"Well, kid. You know I suck at this. So… go show those pegasi who really rules the skies."

Gilda squinted her eyes against the chilling wind of early evening as it rushed against her face, whipping her frontal head-feathers in and out of her field of vision. The griffon banked left and extended a talon below her to slightly adjust her speed, slowing down to prevent going off course as she turned. It had been a long flight, and her muscles ached, but soon, none of it would matter. Soon, her closest friend would receive her once again, and Gilda would be able to start a new chapter in her life, one that she had waited so long to begin writing. Her golden eyes narrowed as she picked up on an anomaly in the otherwise clear sky, and Gilda found that she could not keep the slightest grin from creeping across her beak at the sight.

There it was. A good distance away, floating high above the town of Ponyville, the cloud castle of Rainbow Dash stood as a monument to the pegasus' skill in weathercraft. Clearly, the mare had built it herself, as the griffon observer had no trouble noticing the rainbow fountains and stylish decorative accents that served no functionality, but were present to appear 'cool'. Cool was a concept that Gilda was quite familiar with, and in her mind, no one else in Equestria was cooler than her closest friend.

Oh man… it really has been a while since we've seen each other… so much shit has happened here while I sat up in Canterlot feeling sorry for myself, and I missed all of it. Well… no more! The old Gilda dies tonight! It's time to turn things around and leave the past behind. I'll take the advice of those closest to me, and focus on the good times and getting away from everything that went on before. None of that matters now. I've got Dash on my side, and soon, I'll get to meet her friends. If Dash likes 'em, they must be cool.

Gilda flapped harder, straining her wing muscles even further as she picked up speed. She had paced herself for the majority of the trip, and even taken little side-trips to go and fly over areas that looked particularly interesting, but her mind locked to a single focus as the reality of her closeness to personal freedom dawned on her. Rainbow was her stability, her key to starting over, her everything. Their constant exchange of letters since the end of Flight Camp at Shady Sands had helped her out of many a dark place, and Gilda could only pray that she could express how thankful she truly was to have a friend like Rainbow upon seeing her once again.

The griffon shivered in anticipation as endorphins rushed through her, causing her entire face to numb as she smiled. She looked far below her to the town as she began to pass over it, taking in the sights of various buildings and a few wandering ponies while she flew. Most of the homes still had lights on within them, while a select few were blazing with radiance in stark contrast to the evening sky. A large, carousel-themed establishment and another fuchsia building in particular seemed to be bustling with life, and Gilda quietly resolved to check them out later. Anywhere that stayed active during the night was somewhere that she wanted to be, and so Gilda made a mental note to give the ponies in charge of those places the best first impression she possibly could.

Just a little further… thirty seconds more, and you can rest your wings… come on, push… push for Dash. Ignore the fucking burn, no matter how bad it gets. Don't give up now. Stay strong, girl, you're practically there!

The sheen of freezing sweat glistening in the griffon's fur began to feel even colder as she leaned her neck forward and increased her speed yet again with a hard flap. Her new temporary home was so close, floating just over the edge of what appeared to be a rather large apple farm. Gilda continued to pump her wings, rising higher while she changed her flight path into an arc to come in for a landing. The surface of clouds spread out before her looked incredibly inviting, and the warm glow coming from inside of the aerial residence caused Gilda's smile to widen even more.

She's home!

The excited griffon pulled her wings back and let her body hang vertically in an effort to begin stalling out, and she soon found her momentum slowing rapidly as her shadow cast itself onto the mass of fluffy clouds below her. She touched down softly and shook her wings free of moisture before tucking them into her sides, smiling all the while. The deep blue duffel bag slung around her shoulders fell to slide down around her side as she began walking, but Gilda ignored the slightly unpleasant sensation, instead focusing only upon making the smoothest entrance she could.

Alright, gotta be cool. Can't stutter, can't blush, gotta be chill, just like old times. Rainbow's the shit, though, so this shouldn't be hard at all. She's about to get one hell of a shock. Probably should have warned her. Oh well…

Gilda ran a talon through her feathers, shaking it lightly to fluff the three overlong ones back into their normal orientation in a halfhearted act of fixing her appearance. Even without a mirror, she was sure that it would be good enough for her pegasus friend, and she marched forward across the springy surface below and over to the door. With another smile and a quick twitch of her lionesque tail out of nervousness, Gilda raised a claw and poked a talon into the doorbell.

"Just a sec! On my way!"

Sounds of movement could be heard within the house, and Gilda shifted uncomfortably as she waited for her best friend to arrive and throw open the thin barrier between her world and the griffon's. Crossing that doorway and reuniting with her closest friend was more than just a happy event in Gilda's mind, it was a symbol of change. A chance to start over new. The beginning of something wonderful, and the birth of a new griffon entirely.

