• Published 9th Jun 2016
  • 6,540 Views, 1,190 Comments

Flying to the Future - moguera

Dawn and Scootaloo face new challenges and difficulties as they reach adulthood and build their own lives.

  • ...

Peaceful Days

Chapter 1: Peaceful Days

"A little higher...Okay! Good!"

Scootaloo let out the breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding and pulled her hooves away from the cloud. Angling her wings, she slid away from it without disturbing it any further.

"Good job," said Cloud Kicker, swooping down from above to hover off to Scootaloo's right. "That should do it for today. You're dismissed."

"Okay," said Scootaloo with a relieved smile. Flapping her wings once, she leaned back into the motion, drifting into a backwards loop that brought her swooping down low and well under the shade clouds she'd just spent the better part of the morning putting into position. She had to admit, from below, her work made for a wonderful sight, with the clouds generously sized and carefully spaced so as to provide ideal shade spots over benches, along paths, and in nearby meadows. They were set up so that they would be in the ideal position to catch the sun's rays when the day was at its hottest, providing those lovely spots of deep shade where ponies could relax during the mid to late-afternoon.

As she touched down, she heard and felt Cloud Kicker coming in for a landing next to her. "You're doing good work, Scootaloo," said the older mare with a wink. "A few more sessions like that and I think you'll be ready to take the certification exam."

"Great!" said Scootaloo, her ears perking up in her excitement. Getting her certification would mean the end of her apprenticeship and would mean that she could start working real hours and earning some real money. She drew a small wage now, but certification would mean she could join the Weather Team as an actual member, not merely as an apprentice. Being an apprentice also meant she wasn't allowed to work full shifts just yet. Instead, she was relegated to half shifts actually spent working, while the rest were spent observing the rest of the Weather Team at work and taking notes on their activities to show that she understood why they did what they did with the clouds. All of this would be examined by the certification office in Cloudsdale before she would be considered ready to work professionally.

"So, where are you heading now?" asked Cloud Kicker, looking at the young mare expectantly. "You gonna head for the teashop?"

"Yeah," said Scootaloo. "Dawn and I are gonna head out for training after he gets off of work."

Cloud Kicker chuckled and gently ruffled Scootaloo's fuchsia mane. "Have fun kid. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"I don't think we'll be doing anything that wild," Scootaloo teased back, her grayish-purple eyes twinkling as she watched her friend and supervisor take to the air. Cloud Kicker was about the best supervisor an apprentice like Scootaloo could hope for. She was exacting, but not overly demanding. She was easygoing, but not lazy or negligent. She made sure Scootaloo learned what she needed to learn and that she learned it well, never content with satisfying the bare minimum requirements of the supervisory position. Thanks to her, Scootaloo was certain that passing the exam would be a piece of cake.

With the rest of her afternoon clear, Scootaloo decided to head for the teahouse. A nice cup of spiced tea after a hard day's work had become a serious vice for her, one that she nourished as often as possible, visiting the teahouse nearly every day, only skipping when something important came up, such as her mom getting a new boyfriend (there was no way Scootaloo would ever call him a coltfriend). The tea was excellent and always a good way to relax at the end of the day. That it also afforded her an excuse to visit her coltfriend at work every day was a major plus in her eyes.

The years had done well by Scootaloo. As they had passed by, she had grown from a filly into a young mare, her ceaseless training in the Gale King martial art having granted her a body of lithe musculature, making her a sight to behold, whether on the ground or in the sky. Her mane, once a tousled mess of purple locks, had grown out. She wore it longer now, with most of it bound up in a simple tail behind her head, though a few wild locks spiked out over her forehead and eyes, sloping slightly upward. Even her tail had been brushed and untangled. She tended to put a little more effort into her looks than she had in the past. Her real pride was her set of wings, broad and powerful from years of constant training. They were the envy of pegasi everywhere. Wherever she went nowadays, Scootaloo tended to draw envious looks from other mares and appreciative ones from stallions. Not that Scootaloo cared overly much about what other ponies thought of her appearance. After all, she only had eyes for one stallion and he only had eyes for her.

As she pushed open the door to the teahouse and stepped into its cool confines, she felt his presence before she saw him. Dawn Lightwing deftly maneuvered between the tables, trays balanced across the top of his outstretched wings as he moved from one table to the next, depositing his burdens and then turning to attend to the needs of another customer, moving as gracefully as a gentle breeze winding through a forest. As Scootaloo took her seat, her eyes followed the flowing silver stream of Dawn's tail as it disappeared into the kitchen. When he returned, he was carrying another set of trays for delivery.

