Sore

Summary: Rainbow Dash has awakened to bizarre pains for the past few days, but everything seems fine…although she believes the aching may be because of the new grave dug in Ponyville.

English Angst/Friendship Rated: T Chapters:1 Words: Rainbow Dash & Rarity

The cyan pegasus exhaled, flexing her forelegs, than her rear appendages, feigning ignorance to the tremendous pain in her joints and clenched her jaw against the vigorous gales. Rainbow Dash sank low against the cloud, flaring her impressive wings so that they seized the breeze, multihued mane whipped away from her face. She could sense the anticipation in her chest, grasping her lungs until she no longer breathed: just lived.

Three…

Two…

One…

Rainbow Dash leapt into the air, jerking her front hooves downwards so that it appeared she would plummet to Ponyville if not for the outspread of wings at the final second. She soared far beyond Cloudsdale, past the plush pinnacles of towering structures, where the oxygen thinned and provided a sense of exhilaration. Rainbow Dash circled and hovered and at once point, managed to complete a graceful figure-eight that left streaks of rainbow in the heavens. This was what she lived for. The freedom of flying.

"AAH!"

The mare was astonished she could elicit such a sound, a rasping shriek of agony reverberating somewhere deep within her. Her right knee grew taut, magenta eyes enlarged as indescribable needles pierced her veins and muscles, jarring Rainbow Dash right out of her reverie. Her body was on lockdown. Plunging through the cerulean stratosphere, Rainbow Dash frenetically fluttered her wings, but to no avail: she was paralyzed by excruciation.

Rainbow Dash glanced down at the city below her, peering through the scarlet mist over her mind. If she could not ascend the sky in time, Rainbow Dash would land in the very center of the town, possibly atop another pegasus. Her other knees sang tenderly at the mere thought. "GAH!"

Cloud Kicker happened to tilt her gaze upwards, gasping once she perceived Rainbow Dash's form: her fellow Weather Patrol member was in danger. The lilac pegasus rose, catching Rainbow Dash successfully, but her triumph was massacred once she comprehended they were about to fall through the cloud highways. "Rainbow Dash!" Cloud Kicker screamed, struggling to flap her feathers, unable to support the excess weight.

"Hang on!" Rainbow Dash replied, endeavoring against the lockdown and her wings burst outwards, saving them both from striking the earth. She swallowed, navigating her way back to Cloudsdale and gingerly setting Cloud Kicker on her point of origin. "Sorry 'bout that, I kind of got a…leg cramp."

"Well, if it was that bad, I don't know if you should help clear the skies today," Cloud Kicker commented with genuine concern, scrutinizing Rainbow Dash's limbs. "I think you may have pulled a muscle or even torn a ligament. Do you want Derpy to substitute?"

Rainbow Dash furrowed her brow; sometimes Cloud Kicker fretted over the most trivial things. "I'm fine. It was just a little cramp. I get them when I practice. Just give me a few minutes, I'll cover the west side of Ponyville." Without another comment, Rainbow Dash glided towards her home, gritting her teeth when she attempted to move the aching bough, coerced to keep her motions slow and lucid. "This is not awesome…"

There had to be a reason behind it. Rainbow Dash never suffered a bout of pain that intense, not even when she prepared diligently for a contest or audition. It had been surfacing for the past few days, an impending threat she passed on as a misstep, a stressed muscle. That was all. But when she awoke, there it was, along with the fading remnants of a nightmare against her eyelids.

There had been…soil on her hooves.

"Hey, Rainbow!" Firefly gestured wildly from a patch of clouds, jostling Drizzle and Cool Star in the process. "Come on, we're about to get started!"

Rainbow Dash conjured a feeble grin, approaching her acquaintances with the pain diminishing and her thoughts resuming their original process. She was a happy pegasus. It was another typical day in Ponyville. Normal Ponyville.

:::::

Somewhere within Ponyville, two foals watched helplessly as their closest friend was laid to rest with her sister.

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At around noon, Rainbow Dash took a brief break from her weather duties and practices, deciding to just make it another sunny day. She flew into Ponyville, voracious for one of Pinkie Pie's famed cupcakes: for some odd reason, she failed to recall when her last meal had partook. Sugar Cube Corner appeared to be inoperative, but Rainbow Dash was aware Pinkie Pie would allow her access.

