The mare looked at the letter on her desk. The hated letter. She had not opened it yet. When she got home, it was there waiting for her, laying on her doormat. She hadn't paid attention to the address, but when she flipped it over the name written on the front of the envelope had screamed out at her. All the memories, the ones she had hidden deep away, had come rushing back. The mare knew that subconsciously, that day had never really left her thoughts. Still, she had managed to put it so far at the back of her mind she could at least spend her days without thinking about it too much.
* * *
Rainbow Dash opened her eyes. Through the window opposite of her she could see the sun was shining in a cloudless sky. It looked like it was going to be another beautiful day. Turning her head, she looked at the pink pony snoring away next to her. It didn't happen very often she had a chance to see her like this; Pinkie usually woke up before she did. Feelings of warmth and love gushed through her, and it was therefore not without some regret that she placed a hoof on her partner’s shoulder and gently shook her awake.
"Wu-wu-what? Oh, good morning Dashie!" The pink mare let out a huge yawn. "What time is it? Is it time to start preparations for the party yet?"
Rainbow Dash nuzzled her gently. "I’m afraid we overslept a bit Pinkie. We better get up quickly if you want to get everything ready in time."
Pinkie somehow managed to jump three feet in the air, despite lying on her back and being covered with a blanket just moments ago, and let out a huge gasp. "Oh my gosh! We better hurry up, Dashie! I still have to get balloons and streamers and muffins and hot sauce... and... and..." She was by now frantically running around the room.
Rainbow Dash had wanted to ask her the question, but as had been the case so many times before the past couple of days, she decided now wasn't the time. "Ok Pinkie, calm down. You take a bath, I’ll start breakfast. We can prepare for Twilight’s birthday party together after that. It will be ready in time, you'll see."
Pinkie stopped for a moment, looking at the pegasus. She knew there was something on her mind, and had been for a few days now. She had learned that in time, Rainbow would usually tell her what was the matter, but the pink pony decided that if Rainbow hadn't opened up by the end of the day it would be up to her to bring it up. For now though, she would let it go.
"Sure thing, Dashie! I know we can prepare a super-duper awesome party together! I'll be right down!" With that, the earth pony disappeared and Rainbow went downstairs. When Pinkie joined her, a variety of cupcakes and other sweets had been spread out around the table, together with several more traditional dishes. Both ponies sat down to have their fill, and Rainbow was glad to see Pinkie also take some of the healthier stuff every now and then. After a while Rainbow looked across the table at the pink mare she loved so much.
Perhaps I should tell her now. She is probably worried about not getting the party prepared in time, but... She opened her mouth. "Pinkie, I... I want to..." She just couldn't... She couldn't ask her. "I want to make this the best party Twilight has ever had. Shall we start the preparations?" Did she imagine it, or had Pinkie looked a bit sad for a moment there? She wasn't sure, but if it had been there it was now gone.
"Sure thing, Dashie! There will be tons more sweets at the party anyway! Better leave a spot. Why don't you start with the decorations; I'll start baking!" The pegasus nodded, and retreated to the living room.
She was furious at herself. Why couldn't she just ask the question? Pinkie already knew everything; surely she would understand? But... what if she didn't? Well, even then, that is why she would ask, wasn't it? It's not as if she was doing anything yet... Still, the fear that Pinkie might draw the wrong conclusions... She sighed. Perhaps, perhaps she should talk to another pony about it first.
The party was packed. It looked like every pony in Ponyville had come. Rainbow wasn't surprised that they had finished with time to spare, as it was Pinkie after all. If she couldn't do it, nopony could. Pinkie was chatting away with Applejack and Rarity, which was good. Maybe she could have a private moment with Twilight. It was funny; when the unicorn had arrived in Ponyville she had been somewhat of a recluse. Not the best pony to ask for advice about relationships of any kind. Yet now, Rainbow couldn't imagine asking anypony else. Currently, her friend was talking to Fluttershy.
As Rainbow approached them, she cleared her throat. "Excuse me, Fluttershy. Could I borrow Twilight from you for a bit?" The yellow pegasus looked at her.
"Certainly, Rainbow. I think Cloudkicker is starting to get a bit lonely, anyway. I will talk to you later, Twilight?" With that, she made her way to Cloudkicker, who indeed was sitting in a corner, looking rather sad. As Fluttershy approached her however, a big smile appeared on her face.
Twilight looked at them, bearing a smile herself. "I'm so glad for those two." She turned her attention to Rainbow. "And you and Pinkie, I can't thank both you enough for this party. It's great to see everypony together again, when was the last time that happened? Is there anything I can help you with?"
Rainbow stared at the floor. "Well, actually... I was wondering... would you mind if we talked in private for a bit? I could really use some advice."
Twilight opened her mouth to reply, but before she could say anything two rather impressive ponies appeared in the doorway. The entire room fell silent. Twilight gasped in delight and ran to the door.
"Princesses, what brings you here? What a great surprise!"
Celestia smiled, and nuzzled the smaller pony. "I could not miss the birthday party of my most faithful student, now could I? And Luna here was dying to come as well, she has not been to a party in over a thousand years after all."
Twilight smiled at the other royal pony. "I'm so glad you could come to, Princess Luna. It’s a great honor to see you here. Please, help yourself to any food, and I'm sure everypony in here would love to talk to you."
