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 “They’re coming! They’re coming! Twilight, check it out! It says right here on this flyer that THE Wonderbolts are going to be in Ponyville in three days for their special Aeronautics Spectacular! I think they must’ve finally gotten that letter I sent them. I knew they’d be here to recruit me any day.”

Rainbow Dash was ecstatic. She’d just seen the poster on one of Sweet Apple Acres’ fence posts. She ripped it off and flew off to tell Twilight right away. “I’m gonna show ‘em all my new moves plus a few old ones. I’ll start off with an old classic, my super speed strut. Then I’ll hit ‘em with my new triple backflip air-dive right above the crowd. Then I’d,”

“That’s wonderful, Dash, I’m so happy for you.” Twilight cut in, unwilling to hear Dash’s entire planned routine. “But why do you think the Wonderbolts are coming because of you?”

“I told you, it’s that letter I sent ‘em” Rainbow Dash replied, “It showed how much fun we’d have together. I drew me and Colonel Colt under a big rainbow. Oh man I can’t wait! It’ll be ‘The Wonderbolts, featuring their new member! Rainbow Dash!’ I know me and Flash will be great friends. I’m not so sure Lightning will like me though, he seems a bit stand-offish.”

“Well I’m really happy for you,” Twilight said. “I’ve got to get back to the library right now, but don’t you think you should go and practice your stunts for when the Wonderbolts get here?”

“PFFFFSH” Rainbow Dash answered, “I know these stunts like the back of my hoof. I don’t need to work on ‘em anymore.”

“Alright, suit yourself.”

As Twilight trotted off toward the library, Rainbow Dash called out after her, “And don’t tell anypony! They deserved to be as surprised and amazed as the Wonderbolts!” Rainbow Dash, content her secret was safe, floated gently onto a nearby tree branch. “Maybe, ‘the Rainbolts’ or ‘Rainbow Dash’s Wonderbolts’. Yeah, that one sounds good.” Rainbow Dash, lost in her happy thoughts, eventually drifted off into an incredibly pleasant sleep.

The day had arrived. Only three days had passed, but it felt like a lifetime for poor Rainbow Dash. Almost all of Ponyville had gathered at the temporary air coliseum the Wonderbolts had erected for their Aeronautics Spectacular. Wooden bleachers lined both sides of a long open field. Set up in the middle were all sorts of strange and wonderous contraptions. There were flaming hoops, timed flying courses, and even what appeared to be a flying gauntlet of death, complete with spiked boards, giant jets of flame, the whole nine yards. Ponies were already filling the stands. Even Rarity decided to show up. “I do hope they are careful while doing this,” She said to her good friend Applejack, “It would be a real shame if they were to harm those delightful little uniforms. Oh, they look simply adorable. At least, as cute as one CAN look in tracksuits and goggles, I mean.”

Rainbow Dash, hiding out behind the bleachers, was stretching her legs in preparation for her upcoming display. Twilight, just arriving to the field, walked over to talk with her. “Are you sure you want to do this? I don’t think the Wonderbolts will appreciate someone interrupting their show.”

“Oh, they might get upset,” Rainbow Dash said, “Upset about how good I am! Upset that they didn’t add me to the team earlier.”

“Well alright, if you’re certain. As your friend, I wish you good luck.”

“Thanks, but I won’t need it.” Rainbow Dash went back to her pre-performance preparations.

“Fillies and Gentlecolts,” The announcer began, “It is my great honor to introduce to you the greatest flying team in all of Equestria, here to dazzle you with their incredible feats of skill, amazing technical prowess, and umtached bravery. Hailing from Fillydelphia, fleet of wing and with the awesome power of nature subdued to his will---Lightning!” At the mention of his name, the first Wonderbolt zoomed into view from the far west side of the field. Following his path was a trail of black clouds crackling with the signature phenomenon which had become his namesake. The crowd’s roar grew as he came into view, stopping abruptly in the middle of the impressive field and giving a small nod of his snout to the crowd. “And from our shining capitol city of Canterlot, with blazing speed unmatched by anypony, the undisputed fastest flyer in Equestria---Flash!” The second Wonderbolt practically appeared in the middle of the field. It took the crowd a second to realize his entrance came far from the east, well out of view from the ponies in the crowd. The only real proof he hadn’t just appeared was the trail of black clouds newly created in the sky, making a path from Flash far off and out of the performance field. The new arrival waved happily to the crowd. “And finally, the only pony spectacular enough to lead this incredible team. Also hailing from the majestic city of Canterlot, a pony who needs no introduction; once an officer in Celestia’s royal guard, the pony known as Equestria’s most inventive flyer, lead designer for the grueling Wonderbolt Gauntlet, and personal creator of the triple-twist pony flip kick, our very own Colonel Colt!” The crowd’s din rose to a grand roar as Colonel Colt came down from the sky spiraling rapidly. He pulled up a few feet above his companions to do a full loop, ending at the bottom in between the other two in the crew. Setting up their signature pose, the announcer finished his introduction with, “Fillies and Gentlecolts: THE WONDERBOLTS!”

