Soft snores sawed quietly against the inside of her math book.
"Ms. Rainbow Dash?" A hoof clacked loudly against wood.
"Mmmngh, go 'way
The hoof rapped again, this time slamming down into the desk beside her head. "MS. RAINBOW DASH."
"HUHWHUZZAH!? WHO!?" Rainbow Dash's head shot upright and nearly smacked an old, grizzled-maned pegasus in the jaw. Her heart raced and her wings flapped awkwardly as adrenaline rushed through her. The old pegasus glared down into the filly's wide magenta eyes and growled, "I would thank you not to fall asleep in my class, Ms. Dash." He turned on his hindhoof and walked slowly back to the front of the class, his icy stare silencing the titters of his students.
As he started to speak again, she rubbed furiously at her eyes. Ugh
It's not my fault I'm sleeping in class. If I wasn't up all night studying everything else, then I wouldn't have to catch up in this boring class. She looked up at the blackboard with a weary grunt. Not that I'm learning much here anyway. It's all boring old review, and even MORE boring basic trig. I could do this stuff in my sleep.
She looked slowly around at the class. She was the only second year-student out of a class of seniors, and hated every minute of it. None of her friends were here, every one of the other students hated her for being smarter than them, and the teacher's voice drove her nuts. Even more than that, she hated that she'd let her old teacher talk her into moving up to the advanced math courses. All of her old friends were starting to resent her for Mrs. Whitehoof's fawning attention every time she solved a problem in no time that they were still struggling with. Even Gilda had grown a little distant in the last week.
She sighed and looked down at her desk. It wasn't that she was smarter; she was just good at math. Just like she was good at flying, though that had taken a hit in the last year. Her other grades were average at best, and absolutely dismal at worst. It was just math and flying she was good at. Well, and meteorology courses, but only because she was so good at the two biggest parts of it.
"Ahem. Ms. Rainbow Dash. I assume from your extremely pensive expression you've already solved the problem?" Mr. Nimbus glared at her from the desk and crossed his hooves in front of him. "Well?" he asked, moustache twitching expectantly.
Rainbow Dash blinked, and then looked over at the blackboard. Jaw muscles clenched as she squinted at the squiggles and lines and tried not to reach into her desk. "Uh, give me a sec, teach."
Mr. Nimbus looked up at the clock. "You have ten. Seconds, that is."
Rainbow's teeth ground together as she squinted hard at the board. If she leaned forward a bit more, she could just barely make it out. Delta
? Is that some kind of, wingy thing there, next to a Bernoulli function? Yeah, almost got it
"Time's up, Ms. Dash. Since you have failed to answer today's question, and such a simple one, I am going to have to ask you to remain after class is finished for remedial tutoring." He turned back to the blackboard and began dusting the chalk away with a wing. "How odd that you couldn't, since you came on such high recommendations from the other faculty. I will have t" He trotted back half a step and stared wide-eyed when Rainbow stomped up to him and spat a piece of paper onto the floor. "W-What is this?"
"The answer, featherbrain, and a note saying exactly how you messed up the question," snarled the young pegasus. "Which you'd know if you'd bothered to remember basic. Flippin'. Algebra. You put brackets around the function solving for the n value when it didn't need them, and forgot to put a
y'know what? Just read the stinkin' paper. It's the kind of mistake I remember making in grade school." Snorting, she stormed out of the class and stuffed a pair of thick-rimmed glasses into her saddlebags. "Screw this, Nimwad, I'm outta here."
"So I heard you told off old Nimbreath, Dash," Gilda snickered. "Wish I coulda been there to see it."
Rainbow Dash sighed and picked at the cloud lichen mush on her tray. "It wasn't that great
He just called me stupid 'cause I couldn't see the board since I'm all the way in the back row. I mean, it's hard to see even with my great big binocularglasses, he's got me back so far. I can't see anything up there without 'em."
Gilda shrugged and stuffed a wad of hotdog into her beak. "Mmph. Can't this school offer meat for a change? Tired of nasty old soy stuff." She swallowed, then threw an arm around her friend and pulled her close. "Don't let him get to ya, Dash. Ain't nothin' but a sour old fart, that's all."