Princess Celestia look at her sister, who seemed a bit nervous. "Actually Twilight, we were hoping we could have a private word with you."
Twilight smiled. "Oh, of course, that would be..." She suddenly remembered she had been in a conversation, and looked behind her. Rainbow just stood there, a look of despair on her face. The unicorn had never seen her so sad. "Actually, I'm afraid a friend of mine needs my help first. But after that, I'm all yours."
Celestia nodded. "Of course Twilight. Go help your friend. We will just enjoy your party, Pinkie has outdone herself." Luna still didn't say a word, but Twilight wasn't sure what to make of her expression. It seemed almost hopeful.
"Thank you your majesties. Please excuse me." With that she made her way back to Rainbow Dash. "I'm sorry about that Rainbow. That was rude of me. Of course, we can go to the attic." The pegasus smiled, and followed her upstairs.
* * *
When the mare first picked up the letter, and saw the name, an uncontrollable rage swept over her. How dared she? After all those years, when she finally has her life in order, now she sends her a letter? And what would it even be about? Would she want to make amends? Would she rub more salt in old wounds? What did it even matter? That cold-hearted pony didn't deserve anything from her! As the mare made to tear the letter to pieces, the rage changed to grief. Perhaps... Perhaps she did want to make amends... The mare started to cry. Hesitantly moving her hoof towards the envelope, she stopped, as the grief turned into fear. What if it was just a letter to mock her? Would she be able to deal with that? Oh, that terrible pony! Why did she make her go through this now? She was angry again. For the next couple of hours, she went through an emotional roller coaster. Several times she almost opened the letter, and several times she almost tore it up. In the end, she just ran to her bedroom, threw the letter on her desk and crawled into her bed. Burying her head in her pillow, she started sobbing uncontrollably.
* * *
Twilight didn't say anything as Rainbow told her everything she had told Pinkie when they were both under the influence of Nightmare. Tears had appeared in her eyes after the pegasus told her how she had reacted to one of her best friends confessing her love to her. When she finished talking, Twilight simply gave her a hug. "I'm so sorry Dash... for the both of you."
Rainbow looked up at her. "You... you don't hate me? It's the worst thing I have ever done in my life..."
She shook her head. "Of course not Dash. You were young, and with all that going on... I don't know how I would have reacted in that situation either. Have you told Pinkie about this?"
"I have... Sort off. She saw the whole thing when we were... in my heart, with Nightmare. It only made her more determined to help me... I'm so lucky with her Twilight. My life would be perfect, if it wasn't for... for Star Catcher. I feel I want to explain everything to her, I want her to understand that... that it wasn't her fault. But I'm scared Twilight. I'm scared to find out what has become of her. What if she never recovered? She never flew again? And will she even want to see me? Perhaps it's best if she never did. What if I ruin her life again?"
Twilight looked her in the eyes. "And? What else are you afraid of? There is more to this then that, isn't there?"
Rainbow swallowed. "I'm most afraid that Pinkie thinks I still have feelings for Star Catcher... That I want to get back with her again. I'm afraid she would leave me if I told her. But... I can't just do this without telling her about it. Could I?"
Twilight shook her head. "That would be a mistake. This is big Rainbow. I think you need to do this, and I will gladly help you. But you do need to tell Pinkie. I'm sure she would..."
At that moment, Pinkie appeared from under the bed. "She would be totally super duper proud of her Dashie! Oh, you silly mare, is that what you have been struggling with the last couple of days?" She ran towards Rainbow and threw her hooves around her. "I know you Dashie, of course you would want to set things right! I'm so sorry about eavesdropping, but I was so worried about you and I thought you were going to tell me this morning when we woke up and again when we had breakfast but you didn't and then I was so frustrated and when I saw you leave with Twilight just now I just knew you were going to tell her what was bothering you so much and I just had to know so I could help you!"
Twilight had been listening with delight as Pinkie had her little speech, and a smile appeared on her face when she saw the earth pony plant a big kiss on Rainbows lips. "I think you will be fine Rainbow, I'm sure you two have a lot to discuss. If you are ready, why don't you two come to my library tomorrow so we can see if we can find out what happened to Star Catcher."
Pinkie nodded. "Sure thing Twilight! And thank you ever so much for listening to Dashie's problems! Even if some of them were really silly! Now, Luna is waiting for you, go on and talk to her!" Twilight thought this comment a bit weird, since it had been Celestia who told her they wanted to speak with her. But since it was Pinkie who said it, she thought nothing of it and went back to the party.
After Twilight left, Pinkie turned her attention to Rainbow, who hadn't said a word since she appeared. The pegasus had just responded to her embrace, overcome with love for the pink earth pony.
"Oh Dash, I wish you had just talked to me... I hated seeing you so unhappy the last couple of days."
Rainbow just buried her head in her partner’s mane. "I'm sorry Pinks... I was just so worried about what you'd think... I couldn't lose you again. Not again. When I thought you were gone forever after you saved me from Nightmare, I just... I don't want to go through that ever again. I thought you'd leave me, because..."
Pinkie smiled, and planted another kiss on her lips to shut her up. "I know that silly. I want you to talk to her. You know you are the reason my party never ends. I know I'm very glad I could bring the party back into your life. We both know Star Catcher has a right to hear the truth. And maybe, sometime, I can throw you both a super duper incredibly awesome party."
