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Great Expectations · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Great Pecs-pectations
I’m gonna be even stronger than you when I grow up, Dad!

Heh, I hope so, kiddo!

Rainbow Dash could feel her scowl grow deeper as the words flitted around her brain, crashing through her synapses and forcing her mind to replay the scene over and over again. With a vicious thrash of her head, she attempted to shake the thoughts away, but as soon as her eyes drifted to the scene below her, the words just came back, louder than ever.

It was nearly sundown as Rainbow sat on a cloud, high above Whitetail Woods. Below her, in a large clearing in the middle of the forest, dozens of construction workers were milling about, setting up large tents and putting together long stages. With a nausea-laced breath, she cursed them and forced her eyes to one side.

Princess Luna was sitting next to her, chewing on a candy bar. “Hello,” she said.

Rainbow screamed and jumped away, very nearly falling off the cloud. “Princess!” she sputtered, wings flaring. “What the hay are you doing here?!”

Luna swallowed her chocolate and wiped her face before answering, “I often spend my free time observing my subjects from afar. The minutiae of their lives bring me calm.” She paused. “Is that strange?”

“Kinda, yeah.”

“Oh.” Luna blinked. She held out her candy bar. “Would you like a piece? They are my sister’s favorite.”

“Uh, no,” Rainbow said, settling back into her spot. “Thanks, though. I guess.”

“My pleasure.” Luna took another bite and gazed down at the clearing. “What is it that you are watching here? Do you have a penchant for sweaty stallions wearing hardhats?”

“No,” Rainbow said again, jaw set. She sighed and gestured to the tents and stages. “They’re setting up for the annual Equestrian Strongpony Competition tomorrow. This is the first time it’s been in Ponyville, so Twilight’s cleared out this whole big space for them to use.”

“What is a Strongpony Competition?”

“You know, it’s one of those things for super-muscular, super-strong stallions where they show off how jacked they are. Deadlifts, bench presses… the works.”

“I see,” Luna said, nodding. For a few moments, they were silent, with the only noise being the steady chomp of Luna’s teeth as she finished the candy bar. Just as Rainbow was preparing to make an excuse to leave, Luna turned to her and asked, “Is something the matter, Rainbow Dash? You seem upset.”

Rainbow was caught with her mouth hanging open. She shook her head. “Uh, nothing. Why?”

“Before you noticed my presence, you seemed to be glaring and cursing at these construction workers. Have they wronged you in some way?”

The voices came rushing through Rainbow’s mind once again. Her entire body slumping, she looked away from Luna. “No, no, they’re… it’s fine. Everything’s fine.”

“Rainbow Dash, I have lived for over four millennia; I know how to tell when somepony is upset.” Luna offered a warm smile and laid a wing over Rainbow’s back. “Please, my little pony. Tell me what troubles you.”

Rainbow managed to look Luna in the eye—and, beyond all belief, actually felt the pain in her chest start to subside. Nodding, Rainbow opened her mouth, but it took a moment for any words to come out. “Have I ever told you about my dad?”

“Not that I recall,” Luna said. “Of course, I also don’t recall us ever having any sort of personal conversation before.”

“Heh, yeah, I guess you’re right.” Rainbow gave a small chuckle, but it faded quickly. “My dad used to be a champion strongpony. And when I say champion, I mean champion. Back when he was competing, he would win every competition he entered, no matter where or when it was. My house back in Cloudsdale is filled with trophies. And I’ve seen pictures of him back then; he used to be huge! Like, twice the size he is now.

“When I was born, and my mom… y’know, my dad gave up all the competitions and stuff so he could raise me. He got a job at the Weather Factory, and he’s been working there ever since.”

“Mhm,” Luna murmured. “I see. But what does that have to do with your being upset?”

Rainbow sighed again. “Becoming a strongpony and competing been a family tradition for I don’t even know how long. My dad’s dad was a strongpony, and his dad’s dad was a strongpony, and his dad’s dad’s dad… it’s crazy. Every single pony in his family became a strongpony—except for one.”


“Yep. I’ve always been strong, sure, but never as strong as him. I’m built for speed, not power.” Rainbow shook her head. “And that’s why my dad thinks I’m a failure.”

Luna frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Ever since I was born, my dad expected me to become a strongpony like him. But I never did. He doesn’t ever say it, but I know that my dad hates that. He wishes that I could just stop being so obsessed with joining the Wonderbolts, and start working toward the family business.” Rainbow closed her eyes. “And, honestly? Sometimes I wish I could too.

“If I could just win one stupid strongpony competition and make Dad proud, I would. But I don’t bulk up that way—it’s not how my body works.” She buried her head into her hooves and growled. “So that’s why I’m up here, feeling sorry for myself. Because I’m a failure, and I’m never gonna stop being a failure.”

“Hm.” Luna scratched her chin. “An interesting predicament, to be sure. And you’re sure you’ve tried everything to help you grow more muscular?”


“Even magic?”

Rainbow narrowed her eyes. “Everything legal, I meant. If I were to get caught using magic supplements, my dad would probably go ahead and write me out of the will.”

