• Published 24th Apr 2012
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Ponies on Bronies - Ravenmane



Shenanigans return to a familiar house that sits on a hill overlooking the Everfree Forest

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10 - The Short Straw

“Please I beg of you,” pleaded Rarity one day. It was getting colder and according to my computer, it was November already. If you were wondering about Nightmare Night I’m sorry, but that’s a Cobra fiasco best left forgotten.

“Rarity,” I told her with a startled expression on my face. “You haven’t even told me what’s wrong.”

She seemed to snap to her senses a little and regain some of her composure. “Oh, I’m so sorry Alex but I thought I already asked you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Rarity I haven’t seen you since you got Twilight, Dash, and I together as a trio.” It would be a little odd if it was Fluttershy, Twilight, or Dash to go so unseen for a few days. Rarity I understood a week, but a month? How in Equestria could I go a whole month with no sign of her? I could’ve sworn we spent a day the spa after I got off- no; that was with Fluttershy.

She gave me an embarrassed smile, her cheeks a little pink. “It’s Sweetie Belle and her friends. I’m going to be busy all weekend so I can’t watch them. Applejack has that trip this week so she can’t watch them either.”

“What about Fluttershy?”

“Taking care of a bear that’s come down with something, he has her undivided attention.”

I paused before even saying Twilight or Rainbow’s name; both options could only end poorly. Besides, I wanted to do something with them if I could manage it. “Then what about Pinkie, isn’t she good with them?”

“I’m afraid not, she’s tending to Sugarcube Corner while the Cakes are out of town.”

“Meaning I’m the last resort right,” I asked dryly.

“Why no, no, not at all Alex,” she replied nervously. I’ve gotten used to Rarity fishing for the right words, it’s just one of those things you learn to live with. “You see, I have a lot of work and I just can’t keep an eye on them. You don’t have any plans do you?”

I was hoping to spend Sunday enjoying the afternoon at Sugarcube Corner with Twilight and Rainbow, huddled together with mugs of hot chocolate. “I can keep an eye on them if nopony else can Rarity, but I’d like some time on Sunday to myself.”

“Plans,” she asked.

“I hoped,” I began but just sighed, “I’ll keep an eye on them.”

“Is something wrong dear?”

“It’s just been a while since I actually had a moment with just Twilight and Rainbow. Remember the manticore?”

“I heard about it, what happened?”

“Twilight and I were chatting when it showed up.” When we rushed to see if we could do anything everything got a little… complicated. “Well, I couldn’t go on a date after I pushed Rainbow out of the way and ended up in the hospital with stitches from where its claws got me.”

Rarity nodded. “I remember Fluttershy telling me about your scars. I’ll see what I can do to take them off your ho- sorry, I mean hands for a little while on Sunday.”

“It’s okay Rarity, there aren’t many pairs of hands around so I don’t mind too much if you just say hooves instead.” That was something else I had gotten used to. I mean it was just Spike and me who had hands so most ponies just said hooves anyways.

“Anyway, thank you so much for this.”

I smiled. “When can I expect them?”

“In an hour or so, they’re out at their clubhouse right now and I’ll go and tell them.”

I felt like I just signed something’s death wish, my sanity’s perhaps, but I think I can handle them for a while at least.

*****

A few bags, a few fillies, and a little more than an hour later, things weren’t too bad. Scootaloo’s really the only one that needs wrangling in around me. Applebloom in particular is incredibly well behaved around me, and to be honest I don’t mind her company after I get her attention with something. Sweetie Belle really could go either way, but she was more often than not quiet.

“So what’cha wanna do,” asked Scootaloo to Sweetie Belle.

“Ah’m sure Alex has something fun to do,” interrupted Applebloom before Sweetie had an opportunity so speak up.

“Girls,” I said calmly. Despite Scootaloo, both Sweetie Belle and Applebloom eased up and looked at me. “I’m willing to side with Scootaloo on this, what do you all want to do while you’re over here?”

“Well we don’t know a lot about humans,” replied Sweetie Belle shyly.

“Come on you three let’s go into the living room for now and then we can talk about our weekend. You’re over here for a while so I think we should have some idea what we’re going to do.”

“Do you have some sort of cool scars from the manticore’s claws Al,” squealed Scootaloo as we moved along.

“Do you still have that lump on your head from the wrench that hit you when you weren’t paying attention,” I asked back.

