RAINBOW DASH: DEPENDENCE

By Saddlesoap Opera

Episode Three of the Pony Psychology Series

Though she was almost blinded by condensation on her goggles, Rainbow Dash could tell she was in the lead. The air currents were clean, undisturbed by anypony ahead of her. With a last burst of speed, she felt the tingling splash of the storm cloud that acted as the finish line for the Cloudsdale High-Altitude Vertical Sprint Semifinals, and let out a shout of triumph as she heard its thunderclap signal her victory. The other contestants scattered at the sound. Some shouted praise up at Dash, and some sneered in an unsportsponylike fashion.

Crowds of Pegasi watching the event cheered and whistled, flapping their wings and stomping applause on whatever hard surfaces they could find – clouds were scarcely noisy enough. The event's announcer tapped his microphone for silence, and spoke: "We have a winner – contestant 23 and last year's Best Young Flyer, Rrrrrainbow Daaaaaash!" The crowd's cheers surged once more. "Everypony wish her the best of luck for representing Cloudsdale at the finals next week! You can do it, Miss Dash! We're all counting on you!"

Having finally shed her upward momentum, Rainbow Dash arced down toward the stadium to receive her trophy. She was only a few seconds' flight from the podium when a flare of pain lanced across her shoulders and into her wings. Her supracoracoideus muscles were suddenly agonizingly taut, pulling her wings far too high for a safe glide.

Oh, no…not a muscle cramp! Not now! Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth, fighting against the pain, and willed her wings to keep working for just…a bit…longer…

Her four hooves all touched cloud, but it was a very near thing. She skidded sideways on the puffy surface, coming to a halt, panting, in front of the announcer at the podium. Taking her emergency landing and upraised wings for a flourish, the crowd cheered all the louder. As Rainbow Dash said a few words of appreciation for her trophy, she hoped the crowd would also take the quaver in her voice and the droplets inside her goggles for signs that she was crying for joy.

An hour later, Rainbow Dash stood alone under a personal miniature downpour. The single purloined cloud's rain soothed her aching wings enough that she could – with extreme care – lower and fold them. But she could feel that the problem wasn't gone. Her back was still an ocean of tension, and her wings hadn't been this sore since she'd first fledged. She needed help.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

Fluttershy trotted over to her cottage door; the insistent, pounding knock had been startling, but she recognized it. Her suspicions were confirmed as she opened the door. "Why, hello Rainbow Dash. So nice of you to come 'round. To what do I owe the pleasure?" She smiled and stood aside to allow her friend to enter.

The rainbow-maned Pegasus trotted inside, and paced around the living room silently for a moment before turning to face Fluttershy. "I need some advice on how to relax."

Fluttershy's perpetually-concerned expression deepened. "Oh, my. Are you feeling stressed?"

Rainbow Dash mentally reviewed recent events:

It was a week ago, and she was peering into the second-story window of Sugarcube Corner, watching in mute horror as one of her best friends screamed and smashed a mirror with her pink, tear-streaked face.

It was five days ago, and she was smacking a walleyed mailmare with a rolled-up scroll, shouting at her – again – to stop delivering her letters coming from a Griffin she'd cut out of her life. The grey Pegasus cried, and she felt like a monster.

It was three days ago, and she was so wrapped up in cloud busting that she knocked the floor right out from under a cotton candy vendor Pegasus' kiosk. She had to pay for the crashed stand.

It was yesterday, and as she felt her cramping wings lose more and more lift she briefly wondered if she'd feel the impact before dying when she struck the ground at terminal velocity.

She shook her head. "N-no way…!" she blustered. "I've just been workin' really hard on the weather lately, and I figured Equestria's top flyer deserved a little R and R, you know?"

"Well, when Rarity and I visit the spa, I always come out feeling just wonderful. Maybe we could pay Lotus and Aloe a visit?"

