“Good morning, Mom,” Twilight Sparkle said softly, tilting the watering can over the potted agave. “Guten Morgen, Vati.” Next came the potted cactus, and the lavender Unicorn smiled sadly down at her transfigured parents.
“Good morning, Mom,” said a mulberry Dragon cub cheerily as he stepped out onto the wooden balcony, the shade of the higher branches of the Golden Oak Library falling across his slitted eyes. “How are Grandmom and Grampa doing?”
Twilight turned brightly towards Spike, her leonine tail sweeping slowly across the polished woodwork. Her sapphire cloven hooves clacked brightly as she trotted towards her surrogate son, the watering can in her pink dwimmer shimmer being set down between the potted plants.
“They’re as healthy as they have ever been, Spike,” she smiled, nuzzling against the side of Spike’s head, the drake chuckling slightly as her bowl-cut forelock brushed against his fins. “I want Mom and Vati to be receive as much sunlight as they can before winter comes. And winter is coming, Spike.”
Spike stood onto his hind limbs and hugged one of Twilight’s forelegs. She brought up her other foreleg and rested it on his back.
“I suppose a small heliogenesis spell wouldn’t be a bad idea, would it?” Spike offered.
Twilight smiled down at her son.
“You’ve read my mind, Spike. That’s exactly what I was going to do. Provided, of course, that Green Hoof’s greenhouse is unavailable. I’d rather not impose Mom and Vati on her. I don’t know if I’m really friends with her. Besides, Golden Harvest will need as much space as she can for her wares to flourish in the winter months.”
“I guess,” replied Spike, rubbing the back of his head. “Hey, you don’t suppose we could hang out with Rarity and the gang today, do you? It’s a nice day out and stuff, you know?”
The lavender Unicorn did not need a special talent in psychiatry to puzzle out Spike’s ulterior motive in this regard; the mulberry drake was rather childishly shallow in that regard. Then again, he was a child, a dozen years old being a baby by the standards of Dragons. There was no way that she could fault him for that.
And while the Twilight Sparkle of four months would have foregone the opportunity to stroll about town in exchange for reading books in the solitude of her home, sometimes for leisure, sometimes to inspect theses and essays and volumes of text relating to thaumaturgical metamorphosis…
All of that changed with the botched Summer Sun Celebration and the advent of NightMare Moon.
The insane miasmic Alicorn, truly the brainwashed Queen Selena of the Night, banished Queen Celestia to the Sun and instituted a regime of everlasting night that lasted nearly two months. Twilight Sparkle, Queen Celestia’s personal protégée, saw the signs of NightMare Moon’s return and warned her teacher of the oncoming threat. However, Twilight found herself assigned to the exact location of the Summer Sun Celebration, Ponyville, on the express mission by Queen Celestia to “make some friends”. As begrudgingly and furiously as Twilight took this task, it proved to be the salvation of the world, as those friendships she forged in the fires of NightMare Moon’s adversity proved the catalyst for activating the Elements of Harmony and purging Queen Selena of her evil.
So did Twilight Sparkle and her ward Spike the Dragon leave behind Canterlot, with all of their effects, to live in the Golden Oaks Library of Ponyville.
With − Twilight’s heart fluttered at the thought of the words − her friends.
“Yes Spike,” beamed Twilight, looking out at the puffy clouds floating across the Saddle Valley sky, the sun shining bright at high noon. “Today is a very good day. It would be a shame to spend it sequestered here on this balcony.”
“So, we’re gonna hop on down to Ponyville and hang out with Rarity and the guys?”
Twilight smirked, “Hop on down, Spike? Did you mean that literally?”
Harlequin eyes alight, the mulberry drake nodded vigorously; this was entirely more fun than Twilight was before she’d made friends!
Her tail set down beside Spike, the little Dragon climbing up the elongated Unicorn dock and settling upon Twilight’s back, claws clutched around her barrel.
“Now, let’s go!”
Cloven hooves clacking against the balcony floor and then the railing, Twilight and Spike dove down from the second level of the Golden Oak Library to the solid ground below.
“That may not have been…” Twilight winced as Spike popped the dislocated fetlock joint back into place. “Ouch! − the smartest decision I’ve ever made.”
“It’s a good thing you don’t just read for fun,” Spike murmured ruefully.
“Mm-hmm,” Twilight mused to herself, testing her weight gingerly on her left forehoof. A dull pain shot up her leg; judging based upon her medical knowledge, she must have sprained it in the landing.
