Dash rolled out of her cloudbed and rubbed her eyes, glancing at the clock. Satisfied she’d napped long enough, she went to the bathroom and showered. The first half-hour of consciousness wasn’t Rainbow Dash’s favorite time, but it was a necessary consequence of her habitual napping.
Dash stared back at herself in the mirror and decided not to do anything special with her hair. She saw that in her slumber, Spike had brought over her dress and left it hanging on the closet. She approached it and unpackaged it. Rarity had really done a great job, and Dash would need to thank her at the first opportunity. She slipped into the gown and started for her window before realizing that she wasn’t dressed for flight. Not in these clothes. Instead, she trotted down to the bar on the first floor of the Canterlot Castle Guest’s Quarters. She was to meet Soarin here in the lobby, and she took a seat at the bar. The barpony quickly approached her.
“Can I get you anything? First one’s on me.”
Dash contemplated abstaining, but decided that she ought to get a little loose before her big date.
“What would you like?”
“I’d like the best drink you can make.” Dash replied with a wink.
The barpony smiled and went to work. A minute later, he returned with a rainbow-colored drink with a lemon wedge on the rim.
“Cantorberry, Stardust, and a liiiiittle bit of Essence of Rainbow.”
Dash stared mesmerized at the glass before her. The barpony continued.
“Oh, and whisky. Of course. Can’t have a drink without something t’getcha drunk.”
Dash had intended on nursing the drink, but ended up finishing it rather quickly. She ordered a cider afterwards and was halfway through with it when a purple unicorn mare sitting next to her scoffed.
“Drowning your sorrows? What’s wrong, somepony stood you up?”
Dash was immediately taken aback. Who the buck was this pony to talk to her that way? Did she not realize she was speaking to a pony integral to the wedding celebration?
“No, I wasn’t ‘stood up’, I came down a little early. This is my second drink, and- wait, why am I explaining myself to you? Mind your own business.”
“A little early, what a convenient excuse.”
“I don’t see you here with anypony, and you’re sitting at a bar, so I assume you’re drinking as well. Lay off.”
“My family happens to be upstairs. My husband of eighteen summers and my foals. What’s a punk like you doing staying here anyway?”
“Like I said, I’m waiting for somepony.”
“We’ll see about that.”
The pony turned back to the bar and ordered a drink that took her over ten-seconds to pronounce.
Rainbow Dash wanted to hit her. She had half a mind to when in the corner of her eye she saw Soarin standing in the lobby, scanning the room with his eyes. He was in a similar shirt to the one he wore to the wedding, only in Wonderbolt yellow, and he had a black jacket on over it, lightning bolts adorning his cuffs. Dash waved him over and seeing the seat next to her was occupied, leaned on the bar next to Dash and addressed the bartender.
“Can I get a Hurricane? Oh, and a check,” Soarin gestured towards Dash. “Put her drinks on it too.”
The mare next to Dash’s mouth hung ajar in disbelief. Dash gave her a victorious smirk as the purple unicorn grabbed her saddlebag, threw the exact change onto the bar, and left in a huff, her drink resting half-empty on the wooden surface. Soarin sat down in the chair next to her and watched the purple unicorn walking away.
“What’s her problem?”
“You’re quick Dash. I mean your brain, not your flying. But your flying is really fast too! Um, I’m totally screwing this up.”
The two stared at one-another awkwardly for a few seconds before Dash laughed and embraced Soarin, resting her head on his shoulder. Soarin himself started laughing and Dash turned back towards the bar.
“So where are we going tonight?”
“Good choice. It’s a lively place. You like dancing?”
“Everypony likes dancing!”
Dash grinned before an inquisitive look took over her face.
“Wait... there’s a dance floor there?”
Soarin leaned back in his chair and took a sip of his drink.
“Oh yeah. There’s a club attached to the actual restaurant. Total hot-spot. We can go after dinner if you’d like, but there will be cameras and stuff. We’ll be eating in the VIP dining room in the actual restaurant, so it’ll be totally private there.”
Dash looked a little nervous.
“I... I didn’t specify that room in the reservation.”
“Relax, they always sit me there. I do tip well.”
Soarin finished paying the bill and tossed a ten-bit piece onto the bar to accentuate his point before standing up and stretching his wings.
“Anyway, lets get going. I’m gonna have to handle some business with a few ponies I work with, so we should get that out of the way first. I’ll have them meet me there now, it won’t be longer than a half hour. I want tonight to be about you.”
