• 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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The First Morning

Fluttershy stared in desperation at the malformed piece of embroidery before her.

"Oh, it's useless..."

She'd already run out of the beautiful regal silver fabric that comprised most of Twilight's ruined gala dress, and had resorted to reconstructing it from a plethora of barely-matching colors with not nearly as much shimmer or majesty as the old dress. It was a hodge-podge of flatness and mediocrity.

Fluttershy sat down on her haunches and allowed herself a few moments to catch her breath from close to three hours of non-stop sewing, stitching and sweating. She gazed at the horrendous ensemble before her, and let out a tiny whimper of despair. But before she could summon the energy to break down completely, something tugged at her tail from behind her, and she turned her head around to lock eyes with her pet bunny.

"What is it, Angel?"

The audacious rodent indicated his open mouth with an impatient point of his paw.

"Oh, you're hungry...?"

He nodded and crossed his forelegs, staring up at Fluttershy and stomping a hind leg against the floor.

"Angel, I don't know... this could take me all week if I don't hurry it up, and if we break for brunch now—"

Her reply was interrupted by a spool of fabric getting thrown at her face. Angel resumed his floor-stomping protest.

Fluttershy didn't need this. Her stress levels were already nearing maximum, and were steadily climbing. She started to see red. Meanwhile, the ravenous rabbit, noticing that his slave was not surrendering to his initial threat, took hold of another stray spool, and juggled it threateningly in a paw.

"Now now, just you behave, young man! Don't think you can just—"

Bonk.

Fluttershy stared down at her assailant, her anger coming to a boil. Through gritted teeth and narrowed eyes, she half-whispered: "Treat me like a pushover, and you'll get the once-over!" Grabbing hold of the boisterous bunny by the ears, she lifted him up to meet with her seething face.

"GO HOME AND GET YOUR BRUNCH YOURSELF YOU LITTLE FLUFFWAD!"

With this declaration, she arced a foreleg backward, and flung its occupant out of the open window with all of her might.

"Ahahaha! Who's the boss now, Angel Dummy?!?" she cackled madly.

Her rage dispelled as quickly as it had peaked, and all of a sudden she brought a hoof over her mouth to stifle an appalled gasp of shock at her own behavior. She galloped towards the window and peered out of it to see a tiny white rabbit on the ground below the boutique studio bounding hastily away from Carousel Boutique.

She then noticed that apparently a few of the ponies in the market square beneath her had obviously noticed the projectile bunny rabbit's descent from the window, and were now staring up at her. She gave an embarrassed squeak and shut the window, leaning against it and releasing a sigh. "Oh... I should've just used The Stare on him... but darn it, that bunny just makes me so—"

Suddenly, there were three knocks at the door of the studio.

"WHAT?!?" the distressed pegasus screamed. "Um, I mean... hello?" she managed to add in an infinitely quieter voice.

Three fillies entered the room.

"Oh! Hey, Fluttershah," greeted Apple Bloom as she and her Cutie Mark Crusader friends slowly shuffled into the studio. "We're here to uh... pick somethin' up."

This filled the yellow pegasus with sudden dread. She jumped in front of the two gala dresses and tried to spread herself out to conceal them from the gaze of the three fillies.

"GIRLS, YOU CAN'T! IT'S NOT READY YET!"

"Beg pard'n?" asked Apple Bloom, confused.

Fluttershy's heart was pounding rapidly in her chest. This was very bad. Did Rarity want to see the dress already? It would make sense for her to send her sister and her hyperactive little friends along to pick it up.

"Twilight can't see it yet! I've made a huge mistake! I told her it was fine but the fire actually damaged it beyond all recognition!" Fluttershy's face sunk into her outstretched hooves.

"Oooohhhh," the three Crusaders reeled backwards, feeling the guilt gnawing away again.

"...W-well, where is it?" asked Sweetie Belle in a small voice.

The yellow pegasus stepped aside and silently indicated Twilight's tarnished gala dress.

Scootaloo spoke up. "Umm... that's a dress?"

"Well... was," Fluttershy sniffed.

The Crusaders all looked again at the distraught pegasus, confused.

"Ah think there's a bit of a misunderstanding here," Apple Bloom whispered.

Sweetie Belle piped up. "Actually, Fluttershy, we didn't come to collect a dress. We... just came to get a book that Rarity had borrowed from Twilight."

Fluttershy stared into space. A wave of relief crashed down on her mind and shattered the foundations of her stress.

"Oh! Well, okay! That's... that's... excellent! Fine, go ahead! Take the book! I think it's just in the corner, there!"

Fluttershy's left eye twitched violently.

As the fillies wandered into the corner to pick the book up, they considered their current predicament. So it seemed Fluttershy was rather out of sorts, too. Evidently, owning up to their mistake to her was a very bad idea. The true extent of the damage to the boutique thanks to their rocket-propelled pig had also become plain. Fluttershy had tidied it up a bit to clear some of the debris from her workspace, but it didn't sparkle with that extra sheen of cleanliness that Rarity always lovingly ensured. As far as anypony was concerned, the studio was still a royal wreck.

Also, wasn't the Gala in just seven days? Obviously, Fluttershy was filling in for Rarity until then, but she appeared to be remaking Twilight's dress purely from scratch. Were things really that bad?

Sweetie Belle laid the Almanac down in front of her and her friends. They were rather dismayed, though not entirely surprised, to see that it was little more than a blackened char, stripped of almost all of its pages.

The unicorn filly turned up to look at Fluttershy. "Well, thanks, Fluttershy!" she said, mustering up as much brightness as her voice could manage. "We... we've got what we came for. Umm... good luck with the... dress... and stuff." But the pegasus was preoccupied with stitching more fabric on her new dress.

Scootaloo, meanwhile, was sniffing at a strange, dark, streaky object that she'd found lying in the corner of the room. She picked it up with a hoof and examined it in closer detail. Apple Bloom noticed and trotted over to her.

"Whatcha got ther', Scoots?"

The orange pegasus immediately stuffed it into her face.

"Don't know, but it sure is tasty!" she said through a mouthful of crunchy bacon.


"So long, you two!" Twilight chirped. "You know where I am, if you need me!"

