The sun had slipped under the horizon by the time Thunderlane had left work to pick Rumble up at the hospital. By virtue finally being freed from work, he was thoroughly uninterested in hearing about whatever the doctors were blathering on about. If anything he was rushing to get out of there. He signed his name, thanked the staff, took one glance at the other patient and flew out towards home with his little brother at his side.
The fly home was not in any way quiet.
“I can’t believe that filly decked you!” the tone of Thunderlane’s voice was bordering on laughter. “Did you at least put up a fight? Why’d she hit you? You say somethin’ she didn’t want to hear? Come on bro, tell me what went down.”
Rumble clenched his teeth, “I didn’t say anything mean to Scootaloo, it’s just, well, there was an accident.”
“I figured that. So what happened?”
“Me an’ Scoot were hanging out by the lemonade stand. It was nice out but getting late. All our other friends had left,” Rumble sighed. “So I was looking at the blue scooter she’s always riding and I told her I that I never rode one before.”
Thunderlane nodded. “Yeah, there’s no scooters back home. So then what?”
“She was like ‘Oh! They’re really fun! Ride one right now!’ so I did,” he looked away for a moment. “Then I told her I didn’t know how so she said she’d give me a lesson.”
“Right, right,” Thunderlane swiveled his head to look at Rumble. They were nearly home.
“So I got on the scooter. I didn’t know how to beat my wings to make it move forwards the right way. Then Scootaloo jumped on my back and moved the scooter with her wings. We raced around for a bit,” Rumble allowed himself a smile, recalling the rocky road they went down, “then crashed. It was pretty bad.”
“Then she punched you in the eye right after because you crashed,” Thunderlane guessed.
Rumble coughed and shot his brother an annoyed look.
“The scooter kind of broke…in a lot of pieces. They went flying all around. The board went up and-”
“Sick!” interrupted Thunderlane, landing on their porch. “So that’s why she punched you! What a little hot-head!”
“Yeah…she was really really mad over it,” Rumble landed and folded his wings. “It was in lots of pieces.”
“Wait a sec,” the older stallion cocked an eyebrow. “Is this the same filly that you beat in the race on your first day of school?”
“Ha-HA!” Thunderlane face-hoofed. “No wonder!”
“No, it’s okay,” Rumble interjected. “She said she was cool with what happened. It’s not a big deal anymore. I think she definitely hates me now though,” his ears drooped, “or something like that. I didn’t mean to crash her scooter. Now what do I do? I don’t know what to do. I don’t want her to hate me. We were almost friends.”
“Rumble, listen,” the younger Pegasus found a dark hoof resting on his shoulder. “Sometimes, a mare is gonna say one thing, then do another. They’re really hard to figure out. I’ve known Flit and Cloud for practically all my life,” his voice took a harder edge. “Even so, I still don’t understand them. I thought I did. I had some questions to ask. Then the time came to ask and I found answers that I didn’t want,” they were both steadily walking to the twins’ front door, “so I had to suck it up. It stinks. I felt pretty crummy for a while. I got over it. Nothing changed. Maybe, this filly will change. If she really got over the first one then I’m sure you’re in the clear.”
“If she doesn’t?” asked Rumble.
“Then she’ll hate you forever.”
A depressed sort of sigh sounded from his throat and he shifted on his hooves. Thunderlane knocked on the twins’ the front door.
“Uh, did you leave something over at their house?”
“Nah, there’s this cute filly that I’ve been talking to at work,” Thunderlane cracked a grin, “I asked her a question and got an answer I like. Tonight’s our first time hangin’ out. Like a date.”
“So you’re asking Flitter for girl advice?”
“No!” snorted Thunderlane, “I don’t need girl advice. What I need is a favor from two friends.”
“What? Wait!” the realization of what was going on finally clicked. “No! You can’t! I’m old enough to stay home alone! I don’t want a foalsitter!”
“Got your saddlebag already packed and sitting in their living room.”
“Thunder, you can’t do this to me!” panic rushed into his voice. “I’m a mess! I-I need to go home and wash up!”
“They have the same bathroom we do, I think,” remarked Thunderlane, rolling his eyes. “You know when you were a little foal and got filthy they’d take turns washing you.”
“Thunderrrrr!” Rumble whined, nervously dancing on his hooves.
The door opened. The gentle sound of the metallic chain hitting the frame filled their ears and warm yellow light poured out the doorway. Cloudchaser leaned against the door frame, the pink bubblegum she was blowing startling Rumble when it deflated with a loud pop. A small, white shirt, unbuttoned, clung loosely to her slight shoulders. Compared to the flashy garb Cloudchaser usually wore the meek ensemble that was her bedclothes were quite loose. Even her hair was down, the frosty strands of her bangs loosely covering her light purple eyes.
Cloudchaser regarded Rumble with a smirk and winked one of her heavily lined eyes, then turned her attention to his brother. “What’s up, mister hot date? Got ants in your wings?”
“Heh, well,” he unfurled his wings. “First date and all.”
“You’ll do fiiiiine. Worrying about it will only make things more awkward,” she spat her gum off the side of the cloud. “Just sweet talk her real nice. Blossomforth seems fun. Just act like a gentlecolt and be sure to see her off with something she’ll remember.” A waggle of her eyebrows followed that last comment.
“Hmph!” Rumble elbowed his brother in the side. “Hey, that sounds like super-good advice, huh?”
