The announcer’s voice and every other noise faded from the world until Rainbow Dash could hear only silence. For a moment, the glory, the adulation of the crowds, that little snippet of her name had fulfilled her life long dream. And then, in but an instant, it was taken away without cause. A sharp, lancing pain in her chest confirmed that right there, in the view of two thousand ponies, her heart shattered. There was no joy, no hope, only the crushing weight of despair.
Storm had been in the middle of giving the messenger from Proud Skies a well deserved throttling when he saw a rainbow streak overhead. He delivered one last blow before giving chase, but she was flying much too fast for him to catch up right away. He urged his wings to greater limits, beginning to close the distance, but still trailing far behind, Rainbow Dash just a mere speck in the distance. He breathed a sigh of relief as she landed at her cloud home, slowly opening the door and walking inside. He caught up a few minutes later, and found her curled up on her bed. He immediately gathered her into his arms, sheltering her with his wings.
“Rainbow Dash, this isn’t going to stand. He may have sway, but he just personally ticked off the Wonderbolts and two thousand of their fans. There’s no way this is going to...”
“It’s over, Storm. Just leave me alone.” The black stallion slowly rose and left without a word, closing the door gently behind him. Not only had Proud Skies hurt the mare he treasured over everything else, but now he had embittered her against him. It was painful to admit, but it was his past that had caused her to be disqualified. He couldn’t really object. He had no counter argument, only a smoldering, bestial rage towards the one who had hurt his family, and now his ex-fillyfriend, more than any other pony ever could hope to. But it would not stand.
“Even if I die, even if I lose my wings or spend the rest of my life rotting in prison, I will not let you win, Proud,” he muttered, ignoring the tears of rage that were starting to fall. He gave one more look at Rainbow Dash’s house before making straight for home, leaving Rainbow Dash behind as he let vengeance control his mind.
“Spitfire, this is ridiculous! I don’t care who he is, nopony is allowed to mess with us like that! We can’t just let this slide!” Soarin raved, stomping around the room. The cries of outrage could still be heard from outside as the crowd chanted Rainbow Dash’s name in open defiance of the decree.
“Of course not, you idiot! That mare is going to be a Wonderbolt, regardless of what anypony says. Did you recognize the name, Proud Skies?”
“Sounds familiar, but I certainly won’t forget it now, why?” he replied with an agitated snort.
“He’s the one who commissioned our next show, the one in Cloudspire. But after this little stunt of his, he’s in for a big surprise when we get there.” A malicious smile slowly spread across Soarin’s face, and Spitfire matched it.
“Do you have a plan?”
“Oh yeah, we’re not going to leave a single pony there that still likes him after we’re through.”
“Good. I just hope Rainbow Dash can survive that long. Did you see the look in her eyes when the messenger made the announcement?” Spitfire nodded sadly.
“I can only hope that Storm Blitz can reignite the fires within, or else even if we clear her, she’ll never be able to perform again.”
“Brother? What’s wrong, you look really scary,” Scootaloo asked as he barged in, his mother and father looking up in shock as their son was shaking with unrestrained rage. His marred wings and torched mane only added to his terrifying countenance as he roared, slamming a hoof into the ground and cracking the floor.
“Mom, do you have anything that can ruin Proud Skies? I won’t stop until I see him burn!” Scootaloo ran to Flying Grace, cowering behind her. Undiluted hatred seemed to radiate from Storm’s entire being.
“Son, you need to calm down, you’re scaring your sister,” his mother pleaded softly, cringing as he brought his voice to a shout.
“Don’t tell me to calm down, that bastard had gone too far!”
“You will not shout at your mother like that!” Quakehoof bellowed, stomping a hoof and shaking the whole structure. Storm glared defiantly for a moment before the anger slowly drained away, leaving him feeling helpless. His father’s expression softened as he watched his son sink to the ground, tears pouring from his eyes.