The continued to cheer for the most prestigious Pegasus ponies present in Ponyville. The Wonderbolts were happily showing off a few minor stunts to warm up the crowd when suddenly a multi-colored streak came into view from far off from the field. Rainbow Dash was making her grand entrance. Starting off just like she’d planned, Dash flew at high speeds just above the ground, gently planting a foot every couple yards in mimic of a gentle trot. Reaching the end of the show grounds, Rainbow Dash pulled up violently and executed a picture-perfect Immelman turn and zoomed back across the field at a higher altitude. Reaching the middle of the field, Dash turned her nose skyward and rose high above the crowd. The Wonderbolts, unaccustomed to such a brazen interruption to their routine, had landed and now watched the intruder with great indignation.  

Rainbow Dash, now practically out of sight, began her dive. In a near mimic of Colonel Colt’s spectacular entrance, Dash began to spiral counter-clockwise as the ground hurtled itself ever closer. Seeing the ponies in the crowd grow larger, Rainbow Dash began to do aerial back flips, hoping she’d left herself enough room. “One” she thought, feeling better about her performance as she heard the crowd cheering. “Two” Went through her mind as she continued to approach the crowd with growing anticipation and excitement. “Last one…aaaand THR---
*WHAM* Rainbow Dash found herself flat on her back. The world grew cloudy and dim as she frantically tossed her head about. Far too late she noticed the towering beam from the Wonderbolt’s gauntlet course, now with a large, Rainbow Dash-shaped dent adorning its top.

“Rainbow Dash! Dash? Somepony, call the nurse!” She could hear Twilight Sparkle yell out as the world faded slowly into blackness.

“I can take care of her, I swear. I know all the best ways to make ponies feel better and I know I can keep her entertained. Please please please Twilight?”

“I really don’t think that would be a good idea, Pinkie Pie.”

Rainbow Dash awoke to the sound of her friends having a slight argument, groggy, blurred vision, a slight headache, and a dull pain in her back. She was lying on her stomach in a bed in the Ponyville hospital. Slowly turning her head, she could see a room filled with flowers and balloons. All her friends were in the room with her as well. Pinkie Pie and Twilight were talking off in a corner near the head of the bed, and Applejack was near the door, looking very downtrodden. Fluttershy and Rarity were on either side of her  when Fluttershy meekly said, “Oh…she’s awake, everyone.” The other three ponies quickly rushed to Rainbow Dash’s side with words of concern: “How are ya feelin?” “Darling, are you alright?” “I knew you shouldn’t have..” “I’m so sorry this happened.” “What were you thinking?” But Rainbow Dash stayed silent. She turned her head toward the door, but didn’t see anything. A slight breeze blew in from the open window, rustling the sheets on Dash’s bed.

“Did anypony come here besides you guys?” She asked her friends. “Well, everypony in Ponyville practically stopped by at some point.” Pinkie Pie was the first to get in an answer. “We even got a letter from Gilda! Everypony was really worried about you, but I think we’re the only ones here right now. Why?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.” Rainbow Dash said, “I just thought I saw something by the door. So what happened?”

“Don’t you remember?” Twilight Sparkle began, “You were showing off in front of the Wonderbolts. You crashed into their obstacle course. I knew you shouldn’t have done that! You could’ve been killed!”

“Ah don’t think that’s what she need right now, Twilight,” Applejack butted in

“I agree.” Rarity said, turning to look at Rainbow Dash, “You just rest now, dear. We’ll talk about everything later.”

“Yes, I think you should leave the patient alone for a bit.” The nurse pony said, trotting into the room. “The doctor will be in soon, and all information will be strictly confidential.”

“Wait.” Rainbow said as her friends turned to leave. “How long was I out?”

“Well, you were in surgery for quite a while,” The nurse pony answered, misconstruing the intended audience for Rainbow Dash’s question, “I’d say about a day and a half. The anesthesia should have worn off almost ten hours ago, but we hooked you up to a hydromorphone drip. It’s currently dispensing 0.4 mg per hour, and if you need any more, this button right by your hoof there will dispense another 0.2 mg. Ah, here’s the doctor now.”

Turning toward the door, Rainbow Dash saw an earth pony step slowly in. He was dark brown in color, and a bright blue stethoscope adorned both his neck and his flank. He walked the few feet required to reach Rainbow Dash very slowly. Stopping near the head of the bed, he stood and looked at Rainbow Dash.”Hello, Ms. Dash. First off, how are you feeling?”

“Ok, I think. My head hurts, and so does my back.”

“Well, you had a bad accident.” The Doctor pony began, “Very bad actually. It seems your back absorbed most of the shock, with the most extensive damage seen in your wings. You had multiple bone fractures, several of them compound. We’ve set the bones and stitched the wounds. We actually had a bit of a debate on whether we should set them, or just amputate. Eventually, I convinced my coworkers that we had to try. Fortunately, it seems not other bones were broken, which is a small miracle in itself.”