Spike and Rarity stood in the doorway of the Ponyville library and waved to Twilight, who couldn't make out their expressions, but if she had, it would have been made obvious to her their inner musings; Rarity's a frown of unsurety, Spike's a ridiculous face-wide grin.

Twilight waved in return, then turned away. The thought of finally getting some playtime with the little Cakes reemerged in her mind, and she was suddenly overcome with a bout of explosive excitement, unable to help but make a little bounce and a joyous squeak, before setting off for Sugarcube Corner with a spring in her trot.

From the library doorway, Rarity looked on at this with some curiosity. "She seems awfully excited to leave us alone," she deadpanned.

"Well, it is exciting, isn't it?!" Spike blurted out, without really thinking.

Rarity gave him an odd stare.

"S-sorry."

"I'm tired, now, Spike. I'm going back to bed," the unicorn sighed, dismissing the baby dragon.

"Ummmmm... okay." Spike's claw connected with his face and he groaned into it.

As a way of taking his mind off of the monstrous embarrassment he was making of himself, he reached into the understairs cupboard, extracted a broom, and began sweeping the library floor, deep in deliberation as he performed his morning chore. If only he could say something to Rarity that sounded even vaguely noble, instead of so consistently displaying all of the wit, charm and charisma of a manticore after a head-swap operation.

His train of thought was derailed by an exclamation from behind.

"Ooh, umm... Spiiike..."

"...Y-yes, Rarity?"

"Before I go back to bed, I need a mirror. Celestia knows the state of my mane at the moment. I haven't brushed it since last night!"

Spike plucked up his courage. Now is your chance. Do not blow it.

"Umm... your mane is... fine?" Spike muttered. As unflattering as this statement was, it was more or less true, as Rarity's normally spectacularly curled mane was still in its normal, spectacularly curly state, notwithstanding a few strands which had fallen slightly out of place from her sleep in Twilight's spare bed. As true as it was, Spike was still not satisfied with the answer as it left his mouth, and apparently neither was Rarity.

"No, it's not! I need to brush it now! I can just... feel its... hideousness..."

Spike, at first, couldn't quite figure out what to say. Rarity usually reserved adjectives like "hideous" for ponies like Prince Blueblood or perhaps sea serpents. Clearly her self-esteem was at an all-time low, and he had to do something heroic about it.

"Rarity, honestly!" he cried out, dropping the broom. "Your beautiful, silky purple mane is absolutely, positively, undeniably gorgeous!"

He clamped his hands over his mouth and felt his cheeks flush.

"Spike, I'm flattered, really," Rarity replied, unfazed by the dragon's outburst, "but I simply insist that I go over it again with a brush. Now where might I find a mirror?"

"Um, well, there's one in the bathroom."

"Okay, good enough!"

You're just about to get into bed... what's the point? thought Spike.

As Rarity departed, Spike grouchily resumed his brooming duties. He cursed himself for being so terribly incapable of talking to Rarity just like any normal pony. There was no reason for him to be nervous around her at all. He considered how there was no need to try and impress her when they were already on perfectly good terms as friends, and how making an effort to talk to the unicorn only made things more awkward between them. He had to keep a level head.

For three days.

Oh, maaan.

The thought of being alone with the wonderful unicorn for that much longer only made his heart ache. When was Rarity going to give him a sign? She knew he was into her, so why didn't she just tell him outright what she felt?

"There. Much better." The unicorn emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later.

Spike shot his love a cursory glance as he continued focusing on sweeping the floor. Then he did a double-take, and stared. His eyes almost popped out of his head.

Rarity's mane was devoid of its signature curls, and was now completely straight, extending all the way down to her legs. It had obviously been toweled down, but was still dripping slightly from where Rarity had apparently used a substantial amount of water to rearrange and loosen it. She looked like a completely different unicorn. A completely different... so much more... alluring... unicorn.

Spike just about died from a snoutbleed there and then. Behind him, his tail shot out rigidly.

"Um... wow. What can I say?" For some reason, his voice had lowered a couple of octaves.

"I was simply tired of that old tangle of hairs I called my old mane. I had to do something about it. Doesn't this just suit me so much better?" She smiled contentedly and flicked a lock of perfectly straight, violet hair with a hoof.

"Y... y... yeah." Spike whizzed around and clutched his tail with a claw. "Now, you. Behave."

Presently, the front door opened slightly, and the unseen pony behind it knocked politely, before entering.

"Do come in!" Rarity called out.

Standing in the doorway was a colt, who appeared to be in his late teens, with unkempt facial hair and a pronounced overbite. He was wearing thick-rimmed spectacles and a garish chequered polo shirt.

"Oh, hello, Mish," he lisped through his buckteeth.

Rarity's eyes widened. "Oh, hello~," she said, in a tone that seemed awfully... inviting. Spike cocked his head to one side.

"Pardon me, but are you the librarian of this eshtablishment?" the colt asked the unicorn, fumbling a bit with his words.

"Until further notice, yes," Rarity replied, "Twilight is off on other business right now... but that's not important. What does a... handsome stallion like you need of our services, today?"

Spike looked at the pony in front of him, and clamped his hands over his mouth, somehow managing to repress the urge to exclaim, "Handsome?!"

"I'm here to return my copy of 'The Dragon Dungeon Chronicles: Volume IV', and... if I may, borrow the next edition of the sheries."

"I'll go and fetch it," Spike replied, who went off to retrieve a ladder and prop it up against the fiction section.

Rarity, meanwhile, shuffled towards the colt, and eyed him all over.

"My, my... that attire of yours is very... becoming of you," she breathed, batting her eyelids and flicking her perfectly straight mane.

"Umm... thank you?" The colt tugged nervously at the neck of his polo.

Spike, hearing this increasingly awkward conversation, sped up his search for the book.

"Your sense of fashion is simply superb, my darling. Where did you get those accessories, pray tell?"

"Oh, my mom buysh them all for me."

"HERE IT IS!" Spike grabbed hold of the book, and flung it hard across the room, landing smack in the young pony's face.

"Oh my! Spike! Do be more careful, you could take somepony's eye out!"

