• Published 23rd Oct 2012
  • 21,162 Views, 3,189 Comments

Fire & Rain - Ruirik

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

  • ...

Must Come Down

Sleep came in small intervals for Spitfire that night. Part of the problem was her lifelong habit of sleeping on her right side, a position made quite impossible by her injured wing. Complicating that particular irritation was the cloth bandage that secured the wing folded against her side. She was a world-class aerial acrobat. Having a wing immobilized was akin to sealing the magic in a unicorn’s horn or trapping an earth pony’s legs in a plaster cast. Spitfire’s wings were her pride and glory. To say that being unable to flex one of them freely was a disconcerting sensation was more than a mild understatement. The few times she did manage to fall asleep, she often woke up from the sharp pain of rolling onto her injured wing.

Further complicating matters was the mattress itself. Spitfire was used to terrestrial mattresses. Any pegasus that spent more than a weekend on the ground learned quickly to tolerate them. What she wasn’t used to was an earth pony hospital bed. No position seemed to alleviate the dull ache in her back caused by the cheap bedding which Spitfire quickly became convinced was a thinly padded sheet of rock. By the time dawn crested over the horizon, she had managed a somewhat tolerable position on her stomach that yielded a solid few hours of sleep. All too soon however, she was roused from sleep again, this time by an expectant Dr. Bay and a decidedly uncomfortable looking Soarin' and Rapidfire.

“Gooood morning, Spitfire!” Bay greeted cheerfully.

“Ugh, not until I’ve had some coffee,” Spitfire groaned as she sat up, the remark earning an amused chuckle from Bay.

“Well, I’ll just give you a once-over and if everything looks good, then we’ll get your discharge papers all set and send you on your way.” He offered her a pleasant smile.

“Let’s get this over with,” she replied before yawning.

Dr. Bay kicked Rapidfire and Soarin' out of the room until he finished his assessment. Once he was satisfied that Spitfire’s only lingering problem was a wing injury and catastrophic bruising of the ego, he excused himself to arrange her release and allowed Soarin' and Rapidfire back into the room.

“Have fun?” Rapidfire teased playfully.

Spitfire rolled her eyes. “Oh yeah, it was a party to end all parties in here. There was cider, salt, and the hottest flanks in Equestria dancing on the end table.” Spitfire answered in the most deadpan manner she could manage, “Celestia herself provided the dancers and salt tablets.”

Soarin' groaned and pressed his hoof to his forehead while Rapidfire did his best to restrain a giggle.

“Say, since Celestia controls the sun, would that mean she’s got the hot-mpff!” Rapidfire found himself silenced by Soarin’s hoof jammed into his muzzle.

“Finish that pun and I swear I will end you,” the exasperated stallion sighed. Rapidfire gave his best pleading look to an equally unenthused Spitfire.

“Don’t look at me,” she shrugged. “I’m wounded and helpless to do anything,” she said in the meekest voice she could manage, batting her eyelashes and quivering her bottom lip. Soarin' burst out laughing, his hoof abandoning Rapidfire’s muzzle.

“You are totally proof that evil twins are real,” he groused. Spitfire stuck her tongue out at him before giggling.

“So,” she started as she stood and stretched, “what brings you two so early?” Spitfire hoped her anxiety wasn’t too obvious to them. Rapidfire opened his mouth to speak, though Soarin' cut him off as he prostrated himself in front of Spitfire

“I’m so sorry boss,” he apologized profusely. “It’s all my fault!”

Spitfire blushed lightly, reaching down and pulling the stallion back to his hooves.

“It’s not your fault, Soarin'. I messed it up all on my own,” she reassured him.

“It was my job to be your safety if something went wrong,” Soarin' reminded her, his ears flat and eyes still downcast. “I wasn’t paying enough attention and you took the fall for it.”

Spitfire sighed before pulling her friend into a hug. “Soarin', you did nothing wrong. It’s all on me, ok? Don’t pull your pin feathers out over this.”

The stallion eventually nodded, his emerald eyes remaining focused on the floor. Spitfire gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek. Soarin' was possibly the most soft-hearted stallion she had ever known.