The years had been kind to Dawn too. He'd grown fully into a lean, muscular body, fully visible beneath the ebony of his coat. He wore his silver mane a good bit shorter than he used to. His bangs were trimmed back, putting his unique, vivid turquoise eyes on display. Those catlike, slit-shaped pupils were still there. Some ponies who didn't know Dawn still found them unsettling, but the only shivers they gave Scootaloo were the happy kind. The smile on Dawn's face was warm and genuine, a sharp contrast to the dour, stoic look he'd worn as a foal. She certainly seen a few mares around town giving the young stallion appreciative looks, the kind that would have made her incredibly nervous and possessive had she not already known that Dawn's heart belonged to her.

As she had come in, Scootaloo felt her own awareness, carried on the wind, brush up against Dawn's own, the breezes the two of them generated entwining and mingling in a silent greeting. Thus, even though most ponies would have probably assumed Dawn hadn't noticed her arrival, they would have been proven wrong when he drifted past her table, not even pausing as he slid a tray with its pot, cup, and hourglass timer, off his wing and onto the table. Her favorite tea was already in the pot, brewing. She caught Dawn's eye and they exchanged smiles before he moved on to the next customer.

When all the sand in the hourglass had drained down into the bottom, Scootaloo removed the basket of tea leaves from her pot and poured herself a cup, her primaries deftly manipulating the pot with ease, a skill both she and Dawn had learned quite well over the years. Taking the cup in hoof and steadying it with her feathers, Scootaloo took a long sip and sighed, letting the aroma of the tea, mixed with various spices, rise up into her nose through the roof of her mouth. The flavor was perfect, the tea at just the right temperature and steeped for the perfect amount of time. This was one of the highlights of her day. Seeing her coltfriend at work was a bonus.

The next time she saw Dawn, he was settling onto a cushion next to her. "How was work?" he asked softly after they exchanged a quick kiss.

"Tough, but good, as usual," said Scootaloo. "Cloud Kicker says I should be almost ready to take the certification exam."

"Excellent," said Dawn. "Are you still coming over for dinner tonight?"

"Wouldn't miss it," replied Scootaloo. Caramel's cooking was not a thing to be missed after all, especially since Scootaloo's mother was having another "date night."

"In other news, I got a letter from Rumble," said Dawn.

Scootaloo's eyes widened and she blinked. "Really? That's kinda weird. I just got a letter from Sweetie."

"Do you think they're colluding to send their letters to us simultaneously?" asked Dawn, raising an eyebrow.

The two of them considered it for a moment before bursting out simultaneously. "Nah."

Chuckling, Dawn kissed her cheek. "We can talk about it some more when we leave for training."

"I look forward to it," said Scootaloo, fluttering her eyelashes at him.

Dawn returned to his work and Scootaloo returned to enjoying her tea. As she did, she let her eyes sweep around the teahouse. Built from dark wood, stained an even darker color, the place had a comfortably cozy feel to it. Right now, the lamps that normally lit the place were extinguished, as the shutters had been opened to let in the afternoon sunlight and breeze. The wide open windows afforded Scootaloo a wonderful view of Ponyville. The day was almost perfect.

Sighing contentedly, Scootaloo settled back to enjoy her tea.

The skies above the quarry were awash with noise. Rushing sounds and loud cracks filled the air as an orange and purple blur collided with a black and silver one. Scootaloo and Dawn came together, sweeping their wings towards one another, directing powerful gusts of air at each other as they simultaneously defended. The space between them seemed to warp and bend as the density of the air increased to such a degree that it bent the light passing through it before it exploded outwards, pushing the two of them away from each other.

The backwash from their colliding attacks was much less threatening than the directed force of an actual attack. Scootaloo and Dawn easily rode out the powerful gusts of wind sweeping through the skies, spinning about to take their next position. As she dipped one wing down and swept it towards Dawn, Scootaloo's feathers began to crackle and pop, arcs of electricity jumping between them before she snapped her wing up, pointing her outermost primary at Dawn. A bolt of lightning leapt out from her extended feather, spearing through the air at Dawn.

Dawn didn't even blink. He'd already been extending his own wing to match Scootaloo's movement. His skill at reading the wind in order to sense his opponent's position and movements, even when he couldn't see them, had already allowed him to deduce the nature of her next attack. Rather than prepare lightning of his own, Dawn simply interposed his wing between him and Scootaloo, positioning it so that the lightning would immediately jump into it when it came. When it did, Dawn let the crackling power flow through him. He guided it down his wing, across his back and up the other wing, using his own movements to add to its power as he snapped the wing out and redirected it straight back at Scootaloo. The return strike was easily twice as powerful as Scootaloo's own effort.

