A thirtysomething Brony from Pennsylvania with a library degree.
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“This is a very complicated case. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder’s head. Fortunately, I'm adhering to a pretty strict, uh, regimen to keep my mind, you know, uh, limber.”
“I’m just saying that I thought I heard a noise while the two of you were working on the fire pit. That’s all.”
Scootaloo rolled her eyes as her friend brought up the phantom sound she claimed to have heard while the Cutie Mark Crusaders had still been back in Ponyville yet again. “Look, Sweetie Belle, can’t you give this whole ‘noise’ thing a rest?”
The unicorn filly, however, wasn’t quite ready to let this issue go. “But it sounded kind of loud—are you guys sure you didn’t hear it?”
“If I did hear it, I prob’ly wasn’t listenin’,” Apple Bloom replied, “on account of I got more important stuff ta be thinkin’ about, like gettin’ our cutie marks. An’ after all the trouble I’ve already been through for this one, ain’t no way we ain’t gonna give it a shot.”
“Well, I still say it doesn’t make any sense,” Sweetie Belle said. “Why did we have to spend so much time gardening with Mr. Greenhooves?”
“How else were we supposed to get our hooves on some weeds?” Scootaloo asked rhetorically. Indeed, after a few short hours under the tutelage of the elderly earth pony, the trio of fillies had amassed a considerable collection of thistles, dandelions, and kudzu.
“I don’t know,” the unicorn replied with a resigned sigh. “This all just seems so... ridiculous.”
“Well, that earth pony with the shaggy mane and goatee who’s always at the bowling alley seemed to think it was pretty awesome,” the pegasus filly countered. Granted, she hadn’t actually spoken to him—he’d been talking to the other members of his team at the time—but she was pretty sure that she’d gotten the general idea. Anyway, he seemed like a reasonably good pony, especially when compared to the creepy one with the hairnet.
“Besides, I already went all the way through Everfree Forest ta borrow that cauldron from Zecora,” Apple Bloom added. It wasn’t a particularly large one, but the earth pony would have bet her ribbon that it was enough to do the job.
“But why? Couldn’t you have just used an ordinary pot from your kitchen?”
“Those are for cookin’ on a stove,” Apple Bloom said. “This’n is meant ta be put over an open fire.”
“But how does that make it a ‘smoking pot’?”
“Because where there’s fire, there’s smoke, obviously,” Scootaloo replied. “I mean, it’s pretty simple: we smoke the weeds in the pot along with some grass, and then...”
Sweetie Belle raised an eyebrow skeptically. “I’m waiting...”
“...and then something awesome happens, apparently.” At least, Scootaloo was pretty sure that was how it worked. Of course, there were other things the grown-up pony had mentioned over the course of the eavesdropped conversation, but they all sounded too impractical. Roaches, for example, were living creatures, and smoking them with the weeds would just be cruel (besides, bugs were icky); getting bags full of dimes or nickels seemed too expensive and time-consuming; and the Crusaders didn’t have access to a grandfather clock (or anything else that went “bong,” for that matter). Thus, they had decided to start with weeds and grass (actually, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom had decided, while Sweetie Belle was reluctantly going along to get along for the moment).
With the pot and weeds taken care of, all that was left to do was to gather up some grass before heading back to the clubhouse to smoke them all over a fire pit. Of course, they couldn’t exactly tear up somepony’s lawn without having to answer some really awkward questions, so the solution, naturally, was to head to the large field just outside of Ponyville, where nopony would care about a few patchy spots on the ground. The three fillies had brought along several empty saddlebags, since they’d quite cleverly realized that figuring out how to properly smoke grass would be a trial-and-error process, and they’d need as much of it as they could get.
“Here we are,” Scootaloo declared as they entered the large, grassy expanse. “So, where should we start?”
Apple Bloom slowly scanned the area. “Well, how about—”
“Wait a minute,” Sweetie Belle interrupted. “Did you hear that?”
“More noises?” Scootaloo asked.
“Hang on,” Apple Bloom said. “I think I hear it, too. Kinda sounds like... gruntin’?”
