• Published 24th Mar 2012
  • 15,827 Views, 583 Comments

No Longer Lost - KiroTalon



Scootaloo finds a new lease on a life she's struggling to survive.

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Guttersnipe

It could have been just another night.

It should have been, Vinyl reflected to herself. Normally, the DJ was the last pony to leave whatever club she was performing in, except for the bartender, the owner, and sometimes the bouncer. This gave all of her adoring--and by now, catastrophically drunk--fans time to disperse before she appeared, leaving only a few diehards behind to beg for autographs and photos. As something of an accidental celebrity, Vinyl Scratch was thrilled to even have fans, and more than happy to sign anything placed in front of her, or to pose for pictures next to anypony, offering a few words of thanks and the occasional encouragement to young hopefuls eager to follow in her hoofsteps. But for every shy, blushing young mare sheepishly asking her to sign a black-and-white photograph, there were ten soused, boorish stallions with stupid smirks and fake tattoos offering to “take her home and show her how to keep the party going.” Vinyl preferred to avoid these confrontations whenever she could, since explaining to a drunken foal exactly why his proposition didn’t interest her was an exercise in futility.

As such, she usually waited until the party had wound down and most of the more inebriated attendees had left, but that was unfortunately not an option tonight, as she had to cut her set short for a special occasion. Tonight was supposed to be date night, and Vinyl had spent the whole performance eagerly waiting for the clock to read “8:30” so she could get home to spend the rest of the night enjoying the company of her significant other. This created the complication of having to find some way to leave the club without passing through the sweaty throng packed onto the dance floor and spilling out into the street beyond. Fortunately, the club had a back exit, which the owner was gracious enough to point the way to after the DJ had finished her set, taken her bow (to raucous applause, as usual), and excused herself from the stage. Piling the few supplies she had brought with her into her saddlebags, she thanked the club owner for the time slot, and was thanked in turn with a hoofshake and a tidy compensation, which she also stuffed discretely into her bags as she pushed open the back door and trotted out into the dank, cold alley behind the building.

It was immediately after this escape that she found herself in her current bewildering predicament. Having lived most of her life in Manehattan, the ivory-coated unicorn was accustomed to seeing horrible things in back alleys. She had seen drunks passed out behind dumpsters, homeless ponies sleeping in cardboard boxes, even the occasional less-than-savory transaction taking place, but the sight that met her eyes tonight was at once more impossible and more heartbreaking than any of these. Vinyl desperately hoped that it was just a trick of the light, but after a few moments, she realized that it was tragically, terribly true.

Some distance down the alley, just on the edge of the circle of light cast by the bare bulb hanging over the back exit were a group of trash bins belonging to the club she had just left, apparently mostly used by their kitchen. Clinging to the side of one of these bins, hooves barely touching the box she was using to stand on, was a tiny orange pegasus with a shock of magenta hair. Her tiny wings fluttered a little every time she jumped to reach deeper in the bin. Stunned, Vinyl glanced up and down the alley, as if expecting to see somepony else who could explain what she was seeing, but they were alone in the pale, flickering light. The unicorn cautiously stepped down the short staircase, attempting to approach the filly without startling her. The little pegasus was thoroughly engrossed in getting at something deep in the bin, and didn’t register Vinyl’s approach until the mare was close enough to see the filly’s bright violet eyes and matted patches of orange fur stretched across a thin, albeit not emaciated form. Unsure of how close she should approach, Vinyl paused and quietly cleared her throat.

The filly froze instantly at the sound, her ears flicking back in Vinyl’s direction. Slowly, she turned and glanced over her shoulder to lock eyes with the unicorn. Vinyl forced a small smile and said, “Um...hey there.”

The instant Vinyl spoke, the little pegasus leapt down from the box and took off down the street in a panic. Without thinking, Vinyl started running after her. “Hey, wait! Don’t run away! I’m not going to hurt you!”

The little pegasus yelled back as she fled. “No! I’m not going back! Leave me alone!”

Unwilling to let the little female escape but afraid to hurt her, Vinyl did the only thing she could think of and caught the fleeing filly in a cloud of magic, lifting her off her hooves and gently holding her in place while the unicorn caught up to her. The filly struggled fiercely against the magic, her eyes wide and fearful tears running down her cheeks. “Stop it! Put me down! Help!”

“Shh!” Vinyl said, panicking slightly. It suddenly occurred to her exactly how this would look if somepony were to happen upon them at this moment. “Hey, calm down, alright? I’m not going to hurt your, or...or...’take you back’ or whatever you’re afraid of. I just wanted to talk.”

The pegasus kept thrashing futilely against the faint blue aura surrounding her. “I don’t believe you! Let me go!”

“I can’t let you go,” Vinyl said, her voice tightening a little. “I saw you digging in that trash can back there. What were you looking for?”

“Nothing!”

“Then why were you doing it?”

“I’m not telling you!”

Vinyl sighed, her patience thinning. “Look, I don’t know what to say. I’m just trying to help, okay? I’m not going to hurt you, and I’m not going to tell anyone what I saw, okay? I just want to make sure you’re alright.”