"Nahh, I can't afford that place! I mean, I'm not a fancy dressmaker or a…wait. How can you afford to go there, Fluttershy?" Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow.

"Oh! Um, I bring them plants for their lotions and mixtures, so they give me a discount, and I…I have some bits stashed away from…an inheritance." A look of grief passed over Fluttershy's features, but it quickly vanished. "But, anyway, if the spa's a no-go, maybe I could help you myself."

"Really…? Okay. What do you have in mind?"

Rainbow Dash lay on her belly on top of a soft pillow in the middle of the cottage's living room floor. The birds and animals had been gently shooed out, the curtains were drawn, the lamps were low, and herb-scented beeswax candles provided the only other illumination. The peace and serenity in the room was almost tangible.

Fluttershy was in the kitchen, scrubbing her hooves. She dried them on a towel, and trotted up behind her fellow Pegasus. "Now, just take slow, even breaths, and let your mind drift." With her trademark gentleness, Fluttershy straddled Rainbow Dash's back, lowered her smooth, unshod hooves toward the space between Rainbow Dash's wings, and STABBED HER WITH A BURNING ICEPICK.

That's what it felt like to Rainbow Dash, anyway. "Ow-ow-ow-OWW!" Rainbow Dash instinctively bucked, sending the yellow Pegasus tumbling. Fluttershy quickly righted herself, and rushed to Rainbow Dash's side.

"Oh my goodness! I'm so sorry, Rainbow Dash! I didn't know you had so much tension there!" Fluttershy looked devastated by the prospect of having hurt her friend.

"It…it's okay, Fluttershy," winced Dash as she tried to catch her breath.

"It most certainly is not…!" insisted Fluttershy. "With that many knots in your back, you're more vulnerable to fatigue, sprains, pulls – you could even cramp up in mid-flight!" Rainbow Dash chuckled nervously under her breath. "Wait right there," Fluttershy continued, "I'll be right back." She trotted over to the front door, opened it, and took to the air.

She returned a few minutes later, carrying a sprig of some plant or other in her mouth. She set it down in front of Rainbow Dash. "Here…eat a couple of these."

Rainbow Dash sniffed the reddish-purple berries doubtfully. They smelled sweet and faintly spicy, like glazed gingerbread. "Dessert? Isn't this more Pinkie Pie's style?"

"It's not a treat – it's medicine," said Fluttershy. "Just one or two should do it – and make sure you swallow the seeds."

Rainbow Dash shrugged, and bit a couple of berries off of the twig. The taste matched the scent – the berries were almost cloyingly sweet – but as she chewed, a faint tingle spread through her mouth. She swallowed the mouthful, and the tingle spread down her throat. In a few seconds, the feeling subsided. She stood still for a moment, and then started tapping a hoof impatiently.

"Are you sure that was medicine, Fluttershy? I don't feel a thing."

"Exactly." She motioned at the pillow. "Please…let's try this one more time?"

Rainbow Dash hesitantly sat back down on the pillow, and tried her best to relax. Even more gently than before, Fluttershy got into position and lowered her hooves toward Rainbow Dash's back.

"Careful, Fluttershy…go easy on me-ee-eeeoooohmygoshhhh…." Rainbow Dash's eyes crossed, and then closed. Her hooves stretched out in all directions. A warm, soothing fuzziness crept into her consciousness, crowding out her restless thoughts. She let out a long, pleasure-filled sigh. The sensation of Fluttershy's hooves kneading her back was positively heavenly. The warmth and weight of Fluttershy's body on her hindquarters was no torture, either; her wings slowly rose. She blushed slightly, but at this point she was almost beyond caring about the faux pas. She couldn't remember ever feeling so good.

If Fluttershy knew why Rainbow Dash had "spread," she clearly didn't mind. She wrapped a front leg around one of Rainbow Dash's erect wings, and worked at the tender flight muscles with her other hoof. When she let it go the wing flopped down like wet cloth, too relaxed to even fold. She moved on to the other side. Rainbow Dash moaned softly.