Spike was wholly unapologetic.

"Umm, thanksh lady," the colt said, backpedalling towards the door as he grew steadily more uncomfortable. "I... uh, think that'll be... all I'll need."

He turned and galloped away.

"See you some time next week, you handsome thing~!" Rarity sang out from the doorway as he ran back into town. Spike walked up to Rarity, utterly confused.

"Ahhh, what a dreamer he was. Now there's a pony who knows about fashion!"

Spike's brain was doing backflips. "Are... are you all right, Rarity?"

"Quite, thank you. Did you see how he combined chequer with pinstripes? And those spectacles, wooow."

Spike was about to say something about how the pony he had just witnessed was unquestionably some kind of fashionless, socially-challenged, basement-dwelling introvert manchild with facial hygiene issues (and probably still watched children's cartoon shows), when Rarity interrupted him.

"...Say, Spike. I think I could get used to watching over a library. Do you think you could go into town and... do a favor for me while I watch over the place?"

"Umm... anything for you, Rarity," the dragon replied cautiously.

"Could you perhaps nip down to the beautician's and get me some mane dye?"

"M-mane dye?!" Spike failed to conceal the horror in his voice.

"Yes. Lime green."

Spike did a spit-take. Which would have been unremarkable, but he wasn't even drinking anything.

"Umm. Yeah. Okay." He replied flatly.

"Ta-ta, Spikey Wikey~!"

As Spike exited the library, he mulled over in his head what was perhaps an understatement - Rarity was... acting a little odd.

First, it was getting rid of her trademarked mane curls, which she normally wouldn't be seen dead without. Then it was fawning after that sweaty little nerd... and now requesting bright green mane dye? It was almost like... she'd lost every precious bit of fashion knowledge that she was so renowned for.

"Come on, Spike. That's ridiculous," the baby dragon thought aloud as he walked into town, "whoever heard of a pony losing their fashion sense in the throes of post-trauma?!"


Applejack allowed herself a quick lounge on Fluttershy's couch, content that she was no longer being mercilessly mobbed by all manner of murderous mammals, who were presently preoccupied with vacuuming up the food she'd laid out for them. Having left them to their own devices, she lay back on the couch and stretched, contemplating how odd it seemed for a pegasus to have such a "down-to-earth" job as looking after woodland animals. But then again, Fluttershy was never a fan of flying high or doing acrobatic stuff like Rainbow Dash was. This job fit her. ...And probably her alone, if the last few minutes were at all indicative of how well Applejack got on with the very variety of animals that were constantly pestering her farm. Being nice to these critters was no easy feat.

The earth pony sighed, stretched a hoof out and picked up the list that Fluttershy had left her off of the floor.

"So what's first on today's list?"

Well, there were all sorts of things "first" on the list, because there wasn't a particular order or time plan to it - just items and items of important animal-caring duties Applejack had to fulfill.

She browsed through the list's "Saturday" section, determining which tasks of that morning she could be bothered to do first. She didn't much fancy the notion of washing out the rabbits' water bottles. The job of cleaning out the toucan's cage was equally uninviting. And she positively bleh'd at the notion of retrieving the beeswax from hive number three.

Come on, there had to be something here that she could be reasonably expected to not screw up...

A squirrel with a fractured knee needed rebandaging. Well... how much trouble could that be?

Moving outside, Applejack finally located a little metal cage lying beside the house, containing a common brown squirrel with a bandaged hind leg, and what appeared to be a miniature mohawk of fur atop his head.

As verminous and detrimental as these creatures were to Applejack's profession, she couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor thing as it scurried around bumpily in its cage.

"So you're the little fella with the fractured knee, huh? Bumpkin, is that your name?" she said, observing the little nametag adorning the front of the cage. "Awww, ain't Fluttershy jus' got the sweetest little name for you? You try an' be more careful in future, y'hear?"

Applejack reached down to the first-aid box that was open beside the cage, and yanked a strip of bandage from its roll with her teeth.

"Now, lesh have a lookit that leg o' yoursh."

The animal scowled at her in return.

Applejack peered into the cage and gave the animal a long, hard stare. She noticed the strange tuft of fur between his ears, and something suddenly clicked in the back of her mind.

"Hey, wait just an apple-buckin' minute. Ah recognize you!"

Apparently, so did the squirrel, because it picked up a nut from its food bowl and flung it hard at Applejack's face.

"OW, MAH EYE!" the earth pony shrieked, stumbling backwards and nursing the assaulted eyeball with a hoof. She spat out the bandage.

"You darned thieving miserable little rodent!" Applejack fixed the squirrel with a deathly glare. "You an' yer little friends were scrumpin' mah apples th' other day, weren't ya?"

The squirrel replied with an affirmative, if less-than-apologetic, squeak.

"An' ah was armed only with the apples I'd just bucked from the last set o' trees! You made me waste a bushel's worth o' perfectly good apples chasin' you off, you slimy li'l varmint!"

The squirrel angrily pointed to its bandaged hind leg and made an accusatory noise.

"Ah regret nothing. Served ya right." The earth pony smirked. "Heh, ah'd even say it was comical watchin' you hobble away on that ol' leg o' yours, after that last apple knocked you clean out o' that tree!"

The squirrel furiously kicked its food bowl against the bars of the cage, causing a variety of nuts to spill all over Applejack. She shielded her eyes from this, but as the final nut settled on the ground, she became aware that two of them were neatly plugging her nostrils.

"So... ya like nuts, do ya?" Applejack growled in a nasally voice.

She snorted, dislodging the nuts, and promptly darted off, leaving the squirrel to roll about on the floor its cage, laughing mischievously.

When it looked up again, it met the seething face of Applejack staring down above the cage, holding the opening of a large brown paper bag in her teeth.

"Then chow down, fuzzbag!" She proceeded to upend the bag, causing a tidal wave of assorted nuts to cascade upon the defenseless squirrel. Applejack laid the now empty bag down next to the cage. A solitary squeak escaped from the pile within it.

"How d'ya like them apples, huh? Oh, and here's your gosh-darned bandage." She picked up the strip of bandage from the ground and tossed it into the cage - it landed on top of the huge pyramid of nuts.

