• Published 22nd Mar 2014
  • 11,507 Views, 872 Comments

Seasons Turning - moguera

The coming of autumn brings with it new trials for Dawn, his family, and his friends...as well as new feelings.

  • ...


Chapter 15: Rebuilding

Red River kept his questions to himself as he and Applejack made their way into Ponyville. He had an idea of where they were going, but wasn't certain what their reason for doing so was. According to Applejack, there was somepony who could help them with the cost of materials for repairing Melon and Scootaloo's house. However, Red wasn't sure who it was. The fact that they were going to Sugarcube Corner didn't exactly provide him with any hints either. Is she thinking of asking Pinkie Pie for help?

When they arrived at the bakery, Red River was only partially surprised when Applejack made straight for the counter, where Pinkie was currently restocking treats behind the glass.

"Hi there Applejack!" she said excitedly, "Can I get you something?"

Applejack chuckled. "Ah'll take a couple 'o 'em big berry tarts. Ah'd also like to talk to ya 'bout somethin'."

"'Kay!" chirped Pinkie as she took Applejack's bits.

Applejack led Red to a table and they seated themselves. Pinkie was only a minute behind with their tarts and a couple glasses of soda. Parking herself at the table, Pinkie turned her attentive gaze to Applejack. "So, what do you want with little old me?"

"Actually sugarcube..." Applejack began to explain, telling Pinkie Pie about Apple Bloom's plan to help fix Scootaloo's house and what it entailed.

Pinkie listened intently, nodding along and adding the occasional "Uh huh." Red River watched her, not entirely sure whether or not the pink mare truly understood the situation. He knew that Pinkie was often more perceptive than ponies (including himself) gave her credit for. However, by and large, she seemed to operate by rules and logic that were plainly incomprehensible to the rest of ponykind. That also translated into the way she saw and engaged in situations.

"So..." finished Applejack, "The big problem is that we're still gonna need a hefty bit 'o cash to get all the supplies to fix that house. That's where ya come in-"

"Say no more!" Pinkie's hoof shot out, stopping Applejack from finishing her statement. "I know exactly what to do."

"That's good to know," said Applejack, leaning forward.

Red, on the other hoof, leaned back, eyeing Pinkie warily as she began to vibrate in place, her barely contained excitement threatening to explode in a storm of jubilation.

"Oooooooh! This is so exciting," said Pinkie, "This is really super-duper important, so I'm gonna have to bring out the big guns."

"The big guns?" said Red dubiously, his mind going to the party cannon he'd seen Pinkie pull out on occasion. She has an even bigger one!?

"That's the spirit," cheered Applejack, blissfully oblivious to her coltfriend's increased nervousness.

Pinkie vanished, rushing back into the kitchen with breathtaking speed. Red, a practiced martial artist, was no slouch in rapid movement himself. However, he couldn't comprehend how Pinkie managed to disappear so quickly. "What did she mean by the 'big guns?'" he asked, turning his eyes to Applejack.

"Pinkie's a great cook," said Applejack, pausing to bite into her tart by way of demonstration, "She's always tryin' new things and workin' on new recipes. A few of 'em are misfires to be sure. But most are downright delicious, like these here tarts.

"But, once in a blue moon, Pinkie finds a recipe that's as big a hit as Granny's apple cake, somethin' so powerfully delicious that it'll drag ponies halfway across from Equestria to try it. Those recipes she locks away and only takes out when there's a really special occasion or a serious need."

"Like now?" asked Red.

Applejack nodded, grinning, "Don't ya worry, this ain't the first time Pinkie's done somethin' like this. She ain't failed to come through fer us yet."

"I'll take your word for it," said Red, taking one last curious look at the door leading to the kitchen.

Apple Bloom knocked on the door to the library. She'd decided to take advantage of the weekend morning to come down and pay a visit to the arboreal building. Her primary reason was to talk to certain parties regarding her new project. As she waited, Bloom desperately hoped that Scootaloo was already out.

The door swung open and Bloom smiled when she found herself faced with her favorite dragon in all of Equestria. "Hey there," said Spike, smiling, "What are you doing up so early on a Saturday?"

"Ah'm always up this early," said Bloom earnestly enough. As a farmpony, she was used to getting up early to get the morning chores done before she headed to school. By now, the habit was so thoroughly ingrained that even the presence of a weekend couldn't dissuade her from rising with the cock's crow.

"If you're looking for Scootaloo, she's already gone," said Spike, "She and Dawn went out to train before meeting the rest of you at the teahouse."

