Fell Into the Right Hooves
"Oh! Rainbow, you're okay!"
Fluttershy was waiting eagerly in the lobby, just as the doctor had said. Upon seeing her wounded friend, she quickly darted the length of the waiting area to hug the pegasus.
"Are you all right? How's your wing?" Fluttershy asked, her voice full of concern.
Dash stepped out of the wheelchair, scornfully looking at the sling on her side. "My wing will be fine, but, I won't be able to fly at the Wonderbolt's audition now..."
Fluttershy smiled, her eyes closing into a look of happiness. "Oh, that's good!"
"'Good?' That's 'good?'" Rainbow felt a flush of anger overcome her. "It's not 'good,' Fluttershy! It's very 'not good!' I missed my chance to fly with my heroes, all because of some stupid accident!" She had yelled a bit louder than she wanted to.
Fluttershy sank back behind her pink mane, a look of apology crossing her face. "Oh, I-I'm sorry, Rainbow Dash. I... I-I meant th-that it's good that you're going to be fine. I'm so sorry you can't make the audition."
Dash looked at the cowering pegasus in front of her. She was still angry, at herself now for yelling at her friend. She opened her mouth before realizing she would only make it worse with anything she said. Finally, she forced out a sentence. "I... I'm just going to go home. I just want to be alone right now, Shy." She turned, walking with stomping hooffalls towards the door.
Fluttershy let out a squeak beneath her mane. Her half-veiled face looked out with curious worry. "Oh, b-but Dash, you... I mean, you can't..." Her voice trailed off into a timid whimper as Dash walked out.
The sun was setting slowly over Ponyville as Dash made her way back home. She had never walked the distance before, and found herself with too much time to reflect.
'How the hay did I forget an exit strategy? It's the most basic thing in stunt flying! You never do a trick you can't land! How could I be so stupid!'
She berated herself the entire stretch of distance back to her house. She had designed a spectacular stunt, and in a foalish rush to try it out, never planned a way to get out of it. A rookie mistake, one that would have earned her poor marks in flight school. And yet, the 'expert' she is, she completely forgot. And now it had cost her a shot at being a Wonderbolt! They've never held an open audition before, and that was the best chance she'd ever have to show off her talent. 'Was...' she repeated in thought.
Dash finally reached the end of her sullen walk as Celestia lowered the sun beneath the horizon. Luna's moon was rising in its place, painting the ground with a soft, blue glow. Fireflies speckled the air, reflecting the stars that were letting themselves show above. Dash looked up to her house. "Home... sweet home." She opened her wings to make the quick flight to her door when her injuries reminded her exactly why she was so upset. Pangs of fire shot through her side, dropping her onto her forelegs. The realization dawned on her at once. "Aw, HORSEAPPLES! I live in a FRIGGIN' CLOUD!"
There was a soft, scared squeak some distance behind her. Without turning, she knew who was there. "This is what you wanted to tell me, wasn't it?"
Fluttershy had followed behind her during her walk home, allowing her injured friend the privacy she had asked before.
"Um... y-yes. I knew you wouldn't be able... to..." The yellow pegasus' voice trailed off into another inaudible silence.
Dash looked down at the ground below her hooves. Like it or not, she was stuck to it for a while. Her friend had known, but in her anger, she neglected to listen.
"Fluttershy," she said in a weak voice. "I'm sorry. About earlier. I shouldn't have yelled at you. I was angry at myself. And I should have listened."
The yellow pegasus was soon at Dash's good side, giving her a reassuring nudge. "Oh, Dash, it's okay. You've been through a lot." She did her best to cheer up her friend.
Dash looked up at the pony, a faint happiness beginning to shine in her eyes. "Thanks, Fluttershy. And, thank you for everything you did while I was out."
Dash looked back up at her home, floating so close to the ground, yet just out of her reach. She let out a heavy sigh. "So, I wonder what I'm going to do for housing. I can't just sleep out on the grass for the next two months."
