SECRETS AND LIES
By Saddlesoap Opera
Part Three: True Blue
Scootaloo closed her eyes for the twelfth time, only for them to pop open once again. She turned on her side and snuggled up against her pillow. She took a slow, deep breath.
Closed. Pop. Thirteen times.
Tomorrow. Today’s tryouts had been a forgettable – even regrettable – affair, but tomorrow would be different.
Tomorrow she would get some one-on-one flight training from the best flyer outside the Wonderbolts. From her personal idol. From the only living Pony to have performed a Sonic Rainboom. From one of the Ponies who defeated Nightmare Moon AND Discord. Who could sleep? Just thinking about it made Scootaloo’s heart race.
Ha… I’d like to see that dummy Diamond Tiara get pointers from a V.I.P. like Rainbow Dash! Hmph. ‘Grounded’… I’ll show her! Scootaloo frowned, immediately regretting allowing her snide classmate into her otherwise-gleeful thoughts.
She flexed her tiny wings under her blanket.
I’ll show her… she repeated to herself. I’m gonna fly. And Rainbow Dash is gonna help me do it!
Scootaloo’s eyelids finally began to droop on their own. She folded her wings.
“I’m gonna fly,” she whispered out loud as sleep claimed her at last.
• • • • • • •
“…and if he does, IT’LL BE YOUR FAULT!”
Rainbow Dash felt the warmth of Twilight’s breath as the Unicorn shrieked in her face. She struggled against the magic holding her upside down with her back to the library-tree’s trunk, but Twilight’s spell seemed unbreakable.
“My fault…? What are you TALKING about, Twilight?” said Dash indignantly.
Twilight straightened and then groaned in frustration. “I’m talking about the fact that I’m the only Pony who EVER takes things SERIOUSLY!” Her horn snuffed out, and Dash dropped to the wooden floor with a surprised grunt. “There’s a Chaos God trying to escape and turn Equestria into his own private playground, and all I can think about is how BADLY everything went last time!”
Dash dusted herself off and sat up. “Badly? That’s crazy! We TOTALLY kicked his butt!”
“No, THAT’S crazy!” shouted Twilight. She turned away and looked out at the town below. “Maybe you weren’t paying attention, but I was. I watched the world get turned into a messed-up mockery of itself. I had to deal with all of you after you lost your minds and turned against me. Everything and everypony I cared about fell apart until I… until I just… just gave up!” Twilight shuddered at the memory. “If the Princess hadn’t sent me all those letters, I would have spent the rest of –” Eternity. “– my life in a living Pony Hell!”
Dash winced. “W-Well, maybe, but if he comes back we’ll be ready for him this time!”
Twilight turned and then stared Dash down. “Will we, Rainbow Dash? Will we? You all wouldn’t even trust me when I told you that something was wrong with my own brother and the mare who helped raise me! Oh, that’s crazy old Twilight – overreacting again! And then what happened, huh? LOVE-SUCKING PARASITES!” Twilight’s voice had picked up a hysterical edge; she was panting by the time her tirade ended.
“We still won, though! Your brother blasted them right out of Equestria!” A hint of doubt coloured Dash’s defiant words.
Twilight ducked down and forward until her horn raked through Dash’s mane and her forehead pressed against the Pegasus’s. “We got LUCKY! And if Discord breaks out, I do NOT want to be stuck with nothing to depend on but luck!” Twilight backed away and then sat down heavily. Her lower lip quivered. “Is a little loyalty really too much to ask?”
Dash got to her hooves. “I’ve GOT loyalty, Twilight! TONS of it! I got your back – I promise!” Dash saluted Twilight with a front hoof.
Twilight scowled. “No, Dash. You don’t. You let me down when we faced him… and I’m terrified it’ll happen again!” Twilight galloped past Dash and down the hatch in the balcony’s floor, magicking it shut behind her.
“F-FINE!” Dash shouted after her. “BE that way! See if I care!”
Dash curled up on the wooden floor and buried her face under her front legs. She shuddered silently.
Tank the tortoise whirred down onto the balcony. His back-mounted propeller device slowed to a stop. He ambled over to his owner and gently nudged her with his head.
“I’m… I’m n-not c-cry-i-ing!” she whimpered, her head still hidden. “I’m n-not!”
Tank reared up at Dash’s side and spread his front legs against her in a slow-motion hug.
