What’s Eating Rainbow Dash?
“Look out! It’s a real ghost!” Rainbow Dash shouted, much to the terror of Spike and Pinkie and the glee of her friends. Then Twilight floated her the scroll and quill in front of the blue pegasus with an expectant look on her face. Rainbow Dash look at her and the paper, then at her friends. She then chuckled and rubbed the back of her head. “Whooo, you know, I think I’m going to have to give this some more thought. I’ll send it to the princess later, okay?”
Twilight Sparkle looked surprised, then a little skeptical. Applejack pointed a hoof at her and asked, “You’re sure it won’t slip off yer skillet?”
“Sure, I’m sure. Really. Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cup cake in my...,” she said formally as Pinkie Pie and Spike returned. The blue pegasus made a face, “That really doesn’t work for me…” she muttered, but the pink pony’s eyes widened in shock.
“Oh, now she really, really has to do it!” Pinkie squealed and started to bounce towards Sugarcube Corner. “Come on, every pony! This calls for a party!”
“Yeah. Sure. You guys go. Have fun,” Rainbow Dash said with a grin, “I got, you know… a letter to write.” Biting the scroll and quill she flapped skyward, only Fluttershy watching with a touch of worry.
In Sugarcube corner Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack joked to each other as Pinkie Pie shared cup cakes. “And then she was all ‘Habazawah! There were three of you? Oh man, the look on her face!” Pinkie Pie giggled. “I mean… I knew she was going to pounce me… Itchy rear left hoof… but I didn’t think she’d take it so well.” She looked at her friends, her smile slipping a little. “She is taking it well, right?”
“I think so,” Twilight said proudly, “It was a grade A lesson.”
But Pinkie Pie frowned and started to talk when Applejack interrupted, “Can’t see why she was upset at all. Anypony would have realized somepony would have to step in with how she was acting.”
Twilight snorted, rolling her eyes. “Well what do you expect? I mean she was going kinda crazy there for a while with all the heroing. I mean first that ridiculous fan club and then hiring Spike to be her ghost writer?” Twilight quickly gave Spike a generous smile, “Not that I’m sure you wouldn’t have written a really swell not auto-autobiography.”
“Eh,” he said with a non-commital shrug as he flipped through his note pad. “Dunno what I’m going to do with all these though,” he said with a shrug, waving the note pad in his hand.
“Well we’re running a mite low in the outhouse,” Applejack said with a snort, much to everypony’s chuckles and Spike’s annoyance.
“That’s what, fifty pages of ‘I’m awesome… so very awesome?’ How tedious!” Rarity said, nibbling on her cupcake.
Applejack patted his back, “Just messin with ya, Spike. I can’t figger how you did it though.” Then the orange mare looked at Fluttershy glancing out the window for the hundredth or so time, “What’s up, Fluttershy? Too many spinkles on your cupcake?”
“If there are, I’ll help!” She said and her freaky long tongue stretched out and swiped all the creamy white frosting and red sprinkles into the pink pony’s maw. Fluttershy stared at the confectonary remains dripping saliva and jerked her hooves away in shock. Pinkie Pie dove on her back and let the remains of the cake fall into her mouth, chewing gleefully.
Twilight made a face as she looked up and saw the worry etched in Fluttershy’s face. “What’s up, Fluttershy?”
“Do you… um… do you think… ah… maybe… um… we went… too far?” the yellow pegasus asked as she tapped her hooves together. Pinkie Pie suddenly blinked and stopped midchew, glancing at Twilight, and then looking away as her right ear twitched.
“Too far?” Rarity snorted softly, “Darling, did you see how obnoxious she was becoming? Why soon she would have expected us to kiss her hooves as well. Better to nip this in the bud now.” But from the looks she was giving her friends, there was some definite uncertainty in her eyes.
“Besides Fluttershy, we agreed that it was great she was helping everypony…” Twilight Sparkle began as she looked to her friends.
“But how she was handling it wasn’t right proper,” Applejack said with a comforting smile; one that seemed less effective than usual on the pegasus. Fluttershy just looked away as she hovered in place. “Don’t worry. You’ll see. Rainbow Dash’ll be a better pony for this. Mark my words…”
* * *
The next day Twilight Sparkle trotted out towards Couch’s and Quills to pick up a new dozen writing implements and some scrolls, marveling on how clear a day it was. The only clouds remaining in the sky were those belonging to Rainbow Dash. She spotted a familiar blue blur fanning some clouds back over the Everfree Forest.
“Rainbow!” She shouted out at the blue pegasus, but she didn’t halt her work. Twilight’s brows knitted together, “Hey, Rainbow Dash!” Still no response. She wasn’t that far away; Rainbow Dash had heard her before at greater distances, but for now she just fanned her wings to push the clouds away. Twilight frowned; Rainbow Dash may be obtuse from time to time, but now it seemed like she was deliberately ignoring her. “Rain! Bow!”
The pegasi seemed to slump and then she looped and fluttered in front of Twilight with a little smile, “Oh, hey Twilight. You’re out early.”
Twilight Sparkle relaxed a little. “Well, I needed some more writing supplies and thought I’d stock up early. I mean a girl can never have too much parchment and ink on hoof, right?” She asked with a smile that wasn’t shared by the blue pegasus.
Then Lily, Daisy, and Rose Luck trotted by; the trio glancing at the hovering mare and immediately snorted. “Oh, look. It’s Rainbow Dash,” Daisy muttered with a frown. Twilight was shocked, but Rainbow Dash herself didn’t look surprised at all. She gave a forced, sheepish sort of smile.
“Hey,” Rainbow Dash said with a little wave. “What’s up?”
“Oh? Haven’t saved any ponies today?” Lily asked snidely. Twilight’s jaw dropped but she remained speechless as the others smirked to each other.
“She couldn’t have. I didn’t see a press conference being held,” Rose Luck replied with a smirk.
Twilight Sparkle couldn’t believe her eyes. “Hey! Why are you being so rude?” The purple unicorn demanded. The three looked shocked, as if Twilight were the one being impolite.
“Well… you and your friends pointed out how full of herself she was,” Lily said, taken aback.
