Fan Fic / MLP: The Games We Play
"But this is fun, isn't it? The games we play."

The Games We Play (not to be confused with the other The Games We Play, or the other other one) is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fan Fic written by AbsoluteAnonymous.

There's been another sighting of the mysterious Mare Do Well… but this time, all of Rainbow Dash's friends plead ignorance, insisting that they've put aside their costumes for good. Rainbow Dash is determined to uncover the masked mare's true identity before she's humiliated yet again, but this time around, the vigilante seems especially interested in her as well. Will Rainbow Dash be able to solve the mystery before the culprit takes the hoax too far? Or is she in danger of losing not only her mind, but her heart?

The Games We Play is a remarkably psychological story dealing with hidden depths and the things we do for love. As Rainbow Dash learns, you can never take for granted who somepony is.

NOTE: To get the most out of both the mystery and the Character Development, it is strongly advised that you read the story before perusing these trope pages, even with (or arguably on account of) the plentiful spoiler tags.

Tropes present in this work:

  • Adorkable: Mare Do Well is starting to show signs of this in recent chapters, with the awkwardness and insecurity that she's trying so desperately to hide finally coming to light. And now apparently she's afraid of heights.
  • Always Someone Better: Rainbow Dash notes frequently how Mare Do Well seems to be better at her at almost everything.
    • Pinkie felt this way about her Mare-Do-Well persona, viewing it as strong, heroic, attractive and all the other things she thought she could never be. This is a major factor in her breakdown.
  • Alternate Ending: AbsoluteAnonymous has stated there will be alternate endings, but that they'll appear in a separate story; although they'll apparently be gag endings for the most part.
    • Unfortunately, she's since deleted these "Supplementary Materials", although a (very incomplete) archive can be found here.
  • Amusing Injuries: Averted.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: When Rainbow Dash gets drunk at the Hearth's Warming party in Canterlot, she starts rambling about how Mare Do Well has a "really sexy voice" and how she's probably "really good at making out."
  • Becoming the Mask: What Pinkie Pie was terrified of.
  • Beneath the Mask: Despite her seemingly smug personality, Mare Do Well isn't so much calculating and manipulative as painfully lonely, insecure, and desperate to keep Rainbow Dash's attention so that she doesn't lose her.
    • Pinkie's multiple personalities aren't exactly that: instead, each one is a facet of the single personality that underlies it all. Rainbow wants to help her show her core personality more.
  • The Bet: Mare Do Well wants to get Rainbow Dash to fall in love with her. Rainbow Dash wants to find out who Mare Do Well really is. Who will give in first?
  • Beta Couple: Applejack and Rarity are together, and we see the clues and hints dropped about their relationship filtered through Dash's unknowing eyes.
  • Betty and Veronica: Pinkie Pie is sweet, affectionate, and bubbly, with a cheery personality and a penchant for disturbing mood swings and Stepford Smiling that doesn't go unnoticed by Rainbow Dash. Mare Do Well is dark and mysterious, with every intention of taking advantage of her own mystique to seduce Rainbow Dash and absolutely No Social Skills to speak of. Her general awkwardness, coupled with the insecurity that she's trying so desperately to hide, leads to most of her Adorkable moments.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mare Do Well does this to save Rainbow after she gets struck by lightning.
  • Break the Cutie: Happens thoroughly to Pinkie Pie after Rainbow Dash rejects her feelings.
  • Broken Bird: Mare Do Well is hinted to be one, but it isn't until after The Reveal that we learn how badly damaged she really is.
  • Broken Smile: Pinkie Pie after she gets rejected.
  • Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: Rainbow Dash openly dislikes Mare Do Well, but after her wings are broken and Mare Do Well begins to avoid her out of guilt she finds that she actually misses her.
  • Catch a Falling Star: Mare Do Well saves Rainbow from falling to her death when lightning hits her, preventing her from flying.
    • During the climax, Mare Do Well trips and falls during the chase across Canterlot's rooftops and Rainbow Dash saves her.