Rainbow looked at her. "But aren't you afraid, I might... I might..."
The earth pony kissed her again, longer this time. The pegasus completely lost herself, and for a brief time there was only Pinkie. When she finally stopped, Pinkie looked Rainbow straight in the eyes, and smiled. "No. Not even a little bit." The two spend the rest of the party in the attic, just talking about Rainbow's other fears. The pegasus thanked Celestia for having such an understanding partner.
As the party drew to a close, most of the guests were leaving. In the end, only Twilight, Celestia and Luna were still present. And, Twilight assumed, Rainbow and Pinkie were too, since they hadn't appeared downstairs since she left them. "Thank you ever so much for attending my birthday party, Princess Celestia. And you too, Princess Luna. We will have to continue our discussion about Hans Clop's "1041 Daily Uses for Magic" some other time."
Princess Luna smiled at her. "Yes, I would like that very much. Perhaps you would like to join me in the royal library sometime? You have an amazing collection here, but I'm sure I could show you some interesting copies you have not seen yet."
Twilight smiled back at the royal pony. "Sounds great, Princess. We will have to arrange for that sometime."
Celestia bowed down and nuzzled her. "Just let Spike send me a note, you have not been to the Palace for a while. It would be good for you to visit. Now, I'm afraid our duties call us. And I think your friends are waiting for you upstairs. Until next time, my faithful student."
With that, the two royal ponies made their leave and Twilight went upstairs. She found Pinkie and Rainbow more or less as she left them. "Hey you two. Are you ok? The others have all been a little worried about you since you never came down."
Rainbow looked up at her. "I'm ok Twilight, considering the circumstances. Thank you very much for listening to me. I'm still scared, I don't want to ruin her life again. But I think... I think I owe her the truth. We will drop by tomorrow morning if that's ok with you."
Twilight nodded. "I have all the student listings from the Cloudsdale Flight School from its first year up until last year. It's a start, we will see if we can find anything useful there. If you want, you two could spend the night here."
Pinkie smiled. "That's kind of you Twilight, but I think we'd rather just go home." Rainbow Dash nodded.
"As you wish. I will see you two in the morning then." After the two ponies left, Twilight couldn't help herself and started collecting the tomes in question. Might as well make an early start, she thought.
* * *
When Star Catcher finally stopped sobbing she removed her head from the pillow and lay on her stomach. Turning around, she looked at the letter on her desk once again. All the rage and grief had left her. She just felt... empty. It was a scary feeling, one she had never experienced before. Had she lost the ability to feel emotions? She also had never been more tired in her life. A part of her was scared to go to sleep... Would the nightmares come back? She hadn't dreamt about that mare in a long time... But she was just too exhausted. Placing her head back on her pillow, she quickly sank into a deep sleep.
* * *
The next morning, when Rainbow knocked on the door of the library, a very excited Twilight grabbed her and pulled her inside.
"Rainbow! Look at what I found!"
The pegasus looked around. She had seen Twilight's library after one of her more... intense study sessions before, but it never amazed how much of a mess the unicorn could make. She prided herself on her organizational skills, but when it came to studying those apparently went out of the window. There were books everywhere, in every possible position. A large collection of books seemed to be spread out in a slightly more orderly pattern.
"Wow Twilight... Have you been up all night? And where’s Pinkie? She wasn't home when I woke up, so I assumed she was already here."
Twilight was eagerly motioning for her to come closer. "Yes, yes, last night was very exciting! And don't worry about Pinkie, she will back soon! Now, come over here, and take a look at this."
She will be back soon? So she was here? Rainbow decided to ignore the comment, and as she approached Twilight, the unicorn was eagerly pointing towards a page in one of the books.
"You told me Star Catcher simply disappeared after a while, right? Well, here is why. She transferred to another school." The unicorn pulled her towards another book. "See? The Fillydelphia Flight School. And look at this! Best Of Class in her second year, for both speed and acrobatic flying!"
As she saw the mention, tears appeared in Rainbow's eyes. "That's my Star Catcher. She did fly again, after all! And how!"
Twillight flipped a few pages. "Yes, and look here! Graduated with honors, second best grades of all students graduating that year. And 3rd best grades in the history of the school. That was a good year for the Fillydelphia Flight School." Twilight pulled her to another book. "After that she enrolled in the Pegasus Paramadic Academy. She got her degree easily." The unicorn pulled her towards yet another book, its cover read 'History of the Green Squadron, volume 27'. "Looks like she enlisted for the Green Squadron shortly after that. She got accepted immediately and served for four years. She was part of over thirty search and rescue missions, and got a silver medal for bravery for one of them."
Yet another book suddenly floated before the eyes of the pegasus. "After that, it looks like she moved back to Cloudsdale. I found an address in a copy of an older Cloudsdale civil registration guide. I'm afraid I haven't been able to find anything else. I don't have many books about Cloudsdale, but it's a good place to start. She might still live there. What do you think?" The unicorn looked at her, beaming.
Since Twilight had told her all this in around half a minute, Rainbow was still trying to take it all in. "Third... third best grades in the history of the school?" At that moment, the door of the library burst open and a very excited Pinkie hopped inside.
