I'm not a big fan of hospitals.

After all, ponies only go to the hospital when they're hurt, and being hurt sucks. Between all my awesome stunt flying and weather work, I've wound up in the hospital more than I'd like. Plus, you know, the whole Flight Camp thing. I didn't like thinking about that, but with all the stuff that's been happening lately it was kinda hard not to.

"Rainbow Dash, how could you?"

I guess it figures all that would be on my mind, what with the way Cloud Kicker's whole thing with Derpy was getting more and more complicated. After all, the last time she'd tried dating one of our old friends...

"We were so happy together, and you ruined everything for us!"

It's not like I'd meant to ... look, when Fluttershy came to me about the whole thing about her and Cloud Kicker, what she'd meant to say must've come out wrong. I mean, it's not like anypony could blame me for jumping to conclusions when Fluttershy came up to me and told me that Cloud Kicker was having sex with her and she didn't want to do it. Okay, I'd been a little impulsive about not going to Cloud Kicker to get her side of things first, but it's not like I'd meant to...

"I trusted you, Rainbow Dash, and look what you did!"

So anyway, like I was saying, I hate hospitals. Not just because of all the unpleasant medical-y stuff you gotta deal with, but also because hospitals are boring.Seriously, there's just about nothing for a pony to do here to pass the time. Well, Twilight came by the day after I checked in to drop off a Daring Doo book, but I'd finished that off in less than a day even though I only had the one eye to read with, and she hasn't come back to get me the next one in the series yet. So there was nothing for me to do with all my time except sit here bored and think about how...

"You are a horrible friend!"

I leaned back and slouched further down into the pillows... as if that would actually do anything to stop Fluttershy's voice from echoing in my memories. I couldn't really blame her for being pissed at me. I mean, I had kinda messed things up for her and Cloud Kicker. A lot. Hay, if she were anypony else less ... Fluttershy-y she'd probably never have forgiven me for what I did. I had good intentions, but that didn't really change the fact that I'd put her fillyfriend in the hospital and single-hoofedly ruined their relationship. Hay, it would be pretty fair to say that just about everything that had gone wrong for them since then was my fault. If not for me they'd probably be happily married with kids and stuff, instead of Cloud Kicker running all over the place and Fluttershy being all quiet and sad and alone.

So yeah. That's me, the pony who constantly messes things up for her friends and makes their lives miserable. Sometimes I really wonder how the hay I snagged the Element of Loyalty. Maybe I just got it 'cause the other five were qualified, and Celestia or the Magic of Friendship or whatever runs the Elements just grabbed me because there wasn't anypony else there. Hay, Cloud Kicker's family had the whole history of serving the crown thing; I bet if she'd been there instead of me she would've been the one to get it. Probably would've done a much better job with the Element of Loyalty than I did, too.

At this rate, none of it really mattered though. I had blown it, blown everything, and so here I was, just lying in the hospital. Soon they'd want me to get my eye looked at, and then it would all reallybe over. Nothing left but to wait.

"Hiya Dashie!"

Most ponies would've been startled by Pinkie's sudden appearance. Especially since she was coming in through the window, instead of using the door like a normal pony. Did I mention that my room was on the third floor?

I wasn't even surprised. I've been hanging out with Pinkie for too long–it's gotten to the point where I pretty much expect her to do crazy random hyper things that don't make any sense. Hay, I'd probably be more surprised by her acting like a normal pony.

Pinkie finished hopping in through the window, and practically bounced into bed with me. "Oh, hey, you finally got that bandage off!" Pinkie immediately zipped over to the other side of the bed, so I was looking at her out of the eye that I'd been wearing a bandage over for the last couple days. "Can ya see me now?" I nodded, and then she bounced up into the air. "How 'bout here?" Then she ran over to my good side. "Here?" Then she just started bouncing all over the place.

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I thought about saying something, because to be honest Pinkie's hyper antics were getting a little annoying. I really like that mare, but I swear, sometimes I think she lives to drive me completely nuts. Then again, if I said something I'd probably just end up hurting her feelings and making her cry. That's all I'm good for–hurting ponies who care about me.

"You okay there, wacky-Dashie-washie?" Oh Celestia, she was getting all cheerful and rhyme-y. That's always a bad sign, since it usually means she's just gonna keep getting crazier and crazier, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. Or would do about it. I let her keep rolling, like I usually did.

"So when're you getting outta here anyway?" Pinkie chirped at me. "'Cause I'm already planning a big 'Yay, Dashie's outta the hospital' party! It'll be super-fun! We'll have games, and cake, and we can set up a buncha pranks on everypony, and then once the party's over it'll be just the two of us and we can kiss and stuff!" Her eyes brightened and her ears perked up. "Hey, do ya think we could started early on that last part?"

Oh. Guess it figures she would want to do that. It's not like I hate kissing her or anything–it was alright, I guess. I just didn't really get why she was so into it. Honestly, flying and pranking are both a lot more fun than sitting around pushing our lips against each other. Still, it made Pinkie happy, so I tried to go along with it every once in awhile. That's how the whole fillyfriend thing is supposed to work, after all. Sometimes ya do stuff you're not that into, because it makes them happy. Kinda like that time I went to go see the butterfly migration with Fluttershy (and that was even more boring than it sounds).

Thinking of her brought another little stab of guilty pain. Geez, I'd really messed this one up. I mean, when you've gotten to the point where Fluttershy is chewing your flank off, you know you've feathered up big time. Sure, I'd settled things up with Cloud Kicker and tried to fix all the damage I'd done, but...

Well, it probably didn't help that my first try at making peace with her hadn't gone all that well. Smacking my head into a tree a couple times to try work out all the ... something from my talk with Fluttershy might not have been my best idea ever. My eye getting a bit wonky and a slight concussion hadn't exactly done me any favors, and the head-smacking hadn't even really done anything to clear my head.

After all, when I'm thinking straight, stuff like trying to push Cloud Kicker into beating the feathers offa me isn't something I'd think was a good idea. But at the time ... I dunno. I just ... I really hate messing up, and everypony knew I'd gotten things wrong on an epic scale. Hay, I couldn't go five minutes without somepony trying to rip a chunk outta my plot over how bad I'd messed up. Blossomforth was threatening to quit, Derpy was talking about un-godmoming me for her daughters, and Twilight was probably writing a letter to the Princess about how I was no good as a friend. Not to mention Fluttershy's epic chew-out. Compared to screwing up bad enough to make most of my friends hate me, taking a beating from Cloud Kicker didn't sound so bad.

Not that my stupid plan had worked. Ugh, even when my plans are idiotic, I still can't actually make them work. That's a whole new level of being bad at planning.

"Dashie?" A pair of bright blue eyes and a pink nose pressed up against mine thoroughly derailed my train of thought. Pinkie Pie has a knack for that. "Ya haven't really been saying anything, not even yelling at me for being a silly-willy. So what's on your silly-willy mind? Didja run out of cupcakes? Bake too many cupcakes, and now you need somepony to help you eat them? Bungle all your bangles? Blow open a hole in the space-time continuum that can only be fixed by firing tachyons outta the deflector dish after reversing the polarity?"

I sighed, and didn't say anything. There wasn't very much to say at that point, and all of it was... Well, the sort of stuff you are supposed to tell your fillyfriend. But it was the sort of stuff I probably should have told her, told anypony, months ago. Years ago, even. And because of all that waiting, now I was here, having broken most of my friendships, broken myself, and there just... Wasn't much point.

"You okay, Rainbow Dash?" I was a little surprised to see Pinkie looking kinda serious instead of running around with her usual carefree little grin. "'Cause you don't look okay. What's wrong?"

"I'm fine," I grunted neutrally. "It's just ... stuff."

Pinkie's ears perked up, and she focused all her attention on me. "What kinda stuff?"

"Just stuff."

Pinkie Pie actually frowned at me. "Dashie, if there's something bothering ya, then you can talk to me about it." She put a hoof on my shoulder and gave my cheek a quick little nuzzle. "I'm not just your super-fun-always-ready-for-a-good-party buddy, I'm also your super-supportive-always-ready-to-lend-an-ear fillyfriend. So what's gotcha down, Dashie?"

Okay, that probably wasn't exactly true. I was pretty down, and all the stuff going on was a big deal. Normally when I needed to talk to somepony about all this emotion stuff, I went to Fluttershy. That ... probably wouldn't be a good idea this time. But I still needed to talk to somepony, and Pinkie was right here. Maybe I should...

No, that would bad idea. Don't get me wrong, I really like Pinkie. It's just ... well Pinkie is tons of fun to pal around with and stuff, but all this stupid drama that I was caught up in just wasn't the kinda thing I wanted to get Pinkie involved in. Pinkie was a good pony, and she didn't need to get mixed up in my problems. I'd caused enough trouble for her and everypony else who cared about me already–the least I could do now was to not dump any more of my problems onto her. Expecting her to help me now would just be doing more of the same kind of thing that caused all my problems in the first place.

