Pinkie's party, as always, was full of life. Ponies were dancing to the blaring music, ponies were eating snacks that were being offered, and ponies were huddled in separate groups, merrily chatting away. A certain pair found themselves accosted by everypony, as the banner hanging from the ceiling caught all eyes.
" 'Yay you're better and now you're together and Dashie's gonna be refeathered'?" Rainbow asked, eyeing it for the tenth time. "How did she even fit that all on the banner and still make it readable?"
Applejack shrugged. "She's got neat hoofwriting." The two were sitting together, attempting to escape the numerous ponies either congratulating Rainbow on her release from the hospital or stating that they couldn't wait to see her back in the skies once her wings had returned to their rightful place.
Most embarrassingly, they often walked over to congratulate the couple, wishing them well in their relationship. The thought of making a public announcement had never entered their minds, but Pinkie had well and truly let the cat out of the bag. The only thing they could do was take it all in stride. But as embarrassing as it was, the clear outpouring of support from everypony was humbling.
The pair only wished that they could have a moment to themselves. Thankfully, a knock on the door drew everypony's attention. Or rather, Pinkie's sudden blur of movement drew attention, as the music had muffled the noise from the door. Before anypony could wonder how on earth she had heard the knock, their jaws fell to the floor as Equestria's princesses walked in, shocking all conversations into silence and hurried bows.
"P-P-Princess Celestia? Princess Luna?! What are you doing here?" Twilight stammered, as the two alicorns strode into Sugarcube corner.
As Celestia nodded her head in acknowledgement of the bowing, Twilight realised what she had said. "Wait! I don't mean you shouldn't be here I wouldn't dream of telling you what to do but why are you here?" She asked in a rush, doing an impressive imitation of Pinkie's usual tirades. She flinched as she reviewed her words once again. "Wait, that sounds even worse..."
Pinkie Pie giggled as she bounced away from the door. "I put an invitation in with your last letter!"
"You what?" She cried, thinking back to the letter. She'd taken the time to write it herself, as she occasionally felt like doing, and it had not left her sight until she'd handed it to Spike, who had immediately sent it to the Princess. Pinkie couldn't have added an invitation without her noticing. "But... What... How... Huh?!"
"Are we not welcome?" Luna asked, ears drooping as her lips formed into a pout.
Every eye turned to Twilight, pinning her with accusing stares, silently demanding to know why she thought she could question the joint rulers of Equestria. She wilted under the ocular assault, facing the princesses in an attempt to evade the looks. "No! I mean, yes! I mean, you're welcome! You're never not welcome! You're always wel" She rambled, before Applejack shoved an apple into her mouth.
The farmer chuckled at the sight."Slow down there, Sugarcube!" She turned to face the princesses, and bowed once more, using a hoof to tip her hat. "Welcome to the party, your Highnesses!" She said, then proceeded to join her friends and the princesses around the conspicuously large table that Pinkie had set up. Life returned to the rest of the room, ponies partying left and right.
Later, after some pleasant conversation, Fluttershy voiced a question that had been on her mind for a while. "Um... Applejack?"
"Hm?" The farmpony mumbled, around a sandwich she had been eating. After the confusion she'd gone through during the last such visit, she'd decided she might as well just tuck in. Made life a whole lot easier than worrying.
"I was wondering... how did it feel to fly?"
Applejack swallowed her food, and gave Fluttershy an odd look. "Er, shouldn't you know that? Bein' a pegasus and all?"
Fluttershy's cheeks colored slightly, realizing how silly her question had sounded, from herself in particular. "S-sorry... I mean, I'm used to flying." She explained, giving her wings a slight flap in demonstration. "You're not. It must feel different?"
"I agree with Fluttershy. I'm dying to know myself!" Rarity gushed, reminded of the conversation she'd had with Applejack several weeks prior. "Real wings, I mean; the ones from the spell just aren't the same."
Applejack glanced around, suddenly nervous at being put in the spotlight, then turned to face Rainbow Dash as she felt a hoof touch her leg. She looked into Rainbow's eyes, and smiled at the love she saw there. She turned back to the rest of the table, her nervousness dispelled, and gave the question some thought.
