Dash yawned and slowly woke up after a long nap. Her bed was so much more comfortable then what she had found herself sleeping on the past few days, she was glad Scratch had walked her home for once. Usually, it went the other way with Dash leaving Scratch's place exhausted. Hopefully the musician didn't have any problems heading back across town alone. Then again, Scratch was just going home after a long day's work, not trying to be awake day and night like Dash found herself doing.
Rainbow knew she still had to get up and face the music, however comfortable her bed was. Fears swarmed through her head. What if her friends had already blabbed about it? What if they weren't even her friends anymore? She wanted to just stay here and wait for the storm to pass, but she knew that wasn't an option. Reluctantly she picked herself up and stretched awake.
"What the hay?" she asked, looking around her. Her room was filled with balloons! Well, perhaps not filled, but well over a dozen floated about, of every color in the rainbow and a few besides. Each one had a string, and at the bottom of the string was some sort of small gift. They were almost exclusively sweets, from cupcakes to tarts to two balloons together holding up a smoothie. Rainbow looked down. The floor of her room (cloud, naturally) was pockmarked with holes, one for each balloon. She got off her bed and stuck her head through the nearest hole.
"Heya Dash! Does this mean you're up? Up up up?" a certain cheery pink pony asked, bouncing in place on the ground below.
"Pinkie! You put holes in my house!"
"Well duh." Pinkie Pie replied, stopping her bouncing. "How else could I get your gifts up to you? Do you like them?"
Dash sighed and pushed herself through the hole, flying down to the pink pony.
"Pinkie Pie, you don't need to try to send me apology gifts."
"Apology?" Pinkie Pie asked, blinking rapidly. "Those weren't apology gifts! They were gift gifts!"
"Huh?" As usual, Rainbow Dash found herself trying to figure out what was going through Pinkie Pie's head. It was a futile task. "Then why'd you-"
"For pulling a fast one!" Pinkie Pie interrupted. Dash just stared at her, making Pinkie giggle.
"I know everypony, but I didn't know my own friend had a fillyfriend! Or, that that fillyfriend was Vinyl Scratch!" Pinkie Pie's expression dropped for just a moment. "I guess I shoulda been a better friend."
Rainbow smiled slightly. "Nah, you're a great friend Pinkie. Heh, I shoulda figured it wouldn't bother you. I was the lousy friend. Forgive me?" she leaned over and ruffled Pinkie's mane.
"Hmmmm." Pinkie Pie looked deep in thought, scratching her chin. She seriously mulled over Dash's question, by the looks of things. "Okay!" she replied with happy eyes. Before Dash could say anything, Pinkie Pie had her squeezed in an overly enthusiastic hug.
"Thanks...Pinkie...Pie." Rainbow Dash wheezed. Luckily Pinkie let go of her just seconds before she blacked out.
"We should have a party!" Pinkie said, bouncing around again. Dash rubbed her neck, which she was pretty sure was going to bruise.
"Um..." it was next to impossible to talk Pinkie Pie out of a party. Dash had her suspicions as to the real reason behind it, but kept that to herself for now. No sense spoiling this thankfully easy conversation.
"Why don't we wait until I talk to all our friends, okay?" she tried. Pinkie Pie took a moment, then nodded, her head bobbing rapidly.
"Okie Dokie Lokie! After all, it wouldn't be a party unless our friends are coming!"
"Yeah" Rainbow said without an iota of Pinkie's enthusiasm. "And, uh, thanks for the gifts." she looked up and sighed. She'd need to find just the right kind of cloud to patch that up.
"No problem! See ya Dash!" Pinkie was already bouncing off. Rainbow shook her head with a smile.
Rainbow Dash rang Rarity's doorbell. There was no prank this time, that was for sure. As she waited for Rarity to answer, Dash wondered how well she could even hope for things to go - only two days ago she had upset Rarity badly, and while the fashionable mare seemed to have gotten over it, there was no telling what her mood towards Dash would be now. Rainbow had to admit to herself, even after how things had gone with Twilight and Pinkie, she wasn't exactly excited to talk to everypony else. There was no telling what would happen; it had just never come up before now.
"This is a shop you know, you can- Rainbow Dash!" Rarity brightened when she saw the cyan speedster outside her door.
"Yeah, sorry, I forgot you'd be open by now." Rainbow replied, looking off sideways.
