"Hey big sis, I made you cookies!"
Rarity emitted a sigh that communicated that she would genuinely appreciate accepting the gift if she were not so busy at the moment. "Would you be a dear and put them on that desk there? I'm sorry, but I'm rather focused right now..."
"Oh.... Okay!" Sweetie slid the plate onto the desk, looking at the mannequin that Rarity was working on. "That dress looks really pretty! And, um, complicated." She tilted her head, examining the masterpiece in the making. "Are all those layers really necessary?"
"It's a period piece, dear. I'm trying to impress some rather... connected historians down in Fillydelphia." She snorted. "Apparently, being endorsed by Sapphire Shores put me on their naughty list, so they spread rumors through the city and now I can't so much as set hoof in there.... they've never even seen my face! Well, except for the Princess's announcement that one time we locked Discord in stone."
"You'd think they'd be head over hooves to get on the good side of one of the bearers."
Rarity sighed. "Well... the princesses have downplayed our, ah, fame. Applejack and Fluttershy in particular didn't want the attention, and Rainbow Dash is the kind of mare that wants to succeed on her own merits, not titles. Twilight simply didn't see the point, the dear, and Pinkie Pie.... well..."
"Pinkie Pie is Pinkie Pie?"
"Precisely, dear." She smiled wistfully. "And for the element of generosity to flaunt her status would be somewhat... out of character. Still, I suppose if everything were handed to me on a silver platter I'd get too lazy to even work on my dresses." Rarity finally stepped back, eying her work with a careful look. "I do believe that's accurate enough."
"It looks really nice!"
"Thank you darling." The fashionista turned to her sister. "Now then! I think I should see these cookies you made, I'm almost certain they're going to be delicious."
"Pinkie Pie helped me make them!"
Rarity levitated a cookie to her muzzle, taking a graceful bite. "Mmmmm... Yes, I can tell! These are simply astounding!" She took a moment to finish the pastry and dab her lips clean with a handkerchief she kept specifically for that purpose. "So how did you convince Pinkie to help you make these?"
"I just asked. After, um..." Sweetie Belle pulled her ears back. "After.... well, after I kinda told her about... my nightmares..."
The elder unicorn, after a moment, hugged her sister gently. "I... wish I could help with that somehow. I know how bad nightmares can be... after Discord's day, I had a number of them."
"Actually, Pinkie Pie talked with me about them. I don't think I'll have those nightmares anymore, she was a big help."
"...oh was she?"
The younger unicorn realized what she was saying and leaned back. "N-N-Not that you weren't a help, I mean, I just--"
Rarity giggled at her panicked expression, putting a gentle hoof on her lips. "Don't you worry, dear, I'm not jealous. If anything, I'm grateful to Pinkie for being able to help where..." She sighed. "Well. At the very least, you'll be getting more sleep every night."
"...Why do I need to sleep, anyway? I mean, I get eating, but sleep seems kinda weird for a robot to do."
The fashionista shook her head. "Well, most ponies sleep so that their minds can organize the memories from the day."
"Oh. That makes sense." Sweetie Belle nodded to herself, trying to determine where to take the conversation now; sleep was a subject that was ironically easy to exhaust. "Um... so you had nightmares because of Discord?"
Rarity flinched. "Yes. I... couldn't quite get over the way I was made to..." She shuddered. "I don't like thinking about it."
"No, dear, I'm fine. Discord's day was awful for all of us..."
The younger unicorn hesitated. "Um... actually, he kinda ignored me."
"Well, when he came to Ponyville and did all his chaos stuff, he would talk to ponies before he did... whatever. But when he came to me and the other crusaders he just... stared at me. And shook his head." She kicked the ground awkwardly. "Said something about nothing causing more chaos than curiosity."
That comment caused Rarity to pause. Even after he was reformed, Discord had a habit of... twisting truths in sinister ways. Perhaps she should ask Fluttershy if she could persuade the draconequuis to explain that odd statement.
Sweetie Belle fidgeted uncomfortably in the sudden silence.
"....Well!" The fashionista shook her head. "I suppose that you were lucky then."
"Yeah, I... I guess I was."
When Sweetie Belle awoke the next morning, she gave a silent, ladylike yawn. Her eyelids still heavy, she trotted to her wardrobe, taking a moment to comb her mane and tail.
It suddenly occurred to her that she hadn't dreamed at all.
A small smile stole over her face at that realization. She began to hum to herself, checking her mane and double checking for any cuts in the fabric of her skin, before she nodded in satisfaction.
Out of habit, she walked to the bathroom and brushed her teeth. Pinkie had told her that it wasn't, strictly speaking, necessary, her mouth apparently cleaned itself in her sleep, but... somehow, she couldn't stop herself. Once that was done, morning breath conquered, the filly trotted down the stairs. Her humming had become the happy formless singing that she so often engaged in, random tunes swimming through the air with no real direction.
Saint Germane smiled as her daughter walked into the kitchen. "Looks like somepony's happy to wake up today. I made you waffles for breakfast." She gestured to the blackened husks on the table.
"Thanks Mom!" Sweetie Belle grabbed some of the charred disks and began munching on them happily.
"You're welcome, Sweetie. Do you have anything special planned for today?"
"No... The girls and I are going to do a little crusading, but besides that there's nothing really unusual on the schedule." She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "You may want to bring Fluttershy over though..."
