The world felt like it had exploded around her. Suddenly, needles of ice punctured her lungs. The metallic taste of blood tinged her lips and for some reason she was burning alive. In the distance she could hear sirens wailing and terse, anxious voices barking out orders and choppy directions. None of them made any sense and she was being eaten from the inside out with fear. Scootaloo struggled to even remember what had happened that had led to this, but her thoughts were sluggish and she couldn’t seem to collect them.
Only once the world came to a shuddering halt did she realize that she was in an ambulance. Before she could invest in the thought, she felt herself slip from consciousness and she was plunged into complete darkness. It didn’t last long - or it didn’t seem to. What felt like seconds later she opened her eyes and tried to sit up with a start. Her entire body was convulsing and trembling, but she could feel her heartbeat raging away within her frail chest.
A strong set of hooves pushed her gently back down, and as she tossed her head wildly to see who was confining her, the will to fight disappeared. “R-rainbow…d-d-dash…” she managed, her teeth clattering so hard she quickly gave up on attempting more than that. The mare looked down at her with tears in her eyes, but was smiling despite being just as scared as the filly. “Calm down kiddo, take it easy for me…that’s right, that’s my girl…”
A nurse entered the room, followed by other familiar faces. “Scootaloo!” “Oh Scoot! Are you ok?!” Both of them were pulled away by their older sisters as the rest of the visitors filed in slowly. “Applebloom, she’s gotta rest now. Yer friend had a pretty close call…” For once, Rarity agreed, pulling Sweetie Belle close to her. “I should say so. Why did you girls never tell us she had been living in that tiny little clubhouse?” Both of the filly’s lowered their heads, guilt surging within their voices. “We never knew…” “Ah…ah never asked…”
As the nurse administered the vital warmth the young Pegasus needed, the trembling began to subside. Slowly she found her voice and used it now to say the hardest thing she had ever brought herself to. “It wasn’t their fault. I-it’s mine…I was ashamed. I was scared of being taken back to the orphanage if anypony knew…so I…I lied to everypony. I was scared of saying goodbye…”
The room went quiet as it sunk in. She could see on each of their faces that they could not bring themselves to simply accept that answer. “I should have known.” “I should have done something.” Although unspoken, Scootaloo could see it in their faces. Only one of them spoke aloud, but it was not what she had expected to hear. “I’m leaving. This is something I shoulda done a long time ago.”
Her eyes widened as she turned to face the voice of her mentor. “R-rainbow Dash, no, please!” The sudden distress caused her breathing to hitch, and she was taken by a fit of coughing. Without being able to say another word, she could only watch as the pony she looked up to the most got up and left the room.
The action had taken even her friends aback, and Fluttershy rushed after her to see what was the meaning of the outburst. The others merely talked amongst themselves, frightened of further upsetting the delicate health of the filly. They took it gradually outside, leaving Scootaloo alone with the nurse. Even her closest friends had been dragged away to leave her. This had to be a nightmare.
Nurse Redheart frowned, her eyes filled with a quiet sympathy. She tried to lift her patient’s spirits as she continued to work on gradually reintroducing warmth back into her tiny body. “I’m sure there’s just a misunderstanding, dear. Your friends are just outside discussing important things right now - but I’m sure they’ll be back to visit once you’re stable.” The word caused Scootaloo to break from her sad reverie and realize that her body still felt as though it was overly warm. “W-what happened?” Nurse Redheart stopped and considered whether it was a wise idea telling the filly of how close a call she had had. Delicately, she tried to make it so she would understand.
“Sweetheart, they couldn’t wake you up. After your friends went home, I think one of them got worried and said something to their sister about not having seen you outside of that little clubhouse for some time. It was enough to call a search party, and about an hour ago - Rainbow Dash found you curled up on the floor. She couldn’t wake you, so she flew for help. If she hadn’t found you - you wouldn’t be here right now.” She then moved close and tucked in the thick blanket close around the tiny Pegasus’s wings. “They call it hypothermia. The temperature dropped so suddenly, and you were only wrapped in a thin blanket. You got too cold too quickly and it’s very dangerous. I can honestly say that I’m grateful that you’re alive and awake to be here right now.”
Scootaloo said nothing, but rolled over. It was so much to take in. It was so much to handle and she was so exhausted. The nurse didn’t disturb her anymore with the rest of the details, but the mare did lean down to gently kiss the top of her head. “Get some sleep…goodnight, Scootaloo.” The nurse walked to the door and gave one look back before turning off the lights and shutting it quietly, leaving the little filly to fall into fitful slumber.
Morning brought with it a new world. Scootaloo slowly opened her eyes and took a deep breath, grateful her lungs had stopped burning. The room came into focus gradually and she found herself staring at something foreign. Rainbow Dash had come in sometime during the night and fallen asleep. The mare was curled up on a small sofa in the corner of the room, surrounded by flowers and gifts her friends had asked her to bring. The morning light caused her to stir, and a soft groan drifted from her as she opened her wings and stretched. It was then she noticed Scootaloo watching, and she moved to the bedside. “Good morning.”
Scootaloo lowered her gaze and braced herself for the lecture she was sure was coming. Rainbow Dash had been woken up in the middle of the night to go look for her in the cold. She had had to deal with her stupidity at not knowing better, for not being more careful. She could hear her fears as loudly as if they had already been spoken, and dreaded the stark reality she had woken up to. The world was about to change.
The words never came though. Rainbow didn’t launch into a long winded lecture, or start yelling at the filly. She did not scream at her at how stupid and useless she had been, nor how the unloved should be shut away. Instead, a gentle hoof took her own and Rainbow spoke quietly. “I’m sorry…about last night. I was angry at myself. I’ve done a lot of stupid things. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’m going to try to start fixing them though, starting right now. Scootaloo,” she gently took the filly’s chin and made her look up at her. Rainbow smiled and took a deep breath before finishing what she had begun. “How would you feel…about…about moving in with me? About me adopting you? Last night made me think about a lot of things long and hard. I was so scared of losing you, we all were. So if you want to…if you can forgive me for being so slow, you never have to be alone again. You can come home.”
It took a few seconds before it sank in, but the filly answered without words. Tears brimmed, hot and unbidden with joy as a relieved sob broke from her and she hugged Rainbow as tightly as she could. The mare didn’t push her away. She would never push her away, and she would never wake up alone. “This is the beginning of the rest of your life, kiddo. I promise to make it an adventure as long as I can.”
Through the tears, she opened her eyes. She could see Applebloom and Sweetie Belle standing there, both of them just as overwhelmed as she was with emotion. Behind them their sisters and the other mares stood, all relieved and thankful that the nightmare had ended. All of them were there, and for a moment someone she didn’t recognize. It had been an old gray mare passing by with a smile on her face. She was there and gone, leaving the filly to the happy moment.
Later that day, the adoption papers were signed and officiated. Scootaloo was released from the hospital a few days later. As she walked out with her new guardian by her side, an old gray mare watched from the hospital window. Sad brown eyes closed, and a tear slid down her cheek to meet her smile. The filly would never again see her, but she would remember her. She would be the one who chose all the pains and sorrows of life so that every moment of happiness and joy was her own little piece of heaven that she would never have to wake up from again.