Scootaloo's a changeling. How will her friends react?
Just about everypony in Ponyville knows Scootaloo. She's your normal, carefree pegasus foal who crusades for her cutie mark, zips around town on her scooter, and looks up to her idol Rainbow Dash. But what if that's not all there is to her? Scootaloo worries that her friends will find out that she's not the foal they know and love, or that she's not even a foal at all. But, when her secret does come out, their reactions might surprise her.
“This is it!” yelled Apple Bloom, hopping up and down on her hooves. “We’re all gonna get our cutie marks today!”
“Yay!” echoed Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle.
“And just think, Twilight said it wouldn't be a good idea to try it.” Scootaloo giggled. “But we’ll show her!”
“Ah know! Plus, we built it exactly accordin’ ta the book she gave us!” Apple Bloom smiled. “What could go wrong?”
‘It’ was a small catapult, constructed out of rope and wooden logs. The Cutie Mark Crusaders had been working on it for about a week, ever since Apple Bloom had found ‘Historical Siege Machines and How to Build Them’ in the library and had checked it out.
“I bet we could launch a rock clear across Ponyville!” said Scootaloo.
“Wait, rocks? I thought we weren’t doing rocks yet.” Sweetie Belle frowned.
“Right. For now, it’s just pillows an' stuff,” said Apple Bloom. “But if it works real well maybe we can help deliver mail an' packages!”
“Yeah! We could throw Rainbow Dash’s packages right up to her house!” added Scootaloo.
“And Rarity’s mail right to Carousel Boutique!” continued Sweetie Belle.
They grinned, and then in unison, they cheered, “Cutie Mark Crusader mailmares!”
“Let’s test it now!” Apple Bloom took a small pillow out of her saddlebag and bucked it onto the catapult. “Ready, Cutie Mark Crusaders?”
“Ready!” Sweetie Belle ran to the trigger on the catapult.
“Ready!” Scootaloo climbed on top of the catapult and grabbed her binoculars. “This is gonna be so cool!”
Sweetie Belle grinned and depressed the trigger.
“Huh?” Apple Bloom trotted over to the machine. “Why didn’t it work?”
“Maybe the pillow’s too heavy?” wondered Sweetie Belle.
“This things supposed to be able to throw rocks. How could a pillow be too heavy?” asked Scootaloo. “Lemme see.” The pegasus foal hopped off the top of the catapult to stand on the pillow. She peered back into the body of the device. “Oh, I think I see it. The rope’s caught on one of the nails.” She reached in. “If I tug it like this—“
“Uh, maybe you should get off the catapult first,” offered Sweetie Belle.
Apple Bloom quickly slipped the safety pin, a lock that would prevent the catapult from accidentally firing, into the device. “Relax, Sweetie. It can’t fire with the pin, remember?”
Scootaloo ignored all this and tugged. “I’m not strong enough,” she complained. “Sweetie, AB, little help?”
Apple Bloom hurried over to lend a hoof, with Sweetie Belle following, a bit more reluctantly. “Where?” Apple Bloom asked.
“Right here. Just pull this to the side, and it should be good to go.”
Apple Bloom gripped the rope in her teeth and began to tug. “Almost… Sweetie, come on. We’re almost there!”
Sweetie Belle paused, but, moved by visions of having an awesome new cutie mark, grabbed on the rope and pulled.
It shifted to the side with a sudden ‘twang’.
“Yay!” they cheered.
And then the catapult fired.
There was silence for a few seconds. And then, in the distance:
“Good thing this pond was here," managed Apple Bloom.
Sweetie Belle climbed onto the bank, trying to shake the water out of her coat. “At least the catapult works.”
“Yeah, all of it except for the safety pin.” Scootaloo was still swimming back to shore. “What happened?”
Apple Bloom blushed. “Uh, well, remember when we were runnin’ out of wood at the end, an’ we decided ta use some of that deadwood Scootaloo found? Maybe we shouldn’t have made the safety part out of that.”
The three made it back to shore, where they took a few moments to dry off.
“Well, that was a bust,” grumbled Apple Bloom. She was staring morosely at her flank. “No cutie marks!”
“And we got thrown halfway across Ponyville!” added Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo paused, then grinned. “That was so awesome!”
“… really?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Are you kidding? It’s like we were flying!” Scootaloo was starting to hop around. “I bet we set a new Ponyville speed record! We’re probably the fastest foals in the city! Except for Rainbow Dash, we’re probably the fastest flyers, foal or adult!”
“Really?” asked Sweetie, again, but this time with more enthusiasm.
“Let’s do it again tomorrow!” Scootaloo hopped off the bank, onto what looked like a carrot patch. “Maybe we can throw ourselves to Rainbow Dash’s house!”
“But… we can’t walk on clouds,” said Apple Bloom.
The three turned to see Carrot Top looking at them.
“What are you three doing in my irrigation pond?”
“… Crusadin’?” offered Apple Bloom, with an embarrassed smile.
It took them a while to get back across Ponyville, and longer still to move the catapult and all of their gear into one of Sweet Apple Acres’s barns. By the time they were done, the afternoon was edging towards evening.
“That was amazing!” Scootaloo had been hyped up about their catapulting adventure for the entire time. Now she was going in quick circles on her scooter. “Same time tomorrow?”
“Yeah, now that we know it works, we could try it with the mail!” said Apple Bloom. “Ah’ll talk ta Ditzy an’ see if she’ll let us help out.”
“Or we can send ponies across the city if they don’t have time to walk!” said Scootaloo. “We could call it the Cutie Mark Crusader, uh, Super Carriage!”
“Cutie Mark Crusader Carriage Drivers?” Sweetie Belle frowned. “I don’t know if I want that as my cutie mark.”
“There’s all kinds of things we could do!” Apple Bloom paused. “But, uh, ah should probably fix the safety pin first.”
Scootaloo stretched. “Well, I gotta get home. See you girls tomorrow!”
“Bye!” the other two called.
Scootaloo scooted off, but the other two Crusaders looked over the catapult for a few more minutes. “Were there any other big things like this in that book?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“A few. Ah wanna try makin’ a ballista next. It’s like a catapult, but bigger an’ cooler!” Apple Bloom grinned. “Why, we could send ponies from here to Trottingham with one of those!”
“I wonder if the Canterlot Museum has any?” mused Sweetie Belle.
“Ah dunno, but maybe they do! Hey, think our sisters would take us ta see them?”
“To the museum? Sure. Rarity’s always telling me I should like ‘cultural’ things like museums and concerts and stuff.” Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes.
“AJ’s not much fer that stuff, but if ah asked real nice an’ did all my chores, ah—“ Apple Bloom blinked. “Hey, ain’t that Scootaloo’s bag?”
Sweetie Belle trotted over. The saddlebag had a picture of Rainbow Dash on it, and it was clasped with a little lightning bolt pin. “I think so.”
“She must have left it behind. Let’s get it back ta her.” Apple Bloom quickly slung the bag over her shoulder. “Do ya know where she lives?”
“Well, let’s try ta catch her before we lose her!” Apple Bloom raced out of the barn. “Hey, Scootaloo! Scoot-Scootaloo!” But the pegasus foal was not in sight and did not answer.
Applejack, who was working on fixing one of her plows, looked over. “What’s goin’ on?”
“Scootaloo left her bag behind. Did ya see where she went, big sis?”
“Yeah, she just left a few minutes ago. Went that way.” Applejack pointed.
“Thanks, big sis!” Apple Bloom ran off, with Sweetie Belle close behind her.
“I can’t wait to tell Rainbow Dash what I did!” Scootaloo jumped a small rock as she scooted down the path. “She’ll love it! She’ll probably want to use the catapult to help her with some new tricks!”
In fact, what if Rainbow Dash did use the catapult, and those tricks were the ones that got her noticed by the Wonderbolts? What if she became really famous with catapult tricks? Maybe she’d be able to do it full time, and then maybe she’d need or want an apprentice and…
Scootaloo realized that she was grinning in a very silly manner, but she couldn’t do much about it besides laughing. She knew she was getting ahead of herself, but still. She’d been flying (kind of) for the first time! It was so awesome!
Scootaloo felt an impish desire stealing over her. She looked around a few times to make sure she was alone, then quickly ducked off the path and behind a few trees. Most ponies in town avoided the Everfree for some reason, which meant that she didn’t need to worry too much about being seen. Still, while incautious in most aspects of her life, this was something that she wanted to make sure nopony saw.