"Dashie, did Twilight told you everything yet? That's super duper awesome! Come on, I have packed our stuff, we have to leave now or we will be late!"
The pegasus looked at her. "L-l-late? For... For what? Where are we going?"
Pinkie gave her a big hug, and smiled. "To Cloudsdale of course! Twilight already cast the spell on me! Now come on, I have made reservations for a great hotel, and if we don't get there in time they might give away our room."
As she spoke, she was dragging Rainbow outside, towards the balloon Twilight had arrived in, quite some time ago. "Twilight said we could use the balloon, and our luggage is already in it. I suppose you could just fly there, but then I would be all on my lonesome and you wouldn't want that, now would you?" She giggled, and gave the pegasus a kiss.
It was all a bit too much for Rainbow. She meekly let the earth pony drag her to their ride. Twilight merely stood in the door of the library, a bemused smile on her face.
"Good luck you two! And you come straight back here after you're done, you hear? I want to know everything that happened!"
Pinkie waved at her. "Of course Twilight! And thank you again for your help! Without a smarty smart smart-pants like you we would never have found her so quickly! Byeee!" Rainbow just sat there, a stunned look on her face.
Before long, the balloon was just a small dot in the sky, and Twilight closed the door to the library. Oh, please, let them be ok. Please let Rainbow close this chapter... For all their sakes.
Rainbow was starting to come to her senses. "Pinks? What... what am I doing? This is a mistake. I shouldn't...I don't think I can do this, Pinkie. We should just go back. We should... We should..." She softly started to cry.
The earth pony put her hoofs around her partner. "Sssht. It's ok Dashie. This why I'm here. This is why we left so soon. You can do this. It's going to be ok, you'll see." Rainbow buried her head in Pinkie's mane. "Thank you Pinkie... Thank you so much..." The two didn't move throughout the entire trip, and not another word was said.
* * *
Star Catcher suddenly woke up. She felt feverish, had the dreams returned? A vague image of a screaming face lingered in her head, but before she could grasp it, it was gone. Had all of it been a dream? She glanced at the desk. No, the letter was still there. As had happened so many times before, her thoughts wandered back to that day... That terrible day. She had wondered so many times... If she had waited, if she hadn't drunk so much... If she had asked at a different time and place, would Rainbow Dash have reacted differently? But after that day, she just couldn't... couldn't talk to her anymore. Whenever she saw her, she just felt pain and hatred. In the end, she had to go away. Cloudsdale Flight School held too many painful memories. And some of the other ponies had been so cruel... She recalled her first year at the Fillydelphia Flight School. It hadn't been much easier. She had tried to forget, but at first, it was impossible. To escape her thoughts, she had thrown herself on her studies. It was hard to start flying again, but Star Catcher discovered that when she really focused on her lessons, sometimes she did forget. The joy she once had in flying was still gone, but she could sometimes escape her past. So she flew. Before long, teachers started to take notice of her. Everypony seemed impressed with her. Her parents had been so proud... And none of it seemed to matter. All that mattered was, when she flew, she could forget. Except... a small part of her, a very small part, sometimes recognized that part of it was still for Dash... Maybe, if she was good enough, she would... But those thoughts made her furious at herself, and she would fly even harder to escape them.
At the end of the second year, she had the second best grades in the class. Hadn't she sprained her left wing in the third quarter, after an excruciating training session during a particularly bad time of nightmares and painful memories, she could easily have been first. She could have probably been the best student the school had ever had. But she still didn't care about any of it. She remembered the day she graduated. It had been a little easier then. Star Catcher recalled the congratulations, the teachers giving their speeches, full of praise for her accomplishments. Her parents, she didn't think she had ever seen them happier. That day, for the first time in a long time, she realized she wasn't completely miserable. She had started to heal. She had even felt a little proud. Not long after, she made her decision on what to do next. The years at the Pegasus Paramedic Academy had been... ok. Soon after getting her degree, she enlisted with the Green Squadron. As it turned out, that would prove to be one of the best decisions she ever took.
* * *
The balloon softly touched the ground. "We’re here Dashie... Come on, let's go to our hotel. We can search for Star Catcher tomorrow." The pegasus nodded. She wasn't sure how she felt. Perhaps she was too tired to feel anything. Rainbow simply walked behind the earth pony, she doubted she could muster the energy to fly.
The pony behind the desk was very surprised to see an earth pony walk in, but he proved to be very kind. They were checked in in no time, and before they could do so much as ask, their luggage had been brought to their room. Rainbow had immediately crawled onto the bed. Pinkie had joined her, and for a long time the two just lay there, Rainbow laying on her back and resting her head on Pinkie’s chest. Eventually, she spoke.
"I don't know if I'm strong enough, Pinks... I... I have never been so scared in my life. Could you forgive something like that? She is going to hate me, and I don't know if I can deal with that. And... what if I... Maybe she has forgotten, and I just... I just bring back the pain..." She swallowed. Her voice had become a whisper by now. "How do I know if I'm doing the right thing? Maybe we really are making a big mistake..."