The ribbing stung. Thunderlane glanced darkly at Rumble for a brief second, and then looked back at Cloudchaser. “I’ll keep a mental note. Anyway, thanks again for keeping an eye on little guy for me. Sorry it’s short notice.”
“Pfft,” she reached over and tugged Rumble to her side. “What’cha been doin’ to him anyway? Rumble, you look like you flew through a tree.”
“I…fell,” said Rumble meekly.
“Rumble was riding around with his new fillyfriend,” said Thunderlane, speaking quickly as possible. “They got into a fight. Girl knocked him around good.”
“What!?” shrieked Rumble, “That’s not! She’s not my-!”
“Really!?” Cloudchaser draped a wing over his back and pulled him close. Rumbles cheek squished against her leg. “Aw you poor little guy.”
“No! That’s not-!”
“Girls your age can be pretty feisty. I know I was,” continued Cloudchaser.
Thunderlane cleared his throat. “Well I’d love to stay here to tell the whole story but I don’t actually know much of it. Besides, Rumble said he’d love to tell you the whole thing.”
With an extra strong wing-flap the dark stallion departed towards the other side of town. The two Pegasi stood in the doorway until he was out of sight. Cloudchaser pulled the door shut and Rumble tore himself away from her grip.
“Easy on the wing there, dude! I’m fragile on that side,” she pouted, raising the left wing up high.
“Sorry,” he apologized, sitting on the floor. Rumble looked around the room. “Where’s Flitter?”
“Oh, she’s upstairs,” yawned Cloudchaser, slinking over to the comfy-looking sofa. A soft pillow sighed against her head as she snuggled into it.
“Flitty things,” Cloudchaser inspected her hoof, resting one hind leg on the arm of the sofa; the other dangled off the side, swaying gently. “I didn’t tell her you were sleeping over tonight.”
Rumble felt the hairs standing up on his coat. “Flitter doesn’t know I’m here?”
“Nope,” replied Cloudchaser, stifling a giggle.
“Uh… so when were you going to tell her?”
The color drained from Rumbles face. Cloudchaser looked up at him and laughed.
“Hey Flit!” she called out. “We have a visitor stayin’ the night. Don’tcha want t’say hello?”
“Is it Thunderlane agaaaain?” the response from upstairs sounded muffled.
“Nope! It’s Rumble!”
Flitter charged downstairs as fast as her hooves could take her. The bow in her hair was off centered but her eyes were fixated on her target rooted to the spot on the floor –Rumble resigned himself to his fate.
“Ohhhh my gosssh!” she tackled him at full speed and brought him into a crushing hug. “You little cutie! What are you doing here?!” Flitter held him out to get a look at him and gasped. “You’re all beat up! Who did this to you? I’ll go and kick their rumps in. Nopony hurts my Rumbly-Bumbly and gets away with it!”
The little gray colt groaned loudly as the deluge of questions poured into his ears. Tonight was going to be a long night.
“Pssst! Sweetie Belle! Wake up!”
The sleeping filly didn’t budge.
“One more minute, mommy,” the young unicorn turned in her bed.
Scootaloo sighed, grabbing a small doll sitting on the windowsill. Thankfully it was a cool night and the window was left wide open. Aiming carefully, she threw the toy at Sweetie’s head. The impact was absorbed by her fluffy head of hair. No response. Scootaloo grabbed something heavier.
“OUCH!” a hairbrush bounced off Sweetie’s forehead. The now wide awake, the filly looked around for the culprit.
“Over here!” hissed Scootaloo, from outside the window.
Sweetie rubbed her head. “Did you have to throw something? That hurt.”
“I wasn’t going to ring the bell!”
“You didn’t have to hurt me,” she pouted, picking up the hairbush. “Why didn’t you just come in here and wake me up?”
“I can’t. You know that!”
“Huh?” Sweetie squinted in the darkness. The bedside lamp was shut off. Sweetie Belle jumped out of bed and walked over to the window –it wasn’t like she was going back to sleep anytime soon. A quick peek outside got her the answer.
Scootaloo was just outside of reach. All four of her legs were wrapped tightly around a dead tree branch that was dangling near the window. The cool breeze on her face made Sweetie shiver. One of the first things she noticed about was the awful condition Scootaloo was in.
“How many times did you fall out of that tree?” she asked tentatively. Scootaloo moaned in response.
“Like fifteen times,” said Scootaloo. The astonished expression on Sweetie’s face was completely worth the fib. “Nah. I didn’t fall out. Had an accident earlier.”
“Yeah it…hurt. Only a little. I’m okay now.”
“You don’t look okay.”
Scootaloo shrugged. “So?”
“So did you go to the doctors?”
“Me and Rumble went to the hospital,” she replied, immediately regretting it. Sweetie looked aghast.
“Oh no! Is he okay?”
“Yup. He’s just super,” another breeze kicked up; the tree branch swayed hard in the wind. “Listen, I’m electing an emergency Cutie Mark Crusader Clubhouse Conference!”
Sweetie raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t the CMCCCs always emergencies?”
“This one’s a DOUBLE emergency. We need to hold one right now.”
“Really? Right now right now?” the idea of sneaking out of the house sent a shiver down Sweetie’s spine. What would Rarity think if she checked on her during the night? The idea of Rarity fainting, waking up, fainting more dramatically, and calling an official town search made Sweetie nervous. “Is it okay if I leave a note to tell her where I’m going?”