But nopony was around.
Scootaloo grinned, and a green glow began to spread over her body. Her orange coat faded, then flashed into nothingness, replaced by a black and shiny shell. Her wings elongated – slightly – and turned ocean-blue. Several holes formed, spreading throughout her legs like somepony was blowing bubbles right through them.
A horn poked up above her mane, now a few tufts of faded blue hair. Her tail had turned the same color, and had also gained a hole or two, like her legs. Her eyes were the last to change, with the ‘whites’ of them becoming a pale-ish blue.
Scootaloo checked her appearance in a muddy puddle with just enough water to produce a reflection. She didn’t take this form much, anymore, but it was what she’d been born with, and she was still fond of it for that reason. “Alright,” she said, upon verifying that she’d shifted correctly. “Halfway there!”
Someday I’ve gotta learn how to go right from one form to another.
Scootaloo focused again, and once more her body shifted. A new coat appeared, a bright cyan blue, and a rainbow-colored mane and tail grew into existence on top of her head. Her wings once again grew feathers, like a proper pegasus, and her body became taller, sleeker, and more powerful. Scootaloo laughed, and smiled again when she heard Rainbow Dash’s voice.
In seconds, the shift was complete. Where Scootaloo had stood, an almost-perfect copy of Rainbow Dash was. She had no cutie mark – Scootaloo couldn’t seem to manage to shift those – but everything else was perfect.
Scootaloo grinned. She had about half an hour before she had to be home, and she was in the body of the coolest pony in the whole world. She could have some fun.
“Are ya sure, Caramel?”
Caramel nodded. “Yep. Saw Scootaloo heading right into the Everfree.”
“Really?” Apple Bloom frowned. “Why’s she goin’ there?”
Sweetie Belle paused. “Maybe we should get Fluttershy. She’s good with animals.”
“Nah, we’ll just head right in an’ find Scootaloo. She probably… ah dunno, got lost or somethin’.” Apple Bloom paused. “Least, ah’m pretty sure she don’t live there.”
“Maybe she does. Maybe her family is forest rangers!” said Sweetie Belle.
“…ah guess. C’mon.” Apple Bloom smiled. “Maybe we can go for cutie marks in forestry!”
“Thank you, thank you!”
Scootaloo, as Rainbow Dash, had climbed up to a tree branch which she was pretending was a cloud.
“Thank you for awarding me the title of ‘Most Awesome Pony in Equestria!’” She bowed a few times. “And I’d like to thank one pony in particular, my biggest and coolest fan, Scootaloo!”
She walked out further on the branch, beating her wings for balance. “Scootaloo’s brilliant catapult helped ‘catapult’ me into even more awesome stunts and moves than I’d ever done before! And that’s why I’d like to make Scootaloo my official apprentice and student, so I can teach her to be as awesome as me!”
She jumped to another branch, pretending that she was leaping from cloud to cloud, miles above Equestria.
“And as her first task, I’d like Scootaloo to accompany me on a trip around the whole nation as I show how awesome I am! And I—“
“Aagh!” She beat her wings, but futilely. The best she could do was aim for a large mud puddle to cushion her fall.
Scootaloo coughed as she crawled out of it. “Yuck.” She began to shake herself. Sometimes, she acknowledged, it would be nice if she could copy Rainbow Dash’s flight as well as her body.
I mean, I know that wouldn’t really be fair, for Rainbow Dash to train really hard to master all those cool moves and then for me to just copy them all. I wouldn’t like it if I worked really hard at something and somepony could copy it. But come on, flight alone should be okay…
But she smiled as she looked at her reflection in the muddy, brackish puddle. She could never be in a bad mood in this body. She was Rainbow Dash. If that wouldn’t make her happy, nothing would.
So Scootaloo began climbing up the tree again. “Saved from falling to her doom by her loyal sidekick Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash gets right back up there!”
“Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom called. “We’ve got yar bag!”
Sweetie Belle looked around. “Are you sure this is safe?”
“Sure ah’m sure? Ah know this part of the Everfree; it’s on the way ta Zecora’s place!” The path Caramel had pointed them to had twisted and turned a bit, but Apple Bloom was pretty sure that she knew where they were. “Maybe Scootaloo lives out by her house!”
“I wonder why she doesn’t live in town?”
“Maybe she’s sleepin’ over somewhere?”
“But who else in town lives in the Everfree besides Zecora?”
“Er… well, we don’t know where Silver Spoon lives, right? Ah could see her bein’ a beast from the Everfree.” Sweetie giggled at that.
Apple Bloom raised her voice again. “Scootaloo! C’mon, Scootaloo, where are ya?”
Sweetie said, “Maybe she’s hiding. Ooh, maybe we can get our cutie marks in hide ‘n seek!”
“…hey, yeah! We could!” Apple Bloom grinned. “Alright, let’s go!”
They sped up a little, still calling for Scootaloo.
“And for my next trick, I, the amazing…”
Scootaloo blinked. Were those voices that she heard?
Scootaloo froze. Sweetie Belle? What's she doing all the way out here?
“Scoot-scootaloo! We’re gonna find ya!”
Apple Bloom too?
Scootaloo turned to race down the tree, but she wasn’t as used to moving in Rainbow Dash’s body – sure, it was usually the form that she took when she wasn’t being Scootaloo, but she was Scootaloo ninety-five percent of the time – so she slipped and went tumbling back into the mud puddle.
“Ah think ah heard somethin’ over here!”
Scootaloo froze, paralyzed with indecision. She could try to hurridly shift back to the Scootaloo form – but could she do it in time? Or she could remain as Rainbow Dash, but what if they realized that Rainbow Dash wasn’t likely to be splashing around in mud puddles in the Everfree? Besides, what if Rainbow Dash was somewhere else in public, and they realized it later and wondered how there could be two of her? No, she’d have to shift, and as quickly as she could.
“Scootaloo! We’ve got your bag!”
Sweetie’s voice sounded very near. Scootaloo gulped as her coat, mane, wings, everything vanished and was replaced with her birth-form. And then – starting to pant; she usually didn’t shift so quickly – she began to change bodies again.
And she was just able to finish by the time the other two Crusaders entered the little clearing.
“Found ya!” Apple Bloom hopped for joy. “Did we get our cutie marks in findin’ ya?”
“Uh…” Scootaloo checked their flanks. “Nope. Sorry. Why’d you follow me?”
Sweetie Belle dumped the saddlebag on the ground. “You left your bag in the barn.”
Scootaloo blushed. “Oh. Sorry.”
“What’re ya doin’ all the way out here?” asked Apple Bloom. “This ain’t where ya live, is it?”
“Oh, uh, just out for a little walk…”
Scootaloo could tell they weren’t buying it, so she quickly grabbed her saddlebag. “Well, I gotta split. See you tomorrow!”
She turned to go, and both Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle gasped.
“What?” she asked.
“Uh, Scootaloo?” began Sweetie Belle.
“What happened to your wings?”
“Huh?” Scootaloo peered into the puddle – and saw two thin, chitinous wings instead of her feathered pegasus ones.
Scootaloo smiled widely. “Er, what do you mean? My wings don’t look any different to me. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”
The two others looked at each other.
“Maybe you should go home and get some rest.” Scootaloo walked between the two so she could start guiding them back to the path. “I’ll bet in the morning everything’ll look exactly the same, and—“
Sweetie Belle poked her left wing.
“Hey, don’t do that!”
Sweetie Belle poked it several more times. “Nope,” she announced, with a scholarly look on her face. “It’s definitely different.”
Apple Bloom began poking her other wing, so Scootaloo quickly skipped away. “Stop poking me,” she complained.
“What happened to your wings?” asked Apple Bloom. “They look kind of like the ones those bug monsters had at the Wedding last month.”
Scootaloo blushed, backing away a few steps. “I don’t know what you mean! I, uh…”
Sweetie Belle paused. She looked kind of sad. “Scootaloo, are you hiding something from us?”
“Who, me?” Scootaloo felt herself beginning to sweat.
“Yeah, we’re friends. We shouldn’t keep secrets from one another,” added Apple Bloom. They both looked really concerned – like they thought Scootaloo had some disease she was hiding, or something.
Scootaloo looked away. She’d wanted to tell them, of course, she’d considered telling them for over a year now, but she… well, she was scared. What if they left her behind? What if they didn’t want to be friends with a monster?
“Are ya okay?” asked Apple Bloom.
