Standard disclaimer: This is a not for profit fan work. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is copyright Hasbro, Inc. I make no claim to any copyrighted material mentioned herein.
“That will never work,” Apple Bloom said.
Three frustrated fillies sat in their clubhouse, sitting around a piece of paper. A few phrases were written on the paper, but it was mostly covered with scratched-out sentences. A few crumpled paper balls were pushed into one corner, more evidence of their lack of progress.
“Come on, we can't be running out of ideas already!” Scootaloo urged.
“I know, let's have a sleepover!” Sweetie Belle suggested.
“How's that gonna get us our cutie marks?” Apple Bloom asked.
“It probably won't,” Sweetie Belle admitted. “But it will be fun!”
“So where? Your sister's place?” said Apple Bloom.
“No go. Rarity has a huge order. She'd kick us out faster than last month's fashion!” Sweetie Belle replied.
“We could spend the night here, in the clubhouse!” Scootaloo suggested.
“Applejack says we can't do that. She's too afraid it might collapse in the middle of the night,” Apple Bloom said.
“And I don't want to wake up before sunrise to do chores!” Sweetie Belle complained.
“Your parents?” Apple Bloom asked Sweetie Belle.
“On vacation. Again.”
Sweetie Belle turned to Scootaloo. “Why don't we sleep over at your place?”
Scootaloo scratched her mane nervously. “That wouldn't work. My parents are always busy. Super busy,” she said quickly.
Apple Bloom stared at Scootaloo. “We never go to your place.”
The pegasus took a step back. “Look, we will, someday, but... it just won't work today. Trust me. Meanwhile, maybe we should take up Zecora's suggestion to help her collect herbs.”
“But Ah thought you hated that!” Apple Bloom said.
“And it's so creepy and dirty!” Sweetie Belle added.
“Look, girls, it might not be fun and exciting like parachuting, but we haven't tried it. So let's just meet outside Fluttershy's cottage in the morning.” Scootaloo grabbed her helmet. “I'm going to get a good night's sleep.”
As Apple Bloom pouted at the prospect of the evening ending so soon, Sweetie Belle stood up as well. “Hey, Scootaloo, can you give me a ride back to town?” she asked.
“Sure thing!” Scootaloo said.
The buzzing of Scootaloo's wings slowed as she pulled up to Carousel Boutique. She made a final turn, hoping to stop with the attached wagon right on the doorstep. She missed, but not by much.
“Be careful!” Sweetie Belle warned, as she removed her helmet. “You do NOT want to disturb my sister right now!”
Scootaloo nodded. She watched Sweetie Belle as she listened at the front door. “What's wrong?” she asked.
“I'm trying to see if I should use the front door or back door,” Sweetie Belle whispered. “Keep it down when you leave.”
Scootaloo waved goodbye. “I'll see you tomorrow.”
Using only her hooves to propel the scooter, Scootaloo departed quieter than normal. Once past the boutique, she stretched and flapped her wings. Focusing on the trip, she didn't notice the white unicorn filly following her.
Sweetie Belle was no runner. Even the short race course in the Sisterhooves Social winded her. Realistically, she had no chance of catching Scootaloo. Though the pegasus filly was slower on her scooter than a pegasus her age would be in the air, she was much faster than any galloping filly.
What she was able to do was get an idea of Scootaloo's direction. She wasn't heading towards any of the neighborhoods she knew. Rather, she was heading downtown.
The small collection of taller buildings that made up downtown Ponyville might be politely called “quaint” by a visiting Manehattanite, but they were strange and mysterious to Sweetie Belle. Sometimes Rarity went there, but Sweetie Belle didn't see any fabric shops. She passed the tallest building, five stories of brick and glass with the Rich family logo on it. “But they sell things! Where is the zap apple jam? Where is the hardware?” she wondered.
Focusing back on the task at hand, she searched for signs of the scooter's passing. The streets were covered in flagstones, meaning the telltale tracks through the mud weren't there. Aha! A puddle! The gas streetlights provided enough light to reveal two wet tracks trailing from the puddle. They looked like they were heading to an alley.
Sweetie Belle peeked into the alley, and recoiled from the smell. All sorts of refuse were stacked along the walls: crates, bottles, food waste, and other things she didn't want to think about. There was barely enough room for a single-pony cart to fit through. The unicorn filly paused and listened. All was quiet.
She hesitantly stepped into the alley. The shadows reached out to grasp her, but she proceeded. One, two, three more steps, each hooffall echoing off the brick walls. The light from the street or from Luna's moon occasionally revealed a new feature. There! A glint of red, from under an old burlap sack. Sweetie Belle lifted it with her hoof.