• • • • • • •
When Twist trotted into classroom a half-hour early for school, Scootaloo was already at her desk, bouncing with nervous energy.
“Hi Thcootaloo,” lisped the little beige Earth Pony. “I didn’t exthpect to thee you here tho early!”
“The sooner school starts, the sooner it’ll be after-school!” said Scootaloo. “I didn’t want Miss Cheerilee to hafta hold things up waiting for me!”
Twist raised an eyebrow. “Uhh… I thee.”
By the time the other schoolfoals had arrived and the day had made some progress in its agonizingly-slow creep toward completion, Scootaloo’s best friends had taken note of her excitement.
“So whut’s so great about school bein’ done fer the day?” Asked Apple Bloom. “Ain’t like we don’t hafta come back tomorrow!”
“Yeah, but after school today, I get a flying lesson from… Rainbow Dash!” Scootaloo’s grin was so broad it made her cheeks ache.
“Oh. Neat!” said Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo scoffed. “Neat? It’s more than neat – it’s super-ultra-extreme-awesome-azing! With Rainbow Dash teaching me, I’ll get a flying Cutie Mark for SURE!”
The other two Cutie Mark Crusaders shared an awed Ooooh.
“Golly!” said Apple Bloom. “Ya really think so? Cause before we really started hangin’ out, she–”
Scootaloo cut her off. “You bet! Just watch – I’m gonna be a natural-born flyer, just like her!” Scootaloo flapped her wings in delight.
“Hey!” said Sweetie Belle. “Why don’t we watch? If you’re gonna get your Cutie Mark today, I don’t wanna miss it!”
“Yeah!” agreed Apple Bloom. “A special moment like that, ya share with yer friends!”
“Awright, awright… sheesh, don’t get all sappy on me!” Scootaloo did her best to sound irritated, but a soft flush coloured her cheeks.
• • • • • • •
After counting twenty-five thousand, two hundred and thirty-two ticks from the clock hanging on the wall near her bed, Twilight Sparkle finally gave up on getting any sleep at all.
She rolled over onto her side and scowled at the gradually-brightening room through an insomniac haze.
“It’s not fair…” she muttered. “Why me?”
“I think we both know the answer to that, Miss Sparkle,” she said in answer to herself. She magicked the Discorduroy doll out from its new home under her bed and set it down on its belly, its mismatched paws cradling its bearded chin.
Twilight turned away from the doll. “I’m not going to listen to you.”
“My, my! How the mighty have fallen!” replied Twilight-as-Discorduroy. “Not just a killer, but RUDE too!”
Twilight stayed silent, refusing to take her own bait.
“But I suppose it’s to be expected,” she continued in the doll’s voice. “You don’t do well under stress – just look at how you handled the parasprite infestation!”
She turned back to face the doll. “That’s not fair! You don’t even know about that – you were still a statue then!”
“Give me SOME credit!” she said, magicking the doll to tilt its head and fix her with an accusatory button-stare. “I AM a primeval spirit of chaos and disharmony, you know. Well, either that, or…”
“Or…? Or what?”
“…Or you’re sitting here talking to yourself because you’re losing your mind.”
Twilight softly gasped, but her look of shock was soon replaced by an enraged scowl. She ignited her horn, and Discorduroy burst at the seams. She tore at the doll with magic until it was reduced to a pile of shredded cloth and rag stuffing.
She ignored the voice. She started pounding the unraveled remains with her front hooves; every blow sent up a small puff of linty dust.
The voice was louder now – more insistent. “I’m! Not! LISTENING!” she shouted, punctuating each word with another stomp.
Twilight stopped; she realized that the voice had been coming from behind her. She slowly turned around.
Spike was sitting up in his basket-bed, his green eyes wide and his tail nervously clutched in his claws.
“S-Spike!” said Twilight, running a front hoof over her disarrayed mane. “...Did I wake you?”
Spike nodded silently. He was trembling.
“Oh. I’m sorry. You see, I was… well, uhh, I was a-angry at… at…” A lengthy pause ensued before inspiration struck. “…my pillow!”
Twilight’s horn lit up once more, and she surreptitiously stuffed the pulverized remains of Discorduroy inside her pillow’s case. She magicked up the now-lumpy pillow and growled theatrically at it:
“Grr! Stupid pillow! S-So uncomfortable! What a rough night!” She cuffed the pillow with a front hoof.
