It was very rare for Spitfire to ever meet a pony she genuinely hated. Sure, there were always pugnacious recruits who were all too eager to prove to her that they were the greatest flyers of Equestria. Or maybe the perpetual swarm of paparazzi ponies that congregated like mosquitos around Spitfire's home in Cloudsdale. By no means did she like any of them, but it was difficult for her to hate.
The mare named Pinkie Pie was seemingly doing her best to push Spitfire in that very rare direction.
"Excuse me," Spitfire interrupted, keeping her good wing draped protectively across Rainbow's back. "But what in the hay do you mean by that?"
Pinkie turned so her bright grin flashed at Spitfire and Rainbow. "Don't you worry, we'll get you and Rainbow Dash fixed up in a jiffy!" Pinkie turned back to where she was huddled with Twilight, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy.
Spitfire held up her right foreleg, her eyebrows furrowed together and her mouth open in a wholly confused expression. "You what? This is a joke, right?" She turned to face Rainbow, who seemed equally flummoxed. "This is some kinda weird joke, isn't it?"
Rainbow shook her head. "I don't think so." She took a plodding step towards her friends, her hooves trembling under her. She felt a pain, like a shard of ice growing in her chest along with a knot in her throat "Guys?"
"I don't know about this, Pinkie," Fluttershy said in the quiet manner that she was known for.
"Why in the world would you even suggest using the elements?" Twilight asked, seemingly indignant from the mere suggestion.
"Well duh!" Pinkie exclaimed with a roll of her blue eyes. "That's how we fixed all of the crazy stuff Discord did, so that's how we fix this!"
Five ponies stared at Pinkie with matching confused expressions.
"Pinkie Pie," Rarity said loudly, "I simply cannot believe you'd suggest such things! What in Equestria has gotten into you?"
"What are you suggesting?" Rainbow demanded.
"All right, look, this is jus' plain ridiculous!" Applejack said with a mighty frown and a shake of her head. "You're barkin' up the wrong tree, Pinkie. I think you had a bit too much sugar today."
"Would somepony please talk to me!" Rainbow shouted, earning a look from her friends and a few passing ponies as they boarded the train. She cringed and cutched at her aching ribs with a foreleg.
Spitfire momentarily forgot about the other five mares as she focused her attention on Rainbow. "Dash, are you okay? What's wrong?"
"Fine," Rainbow muttered through clenched teeth. "I'm fine."
"You need to sit down," Spitfire said, her wing pushing lightly on Rainbow's hindquarters to encourage the action.
The conversation forgotten, all five mares moved back to Rainbow and Spitfire, Twilight leading the way. "What's the matter? Do we need a doctor?"
"I'm fine!" Rainbow spat with far more venom in her tone than she had intended.
"All right, look," Twilight started, separating her friends with her forelegs and trotting over to Rainbow. "This isn't the place to discuss this. How about we all meet up at the library in an hour. That way, Rainbow can rest for a little while and we can all collect our thoughts." Twilight shot a glare at Pinkie.
Much as she wanted to contest the point, Spitfire held her tongue. She preferred to confront problems head on, dealing with them quickly and decisively. Still, she couldn't exactly argue against Twilight's point. The platform of the Ponyville Station seemed to be getting more and more crowded with every passing moment as the train prepared to make the return trip to Canterlot.
"How far is it?" Spitfire asked.
"Center of town," Rainbow answered, though she didn't lift her head.
"Can you walk that far?" Spitfire asked, glancing over to Twilight with a concerned expression.
"I can teleport us there," Twilight said, smiling to her friend and Spitfire.
"Both of us?" Rainbow asked, genuinely surprised. "I didn't know you could teleport more than one pony."
Twilight shook her head, her ears folding back slightly as a small frown pulled at her lips. "Well, I don't think I can do it for more than myself and one other pony. I was reading up on dragon magic and really studying Spike's dragon fire when I first moved to town. You see, when a dragon creates a horde, they attune their magic to that specific location. That way, they can send or receive anything they want at any time."
"Who's Spike?" Spitfire asked.
"Baby dragon," Rainbow answered.
"Wait, a dragon?!" Spitfire blurted, her eyes going wide.
Nodding, seemingly more to herself than anypony around her, Twilight continued. "So I theorized that using a crystal, artifact, or something capable of arcana alignment, I could create a facsimile of a dragon's horde attuned to my magic and—"
"Twilight, we don't speak egghead!" Rainbow groaned.