The little pegasus’ legs slowed to a stop as she looked back at Vinyl with wide, fearful eyes. “How do I know you’re not lying?”

Vinyl shrugged. “I guess you don’t. But for whatever it’s worth, I promise that if you want to leave, I’ll let you. I just want to ask you a couple questions, okay?”

The filly’s wings slowly folded back against her back as she relaxed slightly. “You’d let me go?”

Vinyl nodded, sighing shallowly. “Yeah, I guess. I hope you’ll stay and talk to me for a bit, but I’m not going to force you.”

The pegasus glanced at the ground for a moment, then back at Vinyl. “Put me down, then.”

Frowning, Vinyl lowered her to the ground and let the magic dissipate. The instant she was free, the filly took off again, bolting away down the alley. Vinyl sighed heavily and lowered her head in defeat, a sickening feeling sliding down the back of her throat as she wondered how the fleeing pony’s life could have gotten to such a point. Octavia...what would Octavia say when Vinyl told her what had happened? She’d probably be mad. Disappointed. Octavia would have made sure the little filly was safe before even thinking about worrying about her feelings or...

Suddenly, Vinyl realized the clopping of the pegasus’ hooves had slowed to a stop. Glancing up, she saw the filly standing some distance away, looking back at her over her shoulder. The look on her face was conflicted, almost surprised. Vinyl struggled to pull a smile back to her lips, hoping to reassure her into returning. The moment hung in space for several seconds while the little stray looked at Vinyl, then away into the yawning darkness, and then back again. Finally, the balance tipped, and the filly slowly turned and walked back to where Vinyl was still standing, her smile broadening with every step the pegasus took.

“You really aren’t going to chase me?” she asked, pausing several hooves away.

Vinyl shook her head. “No. I wish you’d stay, but I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to.”

The little filly considered this for a moment. “Okay...okay.” She came the rest of the way back to stand in front of Vinyl. “You really just want to talk to me?” Vinyl nodded. “Why?”

This struck the unicorn as an odd question. Wasn’t it obvious? She decided to avoid answering right away. “I’ve just never seen you around before. What’s your name?”

The young stray hesitated a moment before answering. “Scootaloo.”

Vinyl smiled. “Hi, Scootaloo. My name’s Vinyl.”

“Vinyl...” she repeated. “Like Vinyl Scratch?”

“Uh, yeah. How’d you know?”

“You’re THE Vinyl Scratch? DJ-Pon3?” Scootaloo’s wings snapped open, eliciting a nervous chuckle and a faint blush from the unicorn.

“Well, yeah. You’ve heard of me?”

“Yeah!” Scootaloo piped, grinning broadly and rising a few inches off the ground under her buzzing wings. “Rainbow Dash talks about you all the time!”

Common ground. Vinyl sighed inwardly with relief. “Well, see? If Rainbow knows me, I can’t be all that bad, right?”

The little pegasus considered this. “No, I guess not.”

Vinyl smiled. “Well, in that case, do you want to walk with me?” She glanced around. “This...isn’t really a good neighborhood for a filly.”

Scootaloo’s ears drooped and her wings folded back against her back. “No...I guess it’s not.”

The unicorn turned back towards the street on the other end of the alley and smiled, nodding her head at Scootaloo. “Come on, kid. Let’s get out of here.”

Scootaloo smiled. “Okay...Vinyl.”

---

The club owner’s promise that the rear exit would get her past the throngs of rabid fans outside proved genuine as Vinyl led her new companion out of the alley and back onto the better-lit street in front of the building. The neighborhood they were now walking through was fairly new to Ponyville, part of the newly-developed northern suburbs, built up to house the sudden influx of new residents the town had recently acquired.

The little town’s profile had increased steadily over the past few years as stories about Nightmare Moon’s and Discord’s return and subsequent defeat at the hooves of the Elements of Harmony who lived there had filtered across the rest of Equestria. Hundreds of tourists now visited the little town every year, and dozens of them had chosen to move there permanently after discovering the hidden beauty of the quaint, quiet village in the middle of nowhere. Vinyl and Octavia had been two such relocated tourists. Previously residents of the outer suburbs of Canterlot, the couple had originally visited Ponyville on a whim, just as a short vacation to escape the high-intensity of city life, but it had only taken one day of walking through the parks and the market, meeting one immensely friendly, outgoing, and cheerful pony after another for the two mares to realize that they were dreading their return to Canterlot in two days. A long night spent talking under quietly across the pillow in their hotel room, marveling at the peaceful silence of the sleepy little burb was all it had taken to make the decision to relocate. Both ponies had travel-heavy jobs anyway, and it didn’t really matter where they lived, as long as they could still get where they needed to go. Less than a week after they returned to Canterlot, they packed up their small apartment and moved into a small townhouse near the Ponyville windmill.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the sudden population boom was that the new urban areas of the town were more susceptible to problems typically relegated to cities like crime and homelessness. Luckily for the current residents, most of these issues stayed in the areas that spawned them, like the neighborhood that Vinyl was now leading her young charge away from. The streets were well-lit, but full of foreboding shadows in every corner. Scootaloo nervously walked closer and closer to Vinyl as they went until her flank was pressed against Vinyl’s right foreleg. The unicorn smiled faintly at the touch, recognizing the trust inherent in the contact. “Don’t worry, kid,” she said, drawing the filly’s attention, “you’ll be alright with me.”

