• Published 9th Apr 2017
  • 2,707 Views, 104 Comments

Terrors of the Town - AJtheRaven



Before the CMC, there was another group of troukblemakers around town - and it was made up of our very own AJ, Dashie, and Rarity. What if the CMC's big sisters were even worse than they were as fillies? Ponyville, look out. (FEATURED 4/9/2017)

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Chapter Two

"I'm bored," Rainbow Dash groused.

The little blue pegasus filly was hovering a few feet off the ground, idly flapping her wings to keep herself in the air. Her spiky rainbow mane stuck up in all directions as though she had gotten lost in a lighting storm, and her magenta eyes were alight with impatience and disdain. The scrubbing brush curled in her left forehoof seemed to be the object of this disdain, judging by the pout that flickered across the filly's lips every time she glanced at it.

Below her, a freckle-faced orange filly with grass-green eyes and a Stetson that was slightly too big for her head looked up and huffed. "Dash, this whole thing was yore fault, remember?" Her voice, higher-pitched and less scratchy than Dash's, was tinged with a musical drawl. Although young, the slightly grubby Earth pony filly was already rather big and sturdy for her age, with thick hooves and powerful hindquarters that were covered by a sweeping, loosely-bound expanse of flaxen tail. She stood a few inches taller than Rainbow, who was small, lean, and agile.

"Yeah, yeah, bring on the guilt trip, Applejack. I didn't know the teacher was gonna react like that, okay?"

"What, ya thought writin' 'Miss Cheeritree is in love with Mr. Dandy' on th' wall in red paint was gonna make her happy?"

Rainbow dropped her head glumly. "Okay, point taken. But you and Rarity didn't have to agree to help me, you know!"

Applejack grunted, unable to argue her way out of that one. "Jus' get back t' scrubbin', okay? Th' sooner we finish, th' sooner we git outta here." She sighed miserably, her eyes downcast. "Ah can't believe Ah let ya talk me into helpin' ya..." She glanced around the schoolroom and frowned darkly. "Ah sent Rarity t' get more soap ages ago! Where has that gal got to?"

Dash sighed. "Beats me." Grasping her brush in both hooves, she flew closer to the wall, which dripped with water and soap suds, and gloomily began to scrub again. The incriminating red letters seemed to glow maliciously beneath her hooves, barely fading no matter how hard Rainbow and Applejack scrubbed.

It had all started out as a harmless prank, something to amuse the rest of the students. The teacher, Miss Cheeritree, had gone out for a few minutes on some errand of her own, and Rainbow had somehow managed to convince her two best friends, Applejack and Rarity, to get up to a little mischief in her absence. The two of them had agreed to help write the words on the wall, provided that they used washable marker so they could hastily wipe off the words before Miss Cheeritree returned. They only wanted to give their classmates a laugh - the words certainly weren't intended for their teacher's eyes. They weren't even sure that the words were true.

Unfortunately, however, Miss Cheeritree had unexpectedly returned a few minutes ahead of schedule, only to find three little fillies standing proudly in front of their glaring crimson creation amidst a horde of giggling, cheering students.

Even more unfortunately, the washable markers they had used turned out to be paint pens.

Seriously, who kept paint pens in a classroom, anyway?

Needless to say, Miss Cheeritree had not been amused. As punishment, the three perpetrators were given detention and were forced to stay at school, futilely attempting to erase the words with soap and water, while everypony else went home.

"I'm back," a squeaky voice suddenly sang out. An alabaster unicorn with a coiffed purple mane trotted into the room. Her face was contorted in concentration, and her horn sparked with magic as she used it to levitate a rusty bucket of soap. "I'm sorry I was so long; it took me positively ages to find the soap."

Both Rainbow Dash and Applejack regarded their friend with surprise. "Rares? I thought you hadn't learned how to levitate yet!" Rainbow Dash swooped down to stare hard at Rarity's horn.

"Oh, well, I just taught myself now," she replied with a hint of pride. "Desperate times call for desperate measures, after all."

Applejack quirked an eyebrow. "Desp'rate?"

"Yes. That moldy old bucket is covered with rust and dirt. I simply refuse to touch it!"

"Oh. That kind o' desp'rate." Managing to suppress a scoff only to avoid hurting Rarity's feelings, Applejack turned away and returned to her scrubbing. "This paint jus' won't come off! Rarity, can ya bring th' soap over here?"