There, sitting hidden in a dirty alley, rested Scootaloo's scooter and wagon.
Suddenly, Sweetie Belle heard a rustling sound from further down the alley. She backed out of the alley as quietly as her hooves would let her, and then she dashed across the street. Hiding in the opposite alley, she watched the alley. A minute later, a stray cat slunk out of the shadows, a feral thing that was probably still kinder than Opalescence. The unicorn stayed in the shadows for another five uneventful minutes.
Tired and worried, Sweetie Belle walked home, lost in her thoughts.
Scootaloo slowed to a stop and leaned her scooter against the wall of Fluttershy's chicken coop. She looked to her fellow crusaders, who had arrived first, and smiled. “Ready to go?”
“Ah am!” said Apple Bloom.
Sweetie Belle nodded. She looked over and appraised her pegasus friend. “Are you ready to go?”
“Sure,” she replied.
Sweetie Belle opened her mouth to say something else, but was interrupted by Fluttershy's arrival. “Oh, no, I don't want you to go now. Please wait for Zecora to arrive, if you don't mind. I wouldn't want you three fillies to step into the scary Everfree Forest alone.”
“We're not afraid of anything,” Scootaloo boasted.
The woods behind them rustled, and a familiar zebra emerged. “But scared you should be. This is the Everfree,” Zecora warned.
“It's so nice to see you again,” Fluttershy told Zecora. “Please take good care of the fillies.”
Zecora looked over the Cutie Mark Crusaders. “Use your eyes, your ears, your mind, and wondrous herbs you will find. But be careful, do not act brash; the least you'll get is a nasty rash.”
“We'll be careful,” Sweetie Belle said. The three fillies smiled, the early morning sunlight somehow coalescing into halos above their heads.
With that, Zecora led the fillies along a narrow trail through the Everfree Forest. Almost immediately, they began plotting.
“If we harvest the flowers from the most dangerous plant in the Everfree, we're sure to get our cutie marks!” Scootaloo said.
“If you don't get eaten first,” Apple Bloom commented.
“We should find the best smelling herbs,” Sweetie Belle suggested.
“No, the most useful ones,” Apple Bloom countered.
“You fillies will go to my hut and read, before you seek a single seed,” Zecora rhymed.
“Awwww,” the fillies whined in harmony.
Zecora clapped her hooves to attract the three fillies' attention away from the masks and tools hanging in her hut. “In these journals I have made signs, noting plants both bad and benign. I caution you greatly to avoid these ten; they are the surest way for you to meet your end.”
The fillies, Apple Bloom in particular, gazed in wonderment at Zecora's hoofcrafted and hoofwritten journals. The natural paper of the journals was beige, weathered brown around the edges. Every part of each page was covered in detailed illustrations of plants, notes on the useful parts of each, advice on harvesting the components, and medicinal uses. Such a wealth of knowledge, and they were among the few to have seen it!
After an hour reading the journals, the fillies looked anxious to go. Zecora passed each of them a different tool useful for collecting herbs. “Tread carefully, my little fillies, and don't do anything silly. I will be there and be your guide, so come along and enjoy the ride,” Zecora said.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders dashed out of Zecora's hut, pursued by the zebra. Though excited, they carefully remained visible to their elder. With their quick study, and a few helpful hints from Zecora while they were the presence of useful plants, the fillies actually were relatively successful.
“Chamomile flowers! My sister loves those in her tea!” Sweetie Belle said.
“Willow bark? You said that was good for aches, right?” asked Apple Bloom.
“Hydra's hair! That's used to fight curses, right?” said Scootaloo.
Then, Scootaloo noticed something. She nudged her friends and pointed to a plant on a distant rise, fronds like golden sunlight captured in delicate solid form. “Is that what I think that is?” she whispered.
“I think it is!” Sweetie Belle confirmed.
“But Zecora's journal said arcanum bloom was rare!” Apple Bloom recalled.
“If we collect a really rare herb, we're sure to get our cutie marks!” Scootaloo said, smiling infectiously. All three fillies ran ahead.
Zecora looked up, a look of concern crossing her face. “Stop and wait right here! There's danger there, I fear!” she warned. Her warning came too late.
“I can see why you love this chamomile tea so much,” Twilight Sparkle said, setting down her teacup. The stress from having to create three extra lists this morning was already passing. She felt like she could just enjoy the environment of the quaint tea room of Ponyville's finest hotel, at least for the half hour allotted for such purposes on her daily schedule.
“I quite agree,” Rarity, Twilight Sparkle's teatime companion, said. She took a sip from her own teacup, enjoying the same herbal tea. “It's also quite helpful if you're having trouble getting to sleep.”
