• Published 28th Feb 2016
  • 4,021 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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9. Defense

Without warning, the alarm clock screeched loud enough to wake the dead. Rainbow Dash’s hoof shot out and smacked it hard enough to send it flying--but the sudden silence was a relief. Rainbow sat up in bed, put her head in her hooves, and groaned.

As she rubbed her pounding head, she heard the voices again:

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

She looked up and stared at the darkened wall in front of her. The morning after a day-long conference, not to mention a late-night flight home--or all those drinks--was never fun.. At least she’d been able to work off a little stress with Soarin’, up in that private booth of his....

It didn’t help that she’d spent half the night looking for Scootaloo: hours of questioning staff and searching the nearby side-streets had turned up nothing but false leads. As near as she could figure, Scootaloo had left the Cloudiseum just before the show started, and had last been seen in the company of a colt --a colt who, judging by the description, could be Thunderlane’s little brother (Rum Punch? Gin Rummy? Rainbow groaned again; seemed she still had alcohol on the brain, in both a literal and a figurative sense). Word was that the colt had flown her… well, somewhere. Back home, hopefully.

But, even if that were true, it was still some cold comfort: Rainbow mucked up again. Third time’s the charm; this time, she had to face the music--and she had a feeling she knew the tempo it would take. There was a filly out there who probably hated her by now, and a colt--her assistant’s little brother, no less--who would no doubt be itching to give her what for and how come.

And that wasn’t even counting Scootaloo’s other friends, or the other Elements--or their sisters, too....

Today was going to be a long day--and she had nopony to blame but herself.

Rainbow sat in silence for a long while before looking up--and spitting a sudden curse. Pinned to the wall next to her door was her calendar, with today’s date circled in red. Her day was just about to get even longer.

The royal delegation--Princesses Celestia and Cadance, along with Shining Armor--had arrived today. That meant that Twilight, as always, had scheduled a nice and early “Eleventh Hour Preparation Assembly”. She had less than an hour to be at the castle--but she guessed it would be at least three until she didn’t feel like dying. Thank Celestia she’d forgotten to turn off her alarm clock, at least.

And then came the knocking.

It was soft and quiet, but, in her current state, it felt like a sledgehammer in her skull. She groaned once more. There was only one pony she knew who would knock like that--


She rolled out of bed and stumbled to her bedroom door. She was here to pick her up, probably--and she’d come early to tear her a new one. She was tricky, that Fluttershy--she seemed all cute and soft, but, cross her, and the claws came out.

And, given her thing with Scootaloo recently, she had crossed her--big time.

As she plodded down the hall, she was sure what Fluttershy was going to say. “You owe it to her to be a good role model,” Rainbow mimicked sourly. “And it’s just what any friend would do. Um, if that’s okay with you,” she added, with a vicious kick at the hatstand in the front hall. She missed.

Rainbow put her hoof on the front doorknob, and sighed heavily. Would she hit her with the disappointed look first? Or would she lead off with her angry eyes?

She swallowed hard, closed her eyes, and pulled the door open.

“Hi, Rainbow,” Fluttershy said brightly. Suddenly, she grimaced. “I--I didn’t wake you, did I?”

Rainbow stared. Neither, apparently. “No,” she said, stepping aside to let her in. “Perfect timing, though. Just got up myse-e-elf,” she finished with a yawn.

“I just wanted to make sure you remembered Twilight’s meeting today,” Fluttershy said with a weak grin. “You know how she is…”

Rainbow’s mouth slowly fell open. She hadn’t said anything about Scootaloo yet… did that mean… maybe, she didn’t know?

Rainbow shook her head abruptly, then walked towards the kitchen, beckoning for Fluttershy to follow.

“Yeah, I do,” she said as she found the coffee maker. The pot was still half-full from yesterday. Rainbow grabbed it, then downed it cold, sending a shudder through her body. She reached into the cupboard for the fresh grounds and some filters. “You want any?” she said back over her shoulder to Fluttershy.

“No thanks,” she said. “But yeah--today is the big day, I’m kind of nervous.”