She trotted over to the fireplace, magicking the pillow along behind her. With a brighter flare from her horn, the remaining wood in the hearth burst into rich yellow flames.
Twilight pointed an accusing hoof at her bed. “Let this be a lesson to the rest of you!” she said sternly, and tossed the pillow onto the fire.
Twilight turned to face Spike. “Okay,” she said with a false smile of extreme size and dubious quality, “now that that’s taken care of, let’s get the day started!”
Spike stared at Twilight in silent dismay.
Twilight stared back, still smiling. Anxiety slowly tainted her expression, knitting her brows and glossing her face with sweat.
Spike kept staring.
When a knock at the front door sounded, both of them spoke, but Spike spoke faster:
“I’ll get it!” The little Dragon scampered out of the room in a purple and green blur.
Spike skidded to a stop at the front door and pulled it open.
His jaw dropped.
• • • • • • •
Rainbow Dash anxiously paced back and forth on the library’s front doorstep. Her drooping wings and reddened, dark-circled eyes belied her apparently high energy level.
Why isn’t she answering? she silently wondered. Is she THAT upset with me?
Self-doubt squirmed inside Dash like a clot of ice-cold worms, stirring up unwelcome memories.
A slithering, floating Demon rests his paw on her smooth, wingless back, and then offers salvation wrapped with a yellow ribbon… if she’ll just let down everypony who believes in her.
She strains against the boulder pinning her wing, wondering how soon after sunset the Quarray Eels will emerge from their tunnels and come devour her.
A single bad wingover sends her corkscrewing out of control, and she feels her alar humerus crack as she crashes into a woodpile.
A chitinous horror gloats as she and her friends plod in defeat into Canterlot Castle’s throne room.
Dash shook her head and flapped her wings, vainly trying to shake off the bleak reminiscences.
She turned and raised a hoof to knock again, but then Spike opened the door. And his mouth.
Dash winced; did she really look that bad?
“Hey, Spike…” She cleared her throat. “Hey, is, uh…” She rubbed the back of her neck with a front hoof. “…is Twilight home?”
“Okay, what’s going on?” Spike asked indignantly. “Twilight’s been acting really, REALLY weird lately, and now you’re–”
“Who, me?” Dash cut him off. “No w-way! I’m fine. No, better than that! Awesome! Why…? W-What have you heard?” Dash silently commanded herself to stop shaking right this second.
Spike raised a scaly eyebrow. “Huh? I didn’t hear anything!”
“Well good! Cause there’s nothin’ to hear! Everything’s great. You can depend on me! Y-Yeah!”
“O-o-o-o-kay, then…” Spike gingerly backed away, his claws held up and out in a warding gesture.
“O-Okay! Cool!” Dash trotted past the disquieted Dragon and headed for the stairs.
In her years of flight, Dash had sprinted for vertical miles. She had ascended until the clouds were as small as cotton balls beneath her. She had flown until frost stung her hide and every breath was an ordeal.
But nothing had ever seemed as tall as that flight of stairs.
At the summit, the doorway into Twilight’s room loomed like the mouth of an elder Dragon’s cave.
Dash swallowed hard and then trotted up to the entrance. She rapped on the archway.
Twilight Sparkle was sitting with her back to the entrance, staring into the flickering flames in the fireplace. If she heard Dash, she didn’t show it.
Dash approached the Unicorn cautiously. “Twilight, listen, please. I thought about what you said, and I… y’know, I don’t want you to think I’d... but, uh, okay, I did, but it wasn’t my…” Dash stomped a front hoof in frustration. “Come ON, Twilight! Could you at least LOOK at me?”
When Twilight Sparkle turned to face her, Dash immediately regretted her request. Twilight’s sunken gaze held every ounce of disappointment and accusation that it had the night before, with an added layer of fatigue.
“What are you trying to say, Rainbow Dash?” Twilight asked sullenly.
“I... I am NOT a weak link!” Dash put what little remained of her resolve into each word.
Twilight sighed. “I want to believe that. I do.”
Dash scowled. “This isn’t fair! What am I supposed to do to convince you? I WON’T ditch you, Twilight! Never again! I PROMISE!”
Twilight’s sad, silent stare spoke volumes.
Dash closed the distance between them and pressed her front hooves to Twilight’s shoulders.
“You GOTTA believe me! Please!”
