• Published 23rd Oct 2012
  • 21,167 Views, 3,189 Comments

Fire & Rain - Ruirik

Sometimes it takes the darkest moments of our lives to find the brightest

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What Goes Up...

A broad grin spread across Spitfire’s face as she surveyed the Manehattan practice field. She would never have admitted it to anypony, but she kind of preferred it to the Cloudsdale Colosseum that served as the traditional Wonderbolt practice field. The Colosseum certainly had its perks, specifically how it allowed for grand maneuvers, death-defying dives, and spectacular scale in their routines.

The open skies above and below the Cloudsdale Colosseum allowed her Wonderbolts to bring a little theatrical flair into their performances. Along the underside of the Colosseum was a cloud platform where Spitfire could position four Wonderbolts before the show began and have them ‘tag out’ with active members at planned instances during a show. The clandestine tag outs helped to craft the illusion that every Wonderbolt had unparalleled stamina and was capable of impossible turns. Part of the reason they still wore the full-body uniforms was to conceal the switches from the throngs of adoring ponies.

On the other hoof, the Manehattan Stadium was a terrestrial venue; the grassy field provided a much more exciting show in Spitfire’s opinion. The hard ground combined with the wood and stone stadium made for an exponentially more dangerous crash experience. The airspace around the Colosseum was generally cool with a stable wind speed. The grass and dirt under the Manehattan Stadium acted like a heat sponge, providing semi-stable updrafts and wind patterns. Furthermore, she couldn’t hide team members anywhere for mid-show swaps, which meant that the shows had to be paced for either a comparatively short, high-octane show, or methodical endurance shows. Spitfire much preferred the former. The speed, the difficulty, the danger—it was better than almost anything to her. Spitfire lived for the euphoric thrill of getting as close as she could to the metaphorical fire without getting burned.

So, it was with a spring in her step that she trotted onto the soft grassy field of Manehattan Stadium, the stands currently devoid of spectators. Soarin’, her second-in-command and closest friend, walked just behind her. Ahead of her were ten other Wonderbolts, each a superb stunt flier in their own right. On practice days they didn’t wear their signature blue and gold uniforms, preferring instead to keep things more casual. They were relaxing, chatting and laughing in the afternoon sun.

“Alright, kiddies, line it up!” she hollered.

The team reacted immediately, forming a shoulder to shoulder line, facing both her and Soarin' at perfect attention. Spitfire allowed herself a little smile. “We’ve got a show in this bucket in three days. This isn’t Cloudsdale or Las Pegasus. We’ve got no clouds to crash into if you lose control during maneuvers. I want everypony partnered up and practicing their maneuvers until quitting time.

“The show’s pattern will be our standard routine for earth pony venues. The opener will be the Aileron Flyby into pattern four. After that we have the standard five lap race followed by freestyle flying. I don’t want any of you knuckleheads doing anything crazy. Last I checked, none of us had figured out a rainboom.” She gave a pointed glare to Fleetfoot, who grinned sheepishly. “The finale will be divided into two groups. Group one: Fleetfoot, Blaze, Misty, and Lightning Streak. You’re with Soarin'. Group two: Rapidfire, Wavechill, Surprise, and Highwinds; you’re with me. Group one will perform the Celestial Starburst. Group two will perform the Lunar Moonburst. I expect nothing but the best from all of you. Questions?” Spitfire gave each of them time to consider the plan.

Rapidfire raised a hoof first. “Any VIP’s in attendance?”

“The mayor and a few local politicians,” Spitfire said. “We are, as always, expected to hobnob with them for at least a little while, so tell your marefriend you’ll be home late.”

Rapidfire rolled his eyes. “At least I have one,” he retorted, earning a loud ‘oooooo’ from the other Wonderbolts and a deathly glare from Spitfire.

“You can be replaced, you know,” she growled.

“Yeah, yeah. You’ve been saying that since we were kids. Maybe one day I’ll take it seriously.” He winked at his fraternal twin.

Spitfire groaned and rolled her eyes. “Of all the idiot brothers in the world, I get shafted with you.”

“Captain?” Blaze spoke up, her hoof raised slightly.

“Yeah, Blaze?”

“Has Princess Celestia gotten back to you about our training request?” Blaze asked, a glimmer of hope in her eyes.

Spitfire felt her heart sink. “Same answer I got last year. Sorry, guys. The rainboom is still out of our reach.” She forced her expression to remain neutral, even as every other pony bemoaned the decision to varying degrees, Fleetfoot looking particularly put-out by the news.

“Did she at least give us a reason this time?” Fleetfoot asked, her wings giving an irritable twitch.

“She doesn’t want to risk an Element on, and I’m quoting here, ‘a pursuit of pride.’ Sorry, guys, but we’ve just got to be patient for another couple of years until she decides to apply for the team.”

Fleetfoot grumbled to herself as she pawed at the grass underhoof.