“Are you having trouble getting to sleep?” asked Twilight Sparkle worriedly.
“There are times when I'm in the middle of an order, and I can't stop my mind from designing or planning,” Rarity admitted, adjusting her fancy hat. “I think it gets worse when I'm otherwise distracted.”
Rarity nodded, and took another sip of tea.
“Does it bother you, the amount of time your sister spends in your care, instead of with your parents?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
“It can be a problem, but I understand why my parents are doing this. I probably shouldn't mention this, but....”
Behind the two mares, a hutch filled with fine china opened, and Pinkie Pie emerged, pointing her hoof at Rarity. “FOREVER!!!” she exclaimed sinisterly. Pinkie Pie's sudden appearance shocked the unicorn waiter, who lost control over the tray he was levitating. Two patrons suddenly found their coats stained by cream and dusted with sugar.
Rarity sighed. “I did make a promise never to talk about it. Sorry, Twilight.”
The hotel's manager, another unicorn, hurried to the scene. He apologized to the two patrons, and used his magic to clean them up. Pinkie Pie, apparently oblivious to the impact of her sudden appearance, turned to Twilight Sparkle. “Am I glad I found you, Twilight! Spike told me to find you and bring you back to the library! There's a weird strange sticky magic situation, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Zecora need your magic!”
Twilight Sparkle nodded. “I'll be right there. Sorry to cut our teatime short, Rarity.” With that, Twilight Sparkle's horn glowed, and she blinked out of existence.
“I'm coming too!” Rarity spoke to the now empty chair.
Twilight Sparkle rematerialized on the ground floor of the library, seeing Spike, Zecora, and a relatively familiar sight. The Cutie Mark Crusaders were stuck together again. This time, she noticed, they weren't glued to each other with tree sap. Instead, it looked like nothing was holding them together. However, the way they pulled against each other and the small cries that reflected their discomfort made it apparent the fillies were somehow attached. They were side to side, flanks stuck together. Apple Bloom was sandwiched between Sweetie Belle, on her left, and Scootaloo, on her right.
Twilight Sparkle inspected the fillies. They had a few scrapes, probably from learning to walk with twelve legs and three minds, but were otherwise unhurt. “If it isn't tree sap, then what happened?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
“This is not tree sap, you see, but something rather more tricky,” Zecora explained. “They sought the fronds of arcanum bloom, but missed the danger that did loom.”
“Sorry,” said Sweetie Belle.
Twilight Sparkle turned to the bookcase, and pulled a book off it with her magic. She flipped to the right page, reading a more scholarly report on arcanum bloom. “The essence of magic trapped in golden fronds... very rare... often found near other deadly plants, and can interact with them in unexpected manners....”
“Though words of warning I had spoke, these fillies found some Poison Joke,” Zecora said.
“We said we were sorry!” Apple Bloom pleaded.
“At least we got the arcanum bloom fronds,” said Scootaloo. “But no cutie marks,” she continued, sighing.
“I could see why that devious plant would have this effect on the Crusaders,” Twilight Sparkle said.
Zecora nodded. “These binds made up of magic weave, my mere potions cannot cleave. My tonic here can fight the herb, but must be combined with magic words.”
“A general purpose dispel magic ritual can drain the power granted by the arcanum bloom to the effects of the Poison Joke, and allow your potion to function as it should,” Twilight Sparkle said. “Go ahead and give them a potion, Zecora.”
After Scootaloo sipped the bitter brew, she looked to Twilight Sparkle. “What do you mean by general purpose dispel magic?”
“It means just that, dispelling all magic,” she replied. Scootaloo opened her mouth to speak again, but Twilight Sparkle's horn was already glowing. Warm magic encompassed the fillies.
“Ow, stop pulling!” Apple Bloom said.
With a sound like a spring rebounding, Scootaloo found herself freed from her magical binding. She dashed out of the library, slamming the door behind her.
As the spell faded, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom stepped away from each other, for the first time in nearly two hours. They looked at the space where their friend once stood. “What was that all about?” Apple Bloom asked.
Sweetie Belle looked around nervously. “I think Scootaloo's been hiding something big from us. And we can't just ignore it anymore.”
“How is that even possible?” Twilight Sparkle asked. Everypony was shocked after hearing about Sweetie Belle's discovery the previous night.
“I wondered that too. After thinking about it, I realized Scootaloo is really good at deflecting attention from herself,” Sweetie Belle said.
“Ah feel really bad we never realized she was hiding something,” Apple Bloom said.
“We're supposed to be her friends!” Sweetie Belle exclaimed.