Rainbow set the filter in the machine, then loaded it up with two heaping scoops of grounds. “What about?” she asked.

“Oh you know,” Fluttershy fidgeted, “These royal events are also so hectic and… stressful. I just hope everything goes well.”

Rainbow shot her a sidelong look. She really doesn’t know….

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Shy,” she said aloud, walking to the sink with the empty pot. She swished some water into it, then filled it halfway and brought it back to the machine. “Twilight’s got it all figured out, I’m sure. We’re just there to look good.”

“I suppose so,” she said. “We uh--we should probably get going soon,” she added, warily eyeing the slowly-filling coffee pot. “I saw Rarity and the girls already on their way.”

Rainbow grimaced. Wonderful…

Without warning, the alarm clock began to chime, the bells on top ringing brightly. Scootaloo swatted it with her hoof, silencing it, then sat up and smiled. She rolled out of bed and onto her hooves, shook herself, and grinned; her memories of the night before flooding back.

That had been the most fun she’d had in a long time--and she’d get to see them again at school. Today was going to be a good day.

One plus about waking up this early was that the daycare hadn’t opened yet, which meant she was able to get relative peace and quiet with her foster-mother before a busy day. While Mrs. Harbour gingerly sipped her morning tea, Scootaloo nibbled at a couple blueberry muffins, fresh from the oven, a glass of orange juice at her elbow.

“I heard you had a lot of fun last night, ” Mrs. Harbour said with a smile.

Scootaloo blushed. “Yeah, they were really cool,” she said, looking down. Scootaloo danced a hoof along the tablecloth, “We played video games; watched a movie. A-and there was some candy, too” An embarrassed grin on her face.

Mrs. Harbour chuckled lightly, “Nothing wrong with a little indulgence every now and then, dear.”

Scootaloo looked up at her. “You’re not mad?”

“Mad?” she chuckled. “Why in Celestia’s sky would I be mad?”

Scootaloo shuffled nervously, “I dunno. You’ve always said ‘Candy is bad for you, Scootaloo.’, You always discourage me from buying it.”

“Well, that’s just me keeping your health in mind, dear heart” Harbour stated, “I never said you couldn’t ever have sugar--I simply wanted to steer you towards healthy choices. Up to you in the end, though.” She sipped her tea. ”I got to meet your coltfriend, by the way,” she added.

Scootaloo looked up at her, eyes wide, and tilted her head slightly.

Mrs. Harbour chuckled a little. “He seems like a sweet boy,” she said, with that smile of hers never wavering. “Took you all the way to your bed. We chatted for a little afterwards.” Her smile broadened a little. “I’d say he’s a keeper, especially after what he did for you the night before.”

“Yeah,” Scootaloo admitted. “I really like him, but I still don’t know if he, you know, likes me…”

“Oh sweetheart,” Mrs. Harbour said, putting her hoof on Scootaloo’s, “there’s no doubt in my mind that he likes you. No colt is going to take care of a filly the way he has you, not without at least a little fondness. Just let him open up in his own way. It might take time, which is nice: gives you time to build a friendship. More important than you might think.” She nodded to herself. “Loving somepony is grand,” she said, after a pause, “but being their honest-to-goodness friend makes it all the more special.”

Scootaloo frowned down at the half-eaten muffin left on her empty plate. “I guess that makes sense,” she admitted.

Mrs. Harbour, stood, then took what was left of her plate and glass, “Would you like something else?” she asked.”Oatmeal, maybe?”

“Naw, I think I’d better get going,” she said, shaking her head. She hopped from her seat, and grabbed her saddlebag near the doorway.

“Alright, have fun!” Mrs. Harbour called after her. “Try to be home before supper, alright?”

“I will. Love you!” chirped Scootaloo, returning a wave as she walked out the door, and towards the main thoroughfare. Her mind was set on school, which meant two things: her best friends, and Rumble.