Scootaloo nodded, motioning with her hoof to get Sweetie moving. A spare pack stuffed with overnight clothes was always stuffed underneath her bed thanks to Apple Bloom’s insistence for emergency meetings. One quick tug on the buckle brought it out. Sweetie pulled out a pencil from inside and started writing.
“I don’t know how to turn the store’s alarm off. Instead of going downstairs I’ll just climb out the window too.”
“Really?” that puzzled Scootaloo. Usually when it came to dangerous ideas Sweetie wasn’t the one making suggestions.
Sweetie Belle placed the note on the bed.
“There!” she looked quite pleased with how it came out.
“Does this mean you’re ready now?” Scootaloo sounded annoyed. Sweetie gingerly put on her pack and trotted over.
“If you jump, and catch me, and flap your wings, think we can get to the ground without getting hurt?”
The suggestion seemed to excite Scootaloo. Both her wings flared open.
“Where’d you come up with a cool idea like that?” she asked. Sweetie only shrugged.
“Just popped into my head. It’s not like we need to do it.”
Scootaloo shook her head excitedly. “No no we should totally do it that way… but just in case I can’t lift the both of us I think you should toss one of the pillows on the ground.”
It sounded like a safe thing to do. Sweetie rushed over to her bed, grabbed one of the fluffy pillows and tossed it outside.
“Alright! Let’s go!” cried Scootaloo. Sweetie Belle climbed up to the windowsill. With great effort, Scootaloo wrapped her hind legs on the thicker part of the branch to sit erect on it. On a steady count of three they both jumped. It was a near success –Scootaloo caught Sweetie around the waist. Both her wings beat furiously as they hovered for a brief moment. Then, under the strain of lifting herself and her friend, Scootaloo’s wings gave out and they both dropped like a stone. There was a loud thud where they landed; right next to the soft fluffy pillow.
“Ouch,” said Scootaloo, rubbing her flank. Next to her Sweetie seemed to be in great agony. Both her hooves were clutching at her haunches.
“I think I landed on my tail,” she hissed through gritted teeth. “My butt hurts.”
“You can rub your butt all the way to Sweet Apple Acres,” said Scootaloo, getting up and stretching her legs. “Let’s go!”
“Just a minute,” she pleaded, still rubbing where she had landed. Eventually the soreness began to ebb and Sweetie shakily got to her hooves. “Alright let’s go to Apple Bloom!”
They walked down the winding pathway to the barn in good spirits. It was a full moon out and both could see pretty well. Along the way Sweetie would stop to pull things out of Scootaloo’s tail –pieces of twig or leaves in her hair– there was even some tree bark stuck in the back of her short-cropped mane.
As they drew near the question on Sweetie Belle’s mind that had been floating around the back of her head kept resurfacing. It nagged her. Being tight-lipped this whole time was driving her nuts. It felt like every time she opened her mouth Scootaloo spoke first with something else to say.
Sweetie sat down.
“We’re almost there. What are you doing?”
“How come you didn’t just go home?” asked Sweetie.
“Didn’t want to,” said Scootaloo flatly. “Can we please go now?”
“No,” Sweetie folded her hooves.
Sweetie shook her head. “Nope. Tell me why we’re really holding an emergency CMCCC sleepover.”
“I already told you why!”
“Then what was it?”
“I…” Scootaloo looked away from Sweetie. “I, well, look at me! I’m a total disaster right now.”
“And?” still, Sweetie was not satisfied. It wasn’t like the trio hadn’t gone home in worse condition. Seeing that her friend was not going to budge, she walked over, sat next to her, and hung my head.
“My scooter…is completely trashed,” Scootaloo finally admitted. “It’s in like a bunch of pieces and bent in others. I don’t even think I found all the pieces.”
The harsh demeanor Sweetie was carrying vanished. “Oh no! We just got the wheel money for it before!”
“When my parents find out they’ll never get me another scooter again!” Scootaloo’s forlorn expression was putting a damper on Sweetie’s mood too.
“Think it’s fixable?”
“It’s in pieces. I don’t think there’s a pony in the whole world that could fix it.”
“You didn’t ask anypony yet?”
“So there’s still hope!”
Scootaloo traced a small circle in the dirt. “Yeah… I guess… but I definitely don’t want to tell them tonight. Or that I ended up in Pony General over it.”
“I don’t think my mom and dad would let me out of the house for a month if that happened to me,” said Sweetie.
“Do you want a hug?”
Sweetie Belle leaned over and gently hugged Scootaloo. Usually this was the sort of namby-pamby thing that she would shy away from, but this time the warm embrace even got the knot in her stomach to loosen a little.
“Thanks,” she smiled, feeling worlds better.
“Don’t mention it,” Sweetie returned the smile, and got to her hooves. “Now let’s go get Apple Bloom!”
From what she could remember, Apple Bloom’s room was on the side of the house on the second floor. There was no tree growing close to her window. Getting her attention was either going to involve sneaking inside or throwing rocks at the window. Last time they had tried the latter it had ended up smashing the glass.
Scootaloo eventually got to her hooves. She did feel better… but had not actually told Sweetie the whole story. The twisty feeling in her gut remained.
Tomorrow would be better.
“Get behind your ears!”
