• Published 17th Sep 2015
  • 526 Views, 83 Comments

By Blood or Choice - Krickis

Rainbow Dash is the best. Top of her class, envy of her peers, she's really living the life. Except she must not be good enough yet, because they still don't notice her.

  • ...

2 – Making Time

Chapter Two

Making Time

Dash kept scanning the audience. There was no sign of them yet, but they said they’d come. They knew how important this race was to her, so they would come. Dash had to believe that.

They were probably just lost in the crowd. Yeah, that was it. No big deal, they’d turn up. She just didn’t have a good view from the sidelines of the track, that was all.

Whatever the reason was, Dash kept scanning the crowd.

“Looking for your marefriend?” someone asked while she was distracted.

Dash spun around to stare down the green colt. “She’s not my marefriend.”

Windfall laughed and stood beside her. “What’s the matter? Lover’s quarrel?”

“You’re one to talk.” Dash shoved him playfully. “You probably had to suck off Coach to even make the team.”

Windfall swatted her hoof away and shrugged. “You’re just jealous I get to have all the mares I want while you’re tied down to one.”

Dash grinned. “Right. ‘Cause I’m so sure mares are just lining up to sleep with a fifteen-year-old runner up.”

“I prefer to think of myself as the fastest stallion on the team,” Windfall said.

“My point still stands,” Dash said. Although Windfall was undeniably fast, Dash was still much faster.

He laughed and leaned against the railing overlooking the track. “Not for long though. Just wait, I’m gonna be the one leading us in the next race.”

“Not as long as I’m here.” Dash turned away from the crowd to look over the track with Windfall. Some of the racers were already getting into place. Any moment, Dash would have to do the same.

It seemed that Windfall was thinking about the same thing, as his tone grew more serious. “But really, good luck out there. Not that you’ll need it since we’re on the same team. Not like anypony else can give you any real competition.”

“Yeah, you sure lucked out when you got placed on my team. We’ll wipe the floor with them.” A whistle blew. “Well, that’s my cue. Just don’t let the head start I win us go to your head. We both gotta carry this team.”

“You got it.” Windfall bumped Dash’s hoof and offered a confident grin, then she flew to her place on the starting line.

The race was split into five parts. Dash was racing the first leg and Windfall was doing the last one. The three racers in between weren’t as good as them, but they weren’t too bad, so Dash was sure between Windfall and herself they’d be able to make up for any shortcomings.

Dash had a better view of the crowd once she was on the field. But even so, there was no sign of them. Had they really not come? They knew, dammit, they knew this was important to her!

There was one filly waving to her, though. Fluttershy looked like she was cheering, but she couldn’t be heard over the rest of the crowd. Dash grinned and waved back. It wasn’t what she’d wanted, not by a long shot, but she could at least put on a show for one pony.

She glanced back to where she left Windfall, but he wasn’t there. She wasn’t surprised; he probably already took his place towards the end of the course. Everything and everyone was in their places, so it was time to focus.

She closed her eyes and cleared her mind. Even though he was part of her team, Windfall didn’t matter. His part of the race was beyond her control. She imagined Fluttershy cheering her on for a second, then put that away too. She’d race better with her friend watching her, but she couldn’t focus on that. Only speed, nothing else mattered.

The whistle blew once more, and she was off. Distantly she was aware of the other racers, all behind her, but she focused only on flying. As always, her body knew when to turn, when to rise, when to fall.

But even if her body knew what to do, her mind wandered. She moved on autopilot, and with her high vantage point, that gave her the chance to finally scan the crowd properly. The reality hit her like a wind current pulling her backwards, slowing everything around her.

They hadn’t come. Her parents knew this was important to her, and they still hadn’t come. She was stupid to have held out hope, they never came, they didn’t care how important it was to her, didn’t care about her.

She shook it off. She needed to focus. It didn’t matter if her parents were watching or not, she still had a race to win. She sped around a turn, which gave her a brief vantage of the racers behind her. One was right on her tail. She was still in the lead, but not by enough. Not nearly enough.

‘No wonder they didn’t come if this is the best I can do.’

Dash clenched her teeth and shot straight ahead, cutting off the racer behind her. It was the longest straight shot of the track, which gave her no excuse. She could let her full speed go, and there was nothing to hold her back. Nothing but herself.

Buck that. Dash was done being held back by her limitations. She shot forward with as much speed as she could muster, then she pushed herself even harder. She was going to make them sorry they missed it. This was going to be the performance of her life.

Dash could feel the air building around her, could even see it start to take form. This was it! She was going to pull it off again, and this time, everyone would see her sonic rainboom!