Apple Bloom's smile widened. "Good," she said.

"Yea-huh?" Spike's eyes bulged as he stared at Bloom, "Why's that good? Aren't you here for Scootaloo?"

"Sorta," admitted Bloom, blushing and looking down at her hooves. Spike found himself nearly keeling over from the sheer force of her weaponized cuteness. "Can Ah come in?"

"S-sure thing," stammered the dragon as he stepped aside to swing the door open wide enough to let her in.

Stepping inside, Bloom noticed Scootaloo's mother seated at the library table, sipping a mug of coffee as she perused the newspaper. However, the library seemed to be missing its librarian. "Where's Twilight?"

"Up in the bedroom," replied Spike over his shoulder as he led Bloom to the table, "She likes to sleep in on Saturdays."

"Good morning Apple Bloom," said Melon Cream, looking up from the paper to give the yellow filly a warm smile.

"Mornin' Miss Cream," said Bloom, "Ah...Ah came to talk to ya 'bout somethin'."

"Oh?" Melon set down the newspaper to give Apple Bloom her full attention. "And what is that?"

Taking a deep breath, Bloom began to outline her plans, explaining how her family would work to fix the damage to Melon and Scootaloo's home to keep them from having to spend massive amounts of money for repairs. Melon listened intently, her eyes widening. When Bloom finished, the mare was wiping tears from her eyes and sniffing.

"Everythin' okay Miss Cream?" asked Bloom, staring at Melon.

"It's fine," said Melon, sniffing before turning to face Bloom, "I'm just so happy that my daughter has such wonderful friends."

"So ya'll let us do it?" asked Bloom, bouncing eagerly.

"Of course I will," said Melon, trotting around the table so she could wrap Apple Bloom in a tight hug, "Thank you so much."

"Aw, yer welcome," said Apple Bloom.

"That's really awesome of you," said Spike, "Can I help out?"

"Sure ya can," said Bloom as she pulled away from Melon, "What can ya do?"

Spike grinned confidently, drawing up and puffing out his chest. "Isn't it obvious? I can help you organize."

"Uh...Ain't that Twilight's thing?" asked Bloom, tilting her head as she stared at Spike.

"Hah!" scoffed the young dragon, "You're forgetting something. Twilight's the one with all the checklists. But guess who keeps track of those checklists...and the checklist for the checklists, the backup checklists, her monthly appointments for the next month, the library catalogue, our expenses, cleans up the place, and organizes the meals around here every day."

Bloom stared at him wide-eyed. "Whoa! Ah forgot ya do all'o that."

"Of course," said Spike, "I'm the Number One Assistant to Equestria's most obsessively organized unicorn. There's no one better than me when it comes to assisting."

"Ah'll be pleased as punch to have ya aboard," said Bloom eagerly, extending a hoof, which Spike grasped with his claw. The two shook on it.

"So let's get started then," said Spike eagerly, already turning and heading for one of the bookshelves.

"What do ya mean by gettin' started?" asked Bloom, "We ain't even got the wood and stuff yet."

"Watch and learn," said Spike, grinning cheekily, "There's more to this than you think. Where are you gonna get the wood."

"We were gonna buy it," said Bloom nervously.

"Buy it from who?"

"Uh..." Bloom realized she hadn't even thought that far ahead.

Spike pulled a binder of the shelf from the library's archival section. "This is a listing of all the businesses operating in Ponyville. It's a copy of the one from Town Hall. Mayor Mare has it updated every quarter, which means our copy gets an update too." The library also contained an archive of all the previous listings, dating all the way back to its construction. They had been stored in the basement before Twilight and Spike had arrived. One of Twilight's early projects, shortly after moving to Ponyville, had been to clear the basement to make room for her laboratory. However, in doing so, she had gotten enthralled in perusing the records and learning the comings and goings of various businesses throughout Ponyville's history and charting the town's growth through the ages.

"What are we gonna do with it?" asked Bloom. She already had an inkling, but wanted confirmation.

"The first thing to do is to find our suppliers," said Spike, laying the binder on the table and flipping it open, "We'll need lumber for building materials, nails, piping, slate for the shingles, glass for the windows, and...." Spike trailed off, tapping his claw to his chin. "Hold on a second." He rushed over to one of the other shelves and dragged a ladder around. Climbing up it, he took a second to peruse the titles on one of the upper shelves before pulling out a fair-sized tome and bringing it back down.