Scootaloo caught the returning lightning bolt across the feathers of the wing opposite the one she had just used to launch the original bolt. She directed the energy to collect and circulate among her feathers there, almost seeming to cradle the cycling energy as she caught Dawn's counterattack, concentrating the power and melding it with the air her wing was drawing in until the electrical power changed the very quality of the air itself, forming into a rapidly rotating sphere of plasma that Scootaloo now volleyed directly back at Dawn.

Rather than try to catch the incoming plasma, Dawn rushed forward, kicking back with all four of his legs, pushing off the air itself with his hooves. In the same motion, he swept his wings in tight arcs from the front of his body to the back, dividing the air and shifting it to lower his resistance as he moved. As a consequence, his body seemed to vanish in a blur as he rushed forward, the path of his flight taking him directly at the orb of plasma. As he was about to barrel right into it, Dawn tilted his body, extending one wing and spreading the feathers, holding it as though it were a wide blade. Slashing his feathers though the air, Dawn created a crescent shaped blade of vacuum formed between layers of air that split the sphere of plasma in two, parting it so that his body could slip between the two halves. Rushing past them, Dawn continued his forward charge even as the two halves of the plasma exploded behind him.

He came right at Scootaloo, once again holding his wing to slash at her with his wind blade. Scootaloo ducked under the first slash, spinning her body around so that she could return Dawn's blow in kind, aiming her own blade at his legs. Dawn kicked down with his hooves, darting sharply upward, his ears picking up the faint whistling noise of Scootaloo's vacuum blade as it passed just beneath his hooves. Rolling onto his side, Dawn swung his wing again, directing another slash straight down. However, Scootaloo had used the momentum of her own attack to move herself out of the way.

The two of them danced through the skies, sometimes moving apart from one another to attack from a distance, oftentimes coming in so close that their forms blurred to the point that it would have been all but impossible for a casual observer to pick out one from the other. Though they exchanged blows with a ferocity that battered the landscape below them, leaving mounds of crushed stone and boulders cleaved cleanly in two, neither of them drew a speck of blood from the other.

Though they clashed fiercely and rapidly, their exchange never left the boundaries laid out by the old, abandoned quarry that had served as their training ground for so many years. At this point, it scarcely resembled the place it had once been before it had been abandoned. Dawn and Scootaloo's constant training with gusts of wind that could shatter and crush stone drew furrows through the earth, then smoothed them out again over the course of days upon days of constant training. At times, their efforts had even unearthed the abandoned tunnels that had once been used by the diamond dogs that had infested the quarry well before either of them had started training before collapsing those tunnels again.

Finally, Dawn and Scootaloo collided in the skies once again, sweeping their wings out in broad arcs, twisting to put the force of their bodies into the motion, creating a pair of tornados spinning in opposite directions that slammed into each other the instant they formed. The two tornados slammed together and then exploded outward, throwing boulders, branches, and tree trunks through the air, scattering them across the landscape all over again. The powerful winds dissipated, leaving two winded pegasi hovering where they had been spinning only seconds before.

The two of them settled onto the ground, panting for breath. Sweat streamed down their sides, matting their fur and binding the strands of their manes into wide strips. Scootaloo's legs shook as they took her weight and her wings relaxed. In front of her, Dawn was also shaking a little. He shook his head, scattering some sweat into the air and rolled his wings, stretching them to keep them from cramping up after the heavy exercise. Taking her cue from him, Scootaloo mimicked his motions.

"Good work," said Dawn, smiling approvingly.

"You too," Scootaloo complimented back, flashing Dawn a proud smile of her own as she tried to fight down the quickening beat of her heart. Every time he complimented her progress made her feel a little giddy.

She was feeling quite proud of her progress as well. In the course of the few years they'd spent training, they'd progressed from practicing the forms and then basic techniques to participating in very low-speed sparing sessions to get Scootaloo better acquainted with exchanging blows with a real opponent, as well as providing Scootaloo with practice at moderating the power of her blows in a dynamic situation. As she grew more familiar with the techniques and applying them, they had increased the speed of their sessions. At this point, the two of them were so skilled at the practice of trading blows that their motions were practically indistinguishable from a real battle to outside observers. Their friends who had come to watch their training sessions had commented as much.

