• Published 28th Nov 2011
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Trails and Trials - Mazzyrazzy



Ditzy's journey to make, and keep, the friends she's made.

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The Mare That Launched a Thousand Ships

“I don’t know about this, Spike…”

“There’s nothing to worry about, Ditzy Doo. What I told you is only a gist of the plan; I’m sure Twilight will go into much greater detail when we get to the library.”

Though her step was careful and tactfully calm, Ditzy was a whirlwind of nervous energy. The breeze was still and stagnant that warm summer morning, which only oppressed her even more. She could feel the weight of the sun’s rays billowing over her, scattering her nerves and depleting what little confidence she had. It was all fine and dandy until she heard what Twilight wanted to do.

“If you say so… I guess I’m just a little tense.”

As they walked, Spike patted Ditzy on her side. “Aw, there’s no need to be. Besides, Twilight told me how much fun she had the other day when you two hung out. This should be a piece of cake.”

They walked in silence for a minute. The paved road leading into town was crowded with the same early-morningers that Ditzy was accustomed to flying over on her way to work. Instead, she was walking beside them, watching as they opened their shops and set up their stalls. A few courteous ponies would wave over greetings as the pair walked passed, though Ditzy got the feeling that most of them were directed at Spike. None the less, she returned them with vigor.

“I guess I’m just not used to taking the day off.” Ditzy gave a nervous laugh.

That’s an understatement… The truth is Ditzy would have been just as content going to work as usual, but Twilight assured that her summons would be beneficial.

“That shouldn’t be a problem though, right? I mean, your boss gave you permission?” Spike asked.

Ditzy’s head inclined as she blinked thoughtfully.

“Please, please, PLEASE! Don’t fire me!” Ditzy cried on the ground, clutching Mr. Forthright’s forelegs.

“D-Derpy!? How’d you get in my home!?” The stallion stood aghast in his kitchen, his breakfast now littered the ground and fresh coffee knocked over on the table.

Ditzy ignored the question based in logic. “I’ll work extra hard tomorrow! I’ll…I’ll… shine your shoes! A-and do my reports without a fuss. Just please don’t fire me!” Tears spewed out of the mailmare’s daisy eyes, emphasized with an array of dramatic sobs.

Mr. Forthright looked around in panic before gaining his bearings. “Derpy, what are you talking about? Why would I fire you?”

“Oh!” Ditzy suddenly stopped crying, perking up to a more cheery disposition. “I wanted to know if it was okay if I take the day off.”

The brown colt’s eyes widened. “But you never take days off…”

“I know! But I love my job and I don’t want to be fired over this, so if you can find it in your big, awesome heart—by the way is that a new mane cut? Looks nice—I would like your permission.” Ditzy finished with a big, cheesy smile.

Her boss sighed. “Derpy, you’ve racked up more than a month’s worth of unused vacation time. Go for it, take the day off.”

“Oh my gosh, you really mean it!? So I’m not going to be fired?” Ditzy’s heart soared, coupled with relief in the knowledge that her livelihood was saved.

“Yes,” Mr. Forthright started, turning to look towards the kitchen door,now can you please leave? You’re scaring my kids.”

Ditzy blinked, and turned towards the entrance to find two little fillies gawking.

One of them finally spoke up, “Daddy, who’s the crazy lady?”

Ditzy shook her head. “Uhh… yeah, Mr. Forthright gave me permission,” she finally answered.

Spike smiled. “Ok then, no problem! You can go back to work tomorrow and it’ll all be okay.”

She returned the smile in full, surprised with how real and natural it was. Another period of silence enveloped them as the motionless air provided an awkward quiet. Around them Ditzy chose to marvel at the current shop they were passing: The Carousal Boutique. Its flashy, almost gaudy design was like a magnet for everypony’s eyes. Ditzy daydreamed about the possibility of baking a muffin with similar glamour. If she could only harness the power of spectacle, muffin domination would surely be hers.

Another minute passed before Spike decided to speak up. “She’s sorry by the way,” he said, but quickly noticed more explanation would be needed when he saw Ditzy looking at him curiously. “For not coming herself, I mean. She wanted to, but a letter to the Princess ‘demanded her attention’. She’ll be done by the time we get there. You don’t mind, right?”

“Oh, no,” Ditzy smiled to prove her good will. “I’m sure what she has to do is important. Besides…” Ditzy’s eyes fell to the ground, “I’ve never talked to a dragon before.”

Spike grinned. “I hope it’s like everything you ever dreamed.”

“Mmm yah!” Ditzy giggled, allowing the tension to melt from her shoulders. “And you’re just a baby dragon?”

Spike nodded. “Mhm, but I’m almost as old as you guys. Twilight’s only a few years older than me, you just can’t tell because dragons age like, a lot slower. “

A welcomed breeze wafted past the pair, and they froze for a moment to enjoy it. The wind rustled the leaves of the tree that was Twilight’s library home in the distance. They both shared a grin as it came into view, and they picked up the pace that soon turned into a race towards the front door. As they both reached the doormat, panting and giggling, another breeze drifted by to cool them off, and to Ditzy it seemed the day might not be so bad after all.

Ditzy looked around, beaming with renewed confidence. She noticed the lush symphony of colors that surrounded her, from the natural greens to the sharp reds, the world around her seemed to glow with life. The sun was nearing its highest point in the sky, so shadows were near inexistent. The small bushes outside Twilight’s home were budding with tiny flowers whose aromas tickled Ditzy’s nose.

Surprise flooded Ditzy’s brain as she came to a realization. Wait! Did I just make another friend? Is Spike my friend now? The cogs were spinning in Ditzy’s mind as she desperately tried to remember the lessons in the book Twilight gave her. She recalled lessons of unity and humility, but none pertained to her situation. But somepony you could have fun with, and be comfortable around, surely that would make that pony a friend, even if it was a dragon and not a pony? A tentative, cunning investigation would have to be conducted.

“Spike, are we friends now?” Ditzy blurted out.

Spike looked up in surprise. “Well gosh… I guess so. I mean, that would be cool.”

I’m on a roll! Ditzy’s wings fluttered in excitement. Before she could have a second thought, she heard the front door squeak open. Both Ditzy and Spike stifled their giggles, and then Twilight appeared in front of them.

“Good morning, Ditzy,” Twilight greeted. “Thanks for coming over. I know you were supposed to work today, and I hope I didn’t disturb anything.”

“Nah, it’s okay, Twilight.” Ditzy beamed, which turned into a nervous chuckle when she remembered why she was here. She decided to press Twilight for more details before she panicked herself. “Spike mentioned something of a plan you had for today?”

“Yes! And I’m so excited for it.” Twilight’s coat bristled with enthusiasm. “Please, come in.”

Ditzy did as she was told, and before long she was standing in the exact same spot she had been when she asked Twilight to be her friend. The room gave off such a different feel than at night; a lively, energetic ambiance that spread throughout the living space—weird considering the library was completely empty and devoid of life, save present company.

Ditzy was only half paying attention as Twilight told Spike to go upstairs and deliver some message she had written. She assumed it was another friendship report, so she didn’t interrupt as Spike nodded and walked up the stairs.

Leaping onto the couch and landing with eccentric proficiency, Ditzy was able to have her fun without damaging Twilight’s furniture. She giggled profusely as the weathered springs inside gave squeaks of protest while she bobbed up and down. In her own little world, she was unable to notice that Twilight had taken the seat right next to her. Twilight finally cleared her throat to assert her presence.