She looked up at Pinkie, and the pain and doubt in her eyes were almost too much for the earth pony to bear. "Oh Dash... I don't have all the answers. But this will never leave you, and it might have never left her. Not unless you deal with it. Tomorrow, lets first find out if she still even lives here, ok? We don't have to do anything else. I just... I just can't stand to see you like this, Dashie. And if she feels the same, if this hurts her as much as it does you, I think you can only make it better. "
Rainbow didn't reply, but she took some comfort from Pinkies words. The two just lay there until eventually Rainbow fell asleep. Pinkie held her for a long time, trying to think of anything else she could say or do to help the pegasus. But before she could think of anything, sleep claimed her as well.
When Pinkie woke up, something wasn't right. She opened her eyes. Dash wasn't there. In panic, she looked around and immediately noticed the small note. She picked it up from Dashie’s pillow, fearing the pegasus had fled back to Ponyville. As she read the note, Pinkie was comforted somewhat, but she was still worried.
My dear, dear Pinkie. Please don't be mad. I never could have gotten this far without you, but I think the last step is something I need to do on my own. Please wait for me.
"Oh, Dashie... please be ok. And please come back soon, so we can go home and I can throw you a big party. You really, really need a party... I think we both do..."
Rainbow was flying as fast as she could towards the address Twilight had given her. Perhaps she could make it before her fear caught up with her. I'm sorry Pinkie... I want you here, I need you here... But what if Star Catcher sees you with me? Will she hate you too? I already made her hate one pony, I don't want to make her hate another. She was surprised at how familiar it all looked. She hadn't been to this part of Cloudsdale in years, but it was as if she had never left. Before long, she had arrived at the right house. The pegasus could hear a voice inside, but it was too soft to determine if it was familiar. I can't... I can't just knock on her door. If it even is her door. Maybe... maybe I will just wait here for a while... She flew up and landed softly on the roof. Whomever lives here, I hope they don't spot me when they get out of the house. As she waited, her thoughts wandered to that day at the Ball. She remembered every word she had yelled at Star Catcher to the letter.
Doubt entered her heart again, and she started whispering to herself. "Oh, Dash, you silly pony, what are you doing here? There is nothing you can do or say that would fix what you did... You should just go."
Rainbow was about to do just that when the front door opened. She quickly retracted her head so far that she could just peak over the edge of the roof. She could see the shadow of a pony move forward. As soon as the purple colored head of the pony appeared from the door, Dash felt a mix of relief and despair. It wasn't Star Catcher. Now what am I going to do? Where will I look now? And can I ever bring myself to get this close to talking to her again? As the pony emerged out of the house completely, Dash could see she was a very attractive mare. Suddenly, the pony stopped and turned around.
"Well Star Catcher, wish me luck!" Rainbow almost lost her grip. Sure enough, it was Star Catcher who appeared in the doorway next. She affectionately nuzzled the other mare.
"Like you need it Moon Dancer. You're going to wow them, and you know it. But maybe a kiss for good luck?" The other mare smiled, and obliged. Rainbow looked at them. Star Catcher looked so happy... She pulled back completely, to avoid being spotted. She could hear the voice of Moon Dancer.
"Thanks hon. Love you. Good luck today, and I'll see you tonight, yes? Hopefully we will have something to celebrate." Soon, Rainbow saw her fly away. Thankfully she never looked around. Soon she heard the door beneath her close, and as soon as it did the pegasus rose to the sky and flew away as fast as she could.
"I'm sorry Pinkie... I just can't... I can't make her unhappy again." Tears were falling down below her.
Pinkie was looking outside the window, anxiously awaiting Rainbow's return. When she saw the familiar multicolored pony appear, she could immediately tell it hadn't gone the way she had hoped. "Oh Dash..." She just waited, a sad look on her face, with her hooves spread out. Dash flew right into her embrace.
"I couldn't do it Pinkie... She was with another mare, and they were clearly in love... And she looked so happy... What right do I have to... to take that away from her? How can that possibly help her?"
Pinkie kissed her forehead. "I know this is hard, Dashie. But please, let me come with you tomorrow, maybe it will be eas..."
Before she could finish, Dash interrupted her. "No Pinkie. No more. I can't do this. I really, really can't do this. It's not right. Maybe she really has forgotten about it, why would I remind her again? Let's just go home. Please."
Rainbow’s eyes were begging her, and the pain and despair they showed broke Pinkies heart. She gave in. "Ok Rainbow. It's ok. No more. We'll go home." She hugged her tightly, and led the pegasus back to the balloon. The trip back was pretty similar to the trip to Cloudsdale, only worse.
* * *
Star Catcher remembered the day she enlisted for the Green Squadron. What had compelled her to do it? She wasn't sure. Her excellent flying skills combined with her medical training meant they were glad to have her. That first mission had been hell in a way, but it had also changed her. A wooden rope bridge over a rather remote river had collapsed, just as two ponies were crossing it, pulling a cart with apples. One of the ponies had managed to swim to shore, where he had raised the alarm. The other pony hit his head on the cart as they fell down, and lost consciousness. If he hadn’t been entangled into the ropes of the bridge, and if the bridge hadn’t gotten stuck on some rocks under water he would have been swept away, the current was very strong. That still left him in danger of drowning though. Star Catcher, as the fastest flyer of her unit, was told to fly ahead to see what she could do until the others got there. She had not been prepared for the events that awaited her.