“No sense pouting over what we can’t have. Now get your heads in the game. I want everypony in the skies and practicing. You all know the drills, so get going. Now!” Spitfire waved them off. Each Wonderbolt delivered a crisp salute before taking to the skies and breaking into pairs. Spitfire watched them from her position on the ground. She allowed herself a moment of pride as her Wonderbolts expertly went through their maneuvers, each team of two partnering with a second group just long enough to practice a larger trick before breaking off again in an elaborate aerial ballet. Soarin' stepped up beside her, his wings fluttering excitedly.

“Not your best speech today, boss.”

Spitfire elbowed his ribs. “Like you could do better.”

Soarin' shrugged and snickered. “Never said I could.”

“Come on, Soarin', the skies are clear and the winds are right! Let’s get some flying done!” Spitfire grinned brightly as she took to the air with a mighty flap of her golden wings.

Twisting upwards in a tight corkscrew, Spitfire savored the roar of the wind as it rushed past her ears and danced through her mane and coat. Her grin grew wider as her wings flared out and her feathers caught the air, bringing her to a stop high above the grassy field. There, in the pristine skies, Spitfire was at home. There, she was alive.

Soarin' wasn’t far behind her. The sky blue stallion had the largest wingspan of all the Wonderbolts. It had proven to be both his greatest asset and liability. He could gain and maintain speed quickly in a straight line, but he wasn’t as maneuverable as smaller pegasi like Spitfire. In only a few flaps of his wings, Soarin' was side by side with Spitfire, grinning like a foal.

“Five laps around the stadium for a warm up sound good?” he called to her over the wind.

“I’ll race ya!” she called back before darting ahead.

“Hey! No fair!” he shouted as he gave chase.

Spitfire knew her advantage would only be short lived. Soarin’s powerful wings were quickly shrinking the distance between them. She drifted to the inside of their aerial track. If she could take the corners at a much steeper angle, Soarin' would have a much more difficult time catching her. The corner tactic was how Fleetfoot was regularly able to beat Soarin' when they raced.

If Spitfire was to be honest with herself, though, she would have to admit that she was getting just a little soft around the edges since becoming team captain. She flew less than she used to, her time now occupied with coordinating show schedules, doling out the payroll, and putting out fires between the disparate personalities that made up the Wonderbolts. Needless to say, it wasn’t quite the job her predecessor had sold her on.

Her excitement at being away from the sedentary duties of team captain bypassed her old safety habits. Flapping her wings as hard as she could, she found herself pulling further away from Soarin'. As she banked hard for the first turn, she felt a pop in her right wing’s bicep.

Not good!

“Soarin’!” she shouted just before her wing locked up, the bicep itself tensing until the fibers of the muscle felt like a scalding-hot rock under her skin. Through the excruciating pain she was just able to notice the grass was getting awfully close.

This is gonna hurt.

Then everything went black.

When Spitfire awoke, she was in a simple room surrounded by light tan walls. After a moment to look around, she surmised that she was in a hospital room. Her brother, Rapidfire, was dozing fitfully in a chair beside her bed. Her attempt to sit upright ended about an inch after it started. With a heavy groan, she flopped back onto her pillow. Rapidfire’s eyes fluttered open at the sound, glancing around the room momentarily before settling on the bedridden mare.

“Spits!” The volume of Rapid’s shout earned a wince from his sister. Any attempt she might have made to say something was thoroughly quashed when he wrapped her in a bone-crushing hug. “You idiot! You scared me half to death!”

“Urk! Rapid… Air!” she choked out.

Crimson blossomed across Rapidfire’s cheeks, and with a muttered apology he loosened his grip.

“Thanks,” she wheezed.

“Sure,” he said, his hoof reaching up to tousle her mane. “You’re still an idiot, though.”

Spitfire allowed herself another groan as she flopped her head back on the pillow. “What happened?”

“According to Soarin', you pushed yourself too hard before your wings were properly warmed up. At first he thought you were diving to gain speed; by the time he realized you were falling, it was too late for him to make the catch. After that, you decided to get into a headbutting contest with the ground. Three guesses how that turned out,” he said with a playful grin. “The doctors said you tore the bicep in your wing.”

Spitfire grumbled.

“I’ll go get the doc,” Rapidfire said as he rose to his hooves. “He’ll want to know you’re finally awake.”

“Finally? How long was I out?”

Rapidfire paused, a hoof rubbing at his chin. “Almost two days now.”

Spitfire’s brain ground to a halt. The information was like a slap in her face. She was the captain of the Wonderbolts. To be on the injured roster was bad enough, but to also be comatose for two days! The media would have a field day when they found out. The possible fallout left her staring at the ceiling in horror. She didn’t even notice that Rapidfire had left until the doctor’s voice forced it’s way into her awareness.

“Ah, Ms. Spitfire.” The brown-coated unicorn smiled down at her. “Good to see you’re finally awake. You had us all a bit worried. I’m Dr. Bay.” He paused. “How are you feeling?” He retrieved a small flashlight from the pocket of his jacket with his magic.

“I’ve got a headache, and my wing aches pretty bad,” she answered, hissing slightly as he flashed the light into her right eye, then into her left.

“Well, you had a pretty good crash,” Bay said. “I’d be surprised if you were feeling great.”

Spitfire groaned. “Just gimme the damage report, Doc.”

Rapidfire’s glance shifted nervously from his sister to the doctor.

