Part 11 - Departures
A few days later Rainbow Dash and Soarin stood on the front terrace of the chromatic maned mare's old home, now officially transferred over to the newly transplanted stallion's ownership, looking the airborne structure over with a measure of satisfaction as the early rays of the sun played across its billowing clouds and columns.
The sky manor was looking much better from when they'd first arrived, with the wisps scraped off and the rainbow fountains showing a bit more of their old color. A weekend's work by several of Dash's old friends from the weather patrol, most of whom were rapidly becoming Soarin's new friends as well, had taken down those parts of the baroque structure that were too decrepit and consolidated the house into a very serviceable dwelling for a bachelor pegasus. Empty bags of cloudcrete mix lay in a pile waiting to be dropped off at the dump, and a few pieces of flat packed furniture shipped in from the Cloudsdale Skykea lay by the door ready for Soarin to pull them inside and set them up.
Dash adjusted the saddlebags slung across her back and put on her goggles, leaving them waiting across her forehead for when she was ready to depart. She stepped forward and took her teammate into a hug, and when they disengaged she gave him a lopsided grin. "See, Soarin. I told ya things would work out all right."
The sky blue stallion let out a chuckle. "Yeah, I guess they did. Right now my biggest problem is getting Rumbles to remember that he's the one who's supposed to be showing me the ropes, not vice versa."
The rainbow maned mare shook her head with a wry grin. "He's always been a go getter, that kid. I just think he'll just take a little while to get over the fact that he's partnered with one of his colthood heroes."
Soarin shrugged. "Well, I dunno about that, but I'm happy to keep signing his trading cards and show programs as long as he keeps signing my time sheets."
Dash stretched her wings and pulled her goggles into place. "Whelp. Speakin' of time, I'd better get goin' if I wanna make it to Hoofington in time to rendezvous with the 'Bolts. I'll send your love to Spitfire and give Shootin' Star a strato-wedgie for ya."
The dark maned stallion gave her a nod, a bit of moisture glistening in the corner of his eye. "Clear skies, Dash. And thanks, for everything."
The cyan mare stepped up to the edge of the terrace, but paused as she was about to take off and turned to face her teammate once more. Her expression was solemn. "Uh... Soarin' there's just one more thing. I've been thinking a lot about Twilight and Rarity's big project, and about how I reacted when I first saw it in action."
The sky blue pegasus stepped forward with his head cocked in curiousity. "Yeah?"
She pawed at the fluffy edge of the terrace with a hoof. "Well, I'm kinda worried about what other pegasi might think, or more importantly what they might do if they take it the wrong way like I did. You know how our kind can be. We're fighters. If we don't like the color of a cloud we start kickin' 'til lightning comes out."
Her maroon eyes focused on the distant, mist shrouded treetops of Sweet Apple Acres as she spoke in a pensive voice. "I mean... I totally lost my head there, and the only real reason I came around in the end was because I love those guys like they were my own sisters, and I had you and Fluttershy to calm me down before I stormed off in a huff or did or said something I'd regret."
Soarin laid a hoof on her shoulder as he gave her a reassuring smile. "I'll keep an eye on them and an ear to the wind."
Dash's smile returned, as she looked him earnestly in the eyes. "Thanks, Soarin. And if you ever need me to lend a hoof, just send word and you'll be seein' a sonic rainboom on the horizon in ten seconds flat."
The sky blue stallion reached up a hoof to bump it with his team mate. "Just save that light show of yours for dazzling the crowds, I'll keep the thunderclouds quiet around Ponyville."
She returned his hoof bump and gave him a salute. "Okay, okay. Keep the blue up and the dirt down, Soarin."
With that, she leaped into the clear, early summer skies with a beat of her wings, cutting a rainbow furrow across the vast cerulean dome that cradled Celestia's gleaming sun.
The doors on the Harmony Aeronautics barn swung open with a creak as Pip stepped out into the sunlight with an improved flight harness strapped on over his heavy canvas jacket. The wings were lighter and more mobile, with changes to the attachment points that allowed them to be folded back against the wearer's sides when not in use.
