It was the look in Fluttershy’s eyes that moved Dash. A ray of hope for the answer, somewhere deep in that shyness. “I’d like to, Fluttershy. I’d like to a lot.”
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