Fell Into the Right Hooves
It was the four week mark. Today, Dash was to meet the doctor who had done his best to grant her a second chance at flight. It fit in her schedule well; the Wonderbolt auditions were tomorrow.
Doctor Heartfeld was making his rounds. Though it was never necessarily busy at the Ponyville hospital, there was always work to be done. Caramel was in almost weekly with a new bump or scrape to have looked at from his clumsy work on the Apple farmland, and there was never a shortage of schoolchildren filing through with everything from scuffed knees to 'cooties'. Today, however, the most notable patient he had ever treated was on his clock.
Doctor Heartfeld entered the small exam room, the same worn look as a month before. "Ms. Dash! It's good to see you again. So, are you ready to begin your rehabilitation?"
Dash sat on the bed-like exam table. She had always hated the paper sheets on those things. "Actually, Doc," Dash began, a smug grin creeping along her face, "I think you'll find I'm better off than you expected!"
With that, she flew up from the table, making a tight back spin before landing in front of the doctor. She drew up one foreleg, striking her best pose.
The doctor's face showed genuine surprise. "My, my! Must have been some care you've been receiving!" He walked to her side, sitting back to get a better look at the wing.
As his hooves traced along the limb, he questioned his patient. "So, you have full use of your wing?"
"Yep!" Dash proudly reported.
"No pains or difficulties?"
"Not a one!"
Doctor Heartfeld moved back, a warm smile on his aged features. "Well, this is certainly impressive. I wouldn't have bet money on it, but I'd say you're well on your way to a full recovery in just this short of time!"
Dash retracted her wing. "Uh, I think I've already made a full recovery. And not a day too soon! Tomorrow's my audition for the Wonderbolts!"
Doctor Heartfeld's expression suddenly flashed into a look of shock. "Stunt flying? Tomorrow?! Most certainly not!"
Dash was suddenly in the doctor's face. "What do you mean? You said it yourself! I'm better! Heck, I feel better than I did before my accident!"
"Ms. Dash," the doctor began, his face settling back into his gruff disposition. "You are not well enough to compete! Your recovery is impressive, granted, but you're not back to full health yet. The muscles still do not have their previous mass, and the tendons are still tender from the repairs. The fact that you're flying at all is nothing short of miraculous, but there's no way that this wing can handle the stress of aerial performance just yet! I'm not saying this just as your doctor, but as a concerned friend. Don't do that to yourself."
Dash hovered before the doctor, her expression mirroring her frustration. "And I should listen to you? If I remember correctly, you didn't think I'd even be moving the thing by now, and yet I can fly laps through this whole building! Where you thought I'd be in that dumb sling for two weeks, I was out of it by the third day! I almost missed this chance once and just when it's in front of me again, you want me to give it up? When you've been wrong at every turn? Not a chance!"
The doctor sat unintimidated by the angry mare hovering in front of him. "Fine. If you want to throw that wing away, I can't stop you. Go ahead and fly your audition tomorrow. And when it's over, I just hope I'm not the doctor that has to amputate what you fought so hard for."
Dash gave an angry huff in the doctor's face. "Thanks for the work, doc. Now, why don't you let someone with experience use it?"
With that, she flew out of the room, leaving the doctor in her wake.
He let out a fatigued sigh. "Youth is truly wasted on the young."
The path between Ponyville and Fluttershy's home seemed to disappear with the use of wings. In no time, Dash could easily commute the distance. As of late, though, she flew just because she could again. She loved feeling the wind brush through her coat as it once had. Flying was always her joy in life, but after her ordeal, she found herself drawing more pleasure from the simple act. And of course, it had granted her a new joy in her life.
Dash landed at the step of the small home. The door was open today, letting the fresh Spring breeze sweep through the house. As Dash entered, she found Fluttershy dusting off the shelves on the far wall, oblivious to her return. Dash took in the moment; Fluttershy was truly a gorgeous pony. Her flowing mane was tied back as she dusted the shelves, giving her a regal and flirty look. And she wore another small apron, which Dash still found to be adorably cute. She could have watched her like that all day, if a certain bunny hadn't launched a half-eaten carrot at the working pony.