“No matter what, Rainbow Dash?” Twilight said after a long pause. “I have to be sure about ALL of you if we’re going to win. I can’t afford to chase you this time. You SWEAR you won’t turn on me, no matter what?”
Dash met Twilight’s gaze. “Yes!”
“You swear you’ll stay loyal?”
“On your wings?”
Dash’s eyes widened; nopony had ever asked her for the ultimate promise before. Was it a coincidence? Did Twilight know enough about Pegasi to realize? Did Unicorns swear oaths on their horns? She swallowed hard.
“…Y-Yes! I swear! I swear on my wings!”
“Oh, thank Celestia!” Twilight lunged forward and wrapped her front legs around Dash in a crushingly tight hug. “As long as you don’t let me down, I KNOW I can make it through this!”
“Don’t worry, Twilight,” Dash said with an awkward chuckle, “I’m here for ya!”
For the first time since a sobbing Pinkie Pie had held her like a drowning Pony clutching at flotsam, the weight of a friend’s embrace felt like a burden to Rainbow Dash.
• • • • • • •
Fluttershy turned at the sound of the door-chime’s dingle and smiled as Rarity trotted into the Spa’s ground-level waiting room.
“Hello, Rarity!” she said cheerfully. “I already paid for the usual…” She shifted in her seat. “…if that’s okay with you.”
Rarity concealed her gentle laugh behind a front hoof. “Of course it is, darling! Why wouldn’t it be?”
“W-Well, I didn’t want to jump to concl–”
A second dingle from the door cut Fluttershy off. A trio of schoolfoals cantered into the Spa.
“Sweetie Belle?” said Rarity. “Why aren’t you in school?”
“It’s lunchtime!” said the little Unicorn.
“That just raises further questions!” replied Rarity.
“We’re here fer Scootaloo, Miss Rarity,” said Apple Bloom. “We all agreed she oughta get a lil’ bit gussied up for her meetin’ with–”
“H-Hey!” said Scootaloo from where she’d skidded to a halt in front of the reception desk.
“We’ll be back in school for afternoon class, I promise!” said Sweetie Belle, solemnly raising a front hoof.
Rarity shrugged. “Very well. Far be it from me to stand in the way of fabulosity.”
“Yay!” said Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle as they shared a high-hoof.
At the reception desk Scootaloo strained to stand her tallest on her hind legs, and deposited a small bag of coins on the counter.
“This is two weeks’ allowance,” she said to the graceful blue Earth Pony at the desk. “Is that enough?”
The Earth Pony smiled. “Well, it dee-pends on what you’re after, my leetle Pony.”
Scootaloo dropped back down onto all fours. “Oh! Uh, I don’t wanna get all frilly and fancy or anything.” She rubbed a foreleg with her other front hoof. “I just wanna look… cool. You know?”
The Earth Pony giggled. “Trying to eem-press somepony, are we?”
“H-How did – I mean, no!” Scootaloo blushed.
“There, there. The confee-dentiality of an aesthetician is abso-loot.” She motioned toward the stairs down. “Just trot on down, and my sister will have you loo-king cool in no time!”
Scootaloo nodded and then headed down into the Spa’s main area, followed closely by her two comrades. All three giggled excitedly.
“It will just be a fee-ew moments more, girls,” said the Earth Pony, turning back to face Rarity. “The rocks in the sa-oo-na are still hee-ting up.”
“Oh, no need to rush,” said Rarity blithely, “I’m taking it easy today!” She sat down and magicked up an old fashion magazine with a picture of Fluttershy cringing endearingly on the cover.
Fluttershy looked away from the magazine, suddenly even more self-conscious than usual.
“So, um, who do you think she’s meeting?” she asked. “Scootaloo, I mean.”
“I should think that’s fairly obvious,” replied Rarity. “…Unless she didn’t get as far as your cottage with her Rainbow Dash Fan Club pamphlets?”
“Oh,” said Fluttershy softly.
Rarity set down the magazine.
“All right… why don’t you tell me what’s wrong, hmm?”
Fluttershy shifted uncomfortably. “I-It’s nothing, really.”
Rarity gave an incredulous stare – a maneuver she had found herself employing a great deal of late.
Fluttershy squeaked. “I… I can’t believe you still want to go to the Spa with me after I said all those awful things to you and Pinkie Pie!” She cringed, a double for her pose on the magazine cover.
