• 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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II: First Day

Chapter 2
First Day

A buzzing filled the park, signaling the approach of a fast-moving scooter. Twilight’s ears flicked to follow the noise as she sat on the park bench. She snapped her book shut, floating it down into the saddlebag leaning against her. She directed her attention to Rainbow Dash, sprawled out over the other half of the bench, head resting on her lap, snoring loudly. Twilight gave her a solid prod.

“Hmn?” Rainbow snorted loudly and sat up, smacking her lips and blinking the sleep from her eyes. Twilight giggled. “Wha—whosat? Is Scoots here?”

“Almost.” The buzzing grew louder and Rainbow Dash hopped off the bench, stretching out her back with a satisfied groan. Twilight stared as intently and lewdly as possible, drawing a raised eyebrow from her marefriend. She winked slowly, making Rainbow color pink and stick out her tongue.

The little filly blurred into view and turned sharply, stopping with a screech. She pulled off her helmet and draped it over the handles. “Hi Rainbow Dash!” Her eyes flicked over to the bench. “And Twilight?” The unicorn grinned and waved.

“Twi’s gonna keep us company if that’s alright with you, Squirt.” Rainbow smiled at Twilight over her shoulder. “You gonna be alright, Twi’? This’ll probably be boring to watch.”

She gestured to her saddlebag. “I’ll be fine.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes, a wide grin on her face. “Course ya will.” She turned back to Scootaloo and trotted across the path over to a small hill. “Alright Scoots, let’s get down to business.” Scootaloo cast a quick, questioning glance towards Twilight and followed Rainbow Dash, her wings twitching at her sides. “So I’ve seen you ridin’ around on your scooter and I know you use your wings to help you go faster. That’s good; means you’ve been working those muscles and not lettin’ ‘em sit. That’ll help us get ya up in the air. Even if you hadn’t been working ‘em out we’d probably get ya flyin’, but this’ll make it easier.”

Scootaloo frowned thoughtfully. She raised an eyebrow. “Can somepony learn to fly if they never used their wings?”

Rainbow Dash regarded the filly quietly, her eyes darting fretfully side to side as she came to a decision. “...I read a news article once about a colt who had his wings tied down ‘til he was twelve that still learned how to fly.”

“Why’d he have his wings tied down?”

Rainbow winced, gazing into Scootaloo’s questioning eyes, full of confusion and curiosity. For a moment she was lost for words. Taking a deep breath, Rainbow Dash settled on the blunt, but gentle truth. Most of it, anyway. “…Some ponies shouldn’t be parents, Scoots. That colt had a pretty rough life.” Scootaloo’s eyes widened. “But the point is he made it up in the air. The ponies that did that to him tried to rob him of something. When others found out about it they found him somewhere safe with ponies who loved him. He worked his flank off and it worked; he could fly, Scoots.” She settled a hoof on the filly’s shoulder. “So when this gets tough, think of him. Think of him and remember that nothing’s impossible.”

Scootaloo bit her lip, her brow furrowing. “…What was his name?”

Rainbow Dash’s mouth set in a line. Her eyes darted quickly to the left and right again. “…I don’t remember. I’ll try an’ find that article somewhere so you can have a name to think about, alright?” Scootaloo’s expression remained remote. “…If it helps, I remember it said he had a lavender blue coat and dark yellow eyes. Just picture a colt about your age like that and think of his eyes when he was learning to fly. Not sad or scared, just determined. Like he was ready to take on a whole pack of timberwolves an’ two or three dragons with his bare hooves.”

Looking up to catch Rainbow’s gaze, Scootaloo’s eyes hardened. A smirk on her lips and brow drawn low and challenging, she nodded. Rainbow Dash’s voice caught in her throat for a moment and a grin broke across her face. “Eyes just like those.” She ruffled Scootaloo’s spiky mane, earning a playful giggle from the filly. “So before we get started, you got any questions?”

Scootaloo looked over her shoulder to examine her flared wings, wiggling them. She frowned and said, “My wings are kinda…small. I’ve tried more than a few times to get up even a little, but it’s like no matter how hard I flap nothin’ happens.” She turned back towards the mare, a frown on her muzzle. “I heard that Pound Cake gives Pinkie Pie a heck of a time foal-sitting ‘cause he can already fly. Is there maybe…something wrong with my wings?”