However, Scootaloo knew full well that she still had a ways to go before she reached Dawn's level. For all that their sessions were moving at blistering speed with powerful blows flying every which way, Dawn was still in full control of the exchange. His movement dictated the pace of their session, how fast they moved, how hard they hit. No matter how good she got, Scootaloo couldn't shake the impression that she was always moving the way Dawn wanted her to. Every session ended with her thoroughly exercising every part of her body and feeling like she had pushed herself to the limit. Dawn might be sweating and panting now, but Scootaloo harbored no notions that he couldn't push himself harder and longer. Of course, she figured that their sessions were helping him improve as well.

All of which confused her to no end; not because Scootaloo was unsatisfied with her progress, but because of Dawn's second most notable feature after his eyes. However good Dawn was at the Gale King, however long he practiced, whatever difficult techniques he mastered...his flank remained as blank as ever. She'd heard of ponies who hadn't obtained their cutie marks until adulthood, but Dawn was the first such pony she'd ever seen. The only thing that seemed odder about him having no cutie mark at his age was Dawn's complete seeming lack of concern over it. In his place, Scootaloo was fairly certain that she would be in a near constant panic, looking continuously for her cutie mark.

Despite that, Dawn seemed to have little interest in actively seeking his cutie mark, continuing to do what he enjoyed, namely training and working at the teahouse. Strangely enough, neither of those things seemed to be where his true passions lay, so Scootaloo wondered what his cutie mark would ultimately be.

Their session over for the day, they headed to the edge of the quarry, where they kept the items they brought with them, which they kept well out of the way of the powerful winds unleashed by their sparing matches. In the packs they'd brought, they withdrew some towels and bottles of water. Scootaloo drank hers down almost immediately and turned her attention to wiping away the sweat that had accumulated over the course of their workout. Dawn wiped himself down first before drinking his water in slow sips.

"Are you going back to your place first?" he asked, glancing sidelong at Scootaloo.

"Yeah," said Scootaloo, wiping off the last of the sweat to her satisfaction. "I'm gonna take a shower before I head over. I don't want to stink up the table at dinner."

"You could always take a shower at our house," Dawn offered.

Despite the fact that it was an offer to use their shower, not share the shower with him, Scootaloo couldn't quite keep the blush from rising in her cheeks. She and Dawn certainly weren't ready for that level of intimacy yet and his offer had been made in the ordinary spirit of saving her the trip to her own home. That knowledge didn't exactly keep her from getting ideas though.

"No thanks," she said, fighting down her blush. "You know the little squirt is gonna want to glomp me when she sees me. I don't want to get my stinky sweat on her."

"You don't stink to me," said Dawn. As if to prove his point, he began to nuzzle her neck at the base of her mane, pretending to take in her scent.

Scootaloo couldn't quite keep the snort from escaping her nose and she giggled. "That was so lame. You have got to be the sappiest coltfriend ever."

"But still yours," prodded Dawn.

"Yeah," said Scootaloo, stepping back so that they were face to face. "Still mine." She kissed him on the lips. "I'll see you in half an hour."

"I'll be waiting."

With that, they went their separate ways, Dawn heading for the cottage he shared with his family, while Scootaloo headed for her own home, the beautiful cloud house that hovered above Ponyville. Once upon a time, it had belonged to none other than her idol and honorary big sister, Rainbow Dash. But when Rainbow had left Ponyville to officially join the Wonderbolts, she had gifted the house to Scootaloo. Until just last year, it had been held in trust by Scootaloo's mother. But, when she had officially come of age, Scootaloo had finally moved into Rainbow's former home.

With a happy sigh, Scootaloo landed on the front porch and headed in to deposit her things and take a shower.

Less than a half an hour later, Scootaloo was landing in front of the picturesque cottage that looked as though it had come out of the pages of a country-living magazine. A path from the gate meandered through the front yard, transitioning into a bridge where it intersected a shallow brook that ran through the property, the sound of water running over the rocks below adding to the peaceful ambience of the place. The property was occupied by a variety of constructs. Birdhouses jutted up on posts like weirdly-shaped sunflowers. Others dangled from nearby trees like ripe fruit. Numerous dens, pens, and hutches of every shape and size dotted the ground around the house, some of them actually being built into the structure of the cottage itself. From those small abodes came the various squeaks an calls of the menagerie of animals that called the place home.

Scootaloo was used to those sounds and barely heeded them as she walked up the path to the house. She had gotten so used to visiting Dawn's home that she'd learned to note whenever something was unusual about the animals' behavior, which generally meant that something was up. When one was this close to the edge of the Everfree Forest, one learned to pay attention when something strange was afoot. However, all she could hear were their normal noises.