Pinkie just wouldn't let the whole thing go, though. A friendly little bop on the nose yanked me out of my whole quiet thinking about stuff thing, and then she started chattering away again. "Don't let stuff getcha down, Dashie! You're still the super-coolest, whoomies, zoomiest flyer I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of pegasi so if I say that you're the bestest of them all, then that means you're pretty neat!"

Ugh. Why wouldn't she stop talking? "I remember just the other day I was watching you fly, and you were all zoom!" She started bouncing all over the room to demonsttate. "Whoosh! Loop the loop! And then ... Shoom!"

I felt one of my ears start flicking in irritation. How could Pinkie Pie be so cool sometimes, and so annoying the rest of the time? For the love of Luna, we were in a hospital! You'd think she could tone it down a bit. Pinkie jumped back into bed with me and tossed a foreleg over my shoulders. "With all that amazing flying stuff you can do, you're a shoo-in for the Wonderbolts!"

Okay, that hurt a bit. "No I'm not." I grumbled under my breath.

Pinkie shot me a confused frown. "Why not? You can do all kindsa neat flying tricks!"

"Yeah, except for all the stuff I've feathered up!" I snapped at her. "Wonderbolts don't make big msess-ups like that, they'd never want a failure like me!"

"Dashie, the Wonderbolts are the most zoomiest pegasi ever, but I'm pretty sure they do make mistakes just like normal ponies, so stop worrying your pretty little head about that." Next thing I knew, a pair of pink hooves were on my wings, moving them up in down in something that resembled normal flapping. "You just gotta work these babies, and you'll be fine!"

Okay, two things. First, it's kinda rude to mess around with a pegasus's wings without asking first–our wings are kinda sensitive and stuff. Second, could she possibly be more annoying? "Look, Pinkie, I'm just not cut out to be a Wonderbolt, okay?"

"Why not?" Pinkie crossed her forelegs and jutted out her lower lip in a stubborn little pout. "Usually ya won't stop talking about how one day you're gonna be the captain of the Wonderbolts, so why're you getting all gloomy and doomy and saying that you don't think you deserve to be a Wonderbolt?"

"Because of everything!" I shouted at her. "Because I hurt all my friends and acted like a gigantic jerkface and ruined things for them when they were happy!" Pinkie had her mouth half-open as if she was about to say something, but I didn't let her get a word in edgewise. "What kinda friend ruins things for Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker! I'm supposed to have the Element of Loyalty, but all I ever do is screw up and hurt my friends! I bet the only reason i even got it was because there was nopony else there! The whole awesome and cool thing is just a big act. That's all I am ... a huge fake. Wonderbolts are supposed to be some of the best ponies around, and I'm a bully and a failure! That's not the kinda pony who deserves to be a Wonderbolt!"

Pinkie just stared at me with her mouth hanging half open. I was breathing pretty heavily by the time I finished ranting. I hadn't planned on going on like that, but once I'd started I'd just ... kept on going way past what I'd been planning to say. Hay, I'd come close to spilling the beans about the whole thing with Cloud Kicker and Fluttershy, and that's just something I don't talk about. Ever. I wonder if that had been Pinkie's plan all along–keep needling me until I snapped and spilled some of what was bothering me. She can be pretty sneaky sometimes.

Well, I'd given away enough that I guess I might as well confess the rest. "So anyways, I'm just about ready to get out of the hospital." Pinkie frowned a bit at the obvious change of subject and my clearly forced cheer, but she didn't say anything. "All my basic health stuff checked out, do all that's left to do is a quick eye exam to make sure everything's still working fine." I groaned and sank into the covers. "And the eye exam will be where things really go to Tartarus." I sighed and covered my good eye. " D."

Yeah, I was gonna cheat on the eye test. It was a low-down dirty thing to do, but what other choice did I have? It was cheat, or lose everything. Not that I didn't deserve to lose my shot at the Wonderbolts. I'd always said if it came down to it I'd fudge my way through an eye test, but now that I was actually gonna have to do it... I dunno, maybe I could really go through with it. Then again, with what a rotten, no-good pony I was already, what's a little more nastiness thrown onto the pile?

It would only be a matter of time before I'd get caught though. Not that there was anything wrong with that. 'Rainbow Dash the Cheater' sounded like a fine way for me to go down in history.

"Oh wow, Dashie!" Pinkie started bouncing up and down on my hospital bed, which probably wasn't very good for it. Not to mention what ponies would think was going on when my fillyfriend came into the room, and a couple minutes later the bed started creaking. "That was amazing! How did ya manage to read an entire eye exam chart when there's not even one in the room!" She let out an excited gasp. "Didja get superpowers like X-ray vision or something? You're just like Supermare, except with more Rainbows and more Dashing! We gotta find out what other super-powers you have!"

Okay, even with how generally rotten I was feeling, her crazy over-the-top super-hyper antics were starting to get a bit of a rise out of me. Pinkie's great, but sometimes she can get way too ... Pinkie Pie. "I do not have super-powers, Pinkie. I just memorized the eye chart."

Pinkie grimaced at me. "Why would you wanna memorize an eye chart? I mean, talk about boring! If it was something fun like cake recipes I could understand. Or songs, memorizing songs is always good. Plus you gotta remember stuff like everypony's birthdays, and what they like for their birthday parties. But an eye exam chart? Why wouldja..."

I just groaned, buried my head in my pillow, and stopped listening. It's kind of a necessary survival skill to develop if you wanna spend any length of time around Pinkie Pie. It's not like anything she was saying would make a difference anyway. If you actually try to listen to everything she says, let alone understand it, then you'll end up going nuts. Twilight was never any good at just accepting that there are things that don't make sense and can't be understood–she had to go and try to figure out how Pinkie's brain worked. I'm pretty sure that's part of why lately she's been getting kinda crazy herself.

There is one downside to tuning Pinkie Pie out, though. It leaves you vulnerable to getting blindsided by her. "Dashie?" I was a little surprised to find myself face to face with a stone-cold-serious Pinkie Pie. "Did you memorize an eye exam chart because your eyes don't work right?"

"Bwuh?" I gave a quick shake of my head to clear out the mental cobwebs. I swear, Pinkie can be way too smart sometimes. I needed to come up with something, because if she knew what I planned on doing, she might try to stop me. "No, I don't have any eye problems! My eyes are awesome! I can see more with my eyes than most ponies can see with binoculars! It's just that my memory is so amazing that I remember everything that's on the eye chart too."

Despite my completely airtight explanation, Pinkie Pie was still hitting me with a very skeptical frown. "Rainbow Dash ... why don't you want anypony knowing that there's something wrong with your eyes?"

I thought about just denying the whole thing, but it was pretty obvious that she was onto me by now. Guess there was nothing for it but to face the music. "You can't get into the Wonderbolts unless you've got perfect vision. Kinda a requirement for high-speed stunt flying."

Pinkie shot me a worried look. "Ya really think you can trick the Wonderbolts into believing your eyes are okay? They probably aren't gonna use the same eye chart that the Ponyville hospital does."

"I ... I'll figure something out." I was good at improvising. I'd come up with a solution. After all, the alternative was giving up on the Wonderbolts completely, and that wasn't gonna happen. With as much as I'd told everypony about how I was gonna be the next captain of the 'Bolts, I had to pull it off. If I wasn't Rainbow Dash the supercoolawesomeazing Wonderbolt, then what was I?

Rainbow Dash the Failure. Rainbow Dash the Horrible Friend.

I had to go out and do cool stuff, so everypony could see that I wasn't that stupid, rotten pony I'd been. Except that maybe I still was that pony. But getting to the Wonderbolts would fix that. It had to. If I could be that kinda pony, then it would make the whole Flight Camp thing and some of my other feather-ups seem like they weren't as important to whole 'who I am' thing or something. Wonderbolts don't make big mistakes like that, so if I was a Wonderbolt then nopony would remember all those stupid little things I'd gotten wrong.

On the other hoof, if Wonderbolts don't make big screw-ups like the ones that I've made, then somepony as awful as me doesn't really belong there in the first place. Ponies who can't get anything that matters right don't really belong anywhere. Maybe it's a good thing my cloud house is mobile, so once I get outta the hospital and come up with a way to mess up so bad the weather service has no choice but to fire me, I can just push off and get out of Ponyville. Leave all the things I could break far, far behind...

"D-dashie?" Pinkie's ears were flat on her head, and she giving me this worried little frown. Oh yeah, I guess I had kinda gone all quiet and mopey on her. "Are you alright over there?"

