Ch.05- A Steady Rain
Spitfire enjoyed the company while it lasted, and she wished that Fleetfoot could have stayed a little longer, but it was almost time for the race to start. Spitfire wanted to support her friend race, but it would just be too hard on her given her current state. Regardless, being alone, while saddened, and in a room with alcohol, she knew how her day would be spent if she didn't find something to do outside. She wasn't lying when she told Fleetfoot earlier that the mini-bar looked tempting, and the new feeling of weakness she developed didn't help, but she didn't want to mourn Soarin's death with drinking.
Just beyond her window was a steadily growing rain that made Canterlot look unpleasant for the first time. She couldn't bare to stay in her room any longer, but she didn't bring a coat or umbrella to keep her dry from the rain. Clothing wise, all she had packed was her uniform, and a couple nice outfits in case she went someplace nice after the race. Keeping dry wasn't a priority for her, and she choose to take a walk anyway despite appropriate clothing attire.
Outside wasn't as cold as she expected it to be, and despite it being wet, the climate was quite tolerable. The raindrops wicked into her mane and coat, but it never gave her much discomfort. To her surprise, Canterlot was quite active despite the rainy conditions. Royal Guards were standing at every other intersection, businesses still seemed to get a modest share of customers, and though the population was a little more scarce, no place was left deserted. The other ponies outdoors were nicely dressed, and they seemed more prepared for the rain than she was. Most of them had umbrellas or jackets.
Spitfire couldn't help but question how different the ponies were around here from every other place she's been. Just their posture seemed more poised. As Spitfire walked the cobbled streets, she most curiously stared at a couple unicorns that elegantly walked together as if the other wasn't there. Though they walked perfectly in sync with each other, they completely ignored each other with their eyes and their words. During her stare, she felt her walk come to an instant stop as her body was pushed back causing her to stumble and almost fall.
"Oh pardon me Ms." said a well-spoken gentlecolt's voice.
After realizing she had just collided with another pony, and catching herself before falling, Spitfire looked up to see two unicorns standing under an umbrella in front of her. The male was well dressed in a suit, monocle, and tie, whereas the female didn't wear anything, but looked well groomed, and had stunning looks beautiful enough to be a model. Just at a glance, the female's body was flawless enough to make a good-looking athlete like Spitfire, envious. Both had matching white coats, and the same poise.
Spitfire apologized to the colt she had bumped into. "I'm sorry. That was my fault," she said.
The male unicorn furrowed his brow until he recognized Spitfire. "Hang on! You're that one Wonderbolt... uh... Spitfire! I didn't think the fastest pegasus in Equestria will be trotting the streets on her way to the Cross-Country Canter!"
Spitfire had no desire to deal with a fan, even if the two unicorns did appear to be of a higher stature than most fans, or even herself. Today, she wasn't with the other Wonderbolts. She didn't feel like a Wonderbolt. The last thing she wanted was to be taken away from her personal time when she very much so needed it.
The male unicorn continued, "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Fancy Pants, and this lovely unicorn is my wife, Fleur."
Spitfire, answered solemnly as she shook the unicorn's hoof. "Nice to met you," she said with a droning tone.
Fancy Pants had much more character in his voice. "Oh, likewise! It's not every day I'm the one struck in awe during a public encounter. Please do share my umbrella. There's no need for you to be out in the rain."
"Thanks, but..." Spitfire didn't continue what she was about to say once she realized it wouldn't make a difference. Fancy Pants was already holding the umbrella to include her in the shelter it offered, and she didn't really have a choice in the matter. Nonetheless, it felt nice to be out of the rain, but it felt unsettling to be tied into the conversation that came with it.
"This rain is suppose to last all day, I hope you prepared to keep warm," said Fancy Pants.
Spitfire replied drearily, "Yeah."
Fleur, simply hung herself around Fancy Pants' shoulder. It was almost as if she was striking a pose for a photo. Every now and then, she would change her position to one more lustrous than the one before. Numerous times, it distracted Spitfire from the conversation, but Fancy Pants seemed to pay no attention to her at all, even while she was draped over his back.
