Birds Of a Feather

by Pastelglitches

Flock Together

Scootaloo took another glance at the clock. It was tick-tocking away, along with her last hours of freedom. This was a change, but it would be a good one, right? The waiting room offered near complete silence, and she bit her lip. Silence wasn’t good, right? Shouldn’t they be talking? Was somebody late? Celestia, why did this have to happen to her?! Well, she knew why. She’d messed up big-time. But-- but-- why did it have to be a big sibling program? She wasn’t a juvenile, she just-- she just… well. Technically, she was a juvenile. But it was just one time! A really bad one time, but-- oh, buck, she really, really, realllyyyyyyyy didn’t want to be here.
Her gaze flickered around the room for a single source of comfort. Finally, she just settled for burying her face in her aunt’s side. “What’s taking so long?” she squealed, muffled and overflowing with thinly-veiled anxiety.
Aunt Holiday adjusted her arm around her new foster daughter, trying not to knock off the small foal’s hat. “I’m sure they’re almost ready, my love,” she said, but she looked at the time with a frown of her own, too.
“Excuse me,” said the receptionist, turning Holiday’s attention to her. Meanwhile, the call swallowed Scootaloo’s anticipation. The young filly bolted off the waiting room chair immediately, and if she’d been a unicorn, Holiday would have thought she’d teleported right up to the desk. 
“Is she here?” Scootaloo yelled, worry knitting her brows. She was bouncing up and down on her toes and her hands were little, anxious fists in the air.
The pony blinked slowly at Scootaloo, then turned to Holiday. “Are you Rye’s mother?”
Holiday moved off her chair and went to offer Scootaloo her hand. The tiny 12 year old took it without a second thought, almost crushing Holiday’s hand with how rough her grip was. “We call her Scootaloo,” Holiday managed. “But, yes, I’m her guardian.”
“Okay, Scootaloo,” the desk pony smiled. “Your big sister should be here in a few minutes, sweetie. So sorry for the wait.”
Scootaloo’s cheeks puffed up and she wanted to screech at this woman. But she shook her head, and clenched tighter to Holiday’s skirt. “’s okay,” she mumbled, eyes drawn to the ground. 
“Sorry, she’s shy,” Holiday laughed sweetly. She pressed a gentle hand to the top of Scootaloo’s back and bent down closer to her. “Let’s go back to the seats, alright?” she said, soft and quiet.
Scootaloo blew her mane out of her face, and nodded meekly. Holiday led her back, and as Scootaloo retook her chair, she harshly gripped at the bottom sides, letting out a nervous hum. Holiday dug out of her purse and offered her a bright green tennis ball-- of which, Scootaloo grabbed in her hands as soon as her eyes saw it, and instantly she was on her feet again, bouncing the small ball from off the opposing wall and back at her over and over again. Holiday had taken note that Scootaloo didn’t often have a good outlet for her emotions, so she’d gotten her a few stim toys to try out and relax her hyperactivity. The little foal had quickly taken to the tennis ball, and now Holiday found herself carrying it almost everywhere they went together.
To be honest, not much had changed since Holiday and her wife began fostering Scootaloo. They already had three kids, two twin teenage girls (Lighthoof and Shimmy Shake) and another Scootaloo’s age (Twist), and yet… this new niece of hers was different. Snap Shutter wasn’t suited to be a father, and neither was that self-centered wife of his. Her brother lacked sensitivity and didn’t know how to, in his own words, “deal” with the fickle, explosive emotions of a child. Why they’d ever adopted Scootaloo in the first place was beyond her, but now that this filly was a part of her family, Holiday would make sure she wasn’t ever hurt again.
Even if the ponies she was protecting Scootaloo from were her family, too. 
A door opened, but Scootaloo’s focus seemed to be pinpointed on throwing the ball back and forth with the wall. It muffled the sound to her, but not to Holiday. She turned her head, and saw a young, twenty-something pegasus off the ground, her wings flapping rapidly. She was smirking down at another receptionist, who blushed and giggled and seemed to hang on her every word. 
“Right this way, ma’am,” said the smitten mare, as she gestured at the only other ponies in the waiting room.
