• Published 25th Sep 2012
  • 5,646 Views, 123 Comments

Sororal Instincts. - Reptilicus

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The pale princess of a palace, cracked.

"Well, you're certainly looking well."

Dr.Gladys was holding Scootaloo up in her hooves, observing the impatient foal as she squirmed trying to free herself, kicking her small legs and flapping her tiny wings and looking very annoyed. The doctor smiled and placed the small pony on the metal scale she had brought with her. It didn't appear much different from the scales used to weigh vegetables and fruit, but it was accurate and it worked well enough. Ninety-eight pounds, still underweight for someone of her age and breed, but far better than the state she'd found the foal in previously.

"I'm bored." Scootaloo grumbled as she crossed her forelegs and pouted angrily.

Gladys couldn't help but smile at the energy the filly was displaying. Despite her dislike of the checkup, she seemed to have recovered almost entirely from the health scare almost a week prior. Going from a near comatose state to a small hellion who refused to sit still for anything. The doctor reached into her rucksack and produced a small wooden medicine box, and next a silver key. Placing the key in her teeth, she inserted it into the small brass lock and tilted her head. A loud click signaled the box was open and the wooden doors that adorned the front swung open, revealing an inside full of small drawers, shelves, and hooks. Various elixirs, powders, dried herbs, syrups, tinctures, catlins, scalpels, forceps, and needles dangled, clinked, and clanked inside the box as its doors swung open. Scootaloo, Dash, and Pinkie all swallowed nervously at the sharp implements.

"What's that stuff?" Pinkie asked, her eyes resting on a particularly large needle as she went pale.

"Oh, just my tools. I had a good feeling I might need some antibiotics, so I brought a bit of everything."

Gladys gently grasped one of the smaller needles and removed the sterilized cap off the end of the syringe, exposing the thin sharp metal shaft. She plunged it into a bottle labeled 'clarithromycin' that was full of a murky green substance. Pulling back the plunger on the syringe until about an inch of it was full, then pulling it from the bottle. She tapped it lightly with her hoof, making sure any excess fluid and bubbles had dripped off. She smiled and turned to Scootaloo.

"After this, I think you'll feel a great deal better."

Scootaloo shrunk back, away from the large shiny needle, arching her back and flaring her wings out defensively. A small fearful whinny emanated from her throat as she continued walking away from the doctor. That needle was huge, and she was not going to let it stab her without a fight. Even if it was a doctor doing it.

"I don't want any!"

Gladys grinned slightly, adjusted her spectacles and turned with a knowing expression towards Rainbow Dash who was still cautiously roving her eyes over all the vials and test tubes of foreign substances that had sprung out of the medicine box. Dash was no fan of doctors either, though she'd been in enough mid-air collisions to have grown used to the procedures over the years. Didn't make it any less creepy, though.

"Ah-hem." Gladys coughed at Dash who lifted her head, perplexed. Gladys smiled and nodded, then tilted her head in the direction of the small orange filly who at the moment had crammed herself as hard as she could into the corner of the kitchen, flapping her wings and putting as much space between herself and the syringe as she could. Dash couldn't help but chuckle.

"Scoot, get over here and take your medicine. Then we can get out of this stuffy old bakery and do something fun!"

Obediently, Scootaloo cautiously walked towards the doctor, trembling slightly. It wasn't uncommon for children and even adults to be afraid of needles, and Gladys knew this was pretty run-of-the-mill. But the wise medical professional also knew the most painful part of getting a shot was the nerves leading up to it. In reality, a needle to the arm or leg was an almost painless process, provided the pony wielding the device knew how to be gentle.

"I promise it won't hurt. You can close your eyes if you want."

The orange filly lowered her body to the floor and covered her eyes with her hooves, not wanting to see the approaching needle as it gently made its way towards her. True to the doctor's word, it did not hurt. In fact by the time Scootaloo had opened her eyes, Gladys had already closed up her medicine box, packed it away and was accepting a few bits from Rainbow Dash before she exited through the door.

"See that wasn't so bad, was it?" Dash quipped as she picked up and cuddled Scootaloo who was still looking around her body trying to figure out where the needle had entered. "Believe me, I've been through FAR worse things, Scoot. What you went through here is nothin' compared to fracturing a wing bone or getting a plume feather yanked out. I've had needles twice as long as that go right into my bones. I still have nightmares!"