This was enough to convince the pegasus filly to actually have a listen herself. “Yeah... but it isn’t just any old grunting.... I think that’s Rainbow Dash’s voice! Come on!” The three fillies galloped off towards the strange sounds.
Rainbow Dash was grinding her teeth as she bucked her rear legs as hard as she could. “Ugh... unh... come... on... why... won’t... you... just... get... off... already!”
Twilight Sparkle, for her part, was starting to feel rather nauseated. “Dash... I don’t think you’re going to be able to buck me off of you. We need to try a different approach.”
The pegasus reluctantly stopped her kicks. “Do you... have something... in mind?” she asked between heaving breaths.
“Actually, I do. The spell works like a magnet, right?”
“What... are you asking me... for?”
Twilight glared at her companion. “Now’s not the time to get snippy, Rainbow Dash. We can argue once we figure out a way to deal with this mess.”
The pegasus let out a frustrated sigh. “Fine. Go ahead with your explanation.”
“Thank you. As I was saying, the spell works like a magnet, but for whatever reason, its strength has been greatly increased. But although really strong magnets can’t simply be pulled apart without a lot of effort, it’s relatively easy to separate them if you slide them apart.”
“Right... and you know this... how?”
“My brother got a me a science kit for Hearth Warming one year that had some neodymium alloy magnets in it.”
“Neodymium. It’s a relatively rare metal, but its alloys can be used to make super-strong magnets, with no magic required.”
“Oh... got it. So, all we need to do is slide ourselves apart?”
As the Crusaders approached the source of the odd noises, their gallops slowed down to trots before the trio stopped moving entirely. The sight before them was really... strange. They attempted to use the taller patches of grass as cover to get a closer look, but the increased scrutiny didn’t exactly enlighten anypony.
“What in tarnation?” Apple Bloom asked rhetorically, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Are they fighting?” Sweetie Belle asked (somewhat less rhetorically). The strained looks on Twilight and Rainbow Dash’s faces, as well as the occasional grunt, would seem to point toward this conclusion, but the young unicorn had always assumed that a brawl would involve a lot more kicking and a lot less rolling around on the ground.
This however, seemed close enough for Scootaloo’s purposes. “Good friends like those two shouldn’t be fighting. Come on, let’s talk to them.”
“Are you nuts?” Sweetie Belle hissed. “You might get whacked by a stray hoof if they don’t notice you.”
“Maybe... or maybe this is our chance to get our cutie marks in mediation!” The pegasus paused as images of well-dressed dignitaries presenting the trio with the Neighbel Peace Prize flitted through her mind.
“Actually, Sweetie Belle might be right,” Apple Bloom said, interrupting her friend’s reverie. “If they really are fightin’, it’s probably about grown-up stuff, and they might not take kindly to three fillies tryin’ to break it up.”
“We can’t just do nothing.”
Apple Bloom pondered this for a few seconds before answering, “Well, lucky for us, we already know the grown-ups they respect the most, and more importantly, my sister told me they’d all be together today. If they can’t get to the bottom of this, ain’t nopony who can.”
“I simply can’t thank you enough for your help, Applejack.”
“Don’t mention it.” As far as errands went, dropping off several of Granny Smith’s old dresses at the Carousel Boutique on the previous Tuesday was hardly worth the showers of praise Rarity had given the palomino farm pony thus far. “To be honest, though, I ain’t sure why y’all wanted me ta come back here today if you weren’t returning them.”
“Well, it’s quite simple, darling. Ever since Fancypants proclaimed his approval of Twilight’s dress, my brand has been widely thought of as the forefront of the emerging ‘rustic’ look.”
“Yeah, I already knew that part. I’m guessin’ y’all wanted Granny Smith’s clothes for some inspiration, right?”
“Indeed—but I need to strike the right balance between the simplicity of the originals and the finicky demands of haute couture.”
Applejack nodded, absently noting that she’d somehow managed to spend enough time around Rarity to pick up the meaning of highfalutin’ words like “hot coater.” She pushed her hat back farther on her head. “So, I’m guessin’ y’all wanna make sure you didn’t overdo it with the frou-frou and got me in here for a second opinion.”