‘Everyone except for them…’

The air dissipated around her, and she once again felt like she was being dragged backwards. No matter how much she pushed, it was gone, and Dash couldn’t manage to bring it back.

She took the last corner too fast and extended beyond the track. Only a second’s delay, but in a race, every second mattered. Nothing to do but keep pushing, keep making her way forward. She didn’t dare look back to see where the other racers were, she didn’t want to.

She could see the next pony. With no more turns, she gave her all with an extra burst of speed. The next pony held out his hoof to bump hers, the signal that his turn had arrived.

Dash didn’t dare slow down until the very last second, even if it meant almost crashing into her teammate. It wound up being a mistake, as he instinctively dodged her and had to waste precious seconds to fly back and bump his hoof.

Then he was on his way, and it was over. The race still had four more legs, but those were out of Dash’s control. For her, this race was done, and she knew better than to be proud of how she’d done.

Only once it was over did she survey the competition. As expected, she finished first. But not by enough… She was supposed to do more than just win, she had to help carry her team. That was why she was first, she was supposed to give her team an early lead.

But that was now beyond her control, just like the rest of the race was. Whatever would happen would happen, and all that Dash could do was fly into the stands to meet with Fluttershy.

She was easy enough to find, which only served as a reminder that if her parents had been there, Dash would’ve noticed. She tried not to focus on that, though. Better to pay attention to how Fluttershy beamed at her as she walked up.

“Way to go, Dash!” Fluttershy said as she sat down. “That was incredible!”

“Thanks, Shy,” Dash said, putting on a grin she didn’t really feel to ask a question she knew she didn’t want the answer to. “You, uh, didn’t happen to see my parents around at all, did you?”

“Uhm, no…” Fluttershy cast her eyes down. “But maybe they’re around somewhere. We could, uhm, look for them.”

Dash shook her head. She’d known the answer even before asking, she just had to be sure. “No, they didn’t come. It’s cool.”

“Aww, it’s okay Dashie.” Fluttershy pulled Dash into a hug, which the athlete quickly pulled herself out of.

“Hey, don’t go all gay on me! I said it’s cool.”

“Oh… right, okay.” Fluttershy looked away.

Dash brushed off her shoulder as if she could brush away the hug. “Anyway, I’m gonna go check in with my coach. After everything’s done we can hang, unless you gotta get back home.”

Fluttershy smiled. “No, I’ve got some time.”

“Awesome, see you in a bit.” Dash launched from the bleachers into the air and flew back to the sidelines. Other racers might have to give their wings a break after a race, but Dash had more stamina than the entire opposing team combined.

She landed next to Gale Force, and forced a confident grin in place. Unlike Fluttershy, he would know her performance out there had been poor, but she didn’t know what else to do. For better or worse, her cocky attitude was simply what she had to work with.

At first, Gale Force didn’t even acknowledge her. He was watching the race intently, so Dash just stood by his side and waited. From the looks of things, most of Dash’s early lead was already gone. Any moment now, they were liable to lose their lead as well as their hope of winning.

Even once Gale Force did address her, he still kept his focus on the race. “What happened out there?”

Although they both knew it was warranted, Dash didn’t like his tone. “Uhm, I won?”

He frowned and spent a moment just watching the race. He continued to not look at her as he spoke. “Do you know why I decided to put you out first?”

“Early head start?” That’s what Dash had assumed, anyway. Right up until he had asked about it.

He finally looked away from the race, but it was only to close his eyes and rub his temples. “Come on, you know better than that. You’ve always been my finisher, Dash. The pony I knew could get the job done.”

“Are you saying I’m not now? I don’t know if you noticed, but I kicked tail out there!”

“That wasn’t what I’d call ‘kicking tail’.” He regarded her for a moment, then turned back to the race. “You’re a wildcard lately. I never know what kind of performance I’m going to get from you. Which is why I put you out first.”

“Well then I guess I proved I still got it, ‘cause I won!”

Gale Force shook his head. “Every other team put their slowest racer first. That way the faster ones could get the job done when the pressure was high. Maybe it should be you in the last leg, but I have no clue what to expect from you, and tonight proved me right.”

“I would’ve owned the last leg if you let me!” Dash’s scowl grew in indignation as she realized that this meant. “You chose Windfall over me!?”

“I chose the pony I could trust.”

“This is bucking stupid! I’m way faster than Windfall!”

“Hmph.” Gale Force watched the race in silence for a moment before finally giving an answer. “You are faster than Windfall. But not by as much as you seem to think you are. And what matters more is that I know exactly what to expect from him. It’s just you that I never know what I’m getting.”