“Scrub the dirt away from those cuts.”
“Make sure you wash your hair so there’s nothing in it.”
“Flitter!” cried Rumble, raising his voice so she could definitely hear him through the door. “I got it! I’m okay in here. Every day when I wake up I take my own showers.”
“Okay okay! You don’t have to get all grouchy at me,” Flitter pretended to sound hurt. Leaning her head against the door she listened for his response. All she heard was the sound of sloshing water. “Use the shampoo and not the conditioner! It makes your hair all-“
“Alright! Ugh! I’ll be downstairs with CC. Yell if you need anything, ‘kay?”
There was a groan from behind the door. Flitter giggled and trotted downstairs.
“Finally!” said Rumble, laying back down in the bathwater up to his neck. Since he moved down to Ponyville he hadn’t had a single bath. They were relaxing. Showers were fast and occasionally ice-cold. Rumble gently splashed the water, watching the ripples travel across his belly down to his tail. Without having instructions ordered to him through the door he could finally unwind a little. Rumble looked around the rest of the bathroom.
It was a lot more spacious than at his house. There was a towel rack with brightly colored washcloths hanging and drying. The one he was using had a swirl of yellow and splotched blue patterns. Based on the wild-looking colors, it probably belonged to Cloudchaser. On the counter by the sink sat a plethora of jarred lotions, and bottles of scented shampoos and conditioner, hairsprays and an entire rack of make-up supplies to boot. Rumble could tell the bathroom was shared –there was an almost segmented line dividing the sink. Flitters side was spotless. Cloudchaser’s was scattered with plenty of her beauty supplies.
A sweet myriad of aromas hung in the air of the bathroom. The naturally strong scent of citrus over-powered most of the others, but a hint of lavender still graced his sense of smell. Rumble sat up, the sloshing water threatening to spill over the side. He needed to finish his bath. Three bottles of shampoo had been sitting in the tub when he’d entered. The bright orange one had caught his eye; when he squeezed it onto his hoof he inhaled deeply, smelling a sweet mixture of citrus and peach. Not wasting any time, he began furiously scrubbing it into his hair, mane, and tail.
Some time passed and he was all clean. A few splintered bits of twig fell out of his hair while drying off with his towel; the hair dryer sitting by the sink went unused. Rumble gave his wings a shake. They were still a bit wet. Most of his feathers were crooked from the accident. It wasn’t like that was a big deal either –in a few days they would all settle back into place. Rumble opened the bathroom door and went downstairs.
“Have a fun bath, kiddo?” Cloudchaser was still sitting on the couch, dressed in the same loose unbuttoned shirt, with her nose in a glossy fashion magazine. There were three cups of cranberry juice sitting on the coffee table next to her. One was half-empty. Another had a bendy stray. Judging by the condensation on the glasses they had been there not too long.
“It was alright,” he said casually, settling into the beanbag chair and sinking into it. “There were some weird black stuff staining the sink.”
“That’s my eyeliner. I wash it out like, every night before bed,” she replied, lowering her magazine with a slow batting of her eyes.
“Okay,” nodded Rumble. The clock on the wall ticked softly. Usually things weren’t this quiet when he was over. Cloudchaser kept glancing over at him. Eventually Flitter arrived, descending the staircase energetically. The usual bow in her hair was missing. Rumble raised his eyebrows –he couldn’t remember ever seeing her without it.
Instead of sitting down on the couch, she walked over to Rumble. Bending over, she buried her nose in his hair and sniffed.
“Ah-HAH! I told you he’d like my shampoo!” she exclaimed, looking at Cloudchaser triumphantly. Her sister briefly looked up and went back to her magazine.
“What do you mean’ so what’?” Flitter scoffed. “I know if he picked your shampoo you’d be making funna the stuff I use.”
“Well, it is kinda strong.”
“It is NOT! It smells delicious!” she gave Rumble a quick noogie. “He smells delicious.”
“Whatever,” Cloudchaser faked a yawn.
Flitter stuck out her tongue.
“Just saying, the unscented shampoo doesn’t clash with what I put on my coat,” she continued.
“If you knew how to pick out the right ones, CC, they wouldn’t mix wrong.”
That seemed to strike a nerve. “Alright, y’know, I don’t feel like arguing over this with you tonight, okay, Flitter? C’mon, little guy is here,” she dropped her magazine and the twins both zeroed in on him. Rumble froze mid-reach for a glass of cranberry juice. What did they want? Was he supposed to say something?
“So, how about you tell us what happened with your eye?” suggested Cloudchaser, before he could say anything.
The bruise was the only thing that his bath couldn’t wash away. Rumble automatically put his hoof over it. “Do I have to?”
“Nah,” said Cloudchaser dismissively. “It’s probably a long story. Like, I hate long stories. You don’t got to tell it if you don’t wanna…”
“I wanna know!” Flitter received a disapproving glance from her sister. “What? Just look at him!”
“Chill out, will you?”
“Why’re you always telling ME to chill?”
The twins locked eyes for an intense moment. Not wanting to delve back into an argument, Flitter backed away from her sister. She approached Rumble with a concerned look etched across her face.
“Hey!” Rumble flinched, twisting away from Flitter. Her hooves were at his wings. Rumble gave them a gentle flap. “What are you doing back there?”
