ROARING LIKE A STORM // MLP:FiM

Lightning Storm is a winged, who rule the skies, and yet she had become afraid of flying - or rather, afraid to fall as she had once before. This is her story. [MLP:Fim human au, separate from Equestria Girls.]

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2. Ch.2

Starlight had told Storm that admitting fear was a form of bravery in some ways. It was funny, Starlight thought, that she was the one giving advice when she was the one who had needed advice, all those years ago.

But Storm had been afraid and had been afraid to even admit it, having seen herself as a coward after leaving the Wonderbolts. It was something about broken wings and broken pride, but Starlight thought that there were more important things than pride when it boiled down to it.

Starlight had told Storm that there was bravery in admitting fear. In the time that Starlight had befriended Storm - a meager few months - she had found very little about Storm in terms of personal things.

Almost as if she had erased everything about herself, trying to forget her self perceived cowardice and start anew where no one knew anything about her.

(Like me, Starlight thinks. She's like me. Scared and lonely and looking for forgiveness.)

It is Soren who tells her why the Wonderbolts as a team were so important to Storm, although that is only a small part of Storm's story. "It would have been her," Soren says. "As captain, I mean, if she hadn't stepped down for Spitfire."

"What about you?" Even Starlight knows by now that Soren is the vice captain of the Wonderbolts, despite her general aversion of the mainstream.

Soren sighs - he seemed to be doing a lot of that recently - and it almost looks like he's drooping under the heavy weight of his wings. "I don't know, really. I like to think that I might have still ended up here, but probably not." (Soren, too, seemed to have an air of melancholy about him, more weary and tired than Storm's. Like he was used to living with it.)

"You still might have." It was a poor attempt at comfort, but Starlight liked to think she was still learning, as she always was. "She said you were friends, then." Starlight hesitates for a moment, wondering if she's overstepping her boundaries here. "Aren't you still?"

"I suppose, but we lost touch a while after she left."

It is clear, at least to Starlight, that Soren was the one the team cared least about, in his drooping posture and sad eyes and nonchalance about all this strife that'd been happening around the Wonderbolts lately. About all the strife that's been happening within the team, too, like they'd forgotten the time when they had been new and bright eyed and excited for every show.

(Starlight thinks of the photo Storm had shown her of the original team. They had all looked so young. It wasn't of their first day, Storm had told her, but the day of their first show. Storm herself is dragging Soren into the picture by the collar of his flight jacket, and even then his eyes had those dark circles beneath them. But he looked so much happier, as did Storm. Starlight couldn't help but feel a twinge of pity for these past versions of them for not knowing what would become of themselves.)

***

Starlight finds Fleetfoot and Storm in the library, tucked into one of the many armchairs hidden between corners of bookshelves and walls. It is a hushed conversation for the most part, but Starlight could hear for herself that they were happy with each other's company. (Gal pals had been an ongoing joke among them, Soren had said, as it had been obvious they were much more than friends. But between the Wonderbolts being part of the military as an aerobatics group and their training for being assembled as an operational fighter unit (a precaution, Starlight was told) being together wasn't much of a possibility.)

They seem softer, somehow, in this moment. More like those younger versions of them, oblivious to the future and hopeful for it. And yet, Storm's motive for leaving had been selfish. Even Starlight could tell that Storm was fundamentally different from who she had been as a Wonderbolt: darker, somehow, and sharper.

Crueller, too, perhaps, for leaving the Wonderbolts behind without a word. She has heard Storm's disdain for the Reserves, heard her snide remarks about the Academy. Starlight isn't sure how much of it is what Storm truly felt and how much is the bitterness and anger bubbling to the surface.

She's a little afraid to ask. Storm was intimidating; closed off in a way that Starlight knew would be hard to get past. But she was vulnerable too, for all her faults. They were multiple, as were anyone else's.

Starlight can't help but feel bad for Storm, that she cannot get past this. It never boded well to hold on to things and stay bitter about it. She knows this firsthand, but Storm is trying, pathetically, to stay bitter and resentful. It is, maybe, some halfhearted attempt to convince herself not to go back.

But the Wonderbolts were here, and Storm could not ignore them forever.

