- - - - -
Rainbow Dash tore across the skies of Ponyville, and the clouds trembled in her wake.
It wasn’t her usual leisurely afternoon flight, or one of her high stakes, high paced stunt flights, or even a precursor to one of her trademark Sonic Rainbooms. This was avoidance, pure and simple. Pushing herself as hard as she could go in the hope that the exertion would take her mind off of her troubles.
She banked and barrel rolled, spun and looped and twisted till her wings ached and her lungs burned from the strain, but nothing seemed to work. No matter how fast she went, she was still stuck. Not even Rainbow Dash, the fastest flier in all of Equestria, can outrun her own feelings.
Finally she stopped. She didn’t even bother to slow down. Just plowed into a massive bank of cumulus at top speed and let the soft whiteness of the cloud drain her momentum. She hung there for a moment, holding her breath, suspended in a featureless white void. Then with a single, powerful flap of her wings, she burst to the top.
She stood there for a while, staring out at Ponyville spread below her but not really seeing it. Her mind was elsewhere, occupied with other things.
Dash was not a pony given to self reflection. She preferred direct action to subtlety, a trait that bordered on bluntness and occasionally got her into trouble, but one that she easily preferred to this stupid, pointless nagging worry that she just couldn’t seem to outrun.
She circled, once, hooves pounding the cloud-top into a consistency suitable for an extended nap. She plopped down into her impromptu bed, crossed her front legs, and closed her eyes.
Fifteen minutes later, she was still awake.
She rolled over, tossed her mane, and tried to find a more comfortable position, but to no avail.
Stupid stupid stupid! She thought, cursing herself as much as anything.
This is all Spitfire’s fault!
But she knew that wasn’t true.
- - - - -
If there was ever any doubt that Rainbow Dash was the most awesome, most talented, fastest and best of all, coolest pony in all of Equestria, the Best Young Flier competition had erased it. Dash had, with her last minute super awesome Sonic Rainboom Aerial Rescue, not only saved Rarity and the all of the Wonderbolts, but also swept the competition and secured the grand prize in front of half of Cloudsdale.
And then, as if that weren’t enough, she had been given what she really wanted! A chance to spend the rest of the day with the Wonderbolts, the daring group of elite Pegasi stunt fliers that had captured her imagination ever since she was a little filly! She almost didn’t want to go with them. The prospect of meeting her lifelong heroes might have been thrilling, but it was also terrifying! What if they didn’t turn out to be as awesome as she’d always thought? Or worse! What if she wasn’t as awesome as she’d always thought? What if they hated her!?
And the she showed up. Spitfire, lead flier of the Wonderbolts and the mare that Rainbow Dash had looked up to all her life. With a simple, disarming “Hey”, she’d put aside all of Dash’s fears and every ounce of awkwardness.
They’d spent the rest of the night together, and it had been as awesome as Dash had imagined. Swapping over-the-top stories about adventure and death-defying feats, showing off their best stunts, even a friendly race! (They’d tied but Dash suspected that Spitfire might have deliberately gone slower than she could have.) Then dinner at the Wonderbolts private cloud penthouse, packed to the brim with trophies and memorabilia from countless contests and performances, and maybe a little too much punch between the both of them. And then... Spitfire had flown Dash home.
When they got there, Dash had extended a slightly woozy hoof in thanks for what had been, undeniably, the best night ever, and Spitfire had- she’d... Well, she’d kissed her. And not the friendly nuzzle-on-the-cheek, see you later kind, either. A deep, heartfelt, slightly sloppy kiss that the startled Rainbow Dash had simply dumbly accepted, too shocked to refuse.
When Spitfire stopped, pulled back, smiled, and asked if Dash wouldn’t mind letting her in, just for the night, she’d said... no. She’d said that, sorry, she was flattered, and Spitfire really was nice and sweet and totally cool, but Dash’s barn door just didn’t swing that way. Now that would have been all well and good five minutes ago, but after that kiss, with the punch still in her system, she wasn’t quite sure that was the truth, anymore.
But Spitfire had blushed, stammered an apology, and beat a hasty retreat, leaving Dash slumped on her front porch, trying to sort through ten thousand puzzle piece feelings that didn’t even fit together at the edges.
So she’d gone inside, collapsed into bed, and resolved to sleep it off and figure out how she felt in the morning. Then she’d spent hours rolling back and forth on her bed, trying to get her stupid brain to just shut up for one second. To stop showing her Spitfire’s hurt expression as she flew off, or the heat of her blush, lighting up her face, or the way her bottom lip had quivered, just slightly, before she smiled after their kiss.
