• Published 28th Feb 2016
  • 3,250 Views, 385 Comments

Someone Still Loves You - brokenimage321

After realizing her dream of earning her cutie mark—in the company of her best friends, no less—Scootaloo’s life should have been on an upward course. Instead, she sees herself on yet another crusade.

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14. Dinner

Princess Cadance set down her teacup with a clatter. “He didn’t,” she gasped.

Twilight nodded. “He did,” she said. “Called her inbred and everything.”

Cadance scowled, and Twilight took a sip of her tea. This wasn’t the sort of thing that they normally liked to talk about, but it didn’t matter much: Twilight had almost forgotten how much she enjoyed just spending time with her sister-in-law.

When Cadance had first arrived—solo this time, as Shiny was needed back in the Empire—she and Twilight had just made small-talk about this and that. But the conversation had come around, as Twilight knew it would, to the subject of Rainbow and Scootaloo. Cadance had a way of knowing when something needed her attention, and, well—this particular relationship was rockier than most.

Not that either of them were exactly helping. Rainbow didn’t know how to take “no” for an answer—never had—and Scootaloo was, to put it mildly, acting her age. Cadance’s questions had eventually led Twilight to tell what she’d heard—including how Rumble and Apple Bloom had gotten into a fight the day she’d left.

And she’d told her, as far as she knew, exactly what Rumble had said about the Apples’ mother.

Cadance screwed up her face in anger. “He deserves everything he got,” she snapped.

“Ordinarily, I’d agree…” Twilight began, “but, well…”

Cadance raised an eyebrow. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Twilight took a deep breath, then let it out. “Have you heard the saying still waters run deep?”

Cadance nodded slowly.

“Well,” Twilight said, “Let’s just say that Applejack turned out to be a particularly nasty section of the Mareana Trench.”

Cadance’s eyes went wide, and she leaned forward slightly. “It was that bad?” she breathed.

Twilight nodded. “When Apple Bloom told her what he’d said, she was so mad she could barely speak. I think she would’ve wrung Rumble’s neck right there—and Big Mac would’ve helped her do it—if Thunderlane hadn’t invited me to come with them.” Twilight shook her head slowly. “And, what she did manage to say, well…” she shrugged. “She made Rumble cry, at least. And I don’t think he stopped for hours.”

Cadance nodded slowly. “Nothing, I’m sure, compared to Apple Bloom…” She took a sip of her tea. “But still.”

Twilight nodded. “But still.” She picked up her teacup and took another sip. “Anyways, Applejack barred him from the property, and Thunderlane grounded him for… well, a few weeks, I think. And Rumble and Apple Bloom avoid each other like the plague. Scootaloo made up with Apple Bloom, eventually, and she and Rumble started talking again, too, but it’s, uh...” she swallowed. “It’s still put a little bit of a strain on his and Scootaloo’s relationship.”

Cadance looked up sharply. “Relationship?” she repeated. “Are they really...?

Twilight shook her head vigorously. “No, not at all. But anyone who knows them knows it’s just a matter of time.”

Cadance nodded to herself. “Speaking of time,” she said, “how are she and Rainbow doing, now that they’ve had a little?”

Twilight rolled her eyes and put down her cup. “Did you hear how their first visit went?”

“A little,” Cadance admitted. “Dumpster fire?”

“No,” Twilight said, “train wreck—hundreds dead, news at eleven.”

Cadance winced.

“Indeed,” Twilight said. “Scootaloo scrapped some plans she had with her friends to do it, and Rainbow had a long, frustrating day at work beforehand. And it didn’t help that Rainbow was still full of herself—or, at least, full of her ideas for how their visit was supposed to go—nor that Scootaloo was determined to have a terrible time. I hear it turned into in a full-blown shouting match, right there in Sugarcube Corner, which only ended because someone called the cops.” Twilight settled back in her chair. “Which, of course, didn’t help with Rainbow’s legal troubles any.”

Cadance looked up from her tea. “Legal troubles?”

Twilight nodded. “Someone—maybe it was Cheerilee, or Mrs. Harbour, or another government worker like that—or maybe could’ve been one of the dozens of others who heard the argument between Rainbow and Rumble—but it got back, to all the wrong people, that Rainbow had been mistreating Scootaloo. So now she’s had to go to court, too—and it’s…” she sighed. “Well, it’s not going well for her.”

Cadance looked down again, and began to stir her tea pensively.

“Anyways,” Twilight continued, after a moment of silence, “they’ve kept up their visits, such as they are. Rainbow’s starting to get better at it… not much, but she’s trying, at least… but Scootaloo…” Twilight swallowed, then looked away, watching Cadance out of the corner of her eye. “...she’s still angry,” she said simply.

