"You STUPID, LITTLE, FILLY!," exclaimed Pinkie Pie loudly, stamping one of her hooves on the ground as her legs shook from weakness and exhaustion. Her ears were folded down, her mane was straight and flat, sticking to the side of her head, and the sound of her voice betrayed an intense sadness that Dash could easily pick up on. "What did you THINK would happen bringing them here?! Now you've gone and ruined EVERYTHING!" Dash cautiously approached Pinkie Pie from behind, keeping her head low as she stepped closer and closer to her enraged friend. "STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!" Pinkie screamed her self-hatred into the heavens and began sobbing.
"P-Pinkie Pie, hey, it's me," said Dash, softly as she could to not startle her.
Pinkie's ears shot back up, her sobbing immediately ceasing as she looked behind her with rage- and tear-filled eyes. "What do YOU want?!," she asked in a rueful, snappy tone.
"I-I-I'm just coming to see how you are. Applejack said you seemed pretty sad, a-and I was... really worried about you," replied Dash, still slowly walking towards her.
"Why are you worried about me, huh?! I'm always happy, aren't I?! Happy, happy, happy!," retorted Pinkie as she turned around, bitter sarcasm falling from her tongue.
"No, you're not always happy. Nopony is ever happy one-hundred percent of the time, not even me!"
"But I am! That's what I do! That's what everypony expects of me. I don't want them to think I'm even CAPABLE of being sad or I'll just be USELESS to them."
"Useless?," retorted Rainbow Dash, feeling a slight flash of anger at seeing her friend tear herself down so harshly. "What do you mean 'useless'? You're not useless! Who's been filling your head with that trash?! Do I need to tell somepony off?!"
Pinkie Pie looked away. "Go back and enjoy the party with everypony else!," said Pinkie in a sarcastic voice, rolling her eyes. "Just leave me alone!"
"Yes! Leave, me, alone! Go away!"
"I can't do that, Pinkie."
"Why not, hmm? Worried about me? Don't be," Pinkie retorted angrily. "I'm a big filly, I can take care of myself!"
"Not like this you can't!"
"YES I CAN!"
"NO YOU CANT!"
"YES. I. CAN!"
"FOR CELESTIA'S SAKE, PINKAMINA PIE, STOP PUSHING ME AWAY!"
Pinkie Pie immediately gasped and sat down, a shocked expression creeping into her face slowly. Pinkie's full name had struck a chord within her. She brought a hoof up to her own hair, and felt it softly, as if she was trying to confirm something for herself. After a few moments, she lowered her hoof back to the ground and looked away in shame.
"Listen, I'm the Element of Loyalty, aren't I?! Loyalty means a lot of things, but it especially means not leaving a friend in the ditch when they're having a bad day. You look like you're having a bad day - or night, whatever - so I'm going to help you!," continued Rainbow Dash, trying in vain to lower her voice.
"Why? So I can be the happy, bouncy-wouncy Pinkie Pie that everypony wants again?"
"No, so you can tell somepony what the hay is eating at you. I care about YOU, Pinkie. Forget what everypony else wants, including me, alright?," replied Dash, trying to keep her aggressiveness in check.
"Fine," said Pinkie, standing up and facing Dash, with a look of pure anger in her eyes. She took a step towards Dash and yelled out, "Tell me this isn't the best party ever! I dare you!"
"You know it is. Admit it! Everypony keeps telling me so, and I couldn't walk four steps in there without seeing it with my own eyes!," she continued, the bitterness in her voice starting to rise again. "It really is the best, party, ever!"
"Well--," began Dash, unable to get anything out.
"Just be honest with me, Rainbow Dash! Stop trying to spare my feelings! There is NO WAY I can EVER compete with this!," she continued, waving a hoof towards the tent which was a couple of feet away. "Who is ever going to want to come to one of my boring old parties after coming to this?! Who is ever going to say my parties are awesome or cool after being at a party like this?! What's the point of even holding parties anymore?! Everypony can just come here!"
"You're our friend, Pinkie! Twilight, Rarity, Applejack all of them! They're still your friends!"
"If I can't throw good parties, they wont be my friends anymore!"
"You mean more to us than that, you know!"
"NO I DON'T!," screamed Pinkie. "It's the ONLY thing that makes me special, the ONLY thing I'm actually good at! I may as well just go back to that STUPID rock farm!"
"Listen!," exclaimed Dash, trying as hard as she could to not outright yell at her friend. "I don't think this is the best party ever, okay?"
"I'm not lying, Pinkie! I couldn't stand it in there. I... I don't know why, I just didn't like it at all," replied Dash, looking towards the tent. Pinkie continued to have a confused, hurt look on her face. "It's just... it seemed like everypony I knew was just throwing away everything that made them unique and special. I couldn't take it - I mean, who does that?! Who just throws themselves away over a party?! And I had this mare coming onto me and stroking my mane, and then Fluttershy was tackling anypony and everypony she could, including me, and--" Dash caught herself in a rant, and decided to stop herself before she completely took over the conversation. "... sorry."
"Sounds like everypony was having lots of awesome fun!" Pinkie folded her arms and looked away, her eyes puffy and red and her cheeks wet from crying. "Oh, and look, you're the popular one, again, as usual!"
"What do you mean by that?!," retorted Dash, her competitiveness beginning to flare up into full-fledged rage.
"Just that you're always the centre of attention without even trying, while I bust my flank as hard as I can just to keep the friends I have! You get to be the big-shot while the rest of us are stuck in your shadow!"
