• 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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6. Devotion

Ponyville Station.

7:00 AM.

Scootaloo was there. The idea that she would miss Rainbow Dash here was ludicrous; the platform was so small you could hardly miss seeing somepony if you tried, even during rush hour. Although the size was fitting given the small population of Ponyville, it was still somewhat disparaged relative to the other stations along the Southern Line.

Aside from a couple other pegasi, idling about or talking amongst themselves on the opposite end of the platform, Scootaloo was alone with her thoughts. First and foremost of course, was whether or not this trip to the station was simply a waste of time. Erring on the pessimistic side of things, she had Rarity fetch her admission ticket for her the night before. Even if her ‘big sister’ was a no-show, she didn't have to miss out on the spectacular spectacle that was due to commence in the cloud city in no less than three hours.

While she tried to focus on Rainbow’s promise to her, another, unpleasant thought bubbled up from the bottom of her mind--she was about to become homeless. As much as she tried to suppress it, the letter, the revelation; the horrible realization that her foster mother was leaving--and not taking her with her--was creeping about her subconscious, just waiting for a moment to strike. She had never had to think about living somewhere else. Mrs. Harbour’s abode was her home; those daycare foals were practically her brothers and sisters. A life without them was, rather literally, unthinkable.

And yet, that didn’t change a thing.

It wasn’t as if she didn’t have options. Surely one of her friend’s sisters could put up room and board. With that in mind, she had a preference: Rarity. As diametrically opposed to her mannerisms and mentality as that mare was, Scootaloo couldn’t imagine living on the Apple Farm for a second. It wasn’t Apple Bloom, it was her sister, Applejack. While Scootaloo could never articulate why, she just didn’t think very highly of the farm pony with the drawl. Rarity knew Scootaloo’s boundaries, preferences, past, and behavior. The fact that she had known her and Sweetie Belle since foalhood also helped a good deal.

A whole lifetime of knowing somepony, or something over a year. The decision seemed obvious.

However, while that facet of the whole affair was settled enough, the issue of it happening at all was not. Scootaloo couldn’t bring herself to see this whole ordeal as anything other than “the man” mucking in her business, and taking the closest thing to a mother she had right out of her hooves. Frankly, she had no intention of just sitting back and letting it happen.

She had determination, and she had a cause. Thus, she figured with her connections to royalty and the Elements, that she could probably have some strings pulled. Her head began to hurt when she tried to figure out where those strings would come from, though.

The clocks seemed to move at their own time, with each minute feeling like an hour, and each hour feeling like a decade and change. Scootaloo couldn’t help but stare as the hands took their sweet time advancing clockwise with a horrifically slow tempo. Every tick and tock were like nails on a chalkboard.

Another sound caught her attention, though. One which she first attributed to delusion. Soon enough, however, it became clear to her erect ears, that this was indeed a real sound produced by a real Rainbow Dash really approaching the station. Five minutes late, but better late than never.

Triumphantly, the cyan pegasus glided just short of the filly who looked a mix of impressed, and genuinely happy.

“Told ya I’d make it.” Rainbow Dash said with a wink. “Didn’t I?”:

“Yeah,” Scootaloo quipped playfully, “Five minutes late, though.”

“Pssh.” Rainbow waved, “We could be two hours late, and I’d still get us there early. Do you remember who you’re dealing with?”

Do you really want me to answer that question?

Rainbow Dash seemed oblivious to the meaning behind the filly’s wry smile, and glanced at the clock like it insulted her mother.

“Welp, we might as well go now- Cloudsdale is going to be absolutely packed here in an hour. If you wanna get good seats, you gotta be there at the buttcrack of dawn. We’re already late.”

She was half-joking, and half-serious. She turned her back to Scootaloo, and offered her back.

“Hop on kid, we gotta get going!”

Scootaloo was more than happy to oblige. Wind soon enough screaming through her mane as she held on for dear life. Opening her eyes moments later however, afforded her a spectacular view of the clouds, glowing gradients of pink and orange, as the sunrise loomed from down below. As the clouds parted, Clousdale came into view: it’s towering skyscrapers, and captivating rainbows which spewed from artisanal pillars and peaks among its composition, left Scootaloo in awe.

Soon enough, they were now cruising above the main thoroughfare of the city. Posters and banners loudly announcing today’s major event covered every blank space of every storefront and sign. Wonderbolts cosplayers, roadside stalls selling timely and pricey memorabilia and thematic wares to foals who didn’t know any better. Among this, were pegasi of business: suited and suave mares and stallions of record and riches were making connections, and playing their part in using this gathering to further their interests.

“You ever been here before, kid?” Rainbow Dash asked casually, as she kept her eyes ahead: swerving around the occasional airborne pegasus.

Scootaloo had to think about that. While she was mostly certain she’d never been; what with every facet of the architecture, ambiance, and atmosphere striking her with fascination and fancy.

“Nope. This is my first time being here.”

“Looks like we’ll have to make time for a tour, then.” Scootaloo couldn’t see Rainbow’s expression, but she could tell from the skew of her voice, that there was a smirk on the face of that cyan mare. Slowing down slightly, and their altitude gradually falling, Scootaloo panned her vision to take in the ornate and articulate pantheons, terraced houses, and immaculate engravings of battles of past millennia. From her visual experience thus far, Cloudsdale had a rich history, and an even wealthier culture, which she was dying to explore.

Her sight-seeing was disrupted, as Rainbow made a soft landing, and the rapture that Scootaloo had felt in the air, was cut short. She nearly yelped, as Rainbow sat on her haunches, clearly the intent being for Scootaloo to alight. Instead, she felt a tightening, tremoring grip darn-near choking her.

“Scootaloo,” Rainbow tried to sound as unirritated as possible, “What are you-”

Then it clicked. With that, she laughed.

“You do know you’re a pegasus, too, right?”

A simple arch of her back caused Scootaloo to drop off, a split second of absolute terror, turned to shock, then relief, then childlike wonder as Scootaloo realized what she meant. Rainbow couldn’t help a smile as she watched the filly so enamoured with her innate ability.

Geez. Rainbow thought, watching Scootaloo poke and roll around. She wasn’t kidding when she said she’s never been here, huh?

It was then that she had an idea.

“Hey kid, if you think that’s cool, wait ‘till I show you how to make your own thunder cloud!”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened with awe. “Seriously? I can do that?”

This was a mix of adorable and hilarious, with Rainbow observing the later. “Of course you can! Come on, squirt. We got enough time to show you some crazy things.”

Scootaloo nearly fell trying to scramble to her hooves, as she followed Rainbow’s trot, which continued through the main street of town for some ways.

Upon first sight of the weather factory, Scootaloo was beyond awestruck, and was literally speechless as the approached. It’s sheer mass of clouds sculpted to classical ordinance which constituted a humongous mechanical machine of marvel, was enough to make the filly’s head spin.

“This here’s the Weather Factory, squirt.” Rainbow presented with a grin. “Remember when we had that drought, and had to bring up a ton of water from Ponyville for the rainy season?”