“It’s no problem, I’m sure there’s a lot of military business to handle after what happened during the wedding.”
Dash giggled and the two of them walked out of the lobby.
It was about five blocks to the restaurant, and Dash knew they had arrived when she saw a massive line of ponies waiting to get in the nightclub next door.
“They line up this early?”
“Regular ponies have no chance of getting in at prime-time. It’s their only hope. A lot of tourists are in for the wedding, and I’m sure they all just want to try their luck and see some celebponies.”
Right as he finished speaking, one of the ponies waiting in the line recognized him and shouted.
“Soarin!!! Soarin!!! Wonderbolt Soarin!!!”
A few ponies began to abandon their positions in line to approach the colt, but he preempted them by walking over to the queue. Inkpads and parchment was shoved in his face as every pony in the crowd sought his hoofprint. He saw that in the chaos that his presence brought, a colt no older than thirteen had been knocked over by the crowd and was struggling.
Soarin walked over to the pony, the crowd parting like a zipper to make room. He helped the boy to his feet, gave him his hoofprint, posed for a picture, and then trotted back to Rainbow Dash in a cacophony of applause. Dash giggled at him.
“You’re such a whore.”
Soarin was laughing now too.
“You’re great at cracking me up Rainbow Dash. No, come on, most of them are there for the sole purpose of seeing a celebpony. Plus, I was a kid like that too once, and it would’ve meant a lot to me had say... Firefly done that for me.”
The two walked into the restaurant and Soarin continued talking.
“Firefly was amazing... first of her kind really. First Wonderbolt to really make the Wonderbolts relevant again. We weren’t always so popular.”
“I see she’s a heroine of yours.”
Soarin contemplated Dash’s statement before responding.
“Firefly was... she was an amazing pegasus. Plus, in a time that was less progressive, she defied gender roles. Things weren’t the way they are now. Still, she’s the pony who inspired me to join the military in the first place. Being admitted to the Wonderbolts was a dream come true. Hey, when did you join up?”
Dash looked a little embarrassed.
“I mean, you know I’m a cloud-pusher. I’m barely in the military. I honestly only did it because I knew I needed to be in the Equestrian Navy for a chance for me to try-out for... y’know... you guys.”
Soarin took a deep breath as they transitioned into the air conditioned restaurant. The noise from outside slowly dampened as well until it was nearly silent. Soarin turned to Dash, appearing a little uneasy.
“Well, I’m petitioning for you, but in the actual event that you were taken on as a prospect and ultimately given the exam, I wouldn’t be able to judge you. Conflict of interest and all.”
Dash struggled to find air. These were truly the words that she’d wanted to hear every moment she’d been with Soarin. She wasn’t using him, but her newfound relationship with Soarin didn’t take precedence over her lifelong goal. This might actually be her best day ever. She may as well start saying “best day yet” the way things have been going.
A young white pegasus with a golden wing for a cutie mark approached the two of them, knelt, and then stood up again. Soarin waved him off with his hoof.
“Come on man... you know I don’t care about those formalities. Dash, this is my assistant Skyhoof. He’s a Wonderbolt prospect; acts as my concierge in all the cities we travel to, takes my letters, makes my appointments, keeps my schedule, helps me out before shows, etc.”
“And I squire for you in battle!” The young colt eagerly added. Soarin cracked a grin.
“In the unlikely event that happens, yes. You did do an excellent job during the siege though. Kept a lot of ponies alive.”
The young pony saluted. Soarin returned the gesture.
“Anyway Sky, if you haven’t noticed, I have a hot piece of flank with me and I don’t think she wants to talk about such things.”
“Of course commander; my apologies lady Rainbow Dash.”
“Don’t worry about it. We are hungry though, and I promised Dash here that we wouldn’t spend more than a half hour bullshitting. Lets get it out of the way.”
The two headed over to the bar where a group of pegasi sat. Two unicorns politely gave up their seats for the couple and they both plumped down on the stools. Soarin greeted the ponies with disinterest.
“Lets skip the pleasantries, I’m hungry and wanna get to grubbin. What do you guys need me for?”
A gray pony with a white mane wheeled his stool around to face Soarin and cleared his throat.
