Ponyville was a pretty unremarkable town. Or at least, it had been before Twilight decided to call it home. Still, even with her living there it was still not much. Having the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony living there had oddly enough not made it much of a military target.
Twilight was grateful for that at the moment. Such an out of the way town meant that news of the Changeling Invasion hadn’t reached it yet, meaning they didn’t have to put up with a large crowd of ponies, eager to learn the details.
Still, Big Macintosh was there, ready to help his sister haul home the leftovers from the wedding. Applejack was all too eager to load his cart with uneaten treats and a chest full of bits.
“So, we’ll meet up at the library tomorrow for breakfast?” Twilight asked.
“First thing,” Rarity assured. “I think that lovely little restaurant near the spa would be nice.”
“Oh, bleah,” Rainbow Dash gave a fake vomiting noise. “Can’t we go to something not so...frilly? I’ve had enough of that this weekend.”
“Ah, ah, now, this is an apology meal to Twilight. It needs to be something nicer than sandwiches and hay fries.”
“You really don’t have to...” Twilight began, but Rarity put a hoof over her mouth.
“I know we don’t have to, but we want to. I insist.”
“Apology for what?” Big Macintosh couldn’t help but ask.
“I’ll tell ya when we get home,” Applejack assured, looking slightly embarrassed at the whole thing.
“Well, I guess,” Rainbow Dash grumbled. “But next time we go out to eat, we’re going to the outdoor café.”
“We’ll see,” Rarity said, in a tone that hinted that they wouldn’t see.
“Um, I better get home and make sure Derpy has taken good care of Angel and the others,” Fluttershy said. She had opened the birdcages she had brought, allowing her singing birds to stretch their wings for the first time in hours. “But, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I better head home to. Mr. and Mrs. Cake will want a break from Pound and Pumpkin,” Pinkie said, bouncing off. “See you guys tomorrow!”
“We’ll meet up in the morning,” Twilight assured. The others muttered their goodbyes as they took off in separate directions.
Or at least, most of them did. Rarity lingered behind a bit. Her younger sister stayed by her side, getting impatient. “Rarity, why are we hanging around here? Shouldn’t we be getting back to your house?”
“Have patience, Sweetie, that’s a quality of a lady,” the elder unicorn lectured. “I still need to attend to something.” After the others had walked far enough that she was sure that they wouldn’t overhear, she trotted over to Applejack, who was just finishing loading Big Macintosh’s cart. “Applejack, might I have a word with you back at the Boutique?”
“Well gee, Rare, can it wait ‘till breakfast tomorrow? I’m awfully tired, see...”
“I’d really prefer we talk before we meet with Twilight tomorrow. And this needs to be between the two of us for now.”
Applejack blinked, but nodded. “Sure, I guess. Big Mac, you gonna be fine taking all this stuff an’ Applebloom home?”
“Eeyup,” the burly stallion nodded, beginning to pull the wagon back to Sweet Apple Acres, his little sister perched on his back.
“So what’s this about?” the cowpony asked.
“Let’s get to the Boutique first.”
Scootaloo walked through Ponyville alone, ruing not having her scooter with her. The lantern streetlights provided the only light outside of Luna’s moon. She made a steady pace for home, not dragging her hooves but not in any particular hurry.
“Hey Scoots,” Rainbow Dash called, causing the filly to halt in her tracks, turning to face her idol. “What are you doing walking all by yourself?”
“Going home?” Scootaloo half asked, half answered.
“I can see that,” Rainbow Dash said flatly. “But why are you walking home alone? Why didn’t your parents come pick you up?”
The younger pegasus shrugged. “They don’t have to. I would be walking home either way, and it’s not like there’s anything dangerous in Ponyville...usually.”
Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but smirk. Ponyville had been known as a quiet town for years before Twilight had moved in. Since then it had experienced visits from Nightmare Moon and Discord, and Spike’s rampage added to the list. Still, it was mostly safe. Dangerous creatures mostly stayed confined in the Everfree Forest, the last creature to leave had been the Ursa Minor that Snips and Snails had agitated. Even diamond dogs didn’t dare attack Ponyville, as to not incur the wrath of the Royal Guard.
“Well, I guess,” the elder mare admitted. “Still, it isn’t fair you have to walk home alone. Want a lift?”
Scootaloo instantly brightened up. “Really? You’re going to take me flying?”
“Only if you hop on,” she smirked, motioning to her back. The filly needed no second bidding. In a flash she was up on her idol’s back with her forelegs around her neck.
“Hold on tight,” Rainbow Dash instructed, though it was largely unnecessary. With a few flaps of her wings the two were in the air, just over the rooftops. “Where do you live?” she asked. Scootaloo pointed in some vague direction, and the elder pegasus followed.
“You enjoy the wedding? Did you like being a flower filly?”
“You bet I did!” the foal said happily. Then she got defensive. “I mean, I didn’t like being frilly or nothing, but it was cool to be able to lead a princess down the aisle. I still hate...”