Scootaloo took her sweet time, moseying her way to school while just taking the time to enjoy the mid-morning scenery. Courier carts, pulled by trotting stallions, full of almost anything you could imagine; ponies sitting on porches and in cafes, with tea and coffee and cocoa, just chatting about their day; little foals, chasing each other in circles down the street, like they hadn’t a care in the world. It was a typical scene that Scootaloo hadn’t taken the time to enjoy for some time now, and it only added to her bright mood, and light pace. Scootaloo took a deep breath: Today was going to be a good day.

As she crested the low hill before the school, her friends and acquaintances standing about in loose knots, waiting in front of the little schoolhouse, came into view. She smiled; there was Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, chatting about some Countess Coloratura song, and, over there, Rumble, Button Mash, and a third colt she knew only by sight had their heads together, talking intently about something--probably some video game. Scootaloo smiled brightly and walked right in the middle of the group, just enjoying the company of her friends as they all waited together for Miss Cheerilee to call them inside.

Applebloom stood on tip-hoof and looked over Sweetie’s head at her, then smiled brightly. “Hey Scootaloo!” she called, Sweetie Belle turning and waving. Scootaloo returned the grin, then trotted towards the two.

“Hey girls,” Scootaloo said, giving them each a quick side-hug.

“So?” Sweetie Belle grinned, “How was your… sleepover?

Scootaloo couldn’t help but smirk at her fascination, “It was fun. We played video games, and just hung out.” She nudged her. “You should totally come next time!”

“...maybe,” Sweetie murmured, looking down and blushing the slightest bit. “Might be fun…”

“Aw, do it,” Apple Bloom said, nudging her as well. “Colts don’t bite… I don’t think,” she added with a smirk.

Sweetie blushed a little harder, and Scootaloo laughed.

Apple Bloom grinned, then looked over at Scootaloo. “Speakin of bitin’, you ready for that test today?”

Scootaloo’s smile faded fast. “Test?”

“Mmhm.” Sweetie Belle nodded, “The one Miss Cheerilee told us about yesterday.”

“Uh…” Scootaloo’s mind raced backward to the yesterday--but all she could remember was staring at the back of Rumble’s head.

Apple Bloom’s face fell--the look on Scootaloo’s face was enough answer for her.

“I’m sure you’ll do fine, Scootaloo,” Sweetie Belle interjected nervously. “It’s just basic history and vocabulary--nothing major.”

Scootaloo hung her head. She was not looking forward to the test. Mrs. Harbour wouldn’t ride her too hard for a bad grade, of course--especially not in history--but it always stung her pride a bit when she didn’t do well (not enough to actually, y’know, sit down and study, but it still hurt).

She shook her head gently. No. Today was going to be a good day. She wasn’t going to let some test bring her down...

As she stared at the grass at her hooves, she felt Applebloom straighten up. “Heya,” she called, a strange note of almost-excitement in her voice. Scootaloo looked up--and saw Rumble and Button Mash walking them.

“Scootaloo!” Rumble trotted straight to her, his face devoid of any of the trepidation and reserve of the past.

Scootaloo found herself smiling, too. “Hey Rumble!” she said, beaming.

Rumble came to a stop, then hesitated. “So I was wondering,” he said, scratching his head, “i-if maybe you wanted to hang out after school again, or something. Button Mash is headed to Manehatten for some tournament thing, and the rest of the guys all have stuff going on, so I figured, you know…”

Scootaloo heard whispered ooohs behind her, and rolled her eyes. Nevertheless, she grinned.

“Yeah, we should,” she said. “My treat this time.”

“You do kinda owe me one, huh?” Rumble said with a wink.

Scootaloo loved that playfulness of his. “Yeah, yeah,” she muttered--but still shot him a smile.

Scootaloo turned to Button Mash, who flinched a little, “Thanks for having me over last night, dude,” she said. “I had a lot of fun--and,” she added, her eyes twinkling, “I invited Sweetie Belle over for next time.” A wry glance to the petrified filly made her snicker.

“Oh yeah,” Rumble said, waggling his eyebrows, “Button Mash would like that, wouldn’t he?”

“Ye--n-no—-” Button Mash stammered, then sighed. “Wasn’t there something else you wanted to talk to her about?” he growled at Rumble.