"Really?" Her mother gave her a curious look. "Why do you say that?"
"Well, last night I heard squeaking coming from your room."
"...O-oh. You, ah, heard that...?"
The filly sniffed the air curiously. "And now I'm smelling something... I don't know exactly what, but--"
"SO you said you were doing some crusading today? Not anything particularly dangerous?" Saint Germane smiled widely.
"Well, probably not too dangerous, no. At least not after yesterday with, um... stuff." Sweetie sniffed again. "I really think you should get Fluttershy, Mom, whatever those squeaking things were they've been in the kitchen."
"Right, I'll be sure to do that! Oh hey, is that Scootaloo out there?" Germane began to nudge her daughter out the door, blushing lightly for some inexplicable reason. "You should probably go out and hop into that wagon so you're not late!"
"Bye Sweetie, I love you, have a good day at school!" Her mother shut the door quickly, not fast enough to actually slam it but still a bit too fast, in her opinion.
"...today is Saturday..."
Scootaloo rode up, giving the unicorn an odd look as she tossed her a helmet. "What is up with your mom? It's like she wanted you out of the house or something."
"I don't know, it's just weird!" Sweetie Belle strapped the green thing to her head, idly wondering if she actually needed it. Maybe she could ask Pinkie to take a look at her head during their next research session...
"Maybe she's busy wrapping up a birthday present for you."
The unicorn gave her friend a look as she clambered into the wagon. "Scoots, my birthday isn't for eleven months."
The pegasus shrugged. "Hey, it was just an idea." She began flapping her wings rapidly, propelling her scooter and the attached vehicle at ever more rapid speeds. "So what do you think we should do today?"
"I don't know. Something not dangerous. Cutie Mark... um... secretaries?"
"Ugh. That's so boring!"Scootaloo mock gagged as they swerved around a startled unicorn. "But I guess I could give it a shot. Did... did you sleep well?"
"Hmmm? Oh! Yeah, no nightmares, no nothing!" Sweetie perked up. "I think talking to you girls and Pinkie helped a lot!"
"Taste Bud Cold is not a real affliction."
"Ooooooh." The pegasus nodded. "I guess that would explain why you seemed so much happier when you came out of that kitchen."
"That and the cookies." Sweetie giggled. "Cookies were a big help."
Soon enough the next meeting of the Cutie Mark Crusaders was called to order. The secretary idea was thrown out pretty rapidly, on the grounds that being a librarian was kind of like being a secretary and they'd already tried that. Scootaloo's snowboarding idea was also thrown out, on the grounds that climbing up a mountain or going up a ski lift were too expensive (although they did put it down on the Ideas needing Funding list). Finally, Apple Bloom suggested they try something like fishing, which Scootaloo admitted was possibly a bit cool, provided they caught a really big or neat fish.
"...you know, this is ridiculously boring."
"....why do we even fish?" the pegasus continued. "It's not like we eat fish."
"Fluttershy feeds fish to some of her animals," Sweetie Belle pointed out. "Maybe that's what happens to them!"
Scootaloo rolled her eyes. "So all over Equestria, ponies fish and send the fish to Fluttershy."
"...well, or a local zoo or something." Sweetie shrugged. "It's kinda relaxing."
"I thought for sure we would have at least caught that squid by now," Scootaloo grumbled.
The three of them sat on the shore and stared at the water, waiting for something to happen. As they sat, each of them considered their position in life. What had brought them to this. Where they could go from here.
"...Girls. You're great friends, you know that?" Sweetie Belle turned to her companions. "You've helped me through a lot."
"What do you mean?" Scootaloo gave her a weirded out look. "All we've really done is crusade with you... and that one time when AB arranged things so Rarity would go to the Sisterhooves Social with you. Oh, and that hug thing after Babs and Diamond took our clubhouse..."
"Trust me, you girls are the best."
"What brought this on, Sweetie?" Apple Bloom turned to the unicorn. "Was it tha nightmares?"
"That's the thing. I didn't have nightmares last night. And I... I think I know why." Sweetie Belle smiled. "I... have a choice. It's a choice I've been afraid to make, because... I didn't know how you, or anypony would really react. But..."
She took a deep breath.
"...I think I'm ready now. I think I'm ready."
"...ready ta do what?"
"Ready to tell you two something. Something really important."
"Whatever it is, it's going to have to wait!" Scootaloo stood eagerly, clutching her fishing pole. "I GOT A BITE! I FINALLY GOT WHOAAAAAAA!"
Apple Bloom leapt at the pegasus, just managing to grab her tail as she was suddenly dragged over the water. "AH GOT YA! AH GOT WAAAAAAAAAA! SWEETIE! HELP ME!"
The unicorn giggled, jumping after the two. "Hold on, I--!" It was only after she had a grip on the earth pony's red tail that she realized how useless her action would be.
Then the three of them were dragged through the lake.
"Level of exposure?"
"Two individuals. One is eccentric, one considers herself to be drone fifty eight's sister. Both have sworn to keep it secret."
"Both individuals are national heroes. At the moment, the situation is stable. Normal methodology is not suggested, as it would attract attention from a large portion of the populace. I say we do nothing."
"The other drones are undiscovered. At the moment, risk is minimal."
"Your suggestion is taken under advisement. Return to your station."