Lonely Winter Nights by GigaBowser
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Thanks to my pre-reader: Mcstuffins

Cover art: kanashiipanda

Scootaloo sneezed.

She could hardly be blamed for doing so, thanks to the chilly wind that was tickling her nose. She sniffled in discomfort for a moment and then shook her head.

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle both giggled. "May Celestia bless you~" they chimed in perfect unison.

The pegasus chuckled. "Heh…S'cuse me…"

The three young fillies continued making their way down one of Ponyville's streets, moving at a comfortable pace and lazily seeing where their hooves would take them. They were headed away from Sugarcube Corner, where they had just enjoyed a trio of delicious cups of hot chocolate. Scootaloo still felt the warmness in her belly. It was a nice, if minimal, respite from the chilly air that surrounded them.

Two of the fillies trotted, while the third one lazily propelled herself on her scooter using one hind hoof. Scootaloo moved at the same pace as her two friends, leaning her front half over the handle bars. Many times before had she needed to answer the question, 'Do you take that scooter everywhere?'

It was wintertime. In fact, it was nearly the middle of winter, with the temperature dropping every day. Snow had not yet blanketed the town, but it was positively frigid outside. The three fillies could see visible puffs every time they exhaled. Sweetie was wearing a scarf, Apple Bloom had traded her signature bow for a homemade wool cap, while Scootaloo kept her wings firmly clasped to the sides of her body.

She sneezed again.

"D'you want me to get you a scarf?"

Scootaloo wiped her snout with her hoof and turned to look at Sweetie. "Huh?"

"Rarity has lots of scarves. I can see if she has one she can give you." Scootaloo saw the unicorn's eyes briefly glance over her unclothed body.

"Heh…Uh, I guess so," she replied, "I mean, a scarf would be nice…"

"Y'all should be wearin' somethin' anyhow," Apple Bloom interjected, "This's one-a the coldest winters Applejack's says she's ever seen…"

Scootaloo grinned and shook her head. "Naw, don't worry about me. I'm a pegasus! We're built for the cold because we live so high up! 'Sides, I'm tough!"

She paused as the two gave her friendly grins. "Ah, but…A scarf would be nice…" she added, and the three giggled once more. It was cold outside, but Scootaloo was glad that she was out in the cold with her two best friends in the whole world. She never stopped smiling when the two of them were around her. It warmed her heart much the same way that the hot chocolate warmed her stomach.

"Do y'all think we got time to try one more Cutie Mark attempt b'fore it gets dark?" Apple Bloom spoke up.

Sweetie glanced to the horizon, noticing the sky beginning to turn a shade of purple. "I dunno, the sun's about to set…" Scootaloo silently followed her gaze.

"C'mon, girls! We can think-a somethin'! Quick! What Cutie Marks haven't we tried yet?"

"Uh…" Scootaloo murmured, drawing a blank.

Sweetie glanced around, looking for inspiration. "Um…Cold…Wind…Um, 'icicle removers'…?"

The two gave her an odd glance.

She shrugged. "I've got nothing."

"It's okay," Scootaloo said with a smile, "It's too cold to do any more crusading tonight. We'll do it again when it's warmer."

The other two voiced their agreement and continued to walk down the road. The ground was cold beneath their little hooves, which had silently decided to take them towards the park. The branches of some of the trees were tinged with white frost, giving the whole area an eerie, frozen appearance.

"Where're we going?" Sweetie asked.

"I dunno, I was followin' you," Apple Bloom replied.

The unicorn giggled. "Do you ever think sometimes that we should have, like, a Crusader HQ or a secret base or something?"

"Ya mean like a clubhouse? Yeah, I suppose that'd be nice, but who's gonna build us a clubhouse? Ain't like there's one just lyin' around."

"Maybe Applejack and her friends can help build it."

"Yeah, maybe…but prob'ly not 'till the summer at least."

There was a brief moment of silence as the two glanced around, letting their thoughts wander.

"Is it gonna snow tonight?" Apple Bloom asked.

"Uhh…I don't remember the schedule. D'you know, Scootaloo?"

"Huh?" Scootaloo blinked, her mind having been elsewhere. "Do I what now?"

Sweetie gave her a look and repeated herself. "The weather schedule. Do you know if it's gonna snow tonight?"

Scootaloo tried to recall if she knew the answer. "Uhh…"

"Nope!"

The three turned towards the source of the voice, which had come from above them. Scootaloo's eyes lit up and a huge smile was plastered onto her face when she saw who it was.

"No snow tonight," Rainbow Dash announced as she circled around them and then touched down on the road nearby, "But it's gonna be stupid cold."

"Rainbow Dash!!" Scootaloo exclaimed gleefully and quickly galloped over to give her adoptive sister a warm hug, her scooter clattering to the ground. Dash chuckled and returned the hug eagerly. Scootaloo couldn't help but nuzzle herself into the older pegasus' warm, fuzzy fur. Being with her best friends may have made her smile, but being with Rainbow Dash made her feel like the happiest pony in the whole world.

"Hi, Rainbow Dash," the other two greeted her as they trotted over.

"Hey, what's up?" she said with a flash of her trademark grin, "Applejack wanted me to fly over and tell ya that it's time to go back home, Apple Bloom."

The filly's expression only fell slightly. "Aw. All ri', then. Guess it is gettin' kinda late."

Scootaloo was still hugging her big sister, but she extracted her face to look at Apple Bloom. "I had lots of fun today, Apple Bloom! Thanks for hangin' out!"

"Me too!" Sweetie chirped. She then glanced over her shoulder and added, "I should probably go home too. My parents don't want me out when it starts to get dark…"

"Let's all get t'gether again as soon as the first snow falls!" Apple Bloom said.

"Yeah!" Scootaloo agreed.

"I can't wait!" Sweetie said with a big grin.

"Then it's settled! All ri', y'all! Ah'd better get goin'."

Sweetie leaned over and gave the earth pony a quick hug. After a moment, Scootaloo managed to remove herself from the warmth of Rainbow Dash and join in to make it a group hug. The three ended up giggling and smiling brightly before they finally parted ways.

"See ya!" Apple Bloom said with a wave as she galloped down the street.

"Bye Apple Bloom! Bye Scootaloo!" Sweetie called as she ran in the opposite direction.

That left just two pegasus ponies by themselves. Scootaloo waved goodbye to her friends, and then turned to look at Rainbow Dash. She was grinning ear to ear. If it wasn't so cold, her wings would probably be out and flapping excitedly. There was no other way of putting it; she loved her big sister so much.

"So how ya doin', sis?"

A warm flutter danced through the little filly. After all these months, it was still an exciting thrill to hear Rainbow Dash call her 'sister'.

"I'm awesome!" she replied, "How 'bout you, sis?" That same flutter danced once again as she called the older pegasus 'sister'. Scootaloo felt like that little tingle of excitement would never go away.

"Awesome as ever," she said with a proud smirk, "Did you and your friends have fun today?"

"Uh huh," Scootaloo nodded excitedly, "Except still no cutie marks…"

"Ah well. They might've ended up being frozen marks at this point."

Scootaloo laughed. "Yeah, I don't think I wanna be an ice sculptor or something…"

Dash then fluffed her wings, giving her body a little shake. "Whewf…" she said, glancing around as visible wisps of breath could be seen near her lips, "This is what we get for making the summer so long…"

Scootaloo tilted her head. "Huh?"

"Well, with weather it's all about balance, squirt. We gave Ponyville a treat this year and we made summer long, hot and enjoyable. Now the downside is that winter's gonna be harsh. I'm honestly surprised the weather team hasn't assigned us snow yet…"

The filly was about to reply. Instead, she sneezed for a third time.

"May Celestia bless you," Dash said almost automatically, then she leaned in a little closer. "Hey, you doin' all right, sis?"

Scootaloo grinned. "Yeah, I'm good. It's just cold out, y'know?"

"No kiddin'. And it's gonna get colder."

"I can take it!"

Dash chuckled. "Heck yeah, you can! 'Cus you're tough!"

The two laughed for a moment, and then Dash glanced over her shoulder.

"Anyway," she spoke, "Sorry I can't stick around right now. I gotta go do a bunch of stuff. Wanna hang out tomorrow?"

Scootaloo nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah! Yeah!"

"Heh, all right. I'll see ya around. You should probably get home before your wings freeze off."

There was a brief pause, but Dash didn't notice it. "Y-yeah. I will."

Dash did hesitate, however, as another chilly breeze ruffled her wings. "You can get home by yourself, right?" she asked, her voice losing a bit of its typical bravado and letting a little of her newfound big sisterly nature slip in.

Scootaloo merely stood up tall and gave the older pony a confident grin. "Don't worry about me, sis!"

"Heh…" Dash smiled as she trotted over and tousled Scootaloo's mane. The filly giggled. "Okay," Dash spoke, "I'm gonna head off."

"Uh…Dash?" Scootaloo murmured, sounding a lot quieter than before.

"Yeah?"

"Can, um…" She blushed a little bit and glanced away. "Can I have one more hug…?" Almost immediately, Scootaloo felt foolish for asking the question. Rainbow Dash was very busy, and she didn't like hugs all that much. She prepared herself to hear Dash comment about her acting 'mushy'.

Instead, to her delight, she found herself picked up by a pair of strong hooves and enveloped in a warm hug. Dash even brought her wings in to hug her even tighter. Scootaloo resisted the urge to squeal with glee and hugged her big sister back. The wonderful, warm feeling of Dash's fur returned and she nuzzled against it again. It was as if the outside world wasn't cold at all. Rainbow Dash's hooves, fur and wings were all so wonderfully warm.

"I love you, sis…" Dash whispered.

"Love you too," Scootaloo said with the biggest smile on her face.

The hug ended much too soon for the young filly, though it had lasted at least a full minute. "Okay, gotta fly!" she said with a hint of urgency, "See you tomorrow!" Dash then gave her a wave and bolted up into the skies.

Scootaloo waved after her. "Bye Rainbow Dash!!"

She sat there for a few moments, simply watching Rainbow Dash disappear into the distance. She was then buffeted by another gust of chilly air, causing her to grimace and shiver. "Brrr…" She brought her forehooves up and hugged herself with them, but it was nowhere near as warm as Dash's hugs.

"Bucking winter…"

Scootaloo trotted over to where her scooter was lying on its side. The light of the setting sun made it cast a huge shadow along the ground, which was joined by the much larger shadow of Scootaloo herself. She picked up the scooter and set it upright.

The filly was feeling miserably cold. The nighttime was beginning, bringing with it colder air and the lack of the warmth from Celestia's sun. Her little hooves felt numb, and her tiny wings were stinging from the cold. She set off on her scooter, but the wind in her face was icy and painful. She slowed her speed to a crawl.