Flitter kept probing his wing feathers. “Look how crooked these are! Were you gonna sleep like this!?” A slight pain shot through his shoulders. “Tell me your brother doesn’t let you go to bed like this all the time. That’s way irresponsible of him.”
“Sometimes,” Rumble jumped off the beanbag. “It’s not a big deal.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, squirt,” Cloudchaser folded away the magazine. “A kid your age shouldn’t be going to bed with your wings outta shape. Crooked quills are no joke. Get up here on the couch. Right now.”
Cloudchaser tucked her wings in and sat up. Gently patting the cushion, she motioned for him to come sit next to her. Rumble timidly trotted over to the seat. There was just enough room for three on the couch. Flitter had taken to the air and was silently hovering over them. Cloudchaser combed through his wings.
“Mmm… yeah, these need fixing. Flying home on them didn’t help. I could fix this for you, no sweat,” she ran her hoof through his right wing, her touch like a gentle breeze. Rumble felt himself sigh, his feathers quivering.
“How? Are you talking about… I forget what it’s called.”
“Preening,” answered Flitter. This got a jolt from Rumble –he hadn’t noticed her hovering above him.
“Flit, d’you remember when we used to go to the spa on Wednesdays to get our wings done?”
“Oh. My. Gosh! Of course I do!” Flitter smiled broadly. “Wasn’t Harriet the absolute best when it came to preening? That griffon knew how to use her beak.”
The enthusiasm in her voice caught her sister. “Totally! I think Gwendlyn was great too. Those talons of hers was so sharp but like, sooo gentle,” Cloudchaser flicked her ear and sighed. “I could have her scratch my ears for hours. Pretty good with her beak, too.”
“Aww I miss Gwendy,” said Flitter fondly. “We totally need to go back. The spa here is so lame! No griffons at all!”
“Like, guh!” Cloudchaser nodded in agreement. “It’s just Earth ponies and mudbaths. My wings deserve deluxe treatment. It’s not like we can get Harriet or Gwendy to come here just for us.”
“Imagine if we could?”
“Ohhh I would never leave the spa, ever!”
“Me too! Let somepony else kick dumb clouds. I’d just sit there and let them pamper me all day long.”
The twins sighed, momentarily lost in fond memories and fantasies. Rumble was momentarily free of their attention. He coughed and the girls snapped out of their daze.
“Anyway, yeah, we’re gonna preen your wings so they’re all good to go,” said Cloudchaser clumsily.
“How? Neither of you have beaks.”
Cloudchaser playfully gnashed her teeth at him. “C’mon Rumble. Beaks are king but like, look, we’ve all got teeth. It’s just being careful with them. Totally natural. I bet your mom took care of them for you when you were little. ‘Course once your wings are big enough you learn to do them yourself.”
“It won’t hurt?” his voice didn’t waver from uncertainty. Rumble was sure whatever minor pain wouldn’t actually be a bother. He’d never done this before. Or remembered it anyway.
“Not if I do it,” Flitter shoved her sister off the couch. “I was always better at preening that CC was. “
“Slowest at it too,” said Cloudchaser sharply.
“Pfft! Preening isn’t a race, sis, it’s an art.”
An argument between those two could last for hours. It was making him feel tired. Rumble was worn out from his long day and he stretched his legs out in the meantime. As the twins argued over the intricacies of preening, Flitter began directing him around the couch; at one end, over to the other, until finally he found himself draped over the sofa’s arm. Flitter tapped his wings until he stood them up; the touch was a bit rougher than he expected. His tail flagged against her belly.
“I’m just putting them up,” she gently rubbed the small of his back. “Don’t get all antsy.”
Rumble promised not to move and Flitter returned to inspecting his wings. Instead he stared straight at the wall. A picture of Flitter, Cloudchaser and Thunderlane stared back at him. It was an old photo. According to Thunderlane, this was two months before he was born. Cloudchaser even still had braces. They had taken it in Las Pegasus outside the Skyfall Casino. They were smiling together, bunched up in a tight hug, the glare of the sun threatening to wash out the entire picture.
“Oh!” he inhaled sharply. Teeth were at his wings. Flitter had begun working them. Rumble gripped the arm of the sofa tightly. Hopefully it wouldn’t feel too weird. Maybe if he focused on the picture he’d-
Whatever alien sensation he was expecting…wasn’t there. Instead, he felt tiny little pricks of his quills being set back in place along his wings. Flitter was methodically working his primary feathers, her warm breath caressing his right wing, catching his shoulder as she worked. The top part of her jaw kept grazing the stiffer bone of his wing. Rumble felt his whole body relax. It was sublime; like he was back in the bathtub again. A longer crooked feather was re-aligned and Rumble sighed happily, shivering slightly. This felt really good. No wonder the two sisters were going on about the spa in Cloudsdale.
Cloudchaser slunk off the sofa. Treading softly, she positioned herself directly in front of him –dominating his view with her smiling face.
“Feelin’ good, kiddo?” she asked him gently.
“Thinking you were kinda silly now for not askin’ about this sooner, aren’tcha?”
Every muscle on his back felt completely relaxed. “Yeaaaah,”
“So, me an’ Flit still want t’know about your friend,” her words were smooth as silk. Rumble stared foggily as she kept talking. “Mostly with what happened today. The whole story. So, can you tell us?” She leaned over him, real close, warm breath caressing his face. “Can you tell me?”