The cloud portal swung open slowly, and revealed a tired-looking light blue pegasus mare with a rainbow mane. Gilda couldn't keep the wide smile off of her face, and as Rainbow's magenta eyes met the griffon's own, she returned the expression with a surprised yelp.

"GILDA! You're here!"

Rainbow shot forward and hugged Gilda with all of her might, burying her face into the griffon's feathery chest as she laughed. Gilda lowered a claw to the mare's polychromatic mane, and stroked it gently as she closed her eyes.

"Yeah. Yeah, looks like I am. Sorry for not giving you any warning, but… it's been way too long, Dash. I wanted to see you as soon as possible, so when I got the letter earlier today, I just left for Ponyville as quickly as I could."

Rainbow looked up, still smiling as she giggled a bit. "It's totally cool! I'm just glad you're here, and it's definitely a welcome surprise to see you so soon!" She shifted a bit as she unwrapped her hooves from around her friend's neck with a tired look. "I've uh… actually got something to do quick, I just stopped back home to drop some stuff off. Do you wanna come with me?"

Gilda cocked her head and raised a brow. "Well yeah, of course. Where are we goin'?"

The pegasus immediately turned and trotted back inside the house, leaving Gilda to stand alone upon the doorstep. She set her duffel bag down just inside of the door, figuring that it would be safer to leave it in the house during their absence. Rainbow emerged seconds later with a hoof-woven, bright red scarf wrapped around her neck and a soft expression upon her features.

"I've gotta return this scarf to my friend Rarity. It was really, really cold the other day doing weather work, so she let me borrow it. Forecast is looking better, though, so I don't need it anymore. C'mon, it's not too far of a flight, and then we can talk night all long!" She gestured enthusiastically with a hoof as she jumped up and took to the air. "Follow me, G!"

As the rainbow flier took off into the sky, Gilda spread her wings and jumped off the cloud to pursue. Despite the strained feeling in her muscles, she was more than happy to oblige her friend, especially if it meant meeting another pony that probably wouldn't drive her insane.

Hm… Rarity, huh? I think Dash mentioned her in a letter once, said something about fashion and a penchant for high drama. Well, I certainly know drama. Here's hoping she's as cool as Dash!

Gilda flapped hard to reach Rainbow's side in the air, only to find the pegasus wearing a mischievous smirk.

"Hey G? You up for a little race? Bet I can get to the Boutique faster than you can!"

Gilda's body screamed at her not to participate, as she was already sweating and tired, but her mind couldn't resist the challenge. After all, they had not raced in over two years, and Gilda had vastly improved her flight technique in that time.

"Heh, only if you think you're good enough to keep up. I play for keeps now, Dash." Gilda gave a cocky smirk, trying to hide the grimace she was slowly adopting due to the dull ache in her wing joints. "You'll find that I'm not just about control anymore, I've got speed now that can beat yours, easily. Just point the way, and I'll be there before you can pull back your hoof."

Rainbow shook her head and gave a little snort. "Yeah, yeah, I'll believe it when I see it. See that huge tower on the edge of town? Looks like a carousel?"

Gilda craned her neck as they flew, trying to spot whatever Rainbow was pointing at. She finally locked her eyes upon the gigantic building that had caught her attention earlier, and had intended to visit the next day out of interest. Well, this is working out nicely. Looks like I was right, as usual. If Dash wants to go there, it must be pretty a badass boutique run by a rebel mare or something. Could be fun!

"Yeah, I see it. And I'll be seeing it a lot more close-up in seconds. GO!"

The griffon took off at incredible speed, leaving the pegasus alone to gasp in surprise. Rainbow quickly flashed a determined glare after the brown streak rocketing toward the home of her friend, and immediately began flying at full tilt to catch up.

"Pfft. You can't beat me! I'm still the fastest flier in Equestria! You might be good, G, but I'm about to blow you mind!"

Gilda looked to her side in absolute shock and sputtered as Rainbow pulled ahead of her. Not wanting to appear incapable, Gilda flapped harder, practically feeling the muscles in her wings tear as she fought back tears of pain. No! I'm not letting her win! I'll show her that I'm just as good, and impress this Rarity before we even meet!

The two were once again even in the air, both glaring hard at the destination that was rapidly approaching. Rainbow looked left as Gilda looked right, and both looked back to the boutique, suddenly mere meters away. Neither let up on their speed, both wanting to come out on top in their friendly competition. Feet from the building, Gilda began to look worried, and turned to her friend.

"Uh, Dash? Shouldn't we slow down? At this rate, we're gonna crash straight into the place!"

