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Author's Note: This is a draft,so if there is anything you like or dislike, please let me know in the comments. The more feedback the better. Thanks :)

"A family is a little world created by love."
- Unknown

"Happy Hearth's Warming Eve, Squirt"

The streets of Ponyville were empty, life gone off to celebrate the holiday. The air was chilled, indigo sky so dark even the most dim stars stood out like giant fireflies. The sides of the street were lined with a thin layer of snow. It was an unusually snow-less Hearth's Warming Eve. Still brisk in the air, yet too warm for snow to remain un-melted for too long.

Scootaloo slowly trotted down the empty road, head hung low and tail tucked between her legs- both out of depression and as a means to keep herself warm in the chilly night air. The gentle gust, persistent in its presence, made the filly's purple mane flicker.

She lifted her head, her set of violet eyes looked left, then right. Nothing but darkened shops and illuminated homes, candles perched in the windowsills, flickering behind the glass as she walked on. She thought about her final destination- her home- picturing her mother drunk off cider, laying on the couch with a pair of misty eyes staring into nothingness.

Every year Scootaloo would make the same wish, that her mother would take a break from drinking on Hearth's Warming Eve, that she'd pay attention to her daughter for once with a sober mind. That's all she wanted. No amount of itchy, wool sweaters or plastic Wonderbolt figurines were enough to lift her spirits.

She had to deal with the sad truth that her mother wouldn't stop her grief-causing binge drinking. Ever since her father passed away it was the same thing every day. She'd come home from school, the smell of alcohol would slip into her nostrils- a stench she couldn't stand. Breathing out of her mouth, she would trot into the living room to see her mother near passed-out on the couch. A mug of cider in one hoof as her other lay limp over the edge of the couch, touching the white carpet- colored so to make the two pegasi feel like they lived in the clouds when in reality they resisted on the outskirts of Ponyville.

"Mom?" Scootaloo could ask, gently letting her saddlebag slide off her back, landing with a solid "thunk" on the floor. Her mother would turn, red eyes meeting her daughter's moist ones. Her blue mane like a bird's nest, no rhyme or reason to it. It just existed.

"Hey...hey Scoots..." she mumbled, still drunk. Scootaloo knew she probably wouldn't even remember this conversation. She often wondered if her mother even remembered anything at this point. She was always so out of it, so deep in a dark void of black emptiness, it was hard to tell when she was attentive.

"Did you make dinner?" Scootaloo asked, to which her mother would respond by fluttering her eyes back and putting a hoof above them, rubbing some of the drunkenness out of them.

"" she mumbled. Scootaloo sighed and turned to leave when her mother called back. "Why...why don't you...your father. He could cook."

The filly's eyes shut, teeth clenched as she felt the stabbing pain in her heart, through the void her father took with him when he passed on. Her mother was so keen on forgetting everything about his death, and the cider always managed to help her do this. When drunk, she would have no coherent memory of her husband's untimely death. She lived in a fantasy where he still lived.It was a fantasy she forced herself into living every hour of every day in her miserable life.

Scootaloo could have corrected her, like she always did. She could have turned around and told her that she couldn't have her father make dinner for her, because he wasn't home. And he would never come home. But it was futile, as she knew all too well. Her mother would just scoff at it, sometimes even going to far as to scold her daughter in a long-winded, slurred speech about how she "never should say things like that about her father, it's bad luck." But more often than not she'd simply shake her head and tell a simple lie.

Scootaloo let out a sigh, "I'll go ask him."

With that, she walked over to the joint kitchen and dining area. It was remarkably clean, considering the lack of care her mother put into it. Not that she put care into much of anything, especially herself. To her left were cupboards and counter-tops, glistening and empty. She then turned to her left to see a wood table, just as devoid as the counters.

All that empty table did was make her feel more hopeless and alone. With Hearth's Warming Eve coming up, all she heard in school was the plethora of meals her classmates were having for their holiday dinner. Diamond Tiara bragged about her father planning to serve a fancy dinner consisting of wheat steak and deviled eggs. Apple Bloom talked about the long line-up of apple treats her family was serving, from apple pie to apple turnovers and even fresh apple juice from some apples harvested before the snow came in. Sweetie Belle said her parents were working with Rarity to make a high quality meal too, in addition to a dessert called creme brulee. Scootaloo didn't know what it was, but from what Sweetie Belle said it sounded delicious.