The three ponies walked out the door into the snow. It was Scootaloo's first time outside in quite a few days, and she was overjoyed to be able to see the sun and clouds again. Pinkie trotted happily down the road towards her favorite spot during winter: the frozen lake near Fluttershy's cottage. Rainbow followed behind, keeping an eye on Scootaloo as the small pony ran crazily around in the snow, unable to contain her excitement of being free from the cinnamon-crusted prison cell of food known as the bakery.

Their day was spent in an icy glade. Pinkie was ice skating around the frozen lake, performing small spins and flips as she made her way along. It was a very elegant sort of thing, for her. Her friends had always thought she could be a professional skater if she'd wanted to, but Pinkie had never pursued it. It wasn't her dream, no matter how good she may have been at it. But the display she put on was dazzling enough to draw a small crowd of onlookers to stomped the ground to applaud whenever she pulled off a new move. If anyone ever doubted the pink mare was an athlete in her own way, they needed only to see her on the ice for but a moment.

On the other hand, Rainbow Dash had managed to find a tin garbage can lid, and with a few power kicks of her hind legs, flattened it enough so it could serve as a makeshift sled for Scootaloo. She sat on a bench next to a mint-green pony who sat propped up on her back legs, calmly watching the filly climb upwards with her new 'sled'. Rainbow kept a close eye on her small friend as she slid giggling down the hill, and then would proceed to run back up it, dragging the 'sled' behind her, quickly hopping on top and sliding down the incline again.

After some time had passed, Applejack and Applebloom appeared with their own sleds and soon Rainbow herself joined in. The four spent hours racing each other down the hill, with Applejack accusing Rainbow of cheating whenever the mare used her blue wings to push herself down the hill even faster. As the sun began to set, Pinkie wearily dragged herself away from the lake and sat exhausted onto the bench watching Rainbow and Scootaloo sledding. She smiled as she watched them.

The two had grown so close. Every night Rainbow would delicately place Scootaloo into the bed she'd made for her out of pillows and cloth, then Dash herself would stumble into her own larger pillow bed to try and fall asleep. And like clockwork every night, the little orange filly would make a frightened cry, wake up, climb over the pillows and snuggle into Dash under her wing, like a foal with it's mother. Pinkie loved watching it happen and found it difficult not to squeal "awwww!" each time. It reminded her how the Cake twins would sometimes climb out of their crib and invade their parents room at night, just to be with them. Just to feel safe.

At that moment a large dark grey pegasus descended from the sky, landing near the four ponies at the bottom of the hill. Small snowflakes were stuck in his silver mohawk of a mane. He grinned broadly as he stepped towards them, folding his black feathered wings. He was a frightening but impressive sight. Tall and sinewy with a devilish grin to match his bright mane and tail. Applebloom and Scootaloo hid behind their older companions.

"Helloooo oh Captain my Captain!" he said with a wink.

"Oh hey Thunderlane. What are you doing down here in Ponyville?" Rainbow asked, not even looking up from the sled she was cleaning off.

"Me and the rest of the weather team were wondering how you were enjoying your vacation amongst all the earth-ponies. Speaking of, I do not believe we've met?" He said turning to Applejack.

"Oh howdy! Uh, well, I'm Applejack. And this here is Applebloom." she motioned to the small yellow pony hiding behind her who waved shyly.

"The Applejack? Element of Honesty? From Sweet Apple Acres?"

"Yup! That's me."

"Well well well! I was not expecting the creator of my favorite apple-based snack foods to be so beautiful." he knelt, taking Applejack's hoof in his own and giving it a slight kiss, then raising his eyebrows and gazing up with the cockiest smile he could muster.

"Oh mah goodness..."

"For pete's sake Thunderlane, can you not go anywhere without flirting with someone I know?" Rainbow quickly moved between the blushing Applejack and smiling grey pegasus. "What is it you want? We're busy!"

"Oh not much, Cap'n. Just a bit of recognition, you know." He glanced around at the snowy landscape, his grin growing wider. He slyly winked at Rainbow. "Don't make me beg, your Highness."

"Ugh. Fine. You and the rest of the weather team did a really good job with the winter season. Couldn't have done it better myself. Happy, now?"

"That compliment will have to prove satisfactory for the rest of the team! They've been wondering where you vanished off to after all. You haven't been home."

