Two little ponies trotted down the path.
One little pony came running up to greet them.
“Y’all not gonna believe this! Oh my gosh!”
“What is it, Apple Bloom?” said Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah, what happened?” said Scootaloo.
“Ain’t what happened, it’s what’s gonna happen! So you didn’t hear about Rainbow Dash’s foal?”
Scootaloo blinked, and then she scoffed. “Don’t be stupid! Rainbow Dash hasn’t got a foal!”
“Not yet,” said Apple Bloom, “but she’s gonna have one!”
“Yeah, make up a better story next time, Apple Bloom,” said Scootaloo. “That one’s just stupid. You’re lying. How is that even possible? She hasn’t got a stallion friend!”
Apple Bloom blinked. “I ain’t rightly sure. I done figured out she’s kissin’ my big sister Applejack, which I din’t know that was allowed. They’re nice ponies so I guess even Granny don’t mind or nothin’. But you take that back, Scootaloo, it was Granny Smith who tole me! That means it’s gotta be true!”
“Well, I don’t know exactly how it works, but my Mom told me foals are made from a stallion and a mare, so you take it back, Apple Bloom, and stop telling lies…”
Scootaloo didn’t even get another word out—Apple Bloom was on her, pummeling her with little hooves as they tumbled in the dirt.
“Granny Smith don’t never lie! Ah will beat some sense into you, Scootaloo!”
Sweetie Belle squealed in alarm and tried to break the fight up, but by the time she moved forward to do it her friends had already separated and were glaring at each other. Scootaloo sported a black eye, but it didn’t lessen her glare one bit.
“I don’t care about your punches, you still didn’t explain anything. It’s impossible!”
Apple Bloom glared right back. “Happens I don’t know how it’s possible, but you listen here, Scootaloo…”
Sweetie gulped. “Um… Cutie Mark Truth Finders?”
She squeaked, for Apple Bloom rounded on her. “Granny don’t lie! That there’s the simple truth! Rainbow Dash is with foal!”
At that, both Sweetie and Scootaloo rocked her back on her haunches with a simple chorus.
Apple Bloom’s ear flicked. She blinked. “Wal, we don’t know. Do we?”
Sweetie Belle suggested, “Cutie Mark Mystery Solvers?”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo stared at each other.
“Yeah, I reckon that’ll do…”
“Mystery Busters, more like,” griped Scootaloo, unaccountably angry as the three trotted off.
Applejack cantered toward home, limping slightly. It was nothing serious, just overstrain. Harvest time was demanding—between the apple harvest, other crops, laying in firewood for the winter—some seasons just asked a lot of you.
She let her gaze wander to the pretty red and orange maple trees. Yeah, that at least was work for the spring—sugaring season was months away. Dashie would be getting pretty big by then. It was a mercy that she wasn’t giving birth around harvest time. For that matter, thought Applejack, it was a mercy she’d be getting big over the winter, because they both had so much to do around harvest season there wasn’t time to think. She’d prob’ly be home late again, tired from cloud-herding…
Not true. There was a little blue dot waiting in front of Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack cantered harder, smiling to see her love in the distance welcome her home.
The dot was shifting around, restless. Applejack began to break into a gallop, sensing impatience, and drew nearer.
No, not impatience. Dashie looked awful, like she’d been crying.
No, not just crying. Somepony had socked her in the eye, she’d been fighting. Applejack forgot her aches and pains and ran full tilt right up to her distressed mate, pulling up only just enough to embrace her gently rather than bowling her over.
“Darlin’! What’s the matter? What happened, Dashie?”
“No, I’m okay, it’s gonna be okay… but thanks… I needed that…”
“But what happened?” Applejack drew back to look Rainbow Dash over. She’d been socked in the eye, her mane was torn, there were bruises on her forelegs and it looked like she’d been kicked in the…
Applejack went white. “I’ll kill ‘em. I’ll fucking kill ‘em. You tell me right now who done this, Rainbow Dash.”
“Whoa, take it easy, Boss, hear me out!”
“Tell me!” demanded Applejack.