No real sense in lying. I shook my head, leaned back and looked at the ceiling. I could already tell this was going to be hard for both of us, no sense in letting her see me crying so soon. That would just hurt her more than I already had. She neverliked seeing me feel even a little bit bad. But this time, I really deserved it. Everything was over, or might as well have been. Once the whole thing with my eye came out, I could kiss my dreams goodbye.

Pinkie leaned against me for a moment–just a single moment. She still knew what I could and couldn't handle, and as much as I was willing to hug her and keep her warm when we were together, for her sake, we both knew I couldn't do that right now. Not that I'd ever been very good at the whole physical side of our relationship.

She was smiling. Not much, and in that sad little way you do when the only other thing you could do is start crying your eyes out. But she was still smiling, and she reached a hoof to my face. Oh. She was brushing away a tear. I guess I was crying. Shouldn't really surprise me, honestly.

Pinkie leaned forward, looking at her hoof. She was probably thinking about kissing the tears off of my cheek, which was stupid and sentimental, and the kind of thing I just didn't like. I'd always been a little uncomfortable when she starts getting all kissy and stuff. I don't hate it or anything, but I'm not as into it as she is. The worst part is, I know she can tell, and that upsets her, which just makes me feel even worse about not being into it.

So it wasn't a big surprise when she kept leaning forward and kissed me anyways. I darted away, shocked out of my slump, if only a little. She looked away and seemed a little ... I dunno, bashful? Apologetic? I'm not good with that sort of thing. Not good with much of anything, honestly "I just ... I'm sorry, Rainbow Dash. It's just the first thing that comes to mind when I want to cheer ponies up. I'm not good at much else. Except now I can't even cheer you up, or help you feel better, or..."

I gritted my teeth and pushed her away a little- Not because I was mad, but because I wanted her to see my face. "Pinkie, no. Seriously, you're like, the best there ever was at cheering ponies up! You're the best at this sort of thing. I just... I'm a lost cause." There. I'd said it. And it felt a bit... Better isn't the right word. But it felt like something concrete, that I couldn't take back. Just like everything I'd been doing, really.

"Nope!" Pinkie shook her head, and that stubborn little optimistic smile reappeared on her face. "You most totally definitely absolutely are not! Would my fillyfriend, my best friend, be a lost cause? I don't thinkso."

How? How could she still be so sure that I could not be a total disaster of a pony? "Pinkie, I'm a complete mess. I ... I really think I need help." I fell forward, let Pinkie hold me. The nurse was walking in, and I didn't even care as I started crying, weeping into Pinkie's mane. I think I was shaking, towards the end I almost fell out of the bed.

"Don't worry, 're gonna work this out, okay. I'm gonna help you get better."

All the pre-checkout stuff went pretty smoothly. A quick check to make sure my concussion had healed up and my eye wasn't gonna start getting all googly on me again, and a couple routine tests to make sure there wasn't anything else wrong with me, and I was good to go. The only thing left was the eye exam.

"It's standard procedure whenever anypony comes in with an eye injury," Redheart informed me. "You lost control over your eye because of a torn muscle, so there shouldn't be any long-term vision problems. Still, I'd prefer to be safe rather than sorry."

"Yeah sure, whatever." I was looking forward to finally getting outta here. It would be nice to be able to go out and do stuff instead of being stuck inside all day. Well, technically I was supposed to take the next couple days off, but spending that time lounging around at my place or chilling at Sugarcube Corner beat the hay outta being stuck in a hospital room. Come to think of it, I should probably ask Pinkie if she minded me crashing at her place for a bit. Being up in the clouds all by myself would get boring fast, and I've had enough of being bored. Say what you will about spending time with Pinkie, but she's never boring.

My awesome fillyfriend bounced up to Redheart. "Heya Reddy, ya got a minute?" Pinkie grinned and tossed a hoof over the nurse's shoulders before leaning in to conspiratorially whisper. "I got some super-secret party planning preparations to talk to you about, 'cause I wanna make sure Dashie'll be perky enough to party with Ponyville's premier party pony!"

Redheart shot a mildly annoyed glare at Pinkie. "I'm sure that can wait until after the paperwork is taken care of."

Pinkie gave a shake of her head that wound up smacking Redheart in the face with her incredibly poofy mane. "Nuh-uh! It's super-duper important, and I gotta talk to ya about it right now!" Pinkie didn't even give the poor nurse a chance to respond before she put her head into Redheart's shoulder and started pushing her out of the room. I was about to follow them when Pinkie put a blocking hoof in front of my face. "Nuh-uh, Dashie. These are super-secret party plans! You can't listen in, that would spoil the surprise!"

I would've rolled my eyes at her, but considering the whole eye thing that was part of why I'd wound up here in the first place I probably didn't wanna work my eye muscles too much. Probably a good thing Twilight never wound up hurting her eyes; I don't know what the egghead would do if she had her eye muscles messed up. After all, they're the only muscles she ever actually uses.

After spending a couple minutes waiting for the two of them to finish up their private conversation so I could finish the stupid eye test and finally get outta here, Pinkie finally let the nurse go. While Redheart was busy getting the eye chart set up, my fillyfriend trotted up to me and gave me an affectionate little nuzzle. Something seemed a bit off about it though, like she was worried or something.

I guess I couldn't really blame her for that. Eye exams were a bit more stressful when I couldn't just fake my way through it. Pinkie had set me straight on that–the Wonderbolts weren't likely to fall for the tricks I'd been using to try to cover up my whole eye thing. Besides, I was getting kinda tired of smashing into stuff just cause I couldn't see it coming. So ... yeah. Gonna do this the honest way.

"Dashie?" Oh geez, she sounded worried, and maybe even a little scared. I'm the one who's about to fess up to having an eye problem that could pretty much kill my chance of ever getting into the Wonderbolts. I mean, I didn't really deserve to be a Wonderbolt after all the stupid stuff I'd pulled, but you'd still think I'd be the scared one. "I love you, okay?"

"Uh, yeah. You too, Pinks." So, time to get to this. I covered up my good eye and took a look at the chart. I could see most of it okay–my bad eye works fine, except for where it doesn't work. Hay, I had better than okay vision outta it if you didn't count the fact that I just couldn't make out some parts of the chart at all.

Now I just needed to figure out what I was gonna do about the whole eye test thing. Being honest about it meant losing my shot at the Wonderbolts. There was no way they'd ever let me join the team if one of my eyes didn't work right. It was just a stupid eye test, cheating on it wasn't that big of a deal. I'd memorized the whole eye chart for just in case I got into a mess like this. I could fake my way through this, and I'd be fine.

Except for the whole part where I only got onto the Wonderbolts 'cause I cheated. That wasn't cool. After all, between the whole saving Equestria twice thing and the fact that one of my best friends had a direct line to Princess Celestia, I could probably have pulled enough strings to get onto the Wonderbolts without any problems. All I ever really needed to do was ask for it, and I'd be on the team.

Except I didn't wanna do things that way. I wanted to be a Wonderbolt because I'd earnedthe right to be there, not because I'd pulled some strings and called in a couple favors. Cheating on an eye test was just like any other sneaky way I could've gotten onto the team–sure, I'd be a Wonderbolt, but it wouldn't really count. I'd be faking my way into something I hadn't really earned. I'd be a Wonderbolt, but it wouldn't mean anything. Not really.

So my choices were to be a dirty cheater, or to give up on ever being a Wonderbolt. That was ... I knew what the right thing to do was, but could I really just give up on the dream I've had since before I could fly? Could I just throw away my shot at the Wonderbolts like this? It was too ... too...

"I–I gotta go, I gotta get outta here." I heard Redheart saying something about how I wasn't allowed to leave until I'd gotten my eye tested, but I really didn't care about that. Seriously, it's just a stupid eye test. Like I really cared about some stupid check-up on my eye when my whole life is falling apart on me and I'm about to give up on my dreams forever. I was almost disappointed that nopony tried to stop me from leaving–I would've liked to have an excuse to kick somepony's flank so hard they'd kiss the moon.

Unfortunately, there's one pony I can never get away from, no matter how fast I run. Worse for me, I was dating her.I was a couple blocks away from the hospital when Pinkie Pie randomly jumped out of a trash can. "Dashie, wait! Stop! You gotta stop running away and get your eye fixed up!"

Oh come on, not this again. I quickly reversed course and flew off towards town square. I wasn't even surprised when a couple seconds later Pinkie suddenly popped out from beneath the giant hat of a very surprised mare. "Dashie, please stop running away and lemme–"

I made another tactical withdrawal. I really needed to change things up if I was gonna have any chance of getting away from her. After all the times I'd failed to just outrun her, it was pretty clear I was gonna need more than just my awesome speed to get away from her weird random powers. Maybe I could try to distract her or something?