“Oh, hey Twilight! This is a fun couch ya got here.” To prove her point, she quickened her pace to that of a jackhammer, until the dizziness forced her to stop. Twilight gazed on in quiet thoughtfulness, as if she was studying her. In fact, she was doing just that—contemplating the random mare before her. She was a hard mare to pinpoint; she possessed so many different qualities that she saw reflect off her other friends.

In Ditzy’s stride, Twilight saw Pinkie Pie: her randomness and love of a good laugh kept her spontaneous, but not to the point of overbearing.

In her passion, she saw Rainbow Dash: her drive to keep up with life and do everything to the best of her ability warranted a level of respect.

In her work ethic, she saw Applejack: she knew what was important, and did what she could to provide the most stable lifestyle she could.

In her caring expression, she saw Rarity: although Ditzy appeared to be… well ditsy, the side of her that Twilight saw the day she told the story about Dinky and Sparkler couldn’t be described. Sure she was silly, but her maturity (when prompted) was unquestionable.

In her heart, she saw Fluttershy: while her courage was undeniable, she often kept a solemn, almost shy demeanor when confronted with social situations. Unlike Fluttershy, Ditzy seemed to resort to silliness to avoid conflict. It was these elements of Ditzy which Twilight saw pieces of her other friends, and was what inspired her to form her current plan.

“So Ditzy, do you know why I asked you to come over?” Twilight asked.

The bouncing mare halted mid jump as a new wave of inhibition flowed through her. “Kinda…” Ditzy replied,” but Spike didn’t say much. I’d like to hear it from you.”

“Of course,” Twilight nodded then gave a reassuring smile. The air grew still and Ditzy’s ears rang with the soundless beating of her own heart. The room darkened as a passing cloud outside shadowed the sun. Ditzy forced herself to hold eye contact, though she felt some of the old nervousness returning. “Well, I know you wanted to meet some friends, so I decided why not introduce you to the rest of mine.”

Ditzy shrank.” I-I don’t know, Twilight. Just ‘cuz you like me doesn’t mean other ponies would. What if I just embarrass you?”

“Hey, look at me,” Twilight instructed, her tone definite and serious. Ditzy obliged and returned her stare to Twilight’s piercing gaze. “I will never be embarrassed of you, ever. I’m too proud to have you as a friend.” She finished with a soft smile that melted Ditzy’s heart. She felt her eyes gloss over, pride blooming in her chest, not sure what to say. It turns out; Twilight was fully capable of continuing the conversation.

“And besides, my friends are really nice and I’m sure they’ll love you. Look at it as an opportunity to implement what you’ve learned. What do you say?” Twilight peered at her, doubt and worry encircling her permissive eyes. Ditzy could see the hope in that stare; Twilight was curious to see if the pegasus was up to the challenge, to the point where she was emotionally invested. Ditzy knew she couldn’t say no to a look like that.

“Alright, Twilight. I mean, it would be nice to have some more friends.” Ditzy jolted, afraid that she had offended. “N-not that you aren’t enough! I mean—I just, I-I…” Ditzy’s eyes lowered. “I’ll be quiet now.”

Twilight gave a spirit-lifting chuckle. “Relax Ditzy, I know what you meant, and I agree. Like I said the first time you were over here: you can never have too many friends.” She hopped off the couch and stretched her forelegs. Ditzy felt it necessary to hop off the couch with her.

“So uh, what now?” Ditzy asked.

“I think you know. Shall we head out?”

“Now!?” Ditzy took a panicked breath, fear clutching her heart. I thought I’d have more time to prepare!

“No time like the present!” quipped Twilight, making her way over to the door. Ditzy was hesitant to follow, but she eventually forced herself to move. She was probably worried over nothing. I mean, these are Twilight’s friends we’re talking about here. I’m just working myself up; I need to be calm and cool. Cool as a clam. Clams are cool. And Calm. Besides, what could go wrong?

~*~*~

Ditzy tried her best to stall, offering to re-alphabetize all the books in the library. Twilight was not so easily fooled, and informed her that the books were already in order. “But think of a library that has been alphabetized twice! That’s twice the popularity.” She grumbled to herself while Twilight pushed her out the door and into the summer morning.

The sun had already made its way into the sky, and the draft had increased by a minuscule amount. Still not much, but a hurricane compared to the breeze before. Ditzy was cautious to start walking on her own, because she knew once she started, she wouldn’t stop until Twilight’s socially-diabolical plan came to fruition. After a supportive nod from Twilight, she sighed and began the trudge down the library path.

Twilight noticed her discomfort, and a look of apprehension clouded her visage. “Ditzy… I don’t want to force you to do this. If it’s something you really don’t want to do, we can stay.”

A moment of relief was met with a wall of determination. Twilight had faith in her, and they’ve gone too far to turn back now (like five steps at least). “No, I know you know best, and if you think that this’ll help me, then I’m all for it.” Ditzy’s lips curved into a genuine smile.

The magical mare brightened up. “Alright, then let’s get going.” With an affirmative nod from Ditzy, the two began walking side-by-side, down the road that would inevitably lead them to the heart of Ponyville. For some reason, the morning seemed brighter and the color more vibrant with Twilight around, and Ditzy was able to relax and enjoy herself.

Luckily, there was no shortage of conversation, and soon Ditzy was in a wonderful, light chat. “So Ditzy,” Twilight spoke first,” how have you been? How was work yesterday?”

Empty, she wanted to say. “Oh, I’ve been fine Twilight, thanks for asking!” Work the day before had been usual, though she took certain measures to avoid Destiny, as they were both on shift. Although Destiny had a knack for slacking on her work, she was adequate in her performance yesterday. She delivered the larger packages that wouldn’t fit into Ditzy’s mailbag. The two had different itineraries, so they didn’t come in to contact. Still, it was a bit stressful looking over her shoulder all day.

“Oh and work? It was… awesome! Heh, you know me. Love delivering mail.” Although exaggerated, her answer was free from sarcasm. She really did love her job; she just wasn’t use to the added tension.

“That’s good to hear,” Twilight said. The pair passed Lyra and Bon Bon who waved politely. Twilight and Ditzy returned it before they passed. The short social interaction reminded Ditzy of a question she had.

“Oh yah! Hey Twilight, who are we going to see first?”

They walked past Carousal Boutique. “Oh, I thought we’d head to Sweet Apple Acres first. Applejack has always been an early-morning type of pony, so we’ll-“

Ditzy inhaled quickly; a panicked gasp that interrupted Twilight. Ditzy jumped behind her to hide. Ahead of them, Ditzy saw the one and only Destiny Dawn, working her routes and coming their way.

“Uhh, Ditzy? Are you okay?” Twilight asked, turning to look down at Ditzy.

“W-who me? Yah, I’m peachy. Why?”

“Well, you jumped behind me, which usually is a sign that something is wrong.” Twilight looked around try and find an explanation.

“O-oh! Right!” Ditzy started, trying to regain Twilight’s attention. “I was scared by… that!” Ditzy pointed. Twilight followed her point to the wooden paneling of a wall.

