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Horse Feathers! (Attn: Steel)

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Frost crunched under hoof as the Princess of Friendship made her way toward the clearing on the outskirts of Ponyville. She muttered to herself as she went, going over notes in her head. Though she carried a huge tome on the subject of offensive flight tactics in her saddle bag the purple mare could pretty much remember everything without having to crack it open. She paused mid step, causing her number one assistant to bump into her from behind.

 

"Oof!" Spike snorted a laugh. "You can remember pretty much every detail in that book but you can't let me know when you're gonna stop trotting?" He rubbed his head spikes in mock injury. "I mean come on Twilight! You could pretty much beat anypony singlehoofed with your magic! Don't you think your flying is good enough knowing that?"

 

"Spike don't be silly!" She gave the dragon a wry smile. "And don't distract me! You're here to keep an eye on things in case something goes wrong, remember?" Her horn lit up a little as she went through the words and motions for particular fighting spells. "I need to be prepared. You never know what might happen! I mean with the recent attack at the school, and Tirek begin active again..." She sighed. "I have to be trained to keep Ponyville safe!"

 

Twi had recently taken it on herself to be more than proficient in offensive flight magic technique. The magic was no problem at all...the flight? Well, she'd come a long way but she was far from the best. Today she would practice. And the next day, and the next day and the next... until she was the best! At least that's what she had in mind.

 

"Ok ok..." Spike flexed his new wings. "Your number one winged assistant's ready to...assistant yep!" 

 

Soon they were at the open field. Twi took to the air, hovering as she worked out her plan. "I need to be able to evade shots of magic and fire back. I'm going to practice the double roll and blast move for a bit," 

 

She spoke more to herself than Spike as she climbed higher. Her mind worked furiously, going over the details of the movements and the magic needed for the move.

 

"Here we go!"

 

She dove, trying her best to keep the roll tight. It went fairly well, but her magic shot missed her mark by a long margin.

 

"That's why I'm out here... practice!" Twi was going to keep at it until she trained herself. She never had been good at asking for help...

 

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Rainbow couldn't help but love days like this. She was always busy, always doing something- maybe not as much as others but she was a pony who had a busy schedule. Being in the Wonderbolts was time consuming and hard work! The practice alone was enough to make some ponies blush. Hour after hour, day after day, precise formation flight training demanded moment to moment concentration and the greatest of athletic ability. Any mistake and it didn't just come down on you, you could hurt others. So much training was invested that it almost made the shows she participated in seem like small potatoes. At least once a week she would perform in front of large, adoring crowds and then spend hours mingling, sometimes more than once a week. But it was still a lot of work, not to mention all the time she spent practicing her own moves and generally being awesome around town.

 

It wasn't easy being the greatest pony in Equestria, after all.
Which is why she loved days where she could just relax, which is exactly what she had blocked most of this day off for. She was laying on a cloud, lazily directing it as it moved around Ponyville. On top of the cloud she lay with her back legs crossed over and tapping, her tail hanging off just slightly. A drink in one hoof and a stack of cloud-covered books next to the other, she was set and ready to enjoy the glorious freedom the day offered. She was enjoying it so much that she didn't really keep track of where the cloud was going and didn't know it had drifted away from Ponyville and over an open field nearby. "This is the life..." She said, reaching for her drink...

 

Which was vaporized by a magic blast. "Yeoahhh!" Rainbow yelped loudly as she rolled off of her cloud and fell a few feet before catching herself and started to hover. "What in the...Twilight?" She said incredulously as she looked at the Princess in the not-so-distant testing spot. Rainbow's eyes furrowed as she flew over, holding the remains of her drink in one hoof.

"Hey, Twilight! If you didn't want me to have any orange juice you could have told me instead of vaporizing it!" She said, her voie equal parts trying to make light of what just happened and angry. "Why are you firing off magic blasts anyway?"

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Twi flapped her wings slowly as she hovered in place. Her mind worked furiously over the move and the subsequent magic blast. 

 

"Well, the roll went ok but..." Her eyes traveled to the spot when her magic had fired and went wide. "Oh no!" She flew forward as Rainbow Dash approached.

 

"Twilight! I think you just took a shot at..." A glance from the princess silenced the dragon for the moment. He took to the air and hovered nearby as the ponies met on the wing.

 

"Rainbow Dash! Ha haaaaa...." A small laugh died on her muzzle as she looked at what remained of the refreshing beverage in RD's hoof. It still had a trail of smoke coming off of it and everything. "I'm so sorry Rainbow," She felt herself blush a bit. She was going to have to explain her mistake, Twi hated making mistakes. She way as always, way too hard on herself. "I didn't realized you were up there," She nodded towards the clouds where her errant blast had gone.

 

"And my shot was way off," She sighed. "Because I'm not that great at this yet. It's one thing to be the Princess of Friendship, it's another to have to protect Equestria..." She wasn't going to go into all the details right now.

 

"Anyway, I'm so sorry Rainbow about frying your drink..." She glanced down for a moment and sucked in a small breath. "D-do you think you could help me with my flying?"

 

Twi had always been intimidated by Rainbow's flight prowess, and well...there was just something about the sky blue mare...

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Twilight seemed to be taking this whole failure thing hard. She could respect that. She hated to fail too. Failure meant that you just weren't good enough. Of course within each failure was the germ of future success. Keep on working hard, keep on working better, and you could easily surpass any challenge. It didn't hurt that she was pretty much the greatest flier to ever live. Twilight was a pretty amazing mare herself who was capable of feats that made Rainbow's mind boggle. The fact she had failed this wasn't an indictment or nothing. She didn't have a lifetime of flying experience and wing control to really fall back on when it came to the small things, let alone when it came to combat flying. That was a whole other set of problems for even experienced pegasi. It only ever made sense that you'd fail at first before starting to succeed at something so difficult.

