It seemed to be the brightest moment in the young cyan mare's life. Rainbow Dash was standing, along with eleven other nominees on a proud stage made from cloud. Half of them would go on to the second round, and from there, the Wonderbolts would choose three to begin training with them. After a solid month of rigorous training, there would be one more competition, narrowing the three down to one. That final pony would be an official Wonderbolt, eligible to move up the ranks and maybe someday fly alongside the best of the best.
"Many were nominated, and honestly, it was difficult to only select twelve candidates," Spitfire announced, standing stage left of the entrants, just a few feet from Rainbow Dash's side. "All of you have so much to be proud of, just making it this far. You all flew amazingly, and once again, it was very difficult to only choose six to progress to the next round."
Dash smiled so wide, her jaw felt like it was going to pop loose, but she didn't care. She had just finished her performance, and she aced it. She surprised even herself, outdoing her best practice. She had been on a steady high since the moment she got the letter.
"Omigosh-omigosh-omigosh-omigosh!" Dash could not contain her excitement, as she burst through the door of the Ponyville Library. Twilight Sparkle was so startled that she knocked over a vial of ink, partially blackening a stack of parchment. "I can't believe it! Omigosh!"
"Rainbow Dash!" Twilight shook the shock out of her eyes. "I'd expect something like this from Pinkie! What's going on?"
"I got in! I got into the Wonderbolt tryouts! This is so cool!"
"Ah swear, girl, ah could've heard ya shoutin' from out at the farm with apple cores in mah ears!" Applejack trotted in, her eyes wide. "What's the racket about, Rainbow?"
Rainbow Dash turned in mid-air and stopped just short of bumping Applejack in the nose. "I got into the Wonderbolt tryouts!" she shouted excitedly.
Applejack smiled, rubbing the echoes out of her left hear with her hoof. "Well it ain't no big surprise, ah bet at least half of Ponyville nominated you."
"This is so amazing! Omigosh-omigosh-omigosh!" Dash zoomed out the way she entered, off to tell the rest of her friends the good news.
As far as Dash could tell, the moment she was in now was just as wonderful as sharing the news with her friends. It was a shame they couldn't witness her performance, but much like the contestants, the audience was invitation-only. Many of the onlookers were current or retired Wonderbolts, and many were very wealthy Pegasus ponies who often sponsored the Wonderbolts' public performances. Princess Celestia was overlooking the event from a booth opposite the one the judges occupied during the performances. Her regal pastel mane seemed to float as always. Her royal eyes gazed upon the stage, and she wore her usual gentle smile.
The clouds forming the entire stadium were very bright, reflecting a great deal of the sunlight flowing from overhead. The heat from the light added small beads of sweat to Rainbow Dash's coat, but they weren't any different from the perspiration she already produced during her best performance yet.
Rainbow's large eyes, damp coat, and smiling teeth sparkled in the glow around her as Spitfire read the name of the fifth Pegasus to progress. Rainbow didn't hear that name, simply because it wasn't hers. She was certain the idol so close beside her was saving the best for last.
"And finally…" the Wonderbolt said, drawing suspense into every syllable.
Rainbow closed her eyes and mouthed her name, as if miming it with her lips would somehow hurry the news.
The announcement came. "… Lightning Bolt!"
Rainbow Dash's eyes shot open. This can't be, she thought. She must have missed her name while daydreaming. She turned her head to her right to see six beaming Pegasi standing a single step ahead of the others. They had heard their names, and the group of contenders had already been split in two. There was no room for another pony. The winner's circle was full.
"Once again, I'd like to congratulate all of our nominees. And to those whose names I didn't call, we were still very impressed, and I'd like to welcome the six of you to watch the remainder of the tryouts with us in the judge's booth. As for those of you who were selected to continue, this is where we take a twenty-minute break. Go stretch and walk around a bit. The second half of the competition will be much more difficult than the first!"
If the crowd cheered, Rainbow couldn't hear it. If Spitfire came by to shake everypony's hooves, Rainbow didn't notice. She could only hear herself whispering, "I failed." Everything else was silent.
"I can't wait to see Rainbow after the tryouts are over," Twilight Sparkle remarked.
Twilight, Spike, Applejack, Fluttershy, and Rarity sat in a circle on the floor of Twilight's library tree-home. Pinkie had already decorated the whole tree inside and out with rainbow streamers and banners. A large, round, cyan-frosted cake was ceremoniously displayed on a table in the corner, with a single slice slightly jutting from the rest, boldly revealing the six thin layers. Each layer followed in a familiar color pattern, moving from red at the bottom to violet at the top.