“Don't feel bad, girls. A lot of adults will do the same thing when they don't want to reveal a secret. It is hard to see through a dedicated lie like that,” Twilight Sparkle said. “The best thing we can do for Scootaloo now is find her and talk to her.”
“I will see Fluttershy before returning to the Everfree. I will let her know that she should seek you three,” Zecora rhymed.
“Good idea,” Twilight Sparkle said. “We should all gather to let Scootaloo know we support her. Apple Bloom, is your sister in town today?”
“She's selling today. I'll find her.”
“Tell her to come to the hotel downtown,” Twilight Sparkle ordered. “I'll take Sweetie Belle there, and we should meet Rarity and Pinkie Pie along the way. But there's still one pony we really need to find.” The two fillies nodded.
“Spike, you're in charge of the library. If Rainbow Dash happens to stop by, tell her to meet us by the hotel downtown,” Twilight Sparkle called upstairs.
“Got it,” the dragon replied.
Twilight Sparkle and the two Crusaders stepped outside. Apple Bloom ran off towards the marketplace. The older unicorn looked to the sky. She waved down the passing mailmare. “Hey, Derpy!” she called.
Derpy flew down, skidding to a halt in front of Twilight Sparkle. She gave a wave and focused one eye on the unicorn. “Hi, Twilight!” she said cheerily.
“We need Rainbow Dash to meet us at the hotel downtown. It's very important. Can you spread the word to any weather pegasus you see?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
“Sure thing, Twilight!” The gray pegasus launched into the air, a bit unstably, and flew off.
A group of ponies consisting of Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Sweetie Belle had met up midway, and were now headed downtown. Their discussions were interrupted by Pinkie Pie calling, “Hey, Scootaloo!”
The pegasus filly was walking away from downtown, looking as if nothing special had happened that day. “Oh, hi, guys,” she said.
“Why'd you run off like that?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Um, you know, there's certain things you gotta do, alone, you know?” she replied nervously.
Four ponies stared at her.
“I had to go really bad, okay?” she yelled, blushing.
Sweetie Belle nodded. Rarity blushed. Pinkie Pie grinned. Twilight Sparkle, however, was unmoved. “Then why are you in this part of town?” she asked.
“Uhhhh,” Scootaloo muttered.
“Look, Scootaloo, it's important you stop lying to us,” Twilight Sparkle admonished her. “You have ponies that love you, and will help you, but we can't help you unless you're honest with us. Let's walk together, and you can talk about whatever you want.”
The group continued walking downtown. Scootaloo remained silent. Finally, they reached the hotel. Twilight Sparkle looked to the alley, then towards Sweetie Belle, who nodded. Twilight Sparkle got on her knees, lowering herself to Scootaloo's eye level. “Scootaloo, is there anything you'd like to tell us now?”
“I think tall buildings are neat?” she offered.
Twilight Sparkle looked to Sweetie Belle, who walked into the alley, a much less frightening prospect with Celestia's sun overhead. She removed the tarp she had found the previous night, and pulled out the Crusaders' wagon.
Scootaloo cast her gaze downward. Twilight Sparkle placed her hoof under the filly's chin and lifted her head. “Scootaloo, where do you live?” she asked sternly.
“I... don't have a house in Ponyville,” Scootaloo admitted.
Rarity rushed up to Scootaloo and embraced her. “Why didn't you say something, darling?”
“I... I couldn't.”
A clattering sound grew in volume. Apple Bloom was leading Applejack, her cart still laden with apples and baked goods. “Now where is that filly who needs help?” the older Apple asked.
“Right here,” Twilight Sparkle said.
“Ah want you to take a good look at this,” Applejack told Scootaloo, motioning to her cart. “That there cart is filled with goods that need to be sold. But that's not as important as helping a pony in need. Ah gladly left a busy marketplace to come here. But Ah don't cotton to a filly who lies.”
Scootaloo gulped. “Sure thing, Applejack.”
“You're going to sleep in a home tonight, Scootaloo,” Twilight Sparkle said. “Any of us would make room for you. But there's one pony who I think would be best for that task.”
As if on cue, a rainbow streak approached. Seconds later, Rainbow Dash landed next to Twilight Sparkle. “I came as soon as I got the message. What's going on?”
“Scootaloo's homeless!” Sweetie Belle blurted.
“What?” Rainbow Dash yelled. Her number one fan couldn't look at her idol. Rainbow Dash lifted her with her forelegs. “We can deal with all the official stuff later, but you are not going to be on the streets. I'm taking you to the coolest house in Ponyville.”
Scootaloo smiled. “You mean you're taking me to Sugarcube Corner?”