Scootaloo labored on that thought for a moment, before deciding she didn't.

“Well, that water goes right into this bad boy, right here.” Dash yanked the filly, and glided over to the left ‘tower’ of the construction. Now over the giant drain, Scootaloo’s stomach twisted ever so slightly. Celestia forbid she dropped, it was a long, dark way down.

Soon enough though, she was whisked back down to the ground, and was towing Rainbow Dash as they entered two large doors below a large cloud-arch.

Rumble surprised himself with how much of his old neighborhood he could remember. As he towed his brother through the outskirts of Cloudsdale, certain landmarks such as signs, houses, and his old school, brought back a flood of memories, both positive, and otherwise.

On one hoof, the stroll through their stomping grounds was a nice displacement of the anxiety that threatened to rattle his nerves. It had been two years since Mother and Father had sent them packing- well, Thunderlane, anyway. Rumble was sent along as a sort of, motivating factor so to speak. He wasn’t sure what to make of this, really. Certainly, he could never wrap his head around their decision, and for sure had some questions he fully intended to ask.

Also on his mind though, was a certain filly who was undoubtedly somewhere nearby. To his surprise, it seemed his impending domestic shenanigans trumped whatever antics the butterflies in his gut wished to engage in. Taking his eyes off the slowly passing residentials and furthering cityscape, he could see his brother, who seemed slightly nervous himself.

“Man, it’s been awhile, huh?”

“Yeah... “ Rumble sighed a bit as their house came into sight, each pace towards the door tightening the knot his stomach was turned in.

Before either could say more, they were on the welcome mat. After an excruciating minute, the stallion finally knocked, hoofsteps following shortly after. Rumble could’ve swore his heart stopped as the door opened.

There were expectations from the colt and stallion of what they were to be greeted with, both shared a similar dread: scrunched faces, minced words, and a tone ringing with disappointment.

For once, their expectations being violated was a good thing.

“Well, what do we have here, Nebula?” Drumfire, a gruff, yet relaxed stallion sporting an ash-gray coat, and an inverted silver-white mane which resembled more Rumble’s keep than Thunderlane’s stood before them. His face was soft, and his warm smile was relieving.

“Oh, it’s been too long, you two.” Rumble’s heart melted at a voice he never knew he missed. It’s source, a sky-blue coated mare, golden eyes, and two-tone-pink mane. Nebula’s sights it seemed, were set directly on the little colt who returned attention in kind. A duplex of a blush and a wide smile defining his features.

“Get in here, boys.” Drumfire’s grin failed to waver as the two parents stepped aside from the entryway, an inviting gesture; “Mom’s got some eggplant parmesan on the stove, and apple pie in the oven. Still your favorite, right, Thundy?”

Thundy. There’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile. Thunderlane couldn’t help but grin himself as he and his brother stepped inside, the warmth of their home sweeping over them as the door closed behind them.

“Sure is.” Thunderlane replied, following the parents into the kitchen. Nebula stopped before passing through the archway, and turned to Rumble who seemed hesitant. Not out of fear, so much as it was a lot to take in. The pictures hung on the walls of the wood-paneled living room, just as he remembered. Dad’s recliner, Mom’s sofa; his preschool photo, every sight and sense that he could recall was in full form, and it brought a slight tear to his eyes.

Before he could swivel his head to see who bore the shadow in his periphery, he was swept into a warm embrace, his mother’s fur brushing against his, her fragrance was the same too: a mix of floral and sweet scents, which projected her gentle nature. He could feel her tremble slightly, and hear slight sniffling. It was very clear what she meant to convey.

Thank Goddess you’re alright.

Thunderlane and Drumfire sat across from one another at the small round table that had been a staple of their humble home since the young stallion could remember. The ambiance of the stove easing his nerves some.

“So, I heard you got yourself a gig down in Ponyville, huh?”

“Yeah.” Thunderlane found himself somewhat uneasy. Several conversations with his father had started on this tangent. So, got yourself something good going, huh? How long until you mess up, again?

“Nice work, son.” It was clear that the words impacted Drumfire as much as it did Thunderlane, the old man’s voice wobbled a bit from its usual steady firmness. “I knew you had it in you. I guess it just took us going a little overboard for you to cut it out, and get it right.”

I guess so… Thunderlane thought, absently staring at the tablecloth.

“How’s my little man?”

“Rumble? He’s doing good. He has some friends- He’s even got a filly he likes.”

“Oh really?” Drumfire glanced back towards the doorway with a wry smile. Silence hung for a few seconds, his face shifting from warm and pleasant, to one of guilt. “Considering how foolish we were in how we handled you… two, it’s wonderful to see that you’re doing well, m’boy. Nebula and I, I’ll be honest- there were times we both were screwed, drove the poor girl to the hard stuff for a minute or two.”

“You did what you had to.” Thunderlane steadied his voice a little, conviction sneaking into his tone. “I honestly really like Ponyville, and I’m so much happier… doing something. I think it’s been good for him, too.”

“He was never a bad kid.” Father sighed, “Damn fools we were to chuck him with ya like that. I expected the little rascal to try and bite my face off at least.”

“He was pretty down at first, and he would ask me about it every now and then… But once he started making friends in Ponyville, he sorta just accepted it, you know?”

Both stallions seemed dying for a change of subject, and both seemed to jump on that desire.

“Speaking of fillyfriends, what’s on in your world?”

Thunderlane relaxed, a casual subject. “Pssh, nothing steady. A couple old friends here and there, Rumble’s foalsitter, Cloud Chaser- that was something- but right now, it’s just us two.”

“So you work with Rainbow Dash, huh?”

Rumble missed his old room.

This longing was even more pronounced when he saw it was just as he had left it. He wasted no time getting a running start, before pouncing on the pillow-top mattress, and rolling around on his fuzzy comforter. Part of him felt silly- this re enforced hearing his mother giggle at his antics, but a substantial part of him was taken with nostalgia and comfort. His rolling stopped, now cocooned between a haphazard wrap of comforter and sheets; he simply lie there, content with the warmth that now surrounded him. If he had his way, he would stay like this forever.

“I figured we might as well leave your room alone.” Nebula trot up to his bedside, looking around at the various toys, drawings, and games. “We’ve missed you boys too much.”

The mare grew a tad sentimental, marked by her ears dropping ever-so-slightly, her attention now focused on a crude drawing of Rumble and his family.

“I hear you’ve made a few friends in Ponyville.”

“Mmhm.” Rumble nodded, unraveling himself. “I really like it there.”

“That’s good. That’s very good, sweetie..”

Rumble rolled around nervously, “So, what have you been doing?”

“Oh me?” Nebula couldn’t help a slight smile as she sat beside her colt. “Well, I’ve taken up to meeting with some mare-friends for the spa every weekend, otherwise, Its movies with Father, or a good book. You still like to read?”

“Yup. Daring Do.” Rumble smiled, “I’m already on the eleventh one.”

