The evening light poured into the Crusaders Clubhouse, but the pony inside was hiding in the shadiest corner she could find. Every day for the past week she had been lugging cartloads of apples and other sorts of chores during her Spring break and the heavy sun beating down on her had burnt her cream colored back red. No ointment in the world could cure her raw hide so she had taken to concealing herself in the shade.
“Applebloom why’d you have ta open yer big ol’ mouth,” she complained as more stinging ran up her back. She never had to do jobs like that but bugging Applejack again and again about wanting a cutie mark had landed her working the orchards ‘just like a big pony’. Applebloom sighed and stared at the wall. Sweetiebelle and Scootaloo should have showed up hours ago…
“APPLEBLOOOOM! ARE YOU IN THEEERE?”
Poking her head through the blinds she spotted the colorful curly hair and alabaster white coat of her friend Sweetiebelle trotting up the ramp.
“Right here Sweetie! How ya been?!” asked Applebloom with a grin.
Sweetiebelle entered the clubhouse and gasped “I think better off than you’ve been. What happened to your back Bloomy?”
“My sis happened, ah was workin’ my farm the whole darned week an’ she didn’t gimme a single day off neither! I’m sorry ah didn’t get to go crusadin’ with you an’ Scoots but every night after ah finished bedtime was all ah could think about,” said Appleboom as Sweetiebelle studied her burnt back “Ah put ointment on it and everythin’ but it’s still stingin’ and hurtin’ me,”
Sweetiebelle tutted and shook her head “Please Applebloom, you must see a Doctor about these things. Also don’t worry about my week, I didn’t have any fun with Scootaloo either,”
“Why’s that? Did yer sis make ya work too?” Applebloom asked closing the blinds.
“No she had a big order to fill for some event in Nimbustown for a Pegasus party and she certainly didn’t want my help. I hadn’t seen Scootaloo all week so I’ve been hanging out with…other ponies,”
Applebloom perked up. “OOoooh, like who other ponies?”
“Those two dum-dums Snips and Snails if you must know,” replied Sweetiebelle briefly.
“Ahahahahaaaaaaaa!” Appleblossom steadied herself so she wouldn’t fall backwards, “That’s gotta be tha funniest darned thang ah ever heard. Why wouldja stick ‘round them for?”
“Well they didn’t make fun of me for not having a cutie mark. Also they are the funniest unicorns to listen to. You should see the silly things they get themselves into some-”
“Hello, anypony home?” rang out a familiar voice.
“SCOOTALOO!” the two ponies cried out rushing to the door. “How ya been Scootaloo how was your-”
They stopped short opening the door. Both of them blinking dumbly at their orange friend standing in the evening sunshine.
“Hey guys,’sup?” said Scootaloo wearing an innocent smile.
They didn’t respond, they couldn’t, taking in the sight of their friends condition. Scootaloo had bumps and bruises nearly all over her body as far as they could see. Her neck and right wing were bandaged which seemed to be held in place with a stilt of some kind and she wore a white cotton square over her right eye. Small patches of red stained her coat and bindings in various spots all over her.
“SCOOTALOO! Are you okay?!? What happened?! Is your wing okay?!”
“SCOOTS ya look terrible! Who did this to ya?”
Her purple eye flashed with shock, as if she had forgotten her appearance at the sight of her friends. Scootaloo looked away to the floorboards.
“I…had…an…accident?” she offered.
“Accident shmacksident, ya tell us right now who beat ya up Scoots! Ya tell us or imma tell for you!”
Sweetiebelle stamped her hoof. “No way, just look at your condition. Falling down doesn’t make you end up like this. You tell us what happened right this instant.”
Scootaloo sighed, she gingerly sat herself down. “Okay, I’ll tell you about it. Promise me you’ll let me finish the whole story okay?”
Applebloom and Sweetiebelle looked at each other and nodded. “We promise. Now tell us!”
School finally ended. Watching the hands of the clock had made time drag on even longer than it should have and it was agonizing to sit there and just tap at the desk. Scootaloo had practically bounced out the door at the sound of the final bell and immediately jumped on her scooter. First day of spring break, what a better time than ever to get flying. She ruffled her feathers as the warm breeze blew threw them. She felt she was ready to have a go at this. Not without a teacher to show her the ropes. Scootaloo knew the perfect one too, fastest pony out of Cloudsdale and the coolest Pegasus surfing the skies. Rainbow Dash had the week off as well. Mostly every week it seemed since she got her work done so fast. Sprinting up to her cloud house she called out her idols name.
“Rainbow Daaaaaaash! Are you hoooooome!?” yelled Scootaloo.
A familiar blue face popped into view, Rainbow Dash smiling and dropped down to the ground. “Hey there Scootaloo! What’s up?”