 

It was then that she asked Rainbow to help teach her how to fly. Well duh, of course she'd help! Not that she could really help Twilight with what she likely really needed, which was to calm down and not worry so much. There were other major concerns, of course. Rainbow feigned indifference at first. "Well, I don't know. I was going to relax and nap and have a beautiful drink but somepony destroyed all that. If we can get something to replace that..." she then smiled and winked at Twilight, "then I'd TOTALLY be down with helping you out! The best flight instructor in all of Equestria. Bet you don't even know what a half corkscrew dive slap is, don't you? I'll help you learn it...after a drink," she said as she started to lazily hover away as if she was laying down, laying out horizontally as her wings pushed her away.

"Why the sudden urge to fly around and start blasting stuff with your horn? Just get AJ and I some combat training. Boom bow pow, you know I can lay it on petty thick and tough, right?"

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Twi's expression was decidedly bummed out as Rainbow began to decline her request for help. But then she let a half smile take over. Over course RD would decide to help! She was just playing around like she so often tended to do. In fact, she tricked Twi quite often because she so easily trusted her friends and believed the things they told her.Nope! Rainbow wasn't getting away with that this time!

 

Then, before she could comment the cyan mare changed her tone and became more than willing to help... but not before pressing the idea of having a drink together first. Twi's stomach tightened for a moment. Why would Dash want to have drinks first? They did hang out fairly often as friends but usually at least one of their other friends was with them. 

 

"Half slap...huh?" Spike intruded, trying to figure out what Rainbow was talking about.

 

"Spike! She said a half corkscrew dive...slap? Um..." She trailed off, having absolutely no idea what that was. 

 

She wasn't sure how much to open up to Rainbow. She wanted to, she just had a reservation about letting anypony in on her feelings. Twi didn't like the idea of others knowing she was weak, or worried, or incapable... well she had been all of those things and all of those things in front of Rainbow before. There was just something now. This feeling she couldn't quite place as she watched Dash floating lightly on her back in the air.

 

"Spike?" She called her assistant over. "Could you please take these," She nodded to the huge book of spells and the smaller one on flight tactics that were laying on the grass nearby. "Back to the castle please?"

 

The dragon complied, hurrying off with the books in his arms. "No problem Twilight!" He wobbled slightly with the heavy load. 

 

Twilight smiled a bit coyly to Dash. "Soooo, where did you want to go for a drink Miss Dash?"

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Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, though she smiled while doing so. Leave it to a bunch of eggheads to not understand cool flight moves, even as they had wings and were trying to become better flyers. "Ha, knew I was right! You know a lot about everything but not enough about flying. That's why I can help you! But first," she said as she flew up, finding a nearby pond. Like she was gonna tell them about a move she was pretty sure they didn't know about and not then show them. Why else would she tell them about it in the first place?! She was soon in prime position for the first part of the move. She dove down quite fast and tipped down, slapping the water with her outstretched wing.

 

The momentum caused a small wave to start heading to the shore, but she was already back up in the air as she flew in a loop. Soon she was making her way back down towards the water while corkscrewing in the air. This movement gained her even more speed. Rainbow then did a ninety-degree turn and flew right above the water on her side, her right wing in the water and slicing through it. Soon she was splitting the wave she had caused even as it raced towards the shore, and came flying out of the wave just as it reached the shore. She was pointing directly at Twilight and only another sharp turn up prevented a crash.

 

The wave had been bisected and as it crashed into the shore the area around Spike and Twilight was kept completely dry, the cut in the wave having been line in line with them. Rainbow flicked her wing, the only part of her that was wet, free and clear of the water as she came down a soft landing next to Twilight and Spike. "And THAT is the half-corkscrew dive slap. Or cut. I think it should be cut, but what do I know? I'm just the best trick flyer in all of Equestria," Rainbow said, her face in no small way full of confidence after the execution of that maneuver. "Later, Spike," she said, waving her wing at him as she took her spot next to Twilight.

 

"Well, really, all I want is some juice to replace the juice you blew up or vaporized or whatever happened, so any place will do. Then, back to flying. Just a warning, I won't go easy on you," she said with a boop to Twilight's nose and a wink.

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Twi was impressed with Rainbow's moves. She was always impressed really... not that she was just going to say so to the pegasus. Nope. Rainbow would really have to work for her praise. Twilight enjoyed playing her little games with RD and she suspected Rainbow liked it to. She blew out a little breath as the mare finished her acrobatic flight.

 

"Whew!" The waves receded around the pair. "That was close! I thought you were going to pay me back for frying your drink by dousing me!"

 

She winked and gave a half smile. "I would have been really impressed if you'd managed to stay completely dry," She giggled. "You'd have to be one amazing teacher to teach me to do that!" 

 

Soon the two were on their way to a juice shop nearby. Twilight found herself quite interested in Rainbow as she always seemed to. All around ponies gave their hellos to the Princess but Twi's attention was focused only on one. 

 

As they took their seats at the juice bar Twi tried some small talk.

 

"So..." She blew her forelocks away from her eyes. "How's life with the Bolts been treating you Dash?"

 

Why did she always find herself so awkward and tongue tied around Rainbow? 

 

 

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Psssh, staying completely dry? That would require some pretty gnarly physics trickery. She'd have to be moving fast enough to cause a sonic rainboom or close to it to create the sort of force to part the water before contact, and any small mistake or miscalculation could result in a very serious accident. Breaking a wing would be the least of her concerns, assuming they found it. Of course it was par for the course for Twilight. The rest of Rainbow's friends seemed to take the awesome, awe-inspiring, and incredible acts of athletic dazzlement that traded in at face value. She did something otherworldly and was rewarded with the requisite exclamations and gasps. It was a like pony powered power source that powered ponies perpetually practicing precarious patterns. But Twilight? She didn't let on if she was impressed. As if she could do better! Probably knew she couldn't, and she was a supportive sort naturally. So why didn't she go all out? It sometimes drove Rainbow mad and she didn't know why. Not that she let it show, she was too cool to let it show.