“We—” Rumble’s eyes went wide, then glanced nervously around the small group. “N-not right now.”

“Huh?” Scootaloo tilted her head, “What is it?”

“Go on, Rumble,” Button Mash added, nudging him pointedly. “What did you want to talk to her about?”

Rumble found his tongue tied. “It’s… it’s something I’d like to talk to you about in private… later.”

A slow smile spread across Scootaloo’s face. “Sure,” she said with a nod. “Later.”

“Later,” Rumble repeated, frowning.“I mean, we got that stupid test today, and we totally forgot about it!”

“Yeah.” Button Mash frowned as well. “We’re screwed. Well, I’m screwed. Mom and Dad ground me if I get bad grades.”

“You think that’s bad?” Rumble scoffed, “My brother puts me on deputy weather patrols during the weekends. Do you know how boring that is for a colt who isn’t even a Class 2 Climate Cadet?”

Scootaloo raised an eyebrow. “Climate Cadet?”

“Yeah,” Rumble sighed. “It’s what you are before you can join the Junior Weather Division in high school. Basically, there’s three levels, and you gotta do your time to advance. I… don’t really like doing it... so I’m an eleven year-old Level 1.” He looked down and sighed. “Not that great.”

“Oh.” Scootaloo looked away briefly, unsure of what to say. She felt like she should know more about this sort of thing--after all, she spent plenty of time around the local Weather Captain,who had to have done the same thing herself.

Rumble watched her for a moment, then shrugged. “Eh, whatever,” he said. “Not like I care, anyway. I don’t wanna work on the SCWD, I want to do stunts and stuff when I grow up.”

“Like the Wonderbolts?” Button asked.

“Sorta.” Rumble nodded.

Suddenly, the bell rang, and all the foals looked up, dismayed.

“Time for class my little ponies!” Cheerilee called in her usual glowing voice, as the foals turned to plod inside.

Twilight for the most part, took her duties pretty damn seriously. And that was without having submitted a less-than-impressive Friendship Report to Celestia. So, now, she was extra-determined to make up for her gaffe.

Even if it meant casting a spell which forced the Cutie Map to summon her friends at an ungodly hour. None of the five that sat around the table seemed impressed by her dedication..

“I appreciate you all coming,” Twilight began, a journal floating in her aura, “As you well know, my brother, sister in-law, and niece will be arriving, and Princesses Luna and Celestia shortly thereafter. I need to ensure that all of our preparations are final, and that everypony know their roles.”

“The gowns and decoration are all finished and ready for display,” Rarity yawned.

“Mrs. Cake finished the last of the deserts for the banquet last night” Pinkie Pie added.

“Me ‘an Mac got the stage all fixed up, and ready for Rarity’s decoratin’.” Applejack said with a nod.

“My crew got the skies all cleared up for their arrival yesterday afternoon.” Rainbow muttered

“...and I recruited some birds for the musical accomaniment,” added Fluttershy.

“Splendid!” Twilight clapped her hooves, “Now we just need…” she looked around the table, then frowned. ”...where are the girls?” she asked.

Rarity and Applejack glanced at each other. “School,” Applejack said, carefully. “Where they always are on Friday mornings.”

Twilight pressed her lips into a thin line. “Did either of you check with Miss Cheerilee on the progress of the school play? That’s a big part of the program?”

Both mares suddenly became very quiet.

“Well…” Applejack said slowly, “I reckon I told Apple Bloom to talk to Miss Cheerilee about it…I can’t remember if she said anythin’.”

Twilight groaned, then spread her wings, then flew across the chamber until she hovered inches from Rarity’s face. “Tell me you havesomething, she pleaded.

“Well, you see, dear…” Rarity murmured, “I was so busy with the gowns, I failed to check with Sweetie about it…”

Twilight groaned and clapped a hoof to her forehead. “Great. How do we know they aren’t totally unprepared?”

“I’m sure it will be fine, dear.” Rarity tried her best to give her a reassuring smile. “Cheerilee and her students are a creative bunch. I’m certain, once we tell them--”

“They don’t know?she snapped, turning and drifting back towards her throne. “Wh-- how could you forget about this? That was the one thing I asked the girls to do!”