Bloom's eyes narrowed as she scanned the title. "Crumble Creek's Careful Construction for Cretins...What kinda book is that?"

"A good one, in spite of the title," admitted Spike, "I break this out every time I need to do some repair work."

"Ya do repair work?" asked Apple Bloom.

"Who do you think replaces the piping around here or fixes the bathroom 'cause Twilight blew up the bathtub when Rainbow pranked her by hiding a ton of plastic cockroaches in there?" Spike let out a long-suffering sigh at his friends' antics.

"So this thing'll help us figure out what we need," mused Apple Bloom, looking the book over.

"That's right," said Spike. He tapped the manual with his claw. "This book'll tell us what we need to fix the house and this book..." he pointed to the binder, "...will tell us where we can get it. We'll need to take a look at the house so we can get an idea of how much, then we'll start looking around and try to figure out where we can get the best deal."

"'Kay," said Apple Bloom, nodding hesitantly. The idea had seemed so simple to start out, but it was rapidly growing more complicated than she'd ever imagined. Ah hope we can get this done.

"So let's go look at the house," said Spike, pushing away from the table, hefting both Crumble Creek's manual and the binder. He led Bloom toward the door while waving goodbye to Melon Cream, who'd been watching the entire affair with bemusement, amazed at the little dragon's take-charge attitude.

As she was about to follow Spike, Bloom paused and turned to look at Melon. "By the way Miss Cream, could ya keep this whole thing a secret from Scootaloo?"

"Why?" asked Melon.

"Ah wanna make it a surprise for her," said Bloom, "We're tryin' to get this done before the Harvest Festival. That way Scootaloo doesn't have anythin' to worry about when she confesses her feelin's to Dawn."

Both Melon and Spike froze at Apple Bloom's words. After a moment, it was Spike who broke the news to her. "Sorry Apple Bloom," he said, "I think it's a little too late for that."

"What do ya mean?" asked the filly.

"Uh...Scootaloo confessed to Dawn yesterday," said Spike, feeling the tension in the room rising for some reason, "They're a couple now."

"WHAT?" Apple Bloom jumped with the force of her exclamation, "Why that no-good, rotten...how could she…? Sweetie Belle and Ah had plans, darn it!"

Spike gulped while Melon giggled in the background. "Plans?"

"Darn right!" snapped Bloom, glaring at Spike, "Scootaloo was supposed to ask him to the festival. Then, after a great first date, she'd take him to some romantic spot and confess how she felt to him and ask him to be her special somepony."

Spike grimaced, detecting more than a little hint of Sweetie's influence in that plan and, behind that, influence from Rarity, who could be an almost terrifyingly hopeless romantic at times. While Rarity may not have been the secret mastermind of the fillies' little plot, her own unconscious influence was clearly at play here. "If it's any consolation, Scootaloo did ask him to the festival."

"But now the order's all wrong!" complained Apple Bloom, "Oh why did that silly filly have to go and jump the gun? Now Sweetie and Ah won't have a chance to get our cutie marks in matchmakin'!"

Spike sighed and rolled his eyes. "I think, with time and therapy, you'll learn to forgive her. Come on. Let's go."

With an angry groan, Apple Bloom petulantly followed Spike out the door. As it closed behind them, Melon's efforts to contain her mirth finally failed and she broke down in laughter.

Red continued to direct nervous glances at the door to Sugarcube Corner's kitchen. Pinkie Pie had disappeared behind it over an hour ago and nopony had seen her come out since. According to Carrot Cake, Pinkie had completely commandeered the kitchen and was now mixing ingredients for several different products with a gusto.

Somehow, in spite of this, there was no interference in service for the bakery itself. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cake calmly served their customers and kept the counter stocked. It was clear that they'd been through this thing before and were used to working around Pinkie's antics.

However, that came to an end when Mr. Cake, on one of his runs into the back to get more treats for the counter, abruptly came bursting out of the kitchen, his eyes wide, face caught halfway between excitement and panic. "She's making the brownies!"

Mrs. Cake, who was in the middle of a transaction with a customer, froze, spilling bits from her hoof across the counter. Her customer faired no better, also going still, his eyes wide. In fact, Mr. Cake's pronouncement seemed to wash over the chattering and eating ponies at the tables like a shockwave, ponies going completely still as their brains processed what they'd just heard.

"Brownies?" Red River turned to Applejack to inquire further, but froze himself when he saw she was drooling.