"Ugh, that's total crap and you know it!," yelled Dash back, anger now completely filling her heart. "Do you know WHY I came to Ponyville in the first place?! I could have easily just stayed in Cloudsdale and been the 'big shot,' but I didn't! Everypony around me either wanted to tear me down or tell me I was the best flier ever, just because I pulled off some silly little stunt! I was surrounded by bullies and groupies who never cared about me! I wanna be famous one day and be in the Wonderbolts, sure, but I had NO FRIENDS back then! Even Fluttershy was too scared of me! Nopony liked me for who... for who I was..." Rainbow Dash's thoughts stopped momentarily as the words exited her mouth, and the rage in her heart died down almost instantaneously. How had she forgotten about that, of all things? How had she forgotten about the complete lack of companionship she faced before coming to Ponyville?
"No friends, huh?," replied Pinkie, interjecting into Dash's thoughts. Pinkie's anger had subsided as well, if the change in the tone of her voice was any indication. "I know what that's like..."
"I didn't always used to throw parties. I didn't always used to have friends," continued Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash just nodded sympathetically. "And everything changed when you came to Ponyville, right?"
"Yeah. Other ponies actually talked to me like I was just... you know... somepony they could talk to, normally, as a friend. It was weird getting used to at first, but... I stayed, because I liked it," replied Dash.
"Me too." Pinkie Pie just grumbled and looked off to the side, a scowl still written in her expression.
"So I guess we understand each other, then?" Rainbow Dash smiled meekly, lowering her head, thankful that the heated argument had ended so easily.
Pinkie Pie just grumbled again. "... what's with you, Rainbow Dash?," said Pinkie, suddenly and forcefully. "You're always going on about how everypony should put their chins up and be strong. You NEVER ask how I'm doing. Why do you care so much now?"
Dash couldn't really think of anything rational to say to that. She really hadn't been acting like herself all night. "I guess I've been hanging around you too much, what with all that 'sharing and caring' stuff you talk about constantly," replied Dash with a nervous smile. Dash immediately felt awkward saying it, and Pinkie Pie just wrinkled her nose. "I'm here because you're my best friend, Pinkie. The last time you were like this, you went over the deep end completely. Remember 'Rocky' and 'Madam Le Fleur'?" Pinkie Pie just tried to hide her face in shame at the mention, as Rainbow Dash continued. "But I was still there for you even then, wasn't I? I never abandoned you because I knew you could get sad and maybe a little crazy sometimes. I never even told anypony what really happened that day, either!"
Pinkie Pie looked at the ground, the tense muscles in her back starting to soften and the fire in her eyes starting to dim a little. She looked back up at Dash as the crowd inside began to cheer again and another track came on. "You promise you never told anypony about that?"
Rainbow Dash sat down, closed her eyes and cleared her throat. She'd have to make this one count. "Cross my heart, hope to... uh, fly, stick a cupcake in my eye," she said finally, making all the appropriate hoof-motions and trying to remember the exact phrasing.
Pinkie's gaze lowered, as she attempted to hide her face again. "... y-you've never Pinkie-sweared before."
"W-whoa, I haven't?! Even in all the time we've hung out?"
"Nope," replied Pinkie, shaking her head slowly. "I always wanted to see you do it, but you always said it was too silly. Oh, and stupid."
Rainbow Dash was in shock from the complete change in tone. Did it actually mean that much to her? "Well... I-I'm sorry about that. I can be a pretty big jerk sometimes," said Dash, rubbing the back of her head with her hoof awkwardly.
"Yeah, 'sometimes.' Just... forget it. It's fine," replied Pinkie, deadpan and morose. She shifted a bit, now visibly uncomfortable, like she had just been cornered. Pinkie glanced up at Dash occasionally, before averting her gaze once more. She looked deep in thought, although Dash couldn't tell over what. Finally, Pinkie spoke. "... you could've ratted me out to everypony, telling them how crazy I was, but you didn't. Why not?"
"Be...cause I don't pull that kinda crap on my friends?"
"... why not?"
"Because I don't! Geez, do I need a reason to not be a bully? Why are you so convinced that everypony hates you?," replied Dash, becoming completely exasperated and worn out.
Rainbow Dash just sighed again. "It's alright."
"No... I mean, for the whole fight we just had. I don't like fighting. I really don't." Pinkie looked up at Dash, with misery filling her entire complexion. A long silence overtook the conversation, and the pair sat across from each other, neither of them able to think of what to say next. Dash just breathed slowly and deeply, trying to let the adrenaline pass through her. After a minute or two, Pinkie continued, finally. "... you know I grew up on a rock farm, right?"
Rainbow Dash simply nodded her head, a little confused at the change of topic.
"Rock farming is horrible. It's dirty and hard and nopony has any fun doing it. Ever since I was a little filly and able to push a small rock, my family had me working out in the fields. There was always too much work to do and not enough time to do it. Every day at school, I was too tired from pushing rocks at home to talk to any of the other fillies. I had no friends."
Rainbow Dash slowly walked over to the other mare, until she was so close that she was practically touching her. Pinkie Pie lowered her head and continued talking as softly as she could, as if she trusted nopony else with what she was about to say.