"Um, well, you can stay at my house, if you'd like," Fluttershy offered.
Dash looked over to her friend. "I really don't want to be in the way. Besides, you've done so much already. I'll just stay in Applejack's barn or something."
"Oh, but, Dash, that's all the way on the other side of Ponyville. My home is much closer. And you really need to get your rest." Fluttershy was persistent, to the point of forgetting her own shy nature.
Dash sat, the soft light of the moon peeking over the silhouette of Ponyville. It was a long walk back to AJ's, and with running not being the best option, it would take her a long time. Of course, the farmer pony would already be turned in by then. As much as she hated the idea of further bothering the pony that had helped her so much lately, she knew she had no better options.
"Okay, Fluttershy," she said finally. "Let's go back to your place. You have a lot of experience with treating animals and such anyway. I'm sure I'd be much better off at your house than in a cloud or a barn." She shot a joyous smile to her friend, as they both headed off to the home at the edge of the Everfree Forest.
Dash entered the small cottage behind Fluttershy. She had been there only a few times since Fluttershy found her way to Ponyville, but this was the first time she had ever really taken the sight in. It was a warm home, far removed from the clouds most pegasi preferred. The walls were a mix of warm auburn and cool beige tones, accented by various plants around the rooms. Small nooks in the walls held books and vases in place, with much of the walls decorated by vibrant paintings. The hardwood floor was dyed a light green, and was accented by the green boards and tan rafters above. Each hoofstep upon it gave a dull thud, and was drowned further by the various area rugs through the rooms. Looking closer, many holes and trails lined the walls and ceilings, no doubt made for her many animal friends. Although nothing like what Dash was accustomed to, it was rather nice, in an earthy sort of way.
"I'm sorry it's such a mess. I've barely been in to clean in the past few days," Fluttershy apologized. Dash looked the room over. The house seemed almost spotless to her, at least compared to how her home always looked. She knew that there was no need to argue with the pony, though.
"Nice house you got here, Fluttershy," she complimented.
"Oh, thank you." Fluttershy turned and smiled to her friend. "I try to keep it as nice as I can. Well, Angel and I do."
"Angel?" Dash asked.
"Oh, yes. He's my bunny. He's, um, right beside you." Fluttershy pointed to a small house shaped structure beside the blue pegasus.
Dash looked over, greeted by an annoyed looking bunny, his arms crossed. He stared intensely at the new pony.
"Uh, hey," Dash said, giving a nod to the bunny, before turning back to Fluttershy. "He doesn't look too happy to see me."
"Well, Angel is often like that around guests," Fluttershy responded. "And, he's probably upset at me too. I've spent so much time at the hospital lately. But I left him plenty of carrots while I was gone."
Dash looked back and noticed the pile of carrots within the small house, standing at almost twice the height of the bunny they were given to.
"Now, Angel," Fluttershy spoke tenderly towards the animal, "won't you be nice to our guest? She'll be staying with us for a few days."
The bunny threw down his arms and let out a silent sigh, before storming off into the small house behind him.
"Oh, Angel, don't you want dinner first?" Fluttershy called, obviously ignoring that the bunny had enough carrots to last the duration of Dash's stay. At this, the bunny slammed the tiny door, making a much louder thud than expected.
"Well, isn't he charming?" Dash joked, laughing a bit as she did.
"Don't mind him. He's just a little grumpy. Now, I'm sure you're very hungry. I'll go get dinner started." Fluttershy headed to the kitchen, eager to begin the night's meal.
Dash hadn't thought about her hunger, which now made itself known with a loud growl. 'Hey, you!' she thought, staring down at her belly. 'You've been quiet all night, so don't start that now!'
Dash walked over to a green couch on the far wall. As she took a seat, she felt just how tired her hooves were. Despite her preference of flight, she was far from unacquainted with walking. Still, her time in bed must have weakened her a little, as she now felt the relief of rest spread over her legs. 'I wonder what my wings are going to feel like in a month, then,' she nervously mused.
