“Wake up, Rumble! You are not gonna be late for your first day of school.”
Thunderlane stood over the bed and gently shoved Rumble. “C’mon! If I have to get up this early so do you!”
The still sleeping Pegasus stirred under the blue and gold Wonderbolt patterned covers. With some more pushing, he finally turned over and yawned, stretching his limbs. Rumble rubbed his cheek and blinked his light purple eyes.
“Five more minutes,” he croaked, reaching for his water bottle by the side of his bed.
Thunderlane sighed. “No. Also you wouldn’t have such a dry mouth if you didn’t sleep with it open at night. I keep telling you not to do that.”
Rumble noisily gulped the last of his water. “Yeah, I know. Sorry. I just can’t help it.” He clopped his hooves together and looked down. “Should I sleep with the pillow on my face?”
“No, don’t. It’s not a big deal. Now c’mon, you have to take a shower and get cleaned up for your first day,” he motioned over his shoulder. “I got a raincloud in the shower for you. Even mixed it with some fog to warm it up.”
His little brother didn’t budge. Thunderlane sighed again, leaning closer to Rumble. “Listen, I talked to your teacher. Cheerilee seems like a really nice pony and she’s excited to see you in class today. It’s gonna be fine.”
“Okay,” said the younger Pegasus. He got up and trotted to the bathroom. The sound of rainwater filled the room and Thunderlane returned to the kitchen to finish his breakfast. It was just some toast and tea –light stuff at the start of the day. The rainwater abruptly stopped running. Rumble walked into the kitchen rubbing the towel over his dark mane. He still looked upset.
“Is something bugging you, little dude?” asked Thunderlane.
“Yeah… I’m scared. What if I mess something up on my first day?” replied Rumble, his ears flattening back.
“Don’t overthink it. Listen, everypony gets scared their first day. Heck, today is MY first day and I’m a little nervous.”
Rumble arched his thin eyebrows.
“Wait… today is your first day? What for?”
“Well,” Thunderlane began, scratching his mohawk. “I landed the weather patrol job. Today is my first day starting. It’s going to be a long day and I hear my boss is kind of a hard-a…s nails! Hard as nails!”
“Oh, so you’re going to be alone too?” asked Rumble.
“Not exactly. Flitter and Cloudchaser got the job too,” he chuckled, leaning back in his chair. “I want to be there early to make a good impression so we’re leaving in five.”
Rumble yawned and walked across the room to open a window. A cool gust of air blew in and knocked his damp hair back. He grabbed a comb and started brushing it.
“I packed your saddlebags for you. Well, Flitter helped,” blustered Thunderlane, sipping his tea with a wince. “She wants to fly you to school for your first day.”
Rumble tossed the comb into his saddlebags. “How come you aren’t flying me there?”
“Like I said. I want to be early my first day,” he said nonchalantly, swallowing the last of his tea. “Something wrong with Flitter?”
“No it’s just…"
Thunderlane leaned forwards in his chair.
“…nevermind. I’m ready to go to school.”
“All right!” the older Pegasus pumped a hoof in the air. “That’s my tough little bro! I’ll go next door and get Flitter. You’re gonna have a great day. Don’t sweat it!”
With two strong wingflaps he was out the front door. Rumble sat on his haunches and considered what his brother told him. Perhaps today wouldn’t be so bad. He’d meet new ponies his age. His new teacher sounded nice. Maybe things were going to be just fine.
“Great, just what this school needed –another useless blank flank!”
The pink filly giggled to her friend wearing glasses next to her. “Isn’t that JUST the funniest thing to see Silver Spoon? To think after two whole months of having our class down to three that this kid would show up with his grey blank butt. What a tragic day!
“You said it DT,” agreed Silver Spoon with a nod. “Maybe if you sit in the back of the class nopony will have to see you.”
The two fillies laughed and walked over to their seats. Rumble frowned and sat on the floor. Not even two minutes into his first day and he was feeling awful. It probably would be better if he just left. Tried again tomorrow in another school. That would be okay. He forced himself to ignore the mean comments and sat in an empty chair near the back of the class.
“Okay students, settle down!” a magenta filly with happy green eyes walked into the school house. “Take out a pencil and paper and write down five places you want to visit when you grow up!”