  • The Chessmaster: Mare Do Well. Actually, no, she has no idea what she's doing and is making it all up as she goes.
    • Rainbow Dash secretly wonders whether Pinkie Pie is one of these who is using Obfuscating Insanity to cover herself. Played with in that Dash cannot imagine Pinkie having any sinister motive and concludes that Pinkie simply arranges coincidences to make life happier for those around her. Basically confirmed in the end.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The early chapters come across as much goofier than the later ones. Around chapter 7, the story begins to shift from a light-hearted romantic mystery to a darker, more twisted psychological drama.
  • Character Development: Tons, with most of it focused on revealing the Hidden Depths of the cast.
  • Circling Monologue: Mare Do Well pulls one on Rainbow Dash in one chapter while teasing her about the suspicious way she now views her friends.
  • Cliffhanger: A few are thrown in every now and then, but the Mother of all Cliffhangers would have to be the end of chapter 19: Mare Do Well calls the game off, so Rainbow Dash runs after her in an attempt to forcibly unmask her, and the chapter ends before she can catch her.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Both Mare Do Well and Pinkie Pie can be this way at times which makes sense, considering they're the same pony and all.
  • Dating Catwoman: A strange variation. Mare Do Well is completely in love with Rainbow Dash and is perfectly willing to say so. No matter what she does, her motivation can usually be summed up as "I thought Rainbow Dash would like it." Rainbow Dash, however, despises Mare Do Well, viewing her not only as a rival, but as an enemy that must be defeated; yet she's still clearly attracted to MDW, even if she won't admit it to herself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rainbow primarily, though Mare Do Well has traces of it.
  • Destructive Romance: Between Mare Do Well and Rainbow Dash. Mare Do Well is manipulative and downright mean sometimes.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Applejack decides to partake in this during the Hearth's Warming Eve party and Rainbow Dash joins her, although it's mostly Played for Laughs. Until Rainbow kisses Pinkie.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Rainbow Dash, Mare Do Well and Pinkie Pie all have issues of their own they need to work through. Even the author admitted that her works usually invoke this trope.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It took a lot of time, discussions, revelations, heartache, and pain, but Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash finally work out their issues and slowly repair their friendship/relationship. As hard is it was, they finally find happiness and completeness in each other.
  • Embarrassing Rescue: Rainbow Dash's main complaint against Mare Do Well at first is her habit of saving Dash when she doesn't want saving, such as when she's hit by lightning while flying and Mare Do Well catches her, despite Rainbow's insistence that she would've been fine even if she'd hit the ground.
  • Exact Words: Clarified at the start of Chapter 21: "You said you wouldn't be mad" gets countered with "I said it'd be okay. But that doesn't mean I can't be mad at you first."
  • Exact Eavesdropping: At the time of The Reveal, it is likely that Twilight (unintentionally) overheard most of conversation between Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, before she reveals her presence (also noting that Pinkie was dressed as the MDW). Played with in that both Pinkie and Dash hear another pony nearby, but ignore it to focus on their discussion.
    • It's not revealed just how much Twilight heard, but it's hinted that she heard enough to know that Rainbow and Pinkie needed to work things out privately between themselves at their own pace and she asked their friends to respect that and not press the issue.
  • Expressive Hair: Dash eventually asks Pinkie why her mane goes flat after unmasking her.
  • Fandom Nod: In a sense; in chapter 12, Rainbow Dash thinks over in her head which one of her friends might be Mare Do Well, using reasoning and wording that is very similar to the guesses and speculation readers posted in the comments. This may have been unintentional.
    • The chapters surrounding The Reveal also have Mare Do Well bring up all the avenues of investigation Rainbow never pursued, some of which would have solved the mystery in minutes. Many of these ideas were previously noted in fan comments, so the author might have taken inspiration from the fans on this point.
  • Fantastic Arousal: Pegasi wings are very, very sensitive.
  • Forceful Kiss: Surprisingly, Mare Do Well is on the receiving end of one from Rainbow Dash in chapter 20. May have edged on "Take That!" Kiss territory.