The carrot bounced off of Fluttershy's head before landing on the bookcase. She turned to face the rabbit. "Is there something you need, my little Angel?" How she kept her cool with that little pest Dash would never know.
The bunny pointed at the door with his normal scowl unchanging. Fluttershy looked in the direction to see Dash had returned.
"Hey, babe," Dash called, enjoying the affectionate monicker that rolled off her tongue.
Fluttershy was quickly over to her, embracing the blue pegasus. "Oh, Dash! I didn't hear you come in." The two shared a light kiss in the lit doorway. "What did the doctor say?"
Dash recalled the unpleasant visit just moments earlier. "He said... he was impressed with how well I'm doing, and that I'm going to be fine!" It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the full truth either. Besides, Fluttershy didn't need to hear all of the ravings of the charlatan.
"That's so good to hear! So, you're ready for tomorrow?" Fluttershy asked with a loving concern.
Again, Dash couldn't say the full truth. Despite the doctor's words, though, she felt perfectly fine, and knew that she could audition. "Of course I'm ready! I was born to be a Wonderbolt! All I need are the wings on my back, and a certain pegasus by my side." She nuzzled her mare.
"Do you want to start practicing?" Fluttershy asked.
As much as Dash knew she needed practice, she also knew she'd need all her energy tomorrow. "Nah. I'm just going to rest up for the moment. Besides, I'm sure any one of my old tricks will win them over. Even the Sonic Rainboom is still something that only I can do!" She felt comforted by her own voiced enthusiasm. "Tonight, I'm just going to read a bit on advanced flight, and take it easy. Perhaps I can get another one of your expert massages later?" Dash gave a devilish smirk to the other pony.
Fluttershy giggled, her cheeks blushing slightly. "Of course."
This was it. The day Dash had been so excited for. The day she had felt so crushed to believe she would miss, and here she was.
The auditions were held at the Coliseum in Cloudsdale. The entire stadium had been rented out by the Wonderbolts for today. All six members sat in the booth across the arena, with empty stands to either side. The only audience aside from the judges were what ponies were close enough to the head of the line to see out the door. It was nothing but a show of ability.
Dash and Fluttershy had awoken slightly late, both finding themselves sleeping more soundly in each other's hold. Though not too late to make the auditions, they were far back in line. Pegasi from all over Equestria filed into the open corridors circling the main stage. Dash was at first nervous bringing her partner along, but soon found many of the ponies in line had come not to try out, but to support their friends and spouses. One young colt even brought his mother along.
"Dash, there are so many ponies here," Fluttershy said in a whispering voice. Dash could tell she was uncomfortable with the large, unfamiliar crowd. "Don't the Wonderbolts have to narrow this down to just one?"
Dash realized how frightening the odds were in numbers, but was still confident in her abilities. She looked down at the call number on her flank. '138.' And the line behind her seemed almost twice as long as what had already passed through.
"Yeah," she said, "they're only looking for one pony. And it's going to be me, Shy." She gave the nervous pony a gentle nuzzle.
It became clear quickly that many of the ponies who had shown were only trying out because it was a free chance to see the Wonderbolts. Some could pull simple tricks, and more couldn't do a full loop without losing their direction. Though, Dash did hear the 'ooh's and 'aah's ahead in the line as rather talented competitors gave their best. Still, she knew she had skill none of them could touch.
'And when it's over, I just hope I'm not the doctor that has to amputate what you fought so hard for.'
The voice of the old quack echoed in her head. Of all the times to let negativity affect her, it had to show up as she neared the head of the line. There were only four more auditions before hers. She could see the stadium clearly through the ornate doors now. More importantly, she could see the Wonderbolts across the gap. Even at that distance, they still seemed to glow in their uniforms.
The first pony in the line went out. He was a skinny thing, with long legs and rather short wings. Dash would have commented on how ridiculous he looked, but was thoroughly surprised by his grace when flying. He could easily make sharp angled turns and pull from dives. He ended his performance with a high speed drop, darting back just before passing below the cloudline, looping into a tight bend, and darting back into the sky with legs outstretched in victory. An impressive run, Dash remarked. Not 'Wonderbolt' impressive, though.