They're really worried for me… but what if they don’t like me anymore? Or what if they tell their sisters and Twilight uses some anti-changeling spell on me? Scootaloo had backed up a few more steps, like she was trying to push her way into the tree she was now pressing against.
Sweetie Belle seemed to notice Scootaloo’s discomfort first. “If you don’t want to tell us, that’s okay.” She paused. “I guess we’ll go back to town.”
Scootaloo hesitated, unsure of what to do. They trusted her with a lot of their secrets; she felt that she should trust them with this one. They were good ponies; they wouldn't want to hurt her. But the changeling army had attacked them in Canterlot just over a month ago; there had been rumors for weeks about evil changelings infiltrating everywhere to spread chaos. What if—
No. Zecora’s right, I need to tell them at some point. They won’t hurt me. We’re friends, and… her thoughts trailed off. She took a breath. “Wait.”
Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom paused.
“I have something to tell you.” She looked away, and dug her hoof against the ground – a habit she’d picked up from Zecora. “But, um. Promise you won’t scream?”
“Scream?” Sweetie Belle blinked. “Of course we won’t.”
“Just… please don’t be mad.”
She took a breath, and shifted back to her birth form.
For a few seconds, there was total silence. And then Scootaloo forced herself to open her eyes.
Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were staring at her in total confusion. Sweetie Belle’s mouth had dropped, Apple Bloom moved her hoof to help her close it. “Uh… Scootaloo? Is that really you?” the earth pony asked.
“That’s not Scootaloo!” Sweetie Belle managed to cry out. “That’s a changeling! We should tell Twilight!”
“Wait!” said Scootaloo, and something in her voice made them stop. “I'm Scootaloo! I am a changeling.” Scootaloo looked away. “I wasn’t sure how to tell you. I mean, I really like being friends with you, but nopony even knew changelings existed until a month ago, and then a bunch of us tried to take over the country and I didn’t, I didn’t want you to be afraid of me and I’m really sorry I kept it from you but…” she trailed off, unsure of what to say.
There were a few seconds of silence, and then Apple Bloom spoke. “Well, uh, how do we know you’ve really been Scootaloo all along? Maybe ya swapped places with her at the wedding.”
Scootaloo paused. “Uh… well, think about it. You only knew Scootaloo for about two years, right? That’s when I showed up. There wasn’t a Scootaloo before.”
“But maybe a real pony Scootaloo showed up two years ago, an’ then ya showed up a month ago,” said Apple Bloom.
“No I didn’t!” Apple Bloom sounded worried, which Scootaloo couldn't deny made a fair amount of sense. She hadn't really proven that she wasn't a replacement for the real Scootaloo, after all.
“Prove it!” said Apple Bloom. “Tell us something only the real Scootaloo would know.”
Sweetie Belle frowned. “Wait. If only the real Scootaloo knew it, how could we make sure it was true?”
“Oh. Right.” The three fell silent as they attempted to solve the puzzle. After a few moments, Apple Bloom brightened. “Okay, tell us something only Sweetie an’ ah would know! Then we’ll know it an’ can check it!”
“But I don’t know anything that only you two know,” said Scootaloo, confused.
There was a brief pause, and then the three of them laughed
“What about something all three of us, but nopony else, would know?” Sweetie Belle asked.
Scootaloo thought back. “I dunno… I mean, when Nightmare Moon showed up at the Summer Sun Celebration I was really scared, cause I’d only been in town a few days and I didn’t know anypony, but then we all huddled together and I wasn’t as scared. I mean, changelings aren’t really, uh, touchy-feely, but it was kind of nice. I felt like we could do something awesome to help beat back Nightmare Moon or something… at least a little.” She blushed, her black exoskeleton taking on a faint reddish tinge. “And then we became the Crusaders after Diamond Tiara’s cutecenara, and we had really awesome adventures and we went bowling and scuba diving and we did the talent show and Fluttershy fought off a cockatrice for us and it was really fun and really cool and I had friends for the first time ever and—“
Sweetie Belle nodded. “Well, she sounds just like Scootaloo to me!”
Scootaloo paused. “I do?”
“Yep!” Sweetie Belle approached Scootaloo. “But you kept a secret from us. That was mean.”
"Wait. You're not scared?"
"Nope. You're my friend. I couldn't be scared of you!" Sweetie Belle frowned. “But you shouldn’t keep secrets from your friends.” She poked Scootaloo in her nose.
“I know… I was just really afraid you wouldn’t want to be my friends anymore if you found out.” Scootaloo looked away again. “And I really like being friends with you and I didn’t want to—“
She stiffened as she felt something embracing her, but it was just Sweetie Belle giving her a big hug. “We’ll always be friends with you!” A moment later, Apple Bloom hugged her from her other side.
“Not touchy-feely! Not touchy-feely!” Scootaloo managed. But she smiled brightly nonetheless.
“So, is it hard to turn into ponies?” asked Apple Bloom.
The three of them were heading down the path, chatting. Scootaloo had offered to answer whatever questions they had about her.
They know who I am, and they still want to be my friends. This is awesome!
“It depends,” she said. “I mean, if it’s something four-legged that weighs about what I do, it’s not too hard. It gets harder to be something like a bear, or a really big pony.”
“Can ya copy special talents?”
“No.” Scootaloo chuckled. “That was the first thing I tried after I met Rainbow Dash. But I guess I’m not strong enough to do that yet.”
“Do you really drink blood?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“What? No! Who told you that!” Scootaloo looked as indignant as a bug-creature could be.
“Diamond Tiara said that changelings drink blood,” said Apple Bloom. “And Silver Spoon said that they eat meat.”
“Yuck!” Scootaloo stuck her tongue out. “Next you’ll say we eat hoof clippings.”
“Actually, Snails did say that.”
Apple Bloom giggled at Scootaloo’s look of annoyance. “So how’d ya come ta Ponyville anyway?”
Scootaloo shrugged. “I had to leave the Hive. The head of the part of the Hive where I lived got in a fight with another of the heads, and mine lost, so she had to send away a bunch of 'her minions' as a punishment. I was one of them. I was supposed to find some pony community and, uh, replace one of the foals, and live there until my head regained her power.”
“Replace?” Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom asked.
“Yeah, but when I got here, I didn’t want to replace anypony. I mean, it would have been… you know. Mean.” Scootaloo blushed again.
“What about Diamond Tiara?” offered Sweetie Belle. “Nopony would mind if she got replaced.”
Scootaloo giggled. “Filthy Rich might mind.”
Apple Bloom thought carefully. “Ah doubt it.” And the three laughed.
“Thanks again,” said Scootaloo, as they continued to head deeper into the forest. “I’m glad you girls still want to be my friends.”
“You’re still the Scootaloo we know and love!” said Apple Bloom, grinning. “But… if you’re a changeling, why do ya want to earn a cutie mark so bad? Is that even possible?”
“I don’t know.” Scootaloo paused. “But I want to try. I want to have a special pony talent. I mean, I’m almost always a pony anyway…”
"Well, if it's possible, we'll help however we can!" said Sweetie Belle.
“Where d’ya live?” asked Apple Bloom. “Only one ah know who lives out here is Zecora.”
“I live with her. She found me when I was trying to figure out what to do in Ponyville; I didn’t want to replace a foal but I didn’t know what else to do. I talked to her, and she said I could stay with her.” Scootaloo smiled a little. “She’s really nice.”
"Ah've never seen ya there, though."
"You only go to her hut during the day, probably. I'm usually Crusading in town then."
“Are you going to tell all the other foals?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“No!” said Scootaloo, quickly. “I mean, uh, not yet. I don’t want anypony else to know yet.”
Apple Bloom looked disappointed, but she nodded.
Zecora’s hut was coming into view. Scootaloo said, “I should get inside and start helping with evening chores. See you girls tomorrow in school? And then Crusading afterwards?” She chuckled. “I wanna try catapulting again. Maybe we can go as fast as Rainbow Dash!”
The two nodded, but Sweetie Belle tapped Scootaloo as she turned to leave. “Uh…”
Sweetie Belle giggled. “I wanna see you turn into me.”
Apple Bloom’s eyes widened. “Ooh, me too! That’ll be so cool!”
Scootaloo blushed, but then she nodded and smiled. “Alright. Real quick.” She focused, and shifted, and…
“What?” Scootaloo checked her reflection in a nearby puddle; white coat, purple mane, little horn… everything seemed right. “What’s wrong?”
Sweetie frowned. “My horn’s not that small!”
Apple Bloom laughed. “Yes it is!”