And Dash had gotten up, wrung a cloud out over her face to clear her head, and then paced, jogged, and finally flown, until Celestia’s sun broke the day, until her wings were exhausted and she couldn’t keep flying, keep running any more. But the thoughts were still there, at the back of her mind, waiting for her to stop.
And finally, she did.
- - - - -
Despite what some ponies might have you think, Rainbow Dash was not stupid. She knew what a fillyfooler was, of course. You don’t grow up a tomboy in Cloudsdale with a rainbow striped mane and not learn every ugly word there is to describe mares that like mares. It had been a running joke for a while. “Rainbow Dyke”, they’d called her. Sometimes behind her back when they thought she couldn’t hear, or sometimes straight to her face. She’d like to pretend that words didn’t hurt her, and sure, Gilda had been more than happy to stomp the glue out of anypony who hurt her best friend, but that didn’t make what they said go away.
And then along came Cappuccino, and for a while, things were good.
Sure, someponies might whisper that he was just there for show, that she’d just found a coltfriend to throw them off, but that she was still Rainbow Dyke, through and through.
But that didn’t matter to her any more, because she knew it wasn’t true. Because whatever they might say, she really did like Cappuccino, and he liked her, and he was a colt, so if she liked him, then she liked colts, and if she liked colts, then obviously there was no way she could like fillies.
So when he broke it off because his parents were moving to Manehatten, it hurt. It hurt a lot, actually, but that was still kind of good, because if losing him hurt, then she must have really liked him, and if she really liked him, a colt, then she couldn't like fillies.
And then Rainbow Dash left. She dropped out of Flight School because, let’s be honest, they were only holding her back. She picked up an easy job on the weather patrol in the town of Ponyville, because it was small, had wide open airways for practicing all sorts of tricks, and it was close enough to Cloudsdale that she could visit, if she wanted to, but far enough away that chances are, no one she knew would just drop by.
With all that out of the way, she had time to focus on her true passion, high speed aerial stunts. Because sure, Dash might be a bit lazy, but she was driven. She had a goal. To join the Wonderbolts, because they were the best fliers in all of Equestria, most certainly not because of Spitfire, who hung on a giant poster of in Dash’s bedroom, but who she most certainly did not think of that way at all.
- - - - -
Finally, she couldn't take it any more. Rainbow Dash shot off the top of her cloud perch in a bolt of multi-spectral brilliance. It was all too big, too much for her to think about on her own. She might not have been dumb, by any measure, but she certainly wasn’t the cleverest pony in Equestria.
But she did know her.
Twilight Sparkle was asleep when Dash knocked on the door of the Ponyville library. Dash wasn’t really surprised, of course. It was the weekend. Most of Ponyville was still asleep, sunrise or no. If she didn’t feel like her head and heart were about to split open at the seams and spill her secret for the whole world to see, she might have felt bad about waking her friend up.
Twilight didn’t answer on the second knock. Or the third.
She didn’t answer on the fourth, either, but someone else did.
Spike peered around the door, rubbing sleep out of his eyes with both tiny fists.
“Oh hey there-” He let out a yawn “-Rainbow Dash. What’s up?”
“Heeeey, Spike.” Dash said, unsure of how to continue. “Listen, is Twilight up yet? I really... need to talk to her.”
Spike scratched the scales on the back of his neck, yawned again, and shook his head.
“Nope, sorry Rainbow. She’s still asleep. She was up all night working on some new spell, and now she’s totally tuckered out.” He paused. “But, uh... if you need a book or something, I can get it for you, no problem.” Not that he’d ever known Rainbow Dash to come to the Library for a book before.
“No no, I mean, I don’t need a book.” She paused. “I- I’m sorry I woke you up. I’ll... just be going.”
As she turned to leave, a familiar voice called down the staircase.
“Spike? Who’s at the door?”
Dash spun back around.
“Twilight? It’s Dash. Can I come in?”
- - - - -
A minute later, Rainbow Dash was sitting at Twilight’s table, staring mournfully into a cup of tea. Earl Neigh. Twilight’s favorite. Spike had headed back upstairs to his bed, to try get back to sleep.
Dash hated tea, but she always drank it when she was at Twilight’s. Now, she just didn’t see the point. She was nervous enough without the extra caffeine, and it’s not like she would have to bother getting used to the taste. After this, Twilight would probably never speak to her again. After all, who wants a fillyfooler for a friend?
