Fair Feather Friend

Chapter 4

By BobCat

Notes: Thanks to my readers for their overwhelming (and shocking) praise for a silly story about Rainbow Dash getting a pet bird. Also, as always, thanks to my beta readers.

Oh, a couple of quick things that I'm not going to bring up in story, but I want to make sure people know I noticed. Since I've started writing, there have been a few new episodes and they've created a few minor plot holes. For purposes of this story, assume one of Rainbow Dash's parents was an earth pony, hence they lived on the ground and she could have dogs as a filly. She was the "best flyer to come out of Cloudsdale" because she went to camp and/or boarding school there.

Also, in "Green Isn't Your Color," Bon Bon seemed to have no idea who Rarity was. In my story, she was an old friend of Rarity that she hadn't seen in ages. Since Bon Bon, in both show and fic, is sort of a jerk, just assume she was being rhetorical in the show (as in, the "And you are?" meant "You're no celebrity, I'm after Fluttershy," not, "I do not know you").

Derpy Hooves hummed a happy little tune as she went about her rounds. For most ponies, Wednesday was the dreaded "hump day," the longest time between weekends, but she had a song in her heart and a spring in her step.

The wall eyed mailpony had many reasons to be happy. Last week, through the arcane pay schedule of the Equestria Postal Service, she'd somehow earned a raise (apparently some bureaucrat found special significance in serving for 6 years and 3 months). Yesterday had been report card day at school and her daughter, Dinky, had gotten all A's and B's. This meant that Derpy could afford to get Dinky that Mareibu Stacy doll she'd been asking for, and she had a good excuse to get it for her. They'd played dolls for hours the night before, and Derpy had loved every minute of it.

Today was also orange cranberry muffin day at the bakery, her absolute favorite forever. Even better, she was about to finish her morning route ahead of schedule. She'd be able to take a long lunch today, and maybe visit her friend, the Doctor. He always had such interesting stories to tell, even if half of them sounded like bad science fiction. Yup, everything was coming up Derpy.

Rainbow Dash looked through the window of her house as Derpy began her approach. "Alright Baron, this is it. Remember: when I say fetch and point at the mail, you grab the mail in your claws and bring it back, okay?"

Baron Awesome responded by preening his wing. After a whole morning of fetching rubber balls, he was starting to get sick of the game. At least if it let him vent his need to catch small things.

Rainbow Dash slipped on her slippers, put on her reading glasses, got out a newspaper and sat down in her easy chair. She wasn't actually reading it closely (aside from the headline, "Sushi Salmonella Scare Strikes Ponyville Elementary"). It was a ritual she'd often seen her dad do with his dogs, and she'd always wanted to try it.

The pair didn't have to wait long, as a knock came at the door. "Uh, where's your mail slot? It was here yesterday... right?" Derpy's oddly melodic voice (oddly, given the scuttlebutt about her supposed stupidity) was only slightly muffled by the cloud door.

Rainbow Dash smirked. It was time for somepony to see the fruits of her labors, and thanks to some quick cloud-shaping, it was going to be Derpy. "It's unlocked."

Derpy opened the door, a small stack of letters in her mouth. She said (surprisingly clearly for how full her mouth was), "Good morning, Rainbow Dash. How are... what's that bird doing in here?"

Rainbow Dash pointed at Derpy. "Baron Awesome, fetch!"

Baron Awesome was beginning his threat display when he heard the order. He realized why the blue thing had been making him play "kill the ball" all morning. She wanted him to be ready to drive off intruders! With a shriek, he flew at the grey thing, claws first.

"Guitar sparklers!" When Derpy has agitated, all of those years of speech therapy went out the window... and few would fault her for being freaked out by a sudden falcon attack. She dropped the letters and spun around quickly, trying in vain to flee. In an instant, pegasus and falcon were caught in a whirlwind of claws, feathers, and mail.

