“So! You said you had something important to tell me?”
Scootaloo had been to Rainbow Dash’s house a few times. The cyan mare had hosted the Rainbow Dash fan club a few times; they’d had pizza and soda and been regaled by tales of Rainbow Dash’s most awesome exploits. She’d also hosted a sleepover of the Cutie Mark Crusaders once, with Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom safely walking on the clouds thanks to Twilight’s cloud-walking spell. Granted, that time hadn’t gone so well (Scootaloo hadn’t even known you could set clouds on fire), but it was still memorable, if nothing else.
However, she’d never been in Dash’s house for anything really serious before.
Rainbow Dash tossed Scootaloo a hay cola and dropped back onto a cloud armchair. “What’s up, Scoots?”
Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were there too, thanks to Twilight’s spell. They had told her that they wanted to visit Rainbow Dash, and had managed to ‘cute’ her into casting her cloud-walking spell again. They stood a little behind Scootaloo, smiling, and ready to provide moral support if she needed it.
“We’ve known each other a while, right?”
“Two years.” Rainbow Dash frowned slightly. “Is something wrong?”
Scootaloo hesitated. “Uh… when Twilight first came to town, I heard you thought she was a spy or something. Why?”
“I was kind of freaked out by Nightmare Moon, so I was acting a little silly. But I know her better now, and I’d never think that of her, or you, or any of my other friends – no matter what.” Rainbow Dash paused. “Why do you ask?”
Scootaloo began. “Um… and, I’m leading your fan club and stuff, and we’re friends. But… if I was, uh, different… we’d still be friends, right? You wouldn't think I was a spy?”
She had trouble continuing, but Rainbow Dash flew over to her. “Hey, don’t worry. Whatever it is, I’ll still be your friend.” She smiled warmly. “Honest.”
“Even if it was a really big difference?”
Rainbow Dash chuckled. “Even if it was as big as the sun. You’re a really brave, loyal, awesome foal, Scootaloo. I’ll always respect that. Besides, you’ve got excellent judgement! After all, out of all the ponies in town, you chose the best one to form a fan club for!” She grinned and flexed her forelegs. “The one and only Rainbow Dash!”
Scootaloo couldn’t help it. She laughed.
“So whatever it is, I’ll stick by you. I promise. And you can count on it.” She winked. “So – spill. New crush at school?”
“What? No!” Scootaloo giggled.
“Are you really an earth pony in disguise with fake wings?”
“Are you a spy? Are the griffins using you to find out all the secret plans of the foals in Ponyville?”
“No!” Scootaloo had to struggle to talk over her own laughter.
“Hmm… you didn’t get into the Wonderbolts before me, did you?”
“No!” Now all three of the foals were laughing.
“Well, I’m stumped. C’mon, tell!”
Scootaloo took a deep breath, but she wasn’t as scared as she’d been a moment ago. “Here goes…”
She shut her eyes, and shifted to her native form.
There was silence for a second.
Scootaloo opened her eyes to see Rainbow Dash staring. She wasn’t frightened, which was good, but she seemed mostly… confused.
“Wait… hang on… she’s a changeling?” Rainbow Dash paused. “Scootaloo’s a changeling?”
“Uh huh!” said Apple Bloom. “An’ a really good one! Her Sweetie Belle impression is perfect!”
“It is not!”
“It is too!”
Rainbow Dash blinked a few times. “Am I dreaming?”
“No. It’s really me.” Scootaloo smiled weakly. “I didn’t know how to tell you, but I didn’t want to hide it anymore…”
Rainbow Dash examined her closely and backed up a couple of steps. “But… you’re not some new changeling replacing Scootaloo.” It was more of a statement than a question. “No… I know how Scoot sounds. You’re the real one.”
“You could ask her something only she knows,” offered Apple Bloom.
Sweetie Belle put a hoof to her head. “We’ve been over that.”
Scootaloo paused. “Well? You’re not mad, are you?”
“It’s a lot to take in…” Rainbow Dash sat down heavily. “Um…”
Scootaloo sighed. “It’s okay.” She should have known that even Rainbow Dash wouldn’t be able to accept this. “I can go.”
“Hey, wait!” Rainbow Dash sounded slightly panicked. “You can’t go yet! I have something I need to ask you!”
Rainbow Dash hesitated, then seemed to settle on something and grinned. “Admit it. You’ve tried on my body a few times, just to see what it’s like, right?”
The question was so unexpected that Scootaloo forgot that she might not want to answer it in detail. “Uh, sure, I mean when I’m not being me I’m usually pretending to be you, and… uh…”
The other three laughed, and Scootaloo joined in after a moment.
“You’re not upset?”
