• Published 24th Feb 2012
  • 2,889 Views, 67 Comments

The Great Switcheroo - JimmyZD



A bizarre incident involving an exploding pig at the Carousel Boutique leaves Rarity in shock and unable to work. Shenanigans ensue.

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Initiation

Big Macintosh stared down at the inanimate body before him. All four of its hooves were sprawled out in an undignified fashion, the mouth was wide open and producing a large amount of noise (not to mention drool), and the face was listless and vacant.

"Uh... Miss Dash?" He gave the slumbering mare a soft poke with a hoof.

Rainbow Dash stirred, very softly at first, emitting a strange throaty noise that sounded somewhat akin to a frog gargling gravel. Then, as she rolled over, a snore got caught in her throat and she spluttered herself back into the real world.

"Whuh... huh?"

"Miss Dash, are you alright there?"

"Uhh... yeah. I think." She blinked heavily. "Any idea what I'm doin' lying on the ground?"

"Nnnope."

Rainbow Dash slowly got up and stood uneasily on her hooves, wobbling to and fro a bit, as her head was still swimming and her mind not yet fully awake. She looked around, and noticed where she was.

"So I'm at Sweet Apple Acres."

"Eeyup. Ah believe yer helpin' us out on th' farm today."

"Oooh. Yyyyyeah," Rainbow Dash stammered, rubbing her eyes. "Right."

She thought for a moment and stared up at the sky, with the morning sun bright and vivid but still quite low, and then looked at Big Macintosh. "Uh, what time is it?"

"'Bout 7:30 in th' morning, ma'am."

"Ugh!" the pegasus growled, stomping about angrily. "Normally I'd still be asleep for at least another two hours! Why do earth ponies have to be up so early?" She sat down and stared up in the direction of her home in Cloudsdale, where her lovely comfortable bed was.

Big Mac didn't feel the need to reply to this - Dash was clearly just having a good vent.

"Coffee?"

The pegasus turned to him and smiled sheepishly. "Umm... if you wouldn't mind. Thanks."

As Big Macintosh went back inside, Rainbow Dash muttered something about deeply regretting to do this favor under her breath, and kicked half-heartedly at the ground. She felt deeply embarrassed that she was in such a state in the first place. She remembered how she was ordinarily an extremely athletic and energetic young pony, the number of times she napped during the day notwithstanding - those were "power naps", anyway, and she had to conform to a strict napping routine to keep her energy level consistent throughout the day. Even so, she was more than a little dismayed that waking up just a measly two hours before normal had thrown her internal clock into protest, for she was at this point hardly able to keep her eyelids open, let alone walk in a reasonably straight line.

Come on, it's only early morning yet, she told herself. You've got plenty of time to wake up and then you can spend the whole day smashing trees up. It's gonna be awesome.

She swayed awkwardly, and then toppled over and fell into an open trash can, which fell to the ground and spilt its contents over her.

The commotion brought Big Mac outside again.

"You alright there, Miss Dash?"

A light blue hoof waved weakly from beneath the wreckage, but the rest of Rainbow Dash's body remained stationary underneath the pile of detritus. "I'm fine, just... make my coffee a strong one, Big Mac," came an echoey but muffled reply.

"Eeyup."

Rainbow detected an urge to go back to sleep in her current posture, but felt her sense of dignity (not to mention the smell coming from the bottom of the trash can) overpowering it. She slowly picked herself up, reeling backwards from the stench of the trashcan, and followed Applejack's brother into the house. Rainbow Dash found a seat in the kitchen while Big Mac set about filling up the kettle.

"Soooo... uhhhh..." She tried to distract herself from how tired she was by starting off a conversation.

"Eeyup?"

"Is it, like, hard work for you on the farm, 'round this time of year?"

"Eeyup."

"Like, really hard work?"

"Eeyup."

"No kidding? ...Do you get tired of doing the work, like really easily?"

"Eeeeee...nope."

"Then it's not a big deal for you."

"Nnnope."

...

"Huh. So... you must do a different job to Applejack's."

"Eeyup."

"Do you get much help from her?"