"Never mind that, come in, come in." Rarity said, turning around. Rainbow followed her into the shop.
"Now, I know why you're here..." Rarity told her, not turning to face her.
"And you needn't worry..." she continued, "...I have a cleaning crew on the way."
"What?" Rainbow blinked. Rarity turned a little and pointed to her half-scrubbed floors before walking deeper into the shop.
"I won't need your help with that any more, though I must say you put in a fine effort."
"Oh, that's - hey wait!" Rainbow trotted up to see Rarity face to face. "That's not why I'm here. Don't you remember last night?"
"Well what is there to talk about dear?" Rarity asked, turning away slightly and continuing to trot through her shop. She looked over a rack of dresses. "To be honest it's not any big surprise, really, once one thinks on it. I mean, given your coltish mannerisms and such."
"Not all fillyfoolers are like that." Rainbow Dash said defensively. "We're no different from anypony else."
"Of course not dear" Rarity replied, now idly regarding some cloth she had laid out.
"You're not listening." Rainbow accused, glowering at her friend's back. "Have you even met a fillyfooler before?"
"Well, I mean, there's a few..." Rarity said, her voice faltering. Rainbow Dash walked up beside her.
"Oh Dash, how could you do this to me!" Rarity suddenly bawled, throwing her arms around Dash.
"What are you talking about?"
"I mean I worked so hard to find Prince Charming! I was sure I would be the talk of the town, the 'it' couple. Now I find not only has one of my best friends found somepony else first, but how can I compete with such a pair?"
"I remember what that talkative mare said - Scratch, as in Vinyl Scratch? As in the foremost DJ from Manehattan?" Rarity got off of Dash and began to collect herself (by Rarity standards). "I may prefer a more refined company, but I know the power of the chic - and she was the essence of chic in Manehattan. Combine that with Ponyville's own champion speedster - why, if you make it into the Wonderbolts, you'd be the kind of celebrity couple that every magazine this side of the Everfree forest would want to cover!"
"Look, Scratch doesn't really talk about her life in Manehattan." Dash said, her mind boggled at Rarity's priorities. "That's why she moved here, to Ponyville."
"Oh?" Rarity's interest was piqued.
"I mean, most of her music goes out under an alias these days. Ever heard of DJ Pon-3?" Rainbow Dash asked, lowering her voice even though they were the only ones in Rarity's shop. Rarity's eyes widened.
"Well...but what about you dear? Surely a great member of the Wonderbolts shan't have her love life go unnoticed?"
"You'd be surprised." Rainbow muttered, deciding not to share with Rarity some of the rumors she had heard flying around the club. According to who you asked, anywhere from half to the entire team were fillyfoolers and coltcuddlers.
"Anyway..." she continued before Rarity asked questions, "I mean, I'm kinda in it for the fame, sure, but there's a reason nopony hears about the Wonderbolts except at events. How are reporters supposed to keep up with the fastest fliers in the world? Besides, who already has her face on magazines, huh?" she asked. Sure, it had only been one or two after Hoity Toity had shown up, but her remark seemed to work as Rarity thought this over. Finally she gave a nod.
"Oh, and there I go being overly dramatic again. I am deeply sorry Dash, I suppose I let my emotions get the better of me for a little there. Could you forgive me?"
"Heh, I think so." Rainbow replied with a grin. "So...you're not upset that I'm a fillyfooler?"
"I can't say I fully understand it, Dash." Rarity admitted. She saw Dash's gaze drop and so reached out, pushing Dash's chin up with her hoof. "But you're still my friend. So I suppose I'll simply have to learn."
"You mean it?" Rainbow asked.
"If you say you're happy, I'll believe it." Rarity said with a nod. She wasn't prepared for the quick hug Rainbow gave her.
"Yes, well...you're quite welcome." the dressmaker said, giving an awkward pat on the back to Rainbow, who luckily for her let go soon enough.
"I suppose you've still got to talk to the others then." Rarity guessed.
"Yeah, some..." Rainbow admitted. "I shouldn't put if off either. See ya around, Rarity. Thanks."
"Good luck!" Rarity called as Dash left her shop. She sighed, shook her head, and got back to her fabrics.