"Well... Ah just want to say Ah still prefer being on the ground." She started, forging ahead as she saw the looks of surprise around her. "Ah'm an earth pony, not a pegasus. My home's down here. But..." She trailed off, looking for the right words. "It's like a different world. Ah felt free up there. It felt amazin'. Ah really can't describe it. It's still mighty tirin' though." She added, causing chuckles. She then looked at Rainbow Dash once more. "Makes me appreciate the crazy stuff this daredevil can do."
Rainbow grinned at the comment, puffing out her chest. As she opened her mouth to boast, she felt a peck on her cheek from Applejack, causing Rainbow to blush and close her mouth, her train of thought completely lost.
"The gift of flight is indeed a glorious thing." Luna commented, nodding at the loving pair. "We cannot imagine how you must have felt these past few weeks, Rainbow Dash." She then turned to Twilight, who had been fidgeting. "We are glad you have been able to find a solution, Twilight Sparkle."
Twilight smiled sheepishly at the attention. "It was my fault all this happened. I couldn't just sit there and do nothing!" She glanced at the elder Princess. "Princess Celestia helped me with it though. I couldn't have done it without her."
Celestia bowed her head in acknowledgment of the praise. "Magical studies have always been a great fascination of mine, as you should know, my faithful student." She grinned at Twilight's blush.
"Um, about that..." Rainbow hesitated, unsure how to approach the Princess with her question. But as she saw only kindness in Celestia's eyes, she made up her mind and forged ahead. "I'm not trying to question you, you're the Princess and all that, but"
Celestia interrupted her with an accepting smile. "Why didn't I help sooner?" She asked, earning a sheepish nod from the pegasus. "That is a fair question. Even in all my years, I had never seen such an effect before. Had I known how to undo the accident, I would have done so immediately. But I had no more idea how to repair this than anypony else." She explained. "Investigating this problem from scratch would have taken far more time than I could spare from my duties, so I decided to assign it to one of my best magical researchersTwilight Sparkle."
The young unicorn in question blushed furiously under the praise, as Pinkie gave her a friendly nudge of encouragement. The Princess smiled as she continued. "And it's a good thing I did, too. I might never have come up with the insight which allowed us to solve it myself." She paused as a thought struck her. "You never did tell me how you came up with the idea, though. Care to share?"
Twilight nodded eagerly as she recovered from her burning cheeks. "It's all because of Pinkie, actually." She started, completely missing the confused expressions on her friends' faces. She sat straighter, and launched into her explanation. "I realized that the teleportation spell, as with any other spell, consists of several different steps that all work together, usually too fast to notice there's more than one process going on. So I attempted to see if I could identify and distinguish those individual steps, and further analyze them." She paused to grin. "Needless to say, I did. In the case of the teleportation spell, I found a number of different layers of ethereal energy fields, each of them controlling a different aspect of the spell. All of them together results in the spell that I'd tried to cast."
Before anypony could interrupt, Twilight continued, closing her eyes in thought, listing off the various steps. "The first layer controls the position of the teleported object in space. Basically, where you are and where you want to go. The second layer is a snapshot of the base components of the object. For instance, a rock stays a rock, instead of turning to grass. The third field is where the manipulation of the spell's energy happens, directing it all to the right places."
Twilight paused, glancing around the table with a big smile. She stood tall, one hoof on the table, the other pointing in the air. "The fourth field is the important one here. It controls the position of the teleported object, not in relation to space, but to itself. It keeps the shape of whatever is teleported. So a sphere stays a sphere and not a cube... or wings stay on one pony and don't land on another." She explained, glancing at Rainbow Dash and Applejack. "That's what went wrong. My sneeze caused the third layer to mess with the fourth layer, and it switched the wings and tails around." She turned back to the rest of the table, smiling. "And it's all thanks to Pinkie's comment about drilling a hole into my library! All I need to do now is practice the control, and I can fix this." Twilight beamed at a nodding Princess Celestia, then turned to the rest of her friends... who sported looks of pure confusion.