"Nnnope."

"She kinda just does her own thing, right?"

"Eeyup."

"Well, that's cool I guess."

"Yup."

Rainbow Dash gave a low sigh. That had been a rather lackluster conversation. She folded her forelegs and rested her head on the table... and soon started snoring again.

"Uh... Miss Dash?"


"Alright, you little critters, enough's enough!" Applejack shouted over the chaotic din of a hundred or so animals clustered all around her.

A squirrel hopped onto her back and ran off with her Stetson.

"Hey, gimme that back you thievin' varmint!"

She shook her hooves to dispell a fleet of mice that were worming their way up her legs.

"Git away from me you furry freaks!"

She swatted at the air in front of her hoof, repelling an army of hungry hovering hummingbirds.

"How does Fluttershy put up with you critters," she muttered through clenched teeth, pulling off a stoat that was clinging to the back of her neck and staring it in the face.

The stoat stared back.

Applejack intensified her stare.

The stoat began swaying its upper body to and fro.

"What in tarnation?"

Applejack found herself swaying in concordence with the animal's hypnotic movement.

"Uh... hey! Ah dunno what you're doing, you furry little fleabag, but cut it out!"

A matter of seconds passed.

"Ah said cut it out you no good—"

Applejack's demand was cut short by a stoat pouncing at her face.

"Ow! Ooh! Ah! Cut it— ah! You fleabitten— Argh! Land sakes— Ow! Sweet Celestia make it stop!"

Swatting madly and blindly, the earth pony finally managed to prise the raucous rodent from her now thoroughly scratched head. Out of clawing range, the animal spat and growled at her in frustration, and she returned this display with a dry expression.

"Ah think that's quite enough of that, don't you?" She tossed the animal to the ground and pinned it down with a hoof.

"Now all'a y'all listen the buck up!" she bellowed, stamping her other front hoof as loud as she could, making the floorboards quake and giving the stoat a thoroughly nasty headache. Suddenly the assortment of hyperactive furry critters swarming around her immediately halted their assault, and arranged themselves in a neat little perimeter around the room, standing to attention, and trembling in awe. The birds made themselves scarce, retreating back into their respective cages and houses, with the rest opting to perch as far above Applejack as could be managed.

"That's better," she stated in an infinitely calmer tone. Without looking down, she released the stoat from beneath her foreleg, and it squeaked, scurrying into a corner between a shrew and a squirrel.

Applejack spoke loudly and clearly, pacing around the edge of the room and eyeing the animals intensely as she did so, adopting the best "drill sergeant" persona she could muster.

"Now, y'all should know full well who ah am. Ah trust that Fluttershy gave you all clear instructions that ah am to be your, shall we say substitute carer for the next few days while she's off on some oth'r business. Ah'm expecting y'all to make this as easy for me as possible, and ah will do my darnedest to make it easy f'r you in return. If y'all cooperate with me, you'll find me a considerate carer. But don't you dare cross me, 'cause unlike a certain primrose pegasus, ah will not be pushed around! Is that crystal clear?"

Frantic nods all around.

"Good. You will treat me with EXACTLY the same degree of respect that you pay Miss Fluttershy."

Applejack sighed, satisfied with this speech, and picked up her hat from the floor. She began walking purposely towards a bag of food pellets beside the fireplace, failing to catch that a number of the animals were all exchanging thoughtful looks.

"Now, feedin' time," she called, leaning forward to open the bag of food. She was immediately assailed again by a full-on flurry of famished furry animals.

"Oh, ponyfeathers."


Pinkie Pie climbed higher and higher in her strange flying machine. As she ascended, she felt a chill bite down on her coat, getting gradually more prevalent until she couldn't help but shiver, even under the sweat she was working up from all the pedalling.

She increased the speed of her hooves' rotation, and sped on, drifting ever higher into the sky, and finally into a large mass of puffy whiteness.

Minuscule drops of precipitation covered every inch of her coat as she rushed upwards into the wispy cloud covers above Equestria, and her frantic pedalling eventually brought her in view of the beautiful vista of the sprawling skybound city of Cloudsdale.