“I just wanted to ask you a big favor from you. Like the biggest in the whole world. I mean, if you have the time for it. If you do have the time for it I would like a favor-”
“Spit it out already Scoots whatcha need?”
“Rainbow Dash…could you teach me to fly?”
“Teach you to fly?” repeated Dash absently.
“Not just that! But teaching me to fly as awesome as you and and as fast as you and and as tough as you too!”
Dash cocked her head, as if shuffling all the requests through her mind. “We’ll be starting early tomorrow morning, practice warm-ups first and then some really exhausting exercise. Do you think you can handle it Scootaloo? I won’t go easy on you if you want all of that.”
“You bet I wanna be just like-”
“Waitwaitwait, let me rephrase, can you handle it?”
Scootaloo beamed at her idol. “Yes I can Rainbow Dash, I’ll do you proud!”
It was cool out and still early morning dusk when Scootaloo arrived at the agreed destination, the sun just peeking over the east and lighting the world awake. The chill wind kissed at her back as she beat her wings faster than ever on her scooter ride to the spot. Excited didn’t even begin to cover how she felt. She was going to fly! Dismounting her little blue scooter and tossing her helmet aside she began mussing with her purple hair. It always seemed to come out more tangled every time, not that it bothered her. Scootaloo turned her head around looking for her teacher. Was she too early? Probably too early since it wasn’t exactly bright ou-
“LOOK OUT BELOOOW!” yelled an incoming blur. Scootaloo covered her face as a fierce dirt cloud erupted around her. The dust settled revealing Rainbow Dash standing proud, silver whistle around her neck and wearing a headband.
“Let’s get started Scootaloo. Today begins the first day of the rest of your life. I’ll get you up and flying by the end of this week I can guarantee that. Time to cut to the chase. Warm-up time let’s GO!” she gave a sharp blow on her whistle and dropped to the ground doing some rapid push-ups. Scootaloo followed her lead as diligently as possible, making sure to copy her coach's proper form. Fifteen, twenty-five, forty…her legs were tiring and sweat already began running down her face. The whistle sounded again and she breathed a sigh of relief.
“OKAY, next up is wing stretches, yours are still little but go ahead and stretch ‘em out anyway. Nice and loose. Like so,” Dash flexed her wings, one at a time and slowly rotated them in their sockets. Scootaloo did the same.
“Alright Scootaloo I can see your primary feathers have grown in so it’s about time you get some use out of ‘em, run up to the ledge right there and get ready for your first flight,”
With joy in her heart Scootaloo practically skipped her way to the top of the hill. She peered down at Rainbow Dash, if only she could see the look on her face. Scootaloo took a deep breath and at the shrill blow of the whistle raced off the side as fast as she could.
“Whoawhoawhoawhoa,” she stammered spiraling downwards, she beat her wings but couldn’t seem to right herself in time. Scootaloo landed on the ground a few feet away from Dash in a messy pile of twigs and leaves. She looked up at her with a sheepish grin.
“What are you smiling about?! That was the most pa-thetic thing I’ve ever seen,” spat Rainbow Dash.
“Ya got a hearing problem Scoots? That. Sucked,” Dash walked over and glared at the little Pegasus, rosey eyes narrowing into points. “Get up and do it again. This time fly right and pump both wings at the same time.”
Scootaloo shakily got back to her hooves and trotted to the hilltop. Those sharp words pierced her resolve. It was her very first try. Then again the first time wasn’t always the charm. The shrill whistle rang through the air. Scootaloo jumped off the hill beating her wings faster than before.
“NUTS!” she yelled out. She had somehow turned herself backwards in the air. Again she fell to the earth in a heap.
“I said NOT sucking. What the heck is wrong with you? Turn your wings laterally so you stay upright. Can’t you listen? Are you an idiot or something? AGAIN!”
Scootaloo trotted back up to the hill with her head hanging low. This was difficult stuff but she was sure she could do it right. Dash was being real mean about it though. She didn’t want that. Flying…she wanted that.
“You can do it…be tough,” she muttered to herself. Scootaloo ruffled her wing feathers and took another running leap off the ledge.
She pumped her wings trying to catch a breeze, some wind, anything. It was like trying to swim with chains around her feet. Scootaloo fell to the ground like a sack of rocks.
“Maybe it’s not windy enough out Rainbow-”
With a sharp crack Dash pulled back and slapped her hoof against the back of Scootaloos head.
“Don’t you even START making excuses. I saw your screw up so get your head out of your ass and do it right this time you little dope.”
---ARE YOU SERIOUS!?
Scootaloo blinked. “Serious?”
“Rainbow Dash is tha pony that’s’ been beatin’ ya up Scoots!? Why didn’tcha tell anypony right away!?”