"Er, Twilight?" Applejack ventured, not sure how to phrase what she wanted to say. "I'm not sayin' that wasn't a fancy and detailed explanation, but... could you repeat that? In Equestrian this time?" She asked. "And what the hay does drilling a hole in your library have to do with this?"
Twilight's smile faltered as she considered Applejack's words. She thought she'd been perfectly clear, and was at a momentary loss as to how to rephrase things. "Uh. Well. In layponys terms... Pinkie's comment about drilling a hole in my library's walls for her party cannon made me think that the spell layers were the same. They're walls my magic need to break through so I can control the spell. Basically," She said, finding a good way to put it. "I need to break through the spell's fourth wall so I can put the wings and tails at the right place."
Everypony nodded, finally grasping what Twilight had meant. "Most fascinating. We look forward to all the details when you publish the book." Luna commented, completely missing Twilight's stunned expression. "After all, it's not often even one such as Us gets to see the invention of a whole new line of magic. Why, the medical applications alone..."
Celestia chuckled as Twilight gobbled and sputtered, her brain trying to process this new idea. The princess then leaned towards the new couple. "Speaking of things in the right places," She commented, nodding at the blue wings on Applejack's back. "The spirits of harmony you all represent are tenets of love itself." She said, casting a glance at each pony in turn as she spelled it out. "Love is magical. It is generous, kind, and filled with laughter... when you are honest and loyal to each other." Celestia finished warmly, earning blushing smiles from the pair. "I have always found the last two to be particularly strong aspects of love. I am very glad to see you have found each other."
Applejack and Rainbow shared a thought as they glanced at each other. Does she mean this was bound to happen? they thought, unsure how they felt about that. But as they lost themselves in the other's eyes, they both came to the same conclusion. It doesn't matter.
Luna's voice dragged the two back into the real world as she asked them a question. "Would you miss those wings, Applejack?"
The orange pony blinked, caught off guard. "Ah... Ah can't say Ah've thought about it, your highness. These things are still pretty new to me." Applejack said, considering. "Like Ah said before, Ah'm an earth pony. My home's on the ground." She glanced at the pegasus sitting next to her, and smiled. "But my heart's in the sky."
The group, as a whole, ignored Pinkie's "Aaaaaw!" and sparkling eyes, their attention instead focused on a package that Luna began levitating as Applejack finished speaking. "As is custom for such parties," She started, floating the package towards the two lovers. "I have brought a gift for you. I believe you will like it."
Celestia eyed the package suspiciously. It was long and thin... and reminded her of the last suggestion Luna had made a few days earlier. Before she could open her mouth to warn the couple, Rainbow Dash had already attacked the wrapping, tearing it apart with gusto. Celestia bit her lip and closed her eyes. She did not look forward to the coming reaction.
"Um... Princess?" She heard Rainbow Dash ask. "What is this?"
Twilight voice answered from the other side of the table, having apparently recovered from her thoughts of publication. "That looks like... a wand?"
Is that the current euphemism? My dear student, what have you been learning?
"Indeed it is." Celestia heard Luna answer, and blushed.
"We've enchanted it with a spell you and Rarity should be familiar with, Twilight Sparkle."
Celestia opened her eyes and took her first look at Luna's gift. It turned out to be literally what her student had described it as: a wand, made out of wood from the Everfree forest. It looked old, the shape reminding her of designs she had seen several centuries ago. In fact, the wand itself looked to be that age, she noted, as she inspected it furtheran original, from the Castle vaults.
"Really?" Twilight asked, confused. "What spell?"
"Wings of Dew." Luna answered, earning a gasp from the white unicorn. "Albeit... a modified version. The wings are stronger, amongst other things." Luna continued, a private smile tugging at her lips. "However, they are not the real thing." She said, opening a wing for emphasis. "They are only temporary, and the spell will take several days to recharge." She smiled at Applejack, awaiting her reaction. "WeI hope you like it?"
The farmpony stared back at her, utterly speechless. Beside her, Rainbow was similarly affected. Seconds dragged by as the two tried to find a way to express their thanks. Finally, Applejack spoke, the knot in her throat finally untying itself. "Th-thank you, your Highness. This is mighty kind of you..." She said, to the agreement of everypony around her. Even Celestia nodded, a faint blush still remaining on her cheeks. She should have known to trust her sister.
