Someone Still Loves You

by brokenimage321

12. Disclosure

“Well,” Rarity sighed, “I think you all did a marvelous job. Considering the time constraints, it was an adorable little production!”

“Thanks, sis.” Sweetie Belle grinned, “It was actually kinda fun.”

“Unless you were Silver Spoon.” Apple Bloom grinned, “She looked absolutely miserable in that costume.”

“Well!” Rarity said, sticking her nose in the air, “Pardon me for sacrificing some comfort for authenticity!”

Scootaloo laughed with her friends, though her own laugh was half-hearted. Her mind was in too many places for it to be anything else. With the play over with, she was back to the issue of her new home...

She felt a light tap on her shoulder, then turned to see a familiar face.

Scootaloo smiled wide as she hugged Rumble tightly, the colt returning the favor.

“What’d you think?” Scootaloo asked sheepishly as she pulled away. “...of the…”

“You were great,” Rumble said quickly, “I mean… everypony was…”

“He almost hit me with the damn floodlight,” Button said from behind, the devious smirk of his in full force. “Stopped to stare at your flank or something--” Button giggled as he dodged a swing from Rumble, then turned to smile back at Scootaloo. “Yeah, you were pretty good though.”

Scootaloo grinned. “What about Sweetie Belle?” she said, a little louder.

“We—” Button turned red, hiding behind Rumble again, his voice now barely above a whisper, “She was alright... I guess.”

“Hey Scootaloo,” Apple Bloom said from behind her.


Apple Bloom was smiling. “We’re all gonna head over to the castle to meet the Princesses and have some food! They got a whole buffet of fancy Canterlot eatin’! Or, at least that’s what Pinkie was sayin’... Wanna come?”

“Yeah!” she said. “Once I get my costume put away, and take some stuff over to the boutique, I’ll head down there.”

“Neato!” Apple Bloom grinned, “See ya then!”

Apple Bloom stepped away, and joined the crowd of foals filing away from the stage.

Rarity watched them go, then rolled her eyes. Oh no, please, she thought to herself, as she bent to pick up a discarded dress, don’t worry about the costumes strewn about the floor or anything…

Rumble wiped the sweat from under his mane, panting as he leaned against the wall. Button Mash handed him a glass of water.

“Who knew a box of stupid cables would be so heavy?” Button whined as he slumped to the floor.

“I did,” Rumble said flatly, “because you put the mixing board in there, remember?”

“Oh,” Button muttered. “Dumbass.”

Rumble cocked his head, “Me, or you?”

“Who do you think, you dodo?” Button spat. After a few seconds with no response, he looked up to see Rumble facing towards the door. He stood rigid and unmoving, eyes wide, ears up, tail swinging slowly back and forth.

“Her.” Rumble growled under his breath.

Button pushed himself up, and walked up beside him. “You okay, Rumble? You know I was just f--” Button’s eyes went wide as he saw her, standing off in the corner. “Aw shit,” he breathed.

Button knew this was a bad idea. He knew he should stop Rumble, before he did something stupid. But for all his swagger, for all his attitude, he stood rooted to the spot as Rumble slowly, menacingly, advanced on Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow Dash was quite alright being alone in the corner, unnoticed and unseen. Her nausea had returned with a vengeance, and she felt she could barely stay on her hooves. There was no going back now; the door was behind her, and her mind was set.

She swallowed hard as she watched the scene before her. It was so mundane and calm. Rarity and Applejack tending to various bits of post-play business, be it hanging costumes on a rack, or disassembling some metal frame from a large set piece. And Scootaloo…

She was talking to somepony, somepony blocked from her view by an errant prop--Sweetie Belle, no doubt. She was smiling, her orange coat glowing softly under the warm lights of the room. Rainbow examined her carefully again. As she recalled the similarities, the reality of her revelation, she shuddered. That was definitely her, all right.

Her mind took a backseat as her heart took the wheel, and began to command her hooves forward. Slowly, cautiously.

“What are you doing here?” a voice snapped.

It was Rumble. That same, fiery look in his eyes, his wings flared: he looked ready to tear her down again. His pace quickened to a trot as he continued to advance on her, then stopped just in front of her. Rainbow realized suddenly that every eye in the room was watching her and Rumble.

Rainbow looked around, her mouth suddenly very dry. There were only the six of them--Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rumble, Scootaloo, and herself--but this wasn’t how she was hoping to have this conversation.

She opened her mouth, feeling the weight of everyone’s stares on her. “I want to talk to Scootaloo,” she said.

