Rain pattered against the glass of the library windows, refreshing to the plants in the window box outside, but unsettling to the insomniac pegasus inside. The trees near the hallowed out one that housed the Ponyville Books and Branches library, refused to relent to the chilling wind that swept through the bare branches. Tapping out coded messages on the glass to ease the tumultuous silence that hung in the library's foyer and in the pegasi's heart. Rainbow Dash glanced through the window to the darkened sky as the sheets of pouring water acted as a curtain to the show of darkness behind them, occasionally lit by spotlights of lightning and greeted with thunderous applause. The weather team she had expertly commanded to craft such a storm had really outdone themselves. She could even feel a part of her own turmoil that had been mixed into the brew that day, and it was currently unnerving.
Lately, it felt that the show outside reflected her own dark thoughts at the moment. She curled up on the cold, wooden floor, attempting to relax on the sleeping pad that pathetically emulated the softness of the clouds. She pulled the cloud-made blanket she brought with her up under her chin, which acted as a faint reminder of the familiar warmth of home. Despite its lacking defense against her emotions, it was as comforting as a hug from Fluttershy.
In fact, the very presence of the other ponies around her added a comfortable and somewhat palpable warmth to the otherwise imposing darkness of her thoughts that permeated the shadows. Fluttershy was sleeping peacefully, making not a sound as her breaths were just as quiet as her voice. A faint smile shown she was having a pleasant dream. Rarity laid next to her, both ponies sharing an imported mud mask and cucumbers. Dash didn't understand the whole makeover thing, but couldn't deny that Fluttershy looked adorable.
The shelves crammed with books leered down at slumbering ponies, giving Dash the impression of the scornful eyes she believed were cast at her by some of the townsponies. The smell of old ink from some of the tomes served as a reminder that Dash was not dreaming. There was no escape from the knot in her stomach this night.
It was another sleepover. Now that Twilight Sparkle had gotten the hang of the required customs, she attempted to have one of these get-togethers whenever she could. Hoping for new games to play and snacks to try. Always doing it all with a smile. Then eventually ending in a symphony of giggles.
Dash couldn't help but notice she started to attend these gatherings for another, more personal reason. She had been experiencing odd feelings of attraction not long after the day she had told Gilda to get out of her life. Gilda had been her best friend since flight camp, causing the rainbow pegasus to become somewhat infamous when they would prank the other ponies. Dash couldn't believe how little she knew of Gilda when her true attitude was revealed at that humiliating party. Sure she was angry, but that was no excuse for her behavior and rejection. This only reenforced Dash's fears, as she had been hiding a crush on the griffon for that very reason.
You're a flip flop! Those words echoed in Dash's head as the subject of Gilda came up once more. How could have I been so dumb? She would never like me in that way, if she still liked me at all. It was certainly a reminder of how you needed to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. She also felt it ironic that after that she vowed no secrets, yet now she was harboring one with the potential to ruin their already stressed friendship. Dash's loyalty had been tested more than once in the face of danger. But now, she was a coward in the face of her own self doubt.
Soon, Dash began to realize she was getting strange butterflies in her stomach when around certain ponies in her group of friends. This thought prompted her to roll onto her back, being careful not to bend her wings wrong, as she took stock of the three offending ponies that wouldn't leave her heart or thoughts alone.
Letting out a sigh as she found herself staring at the elaborate chandler that hung from the ceiling, she frowned that it was off for the night and would be providing no relief from the darkness that continued to surround her thoughts.
She turned her head to the side and stared at Applejack. The orange earth pony was splayed out on the floor sound asleep, her trademark hat over her eyes. Dash had been spending a lot more time with her lately, mainly out of love for the competition. That was when the butterflies began. These butterflies were passed of as anxiety due to whatever current sporting event at first, but soon became a nagging problem that she could no longer ignore, and the diagnosis wasn't good.
Could she actually have feelings for her? It wasn't out of the realm of possibility, especially after what the duo had done with each other not to long ago. That event had left a hollow feeling in the pegasi's heart which provided more oxygen to the flames of doubt to burn uncontrolled.