 

Ponies said hi to the famous pair as they walked by. Dash enjoyed the attention, fired back a few greetings, gave an autograph even. She never understood why Twilight didn't get more attention, though. Maybe she was so demure and nonchalant that Equestrians forgot she had quite literally saved their lives a dozen times over, not to mention was a Princess. Rainbow Dash was a Wonderbolt. The Wonderbolts were the second most amazing thing that Equestria ever developed. The first? Princesses. And there was a Princess right there, and yet everypony who wanted a little attention seemed to want Rainbow Dash. Twilight didn't seem to mind. Rainbow always chalked it up to what seemed to be an endless well of humbleness that she projected. Ponies just felt bad about approaching her and she was just such a good friend that she only had eyes for her friend. All in all, no serious complaints could be lodged against the irrefutable logic found there!
 

In time they found themselves at the juice bar. While Twilight prepared to make awkward small talk after blowing away the distractions that were nefariously placed bangs, Rainbow got comfortable, laying almost sidewise in the chair with leg and tail propped off of the foreleg rest and sprawled against the rest of it in a casual manner. Twilight for her share of the casual nature of this gathering made an effective effort to be coy as she spoke, asking her athletic friend how her job was going. It was an easy entrance into the world of small talk but not one Rainbow was unprepared to exult in with all the passion that was her birthright. There were few things she loved more than to discuss her successes, after all. "Really good, actually. We're performing at a high level as a team now, our formations are efficient and tight, our moves are crisp and clear. We haven't had a bad accident in some time and even the small ones can be tossed down to pegasus error rather than team flaws," she spoke indulgently of her grandeur, a sense of amoure propre thickly dribbling off of her. 
 

"We have a tour in The Strand coming up to commemorate city founding ceremonies across the region. Manehattan, Fillydelpha, Baltimare, and Mustangia in the same week. We've got some really exciting formations and move to show off, super different than the shows we ran there earlier in the year," Rainbow said with unbridled enthusiasm exploding off of her and lighting the air around her on fire with the possibilities inherent when excellence met execution. But this wasn't all about her. It was also about juice. A waiter came by to take their orders. "Orange juice, please. And hold the horn-lasers."

Never forget....forgive easily, however!

"So, what's been the haps in the wild wild world of nation management and Princess tea parties?"

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She listened intently as Rainbow rattled off the expected list of achievements and upcoming events. The Princess was super proud to have Rainbow as a friend and as always she was really impressed with the happening in the wide world of Wonderbolts!

 

"Wow! That sounds amazing Rainbow! A lot of work but amazing!"

 

The waiter appeared soon after this and she cut off her deluge of accolades so they could order. 

 

The Princess couldn't hold back the blush that lit up her cheeks as Rainbow mentioned horn lasers with her order.

 

"Heh heh..." She gave her signature uncomfortable chuckle and bumped the pegasus' elbow lightly. "No idea what you're talking about Rainbow Dash," She glanced at the menu and then up at the waiter. "I'll take a blended carrot smoothie please."

 

Twi easily noticed how they seemed to be a magnet of attention to everypony, including their waiter. He nodded and bobbed his head while quickly retreating to the kitchen to put the order in. Of course she was more than used to behavior like this by now. Everywhere she and her friends went they got a similar reception.

 

She sighed and instead of giving the regular small talk answers for princess life she softly asked a question. "Rainbow?" She reached for a napkin and absentmindedly began to fold it in front of her with her magic. "You ever wish we could have had a few more days like it was years ago? You know before all of this," She waved her hoof in a circle. "When we were all just friends and didn't have so much resting on our withers?"

 

The Princess wondered even as she asked if she should have let the question slip. It was something he had been mulling over for quite some time and hadn't spoken of it to anypony, not even Spike.

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Rainbow had to have a few seconds to herself to really ponder Twi's question. Did she have any real desire to go back to the past? It was quiet. They could just fool around all day and play in the sun, have picnics, and daydream about the future. But those daydreams were about the future they were now living, at least for Rainbow Dash. She sometimes could imagine going back to the past and just lounging around. Being able to relax with her friends had a lot of charm to it. A lot of good times. But would she ever want to fall back into that? She didn't know. She didn't think so. Rainbow Dash shrugged as she looked up at the sky and smiled. "Hmm...well, sometimes. Being able to relax more would be cool, sure. I'd love to be able to just hang out some more. But I wouldn't trade what I'm doing now for anything. All those dreams I day dreamed I was dreaming about the day I'd become a Wonderbolt. I'm living my best life, thats for sure," she laughed and looked at Twilight, smiling broadly.

"And you? Bookish little Sparkle hanging out in her library all day or Princess Twilight-" she said, a wing flying over her head to muss her mane to mimic Twilight's, and she did her best impression, "-spreading the light of friendship to everycreature in the world!" She allowed the impression to end, and then laughed. "I like both versions, Twi. I wouldn't want to go back to the past not because I don't think it'd be nice to just relax, but because we're young, we're awesome, and we've got a lot to look forward to. Besides, we still find time to sit down and relax and just hang with one another, right?" She asked, more than apply with the way her life turned out. Was Twilight? A Princess had a thousand and five responsibilities and Rainbow, for all of her activity, didn't have the weight of a nation on her shoulders. Must have weighed her down, even with her strong shoulders.