“Dad, mom, please, we have to do something. Rainbow Dash won, we both won together but then... at the end, a messenger announced that she had been disqualified on the order of Proud Skies...” His mother’s face soon mirrored the anger with which he had entered the house. “It broke her heart, mom. I could see it but I couldn’t do anything. How could I? It’s my fault her dreams got taken away. It’s all... all my...” and then he couldn’t restrain it any longer as he wept.
“I warned him not to mess with my family, and now he’s going to pay,” Grace growled, and Storm lifted his head to watch his mother hastily scrawl a note, then attach it to an unmarked envelope that she had hidden in Quakehoof’s room. “Get this to Princess Celestia as fast as you can, then go be with Rainbow Dash. If you come home tonight, you’ll be in trouble.”
“Mom, she... she and I aren’t together anymore, she told me it’s over.”
“What exactly did she say, word for word?”
“She said ‘It’s over, Storm. Just leave me alone.’” To his surprise his mother heaved an exasperated sigh and attempted to hoist him to his feet.
“You really haven’t learned anything about mares, have you? She wasn’t breaking up with you, she was talking about her career and dreams. And when a mare says ‘leave me alone,’ it means ‘please, don’t leave me.’ You get back to her house right now and next time I see you, it better be with her. Send off that letter, and then get back where you belong, by her side.” Storm slowly stood up, the words sparking a small glimmer of hope where he thought none remained. He ran to his room, grabbed his saddlebag, stowed the letter inside then was about to sprint to the post office before he saw Cerulean flying to meet him.
“Storm, I went to check on Rainbow Dash but she wouldn’t answer. Please, go try to help her.”
“Cerulean, this is really important. Can you mail this letter to Princess Celestia for me while I go see what I can do for her?”
“Like you even have to ask? Give me that, dragon magic is faster anyways. She’ll receive this in no more than ten minutes.”
“Thanks, Cerulean, I owe you.”
“Not at all, now go. Heal her heart.”
There was no response when Storm Blitz knocked on the door of Rainbow Dash's home, and he cautiously opened the door. The door to her room was closed, and Tank was poking his head over the wall around his enclosure, his worry clear in the frown he wore.
“Don't worry, Tank. I'm going to do my best to cheer her up, ok?” The tortoise nodded slowly and continued staring towards her room as Storm Blitz entered. She hadn't moved from her spot on the bed, though the sheets were soaked with tears. He slowly made his way over to her side and set down the saddle bag, watching her closely. She was definitely awake, but she was refusing to acknowledge his presence, and he began to fear his mother was wrong in her assessment. “Rainbow Dash? Can you hear me?” She remained silent, the only movement was her painfully shallow breaths. Storm couldn't help himself as the tears welled within his eyes, the sight of seeing her so defeated tearing at his heart like the claws of a manticore.
“I know that no matter what I say, you'll probably hate me just the same. It was my past that shattered your dreams and crushed your spirits, and if you never forgive me, I understand...” Still nothing, not a single sign that she knew he was pouring out his heart. But it didn't matter, really. It was clear that his mother was wrong. She'd never want to see him again. His words were true though, and they needed to be spoken. “I want you to know that what you did today was the most impressive, awe inspiring feat I have ever seen or heard of, even greater than all the tricks I saw my grandfather perform.” Rainbow Dash shuddered a moment before curling even tighter, and the will to fight the tears gave out as Storm began to cry. “Rainbow Dash, you've given me more than I could ever dream of having, and I want you to know that... that I would give my wings for you, and only you.”
Rainbow Dash had heard every word, but until she had heard that she didn't feel the strength to respond. However, giving one's wings was equivocal to giving up one’s life, or even more actually, as the pegasus would have to continue life without them. It was an expression that was almost never used, because nopony in their right minds would ever yield so great a treasure. Rainbow Dash slowly opened her eyes and stared at the hulking black pegasus weeping unashamedly before her, her own eyes filling with tears as his eyes met hers. “Rainbow Dash, I'll leave you alone just like you said you wanted, but I... I love you.”
