• Published 28th Feb 2016
  • 4,025 Views, 440 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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5. Distracted

I’d hate to see the damage you would do as a mother...

…why weren’t you there for me?...

Element of Loyalty, my ass

Rainbow ground her teeth and flapped harder. Try as she might, she could not banish those words from her mind--and each time they repeated themselves, they burned deeper into her soul.

She had to do something about this. There had to be some way to show Scootaloo and Twilight that she was still very much worthy of her element, and that she was a capable friend. The first demonstration was easy enough to plan; buy Scootaloo a gift, or take her somewhere a good time was guaranteed; get back into the good graces of her number-one fan, and her fellow Elements of Harmony.

The second one… Well, if it had a solution, she and it were playing a game of hide-and-go-seek, one that she was in no mood for. And it was winning.

Rainbow turned and glanced over her shoulder; as she thought, Fluttershy was following close behind her. “What do you think, Fluttershy?” she asked.

For a while, Fluttershy did not answer. “About what?” she said, finally.

Rainbow shrugged. “How to fix things. With Twilight.” She swallowed. “A-and with Scootaloo.”

Fluttershy did not speak; Rainbow had to look over her shoulder again to make sure she was still following. She was; she was simply staring down at the ground. Rainbow mentally shrugged; perhaps the argument earlier had gotten to her.

“Sorry about all that.” Rainbow said--the sincerest apology she could muster at the moment.. “I don’t know why I let her get to me that way.”

Fluttershy did not react.

Rainbow frowned. “You don’t think I’d make a bad mom, do you?”

Fluttershy glanced up at her, then back down--but, in that fraction of a second, Rainbow saw fear in her eyes.

“Please don’t make me answer that question,” she whispered.

Rainbow growled. “You too?” she snapped. “Come on! I mean--Really? Does everypony think I’m just a self-centered jock or something?”

How it was possible for Fluttershy to look even more evasive and uncomfortable, Rainbow did not know. But what she did know, is that her reaction burned through what little patience she had left.

“Fine!” she roared. “You know what? I’ll show you, I’ll show all of you! I’m gonna go to Cloudsdale, and I’m gonna adopt my foal! Yeah! Watch me make mom of the year in no time at all!”

Fluttershy looked up again, fire in her eyes. She flew higher, up to Rainbow’s eye level. She opened her mouth--lost her nerve--swallowed--then tried again.

“You don’t need to go to Cloudsdale,” she said.

Rainbow opened her mouth the slightest bit. “What did you say?” she breathed.

“I said,” she repeated firmly, “you don’t need to go to Cloudsdale. Your foal isn’t in Cloudsdale.” She took a deep breath. “She’s here.”

Rainbow’s gaze traced Fluttershy’s expression. There was no trace of humor in her look. “What are you saying?” she asked carefully.

Fluttershy held her stare for just a moment longer--then looked away. “You had a daughter,” she said. “A little pegasus filly. And her foster mother named her…” She licked her lips. “She named her Scootaloo.”

“Scootaloo?” Rainbow repeated.

Fluttershy nodded.

Time seemed to freeze. For a long moment, neither of them spoke. Neither of them breathed.

Then, suddenly, Rainbow laughed. Fluttershy’s mouth dropped open.

“Good one, Fluttershy,” Rainbow chuckled. "You had me going there for a minute.”

Fluttershy gaped, then snarled, tears forming in her eyes. “I’m serious, Dash,” she said. “Scootaloo is your—”

Rainbow reached out and patted her on the shoulder. “I know you are,” she said. “And that’s what makes it funny!”

Horror dawned across Fluttershy’s face, and she fell silent.

“I mean,” Rainbow continued, “I’ve known her, like--her whole life, it feels like. If she was mine, I would’a figured it out years ago. Plus,” she said, smirking, “I don’t think she got any of my awesome genes.” She turned around and flexed her wings. “Like, when was the last time you saw her get some use out of these babies?”

Fluttershy stared. Slowly, she looked down and curled her arms around herself. This… this isn’t how she imagined it would go. She had shared her greatest secret--the one that she had kept inside, for ten years to the day, the one that she thought Rainbow had finally been ready to hear.

And she had laughed at her.

She wanted to cry. She wanted to fly away. She wanted to disappear.

And then, Rainbow put her arm around her.