  • Freak Out!: In chapter 20, Mare Do Well completely freaks out when Rainbow Dash actually calls her "Mare Do Well.
    • Pinkie, after the others saw her in her depressed state. Rainbow Dash is able to calm her down, however.
  • Genre Savvy: Mare Do Well, who intentionally invokes Rule of Cool and various superhero and Romance Novel tropes to try and appear interesting to Rainbow Dash.
  • The Glomp: Pinkie's traditional means of greeting Rainbow. Rainbow Dash later gets one from Mare Do Well, too, when she first wakes up after having her wings broken.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Pinkie seems to go through one when Rainbow ditches her to continue looking for Mare Do Well. Rainbow Dash later suffers one as well, this time Played for Laughs, when she learns that her biggest lead (the fact that Rarity sold one of the Mare Do Well costumes, most likely to the Mare Do Well who's following her) is actually useless, because Spike bought it as a Nightmare Night costume.
  • Hidden Depths: EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER. The philosophy behind the story as a whole seems to be that our perceptions of others are never quite enough to fully understand them, and that there's always more than meets the eye.
  • Identity Amnesia: Pinkie worries that she has this. She's sure her personality has changed so many times that she can't be certain who she ever was anymore. Rainbow Dash convinces her that who she was or may have been isn't important, and that she should start from scratch by no longer repressing her feelings and deciding who she will be.
  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Dash, when Pinkie kisses her. Mainly from her experience with Gilda.
  • I Have the High Ground: Mare Do Well seems especially fond of rooftops. It turns out that she's actually afraid of heights and was only doing this to invoke Rule of Cool.
    • Well, sort of. She's not afraid of heights, so much as when her Pinkie Sense goes off and she's dreading somepony falling and getting hurt.
  • I Kiss Your Hoof: Mare Do Well kisses Rainbow Dash's hoof when they say goodbye to one another before Dash leaves for Canterlot in order to perform in the Hearth's Warming play. Indirectly, since it's through her mask, but the intention is clear.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Rainbow Dash.
  • Indy Ploy: MDW rapidly falls into this.
  • Interface Spoiler: After about chapter five or so, some of the more literary-minded readers may get the sense that Mare Do Well has to be Pinkie Pie — if for no other reason than that any other possibility would make no sense from a standpoint of technical narrative construction. Nopony else had enough screen time to even interact with Rainbow Dash long enough for it to not be a complete left-fielder with no buildup.
    • Subverted with the Group listing on the FIMfiction page, as there is plenty of Pinkiedash interaction in addition to Dash/MDW, though it could be argued to be a Double Subversion by the end.
    • There were two camps who called foul on the original example, one because the example was in play, and another because it wasn't subverted upon The Reveal. The author ended up calling out the neigh-sayers by stating on-record that the point of the mystery was never who Mare-Do-Well was, but why the pony under the mask put on said mask in the first place.
  • In Vino Veritas: After the Hearth's Warming Eve Play, Applejack and Rainbow Dash get a little tipsy and a little too honest with one another.
  • Ironic Echo: "You mean the kissy-face smoochies kind of like?" First said by Pinkie when Rainbow Dash tells her that Mare Do Well claims to like her, and later said by Rainbow Dash when Pinkie Pie confesses her feelings, immediately before attempting to kiss her.
    • "Too bad." First said by Mare Do Well when Rainbow Dash demands that she leave her alone, and later said by Rainbow Dash just before she unmasks Mare Do Well.
  • It's All About Me: Mare Do Well seems to love tweaking Dash's tail and getting under her skin, even as her actions start to hurt the Pegasi's relationships with others. This was deliberate.
  • It's All My Fault: Mare Do Well doesn't take the events of Chapter 9 well.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: Oddly enough. In the dialogue-only chapter 21, pauses in the conversation (indicted by ellipses) are used to imply that Rainbow Dash kissed Pinkie with no actual description of the event.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: At the Hearth's Warming Eve party in the palace, Rainbow Dash gets drunk and kisses Pinkie Pie.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: As much as Rainbow hates Mare Do Well, she agrees to the rules they set for their little competition.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: In relation to the above trope, when Mare-Do-Well calls the game off, Rainbow Dash prepares to give her a stern chase in an effort to forcibly unmask her, contrary to the previously set rules—since they no longer apply.