It seemed to be only moments later that the soft-spoken home owner cheerfully called her to dinner. Dash stood onto her sore legs, walking forward to the kitchen. She had expected a simple sandwich or similar because of the pegasus' speed, but was surprised by a large pot of soup sitting on the stove, and a bowl prepared at the table for her already.
"Wow! I didn't know you could cook, Fluttershy!" The pegasus took her seat, looking over the dish before her.
"Oh, well," Fluttershy answered, still adorned by an apron. "It's a talent I picked up. I made a nice, thick alfalfa and daisy soup. It's very good for promoting recovery."
Before Dash could stop herself, she let out a disgusted groan. She quickly realized her mistake and looked over at her quiet friend. "Um, sorry. Just, alfalfa isn't exactly my favorite dish. Do you have anything sweet like an apple or something?" Trying to save face, she felt more like she was twisting the knife in her gracious host's back.
Seeming unstirred by the comment, the yellow pegasus immediately began to think. "Sweet? Like dessert? Oh! I know just what I can make! It will only take a minute!" Fluttershy quickly bounced back to her counters, already beginning to make another dish. Dash wanted to protest, but felt each word had been digging her deeper into a hole.
Dash looked disdainfully over the soup as Fluttershy buzzed about the stove. Though she had never liked alfalfa, she had to admit that the meal looked very good. Its aroma filled the room with a sweet, yet savory fragrance, and the daisies added a warm overtone to the pleasant smell. Though she had thought she would hate the dish in front of her, she knew Fluttershy had put a lot of thought into it, and after the insulting way she rejected it before, she owed it to her good friend to at least try to eat it.
She began with a small sip, just at the edge of the bowl. Soon, she found herself holding the drained dish over her head, quaffing down the healthy meal. Despite what she had at first assumed, the soup was delicious! She quickly found herself feeling almost painfully full of the delicious brew!
She lowered the empty plate back to the table as Fluttershy walked over with another dish.
"Oh, wow! You ate all of it?" Fluttershy asked, happy her friend had liked her cooking.
Dash smiled bashfully. "Yeah! It was great! I've never had alfalfa that tasted so good."
Fluttershy blushed softly at the compliment. "Thanks. Oh, and here's the dessert I made for you!"
Fluttershy placed the treat on the table. "It's nothing much. A red delicious apple, coated in a glaze of honey and strawberry, and topped with powdered sugar."
Dash sat speechless. She hadn't expected the quiet pony to go so far out of her way for her dinner. Even after she blindly insulted the chef's excellent soup, she still took the time to make her an amazing dessert, without even taking the time to get a bite herself. By now, Dash figured the remaining soup in the pot had grown cold, and felt even worse about having put the friend she owed so much out of her own supper. There was no way she could enjoy this dessert without paying back some of that kindness.
"That looks great, Fluttershy. Though, I did eat so much of the soup," Dash began, "I couldn't eat all of this great dessert, so, how about we split it?" She felt a bit better not being complete burden.
"Well," Fluttershy said, looking over her dish. "If you really feel you couldn't eat it all, I'd be happy to split it with you." She gave a big smile to Dash, before walking over to get a knife.
Dash always thought it was quite awkward to watch a pony try to use a knife. They were mostly tools of a unicorn, but with so many uses, were often adapted to be held in the mouths of earth and pegasus ponies. As Fluttershy gently cut the dish, the air was filled with the blissfully sweet scent of the apple and its coating. Dash deeply breathed in the wonderful aroma, remarking how she knew she could have eaten the whole dish in a moment. Still, she wouldn't feel right taking everything Fluttershy offered her so greedily. She owed this pony, and refused to be a pest.
The apple having been split, Fluttershy placed the knife in the sink, and finally got her own bowl of soup. The pair enjoyed their meal in a happy silence.
"It was beautiful!" Fluttershy remarked after dinner, recalling to Dash just what had preceded her accident. "The Rainboom, and the colors of the Lightstream, and then that bright light! It was just so... amazing!"
