The rest of the school week was an enjoyable blur for Rumble. In just a few short days of school he had gone from being a nobody fresh out of Cloudsdale to one of the most popular kids in the class. Everypony wanted his opinions on things, his help with their work, and to sit with them at lunch. If he wasn’t made team captain during recess he was always picked first, especially upon demonstrating his athletic prowess. Even his early tormenters Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had eased up on him throughout the week. It irked him. Ever since Monday he’d been on edge with them around. Even when they would join in on the praise showered upon him in and out of class it never seemed sincere. Still they laid off his back and he didn’t press for answers. The schoolhouse buzzed with energy. Rumble leaned back in his chair and smiled.
It was finally Friday. After today they’d all be free.
“Attention students!” Cheerilee’s hoof hovered over her shiny silver desk bell. “There will be a spelling quiz this Wednesday so bring your sharpened pencils and study over the weekend!”
The children grumbled their okays and nodded. Cheerilee smirked. It was better an announced quiz than the pop ones. “OH! Before you’re all dismissed I’m organizing a very fun event! Where’s my Flier Filly?”
Peachy Pie jumped up from her seat and trotted over to Cheerilee’s desk. There was a small stack of papers on the desk and after reading them over Peachy squeaked in elation. The rest of the class was held in rapt attention as the filly trotted from desk to desk handing out fliers. Groans of disappointment and hushed gasps rose from different seats. Rumble craned his neck over at Pipsqueak to catch a sight of the flier but it had already been stuffed into his saddlebags.
“Wha-?” his view was blocked by Peachy, a flier clenched in her pearly white smile.
“Sooo check it out!” she began, placing the flier on his desk. “Miss Cheerilee is doing a school dance! Everypony’s going to go! That’s neat, huh?”
Rumble glanced over the text. “We’re going to dress up and,” he gulped, “dance?”
“Well yeeeaaah. Don’tcha know that’s what you do at a dance? It’s also the last one before summertime.” she chirped, resting her forelegs on his desk. “Soooo…whatcha thinking?”
I don’t know how to dance! What if I make a fool of myself?! Will everypony think I’m a scaredy coward if I don’t go? What if-
Rumble snapped out of his worried daydream. Peachy was still leaning over his desk, quite close to him now. Was she closer than before?
“Sooooo?” she asked again, her breath brushing against his nose. It smelled sweet. Like fruit.
“It sounds way cool!” he offered. “I’m totally going to be there!” Rumble rubbed his hooves together, not sure what else to say about it.
Peachy Pie opened her mouth to suggest something else.
DING! DING! DING!
“To your seats everypony! It’s time for dismissal!” rang out Cheerilee.
“Shoot!” the filly looked over at her teacher with annoyance written all over her face. She hopped off Rumbles’ desk, but not before shooting him a smoky glance and promising to talk to him later. He responded with a light wave. According to the sheet, he was going to have to not only learn to dance, but also find some “formal attire”to attend this dance. Finding a date was crucial, but Rumble decided he could pester some fillies later. He didn’t want to make a fool of himself after finding somepony to go with him.
“Oh boy, another mushy-gushy dance,” came a raspy mutter from behind. Scootaloo crinkled up the sheet in her hooves into a ball, bouncing it up and down in the air. “What a waste of time…”
“It’s only a waste of time when nopony asks you to go,” said Diamond Tiara with a chuckle. “Oh gosh! I completely lost count! Silver Spoon, what’s the record at this point?”
“Fourth time in a row, DT,” sneered her bespectacled co-hort.
Tiara pretended to look shocked. “Four times in a row!” she repeated. “Isn’t that just the worst?”
“I would be crushed if nopony wanted to ask me out! Wouldn’t you, Silver Spoon?”
“Devastated,” she said with a snide grin.
Both fillies snickered, done with their teasing. Scootaloo squirmed in her seat looking even sourer than before. She shot Rumble a look when she caught him staring and he faced forwards fast as he could.
Scootaloos’ kick to the seat of his chair was a swift reminder to not be so nosy.
“Okay, class, we’re all packed and ready!” Cheerilee struggled with the zipper to Snails’ saddlebag, finally getting it fastened. “Have a great weekend and everypony please do not forget to study!”