As though a spell had broken, everypony in the bakery burst into furious motion, ponies quickly shoveling their remaining food into their mouths, rushing to finish their transactions at the counter, or, if they hadn't gotten anything yet, just plain abandoning the line and rushing out the door. Barely a minute later, the entire bakery was clear, leaving Red and Applejack alone with the owners.

Suddenly conscious of the fact that she was drooling, Applejack began to swipe at her mouth with a hoof. Chuckling, Red lifted a napkin and helped her clean up, prompting a blush from his fillyfriend. "Now, what's this about brownies?"

"Remember when Ah said Pinkie had some special recipes for important things like this," said Applejack, "Her brownies are to die fer. They're the best darn baked goods ya'll ever have in yer life."

"Coming from somepony who's quite the baker in her own right, that's high praise," noted Red, "But if they're so popular, why did everypony run off."

"They all went to get their extra bits," said Mrs. Cake, who was moving around the tables and cleaning in the wake of the sudden exodus, "Whenever Pinkie makes her special bake-sale brownies, ponies know it's usually for something important."

"You don't mind that she sits on some of her most potentially profitable products like that?" inquired Red.

Mrs. Cake giggled. "We're not exactly drowning in debt around here. Even with Pumpkin and Pound to look after, our regular fare brings in more than enough business. Pinkie's regular recipes suit us just fine. I think it's admirable that she holds on to her absolute best products for times like this, when somepony seriously needs her help."

Mr. Cake nodded in agreement from where he was wiping down the counter. "Yep. The last time Pinkie put on a bake-sale, she raised a small fortune to help Cranky and Matilda renovate their house as a wedding present. They had enough leftover to pay for the honeymoon too."

"See," said Applejack, "There ain't nothin' to worry about, we'll get that money and get Melon's house fixed up in no time."

Red River still had his doubts. "Can she really do that much through the power of brownies?"

"It ain't the power 'o brownies," said Applejack, giving Red a playful wink, "It's the power 'o Pinkie." Faced with Red's still confused expression, Applejack chuckled and nuzzled the stallion in sympathy. "Ya'll see," she said.

"Excellent." Viscount Eventide folded over the letter that had been delivered to him earlier that morning. It had been a difficult task tracking down any leads on Rarity's business contacts. After she had unexpectedly stopped accepting requests and making offers to his peers in Canterlot, Eventide had suspected that she was onto them. Several members of the Noble Court had been anything but subtle in their desire to find some way to obtain decisive control over Twilight Sparkle. He'd even heard that Earl Steel Flint's recent and fatal duel had been the result of just such an aspiration run amok.

Of course he was going to die, mused Eventide, reaching upward to smooth his graying mane. Though its true dark-violet color still showed strongly, it was still shot through with streaks of gray and silver. Turning to the window of his office, which overlooked his carefully, yet conservatively arranged estate, he chuckled at the thought. That impertinent brute was bound to get himself killed sooner or later. He should have known better than to try such a direct approach to acquiring such an important asset. I suppose Twilight Sparkle is an attractive young lady. The idiot probably let his lower horn do the thinking for him.

The Viscount shook his head in pity for the departed stallion. In some ways, he was glad that his age had advanced to the point that his libido was not shadowing his every thought and move. Besides, he was already happily married, though his wife was currently enjoying her time on retreat on some southern island or another. She always seemed to be going on such retreats and trips, probably to find somepony with the sex-drive her husband lacked. That was fine though. The marriage had gotten Eventide the connections he'd wanted and that was all that mattered. His wife had even produced an heir who would be able to inherit his title and assets, reassuring Eventide that his future was fully secure.

Of course, that didn't mean he couldn't build his personal empire up further. He too had seen potential in Twilight Sparkle. More importantly, Eventide had noted that she was reputed to have a brilliant mind. If he could find a way to bend a mare of her intellect towards his ends, it would be the perfect acquisition to enhance his wealth.

Eventide knew full well about the growing irrelevance of the nobility. The estates that he was supposed to have inherited from his father had been sold away, their family's power useless to reacquire what they had lost. Princess Celestia had acted deliberately and carefully, walling off the nobles into their own little world where the authority they once commanded could no longer affect anything beyond that world. Their history and lineage counted for nothing of any significance anymore. It was nothing more than a tool they used to snub one another at parties and events.

However, Eventide had learned early on that, while lineage might count for nothing anymore, money counted for plenty. What his rank and status could not get him, his wealth could. Advancing his station amongst the ranks of the nobility was a pointless effort. All that mattered was advancing his wealth, the source of true power.