“What if nopony could tell that you were using magic?” Luna asked, smiling. “What if they were created not by a unicorn, but by, perhaps… a genie?”

Rainbow laughed. “Yeah, sure. If you happen to run across any genies before tomorrow afternoon, send them my way.”

Luna stood and spread her wings. “You are speaking to one.”

“What?” Rainbow jumped up, eyes wide. “You’re a genie?! But, I thought you were an alicorn! I mean, like, where’s your weird lamp and everything?”

“My sister and I are only half-genie, which means no lamps, but all of the same powers.” Luna smiled. “How do you think we gave Twilight Sparkle her wings?”

“I thought it was some fancy spell.”

“A genie spell,” Luna corrected. “You need only make the wish, and I can make all your wildest—or most muscular—dreams come true.”

“You’re serious? I can get anything that I want?” Rainbow asked. She waited for Luna to nod before bowing her head to think for a moment. Then, with a grin, she looked Luna straight in the eye and yelled, “I wish that I was the single strongest pony in all of Equestria!”

Luna clopped her hooves together. “It is done!”

“Awesome!” Rainbow said, pumping her hoof. She spun around a few times, trying to get a look at her still-lean body. “So, when does it kick in?”

As soon as the words left her mouth, the entire world became a blur. Head pounding, bones aching, Rainbow tumbled over, falling headfirst into the cloud. The last thing she saw was Luna’s hoof before she passed out.

When she opened her eyes again, she was staring at a stylized drawing of Soarin’ and Spitfire gliding through the sky, leaving trails of pure lightning in their wake. Under the drawing were their signatures, which meant only one thing: Rainbow was staring at the poster that hung above her bed.

What a stupid dream that was, she thought, snorting. I mean, really, genies? And since when am I so corny?

Rainbow groaned as she sat up, rubbing the back of her throbbing skull. She felt hot and sweaty, as if she had been locked up in a cardboard box for a hundred years. She clambered out of bed, only to notice that the floor seemed much farther away than it usually did. She dismissed it as a trick of the light, called a quiet greeting to Tank, and made her way to the bathroom.

When she passed through the door, she felt her shoulders brush the sides of the doorway—well, “brush” may have been the wrong word. “Rip through” may have been better. Brushing the excess moisture off of her fur, Rainbow glanced back at the doorway, which now had two large chunks taken out of either side.

Rainbow grumbled. Clouds must have expanded overnight. Stupid humidity.

She took a long breath as she entered the bathroom. Eyes closed, she reached for the faucet and turned the handle.


Her eyes shot open. In her hoof sat the broken cold water handle, the enchanted porcelain crumbling to dust in her grasp. She gasped and let go of it, letting it tumble into the basin, which was rapidly filling with freezing water. Rainbow Dash backed away from the sink, and immediately tripped over a towel and fell into her shower.

At least, she would have fallen in, if she hadn’t gotten wedged between the shower’s sliding doors. She spent a few seconds struggling to get free before she looked up and saw herself in the mirror.

Her jaw dropped.

Admittedly, Rainbow Dash didn’t have the biggest vocabulary, but here she could honestly only think of one word to describe herself: monstrous. Overnight she had grown to be at least four times her normal size; she could barely even fit in the bathroom, much less the mirror. Hay, she was probably as big as the Saddle Rager, if not bigger. But any annoyance she had snapped out of existence when she realized why she was so huge: every inch of her body was muscle.

Every appendage, every limb, every inch of her body was made out of sculpted, twitching muscle. Veins ran along her skin in every direction, bulging through her fur. Her head looked like a thumbtack compared to the rest of her body. Gulping, she allowed herself a hesitant flex—at once, the shower door she was stuck in shattered to a million pieces.

She was a walking, talking meat market.

Grinning, she stood up, only just now noticing the way that her head brushed against the ceiling. She could feel her heart rate rocketing as she sprinted out of the bathroom, crashing through the walls of her cloud home, until she threw open the front door and spilled out onto her lawn. The thick clouds sagged under her as she walked to the edge of the lawn and gazed down at Ponyville.

It was the middle of the morning, which meant that almost everypony in town was going to be up and about, making their daily rounds through the village. Rainbow tried and failed to hold back a giggle. “This is gonna be awesome!”

She spread her wings and jumped off of the cloud—and fell.

The world spun past her as she hurtled through the sky, a meteor of sweaty flesh, headed straight for Mane Street. Rainbow tried to straighten her wings, to spread her limbs, to do anything to halt her descent, but nothing seemed to be working. The ground was getting closer with every millisecond. Letting out a roar, Rainbow clenched her eyes shut and gave a few ferocious flaps of her wings.

That managed to slow her enough that she was able to just barely control her flight path. She threw her body to one side, dodging the roof of Sugarcube Corner, only to careen into a massive pile of hay bales.

She landed hard, tearing open a crater the size of a house. Before she could even manage to spit the dirt out of her mouth, the hay bales came crashing down on top of her, burying her in an itchy—albeit tasty—yellow nightmare.

“Whoa nelly!” she heard somepony yelp through her daze. “Rainbow Dash, are you alright?”

