Ponyville was in a bit of disarray. It hadn't been scheduled to rain today, and when the drizzle had started many a business owner or shopper had been left scrambling. Only one pony now walked the soaking streets, a curious look on her face and an even more curious hat on her head.
"Rainbow Dash? Rainbow Dash!" Pinkie Pie called, peeking this way and that as she bounced along. Her umbrella hat kept her view clear, but didn't do much for the rest of her body, and she was getting soaked. Even the peppy pink party pony didn't relish the trek she had ahead of her, but she had poked her head inside every building, rain barrel, and animal hole, flipped over every rock, and had still not found her friend. This left her with only a few places left to check, and that meant a trek slightly out of town.
By the time she got to Twilight's house, Pinkie Pie was soaked to the skin, and her normal smile was interrupted by chattering teeth. She knocked on the library door, glad when Spike answered just moments later.
"H-h-h-hello Sp-p-pike." she tried to smile.
"What are you doing in the rain?! Here, come on."
"Spike, did I hear - Pinkie Pie!" Twilight was coming down the staircase as she saw Pinkie Pie enter.
"I'll get a blanket." Twilight's expression was of deep concern. "Spike, help her warm up." With that she rushed back upstairs. Spike turned to face Pinkie Pie.
"Stand still." he told her. He took a deep breath, and with a soft 'fwoosh' green flames went all around Pinkie Pie. They evaporated the water in an instant, and Pinkie looked herself over to find she was mostly dry. For a moment, her hair remained matted down as it had been by the rain, and then popped up as curly, if not curlier, as it always was. She giggled.
"Thanks Spike." she smiled at him. A shiver ran through her, proving she was still cold on the inside, but at least now she was dry.
After a moment, the three of them - Twilight, Pinkie, and Spike - sat in the middle of the library floor. Pinkie Pie had Twilight's blanket around her and was all smiles once more.
"What brought you out here in this kinda weather, Pinkie?" Twilight asked. "You looked half-dead!"
"It wasn't so bad when I started." Pinkie Pie told her. "I was looking for Rainbow Dash. Have you seen her?"
"Not since really early this morning." Twilight admitted. "Didn't she talk to you?"
"Uh-huh. She did! And I thought we were going to have a party!"
"Yes! But she didn't want to until she talked to all our friends. But now I can't find her!"
"Hmm." Twilight gave Pinkie a look. "A party, as in... a coming out party?"
"Well, it didn't have to be." Pinkie said with an insincere smile. "I wanted her to feel better again."
"Uh-huh." Twilight said, half-believing her friend. "Well, where'd she go after you talked?"
"Into town, I think she was going to talk to the others."
"Well..." Twilight was interrupted by another knock on her door.
"I've got it." Spike said, quicker to rise than the ponies. He opened it to revealed a very wet, nearly indistinguishable pony in a big yellow raincoat.
"Uh, hello?" Spike asked, standing aside. The pony stepped into the light and raised her head.
"Ms. Mayor!" Twilight realized, seeing the half-moon glasses. Spike helped the pony with her hat and it was indeed the town mayor. She was wet but not as bad off as Pinkie Pie had been.
"Hello Twilight Sparkle, Spike. Pinkie Pie." she said with a formal nod of her head. "Sorry to bother you on such an afternoon."
"It's quite alright. Are you cold? Spike, get her some tea, if you'd please." Twilight was up and already fretting over the mayor.
"No no, it's quite alright," the mayor assured her, "I won't be staying. I just need to know if either of you have seen Rainbow Dash."
"Are you throwing her a party too?" Pinkie Pie asked gleefully. Both Twilight and the mayor ignored her.
"I'm sorry mayor." Twilight said. "Last we saw of her was hours ago, and we have no idea what she did since then."
"Oh, that's not what I was hoping to hear." the mayor admitted. "She was supposed to be on weather control today. I've sent pegasus ponies to her home, I've been checking with everypony who might know her whereabouts. The rest of the weather patrol weren't prepared for this, and we're left scrambling - Cloudkicker's out of town, and Rainy Day has her day job."
"I'm sorry to hear that. We'll be sure to let you know if we find her." Twilight said. The mayor nodded sadly.
"Alright, I still have a few places to check. I can't very well ask anypony else to go out in the rain." she donned her hat again.
"Good luck. Be careful!" Twilight called as the mayor stepped back out into the storm. She turned to Pinkie Pie.