Fancy Pants just rambled on as if anything Spitfire said wasn't going to change what he was going to say. "Funny, we were just on our way to the race ourselves. You must know as well as I that no amount of wealth can substitute a good pastime. I can't believe I get the privilege to speak to you right before I watch you perform! And of all the Wonderbolts I could have bumped into, its the Wonderbolt Team Captain no less!"
Spitfire just said the only thing she could to end his rambling. "Actually, I'm not racing today."
Fleur's head snapped towards Spitfire, and her jaw dropped. For the first time, she was engaged to the conversation. "What?!" exclaimed Fleur in an overly dramatic way.
Fancy Pants was quick to quiet her down. "Hush, dear, don't get yourself worked up. Just as I have bad days for business, I'm sure Wonderbolts must have bad days for racing." Fleur stayed silent, and Fancy Pants turned back to Spitfire. "Isn't that right?" he asked.
Spitfire answered with a stale tone, "Yeah."
"Its not the rain I hope," said Fancy Pants. "I know it can be cold, but a lead Wonderbolt like yourself should..."
"Its not the rain," interrupted Spitfire. She was convinced that the conversation was sure to drift to a question she didn't want to answer, but her interruption cut Fancy Pants off, and at least managed to leave him speechless for a whole two seconds.
Fancy Pants simply disregarded the topic, and started a new one. "What is that one Wonderbolts name that always raced exquisitely in rainy conditions like today?"
Spitfire knew he was thinking about Soarin'. Difficult terrain and the harshest weather conditions was when Soarin' would fly at his best. Though all Wonderbolts are trained to fly under all conditions, different Wonderbolts excel under different conditions, and Soarin' was the only Wonderbolt that never seemed to be affected the slightest by weather. Spitfire avoided giving Fancy Pants the name he was seeking. She stayed silent and in her head she prayed: Dear Celestia, please don't let him think of the name. Don't let him say it. Not now!
"Ah! Soarin!" he exclaimed while Spitfire's prayer started to flood with obscene words. "Yes! He's not a bad Wonderbolt either. Never missed a race in his life I don't think."
Spitfire can feel the muscles around her teeth and her hooves tighten. If one thing made her skin crawl more than a fan that confronted her in public when she wanted to be alone, it was a fan telling her something she already knew about one of her teammates.
Spitfire knew that the news of Soarin' dying hasn't reached the general public yet, but she couldn't bare talking anymore with Fancy Pants. She brewed an excuse to leave.
Spitfire blurted out, "I have to go."
For the first time, it felt like Fancy Pants was giving Spitfire control of the conversation. Stoping in his tracks he stayed silent and waited for Spitfire's reason.
Spitfire continued, but this time put a little more effort into faking sincerity in her words. "It was nice meeting you, but I really have to go back to the hotels."
"Alright," said Fancy Pants. Though he gave a meddling stare, nothing in his tone sounded like he took offense. "Well it appears we're going different ways then. Take care."
"Thanks," replied Spitfire as she walked away from the unicorns reentering the rain beyond the umbrella.
Spitfire could hear Fancy Pants' voice still going on about the Wonderbolts with his wife. Though Spitfire never heard Fleur speak back, Fancy Pants seemed to be having an animated conversation with her. She couldn't help but listen to his words carry on through the distance between them. "Now Soarin' always flew like a champ, even when he didn't win. You can tell racing meant more to him than anything. How can a pony not respect that kind of pride?"
Even when she was too far away to hear Fancy Pants, she couldn't help but mull over what he said. Racing was Soarin's biggest passion. Everything Fancy Pants said was true, and it was enough for her to wonder if choosing not to race was the right choice after all. Her mind debated the idea whether or not it was a dishonor to not race for a fallen Wonderbolt. She hadn't seen any other Wonderbolts, and could only assume they all choose to race.
Spitfire only said she was on her way to the hotel as an excuse to leave the conversation, but after reentering the rain, she began to realize just how uncomfortable the rain was. Maybe it was coming down harder, or maybe it got colder, but it didn't seem as tolerable as before.
