Sky Shift was flying. He loved that feeling, especially in the hours just before the morning, where the air was cool and crisp, and you could just barely feel the dew collecting on his fur. He flew through the sky, swinging through valleys and around mountains, just reveling in the pure joy that his flight brought him.
Then he noticed a small yellow-orange speck, sitting on the ground, looking at him. Shift immediately recognized the speck as Spitfire, the friend he's been with since elementary school.
"Hey, Spitfire, what's going on?" he asked, landing with a soft touch in front of her.
She said nothing as he gazed into her eyes, seeing his own reflection: a charcoal-gray pegasus with a short-cut silver mane, that stopped just short of his shoulders. He'd seen Soarin's hair, and thought it was strange that he could just grow it out like that. Didn't that impede his speed when flying? Maybe it was just for show, like most of the Wonderbolts did. Hay, even Spitfire's hair looked like a giant plume of flames when she was in her uniform.
"Hey... is something wrong?" The Spitfire that he stood before only smiled as him, before pushing her head closer... and closer... "Whoa, hey, what's going on?" He pushed her back and held her gently by the shoulders. Her eyes had fallen into droopy state and she stared sultrily at him.
The next part was drowned out by silence.
He couldn't hear anything. But he knew what she was saying as he felt himself being pulled away from the dream world his mind had created.
It was three words. Three words that he knew, something that he had long given up on hearing.
I love you.
Shift opened his eyes, giving a grunt of disapproval at his ringing alarm clock. He slammed it down with a heavy hoof and looked at the time. An hour before he had to show up to work, as usual. The sun still hadn't come up outside, and he could tell by the coolness when he woke up that it would be a fairly temperate day.
He lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling, contemplating the events of his dream. No, he'd long since given up on that. Spitfire was just a good friend, one he'd grown up with. It certainly didn't help his chances that she was certainly popular, insanely popular, as the Captain of the Wonderbolts. He began to figuratively punch himself by thinking of just how many of the stallions on her team even had the hots for her. Certainly, he was no match for--
Stop. Just stop. That sort of thinking was dangerous. Plenty more clouds in the sky and all that. He'd find the mare of his dreams, or at least something hopefully close enough to her. He just needed time. It was bad to dwell on these thoughts, that was just the past, and it was just a stupid juvenile crush. Spitfire wouldn't think of him like that, she was too close to him in the other way to think that.
At least he didn't run into her that often after she joined the Wonderbolts. He was thankful for that. Their relationship was basically neutral now, but being around the former love of his life would have done a serious number on his mind. He preferred to not be subject to that.
He sat up on his bed and gave a yawn, stretching his wings and flapping them for a short moment. He was due at his post at the Canterlot Post Office later in the morning, but that was why he always woke up early: so that he could enjoy his quiet time and breakfast before he flew off to complete the day's hectic rounds of delivering.
Shift's job was being a mailpony, and not just any kind of mailpony: he was a first-class mailpony. That meant that whatever he had to deliver had to be done at extremely fast speeds, and he loved the job all the more for it. It allowed him to push himself to the limit, trying to figure out the best routes and optimal speeds between towns and cities, like a small mini-game to see just if he could plan as well as he could fly.
Most first-class delivery jobs delivered by him were guaranteed to be on the doorstep by the time the sun went down, whether it be from Canterlot to Manehattan, or from Las Pegasus to Ponyville. Sure, there were a lot of pegasi that bragged about being the fastest or the "best", but Shift didn't care about them: every day was a challenge to beat his own records and limits.
He cleaned himself up in the bathroom, giving himself a smile and a wing-flex in the mirror before trotting downstairs for breakfast. He got himself a simple one today: two pieces of toast with some jam. Despite all the rich folks traipsing around the city, he wasn't really one for luxuries, and his home and diet reflected that. He made a modest living, enough of which to pay for his home within Canterlot, with enough leftover to pay for food expenses, with a small fund for emergencies.