With a blush and a modest chuckle, Twilight smiled at her friend. "Sorry. Simply put I made the library into a pseudo horde and within a certain range I can teleport myself and Spike there." She rubbed her chin with a hoof. "It should work with ponies too."
"Should?" Rainbow seemed unconvinced.
"Well it works for Spike and me, and ponies are less innately magical than dragons are, so it'll be fine." She broke out into a wide, excited smile. "Ready Rainbow?"
"I think I'll just walk."
"Rainbow, let the nice pony help you," Spitfire said as she petted Rainbow's back.
"It'll be fun!" Twilight promised with a proud smile that quickly gave way to a thoughtful look. "Or you'll lose your lunch…"
"Wait, what?" Rainbow skirted away from Twilight.
"Oh, don't mind me, just thinking out loud!" the unicorn gave a nervous laugh before sitting next to Rainbow. "On three, okay?"
"Are you sure this is safe?" Rainbow asked.
Twilight nodded. "One. Two. Three!"
With a flash of purple light, Rainbow and Twilight were gone, leaving only a static tingle lingering in the ponies around them. Spitfire stood still for a while, staring at the spot where her Rainbow had been only an instant before. She took a deep breath into her lungs, which she slowly let out before turning to the remaining Elements.
"So, could one of you maybe show me where this library is?"
With the electric crackle of magic and a blinding flash, Twilight and Rainbow materialized in the foyer of the Ponyville library. For Twilight, the spell had left her coat with a fun tingly sensation that she surreptitiously enjoyed. For Rainbow Dash, the side effects were somewhat less pleasant.
"Hmm..." Twilight rubbed her chin with a thoughtful expression. "We're supposed to be four feet closer to the center of the room. I guess I need to realign the spell."
Rainbow made a quiet groan.
"So, Rainbow, how do you like teleporting?"
Rainbow Dash melted to the cool wooden floor, her face taking a peculiar shade of green. "I think I'm gonna be sick."
"Isn't it grea... oh, wait, no! Let me get a bucket first!" Twilight ran as quickly as she could towards the library basement, where Spike tended to stash most of the cleaning supplies.
While Twilight searched frantically, Rainbow squeezed her eyes shut and slid progressively lower until she was laying on her uninjured side. She felt a chill run through her even as a cold sweat broke out all over her body. Darkness creeped at the edge of her mind and she tasted bile in her mouth; it took all of Rainbow's will to keep things together.
"Not here," she hissed through clenched teeth. "Not here... please... Celestia…"
Rainbow didn't know how long she laid on the cold floor of Twilight's library. What had to be only a minute or so felt like hours as the sweat matted her coat and only served to intensify the chill in her bones. Even when she heard Twilight's frenetic hoofsteps approach her, they sounded muted and distant.
"Rainbow!" Twilight sounded afraid. "Rainbow, open your eyes! S-should I call an ambulance?"
"'Mm okay," Rainbow slurred her words. "Jus... just a minute…"
"Wait, wait! I know what to do!" Twilight shouted to nopony in particular before running off to the kitchen. A moment later she returned, draping a cool, damp cloth over Rainbow's face. "Okay, Rainbow, nice, easy breaths."
Rainbow gave a slow nod before taking as deep a breath as she could and slowly letting it out. She repeated that process, each time filling her lungs with as much air as she could bear to give them before releasing it in a trembling, soft breath. Slowly, Rainbow felt the nausea begin to dissipate along with the darkness that crept at the edges of her vision. The sweat that had dampened her coat kept a chill in her body that Twilight easily took notice of. Rainbow was distantly aware of the sound of Twilight's hoofsteps moving around the library just before the soft warmth of a blanket draped over her.
"Thanks, Twi," Rainbow mumbled, nuzzling her face into her foreleg
Rainbow felt a smile pull at her lips. While Twilight could be an overbearing presence from time to time, there was an earnest desire to help in the mare that Rainbow appreciated.
"I'm so sorry, Rainbow. I know teleportation can be hard on some ponies, but I've never seen a reaction that strong before."
"Wanna take notes on it?" Rainbow asked sarcastically.
Twilight was quiet for a moment before Rainbow saw a quill and parchment float into view. The unicorn regarded Rainbow with a far too excited grin. "Can I?"
Much as Rainbow wanted to loose a put-upon sigh, she couldn't stop the quiet laughter that escaped her instead. Twilight's voice joined hers in a soft chorus, the quill and parchment surreptitiously returning to wherever Twilight had gathered them from. As their laughter died down, a serious look returned to the librarian's face.