“Scootaloo,” Holiday said. Scootaloo didn’t seem to hear her. Holiday stepped to her and caught the ball instead, making Scootaloo turn around like a whirlwind. She made a noise of disapproval as her aunt dropped the makeshift stim toy into her bag. “Rye, baby, it’s time.”
Scootaloo’s eyes went wide. All she managed was a small, “oh.” 
Her hand on Holiday’s was a lot more loose, as they met Scootaloo’s new mentor halfway. Holiday waved up her free hand with a smile, but Scootaloo was only looking completely at the floor, not daring to smile or frown or even speak. Holiday wondered if that’s how she lived in her old house.
She shook the thought out of her head and frowned at Scootaloo, concern obvious in her eyes. “Ah, I’m Holiday,” she said to the blue pegasus. Now that they were up-close, she looked terribly familiar. The baby blue tone her fur took on, hot pink irises, and that eerily-recognizable rainbow mane… where had she’d seen it all together before? 
“Rainbow Dash,” the pegasus said, nodding lightly. 
Holiday’s eyes widened as she placed the name, and beside her Scootaloo’s orange fur was rapidly turning red. The foal’s neck feathers puffed and her cheeks went purple like she was going to suffocate. Scootaloo gawked at the flying mare, her mouth agape and all movement gone from her body.
Rainbow Dash stared at Scootaloo as she made noises that sounded like “holybuckingbuckitybuckeryFUUUCK”-- one word. Inappropriate, Holiday thought, but impressive nonetheless.
“... Hey, kid,” Dash chuckled awkwardly, and tilted herself down to Scootaloo’s eye level. “Short. How old are you again?”
“She’s 12,” Holiday supplied after a moment of silence. 
“Ah, good number to break the law.” Rainbow swished her body back and crossed her arms. Holiday noticed how her legs followed the rest of her in a jerk, rather than Dash’s graceful movements thus far. Hmm. “12, that is. 13, stupid teenage stuff-- follow you the rest of your life. Before double digits, it’s ‘throwing a tantrum.’ But 10 to 12? It’s getting it out of your system while you still can. Good on you, squirt. Feel better now?”
Sheepishly, Scootaloo nodded.
“So, can you tell me your name? Or should I keep callin’ you ‘squirt’?” She asked, smirking.
“Uh--” Scootaloo rasped, still staring up at Rainbow Dash like she was Celestia herself. “Uhm...” 
Rainbow Dash frowned, exchanging a glance with Holiday. “Is… is Uh-Uhm her name?”
“No, no, sorry,” Holiday forced a laugh, and gently pulled Scootaloo closer to her legs, her hand on the filly’s other shoulder. “You’re just, uh-- well, she might be a bit of a fan, isn’t that right?”
“Auntie!” Scootaloo yowled, turning even redder than before. “You’re embarrassing me!” 
“That’s my job now!” Holiday argued with a chuckle. “She’s heard about your recent heroics with your friends, Ms. Dash-- six openly queer women, out there saving lives and defending our little town, it’s really something, honest. I don’t know how Ponyville got so lucky! But you, you’ve been her role model for years. Rainboom, and all that.” 
“Really?” Rainbow blushed and her smile grew wider. She turned her attention back to Scootaloo, who was nervously tugging on the strings of her black hoodie, trying to trap herself in the fabric. Dash laughed at this, and pointed her hand to Scootaloo’s chest. Scootaloo squeaked, and Rainbow used the distraction to flick her muzzle. 
“Ah, well, I’m flattered, squirt!” she grinned. “It’s truly hard to be this cool. Think you can follow in my footsteps?” 
Scootaloo flinched at her words. “I, um--” her eyes locked with Rainbow Dash’s and she took a deep breath, never breaking the gaze. “I’ll-- I’ll try my best.”
“Good,” Dash said. “So. Name?”
“It’s, uh, it’s Rye.”
Rainbow snorted. “Nice name.”
“I chose it myself,” Scootaloo whispered. 
Holiday saw the light of recognition that went off in Rainbow’s eyes. “But everybody just calls her Scootaloo, right, hon?”
Scootaloo nodded proudly. “That’s my second name,” she said. “I have two.”
“Same! Good for you, squirt.” Rainbow Dash stirred in the air. “What’d you do to get in this program?”
Holiday watched Scootaloo bow her head. “I-- I, uh-- w-well, it’s like-- um-- I-I did a marijuana!” she blurted out. Her hands covered her mouth in embarrassment. 
Laughing, Rainbow nodded at Holiday. “Cute kid.”