The young stallion looked up with a bright grin as the rainbow trail sliced across the sky. He was joined on the dew beaded grass by Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Apple Bloom, and Spike, who all raised hoof or claw to wave as high above their old friend departed the skies over Ponyville.
The pale unicorn turned to her colleagues with a smile. "Well, darlings, that's a good omen if I've ever seen one. Shall we begin?"
Pip took a few steps forward and craned his neck to pull at a cord hanging from his right shoulder. With a crisp snap the wings deployed to a horizontal position. He cast one of his sparkling grins back at the mares and adolescent dragon. "Ready when you are, ladies and gentledragon."
Twilight gave a resolute nod. "All right. Spike, begin recording. Harmony Aeronautics Personal Flight Harness, Mark Four, Test One. Casting the spell now." She stepped forward with a coruscating ball of light radiating from her horn, and touched it to the tip of one of the wings, where the glow proceeded to spread until it washed over the entire harness, lingering in swirls around the attachment points as it faded away.
She backed up to stand between Spike and Apple Bloom, who stood biting her lip with only the faintest blush on her cheeks. The lavender scholar used her telekinesis to lower her goggles into place. "Okay Pip, take it up and see how it flies."
The young earth pony stallion snapped her a salute. "Right-o! Up, up, and away!"
He dropped into a half crouch as the wings began to flap, faster and faster until their downdraft started pushing the grass flat in a circular patch around his hooves. With an expectant grin he pushed up, springing skyward with a hearty laugh. He rose a good eighty hooves into the air before leveling out into a hover, and turned to call down to his employers. "Jolly good view up here, ladies!"
Down on the ground Apple Bloom muttered under her breath as her blush intensified a little. "Can't complain 'bout the view down here neither."
Rarity flicked an ear and cast the young mare another sly grin as Twilight kept her attention trained upward. "You know the drill, Pip. Try flying in a circle, clockwise at first for three revolutions, and then reverse direction and repeat."
The spotted earth pony gave a wave of his hoof. "Right! Here we go round the mulberry bush!"
With that he turned, and executed three wide circles in the air, stopped with a flaring of his hooves as his body angled a bit then leveled out, hovered in place and rotated to face the opposite direction, then made three more spins before drifting to a stop.
Down below, his audience was watching raptly. All three mares stood on the tips of their hooves and held their breath, while Spike furiously scribbled notes on the parchment, his own wings flapping absently behind him.
Pip's smile glimmered as he called down to them. "All I can say is you've done a cracking good job, ladies! She's handling like a charm! Response time and maneuverability are much better!" He emphasized his report by launching into a vertical loop, kicking his hooves skyward with a loud "Huzzah!".
Rarity and Apple Bloom instantly broke into loud squealing and cheering, alternating between hopping up and down and jogging in place, while Spike flared his wings and shot a gout of flame with a whoop as he pumped a clawed fist skyward. Twilight took a moment to shake out of her surprised gape at Pip's sudden, unexpected stunt, and soon joined her companions in their giddy celebration.
The young stallion inclined his head with a grand flourish in an aerial bow.
Late that afternoon Twilight stood and studied herself in a mirror lined alcove at the Carousel Boutique as Rarity figuratively hovered nearby with a shoal of sewing notions literally hovering around her in a cloud of blue magic.
Recent trends in formal wear for mares had moved away from a billowing, tulip shaped skirt in favor of accentuating the natural curves of the croup and flank, with intricately wrapped ribbons binding the tail for a more sinuous, tassel like shape hiked over a trailing hem that was often enchanted to float a bit over the ground so as not to get dirty dragging on the floor or entangled in the hooves of other ponies. The overall effect was vaguely reminiscent of the ethereal tails of the Princesses, the imitation of whom was one of the subconscious underpinnings of fine pony couture regardless of what was currently in fashion. Stockings had come back into vogue, with the cannons of the forelegs wrapped in similar fashion to the root of the tail. Current necklines generally fell off from the withers, and were accentuated with decorative shawls, gossamer veils, or fabric stoles. Manes were worn up and adorned with more ribbons that could be configured in a dizzying array of bows, cascades, or braids.