"Yeah I've been staying with a friend. And I've had my hands full with this little one." Rainbow moved aside slightly, exposing Scootaloo who had been sheepishly hiding behind her back leg.

"Well hello there. Who are you?" asked Thunderlane, leaning down towards the filly.

Scootaloo narrowed her eyes briefly, studying the large grey stallion. Just as quickly she smiled.

"Hey I know you! You're Rumble's brother." she shouted eagerly.

"Ah! A fellow classmate of my better half, eh?"

"Yeah, he's really weird."

Thunderland laughed loudly at the comment. "Yes, yes he is! And now I'm off to try out this legendary cocoa I've been hearing about at Sugarcube Corner. Good day, Rainbow, Scootaloo, miss Applejack." He gave Applejack a wink.

With a flash of light and a crack of thunder, the grey stallion had sped off towards Ponyville, leaving a white vapor trail in his wake. Rainbow turned with a frown to Applejack who was smiling and waving at the departing stallion.

"Don't get any ideas, AJ. That guy is a flaky horndog."

"I can handle mahself, RD. Y'all needn't worry yerself none. Besides he's a mighty handsome feller."

Rainbow made a loud gagging noise at the notion as Pinkie Pie sauntered over from the park bench. The ponies discussed the get-together the six Elements of Harmony would be having the following day. Pinkie as usual would be in charge of music. She and Applejack would collaborate on food. It was decided that Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Spike should all attend the party as well. If just so a pre-Hearths Warming Eve party wouldn't feel complete without all family members present.

*********************************************

It was a particularly cold night when the party at Sugarcube Corner had finally begun to die down. The six elements of harmony had been happy to hang out for the first time in a while. Twilight Sparkle came with her small dragon assistant Spike, who spent the evening playing with Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo while the adults talked in another room. The Cakes eventually put the twins to bed, which made the rest check what the time was.

"Oh wow it's eleven o' clock already? Spike! Spike!" Twilight called from the den. Spike waddled into the room, with Applebloom clinging to his tail, and Tank the tortoise clinging to her tail. "Spike it's way too late for you to be up."

"Aw c'mon Twilight, I'm not even tired." he groaned.

"I know Spike but remember our deal?"

Spike sighed wearily. Twilight's deal was he could stay up as late as he liked, provided he did all of his chores in the morning. An addendum had been added that he would escort all the other kids home from the party once it had gotten too late for them to be up. He wasn't looking forward to leading Applebloom and Sweetiebelle home through the cold night air, but it was better than sitting alone in his basket bed at home, waiting impatiently for his body to fall asleep while he flipped through one of the Library's books.

"Now Spike, I am trustin' you to take care that Applebloom gets home safe!" Applejack called from the other end of the den table. "This here's a big responsibility! If anything goes wrong y'all come right back here and let us know!"

"Yes, Spike. If you get lost, send Twilight a scroll so we know to go looking for all of you." Rarity sternly lowered her red spectacles.

"C'mon guys have a little faith in me. I know this town like the back of my hand. Heck, I think I know my way around town better than Twilight does."

"Can I stay up past mah bedtime like Spike?" Applebloom asked sweetly, fluttering her eyes.

"No." replied Applejack bluntly, taking a long hard sip of her cider.

"Oh, Spike!" Fluttershy called as she flew into the air and gently landed next to the small purple dragon. "Could you please check on Angel as you head back to the library? I just want to be sure he's ok without me there."

"Sure thing, Fluttershy. Uh, does anyone else want me to run any errands before I go back to the library? Anyone? No?"

"Thank you so much, Spike!" Fluttershy cooed, patting his head. Normally the yellow softspoken pegasus had a fear of dragons that sent her into hysterics. But she, like many in the town, had a soft spot for Spike.

Spike turned and dragged his tailgaters back into the kitchen. He puffed out his chest and gazed around with a commanding eye.

"Form a line gang. I have to take you all home now and if we don't do it fast I won't be able to feed Peewee before he goes to sleep."

"Who is that? Peewee?" asked Sweetie Belle as she began to put on her toque.

"My bird. So let's head on out." Spike kicked open the front door, adjusting his green scarf as he stepped into the snow, followed shortly by Applebloom and Sweetie.

"Bye, Scootaloo! Sorry we didn't earn our cutie marks for eatin cupcakes tonight!" Sweetie called as she exited, waving at her friend.