Dash clenched her teeth. This wasn’t fair! “But I still won!”

“Against the slowest racers,” Gale Force reiterated. He shook his head. “What’s going on Dash? Something’s got you distracted.”

“Nothing’s got me distracted. It was just… just a bad night.” Even admitting that was hard for Dash.

But it didn’t seem good enough for Gale Force. “Usually stuff like this has its root somewhere deep, like home life. So what’s up, is everything okay at home?”

Dash was taken aback by the sudden personal question. “Yeah, everything’s fine. Why?”

Gale Force broke away from the race, giving his full attention to Dash. “Something’s clouding your mind. I can see it when you race. You always start off great, but then something works its way into that head of yours. Watch carefully enough, and I can see the exact moment you drift away. So come on. You know you can talk to me about stuff like this, so let’s have it.”

“I’m fine.” Dash folded her forelegs.

Gale Force stared at her for a minute. “Well, if you change your mind –”

“I won’t.”

For a moment, Gale Force held eye contact with Dash’s glares. But since he still had racers to watch, he didn’t have the option of being as stubborn as her. With some reluctance, he finally turned away. “Fine, take a seat with the others.”

When she finally sat down, she was among two others – the second and third leg of the race. It seemed that her own performance had set the tone, because neither of them managed to look confident of their performances.

Worse still, the trend continued when the fourth racer arrived. She stopped to talk to Gale Force, who didn’t seem to be nearly as hard on her as he was with Dash, then stepped over to take a seat with the others.

“So?” one of the other racer’s asked. “How’re we doing?”

The answer was obvious before she said a word. Dash could read it all over her face. “We’re behind… two of the others passed me…”

‘And of course, this is my fault. Somehow.’ Dash didn’t say anything. One of her teammates was offering comforting words to the filly who had just returned, but Dash knew how pointless that was. The only thing that might change things now was their last racer: Windfall.

Dash stood up and walked back to Gale Force. He glanced at her but didn’t say anything, which was exactly what Dash wanted. She hadn’t come to talk, after all.

Although they were far from the fifth leg of the race, Dash had no problems keeping her eyes on the action. The fourth racer must have not fallen into third by much, because Windfall had already regained second.

First would be harder, though. From her vantage point, Dash could see every mistake he made. Each turn was taken too wide. He didn’t make enough use of the straight aways. He caught up to the racer ahead of him, and then held back when he could have passed.

Dash felt each mistake. Every time an extra couple of seconds could’ve turned the tide, she saw her own mistakes. Still, as she watched Windfall hanging back when he so desperately needed to advance, only one thought went through her mind.

‘It should be me. I could do better.’

Then Windfall did the impossible: He impressed Rainbow Dash. He took the last corner too wide, as usual, but when the other racer took it nice and tight, Windfall put on an extra burst of speed that Dash didn’t realize he had in him.

He managed to cut the other racer off and secure first place. He couldn’t keep up the speed, but it didn’t matter; once he was in the lead, he moved defensively to keep from being passed.

Dash cheered along with everyone else when he passed the finish line. It as hardly a landslide victory, but that didn’t matter. They had won. Even the second fastest racer on Dash’s team was better than the fastest of any other.

Windfall flew over the stands, soaking in the attention. Dash rolled her eyes, but she didn’t really blame him. If it had been her, she would’ve done the same thing.

Once he made his way back, everypony was quick to offer their praise and congratulations. Dash just waited until they were done.

When he noticed she was staring, Windfall shot her a cocky grin. “Hold your praise, Dash, I already know… You wanna be just like me.”

Dash smirked and decided to wipe that grin off his face. “As if. You couldn’t see those turns you made out there. Sloppy work, Windfall.

He arched an eyebrow. “Maybe, but at least I didn’t almost hit someone on my own team.”

They held each other’s glares for a second or two more, then both of them laughed and they bumped hooves. “Nice flying out there,” Dash told him.

“You too,” he said.

“Alright, everyone listen up,” Gale Force said. All chatter died as the team gave him their full attention. “We did good out there. Coming in first is a great way to start the season, and I want everyone here to be proud of that. But I also saw all of you make mistakes you shouldn’t have. We’ve got a long way to go, and you can bet that the other teams aren’t gonna be sitting around on their tails. I’ve made notes for every one of you, things I want us to work on in practice.”

He waited until he got nods of approval from the team, then he let a smile work its way onto his face. “But let’s not forget we won. We can worry about how to do better at practice, but for now –” he ducked behind the table and pulled out several boxes of pizza “– we celebrate!”