She walked with purpose on her way back to the hotel. In the distance, she was able to see the pegasi racers takeoff flying overhead. They were too high in the sky, and too many for Spitfire to identify any of the racers. Though the Wonderbolts always had her support, she felt a little disappointed to see the racer's takeoff. All she knew is that it didn't matter whether choosing not to race was the right choice for her. The race had already begun, and she could only hope that there wouldn't be any future regrets—even though they were already coming.
As she approached the hotel's main entrance, Spitfire saw Rapidfire exiting the hotel who was equally absent of weather-appropriate attire. Spitfire stopped him just outside the door.
"I thought you would be racing," Spitfire said, while the two pony stood outside in the rain.
Rapidfire answered appalled, "How can I race? My best friend just died! Doesn't anypony know that there are things more important than a silly race!"
"I didn't mean anything by it," said Spitfire apologetically.
Rapidfire calmed down. "Sorry... Sorry. I didn't mean to snap. This whole mess is just too crazy for me."
Spitfire nodded. "That's for sure." She couldn't help wonder why Rapidfire was leaving the hotel. "Where are you going?" she asked.
Rapidfire answered, "Back to Cloudsdale where things aren't so stressful."
"Really? In this weather? You're not even going to wait for the rest of the team?" Spitfire questioned.
Rapidfire ignored her logic. "I'm a Wonderbolt; I can handle flying in a little rain."
Spitfire tried to rationalize. "I'm not doubting your abilities, but it doesn't sound sensible to fly all that way by yourself."
"Then where am I suppose to go?" asked Rapidfire.
Spitfire thought her answer over in her head before she replied. "You can come with me, go inside where it's dry, and we can wait for the rain to pass."
In the distance, both ponies could hear thunder striking in the distance. By the time the sound reached them, it was no more than a soft crackle, but both ponies knew the storm was on its way.
Rapidfire sighed, "I guess I can wait a couple minutes for the storm to pass."
The storm didn't look like it would so easily blow over in a couple minutes, yet alone a couple hours, but regardless, Rapidfire and Spitfire entered the hotel together. Spitfire took Rapidfire to her room since she was unsure whether or not Rapidfire was given a new room since the incident, and felt too uncomfortable to ask.
Spitfire was relieved to have company. She wasn't particularly close to Rapidfire, but they were both close to Soarin', and Spitfire was just glad that she wasn't alone. Spitfire always thought Rapidfire was a little egocentric. His skills were somewhat brag worthy, and he wasn't egocentric to the point which it became unbearable, but enough so that she never bonded to him the same way as she had with some of her other teammates. He never got on her nerves like some of the other Wonderbolts, but he never really struck her as anything more than just another Wonderbolt. She knew very well that he was well-liked amongst the male Wonderbolts, but Spitfire just didn't see whatever it was that made him so popular.
However, since the news of Soarin's death, Spitfire saw a new side to Rapidfire. In the brief moment he provided comfort after Sky Screamer first gave the news to her, Spitfire revisited the idea that perhaps he was a compassionate pony after all. He was caring to both Soarin' and herself. Spitfire pondered the mystery that was Rapidfire's personality. Did he always have this side to him, or did Soarin's death change him?
Soarin' was the one pony Rapidfire could talk to about anything. There we're many emotions he felt that he just needed to outlet, and he lost the one pony he use to rely on for that. Soarin' took Rapidfire under his wing since the day he became a Wonderbolt, and they've been friends ever since. Soarin' was his source of guidance for anything, and had it not been for Soarin', the stresses of being a Wonderbolt would have burned him out in the first season.
When he could no longer bare to be silent any longer, he turned to Spitfire. "I just can't believe he's gone," he said.
Spitfire nodded. "That's for sure. He was a great teammate."
Hearing Spitfire use the word 'teammate' made him stop to think. Rapidfire slowly looked into Spitfire's eyes, and replied hesitantly, "You know, Soarin' told me about the two of you."