On cue all the children lowered their voices and started scribbling down names of big cities and amusement parks. Cheerilee sat at her desk and pulled out Mondays’ schedule as the few straggling students came into the classroom. Scootaloo wasn’t present in her seat —Snips was tardy again as well. Apple Bloom cantered into the schoolhouse and placed a fresh Red Delicious on her desk, and walked up to the front of the room to give a second to Cheerilee.
“This looks very tasty!” thanked Cheerilee. “I can’t wait to eat it with my lunch.”
“Aw shucks, we got plenty tah spare. Ah oughta bring one every day!” said Apple Bloom, absolutely beaming.
Cheerilee laughed and asked Apple Bloom to take her seat. Mondays were usually the toughest for her. Most of her students were mopey coming back to school after a weekend. However, there was a fresh face amongst the class.
“Attention children. Drop your pencils please! We will return to our practice exercise in a moment. Today we have a new student! Rumble, will you come to the front of the classroom please?”
All eyes in the room darted to the new student in the back. Rumbles’ face paled. The pencil clattered out of his mouth onto his desk.
“Come on up!” waved Cheerilee.
With a gulp, Rumble hopped out of his desk and slowly walked up to the front desk to meet his teacher.
“Nice to meet you! I heard all about you from your brother. Since you’re new to Ponyville. I’m sure the rest of the class would love to get to know you better. Tell us about yourself, how old you are, the things you like to do! Anything you can think of.”
Cheerilee watched the young colt nervously nod and turn to face the inquisitive eyes of his new fellow students.
“Hi…” he gave a tiny wave. “My name is Rumble and-“
“HI RUMBLE!” roared the class at the top of their lungs.
“…Hi. So… me and my brother moved from-”
“Miss Cheerilee!” interrupted Diamond Tiara with her hoof in the air. “I can’t hear Rumble that well. Could you ask him to talk louder?”
Scattered snickering broke out in the class. Rumble felt a bead of sweat roll down his forehead.
“Please speak clearly so the fillies in the back of the class can hear you, okay, Rumble?” suggested Cheerilee sweetly.
“Okay,” he cleared his throat. “Me and my brother moved from Cloudsdale to Ponyville last week. I’m nine and a half. I like playing uh, sports, and reading books and, uh I like to… exercise with my brother and one day I’m going to grow up to be just as awesome as he is!”
“Thank you Rumble,” Cheerilee clapped her hooves together, the rest of her students following her lead. She watched the nervous little colts shoulder fall in relief. “Class, could the rest of you introduce yourself to Rumble while I take attendance?”
“I’m Apple Bloom!” said the yellow filly with the pink bow in her hair.
“Hi! My name is Sunny Days!”
“Uh, I’m Snails! Welcome to Ponyville!”
“I am Diamond Tiara,” the pink filly twisted a lock of hair in her hoof.
“I’m Silver Spoon. I’m DTs best friend,” she added quickly.
“Ruby! Ruby Punch!”
“I’m Twitht!” said a pale filly with glasses.
“Name’s Peachie Pie!” the filly batted her lashes at Rumble.
“Hello! I’m Sweetie Belle!” said an ivory unicorn with bottle-green eyes.
“Featherweight here,” said a gawky Pegasus with a wave.
“Shady Daze over here!” saluted a light blue colt wearing a visor.
“So then,” Cheerilee ticked off her last box. “Snips is out today and so is Scoota-“
“HERE! SORRY!” a shout came from the door.
An orange filly Pegasus zoomed inside the room on a blue scooter. Her helmet flew off her head onto a hook by the coat rack as she did a midair somersault landing directly in her seat. The rest of the class broke into scattered applause at her little stunt.
“Scootaloo! Please attempt to be on time. We have a new student here today!” said Cheerilee, motioning to the colt in front of her desk. “Say hello to Rumble!”
“Sup,” was the casual reply. Scootaloo seemed more interested in fixing her short purple hair. A hard stare from her teacher prompted her to continue. “Heya Rumble. I’m Scootaloo –most fastest and awesomest filly on four wheels around here!”
“Nice to meet you,” replied Rumble quietly.
“Okay class! Get out your notebooks! It’s period two and that means it’s time for mathematics!” she exclaimed, facing the chalkboard. Rumble returned to his seat, finding himself sitting in front of the orange filly who catapulted into the room. It was really cool. Maybe tomorrow he’d try flying into class. Rumble picked up the pencil and started working.