"Right, what's next?" the earth pony said, consulting her list again. Before she could choose which job she could next undertake in her present mood, something kicked at her hoof. She glanced down and spotted an exhausted-looking white rabbit.

"Oh, it's you. What do you want, ah'm kinda busy?"

Angel pointed to his mouth.

"Feedin' time, huh? Well, come on in, ah'll fix you up with somethin' real quick like." The bunny bounded into the cottage, and returned with a plate, knife and fork, and a handkerchief, which he tied around his neck.

Applejack consulted her list. "Hmmm..."

"Angel needs carrots (every day!)" had been scribbled hastily onto the section outlining today's duties, with the final word underlined several times. She found some lying in a bowl, picked them up in her jaws, and trotted outside, depositing them on Angel's plate.

"Alrighty, then, here you go. 'Bon appetite'."

Angel Bunny stared at the carrots in disbelief. Carrots. Carrots?! Such a base, contemptible vegetable. How could they even be conceived as an option?

His stubbornness outweighing his hunger, the rabbit turned up his nose haughtily.

"Come on now, eat 'em up. They're good for ya. They help you see in the dark, don'tcha know!"

Not buying into the earth pony's fabrications, Angel threw a carrot into a nearby duck pond.

"Alright. Would ya like 'em shredded?" she suggested.

The response received was a plate of carrots to the face, delivered via rabbit kick.

"So, this little bunny thinks he can buck, does he?" Applejack said in a sinister tone.

Angel simply stomped the ground impatiently in protest.

"Well this apple-buckin' pony doesn't take kindly to that attitude. Too bad you weren't here for mah rundown of the rules y'all have to follow round her' when ah'm in charge. Ah ain't no pushover like Miss Fluttershy."

Applejack spun around on her forelegs and with a swift kick, sent the rabbit flying into the branches of the nearest tree.

"Now as ah was sayin'..." the pony said, loudly enough for the rabbit to hear, and clearing her throat. She pulled up her list again and examined it closely. Her eyes met with an item that said simply "Badger set to be cleaned". Applejack mulled this job over in her head. She'd never dealt with a badger before. Was it another one of those furry little critters that had caused her so much strife today already? The idea of dealing with it didn't really appeal much to her, but it was the only item on the list that she felt like doing right now. And she felt like bossing some furry little critters about.

"...Okay, looks like I gotta clean the badger."

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. She could get one of those big tin basins and give it a good washover with a brush and soap, similar to how she'd bathe Apple Bloom back at the farm.

She wandered over to a series of burrows and poked her head down one of them. "Helloooo, any badgers down here? It's cleanin' time!"

...

After having fought off an armada of snakes, prised several hedgehog spines from her cheeks and having made doubly sure that her eyes were clean of dirt from the result of a mud-slinging match between her and a squad of sleep-disturbed moles (which she'd lost), Applejack came to the mouth of the final burrow.

"Badger. Out. Now." All patience was gone from the beaten earth pony's tone of voice.

A small, black and white animal rose from the depths of its subterranean grotto. It rubbed its eyes as the spectacle of daylight flooded its ill-prepared vision.

"Bathtime, dirtball." Clutching it by the scruff of its neck, Applejack led the animal into the house, where she'd laid out a tub of warm water. She plonked it down into the bathtub, and the confused animal angrily stared up at her, thrashing its claws in protest and causing torrents of soapy water to splash about the room.

"Hey now, cool it!"

The badger was clearly distraught, obviously not used to being submersed in this amount of water before. Its writhing intensified.

"Scrubbin' time!"

Applejack brought the brush down upon the distressed animal, who reacted as though the cleaning instrument was a battle axe.

"STOP SQUIRMIN' YA FURRY LITTLE EEJIT!"

Eventually the badger tipped the container of soapy water all across the floor and scampered hastily out of the open door.

"Well ain't that just plumb typical." Applejack gave chase but slipped and slammed her face against the wooden floor.

"Oh, ah'm mad now."

She rushed out, preparing to chase the black-and-white soap-covered animal all across Fluttershy's garden, but her stride was halted by a bellowing roar.

A dark brown, thick-coated monstrosity, about the size of a well-built pony, came lumbering out of a kennel and screamed ferally at Applejack, who looked worriedly at her list of duties.

"...So you're Freddie."

The bear cub yelled again and ran straight for the earth pony.

"And ah forgot to play with you."

Applejack dropped the list and sped off as fast as her applebucking legs could carry her.

"HEEEELP! FLUTTERSHY HELP ME!"

Applejack soon found herself cornered against the trunk of a tree. The bear came barrelling towards her, a crazed look in its eyes and rabid foam shooting from the corners of its mouth.

With nowhere to turn, Applejack instead opted to jump.

Freddie clawed at the trunk in frustration, making Applejack wince at the sounds of bark being shredded, while she clung on for dear life at the branch, just out the bear's reach.

"AH DON'T CALL THIS PLAYTIME, DO YOU?" Applejack shouted from her branch.

Above her, there came a rustling noise, and something furry and covered in dirt, leaves and twigs hopped down to meet with her face.

The hungry white rabbit glared daggers at her.

"Oh, phooey."


"Okay, I'm here!" called a joyful voice from the doorway of Sugarcube Corner.

"Oh, thank goodness you came, Twilight!" said a grateful Mrs Cake as she entered the room with her husband, carrying a large wrapped parcel on her back. "With Pinkie Pie going away on some errand for that blue pegasus friend of hers, we've got nopony to help us out."

"Yes, we're very grateful that you'd step in as her replacement on such short notice," added Mr Cake.

"Anything to help you guys out! So where are the babies?" Twilight suddenly reeled back in embarrassment at having perhaps made her ulterior motive for doing this favor so abundantly clear.

"Upstairs in the playroom," answered Mr Cake, chuckling slightly at the unicorn's enthusiasm. "Good thing that you're here, right now - we need to make a delivery quite urgently, so we'll have to be out for an hour or so. And the twins need a playmate."

Twilight's smile broadened.

"And a carer," added Mrs Cake.

Twilight's smile stretched further.