To make her happier, Scootaloo lengthened the horn a little bit. “Happy?”
Sweetie examined her doppleganger as if analyzing a famous sculpture. “Not bad, but still, nothing like the real thing!”
“Yeah, Scootaloo, you’re a way prettier Sweetie than the real one,” joked Apple Bloom.
“Hey!” said Sweetie Belle.
"Yuck!" said Scootaloo.
The three laughed again.
Before leaving, Scootaloo had shifted back into her usual, orange-and-purple pony form (explaining that she felt more comfortable that way when she was still close to Ponvyille). She also asked the other two to promise not to tell any of the other foals or the town adults about her. “I’ll tell them, I promise, but not yet.”
“Rainbow Dash will still think you’re awesome,” said Apple Bloom.
“I know, but I’m just not ready. Just give me a few days, alright?”
The two had nodded and departed.
Zecora had been very pleased when Scootaloo told her that she’d confided her secret with her friends. “Of course they did not abandon you. Your friends are loyal, pure, and true.”
“I know.” Scootaloo helped Zecora lift her cauldron onto a tall table. “I guess it was silly for me to be scared.”
Zecora had smiled and shaken her head. “It takes a brave one to admit, that in a group they don’t quite fit.” She grinned. “It is good that you demonstrated bravery… and I am certain that Rainbow Dash would agree.”
“Yeah!” Scootaloo hadn’t thought of it like that before. “Yeah, I bet if Rainbow Dash was a changeling, she’d tell everypony right away!” She shifted to her native form, then back into Rainbow Dash. “She’d be all, ‘I’m a changeling, and if you don’t like it, you can go bite a cloud!’” Scootaloo raised a hoof, as if pointing at imaginary naysayers, and almost knocked a large bowl off the table. “Oops!”
Zecora caught it, chuckling. “I see Miss Dash is a clumsy guest… but I’m sure she’ll help clean up any mess.”
Scootaloo blushed and shifted back into her usual form. “Yeah… Dash would tell everypony right away. But… I just don’t feel ready yet. That’s okay, isn’t it, Zecora?”
Zecora nodded and embraced Scootaloo, who smiled. “You will know when the time is right. I will support you then, day or night.”
“I know you will. And the other Crusaders will too.” Scootaloo began to go to the upstairs area where she stayed at night. “You’re all really good friends.”
Zecora didn’t say anything – no response was needed.
“… so, I think I learned a new scooter trick? Wanna see it later?”
Zecora raised an eyebrow.
“It’s perfectly safe! Pleeease?” Scootaloo widened her eyes – and then, grinning, shifted into an adorable little puppy, which could somehow widen her eyes even more.
Zecora laughed warmly. “How can I resist such a gaze? I’ll have to learn, one of these days.”
Scootaloo shifted back. “Awesome!” She grabbed her scooter. “This one’s really cool! I do a wheelie, and then…”
The next morning, Scootaloo woke bright and early. Her knee only hurt a little bit. Maybe that wheelie at the end was a bit too much.
Scootaloo didn’t need to eat, but she was capable of it (that was fortunate for her, as lunch at school would be kind of awkward otherwise). She helped Zecora with the dishes after the zebra’s breakfast, and Zecora gave her a packed lunch for the day. Scootaloo smiled as she raced out the door. “I’ll be back later!”
She grinned as she scooted towards Ponvyille. Her friends knew her secret now, and they were still her friends – no, they were closer friends than ever! They’d go Crusading, and maybe – Scootaloo giggled – maybe she’d pull the sort of prank that Rainbow Dash would like. She could pretend to be one of them and trick the other into doing something silly, and –
When she came out of the woods, she almost plowed into Snips and Snails. “Uh. Hi?”
“Hi Scootaloo!” they yelled in unison.
Scootaloo blinked, realizing that there were about twenty foals sitting at the edge of the woods, apparently waiting for her.
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle were there too. Apple Bloom was looking confused, but Sweetie was blushing.
“But what?!” Scootaloo scowled. “Did you tell everypony I was, uh, some kind of monster or something? They’ll throw me out of Ponyville!”
“No we won’t!” said Snips, bouncing up in the air. “We just wanna see some awesome shapeshifting!”
“Snails kept saying that changelings ate hoof clippings, and he was being real mean about it, so I told him that I knew they didn’t because you were one and you never ate hoof clippings,” said Sweetie, quickly. “And I think he told the other foals. I’m really sorry I didn’t keep your secret.”
“Come on, less talking, more shapeshifting!” said Snails. “Turn into some really awesome pony!”
“Turn into Twilight and show us some amazing magic!” yelled Twist.
“Turn into Miss Cherilee and tell our parents that we have too much homework and they should complain to the school board about it!” called out Noi.
Scootaloo tried to say something, but she couldn’t make herself heard over the clamoring of foals for her to turn into something else. I could deny it, but I’d be lying, and then they’d think Sweetie was lying and that’d be unfair to her. And it’d be cowardly, I mean, Rainbow Dash would never hurt a friend to save herself.
“Hey, are you sure she’s a changeling?” Featherweight called over to Sweetie. “I mean, she’s not doing anything.”
Scootaloo gulped. She couldn’t let Sweetie get hurt… even if she was mad at her for breaking her secret. Well, she could, but she could never look Rainbow Dash – or her own reflection – in the eye again. “You can’t tell anypony else, okay? None of the adults! They’ll throw me out of town!”
The foals instantly quieted and nodded.
“We promise,” said Snails.
“Hey, didn’t you tell all of us?” asked Dinky.
Snails blushed. “I mean, I promise from now on!”
"Pinkie promise," insisted Scootaloo.
"Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye, come on, come on, hurry up!" said Snips in a rush. The other foals promised as well, most of them a little more sedately.
Scootaloo rolled her eyes, but she had to show the others that Sweetie wasn’t a liar. She took a deep breath, braced herself for shouts of disgust or fear, and shifted into her native form.
There was silence for a few seconds.
“That is SO COOL”! yelled Snips.
“Awesome!” echoed Snails. “I bet even the Great and Powerful Trixie couldn’t do that!”
Dinky had come over and poked Scootaloo’s shell with a hoof. “Wow, your coat’s all hard! You must be, like, indestructible!”
Scootaloo blushed a little. “You’re not scared?”
“Why would we be scared? You’re still Scootaloo, right?” asked Sweet Wheat.
“Yeah, and you’re even more awesome now!” said Snips.
Right, I guess they weren’t in Canterlot during the invasion. They’ve never seen changelings before. So they aren’t afraid. Scootaloo smiled. “Thanks.”
“Can ya turn inta ma sister?” asked Apple Bloom. “Then maybe ya could go ta Big Mac an’ tell him that ya don’t want me doin’ pig feedin’ duty anymore!”
Scootaloo giggled, and with a shift, looked the spitting image of Applejack, except for her (still blank) flank.
But the others didn’t care. “WOAH!” several yelled. And then there was a chorus of ‘change into me next! Change into me!’
“Hey, calm down!” said Apple Bloom, who seemed to have appointed herself as Scootaloo’s manager. “One at a time!”
Scootaloo did a few more quick shifts, but she was beginning to tire. She turned back into her Scootaloo form, then paused. “Hey, uh, can we pick this up after school? Wouldn’t want to be late for Miss Cherilee’s class, would we? And I can’t do too many at once…”
“Are you tired?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Maybe a little.”
“Changelings get energy from love, right?” asked Twist. She was one of the more booksmart of the foals, and knew a lot about foreign species.
“So if you’re too tired to shift, we just have to love you more!”
Sweet Wheat grinned. “Everypony, hug Scootaloo!”
Scootaloo’s eyes widened as the mob of foals bore down on her. “Wait, what? No! Aggh!”
“So how did all that friendship and love feel?” Apple Bloom asked.
“I got run over,” complained Scootaloo. “And I think Snails stepped on my wing.”
“But how did the friendship and love feel?” pushed Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo burped and smiled a little. “Very filling.”
School was just starting. The foals, of course, were a bit more rambunctious than normal, and Scootaloo was still getting a few requests to change into this or that every few moments. It was almost a relief when Miss Cherilee walked through the schoolroom door.
“Good morning class!” she chirped. “Are we all ready to learn?”
There were the usual assortment of groans and murmurs, but most of the foals did take their seats.