Twilight landed and began to pace. Five sets of eyes watched her uneasily.

“Is it really that big a deal, sugarcube?” Applejack asked gently. “I mean, it ain’t the end of tha world if the younguns don’t do their play…”

“It is absolutely essential that everything goes as planned,” Twilight snapped.“This itinerary is set in stone, and has been for a month-and-a-half. And we need it all to work perfectly, because just one kink in the chain can send the whole thing crashing down!

“Alright, alright, simmer down.” Applejack said, standing. “We’ll go talk to Cheerilee, ‘an get this all sorted out. You just make sure everything else works out, and we’ll get this taken care of for ya.”

Applejack turned and walked from the room, followed closely by Rarity. However, Rarity paused on the threshold, then turned and looked back over her shoulder.

“You too, Rainbow,” she said.

“Wh-huh?” Rainbow yelped, jerking her head up. “Why do I have to go?”

Rarity flipped her mane in slight irritation. “Everypony’s got something to do, Darling--except for you. No use just sitting around. “ She turned and trotted away. “Plus,” she added, “you and she are on good terms again, are you not?”

Rainbow felt the weight of every gaze in the room as, slowly, she stood, then followed Rarity out. Right… she shivered to herself, Good terms…

The knot in her stomach did not loosen as they walked out into the morning air. So far, they had no idea of the mess she was in--and it was already too late to say anything--

“By the way,” Rarity said suddenly, “how was the show with Scootaloo?”

“Wonderful.” Rainbow replied before she could stop herself. “She… had fun,” she finished lamely.

“Man, them Wonderbolts sure are somethin’, ain’t they?” Applejack said, smiling. “I bet she got a real kick out of all of it.”

“Yep…” Rainbow said, trying to hide her grimace, “she sure did…”

“I know Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were a little envious.” Rarity said. “It was very sweet thing of you to do, Rainbow.”

“And that’s all she wants, ya know,” Applejack added. “A big sister that’ll go out of her way ta spend some good, old-fashioned quality time with her.”

Rainbow Dash felt ill. She wanted to say something, but she couldn’t--not with them praising her for how she treated Scootaloo.

Her nausea only increased when the roof of the little red schoolhouse came into view--and then, she actually felt like she was going to vomit.

It was lunchtime.

As nervous as she had been, Scootaloo found herself oddly relaxed during the test. It was mostly multiple choice, and the written portions wore on topics they had gone over well before. She felt kind of silly getting so worked up over what turned out to be pretty basic stuff.

Now, it was recess, and, with that weight off her shoulders, that meant it was time to relax with her friends—

No, she reminded herself. No it wasn’t. She still had to talk to Rumble about something.

She still had no idea what that something was, and no ideas presented themselves as she ate her lunch at her usual table. Every so often, she glanced over towards the table on the far end of the playground where Rumble, Button Mash, and company sat; Rumble looked fine, chatting, smiling, and laughing with his pals.

I wonder if he’ll tell me he loves me… She grinned a little. Maybe he’ll kiss me! She felt a blush spread across her cheeks as her imagination painted the scene—

And then, someone burst her bubble.

“Bet’cha can’t wait ta have yer little chat with Rumble, huh?” Apple Bloom said, elbowing her.

Scootaloo’s eyes went wide, and she nearly choked on her sandwich. She looked up at Applebloom with wide eyes, then swallowed and tried to regain her composure.

“I guess,” she said, with a faint shrug..

“You aren’t just a teensy bit nervous?” Sweetie Belle inquired, with a grin.

“Why would I be nervous?” Scootaloo looked over at her, genuinely perplexed. “We’re totally cool. It’s not like it’s gonna be anything bad.”

“Maybe he’s going to profess his love!” Sweetie Belle smiled a little wider, then got up from her seat and struck a dramatic pose. “He’ll say, ‘Scootaloo, oh beautiful Scootaloo, my heart, it yearns for only one; and it is you!’”

Scootaloo frowned.. “Uh...No,” she said slowly. “No, he—that’s not how he talks.”