The pony had been properly ensnared, and she couldn’t untie him quick enough. She could hardly lift him an inch until she would be able to cut the ropes. For about a minute or so, she simply held his head above the water, trying to figure out what to do. Suddenly though, a large tree trunk appeared around the river bent upstream of her, speeding towards them. Since she couldn’t move the pony in any way, she did the only other thing she was able to think of. She flew towards the loose end of the bridge, pulled it out of the water and tried to pull it to the left as hard as she could. Luckily, there was some leeway and the other end of the bridge with the poor pony tied to it moved enough for the tree to rush past it without hitting the pony. Before she could congratulate herself though, more tree trunks appeared around the river bend. Apparently, the river was used to transport trees quickly from an upstream tree farm, and today was transport day. For a grueling fifteen minutes, she had done everything she could to both keep the pony’s head out of the water as well as trying to avoid any of the trees hitting him or the bridge. Just when she couldn’t hold he bridge anymore and was about to collapse from exhaustion, the others had arrived and they quickly took over. Within a minute the bridge had been cut loose from the rocks and was carried towards the river bank, pony and all. One of the other pegasus ponies had to support her as she flew to the river bank herself, she had almost nothing left. Star Catcher had received a medal for that mission, but what mattered most to her was that the pony had survived. They still wrote each other letters to this very day, and every so often they would visit each other.
It had been an eye opener. Star Catcher had found her calling. She loved being able to help other ponies, and slowly she rediscovered her joy in flying as well. Accidents weren't that common in Equestria, but they did happen and when they were serious enough and there was no other way to reach them, the Green Squadron would move out. After that first mission, it didn't take her long to be promoted to captain of her own unit. She led quite a lot missions, all of which were successful. Some of the ponies she saved she still had contact with, some even had become good friends.
Then came the mission that changed everything. A carriage from Canterlot to Ponyville had crashed, after a dragon flying overhead had clipped the head of one of the pegasus ponies pulling the carriage with one of its legs. The pegasus had fainted, and although his partner tried her best, she couldn't keep the carriage afloat. She was able to slow down the descent though, and limit the damage. Still, it hadn't been a pretty sight. The passengers of the carriage had escaped relatively unscathed, and so had the conscious pegasus. Her colleague hadn't been so fortunate however and was pretty severely injured. The carriage had crashed in a pretty remote area, so since Star Catcher was the fastest flyer of her unit she had been tasked with flying the injured pegasus towards the nearest hospital as quick as she could, while the others took care of the less serious injuries of the other victims. It was the second most terrifying experience of her life, what if she wouldn't make it in time? But she had, barely, and in the end he had made a full recovery. She had visited him almost daily, and so had his colleague. After they would have spend some time with the injured pegasus, they would leave him rest. Naturally, they got to talking, and before long the other pegasus, who was called Moon Dancer, had asked her on a date. She had developed a bit of a crush, but there was no way she would have made the first move, what if it happened again? So she was delighted when Moon Dancer asked her.
Things moved quickly after that. Both ponies didn't need long to fall head over heels for each other, and before long they were living together. Star Catcher would often joke how, despite her name, she somehow had managed to catch the moon. Life had been almost perfect, except for the lingering memories of her past which would surface every now and then.
Star Catcher sighed. It figured the letter would arrive the day after her partner left to join the Green Squadron herself. She had quit some time ago, feeling content with simply taking care of Moon Dancer. The white pegasus had also been lucky enough that none of her missions involved fatal accidents, which was another reason to quit. She didn’t think she could deal with that. She was now a flying instructor at the Cloudsdale Flight School, and teaching gave her a whole new sense of joy. Moon Dancer however had enlisted a while ago, feeling the need to pay back what she owed the organization somehow. She had passed her final try-outs just four days ago. Star Catcher remembered how she had kissed the other pegasus "for good luck", just before she left. Of course she had passed with flying colours, but now Star Catcher almost wish she hadn't. She could have really used Moon Dancer's support right about now.
In a way, she owed Rainbow Dash... If it hadn't been for her, she would never have gotten as far as she did, she would probably never have met the other pegasus she loved so much. But that didn't take away the pain, the things she had gone through because of her... The nightmares that still returned every so often. Perhaps the letter would offer some solace, but what if it didn't? Maybe it was blackmail... Or worse, what if she wanted to get together again? Oh gosh, there was a thought! What would she do then? She searched her heart. No, that ship had long since sailed. Moon Dancer meant everything to her and any romantic feelings for Rainbow Dash had been long gone. She continued to stare at the letter, unsure what to do.
* * *
Twilight had been delighted to see her friends again, but as Rainbow told her story the joy made place for sadness.
"I just couldn't do it Twilight. It wouldn't be fair to her. Maybe I'm just a coward, but...She is happy, I really think she is. I don't think she needs anything from me to get over... that... I think she already has."
Pinkie sat next to her, and shook her head. "No Dashie. You are no coward, never. Maybe... maybe you are right. Maybe it was a mistake to go there." She gave the pegasus a kiss. "I think it was already very brave of you to try."
Twilight looked at the pair. "Rainbow, are you happy with Pinkie? Truly happy?"
Dash smiled and nodded. "Yes Twilight, yes I'm. I don't think I have ever been as happy as since we got together. And the last week or so has been... It has been hard. I don't know what I would have done without you Pinks." She kissed the earth pony back, who smiled warmly at the pegasus.