Knocking on the door, Scootaloo perked up her ears and grinned as they picked up the sound of tiny hooves dancing against the floorboards on the other side. Bracing herself, Scootaloo stood ready as the door slowly opened. A brown blur rushed out through the open door and the tiny filly tackled Scootaloo with a surprising amount of force, considering her size.

"Sista Scoot! Sista Scoot!" squealed the filly as Scootaloo rocked back on her haunches and wrapped her arms around the little bundle of joy in a hug.

"Hey there, Li’l Sprout," said Scootaloo, ducking to nuzzle the excited filly as she spoke. "How's my favorite little sis?"

"Happy as ever," commented the pony who opened the door and was now watching as Scootaloo and the filly cuddled. "She's been so excited ever since she heard you were coming." She was tall and slender for a pegasus, her coat a warm, butter-yellow, which was nicely complemented by her flowing, pink mane that draped down the sides of her neck and framed her face, including a pair of teal eyes that practically radiated kindness and affection.

For a mare already raising her second foal from infancy, Fluttershy looked surprisingly at ease. If anything, she seemed even more settled and serene than she had been since Scootaloo had first met her. While she had adopted Dawn, his already being well past the infant stage and very mature for his age meant she had been able to skip many of the associated headaches that usually came with being a mother. She had weathered her pregnancies more gracefully than any other mare Scootaloo had ever known (not that Scootaloo had actually met all that many pregnant mares). Despite the years and the strain of not one, but two pregnancies, the only wrinkles Fluttershy had accumulated were at the corners of her mouth and eyes.

"Hi Fluttershy," said Scootaloo, meeting the eyes of Dawn's adoptive mother with a warm, affectionate smile. "I take it she's been a hoofful all day. I know she gets like that when she's excited."

Giggling coyly, Fluttershy nodded. "Oh yes," she agreed. "She was running all around the house. I think poor Angel Jr. was at his wits' end."

Secretly, Scootaloo refrained from feeling any sympathy for the rabbit. Angel Jr. was every bit the the annoying and demanding little white ball of fluff his father and namesake had been. The thought of him harried and distraught from the task of helping to look after a little filly he didn't dare mistreat for fear of offending his caretaker gave Scootaloo a little bit of satisfaction.

Still, she put on an expression of mock-sternness and hefted the filly in her hooves so that they could look eye to eye. "And what do you have to say for yourself, Li’l Sprout?" she asked, keeping her voice low and even, but a slight smile on her face. "Have you been giving your mama problems?"

"But Sista Scoot here!" exclaimed the filly, wriggling excitedly in Scootaloo's grasp, reaching out for the young mare with her little hooves. "I wanna fly!"

"You wanna fly, huh?" asked Scootaloo, raising an eyebrow. "I only fly good little fillies who don't give their mamas trouble. It sounds to me like you were a little bundle of trouble today. If I fly you, will you be good for your mama?"

"I be good!" squealed the filly almost immediately.

"Hmm..." said Scootaloo in a mock-serious tone, pursing her lips as she rolled her eyes upward thoughtfully, "I'm not suuuuuuure..."

"Pwease!" exclaimed the filly, looking at Scootaloo with blue eyes that practically sparkled and a pleading look that was so adorably heart-stopping that it should have been classified as a deadly weapon, "Pwease fly me! I be good!"

"Cross your heart and hope to fly?" asked Scootaloo, setting the filly down.

Even at such a young age, the little one knew the motions of the Pinkie Promise by heart and faithfully went through them with cutest expression of sobriety a foal her age could manage before grinning eagerly up at Scootaloo. "I pwomise! Fly now!"

"What's the magic word?" asked Scootaloo, returning the grin.


"Okay," said Scootaloo with a sigh. "What about your big bro? Is he gonna help?"

"Big Bro is a little busy looking after Little Bro," said Dawn as he sidled up next to his mother. He wore a white sling over one shoulder, which wrapped around his barrel and under his wing before coming back up from the other side. Inside the sling was a small bundle, from which Scootaloo could see the barest hint of a light-green muzzle, accompanied by the faintest wisps of a darker-green mane.

"Hey," said Scootaloo. "How's the little guy?"

"Sleeping like a log," replied Dawn, smiling fondly down at the bundle. "He'll wake up as soon as he smells Dad's cooking though."

"I guess that means it's flying time," said Scootaloo, turning her eyes to the little filly. "Are ya ready, Larksong?"

"Yay!" squealed the filly, though Scootaloo noted she kept the volume down to nearly a whisper out of consideration for her napping brother.

"Right, let's go then," said Scootaloo, leading Larksong out into an open space in the yard.