Scootaloo shook her head and tried to force her negative thoughts to go away. She reflected on the awesome day she'd just had with her best friends. She even tried to imagine the scarf that Sweetie Belle might get her. The thought of how it would feel was wonderful.

Darkness set over the land as she slowly made her way along the streets of Ponyville. She caught glimpses of very few ponies still out and about. Most of the townsfolk she did see were on their way inside anyway. Luna's nights were wonderful, but nopony wanted to be outside in dreadful cold like this.

Stop complaining, Scootaloo told herself, You're a pegasus. You can handle a little chilly weather.

The last rays of light began to disappear, leaving Scootaloo alone on the streets as she slowly pedaled herself along. The frosty night air arrived with a vengeance, causing her to shiver. The little filly continued on, making her way towards the heart of the little town where some of the larger buildings were.

"Almost there…" she murmured quietly. She turned a corner and headed down a side street. Her hoof was getting tired. The cold was sapping her strength away. It was okay in her mind, though. She'd be able to get some sleep soon.

"I hate this time of year…" she said with a scowl, "Mnn…Why does it even need to get so cold? Stupid weather…"

Once again, she tried to stop herself from being so negative. She tried to look ahead; tried to think of tomorrow. After a good night's sleep, it wouldn't be nearly as cold and she would get to hang out with Rainbow Dash. That thought alone was enough to brighten her spirits. She imagined all of the things they could do together. Maybe Dash would get her some of her favourite hay fries or onion rings.

She just had to get through this night and soon enough she would be having fun.

Scootaloo paused at the side of the road, next to some moderately-sized homes to her left. Another icy wind assaulted her, making her groan in protest. Sighing, the filly was just happy that the journey across town was over. The familiar neighbourhood greeted her as she stood there in the cold. The lights in many of the windows showed that most ponies were still awake, but inside and away from the frightful weather.

The filly glanced up and down the street. When she was absolutely certain that nopony was watching her, she quietly slipped into the narrow alley between two of the buildings.

She turned and carefully made her way into the alleyway. The buildings protected her from the biting wind, but they also blocked most of the moon's light and cast heavy shadows. The alley looked just as one might expect, with piles of old boxes, trash cans, and a grimy floor. It continued into the darkness, fading away so that she couldn't even see where it ended. Thankfully, though there was a stench, it was not terribly strong. It was hard to tell if she could see a rat or two, or if her eyes were just playing tricks on her.

Scootaloo carefully moved forward, dragging her scooter along, and continued deep into the alley until she passed by a large stack of old, forgotten boxes. There, hidden away where nopony would ever think to look, was a large weathered cardboard box turned on its side.

The filly let out a sigh as she stared at the box. "Home sweet home…" she muttered.

She leaned the scooter against one of the walls, taking care that it wouldn't be seen by anypony looking in from the streets, and trotted into the box. She grabbed the two opening flaps with her mouth and pulled them inward, not quite closing herself inside but blocking her from view a little more.

"Good ol' box…" she murmured with a dry chuckle. This box had served her well for over a year now, despite the ravages of weather and time. It may not have been the four walls she wanted to be surrounded by, but it was still standing there and keeping itself together.

Only a little water dripped in when it rained anyway.

Scootaloo grabbed a few pieces of newspaper from a nearby pile. She then laid down on the ground and draped the newspapers over her like a blanket. It was hardly a respite from the numbing cold that still coursed through her whole body. She curled herself up into a tight little furry ball and closed her eyes. She tried to relax, but found she couldn't stop shivering.

Sighing again, she told herself that things weren't as bad as they seemed. She was safe here from prying eyes. Not a single pony had found her yet. If it started to rain she would stay mostly dry. Either way, tomorrow was a new day and it was just a sleep away.

She tried to fall asleep for quite a few minutes, but the cold was relentless and it was just getting worse. Scootaloo had no idea what the actual temperature was, but she was certain that it had to be close to freezing at this point. It was awful. It felt just horrible and she wanted the feeling to just go away and be replaced by fuzzy scarves and warm pegasus fur.

The filly mentally shook her head and steeled her resolve. She let out a groan of frustration, though it was mostly directed at herself. "You're a pegasus…" she murmured aloud, "You're tough and you're strong." A powerful tremble wracked her body. "You're gonna be fine. This is nothing. C'mon, Scoots…You've already survived three winters here in Ponyville, haven't you?"

For a brief moment, Scootaloo opened her eyes and peered out the small opening in the box. Barely visible above the tall building directly across from her was the night sky. The stars were beautiful, but Scootaloo could practically see the cold in the air.

"This one's…just gonna be a bit colder…"



***



The moon was high in the sky, signalling the approach of midnight, as Rainbow Dash flew along the streets of Ponyville at a much slower pace than usual. She was moving her head left and right as she went, her eyes scanning the ground as she passed by.

"Yeesh…" she murmured, "It's like we're in the Frozen North…"

A moment later, Fluttershy flew up alongside her. The yellow pegasus gave her a look of mixed concern and appreciation. "Thank you so much for helping me find these little kitties that ran away. Oh, I know they can take care of themselves but I would really feel a lot more comfortable if they were at home with me."

Dash flashed her a grin. "No problem at all, Fluttershy. You know I'm always there to lend a hoof!"

"I'm sorry I'm making you do this so late at night…"

"Nah," Dash said as she waved her hoof dismissively, "I was gonna stay up all night and read the new Daring Do anyway."

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah, so I'm gonna find these cats so I can get back in time to finish it before the sun comes up! Just you watch!"

"Okay," Fluttershy replied, "Again, I really appreciate your help. I'm going to go look over by the park."

"Sure. I'll check this neighbourhood."

The two pegasi nodded and then split up. Dash curved around some of the town's houses and picked a random street to approach. By this time of night, almost all of the houses were dark. There were a few hardy ponies who still had their candles lit, but most of the residents were fast asleep.

A quick blast of icy wind assaulted the pegasus, making her groan in protest. She quickly alighted on the ground and tucked her wings to her sides, giving them a brief respite from the cold air. "C'mon, kittens…" she called out, but not so loudly as to wake somepony up, "I'm freezin' my cutie mark off here. Where the hay did you two go…?"

She trotted down the street at a brisk pace, moving her head about and trying to catch a glimpse of the fugitive felines. Thanks to her speed, the two ponies had managed to cover most of the town already. Despite this, however, the cats still refused to be found.

It was the coldest time of the night, much colder than it had been during the day. Considering how much time she spent flying at high speeds with the heavy wind assaulting her, Dash was quite used to cold weather. It really didn't bother her very much, though this particular night was beginning to irk her. She figured that this had to be setting some kind of record.

Dash scanned the front yards of the houses she passed while also looking up to the roofs to see if they had climbed up there somehow. Still no sign of the cats.

She felt a little frustrated, but she didn't let it get to her. She didn't mind being out here in the chilly weather and helping her friend. Fluttershy needed her help, and helping out her friends was one of her favourite things to do. If she ended up spending all night looking for these dumb animals and didn't get to read her book at all, it didn't matter to her. It was still something worth doing.

Dash trotted a ways further up the street. Still she saw nothing, but she kept her eyes vigilant. She was about to give up and fly off to another streets when she caught something in the corner of her eye.

Her head quickly swiveled towards where she thought she'd seen the movement. She was pretty sure she had seen something small and moving. She peered into the dark alleyway, happily finding that the moon was perfectly overhead and cast enough light so she could see.

What she couldn't see was any cats. However, there were plenty of places to hide, and there was a reason that the term 'alley cat' existed.

Dash slowly and silently trotted into the alley, keeping a sharp eye out for any further movement. She found the alley to be pretty disgusting. There were bags and piles of trash, dirty newspapers strewn about, and there was just a feeling of grime about the whole thing. Her hooves felt sticky and she didn't even want to think about what she might be stepping in.

Dash carefully sidestepped a pile of boxes, intending on seeing if one of the cats was hiding at the back of the alley and then high-tailing it out of there. When she did, she saw something else that made her stop and stare.

The pegasus shook her head to make sure she wasn't seeing things, but there it was. Resting against the wall was Scootaloo's scooter. She'd seen the little filly ride it so many times that it was unmistakable. Dash wore a look of utter confusion, wondering what in the world the scooter was doing here. Had Scootaloo lost it? How had it ended up in this alley when she had seen the filly with it only hours ago?

She stepped closer to it and examined it. The scooter was in fine enough shape. The only thing strange about it was its location. "The hay…?" Dash murmured aloud.

Her right ear flicked, detecting a minute noise. She turned her head to the right, seeing nothing but a cardboard box turned on its side. Dash was sure she had just heard movement. Was something inside of the box? Were the cats in there?

Before approaching the box, her eyes were drawn back to the scooter once again. She furrowed her brow and glanced back and forth a couple of times. A few dark thoughts entered her mind, but she shoved them away and berated herself for being ridiculous. She honestly couldn't figure it out now, but she would find out how the scooter had gotten there later.

She softly trotted over to the box, listening intently. Her steps slowed as the soft noises reached her ears through the quiet air. She could hear breathing. Something was in there. It sounded like…snoring.

A little chill that had nothing to do with the weather passed through her body. She was pretty sure that cats didn't sound like that when they snored.

There was a part of her that was now hesitant to see what was in the box, but she trotted towards it nonetheless. When she was close enough, she reached out with her forehoof and gently pulled one of the flaps open. Once she did, she was left just standing there with a look of disbelief frozen on her face.

"…S…Sis…?" she whispered after a few moments of stunned silence.

Lying near the back of the box under a bunch of dirty newspapers was the orange-coloured filly herself. Scootaloo was curled up in the corner, fast asleep. Even from a distance and through the shadows that the box cast, Dash could see that the little foal was shivering.

"Scootaloo?" Dash spoke in a frightened tone, "Hey! Scoots!" She reached out with her hoof and jostled the sleeping filly.

The little foal didn't respond.

"Scootloo, sis!" Dash said in a louder voice, giving her another gentle push, "W-wake up!"

This time, she got a reaction. Scootaloo shifted slightly and then let out a quiet moan. She slowly rolled over, moaned again, and then tried to sit up. She looked like she was having a difficult time keeping her eyes open, as well as keeping her balance. Dash watched, confused and honestly afraid, at the way the filly moved. She looked ill, and was still trembling like a leaf.

Scootaloo gazed up at her visitor in confusion for a moment, and then there was a sudden spark of recognition. "Ahh!" she shouted as a burst of energy came to her, "R-Rainbow Dash!" She scrambled quickly to an upright position, making a mess of the newspapers. The filly tried her best to sit up straight and gave Dash a look that she could only describe as 'attempting to be nonchalant'.

"Rainbow Dash, hi! Hi, uh…" the filly continued to scramble for words, "I, uh- What're you doing here??"

