Even after Pinkie's incessant attempts to assure her everything would be okay, none of the events that morning sat well with Rainbow Dash. She had been taking care of Scootaloo more than long enough to know when she was hiding something. Dash didn't intend to push the issue, though.
I'll let her tell me when she's ready, the pegasus decided. For now I just need to get to the bottom of what's happening. Things just aren't adding up. This was easier said than done, though. The library was closed when Rainbow Dash went to find Twilight, with a note on the door saying that she would be away on "official Canterlot business" for a while. She must be with the Princesses trying to figure out this mess. It's strange that she didn't tell us that she was leaving, though...
The rest of the day passed without incident, or as close to without incident you could get considering the circumstances. It took a bit longer than normal to clear the clouds out of the sky, thanks to the fact that half of the weather team had been incapacitated by various wishes, and several ponies had wished for rain for their gardens. After trying everything they knew to get rid of the rain clouds, they figured out that the wishes only required the rain to fall on whatever the wish specified, which meant that they could leave a single raincloud over each of the gardens in question and new ones would stop popping into existence. They couldn't clear the sky completely, but it was close enough. Before Rainbow Dash knew it, the day's work was over, and it was just about time to get ready for dinner. She decided to just get take out to avoid having to cook. It had been a rough day, but she looked forward to a relaxing evening at home with her sister. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for that plan.
Scootaloo didn't come home for dinner. This didn't exactly worry Rainbow Dash at first; Scootaloo has been out late with the Crusaders plenty of times. Then the sun set, and the situation became increasingly worrying.
Something's wrong, Dash concluded. She would have at least stopped by to tell me if she was spending the night somewhere else. Combine that with her behavior today and how messed up the town is... Taking off into the moonlit night, the pegasus made a beeline for the Crusader's clubhouse.
"Scootaloo, where were you today?"
"I was at the clubhouse, Dad."
"And what were you doing there?"
"I was hanging out with the Crusaders, same as usual."
"Don't lie to me. I've talked with both Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle's families today, and neither of them were at the clubhouse. I'll ask you again. What were you doing there today?"
"I was... holding a meeting."
"A meeting for what?"
"The Rainbow Dash... Fan Club..."
"Rainbow Dash again? How many times have I told you to stop chasing after that mare? It's not good for you."
"And why is that? Rainbow Dash is the best flier in Ponyville! If I ever want to learn how to do it right, I need to watch her!"
"And just look at the example she sets! Remember when she got it into her head that she was a superhero?"
"Yeah, I remember. She saved a lot of ponies' lives!"
"Not without risking her own life and the lives of those around her with her showboating. If it weren't for that Mare-Do-Well pony, lots of ponies could have gotten hurt, or worse!"
"No buts. That pony is lazy, irresponsible, egotistical, and shortsighted. Is that really the way you want to be when you grow up?"
"She's not a bad pony, Dad!"
"Look, I just want you to stay away from her for now. No more fan club meetings, either."
"If you can't see why, Scootaloo, then you need to open your eyes..."
For the second day in a row, Scootaloo woke up in an unfamiliar bed.
"Oh, look who finally decided to open their eyes."
Sitting up and rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Scootaloo looked to the end of the bed to see her new sister standing there, smiling at her.
"Rainbow Dash? What happened? Where am I?"
"You are currently in Ponyville General Hospital," answered a voice from the far end of the room. An older, gray unicorn stallion wearing a white coat approached the bedside, holding a clipboard and pen with magic. "You were brought here last night by your sister, completely unresponsive. She hasn't left your side since."
"And I don't plan on it any time soon," the blue mare affirmed. "Hey, doc. Now that she's awake, could you give us some privacy? I need to talk to her alone."
"Not a problem. Just make sure you alert someone if her conditions changes at all. I'll be back to run some tests later, and if all is well she'll be cleared for release this evening."
"Sounds great! Thanks!" Rainbow Dash said as the doctor left the room. Once the door closed behind the stallion, she turned back to Scootaloo, and the smile faded from her face. It was then that the filly noticed how worn out the mare looked. Her multicolored mane was a mess, and large dark circles were present under her eyes.