"Seriously though, Rainbow, are you okay?" Reaching out with a hoof, she gently touched Rainbow's shoulder.
"Yeah, definitely," Rainbow answered with a little nod. "I think I'm just tired. Tired and hungry, or something. I don't know." She shook her head and rested it on her foreleg.
"Wanna lay down in a bed?"
Rainbow shook her head. "I'm okay, Twilight, really."
"If you insist," Twilight acquiesced. "So, um… You and Spitfire..."
"What about us?" Rainbow asked, her reply as wary as her tone.
"I guess, hm," Twilight paused, her hoof itching her temple as she decided how she wanted to phrase her question. "I guess I just have one question."
"Only one?" Rainbow shot her friend a snarky grin. "Don't tell the Princess."
"Oh ha ha ha, Rainbow." Twilight felt a particularly annoying burn in her cheeks. "I reserve the right to ask follow ups."
"Well you kinda gotta ask one, first."
"I'm going to! Yeesh, give a girl a chance, Rainbow," Twilight said, shaking her head and making a self-effacing chuckle.
Rainbow stretched out her good wing and draped it lazily across Twilight's back. "Well, I ain't getting any younger Twi."
Twilight snorted and shook her head. "I guess I'm curious how you two met."
Thinking back for a moment, Rainbow wiped her hoof through her mane. "Well, I guess it all started with a sandwich…"
"Beggin' yer pardon?" Applejack asked, her mind flat-out refusing to acknowledge the veracity of what her ears were hearing.
Spitfire groaned, her eyes rolling so far back that she swore she was able to see her own optical nerves for a moment. "I said I think apple pie is kinda overrated. I prefer cherry."
Applejack's expression shifted from horror to one of betrayal. "You're dead to me."
Sensing an opportunity to amuse herself, Spitfire leaned close to Applejack until her lips hovered just over the farmpony's ear. "Does this mean we won't get a second date?"
"I will tie you up and hang you from the tallest tree in the fields," Applejack threatened.
"Mmm." Spitfire feigned a shiver of excitement. "I've never tried rope play before…"
"Are all you flyponies so crazy?" Applejack asked, a playful grin pulling at the corner of her mouth. "Is that what got you and R.D. to hook up?"
"Nah, I just have a thing for cunning stunts."
As Applejack let out a despondent groan, Spitfire took pride in herself. She always was a cunning linguist.
"Oh, look, here we are!" Rarity piped up from her place behind Applejack and Spitfire. She cantered past them and pushed the door open with a rough burst of magic. "Twilight, might we come inside?"
Spitfire snorted, earning a disapproving glare from Applejack.
"Really?" the farmpony asked.
"I make no excuses."
Twilight appeared at the door, a welcoming smile on her face. Floating beside her in the glow of her magic was a porcelain cup full of a hot cup of tea. Spitfire could smell the aromatic blend as she approached and stifled a frown. She'd never understand how anypony could like hot leaf juice.
"Hey girls, come on in. Rainbow's just resting on the couch." Twilight stepped aside, making room for the group to enter.
Spitfire hesitated as she entered the library, taking a moment to look around until her eyes settled on the familiar sky-blue of Rainbow's coat. She didn't notice the smile that broke across her face as she trotted over to the couch where Rainbow greeted her with a little grin.
"Hey there, stranger," Spitfire said, leaning over to plant a kiss on Rainbow's cheek.
"Hey yourself," Rainbow answered, returning the kiss with one of her own.
"Feeling better, Dash?"
"A little, yeah."
"Need something for the pain? I can get your pills."
"I got an ice pack under my wing, a comfy chair, a really sexy mare," Rainbow said, her voice dropping to a whisper so her friends didn't hear the last part.
"Who needs a comfy chair when you got me?" Spitfire asked, shooting Rainbow a playful wink.
"Get a room!" Applejack shouted.
"No, no, silly filly," Pinkie teased in a singsong tone as she bounced from the foyer over to the couch. There, she hooked her forelegs around Spitfire and Rainbow, squeezing herself between the two and smiling. "We gotta get you two all straightened up... hehe, straightened up…"
Spitfire's happy smile burned into a fierce scowl. "You have exactly three seconds to back away."
"Come on now," Pinkie protested, darting around Spitfire to get to her opposite side. "We're all friends here, right?"
"Coulda fooled me," Spitfire answered.
"Alright," Twilight said as she moved into the fray with Applejack and Rarity close behind her. "I think we all need to take a step back. What's important here is that Rainbow Dash is home and we're all very happy to see you. You scared everyone pretty bad when Celestia told us about the accident."