“We have twelve purple hearts, ten casualties. Mostly due to panic and rioting; the actual Changelings were generally non-aggressive. Only a few accounts show them attacking ponies physically. Their plan obviously required keeping us alive-”
“Just the business. I don’t wanna talk about this right now.”
“Of course commander. The council seeks your authorization to denote Fleetfoot with a Medal of Honor for her actions in securing the civilian populations of Canterlot.”
“The council moves to honor Shining Armor for his dedication to the preservation of Canterlot.”
“I’m not in charge of Shining Armor, he’s the head of the guard. I’m the commander of our offensive forces.”
“Exactly, he’s the head of the guard. There’s no one above him to authorize him receiving an award, and he’ll never give one to himself.”
Soarin rolled his eyes at Dash and buried his head in his hooves.
“Ugh... do we really need to do this? He’s been honored enough at his wedding... it’s an extravagance. The wedding was expensive enough as it is.”
“Commander, he deserves the recognition. We can fit it in during one of the already existing events; it’ll cost nothing but ten minutes of everpony’s time. You’re the only one equal to him in the entire Equestrian Military. Nopony outranks either of you, other than Celestia and Luna, and well... we all know they’re not soldiers. It’s your call.”
“Fine, done. Might make relations between our protective and invasive forces a little less strained.”
A yellow earth pony with a boxing glove on his flank addressed Soarin.
“What’s the problem between you guys anyway?”
“It’s just the nature of our duty. The Royal Guard and their soldiers get all the visibility. Most ponies never see the work that our offensive forces put in. We fight far away so that they can sleep safely in their beds at night. Finally, when an attack that is visible to the public happens, the Royal Guard saves the day and get all the credit for it. It’s not their fault, and I personally don’t feel any animosity towards them, but I understand why some of us do.”
The earth pony nodded with understanding and turned back to a plate of potatoes he had before him. Soarin shifted in his chair impatiently.
“Are we done here?”
The ponies looked at each other, some nodding while others shrugging. Soarin stood up to leave when a voice rang out amidst the clamor of the bar.
“One more thing Soarin.”
The ponies all turned. Standing before them was Fancypants, monocle, hat and all.
Dash tried not to giggle.
Rarity wasn’t exaggerating... he dresses like this all the time?
Soarin didn’t retake his seat, but remained standing, giving Fancypants a cold look.
“I meant ‘any more millitary business’... what do you want? Quickly.”
Fancypants didn’t delay in his response.
“One of my girls has gone missing. I need you to find her, or help me find someone who can. I’ll pay well, you know I will.”
Soarin scoffed, offended.
“I don’t do that stuff anymore. Find yourself a mercipony.”
“You owe me a favor remember? You’re lucky I’m offering to pay you at all.”
Soarin stared back, clearly at a loss for words. Dash too was surprised by these events. Fancypants continued.
“You’re the best at this; we both know it. I’ll pay you 800,000 bits. This one is important.”
Soarin’s shoulders drooped down and he sighed.
“Fine. I’ll do it. 800, and this is it, this is your favor. Don’t come back to me a few months from now saying that this wasn’t the favor because you paid me.”
“I’m not like that.”
“Fine. I’ll have Sky send you a letter tomorrow afternoon. We’ll meet up, and I’ll have her back before sundown.”
“I hope so. I have a feeling there’s something bigger behind this.”
“No, that was just a coincidence I fear.”
Fancypants began to leave before noticing Rainbow Dash sitting with Soarin.
“Ms. Dash, my sincerest apologies. I’ll leave you two to your date now.”
With that, Fancypants exited the building and Dash and Soarin headed to the roof.
The dining area was quite impressive, and only five tables for two graced the roof.
“Only couples and small groups are allowed up here,” Soarin began, “Even I couldn’t get a table if I were with more than three other ponies.”
Dash wasn’t normally one for romantics, but even she was impressed by their accommodations. They took their seats and she grabbed a menu. Soarin already knew what he was having apparently, and he immediately focused his attention to his date.
“I’m really sorry about all that... unpleasantness.”
“It’s totally fine. It’s your job.”
“Yeah, I wish it weren’t sometimes.”
Dash was about to ask for more information on the job he’d taken from Fancypants when the events from earlier in the day came back to her. She closed her menu and stared at Soarin.
“So how was whatever it was that you had to do today?”
Soarin appeared confused before he realized what Dash was referencing.
“Oh... yeah, that. I’m sorry about that too. I’m apologizing quite a bit to you, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is both our first and last date.”
