• Published 19th Feb 2014
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Scootaloo's Growth: from Baby to Champion - Never2muchpinkie



Scootaloo's life starting from an attack as a baby, her adoption, and growing up through her struggles with her wings, culminating in a final race against her lifetime idol to show her worth.

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Chapter 4: Moving in/Ponyville's newest hero

The next week after out training session I got a surprise from Rainbow Dash. She asked me if I would be interested in living with her on an occasional basis. I was torn. The thought of moving in with my idol was pretty amazing to think about, but I wasn’t sure if I should.

What about my grandmare? She had cared for me ever since I was a baby. She would probably miss me too much. With a slight feeling of regret I said, “I… I can’t. I don’t think I could leave my grandmare behind.”

“Well, like I said it wouldn’t be a full-time thing. You could just sleep over and hang out more. I still have my own obligations so I couldn’t watch you all the time, but if we’re going to be sisters then I’d like to make a room for you to stay in if you ever want to sleep over.”

“Rainbow Dash… why…” I hesitated for a few moments as she looked at me curiously. “Why did you choose me?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean… we’d only met a hoofful of times before you agreed to become sisters. It’s not that I mind, but why me? I’m sure other ponies find you just as amazing and spectacular as I do. Why make me your sister and spend all this time teaching me to fly? And now you want me to move in with you, too. What makes me so special?”

Rainbow Dash smiled. “Well, kiddo, the simple answer is that it feels good to do good. Sure, I already have quite a few fans, but you’re the most special of all.”

Again I asked, “Why?”

“Every pony needs a hero to look up, kid, and you needed one more than anypony else. You were struggling with a condition that put your whole well-being at risk. I could see a pony who was thinking of giving up and quitting, and nothing is sadder than that. Very few pegasi, ones like Fluttershy, aren’t interested in flying. Our wings are a part of who we are.

"Most pegasus ponies dream of flying toward the sun, making the sky their kingdom and feeling the breeze of the pure freedom that flying around gives you. That’s why I took an interest in you. I could tell you really looked up to me ever since our first meeting. So that’s why the next few times I ran into you I did my best to cheer you up, so that you wouldn’t quit no matter how tough things got. Then you brought up looking for someone to teach you to fly and wanting someone to take you under their wing and be a big sister to you. I was an only child myself so I thought it would be fun to have a younger sister to look after.”

“Oh, okay. I get it. So do you have a hero you look up to as well?”

“Of course. Spitfire, the captain of the Wonderbolts.”

“You know, I heard you talk about the Wonderbolts a lot, but why are they so special to you? Why is she your hero?”

“The Wonderbolts are who made me who I am today. I owe them everything. When I was just a filly my parents took me to a Wonderbolts show, and their performance blew my mind. The tricks they could do were incredible. At the end I was one of the lucky few picked out of the audience to ask a question and I got a poster autographed by all of them. It was one of the best days of my whole life, and watching them made my own path clear. I was an average flier at the time because before I met them I didn’t see much need to pull off fancy moves. I thought flying was just flying.

“Shortly before summer vacation our teacher gave out papers for junior flight camp. I begged my parents to let me go. It was there that I first met Fluttershy. She said that she hadn’t wanted to go, but she was a weak flier and her parents pushed her into it so that she would improve. There were some bullies there who made fun of me whenever I messed up a trick. They didn’t bother me that much because I had a goal clear in my mind, but Fluttershy was another matter. Besides being bad at flying she also had almost zero confidence in herself. I came to her rescue, challenging them to a race.

"That was the race I was telling you about, where I first did a sonic rainboom and got my cutie mark. It wasn’t until I actually tried to become a good racer and put my heart into it that I could unlock my true potential, and I saw that I indeed had what it took. In that moment, with the speed pushing my mane back and my heart racing in excitement, I pulled off a move that was thought to be just a legend. It was at that point that I knew that one day I would become a Wonderbolt if it was the last thing I did. It’s what made me push to learn everything I could about them and learn from them.”

“Wow,” I said, amazed. “Since you can now do a sonic rainboom whenever you want instead of by accident then how come you’re not a Wonderbolt yet?”

“Well, there’s a very simple answer.” An annoyed frown came to her lips, and her voice was more like a growl as she continued, “A very simple, stupid reason: I’m not old enough.”

“Not old enough? It’s just a flying group, isn’t it? What does it matter how old you are if you can fly like you can?”

With a sigh her voice returned to normal. “It’s a little more than just a flying group. The Wonderbolts are considered some of the most special pegasi in all of Equestria and they act as the first line of defense against threats to the town, like Celestia’s royal guards. Many try, but very, very few ever get in. In a little over two years I can sign up for the Wonderbolt Academy, the first step toward my dream. If I can prove myself there and make it through the first screening process I’m sure they’ll eventually let me join."

"I'm sure you'll make it, Rainbow Dash!" I said confidently. "They'd be stupid not to let you in."

She chuckled. "While I know I may boast and brag like nopony’s business I never let myself think I’m so perfect that I don’t have to practice anymore. If I failed the academy just because I was a little out of practice I’d never be able to forgive myself. I always make sure to keep myself in good shape. I work out every day, take naps when I need to, and I eat healthy.