"I wish we could watch her performance," Fluttershy squeaked.
"I'm certainly not too thrilled with the pony who decided the participants couldn't invite their friends and family." Rarity sighed. "I suppose they want the audience to be as impartial as the judges, but it's just plain rude."
"Maybe they thought everypony having their own cheering section would distract the others?" Applejack posited. "But ah agree... ah don't like it either."
Pinkie Pie was hopping around the group putting the finishing touches on the decorations and carefully perfecting the arrangement of snacks on each pass. "Dashie's gonna love her party! It's gonna be so exciting, she might even forget about everything else! Everything's gonna be perfect and – "
A perplexing look spread across Pinkie's face, as she stopped so abruptly she tipped forward on her front hooves. She regained her balance and stated plainly, "My knee's pinchy."
Spike bolted behind Rarity and buried himself in her curly tail. His purple head barely contrasted with Rarity's indigo tail. "Something scary, right?"
Rarity stood and shook Spike from her tail. "What is it dear? Is it your Pinkie-sense?"
Pinkie stood silent for a moment, and her eyes grew wider while her pupils drew smaller. "We have to go! NOW!" Pinkie was, for the first time anypony could remember, speaking in a very serious and urgent tone. She shot out the door, not even bothering to bounce or hop.
Dash sat at the edge of a cloud outside the stadium. She was too angry to cry, but too sad to scream. Several thoughts floated in her mind, none of them motivational. She was mad at herself for getting her hopes up, and she was disappointed in herself failing even to reach the second round. Will my friends still like me knowing I failed? They all thought I'd make it. They'll be so disappointed. I'm so disappointed. No matter what she tried to think of, her own mind just turned it into another way to mock herself.
"Hey." Her mental self-ridicule was interrupted by a soft, yet confident male voice. She found the will to turn her head enough to see a pale blue pony with a midnight blue spiked mane. His emerald green eyes stared into Rainbow's. He wore an iconic blue one-piece suit with a lightning yellow chest, and a pair of goggles resting on his forehead. Rainbow acknowledged Soarin's presence simply with a few blinks, then turned her head once again to the ground below.
"Rainbow Dash, right?" There was no answer. "The intermission's about over. Are you coming back in to watch the rest of the tryouts?"
"No thanks. I'm fine." Rainbow retorted softly. There was nothing convincing about the response. Her voice cracked on the word, "fine." Soarin' picked up on this, and gently shook his head.
"Fine? Could'a fooled me." Soarin' turned to head back to the stadium, but left his sight trained on the depressed mare. "In case you change your mind, I'll make sure they let you back in." He walked away, occasionally looking back, concern in his eyes.
Twilight ran so fast trying to keep up with Pinkie that Spike figured his grip on Twilight's mane may become permanent before he could safely let go. Applejack followed beside Twilight, with Rarity and Fluttershy close behind. Pinkie was galloping with such force that the rest couldn't get too close without being blinded by dirt in their eyes.
"Fer pity's sake, Pink, what's going on?" Applejack demanded.
Either Pinkie Pie didn't hear the question, or chose not to answer. Her silence did nothing to calm her friends.
Applejack yelled again. "What is going on? Why are we runnin', Pinkie?" There was still no response.
"Look!" Spike shouted. "I think I see Dash!" He pointed up in the clouds. It took a moment for the other ponies to locate where Spike was pointing. They were still quite far, only recognizing Rainbow Dash as a small cyan shape with a hint of a rainbow.
Once they got close enough to know for sure that it was beyond a doubt their friend, Pinkie stopped with a long, uncomfortable-sounding skid. She was completely still, except for her tail, which was flailing about like it was trying to escape from her.
The other ponies stopped just short of a collision. Spike noticed aloud, "twitchy tail?"
Pinkie stood, and softly said, "No."
"Not twitchy tail?"
Pinkie's mane and tail fell flat. "No. No! No! NO!"
And then the cyan speck fell.
Pinkie shrieked, and the group watched in sheer terror. Any other time they would expect a Sonic Rainboom attempt, but something about the way Dash left the cloud chilled them to the bone.
It seemed to last forever. Thoughts raced through each pony's mind so quickly that time stood still. The friends were completely silent, but their hearts and minds were screaming.
What are you doing? The dot fell what seemed to be an inch from such a distance.
Please… Don't do this! The dot dropped another inch.
Please… This can't be happening!
A darker blue figure followed, closing the gap between itself and the ironic rainbow. The specks met each other shortly before they both met the ground.