“Really?” she said with genuine surprise. Daring Do by no means was an arduous read, but was hardly a trivial one, either.

A slight tinge of worry flashed across her face as the next question queued up.

“What do you and your friends like to do?”

“Oh, well, Button Mash has a bunch of cool video games- I’ll go over to his house, and stay the night. Especially when he has something new. Then there’s Featherweight and sometimes First Base.”

Nebula wasn’t sure whether her son had just said, or if there were some very twisted parents out there. “First… Base?”

“Yeah, he gets teased a lot for that one.” Rumble snickered.

I bet, yikes.Nebula shook her head. She recalled Rumble getting stuck with “tumble”, “fumble”, and so on, but at the very least it wasn’t potential sex talk.

“Well, I’m going to go check on the stove. Lunch should be ready soon, okay?”

“Alright.” Rumble smiled, scooting over to a pile of building blocks he hadn’t seen in too long.

Cloudsdale Colosseum was a gargantuan testament to pegasi engineering and architecture. It’s expanse and prominence over the exurban sprawl was unmatched by anything else, and its pronounced and opulent arcades which rung around its base, were high and imposing.

This imposition seemed to grow as Scootaloo passed under them, towing Rainbow Dash who seemed to be alternating between a soft gallop, and a hectic trot.

So far, Cloudsdale had been an all-out bombardment of the senses: the sights, sounds, and spectacle of the cloud city never failed to captivate the filly. Even the most trife of things, such as naming conventions of food, and the classical heritage of the place, sent her into a myriad of questions launched at Rainbow Dash.

Most important of course, Rainbow Dash had not once left her hanging. They had a nice lunch together at a rooftop pizzeria, went on a sightseeing tour of the Wonderbolts estates, and other homes of the rich and famous; visited the Wonderbolts Hall of Fame,, and shared enough laughter and likeness to last a good while.

All in all, this was shaping up to be the best weekend in a long time. Rainbow couldn’t help but notice how much like her Scootaloo was, or at least, as how remembered her own fillyhood. Rainbow and her father trotted through those very same streets, wandered those same halls, and she had been awestruck by the sights and stories, just as Scootaloo was now. That vigorous excitement, that unwavering energy, it was as if she had a younger her trotting at her side.

Rainbow Dash couldn’t contain her own excitement for the show it seemed, grinning stupidly as they exchanged their admission stamps for the colosseum. Once clear of the booth, and in the atrium, she turned to Scootaloo with a wide smile.

“Are you psyched, Squirt? We’re almost there!”

It was infectious. “You bet I am!” Scootaloo’s voice broke as she tried to match the mare in volume.

“Man, your first Wonderbolt show…” Rainbow swooned, “You picked the right one, kid. This is going to be absolutely wild!”

“There’s a lot of pegasi here.” Scootaloo noted, her throat already sore from having to talk over the noise that surged through the halls from the on the stands.

“Yeah, they’re usually not this crazy,” Rainbow explained, “But, this is the centennial of The Wonderbolts organization, so the turnout is ridiculous.”

Scootaloo tilted her head. “Centennial?”

“One-hundred years, kid.” Dash explained. “Stick with me, alright? Things are about to get a little crowded.”

Now she could really hear the roar of the crowd, and the fanfare that blasted through the amphitheater. As the sound became clearer, so did her sight of the arena. Another wave of awe.

A massive banner, draped from the top trim of the coliseum's seating cover bearing the Wonderbolts insignia, and a minimalist silhouette of one of their iconic flights behind it. Thousands of pegasi packed into the place; and as the two made their way to their seats, the screams and stomping was almost deafening.

While the main event had nothing to do with the space below, the opening acts certainly did, and seemed to be the focus of everypony around them. Scootaloo found herself fascinated by the tribal dances going about. It reminded her of the Hearths Warming Eve play about the history of Equestria. Hundreds of pegasus in various tribal regalia, spanning from lowly peasants, to warriors of nobility; moved about to the tempo of a large drum whose beat was both hectic, yet rhythmic.

Scootaloo had to ask. “Uh, Rainbow Dash, what is this?”

“Warrior’s Song.” Rainbow answered, “It’s basically a dance about what Cloudsdale was like before we formed Equestria or something.”

“Oh.” Scootaloo seemed fine with the answer, and was jolted from focus by a growl.

Rainbow must’ve heard it, too. “Hungry, kiddo?”

Scootaloo blushed a bit. “I- I guess so, yeah.”

“I got ya, kid.” Rainbow waved a hoof. “Once these guys are wrapped up, I’ll head over and get us some grub. You’ll love their garlic hay fries, they are a-mazing~”

Lunch was ready, and Rumble trot out his bedroom, and blissfully down the stairs to the heed of his mother’s call. As he lept the final flight, the aroma of parmesan, breadcrumbs, and of course, pie overwhelmed his snout.

Already consumed by the pleasant smells, he was then enveloped in a tempered warmth which radiated from the kitchen. His eyes were not left out of this occasion, as the cream-colored wallpaper, and bright scheme of the counters, cabinets, and appliances only enhanced the brilliant yet relaxing scene before him.

“Smells good, don’t it, Rummy?” Father had that odd nickname for him since he was a foal. Had this been two years ago, the colt would’ve responded with a faint growl and a roll of the eyes. Now however, a simple tinge of his cheeks, and passive acknowledgment was good enough.

Taking his usual seat across from his mother, Rumble could’ve swore he was salivating as the eggplant parmesan was set down with a gentle clunk on the tablecloth. It was peppered with green herbs and nondescript species; four ramekins of marinara sauce circled the assembly.

Nebula took her seat, and passed around utensils, before clapping her hooves together. That warm smile on her glowing face once again.

“I think it’s only fair we let you boys dish up first,” she said. Her sons didn’t hesitate to nod in agreement, Much to her amusement. First of course, Rumble helped himself to the smallest of the pieces, knowing full well nopony else would- and arranged his food nice and apart. He always had an odd thing for not wanting food to touch unless it was supposed to.

Just as he was to take up his fork, and dig in, a large dark hoof menacingly grabbed his own, and began stirring his plate together. Greens clashed with his eggplant, and sauce caked his previously segregated vegetables. As much as part of him was annoyed, he couldn’t help but wear a toothy grin, trying his darndest to suppress laughter, which inevitably failed.

“Oh Drumfire, for the love of Celestia!” Nebula’s chide was a mix of peeved and playful.

Drumfire only laughed his usual hearty laugh. His wife’s skewed stare, and his baby colt’s red face was too precious. “He’ll live, wontcha boy?”

Rumble sighed heavily--a little too heavily, in fact--and began eating. Face loosening as he realized the contamination did little to hinder the taste of mom and dad’s great cooking. Part of him very much wished that was the end of the teasing, but he knew his father well enough.

“So, Thundy tells me you got a filly on your mind, huh, Rummy?”

Nebula raised her eyebrows.

