Most of the Academy hopefuls had come a long way. Stormchaser was glad to see it; it was always nice to see people doing well.

Not everypony agreed with that assessment, of course; but for all Comet Trail griped about the others catching up with them, Stormy knew the paler pegasus wasn’t serious about it. For one thing, despite the progress the others had made, Stormy and Comet were still well ahead of the rest in all trials; and the subtler thing, the thing Stormy wouldn’t have spotted before coming to know him, was that even if the others did catch up, Comet Trail loved a challenge. Oh, sure, he liked to win – but part of his frustration with the pace of things here was that a victory with no real competition was no real victory at all.

Not the way Stormy usually liked to look at the world, but he could at least see some merit to it, now – just like the more-driven Comet Trail had come to learn that winning wasn’t everything, so long as you gave it your best.

At any rate, ponies who’d had trouble righting themselves after a tumble in still air, back when they’d all arrived, were now keeping formation around a respectable storm, steering it along, keeping it from dying off but not letting it build out of control. It was a performance worthy of any weather team, and for once, there was little that the ace pair, in their position at the top of the cloud as sort-of supervisors-and-mentors, had to do but keep blowing the stormcloud ahead of them.

Coming out of a turn, Comet Trail drifted closer to Stormchaser. “They’re making this too easy for us,” he observed, echoing Stormy’s own thoughts. “We had more to do when we had to keep rushing all around to fix the formation!”

“I’m not complaining,” Stormy laughed, shifting momentarily close enough to give the other stallion a swat on the flank with his tail. “Maybe RD will move us on to something more challenging after a run like this!”

“Can but hope!” Comet Trail furled his wings, dipping in to bump flanks with Stormy, slipping underneath him, and coming back up on the other side, all without the cloud moving an inch out of place. “You know, we haven’t needed to split up since the cloud came together…”

Something about his voice made Stormy look over – and that was how he saw the leer on Comet’s face, the slightly-saucy tilt to his body, the flesh he was letting drop to get caressed by the wind. “Are you crazy?” he laughed.

“Crazy for you, lead pony!” Comet drifted over top of him, wings still carefully fanning. “If anypony asks, we can just tell ’em we were practising some close formation flying, huh? It’s not like any of ’em are near enough to see how close!”

Well, it would make an interesting challenge. And Comet did feel good, and he had a point about nobody being close enough to make out exactly what the two would be doing, not past the wisps of cloud that the storm was throwing off. “Nothing too fancy,” he warned. “We need to be ready to split up like that if this thing starts to go out of control.” He narrowed his wingbeats, moving in careful, flattened figure-eights back and forth

“I know the drill, stud,” the lighter pony replied, close enough now that he didn’t need to shout, even over the rushing wind. He shifted back about half a length, then, hooves coming to rest on Stormy’s shoulders, eased forward again.

He wasn’t trying to actually push in – that would have to wait until after the Academy session, when they could get something from the city to help out, and it wouldn’t be a good idea in the circumstances anyway. Instead, his shaft slid in between Stormy’s thighs, rubbing against his belly and his own tight sheath, the quick, precise motion of their wingbeats shifting it in short, quick strokes against him.

It felt really good – and the challenge of keeping together like that while flying so precisely, far from distracting from the eroticism, only heightened it. It took such incredible focus to keep rubbing against each other, it made him that much more intensely aware of the feel of flesh on flesh, of the breeze coursing over his hide and his bare skin, even of the shift and tumble of the storm in front of them, reminders of its carefully-restrained power, power that was just waiting to be unleashed…

In moments like this, apparently anything could be an erotic symbol.

Already worked up from the effort of strong flying, the usual side effects of sex weren’t as evident, but there was still a different quality to the way his heart worked now, to the way air slid in and out of his lungs. This wasn’t work, or at least, it wasn’t just work – it was definitely sex, the sort that could all too soon get him squirming and adding a bit of very personal moisture to the cloud beneath them…

But then, off to one side, there was motion – a rainbow streak swooping wide around the cloud, and heading unmistakeably towards them.

They had just enough time to exchange glances, and for Comet Trail to utter an anxious “Uh-oh.”

And then there was shouting over the roar of the storm.

“What exactly do you two think you’re doing?! Actually, don’t answer that,” the rainbow-maned mare snapped, effortlessly keeping pace with them. “Maybe you thought I was blind and wouldn’t notice, but this is my class time, you hear?” A flurry of wingbeats whipped up an eddy that buffeted them out of place, and – probably not by coincidence – knocked the two of them apart. “And when you’re on my time, you obey my rules and follow my instructions, not your own hormones! Is! That! Clear?