Twilight blinked and then glanced at Rainbow Dash; the blue pegasus barely concealing the cool gaze. “Well… yes, we did…”
“And you pointed out how she really isn’t all that special!” Rose Luck added, the magenta maned mare pointing her hoof at her friend. Twilight shook her head, not believing her ears. This… this wasn’t what she’d intended at all!
“But… I mean she is special! She helped all those ponies and…” Twilight stammered as she looked at the trio, who now looked confused and angry with her! “We were just trying to get her to take it down a notch… that’s all.”
“Mission accomplished,” Rainbow Dash muttered as she trotted away. The trio’s scornful glares followed her as she left and then muttering together they proceeded on their way. Twilight winked over next to her friend, who scowled at her, “Don’t you have some reading or writing to do?”
“I… I’m just…” Twilight flushed as she looked at her friend’s angry gaze and then at the backs of the departing mares, “I’m just trying to figure out what their problem is! I mean… it’s not like you… and we weren’t… um…”
But Rainbow Dash didn’t seem to be buying it. “Have you ever been popular, Twilight?”
Twilight blinked, wondering just where that came from. “Um… well… ah… Some ponies are pretty impressed I’m Celestia’s student.” She grinned, but Rainbow Dash wasn’t reciprocating. “And… um… once I completely reorganized Starswirl the Bearded’s section of the library.”
“Uh-huh.” Rainbow Dash said flatly and then continued on her way. “And I just bet everypony just fell over their hooves in praise for that.”
Twilight frowned and winked in front of her again, “Oh, is that what this is? You’re angry cause you’re not as popular as you were?”
Rainbow Dash looked at her almost sadly and shook her head slowly. “Talk to Rarity or Fluttershy about popularity,” she said flatly, and with that she launched herself into the sky.
* * *
“I just don’t get it,” Twilight muttered as she trotted after Fluttershy as she gently sheparded a small flock of robins just learning to fly. Every now and then she’d duck under them to give them a rest on her back. “I mean why would she want me to talk to you about popularity?” Their eyes met and Twilight gave a weak smile. “No offense,” she added.
“Oh no, I’m not offended at all. I’ve never been good with popularity,” she said with a gentle smile, catching one struggling little red puffball with her tail. Right, and when had Fluttershy ever been popular? Then the lemon yellow mare went on, “Why, when I was a model was one of the worst in my life!”
Twilight blinked, having forgotten that once not too long ago Fluttershy had been mobbed by countless screaming ponies. “Oh. Right.” She looked away with a little flush, “I don’t see what the big deal is with popularity, anyway. Why do a bunch of ponies suddenly go gaga over somepony and lose their heads? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Oh it’s much worse than that,” Fluttershy said with a little frown as she landed next to a bird bath besides her cottage, letting the fledgings get a drink and splash in the shallow basin.
“It is?” Twilight Sparkle asked skeptically, then looked concerned as Fluttershy nodded slowly.
“Oh yes. I mean, once you’re popular it’s not like everypony really likes you. You saw Photo Finish!” Fluttershy said as she pranced and modeled, “Yez… Noh… Fluttershy, make ze magiks!” She sighed, her head dropping. Nopony realized that I hated it. Everypony expected me to be a model. They didn’t care what I wanted.”
“But… nothing’s changed! I mean, Rainbow Dash is still Rainbow Dash!” Twilight said as she gestured back towards Ponyville. “Why does it matter?”
“Well… you’ve never been popular like she has,” Fluttershy observed, missing the spreading flush in Twilight’s cheeks. She’d saved Equestria… twice! “When you’re popular you suddenly matter to ponies like you never did before. When I was modeling there were ponies who were absolutely devastated when they found out I wasn’t happy and gleeful just when I gave them attention.”
“But that’s so… so…” Twlight caught herself before she said, ‘…stupid.’
“Well… yes… it is…” Fluttershy said with a little blush. “But it’s not the first time Rainbow Dash has had problems with her popularity.”
“It isn’t?” Twilight suddenly frowned.
“Oh no,” Flutterhshy said as she shook her head slowly. “When she was little she was once very popular. You remember when she did her first Sonic Rainboom? Well, for a time there everypony wanted to be her friend. Pegasi from all over Cloudsdale talked about her. They said she was a natural flyer and super talented.”
“But she is a natural flyer and super talented,” Twilight said, her brows furrowing in confusion.
“Well yes, but back then she was just a filly too. Everypony talked about how she’d be the youngest Wonderbolt ever,” Fluttershy said softly, her head drooping a little. “Not many ponies worried about me then; they were mostly glad I hadn’t gotten hurt after I fell, so I saw it all. The cameras. The autographs. The crowds…” then she shook her head sadly, “It went to her just like this time. She started bragging… skipping out on lessons… napping when she was supposed to study… doing risky stuff. And everypony wanted her to. She was popular.”
Twilight looked at a robin struggling in the middle of the birdbath. The little thing had gotten in over its head and Fluttershy carefully fished out the struggling little bird. “So what happened?”
“Well… she couldn’t do the Sonic Rainboom again,” Fluttershy said softly. “I mean, she tried. She tried again and again… but it just didn’t work. Soon folks were ignoring her… some saying they were wrong and she wasn’t special. Worse, some ponies said she’d somehow faked the Rainboom; maybe she’d gotten help from a unicorn or something. So she tried to do better than a Sonic Rainboom… and tried a trick called the Mountain Breaker.”
“Mountain Breaker? How do you break a mountain?”
“Well, I guess in involves flying really fast next to one. Only something went wrong and… well… she crashed right into it.” Twilight covered her mouth in horror. Okay, a fully grown Rainbow Dash demolishing a barn was one thing, but a filly smashing herself into a mountain? Fluttershy helped the birdies to nestle in her mane. “She hit some other students as she came down. After that, some ponies teased her and called her ‘Rainbow Crash.’ She stopped trying all together and… um…” her voice dropped to a sheepish murmur…
Twilight blinked, turning her head to hear, “Excuse me. What was that?”
“…flunked… out of Summer Flight Camp.”
“But… didn’t she go to Junior Speedy camp or something?”
“Well… ah… Junior Speedsters is… um… sort of a school for pegasi who… well… um…” She blushed profusely. “I almost went to Junior Speedster’s too.” She said it like admitting a disease or something. “Fortunately I passed summer flight school… barely… and was allowed to go to the ground and live with all my animal friends,” she added, nuzzling one little red puffball.