The two laughed, and Soarin continued.
“Everything went really well. As well as it could go, at least. There are some ponies who’ll never really be easy to deal with, no matter what you do.”
Dash thought back to the silver mare from earlier; Soarin’s foal’s mother. Soarin continued, not noticing how deep-in-thought Dash was.
“So I do the best you can, but eventually you have to accept that you can’t make anypony like you, so you stop letting it get to you.”
Dash nodded as the waiter came over.
“Good evening, would you like to start with something to drink?”
Soarin looked at Dash, who shrugged. He looked back at the waiter.
“Two ciders please.”
Soarin was putting his napkin on his lap when something prompted him to speak again.
“Oh! Dash, did you want something too? Make that three ciders.”
The waiter walked away as Dash glared at Soarin. However, upon seeing the goofy look on his face, she started to laugh herself. Dash picked up her menu and opened it to check it one last time. After deciding on her meal, Dash closed the menu and turned back to Soarin who was lazily staring into the Canterlot sky.
“So, you never answered my question.”
“I asked what it was that was so important this morning.”
Soarin’s heart skipped a beat. He didn’t want to tell her. It was just... unattractive, irresponsible. Most ponies his age had infant foals (if any at all), and he had one who would be flying soon. Soarin didn’t want to tell Rainbow Dash the truth, but he didn’t want to lie either, so he made his best compromise of the two.
“I... don’t want to talk about it because it’s embarrassing.”
Dash had to fight the urge to smile. He was embarrassed and thought she wouldn’t like him because of his paternity. She could understand how it’s a little bit of baggage for most ponies, but he clearly didn’t get to spend a lot of time with his son. Dash was now faced with the task of pulling it out of him and acting realistically. Dash quickly came up with a plan for getting it out of him.
“C’mon. Tell me.”
Soarin took a deep breath.
“Whatever it is it’s probably not a big deal at all.”
“Exactly, it’s not a big deal which is why you shouldn’t be worried about it.”
“Oh come on. I promise I won’t think of you any differently, no matter what it is.”
Soarin smirked to himself.
“Alright, I’m a serial killer. I murder ponies every n-”
Dash threw her spoon at him.
Dash now had a fork in her hand. Soarin threw his hooves up and started laughing.
“Alright, alright. When I was a teenager, still a little colt really, I met this girl...”
“The person you were talking about before. The one who can’t stand you.”
“Right. She was beautiful, and she seemed nice, but we didn’t have much in common. I had just been accepted as a Wonderbolt a year before, and I was...”
Dash finished the sentence for him.
“You were young and stupid.”
“Right. Now I’m a little older and a little less stupid. Listen can you put the fork down?”
Dash turned to see that she still grasped the fork in her hoof, raised up at her date. She laughed and lowered her hoof as Soarin lowered his arms and cleared his throat.
“So okay: young, stupid... uh... alright. So I meet this girl and she tells me “Oh I’ve got it taken care of.”
Dash nodded with understanding.
“So I just went for it and a few weeks later she informed me she was pregnant.”
Dash feigned surprise.
“So everything seemed alright and I was young and stupid and I asked her to marry me after only knowing her for a couple months. It didn’t work out. That’s a story for a different time. The point is, I have a foal and I don’t get a lot of time to spend with him so I always have to see him whenever possible.”
Dash nodded, pretending she was absorbing this information for the first time.
“That’s not so bad. You could’ve just told me.”
“It’s hard to tell how somepony is going to react.”
“So let me guess, she gets a nice chunk of your bits.”
Their drinks arrived and Soarin grabbed his, taking a large swig. Dash took a sip herself.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Soarin nodded, took another sip and sat up.
“Alright, well now that that’s over with, can we start our date?”
“We haven’t yet?”
“Not really... I don’t usually talk about my past relationships on a first date.”
“Good point. Well, you start.”
“First we have to place our order.”
Dash looked up to see the waiter approaching their table. She pulled out her menu, gave him her order, and the two sat back as Soarin began to speak.
“Well... I guess I should start with when I decided I wanted to be a Wonderbolt. I was about ten...”
END OF CHAPTER
I was pretty stoned when I wrote this one, I’ll go and fix the errors later. It gets pretty goofy at some part with the Equestrian Navy stuff, but it's all setting up the whole story. They can't just go on dates and rut the entire time. The latter will happen soon enough though ;D.