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Twi's stomach dropped a bit as Rainbow exclaimed about how happy she was with her current life. It wasn't like Twilight wasn't...happy? Wellllll, maybe happy was pushing it just a bit. She was...she was... how did she actually feel? She wasn;t sure. She was so busy! There were SO many responsibilities and half the time she felt her head would fall off her shoulders if she didn't have Spike there to help manage her affairs. 

 

She supposed she wanted things somewhere in the middle. The charm of her library definitely had it's charm and she would love a few more days there, pouring over books with the golden sunlight lancing in. Sparkling dust motes flitting about as she turned page after page of wisdom, stories, fact, and lore. But, then again there were mountains of books in the castle library had she the time to go and sit down with them.

 

The mare felt a pang of sadness flow through her. Dash was so happy, so content. She could tell the cyan mare had met the goals for her life already and now she could make new dreams on top of that! Twis dream as of late was just to have time to relax for a few minutes and to...have fun with her friend. Oh! Well, that was what she had managed for today! Her feelings changed as she mentally patted herself on the back. It wasn't that bad! She helped tons of ponies, got to spend time protecting the empire, it was all really cool actually.

 

As Rainbow imitated her she could hardly stifle the laugh that came to her muzzle. 

 

"Oh come on Rainbow! I'm not that bad!" She laughed. "Ok, yeah, I am that bad," Her muzzle lifted in a wry half smile. "And yeah I'm good with the life I have now of course I just wish I had more time to spend with you and the other fillies,"

 

Her juice arrived the she took a sip. It was good! She took another sip. She really admired Rainbow Dash. She always had. Her zest for life was contagious that was for sure. In fact, even being around the pegasus rejuvenated her! It was a happy accident that she had zapped the mare's drink...and lucky of course it had been only the drink.

 

She took another sip of her smoothie, her eyes resting on the athletic mare next to her. Rainbow was special for sure. A good friend, a great encouragement, and nice to look at...

 

"Oh," She caught herself staring for too long and switched her gaze to the fruit in a display in front of her at the bar. "So, I'm umm, really excited to get your pointers for in flight combat! I need the practice for sure!"

 

Yep that was smoooooth...

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"Flight combat, I mean, I can help you at least a little. Really all that it involves is acrobatic flight training. Working on balance and coordination. The rest? Twi, you're underselling yourself. Nopony else can even dream about mid-air magical combat except for you and the Princesses. I can and will give you all the pointers I can when it comes to making you a more balanced flier, a mother athletic flier. I will work you hot and sweaty and you'll want to quit, but you'll be great in the air. Combat? You don't fight like a pegaus. You fight like a unicorn. I can teach you how to fly and be agile and balanced, but you'll need to figure out how your poker here figures into things," Rainbow Dash replied, tapping Twilight's horn as the final emphasis. As she reached over and made contact though, she spotted Twilight...sizing her up, for lack of a better word.

 

As Twilight broke her gaze, so did Rainbow turn hers away. That was intensely awkward and she wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. What was Twi doing? Was she....just looking for medical reasons? Maybe she was trying to make sure that Rainbow was healthy enough to teach her. Hmm...that didn't seem likely. No, Rainbow could try and delude herself for a few seconds but it was clear as the sun above what Twilight was doing. What wasn't clear was why Rainbow Dash found herself so confused regarding how to respond. She should just brush it off. She should just tell Twi to stop. She should...do something. But all she did was reposition herself on her seat, her tail flicking of its own accord out and away from her unintentionally giving her a nice view of her flank. Maybe unintentional. Wait what- come on, just be focused!

 

She shook her head and started drinking her juice quickly. What was- okay, what were they going to be doing, exactly? She drank her juice and drank her juice until it was gone and continued drinking a moment longer. Only when she realized that too was awkward did she stop. "Uhh..okay. Well, uhh, we need to...plan it. Yeah. So, first, we need to start you on what I call roll-fly. I mean there is a real name for it. You use yaw to move on the vertical axis and then we start banks and 180 turns based off of wing-tip movements. That will be the foundation of pretty much everything else. For balance you want to practice with those two things. Once you can yaw and bank in flight well you can maintain balance a lot easier, and minute movements of th wingtips can end with really sharp turns with a lot of control. I won't lie to you: This can be a lot tougher than the sort of flying you're used to. I believe you can do it, but do you believe you can do it?" She asked, wondering what if anything she was hoping to accomplish by battling whatever confusion lived inside her.

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Twi continued to stare at the fruit display. Stare... and stare...and stare... until it was super awkward. She could feel it in the air. The stomach churning that came with putting oneself in the worst of situations. It had happened so fast! She really needed to get herself under control! She moved her muzzle down for a sip of her smoothie as Dash got the the part about being...

 

...worked hot and sweaty...

 

Her muzzle missed the straw and wrapped around nothing but air. The Princess glanced over to see if RD had noticed and caught a view of the athletic pegasus' flank for her efforts. She tried to look away as quickly as she had looked but her eyes couldn't help but lunger. She felt the aforementioned sweat begin to form under her forelocks. This was too much!

 

"Ah heh heh heh..." *trademark book horse awkward giggle*

 

Rainbow sipped and sipped at her drink until the contents of the glass were gone and she made a sucking sound at straw hit bottom. Twi's lip turned up in a half grin at the noise. RD continued on about yaw and pitch and wing tip flight patterns. That for for sure interesting information for the purple mare. She lived for technical stuff... the praise the Rainbow interjected in at various moments not so much. She had never been good at taking compliments and a blush found its way onto her cheeks.

 

The Princess nodded as Rainbow finished, challenging her with the ferocity of the training to come.

 

"Yes!" She spoke with a bit too much enthusiasm. "I mean... yep! I'm ready!" She found herself eager to get out of this situation and into the air. "I think we've got some time to start training if you want to now?"