I quickly shot into Sugarcube Corner and dropped all the bits I had on me onto the counter, then grabbed just about every single sugary baked thing I could fit into my hooves. It didn't take long for Pinkie to find me again, but now I was prepared. "Hey, Pinkie Pie! All this is for you!" I chucked the gigantic pile of baked goods in her general direction and flew for it. I know Pinkie can eat pretty fast when she wants to, but even she would need time to eat her way through that much...

"Rainbow Dash, you gotta go back to the hospital!"

Okay, I guess not. So much for distracting her with food. Pinkie really can pack away the sweets when she wants to; it's enough to make me wonder how she doesn't end up driving the Cakes out of business with her bottomless appetite.

Well, I still had one big advantage over her–I had wings, and she didn't. Maybe I wouldn't be able to get away from her weird random popping-up-all-over-the-place-ness while I stuck close to the ground, but there was no way she could catch up to me while I was in the air.

I headed straight up, until I was most of a mile above Ponyville. No way she could catch up to me here ... Oh for the love of Luna, did I really just think that? I should know better than to tempt fate like that. Just to be safe I went up another quarter mile or so, and found a nice puffy cloud to take a break on for a bit.

I was just getting comfortable on my cloud when a pair of pink forelegs wrapped themselves around my chest. "Dashie, will you please just lemme take you back to get your eye all fixed up before you get whoomy and zoomy and run off again?"

How did she even... You know what, to Tartarus with it. There's no getting away from her, so I guess my only choice was give her a chance to say what it was she wanted to say. "Alright, fine," I snapped at her. "You wanna get on my case about that stupid eye test, then go ahead. I'm sorry I just wanted to go for one last flight before I gave up on being a Wonderbolt forever. I just needed to catch a little sky and clear my head, that's all. But you wouldn't even let me do that, instead you gotta chase me all over the place and bug me about that stupid eye test!" For some reason, my vision was getting a little blurry towards the end of all that. Must be the altitude or something.

Pinkie blinked, and frowned at me while tightening her grip around my chest. "Rainbow Dash ... are you crying?"

"No!" I angrily swiped at my eyes. It was just a little moisture built up around them from flying so high and fast.

Pinkie wrapped herself around me started nuzzling my cheek. "Oh Dashie, I'm really sorry. I was just worried 'cause you just went running off like that and I didn't know what was... I was just trying to help 'cause I was worried about you. I didn't wanna to hurt you."

"I'm not hurt," I growled at her. "I'm fine. Great. Totally awesome."

Pinkie let go of me and took half a step back from me, her ears flat against her head. "Dashie, this isn't like that. I just ... you were talking about cheating on your eye test, and I didn't want you to keep not getting any help for your googly-woogly eye just 'cause you're scared of not getting into the Wonderbolts. I'm not gonna let somepony I love keep hurting herself just 'cause she's scared that getting the help she needs might mess up her career plans. I care too much about you to let you keep hurting yourself like that. And then you went running away and I–"

"I was gonna come back, Pinkie!" I snapped. "Like I said, I... I just needed to go out for a little flight to clear my head and stuff first."

Pinkie gave an annoyed little huff. "Then why didn't ya tell me that, Dashie? You never said anything about needing a bit of time to clear your head, you just ran off all of a sudden without saying anything to anypony. I was just trying to help, but sometimes you're a silly-filly who tries to stop ponies from helping her when she needs help and I ... I..."

Her lower lip started quivering and I saw tears forming in her eyes. Oh great, just great. Now I'd gone and made her start crying. Nice going, Rainbow Dash. I hesitantly wrapped a wing around her and pulled her in for a hug. She didn't waste any time wrapping her forelegs around me again and squeezing hard enough to make my ribs creak a little. After a couple seconds of that, she finally spoke in shaky, scared little voice. "You're so awesome and stuff, but I want you to be safe too. I don't want you to get into a really bad crash because you can't see."

"Yeah, well maybe I deserve a couple nasty crashes," I grumbled under my breath. To be honest, I'm not quite sure why I said that. It just kinda came out.

"No!" Pinkie tightened her grip around me to the point where I felt like I was one of those cream-filled pastries she likes that just explode and send the filling splattering all over the place when they get squeezed too much. "Nopony deserves to get hurt! Especially such a crazy awesome and great and spectacular fillyfriend like you." She gave me a vigorous, almost desperate nuzzle. "I don't want to see you getting hurt. I got super scared when I heard you were in the hospital again, and I don't want to get news like that again."

I let out a low groan and set my chin on Pinkie's shoulder. "I'm not awesome. All that stuff's just a big lie. I guess I always hoped that if I keep saying it, then maybe one day it'd turn out to be true. Doesn't seem to be working though, 'cause no matter how much I try to be awesome and cool and radical and just all-out amazing, I never end up being anything more than a stuck-up jerk who's a rotten friend."

Pinkie gave an angry shake of her head. "Stop lying, Rainbow Dash! You're better than that. You're the bestest flier in all of Equestria, the bestest friend I could ever hope for, and the bestest fillyfriend in the history of best fillyfriends."

I let out a bitter little laugh. "Yeah, right. I'm a rotten fillyfriend too. I forgot our monthiversary, and I know you wanna do, like, kissing and all the other stuff, and I won't go along with it. Sorry, but it's time to wake up and take a good long look at me, Pinks. I'm–ya could do a lot better than me when it comes to getting an awesome fillyfriend."

"It's fine, Dashie." I felt Pinkie's lips pressing against my cheek. "Lots of ponies forget anniversaries. Mr. Cake forgets about his wedding anniversary all the time, and even though Mrs. Cakes gets mad at him, she still loves him. I–I know you're not into kissing, but I still want to spend time with you even if we don't always do the stuff that I wanna do. What's important is that I love you and you love me, and maybe someday we could have a big happy family!" A second later there was a slightly worried frown on her face. "Um ... ya do love me, don'tcha Dashie? You're not just doin' this whole fillyfriends thing 'cause you're putting up with it when you really just wanna be normal friends, are ya?"

"Huh? No!" Oh geez, I shoulda figured not wanting to do any of the kissy-lovey stuff would start getting Pinkie all worried. "Look, Pinkie, I ... well if I'm gonna be honest here, I hooked up with ya because you wanted to do the whole fillyfriend thing, and even though I wasn't that into it I figured I oughta give you a chance. I'm real glad I did though, 'cause the last couple months have been awesome." I let out a nervous little chuckle and an exaggerated shudder. "Please don't make me hafta get all sappy and stuff and break out the L-word."

Pinkie let out a surprised little gasp. "Dashie ... you L-word me?"

"Uh ... yeah." Oh dang it, now I was blushing like a little schoolfilly.

"Aww!" Pinkie snuggled up with me to the point that you'd probably need a crowbar to get her loose. "I L-word you too, Rainbow Dash."

For a couple minutes the two of us just lay there on that cloud, snuggled up next to each other. It felt ... awesome. Hafta wonder what I ever did to deserve such an amazing fillyfriend, when I've just been so un-cool to her and a lot of other ponies. Doesn't seem fair that I get to have an amazing fillyfriend while Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker get all the problems. They deserve to be the happy ones, and I should be the lonely, miserable one.

Pinkie must've had some kinda mind-reading powers or something, 'cause she broke the comfortable silence between us to say. "Dashie, I L-word you because you're a good pony, and you should stop beating up on yourself."

I let out an annoyed little grumble. "If I'm that great, then why does Fluttershy hate me? When feathering Fluttershy tells you that you're a horrible friend, you know you must be a pretty awful pony!"

"Fluttershy could never hate you!" Pinkie objected. "It's Fluttershy for pony's sake! I bet if we go over and talk to you right now she would tell you so. You just got into an argument, friends do that sometimes."

"She's got every right to hate me!" I practically shouted. I gave an angry snort, and added. "I completely ruined her life!"

Pinkie shot a confused little frown at me. "She seems awfully happy for a pony whose life was ruined."

Of course Pinkie wouldn't get how Fluttershy works. She can be a hard pony to read sometimes, and I've known her since Flight Camp. "Fluttershy's good at smiling and pretending everything's okay even when she's feeling horrible. So's Cloud Kicker. Doesn't mean I didn't ruin everything for both of them. Hay, Fluttershy said as much." Well, actually it was more like a scream.

Pinkie tilted her head to the side and gave me a very befuddled look. "What are you even talking about? How could you have ruined both Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker's lives? That doesn't make sense."

"I..." Could I really tell her about what happened? I mean, we'd kinda kept the whole Flight Camp thing as under wraps as we could. It was serious bad business. The four of us and our parents knew what happened, plus a couple lawyer and judge types of ponies who'd dealt with all the fallout and the filly psychologist I had to go to for those court-ordered sessions. So basically, the only ponies who knew about the whole deal were the ones who'd been mixed up in it all, or else had to handle the aftermath. Just telling somepony who hadn't been involved ... it's not something we did. I was pretty stunned when Cloud Kicker went and spilled the beans to Blossomforth, even though the two of them had been best friends for a while now.