“So, when can I get back in the sky, doc?” Rainbow asked, already tiring with this setting and anxious to get out of the hospital.

“That’s the thing, Ms. Dash: I doubt you’ll be able to fly again. You’ll need to allow at least four weeks for the bones to set. After that, with extensive physical therapy, you may be able to get some limited use out of them. However, sustained flight is something that I personally believe they will never be able to support.”

“I…I see.” Rainbow Dash didn’t want to show the doctor how upset she was. Flying was her life. Her cutie mark even represented her love of the sky and flying madly through it. Without wings, what was she?

“I think you should stay here at least one more night so we can monitor you and make sure everything is starting off on the right hoof. Then tomorrow, head on home and rest as much as possible. We’ll schedule weekly check-ups while the casts are on, and hopefully have them removed in four weeks, like I said. After that, twice a week physical therapy will help you get those wings as strong as they can be as quickly as possible. I’ll leave you now, but don’t hesitate to call for the nurse if you need anything.”

The doctor pony walked slowly out of the room. After her left, Dash realized he’d given off just the right amount of empathy, almost as if he had had practice in that area. In the meantime, her friends began to file back into the room. They were much quieter now. The nurse had told them the conversation was supposed to be confidential, but it was obvious they had listened in anyway. Even the ridiculously optimistic Pinkie Pie seemed to be in a depressed mood when she re-entered. However, because it was Pinkie Pie, that went away quickly. “I know!” She said, lifting her head quickly and returning a smile to her face, “I’ll throw you the very bestest party to cheer you up! We’ll have all your favorite cakes and everything and we can hold it at the Sugar Cube Corner and I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Cake won’t mind and it’ll be the most stupendious party ever!”

“Pinkie, ah don’t think that’d be something Dash here would like right now.” Applejack tried to let Pinkie down gently. “Do ya want us to stay er to be gettin’ on home?”

“Why don’t you guys just go? I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?” Rainbow Dash’s voice had lost much of its harshness. She seemed both deep in thought and detached from the friends surrounding her. The five female ponies left the hospital, and Rainbow Dash remained alone in her room. After a few fretful hours, she managed to fall back asleep despite the depressing thoughts swirling through her head.

The next morning, Rainobow Dash awoke while the room was still dark. She’d had a terrible nightmare about Pinkie Pie doing horrible, unimaginable things to her friends. She shook her head to try and dispel the bad thought, when she heard the door shut and squeeking sounds began coming toward her. It was obviously a cart carrying…something. Dash strained her eyes to get accustomed to the darkness, but couldn’t quite make out who it was. As the cart got closer, she could see it was being pushed by a pony wearing a long apron, with what looked like a necklace of…”Oh My Celestia!” Rainbow Dash thought. Was that a necklace of unicorn horns? And why did the pony coming toward her have an unusually large knife in her mouth?

The cart stopped. The pony with the knife stepped slowly and carefully toward Rainbow Dash, trying not to make a sound. As she got closer, Dash realized it was Pinkie Pie creeping her way toward the bed. “She’s gone crazy. She’s going to kill me!” Dash thought, staying perfectly still as Pinkie relentlessly approached. “She thinks I’m still asleep. I’ll only have one chance. I’ll have to scream and kick her as soon as she gets close enough. Then I’ll run. The nurses will save me. I know they will.” Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie had crept almost to Rainbow Dash’s face. Just as Pinkie began to raise the knife in her mouth, Rainbow Dash let out a mighty scream. She tried to jump and kick at Pinkie, but her back legs wouldn’t respond properly to the commands her brain was giving them. Rainbow always got up with a kick start from her wings, so her hind legs hadn’t been built up enough to get a good jump on their own. What resulted was more of a nudge at Pinkie with Rainbow’s front hooves while she struggled to get into a standing position on her bed. Pinkie Pie, startled to find out her friend was awake, dropped the knife and fell backward. Trying to right herself, Pinkie bumped into the cart she’d been pushing. The cart careened across the room and hit the wall with a loud crash, colliding about the same time as Pinkie’s rump thudded against the ground.

The nurse pony rushed into the room when she heard screaming. Turning on the light, she was greeted with a very odd scene. Now standing on the bed, tangled completely in her blanket was the patient. Resting on the floor next to the bed was a very large and sharp knife. Sitting startled on the floor was a pink earth pony wearing candles around her neck and staring sadly at a blue and manila mess smashed up against the wall. “I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash I just really wanted to start your day off with a happy thought and a nice get well cake! But now it’s got smooshed and I’ll have to make another one.” Pinkie seemed almost sad, but happily hopped up off the ground and proceeded to clean up the cake with one fell swoop of her tongue. “But now you’ll have to come over to the Sugar Cube Corner and get it because I’ll be late for work and the Cakes hate it when I’m late because they just love me to help taste test and make sure everything is juuust right.”