With a frustrated grunt, Dash brought her glance over to find Pinkie Pie face down in a pile of cupcake wrappers. Gummy resting on her back as he adorably chewed at the pink mane like some kind of cotton candy. Pinkie no doubt had a sugar crash, which only made Dash smile a bit at the strange sight of an immobile Pinkie. She had those butterflies around her too, especially when they'd hit it off with their shared joy of pranks. Dash was always insistent that the duo could do more, but Pinkie felt that she didn't want to cross the line. After the party that drove Gilda off, Dash had nagging doubts. She was the one who set up the pranks, but Pinkie had an uncanny knack for knowing where they were to trap Gilda into them. Was she...trying to keep me for herself? She learned the hard way that Pinkie had attention issues, and was the only one to see her in such a degenerative mental state. Dash did inadvertently help Pinkie get her cutie mark and liberate her from her boring life. But she couldn't believe Pinkie would be so immature as to think she could horde this free spirit for herself. Could she? Dash's head began to ache slightly as she tried to process the possibility these feelings were for Pinkie Pie instead.
However, the ultimate test came as Dash forced herself to sit upright and turn around, staring at Twilight Sparkle. Her head was resting on her forehooves upon a thick book. Spike was laying up against her side, snoring slightly with a somewhat humorous smile on his face, no doubt dreaming about Rarity. Of all the ponies to be indecisive about a crush on, Dash seriously thought Twilight would be the last. But, there was something about the unicorn's smarts, her being a straight pony to Dash's rough and tumble antics, that made the match so appealing. Like Applejack, Twilight wasn't afraid to reel Dash in when she got too out of hoof. Like Pinkie Pie, there was probably more to her than even the unicorn herself realized. Dash relished in the potential to help Twilight discover herself, and silently prayed for a better outcome than the last pony.
Twilight was the perfect combination of the traits that attracted Dash to the two earth ponies, but she was also the most likely to reject such advances as she really wouldn't understand the meaning. As much as Dash desired to be Twilight's mentor in such feelings, she knew it would be highly unlikely.
Twilight was a very good friend, and Dash felt she didn't deserve somepony coming out of nowhere and proclaiming her love to her, let alone a mare. How she would even begin to comprehend something so off the wall and unexpected, Dash had no idea. But seeing how she reacted under stress sometimes, it wouldn't be fair to add to her already growing burden.
The rainbow pegasus turned back to the thunderstorm outside, thinking it the perfect metaphor for what was going on right now. The thunder generated by clashing clouds representing the ponies dueling for her affections in her mind. The worst part of this whole affair, was even if the chosen pony did accept her feelings in kind, how would the others feel?
Would they be happy?
It was an unpredictable outcome that she didn't want to gamble on. No, she would sit here in the dark and let these feelings stew inside her, welling up and spilling out until she either passed out or vomited. She didn't want any of these potential outcomes, but it was better than the alternative of self loathing to be sure. She had to get these thoughts out of her head before they ate their way through her skull. Glancing around for any sign of relief, her eyes fell upon Spike, still wearing that smile and having a bit of drool running down the corner of his mouth.
"Psst! Spike! You awake?" Dash whispered, hoping she didn't wake anypony else up in the process. After she got no response, she slowly reached out a hoof and gently shook the baby dragon. "Spike."
"Huh, what? What's wrong?" Spike asked, yawning slightly and scratching the back of his head. He shot Dash an annoyed glance as his dream of being a dashing, heroic dragon saving a beautiful unicorn damsel was shattered by a cyan hoof.
"Can you keep a secret? I've got to get something off my chest." Dash whispered slightly louder, glancing at the other sleeping ponies from time to time to ensure this conversation remained low volume, especially with Twilight so close by. She pulled Spike away from the unicorn to make sure.
"Sure. Losing a friend's trust is the quickest way to loose a friend..." Spike replied, a smile on his face.
"forevvvveerrr..." Pinkie Pie whispered subconsciously as she rolled over, scattering around the wrappers that hadn't stuck to her face like confetti. Dash looked around frantically to make sure nopony else had heard that outburst. Once her heart settled back down, she turned back to Spike with a relieved sigh.