Dash blinked once, stunned in silence for a moment. "Wh- Scootaloo! What in Equestria are you doing out here? It's the middle of the night and it's freezing!"

Scootaloo cast a nervous glance at the box she was sitting in. "Heh, uh…I was just, y'know… Uh…" She glanced up at the bigger pegasus with a nervous grin. "Som- One of my friends dared me to spend the night out here. Y-y'know? To show how tough I am?"

The filly was certainly trying to look tough in front of Rainbow Dash. She was sitting up as straight as she could with her chest pushed out, and what was probably supposed to be a confident look on her face. However, she was still shivering uncontrollably.

Dash saw through the lie immediately. When a touch of pain began to seep into Scootaloo's expression, the full reality of the situation suddenly hit her. Dash shook her head and quickly leaned forward to scoop up the tiny pegasus in her hooves. "C'mere!" she said with a mix of concern and compassion, "You're-"

Rainbow Dash's heart skipped a beat once she had picked Scootaloo up and she felt how cold the filly's body was. It felt more like she had picked up a big block of ice. From head to tail, the tiny foal was frigid cold. "Sis, you're freezing!" she cried out in alarm and quickly pulled Scootaloo in close to her chest. She hugged the filly as tightly as she could, trying to share her own body heat.

"I-" Scootaloo started to say, but then she stopped talking.

Dash glanced down at her in concern. For almost a full minute, Scootaloo simply stared ahead with a wide-eyed expression. She remained still, aside from her uncontrollable shivering, as Dash held her tight. Slowly, the filly turned and gazed up into Dash's eyes. Dash looked back down in shock, unable to comprehend just what was happening.

Tears quickly filled Scootaloo's eyes and she buried her face into Dash's fur, hugging her back as tightly as she could with her cold, little hooves. She didn't cry, but she loudly moaned in distress.

Fittingly, Dash's blood ran cold as she felt the filly clutch her so tightly. She could feel the icy temperature of the filly's body as it pressed against her own. She was so cold that it felt uncomfortable to hold her. Dash quickly extended her wings and brought them in around the small body as well, trying her best to bring more warmth to the poor foal.

"Scootaloo…" Dash murmured, "What're you doing out here?"

She mumbled something incomprehensible.

"Sis, it's freezing cold out," Dash continued as she looked up and gazed at her surroundings, "And this…Why aren't you at home?!"

Scootaloo shifted her head slightly and gazed up at Dash with one sad, tear-filled eye.

Dash gazed back, a heavy pain beginning to fill her heart. The thought had occurred to her before, but she had refused to believe it. She thought about all of the times she had visited Scootaloo's house, and all of the times she had met Scootaloo's parents. The heavy realization hit her that the total value of both was zero.

"You…don't have a home…"

Scootaloo softly shook her head.

Dash eyed the decrepit cardboard box. "This…is your home…" she whispered distantly."

"D-Dash…" the filly moaned in a weakened voice, crying tears into Dash's fur.

Dash was struck by disbelief and shock as she stood there. She couldn't feel any heat coming from Scootaloo's body. The filly trembled and shivered unendingly and she was frightfully cold. "Why…?" she murmured and then let her voice drift off. She stared down at Scootaloo, cradled in her forehooves and wings.

Scootaloo gazed back up with half-lidded eyes. She seemed unfocused, and her eyes almost looked glazed over. "Sis??" Dash felt a spike of panic.

"D'sh…" Scootaloo slurred.

Suddenly filled with adrenaline, Dash quickly began to understand the severity of the situation. Scootaloo wasn't just extremely cold, she was literally freezing. Her lips looked pale, she was violently shivering, and she looked like she was about to pass out. Scootaloo was hypothermic.

Dash started to breathe heavily, her heart pounding as her head tried to figure out what to do. She started to make her way out of the alley, which involved running on her hind legs as her forehooves and wings were occupied. It was awkward, but Dash was enough of an acrobat to handle it.

"D-Dash…!" Scootaloo cried out weakly.

"Sis?" Dash replied, looking down.

Scootaloo, though tired and freezing, looked heartbroken. "M…My s-scooter…"

Dash paused briefly and looked behind her, seeing Scootaloo's scooter still resting against the wall. "Don't worry, sis," she spoke, "I won't forget it, okay? Just…just…" She tried to say more, but honestly she didn't know what to do. She was deeply in a state of panic already.

She filed the scooter away in her mind, promising herself not to forget it, and then continued making her way out of the alley. "Fluttershy?" she called out, not caring if she woke anypony up. She clutched Scootaloo tighter to her chest with her hooves and wings, but the filly only let out a disoriented groan.

"Fluttershy?!"

She exited the alley onto the dark street, whipping her head left and right. "Fluttershy, help!!"

Her ear twitched as she heard the sound of wings to her left. She turned her head and was incredibly relieved to see the yellow pegasus flying down to her.

"Dash? What is it?" she spoke as she alighted on the ground, "Did you find one of the cats?"

Rainbow Dash turned herself so that Fluttershy could see who she was holding. When Fluttershy leaned in and saw who it was, she gasped in shock and held a hoof to her mouth.

"Fluttershy, I…I…" Dash mumbled, trying desperately to figure out what to do next, "She's freezing cold!"

"What happened…?" Fluttershy spoke, a hint of horror in her voice.

Dash shook her head and stared downwards at nothing, looking incredibly troubled. "I…I don't…I found her in that alley…sleeping in a box! She was out here in this cold sleeping under newspaper!"

Fluttershy crept forward and reached a hoof through Dash's wings to feel Scootaloo's forehead. She jerked her hoof back with a gasp as if it had been shocked.

"I…I…" Dash stammered, "I just…She's sleeping on the streets, and…I didn't- She's…!"

"She needs to warm up!" Fluttershy spoke loudly, though worry was still evident in her voice, "Now!"

This seemed to give Dash a little bit of clarity. She glanced around for a couple seconds. "Right. Right, I gotta get her warm. I'm gonna take her to my place. I'll put her under the blankets and warm the place up!"

"No, Dash. Take her to the hospital." Fluttershy replied.

"But-"

Fluttershy stepped forward, giving Dash a powerful stare that spoke volumes of how serious she was being at the moment. "Dash," she said, speaking calmly and firmly, "She needs to get warm, and she needs to be taken care of. The hospital is closer anyway. Just go."

Dash blanked for just a moment, but then nodded. "Got it." She took a few steps away, but then she was reminded of something filed away in her brain. "Fluttershy?"

"Yes?"

"Can you look after her scooter? It's in the alley and she'll be really torn up if something happens to it."

Fluttershy glanced once at the alley and then back at Dash. "I'll take care of it, Dash."

"Thanks, Fluttershy."

A worried look appeared on Fluttershy's face. "You'd better hurry."

Dash followed Fluttershy's gaze and looked down at the shivering filly clutched against her chest. Scootaloo looked disoriented and half-awake. She felt another spike of panic in the middle of her heart.

She glanced in the direction of Ponyville hospital, only two blocks away near the outskirts of town, and then back down to Scootaloo. "O-okay, sis…" she spoke softly but quickly, "I'm gonna fly you over there as fast as I can. But, I can't hug you with my wings while I do that…and the wind will be…" Her words caught in her throat briefly, and a couple tears formed in her eyes.

"J…Just hold on, okay…?"

Scootaloo gave no indication that she even heard what Dash had said.

Dash shook her head. Precious seconds were ticking by. Scootaloo needed out of the cold, and Dash had to get her there. She faced towards the hospital and prepared herself for the quickest short flight of her life.

In the blink of an eye, her wings unfurled and propelled her into the air with a powerful downward sweep. She shot through the air, leaving behind a rainbow contrail, and quickly crossed the distance to her destination. Scootaloo moaned softly in distress from the icy bite of the wind whipping past, but a short time later the pair landed at the front door.

Dash quickly brought her wings back into a hug again and kicked open the door. She dashed inside, not even bothering to close the door behind her, and rushed over to the nurse at the triage desk.

"Help!" she exclaimed to the poor mare who was working the night shift.







Rainbow Dash sat there in silence on the seats outside of the hospital room, staring at nothing. The doctors had taken the freezing little filly from her hooves and quickly gotten to work taking care of her. The distraught pegasus had begged the hospital workers to let her stay in the room while they treated her sister, but the nurses had calmly ushered her out and informed her that the doctors needed space to work. While her sister was laying there, possibly dying of hypothermia, she was just sitting alone outside in the waiting area. It tore her apart inside. Dash had done everything she could to bring the filly to safety, and now it looked like all she could do was wait and hope for the best.

The dam burst and she started quietly weeping. Dash buried her head in her forehooves and cried her heart out.

There was no denying it or hiding it. The sadness that Dash felt in her heart from seeing Scootaloo in the state she was in, it stung her deep and hard. Rainbow Dash was a pegasus who never cried, no matter how bad things got or how much she got hurt. She was a strong pegasus with an iron will, an indomitable spirit, and a steadfast determination to stay strong against all of life's hardships.

This, though? This was too much.

Rainbow Dash had cried like this once before, and the reason was the same. Just like before, she was faced with the idea of losing a friend. However, while the issue with Tank involved him disappearing for a few months, this was a lot more serious. Not only that, but Scootaloo was more than a friend to her. Scootaloo was her sister. Dash knew that if she hadn't found her out there, Scootaloo wouldn't have survived.

The thought was too much to bear. Only a few hours ago, she'd bid a happy goodbye to the little pegasus. Suddenly, her world had been twisted and turned upside down and she didn't know how to handle it. She had so many questions and didn't know which ones to ask first. All she knew was that it hurt so bad inside of her, and she just had to let it all out.

Not only did she cry, but she quivered in fear. Rainbow Dash was terrified. Even a brave, confident pony like Rainbow Dash knew that fear was good and it was an important thing to pay attention to. Few times, however, had she felt crippling fear like this. She didn't want to consider the darker possibilities of what might happen.

Yet, a part of her knew that they could happen in this situation that she could have never prepared for.

She didn't know how long she'd sat there shedding tears. Through it all, she didn't even feel like herself. There was so much pain, sadness and fear coursing through her that she didn't feel like Rainbow Dash. Honestly, she didn't know what to think. She hardly lifted her head at all until she heard hoofsteps approaching.

Suddenly, she remembered that she wasn't alone in this endeavour and looked up. She dried her tears with her hoof, but she certainly didn't stop crying. Fluttershy stepped through the hospital halls towards her, eventually coming to stand right beside her.

"How is she?" Fluttershy spoke, "Is she okay?"

Dash sniffled and shivered. "I…They treated her and got her temperature up...but they won't let me in" Dash pointed her hoof towards the hospital room, and Fluttershy glanced towards the closed door.

