It was cold. Cold enough to numb Rainbow Dash's pale blue wings as she tore through the deep indigo sky, each star a twinkling streak in her eyes. Up there, there were no boundaries. Up there, she was freer than anywhere else.
That night, there was more of a chill in the air than most nights, and the rainbow-maned Pegasus, who normally couldn't care less, could feel the wind biting at her shoulders and the base of her wings. They were stiff, an uncommon symptom for Rainbow Dash.
Shoot, she thought. I can't perform any of my tricks like this! She glanced around the ground, looking for an open spot. Unfortunately, she was hovering right over the Everfree forest. Rainbow Dash sighed. I guess I don't have much of a choice. I'll just run right back to Ponyville once I land. She folded her wings to her sides and dropped freely, saving her wing energy to cushion her fall.
She lit upon the hard dusty ground, small clouds of dirt billowed around her hooves as they clamored clumsily against the soil. Huh. I must be having a really off day. I wonder—"ACHOO!" She let out an enormous sneeze. The force of her sneeze made her jump, landing on her rear. "Owww…" Rainbow Dash groaned.
Suddenly, soft hoof-steps could be heard to her left. "Who's there? Come closer and I'll beat you down!" She snarled, hoping to scare it away. She actually didn't want a fight in her hurt and possibly sick state; she just wanted to give an impression to whatever it was that she didn't want it anywhere near her. The noise continued. "I'm warning you! Back off!" Dash shouted.
"Rainbow Dash! It's just me!" A familiar soft voice sounded as a pale yellow filly with a pastel pink mane trotted out of the bushes. Fluttershy looked her up and down. "Why are you out in the Everfree forest?" Her droopy eyes arched with concern.
"Oh, ha-ha, you know… Just, uh, thought I saw a… uh… thing." She stuttered. "But what about you? What's a little filly like you doing here?"
"One of my chickens got away. I started following her, and before I knew it I was lost in this forest. I was so glad to hear your voice, Rainbow." Her tiny mouth formed a smile. The other Pegasus pony grinned bashfully.
"Ah, it was nothing. I was just worried you might have been something dangerous."
"But you could have taken care of it! You're the bravest pony I ever met" She stepped closer to a nervous Rainbow Dash, who was currently fighting a tickle in her nose. She scrunched up her face in an attempt to not sneeze.
"Well… I guess I'm a little tired is all." She shrugged. Fluttershy cocked her head to the side.
"Then, if that's all, do you want to accompany me back to my house? I'm… kind of nervous in this forest." Fluttershy shuffled her hooves. Rainbow Dash nodded her head and smiled.
"Of course. Anything to help you feel safe." Dash put on a strong expression to hide the pain in her limbs and the itching in her throat and nose. The pretty young pony blushed at her comment.
The light blue filly waited for Fluttershy to turn around to stand up. She lifted her back legs up with what strength was left in her front legs, causing her to stumble awkwardly and nearly fall back over. "Are you all right?" questioned the one with functioning legs. She galloped backwards to tend to her friend.
Rainbow Dash sighed. If she learned anything from the incident with Applejack and her not telling them she needed help, it's to not keep things from friends that might need to be told. "I think I'm sick, Fluttershy. Or hurt." Fluttershy kneeled down.
"I knew something was wrong. What's the matter?" A look of distress showed on her face.
"I'm not sure… I was flying, and all of a sudden my legs and wings got all stiff. And now I'm sneez—ACHOO!…Sneezing." Rainbow explained. Her friend moved to sit with her backside to her.
"Try to climb on my back. I can take you back to my house, I'll take care of you there."
"Fluttershy…" Dash moaned exasperatedly
"Come on." She urged. Rainbow Dash sighed, and reluctantly scooted close enough to grasp Fluttershy's sides. The pink-maned pony stood up, and galloped off to her cottage-like home, which was not far from where they were sitting in the Everfree forest.
Fluttershy's home was small, cozy, and full of small woodland creatures, much like Fluttershy herself. It fit her so perfectly, right down to the small tufts of different plants sprouting out of the soft, earthy floor. As the two Pegasus ponies entered the abode, Angel, the young white rabbit and friend to the animal-loving filly, hopped over to see what the fuss was about.
"Hi, Angel. Rainbow Dash here might be a little sick, so I'm going to be taking care of her for tonight." Clarified Fluttershy, trotting up her spiral staircase, into her tiny bedroom where she intended to nurse her friend back to health.
"Fluttershy, you don't need to do this… I think I just need to go to sleep is all." Complained the boastful, arrogant, yet ill pony.