Next was an older mare. What she lacked in speed she made up for in daring. She dashed through the difficult cloud obstacles suspended in the arena, making wild turns. Though interesting, it was hardly special, and more reckless than anything.
'If you want to throw that wing away, I can't stop you.'
That stubborn voice again. Not now. Not when she's so close to her goal.
The next pony was a young filly, just barely old enough to not be in school that day. She walked towards the starting platform, then nervously shook in place for five minutes. Finally, she bolted back through the open doorway and past the crowd. Fluttershy said she would probably have done the same.
Only one more pony stood between her and her goal. A large colt, once part of the Cloudsdale Guard, he had told Dash. As he took to the air, Dash found herself too lost in thought to pay attention to his show.
Was she really well enough to do this? The doctor may have been wrong about the time needed, but he was still a doctor. It was only by his hoof that she kept her wing at all. He wasn't a pegasus himself, but he seemed to know what he was doing. Maybe she wasn't well enough to audition. But, if she didn't try now, she wouldn't have the chance again.
'I don't expect anything back. I only want you to get better.'
This time, the voice speaking in her mind wasn't the doctor's. It was Fluttershy's. Dash looked to the yellow pegasus beside her. She owed her so much. She owed it to her to get better. And now, was she going to throw it all away in willful ignorance? Fluttershy looked up to her. Those eyes. She always felt so weak, yet so empowered by those eyes. Like she could do anything, but couldn't move a muscle. Fluttershy gave her a soft smile.
"Dash, sweetie, it's your turn."
Dash was thrust back into the world. She had missed the entire performance of the pegasus before her, and now it was her turn to audition. She gave Fluttershy a quick kiss on the nose. "Wish me luck, babe."
Dash walked past the doors, standing on the cloud overlook. Before her was a massive gap in the clouds, with a clear view of the ground far below. On the far side, the Wonderbolts, her idols, sat in the judges' booth. The space between was littered with various obstacles and objects. This was her domain.
She leapt from the platform, stretching out her wings. Flashbacks of the first night's dream flickered before her, and a paranoid dread filled her, if only briefly. The wind caught beneath her wings, lifting her up in an arc into the stadium proper. 'Time to shine.'
She wanted to start slow, warming herself up first. That hardly meant she was taking her time, though. She blitz through the cloud hoops, bobbing to meet each in the center perfectly. She enjoyed how she could just feel the tips of her furthest feathers touch the soft obstacles when she made the goal. Following a lap of the rings, she took to weaving the through the cloud pillars down the center of the course. Feeling the thrill of the flight returning to her, she began to grow bold, turning her body in full so that her mane just brushed the pillars as she passed them. A few ponies showed their admiration to her from the line, but one voice stuck out the most.
Fluttershy cheered with her soft voice. There was love behind that voice, Dash felt. A love that had always driven her to do more. That was all the inspiration she needed. It was time for her big finale; the Sonic Rainboom.
Dash flew straight into the sky, high above the stadium. Many of the ponies broke their formation in the line to see what the daring blue pegasus was doing. High above the Coliseum, she was ready to make her dive. If she had it right, she would make the Rainboom just below the clouds, lighting up the gap with a wave of color.
She began her dive with flare, closing her wings by her side and turning back into a flip. As she began to pick up momentum, she opened her wings, putting all her energy into the descent. She had to do this. For herself. For the Wonderbolts. For Fluttershy...
'I'm not saying this just as your doctor, but as a concerned friend. Don't do that to yourself.'
Again, the doctor's voice echoed in her head. She could just see the yellow blur out of the corner of her eye. Fluttershy. She hadn't told her what could go wrong. She hadn't even told her what the doctor had said.
The air began to bend before the blue pegasus as she picked up speed. A slow numbing burn began to tickle at her wing.
Was she really going to do this? Was she really going to put herself through this again? Put Fluttershy through this again?
The air coned around the pony, flickering rainbow light in its wake. "She's going to do a Rainboom!" an excited pony exclaimed from the sideline. A twisting pinch radiated through the joints of her bad wing like icy wind.
No. No, she couldn't do this. Not to Fluttershy. Not for the Wonderbolts, not for anything! She couldn't do this to her again!