“I suppose Dr. Horse can look at it later,” she breathed through clenched teeth. “But for now…”
Twilight’s alicorn lit up pink as spell matrices aligned within, the dwimmer shimmer flickering slightly as a faint blue glow settled around her left fetlock. A cool sensation ran down and around her left forehoof, as though it had been dipped in a tub of iced water. Twilight let out a sigh of relief, albeit maintaining more weight upon her other legs.
“Well, that could’ve gone better for me,” she said, taking a further step into Ponyville. She turned her head towards Spike. “But that was fun, wasn’t it?”
“Well… apart from you twisting your ankle like that, yeah,” Spike replied.
“Then it was all worth it.”
Spike smiled sheepishly; Twilight being so open with her affections was still new to him.
“So,” Twilight began, “shall we stop by Sugarcube Corner first and see if Pinkie Pie can free up a couple hours from her schedule? I mean, it is the closest, and we should really tackle each place our friends can be found in in a logical chain leading to the next-closest in the chain.”
But of course, Spike thought, it would not be Twilight if she was not so prudent and logical.
He shrugged internally. Ahh well. Guess Rarity can wait.
“Can we get sapphire cupcakes?”
Twilight smiled warmly, wincing a bit at her tender forehoof. “We’ll see.”
Passing through Ponyville was almost entirely different from Canterlot. Not a single thatched rooftop save for the Gazebo and Golden Oak Library was higher than two or three levels above the street, so unlike the towering stone and marble constructs that lined Canterlot’s cobblestone roads. Most of Ponyville’s paths were well-trodden earth, and the fragrance of well-tended flowers flowed calmly through the hamlet. Even the way that ponies called out to her by name and Twilight Sparkle called back in turn was a far cry from the capital. Most of the denizens of Canterlot would not have cared less to know Twilight’s name unless they knew that she was the Queen’s pupil.
“Good afternoon, Twilight Sparkle!” called out an Earth Pony mare from her carrot stall, green eyes shining brightly behind a curly orange mane.
Twilight smiled back, “Good afternoon to you too, Golden Harvest. How are the carrots coming along?”
“Almost ready to rotate into the greenhouses for the winter. May I ask where you are headed this fine autumn day?”
“I’m − ouch − on my way to meet Pinkie Pie.”
Golden Harvest looked worriedly down at Twilight’s ankle, “Are you feeling alright, Miss Twilight?”
The lavender Unicorn crossed her other foreleg across her twinging hoof, offering a placating smile.
“Just a bad trip, nothing more. I’m fairly certain I’ll live. I’ll see the doctor at the hospital before the day’s end.”
Golden Harvest gave one last look at the rough-looking fetlocks round Twilight’s left hoof, before offering a hesitant smile and saying, “Well, in the hopes of your speedy recovery, how about a carrot, on the house?”
“Oh no, I couldn’t…”
“We’ll take it!”
“What?” Spike said defensively, catching the carrot in both of his claws. “Every little bit helps.”
“I guess…” Twilight murmured as Golden Harvest waved them off with a smile. “But you still undermined my authority as your mother. If we’re to do this whole mother-son thing, then there need to be clearly defined roles in play. Without those roles being enforced, we don’t have harmony. And without harmony, without those roles being adhered to, we would be exactly back where we were with NightMare Moon or Trixie…”
“Whoo-ee, Twilight!” interjected a country drawling voice, and Twilight turned to see the Apple family’s apple-cart being tended to by a burly orange-coated Earth Pony mare with angled features and a scarred physique. Her freckled muzzle was pulled into a wry smile as she continued, “Ah hope that Ah didn’ catch y’all at a bad time. It sounded like yer about as riled up as a rattlesnake that’s bin bakin’ in th’ sun fer four days straight.”
Twilight smiled sheepishly, feeling her heart lightening mildly at the look and sound of her first Ponyville friend.
“Ohh, it was nothing, Applejack,” she replied evenly. “It was just a minor dispute between me and Spike here. I might just be a little testy because of… Well…” A cloven sapphire hoof lifted off the ground, the fetlocks about it ruffled and lightly tinged with frost from the earlier cooling spell.
Applejack looked bemusedly at Twilight’s outstretched forehoof, adjusting her red neckerchief and Stetson in turn. “Ah don’ rightly know what ta be lookin’ at, sugar-cube.”
“Twilight let me ride on her back off the balcony!” Spike cried joyously. “It was awesome, more awesome than any other time we’ve left the house!”