“More or less,” the unicorn answered. “I need to make sure I didn’t lose too much in the conversion from calico to taffeta.” She turned her head towards the ornate dressing screen in the corner of her shop. “Are you ready, girls?”
“Just about!” Pinkie Pie’s voice called back. A few seconds later the pink earth pony emerged, followed closely by a typically nervous Fluttershy. Both ponies were wearing variations of Twilight’s “half-finished” dress: Fluttershy’s was sky blue, with a pink sash added to the ensemble, while Pinkie’s sleeveless dress was dyed indigo, and lacked any accessories at all. Both ponies were wearing matching bonnets in the traditional style.
“Well, what do you think?”
“Uh, well, y’all certainly got the whole simplicity thing down, but... the bonnets are a bit much. Ah mean, these are Canterlot ponies y’all are sellin’ to.”
“Hmm... I suppose you’re right.”
“Does that mean I can take this off?” Fluttershy asked hopefully. She’d thought the bonnets had looked ridiculous from the beginning, but she’d been hesitant about actually saying so, particularly since Pinkie Pie had spent several minutes gushing to Rarity about how she absolutely loved hers.
“I suppose... but this does mean I’ll need to come up with some other sort of hat to go with my outfits—hats are a virtual necessity this season.”
“Well, maybe you could use a cowboy hat like Applejack’s,” Pinkie Pie suggested.
Rarity smiled wistfully in response. “I appreciate the suggestion, darling, but as far as clothing material goes, straw and felt are at the bottom of the list when one needs to cater to the tastes of high society ponies.”
“Well, how about—”
The earth pony didn’t get the chance to finish making her follow-up suggestion, because at that moment, the Cutie Mark Crusaders burst through the door.
“Sweetie Belle! Please! You’ll destroy the hinges if you aren’t careful.”
The unicorn filly, however, wasn’t able to answer her sister right away, since she and her friends had returned to Ponyville at a full gallop, and they were still catching their breaths. “Twilight... Rainbow Dash... fighting!” she finally managed to force out.
“What?! Whatever do you mean?”
After a few seconds, Scootaloo had regained enough wind to answer this question using complete sentences: “The three of us were crusading in the fields outside of Ponyville, when we heard these noises. When we went to see what it was, Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle were fighting in the grass!”
“Oh no!” Fluttershy gasped. “What could have happened?”
“There must be some sorta mistake,” Applejack said. “Ah mean, Rainbow Dash may be hotheaded sometimes, but she’s never actually fought us unless there was magic involved...” The farm pony’s eyes widened as the most distasteful possibility she could think of reared its ugly head. “Y’all don’t suppose Discord’s on the loose again?”
“I hope not,” Pinkie Pie said with a shudder. “I don’t wanna get turned gray again if it means I have to be grouchy to everypony.”
“Darlings, I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. I doubt Twilight would resort to violence no matter what sort of spell she’d been placed under.” Rarity turned her attention back to the Crusaders. “Are you certain they were fighting?”
“Well,” Apple Bloom said thoughtfully, “now that I think about it, they mighta been rasslin’.”
“Wrestling?” Pinkie asked. “You mean like professional wrestling with a ring and masks, or the kind with the padded headgear that you see at the Equestrian Games?”
Apple Bloom shook her head. “Neither of ’em, really—this was more like the kind in Big Macintosh’s rasslin’ magazines.”
“Huh?” Applejack asked skeptically. “Whaddya mean by ‘rasslin’ magazines’?” The large, red draft pony had never taken much interest in displays of athleticism, at least as far as his sister knew.
“Well, Big Macintosh has got this box fulla magazines in his closet, an’ they all got pictures of mares rasslin’, only it’s usually on a bed or outside instead of on a mat, and there ain’t no referees or audiences. And instead of doin’ body slams and stuff like that, they’re mostly just grabbin’ each other all over and makin’ funny faces.”
Applejack’s eyes widened as she somehow managed to pale and blush simultaneously. “And, uh, that’s what Twi and Dash were doin’?”
“Uh, maybe. I don’t remember all the details, but they were sorta sliding around all over each other.”