“Well, yeah my head’s still sore and…” Scootaloo trailed off on her own accord, her voice traded for a smile usually saved for Rainbow Dash. On Thursday, I had a visit from the Crusaders at the clock tower and, despite plenty of warnings from everyone, Scootaloo and a wrench met in a painful way.

*****

“So what do humans do for fun,” asked Sweetie Belle while Scootaloo gawked at my scarred back.

“Well it really depends on the person Sweetie Belle,” I told her. “I think it doesn’t matter where you go, everyone has their own way of having fun.”

“Well, what do you like to do fer fun,” asked Applebloom.

I sighed. “Back on Earth I spent so much time reading and studying that well, I started reading in my spare time and I really grew to like it. I know it’s not what you’d like to have heard but that’s most of the case. I worked from home so it wasn’t like I had a lot of free time with work looming elsewhere in the room anyways.”

Sweetie Belle looked at me curiously. “What about the rest?”

“Movies and video games,” I said with a grin. “Rainbow had so much fun playing video games when they all stayed with me. Sure, she’d get mad at times but that’s what she got for acting without paying attention more often than once. After I came over here, I spent more time around everypony and relaxed under the sun. Fall’s my favorite season, not too hot, not too cold, and you can still lean up against a tree and just look out at the scenery without worrying that you’ll freeze. I’ll still watch a movie here and there, or read a book, but I’ve just been enjoying things as they come.”

“Sounds boring,” remarked Scootaloo. “You just lounge around and don’t do much.”

“It has its own quaint charm Scootaloo, but then there’s also my job and making my own meals every day. I do a lot of running around every day so I enjoy when I have time to relax.”

“Then there’s all the time you’re with Twilight,” squealed Sweetie Belle.

“Yeah,” added Scootaloo with an inquisitive look. “You spend a lot of time with her and Rainbow Dash don’t you?”

“Well yeah,” I replied casually. “When you’re in love you spend time with the one you love. Well, in my case the ones I love.”

“Sounds sappy,” Scootaloo replied bluntly.

“Well that’s very true Scootaloo. Romance can be very sappy, but it’s really worth it in the end. You find that special somepony and you just want to spend your whole life together with them.” I noticed Applebloom and Sweetie Belle were pinning Scootaloo between them as they gave a contented sigh. It was, in its own way, cute to simply see the orange filly forced to listen to something she wasn’t immediately inclined to hear. “Life is full of missed opportunities my little crusaders. Friends we could’ve made, arguments that never ended, and even affection that is never returned.”

“Yer sayin that we all have times like that,” asked Applebloom.

“Everyone has moments like that, but we have to keep going in spite of, or perhaps because of, those things. Those things are parts of our life that we cannot change even if we wanted to.”

“That sounds pretty sad,” added Sweetie Belle.

“Well,” I added pleasantly, “you three, though you might not really see it now, are full of potential. Unlike ponies your age that have their cutie marks, you still have to find out what makes you special. What I see are three little fillies with so much potential and the determination to put everything to the test to find themselves. I think over the weekend I’d like to put you three to the test myself. I want to see where you three shine, where you can all improve, and just what makes you well… you.”

“Doesn’t sound fun,” objected Scootaloo.

“I see it as more like crusading with a level head,” I replied warmly. “You three are good at maintaining focus until it falls apart, but you try so many things so quickly that you aren’t really giving anything a chance. That’s why I’m going to help you use that thing in your heads called a brain. In short, we’ll take that focus you all have and apply it to one thing. That one thing might be different for each of you, but you’re still a team. You’re still the Cutie Mark Crusaders despite what each of you does.”

“So what does all that thinking have to do with getting out cutie marks?”

“Better to have a goal and still know where the start of the race is Scootaloo. Moreover, that's all the esoteric talking I can handle for a week. For now,” I turned on my heel, “I think we should all have something to eat. Does anypony have a request? Just be warned, I’m not that great of a cook.”

*****

“It smells so wonderful,” commented Sweetie Belle as I strode around the kitchen. A few pots adorned the stove and I had the blender out, a sweet aromatic smell emanating from it.

“You weren’t just yankin our legs when you said you weren’t good were ya,” added Applebloom.