Starlight manages to convince Rainbow Dash to give up her spot.

Rainbow is understandably reluctant, this show being among her first ones. Still, after a while of convincing, Starlight manages it.

Of course, Rainbow had been somewhat willing to do it already. Starlight hadn't been surprised; Storm was still remembered, at least among the Wonderbolt ranks. She had been forgotten by the public for the most part, apparently, which explained why Starlight had never heard of her until now. Then again, Starlight hadn't heard of most things until recently.

Rainbow had been absolutely appalled she hadn't heard of Storm, proclaiming that she was a living legend. Starlight raised an eyebrow at this. "You don't know anything about her either, do you?" If Rainbow's sheepish expression was anything to go by, she didn't. "Of course you don't."

"She's a mystery to just about everybody besides the Wonderbolts, Starlight," Rainbow Dash had pointed out. "Sun Chaser and Wind Waker don't know much of anything about her either. It's the older Wonderbolts who knew her best."

Did they really? Starlight wonders, remembering how angry they'd all been with Storm when she had left. It was true her reasons for leaving then had been selfish, and they are rightfully angry about it, but five years seemed an awfully long time to hold a grudge.

It was a recent wound, Starlight knew, that none of the Wonderbolts wanted to open up again. Sun Chaser, Wind Waker, and Rainbow were still too new to know anything about what had happened, or to resent someone they never knew as vehemently as the others did.

"It's a bit childish, isn't it?" Starlight says.

"I guess." Rainbow shrugs, nonchalant. "Like I said, though, the older Wonderbolts knew her best. I think they all have their reasons, even Storm."

Starlight sighs, resigned to the fact that Rainbow was right. "This is - was - her life. I can't imagine what it was like to lose that."

Rainbow laughs, raucous. "You're really trying to guilt me into this, aren't you? Damn, Starlight, chill. I'm doing it." She glances down the hallway for a moment, towards the double doors that led out to where Starlight knew Storm and Soren were talking. "Still, I'm talking to a legend here," Rainbow says. "I mean her Mark is literally based directly on the Wonderbolts. Like, how dedicated do you have to be for that?"

Starlight giggles at Rainbow's simultaneous excitement and nervousness. "Don't most of the Wonderbolts have Marks based on, well, being a Wonderbolt?"

"On flight, yeah, but not on being a Wonderbolt!" It is evident that Rainbow's excitement is starting to get the best of her, but Starlight is willing to put up with it if it meant finding something else out about Storm. "Her Mark is the Wonderbolts insignia on the female uniforms! She's trained for this her whole life," Rainbow continues, verging on waxing poetic about Storm.

"Her or you?" Starlight teases.

"Well, me too, but not nearly as long as Lightning Storm has. Her dad was the former captain of the last generation of Wonderbolts, so it was a given that she'd be a Wonderbolt, too!"

Starlight laughs, but she can't help but wonder: if Storm had been groomed to be a Wonderbolt since just about childhood, why wasn't she captain? Soren had said she had stepped down for Spitfire, but had never clarified if Storm simply gave up the opportunity for Spitfire or had been captain at one point and let Spitfire have the title.

"Hey, Starlight." Rainbow nudges her shoulder, bouncing on her heels. "I'm gonna do it!"

"Good luck," Starlight calls, ducking into the main room of the castle only to find one Princess Twilight Sparkle at the map.

Twilight is frowning somewhat, brow furrowed in concentration. "Starlight? Why are all the Wonderbolts and some-- some stranger in the castle?"

"About that," Starlight starts, before being interrupted again by Twilight.

"Wait, wait; is this what the map's been calling me for?"

"...I guess?" Starlight tilts her head questioningly, wondering what's gotten into Twilight to make her so anxious. "Storm - that stranger - is a former Wonderbolt; she left because of some accident and it caused a rift between her and the other Wonderbolts."

"Ah." Twilight nods, finally leaving the map. "I heard about that when it happened. The Reserves had been formed a bit before she left, and Fire Streak retired four years after that," she explains, clearly having done her research. "Five years is an awfully long time to mull over such a selfish decision, though." Starlight must have a startled expression on her face at Twilight's casual slander of Storm's decision, because she continues on: "Starlight, there's an extent to empathizing with a decision like that. Lightning Storm left at the cost of the Wonderbolts. It wasn't just her losing something."