Coughing, Rainbow Dash poked her head up through the sea of hay. “Yeah, I think I’m alright…” She shook herself out of her stupor and saw Applejack and Fluttershy standing in front of her, doing their best to move the hay bales. Rainbow waited a minute for them to finish—when it passed and they were barely halfway through, Rainbow smirked and stood up, using her muscles to force her way out.

At her full height, Rainbow cast a long shadow over both of her friends. “Hey!” she chirped.

Applejack stared, jaw loose. Fluttershy’s face went bright-red. “Hi, Rainbow,” she stammered, wings fidgeting. “You… You’re very big.”

“I know!” Rainbow said. With a chuckle, she reared onto her hind hooves and flexed. “Isn’t it awesome?”

Fluttershy let out a long sigh before fainting, her wings now completely stiff. Applejack didn’t move to help her, but stayed frozen, staring at Rainbow’s twitching pecs. “You mind explaining what’s going on here?”

“Isn’t it obvious, AJ? I’m the strongest mare in Equestria!”

“Uh-huh.” Applejack frowned. “And just how did that happen?”

“Oh, you know. Genies.”

“Right.” Applejack flinched away as Rainbow spun around and flexed her flanks. “Should have expected something like that. Celestia knows this town just keeps on getting weirder…”

“’Weirder?’ Huh, that’s a weird way to say more awesome!” Rainbow wrapped a leg around Applejack’s shoulders and pulled her in, crushing the earth pony against her solid, sweaty abs. “What do you think? Aren’t I the single biggest, thickest, sexiest hunk of a mare you’ve ever seen?”

“You’re definitely thick,” Applejack said, holding her breath. “So, why exactly do you look like a blue whale on a treadmill? Just what are you planning on doing with all these muscles?”

Rainbow grinned and cast a glance at a nearby wall. “I have one idea…”

Applejack followed her eyes. The wall they both stared at was plastered with colorful posters for the Equestrian Strongpony Competition, each one promising amazing prizes and accolades for the pony who could prove themselves to be the strongest in the country. Applejack gasped and pulled away from Rainbow’s grasp. “You can’t enter that competition, Rainbow!”

“What? Why not?”

“Because it’s dishonest!” Applejack poked one of Rainbow dash’s legs. “You said it yourself: you used magic to get those muscles. You didn’t work for them! If you enter that competition and win, you’ll be a cheater!”

“It is not cheating!” Rainbow shot back. “I worked really hard to get this big!”

“Oh, yeah? What’d you do?”

“A lot of things,” Rainbow muttered, looking away. “Do you know how hard it is to look Princess Luna in the eye and ask her for magic muscles?”

“That’s a load of—” Applejack paused and tilted her head. “Wait, I thought you said that a genie made you strong.”

“I did.”

“You—oh, whatever!” Applejack growled and jabbed a hoof into her friend's solid chest. “It doesn’t matter, because it’s still cheating!”

“Okay, fine, maybe it is!” Rainbow sighed and knelt down to meet Applejack’s glare. “Listen, AJ: you know that I’d never, ever cheat unless I had a good reason. My entire life, all I’ve ever wanted was to win a strongpony competition and make my dad proud. And now I have the chance! If I get Derpy to send him a letter right now, he can make it here before the competition starts. Can’t you let me off the hook, just this once?”

Applejack kicked her hoof in the dirt. “I don’t know.”

“Please, Applejack, please! I promise, as soon as the competition’s over, I’ll get rid of them. Probably. Unless I win. Okay?” Rainbow puffed out her bottom lip. “For my daddy?”

“Hrm.” Applejack took a step back and scratched her head. “Your pa has been very friendly in all the times I’ve met him.”

“So you’re fine with me entering the competition?”

“…Fine,” Applejack forced out. “I’m not gonna support you, but I won’t stop you. Alright?”

“Hay yeah!” Rainbow Dash pulled Applejack into another hug, squeezing her between her toned pecs. “You’re the best, AJ!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Applejack choked out. “Just don’t hurt anypony, okay? And go buy some deodorant; you smell worse than a family of hungry pigs in August.” Before she could finish speaking, Rainbow Dash had let her go and had run away, shaking the earth with each hoofstep. As she faded into the distance, Applejack turned and poked the pegasus lying next to her. “You okay there, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy held a hoof to her forehead as she lifted herself off the ground. “What happened? I saw Rainbow’s giant legs, and I, um—“ Her cheeks went pink as her wings began to raise again. “They were nice.”

“Yeah, real nice,” Applejack intoned, rolling her eyes. “If you liked them, you should have seen her flanks.”

Fluttershy passed out again.

Two hours later, Rainbow Dash walked through the clearing the middle of Whitetail Woods, the number ‘43’ plastered over both of her flanks. She held her head high and her wings even higher, towering over everypony she passed—and that wasn’t an easy feat. The strongest of the strong from all over Equestria were there, doing warmups, talking with their coaches, or, for the most part, glaring at Rainbow. There had to have been more muscle in this clearing than in all the rest of Equestria combined.