"Oh, Rainbow Dash. Don't worry. I take care of animals all the time. I'm sure I can help you feel better." She gently let Dash down onto her soft bed and took a step back. "Now, try to get comfy and I'll see if you have a fever. I'll be right back." She sauntered back down the stairs to seek out a thermometer.
Rainbow reluctantly relaxed into the cushy mattress, folding her feathery wings to her side. Her joints ached, her nose was itchy, and she felt all-around awful. But she trusted Fluttershy more than anypony to take care of her. She was cautious, and would always make sure something was okay with her patient before doing it. Yeah, Rainbow Dash trusted the filly, with her soft voice, soft, downy wings, soft, comfortable back… Ah! Wait! Rainbow Dash shook her head. Those thoughts weren't ones to have about your closest friend. She couldn't stand to complicate things with Fluttershy. They had too nice of a relationship.
But… The rainbow-maned pony couldn't help but think about her friend's calm, kind eyes, and her slender little legs, which were anything but clumsy, and blush at how Fluttershy was going out of her way to lend a hoof and tend to her aches and pains.
It wasn't that Rainbow Dash was glad to be in her position. Oh, no, she couldn't stand to look weak. But, if she had to expose herself in front of anypony, it would be Fluttershy. And, she didn't exactly mind being cared for by her friend, but she would never admit that.
Rainbow Dash's heart and mind were conflicted. She knew she had feelings for Fluttershy, whatever the feelings may be, whether friendship or something more. But she also knew that, if her feelings were stronger than companionship, the target of her emotions would never realize it. Besides, even if she did confess, word would get around Ponyville, and she might lose the respect and friendship she had with so many ponies. Rainbow Dash already had the nickname "filly-fooler" from ignorant little colts because of her tomboyish attitude and rainbow mane. Despite her strong outlook, she really couldn't stand being teased.
She sighed and snuggled deeper into the soft bedding as Fluttershy briskly trotted back up the stairs. "I found a thermometer!" She cheerily chirped, "I just had to wash it off, because you never know who could have used it before." She hopped on the bed next to her patient. "Here." She stuck the opposite end of the thermometer into her own mouth, placing it near Rainbow's, who blushed having the girl's face close to her own.
Wow, Thought Dash, She smells just like fresh cut grass…
"You must have a fever. Your face is all red." Whispered Fluttershy, nudging the thermometer closer. "Place this under your tongue and wait." Rainbow Dash gingerly reached out and grasped it between her tongue and teeth. Their noses briefly touched. The pale blue mare quickly pulled away, fearful that she might get carried away. "All right. Now just let it sit there for a while." Fluttershy rested back on her haunches on the bed, creating a slight squeak. Rainbow Dash shifted her legs uncomfortably and awkwardly. She fiddled with the sheets. The silence was screaming at her to say something, but the thermometer underneath her tongue and the difficult situation she was in prevented her from raising her voice.
After what seemed like hours, Fluttershy checked the temperature-reading device. "Well. You certainly have a fever." She frowned. "It looks like you probably have a bad cold, most likely from flying outside in that chilly weather. You need to keep warm and try to break the fever." She jumped off the bed. "Now, I'm going to move you slightly. I just need to cover you up with blankets." Rainbow Dash nodded.
Fluttershy gently scooted the blankets out from underneath her sick friend, and then placed her hooves carefully on her side. The contact made Rainbow Dash's body shiver and flush. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, it's just…"
Rainbow Dash exhaled heavily. "Nothing. Go on ahead." Fluttershy's eyebrows creased with uncertainty, yet she continued cautiously. She positioned one hoof on her waist and one on her flank, gingerly budging her to lay down with her head on the pillow. Rainbow was now blushing furiously. She felt inclined to say something. But the words just got caught in her throat.
"You're shivering, Rainbow Dash." Fluttershy lifted her hooves off Dash's clammy, feverish body. "Are you cold?"
Rainbow shrugged. "I guess. Sort of cold, but sweaty." She replied as the other Pegasus covered her up with a sheet and a comforter.
"Do you want me to get under the covers to keep you warm—
"NO!" Rainbow Dash blurted noisily, her face an uncomfortable shade of tomato red. Fluttershy shrunk back at the shouting. "I mean…" She calmed down. "Erm, if you think it would help…" She secretly really wanted to have the pretty young mare in the bed with her, but again, she feared she might get carried away, being the brash filly she was.
"Well, I mean, I just thought it might help you break your fever. But only if you want to, I guess…"
"No! I want you to! I mean… Just do what you think is best."
Both were blushing and glancing around anxiously.