“Would you believe it was kinda me that did it?”
That stopped Applejack. “Mind runnin’ that by me again?”
Dash’s ears were back in shame. “I’m gonna have to. I think it’s a talk we should’ve had before. I didn’t think it was gonna matter as much as it did. If it can get me starting fights…”
“Oh, you started it? What’s the other fella look like?”
Rainbow Dash looked away. “I kinda beat the shit out of her. I’d better explain.”
“C’mon inside, sugar—and yeah, I think you better!”
They walked into the farmhouse, Applejack nuzzling her contentious beloved, and Dash curled up on a couch while Applejack made cups of tea.
“Somethin’ go on at work, then? Can’t help but notice you come home early.”
“Yeah. Oh yeah. We both got sent home—not only that, we’re both suspended.”
Applejack gasped. “You what?”
“For a day! Just for a day! I totally understand, too. It’s fair…”
Apple Bloom trotted in the door. “What’s fair, Rainbow Dash?”
It looked for a moment like Dash was going to answer, but Applejack had other ideas. “Uh, you run along, now, Apple Bloom! Grown-ups talkin’ here.”
“But Rainbow Dash got in a fight or something, and she says it’s fair, and how can it be fair if…”
“We’ll tell ya later!” insisted Applejack. “Once we’ve sorted out the lil’ filly version, all right? Look at you, you been fightin’ too, I reckon! Now then, she says it’s fair so don’t you fret none, you just run along, okay?”
In Apple Bloom’s gaze, rebelliousness warred with helpfulness. Helpfulness won—seemingly.
“All righty! I’m a-runnin’!”
Applejack’s voice pursued her. “AN’ don’t jes’ run, sugar, that includes not pryin’ and not listenin’ in. Okay?”
The little filly froze, mid-run, staring straight ahead. When she turned to look back at Applejack, the bright helpfulness was gone leaving only sulkiness and rueful respect.
“Ya mean it?”
“I surely do, Apple Bloom. Please let us talk in private. I’ll make ya extra oat-cakes for breakfast?”
“…with chocolate chips?”
Applejack winced. “Yeah. But only if ya beat your lil’ tail outta here and give us space. This ain’t necessarily important to you, but me ‘n Rainbow Dash got some talkin’ to do.”
Apple Bloom looked at her sister appraisingly. “You got a deal. Have a nice talk!”
“Lord, I hope so,” said Applejack, as the filly scampered off out of earshot. “Now then, Rainbow Dash, what’s so dang fair about you gettin’ kicked off the job? I ain’t happy about some of them bruises.” She shuddered, her eyes dismayed. “You started th’ fight?”
“It’s freaking me out, babe. I didn’t used to be so aggressive…”
Applejack snorted, fondly.
“Alright, let me put it like this,” said Dash. “I didn’t used to be THIS aggressive. I pretty much tried to kill her, practically. Not cool. I mean, yeah, who could blame me, but still…”
“Start from th’ beginning,” said Applejack. “Who’d ya get so mad at, and why?”
“Fucking Flight Lightning, of course. Who else? But I would never have believed she would say such a thing…”
“Who’s that? And what thing?”
“This is going to take a little explaining,” said Dash unhappily, and Applejack fell silent.
“It might not even have happened if I hadn’t been always bragging about you…”
Rainbow Dash had come in to work at Weather Patrol, handling the usual ribbing about how she was late. Cloud Chaser’d ridden her hard about it, but that was never bad—not from her. It was Flight Lightning who seemed to put a little too much edge into the teasing, Flight Lightning who shot her resentful looks, Flight Lightning who perhaps was jealous of her flying skills (for Flight also had great talent as a weather flyer).
But Flight Lightning wasn’t even teasing—she had been brooding and morose, sitting alone on a tuft of cloud.
Dash had announced that she would have to give up shifts starting in the Spring, possibly earlier, because she was pregnant and would be having her beloved’s foal. All heads turned.
“So we have to take over your workload? Dammit, that’ll be another two minutes out of my day!” teased Cloud Chaser.