“Come on, Marshmallow,” she said, earning a huge blush from Soarin' and a muffled snicker from Rapidfire, “keep your chin up and your eyes on the sky. I’ll be back before you know it.”

Soarin' mumbled something indistinguishable as he nodded and retreated from Spitfire. He paused long enough to notice Rapidfire, who was struggling not to burst out laughing.

“Don’t you do it…” he warned Rapidfire. The ginger stallion’s expression degraded the more he struggled not to laugh “Rapid, don’t you dare…” Soarin' warned again.

“Sure thing…” Rapid’s voice cracked as a giggle nearly escaped him “…Marshmallow!” he cried as he burst out laughing. Soarin' pressed his hoof to his forehead and contemplated all the possible ways he could think of for revenge.

“I hate you…” he grumbled, “so much.”

“Love you too … Mallow,” Rapid retorted, trying desperately to quell his laughter.

Soarin’s irritable glare shifted to Spitfire, who quickly averted her gaze and whistled innocently. When she realized he wasn’t planning on letting her off the hook for what was guaranteed to be hours of locker room teasing, she held up her hooves in surrender.

“Okay, okay, I’ll make it up to you. Promise!” she assured him, crossing her heart.

He shook his head and grumbled, his response cut off by a knock on the door. Rapidfire squawked indignantly as Spitfire gave him a mild kick to compose himself.

An exceptionally bored looking earth pony mare trotted in, a set of saddlebags on her back that contained various folders and clipboards. She quirked an eyebrow at the two stallions before shifting her attention back to Spitfire.

“Ms. Spitfire, I’m here to give you your discharge instructions. I assume you’ve got a place to stay and one of these stallions is family or your spouse?” she asked before retrieving Spitfire’s file from one of her bags.

“Rapid’s my brother; Soarin's a coworker,” she answered.

The mare nodded, only half-listening. “Very good. You’re to keep from flying for no less than four weeks, after which you should get an appointment with an orthopedist to reassess your wing. From there, he or she will refer you to a physical therapist, who will be able to give you further instructions. Dr. Bay has included a note for your employer to excuse any absences due to your injury; it’s at the back of the file.” She explained the situation with the efficiency of a mare that had spent years memorizing her job. “Unless you have any questions, you can just sign the top form and you’ll be free to go.”

“No questions; thanks though,” Spitfire replied, taking the file she was presented with and promptly signing the necessary area.

“Very well,” the mare said, taking the hospital’s copy of the form and leaving Spitfire’s copy on top of her instructions. “And you’re free to go! Have a good day.” She smiled and bowed slightly before leaving the room.

Spitfire’s eyes followed the mare out of the room, waiting until well after she was out of sight before sighing and turning to Soarin' and Rapidfire.

“So, did one of you bring my saddlebags? I’d like some coffee and a good breakfast before Arcus tans my hide,” she said with a grin. Rapid nodded and retrieved the bags from the corner he’d set them in.

“Um, Spitfire?” Soarin' started, his body language adopting an uncomfortable posture. “Arcus is waiting outside.”

Spitfire’s heart skipped a beat and her eyes went wide. It was rare that she found herself completely lacking words to describe the emotions she felt. Usually a string of creative curses would do in the more complicated instances, yet even that solution seemed incapable of covering it.

“R-Rapid?” She turned to her brother. “D-didn’t you talk to him?”

“Whoa, hey!” He took her by the shoulders and offered a reassuring smile “It’s alright, sis. Arcus took it pretty well. You’re not gonna be fired or suspended or anything! He just wanted to talk to you to figure out the best way to proceed.”

“Then why is Arcus waiting outside, instead of being here with you two?” she asked worriedly.

This time it was Rapidfire’s turn to look uncomfortable.

Soarin’ cleared his throat as he stepped forward to answer. “Red Top got a tip that a Wonderbolt ended up in the hospital sometime yesterday; he’s been sniffing around ever since. Arcus wanted to keep an eye out for him, just in case he decides to sneak a camera in.”

Spitfire groaned in irritation. Red Top owned the most popular gossip tabloid in Manehattan. The stories his paper published vacillated between annoying but harmless details on private lives of celebrities and political figures, to borderline slanderous ‘exposes’.