Cadance continued to stir her tea in silence.

Twilight nervously cleared her throat. “So, uh… y’know, if you wouldn’t mind doing a little work while you’re on vacation… I think, uh…” she swallowed again. “I think Rainbow and Scootaloo wouldn’t mind.”

Cadance said nothing for a long moment. When she did finally speak, she kept her eyes on her tea, and her voice was barely a whisper.

“There are some things,” she said, “that ponies must do on their own. And, I think,” she said, “that this is one of them.”

Twilight swallowed, but did not reply.

“This is a relationship that the two of them will have to earn,” Cadance continued, in the same quiet voice. “I can fix it, if I have to, but the cracks are too deep for me to heal completely. And without a strong foundation—one built, over time, by the two of them, working together—anything I could do would be just a coat of paint. It’d all collapse again within weeks.” She turned away. “I’ve done it before.” She swallowed. “Once. And…” she shook her head. “And that was enough for me.”

Twilight turned to watch her for a moment, then looked away again. She sighed, then took a sip of her tea.

There was another long moment of awkward silence. Suddenly, a quick grin flashed across Twilight’s face—just a quick one, one that she quickly buried.

“So,” she said, trying hard to keep her voice casual, “How’s Flash doing?”

Cadance looked up. “Flash?” she repeated.

“Flash Sentry,” Twilight said. “In the guard?”

Cadance raised an eyebrow. “Why in Equestria are you asking about him?” she asked.

“Oh, well…” Twilight shrugged. “Y’know…”

Cadance stared at her, then a mischievous smirk crept across her face. “Oh,” she said, “I do know.” She set down her cup. “Well, if you must ask, he’s doing fine…”

“Now, be sure to behave,” Rainbow Dash said.

Soarin’ put on his best injured, pouty face. “I always behave,” he said.

Rainbow glared at him. “Soaring Marion Skies,” she said sternly, “I’m serious.”

Soarin’ stared at her. He had never heard her use her Mom Voice before. He didn’t know she had a Mom Voice.

It was kinda hot, actually.

The two of them were standing in Rainbow’s rarely-used dining room, which she had just dusted that morning. Rainbow herself had brushed out her mane and tail and preened her feathers twice, and had forced Soarin’ to put a little something in his mane for good measure.

“We’re trying to make a good impression,” Rainbow continued. “This is the first time you’ve really met her, and I want you to show her you can be a gentlecolt.”

Soarin’ gave her another pouty look. “You say that like you doubt me,” he said.

Rainbow’s eyes narrowed.

Soarin’ cleared his throat, then glanced at the table, set with a white cloth and porcelain plates, with two flat cardboard boxes resting in the center of the table. “Little fancy for pizza,” he muttered.

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Everyone likes pizza, especially kids, so pizza we’re having.”

Soarin’ glanced over at the table again, hesitated, and counted the place settings. “Four,” he said aloud. “Why four?”

Rainbow sighed. Soarin’ could really get on her nerves when he was playing stupid.

“One for me,” she said patiently, “one for you, one for Scootaloo, and one for Sweetie Belle.” She frowned. “Or Apple Bloom.”

Soarin’ raised an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he said.

“She asked if she could bring a friend,” Rainbow replied. “Which means it’s one of those two. Can’t think of who else she would invite…” She shuddered. “Unless it’s Diamond Tiara.

Soarin’ shrugged noncommittally.

Rainbow glanced at the clock. “Speaking of,” she said, “It’s almost time. I should probably go get them...”

At that moment, there was a knock at the front door.

Rainbow frowned, then trotted smartly to the front door. She swung it open.

“Hey, Squirt,” she said, grinning wide. “Good to see you! How did you—?”

And then, her smile froze.

On her doorstep stood Scootaloo. Her expression was vague and unreadable—though she, like Rainbow, had taken the time to brush out both her mane and her tail.

And next to her stood Rumble.

Rainbow stared at him, eyes wide, for a long moment. “Oh,” she said finally, her voice hollow. “Oh. Oh. Ohhhh.”

She turned her head slightly, her wide, panicked eyes never leaving Rumble. “Oh Sweetie,” she called back over her shoulder, “l-look who Scootaloo brought along.”

Scootaloo’s brow furrowed. “Sweetie?” she repeated.

Soarin’ poked his head around the corner. As Rumble saw him, his eyes went wide.

“Sweetie?!” he yelped.

Soarin’ shot Rainbow a look, one eyebrow raised, then trotted up beside her and put on his best meet-and-greet smile. “Hi,” he purred, “I’m Soarin’.” He polished one of his hooves on an imaginary lapel, examined it, then breathed on it and polished it again, all with an air of practiced nonchalance. “You might know me from the Wonderbolts,” he added, almost as an afterthought.