"Well, I think I have a crush on somepony." Dash's eyes narrowed as she gritted her teeth, forcing her secret out despite the fire in her cheeks from the blushing.
"Well, I know what that's like." Spike rolled his eyes. The poor guy's own attempts to get Rarity to notice him were humorous, but also generated sympathy given Dash's current feelings of rejection. "So, who's the lucky guy?"
Dash grinned sheepishly. "It's not a guy..." She flinched slightly, waiting for the dragon to say a typical response to such news.
"Oh...OH!" Spike raised a brow, realizing what that meant. He hung around Twilight and her books enough to know what Dash was talking about.
"I just don't want anypony to hate me," Dash whispered, almost inaudible as she let out more of the weakness that was rarely seen in the fearless flyer. Her wings drooped noticeably as if held down by the weight of the tension in the air. Her confidence was her weakness, and when that armor shattered, Dash was almost unrecognizable.
"No one is going to hate you, Dash." Spike replied, placing a comforting hand on the pegasi's shoulder. He put on his best cheerful smile, which made Dash smile in kind. She brought her hoof down onto Spike's head in a playful noogie.
"Thank you for being a good listener, Spike." Dash chuckled, relenting her assault on the dragon's skull.
Spike shook his head as he ceased his playful swiping at the air in an attempt to stop the noogie. "No problem. But I feel you should talk about this to the pony you have a crush on. You'll feel better."
Dash nodded, her eyes glancing at the ground as she mustered a weak smile. "You're right, Spike. I need to face this like I face any other challenge! I'm going to confront Twilight tomorrow!" she stomped a hoof on her cloud blanket, which muted the sound.
Spike nodded in agreement before yawning and returning to his slumber, to tired to fully register what Dash just said.
The rainbow pegasus smiled at the sleeping purple dragon, and crawled back under her blanket. Her head spun with the prospects of what she had just agreed to do.
There wasn't any way to put this off any longer. She swallowed the lump in her throat and slowly closed her eyes.
The sun languidly made its way over the horizon, filling the once dark and foreboding library with much needed light and warmth. The feeling of the heat upon her coat stirred Rainbow Dash from her deep sleep, her rose colored eyes fluttering open as she silently thanked the Princesses for the freedom needed from her restless dreams.
She sat up, smacking her lips to remove the taste in her mouth, and ran a hoof through her messy mane. Her back ached slightly due to being accustomed to sleeping on soft clouds, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. Glancing around as she confirmed that everypony else was already gone. Twilight Sparkle was in the kitchen, humming to herself as she levitated the remains of breakfast to the trash sink.
"Oh, Dash! You're awake! Sorry about not waking you earlier, but we all agreed you just looked so peaceful we couldn't bring ourselves to do it," the unicorn explained, blushing slightly, her right forehoof subconsciously rubbing the back of her left leg.
"Nah, it's cool. I probably needed it anyway, working hard and all." Dash waved a hoof dismissively, her eyes closed as she titled her head in a cocky manner. Did she want me to stay?
Truth be told, Dash had been awake most of the night, and she saw everypony else leave before finally succumbing to her sleep deprivation. But this unexpected moment now presented an opportunity that made Dash as nervous as she had been the night before. Twilight saw this anxiety as Dash shuffled her hooves and tried not to make eye contact. The unicorn titled her head to the side like a confused puppy, her eyes pleading. The question hung in the air, unspoken.
"I...I have a problem, Twilight," the pegasus finally confessed, her eyes darting quickly to break contact with Twilight's before they could lock. Dash could feel the sadness in the unicorn's stare as she tried to discern what to ask next, but she didn't dare look her in the eye, as her own were beginning to water.
"What's the matter? Can I help?" Twilight's voice wavered slightly, partially from worry but mostly from the fact that she didn't have an answer. She bit her lip as her mind considered the possibility that Dash had caught on to why Twilight let her sleep.