And now, a ticket to boosting his wealth and power further had fallen into his hooves. One of Twilight Sparkle's friends was an up and coming fashion designer. Apparently, Rarity had an impressive business sense with a great deal of pragmatism and skill, if colored by a little foolish naiveté. Still, she was doing well for herself and promised to go further in the world of both fashion and business as time went on.

Eventide had seen the opportunity and moved to take advantage of it. However, he hadn't been the only one. Unfortunately, he and his various competitors were stymied when Rarity abruptly cancelled any plans to do further business with the nobility. Most of the others had backed off and began looking for other inroads to control Twilight Sparkle, but Eventide wasn't a stallion to be so easily dissuaded.

As such, he had turned his attentions to other areas. Sending his agents out, he had begun looking into Rarity's suppliers, finding the ponies who provided her with her materials. If he could identify those ponies and gain leverage over them, then he would control Rarity's supply and, from there, her business. It had taken a great deal of patience, but that patience had finally paid off. The Viscount's agents had located several of Rarity's providers. Now, all that was left was for Eventide to begin exerting some financial pressure on those ponies and his plans would begin to bear fruit. Perhaps he could arrange for some accidents...

His thoughts were interrupted by a timid knocking on the door. "Enter," said the dark, grayish-blue stallion.

A maid trotted in nervously, her eyes flicking back and forth through the room. She was a new hire, and obviously uncomfortable being in the same room as her employer. "M-my Lord," she said, carefully presenting him with another envelope, "Y-you have a private message."

"From whom?" asked Eventide, taking the envelope in his magic and opening it.

"From the B-Baron of Dream Valley," said the mare, "His messenger said it was to be delivered with all d-due haste." She decided against adding that the reason for her nerves had been the strange, terrifying feeling she'd gotten from the messenger, a polite, well-spoken young stallion with a cream-colored coat, wearing a black cloak.

"I see...You are dismissed." The Viscount did not look up as he gave the order, his eyes not leaving the letter. He didn't need to see to know that the mare had fled out the door, shutting it hastily behind her.

His smile vanished as he read, his expression becoming upset, then enraged. "Who does that arrogant pup think he is?"

To the esteemed Viscount of Everhue;

It has come to my attention that you have been investigating the business dealings of one Rarity of Ponyville. I have been informed of your agents efforts to locate her suppliers, ranging as far as Manehattan and Trottingham. You should know that your agents have been dealt with. As a dedicated servant to Her Royal Highness and one who seeks to preserve the glory of Equestria, I have taken it upon myself to put an end to your outright treasonous activity.

It shames me greatly that one of your rank has acted in such a way to besmirch the dignity of your station. Sadly, your situation is not unique. Our entire Court is eaten away with rot and indolence. This turn is not acceptable, of course. Common sense asserts that we must restore our honor, our dignity, and our authority, lest governance of our nation be turned over to the quarrelsome rabble that is the Parliament. Speaking as one who does not wish to see the work of our ancestors tarnished by those who have not been born to bear the burden of rule, I have been seeking out those of like mind, who might share my ambition of returning Equestria to its proper course.

Of course, like you, I realize that Dame Twilight Sparkle is a critical component to affecting these ambitions. However, wanton attempts to assert control over her will only further muddy our cause and bring our efforts to ruin. This is a reason I acted to put an end to your efforts.

To apologize for the affront, I am extending an invitation to you to speak of this further. I will wait for you in the Crystal Caverns below the city, one day from now, at one in the afternoon. There, I hope we can set aside any ill-will this conflict has engendered and speak rationally about the situation.

I await your indulgence.
Signed: Baron Elderflower of Dream Valley

"HA!" spat the Viscount, viciously hurling the letter into the flames of his office fireplace, "I'll give that rat a conversation."

Eventide's magic seized a bell cord near the door and pulled furiously at it. A loud clanging sounded throughout his estate. A few moments later, his ears picked up the thunder of approaching hooves. A few moments later, a unicorn mare, wearing a plumed helmet and armor decorated with his colors, threw open the door and rushed in to stand at attention before his desk.

"My Lord! How can I be of service?"

"Send word to the guards' quarters!" snapped the Viscount, "I am ordering a full muster! I want all my mares-at-arms mustered and ready for battle by noon tomorrow. Get everyone, even those on leave! I don't care if you have to drag them out of their homes!"

The mare looked as though as she wanted to argue. After all, it had been years since someone had ordered something like this. A noble mustering all of his guards was generally a sign that he was prepared to wage war on another noble, something that Princess Celestia severely disapproved of. Serious punishment would follow if any uninvolved pony became a casualty of fighting in the streets.