“That’s wonderful!” she said, ignoring the less-than-enthusiastic response. “Now, today we’re going to learn about geography!” She began drawing a mountain on the board. “Geography,” she said, around the chalk that she was gripping with her teeth, “Is the study of –“
Cherilee turned to see Snails waving his hoof in the air. “Uh, yes?”
“Can we learn about changelings?”
Scootaloo shot a glare at Snails, but the unicorn seemed oblivious. “Please?” he continued.
“Oh, yeah!” Snips grinned. “Let’s do that!”
Cherilee blinked. “Now, class, geography is very important. We can’t just—“
But her voice was soon drowned out in a cavalcade of foals begging to learn about changelings. Scootaloo wondered if it would look too suspicious if she hid under her desk for the rest of the day.
Cherilee began to look concerned. “You’re not worried about the changelings showing up here, are you? While a group of changelings did attack Canterlot, they were defeated and hurled far away.”
“No, we’re not worried,” said Twist, “But, uh, what if one was still here? We’d need to know what changelings are like so we could be her – or his – friend!”
“Yeah, we wouldn’t want to do anything silly because we didn’t understand her,” said Sweet Wheat. “Please, teach us about them!”
“And cause all of her friends got blown away, she’d need new ones!” chimed in Snips. “Really badly!”
Scootaloo wondered if running out of the room would look too suspicious.
Cherilee smiled at that. “Why, that’s very sweet of you, Twist, Sweet Wheat, Snips.” She looked at the foals, most of whom were looking at her with large, pleading eyes. “Well, I suppose we can do a short lesson on changelings.”
“Why?” Diamond Tiara sniffed. Scootaloo had been relieved to note that neither she nor Silver Spoon were among the group of foals that Snails had told her identity to. “We already know about them. They’re a bunch of big, ugly, evil bugs who drink blood and tried to take over Equestria. Nopony can be friends with them.”
“I heard they don’t even have hearts,” said Silver Spoon. “They can only walk around due to evil dark magic!”
Scootaloo flushed, but before she said something stupid and self-incriminating, Cherilee intervened. “Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon! That’s enough!”
“What?” asked an utterly befuddled Diamond Tiara.
“That was a very offensive thing you just said.” Cherilee looked disappointed. “While it’s true that the changelings who attacked Canterlot were bad, that does not mean all of them are, anymore than a group of bad ponies means that all ponies are bad. While there are no changelings in Ponyville, if one ever does arrive, I expect all of you to treat him or her with the same level of respect, courtesy, and kindness that you would treat another pony.”
“Well, what if a bad changeling shows up and tries to imitate somepony?” Silver Spoon asked.
Cherilee smiled. “Changelings might be good at imitating other ponies, but we’re all such good friends here that they’d never get away with it for long. If any changeling tried to imitate one of you, for example, I can guarantee that I’d know right away!”
Scootaloo blushed, but fortunately, Cherilee didn’t seem to notice.
“But, to the point – yes, changelings are different from us, but no, they are not monsters.” Cherilee began to draw on the board again. “As to the rest: while it is true that changelings are technically members of the ‘bug’ family…”
“So, ah guess ya’r technically a bug?”
Scootaloo giggled and flicked a bit of bread at Apple Bloom. “I am not. Cherilee’s wrong. And she was wrong about a lot of the other stuff too. We do not hatch from eggs!”
“How do ya hatch, from rocks?” asked Apple Bloom, and then dodged the next bit of bread.
School was over for the day, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders were taking the catapult out for another try. Applejack had found out what they were doing and had insisted on setting up a ‘landing site’ on Sweet Apple Acres, so that if something went wrong again, the projectile would at least land on pillows and cushions and not in Carrot Top’s irrigation pond.
“Sometimes my sister says I bug her. Does that make me a changeling part of the time?” wondered Sweetie Belle.
“Nah. You can only be a changeling if you can do this.” Scootaloo flashed green, and in an instant, she was a perfect replica of Sweetie Belle.
“Hey! You’re still making my horn too small!”
“I did not!”
The novelty of having a changeling as a friend was still present in the Crusaders’ conversation, but by the time they got the catapult set up again, the three had become focused more on getting their marks. It was even helping to distract Scootaloo from worrying if any of her classmates would forget their promise and tell the adults about who she really was. "I wonder how much weight this can throw," she mused.
“How far d’ya think we’d need ta throw somethin’ ta get a cutie mark in catapultin’?” asked Apple Bloom.
“We’d probably need to set a Ponyville record,” said Scootaloo. “Hey, I know! What if we asked Rainbow Dash to put some clouds on the path so whatever we sent could bounce off them? Then it might go further!”
“But what could we launch that bounces on clouds?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Doesn’t Twilight have a cloud-walking spell? We could have her enchant a rock or something and have it bounce all the way across the Everfree!” Scootaloo grinned. “Or what if I got in my scooter and got a big running start, and then we launched me? I can stand on clouds!”
“Wait. Didn’t Applejack say that we had to aim at the landing area?” asked Apple Bloom.
“Yeah, but this is so much cooler!” said Scootaloo. “It’s what Rainbow Dash would do.”
Sweetie Belle nodded. “Maybe we can get Twilight to put the cloud walking spell on us!”
“Ah dunno. Ever since we gave Miss Cherilee an’ ma brother that love poison, she’s been kinda cautious ‘bout givin’ us magic stuff,” said Apple Bloom.
“What if… another pony asked her to do it?” said Sweetie, with a mischievous grin.
“Hey, that’s right! Scootaloo, ya could impersonate, ah dunno, the princess or somethin’, an’ order her ta do it!”
“What? No!” Scootaloo shook her head. “I don’t want her to get suspicious. Besides, I couldn’t use my powers to lie to somepony and pretend to be another pony that didn’t agree to it. That would be wrong.”
“What if you became Pinkie Pie and asked her? Pinkie wouldn’t mind!” said Sweetie Belle.
“It’d still be lying to Twilight.”
“Oh.” Sweetie paused. “Could you at least show us your Pinkie Pie impression?”
“We’ll help launch you as high as you want!” said Sweetie. “We’ll send you into space if we can!”
Scootaloo looked around to make sure that there weren’t any spies, then quickly did the shifts. “Happy?” she said, in Pinkie Pie’s voice.
Apple Bloom grinned. “Awesome! Now let’s go ta AJ an’ say it’s time for a big party!”
The three turned to see Diamond Tiara poking her head out from behind a thick apple tree.
“Snails and Snips were saying today that you were a changeling! I didn’t believe it, but now I saw it with my own eyes!” She pointed an accusing hoof at Scootaloo. “You’re a gross bug monster!”
“I am not!” said Scootaloo, changing back into her usual form.
“Yeah! She’s a better pony than you are!” yelled Sweetie Belle. “She’s brave and cool and a really good friend!”
“But she’s not a pony,” said Apple Bloom.
“That’s not the point.”
Diamond Tiara shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Snips and Snails didn’t tell the adults, but I might. And if I do tell any of the adults, I bet they’ll throw you out of Ponyville in about ten seconds!”
“So!” Diamond Tiara grinned. “You have to do what I want, or I’ll tell everypony in town who you really are!”
“Ya can’t do that!” yelled Apple Bloom. “What if they get scared?”
“That’s not my problem.” Diamond Tiara laughed. “I’ll think about what I want you to do tonight. Let’s talk tomorrow.” She grinned and walked off.
“Why – we’ve gotta do somethin’!” said Apple Bloom, as soon as she was out of earshot.
Scootaloo was thinking. “You know how I just said I wouldn’t impersonate a pony to another pony without their permission?”
“Yes?” the others asked.
“I’ll make an exception.” Scootaloo grinned mischievously. “Here’s what we’ll do…”
Diamond Tiara sauntered home, smiling merrily. She could have the Crusader dolts do her homework, style her mane, give her hooficures… anything. They’d have to, or she’d tell the adults that Scootaloo was a changeling, and they’d boot her out of town lickety-split.
“DIANA RICHMOND TIARA!”
The foal paused, surprised to hear her real name. Her father only used it, or shouted like that, when she was in trouble – but she hadn’t done anything all afternoon; she’d mostly spent her time chilling in Sugar Cube Corner and thinking up humiliating tasks for Scootaloo. What was going on?
She hurried up to her house. “Yes, father?”
Confused, Diamond Tiara headed into the living room. “… is something wrong?”
“An hour ago, I ran into Colgate. Apparently, you showed up an hour ago to cancel your dental check-up. And then Cherilee sought me out – it seems you also canceled our parent teacher conference. And you said that I told you to cancel them.”