“Erm, a wall? But how could-“

“Derpy, is that you?” A sweet voice called out. Ditzy cringed when she realized she had been caught, and slowly trudged out from behind Twilight. The two of them turned to face the new pony that had just walked over, wearing a smile that could brighten a room. It was almost too perfect; too white. “Oh my gosh, it is you!” She pretended to gasp. “And who’s this?”

Twilight smiled. “Hello, I’m Twilight Sparkle. It’s nice to meet you!”

“Oh, the pleasure is all mine! I’m Destiny, Destiny Dawn. Ditzy and I work together. She is such a joy to work with.” Ditzy’s insides froze, her mind unable to compute the sudden congenial Destiny. Why was Destiny pretending to be so nice to her?

“Oh? I didn’t know there was another mailmare.”

“I’m not surprised; I just moved here not too long ago, but I’ve already fallen in love with the town. It’s so quaint,” Destiny said. She turned her head to face Ditzy. “Oh, and how are you doing today, Derpy?”

“F-fine,” Ditzy stuttered, “thank you.”

“Well it was very nice seeing you Derpy, and it was equally nice to meet you, Twilight. Well, I better get back to work. Gotta get these deliveries done, you know how much ponies count on us!” She flashed a sly wink to Ditzy then waved to Twilight. After a few moments, she was already down near the other side of the street. Ditzy knew Destiny had said that last part to mock her; it was the exact same thing Ditzy said in the park a few days before.

“She seemed really nice! Looks like you don’t need my help making friends after all,” Twilight said, nudging Ditzy’s side.

“Mhmm… she’s really something,” Ditzy mumbled. They were about to continue on with the sound of a door creaking open caused them both to turn back towards Carousal Boutique. Two ponies were making their way out: Ditzy recognized one of them as Rarity, the owner of the shop, and the other one as the animal-lover, Fluttershy. Neither of them had caught a glimpse of her or Twilight.

“Oh, hey Rarity, hey Fluttershy! Nice to see you out here,” Twilight called over.

Rarity immediately perked up as the sound of Twilight’s voice. “Twilight! Oh it’s so nice to see you darling!” The two groups converged as Rarity embraced Twilight. Ditzy felt a bit awkward at first just standing there, but she noticed Fluttershy was looking at her. Once they made eye contact though, Fluttershy hid behind her mane. “What brings you out and about?” Rarity asked.

“Funny you should mention that…” Twilight alluded, pulling Ditzy closer to Rarity and Fluttershy. “Girls, I want to introduce you to Ditzy Doo.”

“You can call me Ditzy,” the mailmare giggled nervously, for lack of something better to say. “I’ve actually met you two a few times, though never outside work I guess.”

“No, we haven’t had the pleasure,” Rarity beamed. “It’s very nice to meet you. I’m Rarity, though I’m sure you already knew that, and this is…” Rarity gestured to Fluttershy, wanting her to talk for herself.

“I’m… Fluttershy,” the cream-colored pegasus whispered.

“I know,” said Ditzy. “I um…I like your butterflies!”

Fluttershy peaked out from behind her mane. “You’ve seen them?”

“I fly over them almost every morning in the park,” Ditzy worked up a smile. There was a silence where Ditzy expected Fluttershy to say something, but it never came. Instead, Twilight decided to pick it up.

“So where are you two off to?” Twilight asked.

“It’s our weekly spa day,” Fluttershy said in a more normal voice.

“Indeed, and we have to get there early. There’s nothing like starting off a day with a spa treatment then feeling rejuvenated the rest of the day,” Rarity explained. The fashionista put a forehoof on her chin and hummed in thought. “Hey, I just had a splendid idea: would you two like to join us?”

Ditzy and Twilight shared a glance. The mailmare had never been to the spa before, and didn’t know what it entailed. Twilight was smiling eagerly, the glint in her eye saying that it was what she wanted to do.

“O-okay, we can do that. Sounds like fun.” Ditzy smiled. I guess if Twilight wants me to get to know her friends, this is as a good an opportunity as any…

Rarity clacked her forehooves together. “Marvelous! This has turned into a group outing, how exciting!”

As Rarity and Twilight begin conversing about their mornings so far, their quickened pace left Ditzy and Fluttershy to trail slightly behind them; an action that sent sirens ringing in Ditzy’s head. She felt like she had been thrust into the deep end without a lifesaver, now standing next to the pony who, out of all of Twilight’s friends, she knew the least about.

Awkward silence ensued as Ditzy pretended to listen to what Twilight and Rarity were saying, but in actuality she was intently focused on her rising panic. Maybe she just got lucky when she roped Twilight into being her friend—the others would probably see her for the outlandish, uncoordinated mare that she was.

Ditzy peaked over to Fluttershy, whose head jerked forward in an attempt to misdirect eye contact. She noted a soft, pinkish glow over the winged mare’s cheeks. With a boost of confidence, Ditzy came to the conclusion that Fluttershy was as frightened as she was.

“H-hey, I’m not really that good with talking with new ponies... outside of work, at least,” Ditzy admitted.

Fluttershy lifted her gaze over her hairline, a brief smile dancing across her face. “Oh, um… me too.”

“But it is really nice to meet you!” Ditzy followed up. “Sparkler has only very good things to say about you.” Sparkler had been known to help Fluttershy from time to time, especially during the yearly Winter Wrap Up, where Sparkler volunteered on the same team as the cream-colored pegasus.

“Oh, you know Sparkler?” Fluttershy asked.

“Ooh yah, she’s my daughter,” Ditzy chuckled, knowing the impending shock. She didn’t expect to hear a sudden gasp from the up-until-that-point-very-quiet pony. It was loud enough that it halted Twilight’s and Rarity’s banter.

“Oh my, that’s so wonderful! I never knew Sparkler’s mother. You must be so proud of her! I…I just don’t even know what to say!” Fluttershy gushed, her wings flapping excitedly. She nudged Rarity. “Did you know that? Sparkler is Ditzy’s daughter!”

“Well I will say this Ditzy, you keep a fine family. That Sparkler has such a smart head on her shoulders; I could see her going places,” Rarity complimented. Ditzy was smiling in all ways possible: her mouth stretched to fit the capacity her happiness was forcing her to, while her insides threatened to burst confetti. “Now that you mention it, I remember seeing Sparkler with your little Dinky at the Sisterhood Social, but I never put two and two together.”

“I’ve known for almost a week now, and it still amazes me,” Twilight added, moving closer to Ditzy. “It takes a very special pony to be able to raise them both so well.”

“Aw shucks girls, you’re gonna make me blush!” Ditzy covered her cheek with a hoof. “It didn’t take anything special. I just… well I love ‘em, you know? They deserve the best.”

“What a motherly thing to say. Well, they seem in the best of care.” Rarity put a hoof on Ditzy’s shoulder. They all continued to walk, but now Ditzy was more confident than ever.

This is going pretty smoothly! They seem like pretty nice ponies, like Twilight. Maybe making friends isn’t so hard after all?

“We’re here!” Rarity cheered, and rushed through the doors. Fluttershy was quick to follow, leaving Twilight and Ditzy outside. Twilight turned to face Ditzy.

“You ready?” she asked.

“I guess. How bad could it be?”

~*~*~

“And stay out!” Aloe yelled, as a gruff earth stallion threw Ditzy out the door. Instead of landing on the ground, as was the point of being ejected, Ditzy simply flapped her wings a few times and she was soon hovering in the air.