“You mean Junior Speedster’s is for remedial flying?” Twilight gasped. “From the name I thought it was… well… something else.” An elite school for flyers?
“Oh no! Not just that… but also for um… well… flyers who… ah… have discipline… problems. I mean, there’s reasons why Gilda was Rainbow Dash’s best friend… and only friend,” Fluttershy said softly, looking at her hooves and kicking a rock. After all they hadn’t become friends till Twilight arrived. “I’m glad she did so much better there than at Summer Flight Camp. She really was the best flyer at Junior Speedsters from what I heard… but that doesn’t mean as much to some ponies.”
“I see. I… hadn’t realized that. I mean, I just always assumed…” Twilight frowned, and then shook her head. “But then why were those ponies in Ponyville being such jerks to her?”
Fluttershy suddenly flushed, “Oh, I don’t know about that. I… I don’t think about why ponies are mean to each other.” She gave one of the robin chicks a little nuzzle.
* * *
Twlight Sparkle trotted along the apple orchards alongside Applejack, who listened to her repeat what she’d heard from Fluttershy. The orange pony frowned more and more. “Well, shucks. Didn’t think about that. Just thought she was being… well…”
“An arrogant idiot?”
“Nah I was goin more for a wool brained idiot so full of herself her head’s swelled like an overripe November pumpkin, but that works too.” Applejack said as she trotted to another tree and kicked down another batch of ripe apples. They tumbled expertly into the baskets.
Twilight frowned, looking back towards Fluttershy’s cottage. “Do you think we were wrong though? About my plan?”
“Yer havin doubts?” Applejack blinked and then storted, “Oh don’t worry about that none. Rainbow Dash is always crowin how awesome she is. I’m sure she’ll get back to it soon as she does something new and amazing.”
“But… the way those three treated her… and the way she responded. I thought she’d just get angry but she almost seemed… well… hurt.”
“Hurt?” Applejack laughed, “You sure you don’t have your pegasi mixed up? Fluttershy gets hurt. Rainbow Dash flies through barns.”
“I know that. It’s just…” Twilight looked up at the sky and Rainbow Dash’s cloud house.
“You ask me, things couldn’t be better,” Applejack said as she gestured to the sky. “Look at this day! I don’t think Rainbow’s keep the sky this clean since all this hero worship started. If she just hadn’t let it go to her head…”
Twilight sighed. She knew why it had; and it hadn’t been like Rainbow Dash hadn’t been deserving of praise. Saving ponies was important! But other things were important too. “Why is Rainbow Dash on the weather team?” Twilight asked, though she wasn’t sure if that was directed at Applejack, herself, or perhaps a blue pegasus that might be napping in the trees. She looked around as if hoping Rainbow Dash herself would pop out and answer.
“Well… shucks, ain’t all pegasi?” Applejack said with a little worried smile. Then it disappeared and she sighed, rubbing the back of her head. “Well… no. Guess not. Thing is… the way I heard it… Rainbow Dash came here because she was… well… screwing up things in Cloudsdale. Causing accidents. Making mistakes.”
“Well… she can be a little reckless, but she’s a superb flier,” Twilight said as she looked towards the sky, “She can clear the skies over Ponyville in ten seconds flat!”
“Oh sure. But thing is... as I understand it… most pegasi who end up managing weather... well… can’t,” Applejack said softly. “The best fliers end up with the Wonderbolts, of course. Any pony who’s been around Rainbow Dash for five minutes knows that. But it’s not like they’re the only racing teams in Equestria. But Rainbow Dash is the only pony like Rainbow Dash out here. All the good weather teams are over Canterlot.”
“And I don’t see her flying with the other pegasi in Ponyville outside work…” Twilight said softly. “Heck, she works with us to get her tricks and stunts right.” Twilight wondered why that was… Earth ponies, unicorns, and Fluttershy couldn’t be the best pegasi to get feedback from. Or was it that they’d never give her bad feedback since they were her friends?
“Right. Like… Weather is what she does and she does a dandy job of it… but she just wants to be more… somethin,” Applejack said as she kicked another tree, but only half of them fell off with her applebuck. She glared at her hind legs. “Pick it up, Mcgee!” Another kick and the rest of the apples tumbled into the baskets.
“Well I’m sure that’s only till she gets into the Wonderbolts,” Twilight said, smiling worriedly as she tried to get a matching expression out of her orange friend. But Applejack looked at her long and hard before giving a little shrug, walking to another full apple tree, and kicking it with a resounding thump.
* * *
Twilight trotted through Ponyville with her eyes to the skies. So far she hadn’t seen one rainbow colored hair of her friend. The other ponies of Ponyville went about their business in the marketplace on her way to Rarity’s.
She passed by Scootaloo sitting all by herself, hugging a rainbow striped wig to her chest. The little filly looked so miserable that Twilight slowed, then walked to the bench she sat on. “Hey Scootaloo. What’s wrong?”
The orange filly gave Twilight a sharp glare, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?!” She sat up and waved her hooves in the air. “What’s wrong is that you and your friends make the greatest pony in all of Equestria into a laughingstock, that’s what!” She slumped again, sniffing. “Nopony wants to come to any more meetings of the Rainbow Dash is Totally Awesome Fanclub anymore.”
Twilight Sparkle blinked and then started to smile. “Oh, that’s all…” Then she caught the hurt look in Scootaloo’s eyes. Hadn’t her friends said the same thing about her late letter laments? She focused herself more on Scootloo’s problem. “I’m sorry…”
“Ugh… what I can’t understand is why I got sucked in! I mean, I’m like the ultimate Rainbow Dash fan. I was a fan before there was a fan club! It was like some higher power from beyond reached down and was controlling my actions!” The filly eyes went swirly as she continued in a drone, “Mare Do Well is awesome. Rainbow Dash sucks… durr… durr…” She shook her head hard, her eyes returning to normal.
Twilight Sparkle smiled skeptically, “I think there might be a better reason.”
“Can you explain it better?” Scootaloo said with a frown.