“Really?” blinked Flitter. “You got pregnant? From your Applejack?”
Dash had nodded smugly—and spotted Flight Lightning, whose eyes were wide and startled. And Flight had flown over, deliberately, and she’d looked… outraged.
“You did what, Dash?” she’d said.
“You heard me.”
“You gave your… your wings… to…”
Dash had started to glare. Flight Lightning’s opinion of earth ponies wasn’t usually a problem, but it still peeked out from time to time…
Or jumped out. “Way to further the pegasus spirit, Dash,” Flight said bitterly.
Rainbow Dash bristled. “Yeah, well, not your problem, okay?”
This didn’t seem to help. In fact, it had made matters worse for some reason. Flight Lightning looked even angrier, and she was in Dash’s face now. “I hope for the foal’s sake you found a pegasus to finish the job!”
Rainbow Dash had bared her teeth. “How is that your business, Lightning?”
And Flight Lightning had curled her lip, and said…
“It’s all very well getting a good ground-pounding, but take it from me, it should be a crime to deprive a pegasus foal of their wings.”
A scream rang out, a doubled scream of rage and alarm. Eight pegasi’s wings flapped frantically to intercede. Dash had gone for Flight Lightning’s throat, biting and kicking and punching with forehooves.
Two weather flyers dragged Flight one direction, and two dragged Dash the other, Cloud Chaser among them. Dash’s eye was already blacked, but she had Flight Lightning by the tail, and thrashed vicious hoof-blows at her enemy while Chaser tried to restrain her—until Flight’s hindleg kicked out, and four observing pegasi gasped in horror.
“Stop it!” shrieked Flitter, interposing her body between the two combatants. “Stop it right now!”
Flight panted. Dash gasped for breath, doubling over. She had been kicked hard in the belly, and the mares observing wore appalled expressions.
“She was… tryin’ to… kill me…” panted Flight Lightning.
“Enough!” commanded Cloud Chaser. “You’re both suspended for a day. Flitter, take Flight home. You didn’t need to say that, Lightning, that was fucking cold. I’m getting Rainbow to the pegasus hospital right now. Don’t freak out! It might still be okay, we’ll all hope so…”
Cloud Chaser had flown with Dash to the hospital. They’d listened at her belly, they’d examined her, they’d concluded that she was probably okay but cautioned her against getting in fights in her condition…
Applejack stared at Dash as she finished up the story.
“They shoulda fired her. She kicked you. Holy buck, Dashie, it’s horrible!”
“Yeah, well, she’s a great flyer and she needs the job and usually her attitude isn’t a problem. I shouldn’ta hit her in the first place. Cloud Chaser made that really clear. Heck, Applejack, she probably wouldn’ta kicked me if I let her go. I had her tail in my teeth, and I swear I was gonna take her apart. I was trying to wail on her back with my forehooves. Chaser wasn’t able to stop all of it.”
Applejack shook her head, sadly. “You an’ your temper. But… I still don’t understand everythin’. You flipped out ‘cos she say you’re deprivin’ a pegasus foal of its wings. Why’d she even say that? You ain’t deprivin’ nothin’.”
Rainbow Dash winced. “This is the part I didn’t want to have to explain…”
Applejack hugged her love, worry in her eyes. “That tore it. Out with it, sugarcube.”
“The thing is, she’s right, kinda, that’s why I hit her…”
Applejack fell silent again. Dash continued, in simple but heartbreaking words.
“Wings are recessive. We all know that. With earth pony for both spirit and body parts—zero chance of a true pegasus.”
There was a terrible pause. Then, Applejack said, “Are you sure?” She was tearing up.
“Yeah. Totally. I’ve known since… since that time in that dragon’s cave. She told me I was pregnant, and all I could do was stand there, figuring it out. She had to poke me to get me to move, Applejack, I was just… standing there, realizing what happened. What it meant.” Dash gulped. “If you hadn’t taken me back… I don’t know what I would have done.”
“An’… an’ that Flight Lightning, she taunted you about it?”