Right now, I could kinda get why Cloud Kicker told her about it. It's like the whole secret things was just eating me up, and I needed somepony to talk to about it. Somepony who could know what happened and understand why I felt so feathering bad about it all. "Look, Pinks, stuff happened back in Flight Camp. Bad stuff.

"It all started with Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker hooking up–not like just normal little fillyhood crush stuff, either. The councilors were kinda dropping the ball, and we were all kinda running around without any adult supervision. The two of them started doing the kinda things two young and in-love ponies will do when they don't have anypony around to stop 'em and tell 'em why they shouldn't be doin' that kinda thing at that age.

"The thing was, even without any adults to tell them to cool it down, they kinda know they're going a little overboard. So then Fluttershy comes to me and kinda spills the whole thing out 'cause she's freaking about how fast the whole relationship is going. Except that–well when she came to me I think she kinda ... didn't quite say things the way she wanted to. She wanted to tell me that she and Cloud Kicker had started having sex and she wasn't sure if it was good idea or not, but it came out more like 'Cloud Kicker is having sex with me and I don't want her to.'

"Well when I heard that I kinda ... react the way anypony would when they think that Fluttershy is getting freaking raped. By the time Fluttershy caught up with me, I'd already found Cloud Kicker and–well, we messed each other up pretty bad. For a while the docs were kinda worried about how much blood I'd lost, and ... well if we ever go for foals, it'd be a bad idea for me to carry 'em.

"And Cloud Kicker ... Pinks, she had no idea what was going on." Dang it, I was starting to tear up just remembering the look on her face. "One minute she's just going along happy as can be, and the next I'm dive-bombing her and trying the beat the horseapples outta her. I ... if she hadn't managed to hit me back hard enough to make me stop, I don't think I woulda quit pounding on her until she was ... until she was..." My self-control broke, and next thing I knew, I was crying into Pinkie's shoulder.

For the next couple minutes Pinkie just held me, gently murmuring to me and stroking my mane. "Oh Dashie..." I felt something hot and damp tricking down the shoulder Pinkie was resting her head on–guess I'm not the only one who was crying. "That's so sad. No wonder you're so sad and grumpy-wumpy sometimes. But you made an honest mistake 'cause you wanted to protect a friend, and that was a long time ago. You can't blame yourself forever for a mistake you made when you were a filly. Forever is a long time to beat yourself up for."

"But I can't fix it." I let out a low moan and tightened my grip around Pinkie. "My whole stupid blow-up killed the thing Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker had going, and now I can't make things better no matter how hard I try. I keep trying to make everything better, but I can't. And Cloud Kicker keeps saying it's alright and she's forgiven me, and Fluttershy's probably gonna cry and hug me next time she sees me and ask me to forgive her, but it's not okay! I screwed things up for them, and everything's gone wrong for them since then! You wanna know why I didn't wanna get my stupid eye fixed? I guess it's cause I feel like I deserve some feathering punishment!"

"That's the problem!" Pinkie crossed her forelegs in a frustrated little pout. "None of you have learned to let go. You all won't stop being all saddy-waddy. None of you really talk about it, and you all make each other miserable for something dumb that happened a long time ago." She put a hoof on the side of my head, next to my bad eye. "Not letting the doctors fix your eye isn't helping anypony, Rainbow Dash, and it's only hurting you for no good reason."

"So what, I just forget about all this?" My voice took on a nasty tone as I broke out a mockery of my normal way of talking. "'Oh hey, sorry I totally screwed up your lives Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker. I'm gonna go have a super-awesome life now, and leave you two to be all sad and miserable.'" I let out an angry snort and idly kicked at the cloud we were on. "Yeah, 'cause that's fair."

"And how is making yourself sad and miserable going to help them?" Pinkie demanded. "Is that what they want for you? Because it's not what I want for you."

"How am I supposed to just move on and forget about it, or whatever?" If not for the fact that it might've dispersed the cloud we were both lying on, I probably would've bucked it out of sheer frustration. "I'm supposed to be the pony who deserved to use the Element of Loyalty, but all I ever do is screw up and hurt my friends!"

"Dashie." Pinkie gave me what was probably supposed to be a comforting little nuzzle, but I didn't feel all that comforted. "You got the Element of Loyalty, not the Element of Never Messes Up, No Sireebob. You don't ever want to forget what happened, you just have to be there to help your friends when they need you. But sometimes you need to help yourself before you can help others. I have to earn some bits before I can throw super-great parties for everypony. Maybe the first step to helping your friends is to make yourself better."

"Or maybe I'll just keep being a screw-up who hurts everypony that I call my friend." I let out another bitter little laugh that didn't have a drop of humor in it. "Seems to be all I ever do anymore. Mess up and hurt ponies I care about. I'm sick of it, Pinks. I'm so sick of it."

"Then you gotta do better," Pinkie answered as if doing that was the simplest thing in the world. "I know I make little goof-ups that'll get other ponies mad sometimes–I made Twilight so mad her mane caught on fire. But that doesn't mean I should stop trying to make them smile. The fact you've got friends to start with means you're doing something right."

"Easy to talk like that when you get stuff right most of the time." I grumbled. Sure, Pinkie can get a bit annoying with all the crazy, but everypony always knows that she doesn't mean anything bad with it. She's just being Pinkie. Me, on the other hoof... "I don't ever get it right. I just keep feathering up and feathering up." I let out an aggravated little snort. "I wish I'd been dumber when I went to Cloud Kicker's place. Gotten her to give me a proper flank-kicking instead of just holding me down for a bit 'til she could get me help."

Next thing I knew, I was getting another Pinkie-hug. I swear, that pony gives more random hugs, cuddles, and nuzzles than I know what to do with. "Dashie, please stop thinking you deserve to get hurt or be all sady-waddy. It scares me when talk like that, and I don't like being all scared and worried. You don't deserve to be hurt, and you do a lotta things right. You make me happy to be around you."

"Yeah, I make you happy for now." The longer we went on talking, the harder it was not to feel kinda bitter about this whole thing. I'm just ... sick of feeling like this, but nothing I can think of or do makes it better. "So what happens when I mess up and hurt you too?"

"Then I'll forgive you," Pinkie answered with a sort of calm confidence I'm not really used to seeing from her. "Just like you'll forgive me. Because we love each other, and that's what you do with the ponies you love and care about. You forgive them when they make little goof-ups every once in awhile."

"Well maybe I don't deserve to be forgiven for some of the mistakes I've made." Seriously, Pinks just didn't seem to get that there's a big difference between the insignificant sorts of mistakes she makes (like putting the cake batter in the confetti cannons) and the way I'd pretty much completely ruined everything for Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker. Some mistakes are way too bad to get fixed with a simple little 'oops, my bad.'

"Of course you do," Pinkie insisted with her downright annoying stubbornness. "You just don't realize if because you're hurting too much. You need to learn to let go if you really want to smile again.

"Ya just don't get it, Pinks!" I let out an exasperated groan–sometimes I could swear that there's nothing in that head of hers but sugar and cotton candy. "I'm a rotten pony, okay!" I thumped a hoof against my chest a couple times to emphasize things. "Me! Bad! Pony! You get it?

Pinkie frowned at me and shook her head. "No, I don't get it, because everypony gets things wrong. I know that even if you make some mistakes that hurt other ponies, well..." She put a hoof on my chest, right over my heart. "In here, you're a good pony. Maybe you don't see it, but I do."

"Yeah? Well I know me better than you do." After all, I've been dealing with me for my whole life, while Pinkie's only really known me since the whole Nightmare Moon thing. Hay, even after that we didn't really start getting along and hanging out until we started pranking together. So that's her year and a half of knowing me against my whole lifetime of knowing me. Yeah, I think I knew what I was talking about.

So why is Pinkie still arguing with me about this? Why doesn't she understand? I shoved her away, and all my frustration just came boiling out. "I don't do stuff right, I hurt other ponies, and I ruin things for my friends! What have I ever done that makes me a good pony?" I tried to smack my head against something. It's kinda a thing I do when I start getting frustrated. It helps. The problem was that since the two of us were on a cloud, there wasn't anything worth smacking my head against.

Despite the fact that it wasn't really doing me any good, I kept trying to smack my head until Pinkie put her hooves on my shoulders to keep me from doing it anymore. "Stop that! Do you want to hurt your eye again?" Great, now she wouldn't even let me do my thing to sort out all this stupid stuff going on in my head and vent a little frustration. Once I gave up on being able to let off a little steam while Pinkie was here, she looked me dead in the eyes and very calmly said. "Rainbow Dash, I like you because you're a good pony." Then she giggled and added, "If anything, you gimme all these nice little squiggly-wiggly feelings because you're a nice pony, not just 'cause you've got the nicest flanks I've ever seen."