The daredevil threw a cocky grin and shook her head. “Pegasus wings come in all sizes, kid. Pound got lucky an’ has some whoppers, but big wings aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. He’ll be able to fly well enough and’ll be able to go long distances, but he’s never gonna be very fast or agile. Wings like mine are built for speed, and wings like yours are built for agility.”

Rainbow Dash leaned in close, dropping her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “You’ve met Snowflake before, right?” Scootaloo raised an eyebrow. “He works at the gym. Big white-coated guy with a blonde mane?” Recognition lit up her eyes and Rainbow’s wicked smirk grew. “You should check out the wings on that guy sometime. Makes you look like an albatross.” The filly giggled. “His wings get him around just fine; he’s a cadet at the Wonderbolts Academy. He isn’t gonna break any speed records, but he can make the sharpest turns I’ve ever seen. So don’t worry about your wings, kid. They’ll serve ya just fine.”

Scootaloo nodded sharply, the confident smirk back on her face. “Alright, so whadda we do first?”

Tossing her forelegs behind her, Rainbow Dash’s left wing shot down and caught her fall. Easing herself a bare inch off the ground, she pushed herself back up to eye-level with the filly. “One-winged push-ups.”

“Alright, squirt. Why don’tcha take a breather with Twilight?”

Scootaloo groaned weakly and dragged herself along the ground with her forelegs towards the bench. She pulled herself up on shaky hooves she collapsed next to the unicorn in a heap. Twilight shut her book and slid it back into her bag, offering the young pegasus a smile. “You looked great out there, Scootaloo.”

The filly pulled herself up to a sitting position and smiled weakly at Twilight. Her gaze drifted down to her hooves which she timidly tapped together.

“So how’s school going?”

“Fine,” she mumbled, eyes trained down.

“…How are Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom?”

“They’re good.”

Casting her gaze around, Twilight chewed her lip. Scootaloo continued to sheepishly tap her hooves together, shoulders rounded. Looking for something, anything to talk about, the unicorn settled on the filly’s scooter. “Your…scooter working well?”

“Mm-hmm.”

Twilight frowned thoughtfully for a moment until a light tinkling chime rung through the park. Brightening, she hopped to her hooves and cantered off towards the noise. When she came back, she had an ice cream cone floating in a glow of magic. Scootaloo’s eyes flew wide and a grin spread across her face.

“Here. Now will you stop acting like I’m about to eat your face and talk to me?” Scootaloo offered her a chagrined smile between licks. “Now what’s wrong? Did you not want me to come? I wanted to be here to cheer you on, but if it makes you feel uncomfortable…”

“N-no, it’s alright Twilight. Thanks.” She took a long slurp of her treat. “I don’t mind you being here.”

“Well, what’s with the silent treatment? You’re always so talkative with your friends.”

Scootaloo sighed, a guilty stare directed at her cone. “It’s…well, when it’s just me, most adults wanna ask about my parents.”

Twilight nodded slowly. “…I can see why you’d get tired of that and be a little nervous. Well, I promise I won’t bring it up unless it’s something you want to talk about, okay? This is about you learning how to fly, so you get to call the shots on this. Deal?”

Scootaloo smiled and nodded, slurping away at her ice cream. The filly still looked awkwardly reserved in her posture to Twilight. “Anything besides that?” Scootaloo flinched a little, raising a bewildered eyebrow. “I can tell you’re nervous. Tell me what’s wrong?”

The bookworm’s kind and understanding smile cut through Scootaloo’s nerves. Slowly scratching the back of her neck with a hoof, Scootaloo said, “Sorry…I dunno what to do around most adults. They always want me to sit still and stop fidgeting, or be quiet, or stop running around…y’know, that sorta stuff.”

Twilight smirked and pointedly darted her eyes across the sidewalk towards Rainbow Dash. The mare had started out practicing karate forms to pass the time, carefully working through choreographed kicks and strikes. At some point in her practice she had become lost in her own little world of imagination. Based on the exaggerated swings and personal sound effects she was making, Twilight guessed she was currently fighting a horde of ninjas on top of a mountain. “D’you think I’d ever tell her to sit still and stop fidgeting?”