“So I understand you pretty well, Scootaloo. You’re a lot like me, wanting to catch up to someone you respect, and it’s taken me many years of hard, intense practice sessions of my own to get to the level I’m at. And that’s why I refused to go easy on you when I first started training you. If you seek to be the best you’re going to get a lot of criticism along the way. If you mess up people will either laugh at you or mock you, like those bullies at flight camp. If you’re successful then you’ll always have ponies that are jealous of you and will seek to bring you down any way they can.

"It’s not just about being physically stronger. It’s about becoming mentally and emotionally stronger, so you can drone out the negative voices telling you you’re no good, and listen to the voice inside you that knows the truth. However, like I said back then, I know I did go a little too far overboard with the criticism, but you managed to endure a lot of it before you finally broke and showed me I was screwing it up."

"But you were only trying to help. You were just going about it the wrong way."

"I hate excuses for weakness, as you learned from your earliest sessions, so I’m not going to make one. I got so wrapped up in wanting to see you fly that you started growing to hate me. I was looking out for your future self and wasn’t paying attention to the sad you of the present who wasn’t ready to take on a never-ending barrage of putdowns. I learned my lesson from that. Although we all like to think so our idols are not perfect either. I’m sure Spitfire has her fair share of flaws and mistakes. Ones that I wouldn’t want to know about.

“So the reason I’m asking you about staying with me from time to time is that it gives me more time to focus on you. I trust you that you’re doing your homework, but I’m not there to make sure you’re doing it correctly. Let’s see what your grandmare has to say on the subject.”

“I, um… no.” I’m sure I sounded just like Fluttershy when I said that.

“Why not? It’s not like I’m taking you the next town over. You can go visit her whenever you want.”

“I… I know, but…” I rubbed my hoof against my other one, feeling uncomfortable. “After you took me back home, that day I got to see what a sonic rainboom was like from your back, my grandmare came in. She told me that she knew if anyone could cheer me up then it would be you. It just makes me feel guilty, like I’m an ungrateful brat who’s trying to abandon her for something better. I don’t want her to feel useless, or that I’m going to choose my new family over my old family. She means so much to me, taking me in as a baby despite not knowing if I would survive. Now lately you’ve been taking on her role, helping me through things she can’t.”

“Ahhhh.” She came over and sat down next to me, putting her wing around me like the day we had become sisters. “I think you’re underestimating your grandmare.”

I felt anger bubbling beneath the surface. I had known her much longer than Rainbow Dash, so what made her think she knew my grandmare so well? “Why do you say that?” I asked, trying to keep my voice neutral.

“Because she was the one who came up to me with the idea.”

I started blinking in confusion. “She… she did?”

“Yes. I thought it sounded fine. But we should go to her. You can get your explanation directly from her.”

I walked behind Rainbow Dash in a bit of a daze. I wondered what my grandmare was thinking. After just defending her, now it felt like she was trying to get rid of me. But… but…

But she wouldn’t do that! There had to be a reason. I trusted her, just like I trusted my friends and Rainbow Dash. She wouldn’t do anything to deliberately hurt me.

When we got to my house I saw my grandmare in the kitchen sitting in her rocking chair, reading a book. When she saw us she said, “Hey there, you two. How was your practice?”

I gulped, feeling hesitant in bringing it up. I knew that I believed in her, but at the same time I… well… I just didn’t know what kind of explanation she would have for asking Rainbow Dash to take me in. The only thing I could think of was exactly what I feared.

Rainbow Dash gently nudged me forward. “Go on. You have nothing to worry about,” she whispered to me.

With a deep breath I walked over to her, sitting on her lap. “Rainbow Dash says you asked her to take me in.” Though I tried to hold it back tears started coming down my face as I asked, “Do you not want me anymore?”

A heartbroken look came to her face. “Oh, Scootaloo!” she said, holding me tightly to her. “How could you even think that? Of course I still want you.”

As she held me to her I felt that same comforting, loving touch I had always known from her. I calmed down a little bit. “So then… why?” I asked, not pulling away from her hold.

“It’s simple, really. You’re starting to grow up. I know you’ll never stop needing me, but I want to give you the room you need to develop into the pony you are meant to be. Since meeting Rainbow Dash she has transformed your whole world. She helped you out, accidentally, with your stunted wing. Now she’s teaching you to fly. I can see that with her help you’re growing more powerful... more confident. Rainbow Dash is also a pegasus, just like you, so she can understand you and what you’re going through a lot better than I ever could.

“And… well, there’s no other way to say it, but I’m getting older, Scootaloo. I can’t always keep up with you or help you out with the things you need. I’m not giving you up. I’m just making what I feel is the best move for you. I think moving in with Rainbow Dash for a time will help you evolve and mature much faster.

“Having taken care of my own child before you it’s easy to read your mind. You’re not leaving me behind or abandoning me. You’re not being ungrateful. You’re growing up! All parents eventually have to deal with it. While it can feel sad and lonely the feeling of pride often overwhelms it, seeing their babies grow from helpless little things to ones that can take care of themselves.”

My tears had stopped. So that was it. Just like Rainbow Dash she felt like my future was coming around the corner and she wanted to help me with my dreams. Pulling myself out of her hold I looked up, meeting her eyes, full of love and compassion. “I love you!” I said, meaning it with all my heart.

“And I love you too, my little angel.”

“I don’t mind getting a room with Rainbow Dash, but I’ll come visit you as much as I can. You were the one who kept me safe until I could find the pony who could teach me to be strong. I couldn’t ever not want to visit you.”