Rainbow Dash felt incredibly silly for thinking her friend was about to murder her. It was all that stupid dream’s fault. Still, she could only smile awkwardly at the nurse as she lay back down onto her bed. “Well, I see you’re raring to get out of here, hmm?” The nurse began, hoping to break the tension. “I’m glad you’re up. I’ll go get the doctor so you can get out of here and head home then, ok?”

After her meeting with the doctor, Rainbow Dash was allowed to leave the hospital. He had taken his sweet time getting to the room, and spent almost a half hour going over everything Rainbow Dash needed to do. “Geeze he was annoying,” Dash thought as she walked out of the building, “It was all, try not to move them as much as possible, make sure the casts don’t get wet, take these if you’re feeling pain, be extra careful the first few days. Man, this is going to be so annoying.” Just then, Rainbow Dash stopped and looked around. It was a pretty normal morning in Ponyville, most of the ponies were just getting to work or opening their shops. Rarity was adjusting the displays in the window of her saddle shop. Derpy swooshed by overhead, just starting her mail route for the day. Despite all the normal bustle, Rainbow Dash couldn’t shake the feeling that somepony was watching her.

She turned around quickly, and nearly bumped into Big Macintosh pulling a cart of apples. “Careful, little pony,” He said, “Oh, Rainbow Dash, it’s you. How ya feelin’?” He asked. Dash didn’t want to be rude, but she thought she had seen some rustling in the bushes a few feet behind Mac. She craned her neck to try and see around him, but he said, “Dash? You ok? Are you sure you should be out and around town right now? Come on, I’ll walk you home.”

Big Macintosh left the cart right there. Applejack, already at the family stand in the town square, had seen him and started to trot over. He nudged Rainbow Dash with his snout, and she gave up and began walking with him. That’s when it finally hit her: there’s no way she could get home. She had not sturdy house in Ponyville, but lived on whatever cloud or branch she chose to sleep on when night fell. “Uh, Big Machintosh?” She began. “I’m ok, I promise. Just take me over to the Sugar Cube Corner. Then you can get back to the apples.”

“Are you sure?” He asked, obviously concerned about his sister’s friend.

“Eeee-yup.” Dash said, cracking a smile. Big Macintosh had to smile too at Dash’s attempt to mimic him. They walked in silence the rest of the way, but Big Macintosh made sure she got into the building before heading back to the apple stand.

“Dash! You’re here! I’m almost done.” Pinkie Pie was happy to see her friend again, even though the separation had been short. She was putting icing on a cake almost identical to the one she had tried to bring to the hospital earlier. It was a beautiful two-level cake with bright blue frosting. She was gracefully adding strips of white icing around the sides. In the middle of the top layer was a picture of Rainbow Dash wearing a Wonderbolts uniform. Underneath the picture, written in multi-colored frosting were the words, “Rainbow Dash: our favorite Wonderbolt.”

“Ugh, Pinkie, I don’t want a cake. Listen, I need a place to crash. Mind if I stay here for a few days?” The doctor had said a month but Rainbow Dash knew nothing would hold her back for that long. She’d be back in the skies in no time.

“Of course, Rainbow Dash! You’re one of my best friends after all. I’m sure the Cakes wouldn’t mind another helper here either. Oh, we can make all kinds of sweet things and share stories and have tons of fun.” Pinkie Pie said hurriedly.

“Thanks Pinkie, but I really just need a place to sleep for a while. Then I’ll be back to my old self.”

“Ok, that sounds great, Dash! I’ll go tell Mr. and Mrs. Cake!”

Pinkie Pie dashed off to the bakery in the back of the store. As she left, Rainbow Dash began to formulate a plan for big comeback. “I’ll get better real soon. Then, I’ll have to practice some even better trick to impress the----“ Finally, Rainbow Dash recalled the realization she had last night. The Wonderbolts. “there’s no way I’ll ever be in the Wonderbolts now.” Dash thought. “They saw me take a huge wipeout, in the middle of their show. I was trying to let them know how good I was, but they just saw me be a big loser on their field. No pony who crashes like that could ever be in the same group as them.”

Pinkie Pie returned with happy news. “It’s not problem, Dash! They said you can stay here as long as you want. There’s even an extra bed in my room so we can be bunkmates! Well, actually it’s not bunkbeds, so we’ll just be roommates, but you can call me your bunkmate if you want to! Rainbow Dash?” Pinkie was surprised at the sudden change in demeanor of her friend. Not two minutes ago, her normal, spunky, almost arrogant Rainbow Dash was in the room. Now it had been with an almost pitiable creature. Rainbow Dash had her head bowed low, staring at her hooves on the floor.

“That’s great Pinkie,” She eventually let out sullenly. “Do you mind if I go there now? I think I’m more worn out from my hospital visit than I though.”

“Sure thing, Dash.” Pinkie replied, but the extra spark of excitement was gone from her voice now. “If you need anything at all, I’m the pony to call. I’ll even bring in some cake as soon as it’s done.”

