“Stupid, stupid, stupidstupidstupid….” Rainbow Dash muttered to herself, hearing her own voice drift off into a despondent whisper. She lay on her bed, both bandaged and unbandaged legs alike held out limply to the sides with an opened copy of Daring Do and the Cavern of Dreams laying face-down on her own face to hide herself from the unyielding gaze of existence.
The filly had every intent to forget about what had just happened. It was for that reason that, after spending a good thirty mind-numbing minutes reshelving her mess of fallen books (and finding new homes for the ones that used to be on the now-broken shelf), Rainbow Dash had retreated to her temporary room with the intent to bury herself in her originally sought-after Daring Do adventure.
It was easier said than done, and she found herself buried more in her thoughts. The filly wasn’t sure if it was her frazzled nerves or her childlike attention span, but she was finding it hard to be invested in what was one of her favorite books. Sentences would drag on and morph into daydreams and rumination until Rainbow realized she had spent ten minutes on a single page and couldn’t remember a single thing that had happened on that page. Eventually she conceded to her thoughts and flopped down on her bed, letting the book simply drape over her eyes. Not the most comfortable way to put down a book, she considered, yet she couldn’t find it in herself to care. She sank into the mattress with a groan.
“‘Oh, thanks for treating my boo-boos, Twilight! You’re such a great mommy!’” She waived her bandaged hoof in the air as she spoke, then let it flop back onto the bed. “Ugh, why am I such a feather brain?”
She lay still for a minute, feeling completely unmotivated to so much as move. The filly lifted the cover of her novel off of one eye and glanced at the nearby window. The sun had set. With a groan, she let the cover hide her face once more.
“Okay, Rainbow Dash,” she mumbled to herself. “That… thing with Twilight was less than awesome… but you’re still Rainbow Dash. You’ll make it through this. You just gotta avoid letting that happen again.” She picked up her impromptu mask, inserted a bookmark, and placed it on her nightstand. The filly then sat up letting her back rest against the headboard and affixed her gaze to the opposite wall. “And if you can’t… there’s always Nimbus Rush”.
Rainbow Dash smiled for the first time in hours as her plans for the next day came back to her. She had a promise with the Squirt to fulfill, and she had a feeling Nimbus Rush would be a fitting replacement for Rainbow Dash. She just had to make Scootaloo the star of the show for a day instead of herself. The kid would love it! How hard could it be?
Before she could let the doubt creep back into her mind, Rainbow Dash decided she might as well go to bed early. She chose not to think about how close it was to her childhood bedtime.
“Twilight, I really don’t think this is necessary.”
“On the contrary,” Twilight started with a smile as she cheerfully walked down the crystalline hallway towards the dining room. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! If you keep staying up so late and skipping meals, you won’t have the energy or wakefulness to study a counterspell. I promised I would help you, and so I am!”
“But do you really have to carry me?”
Twilight looked over her shoulder at her apprentice, dangling limply in her purple aura and looking haggard like somepony who had just been unceremoniously awakened and forcibly removed from their bed. Which was a pretty accurate description, considering Starlight still had her pajamas on and her unkempt mane was still sticking up in all direction, screaming for a hairbrush.
“You wouldn’t get out of bed, so I got you out of bed! We’ve got a big day of intense studying ahead of us, and I don’t want to be late!”
“How are we going to be late? We’re the one’s setting the schedule.”
“All the more reason to keep to it! No schedule is more important than your own!”
Starlight groaned, but didn’t resist any further. She was too tired to, anyway. So instead she surrendered herself to be carried towards the dining room. At last she was set down in a chair in front of a plate of crispy haycon and sunny-side-up eggs. She grumbled, but wordlessly levitated a piece of haycon to her lips and took a bite.
Twilight took a seat beside her infront of her own breakfast platter, grinning wide in stark opposition to her student’s more nettled demeanor. With a fork in her magic, she took a bite of her gooey eggs and hummed in satisfaction. “Thank you for breakfast, Spike. This is very good.”
The dragon poked his head out of the adjacent kitchen, wearing what Starlight had always considered a sickeningly frilly apron and matching hat. “Thanks, Twi! Any idea how Rainbow Dash likes her eggs?”
“I usually see her get over-easy when we-”
“Scrambled, Spike,” Starlight interrupted.