“I know, little one.”

It was going to take some time to set a room up for me. Rainbow Dash said she’d have to buy a bed and some other essentials for me before I could move in properly. For now I’d still be living with my grandmare.

The next day I had to get something out of the shed in the back yard for my grandmare. I felt a strange pang as I saw my long forgotten friend. There was a strong burst of emotions as I saw my scooter collecting dust. I had been too busy working on all the complicated mechanics of flight for the past half-year to think much about it. I pulled it out of the shed, getting some soap and water and scrubbing it clean until it practically shined. I threw on my helmet, and stood on it.

It still felt as natural as it had all those months ago when I was riding it all the time. I did have to do some work on readjusting myself to it. As Rainbow Dash had said, stronger wings meant greater speeds, so I found myself going a lot faster than I remembered. I felt intense happiness as I traveled around on my scooter.

Learning to fly was a very stressful experience. Constant crashes, a sometimes unforgivingly tough coach, lots of fear or getting hurt. This was something I knew how to do well already and I had forgotten just how much I loved riding it. It was certainly a much more comfortable and easier ride than flying was. I didn’t have any intention of stopping my flying lessons but I didn’t see any reason I couldn’t take a break and just enjoy doing something I loved to do for a few days. In fact, compared to before, I found tricks even easier to pull off. Just like I thought, learning to master my wings helped me with my scooter riding.

I was swerving around objects when I suddenly heard a terrified scream just to the right of me. I turned towards it and I saw a baby carriage heading down a hill. I didn’t think twice about it. I turned my scooter around, flapping my wings hard. The carriage had a head start, but I knew the momentum from my going down the hill would allow me to catch up.

Or so I had hoped. As we both went down the hill I saw I was getting close to it, but I wouldn’t have time to get the baby out before it went over. Well, then! I guess it was time to put all my training to the test. At the end of a hill was a ramp. I could take that and still have plenty of time to save the baby.

Or so I had hoped! The ramp up was sharper than it initially looked. The carriage came to a hard stop at the very end, and to my horror the pink-coated baby was launched out of the cart. My heart started racing. My momentum and the lightness of my scooter allowed me to go over the ramp but I didn’t know if I was going to have enough time to grab her.

As we both went flying up into the air I saw the baby more clearly. It was a little pegasus foal, looking about a year old at most. She had freckles, a red mane that looked like a rose in bloom, and a short green tail that reminded me of grass. No choice! With a pang of regret I used my hooves to launch my scooter toward a patch of trees so no one would get hurt. I knew I’d need all the control I could get. Although I was still training my wings I felt that I could handle this. I tried to remember everything that Rainbow Dash had taught me about flying. Watch your breathing, keep your wings in a mirror image as much as possible to keep control-

No more time to think. We had reached the peak of our jumps. I made a grab for the baby but missed at the last second as gravity pulled her towards the ground. The baby was now considerably lower than I was as I quickly spun around, heading towards the ground at a diagonal angle. At first I didn’t know if I was going to make it, but as I flapped my wings, my hooves straight in front of me as I strained to get the most speed I could to catch up, something… something passed right in front of my eyes. An image I didn’t have time to dwell on as I raced toward the little pegasus.

All I knew was that, at that moment, it had stopped being a matter of whether I could or couldn’t. It had become I HAD to save her. It was deeper than proving myself to Rainbow Dash, or getting a chance to test my training. It was deeper than even I could explain. It became an all-consuming desire that I absolutely, positively, would NOT let any harm come to this baby!

Even with my intense focus and fading away of thoughts instinct still kicked in. I had to be extremely careful with my speed and pull-up or else I would wind up crashing into the ground, which didn’t help anyone. I sat on the razor’s edge, closing the gap between me and the foal, my hooves behind me now for less wind resistance. This was going to be a close call. I would either grab the baby and pull up at the last second, or I would pull up too soon and miss her, but I wasn’t going to let that happen.

Time seemed to slow down, everything felt like it was moving at a snail’s pace. I wasn’t fooling myself. I knew I wasn’t about to pull off a sonic rainboom or anything. It was just a result of my single-minded focus and adrenaline.

Seconds passed by like minutes, sounds became muted, and all I knew was the race, the race to claim the baby between myself and the ground. I closed the gap slowly but surely, the baby only a second or two from smashing into the ground. I reached out my hooves and… I grabbed her!

With a hard pull I yanked myself up, shifting my body weight as much as I could. I grimaced as my wings felt like they were burning. Sharp turns were still not my strong suit. I felt my wings lock up, cramping in protest, and as fast as I headed up I started heading towards the ground again, my wings no longer wanting to cooperate. Through the pain I flapped as much as I was able, trying to slow my fall as much as possible before giving it up. I knew I was going to smash into the ground. I turned over onto my back, putting my hooves protectively around the baby and holding her as close to me as I could as I crashed into the dirt, feeling the rocks dig into me as I skidded along the grass.

My whole back was sore, my wings felt like they were on fire… but when I opened my eyes and saw the baby pegasus, intact and unharmed, the pain faded away, tears coming down my eyes. I had done it! Maybe not with the style and flair Rainbow Dash would have done it with, but I had still done it. And all by myself too!

The pegasus let out a giddy laugh, like it had enjoyed the ride. Wearily I thought, ‘I’m glad one of us liked it.’