Fluttershy took her time with the massage, kneading from the back of Rainbow Dash's head to the base of her tail. She went so far as to massage Dash's Cutie Marks – something even Dash knew that Lotus and Aloe would charge extra for.

By the time Fluttershy stood, Rainbow Dash was so relaxed she could hardly move. Her eyelids drooped, but she wasn't paying much attention to what she saw, anyway. She felt like every moment of stress in her life – every secret and crisis and obligation and frustration – was just some story that happened to some other Pony; somepony without a kind, gentle, indulgent friend that smelled of blossoms and whose hooves were just magic.

"Poor buz'zard…glad 'm not herrr…" she slurred.

"What was that?" asked Fluttershy.

"Nuffin…" Rainbow Dash curled up on the pillow, and slowly sank into an utterly blissful sleep. As the last of consciousness left her, she could have sworn that she felt Fluttershy's feather-soft lips brush across her cheek in a tiny, tender kiss.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

The sun was slightly higher when Rainbow Dash finally opened her eyes. Blearily, she realized that that meant she had been asleep for nearly twenty-four hours. She had to get moving! There were plenty of duties calling. She felt a little weak as she shakily stood – she was still fantastically relaxed, but there was also a strange blurriness to the sensation.

"Fluttershy…?" Rainbow Dash looked around, but her friend was nowhere to be found. Eventually, she spotted a note addressed to her on a nearby end-table. She unfolded it, and recognized Fluttershy's delicate mouthwriting:

Dash – had to go and count the new Swifts and Starlings.
Feel free to help yourself to the food in the pantry.
Hope you feel better!
— FS

Rainbow Dash smiled, and sighed; she did feel better. She felt like she could take on all of Equestria! And it was all thanks to Fluttershy…and those berries.

Rainbow Dash's gaze fell on the tiny fruit, still sitting where Fluttershy had put them. She looked around, cautiously, and then picked up the bunch with her mouth as she trotted over to the door.

A short time later, Fluttershy returned to her now-empty cottage. She called out as she trotted from room to room; she searched until she was sure Dash had left. Returning to the living room she looked around, cautiously, and then nuzzled the pillow Rainbow Dash had slept on, inhaling her friend's unmistakable scent of healthy sweat and rainwater and sighing a shuddering sigh.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

Rainbow Dash had to work at top speed for the rest of the day to catch up on her weather duties, and she still barely finished in time. Princess Celestia had made a special request to honour her younger sister's first birthday in Equestria in a millennium, one that had required extreme effort from dozens of residents of Cloudsdale: the Princess had wanted a rainbow by moonlight.

The display went off without a hitch; the custom-blended extra-reflective pastel colours came out somewhere between a daytime rainbow and an aurora, and the two Alicorns had both expressed their satisfaction and appreciation. Buoyed though she was by that double helping of Royal praise, Rainbow Dash was sore, stressed and exhausted all over again by the time she finally got home to Cloudsdale.

Her eyes stung from rainbow residue, her wings were tired from flying all day, and her legs were stiff and aching from hours of cloud-clearing. She trotted sluggishly over to the snow-cloud in the kitchen, and peered inside of it.

There was little one could consider edible in the Cloudsdale-style icebox – Rainbow Dash was not the most prolific cook. There was only a small bouquet of wilted flowers, a pair of rock-hard sugar cubes…and the berries from Fluttershy's cottage.

Why not…? wondered Rainbow Dash. I hurt all over – of course I should take some medicine!

Without any further thought she snapped up the remaining berries, spitting out the bitter twigs and leaves. She trotted over to her bedroom and flopped down on her belly on the pile of pillows she used as a bed to wait for the berries to take effect. She didn't have to wait long.

Mmmmmhh… Smooth, velvety lethargy slowly crept through Rainbow Dash's body, dissolving the knots in her muscles and the stress in her mind. Even without a pair of skilled hooves on her flanks, the feeling was glorious.

