• Published 28th Feb 2016
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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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20. Descent (Part ll)

“Hey Kodiak,” Bunny Slope said, “I’m gonna go check for any more strays.”

Kodiak—a tall, broad, dark-brown unicorn—nodded. “Sure thing,” he said. “Just scare ‘em out of here as quick as you can. We’re gonna put the game on that big TV in the lobby as soon as everyone’s gone.”

Bunny shot him a grin. “C’mon,” she teased, “you know Canterlot’s gonna lose.”

Kodiak sniffed. “I know no such thing,” he said airily. “Either way, get the tourists out. They should’ve all gone home already anyways.”

“I know, I know,” Bunny said, turning and walking towards the stairs. “Go Manehattan,” she called back over her shoulder.

“Aw, can it,” Kodi called back at her. Bunny just laughed.

Bunny Slope smiled to herself as she trotted down the stairs. She was tall and lanky, with a golden coat and white mane. Mom would have died if she told her, but really, life here at Galloping Gorge was everything she wanted. The pay wasn’t great, but room and board was free—not to mention, she got to spend all day every day out on the mountain. And running those beginner classes… She grinned even wider. Kodi and Rainier probably would’ve killed themselves by now if they’d had to teach four classes daily, but she wouldn’t give it up for the world. Getting to see ponies discover their new favorite hobby—not once, but four times, each and every day? Heck, she would’ve done twice that, if they would let her.

By this time, the lodge was dark. Most of the chairs had been stacked and the floors swept—but, then again, this wasn’t the first time they’d found some little punk colt lurking in a corner after hours. It always paid to be careful…

Bunny searched the entire lodge and found no one—that is, not until she took a closer look at the big armchairs sitting around the gas-fueled fireplace. There, curled up in a tiny, scowling ball, was a little orange filly, almost smaller than the armrests. Bunny Slope watched her for just a moment, then smiled a little.

Bunny slope trotted over to the chairs, lowered herself into one with a heavy sigh, and watched the fire for a few seconds. Then, she turned and shot the little filly a crooked grin.

“Hey, Kid,” Bunny said cheerfully. “It’s, uh… Scouter? Scooter?”

“Scootaloo,” Scootaloo muttered.

“Scootaloo, that’s right,” Bunny said brightly. She flashed her a grin. “First day, right?”

“And last.”

Bunny looked stricken. “Aw, c’mon,” she pleaded, “You just gotta give it another chance, is all…”

Scootaloo shot her a scathing look. “I lost my scarf,” she snarled.

Bunny Slope cocked her head. “And?” she said.

Scootaloo turned to look at her like she had grown a second head. “And?” she repeated, scandalized.

“Yeah!” Bunny cried. “You don’t need a scarf to snowboard. Especially with a fancy parka like that.”

Scootaloo stared at her a moment longer, then wriggled deeper into her chair. “It was special,” she muttered. “My mom knitted it for me—and now it’s gone.”

Bunny was silent for just a moment. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I know how bad that sucks…” She sighed, then leaned over and gave Scootaloo a gentle slug on the arm, earning her another scathing look. “Hey,” she said, “wanna hear what happened to the very first board I ever owned? Birthday present from my dad? Got my Cutie Mark on it and everything?”

Scootaloo stared up at her, then sighed heavily. The way she was smiling down at her, eyes wide and shining, she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“...fine,” she grumbled.

“Snapped it clean in half, pow!” Bunny cried, punctuating her story with a hefty slap on the back of Scootaloo’s chair. “Hit a rock buried right under the snow.” She grinned. “Almost broke my neck, too—but, y’know, that grows back.”

Despite herself, Scootaloo felt a little smile tug at the corner of her lips. This apparently wasn’t the first time she’d told this story…

Bunny saw her smile, and grinned even wider—but then, her smile fell. She leaned back in her chair and stared into the fire for a moment. “That was…” she sighed. “That was after Daddy’s accident. That board was the only thing I had left to remember him by…”

Scootaloo looked sharply up at her, and, in the firelight, saw her watching the flames with a distant, turned-inward look. Scootaloo shivered a little, then turned back to the fire.

“I’m sorry,” she said, after a long pause. And she was surprised to realize she meant it.

Bunny nodded, then sniffled and wiped her eyes. “Wanna hear what I did next?”

Scootaloo looked up at her, then slowly nodded. Bunny shot her a sidelong glance, then smiled a little.

“Cussed up a storm, actually,” she said. “If Dad had been there, I would’ve been tasting soap until I was old enough to drink. Probably cried a little, too, I don’t really remember.”

Scootaloo chuckled, and Bunny turned to face her, smile bright and eyes gleaming once more. “You know what I did next?

Scootaloo raised an eyebrow. “...cried and screamed some more…?”

“Nope,” she said brightly. “I rented another board, and got right back on that slope!”

“Why?” Scootaloo blurted, before she could stop herself.