"It's fine. We can try my pogo-stick idea tomorrow!" replied Scootaloo as the door shut, leaving her alone in the kitchen. Her ears went flat against her head as she yawned. Within a moment she was leaning against Tank, dozing off, her eyelids drooping downwards. Rainbow Dash entered the kitchen to see the two huddled together, nearly asleep.

"Let's get you guys to bed." she whispered as she gently picked up both of her friends, carrying them upstairs to Pinkie's room. She placed Tank and Scootaloo on her bed and gently covered them with a blanket.

"I'm not sleepy." Scootaloo slurred as she drifted off. Rainbow grinned at the tortoise and pony and quietly backed out of the room. Twilight Sparkle was standing at the foot of the stairs.

"Rainbow, I'm not sure how I should put this but Pinkie mentioned something about how Scootaloo was living here for a while. And you've put yourself in charge? I find that kind of interesting." the purple unicorn's look of concern was evident through her dark violent bangs that hung over her eyes.

"Yeah I was gonna talk to you guys about that tonight, actually."

The two ponies trotted back to the den. Rainbow's expression had turned quite serious and she cleared her throat loudly as the other four ponies stopped chattering. Rainbow sat on one of the velvet chairs surrounding the table, with Twilight to her left and Mrs.Cake to her right. She took a deep breath, thinking about the best way to start this conversation. She'd gone over it a few times in her head, but it seemed a lot more off-putting now that she was here facing all her friends. Best just to do it as bluntly as possible right?

"Scootaloo has no family." Rainbow announced quickly. She took a sip from her cider calmly. Nailed it. Subtlety, thy name is Dash.

"Wait what? WHAT!? All this time?" Twilight yelped, her jaw hanging as her pupils dilated.

"Figured as much." Applejack sighed, proceeding to curse angrily under her breath.

"Yup!" Pinkie chirped, smiling at her friend's reactions.

"Oh the poor little thing." Rarity said sadly, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.

"She's been alone for half her life." Rainbow muttered.

"Is that why she was all by herself in the woods?" asked Mrs.Cake

"I knew it." whispered Fluttershy darkly, which caused all eyes to immediately turn to her. She shrank under the gazes, hiding her face behind her extremely long pink mane that resembled the branches of a weeping willow. Rainbow coughed slightly on her cider and stared at her old schoolmate with a look of bewilderment.

"Wait, Shy. You KNEW she was an orphan?"

"Well I had a suspicion. She was always walking around the forest at all hours of the day and night, by herself. Sometimes at night she'd accidentally scare my animals. I'm sorry. I didn't want to meddle!"

"Fluttershy did you ever try talkin' to her about it?" Applejack asked.

"I....well..um....this one time I told her that if she wanted, I knew of a good shelter that would take her in. I mentioned the Sunnyside Orphanage down near Canterlot. She didn't react very well." Fluttershy went quiet.

"Well, what happened?" inquired Twilight, leaning forward as the shock wore off.

"Um... she started shouting. Well, uh maybe thats not how to describe it. It was more like screaming. She was very upset and told me she didn't want my help. And then she started screaming she was sorry for being so loud and started crying and ran away into the forest. I went after her but I couldn't find her. I didn't bother her about it after that."

The room went silent. Applejack frowned and looked up at Rainbow.

"Ah bet she's the one whose been takin' some of mah apples and carrots from storage, ain't she?"

"Yeah, AJ."

"Rainbow, you can't let her live like this. She NEEDS to go to an orphanage or maybe some sort of center for wayward foals or something."

"She's not a criminal, Applejack. She's a little kid." Rainbow could feel her cheeks growing hot as her temper rose.

"Then y'all need to treat her like one and put her somewhere they can care for her."

"I'm planning on it."

"Plannin' ain't the same as doin', Dash. Y'all have had her here for a couple weeks now!"

"If I rush, it's going to hurt her."

"It's gonna hurt more if she gets too attached to you."

"She already likes me way more than she should, AJ. I can't fix that now."

"I bet I can. I bet I could find someone right here in town who'd be willin' to take in a young'un! Someone who could keep a responsible eye on her so she doesn't get sick again. Someone more qualified than you. She'll get over it."