“No.” Rumble couldn’t make eye contact with anypony, he shifted in his seat as he meekly tried to stuff his face with food.

“Scout-a-louise or something, isn’t it?” Thunderlane guessed, “Rainbow Dash’s little friend.”

“Well there’s a hell of a name.” Drumfire chided, “She cute at least?”

Rumble couldn’t bring himself to say anything. A stupid grin on his face, eyes still maddeningly evasive.

“When he wants to talk about it, he will.” Nebula offered a supportive hoof on the shoulder. “We’re both very proud of our boys.”

Thunderlane looked up. “You are?” he said, faint surprise in his voice.

“Sure we are.” Drumfire grinned, “With Rumble doing great in school, and you second-in-command of an entire Weather Division--that’s no small feat.”

Thunderlane couldn’t help but smile, “Thanks.”

“So stoked for the Wonderbolts show tonight.” Rumble piped, “We saw the line on the way here, and it was crazy.”

“We’d better get eating then,” Nebula cautioned, “Doors close in two hours.”

No further advisory was needed. The family silently finished their meal.

Rainbow Dash had woefully underestimated how long the line for concessions would be. It was monstrous, winding through the upper deck, and pouring into the restroom hall.

Wonderful. Rainbow grimaced as she put on a sour face. It wasn’t as if she risked missing the show, but the wait was going to be arduous at best. Most pegasi opting to stand as opposed to hovering at this point. Seconds turned to minutes which crawled at a nearly unbearable pace.

To say she was excited to see a familiar face approach, would be fair. Though she was far from alone.

“Is that Soarin’?” A perky mare squealed from further up the queue, causing several heads to turn, and a wave of squeals and frenzy followed. Sure enough, the Wonderbolt trot towards Rainbow Dash, accompanied by security detail, as flash photography created a strobe against his uniform. A beckoning hoof was all Dash needed to follow the stallion through a door cordoned off from the general public.

“What are ya doing in that mess?” Soarin’ asked, the shrill of the crowd now muffled by the corridor, and fading as they walked.

“I brought a little friend with me.” Dash smiled, “She was getting hungry.”

Soarin’ wracked his brain trying to guess the name. “Oh, Scooter?”

She couldn’t help but laugh. “No, Scootaloo, ya dummy.” She corrected. “Little orange squirt? Cutie Mark Crusader?”

Soarin’s eyes lit up. “Oh yeah!”

“Riight” Dash nudged him playfully, “Sure it was on the tip of your tongue, huh?”

Soarin smiled cockily, as his eye ran over her beautiful curves. He licked his lips, then looked into her eyes. “Not exactly,” he said with a grin. “But you wanna find out what is?”

Blushing madly, Rainbow Dash tried her best to look offended. “Geez, you don’t beat around the bush, do--”

All it took was a snicker from Soarin’, to make the mare realize what she walked into.

Dammit. Rainbow Dash pouted. She perked up as they approached the entrance to the VIP lounge. “Hey, you think Scuttlebucket can come up here, too?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I thought you wanted some private time?”

“At least a little,” she said. “But you, mister, have a show in an hour. And who’s going to keep me company then?”

Soarin’ rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he groaned. He waved a guard over. “Could you help Dashie here find someone?” he asked.

“What does she look like, m’am?” One of the detail asked.

“Little orange filly; purple mane; shield cutie mark with a lightning bolt.” Dash described.

“Sounds like a mini-you.” Soarin’ teased.

“She can be sometimes.” Dash smiled. “Hey, where's the other Bolts?”

“Captain is checking on the sound and stage, Fleetfoot is getting in some last-minute practice, and Rapidfire is with the rest of the squad doing photo ops. That’s where I was headed, but, hey, a little quality time with a quality mare never killed anypony, now did it?”

“It won’t if you’re smart.” Dash grinned.

Sixty minutes.

Scootaloo could claim she had counted that far, but after about ten, she got bored.

She was still bored.

Several ponies who had left before and after Dash had, returned with their snacks and sodas long before sixty minutes. A few even grimaced amongst themselves about said line. One even swooned over Soarin’ passing them by.

That’s where she is. Scootaloo tried her best not to think too much. They could just be chatting real quick. Soarin’ was part of the show, after all. However, that had been thirty minutes ago, and at that time, Rainbow had been gone “too long”. The tribal dances had long since wrapped up, and now the field below was being set up with strobe lights and fireworks for tonight’s event.

The sun was setting below the horizon of the stadium now, creating a terrific clash of orange and pink along the base of the sky. Floodlights slowly came on, and one could if they were to crane their head, see the faintest of stars begin to dot the dark blue stretch of the heavens.

Scootaloo’s stomach had gone from advisory rumblings, to obscene gurgling, to threatening a violent insurrection if its demands were not met in short order. All Scootaloo could do, was impatiently insist that the cyan mare would be back any moment with its ransom.

Trying to ignore its protest, she glanced around the stands, and saw that it now was well over capacity: whatever room existed that wouldn’t block aisles or balconies, was lined with pegasi. Young ones saddled on their parents or siblings, or seated on laps. Scootaloo could’ve swore she saw a certain colt and his family, but couldn't make heads or tails of them from where she sat.

Seventy Minutes. Seeing all this food and togetherness was realling pressing her nerves.

Eighty minutes. Her flank was sore from the plastic seats.

Scootaloo stood up. She hadn’t the slightest to where Rainbow Dash was, but if the grapevine was any indication, she was probably spending time with that damn stallion of hers. She might as well confirm that. She wasn’t so much angry as she trot up the aisle towards the concession stands, she was just slightly irritated. Today had been great, and there was no reason to spoil it by thinking too much.

It took her a bit too long to find where she needed to go. Signs pointing to the concessions were oddly placed, and sent her on a fifteen minute trot which saw the stadium become a labyrinth of sorts. Climbing large sections of stairs, only to descend that much more; rounding halls, corridors, and for a solid five minutes, walking in a complete circle. Her hooves hurt more than her flank did before.

Upon the concession stand being in sight, the line was much smaller than the dramatic descriptions she had heard. No more than twenty odd pairs of pegasi were waiting with varying degrees of patience for some snacks. This was all well and good, but there was one problem.

None of them had a blue coat, that signature cutie mark, nor a technicolor mane.

Noticing a security guard nearby, she trot over to him.

“Excuse me sir,” Scootaloo tried her best to sound as sweet as her raspy voice would allow, “I’m looking for Rainbow Dash. Have you seen her?”

“Sorry kid.” The guard shrugged, “The Wonderbolts ain’t takin’ pictures no more.”

“I don’t want a photo.” Scootaloo moaned, a pathetic stomp of her hoof, “She brought me here. I’m kinda hungry, and she’s supposed to have got us some snacks, but it’s been like, two hours already!”

“Well kid, I will say that that’s a pretty creative bit right there,” the guard rolled his eyes, “ but I still can’t tell you where she is.”