She must not have slept at all last night, Scootaloo realized. The doctor said she's been here the whole time, too...
"Hey, Scoots," Dash said, breaking the awkward silence. "I'm going to ask you a serious question, I want you to be completely honest with me." The younger pony braced herself for the question, certain that it would be about her wish. "Am... Am I a good sister?"
"Ever since I- we left Cloudsdale years ago, some ponies thought I was making a big mistake. They said I was too irresponsible, and that we wouldn't make it. Back then, I probably was. I put my all into proving them wrong, though. I brought us here, worked hard to make sure things were stable, and made plenty of friends. Heck, I even managed to help save the world! Twice! I thought I had everything worked out. Now... I'm not so sure..." Rainbow Dash gazed out the window on the opposite side of the room for a moment before turning back and looking her sister dead in the eyes. "I need to know whether I made the right choice or not. Whether or not I've been doing the right thing all these years. Have I been a good sister?"
She's blaming herself for all of this... Scootaloo stared at the older pegasus in stunned silence. She had no idea how to even respond to the question. I don't even remember the same life she does, so what am I supposed to tell her?
"It's okay. If you can't tell me, then I already know the ans-"
"No!" The orange filly shouted in frustration, silencing Rainbow Dash mid-sentence. "You haven't done anything wrong! I'm the one who's ruining everything..." Tears began to blur Scootaloo's vision. She couldn't take it anymore. She's just another victim of this stupid wish, same as Mom and Dad... Just thinking about what she had discovered the night before left her feeling helpless. Broken. Nothing was real anymore. She closed her eyes, wishing that the nightmare would end.
Something soft and warm wrapped itself around Scootaloo's body. Opening her eyes again, she saw that it was Rainbow Dash, embracing her with a wing.
"I'm sorry..." the filly whispered.
"For what? Wishing for something stupid? I know you wished for something, you can't hide that, but I don't care what you actually wished for. You're safe, and we're together. That's what really matters. Besides," Rainbow Dash chuckled, "I wasted my wish on a pair of dumb tickets, and Applejack next door wished herself right into that hospital bed. How do you think we feel?"
"At least you got something cool out of yours..." And I guess I got something cool out of mine, too... Scootaloo realized, pressing herself closer to her sister. "Can... Can we stay like this for a while longer? This is nice..."
"Sure thing, Scoots."
Two ponies, a light brown earth pony mare and a blue unicorn stallion, were sitting together in the park, seemingly unaware of the young pegasus watching them at a distance in the shade of a tree. It had taken Scootaloo the better part of the last three days, but she had finally been able to track down Willow Wind, her mother.
At least, the pony who used to be my mother, she reminded herself as she continued to observe the couple. From what she had been able to gather, Willow Wind was happily engaged to the stallion accompanying her, and was leading a perfectly normal life in Ponyvile. The experience gained in the time Scootaloo had spent snooping around for the Foal Free Press made digging up that kind of info much easier than it otherwise would have been. It was a great relief to finally confirm the conclusions she had come to shortly after being discharged from the hospital. Nopony's lives are really any worse off thanks to my wish, they're just different.
With the knowledge that the only pony really hurt by her wish was herself, Scootaloo sat down under the tree, finally able relax and reflect on the past few days. The barrage of ponies asking about what happened once she had left the hospital had caught her off guard. At first she thought that half the town seemed to know about the incident. Turns out she wasn't that far off.
"You see, the first place I looked for you was at the clubhouse," Rainbow Dash had later explained. "Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle were there, getting ready for a night of stargazing. When they told me that you were supposed to be there, but they hadn't seen you since early that afternoon, I knew for sure something bad had happened. I pulled together a search party and we combed the area. Eventually we found you in that clearing."