Like an explosion the sound suddenly came back on, and all I heard were loud and thunderous cheers. I slowly turned over on my stomach, then got up still holding the pegasus. I looked around to see a bunch of ponies running towards me, throwing congratulations and praise my way. I just blinked at the crowd already forming.

The mother forced her way through the group crowding me. “Oh, Rose Blossom!” she cried out, running over to the baby and taking her from me, holding her close and hugging her, tears coming down her eyes as she cried out, “You’re alright!”

The mother gave her baby to a stallion that was probably her husband, and now she was hugging me too, thanking me endlessly for protecting her child.

I felt my throat getting tight, a feeling of uncontained joy rising up.

I saw the flash of cameras taking my picture. The whole thing felt unreal.

A brown mare wearing a reporter hat came up to me, asking if she could ask me a few questions.

“Sure,” I replied, my mind in a daze.

“What’s your name, little hero?”

“My… my name?” I asked confusedly, the emotions I was experiencing beginning to get to me.

“Scootaloo!” said a voice from above me, and the next thing I knew Rainbow Dash landed next to me. “Her name is Scootaloo, second coolest pony in Equestria.”

“Rainbow Dash,” I said weakly. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so out of it. I wasn’t tired. I didn’t even feel that hurt. Even her praise, the highest she could give, didn’t faze me out of it.

“Scootaloo, huh?” said the reporter. “So, Scootaloo, what do you think made you take on the role of a hero and save that baby? What was it… Rose Blossom?”

Her question suddenly connected the pieces in my mind, and once more I saw the image that had come into my mind, of the condition my grandmare had described me to be in when she found me. Only now I didn’t have to push it away.

“I… I just knew I had to do it,” I said, my voice almost a whisper as tears came down my eyes. I wasn’t even thinking of being embarrassed as I continued, “A few months ago I found out I had stunted wing. The doctor said it was from an injury I had gotten when I was only a baby. My adoptive grandmare found me injured from a fall, my wings both damaged, and even though they healed up it still affected me later. I’m cured now thanks to good luck, but... but I…”

I looked over at little Rose Blossom, smiling and happy in the hooves of her parents. “I just… I just didn’t want to see another pegasus have to go through what I had to go through; the fear of never being able to take to the skies, being different from all the other pegasi. And… and that’s why I… I just… I had to save her.”

The reality of what I had done was finally hitting me. I had saved her life. I… had saved a life. If not from dying, than from the kind of injuries I had gotten from my own fall. Her parents didn’t have to spend months at the hospital worrying about their baby’s safety.

The reporter started saying something else, but Rainbow Dash cut her off. “Alright, alright. That’s enough questions! She’s getting overwhelmed here. Just leave her be.” Not giving them a chance to object she grabbed me, threw me on her back, and flew away. Despite the raging emotions going through me it still brought a small laugh from me.

She brought me to her house, where she said we wouldn’t be bothered. She set me on her bed, then went and brought me a drink. I drank it all down quickly, before handing her back the glass. “Thank you, Rainbow Dash.” I said, my eyes still feeling misty. “T-t-thank you! Thank you!”

“Alright there, kid. Settle down,” she said, sitting next to me.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t calm down. I was too hyped up. She couldn’t possibly understand the depth of my gratitude. From the beginning she had saved me so many times I could hardly keep count. Every time I needed help she was there. Especially today, the most important of all the days I had been alive.

She put her wing over me, just letting me cry myself out as I hugged her tightly.

When I finally got control of myself I looked into her eyes, and I said, much more calmly this time, “Thank you. Thank you for praising me in front of everyone, and for taking me away when I needed it. And, especially, thank you for never stopping to take it easy on me in my lessons. If it hadn’t been for you I never would have been able to save Rose Blossom, and she would have gotten hurt.”

A guilty look crossed her face, and she looked away sheepishly. “Well, that’s not quite true.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m used to things going wrong around that hill. I was there from the start, flying close by.”

“You were?” I asked confusedly. “Then why… why didn’t you save her?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked with a grin, looking at me again. “Because you were there, of course. This was your rescue, and your attempt to prove yourself. Who was I to intrude?”

“W-wha-wha-WHAT?” I said loudly. “What if I didn’t make it? What if-”

She put a hoof to my mouth, silencing me. “I wasn’t worried. I knew you would make it.”

“Why?”

“Because I believed in you, obviously. If I didn’t think you could handle everything that came your way I never would have bothered training you in the first place.” She rubbed her hoof through my mane, mussing it up. “Just don’t let it get to your head. You’ve still got a long ways to go yet to catch up to me, but I’m just so darn proud of you I can hardly find the words for it. You’ve grown so much in the past six months you’re almost unrecognizable as the weak little filly you used to be. And don’t you dare give me all the credit. Of course, you do owe a lot of it to me, but you’re the one who pushed through all the obstacles in your way to become your own pony. Way to go, my number one fan!”

Her words meant more to me than I could say. She had done nothing but watch, fully believing in my capabilities. She made me think I was the only one around who could handle the job, and so I had to push myself harder than I usually did.

“Rainbow Dash…” I started to thank her again when my wings twitched painfully. I tensed up, my eyes closing from the ache. “Can you get me some ice for my wings?” I asked, panting as the spell passed. Now that all the excitement was over the soreness was coming back.