However, one look at the Viscount's furious countenance showed that Eventide would not be dissuaded. Swallowing hard, the guard captain snapped her hoof up in salute. "It shall be done, My Lord!" She rushed out, desperate to do his bidding. Things had not gone well for the last pony to fail to carry out the Viscount's orders and she had no desire to be the next one.

Seething with rage, Eventide turned to the window of his office once more, already vividly imagining the punishments he had in store for the upstart baron. The fool would regret his decision to hold their conference in such an isolated space. All that meant was that Eventide would have all the time in the world to deal with him...and then the perfect place to hide the body.

"Right then," said Spike, rolling up the measuring tape. Apple Bloom was more than a little surprised at how well-prepared the little dragon was. Upon seeing Scootaloo's house, he was all business. Taking a second to talk to the Guard stationed there and convince him that they weren't going to wreck the place further, Spike had managed to wrangle an entry into the house so he could get a look at the extent of the damage. Once inside, he'd surprised his companion by belching up a burst of fire to deposit a tape measure, a quill, and a small stack of blank paper onto the living room table, which had was miraculously unscathed. After that, he'd begun taking measurements of the damaged sections of the house, pausing to calculate the raw materials needed to replace the damaged or missing portions.

Apple Bloom had been a huge help. Her magic helped her to see and feel the structure of the house in a way the dragon couldn't. Her attention to detail helped her identify several points of damage that weren't readily visible to the naked eye. Spike was frequently forced to amend his calculations when Bloom found something that he had missed.

It was a long, tedious task that had eaten up most of the morning. By the time they were finished, Spike was on the last page of the stack he had summoned and was prepared to call in more with his dragonfire. Fortunately, they managed to assess the damage fully and now the young dragon had a rough estimate of the materials they needed.

"Right," he said, laying out the parchment, "This is gonna be a pretty serious job. We may just be better off just replacing the entire thing instead of just trying to fix the damaged portions."

"Why not?" asked Apple Bloom, "We want to save money, don't we?"

"Yeah," agreed Spike, "But that's not gonna count for much if the whole thing falls apart a few months down the line 'cause we did a half-flanked job on it. Let's try and do it right the first time."

"Okay," agreed Apple Bloom, shifting nervously, again unnerved by the degree to which her little project was expanding in scope and complexity.

Looking over his calculations once again, Spike hummed thoughtfully. "We're gonna have to draw up some plans for the wall before we can come up with a final estimate. Then we can look at how much materials will cost." He turned to look at Apple Bloom, "We'll need to talk to your sister. She'll probably be taking the lead on this, won't she?"

"Eeyup," agreed Bloom, "Ah think she, Big Mac, maybe Cousin Braeburn, if we can get started before he has to go back to Appleloosa, will be doin' the work."

"The other girls'll wanna help out too," said Spike, tapping his lips with his quill, "Between all of them, we'll probably have more than enough ponies to get the job done if we can keep them coordinated." He turned his attention back to Bloom. "Can you have your sister meet us in the library so we can start working things out?"

"Sure," said Bloom, nodding eagerly, "Ah'll get right on it."

She was out the door before Spike could say anything else. The young dragon shrugged and sighed. "I wonder if she knows where Applejack is." Not really having any other options, he breathed a stream of flame over his work implements, causing them to vanish before he headed out himself.

The meeting took a while to arrange. Apple Bloom had to abandon her search for her older sister in order to meet up with her friends at the teahouse, where they worked through the afternoon. During that time, Bloom pressed Sweetie Belle and Rumble to keep their plans a secret from Dawn and Scootaloo. The three of them did confirm, however, what had happened the previous day and that Dawn and Scootaloo were now indeed a couple. Fortunately, the passage of the morning and her current occupation with the project of fixing Scootaloo's home had managed to abate Bloom's frustration.

It wasn't until after their shift at the teahouse was complete that Apple Bloom was able to learn her sister's location. Applejack and Red River had returned to the farm after finalizing plans with Pinkie Pie for a bake-sale fundraiser. After talking with her sister and brother, Bloom arranged for all the ponies currently involved in the project to meet at Sugarcube Corner. The only exception was Melon Cream, who was to stay at the library and serve as a distraction for her daughter. The conspirators briefly entertained the notion of bringing Dawn into their plans, but shelved the notion presently as they had yet to encounter a situation where any of them could talk to Dawn when he wasn't with Scootaloo. However, arrangements were made to let Fluttershy know, with the hope that she would tell Dawn when he went home for the evening.