As the words traveled through her mind and into her heart, the strength to continue slowly suffused her limbs. Her own tears began to flow again as he pulled out his grandfather's medal and draped it around her neck. “That's my last memento of Lightning Wing, his most prized possession. You've earned it. I'm sorry... I'm sorry I...” He couldn't continue, as the weight of losing Rainbow Dash overshadowed everything else, even his hatred for Proud Skies. He stood quickly and prepared to run when a hoof shot out and grabbed his fore leg, followed by a pained whisper.
“Don't go...” He turned slowly and looked to see Rainbow Dash looking up at him with pleading eyes. “Please, don't leave me alone. I don't want to lose any more than I have today... You, and my friends, you’re all I have left! You said... that you’d always be by my side...”
“But I thought you said...”
“Even if it hurts...” The conversation came back to Storm’s mind, and his fears melted away as he realized that regardless of what she had said or he thought, his place was by her side. Always, just like he had said. He felt a gentle tug and he climbed onto the bed, laying beside her as he sheltered her within his wings, safe from the world. “Storm... I... I love you too.” With that she pressed against him, kissing him deeply and spreading her wings against his, the arousal causing them both to moan quietly as their wings stiffened at the sensation. Rainbow Dash eased him onto his back and stood over him a moment, admiring his form. Her breathing became rapid as she fought for air, her body seeming to catch fire as she began to lower herself towards her most precious treasure, the medal around her neck touching down on his chest.
They both gave a start as a knock sounded from the door, and Rainbow Dash quickly jumped off the bed and sat shivering in the corner as she tried to stem the desire that was flooding her body and soul. Storm lay semi-paralyzed by the experience, and his mind was taking its sweet time attempting to reboot. The knocking continued and after a few minutes they hesitantly made their way to the door, their wings still refusing to furl and both still quite visibly flushed. Storm swung open the door and they were greeted by Soarin and Spitfire. The pair immediately noticed the couples condition, and Soarin couldn’t help but laugh.
“And here we were all worried that you had given up on life,” Soarin said as he descended into chuckles.
“What, with a stallion like that? Not a chance,” she fired back, smiling as the two ponies shifted uncomfortably. “Really, how are you Rainbow Dash? Are you going to be ok? I was pretty worried you’d do something stupid and get yourself hurt. I’ve let my anger get the best of me a time or two myself, and it wasn’t pretty.”
“Are you kidding? She’s done all sorts of moronic...” Soarin started before Spitfire jabbed him solidly in the ribs, winding him and making it quite clear that such information was classified.
“Listen, Rainbow Dash, you impressed us all back there. We want you on the team, regardless of whatever that puffed up politician has to say about it. We promise you, Dash, we’re gonna fight this to the bitter end. You’re going to be a Wonderbolt, you’ve earned it.” She stopped with a gasp as she saw the medal hanging from Rainbow Dash’s neck. “Is that...”
“The Wonderbolt of the Year award, won by my grandfather Lightning Wing? Yes, it is. I thought she should get used to wearing one now,” Storm replied, placing a hoof on Rainbow Dash’s shoulder as her eyes lit up.
“Heh, beware of overconfidence, though I’m not sure there is such a thing for you, Dash,” Spitfire warned. “Always strive to improve, or you will inevitably atrophy.” She paused, turning to Storm and fixing him with a sly smile. “Keep training her well, Storm. Oh, and if you want a spot in the Wonderbolts, it’s yours.”
“Are you serious?” he whispered before again finding his voice. “I’m way behind Rainbow Dash, there’s no way I could keep up.”
“Perhaps not as you are now, but if you train alongside Rainbow Dash I’m sure she can help you get up to speed. The blood of the Wonderbolts flows in your veins, Storm Blitz. It’d be a shame not to use it. Oh, and get yourself groomed,” she said with a laugh, motioning towards his wings and mane. “You’re a disaster, and that’s no way to present yourself before a crowd, much less your fillyfriend.” A small gurgle sounded and all eyes turned to Soarin.
“Sorry. Haven’t eaten anything since before the tryouts started. Where can a pony get a decent pie around here?”