And more sweat, she thought, nose crinkling. Maybe I should have brought some deodorant.

She recognized a few ponies from magazines that her father always left lying around. Across the field from her was Deadlift, an earth stallion from Trottingham. Standing just a few yards away from him, chatting with a group of young admirers, was Fast Twitch, a unicorn stallion from Canterlot.

In fact, Rainbow Dash was the only mare competing, it looked like. The ponies sitting at the registration booth didn’t seem to know what to do with her when she had arrived, but a few choice words from their superiors had led them to put her through the same protocols as any colt. The most nerve-wracking part about the whole thing was when a group of unicorns scanned her entire body for magic supplements; she was sure that she was going to get caught and humiliated in front of everypony.

And yet, she had come up clean. Say what you will about genies, but they can be damn cool sometimes.

She sat down on a nearby bench—it broke in half under her weight—and smiled. Everything was going to plan.

“Hey, kiddo!”

Her ears perked up as the familiar voice floated through her ears. Rainbow jumped off of the broken bench and spun around to see her father, Rainbow Blaze, heading towards her. His gait seemed to falter the least bit when he saw her—nevertheless, he kept walking, and didn’t resist when Rainbow Dash scooped him into the air for a hug, turning them both into a single prismatic blob.

“Dad!” Rainbow said, laughing. “You got my letter!”

“That I did. That mailmare friend of yours crashed right into our living room!” Blaze scanned his daughter’s frame and put on a toothy grin. “You’ve, uh, certainly gotten big. Have you finally started drinking your milk?”

“Yeah, totally,” Rainbow said as she put him back down on the ground. She reared onto her hind hooves and flexed once again, bulging the muscles in her legs out as far as they would go. “Aren’t I ripped? Hay, I think I’m even bigger than Grandpa Blitz was!”

Blaze chuckled into his hoof. “I’d say you are. So, are you really planning on entering the competition today?”

“Planning? I’m already in it!” Rainbow cried, showing off the sticker on her flank. “And not only that, but I’m gonna win! I’m gonna dominate everypony here and take home that trophy.”

“That’s great to hear, kiddo, but…” Blaze raised a brow. “I always thought that you wanted to be a Wonderbolt, not a strongpony. What’s with the sudden interest?”

Rainbow grinned. “I’m doing this for you, Dad! You inspired me to try becoming a strongpony.”

Blaze’s mouth hung for a moment, but soon enough he smiled and nodded. “That’s very nice of you to say, Rainbow.” He threw his eyes around the area, his gaze lingering on a few choice competitors. “There are a lot of professionals here today—hay, some of these guys are world champions. It certainly isn’t the place I’d pick for my first competition.”

“I can take ‘em,” Rainbow said, puffing out her chest. “It’ll be easy.”

“I wouldn’t get cocky. You know what overconfidence does to a pony.”

“It’s not overconfidence, Dad.” Rainbow clapped him on the back, nearly sending him sprawling. “I’m the strongest pony in Equestria!”


Everypony went silent as a unicorn holding a microphone made his way to the center of the clearing. “I’d like to welcome you all to the eighty-fifth annual Equestrian Strongpony Competition! The first round will begin in just ten minutes, so I ask that at this time all competitors make their way to the weight lifting area, and that all spectators find their seats in the bleachers.

Rainbow laughed. “Time to show everypony what a real strongpony looks like!”

Blaze nodded. “Good luck, kiddo. And remember: have fun.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow said as she walked away. I’ll do more than have fun.

Rainbow Dash was starting to reconsider her plan.

As the last entrant, she stood at the back of the line, waiting for her turn in the weight lifting portion of the competition. That had been a bad idea, as with every new entrant, she could feel another river of sweat forming at her brow. The stallions that surrounded her were lifting hundreds upon hundreds of pounds at a time, some without even a grunt. There were more veins bulging out than Rainbow had ever seen, and the air was musky with perspiration.

Just watching them made her muscles hurt—and considering how big hers were, it hurt like Tartarus.

The three ponies judging certainly didn’t help. The first two were some old guys, probably retired strongponies. But the third was Spitfire. The Spitfire. She was decked out in her Wonderbolts uniform and everything. In between every competitor she would glance over at Rainbow and slip her the smallest of smiles before returning to her work.

Rainbow bounced her knees as she realized that she was next to go. The stallion currently up on stage, Fast Twitch, had about five-hundred pounds of pure iron raised high above his head. Twitching veins crisscrossed his glistening legs, pulsing with every heartbeat. He held the barbell steady for nearly ten seconds before resting it back down on the ground.

His feat earned him an emphatic cheer from the crowd. The judges were a bit more reserved, but stomped their hooves nonetheless before huddling together to discuss their scores.

Fast Twitch levitated a towel over to himself as he walked off the stage, and past Rainbow. “Beat that, filly,” he muttered.

All hesitation lost, Rainbow held back a torrent of curses as he walked away, and heard her number called. Clenching her teeth, she walked up onto the stage and made her way to the barbell. From her spot, she had a clear view of the entire crowd; it took only a moment for her to find her father, offering her a smile.

