"All right," said Rainbow Dash, "we're going to try this again."

She took a deep breath, wincing slightly. Due to a boulder accident, the recent race between Rainbow Dash and her own pet candidates had left her bandaged and laid up in her home for-at least according to Ponyville's resident physician-the next few coming days. As a consequence, her wings and chest still stung a little whenever she got excited or otherwise exerted herself.

Still, it was hard to not get at least a little agitated when one had this... challenging of a flight pupil to work with.

"This time, I want you to give it all-no, more than all you've got! Way more! A hundred and twenty percent! You hear me, Tank?"

The helicopter-fitted tortoise hovering before Rainbow Dash did his best to nod, but as usual, his owner refused to take sloth for an answer.

She instead set about barking out commands. "Take off! Now, bank right! Bank left! Okay... trick time! Immelmare! Sky pirouette! Loop the loop!"

Tank performed every stunt commanded of him to the best of his ability... which, in the end, meant that he rotated in place in midair. Rainbow Dash's face met her hoof in record time at the sight.

"Ugh. Okay, fine, just... all right, do a barrel roll. All you do is just get some good speed, lean really hard one way, then flip in the other. Oh, and try to leave a wide trail. Can you do that?"

After several confused blinks, Tank once more followed his master's commands to the letter... and ended up with the helicopter blades of his flight apparatus embedded in the nearby cloud-wall for his troubles.

Soon after, he was spinning in place again.

"Yikes," said Dash, shaking her head while looking skyward.

"I guess he's just not very maneuverable," said Fluttershy, who had been watching from the bedroom's entrance. She flew over to Tank, stopped him from spinning, plucked him free of the wall, and set him on the bed to recover from his dizziness.

"No kidding! He can turn around and do straight lines pretty well, but that's about it! I swear, sometimes, if I didn't owe this little guy my life... I guess I just gotta get used to his limits." Tank flew back to Rainbow Dash, allowing her to pet him. "Still, what he lacks in air skill, he definitely makes up for in effort." She turned to Fluttershy, who was floating over to Dash with a fresh folded blanket draped over her. "And he's not the only one. Thanks for helping me out through all of this, Fluttershy."

The yellow pegasus pony smiled as she spread the blanket over Rainbow Dash's bed. "Oh, it's absolutely no trouble at all. I feel somewhat responsible for this."

"You kidding? You pretty much had a hoof in saving me! If you hadn't kept pestering me about adding this turtle-"

"-tortoise-"

"-whatever-to the race, who knows where I'd be now? You don't get to feel guilty, got it?"

Fluttershy blushed. "Well, when you put it that way... I'm happy to have helped." She tucked Rainbow Dash in. "I'll check on you in the morning, okay?"

"Sure. You're gonna make one heck of a nurse one day, you know that?" She paused. "Or... or maybe a mom, if you ever go that route..."

Fluttershy blushed deeper. "I'd rather be a veterinarian. That way, I can be of use to as many of our planet's creatures as possible. Good night, Rainbow Dash."

"'Night, Fluttershy."

Once Fluttershy flew off, Rainbow Dash lay flat on her bed, facing the ceiling. After glancing at the full moon outside of her window, she closed her eyes, turned over, and attempted to sleep. Not long after she had done this, a shadow cast over her, blocking the moonlight. Quickly noticing, Rainbow Dash looked towards it.

"Huh?"

As quickly as it had come, the shadow was gone... and the moon was back.

"...must be seeing things."

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes again... and then the shadow was back.

This time, she didn't move. Instead:

"Sic 'em, Tank."

The tortoise flew into action, out the window, and soon, several gruff yelps and screams could be heard. A winged figure flew through the window at top speed with Tank following close behind.

"Dash!" the figure shouted. "Get this crazy flyin' whatever it is offa me before one of us gets a shave!"

That was when Rainbow Dash found out that it still hurt to laugh as well. "All right, Tank, that's enough. I think she's learned her lesson."

The winged figure went to a corner of the bedroom and lit the lamps. In the new abundance of light, Rainbow Dash found out that her hunch had been right, as a sour-faced griffon flew towards, and then hovered over, the resident pegasus.

"I ever tell you you always knew how to make a girl feel welcome, Dash?"

–––
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
"Lightningale"
by Bookish Delight, 2011-2012
All characters and referred properties belong to Hasbro.
–––

Rainbow Dash's giggles persisted. "Gilda, I keep telling you, you don't need to sneak around when you visit." Finally calming down, she gazed happily at the griffon. "You know you're always welcome at my place."

Gilda did her best to hold back a blush. "Hey, force of habit. It's just easier to visit when you're the only pony around. I thought the yellow one-what was her name again?"

"Fluttershy?"

"Yeah. Thought she'd never leave."

Rainbow Dash cocked her head to one side. "Didn't you two make up?"

"Well... yeah, technically-but she seems like the type who'd make a big deal out of it if I showed up."

"Oh, yeah, she absolutely would. Still, glad you got here anyway." It was finally Rainbow Dash's turn to stifle a reddening of cheeks. "I was... kind of hoping you would."

"Like I'd ever leave you hanging? Seriously, now." Gilda held out a talon, and the two shared a high-five... with the pegasus wincing a second later. "Whoa. Now I remember why I flew all the way over here. You getting any better?"

Rainbow Dash sighed. "Sorta. Pain keeps popping up where I don't want it to. Pride hurts more than the body, though, so I guess that's good."