Skilled hooves…thoughts of her soft-spoken friend slowly rose into her awareness, crowding out whatever musings were there before. In her mind's eye, Rainbow Dash saw strands of pink mane dangling in front of her eyes from above, and felt a soft, smooth mouth nibble at her ear. Rainbow Dash felt her wings stir.

She shook her head slightly, and frowned. Hey…! she chided her imagination. Cut that out! I'm no filly-fooler, no matter what the rumours say!

But her fantasy didn't listen; the sense-memories were too closely-linked. The phantasmal Fluttershy marked a trail of kisses from her ear down her neck, while those delicate hooves played across her wings…and her shoulders…and her ribs…and her Cutie Marks.

Moaning in surrender, Rainbow Dash rolled on her back, reached up with her hooves, and moved to kiss the thin air.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

The next afternoon, Fluttershy was tending to her flower gardens outside, pulling up weeds and munching on the more palatable ones, humming softly to herself. She picked up a watering can with her mouth, and gave the thirsty plants a drink. Then, a voice from behind her broke her out of her reverie:

"Fluttershy?"

She turned around, and saw Rainbow Dash standing on the path to her cottage. The sky-blue Pegasus looked tired and disheveled, with her mane tangled and her flanks shiny with sweat, as if she'd just won a race – not unlike the way Fluttershy had often pictured her in private moments. Her heart, for lack of a better word, fluttered.

"Oh! H-hello, Rainbow Dash. What's up?" she said, her voice slightly muffled by the can's handle.

"I need you." Rainbow Dash's tone was gravely serious. Fluttershy dropped the watering can.

"Uh…uh…O-o-of c-course," she stammered. "How can I help?"

"The weather teams have been workin' even harder lately, and I'm under a ton of…stress. I've tried to take it easy, but you know me – my only speed is top speed!" Fluttershy nodded appreciatively. "Anyway, I dunno if you're busy or anything, but I wondered if you could…you know…like before…" Rainbow Dash did her best to conceal the desperation in her voice.

"Oh, Certainly!" replied Fluttershy, doing her best to conceal the elation in her voice. "Come right in!"

Minutes later Rainbow Dash was sprawled on the same pillow as before, surrounded by the same scented candles, and trying not to bounce in anticipation. She heard Fluttershy finish washing her hooves, and trot up behind her. Before the Pegasus could lay a hoof on her, Rainbow Dash cringed theatrically.

"Wait…! I'm feeling really tense. And I don't wanna buck you again! Do you have any more of that…medicine?" Rainbow Dash knew that she'd done a poor job of hiding the hunger in her voice, but she didn't care.

"Of course. I'll be right back!"

"Great! I'll be here!" The minutes until Fluttershy returned felt like days. Rainbow Dash started nervously tapping her front hooves on the wooden floor.

Finally the yellow Pegasus came back, carrying another sprig of berries in her mouth. Rainbow Dash all but lunged for them, pressing her lips to Fluttershy's as she bit berries off the twig. Fluttershy blushed. "Thanks!" said Rainbow Dash around a mouthful of berries. "Okay…do your stuff!" She flopped back down on the pillow.

The second massage was as good as the first; Rainbow Dash positively melted beneath Fluttershy's hooves. But it was the haze of euphoria from those wonderful berries that spurred her to mutter: "Ooohh…yeaahh…tha'ss…sssoooo gooood…" Rainbow Dash writhed under Fluttershy, her eyes half-closed and her mouth hanging open in chemical bliss.

Fluttershy's heart felt like a hummingbird in her chest. Her she was, with the filly of her dreams like putty in her hooves. As if her words weren't proof enough, Rainbow Dash's body language couldn't be clearer: she was in ecstasy. All because of her! It was time for Fluttershy to be assertive. It was time for loss of control, screaming and hollering, and passion.