Fluttershy put her front hooves on the bed and hopped up, generating another small creak. She crawled underneath the sheets and lay about a foot away from Rainbow Dash at first, then warily scooted up, pressing her front to her friend's back. Despite her achy limbs, her wings were trying so hard to stiffen and jut out. She had to use all her strength to keep them flaccid at her sides.
"Is something wrong, Rainbow Dash?" Questioned Fluttershy, noticing Dash's pained, uncomfortable expression.
"Um… it's just…" She squinted her eyes. "My wings, uh…" She couldn't hold it any longer. Her wings shot out, stiff and erect. She blushed incredibly hard. Fluttershy didn't say anything. "I-I'm sorry, Fluttershy…" She buried her face in the pillow, humiliated from her body's uncontrollable state.
"I-it's all right…" Fluttershy mumbled awkwardly, brushing the taut feathers away from her face, causing Rainbow Dash to moan slightly and uncontrollably into the pillow.
"Don't… don't do that." She muttered. Fluttershy sat up, blushing slightly. She managed to look beautiful and graceful, even when flustered.
"You know, it could happen to anyone… I mean, being close to someone like that…" She trailed off.
But it wouldn't mean anything to just 'anyone'… Thought Dash wistfully. "Yeah… I guess."
"Um, Rainbow… I don't mean to be rude but… What's going on?" She glanced over to her friend for a moment, and then looked away again. "You've been acting funny today, around my taking care of you…" She shuffled a hoof, tangling it in the sheets.
Rainbow Dash took a deep breath. She really didn't want to say anything, but at the same time, she felt she needed to get it off her chest. "I… I don't know, Fluttershy…" She spat out. "I'm so confused. I feel like…"
"Like what?" The pale yellow Pegasus pony shifted a bit closer. Dash gave an exasperated sigh.
"Like, I have these feelings… But they're confusing feelings. I want to be around you all the time, and when I do I feel so nice and happy and warm. And at the same time… it feels wrong. Because I know that… if these feelings are more than just friendship… you won't feel the same way, or I could get teased. I'm just… so damn conflicted, Fluttershy. I think I might…love you." Rainbow Dash cried.
Fluttershy was silent. So silent. The silence was eerie, along with the quiet sobs from the broken filly. Moments later, she could feel a hoof stroke her shoulder.
"You're just having a rough night, aren't you, Rainbow…" She muttered soothingly.
"Horrible…" she wept. Fluttershy sighed, at a loss for words.
"Let me tell you something, Rainbow Dash. You're the boldest, most helpful, and…prettiest filly I ever met." She brushed the multicolored mane out of her friend's face, exposing her bloodshot, tired, ill eyes. "You really have no reason to be ashamed, or have any reason to have been nervous to tell me that. You're not afraid of anything."
"But I am! I am, Fluttershy…" Dash cried. "You have no idea the… the turmoil, the confliction, the…self-hatred I feel every time I feel like this… every time I see you and my heart rate speeds up, and my wings erect… I just get so embarrassed and ashamed."
Fluttershy looked with pity upon the defeated pony. She never would have thought she would be the one comforting Rainbow Dash.
Still, her confession made the yellow Pegasus think. Did they have a connection? She remembered the time Rainbow Dash defended her when she was being teased by those two colts when they were very small, and the way that made her feel. She felt the need to be protected, and that's exactly what Dash did. She felt so safe around her. And their moment earlier with the thermometer, as well as the wing erection incident, certainly made her face flush. Perhaps it was from embarrassment. But perhaps it was something more. In a way, she wished it were something more, so she could give her friend hope and love. An idea sparked in Fluttershy's head.
Again, she cleared the hair away from the crying Rainbow Dash's face, leaning in close. The blue pony's rose-colored eyes widened as Fluttershy closed the gap between their faces. Colliding lips. Closing eyes. Tasting rainbows.
Rainbow Dash kissed back, hard. She felt like crying. Fluttershy's heart trembled excitedly. This was the answer she was looking for, and all she needed to do was kiss her. Both fillies' wings stiffened and quivered.
Fluttershy pulled away, the other Pegasus's mouth still moved for a moment, wanting her back. She then opened her eyes, blinking slowly.
"You're going to catch my cold now, you know." Rainbow Dash gave a small smirk. Fluttershy's eyes were sparkling and smiling themselves.
"I think… I might love you too, Rainbow…" She gazed at her through her pink mane, covering half her face. "And… it's just a cold." She climbed back under the covers, snuggling close. Fluttershy liked snuggling.
"I can't exactly hold you right now, Fluttershy, and I apologize." Rainbow Dash buried her face in the sweet-smelling pink locks.
"It's all right." She draped a hoof over the aching side of the pale blue Pegasus, and for just that night, their roles were reversed.