In many ways, little Larksong was practically the spitting image of her mother. Already, she was showing signs that she'd fully inherited Fluttershy's slender build and flowing mane. However, her colors clearly drew more from her father's side of the family. Her coat was a pale-brown, her mane a deep, rich auburn, and she also sported her father's cerulean eyes. Her voice, though still slightly squeaky, had a light, clear quality that made her a joy to listen to. Even her wailing and crying as an infant had been some of the most musical sounds Scootaloo could remember hearing. She had no doubt that, when Larksong grew up, she would be a gifted singer with looks that would make stallions and mares fall for her right and left. Who knows, maybe her cutie mark will be singing related.

Already knowing how things went, Larksong clambered up onto Scootaloo's back and settled right between the young mare's wings and spread her own wings as wide as they could go. Scootaloo fanned her own wings and shifted them upwards ever so slightly, letting her magic flow out with the tiny motion, generating a firm, but gentle updraft that caught Larksong's wings and lifted her clear of Scootaloo's back. Larksong shrieked with joy as Scootaloo's wind lifted her higher in the air until the filly was hovering a good twenty feet up, suspended on the continuous stream of air Scootaloo was directing upwards.

Fluttershy looked on with a happy smile, not at all the look one would expect from a mother who was watching her still flightless foal hanging in midair, drifting like a dandelion seed. She had complete trust in Scootaloo's skill at keeping Larksong aloft and catching her if the filly fell. Both Dawn and Scootaloo had trained very carefully to perfect the trick so that they could easily lift Larksong without the risk of hurting her. Even the height served its purpose, as it gave Scootaloo ample time to react and catch her in the unlikely event that Larksong did fall.

According to the doctor, it was even healthy. The activity helped Larksong to exercise her wings and develop the muscles in the wings and shoulders that would someday help propel her in flight. It also apparently helped attune her to her pegasus magic by feeling the flow of another pony's pegasus magic through the air. Finally, it helped the filly grow accustomed to heights, apparently something of an issue some pegasi from ground-bound families had to deal with. Though she had showed the usual bursts of uncontrolled flight in the months shortly after her birth, Larksong clearly would not be a prodigy of flight as Rainbow Dash and Rumble had been. But exercising her wings like this would help her to be better than average when she finally did start flying for real...though the doctor might have balked had he known just how high they regularly lifted Larksong into the air.

Fluttershy watched Scootaloo "fly" Larksong a few minutes before her nose picked up the faint aroma of Caramel's cooking drifting out of the kitchen.

Turning to Dawn, she held out her hooves. "Let me take him. Peppy will be waking up soon."

With a soft chuckle, Dawn shrugged off the sling and hoofed little Pepita over to his mother, helping her work the sling over her shoulder. As he did so, they both heard the faint sounds of the infant colt stirring from his rest. Apparently, Pepita smelled his father's cooking too. Though still only a few months old, Pepita had a very strong sense of smell and taste and, more importantly, he thoroughly enjoyed the smell of Caramel's cooking. Whenever Caramel started cooking nearby, Pepita wanted to be there to watch and would start crying if he couldn't. From the look in his eyes whenever Fluttershy held him up to watch his father in the kitchen, Pepita apparently found the act of cooking to be utterly fascinating.

Relieved of his little burden, Dawn turned to Scootaloo and Larksong. Beating his wings, he took off and flew towards his little sister. Stretching out his arms, Dawn caught her and snatched her out of the sky, drawing a surprised shout from the filly before he rolled over and tossed her upwards, using a pump of his wings to direct the air up and lift her even higher as Larksong spread her wings out to catch the updraft, laughing gayly the whole while.

Grinning like Pinkie Pie in full party-planning-mode, Scootaloo took off and joined them, taking her turn to catch Larksong and toss her even higher. Working in tandem, both she and Dawn juggled the little filly, who made a game of snapping out her wings as soon as she was released to best catch the breezes Dawn and Scootaloo created, leaning her body slightly to glide in the direction of whoever's turn it was to catch and toss her next.

The game continued for nearly an hour until Fluttershy came trotting out to call them in for dinner. Dawn quickly caught Larksong and held onto her as he and Scootaloo came in for a landing. Little Larksong was panting from laughing and yelling so hard, clearly enjoying her time in the air. Maybe she'll be a Wonderbolt, thought Scootaloo with a wry grin. It was a possibility, albeit a minor one. She wasn't sure if Larksong enjoyed flying for flying's sake or if she enjoyed it because it was her favorite game with her older brother and sister.