Rainbow sneered and flapped harder. "Land on the balcony! The doors to her bedroom are open, we can totally make it! You don't wanna lose, do ya?"

Gilda shook her head and streamlined her body for the final approach. The balcony was much shorter than Gilda had anticipated it to be, and her eyes widened as she flew straight in through the open glass doors with Rainbow at her side, both flailing and furiously beating their wings to try to stop themselves before they hit the wall at the opposite end of the room. Rainbow managed to stop herself just in time to touch down on Rarity's immaculately-made bed, ruffling the sheets and pillows with her body as she used them to stall her momentum. Gilda was much less fortunate, and impacted the wall with her side before sliding down it and crashing into several mannequins and folded towers of fabric on the way down.

fuck. Ow. Oh shit, I think I broke my everything…

Rainbow immediately hopped off of the bed, dragging a sheet behind her with a back hoof as she walked over to the fallen griffon.

"Oh man, that looked like it hurt! You alright, G? By the way, I totally won just now."

Gilda poked her head up from under the pile of fabric atop her with a furious look. "You won? I just outflew your ass so badly your tail is still at your house! And yeah, I'm fine. Juuuuust fuckin' peachy."

Both girls jumped as the door to the bedroom flew open, admitting a very agitated-looking white unicorn mare in a mint-green bathrobe.

"Just what the hay is going on up h-"

Rainbow closed her mouth as she turned her head to look at Rarity with a blush, and Gilda could think of nothing to do but stare blankly at the radiant mare standing at the other end of the room. Finally, she blinked, and gave a small wave.

"Uh. Hey there. You must be Rarity?"

Smooth, Gilda, reeeeal smooth. Off to a great start with this one. And I totally broke one of her mannequins. Absolutely beautiful introduction. Your mother would be so proud.

Rarity blinked and suppressed a scream at the revelation that a griffon was in her house, and took several deep breaths to calm herself. The sight of Rainbow Dash showing no fear was enough to bring the mare around, and she elected to slowly adjust her red-framed glasses with a hoof as she reopened her sapphire eyes to survey the destruction. Various spools of cloth were wrapped around the hybrid girl and trailing along the carpet, her blankets were in total disarray, and at least one mannequin lay upon the floor in two halves. Rarity shook her head and walked over to the guilty looking pair before clearing her throat and rolling her eyes. She offered a hesitant smile, and inclined her head in a friendly gesture.

"…yes, I am Rarity. I assume that you must be a friend of Rainbow Dash?"

Gilda nodded quickly, hoping that she could get out of the situation without completely blowing her chances at becoming acquaintances with the mare before her.

"Uh, yeah. Name's Gilda. Sorry for… totally breaking your shit." Gilda moved to stand, only worsening the tangles of fabric around her as she extended a claw to shake with the unicorn. Rarity winced at her language, but shrugged it off and put her hoof in the griffon's claw hesitantly before giving a small smile.

"Oh, do not worry about it. I needed to… rearrange my supplies up here anyway, so I do not mind. As for the broken model, such things happen, and I do not blame you. Here, Darling, let me assist you."

Rarity's horn began to glow with a soft purple light, and the various bits and pieces of clothing components hanging about the griffon slowly floated into the air to land in neat piles back up against the wall. The sheets and blankets were then picked up in a similar aura of magic and placed back in their proper spots before Rarity gave a sigh and looked at Rainbow with a deadpan expression.

"Let me guess, you two were having a race, and you failed to slow down in time?"

Rainbow blushed hard and lowered her head. "Um. Yep. That's… yeah."

"Sorry," Gilda added.

"I brought your scarf, though! It really helped out, so… thanks!" Rainbow unwrapped the material from around her neck and held it out with a hoof. She watched with a blush as Rarity levitated the scarf and wrapped it neatly around the one mannequin still left standing in the room. The unicorn mare looked extremely annoyed, but tried her best to remain friendly despite the mess that she knew she would have to clean up later.

"Thank you, Darling. Now, let us all go downstairs, and I will make us some tea." She gave a forced smile, her eyes still upon the new arrival to Ponyville. "You… do you drink tea, Gilda?"

Gilda blinked and opened her beak reflexively. Fuck no I don't drink tea! Shit! Uh…

"Huh? Oh, yeah, of course. Sounds good to me. Lead the way."

Rarity raised a brow and gave a hesitant nod before turning and walking out of the room and down the steps, silently ranting about the mess upstairs to herself in her head. Rainbow turned and gave the griffon an incredulous look before she laughed animatedly and punched the griffon in the shoulder.

"You don't actually drink tea, do you?"