Dash curved her wings beneath her, using them as air-brakes to stop her fall. A sharp pain stabbed throughout the limb under the strain, bringing biting tears to the edge of her eyes. She bit down hard against the pain.
Below, the crowd of ponies gasped in shock, not the least of which being Fluttershy and the Wonderbolts. Dash had failed them.
She landed beside the silent Fluttershy, whose mouth was still agape with worry. Dash's wing felt heavier now, like it had weeks ago, but the pain had died down into a comforting numbness. She hadn't done any more damage than a day of rest could fix, thankfully. She didn't want to imagine what would have happened if she completed the stunt.
"I'm sorry, everypony," Dash answered, fighting the tears in her eyes. "I can't do it. I'm sorry I wasted your time." She looked to her partner with tears trailing her cheeks in silence. "Come on, Fluttershy. Let's just go. I'll explain at home."
Both ponies turned to leave, heads lowered.
Dash turned to the voice. It was Spitfire! From the far booth, six uniformed ponies flew to the platform the two pegasi stood on.
"Hey, Pie-Saver! It is you!" Soarin' called out from the group.
Spitfire stepped forward. "Dash, right? I was surprised to see your name on the roster today. You have quite a reputation, you know? You won the Best Young Flier Competition, hailed by Princess Celestia herself. You're the fastest flier in Equestria, and the only pony to ever pull off a Sonic Rainboom. Those titles aren't just handed out, and I've seen myself that you deserve them. I was amazed to hear you were going to audition today after your accident!"
Dash felt her pride crumple. "You guys heard about that?"
Spitfire looked over the pegasus incredulously. "I think every pegasus in Equestria heard of your tumble."
"Oh, great!" Dash exclaimed in heavy sarcasm. "I wanted to be known, but not for my biggest failure!"
Spitfire drew back at the comment. "Dash, do you think word spread because you messed up? Everypony spoke of it because it was the worst injury any of us have ever heard befall one of our own! It's been decades since any pegasus has taken a blow like that. And you're already flying again!"
Dash really hadn't thought much of it, but it was astounding that she had even shown up for the competition today. She hadn't known word had reached Cloudsdale when she had arrived.
Spitfire walked closer to Dash. "Rainbow, it took a lot of courage to come back from something like that so soon and try to fly for us today."
"Too bad I couldn't even do it," Dash added in a low groan of pity.
"But more than that," Spitfire continued, "it takes a good mind to know your limits. And that's something much more valuable. That's what it takes to be a Wonderbolt."
Dash's head shot up at the comment. "Wh-what?"
"You've impressed us today," Spitfire commended. "Which says a lot given what we've already come to expect from you. There's no way we're going to miss seeing what you can do now, but you'll have to bring your best. And that means you'll have to be at your best! We'll be back in Cloudsdale in a month, opening for the Cloudsdale Coliseum Races. Be there, and afterwards, you'll get your audition, one-on-one. And, I can't say much, but, let's say the spot might still be open on our team for a pegasus with a strong heart and a good head above it."
Dash's mind was again blank for thought, every nerve firing to find an appropriate reaction. Her body again took over. She popped into the air, latching her hooves around Spitfire's neck.
"THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!!" She had put Pinkie's wild nature to shame, locked on to her hero.
"I wouldn't give you the chance if I didn't think you had what it takes, kid."
Fluttershy practically had to pry Dash away from the uniformed pony.
As the couple walked back past the line towards the exit, a whispering grew in the crowd.
"Didn't she say that was Dash? Rainbow Dash?"
"She the one who won the Best Young Flier Competition!"
"I heard she was in a bad accident."
"Yeah, didn't she break her wing? How did she even fly here?"
Dash stopped, giving a cocky smile to the commenter. "Actually, I didn't break it. I just tore it up a bit. Luckily, I've got the best doctor," she gave a loving look to Fluttershy, "and the best mare in all of Equestria looking out for me."
As she walked past the admiring crowd, she realized she still owed an apology to one of those ponies.
The sun had just begun to set as Doctor Heartfeld's work day ended. He placed his coat and stethoscope away in his locker, and donned his standard attire; a simple white shirt collar with tie.
As he left the hospital, two pegasi landed before him. He quickly recognized Rainbow Dash.