“Oh, yeah?” Rumble spat back. “Well, she doesn’t want to talk to you!”

“Cool it, Rumble,” Applejack cut in. “She don’t bite none.” She looked back at Rainbow, irritation and impatience in her eyes. “What did you wanna say?” she asked.

“Yeah!” roared Rumble. “Anything you can say to her, you can say to us!”

This time, no one tried to stop him.

Rainbow looked around one more time, and suddenly, she wanted to fly away. She wanted to spread her wings and head out into that open sky again--but she couldn’t, not with everyone watching her like this. She took a step backwards and bumped into one of the painted sets. She swallowed, panic rising in her chest.

And, then, she said it.

“She’s mine,” she croaked.

For a moment, no one spoke. Even Rumble had no response.

Then, Rarity cleared her throat. “Who is whose, dear?” she asked.

Rainbow looked at Rarity--but found her gaze drifting back towards Scootaloo--towards her baby.

“Scootaloo,” she said. “Scootaloo is my daughter.”

Rainbow watched Scootaloo’s face. For a moment, she did not react--but, when she did, a slow expression of dawning horror spread across her features. And then, Rumble stepped in front of Scootaloo, blocking Rainbow’s view, a scowl of rage on his face. “Why would you say something like that?” he asked, his voice thick with disdain and disgust.

Rainbow opened her mouth--then looked, helplessly, to her friends. Rarity looked back at her with annoyance, Applejack met her gaze with a heavy sigh, and Fluttershy—

Fluttershy stared at Rainbow Dash, her mouth slightly open, mingled fear and hope in her eyes. Rainbow looked, pleadingly, at her, and she nodded slightly.

“Because,” Fluttershy said to Rumble, “It’s true.”

Now everyone turned to look at her. She looked up, saw their eyes upon her, and quailed--but then, she gritted her teeth, and stood up straight.

“It’s true,” she repeated. “I was there. In the hospital with her.”

“Come on, Fluttershy,” Rarity said. “Don’t be ridiculous. Why, she would have to have been—”

“Fifteen,” Rainbow said. “I…” she swallowed. “I made some mistakes.” She shrugged angrily. “Fine--a lot of mistakes. And… and I didn’t know it was her. But now, I can’t deny it--Scootaloo is my daughter. And now, I want to start acting like it.”

Rumble looked back and forth between the adults, then snarled. “You have no proof!” he said. “I-i-it’s just you, and Fluttershy—”

“There’s proof,” Fluttershy said quietly. “At the hospital. In the birth records.” Fluttershy looked up, then back down again. “I’ve checked,” she said.

“Well then,” Applejack said, “there’s only one thing to do.” She hesitated—for a moment, it seemed that she, herself, couldn’t believe she was going to suggest it—”Let’s go to the hospital, and see what they say.”

And, without another word, she turned and strode away. Fluttershy shot a hopeful smile at Rainbow Dash, then turned and followed.

Rainbow looked hopefully at Scootaloo. Scootaloo had not moved--she still stood there, eyes wide and filling with tears, staring back at Rainbow Dash. Rainbow took a deep breath, and smiled--

“Scootaloo?” Rarity said suddenly. “Why don’t you come here, and we’ll go down there together.” She shot Rainbow a guarded, hateful look, one that made Rainbow swallow, hard, then turn and trot after Applejack and Fluttershy.

Rarity watched her go, then turned to Scootaloo. “It’s not right of her to make fun,” she said, “and it’s not right of her to drag Fluttershy into it, too.” She smiled a little. “But we’ll go get this sorted out--and we’re going to make sure you’re taken care of.” She gave her a little half-nod. “Now, come along.”

Rarity was watching Scootaloo expectantly. She had no choice. She took three or four awkward, halting steps, and stood alongside Rarity.

“There we go,” Rarity said gently. She smiled at her, then turned and trotted away. “How are you feeling, by the way?”

There were no words for what Scootaloo was feeling. Somewhere, deep down, she had suspected that Rainbow might be--but, to see her as she was now…? Irresponsible, selfish, dishonest, and uncaring...?

She was sick. Dismayed. Horrified. Her mind reeled with the possibilities--what if it wasn’t a lie? What if that meant she had to live with her own worst nightmare--maybe forever? What sort of life would that be?

She looked up at Rarity and forced a smile. “I’m fine,” she said.

Scootaloo moved to follow after Rarity—but paused, and turned to look for Rumble. He was the only one she felt she could really trust her feelings to…

...But he was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, Scootaloo felt more alone than she could say.