Gilda blushed. "Nope. Never touched it before, but… I've already pissed off your friend, so let's just go downstairs and make her happy, alright?"

Rainbow rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I don't either. But… you're right. Rarity can get kinda scary when she's angry, so we'd better get a move on." She stood and stretched, flaring her wings as she began to walk toward the staircase leading to the bottom floor of the building. "C'mon, G. I'll race ya!"

It was Gilda's turn to look annoyed. "You're… not serious, are you?" Gilda stood and gave her friend a harsh glare. "If we break one more thing in here…"

Another scratchy laugh echoed throughout the room as Rainbow threw a hoof out in a dismissing motion. "Of course I'm kidding! But seriously, let's go. If we aren't downstairs by the time the tea is ready, she might snap and sew us to death or something."

Gilda smiled and shook her head as she walked over to stand beside the laughing pegasus. "Alright, alright. You go first, Dash. If we're about to get assaulted with a needle, I need a shield."

The atmosphere in the kitchen was incredibly awkward for two of the beings present, while the third sipped her hot chocolate, swinging her hind legs freely under the table and watching the tension with great interest. While she did want Gilda and Rarity to hit it off, Rainbow Dash couldn't deny that the uncomfortable silence was incredibly entertaining.

"Sooo… dresses, huh? How did that get started?"

Gilda shook her head slightly immediately after saying the words, knowing how forced and uninterested she sounded. Though her best efforts were being put forth, Gilda was well aware that her social skills were about as impressive as those of a rock.

"Well… I discovered that I had a knack for finding rare gemstones, and began designing clothes with them when I was just a filly."

Gilda blinked. "Oh. Well… that makes sense." She sipped her tea and blinked, doing her best not to cringe at the taste of the near-boiling liquid and spit it back into the cup immediately. Shit, why do ponies like this? There's just no way. They're all in on it and messing with me. Dash doesn't drink tea, because she's not part of the conspiracy.

Gilda watched with jealous eyes as Rainbow brought her mug of hot chocolate up to her lips and drank deeply, giving the griffon a glance that said look-how-special-I-am-my-friend-made-me-something-different. Gilda rolled her eyes and shook her head while letting out a breath, hoping against hope that Rarity didn't find her to be the least interesting company in the country. She looked down at her steaming drink, both claws clasped around the mug while she furrowed her brow and tried desperately to think of something intelligent to say.

The touch of a white hoof upon her claw snapped Gilda out of her thoughts, and she raised her head quickly only to find a pair of searching blue eyes. Rarity was smiling kindly at her in an encouraging manner, and the gesture caught her slightly off-guard.

"Darling, come to think of it, I know absolutely nothing of you! Rainbow here really hasn't said much, other than the fact that you are her closest friend, alongside Applejack. Let's talk more about you for the moment, there will be plenty of opportunities later for me to bore you with talk of dresses and business."

Oh, great, so she can tell I'm really not interested. Well, at least she's giving me an out… but I hate talking about myself, so this is even worse!

Gilda opted to stall for time and gave her closest friend a hard glare.

Rainbow blinked in response before she noisily slurped her drink and set it back down upon the table. "…what?"

Gilda smirked. "You really haven't told them anything other than the fact that we're close? Like… really?"

Light blue turned to red as the pegasus shrank down slightly in her chair. "W-well… I don't do small talk. You know that. Better if you tell 'em anyway, right? After all, only you know firsthoof how awesome you are!"

The cheesy smile that the mare gave was met immediately by a rolling of golden eyes, followed by a heavy sigh as Gilda turned to look at Rarity. "Well… alright. What do you wanna know?"

Another moment passed as Rarity considered the question and moved her hoof back to her own personal space. Rainbow finally finished her mug and left the table before walking tiredly over to the sink to begin rinsing it out as the conversation began.

"Well, how about where you're from, to start? Do you live in a… colony? Of griffons?"

Gilda had to stop herself from laughing at the awkwardness of the curious mare before her, knowing full well that such a reaction wouldn't do her any favors. "Uh… no, actually, I… live in Canterlot, with a pony."

Rarity's eyes widened as she gave an elated gasp at the words. Gilda shrank back a bit and grimaced, wondering what in the world had caused the mare to get so excited.

"Canterlot! The fashion capital of Equestria? You simply must tell me everything you know about the most recent trends!" The unicorn spun in her seat to face her other friend as she spoke excitedly. "Rainbow, why didn't you tell me? I've always wanted to speak with somepony from Canterlot about the latest developments in fashion!"

Rainbow gave a noncommittal shrug with her back still turned to the others as she washed out the mug with a dismissive snort.

"Meh. Guess it never crossed my mind. Sorry."