“I know plenty better,” I said softly while dicing an onion. “Even Rainbow Dash can make a good meal in a pinch. Twilight’s actually a fantastic baker, as long as it comes down to baking by the books. Take away the cookbooks and you need Pinkie for fantastic baking. The real chefs who’ve used this kitchen though, are Fluttershy and Applejack.”

“What about my sister,” asked Sweetie Belle.

“Everyone said we’re about even Sweetie.” I continued my movement from pot to pot, vegetable to vegetable, and even liberal use of the spice cabinet. “While she favored perfection, I’m more interested in something that tastes good and looks appealing.”

“So how long till it’s all done,” came Scootaloo’s impatient voice.

“Not much longer.”

By the time Scootaloo was beating her head against the cupboard, everything was done and plated. “Can we eat now,” she asked in an act of desperation.

“Yes,” I said complacently. “I even have something in the fridge for dessert.”

*****

“You sure can cook up a storm Alex,” said Scootaloo with a smug look on her face, in addition to a splotch of ice cream on her nose. We all had some ice cream for dessert and she was hooves down the messiest eater I’ve seen. That says something after you’ve seen Rainbow when she’s starving.

“Yeah, I ain’t ever seen anypony fry asparagus before though,” added Applebloom.

“There’s a real art to frying food girls,” I added, pointing my spoon at them. “There was this one time where I even saw someone fry a scoop of ice cream.”

“But why didn’t it just melt,” asked Sweetie Belle with a confused look.

“It’s a really hard thing to make, but that was the most fantastic scoop of ice cream I’ve ever had. It’s ice cream that’s frozen past how cold ice cream should be and then coated in breading and quickly fried. I’m sure Pinkie could figure it out if we ask her in the morning.”

“Can we watch a movie,” asked Scootaloo with wide eyes. “I heard Rainbow Dash talking about some movie with pirates in it before you came here. She saw it here didn’t she?”

Face met hand as soon as I heard ‘pirates.’ “Of course she would have to say pirates wouldn’t she? Naturally, you happened to hear her say pirates Scootaloo.” Why is it pirates, I thought, always with the pirates! Who can I blame honestly?

“She’s not the only one who heard it,” added Sweetie Belle casually.

“Yeah,” added Applebloom defensively, “half of Ponyville probably heard her.”

They wouldn’t give me a moment’s peace unless they got a pirate movie and I knew it. “Alright,” I said flatly. Violence and alcohol aside it’s not so bad for well… no, I can’t even try to rationalize why it would be something I’d show them. After a few years then probably, but right now didn’t strike me as the right time. They were still in that impressionable age and it just made me uneasy. I’d like to sleep so I didn’t have much choice anymore. I gave them a smile as I got up. “Welcome to the Caribbean,” I added in my best attempt of Jack Sparrow.

Blue-ray, popcorn, and antsy crusaders, yes this would end poorly. The violence, the Sparrow-centric shenanigans, even the possible nightmare or two I could live with for a while. But the rum… why is the rum always gone? My poor rum vanished at the party way back when I came here.

I just smiled and watched Black Pearl with the trio. After a while I just watched them, seeing reactions. Sweetie Belle ducking away from time to time, Applebloom crushing on Orlando Bloom, and even Scootaloo and her unwavering ear-to-ear smile, I enjoyed just keeping an eye on them. There was no way Sweetie was going to sleep tonight; she was bound to have nightmares. Scootaloo wouldn’t sleep because she would be off the walls from well, just being herself. I could only imagine Applebloom getting some sound sleep, and even then, it was 50-50 at best.

By the time it was over, I could tell Sweetie Belle needed something to calm her nerves and Scootaloo could use a tranquilizer dart or three. “Ah think there’s more,” squealed Applebloom. “There’s more than one movie aint there?”

I sighed. “Yes, there’s more than one Applebloom. Alas,” I brought out Sparrow’s voice once more for her amusement, “there will be no more William Turner for you tonight.” I glanced over to see Sweetie Belle smiling. A smile’s a good start. “Now, what say you three to some sleep?”

“But what about crusading,” objected Scootaloo.

“Don’t worry,” I answered with a broad smile. “I have a plan or twenty, but I’d like to wait till morning. That gives us a whole day without having to get some sleep somewhere along the way. Now, what say you to that Scootaloo?”

She actually gave pause; I expected an impulsive answer. “I say, we have a deal. What say you to a place to sleep,” she paused and gave me a smug look, “Captain?”