“Thanks,” she said. “I really needed a pick-me-up like that.” She paused. “Y’know,” she said to herself, “there’s a Wonderbolts show this weekend… and I think I can ask Spitfire for a couple tickets. Maybe that’s what I can do with Scoots.” She thumped Fluttershy on the back. “Good chat,” she added. “Let’s do this again sometime.”

And, with that, she flew away.

Fluttershy hung there in the air for a long, long time, before she turned and began to glide for home.

Helmet… check.

Brand spankin’ new kick scooter… check.

Best friends behind me and ready to go? She glanced behind her and saw Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle sitting behind her in Sweetie’s little wagon, rope tied to the handle, both of them staring, wide-eyed, back at her. Check.

Scootaloo turned to face forward again, grinned wickedly, then started her little wings pumping. With a yelp from Sweetie Belle, the three of them shot forward.

So far, Scootaloo’s morning had been great. She woke up at Carousel Boutique after a nice night with her friends; which itself followed a mostly amazing birthday party.

Rarity of course was a great cook, and with her stomach full of pancakes and eggs, and her two best friends in tow, she arrived at school with a wide grin on her face. She smiled a little wider as she spun the scooter sideways, skidding to a stop. She stepped off the board, then whipped off her helmet, letting her mane unfurl dramatically in the wind. She grinned a little wider as she heard Sweetie Belle start retching.

“Hey, uh, Scoots?” Apple Bloom said, grumpily.

Their cocky friend proudly folded her scooter shut and set it near the school's flagpole. “Wasn’t that awesome, girls?” she cried. “That’s like, the fastest I’ve ever gone!”

“Yeah, but… did did you have to whip us around so much?” Sweetie Belle whimpered.

Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “Aw, come on girls!” she said. “Wasn’t it you who said ‘All we want is to see a smile on that face?’, Well guess what?” she said, grinning even wider, “Here it is!”

Apple Bloom slowly, unsteadily, climbed from the wagon. “Ah don’t recall nearly running ponies over an’ sending us to the moon, Celestia forbid ya hit a rock, bein’ anywhere in that sentence.”

“Pssh, whatever,” Scootaloo said with a dismissive wave of her hoof.

“Hey Scootaloo!”

All three of the crusaders jumped a bit at the voice--and it certainly wasn’t a filly. No, it was a certain gray colt with a charcoal mane.

Scootaloo swallowed, suddenly and unaccountably nervous. “H-Hey Rumble,” she stammered. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle glanced at each other, grinning.

If Rumble noticed the little drama playing out in front of him, he was gracious enough not to show it. Instead, he asked “Did you get a new scooter?”

Scootaloo nodded slightly. “Uh huh…”

Rumble trotted closer, and inspected the scooter with awe. “Wow,” he said, breathlessly, “that’s so cool! My bro and I saw you shooting through town just now. You’re pretty fast on that thing!”

Scootaloo blushed, and started pawing at the ground. “T-Thanks,” she managed to squeak. She could hear Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle behind her, their teasing whispers just barely audible. She blushed even harder. If they thought the ride here was rough...
Rumble glanced up at her, but quickly looked down, and began to paw the ground himself.

“You headed to the Wonderbolts show this weekend?” he asked nervously.

Oh goddess. Scootaloo’s mouth suddenly felt very dry. Is he asking me out…?

Rumble stood there, watching Scootaloo nervously, for three or four miserable seconds. Scootaloo herself frantically tried to make her mouth work, to spit out an answer--any answer--but nothing came. Not until...

Sure she is!” Apple Bloom said brightly, stepping up beside Scootaloo. Rumble and Scootaloo both turned to stare at her as she beamed back at them. “Yeah she’s… totally goin’ ta that Wonderbolts show, ain’t ya, Scootaloo?”

“I am?”

“Sure!” Apple Bloom said, nudging her.. “Yeah… You-- You was talkin’ ‘bout it last night.” Her eyes sparkled evilly. “Right after ya got done yammerin’ on about how cute Rumble is.”

Rumble’s cheeks burned a brilliant red. Scootaloo wanted to kill Apple Bloom--or die herself. Maybe even both.

Fortunately for all three them, relief came in the way of Miss Cheerilee. “Time for class, my little ponies!” she called.