A few minutes later, Pinkie Pie entered her room rolling in a cart with the carefully constructed cake. She decided to announce herself this time. “Rainbow Dash, I’m here!” Rainbow Dash said nothing. She had pulled down the blind, and left the room rather dark, apart from two beams of light that fought through on either side of just-barely too slim blind. Pinkie Pie saw that Rainbow Dash was still fighting with the cover on her bed. It was difficult to manipulate with one’s mouth to cover themselves nicely while lying on their stomach. Pinkie trotted over and helped her friend. “There, now you’ll be nice and warm. Do you want some of this super-tasty cake?”

“No Pinkie, I still don’t want any cake. I just need to sleep here for a while.”

“Ok Dash. Just call for me if you need anything.”

The day passed slowly. Rainbow Dash was still lying in bed. She heard customers come into the store and chat with Pinkie Pie during her intermittent periods of wakefulness. Every once in a while, Pinkie Pie popped in through the door to ask if Dash needed anything. Each time Rainbow Dash told her no, and Pinkie Pie went back into the store. That night, after sweeping out the front area and washing all the bakery dishes, Pinkie Pie came back through the door once more, again pushing the cart. This time, however, there was no cake, but a pot of steaming soup whose aroma filled the room. “I know you don’t want cake,” Pinkie Pie said, “But you need to eat something, so I made you soup!”

Pinkie poured a bowl from the large pot and brought it over to Rainbow Dash. “It’s my own family recipe. My mom taught it to me when I was just a little Twinkie Pinkie.” Placing the bowl on the bed next to Rainbow Dash, Pinkie continued to talk while Dash just stared at it. “I remember when I told her I was moving to Ponyville. She said, ‘Now Pinkie, the only thing you’re good at is partying. How can a pony live her life just on parties?’ I didn’t have any answer for her then, but I sure do now. Parties helped me make lots of friends, and I’m happy with how my life has turned out. I’m glad I get to make my friends happy and spend time with them every day.”

Pinkie continued to talk about her past, not sure if Rainbow Dash was even listening. It was rare for a Pony to mention her life before Ponyville, and Dash still didn’t even know what city Pinkie was born in. As Pinkie’s talking droned on, Rainbow Dash eventually fell asleep again, never touching her soup. When she realized Rainbow Dash wasn’t awake anymore, Pinkie Pie sighed and poured the bowl back into her soup pot. Then she pushed the cart out of the room and dumped the entire pot out. She walked slowly back into the room, snuggled into her own bed, and whispered, “Goodnight, Rainbow Dash” before drifting off to sleep herself.

Dash awoke. It was still dark out, but she felt well rested. “I guess a full day of sleeping will do that for you, huh?” Dash thought as she looked around and got her bearings. “I don’t think I want to get used to sleeping in these hard beds.” She thought as she slowly stepped off it. “Now that everypony’s asleep, I can walk around without being bothered.”

Rainbow Dash tip-hoofed out of the store, being careful to close every door behind her as quietly as possible. She walked down the street of a now-abandoned Ponyville. The only lights were Princess Luna’s shining moon and the stars that seemed so far away. Rainbow Dash wandered aimlessly, but eventually found herself nearing the Apple Family property. She was a ways from Ponyville proper now, and it was very relaxing to hear the gentle chirping of crickets and feel the cool breeze upon her face. Rainbow Dash absent-mindedly tried to flutter her wings, but grimaced in pain. It was a harsh reminder that they were still useless.

As she began walking again, Rainbow Dash began to get that terrible feeling she’d been having the past day or two. She felt like she was being watched. It was a bad place to be caught all alone, especially if somepony wanted to hurt her. She was still more than a kilometer from the actual Apple Farm house, and even farther from Ponyville proper. “Who’s there?” She said loudly, turning to her left and then to her right. She turned a full circle and then some, stopping to look at one of the apple trees she was near. It was bare of apples on one side, and its leaves on that same side seemed much less thick than the other. It was as if some force had taken all the branches on that tree and shaken them vigorously. She saw many of the leaves floating to the group, with a large group of them far away from the tree itself, making almost a trail in the sky. “That cinches it.” Rainbow Dash though. “Somepony has been watching me.”

Confident in her discovery, and also confident that she had scared that pony off, Dash decided to head on back to Pinkie Pie’s room. It would be morning in another hour or two, and she didn’t want Pinkie Pie to worry about her.

Dash made it back without waking anypony up. She did see some rustling in the bakery behind the shop’s front area when she entered, but was happy to find Pinkie still asleep in her bed. Dash settled back into her bed. She struggled with the blanket for a little while, but eventually decided just to leave it in a heap near the end of the bed. She could claim she kicked it off during the night if anypony asked. Wondering who could be the mysterious pony stalker, Rainbow Dash fell back into sleep.