Gilda shifted uncomfortably, hoping and praying that she wasn't about to disappoint the new potential friend, even if she did seem a little crazy when it came to clothing. "Uh… yeah, the ponies there dress up a lot. I don't really know much about it, though. I kinda… keep to myself."

Rarity blinked to hide her disappointment. "…oh. Well, no matter, I'm sure that you are familiar with high society and the like, hm?"

Gilda swallowed hard. Shit. This is really, really bad. We have like nothing in common at all! I really don't know the first thing about clothing, or… 'high society'. C'mon, Gilda, think… there's gotta be some way to salvage this before it turns into the most awkward silence ever…

A loud yawn interrupted Gilda's thoughts as Rainbow returned to the table, sitting heavily as she rested her head upon her hooves and closed her eyes. Both unicorn and griffon turned to look at their exhausted friend with expressions of concern, and Gilda immediately saw her opportunity to abandon the conversation.

"Dash, are you… alright? You seriously look like hell…"

Rainbow rolled her head a bit, unable to keep her eyes open any longer. "Mmm… yeah, I'm good." Another yawn interrupted her speech as she tried to start talking again. "You two keep talkin', I'll just… rest my eyes a bit. Work sucked, and I'm totally beat."

The tension in the room immediately dissipated as Rarity rose and shook her head with a kind smile. "Darling, please. Gilda and I can speak at another time, clearly you need to get to bed." Gilda did her best to suppress her smile as the older mare turned to her. "It is getting rather late, after all."

Holy shit, I love you. Rarity is the savior of the awkward griffons. I think I might build her a fucking shrine when I get back home. Saved by the belle! Didn't see that one coming!

"Yeah… it is. I'm honestly kinda tired too, it was a long flight…"

Rarity gave a nod and nudged Rainbow with the side of her head. "Come now, let's get you upstairs. Do you think you will be able to fly home, or do you need to stay here tonight? I can house both you and Gilda if need be."

Rainbow jolted awake at the contact and regarded her friend with lidded eyes. "Huh? Nah, I can fly. You sure you two don't wanna talk more? I hate to be the one to kill the party…"

"No," the others said in unison.

"It really is quite alright. We can always meet up again tomorrow, and I'm sure you and Gilda have much to talk about anyway. After all, she did just arrive, I wouldn't want to take you from her so soon."

Gilda nodded at the words, doing her best to play off of Rarity's reasoning without seeming too eager to leave. "Yeah... that. C'mon, Dash. Let's go home." She added a fake yawn to emphasize her agreement, praying silently to Luna that it wouldn't come off as too forced.

Rainbow blinked in surprise at the sudden unity between her friends. "Geeze… do I really look that bad?"

The pegasus was met with a perfectly timed chorus of "Yes."

Magenta eyes rolled as Rainbow shook her head and rose from the table, heading for the stairs. "Thanks, guys, you're the best. Alright, well… 'night, Rarity." Rainbow slowly walked to the upper floor, unaware that Gilda had not yet moved to follow.

After making sure that Rainbow was out of sight, Gilda turned to Rarity as she too stood from her seat.

"Look… I… really suck at meeting new ponies. I know we got off to a really, really weird start, and… it doesn't look like we have anything in common at all. Just… yeah." Gilda awkwardly rose a claw to scratch the back of her neck as she blushed and looked away. "I don't know. Can we… try this again or something later? Completely start over, maybe? I feel lame as hell right now."

Rarity gave a light giggle and smiled as she walked over to place a hoof upon Gilda's shoulder. "No, I'm afraid that we can't."

Gilda's face sunk as she huffed, ready to accept that she had totally blown it.

"There is no need to. Even if we don't share the same interests, I look forward to seeing more of you. Rainbow and I are friends, after all, and we have almost nothing in common. There is no need to 'try again.' Just being yourself is enough. I would rather see the griffon that Rainbow holds so dear to her than one trying to change herself just to win my favor."

Gilda was absolutely stunned, not only at Rarity's sudden maturity and fair treatment, but at the fact that she had effectively called Gilda's bluff.

Oh damn. She can tell I'm just being nice, but… she also doesn't care.

maybe I didn't blow it?

Gilda cleared her throat and did her best to smile. "…oh. Heh. Well… thanks. I'll… just be myself, then, even if we don't really match up." She quickly nodded and regained her confident smirk and judgmental, uncaring gaze. "You're pretty cool. I think I kinda like you, Rarity. Not at all the dweeb I thought you might be."

Rarity raised a brow, slightly taken aback by the abrupt shift in attitude. "Well… thank you, I think. You're quite interesting yourself."

There it was, finally. The awkward silence that Gilda had tried so desperately to avoid.