The lavender unicorn's clinging ensemble was a dark indigo and midnight blue, accented with glittering white, geometric stars of diamond sequins that echoed her cutie mark, the ribbons wrapping her tail and forelegs and adorning her mane a velvety black edged in silver.
Rarity looked expectantly over her horn rimmed glasses. "So, darling, what do you think?"
Twilight let out a chuckle as she turned to look at her hairdo from another angle. "You probably should ask that mare standing there in the mirror, because I'm just a plain little academician and can't possibly be that elegant and sophisticated."
The alabaster coated fashion designer preened, a wry smile on her face. "Darling, any mare can be elegant and sophisticated with a little care, the right outfit, and most important of all the right attitude."
She turned and puffed a stray curl of her violet mane out of her eyes as Applejack's voice sounded from the doorway. "Well I tell y'all what, I sure ain't gonna be buckin' any apples in this getup."
A knowing smile flitted across Rarity's alabaster features as she turned to face her old friend. "Case in point..."
The blonde earth pony stood with a dubious look on her face, casting a wary eye over her own form hugging dress, this one an emerald green and mellow gold, with twining leaf patterned brocade and the occasional, apple shaped ruby brooch for accents.
Hats were currently quite out of fashion, but in the spirit of compromise (and of carefully picking her battles) Rarity had included a pristine white stetson in Applejack's ensemble, its brim edged in gold and green braid echoing the ribbons in the farm mare's pleated mane, and its filigree hat band adorned with more rubies. It was a tribute to the alabaster unicorn's skill as a designer that it didn't seem out of place at all with the elegant formal gown, instead feeling like just the perfect accent to complete the look.
Twilight spoke up in hushed tones. "You look amazing, Applejack."
Rarity tossed her mane with a smirk. "The apples would simply fall at your hooves to worship you, darling, if there were any room for them between all the stallions that would be doing the same."
The farm mare blushed beneath her freckles and dug her hoof bashfully on the unicorn designer's plush purple carpet. She looked over at the sound of more hoofsteps to see Apple Bloom come out of one of the changing rooms in her own newly fitted gown, with Rarity's unicorn assistant Thimble attending her trailed by a cloud of hovering pincushions, scissors, and thread.
The young earth pony mare's faintly metallic, bronze colored outfit was much more daringly cut than her elder sister or Twilight's gowns, showing a bit more of her long, shapely legs in their sheer, wine red stockings and clinging a bit more tightly to her flanks. A cascade of bronze and gold ribbons fell down her neck to her withers from a large, intricately looped bow, mirroring the fountain of shining ribbon wound in with her apple red tail.
Both Apple sisters locked eyes and simultaneously let out a long, low whistle,
Apple Bloom looked her sister up and down. "If'n Granny Smith saw y'all wearin' that she'd keel over dead as a doornail."
Applejack returned her younger sibling's stare with pursed lips. "If'n Granny saw y'all wearin' that she'd buck her way outta th' coffin, chase ya into th' house, n' nail the door shut behind ya."
Rarity stepped up between them with an urbane chuckle, floating her glasses off and passing them to Thimble, who took the spectacles and the rest of her employer's cloud of sewing gear into her own. "Well, it's a good thing that your dear grand mare isn't the intended audience."
She flicked an ear as the front door bell chimed. "Ah, speaking of whom, there's one of them now." A sly smile tweaked the corners of her mouth. "Right on time. Do come with me, girls, if you would."
The three mares followed the pale unicorn with quizzical looks on their faces as a devious sparkle appeared in Rarity's sapphire blue eyes.