"Back then, I was a tired, grouchy filly. Everypony would try to talk to me, because the rest of my family was liked, but I'd just push them away. I felt useless to them. I mean, what was I going to talk about? Rock farming? Refining rocks? Rock mineral and gem prices? They'd just laugh at me, or feel sorry for me, and I didn't want that." Pinkie Pie raised her head, looking up at the starry sky. "Then one day, I was pushing rocks around the field as usual, and I saw your wonderful Sonic Rainboom. It filled the entire sky, and I couldn't help but feel my heart fill with joy. All I wanted to do was just share that new feeling in my heart with everypony, and ever since then, I threw parties, hoping to share a little piece of it every time. My parents wanted me to have better than just rock farming my whole life, so they let me move to Ponyville on my own. Then you and the girls became my friends, and I was so, so happy. It was beyond my wildest dreams to have such amazing friends, and the one thing I was good at brought everypony together. But now... no matter what I do, or how close you all are to me, or any of the things we go through together, or how many of my parties you all attend, I always feel like if I don't throw another good party... then what good am I? I'll just be that grouchy old Pinkamina again, with nothing to do, nothing to talk about, and nothing that makes me special. Nopony will want to be my friend again, and I'll be completely alone, just like back then."
"But, Pinkie, you..."
Pinkie stopped for a moment, to look into Dash's eyes, their gaze betraying her abject fear. "I don't want to be grouchy old Pinkamina anymore. I don't want to be THIS anymore. I want to be the Pinkie Pie everypony knows and loves. But how can I do that now? How can I do that if nopony likes me or my parties?"
Dash took a few moments to think over her words, before finally responding. "... everypony will still be your friend after tonight, you know. I know I will. And your parties don't suck, not by a long-shot."
Pinkie Pie just looked at the ground once again, sniffling. "... you really think so?"
"I guarantee it. You've got me right here, don't you? I'd never mess around with something like that. I'll always be your friend, Pinkie, and that's all there is to it."
"... you'll always be my friend?"
"... okay," replied Pinkie, softly. "I... I believe you. And I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry for doubting you, Dashie. I'm sorry for the fighting. I'm sorry for everything. Of course you like me for who I am. Of course you'd be my friend. Why am I being such a silly, silly filly?!" Pinkie just hugged Rainbow Dash tightly, burying her face in Dash's neck, instantly breaking out into a torrent of tears and sobs. Rainbow Dash said nothing, and leaned back against her, holding her friend closely as she cried. The loud beats continued to pound through the tent walls as Pinkie Pie's heart unleashed all the pain and fear it had been holding in for so long, as all of the tension held inside her finally released. After a little while, Pinkie eventually calmed down, her sobbing becoming quieter and quieter, and the flow of tears slowing to a drip.
'For who I am.' Those words rattled around in Rainbow Dash's brain, now that she finally, after all this time, had a real moment to think. She had wondered what 'being yourself' meant anymore in a place like this, especially after what Trixie had told her, but now a small part of her actually understood. Maybe everypony in the party had parts of themselves they felt nopony else could see, and a place like this was the only place they could show them off? But that didn't explain why her friends were acting so weird. It made sense and it didn't. She knew what they were doing and yet it was completely alien to her. Now she was stuck in intellectual limbo, and wasn't sure if she wanted to even think about it anymore.
"... D-Dashie, do you want to stay out here for a little bit? I just... I don't know."
"Whatever you need, Pinkie. There's no rush, right?"
"No rush?," replied Pinkie, smiling a little bit brighter, looking up at Dash. "That's funny, you're always the one rushing everywhere."
Dash chuckled. "Yeah, well.... if everypony is gonna act all weird, can't I, even just a little?"
"Of course. Just be yourself, okay?" Pinkie's smile brightened, even if her voice was still very weak.
"'Be yourself', huh?," retorted Dash.
"You know what I mean," laughed Pinkie Pie.
"Speaking of 'being yourself'... you told me last time that you call yourself 'Pinkamina' when you're like this, right? I dunno... it's kinda weird. I mean, not in a bad way or anything, but, are you the same Pinkie Pie that I know? I don't get this stuff at all."
Pinkie shivered a bit at the mention, looking back down at the ground and bit her lip. "Yeah, I am... I mean, I think I am. I'm still the same pony, just... well, you see, right?" Pinkie simply pointed a hoof towards her hair.
"I... guess I understand? Just, learn how to trust your friends, okay? Last time, you thought everypony hated you, just like this time. Unless you like, murder somepony, we're not going anywhere," replied Dash with a small smile.
"Murder somepony?! Why in the hay would I ever do that?!," exclaimed Pinkie Pie, putting her hooves on her sides, glaring indignantly.
"I-I was just saying!"
"... yeah, yeah. I know." Pinkie just sighed and frowned. "I... didn't mean to ruin tonight for you, Dashie. I'm really sorry."
"Listen, Pinkie, you didn't ruin--... ugh, okay, okay. On second thought, I think you need to come back in there with me right now."
"B-b-back in there?! Are you crazy?!," replied Pinkie in utter disbelief. "I'm still like this, I totally acted like a foal, and now they all hate--" Pinkie stopped herself and then sighed. "... s-sorry. It's just... well, I'm really tired, Dashie. I don't know if I can be happy-bouncy-wouncy Pinkie Pie right now... so wont they be afraid of me if I'm like this?"
"Afraid? I didn't say a single thing about last time to them, so there's no reason for them to be afraid. Besides, if they're as open-minded and happy as they seem to be, I'm sure they wont mind you being a little bit moody like this, Pinkie," replied Dash. "Try to have a little more confidence in yourself."
"... wow, you're really nice right now, you know. It's like I don't even know you. Geez," replied Pinkie, her voice thick with faux-sarcasm.
"Yeah, kinda like that," replied Dash, laughing. Dash then turned away and broke out into a short sprint towards the entrance. "Come on!"
"W-wait! I can't run! My hooves hurt too much," replied Pinkie, holding one of her hooves up. "Can't we walk slowly, just this once?"
"Ugh, fine," replied Dash, rolling her eyes.
"There's the Dashie I know. Yay!!"
"Don't push it! This is a one-off, you know!"