"And I…I just don't know…!" she whimpered, fighting through her tears to speak.

Fluttershy trotted and took a seat next to Dash. "Try not to worry, Dash. You got her here, and now she'll be able to get better. She's going to be fine.

Dash was sitting behind her, looking like an absolute wreck. "Y…You think so…?"

Fluttershy turned to address her and said, "Yes, I think so. The doctors will do everything they can to help her.

"O…" Dash's voice caught in her throat. "Okay…"

She sat there with a distant look in her eyes for a moment, and then Fluttershy leaned over to give her a comforting hug. A moment later, Dash couldn't help but burst into tears once more. She clutched the other pegasus tightly, quivering as she cried.

"Rainbow Dash, it's okay…" Fluttershy said in a soothing voice as she rubbed Dash's back, "You did the right thing. She's going to get all better now, okay? She's going to be all right…"

"I just…" Dash said through shuddering breaths, "I just can't…believe…I don't understand…!"

Fluttershy was silent for a moment and then spoke again. "She was sleeping all alone in that alley?"

Dash just nodded her head.

"So…She was living on the streets? Scootaloo is…homeless?"

"How?!" Dash suddenly blurted out, pushing back from Fluttershy, "How is that possible?!" There was a bit of anger seeping into her tone. "I…I just can't believe it! Am I dreaming? Is this some sort of cruel, sick practical joke? How…?" She shut her eyes as more tears streamed down her cheeks. "How could she be homeless…and I had no idea…?"

"Dash…"

"I mean, with all the years I've known her! All that time we've spent together. She paid so much attention to me! We got to know each other so well, and now we've even started calling ourselves sisters! And I…I had no idea. How could I have not known?? All these years and I just didn't know that my closest friend was sleeping in a filthy alley?!"

"Dash, please…Calm down…" Fluttershy spoke in an even tone.

"What kind of a sister am I?!" Dash hung her head.

"You're a wonderful sister! Rainbow Dash, you just saved your sister's life."

"What kind of sister doesn't know her sister is a homeless orphan?!"

Fluttershy paused. "…She's an orphan?"

"I…" Dash frowned and glanced to the side, "I don't know. If she's not, then her parents certainly aren't around or she wouldn't be homeless."

There was a brief moment of solemn silence. "Rainbow Dash," Fluttershy spoke up, "It's going to be okay. She's okay, and you're okay."

But Rainbow Dash was not okay. She was a shivering, crying, emotional mess. Yet, she barely even cared what she looked like to Fluttershy. All of her sense of ego and self-image didn't matter to her in the least at this moment. The whole world could see the amazing Rainbow Dash crying like a filly. She didn't care. All of her thoughts were on Scootaloo at the moment.

"How did this happen…?" Dash muttered.

"I don't know, Dash. You'll just have to be patient and wait for her to get better."

Dash clenched her eyes shut and weakly beat her hoof against the seat next to her. "I just…can't…" she murmured, her tears still flowing, "H-how could…How could she not tell me…?!"

They both glanced at the closed door.

"I…" Fluttershy spoke, "I really don't know, Dash."

"Scootaloo's lived here for just about three years…! Was she…was she living on the streets that whole time? Even before we were sisters, we were still best buds! I…" She sniffled as a new set of tears threatened to burst forth. "Why wouldn't she tell me…? Why wouldn't she ask for help?"

She felt a comforting wing fall across her back. "I think only one pony knows the answer to that," she said as she indicated with her hoof towards the door.

"Nrrgh…!" Dash groaned, a burst of frustration flooding through her. "So stupid…!"

"Dash, don't beat yourself up."

"'Hey Scootaloo! We're gonna be sisters. Can I meet your parents?' Such a simple, easy thing to say, but I never said it. I mean, c'mon! She met my parents! She was all alone out there and I did nothing!!"

"Dash, please…Getting mad at yourself won't help anything. What Scootaloo needs right now is for you to be strong."

Rainbow Dash sat there quivering for a moment, and then slowly turned to look Fluttershy in the eye. Inside, she was barely holding herself together. "I…I dunno if I can…" she whispered; words that had never left her lips before.

Both ponies' ears perked up as they heard the door opening. A white-coloured pegasus stallion stepped through and trotted over to them. "Rainbow Dash?" He spoke. Dash gazed up at him with fearful, tear-filled eyes. "I'm Dr. Remedy Wing," he introduced himself.

"P-Please tell me she's gonna be all right!" Dash proclaimed in a begging voice.

"Well, we've treated her hypothermia, raised her body temperature back up, and ran a few tests. She was frightened, but also a little disoriented. We've finally managed to bring her back to a stable condition, and now she's fallen asleep."

Dash glanced at Fluttershy with an unsure look, and then back at the doctor. "W-well?!" she prodded impatiently, "Is she okay?"

"She should be okay," he said with a degree of certainty, "It's a good thing you found her when you did. Her hypothermia was only mild to moderate. She's exhausted now, so you should let her rest and she should feel a lot better in the morning."

It felt like the weight of a thousand ponies had been lifted off of Rainbow Dash's back. "A-are you sure?" she asked, and the doctor simply nodded. She sunk her head and started quivering again, feeling such a flood of relief that it was emotionally draining. "Thank you…" she whispered almost silently, "Thank you Celestia…"

"…Dash? Are you okay?" Fluttershy asked in a comforting voice.

The pegasus simply nodded.

"We're still running a few examinations to make sure there's nothing else to treat," he informed them, "but I think she'll be well enough for you to take her home in a few hours."

Dash looked up, tears in her eyes but a weak smile on her face. "R-Really…?"

"Yes, that should be okay. It will be better for her to wake up and recover in a familiar environment anyway. I should inform you, though, that there is always an outside chance that she could take a turn for the worse."

She felt her whole body stiffen.

"If that happens while she's away from the hospital, use blankets to swaddle her and get her back here as fast as you can. Understand?"

Dash didn't answer right away. In an instant, she felt all of her anxiety and nervousness return in full force. "I…Y-yeah, I…understand…" she murmured.

"Don't worry, Dash," Fluttershy said as she gave her a wing-hug, "The doctor said it's an outside chance. They just want to make sure you know what to do, but it's not likely anything's going to happen."

"The young miss is right," the doctor confirmed, "I am confident that she'll be all right, but nothing in the medical world is 100% and so I needed to properly inform you."

"R-right…" Dash said, though with not much conviction.

"Do either of you have any questions?"

They both shook their heads.

"I'll leave you with some extra blankets and an information pamphlet. In it you'll find some warning signs to watch out for. Rainbow Dash, your reputation as the fastest mare in Ponyville precedes you, so don't worry. If she does take a turn for the worse, I feel I can be confident that you will get her to the hospital in time."

Rainbow Dash glanced down at her hooves, shivered and gulped, and then looked back to the doctor. "Okay…I understand…"

"I'll stay at your place tonight," Fluttershy spoke, "I'll sleep on the couch. If you can't stay awake to watch her, you can come get me and I'll watch over her for you."

Dash sniffled, still feeling emotionally unstable. "Y-you will…?" she murmured.

Fluttershy hugged the pegasus with her wing again. "Of course, Rainbow Dash. Scootaloo needs us right now, but…Well, Dash…I can see that you need somepony too."

"I-" Dash spoke up, but then cut herself off. She merely glanced back towards the now open doorway. "Y-yeah…"

"Thank you, Dr. Wing," Fluttershy addressed the doctor, "We appreciate your help."

"No need to thank me," the pegasus said before nodding to them both, "I'll let you know if and when you can take her home."

"Well," Fluttershy said after a moment, "That's good news, isn't it? She's going to be all better. You saved her life, Dash."

There was no response.

"…Dash?"

"Can…" she muttered, glancing at neither of them but rather at the open door nearby, "Can I see her now?"

The doctor nodded. "Sure. Just make sure to give us enough space to work, and try not to wake her."

Dash muttered a shaky thank you and got to her hooves. She followed the doctor through the door, with Fluttershy following behind. The three stepped into the hospital room in all of its white, sterile glory. Pale green curtains, electric lights, and a whole array of various medical equipment filled the room.

The two pegasi trotted over to the bed, where there was presently only a single nurse nearby who was writing on a clipboard. There, tucked under a plentiful set of blankets and fast asleep, was Scootaloo.

Dash trotted over and sat on the ground next to the bed. She leaned forward with her forehooves on the edge of the bed. "Sis…?" she whispered.

The filly didn't respond.

For a moment, she simply sat there and stared at the tiny orange body. Her whole being felt weak. Her wings drooped at her side and she let her chin rest on the edge of the bed. It looked like all of the energy had simply been sucked right out of her body.

Fluttershy trotted over silently and sat down next to Dash. She put her wing over the distraught pegasus' back once more, but didn't say a word.

"I love her…" Dash whispered.

"I know you do, Rainbow Dash," Fluttershy said in a comforting voice, "We all know that."

"If…If I lose her…"

"You're not going to lose her, Dash. She's going to wake up tomorrow in the warmth and comfort of your home, and if worse comes to worse, you are going to rush her to the hospital faster than the speed of sound, and then she will be fine. Am I wrong?"

Rainbow Dash blinked back tears and slowly tilted her head to look up at the other pegasus. "N…no…?"

"Of course not," Fluttershy said, still in a comforting voice but with a firm tone, "Whatever happened to Scootaloo, it isn't, wasn't and never will be your fault. You didn't know. You can't fix a problem that you don't know is there."

"But…"

"I want you to stop beating yourself up, okay? Think about all the good things. Scootaloo is here, where she's safe. She's not out in the cold anymore. She's not on the streets. You're not going to toss her back out on the streets, are you?"

Rainbow Dash sat up suddenly, looking appalled. "No! Of course not…!" she half-shouted, taking care not to wake Scootaloo.

Fluttershy smiled. "She's safe, Rainbow Dash," she said simply, "She's safe with you. Be thankful for that."

Dash simply stared at her.

"She's had a rough day, and when she wakes up she's going to need somepony strong. You're going to be strong for her, okay Dash?"

After another few moments of simply staring, a hint of a smile appeared on Dash's lips. She chuckled lightly. "I've…never seen you like this before, Fluttershy."

"I've never seen you like this before either, Dash…" Fluttershy replied, "Though I can't blame you."

Dash sniffled and wiped the tears from her eyes. "I…I-I don't care who knows it. My sister's in trouble so I'm crying. This is the scariest moment of my whole life. I'm terrified, Fluttershy. Terrified! I just don't want to lose her…I can't lose her…!"

Fluttershy simply laid a hoof gently on Dash's shoulder. "You won't."

Rainbow Dash spent a minute or two staring at Scootaloo. She looked rather weak, but did seem to be slumbering peacefully. Some of the colour had returned to her face thanks to the warmth of the blankets. It was the middle of the night, so morning wasn't all that far away.