“They say she has a kid she doesn’t talk about. Maybe it’s personal for her… but she’s right. I’m a pegasus, but my foal will not have wings, Applejack—and that doesn’t sit so good with my people. Didn’t you ever wonder why we make such a deal of the pegasus pride and everything?”
Applejack’s lip was quivering, her look tragic. “Oh my darling… I am so, so sorry… I don’t know what I kin possibly do ta make up for it…”
Rainbow Dash had looked haunted as she revealed her secrets, but dry-eyed and brave. Looking at Applejack’s distress, the bravado eroded like a sandcastle hit by a wave. She seized Applejack in a frantic hug. “No, stop that, stop it!”
“But… Oh, Dashie!”
“Stop! Do not cry, you stop crying right now! Don’t you understand I never wanted to fucking breed true pegasuses? Since when did I ever go pick up pegasus dudes, Applejack? You know better than that! I didn’t want to find some true pegasus and go have pegasus foals just to make more true pegasuses!”
“But…” gulped Applejack, but Rainbow Dash wouldn’t let her finish.
“No. It’s personal. I wanted YOUR foal.”
Applejack gulped again, blinking back tears.
“I’m having YOUR foal,” said Rainbow Dash. “I don’t want anything else.”
And then they were embracing tightly, and Dash cuddled Applejack’s shaking body, feeling incredibly drained and weak.
“It’s just… hard, sometimes,” she breathed, as if to herself.
Flight Lightning swooped around a cloud, wincing at the soreness in her body. Stupid Dash and her hard little hooves. Ow.
Probably could have glided in on a straight line, and it would hurt less. That wasn’t going to happen, though. Flight was used to a more… deceptive approach.
The home awaited—a little bit run down. The two of them, they went through phases, and she was okay with that. It was only fair, the filly shouldn’t have to clean if she wasn’t going to be cleaning herself. They let things slide and then went on binges of housecleaning. Sometimes they were even kind of fun.
Flight Lightning glided down and alighted on her doorstep—on Ponyville ground.
She winced, and glowered again. Ow twice. Fuckin’ Dash, anyway. She had no idea what she was in for. Probably that was why she went so psycho—she knew, some part of her knew. The shame…
“I made my dinner so I’m out of the way,” called a little voice from inside.
Flight Lightning’s frown gentled a bit. There were compensations.
The filly at least did her own dishes. ‘the filly’ was a hard-won thought—it beat ‘the deformity’. Flight was wearily proud of herself for getting that far. Kid tried hard to not make it too difficult, most days.
She walked inside the house, folding her wings. Hello, once again, to—‘Dun Flyin’.
She was careful not to say it out loud.
The filly blinked. Looked like she’d been in some scuffles again. Flight was more worried for the other kid, whoever it was—the filly was a holy terror, it really made Flight proud at times, though she had to make sure it didn’t get out of hand.
“What happened to your neck?” said the filly. “And your face! And…”
“I could say the same thing to you, kiddo,” said Flight Lightning, wryly.
The filly did a doubletake. Hard as nails—she apparently didn’t notice her own beat-up state. “Uh… yeah, right. So do you want help with that?”
“I’m good,” said Flight Lightning. “So what happened to you?”
“Oh, that’s fair—I can’t ask who hit you, but you can turn around and start asking me…”
“Yeah, as a matter of fact I can. That’s the rule and you know it. So what did happen to you? Some kid beat you up? Remember, long as it’s just you kids, you can handle it. Any grownup touches you, I have to get involved, and they won’t like that very much.”
The filly sulked. “It was my friend.”
“So all right. You hit her back?”
“Duh. Who do you think I am?”
“You got over it? You’re cool now?”
“Yeah. Yeah, we’re cool,” said the filly.
“Well all right then,” said Flight Lightning. She turned and went into the kitchen, where she started making her own dinner. The kid had cleaned up real good after herself. Flight thought, wryly, that they might be heading into another homes-and-gardens kick. That never lasted, but it made for a nice change, and it’d get things a little less dreary by wintertime. Winter was always a bitch, the two of them cooped up together on the cold miserable ground. You just couldn’t burn enough firewood to properly warm those light, hollow pegasus bones…
The kid was underfoot. That wasn’t good, she usually knew better.