Apple Bloom smirked as Rumble and Scootaloo turned, with the others, to head into the schoolhouse. Rumble, still blushing, seemed more mystified than anything--but Scootaloo, as she passed Apple Bloom, turned and shot her an evil glare, and muttered a few words that would have made Mrs. Harbour blush. Apple Bloom grinned a little wider, then followed them in.

Rainbow Dash liked to think of herself as a pony who kept her word. She had meant what she’d said to Fluttershy--she did want to make it up to Scootaloo, and had already sent a note to Spitfire requesting a couple tickets to the show.

Fluttershy’s joke had been in poor taste, though, but that was okay; it had made her feel better, and she’d already forgotten what it had been, anyways. Something about Scootaloo…?

Ah, well, it didn’t matter--she had other things on her mind at the moment. Today was a busy day for the SCWD--the South-Central Weather Division. Ponyville needed rain rather badly, and, as Captain, it was Rainbow Dash’s responsibility to make sure everything went smoothy.

Just a few months ago, this same task wouldn’t have needed so much of her attention, but Rainbow Dash was dealing with a brand-new weather team, most of them rookies. Most of her veterans had been transferred; something about some big event in Manehattan. Either way, it resulted in mostly unskilled and uninterested pegasi that had only the barest clue of what they were doing.

But finally, it was over. Almost eight hours of frustration, of shouting, of ending up having to do half the damn work herself, had finally resulted in a beautiful storm cell--and a sore throat and back pain that might kill a lesser mare.

Rainbow sighed, then flew over to a single, stray cloud. She deserved a rest--and half of Ponyville knew she did, too, after all the flying around she’d been doing all afternoon. As the first raindrops began to fall, Rainbow stretched herself out on the cloud, feeling her back pop as she laid down. Her eyes fluttered closed… only fifteen minutes, she promised herself, and then she needed to...

Hey, Rainbow Dash!

Rainbow groaned. She knew that voice; it was Spike. And she knew she couldn’t just ignore him. She rolled onto her stomach and peered down at him, scowling. “What?” she spat, venom dripping from her voice.

Spike, holding up an umbrella against the threatening rain, missed her venom entirely. “Twilight wanted me to tell you that she needs everypony at the castle within the hour,” he said helpfully. “Something about cutie marks or something… I don’t really remember,” he added with a shrug.

An hour… that gives me thirty minutes for some shut-eye…

Rainbow rolled back over. “Yeah, yeah,” she muttered, then yawned. “I’ll be there.”

Her eyes were already closed before she heard his voice again. “Twilight was wondering if you could go get Scootaloo, too,” he called up to her.

“What?” she cried, dismayed. She rolled onto her belly again--and this time, Spike saw her anger. “Why can’t you get her?”

Spike shrugged. “I dunno,” he said, turning and strolling away. “Twilight asked for you especially.”

Rainbow watched him go, then rolled back over, muttering a string of curses. Of course it had to be her to do everything. Why would it ever be anything different? This was almost certainly one of Twilight’s schemes to get them talking again...

She lay there for close to a minute before she realized she wasn’t going to get any sleep anytime soon.

Something seemed off.

Scootaloo couldn’t quite place it, but upon entering her home, eager to vent to her foster mother about how embarrassing her friends could be, she noticed the home was quiet. Normally around this time, the foals would be restlessly gurgling and cooing, stirred from their afternoon nap. But not this time.

The kitchen was dark, too, as was the living room. The only sound in the house was the dull ticking of the grandfather clock, each stroke a thunderclap in the silence.

Scootaloo swallowed, then crept up the stairs to her room and made to open the door. But before she could push it open, she paused, and swiveled her ears to listen. Somewhere, down at the end of the hall, she heard a voice. Slowly, she turned and walked towards the last door on the left, still open just a crack. She tentatively pressed her ear to the gap and listened.

It wasn’t speech she heard—it was Mrs. Harbour, crying. Not hysterical sobbing, but not quite a whimper, either--the sort of hopeless tears of someone left hopeless and all alone. Scootaloo’s guts turned to ice; the last time she had cried like this was after her husband passed a few years earlier. Mrs. Harbour did a wonderful job at keeping her emotions in check, especially around the children, but Scootaloo, being the oldest, was afforded some level of respect; would on occasion, listen to her as she vent about her various problems.