“Hey, I said I’d always stand by you, right?” Rainbow Dash rapped Scootaloo’s carapace a couple of times. “Who cares that you’re, uh, crunchy now?”
“Crunchy?!” Scootaloo ‘harumphed.’ “I’m not crunchy. I’m naturally armored!”
“No, you’re definitely crunchy,” said Sweetie Belle. “All bugs are.”
“I’m not a bug!”
Rainbow Dash flew under Scootaloo so that the foal was on her back. “Aren’t you going to show me what you think I look like?”
Scootaloo blushed. “Uh… what if I don’t get it right?”
“Well, obviously that’s why you need to show me so I can correct you! I mean, if you’re going around being me, I need to make sure you get every little detail! I can’t have a bad imposter sullying my reputation!”
Scootaloo laughed and hopped off of Rainbow Dash’s back. “Here goes!” She shifted.
There was another pause for a few seconds.
“Hmm…” Rainbow Dash flew around “I’d say, lengthen the wings a little, the mane needs to be a bit brighter, longer tail, but otherwise great!” Then she poked Scootaloo’s flank. “Except you forgot my cutie mark!”
“I can’t shift those yet.” Scootaloo hesitated. “But I’m working real hard on earning my cutie mark as a pony. And I bet, once I do, I’ll be able to shift them too.”
“Well, keeping that in mind… not bad!” Rainbow Dash grinned. “Seriously, there’s good attention to detail here.”
“Yeah, and she can’t even get my horn size right,” complained Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo rolled her eyes and sprouted a little horn into existence on her head, as if the Rainbow Dash she was imitating was an alicorn. “This is just right!”
“No, it’s too small!”
“It is not!”
“This is too weird,” murmured Rainbow Dash, before hastily breaking up the argument.
The Crusaders had a fun night sleeping over at Dash’s place. There was pizza, and rides on Rainbow Dash’s back, and she even let them stay up past their bedtimes.
Just before lights out, Rainbow Dash took Scootaloo aside. “If you want to tell the others… I’ve got your back, okay?”
“I do. And thanks.” Scootaloo grinned. “You’re the best hero a pony could have. Or, uh, a changeling too.”
“How’re you going to tell them?”
“I thought of having Pinkie throw a party.”
“Hmm. Not bad. But – oh, I know!” Rainbow Dash grinned. “Before the party. Let’s tell Twilight before the party.”
“Oh, I have a great idea.”
The next day dawned bright and sunny.
Twilight looked up from her early-morning research at the sound of a knock on her door. “Coming!”
She trotted over. “Who is it?” she asked, as she opened the door.
‘It’ was Rainbow Dash. “Hi, Twilight! Is—“
And then the bucket of paint fell on her.
Twilight blinked. She hadn’t remembered leaving an open bucket of paint on her doorframe. But it seemed that one had been balanced there, and when she’d opened the door, it had fallen off and right onto a newly-purple Rainbow Dash. “Uh…”
“Sorry!” Twilight frowned. “I don’t know how that got there!” Probably Spike. “I’ll get something to clean you up right away!”
She hastily dashed to a closet and grabbed a bucket, which she filled with water. Levitating a few towels as well, she ran back to the door, which had apparently swung closed. She opened it to reveal—
A cyan, non-painted Rainbow Dash.
“Hi Twilight! Is the new Daring Do book in?”
“…wait. Aren’t you purple?”
“No, that’s you.” Rainbow Dash blinked. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m fine…” Twilight shook her head. Had she imagined the first Rainbow Dash? “I think it is. I’ll get it for you.”
She trotted to the bookshelves, put down the cleaning supplies, and levitated the book. She returned to the door, opened it, and –
And Rainbow Dash was dripping purple paint again.
“Hey, I thought you said you were getting cleaning supplies!”
“But you were – just – uh –“ Twilight felt very confused. “One second!”
She hurried back, got the bucket and towels, and returned to the door, only to be confronted by the clean Dash. “That’s not my book! That’s a bucket and towels!”
She shut the door, paused, opened it, and saw the purple Dash. She did so again, and saw the clean one. She opened the door several times, each time seeing the other pony. Twilight’s eyes were spinning.
Just before she gave up, she heard two sets of knocks on the door. Hesitantly, she inched it open, to see both Rainbow Dashes, one cyan and one painted purple – both laughing merrily.
“You should see the look on your face!” managed the purple one.
“So, can I have the bucket now?”
“So you’re a real changeling?”
“Yes.” Scootaloo gulped. The prank had been fun, but Twilight had gotten very serious immediately after Rainbow Dash had explained what happened. Dash, as well as the other Crusaders, were in the library as well, but Twilight was only talking to Scootaloo.