Scootaloo broke out in a giggle. Rainbow Dash stopped mid flip-kick and quickly scrambled into a casual standing position, crossing her forelegs and eyeing the two with nervous suspicion. “…What?”

“Nothing, Rainbow!” Twilight chimed, winking at Scootaloo. The filly stifled her mirth with the last bite of her cone.

Rainbow Dash’s eyes darted back and forth and she cleared her throat. “Ready to keep goin’, Scoots?”

“You bet!” She hopped off the bench. Before crossing to the hill she turned and grinned warmly at the unicorn. “Thanks, Twilight. You’re pretty awesome.”

“You’re awesome too. Now go knock ‘em dead.” Scootaloo hurried back to the hill. Twilight grinned and pulled her book back out of the bag.

Laying on her back and hefting the small weights with her wings, Scootaloo quietly said, “I’m glad you asked Twilight to come. She’s nice.”

Rainbow glanced fondly at the mare intently reading on the bench. “That she is.”

“She gonna come all the time?”

“I’m not sure she’ll be able to come every practice, but she wants to be here when she can.” Rainbow Dash leaned in close, a slight edge of unease entering her tone. “Is that alright with you? Do you mind if she comes?”

“Sure, she can come,” Scootaloo said through grit teeth, pumping the barbells with slow and even movements. “Need someone to witness us being awesome, right?”

Rainbow Dash grinned. “Now you’re gettin’ it!” She settled on her haunches, spotting and counting reps for the resolutely working filly.

After an arduous two hours of exercise, punctuated by breaks to gulp down water and big breaths of air, Scootaloo collapsed in a sweaty and panting heap. Rainbow Dash dusted herself off and stood, a wide grin stretch across her muzzle. “You feelin’ the burn, Scoots?”

Scootaloo groaned incoherently.

“That’s the spirit. Now ya don’t wanna tear anything from workin’ too much without giving your muscles a chance to recover, so no training tomorrow. Saturday after lunch?”

Scootaloo’s moans took on an affirmative quality.

“Alright then. Time for cool-down stretches. Up on your hooves.” Rainbow cut across the filly’s protesting whines. “This is the most important part of the workout, kid. Your muscles are all warm an’ loose; stretching ‘em now means you’ll have more flexibility and range of motion. That’s really important in the air. It’s the difference between catchin’ a thermal and gettin’ thrown by a thermal. Plus, you’ll feel way better afterwards.”

Getting shakily to her hooves, Scootaloo followed along with Rainbow Dash, stretching out the muscles in her burning wings. When she was done, she sighed in relief. Folding her wings back along her sides, Scootaloo admitted Rainbow had been right; her limbs still ached but they felt loose and relaxed.

“Alright, so homework. Don’t give me that look; this is easy-peasy. Every night before you go to sleep, do fifty wing-jacks and then do those same stretches. The wing-jacks are to warm your muscles up before stretching. Don’t ever stretch on cold muscles, got it?” At a nod, Rainbow Dash continued. “It’ll hurt you before it helps. Stretchin’ every day is the most important thing you can do for this, so no skipping out. Deal?”

Scootaloo breathed out a tired, “You got it, Rainbow.”

“Alright then. You did good today, squirt. Keep it up and we’ll have you flyin’ loops in no time. I’ll catch ya Saturday.”

“Alright.” She gave her honorary big sister a tired smile. “Thanks. For helpin’ me.”

She grinned and ruffled Scootaloo’s mane fondly. “Any time, Scoots.” She turned and trotted to the park bench. “Need a lift back to the library?”

“That depends,” Twilight murmured coyly, “Are there any books you need to check out?”

“Need to check out somethin’, anyway. Now hop on, you.” Twilight giggled, slinging her saddlebag around her neck. She nimbly climbed onto Rainbow Dash’s back and the two took off, drifting lazily towards the library. Scootaloo gave them a weary wave as they left and hobbled to her scooter. Strapping on her helmet, she automatically opened her wings to push-start and nearly fell over.