Twilight plopped down in the seat across from her, looking concerned.
“Dash, I don’t mean to be rude, but you look terrible. Haven’t you been sleeping?”
Rainbow shook her head.
“Twilight...” She paused. Fears, old and new, built up a wall of inertia against her words.
“Have you ever kept a secret? I mean, a really, really big secret?”
Twilight smiled, remembering Spike’s hushed confession to her and Pinkie Pie.
“Yes, I think I’ve kept some pretty big secrets before.”
Dash shook her head. “No, I mean, like a secret so big, that you couldn’t even tell yourself?”
Twilight blinked and shook her head, obviously confused, but before she could say anything, Dash continued.
“I mean, you know what it’s like, right? To have it... I don’t know... eating at you, day after day, and then it just comes out, you know? And you can’t keep it a secret any more, even from yourself.”
She was very near to crying now, her voice growing tighter by the word as Twilight looked on in concern for her friend.
“Rainbow, what’s this about? What happened? last thing I remember, you were happy as could be, flying off into the sunset with the Wonderbolts. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted? Unless-” Comprehension spread across her face. “Dash, what happened? Did something go wrong?”
She walked around the table to put a hoof on her friend’s shoulder, but Dash only shied away from the touch.
“Oh Rainbow.” She said, pulling her hoof back and tilting her head in concern. “What happened?”
“I-” Dash choked, nearly bursting into tears right then and there. “I don’t want to tell you.”
“Why not?” Said Twilight, mock fear in her voice. “What could be so terrible that Rainbow Dash, the bravest pony I know, is scared to even talk about it?”
Rainbow smiled at that, but it was an empty expression that didn’t reach her eyes.
“I’m not the bravest.” She said. “Maybe the dumbest. Definitely the most screwed up.”
Twilight put her hoof back on her friend’s shoulder, ignoring the way she shied from it.
“Dash, you faced down a manticore. You pulled off a Sonic Rainboom. Twice. You kicked a dragon in the face.” She paused to suck in a breath. “No matter how bad this is, how could it be scarier than a huge gigantic terrifying enormous teeth gnashing sharp scale having horn wearing smoke snoring could eat a pony in one bite dragon?”
“Because.” Dash squeaked. “No matter what happened with that dragon, I knew-” She sniffled back a sob. “I knew you guys would always have my back.” She looked away. “Now I know you’ll just hate me.”
Twilight wrapped her other hoof around her friend, pulling her into a hug that Dash refused to return.
“Rainbow Dash.” She said in her best imitation of Celsestia’s I’m giving you a talking to voice. “You are my friend, and nothing you could ever do would change that.”
Dash sniffled, obviously unconvinced, but she took a deep breath and started talking.
“You remember Spitfire, right?”
Twilight nodded. “The Wonderbolt’s lead flier? You two headed off together after the competition yesterday. Did you... I mean, did something go wrong?”
“No, I mean yes, I mean. Ooh! I don’t know!” She said, slumping face first onto the table for a second before continuing.
“We had just finished dinner, and we were heading home. We’d both had a little too much punch, and when she dropped me off at my house...” She trailed off, then gulped and finished in a whisper. “She kissed me.”
Twilight’s face was carefully blank. “And?”
“And!?” Dash nearly shouted. “And I liked it! I liked it a lot! But I told her I didn’t because- because I’m not a fillyfooler! I like colts! But, but I liked her too, so I guess I really am Rainbow Dyke after all! And now everyone in Ponyville will hate me and, and, and....” She broke off into wretched sobs.
The last thing Dash expected from Twilight was laughter. The second to last thing she expected was another hug.
“Rainbow, you really aren’t a clever pony, sometimes.” She said, ruffling Dash’s mane. “Did you seriously think the rest of us hadn’t figure this out already?”
“What?” Dash practically yelled. “Figured what out? That I’m- I’m Ponyville’s resident mare-lover?” She shoved her way out of Twilight’s hug. “What do you mean, the rest of you ‘knew’? ‘Cause I like sports? ‘Cause I’ve got a rainbow mane? Is that it?”
“No, Rainbow! I mean- well, I’m pretty sure that for all Fluttershy knows about birds and bees, she doesn’t know about the Birds and the Bees, and Pinkie Pie is, well, Pinkie Pie, but Rarity and AJ and I... had our suspicions.
She paused for breath, and to back up from the newly seething Rainbow Dash.