Dropping his plate in the sink and letting it soak, he stepped out the door and took a deep breath of the cold morning air and smiled. He locked his door and then walked down the streets of Canterlot to the post office, but with over half an hour to spare, he'd figured he'd take the scenic route. It led through a number of well-adorned houses, and across a large sky-bridge that went around the outer limits of the city. The view here was breathtaking, especially in the morning when the sun was only just beginning to rise.
He stopped at the railing and stared out into the horizon. He and Spitfire had played together a lot when they were young, running through these streets and always getting themselves into trouble. There was even a time when Spitfire challenged him to a race, and accidentally knocked over small lantern and ignited a small pile of newspaper scrap on the ground. Spitfire, being as dense as she was when she was young, had attempted to douse the fire. By spitting on it.
Shift chuckled to himself. It wasn't how she got her cutie mark, that came later during flight school when she broke the record in the Fire Gauntlet Challenge, but he never let her live it down for that, especially since he got a small cup of water and just simply poured it over the fire. The look on her face was priceless, followed by a denial of "I knew that" before she got back into the race again.
It was then that he realized that he'd been idly standing for Celestia only knows for how long. He shook his head and began into a quick gallop, before spreading his wings and taking to the sky. Walking was nice, but flying was much better, and much quicker, too. He sighted the large red flag wavering over the Canterlot Post Office, and landed in front of the entrance. He walked inside, hoping that he wasn't late.
"Celestia be praised, here comes the miracle worker showing up to work early yet again," said Parcel Post, his earth pony supervisor, in his gruff voice. He was busy sorting out packages behind the main desk, allocating the deliveries for each mailpony for that day. "You gotta stop showing up early, Shifty! You're making it hard for me to complete my sorting rounds."
"Sorry, boss, but you know me," Shift laughed. "Don't feel like myself unless I'm out there in the skies, you know?"
"With those delivery records you keep breaking every single week, you should be in the Wonderbolts by now. I don't know of any pegasi that can make it from Las Pegasus to Manehattan in less than two hours, and you do it in less than half of one."
"Yeah, spotlight's not for me. I'm fine with this job. I get to go all over Equestria delivering packages, and I get to fly fast on top of that. Couldn't ask for more."
"How 'bout every single untaken mare just lining up just to get a piece of you?" Post laughed. "Come on, kid, you're in your prime age right now. You should be out there on the market, looking for the mare of your dreams." He tossed around a few more boxed packages into assorted baskets with mailpony names on them. Several of them fell into Shift's.
Shift gave a soft chuckle. "Someday, Post. Someday. But not today."
"Alright, kid. But you should really stop and smell the roses sometime, y'know? Alright. Here we are." Post lifted Shift's basket on to the front desk, before pulling out a saddlebag and putting it right next to it. "Not too many this time, kid. Don't want you breaking your wings by the time you hit your next birthday."
"I can handle it!"
Post just smiled at him. "Kid, you need a vacation. But I ain't gonna stop you from doing your job. Now get to it."
Shift began moving the packages into his saddlebags before dropping it on his back. It was slightly heavy, but it wasn't really much of a deterrence for him. The extra weight only made his effort even more worthwhile. He flapped his wings a few times to make sure they weren't uncomfortable, before ascending and exiting through the pegasus door in the ceiling.
A new day and more deliveries. Despite what Post had said, he was pretty sure he'd have more ready and waiting for him by the time he got back. First-class was used quite commonly in Canterlot.
First stop: Ponyville.
A package for one Twilight Sparkle from a Shining Armor and Mi Amore Cadenza. Oh, weren't they the couple that got married a month ago? They looked nice, really suited each other. Well, aside from that dreadful changeling business. Shift considered himself lucky that there was a lot of first-class mail going out of Canterlot that day with marriage memorabilia.
He'd nearly been worked to the bone that day, but he broke his own record. Twice. Within the span of three hours. Amazing what a heavy workload could do. He'd never flown faster to Manehattan in his entire life. Or back from Manehattan, at that. He'd even inadvertently activated a Sonic Rainboom two times, in separate instances, by accident, which Shift hated because he preferred to use raw speed as opposed to just using a "use this and you win" ability.