“Hey, it was self-defense! How was I supposed to know I wasn’t being attacked by ninjas?” Ditzy asked.

Twilight made her way past Aloe, giving her an apologetic shrug, and out onto the open streets. Ditzy landed next to her, eyeing Aloe suspicious, as if she might attack again. “Sorry, Aloe, this was Ditzy’s first massage. We should’ve told her what to expect.”

“Hmph!” Aloe grunted, and shut the front door with a resounding bang.

After the initial adrenaline wore off, Ditzy was left feeling terrible. “I’m…I’m sorry, Twilight. I’m not sure what came over me. I hope you’re allowed back there again.” Ditzy eyed the structure with distaste. “Even though I still don’t know why ponies pay their hard-earned bits to get beat up.”

“Maybe something more soothing next time,” Twilight suggested, “like a sauna. Those are nice and safe.”

Ditzy frowned. “Do you think Aloe hates me now?”

“Don’t worry, she’s quick to forgive, and that could’ve happened to anypony.” Twilight gave a reassuring smile, one that put Ditzy at ease. A strange silence washed over the two, where in Ditzy thought she was expected to say something, so she did.

“They were nice. Rarity and Fluttershy, I mean.”

“A good of a start as any,” Twilight encouraged, giving a satisfactory nod. “See? My friends aren’t so bad. They like making new friends as much as you do, trust me on that. When I just moved here, I didn’t even want to be their friend, but they were persistent.” As Twilight began walking, Ditzy stumbled after her, momentarily tripping on her own hooves before regaining her composure. She glanced up and was thankful that Twilight didn’t see.

“Really?” Ditzy coughed, trying to act nonchalant. “You don’t seem like the type of pony who’d reject friendship.”

“I was… a different pony before I moved here; before I learned about the value of friendship.”

A stiff breeze ruffled their manes, sending a shiver of delight down Ditzy’s spine. Her wings unfurled and she shook them vigorously, letting the wind rush through the feathers, like a gust through grain. Their walk had brought them to the outskirts of Ponyville, where the hill, over which Sweet Apple Acres would come into view, would soon be traversed.

“I hope I’ll be able to find the value of friendship,” Ditzy drifted off, her tone hopeful and bright.

“It’s easier than it sounds,” Twilight assured with her petite smile and shining eyes.

Ditzy was still a bit skeptical. “But how will I know when I find it?”

Twilight paused, not knowing exactly how to answer her. “When you’re happy to hear somepony; to see somepony, and you know in your heart that you care for them. It comes like a… spark.”

“That makes sense, I guess.” Ditzy’s head was still trying to process. What does she mean a spark? Like with electricity? Was it going to hurt? Even more important, what if the spark was too little, and Ditzy isn’t able to catch it when it happens? Would she go on living without knowing that she has learned the value of friendship?

“I hope so. Ah, looks like we’re here!” said Twilight, as the pair walked through the arch of Sweet Apple Acres. Big Macintosh was just making his way out of the main barn. Out of all the family members of Sweet Apple Acres, Ditzy was most familiar with him. He was the one who signed for all the packages whenever Ditzy had to make a delivery out there. They’ve struck up a few superficial conversations then and again: ‘How are you today’, ‘Nice weather we’re having’, and ‘what is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow’… all very general topics.

Twilight made an affirmative grunt when she caught sight of him, and trotted over to him with Ditzy in step.

“Mornin’ Twilight, mornin’ Derpy. What brings ya’ll t’the farm?” Big Mac said with a slow drawl. Ditzy was humbled to hear herself mentioned; she felt like she was somepony worth addressing—a small victory for her self-confidence.

“Oh, good morning, Big Macintosh!” Ditzy waved.

“Good morning,” Twilight likewise returned. “We’re actually here looking for Applejack. Know where we can find her?”

“Eeyup,” Macintosh nodded, lifting his hoof and pointing towards one of the many sections of apple orchard.

Following his directions, Ditzy and Twilight made their way through several layers of apple trees, and for a moment Ditzy panicked wondering what would happen if they got lost out here. It took several seconds of silent hyperventilation before she remembered she had wings.

“I’ve never been out here before,” Ditzy marveled. “It’s so pretty. I had no idea that the farm had this many apple trees.

“Yes, it’s quite a sight,” Twilight agreed. It was nearing the end of summer, so the apple trees already had fruit growing on them. The apples themselves were plump and red, but not a crisp red; another few weeks and they would be ready for harvest. Finally they came upon their goal, with the sound of an unexpected scuffle.

“Next time I catch ya, I’ll hogtie ya myself!” came the voice of a southern pony.

“What? It’s just one apple! You can’t be seriously mad that I took one apple out of thousands,” another pony’s voice chimed in. Though obviously feminine, her tone resembled a much more aggressive bite.

“Ya know I don’t mind if ya take an apple every now an’ again,” the first voice responded, “but they aren’t ready yet!” That’s when Twilight made her way into the small plain, with Ditzy far more hesitant, almost hiding behind her.

“Hey girls, sounds like you’re both having fun.” Twilight chuckled, enjoying her own sarcasm.

“Twilight, well isn’t this ah surprise. What brings ya’ll—“, Applejack paused and furrowed her eyebrows when she caught sight of Ditzy. The mailmare took a gulp. “Hey, aren’t you that mail pony we always see flyin’ here and there? Derpy, right?”

Ditzy smiled bright at the recognition. “That’s me! You have an awesome farm.”

“Thank ya kindly.” Applejack tipped her hat and walked over to them, joined by a silent Rainbow Dash. Applejack extended a hoof over to Ditzy, who accepted it graciously. “Well, like I told Twilight here on the first day I met her, we here at Sweet Apple Acres sure do like making new friends.”

“I like making new friends too! I think. I’m pretty sure, like 90 percent.”

Applejack gave her a quizzical stare, but before she could speak, Twilight decided to butt in. “I hope you don’t mind, AJ, but I’m introducing her to all the girls. She’s taken an interest in friendship, like me.”

“Is that so?” Applejack smiled. “Well, can never have too many friends, can ya now?”

Twilight nodded. “Oh, and Ditzy, this is Rainbow Dash, she—“

“We’ve met,” Rainbow Dash interrupted, glaring at Ditzy.

“Hi, Rainbow Dash!” Ditzy waved. “So nice to see you again.”

Twilight cocked her head. “I’m sorry, how do you two know each other?”

Rainbow Dash sniffed. “She’s on my weather control team every year for our Winter Wrap Up. She’s the featherbrain who went the wrong direction to get the southern birds—TWICE.”

Ditzy was unfazed, completely used to receiving grief for her short-comings. “Oh well, I’ll do better this time, I promise!“

“Yah, yah,” Rainbow waved off, skeptical.

Applejack nudged Rainbow Dash with a disapproving glare, before returning her focus to Ditzy with a smile. “So how are ya likin’ the farm?”

“Oh, it’s wonderful! So many apples grow on an apple farm.”

“Ya, ‘cause who could’ve seen that coming?” Rainbow rolled her eyes.

Applejack ignored her. “Sure are! Biggest apple farm this side of Equestria.”

“That’s so cool!”

“Well thank ya kindly, Derpy. You’re welcome t’come on down anytime you right well please.” Applejack tipped her hat and gave a friendly wink. Ditzy was glowing with excitement. Maybe the Apple family would let her help harvest the apples when it was time. She was sure they would accept any help they could get. She could probably become handy at bucking trees if she practiced.