Twilight winced as she flexed her fetlock.
“Yes, I bet it was. But − Autsch! − I must’ve landed badly on my foreleg. I’m not as strong as you are, Applejack.”
“Aww, yer jus’ sayin’ that. Yer strong, alright; strong in th’ real way.”
“If I may play drakonakis’s advocate, AJ, one doesn’t simply will a limb to not be dislocated.”
Applejack looked sadly down at the scar running down her right foreleg.
“True enough, Twilight. True enough.”
The palomino Earth Pony looked brightly back up with emerald eyes, her full blonde mane bouncing as she said, “But enough with the reminiscin’. What brings ya outta th’ library t’day? Lookin’ ta buy some apples? Or maybe some other wares a’ th’ Apple family?”
Twilight waved her bad hoof gently.
“I think I’ll pass today, Applejack. I just want to hang out with my friends. I was going to start with Pinkie Pie over at Sugarcube Corner, but I didn’t realize that you’d scheduled for your cart of wares to be set up here at noon today. I don’t want to impose on you when you have wares to sell, so I’ll just…”
“No, wait Twilight,” Applejack interjected, raising a hoof at the lavender Unicorn. “Ah’d like ta have a word with ya ‘bout sumthin’. Ya think Spike could give us a bit of mare-ta-mare talkin’…?”
“Uhh, sure,” Spike pondered. “But I’m sure that whatever you have to say to Mom, you can say it around me―”
“No, that won’t really be necessary, Spike,” Twilight interrupted. “Could you hurry along to Sugarcube Corner? I’ll meet you there shortly.”
Spike’s fins drooped slightly, his slitted pupils dilated slightly.
“Are you… Are you sure that you don’t need me, Mom?”
Twilight felt her heart melting at the sight of Spike’s morose face. Bringing her right foreleg around his back, she brought Spike closer to her and nuzzled him. His face brightened up and his fins stood up straighter.
“Don’t worry, Spike. It’s just going to be for a few moments. I’ll be right after you. And if I’m late, give the Cakes my regards.”
Spike nodded smilingly up at his mother. “Sure. Do you, uhh, want this carrot then?”
The proffered carrot lit up in a pink dwimmer shimmer, Spike’s claws loosening upon it as Twilight drew it up to her side.
“Get whatever you please at Sugarcube Corner, Spike; it’ll go onto my tab,” Twilight explained, nibbling at the end of the carrot. “And mind the volume of your voice; the twins are only a couple weeks old, and they probably won’t like ponies being too loud, and that includes Dragons. And be sure to chew thoroughly so that you don’t choke on anything. And keep a tight watch on your caloric intake so that you don’t put on any undue weight. And… “
But Spike was already quite a ways out of earshot, waving idly over his shoulder to his mother’s shrinking form.
Applejack covered her muzzle with a sand-colored hoof.
“What’s so funny?” asked Twilight with a sapphire eyebrow quirked.
“Well, it’s jus’ that… Ah really didn’ take ya fer th’ maternal type when Ah first saw ya, Twilight. That little drake jus’ seemed like he was some kinda little assistant.”
Twilight smiled after the retreating mulberry shape as it approached the confectioners’ delight that was Sugarcube Corner, just around the bend from where they stood.
“I would be lying if I said that he was not like that at all to me. You can’t believe how many all-nighters I’ve pulled reading everything that I could on any number of subjects, how he would keep me supplied with coffee by the carafe, replace books back on the shelf as soon as I was certain that I had perused them as thoroughly as equinely possible, offer a second opinion on any given subject that I may have required a second opinion on, make sure that Mom and Vati stayed watered…” Twilight traced a double-path in the dirt with a cloven hoof. “Good gracious, I’ve really been asking a lot of him in exchange for giving him a roof over his head. I was no mother to him. But now, Owlowiscious is glad to help me in re-shelving books. And now, with fewer books to read, I have more time to spend with my friends. It’s a win-win!”
Applejack adjusted her Stetson slightly.
“That’s right good for ya, sugarcube.”
A pregnant pause followed.
“So… Nice day, huh?” asked Twilight.
“That it is,” Applejack answered shortly. “Rainbow Dash an’ th’ weather team were due ta give us a clear an’ sunny day fer a bit now.”
“Yeah…” Twilight’s purple eyes looked up and met Applejack’s green eyes; the mare stood about half a head taller than her. “So, what did you want to talk about with me?”