“Sure, kid. Anything you want.” She left and returned a minute later with an ice pack, the cold feeling so good on my weary wings. The pain started going away, and my body began to relax. I closed my eyes, my mind going back to Rose Blossom and her parents, of having saved all three of them from being miserable. The image of that happy family scene brought me much joy for them, but it also made me start crying, as for the first time I was feeling sad over the parents I never had.

Whether my parents hadn’t wanted me and just threw me away in the woods, or whether they had been attacked by something in the Everfree Forest, it really made no difference. The point was that I didn’t have them... never even got a chance to know them. For a moment I had been imagining a baby me in their hooves instead of Rose Blossom. I felt so…jealous.

However, it wasn’t like I was alone. My grandmare had cared for me like her own daughter. And now I had my sister Rainbow Dash. And whatever happened to my parents I choose to believe they want the best for me and wouldn’t me to cry over them. Going by my friends and family I know they’re much happier when I am, so I’m sure my parents would feel the same way.

With the ache of my wings going away I kept my eyes closed, and before I knew it I was out.

I don’t know how long I slept but I could feel Rainbow Dash shaking me, telling me I had to get up. I mumbled sleepily for a moment before I opened my eyes, gazing into hers. “Come on there, sleepyhead. I have to go on weather patrol and I don’t know if your wings are in good enough condition at the moment to make the flight down.”

She picked me up, and I was already starting to feel awake. I very slowly stretched my wings. I felt a few painful twinges as I went through the motions of moving my wings all the way around, so I thought it was probably for the best not to use them today.

We flew towards the ground, and Rainbow Dash asked me, “So, Scootaloo. How are you feeling?”

“A little bit sore, but I’ll just walk today.” I sighed, feeling a bit downtrodden as I remembered the loss of my vehicle. “I mean, it’s not like I have a scooter anymore now. It probably crashed into one of the trees and broke into a hundred pieces.”

“So… what? Are you regretting saving Rose Blossom now?”

“What kinda question is that?” I asked, getting defensive. “Of course not! I still would have saved her if I knew my scooter was going to be destroyed. What? I can’t be upset over losing the special gift my grandmare gave me?”

Rainbow Dash just laughed. As we neared my house she told me to cover my eyes because she had my reward waiting. So I did. I felt her touch the ground and waited until she gave me the signal.

When I opened my eyes I shot up with happy surprise. “My scooter!” I cried out, hopping off her back and running up to it, hugging it to me. “But… but I thought…” I turned to Rainbow Dash. “I remember I deliberately sent it toward the trees so it wouldn’t hit anyone and hurt them.”

“You did, and that probably would have broken it, but I told you that I was watching from the beginning, and I managed to grab it first.”

“This is so great!”

“So, Scootaloo, I think you have someone waiting for your news. I’ll catch you around, kid.” She gave me a quick salute and then patted me on the head a few times before she flew off.

I ran inside, looking for my grandmare. When I saw her she asked where I had gone so suddenly. I looked at her awkwardly as I remembered I was supposed to have grabbed something out of the shed for her. “Sorry,” I said with an embarrassed grin. “I took my scooter out for the first time since I started learning to fly, and I just had to ride it for a while.”

“Oh. Well, it would have been nice if you would have told me.”

I apologized again, before suddenly saying, “I saved a baby today!”

“Hmm?”

“I was riding along when I suddenly heard a scream and I saw a baby carriage heading down a hill. I immediately went after it. The baby went flying, me chasing after it, using all my training to catch up to her and grab her right before she hit the ground.”

“That’s great, Scootaloo!”

With a bit of shyness I continued, “It was a pegasus baby.”

She seemed to understand what I was trying to say without me going on. “So you tried so hard because of what happened to you when you were just a foal?” I nodded. “Well, good for you. You finally have the power to fight for your beliefs.”

“No! Not yet,” I said, shaking my head. “I still have a long way to go. I pulled up too sharply and wound up crashing from the pain in my wings. Luckily I was able to turn onto my back so the baby didn’t get hurt, but I’m not always going to be that lucky. I don’t want me being able to rescue people only being about luck. I need skill! And for that I need to work even harder at my practice. Even harder than I did to get this good. I don’t want anypony to get hurt just because I wasn’t trained enough. I want to help save all the ponies I can from being hurt, because I don’t want any of them to lose their dreams like I almost did.”

“Well, Scootaloo, that was a very brave thing you did, but you shouldn’t rush out to be a hero. You’re still young, so you should enjoy this time you have inbetween being a filly and being a mare. You’re still growing up, you know. One wrong move, one mistake in judgment, and you could get yourself hurt along with the pony you’re trying to save.”

“I know that! That’s why I said I have to get a whole lot better.”

She gave a wheezy laugh that made her cough. “I know you will, Scootaloo,” she said weakly.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes… well, except for being old.” She gave another weak laugh.

The next day when I went to school I sat down at my desk. Miss Cheerilee stood at the front of the room. “Good morning, class!” she said in her usual sunny manner. “Before we start on classwork I’d like to make a little announcement and give a big congratulations to one of my special students: Scootaloo!”

“Hmmm?” I responded, wondering why she was calling me.

She took out a copy of the Ponyville Express. To my shock I saw my own picture staring back at me, one of me holding Rose Blossom and another of the baby’s mother hugging me. A caption up top read “Ponyville’s newest little hero.”

“That was a truly heroic thing you did, Scootaloo, and I couldn’t be prouder to have you as one of my students.”