Rainbow Dash was on them in an instant, pulling Baron Awesome off of Derpy. The falcon went limp in her grasp. At least part of his training was sticking. "Oh my gosh, Derpy, are you alright?" At least Derpy wasn't bleeding, thank Celestia.

Derpy panted, "Watermelon trombone." Derpy took a deep breath and closed her eyes and counted to ten in her head as she tried to get control of her rebellious tongue. When she opened them again, her world was white and black, as a partially shredded letter had fallen over her eyes. She sat up. "Huh. Rainbow Dash, did you know that you might have already won a million bits?"

Rainbow Dash closed the door, trapping Baron Awesome in the house. She was at Derpy's side again in two shakes of a mare's tail. She looked unhurt, fortunately. "Um... that's nice?" She was surprised that Derpy was so blasé about the assault.

Derpy blinked. One eye was on Rainbow Dash, the other on the letter. "Oh, you have to mail in 50 bits to get it, and you only have a one in three billion chance of winning. Sorry to bring you junk again. Our spam filter, Big McAfee, is out with food poisoning. He had some of that bad sushi."

A thoroughly embarrassed Rainbow Dash helped the blonde pegasus to her hooves. "Are you sure you're alright?"

Derpy laughed, reared on her hind legs and dusted herself off. "Oh, it's fine. When you've been a mailpony as long as me, you get used to it. I've been attacked by pets so many times, especially that," Derpy paused to look to make sure that nopony was there to listen to them (despite the fact that they were 50 feet above the ground at the edge of town) before continuing, "obnoxious dog of Bon Bon's." The last part was whispered.

Rainbow Dash blinked. "Really? I thought Buttons was nice."

Derpy briefly focused both eyes on Dash, before the right drifted on its own path. "You're kidding, right? He's always breaking out and then he just makes a beeline for me. I know dogs hate mailponies, but most at least wait until I deliver mail to them! I keep telling Bon Bon to take it to obedience training, but she says he only does it to me and it's because my eyes scare him and..." Derpy visibly deflated as her voice trailed off. "Aw, I made myself sad."

The two stood awkwardly for a moment. Rainbow Dash rubbed the back of her head and averted her gaze. "I have no idea what to say about that."

Derpy sighed. "Well, I guess I'll see you later, Dash. Enjoy your mail... and stuff." The once happy pegasus now looked to be on the verge of tears.

She turned around and was about to take off, when Dash had a stroke of inspiration. "Wait, Derpy. I have something that might cheer you up."

As a much happier Derpy Hooves winged away, Rainbow Dash went back inside to see Baron Awesome on his perch. A dog would have a, "who me?" look at this point, but the Baron didn't even have the common courtesy to look at her. "I hope you're happy, Baron. Cranberry orange muffin day is only once a month and I just had to give her mine because of you!"

She may as well have been talking to the perch for all the attention he paid her.

Dash sighed. "You're right, I shouldn't have yelled." She gave the falcon a rub on the back of the head. This time he responded, leaning into it and closing his eyes appreciatively. "Yeah, you're a good falcon. You just made a bad choice." He squawked happily. "Hm, I bet I know what the problem is. I've had you cooped up in here for a few days now. How about you and me go flying and burn off some of that energy?"

So, Dash put on her new falconry boots, packed a picnic lunch (various greens, drinks and nuts for her, iced fish for him) and the two took off. Rainbow Dash knew the perfect spot for some obedience training. After all, she had it on the authority of Rarity and the town newspaper that the area around a certain cutie mark clubhouse in a certain apple orchard was deserted due to an outbreak of salmonella...

Some time later at the outskirts of Sweet Apple Acres, Rainbow Dash watched Baron Awesome carefully as he flew lazy loops overhead. Rainbow Dash repeated words burned into her mind by constant repetition (it was part of a larger speech about pet training and responsibility that her dad had made her memorize). "The main element of good training is consistency. Never give an order and let it be disobeyed. Use rewards at first, but eventually take them away and let the fact that he's pleased you be the reward."