Just like that, school was out. There was a mad rush for the door as each student clamored to get outside for the warm freedom of the weekend. Parents waiting outside collected their children. Diamond Tiara trotted over to her stately dressed father, nose high in the air. Rumble looked over to for any ice blue hair or pink bows in the crowd. Amongst the adult ponies he didn’t see anypony he knew. Rumble sighed, spreading his wings. Looks like it was flying home again for the day.
“MOVE IT OR LOSE IT!”
Like a rocket on wheels Scootaloo burst out of the doorway. Turning just in time he avoided the wagon holding Sweetiebelle and Applebloom from landing on his head. Hitting the dirt they swerved a hard right out of sight. The dust kicked up from her stunt blew into the air. Most of it drifted into Silver Spoons’ hair and prompted a fit of whining from her. Rumble chuckled to himself. This happened pretty often to Tiara and Silver.
Rumble adjusted his saddlebags. Before he could take off he was interrupted again. Not from an out of control filly but from a slap of a hoof behind him.
“Whoa, are you going home already dude?” said Shady, adjusting his visor to shade his eyes from the sun. “There’s still the whole day to go! Do you want to hang out with me and Featherwieght?”
The thinner colt was standing behind Shady. Featherweights’ full saddlebags were packed and he was shifting his weight from hoof to hoof. He grunted and turned to Shady. “I have to study for my test and do my homework.”
“C’mon Feather! We have until Monday for school. Listen we can just dump our bags somewhere and play. I’ve got a Frisbee in my bag. Let’s go hang out!” Featherweight danced nervously on his hooves, eyeing his saddlebags. “It’s Rumbles’ first weekend here in Ponyville. Let’s show him all the cool places in town.
Shady threw his foreleg up for a high hoof, causing the already off-balance colt to land on his rump. They laughed together, and, with Shady leading the way, headed towards one of the local lakes in town. Rumble broke into a trot and outpaced his friend, spurring an impromptu race. The three young colts bolted towards the lake laughing all the way –none of them caring about their saddlebags weighing them down. This was going to be a blast!
“This is the worst job I’ve ever taken.”
Thunderlane kicked at some frail strands of cirrus near the edge of Ponyville. Of all the things Cloudsdale had to pump out these days it had to be cirrus. They were awful clouds. Wispy, thin white wisps of vapor. Uncomfortable to lay on (if they weren’t frail to the point of collapsing under a Pegasus’ weight), providing little shade, and impossible to obliterate in a single buck; most of the time bucking one would send it collapsing into smaller strands. Fighting with a particularly difficult one, he swore under his breath as it fell apart. If only the sky was full of nimbus.
“I heard that!”
Quick as a flash his vision was filled with sky blue and an intense pair of ruby red eyes boring into him. Rainbow Dash’s lip curled in contempt. “I want my skies clean. Your filthy mouth is not helping.”
Thunderlane narrowed his eyes. “What’s the big deal? Everypony swears sometimes. It’s not like there’s a rule or anything.”
“When you’re doing this job you’re playing by my rules. If you’re not cool with how I run things well, gee, I bet there’s plenty of dishes to wash or something at the bakery.” Rainbow inspected her hoof. “D’ya want to wash dishes or stay on weather patrol?”
A few other ponies working nearby had stopped cloudkicking to watch the confrontation unfold. Flitter and Cloudchaser hovered twenty feet away by a tuft of cumulus. Thunderlane knew that the spectators wouldn’t be chastised. It only took a few days of work to figure out that Rainbow Dash was the kind of pony who craved attention. Especially so when it was making her look good and somepony else look like an idiot.
“I’ll keep my mouth shut,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Good,” smiled Rainbow Dash triumphantly. With a shrill blow into the whistle around her neck she got the rest of her sky’s attention. “Take five everypony! We’re almost done for the day!”
Rainbow Dash zipped out of sight. Thunderlane felt his cheeks burning through his dark coat as the twins cautiously flapped over to him.
“I think she likes you,” smirked Cloudchaser, settling near him on the delicate cirrus still wavering nearby. Flitter hovered over her shoulder. “You okay?” she asked, her voice a little more sincere.
“I’m FINE it’s just. UGH!” He punched the air. “Why’s she been doggin’ just me!?”