Scootaloo stood there nervously for a long moment, before she finally turned and made her way back to her own room. If Mrs. Harbour wanted her to know what was going on, she reasoned, then she’d tell her.

She was about to step into her bedroom when she heard a new sound, this one coming from downstairs: a chorus of fussy foals, just waking from their naps.

Scootaloo headed down to the nursery, and sure enough, many of the foals were awake and crabby. A few, fell quiet at the sight of her, and resorted to to sniffling and cooing instead. She had only ever helped Mrs. Harbour in the nursery a few times, but it wasn’t hard--plus, it seemed Mrs. Harbour was in no state to help them herself.

Most of the foals didn’t need much; just needed a stuffed animal or a binkie retrieved from the floor, or perhaps a fresh bottle. Several needed to be changed, of course, with all the normal tantrums that came with it. But, by this point, Scootaloo was a pro, and managed to get them all taken care of with a minimum of fuss. Or, at least, as little as could be expected under the circumstances. She felt a slight sense of accomplishment seeing the results of her work, though that pride was quickly overwhelmed by the unholy stench of the bag of filthy diapers she had left underhoof.

She held her breath, stood up on her hind legs, then took the bag in her forehooves. She turned for the door--and almost fell over backwards. Mrs. Harbour was standing there. She didn’t look as if she’d been crying--or, at least, she’d done a good job of cleaning herself up. Instead, she watched her, mouth slightly open, and her eyebrows raised.

“Scootaloo… Don’t tell me you took care of them, and did their diapers, and…” Scootaloo swore she saw her glasses fog. “You’re such a sweetheart, Scootaloo…” she sniffled a little. “Such a sweet little filly.”

Scootaloo smiled crookedly. “I kinda figured you could use some help, and--”

And suddenly, they were not alone.

A stallion, wearing a crisp business suit had materialized behind Mrs. Harbour. He wore the sort of flat, dead expression of someone who spent more time with paperwork than with ponies--and, when he glanced dispassionately at Scootaloo, his look sent a shiver down her spine.

The stallion turned and whispered something into Mrs. Harbour’s ear. Harbour nodded once or twice, then gave a muted response. The stallion nodded curtly, then left.

As Mrs. Harbour turned forward again Scootaloo tried to hide the fear and worry on her face. “Who was that?” she asked, in what she hoped was a neutral tone.

“Oh, just the usual inspection, dear.” Mrs. Harbour answered, a slight unease in her voice as she glanced back over her shoulder, where the stallion had gone. “Why don’t you let me handle the rest of this?” she asked, distracted.

“There’s some laundry in the washroom you can help with, if you want.””

“Sure thing.” Scootaloo replied, her gut twisting uncomfortably.

“I really appreciate this.” Mrs. Harbour said, a little warmth returning to her smile. “Thank you.”

After everything you do for me… I owe you Scootaloo thought.

Scootaloo slipped past Mrs. Harbour, and headed for the laundry room. A few feet down the hall, she paused, and glanced back at Mrs. Harbour. She was bending low over the little ones, making motherly little noises as she nuzzled them.

Something wasn’t right--but she didn’t know what it was, or how she was supposed to find out.

She watched Mrs. Harbour for a moment, then started trotting towards the laundry room again. As much as she wanted to ask what was happening, she had chores to do.

At least Rainbow remembered where the squirt lived this time. She knocked on the door, and it soon swung open, revealing the warmly-lit interior, full of life and noise. Standing on the threshold was a small colt, no bigger than Pipsuqeak.

“Wainbow Dash!” he sqeualed excitedly.

“Yeah, yeah,” she muttered, “the one and only. Is Scootaloo around?”

“Mm-hm!” The little colt nodded vigorously. “She's helpin’ Missus Hawbaw clean house!”

Before she could say anything else, he slammed the door, and his muffled, enthusiastic piping faded as he ran deeper into the house. Soon enough, the door opened again--this time, revealing Scootaloo, who glowered up at her. “What do you want?” she snapped.

Rainbow gritted her teeth--then swallowed. She was going to be nice. She had promised Fluttershy. She tried to smile, but it felt fake, even to her. “Twilight is having a meeting about cutie marks,” she said, “and she wants you there. I came by to pick you up.”

Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “Okay,” she said, her tone thawing only a few degrees. “I’ll come by later. I’m in the middle something right now.”