Twilight was looking on, pleased at how well this was going. “Is there anything else about the farm you want to see, Ditzy?” she asked.

Ditzy put a hoof to her chin as her yellow eyes began to drift apart. “Besides working, how do farm ponies have fun on a farm?”

Applejack smiled wide, like Ditzy had said the magic words. “We got plenty-a activities to keep us fit an’ entertained. Here, follow me.”

Rainbow Dash and Twilight shared a glance, while Ditzy eagerly trotted after Applejack. After giving a noncommittal shrug, they trotted off to join their compatriots. Through the field they went, skirting over small shrubs and weaving through matured apple trees. The sun was high in the sky, making shadows mirror whatever they were hiding under. The breeze from earlier hadn’t ceased, but somehow it smelled sweeter now that Ditzy was in the country. The untamed gust absorbed the fragrance of everything that was crisp and well in the world, it seemed.

Finally, through several additional layers of trees, the group came upon a baron patch of ground that was set aside near a corral. There was a thin stretch of flat ground stretched before them with furrowed edges, clearly marking a boundary. At either end, in a small box frame and hammered into the dirt, were two iron spikes: one on each side. Ditzy instantly recognized it.

“You ponies play horse shoes?” Ditzy lit up; it was one of her favorite games.

“Course we do!” Applejack smiled. “It’s ah country game after all, ain’t it?”

“Well, can we play?!” Ditzy hopped excitedly, her wings unfurling.

Applejack looked back to Rainbow Dash and Twilight, who both gave a shrug. “I would love to watch you two play,” Twilight ushered with a grin.

“Yah, yah, go ahead and play the little game. Should be over fast, anyways,” Dash smirked, having no faith in Ditzy’s coordination. With approval from both ponies, Applejack stepped forward onto the game patch.

“Alright then, Derpy, you gotchur self ah game!” Applejack trotted to one end, leaving a humming Ditzy to take the other side. Half way to her spot, Ditzy faltered over her own hooves, but managed to catch herself. Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but snicker from the sidelines.

“Oh brother…”

“Shh!” Twilight scolded.

The breeze stilled as both competitors took their positions. The narrow playing field was roughly 40 feet long, which provided ample throwing room for a hefty horseshoe. The stakes at either end glistened in the sunlight, free of rust, waiting patient for the day it would be reunited with its friend, horseshoe.

That day will be today… Ditzy psyched herself up.

“Alright Derpy, I don’t need to go over the rules, now do I?” Applejack called.

“Nah I got it,” Ditzy assured, “just try and throw the horseshoe around the pole thing.”

Applejack nodded. “Right! I’ll go first then.”

Ditzy took a few precautious steps to the side; a standard practice for any match to assure that incase the horseshoe overflew its mark, the competitor would not be injured. With the wind still, Twilight holding her breath, and Dash looking on in disinterest, Applejack bent down to grasp an iron horseshoe in her mouth. Ditzy wasn’t prepared for her technique.

In one quick motion, Applejack flung the horseshoe vertically in the air, and flipped around so that her back hooves were now facing the field. With power and precision, she bucked her hind legs just as the horseshoe came down. A loud clang echoed from the site of impact, but the result was the horseshoe was now flying close to Ditzy’s end of the court.

With wide eyes, Ditzy marveled as she watched the shoe pinpointing on the target, which it hit dead on.

Clang!

The resounding of metal striking metal rang in a way that was unbefitting such a quiet afternoon. The horseshoe bounced off the spike and landed on the ground near it with a thud, only about three inches away from being a ringer.

“That was an amazing shot, Applejack!” Ditzy shouted. “It almost went completely around it!”

“Thank ya kindly; years of practice at work. Let’s see what ya got, sugarcube!” Applejack returned.

Ditzy bounded over onto her side of the playing field, while Applejack went and stood over near Rainbow and Twilight. Rainbow clacked hooves with the farm pony, congratulating her on a good shot.

“Go Ditzy! You can do it!” Twilight cheered.

Not willing to let Twilight down, she shook to get rid of the excess energy then became very still. A deep breath entered her lungs and was slowly exhaled from her nose. The quiet of the scene returned as Ditzy closed her eyes to calm her thoughts. After a short period of meditation, Ditzy bent down and grasped the horseshoe. She narrowed her eyes at the enemy spike, protruding defiantly out of the soil.

How dare it protrude like that! Look at it just sitting there… all cocky… ‘oh I’m just guna sit here cuz Ditzy Doo smells’. I’ll show you who smells, little iron thing!

Twisting her body around, Ditzy soon began spinning circles to gain momentum, as if she was throwing a discus. Casting fearful glances between them, Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash moved back a few feet. Soon Ditzy was just a blur as she spun faster than anypony should be able to, and with a grunt, let loose the horseshoe.

The on-looking triplet followed the horseshoe with their eyes as it went in the exact opposite direction that it was meant to, arcing high and wide. Ditzy slowed herself from spinning, but she soon face-planted into the ground, her eyes spinning and feet unsteady. Rainbow Dash couldn’t handle it.

“Pffftttt… BAHahahahaha!” She laughed aloud, falling on her back and pointing at the rogue horseshoe, still arcing in the sky.

As Ditzy pushed herself in a seated position, and with the world still spinning, Applejack and Twilight shared a glance that said they both knew it was a terrible shot, but they still wanted to be nice about it.

“That was a… great throw, Ditzy,” Twilight complimented.

“Yah it was… something.” Applejack threw a cheesy grin, one that always accompanied her when she attempted any feat of deception.

Ditzy still couldn’t see straight. “I know! I can’t believe that I won!”

“Huh?” The three other ponies said together. Rainbow Dash fell silent, feeling it was her job to correct the confused mare.

“What are you talking about, Derpy? That shot wasn’t anywhere near where it needed to-“

Clang!

Each pony, save Ditzy, flinched as a loud metal clank startled the three of them. In disbelief, they all approached Applejack’s side of the court to find a horseshoe flawlessly wrapped around the metal spike.

Ditzy arched her head, confused. “What, Rainbow Dash? I thought the point was to get the horseshoe around the iron thingy. Was I wrong?”

Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash’s jaws were wide open, flabbergasted. They had all seen the same horseshoe fly in the opposite direction, yet here it was: a perfect ringer.

“Bah…how?” was all Twilight could utter.

“Oh, it was easy!” Ditzy assured. She got to her feet, now stable. She pointed to the original direction the horseshoe flew. “First had to bank it off the side of the barn, then it hit that tree over there, spun around its branch, flung itself high in the air, bounced off that hay bale over there, went through that window of your house and came out that one, and finally came to a rest on the metal spike thing. So how’d I do?”

Silence. Twilight and Applejack were now more confused than ever, trying to follow the path Ditzy had laid out for them. Rainbow Dash didn’t even waste time trying to push logic on it; she was too busy wearing a big grin.

“Haha! That was amazing, Derpy! And you managed to beat Applejack at one of her own games. Maybe I misjudged you before…” Dash put a forearm around Ditzy’s neck, ”you’re alright in my book.”

Ditzy lit up. “You really mean it? Aw thanks, Rainbow Dash!” Rainbow extended her hoof, which Ditzy eagerly clacked with her own.