“What? No I didn’t!”
Filthy Rich ignored this. “And then I bumped into Bookwise, who was quite surprised that I had also canceled your tutoring sessions.” Rich shook his head. “I wasn’t sure what you were planning on doing instead of your tutoring, but fortunately, I bumped into Aloe and Vera, who told me that you had scheduled a weekly appointment with them at exactly the same time.”
Diamond Tiara put it together. “Father, no! That wasn’t me! You have to believe me!”
“You need to learn, Diamond Tiara, that you can’t simply avoid unpleasant but important tasks. Dental hygiene, and your education, is important. Looking nice is fine, but it cannot take precedence over your studies and health.”
“It wasn’t me! It was Scootaloo, she’s a changeling and she pretended to be me! She—“
Filthy Rich looked disappointed. “And now you’re lying to try to escape the consequences? Diana, really, do you honestly think I’d fall for such an obvious lie? Shame…”
“I’m not lying! Honest!”
But it was futile.
A few minutes later, after having been banished to her room and informed that she would now have twice as many tutoring sessions, Diamond kicked a pillow against the wall. “It’s not fair!”
She heard giggling outside her window. She went over to it, opened it, and saw the Crusaders hanging off of her windowsill and looking at her.
“So, are you going to be nice now?” asked Sweetie Belle, as sweetly as she could.
“Or do we need to keep going?” asked Apple Bloom.
Scootaloo said nothing. She just grinned, and shifted her teeth to be a little more fang-y. They looked very… creepy, when contrasted with the rest of the orange foal.
Diamond Tiara gulped. “Alright, fine, you win! I won’t tell anypony!”
“Yay!” The three Crusaders brought up their hooves to high-five each other… and began to fall off the window, since they were no longer gripping them with two hooves. “Aaah!”
Diamond Tiara winced as they began to tumble. “I got beaten by those idiots?” she muttered.
“That was awesome!” said Scootaloo. “We showed her!”
“Yeah!” cheered Apple Bloom. “We sure did!”
They were back at the catapult, preparing it for another launch.
“Ah wonder,” said Apple Bloom, suddenly, “If we could tell each other apart if Scootaloo tried imitatin’ us?”
“Nope,” said Scootaloo. She smiled cheekily. “I’m way too good at mimicking.”
“Nuh-uh.” Apple Bloom giggled. “Ah bet that ah could figure out if anypony or anythin’ else was you or the real deal!”
“I’d take that bet!” Scootaloo grinned. “I’ll bet… I’ll bet a cupcake at the Sugar Cube Corner that I can turn into something, before the end of the day, that you think is the real thing!”
Sweetie giggled. “Ooh, ooh, I wanna watch!”
“Oh, you will.” Scootaloo smiled as she began to work on the catapult – a rope had come loose. “Just you wait!”
Time passed; first thirty minutes, than an hour. They did a couple more test launches with the catapult, one of which sent a pillow hurtling past the landing site and somewhere near the center of Ponyville, and one of which resulted in the catapult’s launcher just flipping over and slamming the cushion into the ground in a muddy splat.
“Day’s almost over!” called Apple Bloom. “Ah’m gonna win the bet!”
Nopony answered her.
Apple Bloom turned to see that both Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo had vanished. “Hey, no fair collaboratin’!” So Scootaloo’s going to replace Sweetie? Well, no problem. I know Sweetie’s ticklish under her chin, and Scootaloo doesn’t know that, so I’ll just tickle her there and—
Apple Bloom leapt to her hooves as a large pig ran past the catapult. “Mr. Muddy? How’d ya get out of yar pen? Come back!” And she gave chase.
She was able to catch up with the pig after about ten minutes of ducking through the trees. It was tough, but she managed to corner it right by a large mud puddle. “Come on, ah’ll get ya—“
Suddenly the pig turned and jumped at her.
Apple Bloom squeaked, but she didn’t have time to dodge. The pig knocked into her and they both fell into the mud. “Hey!”
The pig grinned.
“Hey, wait a minute…”
The pig flashed green, and then Scootaloo was standing on top of Apple Bloom. “I win!”
“Aw, ah forgot ya could do animals too!” Apple Bloom got up. “Now ah’m all muddy.”
“You’re not mad, are you?”
“What? No, that was fun!” She grinned. “But ah’ve gotta get ya back soon. So be ready!”
“Get me back how? You can’t shapeshift.”
“No, but ah can… uh…”
“Oh, ah’ll think of something!”
And then they – and Sweetie too, who had been hiding in the bushes to watch – burst into laughter.
“Let’s do it again tomorrow!” said Apple Bloom. “Ah think we’re makin’ real progress!”
“We launched five pillows, and half of one hit the landing site.” Scootaloo grinned. “Yesterday, nothing we launched hit anywhere near what we wanted! We’re improving!”
Sweetie Belle was quiet. In fact, she’d fallen more and more quiet as the afternoon had worn on.
“Hey, no hugs!” Scootaloo didn’t struggle too hard, though. There was little point in trying to fend off Sweetie when she was in a hugging mood. “What’s up?”
“I’m worried. What if Diamond Tiara had told somepony first? Or what if another pony finds out?”
Scootaloo shrugged. “I don’t know. Zecora said I can stay with her even if the other ponies don’t like it, but… I mean, I’d hate not to be able to play in Ponyville anymore.”
“What if you told them first?” asked Apple Bloom.
“Told them first?”
“Yeah, then they wouldn’t think you’d been lyin’ ta them. Ah mean, if ya just told ‘em, ah’m sure they’d come around.”
“I don’t know… wasn’t it Twilight that sent all the changelings flying away at the wedding? I don’t think she likes us very much.”
“But she didn’t send you away,” pointed out Sweetie Belle. “Why?”
Scootaloo had no idea whatsoever. “I was hiding in a basement.” Scootaloo blushed. “With you two, remember? Maybe the spell didn’t reach down there.” That's probably not it, but I have no idea what else it could be...
Apple Bloom shrugged. “Maybe it only hit the bad changelings.”
“Can spells figure that out?”
They were silent for a while, and then Scootaloo sighed. “I know I should tell them. But I’m scared. And I know I shouldn’t be, and I know Rainbow Dash would probably call me a chicken, but…”
“No, she wouldn’t. She knows ya ain’t a chicken.” Apple Bloom grinned. “Whatever ya decide, we’ll back ya up.”
Scootaloo stared up into the cloudless sky. Somewhere up there, Rainbow Dash was practicing her tricks. Was it really fair to keep secrets from her? And the rest of the town? They’d been so nice to her, and done so much for her…
“What if we did it at a big party?” said Sweetie Belle. “Nopony can get mad at a party!”
“Gilda did,” said Scootaloo.
“She’s not a pony. She doesn’t count.”
Apple Bloom grinned. “Yeah! We could call it a, a ‘Scootaloo says somethin’ important’ party! An’ Pinkie could set it up an’ ma sister could cater an’—“
“I… if I do it, I kind of want to tell Rainbow Dash privately.” Scootaloo smiled a little. “I mean, just me and her. The others, sure, a party might be fun.”
“Are you going to?” asked Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo paused, thinking it over. Did she trust the ponies in town? Did she trust Rainbow Dash?
“…yes.” She nodded. “I’ll tell them tomorrow.”
Her friends hugged her again, and this time, she didn’t complain even a little.
“So! You said you had something important to tell me?”
Scootaloo had been to Rainbow Dash’s house a few times. The cyan mare had hosted the Rainbow Dash fan club a few times; they’d had pizza and soda and been regaled by tales of Rainbow Dash’s most awesome exploits. She’d also hosted a sleepover of the Cutie Mark Crusaders once, with Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom safely walking on the clouds thanks to Twilight’s cloud-walking spell. Granted, that time hadn’t gone so well (Scootaloo hadn’t even known you could set clouds on fire), but it was still memorable, if nothing else.
However, she’d never been in Dash’s house for anything really serious before.
Rainbow Dash tossed Scootaloo a hay cola and dropped back onto a cloud armchair. “What’s up, Scoots?”
Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were there too, thanks to Twilight’s spell. They had told her that they wanted to visit Rainbow Dash, and had managed to ‘cute’ her into casting her cloud-walking spell again. They stood a little behind Scootaloo, smiling, and ready to provide moral support if she needed it.
Scootaloo hesitated. “Uh… when Twilight first came to town, I heard you thought she was a spy or something. Why?”