“Yeah, drama queen.” Apple Bloom added, rolling her eyes. “Life ain’t a fancy Canterlot play.”

“Whatever,” Sweetie Belle said, pouting. “I was just trying to be optimistic!”

It was Scootaloo’s turn to smirk. “If you want something to be optimistic about, why don’t you talk to Button Mash?”

Sweetie Belle froze. “W-why would I do that?”

“Well, you seem to know the things to say, don’t you?” Scootaloo said, leaning forward eagerly. “He’s really nice--it’ll be a piece of cake!”

“Speakin’ a cake…” Apple Bloom looked back over her shoulder, towards the schoolhouse. “I can’t wait fer the ceremony tonight!”

Scootaloo tiled her head. “Ceremony?”

“Ya don’t remember?” Apple Bloom gasped, “The welcomin’ party fer th' Princesses! Why, there’s gonna be dancin’, fancy food, and we get ta…”

Apple Bloom’s expression froze as a horrible realization dawned on her.

“Uh… did any of you girls, by chance, tell Miss Cheerilee we was supposed to do a play?”

The other two stared back at her, their eyes widening.

“Aw… fiddlesticks,” Applebloom muttered. “We gotta tell Cheerilee!”

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle sprang from their seats and bolted into the schoolhouse. Scootaloo, however, calmly put down her empty sandwich bag, then stood, and meandered over to a colt who wanted to speak with her. No time like the present, after all.

Button Mash was the first to see her. He looked up and smiled. “Hiya, Scuttlebucket!” he called.

“Hey nerd.” Scootaloo shot back, earning a giggle from from the other colts.

Button Mash rolled his eyes, then leaned forward. “Your coltfriend here wants to have a…” he cleared his throat. “a word with you alone.” Button Mash tried his best to put on a sultry, sexy voice.

Rumble rolled his eyes, slugged him gently on the shoulder, then stood. “Come on,” he muttered, “let’s get out of here.” He led Scootaloo towards an unpopulated corner of the playground, well out of earshot.

The two of them walked to a bench in the far corner of the playground, and sat. Scootaloo swallowed nervously, and looked over at Rumble. He did not look at her.

Scootaloo sighed. “So… what’s up?” she asked.

“Well…” Rumble began, his voice subdued. He hesitated, then looked away. “I was just wondering how you were doing.”

Scootaloo sported a quizzical look. “I’m… fine?” she said uncertainly.

The two of them were quiet for a while. Scootaloo started swinging her legs back and forth nervously.

“It’s just…” He began suddenly, then hesitated. “It’s messed up what she did to you,” he continued. “Nopony deserves to be treated like that.”

She stared blankly at him for a moment, then frowned. “Yeah,” she sighed, “but, I mean… it’s okay Rumble, that’s jus--”

“No it isn’t.” Rumble cut in suddenly. “If my brother did to me what she did to you…” The colt shook his head, “He wouldn’t be my brother anymore.”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened. “Rumble…”

“You just don’t do that, y’know?” he continued, his voice growing harsher. “You don’t leave family or-or friends, hanging like that. It’s--it’s wrong!

Scootaloo stared at him, as he began to tremble with suppressed rage. She was… well, to be truthful, she was a little flattered. She had not seen anyone care for her so much as he did just then.

And yet, if she was honest with herself, she was also frightened. More than a little.

She licked her lips. “Hey,” she said hesitantly, “Y-you don’t have to--to--”

Scootaloo stammered to a stop as she stared at Rumble. Suddenly, he was sitting very still, his ears standing up straight, eyes staring straight ahead.

“Rumble,” she said quietly, “are you okay?”

As she watched, his upper lip twitched into a snarl. Scootaloo swallowed and turned to follow his gaze, and saw several ponies filing out of the school house: Applejack, Rarity, some of her friends--and, hovering above them--

“The high queen bitch herself,” Rumble spat.

--Rainbow Dash.

She looked tired and sore, perhaps even barely conscious--and a little relieved. Not reproachful, or sad, or angry--relieved.

