I do not own My Little Pony
In retrospect, scaring Spike off when there was a letter to be sent might have been a mistake.
"Spike! Spike!" Twilight shouted in vain. "Now, where could he have gone? You don't think he was actually scared, do you?"
"Nah. He's probably just caught up in some Pinkie Pie thing," Rainbow Dash smiled. "I'll just give him my letter when he shows up."
"Oh, all right," Twilight sighed. "I guess he knows where to go if he wants to catch up to us."
"Huh? Where are we going?" Rainbow trotted just behind Twilight, with the rest of the herd surrounding her on all sides.
"Well, we were trying to lead you somewhere in particular," admitted Twilight. "You just got the drop on Pinkie before we got there."
"Okay…but you've already made your big reveal, right? So what's the big deal?" Rainbow Dash blinked.
"Just come along," Twilight kept walking. "You'll see it when we get there."
"Aw, come on! Just tell me!" Rainbow Dash demanded.
"No! You have to see it for yourself!" objected Twilight.
"Come, Rainbow! It's just a hundred more steps. Surely you can hold your curiosity that long," added Rarity.
"Oh, all right," Rainbow Dash sighed and trotted faster, trying to get through the steps as fast as possible. "I hope this is important, though. I kind of feel like I've had enough surprises for one day."
At that moment Twilight used her magic to open a door and Applejack gently shoved Rainbow Dash inside.
"Pinkie Pie?" was all Rainbow Dash had time to say before being pushed further in by her excited friends.
Honestly, this was exactly the sort of room one would expect to find Pinkie Pie in. The ceiling was filled with banners, the floor with confetti, and the space in-between with streamers and balloons. A table in the middle bore a huge cake, a punchbowl, and several tastefully arranged bottles of hot sauce.
And each of the four walls contained an elaborate painting of Rainbow Dash.
Rainbow Dash in the middle of a Sonic Rainboom.
Rainbow Dash kicking a dragon in the snout.
Young Rainbow Dash standing protectively over young Fluttershy.
And Rainbow Dash in the middle of a group hug with all her friends.
"What's this? A party?" Rainbow Dash looked around in confusion.
"A party!" Pinkie confirmed happily.
"We thought it might…soften the blow?" offered Twilight.
"We weren't altogether sure how ya'll would take it," nodded Applejack.
"Aw, you guys!" Rainbow Dash blushed as she was led in. "You didn't have to do this!"
"Actually," said Fluttershy, her voice just barely at normal conversational level, "We did. Pinkie Pie was with us."
Pinkie Pie confirmed the statement by extending her blowout until it was just short of Rainbow's nose.
"We were afraid you'd be mad at us," Fluttershy piped up. "You're not mad at us, are you?"
"Well…" Rainbow stretched out the word. With every second she could see her friends growing more and more anxious. Finally she decided to let them off the hook – because she was running out of breath if for no other reason. "I could be mad at you. Or I could just remember that you're my best friends and assume you wouldn't mess with me unless it was for my own benefit."
Rainbow Dash could feel the wave of sheer relief hitting her from all sides. She quickly joined her own grin to that of her friends, even while wondering why they'd think anything different.
"And now," she aimed herself at the nearest source of sweets. "Let's party!"
"Wait! There is one more thing," interrupted Rarity.
"Well, it's just that we wanted to present you…with this!"
She moved her head, telekinetically bearing a bundle of black cloth towards Rainbow Dash. Unwrapping it, Rainbow found an outfit identical to that of her friends.
"Really? You want…me?"
"Well, I don't think Mare Do Well will be making any more appearances," began Twilight.
"But oh! We would be honored if you joined us anyway," continued Fluttershy. "If you want to, I mean."
"Yup! The Mare just ain't complete without you," Applejack nodded.
"Yeah! Did you see how cool we were?" demanded Pinkie Pie.
"Yeah. I guess," Rainbow Dash nodded.
"So imagine how much cooler we will be if you're with us too!"
Before Rainbow Dash could make any displays she would later consider embarrassing, she threw the outfit into the air. Then she performed a single barrel roll, starting off naked and finishing fully clothed.
"Well?" she demanded with a smile. "How do I look?"
"Fabulous!" Rarity answered without missing a beat.
"Simply Dashing!" laughed Pinkie. It wasn't all that funny, but everypony was so happy they joined in and laughed anyway.
"Slow down a little, guys! I can't keep up!"