At least Twilight never showed for stargazing, either, so I didn't miss much. Scootaloo leaned back and closed her eyes. It was a good feeling, finally having everything sorted out, eager for what the future might bring. The sun was bright, the birds were singing, and everything was right with the world. Today was the first day of the rest of her life...
"Um, excuse me?" A familiar voice asked, snapping Scootaloo out of her contented stupor. She looked up to see Willow Wind standing over her, and her heart nearly skipped a beat. "I couldn't help but notice that you were watching my fiancé and I earlier. If you have something to say to us, go ahead and say it. Don't just stare."
She always was able to pick out the smallest details... "Oh, uh, sorry about that. It's nothing, really. You just... remind me of somepony I knew..."
"I see... Tell me, what's your name? I feel like I've seen you before..."
"Scootaloo. You've probably just, uh, seen me around town. I'm always out and about."
"Scootaloo... That's a nice name. I almost wish I had thought of it myself." the mare said, the stern look on her face softening to a slight smile. "Well, Scootaloo, try to not to spy on ponies like that next time. It's quite rude."
"Yes, Mo- ma'am. Won't happen again." The filly cringed as she almost slipped up. Talking to her mother-who-was-no-longer-her-mother was an extremely awkward experience.
"I'll hold you to that. Be good now!" As Willow turned and trotted away, she hummed a few notes of a song Scootaloo had heard many times before.
She used to sing that song to me when I couldn't sleep... Does she remember? It became obvious to the young pegasus that sitting around and thinking wasn't going to cut it. She just wanted to clear her head and move on, to forget about the way things used to be, because now things never were that way to begin with. When it came to clearing her head, though, Scootaloo knew exactly what to do.
Soon she was on her scooter, going nowhere in particular. It had been a long time since she had just rode around for fun. It always felt like she had someplace to be, or sompony to meet. She rode over the gently rolling, grassy slopes of the park, attempting to build up speed as the rhythmic buzz of her wings filled her head. Reaching a particularly steep slope, she crouched down and put as much energy as she could into the climb. The scooter rocketed over the crest of the hill, it's momentum carrying the filly off the ground and into the open air above. The world around her seemed to slow to a crawl, and Scootaloo closed her eyes, focusing on the air moving over her wings. For this one moment in time, she was flying. A tilt of the head. A tweak of the wings. Every part of the body worked together in an intricately choreographed dance to stay aloft. With a little effort, the pegasus leaned to the right, and her trajectory turned. She imagined Rainbow Dash performing one of her stunt routines, pulling off hairpin turns like they were nothing. It wasn't anything nearly as impressive as that, but it felt amazing nonetheless. The moment couldn't last forever, though, and the filly began to quickly descend. She opened her eyes and leveled the scooter with the ground, preparing to complete her airborne turn. Upon touching down, Scootaloo immediately shifted her wings to push forward and down, rather than up. Grass was slippery, and she needed all of the traction she could get to stick the landing. She still slid sideways for a moment, but quickly regained control and rocketed off toward home.
"Yes!" The orange filly shouted to the wind after the successful landing, her heart racing with excitement. She pushed herself to go faster, aiming for every bump in the path, every log on the side of the road. With each obstacle, she attempted a different trick, from a simple spin of the scooter beneath her, to grinding down a fallen tree. The stunts required her full concentration. There was no room to think of anything else. Before she knew it, though, she arrived back home. With one last burst of speed, Scootaloo pushed her way up the cloud ramp, finally slowing to a stop once she reached the balcony. Leaning the scooter against the railing, she fell over on to the soft ground exhausted, but with a wide grin on her face.
"Hello, Scootaloo. It's been a long time."
The voice nearly caused the filly to jump out of her skin. Leaping to her hooves, she turned to see two pegasi standing on the balcony with her. The mare who spoke was a dark blue mare with a striking white mane, and she was accompanied by sandy brown stallion with a red mane. Their sudden appearance caused a plethora of questions to race through the young pony's head.
"Who are you? What are you doing in our house? How do you know my name?"
"Come now, Scootaloo," the stallion said with a smile. "Don't you recognize your own parents?"