Applejack looked away from her Unicorn friend’s gaze.
“On that day… that night… when we got all a’ th’ Elements a’ Harmony together, an’ you managed ta activate yer Element a’ Magic…”
The palomino was blushing now, her lips pursing slightly.
“Ya did sumthin’ ta try an’ calm me down from mah silly little cryin’.”
Twilight cocked an eyebrow, trying to cast her mind back to what happened at the end of that months-long night. It had been such a trying series of events, with the rising of the puppet-dead and the showdown between the Wonderbolts and Shadowbolts and Rainbow Dash’s brush with death and NightMare Moon’s nightmare worlds for each of them and…
“Ya kissed me.”
“Wait, what?” Twilight blinked. “Oh yes, now I remember that! I was trying to comfort you about the puppet-dead rising up from Ponyville Cemetery, because you were worried about… well, I don’t think you’d like me to talk about it…”
“Ah’d rather not, thank ya very much, sugar,” replied the farmer mare. “But what Ah wanna know is: Why’d ya do it? There ain’t rightly many reasons that come t’ mah mind about ponies kissin’ other ponies. But th’ most likely reason that Ah cin think about…”
Twilight’s heart twanged in her chest at Applejack’s statement. She did not need to be tremendously adept socially to understand where this conversation was going.
“Well… The reason that I did it should be pretty obvious:” Twilight began, “It’s what a friend would do, isn’t it? I mean, you were in distress, and I remember being kissed by my parents when I was upset as a filly.”
“Oh… So that’s why?” Applejack asked, the red flushing in her face diminishing to pink. “‘Cause Ah was thinkin’ thatcha… ya know, had a inklin’ ta be romantic with me or sumthin’.”
“What? Oh no, that wasn’t it at all,” Twilight answered. “I’m not the romantic sort at all, Applejack. Ponies don’t interest me that way.”
Applejack’s eyebrows raised.
“Ahh, so yer one a’ them… non-romantic type a’ ponies?”
“The proper term for ponies like me is aromantic,” explained Twilight, “but as you could imagine, for the longest time I thought that I was incapable even of friendship, until I met you and the others. And I just… I never thought that I could experience the joy I get from reading books by spending time with other ponies! This is giving me so much material to write about…!”
The Earth Pony farmer smiled at her bibliophile friend.
“Ah’m glad fer ya, sugarcube. Really I am. And… ta be honest, that weren’t the answer t’ mah question that Ah was expectin’. But… well…” Applejack crossed a front hoof across the other. “Ah’d be lyin’ if Ah said that Ah weren’ disappointed.”
“Aww, so you’re not just an egghead, but a heartbreaker,” smirked a rainbow-maned cerulean Pegasus mare with narrow features, flapping just overhead. Twilight shook her head; she’d neglected the intermittent whooshes of wind just moments before as a gust down the Saddle Valley.
“Rainbow Dash,” snapped Applejack, “were y’all listenin’ in on our private conversation?”
“Kinda hard not to, since we’re in public space, after all,” Rainbow retorted. “How’s the apple sales going, by the way, Apple-snack? I think I’m noticing a bit of a line forming.”
With a flick of a grayish-blue hoof, the cerulean Pegasus indicated a line of variously indignant or curious ponies, evidently waiting their turn for the purchase of Apple family wares.
Twilight Sparkle laughed nervously, her tail twitching.
“Well, I… suppose I’ll be on my way to Sugarcube Corner to make sure Spike is okay,” she said, making for the aforementioned bakery before turning to Applejack one more time, “You don’t suppose you could spare some time with us later?”
“Ah’ll see what Ah cin do, sugar-cube,” replied the Earth Pony. “Maybe Big Mac cin fill in fer me later, Ah dunno. But Ah see about wranglin’ some spare time to spend with y’all. Take care!”
“Mmm-mmm-mmm!” Spike smacked his lips and patted his belly. “You make some of the most tasty cupcakes, Pinkie Pie! I’d go so far as to say that they’re better than Mrs. Cake’s!”
“Aww, you’re just saying that~”
“No seriously, I mean it! She should take maternity leave more often! Seriously, what do you put in this stuff?”
“Soooo, what you’re saying is that you want to know the secret ingredient?”
“Well, you see…”
The door slid open with a jingle of the bell, a lavender Unicorn with a sapphire mane in a bowl cut trotting briskly into Sugarcube Corner. Purple eyes swept quickly, before she beelined straight for Spike’s seat.
