A Dash of Shyness
By Sam Ford
"Okay, Rainbow Dash. Here we go."
She entered the arena with thunderous cheers; the voices of a thousand Pegasi cascading over her. Chin up, head held high, long hair blowing in the wind, the blue-coated Pegasus trotted into the coliseum. Overhead the Wonderbolts roared past, thunder rumbling in their wake. Smiling, she sopped, striking a pose for her adoring fans, bringing them to a higher fervor. Standing on her hind legs, the young filly thrust her feet into the air. A flood of snapshots went off, promising the cover of magazine covers for the next year. The spectators, now on their feet and clopping with joy, began chanting her name.
"Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash! Rai-"
"Rainbow Dash, what in Equestria are you doing?"
Dash stood on her bed, chanting out her own name. The hand-me-down twenty year old dolls lay scattered before her, seated in a make shift stadium of clouds. Rainbow Dash blinked, wondering where her moment of glory had gone. Just a minute ago she'd been the greatest athlete in all of Equestria. Now she was once more just a common filly in a common home. Apparently it had all been in her head. Climbing down in embarrassment, Dash decided to forego her theme song as her mother stood in the doorway smiling.
"Aww, mom. You spoiled it." Rainbow kicked the bleachers with her hoof, sending the whispy clouds back into the floor.
"Let me guess." Firefly nuzzled her daughter, ruffling her long hair. "You were having your triumphal entry into Cloudsdale Stadium, where every Pegasus in Equestria was cheering you name, right?"
"Is there any other dream?" Dash smiled, tilting her head up, embracing the moment with her beautiful mother of the pink coat and blazing blue mane.
"Yes. I dreamed that one day I would have you." Firefly smiled "Just be careful what you wish for. You're just a little filly."
"I'm not little." Dash pouted.
Firefly sighed. "So much to learn. Are you hungry?"
"No." Dash trotted over to her window, looking out as the sky grass blowing on the front lawn.
"Well you should eat something." Firefly reprimanded her daughter gently. Dash would forget to eat for hours on end, foregoing the necessity of all Pegasi.
"Moooom!" Dash whined, turning her head back.
"You're that eager to begin your new life and leave you poor old mother behind?"
"Yes!" Dash stamped her feet. She wasn't falling for a guilt trip. Not today, on her special day.
"Oh well, it was worth a shot. Are you ready?"
"I've been packed for a week. Let's go!"
Sliding her saddlebags over her blank flank, Rainbow Dash started her engine purring. She'd been able to fly almost before she could walk. Firefly even said she flew around in her mommy's belly. Now all that pure determination was paying off; she was going to attend Cloudsdale Flight Academy! At last, after eight and a half years, she was going to be accepted as the youngest pony ever to enter the hallowed halls.
Firefly followed her buzzing daughter down the hallway, lined with pictures, memories so dear to her. Her precious Dashie as a new born foal, her first day of school, mane all done up in pink pig tails, Dash with her father, Skystriker. There were earlier photos too; Firefly and Skystriker in the moonlight, Firefly's high school graduation, her teeth still in gawky braces. Skystriker with his Royal Guard unit. And there were friends too, so many lost friends, now gone.
With a melancholic sigh Firefly joined her little bundle of energy out in the yard. It was a marvelous Equestrian day, without even the thought of rain. All ponies went about their day, thanking Princess Celestia for her gift of the sun. High in the sky weather Pegasi kept alert for any dark cloud on the loose.
The neighborhood of Frederiksborg was a quiet little suburb just a short flight from the busy Cloudsdale. Close enough for the grown pegasus to commute, but far enough away from the noise and congestion of the weather factory. Rainbow Dash anxiously waited to leave, pacing in their front yard, smoothing out the nimbus whisps. Firefly stood calmly by, watching the lazy activity of their subdivision. She and her mate had chosen this location very carefully, escaping the past as much as planning for the future.
"What are we waiting on?" Dash whined.
"A shift in the winds. Right now they're coming from Cloudsdale. They'll change soon enough." Firefly said after a pause, testing the breeze with a taught wing feather. "So are you going to miss all your friends at school?"