"Of course." Rarity screwed up her eyes and glared fiercely at the bucket, her cheeks pink from the effort of using so much magic. The soap bucket slowly but surely floated over and settled onto the floor by Applejack's hooves, next to a bucket of frothy water. The young Earth pony dipped her brush in the water and then the soap and vigorously attacked the paint once more. Her hooves were beginning to ache from all of the scrubbing, but Granny Smith and Big Mac had taught her never to complain while she was working.

"Any chance you can scrub the wall with your magic too?" Rainbow asked interestedly.

Rarity perked up. "Oooh, good idea!" She screwed up her eyes and stared forcefully at the wall. Her scrubber brush, which had been on the floor next to the water bucket, rose jerkily into the air, wavered for a few seconds, and then fell to the ground with a soft plop. "Oh, ponyfeathers. I already tired myself out levitating that bucket. I suppose we'll just have to get rid of this paint the normal way."

Dash grunted and flew back up to the patch of wall she was working on after dipping her brush in the water bucket. She was currently trying to erase the words 'Miss Cheeritree'. So far, she had only managed to make the 'M' slightly smudgy.

The three fillies worked in silence for a while, trying to alleviate their boredom by preoccupying themselves with other thoughts. Applejack was mainly worrying what Granny Smith was going to say when she heard that her granddaughter had been in detention. She'd never let her family down like this before. Rarity was simply trying to distract herself from the fact that the scrubbing brush she was holding had previously been stored in a closet full of dirt and cobwebs, and thus, by association, spiders. Also, she was trying to ignore how suspiciously thick and filmy the water in the bucket looked. And Rainbow Dash was mainly just wondering about the probability of being able to successfully place a tack on their teacher's chair as they left school.

Upon reflection, somepony who was watching the three of them might have noticed how odd the three of them looked together. An orange, dirt-smudged Earth pony who looked almost too strong for her tender age. A young alabaster unicorn, already stunningly gorgeous despite her youth, who was so obviously disgusted by dirt that one wondered how she was able to stand next to her orange friend without having a heart attack. And a tomboyish pegasus filly who looked like the polar opposite of the unicorn.

Nevertheless, the three of them were the best of friends, which was immediately obvious from the way they interacted with each other. Although they had only known each other for a year, since they had received their cutie marks and started attending school, they had formed a bond almost instantly. On the first day of school, Rainbow Dash had gotten in trouble with the teacher for making a rather unflattering doodle of her (go figure!) Applejack, who had sat next to her, had felt bad and told Miss Cheeritree that she'd asked Rainbow to draw the doodle in the first place. She'd been hoping to get Rainbow out of trouble, but they ended up skipping lunch and spending recess inside the schoolroom together. Dash had been impressed by Applejack's courage and struck up a conversation with her, at which point a young white unicorn - Rarity - had popped her head inside the classroom, commented that she thought the two of them must be hungry, and generously offered to split her lunch with them. Thus was their friendship born.

All of a sudden Rarity stamped her hoof and slammed her scrubber brush to the floor, pouting. She had just discovered that she was too short to reach the section of the wall that she'd been trying to paint. "Ugh! I am positively fed up with all of this! Why did I ever agree to help write these words?"

"Um..." Dash fidgeted nervously and then began to scrub the wall at twice her previous speed, doing her best not to look at Rarity. She didn't want to be on the receiving end of Rarity's temper, which could be even more ferocious than Applejack's. "Because... it was funny?"

Fortunately, Rarity's lips twitched in a smile. "Yes. Yes, I suppose it was."

Rainbow sighed in relief and wiped a bead of sweat off her forehead. Temper tantrum averted.

Applejack blew her sweaty bangs out of her eyes, panting from the exertion of scrubbing so hard, and glanced over at Rarity. "Why don'tcha climb on mah back? Then ya can reach th' words."

The unicorn eyed Applejack's back dubiously. It was perhaps not the cleanest fur she had ever seen - which, she supposed, was a result of living on a farm, and not therefore Applejack's fault. Despite her reluctance, however, she knew that Applejack's suggestion made sense. "Alright. I suppose."

Applejack graciously crouched down a little, allowing the unicorn filly to clamber onto her back. "Good gravy! Yore heavy!" she wheezed as she stood up to her full height again, her legs trembling.

"Are you calling me fat?" Rarity demanded indignantly.

"Uh..." The little Earth pony was smart enough to tell that she was heading into dangerous territory. "No." She forced her legs to stop shaking and stepped as close to the wall as possible, gritting her teeth in concentration. "There... can ya reach th' spot now?"