Instantly, an older mare Rainbow didn’t recognize appeared in the doorway. “Oh, now don’t you worry about the chores, Scootaloo,” she cooed.

Scootaloo shot a horrified glance between Rainbow and the other mare. “But, Mrs. Harbour, I want—”

Nonsense,” she said warmly. “Princess Twilight needs you more than I do. After all, I can get someone else to swab the decks--but there’s only one Scootaloo.” She bent down and kissed her on the top of the head, then nodded towards Rainbow. “Now, you better get going with your friend here. Don’t worry about me, dear, we’ll be alright.”


“No buts,” said the mare--Mrs. Harbour, apparently.

Scootaloo groaned aloud, then turned and stomped away. Rainbow nodded at Mrs. Harbour, then turned and followed her.

Rainbow trotted up beside Scootaloo--but she looked away with a hmph. They walked in silence for several minutes.

Finally, Rainbow cleared her throat. “So,” she asked, “was that your mom?”

“Foster mom,” Scootaloo spat.

Another long silence.

“Well,” Rainbow offered, "she seems nice, at least.”

“She is.” She turned a little further away and muttered something under her breath--something that sounded almost like “Unlike someone I know…”

Rainbow felt her patience already wearing thin. Small talk was hard.

“So, uh,” Rainbow began again, after a long pause, “you didn’t bring your scooter?”


Rainbow growled a little. She was trying to be nice--the least she could do was—

She bit her lip, then shook her head. Not how that works, Rainbow. She glanced over at Scootaloo, then sighed. No time like the present...

“Hey, uh…” she began uncertainly, “...I… feel free to say, ‘no,’ but I thought I’d ask…”

Scootaloo turned and looked over her shoulder at her.

Rainbow swallowed, then pressed on. “If… if you want… there’s a Wonderbolts show coming up, and, uh…” she swallowed again. “I got us tickets.”

Scootaloo stopped cold in the middle of the street.

Rainbow skidded to a halt and turned to stare at her--her eyes were practically bugging out of her skull.

“You mean—” she said breathlessly “--the 100th Anniversary Extravaganza?”

Rainbow gulped. “Y-Yes,” she said. “That.”

“The one that’s been sold out for months?”

Rainbow puffed out her chest. “One of the privileges of being a Wonderbolt,” she said.

Rainbow watched the struggle on her face--on one hoof, there was her own sour feelings towards Rainbow--sour feelings she really didn’t deserve, all things considered--but, on the other--The Wonderbolts.

Finally, she swallowed, and smiled. “Yeah,” she said, “I’d love to go!”

“Cool,” she said. “So, I’ll come pick you up around seven tomorrow morning? Down at the train station?”

Scootaloo opened her mouth to respond--then closed it again, as she peered up at Rainbow. “Wait…” she said hesitantly. “Is this just so I don’t stay mad at you?”

“Does it really matter what it’s for?” Rainbow snapped. “You wanna come, or not?”

“I do,” she said, nodding. “As long as you don’t forget me.”

“What would make you think I woul—?”

Scootaloo only glared at her.

Rainbow glanced at her, then rolled her eyes. Those times weren’t my—

She shook her head. Be nice, Rainbow...

“Right,” she said, lifting a hoof. “I promise, Scootaloo, I won’t let you down this time.”

Rainbow expected some kind of sarcastic retort, maybe a snort--but, when she looked back down at her, she noticed that Scootaloo was distracted. She followed her gaze, and saw Thunderlane and his little brother walking towards them. It was wasn’t hard to tell which of the two Scootaloo had her sights locked on.

Thunderlane offered a polite wave to Rainbow as the passed, with Rainbow returning in kind. Scootaloo and Rumble however, simply locked eyes with one another. Scootaloo was the first to blink, and a little shudder ran down her spine.

Rainbow grinned. “You like him, don’cha?”

“No.” Scootaloo lied, trying--and failing--to sound angry again.

“You were staring at him the whole time, though.”

“Was not!” Scootaloo stamped, “What do you care, anyway? I--I bet you like Thunderlane! Yeah, I bet you think he’s hot stuff.”

“Hm.” Rainbow Dash couldn’t suppress her grin, “If I wasn’t taken already, he’d be on my list. Not afraid to admit what I’m into.” She nudged Scootaloo. “Neither should you, kid.”