“Don’t be silly, Fluttershy! Of course I still do! You were acting on some positively ATROCIOUS advice from that frightful Minotaur. I don’t hold it against you in the least.”
Fluttershy’s lower lip pouted. “But we haven’t gone for a while, and the last time, you invited everypony else along…”
“That?” Rarity tittered. “That was just a little preparation for the trip to Canterlot! As soon as Pinkie started raving about the National Dessert Competition, I knew I had to try to get our less fabulous friends a makeover. It’s important to remind the Canterlot crowd that beauty…” She shook her head, and her lustrous purple mane bounced to and fro. “…knows no borders!”
“So you’re not mad?”
Fluttershy sighed in relief. “Oh, thank goodness!”
The mare across the room leaned forward over the counter. “Ex-kee-ooze me? The sa-oo-na should be nice and hot. Wee’re ready for you now.”
Rarity hopped to her hooves. “Splendid! Come along, dear – there’s nothing like a little steam to melt away your worries!”
• • • • • • •
Rainbow Dash swayed unsteadily in mid-air in an effort to steady the teetering tower of books piled on top of her head.
“Hey, careful!” said Spike, crouching to maintain his balance on her back. “We aren’t done re-shelving the D’s yet!”
The tower leaned alarmingly; Dash grimaced and compensated. “Can’t you… just use… the ladder?”
“No way! I keep falling off those things – having you here’s a lot easier.”
Dash snorted in annoyance. “Right. Easier.”
Spike plucked the top book off the pile and turned to face the shelf-rows behind Dash. He slid the volume into its proper place and then turned back to the pile.
“Hrm. We’re still missing Delightful Discoveries in Dowsing and Divination.” He paused. “Actually, that reminds me. Why are you here, anyway? Don’t you have weather work to do? Is it a Pegasus holiday or something?”
Dash frowned. “I… I gotta stick by Twilight for a while. It’s… complicated.”
Spike growled in frustration. “Sheesh! Why won’t anypony tell me what’s going on? I might be a little young, but I’m not a dummy!”
He folded his arms and sat down heavily on Dash’s back.
The impact threw the Pegasus’s balance off; she swooped across the room in a low arc, fighting to keep the book-tower on her head.
“Whoa! Hey – careful!” Spike tugged at Dash’s mane, trying to pull her upward.
“Ow! Stop it!” Dash overcompensated, and then swooped into the shelves they’d just spent an hour setting right. The pair tumbled to the wooden floor in a rain of tomes.
Spike groaned from under a sizable pile of reference materials. “Ugh… now we hafta start over!” His head popped up. “We’re NEVER gonna get this done before Twilight’s done her nap. Maybe I should just use the ladder.”
Dash jerked as if doused with cold water. “NO!” She caught herself. “Uh, I mean, no. I can do this. You can depend on me. I won’t let Twilight down! I won’t!” Dash stood up and lowered her head to receive a new pile of books.
Spike stared in confusion for a long moment, but then shrugged, turned, and began gathering books.
• • • • • • •
Scootaloo bounced excitedly in her seat at one of the patio tables in front of the Smoothie Shop. She brushed her forelock aside for what felt like the hundredth time; its new dark purple streak – no, racing stripe – made it somehow more visible in her peripheral vision.
Apple Bloom noisily sipped some of her apple-oat smoothie through a straw. “Boy-howdy! I thought that school day wasn’t EVER gonna end!”
“You’re telling ME!” replied Scootaloo. “But now we’re here! We’re finally here!” Scootaloo let out a gleeful, high-pitched giggle. She slapped a front hoof over her mouth and felt her cheeks redden.
Sweetie Belle raised an eyebrow. “Scootaloo… did you just–”
The tiny Pegasus made a supreme effort to render her expression detached and neutral. “N-No! Cool Ponies don’t giggle! Cool Ponies are always…” The sides of her mouth trembled, creeping their way upward. She struggled for a moment longer before surrendering:
“YES! Okay, yes! I giggled! I admit it! I am soooo excited!” Her mouth exploded into a massive smile. She hugged herself and flapped her freshly-preened wings in delight. “Today’s the day! I’m finally gonna do it!”
Apple Bloom shared her smile. “Get yer Cutie Mark, ya mean?”
Scootaloo’s wild grin softened slightly. “Y-Yeah… my Cutie Mark.”