"Perfect. Thank you." Wrapping one hoof around Applejack's neck go keep her balance (and completely oblivious to the fact that she was accidentally strangling her), Rarity reached up and began to scrub the wall.

Rainbow's eyes lit up. "Wait, wait, I got an idea." She swooped down and dropped gently onto Rarity's back, ignoring her shrill yelp of shock. "See? Pony tower!"

Applejack grunted as her legs nearly buckled beneath the added weight. She'd only started helping around the farm last year, so although she was naturally strong, she hadn't had much experience carrying so much weight yet. "Rainbow... git... off," she panted. "Ah can't hold... both o' ya..." Her voice trailed away as the dark shadow of a unicorn fell over them from behind, looming over them and onto the wall. She carefully turned herself around and found herself staring straight at the unamused face of Miss Cheeritree.

At this alarming sight, Applejack's knees really did buckle. She let out an 'oof' of surprise as she collapsed to the ground and was promptly crushed by Rainbow Dash and Rarity.

"What is going on here?" Miss Cheeritree inquired grimly, her pale green eyes flashing. Her magenta coat seemed to crackle with severity.

Groaning, Applejack lifted her head from the floor and blew her Stetson off of her face (in a stroke of luck, it had slipped over her head in the fall, preventing her from smashing her muzzle against the floor). "Uh, we were jus' playin', ma'am - Ah mean cleanin'! We were cleanin'!"

Rainbow Dash and Rarity shot her dirty looks, and she responded by flicking her tail at them. They hastily climbed off her back and got to their hooves, arranging themselves in a line on either side of Applejack. None of them could quite meet their teacher's gaze - Rainbow shuffled her hooves awkwardly and glanced down at the floor, Rarity pretended to be absolutely engrossed in patting her curls back into place, and Applejack coughed apologetically and tipped her hat down over her eyes.

Miss Cheeritree stared sternly at the three fillies, who were simultaneously trying to stand as tall as they could while looking anywhere but at their teacher. She allowed them to stand in painful silence for a good thirty seconds before clearing her throat and stepping forwards. They shuffled respectfully out of the way to clear a path. Raising her eyebrow at the trio of troublemakers, Miss Cheeritree glanced up at the incriminating crimson words splashed on the wall and allowed her horn to glimmer with magic.

The words sparkled for a brief instant and then faded away, melting into the wall as though they had never been there. Forgetting her uncomfortableness at once, Rainbow Dash let out a barely audible squeak as her jaw fell open. "What? You - you mean you could have gotten rid of those words whenever you wanted?"

"Of course. What's the point of having magic if you can't do simple things like clean off paint?"

Rarity's sapphire eyes brightened as she realized that she would able to do that herself someday. Her smile drooped, however, as she recalled that she and her friends were still in trouble. "Why did you let us clean it if you knew that you could do it yourself?" she asked hesitantly.

"To teach you a lesson, of course. I am a teacher, am I not?" Miss Cheeritree's gaze softened somewhat as shame crept over her students' faces. "Look, my little ponies, I'm not angry at you," she continued softly.

"Yore... not?" Applejack's ears flicked forwards in surprise.

"No. I know you didn't mean any harm, and certainly no harm was done. But the lesson you need to learn is one of tact. There are some things that are better off unsaid. That's why I asked you to spend some time cleaning the words. I wanted you to have some time to think about what you did, so that you'll never do it again. Do you understand?" she inquired gently, bending her neck to look her students in the eye.

Applejack was the first one to step forward. "Yes ma'am," she replied contritely, sweeping off her oversized Stetson and twisting it in her hooves. "We're real sorry. We won' do it again." Rarity and Rainbow were quick to chime in with apologies.

Cheeritree smiled kindly at them, her eyes crinkling. "Good. Then you're free to go home."

Applejack beamed toothily up at the teacher and trotted past her, accompanied by Rarity. Rainbow Dash blasted out of the door and sailed up into the turquoise sky, whooping with glee. "I'm freeeeeeeee!"

"Hold on, sugarcube," Applejack called. "Ya still have t' explain t' yore parents why ya came back from school so late!"

"Nope," the pegasus smirked, waving her hoof airily as she shot downwards and came to a screeching halt right in front of Applejack. For one so young, she was already a master at dramatic touchdowns. "I told them I was going to be hanging out at your place all afternoon. When I get back, I'll just tell them it got so late that we lost track of time and they'll be none the wiser."