“I’m not finished you guys I-”
“This is something that I can’t just let slide Scootaloo,” piped in Sweetiebelle with a horrified look on her face. “Applebloom is right. Rainbow Dash needs to be vindicated for what she did to y-”
“Vindy-cate? That ain’t what vindy-cate means Sweetiebelle,” interjected Applebloom. “why ah betcha don’t even know what it means yerself,”
“Of course I know what it means Applebloom, it means, um, to be judged in a court of law,” she replied uncertainly.
“Thas not what vindy-cate means at all! Come to think of it ahm not even sure vindy-cate is a real word neither. ‘Sides the word yer thinkin’ of is perseycute ya knucklehead,” replied Applebloom with a laugh.
“Now you’re the one making up words Applebloom!”
“Oh yeah, what the hay is a knuckle then?”
“It’s a, uh, shoot alright ah dunno what it means, Applejack says it’s a turn a’ phrase.”
“How do you turn a phrase? They’re just words. You can’t turn a word. Your sister is a silly pony.”
“She is NOT a silly pony. Yer sis is a silly pony!”
“YOU GUYS STOP IT ALREADY!” shouted Scootaloo stamping her hooves. “What are you both arguing about? You two are the silly ponies here never mind your own sisters!”
“Ahm sorry Scoots, ah get carried away sometimes. Anyways we gotta go an’ tell somepony about what happened to ya right away.”
“Not until I finish my story! You guys aren’t even listening to me and you promised remember?”
“Scootaloo have you seen yourself lately? I don’t think I even want to know what happened. Point is me and Applebloom are going to go tell and that’s that.”
They turned to leave through the door but Scootaloo grabbed them both by their tails and forcefully tugged them backwards.
“OUCH! Hey Scoots why’d ya do that fer?” asked Applebloom rubbing at her sunburn.
“Cuz you two aren’t listening to me, lemme finish my story and then we can go,” she said firmly.
“Alrighty Scoots, we’ll let ya finish. Make it quick so’s we can git home before sundown though, last thing I need is getting’ in trouble.”
The next four days were filled with more mistakes, and more punishment. Every blunder she made was coupled with a barrage of jeering and insults from her coach. Complaining or making even a semblance of an excuse was met with a hard smack to the head or a punch to the side. This continued even after learning to shut her mouth. Scootaloo considered giving up and running away. She forced it out her mind. Quitting was for losers. She wasn’t a loser. All she needed to do was grit her teeth and force herself through it.
“What was that? Was that gliding?! I don’t want to see gliding you waste of feathers I want to see flying! Get flying you moron,” berated Dash as Scootaloo fell to the ground in a corkscrew. Another whack to the back of her head. She didn’t even feel the pain at this point. Blocking out the pain just happened one day. She wanted to prove she could do it. Prove herself. Scootaloo pulled her face off the ground.
“Now get your sorry little ass up that hill!” barked Rainbow Dash.
The trek up that hill yielded the same results every time. A leap off, a simple mistake and more abuse for her crashes. The wind worked against her. It conspired to blow her off course every second she was airborne. Her own body too, she couldn’t get the rhythm down exactly. Beating her wings at the wrong time and cork screwing to the dirt in various screw ups. Fortieth? Fiftieth time up the hill. Scootaloo marched herself to the edge and spread her wings again.
“Alright Scootaloo, you can it do it this time. You can fly. You will fly,” she said aloud to herself. With a deep breath she jumped off the edge and worked her wings into a glide. Pump one wing with the other and you’ll fly repeated Scootaloo in her head. That was it. All she had to. Don’t think about your legs you don’t need them. She glanced nervously to the incoming ground and started flapping her wings feverishly. The wind screamed at her ears as the ground rushed to greet her. She shut her eyes. One two One two One two One two One two One two One two One two
….The wind whistled through her ears. Scootaloo cautiously opened one eye. The sun stared back at her warm and inviting. “No way…is this happening?” she said breathlessly. A quick swivel of her head told her it was. The ground was below her now, far gone. Flying. Flying up into the sun. Her wings finally in sync and the wind whipping at her hair and tail. She ascended the sky in triumph.
“I DID IT?! I DIIIIID IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” she yelled blissfully swerving back to the ground. Everything was finally working. Flying. Flying for real. It was funny that her mind was racing to her now obsolete blue scooter on the ground. It had been her means of locomotion for so long. What should she do with it? Give it away?
As she drew near to the ground to see her teacher a sudden squall picked up and tossed her light frame into one of the taller pine trees. She was completely out of control. Powerless. A face full of brown bark filled her vision before blackness.
Dark. It was dark. That was her name being called. Was it time for school?
No. It was Spring break. She was on vacation. Seven days. Doing what? Fresh pain welled on her backside. Her right wing felt like it was on fire.