“It’s not because of your mane or anything. I mean, maybe a little-”
“It’s my natural hair color!”
“Okay, okay! But still! I mean, you and Gilda? You’re telling me you weren’t a couple, way back when? And your cutie mark story. Defending Fluttershy’s honor? And Applejack knows you’ve had a crush on her for pretty much forever.”
“A what on Applewhat?” Dash yelled. “I- you- they- argh!” She slumped back into the chair and thumped her head on the table.
“I can’t believe, all this time, you guys knew, and I didn’t.” She sighed. “And you don’t hate me? The rest of Ponyville doesn’t think I’m a freak?”
Twilight laughed again. “Oh come on, silly. Everyone in Ponyville looks up to you! And why would they think you’re a freak? I mean, Bon-Bon and Lyra have been together for years now, and no one minds! And everypony knows about Caramel’s crush on Big Macintosh. Except Big Macintosh, of course. Poor buck.”
Dash gave her a look that approached awe, with a side of terror.
“How do you know all this?”
Twilight smiled. “Well, it is my job to learn about friendship. And what’s love but a stronger form of the bond between friends?”
“So... you don’t hate me?”
Twilight gave her a good natured shove. “Of course not silly.” She sat back down in her chair across from Dash. “Now, are you going to go set things right with Spitfire or what?”
- - - - -
Spitfire didn’t answer on the first knock. Or the second. Or the third.
She didn’t answer on the fourth, either, but someone else did.
“Oh, hey Soarin’.” Dash said. “I know I was just here with you guys last night, but is Spitfire there?”
Soarin’ gave her a look that said wait right there and you done goofed at the same time. Dash gulped as he turned from the door and headed back into the Wonderbolt’s cloud penthouse, leaving the door open just a crack.
After a minute of tense waiting, Spitfire came to the door. She looked like Dash felt, haggard and obviously sleepless. Still, she brightened just a little when she saw who was on her doorstep.
They locked eyes, the both of them trying desperately to think of something to say.
“I’m so sorry-” They said, simultaneously.
“No I’m sorry-” Another pause. “I shouldn’t have-” Another pause, and then they both burst into giggles right there on the front portico.
After she could breath again, Spitfire stood up.
“Listen, Dash...” She paused, looking awkward and vulnerable without her trademark uniform. “I really am sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have made an advance like that. I’m really, really sorry if I made you uncomfortable or-”
“No, Spitfire, I’m the one who’s sorry. I... I wasn’t entirely honest with you.”
The yellow pegasus blinked, taken aback.
“Well, as much as I’d love to stand here and chat in the doorway, I didn’t get any sleep last night, and I need some coffee. Would you... like to join me?”
Dash smiled, nodded.
“Yeah. I think I would.”
- - - - -
Somewhere far below, a certain purple unicorn smiled, and dipped her quill into a ready jar of ink.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Today I learned that love is never something to be ashamed about or scared of. If two ponies love each other then it doesn’t matter who they are, or where they came from, or even if they’re fillies or colts. Love is more important than all of that.
I also learned that no matter how confident someone seems, they might still be unsure on the inside, so you should always take care to let them know that you like them for who they are, not for who they feel they have to be. Ponies should never have to hide who they are from their friends for fear that they might not like them if they tell the truth. Always remember that a true friend will like you no matter what.
Your Faithful Student,
(I know, I know, that’s probably the most sanctimonious thing I’ve ever written. I’m sorry. But you’ve got to admit that this is a lesson way too many people still need to take to heart. It took me way too long to figure it out myself, but I figure if I can help even one person in their struggle with their own feelings or sexuality, then it’ll all have been worth it.)
(Oh, and to those of you who hate casting Rainbow Dash as a lesbian [or in this case, bisexual], do me a favor and shut up for a second. Yes, I know it’s a show primarily aimed at kids, and the ponies don’t have any real orientation. Yes, I know that just because someone is a tomboy, or likes rainbows, or has an unhealthy love of musical theater, they aren’t automatically gay, but so what? I mean, for the love of god, do you know how hard it is to find good queer characters to look up to in mainstream fiction? If some fans want to have Dash as a lesbian in their head, that’s fine. It doesn’t hurt you in the least and it might just save some poor gay kid in some horrible southern hellhole’s sanity.)
(Okay, there. Rant over. Complain at me in the comments, if you want.)
(Oh, and yes, I know this doesn’t fit in with the way Spitfire talks to Dash at the Gala. So sue me. It’s fanfic, none of it’s canon.)