Pinkie Pie just giggled.
"Pinkie Pie, darling! Where have you been?! Fluttershy has been running around all worried and flustered about you! I must say, however, that the change in hairstyle is quite refreshing! Did somepony at the party style it for you?"
"O-oh no, it's just really wet from all the sweat, so it's weighed down... you actually think it looks good?," replied Pinkie, gently touching her flat hair with her hoof again. "Thanks, Rarity."
"Oh Pinkie Pie, Rarity's right! I was so worried!," said Fluttershy, already clinging to her pink friend. "Don't run off like that again, okay...?"
"I-I promise I wont, Fluttershy... I'm really sorry you worried about me so much."
"Are you sure you're okay, Pinkie Pie? You look really exhausted! Then again, we're all exhausted, too!," exclaimed Twilight, giggling while slumped against the tent wall. Everypony was in the rest area, away from the music and the dancing. Pinkie Pie sat down in front of her friends, who were all huddled together against the wall.
"I'm sure I'm okay, Twilight. I was just outside to, you know, get some fresh air," replied Pinkie, breathing in and out deeply as if to demonstrate. "I'm refreshed now! Promise!"
"Well that's certainly a good thing, darling. We were wondering just how this would be a proper Ponyville party without you around." Rarity, who by now had at least half a dozen bracelets on both of her hooves, placed a hoof over Pinkie Pie's.
"R-really? B-but... this isn't even my party...," replied Pinkie, smiling weakly up at her friend.
"Well, no, it isn't. But I think I speak for everypony here when I say that a party just isn't a party without you, Pinkie Pie!," said Twilight. Fluttershy and Rarity simply nodded quickly in approval.
Pinkie Pie smiled and looked at the floor, trying to fight off tears.
"P-Pinkie Pie, are you okay...?," asked Fluttershy, looking up into Pinkie's eyes from below.
"... you girls... you girls are the best... you know that?!," exclaimed Pinkie, pulling her three friends into a huge group hug, crying as she laughed. The three of them returned the embrace, laughing along with Pinkie as they were squeezed together.
"Thanks Pinkie! You are too!," replied Twilight, wrapping her hooves around the group of her friends in kind.
Rainbow Dash stood behind her pink friend, smiling at the sight of her best friend being happy once again. By now her legs were shaking from all of the anxiety and stress of the night. She just sighed happily, letting the adrenaline leave her body. She had half-expected an explosion of some kind upon bringing the straight-haired Pinkamina back into the party. It was almost too easy, but by this point, 'easy' would do just fine.
"Just play along," said a very quiet, yet familiar voice to Dash from the side. It was Princess Luna, who had apparently snuck up beside Dash when she wasn't paying attention. "Ladies, Miss Rainbow Dash here seems to be in need of refreshment. Would you mind if I took her to the drink table for a moment?" Rarity, Fluttershy and Twilight simply nodded in approval. Pinkie looked behind her and stared at Rainbow Dash with glistening eyes and a wide smile across her face, as if giving her approval as well.
"U-uh yeah, we'll be back in a little bit! I just need a drink, haha," continued Dash, not exactly sure what she was 'playing along' with.
Luna turned to Dash. "Let's proceed, then," she said, cheerfully.
"Thanks," said Dash, sitting against the far wall from the rest area. "I kinda needed a break from those four. I mean, they're my friends, but..."
"Too much for one night?"
"Yeah, definitely," said Dash, as Luna magically placed a cup of water between Dash's hooves. "I was all worked up over nothing, I guess. I figure now that maybe I shouldn't be freaked out when my friends are happy. ... Wow, that sounds kinda weird, now that I think about it."
"But looking out for your friends, even when they are happy, is true loyalty. And that is your Element, correct?," said Luna as she sat down beside Rainbow Dash. "I presumed you would need some calm after tonight's events, especially with everything that's occurred."
"Yeah, totally. Thanks again. Oh Celestia, what a crazy night..."
Luna simply sipped her own drink as the pair of them watched the crowd. It was as lively and energetic as ever, as if it hadn't missed a beat all night. DJ PON-3 was still on the stage, her mane a complete and total mess, with strands of hair flying off in every direction. Even her signature sunglasses seemed to be sweating. Her horn glowed immensely bright as she changed one of the turntable's records.
"Miss Pinkie Pie... did something happen to her? She doesn't seem to be the same pony as the one who walked in tonight," inquired Luna suddenly.
Dash choked on her water and shot it out of her nose, coughing and wheezing as she tried to spit out the liquid that had gone down the wrong pipe. "W-what?! No, no, she's the same, same as always!"
Luna just smiled. "So there is something different about her..."
"I..." Rainbow Dash sighed. Her heart sank through the floor, realizing she had just totally blown Pinkie Pie's secret without meaning to.
"I could tell. I'm very perceptive, Miss Dash. You needn't worry, her secret is quite safe," continued Luna, looking into Dash's eyes.
"Yeah... she's... she's different. She wore herself out tonight, and then, well... she ended up 'changing' once she got into one of her 'moods,'" continued Dash, grimacing a little. "I... can't say more than that. Sorry."
"It's quite alright, you needn't say another word. Strangely enough, I know exactly what that's like..."
"You do?," said Dash, looking over at Luna. It didn't take very long, however, before it finally clicked as to what exactly Luna was talking about. "O-oh, y-you mean..."
"Yes, I'm referring to Nightmare Moon. You needn't worry, my dear. It doesn't bother me," replied Luna, smiling softly.
Dash just slumped back against the tent wall. "So does this mean... Pinkamina's going to... you know... become all nasty someday?"