"Heck no." Dash grinned. "I get to go to Cloudsdale Flight Academy!"
"Don't get your expectations set too high, My Little Pegasus. It just means you have further to fall." Firefly warned.
"I can't fall. You never fall when you can fly!" Dash did a little back flip.
Firefly smiled knowingly. Had she ever been that young? Once, maybe. Now she just felt tired a lot. Coming down the causeway flew Doreen, a mare with silver pelt and golden hair. She and Firefly were neighbors, with a daughter just a few years older than Dash.
"Hello Firefly! Rainbow Dash. My, don't you look beautiful this morning."
"My mommy made me comb my mane." Dash responded shyly, hiding behind Firefly's leg.
"I see that. And what long, beautiful hair it is." Doreen smiled.
"How's Ditzy Doo?" Firefly referred to Doreen's teenage daughter who occasionally filly-sat Rainbow Dash.
"Oh, she's just fine. She's quite taken with a young Unicorn colt down in some little hamlet called Ponyville. We hardly see her these days." Doreen sighed.
"And you're okay with that?" Firefly knew Pegasi were not the most open minded of creatures in Equestria. Unicorns weren't out to win any popularity contests themselves, usually being stuck up and at times becoming downright racist.
"We have to be. She'll be on her own soon. Wild dreams about finishing school and becoming Doctor Ditzy Doo and the Blue Box. But she has made it very clear that her life and relationships are her own affair. You know how teenagers are."
"I know. Some are wilder than others. This one takes after her mother." Firefly smiled. "She'll be the death of me yet. Oh hey, wind change! We'll see you around, Doreen!"
Firefly hovered into the air, letting the wind do most of the work. Dash held onto her rear leg for a bit until she realized she was airborne, then she gladly leapt away and began showing off, darting in and out of the wind lanes. Firefly hefted her own saddlebags, carrying most of Rainbow's 'been packed for a week' possessions. The filly hadn't taken anything but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a hastily drawn map and her hairbrush.
"Rainbow Dash! What have I told you about playing in traffic?" Firefly scolded.
"Now come fly right beside me."
"Aww, mom. Someone might see us!"
"I don't care." Firefly hovered. "We're not going anywhere until you're right beside me."
"Fine!" Dash huffed, fluttering up next to her mother.
"Good. Now let's go." Firefly stepped into traffic.
As they lazily drifted through town, Dash obeyed her mother, for the most part. It was perfect flying weather, with winds out of the south east, and visibility clear for miles. There was just a touch of chill at the higher altitudes, but there was nothing more anyone else could ask for. Dash passed the familiar sights and smells. The bakery was giving out free samples as usual, attracting hungry pegasi. Dash's stomach growled. The sandwich in her pack didn't even make it to the edge of town.
Flying along, Rainbow Dash felt something come over her, a feeling she was not familiar with. Here, among her friends and neighbors, she was Rainbow Dash, the fast filly with dreams. And her dream, more than anything, was to go out there and let the whole world know her name. But out there, it was a great big world for one little filly. Was this feeling... fear?
At the outskirts, away from the busy traffic, Firefly shifted into the fast lane, picking up speed. Dash struggled to keep up.
"Come on, kiddo. Up on my back." Firefly glanced behind her, slowing it down a notch.
"I can… do it…"
"Not this you can't." Firefly smiled.
"You mean? Oh wow!" Dash cheered, leaping on. Firefly 'woofed' at the additional weight. "What are we going to do today?"
"I don't know, what do you want to see? I can do my Super Speed Strut? Or maybe the Fantastic Filly Flash?"
"Nah, I've seen those." Dash made a face. Flying with her dad was great, but her mom was the best, always taking it to the limit.
"Oh really? Okay, miss smarty pants. I'm going to teach you something I promised your father I wouldn't. My signature move." grinned Firefly, a mischievous glint in her eye. "The Buccaneer Blaze."
"Oh wow! I've only ever heard about that!"
"Well hang on tight because you're about to see it first hand!"