The group followed the cloud of dust to find dozens of ponies huddled around a section of the path. Some took turns screaming while the rest murmured loudly. Twilight and Applejack pushed their way through the crowd; the other friends too scared to look. Two ponies laid crumpled on the walkway like discarded ragdolls.
Twilight inched toward her broken friend. Rainbow's face rested under her mane, hiding in shame. Applejack stepped forward and noticed Rainbow's chest rise slightly, then fall again. The other fallen pony followed suit.
"They're alive! Somepony get some help! Anypony! Help!"
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
A set of rose-colored eyes slowly opened. They surveyed their environment, finding a strange box to the far left.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
That was definitely the source of the sound. Attached to the box were a few hanging pouches, lines tracing down from them to a light blue foreleg. Lines from the box itself glided to a couple of small stickers on a light blue chest, slowly and carefully rising and falling.
Rainbow Dash soon realized where she was. She also realized that despite the pouches she could only assume contained some sort of painkiller, she was in a fair bit of pain. She also soon realized the beeping was annoying her deeply. She grabbed the wires taped to her chest and ripped them off, to the protest of every muscle she used to do so.
That was a mistake. Rainbow's head pounded in response to the new variation of the old annoyance. She knew that she knew why she was there, but thanks in part to the distracting squeal, she couldn't remember.
Outside in the waiting room, a group of friends heard the noise as well, and found another rush of panic as a white, pink-maned nurse pony hurried towards Rainbow Dash's room.
The nurse dashed urgently into the room and found her patient forcing her hooves to her ears. She trotted to the box and switched it off. Rainbow's friends rushed in, once again fearing the worst, but saw Rainbow was conscious.
"Oh, thank Celestia you're awake!" Fluttershy, for once, was loud enough that the nurse gently reminded her that there was a sleeping patient in the next room.
Pinkie uncharacteristically had no words to say. She just bounced over and placed her forelegs around Rainbow Dash, summoning a mild yelp of pain from the Pegasus.
Something was strange about her friends, Rainbow noticed. Applejack's hat was missing, and Rarity looked like she hadn't touched her mane in days. Pinkie's mane just as it was when Rainbow went to retrieve her for her surprise birthday party, flat like tissue paper hanging against her head.
The nurse pony quietly left the room, and shortly afterward, a yellow Pegasus with a mane resembling flames took her place. Her orange eyes burned with an unidentifiable emotion, possibly a mix of anger and disappointment. Even without her uniform, everypony in the room knew who she was.
"Rainbow Dash," Spitfire sternly spoke. "How DARE you?"
Rainbow's last moment of awareness before she woke came rushing back. In her mind, the ground came rushing to meet her, and she felt a painful tug at her tail. She remembered turning involuntarily to see a Wonderbolt gripping her tail in his teeth, wincing at the imminent impact. Tears welled up in her eyes.
Applejack tried to interrupt Spitfire but went unnoticed.
"You can never be a Wonderbolt! If you're ever nominated again, I will personally rip the nomination up and burn it. You're lucky to be alive. Soarin' is lucky to be alive, no thanks to you! He woke up about an hour ago and told me exactly what happened. He says you jumped, and you didn't even bother to spread your wings! He had to go after you! He risked himself to slow you down enough to keep you in one piece!"
Rainbow dropped her face into her hooves and cried. Spitfire only spoke louder to get past the wailing.
"Do you know why you'll never be a Wonderbolt? You gave up. Not just on becoming a Wonderbolt. You had the gall to give up on everything! Wonderbolts don't give up on anything! What's worse is you didn't just hurt yourself."
"I- I'm sorry," Rainbow Dash uttered.
"Do not apologize to me," Spitfire interrupted. "I barely know you. I have little interest in what you do with your life, or how it ends. Soarin' deserves an apology though. He'll be out of here before you are, so I'll make sure he pays you a visit. Until then, there are six ponies and a dragon in this room you need to apologize to."
Spitfire turned to leave.
"I'm sorry I didn't make it into the Wonderbolts, guys," Rainbow choked.
Spitfire spun back around and quickly drew near to Rainbow's face and furrowed her brow. "I don't know if you're stubborn or stupid, but if that's what you really think you should be apologizing for, then you don't deserve friends like these." She then slowly walked to the door, looked back, and left.
Rainbow Dash had no expression for a moment as thoughts flooded her mind. "Oh no," she sobbed. "I've been the least loyal a friend could ever be, haven't I?"
Her friends just stared at her with sad smiles.
