Stormchaser glowered at the bulletin board, tail flicking anxiously behind him. Lead pony. It was a vote of confidence, sure, and he wasn’t going to dismiss that out of hand – but when he’d come to grips with the stiff competition he’d face at the Academy, it had actually sounded somehow restful that he might not have more eyes on him than would be on anypony else.

And now, this: lead pony.

It wasn’t too much of a surprise that he’d be working with Comet Trail – he and the Las Pegasus stallion had been neck-and-neck in everything they’d done at the Academy so far, both at the top of the class in everything but raw speed and not far behind on that, both of them agility fliers. But on reflection, it seemed a little bit weird. Why pair him with someone who was already pretty much a match for him? Why not have him mentor a pony who was struggling to keep up, and put Comet Trail in a similar spot with another such pony?

At least if he’d been put in that kind of spot, sure, he’d still have been saddled with the extra responsibility, but he probably wouldn’t have been scrutinized quite so closely as he would be now that his team was the two best candidates here.

“You got a problem with that assignment, rookie?” snapped a voice by his ear.

Stormchaser turned a flinch into a moment of stiffness. If Rainbow Dash had expected to cow him, she hadn’t counted on him reading her biography – and its account of her own time at Wonderbolts Academy. Confidence was important in a would-be Wonderbolt; and in his answer he shoved all the confidence he could muster. “I’ve been leading weather teams since the first day I could clear a cloud, ma’am,” he shot back. “I can lead here, too. No problem.”

“Oh, yeah?” The older pegasus stomped around to his other side, looking him over skeptically. “You’re not gonna screw it up?”

“No, ma’am,” he insisted. He didn’t go quite so far as to say I never screw up – there was a fine line between confidence, and bravado that was just asking to be proven wrong – but he wasn’t going to back down now. Especially not over being given a good slot. If he’d wanted to relax, even a little bit, he shouldn’t have come here. Shouldn’t have even applied. But apply he had, and here he was.

While Rainbow Dash stomped off to do whatever it was she did here when she wasn’t trying to terrorize the newbies (and in most cases succeeding), Stormchaser strode away from the board and towards the mess hall, with a white pony falling in step with him as he did.

“Well, she really thinks she’s all that,” his new wing pony grumbled.

“Not without cause,” said Stormchaser, shaking his head. “She is the fastest flier in Equestria…”

“You and I both know that speed isn’t everything,” Comet Trail scoffed. “You saw Greased Lightning come out of the Dizz-O-Tron, right?”

Stormy conceded that point with a flick of his ears. “But Rainbow Dash also has the Academy record on the Dizz-O-Tron,” he pointed out. “She’s done plenty to earn Spitfire’s prime spot.”

And Celestia’s,” the other pony allowed with a sigh. “But I’m getting sick of never getting the chance to prove I can really fly! Even if she’s the first that I wasn’t sure I could outfly. At least she put me on your wing, not somepony I can fly circles around, but still!”

“Lead spots aren’t all they’re cracked out to be,” Stormchaser muttered, pausing his words to dart ahead and into the mess hall, then pausing his stride to let Comet Trail catch up. The selection wasn’t that great at this hour of day; an exchange of glances was all the pair needed to decide to grab a snack and take it back outside. On the way out, Stormchaser went on, “I’ve been commanding the weather team at Horseshoe Corners for five years running. Then I come here, thinking I might get to let someone else make the decisions for a week or two, and what happens? She gives me this.” He tapped the golden Wonderbolts badge pinned to his tunic. “So now everypony’s going to watch me that much closer.

“At least ponies pay attention to you!” Comet Trail protested. “All my life I’ve been looked over, then I finally got accepted here, thought things were looking up, but now this…!” He stopped in his tracks, fixing Stormchaser with a challenging stare. “And maybe you can give me an actual challenge, but I still think I’m better!”

Some frustrated part of Stormchaser surged through the fore, retorting, “Oh, yeah? You think so, do you?”