She couldn’t help but smile, too. This one’s for you, Dad.

She gazed down at the barbell and waited for the referee to give a signal before gripping it with both hooves. Okay, Rainbow: let’s give ‘em all you’ve got! With all of her strength, she lifted the barbell into the air.

It went flying upwards, out of her grasp and into the clouds.

Everypony gazed upwards at the shrinking black dot. Rainbow scratched the back of her head and forced a chuckle. “Uh, sorry?” she said to the referee.

“It’s coming back!” yelled somepony in the crowd.

Everypony around the stage started screaming and running away. Rainbow felt her muscles tense up as she realized that the barbell was coming straight back down, headed right for her skull. All of time seemed to slow as it tumbled downwards, ripping through the clouds, hitting terminal velocity, until it was just inches away and Rainbow Dash lifted her hooves into the air—

She caught it, without a single stumble. There was silence for a moment as everypony stared at Rainbow, holding the smoking barbell above her head.

The audience erupted with applause. Rainbow gulped as the sound hit her, very nearly blowing her back onto her rump. They only seemed to grow louder as she grinned and balanced the barbell on one hoof, then on her neck, then bounced it between her pecs. In front of the stage, the judges found themselves staring, eyes nearly as wide as one of Rainbow’s glutes.

Without a moment of discussion, Spitfire grabbed her microphone and announced, “We award the first round to #43, Rainbow Dash!

Rainbow Dash put the barbell down and posed for the crowd, making sure they got a good look at every inch of her body. She glanced at Fast Twitch, who was sitting just a few yards away, his normally-blue face going a deep shade of crimson.

She giggled to herself as she launched into another bout of flexing. I could get used to this.

Just a few minutes later, Rainbow Dash lay on her back, waiting for the bench pressing round to start. There had been a bit of a delay in starting the second round; apparently the ponies running the competition had decided to make Rainbow Dash a special barbell, specifically for her.

She smirked when she saw it being brought out. The barbell held nearly one ton of weight, and the steel rod holding it together had been reinforced with magic. It took five unicorns just to carry it out and place it in the rack behind her head.

A young, lean unicorn colt walked up from behind and smiled down at her. “Hey, I’m gonna be your spotter.”

She shook her head. “No, thanks.”


“I don’t need a spotter. Just hoof me the barbell and I’ll be fine.”

The colt bit his lip and looked around for a moment before nodding. “Uh, alright, then. If you insist.” He and a few other unicorns standing around lit their horns, and a multicolored glow wrapped around the barbell. It shook as it was lifted out of the rack and into Rainbow’s outstretched hooves. But as soon as they let go, and Rainbow took control, it stayed completely steady.

The crowd roared once again as Rainbow Dash performed her five reps with ease, lifting the bar as if it were made out of feathers. In fact, once she was done, she did fifteen more reps, yawning as she went. Once that was done, she jumped off of the stage and tore the entire structure out of the ground, holding it high above her head.

“Is this the heaviest thing you’ve got?” she called up to the ponies still on stage.

The colt shuddered and gripped the floorboards. “Yes…?!”

“That’s too bad,” she said with a smirk as she put the stage back down. “I was just getting started.”

The second round goes to #43, Rainbow Dash!

Stallions and mares alike swooned as Rainbow flexed. Again.

After round two, there was a short break to allow all the participants time to prepare for the grand finale. The air was electric with anticipation as every competitor worked to get themselves ready. Coaches of all shapes and sizes stood with their participants, leading them through warm-up exercises and giving rousing pep talks. Shouts of encouragement and of praise shot through the clearing—


Every head turned to look at Rainbow Dash, who was lounging off to the side, holding an empty bottle of apple cider and wearing a sheepish smile. “Excuse me!” she shouted, only to be answered with a uniform grumble.

Blaze stood at her side; even when Rainbow laid down, she still towered over her father. A mountain of empty cider bottles sat next to them. He winced as Rainbow threw another one onto the pile. “You know, all this juice probably isn’t good for you. Maybe you should consider water, or even protein—“

“What, and miss out on all the free cider they’re giving out?” Rainbow asked, cracking open another bottle. “I don’t think so. So I lose a muscle or two—so what? I think I can deal.”

“Alright,” Blaze said after a pause. He smiled up at her. “I have to say, you’ve been doing great so far! Especially considering this is your first time. When this is all over, you’re gonna have to give me some tips on getting as big as you so fast!”

“Heh, yeah,” Rainbow murmured, sipping at her cider. She put the bottle down on the ground and tapped her hooftips together. “Hey, uh, Dad?”

“Yeah, kiddo?”

“I know you said I’ve been doing great and all, but… are you proud of me?”

“Of course I am.” Blaze touched her shoulder with a wing. “I’m always proud of you.”

“Yeah, but you’re, like, super proud now, right?”

Blaze furrowed his brow. “Uh, I guess?”

Rainbow squealed and locked her father in another hug, crushing him between her tree trunk-sized forelegs. “You’re awesome, Dad.”