Rainbow looked across the room from left to right. "I'm so sorry I worried you AJ, Rarity, Twi, Spike, Fluttershy, Pinkie." She sounded more like a tomboyish Fluttershy than herself. "I can't believe how wrong I was. That was by far the stupidest stunt I've ever tried. I wouldn't have just lost my life, I would have hurt all of you more than I can ever imagine. Do you all forgive me?"
The friends nodded in unison and began to cry.
"Just promise you'll never, ever try something like that again, sugarcube." Applejack reached in for a hug, and was much gentler than Pinkie. All of Dash's friends took turns hugging her, tears from each of their eyes dampening her shoulder, and the room became quiet.
After a few minutes, Pinkie broke the silence.
"Don't the Wonderbolts know how to count? She said there were six ponies you should apologize to!"
Rainbow Dash blinked. She searched and found a mirror on the table beside her bed. She reached for it but winced in pain. Twilight's horn glowed, and the mirror floated to Dash's hoof.
"Dear, don't worry about how you look. You can worry about that after you heal," Rarity insisted. Immediately she noticed the way Rainbow was holding the mirror. She wasn't checking her mane; she was looking herself in the eye.
Rainbow Dash stared into the mirror, and between tears, asked the sixth pony for forgiveness.
"I'm sorry, Rainbow. I'm so, so sorry."
One week later, Rainbow Dash sat alone on the edge of her hospital bed. She had let her friends know without any uncertainty that they should go about their normal lives. They visited when they could, and there was usually at least one pony there to spend time with her. Of course, on busy days, there would be times Rainbow had to keep herself busy. One time, she imitated the sound her heart monitor made when she disconnected it from her chest. She only did that once; a flustered nurse reproached her for it.
This time, she sat re-reading the stack of get-well cards and well wishes from past and present friends. There was even one from Gilda, which Rainbow nearly discarded when she got it the previous day. That one was unopened until that moment, but Rainbow relented to reading it. It was just a stock greeting card, no personal note. Rainbow didn't know whether to be insulted that Gilda didn't write anything on the card other than her signature, or to be touched that Gilda bothered after the last time they met. She guessed that what Gilda would have written would have taken any meaning from the gesture, and made an effort to be satisfied with the card.
As Rainbow set the generic card back down on the table by her bed, there was a knock on the doorframe. Dash looked and saw a bandaged blue pony poke his head through the threshold. The pony asked if he could enter, and Rainbow Dash replied with a nod. The pony walked over towards the bed, turning on the room lights on the way.
"It's a bit dark with just that one light on," Soarin' noted, pointing to the lamp on the table, illuminating the arrangement of cards but not much else. There was a pause, and Soarin' spoke again. "Spitfire said you had something to say."
"Yeah. I do," Rainbow replied. "I just wanted to thank you for saving me. And I'm sorry you got hurt because of me."
Soarin' let out a soft chuckle. "I saw that you were in trouble. If I didn't help, I couldn't call myself a Wonderbolt." He looked back at the dozens of bandages, covering him from neck to flank. "And I've had worse. I'll be back in the sky in a few more weeks. You know, I was grounded for almost half a year once before I joined the 'Bolts."
"No way!" Dash was shocked. It seemed almost impossible that one of her idols could have ever been vulnerable.
"Yeah. But I pulled through it, and look where I am now!" Soarin' chuckled again. "Well, minus the new injuries."
Rainbow was impressed. After nearly six months on the ground, Soarin' was still able to join the Wonderbolts and reach the most prestigious ranks. The thought combined with what the other Wonderbolt had said earlier, and brought her a new sense of disappointment. Soarin' saw it immediately and asked what was bothering her.
"Spitfire said I can't be a Wonderbolt. She'll burn any more nominations for me."
"No she won't," Soarin' reassured her. "I think she was just trying to fix your priorities. If you get nominated again, you might just get to compete again. And I bet she'd be very impressed if you accepted that opportunity after this."
"Really?" Dash wiped her eyes and gave a skeptical smile.
"Yeah. I'm pretty sure you'll get another chance if you want it enough." Soarin' paused, smiling at perhaps his biggest fan. "Well, I have to get going. If I take any longer, somepony's going to come looking for me."
He turned to leave, but Rainbow interrupted him when he reached the open door.
"Soarin'? Spitfire told me not to apologize to her, but would you let her know I'm sorry anyway, for what I did and what happened to you?"
The Wonderbolt smiled at Rainbow. "I'll do that. And she does give good advice, doesn't she?"