"Not if she's surrounded by her friends, who obviously care for and love her so deeply. You've seen just what a few short months with Twilight have done for my... problem," continued Luna. "Miss 'Pinkamina' will be just fine. I'm sure of it."
"... you think we can actually get through her thick head and help her like that?," asked Dash.
"And everything will be alright in the end?"
Rainbow Dash sighed again, and looked up at the ceiling, beginning to feel better about everything that was happening. The lasers continued to shoot wildly before her eyes, creating long trails in the steam and smoke above her. "... thanks, Luna. You're totally awesome, you know. And I'm sorry I ever made fun of you and Twi."
"It's quite alright. I knew you meant nothing by it."
Rainbow Dash tilted her head towards Luna, and the pair simply smiled at each other. It was the first time since the very beginning of the night that Dash actually felt confident and calm. But, like clockwork, lingering doubts continued to gnaw at the back of her head. She decided to not waste any time, and to just get them out once and for all. "Oh, and Luna?"
"Why do you suppose Twilight and our friends are acting so weird tonight?"
"Weird?," replied Luna, blinking as if she were confused.
"Yeah. Rarity liking cheap fashion, Twilight and Fluttershy being all outgoing and stuff... I just don't get it." Dash took a sip from her cup. "... it doesn't matter as much now, since helping Pinkie. I'm just glad they're happy. It's still weird though."
"Would you like to discuss it? I may have some answers," replied Luna.
"Well... since you're a goddess and all, sure, why not? I mean, if you don't know what's up, then who does, right?" Dash just chuckled to herself.
"Alright," replied Luna, chuckling as well. "Miss Rarity, then. By 'cheap fashion' you meant the bracelets, correct?"
"Yeah. They don't fit her at all! Ever since I've known her, she's never settled for less. It's not like her to wear cheap stuff like that so... willingly."
"What does one do with the bracelets?"
"Well... Cheerilee said you're supposed to pass them around as keepsakes to other people at a party or something like that."
"So... it's a form of selfless gift-giving? Has she ever done that before?"
"... yeah, she has. When you... err, Nightmare Moon took that dragon's moustache, she cut off her own tail just to make him a new one," continued Dash.
"That was very generous of her," replied Luna.
"Does it make sense now?" Luna giggled quietly. "A pony is not defined by the clothes on their back, but by the feelings in their heart. Just because Rarity isn't obsessed with high fashion at the moment, doesn't mean she's not being true to herself. She's still has the spirit of giving and being generous."
"You're right. Gosh, why didn't I see that?! That's so obvious!," Dash said aloud, smacking herself lightly in the forehead with a hoof. "Okay... what about Fluttershy?"
"Miss Fluttershy? ...hmm. She runs an animal hospital, yes?"
"Yeah, she takes care of sick animals. That's pretty much her job, but honestly, it's really her life-long passion. I'd say she's into it about as much as I am into athletics."
"And you're concerned, because normally she's quite reserved and withdrawn from social situations, and yet, she's being social and outgoing tonight?"
"Yeah," replied Dash. "It's a total one-eighty of the Fluttershy I've known ever since we were little fillies in Flight School. She was terrified of even looking in another pony's eyes up until she moved here, and even after that she wasn't that much better."
"But she's still very sweet and affectionate, yes? Only this time, to other ponies."
"Well, yeah, bu--
okay, I see where this is going. Kindness."
Luna just smiled. "She is still a kind soul to the very core of her being. That much hasn't changed. Only now, she's sharing that kindness with everypony she can."
Rainbow Dash relaxed a little. "And what about your girlfriend?," quipped Dash, playfully.
"Oh, her? She's just crazy," replied Luna, waving her hoof dismissively while smiling and laughing. "But in all seriousness, I wasn't too sure myself, until she pointed out an interesting fact to me earlier tonight."
"What was that?," asked Dash, tilting her head further.
"That this party is magical."
"Yes. The congregation of ponies from all walks of life into a single place at a single point of time, to celebrate peace of mind, togetherness, respect for one-another, and communal love. When I say 'magic,' I'm not referring to simple tricks of the mind, such as unicorns or us alicorns perform." Luna stood up and stretched her arm out to the crowd, gazing upon the party-goers and their boundless energy. "It's in a place like this, that true magic and true wonder can blossom, that the world itself transforms into something beautiful. It's not just here that it can happen, of course. Anywhere where ponies are gathered together in harmony and love, can this true magic be brought to life."
Rainbow Dash stood up and moved beside Luna, looking outwards with the goddess to see if she could understand what she was talking about. The familiar, smiling faces of the various ponies she knew, even if only in passing, quickly flashed in her vision as they kept in pace with the beat. The lights and the sound pulsated outwards, washing over the crowd in waves, and Dash could almost feel her heart begin to soften at the sight of it all, that feeling of earlier returning, but to a less intense, more manageable level.
"It's wonderful, isn't it?," continued Luna. "I wish such things had existed in my time, as I would have attended each and every one of them. But for now, tonight is enough." Luna looked over at Rainbow Dash, whose eyes were still locked onto the sights before her.
"It seems kinda... neat, yeah," said Dash, the sadness she had felt before returning to her voice.
Luna looked at Dash's expression, attempting to read her without much success. "What's wrong, my dear?"
"There wasn't any place like this where 'being myself' was even possible when I was growing up. I never had any real friends either, and even the friends I thought I had, like Gilda, a griffin I knew, ended up just being groupies who didn't care about me. And now I'm wondering, looking at all of this... that if I had found a place like this when I was a younger filly, where I could 'be myself' and not get hounded by bullies or groupies, would I still be the closed-off jerk I am today? Would I have come out differently, or would it have mattered at all?"
