'A Precious Rainbow'

by milesprower06

Apologies for a false content update alert, I've encountered a "Compression Error" on Firefox that prevents chapter 2 from displaying, and I tried deleting and reuploading as a workaround, as I want all my readers to be able to access my content. Sorry for any inconvenience.

2.1 – THE SLEEPOVER

SWEET APPLE ACRES FARMHOUSE

THE NEXT MORNING

Applejack was up bright and early at the crack of dawn. She went straight to the kitchen, and began preparing breakfast. Twenty minutes later, she quietly came into the guest room, where Rainbow was just getting up with a yawn.

"Rise n' shine, Rainbow. Got ya some breakfast here." Applejack greeted, setting a tray of hay, oats, a fresh apple, and apple juice on the nightstand next to her bed.

"How'd ya sleep?" she asked.

"A little here, a little there. Just tossed and turned all night." Rainbow replied, starting into her breakfast.

"Also, when you're done eatin', here." Applejack said, setting a hairbrush next to the tray on the nightstand.

"A brush?" Rainbow inquired.

"Yeah. Your hair's a mess. Might want to fix that." AJ answered with a chuckle.

"I'mma get Apple Bloom off to school. Give a holler if ya need anything."

As Applejack left the room and left the door open, Rainbow took a sip of apple juice, grabbed the hairbrush and got out of bed, walking over to the dresser and sitting in front of the mirror, slowly brushing her unkempt mane. Over a few minutes, the random, tangled spectrum of colors got sorted out, and her mane looked much improved, and Rainbow gave a small smile at herself. It felt a bit better, to look halfway decent. She returned to her breakfast, and ate heartily.

Down the hall in the kitchen, Applejack was getting Apple Bloom her breakfast and getting her ready for school.

"Applejack, why is Rainbow here?"

"Why Apple Bloom, if I wanted you to know that, I would've told you, now wouldn't I?" her older sister said, in a feigned astonished voice.

"Seriously. Is she alright?" Apple Bloom asked.

"You mind your business. She's here to rest. That's all you need to know. Now finish your breakfast and get off to school."

With that, Applejack left Apple Bloom to her breakfast, and went to check on Rainbow, who was now back at the night stand nibbling on some hay, her mane now clean and kept. She gave a soft smile.

"Well, I'mma go get some chores done, let me know if you need anything at all, okay?"

"Will do, AJ. Thanks."

Applejack noticed how Rainbow was trying her best to fake contentment and happiness. She'd give her the time and space she needed, and hoped she would slowly improve as the days passed.

It wasn't too long before Twilight was walking around the Acres looking for Applejack.

"Howdy there, Twilight. What can I do for ya?"

"Looking for Rainbow. I checked the Traveler's Inn this morning, and she wasn't there. I checked with the others, and no one's seen her."

"Yeah, she's here. Walked all the way here in the middle of the night with those back hooves, if you can believe it."

"How's she doing?" Twilight asked, walking with AJ around the Acres as she tended to various aspects of the farm.

"Well, she's not sleeping well. Ya can tell that just by lookin' at her. And I know she's trying to look happy, but I can see right through it. I'm...well, I'm trying my darndest to be patient with her. I know this is gonna take time. At least she's here."

"I think that's all we can give her at this point, is time."

Twilight went in to visit with Rainbow for a few minutes, who just sat at the window, staring out at the orchards. Twilight knew she must be going crazy following the doctor's orders; staying off her feet as much as possible, especially considering her long walk last night. Rainbow again tried to put on a smile for Twilight, but she, just like the farm workhorse, saw right through it, and played along for now.

Throughout the morning and early afternoon, the others came by. Rarity was thrilled that Rainbow was still wearing her hoodie, and Fluttershy came by with some of her animals. They both shared Applejack's concerns, and likewise decided to give her time. They were all confident that Rainbow's loyalty to her friends would bring her around sooner or later.

By the time afternoon rolled around, Applejack was relaxing in the kitchen, when there was a gentle but frantic knock at the door. Going to answer it, she was greeted by the cheesy grinning faces of Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo.

