• Published 29th Apr 2013
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Spellbound Fireflies - bats



Rainbow Dash teaches a preteen Scootaloo how to fly, strengthening their bonds, both to each other and the ponies around them. A story about love, family, and growing up.

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I: The Offer

Chapter 1
The Offer

“Well that was a bust,” Scootaloo sighed, picking twigs out of her mane. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom joined her in knocking stray bits of tree from their bodies and patting the ground-in dirt out of their coats. They lay spread out in a ditch, the shattered remains of the rickshaw pathetically strewn around them, one wheel attached to a splintered beam still spinning in the air on its crooked axle. “Guess cutie marks in driving taxis are out of the question.”

Apple Bloom grinned before grimacing and pulling a thorn out of her side. “Don’t you worry none, Scootaloo. We’re bound to find somethin’ eventually!”

Sweetie Belle bounced to her hooves. “Yeah, Scoots.” She smiled warmly at Scootaloo, drawing a grin in return. “We’ve been trying for three years and we can’t give up now!”

“I know, I just thought for sure this would be the one.”

Sweetie Belle nodded. “To be fair that rock did come out of nowhere.”

“An’ at the speeds we were goin’ there wasn’t anywhere else to go but down the hill.” Apple Bloom looked up the steep incline and cringed.

Smirking, Scootaloo wiped her forehead with a hoof. “It was a pretty awesome wipe-out, though.” Her friends giggled. “Maybe next time we should try something a little quieter. I’m gettin’ kinda worried one of these times we’re gonna end up with cutie marks for bein’ crash test dummies.”

Apple Bloom stood and stretched out her back, a quick shake dispelling a few remaining leaves and sticks. A small cloud of dust hung in the air around her body as she sighed in contentment. “Well, any other crusadin’ ideas for the day?”

Sweetie sighed, “Actually, I’m supposed to head over to Rarity’s soon. Mom and dad are on one of their trips again and my sis said somethin’ about a bonding sleep-over.” Her downcast expression brightened. “Oh yeah! I almost forgot; she asked me to invite you both!”

Apple Bloom bounced on her hooves. “AJ’ll say yes for sure! This oughtta be great!” Their excitement was interrupted by a heavy sigh from Scootaloo.

“Sorry girls, but I don’t think I can.” She cast her gaze around the ditch, her lip pouting out.

Apple Bloom winced in sympathy. “Yer foster folks givin’ ya a hard time again?”

Scootaloo bolted to her hooves, her eyes darting around to find something to focus on. “Nothin’ bad, or anything,” she said a little too quickly, “They just have a curfew now and I have to ask for permission a few days before I stay out at night.”

Sweetie Belle frowned. “What if I ask Rarity to ask for you?”

Her back a rigid line, Scootaloo stammered, “N-no, that’s okay.” She plastered a smile on her face. “You two have fun; we’ll plan somethin’ for next time, alright?”

“Well, darn,” Apple Bloom huffed. “I was lookin’ forward to a crusader’s sleep-over. Won’t be the same without ya, Scoots; we’ll haveta do somethin’ with all of us together next time for sure. How ‘bout I ask AJ if’n we can camp out on Friday in the treehouse? That way you can ask in time to come?” A small grin pulled at Scootaloo’s mouth and she nodded. “Alright then!” Apple Bloom scrambled up the steep drop back to the road, leaving her friends down by the wrecked cart. “I’m gonna gallop down ta the acres to ask my big sis. I’ll catch up with ya, Sweetie Belle!”

Scootaloo’s small smile faded as she sighed and reached out a hoof to grab onto a tree root for leverage. A soft grip caught her shoulder, turning her to face Sweetie’s eyes, shining with concern. “If you don’t wanna talk about it, it’s okay Scootaloo, but I’m always here to listen, alright?” The unicorn hugged Scootaloo around the neck.

Her smile reappeared. Tentatively, she returned the embrace. “Thanks, Sweetie. It really is okay.” She pulled out of the hug, biting her lip. “Mr. and Mrs. Taker aren’t mean to me or anything. It’s just…” Scootaloo’s eyes grew distant and her muzzle drifted back to a neutral line. Sweetie Belle was about to wave a hoof in front of Scootaloo’s face when she continued, muttering, “It’s not home.”