Rainbow Dash mussed the filly's mane. “No. I said coolest, not sweetest.”
Scootaloo giggled. “I'm just playing with you.”
“I knew that. Hey, want a lift to my cloud home?”
Scootaloo just grinned.
As Rainbow Dash climbed into the skies above Ponyville, Scootaloo couldn't stop smiling. In the back of the weather pony's mind, the unfamiliarity of this situation worried her. For now, she concentrated on the joy being felt by a filly who truly needed to feel happiness.
The rainbow-maned pegasus reached her cloud home, and flew a tight circle around it, letting her guest get a view of the rainbow fountains from all angles. Finally, she landed on the soft clouds of the front porch. Scootaloo hopped off, and bounced around on the clouds for a bit.
Rainbow Dash opened the front door. “Race you upstairs!” she called.
Scootaloo looked up, only to find Rainbow Dash already walking up the stairs. She knew the best young flier could have completed that trip by now in the air, but if she wanted to make it a hoof race, she'd take the opportunity. The filly ran forward, then between her idol's legs, hoping to trip her up. Her move succeeded, but Rainbow Dash recovered quickly. The mare took two steps, and then jumped over Scootaloo. From there, she easily reached the upper level of her house first.
“Rule #1, squirt: I always win.”
Scootaloo finished the ascent and looked into the room atop the stairs. Her idol's bedroom! She scanned the messy room. Wonderbolts posters, trophies, pictures of Rainbow Dash with her friends, a couple of Daring Do books. A couple of very fancy dresses rested in a corner of the room, crumpled and hopelessly wrinkled.
Rainbow Dash broke Scootaloo out of her reverie. “Ever been on a cloud bed before?”
Scootaloo shook her head. “Not in a while.”
Rainbow Dash picked up Scootaloo and gently tossed her onto the bed. The filly sank into the fluffy clouds. “This is so much better,” she spoke cheerily, before she got quiet. “Better than...” she said softly.
Rainbow Dash placed a foreleg over Scootaloo's shoulder. “I'm going to be honest, Scootaloo. I'm scared. I don't know what I'm doing here. I haven't had to deal with fillies since the time I was a filly, and based on those times, nopony should even trust me to be a foalsitter. There are town officials I'm going to have to talk to, and laws I'll need to look up. I barely know the laws regulating weather ponies!” Rainbow Dash chuckled.
Rainbow Dash looked at Scootaloo, a serious expression now on her face. “Until I know what to do, I'm going to make sure you're safe. You can have my bed. If you want to talk about anything, I'll listen. If you need anything, just ask.
“Now, are you hungry?”
Scootaloo nodded. “I hope you're as good a cook as you are a flyer!”
“Not a chance, squirt.”
When Rainbow Dash lifted into the air, Scootaloo carefully on her back, the ponies on the ground felt their spirits soar. But Scootaloo's secret was only partially revealed.
Twilight Sparkle conjured a scroll and quill. “Alright, girls, we've got a lot to do if we're going to help Scootaloo. I hope she'll be able to open up to Rainbow Dash, once she's safe and comfortable. But if she's been living a lie for this long, that may take time. So let's make a list of everything we can do.”
“Who are her parents? Do you know, Sweetie Belle? Apple Bloom?” Rarity asked.
“We've never met them,” Sweetie Belle admitted.
“Ah think she once said somethin' about relatives in Cloudsdale,” Apple Bloom recalled.
Everypony else shook their heads. “If nopony here knows, then who might?” Twilight Sparkle asked. “School? Town Hall?”
“I speak with the fillies' teacher on occasion, so I'll ask Cheerilee,” Rarity offered.
“And Ah have business at town hall. Ah'll ask to check the records,” said Applejack.
“And Rainbow Dash can follow Apple Bloom's lead in Cloudsdale!” Pinkie Pie suggested.
Twilight Sparkle added several lines of writing to her scroll. “Now, let's think of what we need to do to make Scootaloo feel comfortable.”
“We could throw a 'Happy New Home' party for Scootaloo!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed.
“Maybe when she's ready to talk about it, Pinkie,” Twilight suggested.
“I'm sure she'll be fine soon,” Rarity said. “She always has such a magnificent positive attitude, quite remarkable now that we know what she's been going through.”
“Then I'll make her the biggest cupcake ever! A ten cup cupcake!” Pinkie Pie said.
“She needs her scooter back,” Apple Bloom said.
Twilight Sparkle nodded. “That's a good idea. I hope Fluttershy notices it and brings it with her. Let's find anything else she owns as well.” She reviewed her list. “Pinkie Pie, baking. Applejack, town hall. Rarity, school. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, go with your sisters. I'll check the scene here and wait for Fluttershy. Report back to the library later today.”