The next day passed much as the previous day had. Rainbow Dash refused to get out of bed, and didn’t want to take any visitors. Twilight Sparkle and Spike came to visit around mid-morning, but Rainbow Dash told them she just wanted to sleep. At lunch time, Pinkie Pie brought in a cupcake for her, which she accepted wordlessly. By mid-afternoon she had also sent Rarity and Applejack home without speaking with them. Fluttershy hadn’t tried to come at all.

That night, Pinkie Pie came in with another bowl of soup. Rainbow Dash watched the earth pony set the bowl down in the same spot and begin talking again. She started off talking about the best and worst muffins she’d ever eaten which surprisingly did not include the baked bads Applejack had made. She told a rather humorous tale about the first muffins she made herself. They included things like candles, to make them lighter, three times too much sugar, because Pinkie Pie just loved sugar, and other crazy assortment of edible and inedible things. Rainbow Dash smiled meekly at the story, and did end up eating a few mouthfuls of Pinkie Pie’s soup. She had to admit it was good.

That night, Rainbow Dash once again snuck out into the quiet Ponyville night. She retraced her steps, hoping to meet whatever pony had decided to follow her. Reaching nearly the same spot as last night, she looked up at the half-defoliated tree. “That is definitely the mark of somepony leaving a tree very quickly.” She thought. “So it’s a Pegasus pony, whoever it is.”

Rainbow Dash trotted back to Ponyville. Whoever her admirer was, they were gone now. She didn’t sense anypony watching her, and hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary. She once again snuck into her bed in Pinkie’s room and once again struggled with the blanket. She still couldn’t figure out how to wrap it around herself properly, so she let it lay in a crumpled mess once again. She set her mind to figuring out who had been following her, and drifted off into sleep once more.

The next day passed much as the previous day had. Rainbow Dash refused to get out of bed, and didn’t want to take any visitors. Twilight Sparkle and Spike came to visit around mid-morning, but this time they didn’t even try to come into the room. They stopped in the main area of the store and talked with Pinkie. Their voices were barely distinguishable, but Dash was able to get the gist of the conversation. They were asking if Dash would see them and talk to them. Pinkie Pie told them that Dash hadn’t said anything in two days. Around noon, Pinkie Pie again brought Dash a cupcake, which she again ate without a word.

At night, Pinkie Pie again brought Rainbow Dash a pot of soup. Dash was looking forward to the story Pinkie Pie decided to tell tonight and wasn’t disappointed. She told Dash about the time as a filly she had been to the Fillydelphia all-fillies-day parade. She got to ride in one of the floats along with the rest of her class. There were ponies cheering and having such a great time. After the parade, there was a party the likes of which Pinkie had never seen. Streamers and balloons as far as the eye could see. She got to play pin the tail on the pony and tasted delicious punch and all kinds of great sweets. When she awoke the next morning, she realized she had gotten her cutie mark, three balloons to represent her love of parties. Rainbow Dash had been absent-mindedly eating the soup throughout the story, and was surprised to find she had finished the whole bowl by the time it was done. Pinkie Pie smiled at this small sign of her friend’s improvement and cleaned up the soup before going to bed.

That night, Rainbow Dash decided not to take her customary late-night stroll.

The days passed on like this for almost two weeks. Just about halfway into her initial recovery period, Rainbow Dash finally decided to break her silence. It was during their nightly meeting. After quickly finishing her soup, Dash was listening intently to Pinkie Pie’s story about the party Cheerliee’s students had thrown for her one year. After she was done, Dash asked, “Pinkie, why are you being so nice to me?”

“Well that’s an odd question. It’s because I’m your friend, you silly nilly filly.” Pinkie Pie responed.

“But, I can’t fly or anything. Everyone liked me because I was fast, the fastest sky-clearer in Ponyville. The iron-pony, athletic and strong. Now I’m just a burden to you and everypony else. You don’t have any reason to take care of me.”

“Of course I do! You’re still my friend and best prank partner around. Besides, you’ll be flying again in no time. It’s nothing to get down about.”

“Pinkie, look at me. I’m useless.” Rainbow Dash began. “Look at my cutie mark. You see that? Speed, that’s what it mean. If I don’t have speed and can’t zip through the sky, I’m not Dash. I don’t deserve this stupid cuite mark if it’s not what I do best anymore.”

“But you’re still Dash. You’re still my friend.” Pinkie Pie began, “Even if-“

“Just stop it.” Rainbow Dash said, “You can say that because you still have your special gift. It’s not like anyone can take parties away from you. You don’t know what it’s like!”

Pinkie Pie stopped talking, lowered her head and looked off to the side. She seemed incredibly sad. Rainbow Dash could tell that jab had hit its mark, but she didn’t really mean to lash out like that at Pinkie Pie. “Look, Pinkie, I’m sorry” Dash began, but Pinkie put a hoof up to Dash’s mouth.