“Yeah,” Scootaloo added. “And they were making weird grunty noises, like ‘uhh, uhh, uhh.’”
“Except every now and then it was more like a moan: ‘Ahhhhhh....’”
Rarity stuffed a hoof in her sister’s mouth to stifle the embarrassingly lewd noise. “I think we get the general gist of things, darlings. Uh, why don’t the three of you head home while we take care of this matter?”
“Ah’ll go with ’em,” Applejack volunteered. “If this is anything like what I think it is, we can’t really afford ta risk them gettin’ curious about it and headin’ back out there. Besides, it sounds like I’m gonna need ta have me some serious conversationalizin’ with Big Macintosh anyway.”
This was quickly deemed an appropriate course of action, at least according to the older ponies. Once Applejack had escorted the Crusaders out of the boutique (over the latter group’s protests), the remaining mares were free to discuss the matter like mature adults. They simply chose not to.
“This is terrible!” Rarity wailed. “My poor little sister has no doubt been traumatized for life! Who knows what seeing such a thing might do to her developing psyche? Why, her confusion will no doubt cause her to avoid stallions as she chases after mares.... Well, that is, unless she turns out to be the kind who actually is interested in mares, in which case her inability to distinguish love from fighting will probably drive her to waste time pursuing emotionally sterile relationships with stallions! Either way, the best years of her life have been ruined by my friends’ indiscretion! There can be no doubt that this is the Worst! Possible! Thing!”
Pinkie Pie, on the other hand, had a somewhat more positive perspective on the matter. “This is great! Twilight and Dashie are special someponies! Do you know what this means?” The pink earth pony didn’t bother to wait for an answer. “It means I finally get to throw a ‘coming out’ party! I’ve always wanted to do one of those, but all the ponies I know who are ‘out’ were already ‘out’ before I met them. And they’re such a cute couple, too! This is easily the Best! Possible! Thing!”
Fluttershy, for her part, cleared her throat with as much intensity as she could muster. “Um, actually, we don’t really know for sure if they’re in a relationship yet.”
Rarity, however, seemed skeptical about this possibility. “But Fluttershy, dearie, what other explanation could there possibly be?”
“Well, if they are special someponies, but they want to keep it a secret for whatever reason, I, um, don’t think they’d risk... Um, what I mean is, if... if somepony found them doing... things....” Fluttershy blushed as she trailed off, too distracted by the embarrassment she was certain that she would feel if she was caught in a situation that was even remotely similar to the alleged activities of her friends. “I mean, Twilight just seems, um, too level-headed for that. I can’t really imagine why she’d do something like that.”
“That’s because you haven’t seen just how reliant that mare is on books when it comes to subjects she knows nothing about,” Rarity replied as she began nervously pacing around her showroom. “We’re talking about somepony who was at a complete loss for what to do when a tree branch crashed through her window because her reference book on slumber parties didn’t mention anything about property damage. If whatever book she’s reading about intimacy fails to mention that it’s generally frowned upon to engage in it where you could get caught in the act by impressionable foals, she probably won’t be able to figure it out on her own.”
“But Rainbow Dash—”
“I would imagine that she’s as well-versed in the subject as Twilight, darling; possibly even less so, given the way she devotes so much of her attention to her physical training.”
“Um, that... that...” Fluttershy swallowed hard as she did her best to come up with a counterargument. “I’m... I’m not sure that actually, um, proves anything. Though, I suppose that I could be wrong....”
“Well, do you have another explanation?” Pinkie Pie asked.
“Uh, well, the Crusaders thought they were fighting at first, so, um, maybe... maybe they really were fighting.”
Pinkie Pie abruptly stopped her streamer-and-balloon-filled reverie when this matter was brought up. “Oh, my gosh, that’s right! They might have become the opposite of special someponies: normal noponies! And nopony would want to have a party to celebrate that.”
“So, what do you suggest we do?” Rarity asked.
“Obviously, we find Twilight and Dashie and figure out what’s going on. Come on, we don’t have a moment to lose: the fate of a party hangs in the balance!” The three ponies headed out the door and galloped towards the empty field.