"But... Ah didn't invite you," AJ pointed out, scratching her head.

"But you're going to," Dash shot back smoothly.

Actually, she had been planning on it, but she didn't want to give Rainbow the satisfaction of knowing that her guess had been right. "Maybe," Applejack replied cryptically.

"C'mon, you know you want to! My dad loves it when I hang out with you and Rarity. Says you're good influences or something." Although Rainbow actually lived in Cloudsdale, her parents sent her to school in Ponyville, for some reason that Rainbow hadn't quite figured out yet. Something about wanting her to experience diversity. Her parents trusted her to be able to make the long flights there and back, since she was already an unusually strong flier. She just had to be back by her house before the sun set each day.

"Well, when ya put it that way, how can Ah say no?" AJ replied smoothly. "Alraght. Y'all can come over. Maybe we can git started on that plants assignment fer school."

Rainbow crinkled her muzzle at the word 'assignments' and zoomed back into the sky, performing a series of rapid loop-de-loops that were worthy of the Wonderbolts themselves.

"Applejack, what will Granny Smith do when she finds out why you were late from school?" Rarity questioned, gently nudging her friend's shoulder.

The Earth pony filly grimaced and bit her lip, flicking her flaxen tail nervously. "Uh, she won' like it. Ah might get stuck cleanin' out th' pigpen fer a week..."

Rarity wrinkled her nose. "Eeeugh."

"Jus' about sums it up." Applejack sighed and stared miserably at her hooves. "Ah feel awful bad about what we wrote on th' wall, though. Ah mean, Miss Cheeritree was prob'ly real embarrassed."

"Yeah, but she didn't sound that angry," Dash pointed out squeakily, swooping down to hover over Applejack's head. "And that was totally the best prank... ever..." Her voice faltered and her eyes widened. "Guys. I just got an idea!"

"Why do I feel like this is going to get all of us grounded?" Rarity groaned.

The pegasus ignored her. "I know the perfect place to talk about this! Applejack, can we use your new treehouse?" AJ's brother, Big Mac, had just helped her build a treehouse in one of the orchard's apple trees. It was a somewhat ramshackle affair, with lopsided windows and a crooked balcony, but Applejack and her brother were proud of it nonetheless. It was the very first thing they had built together with their own hooves.

Applejack looked bewildered. "Well, Ah guess, but -"

"Cool! Beat ya guys there!" Smirking, Rainbow ruffled her wings and streaked away down the road.

The young cowpony growled under her breath. She didn't know what Rainbow was up to, but she did know that she wasn't about to let her win this race. But what about Rarity? Hesitant to leave her friend behind, Applejack glanced over at the little unicorn with a questioning frown.

"Well, she did challenge both of us," Rarity giggled with a sly smile. "So... goodbye!" In a sudden burst of speed and vigor that nopony ever would have expected from her, she burst into an effortless gallop that soon had her tied with Rainbow Dash for first place.

Applejack's mouth dropped open. Rarity running - running willingly, to be more precise, was an odd sight indeed. "Huh..." She collected herself, shook her head, and raced after them, lowering her head determinedly. There would be time to be surprised later. First she had to win this race.

***

About five minutes later, the three of them collapsed in a heap - for the second time that day - in the middle of Sweet Apple Acres's east orchard. This time, however, they were laughing uproariously and resorting to dirty methods such as extensive tickling in order to escape from each other's clutches. "Stop! Stop! I'm ticklish there - ooooooooh! Rainbow Dash, you fiend!" Rarity wheezed, giggling uncontrollably as Rainbow reached a hoof up and ran it along her stomach.

"I don't know what that means, but I'm gonna keep being one!" Grinning devilishly, the little pegasus proceeded to intensify her assault.

Applejack, who found herself on her stomach at the bottom of the pile yet again, grunted with surprise as one of Rarity's flailing hooves connected with her eye. "Yeowch! Will y'all stop fighting'? Ah'm gettin' crushed!"

With guilty smiles, her two friends clambered off her back, apologizing. Well, Rainbow was still laughing, but Applejack decided to construe it as an apology. Still grinning a little herself, she rolled over onto her back and stared up at the sky, tucking her hooves up to her chest. Dash and Rarity mirrored her on either side, everypony's manes intermingling in a vibrant waterfall of bronzy platinum, rich purple, and bold rainbow.

"Who won the race, anyway?" Rainbow asked when their laughter had finally died down.