“Because,” Bunny said, “You can’t let one bad thing keep you from doing what you love. Bad stuff happens all the time, and if you’re gonna let one sour experience keep you from living your life, you’re going to have one long, sad, lonely time.” She smiled a little wider. “You gotta get back up and try again, no matter what—because it’s no fun just parking your flank in the snow while there’s still so much mountain to see.”

Bunny fell quiet for a moment, then leaned over again. “Y’know, Scootaloo,” she said, “I’m proud of you.”

Scootaloo looked up at her. “Huh?”

Bunny nodded. “I mean it. Most fillies your age have never gone snowboarding. Most of ‘em are too afraid to try. And, here you go, coming up here out of the blue, and tearing up those slopes—at least for a little bit,” she added with a goofy little grin.

Scootaloo felt herself begin to blush.

“You’re awesome, Scootaloo,” Bunny said. “And don’t let anyone tell you different—” she leaned over and slugged her again. “Least of all yourself. Okay?”

Scootaloo stared at Bunny Slope for just a moment before, suddenly, she started to go all blurry. Scootaloo wiped at her eyes and sniffled a little. “Okay,” she mumbled.

“ And—” Bunny slugged her again “—when you’re ready to try again, Galloping Gorge will be here for you. I mean, how are you gonna get better if no one gives you a second chance?”

Scootaloo slowly turned and looked back at the fire. “Yeah,” she murmured, “Yeah, I guess…”

“Thing is, though,” Bunny said, with a wry twist in her voice, “You’re gonna have to take that second chance tomorrow. It’s time to go home.”

Scootaloo just kept staring at the fire.

Bunny frowned a little. “How, uh…” she swallowed. “How you getting home? I mean, is your Mom gonna come pick you up or something…?”

Scootaloo scowled. “My mom’s not coming back,” she grumbled. “All I got is a babysitter now.”

Bunny swallowed. “Well, uh…” she began. “Where’s your babysitter?”

”I dunno,” Scootaloo said bitterly. “Probably still riding Sunshine Slope. Trying to prove she’s better than me or something..”

Bunny’s eyes widened, but her face quickly relaxed into an expression of practiced calm. She leaned back into the chair, counting her heartbeats, trying to keep her breathing even—until she heard heavy hoofsteps on the stairs.

Both of them looked up as Kodiak rounded the corner. He shot Bunny a disapproving look, then opened his mouth, but, before he could say a word, Bunny spoke.

“Hey, Kodi,” she said, her voice a little too relaxed, “Could you go wake up Mister Husky for me?”

Scootaloo heard something in her tone and looked up, just in time to see Kodiak pale, then turn and walk quickly away.

“So,” Bunny said to Scootaloo, “what’s your babysitter’s name? And what’s she look like?”

Scootaloo glanced up as she heard running hooves on the floor above them. “Rainbow Dash,” she said slowly. “She’s blue, with a rainbow mane…”

“Uh huh,” Bunny said, the very faintest note of strain in her voice. “And when was the last time you saw her...?”

“I dunno,” Scootaloo replied, “ten?”

Bunny nodded, and somewhere in the distance, a door slammed. “Okay,” she said, heaving herself up out of the chair. “You just sit right there, and get yourself another cocoa or something. I’m gonna go use the restroom, and—”

Scootaloo scowled. “Stop it,” she spat.

Bunny’s eyes widened. “Stop what?” she said,

“I’m not a fan of being lied to,” Scootaloo said, glaring at Bunny, who shrunk back a little. “Either I’m a coward or an idiot. Pick one.”

Bunny stared at her, then nodded. “Okay,” she said in a small voice.

“Who’s Mister Husky?” Scootaloo demanded.

Bunny swallowed. “The… the Search and Rescue team,” she said. “It’s… it’s a code word...”

Scootaloo felt the blood drain from her face. “S-search and Rescue?” she repeated. “But she’s on the slopes! I told you!”

Bunny smiled a smile that cracked at the edges. “Sweetie,” she said carefully, “The ski lifts have been closed for an hour. No one’s on the slopes.”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened.

“If she’s out there, and you last saw her at ten in the morning…” Bunny swallowed again. “Mister Husky might be too late.”

Scootaloo sat very still for a moment.

“...I’m coming with you,” she said finally.

“Pardon?” Bunny asked, cocking her head.

“I’m coming with you,” she repeated, louder. “It might be my fault she’s out there. And…” She swallowed, then fell silent.

Bunny watched her for a moment, then wordlessly gestured for her to follow. Scootaloo leapt from the chair and charged after her.

Bunny tossed Scootaloo a bright-orange beanie and pulled her through a rough wooden door. Before she was even fully aware of what was happening, Bunny plopped her on a hard plastic seat, sat down in front of her, and, with a deep, mechanical roar, their sleek white snowmobile shot forward into the darkness.