Under Flitter’s gentle caressing and her sister’s gentle prodding Rumble couldn’t help spilling the details of his day. Starting with the morning, he led the twins through his whole, his encounters in town, meeting Pinkie Pie, dealing with Diamond Tiara, his friends, until he began describing the lemonade stand. Cloudchaser interrupted Rumble’s careful retelling of his day.
“So what is Scootaloo like?”
Rumble sighed deeply. “Well, she’s my height. I think she’s old as me too. I didn’t ask though. Her coat is orange, like orange sherbert –her mane and tail are purple, and she has purple eyes just like mine. Most of the time she gets around on her scooter,” his half-smile faltered, “and she can’t fly yet.”
“Is she cool?” asked Cloudchaser.
“Way cool,” grinned Rumble. “Scootaloo knows a ton of sweet tricks. If I ever got my own scooter I’d so ride around with her!”
Flitter’s wings shot up on her back. Cloudchaser looked over at her with excitement in her eye, the corners of her mouth curled into a grin. Something Rumble had just said really caught her attention.
“Sounds like your fillyfriend is a real cutie,” commented Cloudchaser.
“She’s not my fillyfriend!” Rumble snapped out of his trancelike state for a moment.
“Sor-ry!” Cloudchaser theatrically backed away. “I didn’t know Scootaloo was ugly.”
“Hey she isn’t ugly! Scoot-” he stopped himself, biting his lower lip. That was all Cloudchaser needed to hear.
“So you do think she’s cute,” a huge grin stretched across her face. “Awwwwww.”
“Somepony’s gotta crush…”
“Cloudchaser, stoppit,” he tried burying his face into the arm of the sofa, unable to hide the crimson blush painting his grey face.
A soft giggle escaped Cloudchaser’s lips as she reached a hoof over to stroke his cheek. “C’mon, big guy. It’s okay for a colt your age to have a lil’ sweetheart,” she said tenderly. Rumble only whimpered into the fabric, blushing harder. Flitter moved to his left wing. The giddiness in her gut was distracting her careful work; she so wanted to jump into this conversation! Unfortunately she needed to keep her mouth busy. One more wing to go.
“Lucky you,” continued Cloudchaser, “finding somepony in this town so quick. Your big bro would be super proud. I know I am,” she paused for a moment. Rumble looked up at her, and her breath caught when she saw the dark bruise circling his eye. “Even if she is a little rough around the edges right now.”
The look on Rumble’s face softened. He had been through a trying day. Exhausted as he was, he still fought to stay awake –even with his eyelids drooping. The warm sensations spreading through his back and shoulders were certainly helping. Sensing he’d be drifting off to sleep soon enough, Cloudchaser began pumping him for more info.
“Sooo, what happened with your eye?” she tipped his chin up with her hoof.
“Noffin,” he yawned hugely, smacking his lips.
“C’mon dude, you can tell me!” her tail flicked back and forth behind her. “It’ll be our secret.”
“Secret,” mumbled Rumble, looking determined. “Gotta keep a secret.”
“Mhm, with me?”
“Uh-uh,” he shook his head.
“Pretty please?” offered Cloudchaser. “Did your cute little friend wallop you or not?”
“Rumble if you don’t tell me I’mma wallop you!”
That got a quiet laugh out of the sleepy colt. “Y’know inna way, y’remind me of Scoots, sorta.”
Flitter bit down on his feather a little harder than she was supposed to. Luckily for her it wasn’t comparable to tugging on a quill. A few seconds later and Rumble had drifted off to sleep, snoring softly on the armrest, erect wings automatically folding to his sides when Flitter let go.
“Way to be so good at preening!” hissed Cloudchaser, disappointed that Rumble drifted off before she could get any more out of him.
“Kitchen,” replied her sister, practically sprinting to the other room. Cloudchaser took her time getting over there. When she arrived the water in the sink was running. Flitter was washing her mouth out with cool water; she spit as soon as her sister sauntered in.
“Oh my gosh, can you believe all that?” she said in between another mouthful of water. “That is waaay too cuuute! I might honestly die.”
Cloudchaser simply shook her head. “Still don’t know about his eye. Even if she likes him, punching him in the face is one heck of a rocky way to start things off.”
“You probably coulda gotten him to tell us if you asked better questions,” Flitter rolled her eyes. “Talk about beating around the bush ‘til the last minute, CC.”
“Like, guh, he’ll probably wake up in thirty anyway.”
“Rumble was wiped out. No way he’s waking up.”
“I bet he is.”
“Whateverrrr,” snapped Flitter.
“Ooh, what’s got your feathers in a bunch?”
“I’m not mad at anything.”
“Yes, you totally are. I saw the look on your face before. Rumble called me cute,” teased Cloudchaser.
“Did NOT,” Flitter scowled at her sister. “All he said was you just reminded me of her.”
“Uh-huh, cuz she’s cute. I always knew he liked me more,” the mirthful grin on her face was driving Flitter mad. “Oh my gosh, you are actually jealous, aren’t you? Hee-hee, look who’s so jealous.”
“NO! I’m not. I’m like, totally okay with him liking you more than me,” Flitter sunk to the floor. “Even though I try to talk to him more and play with him more and be super nice to him and h-hang out,” her eyes were getting glassy, “an’ help him with his h-homework a-n, and, and I-“
Flitter swallowed hard, her lower lip trembling. Cloudchaser dropped her teasing smile and sat down next to her sister. A quiet tear rolled down Flitter’s cheek, and she sniffed when her sister draped a wing around her back.