Before Rainbow Dash could get an answer, the song that was playing began to wind down, and the lights from the stage-area began to glow brighter and brighter, in order to light up the stage. As the song finally ended, DJ PON-3 took off her headphones, and began talking into a microphone she magically held to her mouth, the crowd still shrouded in darkness. "HOW'S IT GOIN', YOU WONDERFUL CITIZENS OF BEAUTIFUL PONYVILLE?!," she bellowed into the mike, raising her forehooves into the air. The crowd cheered with a thunderous roar, which shook the floor, the walls and everypony inside. "THAT'S WHAT I LIKE TO HEAR!! ARE Y'ALL READY FOR MY LAST TRACK OF THE NIGHT?!" The same response was given, and it felt like the ground itself would split from the sheer amount of hoof-stomping and cheering. "ALRIGHT! THANK YOU PONYVILLE!! LET'S DO THIIIIIIS!!" Without warning, the next and final track of her set began, and the lights dimmed once more, and the crowd began to dance once again.
Luna looked up at the ceiling, and sighed contently. "'Jerk' is being a little harsh on yourself, in my opinion. Who knows? Hindsight is a double-edged sword that promises everything and delivers nothing. I once read in a very ancient book, 'Dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not and to believe in your own individuality.'" Luna leaned over to look into Dash's eyes again. "Be proud of who you are, and don't worry about what you are not."
Dash thought over Luna's words, trying to figure out their exact meaning without much success. "... I've been acting weird as well, haven't I?"
"A little sombre compared to your usual enthusiasm, yes, but I see nothing to worry about."
"...will it hurt?," asked Dash suddenly.
"...pardon?," replied Luna.
"Will it hurt, if I let go and be like them, in there?"
"Do I look to be suffering at the moment, Miss Dash?," replied Luna, smiling brightly. Rainbow Dash just shook her head. "Then no, I don't believe so. There is, of course, only one way of finding out, but it is entirely your decision."
Dash looked out once more, and tried, just this once, to let the layers of fear peel away. As it overtook her, all she felt was calm and content, not the overwhelming happiness she thought she'd feel. The fears she'd had before were slowly fading away, and the world seemed a little bit brighter, even in this dark, musky place. She felt drawn towards the crowd again, but this time, wasn't sure if she wanted to fight back.
"If you are in fact interested... would you like to dance, Miss Dash?," continued Luna, extending a hoof towards Dash.
"Well... it's not every day - or night - that I get to dance with a Princess, so why not? Twilight wont get mad though, will she?"
"Hmmm... no, I don't believe so. She 'owes me one,' so to speak," replied Luna, giggling.
Without any further coaching, Rainbow Dash and Princess Luna made their way to the center of the large dance floor, and within moments they were swallowed up by the energy and movements of the other ponies around them. Dash remained calm; even if she never came here again, she wanted, just once, to experience it in its entirety, to say she was there. Then she could say she tried, to the fullest possible extent, and that alone would be good enough for her. Rainbow Dash thought of it no more, and joined hooves with the Princess of the Night. They smiled at each other warmly, and proceeded to let the reverberation of the air, the ground and the other ponies around them overtake their movements. She could hear the subtle tones of laughter and feel the collective heat around her, as she began to sweat. The darkness around her became a comforting shroud of protection, and within a few short moments, she knew why the ponies around her danced so voraciously, so intensely through long, black nights such as this. It was freeing, and liberating, to not care, to simply express for the sake of expressing with nothing to hide, even if there were no secrets to begin with. Rainbow Dash looked over at Luna, who had tears of happiness streaming down her face and an ecstatic smile as wide as could be, as she twisted and stretched her body in tune with the melody. Dash felt something deeply sad in the movements of the Princess, and yet, it was as if this was Luna's celebration of the night itself, her own private release and public appreciation of the ponies celebrating the darkness along with her. Dash now knew that it wasn't about throwing yourself away, or betraying who you were anymore. It was knowing that nothing would go wrong if she just let go for a single night. Dash could do nothing except stare in awe, feeling a tear come to her own eye, as she finally understood what it was all about, and what Luna had meant by true magic. Dash could feel her body begin to move in ways she never felt before, swaying to and fro, her muscles and soul approaching a harmony she had rarely, if ever, felt. Her mind went blank and she felt no regrets, the lights, music and her body the only things she could focus on, as she became lost in the crowd.
"W-wow, are they...?," asked Rainbow Dash.
"Yes, I do believe they are. Amazing...," replied Luna, with a kind of wonder in her voice.
Rainbow Dash and Luna walked up towards their four friends, which they had left only a short while ago. They were huddled together in a group hug of sorts, soundly asleep, even as the music from DJ KittenSpins played in the background. Oddly, Pinkie Pie still retained her straight hair, and from how peaceful she looked at that moment, Dash couldn't believe that it was the same pony she had been in a screaming match with only a short while before. They looked content and happy, but also completely exhausted, all of their manes and coats messy, dirty and unkempt. They also looked inseparable.
"I believe we should wake them, and then make our way to the the Library. It looks they've had enough for tonight," said Luna.
"Yeah... I think I'm done for tonight too."
"Wow, y'all look like you've been runnin' a marathon!," said Applejack, pulling her cart, as they walked down the dirt road away from the tent. It was the dead of night, and only the faint sounds of crickets could be heard in the background. Applejack was, of course, the only one among the group who still looked well-kempt. "Did y'all have fun at least? Boy howdy, ah sure met a lot of interestin' characters tonight. Ne'er seen a filly dress like a colt b'fore! They were all real nice t'me, too, and kept complimentin' m'hat!"