Rainbow sniffed and leaned into her friend's shoulder. "Thanks, G." A hoof wiped at her nose. "I'm sorry for bein' such a flip-flop this past week. Ditchin' you, and everything. It's just, this class is getting to me, and I can't focus on flying. And I have to wear these gigantic
things even to do that." She pulled a pair of black, thick-framed glasses with even thicker lenses out of her school uniform top and let them dangle from the end of her hoof. "All I want's to come back and do regular stuff with you guys again." She slumped in her friend's grip. "I'm not a genius. I'm just Rainbow Dash."
"You're not just Rainbow Dash, buddy," growled Gilda, snatching her up by the shoulders and staring down her beak. "You're Rainbow Dash; the fastest flier in the Junior Speedsters and the best athlete in the school. You're the coolest pony I know, and the best friend I've ever had. Now stop all that 'woe-is-me' crap and finish your
what are you eating, anyway? Looks like frog poop."
Rainbow stared up at her friend, eyes wide, then turned to her tray. "I-I dunno, G
"Well hello there, Rainbow Crash!"
Both Rainbow and Gilda rolled their eyes as three stocky-framed pegasi strolled up to their table. "What d'you want Gold Medal?" Gilda let Dash's shoulders go and glared down at the colts.
"Oh nothin'. Just wanted to see if we could borrow your glasses, Rainbow Crash," said the leader, Gold Medal.
"Hehe, yeah!" The second, a smaller pony with a set of weights on his flank, trotted over to the other side of the pair and nudged Dash with his shoulder. "The observatory just called and said their telescope is missing a couple lenses!"
Dash's jaw clenched again, her teeth grinding almost audibly as she stared straight ahead and tried to ignore the three. "Go away, Heavy Weight. No one wants you here."
"Hey! It's a free country, we can go where we like!" Gold Medal pushed his friend out of the way and plopped himself down next to Dash. "And, see, my dad also donates heavily to the school, so I can go anywhere I want, and do anything I want," he said with a leer, one foreleg snaking around Dash's waist. Heavy slapped down beside Gilda and grinned up at the tall griffon. The third, who'd never given his name to anyone, just sat across from them and tried to look invisible.
"Anything," smirked Gold Medal.
"Back off!" shouted Gilda, putting an elbow in Heavy's mouth and grabbing Gold by the mane. "How many times does she have to say no?"
Rainbow put a hoof on Gilda's arm and shook her head. "I've got this, G. Thanks." She pushed her friend's arm down and turned to Gold, a coy smile on her lips. "So, you want to go out with The Dash, huh? Is that it?" Her raspy voice lowered to a throaty coo as she leaned into the larger pegasi's side. She could feel the heat of Gilda's glare behind her, but she ignored it, focusing on Gold Medal. She felt the same way; disgusted and angry and heartsick and a little nauseated from the storm of emotion churning in her gut, but she couldn't give into it now.
"That's right, chickadee," Gold sneered. "You and me could be king and queen of the Cloud Prom next summer, if you play your cards right."
Rainbow's smile crooked at the edges as she rubbed her slender shoulder against Gold's chest. "Why wait until summer to be king? I could make you feel like a king right now." She tilted her head slightly and winked back at Gilda, who just watched, confused and blushing bright red. Her lips pursed as she lifted her muzzle to Gold's. "Close your eyes and pucker up, big boy," she said in a breathy moan.
Gold smiled triumphantly at the big griffon, then bent to steal Dash's lips. A pale blue hoof greeted him instead, barreling into his mouth. White-hot pain exploded inside it as his lower jaw was shoved backward into his cheeks with a loud snap. Teeth and blood flew as he fell backward and landed on the floor.
"I GOT YOUR CROWN!" shrieked Rainbow as she leapt on his chest and pummeled his head. "CROWN O' LUMPS! GREAT BIG FAT ONES!" The cafeteria erupted in chaos as students and teachers rushed the pair.
"Fighting again, Rainbow Dash?" Principal Silver Lining said with a heavy sigh. "This is the third time this month. Are you sure you don't want to talk to me?"
Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to speak, then caught her father's glare out of the corner of her eye. "
no, sir," she growled. Her father's head turned back toward the principal in her peripheral vision, leaving her open to charge ahead. "Except there's these three idiots who keep bugging me and Gilda in the lunchroom, and won't stop touching me! One of them even tried to kiss me!"
Silver Lining looked between the two. Rainbow Dash, bright young filly and brilliant flier she was, was a prime target for the less positive attentions of the student body. She was a good filly, but too prone to bottling things up and letting them fester until they exploded. She had been for years. She looked visibly upset, so whatever had happened to drive her to break another student's jaw must have been terrible.
Her father, on the other hoof, terrified him. His eyes were the same color as brushed steel and were twice as hard. His slate blue mane was kept neat, the opposite of his daughter's wild hair, and he had an air of barely controlled danger to him, like a storm cloud about to break. He was a bad sort, and getting worse. He'd have to watch himself around Mr. Thunder Mane.
"If you hadn't wanted them to do that, you shouldn't have been flirting with them," Thunder Mane said flatly.
Silver's eyes went wide, as did Rainbow's. "Are you saying this is my fault?" she choked.
Thunder Mane fixed her with an icy stare. "Of course I am. You fail consistently in school, so you thought your only recourse was to find a colt to marry. Get in good with the son of this school's topmost donor." A sneer curled his lip. "Have to have some way of supporting yourself after school, don't you?"
"But she's a brilliant mathematician, and a wonderful flyer, too!" Silver Lining put a hoof to his mouth when Thunder turned his steely eyes on him. "S-sh-she could be a brilliant"
"Weather Patroller? Mailmare" Thunder Mane made no attempt to keep the disgust out of his voice. "With her eyesight going, she'll never fly for the Air Force, or anyone else, will she? She'll be an air janitor. A bleeding cloud jockey."
"But mom was a Weather Patrolmare, and she was"
"A liar, a cheat, and very nearly the ruin of this family. I'll not have you following in her wake." Thunder Mane's eyes trained on a point just behind Rainbow's mane.
"Shut up!" The old pegasus' eyes were red at the edges and shaking. "Not another word. If you only failed at half of the things you tried, then I might listen. If you were even a great student, I'd have some sympathy. If you didn't let your mother's words delude you into thinking you're something you're not, then perhaps I might even support you! But NO!"
What in Celestia's name was he hearing? "But Mr. Thunder Mane, she's a bright young filly! She could be any"
"Did I ask your opinion, Principal? No? Then be quiet when I'm talking to my daughter." He turned his acidic stare on Rainbow. "You're good at math and flying? Where will that get you then? Mail delivery? Teaching job? You'll be lucky to get that far. Flipping tofu patties more likely. You're not being a cloud jockey."
"But, sir!" Silver Lining slid out from behind his desk and trotted toward Rainbow Dash, one hoof on her shoulder. "Weather Patrol's a fine job, an important job! It's something all of Eque"
"I SAID NOT ANOTHER WORD." Thunder Mane's wings flared, lightning dancing among the feathers, as he lunged at the Principal. "Not another word," he hissed, turning to Rainbow with foam flecking his lips. "I'm your father, and I know what's best. Get you things; I'm putting you in a different school. One that will better suit your future." He straightened in his chair and dabbed at his muzzle.
The air stank of ozone and tension as Silver Lining pulled the filly against his chest. "I-I'll walk you out, my dear. We can get your things together," he murmured to Rainbow. He goggled at the slate blue stallion until he closed the door behind him. He let out a shuddering sigh once those eyes were off of him and hugged Rainbow Dash tightly. "I'm sorry, Rainbow. I'm so sorry."
Rainbow sniffed and leaned into him, her forelegs dangling against her stomach and tears staining her cheeks. "I hate him. I hate him so much. I hate this place. I hate the teachers, and the students, a-and, and I hate these stupid glasses!" She buried her face in Silver Lining's coat, choking sobs shaking her shoulders.
Silver Lining just tightened his arms around her. "I know, sweetheart, I know
Water slopped against the floor and a little, tired groan filled the small room.