As the evening progressed, the group gathered in Sugarcube Corner, which had closed for the day. At the moment, it consisted of Applejack and her siblings, Rumble, Sweetie Belle, and Red River. They were quickly joined by Rarity, who had been summoned by her sister, as well as Twilight and Arkenstone, who accompanied Spike from the library. Rumble had flown out to get Rainbow Dash. On the way, he'd also managed to recruit Storm Front, as well as Flitter, who had been with the stallion at the time. Fluttershy had been informed via a dragonfire letter from Spike, though she was presently waiting at home to explain the situation to Dawn. The only member of their little conspiracy (besides Melon) who was missing was Pinkie Pie, who had not emerged from the kitchen all day.

"Okay then," said Applejack, when she saw that most everypony involved had arrived, "Ah guess we should start with figurin' out how much repairin' we actually need to do."

"Already done," said Spike before he burped up his work in a gout of fire, "Bloom and I went over the place earlier today. From the look of things, it's probably best if we just replace the whole wall."

"Ah was afraid 'o that," muttered Applejack, "Show me what ya've got."

Spike slid over his preliminary assessments for her approval. A few minutes later, Applejack nodded and pushed the papers over to Twilight, who also gave them a careful reading.

"Well, I'm not seeing any problems," said Twilight, before grinning and nuzzling Spike affectionately, "I'm so proud of you. You did an excellent job."

The dragon chuckled, blushing shyly. "Thanks," he said, "I get a lot of practice in this sort of stuff." His remark earned an embarrassed giggle from Twilight.

"Welp, let's draw up them plans," said Big Macintosh, unrolling a fairly large piece of parchment, "It ain't gonna be too hard. If we just remove the old wall, we won't have to worry all that much about breakin' more stuff than's already broken and we can simply build the new wall separately and attach it. It'll be just like when we raise our barns back at the farm."

"It'll be a bit more difficult than that," Spike pointed out, "Some of the interior structure will need replacing as well. Part of the floor will need to be pulled up and replaced."

Apple Bloom nodded in agreement before adding in her two bits. "There's a ceilin' beam that's cracked clean through. We'll need to replace that. Luckily, the none 'o the floorboards upstairs got cracked, but if we ain't careful replacin' that beam that won't be the case no more."

"So we'll have to brace the ceiling when we do it," mused Twilight, "That shouldn't be much of a problem. We should take care of that and the rest of the interior repairs before we replace the wall."

Big Macintosh and Applejack moved on to sketching up plans for the new wall while the others began to discuss the logistics of the matter. Spike had identified the suppliers who were likely to give them the best prices for the materials.

Looking a bit lost, Rarity broke into the discussion. "I beg your pardon, but I'm afraid I'm likely to get in the way of such work as this. What should I do?"

The others mulled it over. It was Twilight who came up with a solution as an almost devilish grin spread across her face. "Well...we need somepony to help with distracting Scootaloo. This whole thing is supposed to be a surprise for her after all. Aaaaaand I happen to know that she has a big date coming up."

"That's right!" exclaimed Spike, "She's taking Dawn to the Harvest Festival."

"Goodness!" exclaimed Rarity, "Are you telling me those two are a couple now?"

Twilight and Spike nodded eagerly. Rarity wasn't the only one taken by surprise. The only other pony in the group that knew, aside from the foals, was Rainbow Dash.

Twilight's grin only grew wider. "It just so happens that, when we were talking about it last evening, we suggested Scootaloo might want to get a dress for their date. It's the perfect opportunity to keep her occupied so that she doesn't find out what we're doing."

Rarity's face lit up. "What a marvelous idea! I absolutely adore it. I've been hoping for the opportunity to make a dress for her for ages."

"You've been waiting to dress up Scootaloo?" asked Sweetie Belle dubiously.

Rarity coughed and tried to rein in her enthusiasm a little. "Oh well...in an abstract artistic sense at least. There are so many wonderful things I could do with a filly of her coloration and build. It's always been an impossibility though, what with her being far too rough and tumble to willingly get in touch with her feminine side. Perhaps having a coltfriend now will induce her to be more cooperative." Rarity turned to give Rainbow a grin. "Perhaps I could enlist your help as well. We both know Scootaloo would fly to the moon and back for you.”

Rainbow Dash wasn’t exactly enthused about the idea of waiting through another Rarity-style fitting, even if she wasn’t the one being fitted. However, since it was for Scootaloo, she decided to shelve her hesitation. “I’ll do it.”