The depressed pegasus quickly made herself a simple bowl of cereal- like the typical morning on a school-day. After putting the milk away, Scootaloo brought the bowl over to the empty table, tossed in a spoon, and sat down on the cold, hard chair. Her eyes gazed down at the cereal, little grains floating on the milk. She scooped some milk onto the spoon and pulled it out. She then tilted it sideways, letting the cold liquid run back into the bowl. She did this for a few minutes, cheek leaning against her free hoof- elbow pressed down onto the hard table-top. She turned to look out a nearby window, the sun had already begun to set. She imagined her friends sitting down, ready to chow down on their great meals with their loving families, all there to celebrate the holiday together- supportive and loving.

Then she looked back down at her sad bowl of cereal. Her reflection was barely visible in the milk. She lifted the spoon up and looked at her reflection. Her eyes were half-closed, circles beneath them. But her exhausted looking eyes weren't caused by simple tiredness, rather it was the direction her life was taking.

The sound of a screeching cat snapped her back to reality. shaking her head, she realized she was still in the middle of the street, her skin felt chilled, even with her fur coat to provide warmth. Scootaloo looked to see a silver trash-can tip over, a black alley cat tumbling out, landing in the pile of garbage. A few lights from within the house behind the cat flickered on before the door opened- revealing an irritated-looking stallion. The angry pony stepped out into the night, looking down to see his tipped-over trash-can and the cat, which lay sprawled out in the debris of banana peels and discarded cans.

"Hey!" The stallion screamed, stomping his hoof on the ground to get the cat's attention. The feline's ears perked up, its green eyes flashed at the angry stallion before it scampered towards the other side of the street.

"And you stay away!" he screamed, kicking the ground right behind the cat. The feline made its way across the street, the stallion spat. "Rummaging through my garbage on Hearth's Warming Eve... mangy hairball."

He retreated back into his warm house, slamming the door. Once the door was shut, and the light from inside the house blocked, the cat lifted its paw and gave it a few licks. The glistening red of a wound was visible under the streetlight. The cat put its paw down disappeared from sight. Scootaloo pitied the poor creature, imagining it's thin frame stalking up and down the streets, looking for something to eat. Would it have killed the pony to give it a sliver of food?

Sighing, Scootaloo decided not to think anymore about the cat, lest she further lose herself to misery, and was about to trek on when somepony called out to her.


Scootaloo stopped. She would recognize that voice anywhere. Slowly, she turned around to see, flying up above her, a very concerned Rainbow Dash. .

"Oh, hi Rainbow Dash." Scootaloo said, forcing a smile that didn't want to appear.

Rainbow Dash didn't buy the filly's act. "What are you doing out here? Shouldn't you be home?"

Scootaloo looked down, digging her hoof into the ground, unsure of what to say. "I was...sort of on my way"

Again, Rainbow Dash didn't buy it. "Hey Scoots, what's up? You seem down about something."

Scoots. Usually the little, flightless pegasus loved Rainbow Dash calling her by that nickname. But not now, not when she felt so vulnerable that the slightest breeze could send her flying off into the night. The cyan pegasus landed onto the ground near her admirer.

"There's something's bothering you, isn't there?" Rainbow Dash said matter of factly, though with a hint of genuine concern. Scootaloo didn't answer verbally. She simply gave Rainbow Dash a small nod.

"Do you want to talk about it?" the mare asked, gently placing her hoof onto the filly's back. Scootaloo wanted to talk to her. She wanted to burst into tears right there, in the middle of the street. But all she did was shake her head and let out a weak, " I'll be fine."

"You sure?" Rainbow Dash asked.

Scootaloo nodded. "Yeah, I'll be fine. It's like what you always say, only the weak let their problems slow them down."

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to respond, but stopped. She remembered saying that, back when she had been upset about breaking her wing. She was told that she might never fly at high speeds again, something that was a problem for a pegasus with dreams to join the Wonderbolts. One day while she was in the hospital, full of self-pity and anger, Rainbow Dash got a welcome surprise from Scootaloo, who made her way over to see how she was doing.