For the first time, he seemed to see who was standing on the porch. “Oh,” he said, “you must be Scootaloo.” He glanced at Rumble. “And you’re... Apple Belle?” he hazarded.

“Rumble,” Rumble corrected, coldly.

“Ah, yes,” Soarin’ said, “Roomba.” He held out a hoof. “Good to meet you.”

Rumble stared at the outstretched hoof, a snarl twitching his lips. He must think he’s so clever, he thought to himself. He has no idea how pompous he looks. He thought of his Soarin’ action figure—now lying somewhere at the bottom of the Ponyville dump—and thought of another dozen evil and violent things he should have done to it before throwing it away.

Soarin’s smile slipped the slightest bit. He had spent most of his career around foals this age, and most of them couldn’t get enough of his “I’m not actually famous” act. “Oh yes, Mr. Soarin’, I do know you! I have your poster, and your t-shirt, and…!”

And yet this colt was just glaring at him, and this filly was looking away. Admittedly, he was more impressive when he was in uniform, but still: he had never had a fan snarl at him before.

Soarin’ decided suddenly that he disliked this—this Ramble, or whoever he was.

Scootaloo glared past Soarin’s still-outstretched hoof, to where Rainbow stood, motionless, just inside the door. Cold sweat ran down her forehead, her teeth were clenched tight, and tendons stuck out like steel cords on her neck. What is she thinking, Scootaloo found herself asking, inviting him along? This was supposed to be a private thing, just the three of us.

Rainbow glanced between the three of them, fighting tooth and nail to keep her calm. A great many unpleasant revelations had been made in the past few seconds, and she was still trying to marshal her defenses against them. Not only was Scootaloo’s “friend,” as it turned out, a colt, he was that colt: the one who had gotten her in so much trouble, the one who openly hated her guts, the one who, she had to admit, she still thought of as her greatest enemy.

And here he was, all ready to spend an evening not only with her, but with Soarin’. And, if he hated her, what was he going to think of her boy-toy?

It was going to be a long, awkward evening. And it could only go downhill from here.

For a long time, no one moved. Finally, Rainbow gulped.

“Soarin’,” Rainbow hissed through her teeth, “Why don’t you let Scootaloo and her—” she swallowed again. “Her friend come inside?”

Soarin’ glanced at her in mild surprise, then pulled back his hoof and took a step backwards.

“Come on in,” Rainbow said, her teeth still clenched. “Dinner’s on the table, and I have some movies in the living room for after.”

Scootaloo stepped inside and shouldered past her, and Rumble followed, shooting Rainbow an acid glare as he passed. Soarin’ watched them head into the dining room, then stepped closer to Rainbow.

“Tough crowd,” he muttered. “What’s up his ass?”

And then, he turned and walked into the kitchen.

Rainbow swallowed two or three times, then pushed the door shut. As she leaned on it, she had the sudden, unaccountable mental image of a freight train, under full steam, screaming towards the edge of a cliff. She shook her head, then turned and walked into the kitchen.

Scootaloo sat quietly next to Rumble. After a moment, she turned and looked him up and down, and ran a hoof through his hair. Rumble made a grumpy noise, then leaned away from her.

“Be nice,” she said warningly. “We’re trying to make a good impression.”

“No need,” he grumbled, mostly to himself. “No saving those two.”

Scootaloo gritted her teeth. “Rumble,” she said sternly, “we discussed this.”

“Didn’t discuss him,” he said sharply, nodding over his shoulder, where Soarin’s hindquarters were just visible through the door to the kitchen.

Scootaloo followed his gaze, then pressed her lips into a thin line.

“Well,” she said finally. “It’s only a couple hours.”

Rumble glanced over at her, then sighed. “I’ll be good,” he said finally. “As long as he is.”

Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “Will have to do,” she said to herself.

“I don’t want a colt like that in this house,” Soarin’ whispered urgently.

“It’s not your house,” Rainbow whispered back.

Soarin’ shot her a look—a look she fired right back. Soarin’s eyes flashed, but finally, he looked away.

“This is important to me,” she hissed. “Important to us.”

He looked up sharply. He had heard a threat in her voice—though real or imagined, he couldn’t quite be sure.

Rainbow sighed heavily. “Listen,” she said. “It’s only two or three hours. And half of that’s a movie. Do you think you can hold it together until then?”

Soarin’ turned away. Rainbow watched him carefully, but still almost missed the hurt little glance he gave her.

She hesitated, then leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

Soarin’ straightened up a little. It was just a quick peck—but she had never kissed him like that before. There was some actual tenderness in that kiss of hers.

“Can you do it?” she repeated. “For me?”