"Listen, will you be okay on your own here for a little bit? I'd like to go over to your place and set everything up for when you bring her home. Then I'm going to try to get some sleep, okay?" Fluttershy spoke, recapturing Dash's attention, "I'm guessing you wouldn't be able to sleep right now, right?"

"Y-yeah…" Dash murmured, "I, um…I'll just make sure she's okay. You know where the key to my place is, right?"

Fluttershy nodded as she stood up. "Feel free to wake me when you bring her home, okay?"

Dash nodded as well. "Okay…" She gazed up at the yellow pegasus and felt a warm smile creep onto her face. "Th-thanks, Fluttershy…Thanks for helping me get through this…"

She smiled sympathetically. "You didn't need my help to get through this, Dash. You're strong. And so is she. Please don't let her forget that. I'll see you soon." Fluttershy then stepped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Rainbow Dash let out a heavy sigh, feeling a tremble course through her body as she turned to look at Scootaloo once more. Fluttershy was right; there was no way she would be able to fall asleep. She was just worried about too much. Dash didn't exactly live a stress-free life, but none of the Equestria-threatening monsters, insecurities about her skills, or issues with getting into the Wonderbolts could add up to how stressed this situation made her feel. Dash felt like she was falling apart.

She brought her front half up to lean against the bed again, and leaned in close to Scootaloo. The little filly's face had remained in a distressed expression after she had fallen asleep, but at least she was breathing normally and sleeping undisturbed. There was still some dirt and grime in her mane that Dash wanted to clean off, but didn't want to wake her up.

Her heart hurt more than anything. How long had Scootaloo been living like this? How many months, or years had gone by that could have been spent somewhere warm and safe? Dash looked back on all the times she had agreed to let Scootaloo have a sleepover. The filly had always been so happy and excited, and now Dash knew why. Scootaloo had always said her parents were fine with it, and Dash had never bothered to validate this.

"I'm sorry, sis…" she moaned softly, "I should have known…"

Feeling worried, she carefully extended one of her wings and rested it on the filly's forehead. She did feel much warmer to the touch than before. The warmth of the bed covers was definitely doing her good. Now, she knew, all they could do was wait until morning. Scootaloo needed to rest and recover.

Still, as Dash laid her head on its side feeling weak and useless, she still had one question that pervaded her mind. The two were as close as any real sisters could be, which was why the answer continued to elude her.

"…Why?"

...

She wasn't breathing.

Scootaloo wasn't breathing. Dash panicked. She grasped the filly in her bundle of blankets and frantically tried to rouse the lifeless body. Scootaloo simply laid there, unmoving and not breathing.

Dash screamed for help. She bolted around the house. Fluttershy wasn't there. Where did she go?!

She immediately bolted to the skies, carrying the dying filly with her. Where was the hospital?! Dash knew this town like the back of her hoof, so why couldn't she find the hospital? Where was anything? It was hard to see. It was daylight, but Dash just felt so confused.

She swore. She turned herself around, frantically shouting for help. Nopony came forward to help, though. Nopony was there to. There was nopony to help her sister. Nopony in the whole world.

"You couldn't help me, Dash…"

Scootaloo's voice floated through the air and Dash shot her head down, but the filly's body was still limp and breathless. A spike of panic shot through her heart and she clung desperately to the young body. Denial flooded her mind. Scootaloo couldn't be dead! It wasn't fair, it wasn't right!

"It's too late, Dash…"

Dash screamed in horror, tears streaming from her eyes.

"Goodbye…"

Her eyes shot open wide as Scootaloo's body somehow escaped her tight grip and began falling through the skies. Dash immediately sped through the air, flying as fast as she could to catch the filly.

But she couldn't. She wasn't fast enough. She wasn't strong enough. Scootaloo was about to die and she was just not good enough.

"Scootaloo!! Sis!! No!"







Dash bolted upright, letting out a short exclamation of distress. She was drenched in sweat and completely disoriented. She glanced around at the room she was in, seeing it was her living room, and remembered what had happened. She had been allowed to take Scootaloo home via an ambulance carriage, but soon after the filly was settled in she had caught herself dozing off. Dash had begrudgingly decided to leave Scootaloo's side and let Fluttershy watch her for a few hours.

The panicked pegasus scrambled off of the couch, leaving her blankets in a mess on the ground, and she dashed straight for her bedroom. She flung the door open, which thankfully didn't make a loud sound because of the cloud walls, and stood in the doorway panting. She hardly even registered that Fluttershy was standing in front of her as her eyes went straight for the bed.

There was Scootaloo, still sleeping peacefully. It took Dash a moment to notice, but there was a little smile on the filly's face.

"Dash…?" Fluttershy asked in concern, "Are you all right?"

"I…uh…" Dash panted, "Y-yeah."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I…" She took in a deep shuddering breath. "I had a nightmare. That's all."

"Oh," Fluttershy spoke, softening her expression and giving Dash a sympathetic smile, "Don't worry, I stayed awake and watched her all night. She slept peacefully, and I think she looks a lot better this morning, don't you?"

Dash spent a few moments looking over at Scootaloo to see that she indeed looked better, before she realized what Fluttershy had said. Glancing to the side and out of the closed window, she saw that the sun had indeed risen. It was morning already.

"Heh…Um," Dash mumbled, "Thanks, Fluttershy. Yeah, she does look better. Do…you think she's gonna be okay now?"

Fluttershy smiled. "Well, I'm pretty sure. The doctor is stopping by in an hour or so, and he'll tell you for certain."

Dash could feel a little trickle of relief start to make its way through her body, slowly but surely fighting against the painful buildup of anxiety within her. "That's good. I-I mean, no. That's great!"

Fluttershy nodded. "Let her sleep some more, but if she wakes up then get her some warm water to drink and make sure she stays in bed. I'm going to go out and get some food."

"Huh?" Rainbow Dash blinked. "I have food…"

The yellow pegasus gave her a smile that would have been condescending if her name hadn't been 'Fluttershy'. "Rainbow Dash, she's malnourished. She needs healthy food like fruit and sugars, especially since she just battled hypothermia. No offense, um…but Rammen Noodles and potato chips aren't very helpful right now.

Rainbow Dash glanced over her shoulder in the general direction of her kitchen. "Oh, uh…Yeah. I guess you're right."

Fluttershy stepped forward and gave her friend a quick hug. "I'll be back soon."

"O-okay…"

"Don't worry, Dash. She looks a lot better already."

"Yeah, I know…It's just…"

The two shared a moment of silence, and then Fluttershy smiled gently and said goodbye. She trotted out the front door, leaving Dash alone with Scootaloo.

She trotted over to the bedside once more. Dash could hear her stomach growling and demanding food, but she ignored it. She could see daylight beginning to stream in through the window, despite the cloud cover, but she dared not open the window. It was far too cold outside. Rainbow Dash thrived in the cold, being a pegasus, but right now it was her mortal enemy. The cold had nearly killed her sister.

Dash bit her tongue and forced away those negative thoughts. Scootaloo wasn't dead; she was lying there in bed and would probably wake up any minute. She had to tell herself that Scootaloo was fine, she had made it through the night, and she was going to get better.

The pegasus sighed for the umpteenth time, laying her head on its side on the bed. The clock on the opposite wall told her that it was 7am. She was supposed to be on weather duty in an hour, but she didn't care. Not even a weather emergency could drag her away from Scootaloo's side right now.

As she lay there, all of the unanswered questions from last night ran through her head. There was still so much that she didn't know. So much she didn't understand. There was an overwhelming sensation of being left in the dark, and it made the whole stressful situation all the more worse.

"Mnnn…"

Dash's ears perked up like a rabbit's the moment they picked up on the tiny sound. She raised her head and turned towards Scootaloo's sleeping form. Her eyes widened as she saw the filly moving.

"Mnnnghh…" Scootaloo moaned as she gently tossed around, squirming beneath the blankets. After a moment she blearily opened her eyes, looking as if it was a chore to simply hold them open. "Uggghhh…" she moaned again.

"S…Scootaloo…?" Dash whispered.

The filly tried to sit up, but her head bobbed forward as if it were too heavy. Instead, she continued blearily blinking her eyes and glancing around.

Dash brought her forehooves up onto the edge of the bed and leaned forward. "…Sis?"

Scootaloo looked like a pony with the worst case of 'morning' ever in history, but she did lazily roll her head in Dash's direction and look at her.

"Sis…? Are you okay?"

"R…" Scootaloo spoke, her voice raspy and weak, "Rainbow…Dash?"

A relieved smile appeared on the older pegasus' face. "Yeah…Yeah, it's me sis. Are you okay?"

"Urgh…" Her tired eyes scanned her surroundings. "What…? I…"

"Scootaloo…" Dash spoke, repeating herself once more, "Are you okay? How do you feel?"

"Thirsty…" Scootaloo rasped.

Dash jolted upright suddenly. "Oh! Right! Warm water. Right, right, just hang tight. Okay, squirt? Don't get up."

"Mmkay…"

Dash quickly made her way to the kitchen and filled up a small glass with warm water from the tap. She brought it back into the bedroom and then carefully used her hooves to bring the glass up to Scootaloo's lips. The filly struggled to sit up slightly so she wouldn't choke, and slowly gulped down the water. Afterwards, she groaned as if she had drank something nasty.

"C'mon, sis," Dash urged the filly, "One more gulp, okay? You need to warm up and get hydrated."

Scootaloo moaned, but then said, "Mkay…"

Dash repeated the action once more, and when she moved back this time the glass was only a quarter full. Scootaloo let out another quiet moan, but Dash could hear that her voice sounded less scratchy now.

"Atta girl…That'll make you feel better," Dash spoke. She then leaned forward on the bed and pulled the covers back up to Scootaloo's barrel so that they were properly covering her once more. The filly fidgeted a little, but then smiled weakly as warmth began to envelop her.

Dash was struggling to keep her emotions in check. Scootaloo was awake and looking a lot better than last night. Her worst fears seemed to have abated. She felt so relieved that she wanted to just break down and cry again, but Dash knew that wouldn't be helpful right now.

"Mmm…" Scootaloo snuggled herself into the covers, and then opened her eyes fully. Finally, it looked like she was seeing the world through lucid eyes. She looked a little groggy still, as if she had woken up from a dream. She turned and eyed Rainbow Dash, then glanced around the room. "Where am I…?" she murmured.

Dash smiled warmly, feeling her heart beating with joy as she watched. "You're in my house, sis," she spoke gently, "You've been sleeping here with me."

She could see the filly's eyes light up as she processed this information. "R-really…?" she asked in quiet disbelief, "Sleepover at your place?"

Dash blinked. Not quite the correct answer, but she decided to nod anyway.