Twilight Sparkle sat next to her, “I’m more curious as to why you’re such a fan of Rainbow Dash at all. I mean she’s a good person but there’s lots of good people out there who don’t have fan clubs.”
“Well duh. That’s because good people are boring,” Scootaloo countered with a roll of her eyes. “I don’t like Rainbow Dash because she’s good. I like her because she’s amazing. Think about it. It took four of you to equal one Rainbow Dash. Because she can do things other ponies can’t.” She looked at the rainbow striped wig. “Do things that… that I can’t…”
Twilight Sparkle sighed softly and brushed Scootaloo’s mane with her hoof. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure in a few days folks will be saying how awesome she is and your club will meet again.” But even though she gave Scootaloo her most encouraging smile, the little filly just gave her a long sad look and slipped off the bench, getting on her scooter and buzzing away.
The purple unicorn sighed and turned to continue to Rarity’s when she spotted a knot of ponies around Golden Harvest’s carrot stall. “These are some of the best carrots I’ve ever grown!” Golden Harvest called out to the crowd. “They’re the greatest carrots in all of Equestria! In all the world!”
“Oh stop being such a Rainbow Dash,” countered a buck as he trotted by, getting a laugh from the rest of the ponies in hearing distance. Even the orange maned mare flushed as she smiled in embarrassment.
Still… Twilight blinked into his path. “Why are you calling her a ‘Rainbow Dash’? She was just saying her carrots were good! And they probably are!” Twilight said defensively as she glared up at the stammering buck as Ponyville looked on.
“But… but you and your friends said Rainbow Dash was boasting! And that’s what Golden was doing…” he suddenly frowned as he stared at Twilight. “What, are you the perfect judge of what is and isn’t boasting?”
Twilight started to back away. “Well… no… I never said that!”
He arched a brow. “So how is me calling her out for boasting any different than for you calling out Rainbow Dash? Huh?” Twilight didn’t have an answer to this as she stammered in shock. The ponies, unimpressed, slowly dispersed. Golden Harvest looked a little relieved, but Twilight noticed she now called, “Nice carrots! Very nice! Only slightly above average in quality carrots…”
“But… Rainbow Dash was signing autographs and stuff…” Twilight murmured weakly.
“She was also saving lives,” a deep voice said behind her, and Twilight turned to see the construction stallion from the accident. He looked down at her evenly, “Are you saying her saving my life isn’t worth a few autographs?”
“But heroes aren’t supposed to brag and stuff!”
“Says who?” the stallion countered evenly.
Twilight opened her mouth and then closed it again. “Well… everypony! I mean heroes are supposed to be humble… and accept praise with grace… and stuff…” She finished lamely.
The construction stallion snorted softly, “What rock have you been living under? Were the ponies of Ponyville complaining? Heck, they cheered for more and she delivered.” He said as he looked down at Twilight coolly. “The only rule for a hero is that they’re not doing things to be a hero. A pony that says how great they are for doing good things might be annoying, but the point is they did the good things.” He pointed his hoof at her and asked sharply, “Or are you saying that Rainbow Dash staged that freaky string of accidents just to have everypony singing her praises?”
Twilight recoiled, “What? No!” Suddenly she really wanted to find her friend. “No… we just wanted her… to… well… take it down a little,” Twilight said with a flush. “Like... someponies…” Like me with Trixie, Twilight thought silently to herself.
The construction pony just shrugged, “Sure. A pony that does that whole ‘aw shucks’ routine is great. But in case you missed it, Rainbow Dash didn’t fly out to save ponies and get fame. She saved ponies on her own and everypony thanked her for it. Sure, maybe we got carried away. Maybe she got carried away too. That was our bad.” He turned and continued on his way with a parting, “If you see Rainbow Dash, let her know there’s one buck and his family that still wants her autograph.”
Twilight Sparkle just sat down hard in the dirt. She’d been so… so… certain! Heroes were supposed to be humble, take their applause with a modest wave, and then leave. That was how Twilight had been when she’d beaten the Ursa Minor last year when Trixie’s bragging had gotten how of control. Heck, she’d been embarrassed by the praise.
But then… hadn’t Rainbow Dash been the same way at the start?
What if there’d been another crisis right after the Ursa and everypony had cheered Twilight on? And another? And another? Would she have been so humble when ponies were clamoring for Twilight Sparkle’s autograph? Would it go to her head if Twilight Sparkle fan clubs popped up and compared her to Starswirl the Bearded?
She didn’t know. Not for sure. And that doubt worried her more than anything. Chewing on her lip, Twilight decided not to waste any more time and hurried on to Rarity’s. Suddenly she had the feeling something was terribly wrong.
* * *
“Well darling, I don’t know why you’re second guessing yourself now. The bolts’ been stitched, as they say,” Rarity said as she calmly folded up their costumes and slipped them into boxes. “Such a pity really. The next round of costumes were going to look even more astonishing! All of Equestria would be talking about superpony fashion for months!” The white mare lowered a glowing lid. “Oh well.”
“So you think we did the right thing then?” Twilight asked with a hopeful smile. “I mean… I know that it’s important to be humble and graceful and the like…”
“Well that’s what you said,” Rarity commented lightly.
Twilight swallowed, “You mean… you don’t agree?”
Rarity sighed as she floated the box over her head as she trotted to a shelf. “Twilight darling, not to be rude, but do I seem like the most bashful pony in Ponyville?” she asked as she slipped the box into an empty space on her storage shelf.
Twilight frowned, and the purple unicorn slowly shook her head. “Well, I didn’t want to say anything.”
“Ugh, Twilight. Don’t be obtuse,” Rarity said with a roll of her eyes as she rounded on Twilight. “I’m a designer. I can’t be modest. I have to dazzle. I have to inspire! I have to have everypony think my creations are the very best in all of Equestria.”
“But your dresses are amazing!” Twilight blurted, getting a chuckle from the marshmellow pony.
“Mmmm… thank you. But so are Stitches’ creations. And Blue Ribbon’s dresses are to die for in Manehattan. Why I think she almost owns the color! And I could go on, but the point is that if I wasn’t a little full of myself, do you think I could compete against ponies that are?”
“Well I competed against Trixie without all the… you know… bragging,” Twilight pointed out with an odd little annoyance.