"Yeah, a little confusing, but…" Rainbow pondered for a second. "How did you know?"
Soarin' shrugged and simply stated, "Nopony's perfect."
The day Rainbow Dash was released from the hospital was a joyous one. Pinkie Pie recreated the party that was originally waiting for Dash on that frightening day. There were a few subtle changes, most notably, "Congratulations!" had been replaced with "Welcome back!" Rainbow Dash was thrilled by the thought her friend had obviously placed in her efforts planning the party. Pinkie's appreciation for Dash was apparent in everything about the party. Pinkie was right the first time. The party was so amazing, Dash really did forget about everything else.
Nopony spoke about that day, only about how grateful they were to have a friend like Rainbow Dash. Certainly, the party commemorated Dash's freedom from her medicinal imprisonment, and all who attended knew what got her there, but that wasn't the important part. It was still a congratulatory party, only the context of the congratulations had changed.
"We're really glad you made it. This party's dedicated to you, and it would be strange, to say the least, if you didn't show." Twilight was beaming with joy. Neither pony noticed the second meaning of her statement.
Rarity entered through the front door, levitating a small package. "I'm terribly sorry for my tardiness, but I just had the most wonderful idea for a gift earlier," she apologized. "I couldn't stand to come to the party empty-hooved!"
Rainbow walked to the door and smiled as the package floated to her. The white box glistened slightly like a pearl, and was small enough a scroll would have trouble fitting inside. Rainbow looked inquisitively at her friend.
"Rarity, if you managed to fit a dress in here, I think it might be too small for me," Rainbow joked.
"I actually thought I'd try something a little different, dear." Rarity smiled as the top of the box lifted, revealing a gold necklace adorned with six pendants, each with its own round gem.
"The white diamond is me, of course." Rarity was so excited about the gift; it was like she was receiving it. "The orange citrine is Applejack, and Twilight is the lavender amethyst. Fluttershy is the yellow topaz, Pinkie is the pink sapphire, and Spike is purple tanzanite."
Rainbow gazed at the necklace. Each stone's hue matched one of her friends' coats perfectly. She couldn't even imagine how much time and effort Rarity must have put into the gift.
"Rarity… I love it! It's beautiful!" The necklace glided around Rainbow's neck and came to a rest.
"There, dear. Now, no matter where you are, we're all with you."
"Wow. Thank you, Rarity! I don't know what to say." Rainbow smiled so wide, her jaw felt like it was about to pop loose, but she didn't care.
"Dear, just say that you'll be with us too, wherever we are."
"I will," Tears of joy flowed down Rainbow's face. "I promise."
Since that day, if anypony ever told her to give up, she didn't hear it. If anypony tried to bring her down, she didn't notice. In times like that, she could only hear her friends cheering her on. Everything else was silent.
This story was inspired by the song, "Fix You" by Coldplay (specifically, Javier Colon's performance). Originally, the story was much truer to the song, and ended in Rainbow Dash's friends' reactions to her death. That was way too depressing, and I hated the idea of killing off a character to begin with. It also left pretty much nowhere to go with the story.
Since Spitfire and Soarin' play such a minor role in the actual cartoon so far, they were the hardest characters to write for. Soarin' was especially difficult to characterize, given he's silent in all but "The Best Night Ever", and even then, he was obsessed with his pie. Spitfire was a bit easier, but I needed her to be mad, which was challenging considering she's friendly in the show.
Something I learned writing this is that the story isn't always done when you think it's done. Originally, in the first couple of drafts, the story ended with Rainbow apologizing to herself, and didn't include Twilight and Applejack seeing Rainbow on the ground. The more I re-read the story, the more I found missing. I added the ponies rushing to Rainbow's aid because I felt like leaving that out broke the established character of the bolder ponies. The story also didn't feel like it was ready to end, and I had an idea for a very touching moment between Rainbow and Applejack (not shipping!). The story nearly doubled in length, and finally felt complete, yet I could not fit that idea I liked so much without wrecking the flow of the story. It's still an element of this story that I really want to share, but it has to go into something separate. Whether it turns into a sequel or just short continuation is up in the air right now.
P.S. Titles are one of my weaknesses. I'm sure someone can come up with a title better than "Shattered Rainbow".
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and all characters in this story are ©2010-present by Hasbro, Inc. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic original story and concept were created by Lauren Faust. The author of this story makes no claim of ownership of any characters, locations, or other material derived from copyrighted material. This story is not to be used for commercial gain under any circumstances without permission from the legal copyright holders of all applicable material.