"You can't use that yet though." Twilight warned, looking at Dash. She then glanced at Luna, who looked crestfallen. "I'm sorry, princess!" Twilight quickly apologized. "I don't want any other magic to affect them before I put Rainbow's wings back at the right place! Something like this could jeopardize things!"
Unfortunately, Twilight's words didn't have the effect she desired. Luna sat staring at the table, looking sadder than ever. But it didn't last long, as Pinkie jumped onto the table, and trotted over to the princess. She sat down in front of the darker alicorn, and threw her forelegs around Luna's neck. "Don't worry, Princess!" She said, her voice as cheery as ever. "Your gift is superduperawesome! Twilight is just being extra über-careful!" As she continued to hug the larger pony, she glanced back at the rest of the group. She motioned them to copy her, snapping them out of the stares they had been caught in. Rainbow was the first to move, hugging the princess' chest. Applejack soon joined her, hugging both her marefriend and the princess. Fluttershy soon joined the pile, hovering above the table until she came to a rest near Pinkie, hugging everypony she could.
Only the two unicorns remained, staring in shock at their friends. As Pinkie glanced at them, she grinned again. "Come on, you two!" She beamed. "Join the Princess Snuggle Pile!" Her smile grew even wider as Celestia joined the group.
Rarity picked her jaw off the floor, then trotted over to join the pile of hugging ponies. If the Princess was doing it, who was she to complain? Twilight quickly followed suit, once again marvelling at Pinkie's ability to improve a pony's mood. Luna's smile was the proof, as she looked at every pony around her.
"Th-thank you." She whispered, a tear falling from her eye. "Thank you all."
Eventually, the group broke up, but were still surrounding the Princesses in a display of support. Celestia chose this moment to clear her throat, drawing attention to herself. "I also brought a gift, but we need to move the party outside for that."
"Oki doki loki!" Pinkie chirped, bouncing towards the door to usher everypony out. Twilight trotted over, stopping next to her while watching the various guests walk outside. "Pinkie, do you know what the gift is?"
Pinkie gave Twilight a conspiratorial grin, and leaned closer. "Nope!" She said, her smile wider than ever. "But I bet it's great!"
Eventually, everypony found themselves standing in front of Sugarcube corner, wondering why there were there. The questions stopped as Celestia moved amongst them, coming to a halt in the middle of the street. Her horn suddenly shone, then shot off a bright spark of light into the air. It rose past the top of the highest buildings, then slowed down until it came to a stop. As suddenly as it had appeared, the spark exploded in a shower of blue and yellow.
The audience remained quiet, awaiting to see what else would happen, allowing some of the sharper ears amongst the group to pick up a high pitched sound coming from afar. The sound came closer and closer, until a trio of blue suited pegasi flew overhead, twisting and turning in the air.
Everypony cheered, enjoying Celestia's gift: a Wonderbolt show, for Ponyville alone. Although one pony in particular felt like it was her own private show, all for her, and cheered louder than anypony. Every turn, every daring stunt was a feast for her eyes, burning their every movement into her brain.
The performance eventually wound down, and the Wonderbolts landed in front of the princesses, bowing in respect. She nodded in return, which was their signal to mingle with the crowd. Many pegasi mobbed them, eager to talk with them, or simply wanting to obtain an autograph. Even unicorns and earth ponies surrounded them, having been impressed by their performance. The Wonderbolts took it all in stride, entertaining the crowd even out of the air.
Rainbow Dash pressed on the outside of the group, eager to get closer, cursing her inability to fly right then and there. As she opened her mouth to tell the other ponies to move, Pinkie's voice rang loud and clear over the din of the crowd. "Rainbow Dash? Oh yeah! She's right over there!"
Elation filled Rainbow upon hearing that her idols were headed her way, but it was quickly replaced by terror. During the show, she'd managed to forget a very important detail of her current state: her lack of wings. Now, with with the Wonderboltsonly the best fliers ever, her childhood idols, and something she'd wanted to be part of since she could talklooking for her, that fact came crashing back down on her.
I can't let them see me like this!