Pinkie instinctively reached out to hold Rainbow back. But she was too late, the chair was empty. Rarity yelled in surprise as Dash flew across the table, silverware, mugs of cider and napkins flying in every direction, shattering on the floor. Twilight attempted to grab onto the rainbow tail with her levitation spell at the last moment, but it was just a moment too late. Applejack found herself pinned to the wall by two powerful wings, with two hooves pressing down on her shoulders, staring into a cyan face twisted into pure hatred. Rainbow wheezed heavily as she clenched her teeth, large tears rolling down her face. She'd lost control of her temper but she didn't care anymore. Applejack's words sounded like a threat and Rainbow's resolve had finally snapped.

"Don't....you....DARE." she hissed, her entire powerful body shivering with rage.

"Whoa, sugarcube, whoa!" Applejack coughed out, frightened by her friend's angry strength. She raised her front hooves in a gesture of surrender. "I didn't mean it like that!"

"Please don't do this, Dash!" Fluttershy flew to Applejack's side, trying to look into her friends eyes. "She just wants to help!"

"Then she should lay off and let me handle it!" Rainbow roared as she backed away, folding her wings and feeling a sense of shame slowly trickling in.

The anger was subsiding but the tears were not. She sniffed and wiped her face as she surveyed the room. Mrs.Cake was trying to clean the shattered cider mugs off the floor. A quiet sort of disappointment hung around her as the chubby middle-aged pony cleaned the bits of beloved porcelain from the ground. She glanced at Mr.Cake who seemed almost fearful of the blue pegasus. Applejack was on the floor, recovering from having the wind knocked out of her. Rainbow's friends were all looking at her, horrified. Dash choked a bit on her words as she tried to apologize. She was acting like a monster. The evening was ruined and it was all her fault.

"I'm so sorry, AJ, everyone. I just...." she went silent for a moment. "I'm sorry Mr. and Mrs.Cake I'll clean it up. And glue the mugs back together. Please...just...here." Dash started using her hooves to collect the small shards into a pile.

"Dash." Twilight spoke gently, as she walked up to her friend. "Dash are you alright? I've never seen you act like this."

"I'm fine."

"No you most certainly are not. I know you and Applejack don't always get along but attacking her? What are you thinking? Does having someone offer to help you with Scootaloo truly bother you THAT much?" Rarity was puffing up, quite upset now that the initial shock had worn off.

"Honestly, I'm a-ok. Bit scuffed, maybe." Applejack was dusting herself off. She smiled and walked over to Rainbow's side. The cyan mare clenched her eyes and shivered, keeping her head low, preparing for curt words. But instead felt Applejack's hoof wiping away the tears still on her cheek. She felt so ashamed. Applejack was her friend, and even after all this was still showing remarkable kindness.

"Rainbow if y'all wanna handle this on yer own, then I won't say nothin'. It's pretty obvious to me you've taken a shining to that lonesome lil' filly and don't wanna break her lil' heart."

"I'm sorry." Rainbow managed to rasp, emotions overtaking her. She leaned into Applejack, shakily hugging her friend. She could still feel the scuffed fur where her hooves had struck. "Applejack, I'm sorry. Please. I'm sorry!"

"Tweren't nothin, sugarcube." the peach pony whispered, patting her upset friend's back. "Besides y'all ain't very strong in the forelegs. Applebloom hits harder than you do." Applejack gave Rainbow a friendly wink "C'mon now let's clean up this mess."

The mugs of cider were repaired swiftly with Rarity's magic. Each tiny porcelain piece cementing together in midair like a large puzzle. She had expertise at fixing small objects and repairing things that were broken. Especially when it came to materials and minerals. When she was young she had excelled at finding and maneuvering rocks and diamonds, but as an adult that power was much more refined. Twilight secretly suspected she could train Rarity to become an elemental mage, but never pressed the issue. Equestria had no need of such things anymore. The other ponies set about wiping the walls and floor of all the ruined cider.

Eventually the room was back to the way it was before and the eight ponies found themselves chattering again. All that is except Rainbow and Pinkie. Pinkie was watching Rainbow with an unreadable expression. It seemed almost like anger but not quite as strong. Rainbow hung her head slightly, unable to join in with her friends laughter. She had too much to think about. Fluttershy was the first to notice.

"Dash, are you ok? What's wrong?" Fluttershy fluttered over the table, kneeling so she could see her friend's face.