"And somepony who's ummm... willing to change their diapies every few hours or so," Mr Cake completed.

Twilight's face-wide grin crumbled. "...Oh."

"Oh, and before I forget, deary," interjected Mrs Cake, "we have an order to fill for a birthday party - a super-sized Gateaux Supreme. It's a pretty big job, but we were wondering if you could handle it?"

The unicorn expunged the unpleasant thoughts of freshly festooned diapers from her mind, and turned it towards answering Mrs Cake's query. "Oh, yes. I read every cookbook I had back at the library in preparation just this morning. I know how to bake a good cake, more or less... though I'd have to take a look at the recipe for such a concoction."

"Oh, of course, we've got the recipe for it in some book on that dusty old bookshelf in the kitchen," said Mr Cake. "Now, we've both got to skedaddle now, so best of luck, Twilight! And thanks, again."

"No problem."

Once the Cakes were out of sight, Twilight skipped merrily up the stairs towards the twins' playroom. Carefully opening the door, she peeked inside.

Pound and Pumpkin were sitting upright in their cot, constructing a tower of building blocks together.

Twilight was actually not taken aback by the fact that the baby unicorn - who was not even a year old - was using magic to manipulate the little blocks. Her immediate thoughts were in fact more occupied with how huggable and baby-like the two twins were.

"EEEEEEEE OHMYGOSH ARE YOU GUYS LIKE THE CUTEST THINGS EVER OR WHAT?"

The two baby Cakes looked up at the unicorn in bemusement, who bounced up and down as she magicked them out of the cot, nuzzling them lovingly.

"Soooooo... you're Pound Cake?!" she said to the baby pegasus. "You're a big, strong little baby! And you must be Pumpkin Cake!" she gushed, turning to the baby unicorn. "Pound and Pumpkin! Aren't you two just totes adorbs? I'm gonna call you Pumpkinny Wumpkinny and Poundy Woundy!"

The two babies looked at each other, looking rather dumbfounded at this bizarre display.

Gently, the unicorn set the two Cakes down on the rug of the playroom. They were surrounded by more building blocks, and boxes filled with all manner of stuffed toys.

"So, you wanna play a game?" the lavender unicorn chirped eagerly, bending down to bring her face level with the babies'.

Pound Cake pointed to the stack of blocks that had been left behind in the cot.

"Oh, were you two building something, Poundy Woundy? That's okay! Here you go!"

Twilight focused on the structure of building blocks with her magic, and levitated it extra-carefully in front of the two babies, taking care not to dislodge or misplace a single block. The babies smiled and squeaked happily as she laid their creation in front of them again.

"So let's see what you were making!" Twilight grinned.

Pumpkin Cake summoned a blue aura of magic around three more blocks in front of her, and shifted them towards the tower, making them form a neat circle of spinning blocks.

Twilight gawked at this, suddenly becoming aware that maybe these babies were every bit the precocious little scamps that Pinkie Pie had said they were. She stared at the blocks circling each other in what looked very much like a typical planetary elliptical orbit... and found herself entranced by their relative rotations and orbital paths as they floated through the air in a distinctly cosmic manner. She considered how amazingly scale-accurate it was in terms of being a representation of their very own solar system—

Thwack. Whack. Whunk.

"Ouch," Twilight winced, nursing her snout with a hoof as three wooden building blocks crashed into her face in succession.

Pound and Pumpkin laughed out loud.

As the unicorn rubbed her sore muzzle, she thought to herself, uh-oh. Is Pumpkin still experiencing one of those powerful 'magic surges' that baby unicorns apparently go through?

Given that Twilight was suddenly floating several inches above the ground through no will of her own, engulfed in a light blue field of impenetrable magic, she concluded that this was a safe assumption to make.

Pumpkin Cake squealed in delight.

"Uhh... Pumpkinny-Wumpkinny?" Twilight pleaded weakly, only to find herself suddenly being magically willed all around the perimeter of the room. Twilight's own horn illuminated as she attempted to undo the magic she was under. When this plan failed, she began to get a smidge worried.

"Seriously, this is fun and all, but I think if you're not careful you could hurt somepo—"

Her body connected violently with the wall, and Pumpkin Cake laughed adorably, still refusing to release Twilight from her magical prison, who was now holding onto her spinning head with both forehooves.

"Guys, can we just go back to building blocks? That was fun while it lasted..."

Pound Cake, meanwhile, flapped his wings and launched himself from the ground, circling around the immobilized Twilight Sparkle and joining his sister in fits of giggles.

"Poundy! Pumpkinny! Don't make me get authoritative—"

Suddenly, Twilight shot across the room. Unable to slow herself down, she screamed and flailed her hooves just before she became embedded straight in the wall opposite. This process repeated itself several times as Pumpkin Cake catapulted the defenseless unicorn back and forth between the two walls.

Thoroughly dizzied and bruised, the lavender unicorn thought to herself, "Yeesh, this baby's got a temper."

Pound Cake hovered effortlessly above her head, and used what Twilight could only describe as "superpony strength" to lift the playroom window open. The little pegasus, wearing a mischievous grin, gave a wave to his twin sister.

"Uhhhmmm... guys?"

Twilight struggled against the veil of magic keeping her suspended above the floor, but to no avail. She started sweating nervously and fretting for her life as the twins' plan became apparent, and she was inched ever closer to the open window, helplessly trapped in her translucent blue prison.

"Um. Guys. Guys? Guys! GUYS!"

As the magic dissipated, she could swear there was a comical cartoon pause just before she plummeted to the earth below.

...

"Excuse me, but is a Miss Pinkamena D. Pie in?" Derpy Hooves repeated, again pressing her nose against the doorbell, which had gone completely unheard during the previous altercation.

Suddenly the mailmare found herself flattened against the ground, underneath a heavy, lavender object. Both she and it grunted in pain as they collided and lay in a crumpled heap on the doorstep of Sugarcube Corner.

"...Uh oh," the object uttered in a small voice.

"Oww! What's the big idea?" moaned the flattened pegasus.

"Oh my gosh oh my gosh, Derpy, I'm so sorry! I just..." Twilight considered how ludicrous a baby unicorn levitating one out of a window would sound. "...fell out - on my own. Are—are you alright!?"