As quickly as her bandaged leg allowed, she ran back into Sugarcube corner and dived under a table, hoping no one would find her under the tablecloth. With everypony ogling the Wonderbolts, her chances of discovery would indeed have been low... except for one pony.
"Dash? Dashie? Where are you?"
Rainbow froze as she heard Applejack's voice. She remained silent, hoping the farmer would give up, but her hopes were dashed as the sound of hooves got closer, stopping right next to her. She jumped as she felt a hoof poke her golden tail, soon followed by the tablecloth being lifted to let a stetson wearing orange head through.
"Dash? What's the matter?"
"I can't let them see me like this, Applejack!" Rainbow whispered, hiding her eyes beneath her hooves.
"What, shivering under a table?"
Rainbow glared at her marefriend. "You know what I mean! What would they think of a pegasus without wings wanting to be a Wonderbolt?"
Applejack looked at Rainbow, choosing her words carefully. "That this pegasus is a brave pony, and won't let anything stop her dreams." She said, leaning forward until their foreheads met. "That she'll keep chasing them no matter what happens."
As Rainbow stared into the green eyes boring into her, her retort died on her lips. All she could see was the love, and the trust in those eyes. Doctor Saddlebag's words rang through her mind. You've got an excellent safety net, Miss Dash. Just don't throw yourself off of it again and you should be fine.
Rainbow sighed, closing her eyes and leaning forward, pressing against Applejack muzzle. "Thanks..." She whispered.
"You okay now?"
Applejack pulled Rainbow out from under the table. "Then let's get back to the party. Ah think that's Spitfire back there. And Soarin'." She said, naming Rainbow Dash's two favorites from the team.
Rainbow gasped, her face lighting up with glee. "Really?" She couldn't stand still, practically bouncing in place.
Raising an eyebrow at the sudden 180 degree turn of emotion, Applejack grinned slyly. "Yup. Ah can't wait to tell them about that 'dream' of yours at the hospital." She snickered, and trotted out of the door.
Rainbow stood frozen, her eyes wide with shock. "Y-you wouldn't dare!" She croaked, and chased after the laughing Applejack.
It's still dark out... why the heck am I awake?
Rainbow Dash stared at the ceiling as she considered the question, her eyes tracing over the patterns in the wood of Applejack's room. Since Rainbow's release from the hospital, she'd taken to sharing the room with the farmpony. It had just seemed right, especially after the first few nights, where both Rainbow and Applejack had taken turns sneaking into each other's rooms, seeking out the comfort of each others closeness more than anything else
As if to make it official, the 'Rainbow Dash's Room' sign that had once adorned Rainbow's door had mysteriously appeared on Applejack's, skillfully repaired and accompanied by a new apple-shaped sign reading 'Applejack &'. Neither mare knew who was responsible for this, but considering the difference in hoofwork between the two signs, they had a suspicion. A large, red suspicion.
Rainbow quietly laughed to herself at the thought, then turned onto her side to look at the pony beside her. Applejack was facing her, her expression relaxed and serene, her golden mane framing her face. The freckles on her cheeks stood out as they always did, three islands of white in a sea of orange. For a moment, Rainbow wished Applejack would wake, just so she could once again stare into those green eyes, then once again laughed at herself. The longer she stayed with Applejack, the sappier she became. But, she thought as she looked at her love, maybe that isn't such a bad thing after all.
Rainbow sighed as she closed her eyes. If she thought about it, she knew exactly why she couldn't sleep. Twilight had given them a date for when she planned to put Rainbow's wings back in place, and it was fast approaching. In fact, it was tomorrow. The pegasus shivered, nervousness, anticipation, and a little fear all clashing together.
But there was another reason, she realized. And the culprit was Princess Luna. The gift she had given them had caused much discussion amongst her friends. But for Rainbow, it had been the cause of a lot of thinking. As she drifted back to sleep, she came to a resolution. She'd ask Applejack today, before it was too late.
Rainbow woke up later, the sun shining through the window, illuminating her surroundings. Blearily opening her eyes, she discovered the spot next to her was empty. She let out a yawn as she clambered onto the floor, slowly making her way to the kitchen. Entering the room, she noticed the slice of pie on the table, and the note next to it. As she munched on the food, she glanced at the message scribbled on the paper.