"…right. Well, I guess we're off, then. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow, once Dash isn't dead on her hooves?"

The unicorn smiled and inclined her head with a contemplative noise as she moved back to the table to finish her tea. "I think I would like that. You seem somewhat frazzled yourself., to be completely honest. Get some sleep, and I'll look forward to chatting again soon."

Gilda began to slowly back up to the stairs as she nodded, doing her best to hide her fatigue and uphold her nonchalant image. "Will do. Uh… sorry for breaking your stuff again. I'll… be more careful next time."

Rarity gave a soft smile and waved a dismissing hoof. "It's fine. We've all made mistakes and forgotten ourselves when it is most important not to, and besides, I'm sure that the race was Rainbow's idea anyway. Don't beat yourself up over it. It would be incredibly shallow to harbor a grudge, especially since we barely know each other."

Man, she kinda reminds me of someone else, what with all the mature insight to everything and shit. Time to go before I start literally sweating again. I feel like a stupid kid talking to an adult that knows more than they let on…

"Uh-huh. Alright… later."

Gilda gave a quick wave and began ascending the stairs before Rarity could speak yet again. She found Rainbow waiting near the door to the balcony, leaning against the door frame with her eyes closed. Gilda snapped her claws to get the pony's attention, earning a small jump from Rainbow at the unexpected noise.

"Home-time, Dash. You seriously do look like you're about to die. Let's go and get you settled in."

Rainbow immediately began to get whiny in her overtired state, and stomped her hooves a bit. "But G, you just got here! We need to catch up on stuff! I wanna talk, and hang out, and just… I don't need sleep. Nope." She shook her head enthusiastically and smiled wide, taking on an almost crazed look. "I'm totally fine!"

Gilda rolled her eyes in response. "No, you're not. We're going home, you're going to bed, and that's final. We can talk tomorrow morning. Trust me, I'm excited to see you, too, but… it's late, and if we waste all of tonight lounging around and talking like lazy asses, we won't be able to do that tomorrow. Spread your wings, and let's go."

Rainbow made a disgusted noise before walking out onto the balcony with Gilda in tow. She turned and gave the griffon a smile, but before she could open her mouth, Gilda gave her an angry look and cut her off immediately.

"And we are not racing back to your place. If I push myself any more, I'm gonna drop out of the sky, and it looks like the situation is the same for you. No races."

Rainbow gave her best pouty look, puffing out her lower lip and widening her eyes in a cute effort at pleading. Gilda didn't move, and kept the glare in full effect. Rainbow dropped the act and scowled.

"Ugh, you're such a jerk. Fine."

Gilda walked up beside Rainbow and nudged her with a wing. "Yep. And you should know that by now. But I also do give a shit about you, and I have my reasons for being bitchy when I need to be."

Rainbow returned the nudge with her own wing, and added a smile. "Wouldn't have it any other way."

With a final nod to each other, the two took off in unison and began the slow, leisurely flight back to the castle in the sky.

"Mornin', G! Get up, we've got a ton of stuff to catch up on! I brought you breakfast!"

Gilda scowled and pulled the blanket over her head. Despite having the ability, she had never slept on a cloud before, and the couch made out of the fluffy stuff felt heavenly to her.

Maybe if I pretend I'm not here, Dash will go practice tricks or something for a bit. Must sleep. Sleep is the best thing.

"G? Oh, come on! It's almost noon already! I mean, I know I sleep in a lot, but we've got the whole day ahead of us! Don't make me get a bucket of water! It'll be extra cold because of the altitude!"

Gilda rolled to bury her face into the back of the couch, away from the horrible noise that was her friend's attempt at rousing her.

Try me. Do it, you won't. You wouldn't do that to your best fr- SWEET CELESTIA WHAT THE FUCK!

The blanket flew into the air as Gilda flailed, desperately gasping for breath as the freezing water soaked through her fur and into her skin. She glared daggers at the pegasus, who was laughing hysterically, bucket still in hoof, and looking very pleased with herself.

"Haha! Oh man! You should see yourself right now! You look ridiculous! Rise and shine! Hahaha!"

Rainbow beat her hoof into the springy floor, unable to contain herself. She completely failed to notice the large, angry shadow looming over her, and yelped in surprise as Gilda tackled her and the two began rolling across the floor. Gilda let out a hiss as she pinned the mare, resting her talons on the girl's shoulders.

"Not funny, Dash. I could have had a heart attack!"

"So funny, G! And you're fine!"

She smacked a hoof into Gilda's chest, and quickly started laughing all over again and the sight of the waterlogged griffon. "Seriously! Go look in the mirror. It's ridiculous!"