"Oh my Celestia... it's full of clouds!" the party pony exclaimed joyously, a huge smile slowly spreading across her face, and her widening, awestruck eyes reflecting the entirety of the sweeping skybound cityscape.

Pinkie continued pedalling, humming merrily as she did so, and sailing past a multitude of buildings, ranging from simple cloud cottages to immense, elaborate, cathedralesque buildings with elegant and majestic cloud-forged facades. A large number of pegasus ponies she passed by regarded her with some degree of alarm at her being an earth pony flying almost effortlessly through the city, complete with a bizarre contraption to assist her.

"Is... that... Pinkie Pie?" a marigold pegasus asked.

"This will not end well," her turquoise friend returned.

A construction worker stallion operating a gas-powered drill caught sight of her and stared upwards, mesmerized.

"Woah, check out that gizmo, Al."

"For Pete's sake, Arnie, are you honestly that easily distracted?!" said his cohort, as his power tool plummeted to the earth below.

The pink earth pony continued to pedal, drifting over the group of three workhorses. The rotating propeller of her Pinkiecopter whirled audibly, a sweeping current of air following in its wake.

"Hi, guys!" Pinkie Pie waved cheerfully to the trio of pegasi beneath her.

"Oh, no..."

As Pinkie Pie swept overhead, still humming happily away, the wind generated by her flying machine created a force strong enough to send the vaporous masonry sailing away into the clouds on its foundations.

"That earth pony girl is a living disaster," muttered Vince, the slate grey construction pony, as Arnie flew in pursuit of the runaway building.

Al hid his eyes in his hooves and collapsed to the cloud.

"Hey, you guys wouldn't know where the weather factory is, would you?" came a voice from above him as the wind and noise suddenly returned. Al peeked up to see a beaming, pink, frizzy-haired earth pony looking down at him from the seat of her contraption.

"YEAH IT'S THAT WAY JUST KEEP FOLLOWING THE ROADSIGNS," yelled Al above the clamor of Pinkie's whirlygig.

"OKAY, THANKS!" she yelled back, and nonchalantly carried on her way.

The construction worker pony picked himself up, and looked on, shaking his head solemnly. "That pony will be the undoing of us all..."


"...Sorry, guys, I'd better get that." Twilight excused herself from the breakfast table, and trotted towards to the front door to answer the series of knocks that had come from behind it.

"No worries, Twilight," Rarity called out.

Spike said nothing. Instead, he munched on his toast pensively, allowing his brain to process and digest what the unicorn had said as they had sat down. Twilight Sparkle was going to be gone for three days straight, leaving him and Rarity to look after the library. He considered how library life would be so different to the usual daily routine of the fashionista unicorn's normally hectic schedule... and how he'd have to spend hours acclimatizing her to the job.

On his own.

It's alright, Spike, the young dragon said to himself in his head. You can do this. It doesn't need to be a huge undertaking, or awkward, for that matter. Rarity's smart - on top of being beautiful—

She was undoubtedly the most gorgeous unicorn in all of Equestria.

—so she'll warm to it instantly. Oh, crud! It's been ten seconds and neither of us have said a word! Agh! Awk-ward! Gotta break the silence! Somehow! Anyhow!

"So... Rarity..." Spike began.

Rarity sipped her tea.

Spike stumbled on his words, and struggled to re-establish a synergetic connection between mind and mouth. "Have... you... ever run a library before?"

"No."

Well, what a great conversation that was. Nice going, Captain Suave.

Meanwhile, Twilight had opened the front door, and at the doorstep of the library were three young fillies, two of whom were sitting in a little cart attached to the other's scooter. All three were smiling up at her, "innocently".

"Hi, Twilight! We're here to give you this back," Scootaloo said, and Apple Bloom presented Twilight Sparkle with a box neatly packed with the disassembled junior chemistry set.

"Oh, thanks so much, girls! I hope you enjoyed using it. Did you do anything cool or special with it?"

The three fillies exchanged panicked looks.

"Yeah."
"No."
"Maybe!"