Applejack was spending her day heaving hay bales through the barn and into a nice tidy stack. Not everything about the farm was 'easy work' by her standards, like planting season or applebucking, and even she struggled to lift each hay bale individually and sort them. However, her head wasn't where it needed to be to work her best, so she had decided it best to leave the fields to Big Mac while she did what were typically his chores. They were a bit more menial, not that her brother tended to mind, and Applejack could perform them without so much concentration. She was just stacking up another bale when she heard the barn door creak open behind her.
"Apple Bloom, are you- oh." Applejack turned and saw Rainbow step into the barn. Dash paused halfway in.
"H-hi." she grinned. Applejack didn't say anything and turned back away.
"Ah don' have nothin' to say to you." the farm pony replied.
"Oh, is that how it's going to be?" Rainbow asked, trying to sound angry but coming across as hurt. "I get it. Nice knowing you."
Applejack sighed. "Rainbow - wait." she turned around to see the pony backing out the door. Tentatively, Rainbow paused, finally stepping back inside. She looked around nervously, lightly kicking the door closed behind her.
"So...what?" she asked. "You hate me or what?"
"Ah don' hate you, Dash." Applejack said with a slow shake of her head. "This past year, heck, Ah thought ya were my closes' friend."
"Yup. So you'll pardon this pony for bein' a mite upset t' find her friend's been keepin' secrets from her."
"I..." Rainbow Dash looked away. She glanced back up as she heard Applejack approach.
"Just answer me this." Applejack told her as she walked closer. "Were you really planning on telling us or not?"
"Yes! Eventually....maybe..." Rainbow Dash said, one hoof fidgeting around on the ground. Applejack got beside her and sat down, prompting her to do the same.
"I was maybe, just a little scared what you'd think. Kinda" Rainbow Dash admitted.
"Me in partic'lar or juss all of us?"
"And Ah can't rightly say Ah blame you." Applejack sighed, eyes closed as she spoke. "We country pony's don' have the best reputation, now do we?"
"..." Dash couldn't find anything to say, the guilt clear on her face.
"Y'know ol' Granny Smith was big on Pony Rights in the day? The other fillies were goin' about wi' ribbons in their manes, but she had to work the fields right alongside her brothers and sisters, just like me and Big Mac. So she didn' take lightly t' it when she was told t' juss settle down with a nice stallion an' let him have th' farm." Applejack opened her eyes and turned to Rainbow Dash. "She taught me not t' judge anypony fer how they live their life. Sure, she meant whether they were work ponies or show ponies or city folk or country folk, but it's th' same thing, ain't it?"
"But....then why were you mad at me?" Rainbow asked.
"Ah am mad at you." Applejack told her, though she was smiling. "Fer not talking to yur friends 'bout this." she shoved Dash lightly. "Fer thinkin' you couldn't trust me."
Dash thought this over. "You're right, I-"
"Now don't you go sayin' yur sorry." Applejack interrupted. "We've done enough feelin' sorry fer ourselves t' last a lifetime."
"..Then what should I say?"
"Say you'll be back here t'morrow so we can play horseshoes once Ah'm done workin'. Say you'll trust me from now on if'n you need to talk. Say you'll still be mah friend." Applejack smiled at her, eyes wet. Rainbow Dash wasn't sure how to respond for a moment. Her first instinct was to reach out and hug Applejack, but given their position she settled on leaning against her instead.
"Atta girl" Applejack leaned back, pressing against her cheek-to-cheek briefly. "And don' y' go easy on me at horseshoes either."
"Heh, I won't." Rainbow replied, righting herself. "Thanks AJ."
"Alright now. Don' mean you can go gettin' all mushy on me."
"Now that, I definitely promise." Rainbow said with a smirk. "Hey, can I...just stick around a little?"
"Oh, want t' help me move hay bales, do ya?" Applejack asked with a smirk of her own. Rainbow stood up.
"Uhhh, no thanks. I just remembered I still have friends to talk to."
"Ah though' so. Go and get 'em, pardner." Applejack told her. Rainbow paused, nodded, and left. Applejack got back to work, but figured maybe she could talk to Big Mac about getting her chores back. Her head was a bit clearer now.
Dash had to admit, she felt a bit better, was a little more uplifted than when she had first set out. She felt the worst was over, and it hadn't been bad at all. She had been over thinking it. These were her friends, and they were just as loyal to her as she tried to be to them.