“Come on. Don’t get all emotional on me,” Cloudchaser cooed, trying to calm Flitter down. “Shhh. Hey. You know he likes you. I was just playing.”
“I-It’s true though,” she sniffled. “He likes, you, b-better. It’s not fair, CC, I’m the one who, who’s,” she sniffed again. “I just annoy him d-don’t I?”
“Noooooo,” began Cloudchaser. “Okay maybe a little.” Flitter broke into another bout of sobs. “I keep telling you to stop treating him like a little foal. Rumble isn’t five anymore. Eventually he’s going to be a grown-up stallion taller than me an’ you both; maybe even Thunderlane. Right now, the last thing he wants is to be babieed. You’re still doin’ that to him him, Flit. I’ve told you. It’s not about who spends the most time with him –it’s about how you treat him during that time.”
The sobbing from her sister began to die down as she digested all that. When the last subdued hiccup escaped her lips, Cloudchaser stopped stroking her mane and looked at her. “Do you get me?”
“Y-Yeah, I think so,” her voice still trembled. “Oh CC, I don’t want him to grow up. I want him to stay my cute little Rumbly-Bumbly,” before her sister could speak she continued, “but, y-yeah, you’re right. I need to stop treating him like this.”
“Gonna quit all the gushy baby talk?”
“I’ll stop, all of the gushy baby talk,”
“And I’ll start treating him,” Flitter gulped, “like he’s a young stallion; not a foal.”
“A young stallion with a fillyfriend,” stressed Cloudchaser. “Right?”
“Right. I promise.”
Cloudchaser was satisfied with her reply. “Cool. I’m sure he’ll stop finding you annoying immediately.”
The two Pegasi sat with their backs against the cool refrigerator for what felt like a long while. Neither spoke. The only sounds were their gently breathing and the hum of the appliance behind them. Cloudchaser lightly grabbed her sisters’ hoof.
“You know if you need tips or stuff I’ll help you,” she whispered. “I love you, even if you are the most annoying sister on the planet sometimes.”
Flitter felt the warmth of the comment settle over her. “Me too, sis, for you, and Thunder, and Rumble. Sorry I’m such a crybaby.”
Flitter found herself in a tight hug. “You make sucha sap out of me,” said Cloudchaser, nose-deep in her sister’s mane. After another second she pulled away. “Now, what the hay was that all about when you got all excited while preening Rumble?”
“Remember when he brought up about meeting that Pinkie Pie?”
Of all the thing to bring up, that tidbit felt out of place. That was something Rumble spared maybe two sentences tops. Cloudchaser nodded her head.
“Well, he said that she was throwing him a party. All the schoolfillies (and us too) are going to be there. Rumble said he would like a scooter of his own,” Flitter grinned mischievously. “See where I’m going with this?”
Cloudchaser looked vexed. “Would we have enough bits for this?”
“Psh, probably! Are you going to help me pool together the perfect party present for him or not?”
Flitter raised her hoof and Cloudchaser eagerly bumped it. “You bet!”
On the other side of town, another sleepover had been well under way. The trio of fillies were safely holed up inside their clubhouse. Sweetie Belle had most of the blankets laid out on the floor for them to sleep. The pillows were bunched up together in the middle. Chip bags and other snack wrappers littered the corners of the room. Apple Bloom sat by the window, yawning loudly.
“It’s not much of a meetin’ if we really don’t got anythin’ to discuss,” she said dejectedly. “Ah was sleepin’ jus’ fine before you two came a knockin’.”
“I know, there’s the thing about it,” replied Sweetie Belle. “It was an emergency.”
“’Parantly. Sweetie, you still got sticks in your hair,” Apple Bloom parted the pink stripe of her fluffy mane and pulled out a twig. “What happened today, anyways?”
“It’s a looong story,” cut in Scootaloo, resting on one of the pillows. Crumbs of honey-nut crisps stained the corners of her mouth. “Don’t really feel like telling it again.”
“Fine,” Apple Bloom yawned in response. “Don’t ‘spose you’d want to talk about anything else?”
Scootaloo inspected her hoof, “Sure, not a big deal.”
“How about the school dance?” suggested Sweetie Belle.
“Ewww! You want to talk about that?” Scootaloo spat her tongue out. “That’s waaay too girly!”
Sweetie Belle played with her mane. “Rarity says it’s utterly imperative to be as girly as possible, all the time, and that our femininity should be cherished.”
Apple Bloom laughed. “Oh come on Scoot! The next one is gonna be the very last one for the whole year! Ah’m definitely going to be at this one; besides, everypony should be there! This one’s shapin’ up to be the best!”
“Right!” nodded Sweetie Belle. “I even found a pony to go with.”
The stunned look on her friends’ faces brought a crimson blush to her white cheeks. “What? Aren’t we supposed to go with a colt?”
“That’s great news!” said Apple Bloom with a clop of her hooves. “Who asked ya?”
Another moment of silence filled the room.
“Really?!” Scootaloo’s jaw dropped. “That skinny little colt asked you for the dance!?”
“Uh-huh,” nodded Sweetie. “He’s nice, and he was very polite when he asked me to go.”