Spitfire looked back at him with curiosity. Part of her knew he was referring to her secret relationship with Soarin', but she didn't want to confess until she was absolutely sure. "What?" she asked as if she had no idea what Rapidfire could possibly be referring to.
Rapidfire explained, "About the two of you... hooking up after practices."
Spitfire blushed. "Oh... he told you about that?"
Spitfire embarrassed herself by wondering how much detail Soarin' gave him about their relationship. She knew Soarin' and Rapidfire were best friends, but Spitfire still felt uncomfortable with the idea of Rapidfire knowing intimate details about her.
Rapidfire elaborated further, "He made me keep it a secret, and I have, but I know he was more than just a teammate to you."
Spitfire felt too uncomfortable to keep looking Rapidfire in the eye, but she knew she couldn't deny her secret. "Yeah... he was," she admitted in a half-whisper.
Rapidfire put a gentle hoof on her upper back. "He really liked you," he said.
Rapidfire was hoping that Spitfire would feel better after saying that, but instead, it caused all of her bottled emotions to pour out.
"Yeah, I..." Spitfire was interrupted by her own emotions. Against her will, tears began flooding her eyes, and dripping down her face.
Rapidfire quickly became sympathetic, and took the blame for making her cry. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," he apologized. In not much time, Spitfire's crying converted into a full-out bawl.
Because her emotions got the better of her, Spitfire was too distraught to respond to Rapidfire's apologies, and Rapidfire was unsure what else he can say to comfort her. After contemplating all other ideas, Rapidfire eventually decided to offer a hug after concluding that anything he said would doubtfully make her feel better.
Without any words, Spitfire accepted Rapidfire's offer, and hugged him back. Rapidfire started softly stroking her mane.
Now that Spitfire's emotions were already pouring out, she expelled another secret through her sobbing. "You know, I wanted to tell him that I loved him. I just never did. I guess I was waiting for him to say it first."
Rapidfire held her body snug. "He was head over hooves for you. I'm sure he was just trying to find the right way to tell you," he assured.
Spitfire felt a little better after being able to express her feelings to somepony instead of having to bury them under a lie. She never thought of Rapidfire as a compassionate pony, but now she was starting to see how he became Soarin's best friend. She was glad to have somepony to talk to which didn't require her to explain the complexity of her relationship with Soarin'.
"It—it just happened so soon," said Spitfire.
"I know," said Rapidfire.
"He was at my door last night, and he seemed fine. I just don't get how this could happen to him," she continued.
"I know," Rapidfire repeated.
"It's just..." Spitfire lost her train of thought when she realized that, the once strong, Rapidfire was starting to shed tears himself.
Spitfire redirected the conversation. "I'm sorry, I forgot you two were close friends yourselves. How are you holding up?" she asked.
Rapidfire turned his face as soon as Spitfire asked about his feelings in effort to hide the few tears forming in his eye. "I'm okay... Well, I don't know. I mean, it's hard. I don't know how I'm suppose to act or feel or if there's something I should do."
"Well... how do you feel?" Spitfire asked.
Rapidfire paused for a moment. "Well... Part of me definitely feels sad—and scared—but I also feel mad at myself. I guess part of me feels like this is my fault."
"How can this be your fault? He died in his sleep, nopony could have anticipated that," she said.
"Well... That's not exactly true," said Rapidfire. He prepared himself for an explanation knowing that Spitfire was sure to ask why.
Spitfire asked curiously, "What do you mean?"
Rapidfire didn't know how to bring the news gently, and instead just blurted out, "He was murdered."
Spitfire was shocked, but had a hard time believing what he said. "What! How do you know?" she asked.
Rapidfire exclaimed, "Because I saw the body! Me and the maintenance pony discovered it in his room when I was trying to get my uniform earlier today."
Spitfire stuttered, "B-but Sky Screamer said..."
"Sky Screamer didn't want to alarm anypony, and he made me swear not to tell!" interrupted Rapidfire.
Spitfire looked for any other possible explanation besides what Rapidfire told her. "How can you tell it was a murder? Couldn't it have just been an accident?" she asked.
"No," Rapidfire groaned.