"Dash may be a bit of a goofball, but she never shirks work. She prides herself on being the best weather pony in Ponyville. Well, she prides herself on a lot of things..." Twilight shook her head.
"But what are we going to do? It sounds like the mayor's checked with everypony!" Pinkie Pie asked. Twilight rubbed her chin and thought this over.
"Everypony...she knows to check." she said slowly. "Pinkie, you know everypony in town, right?"
"Yep! I know Carrot Top and Rarity and Bon-Bon and Mr. Cake and Roseluck and-" Pinkie Pie stopped only when Twilight jammed a hoof in her mouth.
"Okay. Grab my spare coat from the closet; I'm going to need your help."
The two ponies tried to hurry through town, hampered by the weather and splashing through puddles as they went. The storm wasn't getting any harder, but also showed no sign of letting up. It was as nearly as dark as night, even though the sun wouldn't set for another hour or so. Pinkie Pie stopped before a tiny house on the edge of town.
"It just had to be as far away as possible, didn't it?" Twilight huffed, well out of breath. Pinkie Pie nodded giddily to the rhetorical question.
"You sure she's here?" she asked. Twilight took a couple of deep breaths.
"I've got a hunch." the purple pony replied. She reached up and knocked on the door. It took a minute before anypony responded. Twilight and Pinkie Pie both gasped at what they saw.
"Oh good." said the biggest, brightest pair of sparkling sapphire eyes either of them had ever seen. "I was hoping someone would come by for her." it took them a moment to see the pony beyond those dazzling eyes.
"Come on in." Vinyl Scratch said with a nod of her head. "Don't worry about the carpet."
"Um, yes, thank you." Twilight remembered herself, stepping in. "Sorry." she realized she had been staring
"No worries Twiddles." Scratch replied. "S'why I got these." she glanced up, her goggles resting on top of her head, and with a slight glow of her horn they moved onto her face, shielding her deep blue eyes.
"You have a nickname?" Pinkie Pie asked of Twilight. Twilight ignored her, curious at Scratch's statement.
"What do you mean?"
"Eh." Scratch shrugged. "Kinda got tired of that reaction, you know? It was always 'ahhh, what a cute little filly' and later, 'what a sweet young mare'. With these, it's 'Yo, Scratch, what's up?'. You know how it goes. I've even got contacts in case I know they'll be off. Ruby red." she grinned.
"Can I call you Twiddles?" Pinkie Pie asked.
"No." Twilight responded, immediately getting back to Scratch. "I'm sorry you feel that way. Also, I'm sorry to bother you like this..."
"Nah, I know what you're here for." Scratch smiled, a shake of her head sending her mane everywhere. The front door led directly into her living room, which consisted of an off-white couch, a coffee table, and barely enough room besides for the three ponies to stand. There were piles of papers about the table, tapes and CDs all around the floor, bundles of wires the size of shrubberies, and at least three different instruments propped up here and there, including a red electric guitar. Twilight stepped around the mess as best she could.
"Sorry, not used to this 'housekeeping' thing." Scratch said, chuckling at her own comment. "I swear this junk just grows to fill wherever I'm at. Anyway, she's upstairs, see if you can pry her off my bed before I get home tonight. Or at least talk her out of her funk. You can definitely keep her in my bed in that case." Twilight blushed at Scratch's candid comments. The staircase Vinyl nodded to was at the back of the room, behind her. Pinkie Pie seemed to effortlessly find her way through the junk without even looking at her feet, and so got to the stairs ahead of Twilight. Then, as Twilight passed by Scratch, the wild-maned unicorn leaned in, making her pause.
"She's in a bad place, kid." she said lowly, face expressionless behind her goggles. "You do what you can, but don't beat yourself up over her."
"I, o-okay." Twilight said, swallowing hard. She followed Pinkie Pie upstairs. There were only a couple of doors to choose from in the short hall they found themselves on, and one was slightly ajar. Pinkie pushed through and Twilight followed.
Scratch's bedroom was slightly less disorganized than downstairs, but not by much. A keyboard was propped against the foot of a king-sized bed with pale blue covers. Posters covered almost every inch of the walls. A few were of Scratch herself, clearly cover albums, but they were mostly of other artists, including a lot featuring two ponies in very strange robotic get ups. There was a desk with paper, pens, and headphones on it. However, both ponies were really only focused on the bed that dominated the room. There, curled up so tight she was nearly a perfect circle, Rainbow Dash lay on top of the sheets. She didn't react to their entry.