“Huh?” Twilight turned to the unicorn, looking perplexed. Starlight took another nibble of her haycon. “But she always gets her eggs over-easy whenever we go to breakfast. Why scrambled?”
Starlight took a moment to swallow her bite. “Twilight, have you ever seen a foal Rainbow’s age eats eggs that are anything other than scrambled? I know I wouldn’t touch eggs that runny until I was at least twelve.” She took one last bite, finishing off the fried hay and somehow feeling a lot better than she did beforehand. “She’s clearly a pickier eater than she was last week.”
Twilight simply hmm’d in response, giving it some thought before nodding to Spike, who swiftly walked back into the kitchen to finish breakfast. He came out soon after with two smaller plates of scrambled eggs and haycon, sliding one onto the table across from Starlight and sitting down with the other across from Twilight. He too took a bite, then looked to the plate beside him. “Why isn’t Rainbow Dash with you?”
“I decided to let her sleep in this morning,” Twilight replied.
“Ah… Is this about what happened in the library yesterday?”
“Eh… a little bit? I just figure she can wake up when she’s ready.”
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Yes. You seem surprised, Spike.”
“Well, it’s just you seemed to be hovering over her a lot the last couple-”
“So!” Twilight started, teleporting a notepad and quill before her. “Let’s go over what you’ve got so far, Starlight!”
Starlight stared at her mentor for a moment, reeling from the sudden change in topic. “...Yeah, sure. As I was saying yesterday, in my research over the last few days I’ve come to learn the reason why advancing the age of something is so much harder than reversing it. Apparently-”
“Starlight!” The unicorn was cut off as a shrill young voice rang out. Rainbow Dash burst into the room at full speed, skidding to a stop just before Starlight’s chair. She bounced on her hooves excitedly. “Can you put my disguise back up for me?”
Starlight blinked absently for a second. “Right now?”
“Yeah! I’ve got a day to spend with the Squirt, but I need to be Nimbus Rush to do that.” The filly wavered from side to side impatiently. “So can you do it?”
“You want to go out alone?” Twilight asked. “What about Fluttershy?”
Rainbow Dash scowled at her in annoyance. “I don’t need a babysitter, Twilight! Besides, I kinda wanna spend the day just with Scoots. As cool as Fluttershy is, she’d be a bit of a third wheel.”
“But…!” Twilight bit her lip as she stopped herself. “But… What about breakfast?”
“Huh? Oh, right.” Rainbow spared a brief glance at the plate in front of an empty chair. “I’m not really hungry. But you can still re-dye me, right?”
Twilight and Starlight shared a look between them, as if both expecting the other to say something. Eventually, Starlight broke first, leaning over to look at Rainbow Dash at eye level. “Tell you what, Rainbow: I’ll reapply the disguise after you eat breakfast. But it’s up to Twilight if you go alone.”
Rainbow Dash grumbled and turned to Twilight with an expectant look. The alicorn chewed her lip a moment longer. Eventually she let out a deep sigh, then said “Okay. So long as you stay with Scootaloo you can go alone. I’m sure Fluttershy needs a day with her animals anyway. But if you run into any trouble, just come straight back here, okay?”
Rainbow nodded enthusiastically. “Right, gotcha! So, disguise?”
“Breakfast first, Rainbow,” Starlight sternly repeated.
“Okay, okay! Fine, I’ll eat breakfast.” The filly lethargically climbed into her seat, taking her time in her movements as if to emphasize how much she didn’t want to do it. She quickly consumed the two slices of haycon on her plate, then moved to get out of her chair.
“All of it, Rainbow Dash,” Starlight spoke up with a smirk.
“But I’m not hungry!”
“Then at least have a couple bites of your eggs. Spike took time to make you breakfast, and it’d be rude not to try it.”
Spike looked up, a forkful of eggs halfway to his mouth. “I’m not really bothered if she doesn’t…” Starlight shot him a baleful glare. “...Nevermind.” He shoved the forkful in his mouth and looked away.
Rainbow Dash in turn looked down at her mound of eggs with a defeated whine. She grasped a fork with her hoof and scooped a chunk out of the fluffy yellow mash, bringing it to her mouth. She took one bite, then two, then three. Then she set the fork down. “Is that enough? Can we go now?”