"Y'all aren't still upset from earlier right? I already forgave ya, hon. No harm done." Applejack said as she trotted over, nuzzling the top of Rainbow's head.

"Rainbow if something is wrong you should tell us, we're your friends." Twilight joined Rainbow on the large velvety chair, putting a hoof on her shoulder.

"Darling, please! I don't want this evening to end on a bad note because of a fight. You're so mopey! Do tell us what's on your mind." Rarity elegantly trotted over to her friend, placing a perfectly manicured hoof on Dash's knee.

"Is it about Scootaloo?" Mrs.Cake leaned off her chair, trying to read Dash's expression.

An expectant silence filled the den as the ponies pressed closer to Dash who glanced up. Every one of them was looking at her. Their faces so caring, so nonjudgmental. She trusted these ponies more than she trusted her own family. Or herself, for that matter. She didn't need to hide from them.

"What am I supposed to tell her." Dash whispered. "When this is all over, what am I supposed to tell Scootaloo?"

"Just tell her the truth, sugar." Applejack sat on her haunches. "If she knows you ain't trying to hurt her, that you only want what's best for her, she'll understand. She trusts you doesn't she?"

"Yeah, she does. Alot. Maybe that will be enough, to keep this from upsetting her." Dash grinned hopefully up at her friends, trying to feign confidence.

"So was that the plan all along?" Pinkie suddenly spoke. Her voice sounded low, deeper than it's usual high-pitched octave. There was a sort of grey luster in her eyes. She hadn't said a word since Dash had lost her temper earlier.

"What plan, Pinks?" asked Dash, glancing at her pink friend.

"So you were just gonna get Looloo to like having you around, huh? Treat your biggest fan like she's someone special and then get rid of her like she's stinky old garbage? Love her like she's family and then just drop her off for someone else to worry about, huh? Just like her old family did? Just a stinky old garbageLoo!"

"Pinkie, I have to give her away to someone who can take care of her."

The pink pony stuck her nose in the air and with a small "hmmph" huffily walked out of the room. Dash frowned as her friend exited. Pinkie still wanted Dash to keep Scootaloo, apparently. But Dash knew it was impossible. Children need someone who can love them, care for them, keep them safe. Someone who had the time. Dash was in charge of all the weather in Ponyville. Dash was going to be a member of the Wonderbolts one day. She was a hero, an athlete, a daredevil. A star. She was a busy mare. Too busy. Wasn't she?

The Cakes exchanged looks of worry as their eldest left the room.

The evening progressed as it had before, now with the absence of Pinkie who had retired to her room. It was the first time in the history of Ponyville that Pinkie Pie had left her own party first. Not having the pink pony around ruined what little enthusiasm the others had for conversation. One by one the other guests said their goodbyes and departed. The Cake's retired to their bedroom, though not before Rainbow apologized yet again for the evening. The two bakers felt no ill-will towards the cyan mare. They would have felt angry too, if someone had threatened the twins.

"You're much stronger than you think." Rarity had said curtly to Dash as she exited the bakery, tossing her curly hair. "And I don't mean with your muscles, dear."

Dash and Fluttershy sat together in the den watching the crackling wood in the fireplace. Old friends and schoolmates. The only two party guests who remained. Dash reminisced about how Scootaloo had lain there near the hearth, wrapped in a towel while she and Pinky sat nearby watching her and worrying for her health. How her small body had risen and fell with each labored breath. Fluttershy talked about how her pet bunny, Angel, had broken his leg a few nights prior in an attempt to jump from a bookshelf to a chair. The rabbit was currently at home with a large cast on his leg that Fluttershy had made herself. Dash grinned at the thought. Angel bunny was kind of a jerk to Fluttershy. Borderline abusive, even. The thought of him being hurt from his own stupidity tickled Dash's funny bone. But it was also touching to think about how Fluttershy was nursing the horrible rabbit back to health in her little lakeside cottage. She was such a loving, caring individual. Ready to sacrifice anything for others.

"Why couldn't it have been you, Flutters?" sighed Dash as she leaned against her old friend.

"I...what?" Fluttershy gave Dash a confused look.

"Why couldn't Scootaloo have been your biggest fan instead of me? Why couldn't it have been you who found her in the forest?"

"Haha! I can't imagine having a fan!" giggled Fluttershy.