"Twilight! Is that you? I can't see! Help!" came a cry from beneath.

Twilight jumped off of the injured mailmare and helped her to her feet. "Oh, goodness, did I blind you? Please tell me I didn't..."

As the bubbly blue pegasus got up, her eyes looked straight at Twilight.

Straight.

"Oh my..." Derpy rubbed her head dizzily. "Twilight, since when were there three of you?"

"Derpy, I'm so sorry." Twilight couldn't quite pinpoint what it was, but there was something about those enormous yellow eyes that was awfully unsettling when they stared directly at you. "I promise it won't happen again."

"Umm, that's okay... do you know if Pinkie Pie is in?" replied Derpy, picking up the letter she'd dropped on the ground in her teeth.

"She's not here now, I'm afraid, but I'll gladly forward the letter to her."

"Okey dokey!" chirped Derpy Hooves. "I'll... see ya later, Twilights," she added, stumbling backwards awkwardly.

"I'm really sorry about the fall, Derpy. That felt like it was quite a knock... maybe you should rest a while and get your head straight."

"Naw, I'm fine!" the pegasus protested. Eyes focused directly on the sky above her, she leant down, flapped her wings, and with a graceful launch... flew backwards into the Town Hall, smashing through a supporting strut rump-first as she did so.

Twilight winced as the resounding crunch met her ears. She sighed heavily, and walked back into the bakery kitchen, getting ready to levitate the various cookbooks from the shelf in preparation for her actual duties for the day.

"Maybe the twins are okay on their own. I'll just get this cake started."

Suddenly, the doorbell rang again.

"UGHHH!"

Not bothering to move herself over to the door to answer it courteously, Twilight instead used her magic to open it up... only to find there was nopony there.

There was, however, a thoroughly annoyed white rabbit standing on the doorstep. A wall of silence presided between the two for a few seconds.

"...What?" Twilight eventually asked impatiently.

The rabbit pointed a paw at his famished mouth.

"Sorry! In the middle of something right now!" the unicorn blurted out sharply. "Definitely don't have time to feed greedy little rabbits!"

Twilight marched over to Angel, frowning angrily at him. She hoisted him up in a purple haze of magic and stared him dead in the face. "Shouldn't you be over at Carousel Boutique helping out Fluttershy, anyway?"

Twilight let go of the struggling rabbit - but not before she applied a magical burst of kinetic energy, propelling him far above the rooftops of Ponyville and out of sight.

Across town, a yellow pegasus deep in the process of machine-stitching yet another piece of underwhelmingly-colored fabric momentarily thought she heard a bang against the window, but shrugged it off immediately and continued with her present task.


The burly brown pegasus looked up with no small amount of dread at the strange contraption before him, and the bright pink earth pony piloting it.

"...Is this real life?" he stammered after a hefty pause.

"Yeah, sure!" Pinkie Pie replied cheerfully. "At least, I think it is. Try pinching yourself, and if you wake up, then it's all just a dream! Or... maybe I'm having the dream!" The pink pony started pinching herself all over, while the weather factory foreman continued to stare up her, utterly flummoxed.

"Say... how do you pinch with hooves, anyway?" she suddenly asked, an air of complete seriousness in her voice.

"Just tell me why you're here, Miss... Pinkie Pie, was it?"

"Rainbow Dash said she couldn't do her duties for the weather team for a few days. I'm her replacement until further notice!"

Around the pink pony, several workers immediately stopped what they were doing and gaped in shock. Not a sound, save for the gentle background noises permeating throughout the factory, and the comical creaking of Pinkie's flying machine, could be heard for an awkward few seconds.

The foreman wiped his brow and sighed, consulting his clipboard. "Okay, Miss Pie. You're on cloud crafting duty for today. Top floor. Be sure to get into your uniform."

"Okay! Thanks!"

As Pinkie Pie pedalled off towards to the top deck of the weather factory, the foreman murmured to himself. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if it that crazy pony murdered us all today."

...

The top floor of the weather factory was an ornate circular room with a wide open ceiling revealing the pure white rush of clouds drifting above, with the arched support beams creating the illusion of a domed roof. A grid of enormous purple vats populated the center of it, and every now and then a pegasus pony would float towards one, balancing a bucket of cloud mixture carefully on their muzzle, before pouring it in. A chemical reaction of some kind within the vats would project a stream of precipitation with a resounding whoosh into the sky directly above the factory and form the very clouds that floated all over Equestria.

This particular floor of the factory complex appeared to be constructed from a sort of tightly-compressed cloud, giving it the appearance and solidity of stone, so Pinkie Pie set down her flying machine and hopped off of it, climbing into her factory worker's uniform.

"So many clouds!" she whispered to herself, awed by the misty vapors swirling gracefully above the factory's dome. "...Too bad they're not cotton candy clouds that spit chocolate rain."

Pinkie Pie walked over to a pool of steaming liquid cloud at the far end of the room and, using her teeth, picked up a spare bucket that was lying beside it.

"Hey, Raindrops!" a pegasus called out to another. "Check out the earth pony temp over there."

"Oh dear. This won't end well," her friend snickered. "Betcha she can't even balance that bucket on her snout."

"I know, right? It can take months of training to... get it... right..."

The pegasus was cut short by the actions of the earth pony in question. Pinkie had filled up the little wooden bucket with cloud mixture, swung it in her teeth, let go, and caught it with the top of her head. She was now bouncing up and down in her usual fashion towards one of the large vats, somehow keeping the bucket perfectly level and spilling not so much as a drop of cloud mixture.

When she reached the base of the vat, she did a swift head-bob, and bounced the bucket neatly onto her flank.

A small crowd gathered around the hyperactive pink pony as she continued with her routine. Lifting her flank up into the air, she arched her back and allowed the bucket to slither down her spine. Once it reached her head again, she flicked it back onto her rump, which in turn bounced it back onto her head again.

The worker pegasi cheered and applauded.

"That's not all, folks!" Pinkie Pie said, grinning widely.