Firefly took a hard nosedive, aiming in a steep arc for the ground. As she picked up speed she streamlined herself as much as possible, which wasn't easy with the extra weight of a pair of saddle bags and a rambunctious cling-on. Dark thunderclouds began forming in the concave of her hooves, rumbling as sparks began popping from their tips.
Suddenly Firefly remembered why she had promised Skystriker she would not attempt the maneuver again. It had been many years since Firefly had last preformed the Buccaneer Blaze in service for Princess Celestia. Many of her friends on that adventure had moved on with families of their own by now. Some had not been so lucky, and were still gravely missed. Regardless, Firefly was not a young pony any more, and her body let her know it. As her wings strained to keep up, she could feel her tendons stretching. Her left hind leg spasmed in reflex, old injuries from a tangle with a wyvern.
As the dive deepened, Firefly gathered as much speed as she could, scooping thunderclouds along the way. Dash was cheering, bouncing around with excitement. Firefly had neither the energy nor the concentration to still her daughter.
With a start the once-daredevil pony realized her mistake. She'd overshot her turn radius thanks to the additional weight on her back. Now the ground was fast approaching, and she doubted she'd be able to pull up in time. She and her daughter were about to become manure and Rainbow Dash, oblivious to any danger, cheered loudly in her mother's ear.
Clenching her teeth, Firefly pulled for everything she was worth, struggling to level out. The lightning now danced freely across her front legs, adding to the distractions. Managing a slight lift, Firefly dodged trees before she could pull up.
Doing so released the storm clouds, shooting off in a parallel trajectory, exploding into balls of thunder and lightning. The stunt, intended for use at higher altitudes, set the grass and trees ablaze, sparking a small forest fire. A very little one. Surely nothing that the authorities couldn't handle.
Dash went nuts, cheering and jumping up and down. Firefly breathed a sigh of relief, settling in for a, hopefully, easy glide to Cloudsdale.
"Let's not do that again."
"And this will be your room."
Dash, hiding behind her long hair, peered out into a dormitory of at least twenty beds. They were all empty now, their occupants at lunch. But that only meant there would be more ponies sleeping in her bedroom than had been in her entire class back home. The thought made her want to cower behind her mother's leg again.
"Head Mare, we are not paying your outrageous tuition prices so my daughter can sleep in a room full of hoodlums." Firefly put her chin up and best hoof forward. She was tired and sore, but she didn't let it show behind her faux posh accent.
"Why, I would hardly call my students 'hoodlums', Ms. Firefly. I am sorry, but your daughter's application came far too late in the semester for a private room. Those are two per room, and usually reserved when out students are just foals. Why, some parents even apply before their foals are even born. There is little I can do to accommodate such a... colorful freshmare." The brown Pegasus replied, not willing to back down. "At this point in time we are simply all filled up."
"Well this is unacceptable." Firefly was unphased.
"Um, mommy? It's okay. I don't mind…" Rainbow Dash squeaked.
"No, I refuse." Firefly began walking for the exit. Dash didn't want to leave, but she didn't want to be abandoned by the safety of her mother either. The Head Mare, taken completely aback, followed as well.
"Ms. Firefly, I'm sure we can come to some kind of arrangement…"
"A private room for my daughter, or we're leaving." Firefly dropped the accent, and threw everything into her voice that lent to her name. These ponies would relent, or she'd be back with Skystriker. And maybe a few of his ex-Royal Guard buddies to hoof.
"That's just not possible-"
"What about that one?"
Dash was looking into a smaller dorm while the two adults had left her behind. Only half of it appeared to be taken, decorated with posters of birds and warm pastels. A gangly yellow filly sat on the bed with her back to the wall. Her long pink hair covered her face. She wasn't reading, as far as Dash could tell. She was just… sitting.
"'Two per room,' eh? 'All filled up,' huh?" Firefly jeered. "How do you explain this one?"
"Oh." The Head Mare seemed at a loss for words, as if she had forgotten about it. "That's Klutzersh- I mean, Fluttershy. But I'm sure your daughter-"
"We'll take it." Firefly declared flatly.