“Because you’re new,” said Cloudchaser
“Kind of loud,” added Flitter.
“Bit of a show off.”
“Complain a lot.”
“Your dark coat stands out from everypony else.”
Flitter nodded sagely. “Plus, you’re like the only stallion here.”
Thunderlane blinked in surprise at the last comment. True enough, he was the only stallion in the sky at the moment. Taking the job, he had figured that he’d see another stallion on a different day or shift but as of four days of grueling work it seemed like he was in fact the only one. The town did have a fairly large gender gap.
“Well I wish she found somepony else to pick on,” he glanced over their shoulders to see Blossomforth stretching on a cloud. Hopefully she didn’t see, but he had the sneaking suspicion she’d hear about this later. Ponies loved gossip.
The shrill sound of Rainbow Dashs’ whistle blasted through the air. “ALRIGHT LET’S GO! I need some overcast over Sweet Apple Acres. It’s gonna be hot tomorrow. C’mon chop chop. Thunderlane! Let’s get a move on!”
“Uuurgh. Fine…” the twins giggled softly, trying to not let him hear. Thunderlane flapped away morosely. The day just couldn’t end any sooner
“Alright see ya guys later! Bye Shady! Bye Featherweight!” waved Rumble from his porch.
“Bye Rumble!” the two colts on the ground shouted. They gave him a quick wave back and galloped off to their own homes. The setting sun disappeared behind Canterlots’ mountains, illuminating the snow white caps at its peak. It was a beautiful sight, and Rumble gaped at it. Living in Cloudsdale, his whole life only allowed him one view of the setting sun and moon. This was quite a sight.
Returning to his senses he swiveled around and knocked on the door. No answer. He frowned and knocked again. Nothing. Rumble reached back to pound at it-
Hearing his name he stopped mid-punch. Cloudchaser was leaning out of a window next door, slumping against the frame and sipping a drink in her hoof. “Whatcha doing?”
“Uh…” he worked his jaw, realizing he was going to punch a solid door hard as possible. “Knocking?”
Cloudchaser laughed into her straw. “Listen kiddo, if you need to use the little colts room…”
“Oh!” he blushed, “No…I’m just really hungry. All I had was crackers after school and…”
“FLITTERRRR!” shouted Cloudchaser over her shoulder. “D’WE GOT ANY SNAAACKS?”
“……YEAH!” came the shout back. With a sublime smile on her face Cloudchaser turned to Rumble. She blew a few frost colored strands out of her hair. “Your bro’s working late cuz of his boss again. Come in and chill with us until he come back ‘kay?”
“Kay!” he pranced over to the front door of her house and opened it. Flitter and Cloudchasers‘ home was like his: a spacious opening doorway leading to a nice big living room with an attached kitchen at the end of a small hallway. Their stairways even matched in the same place. As Rumble trotted in and settled into the sofa he could only note one difference.
The twins were a lot messier.
“Aww Rumbly-Bumbly you got locked out agaaaain?” Flitter wore a heavy pout, settling down a tray of sliced vegetables with sprinkled cheese on the coffee table. Rumble groaned loudly. Cloudchaser tutted and tapped her sister on the head. “Flit cut it out. Little guy isn’t so little anymore. Treat him like the handsome young stallion he is.”
“But he’s soooo cuuuute!” said Flitter, scootching over to Rumble and crushing him in a hug. “He’s still so wittle and tiny and the cutest little colt everrrr!”
“I am NOT cute!” cried Rumble, struggling to wriggle from her grip.
“Yes you are. Ohhh come on cutie I never get hugs from you anymore!” protested Flitter.
Flitter buried her face in Rumbles gray hair. “You don’t smell like a little foal though.”
“Aw knock it off, Flit, he’s blushing.”
Rumble knew it wasn’t true but as soon as he heard the comment his ears flattened against his head, the pink blush already heating his grey cheeks. Cloudchaser laughed and flapped her wings at his reaction. Flitter started peppering his forehead with tiny little kisses. That was the last straw.
“UUuurgRAH!” Rumble growled, digging his haunches into the rug and pulling Flitters arm off of him with all the effort he could muster at the moment. Flitter gasped, not expecting this. Cloudchaser watched intently from her seat on the sofa. The straw fell away from her mouth and she dumbly tried grabbing at it with her tongue. Rumble harrumphed and brushed himself off.