A small flurry of talking broke out, my classmates asking both me and Miss Cheerilee what happened. When she settled them back down she invited me up to tell the story. I felt a little embarrassed as I walked to the front of the class and told them about how I had been training really hard in learning to fly and how it allowed me to protect the foal from harm. Even Diamond Tiara seemed to be impressed, though she did her best to look disinterested. Even though I fully expected it she didn’t try to call attention to the fact that I had crashed at the end.

During recess I asked to look at the newspaper article, and I found out that the baby’s parents were named Star Gazer and Cloud Hunter. Star Gazer was the mother, and Cloud Hunter the father. I felt a dash of pride from having myself in the paper. It was a small step, just a tiny step in the path that led to reaching Rainbow Dash, but I had taken it alone, without anyone to help me.

After school I was about to head to the clubhouse with my friends to plan our newest attempt to get our cutie marks when I heard a voice calling my name.

I turned around and I saw Rose Blossom and Star Gazer. This time Rose Blossom was walking instead of sitting in her carriage. The baby ran over to me, saying, “Hi!” We greeted her back. She was really adorable.

Star Gazer walked up to us and said, “I’m glad I caught you. It’s a good thing there’s only one elementary school in the area. I’ve wanted to see you again ever since that blue pegasus suddenly rushed you away.”

“Oh, that was Rainbow Dash. I just needed to get away. It was all a bit too much for me. I’ve never tried to save someone before but I knew it was what she would do, so I knew I had to do it too.”

“Are you feeling okay? I know you crashed into the ground at the end.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m fine. I was a little sore right afterward, but it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“I’m glad.” She reached into her saddlebag, pulling out a wrapped bag. “I brought you a batch of fresh-baked cookies.”

“Cool!” I said.

As I took them I saw tears coming down her eyes, and then she was hugging me again like yesterday. “I can never thank you enough for what you did, Scootaloo. Yesterday I just couldn’t stop thinking about what I would do if my little Rose was hurt, and you… you protected her. Thank you so much! You saved my daughters life! Thank you. Thank you!”

My own tears started, that warm feeling bubbling up inside of me again. I knew I still wasn’t anywhere near Rainbow Dash’s level in terms of skill, speed, or experience, but even with what little I had I was still able to rescue a whole family all by myself. I tried to say it was nothing, but I knew it wasn’t true. It was something. It was a big something, and I only had to look at my own life to know that. Since I couldn’t think of anything to say I just said nothing, letting her hug me and enjoying the feeling.

It felt good. Being a hero… being admired by those you helped… getting to see their joy of being rescued.

When she finally let me go her tears seemed to have stopped, but as our eyes met they instantly started again, but now she had a smile on her face. I smiled back at her, trying to think of what Rainbow Dash would say in this situation. “All in a day’s work, ma’am. Scootaloo is always ready to try to save others.” I then gave a small bow and attempted a confident look.

“You’re pretty mature for your age,” she noted. “You must follow someone respectable.”

“Yeah. Rainbow Dash! She’s only the best flier in all of Equestria. She’s been teaching me how to fly, and if it wasn’t for her lessons I wouldn’t have been able to save Rose Blossom. Up until a few months ago I thought I was never going to be able to fly, because of my… stunted wing.” I hesitated at naming the condition. Even though I was cured now I still felt a touch of shame mentioning it.

“She sounds like a fine role model… if a touch in love with herself, if you’re anything to go by.” She said it with a laugh and a smile. I laughed too, because I couldn’t deny it. What had first caught my attention when I had met her was her supreme confidence. It was sometimes arrogance, but for the most part she really was just that good at what she did.

Although we still had to head to the clubhouse I found myself not wanting to leave. I watched Rose Blossom, laughing as she ran around cheerfully chasing a butterfly, her little wings fluttering, and I just felt like I didn’t want to leave her.

DING! Idea! “Hey, do you need a foal sitter?”

The question seemed to take her by surprise, but she recovered quickly. Looking thoughtfully at the sky she said, “Well, I do have to hit up a few stores. It might be easier if I didn’t have to worry about her wandering off. Are you sure you’re up for it?”

“What about our crusaders meeting?” asked Apple Bloom.

“Hey, we never tried for a foal-sitting cutie mark before,” I responded. “Maybe that’s what we can do.”

With a bit of sarcasm Sweetie Belle cut in, saying, “Oh, just like we were cut out to be pet-sitters?”

I hadn’t forgotten our attempt to watch six pets at once, but I wasn’t worried. “Hey, that’s different.”

“How?”

“Because this time there’s more of us than there are of her,” I replied simply.

“Well, I guess it’s worth a shot. We need to try everything we can.”

Star Gazer reached behind her, taking off a saddlebag. “Everything you need is inside. She’s a pretty easygoing pony so she shouldn’t give you much trouble, but she’s exceedingly curious and still occasionally gets brief flying periods. So just keep an eye on her.”

“Okay. We’ll be at the clubhouse in Sweet Apple Acres.”

“That sounds good. Thank you, Scootaloo.”

“No problem.”

Star Gazer picked up Rose Blossom, saying, “Okay, little Rosie. You’re going to play with Scootaloo for a little while, okay?”

I put my face close to Rose Blossoms and said, “Would you like to play with me? I’m Scootaloo.”

Rose Blossom laughed. “Scootieloo.”

“Close enough.”