Spitfire knew there was something Rapidfire wasn't telling her. "Why not? Common Rapidfire! If you know something I want to know!" she demmanded.
Rapidfire knew there was no way Spitfire could take the news lightly, and it even made himself uncomfortable to talk about. He sighed, "His body was dismembered in the bathtub. I'm not a detective, but I know that sort of thing doesn't happen on accident. Most of his body was dismembered."
Spitfire began to feel afraid. "No that can't be true! Sky Screamer would never lie to the Wonderbolts!"
"I know what I saw," Rapidfire replied.
Spitfire still couldn't accept what Rapidfire was telling her. "But he was your roommate. How can somepony murder him without you knowing about it?" she asked.
Rapidfire sighed, "He was my roommate, but I didn't sleep in his room. I didn't know this would be the result of that! All this could have been avoided if I just stayed with him."
Rapidfire lost all his composure and tears had completely taken over his face. Part of Spitfire wanted to know more, but her instinctive reaction was to comfort him. Spitfire rested a reassuring hoof on his back, and said, "Don't beat yourself up about it. There's no way you could have foreseen this."
Rapidfire pushed Spitfire's hoof off his shoulder and turned away. "Yes I could; I have foreseen it. I knew something wasn't right when he asked me to sleep in another room, but for some reason I didn't do anything about it."
Spitfire tried to encourage Rapidfire the best she could. "Common you can talk to me about it," she said.
Rapidfire moaned, "No. You're gonna think it's stupid."
"No I won't," Spitfire promised.
"Yeah you would, Mares just don't understand these kind of things," he replied, and turned further away.
For just a split second, Spitfire forgot all her manners. "Just tell me!" she shouted.
"Alright!" he interjected. He made a long pause before he continued in a soft voice. "It started a couple days ago when I told Soarin' that I wasn't good with mares, and he promised to help set me up with one. He was convinced he could set me up with Misty, and we spent the whole trip trying to get her to like me. At first, things were going well. I thought she liked me. Last night, Soarin' invited her to our room to chat, and have a couple drinks thinking he could get her to like me, but she ended up falling for Soarin'. He kept telling her that he wasn't interested, and he kept trying to steer the focus back to me, but she kept flirting with him, and asking him if he was seeing somepony, and he kept saying no. Then, I guess Soarin' drank a little too much, because he got drunk and started flirting back. Next thing I know, Soarin' forgot that he was suppose to be helping me out, and he starts asking for privacy so he can be alone with Misty. I told him he shouldn't, and I told him it was a bad idea, and that he was just drunk, but he kept insisting. Eventually, I just left, and I slept in another Wonderbolt's room."
"So Misty was the murderer?" Spitfire questioned nervously.
Rapidfire answered, "I'm just saying what I observed. She was with him all night on the day that he died. She must have played some role in his death."
Spitfire pondered for a moment. All her uncertainty boiled into anger, and all her confusion turned into dennial. "I'm suppose to believe this?!" she snarled.
Rapidfire replied, "Well, It's what I saw."
Spitfire shook her head in disgust. She was skeptical, her face turned red, and she replied with disbelief. "First, you're expecting me to believe Sky Screamer—A pony who always told the truth—is a liar. Then you're expecting me to believe Soarin'—who was a responsible Wonderbolt for as long as I knew him—drank himself silly, and cheated on me. And, you're expecting me to believe Misty slept with Soarin', then killed him, and cut his body into several pieces?! I might not like her, but I know she's not a psychopath! Maybe what Sky Screamer said is true, and you're just lying to me! Something's wrong with you! You need help."
Rapidfire stuttered, "I'm just saying that..."
"I don't want to hear anymore! You're just trying to hurt me; this is tough enough without being lied to," Spitfire interrupted.
Rapidfire attempted to speak. "But..."
"Just go away!" Spitfire ordered.
Rapidfire stuttered again. "But..."
"GET OUT!" she shouted.
Rapidfire had given up on trying to speak to Spitfire while she was angry. He held his head low, and walked out in shame. Spitfire slammed the door shut behind him, and began crying once she was alone.