Everypony nodded, and headed off to complete their tasks. Twilight Sparkle headed into the unpleasant alley, looking for Scootaloo's other belongings. Her horn glowing, she shifted around the detritus of the alley; she was glad she didn't have to handle it with her hooves. After a few minutes, she uncovered two crates stacked next to each other. Moving aside one, the other revealed a few empty bottles and an old blanket, its color very similar to Scootaloo's coat.
Twilight Sparkle paused. Sadness overcame her as she pondered what this revelation meant. Scootaloo had been in Ponyville for more than a year. If she had been hiding here the entire time, that meant she had spent the winter with only these meager protections from the elements. Twilight Sparkle picked up the blanket and cradled it. Then, she sneezed. And sneezed again.
The old blanket's musty smell did not agree with Twilight Sparkle's nose. Her sneezing fit lasted nearly a minute after she dropped the blanket. Distracted from her list, the day's facts and impressions filled her mind. No matter how much she thought about them, they couldn't fit into the neat compartments she expected them to fill.
Twilight Sparkle concentrated on her magic, conjuring a deerstalker hat upon her head. No matter how silly it still sounded to her, ever since Pinkie Pie had introduced the headgear to her on that train ride to Canterlot, she found it helped her work out any mystery she encountered.
That blanket. Sneezing. Illness. Flu. Twilight Sparkle had been sick with the flu for a week the previous winter. She had barely gotten out of bed during that time. When she had finally recovered, her bed sheets and blanket were in desperate need of washing. That smell, that powerful smell of unwashed pony. It was missing from the blanket.
Scootaloo being homeless. That's what Sweetie Belle blurted out. But Scootaloo had said something different. She didn't have a house... in Ponyville. Twilight Sparkle hadn't asked her where she lived in Ponyville. She asked where she lived. What Scootaloo said was probably 100% true, something even Applejack, the Element of Honesty, would agree was fact. But the more she thought about it, the more Scootaloo's statement sounded like it was designed to hide something.
Twilight Sparkle paced the alley, thinking. Scootaloo had been good at deflecting attention from herself, which is how they agreed she got away with this lie for so long. The more she thought about possible details everypony missed, details that would have given away her condition, the more her inability to come up with these details bothered her. She conjured another scroll and started writing. Scootaloo was the normal size for a filly her age, though her wings were small. She never appeared unusually hungry. She was always clean, save for the occasional Crusader mishap; Twilight Sparkle couldn't remember a time when she had that unwashed pony smell. She had a normal personality, and was as well-adjusted as anypony.
As Twilight Sparkle paced and wrote, she accidentally kicked what she had thought to be Scootaloo's crate, moving it slightly. There was something behind it. Moving the crate aside revealed a half-size door, the kind often used to seal off an attic or crawlspace. Twilight Sparkle couldn't remember seeing a door like that on the exterior of any building, even on a wall bordering an alley. She tested the door; it was locked. Her horn glowed as she prepared a simple teleportation spell, transporting herself to the other side of the door.
The magic dissipated, and Twilight Sparkle's hooves reappeared on the ground behind the small door. At least, they would have, had there been a floor there. She fell, her rump impacting a steep staircase, and she slid down these stairs ingloriously.
Twilight Sparkle got to her hooves, and checked her body. Finding nothing more injured than her ego, she lit her horn, bright light filling an undecorated basement area. Two doors led out of the room, one straight ahead, one to the right.
She dimmed her horn, and tried the door ahead. Beyond was a carpeted hallway, walls finished with fine wallpaper, brass fixtures glowing with magical light. She recognized it immediately; that was the design of the hotel where she was drinking tea just an hour earlier. Twilight Sparkle closed the door before anypony noticed her.
Twilight Sparkle then turned to the other door. Locked. Having learned her lesson, she wove a simple personal levitation spell before teleporting to the other side of the door. The precaution turned out to be unnecessary. The room she now found herself in was small, poorly lit by two small windows near the room's ceiling. Lighting her horn again, she finally got a good view of the room. It looked like an apartment. It was very small, but it was laid out like a one room efficiency. A bed in one corner, a small chest of drawers, a table with one chair, a small icebox, a stove with two burners, and another door that presumably led to a bathroom.
She then scanned the room for personal items. A few books. She recognized them as schoolbooks. A picture atop the chest of drawers. It showed three unfamiliar pegasi. The mare had a vibrant red coat and an orange and purple mane. The stallion's coat was orange, with a yellow mane. The filly in the picture, almost certainly their daughter, had an orange coat with red points and red on the tips of her feathers. Her mane was her father's yellow, with a purple streak from her mother.