With a farewell Star Gazer handed her child to me. When she walked off Rose Blossom looked about to cry, reaching futilely for her mom. “It’s okay, Rosie.” I threw the baby up into the air, catching her as she came down.

Rose Blossom laughed, saying, “Again!”

I did this a few more times, and got more giggles. I kept this up until Rose Blossom naturally flapped her wings, moving slightly away from me, and I nearly missed her as the baby lost her small bit of control of her tiny wings. With a nervous laugh I said, “Okay, that’s enough of that game. Let’s go to the clubhouse.”

“Okay. I’ll grab the bag,” said Apple Bloom.

“And I’ll grab the cookies!” said Sweetie Belle.

“Hey, those are for me!” I said. “But I’ll share them with you, since you’re helping me out.”

The three of us went to the clubhouse after getting some milk for our cookies from Applejack. She told us that if we needed any help that she was only a holler away.

As we sat in the clubhouse, eating our snack and keeping an eye on the exploring baby, I suddenly felt a little disturbed as I thought of my conversation with Star Gazer. Being compared to Rainbow Dash felt great, but at the same time it really bothered me a lot, and I didn’t know why.

As I continued eating I kept thinking it over until I realized why. It was because of a lesson that Rainbow Dash had taught me during the camping trip. She told me that I shouldn’t just walk behind her in her shadow, but that she wanted me to find my own way to stand out.

It was a hard thing to explain. I wanted to be seen as just as amazing and cool as Rainbow Dash, so that being the case I enjoyed being compared to her. At the same time, however, I also wanted to be Scootaloo, seen as my own pony. It was just like Rainbow Dash told me. I wanted praise for being me, for being my own unique, one-of-a-kind self, not to be dismissed by being compared to someone better. Now I see what she was talking about.

It was alright for now, to walk in Rainbow Dash’s hoofsteps, but I couldn’t do it forever. If I ever wanted to be recognized as being great and grant her wish I would never do it by just imitating her. The way she talked, and the way she acted… that wasn’t really me. Even if it was I couldn’t copy her perfectly because I just didn’t know enough. I had nearly flubbed the rescue because I wasn’t able to pull up properly, not being used to making such a sharp turn. It required totally shifting my momentum upward, going against gravity and straining my wings with a baby in my hooves. Although Rainbow Dash told me she knew I could do it and that was why she hadn’t interfered, things could have gone a lot worse if I hadn’t thought to take the injuries myself by flipping onto my back.

“…loo? Scootaloo!” I heard a loud voice in my ear. I shook my head, seeing Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle looking worried. “Are ya okay, Scootaloo? I’ve been tryin’ ta get yer attention for the past minute. Ya just been starin’ at the floor and lookin’ out of it.”

“Oh, um… yeah. I’m okay. I was just thinking about the future.”

“The future?” asked Sweetie Belle.

“Yeah.” I thought back to Rainbow Dash telling me that training would never end, because there was always another goal right beyond the one you just beat. “I can’t be happy with what I’ve done so far. I want to work even harder at my training. I only barely managed to rescue Rose Blossom from getting hurt, and I wound up having to get myself hurt to do it. That’s unacceptable.

"I mean, it’s okay because I’ve only just started learning to fly on a more advanced level, but I can’t just pat myself on the back because I got lucky. It’s like the first time I tried to do tricks on my scooter for Rainbow Dash. I was nervous and anxious and only managed to not crash and get hurt through dumb luck. Now, after practicing for a while I could do it because I wanted to.”

Once more I pictured that image in my head of me being injured as a baby, and then I looked at Rose Blossom in front of me. “I couldn’t stand that. I couldn’t stand it if Rose Blossom or you guys got hurt because I wasn’t strong enough to protect you. Rainbow Dash may be the best flier and the coolest pony, but I’m not her and I can’t be her. Right now I want to take after her as much as I can, because I think it’s the fastest way to become stronger, but I can’t rely on her to fight my battles forever. I want to… I’m going to…" My breath stopped for a moment as doubt assaulted me. “…I’m going to beat her!” I finished.

“Beat Rainbow Dash?” asked Sweetie Belle.

“Yeah!” I responded, feeling a little more confident. “If I only walk behind her like I first tried to do then I’ll only stand in her shadow and never be remembered. And no matter how fast I go, if I’m behind Rainbow Dash I’ll never beat her because she’ll always be in my way. I want to become special and cool in my own way and eventually come out from behind her shadow. Riding my scooter feels a lot more normal to me than flying, so maybe she was right when she told me it might be where my special talent lies.

"I kinda lied before. I don’t think we’ll get a cutie mark for this. I just wanted a way of spending more time with Rose Blossom. She’s the first pony I ever saved, and if I didn’t find a way now I didn’t know how long it would take before I could see her again. It makes me feel good knowing that I protected her, and so I want to keep looking out for her and keep her safe. Because,” my breath caught again as I tried not to cry, “because if it wasn’t for ponies like my grandmare and Rainbow Dash then I wouldn’t even be here right now. Every pony needs someone special to look up to, and I… I want to be that pony for Rose Blossom.”

“Awwww!” Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle said in unison.

“That’s so adorable!” Sweetie Belle said.

“If that’s what ya wanted then ya shoulda just said so,” said Apple Bloom. “Ya finally know how special it feels ta have an older sister, so now ya want ta pass it on an’ be a big sister yerself.”

“Yeah!” I nodded.