Her eyes strayed skyward. Staring up at the sky usually left her feeling morose after a while, but today the boundless blue only made her think of the blue mentor who was going to show her the way there. The clouds had never seemed so close. Her vision swam.
Sweetie Belle hesitantly pressed a white front hoof to Scootaloo’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”
Scootaloo rubbed the tears out of her eyes. “I’m f-fine.”
Today’s the day, she silently told herself. Today’s the day.
• • • • • • •
Applejack sat under the warm late-afternoon sun in Sweet Apple Acres’ east orchard, lost in thought. It wasn't a state she found enjoyable.
A little hard work usually helped to clear her head, but she hadn’t been able to focus on the task before her. She listlessly stirred the dozen-odd freshly bucked apples in the bottom of the wooden tub sitting next to her with a front hoof.
She picked up a soft, browned apple between her hooves, frowned at it, and then cast it aside. “So just how in tha Pony Hell am I supposed ta find out who’s workin’ fer Discord?” she asked the empty air. She picked up a plump, shiny red apple. “Ain’t like sussin’ out a Pony’s as easy as tellin’ good apples from–” A worm poked out of the apple’s glossy skin. Applejack grimaced and then threw it away.
A shadow passed over the troubled Earth Pony; she looked up.
“Well it’s about apple-pickin’ time, Rainbow Dash!” she called up to the light grey raincloud floating above her. “We scheduled this rain-shower more’n a month ago, fer this exact da–”
A charcoal-grey Pegasus stallion with an ice-blue mane peered down over the cloud’s edge.
“Uh, yeah, my bad,” he said sheepishly. “Rainbow Dash never showed up today, so I’m filling in for her, and I’m having some trouble keeping up with her schedule. It’s been total chaos all morning!”
Applejack raised an eyebrow. “She never showed?”
The stallion shook his head. “She had racked up a TON of vacation time, and I guess she’s taking it all at once.” He sighed self-pityingly. “And I’m taking double shifts.”
Applejack hopped to her hooves, happy to be distracted from her brooding. “Shucks, I’m sure yer up to it, uh…”
“Right, Thunderlane. Nothin’ to it. Give a good douse ta the main rows, and a sprinkle for the old growth, the Zap Apple field an’ the saplings. Don’t overwater those little ones, mind, and no thunder n’ lightin’ – makes the ripe apples drop ‘fore we can get ‘em!”
The stallion gave her a blank stare. “Uhh…”
“Maybe I oughta write this down,” said Applejack.
Thunderlane frowned. “No, no! I can do it! I can’t keep delaying – I gotta clear clouds and drop showers all over Ponyville today!”
“All over, y’say?”
“Yeah. I dunno how Rainbow Dash manages it. She does the work of THREE Pegasi, easy!”
Applejack tapped a front hoof to her chin in thought. “Say… d’ya think ya could do me a lil’ favour while yer out n’ about?”
Thunderlane spread his wings in shock. “WHAT? Are you kidding? I can’t take on any more jobs – I’m flying myself ragged already!”
“Naw, naw, nothin’ like that!” said Applejack, waving a hoof. “Just keep yer eyes peeled fer anythin’… funny. Could ya do that fer me?”
“Funny? What do you mean funny?”
Applejack sighed. Why did Twilight pick her for all this intrigue? “Ya know, unusual. Out o’ sorts. Just watch fer anypony doin’ or sayin’ somethin’ suspicious, an’ lemme know about it.” A moment of inspiration brightened her features as the memory of a certain Wonderbolt’s limitless appetite for pastries flashed through her thoughts. “…There’s a fresh apple pie in it for ya if ya do!”
“Pie?” Thunderlane licked his chops, but then his expression soured. “Wait… why do you wanna know? What’s going on?”
Applejack winced; Twilight’s desperate words echoed in her mind:
You just have to trust me and stay your honest, earnest self. You’ve got to!
“Uhh, I’d… I’d rather not say,” she answered honestly. Sweat beaded on her forehead.
“Aww, Pony Heck. Forget I asked – you Apples have a good name even as far as Cloudsdale! If it’s that important, AND I get a pie, I’ll do it!”
Applejack let out the breath she’d been holding. “Thank ya kindly! Welp, I’d better get ta work on that pie! Take care!”
She turned to trot back to the farmhouse, but paused when she spotted her younger sister plodding sadly up the front walk.