They trotted in for the meal, Larksong riding on Dawn's back and affectionately nuzzling his mane with small giggles. The little filly absolutely adored her older brother and he returned the feeling with a vengeance. In fact, Scootaloo was certain that the main reason Larksong's birth and infancy had been so easy on Fluttershy was the fact that Dawn had been smitten with the filly as soon as he'd laid eyes on her and had gladly taken on more than his share of all the burdens associated with her raising. He did them well too...much to Scootaloo's surprise the first time she'd seen Dawn smoothly and effortlessly change Larksong's diapers as though he'd practiced the task countless times (which, in fact, he had).

When Dawn had first learned that he was about to have a younger sibling, he'd actually gone and pulled a Twilight by checking out a stack of books from the library about raising foals, including a step-by-step manual on proper diaper changing (even Twilight had thought he was going a bit overboard). His friends had joked that, with all the preparation Dawn was doing for helping to raise the foal, he might as well have been Larksong's father.

Thus, with three ponies competently sharing the burden of raising the filly, it was no wonder that Fluttershy and Caramel had decided to try for another so soon. Pepita was quite a different infant from his older sister. Where Larksong had been a shouter and a screamer from birth, Pepita was quiet and, when he was awake, observant. The little earth pony cried occasionally, but it was a soft sound and he was quite easily calmed by any of the three adults in the household...unless Caramel was cooking, in which case, the only thing that would satisfy the infant colt was watching his father work.

He'll be a daddy's boy for sure, thought Scootaloo with a giggle and a smirk as they filed into the kitchen. Pepita was already seated at his high chair at the kitchen table, positioned to give him the best view possible of the counter and his father as Caramel worked, his teal eyes attentively following Caramel's every move as the tan stallion brought food to the table. Unfortunately, little Pepita was not ready for real food just yet, still mostly drinking from the bottle or from Fluttershy. Still, Caramel always made sure that Pepita could watch him mix the formula before bringing it to him, something that the little guy always seemed to like.

In a few minutes, they had situated Larksong in her own high chair and gotten all the dishes to the table. Settling next to Dawn, Scootaloo prepared to tuck into the impressive spread.

"So," she said, "you got a letter from Rumble?"

"You got one from Sweetie," Dawn prompted. "Trade you?"


"Rumble says they're working him hard," said Dawn with a shrug, "He's just interning at the Ministry of Welfare right now, so he's mostly doing gofer work, though Softhoof is letting him accompany an agent on an inspection whenever she can afford to send him."

"That makes sense," said Scootaloo.

Rumble had discovered his cutie mark while helping Scootaloo and Arkenstone rescue Twilight and a friend of Rarity's from a scheming noble. During the course of that experience, he'd come to realize that the one thing that was truly important to him was helping other ponies in need, particularly those who were in dire situations. At the recommendation of Arkenstone and Storm Front, Rumble had gone on to study in the University of Canterlot course for ponies working in the welfare system. In between semesters, it seemed he was getting actual hooves-on experience interning at the ministry.

"Does he know when he'll be done?" she asked.

"I think he has another semester before he officially graduates from the program. Then he'll go into the Ministry directly from there. He worked with Softhoof to map out his career path pretty thoroughly," explained Dawn. "What about Sweetie Belle?"

"Same old same old..." said Scootaloo with a shrug, "She's causing quite a stir at the Academy and her professors are saying her thesis on the effects of magically-produced tones could revolutionize the field of auditory cognition...or something like that. She's getting almost as bad as Twilight when it comes to throwing around crazy jargon that you can't even half-understand."

"It sounds as though she's doing well at least," observed Fluttershy with a giggle.

Sweetie Belle was currently attending the Academy of Arts and Sciences on a full scholarship, the primary focus of her studies being the field of musical therapy, based on her interests in using her skill and talent for music to help ponies going through emotional trauma. It seemed that she was right at home in the Academy.

"She and Rumble are still keeping in touch, right?" asked Caramel. "I hope they're not using you two as go-betweens."

"Nah," said Scootaloo, waving a hoof. "Sweetie and Rumble are sending letters to each other every couple of weeks and they visit each other whenever they can get a chance. That's the main reason they hardly ever come back to Ponyville."

"Apparently, they're collaborating on something," said Dawn. "Rumble thinks it could really change the way the Department of Foal Protections handles abused and neglected foals."

"That sounds amazing," said Fluttershy, "What is it?"

"No idea," said Scootaloo. "They're being coy with the details."

"I'm sure they'll tell us about it when they're ready," said Caramel with a grin. Changing the subject, he asked, "So how is your apprenticeship going?"