"Hmph? Ms. Dash?" he responded. "I see you didn't go through with it. What changed your mind?"
Dash looked apologetic. "Let's just say there was a grumpy old voice in my head. And the more I listened, the more he made sense."
The doctor smiled. "Well, I'm glad that voice was there."
He looked over to the pony beside Dash. "You. You're the pony who brought Ms. Dash in, correct? Fluttershy, I believe. Are you the one who's been taking care of her recovery."
Fluttershy ducked slightly behind Dash. "Oh, um, yes, I have. Did I do anything wrong?"
The doctor gave a hearty laugh. "The opposite, dear! I care to say she might owe her swift recovery solely on your expert care. It's quite the gift you must have."
Fluttershy couldn't help but blush at the professional's words. "Um, thank you, doctor."
Doctor Heartfeld looked back to Dash, a gentleness she hadn't often seen gleaming in his eyes. "You're lucky to have such a caring mare. And I dare you to say otherwise this time! Ha!"
The sudden shift in demeanor was almost too much for the winged duo. They both burst into laughter.
"Oh, come on!" Dash said through bellowing laughs. "It's not that obvious is it?"
The doctor beamed of a kindness Rainbow Dash had only seen within Fluttershy before. "I read you from the moment you said her name. You don't make it to my age without being able to read a pony's heart. You may not have known it yourself, but I could see it in your eyes."
"You and my friend Pinkie would probably get along well, then."
Dash walked the path back to the cottage she had become accustomed to calling home. Fluttershy followed in step, wrapped warmly under Dash's good wing. The doctor gave the other a quick check up before they had parted, confirming that she was going to be fine after her close call with her own foalishness. She had been advised to rest up, and stay out of the air for a few days. This time, she would listen.
Celestia's sun tucked itself quietly beneath the horizon, casting long rays of orange across the sky in its final light. Dash looked up into the sky she had loved for so many years. At this moment, though, it didn't fill her with that same comfort. There was somepony that filled her with even more joy now. She looked to the pegasus under here wing, her soft features glowing within the fading light of day. She peered into those large eyes. She knew what she saw in them now. What she had seen all along.
Zecora was busy mixing a large cauldron of herbal oil within her hut. With her medicines being such a hit in Ponyville, she found herself making larger batches at a time. She didn't mind finding the ingredients, nor the brewing. What she found to be bothersome was the bits that they paid her in. A large sack lay in the corner full of the useless coins. She preferred trade, but most ponies insisted on paying with the cumbersome capital. She had debated donating it back to Ponyville, or perhaps trading the bits for various curios from the oddity shop in town.
Her musings were interrupted by an unexpected knock at the door.
"Could it be, Somepony to see me?" she asked.
Zecora left the large wooden spoon she had been stirring with to spin peacefully around the rim of the pot, carried by the rhythm of the whirling potion. Opening the door, she was greeted by two pegasus ponies.
"Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy too! What can Zecora do for you?"
Dash looked at Fluttershy, an embarrassed blush on her face. "You sure you don't mind?"
Fluttershy giggled. "Well, just this once. You told me you swore you would do this."
Dash wondered why she ever shared that thought with Fluttershy. Perhaps she was too trusting of the sweet pony. Or perhaps she didn't think the pegasus would lead her all the way through the Everfree Forest to uphold a joked promise. "All right, then."
"Zecora," Dash began, sitting back on the doorstep before the zebra, "I used one of your herbal oils a while back on my wing after an accident. I'm here to tell you it works amazingly! And, since I was flying again by the day of the Wonderbolt audition, I'm afraid I have to do this."
With that, Dash grabbed the sides of the zebra's face, pressing Zecora's lips to her own. The zebra's eyes widened in a sudden shock.
Dash backed away from their quick kiss, leaving the stunned zebra staring forward quizzically. Fluttershy continued to giggle softly at the sight.
"It's nothing personal, Z," Dash added as she and Fluttershy flew into the air. "Just a promise I had to keep. Besides, I got my own mare." The pair disappeared above the thick canopy.
"That blue pony is a strange one," Zecora remarked, returning to her mixture. "But, she sure knows how to have fun!"