“Apple Bloom?” she said as she cantered over. “How come yer only comin’ back now? I thought ya finished school more’n an hour ago!”
The little foal sighed. “I did finish school then! But then me an’ Sweetie Belle went to this thing o’ Scootaloo’s, and…” She frowned, her brows knitting over her massive amber eyes.
Applejack rested a reassuring hoof on her sister’s back. “Hay now… why doncha tell me what happened?”
• • • • • • •
Scootaloo sat silent and still as a statue. She kept her gaze locked on the street in front of the Smoothie Shop, as though fearful that Rainbow Dash might streak past during a moment of inattention and be lost.
“…Maybe you heard her wrong?” offered Sweetie Belle after several minutes.
Scootaloo made no reply.
“Oh! Or maybe she’s gotta deal with an emergency!” said Apple Bloom. “She could be savin’ babies from a fire right this minute!”
“Yeah!” agreed Sweetie Belle. “Or fighting a great big monster!”
Scootaloo’s rigid pose softened slightly. “…Like a humongous Dragon?”
Apple Bloom nodded. “Sure! As big an’ red as ma farmhouse!”
“With fiery breath! Raawwwr!” Sweetie Belle roared squeakily.
Scootaloo sighed. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Rainbow Dash is a really important Pony – something came up and she’s running a little late, that’s all.”
The minute hoof on the clock above the shop’s counter, visible through the front window, crept a quarter-turn forward.
“She’ll be here any minute,” said Scootaloo.
With another quarter-turn, the minute hoof caught up to the hour hoof.
“Any minute,” she repeated.
After a few minutes more, Apple Bloom spoke up:
“I hope she gets here soon – if I miss supper ma Granny’ll be mighty cross!”
“Any. Minute.” Scootaloo bit off the words harshly.
Sweetie Belle shifted uncomfortably. “M-Maybe–”
“THERE SHE IS!” Scootaloo’s ecstatic shout almost knocked her friends out of their seats. She lunged over the table and skidded to a stop a short distance away from it, chest puffed and wings spread.
Across the street and a building over, the coolest, fastest, most super-ultra-extreme-awesome-azing Pegasus in Equestria was trotting out of a bookstore next to that kinda-boring-but-pretty-cool-I-guess purple Unicorn friend of hers, Twilight Sparkle.
Scootaloo’s wings flapped fast enough to buzz; she struggled to calm them and adopt a relaxed, cool pose... or the closest approximation of one she could manage in her excitement, at any rate.
A few moments passed, but Rainbow Dash was still across the street, chatting with Twilight about something.
“Come ON, Twilight!” said Scootaloo, trotting in place. “Rainbow Dash has places to be!”
Scootaloo spoke for the two mares, voicing their inaudible conversation:
“Blah blah blah! I love books!”
“Yeah that’s great, Twilight, but I got an important meeting to get to!”
“Oh, why didn’t you say so? I’ll just be going then.”
“Right! And I’ll…” A look of wounded shock spilled across Scootaloo’s face.
“…go with you?”
Scootaloo sat down on the dirt and watched Rainbow Dash trot away down the street, carefree and unthreatened by monsters or mayhem. Rainbow Dash hadn’t been saving babies from a fire. She hadn’t been fighting a terrible Dragon. Twilight Sparkle didn’t look all wild and panicky like she had when she’d offered up that lame-but-somehow-amazing doll. They were both doing just fine.
Scootaloo reached out a hoof in Rainbow Dash’s direction, but then let it fall once more. She silently folded up her wings.
Apple Bloom cautiously approached her.
The little Pegasus’s front legs trembled. She curled into a ball, hiding her face under her hooves.
"C'mon - Rainbow Dash prolly just forgot about the meetin'. Let's go git her!"
"Why bother?" muttered Scootaloo. "I woulda just messed up anyway."
“Now, don't be like that,” Apple Bloom continued. “Yer gonna be a great flyer someday, I know it!”
“No,” said Scootaloo without looking up, “I’m not.”
Sweetie Belle trotted over to stand opposite Apple Bloom. The two of them shared an awkward, helpless glance over Scootaloo’s back.
• • • • • • •
“…But we couldn’t think o’ anythin’ else ta say ta her, an’ she walked away, sad as ya please! It was just TERRIBLE!” Apple Bloom’s lower lip quivered.