“And we’re all grateful for that. How about ten Trixies? Or twenty? Or thirty all across Equestria? If you could do that without once saying how you’re better than the others then I’d be quite impressed.” Rarity gave a sigh, “Look, the sad reality is that for some ponies, bragging and boasting isn’t just normal, but essential. If you’re not noticed, it doesn’t matter how amazing what you do is.”
Twilight’s eyes twitched back and forth as she thought about that. Had she been wrong? Trixie’s boasting had been mostly lies, something Twilight would never do. But what about Rainbow Dash. What about Rarity?! Rarity constantly went on about how great her designs were…
“Rarity… can I ask you something?” Twilight Sparkled asked as she trotted after her. “Well, I mean I just asked if I asked but can I ask you two things?” Then she grunted, “I mean, four?”
Rarity sighed, rolling her eyes a little as she put her glasses on the end of her nose before smiling at her friend, “Twilight, if you need to ask me something, ask.”
“Well… what would you do if… well… if we did to you what we did to Rainbow Dash to stop you from boasting and bragging all the time?” Rarity frowned in confusion, “I mean… became designers to make designs better and more magical than yours so that you’d stop saying how awesome you are?”
Slowly Rarity’s face became solemn and Twilight added, “Just hypothetically!”
But Rarity didn’t smile as she said quietly, “Well, Twilight… you’d probably destroy me.”
“Destroy?” Twilight sat hard, feeling a coldness grip her.
“I need my reputation to sell clothes. But it’s more than that,” Rarity said softly, and her smile faded; her luminous blue eyes becoming a little sad. “When you’re a creator, deep down inside, you have a little voice telling you your creations are no good. That you’re wasting your time… and you’d be better off as a fry cook in Bucklyn.” She gave a little shutter before forcing a smile, “It’s not a bad thing to have, really. If you ignore it, you might create monstrosities of art, but if you don’t fight it then that doubt can eat you alive. You’ll stop creating. You stop everything. And you’ll prove it right.”
“Rarity…” Twilight began, but then went silent. She knew what she meant; hadn’t that little nagging voice of doubt roared loud and clear when she thought she’d fail the Princess? Then she frowned, “Do you think it’s the same for Rainbow Dash?”
Rarity looked at Twilight with a sad smile, “For her… I think it’s far worse.”
“But if you think that then why did you help me?”
“Because you’re my friend, Twilight. And you thought she was taking this too far. And I trust your judgment,” Rarity said simply. “But if you really want to know… what we did to Rainbow Dash was… well… mean.” The white unicorn hung her head a little ashamed as she regarded her friend.
Twilight swallowed hard. “But… I thought we were helping her!”
Rarity sighed, “Twilight, do you remember how everypony acted with that disastrous fashion show? Do you recall how I said I’d have to go away into exile? I meant it. I truly would have left Ponyville for Trottingham or Manehattan… someplace where I could try to rebuild my reputation. Because when you’re no longer popular… well…” She closed her eyes, “When every pony believes you didn’t deserve to be popular… they turn on you.”
“Turn on you?” Twilight asked fearfully, remembering how Rainbow Dash was treated the very next day by ponies who’d cheered her on earlier.
Rarity nodded soberly as she started to sketch on a pad. “Indeed. If they feel their adoration was misplaced then they’ll be embarrassed. They’ll feel like they were taken advantaged of; even if they’re the ones who started it.” Her tone turned light hearted, “It’s silly I suppose. Mean. But I know you never would have proposed what we did if you hadn’t thought it best for Rainbow Dash.”
* * *
Back in the library, Twilight paced back and forth. “Ohhh… what was I thinking? I mean, I heard her bragging and boasting and thought it was wrong but now don’t know if we did the right thing! Was I wrong to try and help my friends be better?” she pondered with a frown, chewing on a hoof. “And now everypony is going to think that Rainbow Dash is a boaster and bragger who deserves to be hated!”
Just like Trixie.
“I can’t let everypony think that! I got to do something so everypony thinks she’s awesome again!” But what? She rubbed her chin as she looked around. Looked at all the books… in a tree…
* * *
Five minutes later smoke curled out the windows of the Ponyville library! Twilight burst out on the balcony screaming “Fire! Fire! I was messing around with magic, and now there’s a fire!” She glanced up, seeing a faint blue pegasus with rainbow mane pushing clouds around the sky. Perfect! She grinned, clapping her hooves. Now everpony would see what a hero Rainbow Dash could be! Ponies were gathering around the tree! The audience was set… she just needed Rainbow Dash to save the day!
Anytime now, Rainbow…
But Rainbow Dash wasn’t coming to her rescue. No pony was. They just looked up at her in confusion, and Twilight frowned. “Anypony? Fire here! Mortal peril? Help?” They kept watching her skeptically. “What is with everypony?”
“Um… why don’t you just use your magic?” One called back. Twilight frowned, her brow twitching.
“Probably trying to be flashy. More Mare Do Well stuff…” another offered.
“Come on. I got better things to do than to watch another Rainbow Dash,” and with that they started to trot away. “Fool me once…” another said as they went about their business.
Twilight sat hard, looking at the departing ponies, feeling stunned. “Isn’t… isn’t anypony going to help me? I mean… fire… in a tree?”
Then there was a hiss behind her and Pinkie Pie trotted on to the balcony with a smoking metal bucket. “You really should be more careful where you put your fires, Twilight. I mean smores are super terrific but really…” she pouted at the bucket, “Such a waste of lemonade.”
“Thanks Pinkie Pie…” she groaned with a sigh, no sign of Dash anywhere to be seen, picking up the smoldering bucket with her magic. Pinkie Pie trotted after her, the normally bouncy pony looking concerned.
“Still feeling bad about Rainbow Dash?” Pinkie Pie asked as she opened the windows to help get the lingering smoke out of the library.
“Yeah. How’d you know?” Twilight asked.
“Itchy tail,” Pinkie Pie said simply. Twilight gasped and dove beneath a table. Pinkie Pie blinked and repeated with emphasis “ITCHy tail, not twitchy tail.”
“Oh… “ Twilight frowned as she crawled out, her ears drooping. “I didn’t think this would be a big deal. I mean… I thought we were doing the right thing.” She looked at Pinkie Pie and asked, “What did you think when I told you my idea?”