"And don't you think I'm jus' lettin' you off the hook for hidin' out on us!" Applejack said, playfully jeering her friend.
In spite of the situation, Rainbow couldn't help but laugh. "That from the mare who bailed to Dodge Junction for not getting first place in a rodeo? Hello pot, I'm kettle."
Applejack's lips momentarily pulled into a horrified frown as her eyes opened wide. She cleared her throat, quickly regaining her composure and polishing a hoof on her chest. "I ain't got no idea what yer talkin' about."
The assertion fooled absolutely nobody.
Twilight chuckled and sipped a mouthful of tea which she promptly spat across the room as Pinkie Pie appeared beside her.
"So, Twilight, do you know where Spike is? We gotta write a letter and have her ship over the elements of harmony! Oh! Do you think she can just send them through Spike's dragon flamey breath? That'd be so cool and would save us a lot of time and then we can have a great big awesome super-duper party!"
"What are you talking about?" Rainbow winced as she slipped off the couch and onto her hooves, stomping once and earning a sharp stab of pain into her chest.
"Rainbow." Applejack stepped towards her friend. "Take it easy there, Sugarcube, yer gonna put yer plot in a sling at this rate."
"Pinkie," Rainbow said, her voice choked and moisture welling in her eyes. "Why are you—"
"Shh, there, there, Rainbow." Pinkie zipped over, pulling the pegasus into a brief embrace. "Pinkie's gonna fix you right up and then we'll have a super-duper-extra awesome party to celebrate!"
Rainbow shoved her friend away, burning tears welling in her eyes. "I don't need to be fixed! I don't have a problem! I'm just the way I'm supposed to be; what don't you get about that? W-why are you being so mean?"
Pinkie Pie simply nodded, her face holding a patient smile and soft, understanding eyes. "It's okay, Rainbow Dash. I know it's hard, and I really, really, really, am sorry. But I'm your friend, remember? And I'm gonna help you, cause that's what friends do. Even when they think they don't need help."
"I DON'T NEED HELP!" Rainbow shouted, her voice cracking as the tears she had struggled so hard to repress spilled down her cheeks. "I'M JUST THE WAY I'M SUPPOSED TO BE! I'M JUST THE WAY I WAS BORN!"
"You are," Pinkie said with a nod, "and it's not your fault. If you think about it, it's a lot like crooked teeth." She smiled to Rainbow again. "We're gonna fix it, and Spitfire too!"
"We don't need to be fixed!" Spitfire hissed through clenched teeth.
"That's what everypony says when they don't know they have a problem," Pinkie said, nodding at her own words.
"I think you're the one with the problem here," Spitfire said in a venomous tone.
Pinkie sat down and shook her head, looking like a mother disappointed in a group of foals. "Look, it's not your fault that you're confused, but you have to accept this isn't right."
"And how in the hay do you figure that?" Rainbow asked. "We're in love, when did that become wrong?"
"You can love each other, that's fine. I mean, I love all of you guys like my own two sisters!" Pinkie sprouted a face-splitting grin for a moment before returning to her serious expression. "But nopony would love a sibling like the way Mr. and Mrs. Cake love each other. And that's because two mares can't make a baby, neither can two stallions. I mean, that's why there are colts and fillies, right?"
"Well, not exactly," Twilight started, "I mean it's a bit more—"
"I mean really," Pinkie continued, oblivious to both Twilight's comments and the untimely arrival of Spike, who bore a confused expression at the scene he'd stumbled across. "There isn't any logical reason for two mares to get together like that."
Spitfire smirked. "Sure there is. Stallion's are one and done, mares are one and the fun's only just begun."
Five ponies and one baby dragon stared at Spitfire with gaping mouths and wide eyes. Twilight's hooves pressed over Spike's ears in a too-little, too-late attempt to protect him from the adults in the room. Rainbow was not so discreetly looking for a deep hole to crawl into, or at the very least a decent length of rope. The best reaction was reserved for Fluttershy, who looked as though the vast majority of blood had taken up residence in her head. Spitfire didn't know it was physically possible for a pony to get that red, but it was certainly an entertaining discovery.
"S-Spike," Twilight began with a sheepish laugh. "Can you—"
"I'm out!" the little dragon answered, walking right back outside. The heavy oak door slammed shut behind him.
Pinkie continued, seemingly undeterred. "Anyway, it's just not natural. And you know where unnatural things come from? Discord made 'em, that's where!"