Twilight placed a hoof on Rainbow's shoulder. "Well then... Even if this Moon Dancer makes Star Catcher as happy as Pinkie makes you... Don't you think she still struggles with that day as much as you do? Perhaps you are right about meeting her face to face, but... Don't you think you still owe her an explanation? You have never been able to forget that day, I don't think she has either. Not completely."
Rainbow stared at the floor. "I guess you are right Twilight. What do you think I should do? Maybe I could... I could write her a letter?"
Twilight smiled and nodded. "I think that is a great idea Dash. You are welcome to use my desk."
The pegasus gulped. "Right now? But... I have nothing prepared. And I couldn't even spell Pinkie right, remember? I'm not very good at this. Maybe I should sleep on it first. Yeah, that's a good idea."
Pinkie gave her a big hug. "Come on Dashie, you can do this. Why not do it now? Then I can give you a big party tomorrow! And Twilight is a super smarty smart smarty-pants, she can help you with your letter! Right Twilight?"
The unicorn handed Rainbow a feather and a piece of paper. "Of course Pinkie. We are both here for you Dash, but I think she is right. You need to do this now. Just write what you feel, and I'm sure it will be no problem."
Slowly, the pegasus reached out and took the quill. "Yeah... Ok... I guess I... I might as well get it over with now if I'm going to do it."
Pinkie led her to the desk. "That's the spirit Dashie. You want me to read what you write?"
The pegasus shook her head. "No thanks Pinks... It would only make me nervous. But you can both read it when it's finished and tell me what you think about it then, ok?”
Pinkie nodded, and she and Twilight both took a chair at the end of the room. Rainbow glanced at them, before turning her attention to the piece of paper. Slowly she put the tip of the quill at the top of the parchment. To her surprise, she found the words she was looking for. She started to write, slowly at first, but as she got further into the letter the words came to her faster. Twilight and Pinkie shared a relieved smile as the scribbling sound of the quill started to echo softly throughout the silent library.
To Star Catcher,
I don't know what made you decide to read this letter, but whatever it is, I'm glad and I thank you. It will come as no surprise to you that it is about that day, so many years ago at the Autumn Sky Ball. I spend many days arguing with myself whether or not I should contact you, especially when I found out about your new life. It seems like you found happiness. I really, really hope that is the case, I want you to be happy. I feared I might cause you too much pain if I visited you personally, the last thing I want to do is ruin your life a second time. This seemed like a better way, since you could decide for yourself whether or not you would open this letter. Even if you didn't, if you tore it up or threw it away, I pray the hurt it brought you was minimal and brief.
However, if you are reading this it means I may have a chance to... Well, I don't suppose I can fix what happened at the Ball, but perhaps this letter helps the tiniest bit. The question you asked me that day, you couldn't have asked me at a worse possible time. That is in no way an excuse for the way I reacted, it is just me trying to explain why I did what I did. Some of my classmates had just accused me of being a filly-fooler, apparently rumors were going around about us. Then the Principal and Lord Cozmar approached me, and there was talk about me training with the Wonderbolts. Of course, you know that. It was at that time you told me you loved me and I... I didn't know how to deal with it. It is one of the most lame and cliché explanations I can give you, but it is the truth. I panicked. And with everypony looking at us... It was just too much. None of that justifies in any way the things I said to you, but maybe it helps to know that everything I said and did, none of it was your fault. Perhaps you know that already, I really hope you do.
The way you looked at me after that, the expression in your eyes... It is burned into my brain and it has haunted me ever since. I never saw you fly again. The knowledge that I caused that, I took away all the joy in your life... It hurt like hell back then, and it still does today. The guilt I felt then and still feel even at this very moment, it has been unbearable at times. At one point, not even that long ago, it nearly destroyed me. I'm not telling you this because I want your forgiveness or your pity, but I can imagine you spend many days cursing my existence and wishing I could feel the pain you undoubtedly felt. I think I did. If I hurt you more then I hurt myself... I can't even bear to think about that. Even if that were so, perhaps the knowledge that I never have been able to forgive myself helps somewhat too.
What happened that day has haunted me my entire life and if there was one thing I could do differently it would be that. Please believe me when I say that whatever I felt back then, it wasn't hatred. I never hated you, I couldn't. I'm not expecting you to forgive me. Perhaps this letter will only serve to open old wounds... But I pray that if that is so, you simply threw it away. On the other hoof, perhaps just reading this can bring you some peace, some closure, and that is the only reason why I sent it. You have your own life now, and I have mine. I'm sure this letter will disrupt yours to some extent, but I pray it does more good than harm. I don't know how you will react to this. I just want you to be happy and live your life. I beg of you not to do anything that might do unrepairable damage to it. I want this letter to help you, if even a little bit, and perhaps just reading it is enough. However, if you have questions for me or if you just want to scream at me or vent your anger and you think you are strong enough... If you want to contact me in any way... You now have my address.
Rainbow Dash read what she had just put on paper several times, making sure she hadn't forgotten any e's this time. It was without a doubt the single most important thing she had ever written. She doubted she would ever write anything like it ever again. Rainbow had started crying the second she started writing it, and she couldn't seem to stop. For a moment the pegasus had thought about telling Star Catcher how strong she had felt about her back then, but she had decided against it. It would probably do more harm than good. If Star Catcher read between the lines and she really wanted to know... Twilight and Pinkie had been waiting patiently for her to finish. She motioned for them to come closer.