“This happened today?” asked Apple Bloom
“I ran into him on the way to my sister’s store. He was with his dad.”
“That’s good on ya, Sweetie! Why, Ah haven’t even started thinkin’ about who’s gonna ask me. Or maybe I should be the pony doin’ the askin’ around…”
Apple Bloom sat down. “Why, there’s more fillies than colts around town for the moment, far as I reckon, and I don’t wanna get stuck with somepony like Snips.”
They all laughed. “I think he’s got a crush on you, Apple Bloom,” said Scootaloo. “Whenever you talk to him he gets red as a tomato!”
“Too bad for Snips then,” giggled Apple Bloom. “Everypony knows my favorite fruits are apples!”
“Those aren’t fruits.”
Apple Bloom looked at Sweetie Belle as if she sprouted another head.
“Don’t be pullin’ mah tail. Ah know what an apple is.”
“Where’d you hear that from?”
“The tomato lady.”
“Ah think she needs to take a tomato break,” Apple Bloom rolled her eyes around. “Anyway, there’s no way I’d ever go with Snips, so I guess that leaves him with you, Scoot.”
“Augh! Gross!” Scootaloo made a retching noise and her friends laughed again. “Even if I were going to that dance, I’d only want to be with somepony tough like me.”
“Somepony tough, like Rumble?” suggested Apple Bloom.
Scootaloo harrumphed. “No! No way!”
“Ya gotta admit that he’s pretty tough.”
“I don’t need to admit anything!”
Scootaloo turned over and sighed loudly.
“Aw c’mon. Whatcha got against him?”
Scootaloo said nothing.
“Ah think he’s kinda sweet.”
This prompted the orange filly to roll over and scowl at Apple Bloom.
“Then you go with him,” she said, flicking her tail. “I don’t want to talk about boys, or this namby-pamby dance anymore! Good night!” Scootaloo pulled as much blanket she could with her hoof and rolled over.
“Maybe Ah will! Goodnight…” muttered Apple Bloom. “Cranky pants.”
They sat quietly until they could hear Scootaloo snoring softly under the covers, and the Apple Bloom nudged the ivory filly. Sweetie explained that to her that Scootaloo was probably really tired. It wasn’t much of a satisfactory answer, and Apple Bloom motioned for her to come outside on the porch. The night had gotten colder; their breath was visible when they spoke. The two fillies leaned against the railing, leaning close to keep warm.
“So what’s bit her in the rump?” asked Apple Bloom.
“It’s a bit of a long story.”
“Ah’m awake now. So tell me anyways.”
So Sweetie did. Doing the best she possible could she recounted what happened between Scootaloo and Rumble after they left. It was a short story, due to Sweetie’s foggy memory concerning the order of events. The scooter ride was the shortest –all she said was that they were riding together before crashing. Mentioning that the scooter was busted drew a gasp from Apple Bloom.
“We just gone and collected enough bits to replace that cracked wheel!”
Sweetie Belle sighed. “I knowww. Isn’t that just the worst?”
“Where is it anyway?”
“What? The wheel?”
“The scooter, ya nincompoop!” she ruffled Sweetie’s mane.
“Oh! I think it’s somewhere under the bush by the hospital road. Unless Scoot moved it somewhere. I didn’t ask.”
“No wonder she’s sore,” Apple Bloom rubbed her shoulder. A minute passed before either of them spoke. “Did Featherweight really ask you for the dance?”
“Mhm, and I wasn’t even expecting anypony to ask me either.”
“Hope Snips doesn’t ask me. Ah would hate to see the look on his face. It’s just that Ah’m not too keen on him is all,” her ears drooped.
“Were you serious when you said about asking Rumble?”
Apple bloom shrugged. “Naaah… Ah think. Maybe? It’s an idea. What pony wouldn’t want to go with him? He’s nice, cool, strong, got a pretty good head on his shoulders. Not saying anything for sure now, but it’s a solid maybe.”
The wind picked up again and the two fillies shivered.
“Let’s call it a night, okay?”
“Sure thing,” Sweetie felt her teeth chattering. The door to the clubhouse barely creaked, and it was much darker inside than out thanks to the thick curtains. It was dead silent, too. The girls yawned and found themselves a blanket and pillow each.
“Hey Apple Bloom?” whispered Sweetie.
“Do you think that Scootaloo… likes Rumble?”
“Couldn’t really say. Though there’s plenty o’ reasons for her not to. Why?”
“I was just wondering.”
“Don’t think too hard over it,” Apple Bloom’s voice was stern, but quiet. “Though, she did sound awfully snappy when Ah brought him up.”
“So you think she does?”
“Ah think we’ve still got one heck of a bad track record when it comes to these things. We’ll jus’ wait and see how things turn out. Ah’m beat.”
“Me too,” Sweetie Belle yawned. “See you tomorrow morning.”
The two fillies drifted off to sleep almost immediately, the once dead silent room now holding the sounds of their gentle breathing. So caught up in their chatter, they didn’t even realize upon entering that Scootaloo had ceased her snoring. The orange filly was wide awake, staring into the wall of the clubhouse and twisting the edge of her blanket into a knot. She caught a glance at the dark bruise on her hoof and felt her stomach knot itself up worse than the blanket.
It was another fitful few minutes of Scootaloo trapped with nothing but her thoughts before she drifted off into a fitful sleep.