"Gosh…I don't even remember…" Scootaloo's words trailed off into nothing, but after a moment of silence she smiled again. It was a genuine smile, one Dash had seen many times before. Scootaloo did love sleepovers at her place so much. It had seemed impossible for the filly to be sad while within these walls.

Dash knew why now.

Scootaloo shivered slightly. "S'cold…" she muttered, "It musta been really cold last night, huh?"

"Yeah," Dash spoke, "Do you want another blanket? I think I've got more somewhere around here…."

Scootaloo shook her head. "No, I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" Dash asked, having already gotten to her hooves. She was ready to do whatever it was her little sister needed her to do.

The filly gave her a grateful smile and nodded. "Yeah, sis. I'm fine."

Dash stood there for a moment. Scootaloo's words bounced around in her head. She was fine, wasn't she? Thank the heavens above, Scootaloo was just fine. She had said it herself. There was a few seconds of silence, and then the tears started to well up in Dash's eyes. A massive torrent of emotions suddenly broke through her weakly built dam and quickly overcame her. Without a second thought, Dash hopped onto the bed next to Scootaloo and leaned in to give her sister a tight, loving hug.

Scootaloo gasped in shock, not having expected the sudden embrace. Dash had both of her hooves around her, while keeping the blanket between them for her warmth. Dash also had her wings brought in close to complete embrace, and she had her head buried into the pillow next to the filly's head. The older pegasus shivered and silently cried as she clenched her sister as tightly as she dared. She felt a fear in her heart that if she let go, Scootaloo would be gone.

"D…Dash…?" Scootaloo asked in a confused, innocent tone.

"I love you, sis!" Dash exclaimed.

"I…I love you too, sis…" Scootaloo replied softly, still fairly confused.

Dash sniffled, letting the tears fall. "Y-you scared me…You scared me so much…"

"I did…?"

She simply kept on holding the filly tightly, the sound of her sobs filling the room. "I thought…I was gonna lose you…"

There was silence for a couple minutes except for Dash's sobbing. She shivered as she held onto the filly, images of dropping her and watching her fall through the air assaulted her mind. She didn't want to let go.

"Dash…"

She knew she had to, though. So, she reluctantly released Scootaloo from the embrace and shuffled back to sit on her haunches in the middle of the bed. She sat facing Scootaloo directly. Her red tear-filled eyes reflected in the filly's own. Though she was relieved that Scootaloo was okay, she strangely felt just as sad as the previous night.

The young filly's expression had changed. Dash could tell that she had started to figure things out.

"Sis, I almost lost you…" Dash said again, "You…" She closed her eyes and shuddered. "You were so cold…You wouldn't wake up…They said it was hypothermia and I thought for sure you were gonna d-" Dash cut herself off and sobbed a few times.

Scootaloo was silent for a few moments, and then she spoke in a low, sad tone. "So…You found me out there…?"

Dash blinked away the tears and just stared at her.

Scootaloo sighed, a little shiver passing through her body as well. "I…really thought I could handle it." She glanced away, closed her eyes and shook her head. "I…didn't want you to know…But I guess…"

"Sis…!"

Jumping slightly, Scootaloo turned to look at Dash again.

"…Why?"

She tilted her head. "Huh?"

Dash could feel another onslaught of emotions barely being held at bay. "Why…?" she repeated, "Why didn't you tell me? Why…didn't you ask for help?"

A dark look appeared on the filly's face and she glanced down, as if her greatest shame in life had been revealed. "I'm sorry, Dash…" she muttered, "I'm sorry that I'm such a…such a…"

"Scootaloo!" Dash interjected, a few stray tears running down her cheeks, "I nearly lost you last night and right now I'm just happy that you're alive. I don't really care about who did what, or who's sorry about this or that…" She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them to look directly into Scootaloo's. "I just have to know, sis…" She sobbed. "W-why…?"

Scootaloo glanced away, a quivering frown on her lips. Dash could see that she was now on the verge of crying too and felt a pang of guilt in her heart. However, she knew that the two of them needed to get whatever this was out there. She told herself that it could only help them both in the long run.

"Because…" she spoke in a quiet voice, "B-because I'm pathetic…"

Dash blanched. "What?!"

"I…I didn't want you to see how pathetic my life had become…"

She didn't know how to react. Dash simply sat there for a moment, looking at the little filly in disbelief. "I don't…" she started to say, but the words died on her lips.

Scootaloo heaved a heavy sigh and continued to glance away, not meeting Rainbow Dash's eyes. "Three years ago, I ran away from that place in Manehatten. I decided I never wanted to go back and I don't want to remember it."

'That place'. Rainbow Dash frowned. "So…" she spoke softly, approaching the topic lightly, "So, your…parents are-?"

"Dead."

Dash gulped, suppressing a shudder. She silently waited for Scootaloo to go on.

"And…" she spoke, while trying to hold back tears of her own, "And I came all the way to Ponyville…I figured this was where I could start over…And…a-as soon as I got here…the first- The very first pony I met…"

Recognition suddenly flooded Dash's mind. "…was me," she finished.

Scootaloo nodded. "You were so welcoming, and just so awesome…" The uplifting memory seemed to be bringing up her spirits a little. "You started talking about all the awesome things you could do, and all the ways you were making Ponyville more awesome…"

Dash scratched the back of her neck and chuckled awkwardly. "I guess I was a little too boastful back then, huh?"

"But…before you left, you started talking about me…" Scootaloo continued, "You said I looked pretty strong and had potential. You told me to keep going and follow my dreams. You…y-you told me to never ever give up."

"Yeah…" Dash murmured, "I remember that…"

Scootaloo blinked, tears starting to run down her cheeks. "Dash, I…I-I didn't give up. I promise I didn't…but you saw everything. You saw where I live and how much stuff I can call my own. I tried my hardest and still I almost died today!"

"I…Scootaloo…" Dash could feel her heart starting to break in two.

"I didn't want you to see that, because I wanted to make my life better first. Once I got off the streets, I wanted to show you that. It would've been an accomplishment! But it…never happened…"

"Sis…" Dash breathed, a strange mix of emotions churning in her belly, "Am I…getting this right? You've been living down in that alley…since you got here?"

Scootaloo sobbed and then nodded.

Dash was floored. "…That was three years ago!"

She nodded again.

The older pegasus simply turned her head towards the window, staring out at the icy cold world that was outside. Her brain tried to process the idea of Scootaloo being homeless for that long, but the puzzle pieces simply didn't fit together. "I…Sis, that's crazy…" she murmured as she returned her gaze to the filly.

Scootaloo met her gaze for a moment, then her head drooped down in shame. "I…I had to t-take apples…an' stuff…"

"Huh? You mean, like, from the market?"

She nodded slowly. "I…Dash, I only took wh-what I needed. Just one apple every two days, and maybe something else somewhere. If they caught me, I told them I was being dared and I gave it back and didn't eat anything that day, but…I'm sorry, Dash. I know stealing is wrong. I…I didn't want to. Please, please…D-don't be mad at me…"

"Sis, n-no…" Dash murmured, crawling forward a little bit on the bed, "I'm not mad at you. You're right. Stealing is wrong, but you did it because you had to. You stole, but you weren't a bad pony? Right?"

"I…"

"You weren't. I know you, Scoots. You're not a bad pony."

"…I guess."

Dash still had a troubled look on her face. "I'm just glad you're safe now…" she murmured, "I mean…How did you…?"

Scootaloo had caught her briefly glancing out the window again. "How did I survive the last three winters?"

Rainbow Dash simply nodded.

"Well…" Scootaloo said as she fiddled with her front hooves, a half-smile on her lips, "It got pretty cold pretty fast, so I knew I had to do something. Luckily, I found this house down on Trotson Lane. It was owned by this family, and I think they were like kinda rich…?

"The thing is, they all went to go live somewhere else during the winter. I overheard them say that they spend their winters in Hoovaii, where it's warmer. So…the house was empty and nopony was using it."

Dash's eyes widened as the truth was revealed. "Ohh…"

"I found a way in the back…The house was totally empty, y'know. They took everything with them, and there was no food. So while they were gone, I spent my nights there. Then, when they came back home, I went back to my…box."

Dash felt a twang on her heartstrings as she was reminded of where Scootaloo had been living.

"I never stole anything. I just slept in the house when they weren't there. It wasn't even that warm, because I couldn't light a fire and risk burning the house down…But then, last summer, they sold the house. They moved to Hoovaii for good, and now another family lives there. They didn't leave like the last family did for the winter, so I…Well, that option was gone."

"Wow…Well, couldn't you find another house or something?" Dash couldn't believe what she was hearing.

Scootaloo shook her head. "Winter came and all I had was my box…But…" She let out a half-hearted chuckle, "I convinced myself that I could handle it. It was like you were always telling me. Pegasi are tough and we're built for the cold. We fly through snowstorms and hurricanes. I figured it wasn't gonna be fun, but I could handle it…"

Dash watched as Scootaloo shivered and hugged herself, no doubt awful memories were running through her head.

"But I couldn't do it, Dash…I'm weak. I failed at everything else and now I failed at this too…I'm sorry Dash, but I'm just pathetic…"

"Hey…Hey! Hey, hey! Stop that!" Dash cut in, "What're you saying?"

Scootaloo was crying again. "I tried to follow my dreams and never quit and not give up, Dash, but I couldn't do it! I can't do it! I'm never gonna get off the streets because I'm just not good enough…"

Dash stared in silence for a moment, listening and trying to come to grips with everything the filly had told her. She felt a heartbreak unlike any she had ever felt before. To hear what Scootaloo had been through, for years no less, and to hear her woeful cries now. It felt like a buck in the gut.

"Sis…You're not-"

"No, Dash…" Scootaloo whined, cutting in, "Don't pretend…You've always told me to be strong and accomplish my goals and…a-and stuff like that."

"Scoots-"

"I never wanted you to see me fail this hard! Ever! I…I wish you hadn't found me!"

"Scootaloo Dash! Listen!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed.

The filly fell silent and stared at her, mouth open slightly and eyes wide.

Dash took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. "Sis…" she began, speaking calmly, "I am upset with you, and yes you did screw up pretty bad…but it is not because you are pathetic or a failure. Okay? I don't want to hear you put yourself down like that. Not after all of this. Even if you were the most pathetic pony on the planet, which you are definitely not, it wouldn't matter to me because that pathetic pony would have still been my sister, and I still would've almost…lost her."

Dash placed a hoof upon her heart and gave the filly a hard look. "It hurts. It hurts me right here, sis…I mean, it hurts so bad that you didn't tell me…or anypony! Yeah, I'm upset with you…but it's because you kept this whole thing a secret. I just can't believe…I've known you for three years, sis…and all that time I was loafing around in this house like the lazy jerk I am, you were out there…all alone…cold and starving…"

Tears were welling up in both of their eyes. Dash could see the regretful look in Scootaloo's expression, but the filly didn't speak up yet.