“You think I don’t know what it’s like?” Pinkie Pie began. Rainbow Dash looked at the fire in Pinkie’s eyes and could tell that her sadness had quickly turned to anger. “I’ll tell you exactly what it’s like. It’s like somepony took a part of your soul and ripped it out. It’s like you have so many things you want to do, so many things you want to say, but you can’t talk and your body can’t move. You want to shout at the world, yell, scream, kick something, anything. But instead all that comes out is tears. You think about all the things you wanted to do with your life but now realize you can’t. You see all the hopes and dreams you’d had, all the happiness about the future and you see it fade into darkness. You think about nothing could be worse than this, and that it might be better if you went to sleep and just never woke up. That’s what it’s like, isn’t it, Rainbow Dash?”

“What? How did you…” Dash had never seen her friend like this. This was Pinkie Pie, she was always happy, always cheerful. The entire world was one big party for her. What in Equestria could have done this to her?

“I told you before, right? I told you about my mother and how she didn’t think I could live just on parties? Well, once I got my cutie mark in Fillydelphia, I showed her. I told my mom how happy I was to have found out what I do best. She was terrified. My mom was the school pony who’d taken us on that trip, and she wanted me to follow in her hoof steps. Once she saw my cutie mark was about parties, she forbid me from going anywhere. I couldn’t go over to friends’ houses anymore, I couldn’t go to other towns or even out of the house unsupervised. She made me study night and day, forced me to learn all she could teach me, but all I could think about what how much fun parties could be. I didn’t want to be a teacher pony, and I didn’t want to learn all these things she wanted me to. When I was finally of age, I left. My mom wanted to stop me, but couldn’t anymore. The last words she said to me that day was that she didn’t think I could make it. She said I’d be back and ready to do what I should have all along within a week. I made it to Ponyville and got a job with the Cakes, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Pinkie Pie was out of breath from telling Dash her deepest secret. She’d never told anypony about the rocky relationship with her mother, or how much she had suffered in those years. It was a depressing, stifling existence, to have one’s purpose denied them.

“But you see, Rainbow Dash. Even though I couldn’t party during those times, I was still Pinkie Pie. My love for parties and laughter, my love for making other ponies happy, it wasn’t snuffed out. And your love of flying, your love for the sky, it isn’t snuffed out either. Your enthusiasm, your caring, your commitment to your friends, THAT is what makes you Rainbow Dash, not your wings.”

“Wow, Pinkie Pie. Thank you.” Dash said. She couldn’t believe something so profound had come from Pinkie Pie’s mouth. She had always thought of Pinkie as a bit of an airhead, but her meaningful words gave Dash a new perspective on her friend. “When did you think of that?”

“Oh, that last part? Twilight Sparkle told me to say that if you got back into a talking mood. I liked how it sounded, so she told me to memorize it perfectly.”

“Ha, that figures.” Dash said, smiling as Twilight’s planning. “That Twilight does know almost too much sometimes.” Dash thought.

“But I do mean it, Rainbow,” Pinkie said, looking at her friend. “All of it. I know how you feel right now, and I know what’s going through your head, and I know that you need a friend who will see you through it. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what everypony would be here for, if you’d let them. You know they’ve either come or sent letters every day to make sure you’re still ok?”

“No Pinkie, I didn’t. Look, I’m sorry but, would you mind if I just thought about what you said for a while?”

“Sure thing, Dash.” Pinkie said, and went off to her own bed.

The next two weeks were quite different for Rainbow Dash. She began getting out of her bed at a normal enough time, and even started slowly to help out around the store. Her friends visited her every day, just like Pinkie Pie they had been doing. Applejack, Twilight and Rarity were especially talkative, catching Rainbow Dash up on all the happenings in Ponyville. They talked about Zecora possibly opening up an herbal remedies stand in town, and Princess Luna’s visit a week ago. Dash was beginning to really enjoy her life at the Sugar Cube Corner, and asked Mr. and Mrs. Cake if she could stay until she was able to get back into the air.

“Well of course, sweetie.” Mrs. Cake had said, “We love to have you here, and we’ll be happy to keep you as long as you want to stay. You just keeping doing the great job you’re doing with the store.”

The day finally came for Rainbow Dash to get her casts removed. “Now remember, your bones have healed but your wings won’t be able to support you without extensive therapy.” The doctor pony said. “Just be careful and take it slow. We’ve got a booklet of exercises that will help strengthen your wings, but do be sure to come back for weekly checkups while you heal, alright?”

“Yes, Doctor” Dash said, a little calmer than her last visit a month ago. She’d done a lot of growing up in that time. The doctor cut carefully through the casts, using his expert technique to not even come close to cutting Dash in the process. After the casts were off, Dash timidly tried to give her wings a flap. They responded perfectly, and she felt the comforting rustle of her feathers as they folded in upon her back.

“That’s good, they seem to still have their full range of motion.” That doctor pony said. “Now you be careful, and I’ll see you in a week.”