"Oh no..." she mused.

"Time for the CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS SUPER SLEEPOVER! YAY!" the three Crusaders said in obnoxiously loud unison.

"That was today...?" Applejack asked.

"Of course! I told you about it earlier in the week, remember?" Apple Bloom told her.

"Yeah, now I remember." she muttered.

"Look, y'all. You need to keep it down around the house. I've got a guest resting."

"A guest? Who?" Sweetie Belle asked.

This astonished Applejack, who looked at Apple Bloom.

"You mean you didn't tell'em? For once, you kept something to yourself?"

"Oh yeah! Rainbow's staying here, guys!" Apple Bloom blurted out.

Applejack facehoofed.

"Rainbow Dash? Really?" Scootaloo asked, her eyes widening with excitement.

"And you three are to leave her alone, is that clear?" AJ sternly instructed.

"Huh?" Scootaloo gave a puzzled look.

"Y'all don't need to know why she's here except that she's here to rest. Stay away from her, that's the end of it. Now go out to your clubhouse and stay out of trouble, ya hear?"

She got slow, puzzled nods from the three Crusaders, who made their way around the west side of the farmhouse to the forest patches, where the old clubhouse was.

Throughout the last few days events, AJ had completely forgot about the sleepover the Crusaders had planned for tonight. She wasn't entirely comfortable with three fillies running around the Acres when she had a wingless, depressed Pegasus recovering in the guest room. She didn't consider Rainbow a burden at all, but it wasn't something fillies needed to see at their age. She hoped, for once, that Apple Bloom and her friends would mind what she told them.

She went to the fridge and fetched another cool bottle of apple juice, and took it to Rainbow, who seemed slightly annoyed at being waited on hoof and flank.

"Remember, plenty of fluids." AJ reminded. Giving in, Rainbow sipped at the straw poking out of the bottle.

"So, why did you come here when everyone offered you a place to stay?" Applejack asked.

"Huh?"

"Don't worry, I'm thrilled you're here, but out of all the places, you walked 2 miles out here to the Acres."

"Well, for a number of reasons. I didn't want to disturb Fluttershy's animals, I would've been Rarity's living mannequin, and I'd be even more bored to tears in the library with Twilight. You have a lot of space out here, fresh air, and well..."

Applejack waited for her to continue.

"You saved my life, Applejack. When I recover enough to be a little more active, I'd like to help you around here. It'd give me something to do, and it seems you always need more help. I owe you."

"Aw, Sugarcube, I appreciate the offer, and you're welcome to once you recover, but 'ah want you to know, you don't owe me anything."

CRUSADER CLUBHOUSE

LATER THAT NIGHT

"Alright, where can we get a giant slingshot?"

"Scootaloo, if a cannon didn't work last month, why would a slingshot work?" Sweetie Belle rebuked.

The Crusaders' attempts for Cutie Marks had grown sillier and more obscure as time went on. It made much of Ponyville wonder whether "talents you're good at" had really sunk into any of their heads.

"I keep on wondering what Rainbow is doing here." Scootaloo stated.

"Well, maybe it has to do with her cloud house above Ponyville." Apple Bloom offered.

"What about it?"

"Um, it's not there anymore?"

"Maybe there was something wrong with it."

"Then why is she resting? Why is Applejack telling us to not even go near her?"

"Well, why don't we find out for ourselves? Find out what more and more ponies are talking about in town?" Scootaloo said.

Apple Bloom started to agree, but Sweetie Belle wasn't so sure.

"But, we were told to leave her alone."

"And we will. We'll just peek inside her window and come right back here." Scootaloo said.

"Come on, let's go!" Apple Bloom said, and they set off, Sweetie Belle still a little uneasy about playing around what Applejack told them.

FARMHOUSE

10 MINUTES LATER

Owls and crickets could be heard throughout the Acres as night set in for the next several hours. Applejack made her checks around the house, making sure everything was just so, before heading towards her room down the hall.