She took a deep breath, shifted alongside Rainbow Dash, and took the Pegasus' face in her hooves. "I love you," Fluttershy said, and kissed her. After a brief moment of wide-eyed surprise, Rainbow Dash kissed back.

Woohoo! Fluttershy thought to herself.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

Rainbow Dash woke up feeling like she'd just crashed through a hedgerow backwards. She had a throbbing headache, and her limbs were wracked with pins and needles. She raised her head, and felt the hoof wrapped around her neck flop down. Wait…hoof…? What the buck?

With a start, Rainbow Dash realized that Fluttershy was sleeping cuddled right up against her, her back leg still draped across her hindquarters. The two of them were in Fluttershy's bedroom. Rainbow Dash snapped into full alertness; she couldn't even remember what had happened for most of yesterday, but from the looks of it, things had gone a lot farther than she'd wanted them to.

Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh… With excruciating slowness, Rainbow Dash inched out of Fluttershy's embrace, crept off of the bed, and slinked out of the cottage. The rush of wind as she took to the air usually exhilarated Rainbow Dash, but now it just felt cold.

What's wrong with you, Dash? You played with your best friend's feelings and ended up in bed with her, all to get some stupid berries…? Get your head in the game! She grimaced, pounding the sides of her head with her front hooves. Guilt over what had happened hung on Rainbow Dash's shoulders like a leaden yoke, but there was another feeling beneath it all that made her feel even worse:

She still wanted more berries.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

Early that evening, Twilight Sparkle trotted into her library home without a care, only to be stopped at the doorway by her diminutive Dragon assistant. He was standing with his arms folded, swishing his meaty tail with a look of annoyance on his face.

The purple Unicorn leaned forward slightly, meeting Spike's emerald gaze. "Hey, Spike! Something wrong?"

"Yes…!" he snapped. "It's hard enough for me and him," – Spike gestured to the brown owl currently snoozing on a nearby perch – "to keep all these books in order when it's just you leaving stuff everywhere whenever an idea gets into your head, but when one of your friends comes 'round while you're out and turns the place upside down as well, it's just too much!"

"One of my…?" Twilight looked past Spike at the half-tidied archival maelstrom in the library. "Whoa! Spike, who did this?"

"Rainbow Dash! She barreled in here without saying a word, and started tearing the place apart! She didn't stop until I demanded to help her find what she was looking for."

"Demanded?" Twilight raised an eyebrow.

The Dragon sighed, releasing a tiny puff of green smoke. "Fine, begged."

"So what was she after?"

"Super-Naturals. I asked if someone had gotten into the Poison Joke patch again, but she didn`t answer. She just flipped through the pages, read one entry, and then took off!"

"I'm sorry, Spike. You know how impulsive Rainbow Dash can be sometimes. Why don't I help you clean all this up?" Twilight trotted over to the lectern where Dash had left the herbal.

Her eyes fell on the open book as she magicked it into the air. She squinted at the entry occupying both pages. Why would Rainbow Dash need to look up…oh, no! Twilight let the book fall. In a blaze of white-hot magic, she disappeared.

"Okay! Bye! And thanks for all your help!" muttered Spike sarcastically as he stooped to pick up the fallen book.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

"FLUTTERSHY!" Twilight bellowed. "Have you been giving Rainbow Dash Palfrey's Nightshade?"

Twilight had appeared in the cottage's living room in a sudden flash of magic. Her horn was painfully hot, and still leaking motes of energy; she'd teleported point-to-point all the way from the library.

Fluttershy cringed behind a loveseat; only her long pink tail was visible. "*Squeak*H-how…?"

"There is no time for you to be timid, Fluttershy! It's not a common plant, it obviously doesn't grow in Cloudsdale, and you're the only one of us other than me who knows anything about herbalism! Come on – Dash's LIFE may be in danger!"

The yellow Pegasus' head popped up from behind the chair. "What…? What do you mean?"

"Did you give her the Nightshade or not, Fluttershy?"