The unicorn raised a quizzical eyebrow. Her mouth opened before snapping shut again. She shook her head and rested a hoof on Scootaloo’s shoulder. “Well, if you ever need an ear, I’m here, okay?”

“Yeah. Thanks.” She smiled again at her friend and grabbed the tree root, pulling herself back up to the road. She turned around and gave a hoof-up to her friend and with a parting wave she headed back towards town at a steady trot. Working her way through town square in the direction of her foster home, a shadow joined her journey, matching her movements on the cobbled street. A grin stretching across her muzzle, she looked up. “Hi Rainbow Dash!”

“Hey, Squirt.” The pegasus back-flipped as she landed, matching the filly’s pace with a cocky strut. “What’s new?”

“Oh, same ol’ stuff. Crusadin’. Breakin’ things. You know me.”

Rainbow snorted through her snout, a wry smirk on her face. “Boy, do I. What was it this time?”

“A rickshaw.”

“Nice.” The daredevil craned her head to the side and a loud pop discharged from the crick in her neck. Sighing in satisfaction, she boasted, “I musta broken just as much stuff when I was your age, flying into everything.”

“I can imagine. If I could fly, I’d probably smash twice as much stuff!” she giggled, “I bet cloud things aren’t as fun to break; you don’t get splintery bits everywhere.”

Rainbow’s strut faltered, her steps losing their rhythm. “Nah, just wisps of fog and a lot of water.”

“See? This’d be an awesome place to be airborne; everything crunches.”

“Yeah.” Her chuckle had a hollow quality Scootaloo puzzled over. Rainbow slowed her pace to a stop. “Hey Scoots, got a question for ya.”

Scootaloo halted and turned to face her honorary big sister, the excited grin she always wore around the mare in full force. “Sure, what’s up?”

Rainbow Dash glanced around, a small grimace of a frown on her face. When she spoke, she kept her voice low to stop it from carrying. “I know you don’t really like talkin’ about your parents, but you lost ‘em pretty young, huh?” Scootaloo’s throat went dry. After a pause, she nodded mutely and hung her head. Rainbow Dash gave her a pained smile. “Sorry to bring it up, kid.” She closed the small gap and rested a hoof on the filly’s shoulder. “Only reason I did is because I was thinkin’ about you learnin’ to fly.” She sighed and ruffled Scootaloo’s mane. “Your foster folks are earth ponies, aren’t they?”

Scootaloo stopped boring holes into the ground with her eyes and raised her head to meet Rainbow Dash’s gaze. “Yeah.”

“…Then we’ve got a lot of work to do. If you’ll have me as a coach.”

Scootaloo’s throat worked uselessly for a moment, her wide eyes locked with her idol’s. “…You’re gonna teach me how to fly?”

“I’m not gonna lie, squirt. Most ponies start learnin’ when they’re toddlers. You’re really far behind and it’s gonna take a lot of effort for you to get where you should be. It’ll be really hard.” Her smile widened. “But I don’t think you’re a quitter. Whaddya say?”

“When do we start?”

Rainbow Dash chuckled and ruffled Scootaloo’s mane again. “Atta girl. We’ll get started tomorrow, alright?” She spread her wings and leapt into the air. “Meet me in the park when ya get outta school!” she called over her shoulder, sailing off towards the other end of town.

Scootaloo danced in place, a small squeal escaping her lips. A bounce entered her trot as she made her way back to the foster home. With the bright, well-kept center of town behind her, the houses shifted to a more understated and uniform construction. She finally arrived at the slat-constructed house at the end of the block. Her eyes were pulled, as they always were, to the patch of missing shingles on the lower left corner of the roof. It always brought a smile to her face; it was shaped like a duck.

Opening the door as gingerly as she could, Scootaloo crept into the living room, wincing at the soft whine the old floorboards made every few steps. The old creaky couch blocked the doorway to the kitchen and she made her way in front of it, aided by the faded carpet muffling her hooves. Hardly daring to breathe, she planned her stealthy advance; it was just a few feet to the stairs.