"Hey, Pinkie!" The pegasus trotted into the core bakery, gazing around the vivid scope; she was surprised to find the atmosphere not permeated with the aroma of baked goods. Rainbow Dash cocked her head, looking around for the roseate party pony, praying to Celestia she wasn't crouched in a silhouette-shrouded corner, ready to prank her. "Pinkie, no surprises, all right? I'm not in my best shape."

Silence reigned. Perhaps Pinkie Pie was sick, or cantering around town with an inane festivity planned and she had to invite all her friends. Rainbow Dash clambered up the stairwell, still verbally beckoning her, peering into Pinkie Pie's bedroom. The taffeta blankets were tossed in a heap, her various possessions and balloons scattered about as if she had been here before, rummaging for something important.

Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes at the scene: something was not right. She intruded, glancing around until she discerned an invitation tucked into the cerise frame around her mirror. "Funeral at eleven-thirty, on the thirteenth of May. Attire is optional, formal is suggested." Funeral? Had somepony passed on? Rainbow Dash had the feeling she understood who was dead, yet no matter how she strived to remember, a haze crept over her mind.

She went back into the bakery and found a chocolate-frosted cupcake. It was stale, but she consumed it anyway.

:::::

Somewhere within Ponyville, a young dragon stirred in his uneasy sleep, his claw brushing the tombstone he was curled against and tears sliding down his cheeks.

:::::

Rainbow Dash engaged in flight once more, this time over Sweet Apple Acres, where the delicate blossoms bloomed over the orchard, springtime's gift to the earth. But she knew Applejack had no patience for the fragile buds and anticipated the autumn day when they would metamorphosis into hardy fruits. Maybe Applejack would join her in a friendly competition of horseshoes…

The cyan mare touched ground right outside of the barn, wincing when she remarked agony in her knee, yet not so that she went into lockdown. "AJ! You here?" Rainbow Dash heard voices conversing from within the house nearby, and entered, yearning for somepony to inform her about today. It just felt so…off. "AJ!"

In the living room of the Apple Family's dilapidated abode, the four members of aforementioned family were gathered, all somber and attired in black. Applejack had removed her straw hat, her blonde mane out of its scarlet hair bands, tangles combed out, clad in an ebony dress that seemed so out of place on the cowpony. "Rainbow?" Her tone was strained and scarcely audible, appearing as haggard as Granny Smith, who was soon asleep in her rocking chair.

"Hey AJ…what's going on?" Rainbow Dash fixated her gaze on Applejack, raising an eyebrow when the amber mare sputtered for a fib, defying her signature honesty. Out of the corner of her eye, she observed Apple Bloom sobbing into Big McIntosh's scarlet chest, her petite form quivering with anguish. She knew what happened, she knew…but it was slipping away, a black hole consuming all of her thoughts.

"Why, we were just uh…y'all still can't remember, right?" Applejack retreated slightly, gnawing on her lower lip in a transparent act of anxiety. Rainbow Dash was growing frustrated, stomping her hoof so lividly that it aroused Granny Smith and ceased Apple Bloom's cries for a brief moment. First Pinkie Pie was missing, this funeral business, Applejack was trying to lie…

"I can't right now, but I want to know what's going on!" Rainbow Dash yelled, stepping forward until her snout was pressed against Applejack's, respirations rapid. Wait a minute…was Applejack crying? Tears trekked down the mare's cheeks, congregating with the dried globules trapped in her coat. "AJ?"

"Ah can't talk about it…Celestia told us not to bring it up, so Ah ain't. But if yer really curious, ya might wanna visit Twilight. She'll know if it's time." Applejack did not look away once she was done, so Rainbow Dash was positive she was telling the entire truth, although her curiosity was not sated. "Ah love ya RD, if Ah could tell ya, Ah would. Just please…ya need to know that Ah think yer the bravest pony in Equestria."

And with that, Rainbow Dash received the warmth of an affectionate embrace from Applejack.