 

Why not now? Maybe she could invite Rainbow back to the castle after for dinner if they spent some time in the air together now... her insides raged. Why was she so intent on spending time with her friend? Close, uninterrupted time.

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Rainbow Dash wasn't going to allow her mind to roll around on the weird possibilities of what Twilight acting the way she was meant. She wasn't going to try and act weird or anything around the Princess. After all, Twilight was dealing with whatever Twilight was dealing with but trying her best to ensure that Rainbow felt comfortable. The least she could do is try and focus on the work in front of her, and there is a good amount of that to do. Twilight wasn't out of shape but she wasn't athletic, yet what she was after was something Rainbow couldn't claim to be able to do without a lot of effort. And she couldn't do the magic horn blasting thing anyway. Not yet. Maybe she could be the Princess of Magical Blasting Attacks in the Sky. That would be an awesome Princess title, and she'd look awesome in armor.
 

Rainbow took a breath and then reached into her saddlebag and threw some bits on the table. That was enough plus a tip, right? She didn't count them. She had more important things to think about. "Okay, good. Good! So you're going to meet me at the field to the west of Sweet Apple Acres, that way nopony will get in the way. We'll probably have to do this more than a few times so if this goes on, that will be where we have these sessions. First order of business, of course, is getting there. I can't have you operating at anything less than peak, and you need to stretch. So..." she flared her wings out and up and then took off, sending parts of the table flying away, "come and catch me!" she bellowed with a laugh, flying away fast and fiercely. Twilight could fly well but Rainbow was intentionally gonna make it hard on her. She has to earn everything- and Rainbow meant everything.

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Twi eyed the bits that were tossed onto the counter. It was far more than enough to pay for both of their orders. She wasn't surprised in the slightest. Both mares were more than wealthy in their respective roles. Still, it was a nice gesture of Rainbow to pay the tab. That thought of course sent her mind flitting to thoughts of the rituals of dating. She hadn't had any romantic encounters that went as far as dating with any mare and thus really wasn't sure of the rules. Traditionally the stallion laid down the bits but when it was two mares? Nope, no idea. She let her mind roll even further to if it really had been a romantic date between herself and her newly appointed flight trainer. They would pay and go back maybe to Rainbow's place? She had always enjoyed Cloudsdale and Rainbow had what most would consider a "sick pad". Rainbow's place has a sexy appeal to it that of course she would never let the mare know about... of course she wouldn't right?

 

She shook her head. Nope. Not going any further in that direction. The blue pegasus was speaking and of course Twi had missed most of it in her reveries. But she had heard the try and catch me part. Rainbow took off like a shot as always and Twilight spread her wings wide.

 

"Here I come!" She shouted and did her best to blast off into the sky. To be fair it wasn't a bad take off but flying with Rainbow made most ponies look like absolute amateurs. Truth was Twi was no amateur. She had had more than her fair share of flying and even flight battles. Time jumping on the wing was thrown in there to boot! But even with all this, she still had numerous techniques o gather of the athletic pony that was still in eye shot ahead of her...well above her. She had to keep her head! No more staring weirdly at those flanks, that lithe neck, those captivating eyes. It was just so distracting how a fine sweat sometimes built up in Rainbow's hind quarters and how it made the lines of her well toned croup stand out. Twi would love to nuzzle Rainbow just there above her tail...

 

"Ummmmm, concentrate?" The Princess spoke to herself as she winged her way after the ever receding form of Dash in front of her. 

 

She pumped her wings up and down rhythmically, trying her best to gain so ground. She knew RD wasn't going to be flying all out if she wanted to give Twi any chance of catching up. It wasn't long before Twi herself had worked up a good sweat. She was feeling good and warmed up! Her legs picked up a canter in the air underneath her as she strove to pick up the pace. Thinking better of this, she pulled her legs in closer to her body to become more aerodynamic. There we go!

 

Her pace picked up from this adjustment and she hurtled forward!

 

"I've got you now Rainbow Dash!" She called out triumphantly if a bit breathlessly.

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Rainbow Dash flew ahead of Twilight, trying to put a respectable distance between her and her unathletic....friend. Friend, yeah. That was it. Though Rainbow Dash felt some small flitters in her sternum when she ran over the way Twilight had been acting, unable to really compound the word friend with whatever it was those looks were implying between them. Luckily she had work, physical at that, to focus on and if there was one thing Rainbow knew it was how to work yourself tired of any lingering questions. She flew nowhere near her top as Twilight gained on her, the ALicorn straining herself to reach closer to her rainbow comrade. Twi was in for a long day!
 

Rainbow air-braked and then banked to close in with Twilight, catching herself at wingtip from her friend. "Ha! Not bad, Twilight. Do you feel the blood pumping? Are your wings tired? Feeling a bit breathless?" She laughed and then flipped her mane, doing a barrel roll for good measure. "Well, that's good. You should feel that way. You gotta feel the burn to really know you're ready to do some real training. Training when you're sitting comfortably? That doesn't do anything. So you better be ready. First off, we're going to do a few laps around town. Twenty, to be exact. And by the whole town, I mean the city limits," She said with a hungry, playful smile. More hungry than playful, because she loved a good workout.
 

First, Rainbow set the pace. She increased her speed to what she thought was just below top speed for Twilight. Straining, hard, but doable. It was going to hurt and that was good. Once Twilight was weary they could get to the real work. Rainbow's mind was settling on what exactly she was going to do with Twilight and also her training, but that was for then. Now was for the fun part.
"Come on, Sparkle. I wanna see you SWEAT!"