Starlight sighs, resigned. "I know, but--"

"But her at the present moment reminds you of yourself?" Twilight's ability to finish her thoughts had always uncanny, but over the years she had gotten better. "She's changed, clearly. She regrets her decision more than she had when she made it." Twilight looks her in the eye and continues, "Not everyone deserves a second chance, Starlight. Remember that."

You gave me one, Starlight thinks, knowing that Twilight must know what she is thinking. I committed things against people that were far worse than what Storm did.

It's an odd sort of logic, but Starlight knew that once you'd hurt someone, you never got to decide you didn't.

The Summer Sun Celebration is fast approaching, and everyone is frantic to prepare, Twilight especially.

"Oh, it feels so long ago that I came here and met you all!" Twilight exclaims, clasping her hands together.

"Of course, you wanted to recover the Elements and defeat Nightmare Moon yourself," Applejack teases as she passes by, "but sure, good times, Twi."

Rainbow was off with Storm, having to teach her the modified version of a years old routine. She had jumped at the chance, ecstatic to be able to say she had taught a Wonderbolt something. For all that Wonderbolts were supposed to be level headed, Rainbow was still as excited about them as ever. She had managed to keep her excitement - and her arrogance - in check over the past year, fortunately.

Finally, Twilight turns to her and says, "Starlight, you wouldn't happen to be behind Storm snagging a spot in the Wonderbolts' performance at the Celebration?"

Starlight hesitates, but eventually gives in to Twilight's sharp stare. "Somewhat...? It was Rainbow's idea first, really." On Twilight's raised eyebrow and continued stare she goes on, "Okay, mostly my idea. But I think it's a step towards closing that rift between her and the Wonderbolts!"

Twilight sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose. "It's more of a canyon at this point, but you're right in that it'll close that at least to a rift."

"Five years is a long time to hold a grudge."

"And to decide how selfish her decision was," Twilight reminds her, ever persistent in her teachings. "It was selfish and childish to leave over something like a severely broken pair of wings."

"Well, the Wonderbolts did make up her life for twenty years, and she's a winged. It makes sense that she'd be devastated over possibly not being able to fly anymore," Starlight points out, adamant in giving Storm the benefit of doubt.

"I suppose," Twilight admits. "Still, the other Wonderbolts are rightfully angry with her and her decision."

***

The Wonderbolts' performance was due to start when the sun reached its apex, starting with the Wonderbolts shooting out from the stage.

But they cannot find Lightning Storm.

"Rainbow!" Starlight yanks Rainbow Dash back by her shoulder with such force that even she is surprised by her sudden burst of strength. "Have you seen Storm?!"

"Nope!" Rainbow scuttles back a little, eyes wide. "She said she'd head towards the stage!"

Starlight curses, angry that she had thought Storm wouldn't try and run again. That she thought Storm deserved a second chance.

She is yanked in between two tents suddenly when she is passing by, and she stumbles sideways from the force. "Who--?" She pauses when she realizes it is Storm who pulled her here, and is surprised to find that Storm actually looks sorry. Her surprise quickly turns to anger.

"We've been looking for you everywhere!" Starlight snaps, anxious and angry.

"I know, I know," Storm cuts in, "and I'm sorry for that--"

"Are you really?" she says accusingly, cruelly; Storm flinches back visibly, nails digging into her palms.

"I am," Storm says, gaze flickering down, wings tucked into a too tight space. "Truly, and I-- I know what I did was...it was unforgivable, and selfish and--" Tears threaten to spill, and she hurries to wipe them before continuing. "It was a stupid decision. I hurt too many of them with it, Fleetfoot especially."

"Well, your apology is useless to me," Starlight says icily. "Save it for the Wonderbolts. And Fleetfoot," she adds more gently, before leading them both back to the stage.

The curtain is still closed when they arrive. No one acknowledges them except for the support personnel who push Storm to her position in the lineup. Starlight doesn't miss the guilty glance Fleetfoot gives Storm from across the stage, or the apologetic one Storm gives in return.

The curtain opens.

The sun shatters over the horizon, and they fly.

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