:::::

Rainbow Dash strayed from the path that would lead her to Twilight Sparkle's vegetal library, partially because the pain in her knee had returned. It seemed whenever her curiosity of the situation was piqued, the cramps returned, and now, with a vengeance. Basking in the chill beneath an oak tree, the pegasus extended her aching limb, dedicating her time to massaging the swollen joint. Now that her attention was captured…were these bruises on her hooves? Was it from weather duties? Practicing?

Seriously, what the hay is going on? I must be losing my mind, Rainbow Dash thought, testing her knee. Doting on it had done her some good, but still it stung like a blistering blade cutting against her bones and snapping her tendons. She limped forward, catching sight of Lyra and Bon Bon chatting over their afternoon apple pie slices, except there was no laughter exchanged. "Hey, Lyra, Bon Bon!"

The two mares silenced as if they were in the presence of royalty or a monster, eyes enlarged in shock and…some unreadable emotion. Lyra, as per usual, was first to speak, one hoof poised protectively over her precious lyre, concealed within her discarded saddle bags. "Uh, hi Rainbow. It's good to see you. Glad for the sunshine, it's such a nice day."

"Yes!" Bon Bon piped up, the syllable a trill akin to a bird chirping in fear, scooting over closer to Lyra. "The sun is always so pretty. It must be nice to be able to choose what you want the weather to be like." She cleared her throat, pawing nervously at her fork until she was able to gather enough composure to speak. "Say Rainbow, are you heading over to Twilight's today?"

"Yeah?"

"Tell her to stop by tomorrow and pick up the bits we never paid back for our own gala dresses."

:::::

Somewhere within Ponyville, a butter-yellow pegasus settled in the sauna and watched as Lotus cried behind the steam.

:::::

Rainbow Dash flew over the town, practically tearing her tresses out of their roots in her rage. This was wrong. Her friends never acted like this and what was up with…everything? So wrong. So wrong. Ponyville was in distress, her companions were mourning over somepony. Funeral at eleven-thirty, funeral at eleven-thirty, funeral at eleven-thirty. Her hooves were on fire, smoke choked her lungs…oh Celestia, what was happening?

A breeze cooled Rainbow Dash, and she inhaled deeply, collecting herself just in time to soar downwards towards Twilight Sparkle's tree library. This would all be over soon. If anypony knew what to do, it was Twilight. Good ol' Twilight.

The library was dim, but Rainbow Dash noticed a mauve luminescence from one of the further regions of the core structure, the glow exuded from Twilight Sparkle's horn. "Twilight! Twilight, why are the lights off?" Rainbow Dash followed the light, reaching out to brush the lavender unicorn's shoulder, responded by a swift blow to her chest. "AAH! The h-!"

"Oh Celestia, I'm sorry for that Rainbow." Twilight Sparkle halted in her spell, cantering over to the switch and lighting up the library. Rainbow Dash squinted and gazed around the area, finding it in utter disarray, which was quite odd for such an organized pony. Tomes were scattered around, quills littered on the floor like the aftermath of a cock fight, ink accumulating in puddles around Twilight Sparkle's podium. Twilight Sparkle herself was an identical image of her workplace: her mane was disheveled, eyes cracked and her hooves smeared in ink.

"Twilight, are you…all right?" The unicorn giggled shrilly, placing her spell book on a bare shelf with the utmost care, oblivious to the others at her feet. Twilight Sparkle had not been in this state since she was terrified she would be punished for missing a friendship report to the princess. And Rainbow Dash had scoffed at her fright.

"Oh Rainbow, I'm perfectly fine. I'm just a little behind in my studies, with the accident and all." For a moment, Twilight Sparkle appeared to be despondent, her lower lip trembling as if she were about to cry. "I'm sure you came here, wondering about…everything. That pain in your knee hasn't quite healed yet, so why don't you sit down?"

Rainbow Dash hesitantly settled on her haunches, cringing when the agony struck the joint for the umpteenth time that day. Twilight Sparkle shoveled a heap of parchment aside, watching mournfully as they unrolled away from her. "Twilight, I'm really confused. This whole day has been weird."