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Rainbow braked and banked just when Twi was beginning to close in. The Princess certainly didn't mind. As the pegasus asked her how she was feeling all she could do was nod in agreement. Heart pounding? Yes. Wing muscles burning? Indeed! Breathless? Mmmhhmm! They flew wing tip to wing tip for a moment and Twi used the time to try to regain her composure. It would help if she could at least get her head into this workout. As it was now she was spending waaaay too much time trying to clear her thoughts of the athletic mare beside her. It was hard to focus on thoughts of Rainbow beside her in other places than in the air and also keep her mind on track for what was fast turning into the workout of her life!

 

"T-the city limits?" Twilight gasped out as she fought to glide and not use her wings so much. She glanced at Rainbow again, her face looking nothing less than helpless. Her trainer looked so totally pumped up for this though and the thought of continuing on with this activity that hyped Rainbow so much gave Twi a boost as well! She couldn't help but see how even what must be a light workout for RD made her muscles pop in her shoulders and gaskins. That fine line that ran from her cutie mark to her hocks stood out in fine tuned sexiness...

 

Twi shook her head, causing a drop or two of sweat to go flying. Game face, try to at least hold onto some form of game face...

 

Rainbow flashed that wolfish grin of hers and the Princess' heart tripped in her chest. It was already hard at work providing much needed oxygen and the extra umph from all this Rainbow made her feel light headed and almost giddy! The pegasus was off once more, taunting the alicorn to really pour on her speed. Well, she'd try... she'd never catch up...but she didn't mind the view from behind as she pressed herself further into her athletic if not romantic endeavors. 

 

They rounded Sweet Apple Acres what seemed to Twi to be ages later. She was literally pouring sweat now and her wings were starting to feel like they were going to fall off!

 

"Rainbow?!" She panted. "H-how's this for sweat?" She gasped for breath yet again.

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Rainbow's ears were finely tuned and she allowed herself to hear Twilight's increasing gasps for breath. When they had finished the twenty laps Twilight was right where Rainbow had wanted her, where Rainbow needed her, where little could be done but confront the situation at hoof. And by that she meant the training, not any hints of romance that danced like devilish sugar plums over her head. She slowed down and then hovered next to Twilight, smiling wide. She had done well so far, she had to know that. "Okay, here's some water and take a breather for a moment. We got a light flight to the training field. It isn't far, so drink up," Rainbow said as she got out a canteen of water, hooved it over, and then started flying lazily past Sweet Apple Acres and to a few fields beyond until they got to a clearing that was mostly bare save for a few trees, one of which was her focus.
 

The tree had multiple branches, and at the end of the branches was a target connected by string and chains. The area around it was marked by buckball impacts and parts of the targets were broken off, likewise by buckball impacts. Rainbow drew close and then turned around to speak with her shockingly sturdy friend.

"This is a buckball training ground AJ and I used to use before...anyway, this is a good place to train. You cannot land, okay? You're hurt, you're not feeling so good, your wings are on fire, and now you're going to have to put yourself through a more intense sort of training. That all sucks, but trust me, if you find yourself needing any of this then you'll thank yourself for pushing," Rainbow said with a hoarse left as she flew up and out a little bit, perhaps thirty or so yards away from the tree and maybe twenty off the ground.


"Take a few breaths. Take a minute even if you need to, but don't try to settle too much. Your adrenaline is needed or else you're going to have a harder time," she said as she looked around. Luckily, nopony was around.

"When you're ready, try to hit each target with a magic blast of some kind. Do a quarter loop and a spin before you fire. You don't have to hit them all in a certain time, you just need to do a quarter loop and spin before you fire each time," she said before showing off the quarter loop and spin, finishing with a mimic'd magical blast. She settled back into position. "Accuracy and control, not speed at first," she said with increasing confidence. Twi had this, right? of course she did.

Time passed. When Twilight indicated she was ready, Rainbow clapped her hooves once. "All right, time to defend Equestria! Ready? Set? Go!"

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Twi had no problem doing as advised on the breathing. She sucked in huge quantities of air. So much so that she almost forgot the flap her wings a couple of times. She pressed a hoof to her chest and panted.

 

"I knew you would work me over...pant pant...w-when I asked you to...train me...but..." She quickly wiped her forehead to clear the sweat that had built up. "this training session sure escalated quickly!"

 

It wasn't that the alicorn was out of shape and she had fought her share of battles in the past. She'd taken down true horrors all on her own after all! But she was looking for more... more of herself, more of her power and ability, and perhaps more of the pegasus flapping her muscled wings and hovering. It was so hard to focus! Her brain buzzed with thoughts of Rainbow Dash that made her feel like blushing! She couldn't though. She had to get this done and done right!

 

The princess nodded at the commands in flight and attack methods and watched with as much focus as she could as the pegasus preformed the maneuvers. Soon enough it was her turn!

 

Twi felt pretty confident in Rainbow's requests. These were moves she had practiced before, and used before in a particularly gritty battle between somepony who was now a very close friend.

 

"Quarter loop, spin and fire! No problem!" She tried to put on her cool and confident air but came off just sounding awkward. At least it was cute Twilight Sparkle book horse extraordinaire awkward!

 

BANG! BANG! CLANG!

 

The targets were smashed in a clock work order and the the quarter loop preformed well...to a meh level. Twi was tired and it was showing! Perhaps she needed a swat on the rump to get her to full action mode? She flew back towards her trainer panting heavily after preforming the moves.

 

"So, how was that coach?" She gave Rainbow a sly wink before she could stop herself! What in Equestria was she doing? That blush she had tried to stop earlier return with a will to her cheeks!

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Rainbow gulped when Twilight mentioned working her over. Based on what Twilight had been doing earlier, Rainbow wasn't certain how safe for consumption such a thought was. Based on what Rainbow's mind was going through in terms of all the possible interpretations, it likely wasn't very safe. And just as worrying was how enticing such a thought process became as she delved into it. Upon her came in unstoppably a furious onslaught of emotions tethered to little more than a concept and a dream, anchored in mysterious tides of magenta. It was enough to turn a cyan pegasus pink if only for the duality it all presented, if she allowed herself a moment to wallow in the muck of her own mental gymnastics.