Passing the closed guest room door, she heard a muffled commotion on the other side.

Silently opening the door, she quietly came up to the bed, as Rainbow shifted uneasily in her sleep.

She found herself restrained to the planks again. Fear crept into every vein in her body.

No. No! No no no no no not again!

"Time to get started." she heard a cheery voice from nowhere.

Black was all around her as she tried to fight against her restraints.

"Dash...Dash. Rainbow, wake up." Applejack said, gently shaking Rainbow's shoulder.

"No...please no..." she mumbled in her sleep.

"No! Please no!" she pleaded.

She felt a presence behind her, stretching out her right wing, ready to bring down the knife...

Rainbow's uneasy shifting became more apparent. Suddenly, her sleeping body jolted, the covers rippling. She gave a short scream.

"No! Please!" she yelled from the dream world beyond.

"Rainbow! Wake up!"

Pain shot through her back as her right wing fell into the blackness, and her left wing was stretched out. She felt the teeth of the hacksaw grind against her bone.

"No!" she screamed in pain.

"Rainbow Dash!" a voice from beyond called her in the darkness.

"Rainbow Dash!" Applejack yelled to snap the Pegasus out of her nightmare.

Rainbow bolted up with a scream, frantically looking around.

"It's alright, it's alright. It's me!" Applejack quickly said, attempting to calm her frightened friend.

Then, came another scream, a muffled one, from outside her bedroom window. Both ponies looked in surprise.

When Scootaloo saw the red bloody areas of Rainbow Dash's bandaged back, her pupils contracted, and her whole body went cold as she let out a blood-curdling scream, and immediately turned tail and ran back into the forest towards the clubhouse, followed quickly by Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle.

Tears pricked Rainbow's eyes, and it only took a split second for Applejack to put the pieces together, seeing the three fillies run back into the darkness of the forest, and her face became one of disbelief and anger.

"Wait here, Rainbow. I'll be right back, promise."

With that, she left the room, and was quickly giving chase back out to the clubhouse.

Scootaloo was cowering in her sleeping bag, and the other two crusaders were confused and scared as they stood in the safety of their clubhouse.

It hadn't even been a minute since they got back before the door slammed open, getting a startled scream from each of them.

There stood Applejack in the doorway, a furious look in her eyes.

"How...dare...you." she said, just above a whisper.

"W-we're sorr-" her younger sister began to apologize, before being harshly cut off.

"Shut it! You think I tell you these things for no reason at all? That I tell you 'no' for fun?"

The Crusaders looked at her, frightened.

"W-we were just curious why Rainbow-"

"I told you to leave her alone. I told you to not go near her! A lotta good your 'curiosity' did you tonight!" she yelled at them.

Not another word came from the three fillies.

"I don't want to hear another peep. If there's another hoof out of this clubhouse for the rest of the night, you'll be out of school before the next sleepover. Understood?"

All she got in return were teary-eyed nods from them. Scootaloo shuddered in the corner. AJ left without another word.

FARMHOUSE

10 MINUTES LATER

AJ returned to the farmhouse and brought a cool glass of water to the guest room, where Rainbow had her back to her, sitting on the bed, sobbing openly.

Saying nothing, Applejack gently set the glass on the nightstand, and when she took a seat next to her on the bed, the Pegasus got up and went to the window.

"I-I...I can't take this anymore...I can't even look at them anymore..." she sobbed, looking at the starry sky from her window.

"The fillies?"

"No..." Rainbow sniffled. "No, the stars, the sky, my Cutie Marks. Every...everytime..."

She turned to Applejack with something of a frustrated, scared look in her eyes.

"I'm tired of being reminded of who I was! What I loved doing! What Pinkie took away from me! How...?"

She collapsed onto her back haunches, in tears.

"How am I ever gonna be able to move on if that reminder is always there...?" she sobbed, her tears and gaze falling to the floor.

Applejack stared at her friend for a moment, before getting off the bed and sitting next to her, putting her front leg around her friend.