“Well, don’t forget that yer family ain’t the only ones on yer side.” She gave me a hug. “Yer friends will always be there for ya too.”

“Yeah!” Sweetie Belle agreed, hugging me too. “And my sister and Apple Bloom’s sister, and Pinkie Pie and Twilight and Spike and Fluttershy! We’re all here for you if you ever need us to help.”

I felt such happiness to have such great friends, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it because a cry of “Scootieloo!” caught my attention. As I looked down I saw Rose Blossom, sitting on her back legs with her hooves reaching out and pouting. She was probably getting jealous of the attention I was getting, and wanted to join in.

I picked her up, holding her to me. I made a promise that even if it cost me my life I would do whatever it took to make sure she stayed safe and never had to deal with what I had to deal with. There was nothing to fear. My friends were right. I couldn’t do everything on my own. That’s why all of them were important. If anything ever went wrong I could rely on them to help me out of it. One day I knew I would surpass Rainbow Dash. I knew it was probably going to be many years before she considered me a challenge, but she had chosen me out of all the foals in Ponyville. No matter how long it took, or how many lessons I had to do, I would catch up to her one day and I would beat her.

Applejack brought over some blankets and pillows just in case Rose Blossom fell asleep, as we didn’t have anything suitable for a napping area in the clubhouse. Since she started getting bored pretty quickly we took her outside to let her explore. A few times she started flying around, like her mom said, but I could fly too, so it wasn’t too hard to keep her in line when she started trying to escape. Since I had my friends with me I wasn’t scared of flying in the air with her, because they would catch her if she lost control and I wasn’t able to catch her.

The next few hours passed by with no major incidents. Unless you count changing a messy diaper. Uck! I can’t imagine how parents can do that all the time.

Eventually Star Gazer came back to all of us cuddled on the floor, half-asleep, with Rose Blossom napping. She thanked us for watching her child. She gave each of us some bits, and some cupcakes from Sugarcube Corner.

As she picked up her daughter and went to leave I said quietly, “Wait!”

She turned back around. “Yes?”

“Could I come over and play with her again sometime?”

She gave me a warm smile. “Of course, Scootaloo. I could always use a foal sitter. It looks like the three of you did wonderfully. I’d be happy to hire you again.”

I could see the ecstatic looks on my friend’s faces, making me smile too.

“Hmm. Let’s see. I could use you again in two days. I’m planning a dinner party for my friends, and my husband is also going to be busy that night. I thought I’d have to keep her and just grin and bear it if she started acting up, but if you’re interested I’d like her to stay with you again.”

“Sure!” I said.

“Great! I’ll meet you after school like I did today. Is that alright?” When I nodded she said, “Sounds good. I’ll see you then.”

When she left I wasn’t surprised to see my friends explode into conversation about how their foal sitting cutie mark was certain to come soon and how they should start asking any ponies with kids if they needed a foalsitter.

I put my hooves out between both of them like I was trying to break up a fight, and said, “Slow it down, girls. I can’t be the only one who’s growing up here.” I could see the danger in their idea. “The reason we always seem to fail is because we push things too far and we can’t handle it. That’s why we failed at pet sitting. We took too many pets and weren’t able to keep an eye on all of them.

"I know we all want our cutie marks quickly, but let’s just focus on Rose Blossom for now. If we can handle that a few times then we can think about adding in more kids. It’s just like with my flying training. We started out with the easier stuff before moving onto the harder stuff. We can’t just be immature, impatient brats all the time if we want to grow up and get our cutie marks.”

Their excitement seemed to deflate out of them as they sighed together. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” said Sweetie Belle.

“Though I sure do hate ta admit it,” continued Apple Bloom, then she smiled. “Well, listen ta you, Scootaloo. Talkin’ like yer gettin’ too mature for us simple ponies.”

A small blush came to my face. Without even realizing it I had spoken to them like an adult. So not just my wings have gotten stronger, but my brain was starting to also. All the same, I didn’t want to seem like I felt I was better than them. “I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t want you guys to think-”

“I know, Scootaloo. Doesn’t stop ya from bein’ right. And it’s not like I’m fallin’ behind ya just yet. Just like you I’m getting stronger, so Applejack lets me help her buck apples now.”

“And I’ve gotten a little better at sewing,” said Sweetie Belle. “I spent one whole week just watching Rarity as she did her work, staying out of her way. With what I learned from paying attention and with a little bit of help from Rarity I made a simple dress. It was nothing special compared to her work, but at least it only had four legs this time.”

We all shared a laugh as we remembered the talent show and how she had given our costumes a fifth leg. “Oh! And you gotta watch this!” Her face screwed up in concentration. At first nothing happened except some sweat came down her face from her exertion, but then a small green glow came out of her horn, and our attendance pencil began floating upward a few feet. It stayed up for ten seconds, then the glow faded and it fell to the ground.

Sweetie Belle panted, wiping her brow. “Phew! I’m afraid I don’t have as much to show as you, Scootaloo. I’m still working on it. Magic is hard!”

“Hey, don’t feel down. That was great. You’re still learning, after all. It’s slow, but each of us is indeed growing. We’re all heading to our destinies and our cutie marks, helped out by our sisters. As long as we all work together there’s nothing we can’t do!” I put my hoof out.

With smiles they each put their hooves on top of mine. In unison we all yelled out, “Cutie Mark Crusaders growing up! YAY!”