 

She had real athletics to watch, however, distracting her as best they could. Twilight, distracting her best as she could which was happening in larger swathes of mental real estate, was still not enough to make Rainbow Dash forget the lessons she was trying to impart. Repetition, stress, mental and physical elasticity stretched and stretched, the work being done was less exciting than it was going to be later but was constantly important to remind Twilight that this wasn't going to be a job done over a day or two. She could conquer anything individually but it was only in the aggregate that she was going to be anywhere near successful enough so that when she found herself up against it when fighting a villain she could act purely on instinct rather than fumble over plans.
 

Twilight did well on her first loop. Once you understand flight and you could fire off a horn, doing such was very simple. Still, there were problems. She did everything well but not well enough. The delay between her finishing the manoeuvre and firing was too long, the blast lacked a certain speed and curtness, and the loop was inefficient. None of it was based on obscure wingtip knowledge, at least not this one. She just needed more experience, more repetition, and the improvement would be gradual and important. Twilight could do this, because she could do anything she put her mind to. And her wings. Horn too. And overworked muscles, can never forget those.

"Not bad, Twi. Not bad for a first go, at least. You're gonna have to be faster, more accurate, and tighter. Run it again and again. Do it ten times, then we'll take a breather- not bad for a bit of stretching," Rainbow said with a laugh before giving Twilight a reassuring pat on the wingblades. "You can do it, Sparkle!"

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Twi blew out a breath.

 

"A bit of...stretching?" Her eyes bugged out just a bit at the statement. This had been one of the toughest workouts she'd even taken part in and here was Rainbow calling it all stretching! She began to question why in Equestria she had asked the pegasus for her help but then paused...

 

Did Rainbow suddenly seem a bit... flustered? Was the the hint of a blush forming on her cheeks? Twi shook her head, banishing her musing. Of course RD didn't feel the way she did? Of course she hadn't been distracted by a certain mare all day? Of course she hadn't been working to keep her thoughts on what was really important?

 

But what really was important? Twilight's head knew what was important of course! Being able to fend for herself, being able to keep the forces of darkness at bay and protect the beloved lands she was a princess over! Her head knew but her heart... well her heart was a longing for something more. She desired something deep, connected, and intimate. She longed for somepony to understand her and to pull her in close. At this point her heart was winning out over her head. That made the process of training all the more difficult!

 

She had to keep on trying of course. She couldn't tell RD what she was feeling. She had work to do and if there was one thing the purple alicorn had a will to do it was work towards a worthy cause. She would have to find a way to make her feelings known and she wasn't really sure how long she could keep up with keeping her thoughts to herself.

 

"Rainbow...I...uh..." She trailed off, her head and heart battling it out as fiercely as she ever had against any foe. 

 

She looked from Rainbow to the target on the tree and licked her muzzle. "Ten more times huh?" She flexed her tired wings before giving her friend a look. A look that said everything and nothing all in one instant. Then she was off, flapping for her target.

 

Twilight looped, turned, and fired until she was sure her wings were going to fall off! She panted from the exertion of repeated magic blasts. 

 

"Ten!" She called in triumph. All the strain had made her just a tad loopy. She flew back to RD, sweat beading on her face. "Short break maybe?" She pleaded. 

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There was an awful pregnant pause between the mares, Twilight on the verge of saying something likely very crazy. Rainbow Dash played it off well when Twilight was still looking at her, but once she started the loops, Rainbow became a small mess. Okay, okay, okay, there was something nutty happening now. Was Twilight going through Alicorn heat or something? Why suddenly all the fluster? And why was Rainbow so equally vexed by it? She played with her front hooves as she hovered above the ground, her mind racing as she counted the loops.
One, Two.
Okay, how does she approach this? Does she tell Twilight she's flattered by the attention but...what would she say then?
Three, Four.
Rainbow wasn't sure how to feel. It was cool to have an Alicorn more or less admit through increasingly poor communication skills something you'd never expect.
Five, Six.
But how did she feel about it? She didn't know. She liked Twi. She liked Twi a lot. But how much was a lot.
Seven, Eight.
It was a lot to think about. Her chest rose and fell quickly, and then she clamped down on it. She was here to do a job. The emotions could be sorted through when she had time, but Twi had asked for help.
Nine, Ten.
Task orientation, something Twilight could certainly appreciate.

Twilight did okay. She knew for certain that Twilight could do better. The loops didn't improve, though Rainbow knew that was unlikely. Twilight's wings and body were tired and beaten. It was about getting the movement down, and she was doing that. A success. Her magic blasts didn't improve in accuracy or strength, indeed one of them missed. That was also okay. As long as the idea of quick-firing after a movement was finished was ingrained in her and the feeling of charging a blast, something Dash was certain took concentration, while undertaking a flight maneuver was normalized the actual success of these individual attacks was less important. The important thing was that while Twilight had tried to play it off like it was not going to be as hard as it was, she was spent. Absolutely spent. Yet she kept on doing it. If she was going to be serious about it, good. She had proved it.


"Yeah, yeah. I guess so," Rainbow said faux flippantly, landing on the ground. "You can take a break if you want. You did pretty well up there, Twilight. I mean, in just doing it, at least. We'll work on making you better. Loop tightness, accuracy, transition speed- you'll have it down soon. And then we can get to work on more important concerns. But for now, a break. I'll get you something to drink, just a sec," she said as she blitzed away. A few moments later she returned with a bucket of water and some mugs, and a far off protest from what sounded like an upset farm mare. She poured it for Twilight and laughed. "You look like me after a few hours of flight tuning in the wind chambers. Do your fetlocks hurt like you've been slapping them against rock? It's called Wonderbolt hoof. The whiplash of the air against the fetlocks as the muscles tense against the change in pressure can cause some bruising. Gotta watch for that. Honest, how are you feeling right now?"