Pinkie Pie swallowed, “Oh… well… um… It sounded like a really good prank. You know… dress up as a hero and really stun Dashie. Everyone gets a good laugh.”
“But…?” Twilight Sparkle prompted, and watched the nervous smile disappear as her pink friend sighed.
“The problem was that it wasn’t a prank, Twilight. A prank you do… everypony laughs… but then they move on. And you make sure everypony laughs with them. Even if you have to make yourself look dumb too just to show it wasn’t trying to tear them down,” Pikie Pie said as she looked at her hooves before glancing up at the upset Twilight. “But we did it to Rainbow Dash again… and again… and again… “
“Well… she wasn’t getting it! She needed to stop bragging. That’s what we were trying to teach her?”
“That’s what you wanted to teach her, Twilight?” Pinkie Pie asked softly as she looked at her friend in concern, “Or were we teaching her that she was weak, slow, non-magical, not special… oh yeah… and stupid for being tricked?”
“I… I didn’t want to teach her that. That wasn’t what I had intended at all!” Twilight stammered. “Why didn’t you say anything, Pinkie?”
Pinkie Pie sniffed and shivered as she sat quickly. “Because… as soon as you told us your idea my Pinkie sense… it told me if I said it was bad you’d get so mad… you’d stop being my friend. But if we did it, that Rainbow Dash would stop being our friend! And… and I didn’t know which Pinkie sense to follow!” She gave a great sniff as her mane uncurled. “But when Dashie was chasing us I felt that if I let her catch me she might still be my friend.” Then her pale blue eyes looked at Twilight, “Even if she wasn’t your friend anymore.”
“Pinkie…” Twilight said, kneeling besides her and hugging her friend.
Pinkie Pie rubbed her eyes, “I’m so scared, Twilight. It was fun when the twitchies were funny and silly but they’re not right now and I don’t know what to do. I want to help both my friends. I want you happy and I want Dashie happy but I’m afraid that you can’t change the twitchies!”
Certainly, Twilight’s attempts hadn’t been successful last time she fought the Pinkie Sense. The purple unicorn hugged her till she stopped shaking. “I guess. I guess I should go talk to her.” Twilight gave a half smile that went with her half serious question. “What does your Pinkie sense say about that?” Pinkie Pie’s eyes widened in shock and she gave a sudden sharp sneeze. “What? What is it? What do you sense?” Twilight asked.
Pinkie Pie rubbed her nose, “That lemonade smoke makes my nose all sniffly...”
* * *
Twilight Sparkle winked on to Rainbow Dash’s stoop, her cloudwalking spell making her hooves rest easily on the fluffy clouds. Twilight had never been to Rainbow Dash’s house before… but she had been to Cloudsdale. The cloud house looked just like a little piece of the pegasus city in the clouds. Come to think of it… Twilight didn’t know any other Pegasi that lived in the clouds over Cloudsdale. Just Dash. And she’d flown to Cloudsdale when Discord had messed with her mind… ‘Cloudsdale, where everything is awesome!’
Twilight knocked firmly on the door. She looked at the skies, but there wasn’t any sign of her blue friend. The comments by her friends slewed around in her head: Rainbow Dash’s first Sonic Rainboom, how she wasn’t a racer but worked weather in Ponyville, how someponies needed fame to counteract the doubt gnawing within, and lastly how her lesson might have backfired on her. ‘I want you happy and I want Dashie happy…’
Was Rainbow Dash out? Twilight finally pointed her horn and cast an opening spell on the portal. It creaked open quietly to reveal… boxes? Dozens of boxes all around her living room. Twilight looked at the walls of cloud and the stained glass windows of rainbow. She’d never imagined Rainbow Dash lived some place so… beautiful. “Rainbow? Rainbow Dash?” She called out as she trotted a little deeper into her cloud house.
Silence answered her.
She looked at the closest crate and glanced over the contents. Trophies and ribbons. They ranged from tiny third place cups all the way to the large Young Flier’s Competition trophy. It looked like Rainbow Dash hadn’t thrown away a single ribbon she’d ever won. Twilight Sparkle smiled softly as she carefully pulled out a slightly frayed green one. ‘Summer Flight School Cloud Sprint Event- Honorable Mention. Rainbow Dash.’ She’d expected them all to be blue ribbons and first places or nothing, but there were few. Gently she laid the ribbon back on top of the rest.
In the box next to it were news clippings. “Rainbow Dash: Star of Summer Flight School!” proclaimed a headline. There was a grainy picture of a young Rainbow Dash grinning ear to ear as ponies crowded around her. “Rainbow Dash: Best Flyer of our Generation?” crowed another. “Rainbow Maned filly takes Cloudsdale by Storm!” roared another headline with a picture of Rainbow Dash before an adoring crowd. The papers speculated on when, not if, Rainbow Dash could join the Wonderbolts. It looked like someponies were seeing about lowering the age limit…
But beneath it. “Where’s the Boom?” and the filly was no longer grinning as she was imbedded upside down in a cloud in that picture. And “Rainbow Dash a Rainbow Dud?” and another paper. And worse of all, and smallest of all, was a column that started simply: “Rainbow Crash expelled from Summer Flight School for Risky Stunts.” The picture only showed Rainbow Dash walking away from the camera.
‘Rainbow Dash, once considered a premier flier, was expelled from Equestria’s Summer Flight School in Cloudsdale after attempting a risky stunt in a bid to recapture national fame and attention. Her stunt injured the young pegasus and several onlookers when she skipped off the mountain and into several of her peers who have taken to calling her ‘Rainbow Crash.’ Quote one classmate, “Oh yeah, all of us don’t feel safe with Rainbow Crash flying. Nopony knows what she’s going to blow through next.” Since her fame in the ‘Sonic Rainboom’ event several months ago, Rainbow Dash has been unable to repeat the event. Some speculate that it was merely a freak accident, while some have suggested the event was the result of some other phenomenon. It is believed that Rainbow Dash will instead earn her flying certificate through the Junior Speeders academy next summer.’