"Sugar...do you think it's gonna be that easy? Just...just throw away all of who you used to be and start new? Well, that's not gonna happen, hun. You have to remember who you were, and adapt to your new life. That doesn't mean you have to change who you are entirely, or forget who you used to be."

Rainbow continued to cry, but it let up a bit.

"What did she do to you, Rainbow?"

The Pegasus sniffled and shot her a bothered glance.

"I don't think I'll ever be ready to talk about that. Besides, you of everypony should have the best idea."

"It was all a rush, Rainbow. I didn't really take it all in when I got you out of there. But maybe you're having these nightmares because you're keeping it all inside."

Nothing more was said for a minute while AJ continued to silently comfort Dash with merely her presence.

"She drugged me."

"Drugged you?"

"Yeah. With something in her cupcakes. I woke up restrained to planks, and all around the room were these...decorations...of parts and bones and organs of ponies."

Applejack said nothing, just listening to her friend.

" She said that she needed more special ingredient for her cupcakes, and that my number came up. She started with my Cutie Marks. Cut both of them off of my flanks. Then she took off my wings."

Rainbow shuddered again, fresh tears rolling down her cheeks.

"The first thing she did was take away what made me special. What made me, 'me'."

AJ continued listening intently.

"Then she...she...ate part of me. Part of the muscle in my right flank. It didn't even phase her. Like it was normal."

Another few moments passed while Rainbow tried her best to keep herself composed and recalled that horrific night all too recently.

"I blacked out several times, and she'd just inject me with adrenaline. Then...then came the nails. Burning hot; hammered right into my back hooves...attached to copper wires. She electrocuted me until I blacked out again. It...it felt like every inch of my body was on fire..."

"Then...then she gave me a painkiller, and I couldn't feel anything below my ribs. She said it...it was time for the last round, and I'd be awake to watch the harvest. And then...then you showed up."

Applejack held in her horrified reaction, and simply wrapped her arm tighter around Dash's shoulders, tears began to fall from her eyes as well.

Rainbow began weeping again.

"Ap-Applejack...if you hadn't shown up when you did...I..."

There were no more words to say as she just sat there, head lowered, crying.

AJ wrapped both arms around her friend, crying with her.

"Rainbow...I...I'm so sorry you had to go through that. And mark my words, sugar. I swear on my life, if there was any way..."

She searched for the right words.

"I would give up the farm; my livelihood; I would give all I am if it meant making you whole again."

2.2 – HEART-TO-HEART

SWEET APPLE ACRES

THE NEXT MORNING

None of the Crusaders got a lot of sleep after the incident last night. At the crack of dawn, Applejack was at the clubhouse, rising the three fillies, still shaken from last night.

"Apple Bloom, go back to the house. I'll be taking your friends home." she said sternly.

"But why-" she started to protest.

"I don't think you want to be questioning anything I tell you right now. Go to the house and stay in your room. Is that clear?"

Apple Bloom simply nodded, and began to make her way out of the clubhouse.

"Come on, you two. Hurry and get up."

Applejack had other motives for going into town today. Other than getting the Crusaders back and explaining last night's incident to their parents, she also remembered that the nurse had instructed Rainbow to return and get her bandages changed, and she didn't want her to go two miles back and forth, and she had dealt with farm injuries before, so changing gauze was no big hassle.

FARMHOUSE

Applejack returned an hour later with a saddlebag. Big Macintosh was busy making breakfast.

"Apple Bloom in her room?"

"Eeeyup."

AJ made her way to the guest room, where Rainbow was just beginning to get up, due to her restless sleep last night.

"Good news, Rainbow. I went and got the gauze, so you don't have to walk all way back to Ponyville to get'em changed. And we can see if you're starting to heal up, too."

Rainbow gave AJ a small smile.

"Applejack...thanks for last night. I think that helped."

"No problem at all, sugarcube."

Rainbow tossed the covers aside, and sat up. Applejack set her saddlebag beside her, and began to unwrap the gauze around Rainbow's mid-section. She was relieved to see that the stubs where her wings used to be were no longer the bloody, oozy mess that it was when she was first treated. The first layers of skin had now formed.