She swallowed, then turned and hurried after Rarity.

“Princess Twilight!”

Twilight looked up and frowned. “Rumble?” she said.

They were back at the castle, with the after-party in full swing. She had been standing back, just watching the proceedings--until little Rumble had galloped up to her, eyes wide, sweat pouring down his face.

He sucked down a deep, gasping breath. “Come quick,” he blurted.

Twilight turned to face him. “What’s going on?” she asked carefully.

Rumble took another deep breath. “Rainbow,” he said. “She—she’s gone crazy. Says—says she’s Scootaloo’s—” He swallowed, then shook his head. “Hospital,” he gasped. “Hurry.”

And, with that, he turned and galloped away. As he passed through the open front doors, he spread his wings and lifted off.

Twilight watched him go, then bit her lip. She turned, scanned the crowd, then trotted over to where Cheerilee stood, surrounded by a group of foals. The crowd parted as Twilight passed, and Cheerilee looked up.

“Do you think you can hold down the fort for a minute?” Twilight asked her.

Cheerilee frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing much. I hope,” she added uncertainly. “But I need to step out.”

Cheerilee nodded uneasily. “Alright,” she said. “Just… don’t be too long, okay?”

Twilight nodded. “I’ll try.” She looked around the crowd again. “Have you seen Pinkie, by the way?”

Fluttershy watched as patiently as she could, accompanied in this dry, dimly lit room by the buzzing of the overhead lights and the occasional sound of filing cabinets opening and shutting. White noise.

The five of them were sitting side-by-side in the hospital: Fluttershy, Rainbow, Scootaloo, Rarity, and Applejack. None of them spoke. Rainbow was gazing down fondly at Scootaloo, who stared straight ahead, her gaze cold and hollow; Rainbow gingerly stretched out a wing to wrap around Scootaloo, but a dirty look from Rarity made her pull it back.

Fluttershy sighed, then turned and looked out the door.  every now and then some silhouettes would walk by, some obviously hospital staff, chatting amongst themselves or to patients. It reminded her of her many visits here--not just for Scootaloo’s foaling, but for all the other times, too, Rainbow’s injury among them. Never though had she been there this late. It was eerily quiet down the snaking hallway, and it made this whole affair that much more unsettling.

“Miss Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy squeaked and spun to face Nurse Redheart, now standing over her. Redheart smirked a little at her fright, then cleared her throat. “I’ve found it,” she said.

Fluttershy swallowed. “Her b-b-irth certificate?”

She nodded noncommittally. “Perhaps.”

Fluttershy and Applejack stared back at her--Rarity was too busy watching Rainbow, Rainbow was too busy watching Scootaloo, and Scootaloo still watched nothing.

“Can we see it?” asked Applejack, after a moment of silence.

Nurse Redheart pressed her lips into a thin line. “No,” she said.

Rarity glanced up at her. “But—”

Suddenly, the door banged open, this time, startling Redheart as well.  Three ponies filed into the room: Rumble in front, his head held high. Behind him came Princess Twilight, who ran her gaze over the waiting ponies, a slight frown on her face.

Nurse Redheart swallowed. “M-May I help you… all?” she asked carefully.

Twilight nodded to the waiting ponies. “We’re with them,” she said.

Redheart sighed. “So you’ll be wanting to see the certificate too, then.”

Twilight glanced down at Rumble, then back up at Nurse Redheart. “Certificate?” she asked.

“The birth certificate,” she said, the slightest edge in her voice.

Twilight frowned slightly. “Why would we want to see that?

Applejack sighed heavily. “Rainbow says she’s Scoots’s mama,” she said. “And we wanna find out for sure.”

Twilight stared, wide-eyed, between Rainbow, now cooing like a fool, and Scootaloo, who still had said nothing. She looked back up at Nurse Redheart. “What’s the problem, then?” she asked.

Nurse Redheart frowned again. “I can’t just give out sensitive medical paperwork to anyone,” she said, testily.

Twilight glanced around at her friends. All of them, save Rainbow, stared back at her. She cleared her throat nervously. “So…” she said, slowly, “I hereby… order you… through royal decree… to hand over the certificate?”

Redheart sighed, “Frankly, Your Highness,” she said, “HIPPA doesn’t give two shits if you’re Filly Farmer or Princess Celestia herself. Without the consent of the alleged mother,” she said testily, glancing at Rainbow Dash, “you’re getting nowhere. No signature, no certificate.”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened, then she elbowed Dash hard, in the ribs. Rainbow looked up, and noticed the entire room was staring at her. She swallowed.