“I was kind of freaked out by Nightmare Moon, so I was acting a little silly. But I know her better now, and I’d never think that of her, or you, or any of my other friends – no matter what.” Rainbow Dash paused. “Why do you ask?”
Scootaloo began. “Um… and, I’m leading your fan club and stuff, and we’re friends. But… if I was, uh, different… we’d still be friends, right? You wouldn't think I was a spy?”
She had trouble continuing, but Rainbow Dash flew over to her. “Hey, don’t worry. Whatever it is, I’ll still be your friend.” She smiled warmly. “Honest.”
“Even if it was a really big difference?”
Rainbow Dash chuckled. “Even if it was as big as the sun. You’re a really brave, loyal, awesome foal, Scootaloo. I’ll always respect that. Besides, you’ve got excellent judgement! After all, out of all the ponies in town, you chose the best one to form a fan club for!” She grinned and flexed her forelegs. “The one and only Rainbow Dash!”
Scootaloo couldn’t help it. She laughed.
“So whatever it is, I’ll stick by you. I promise. And you can count on it.” She winked. “So – spill. New crush at school?”
“What? No!” Scootaloo giggled.
“Are you really an earth pony in disguise with fake wings?”
“Are you a spy? Are the griffins using you to find out all the secret plans of the foals in Ponyville?”
“No!” Scootaloo had to struggle to talk over her own laughter.
“Hmm… you didn’t get into the Wonderbolts before me, did you?”
“No!” Now all three of the foals were laughing.
“Well, I’m stumped. C’mon, tell!”
Scootaloo took a deep breath, but she wasn’t as scared as she’d been a moment ago. “Here goes…”
She shut her eyes, and shifted to her native form.
There was silence for a second.
Scootaloo opened her eyes to see Rainbow Dash staring. She wasn’t frightened, which was good, but she seemed mostly… confused.
“Wait… hang on… she’s a changeling?” Rainbow Dash paused. “Scootaloo’s a changeling?”
“Uh huh!” said Apple Bloom. “An’ a really good one! Her Sweetie Belle impression is perfect!”
“It is not!”
“It is too!”
Rainbow Dash blinked a few times. “Am I dreaming?”
“No. It’s really me.” Scootaloo smiled weakly. “I didn’t know how to tell you, but I didn’t want to hide it anymore…”
Rainbow Dash examined her closely and backed up a couple of steps. “But… you’re not some new changeling replacing Scootaloo.” It was more of a statement than a question. “No… I know how Scoot sounds. You’re the real one.”
“You could ask her something only she knows,” offered Apple Bloom.
Sweetie Belle put a hoof to her head. “We’ve been over that.”
Scootaloo paused. “Well? You’re not mad, are you?”
“It’s a lot to take in…” Rainbow Dash sat down heavily. “Um…”
Scootaloo sighed. “It’s okay.” She should have known that even Rainbow Dash wouldn’t be able to accept this. “I can go.”
“Hey, wait!” Rainbow Dash sounded slightly panicked. “You can’t go yet! I have something I need to ask you!”
Rainbow Dash hesitated, then seemed to settle on something and grinned. “Admit it. You’ve tried on my body a few times, just to see what it’s like, right?”
The question was so unexpected that Scootaloo forgot that she might not want to answer it in detail. “Uh, sure, I mean when I’m not being me I’m usually pretending to be you, and… uh…”
The other three laughed, and Scootaloo joined in after a moment.
“You’re not upset?”
“Hey, I said I’d always stand by you, right?” Rainbow Dash rapped Scootaloo’s carapace a couple of times. “Who cares that you’re, uh, crunchy now?”
“Crunchy?!” Scootaloo ‘harumphed.’ “I’m not crunchy. I’m naturally armored!”
“No, you’re definitely crunchy,” said Sweetie Belle. “All bugs are.”
“I’m not a bug!”
Rainbow Dash flew under Scootaloo so that the foal was on her back. “Aren’t you going to show me what you think I look like?”
Scootaloo blushed. “Uh… what if I don’t get it right?”
“Well, obviously that’s why you need to show me so I can correct you! I mean, if you’re going around being me, I need to make sure you get every little detail! I can’t have a bad imposter sullying my reputation!”
Scootaloo laughed and hopped off of Rainbow Dash’s back. “Here goes!” She shifted.
There was another pause for a few seconds.
“Hmm…” Rainbow Dash flew around “I’d say, lengthen the wings a little, the mane needs to be a bit brighter, longer tail, but otherwise great!” Then she poked Scootaloo’s flank. “Except you forgot my cutie mark!”
“I can’t shift those yet.” Scootaloo hesitated. “But I’m working real hard on earning my cutie mark as a pony. And I bet, once I do, I’ll be able to shift them too.”
“Well, keeping that in mind… not bad!” Rainbow Dash grinned. “Seriously, there’s good attention to detail here.”
“Yeah, and she can’t even get my horn size right,” complained Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo rolled her eyes and sprouted a little horn into existence on her head, as if the Rainbow Dash she was imitating was an alicorn. “This is just right!”
“No, it’s too small!”
“It is not!”
“This is too weird,” murmured Rainbow Dash, before hastily breaking up the argument.
The Crusaders had a fun night sleeping over at Dash’s place. There was pizza, and rides on Rainbow Dash’s back, and she even let them stay up past their bedtimes.
Just before lights out, Rainbow Dash took Scootaloo aside. “If you want to tell the others… I’ve got your back, okay?”
“I do. And thanks.” Scootaloo grinned. “You’re the best hero a pony could have. Or, uh, a changeling too.”
“How’re you going to tell them?”
“I thought of having Pinkie throw a party.”
“Hmm. Not bad. But – oh, I know!” Rainbow Dash grinned. “Before the party. Let’s tell Twilight before the party.”
“Oh, I have a great idea.”
The next day dawned bright and sunny.
Twilight looked up from her early-morning research at the sound of a knock on her door. “Coming!”
She trotted over. “Who is it?” she asked, as she opened the door.
‘It’ was Rainbow Dash. “Hi, Twilight! Is—“
And then the bucket of paint fell on her.
Twilight blinked. She hadn’t remembered leaving an open bucket of paint on her doorframe. But it seemed that one had been balanced there, and when she’d opened the door, it had fallen off and right onto a newly-purple Rainbow Dash. “Uh…”
“Sorry!” Twilight frowned. “I don’t know how that got there!” Probably Spike. “I’ll get something to clean you up right away!”
She hastily dashed to a closet and grabbed a bucket, which she filled with water. Levitating a few towels as well, she ran back to the door, which had apparently swung closed. She opened it to reveal—
A cyan, non-painted Rainbow Dash.
“Hi Twilight! Is the new Daring Do book in?”
“…wait. Aren’t you purple?”
“No, that’s you.” Rainbow Dash blinked. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m fine…” Twilight shook her head. Had she imagined the first Rainbow Dash? “I think it is. I’ll get it for you.”
She trotted to the bookshelves, put down the cleaning supplies, and levitated the book. She returned to the door, opened it, and –
And Rainbow Dash was dripping purple paint again.
“Hey, I thought you said you were getting cleaning supplies!”
“But you were – just – uh –“ Twilight felt very confused. “One second!”
She hurried back, got the bucket and towels, and returned to the door, only to be confronted by the clean Dash. “That’s not my book! That’s a bucket and towels!”
She shut the door, paused, opened it, and saw the purple Dash. She did so again, and saw the clean one. She opened the door several times, each time seeing the other pony. Twilight’s eyes were spinning.
Just before she gave up, she heard two sets of knocks on the door. Hesitantly, she inched it open, to see both Rainbow Dashes, one cyan and one painted purple – both laughing merrily.
“You should see the look on your face!” managed the purple one.
“So, can I have the bucket now?”
“So you’re a real changeling?”
“Yes.” Scootaloo gulped. The prank had been fun, but Twilight had gotten very serious immediately after Rainbow Dash had explained what happened. Dash, as well as the other Crusaders, were in the library as well, but Twilight was only talking to Scootaloo.
“In Ponyville? For years? Without anypony knowing?”
“Yes.” Scootaloo looked away.
“Yeah, she is! And anypony who doesn’t like it has to deal with me!” said Rainbow Dash.
“But… really? A real changeling?” Twilight had a completely unreadable expression on her face.
Scootaloo gestured at her bug-like body. “Uh, yeah.”
“That’s not a costume?” Twilight levitated Scootaloo and began to rotate her in the air to examine her, ignoring Scootaloo’s awkward complaints. “Not a trick?”