She was dying inside, but knew that she had to stay strong. With a little filly like Scootaloo, who looked up to her like an older sister, she had to keep herself stoic. The entire visit went well and, in the end, Rainbow Dash could say that did cheer her up to see her biggest fan make the effort to visit her in the hospital. But the one part she remembered the most vividly, especially now after Scootaloo brought it up, was when the little orange pegasus asked her.

"What if you can't fly like you used to?" Scootaloo asked, eyes showing slight traces of sorrow. Rainbow Dash, looking into the filly's crestfallen eyes, knew that telling her how devastated she'd be would do nothing but make the little pony upset. All she did was smile and chuckle softly.

"I suppose I'd be upset, but only for a short while." Rainbow Dash put her hoof into Scootaloo's shoulder. "Only the weak let their problems slow them down."

Scootaloo looked up at her idol, smiling. Her eyes stood out profoundly under the illumination of the ceiling light. "And you're strong."

Rainbow Dash nodded, "He-he. Yep, that I am squirt."

The cyan pegasus ruffled the little filly's mane a bit, causing her to squeal in laughter. The two spent a couple more minutes together before Scootaloo had to head home. They bade each other goodnight before Scootaloo walked off. Before the filly reached the door, Rainbow Dash opened her mouth.


Scootaloo turned around expectantly. "Yeah?"

Rainbow Dash was about to answer, but stopped herself. She wanted to ask Scootaloo if she would like to spend the night with her- the nurses said they'd make an exception to their rules regarding visitors. But then she realized Scootaloo wouldn't want that. sure, she'd agree, but only because she felt obligated to do so. A hospital was no place for a young filly who was healthy. She had too much innocence that would be lost here. At least this is what Rainbow Dash felt.

Sighing, Rainbow Dash shook her head. "Nevermind I...I just wanted to thank you again, is all."

A flash of disappointment seemed to flash across Scootaloo's face before she finally smiled and nodded. "Of course. You're so awesome Rainbow Dash. There should be a line of ponies lining up to see you."

The mare chuckled. "Yeah, he-he. I wish."

Scootaloo gave Rainbow Dash a quick wave before walking off. The injured pegasus watched her go before letting her smile fall. She let out a sigh and pulled the hospital bed covers up to her chin. Looking up at the ceiling, she imagined Scootaloo returning home to her mother. Returning home to somepony that loved her, that cared about her.

A tear slid down Rainbow Dash's cheek. She hadn't thought about her own mother in years, not that she wanted to. Both of her parents were extremely tough on her, always calling her a disappointment and a goof-off that would go nowhere in life. They even called her dream of joining the Wonderbolts a "filly's fantasy".

Rainbow Dash had to stifle her sobs with her hoof, the image of her parent's scornful eyes, their disapproving glares that seemed to bore holes through her own. It was all too much for her to take.

She didn't want to keep Scootaloo away from her mother just to help herself get over her own issues.

But this Hearth's Warming Eve night was different. Looking into the sweet little filly's eyes, Rainbow Dash not only saw her own sorrows that she tried to hold back, but her own. And hearing her recite the same thing she told her about the "weak letting their problems slow them down"  only made her feel guilty.

Rainbow Dash put her hoof under Scootaloo's chin and lifted her head so they were looking into each other's eyes.

"I know something's bothering you. And you aren't weak to admit it, Scoots."

Scootaloo sniffled, some tears starting to drip from her eyes. "But...but you said..."

"Forget what I said." Rainbow Dash said, taking her hoof out from under Scootaloo's chin to wipe a stray tear that was running down her face.

"I'm fine...I promise." Scootaloo lied, but her eyes gave her away. The pure sorrow visible behind them. The look of a pony wanting to let loose an explosion of raw emotion, but too afraid to seem vulnerable in front of a pony she admired. But for Rainbow Dash, a pony who often wore similarly emotionally drenched eyes, it was clear as day. Even if Scootaloo wouldn't tell the truth, the cyan pegasus still got her to admit it.