“See what I mean Flitter?” Cloudchaser slid off the couch to the rug. Picking up Rumbles foreleg she gave it a squeeze, then told him to flex, cooing a little when she saw and felt the muscle bulging slightly beneath his light gray coat. “Oh you are getting strong. Not a weak little baby colt are we, right Flitter?”
“Hmph.” Flitter folded her wings and pouted.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
“Come iiiiiiin!” sang Cloudchaser, still giggling at her sister.
Thunderlane opened the door, glided over and collapsed on the vacant sofa. “It’s official,” he spoke into the pillowcase. “This is the worst job in the history of jobs.”
“It’s that bad, Thunder?” asked Rumble, poking his brother in the side.
“Yes. Remember when I said we should switch for a day?” He looked up to make sure Rumble was nodding. “Well I thought about that at work today. I get to sit in class. Draw. Play with friends. Snack time. Recess. Then you could spend nine hours doing weather patrol…”
Flitter and Cloudchaser cast each other a concerned glance. Rumble was unfazed. “And?”
“…and then I realized that would probably chalk up to child abuse. Not me though. My boss. She’s a total monster.” Thunderlane considered that notion. “Maybe she’ll go easy on you though. Everypony says you’re cute.”
Rumble’s groan was cut off by a surprise tackle from Flitter. His older brothers’ remark was all she needed to smother the young colt in a another round of tight hugs and ‘I told you sos.’ Cloudchaser crawled back on to the couch directly above the chuckling elder brother. “Looks like she really has it out for you. “
“My back is killing me,” Thunderlane shifted his rigid wings. “I’ve never had to work these babies for so long before.”
“Wan’ me to smooth you out, big guy?” offered Cloudchaser, resting her hooves on his back. The effect was instant, Thunderlane sighed into the sofa cushion and Cloudchaser began kneading. “Y’know I bet if you did more stretches ‘n stuff you wouldn’t be so sore.”
“I do yoga excersises like, every single day,” she continued, feeling the knots in his back and rubbing her hooves into them. “They totally help in the long run.”
“Like, Flitter never does them. When I do them she just sits there and makes fun of me.” Cloudchaser kneaded a little harder.
“It’s good for you too. It’s why I’m so flexible,” she softened up a little. “Flexibility is a good trait for a Pegasus pony. I have good traits.”
Cloudchaser frowned. “Celestia are you tense. At least tomorrow you’re off right?”
“Thunder?” Cloudchaser cocked an eyebrow and stopped rubbing.
“Hmm?” he glanced over his shoulder at her.
“You’re off for the weekend?”
“Mostly,” he muttered. “Rainbow wants me to move some fog in for the early morning before the midday heat shows up. It’s going to get hot tomorrow.”
“When you’re done you gonna ask Blossom out?”
Silence filled the room. Flitter stopped tussling with Rumble to pay attention. The play over, Rumble sat up as well, interested to hear the answer too. Now on the spot, a slight tinge of pink reached Thunderlanes own cheeks.
“Uh…maybe? I guess I could. We talk all the time at work. Like when Dash isn’t breathing down my neck.”
“Oooh!” Both of the twins shot each other a grin and broke into giggling. Cloudchaser leaned on his shoulder. “You should totally ask her out! It’ll be perfect!”
Flitter took to the air and hovered around excitedly. “She really likes you! I can tell because she’s always sneaking a peak at you when you’re not looking. Like, give it a shot!”
“Fine,” Thunderlane sat up and puffed out his chest. “Yeah. Know what? I will. Tomorrow I’ll ask her out!”
The twins applauded and threw up a high hoof. Rumble, finally freed of Flitters’ oppressing cuddles, pulled the plate of snacks and chowed down. Tomorrow was going to be a hot day. Before he left Shady and Featherweight they told him that they were going to invite some other school kids to swim at the lake around noon. Rumble figured that if he got up early, he could could spend some free time exploring the town. It wasn’t that big. There were lots of interesting looking buildings in sight from his vantage point at the front porch. Rumble swallowed the diced celery he was chewing with a smile.
It was delicious.