“In Ponyville? For years? Without anypony knowing?”
“Yes.” Scootaloo looked away.
“Yeah, she is! And anypony who doesn’t like it has to deal with me!” said Rainbow Dash.
“But… really? A real changeling?” Twilight had a completely unreadable expression on her face.
Scootaloo gestured at her bug-like body. “Uh, yeah.”
“That’s not a costume?” Twilight levitated Scootaloo and began to rotate her in the air to examine her, ignoring Scootaloo’s awkward complaints. “Not a trick?”
“No, I Pinkie promise!” said a somewhat exasperated Scootaloo. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, yadda yadda yadda, please put me down!”
Twilight did so, her horn glowing briefly. “Don’t worry. I’ve got a detect changeling spell that’s sure to get to the bottom of this.”
“Of what?” demanded Scootaloo. “I just told you—“
Apple Bloom giggled. “No point, Scootaloo. Ma sister says sometimes she just gets like this, an’ nopony can do anythin’ ‘bout it. Just gotta wait it out.”
“But—“ And then Scootaloo glowed a bright pink for a second or two. “Hey!”
Twilight blinked. “Well… I mean, I guess that settles it. You really are a changeling.”
“… you’re not mad, are—“
Twilight grinned. “Mad? Are you kidding? This is the greatest research opportunity I’ve had in months! I have so many questions!”
Twilight’s horn glowed. The door to the library slammed shut, and a seat rushed up against Scootaloo, knocking her onto it. “Spike! Cancel my appointments and clear my schedule!” the purple unicorn yelled. “Something more important came up!”
“You? Clearing your schedule? Wow. Never thought I’d see that,” joked Rainbow Dash.
“Well, you’re seeing it now!” Twilight grinned. “Scootaloo, you’re going to answer my questions, right?” She smiled winningly.
“Great! I promise, it won’t take more than four hours. Well, maybe five.” Twilight paused. “Are you doing anything tonight?”
Scootaloo felt an impending sense of doom.
Twilight got set up at a desk with a lot of paper and a big inkpot. Scootaloo, back in her orange foal form, sat across from her, and the other three were mostly laughing on the sidelines. Twilight smiled again. “I want to know everything! Like what you eat besides love, and how you sleep – do you really sleep hanging upside down from trees, like a bat?”
“What? No! Who told you that?” said Scootaloo. She blushed as she heard Sweetie laughing.
“It’s from a book by Animania, Equestria’s foremost expert on foreign intelligent species.”
Scootaloo looked back at her giggling friends. “Well, I don’t. I mean, I can, but I like beds more, and—“
“Can you show me?” asked Twilight, eagerly.
“Yeah, show us!” chorused the other Crusaders.
Scootaloo sighed, then changed into her native form and climbed up the treehouse wall to the ceiling. She hooked her hooves around a beam at the top, then dangled down. “I’m not real sleepy now, but--”
“Wait!” Rainbow Dash leapt up. “Stay right there!” She zipped out.
Scootaloo paused. “Uh. Should I be worried?”
“Knowing Rainbow Dash… probably.” Twilight thought. “Quite. Well, while we’re waiting--”
Rainbow Dash hurried back in with a large bag of water balloons.
“Where did you get those?” asked Apple Bloom.
“Pinkie’s got caches all over town. For emergencies.” Rainbow Dash grinned. “Dye-filled too.”
Scootaloo hesitated. “Uh. You’re not, uh, still remembering that time when we accidentally turned your cloud pink, are you?”
Dash grinned and flipped a few balloons to the Crusaders, ignoring Twilight’s complaints about wasting time. “Maybe just a little.”
Scootaloo paused, then smiled. Rainbow Dash was challenging her to a contest – that was awesome! “Well, I’ll bet I can get down from here before you hit me with any of those!”
“Oh yeah? Ready! Aim!”
As a now-multicolored, and quite giggly, Scootaloo headed down, Twilight – practically bouncing from hoof to hoof in excitement – waved off Dash. “Okay, alright, fun’s over, next question!”
“I have a question,” said Sweetie Belle, quickly, before Twilight could get started.
“What is it?” asked Twilight, in a tone of voice that clearly ached to get this part over with so she could resume her interrogation.
“How come your big spell in Canterlot didn’t affect Scootaloo?” asked Sweetie.
Apple Bloom nodded. “We were afraid that ya’d cast it again an’ accidentally knock Scootaloo outta town…”
Twilight giggled. “First of all, it wasn’t me. Princess Cadence and Shining Armor did that. But actually, I think I know why it didn’t affect you, Scootaloo.”