"I know that look," Rainbow Dash said, smiling a little. "It's the look of a pony holding back."Before Scootaloo could protest, she felt a pair of hooves pick her up off the ground. "Come on, "I'll take you back to my place."

Rainbow Dash took her in her arms and flew off to her cloud mansion. Scootaloo remained quiet the entire time, not uttering so much as a sound until they reached the entrance to Rainbow Dash's home. Gently, the cyan pegasus placed her passenger onto the soft surface of her cloud doormat, standing beside the filly. She turned to her and gave her a reassuring smile, but all she got in return was a quick glance and a tiny, fake smile not even the most gullible pony would buy as genuine.

Rainbow Dash opened the door. "Let's go inside."

Scootaloo shook her head. "Rainbow Dash, I really shouldn't..."

"Come on, I'll make you some hot chocolate." Rainbow Dash said, a small inflection in her voice and a persuasive smile and wiggle of the eye-brows. Scootaloo opened her mouth to decline, but stopped. The coolness of the night, coupled with her love for the chocolatey concoction so often served on Hearth's Warming Eve made it impossible for her to resist. Her mind now on the drink and mountain of whipped cream she imagined on top, led her inside.

Rainbow Dash closed the door and led Scootaloo into the kitchen. She pulled out one of the three chairs at her table, patting the seat enticingly. Slowly, as if treading on eggshells, Scootaloo made her way over to the chair and hopped up. Rainbow Dash flew off to the kitchen to whip up some hot chocolate, the entire time Scootaloo looked around.

The inside of the mansion was magnificent. Brilliantly colored posters of the Wonderbolts and Daring Do hung all over the walls, the clouds that made up the house were the purest of whites, like freshly fallen snow on a winter's day. The air was comforting and warm, the clouds providing proper insulation from the crisp outside. But even as she took the entire house in, one thought kept popping up in her head, something she didn't understand.

"Hey, I got these chocolate shaving thingys from Pinkie Pie the other day." Rainbow Dash held up a clear tube filled with tiny chocolate shavings. "Apparently they're really good with hot chocolate. Do you want me to sprinkle some on for you?"

"Huh?" Scootaloo asked, snapping herself back to reality. "Oh, sure. That sounds delicious."

Grinning, Rainbow Dash popped open the cap and sprinkled the shavings onto the drinks, both placed into two mugs. One had the emblem of the rock band "Led Pegasus", while the other had an image of three Wonderbolts on it. The chocolate bits floated onto the top of the mound of whipped cream present in each mug. Capping the bottle of chocolate bits and putting it off to the side, she made her way over to the table, where Scootaloo was sitting. She placed the Wonderbolts mug in front of Scootaloo, deciding she should have the better one, and took the more bland rock band mug for herself.

She barely had a chance to sit down when Scootaloo finally asked the question that had been on her mind.

"Why isn't your family here?"

Rainbow Dash froze, her flank mere inches above the seat. She looked at Scootaloo, perplexed before she sighed.

"Just drink your hot chocolate kid." she answered, pushing the Wonderbolts mug closer to the filly. Scootaloo slowly lifted the drink up to her lips and took a sip, feeling the hot beverage make its way down her throat before finally settling in her stomach, soothing her core. She leaned back in her chair and let out a sigh, looking up at the ceiling.

Rainbow Dash noticed her guest's apparent lack of interest and decided to move the conversation along.

"So, how is your flying coming along?"

"Hm? What was that?" Scootaloo said, her voice light as air. She was miles away, her heart not willing to engage in the conversation. Rainbow Dash chuckled, deciding to press on, even if her biggest fan was more interested in the light fixtures hanging above than in her.

"Your flying, have you worked on it since I last saw you?"

Scootaloo pondered for a moment before giving a small shrug. "Not really. Crusading and schoolwork has been taking up most of my time. Miss Cheerilee's been burying us with homework the past few days."

"Ah, I see." Rainbow Dash said, taking a sip of her drink as she searched her mind for something else to say. She looked down at the table, the special cloud-safe wood glistening under the light. "Yeah, when I was your age I was already trying to duplicate my sonic rainboom. Unfortunately I wasn't able to pull it off again until the Young Flyers Competition last year."