Twilight Sparkle turned back to the picture. She stared at the filly's face. Nothing else was right, but she recognized the smile, the mirth in her eyes. She then turned to the chest of drawers. In the bottom drawer was a dress, one she had seen only months before, and one that was absolutely a unique creation.
With that discovery, Twilight Sparkle teleported back to the alley.
Once Fluttershy returned to Ponyville with Scootaloo's scooter, and confirmed the Cutie Mark Crusaders were all right, Twlight Sparkle returned home, carrying the scooter and wagon. Throughout the afternoon, ponies reported in to the library. Rarity was the first to return. Cheerilee received a copy of Scootaloo's file from a school in Cloudsdale, but curiously, they lacked any mention of her parents' names. Like everypony, she hadn't met them either. Pinkie Pie reported the cupcake would be ready anytime Scootaloo returned to town, and curiously, asked Twilight Sparkle why she was no longer wearing her hat. Finally, after the sun had set, Applejack and Apple Bloom stopped by the library.
“Did you discover anything at Town Hall?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
Applejack looked perturbed. “Ah discovered a lot of things, but nothin' about Scootaloo. As far as anypony knows, she doesn't live in Ponyville.”
Twilight Sparkle wrinkled her nose. “I was afraid of that. I hope she'll talk to somepony.” She turned to the younger Apple. “Apple Bloom, are you girls going crusading soon?”
“We sure are!” Apple Bloom replied. “We're gonna try leaf collecting tomorrow morning, startin' from Sweet Apple Acres and goin' into the Whitetail. And we're not goin' into the Everfree at all.”
“That sounds like a nice, safe activity,” Twilight Sparkle commented. “Why don't I stop by your clubhouse tomorrow and return the scooter?”
“Shucks, Twilight, Ah could do that myself.”
“No, I want to try talking to Scootaloo one more time. I think I know how to get her to open up.”
“There she is!”
Apple Bloom pointed to the cloudless sky, where a rainbow streak approached Sweet Apple Acres. Soon, spots of cyan and orange appeared at the front of the multicolored trail. Seconds later, Rainbow Dash landed in front of the fillies and their clubhouse, Scootaloo clutching her neck tightly.
“That... was... AWESOME!” Scootaloo squealed, hopping off her idol.
Rainbow Dash tousled Scootaloo's windblown mane. “That's just some basic speed flying. We're going to get you in the air, and then I can show you some real flying. So what are you doing today?”
“Leaf collecting!” the three fillies shouted simultaneously.
“Well, that sounds like, ah....” Rainbow Dash paused. “I'm sure you'll have fun.”
The sound of approaching hoofsteps attracted the four ponies' attention. Twilight Sparkle stepped into the clearing, effortlessly carrying Scootaloo's scooter and wagon, plus a thick book, in her telekinetic aura.
“Hi girls!” Twilight Sparkle called cheerily. “I brought a good book for you, the Illustrated Guide to Trees of Equestria. And here's your scooter!”
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle raced over to check out the book. Scootaloo, however, nervously glanced at the smiling older unicorn. “Couldn't Applejack or Apple Bloom have brought that here?”
“Look, Scootaloo, I'm not going to stop worrying about you. You're like a sister to all of us. We just want to learn more about you.” Twilight Sparkle looked to Rainbow Dash, who shook her head.
“I think there's something you want to talk about,” Twilight Sparkle suggested.
Rainbow Dash hugged the pegasus filly protectively. “You can tell us. We all want to help you.”
Twilight Sparkle took this opportunity to recast the dispel magic ritual. Its first effect was red color appearing near Scootaloo's hooves.
“What the...?” interjected Rainbow Dash. But in her surprise, she didn't let go, so Scootaloo couldn't flee before Twilight Sparkle's magic ritual finished removing the illusion magic upon her.
“I guess it's time to stop running,” Scootaloo said quietly, as Rainbow Dash finally released her. All eyes were on Scootaloo's true form, exactly as portrayed in the picture Twilight Sparkle had discovered. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle gasped.
“Your mane!” Sweetie Belle shouted.
“Your coat!” Apple Bloom cried.
“Your wings!” they both exclaimed.
“Is it really you?” Apple Bloom asked.
“Yes, it is.” Scootaloo flapped her true, larger wings. “Guess nopony will be able to call me chicken anymore.”
“Does that mean you can fly?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Yes, very well,” she admitted. “But I'm having fun with my scooter, too. Wheels are so fascinating!”