The girls turned to stare at Spike, who was sitting in a corner and furiously writing.
"Hey, Twilight? How many l's are there in 'reconciled'?"
"Spike! You don't have to write Rainbow's autobiography anymore! She's changed her ways," protested Twilight.
"I know," Spike admitted. "But she paid me until the end of the week! And I kind of already spent the money."
"This snazzy ghost writer outfit!" Spike spread his arms as if in an attempt to model. Seeing the looks everyone was giving him, he began to blush. "I…kind of thought this gig would last longer."
This time the laughter was louder and more evocative. After a while Spike joined in with the others.
"So…Spike!" Rainbow Dash stared at him with a gleam in her eye.
Spike swallowed uncomfortably before raising his head to clearly indicate he was listening. Rainbow Dash really could be very intimidating.
"Were you in on this whole plan?"
"Nope!"Spike almost sighed in relief. "Not me! I just make my jokes where I can."
"So who else was in on the plan, anyway?" Rainbow Dash was kind of interested in the details of her ordeal now. "You told the Mayor, right? I thought it was weird that she came up with a name so quickly."
"No," Twilight shook her head. "I think she's just like that."
"Well, if she wants my vote again, she had better do something about them building codes!" said Applejack. "Why if it weren't for all them buildings collapsing along with the bridge last month where that dang cliff is now, we wouldn'ta been in this mess in the first place!"
"Hm. The mayor…" mused Twilight.
"Yeah? What about her?" asked Rainbow Dash.
"I don't know…It's just that I have this feeling that we're all forgetting something…"
*Meanwhile at the Mare Do Well Thank You Parade*
"So…do we just start the parade now? How does this work?" asked a concerned citizen.
"I'm…sure that the two of them will settle their differences any moment now," the Mayor shifted from one hoof to the other in manifest discomfort. "And then they'll come back here and we'll all have a chance to honor both of our town heroes."
"Aw, man!" complained Scootaloo. "I bet they're having a huge fight right now!"
"Yeah," Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom agreed simultaneously. It seemed like the sort of thing that would happen.
"I bet Rainbow Dash is winning!" Scootaloo added. The little pegasus still wasn't sure why her idol had a problem with the town's newest hero, but she knew which side she was on.
"No way!" Apple Bloom shook her head. "Did you see all the stuff Mare Do Well could do? She's super fast! And super strong! And she's got magic and wings. I bet she's a Secret Princess!"
"And her outfit was simply fabulous!" added Sweetie Belle.
"You'll see," Scootaloo threatened, narrowing her eyes. "After Rainbow Dash gets through with the Mare, I bet she'll never be seen again!"
*Back at the party*
"…Oh well. It's probably nothing," Twilight admitted after some thought.
With this last distraction dealt with, the party began in earnest. All semblance of organization quickly vanished in favor of ponies dancing, eating, and playing as they wished.
"What's up, Fluttershy?" Rainbow turned around to stare at her friend.
"Well, it just…I wanted to ask…"
"Come on, Fluttershy. Out with it," it was really strange. Sure, Fluttershy was…well, shy around strangers, but she usually spoke normally around her friends.
"Are you sure you're not mad at us?"
"Oh. That's what this is about? Yes, I'm sure. Of course I'm sure!"
"Oh, that's wonderful to hear. It's just that I know you hate losing. Even though we tried really hard not to do anything to embarrass you."
"Yeah. I guess I wasn't making that very easy, right?"
"Oh, no, no, no, not at all. Or…kind of," Fluttershy admitted. "Oh, but don't feel bad. We've all had moments we would rather forget."
And the less there was said about that the better. Seeking to fill in the pause, Rainbow Dash decided it would be as good a time as any to bring up her one remaining qualm with this day.
"There's just one thing, though. If we ever end up doing this sort of thing again, we'll need to get our message straight. I had no idea what you guys were trying to say with this. I just thought Mare Do Well was trying to drive me out of hero business altogether."
"Oh, never! You make a great hero, Rainbow Dash."
"Well…I guess I do. Sometimes," Dash admitted.
She would have offered some qualifiers about how she was only good when not blinded by her own hubris, but it was a bit redundant at this point.
"And you know…" Fluttershy turned her head to point at one of the paintings. "You've always been my hero."
The two ponies exchanged a warm look.
"Anyway, that's why I'm so worried," explained Fluttershy. "Because I think that having something like this happen to me would be scary and confusing, and I really want you to be okay."