“To that my dear Crusaders, I say follow me.” She’s getting into this more than I am, I added silently. “Gather your things and I’ll show you to your bed.”

*****

After tucking them all in, I went right to the study and left the door open and the light on. I waited for the inevitable visit from one of the three. I wasn’t waiting long, halfway through a page of ideas for the next day I saw exactly who I was expecting.

“Um excuse me Alex,” came Sweetie Belle’s voice from the doorway.

I glanced up from my notepad and smiled. “Having trouble sleeping Sweetie?”

“Uh huh.”

“We both know Scootaloo wouldn’t do anything unless I showed it and I’m really sorry if you got scared.”

“Couldn’t you make her get all quiet like Diamond Tiara got?”

“Come on over here Sweetie Belle and I’ll tell you a secret, just promise you won’t tell anypony okay?”

She looked a little nervous at first but nodded and came right over to me as I sat down on the ground. “So what’s this secret?”

“Shhh,” I whispered before looking around as though we were being watched. “The thing is I knew how to make Diamond Tiara quiet by saying the right thing at the right moment. It’s hard to interrupt Scootaloo when she can just default back to adoring Rainbow Dash and wanting her cutie mark. Diamond Tiara likes to flaunt the fact her family’s wealthy. Now, the thing is I was wealthy back on Earth, but the thing that really sets Diamond Tiara and me apart is that I hated the idea of being a show off because I had money.”

“Oh,” she said her eyes wide open as an epiphany struck. “So you can’t do that to Scootaloo since she can distract herself with other things?”

“That’s right Sweetie, now was the movie really scary?”

“A little,” she replied. Her smile returned and that was what I was hoping to see.

“You liked the romance in it though didn’t you? Between Will and Elizabeth I mean.”

“Yeah, that was great. Are they in the other movies?”

“The next two, but if I remember right even Rainbow had a nightmare or two from a movie. Took some work for me to find something, but I did. Now, I’d really like it if we didn’t tell your sister about watching that movie, be sure to pass that along to Applebloom if she’s still awake.”

She nodded and peered at my notebook. “So what are you writing down?”

“A few ideas before I forget them, but there is something that bothers me a little. A little birdie told me you sing.”

“What is it with ponies going on about me and singing,” she asked exasperatedly.

“From what I hear, it’s because you’re good. I think you’ll benefit most from something that helps your singing, but that would be my opinion. How about you try to get some sleep Sweetie, we have lots of work in the morning.”

“But what if I have nightmares?”

“I’ll be right across the hall from you girls,” I did a little mental math, “in about an hour and a half from now. If you have any nightmares, feel free to wake me up. Just don’t do it too often okay?”

Sweetie nodded and went right back out and upstairs to bed. She’s a charming filly, but what she seriously needs is some confidence.

*****

I didn’t sleep well that night, my punishment for showing the movie to be sure. By six in the morning, I was wide-awake, not from my alarm clock, crusaders, or even my internal clock. It was the door, and I was pretty sure who it was. After donning my robe I groggily came down to answer the door. “Good morning Ditzy,” I said with a smile to our walleyed mailmare.

“Morning,” she replied warmly. Her condition isn’t as bad as you’d think, just don’t stare too long or she’ll take offense. “I’ve got a letter for you, express delivery from Canterlot.” She offered the letter to me and I gladly took it.

“Thanks a lot Ditzy, can you stop and have a cup before going on?”

“Not today, but thanks for the offer Alex.”

How in Equestria can she do this, I thought as I watched her fly off towards town. I just have no drive to be up this early on a Saturday. My mind went to coffee immediately, okay close the door cause it’s cold out there was first but still.

*****

While I waited for my morning comfort, I decided to see just who in Canterlot would want to send me an express letter. There was no ornate marking on the wax seal, which meant fewer candidates. I lifted the wax seal carefully with the help of a heated knife and opened the letter. I did not intend to damage anything in case it had importance.

“Let’s see,” I said calmly. “Who is my mystery writer?” I read the letter carefully, but I wasn’t ready for who it was.

Dear Alexander,

I am sure this comes as no surprise that I would contact you at some point. I hope you do not mind entertaining me tonight; we have a few things to discuss regarding your living here. This is in response to what has been brought to my attention, how deep your affection for Twilight Sparkle is.

I will explain further tonight,
Princess Luna