Scootaloo hmphed and stormed off, and Rainbow trotted to catch up with her. They walked in silence for a while, until the castle finally came into view. Scootaloo picked up the pace a little, and made it through the double doors before her. By the time Rainbow made it inside and found her seat, Scootaloo had already plopped herself on a crystal bench just outside the circle of thrones, next the other Crusaders, her face screwed into an almighty pout.

Rainbow herself drew hardly any looks, save for a faint side-glance from Rarity--more curiosity than condescension.

Twilight cleared her throat, as she illuminated the cutie map with her horn. “Ok, I think that’s everypony. First off, I want to apologize for such late notice, but things have been…” she sighed. “...a bit crazy around here. As I’m sure you all are aware, my brother and sister-in-law are arriving soon...”

As Scootaloo watched Twilight drone on about the obligations of loyalty, family, and friendship, her mind began to wander… that stallion who was at her house... the way Mrs. Harbour dodged her question... it didn’t add up. Something was going on--and she was not a fan of secrets.

An abrupt jab in her side brought her out of her thoughts.

“Ya need ta be payin’ attention.” Applejack hissed..

Scootaloo scowled at her. “Sorry,” she muttered,then turned back to watch Twilight, who still hadn’t looked up from her notecards. . Scootaloo thought it odd that she had those, considering she was among friends--but, then again, this was Twilight after all.

“...So, when the royal delegation arrives, I’ll need everypony’s help to welcome them into town,” Twilight continued. She took a moment to look out into the group, before turning her gaze to the three Crusaders

“As for you girls,” She continued, “I was hoping the three of you could organize a play, perhaps about being a filly or colt in Ponyville? Ideally, something school and family related, per the theme of this occasion.”

“Yeah, that’ll be fun!” Apple Bloom chirped.

“That sounds like a great idea, Twilight!” Sweetie Belle beamed with equal enthusiasm.

Scootaloo nearly gagged. Ugh! A play, really?

Suddenly, she realized that every eye in the room was on her. She forced a smile, and that seemed to do the trick; everyone turned back to stare at Twilight, who smiled.

“Excellent,” she said. “My brother and sister-in-law will be arriving here in town shortly. I would appreciate some assistance getting the guest quarters ready for them.”

A chorus of agreement amongst the crowd, minus one. As Twilight began assigning tasks to everypony, Scootaloo slipped from the bench and tried to sneak towards the exit.

“Where are you goin’, Scootaloo?” Apple Bloom called out suddenly, stopping her dead in her tracks. “Ain’t ya gonna help out?”

Scootaloo grimaced. She could feel the weight of the stares on her. Slowly, she turned around, racking her brain to find a good excuse.

“Well, I’d love to, but… I have some stuff at home I have to take care of.”

“Can’t it wait?” Sweetie Belle asked, a faint note of panic in her voice.

Scootaloo cast a skeptical glance at the two. “Uh… no?” she said carefully. “No, it can’t.”

“We could really use your help,, Scootaloo,” Apple Bloom said. “It won’t take too long, just c’mon. Ah don’t think Princess Twi’ll make ya clean the floors or nothin’.”

“We get to decorate the guest room!” Sweetie Belle piped up.

“Look girls, I’d love to but... “ I’m tired, and really, really hungry. And she’s already got enough hoofpower. “...Mom really needs my help today. You understand, right?”

Sweetie Belle looked convinced, but Apple Bloom stayed put. Sweetie seemed to notice something out of the corner of her eye, and suddenly became persistent as well.

Scootaloo tried stepping around them, but the two crusaders were one-step ahead of her. Quickly, the orange filly grew annoyed.

“Knock it off, girls!” Scootaloo barked, “I gotta go!”

“Bathroom’s over there.” Apple Bloom nudged Scootaloo backwards.

“You can’t.” Sweetie Belle insisted.

As if Scootaloo wasn’t skeptical of enough right now, that didn’t help. “Why not? You girls in on this, too?”

Apple Bloom looked genuinely confused. “In on wha- Oh, for corn sakes, Scootaloo, just simmer down, an’ stay here for a little bit.”

Scootaloo really had no choice. They weren’t going to let her leave, whether she wanted to, or not.

“What are you girls, just standin’ around for?” Applejack scolded, “Twi needs y’all to help set up the guest room, get a move on!”