  • Loss of Identity: Pinkie feared that this would become more likely as the Mare Do Well game continued.
  • Love Hurts: But it can also heal, if both ponies are willing to do what it takes to keep it.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Pinkie starts off trying to pursue Rainbow as the Mare-Do-Well, but after Rainbow makes one or two comments about liking MDW when the drops the act, Pinkie also tries pursuing Rainbow Dash as herself.
    • This is a major factor in the story. Pinkie noted that Dash was more interested in the MDW than her, so she continued being the MDW just so she can be close to Dash. Another factor in Pinkie's breakdown is the idea that Rainbow doesn't notice Pinkie's affections, despite being best friends with her, but becomes interested in the MDW after only a few minutes.
  • Love Triangle: Between Rainbow Dash, Mare Do Well, and Pinkie Pie, with Mare Do Well and Pinkie both competing for Rainbow Dash's affections. Although there's certainly the possibility that Mare Do Well has been Pinkie all along.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Rainbow Dash is convinced that Mare Do Well is one. She's wrong.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Rainbow's ditching of Pinkie leads her into a Heroic B.S.O.D..
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Implied to be what happened to the unicorn lowlife who broke Rainbow Dash's wings and accordingly became a victim of Mare Do Well's Unstoppable Rage.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Mare Do Well.
  • Oblivious to Love: Rainbow Dash towards Pinkie Pie.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Mare Do Well is able to do this; by the end, Dash accepts she won't be able to figure out how.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: A running theme is Dash discovering that moments that seem out-of-character for somepony at first are just part of their Hidden Depths.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Mare Do Well, who is normally calm, gets annoyed and hesitant when Rainbow forces her to perform the "Pinkie Pie Swear".
    • Mare Do Well gets a second one when she starts crying while attempting to patch Rainbow up when her wings are horribly damaged.
  • Precocious Crush: In the supplementary materials, Scootaloo realizes her hero worship of Rainbow Dash is actually this after seeing Mare Do Well kiss Rainbow. At least, that's what she thinks she sees, but since it's just an alternate perspective on a scene from the main story, the reader knows better.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rainbow Dash gives Mare Do Well one in Chapter 20, outlining just why she hates her.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Rainbow Dash and Mare Do Well respectively.
    • And in chapter 21, surprisingly, Rainbow and Pinkie. That's right; Pinkie Pie is calm…relatively speaking.
  • Redundant Romance Attempt: Rainbow Dash eventually admits that she actually doesn't find Mare Do Well all that annoying, provided she's not putting on those superior airs.
    • All things considered, Pinkie's attempts to woo Rainbow probably would have been much better off if she'd never come up with the idea of using Mare Do Well.
  • The Reveal: Rainbow finally unmasks Mare-Do-Well at the end of Chapter 20.
    Pinkie Pie: Surprised?
  • Sanity Slippage: Very subtly happens to Rainbow Dash as she tries to figure out who Mare Do Well is. It comes to a boil in chapter 19 when Mare Do Well decides to end the confrontations between them.
  • Say My Name: In Chapter 20, Rainbow Dash calling Mare Do Well Mare Do Well causes her to have a minor Freak Out!.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Mare Do Well has a noticeably formal way of speaking and a habit of using long, unnecessary words. Lampshaded when Rainbow Dash complains about her pretentiousness. She later reverts back to more casual speech after Rainbow Dash is hurt, revealing that it was just part of the act.
    • Borders on Sophisticated as Hell at times, such as when Mare Do Well uses her elegant speech to make fun of Rainbow Dash for getting a wingboner.
    • After The Reveal, Pinkie Pie reveals that she can indeed talk like this when she wants to. Rainbow Dash finds this slightly unnerving and out of character for Pinkie Pie.
      Rainbow Dash: You're still talking weird.
      Pinkie Pie: Huh?