~*~*~

“I’m not even going to try and comprehend how you made that shot,” Twilight marveled as they exited the farm. “Did you see Applejack? You left her speechless. To be fair, you left me speechless as well.”

Ditzy looked at her; she had already explained it so clearly! Why was there still a grey area? “I told you though! I banked it off the barn, then it hit the tree, then-“

“I know the story, Ditzy,” Twilight guaranteed. “I just… it’s unbelievable.”

Ditzy shrugged. “Alright then, if you say so. I had a lot of fun though! They both seem like really fun ponies.”

Twilight looked right into Ditzy’s eyes and smiled. “I’m glad you think so. See? This isn’t so bad, is it?”

“No, this has been fun! What’s next?”

“Sugarcube Corner,” responded Twilight.

Oh, muffins… Ditzy wasn’t sure if she was ready to see Pinkie. Would the pink pony be mad at her? Their last encounter was almost a week ago, and they hadn’t parted under the best of circumstances. Ditzy just hoped that Pinkie would still like her after she ran away like that.

The pair walked in silence as they entered the main part of town. Being the early afternoon, the town was alive and buzzing with activity: shops and stalls now had eager customers while the sound of conversation hovered over the area. Each pony moved at a leisurely pace, but with purpose in their step. They all had some place to be, though plenty of time to get there. Small town life.

The scent of Sugarcube Corner could be detected half a mile away. The amount of baked goods that flowed out of the bakery was staggering for such a small town. For a moment, Ditzy imagined that Pinkie might be too busy helping out the Cakes. She couldn’t explain why she felt such trepidation with her unlike the rest of Twilight’s friends, but it might have something to do with how Ditzy saw a little bit of herself in Pinkie.

“You okay, Ditzy?”

Ditzy snapped out of her thought. “Huh, what? Oh! Y-yes. It’s just...” and she trailed off.

“Just...?” Twilight asked.

Ditzy’s shoulders sunk. “Last time I saw Pinkie I kinda ran away from her.” Ditzy looked away and let her eyes defocus. “I just hope she isn’t mad at me.”

As Twilight’s eyes softened, she tried her best to give a supportive smile. “You know Pinkie Pie: all about laughing and smiles. Whatever happened is already probably forgotten.”

Ditzy coaxed herself into calming down, the air of self-condemnation fading with each wavering breath. A soft smile worked its way onto her lips as she felt herself tranquilize. After a final nervous flick of her wings, they made their way into the sugary shop.

Upon entering, the sound of clacking of wood against ceramic echoed from the kitchen in the depths of the shop, followed by an angry buzz of a mixer in heated combat. Two ponies--one stallion, and one little filly--stood in the parlor nearing the register while Mrs. Cake wrung up the order specifications into the machine. She shifted a bakery box across the counter nearer to the ponies.

“Alright hun, for a dozen cupcakes that’ll be 15 bits,” Mrs. Cake said sweetly.

Wordlessly, the colt dropped the bits on the counter and gave a thankful nod as the little filly swiped the cupcake box off the counter and balanced it on her back. They both turned to leave and came face-to-face with Twilight and Ditzy.

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me…” the stallion murmured.

Ditzy gasped in elated surprise before waving vigorously. “Hi, Mr. Forthright!”

“Hello, Derpy,” her boss replied. He eyed Twilight quickly before returning his stare to Ditzy. “Enjoying your day off?”

“Yah, who knew I could ever have fun not working!” Ditzy smiled.

The little filly pulled on her dad’s foreleg. “Daddy, isn’t that the crazy pony from breakfast?” Twilight slowly turned her head to look at Ditzy before giving her the biggest ‘what?’ stare, ever. Mr. Forthright was about to correct his daughter, but then remembered that the whole scene was pretty crazy, especially to a little filly.

“Uh, yes darling.” He pulled his gaze by up towards Twilight. “And you must be Twilight? So you’re the mare who took one of my workers away from me.”

Twilight laughed nervously, sensing the situation turn from her favor. “Uhh, that’s me! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause—“

“Relax Ms. Twilight, I’m only joking,” he chuckled at Twilight’s gullibility. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you actually; is it true you serve as Princess Celestia’s personal protégé?”

“Yes, I do.” Twilight smiled with pride.

“How interesting that must be, to be in constant contact with the Princess herself. I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting her on one occasion, and that was long ago. It was back when—“

The little filly tugged at her father’s foreleg. “Daddy—Cupcakes?”

“Oh, yes! Sorry sweetie,” Mr. Forthright apologized, rustled the mane of his daughter. He then re-established eye contact with Ditzy and Twilight. “Well it was very nice meeting you, Miss Twilight. Ditzy, I guess I’ll be seeing you tomorrow?”

“You betcha!” Ditzy enthused.

With a nod, Mr. Forthright began ushering his daughter out the door, but not before the little one gave one last, manic wave. “Bye crazy pony!”

“Bye!” Ditzy returned cheerily, also returning the wave. Twilight was staring at her with a sidelong glance.

“Crazy pony?” Twilight asked, eyebrow arched.

Blinding Flash. Explosion of confetti. Moments of disorientation. Behind it all, Ditzy could make out a loud, excitable voice. “Surprise! Did I surprise ya, huh huh huh?”

Ditzy blinked away the colored spots that were clouding her vision, each one wavering defiantly in the center of her eyes. While she waited for them to adjust, Ditzy shook the colorful confetti out of her mane and coat, giggling because it looked like she was shedding rainbows. Barings regained, Ditzy refocused forward, only to come face to face with a wiggling Pinkie Pie.

“Heh he, yah Pinkie, you surprised me,” Ditzy conceded. “I guess now I’ll have to figure out a way to surprise you.”

“Good luck with thaaat~” Pinkie sung. The party pony giggled when she caught sight of Twilight; the unicorn puffed annoyingly at her mane, loosening a few strands of confetti. With a mental sigh of relief, Ditzy felt like their past meeting was already forgotten.

“So! What brings you two into the shop? No wait—can I guess? Hmm… Derpy must be here to deliver something; is it a big box of candy!? And is Twilight here to share it with us? Or—No! It must be cake! No wait, that’s silly; we’re in a cake shop already. You know what? This reminds me of yesterday when Gummy went off and…” Pinkie Pie didn’t stop, nor did Ditzy believe she could. Ditzy just stood there, staring at Pinkie with her usual expression of blithe comprehension. Twilight finally had enough of it, and cut Pinkie off with a nervous chuckle.

“Heh, anyway… we’re actually here because Ditzy has shown interest in the study of friendship. And she—“

Pinkie gasped. “You want to make friends, Derpy?” But before Ditzy could answer it, Pinkie looked at her curiously and switched topics. “Wait, your name is Ditzy? I thought it was Derpy?”

Ditzy eased back on her hind legs, rubbing the back of her neck with a forehoof. “Uhh… both, I guess. Well, my real name is Ditzy Doo, but a lot of ponies call me Derpy. I don’t care though—whatever you want to call me is fine.”

“Well then, you shall be Bubbles!”

Ditzy was taken aback. “Wha…? I didn’t mea-… I mean, I guess I did mean any name, but what I really meant was—“

“Either Ditzy or Derpy?” Pinkie giggled. “Doesn’t Bubbles sound super-awesome though?”

Twilight scratched her head. “Where’d you get Bubbles from?”

Pinkie pointed to Ditzy’s flank, her smile broadening at the unmasking of her genius methods. “Her cutie mark, duh!”