“You see that article they did on that DJ?” Rapid asked while Spitfire slung on her saddlebags, careful of her injured wing.

“I don’t read that junk,” she answered curtly.

“I saw the cover,” Soarin' spoke up. “Made me sick to my stomach.”

“Aww, poor Mallow,” Rapidfire mockingly grinned.

“I really hate you,” Soarin' glowered at Rapidfire.

“Ok kids,” Spitfire interrupted, “let’s get out of here; you two can flirt later.” She trotted out the door, very intentionally ignoring the indignant noises the two stallions made at the suggestion.

She hated hospitals: she hated the smell, hated the temperature, hated the atmosphere, hated the colors, and she wasn’t terribly fond of the needles either. Spitfire was happy to get out, even if she wasn’t able to take a flying leap out of the nearest window and make straight for Cloudsdale. Soarin' and Rapidfire took up their positions beside her quickly enough, each blushing a noticeable shade of red; Spitfire grinned openly at that.

Once outside, it only took her a moment to spot Arcus. The aging stallion’s brown coat and greying mane beguiled most into assuming him to be a fairly-harmless stallion. In truth, he was one of the most cunning ponies Spitfire had ever met. Most of the time it meant her team got whatever they needed whenever they needed it. Sometimes it meant Arcus had to exercise his power as team manager to stop problems before they escalated. Spitfire could only hope that she never fell into Arcus’ ‘problem’ file. Though, in fairness, she had certainly tap-danced on its rain-slicked precipice more than a few times. Her posture stiffened as he spotted her and waved her over, his eyes scanning the area cautiously.

“Hey Arcus.” She kept her voice as polite and carefree as she could manage. “How’s it going?”

“Keep your eyes open for a red unicorn,” he stated. “I’ve been dodging Red Top since yesterday.”

“Um, alright,” she answered. Soarin' and Rapidfire each faced a different direction.

“As to your question, it was going splendidly... until the team captain went and crippled herself in a spectacular fashion.” He leveled an annoyed look at her. “Good job on that by the way.”

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” Spitfire countered, earning a smirk from Arcus.

“Touché. What’s the damage report?” he asked with a flat voice. Spitfire bit back a frown and hoofed over the files the discharge pony had given her. Arcus took them in his hoof and read through the papers, his face a well-practiced mask of neutrality. Spitfire forced herself not to fidget like a teenage filly applying for her first job, though there wasn’t much she could do to prevent a nervous sweat from breaking out over her body. After several minutes of silence, Arcus sighed and closed the folder.

“I’m not gonna sugar coat this, Captain,” Arcus started grimly. “You haven’t given me much room for flexibility.”

Spitfire felt her throat tighten and both Soarin' and Rapidfire subtly turned to observe the conversation, both stallions’ concern written plainly on their faces.

“Effective immediately, you’re relieved of duty as captain and placed on medical leave. After you’ve been cleared for flight by at least two physicians of my choosing, a physical therapist, and the team medical staff, we can reassess your status.” He returned the folder to her, which she numbly accepted. “I’ll see to it you can remain in the hotel suite we booked here in Manehattan until you’re back up to speed. You will receive a monthly stipend in lieu of your standard pay.” He sighed and ran a hoof through his mane. Spitfire stared dejectedly at the ground, her ears flattened against her head.

“Wait, why does she have to stay here?” Rapidfire interrupted, earning a glare from Arcus. “Surely Cloudsdale has better doctors for wing injuries!”

“Cloudsdale does,” Arcus agreed. “Unfortunately, your sister can’t use her wing for the next month, and Cloudsdale isn’t built for long strolls.”

Rapidfire’s response died on his lips as Spitfire held up a hoof for him to stop.

Spitfire’s eyes stared vacantly at the ground and her shoulders sagged slightly. “I understand, sir,” she stated, her voice quiet and dejected.

“We’ll be based in Manehattan for a while,” Arcus continued. “You are, of course, still welcome to visit the team anytime.”

Spitfire nodded again.