Pinkie Pie groaned loudly as she slowly walked alongside her friends, her head held down and her straight hair covering her forehead. "Haha, yeah, I'm totally partied out... ughhh..." Her hooves still ached to an incredible amount, and every step took a colossal effort.
"This was a superb event, Applejack. It's a such a shame you didn't join us when you had the chance! You would've fit in perfectly, I'm sure!," exclaimed Rarity, who by now looked as if she hadn't brushed her hair for days.
"Really now? Huh." Applejack cocked an eyebrow, and whispered into Rainbow Dash's ear, "Wow, now ah see what y'meant." Rainbow Dash just smirked in response.
"Did you have fun, Luna?," asked Twilight, who leaned against her partner happily as they walked together. "This was an amazing night. Do you think Princess Celestia would be interested in a letter about it?"
"Mmm, perhaps," said Luna, smiling. "I'm certainly not letting you write anything tonight, however. You're to get some much-needed rest. And yes, I had great fun. Thank you so much for inviting me."
"Of course, dear," replied Twilight, leaning in a little closer, closing her eyes and sighing happily. "I really do just want to get some shut-eye, to be honest."
An exceptionally loud squeak could be heard from behind the group of them. All of them turned to stare at Fluttershy, who had the brightest, reddest blush on her cheeks that any of them had ever seen. She had her hooves over her face and was shivering slightly.
"W-whoa, Fluttershy, you okay?," asked Rainbow Dash, walking over towards her.
"...oh dear oh gosh oh my oh no oh dear oh gosh..."
"Fluttershy, talk t'us honey, what's wrong?," asked Applejack.
"...I-I-I-I was d-d-dancing w-with s-so m-many ponies... o-oh dear... d-did I really do t-that?!," she replied, her face still completely hidden underneath her pink mane and behind her hooves.
"Quite, darling. You seemed to be completely enthralled with your new-found sociability! Good on you, I say," replied Rarity, smiling brightly and enthusiastically. "I've been waiting for so long for you to break out of your shell! It was so lovely to see you expressing yourself!" Fluttershy could only respond by squeaking even louder and falling over, her legs and wings completely locked.
"Oh, horse-feathers," said Applejack, as she pulled over beside Fluttershy. "Fluttershy, it's alright. Nopony's gonna judge yeh or anythin'. Why are y'all so scared? Didn't y'have fun?" Fluttershy just squeaked quietly in response, her muscles becoming tighter. "Ah deary me... Rainbow, could y'help me load 'er onto the cart? We can't just leave 'er here and ah really oughta be back home by now," said Applejack.
"Hmmm... give me a second, alright?," replied Dash, lowering her head closer to Fluttershy's ear. "Hey, Fluttershy? You remember all those ponies you hugged tonight?" Fluttershy only squeaked and nodded quickly. "Right. You remember how nice it felt, hugging them? Well, they felt that nice too. You probably made them really happy, just like how you make all the animals at your place feel happy when you hug them."
Fluttershy just peered from behind her hooves slowly, looking at Dash timidly. "Y-y-you r-really think so...?"
"Well, yeah. They were smiling when they hugged you, right?," replied Dash.
"So don't feel embarassed! You helped them have a good night."
Fluttershy just nodded, and slowly stood up, still blushing profusely. "I-I guess if you p-put it that way..."
Dash just smiled with a wide grin, and continued walking on. "Come on, everypony. Let's just crash at Twilight's place." Fluttershy continued to blush bright red despite Rainbow Dash's reassuring words, and the seven of them continued on into the black night, the path lit up only by Luna's moon, as they walked into Ponyville and left the crazy party behind.
"Oh dear oh dear... you've caught a really bad cold, Pinkie Pie...," said Fluttershy, holding a hoof to Pinkie's forehead to check her temperature.
"Bwut hwow?!," responded Pinkie, her nose and eyes puffy and red.
"Uhm... physical exhaustion can make your body more vulnerable like this... ooooh, I told you not to push yourself so hard, Pinkie Pie, you silly filly. Here, drink this. It'll clear out your sinuses and make you feel a bit better...," replied Fluttershy, handing her a warm cup of heavily-brewed tea. "Now, you have to drink it all, or it wont work, okay? Even if it tastes bad..."
"Ywes Fwuttershwuy," responded Pinkie Pie, taking the mug between her hooves and sipping on it, a little annoyed at herself. "Ooooh, Mwinty!"
Fluttershy just smiled softly and and moved to her 'doctors bag,' packing up the various things she had brought with her. Almost three days had passed since DJ PON-3's dance party, and life had all but returned to normal in Ponyville. The day after the party, the town itself had been mysteriously quiet, and not much if anything had happened. The large venue that had held the party had been torn down, all of the garbage collected, and the music equipment packed up, as if it had never been there at all.
"Now you get lots of rest, okay? I don't want to even hear about you getting out of bed for at least two days... you need all the rest you can get! Don't make me have to come back and use the stare on you again...," said Fluttershy, folding her forehooves.
"Ywes Fwuttershwuy," replied Pinkie Pie again, sighing and looking up at her meekly.
"I have to go check up on Cheers-- um, Cheerilee, now... she ended up getting sick as well. Nurse Redheart wanted me to help as well with the checkups, since so many ponies ended up catching a cold," continued Fluttershy, sighing.
Pinkie Pie just nodded and continued to drink down the herbal remedy that Fluttershy had prepared for her. Her pink mane had restored to its natural bouncy state, and with it, her sunny disposition - save for the fact she was sick, of course.