Eagerly, Scootaloo launched into a summary of what was going on at work. Dawn had heard it all already, having been talking with Scootaloo about her work going to and from their training sessions, but this was a chance to get Fluttershy and Caramel caught up. Larksong listened attentively, despite not understanding even half of what Scootaloo was talking about. Whenever the conversation flagged and she began to lose interest, Larksong began to toy with whatever food was still on her plate. But a raised eyebrow from Scootaloo would always remind the filly of her Pinkie Promise and she would resume eating, the exchange between the two of them always putting a smile on Fluttershy's face.

When dinner was over, Dawn helped his father clean the dishes while Scootaloo helped by keeping Larksong occupied and quizzing the filly about her day. After Dawn and Caramel finished the cleanup, they adjourned to the living room. By that time, the sun had already set and both Larksong and Pepita were beginning to yawn.

"Looks like it's time for bed," observed Fluttershy as she gently rocked the infant colt in her arms.

"Don't wanna," grumbled Larksong halfheartedly. "Wanna stay up."

Scootaloo looked at her again and raised an eyebrow. "Remember your promise, Li'l Sprout."

The look made Larksong immediately switch gears from tiredly defiant to quietly contrite as her ears laid back. "Sowy," she said. "I be good."

"Good," said Scootaloo with a grin and a nod. "Tell ya what, squirt. You be good and brush your teeth and get ready and Big Bro and I'll read to you. Would ya like that?"

"Daring Do?" asked Larksong her eyes wide and hopeful.

"Sure thing, Li'l Sprout," said Scootaloo with a giggle. "Now go get washed up."

"'Kay," said Larksong eagerly before heading for the bathroom.

"Come on, Dawn," said Scootaloo, gently brushing her tail against his flank as she walked past him. "You can show me which book she's on."

A few minutes later and the three of them were in Larksong's room, positioned next to Fluttershy and Caramel's room. Originally, it had been part of Fluttershy and Caramel's room. Shortly after Larksong had been born, they'd realized that she would need her own room eventually. However, Dawn already had the room downstairs, which had been a storage room before Fluttershy had repurposed it after adopting him. So Caramel had built a partition in their room, along with a door, giving Larksong a room of her own, now that she was old enough. Hopefully, by the time Pepita was old enough to need his own room, Dawn would have moved out.

Scootaloo and Dawn settled Larksong between them, draping the filly with a tent of their wings as Scootaloo read from the Daring Do book that Larksong was currently working through, using a feather to help Larksong follow along. They read for nearly and hour before Larksong's eyelids closed all the way and she fell asleep between them. Scootaloo marked the place she'd left off and she helped Dawn tuck Larksong in before turning out the lights and heading back downstairs.

Fluttershy had already settled Pepita into his crib for the night. She and Caramel were in the living room, cuddling together on the couch. Dawn and Scootaloo joined them, the four of them basking in the quiet of the evening, now that the foals were in bed.

"Thank you so much for being such a good big sister," said Fluttershy. "She really loves you."

"Well, I can't help but love her," said Scootaloo with a giggle. "She's hard not to love."

"Very true," agreed Fluttershy. "But I'm glad that you help her with her behavior. She does get very excitable at times. You do a lot to help her keep calm."

"It's the least I can do," said Scootaloo. "We don't want her growing up to be a spoiled little filly, now do we."

Fluttershy shook her head. "I could do without that, thank you. Fortunately, I don't think we'll need to worry. You and Dawn take such good care of her."

They chatted a little while longer as the night darkened outside. Finally, Scootaloo decided it was time to head home. She had to go back to work in the morning and Dawn had his own job. Dawn volunteered to escort her back home. Though she could easily handle herself, Scootaloo never declined. It gave them a little bit more time together before they had to part for the night.

The flight was short, ending with the two of them on the front porch of her cloud house. Scootaloo and Dawn kissed and held each other for a few minutes, neither of them speaking to the other. No words were needed really. Finally, it was time for Dawn to head back. Watching him fly off into the distance, Scootaloo stifled a yawn. When she couldn't see him any longer, she went inside and got ready for bed, falling asleep beneath the cumulous comforter with a blissful smile on her face.

Life couldn't get much better than this.

Author's Note:

And here we are...the first chapter of the last chapter of my epic series. Dawn has two younger siblings now and they're both as dangerously adorable as any foals of Fluttershy would naturally be. I've been excited about being able to introduce you folks to Larksong and Pepita for a while now. I hope that you find them as cute as I do.

Next chapter: This story briefly becomes an episode of the X-Files.

As a reminder, be sure to visit and help edit the TV Tropes page for this series. The summary is longer than the list of tropes, so I'm hoping we can work some wiki-magic on it. I'd edit it myself, but it seems kinda like cheating.