"You'd be perfect, ya know. As a mom or big sister. You wouldn't need to give Scootaloo away. She'd have been perfectly happy living with you."

"You don't know that! I couldn't possibly care for a foal!"

"Shy, you have like a whole zoo of animals in your house that you take care of. Most of which are smarter than half the ponies I know. You'd make a great mom, I'm tellin' ya!"

"Well thank you, Rainbow."

The two sat in silence for a moment before Fluttershy turned to Dash who was staring at the ceiling.

"But you don't think you could do what I do?"

"Do what?"

"Take care of someone."

"I can barely take care of myself, Shy. I nearly punched Applejack tonight."

"You two fight too much."

"She keeps finding ways of ticking me off."

"What was it she said that bothered you so much. I've seen you mad but that was different."

"I'm just.....I'm not ready to give Scoots away, Shy. I like having the kid around. I like feeling really important to someone. I like the feeling of pride when she hides under my wing, knowing I can chase the monsters away. Knowing I won't let anyone hurt her again. I like when she smiles at me with her little face like I'm the best person in the world and not just a big crummy jerk. I like taking care of her. I want to do this on my own, at my own pace, in my own way. Without AJ's help."

"Are you sure you even WANT to give Scootaloo away."

The question hung in the air like a particularly fat flying elephant. Rainbow closed her eyes, thinking of how to answer but once again, blunt honesty won over any clever excuse she could conceive of.

"No, I'm not." Rainbow dropped her gaze from the ceiling and turned to her old friend. "And it scares me, Shy."

********************************************************

The night grew darker as Dash finally decided she was ready for bed. She stumbled slightly, the cider still affecting her nerves. Fluttershy quickly rushed to Dash's side, supporting her body as the two made their way upstairs, around the corner and down the hallway to Pinkie Pie's room. Unsurprisingly the pink mare had heard them approach and opened the door and walked into the hallway. She walked forward quietly and gave Dash a small kiss on the forehead before speaking.

"I'm sorry about what I said earlier, Dashie. I've been a big meanie."

"It's ok, Pinks. I probably deserved it. How has Scootaloo been?"

"She knows you aren't there. She keeps waking up and looking around for you then falling back asleep."

A quiet whimper echoed out of the cracked door behind Pinkie. Dash frowned slightly looking at the floor.

"I guess that's my cue. Goodnight Fluttershy. Thanks for talking with me." muttered Dash as she stumbled into the room.

"Oh anytime, Rainbow. Have a nice sleep."

Quietly Dash made her way through the darkened room, softly laying down next to the small whimpering orange pony and old green tortoise. She extended her wing outward as Scootaloo snuggled up to her, and soon was asleep. Rainbow wrapped her wing protectively around the tiny pony and placed her head on the pillow in front of her, thinking. Her mind wandered, questioning her life, her relationships with her friends and family, and her goals. These blurred together as sleep took her.

Pinkie and Fluttershy watched from outside the room as the foal and mare slept, one tucked under the wing of the other. Fluttershy smiled happily at the sight. She'd never known Dash to even tolerate kids, but to see her so protective of one, to care for one, it was precious. Fluttershy was very proud of her friend.

"See? They need each other." Pinkie whispered.

"I can tell just from the way the room is arranged." Fluttershy said back, not needing to whisper since her voice was already so quiet. She grinned at Pinkie, who looked on confused.

"What do you mean, Fluttershy? All I see is a big pillowy mess! Not that I dislike messes, my room is always a mess."

"Well, Pinkie doesn't the shape of the mess look familiar? Like something you've seen before?"

"Well...erm. I guess it's kinda shaped like a big donut. With blankets for sprinkles."

"It's a nest."

Pinkie's eyes grew wide as she stared at Fluttershy who giggled quietly.

"It's something we pegasi do with our brood sometimes, Pinkie. It's kind of an instinct, like when turtles come out of the sea to lay their eggs. Usually the nests are made of clouds."

"So does Rainbow even realize she made a nest?"

"Rainbow? Oh goodness no! She'd be so embarrassed if we pointed it out. She probably didn't even realize she was doing it. I never thought I'd see her nesting, oh it's so wonderful."

"You pegasuseseses are really birdy, huh Flutters?"

"Uh....well I guess we are a little bit like birds."

"Do you guys lay eggs like ducks?"

Fluttershy laughed so hard she nearly tripped down the stairs.