"Yes, I can see that. We've all been trying to keep what happened away from you, but it's not working anymore. You deserve to know." Twilight Sparkle elicited a shuddering sigh, shivering despite the springtime heat streaming through the windows. "Three nights ago, there was a fire at Carousel Boutique. Faulty wiring combined with all of the fabric and thread in her studio helped it burn easily. Rarity was trying to get Sweetie Belle out, but it was spreading. You were just above the boutique, trying to clear up the aftermath of a storm."

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and was engulfed in a flood of images, gasping as they washed over her mind. She could sense the temperature of the flames against her face, while her hooves were still plunged into frigid sunset clouds. Oh no, oh no, it was making sense now…she wanted to be ignorant for a moment longer.

"You dove right in to save her, and you actually managed to drag Sweetie Belle out. But she died a few hours later at Ponyville Urgent Care: too many burns. She kept asking for you, all through the night, she cried for you. While you were trying to find Rarity, you fell through the floor and sprained your knee. You also hit your head hard enough to knock you unconscious, but you kept going. Even after the fire ponies arrived, you wouldn't stop looking for Rarity."

Twin rivulets flowed from Rainbow Dash's eyes, and she did not even attempt to conceal their existence. She recalled that white form in the grass, her diminutive body charred like a marshmallow over a campfire. Rainbow Dash could only envision Sweetie Belle on a cot, weeping for her: not Rarity, not Scootaloo, her.

"Oh Celestia, it was so terrible. By the time the fire ponies arrived, the rest of us had saw the fire, and we were so terrified. Our two best friends were in there. They found you, finally passed out from all the smoke, just a few feet from Rarity. Nurse Redheart could not believe how lucky you were, only bruises, a concussion, and a sprained knee. But Rarity…she was gone. All night, in your sleep, you kept screaming. I think you were having a nightmare about Rarity falling during the Best Young Flier Competition."

Rainbow Dash had made a pact with herself seven years ago to never cry in the presence of one of her friends. Today a contract was shattered as the pegasus bowed her head and sobbed, body quaking from the hideous recollection of it. All she could think of were the mannequins lapped up by the fire, the models Rarity bestowed countless hours to creating gowns for them. Oh Celestia, she never paid for her own gala dress…"I-I don't know how I could forget something like that. Oh-oh, it's so awful."

"Your head injury kept you in bed for the first two days, and we're pretty sure you had some sort of amnesia." Twilight Sparkle, who had been speaking without falter, began to stammer, wrapped her forelegs around her torso, turning her head away. "Rainbow, I can't even tell you how hard its been for us. None of us would have ever thought losing Rarity would just tear us apart. Pinkie Pie is so on edge, Applejack can hardly lift a hoof, and Fluttershy…she hasn't left her home and I don't even know if she's still in Ponyville."

"Why couldn't I save her, Twilight?" Rainbow Dash glared at the bulky book that held the six Elements of Harmony, wondering if they would ever function again without Rarity. "If I could go back, I would…I want her back Twilight. I don't care if she was a priss, or cared too much about her hair. She was our friend. She gave me so much more than a dress or a day with the Wonderbolts. She gave me love."

"I miss her too. If I had been there first, I would have gone in there too. Any of us would. But you were there first, which I guess is why they call you a hero." A blunt edge of sarcasm wedged itself into Twilight Sparkle's voice, and she was faced by an enraged Rainbow Dash, rose corneas sparking.

"I'm not a hero! Sometimes I'm around when accidents happen, sometimes I'm not. I was there. If I were a hero, I would have saved her! No matter what I say I am or try to be, I am not that strong. I act like I'm this brave pegasus, and then I come in here and cry. I can't always be a hero!" Rainbow Dash hit the wall, drained of energy both physically and mentally, and could only lean there, wailing as the flames climbed over her…

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Somewhere in Ponyville, a unicorn rode her hot air balloon to return an unconscious pegasus to her cloud home and retrieve the costume left behind at the stadium.

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Rainbow Dash stirred in bed, fluttering her wings and yawning to clear her throat of dried saliva. She blew her vivid coifs from her face, struggling to remember what occurred the previous day. Nothing. Eh, it'd come back to her. The cyan mare stretched her limbs, yelping when an electric pain shot from her knee to her hoof. Ow…

…she was a little sore today.