"Yes, for her muscle aches! But it's not dangerous! It's just a little painkiller, as weak as White Willow Bark! I've used it for the bunnies' aches and pains plenty of times – even Angel's! And rabbits are much smaller than a Pony!"

"But they're not Ponies, and Palfrey's Nightshade is definitely not weak! Rabbits are just mostly immune to it! Ponies aren't! Even a couple of berries can have terrible effects on us – addiction, delirium, paralysis…even death!"

"Celestia forgive me…" Fluttershy's eyes filled with tears. "Is…is she going to…?" Even the thought of losing Dash made her heart leap into her throat.

"Not if we find her. She looked up the plant in the library – I think she's trying to find more on her own. It's too dangerous for me to teleport into underbrush and there's no time to gallop, so I need you to fly me there. I'll try to lighten myself a bit." Twilight's horn lit up once more.

Fluttershy's face took on a stern, determined expression that she'd once used to stare down an adult Dragon. "Let's go."

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

Rainbow Dash leaned against an oak tree, giggling.

The berry patch had been right where the book said; a whole clearing full of luscious little orbs, literally ripe for the taking. She'd flitted from plant to plant across the field, snapping up the plumpest berries. Reddish juice stained her nose and chin.

The customary tingling in her mouth and throat was more like numbness now, and the same un-feeling was slowly creeping into her limbs. She vaguely felt her wings unfolding, hanging limply by her sides. But the rush was there as well, bigger and more intense than ever. It coloured everything in shades of wonder and delight.

"Nabad, huh, tree…?" she slurred giddily, nudging the oak with an elbow. "Bellyfull o'happy in t-ten sec'nds f…fl…fffff…"

Her eyes rolled upward, and she collapsed.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

Rainbow Dash lay on her back, dozing in a field of flowers. The sun was high in the cloudless sky, and the soothingly warm breeze smelled of blossoms. It was an utterly peaceful scene, and for once Rainbow Dash was content to stay still and enjoy it. A shadow passed over her face; she half-opened her eyes, and saw Fluttershy leaning over her. Rainbow Dash spoke:

"Shy…I'm sorry I…I used you, like that. I didn't know you felt that way about me. I didn't mean to hurt you–" Fluttershy put a hoof to Rainbow Dash's lips.

"Shhh…it's alright, my love. I forgive you. It was my fault, anyway – giving you those nasty berries." Fluttershy was leaning on Rainbow Dash's chest now, her soft hooves pressing down with surprising weight. "But now you don't have to worry about any of that. You just have to do one thing…"

"What's that?" asked Rainbow Dash. As Fluttershy leaned in to kiss her, Rainbow Dash felt the first drops of a rain squall falling.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

"BREATHE!" screamed Fluttershy as she compressed Rainbow Dash's ribcage with her hooves in a hard, stomping rhythm. She took another painfully deep breath, pinched the Pegasus' nostrils with her hooves, clamped her lips over her mouth, and forced air into the unconscious Pegasus' lungs once more. Tears dripped from her eyes onto Dash's face. Please, oh Celestia, PLEASE breathe…She jerked her head back up, and turned to Twilight Sparkle. "Anything?"

Twilight sat nearby, using a spell to detect Dash's vital signs. She shook her head. Tears slid down her cheeks as well. Fluttershy went back to pressing on Rainbow Dash's chest.

The pair had flown faster than Twilight had ever seen Fluttershy travel, slaloming between trees barely above ground level in a fairly convincing rendition of Rainbow Dash's Sonic Rainboom: Phase One. They'd spotted Rainbow Dash's distinctive colours at the edge of the berry patch almost instantly. She was flat on her back, not moving…and not breathing.