"I remember." Scootaloo said, finally looking down and across the table at the older pegasus. "The Wonderbolts flew you back into town. Everypony was going crazy. So many pictures flashing, it was chaos."  Scootaloo snickered, taking another sip of her drink and turning her head to the right.

Over in the corner, she saw a picture of what appeared to be Rainbow Dash as a filly. She slowly got to her hooves and walked over. Rainbow Dash followed the curious little filly with her eyes, watching as she made her way over to the photograph of her.

Scootaloo stopped directly in front of the picture. Sure enough, it was a photo of Rainbow Dash. But it was clearly taken when she was very young. Younger than Scootaloo in fact, she fit the bill of a typical elementary-school filly. The little pegasus filly smiled, noting how Rainbow Dash's smile hardly changed since her foal-hood days.

"When was this taken?" she asked.

"That was after my first day of flight school," Rainbow Dash answered. "He-he, amazing day, that was. So many spitballs and burping contests. It really was a simpler time."

"Where are your parents?" Scootaloo asked. "Are they taking the picture?"

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth as if to respond, but stopped. She let out a sigh. "They weren't in Cloudsdale. They were still on their summer vacation. My friend Comet Storm took the picture for me."

Rainbow Dash remembered her parents saying that they wouldn't be there for her first day. That they "already made plans" and thought she should be a big girl and suck it up.  It was a heartbreaking moment, but only one in many. Still, it pained her to remember that day.

Scootaloo looked up at Rainbow Dash. Her typically crystalline eyes carried the slightest bit of haziness in them. She was about to ask something when she saw a tear roll down her cheek, followed by a small, sad sniffle.  

"Rainbow Dash, are you okay?" Scootaloo asked. Rainbow Dash snapped out of her apparent daze and looked down at the inquisitive filly, wiping away the dampness in her eyes and on her cheeks.

"Yeah, I'm fine." she said, her tone devoid of the typical cockiness that defined who she was. "Come on, let's go finish that cocoa."

Slowly, she made her way back to the table. She was about to reach the table when she heard Scootaloo grumble behind her.

"I wish my mother would go on vacation." Rainbow Dash stopped and turned around to see a very disgruntled filly standing behind her. Her eyes were staring down, though her body faced the picture of Rainbow Dash. "I wish she would just go and never come back..."

"Scoots, come on you can't possibly..." Rainbow Dash started, only to be interrupted by the angry filly stomping her hoof.

"Why can't she take care of herself for a change! Why does it always have to be me!?! She always wants somepony else to care for her? What about me? What about her daughter!?!"

Scootaloo collapsed onto the floor, sobbing like she hadn't in years. She'd hidden her emotions for so long, and she couldn't anymore. Her tears spilled out all around her, her body shaking like a leaf caught in the autumn gust. Rainbow Dash slowly made her way over to her crestfallen pal and sat down beside her, placing a hoof on her back.

"Scootaloo, it's okay. It'll be fine."

"No, <sniff> no it won't." Scootaloo sat up, looking into Rainbow Dash's eyes. Her own violet ones filled to the brim with salted tears. The sight broke Rainbow Dash's heart. "It hasn't stopped for years. I don't have anypony to care about me, I have to do everything myself. I know my mother is still heartbroken about my dad's death, but her constant grief makes me feel like I lost both parents all those years ago."

Wiping her nose with the back of her hoof, Scootaloo looked up into Rainbow Dash's eyes, "Am I selfish for wanting my mother to put aside her grief for a second so she can look my in the eye and wish my a happy Hearth's Warming Eve? Just once?"

Rainbow Dash shook her head, "Of course it doesn't. You're one of the kindest fillies I know. And I wouldn't give you the time of day if you were selfish." She extended a cyan hoof and wiped a fresh tear from the young filly's face. "There's nothing wrong with wanting affection from your mother."

"But...she's so heartbroken about the whole thing." Scootaloo whimpered. "I'm always afraid that being mad at her is...I don't know...wrong. After everything she's been through.

"Scootaloo, the feelings you have are completely normal." Rainbow Dash said reassuringly, though it didn't seem to help the filly feel much better. "Besides, your mother should put her grief aside for your sake. Trust me, I understand how it feels to be a filly that feels isolated from everypony. It's something nopony should have to go through. Especially a pegasus as amazing as you."