Soarin’ took a deep breath—and, as he was letting it out, an image of Rumble’s clouded face flashed across his mind.

“I’ll try,” he said, with a sincerity that surprised even him.

Rainbow smiled. “Good,” she said. “Now, let’s get this party started.”

Rainbow took a deep, nervous breath. “So,” she said, “We’re having pizza tonight. Hope you like it.”

She reached over and theatrically lifted the lids on both boxes. “Pizza Hoof,” she said grandly. “Mushroom and black olives, and onions and green peppers.”

She watched them nervously. Rumble raised his eyebrows, then leaned forward, grabbed a slice of each, and took a big, eager bite. Rainbow smiled a little, then turned to watch Scootaloo—and froze.

Scootaloo looked like she was going to be ill. She stared at both pizzas, eyes wide and face ashen. She glanced up and saw Rainbow watching her—and shrank back, just a little.

“I don’t like olives,” she croaked. “Or onions.”

The bottom fell out of Rainbow’s stomach. “Oh,” she said, her brain frantically scrambling for a way to save this. “I-I can—”

“No,” Scootaloo said miserably, “I can just—”

She picked up a thin slice of the onion and green pepper pizza, and began to nibble at it, with careful, delicate bites that danced around the offending onions.

Rainbow watched her for a moment, then gulped and turned helplessly to look at Soarin’, and found him already chowing down. He must have felt the weight of her gaze on him, for he looked up at her, incredulous.

“Eat,” he urged. “No sense in letting it get cold.”

Rainbow realized, rather suddenly, that she wasn’t actually hungry. And yet, she forced herself to reach out, take a piece of pizza--the pizza she had been so excited about an hour ago--and take a bite.

They ate in silence for several minutes. Rainbow had finished once slice and started on another one before she noticed Soarin’ had stopped chewing. He was staring intently at something. Rainbow turned to follow his gaze, and saw he was watching Scootaloo eat, her slice now a ragged swiss-cheese of bread and toppings.

“You know,” he said suddenly, a note of simmering irritation in his voice, “you can pick ‘em off.”

Rumble’s eyes flashed, and he looked up at Soarin’. “Maybe she doesn’t like the taste,” he snapped.

“They’re onions,” Soarin’ spat back, “not rat poison.”

“Yeah, well,” Rumble muttered, looking down at his pizza, “I hear she’s not overfond of stuck-up Wonderbolts either.”

Soarin’ dropped his pizza to his plate with a splat, placed his forehooves flat on the table, then stood, pushing his chair back, his face full of dark fury.

Rumble gulped; he hadn’t realized how very tall Soarin’ was.

For a long, agonizing moment, no one spoke. Rainbow opened and closed her mouth. She had planned for almost anything tonight—except for this. Now the locomotive in her head was not only barreling towards the cliffside—it had caught fire, with bright scarlet flames consuming the cab and burning the engineer alive.

Rainbow looked around desperately, and her gaze fell on Scootaloo. She stared back at Rainbow, her expression carefully neutral, save for a faint whiff of… something. Was that judgment? Or anger? Or was Rainbow just seeing her own feelings, projected back at her?

But, as Rainbow stared at her daughter—her daughter—something in her brain finally caught.

She looked up with a bright smile. “Everyone finished?” she asked, just loud enough for all three of them to turn and stare at her. “If we’re done,” she continued, “Let’s go to the living room. Soarin’ and I can go get the popcorn.”

Scootaloo seemed to catch something in her tone. “Good idea,” she said, hopping off her chair. “C’mon, Rumble, let’s go check it out.” She grabbed Rumble by the hoof and pulled him out of his chair, then out the door.

As soon as they had gone, Rainbow rounded on Soarin’. “What the hell was that?” she hissed.

He turned to stare back at her, still furious. “You heard him,” he said. “Cocky little brat needs—”

“He is eleven,” she spat. “You,” she added, jabbing him in the chest with her hoof, “are almost three times his age—and the second most-famous Wonderbolt on the team. Are you seriously going to get into a pissing contest with a colt whose balls haven’t even dropped yet?”

Soarin’ glared back at her, then closed his eyes and swallowed, hard. When he opened them again, he flashed her his winning, crowd-pleasing smile, the smile that lingered on his face just a little too long.

“Fine,” he said, grinning, in a tone that cracked at the edges. “Let’s go get the popcorn, then go and sit down with the munchkins. And we’ll all be one, big, happy family.”

Without another word, he turned and marched—practically goose-stepped—into the kitchen.

Rainbow stared. She knew this mood. She’d seen it before, once, back when Signal Flare had spilled coffee on his show uniform two minutes before he was set to perform. That was the look he had when he was planning murder.

Figuratively, of course.

Or—she gulped—at least so she hoped.

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