The silence in the library suddenly felt like a lead weight on the pegasi's shoulders, her wings drooping under the stress. The only sounds keeping Dash tied to reality at this point, were the faint thumping of nervously shuffling hooves on the wooden floor and her own shallow breathing. This isn't going to work! She'll be confused! She'll be scared! I don't want to scare her off! Dash's head was spinning with the torrent of possible outcomes to this event that was about to unfold, and none of them looked good. She bit her lip in hesitance as her heartbeat increased. NO! I'm going to do this!
After the silence had become insanely unbearable to her throbbing head, she finally locked eyes with the unicorn. Her face on fire from the rapid blush that covered her sky blue cheeks, Dash disregarded all thought and sprang forward, catching Twilight off guard.
Their lips locked, causing the unicorn's eyes to widen in terror before her mind realized that this wasn't an attack. She found herself closing her eyes and leaning into the kiss, an odd feeling of joy tingling through her body. The unicorn felt light-headed as her own cheeks began to blush. She was frozen in time; Feelings of joy, anticipation, and slight fear coursing though her being. I shouldn't be enjoying this...should I? For once in her life, Twilight was part of an experiment that didn't have an anticipated outcome. The forbidden thrill made her heart race as her mind became lost in the sheer passion behind the lips currently pressed to hers. Whatever lingering doubts she had about her own attraction to the pegasus were washed away, melting like the rest of her body in the heat of their fevered blushing.
After what seemed like an eternity to Twilight, the kiss was broken, and her eyes shot open to see what had happened.
Dash stood before her, staring at the floor, blushing so bright it almost provided it's own light source.
STUPID! Dash thought to herself, her head shaking slowly. She looked terrified! I'm doomed, She began tapping her forehoof on the floor in time with her thundering heart, trying to do anything to distract her from what she had just done and the torrent of thoughts attached to it. Her stomach churned, and she couldn't bear to look up at Twilight after this. This was the moment to break the news slowly and give Twilight time to adjust. Instead, she dove headlong into oblivion like so many times in the past, Twilight was probably horrified at this sudden outburst. She could feel the eyes upon her, but paid no more attention as she turned and headed for the door, her hooves dragging like cement. Better get out of here before she yells at me to get out.
Twilight stood still as stone, her body locked as her mind tried to distill what just happened into something that made sense. She looked over to Spike, who only provided a shrug and a look of utter surprise. He didn't think Dash would go that far that quick.
The unicorn returned her stare to the now empty door.
What does this mean for our friendship?
She bit her lip and closed her eyes as her head hung to the floor.
And more importantly, what does this mean for me?
Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, was the worse for the wear. The normally constant airborne pony was still moving along the ground as if she was dragging a stone of shame behind her, shackled around her neck so each step choked and suffocated. She glanced up at the sunny sky, her rose eyes squinting as she figured the wind through her mane, the sun on her face, and the rush of adrenaline would be just what she needed right now. But her gaze returned to the ground as reality settled back in. She was too sick to her stomach to be attempting any flying today.
Continuing her lonely sabbatical, she collided with a mass of giggling bodies. "Hey! Watch where you're going!" Dash grunted, the air knocked from her as she hit the ground. The anger at her own foolish behavior apparent in her voice.
"Sorry,. We didn't see you there." Sweetie Belle apologized, flinching from the anger in the rainbow pegasi's words.
"Are you okay? You look kinda sad?" Apple Bloom observed, her eyes examining the distraught cyan pony. Dash's normally vibrant colors did seem a bit muted, as if the sunlight had bleached them out of her.
"Why aren't you out flying and being awesome?" Scootaloo added, punching the air with her hooves as she dodged like a boxing pony confronting her own shadow.
"I just decided to hoof it today," Dash replied, forcing a smile across her lips as she raised a hoof and playfully ruffled Scootaloo's mane. "What are you three doing?"
"We were laughin' about how Scootaloo was dared to kiss Sweetie Belle." Apple Bloom giggled. Dash's smile faded away, her dark thoughts returning in force. I just can't escape this, can I?
"It wasn't so bad! We are friends." Sweetie Belle replied, snapping from the blank stare she had directed at the earth pony when she broke the news.
"Well, Applejack told me that kind of stuff is wrong." Apple Bloom added, her head up and eyes closed as if she were an authority on the subject. That made Dash lower her head and chuckle weakly.