"Looks to be coming along well enough." AJ commented, gently applying some ointment, and then wrapping them up in fresh, sterile gauze.

She then moved down to her flanks, and unwrapped the area around her cutie marks. Again, there was much improvement. Her cutie marks had reattached where they had been cut off; fresh scar tissue formed a circle around them, but they appeared to be healing.

"I don't think I even need to re-bandage that area." Applejack happily said. She moved to her right cutie mark, where part of her muscle had been removed by Pinkie, and she gently pressed with her left hoof.

"How's that feel, sugar?" she asked.

"Still a little numb, but I can feel it." Dash replied.

"Good sign."

Then, Rainbow turned around in a sitting position, her back legs half-dangling off the bed. Applejack carefully unwrapped the gauze around her back hooves, and inspected the healing areas.

"These look the best of all. I'd say you'll be good to go in a week at most, Rainbow. And I'll even go one further right now, and won't insist that you stay in bed." Applejack said, replacing the bandages on Rainbow's back hooves.

"Good, 'cause I want to go talk to Apple Bloom."

"And what do you need to tell her?"

"Something that'll only work coming from me."

For the first time since arriving, Rainbow Dash joined Applejack, Big Macintosh, and Granny Smith out in the kitchen for breakfast. Both Big Mac and Granny Smith were equally optimistic about the rate of Rainbow's recovery. After breakfast, Rainbow took a tray of food down the hall and gently knocked on Apple Bloom's door.

"Come in." she said somberly, expecting her big sister and some more chastising. Instead, Rainbow walked in.

"Oh, uh...hi Rainbow. Look...I'm...I'm really sorry about..."

"Relax, Apple Bloom. I'm not mad. Applejack has every right to be mad because you disobeyed, but I just want to talk, that's all." Rainbow reassured her.

"I brought ya some breakfast." the recovering Pegasus said, setting the tray next to the filly laying on the bed, resting her chin on her hooves.

"We were just curious as to why you were staying here. She didn't have to yell at us like that." Apple Bloom pouted.

"Look, Apple Bloom. I was your age once, and I hated being told no too. But...what you three saw, fillies your age really shouldn't have seen. Curiosity isn't always the best thing to have."

"But she's always bossing us around! Telling us that we can't do things, and not telling us why!" the young yellow filly complained.

"Apple Bloom, AJ's trying to protect you. You should be grateful that you have her. I...never had any siblings to grow up with. And I'll tell you something..." Rainbow said, taking a seat next to her on her bed.

"If not for your big sister, I wouldn't be here right now. She saved my life, Apple Bloom. So I know it's not fun being punished, but you need to appreciate the fact that you have your sister here."

Apple Bloom didn't answer, just stared silently at her twin bed's comforter, and began to eat her breakfast that had been brought to her.

"Well, just think about it. I'm headed into town."

"To do what?"

"Talk to another Crusader. I imagine we have one freaked out and frightened Pegasus on our hands right now."

Rainbow went one door down to her room, and tugged on her hoodie, and told Applejack she was going into town.

"Just take it easy on those back hooves, alright?"

"Don't worry, I will."

And with that, she left the farmhouse, and trotted to Ponyville.

PONYVILLE OUTSKIRTS

30 MINUTES LATER

Rainbow, with her Wonderbolt hoodie, walked up to a brick home in one of the outskirt neighborhoods of Ponyville, and knocked on the door. Seconds later, a light-purple Pegasus opened the door.

"Rainbow...nice to see you." she said, trying to hide the surprise in her voice.

"Thanks. I know Applejack probably told you about what happened last night. I was wondering if I could talk to Scootaloo."

"Yeah, that probably would be best. She's in the back yard with her scooter. Take it easy, she's still a bit...shaky."

Rainbow nodded, and walked around the house to the back yard. Scootaloo had a screwdriver in hoof, adjusting the back wheel of her scooter.

"Hey there, Scoot." Rainbow greeted as she walked up to her.