“Mom,” she said, “can a pegasus have foals from another mare?”
“Don’t call me that, I’m Flight. That’s my name, humor me alright?. Be that good kid I know you can be, okay?”
“Fine,” snapped the filly, unsurprised and undaunted. “Flight, can a pegasus have…”
“No, of course not. Don’t let anypony fill your head with stupid ideas. A pegasus mare mates with a pegasus stallion. I’m not going to tell you any more.”
“But I gotta know more!” protested the filly. Not in a whine, thankfully—never a whiny weak little cripple—it was a little squawk of outrage, and Flight approved of that even as she smacked down the inquiry in no uncertain terms.
“No! There’s nothing more you need to know at your age.”
There it was. Flight Lightning tensed. That tone—the self-pity, the whine, she couldn’t stand to hear even a second of it. If it got into her, it would never get out, and nothing could be more horrible. She felt her temper flaring…
“Fine. Want to know the big secret to life? Don’t cheat on your pegasus stallion with a little ground-pounding before sneaking home,” snapped Flight. She hesitated, and then could not stop herself from going on, bitterly. “Especially if your pegasus stallion thinks he’s gonna get you pregnant and it’ll be all his. Or you’ll be very, very sorry.”
The filly stared up at her in shock. Probably understood about one word in three… but she could hear the tone just fine. It didn’t matter that Flight had kept it vague, that she had been essentially cursing herself out loud with the words that had been running through her head all day since her fight with Rainbow Dash. The filly didn’t have to understand every detail to know what was up.
She whirled and galloped to her room, slamming the door.
Flight Lightning sagged, staring at her half-prepared dinner. She’d fucked up again. She was gonna have to make dinner anyway, if she expected to keep up with the merry carousel of new hell that was life, and there was only so much she could do to make things right: she was not about to start loading up the filly with inappropriate ideas for her development.
Flight winced again. Development. That was a laugh. Kid couldn’t get off the ground, even now.
So… that was a tough enough burden for anypony, right?
Flight Lightning lifted her head. She left her dinner lying there, and walked steadily to the kid’s bedroom door.
“Honey?” she said in her harsh, wry voice.
“I’m sorry I yelled,” said Flight. She hadn’t—not technically—but she knew she’d been emotionally loud, and she’d worked on that tendency before. The kid came by it fair and square. “That was wrong of me and I’ll try harder not to dump my problems on you.”
There was a little pause. Flight counted in her head. Two, three…
“So are you gonna tell me…”
“No, honey, I didn’t say that,” said Flight. She tried to stay serious-voiced and disciplinary, but fought back a smile. That kid! She never gave up. You had to be so tough, or the little tyke just steamrollered you every time. “There’s very little you need to know about that stuff at your age. Kiddo, when the time comes, I’ll smell it on you before you even know what’s happening, and that’s when I’ll tell you everything. That’s a promise. But for now? No dice. Drop it.”
She paused for a moment, thinking, and then she added, “Thanks for doing your dishes right away like I asked, honey. I was happy to see that.”
She walked off, reasonably satisfied that she’d turned the situation around—or at least tried to—and she returned to preparing her dinner, because even if all hell broke loose, she knew from bitter experience that she couldn’t let it throw off her routines and the basic things. There’d been some really horrifying nights, and they’d both tried to grow past that stuff.
Inside the bedroom, the filly stared sullenly at the wall, determined to not make any more demands. It wouldn’t even work, she could tell—but it wasn’t only that. Her mother was horribly strict and had a nasty temper and didn’t really like her—but at the same time, kinda loved her—and she loved her mother back, also kinda. It was good to hang onto the love kinda part or there wouldn’t be anything but hate—and the times where it felt like that, were so bad, that anything was better. You couldn’t talk about it or she got all weird. You had to just be good and never give up, and sometimes it meant not being able to get answers.
Even ones about Rainbow Dash having a foal with another mare.
“Thanks for the help, Mom,” muttered Scootaloo.