Spitfire looked up from the morning’s copy of Equestria Daily as a flash of cyan caught the corner of her eye. “Hey Dash, what’s up? How’s our newest recruit coping with stardom?”
“I’m late,” whispered Rainbow Dash to midair, as though she’d barely registered the presence of the Wonderbolts’ captain.
“Are you kidding?” Spitfire chuckled. “If the mighty Rainbow Dash is up before noon, I consider it early.”
Dash continued to stare blankly ahead. “I’m late.”
Spitfire looked at Dash with only the mildest exasperation in her face. “No you’re not. I called off morning practice today, remember? After that last show I figured we could use a little extra rest. And today’s the day you decide not to sleep in!” The fire-maned pegasus shook her head and returned to her paper. “Newbies. Go figure.”
Dash wandered slowly, almost aimlessly, out of Spitfire’s office. Her hoofsteps were slow, halting, irregular. She ambled absentmindedly into the Wonderbolts’ dressing room. Two pegasi were conversing over coffee, their lightning-barred azure uniforms hung carefully in lockers labeled “Fleetfoot” and “Rapidfire”.
Rainbow had just a tinge of annoyance in her voice. “I’m late.”
The stallion of the pair rolled his eyes. His companion, a white-maned mare, laughed. “You? Late? Dash, I’ve seen you nap through an entire practice, wake up with seconds to spare, and still end up in formation before either of us could blink.”
Dash seemed a thousand miles away as she repeated in dead monotone, “I’m late.”
“Yeah right. It’s physically impossible for you to be late for anything, RD.” The mare turned her back on Dash and sipped her coffee, her fellow Wonderbolt doing likewise.
Dash stumbled down the empty hallway, directionless and dazed. Her eyes were blank and her expression unreadable, depthless. She meandered down corridor after corridor, bumping absentmindedly into doorways and walls formed of cloud-stuff, solid enough to hang “The Wonderbolts Need YOU!” posters on but not solid enough to rouse the young Wonderbolt from her fugue.
She passed waiting rooms and conference rooms, meeting rooms and restrooms. Trophy cases and grand, dramatic photos of legendary Wonderbolts from years gone by passed her on both sides. She’d memorized the photos and their subjects’ histories years ago, and a few of the newer trophies even bore her name, yet none of it fazed her.
She wandered into the wing of private suites, past rooms with glittering nameplates she’d long idolized: “Blaze.” “Misty.” “Fire Streak.” “High Winds.” Toward the end of the hallway she passed her own room, the “Rainbow Dash” plaque still sparkling with the shine of newness. Finally she found herself before a room labeled “Soarin’”. She paused, whispered “I’m late” in a Fluttershy-quiet voice, and let herself in.
The pale blue stallion was sitting on a long, low couch, his casual smile ever-present. He looked up with some surprise and perked up, somewhat artificially. “RD! Hey, how are you?” He managed a too-big smile and continued, “I’d tell you to knock first, but you know you’re welcome here anytime. You’re up early, I see.”
There was more tension in the mare’s voice now. “I’m late.”
“Huh? For what? Morning flight time is canceled. I was just about to look over Spitfire’s reviews from the last show, if you want to join me. She was…”
“I’m late,” Dash uttered edgily, with more volume and determination than she’d managed all morning.
“Um, I heard you the first time. Like I said, nothing going on today. No reason to get all worked up.”
Rainbow leapt across the room and hoisted the stallion by his crest. Her voice was ice and steel, and her eyes burned holes through the now-shaking pony in her grasp. “I’m late!”
Soarin’ trembled in the smaller pegasus’ grasp. He raised his hooves in mock surrender and pleaded, “What the hay, Rainbow? What’s going on?”
She let him go suddenly, dropping him onto the couch where he sat motionless, his eyes squinting at Dash in an attempt to find comprehension.
Dash backed up a few steps and threw a small object at him with all the force she could muster. He recoiled a little from its sheer velocity. Looking down at it, he turned it over in his hooves a few times. Suddenly he froze, his eyes wide and his pupils dilated to pinpricks. He looked up, shock written across he every feature.
“I’M LATE!” came a rage-filled scream from across the room.
He looked down into his hooves again. “No,” he mumbled. “You… You can’t be late. We… It was just that one time, after your first show.” He looked back up at her pleadingly. “You’re sure?”
She remained defiant for just a few seconds, then broke. The few steps it took her to cross the room and reach the couch seemed to take an eternity. She lay down, defeated, next to her one-time idol. Her head rested on his chest as she closed her eyes and whispered “I’m late.”
She reached for his free hoof and placed it gingerly on her stomach. She shivered as she fought back nausea and tears and he unconsciously pulled her closer. She placed her own hooves across his, cradling her stomach with his arm.
His words were barely audible. “Dash…” He swallowed hard and tried to find the right words, any words at all. “I want you to know, I’ll be here for you. We can…”
Soarin’ looked down, his shellshocked trance broken by this new word. He dropped the little white stick she’d thrown at him just minutes earlier, its thicker end emblazoned with a small red “plus”.
“Velocity,” Rainbow Dash repeated, her voice strong and clear. “I want to name the foal Velocity, if it’s a filly.”
Well, this was certainly an interesting take on the idea of being late. I can honestly didn’t say I didn’t expect a story like this, but I am not unpleasantly surprised! This was a good story. Good job!