There was a lot of explaining he had to do when some Wonderbolts recruiters showed up at his door. He had to decline their offer. He was actually surprised that there were even any ponies around to witness the event. Sonic Rainbooms were already incredibly rare as it is, and aside from one pegasus from Ponyville that Shift heard that could do it, he was just... no one, actually. Just a regular ordinary mailpony, doing his mailpony job, delivering mail. He successfully played them off and avoided another potentially awkward situation.
That one pegasus... a Rainbow something, she was called. She had displayed her talent at the Best Young Fliers competition, even rescuing some Wonderbolts as well as another participant. Whether or not Spitfire was involved, he didn't know, but he found it pretty impressive that another pegasus aside from himself could do it. He'd heard some minor talk of the mare wanting to join the Wonderbolts. He hoped it would work out for her.
The flight from Canterlot to Ponyville was actually a pretty short one, considering that it was just down the valley and sat right on top of a river, outside of the Everfree Forest.
"Hi, Shifty!" said a mare's voice. Shift turned his head mid-flight to see Derpy Hooves, Ponyville's mailpony, flying alongside him.
"Good morning, Derpy! How are you doing today?"
"Doing great, thanks!" She reached into her bag and pulled out a brown muffin. "Muffin?" The wind quickly blew it out of her hooves. "Aw..."
"It's okay, Derpy, some other time! How is Dinky?"
Derpy smiled at him, her eyes shooting every which way as she did so. "She's doing fine! She loves the Wonderbolts poster you got for her! I didn't know you had it autographed!"
"I'm glad she likes it!" They were closing in on Ponyville's post office now. "Tell her I said said 'hello', okay?"
"Okay!" Derpy said, before she went on her own way and back to her routes.
Shift landed outside the post office and proceeded inside.
"...but I'm expecting something from my brother, can you just please check again?" said a purple unicorn at the front desk.
"Mail delivery!" Shift shouted, walking in. "From Canterlot, first class!"
"Oh, thank Celestia!" said the unicorn, turning to him. "You wouldn't happen to have something for a Twilight Sparkle, would you?"
"I would indeed, Ms. Sparkle." He fished around his bag for the small boxed package. "Here you go!"
"Wow, thank you! I only just received word that this package was sent only a day ago from their honeymoon. You mailponies sure work fast!"
Shift bowed. "We pride ourselves on our service, ma'am."
"Well, thank you, uh..."
"Shift. Sky Shift. I'm one of Canterlot's premier first-class mailponies!" He raised his head in pride.
Twilight giggled. "I can see that. You should probably be getting back to your deliveries, right?"
"Oh, right. I have some here for Ponyville, I'll just leave them at the front desk," he laughed. Various small boxes and a couple of envelopes were left with the postmaster at the office. Twilight had already left by the time he'd finished, and so he proceeded to go back to his route.
Next stop: Manehattan. There was only one package to deliver, actually.
The trip was fairly uneventful, as Shift weaved through the skies, sometime going down low and barely touching the trees or the ground, or sometime running his hoof across the surface of the water as he passed over a river or a lake. He didn't know why, he just didn't feel like flying fast today. These leisure trips were usually just slightly slower than what standard fare than he would perform, but the extra comfort it allowed him in just enjoying his flight was something he liked to indulge in every now and then.
The large profile of the city came up on his sight. He flew over the sea of buildings, looking for the large red flag that post offices flew, until he found it sitting near what seemed to be a park of some sort.
The exchange that followed when he entered was quite normal. The office in Manehattan was packed full of mailponies, undoubtedly to service the large population that the city had. It surprised Shift to hear that they rarely, if ever, had any errors in judgment when it came to delivering mail. He had to admit that they could definitely do their jobs admirably despite the stampede of ponies that surrounded the office. He left the package with the postmaster as he noticed several assistants behind the front desk frantically sorting piles of letters into mail slots. He certainly didn't envy them.