Their simultaneous responses confounded the librarian.

"That is... we kinda did," said Scootaloo. "But..."

"It was cool doing it an' all, but... it didn't exactly turn out okay," said Apple Bloom.

"We definitely don't think potion-brewing is our special talent," said Sweetie Belle, this statement affirmed by the other two fillies shaking their heads.

"Aww, that's too bad," said Twilight. "What happened, if I may ask?"

"We..."
"Uhhh..."
"It was..."

The three fillies all turned to one another again in desperation, as if to somehow help them come to a collective - and, more importantly, non-alarming - answer. This was it. They'd have to own up now or never.

"Sweetie Belle? Is that you?"

The Cutie Mark Crusaders all inhaled sharply as their hearts nearly leapt out of their chests. They stared at each other in horror, all having recognized that voice instantly.

Twilight turned her head over her flank and called out to the kitchen, from which the voice had originated.

"Yes, Rarity, she's here, along with her friends."

A white blur zipped past her and almost knocked the little white unicorn filly to the ground with a powerful embrace.

"Oh, Sweetie! Oh, my dear Sweetie Belle! Are you alright? Did you know about the fire? I'm so sorry I didn't see you after it happened yesterday! I should've gone looking for you to make sure you were alright! Oh, I'm a terrible sister, please forgive me, oh please oh please oh please oh please!"

Sweetie Belle looked at her sister. What was she doing here? Her mane was a mess, and her face seemed even paler than usual. Her eyes looked bloated and twitchy from a lack of beauty sleep, and at this point were almost overflowing at the long-overdue sight of her sister again. She was clearly a wreck.

"I'm fine, Rarity. What are you doing here so early?"

"Twilight kindly took me in. Apparently I fainted when it happened because I don't remember her bringing me here." But fainting was not ladylike at all, Rarity thought, so she changed the subject. "But enough about me, Sweetie, where in Celestia's name have you been?"

The filly thought for a moment.

"Oh! Well, if you've been here since last night, then that explains why you weren't there when I got home!" she said.

Scootaloo and Apple Bloom looked at her. Did Sweetie Belle just... lie?

In response to this, Sweetie Belle fixed her two friends with a look that suggested that owning up to their mistake at this point would only make the situation much, much, worse, what with Rarity in her current state.

"Y'know, 'cause I went home and you... weren't there. Wait, there was a fire? Oh, gosh. Really?! Perish the thought. You're alright, aren't you? I'm fine. I... um... slept in the Crusader clubhouse with Apple Bloom for the night. 'Cause... you weren't home."

The other two Crusaders looked back at each other with looks of absolute confusion and agitation, but neither one was able to say anything aloud.

Rarity's gaze turned to Applejack's younger sister, and smiled, rubbing the filly's head affectionately. "Oh, how positively sweet of you, darling." Then she scooped up her own little sister in a tight hug, and kissed her repeatedly on the head.

"Oh, Sweetie Belle," she said again, "I am honestly so glad to see you. Come, let's go and eat. Twilight and Spike have prepared a wonderful breakfast."

Sweetie Belle couldn't help but feel a bit dumbfounded at all this. This was by a long shot not the kind of treatment she had expected to get today. She received Rarity's kisses with an expression that seemed to divide itself perfectly along the middle of her face - one half of gladness, and the other of abject horror.

"Please come in, my little ponies," Twilight said, holding the door open for the other two Crusaders, who entered very nervously.

Scootaloo took off her helmet and laid it down in the cart next to the copy of Magical Mysteries and Practical Potions that Twilight had lent to them the day before.

"Oh, hey, are you returning that, too?" Twilight asked the little orange filly.

"Yep. A-again, thanks for letting us use it, Miss Sparkle," Scootaloo replied, smiling broadly at the lavender unicorn in an ill attempt to conceal her unease.

"Oh! That reminds me! Rarity, how did—"

Twilight was of course about to inquire how interesting her friend had found the astronomy book she'd lent to her, but her sentence was cut short as the reality began to dawn on her.