“You don’t believe me, do you?” Scootaloo groaned as she hung her head in defeat

“Nope. You and every other pipsqueak has a story. One even tried sayin’ she was a cousin twice-removed or somethin’. Heh. Kids love the Bolts. Anyway, unless you got your ticket, I got nothin’.”

Part of her wanted to whine and pitch a fit, but that had no use. Surely Dash was now looking for her. The best thing to do, was to get back to her seat. She didn’t have bits on her anyway, so it wasn’t as if she could do much more here.

This of course took longer than it should have. Retracing your steps in a giant stadium was no easy feat, and the filly wasn’t about to impress anypony, especially herself. As she read the painted column numbers along the back end of the seating sections, she cursed herself for not caring enough to memorize her own

Finally, she saw a bunch of ponies she recognized, and made her way down her aisle. Faces becoming familiar, she found their seats. She knew it was their seat, that was her ticket on the floor below them.

So why two university-aged stallions were sitting in them, slurping big jugs of cider, was beyond her understanding. Surely this was just a simple mistake that could be taken care of with some nice words.


One of them turned to face her with an irritated glance. “What?”

Scootaloo found herself a bit intimidated. “Well, I know you probably didn’t mean to, but that’s my spot and-”

“I don’t see your name on it.” The other stallion hissed. “Get lost, kid.”

“But Rainbow Dash said-”

“Oh, well, you’re friends with Rainbow Dash huh?”

Scootaloo’s face lit up. “Yup! And she said that-”

They were snickering. Whispering something to the other.

“I’m not joking.” Scootaloo whined with a stomp of her hoof.

“Sure you aren’t.”

Scootaloo glanced around, seeing if anypony else was watching, and to her dismay, they couldn’t care less about her plight. With a sigh, she returned to the diplomacy efforts.

“Can you just give me my ticket then? It’s right there under your-”

The stallion grabbed it, glaring at it for several seconds, before a wry smile crept across his face.

“You mean this?”


He got up, and held it out to Scootaloo. Before she could snatch it however, he shot up in the air.

Scootaloo was furious. The taunting snark of the stallion making her forget one very important thing as she leapt into their air and strained to fly.

She couldn’t.

She could hear both of them hysterical as her wings grew tired from the strenuous buzzing. Out of breath as she plunked to the floor.

“What the hell was that?” The airborne stallion cackled. “What are you, crippled?”

It would have been one thing if it was just her two opponents who were in on the hysterics, but they were not. She could hear all around her, laughter and jests at her expense. She tried so hard not to show any effect.

“Gimmie my ticket, alright?” Scootaloo’s voice cracked, “I’ll leave you alone.”

Scootaloo eyes widened with horror as instead, it was torn to shreds, showering upon her like light snow.

Surely this was the point where Rainbow Dash would swoop in, and beat these bullies black and blue; apologize for keeping her waiting. Some cool one-liner. They could laugh about it later after the show. It would be a story to tell among many others.

As the hoots and hysterics continued though, it dawned on her that this wasn’t happening. Still, she tried as hard as she could to just think the best of things.

“Dash wouldn’t hang around with a whiny little lame like you!”

Scootaloo made to retort, but stopped short, lurching her head back down so they could not seem her teary eyes. Without another word, she sulked up the stairs, not caring to evade spilled soda, errant gum, or popcorn which stickied, poked, and messed her hooves. Now on top of her faintly sore flank; throbbing hooves and wings, were her sore knees. All that stair climbing was getting to her.

Now that she gave it some thought, it seemed as if he was right.

It had been quite some time since Rumble had had Colosseum Nachos. Drumfire had spent an hour in what he described as a “goddess-awful line”, but it was worth it. The whole family was now well-stocked with sweets and greasy goods. His soda was iced and refreshing, and the buzz of the air around him, was electrifying.

Fifteen minutes until the show began according to the loudspeakers, and Rumble was as pumped as the crowd. He couldn’t care less if his mother bought him a propeller beanie which Thunderlane insisted stay on his head.

“Getting excited, sport?” Drumfire nudged the colt, who scrambled to keep his soda from spilling. This amused his brother and father immensely.

“Mmhm.” Rumble nodded.

Drumfire took on a nostalgic air, “Crazy to think they've been around this long.”

“Oh boy,” Thunderlane rolled his eyes, “It’s pops and one of his ‘back-in-my-day’ stories.”

“You're damn right it is, son.” Drumfire snorted. “When I was about Rummy’s age--which wasn’t that long ago, I’ll have you know--it was back when WInd Rider was on the squad. I’ll never forget what my old man said to me. He said-”

“Son, look at that, that can be you someday.” Thunderlane interjected, his tone slightly mocking. “We know, you’ve told us several times.”

“So you heard it so many times, but didn’t actually listen, did you?” Drumfire smirked, “The hell are you doing down here, again? You have the stuff to make the Bolts--you always have. Hell, you even had a free ride into the Academy, but no--” he said with a grin, “flank before fortune, I guess.”

Drumfire turned back to watch the preparations--and so, didn’t see Thunderlane bite his lip, then hang his head.

“Oh you two…” Nebula chided, “Let’s try to keep tonight drama-free, alright?” She looked towards Rumble who seemed all but infatuated by the noise and goings-on below to have caught the bickering nearby.

The two stallions nodded in resignation, and resumed stuffing their faces.

“Hey champ,” Drumfire turned his attention to his youngest. “You got a favorite Wonderbolt?”

“Hmmm.” Rumble put a hoof to his chin as he thought about that. “I guess Soarin’s pretty cool.”

“Dammit, he walked by me while I was in line.” Drumfire had muttered that, but against his intent, Rumble heard it.

“WHAT?” The colt practically exploded, “You-”

“Didn’t come with me, did ya?” Drumfire winked. “Poor little colt couldn’t bear to fly all the way to the concessions stand and wait in line. Quality time with his old man. This is what happens.”

Rumble simply groaned as he crossed his arms in a pout.

“Maybe we’ll catch them after the show.” Nebula said with a hopeful voice, “You never know, sweetie.”

“Aren’t he and your boss a thing?” Drumfire turned to Thunderlane once more, who nodded affirmatively.

“Yeah, last she said they were dating. Maybe we can run into her and your little friend, and get you a photo.”

Rumble’s face lit up enough to make the adults content before returning his sights to the area.

Rainbow Dash should be here…

That meant… ‘she’ was here, too.

Just the thought of her made his cheeks redden. Looking around, he didn’t spot that filly anywhere. Surely, with Rainbow Dash in the VIP lounge no less. Lucky girl.

Rumble was shaken from his thoughts by a booming announcement that blasted through the roaring crowd.

Ten minutes until showtime.

Scootaloo was now racing the clock. As she finally mazed her way towards the main exit, she saw what some passing pegasi had mentioned earlier: on the other side of the exit gates, a couple of Wonderbolts were heading towards the stadium, paparazzi and fans swarming them like locusts.

“Hey kid!” A gruff voice startled her in place. Whirring around she saw two security detail. They looked mean.

“We need you to come with us, alright?” The other started trotting towards her.