For a moment, all eyes fell upon Ditzy’s cutie mark: three round bubbles, each sparkling with a ting of refracted light. Before the conversation could wander more off-track, Ditzy coughed to throw the attention off her cutie mark, not that she didn’t appreciate the attention on her flank.

“Uhh, I think either Ditzy or Derpy would be fine.”

“Okie dokie,” Pinkie nodded. “If Twilight calls you Ditzy, it must mean you like being called Ditzy, so I think I’ll stick with that, in fact…“ she was cut off by a sudden jerk in her shoulder and a wiggle of her tail. “Oopsie! That Pinkie Sense means I forgot something…” Pinkie tapped her chin.

Twilight stared at her half-lidded. “We were talking about Ditzy making new friends?”

“Oh I remember now!” Pinkie hopped up, enthusiastic and self-justified. “We were talking about how Ditzy wants to make some new friends!” Pinkie ignored Twilight’s facehoof and continued on. “That’s so awesome Ditzy! I mean, you can never have too many friends, but I bet you’ve heard that a lot, huh? But that’s because having lots of friends is so much fun! I should know; I know everypony, and I mean everypony in Ponyville!”

“That’s cool, I think!” Ditzy smiled. She too knew everypony in Ponyville, but that’s a bit different from being their friends. That sounded like a very nice life to have: to be able to walk outside and instantly spot a few of your friends, to be supported by friendship, to know when you enter a room, ponies won’t back away for fear that you’ll break something… Ditzy shook her head.

“So what were you doing, Pinkie Pie?” Ditzy asked.

“Oh, I was just baking some cupcakes to fill an order. Ever since I showed I can be responsible, Mr. and Mrs. Cake have been letting me help with the baking!” Pinkie gave a wide grin that reflected her pride in every sparkle.

Ditzy nodded in appreciation. “Nice one, Pinkie Pie! Cupcakes are cool I guess. Muffins are where it’s at though.”

A quick tick deflated Pinkie’s smile, but only for a diminutive amount of time before her smile resumed. “Ahaha, good one Ditzy! But we all know cupcakes are the most awesome.”

In Canterlot, in the midst of walking down a hallway with her sister, Princess Celestia halted as her vision blurred. She turned to Luna, who looked back with dreaded knowing.

“You felt it too?”

The Sun Goddess nodded, staring out the window into the unseeable distance. “Something terrible is about to happen.”

Back in Sugarcube Corner, Ditzy and Pinkie were staring each other down, both ready to defend their confectionary treat, and they did so in the most rational, mature way possible.

“Muffins.”

“Cupcakes.”

“Muffins.”

“Cupcakes.”

“Muffins.”

“Cupcakes.”

“Muffins!”

“Cupcakes!” Pinkie and Ditzy were snout-to-snout, unblinking and with complete focus. The other ponies in the shop grew still and quiet, unnerved by the intense mental battle that was taking place.

Twilight watched on with confusion. “What’s the difference?”

With a gasp that Discord himself could only dream to inspire, Ditzy and Pinkie grabbed each other and looked at Twilight, horrified that that question even existed. Twilight gave her best innocent shrug and cheesy smile, hoping to return the ensuing chaos to the pandoran box from whence it came.

“What’s the difference!?” Pinkie asked in a shrill tone.

“Well they’re made with similar ingredients, right?” Twilight noted. “I mean sugar, flour, eggs… you can understand why I’m a little confused here.”

Pinkie and Ditzy shared an exasperated glance, mouths agape and speechless. Eventually, they began to sputter out words. “B-b-b-but cupcakes have frosting!” said Pinkie.

“And muffins have yummy stuff in them!” Ditzy added on.

Pinkie Pie swirled around. “Implying that cupcakes aren’t made of yummy deliciousness?”

“Just admit it Pinkie Pie: muffins will always be the best!” Ditzy affirmed.

Pinkie gasped. “Take that back muffin-lover!” Once again the two found themselves snout-to-snout.

“Girls, stop arguing! There’s no need to get mad,” Twilight interjected pleadingly. The customers around them remained still, like a bomb was being defused. Beads of anticipatory sweat rolled down the temples of several colts. Even Mrs. Cake looked on from behind the counter with a worried expression.

Ditzy and Pinkie shared a confused look, before laughing like some big joke had been shared. Twilight was more mixed up than ever, and waited impatiently for the two to finish their giggle fit.

“Jeez Twilight, we’re not mad!” Pinkie Pie put a hoof around Ditzy’s neck, which she leaned in towards. “There’s no need to get so serious about it.”

“Yah we’re just playin’ around!” Ditzy giggled, and then looked at Pinkie. “Some ponies just can’t take a joke!”

“I know, right?” Pinkie responded in a bubbly tone. Twilight was looking at them in a mixture of shock and disbelief. Ditzy could just make out that her eyelid under her right eye was twitching. All the ponies around them had already begun to disperse and continue with their business in the shop, the threat of annihilation passed.

As the scene returned to harmony, Ditzy felt like Pinkie Pie could be a true friend, much like Twilight and the other ponies she’d met on her day’s adventure. IT was the inner emotions that began to mix and rumble inside her that made her feel funny; a pressure that needed to escape from a burden that wouldn’t yield. The problem area didn’t seem to be her stomach or lungs, but her heart itself. She knew that if she wanted Pinkie Pie to be her friend, she’d need to get something off her chest.

Ditzy glanced over at Twilight, whose mood had changed from confused to whimsical acceptance. The unicorn giggled at herself for missing the unsaid joke before, but stood motionless when she looked at Ditzy and was met with the mailmare’s distant yet serious gaze. Twilight inclined her head.

“Ditzy, everything okay?” She asked, shattering Ditzy’s subconscious bubble. When Ditzy finally blinked herself back to reality, a hard blush formed on her cheeks, appearing even through her coat. She hadn’t expected to be caught.

“Oh yah, I’m fine Twilight, thanks. It’s just…” Ditzy peered over to Pinkie Pie, who had busied herself by bouncing around the shop. “I was wondering—if you don’t mind, I mean—giving me a moment alone with Pinkie Pie?”

To Ditzy’s surprise, Twilight smiled wide, as if she understood exactly what the pegasus was planning to do. “Sure thing; I’ll be outside when you need me,” Twilight responded with her reassuringly upbeat voice. Ditzy’s eyes glassed over as she gave a slight smile of gratitude. Even now, in flat light, her wavering eyes were by far her most expressive feature. Twilight glanced at Pinkie Pie once more before she exited the shop, which rang with a little bell as the door opened and closed.

Instantly Pinkie Pie appeared next to Ditzy. “Where’s Twilight going? Is it some sort of surprise?”

Ditzy’s eyes started drifting towards Pinkie, but she was still too nervous to make direct eye contact. “No, I-I actually wanted to talk to you…about something.”

“Oh?” Pinkie ceased moving. “Well what do you want to talk about? Games? Candy? Candy games?”

Ditzy giggled. “No, but candy games sound fun!” she exclaimed, but then coughed to clear her mind and refocus on her purpose. “I-it’s about last time I saw you… I…kinda ran out on you, and I feel really bad about it.”

“Oh don’t be a silly filly!” Pinkie waved it off. “I’m sure you had a good reason.”