“No, I Pinkie promise!” said a somewhat exasperated Scootaloo. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, yadda yadda yadda, please put me down!”
Twilight did so, her horn glowing briefly. “Don’t worry. I’ve got a detect changeling spell that’s sure to get to the bottom of this.”
“Of what?” demanded Scootaloo. “I just told you—“
Apple Bloom giggled. “No point, Scootaloo. Ma sister says sometimes she just gets like this, an’ nopony can do anythin’ ‘bout it. Just gotta wait it out.”
“But—“ And then Scootaloo glowed a bright pink for a second or two. “Hey!”
Twilight blinked. “Well… I mean, I guess that settles it. You really are a changeling.”
“… you’re not mad, are—“
Twilight grinned. “Mad? Are you kidding? This is the greatest research opportunity I’ve had in months! I have so many questions!”
Twilight’s horn glowed. The door to the library slammed shut, and a seat rushed up against Scootaloo, knocking her onto it. “Spike! Cancel my appointments and clear my schedule!” the purple unicorn yelled. “Something more important came up!”
“You? Clearing your schedule? Wow. Never thought I’d see that,” joked Rainbow Dash.
“Well, you’re seeing it now!” Twilight grinned. “Scootaloo, you’re going to answer my questions, right?” She smiled winningly.
“Great! I promise, it won’t take more than four hours. Well, maybe five.” Twilight paused. “Are you doing anything tonight?”
Scootaloo felt an impending sense of doom.
Twilight got set up at a desk with a lot of paper and a big inkpot. Scootaloo, back in her orange foal form, sat across from her, and the other three were mostly laughing on the sidelines. Twilight smiled again. “I want to know everything! Like what you eat besides love, and how you sleep – do you really sleep hanging upside down from trees, like a bat?”
“What? No! Who told you that?” said Scootaloo. She blushed as she heard Sweetie laughing.
“It’s from a book by Animania, Equestria’s foremost expert on foreign intelligent species.”
Scootaloo looked back at her giggling friends. “Well, I don’t. I mean, I can, but I like beds more, and—“
“Can you show me?” asked Twilight, eagerly.
“Yeah, show us!” chorused the other Crusaders.
Scootaloo sighed, then changed into her native form and climbed up the treehouse wall to the ceiling. She hooked her hooves around a beam at the top, then dangled down. “I’m not real sleepy now, but--”
“Wait!” Rainbow Dash leapt up. “Stay right there!” She zipped out.
Rainbow Dash hurried back in with a large bag of water balloons.
“Where did you get those?” asked Apple Bloom.
“Pinkie’s got caches all over town. For emergencies.” Rainbow Dash grinned. “Dye-filled too.”
Scootaloo hesitated. “Uh. You’re not, uh, still remembering that time when we accidentally turned your cloud pink, are you?”
Dash grinned and flipped a few balloons to the Crusaders, ignoring Twilight’s complaints about wasting time. “Maybe just a little.”
Scootaloo paused, then smiled. Rainbow Dash was challenging her to a contest – that was awesome! “Well, I’ll bet I can get down from here before you hit me with any of those!”
“Oh yeah? Ready! Aim!”
As a now-multicolored, and quite giggly, Scootaloo headed down, Twilight – practically bouncing from hoof to hoof in excitement – waved off Dash. “Okay, alright, fun’s over, next question!”
“I have a question,” said Sweetie Belle, quickly, before Twilight could get started.
“What is it?” asked Twilight, in a tone of voice that clearly ached to get this part over with so she could resume her interrogation.
“How come your big spell in Canterlot didn’t affect Scootaloo?” asked Sweetie.
Apple Bloom nodded. “We were afraid that ya’d cast it again an’ accidentally knock Scootaloo outta town…”
Twilight giggled. “First of all, it wasn’t me. Princess Cadence and Shining Armor did that. But actually, I think I know why it didn’t affect you, Scootaloo.”
“You do?” Scootaloo had finished climbing back down. “Why not?”
“Shining Armor’s spell was powered by the love magic of Princess Cadence. It targeted any creatures in Canterlot who didn’t have any love in their hearts. Queen Chrysalis, all the changeling soldiers who only wanted to feed on the love of ponies and didn’t have any of their own, all of them got thrown out. But you? You care about all your friends, and the rest of us in Ponyville. Your heart’s full of love already.” Twilight smiled brightly. “There’s no way that spell would have hurt even the littlest hair on your mane.”
“But… Scootaloo doesn’t have hair in her real form,” said Apple Bloom.
Scootaloo smiled. “I know what she means. Thanks, Twilight.”
Twilight nodded. “Happy to help! Now, as for the next question. Can you really see in total dark?”
“…what, ponies can’t?”
The questioning took a few hours, but at least Twilight gave Scootaloo plenty of candy to keep her ‘interview subject’ happy and talkative.
Rainbow Dash left partway through to get Pinkie to set up the party, and by the time Scootaloo got to Sugar Cube corner, it was in full swing. No sooner had she entered than Pinkie dragged her to a small stage.
“Hey, the Guest of Honor is here!” Pinkie yelled. “Everypony, make way!”
Scootaloo wasn't nervous anymore. Everypony had backed her up so far (well, except for Diamond Tiara, but she didn't count). Ponyville would support her. They were her friends, after all.
"Good luck!" called the other two Crusaders. They were standing right next to the stage, smiling at her. Most of the other foals who knew her secret were also there, and a few were giving her obvious signs of support – waving, whistling, clapping hooves. And, of course, Rainbow Dash was flying near the back. She winked at Scootaloo, who giggled.
“Uh… thanks for doing all this.” Scootaloo smiled. “I have something to tell you all.”
She paused. How should she put this?
“Just show them!” yelled Rainbow Dash. “Come on, be cool about it! Don’t give some lame speech!”
Scootaloo laughed. “Okay.”
There were, as she’d feared, a few gasps from some of the adults in the room. A couple backed towards the door. Fluttershy seemed to have teleported under a table.
“So, uh… yeah. I’m a changeling. I’ve been pretending to be a pony because I really like living here and all of you, and I don’t want to leave, but I didn’t want to keep it a secret anymore. And I knew I could trust you because—“
And then Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle jumped up onto the stage and hugged Scootaloo. “Scootaloo’s a changeling, but she’s still our best friend!” yelled Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah! An’ don’t be mean ta her!” added Apple Bloom.
The other foals began yelling their approval.
Rainbow Dash flew to the stage. “That goes for me too. Like I said before, anypony who wants to mess with Scoots has to get through me!” She grinned, and quickly lifted Scootaloo onto her back. “And nopony can!”
The adults began to murmur.
“Yes.” Twilight Sparkle, who had just walked in, began to speak. “Scootaloo has shown an impressive amount of courage in telling us all her secret, and she demonstrated that she trusts us. Let’s show her that the trust is warranted.” She smiled. “Scootaloo, I don’t think any of us cares that you’re a changeling. Whatever your species, you’re still the same foal that we care about.”
A few of the adults began adding their approval.
Scootaloo swiveled to look at a distraught Pinkie. Oh, right. She didn’t like Zecora either. “What?”
“Do changelings like sweets and cake and candy?!” Pinkie seized Scootaloo and shook her. "DO THEY?"
“Uh… yes. Yes, we do.”
“Oh. Okay then!” Pinkie grinned and stopped shaking the changeling. “I was afraid that you wouldn’t like the party ‘cause it’s all pony desserts, but if they’re changelings desserts too, that’s a-ok!” She grinned. “Now everypony, let’s have a wonderful ‘Scootaloo is a changeling’ party!”
Scootaloo grinned as the party resumed. Everything was alright.
Scootaloo sighed in contentment as she relaxed against a tree at the edge of the Everfree.
They all accepted me. They all care about me, even though I’m a changeling. I live in the best place in the world.
Scootaloo turned to see the other two Crusaders running up. “What’s up, Sweetie Pony?”
Sweetie Belle giggled. “Apple Bloom just had a great idea.”
Apple Bloom was bouncing with excitement. “We’re guaranteed ta get our cutie marks with this one!”
“What is it?”
“Well, ya know how we didn’t get any marks fer catapultin’?”
“What if we built a really big catapult that could catapult other catapults! It’d be, like, a super catapult! We’d have ta get our marks then!”
Scootaloo thought it over. “That’s… that’s genius!”
The three foals raced off on their next adventure. They had cutie marks to discover, after all, and not even incidents of species could distract them from that for long.