“I wanna know who my daughter is,” Rainbow said plainly.

“Well, you’re in luck,” Nurse Redheart said sarcastically. “I already found the document. All I need is your signature.”

Rainbow stood and followed Nurse Redheart to the counter. She took a pen in her teeth, then signed the form that Redheart slid across the counter to her.

“There,” Nurse Redheart huffed. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

She turned back to the filing cabinet, grabbed something resting on top of the open drawer, and handed it to her. Rainbow took the certificate gently in her hooves, as all of her friends gathered round.  

Staring back at her from off the form was a mugshot of her at fifteen: incredibly bored, but at the same time, with a hint of uncertainty in her eyes, something that made Rainbow shiver.

And, her mouth dry, she read:



CHILD NAME: N/A                  SEX: F                  SPECIES: Pegasus  
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ponyville Hospital, Ponyville, SCA
BIRTHDATE: 10/11/991 7:59 PM
SUPERVISION: Natal, Neo, Pediatric SpecIalist 

MOTHER NAME: Rainbow Dash        SPECIES: Pegasus        RESIDENCE: Ponyville, SCA
FATHER NAME: -                SPECIES: -                 RESIDENCE: -


MANE: Light Brilliant Gamboge
COAT: Moderate Cerise
EYES: Gray-Purple
DISTINGUISHING MARKS: Apparent Severe Flight Impairment

And, below that, in ballpoint pen:

NOTES: Mother RAINBOW DASH has invoked Imperial Foal Welfare Act, requests to cede foal to DFS for foster placement. Recommended Cloudsdale placement for further diagnosis and treatment of SFI if possible.

Applejack peered over Rainbow’s shoulder. “Gam—” she read hesitantly, “gam-bog…”

Nurse Redheart glanced at the certificate. “Gamboge and cerise,” she corrected. “Purple and orange.” She sighed. “I can go get the color swatches if you need… That’s DFS for you, always making—”

Applejack glanced up at Scootaloo. “Well….I’ll be damned,” she murmured.

Rainbow slowly sat on the floor. Rarity’s mouth dropped open. She looked between Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, the former with her head held high, a faint smile on her lips, the latter staring, almost disbelieving, at the certificate.

Suddenly, Pinkie Pie squealed. “You have a daughter?” she cried. “We should have a baby shower!” Her eyes bulged. “No--a retroactive baby shower! And--”

“Pinkie,” Twilight said, gritting her teeth, “Now isn’t the time—”

“Bullshit,” said a voice.

All of them turned to face Rumble, who had crawled up on the bench beside Scootaloo.

“I beg your pardon?” Redhart said, glaring at him.

“I call bullshit,” he repeated. “That could be any orange pegasus with a purple mane!”

Really,” Rarity retorted, “I think this is more than enough-”

Nurse Redheart sighed. “There is a test we can do,” Redheart said. “Though, how many flightless orange pegasi could be born on October 11, I don’t—”

“Let’s do it,” Rainbow said. “I… I want everyone to be sure.”

Something in her tone made both Rumble and Nurse Redheart look up.

“Well,” Nurse Redheart said, “If--if you want…”

“I do,” she said, looking up at her.

Nurse Redheart nodded. “Fine,” she said. “It’s just a basic DNA test. Results will take forty-eight hours, but then…” She swallowed. “Then you’ll be sure.”

Rainbow nodded.

“Alright,” she said, to no one in particular. “All we need is a feather from each of you.”

Wordlessly, Rainbow held out her wing. Nurse Redheart fished a pair of tweezers from a drawer in the desk, then stepped forward and gently plucked a tiny feather from the edge of her wing, making Rainbow suck in a sharp, painful gasp as she did. She dropped it carefully into a small, plastic bag, placed it on the counter, then turned and advanced on Scootaloo, tweezers gleaming.

For the first time since they had arrived, Scootaloo reacted. She looked up, saw the tweezers, and her eyes went wide. She shrunk back in her seat, grabbing frantically at Rumble.

No!” Scootaloo shrieked, “Don't touch me!

Rumble grabbed her and pulled her close.  She burrowed into him, her chest heaving. Rumble looked up and glared daggers at Nurse Redheart, who had stopped in her tracks.

Everyone in the room stared as Scootaloo sobbed into Rumble’s coat, a blubbering, hyperventilating mess of a cry. Watched as she fought to hold on to every last ounce of denial and disbelief she had.