Her happy expression began to fade after that line. "And then, that's when you... l-lost control. I couldn't see much through all the light and colors, but I-I could hear something wasn't right. And then, you just shot out of the loop! I saw you hit the ground, and ran over to you as fast as I could!"
Dash figured it was the exit that got her, but hated hearing it. She knew the speed she was going was far beyond what any pegasus had reached before, which means she hit much harder than any before had too. She didn't recall the fall, which she was now happy of.
Dash looked up as she heard the gentle sobs of her friend. Fluttershy was crying, trying to hide it behind her mane. "I... I-I th-thought, as I-I ran up, that th-there was no way you could have survived. I-I was so scared..."
Dash got off the couch Fluttershy had insisted she rest on to put a hoof around her friend. Gently nuzzling the pegasus' face, she gave Fluttershy a look of reassuring pride.
"Come on, Fluttershy," Dash spoke, letting a cockiness she didn't feel tint into her voice. "You know I'm invincible. Though, maybe not invulnerable." She nudged her head to her side, pointing at the bandaged wing. Fluttershy let out a soft laugh at the joke.
"Dash," Fluttershy sniffed, clearing her eyes. "You really need to get some rest. You can use my bed, and I'll take the couch."
"Are you sure, Shy? I mean, I feel I've been enough of a problem in just the short time I've been here," Dash asked.
"The best medicine for you right now is good bedrest! Now I insist, missy." The shy pegasus stifled a giggle at her joking maternal stance. Dash got a laugh from it as well.
"All right, all right. I'll go to bed," Dash replied, walking up the small staircase.
Dash stopped, and looked back at the yellow pegasus curling up to rest on the couch.
"And Fluttershy? Thanks."
Dash lay restlessly beneath the covers. Though she was admittedly tired, she found little comfort in the bed. Compared to the clouds she normally rested on, the bed was rather hard, and much too flat. The fabric felt itchy on her coat, and the fresh scent of the air she was used to had been replaced by a heavy smell of wood. Though it wasn't unpleasant in any way, it was still quite a difference from her usual housing.
The cover was another issue. Often, she curled a cloud over her to sleep. They were always light, and cool, but never cold. The thick blanket over her, however, was quite the opposite. She found herself feeling much hotter than she preferred, and couldn't shake feeling entombed by the oppressive fabric. A slight claustrophobia set over her when under it. If she kicked it off of herself, though, she quickly found the cold night air biting at her coat. Begrudgingly, she found herself always reaching back to the fabric she began to loathe.
Even the pillow seemed to fight her. It was far too flat for her liking, and felt as though her head was hanging loosely. When the pillow was folded under itself, however, she found her head sat far too high. 'How can earth ponies stand this? How can Fluttershy stand this?!'
Fluttershy had done so much for her today, and she hated to throw an offer like this back at her, but Dash knew she wouldn't get any rest in the bedding.
'That's it,' she thought, sliding her hooves to the floor. 'I have to find a cloud.'
She quietly walked down the stairs into the main room. She knew Fluttershy wouldn't like what she was planning and she was far too tired to argue. She carefully skulked her way through the living room, making it to the door without so much as a noise.
Suddenly, a carrot pegged her in the side of the head. She quickly turned to see what had launched the missile. Though the room sat dark, she clearly made out the white bunny Angel standing on a table not a few feet from her. He wore the same annoyed look as their first meeting.
"What's your problem?" Dash whispered to the bunny.
Angel, unable to talk, made the motions he needed to answer. Turning his head to the side and placing his hands beneath, he gestured snoring, then pointed at Dash, and back up the stairs.
"Oh, I see," Dash responded, still keeping quiet. "I should be asleep, huh? Well, that's exactly my plan. I just need a cloud to sleep, is all." She posed rather triumphantly to the flustered pet.
Angel proceeded to make a flapping motion with his arms, before grabbing his right arm at the shoulder, and making a falling motion with his paws.