"Aw, don't be silly, filly!" Rainbow grinned bravely. "I'm way too tough for that. Actually, I guess I'm kind of grateful you showed up. I was really out of it for a while there. Somepony might have really been hurt. And that would be way worse than anything that happened between me and the Mare."
"Oh. Well. Thank goodness for that," Fluttershy went back to smiling.
"Aw, Fluttershy, you should really just relax!" Pinkie Pie popped out from behind her, momentarily startling both ponies. "Rainbow Dash knows it was all in good fun!"
"Yup!" Rainbow Dash nodded. "Nopony appreciates a good trick more than Rainbow Dash!"
"Oh. Well, tricking you wasn't our main purpose," objected Twilight.
"Sure, but still! The costume switcheroo was great! I mean, I really should have figured it out, but I didn't! Nopony did."
"Okay. Yes. If pressed, I'll have to admit it was pretty clever," Twilight was actually blushing.
"And getting me to humiliate myself and drive everyone away was genius. Kinda harsh, but pure genius anyway."
Rainbow Dash suddenly became very aware of five pairs of eyes staring at her in confusion and horror.
"WHAT?" Pinkie Pie was the first to find her voice.
"What?" blinked Rainbow Dash.
"That-that wasn't the plan!" Twilight was obviously shocked.
"The plan was to show you how a hero should act," said Applejack carefully. "What did ya think the plan was?"
"Well…" Rainbow Dash began. "I mean…you knew how I was going to react, right? That was part of your plan?"
"Rainbow? I think you'd better tell us how things looked from your perspective," Twilight expressed what the rest of them were thinking. The suddenly-attentive ponies converged on Rainbow Dash.
"Okay, jeez, I'm getting to that!" Rainbow couldn't see why this was such a big deal. "Okay, so there I was signing autographs…"
As her story went on, she could see the cautious smiles on her friends' faces slowly changing into frowns, then open-mouthed shock and horror.
"…and so I was just sort of lying on the storm cloud," Rainbow Dash was finishing up. It wasn't easy, since just remembering that time – not more than an hour ago – brought back some of the negative feelings, causing a lump to form in her throat. "And I…I guess I was wondering why everyone left me alone. If it was something I did wrong, or maybe just something wrong with me…"
She wasn't allowed to get any further. At that moment a pink missile slammed into her and the next thing she knew, she was on the floor and Pinkie Pie was doing her best to smother Rainbow.
"This hug needs more ponies! Stat!" Pinkie demanded, staring at the rest.
They didn't have to be asked twice. Within seconds, Rainbow Dash found herself at the center of a warm cuddly ball of limbs and affection.
"Rainbow Dash!" Rarity managed to sound both pitying and offended. "How could you believe we would ever treat you like that on purpose?"
"Oh! We would never try to make you sad. Never never never!" Fluttershy emphasized each 'never' with a shake of her mane.
"If we knew how it was making you feel, we'd have done something about it!" Twilight assured her. "We'd have changed the plan, or come clean with you earlier…or something!"
"Why, I'd buck myself in tha face sooner than pull that sort of dirty trick on a friend!" Applejack chimed in.
Pinkie Pie didn't say anything. She just shoved a piece of cake into Rainbow's mouth. Everything about her screamed of a desperate need for her friend to be okay and fully recovered from her ordeal.
"Seriously, guys, it's fine!" Rainbow Dash insisted, talking around the frosting "I mean, I'm glad to hear all that stuff, but it doesn't really matter. Like I said before: you're my best friends, and I trust you. Anyway, who cares? Everything worked out in the end, and I'm totally fine now. So you can all let go now. I mean, if you want to."
They did not want to.
And when Spike finally got around to sending something to Celestia, he had two deliveries to make. One was the letter from Rainbow Dash, resolutely describing her lesson in grace and humility. The other was penned by Twilight on behalf of the rest of their little herd.
Dear Princess Celestia
I thought that today I would be teaching a lesson about friendship instead of learning one. Sometimes when your friends' mistakes are serious and have the potential to really hurt them and others, you just can't wait for them to realize it on their own.
But I did end up learning something. I learned that if you're not careful and fail to anticipate your friends' reactions then instead of teaching them a lesson you can really hurt their feelings! And it can be devastating to find out that even though they assumed the best about you, that best was still pretty darn bad.
Still, if the bonds of your friendship are strong, everyone can walk away from the experience changed for the better.
Your Faithful Student