Rainbow Dash, her voice confident, said, "Come, Baron Awesome!" The Baron dropped from his perch on a nearby apple tree and casually glided down, landing on her arm. He was getting a little bored with the game, but the chunk of trout he got in exchange made it worthwhile. He didn't even notice that she was stroking him as he ate, something that would have seemed impossible yesterday. "Good boy," she said, dropping the "d" as she went into full baby talk mode. "That's enough practice for now. Don't want you to get bored, after all." She was nowhere near where she could stop giving him a treat every time. That wouldn't happen for a while, assuming her experience with Rex and the rest of the old pack held true.

As Dash started packing up the remains of lunch, she heard a buzzing sound in the distance. It almost sounded like... nah, couldn't be.

And then, the Baron tensed up, glanced over her shoulder, and shrieked. He tried to take off, but Dash, reacting quickly, grabbed on and held him tight. He went limp again, realizing that the blue thing was unhappy with him for trying to do what she'd spent all morning making him practice. He would really appreciate some consistency.

Rainbow Dash turned around, being careful to hold Baron Awesome gently, and saw that she'd been right about the source of the noise after all. Scootaloo zipping along on her scooter, her wings buzzing like an outboard motor. She turned it sideways and came to a halt in front of her idol. "Rainbow Dash?"

Rainbow Dash sputtered, "Scootaloo? What are you doing here? I thought you had food poisoning!"

Scootaloo blinked. "Why would I have food poisoning?"

Rainbow Dash, without releasing Baron Awesome, pointed her right hoof at the newspaper. It was now covered in icy fish parts, but the headline about the school was still visible. "That paper said all you kids got sick eating bad sushi!"

Scootaloo waved dismissively. "The Ponyville Gazette? Dad says not to read that rag because Yellow Press always exaggerates. Only like ten kids and a few grownups got sick." The fact that she had caused a newsworthy health scandal didn't seem to bug her. "I didn't eat any myself. I don't like sushi. I just thought we'd be good at making it." Whatever she was about to say died on her lips. Her face was split by a huge smile as she took off her helmet. "Whoa, is that falcon real?"

Rainbow Dash tried to come up with a good sounding cover story... but Scootaloo had kind of already seen Baron Awesome. The falcon was out of the bag. "Uh, yeah. His name's Baron Awesome."

Scootaloo was in full fangirl mode. She squealed happily as she got closer to them. "Oh my gosh, a falcon! And you named him Baron Awesome? That's.. just... whoa! Just when I thought you couldn't get cooler, you had to raise the bar!" She reared up on her hind legs and started jumping from hoof to hoof. "Oh man oh man oh man, can I touch him?"

Rainbow Dash loved compliments and ponies paying attention to her. Heck, all of her goals and aspirations were based on making sure that as many ponies as possible paid attention to her all the time. But... Scootaloo was starting to weird her out. "Um, I guess? Just calm down first. You're making him nervous."

Nervous was putting it mildly. This loud orange thing that was reaching out at him was terrifying! He struggled to wriggle out of Dash's grip, but she held firm. The only thing that kept him from deploying his claws was the fact that he had them wrapped around her armored arm as he tried to get enough leverage to escape.

Rainbow Dash died a thousand deaths in the time it took Scootaloo to touch him. What was she doing? After he attacked Derpy, why the heck was she agreeing to this? She really needed to work on getting her mouth under control when she was nervous.

Scootaloo seemed oblivious to the danger as she reached out and started stroking the back of his head. "Wow, a falcon! That is so hardcore!"

The Baron's struggles stopped instantly. What in the hay? The orange thing was friendly too? Was... was that allowed? It was weird enough that the blue thing took care of him and did his hunting for him. Now there were two weird things that just wanted to touch him so he would feel good? What could they possibly be getting out of it? It was certainly suspicious.