"I... I think I'm done."
Her two friends started reading, each over one of her shoulders, and before long they too where both crying. Pinkie wrapped her hooves around the pegasus halfway through the letter, and Rainbow was glad for the support.
When Twilight finished reading, she looked up. Her voice croaked. "It's perfect, Rainbow." Pinkie simply nodded.
Rainbow put the letter in an envelope, wrote her name in big letters on the front and the return address on the back. She looked at Twilight, and stretched out her hoof with the letter in it.
"Twi... Could you... Could you give the letter to Derpy in the morning? I’m afraid I might chicken out."
As Twilight took it, she nodded. "Gladly, Rainbow. If you two want to spend the night, you are welcome to. And Dash? You did the right thing." With that, the unicorn walked out of the door, feeling she should leave the two alone for now.
Pinkie gave Dash a small peck on her cheek, her hooves still wrapped around the pegasus. "That was the bravest thing you ever did Dashie", she whispered. "I have never been more proud of you."
Rainbow Dash gave her a very sad smile. Regardless of what happens, even if she never answers... I think I did do the right thing... for both of us... Maybe, just maybe I can let this behind me now. And if not now, maybe with time. Maybe she can too. As the candle slowly burned out, the pegasus simply sat behind the desk, taking comfort from Pinkie's embrace. Just before the warm light of the candle disappeared completely, she looked up at the earth pony again, a slightly happier smile on her face. "Thank you Pinkie. I never could have done this without you." Whatever happens, at least neither of us will have to deal with it on our own.
* * *
Star Catcher finally got off the bed. As she walked towards the letter on her desk, she still wasn't sure whether she was going to tear it up, or read it. Or maybe she would put it in a drawer and just forget about it until Moon Dancer was back. No matter what the contents of the letter were going to be, they would be much easier to deal with if she had her partner at her side.
Musings from the author:
First of all, allow me to thank Buttersc0tchSundae for writing the original The Party Hasn’t Ended, all 13 parts of it. I enjoyed it immensely. And even better, when I asked her whether or not she would be ok with me uploading this to ED, she not only confirmed she was, she actually said I never needed to ask for her permission in the first place. To top it all of, she was even kind enough to read it and give me some (very kind) feedback. And of course, I also thank Luna aka Shimmer who was my other proofreader and gave me some very useful feedback. You both rock ^^ Any typo’s still remaining are completely my own fault. Any tips not used can be blamed on my stubbornness.
Secondly, allow me to thank Lauren Faust for not only creating one of the best cartoons in properly over a decade, but also showing me that my disdain for flash cartoons isn’t entirely justified.
Now, as for this story... I don’t consider myself a writer, I don’t do it much. I just felt compelled to try and give Star Catcher and Rainbow some closure. In my personal opinion, writing proper dialogue is one of my main weaknesses. And I’m even worse at the romantic stuff. Still, I tried. I admit I probably did not stay very true to Rainbow’s and Pinkie’s characters. As I'm aware, and Buttersc0tch pointed out, that letter was probably a bit to fancy for Rainbow. If it helps, think of it as what she would like the letter to be in her head. Pinkie probably needed to be a bit more bubbly and random, especially towards the end. You know she gave Rainbow a big party though, and she was her bubbly, random self when she did.
For continuity’s sake I let Fluttershy and Cloudkicker be together, did not see any reason not to. I was more careful with Twilight and Luna, since Twi has an obvious crush on Big Mac in The Party Hasn’t Ended. Luna has made the first move. Whether or not that goes anywhere, or if Twilight even goes for another mare, is up to the reader.
When I started writing this, I was under the impression Star Catcher was an original character. I felt like I needed to come up with another OC to be her partner. To be able to use that cheesy “I caught the moon” line, I wanted her to have Moon in the name, and Moon Dancer was the best I could come up with. Imagine my surprise when Buttersc0tch told me both Star Catcher and Moon Dancer are G1 ponies. Unintentional, but since Buttersc0tch told me she had thought about pairing Star Catcher with Moon Dancer herself, I figured I’d leave it be. (Actually, Moon Dancer is mentioned in the first episode of FiM... Guess my subconscious remembered that when I wrote this, even if I did not.)
The Green Squadron is something I came up with on the fly. Lame name, I admit. Its supposed to be like the air ambulance service of Equestria, though I probably make it sound a bit more heroic then that. I just needed some way for Star Catcher to meet with Moon Dancer. However, Buttersc0tch told me she would like to read more about her missions, in more of a flashback style. That might be fun to write about, even if they can’t all be as heroic as the two I described. Let me know what y’all think.
Any constructive criticism, pointers, tips and general thoughts are appreciated. Finally, if you stuck with me all the way to these final words, allow me to thank you too. I hope you enjoyed reading this, if only a little bit.
P.S.: If anyone has a suggestion for a better title, I’m all ears.
Glad I could help a bit with this, and glad butterscotch liked it! The Green Squadron was quite creative. And haha, what a coincidence with Moon Dancer! Looking forward to more great work! ~Luna