The next few hours were a blur of pencil, paper, math, reading and other activities. It was fun in a way. Language Arts consisted of taking turns reading aloud from Daring Do and the Kingdom of the Kelpies. It was one of his favorite books; his enjoyment of it was diminished by another round of chastising over his soft voice from Diamond Tiara.
Soon enough it was noon and Cheerilee announced lunch time. As was custom for her class all the students moved their desks around to sit with their friends. Taking out the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he realized that he was eating alone in the middle of the room. He sighed, carefully pulling the crust off his meal.
“Hey! Rumble! Want to sit with us?”
The blue colt with the green visor in his hair was waving him over. Rumble smiled and grabbed his lunchpack, flying over excitedly instead of walking.
“Whoa! Hey!” squeaked Featherweight, grabbing his potato chips. “Listen there’s a no flying in class rule Rumble. Don’t do it or you’ll get in trouble!”
“Sorry!” Rumble folded his wings and landed in an empty seat next to their desks. He glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone noticed. The other students were all busy eating. Silver Spoon was whispering into Diamond Tiaras’ ear. Both of them were looking right at him. Confrontation was never his strong suit and he was hungry, so he turned around and ignored them, preferring to eat with the two kids who invited them over.
The next twenty minutes went along great. Featherweight was quiet. Quieter than he was but talking to him invoked a rapid barrage of a response, as if he were in a rush to get what he had to say out of his mouth and into Rumble’s ear. Shady was easier to talk to –he seemed to have a lot to say about nearly everything but wasn’t overbearing. He had a million jokes to tell as well and told two really good ones while they were eating lunch. Rumble found himself laughing along with the both of them. He felt like he was finally starting to relax.
The bell rang for recess and the schoolkids rushed outside. Some grabbed footballs, most of the fillies made for the hoops and jump ropes were all snapped up. Featherweight was quick on his hooves; he snatched up a red rubber ball from the crate before anypony was halfway there. Together the three of them bounced the ball back and forth in a lazy game of catch while chatting about stuff. Rumble was having a pretty good time. With some extra strength Shady pushed the ball twice as high in the air. In a movement belying his size, Rumble shot up in the air to snatch it.
“Well, would you look at that! Isn’t that the most depressing thing you’ve ever seen Silver Spoon?” said Diamond Tiara, walking into the center of the yard.
“I can’t help but to agree. To think, a brand new student on his first day here already upstaging our very own resident blank flank Pegasus. It’s such a tragedy!”
Silver Spoon cast a sullen look to Scootaloo; the orange filly had stopped riding around and was coasting over. Rumble remained flapping in midair, paralyzed by what was going on.
“I feel bad for her, honestly.” Diamond Tiara continued without missing a beat. “For the new kid in town to be flying around while Scootaloo remains grounded to her scooter –it’s just awful! If he had a cutie mark it would be twice that embarrassing!”
“HEY!” Interrupted Scootaloo. “I don’t care how good a flyer he is because I’m the fastest filly around even if I can’t fly.” She hopped off her scooter and marched over to Tiara. “You can’t say that like its fact if we’ve never even raced or anything!”
Diamond Tiara stood her ground. “So prove it! How about a race between you and him? The winner gets the title of best flier in school and the loser is just that: the most useless blank flank in the school.”
“Oh yeah!?” cried Scootaloo, gritting her teeth.
“Yes!” sneered Tiara.
“Fine! We’re having a race right now. My scooter vs. his wings. When I win you have to get off my back!”
Scootaloo and the rest of the fillies stormed away. The rubber ball clutched in Rumbles, hooves slipped out and bounced to the ground. He felt sweaty all of a sudden. The ground seemed really far away. Was he gaining altitude?
“Get down here, Rumble!” cried Shady from somewhere down below. That snapped him out of his panicked stupor. The world was a momentary blur as he rocketed to meet Shady on the grass.
“What am I going to do? I didn’t ask for that! I don’t want to race to make somepony feel bad! Shady what do I do?” panted Rumble, his eyes shrinking into purple pinpricks. There was a commotion from over by the school house. Lines were being drawn in the dirt. A pair of blue jump ropes were being erected as a crude starting line. Orange jump ropes were being strung around to signify the track. “What do I do?!”
Shady was less than sympathetic. “Something wrong? Come on, you can totally beat her! Don’t worry about it.”