“Easy there,” Rainbow Dash laughed. “I’m not much for frilly things either, but I liked being a bridesmaid. Doesn’t make me any less tough.”
“Yeah, well...Cadence was nice. The real one I mean, not that big bug. I didn’t like her.”
“Can’t say I blame you, kid. She did kind of rub me the wrong way, even before she revealed herself.”
Scootaloo looked at her idol incredulously. “You told me to just take it because she was under a lot of stress.”
The cyan pony sighed. “Kid, I made a mistake. I forgot there’s a difference between something that’s understandable and something that’s acceptable.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Rainbow Dash began, rubbing her head in thought. “Rarity once had us all help her get ready for a big fashion photographer visiting her. She was being short with all of us, but even while she was doing it, she knew how rude it was and apologized. The fake Cadence acted like she had every right to treat us that way. That’s what made it really wrong. Do you understand?”
Scootaloo nodded. “I think so. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you admit to them?”
“Kind of,” the elder mare said. “Everypony makes mistakes. You’re only bad if you don’t admit to the mistake. Am I getting closer?”
“Yeah. It’s a little to the left,” the filly answered, allowing her mentor to adjust her flight path. “Well, is Twilight okay? I mean, you seemed worried about it last night?”
“You don’t have to worry, pipsqueak. We’re all friends again, plus Soarin’s going to come into town in a few weeks to take me out on a date.’
“He’s coming here?” she said excitedly, stars in her eyes. “You think I could get an autograph?”
“You could have gotten one last night if you hadn’t run off like that,” Rainbow Dash joked. Instantly she regretted saying this, because the foal perched on her back got quiet.
“I’m sure he’ll still give you one,” she reassured. “Anyway, can you see your house from here?”
Scootaloo silently pointed to a two-story house. Rainbow Dash landed and allowed her number one fan to climb down off her back.
“Look, squirt, I’ve got tomorrow off. How about we hang out a bit? That offer for flying lessons is still on the table.”
The orange filly stiffened. “Um…you don’t have to…”
“I know I don’t. I just want to help a super cool filly get even cooler. Besides, all my friends have to work tomorrow, I’ll have nothing to do.”
Scootaloo kicked the dirt. “Um…”
Rainbow Dash sighed. She knew the younger pegasus was looking for an excuse to say no. “Look, think about it will you?”
“Sure thing, Rainbow Dash,” Scootaloo nodded enthusiastically, glad the questioning was over.
“Well, I’ll be seeing you, pipsqueak,” the older mare said. With that she took off, leaving her number one fan alone.
Spike entered the library first, obediently pulling the wagon of Twilight’s things behind him. Twilight followed, glancing around the room as she entered.
“Well, it looks like Owlowiscious kept this place clean while we were gone,” she noted with approval. At that point, said owl swooped down from upstairs to greet his master. On his back was Pee Wee, who hopped down into Spike’s claws when the older bird flew over him.
“Hey there, kiddo,” the baby dragon nuzzled the phoenix affectionately. “Looks like he fed you alright too.” He got a happy chirp in response.
“So, how about you unpack while I make us some tea?” Twilight suggested.
Spike shifted uncomfortably. “Um, no thanks,” he muttered, placing his charge on his shoulder. “I mean, I’m not thirsty,” he said as he began unloading the wagon.
“Well, are you hungry? Applejack gave us some of the leftovers from the wedding, and I think there are still some of your gemstones in the pantry...”
“I ate on the train,” he said, more curtly than he intended.
Twilight sighed. “Fine,” she said, going into the kitchen to heat up some tea.
Spike quickly unpacked. He placed Twilight’s Best Mare dress in her dresser, and the books she had brought on her nightstand. He brought the leftover food into the kitchen, avoiding looking at Twilight the whole time. The unicorn only watched him with a sigh.
With everything packed away, Spike headed to the bedroom and grabbed Pee Wee’s nest, placing it in his basket. Carefully, making sure Twilight was distracted making herself a meal, he carried his bed into one of the other rooms in the library. After setting it up, he placed the nest on the windowsill. Then he quietly went back into the bedroom.
While only getting books every year had grown a bit stale, Spike had cherished each and every one of Twilight’s birthday gifts. He had read each tome cover to cover more than once, and he still enjoyed thumbing through them occasionally. Opening a chest at the end of Twilight’s bed, he pulled out his favorite in the collection, an anthology of heroic tales from ancient, pre-Celestia times.
Holding the volume under his arm, he began trotting back to the room he had left his basket in. He had almost reached it when Twilight called his name again. “Spike?”
He froze, turning around to greet his caretaker. “Yeah?”
“Spike… is everything alright?”
The baby dragon froze in horror, his eyes widening. “Of course, why wouldn’t they be?” he asked, a little too fast.
Twilight shook her head. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed,” she said. “You’ve been avoiding me since the wedding. Now what’s wrong?”
“It’s… nothing,” he said weakly.
“Spike, remember when Owlowiscious moved in? I told you then, you never have to lie to me. Now what is it?”