He didn't bother making conversation as he trotted out into the streets, trying to locate the small pick-up shop that sold the sandwiches he liked so much for his lunch break. After much bustling about, he found the shop on the street corner, surprisingly devoid of customers. The shopowner recognized him immediately, what with his saddlebags, and immediately put together a sandwich for him. Shift handed over the bits and sat eating the sandwich, looking out the window as the other ponies went about their business.
Chewing on another bite, he turned his head to look around the inside of the store, when his gaze fell upon a single poster, hanging on the wall. He stopped mid-bite as he stared at it.
Coming This Month: The Wonderbolts! Performing At The Manehattan Aerodrome! Get Your Tickets Now! Coming In One Month!
Star Performers: Spitfire, Soarin', and Fleetfoot! Don't Miss This Awesome Show!
Well, Spitfire certainly wasn't any worse for wear recently. Shift continued eating his sandwich, eyeing the iconography on the poster. Well, Post did say he could use a vacation, right? He figured that he could probably go see the Wonderbolts. He didn't really like the whole showboating part, but he liked the speed. It wasn't everyday that a pony could see pegasi as talented as Spitfire or her team performing daredevil tricks at breakneck speeds.
Well, hay, why not? He'd have to buy a ticket to their show sometime later today. If he could, anyway.
He finished up the sandwich and gave the owner a nod before taking off for the skies again.
Next Stop: Canterlot. Post wasn't joking when he said he packed light for Shift today.
"Hey, Shifty! You're back awfully early," Post said.
"You only gave me enough packages to cover two stops! What's up with that, Post? I thought--"
Shift felt his heart stop as he saw who had been standing there, talking to Post. It was Spitfire.
"H-hey, Shifty..." the yellow pegasus said nervously. "F-fancy seeing you here, huh?"
"Y-yeah, fancy see--hey, wait! I work here!" Spitfire's eyes opened in embarrassment as she realized her poor choice of words.
"Relax, Shifty," Post said. "She was just here to drop off a letter."
"A letter?" Shift asked. "I'm sure one of the mailponies can deliver it."
"Nuh-uh, smartypants. This one's on your tab. I don't see any other mailponies around, do you?"
"Haha, real funny, boss. Give it." He took the letter in his mouth and stuffed it into his bags. Spitfire had been nervously eyeing him the whole time he'd been here.
"Something wrong, Spitfire?" Shift asked. He smiled. "Going to ask me on a date?" he teased.
Her face blushed. "Like any mare would go out with a buckin' idiot like you!" she shouted. "Hey, I challenge you to a race when you get out of work!"
"Just like old times? We both already know how this is going to turn out, Spitfire. Maybe if we're lucky, you'll knock over another lantern this time, and maybe you can win if I have to put it out the fire for you."
"Wha--that was just an accident! I totally knew that spitting wouldn't work on it!"
"Uh-huh." Shift was wearing the hugest grin on his face. "And we both know you're already going to lose."
"As if! I'm the Captain of the Wonderbolts! And just who do you think you are, then?"
"Me? Oh, I'm just Sky Shift, the pegasus who's won every race against you since we've known each other. Yeah, that Sky Shift. Me." He gave her another taunting gaze.
"Fine! It's on, then! I'll see you after work!" She huffed and stormed out of the building.
"She's definitely a keeper," Post whistled.
Shift turned his head at him. "Whoa now, Post, we're just really good friends! We've known each other for a long time now, and there's absolutely nothing--"
"Uh-huh." Post wasn't really convinced given Shift's rather rabid defensive statement. "You have a letter to deliver, right?"
"Yeah." Shift pulled out the letter again, trying to check the address on the letter. There was none on it.
"Huh. I hope your marefriend knows that we can't deliver post without an address on it, first-class stamp or not."
"Sh-she's not my marefriend! We're just really good friends, okay? Sheesh!"
"Whatever you say, star-struck. Go find her and ask her about the address. Otherwise, we'll have to toss that letter in the trash heap. Unless you can have her take it back, that is."
"On it, boss," Shift grumbled. He walked past several returning mailponies as he left to find Spitfire, wherever she could be.