Doing my chores! Here's some breakfast, sleepyhead.
Rainbow grinned as she scarfed down the last of the pie, then slowly walked out of the farmhouse. With her bandaged leg, she still couldn't go very fast, but she was at least mobile. The doctors had given her the all clear to walk before the party, which was good enough for her.
Thankfully, her walk ended up being a short one, as she spotted Applejack leaving the barn. The orange mare caught sight of her at the same time, and trotted up to Rainbow with a grin on her face. "Mornin'! Sleep well?"
"Kinda..." Rainbow replied, yawning once more. She saw the unvoiced question on Applejack's face. "Woke up a few times, couldn't stop thinking."
"'Bout what, Sugarcube?" Applejack asked, stepping closer to the pegasus.
"I want to see you fly."
Applejack frowned. "But you have already." She stated, earning a headshake from Rainbow.
"I've seen you through the window, but not really seen you fly. I want to see that." She said, motioning towards the trees as she started walking. Applejack quickly fell in beside her.
"Where'd this come from, Dash? Seems kinda out of the blue."
"Luna's gift." Rainbow answered, staring ahead. "And tomorrow. This is my last chance to see you fly for real, AJ."
"But... what about the wand?"
Rainbow frowned, looking at Applejack. "They won't be real!" She said, coming to a stop. She moved closer until their muzzles almost met. "They won't be mine. You're mine, AJ." She said, vehemently. "And I want to see you soar with them." She pressed up against Applejack, their lips meeting in a kiss. Unlike those that had come before, this one was fierce, filled with need and want, leaving both mares momentarily breathless as it ended.
Rainbow gulped, feeling the heat on her face, then turned away and resumed walking. For a moment, she'd wanted to stay, but seeing Applejack fly was more important to her. She heard her mare's hoofsteps catch up to her, and felt the stare on the back of her head as they kept walking.
Before long, they reached the hill where Applejack had first attempted flight, and climbed to the top. As she finally stopped, Rainbow turned around and faced the winged earth pony, who was still staring at her intently. "Show me."
Applejack wordlessly took off her hat, placing it upon Rainbow's head, then took a few steps to the side. She extended her wings, giving them a few limbering flaps, then leapt into the air with a mighty beat.
Rainbow had wanted to see her soar... and soar she did. Laying down on the ground, the pegasus' thoughts just drifted away, leaving her to focus purely on the pony in the skies. While Applejack lacked the grace of a pegasus, her flight was still a breathtaking sight. The golden mane flowing in the wind, mixing with her own rainbow tail. The orange contrasting with the sky's blue, borne along by cyan wings. The Wonderbolts couldn't compare to this.
Up in the sky, Applejack glanced down at the hill. Unlike the pony below, her mind was racing as she flew, focusing both on keeping herself aloft, and on Rainbow. Applejack realized she'd miss the wings, miss the freedom they offered.
But freedom at what expense?
It simply was not worth it, she decided, stowing away the stray thought of not giving the wings back. Even something like this was not worth the pain or suffering of the pegasus below. It would be like crushing her and her dreams. She couldn't do that to anypony, much less the one she loved.
Love. She truly did love the mare below, with all her heart. Rainbow filled a void Applejack hadn't even realised existed, and filled it with a love and passion that almost threatened to overwhelm her. It was a sense of belonging and togetherness that was impossible to describe, or put in words.
Love. She hadn't said it since Rainbow's confession, instead letting her action speak louder than words. But that wasn't enough, she realized. Not once had she told the pegasus those words. Applejack had lost count of how many times Rainbow had used them, often several times a day, and Applejack had responded to them as best she knew how.
No more, she thought, as she banked once more towards the hill, her altitude dropping smoothly. She landed a few pony-lengths away from the now standing Rainbow, and closed the distance at a trot. She kissed the waiting mare, pushing her back with the force of the embrace in a reversal of their previous kiss not long ago.
Applejack pulled away, breaking the kiss first. "Ah love you, Rainbow Dash." She whispered, nuzzling the pegasus. Finally saying it felt... good. "Ah'm sorry Ah haven't said it before..." She said, frowning as Rainbow chuckled in response.