Then, they looked at him. Rumble stared back at them, then turned shyly back to the quivering filly he held. He licked his lips, then turned to whisper into her ear.

“Scootaloo…” he began, then faltered. He swallowed hard. This was a super-serious grown-up decision, and frankly, he had never felt so much like a foal before. Seeing Scootaloo in such a mess was painful enough, but now the pressure, the weight of the stares that practically pinned him in place, was almost too much to bear.

“Y-You…” he hesitated, then swallowed past another lump in his throat. “You need to let her take one.”

She shook her head fiercely against him, spreading the dampness of her tears across his chest , not daring to pull her face away from the safety of his embrace.

Rumble felt a slight well of irritation, “Scootaloo…” his voice was firm, but still quiet, “You need to let her take one. We need to settle this once and for all.” He swallowed. “It’s our only chance.”

Scootaloo pushed away from him, then looked up into his eyes. His heart practically stopped. Her eyes were full of fear and anger, her cheeks so wet and matted by tears, she looked as if she had just come in from a rainstorm.

“Why are you doing this?” Scootaloo whimpered, “Wh--why are you… I thought you…”

Rumble swallowed. He could still feel everyone staring at him--but, suddenly, it didn’t seem to matter anymore. As he stared back at her, he felt a warm light begin to glow inside his chest. And before he knew what he was saying, he spoke:

“I love you, Scootaloo,” he said. “I do. That’s why… I… we... want to know.” He glanced up, and saw the grown-ups watching him carefully, some of their faces gleeful, some angry. And, suddenly, he lost his nerve. “Come on,” he said, dropping his voice to a whisper again. “This is embarrassing.”

He regretted it as soon as he said it. He saw the flash of anger in her eyes--but it quickly faded. She leaned forward again and snuggled into his chest. She was no longer crying--she was now silent, save for a few sniffles here and there.

“She can’t,” Scootaloo whimpered.

Rumble swallowed. “Can I?”

For a long moment, she did not speak.

“Mm-hm,” she said, her voice so quiet and muffled he almost thought he imagined it.

Rumble swallowed. Slowly, he craned his neck forward, using his hooves to turn her slightly, enough so he could reach the nearest feather. With his front teeth, he clenched, and plucked it off, and felt her tremble against him. . It came free with only a little resistance, with a tiny scarlet drop of blood on the point. Nurse Redheart stepped forward, taking the feather in her tweezers, then hurried back to the counter with it., As she sealed the second baggie, Rumble stroked Scootaloo’s mane softly, then leaned down and kissed her on the neck.

One of the mares in the room awwed. Probably Pinkie.

“Well,” Redheart said, looking down at her desk, then back at the gang of eyes trained on her. “We’ll get the results of that test back in a couple days. But until then…” She looked up again. “She’s yours, as far as we’re concerned.”

Rumble sucked in a sharp breath. Twilight shot him a warning glance, then turned back to Nurse Redheart. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but did I miss something? I thought that’s what the test was for…”

She nodded. “It is, Your Highness. But, until we receive evidence to the contrary, the information on the birth certificate is conclusive enough for the courts. Or, at least,” she added, “in custody cases.”

Rainbow looked up. Custody, she mouthed.

Rarity’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry, Nurse Redheart,” she said, stepping quickly forward. “But I’ve already invited Scootaloo to stay at my home, at least until she finds something more permanent—”

“That’s fine,” she replied. “But, as far as the paperwork shows, Miss Dash here is her mother, and, by law, now has final say over custody arrangements.”

Rainbow looked again towards Scootaloo, a faint, hopeful smile on her lips—but Scootaloo was hiding her face in the arms of the colt she, apparently, loved--and that she hated so much. At the sight, her eager fire went out of her, leaving her feeling numb and hollow.

It was her. Scootaloo was… her daughter. She knew it, Scootaloo knew it, everypony knew it, as far as she was concerned.

And now, came the unwelcome question with an impossible answer.

She swallowed as she finally turned to face her friends. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

“What… what should I do?” Rainbow asked quietly, her gaze flicking over towards Scootaloo.

Nopony spoke. Rainbow looked uncertainly around the room, then swallowed. She turned, and took a nervous step towards her daughter. It had been ten years--hundred of frightened, tearful nights--and now, here she was, mere feet from her--

“Scootaloo?” Rainbow barely whispered.