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

Rainbow and Blaze both opened their eyes to find Spitfire standing in front of them, now wearing not only her Wonderbolts uniform but a long smirk across her face. Clouds of red swirling through her cheeks, Rainbow Dash let go of her father and did everything she could to keep her wings folded. “Oh, uh, hey, Spitfire! What’s up?”

“You, apparently,” Spitfire said, staring up at Rainbow. “You’ve certainly gotten bigger since the last time I saw you.”

Rainbow crossed her forelegs and nodded. “Yeah, well, you know what they say: an apple a day makes you the strongest mare in Equestria!”

Spitfire chuckled. “Can’t beat that logic. Just wanted to stop by and compliment you on all the good work you’ve done so far. Everypony is very impressed. Keep it up, and you just might win this thing.”

“Seriously?” Rainbow asked, grinning.

“Yep.” Spitfire looked over to where all the other competitors were warming up and snorted. “I can only imagine the look on Fast Twitch’s face if a rookie like you beats him.”

“You won’t have to imagine for much longer,” Rainbow said, flaring her wings. “I’m gonna make it a reality.”

“I suppose we’ll see,” Spitfire murmured. She turned and walked away. “I have to be getting back. Good luck in the final round!”

Rainbow waved her off. At her side, Blaze let out a long whistle. “Jeez. I never realized you were such close friends with Spitfire of all ponies. Must be nice.”

“Hay yeah it is. She’s, like, the coolest mare in all of Equestria.” Rainbow raised her chin high. “And someday I’m gonna be her teammate. I’m gonna be the first pony to ever be both a Wonderbolt and a champion strongpony.”

Blaze’s smile wilted a bit. “Rainbow, about that—“

Attention! The final round will begin in ten minutes!

“Oops, that’s my cue!” Rainbow chirped. She held up her hoof and said, “Wish me luck!”

Blaze hesitated for a moment before hoofbumping her and nodding. “Good luck, kiddo. I’m sure you’ll do great.”

The final round was, in essence, a talent show. Every competitor had a minute to show off what made them different than anypony else—the only catch was that it had to have something to do with their physical strength. Deadlift juggled bowling balls; Fast Twitch balanced five giggling mares on his back as he did push-ups; Bulk Biceps played the violin so hard it caught fire.

As they performed their routines, Rainbow just sat and held back the urge to laugh. Did any of these ponies really think they could hold a candle to a pony as awesome as her? She’d just pull off a Sonic Rainboom and blow everyone away—especially her dad. The only time he had ever seen her do one was at the Best Young Flyer competition, and even then it had been a fluke. This would be the first time he would see an intentional, fully prepared Rainboom.

He’ll be telling his friends about it for weeks! Rainbow thought, rubbing her hooves together.

The crowd buzzed as Rainbow took the stage. She made sure to spread her wings far as she walked, showing off just how well she had preened her feathers the day before. Then, casting one last smile at her father, she flapped her wings and jumped into the air.

She came back down with a thump.

It took Rainbow a moment to realize that she was still on the stage. She tried again, but couldn’t get herself any higher. No matter how many times she jumped, the result was the same: she would hover for a second or two before falling, usually cracking the floorboards under her.

Every inch of her body was glazed with sweat. She didn’t look, but she could hear and feel the audience’s excitement dying down, replaced by a dull confusion. The judges were probably making snide jokes about her. Her father was probably penning a letter to his lawyer, preparing to write Rainbow out of the will.

 No, no, no! You can’t let this happen! Not here!

Rainbow took a deep breath and clenched her teeth. Then, with the fury of a hungry manticore, she flapped. She thrashed her wings as hard as she could, doing everything and anything in her power to lift herself off the ground. And it was working! She could feel herself rising through the air, heading toward the clouds. The crowd had started cheering again! She was going to make it! She was—

A painful cramp twanged through Rainbow’s wing.

She yelped out a curse as she fell out of the sky and landed, rear-first, on the stage, which cracked to pieces under her. The force of her impact sent a shockwave ripping through the earth, throwing everypony and everything in the area high into the air. Screams were launched every which way as everypony without wings crashed to the ground and were forced to dodge falling pieces of wood and plaster, as well as their fellow ponies.

When the smoke cleared and was replaced by a fog of painful moaning, Rainbow climbed out of the hole she had made in the stage. Scratching her neck, she walked to the front of the stage and stared out at the carnage. “Sorry!” she yelled. “I swear, I don’t know what—“

“That was awesome!” a colt out in the crowd cried.

Rainbow blinked. “It was?”

An elderly mare stuck in a folding chair nodded and laughed. “Why, I haven’t seen a ground pound like that since old Rusty Rump back in ’63!”

“Rain-bow Dash! Rain-bow Dash!” chanted a filly nearby. Soon enough, the entire crowd was in on it, chanting her name and pumping their hooves with each syllable. Rainbow could feel her heart swelling at the sound; she held her head high and spread her not-cramped wing, basking in the glory.

The judges—whose desk was now upside down—huddled together and spent a few moments chatting. Spitfire stood up, grabbed a microphone, and announced: “It wasn’t an easy decision, but after a unanimous vote, we have decided to award this round to #43, Rainbow Dash!” She paused for the thunderous roar of applause. “That means that your winner, and the new strongest pony in Equestria, is Rainbow Dash!