The bucket still balanced perfectly on her head, Pinkie twisted around 180 degrees, then bobbed it back into the air. Gripping the ground with her forehooves, she kicked her back legs into the air and did an impressive hoofstand, catching the bucket with one of her back legs and started juggling it.

"More!" Pinkie called out.

A pegasus worker flew up to her and threw a second bucket onto her back legs, which was soon being perfectly juggled alongside the first one.

The crowd ooohhh'd and applauded.

"Can ya do three?" called out a male voice.

"Yes-can-do-a-rooney!"

Another bucket was thrown onto Pinkie's hind legs. The earth pony trembled momentarily, but simply increased the speed at which her back legs rotated to compensate for the additional weight, and soon was effortlessly juggling three rather heavy wooden buckets filled virtually to the rim with cloud mixture.

Further applause erupted from the crowd.

"And now, the coup de grâce!"

With a series of powerful kicks, Pinkie Pie sent each individual bucket flying across the room. The crowd gasped as the buckets bounced perfectly off the edge of the nearest cloud vat, tipping their entire contents into it, and landing on the ground at Pinkie's feet.

Pinkie Pie jumped up and bounced back onto her hooves. "Wha-chow!" she shouted, punching the air with a foreleg, her action timely punctuated by the deafening boom of a stream of liquid cloud rushing towards the sky before it condensed in the frigid air above the factory and formed a thick mass of billowing clouds.

"Thank you! Thank you!" Pinkie said as she bowed before her onlookers. "And for my next trick... these clouds look a little bland, don'tcha think? Surely we can spice these babies up a bit!"

The spectators all suddenly stopped applauding and looked at one another in varying degrees of horror.

From behind her, Pinkie Pie appeared to produce several large bars of chocolate candy, and proceeded to hastily unwrap them and toss them into one of the steaming purple vats before anyone could stop her.

"There, that should sweeten things up a bit!"

As she spoke, an eruption of deep brown foam blistered skyward with a deafening roar that sounded similar to... well, melty liquid chocolate rushing through a pipe at a rate of knots. Huge globules of the stuff spewed out from the base of the high-powered jetstream of chocolate, covering a wide area and splattering Pinkie's fellow cloud crafters with a half-cloud, half-melty-chocolate-bar mixture.

Gasps of shock and horror were heard all around as every eye turned towards the upward cascade of brown sticky goodness forming light chocolate-tinted clouds above their heads, drifting hastily in the stratospheric wind above the dome.

Pinkie Pie was the only pony in the room staring upwards at this display with a look of pure glee.

"Stupid earth pony! What has she done?" a voice called out.

Pinkie Pie overheard this but was unfazed by the borderline-prejudicial insult. "Just adding a little flavor to this whole 'weather' thing! Come on you guys - it's chocolate rain! Sing it with me now—"

A pegasus amidst the crowd of awestruck ponies turned to stage-whisper to her friend as Pinkie Pie burst into song. "Are we sure this girl isn't secretly dating the Spirit of Disharmony?"


"Is that enough coffee for you, Miss Dash?"

The bright blue pegasus drained her sixth mug in one hefty gulp, and slammed it down on the table.

"YeaahHhhHhHhh..." she trembled. "That reeEeeEeally hit the spooOot."

"Okay, well, anytime you're ready," Big Macintosh drawled, "we'll go on out to the orchard and ah can give you a crash course in apple-buckin'."

"Crash course?! What're you saying?" said the overcaffeinated pegasus, irately.

Detecting that he may have made the wrong choice of words, the stallion replied, "...just that I'll show ya the ropes to see if you're up to the job."

"Pshaw!" Rainbow Dash blustered. "Easy enough for me! I can buck apples in my sleep!"

...

"In my sleep..." the pegasus repeated, finding herself face-to-face with the largest collection of apple trees she had ever laid eyes on.

"Yeah, that sounds good right about now..."

Having declined Big Macintosh's offer to "break her in" to the process of applebucking, Rainbow Dash blinked and tried to stay calm, but her body was revolting against her. Her limbs were numb and barely keeping her upright, but her mind was firing on all cylinders.

Come on Dashie, said the voice inside her head, This should be no big feat. You're just... not in the right physical state. Warm that body up! This is the body that performed a Sonic Rainboom TWICE in a lifetime! You can DO this! Show those apples who's boss around here!

Standing up and hopping back and forth between both of her hind hooves, she balled up her forehooves (inasmuch as they could be) and started punching the air in front of her.

"Take that you no-good apple tree!" she grunted at the tree she was standing in front of, jabbing and swinging her forehooves forward in an aggressive manner. "Give up those apples! How dare you deprive Ponyville of your sweet and tasty fruits!"

Swinging her right hoof straight towards the nearest tree, she clocked it right in the bark.

"...Owwww!"

Falling flat on her back, she nursed her throbbing hoof, and noticed in dismay that not one apple had dislodged itself from the branches.

Well, apart from the one that knocked her on the head just then.

"Maybe I should try something not quite as confrontational."

She leant on her back and spread her wings out, firmly pressing them against the ground.

"Here goes... nothing!"

And there went, ostensibly, nothing. She managed a single wing push-up before crashing to the ground again in an exhausted heap.

"Am I really that out of shape?" Rainbow whined as the pain shot up her back and made her brain sting.

"...No! Enough's enough! Your time to fall is now, apples!"

Standing before the tree, she span around on her front hooves and kicked with all her might. The tree shook.

So did Dash.

"Ungh! That makes pratfall number three..." she muttered to herself as she belly-flopped ungracefully to the ground. "If only I could somehow buck with my wings... they're my most powerful weapon!"

Anger overtaking her, she stood up and addressed the orchard.

"Okay, you gosh-darned trees!" she declared. "You've gotten the best of Rainbow Dash, Best Young Flier 2011 for the last time!"

The trees offered no rebuttal.

Her frustration fuelling her physical energy, Rainbow Dash leapt into the air, spreading her wings out majestically. Propelling herself forward with all of her strength, she began encircling a large cluster of the orchard's trees, leaving a sparkling prismatic contrail behind her.

As she streaked effortlessly through the sky, she screamed above the rush of air around her, "how you do like my patented Rainbownado?"