“Spike, thank goodness I got here just in time!” Twilight gasped, drawing out a napkin from the nearby dispenser and wiping stray flecks of icing from the drake’s cheeks. “Just look at you, you’re a mess! You made sure to chew thoroughly, didn’t you? And you gargled water to make sure that no crumbs lodged themselves between your teeth? Because if you get a bad case of tooth decay because I wasn’t there to make sure that you ate those sucrose-ridden confections properly, I’d never forgive myself!”
“Aww, c’mon Mom,” Spike complained, folding his forelegs in resignation. “I’m fine, really.”
“Yupper-deenie he is, Twilight~” assented a round and pudgy pink Earth Pony. Pinkie Pie grinned broadly, more broadly than should have been possible on any pony. It being Pinkie Pie, though, Twilight learned not to question it too much. “He was such a keen little cupcake-eater, I’ll have you know!”
“Well, even so,” Twilight continued, “proper dental care is essential to any growing child. I would die if you ended up losing half of your teeth because I wasn’t stringent enough in maintaining a rigorous―”
“Whoa, cool down there, Ms. Twilight; I almost thought my wife teleported out here,” interjected a lanky yellow stallion, entering from the living quarters backstage. Mr. Carrot Cake looked rather more haggard than usual, a bright-orange stubble visible across his muzzle and shadows under his eyes.
“Oh hello, Mr. Cake,” beamed Twilight. “How are the twins doing?”
“Still as fussy as ever,” sighed the nonetheless proud father. “Little Pumpkin keeps fidgeting whenever I try to change her diaper, and last week Pound was crying for a new diaper even before he needed one, and when I went to change it…” The Earth Pony baker shuddered, his ears flattening against his head. “Thank Queen Celestia that the sink was nearby…”
“My sympathies, Mr. Cake. And… how about their magic outbursts?”
“Well… so far as we can tell, the wards you’ve set up are keeping our little Pumpkin Cake from magicking herself out of here, and we’ve barred the windows at your suggestion, to keep our Pound Cake from floating out of his room. It… feels a bit wrong to cage our children, though.”
“I can understand how you’d think that, but it’s all for the best to ensure that your foals stay safe and secure.”
“What I still don’t get,” Spike cut in, “is how Mr. and Mrs. Cake − two Earth Ponies − ended up having a Unicorn filly and a Pegasus colt.”
“Well, you see, Spike,” Twilight smiled, “it’s all a matter of genetics. You see, ponies carry multiple pairs of what are called chromosomes that carry our genetic ancestry, such as coat color, mane color, subcategory of pony type, etc. As such, it is possible for one’s offspring to unexpectedly turn up as the race of a distant ancestor, even if said race had a minority representation in your genetic coding.”
Pinkie Pie nodded vigorously, but both Spike and Mr. Cake tilted their heads in a rather bemused manner.
“Uhh, well, my great-great-great-great grandfather Bundt Cake was a Unicorn, and Cuppy’s great-aunt's second cousin twice removed, Fairy Cake was a Pegasus. Uhh, we think that there might be other Pegasi in her family history, but…”
“Just like how my Granny Pie was a Pegasus, and I got such cute little fluffy little feathers from her!” Pinkie squealed, waving baby-blue forehooves about and showing off the bright-pink feathers that marked her fetlocks.
“Pffft! Big deal!” came a cocky and scratchy voice from the door. Hovering in the doorway was Rainbow Dash, rubbing a hoof across her feathery chest. “Both of my parents were Pegasi, and all four of their parents were Pegasi, so I’m pretty sure that I’m all Pegasus through and through!”
“You said it, Rainbow Dash!” called out an energetic young voice, a light-orange Pegasus filly with a wild cerise mane scampered in from underneath. Behind her were a pair of other fillies: a pale-yellow Earth Pony filly wearing a large pink bow, and an off-white Unicorn filly with a curly pale-purple-and-pale-rose mane and tail.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders, as they called themselves.
“Ohh, wow,” laughed Mr. Cake nervously. “Are we getting so many customers all of a sudden? That’s… quite the surprise. Ohh, do I hear Mrs. Cake calling for my help? Don’t worry, sugarplum, I’m coming!”
And he’d disappeared back into the private quarters of Sugarcube Corner.
Rainbow Dash’s ears twitched.
“He was lying; I didn’t hear nothing.”
“Give it to him, Rainbow,” Twilight grumbled, sitting beside Spike. “He’s got enough on his hooves being a new father. He deserves a bit of respite.”