Scootaloo froze in sudden panic--then turned and bolted. “Hey!” one of them called after her. “We just want to take you back to Miss Dash—!”

But Scootaloo didn’t hear them. Her heart pounded in her ears as she ran, rounding halls and scrambling up stairs. The clearance of the ceilings making it impractical for the detail to take flight, were mobbing after her.

“Hey, kid, come back! You ain’t in trouble!”

Horseapples. Scootaloo growled as she tried to lose them by darting down a passage which lead into an elevator room. Panting, throbbing, she could hear them say something about losing her, and their voices faded out of earshot.

Slowly, and with some semblance of stealth, Scootaloo returned to the exit, and in due time, she passed through the admission gates, and trot towards the slow-moving horde.

She had nothing to lose. Surely Soarin’ was in there. And where there was Soarin’, there was a mare who had some serious explaining to do. Despite everything, Scootaloo wasn’t acidic, she wasn’t going to tear Rainbow a new one; no, this was just oversight, a misunderstanding.

Today had been great. No reason to think too much, right?

Her heart sank as she closed in. While they were certainly Wonderbolts, they weren’t who she was looking for. Pushing through photographers the best she could, she did not spot Rainbow Dash anywhere. At least, not before she was shoved backwards by someone in the swarm of flashbulbs and fanatics.

Part of her was relieved that the stadium was made of clouds--that way, the only thing that got crushed in her fall was her pride. That being said, she was disheartened by realizing this had been a red herring. Turning back towards the gates, she trot hurriedly towards the ticket booth, and would have made it back into the colosseum, had it not been for the attended blocking her path.

“Hey!” Scootaloo shrilled, “Let me in, please!”

“No-can do, kiddo,” The attendant replied, “Unless you got a ticket, you missed the box office.”

“Rainbow Dash is waiting for me in there. She’ll be worried if I don’t get back!” She knew, even as she said it, that it wouldn’t work.

The attendant shook his head. “No ticket, no entry. Rules are rules, kid. Sorry.”

Surely now Dashie was going to show up--to bark at the guard, to use her status to have him timidly open the gates, hang his head, and murmur a simple apology under his breath, as her big sister took her to the VIP lounge, and they watched a spectacular show from the best seat in the house.

It wasn’t. Twenty minutes didn’t change it, nor did thirty. She simply sat there. She could hear the crowd within, the music, the excited announcer, and could see the Wonderbolts taking to the sky in spectacular fashion, distant specks against the golden sky

She found, to her own faint surprise, that she didn’t care.

Stunt flying was something Rumble had always wanted to do, and seeing the majesty and mastery of the Wonderbolts as the defied the laws of physics and common sense in the most epic ways possible, ensured that ambition was locked in place.

It was a hell of a show to say the least, and the colt didn’t dare miss a second. From the stunts, to the intermission featuring Countess Coloratura debuting her latest sure-to-be hit single, complete with pyrotechnics and a moving tribute to Wonderbolts of the past. It was ended in the only way the Bolts knew how--as the sextet harmonically rocketed towards the stars once more, a brilliant, colorful procession of fireworks followed suit, outlined them against the stars in a shockingly beautiful display.

His family seemed beyond amused at the colt completely engrossed in the action. Head tilted upwards, mouth agape with awe and wonderment.

“Show’s over, champ.” Drumfire flicked his son with a wing, causing the colt to jump. “If you want a picture, we should probably get a move on. You won’t be the only one.”

Excited, Rumble grabbed his trash, and dunked it into a bin as he followed his family up and out of the stadium, into the massive press of ponykind, all squeezing towards the exit at once. Thousands of pegasi locking shoulders as they slowly trickled out of the exits. Some more inconsiderate ones would attempt to shoot over or under, causing a stir, some profane exchanges, and in one case Rumble saw, a brawl.

None of this phased him, though. While he was dead focused on his brother, who guided him through the claustrophobic swarm, he couldn’t help thinking to how amazing of a day this had been. What began as simply a trip to Cloudsdale for the show, turned into visiting his parents--and better, joining them to the show, too. His father was in his usual snarky, silly self; his mother was a source of hugs and cuddles, and his brother? Well, he fit in too, somehow.

He was a tad bit bummed though, that he hadn’t run into her.

Though he was a bit relieved, too. Surely he would see her at school, and they could both boast about how great the show was to those lame earth ponies and unicorns who missed out.

They had something in common.That was always a good thing.

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m starvin’!” Thunderlane blurted as the four finally made it outside, and had some breathing room.

“Doesn’t Rummy want to get a photo?” Drumfire glanced towards Rumble who himself looked over at an impossibly long line of ponies that had formed a ways away. Surely this was for photo ops. Oddly enough, Rumble found himself somewhat tired. The day catching up with him.

“Nah.” Rumble smiled, “I’m good.”

“Well, that settles it then.” Drumfire nodded, “We’ll get some grub over at that pizza place downtown.”

“Alright!” Rumble chirped excitedly. They now took to flight, and made their way towards the glistening skyline of Cloudsdale.

Rainbow Dash wasn’t a fan of waiting. But, when you’re with someone of fame and acclaim, waiting is just a thing you gotta do. She sat with some relatives of the other Bolts as they waited for the photo shoots to end. The show had been incredible, especially from the killer view she had- but he was even more so. Even the fake smiles and laughter he put on for the fans, he was a gem.

Seeing the young ones swarm around did cause her mind to wander a bit. It didn’t quite register for a few seconds.

Then it hit her.

Oh… shit. Scootaloo!

Before anyone could so much as ask why, Rainbow had launched over the stadium and searched around the stands. Among the many ponies getting up and out, none of them resembled the filly she was in charge of seeing through today. Zipping through corridors, hallways, even a thorough scan of the VIP lounge; nothing. Zilch. Nada.

The speed and stress of it all was getting to her, visibly panting as she flapped through the concession area.

“Something wrong, Miss Dash?” A guard.

She looked up, then leaned forward, right into his face. “Have you seen Scootaloo?” she barked.


“Little filly, orange coat, purple mane-”

“Shield cutie mark with a bolt like yours?”

“Yes!” Rainbow practically screamed. “Her. Yes, her. Have you seen her?”

Suddenly, the guard grew very nervous. “Uh… well, erm, yes actually…”

Rainbow began to grow furious, “Well? Did you see her, or not?”

“She was looking for you earlier…” he pawed at the ground. “I just thought she was a fan, y’know…”

“You wanna know what I know, pal?” Rainbow grit her teeth as the stallion trembled, “I know that you’re lucky I’ve got places to be, or I’d seriously knock you on your ass right now!”

She zipped away before he could respond--.Scootaloo had wandered off, and she needed to find her. Now high above the crowd of pegasi spilling into the streets, she still could not see the little filly anywhere. Numerous foals, fillies, and colts bounced and zipped about, no pony matching her likeness.

Her stomach began to twist and tangle, as a sense of dread washed over her.