Starlight, seemingly satisfied with the meager portion, nodded. “That’s good enough. Come on, let’s get you ready.” With a smile, Rainbow Dash leapt from her seat and trotted into the hallway. Starlight followed at a slower pace, taking a moment to look at a very bewildered Twilight. “What? What is it, Twilight?”
“You and… you’re…” She shook her head. “Nothing. We’ll talk about it later. Go help Rainbow get ready.”
“Right, sure. I’ll be right back.” With that, Starlight cantered out of the room. Once she was gone, Twilight groaned and buried her head in her hooves.
“Wha’ was ‘at all abou’?” Spike asked, speaking with his mouth full.
“Don’t worry about it Spike. And don’t talk with your mouth full.”
The dragon swallowed. “Whatever you say, Mom.”
Twilight groaned louder.
Scootaloo rode along the dirt path from her house to the Crusader clubhouse feeling particularly mopy. Not that she was normally mopy, especially not this time of year, but today she couldn’t help but feel like she was pulling a cartload of mope. She figured she was allowed to at least be a little bit depressed given the circumstances, but she wasn’t expecting it to hit her quite so hard or to last so long. The orange pegasus filly kept her head down, staring fixedly at the slushy road in front of her scooter as she rolled along.
The plan was to get together with her friends and build sleds with Fine Grain, their latest cutie mark client. It wasn’t Scootaloo’s original plan. That, of course, fell through.
As it usually does, she inwardly griped.
It was seeming to be a pattern recently. Rainbow Dash promises Scootaloo that they’ll hang out. Scootaloo gets excited. Emergency friendship problem in Griffinstone comes up. Rainbow apologizes and promises to hang out next weekend. Scootaloo gets excited. Wonderbolts call for a mandatory extra practice session. Rainbow Dash apologizes and gives a raincheck. Rinse and repeat again, and again, and again, and again….
At this point, the filly was wondering why it was bugging her so much this time. Sure, it had only been about a month since her last attempted flying lesson, and yeah, winter had become an even more special occasion since the two had become sorta-sisters, and she was looking forward to building a snowpony with her idol, and perhaps she only had two weeks off of school and wanted to spend at least a little of it with her, and…
Scootaloo decided that thinking about it might be unhealthy and chose instead to redirect her mind towards sleds and the fact that none of the crusaders really knew what they were doing. Apple Bloom had some ideas and was the one to initially pitch the idea of making sleds from scratch to help Fine Grain. Scootaloo was mainly just interested in riding them afterwards, although the thought of building something did seem kinda fun. She supposed that was at least something to look forward to. She picked up the pace a little, trying her hardest to not look at the snowy ground beneath her.
Scootaloo’s ears swiveled towards the direction of the call, and the filly put a hoof down to brake before looking around. A little ways ahead to the side of the road was a familiar golden-yellow pegasus filly with a streaked blue mane and a blue scarf wrapped around her neck. A small plastic bandage was visible on her knee. It took a moment to place where she knew her, but then the previous day came back to her and she remembered.
“Oh, hey. Nimbus, right? Fluttershy’s cousin?”
“Yup! That’s me alright! Totally!” The filly grinned brightly, buzzing her wings as she trotted over. “I saw you riding by and wanted to say ‘hi’ because you’re just so cool!”
The sudden compliment made Scootaloo blush slightly. “Uhh… Thanks, Kid. What’s… uh… what’s up?”
The filly in front of her hopped once, that oddly unnerving grin still shining. “Oh, not much, you know. I was just walking along going nowhere in particular and saw you shredding it up on your scooter and thought ‘Wow! What my awesome luck to run into the totally awesome Scootaloo again!’” Nimbus paused for a moment while Scootaloo stared at her. “Anyway, wanna hang out today?”
Scootaloo blinked, her mouth slightly open. “Uhh….” was the only thing she was able to say for a moment. Shredding? She was just going down the trail, and not even quickly at that. Nimbus seemed oddly forward, and her rapid fire way of speaking was a little freaky. The filly in front of her continued to look at her eagerly. “Well, uh, you see…” Nimbus’s smile faltered slightly. “I’m kinda on my way to meet up with my friends, so I’m kinda busy today.”
“Oh.” Nimbus Rush pawed at the ground with a hoof for a moment. She seemed a little surprised, and not a little disappointed. “But I said… I mean, I thought Rainbow Dash said she couldn’t make it today. I thought maybe I could fill her spot?”