“And that means… more Pinkie Pie-style cupcakes~!” giggled the selfsame rosy baker mare.
“Ya hear that, girls?” piped in Apple Bloom, placing her forehooves upon the top of a table. “Pinkie Pie’s gunna make us some cupcakes!”
“All right!” squeaked Sweetie Belle.
“This is gonna be awesome!” added Scootaloo.
The three fillies each put a forehoof in the air.
“CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS CUPCAKE CONTEST WINNERS! YAY!”
I swear, they could give Queen Selena’s Royal Canterlot Voice a run for its money, Twilight thought ruefully, ears flicking irritably.
“Wait a second,” Rainbow Dash muttered. “If your two friends are here, Scoots, then does that mean that…?”
“Big Mac decided ta take over Applejack’s spot at th’ stand,” Apple Bloom answered, “on account a’ th’ fact that Ah said that Ah had Crusader biznis down in Ponyville.”
“And Rarity decided that her clientele was pretty slow today anyway,” added Sweetie Belle.
(Sweetie Belle’s parents were taking a vacation in Vanhoover and had left her in the care of her elder sister.)
“Oooh, so Applejack and Rarity are outside?” Pinkie Pie asked cheerily. “Is Ponyville still standing?”
“Ha-ha-ha, very funny, Pinkie, Pie,” remarked a slender alabaster Unicorn who stood at the doorstep of Sugarcube Corner. “Would you kindly take a seat elsewhere, Rainbow Dash? You’re cluttering the doorstep.”
With a vague grumble, Rainbow Dash settled down at the table adjacent to Spike’s, beside Scootaloo. (The small orange filly beamed from ear to ear.)
“Two cupcakes, if you please, Pinkie Pie,” continued Rarity with a new brightness to her tone, moving to sit beside her little sister…
“Hey Rarity!” Spike called out, eyes wide as he patted the cushion on the floor next to him. “Sit here, Rarity! I saved this seat for you!”
Twilight tried not to laugh at Spike’s overtly obvious crush; he plainly thought that he was being a clever little lad with his overtures towards the alabaster Unicorn. Let him have his little fantasy; most everypony in Ponyville was canny enough to notice, but too good to point it out.
“Oh come on over here, Rarity!” cried Sweetie Belle. “Come sit with your sister!”
Rarity looked warily back and forth between the two eager parties, both waving happily at her.
“Well, shoot, this is lookin’ mighty crowded in here,” came Applejack’s drawling voice from the doorway. “Doncha s’ppose that we oughta take this party out ta th’ outside tables?”
“Oooh, an outdoorsie party? I can get behind that~” squealed Pinkie, practically cartwheeling across the room and bounding off of Applejack’s shoulders.
“Well, I suppose that would make this whole situation a modicum less claustrophobic,” remarked Rarity, shaking one of her forelegs unconsciously. “It’s suddenly feeling rather close in here.”
“But won’t the outdoor tables take rather longer to set up?” asked Twilight. “No… wait. Stupid question. It’s Pinkie Pie.”
“That pony ain’t right,” commented Apple Bloom.
“Apple Bloom, we talk nice about older ponies,” Applejack said sharply.
Tense flare-ups aside, the party quickly migrated to the outdoor tables which, sure enough, had been completely set up by Pinkie Pie, cupcakes and all. Wisps of cloud had migrated into the space around the Sun, offering ephemeral respite from the bright light of midday.
In the end, Rarity was sat between Spike and Sweetie Belle, with Twilight on Spike’s other side. Next came the Apple sisters with Applejack at Twilight’s other side, then Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo, then Pinkie Pie at the end.
“So… what did everypony have for breakfast?” began Twilight in lieu of an ice-breaker.
“No, Twilight! We can’t start yet!” interrupted Pinkie Pie loudly. “Not until Fluttershy gets here! Dashie!” She rounded on Rainbow Dash anxiously. “What’s Fluttershy doing today? Is she gonna be in Ponyville? When’s she gonna be in Ponyville? Let me know?”
Rainbow Dash shrugged, “Beats me. Besides, how should I know? I’m her ex-fiancée, not her conjoined twin.”
“But it’s a Brunch of Harmony!” cried Pinkie, her mane deflating slightly. “If she doesn’t show up soon then this whole get-together could be thrown into utter chaos!”