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Twi sucked in great quantities of air when she was finally able to fold back her wings and let her hooves take her weight once more. Except for...

 

"Ow..." She muttered as she rubbed the joints at the bottom of her legs. she blew her forelocks back and rubbed more, trying to make the pain sub side.

 

Rainbow was gone and then back in quick succession with a water bucket in tow.

 

"Wow, so glamorous!" She winked at her trainer before dipping a mug into the water. Though it had apparently been "borrowed" from a nearby farm the water was cool and clean. It tasted so wonderful as she drink in first one mug and then half of another. She continued to pant between turns at drinking until her heart rate finally slowed down. The Princess nodded as RD asked about her fetlock situation.

 

"Actually yeah, they're super sore," She rubbed again, this time at her back fetlocks. They weren't quite as sore as the front but still they throbbed.

 

"Wonderbolt hoof, on my first day," She couldn't but grin. "Looks like I'll be catching up to you in no time huh Rainbow?" Her eyes lingered a bit too long once more, taking in the mare before her. She couldn't help but wonder what RD must be thinking. Twi had already slipped up a ton of times today, letting her eyes hover for too long, blushing like a school filly, making awkward comment...just to name a few. There was no way Rainbow hadn't noticed, it was just the question of how she was taking it.

 

Could she have a hint of the thoughts tumbling about in the Princess' head and heart? The thought of letting her feelings out in the open almost caused another trade mark blush to hint at her cheeks. Twi dipped her head for another drink of water to cover herself. Geez! She was totally losing control here! 

 

"Ummmm," She stammered a bit. "Hey Rainbow," Another moment of those sparkling purple orbs focused on her heart's desire. "Are you busy later this evening?"

 

Certainly a leading question but she could hardly help herself at this point.

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"Heh, don't get cocky. You'll know you're getting close to me when you're not getting Wonderbolt's hoof every time you train. Eventually your muscles will be trained well enough that they don't get their flabby selves slapping around in there. Taut, firm muscles? No Wonderbolt's Hoof. Little pony princess fetlocks? Wonderbolt's hoof," Rainbow said with a cocky smile, tapping one of her friend's fetlocks and then pulling away in embarrassment. Okay, now she was acting like a total dork as well. Not a cool look. Nothing about her was cool right now and that was decidedly not very Rainbow Dash of her. She leaned back mostly to gain space and some time to think as she wondered just what the hay was going on. If she was being honest she knew what was going on, but honesty was never one of her strong suites. Why couldn't Twilight like Applejack? That would be cut and dry, no matter which side of the field Applejack wanted to play.
 

Instead, it had to fall on Rainbow's shoulders to break some hearts tonight- she thought she meant heart- and she wasn't sure she was ready. luckily, it wasn't like she had to make a decision in the next few minutes, right?
Scratch that, Twilight wanted to know if Rainbow was busy. She really wished she was now, but alas she was not. And she even used the word alas in her head. She was in trouble.
 

"Uhhh...not that I know of, I think. I mean, maybe? No, I'm not. Unless I am...I don't think- no, no, I'm not. Why?" She flubbed over every single word that came dribbling out of her idiot mouth, which she wasn't conscious about before but was now. She had more than half a mind to declare the break over and run Twilight through some more training just to prevent whatever crazy words were soon to be said, but she wasn't cruel. Not that cruel, not yet. Desperation makes strange bedfellows however and her mind raced with the many outrages that were about to be unleashed and she wasn't at all pleased with what felt like a tightening of a lacey noose around her midsection that seemed to cut short her breath for reasons she was ignorant of...unless she was being truthful.
Then she was very sure why it was happening.

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Twilight cocked her head slightly, wondering what was going on with her friend. She seemed...well flustered? What was the harm in asking what she was up to? Who was she kidding? It was hard enough for her to ask, must be hard to answer as well.

 

"Well," She smiled. "I was wondering if you'd like to join me and Spike for dinner at the castle," There she had done it! Plus it would give her at least a couple hours to get herself calmed down and collected enough to spend a relaxing evening with Rainbow. That was of course if she said yes...

 

------

 

"Twilight?" Spike trotted down the hallway of the Castle of Friendship, a scroll in his claw. "Twiiiiiilight?" The young dragon called out again. "Where in Equestria is she?" He muttered to the owl that flew along beside him. 

 

"Who?" Owloisious blinked absently. 

 

"You know who! Twilight!" Spike groaned.

 

"Who?" 

 

"Nevermind..." The dragon sighed heavily and continued on.

 

"Ok Twilight, this is no time to lose your head." The alicorn princess spoke to herself as she looked in the mirror in her bedroom. "I just hope Spike has everything under control in the kitchen..."

 

"Twilight!" Spike burst into the room.

 

"Spike!" She turned around and glared at him. "Since when don't you knock?" She tried to smile but it fell short. 

 

"We've got problems..." Spike explained, not responding to her knocking question.

 

"With dinner?" Twilight groaned.

 

"Yeah... that carrot soufflé was not the easiest recipe you could have chosen." He glared at the princess.

 

"This is going  to be a disaster!"

 

"Twilight you seem pretty flustered," Spike came nearer. "I mean it's just a dinner with Rainbow Dash. She's one of your oldest friends. What's got you all riled up about having her over,"

 

Twi's heart skipped a beat. She couldn't tell Spike, she just couldn't!

 

"Come on Spike," She trotted out the door towards the kitchen. "Dinner needs to be perfect!"  

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