"That's ridiculous," Rarity said with a tsk and a shake of her head. "Pinkie, dear, you are being quite peculiar today."
In a pink blur, Pinkie grabbed Rarity and gave her a little shake. "Don't you see! Cotton Candy Clouds! Chocolate Rain, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, stallions kissing other stallions and mares kissing other mares! It's textbook Discord!"
Twilight bit her hoof and looked at Rainbow and Spitfire. Rainbow felt her heart sink from the worried expression on her friend. Looking to Fluttershy, she noticed her oldest friend pointedly refuse to meet her gaze.
"Fluttershy?" Rainbow asked, her tone pleading.
"If you're happy that's wonderful," the soft-spoken mare began, her pink mane covering her eyes as her head sunk lower and lower. "I just...it just makes me a little uncomfortable." For the first time, Fluttershy looked up, her teary gaze meeting Rainbow's. "I'm sorry, Rainbow Dash."
Rainbow took a step back, her expression as horrified as if Fluttershy had slapped her. "But why? Why didn't you say anything years ago? I mean, you've known longer than anypony!"
Fluttershy sniffled, tears welling in her eyes and saturating the coat of her cheeks. "B-because I didn't want to hurt your feelings."
"Hey there," Pinkie moved to Fluttershy and pulled her into a friendly hug. "It's alright, Fluttershy. We're gonna have Dashie all fixed up in no time, I Pinkie Promise!"
Rainbow turned her attention to Twilight, her jaw hanging open. "Twilight, you can't believe this, right?"
Twilight bit at her lip and pawed at the floor with a hoof. "Well, no I don't. But Discord's power was enough to reshape reality as we knew it. So I can see where Pinkie's coming from to a degree." She shook her head and sighed. "But no, Rainbow I don't believe that Discord is responsible for anypony being born a certain way."
"Okay, ya'll, I think we need to take a break." Applejack stepped forward, placing herself between Rainbow and Spitfire and Pinkie, Twilight, and Fluttershy. "Why don't we all jus' be glad Rainbow and Ms. Spitfire are okay, and we'll just get settled down for a couple days."
A chorus of agreement met the farmer's ears.
Spitfire leaned over to Rainbow and stole a quick nuzzle. "Wanna catch the first train to Cloudsdale?" she asked in a whisper. "We can write your dad and have a balloon waiting when we get there."
"No," Rainbow answered, emphasizing her response with a vigorous shake of her head. "No... I," she paused and sighed, a hoof rubbing at her forehead. "I gotta fix this... I gotta see this through."
Spitfire was quiet for a moment, her mouth pulled into a concerned frown. "Okay, Dash. I'll be here for you."
Rainbow offered Spitfire a sad, but genuine smile. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
Fluttershy pawed at the ground with her hoof, an almost palpable air of discomfort radiating from her. Twilight and Rarity discreetly ushered her and Pinkie out of the library, all four engaging in quiet conversation as they stepped out.
Rainbow moved closer to Applejack and sat down next to the farm pony. She pawed uncomfortably at the floor, her hoof drawing dainty circles over the worn oak surface. Applejack raised an eyebrow and cast her friend a peculiar look with a hint of a smile.
"Thanks... for being there for us."
The taller mare smiled to the pegasus and gave her a pat on the shoulder. "Anytime, Sugarcube."
Rainbow made a quiet chuckle, and watched as Twilight closed the door behind Pinkie, Fluttershy and Rarity. The librarian stood in the foyer a moment longer as though lost in thought. Eventually she drifted back to the reading desk and half-heartedly sorted through a pile of returned books Spike had yet to reshelve.
"So... yeah," Rainbow started, her eyes avoiding Applejack's gaze.
"Can you be helped?"
"I don't know, can I?"
"I reckon that depends on the problem," Applejack said with a sage like nod.
Rainbow snorted. "Apparently I got a list of 'em."
"What about a list?" Twilight asked, her attention suddenly distracted from her pile of books. "I love a good list! How's it sorted? Chronologically? Alphabetically? Oh, what about autobiographically!" She beamed at her friends, causing both Rainbow and Applejack to share a worried glance.
"Autobio-what now?" Rainbow asked.
"I think she just called us a bad name," Applejack suggested.
"Wouldn't be the first time."
"I hear that."
Twilight blinked once, an eyebrow slowly arching upwards, forming curious lines on her forehead. "You two are so weird sometimes."
Both Rainbow and Applejack burst into fits of filly-like giggles.