There was her name again. Turning her head she found the source of it. Rainbow Dash. No mistaking her. The sunlight framed her head and darkened her features. The week flooded back to her and she hid her face with her hooves. Crashed again. Into a tree this time.
“Y-yes?” she whimpered in response. “D-Dash I’m sorry p-please don’t-”
Her hoof was tugged away from her face and she opened one of her eyes, the other throbbing in her head. She braced herself for the incoming blow.
A kiss landed on her forehead instead.
“Congratulations kid. You came. You endured. You flew.”
“W-What? I crashed…” she stammered in confusion.
“You flew! Straight up to the sky too. Shooting for those stars. I am so SO proud that you did,” replied Dash with a huge smile. “I knew you could do it. I knew you had it in ya. Almost doubted you a few times, almost, but you came through at the end in spades!”
Scootaloo was reeling; she flicked an ear to clear out any possible dirt that could have gotten inside. “Dash I…don’t understand…I thought you hated me?”
Laughter was her immediate response. She watched her hero lay down next to her stretching out a wing, shading her from the dying sun a little.
“Scootaloo right at the start you said all those things that you wanted. Do ya remember what they were?”
Her head would fall off if she shook it. “No…not really,” she peeped out. The start of this whole thing felt so far away.
“You wanted to be as fast, as awesome and as tough as me. I’ll tell you something Scootaloo when I was little I wasn’t the natural flier you’d think of me. I bet I had even more trouble getting off the ground and getting my wings right than you did,” she paused there, looking at some falling leaves “Anyway that’s not even half of it, when I finally did get myself going I had to prove my worth double-time when I signed up for the speedsters. THAT was torture. Us girls are the lightest ones around and usually seen to be the weakest among fliers.”
“Really?” asked Scootaloo with her eyes widening.
“Yeah, scientifically us girl Pegasus are last behind the boys, the griffons and the dragons. So naturally when you end up doing better than them you get alotta hostility and stuff. A lot of it Scoots. Punishment when you should be rewarded for your talent,” Dashs voice was distant now, almost cold. “I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t prepared. So I dropped out. I was being a coward. Weak. I flew away.”
Scootaloos jaw was hanging open. This was so much to process. Dropping out because of bullying? Dash was so proud of being in the speedsters though. Scootaloo wondered why she’d never heard this before. Another pause. She just answered her own question.
“Why are you telling me all this now Dash? How come you didn’t tell me before?”
Another grin crossed her face. “I’ll tell you why soon enough, but first you need some patching up. Your wing’s probably sprained from that last accident. So I’m going to fix you up at my house and then we’ll go get your cake from Sugarcube Corner,”
Scootaloo gasped as Dash picked her up. “Did you say cake?”
“I love you so much. Thank you!”
“No Scoots, thank you. You did me proud.”
Scootaloo looked at her two friends in worry. Being speechless was not a usual trait for them.
“So…what do you think?”
“OHMAHGAWSH SCOOTALOO YOU LEARNT TO FLYYYYYYYYY!” screamed Applebloom throwing her arms around her. “YEAOUCH!” she squealed, jumping away grabbing at her sunburn.
Sweetibelle gave her a high-hoof. “Scootaloo I am so glad you learned to fly. It still sounds like you went through, um, too much for it though,”
“I thought so too at first, but when we were eating the cake-”
“How was that cake anyways Scoots?” asked Applebloom.
“Oh my gosh you guys it was the best ever it was orange sherbert with purple icing and sprinkles and I had chocolate sauce on it but only a little but it was sooooo awesome,” Scootaloo gushed licking her lips. “Anyway, while we were eating my cake she told me about how she was writing me a letter of recommendation to the Jr. Speedsters and she’s gonna take me up to Cloudsdale to register with them as soon as my wings all better.”
Shocked couldn’t begin to cover the looks on their faces at this new information.
“That is so amazing Scootaloo! A reference from this years’ Best Young Flier will definitely land you a spot in the speedsters. I am just so happy for you sooo much,”
“Yeah Scoots! It sounds like yer lifes movin’ ahead for ya real fast now. Jus’ don’t forget us Crusaders when yer livin’ the fast life in the clouds!”
Scootaloo laughed and grabbed her friends close. “Like I’ll ever just go and forget you guys, we’ve got weeks before we have to say goodbye for real. In the meantime, we still don’t have our cutie marks. So starting tomorrow is the official reunion of the Cutie Mark Crusaders!”
They hopped out of the playhouse giggling and laughing in high spirits, speaking of plans to make the next month the best one of their lives. Scootaloo turned her head towards Cloudsdale with a smile. Nervous...anxious...not one of those feelings were felt as she stared at her future. She felt ready. She could handle it.