"Even when we first met, I really liked you. I thought you were cool and fun. Then we became best friends…and then I decided to take you under my wing and call you my sister…and still you kept this from me? You didn't think during that whole time to ask me for help?"

Scootaloo sniffled. "S-sis…" she spoke softly, "I…I wanted to be like you. You're so strong, a-and you don't give up…and you make your dreams come true all on your own!"

Dash looked at the filly for a moment, then leaned back and sighed. "Sis, listen… Most of the things I do in my life, yeah I do it on my own. I strive for my own accomplishments, and I try to show off what I can do. I've told you this and I'm sure it's stuck in your brain: to never give up and try your best. Right?"

Scootaloo nodded.

"Well…" Dash continued, "Life is really hard, and it gets crazy. The sad truth is, Scoots, that sometimes your best just isn't good enough." She saw the filly glance down in disappointment and so quickly continued. "That's when you ask for help.

"I ask for help all the time, Scoots. There's a lot that I'm proud of, but I'm not Superpony. I can't do everything! When life gets too tough and I can't do it on my own, that's when my friends are there to help me out. I never give up, because asking for help is not giving up. Instead, you just make the accomplishment together. Remember when I wanted to practice that new flying trick and I wanted to perfect it by being launched off a seesaw? Perhaps I coulda rigged up a big rock and a rope or something, but I could never lift a big enough boulder that high, and I would probably just get hurt. So I asked Applejack for help."

She paused for a moment. "The results of that 'help' were a little…Well anyway, you get my point."

Scootaloo glanced down and sniffled. "I just wanted to prove that I'm not useless…"

"'Useless'?!" Dash replied, flabbergasted, "Are you kidding me? Don't you realize how awesome you are?"

The filly gave her a confused look.

"While you might have done it for totally the wrong reasons and didn't have to do it at all…Scoots, you spent three years on the streets. You found ways to survive, and you found ways to get through the harsh winters. Even though things didn't get better, you kept on fighting. You fought back against the world and told it that you wanted to live!

"I'm still upset that it happened…but you survived through living in a box, little food, and cold winters, and up until last night you did it without anypony's help. Scootaloo…" Dash paused and put on a warm smile. "That's incredible. You should feel very proud of an accomplishment like that… Only a strong, smart, not useless pony could have done what you did." Dash chuckled and rubbed the back of her neck. "Heck…I couldn't have done that…"

Scootaloo's eyes had grown wide. "R…Really?" she murmured almost silently, "You really think that…?"

"Absolutely."

"But…But I-"

"Sis, forget about what your goal was. Think about what you did. Living on the streets is dangerous, but you stayed strong. You survived! You're still sitting here with me, Scoots." Dash's expression melted into an affectionate smile. "I'm so proud of you, squirt. You might even be stronger than me."

"I…I am…?"

"You're not useless. Never say that."

"I…" Scootaloo was staring off at nothing, deep in thought. "I did…make it pretty far, didn't I…?"

"Of course you did. You're my sister, after all.

Scootaloo turned and gave her an odd, wide-eyed look. She looked like she wanted to say something but couldn't find the words.

"…What?" Dash asked, tilting her head.

"Y-you…" Scootaloo mumbled, "Earlier…You called me…'Scootaloo Dash'…"

Dash smiled warmly. "Well, yeah. We're sisters, right? It only makes sense."

Now, Scootaloo had a faraway look in her eyes. "Sis…I- Wow…I don't even…"

"Heh…D'ya like it?"

Scootaloo nodded. "Y-yeah…Dash, it means so much to me…"

"Well, I would be happy to call you that."

Her eyes refocused, and Scootaloo looked deep into Dash's rose-coloured eyes. "Because…You're my sister…"

Dash nodded. "And you're my sister. I care about you, and I want to keep you safe…and I love you, Scootaloo. I love you as if we've been sisters our whole lives. I want to be there for you when you fall to pick you back up. I want to give you a hug when you get your Cutie Mark."

Scootaloo was silent for a moment, and then spoke softly. "I love you too, Dash…" Tears quickly started to stream from her eyes as her face twisted up in emotional pain. "Sis…!" she whined, "You're my sister, and I-" However, she couldn't get any more words out before she burst into tears.

Dash simply crawled forward so that she could hug and console the crying filly. "Shh…" she soothed, "Don't worry…"

There was anguish in Scootaloo's cries. There was the sense of pent up emotions that hadn't been allowed out for a long, long time. Dash could tell that Scootaloo felt remorseful about the mistakes she had made, but mostly it felt like the filly was finally just sharing a good cry with somepony else about what she had gone through. Dash felt as if she couldn't hug the little pony tightly enough.

"It's okay…" she whispered, "It's okay, sis…I'm here now. I know everything now, and I'm going to make it better. I promise."

Scootaloo made a few attempts to talk, but simply couldn't. All she could do for the next few minutes was cry and clutch the warm, fuzzy body of her big sister as tightly as she could.

"I'm sorry you had to go through all of that…" Dash whispered softly, "I'm sorry I didn't know."

"I-I'm sorry I didn't tell you!" Scootaloo cried out. She hiccupped and then said, "I'm sorry I was so stupid! I should've told you from the first day! I should've known that I couldn't- I…Or at least when this winter…"

"Shhhhh…" Dash tried to calm the frantic filly down, "It's okay now. It's all in the past. Right now you're in a warm house with nice warm blankets. Fluttershy will be back any minute with fresh food, and the doctor will be here to make sure you're all right."

Scootaloo's cries were finally dying down. When Dash moved away and looked down at her, she could see a small smile forming on the filly's lips.

"You're with me right now. That's all that matters, right?"

"I-I love you, Dash…" Scootaloo murmured, now crying happy tears, "Thank you for saving my life. Without you, I…It woulda just been me buried under the snow with only-" Suddenly she gasped. "My scooter! Oh no!"

Dash held up her hooves. "Don't worry, squirt. I picked up your scooter. It's at Fluttershy's place."

That was enough to make the filly visibly relax. "Oh…Okay, thank you so much. I…Um, well…That's all I have…"

Dash nodded solemnly. "Don't think about any of that right now, okay? The bottom line is that you made a bad decision and you're never gonna make that bad decision again, right? So right now, just relax and try to warm up. You can stay in my bed as long as you want. Do you want some more warm water?"

Suddenly, Scootaloo was wide-eyed once again. "What??"

"Huh?" Dash replied in confusion, "What's the matter?"

"This…This is your bed?"

Dash gave her a blank look for a moment, and then laughed as she saw the filly really take in her surroundings and realize that she was not in the tiny guest room. "Yeah, squirt. This's my room."

There was a beautiful, childlike wonder in Scootaloo's eyes. She looked at her surroundings like she was seeing the inside of a celebrity's house. "W-wow…" she murmured. Dash was really glad to see this side of her, especially now. It was nice to see that, despite all she had been through, Scootaloo was still capable of acting like a kid.

"You never let me in here before…" Scootaloo murmured, looking at all of her Wonderbolts memorabilia.

"I didn't…?" Dash remarked.

"This is so cool…! I-" Something seemed to suddenly occur to the filly, and a frown washed over her face. "Are you sure you want me here? I…I think I can get up and walk. I'll go to the other room if you w-"

"Hey, hey! No, no, no…Who do you think put you in that bed?"

Scootaloo became a little bashful. "You…I guess?"

"My bed's the best in the house, and best for miles around! I should know! I crafted it myself out of the finest, fluffiest clouds. You feel free to rest there all you want, sis. Right now, I just care about making sure you're okay."

The young filly glanced around, still seeming a little unsure, but started to snuggle herself back down beneath the covers. Dash could see the expression of warm bliss slowly appear in her expression. "I…do like it…" she murmured, "But are you sure…?"

"Squirt, I'm not gonna let you not rest in that bed until you're all better."

After a short pause, Scootaloo flashed the older pegasus a grateful smile. "Th-thanks, Dash…You're the best."

"All right, all right…Just relax, okay?"

Scootaloo sneezed.

A little giggle escaped from Dash's lips. "See? A debilitating illness like that only deserves the rejuvenating modern comforts of Rainbow Dash's bed!"

The filly gave her a look in response to her joking. The two then heard knocking coming from the front door.

"That's probably Fluttershy. Let's get you some food."

"Food…? I, um…"

"You don't feel hungry?" Dash asked, "You haven't been eating right, Scoots. We'll just get the food in your tummy and I promise you'll feel better afterwards. Okay?"

"Okay…Hey, sis?"

Dash was halfway out the bedroom door, but paused and looked back. "Yeah?"

"Can…Can you call me that one more time?"

For a moment Dash didn't understand, but when she did it made her smile. "I'm just gonna go answer the door. I'll be right back…Scootaloo Dash." She caught a glimpse of the heartfelt smile on the filly's face before heading to the front door.

"Hi, Rainbow Dash," Fluttershy said, slightly muffled with a bag of groceries in her mouth, "The doctor just got here too."

"Greetings," Dr. Wing replied from behind her, "Is miss Scootaloo doing any better?"

Dash could only smile as she bade for the two to enter. Both of them seemed to notice her happier demeanour, and took it as a sign of good things. Dash could hear their happy exclamations as they entered the bedroom and greeted the filly that was now awake.

Rainbow Dash took a moment to get herself some food and water while Fluttershy fed Scootaloo and the doctor looked her over. She hadn't eaten since early the previous evening and hadn't even noticed how starving she was.

"Your body temperature looks much better. You had a close call, but it looks like you're getting better."

"Here, sweetie. I know your stomach feels weird, but have some apple. It'll make you feel better."

"It looks like you're making a good recovery, young miss. Make sure you stay warm for the next few days."

"My goodness, Scootaloo. You've got such a big smile, after all you've been through."

"I'm just so happy my sister's here! She saved my life and I love her so much!!"

A single tear of joy slowly ran down Dash's cheek, and she smiled softly. "I love you too…" she whispered. She would finish off her food before rejoining the others in her room, but even simply knowing that Scootaloo was safe and secure only a doorway away made her feel so warm and contented inside.

Crisis had been averted, past mistakes were promised by both to never be made again, and Scootaloo would recover. Rainbow Dash could honestly say that she had never been more thankful before in her whole life.







Three days later…







"Mornin', squirt!" Dash said, stepping into her bedroom.

Scootaloo was roused from her slumber, turning over onto her back and yawning loudly. After blinking open her slightly bleary eyes, the wintertime sunrise and Dash's presence were enough to quickly wake her up. "Good morning, sis!!" she chirped excitedly.