“Soarin'.” Arcus turned his attention to the light-blue stallion. “Effective immediately, you’re acting captain until further notice. You are free to pick your lieutenant from any of the active team roster. Your first task is informing the rest of the team about the changes.” Arcus paused to regard the other stallion. “Rapidfire, I expect you there as well.”

“But…” Soarin started, stopping when Spitfire looked him in the eye and shook her head lightly. He sighed as he relented: “Yes sir.”

Arcus retrieved a small bag of bits from his saddlebag, which he offered to Spitfire. The despondent mare regarded the gesture with a confused look.

“I want you to take today for yourself—get a meal, go shopping, see a movie, whatever you need to do. Just keep away from the media and keep your nose clean,” he warned. “If Red Top or another media pony publishes an expose it could risk alienating our sponsors, and if that happens, I won’t be able to protect you.”

“Yes sir. Thanks.” Spitfire forced a smile. Arcus nodded as Spitfire took the bits and placed them in her bag.

“Soarin', let’s go. Rapidfire, don’t be long,” Arcus ordered, taking to the skies with a mighty flap of his wings. Soarin' lingered only long enough to give Spitfire an apologetic look before he flew after Arcus, leaving the twins alone. Silence filled the air between them for a moment before Spitfire spoke.

“Buck my life,” she lamented, her hoof kicking at the ground in frustration.

“At least you aren’t fired,” Rapidfire offered uncomfortably.

Spitfire scoffed, blowing ginger strands of hair from her face. “Might as well be at this rate.” She sighed.

Rapidfire hugged her lightly. “Anything I can do for you, besides find a time travel spell?” he offered, earning a chuckle from his sister.

“Keep an eye on Fleetfoot; she can get pushy when she wants something. And back up Soarin' when he needs help. The captain must demand respect, and the overgrown marshmallow will need backup.” She blinked and smacked a hoof to her face when she realized Rapidfire was giggling again. “And no, you may not call him Marshmallow, or Mallow, in front of the team. If you do, I will personally deliver one of Mom’s photo-albums with all your foal pictures to the office.”

Rapidfire’s giggles died immediately and he paled noticeably at the threat.

“You wouldn’t dare,” he said.

“Evil twin,” she reminded him with the sweetest smile she could manage.

“Your pictures are in those albums too!” he threatened meekly.

“So?” Spitfire asked. “I thought you realized I had no shame after I brought my first marefriend home.”

Rapidfire narrowed his eyes. Clearly this meant war.

“Okay then. You show them the albums, I show them Miss Blankey.”

Spitfire’s eyes went wide. Her beloved fillyhood blanket was the closest thing she had to a treasured item. The fact that she still kept it with her was perhaps the only shame she had left after coming out.

“Ok,” Spitfire held a hoof out to her brother, “mutually assured destruction it is.”

Rapidfire grinned manically, his own hoof bumping hers. “The best kind!” he declared.

Both twins shared a laugh for a few moments.

“I’ll see you around, Spits.” Rapid hugged her again. “Keep out of trouble.”

“You know me,” she replied, returning the hug.

Rapidfire rolled his eyes melodramatically. “That’s why I’m reminding you.” He smiled before taking to the skies in the direction Arcus and Soarin' had flown.

Spitfire sighed to herself, sitting quietly for a moment before her stomach voiced its grievances loud enough to draw a sidelong glance from a passing earth pony couple. She grinned at them sheepishly before quickly trotting away. She needed a stiff cup of coffee and something to eat.

“Let’s see now,” she mumbled to herself. “There should be a good café a few blocks down.”

She did her best to keep her mind off her… situation, a surprisingly easy task when she was focused on trying to find the street signs without the advantage of being able to hover over the crowds. It took her nearly an hour to reach her goal, a nice outdoor café she had been to before called Perry’s Cherry Diner.

She smiled as she trotted up to the counter, a modest line of ponies in front of her. After waiting for a few minutes, she ordered herself a sandwich with hay fries and a large coffee and was told to pick a table to sit at while they prepared her food. After paying, she turned to a small section of tables shaded by cherry trees where she noticed a familiar mare with a cyan coat and a rainbow mane. Her eyes nearly bulged out of her head as the name clicked into her brain.

“Rainbow Dash!?”