After all we had done and now she says it's wrong! Dash began to feel her face grow hot, and it wasn't from embarrassment. That night in the barn between them sure could've fooled her. Dash resolved to give that earth pony a piece of her mind.
"Nuh-uh!" Scootaloo protested. "Fluttershy kisses us goodnight!"
"That's different!" Apple Bloom playfully batted a hoof on the pegasi's nose, making Scootaloo flinch and raise her hooves in defense.
"Uh, why don't you girls go play and stop talking about these grown up things?" Dash hastily added her own input, nudging the three fillies off. After they had bounded away, she let out a heavy sigh.
This was going to be harder than she thought. But first, there was something that needed taking care of. With an angry flap of her wings, Dash took off to the sky, forgetting her undulating stomach at the moment.
Sweet Apple Acres was quiet this time of day, and Applejack was busy in the fields as she always was. Those apples weren't going to fall from the trees on their own. at least not in time for the daily sales anyway. The orange workhorse sized up the tree before her, looking for that sweet spot that would get the job done. Years of hooves on practice made it second nature to her, and her well toned flanks and powerful kick were proof of the benefits of such a line of work.
Steel work shoes collided with bark, sending powerful shock waves through the tree, into the branches, and out through the apples. The fruits of her labor fell, landing safely in the strategically planted wicker baskets. Another tree laid bare for the next time around. This musing made Applejack take pause as her mind drifted to Dash. That night could have went better than she expected, and Dash was left bereft and used like the naked tree before her. But unlike the tree, there was no going back for more later on.
Speak of the devil, Applejack mused when she saw the shadow of a pegasus swoop over her. She squinted up into the sun, a hoof shielding her eyes as she examined the cyan blue blur leaving a rainbow trail. Her eyes widened in horror when she realized it was coming right for her. In the blink of an eye, Rainbow Dash collided with Applejack, forehooves wailing on the startled earth pony as tears poured from her eyes.
"DASH! What in the hay you think ya doin?" Applejack managed to cry out, her own hooves raised in defense.
"I DON'T CARE IF YOU DIDN'T FEEL THAT WAY! BUT THAT'S NO EXCUSE TO SAY IT'S WRONG!" Dash screamed, her hooves beating the orange pony below her in time with her words, one of them hitting her right in the eye.
Applejack managed to get enough leverage to throw the pegasus off of her, sending Dash into the air where she caught herself with her wings. "Dash, Ah don't know what yer talkin' about," she fumed rubbing her black eye with a hoof. "Ah told ya ah was still unsure, but I never said it was wrong."
"Oh, sure!" Dash rolled her eyes, her front legs crossed as she hung lazily in the air. She charged again, forcing Applejack to whip her hindquarters around and delivered a strong buck right to Dash's jaw. The pegasus fell to the ground, pain overriding her wings. Dash forced herself up, spitting out the blood from her busted lip, and snarled. Applejack hadn't seen her this angry since the day Discord...
No, she wouldn't think about that. This time, it was her fault, and Applejack was willing to accept the responsibility. The rainbow pegasus reared back to charge again, but the earth pony dove out of the way, sending Dash colliding into a tree. Apples fell loose and landed on her head, a hollow noise as they bounced off. Applejack tried to hide a chuckle. This mistake proved her undoing, as Dash was blinded by her anger now, and tackled the earth pony once again. They skidded through the dirt, mud matting their manes and tails as they continued their squabbling. Applejack managed to get a good shot, giving Dash a black eye to call her own. With the surprisingly heavy pegasus distracted, Applejack shifted her weight to toss the weakened heap off of her. She shakily pulled herself up to her hooves and trotted over to the seething, whimpering pile that had once been a vibrant pegasus. Dirt, mud, and splatters of blood now muted her colors and tears muddled her rosy eyes, red from sadness and anger..
"Look, just...just forget anything ever happened." Applejack sighed, hoping to drop this dispute before it spiraled anymore out of control. She kept an intent watch on the cyan mass before her, swallowing hard. Applejack knew Dash wouldn't give up so easily, and knew to be on her guard.