Scootaloo’s only response was a pathetic, whimpering whine. Rumble pulled her even closer, then turned and glared at Rainbow.

Rainbow felt a snarl rising within her. For the briefest of moment, she wanted to put the brat in his place. He had no right to keep her daughter from her—she was her mother

Before she could do anything, Rainbow felt a hoof on her shoulder. She turned to see Rarity standing there.

“I think right now you both need some space to think about things,” she said firmly.  “We’ll see about her tomorrow, okay?”

Rainbow opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She turned, swallowed the lump in her throat, then reached out a hoof to touch her daughter—her baby

At here merest touch, Scootaloo recoiled as if she’d been stung. Rumble had not moved; instead, he watched Rainbow with eyes full of caution and barely-restrained hatred.

Rainbow moved to step forward, to take her child in her arms--but another, stronger hoof reached out and held her back.

“Come on, now.” Applejack said, restraining her almost effortlessly. Rainbow strained against her grasp, but she sighed. “Come on,” she hissed. “Now’s not the time.”

And then, a single tear broke free and rolled down Rainbow’s cheek. She had been empty for so long—and now, it seemed, she would have to wait one more night to mend her broken heart.

She let Applejack pull her away, and lead her towards the door.

Nurse Redheart looked up, suddenly panicked. “Hang on,” she said, “Who’s she going to stay with?”

“Rarity,” Rainbow said, her voice flat. “If she wants it. I don’t care.”

Twilight watched the two of them leave, then swallowed. “I think it’s time we get going, too,” she said, with significant glances at Fluttershy and Pinkie. She turned and walked out as well, followed closely by Fluttershy. Pinkie walked to the door, waited for it to close, then turned back to Scootaloo with a grin.

“I’m so excited for you!” she said brightly. “Think of all the parties that we’ll have to plan! A family reunion, and ten years of back-birthdays, and—”

The door glowed magenta and swung open. A comically-oversized shepherd’s crook, also glowing red, reached out, hooked Pinkie around the neck, and dragged her unceremoniously through the door.

“Wait!” she cried. “I wasn’t finished—!”

The door swung shut behind her.

Rarity snorted, then turned back to the two foals. She stepped towards them, a gentle smile on her face.

“Rumble, dear,” she said, “I think I can handle things from here.” She glanced down at Scootaloo, then back up to him. “You’ve done enough.”

“But—” Rumble began,

“Rumble! Rarity said sternly--then grimaced, and cleared her throat. “She needs a good night’s sleep,” she said, her voice gentler, “and she needs some time by herself to process all of… this.” She hesitated. “I care about her as much as you do,” she said. “I’ve known her practically her whole life.” She smiled at him. “She’ll be okay. I promise.”

Rumble looked up at her, his eyes wide, then, slowly, began to relax his grasp. Scootaloo slowly turned to face Rarity, her face baggy and deeply lined. She crawled out of Rumble’s lap, then walked over and stood beside Rarity, staring up at her.

“It’ll be alright, Scootaloo.” Rarity said softly as she brought her a little closer with a comforting hoof. She looked up and shot Rumble a grateful smile, then led her towards the door.

As Rarity pushed the door open, Scootaloo glanced back over her shoulder. Rumble still sat on the bench, looking very small and afraid. He seemed to sense his gaze on her, for he looked up, into her eyes, and smiled.

I don’t deserve him, she thought to herself, as the door closed behind them.

Fluttershy was waiting for them outside the hospital, and walked up beside Rarity as the two of them walked out the front door. The three of them stepped onto the lawn, then stopped, quietly taking in the crisp, night air, after the stuffiness of the hospital. Scootaloo glanced up at the stars--and, off in the distance, she caught a glimpse of the Friendship Castle, colored lights still flashing in its windows.

“Scootaloo?” Rarity said gently. Scootaloo looked up at her curiously.  “We can still go, if you’d like--”

Scootaloo bit her lip. She looked towards the castle for a moment, then shook her head.

“No worries, dear,” Rarity replied. “It’s been a rough day--for all of us. We can just go home.”

Scootaloo nodded, but said nothing. Rarity watched her, then turned to Fluttershy.

“Would you like to come by for a spot of tea?” she asked, “Or are you headed home yourself?”

Fluttershy looked up at Rarity, and realized she wasn’t asking about just tea--she wanted to talk.

“Tea sounds… nice,” she said, with a nervous smile.

“Well,” Rarity said to no one particular, “Off we go then. Come along, girls.”

With that, the three headed westward, towards the boutique.