Applejack nuzzled her little sister’s neck. “Now don’t be too hard on yerself, Apple Bloom,” she said softly. “Friends can be a big help, but hurt is hurt, and sometimes Pony-folks can get too upset ta get well right away, no matter HOW nice their friends are. If ya be there fer her, she’ll mend by and by.”
Apple Bloom hugged Applejack’s front leg and buried her face in her shoulder.
Question is, the older Earth Pony mused to herself as she gently stroked Apple Bloom’s mane, why would Rainbow Dash skip work and lie to a lil’ foal who thinks tha world o’ her?
Applejack’s gaze strayed to the sky, where Thunderlane was franticly pushing rainclouds this way and that. She narrowed her eyes.
• • • • • • •
“Renewed, that’s the word for it!” Rarity inhaled deeply and then let out the breath in a satisfied sigh as she trotted along next to Fluttershy. “I feel positively renewed!”
Her stomach gurgled in a most improper fashion.
“Ah. I guess renewal works up a bit of an appetite!” She giggled demurely.
Fluttershy smiled a meek smile. “Um, if you’re still not busy, maybe we could go and get a bite to eat at Sugarcube Corner?”
“Why, that sounds like a marvelous idea! Do let’s!”
In short order the pair made their way to the town’s most well-known bakery and secured some fresh-baked treats: a plain cupcake with vanilla frosting for Fluttershy, and a razor-thin slice of double-dark-chocolate cheesecake with strawberry drizzle and a sugar-glass ornament for Rarity.
They settled down on the bakery’s front steps to chat and enjoy their desserts in the fresh air.
“…but then she winked out without another word!” Rarity paused to take a bite of cheesecake off the fork hovering before her. “I’m worried she might have caught something from the spoiled milk.”
“Oh, my! I hope she isn’t ill!” Fluttershy cringed in worry.
Before Rarity could respond, part of the cluster of pink blossoms next to the steps rustled and then rose up, revealing itself to be, in fact, the frizzy mane of their silliest friend.
“Hay girls!” said Pinkie Pie with her customary good cheer. “Watcha doin’?”
Both stared, but Rarity spoke first:
“Pinkie Pie… why were you hiding in th–” Rarity dropped her hovering magicked plate as Pinkie turned to face them head-on. “SWEET CELESTIA! YOUR EYE!”
Pinkie Pie touched a cautious front hoof to her left eye. “What? What’s wrong with it?”
“N-No,” said Fluttershy, “the other one. The one with the big, painful-looking bruise?”
“Oh-h-h-h!” Pinkie waved a hoof dismissively. “That’s nothing. Just a little joke mishap.”
Fluttershy and Rarity made no reply.
“But anyhoo, you don’t hafta worry about Twilight. She’s just disappointed ‘cause she has no sense of humour.” Pinkie’s smile was less wide than usual, to avoid pinching her black eye.
“You’re… you’re sure about that, Pinkie?” Rarity did her best to conceal her disquiet.
“Absotively-posolutely! I know for a FACT that there is NOTHING scary going on with Twilight.” Pinkie nodded firmly to emphasize her statement.
“Well, that’s good to know,” said Rarity. “If she’s just feeling a little down, then it’s obvious what she needs!”
“It is…?” said Fluttershy.
“Totally!” replied Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie Pie and Rarity shouted “A PARTY!” and “A MAKEOVER!” at the same moment. An instant later, they answered each other with “A makeover?” and “A party?” respectively. After a short pause, they found unison at last with a glad cry of:
“A MAKEOVER PARTY!”
Fluttershy’s eyes darted from Rarity to Pinkie Pie and back again.
• • • • • • •
Twilight Sparkle trotted into the library with her head held high. A trip to the book shop always lifted her spirits, and Rainbow Dash’s constant supporting presence was no small help, either. Twilight permitted herself a tiny sense of self-satisfaction.
Applejack is steadfast and vigilant, Pinkie Pie is happy even though she’s a little the worse for wear, and Rainbow Dash is resolute, she thought to herself as she magicked aside a pile of unshelved books to get at the right shelf to stow her new acquisitions. Not too shabby! At this rate, I just might make it through th–
Twilight froze when she revealed what was hidden on the shelf behind the pile of books. As the bitter scent of charcoal filled her nostrils, she couldn’t help but whisper to herself:
“H-Hello, Miss S-Sparkle. Did you m-miss me?”
TO BE CONTINUED