Rainbow Dash said, "Good boy, Baron."

Scootaloo giggled. "He's so soft!"

"I know, right? It took a lot of work, but I civilized him." She was beaming with pride. Not that she forgot her terror and doubt from a moment ago, but clearly she needed to stop underestimating herself.

Baron Awesome was getting more and more confused. This situation was absurd! Wait... what if that was why the blue thing was so unhappy when he attacked the grey thing earlier? Hm. The blue thing, the grey thing and the orange thing all looked like the same sort of thing. They all had hooves and wings and long tails. Maybe all of the hoofed things were actually friendly? Was that possible? An entire type of thing that didn't want to eat him, drive him away, or run away from him? But that ran counter to everything he had ever seen or experienced.

When a relieved Rainbow Dash let him go, he flew up and landed on the bough of a nearby apple tree. He needed to think about this.

Scootaloo finally got back on all four hooves and started breathing normally. Her eyes widened as she realized that she'd been dorking out right in front of her hero. Putting up her best poker face to cover up her embarrassment, she said, "S-so, when did you get him?"

Rainbow Dash said, matter-of-factly, "Oh, a few days ago. I found him in the woods. I'm still taming him."

"A wild falcon?" From his perch, Baron Awesome cringed as Scootaloo did a high pitched fangirl squeal again. "That's so hardcore!" She paused, collected herself, coughed into her hoof and managed, "S-so why are you out here?"

"It seemed like a good spot for a picnic and some falconry." Well, more like modified dog training, since Twilight Sparkle's book didn't talk about real falconry much, but having the official word made it sound cooler. "Huh," she muttered to herself, "I guess that's why book ponies make up big words for everything."

Scootaloo gave an appreciative, "Oooooooh." She paused for a moment, and realized what she really wanted to say. As she spoke her throat seized up and she barely managed to get out, "C-can I hang out with you two?" She seemed to find her voice as she started to verbally backpedal. "It's cool if you say no, I know you're really busy and everything."

Her tone of voice told Rainbow Dash that the little filly was expecting a no. The blue pegasus shrugged. "Sure, why not?" She gestured towards the picnic basket and blanket. "Want some lemonade? It's home made. Just don't tell Applejack who sold me the lemons."

The young orange pegasus pumped her arm excitedly. "Best. Day. Ever!"

"So there I was!" Rainbow Dash was hovering in the air, reenacting her story as Scootaloo hung on her every word. "It was the bottom of the second quarter with two minutes to go. Hoops got tackled and lost the ball, but I caught it before it hit the ground, beating their fastest flyers! I used the momentum from the dive to do an awesome loop up towards the goal. But then their biggest blockers were coming at me from all sides!"

Rainbow Dash wondered if it hurt Scootaloo to smile that hard. The orange pegasus asked, "What'd you do? What'd you do?"

Rainbow Dash crossed her arms and flashed the little filly her smuggest grin. "Well, most ponies would have tried to go around and risk getting tackled, but I went for the brass ring! I was still going at top speed from my swoop, see. So, I used my speed and all that time I spend playing pinball to good use. I hit the first one juuuust right so I bounced off into his buddy, then I bounced again into the other buddy and zoom! Right into the endzone for the winning goal!" She threw her arms up and started doing a victory dance, a reenactment of the one she'd done oh so many years ago. "And the announcer was all, 'The Mongooses win! The Mongooses win! For the first time in 30 years, the Mongooses beat the Tigers for the Junior Aerial Rugby championship!"

Scootaloo, forgetting herself again, started hopping up and down. "Woo! Mongooses win! Yeah!" Unfortunately, she kicked over the lemonade pitcher in the process. "Oh crud! I'm sorry Rainbow Dash! I'll try to save it!" She got a napkin from the picnic basket and started desperately trying to blot up the lemonade from the ground.