“No it’s not that!”
“We’ll be rooting for you! Me and Featherweight! You’ll wipe the floor with her!”
Rumble stamped his hoof into the dirt. “I don’t-“
“ALL RACERS ON YOUR MARKS!” cried a voice from across the playground. Shady ran over with Rumble at his heel. The majority of the class stood along the sidelines -Featherweight was there, a camera around his neck. Tiara stood next to the starting line with a smug grin plastered on her face. Scootaloo was on her scooter, strapping her helmet on. Silver Spoon pushed Rumble up to the line next to her.
“Uh, hold on, can we just tal-“
“ON YER MARKS!” began Apple Bloom.
“GET SET!” cried Silver Spoon, shooting Apple Bloom a mean look for starting the count before her.
“So uh, may the best Pegasus win?” offered Rumble to Scootaloo.
Scootaloos’ wings unfurled, standing erect and ready on her back. Rumble did the same.
“Don’t worry. I totally will,” said Scootaloo harshly, her face a determined grimace.
A huge cloud of dust was kicked up at Scootaloos’ wild departure. Rumble coughed and rocketed forwards after her. The race was on.
Wind rushed through his ears as Rumble rounded the first turn. Wincing through the dust, he wished that he’d brought his pair of flight goggles to school. He couldn’t tell how far ahead the filly on the scooter was but the buzzing of her wingbeats made it certain that she was close. There was a sharp turn up ahead and watched in slight awe as Scootaloo effortlessly pulled the scooter up, turned it sideways, bounced off a tree and hit the trail at top speed. Rumble urged his wings to beat faster. This was a race after all. Why should he slow down?
She can’t fly.
A little voice piped up in the back of his head as he rounded the corner himself, the realization of the bet finally hitting him. This wasn’t a simple race about proving who’s fastest. It was mostly about Scootaloo. No wonder she’d agreed to it! She was practically bullied into it by that Diamond Tiara. He gritted his teeth, knowing that made this race unfair for the both of them. Pumping his wings faster he decided that he would lose this one.
Just by a hair.
The two pegasi rounded another sharper turn. Scootaloo had nothing to bounce off this time and lost some momentum. Rumble banked hard and caught a lucky breeze. He was right on her tail this time. The distance between them closing fast. Scootaloo glared over her shoulder and put more effort into her wing flaps. They were a furious orange blur on her backside. A wide right turn was ahead and Rumble caught some more speed as Scootaloo lost hers. Both ponies were neck and neck at the home stretch.
The front left wheel of the scooter caught a rock at just the wrong angle. Scootaloo went flying forwards as her scooter went sailing into the air above. They barreled through the finish line. Right before a flash of light blinded his eyes he saw Scootaloo make it before him thanks to the extra momentum of her scooter. He breathed a sigh of relief. Both his wings ached as he flopped onto his back. Next time he would do warm-ups.
“PLEASE WAIT, FILLES AND GENTLECOLTS, AS WE REVIEW THE PHOTOGRAPHIC COFIRMATIONS!”
Rumble flicked an ear at Silver Spoons shrill voice. He turned his head towards the crowd of ponies by Featherweight. Something was up. Sure it was a photo finish but Scootaloo had clearly passed him by. Feeling a sinking twist in his gut he sat up and watched Diamond Tiara walk over. With that grin on her face he could only assume the worst.
“Despite obvious photo recognition of Scootaloo crossing the finish line at first, the original claim was that scooter power would beat wing power.” Diamond Tiara sneered at Scootaloo, who was inspecting a cracked wheel. “With our participant crossing the finish line without said method of transport, it has been unanimously decided the winner of this race goes to… RUMBLE!”
The crowd of students immediately swarmed him; picking him up and carrying him around while wooping and cheering his name. Everypony was so happy that he won. Even with it being on a technicality. Although it felt wrong he felt a broad smile grow on his face as he was brought around. As the crowd of fillies paraded him back inside he spotted Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle assisting Scootaloo. The orange Pegasus filly looked disappointed, turning the wheel over in her hoof. She swiveled her head suddenly and spotted him watching.
All the warm feelings of praise vanished instantly at the electric look of hatred in her violet eyes.