“You do?” Scootaloo had finished climbing back down. “Why not?”
“Shining Armor’s spell was powered by the love magic of Princess Cadence. It targeted any creatures in Canterlot who didn’t have any love in their hearts. Queen Chrysalis, all the changeling soldiers who only wanted to feed on the love of ponies and didn’t have any of their own, all of them got thrown out. But you? You care about all your friends, and the rest of us in Ponyville. Your heart’s full of love already.” Twilight smiled brightly. “There’s no way that spell would have hurt even the littlest hair on your mane.”
“But… Scootaloo doesn’t have hair in her real form,” said Apple Bloom.
Scootaloo smiled. “I know what she means. Thanks, Twilight.”
Twilight nodded. “Happy to help! Now, as for the next question. Can you really see in total dark?”
“…what, ponies can’t?”
The questioning took a few hours, but at least Twilight gave Scootaloo plenty of candy to keep her ‘interview subject’ happy and talkative.
Rainbow Dash left partway through to get Pinkie to set up the party, and by the time Scootaloo got to Sugar Cube corner, it was in full swing. No sooner had she entered than Pinkie dragged her to a small stage.
“Hey, the Guest of Honor is here!” Pinkie yelled. “Everypony, make way!”
Scootaloo wasn't nervous anymore. Everypony had backed her up so far (well, except for Diamond Tiara, but she didn't count). Ponyville would support her. They were her friends, after all.
"Good luck!" called the other two Crusaders. They were standing right next to the stage, smiling at her. Most of the other foals who knew her secret were also there, and a few were giving her obvious signs of support – waving, whistling, clapping hooves. And, of course, Rainbow Dash was flying near the back. She winked at Scootaloo, who giggled.
“Uh… thanks for doing all this.” Scootaloo smiled. “I have something to tell you all.”
She paused. How should she put this?
“Just show them!” yelled Rainbow Dash. “Come on, be cool about it! Don’t give some lame speech!”
Scootaloo laughed. “Okay.”
There were, as she’d feared, a few gasps from some of the adults in the room. A couple backed towards the door. Fluttershy seemed to have teleported under a table.
“So, uh… yeah. I’m a changeling. I’ve been pretending to be a pony because I really like living here and all of you, and I don’t want to leave, but I didn’t want to keep it a secret anymore. And I knew I could trust you because—“
And then Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle jumped up onto the stage and hugged Scootaloo. “Scootaloo’s a changeling, but she’s still our best friend!” yelled Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah! An’ don’t be mean ta her!” added Apple Bloom.
The other foals began yelling their approval.
Rainbow Dash flew to the stage. “That goes for me too. Like I said before, anypony who wants to mess with Scoots has to get through me!” She grinned, and quickly lifted Scootaloo onto her back. “And nopony can!”
The adults began to murmur.
“Yes.” Twilight Sparkle, who had just walked in, began to speak. “Scootaloo has shown an impressive amount of courage in telling us all her secret, and she demonstrated that she trusts us. Let’s show her that the trust is warranted.” She smiled. “Scootaloo, I don’t think any of us cares that you’re a changeling. Whatever your species, you’re still the same foal that we care about.”
A few of the adults began adding their approval.
Scootaloo swiveled to look at a distraught Pinkie. Oh, right. She didn’t like Zecora either. “What?”
“Do changelings like sweets and cake and candy?!” Pinkie seized Scootaloo and shook her. "DO THEY?"
“Uh… yes. Yes, we do.”
“Oh. Okay then!” Pinkie grinned and stopped shaking the changeling. “I was afraid that you wouldn’t like the party ‘cause it’s all pony desserts, but if they’re changelings desserts too, that’s a-ok!” She grinned. “Now everypony, let’s have a wonderful ‘Scootaloo is a changeling’ party!”
Scootaloo grinned as the party resumed. Everything was alright.
Scootaloo sighed in contentment as she relaxed against a tree at the edge of the Everfree.
They all accepted me. They all care about me, even though I’m a changeling. I live in the best place in the world.
Scootaloo turned to see the other two Crusaders running up. “What’s up, Sweetie Pony?”
Sweetie Belle giggled. “Apple Bloom just had a great idea.”
Apple Bloom was bouncing with excitement. “We’re guaranteed ta get our cutie marks with this one!”
“What is it?”
“Well, ya know how we didn’t get any marks fer catapultin’?”
“What if we built a really big catapult that could catapult other catapults! It’d be, like, a super catapult! We’d have ta get our marks then!”
Scootaloo thought it over. “That’s… that’s genius!”
The three foals raced off on their next adventure. They had cutie marks to discover, after all, and not even incidents of species could distract them from that for long.