Rainbow Dash trotted happily out of the hospital. Just a few feet from the door, she heard a rustling in the bushes. “Oh great, it’s back.” She thought. This time, instead of calling out or turning, Dash slowly backed up and listened. As she neared the bush she heard the distinctive sound of a Pegasus pony taking off and she jumped around to see a trail of smoke shooting off into the distance. She wondered who would keep doing this and was about to voice her displeasure when she saw her friends galloping toward her. Applejack, being the fastest, was the first to arrive.

“How are ya?” She said, “Whew weee those are some might fine lookin’ wings there, Dash. I bet you just love feelin’ them flutter again.”

“Yeah, it’s nice.” Dash said.

Her remaining friends all arrived and give her some new version of the same greeting. Nice to see you and wow your wings look great and everything. Dash didn’t really want to make a big deal of it. At least, not until she was up and flying again.

Dash walked with her friends back to work. She had just gotten behind the counter when the resident mailmare came walking in. She had slightly googly eyes and a brown mail bag. She was carrying an envelope in her mouth and laid it on the counter. “Letter for a ‘Rainbow Dash’” she said very formally, and gave the Pegasus pony a smile. “I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.” She said before turning around and heading for the door. She missed the entrance and walked into the doorframe. “Oops” She let out before finding the exit and flying off to her next stop.

The front of the envelope had no return address but simply read “Rainbow Dash” Inside there was a letter that simply said, Rainbow Dash, please meet me tonight by the apple tree, same time as last time. You know the one. Dash quickly threw the note away and resumed her duties. She didn’t want to think about that strange pony that had been following her. She just needed to help the next customer pick out the perfect sweet, but she had already decided to go.

Late that night, while everypony was asleep, Dash snuck out once more to Sweet Apple Acres. She made her way back to the very same tree whose fruit was missing on one side. New apples had started to form, and Dash couldn’t help but smile at the similarities she shared with that tree. She heard hoofsteps coming up the trail, and turned to see the three ponies she admired most walking up to meet her. There, standing in the road were Lighting, Flash, and Colonel Colt; The Wonderbolts.

“I thought it was you.” Dash said, “No other ponies could move fast enough to avoid me. So, have you come to get your revenge for me ruining your show?”

“No Rainbow Dash, that’s not why we’re here.” Colonel Colt answered. “Sorry for spying on you, but each of us needed to see you again for ourselves. Your display at our show last month was impressive. An untrained pony pulling a stunt like that is something quite rare. We were checking up on you to make sure you knew how to handle a bad setback, in addition to handling nasty tricks.”

“What do you mean?” Rainbow Dash asked. “Why would you care how I handle setbacks?”

“Each of us has had terrible crashes, not unlike the one you experienced.” Lightning began, “Flash here once rammed the bleachers during a show. Colty has been knocked out by that stupid gauntlet of his more times that I can remember, and I’ve had my share of lightning strikes. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we’re just ponies too, and we’re not invincible. But a true Wonderbolt doesn’t give up when something doesn’t go his way. A true Wonderbolt keeps trying until he gets it perfect.”

“I guess that’s true.” Dash began. She’d never considered the idea that the Wonderbolts had mess ups of their own. She only remembered their spectacular shows, never realizing all the practice, and by extension all the failures that had to go in to making them. “So what you’re saying is…”

“That you have what it takes to be a true Wonderbolt, yes.” Colonel Colt said. “Rainbow Dash, you haven’t healed yet, so we can’t ask you to be on our team right now. But your moves at the show were spot on. That was one of the tightest Immelman turns I’ve ever seen. You have the talent. And this past month has shown us that you have the mental toughness as well.”

“So once I’m healed, I can be a part of your team?” Dash asked, her voice rising in anticipation.

“It’s not that simple.” Flash said.

“He’s right” Colonel Colt continued, “each Wonderbolt is appointed to the position by Celestia herself after an official appearance before the throne. The must impress her with their skill, and vow allegiance to her and to the Wonderbolts. We are, in addition to being showmen, Equestria’s first line of aerial defense.”

“Being in the Wonderbolts is a lifetime appointment.” Lightning said, taking over the speaking, “We just want to let you know we will vouch for you if you request and audience with Princess Celestia for this. You have what it takes, Rainbow Dash. Whether you truly want it is up to you.”

With that, the Wonderbolts took to the skies and flew off in the direction of Canterlot. Rainbow Dash once more walked back to the Sugar Cube Corner late at night. She trotted slowly to her bed in Pinkie Pie’s room and snuggled in. She had gotten used to sleeping on her stomach, and deftly threw the blanket around her body in one smooth motion of her mouth. Rainbow Dash thought about what the Wonderbolts had said. Did she really want to leave Ponyville? She’d have to go without her friends?

Rainbow Dash looked slowly around the messy room. She heard the pots begin to rattle in the kitchen as Mr. Cake began the dough for the day’s baking. She heard the crickets chirping outside, and listened to Pinkie Pie mumble in her sleep. Her eyes rested on her friend across the room, and Rainbow Dash knew where she belonged.

“Maybe in a year or two.” Rainbow Dash thought as she fell into a soft, restful sleep.