Rainbow cruised around the stadium complex, then over the nearby streets. Occasionally, she dove into a low glide over the crowds, trying to ignore the cries of surprise and fear from the crowd. .

She squeezed her eyes shut. Rainbow, you damn fool. She had let it happen again. All the filly wanted was to spend some quality time with her--and, twice now, she’s scampered off to jump Soarin’s bones. And, once again, Scootaloo had slipped through the cracks. Her little sister was Celestia knows where, afraid and alone.

She had nopony to blame but herself.

She sighed heavily. It was going to be a long night.

It had been some time since Rumble had a proper firestone pizza. The fact that his mother remembered his favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings, was another nice touch to the whole thing. A petite little root beer float, about two-thirds gone sat beside his personal pie.

He had always loved the atmosphere of this place, with the grungy brick walls, and the various sports and Wonderbolts memorabilia decorating the place. It mixed well with the low lighting, and classic rock which lingered faintly at the bottom of his hearing.

“So Rummy,” Nebula wore that same grin she always did when she was a tad bit nervous. “Have you had fun tonight?”

“Yeah.” Rumble smiled, “Today has been awesome!

“Glad you think so.” Drumfire cleared his throat, “It’s nice to have our boys back for the day, we really missed you two.”

Rumble blushed a bit. “I missed you too dad, mom.”

“You boys are headed back home tonight, right?” Drumfire asked Thunderlane.

“Well, he is. He has school tomorrow,” Thunderlane replied. “I’ll probably get a room downtown. I have a meeting at the Weather Factory tomorrow. Rainbow Dash is going to be here, so I figured I might as well just save me the flight.”

“Oh, well, why don’t you just stay with us, then?” Nebula clapped her hooves together, a hopeful look in her eyes. “If you don’t want your old room, we have the guest room behind Rummy’s.”

“Speaking of the kid,” Drumfire interjected, “he can play hooky for a day, can’t he? Wanna stay the night, m’boy?” he said, leaning down to him. “I got some model kits that need some assembly.”

Rumble grinned--that sounded awesome--but, then again, he was also very eager to see a certain somepony tomorrow. Not to mention: being home alone also had its perks.

“I think I’ll go home tonight,” he said. “We have a test tomorrow, anyway.”

Nebula looked somewhat concerned, “All by yourself?”

“Come on, Neb,” Drumfire quipped, “When I was his age, I was flying from here to Manehattan, Vanhoover, and back again.”

Nebula cast a soft glance at the colt who beamed with confidence. “I guess you aren’t my little foal anymore, are you?”

“Hey, but before you go,” Drumfire produced several bits. “Here. Get something nice back home, or whatever.”

“Thanks.” Rumble eagerly snatched the bits, He loved this time with family. He loved the warmth of the nearby fireplace, the family which surrounded him, and the love that came with it. Sure mistakes had been made, but no matter what, he knew they would never leave him, never let him down. They were family, and they loved him.

He knew that. And that thought kept his warm as he trotted out into the nighttime chill behind them, a little spring in his step. Hugs, kisses, and a fond little noogie from of Thunderlane served as their goodbyes; Rumble turned for downtown, while his parents and sibling ventured back to the suburbs.

The main road was somewhat crowded, but by no means as dense as leaving the colosseum. Everypony seemed to be in a jovial and glowing mood, with laughter, light conversation, filling the air.

Rounding a corner which lead to the southern edge of Cloudsdale, the crowds rapidly dropped off, and the streetlights began to appear further and further apart. While trotting down past a diner and bookstore, he paused; something had caught his eye. He shrugged and trotted on for a few steps, until, suddenly, it hit him.

Wait a minute. Was that…


It couldn’t have been. A disheveled little filly, all alone, sat on her haunches a block behind him. She looked way too much like the filly he knew for him to simply shake it out of his head.

He turned around, and slowly trotted back.

Scootaloo sat in in an alley, back pressed up against a dumpster that stank of rotting vegetables. She shivered, from more than just the cold. She wanted to cry--but she wasn’t sure if she had the tears. Or the right.

Everything that could have gone wrong, had. Everything that could have gone right, simply hadn’t. It was the very thing that she feared since waking up this morning--that Rainbow Dash was going to let her down again.

The old saying echoed inside her skull:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice--

Scootaloo had nothing left. Her strained trust had finally snapped, and her optimism plummeted to the dark depths, never to be seen or heard from again. Frankly, she was fine with just staying on this alley forever, mind mired in misery, head hung low from the weight of her heartache.

A sound of someone clip-clopping down the alley towards her didn’t phase her much. She kept her gaze to the ground, sure that it was just another pony who would break her heart again.

Instead, the hoofsteps stopped. Without a word, a fresh carton of tater tots slid across the ground and into her vision. For a moment, she didn’t react. Finally, she found the courage to look up and see from where they had come--only to see an empty alley. She stared back down at the carton, then timidly, she picked one lone tot from its box and popped it in her mouth. She chewed, and the tot crunched pleasantly, the salt and fat and starch squirted between her teeth. She leaned her head back against the dumpster and moaned softly--Sweet Celestia, these tater tots were the best thing she’d ever eaten. And, suddenly, she realized she was starving. Slowly, she picked away at the offering, checking every now and again to see if the donor was nearby.

Those tater tots were just what she needed. Their warmth radiated through her cold body like a radiant fire. She reached down for one more--and realized, to her own great dismay, that it was empty. Only the grease-stained paper boat remained. She slid it aside, then grimaced as happy laughter echoed down the alley. She sighed heavily, sending a thick cloud of steam whispering into the air.

Once again, she was startled by the sight of a treat before her. This time, it was a milkshake--peanut butter, she guessed. She couldn’t say she was a fan of peanut-butter, but she wasn’t exactly against it, either. She picked it up and took a sip, and her mouth was filled with the cool, nutty smoothness of the shake, a savory-sweet flavor that sent chills down her spine.

She heard a little noise, and whipped her head around--and this time, her mysterious donor was present, sitting just around the corner of the dumpster. He smiled nervously.

“You’re not allergic to peanuts, are you?” Rumble was surprised at just how easily the words came.

Scootaloo looked at her empty tot tray, and the shake, and then back at Rumble. Her eyes were seemingly devoid of emotional expression. Her voice however, seemed happy, if only slightly so.


Rumble watched as Scootaloo took another long, desperate pull on her dessert, practically inhaling the thing. She either really, really liked it, or was practically dehydrated.. A few moments later, and, with a hollow plonk, she se tthe cup next to the empty tray, then turned to look at Rumble.

“Thanks,” she said. She did not smile--but there was a softness in her voice that made it clear that his gift had been truly appreciated.

“No problem.” Rumble replied with a faint smile. He looked away for a moment, then back at her. “What are you doing out here by yourself?” he asked.

“I could ask you the same thing, couldn’t I?” Scootaloo snapped. Rumble flinched, and she returned to staring at her trash. Only for a moment.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell like that,” she signed. “It’s just… Rainbow Dash. She left me at the colosseum, I went looking for her, and got locked out and missed the show. I have no idea where she is. And I don’t know how I’m getting home.” She drew her knees up under her chin, then wrapped her arms around her legs. “I bet I know who she’s with, though.”