“Jeez, its hot out here,” muttered Thunderlane, catching a warm updraft as he coasted towards home. It had been a long and grueling first day of work filled with all sorts of mistakes thanks to his ego. The worst was a challenge from his new boss to see how quickly he could clear the skies from a portion of the town. Finding courage in his flying prowess he’d done it in just twenty-six seconds. While he was busy receiving praise from the other pegasi Rainbow Dash had went and cleared the rest of the skies in only eight seconds. He grimaced at the mocking laughter he had to endure. At least the rest of the day would be pretty relaxing.
“Hey Rumble! I’m back!” he called out into the house. Flitter trotted out of the kitchen munching an apple. “Flitter! What’s up? Listen, thanks for picking up my little bro from school. I totally owe you one.”
Flitter sighed deeply. “No problem really. Anything for Rumbly,” she threw the apple core she was holding into the trash. “Somethings wrong with him, though. He said he had a good day at school but he’s all mopey. Usually I can talk to him but the sweet little thing doesn’t want to open up. You should go see him…”
Thunderlane mulled over her suggestion. “Yeah… I’ll do that. Thanks again for helping Flitter it’s a real-“
He was cut off by a big hug from Flitter. The mare was one to toss a hug around her friends for silly reasons. It felt weird here; like he didn’t deserve it. Maybe she offered one to Rumble but he declined. Very gently he draped one hoof around her neck in a cautious return hug.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay, Thunder?” said Flitter softly, breaking the hug and cantering to the door. “My sister’ll come over and we can hang out. Sound fun?”
“Yeah sure, see you tomorrow I guess…”
The pale purple Pegasus pushed the door open. Thunderlanes half-hearted wave went unseen. She really seemed upset. Soft light poured from underneath the doorway. It was now or never. Thunderlane pushed the bedroom door open.
“What’s up, little guy?” Thunderlane spotted Rumble lying on his bed with the pillow over his face. “How was your first day of school?”
“Meet any new kids?”
“Did you get any homework for the weekend?”
“Did you do any exercise when you came home?”
These short responses were getting old. Rumble obviously had something on his mind. Reaching over he grabbed the pillow off Rumbles’ head and tossed it aside. His eyes weren’t puffy so he wasn’t crying, but his face said it all.
“Did something happen at school today, bro? Somepony pickin’ fights because you’re new?”
Rumble sat up. “No it’s not like that. I… dunno… it’s complicated…”
Thunderlane put a hoof on his shoulder. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
So he did. Rumble told Thunderlane everything that happened. Meeting his teacher, introductions, what class activities they had today, the two colts he met at lunchtime. Then the part about recess came. Rumble tried to carefully explain as best as he could remember how exactly he ended up in a race, very certain to let his brother know that the whole thing had been engineered by the pink filly teasing him over his bare flanks. The race itself was just a passing remark. Rumble told Thunderlane that he won the race on a technicality even though they were both tied almost throughout. His brother clopped his hooves together and laughed.
“Way to go! So now the whole school knows you’re a fast little guy. What were you worrying about?”
“It’s how I won. I mean, mostly that I had to race at. The other filly couldn’t fly…” he trailed off.
“Her wing was broken?” asked Thunderlane with a raised eyebrow.
“No. I think she just didn’t know how.”
“Well too bad for her I guess. Everypony your age should be able to fly around by now. Don’t worry about it.” The frown on Rumbles face didn’t waver. “Are you worrying about it?”
“I think she hates me…”
Thunderlane scoffed at him. “How can you tell that? I doubt she hates you over a dumb race.”
“I can tell.”
“No you can’t.”
“She was kicking my chair the rest of the day,” said Rumble sullenly. “I think she’s really mad at me.”
“Nah, she’s mad at herself for losing. Probably that pink filly too. I’m sure she’ll get over it eventually.”
The slender grey Pegasus groaned. Thunderlane collapsed on top of him. Rumble gasped and started laughing. Thunderlane ruffled his grey hair. “Don’t even get me started on my day. What a drag. You know what? We’ll switch. Next Monday you go take care of weather patrol and I’ll go sit in school and learn about social studies? Sound fair to you?”
“N-No. Ahaha! Cut it out that tickles!” Rumble struggled to get free as his brother started wrestling him down. They kicked and rolled until both of them fell laughing in a heap onto the floor. Rumble giggled and smiled at his brother. He felt worlds better. Maybe things wouldn’t turn out so bad after all.