As expected, everypony raced ahead to get some pizza as if it was liable to get finished off before they had the chance. Which, considering they were hungry teenagers, was actually a possibility.

Not Dash, however. She hung back while all the others dug in. “Uh, Coach? I was actually gonna go out for ice cream with my family.”

Gale Force regarded her for a moment, then nodded. “More for us then. But, Dash? Remember what we talked about.”

Not only would she not be forgetting any time soon, she had every confidence that Gale Force would remind her during their next practice. “Will do, Coach.”

She took Gale Force turning his attention to another filly as her cue to leave. While pizza sounded nice, she was wary of getting dragged into any festivities. If she wanted to make a clean getaway, she wasn’t going to get a better chance.

Dash pushed off and flew back into the crowd. It only took a few seconds to track down Fluttershy; if her bright pink mane hadn’t been enough for her to stand out, she hadn’t moved at all since Dash had seen her last.

It reminded Dash that Fluttershy really had no other reason to be in Cloudsdale. No other friends to catch up with, nowhere to go unless Dash would be going with her.

Which meant it was up to Dash to make sure she enjoyed herself while she was in town. “Ready to go? Figured we could get some ice cream to celebrate!”

Fluttershy smiled and stood up. “That sounds lovely.”

Dash led them away from the crowd, although they had to stop every once in a while for ponies who wanted to congratulate her. Like Fluttershy, none of them seemed to understand that Dash had raced poorly, they all only saw that she’d won.

The praise was meaningless, but knowing that didn’t stop it from going to Dash’s head. Each new pony eased her worries about the race just a little bit more, and by the time they’d managed to get away from everyone, Dash was no longer faking her confidant grin.

“You sure are popular,” Fluttershy said as they walked downtown. As usual, Dash wished they would just fly there.

“I guess.” Dash nudged Fluttershy. “So is this how it’s like for you back in Ponyville? Everypony trying to get your attention?”

Fluttershy blushed. “No, nothing like this. Uhm, I did meet somepony though. We’re… not exactly friends yet. But she’s really nice, and I think I’d like to get to know her better.”

Dash rolled her eyes. “You talking about a friend or a date?”

“W-What? I’m not, I didn’t…”

Dash snickered and clapped Fluttershy on the back. “You’re not getting weird on me now that you’re away from Cloudsdale, are you?”

“Don’t be silly…”

“Come on, Shy, it’s not the dark ages anymore. If you’ve been getting busy with girls, well hey, I’m not judging.”

Fluttershy arched an eyebrow and spoke in a deadpan voice. “Really? If I told you right now that I like girls, you’d be fine with that?”

Dash snickered. “Come on, what’s with the doubt? I’d never let you hear the end of it, but sure, I don’t care where you’ve been sticking your tongue.”

Fluttershy facehoofed. “You’re so horrible…”

Dash kept laughing all the way to the ice cream shop. Fluttershy didn’t seem to find it as funny, but it was rare that Dash made her the butt of a joke, so she figured it didn’t hurt to have a little fun with her best friend once in a while.

But for Fluttershy’s sake, she let the topic drop by the time they walked inside. They were here to celebrate, and Dash couldn’t be the only one having fun.

The ice cream parlor itself had become a tradition of sorts in the months that Fluttershy had been visiting. It had always been a favorite of theirs since they were little, but only recently did they actually have the money to go their regularly.

In no small part, that was Fluttershy’s doing. She was very generous with her money now that she had a job, and tonight was no exception. In honor of Dash’s victory, Fluttershy treated them both to extra large sundaes.

As they sat down and began eating their dessert, Dash wasted no time to start recounting the tale of the race as if Fluttershy hadn’t just seen the whole thing. She was already taking care to embellish just enough to show how awesome she really was.

And naturally, she had just gotten to the best part when someone interrupted her. “Dash, Fluttershy. Mind if I sit with you?”

Dash wheeled around to see Windfall. At least it was just him, although Dash didn’t like the fact he’d said Fluttershy’s name.

“How do you know Fluttershy?” Dash asked. Everypony on the team recognized her, but none of them knew her. Dash only ever referred to her as her cousin, taking care to not use Fluttershy’s name. It had been almost a year, but Fluttershy was still a runaway. Some ponies might still be looking for her, and there was no telling what would happen if she was caught.

Windfall took a seat next to Dash. “You know, I was in Junior Speedsters with you two. Never knew you were cousins, though.” He winked, making it clear he didn’t buy the excuse.

Damn. Since Fluttershy hadn’t ever been in the advanced classes and wasn’t exactly popular, Dash had thought they were in the clear.

But as long as it was just Windfall, that should be okay. If there was anypony Dash would try to introduce Fluttershy to, it was probably Windfall.