A soft voice called from the kitchen, “Scootaloo, is that you?” A shadow moved in and out of view against the bare patch of wall Scootaloo could see through the doorway. She could hear dishes and cutlery scraping against each other. Mrs. Taker did not enter the room, or even stop her work. Scootaloo expelled her held-in breath and hung her head.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Miss Cheerilee dropped by today. She said your homework is improving.”

Her voice squeaked as her expression brightened. “Really? That’s awes—”

“But it’s not an acceptable level yet.” The filly winced. Mrs. Taker never really scolded her and she didn’t sound angry now; Scootaloo thought she sounded flat, like she was dictating a letter. She hated that tone. “Complete your chores for the day, then homework. I’ll call for you when dinner is ready. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.” She trotted to the cleaning-supply cupboard in the corner of the room. As she reached for the knob, she paused. “Mrs. Taker? I was invited to camp out at the clubhouse with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle on Friday. Can I go?”

For a moment, the sounds of cutlery on a cutting board were all that broke the silence. “If you get all your chores and homework done, then yes.”

She pumped a hoof. “Great! Thank you!” The thunk of metal on wood filled the room as she pulled the cupboard open. “Let’s see,” she muttered to herself, “Wednesday means dusting…” She grabbed the feather duster in her teeth and stifled a sneeze. As she dusted the living room a bounce entered her gait, thoughts of soaring through the air next to Rainbow Dash dancing through her mind.

Rainbow Dash glided above downtown Ponyville towards Golden Oaks Library. She caught sight of the upstairs window, open as always for her, and drifted lazily through the frame. Hooves clacking down on the wood floor of the loft in Twilight’s bedroom, she cantered over to the unicorn sitting at her desk, muzzle deep in a hovering book.

“Hey Twi’,” she said, wandering over behind the unicorn. “What’s up?”

“Mm.” A page fluttered. Twilight’s head remained stock-still, her eyes darting rapidly across the book.

“So I saw Scoots today.”

“Mm.”

“…” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Twilight, if you want me to cover all your books in peanut butter an’ let Winona loose, say ‘Mm.’”

“Mm.”

Sighing in annoyance, Rainbow Dash unfurled her wings. With one quick sweep, her primaries raced across Twilight’s back. The unicorn shrieked, her magically floating book sailing across the room. She spun around, breathing heavily. Rainbow smirked. "Next time I try to talk to you, ya gonna listen?"

Jaw clenched and eye twitching, Twilight took several long, deep breaths. A lingering silence hung in the air. Rainbow took a step back, her ears lying flat. "Erm, I was just havin' fun Twi', don't be—eep." The daredevil found herself quite uncontrollably upside down, floating in a field of magenta energy. She hovered close to the glaring unicorn. "C'mon Twi', don't be—" Twilight inhaled sharply and shoved her face in Rainbow Dash’s belly. The loud, wet raspberry was nearly drowned out by her victim’s frantic cackles.

Twilight’s head shot up and she gulped in a breath, diving back into the sea of blue coat. Rainbow Dash squealed and writhed in Twilight’s magical grasp, beads of moisture springing from her tightly scrunched eyelids. Twilight’s assault broke as helpless laughter overtook her. She circled Rainbow’s middle with her hooves and slowly released her power. Strong forelegs slung around her neck as the magical glow faded and Rainbow Dash lay in her lap, curled up in a ball and wrapped in her hooves. Their chuckling gradually subsided and they grinned stupidly at each other.

“So what’d you wa—” Twilight’s question was halted abruptly when Rainbow’s grip tightened, pulling her down into a kiss. Their lips moved together and Twilight’s heart sped up, a fluttery lightness rising from the pit of her stomach and extending to the tips of her hooves. Her grip around the prone mare strengthened.

Their kiss broke and Rainbow Dash gazed up into Twilight’s shining eyes. She stroked long, straight mane with a contented smile on her lips. “How come I always end up in your hooves, instead of you in mine, Twi’?”