Dr. Bay studied her for a moment with his emerald eyes. “Do you want your brother to stay for this, or shall I see him out first?”

Spitfire’s amber eyes shifted to her brother, who offered a sheepish smile in return. “He’s fine.”

Dr. Bay nodded once before beginning. “Well, the good news is you managed to avoid breaking any bones in the fall, and your concussion seems to be healing well.” He paused for a breath. “The bad news, however, is that your wing wasn’t so lucky.”

Spitfire winced from the implications. “So, what?” she asked. “Keep off it for a week or two?”

A subtle frown formed on Bay’s lips. “Spitfire,” he said, the tone of his voice making her heart skip a beat, “you have a second-degree strain in your wing. You nearly tore the muscle in half lengthwise! I honestly can’t decide whether I should be concerned or impressed!”

Spitfire stared up at him, her ears splaying out as she lightly chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. “W-what are you saying?”

“I’m sorry, Spitfire, but you’re not flying anywhere for at least a month or two. Until your muscle has had time to mend, you are grounded. After we’ve determined that the damage is sufficiently healed, a physical therapist will take over your care.”

“I’m the Captain of the Wonderbolts!” she snapped, wincing at the pain in her skull. “I can’t be grounded for that long! I have a team to run!”

“Let me be crystal clear about this, Captain,” Bay started, the humor evaporating from his voice instantly. “If you overstress your wing before it heals properly, you are at serious risk for a third-degree tear. If that happens, then it would be a Celestia-blessed miracle if you ever flew again.”

“T-then just call a surgeon and stitch the thing back together!” Spitfire pleaded, adrenaline starting to flow into her aching body. Her eyes went wide, and she grabbed tightly at the starched sheets.

Rapidfire moved closer to the bed, his hoof reaching out to rest on top of her foreleg.

“Surgery is what will happen if you tear the muscle any further, and it would only slow down potential recovery. I’m sorry, Spitfire, but you’ll just have to tough this one out for a while. We’ll keep you here one more night just to make sure there are no lingering issues from the crash. If everything checks out, you can leave tomorrow morning.”

“T-thanks, Doc,” Rapidfire sputtered quickly. “We really appreciate everything. Uh, do you mind if I just talk to her alone for a bit?”

Bay curiously quirked an eyebrow but nodded and excused himself quickly enough. Rapidfire waited for the door to click shut before facing his twin. Spitfire was staring at the ceiling, her eyes simply vacant.

“Spits?” he said lightly, resting a hoof on her shoulder. “I know that look, and I don’t like it. Talk to me, sis.”

Spitfire shook her head, her lips pulled into a thin line and her brows furrowed together. “My career is over.”

“Oh come on. You’re just being melodramatic. You’ll be better in no time, and this will just be another story that gets passed around the bar after an awesome show!”

Spitfire leveled a weary glare at her brother. “I screwed up a basic warm up!” she hissed angrily. “I ignored every rule of show flying for a dumb thrill. If I had done something like that during a show, somepony could’ve been hurt, or even killed! The press is gonna have a field day with this! I’ll be lucky if Arcus only suspends me indefinitely!” She swiped a hoof through the air before bringing it to rest over her eyes.

“Coulda been worse,” Rapidfire said with a smirk. “Mom and Dad could’ve been watching.”

Spitfire’s eyes went wide and a shudder ran through her body before she banished that particular horror from her mind. “I’m so royally screwed, I might as well be the third princess,” Spitfire bemoaned. “I might as well have just binged on salt and hard cider before a show.”

Rapidfire’s face contorted as he tried not to giggle as he considered the implications of his sister’s comment. Then he composed himself before speaking. “Look, Spits, as good as you are at running the Wonderbolts and controlling their admittedly colossal—and arguably well-deserved—egos, you do kinda have a habit for expecting the worst, and I suppose I can’t really blame you in some cases Arcus is an exceedingly pragmatic team manager, and most of the time, that’s a good thing.”

He paused, taking a moment to consider his next words carefully. “It does make things difficult when the media occasionally picks up on some of the more… private workings of the team, but this isn’t one of those times. You may have a point about taking some flak for the crash, but you were clean,” he said finally, “and it was just an accident. Soarin' can vouch for that. Poor stallion feels terrible for not being able to catch you. It’s not the end of the world.”

Spitfire sighed, her foreleg covering her eyes.

“I’m the team captain,” she said, her voice hushed and her eyes downcast. “The captain doesn’t get to screw up like this.”

“Everypony messes up now and then,” he retorted.

“Rapid,” Spitfire started, her gaze locking with his, “if the media doesn’t eat me alive for this, Arcus will.”

Rapidfire sighed and shook his head.

“Tell you what, Spits,” he said as he stretched his wings. “Why don’t you get some rest? I’ll let the team know how you’re doing and see what I can do to smooth Arcus’ feathers while I’m at it. Okay?”

Spitfire acknowledged the plan with a dismissive grunt.

He gave her another light hug before he started towards the door. “I’m glad you’re alright.”

With that final sentiment, Rapidfire disappeared out the door, leaving Spitfire alone with her thoughts.

Author's Note:

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