With reluctance, Scootaloo followed her friends up the stairs, and down the hall to the guest room.

When Scootaloo had heard the word ‘decorate’, she had assumed it simply meant they’d simply move some stuff around, hang up some lights and pretty pictures, and be done with it.

Not quite. The three of them had spent the entire afternoon putting together a complex mobile, assembling the bed frame, and a half-dozen other tasks. It wasn’t long before they’d started to bicker, taking things apart and putting them back together again--and then even more bickering about the result. By the time Scootaloo left the castle, she was exhausted. All she wanted was a hot meal and some sleep. And that seemed to be fine with her friends; wherever they were going, they didn’t seem to worried about whether she tagged along. Fine with her.

As her old house came into view, she stopped and stared. Something was wrong. Two suited stallions, one of which looked familiar, stood by the front door; as she watched, they turned and walked away. Behind them trailed Poptart, the other colt that lived there. It looked like he’d been crying.

Scootaloo ducked into an alley and watched the three of them as they walked down the street. She watched them warily, and, when they had passed, she snuck deeper into the alley. A few turns later, and she stood at the back door to her home. She turned the knob and stepped inside. Something was wrong here--and it was time to get to the bottom of it.

By this time, the rest of the foals had gone home, leaving the house eerily silent. Scootaloo crept upstairs to her bedroom--and noticed that Mrs. Harbour’s door was open. Slowly, she trotted to the end of the hall, and peeked inside. Nothing seemed out of place. The bed that had to be at least three decades old was still there, covers carefully tucked in place; the pictures of her husband and former foster children , both hanging on the walls, and carefully arranged on the nightstand, were dusted and pristine; the old roll-top desk—

That was odd; it had been left open. And, though everything--pens, pencils, stationery--had been filed neatly away, a pile of opened envelopes sat in the center of the desk She licked her lips, then crept forward, towards the desk.

This was wrong. This was Mrs. Harbour’s room--she’d been here before, but snooping around like this--this felt dirty.

And yet, she had to know.

She picked up the letters and began to flip through them. Bills, with numbers in angry red ink; advertisements for vacation destinations and nursing homes--and, down at the bottom, a letter from the South-Central Department of Foal Services.

She paused, then slowly, pulled this last one from the stack. She unfolded it with trembling hooves:

Dear Safe Harbour,

After much consideration, SCDFS regrets to inform you that, in light of your your continuing financial difficulties and decreasing adoption rates in and around the Ponyville area, your appeal has been denied. Your foster home will be closed, effective as soon as arrangements can be made for the foals under your care.

Please expect an SCDFS employee within the next few days to take charge of the remaining foals. SCDFS will do its best to ensure safe, quality homes for them elsewhere in the DFS system. Please prepare them for the move, as keeping this transition smooth and orderly is of utmost importance.

Enclosed is information about SCDFS’s generous retirement packages, which you are encouraged to look through. Your many years of loyal service entitle you to a number of benefits, including a stay in a state-sponsored retirement community of your choice.

Thank you for your cooperation,

Mark Stable
Director, SCDFS

The paper trembled in her hooves. She did not notice when her legs gave out and she sat, hard, on the floor. She read it through again, a faint, panicked ringing in her ears growing louder and louder.

That stallion wasn’t here for a routine inspection. He was looking for her.

She did not notice the hoofsteps coming down the hall. Nor did she notice when the door creaked the rest of the way open.

“Scootaloo,” Mrs. Harbour said suddenly from behind her, “What are you—?”

Scootaloo turned, the letter still in her hooves. Mrs. Harbour saw the letter, and seemed to deflate a little. “...Oh,” she said.

The two did not say a word for a moment. Questions, explanations, all of which were prepared and judged before being said.

As Scootaloo stared back at her foster mother, she suddenly blurred. Scootaloo heard the faint plip, plip, of water droplets hitting the letter--and realized, suddenly, that she was crying.

“Wh...What is this?” she choked out.

Mrs. Harbour stepped forward and opened her mouth, but something boiled up inside Scootaloo.

“Why?” she cried aloud.