Rainbow's magenta eyes were bright red as she walked slowly toward her locker. Silver Lining walked next to her, his eyes on the students. He could hear them; they both could. Hateful, spiteful words from hateful, spiteful creatures, thought Silver Lining. He hated himself for thinking such things; he was an optimist by nature. But he couldn't look at them and not see a little of the horrible things he tried so hard to work against.
"Finally leavin' us, Rainbow Crash?" said one, a cheerleader for the Skyball team, as she passed. "About time."
"Only a matter of time before she went off. Glad it wasn't me," said another.
"I heard she's getting expelled!"
"That overmuscled jackmare Gilda's probably next. Celestia, I hope she drops this semester."
"I heard they were fooling around in the locker room after school."
"We don't need ponies like them around here."
The color drained from Rainbow's face as she numbly dropped her belongings into her saddlebags. Silver's ears pinned back as he watched her shrink further and further into herself.
"I think the PTA are gonna try and expel them both."
Silver's eyes narrowed. Steel uncoiled in his gut. "Not if I have anything to say about it." He grabbed Rainbow by the shoulder and turned her toward him. "Rainbow Dash, listen to me, and listen close." He pressed a small card into her hoof and pushed it against her chest. "Hold onto that. It's got the name of a good friend of mine in town called Ponyville. She's with the Weather Patrol there. Tell her I sent you, and she can get you a job. It's not the best, but it's the most I can do for you now."
Rainbow stared up at him. "B-But, I
what about my dad? What about school?"
"This place, this life, is no good for you, Rainbow. I've been watching you since you were a foal in my 2nd grade class. Ever since your mother left. I've tried to ignore your father, but he's just been getting worse, and worse." He cupped her chin in his hoof. "You're better than him. Better than this. Get out of here. Go to Ponyville, talk to Firefly. I'll make up some story so you can live free of him and have a happier life than this." He pulled her close and laid his head against hers. "You're a beautiful young mare, and one of the most talented students I've had the privilege of serving. You could be Equestria's finest Weather Patrolmare, or mathematician, or anything. You could even fly with the Wonderbolts someday. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise." He smirked and stroked her mane. "You're The Dash; quick as the lightning on your flank and just as bright."
Rainbow sniffed and buried her face in his shoulder, ignoring the whispers of the other students. "Thank you Mr. Silver
He gave her a fierce squeeze and let her go. "I'll tell your friend Gilda where you went. And, here." He pulled his wallet out and tucked it into her saddlebags. "It's not much, but it should help you get started. Now get going." He lowered his head and pushed her for the front door, into the light streaming in through the glass. "And Rainbow? Good luck."
Rainbow flew for the door and didn't look back.
Rainbow jerked herself awake and gasped. Something fell into the tub with a plop and sprayed soapy water everywhere. "Oh no!" She stuck her hoof in and scooped up her glasses. "
Aw shoot. They're all wet. Stupid glasses," she muttered as she wiped them on a towel.
She shoved the dried glasses back on and sank into the water. "I hate that dream. Ever since that stupid Gilda came and yelled at everyone, I keep having it. Why? She's the bully here, not me." She snatched up the heavy book beside her and planted it on her chest with a grunt. "Stupid book. Stupid dream. Stupid grif"
A small strip of paper fluttered down from the pages onto her face. Slowly, she sat up and scanned it. It was that old newspaper clipping, the one about her principal that she used as a bookmark. He looked so much older in the picture, even though it'd only been a couple months since she'd left. He was smiling, though, even though the article told every reason why he shouldn't be. Tears fell onto the thin pages of the textbook from the edge of her glasses.
Gilda had been one of the only good things in her school days, besides Mrs. Whitehoof and Mr. Silver. And while she'd gotten a second chance in Ponyville, Gilda had been left without any other friends for the three years? Four? Four years since she'd left that place. She took a deep breath and tucked the yellowed paper back into her book, then set it down on the stand next to her bathtub. "No wonder she was such a crab. I left her without saying anything." She sniffed and rubbed her face.
"I got my second chance. It's time I gave Gilda hers."