“I’m not scared,” Scootaloo said, the determination in her voice failing to disguise the wide-eyed fear on her face.

“Oh, I didn’t say you were,” Vinyl said, grinning. “But if something happens, you know it’s better if we stick together.”

Scootaloo smiled. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” The pair continued walking for a mile or so, the streets getting steadily darker but less unnerving the further south they traveled. The buildings steadily lost their urban facade, taking on a more traditional appearance, built of wood and paint instead of concrete and rebar. Tall, angular street lamps gave way to low hanging lanterns, and by the time the windmill came back into view in the distance, both Vinyl and Scootaloo had relaxed enough to start talking again.

“So, Scootaloo,” Vinyl started, looking down at the filly, “what brings you up to this side of town? I don’t see too many fillies around that neighborhood.”

“Oh, yeah,” she said, not meeting Vinyl’s gaze. “I don’t really go there too much...it’s...well, I’m not scared or anything, but...”

Vinyl waved a hoof dismissively. “I know what you mean, kid. I don’t really like going out there myself.” She raised an eyebrow at the little pegasus. “But then, I also don’t go digging in trash cans much.”

In the light of a nearby lantern, Vinyl could see the fur on Scootaloo’s cheeks darken a shade. “Yeah...well, I don’t usually...I mean, I wouldn’t, but, uh...”

“Scootaloo,” Vinyl said gently, “where are your parents?” She steeled herself, fearing the worst.

It didn’t help. “Um,” Scootaloo started, looking at the ground, her voice shaking, “I don’t...they aren’t...here. In Ponyville.” Her voice cracked over the last word, raising a lump in the back of Vinyl’s throat.

She swallowed, trying to speak past it. “Okay, who do you live with, then?” The little pegasus didn’t answer. After a moment of silence, Vinyl heard her sniff, then again. She brought a hoof to her eyes, swiping at unseen tears. Vinyl’s heart ached for the filly, and without thinking, she put a hoof on the little female’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay...it’s alright, forget I asked.”

Suddenly, Scootaloo burst into tears, wrapping her forelegs around Vinyl’s outstretched hoof. “I don’t wanna go back!”

Startled, Vinyl sat on her rump and drew her hoof into her chest, pulling the little filly closer. “Whoa, what do you mean? Go back where?”

Scootaloo looked up at Vinyl through wide, tear-filled eyes. “I don’t want to go back to the orphanage! Please don’t send me back!”

“Who said anything about sending you anywhere?”

“I don’t have any parents, and now you know, and now you’re gonna go tell the orphanage, and they’re gonna come get me, and then they’re gonna take me away from all my frie-he-hends!” The little pegasus dissolved into sobs again, burying her face in Vinyl’s chest, her tears soaking into the fur.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay, Scootaloo,” Vinyl said, gingerly raising a hoof to pat the little filly on the head. “I’m not gonna tell the orphanage.” Up to this moment, Vinyl hadn’t really had any idea what she was about to do; she was making it up as she went along. But now, watching Scootaloo crying bitter, fearful tears at the prospect of going to the orphanage, she knew, despite her better judgment, that the orphanage, at least, was no longer an option.

The sobbing filly sniffed and hiccupped, looking up at Vinyl from between her forelegs with tear-stained cheeks. “You...you mean it?”

Vinyl smiled. “I mean it. If you really don’t want to go, I’m not going to send you.”

She seemed unconvinced. “P-promise?”

“Yeah, Scootaloo. I promise.”

Scootaloo sniffed and wiped the tears out of her eyes. “I don’t wanna go back,” she repeated, her voice still quavering. “I didn’t have any friends, an’ the other kids made fun of me ‘cause I can’t fly, an’ no one wanted to adopt me, because who wants a pegasus who can’t fly?” She looked down, her wings unfurling enough to droop to the ground.

Vinyl smiled, ruffling the little filly’s mane. “Well, I’m not sending you back, so you can stop worrying about it.” She chucked Scootaloo under the chin. “Come on, I bet you’re hungry, aren’t you?”

“Well...” Scootaloo said, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof. Before she could continue, her stomach growled so loudly that Vinyl started a little. The filly wrapped her forelegs around her midsection, embarrassed. “Maybe...maybe a little.”

Vinyl giggled. “Come on, Scootaloo. Why don’t you come home with me? We’ll get you a decent meal.” She leaned over and murmured candidly in the filly’s ear. “And you won’t have to go digging in trash cans for your dinner.”

Scootaloo’s face glowed red, and she dug at the dirt road with a nervous hoof. “Yeah...yeah, okay.” She smiled from behind the blush. “Thanks, Vinyl.”

Vinyl smiled broadly, putting a foreleg around the pegasus’ shoulders and giving her a little squeeze. “No problem, kid.”