Rainbow Dash, who knew little to nothing about Scootaloo's family life, suddenly found herself filled with curiosity. But at the same time, she didn't want to press the issue more than she had to. So she swallowed and squeaked out a question.

"What did happen to you father anyway?"

Scootaloo closed her eyes, images of the funeral, her mother sobbing as they pushed the winged coffin holding her father's body into the fly, watching as it floated away into the distance. She opened her mouth to respond, but couldn't find the words. Truth was even to this day she had trouble talking about it. Maybe it was her mother's own attempt to bury herself in denial that caused her to repress her own sorrows for her father.

Noticing the filly's struggle, Rainbow Dash interjected. "You don't have to tell me if it makes you uncomfortable." Scootaloo opened her eyes, her tensed body position relaxed as she let out a sigh. She looked up at Rainbow Dash, watching as the mare continued speaking.

"I still feel uncomfortable whenever I bring up how my parents kicked me out of the house after I failed flight school."

Scootaloo's eyes bulged. "You're parents kicked you out?"

Rainbow Dash nodded.

"Why would they do that? How?"

Rainbow Dash chuckled. "To this day I'm not sure, nor am I sure that I want to know. But let's just say when it comes to the relationship I have with my parents." the mare turned to her little fan and smirked, "I don't like to talk about it either."

Scootaloo smiled and leaned into Rainbow Dash, nuzzling her cheek against the older pegasus' leg. Rainbow Dash responded by wrapping her hoof around the filly and bringing her in for a hug. For the next ten minutes both ponies did utter a word. They didn't need to delve into the depths of their past torments, they knew enough to understand each other. For the first time, they felt a connection that was more than a simple friendship. They felt as if they were part of the same family, rather they were family, counting on each other when they needed the most comfort.

Looking up at a clock, Rainbow Dash chuckled. "I think it's time for little fillies to get to bed."

"Yeah I guess. Not that my Mom cares. She wouldn't even notice if I never came home." Scootaloo said with a sigh. She was about to stand up when her partner in pain spoke up. "Scoots, I was wondering if you'd like to spend the night here."

Scootaloo looked at Rainbow Dash, a huge grin spreading across her face, "Really?"

Rainbow Dash nodded, which was quickly met by a anaconda-like hug from the filly. "Thanks Rainbow Dash, you're the coolest."

The mare felt the warmth from the little filly's body radiate through her own, giving her a sensation of fulfilment she hadn't felt in a long while.

"Hey come on now, let's not get all sappy."

Scootaloo broke the hug and looked up at her idol, still grinning. Their eyes met, both sets showing appreciation for the other. Rainbow Dash  lifted Scootaloo up and flew her into her bedroom, leaving their mugs of still warm hot-chocolate on the table. She gently placed Scootaloo onto her bed before crawling up beside her, wrapping her body around the filly like a protective pillow. Scootaloo looked up at the Rainbow maned pegasus and smiled.

"Thanks for taking me in for the night Rainbow Dash." she said.

Rainbow Dash responded by ruffling her mane and further wrapping her tail around her body. "No problem, thanks for acting like my stress-ball for the night."

Scootaloo let out a small laugh before yawning. Her eyes closed as she slowly let sleep take her, "Good night, Rainbow Dash. Happy Hearth's Warming Eve."

Looking down at the resting filly- eyes shut and breathing calm- Rainbow Dash felt her heart melt. Never in her life did she feel as important to anypony as she did right then and there. She gave Scootaloo a gentle nuzzle with her cheek and rested her head back down on the mattress, closing her eyes.

"Happy Hearth's Warming Eve, Squirt."
Summary: There's nothing worse than feeling alone on a holiday. Knowing you have nopony to go back home to, except for a mother so drunk off cider she won't remember you walking through the door.

For Scootaloo, this is her reality- the card fate has dealt her. But on Hearth's Warming Eve, as she treks home through the brisk air, she gets a visit from a close friend, who will show her the true meaning of family.

Cover image by Mickeymonster: [link]
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November 21, 2012
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