Rumble took a step forward, fire in his eyes--and, suddenly, almost without thinking, Scootaloo lunged after him. “No,” she hissed into his ear. “Let her be--she’s not worth the effort.”

Not worth the effort?” he repeated acidly. “She abandoned you--in Cloudsdale! You can’t just trot home from there, can you?”

His chest was heaving, and tears were starting to gather in his eyes. Scootaloo swallowed. “Rumble,” she said, “stop it, please. Y-you’re scaring me.”

He turned to stare at her, his breath now coming in short, sharp snorts of rage. “Scootaloo,” he snarled. “You have never had someone stand up for you, not once in your life.” He turned away from her and spread his wings. “That changes now.”

With a surge of his wings, Rumble lifted off and soared into Rainbow’s face. “You got some goddamn nerve coming here, Rainbow Dash,” he growled.

A gasp went up from foals and mares alike as Rainbow Dash looked up at him. “Excuse me?” she snapped.

“Oh, so we’re playing dumb now, are we?” Rumble inched closer, his eyes glistening. “You think that what you did to Scootaloo will just go away , like some bad dream? Well it won’t,” he barked. “Some of us get stuck living the nightmare.”

Applejack swallowed. “Rainbow Dash,” she said carefully, “What’s he talkin’ ‘bout?”

“I don’t know,” she lied, “He’s just gone off his meds or--”

Liar!” Rumble roared. “You took Scootaloo up to Clousdsale, then disappeared! You abandoned her, after you promised to take care of her! You promised!” he screamed into her face. “You promised!”

Rainbow Dash drew herself up to her full height. “Last I checked,” she said icily, “your brother still had a job. You want that to change?”

“Fuck you!” he spat, jabbing her in the chest with his hoof. “Don’t hide behind your title! You’re the Element of fucking Loyalty, and you can’t even keep a promise to a little filly for fifteen minutes!” He leaned closer to her. “What do you and Soarin’ do together, anyways?” he asked. “Whatever it is, it’s awful important to you--after all, you do it so much…”

Rainbow snarled. “Why, you little piece of shit,” she hissed. “I oughtta--”

She froze as something broke inside Rumble. He looked away, and a tear rolled down his cheek. “You’re no hero, Rainbow Dash,” he moaned. “You’re not a Wonderbolt. You’re not even a friend.”

Rainbow sucked in a breath, then glared from Rumble, to her friends on the ground, then to the other ponies standing around, rage on her face and steel in her eyes. She did not look at Scootaloo.

She opened her mouth to speak--

“Go home, Rainbow,” Rumble said quietly. “Go crawl back into whatever hole you came from. No one wants you here anymore.”

Rainbow closed her mouth, glared at him--and then, wordlessly, turned and flew away.

Rumble didn’t dare look at Scootaloo. He glanced around and swallowed nervously. He wasn’t stupid; he had really put his hoof into it this time. Cheerilee watched him a look he knew all too well.. Rarity had a hoof over her mouth, and Applejack looked both confused and angry. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle stared back at him in stark disbelief. After a moment, they turned and trot back into the schoolhouse.

And then, he heard a breath, close by his ear.

“Rumble…” Scootaloo’s voice was shaky and timid. “You...you...”

Then he felt it. No way it could’ve been mistaken for anything other than what it was--

Her lips met his cheek, and lingered there for the briefest moment. She stared deep into his eyes--then turned and ran, back towards the schoolhouse, her tail brushing his shoulder as she passed him.

He stared at the empty schoolhouse door, feeling a blush spread across his cheeks, not noticing as Miss Cheerilee stepped up beside him. “Rumble,” she said carefully, “it sounds like you’ve had a hard day today.” She hesitated. “Why don’t you go home?”

Rumble swallowed. It was not a request.

He turned and, slowly, trotted out of the schoolyard. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he was going to get it. He’d yelled at a grown-up, called her all kinds of mean names, and said some naughty words in front of the other foals. This was going to be a letter home to Thunderlane, at least… maybe even to his parents.

And yet, he was not afraid. He felt no fear or anxiousness.

Only pure, sweet satisfaction.