“Cool your head, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy’s right there!” exclaimed Rarity, pointing a forehoof further down the road. The pink Earth Pony spun her head so rapidly that one could almost hear her neck snapping, and sure enough one could spot the butter-yellow Pegasus mare leading a small flock of ducks across the road, her sweeping pink mane falling across half of her slender face.
It seemed as though Pinkie Pie had winked out from her spot at the table to Fluttershy, the duck and her ducklings starting at the sudden appearance of the party mare and flapping off in random directions about the street. For her part, Fluttershy let out a high squeal at Pinkie’s grinning face and brought her long slender legs up in a panicked rear, before quickly darting off towards each of the errant ducklings. Letting out odd chirping quacks to draw in the hatchlings, her hoofsteps all the daintier with the soft flaps of her well-trimmed wings, Fluttershy managed to gather the ducklings and return them to their irate mother despite the persistent gaze of Pinkie Pie. Ignoring the prising eyes of the pink party pony, Fluttershy continued to lead the duck and her flock of younglings across the street and into the brush between the two houses at the other end.
“Sooooo, Fluttershy…” began Pinkie Pie slyly as the swanlike Pegasus emerged from the bush, “are you feeling keen for a Brunch of Harmony…?”
Fluttershy’s cyan eyes widened sharply at Pinkie, the edges of her irises glowing.
“Pinkamena Diane Pie, what has gotten into you? You could have trampled one of those poor innocent little ducklings, leaving Mrs. Quackers heartbroken! You’re just being… you… you…”
Fluttershy’s Stare tempered itself at the mortified expression on Pinkie’s face, the blue tint that was working its dominance over the Earth Pony’s rosy color. The yellow Pegasus’s expression grew horror-filled.
“Oh no, I’m so dreadfully sorry, Pinkie. I just lost my temper when I saw you getting so close so quickly. I don’t want you to be sad, Pinkie. Of course I’d love to have a Brunch of Harmony. Umm… I mean, if you think it’s still okay to have me.”
The dreadful expression on Pinkie’s face diminished the more that Fluttershy spoke in her more natural tone of voice, and by the time the yellow Pegasus had agreed to partake in their get-together, she had reacquired her own inborn color and beamed widely.
“That’s a big okie-dokie-lokie, Fluttershy! Harmony isn’t complete without Kindness!”
And with that matter settled, Fluttershy took Pinkie’s old spot at the table next to Scootaloo, Pinkie now seated between Fluttershy and Spike as the Brunch of Harmony came together completely.
“So, as far as breakfast goes,” Spike began awkwardly amidst the sounds of cupcakes being helped to, “Twilight and I had pancakes, that I made for us especially.”
“You really are a wonderful cook, Spike,” Twilight smiled, “but you really could have waited for me.”
“Nah, it’s fine, Twilight. Owlowiscious does enough around the place that I’d feel left-out. And, y’know, I felt like having something a bit more fun to eat. I mean, they aren’t exactly healthy, but it’s in a stack, so I guess you could say it’s a… balanced breakfast?”
Pinkie laughed, but she was one of the only ones who did; Rainbow Dash booed loudly, Applejack put her hoof to her face, Twilight joining in at the ridiculous face the Spike pulled in trying to salvage his pun, but the Cutie Mark Crusaders found it worth a small laugh, even more so because of Spike’s silly face.
“That was so funny, Spike!” Sweetie Belle squeaked.
“I know,” Spike replied with an attempt at a cool expression, rubbing a fist against his upper chest. “I have been known to let some good ones out. Mostly when I’m around a beautiful mare…”
He made a sidelong smirking glance at Rarity, who had not reacted in the slightest to his pun. At his sight, though, the alabaster Unicorn started and let out a high and stilted laugh that caused ponies walking the street to themselves startle and wonder what in Ponyville could have elicited such a noise from their residential fashionista.
Spike blew on his fisted claw, “I have that effect on mares.”
Rarity gave a forced smile.
“Humorous ribs regarding our breakfast items aside,” she said, “how goes your latest writing venture, Twilight?”
Twilight’s ears flicked at the mention of the word writing.
“Oh it’s going swimmingly, thank you for asking,” she answered brightly. “I’m glad you girls have taken such an interest in my treatise.”
“Probably the only saving grace,” Rainbow grumbled, “is that it’s partially written about me. First we’re talking lame breakfast puns, and now egghead writings about friendship? This is boring; I want something fun to happen!”