Mrs. Harbour swallowed uneasily. “Scootaloo,” she said, “please—”

Scootaloo stood. “You knew,” she spat. “You knew what was going on. Why didn’t you tell me about those stallions? Me or Poptart? You--you—” Her chest started to heave. “You lied to me…”

Mrs. Harbour shrank back, suddenly looking very small and afraid. For another long moment, neither of them spoke--until Mrs. Harbour sniffled. She looked away, and a tear ran down her cheek. And, suddenly, Scootaloo felt her emotions begin to drain away.

She didn’t want cry, or stomp her hoof, or snarl, or bare her teeth, or scream, yell, cry, or rage. She just empty. She wlt no longer sure what she felt.

And yet…

She lowered her head. “I’m sorry for calling you a liar,” she whispered into the silence.

Mrs. Harbour looked up at her, eyes shining and lips trembling. “Scootaloo...” she said, her voice shaking--then, she stepped forward, and pulled her into a hug. “If anypony should be apologizing,” she said, “ it should be me.

Scootaloo squeezed her tightly and buried her face deeper into her side, as Mrs. Harbour began to stroke her mane.

After another moment, Mrs. Harbour spoke. “I… I was worried that you might not take it well. That it would be better to keep you in the dark for as long as I could.” She sighed. “I… was wrong. I should have told you, at least… you are the oldest, after all. If anypony deserved to know what was coming…” She fell silent.

Scootaloo sniffled. “S-so, y-you’re just going to let this happen?”

“To be honest,” she said, “I… I’m ready to let it go. You and Poppie have meant the world to me, but it hasn’t been the same without my dear old Sandbar. An old gray mare like me can’t keep up with you kids like I used to.” She began to stroke Scootaloo’s mane again. “And... you and the others need room to grow and prosper. That won’t happen here, as much as I want it to…”

“B-but this is the only home I’ve ever known!” Scootaloo interjected, a rising note of panic in her voice. “They’re gonna make me leave Ponyville! What am I gonna—”

Mrs. Harbour gently placed a hoof on Scootaloo’s lips, and she fell silent--and, slowly, her shoulders began to shake with suppressed sobs.

“You’re old enough to have a little bit of say in where you’re going to end up,” she said, tears in eyes. “It’s only the littlest ones that have to just go where they’re told…”

“But I don’t want to go!” cried Scootaloo again. “I want to stay right here!”

“I know, dear heart,” she murmured. “I know. And, though I need to leave… I… I don’t want you to go, either.”

Scootaloo hugged her tighter, and a fresh stream of tears run down her face--and again, as she felt warm little raindrops fall on her own head.

“Scootaloo, you… you’re the closest thing to a daughter I’ve ever had,” Mrs. Harbour said gently. “You’re smart, and brave, and… and you don’t need an old salt like me to weigh you down…”

Scootaloo sobbed, once.

“This isn’t fair…” she moaned. She snuggled deeper into her side and began to weep.

Mrs. Harbour closed her eyes--and, unbidden, her mind leapt backwards through the currents of time--back to another time she’d heard Scootaloo cry. She was so much smaller, then--barely there at all--and she remembered marvelling at how such a tiny body could hold so much life.

The mare in the suit had told her that the mother had elected to give her up, and, young as she was, she needed a home right away--and, though she and Sandy had never taken on a newborn like this before, they had worked with her long enough that she’d thought of them first. So now, she sat in her old armchair by the fire, holding the wailing little bundle as Sandy, at her side, muttered his way through the paperwork, the SCDFS worker helping out where necessary.

And then, the crying stopped. Mrs. Harbour had looked down into her arms, and watched the little filly hiccup, once. Then she’d opened those big, violet eyes of hers—

Mrs. Harbour could not have children. She had known this from a very young age. In fact, this is why she and Sandy had started to take foster children, all those years ago--to help fill the hole in both of their hearts.

But, looking into those big eyes--completely open, completely trusting, and full of wordless, nameless love--she knew, for the first time in her life, what it might be like to have a child of her very own.

Mrs. Harbour hugged her tight. “I love you, Scootaloo,” she murmured. “More than you can know.”

Scootaloo took a deep breath. “I love you, too…” she swallowed. “...mom.”

Mrs. Harbour hugged her even tighter, and Scootaloo let out another sob. She would fix this. She had to. It just wasn’t fair. She’d find a way out of it. She would. She would.

But, for now, all she wanted was to drink deep of the love of the only mother she’d ever known--and, maybe, just maybe, show her exactly how much she meant to her.