Gilda rolled her eyes and suppressed a chuckle. After all, she did love a good prank as much as anyone else. She slowly stepped off of her prone friend, and shook her head while moving into the bathroom.

Stupid Dash. Stupid water. Stupid being awake.

She flicked the lights, and couldn't stop her own laugh at the sight before her. Her feathers were mattered down into her face, and her entire chest and half of her back was absolutely drenched. If some of her feathers weren't sticking out at incredibly odd angles, the poor griffon would have resembled a melting creamscicle.

"Told you!"

"Shut up, Dash. I'm using your towel, you little dork."

She was met with yet another laugh, and grabbed the pink towel with a self-conscious smirk. Glad to see she hasn't changed.

glad to see I have.

Upon walking back out into the spacious living room of her friend's home, Gilda found Rainbow spreading the now-soaked blanket from the couch out on the floor in a halfhearted attempt to let it air dry. Once Gilda stepped down into the room and began ruffling the towel through her feathers, Rainbow immediately stopped and abandoned the blanket. She tossed the griffon a small brown paper bag with the letters S.C.C. in bright pink on the side, just as Gilda ran the towel over her face. The bag impacted her directly in the beak, causing a yelp of surprise from the griffon and another peal of laughter from the pegasus.

"What the shit? Ugh!" She quickly removed the towel from over her eyes and stared down at the bag. "Did you go get rocks or something? That hurt like hell!"

Rainbow rolled her eyes and began stomping upon the blanket on the floor. "Muffins, G. Go ahead, try one. They're chocolate!"

Gilda resumed her efforts to dry herself, and placed the bag on the counter top in the kitchen as she walked around the home and made her way over to sit behind the breakfast bar. "I'm… actually not that hungry right now, but I'll definitely save 'em for later. Thanks, though." She stared pointedly at Rainbow as she hung the towel over one of the bar stools beneath the counter. "You know that stomping the blanket isn't gonna make it dry, right?"

"Well… but… I guess… whatever." Rainbow hopped up and spread her wings, hovering in place as she crossed her forelegs. "Got any better ideas?"

Gilda returned the gesture and cocked a brow. "Yeah, not waking me up with a bucket of freezing water."

"Out of the question. That's how we do it in Ponyville. Every. Single. Morning."

Gilda snorted. "Bullshit."

Rainbow grinned. "Maybe."

The pony uncrossed her forelegs and lazily flew over into the kitchen before taking the stool next to Gilda and resting her head upon the bar, eyes locked onto the face of her best friend.

"So… what's up? I mean, I know we write every week, but… how are you, in general?" She grinned mischievously as she raised her head and rested it in her hoof. "Other than wet, cold, and annoyed."

The lighthearted approach at starting a conversation did nothing to lift Gilda's mood, and she rolled her eyes in response to the slight jab. "Well… look, Dash, I'm not gonna lie. I really do want to catch up on stuff, and hear about what you've been up to, but… there's something I absolutely have to know. It's been killing me for a long time now, and… it just doesn't make any damned sense."

Rainbow tensed at the words, and quickly sat up into a more serious posture. "Yeah? What's buggin' you? Something I can help with?"

Gilda grimaced, and slowly folded her claws together before looking down at them.

"…probably. It's… about Derpy."

Rainbow hastily rose from her stool and walked back to the blanket, where she immediately began stomping again to distract herself and detach herself from the situation.


The frantic stomping continued, and Gilda began to get annoyed. She slid off of her own stool, and walked back into the living room with her wings slightly extended.

"The three of us were really close back in flight camp, and I haven't heard from her in a long time. Every letter she sent was cryptic, weird, and she didn't tell me shit about what she's been doing. I know you know that she lives in Ponyville now, since you're the one who told me to begin with. What the hell is going on?"

Rainbow looked down to hide her guilty face, doing her absolute best to avoid eye contact. "G… it's… I can't tell you. Derpy… she told me not to."

"What? What could possibly be so bad that I'm not allowed to know? She knows I give a shit! This doesn't make any sense!"

Rainbow looked up in a panic, and instantly raised a hoof to try to defuse her friend's anger, with little success. "Gilda, I know. I really do, and… it isn't right that she's… hiding things from you. But… it's not my place! I can't just tell you outright!"

Gilda took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "I… ugh, fine. I get it. It's just been pissing me off not knowing. It's not your fault, and I'm not angry with you, I swear. She's still in town, though, right?"

The pegasus looked off to the side and nodded slowly, closing her eyes as she did so. "Yeah."

"Can you… point me to her place? It doesn't have to be today, or even tomorrow, I just…" Gilda looked down, a mixture of anger and sadness beginning to consume her. "I miss what we had. Do you two still talk… like we all used to?"