That made Scootaloo raise an eyebrow. She didn’t think anypony could fill Rainbow Dash’s spot. “You really want to hang out with… me?”
“Yeah! Totally!” The younger filly exclaimed. Scootaloo looked at her with her mouth slightly agape.
“Because you’re… well, because you’re Scootaloo! Why wouldn’t I?”
This kid is weird, she thought to herself. The orange pegasus looked around idly, as if checking if somepony was watching them. Scootaloo had hardly ever seen this filly before, and now she wanted to spend her Friday with her for some reason? It seemed a little… odd to her. Besides, she had sleds to make with her friends. Who would want to babysit when there were sleds to ride? And build. But mostly ride.
Still, the foal was staring up at her with a strained smile, as if she was somehow nervous about being around her. Scootaloo couldn’t understand why. She took a deep breath and spoke.
“Look, Kid, I think you’re cool and all, but-”
“-But you want to go for a race around Sweet Apple Acres? That’d be cool!”
“No, I was saying I was going to-”
“-Challenge me to a milkshake drinking contest? I accept!”
“No! I’m just-”
“-Here to kick flips and chew bubble gum, but you’re all outta…”
“I’m not interested, okay!” She stomped her hoof in agitation, feeling immensely worked up. The crusader could see the foal’s face fall almost instantaneously from the rejection. She took a deep breath. “Look, I already made other plans with my friends. You seem pretty cool, but I just want to be with my friends today, okay?”
“Oh.” The younger filly shuffled on her hooves. “I just thought… I… Uh…” Her ears fell flat against her head, and Scootaloo could visibly see her deflate. “T-that’s cool, I-I guess.” The filly looked away, suddenly unable to make eye contact.
“Maybe another ti-...” She cut off as she noticed a glistening on the corner of Nimbus’s eyes. She froze up at the sight of it.
Oh, Celestia, she thought. Is she about to cry?
“...I, uh… I mean…”
“T-that’s fine!” Nimbus said, feigning a smile about as well as a manticore could feign being a breezie. “I-I shouldn’t h-have assumed you w-were free.” The filly wiped at her eye, with a sniffle.
Celestia, Scootaloo was not good with foals. She took a slow step forward, softening her glare to something she hoped was less menacing. “Look, Kid, I didn’t mean to make you cr-”
“I am n-not crying!!” Defended the crying pegasus filly. She sniffled again. “I-I don’t c-cry! It’s j-just allergies”
“It’s Winter, and you’re definitely cry-”
“I DON’T CRY!”
“Sure! Right, uh… definitely NOT crying! Whatever you say!” Scootaloo looked around, worried that somepony may be watching. She didn’t need somepony seeing her bring a foal to tears.
Nimbus sniffled another time before turning away. “I-I… I guess I’ll leave y-you be, then…” With one final wipe of her snout, the golden filly began walking away, head held low and eyes glued to the ground as if looking for bits in the dirt.
Scootaloo watched the dejected filly walk away solemnly. At last, she let out a deep sigh, bracing herself.
“Wait,” she said barely loud enough for Nimbus to hear. The golden pegasus turned her head back, eyes noticeably red and puffy. Scootaloo found it hard to maintain eye contact and turned her head away, looking instead at a nearby tree. “My friends and I are making sleds for a client. I guess, maybe, you know, you can tag along, if you want.”
There was a moment of silence punctuated only by a soft sniffle, then Nimbus’ eyes lit up with a sparkle. “Really?”
“Uh, yeah, sure. I guess it’s o- OOF!” Scootaloo felt the wind knock out of her as Nimbus shot forward and wrapped her in a hug.
“Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” Nimbus repeated on rapid fire.
“Don’t mention it,” She carefully pried the golden filly off of her. “To anyone. Just.. be cool about it, you know?”
“Totally! Cool’s my middle name! Ra-, I mean, Nimbus ‘Cool’ Rush!”
Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “Of course it is. Anyway, you wanna tag along, you gotta keep up. Follow me!”
“Yep! Right behind you!” Nimbus chirped, her tears rapidly drying up.
With that, she buzzed her wings and kicked off, albeit at a much slower pace than normal so as to let her younger charge keep up. Babysitting it is then, she thought to herself. Oh well, maybe it won’t be so bad.
But as she rode off with a golden filly trotting happily alongside, she couldn’t help but dwell further on how much she’d rather be with Rainbow Dash.