Twilight grinned. “You swept me off mine. Now I’ve gotta return the favor.” Rainbow leaned up and met their lips again, shifting her body weight and pushing. Twilight toppled over backwards to the floor with a small squeak, well-muscled forelimbs pinning her shoulders flat. Rainbow flashed a cocky smile down at her captive and licked the tip of Twilight’s snout.

“That’s better. You’re so cute under me.” Twilight flushed dark crimson and wriggled under Rainbow Dash’s iron grip. The pegasus’ smirk could be heard in her voice. “’Specially when you squirm.”

Sticking out her tongue, Twilight growled, “Oh knock it off.” Rainbow grinned and laid down, resting her head on the unicorn’s chest. She hugged Twilight tightly around the middle. “And get off me.”

“Oh, but you’re so comfy,” she whined. Twilight pushed against Rainbow’s shoulders, trying to squeeze her way out of the embrace like her marefriend was an ill-fitting saddle.

“I was—” a grunt of effort earned a few inches of freedom, “—in the middle of reading something…”

The pegasus lunged forward, regaining all of her lost ground and clamping back around her uncooperative cushion. “You can finish after I have a nap.”

Twilight groaned, “Rainbow…” drawing a chuckle from the daredevil, who sat up and caught Twilight’s gaze. She leaned down and kissed her marefriend again, a brief but fierce note of relent before standing up and offering Twilight a hoof. The unicorn shook her head slowly, a wide smile on her muzzle. “You’re really aggravating, you know that?”

“Only the best for my girl.”

Twilight sighed heavily, searching out the book she’d flung. She found it wedged inside a natural crease in the living walls of the tree, halfway up to the skylight. She gripped it in a haze of magic and tugged. “You make me want to both bang my head against a wall and kiss you silly. How do you do that, Rainbow Dash? It must be supernatural.” She dusted off the spine with a hoof and checked the cover for nicks.

Rainbow sidled up to her marefriend, sitting next to her and draping a wing over her back. “I’m just awesome like that.”

She smirked and leaned into Rainbow’s shoulder. “I should get my head examined for falling in love with such a frustrating mare.”

Rainbow nipped Twilight’s ear gently. “Love you too, Egghead.”

“Mmm…” She nuzzled into the mare’s neck. “So seriously, what’d you wanna talk about?”

“I saw Scoots today. I’m gonna teach her how to fly.”

“Oh, that sounds nice! She’s at the right age for that isn’t she?”

“Yeah…” Rainbow nuzzled against the top of Twilight’s head, her mouth a thin line. “She’s the right age, but she’s pretty far behind. The library has the ‘Foal Flight’ series of books, right?” Twilight nodded against her neck. “I’ll probably need to look through those again…It’s been a long time since flight school.” The unicorn’s ears flicked, picking up a low tremor nearly hidden in Rainbow’s tone.

“You’re worried about this.” Rainbow shrugged her shoulders against her. “Don’t worry, Rainbow. Scootaloo couldn’t ask for a better teacher.”

They sat in silence for a while, Twilight nestled into Rainbow’s shoulder wrapped in a wing. Rainbow’s voice was very quiet. “She’s a good kid.”

“…Anything I could do to help?”

Rainbow Dash started, her eyes sharpening from a far-away glaze. “Well…I could probably use your help planning a regimen. And I bet Scoots would like a cheering section.”

Twilight grinned and kissed her cheek. “I’d love to be there.” She stood, Rainbow following her up. “C’mon. Let’s go make some lists.”

As they cantered down the loft steps to the lower level of Twilight’s bedroom, Rainbow shook her head. “I dunno how you can say ‘make some lists’ and sound that excited.”

“Oh, hush.” Twilight flicked Rainbow’s snout with her tail.

“I love that about you.”

Twilight stopped her descent halfway down the stairs. She turned around, a small smile on her face and eyes half-lidded. “You…are the most aggravating, crazy, lovely mare in Equestria.” She met Rainbow Dash lip-first and pushed her way back up the steps. Rainbow stumbled backwards towards Twilight’s bed. Twilight leaned back long enough to whisper, “I love that about you,” before resuming their kiss.

There would be time for lists later.