Pip was standing in the foyer as they descended the stairs behind the Carousel's proprietress. Normally, he would have greeted them with a cheery hello and a glittering smile, but that was currently precluded by his jaw hanging slack in amazement beneath his wide, wondering eyes.
Rarity bustled up to greet him with her curled violet tail hiked vivaciously behind her. "Pip! Darling! So glad you could make it. I know this is all very much at the last minute and on the weekend too, but we were hoping you'd be so kind as to accompany us tonight." She cast a glance over toward the desk that held the boutique's register, where her shimmering blue magic retrieved a gold edged envelope stamped with the insignia of the Royal Opera House.
She smiled over it like a poker player with a royal flush in hoof. "I managed to pry loose a couple more complimentary tickets for tonight's Royal premiere. Being the lead costume designer does have some privileges."
Her canary-fed cat's smile widened. "I think if we manage to finagle our little chat with the Princesses, they would be quite interested to hear how our flight harness works from the brave pony who's been testing it."
Pip replied with the first thing that came to mind, which was nothing much beyond disjointed half syllables as his eyes focused raptly on Apple Bloom, who between her bronze colored dress and her fiercely blushing face and apple colored mane looked a bit like a brazier built in the shape of a mare.
Eventually, coherent words scrabbled and fought their way to the forefront of his mind, composed themselves, and came reverently out of his mouth. "Good heavens, Miss Apple Bloom, you're beautiful!"
The red headed handymare responded in turn by keeling over like an upturned table, landing softly on an ornate fainting couch that skidded to a stop beside her on a cloud of blue white magic. Her earth pony constitution shook it off instantly, and she thrashed into an upright position to find the handsome, spotted stallion had bounded forward and taken her by her hoof. Their eyes locked, and stayed locked.
Rarity spoke up with a tone of voice meant to sound thoughtful, but instead came out with an inflection usually employed by ponies saying "check" across a mostly empty chess board with a majority of the remaining pieces being theirs. "You know, it occurs to me that since this is the Apple sisters' first time sitting in the royal box at the opera, it would be most appropriate for them to have escorts."
She smiled over at the young stallion and mare, a slight waver in her elegant brow the only thing betraying her uncertainty that they were capable of understanding any form of verbal communication at this point. "Perhaps you would consent to Pip being your escort for the evening, my dear Apple Bloom?"
The young mare responded in a husky voice that sounded as if she were about to start coughing up rose petals. "Eeyup."
Pip's smile returned to his face, becoming almost incandescent.
Rarity's own smile widened as she turned to face Applejack, who'd leveled a flat stare at her old friend, a look composed of equal parts wariness, a familiar sense of exasperation, and a primal equine feeling usually heralded by a lasso descending around the neck. Her braided tail began to lash behind her in a nervous rhythm.
The alabaster unicorn ruffled the envelope hovering in front of her. "Now by some happenstance the box office sent me two extra tickets when I explicitly asked for one."
She paused, brushing aside the feeling that the blonde farm pony wasn't buying a word of it with a flick of her tail before continuing. "And it strikes me that Applejack, as another newcomer to the royal box, shouldn't be left without an escort either."
The earth pony mare ground her hooves on the carpet as she muttered under her breath. "Let me get Bucky or Kicks loose from this boa constrictor of a dress and that ain't the only thing that'll strike ya..."
Rarity ignored her and raised a hoof to her chin, tapping it in an elaborate display of pensiveness. "I wonder who we might get on such short notice?"
All eyes turned to the door as a tentative knock sounded. Soaren's earnest, sky blue face leaned in through the doorway with his green eyes darting back and forth. "Uh... hello?" He rustled a folded piece of paper in his hoof. "I.. uh... I got this bill for some curtains that I didn't order and I uh..."
He trailed off as his wandering gaze fell on Applejack, whose deadpan look of suspicion shattered across a blush that blossomed behind her freckles. The sky blue stallion's back legs folded beneath him as his wings flared rigidly out to either side, filling the doorway.