Scootaloo’s backside was numb. She had been sitting on the snowmobile for… well, she wasn’t sure for how long. But Bunny Slope seemed to know what she was doing, so she wasn’t worried. It would almost have been relaxing—there was something beautiful about the trees, thick with snow, that whizzed past them, something soft and welcoming about the whurr of the engine—if it hadn’t been for the frequent squawks of panicked static over the radio clipped to the windscreen, nor the shafts of flashlights she glimpsed through the trees. Scootaloo, who had her arms wrapped around Bunny Slope from behind, gripped her a little tighter and wished she was back home again.

They had already been up and down every hill and trail on the resort at least twice (Scootaloo could’ve sworn she felt Bunny tense up every time the snowmobile tore up her precious powder), and now they had turned and headed into the woods. “Only an idiot would have wandered off like this,” Bunny had muttered.

Scootaloo had almost made a crack about Rainbow’s decision-making capabilities, but it died, unspoken, in her throat.

Scootaloo swallowed. The night was beautiful, sure—but still, there was that deep, creeping sense of dread in her gut. She had tried to ignore it, but the further they drove the more insistently it gnawed at her. In its wake, it left a soft, lingering sense of regret… a sort of vague longing for what might have been, if things had gone a little differently…

Scootaloo yelped as the snowmobile lifted into the air, dropping the bottom out of her stomach. It landed, hard, in the snow again, and Scootaloo clutched Bunny even tighter.

“Sorry,” Bunny called back over the roar of the motor.

At that moment, there was another burst of static from the radio. Bunny snatched it up. “Rainy, you have eyes?” she cried.

Another burst of static. Bunny listened intently, clipped the radio back onto the windscreen, then turned the handlebars. The snowmobile cut a graceful arc, spraying snow in a high, delicate rainbow, then headed off in a new direction.

“They find her?” Scootaloo yelled, allowing herself a faint note of hope.

“Maybe,” called back Bunny. She cranked the throttle, and the snowmobile lurched forward.

Bunny coasted the snowmobile to a stop, then leapt off it, leaving the engine running, snatching up the radio as she did. “Kodi, Rainy,” she shouted, “I think I found her. Niner-niner-tango-foxtrot…”

Scootaloo clambered off the snowmobile as well, and quickly dashed after Bunny—or, at least, she tried to. Here, the snow was deep and fresh—no problem for Bunny’s long legs, but for a filly Scootaloo’s size, it was like swimming in cement.

And, suddenly, she came around a thick clump of shrubbery and stared. There, in a small clearing, by the light of the snowmobile’s headlamps, a wide circle of snow had been stomped down. Scattered around the circle were a Galloping Gorge rental board, a long, thick scarf, and a crumpled, discarded winter coat. In the midst of the debris stood Bunny Slope—and, at her hooves, curled up tight and lying very, very still in the snow, was Rainbow Dash.

“Is she…?” Scootaloo breathed.

Without a word, Bunny dropped the still-squawking radio into the snow beside her, then crouched down and rolled Rainbow over onto her back. She leaned down and held her ear to Rainbow’s mouth. She held there for just a moment before pressing her lips into a thin line, then moved down to Rainbow’s chest. Rainbow had her arms crossed tight; Bunny peeled them apart, letting them fall to the snow, heedless of the object that fell from Rainbow’s grasp. She placed both her forehooves on Rainbow’s sternum, and began pumping her chest.

Scootaloo stared for a long moment, then gingerly took a step forward. She walked over to where Rainbow lay, then slowly, reached out and picked up what lay on the ground beside her, the thing that she had been clutching so tightly—

—a moth-eaten, hoof-knitted scarf.

A few minutes later, Rainier landed in the snow beside Bunny Slope. She tucked her wings away, then trotted over to the snowmobile, dug in one of the emergency kits under the seat, and pulled out a flare gun. She fired it into the air, grabbed a couple sets of hoof warmers and a wool blanket, and went to help Bunny. A few seconds later, Kodiak appeared in a flash of light, and looked helplessly on as the two mares tended to the mare lying in the snow.

He glanced over and frowned, then trotted over to one of the trees nearby. Under that tree stood a tiny orange filly, wearing a parka almost as big as she was, clutching tightly to a brightly colored scarf. As he approached, she looked up at him—but he would be astonished if she could see him through all the fog in her goggles.

“Hey kid,” he said kindly, “you alright? We can—”

Without warning the filly sobbed aloud, dropped the scarf, then lunged forward. Kodiak yelped and backed away, but she ran past him. Rainier, who was trying to wrap the mare in the snow in a blanket, tried to grab her, but she dodged between her legs; Bunny Slope, still pumping the mare’s chest, tried to say something, but, before she could even get it out, the filly had already wrapped her arms around the mare’s neck and started to bawl.

Rainier hesitated, then stepped forward and tried to pull the little one away. “It’s gonna be okay, kid,” she said. “We’ve done this before, we’ve got this…”

And yet, the little orange filly just clutched her tighter, weeping into the cold, still body.

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