"Wow," Dash marvelled, "You look like you're almost all better!" It was the truth. Scootaloo looked much more energetic and healthy than before. Her eyes shone bright with enthusiasm and didn't carry any visible signs of stress or illness. The filly's coat even looked a brighter, more vibrant shade of orange. She still looked a little underweight, but that was changing over time.

"I feel great!" she proclaimed, "I think I'm totally over this thing now!" She proved her point by shoving off the blankets. Dash's bedroom was still kept warm for the sake of the filly, but Scootaloo didn't seem to notice any more. She quickly hopped off of the bed and casually strolled past Dash and into the living room.

"Are you sure you're totally okay?" Dash asked, wanting to make sure, "You don't want to get it again. You're not too cold?"

"It's chilly," she commented, "but, y'know, normal winter chilly."

Dash trotted over and swiftly picked up the filly to give her a warm hug. Scootaloo giggled and squirmed in the embrace. "That's good to hear," Dash said, "See? I knew you were strong. Better already!"

"Heehee, yeah!"

She then pulled away from the hug and held Scootaloo in front of her at eye level. "But you tell me if anything's still wrong, okay? And you're gonna take it easy for a few more days, right?"

Scootaloo smiled, reaching one of her little hooves forward to gently boop Rainbow Dash on the muzzle. "I will, sis. I promise."

"Good," Dash said with a smile, and deposited the filly back on the ground.

"What's for breakfast?"

"I think I still got one of everything that Fluttershy got. You want an orange? You said you liked those."

"And those wheat bar things? Those were actually pretty good."

Dash retrieved the two items and moved over to the dining room table. "I'll take your word for it. 'Health bars' never did it for me…"

Scootlaoo laughed and quickly dug into her food.

"And remind me to ask Fluttershy when you can eat junk food again," Dash quipped, elbowing the filly in the side.

"Heh heh…" Scootaloo chuckled with her mouth full of orange.

The two remained quiet for a moment as Scootaloo finished her breakfast. Every time Dash looked over at the filly, she could see more and more that the filly was mostly over her hypothermia scare and was building her strength back up.

It was now snowing outside, though it was certainly not as frigid as that one fateful night. Scootaloo had been confined indoors just to make sure she wouldn't exacerbate her condition, and probably would be for a couple more days just to be on the safe side, but it was supposed to snow all week. Dash could happily envision taking the little filly out to enjoy all of the various, wonderful snowy pastimes.

"Have a good sleep?" Dash asked once Scootaloo had finished eating.

"Mhm…" she said with a nod, gulping down the last bite of orange. "Your bed is really comfy."

Dash chuckled. "Why d'you think I sleep there?"

Scootaloo's smile faded and she gave Dash a bashful look. "Um…You can have it back now…if you want…"

"Nah, squirt! You sleep there until you feel better. The big fluffy cushions and blankets will do you good. I'm fine in the other room."

"You shouldn't have to sleep in there in your own house. I'll g-"

"Scoots, don't worry about it! You're more important right now. I want you to get better, okay?"

She glanced down for a moment, then smiled briefly. After a few moments, her smile vanished again. "Um…R-right…" she murmured. There was another pause, with Scootaloo just looking down at nothing, and then she muttered something else. "But…What about…?"

"Huh?" Dash asked, not even sure she had heard the words properly.

"What about when I'm better…?"

Dash tilted her head. "What about when you're better? Is there something you wanna do?"

"Um, well I dunno…I just mean, 'cus…" She looked down and scuffed the floor with her hoof. "I-It's just that…Well…Even though I was sick, staying here with you these last few days has been the best time of my life…I…I…"

Dash started to realize where this questioning was going, and had her hoof raised to pre-emptively answer. Instead, a series of loud knocks resounded on the door over top of the filly's question, but Dash had still heard it.

"Where do I go?"

The older pegasus glanced over her shoulder at the door, still with her hoof held up. "Just hang on a quick moment, squirt. This is probably important." She glanced back, saw the filly nod uncertainly, and then trotted over to the door.

She opened it up, seeing a brightly smiling Derpy Hooves on the other side in full uniform. She had a thick-enveloped letter in her mouth and was holding it out to her. Dash took it from her and Derpy said, "Good morning, Rainbow Dash! Mail call!"

Dash looked down at the envelope in her hooves, recognizing where it had come from. Using her teeth, she quickly tore it open. While others in her position may have felt fear and uncertainty in the deepest pits of their stomach, Dash didn't feel any of that. After all, she already knew what was inside. Reading the envelope's contents only confirmed that she was right.

"I'll talk to you later, Derpy," she said, bidding the other pegasus farewell, "I gotta talk to my sis."

Derpy nodded, waved, and then took to the air and flew away.

Dash trotted back inside, seeing that the filly hadn't moved an inch. Though, she was looking up at her with anxiety-ridden eyes. The older pegasus flashed her a smile, though it faltered quickly. "Scoots, you are cold. I can see you shivering."

Scootaloo huddled herself up a little and nodded demurely.

"Here," Dash said, placing the opened letter on the table and motioning to one of the chairs, "Come sit here and I'll get you a blanket."

"Mkay…Thanks sis…"

Dash smiled warmly as she trotted over to the closet. "You're welcome, sis."

With blanket in hoof, she turned and trotted back over to the table. Before she even got there, she saw that Scootaloo had slid the letter towards herself and was glancing over it. As Dash laid the blanket across Scootaloo's back, she watched in amusement as the filly swiftly picked up the piece of paper and held it up so she could read it more closely. Dash simply stood behind and read over her shoulder.

"Bureau of Family Affairs" "Adoption Application Form" "Foal's Name: Scootaloo" Dash's signature and hoofprint were at the bottom, and at the top there was a big red stamp over top of the form that read "Approved"

Scootaloo's hooves were shaking, and the letter dropped to the table. She slowly turned around and looked up at Rainbow Dash, stars dancing in her quivering eyes. Her mouth hung open slightly, not even trying to form words. Dash couldn't have stopped smiling if she wanted to.

"'Where do you go?' Sis, you don't have to go anywhere. You're home now."

The next thing she knew, Rainbow Dash was tackled to the ground as Scootaloo suddenly leapt from the chair and latched onto her in the tightest hug ever. Dash laughed mirthfully as she lay on her back, the filly clutching her in a loving embrace and loudly crying tears of joy.

"Hey…Hey, c'mon now sis…You're still a little sick, remember?"

"Oh my gosh…!" Scootaloo exclaimed. She sat herself up with her hooves planted on Dash's chest, looking down at her big sister with awestruck eyes. "I…Really??"

Dash snickered. "Yes, really."

"It's…It's not a joke?"

"Hey, c'mon squirt. Not even Pinkie Pie would pull a prank like that."

Scootaloo simply sat there for a moment, a few more happy tears rolling down her cheeks. "I just don't know what to say. I didn't expect it! I always kinda thought and wondered, but I never thought it would…"

Dash sat herself up and gave Scootaloo a hug that was more comfortable for both of them. "It was the only thing to do, really. There wasn't another option," she spoke, "I'm just sorry I didn't do it sooner, Scoots. I coulda had you off the streets so much sooner."

Scootaloo shook her head. "No, that's my fault!"

"No, it's my fault!"

"Dash!"

The two laughed for a bit. Dash realized that sitting here, hugging her little sister like this felt better than she thought it would have. It felt more than just 'right'. It felt like something that had been missing before. She squeezed the little orange filly lovingly, and in that moment she felt so vulnerable to Dash. She reached over and grabbed the blanket, then draped it over Scootaloo's back and wrapped it around the both of them. They both smiled blissfully from the warmth.

"So, um…" Scootaloo murmured, and Dash could feel her trembling from excitement, "So…I can stay…here?"

Dash smirked. "Well you can always go stay at city hall if you want."

Scootaloo giggled. "Seriously, Dash. I…I get to stay here? In this house?"

"Of course! Duh! I'm even gonna build a cloud staircase for you. It's gonna be epic!"

Dash could see the unbridled gratitude in the filly's face. She could imagine what was going through her young mind. Scootaloo was probably thinking about never having to spend another night out in the cold, hiding away in the grime. She was likely looking back on all of those sleepovers and trying to imagine one that would last forever.

"Scootaloo…" Dash spoke softly, "We can both apologize forever and ever about how we handled things, but it doesn't matter. You're here now, still alive and kicking, and I'm gonna put an end to all of the crappy things in your life. Sound good?"

The filly nodded enthusiastically, a few tears forming in her eyes.

"I'm proud of you for being so strong, but at the same time I'm gonna make sure you never go through anything like that again, okay? This house is your house for as long as you want."

Scootaloo sniffled. "Thanks sis…"

"And…Well, I hope I can replace the other thing you were missing too…"

The filly gave her a confused look. "Wha?"

"A family, Scootaloo. I'm not offering you a stay at the Rainbow Dash Resort…I didn't just do that…" She pointed to the adoption papers. "…for legal reasons. I just…want you to know that you don't have to be alone any more. I want you to join my family…I want you to be Scootaloo Dash."

"I would love that, sis…I would love that so much!"

Dash smiled and gave her another quick hug. "Let's just agree to put the past behind us, okay? This is a fresh new start."

"You got it, sis!"

Moving back from the hug, Dash tousled her mane. "Remind me to thank Mayor Mare for getting this through so quickly."

Scootaloo was still just smiling like the happiest pony in the world. "So…This means we're really, truly sisters now?" The way she was looking right now, Dash could easily imagine cartoon-style stars appearing in the little filly's awestruck eyes.

Dash chuckled. "Well, uh…Technically, according to the law I'm your mom…"

Scootaloo's expression changed in a flash. "Huh??"

"Well, more like I'm your 'parental guardian', which…is basically a mom. Turns out you can't just adopt a sister."

The filly blinked. "Oh…I, uh…"

Dash snickered and tousled her mane again. "But that's just what the papers at city hall say. It doesn't matter. You and I will be sisters, because that's what we both want, right?"

Scootaloo's smile returned. "Right!"

"Then that's what we'll be."

Giggling, Scootaloo said, "I'm glad for that. It's kinda, really weird to think of you as my mom…"

Dash blew a raspberry. "You think it's weird for you? I never thought I'd be a parent! Especially at this age!"

The two shared a hearty laugh at the unusual technicality of the law. After they stopped, a brief moment of silence passed between the two.

"Dash…?"

"Yeah, sis?"

Scootaloo closed her eyes and leaned in for one more hug, this one much more gentle and affectionate. "I love you."

There it was again; that 'weak' and 'vulnerable' side of Rainbow Dash that had made her cry so much on that horrible night. The part of her that went against everything she had put together as the image of 'Rainbow Dash' throughout her entire life. She wasn't ashamed of it in the least.

"I love you too, sis."

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