Stepping in, she threw Dash's bags onto the empty bed. Fluttershy's ear twitched in surprise, but other than that, she didn't move. Dash stepped closer, sniffing to see if the strange filly was safe. Her mother was arguing again.
"Ms. Firefly, this is just simply not done!" The brown teacher declared.
"Head Mare." Firefly forced her back into the hallway. Squinting, she read the pony's nametag. "Wanda." she declared flatly. "My daughter has the potential to be the best flyer that, not just Cloudsdale, but all of Equestria has ever seen. Let alone this tiny school. I know, because I am the best flyer Equestria has ever seen. My husband and I scraped together every red bit we own so that our daughter can attend your pathetic excuse for an institution; she will graduate with top honors, and she will have this room. If you do not do this, I will personally rain down hurt upon you unlike anything you have ever seen, and then you will hear from my friends. And trust me when I say that I have some very, very powerful friends. Do you understand?"
Wanda, left completely speechless, could only nod. When Firefly cocked her head, the only thing she could say was "Supper is at six in the dining hall." Firefly reentered the room, turning her attention to her daughter.
"I don't think she's okay, mom." Dash was sitting with a peculiar expression on her face, watching her new roommate.
Firefly turned to the filly for the first time. She was old, far too old to still be in basic flight training. The knobby knees and large ears indicated pre-pubescence that, when finished, would leave this gangly little pony an angelic beauty to behold.
Her mannerisms were strange, however. She hadn't moved since the commotion began, let alone said anything. An observant eye could notice the subtle shake of her whole body, as if she constantly trembled. Her flank was just visible from where she sat; still bare as the day she was born.
This couldn't be who she thought it was, could it? The resemblance was uncanny though. Stepping closer, Firefly brushed the mane from her face and almost gasped. She knew exactly who this was and what had sent her into a catatonic state. The filly's face was puffy from crying, her beautiful teal eyes slick with tears, unfocused on the world. Firefly swallowed, trying to find her voice. The years flew back, and Firefly felt Rainbow Dash's age, looking into those eyes for the first time.
"Hello, Fluttershy." Aside from the slight widening of her eyes, Fluttershy remained unresponsive. "Say hello to Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash."
"'Lo." Dash hid behind her own long mane.
Fluttershy still didn't say anything. Firefly put her leg around the young filly, hugging her tight. "It'll be okay, dear. It's okay." Fluttershy didn't move. If anything, the rate of tears increased slightly. Firefly pulled away, clearing her throat. "Alright, Dash. Let's get your room set up.
The pair spent the next hour in quiet banter, setting up Dash's side of the room just the way she wanted it. There were Wonderbolt posters everywhere, dreams of a brighter future. She hung her goggles from the bedside lantern. Her special Megan doll was politely hidden under her pillow, just in case Fluttershy decided to tease her. Soon there was nothing left to do, and the mother-daughter duo sat on the bed, just snuggling together as they talked.
"You'll remember to brush your hair, right?"
"And study hard."
"Of course!" Dash chirped.
"And watch out for those who need watching out for. Don't abandon your friends." Firefly prodded Dash with her wing.
"What friends? They're all back home." Dash hung her head.
"Be true to yourself and they'll come. They may not be who you want, but they will be who you need." She nuzzled her daughter. "This is your one chance, Dashie. Don't let me down."
"I'm scared mom."
"I know. You'd be foolish if you weren't."
"I don't want to go."
"Yes you do. Just know that your father and I are right here with you every step of the way, even if you can't see us."
"I love you, Mommy." Dash nuzzled her mother, trying to be brave and not cry.
"I love you too, Dashie. Come on, let's go get some supper."
As they stood, Dash stopped, remembering her mother's words. "Want to come with us, Fluttershy?" It both broke Firefly's heart and made her proud all at once. When there was no response, Dash simply shrugged and trotted out the door. "Suit yourself."
In the room, still sitting on the bed, Fluttershy continued to cry. But this time, she smiled. She wasn't alone any more.