Catching Applejack's expression, Rainbow leaned in and nuzzled the farmpony. "I hadn't even noticed..." She said, kissing Applejack once more. "'Cause I hear you loud and clear when we do that." She wrapped her forehooves around Applejack's neck, pulling her closer. "I wouldn't mind hearing it again..." she whispered, staring into Applejack's eyes.
The orange mare was more than happy to comply.
Finally, the big day arrived.
Seven ponies found themselves near Fluttershy's cottage, in very nearly the same spot where five of them had watched the dragon migration a few months prior. Twilight had initially planned to perform the spell in front of her library, where it had initially gone wrong. However, a certain young, scaled blabbermouth had let slip the day and time of her planned attempt, resulting in a mass gathering of ponies standing around her home, eager to watch the spell in action.
Unfortunately for them, the three mares in question did not want an audience, and made their escape through one of the library's windows. Twilight was nervous enough just performing the spell, even with the confidence she was expressing about it, and a large audience would have made things much worse.
However, the rest of her friends, as well as Big Macintosh, were a source of comfort and support. They knew to stay quiet and not crowd the trio as Twilight ran down her checklist, watching from the safety of the very same ditch they had dug for the dragon migration. The stallion had been present in the library on Applejack's insistence, his presence doing much to soothe her nerves.
Following the unicorn with their eyes, Applejack and Rainbow waited as patiently as they could as Twilight trotted back and forth while reading, ignoring the fact she was digging a groove in the earth with her pacing. They withheld any comments as she went through the checklist what for what felt like the twentieth time, but was in fact the thirtieth.
Finally, Twilight levitated the scroll away, stowing it in the saddlebags she had brought with her, and setting these next to her watching friends. She turned to Applejack, then Rainbow, and nodded. "I'm ready."
The pair nodded, stepping next to her in the very same manner they had been on that day, hoping for a quick trip to Canterlot. Glancing at each other, they shared a brief smile, taking support from each other as Twilight's horn began glowing. They then faced forwards once more, closed their eyes, and waited.
Once more, the glow brightened, causing the four watching ponies to squint. The bubble started forming, slowly inching downwards as the spell's energy flowed through Twilight's horn, finally hitting the ground a few moments later. As a blinding flash shone out, the ponies in the ditch took cover, following Twilight's instructions to the letter. Now they simply needed to wait for Twilight to give the all clear.
Meanwhile, the other trio stood standing where they had started, eyes still closed. Not hearing any noise and feeling no different, Rainbow voiced the only question on her mind. "Did it work?" She asked, her eyes still shut.
"Dunno." Applejack replied, her voice sounding hesitant. "Haven't opened my eyes yet..."
"Me neither." Twilight's voice added, sounding even more jittery than before. "I know everything felt right and the spell went off perfectly and you should be fine" She babbled, before abruptly stopping. "I'm still scared." She whispered.
Rainbow knew exactly how the unicorn felt. Her entire body felt so wired she couldn't tell if anything was different, if anything was changed. But still, her eyes refused to open.
Applejack shook her head in frustration."This is just plain silly... On three?" She asked, to the agreement of the other two. "Okay. One... Two... Three!"
And as one, they opened their eyes.
Rainbow quickly glanced at Applejack, unwilling to look at herself yet. She immediately noticed the lack of wings, and the blond tail back with its owner. She looked at Twilight, seeing no difference there. She did, however, notice both of them looking at her... and smiling.
Rainbow quickly turned her head, her own face breaking into an ever wider smile as she saw her rainbow tail, and the pair of blue wings adorning her back. She flexed them tentatively, flapping them a few times.
Finally, she could hold it no longer and blasted into the air, yelling with joy the entire way up. She blew past the cloud cover, momentarily wobbling as she righted herself into a horizontal flight. Her entire life's worth of flight instincts kicked in, quickly correcting any awkwardness left over from those weeks without wings.
She couldn't believe she'd almost forgotten how this felt.