“No, I-“ Ditzy was interrupted by a customer walking near them, making her remember she was in a public setting. She ushered Pinkie Pie to a more reclusive corner of the store, then taking a deep breath. “I didn’t have a good reason. I just didn’t want to answer your question.”

Pinkie’s stare went blank while she attempted to remember the conversation they had the week prior. Her eyes flashed when it finally came back. “You asked me if I was ever picked on when I was a little filly.” Pinkie’s voice was unnaturally quiet and serious; it unnerved Ditzy and made her shuffle in place.

“Yah, I remember.”

“Why though?” Pinkie asked.

Ditzy had never delved into this topic with anypony, not even Twilight. Her whole life was about focusing on the positives and leaving the dark and dreary in the shadows. Not any more though; if she was going to make some friends, it meant living with the past, and not hiding from it anymore.

“I…I just wanted to find somepony who…” Ditzy made eye contact with Pinkie, who was gave a slight smile. “Who, you know… related to me.” Ditzy bent down and hid her face in her forehoofs. “But it’s okay that you don’t.”

“That’s what friends are for, silly,” Pinkie said gently. “We don’t all have to relate in every way, but we’re the same in a lot of ways too. And besides—even if there were some meanies when you were a little filly, you still had friends you could go to make it all better.”

A wisp of sadness darkened Ditzy’s face. “Um… actually…” Ditzy glanced up at Pinkie for a quick moment before hiding in her hooves again, “I’ve never had any friends before.”

A soft gasp emanated from Pinkie. Ditzy felt herself being picked up then caught in a tight hug; she was surprised at first but then returned the embrace, burying her face into Pinkie’s fluffy pink mane. It was comforting and soft, like a pillow made of cotton candy, but not as sticky. She began to be acutely aware that Pinkie was trembling, and in seconds Ditzy felt her shoulder becoming wet.

“You have friends now, Ditzy, we’re your friends,” Pinkie cried into her shoulder.

Ditzy’s lip trembled, before she shut her eyes hard to steel herself. She wouldn’t ruin this moment by crying. No—she was going to enjoy it. She squeezed even tighter and relished in the moment she realized she now had six new friends.

~*~*~

The warm cup felt good in Ditzy’s hooves. She couldn’t remember the last time she had hot chocolate; not since she was just a filly, at least. The frothy, creamy liquid warmed Ditzy’s stomach and tickled her taste buds. Her spine tingled every time the cup touched her lips, a tingle that she felt reverberate to the tip of her wings. The big marshmallow on top was just icing on the cake.

The crackling fireplace in front her whistled as another log was split from the heat. She shifted on the couch to warm the other side of her body, being careful not to spill her drink. With a cursory glance, she peered through the window on one of the walls of the library, though it was too dark to see outside, especially since the fire kept her eyes adjusted to the light.

Beside her, Twilight was nestled deep in a comfy-looking purple pillow, levitating a book half her size. Ditzy watched the unicorn’s eyes following the print in the book, before flipping to the next page with an effortless flick of magic. A serene silence flowed through the room; cozy and un-awkward. Choosing not to break the quiet, Ditzy took another generous sip of her hot chocolate, nibbling at the marshmallow with fervor.

When the last of the delectable drink drained from the cup, she pulled it away with a satisfied hum. She licked her lips while placing the cup on the ground so she wouldn’t accidentally break it. While more confident now in her abilities to handle objects well in her hooves, she thought it would be best not to tempt fate. She glanced over to Twilight, who was still nose-deep in her book.

It must be pretty interesting, Ditzy thought. Trying to be as unnoticed as she could, Ditzy wormed her way closer to Twilight, endeavoring to get a better look at the pages. She finally got right next to Twilight, whose eyes hadn’t moved from the text. As sly as a fox, she bent over Twilight’s shoulder and peered down.

“Can I help you with something?” asked Twilight jokingly; she knew that she caught Ditzy in the act. The mailmare vaulted back and tumbled off the couch, letting out a yelp as she hit the floor. Twilight giggled as Ditzy fumbled over herself to get her hooves straight. Finally, Ditzy jumped to a standing position, where she locked her legs and stood motionless, suave and calm.

“I was just wonderin’ what you were reading,” Ditzy answered.

Twilight chuckled and patted the couch cushion next to her. Ditzy hopped up and sat down with her hooves folded beneath her. She scooted over until she was positioned just right where she could see the book, and Twilight even helped by floating it more towards the center of them so they both had an equal view.

This book doesn’t have any pictures… Ditzy noted. After skimming the page for a short while, she became more increasingly worried as she realized she didn’t know what most of the words meant, or even how to sound them out. Even the smaller-worded sentences came with difficulty; Ditzy knew she wasn’t the best reader, but was she really this bad?

She thought saying a sentence aloud would help. “The...” and that’s how far she got before she realized it was hopeless. Ditzy looked over to Twilight sheepishly. “Sorry, I’m not really used to reading books without pictures in them.”

Twilight looked at her, intrigued. “What do you mean?”

Ditzy shrugged. “Uh, I’ve never been the best reader…or writer, I guess. My skill ends with what I can get away with at work.”

“Really?” Twilight asked. “You went to school, didn’t you?”

“Yaaah…” Ditzy drawled. “But I wasn’t very good at school. If you can believe it or not, I had focusing problems.”

“Wait, wait, wait…” Twilight shut her book and laid it down on the floor. “Are you saying you never learned how to read?”

Ditzy wasn’t expecting to be put in the spotlight, and her education background scrutinized. Luckily she felt comfortable around Twilight, so she just shrugged. “Kinda I guess, but I learned a bunch on my own by doing work and reading bed time stories to Dinky. OH—and I’m pretty good at spelling my own name.”

A loud crackle emanated from the fireplace as a charred log adjusted. The wavering glow casted shadows upon Twilight’s almost concerned face. Ditzy could imagine why not being proficient at reading would be such a hard thing to comprehend for a librarian. Still, Ditzy always wondered what she was missing every time she saw a book. Were they any fun? Writing letters sounded like it would come in handy eventually. Maybe she’d even get some mail herself then.

“But, um, Twilight? I know you’re a busy pony, and I already take up a lot of your time as it is, but if you wouldn’t mind…”

“You want me to teach you how to read better?” Twilight asked, finishing Ditzy’s sentence.

“And write, yah.” Ditzy smiled sheepishly. “Or do you think I have my hooves full learning about friendship?”

“Ditzy,” Twilight stated her name clearly, which harbored her attention, “I have taught you all there is to teach about friendship. It is a learning experience that can’t rightly be taught; instead it needs to be experienced, and that’s up to you now. You need to discover for yourself what magic lies in friendship.”

Ditzy was worried. She still had so many questions unanswered! How will she know when the spark comes, the one that Twilight told her about?

“And also…” Twilight started again, reclaiming Ditzy’s attention. “I think learning how to become more capable at reading and writing is an amazing idea, and it would be my honor to teach you.”

Ditzy’s eyes sparkled with the desire to better herself; a trail deviating from the norm. She didn’t hold back as she hopped up and half-tackled Twilight in a tight hug. She was just so thankful for all that has happened to her recently, and it was all thanks to the wondrous mare now pinned under her embrace. With Twilight by her side, Ditzy felt like nothing was impossible, and could finally sense an inner-growing that only could’ve been self-esteem.

She nuzzled Twilight’s cheek. “Thank you, Twilight. Thank you for being an amazing friend.”

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