"I'm not going to fall!" Dash said, a bit louder than the whispers before. "I've had the best treatment. So, maybe I bend the rules a little just for tonight. It's no concern of yours anyway, Hair-ball. Now scram!"
Before the bunny could protest, she stepped out into the open, quickly closing the door behind her.
"So, let's see how this thing looks." Dash said to herself, removing the sling from around her body. As the cloth fell to the dirt, she got the first look at her wing. It was incredibly sore, both from the injury and from being so tightly pressed to her body. She gingerly stretched out the limb, letting the muscles strengthen from their prone position. It wasn't as bad as she had expected, to her relief. A few feathers were gone, but none so close as to hinder flight. A deep purple bruise was visible just underneath the down, but didn't feel as bad as it looked. She scanned her wing over carefully, finally finding underneath where the doctor had made an incision. Just as he said, the line was barely noticeable, hidden well by the magic used to seal it. Overall, she found herself quite comforted by the work.
"Now, to find a bed."
Dash looked up to the sky. It was a relatively clear night. Luna's stars twinkled listlessly in the sky, as the moon swathed the land below. It was then that she spotted a small cloud, just barely visible, floating right overhead. It was just barely bigger than the bed inside, its edges frayed in soft translucence as the wind gently slid it along the night's sky. Perfect for sleep.
"Okay, Dash," she encouraged herself aloud. "You just have to reach that cloud. Nothing you haven't done a hundred times before. You may have been in better condition then, but you're the same old Dash at heart! So, let's do this."
Dash stretched out her wings, lowering her body. All she needed was one good push, and from there, it was only a few flaps of her wings away. No strain, no problem. She leaped up, forcing air beneath her with her wings.
Immediately, the pain shot through her. She had barely made it her body's length off the ground, and already she was seizing. 'No,' she thought. 'I can't give up now. I just have to make it up there.' She gave another powerful pulse with her wings, moving her further from the ground. The pain intensified, rattling within her bones. She gritted her teeth against the stinging. She had made it this far. She had flown this far, so she knew she could make it. Another mighty gust of wind left below her wings, rising her further. The pain rang out again, stabbing her with a cold heat. It was almost too much, but she was far too high now. She was easily at the height of the Fluttershy's cottage. She just had to give it one more burst to reach the cloud. One more...
The world slowed to a crawl around her as time stood still. Noises slipped from hearing, leaving only a silence so deafening it almost hurt. She had messed up. Suddenly, her body defied her. Every muscle went limp under her control as she felt the air shift on her. She was falling. She tried to reach out for the cloud just in front of her, but her hooves refused to listen.
'No... NO!' Terror fed back into her mind. She was falling back, far to the ground below. She would land on her wing. She knew it couldn't be repaired this time. She hadn't listened to the simplest instructions, and she was going to lose her wing for it. She felt the tears wet her eyes as reality began to speed up again. She was helpless, her abused body refusing her commands. And she was falling. The sky sped away from her as the stars looked down in apathy. The top of the cottage sped by to her side, as she prepared for the hit.
Everything froze again, returning to odd stillness. She looked up at the sky she'd never touch again, just knowing she had hit the ground. Though, it seemed odd that the second floor window was just beside her.
"RAINBOW DASH! What were you doing?!"
Dash was startled by the voice. Tilting her head back to see where it had come from, she was greeted by the inverted view of a very angry looking Fluttershy.
"Fl...Flutter-" she stammered, not sure of what was happening.
"Dash! You know you can't be flying! You're still far too hurt!" Fluttershy's eyes stared back into her own, full of emotion and spark.
Dash felt the ground slowly press up beneath her hooves. Her wits returning, she knew what had happened. She had fallen. And Fluttershy caught her.
Fluttershy's wings ceased their frantic beating as she landed with the injured pegasus in her hooves. She had just barely made the catch in time. Rainbow Dash's body began to regain its own power as she shakily stood up, turning to see the pony that had stopped her fall. Her limbs felt weak, but the adrenaline coursing through her held them up.