Two cannons boomed from either side of the stage, burying Rainbow in a shower of confetti. She giggled as hundreds of bright balloons tumbled from the ceiling of the stage, flooding the area with rubbery goodness. Camera bulbs flashed from every angle. A crowd of spectators stormed the stage and tried to heft her onto their backs, but they couldn’t even make her budge. She waited a minute for them to give up before standing and walking off the stage.
It took a few minutes for her to wade through the crowds of adoring fans, photographers, and angry competitors. Normally, this was the kind of thing she would be savoring, doing everything she could to make the moment last as long as possible. But right now, there was only one pony she wanted to see.

Her father waited for her across the field, far away from the rest of the crowd, with a long smile draped across his lips. Rainbow let out a booming laugh as she galloped to him and hugged him. “Did you see that? I totally owned that final round!”

“You certainly did!” Blaze said, tussling her mane. “Not that there was ever any doubt; you’re just like your old man!”

“Ah, excuse me.”

The two looked up as Spitfire walked over, a massive golden trophy balanced on her back. With a wing, she laid it on the ground in front of Rainbow, who let out a brain-splitting squee as she grabbed it and held it tight. On top of it was a featureless, golden pony, holding a barbell above their head. The name “Rainbow Dash” was inscribed into a plaque at the bottom; the words still glowed with the magic it took to carve them in.

“You were brilliant,” Spitfire said, patting Rainbow’s leg. “You deserve this trophy and more.”

“You know it!” Rainbow cheered. It took her father clearing his throat and nudging her for her to rub her leg and say, “I mean, uh… thank you, Spitfire. Really. It’s an honor.” She grinned. “Although, maybe you can keep this in mind the next time I apply to join the Wonderbolts.”

Spitfire’s smile disappeared for the briefest of seconds. “Oh, you’re still going to try for the squad? You’re not gonna keep competing in strongpony competitions?”

“I’m gonna do both!” Rainbow said. She wrapped a leg around her dad’s shoulders, not noticing how they were suddenly slumped. “I’m gonna be the strongest Wonderbolt of all time!”

For the first time that day, Spitfire frowned. “Uh, Rainbow, I hate to break it to you, but that’s not gonna work. It’s either Wonderbolts or strongpony competitions; you can’t do both.”

“What?” Rainbow asked, scowling. “Why not?”

“Because—look, let me show you.” Spitfire jumped into the air and flew up a few yards. “Fly to where I am.”

“Okay…?” Rainbow said, tilting her head. She flapped her wings a few times and jumped up—and came crashing down face-first. Spitting out a few chunks of dirt, she tried again, only to fall again. A full minute was spent failing to reach Spitfire, with Rainbow growing more and more frantic with each try. Eventually, she came tumbling back to the ground and simply crumpled into a blob of veiny muscle.

“You can’t fly fast with a lot of weight,” Spitfire explained. “And considering how heavy you are now, it’s no surprise that you can’t fly at all!”

Rainbow didn’t answer, instead opting to keep her face pressed into the grass.

Spitfire shook her head. “I’m sorry, Dash. That’s just the way it is.” She turned away and flew off. “Congrats on winning the competition, though! You have a bright future as a strongpony!”

Silence. Grimacing, Blaze walked up to his daughter and ran a hoof through her mane. “Are you okay?”

“I—“ Rainbow lifted her head. Her face was streaked with dirt and rocks. “I can’t be a Wonderbolt anymore.”

“I’m sorry, kiddo. I know how long you’ve dreamed of joining the team—it hurts to have something you love taken away like that.”

“Mhm.” Rainbow gripped the ground with all four hooves and took a few quivering breaths. “But… but it’s okay.”

Blaze blinked. “It is?”

“Yeah!” Rainbow said, rubbing her quickly-reddening eyes. “I mean, I won, right? I got this awesome trophy?” She tried to lift her eyes to meet Blaze’s, but only got to his chest. “And you’re proud of me?”

“Of course I’m proud,” Blaze said, resting a hoof on her shoulder. “But—“

Rainbow moved away from his touch. “So, sure, I’m not gonna be a Wonderbolt. Ever. And sure, I’m gonna probably need to move to the ground because I can’t reach my house. And sure, I can’t even fit through a stupid doorway. But if I keep winning these things, I’m not gonna need any of that! Right?”

“Rainbow, you—“

“I don’t need going fast, or racing, or… or even flying,” Rainbow muttered, swallowing. She shook her head and tried to crane her head over her muscled shoulders to look at her flank. “I mean, I can barely see my cutie mark anyway.”

“Rainbow!” Blaze yelled, stomping a hoof and making his daughter flinch. He took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes. “Was the only reason you did all this to impress me?”

“What?” Rainbow asked, eyes darting everywhere but him. “No! I did this because I wanted to! I wanted to win, y’know...?”