“Ow…” she grimaced. Sighing, she kicked off with her hindlegs and slowly made her way through town. Grinning at the duck-shape in the shingles, Scootaloo leaned her scooter up against the wall and went into the foster house. She trudged over to the couch, collapsed face-first and groaned.

The sound of plates being set down merged with the voice emanating from the kitchen. “That you, Scootaloo?”

“Yes, Mrs. Taker.”

“Don’t forget your chores.”

The filly groaned. “I’m really tired. Rainbow Dash started teaching me to fly today. Can I get up early and do today’s chores before school tomorrow morning?”

Mrs. Taker stuck her head through the doorway, her bob-cut crimson mane framing the thoughtful frown on her straw yellow face. “Your school got the head of the weather team to teach flying? She seems too important for that.”

Scootaloo pushed herself up from the cushion. “No, Rainbow Dash said she wanted to coach me on my own.”

Her frown deepened. “Well, if this is extracurricular, it can’t get in the way of homework or chores. Or do you not want to go to that sleepover tomorrow?”

Sighing, Scootaloo dragged herself back to her hooves and cantered to the cleaning cupboard. “I’ll get my chores done, ma’am.”

“Homework, too.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Mrs. Taker returned to the kitchen. Scootaloo pulled the spray bottle and washcloth from the cupboard and slowly marched herself to the windows. She finished wiping the last pane, a small sigh of relief escaping her throat, when the front door opened. Mr. Taker stepped into the living room and set his hat on the coat hanger, running a dusky green hoof through his short-cropped salt and pepper mane.

Scootaloo recited, “Good evening, Mr. Taker,” in a drained voice, slowly trudging back to the cupboard. The stallion nodded once and cantered into the kitchen.

Mrs. Taker poked her head into the living room and said, “Dinner in an hour, Scootaloo. Homework now.” The filly nodded numbly and hoofed up the stairs. The burning pain in her wings and back had subsided to a dull throbbing, which only highlighted the tension and fatigue in the rest of her frame. She sat heavily at her desk and pulled the week’s worksheets front and center, grasping a pencil in her mouth. She blinked sluggishly and fought to focus on the math problems in front of her. She scrawled down two answers she was pretty sure were wrong when Mrs. Taker called her down to dinner.

Scootaloo made her way to the kitchen and took a seat at her small, personal table set in the corner. She ate in silence while Mr. and Mrs. Taker sat at the dining table and talked in low murmurs. The strenuous exercise suppressed Scootaloo’s appetite, but she forced herself to clean her plate; Rainbow Dash had warned her against eating too lightly and sabotaging her work-out. When she finished, she brought her dishes to the sink and washed them quickly, setting them in the drainer when she was finished and plodding from the kitchen. As she left to climb the steps, the Taker’s conversation jumped in volume. Scootaloo didn’t bother trying to listen in anymore; all she ever heard was shallow chit-chat.

Although the sun was barely halfway under the horizon, Scootaloo flopped onto her bed when she got back to her room. Just before her eyelids could drift all the way closed, they snapped open, bleary and bloodshot. “Right…” she grumbled, “Stretches…”

The pegasus pushed and pulled at her uncooperative legs, rocking back and forth on her mattress. With a grunt of effort, she thudded to the floor on her back. She whined wordlessly into her empty room. Rolling over to her stomach, she pushed herself to standing on shaky hooves. “C’mon Scootaloo, just fifty wing-jacks and some stretches. This isn’t too bad…” She opened her wings and felt sharp protests race up her spine in jolts. “Ow…”

She slowly turned her head, tentatively regarding her inviting pillow and imagining the sweet lullabies it would sing to her if she just put an ear to it. Her eyes wavered and she hung her head. “I’m just too tired,” she mumbled to herself, raising a hoof to pull back the blanket.

Dark yellow orbs, set and fierce in a sea of lavender blue, bore into her from her mind’s eye. Her head snapped back up and she firmly planted her hooves on the floor. Scootaloo set her jaw, spread her wings and began to jump. With each jump, spreading her legs out and drawing them back together, she pumped her wings up and down. She counted off to fifty through grit teeth, her violet eyes locked in a death glare with fierce, imaginary yellow ones.