Rainbow kept flying a few minutes longer, completely revelling in her natural habitat, until a splash of color on the ground caught her eye: all her friends together, watching as she flew about. She banked their way and sped towards them, barely slowing down until she was almost right upon them.
Her hooves touched the ground and with what remaining speed she had, she barreled into Twilight, tackling her in the biggest hug she'd ever given anypony. As they both laughed, their friends joined them, all hugging each other. Even Big Macintosh was dragged into the pile, as Pinkie noticed the stallion standing to the side. This moment needed to be shared with everypony present.
Because everything was right with the world.
A pair of ponies found themselves making their way towards Sweet Apple Acres. They'd just parted ways with the rest of their friends, having left an impromptu party organized by Pinkie Pie. They had briefly wondered where the cakes and beverages had come from, but decided not to think too hard about it. Some things couldn't be explained, despite Twilight's efforts. Big Macintosh had opted to stay behind, choosing to chat with Fluttershy, giving the homeward-bound pair some time alone.
Applejack grinned as she watched Rainbow flit about, the pegasus unable stay on the ground for longer than a few seconds, if at all. As the pair got closer to the farm, Applejack glanced at the sky, noting a familiar large cloud-building floating around.
"Ah bet you can't wait to get home, right, Sugarcube?" Applejack asked, coming to a stop.
"Heck yeah!" Rainbow gushed, twirling in the air. "Come on, let's go!"
The earth pony chuckled. "Ah don't have wings anymore, Rainbow. Plus Ah don't think Ah can walk on clouds."
Rainbow came to a halt, landing on the ground. "Wha?" She said, following Applejack's gaze. There, sitting in the sky, was her cloudhouse. Her home. "Oh."
Applejack watched as Rainbow, rather than start flying, instead sat down and kept staring at her mansion. "Rainbow?"
The cyan pony took a deep breath, then exhaled, before turning to face Applejack. "Don't you remember what I said at the hospital?" She asked, and continued when Applejack gave a slight shake of her head. "That not my home. Hasn't been for the last month." Lifting a hoof, she pointed along the path they'd been following. Sweet Apple Acres, and the farmhouse, were just visible beyond the hills. "That's home."
Rooted to the spot, Applejack could only smile, wiping a lone tear that had fallen from her eyes, and stepped forward to nuzzle Rainbow. "Then let's go home, Dashie." She murmured.
The earth pony started back on the path to the farm, but found herself grasped by four strong legs only a few steps into her journey. "What in tarnation Rainbow, what are you doing?" She asked, struggling briefly.
"Quit struggling!" The pegasus exclaimed, getting the desired reaction. "I saw how you were looking at me. I think you need this just as much as I do."
"Need whaWHOA!" Applejack yelled as the pair took off, shooting into the sky. Rainbow's legs were wrapped around her torso, giving her own legs freedom of movement. Yet whereas a few weeks, even a few days ago, the earth pony would have been terrified of being in the air, right now, she only felt a vague sense of worry.
She knew that, without wings, a fall from the ever increasing height would be very bad.
But she also knew just how strong the hooves holding her were. And just how strong the wings holding them up were.
Silently, they flew onwards to the farm.
"Hey, Applejack?" Rainbow murmured, as the pair laid stretched out on Applejack's bed, the sun slowly setting outside the window.
"Wanna try out the wand?"
"...Now, Sugarcube? I just got comfy."
"C'mon." The pegasus said, lifting herself off the bed. "I wanna see."
Applejack rolled her eyes at Rainbow's eagerness, then sat still on the bed, waiting for her mare to grab the wand in her mouth. "Go ahead then."
Following Luna's instructions, Rainbow took a deep breath and closed her eyes, the wand pointed at Applejack. She concentrated, focusing her thoughts on the pony in front of her, and on flying. She felt the wand grow warmer, then stepped back as it jolted in her grasp. She opened her eyes, watching as the magic surrounded Applejack. A few moments after engulfing her completely, the magic dissipated, leaving only the orange pony.
An orange pony with a magnificent pair of blue, ethereal pegasus wings.
The wand dropped from Rainbow's mouth as her jaw fell open. A few seconds later, she uttered the only words her brain could provide.
"Best. Princess. Ever!"