The tone of that question reached right into their brains and yanked hard. “Yes, ma’am!” they both shouted back.

“It better be!” Rainbow Dash took up the position she’d just evicted the pair from. “Now get down to my office and wait there until I’ve got time to deal with you. And no funny business! Now move it!

Cringing, Stormchaser reminded himself, would be a bad idea in flight. One more chorused “Yes, ma’am!” and he spun right around, diving towards the Academy spire.

He didn’t quite go as fast as his wings could carry him. It felt like that would just get him officially kicked out that much sooner.

“Hey…” Comet Trail veered closer, just enough to hold a conversation without shouting. “I’m sorry, Stormchaser. It’s been a lot of fun flying with you.”

Comet Trail really had grown up over the last week or so; the old Comet Trail would never have put that much into an apology, might never have believed he deserved that much blame for it. Not that Stormy was sure he did, but that wasn’t the only reason his heart wrenched inside him at the other stallion’s words. “Don’t… don’t sweat it,” he managed. “That one was as much on me as you.”

They split apart, Comet automatically falling behind, as they came in to land. Neither of them said a word, save to tell the pony at the Admin building desk that Rainbow Dash had told them to wait in her office. Once there, they stood off to one side, out of the way between the door and the desk. They hadn’t needed RD’s remonstration to avoid trying anything further; they just stood there, together for one last time, trying not to be too obvious about looking out the window as the storm finished its course and dispersed, its attendant pegasi making their way back to the landing strip.

It seemed like a small eternity later that hoofbeats outside the door signalled somepony approaching, and they stood up a bit straighter. Rainbow Dash pushed through the door and stomped right past them, not even acknowledging their presence until she was behind the desk.

Then, fixing them with a weary look, she sighed. “Right. You two.”

Comet Trail shuffled his hooves a bit. “Are we… expelled, ma’am?”

“Expelled?” Miraculously, she sounded shocked by the very notion. “Pfft. Maybe I should, but you’re not getting away from me that easy. Officially, you’re on a very thin cloud. That behaviour was unacceptable, and it’s only your record so far that keeps you from severe penalties.”

Stormchaser swallowed around a lump in his throat, probably where his heart had suddenly crawled up into it. “’Officially’, ma’am?”

Suddenly the mare broke out in sniggers. “Unofficially, that was hilarious! You might have even got away with it, too, if I hadn’t been looking at just the right angle!” She laughed, slamming a hoof on the desk. “I’ll admit – that took a lot of guts. And if there’s three things I can respect, they’re speed, control, and guts. Seems you two have ’em all by the barrel full.”

The stallions exchanged glances. After the tongue-lashing they’d got up in the sky, neither of them had expected anything like this.

Rainbow Dash shook her head. “Look, you two – just – keep it for your downtime, okay? And try to be at least a little discreet about it. You’re here to train, not to party – but if that’s how you unwind and keep the routine from getting to you, whatever. I’m sure there’s other ponies doing the same thing – only they don’t have the nerve to do it in the air, never mind during drill.”

Comet Trail managed a grin. “Only the best, ma’am.”

“You’ll have plenty more time to prove that to me yet, both of you. Now put on your best chastised faces and go get some grub.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Stormchaser blurted. He started to turn, only to pause when RD called their names; they turned their heads to look back at her.

She was considering them carefully, with a scrutiny that was almost as unnerving as her anger had been. “Seems like you two are ready for some advanced formation flying, huh? I’ve gotta admit, that was some nice wing-work up there.”

At this echo of the excuse they’d never got to use, Stormchaser couldn’t help but grin. “Ready, willing, and able, ma’am.”

“We’ll see about that,” she replied, dismissing them with a wave of a hoof. “Get some rest – real rest. You’ll need it.”

On that note, at once ominous and exciting, the door shut between them.

The stallions once more exchanged glances, a full-on grin plastered on Comet Trail’s muzzle. “Okay, that was closer than even I like it,” he admitted. “How about we follow her advice and get something to eat? Waiting like that worked up just as much of an appetite as the flying!”

“Let’s eat,” Stormchaser agreed. For a moment he thought of leaning in to give the other stallion a nuzzle, but, all too conscious of the still-occupied office next to them, he thought better of it.

Maybe they didn’t quite look like they’d been on the receiving end of a dressing-down as they trotted out of the admin building, but they could at least dissemble well enough to not look outright jubilant. For now, it’d have to do.