"Oh, no! That makes the second copy of the The Astronomical Astronomer's Almanac to All Things Astronomy that I've lost!" she groaned, burying her face in her front hooves.

"Well hey, at least it wasn't my fault this time," Spike shouted from the kitchen.

Twilight was unamused. "Hush, Spike! Can you just get some more toast ready?" she called out.

"Do I have to?" came the reluctant reply. "That toaster hates me. It threw me on the floor, yesterday."

"It did not. Now come on, we have three more guests over for breakfast."

Spike turned his head around the kitchen door to see the Cutie Mark Crusaders entering the house. He swallowed and dived back into the kitchen and rummaged through a few compartments. Eventually he found a napkin which he tied around his face, covering his nose and mouth.

"If Apple Bloom's brought that infernal pepper can with her again, I can't be held responsible for what'll happen."

"Oooohhh, horseapples! This is so frustrating!" Twilight whined, entering the kitchen and hopping from hoof to hoof on the spot uncontrollably. "I need to retrieve that book!"

"The Almanac?" Spike replied through his makeshift mask. "I should think it's just a mass of charred parchment by now."

Twilight shot Spike a glare that could freeze Celestia's sun.

Spike, understandably, froze.

"That copy of the Almanac was on loan from Canterlot Library! They expressly sent that copy to replace the old one!" Twilight fell in a crumpled heap to the kitchen floor, exasperated.

Rarity, leading the Cutie Mark Crusaders, entered, and stared down at her lavender friend. "Erm, darling, what on earth are you doing?"

"I'm wallowing in... pity! Or, y'know... whatever it is that ponies are supposed to wallow in!"

"Well, don't, you'll mess up your coat, darling."

Twilight merely hid herself in her hooves in response. Meanwhile, Spike - still somehow paralyzed, even though there was no physical explanation for why - spoke up. "Come on Twi, you're the princess's star pupil! She'll go easy on you, I'm sure."

Twilight grabbed hold of Spike, dragging him down to the floor and staring him right in the face. Spike tried to avoid direct eye contact at this distance but those enormous amethyst eyes dominated his entire view.

"I've already lost ONE copy of that darned book! And it's not just any book. It's the definitive Canterlot Library guide to astronomy and astrology! It's astronomical! It's a relic!"

The purple unicorn rose up, tossing Spike aside and projecting him across the room and headfirst into the toaster. Ignoring his cry of pain, she absent-mindedly ran a hoof backwards through her mane, putting it into a state of dishevelment similar to how it had looked that same morning. She started to sweat and grind her teeth in her panic.

"What if it's already gone out of print?" she continued, hysterically. "What if that was the last copy in existence?! If I don't return it in pristine condition to Canterlot library then they'll have my HIDE for this!"

The Cutie Mark Crusaders all winced at one another, guilt evident in their expressions. Rarity, meanwhile, was standing stock-still, staring firmly at her friend. She was mildly taken aback by this disproportionately pessimistic outburst, but was otherwise unmoved. It was just another Twilight freakout.

"Twilight, I can't quite believe I'm saying this to you, but... please calm down."

Twilight turned to her friend. "Rarity, you'll have to excuse me, I'm leaving now. I have to get that book back from your boutique. Maybe I have a restoration spell I can use on it or—"

Rarity suddenly jumped in front of her friend. "NO! No, you can't."

Twilight stopped, mid-canter, and stared Rarity deep in her sapphire eyes, her own flickering wildly with lustrous, purple-tinted flames. "Why not?" she hissed.

Rarity, even in the tumultuous state she was still in, replied with a composure which was serene in comparison to Twilight's. "Because your dress is there, being worked on by Fluttershy, remember? I really don't want to spoil it for you. I'm sure somepony else can get the book back."

Sweetie Belle and the other Crusaders all shared an "uh-oh" moment.

Rarity glanced behind her, smiling wide. "Sweetie Belle!"

"Uh-oh."


Author's Note:

Sorry this one is so late (and a bit shorter by comparison to the rest). The next few chapters have already been planned out a little more than this one was initially, so they shouldn't take as long. Anyway, hope you're all still liking it. :)

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