“Hey Ditzy! I’m glad you could make…” Rainbow Dash began from the doorway. Her rose eyes flatted immediately as they landed on Twilight. “Oh. It’s you. What are you doing here?”
Twilight looked at all the boxes and then at the news article in her hooves. She quickly put it back. “I… I wanted to apologize for Mare Do Well.”
Rainbow Dash looked at her coolly and then stood upright, leaning against the doorframe as she crossed her forehooves. “I’m listening.”
Twilight swallowed and licked her lips nervously. She’d honestly prefer giving a report to the princess in person to this. “I’m sorry that I embarrassed you in front of everypony and made you look stupid. I shouldn’t have done it.” She looked at Rainbow Dash and gulped as she noticed that the blue pegasus hadn’t moved a feather. “And… ah… I’ll never ever do it again.”
“Right,” Rainbow said flatly as she turned away, “You might want to be getting out of here. I don’t have long till Ditzy brings her wagon and there’s lots to pack still.”
“P… pack? You’re leaving?” Twilight gaped.
“Yeah. Leaving. I’ve put in a transfer to handle the weather over Appleloosa. It’s the only place that’s lower than Ponyville on the assignment roster,” she said as she flew over Twilight’s head and put the lid on the crate with the clippings. “What, did you think I lived like this; with boxes everywhere?”
“No… but… why?” Twilight stammered. Rainbow Dash clenched both her eyes shut and her jaw as if she’d pulled something. Slowly she looked at Twilight Sparkle in almost a look of pain.
Rainbow Dash scowled at her. “Why? You’re really asking me that? Why? Do you even have a clue what you did to me Twilight?!” Rainbow Dash snapped, baring her teeth at the purple mare.
“I… I embarrassed you… and… I…” Twilight stammered, faltering. She’d never had a friend mad at her before… not like this.
“You betrayed me, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash shouted in her face, her rose eyes tearing up as she glared at the quivering purple unicorn. “You stabbed me right between the wings! Did you even try and talk to me about it? Did you think to say ‘Hey Rainbow, you’re taking it too far’ or ‘Hey Rainbow, you might want to tone it down’? No. You and everypony else showed me up again and again!”
Twilight curled up, shaking, not knowing what to do or say to end this as Rainbow paced. “At first I admit, the praise was cool. Folks liked me... not just the squirt and her fan club, but everypony. Folks respected me! Ponies wanted my autograph and to shake my hoof. I mattered to them because I was doing good things. And then Mare Do Well showed up and proceeded to show everypony how special I wasn’t. How I wasn’t strong enough. Or fast enough. Or magic enough…” Rainbow whirled on her, “Not magic enough, even though I don’t have a horn! Do you have any idea how that feels?”
“Rainbow Dash…” Twilight whimpered, but Rainbow was in a full rage.
“And do you know what really hurts? I bet you weren’t going to tell me. You’d have made me run around like an idiot so that everypony would get a good laugh at the stupid, very jealous Rainbow Dash who can’t even catch Mare Do Well at her own presentation! How else could I catch Pinkie Pie with her Pinkie sense unless she let me?”
“That’s… that’s not true. We were… we were going to tell you…” Eventually; that part of the plan had been a little fuzzy.
“Right. Well that would have made it all better. Were you going to tell me before I lost every last shred of respect from everypony or afterwards?”
Now Twilight rallied as she pointed her hoof at Rainbow Dash, “Now you were doing a fine job of that yourself! I wouldn’t have done it but you were bragging like…”
“Like what? Trixie?” Rainbow Dash countered, cutting her off. “In case you missed it, I didn’t fly into a well, save a baby, or help a whole bunch of old ponies to make ponies cheer me, or ask them to start a fanclub, or any of that!”
Twilight felt tears herself as she shouted desperately, “I’m trying to apologize, Rainbow!”
“You don’t even know what you’re apologizing for!” Rainbow Dash roared as she wept, “Do you? You don’t even know what you did to me!”
“I… I…” Twilight cried, unable to look away, and incapable on answering her.
“You took my fame from me! Don’t you get it, Twilight? That is what you took! And it’s all that I have!” she roared as she shook, staring at Twilight, “I don’t have a dragon personal assistant or a relationship with the ruler of Equestria! I don’t have a brother or a sister; a farm or a dress shop. I don’t have a horde of critters that love me or a pair of ponies that treat me like a daughter! I don’t have a place on the Wonderbolts! I won the Young Flier’s competition, saving Rarity and three Wonderbolts while doing another Sonic Rainboom, and I’m still stuck in weather management!” Her throat caught and she let out a whimper, “I don’t… I don’t have a fan club run by a… a silly fan filly…”
And with that she finally collapsed sobbing. Slowly Tank walked out of a box next to her, the tortoise slowly extending his head in concern. Rainbow looked at him as she sniffed and scrubbed her muzzle before pulling him into her arms. “I didn’t even have a pet till I realized that my friends were leaving me our because of it. I didn’t even have Tank…” She said as she sobbed softly, rubbing her wet cheek against the reptile’s worried face.
Twilight just sat there with her. “That’s… that not true Rainbow. That’s not all that you have. You’re a great flyer…” But her praise made the filly slump even more.
“No Twilight. I’m not. Not really. Great fliers end up flying races. They graduate from Summer Flight School. They can actually do tricks that ponies want to see. I can fly fast. Sometimes I can even do some great things. But deep down… really deep down… I know I’m no good. And I hate it.” She said bitterly as she stared at Tank. “I saved Rarity and the Wonderbolts… and I’m still pushing around clouds in Ponyville…”
‘A little pony inside them telling them they’re no good.’ Twilight bowed her head, her mane falling across her eyes. “You have friends…”
“Friends?” Rainbow Dash snapped, making Twilight flinch and Tank pulled his head into his shell. “You didn’t even talk to me first. No ‘Hey Dash, you’re letting this go to your head?’ or ‘Hey Dash, this might be more than you can handle?’ or maybe ‘Hey Dash, you’re being a jerk!’?” Rainbow Dash slumped as she sobbed softly, “Why didn’t you just talk to me first Twilight? I think I could have handled it if I’d messed up like that… but to suddenly have Mare Do Well showing me all the things I can’t do… and then all of you rubbing in how great she is compared to me? Why did you have to do that, Twilight? You couldn’t have just… have just… told me…?”