Scootaloo turned to her nervously.

"Uh...R-Rainbow. What are you...doing here?"

"I came to talk to you." Rainbow replied, taking a seat on the sidewalk next to her and her method of transportation. Scootaloo still looked uneasy.

"Scoot, I'm not mad. I just wanted to see how you were doing. I know what you saw last night must have been pretty...scary."

"I know I should've left you alone. But all I've been hearing around town the last few days is how you 'survived', and everypony wondering how you're doing, and how the investigation is going."

"Well, it's not really for filly ears. But since you already saw what happened to me, I'll answer whatever I can if it helps put your mind at ease."

Scootaloo nervously glanced at her back, covered by the hoodie.

"D-does it hurt? Or feel weird?" she shakily asked.

"It doesn't really hurt anymore. And of course it still feels weird, considering I had wings all my life."

"But a-aren't you...scared?"

"Absolutely." Rainbow said softly, placing a hoof on her fan's shoulder.

"Scoot, I was very scared when I realized what had happened; that they couldn't fix me. When I laid there in the hospital at night; even when I moved in with Applejack, I cried myself to sleep because I didn't know what to do with my life anymore. It's something I'm still figuring out. There are still times I'd give anything to just fly again...or just feel like I'm flying. But it's something I'm going to have to accept eventually, and move on. Right now, I'm just grateful that I'm alive. And life has those scary moments, where you don't know what to do or where to go next. So sometimes...I can't believe I'm gonna say this...sometimes you just have to look at what scares you, and laugh."

Scootaloo's nervousness was still apparent.

"And I'd say you're never too young to learn life lessons, so I guess here's one right now. Don't take anything for granted, Scoot. Because hardly anypony realizes what life would be like without the things they take for granted. When you finally find your life's calling, and your cutie mark, just don't embrace your talent with all your heart, but embrace everything you do. Every day. Because tomorrow, it may not be the same. It can all change in an instant. And I'm not trying to scare you, but with what I went through, I'm viewing life more and more as a gift not to be wasted."

Scootaloo looked up at her and gave her a smile, and hugged her.

"Thanks, and I'm sorry, Rainbow."

"It's alright. Just don't let curiosity get the best of you next time."

"No, I mean...I'm sorry that this happened to you."

"Yeah...me too. But it's something I have to learn to live with, and I certainly don't want everypony going around pitying me. So chin up, okay Scoot?" she said, tipping the filly's chin up with her hoof.

"You got it, Rainbow Dash!" she said confidently.

Rainobw smiled, said goodbye, and right before she departed, Scoot called her.

"Hey Rainbow!"

"Yeah?"

"Well, have you tried diving?"

"Huh?"

"When me and Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle tried to get our cutie marks several months ago, we tried diving and swimming. It felt like flying to me, moving through the water. Well, I think it feels like flying. Guess I'll find out when my wings grow enough. Maybe if you want that flying feeling back, you could try swimming."

Rainbow smiled.

"Maybe I will try that. Thanks, Scoot."

And with that, she departed.

Rainbow wasn't quite ready to depart the town yet. Before heading back out to Sweet Apple Acres, Rainbow stopped at Fluttershy's tree home, and gently knocked on the door. Her quiet, gentle childhood friend answered the door.

"Oh good, you're here. Thought you might be out with some of your animals." Rainbow greeted.

"I was about to be," Fluttershy replied, smiling upon seeing her friend.

"What can I do for you, Rainbow?"

"I just came for my stuff, then I'll be on my way."

"Oh?" Fluttershy asked, glancing back inside. There was a saddlebag sitting neatly next to the couch.

She walked over to the couch and slung the saddlebag over her back.

"I'm not about to have you walk all the way back to the Acres carrying this. I'll go with you."

"Fluttershy, it's alright, I've-"

"Nope, I won't hear it. You're recovering."

"Fine, Fluttershy. You win."

The two of them set out, heading out of Ponyville with a small handful of woodland creatures in tow.

"So how are you liking it over at Applejack's farm?" Fluttershy asked.