Hiding a look of disgust as Scootaloo started frantically squeezing the napkin's brown contents back into the pitcher, Rainbow Dash reached over and mussed up Scootaloo's hair. "Nah, it's fine, we were done with it anyway." Well, now they were, anyway. Dash considered telling her to calm down... but who was she to stand in the way of worship of the greatest flyer to ever come out of Cloudsdale?

Scootaloo's eyes were full of love and adoration. "You're so awesome! And... and..." Her face fell as she saw that the sky was turning orange. "Oh crap oh crap oh crap!" She grabbed her helmet and ran up the ramp into the Crusaders' clubhouse.

Rainbow Dash blinked in confusion. In an instant, Scootaloo was back with her helmet on and her saddlebags full of books. Without pausing to take any breaths, she said, "Sorry Dash, I remembered why I came out here! Sweetie Belle forgot her schoolbooks in the clubhouse and she said she was feeling good enough to do her homework and I forgot the time and she's gonna kill me but it was great hanging out and I think you're the coolest also your bird is nice see you later!" Without waiting to get a reaction from Dash, Scootaloo buzzed away as fast as her little wings would carry her.

Rainbow Dash shook her head and chuckled. "She's just like me at that age. It's kinda spooky." She started cleaning up their picnic lunch. "Still, she's a cool little kid. She's gonna go places." She called out, "Baron Awesome, come!"

The Baron had fallen asleep on his perch in the apple tree. Upon hearing his name, he swooped down and landed near Dash and opened his mouth expectantly.

Dash flipped him the last chunk of fish. "There you go, buddy. Good boy for not flying off while I told Scoots my awesome story." She took a moment to give him a scratch before finishing up her packing. "Also good boy for not disemboweling her and getting me in trouble. That's also important." She realized that she'd just used the word "disemboweling." "Maybe I should lay off the heavy reading. It's starting to do funny things to my words."

Despite her reservations about her growing vocabulary, that night found Rainbow Dash flipping through the books she'd checked out, waiting to get sleepy. Fortunately, the technical details in the book on veterinary medicine were proving to be better than sleeping pills. She gave a loud yawn and closed it halfway through the section on roundworm. "Ugh, nature's gross. Glad I don't live there."

Baron Awesome was already asleep on his perch. Dash gave him a quick pet and said, "Rest up, Baron Awesome. Tomorrow's the big day. You're gonna meet all my friends! We already have two ponies around who know about you, so if I'm gonna get to be the one to tell them, it's gotta be soon. Sweet dreams, buddy."

The Baron continued to snooze peacefully. Soon, Rainbow Dash had joined him in dreamland.

Pinkie Pie was once again exploring the dreamscapes of her friends. They were being boring tonight, though. Twilight kept dreaming about showing up to school in her underwear (a nightmare she often replayed, but one that Pinkie had never understood), Rarity was reenacting some trashy romance novel (with herself as the lead, of course) and Applejack was reliving the terror of giving some sort of speech to Apple Bloom's class. Why were all of her friends being all scared and boring tonight?

"I know," Pinkie said. "I'll see what Dash is up to! She's always having some sort of awesome dream!" With a flex of her imagination, she was dressed like a pirate. She pierced the realm between dreams. "Arr and avast, Rainbow Dash! I'm here to..."

Her piratical speech died on her lips as she saw exactly what Dash was already dreaming about. She and Baron Awesome were flying through the clouds. Pinkie Pie couldn't remember the last time she'd heard Dash laugh that much. After a few loops, tricks and midair hugs, the two flew out of sight, leaving the sounds of laughter and the trail of a rainbow in their wake.

"Aw, she's so happy. I guess I won't mess with her dream tonight." She kicked a dream rock. "Fiddlesticks. I wanted to be the Dread Pirate Pinkie so much. Maybe Apple Bloom's up for an adventure?" She proceeded to hop across the landscape of Rainbow Dash's dream... and then it was if she had never been there at all.

End Part 4

To be continued