Rumble couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. He was only vaguely aware of the last time that cyan mare let her down--and could only guess what he would’ve felt if his brother did the same thing. Gently, he stood, picked up her cup in his mouth, his mouth, then stood on his hind legs and dropped it in the dumpster. He did it again a moment later for her tray. He sat down again--and was quickly enveloped in a tight, orange hug. Scootaloo whimpered into his shoulder, the colt’s coat muffling her voice

Wordlessly, he put a wing around her, and looked around again. The crowds seemed to be dying down, and the pedestrian traffic from earlier seemed to be as well.

“Well…” Rumble felt a lump in his throat. “I could fly you home.”

Her head raised, and it’s magenta eyes, bleary and bloodshot, pierced his own.. He could feel his cheeks grow warm as they stared into each other's’ eyes. .

Staring at her like this--her arms around him, his eyes locked on hers--filled him with a thrill he had never felt before. He set his jaw, gently removed his wing, then stood and began a slow trot down the the alley.

“Come on.” Rumble said quickly but kindly over his shoulder.

He took a few good strides before checking to see if she was following--and, she was. For a while, she walked behind him--but soon, she trotted up alongside him--and stayed there. The two didn’t say anything as they wormed their way through the maze of crowds littering the avenue; Rumble had to check every now and again to ensure he didn’t lose her.

Finally, they reached the edge of Cloudsdale. Rumble stopped, and sat on his haunches. Scootaloo sat beside him, and took in the view: it was dark now; the last sliver of sunlight that managed to pour over the mountains along the horizon did very little for the hilly lowlands beyond. Lights twinkled across the velvet landscape below, gathered here and there in little clusters--but they both knew one cluster in particular--Ponyville, with the faintest outline of the Castle of Friendship still visible in the distance.

Scootaloo sighed. She wished so much that she could just spread her wings and fly home on her own--which, of course, only made her feel more rotten. Her ears fell back against her head, and her tail just sat there, as still and lifeless as its host.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Rumble bow his head, too, then start picking at the cloud between them. Suddenly, he set his jaw, then stood and offered her his hoof. For a moment, she did not look up--but, when she did, she saw him standing there, with a smile, his hoof outstretched. For a long moment--too long--she sat there, unmoving, staring back and forth between the smile and the hoof. Finally she slowly, hesitantly, reached out one of her own hooves and placed it in his.

Rumble grinned a little, then spread his wings and stretched, running through the same pre-flight routine she’s seen Rainbow Dash do once or twice. She took the cue and walked up beside him--and, as she did, he turned to face her with a smile.

Scootaloo suddenly realized that she loved that smile.

His pre-flight stretches done, Rumble opened his mouth--and suddenly seemed to lose his nerve. He sat down, then swallowed several times, his face turning that adorable shade of red again, and his hooves starting to tremble. Finally, he managed a nod over his shoulder, indicating his back. Scootaloo stepped forward and reached out a hoof--then drew it back, hesitating. The two of them stood there for another moment before Scootaloo squeezed her eyes shut, reached out, and wrapped her arms around his neck. He stood--surprisingly strong, for his size--and Scootaloo felt gravity press her body against his. He was warm. She could feel his breathing--hear it, even, as the air flowed into and out of his lungs. She swallowed and tried not to think of the obvious awkwardness--after all, they were almost the same size...

Before she could object or reconsider, she felt Rumble lean forward, then, with a mighty surge of strength, he leapt forward. Her stomach dropped out from under her, and she almost screamed--but they did not fall. Instead, she felt his wings pump against her, and felt the air flow gently through her mane. Instinctively, she leaned her head leaned forward, making Rumble wobble in his course, if only slightly.

Rumble himself quickly corrected his course. He was a good flier; pushing past his nervousness, he began to flap his wings harder and harder. What had started as a glide became a soar, as he guided the two of them home. What part of his brain wasn’t honed in on his aerodynamics, was filled with her--feeling her warmth, feeling her breathing, feeling her balance shift against him as he flew. Part of him was screaming to make sure that he didn’t drop her--but he knew he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. Part of it was that she was clinging so tightly to him that he could barely breathe--but the other part of it was that, if he was honest with himself, he had really been waiting for a moment like this for his entire life.

Finally, the they drew close to home. Scootaloo felt Rumble’s flight begin to slow, and she opened her eyes. Behind her, she could make out the skyline of Canterlot, it’s towers and mountainside looming over the valley below. Below them lay Twilight’s castle, or, the highest tower of it, at least. She had never really seen it from this vantage, and was slightly taken by the large emblem which crowned the structure: the Element of Friendship, reflecting the light of the moon which now hung over Equestria, filling the world with faint silver light.

Scootaloo felt Rumble trim his wings, and he turned into a glide, the sudden drop sending her stomach into her throat. He glided down through Ponyville, towards the dim outline of Town Hall.

Scootaloo felt a lump in her throat as she realized the time had come for her to speak to him. “You know where I live, right?” she asked.

The colt’s ears stood up straight, as he slowed his glide slightly.

“Actually,” he admitted, “no.”

“You go east from town hall,” she said. “I live down a ways.”

“Oh.” Rumble banked down her street. They were now gliding mere feet above the ground. Houses now lining every side of Scootaloo’s view like walls of a canyon. Soon enough, her own house rounded into view.

“Here.” Scootaloo nodded lightly, as her house came into view.

He touched down a few feet from her front door, but it was a smooth landing--despite the somewhat disorienting feeling of gravity suddenly reasserting itself She loosened her grip as she slowly, shaking, set her hooves on the ground again. Rumble sat down, his chest heaving, and wiped a bead of sweat from his brow.

Scootaloo glanced up at him, then back down and kicked at the dirt. “Y-You didn’t have to do that, you know…” she mumbled.

Despite his exhaustion, Rumble seemed fine with it all, “Don’t worry about it, Scootaloo.” He grinned, “It was worth--” His eyes widened. “I mean--.”

Scootaloo smiled for the first time in a good while.

“Thanks for… for everything, Rumble.” She said softly, “I owe you big time.”

He practically fell over as she nuzzled up against his cheek.

Scootaloo turned, and, her own face beet red, she made for the front door. “See you at school, I guess,” she said over her shoulder. There was something more in those words than there usually was.

Rumble looked up, a small smile forming on his own face. “Yeah. See ya then, I guess.”

He watched the door close behind her, then stood. Slowly, he turned and began to walk down the road, his heartbeat finally slowing to a decent rate--only for it to shoot back up again as he heard two words, carried on the night breeze:

“Goodnight, Rumble,” Scootaloo said, a gentle warmth in her tone.

“Goodnight, Scootaloo,” he squeaked in return. He dropped his head and cursed to himself--but he could’ve sworn he heard a slight giggle as he did.