I tried to smile at Pinkie, but something about it just felt wrong. "Maybe I should hurt my eye again. Mess it up enough that it's useless. Then I'd hafta stop doing weather field work, and I could bump Cloud Kicker up the chain to replace me. That'd be fair, wouldn't it?"

Pinkie's face went from the slightly flirty she'd been wearing to downright horrified. "No! That's not right, stop talking stupid!" Pinkie went back to hugging me full-force, 'cause obviously a hug would fix everything. "I love you, and I don't ever wanna see you hurt yourself." Oh Celestia, she was looking me in the eyes and I could tell she was on the verge of crying again. "Please stop. For me?"

I huffed out a long breath and sank down into the clouds. "You'd be better off without me. Get yourself a special somepony who can actually ... y'know, do all that kissing stuff with you. Besides, I'd just end up messing things up for you eventually, just like I do for everypony else that tries to be close to me. S'what I do, apparently."

"No!" Pinkie's hug tightened until it started getting to the point where I was worried for my ribs again. "I'm not letting you go. You're my fillyfriend, and I like you the way you are."

"Well I don't like me," I grumbled under my breath.

Pinkie's lower lip jutted out in a stubborn little pout, and despite how incredibly stupid it was to be thinking about something like that in the middle of an argument, I couldn't help noticing how cute it made her look. "Well I'm just going to have to like you enough for the both of us then if you are going to be a stubborn grumpy pants."

"You shouldn't," I snapped at her. "Why should anypony like a rotten pony like me?"

Pinkie's hug went from a death grip to something a bit more relaxed, but still firm enough to make it clear that I wasn't getting away. "Maybe I see something in you that you don't. Maybe that's why I love you."

"You shouldn't love me," I snapped at her.

"But I do!" she shot right back. "And nothing is going to change that! You should know better than to hurt your fillyfriend like this. You should know better than to hurt the ponies you care about. So stop being stupid."

"See!" I felt an odd little thrill of triumph despite the sickening pain slowly settling into my stomach from seeing Pinkie in tears. "Now I'm hurting you too! Now do you get it?"

"Why are you trying to push me away?" Pinkie kept hanging onto me me, as if hugging would be enough to keep me close to her on more than just a physical level. "You don't need to do this. Pushing me away isn't going to help you. You keep trying to punish yourself for something you did years ago, but it isn't helping anypony!"

"Well somepony's gotta punish me!" I shrieked at her. "That's fair, isn't it?"

"I think you've punished yourself enough already." Pinkie sighed and gently stroked one of my cheeks with a hoof, which gave me a chance to work one of my forelegs free of her bear hug. "Do you ever plan on stopping? You made a mistake, I wish you could learn to stop worrying your silly little head about it. You aren't going to make Fluttershy or Cloud Kicker happy by hurting yourself. All you're going to do is make them sadder."

"Why should it make them sad?" I smacked a hoof against my forehead. It felt good, so I kept doing it, repeating the same question with each strike. Pinkie shifted to a half-hug while tried to hold my foreleg away, but after the last time she stopped me from venting a bit I was ready for her, and I switched to my other foreleg when she grabbed the first one. "Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why do they still give a flying feather about me after everything I did to them?"

"Because they care about you," Pinkie answered calmly. "You need to stop beating yourself up over what happened. Please," She finally put her hooves on top of mine and slowly moved them down, away from my face. "Stop hurting yourself, Rainbow Dash. All that does is hurt everypony who cares about you, and it's never going to make anything better. You have so many ponies who care so much about you. Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker wanna forgive you, but that's not gonna do anypony any good until you learn to forgive yourself."

I gotta forgive myself, huh? That sounded kinda weird at first, but maybe she had a point. The whole Flight Camp thing with Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker was just so ... big. It's kinda been a huge part of my life for years now. Hay, it was pretty much the defining moment of Fluttershy and Cloud Kicker's lives. If not for what I'd done, they'd probably be happily married with a ridiculously adorable kid or something. Instead Fluttershy was still alone, and Cloud Kicker had spent a decade banging anything with a pulse to try to replace what I took away from her.

Except ... well, maybe I hadn't completely ruined their lives after all. I mean, Cloud Kicker and Derpy seemed to have some kinda thing going on. Sure, Fluttershy was still single, but she seemed pretty happy with herself for the most part. Maybe Pinks had a point–if they were both managing to move on, maybe it's time I did too? My body was trembling a bit and my voice got kinda shaky. "So I–I should just forgive myself? Just like that? It can't be that easy."

Pinkie leaned in and nuzzled me. "I dunno if it's gonna be easy to do, but you gotta just let it go. You made a horrible mistake, but that happened years ago and it's time for you to forgive yourself. Learn from what happened, and do better in the future. That's all a good pony can do in a situation like this."

"C–can I just ... do that?" Could I really just drop everything that happened in Flight Camp and go on with life? It's just been so big for so long that I don't know if I can...

"You gotta try, Dashie," Pinkie insisted. "Otherwise you're gonna spend your whole life being all saddy-maddy at yourself. Right now you're not happy, which that makes me start feeling bad too, and if Cloud Kicker and Fluttershy could see you right now they'd be sad too. I don't want us all to be sad, I want everypony to smile, especially my super-amazing fillyfriend. I'm gonna be here to help you, even when you're being a silly-filly who says she doesn't want help."

"Heh." For the first time in a while, I let out little laugh that was completely genuine. "Figures. Now that I've gone and fallen for ya, I'm stuck with you no matter what I do." I sighed and took a deep breath. "Alright. So ... on the whole forgiving myself thing. Well ... I–I guess I can give it a shot." If not for myself, I could do it for her and everypony else.

Pinkie celebrated by trying to break my ribs yet again. She's always been a hugger, even before we hooked up. "I think you're gonna be a whole bunch happier once ya learn to stop worrying your pretty little head all the time. And a happier you is gonna make a happier me, which should make you even more happier because I'm your fillyfriend, and then I'm gonna get even more super-happier 'cause you're my fillyfriend. At least I think that's how it's supposed to work."

"Sounds right to me." Pinkie getting all huggy annoyed me sometimes, since ... well it's like she's never heard of personal space. I didn't mind it right now though–hay, it kinda felt right to have her there, with her forelegs wrapped around me and her head nestled against my chest. We spent a couple minutes just enjoying that whole feeling of togetherness–it's too bad we couldn't just stay that way forever. "So ... I guess we gotta go back to the hospital eventually, right?"

"Yeah, I guess we do," Pinkie agreed with a reluctant little sigh. "So does this mean we're gonna get your googly-woogly eye all fixed up? 'Cause that would really make me really super happy if you did it." Pinkie hit me with the biggest, goofiest smile I've ever seen on her face. Considering this was Pinkie Pie we were talking about, that was one hay of a big goofy smile.

Gotta say, she was being incredibly awesome about all this. I'm kinda surprised she could still be so happy about me getting my stuff sorted out, considering how seriously not-okay I'd been treating her. In fact... "Hey, uh, Pinks?" Oh Celestia, please don't let me feather this up. I don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to apologies. "I'm sorry about all that stuff I said while I was getting all crazy. Saying things like that was no cool, and you sticking around to help me while I was being all stupid and stuff is ... yeah, you're awesome."

Pinkie stared at me for several seconds and her big goofy grin slowly transformed into a sad little frown. "You said some really meanie-pants things, Dashie." Her voice was all sad and whimpery, not her usual bright energetic chirp.

It might've hurt less if Pinkie had just bucked me in the gut instead. Physical pain I could handle, but now I felt like a total mule for being nasty to my fillyfriend when she'd been sticking with me while I acted like a complete jerk. Nice going, me. You've gone and hurt somepony who cared about you. Again. This is why you're–

No. Not going there. No way I could pretend that I hadn't been completely out of line, but if I started seriously beating myself up over it I'd be right back in the mess Pinkie was trying to get me out of in the first place. I'd been out of line, and I'd said some nasty things to Pinkie, but spending the next couple years tearing myself up over it would just make things worse for everypony–especially her. If Pinks wanted me to get better, I should probably start by not making the same mistakes over and over again.

Of course, just saying I wasn't gonna mess myself up more over it didn't mean I could get off the hook. "I said a lotta nasty stuff to you, Pinkie. That's not okay, and I'm sorry. If ... look, if you wanna drop the whole fillyfriends thing 'cause I acted like a total jerkface I wouldn't blame ya for it, but ... I'm sorry, okay?" And ... yeah, I'm crying again. So much for bit tough Rainbow Dash, 'cause I was sobbing like a foal.