“Try Sugarcube Corner, Mr. and Mrs. Cake should have plenty,” Rainbow Dash giggled, the sudden interjection and words of praise and encouragement meshing with Storm’s presence to return her to her usual self.
“You heard her, Spitfire! Delectable goodness awaits!” Soarin cried as he took wing, diving towards the gingerbread house barely visible in the distance.
“Hang in there, Rainbow Dash. Expect to hear from us soon.”
Celestia was always delighted to receive mail from Twilight, even if the last few letters had been rather dire. However, she was surprised to see not a scroll but an envelop appear before her with a note attached to the outside.
Proud Skies has gone too far. Inside are original documents that I found within his study. I had not planned to use them unless he hurt me or my family, but he has had Rainbow Dash unlawfully disqualified after winning the Wonderbolts Tryouts today in Cloudsdale. Please, your Highness, do all you can to make him suffer.
Like a filly at her birthday party, Celestia immediately tore open the envelop and read the contents. Slowly, a deep, rumbling laugh built from the pit of her stomach, echoing throughout the castle as she mentally made a note to personally recompense Flying Grace for her service to Equestria. He had a meeting scheduled with her right after the Wonderbolts show in Cloudspire in just under a week. She could hardly stand the anticipation as she trotted in circles, behaving all the world like an excited foal.
“Dear sister, art thou all right? You sounded just like Discord a moment ago!” Luna exclaimed as she rushed into the room. Celestia fell into a fit of giggles as she levitated the letters over to Luna, whose eyes grew wide as she read the contents and a fiendish grin spread across her muzzle. “Verily, we indeed owe Flying Grace a great debt of gratitude for this gift. Have you determined a punishment befitting such crimes, dear sister?”
“Do not worry yourself, Luna, he will come to see the folly of his actions soon enough. In the mean time, would you do me a favor?” Celestia whispered into Luna’s ear, and she snickered as they formed their plan.
“...What happened to you?” Proud asked as his messenger returned, covered in deep bruises and multiple bandages.
“Your ultimatum was not well received,” he said with a growl, glaring at Proud, who made it clear he couldn’t care less what his lackey thought.
“I don’t particularly care what you or any other pony thinks on the matter,” he replied haughtily. “Storm Blitz needed a clear reminder of where he belongs, especially after having me thrown out of the castle like common rabble. And that blasted mare, too.”
“This isn’t going to help your campaign for mayor, sir.” The hapless pony cringed as Proud whirled on him.
“I don’t care! Nopony makes a fool out of me like that, do you hear me? Nopony! Storm Blitz will suffer to the end of his days, and I will make sure of it. So what if I upset a couple paupers in the process? They’re the dregs of society, weighing this glorious city down. They’d be doing us all a favor if they’d just lay down and die.”
“Well, speaking as one of the dregs, I hope you fail miserably. I’m done with you, Proud.” With that, he left the room, ignoring the enraged shouts behind him.
“We will see who is on top when the Wonderbolts perform for me personally. Oh yes, I doubt you’ll be so cocky then, whelp.”
A sudden burst of green flames from Spike’s mouth signaled the reply from the Princess nearly two hours later. It had taken longer than Cerulean would have expected, but he gave Twilight an apologetic look for ending her massage early and gave a grateful sigh as she smiled, waving him off. He shut the door behind him and took off towards Storm’s house, the letter hovering beside him as he flew. Flying Grace answered the door, confusion written on her face.
“Cerulean, what is it? Is Twilight all right?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, she’s doing great. Thank you again for talking to her...”
“My pleasure, Cerulean. Now, what brings you here tonight?” He held out the letter and waited patiently while she read it, amazed that she had received such a prompt response.
“Mom, what’s it say?” Scootaloo asked, trotting over. Her mother read the contents aloud, a delighted grin growing as she did so.
I would like to thank you in person for your package. Rest assured, appropriate action will be taken. Please bring your family to Canterlot exactly one week from today. I look forward to seeing you again.