The pegasus's speed increased exponentially until she became little more than a rapid, circular blur, which started to generate a great deal of centripetal current, drawing the surrounding trees into the rapidly expanding rainbow-colored vortex. Eventually the wind began feeding off itself, allowing Rainbow Dash to simply ride the rotating tide of the miniature tornado like it was the smooth, arched track of a velodrome speedway.

"Awwwwww yeahhhhhh..." the pegasus yelled ecstatically over the adrenaline rush. "Thiiiis is more liiiiike iiiittt..."

Gradually she began her descent towards the trees below. The roaring tornado engulfed a group of about a dozen apple trees. Inside the maelstrom, Rainbow Dash smirked, victorious, as a shower of apples flew off of the trees and scattered themselves across the orchard.

"Aww yeah! This one's in the bag! Along with the app—"

An entire tree flew past her.

"...uh-oh."

Another one.

"Abort! Abort! ABORT!" the panicked pegasus screamed.

She attempted to break out of the storm, but the uncontrollable winds fought against her as they cycled, uprooting more trees. She yelped as one flew right over her head.

"This was a very bad idea."

Still dodging orchard as it barrelled past her, she gave up fighting against the current, and allowed herself to drift into the eye of the storm, where the winds were less prevailing. From here, she launched herself high into the sky to observe the chaos from above.

"How'm I gonna stop this?" she fretted. "The winds are too powerful now! The only way I could possibly break them is with something even more powerful, and... right in the center of it..."

One thought crossed her mind. It wasn't a pretty one, but it was the only one.

Rainbow Dash swallowed, and began a vertical climb as high into the sky as she could go.

...

Back in Ponyville, an older couple sat on a balcony.

"Did you just a thunderous, ear-splitting boom, sweetie?" asked Mr Waddle.

"Gosh darn it, stop drivelin', you old fart!" reprimanded his wife. "Take your meds and stop thinking that pigs, bikes and rabbits can fly!"

"Yes, sweetie."

...

When Rainbow Dash opened her eyes, her mouth dried up and her head went a deep shade of red.

"Oh, actual horseapples..."

From where she was standing she couldn't see a single apple. Or leaf, for that matter. Every tree in the immediate vicinity that hadn't been tossed into the atmosphere had been stripped to the bark by the Sonic Rainboom. Rainbow Dash was standing in the midst of the patch of grey earth where the now-absent trees had once stood.

Rainbow gawked at this scene for about a minute, unable to utter a word as her brain attempted to process it.

Then a grin slowly spread across her face, and she exploded.

"ALL RIIIIGHT! WHO'S THE MARE! GOOOOOO RAINBOW DASH! BEST YOUNG FLIER 2011, APPLEBUCKER SUPREME 2012! CAN I GET A YAY, FLUTTERSHY?"

Meanwhile, a yellow filly with a large hair bow scampered hurriedly up the hill and met with the exhausted pegasus.

"Rainbow Dash? What in Equestria was that? Was that a Sonic Rainboom? What are you doin' here?"

"What's it look I'm doing, junior? I'm helping out with the apple harvest. Needless to say, I think I've taken care of this patch of land."

"Ah mean, why are you buckin' apples?"

"'Cos your sister asked me to."

"Applejack's gonna kill you when she finds out about this. Where is she?"

"Oh. She's at Fluttershy's cottage, I think. I'm filling in for her for today."

At this, Apple Bloom raised an eyebrow and set of gears within her head started grinding. "So, wait a minute..."

There was definitely a chain of events in motion here. It had all started with the pig. Apple Bloom thought back to how Rarity was resting up at Twilight's library. Unable to work on the lavender unicorn's dress, Rarity had chosen Fluttershy to take her place at the boutique and finish it. So, if Fluttershy had asked Applejack to take care of her animals, and Rainbow Dash was filling in on the farm...

"...Rainbow, where's Pinkie Pie?"

"Oh, I got her to fill in for me on the weather team. She'll be in Cloudsdale by now, probably on cloud crafting duty."

Apple Bloom froze in terror.

"Pinkie Pie? On the weather team? Are you insane, Rainbow?"

"Well, alright, she wasn't the best choice, admittedly," Rainbow Dash conceded, "but Fluttershy's the only pegasus I know who'd do a favor like that for me, and she's not part of the weather team! She was never a weather pony, plus Applejack's helping to look after her animals, I think. So it had to be Pinkie Pie - she's my next closest friend after Fluttershy and Applejack. I mean, sure, asking an earth pony to do a pegasus's job..."

"That's not what ah meant!" cried Apple Bloom. "Think about it. Pinkie Pie. Controlling the weather."

Rainbow pondered this for a brief moment.

"Aww, what's the big deal, kid?" she eventually asked, shrugging. "I trust Pinkie Pie not to destroy all of Ponyville with a huge cyclone or anything like that."

"She won't have to," Apple Bloom deadpanned, staring at the spectacle of leafless, appleless trees before her.

Rainbow glanced skyward. "...But now that you mention it... is it me, or did it get overcast all of a sudden?"

Apple Bloom peered up. "...Yeah. And those clouds are kind of a funny color."

As the pegasus gazed into the sky, a droplet of brown splashed delicately onto her muzzle. She paused as a wave of disastrous thoughts came bubbling to the surface.

"...We're in trouble."


The noon sunlight shone brilliantly through the open window. Fluttershy looked at the dress for the umpteenth time that day.

"Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear."

Curious for a second opinion, she looked down at Angel Bunny. The rabbit made a series of gestures that suggested intense projectile regurgitation followed by a choking fit and subsequent loss of consciousness.

"...That bad, huh?"


Author's Note:

This was a fun chapter to write - boy did it get big, though. Only took a bit longer than I was expecting, though. :P (And it might have been up earlier but I've been having internet issues.)

I'd like to, for no good reason, give a shoutout to Andrew Joshua Talon for entertaining me when I hit creative roadblocks with this chapter. His fictions are comedy gold, and did rather inspire me when I finally came to writing out the last few bits of this.

Also big thanks to my bro who helped me out at a few crucial stages while writing this chapter.

(Refer to Applejack and Fluttershy's conversation in chapter 2 for a reminder of our friend Freddie.)

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