Before the earth pony could say anything further, the pegasus had begun to move. She planted her forehooves in the dirt, her legs visibly shaking as she pulled her weight up to get her hind legs underneath her for support. There was a ringing in her ears, and a sharp pain in her jaw. The taste of blood was strong as Dash violently shook her mangled locks of rainbow hair. She shot the most hate filled glare Applejack had ever seen, but the tears in her eyes belied the true emotions she was feeling. Applejack clenched her jaw, afraid to say anything more as she recoiled slightly onto her hind legs in preparation to buck again if necessary. After Dash had gotten to her hooves completely, she flexed her wings to make sure they were fine, then flew off in a huff.
Applejack had never seen Dash so emotional before, and now she feared that she really did set something off that night. She bit her lip, tasting the metallic hint of her own blood. Dash sure did a number on me, but I deserved it. Hanging her head low in shame, the earth pony picked up her hat, dusted it off, and placed it back upon her head. She didn't feel like bucking anymore today.
Twilight Sparkle sulked around the library, her mind swirling with what had just happened. I should've said something! she scolded herself, shaking her head violently. Any reservations she had about her own feelings towards Dash were in full effect now. This changed everything and here she was, standing there like an idiot after her best friend kissed her. My best friend, Twilight glanced around. It was plainly obvious Dash was that kind of pony, but none of her friends ever said anything about it. But the fact that Dash had feelings for her all this time and she never noticed, was a slap in the face. Twilight soon began wondering just how well she knew her friends. They had vowed no secrets, but this was something that should've been obvious from the start.
The lavender unicorn began to wonder if her other friends knew of this, and didn't tell her. Then her logical thought process drifted to other things they probably weren't telling her. She hated being the last to know things, as she prided herself for being on top of current events and having all the answers. Perhaps that was her weakness. But if she was going to confront Dash, she had to hurry. No telling where she went off.
"Spike, I'm going to find Dash. Keep an eye out if she comes back here." Twilight commanded, going over her mental checklist of all the possible places the pegasus could be in her emotional state.
The dragon gave a thumbs up, smiling as he hoped for the best.
Twilight nodded in satisfaction and headed out into Ponyvile. Blocking the sun with a hoof, she searched the skies for any trace of Dash, seeing a rainbow streak over Sugarcube Corner. Maybe she went by there, the unicorn shrugged as she cantered over to the entrance. Maybe Pinkie would know where she is. She stepped inside the shop to see it wasn't as busy as it normally was this time of day. Pinkie Pie bounded up to the counter upon hearing the bell over the door ring, a bright smile on her face masking any emotions she may have over a distraught pegasus. "Hey, Twilight! Why do you look all frowny?"
"Just thinking about things, Pinkie." Twilight sighed, standing at the counter. Pinkie produced a milkshake from seemingly nowhere and sat it on the counter. "Tell Auntie Pinkie Pie what's on your mind," she leaned an elbow on the counter like a practiced bartender willing to lend a sympathetic ear.
Twilight laid her head on the counter and let out a heavy sigh, the straw in the milkshake long enough for her to take long sips as she mulled over the options. "You know every pony, right?" Twilight glanced up at the party pony who was standing uncomfortably close.
"Of course silly! I wouldn't be the premier party pony if I didn't! Why do you ask?"
The unicorn let out another heavy sigh. "How well do you know them?"
Way to go, Dash! First you scare Twilight off, then you kick Applejack's ass. Real smooth. Dash thought to herself as she flew around with no clear direction. Some ponies below stared up in curiosity at the aimless pegasus, anger in her flapping wings. I need somepony to talk to. Somepony I know I can trust, her rose colored eyes landed on one particular cottage on the outskirts of Ponyville. Dash smiled as memories cane flooding back of the happy times she had before Twilight came to town and turned everything upside down. Those young and carefree days of dating the foremost DJ pony from Manehattan. Where the only big adventure to worry about was what club to go to or what bed they'd wake up in together.
Yeah! Scratch will know what to do! Dash smirked. It would be nice to see an old friend again.