The young dragon shifted a bit. “Really, it’s nothing. I just…”
“Is it about not believing me about Cadence?”
Spike’s blood ran cold, or it would have, if he weren’t already cold-blooded. She knew.
Twilight gave a smile. “If that’s all it is, I told the others I could understand why they didn’t believe me. I’m not mad at you, okay?”
Now his eyes were watering. He turned away from her. “I know. I-I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.” He tried to keep his voice steady. He failed.
Twilight began wrapping his forelegs around him, but he quickly stepped away, to her surprise.
“Spike, what’s wrong?” she asked again.
“N-nothing,” he answered.
“Please, what is it?”
“Nothing!” Spike yelled, running into the safety of the room and shutting the door. Before Twilight could reach it, it was locked.
“Spike, please come out and talk to me,” she pleaded. She got no answer.
Mentally, she went through her options. It would be no challenge for her to unlock the door, but would it be wise? Should she continue to try and talk to him through the door? Should she wait for him to calm down?
She gave a resigned sigh. “When you’re ready to talk, I’ll listen.” Then she trotted away, leaving him alone.
She sighed as she reached the kitchen. Despite Spike’s insistence that he wasn’t hungry, she had set out a few gemstones for him to munch on while they talked. Shaking her head at the fact that they would go uneaten, she took her dandelion sandwich and went into the main reading area. She still had a promise to keep to Rainbow Dash.
Pinkie slowly walked through the door to Sugarcube Corner. Since the twins had been born, she had learned to enter quietly at after-hours, lest she stay up all night trying to get them back to sleep.
She carried her bags up the stairs, and saw that the quiet entrance was for nothing. Cup and Carrot Cake were in the nursery, playing with the still very much awake Pound and Pumpkin.
“I’m home!” she said happily, bouncing into the room. Almost immediately the infants gave squeals of delight as they reached over to their surrogate sister.
“Pinkie, you’re back,” Mrs. Cake said delightfully as Pinkie took the twins in her forelegs and began cradling them. “How was Canterlot?”
To their surprise, Pinkie didn’t go bouncing around, talking about how pretty the wedding was, or how exciting the reception was. She just gave a small smile. “It was nice,” she said.
The two bakers gave each other a glance before turning back to their foster daughter. “Pinkie, is everything alright?”
She stopped smiling. Her eyes drifted to the side before looking back at them. “I have something I need to tell you…”
Rarity calmly poured some of her leftover cider into two mugs. She normally served tea to guests, but she knew Applejack wasn’t the tea drinking sort, and she was already inconveniencing her enough asking her to come on such short notice.
“Alright, Rare, what’s this about? You tryin’ ta get me to take some of those lessons in money management again?”
“No, though I really wish you would…never mind, I want to talk to you about Twilight.”
The cowpony tilted her head. “What d’ya mean?”
Sitting at the table at last, she sighed. “It’s her tendency to… ‘flip out’, as it were. I wanted to talk to you about something we can do about it.”
Applejack arched an eyebrow. “Uh, Rare? You’re thinkin’ Twilight needs to stop freakin’ out?”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Rarity huffed. “I’m aware of the hypocrisy. But it’s different for Twilight. She’s the one in charge. We’ve never said it out loud, but you know as well as I do that whenever Princess Celestia sends us to do anything, we follow her. She needs to learn to keep a level head. Besides, you saw Twilight breaking up about it on the train. We cannot just let that go by unacknowledged.”
“I guess you’re right. But why couldn’t this wait ‘till tomorrow at breakfast?”
“Well, first off I wanted to keep this between just us for right now. Rainbow Dash has her hooves full worrying about Scootaloo, and you just know she’s going to ask Fluttershy and Pinkie to help her. Those three would have enough on their plate without this.”
“I guess that makes sense. Still don’t get why you couldn’t have talked to me tomorrow.”
Rarity sighed. “Because we can’t put this off any longer. We’ve known about Twilight’s problem for a while, and we’ve always treated it as a harmless little quirk. We simply cannot do that anymore. It nearly cost us dearly yesterday. I want us to come up with something now, and to begin on it tomorrow if possible.”
Applejack sighed. “I see your point. I guess we have kinda been passin’ that off as harmless. But do we need to do anything special? We could just put our hooves down the next time she starts frettin’ over somethin’.”
“That was our method at the wedding, and look what happened. We need to find some way to help her calm herself down whenever she gets upset.”
“I reckon you’re right. But what can we do about it?”
Rarity shook her head. “I’m not sure. That’s why we’re here. I was hoping you and I could brainstorm something up. Anything we can do to help her stay calm in the future would do wonders.”
Applejack sighed. “I guess that makes sense. I figure talking to Twilight about this tomorrow would be the best thing.”
“I would,” the unicorn agreed. “I would have her here tonight if she didn’t have Spike to worry about. Hopefully by tomorrow that will be cleared up. Until then, I’m simply hoping to find something we can start on.”