Twilight had used a spell to force the unconscious Pegasus to purge her stomach contents, and then directed Fluttershy to start trying to resuscitate her while she Scryed her vitals. Things didn't look good; even with the berries out of her stomach, there was still too much toxin in Rainbow Dash's bloodstream. Poison in her blood… Inspiration briefly brightened Twilight's expression, but then just as quickly faded. No…I couldn't…

Fixated though she was on keeping the guttering spark of her love's life flickering, Fluttershy noticed the look on Twilight's face. "What is it? What?" she demanded.

"While I was researching Nightmare Moon…I studied a lot of books about forbidden magic," Twilight admitted anxiously. "I think Black Magic could destroy Rainbow Dash's tainted blood, and replace it with clean blood, but…"

"Then do it!" Fluttershy shouted, and sucked in another breath to share with Dash.

"No! It's not that simple! Black Magic can't create – only destroy and steal! If I wanted to put clean Pegasus blood into her…it would have to come from somepony else."

Feeling the weight of passing seconds like boulders piling on her back, Fluttershy faced Twilight Sparkle and unleashed the terrible, transfixing force of The Stare.

"Save her. Do it. Do it NOW. And even if you have to take every last drop of my blood, don't you DARE stop, Twilight Sparkle. Do you hear me? DON'T YOU DARE!"

Helpless to resist, Twilight nodded, closed her eyes and started gathering an orb of slithering blackness at the tip of her horn. She could cast most of the spells she knew silently, but this little-used enchantment called for an incantation. Tears streamed from her glowing eyes as she half-sobbed the cruel words, her voice taking on an otherworldly echo:

"Foulest lords of filth and mud, scour this Pony of her blood.
Bleakest darkness, woe and strife, fill her up with stolen life.
Hateful spirits, heed my call: one shall rise…
AND ONE SHALL FALL!"

A wave of crackling blackness erupted from Twilight's horn, engulfing the two Pegasi. For half a dozen yards in every direction the plants withered and crumbled, poisoned by the unnatural magic. Twilight Sparkle staggered, sickened by the residual Black Magic boiling off of her purple hide. As her swimming vision cleared, she looked over at the other two Ponies in the clearing.

Rainbow Dash was sitting on her belly, slowly stirring into consciousness. Fluttershy was curled around her, pale and immobile. As Rainbow Dash's eyes flickered open, she noticed her stricken friend. She put her lips to the yellow Pegasus' ear, and whispered something Twilight couldn't quite make out.

Fluttershy's ears twitched, followed by her wings. Slowly, weakly, she opened her dark-circled eyes, and looked up into Rainbow Dash's teary gaze. The two shared a smile, and then a hug.

Twilight stared, agog. Somehow, both of them had survived the spell. She was overjoyed, but also deeply confused. It was impossible; nothing could endure that much Black Magic! Well, nothing except…

Twilight considered the scene before her once again, taking in the warmth of her friends' embrace and the joy in their eyes. She blushed, and chuckled awkwardly.

"Oh. Uhh…*ahem*…well! I'll…just give you two a moment, then…" she said, and vanished in a burst of clean white magic.

Fluttershy pulled away from the hug first, and spoke: "Rainbow Dash…did you really mean what you whispered to me?"

Rainbow Dash smiled warmly. "Absolutely! While that dark, cold magic was all around us, I could feel you offering me life – your life. And when I took it, I saw myself the way you see me. I could feel how much you loved me. And I could see that it stopped the magic from eating you up. It was like I saved you while you saved me. It was…awesome!" Rainbow Dash chuckled. "I'm no filly-fooler…but you're no filly. You're a grown mare, you love me, and I…I…" Fluttershy cut her off with a kiss.

·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•

On a dirt road at the crest of a nearby hill, out of earshot but well within eyeshot, the Stetson-shaded eyes of an orange Earth Pony took in the sight of the two Pegasi's passionate embrace and narrowed, filling with stinging tears. The Pony gritted her teeth, and lashed out with a muscular back leg; the tree behind her cracked from roots to canopy.

"You buckin' liar, Dash…you said you weren't that way…"

NEXT EPISODE:
APPLEJACK: EXPOSURE