Rarity turned to face him as she gave a little hop on her hooves. "Mr. Soarin! So lovely to see you!" She took a hoof and helped him to his feet, smiling indulgently as he balked in the doorway, his wings banging against the door frame. He hastily folded them and allowed her to lead him inside, the pegasus scarcely noticing as she gently closed his mouth for him.
The elegant unicorn's tone of voice shifted from "check" to "check mate" as she brought him forward. "I'm sure that invoice was sent in error, darling. We'll simply work all that out later. My question for you now, my dear stallion, is what plans might you have for this evening?"
He answered distractedly, his eyes fixed on the blonde earth pony mare who was giving her younger sister a run for her money in the blushing competition. "What? Oh... I was just gonna stay home and put together some book shelves, I guess..."
Rarity gave a clipped chuckle. "Well, I've got much more exciting things to put together this evening, darling."
She led him up to stand mere hooves away from the freckled farm mare, whose impulses to fight, flee, faint, or fer gosh sakes just say somethin' were stubbornly refusing to be bucked loose from the metaphorical apple tree of her psyche.
The alabaster unicorn was almost purring with smugness. "Applejack here is in need of an escort to the opera tonight. Would you consider putting your décor on hold for an evening and accompanying her? She'd be ever so upset to have to go alone."
Rarity had no way of knowing the deeper meaning that the word "upset" held for Soarin and his sense of self preservation in regards to Applejack, but this was only the least of the jangling static of impulses, urges, and desires that coalesced into a lighting bolt in the metaphorical thunderhead in the pegasus stallion's mind.
This metaphorical lightning bolt struck the speech centers of his roiling pony brain and caused him to blurt out his answer as his wings snapped up into a flaring arc across his back. "YES!"
An unseen spark passed between the two ponies, knocking loose "just say somethin'" in Applejack's mind, and when it landed a sweet smile spread across her freckled face, and her voice came out soft and inviting. "I reckon I'd like that, Mister Soarin."
If the rules of Equestrian chess had a victory state beyond "check mate" it would have perfectly characterized Rarity's tone of voice. "Wonderful! We have just enough time to get everypony ready before we need to set out for the train station."
She tapped a hoof on the floor. "Snips!"
Twilight, who'd been watching the proceedings with an increasingly bemused expression on her face, blinked in surprise as the chubby, blue green unicorn stallion with his neatly parted orange mane and immaculate suit collar and cravat seemed to materialize silently at the elegant mare's side. Usually teleportation was accompanied by a small burst of white light and a muffled pop of displaced air, as well as a tingly feeling in her back molars. This was as if he'd just been turned out of a hidden pocket in the fabric of space and time, like a puffed up pigeon out of a stage magician's sleeve.
Rarity turned to her assistant tailor with a businesslike bob of her horn. "Snips, be a treasure and get these two gentlecolts fitted out in white tie and tails, would you?"
The young stallion clicked the hooves of his forelegs together and gave a short bow. "At once, ma'am."
He looked to Soarin and Pip. "If Sir and Sir would accompany me, please?"
He had to pointedly clear his throat a couple times to dislodge both stallions from their reverie, before he shimmered from the room with the pair of them in tow.
Rarity managed to tamp down her triumphant grin as she addressed the other mares. "Well, darlings, I must get dressed myself. Make yourselves comfortable in the lounge, but try not to wrinkle anything too badly." She nodded to her assistant. "Do come lend me a hoof, Thimble."
As she ascended the staircase with her assistant in tow, the pop and flash of a textbook standard teleportation placed the elegantly bedecked Twilight Sparkle at her side, climbing the steps with a curious expression on her face. "Rarity, what was that all about?"
The pale unicorn looked at her partner with a sidelong glance and gave a chuckle. "Well, the flight harness isn't my only project, Twilight."
The scholarly mare stopped and watched the alabaster fashionista vanish up the stairs to her room, her eyebrow cocked as she boggled over what the elegant unicorn had said.
She let out a sigh and shook her head as she turned and made her way back down to where the Apple sisters had resumed their blush off.
The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.