“Really?” asked Apple Bloom, doubtful.
“Yeah! You know that even enchanted wheels don't really work on clouds, right? It's like trying to move through mud here on the ground.”
“Ah guess that makes sense,” said Apple Bloom.
“Now, are you really and truly a Crusader?” asked Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo twisted her body and lifted her long wing, exposing her blank flank. “I sure am. Knowing my mother, my talent is probably related to flying, but I'll keep trying things with you girls until you find your talents.”
“Are you ready to tell us who your mother is?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
Rainbow Dash stepped closer, examining her number one fan in greater detail. “No way. The Cometfall?” Scootaloo nodded. “She was my favorite Wonderbolt when I was a little filly!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. She scratched her chin. “But I thought her daughter was named Comet... something.”
“Comet Flare?” offered Scootaloo.
“You're looking at her,” Scootaloo said. “Scootaloo is just a silly nickname. Mom says she came up with it because of the funny way I scooted around the house when I was an infant. To be honest, I was afraid I would be discovered right away, because what pony would name her daughter Scootaloo?”
“I still don't know why you tried to trick everypony. Why not just say your parents live in Cloudsdale? And why pretend you were living in a crate, not a hotel?” asked Twilight Sparkle.
“Rainbow Dash, do you know the names Fire Wind and Silverwing?” Scootaloo asked.
“Two past Wonderbolts. They each were members for less than a year. Both of their careers were cut short by injury.”
“They weren't injured.”
“What?” yelled Rainbow Dash.
“Being a Wonderbolt is a great honor,” Scootaloo explained. “Mom always told me about how the team is the face of Equestria, and how they’re all high rank in the military, too. She said there’s no room for selfish or greedy or ego… ego….”
“Egoistical? Egotistical?” suggested Sweetie Belle.
“Those are two similar but subtly distinct words, Sweetie Belle,” Twilight Sparkle explained. “The first means….”
“Ponies with big heads!” Scootaloo interrupted. “Anyway, those two failed to measure up. Fire Wind and Silverwing were given the choice to claim injury, and never compete again in any competitive flying, or be publicly dismissed by the Wonderbolts.”
“But what does that have to do with you?” Sweetie Belle wondered.
“I'm in Ponyville because of Rainbow Dash. Before a pony, say a best young flier, is considered for the Wonderbolts….”
“What? Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh…” Rainbow Dash uttered excitedly, before stopping and clearing her throat. “I totally expected that,” she continued.
“It's good to know how somepony reacts to things like, you know, adoring young fans,” Scootaloo continued. “And how they react to ponies in need. That was my secret reason for coming here, to see if the most awesome pegasus in Ponyville could measure up. I thought I'd be here a couple of months at most, but, uh, I guess I have some talent at acting.” Scootaloo hugged her best friends. “But I'm glad I've been here so long, so I could find such good friends!”
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle squeezed Scootaloo tightly. Twilight Sparkle smiled. Even Rainbow Dash had to work hard to suppress an involuntary “awwww”.
“Does this mean you have to go?” asked Apple Bloom.
“I hope not!” Scootaloo replied. “Mom and Dad are out of town so much anyway, and I like not having people pretend to be my friend, because of who my mother is.”
“Cometfall is one of the event liaisons for the Wonderbolts, and travels for all their events,” Rainbow Dash interjected. “And she’s still a pretty good flier.”
“And Dad also works for the Wonderbolts,” Scootaloo added.
“Don't you miss your parents?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Yeah, but I fly home and see them whenever they're back in Cloudsdale. The hotel isn't so bad, you know. I'm used to being alone a lot, and if I have any problems, I can talk to Quiet Nights, the hotel owner, who's a friend of Dad,” Scootaloo said. “And he knows lots of spells to help guests with problems, including that illusion spell I’ve been using. Speaking of which, Twilight, can you make me look like Scootaloo again?”
“I'm sure I can do that,” Twilight Sparkle said. Her horn glowed, and Scootaloo again appeared as the plain orange pegasus filly with stubby wings.
Scootaloo examined a foreleg, and turned to check her wings. “Thanks, Twilight. Would you please not tell anypony about my secret awesome life? Let them know I'm okay, but while I'm in Ponyville, I just want to be the same old Scootaloo.”
Scootaloo turned to Rainbow Dash. “Thanks for taking me in last night, but as you can see, I don't need shelter. But I will take you up on that offer to teach me your moves!”
“Anytime, squirt,” Rainbow Dash replied.
Scootaloo donned her helmet and stepped onto her scooter. She motioned to her friends, who hopped into the wagon. “Now, if you all don't mind, I have some crusading to do with my friends!”