"Please send someone to fetch me if you need anything else," said Fluttershy finally, smiling as she put her bag over her neck and began to head for the window. Pinkie Pie smiled and waved as she continued to gulp down the tea. It was just then that Rainbow Dash flew in through the window and landed softly on the floor, folding her wings in together quickly.
"Oh, hey Fluttershy! How's it going? Taking care of Pinkie Pie?," asked Rainbow Dash happily.
"Oh yes, she should be well in a couple of days," replied Fluttershy, smiling back. "Just make sure she stays in bed until she's at least mostly over it, okay...?"
"Sure thing," replied Dash. Pinkie Pie just wrinkled her nose in disappointment, frowning.
"I really must go now... see you later, Pinkie, Dashie-- erm, Rainbow Dash...," continued Fluttershy, lightly hugging Pinkie and then Rainbow Dash, before stepping out onto the ledge and taking off out the window to the next patient on her list. The pair of them looked on as their friend disappeared into the distance.
"I can only stay for a few minutes since I'm on Weather Duty today, but how are you holding up there, Pinkie Pie? You look really out of it," said Dash, turning towards Pinkie Pie.
"Nah, I've had way worse! I mean, you remember when I had Poison Joke all over my tongue?! I couldn't even talk! You have ANY idea how AWFUL that was?! And WHOA! That stuff Fluttershy gave me worked really fast!! YAY!!," exclaimed Pinkie Pie, bouncing up and down underneath her sheets.
Rainbow Dash just laughed. "Pinkie Pie, settle down, okay? You gotta rest until you're better."
"Sigh, fine~," she replied, folding her forehooves and sitting back down.
"I'm just glad you're back to normal, Pinkie," replied Dash. "It was... kinda scary, that night."
"Yeah...," replied Pinkie, lowering her head. "I'm sorry I went all crazy like that. It really wasn't like me. I... I don't even know why I felt so bad about everything."
"You were scared, Pinkie. It's okay. Everypony gets scared sometimes."
"Yeah, but... I just laugh at whatever makes me scared. That's my Element, right? I don't know what happened...," replied Pinkie, looking away.
"Hey, don't be all sad now, okay? Nopony is perfect, and everything is okay, right? Don't sweat it." Dash happily smiled.
"Okay!," exclaimed Pinkie, smiling back brightly. "So what did you think of the party, huh?! It was really awesome!! DJ PON-3 was totally on the top of her game that night! Did you SEE how much she was sweating?!"
"It was... interesting, I guess. I really got into it near the end, when we came back in together."
"Whoa, really?! Awww, and I totally missed it!! I wanted to dance with Dashie again!," replied Pinkie, pouting cutely.
Dash just laughed. "It was nice, that's for sure, but... I don't really think it's my 'thing.'"
"Aw, why not though?! You said you got into it, right?"
"Well, yeah... but honestly, it felt like one of those 'only do it once' kinda things for me. I learned a lot, almost too much for one night, and... I just wanna figure out what it all means, before I even think about trying it again. Even when I was into it, I just... I don't even know what I felt. I think it's just too much for me, to be really honest," replied Dash, looking out the window.
"You promise it wasn't because of me?," asked Pinkie, meekly.
"Promise. You helped me figure out a lot about myself Pinkie, even if we did fight that night. It was nice, but... too much, y'know?"
"Okay... I believe you Dashie!," replied Pinkie, smiling brightly.
"I... should probably go back to work now. The others are waiting for me. I'll come back later to check on you, alright? Oh, and y'know, if you wanna work out with me sometimes, so you don't get all exhausted and depressed like that again, I'd be glad to have you along! A good exercise routine can help that a lot, you know," said Dash.
Pinkie Pie just giggled. "You know, you're still really nice, just like that night! I like this new and improved Dashie!!"
Rainbow Dash just blushed and looked off to the side, scratching behind her head. "Hey, don't tease me like that! I'm just trying to be a good friend, okay?!"
Pinkie Pie just giggled louder in response. "Well, when I get better, I'd love to! Tell me when and where and Pinkie Pie will be there!!"
"Great! How about sometime next week?"
"That'd be GREAT!!," exclaimed Pinkie, subtly bouncing again. Rainbow Dash smiled and began moving towards the window.
"Awesome! Well... see you around, Pinkie Pie."
"O-oh, and Dashie?!"
"Yea--?" Dash was cut off by Pinkie Pie quickly and forcefully hugging her. Dash said nothing, and just happily returned the hug.
"Thank you... so so so so much for helping me," said Pinkie, smiling up at Dash.
"No problem. I mean, I gotta look out for my friends, right?"
"Of course! That's why you're the best!!"
Dash smiled, and broke away from the hug, exiting the window. "See ya later!" She flapped her powerful, agile wings and flew up into the sky, meeting a group of other local pegasus ponies in the sky as they began organizing into groups, seemingly at Dash's command. After a few moments, they began flying off in different directions, tackling different cloud groups above Ponyville. Pinkie Pie sat down in front of the window atop of Sugar Cube Corner, looking out into the sky with the blanket still wrapped around her shoulders.
(Rainbow Dash really is nice, isn't she?)
"Yep!," said Pinkie Pie aloud, as she looked out the window, admiring her friend working in the clouds above. "She's totally awesome!"
(We like her a lot, don't we?)
"Of course! She's our bestest friend ever in the whole wide world, isn't she?"
(... we... love her... don't we?)
Pinkie Pie paused and looked down, smiling to herself as she held the blanket over her shoulders a little closer, before staring back up into the blue sky above. "Probably... but you know what, Pinkamina? I wouldn't trade the friendship we have for anything in the world, not even love! Because I know she'll always be there for me, and she'll always be my friend. And that's all I've ever wanted in the whole wide world..."