Still, she couldn’t very well let him know that. “Yeah, that’s nice and all, but we don’t hang out with dweebs.”

“I’ll keep that in mind if I run into any.” Winfall helped himself to a bite of Dash’s sundae. “Yourself excluded, of course.”

Dash punched his shoulder and took her ice cream back. “At least get your own. I don’t know what you’ve been doing with that mouth.” She turned to Fluttershy and mimicked giving a blowjob.

“Fine,” Windfall said, leaving the fillies to go stand in line.

She had hoped to show Fluttershy that she joked around like that with all her friends, so that maybe Fluttershy wouldn’t take Dash’s teasing personally. But she barely seemed to be paying attention. Her eyes were turned towards the ground, and her face held an irritated expression.

Dash cocked her head to the side. “Everything okay, Shy?”

Fluttershy perked her head up and smiled. “Hmm? Oh, yes, I’m fine.”

“Sorry about Windfall showing up, I didn’t think he’d follow me.” That had to be what was bothering Fluttershy; she never had been good at meeting new ponies, after all. “He’s alright, but we can leave if you don’t wanna hang out with him. Or tell him to get lost, or whatever.”

Fluttershy shook her head. “No, it’s okay. I don’t mind.”

Dash doubted that; Fluttershy’s reaction earlier hadn’t suggested she didn’t mind. But she wasn’t going to get anywhere by arguing about it, so she let it go.

Not like she had a lot of time to do anything anyway, since Windfall was quick to return. He was even kind enough to bring a distraction with him in the form of a colossal sundae, much larger than Dash or Fluttershy had gotten.

“You know those are meant for the whole table to split, right?” Dash asked with a smirk. She didn’t know if she would finish her own, and Fluttershy had begun to pick idly at hers too; there was no way he was getting any help.

“So? I got this,” he said with a cocky grin.

Dash’s smirk grew into a grin of her own. “Fine. Eat it. Eat the whole thing without throwing up.”

“No problem,” he said, taking his first spoonful. “But what do you say we make a bet with it?”

“Now you’re talking my language. What’d you have in mind?”

“If I win, you come to practice in a dress.” Windfall pointed his spoon at Dash.

He probably expected Dash to back down on the threat alone. Dash had a reputation, and that reputation did not include dresses. But for better or worse, it also didn’t include backing down. “You’re on. But if you lose, then you wear a dress!”

“Fine.” Windfall shrugged and dug in.

If she was being honest, she had hoped that the possibility of wearing a dress might have been enough to scare off the colt. But if anything, he seemed to attack his sundae with all the more enthusiasm.

“You took that bet awfully quickly,” Dash teased. “Sure you don’t have some ulterior motives here, Windfall?”

Windfall smirked. “Maybe I’m just being a good friend. Letting everyone catch sight of you in a dress will remind them you’re a mare.”

Dash sucked on her teeth. “That’s only if you can win, though.”

“Oh, I can.”

He made his way through the giant dessert with as much vigor as he put into his racing. It was amazing he could even maintain his physique if he ate like this.

Spoonful by spoonful, it disappeared into the endless void that was his gullet. He started to slow when he reached the halfway point, but before Dash could start gloating, other ponies noticed. And of course, they all egged him on, completely unaware of what was at stake.

“You can do it!” Fluttershy said.

Dash turned to her with a look of horror. “Whose side are you on!?”

“Oh, I mean, uhm…” Fluttershy hid in her hair.

Windfall leaned across the table. “Hey, maybe Fluttershy just wants to see her marefriend look pretty.”

Fluttershy hid her head in her hooves while Dash took a more forceful approach – she kicked Windfall under the table. Hard. Windfall wisely kept the rest of his comments to himself.

But that just gave him more time to focus on eating. Even if he was slowing, the constant stream of support from the other patrons pushed him on, right up until it was all over.

He dropped his spoon into the empty bowl and leaned back with his forelegs behind his head. Ponies started cheering, while Dash just hung her head. Tomorrow was going to bucking suck.

“Told you I could do it.” Windfall looked a little nauseous, but held everything down. There was no denying that he won, fair and square.

“It’ll be okay, Dash,” Fluttershy said. “Uhm, I bet you’ll look nice in a dress.”

She knew Fluttershy was just trying to find the silver lining, but looking nice in a dress was the last thing Dash wanted to do. She left Fluttershy unanswered, looking instead at the melted remains of her own unfinished sundae. “Fine, you finally found something you’re better at than me: being a glutton.”

Windfall laughed and winked. “Call it what you want, but I can’t wait to see you in that dress.”

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