“Wonderful!” exclaimed Rarity, clapping her hooves together, excitedly.

"What about us?" asked Flitter from where she sat with Storm Front.

"Well...we'll need to make sure the weather is kept clear around the worksite," said Twilight, "If you two could make sure that all the clouds are kept at a safe distance, that'll be great."

The two pegasi nodded in response and settled back to wait the rest of the meeting out.

A few minutes later saw the completion of the plans. Applejack and Big Macintosh made easy use of the dimensions provided by Spike to come up with the plans for the new wall. Along with that was a final calculations regarding the amount of materials needed, with a generous allowance for extra in case there were any mistakes in the construction process.

As she inspected the blueprints, Twilight smiled. "Great!" she said, rolling it up, "I'll get Melon to take a look at these after Scootaloo goes to bed or after she goes out tomorrow morning. We'll get her final approval and make any revisions that might be necessary. If everything goes well, we'll have all the planning done by Monday morning."

"All that's left is Pinkie Pie's fundraiser," commented Applejack, giving the kitchen an expectant look, "The Cakes say she ain't set hoof outta there all day, so Ah think she's pullin' out all the stops."

"Do we know when she'll be finished with all her baking?" asked Twilight, also turning to look at the door.

"Ah'll go ask?" said Applejack, standing up and heading behind the counter to look into the kitchen. The door closed behind her.

For a few moments, an expectant silence reigned over the group as they awaited a report of what was going on inside the kitchen. When Applejack came out, her steps were wobbly, her pupils contracted, and her gaze was far away. Red River was at her side almost immediately, helping steady her as the two of them made their way back to the table.

"You okay AJ?" asked Rainbow, giving Applejack a concerned look as Red helped the orange mare sit down.

"Ah-Ah'm fine," said Applejack after a moment, "Landsakes Ah'd fergotten just how crazy it gets when Pinkie's goin' all-out."

"What did you see?" asked Twilight, her curiosity building and a desire to take a peek for herself growing in her chest. She got up to go take a look into the kitchen.

However, she was stopped by an outstretched hoof from Applejack. "Don't do it sugarcube. There's things goin' on in there that a pony like yerself ain't meant to see. Just take mah word fer it."

Twilight gulped and looked at the door, a shiver going down her spine at the thought of what strange phenomena she might encounter beyond the threshold. At the same time, Applejack's warning only enkindled her curiosity further. Ultimately, she decided to heed Applejack's warning, if only because she was familiar with what could happen if she got too heavily invested in Pinkie Pie's doings. It wouldn't have been the first time Twilight's mind had snapped under the strain of her attempts to comprehend how Pinkie did what Pinkie did.

With a sigh, Twilight sat back down. "Anyway," she said, "Did you find out how long it'll be until Pinkie's ready?"

"She says she can be ready by tomorrow mornin'" said Applejack, "Ah think she's plannin' to go all night. Ah don't envy the Cakes, havin' to deal with that."

"Let's just make sure she gets plenty of rest when this is over," said Twilight, "There's no stopping her now."

"Well, if that's settled, Ah guess we should call it a night," said Applejack with a yawn.

The group agreed to disband until it was time to make final arrangements. After leaving Sugarcube Corner, they went their separate ways. Behind them, the bakery was silent, save for the lights emanating from the kitchen windows as Pinkie Pie worked tirelessly through the night.

Author's Note:

Of all the characters in this story, Pinkie Pie is always the one I have the hardest time finding something to do with. It doesn't help that she doesn't mesh all that well with Dawn. Part of the reason I went with the rebuilding the house plot here was to give Pinkie Pie something to do.

The idea behind Pinkie's brownies and the other goodies she'll be making fore the bake sale were inspired by Piffany from the Nodwick comic series. Piffany's baking is so delicious that it can influence the course of entire armies and the prospect of sharing the recipe for her brownies was enough to dissuade an entire gaggle of goodly gods from fighting over her. So yeah, Pinkie has some of those types of recipes tucked away for special occasions.

The idea of Spike using his flame as a sort of bag-of-holding type trick came from the episode, Spike At Your Service where he uses his flame to spit up a card with his dragon code from nowhere. Seeing as how somepony obviously didn't send that to him, I got the idea that his flame can also be used to keep items in a sort of holding space, rather than only being able to teleport stuff from one place to another. I know I'm not the only author to hit on this idea.

Next Chapter: Things get bloody.