The day was getting cloudy, reminding Rainbow Dash she'd need to get to work later. It wouldn't be particularly hard, but it wasn't something she could put off either. Still, she was sure she had enough time to head over to one last place. Fluttershy's hut was well away from the rest of Ponyville, but close to Sweet Apple Acres, at least by comparison. Dash looked around as she approached, and seeing that Fluttershy wasn't out in her gardens, walked up to to the door.
The door opened just a crack at her knock, but nopony appeared on the other side. Rainbow Dash tried to peek through, confused, before she noticed Angel below her, standing at the door.
"Oh, hey Angel, is Fluttershy here?" she asked, bending down to him. He frowned and opened the door a bit wider. He beckoned to Rainbow Dash, signaling her closer. Just as she stepped in - wham, the door shut hard on her head. Dash fell back, ears ringing.
"Angel" a timid voice came from inside. "It's okay. Don't do that."
The bunny frowned, and shook his head.
"Let her in, Angel." Fluttershy said from somewhere out of sight. Angel just crossed his arms in defiance.
"You heard her." Dash said with a growl, getting back on her feet. Angel shook his head.
"Why you!" Rainbow Dash bent down, preparing to charge. Just as she leaped at the door, however, it opened wide on its own. Fluttershy stood in the doorway, eyes wide as she saw Rainbow incoming. Angel jumped to the side.
"Ahh-ooof!" Dash went tumbling into Fluttershy, sending them rolling into her house. She got up with a jump as soon as they stopped moving and looked around.
"Fluttershy!" she heard a squeak below her. She immediately fluttered off of her friend, who was sprawled out on the floor.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Rainbow stammered. "Are you okay? I was just trying to-"
"Rainbow, it's okay." Fluttershy said, her voice whisper quiet. She picked herself off the floor.
"Are, are you alright? I wanted to say I'm sorry."
"I'm fine Rainbow Dash. It's okay."
"Are...you're not mad at me, I mean for last night, right?"
"No Rainbow Dash." was all Fluttershy said. Dash noticed Angel hopping up on an end table. The bunny was staring her daggers. She turned back to find Fluttershy was walking over to her couch.
"You, you sure you're not mad at me." Dash repeated, still unsure.
"I'm...not mad at you for being a...." Fluttershy mumbled so quietly Rainbow Dash couldn't make it out. Still, she knew what Fluttershy was saying.
"Whew. That's good. Because I was afraid..." Rainbow Dash walked alongside Fluttershy, but saw her turn away. Frowning she got around to the other side of the pony. "I thought maybe..." Fluttershy turned away again. She got onto the couch and promptly faced the back of the seat, away from Rainbow. Angel hopped up onto the windowsill behind the couch and pointed Dash to the door. The spectrum-maned pegasus sat down, confused. She eventually began to piece it together.
"If...you're not mad for me being a fillyfooler, then, why are you mad at me?" she asked with a gulp. Fluttershy didn't say anything, but curled up tighter, as if expecting an attack. Angel had disappeared, and suddenly there was a thump at Rainbow's feet. She looked down to see the bunny had dragged out a thick book from somewhere.
"A photo album?" she asked. Angel opened it for her, and she began to idly flip through it, confused and intrigued. There was the gang at the Grand Galloping Gala, in all their sparkling dresses. There were a few candid shots of them at Winter Wrap up last year too. Some from each celebration and a few more besides. Dash got back to about a year before Twilight had come. The gang wasn't as close back then. There were a few shots of Rarity and Fluttershy together, more of Rainbow and Fluttershy. Like traveling back in time, Dash watched her and the others get smaller, shorter. Fluttershy had had such spindly legs as a filly. The earliest pictures, and pretty much the only from that time in their life, were their flight school class pictures. Year four, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy had sat together. Just like in year three, year two, and year one, when they had met. Rainbow Dash could barely look up she felt so heavy with guilt.
"I didn't know you kept these." she said, getting no response from Fluttershy. "You're my best friend, Fluttershy." her voice croaked.
There was another slam as Angel closed the book. He just stared crossly at Rainbow Dash.
"I..." Rainbow Dash got up and began to back away, Angel's glare like a physical shove to her. She couldn't even look at the bunny anymore, let alone Fluttershy. She found herself turning to the door.
"Fluttershy, I'm..." she tried to lift her head, but met Angel's gaze again. Her throat seized up and she just walked out the door. It slammed shut as soon as her tail was beyond the threshold.