"Dash? Are you doing okay?" Twilight asked, though she knew the answer. There wasn't a lot of room, but she managed to squeeze by Pinkie and stand beside the bed, as close to Dash as she could get. She tried to keep her mind off of why Scratch had invested in such a large bed. It was easily two ponies long and just as wide.
"Dash, come on. Say something."
"Okay, that's something." Twilight muttered. "Look Dash, we're not leaving until we find out what's going on."
"Isn't that what started everything?" Dash snapped. Twilight began to say something and then stopped. Dash was right.
"That's not what I meant. Dash, something's wrong. You can't keep pushing us away. We're your friends, whether you like it or not." she meant this in all seriousness. On the bed, Dash seemed to deflate a little.
"You wouldn't get it."
"Try me." Twilight challenged. "Look Rainbow, there's a lot of things I don't get. Like when it's appropriate for friends to hug each other, and for how long. Or how to talk to somepony when you're trying to keep a secret. But I want to be a good friend. And if the elements of harmony have taught me anything, if you have taught me anything, you don't leave a friend hanging."
"Twilight?" Rainbow Dash asked, raising her head.
"Yes?" Twilight asked hopefully, leaning forward. Dash looked up at her, and Twilight met her listless, puffy eyes.
"Go home." Dash croaked before lowering her head. Twilight slumped.
"And take Pinkie with you." she added. Twilight looked over to see that for once in her life Pinkie didn't look like she had any reason to smile. She just kept her worried gaze on Rainbow Dash. Twilight turned back to the pegasus.
"Did something happen with one of our friends? Did...did you have a fight?"
Rainbow Dash just took a deep breath and sighed. Twilight waited, but nothing came.
"Was it...was it Applejack?" Twilight tried, remembering how angry the earth pony had been after last night.
"Applejack..." Rainbow Dash muttered. "She had a right to be mad. We've been friends for so long, for years."
"So it was her?" Twilight asked.
"What? Then who was it?"
Rainbow Dash grunted and rolled over.
"Years..." Pinkie Pie murmured, looking deep in thought (something else that unnerved Twilight). "So what about somepony you've known... for a life time? Would they have the right to be even madder?"
"A life- Fluttershy..." Twilight whispered in realization. "You fought with Fluttershy?" she could barely imagine it.
"No." Rainbow Dash said. "We didn't fight." her words made both ponies sigh.
"She hates me, just like she should." Dash's voice was so uncharacteristically quiet that Twilight could barely believe it was her. Her heart sunk like a stone.
"I, I'm sure she doesn't hate you. I don't think Fluttershy has the ability to hate another living creature."
"She hates me. She hates me and I deserve it."
"Dash, don't be like that. I, I understand that it must hurt, but you can move past this."
"No, you don't understand."
"I mean, just because you've known her for years doesn't mean you've been hiding this the whole time...right?" Twilight tried weakly. She saw Rainbow twitch, her wings tightening briefly. She let the silence drag on, but when her friend didn't seem ready to say anything she began to speak. Then Rainbow let out a whisper.
"She was my first crush." the words hung in the air. Twilight's jaw fell open.
"Come again?" she managed to stammer.
"It started way back in flight school. Not right away, but as we grew up...I always just figured it was 'cause she was my best friend. And, well, my only friend." Rainbow Dash rolled back around, uncurling slightly. She finally looked at Twilight and Pinkie as she spoke.
"Then I went to the junior speedsters camp. The other fillies didn't like me. I didn't get why, I didn't know....I didn't care! Gilda and I met because they didn't like her either. I was okay, because I had Gilda at camp and when I got home....Fluttershy was always around. She must have been so lonely, but she smiled every time." Rainbow Dash sighed, her eyes unfocused as she stared into the past.
"It was Gilda who explained it to me. About how my wings went straight up whenever a cute filly went by. About how I kept staring off at them and not knowing..." Dash blushed. "And that's when I figured out that this whole time, when I thought I just liked Fluttershy as my best friend, I actually..."
"When did...how did you get over it?" Twilight asked. Rainbow Dash grunted again.
"Who said I did?" she asked, closing her eyes. Twilight's eyes widened. When Rainbow looked at them again, her eyes were brimming with tears.
"I knew I could never tell her how I felt. And I knew if I brought...this...up, it'd come out. I tried, but I couldn't get her out of my head. I thought maybe, if I dated someone like Scratch..." Rainbow Dash's voice trailed off. Twilight didn't know what to say. Then they heard the door creak.