I wasn't sure whether to feel relieved or even guiltier when Pinkie hugged me. "I'm still kinda mad at you for being such a nasty mean old grump," Pinkie whispered while she held me. "But you just said all that stuff 'cause you were being a stupid-head. Everypony gets stupid sometimes, so I guess if you're really sorry I can forgive you. I'm gonna be mad at you for a bit, but as long as you don't get all meanie-pants on me again, we'll be okay. And I'm not gonna dump you just for being a big ol' dummy."

I let out a relieved breath. "Th-thanks, Pinkie. You're ... a million percent awesomer and cooler than me right now. Just ... thanks." I felt like I needed a bit more for an apology to really make things right. But what? After a couple second, inspiration struck. I took a second to gather myself up for it, and did two things I'm not normally the type of pony to do. "Hey, Pinks? I love you, okay? Like, seriously, completely, and totally head-over-hooves for ya."

Then I kissed her. I still wasn't as into that stuff as she was, but I guess it was pretty cool. It's not like we hadn't kissed before or anything, but I was trying to ... y'know, try harder on my end.

After we were done, I gently put a hoof on Pinkie's mouth before she could say anything. "I ... look, Pinks. We both know I'm not really into the whole kissing and stuff thing, but I know you are. I ... I've got some issues there. Got a lotta issues in a lotta places, really. But I wanna sort it all out, okay? You're a completely amazing fillyfriend, so if me kissing you and stuff is gonna make you happy ... well I wanna get things to the point where I can do that stuff with you. 'Cause you're worth it."

I was expecting Pinkie to take another crack at breaking my ribs, but she surprised me. Instead of being all crazy and hyper, I got a soft little hug, and she just kinda gently snuggled up against me, so I tried to snuggle right back. I might not be into some of the more hot-and-heavy stuff like what Cloud Kicker gets up to, but this hugging and snuggling stuff ... yeah, it was pretty cool. This, I was totally okay with.

I wouldn't have minded spending a couple hours just curled up on a cloud with Pinkie, but we kinda did have other stuff to do. Pinkie was the first to point it out. "I kinda wish we could just stay like this forever Dashie, but we probably oughta let Redheart know you're okay and get your googly eye fixed, don'cha think?"

Much as I would've liked to keep hanging onto this moment, she was right. "Yeah, I guess we gotta." My stupid eye wasn't gonna fix itself, after all. I dropped down to let Pinkie climb up on my back, and right before she mounted me I realized something. "Hey Pinks, when did you get a cloud-walking spell cast on ya anyway? We were kinda busy running around all over the place..."

Pinkie's face screwed up in a confused frown. "Huh? I never got a cloud-walking spell cast on me."

I looked at Pinkie. She looked back at me. We both looked at her hooves. "Poopie," she grumbled. "I looked down."

Then she fell down through the cloud she'd been standing on with no problems for the last couple of minutes.

After an awesome dive-and-grab rescue by Ponyville's coolest pegasus, Pinkie and I headed to the hospital. It only took a minute to explain what happened, and then the two of us were right back in the eye exam room with Redheart.

" and can't see the next two letters." Eye exams were a bit more stressful when I couldn't just fake it. Pinkie had it right though–lying was only gonna get myself and all the ponies I cared about hurt, and I was sick of that. The Wonderbolts weren't likely to fall for the tricks I'd been using to try to cover up my whole eye thing anyway. Besides, I was getting kinda tired of smashing into stuff just cause I couldn't see it coming. "Then it' O, and I can't see the next couple letters after that..."

"Hmm..." Redheart spent a minute or two taking notes. Medical types seem to spend a lotta time doing it, and it always bugs me. I tried taking a look at all those notes they keep making in my medical records, but it was all a buncha egghead stuff that only somepony like Twilight would understand, mixed in with a buncha acronyms I didn't understand. The only other time I saw that many acronyms was when Cloud Kicker showed me some of her old Guard stuff. I swear, it was like a completely different language.

She made me run through the exact same eye test a couple more time with my head at different angles. It was kinda annoying doing the same thing over and over, but since moving my head around changed what I could see outta my bad eye, I suppose I could at least understand why I had to do it. Like Pinks said, the docs hafta know what's wrong with the eye before they can do the whole 'fixing it' thing.

Once I'd done the exact same eye test enough times to satisfy Redheart, it was on to question time. "So, how long have you been having vision problems?" Redheart picked up a pen in her mouth and looked at me expectantly.

Even though the cat was outta the bag, I'd been in the habit of lying about it for so long that I almost snapped that I didn't have any vision problems. I stomped that stupid bad habit down and tried to give her as honest of an answer as I could. "I didn't really notice I was having problems with it until about seven years ago. There was little stuff every once in a while before then, but that was when I really started thinking I had a problem."

One of Redheart's ears gave an annoyed little flick, but otherwise she was still brusquely professional. I could guess what she was thinking that had her a bit aggravated with me. Spending seven years not telling anypony I had a problem might not have been the smartest thing I ever did. "And over the course of the last seven years, would you say that your problems have been getting better, worse, or staying about the same?" She definitely sounded just a tiny bit pissed at me. I guess she's one of those tough-love types of nurses.

"I think it's been getting a bit worse over time." That got another annoyed ear flick from her. It also earned me another Pinkie-hug. Sheesh, everypony's making a fuss. "Not a lot worse or anything, but I've been noticing that I can't quite see as good as I used to."

Redheart let out a snort and made a couple more notes, then spat out her pen. "Right. Well, the good news is that the parts of your eye that still work properly have excellent vision. However, it appears that you're partially blind in your right eye–we'll need to run some more tests to know for sure, but it looks like you only have about seventy five percent of a normal range of vision, and a few blind spots as well."

"Yeah, kinda noticed that I miss stuff sometimes." Little things like birds, clouds, and that one really sneaky mountain. "Part of why I've been doing lotsa practice–gotta work out exactly where those spots are, so I know how work around 'em."

"Or you could've just gotten your eye fixed," Redheart grumbled under her breath. Okay, that was a fair point, but did she have to keep rubbing it in like that? I'd been a little stupid, but I was trying to fix things up now. That's what counts, right?

"So can ya fix Dashie's eye?" Pinkie chimed in. "Ya said she shoulda come to the hospital to get her eye fixed. That means you can fix it, right?" Surprise surprise, I was getting pulled into another hug by Pinkie. At this rate I would hafta start making like Twilight and categorizing all her different types of hugs, 'cause there were a lot of them. I'd call this an anxious 'please tell me that somepony I care about's gonna be okay' hug.

"It should be possible," Redheart answered with a slight frown. "I can't make any promises until we run a few more tests, and she'll probably need to see a specialist for a final opinion as well as the actual operation. However, if you've gone seven years without treatment and it's only gotten a little worse in that time, then I'm optimistic about your chances." She took a couple seconds to look over my medical records. "You had an eye injury as a filly, I see. If I had to guess, I would say that the doctors treating you overlooked something. I don't suppose I can blame them for missing a tiny bit of damage, considering the severity of some of your other injuries."

I gave a bit of a start at that. I guess it figures that how busted up I got at camp would be in my medical records, but it had never really occurred to me before. Gotta wonder what Redheart and all the other docs think when they look at that. I wonder how much is in there, anyway... Oh Celestia, if they took a look at my medical record and Cloud Kicker's at the same time, they could probably figure out that something must've happened.

I'd only just managed to work up enough guts to tell Pinkie about the whole Flight Camp thing. The idea that that bunch of ponies I barely even knew might also have figured it out ... yeah, that's a bit scary.

"Hey, Redheart?" I don't like how I sounded kinda nervous when I said that. "Medical record stuff is confidential, right?"

"That's correct," Redheart's expression softened a bit. Oh great, looks like I was getting a dose of the old bedside manner now. To look at her now, you'd never think she could be such a hardflank. "Why?"

"Just ... there's a lotta stuff in there." I waved a hoof in the general direction of my file. It's not like I could just come out and say that I was scared she might've put together what happened with me and Cloud Kicker back at Camp. Well, there's no way she could've put all of it together, but it wouldn't take a genius to notice that we were both admitted to Cloudsdale General on the same day. Hay, there might even be stuff in there about keeping us separated. I'd tried going to Cloud Kicker's room to apologize again as soon as I could walk, and ended up getting dragged away by a couple nurses.

"Yes, we take doctor-patient confidentiality very seriously." Redheart looked at me for a moment, then gently added. "We do keep a counselor on staff, if there's something you want to talk to somepony about."

Once again, my instincts told me to shoot her down. I don't need to talk to some head-doctor about my problems, I'm perfectly awesome and fine just the way I am. But ... well hay, I'd already mentioned maybe getting back into therapy to Cloud Kicker. Sure, the big talk with Pinkie had helped a lot, but the whole Flight Camp thing had been messing me up for a long time. It was gonna take more than one little chat with my fillyfriend to sort it all out.