"Fluttershy... I..." The words still wouldn't come to the trembling Dash.
"And your wing! Look at it!" Fluttershy still bore all the anger of a mother scolding their child.
Dash looked over her wing as ordered. Where it was neat and set before, the feathers now splayed out in disarray, many twisted and turned out of groove. She drug the wing worthlessly along the ground, the pain having numbed it beyond feel. With what strength she could muster, Rainbow Dash pulled the limb back into her side.
Fluttershy picked up the discarded sling in her mouth before draping it over her back. "Get inside! Now!" She ordered.
Dash instinctively stepped back into the domicile. As she stepped into the living room, her legs quickly wavered again. She began to trip, only to find the yellow pegasus at her good side supporting her.
"I'm sorry..." Dash was only able to quietly mutter the words into the her savior's ear. It wasn't that she didn't feel it, but that the pain had begun to return, tightening her voice into a cracked whimper.
Fluttershy moved herself underneath Dash, propping her friend up as she carried her into the living room. She had carried the wounded pegasus like this once before.
Fluttershy laid the blue pegasus down on her belly, being careful that her wings were not beneath her. She quickly set about straightening out the injured wing, repositioning the feathers gently into their original orchestration.
Dash could hear her friend sobbing softly beneath her breath. Everything she did lately seemed to hurt those around her more. She laughed a bit on the inside at her remark, considering her crying friend more hurt than she was as she lay paralyzed on the floor.
"Fluttershy?" Dash called up, just barely regaining her voice. Her friend was busy resetting her wing. There was nothing she could add, no comment she could say to explain or excuse her action, and she knew it. So, she decided to try to use a small joke to help lighten the situation she had once again thrown her friend in.
"Perhaps I can get a back massage while you're at it?"
The words felt cold as she said them. The silence that followed didn't help. Fluttershy quietly finished her work on the wing, stepping back to see it better. Dash was about to apologize for the joke, and accept the scolding she deserved, before feeling hooves gently set down on her back. Pressing in slightly, they began to move in small, tight circles along the muscles of her back. Fluttershy was actually giving her a back massage.
"Shy, I was kidding about that. You don't have to..." Dash felt the words leaving her, her tongue aware that they betrayed how she really felt. Her sore and rigid muscles seemed to cry with joy at the gentle motions the hooves made.
"Shh. This will help with the pain, and should help you relax." Fluttershy had softened back into her comforting tone. Her sobs began to quiet away, before disappearing.
"Fluttershy," Dash began again, between quelled sighs. "I'm sorry. I thought I cou-" A blissful moan escaped her lips. She quickly turned her face forward to hide the growing blush from her friend. "-could make it. I'm such a foal for thinking that." Dash couldn't help but note how much she sounded like Fluttershy right now.
The yellow pony stepped down, feeling she had done a thorough job of massaging the weakened muscles. She nuzzled her friend gently. "It's okay, Dash. Your wing is okay, and you'll be fine. But please..." She nudged Dash's face to look at her own. "Promise me you won't do that again."
Dash looked into those large eyes. "I promise."
With Dash still too weak to move, Fluttershy reapplied the sling to her side. With her wing set back into place, Dash used all her strength to stand. Fluttershy ducked beneath the injured pegasus, supporting her weight. With Fluttershy's help, they both began the walk up the stairs to the bed Dash had abandoned earlier.
Dash drifted somewhere between wake and sleep as they tackled the steps together. Her hooves still refused to cooperate as well as she'd like, almost rebelling against her for the pain she had put herself through. She rest her head gently over Fluttershy's neck, the delicate scent of the pink mane soon flooding Dash's senses. It was sweet, like cookies, with just the slightest hint of oak and spice underneath. It was a beautiful aroma she soon found dancing with imagery in her tired mind. She drifted off into her dreams far before she made it to the bed. She knew however that she could trust Fluttershy to get her there. She could always count on her.