Comet Trail dropped into a launching-crouch so fast his sky-blue mane wavered and landed in disarray. “Try me,” he hissed. “You think you can be my lead pony? Let’s see what you’ve really got! Twenty laps!”

Just like that, Stormchaser snapped out his wings and sprang aloft, making for the open air out from the Academy proper. He started out in the lead, only to brake reflexively as Comet Trail zipped past and so close in front of him, the backwash almost set him spinning.

So that was going to be the game, was it? Fine. Two could play that one.

Comet Trail was good – quick, very nimble, and incredibly gutsy. But he didn’t always think things through, and every time he got tugged into one of the chaotic eddies around the Academy that Stormchaser saw ahead of him, the white pegasus lost a little of the advantage he’d gained early on. He tried to cut across Stormchaser’s path again, right as they finished their last lap and turned inward, but the stormcloud-grey pegasus would have none of it; he rode the backwash up a bit, furled his wings, and dove after his rival, tackling him mere body-lengths from landing and pushing against his shoulders to stick his own nose forward.

They tumbled over their starting point, end-over-end across the grass, skidding to a halt in between some of the dormitory buildings, belly-to-belly with Comet Trail pressed down against the turf. The white pony flashed a grin in spite of it all. “Okay,” he said, “I guess you can fly.”

“Maybe some people get their recognition for a reason, huh?”

“Can’t really say much about that.” Comet shrugged, upside down. “But I do know something. Two somethings.”


“Yeah. One, you’ve apparently been pretty lonely, lately.”


Stormchaser rallied. Confidence, right? He’d be fighting with the guy for the rest of their time here if Comet Trail thought he could be intimidated. “So what if I have?” he challenged.

Comet Trail laughed, pushing his head in to give an unexpected lick to Stormchaser’s jaw. “Well, for two,” he said, in a murmur that called to mind the fact that they were pretty much concealed from view, “you feel pretty good, there.”

So maybe they were on the same page after all? Indeed, shifting a little, Stormchaser felt an answering swell of warmth against his own.

“Maybe we can pursue that,” he allowed with a grin. “So long as you’re not going to always make a point over who wins and who loses.”

“Nah, I get it.” Comet wiggled up against him, dark eyes gleaming, bare flesh – he was quite eager, apparently – sliding against Stormy’s belly. “I give. Even if I win a few here or there, you’re a better flier than I am, and if I’m gonna be a wing pony, at least it’s to you.”

“Doesn’t mean you won’t come out on top at some point,” Stormy assured him, shifting over slightly, closing his eyes and letting the feel of the other stallion wash over him, letting his shaft drop into the open.

Yeah, this partnership seemed to be going along well, in spite of its rocky start. And for once, the only pony really looking at him was one he wanted to.

With ponies all around, there was no way they could expect to completely escape attention, but Comet had the right idea, bantering at him in ways that a listener might think were all about their little race, or other matters of flying, even as his actual motions, and the ever-present feel of his rigid shaft alongside Stormy’s, made plain what he really meant. Sure, he was getting a little breathless, but a random passerby might not realize that their race had been that long ago. An innocuous explanation for what they were doing now, that was the trick.

Maybe it was a bit much to expect that nobody got what was going on when Comet bit back a whimper, bucking under Stormy, wet heat pulsing over their bellies and lubricating the rub of their shafts; or when Stormy muffled a groan against Comet’s neck, spattering him in turn. But if anyone had an issue with the two best candidates at the Academy sharing a semi-private moment together, nobody made noise about it then.

When their breaths had slowed a little, Comet asked, “So if you’re tired of getting stuck with the lead spot, why don’t you turn it down?”

It was a good question, wasn’t it? Stormchaser shrugged. “I can’t just… give up on it,” he said when the words finally managed to come together. “Then I wouldn’t be doing my best.”

The white pegasus chuckled, nuzzling Stormchaser’s jaw. “I guess I can understand that.