"Yeah, maybe I oughta give that a shot." Redheart actually seemed a bit surprised when I said that. I do have a bit of a reputation after all, but after a second she gave an approving little nod and offered to schedule an appointment for me.

Redheart wasn't the only pony who thought I'd made the right choice. Pinkie gave me another little nuzzle, and quietly whispered half to herself, "You're gonna be okay, Dashie." Redheart apparently decided we were having a couple moment, because she said something about going to set up the appointment and left the two of us alone.

I thought about saying something, like talking about all the stuff I'm dealing with and whatnot. To be honest though, I think just being here with Pinkie was enough. What could either of us say that could possibly mean more than just ... the two of us being here, together? Maybe it was one of those times when a hug and stuff means a lot more than all the talk in the world.

I think I'm gonna be okay. Sure, I'd made some mistakes and taken a couple hits, but I was gonna get back up, and go back to being awesome. Not quite sure how all that was gonna happen just yet, but I'd work out the details.

We'd pulled it off. Even with everything that had gone wrong, to the point where it looked like it was all about to fall apart on us, Tornado Day had worked. To exactly nopony's surprise, Pinkie was holding another one of her gigantic bashes to celebrate. It was everything we'd come to expect of a typical Pinkie Party–big, loud, and incredibly fun.

I kinda felt a little sorry for Fluttershy–as much as she deserved to be the hero of the hour, all the attention was obviously starting to embarrass her a bit. Finding out that she and Cloud Kicker had finally worked things out took some of the weight off of my shoulders. As bad as I had messed things up for them, it wasn't so bad that they couldn't find a way to fix it. It's a lot easier to move on with the whole thing now that they seemed to be doing it too. And it's a lot harder to guilt myself over ruining their lives when I can take one look at them and see that they're not looking very ruined.

I was a little surprised when Spitfire came looking for me as the party was winding down. I'd spent a while chatting with her, but after half an hour or so I'd backed off. I didn't wanna look like a desperate fangirl or anything, even I was mentally squeeing over getting a chance to hang with the captain of the Wonderbolts. Play it cool, Rainbow. You gotta play it cool.

I guess playing it cool was working, 'cause now she was coming over to talk to me. "Hey, Rainbow Dash. Wanna go for a flight?"

Ohmigosh! Ohmigosh! Ohmigosh! Ohmigosh! Spitfire wanted to go flying with me! So awesome! "Yeah, sure, I guess." That's right, Dash. Gotta stay cool, even when you're hanging with the Captain of the Wonderbolts. Latching onto her and squealing like a schoolfilly is not cool, no matter how much you wanna do it.

So we went cruising for a bit. No big deal, just some casual flying (except with the captain of the Wonderbolts, so it was twenty times more awesome than normal flying). I wasn't even trying to show off to impress her. Well, not a lot. I mean, nopony can blame me for wanting to look good in front of feathering Spitfire.

Once the two of us had gotten a pretty good ways from Ponyville, Spitfire decided to strike up a conversation. "So, I was talking to your fillyfriend earlier. She's quite the hostess."

"Pinkie Pie is pretty awesome." I grinned and shot a fond look off in the general direction of Sugarcube Corner. "She always throws these amazing parties, and works her flank off to make sure everypony there is having a good time. Plus, she made just about all the food there herself–she's one hay of an awesome baker. I gotta be careful, or she's gonna get me to start packing on the pounds, 'cause her baking is just that good. Plus she's got a party cannon, which is just incredible on too many levels to describe. Nopony else could shoot a party out of a cannon, but that's Pinkie Pie for you. And then there's the way she's always coming up with these silly little songs that get stuck in my head 'cause she's got this incredible singing voice, and..."

I think I would've kept on going for a while if Spitfire hadn't politely cut me off with a laugh. "She sounds like quite a mare."

"Yeah," I agreed with an awkward laugh. I hadn't meant to start rambling on about how awesome Pinkie was, it just kinda happened. "I'm lucky to have her." Especially with everything she has to put up with from me.

The two of us flew on for a little bit before Spitfire decided to drop her bombshell on me. "So ... Pinkie Pie told me you've been going through a rough patch lately."

I nearly fell outta the sky when I heard that. Spitfire knew? I guess I didn't do a very good job of hiding how much that freaked me out, because she slowed down a bit and brought her hooves up placatingly. "Relax, she didn't get into the specifics or anything, and I didn't ask. She just said things have been a bit hard for you lately."

"I..." Admitting that I wasn't one hundred and twenty percent awesome, cool, radical, and all the other things a Wonderbolt needs to be wasn't something I wanted to do. On the other hoof, I couldn't exactly call Pinkie Pie a liar. It was true after all–I'd had my first session with the counselor and talked things over with Pinkie some, but I was a long way from completely okay. I was doing a hay of a lot better than I'd been a week ago, but you don't get over stuff like what I'm dealing just by having a couple little chats. "Some stuff's been going on," I confessed. "Nothing I can't handle, though." There we go. That was honest, but didn't make me sound all ... un-future-Wonderbolt-y.

We kept flying for a bit. I didn't really know what to say after admitting that I wasn't exactly doing great. I mean, trying to explain that it wasn't really a big deal and I was still totally okay to become a Wonderbolt would just come off as desperate, and nothing's worse than seeming desperate. I was pretty relieved when Spitfire finally broke the silence. "Y'know, back in my first year with the Wonderbolts, I got into a pretty bad crash."

"Cloudiseum Annual Exhibition in on midsummer of Nine-ninety." I rattled off by pure reflex. A second later I felt my face heating up a bit, and I desperately backpedaled and tried to play it cool "I mean, yeah, I heard about that." Smooth, real smooth.

Spitfire shot me a look, and I could swear I heard her very softly chuckle under her breath. So much for covering up that fangirl moment. "Anyway," she continued. "After I took that spill, I had some trouble getting back in the air. My wing healed up fine, but the thought of going back out there, and possibly getting into another nasty wreck while all of Equestria was watching me ... it shook me up a bit."

"No way!" I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that Spitfire could ... it just didn't compute. "You–you're Spitfire! There's no way you could be..."

"More frightened than a filly on her first day of school," Spitfire assured me with an easy, confident smile. "Thing was ... well it took me some time and a lotta work, but I dealt with it. Got back in the air, started doing shows again, and I like to think I'm doing pretty good."

"Pretty good? You're the most amazing pony in all of Equestria aside from–" I quickly caught myself before I could start going into fangirl mode again. Remember, play it cool. "I mean, yeah, I guess you're pretty cool. You are captain of the Wonderbolts, after all."

Spitfire shot me another little smile. "Glad to know you approve."

That got a nervous laugh out of me–it's not like I'd meant it that way. Maybe I was trying to play it too cool? Nah, what was I thinking? There's no such thing as being too cool. Still, there was one thing I didn't quite get about this whole conversation. "Uh, not that talking to you isn't awesome and all, but why tell me about all that? I mean, I'm just ... me."

Spitfire thought it over for a moment, and just shrugged. "Guess I just wanted to let you know that you're not the only pony who's had some stuff she needs to take care of. It's a thing that happens when you go out and have an interesting life. But if you can go after all that stuff with half the guts you showed when you were running Tornado Day or at the Best Young Fliers, then you'll be fine. You just gotta hang in there."

No. Way. I was getting a pep-talk from Spitfire!

Resist the urge to act like a fangirl, Rainbow. Glomping her and squeeing is not cool. No matter how much you wanna do that, you gotta keep your cool. "I'll be fine. Pinkie's been seriously awesome about the whole thing, and I've got the best friends ever to help." I shot a look Spitfire's way, and fought down a slight nervous blush. "Thanks though. For the talk. It means a lot. Really cool of you to take the time to talk to me like this."

"Hey," Spitfire grinned at me and brushed a hoof on her chest. "Being cool is what Wonderbolts do."


We turned around and started heading back to Ponyville. We were about halfway there when a truly horrifying thought struck me. "Oh, I'm in so much trouble."

Spitfire shot a concerned look my way. "What's up?"

"I just realized." I let out a nervous little giggle. "My two-month anniversary with Pinkie Pie's coming up. Now I've gotta find a way to do something for her that not only handles what an amazing fillyfriend she's been, but also has to match the awesome level of getting a pep-talk from the Captain of the Wonderbolts."

Spitfire let out a little snort of laughter. "Yeah, you might be in trouble."

I shot a hopeful grin her way. "So ... any more awesome advice to get me outta this one?"

That got another snort-laugh out of her. "Sorry, I only give advice to hot up-and-coming fliers, not lovebirds. You're on your own for this one."

I'm doomed.