"Well, I'm glad she finally gave me permission to move around and actually do some stuff. I was going insane in that guest room. Especially after what happened last night."

"Oh? What happened?"

"Apple Bloom and two of her friends saw what happened to me last night."

"Oh...oh my."

"That's partly why I came into town, to talk to Scootaloo and see how she was doing. I think she'll be alright."

"I hope so. She always looked up to you as a role model."

"So how do you do it, Fluttershy?" Rainbow asked, after they got out of Ponyville, halfway back to the farm.

"Do what?"

"Spend so much time on the ground? You never did take much to flying. Didn't you ever think it was part of who you are?"

"Well, the animals just mean a whole lot more to me than flying, Rainbow Dash. I know flying meant a lot to you, but maybe that's what you have to do – find something that means just as much to you as flying did."

"Well, that's the thing. My cutie marks symbolize my love for flying. So how can I find something that means just as much to me?"

"Rainbow, there's something undeniably special about the cutie marks. With what's happened to you, if your cutie marks were only about flying, I don't think they'd be healing so quickly."

Rainbow considered this.

"So what do I do?"

"For now, I'd just think back to how your cutie mark appeared. That's the best place to start, I think."

When they arrived back at Sweet Apple Acres, Fluttershy greeted AJ, and then took Rainbow's possessions into her guest room.

"Thanks again, Fluttershy."

"Oh, not a problem at all, Rainbow Dash. Good luck. See you later!"

For the better part of the day, Rainbow sorted through her possessions that Fluttershy had gathered from her home. Hanging her dress in the closet, setting her gold tiara from the Best Young Fliers Competition on the dresser, followed by the jar of liquid rainbow, and lastly, her hooves came up out of the saddlebag with a very precious item; her Harmony Necklace; gold, with a jeweled, ruby lightning bolt in the center. She gently set that down on the center of the dresser.

She began to think back to the day she got her Cutie Mark, after racing the two bullies at Summer Flight Camp. How she had been shoved off course, and made up for it by going faster than she ever had before, and hit the lowest checkpoint loop going so fast she made a Sonic Rainboom, that hadn't been seen in generations. On her way back up to the finish line, her Cutie Mark appeared.

"So if it's not flying, then...what is it?"

2.3 – A RAINBOW IN WATER

SWEET APPLE ACRES

ONE WEEK LATER

Rainbow stood at the shore of the small lake, about a half-mile from the farmhouse. The sun hadn't even come up yet, and it looked like rainclouds on the horizon.

She didn't mind. She was going to take Scootaloo's suggestion, and give this a try. After all, it had been nearly a week since she had bathed, and this would prove to be refreshing.

She turned her head and looked at her back. Her stubs had begun to heal, the first layers of skin forming. She was sure they'd be fine. She'd removed all her bandages for this swim. Slowly, she stepped into the water.

The water felt cold on her back hooves, but she quickly adjusted to the temperature, stepping deeper in, the water now halfway up her legs. Her hooves glided on the pebbles and wet sand on the bed of the lake, and she began a slow trot deeper into the water.

Now it was up to her chest and belly, almost up to her flanks. She grabbed her silver goggles hanging around her neck, and strapped them on over her eyes, took a deep breath, and leaped forward, diving into the water.

She went under with a splash. She looked at the clams and pebbles on the bottom of the lake, and went deeper. She reached forward with her front hooves, and pulled back, propelling her body through the water.

It felt so refreshing. With a grin, she repeated the stroke, and spun in the water. The world above was muted and muffled. It wasn't the wind rushing through her mane, around her body; but Scootaloo was right, this was a lot like flying. She let her legs go limp, lazily lifting up as she let herself list in the depths. This was a peace she hadn't felt all week. With a gurgled, bubbly laugh, she pushed up with her hooves a few times, and her head broke the surface of the lake, and she took a few deep breaths. She tread water for several moments before taking in another deep breath and going under again.