Gilda sat next to Rainbow Dash on the bed. "Yeah, heard about how some of my fellow birds totally blew you off during your race. So I just... y'know. Wanna say I'm sorry."

The pegasus looked over at her friend with wide eyes. "You... you do?"

"Yeah. I mean, for all your talk, who woulda thought you weren't as cool and fast as us chicks after all?" Gilda gave her friend the lightest of playful wing-nudges and cackled. "Looks like that's one mystery solved, huh?"

Rainbow Dash sheepishly chuckled, rolled her eyes and sighed. "Yyyyyep. Saw this coming."

"Hey, I'm just sayin': where's your Junior Speedsters certificate again? Think we oughtta check to see if it was written in invisible ink..."

"Awwww..." The pegasus laid her head back, hitting it on the cloud-panel behind her. "Okay, G, seriously: how long before I'm allowed to live this down?"

"C'mon, Dash, you know I gotta yank your wings at least once whenever we meet up. It's in my contract." However, her tone soon sobered. "Seriously, though, what I heard happened wasn't cool, even by me. So... yeah. I took a whole week off and thundered over here. Until you're back in top flyin' shape... my wings are your wings."

Silence fell over the room, and lasted for several moments.

"...look, I know you're half-bird," Rainbow Dash finally said, "but you don't gotta do this if you really don't wanna. You had nothing to do with what happened, so don't feel as if you need to put your life on hold for-mmmph!"

The last was courtesy of a mass of wing feathers clamping onto Rainbow Dash's muzzle. "Dash?"

"Glm-hmmm?"

"Don't start this again."

"Smrr whm-" Rainbow Dash pulled Gilda's wing away from her mouth. "Start what?"

"You know what! Why is it whenever I try to do something... y'know... nice, you instantly think it's somehow putting me out? Geez, can't a gal do something for her pal just 'cause she wants to?"

"But it is putting you out! For a whole week! You just said so!" Rainbow Dash gestured to her bandages. "It was my stupidity that got me into this mess, and now you're the one paying for it! Always having to cover for me, just like when we were growing up! Nothing's changed!" She sighed, and lowered her head. "Especially me. I haven't grown a bit."

Following a momentary gritting of teeth, Gilda composed herself. "Yeah. I guess you haven't. A pony looking a gift horse in a mouth-there's a twist."

"Gilda, I-"

"Dash, look at yourself! You just survived an accident you could have died from. You're busted up, and can't do your jobs or even get some fresh air without shooting pains! I've seen you wince no less than five times since I got here! What kind of friend would I be if I didn't show up to help?" Gilda snorted. "Besides, the heck I'm letting any of your sugary pony friends outclass me."

The pegasus pony's gaze stayed southward, but her tone of voice shifted from piteous to contrite. "Y-... you're right. I'm sorry, Gilda. I wasn't thinking. I..."

She trailed off when she felt familiar, warm and reassuring wings encircling her frame.

"Speaking of sugary," Gilda muttered. "Look, Dash. Not too long ago I went through a heck of a lot to be able to poke my beak into your house again. I had to go through you, I had to go through Fluttershy, I had to go through my own pride. Now, I don't regret any of it, but you can believe I will take every step I can to never have to do that again."

Rainbow Dash giggled. "I wouldn't want you to, either."

"Glad we understand each other. Just so we're crystal clear, I will never mind pullin' off favors for you. And I won't ever ask or even care why you need them. You need a ride, you need looking after, you need someone out there in your place-guess what? That's what friends do. That's what loyalty does. I keep hearing somepony 'round here's supposed to know all about that, but I guess they were wrong."

Rainbow Dash wrapped her forelegs around the griffon in kind. "Nah. She knows. She just forgets a lot."

"Well, don't forget too much. Ponyville needs clouds cleared most days, right? I'm gonna need a crash course."

"I..." Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to protest again, but then stopped herself. "...thanks. You know, this is why I like it when you visit. You always give it to me straight. I tend to miss that when you're gone."

"Yeah, yeah." Gilda broke the hug. "Don'tmake me admit outright that I've missed you too. Too many sappy moments on my record, and they take away my Coolness License. Shoot, you've been on probation since you moved out here."

Rainbow Dash giggled. "Well, then... I won't make you, but again, thanks."

"No problem." Gilda paused in thought. "You can make this all up to me by answering one thing."

"What's that?"

Gilda cast a sideways glance at Tank. "...why a turtle?"

"Tortoise."

"Right. Why this guy as your pet? I mean, the only thing I can think of is that his shell and your head are about as hard."

"Heh! Maybe." She looked up at Gilda. "But when I was in trouble, he was the only one in the race to stop by and help me out even though he didn't have to. I can't blame him or any of the flyers-none of them knew me enough to worry about me. Still..." The blue pegasus's mouth slowly turned upwards into a sly smile. "...who knows? Maybe if there'd been a bird in that race who cared enough about me... she'd be my pet right now."

Gilda looked confused for a few seconds... then did a double-take as she understood. "I... uh... I-I'm only half a bird, remember..."

"Yep, you are half-grounder. So I was thinking maybe we could let Fluttershy own that half, and-"

Gilda instantly raised a wing. "Don't even go there. Besides, half-eagle, half-lion? I rule wherever I am! You think you can hang with this much awesome?"

The pegasus pony's smile showed teeth as she met Gilda's eyes. "Last I checked, that awesome tends to come to me."

Gilda nodded, taking Rainbow Dash's hooves in to her wings. "Now you're finally making some sense."