Twilight lunged forward to pull her in an embrace. “I’m sorry, Rainbow! I’m sorry I did it… I’m sorry I didn’t think how it’d hurt you. I thought you’re so tough you can handle anything,” Twilight said as she held her, now crying herself. “I… I didn’t realize… everything.” Twilight rubbed her own snotty nose as she brushed her mane back out of her eyes. “And… and if you don’t want to be my friend anymore then I understand why now, but you don’t have to leave Ponyville. All the others are still your friends. Mare Do Well was all my idea.”
“Twilight…” she muttered, “You don’t understand. All everypony’s going to think when they see me is ‘look, there’s Rainbow Dash the loser’.” She closed her eyes. “I came here from Cloudsdale because everypony I knew thought of me as ‘Rainbow Crash’. I couldn’t get away from it. I thought that after the Young Flyer’s Competition that things would get better… but I know how everypony thinks of me now. Fool. Loser. Idiot. Bragger.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Twilight said softly as she took her friend’s hoof. “But this is Ponyville. It’s only a matter of time before something comes along and pretty soon everypony will be all ‘Mare Do who?’ and they’ll be singing your praises again.” Twilight Sparkle sighed softly, glancing to the side, “You’ll see. Just give it time. Things will get better.”
“And what if it doesn’t, Twilight?” Rainbow asked in a whisper. “What if it’s like Cloudsdale again?”
Twilight sniffed and looked her in the eye. “There’s one difference though, Rainbow. This time you have friends. We’ll make sure that everypony knows what we did.” Twilight bit her lip a moment before she added, “What I did...”
Rainbow Dash sat there silently for the longest time. Tank gave a croak and nudged her hoof in worry. Ditzy Doo peeked in the window, took one look at the pair, and then backed out again. Finally Rainbow Dash asked softly, “And what if you do it again, Twilight?”
Twilight had known the question had been coming. Still, it stung, and it deserved to. “I’m still learning about being a friend, Rainbow. Sometimes friends think they’re right when they’re not and do stupid, hurtful things… but they’re still friends if they can forgive each other,” Twilight said softly in reply, “I know that I have no right to ask you for this.” She gave a hiccup in her throat, trying to keep herself steady. “Will you forgive me for... for hurting you, Dash?”
Rainbow took a slow, deep breath. “Maybe...” she said with the smallest of smiles, “If you’ll forgive me for going on about how great I am.”
Twilight sniffed and rubbed her nose again, returning the fragile expression. “I already have. Will you stay?”
Rainbow Dash didn’t say a word as she sat there, head tilting forward, her mane obscuring her eyes before she sniffed and rubbed her snotty nose with the back of her hoof. “I guess… I mean, nice as Appleloosa is… it isn’t exactly the right place for Equestria’s most awesome flyer, right?” Twilight Sparkle knew the question wasn’t about Appleloosa at all.
* * *
Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle leaned against the rail of the library as the sun set over Ponyville to their left, and Luna rose the moon on their right. After hours of scrubbing the six mares had cleaned away most of the soot and smoke from the library and had enjoyed a good laugh. Each of them had made their apologies in their own way, from Pinkie Pie bawling in tears of joy only Twilight understood to Applejacks muttered ‘Sorry bout making ya look like an idjit.’.’
“Eh, don’t worry about it Applejack. I was kinda doing a good enough job on my own. It just went to my head,” Rainbow had admitted, with all the grace and humility her friends had demanded of her before.
“So… think we should do it?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
Rainbow Dash sighed softly, looking skywards before replying, “Yeah. I guess so.”
“Spike?” Twilight Sparkle called softly. The dragon appeared, still wearing his reporter costume while the rest of their friends followed out on the balcony. He blinked at the pair, grinned sheepishly, and in a blur pulled the costume off. The pair smiled and Twilight said primly, “Take a letter please.” He nodded, the writing equipment in his claws immediately. “Dear Princess Celestia. Sometimes you might think a pony is doing something wrong or being bad. You might think you’re right in teaching her a lesson to make her change. But before you do you should really think about what you’re doing. You should put yourself in their horseshoes and make sure what you think is a good idea isn’t going to really hurt them. Because it can cost you dear. It can cost you a friendship.”
“And I learned that while it’s awesome to do great things and help ponies, you need to not get carried away. Even if you are absolutely amazing at it and completely blow every pony out of the water with your sheer awesome-“ Rainbow Dash paused as she caught the cool look from her friends and gave a sheepish grin. “That is… um… grace and humility? Yay?”
“Close enough,” Twilight said as Spike finished it up and they shared a laugh.
“Well, I’m glad that’s over,” Rainbow Dash said with a sigh. “I mean for a while there I actually wondered if the Princesses or something had decided to play super hero. Flying? Magic? Freaky powers of awesome? It was driving me nuts.”
“Well, if any more disasters or emergencies strike Ponyville it won’t be Mare Do Well that shows up. Just Rainbow Dash and her friends,” Applejack chuckled.
Rarity sighed, “But are you sure costumes are out of the question? I had a divine inspiration for color coordinated sailor outfits and a lovely tiara and scepter for Twilight!”
“I think that’s already been done,” Fluttershy murmured softly, tapping her hooves together as the marshmallow pony pouted.
“Hey Spike, I was wondering. All those notes you were taking? What did you do with em?” Rainbow Dash asked with a small flush, “Cause there’s some personal things that I’d definitely rather not have get out.
“Oh! Scootaloo stopped by for em. She said she was going to use them to write an ‘unauthorized biography of Rainbow Dash.’ Personally I’m not seeing it but…” Spike gave a negligent shrug.
“Wha… buh… huh?! Squirt! Squirt!” she yelled as she flew off in search of the orange filly. Her friends shared a laugh.
The orange mare walked to the rail, “Huh… wonder what’s eatin Rainbow Dash?”
Twilight just smiled and shook her head.
Author notes: Yeah, episode 8 didn’t work for me and this story was knocking around in my head for a while. I know in another fic I said Rainbow had a big family, but according to Faust RD is an only child and I think an orphan too. So... yeah.
Anyway if folks want to support the author my paypal account is [email protected]. Every bit is appreciated.