Verily, he shall suffer for his despicable acts! We wish you come bare witness.
Princess Luna ”
“I wouldn’t like to be Proud Skies in a week; Luna can be quite frightening,” Cerulean mentioned with a nervous laugh.
“Indeed! Thank you, Cerulean. You have brought our family great news tonight.”
“I’m glad to be of assistance, really. From everything I’ve seen and heard, your son is a stallion to be proud of.”
“Well, duh! He taught me to fly, so of course he’s awesome!” Scootaloo beamed, the seriousness of the moment broken by her innocence. Everypony had a good laugh, and Cerulean was about to bid them goodnight before Flying Grace stopped him.
“Cerulean, if I may, I’d like to ask one more thing of you before you go. Could you deliver this to Storm? He should be at Rainbow Dash’s house in Cloudsdale.” Cerulean offered his hoof and she dropped a single pill onto it. He stared at in confusion a moment before blushing deeply.
“Is this what I think it is?” Flying Grace smiled and nodded.
“Proud ordered me to take them when I returned here to visit, but I had no intention of using them. I think Storm will find a better use for them than I.”
“Did you take these every day back at Cloudspire?”
“That would only have been necessary for a stallion that could actually perform. Now run along, Cerulean, before it’s too late.” Cerulean obeyed and took wing as Quakehoof’s booming laughter shook the ground below.
Tank couldn’t understand why it was that the two ponies on the couch were so fascinated with each other that they needed to connect their muzzles, changing angles every so often and petting each other. As a tortoise, simply being held occasionally or getting a pat on the head was enough, but Rainbow Dash was receiving much more petting than he’d require in his lifetime, and not just on her head. He turned slowly as another knock sounded on the door, causing both ponies to stop and stare.
“Your door is particularly popular tonight, Rainbow Dash. See what the fame is doing already?”
“Go on, answer it, Storm. I’ll be here, eagerly awaiting your return,” she said with a giggle, kissing the tip of his nose and shoving him off of the couch. He shot her a mock glare before answering to find Cerulean sitting outside, his blue cheeks turning crimson as he beheld Storm’s wings and flushed face.
“Your mother sent me bearing a gift,” he stated with a teasing grin, dropping the pill into Storm’s hoof. Storm looked at it for a moment before snapping his head up and staring at Cerulean, his mouth slightly agape.
“She’s got you read like a book,” Cerulean chuckled, nodding. “Storm, thanks for being there for Rainbow Dash. I’m glad to see she’s found the perfect stallion for her. Now, I believe you have a mare to attend to,” he replied with a smile. He and Storm pounded hooves before Cerulean took off, heading back to his own mare as Storm trotted over to Rainbow Dash who regarded his sudden nervousness with amusement. Without a word he offered the “gift” to Rainbow Dash, who read the package and blushed violently.
“Please understand, I’m not trying to force anything, and I understand if...” he started before Rainbow Dash ran to the kitchen, ripped open the package, and downed the pill with a glass of water. She then walked slowly over to her room, leaving the door ajar and laying down on the bed. Storm gave chase and entered expecting to be tackled but instead found her shaking lightly, looking timid and fragile. “Are... are you all right?”
“I want... I’m a little nervous. Please be... be gentle, ok?” Storm slowly climbed onto the bed, but rather than jumping into anything he lay beside her and began to stroke her mane while bringing his wings around and touching them gently to hers. Her trepidation was soon put to flight as the burning sensation from earlier rose once more, and she pressed her wings deeper into his, stroking them as she reached out a hoof and brought her lips to his. Her breathing became rushed as she felt him slowly shift, rolling her gently onto her back while holding her tightly in his wings. He pulled his head back and met her adoring gaze with his own. Rainbow Dash beamed as tears formed at the corners of her eyes, her desire solely for the stallion that had helped her achieve her dreams, even if only for a moment. But now, he was her dream, her reason, and she blinked back the moisture and nodded her head slowly. He gently lowered himself, pulling her body to his with his wings as he whispered into her ear.
“Always... always shall I be by your side.”