Ignoring the cerulean Pegasus’s overtures, Twilight continued,
“Well, for what it’s worth, my Treatise on the Elements of Harmony: A Study on the Long-Lost Artifacts Which Promote Order And Stability − that’s the full title − is an extensive article that I intend to submit to the Board of Science and Thaumaturgy in Canterlot. It’s presently two-gross-eleven-dozen pages long and growing, and it’s all about the friendships that I’ve made with you girls since I’ve come to Ponyville! …Well, admittedly, it is also about the Elements of Harmony and how those friendships have affected the way that they have behaved, but it is still all about us! I can’t imagine that it will be easy to peer-review, though, because of how personal a treatise it is. But then again, Star Swirl the Bearded wrote out spells based off of very personal events, and―”
Rainbow Dash let out a tremendous groan, her fangs flashing furiously.
“That’s it! I gotta go grab a thunder-cloud and slam this egghead hogwash out of my head, or I might go crazy!”
And the cerulean Pegasus shot up from the table at almost sonic speed, knocking aside one of her cupcakes and depositing icing all over the tabletop.
“Awww, come back, Dashie!” cried Pinkie plaintively. “We need all six of us here for it to be a Brunch of Harmony…!”
“Hey, take me with you, Rainbow Dash!” called out Scootaloo, her tiny wings flapping impotently at her sides.
Sighing deeply at her audience’s rogue elements, Twilight muttered, “At least Owlowiscious would find this riveting conversation.”
“Ohh, don’t be like that please, Twilight,” asked Fluttershy. “I’m sure you’re working very hard at your treatise.”
“Thank you, Fluttershy, really.”
“What’s going on with Rainbow Dash?” Scootaloo interjected, pointing up at the sky.
“It kinda looks like she’s flyin’, Scoots, nuthin’ any diff’rent frum any normal day,” commented Apple Bloom.
“I dunno,” Sweetie Belle added with an eyebrow cocked over a pale-green eye. “She looks like she’s fighting something.”
“Really? ‘Cause it doesn’t look like there’s anything up there with her.”
“Nah, Ah see what Sweetie Belle means. It’s like there’s sumthin’ stuck on her.”
“Something stuck on her?” Rarity queried. “But that would inhibit her ability to fly, would it not?”
“Oh my goodness,” gasped Fluttershy. “I hope she lands okay.”
Rainbow Dash’s flailing form came into clearer view; her wings seemed relatively clear of obstructions, but her forelegs and hind legs were tangled up in something unidentifiable and sticky. Her face was twisted in fury, snorting sharply out of her nostrils, as she tried to shake her legs free of whatever it was that had snared her.
“What. In. The. World. Is. This. Crap!” she growled.
“I don’t think that now’s the time for guessing games, Dashie,” Pinkie said worriedly. “We gotta get you outta that sweet-looking gunk.”
“It’s only pink, Pinkie Pie,” drawled Applejack. “Just ‘cause it’s pink don’t mean that it’s sweet. Ah doubt that it’s candy.”
“No, she’s right,” Rainbow Dash said as she safely crashed on the table, upending all but six of the cupcakes that had not fallen over. “I have no idea who thought it was a bright idea to stick some of this junk up in the sky, but the weather team is gonna hear about this.”
“So, what is it, Rainbow Dash?” asked Twilight curiously.
“It looks just like Pinkie’s mane,” Sweetie Belle said.
“Yeah, but it doesn’t really taste like it,” Rainbow Dash added, her tongue lolling out of her mouth as she licked at part of what covered her hoof. “It tastes like… cotton candy.”
“But… what’s cotton candy doing up in the clouds?” Twilight asked, suddenly feeling rather harried. “That doesn’t even make any sense. I mean, that’s the sort of prank I’d expect from you, Rainbow Dash―”
“Why would I prank myself, egghead?”
“―or from Pinkie Pie, but… Pinkie Pie can’t fly (or not for very long, at least), and it’s not like you two prank each other very much.”
Twilight started at the sound of that voice, at the clouds across the Sun dissipating at a flare of intense rays from above, a celestial shape descending from on high and coalescing into the shape of Queen Celestia herself. The majestic Alicorn, as bright as the Sun which she held in her reins, hovered down to the cobbled streets amidst the confused and even alarmed townsponies, and as she strode briskly up to Sugarcube Corner the anxious and alarmed expression upon her face struck existential horror into the hearts of all ponies who beheld it.
“Twilight Sparkle, you and your fellow Bearers must come with me to Canterlot immediately! Equestria needs your aid once more, urgently!”
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