The sudden sensation of fur against feathers caused Gilda to look up, and she found a blue hoof resting upon her shoulder as Rainbow looked at her with concern.

"We… not really. She has been distant, but… I can't blame her. She's got a lot of responsibility on her hooves now, and she has to spend a lot of time with…" Rainbow looked away and lowered her hoof. She turned away from Gilda, and gave the springy floor below a hard stomp. "This isn't right! I… you should know before you go over there. It'll give you time to think about it, and try to understand why she's changed."

Gilda blinked in surprise, but leaned in intently. Even if it was technically going against what Derpy wanted, and even if it was unfair to her, was Derpy's treatment of her supposed best friend not cause for a little betrayal of her own?

"You're... gonna tell me?"

"I… yeah. I will. I just… you two are both some of my best friends, and… I hate seeing you against each other." Rainbow turned around, and began to speak, her voice a much lower and more somber tone than its usual tomboyish rasp. "Gilda… you remember that stallion that she ran off with that one night at camp? Dusky?"

Gilda immediately tensed at the memory of the black-pelted unicorn, and her eyes narrowed. "Yes, I remember. I could tell he was a useless piece of shit from the get-go. Did he hurt her? What happened? Is Derpy safe?"

"Yeah, she's fine now! Don't get the wrong idea, he's not even around, hasn't been since Camp ended. But… shortly after you and I left, she found out that sh-"

"Rise and shine, Rainbow Dash! It's a brand new day, and w-"

Gilda brought a claw up to her face. SON OF A BITCH! WHO THE FUCK PICKED NOW TO COME CALLING? UGH!

Incredibly annoyed, Gilda walked quickly over to the door of the cloud castle, and leaned over the side, glaring down at whoever had the gall to come looking for Rainbow at such an important moment.

"-e've got a lot of pranking to d-"

Gilda turned her head sideways and narrowed her eye in supreme agitation at the pink mare far below on the ground.

What the fuck is this dweeb wearing, and why does she sound so sickeningly happy? I really hope this isn't one of Dash's friends, and it's just some random bullshit she's here for.


Aaaaaand she thinks I'm a spectacle. Great. I can already tell today is gonna be absolutely fantastic. That little bitch is about to get a piece of my mind...

Author's Note: THIRTEEN YEARS LATER, IT IS FINALLY POSTED. Alright, so like a month and a half. Still. I apologize greatly for the wait, but now that things are rolling, the chapters should come at a fairly decent pace.

To everyone not aware: this story is in the same continuity as The Endless Sky, though I wouldn't call it a sequel, even though it begins directly after TES ends. I would, however, call TES a prequel to this, and its purpose is to develop Gilda as an actual character beyond 'she's a bitch.' It isn't necessary to read the other story to understand this one if you can roll with Gilda being a complex griffon with a history, but I would highly recommend it. However, if you don't want to, I don't blame you, and I'll provide a spoiler-tastic quick and dirty summary of things from TES that would be good to know at the bottom of this note. All quotes at the start of chapters are from TES, but I won't be giving context to them. It'll be more fun that way.

Next: Chapter 2 of this, Princess Textlestia 2, a few one-shots, and Scented Venom 7. No idea of the order in which those will happen, but that's what I'm planning on. We all know how well my planning goes, though...


Gilda grew up in Canterlot with her parents, Estelle and Jericho, alongside her live-in caretaker, Script (a pony). Jericho was a notorious drunk, and after abusing Gilda once, was kicked out of the house. Gilda and Dash met while Dash was on vacation in Canterlot with her parents, and upon returning home alone, Estelle left for a costume party on the edge of town. Jericho showed up at the party and murdered her, which absolutely devastated Gilda and caused her to withdraw and internalize her emotions due to her inexperience with such things.

By pulling strings with Celestia, Script managed to get Gilda into an all-pegasus flight camp run by a former Wonderbolt, Ember Blitz. There, Gilda reunited with Rainbow, and Ember's daughter, Derpy Hooves, became a fast friend. With her mother's necklace, her hobby of painting, and her two friends, Gilda began to cope with her situation, and finally revealed her past to Rainbow, who supported her. Later, Derpy ran off with a random stallion as her 'coltfriend', and returned a changed mare. Rainbow and Gilda decided to camp one night, when a group of bullies who had been pushing Derpy around caught up with them. One of them shattered Estelle's necklace, and Gilda jumped and almost killed him in her fury. Ember managed to save the stallion, but Gilda was kicked out of camp, and Dash left with her. Three years later, Gilda left for Ponyville to go and try to meet Rainbow's friends, and that is where this story begins...