      Rainbow Dash: Mare Do Well…Mare Do Well talked really fancy, with big words and stuff. You're still doing that.
      Pinkie Pie: I'm not stupid. I can sound smart if I want to.
  • Sexier Alter Ego: Although there's no real change to her physical appearance (aside from the costume), Mare Do Well is charming, suave, and flirtatious, which is a far cry from how Pinkie Pie normally acts.
  • Ship Tease: Aside from the Rainbow/Pinkie/MDW triangle, Chapter 19 seems to hint that Applejack has an interest in Rarity.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Once Rainbow starts developing some feelings towards Mare Do Well, their interaction frequently falls into this territory.
  • Sleep Cute: In chapter 14, Mare Do Well and Rainbow Dash fall asleep against each other. They both later wake up but mistakenly assume that the other is still asleep, so neither move away, not wanting to disturb the other. D'aww.
  • Something Completely Different: Chapter 21 (the aftermath of The Reveal) is a dialogue-only chapter.
  • Split Personality: Almost. Pinkie describes Mare Do Well as being a different mood of hers instead of a definitive alternate personality. Unlike most examples which are aware of each other, the two never converse, though she's aware which one is in control at any given time.
  • Spoof Aesop: Referenced in the ending: Dash considers that the whole thing would be worth writing to Celestia about, only she can't put everything she learned into words. Instead, one of these gets suggested: "Don't say your pet alligator ate your costume when he doesn't even have teeth."
  • Stalking Is Love: Zigzagged. Mare Do Well truly does love Rainbow Dash, but that doesn't stop the Pegasus from getting freaked out - even as she eventually begins to reciprocate. Plus, it's evident that although MDW's feelings are real, they way they've manifested themselves stems from genuine instability and mental fragility. That she's clinically insane might explain a lot.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Mare Do Well, obviously.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Mare Do Well pulls this off occasionally.
  • Stepford Smiler: Pinkie is becoming more and more like this as she get's broken up by her feelings for Dash versus her firm belief that her friends will no longer like her if she's not happy. She becomes one completely after Rainbow Dash rejects her. Chapter 21 reveals she was one all along.
  • Take That!: The author apparently has something of a playful rivalry with another writer, Tailslover 13 (author of Trip Of A Lifetime and Total Magic Pony Island), who made no secret of the fact that his favorite character is Twilight Sparkle and that he firmly believed any other character being Mare Do Well would ruin the story completely. Shortly after the completion of the main story, AbsoluteAnonymous released this.
  • The Stoic: Mare Do Well, normally.
    • She proves to be Not So Stoic when Rainbow Dash gets her wings broken.
  • Technically a Smile: Pinkie Pie's expressions after Rainbow Dash rejects her feelings, complete with broken, hollow laugh. Dash is unsettled by this.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Mare Do Well starts calling Rainbow Dash "Dashie" and "silly filly" in one chapter just to make her uncomfortable.
  • Title Drop:
    Mare Do Well: But this is fun, isn't it?
    Rainbow Dash: What is?
    Mare Do Well: The games we play. I chase you, you chase me. Like an elaborate game of hide and seek; neither of us reaching each other, both of us circling one another…
  • That Mare Is Dead: Thought by Mare Do Well during the climax, when she finally drops the charade completely and concedes that she can't keep it up any longer.
  • Tsundere: Rainbow towards Mare Do Well. Possibly serves as a deconstruction, since it is made very clear over the course of the story that Rainbow's mixed signals and inconsistent behavior cause Mare Do Well to go through a great deal of conflicting emotions and mental anguish.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: The very premise of the story. One of Rainbow Dash's friends is playing Mare Do Well…she just doesn't know who.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter 19.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In Chapter 19, Rainbow Dash gets called out by both Twilight and Mare Do Well for kissing Pinkie while drunk. Mare Do Well also accuses her of not taking their game seriously enough and claims she could have easily discovered her identity if she invaded her friends' privacy even more.
    • Chapter 20 and 21 involve a rather extended one from Rainbow to Mare Do Well, especially after The Reveal.

Here I am. This is what I look like.