FARMHOUSE

1 HOUR LATER

When Applejack rose out of bed an hour later, the weather had changed considerably. With the rush of rain pelting the roof and windows, she got out of bed with a yawn, and went to check on Rainbow, only to find the bed empty, and her bandages in the waste bin next to it.

She immediately went to the kitchen, where she found Big Macintosh at the stove making breakfast.

"Hey Big Mac, where's Rainbow?" she asked.

"Said she was going swimming out by the lake. That was about an hour and a half ago."

"What? It's pourin' rain out there!"

"Wasn't pourin' when she went out. Still, if she was gonna come back when it started raining, I think she'd be back by now. It's been coming down like this for a good 45 minutes now."

AJ sighed.

"Oh, what am I gonna do with her?"

With that, Applejack went out into the thunderstorm, making her way to the lake.

LAKE

15 MINUTES LATER

With no more than an hour in the lake, Rainbow Dash had turned into a fish with legs and a mane.

She had tried all kinds of strokes, and so far, her favorite one was swimming up fast enough to where she almost had her whole body out of the lake before splashing back in again. She had seen a variety of fish and sea life at the bottom of the lake. It was a whole world she hadn't been familiar with.

She dove deeper and deeper. Brushing past a patch of seaweed on the bed of the lake, she angled herself up, and swam as fast as she could to the surface. When she came up for air the next time, she heard a voice over the splashing.

"Rainbow! What are you doing out here?"

She turned and saw Applejack at the shore some 30 feet away, and gave her a smile.

"What does it look like? Swimming." she greeted.

"It's rainin' cats and dogs!"

Rainbow just giggled.

"Yeah, so? I'm already entirely wet."

Applejack halted her chastisement of Rainbow when she noticed her entirely carefree demeanor. For the first time since arriving, she didn't seem depressed and down.

"So you just decided you'd come out before a thunderstorm and take a swim?"

"Yep!" Rainbow replied happily, taking a short dive under and immediately coming back up again, her rainbow mane soaked and flat against her forehead and neck.

"I went into town to talk to Scootaloo, and she suggested swimming if I wanted to feel something close to flying again."

A rumble of thunder rolled over the lake area, and lightning flashed the hazy morning sky.

"Besides, I've spent years making thunderstorms. About time I got wet in one, if ya ask me." Rainbow said with another giggle.

Applejack was so astonished that Rainbow had suddenly returned to something resembling her former self, and all it took was a dip in a lake.

"Besides, I've been doing some thinking out here." Rainbow said, coming out of the lake onto the shore, dripping wet, with still more rain coming down. Lifting her goggles up onto her forehead, Rainbow started taking a long route back to the farmhouse, through one of the Acres' apple orchards, with AJ right beside her.

"Thinking about what?"

"About my Cutie Marks. Fluttershy told me that they're more special than I think, and that they still have meaning in my life. They're healing pretty fast, so I'm wondering if they reflected my love of flying at all."

Applejack pondered this as well, looking at her friend's flank.

"A cloud and rainbow lightning bolt. What else could that mean?"

"I don't know just yet. But maybe what I needed was some time out in the rain."

"Why, so you can catch a cold?" Applejack half-jokingly asked.

"No, to grow." Rainbow replied.

"Huh?"

"Well, your trees need an equal amounts of sunshine and water to produce these apples. So maybe in order to grow and move past this, maybe all I need is some rain. Who says plants are the only things that need a little rain now and then?"

The farmhouse came into view, and the rain began to let up. It didn't quit completely, but came down to a light drizzle. The clouds began to part, and rays of sunshine began to descend on the acres, and coming to the front door, the pair of ponies saw a rainbow materialize in the parting rainclouds.

"Well whad'ya know..." Applejack said, staring up at the rainbow.

"What is it, AJ?"

The workhorse motioned up to the rainbow.

"Maybe that's what you're cutie mark represents. That no matter what storms you go through, you'll always come through. I'd say this is sure a fine example."

Rainbow took another look at the sparkling rainbow, and then over to her friend, and they gave each other a hug.

"Thanks, AJ."

"No problem at all. Now let's go get dried off."