“Rainbow Dash…”

“Okay, fine!” Rainbow cried. “I admit it! I got super-muscular and entered this competition because I wanted to impress you, Dad.” She sighed and took a step back. “I know how much you hate that I never followed in your hoofsteps and became a strongpony, like you expected me to. I just wanted to give you something that you could actually be proud of! I wanted to give you something to brag about to all your bodybuilder friends!”

There was quiet for a moment as Rainbow shuddered, her eyes cast toward the dirt. Blaze stood rigid, lips parted slightly. With a slow hoof, he touched her leg. “Rainbow Dash, I’ve been telling you all day: I am proud of you.”

“You’ve just been saying that—“

“No, I most certainly have not!” Blaze shot back. “I am proud of you, of everything about you! I mean, how could I not be? You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re absolutely beautiful! Everything about you is perfect!”

Now, it was his turn to sigh. “My entire life, my father never listened to anything I said. No matter how many times I protested, he always pressured me into becoming a strongpony—so that’s what I did. That’s not the life I wanted for you, Rainbow. I wanted to give you the chance to choose your own path. And look where that’s brought you! You’re an Element of Harmony, a national hero! You’re best friends with the captain of the Wonderbolts, and, hay, you’re probably gonna get in someday!

“When Firefly passed away, I made a promise to myself that I would do everything I could do give you a good life.” Blaze paused and touched Rainbow’s face with a wing, forcing their eyes to meet. “Do you really think that making yourself miserable just for my sake makes me happy?”

Rainbow opened her mouth, but no words came.

“Seeing you happy makes me happy, Rainbow. I love you more than any stupid strongpony competition.”

A low whimper echoed from Rainbow’s throat as a deluge of tears came flowing from her eyes. She sobbed as she pulled her father close, burying her face into his spiky mane. Blaze didn’t resist, but just smiled as his daughter let out a lifetime-worth of confusion, of sadness, of fear that her father didn’t really love her.

He stroked her back with a wing and whispered, “Don’t give up your dreams for me.” He paused, allowing a small smile to cross his lips. “And besides: I’ve cleaned enough dirty sweat socks to last a lifetime. I don’t need another basket full of them.”

Rainbow choked out a laugh, although her shoulders still heaved. She pulled back and smiled. “I love you, Dad.”

“I love you too, kiddo.” He turned and gestured for Rainbow to follow. “Now, c’mon: how about we go get some ice cream for my big winner?”

Rainbow nodded and jumped to her hooves. “That sounds freakin’ awe—“


Both pegasi froze and looked up into the sky. A sea of pigs, each one decorated with a large set of butterfly wings, flew overhead. The air was filled with oinking as they passed.

Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “What the hay?”

She blinked, and when she opened her eyes, she was staring up at a stylized drawing of Spitfire and Soarin’.

Rainbow screamed as she sat up, throwing her blanket across the darkened room, right on top of Tank. Her entire body shone with sweat. With a start, she realized: she was back in her bedroom. She spent a few moments panting and looking around before a thought crossed through her head. With frantic hooves, she felt all around her body.

All of her muscles were gone.

“It… It was a dream?” she said aloud. “I’m not actually huge?”

“I’m afraid not.”

She screamed again. Standing next to her bed, steeped in shadow, was Luna. Rainbow shot her a bloody glare. “Stop sneaking up on me like that!”

“I apologize. It is simply in my nature.” Luna sat down at the end of her bed and smiled. “I assume that you have many questions. Luckily, I have many answers.”

Rainbow nodded. “So, it was a dream? You didn’t actually use your genie powers to give me muscles?”

Luna shook her head. “Why, of course not. You did not really believe that I was half-genie, did you?” She giggled. “I am only a quarter-genie. That means no special powers. Just an affinity for lamps and certain types of carpets.”

“Wait, that means…” Rainbow Dash’s entire body seemed to wilt. She fell back into her pillows and growled. “It was all a dream. So my dad isn’t actually proud me. Great.”

“That is not true.”

“Huh?” Rainbow lifted her head. “What do you mean?”

“While it is true that you were having a dream, so was somepony else: your father.” Luna smirked. “Over in Cloudsdale, your father was having the exact same dream, just from his perspective. While you were dreaming about being in a competition, he was dreaming about seeing his daughter in one. The stallion you confessed your feelings to and embraced was your father through and through, right down to the tiny scar on his back left hoof.”

Rainbow stared, jaw hanging. A shudder ran through her body. Wiping her eyes, she got out of bed and muttered a soft, “Thanks, Princess. This… This was really awesome of you.”

“It was my pleasure, Rainbow Dash. I find great joy in familial love.”

With that, Rainbow walked over to her closet and threw it open before diving in. She took a minute to navigate the cluttered space, but soon enough she came back out, holding a small drawstring bag with her cutie mark emblazoned on the side. She scooped a few bits off of her nightstand and threw them into the bag.

Luna raised a brow. “What are you doing?”

“I’m packing a bag for Cloudsdale,” Rainbow said, grabbing a bottle of water. “If I leave now, I can get there before Dad’s shift at the Weather Factory starts.” She slung the bag over her back and walked to the doorway.

She cast a glance at Luna over her shoulder and smiled. “I think that we’ve got some talking to do.”
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