"I'm not sure. I lost track when you tackled me to the ground and caused Applejack to stumble over me," Rarity answered wryly. "Which was definitely not cheating."

Glimpsing a heated argument in the making, Applejack saw fit to intervene. "Well, it don' matter now. We all made it t' the farm in th' end, an' that's what counts." She rolled back over onto her belly and got to her hooves, stretching mightily and gently flicking Rainbow's face with her tail to encourage her to stand up as well. "'Sides, we got business t' take care of. We jus' gotta get t' th' treehouse b'fore Granny catches us an' -"

"An' asks why yer back from school so late?" a stern voice finished. Applejack gulped and looked up. Granny Smith stood before them, her eyes sharp and glaring, her graying mane pulled back in a loose bun. Even Rainbow shrank beneath her fierce gaze. "Ah could hear y'all laughin' from all th' way inside th' farmhouse."

Rarity forced a laugh and nudged Applejack to the side, trying to make herself the center of Granny's attention. "Good afternoon, Miss Apple," she greeted the matriarch of Ponyville as flatteringly as possible. "We were just... enjoying the scenery on our way back, you see. It's a lovely day."

Granny Smith smiled kindly at the little unicorn and patted her shoulder. "Nice try, young 'un. But Ah wanna hear this one from Jackie, since she were s'posed t'be helpin' out on the farm. Macintosh had t' do all her chores for her." She arched an eyebrow at her granddaughter. "Well?"

Applejack sighed and gazed ashamedly down at the ground, scuffing her hooves against the tightly-packed earth. "Ah'm sorry, Granny. Ah... sorta got detention." She hung her head.

"Don't let her fool you," Rainbow interjected, throwing a hoof around her friend's back. "It was my idea. I roped her and Rarity into playing a prank on the teacher."

Rarity shuffled her hooves apologetically. "She's right. It was my fault too. I went along with it without saying anything."

Granny stared at her for a few moments and then burst into peals of explosive laughter. "Well, tickle me pink an' call me a cucumber!" she hooted, cackling so loudly that every bird on the farm fled in fright. "Yer followin' in yer old granny's hooftsteps, eh, Applejack? Ah used t' be a right lil' prankster back in th' day. All th' colts thought -"

"Alraght, end that sentence now, please," Applejack interrupted, her face red. "Ah heard enough. More'n enough."

Granny wiped away a tear of mirth, her giggles finally subsiding. "Well, prank or no prank, Ah'm proud o' ya fer tellin' th' truth. All o' ya. Bein' honest is never easy, but it's important. An' you three jus' did a mighty fine job of it."

All three fillies beamed with pride and stood up a little straighter. "So, yore not mad?" Applejack asked hopefully, her emerald eyes bright.

Granny shrugged. "Eh. Not really. But ya have t' do all Mac's chores along wi' yers tomorrow t' make up fer bein' gone."

Applejack pouted, but she knew it was fair. "Hmph. Fine." Then she perked up again. "Oooh! Did we git a letter from Ma an' Pa yet? Did we did we?!"

Applejack's parents were currently on a business trip, promoting Sweet Apple Acres all throughout Equestria. The farm was world-famous for its seventy-nine varieties of apples as well as its various apple products, largely due to her parents' promotional tactics. Every six months or so they took a month-long trip around Equestria in order to showcase their wares, leaving Granny Smith behind to manage the farm. They were currently gone on one such trip, and wouldn't be back for another three weeks. But the remaining three Apples were managing just fine without their help- Granny Smith, of course, was an expert at farmwork, and Big Mac and Applejack were slowly but surely being taught to handle their own share of the chores.

Granny Smith chuckled. "No, sugar plum. They only been gone six days. They ain't gonna write a letter 'til sometime next week."

The young Earth pony's eyes were downcast. "Ah miss 'em."

"Me too, child. Me too. But they'll be back 'fore ya know it. So why don'tcha chin up an' go play wi' yer friends now?" Pursing her lips, she pushed Applejack's hat back over her forehead. "Ah dunno what yore Pa was thinkin', givin' ya this hat. It'd fit better on a grapefruit!"

"Really? Ah can go play? But... aren't there any o' mah chores left?"

"Yer big brother's already done 'em. Ah expect ya t'give him a real nice apology later, though." Granny Smith heaved a sigh and turned around to leave, her legs noticeably trembling. "Ach, these joints ain't workin' as well as they used to... well, Ah'd best be gettin' back t' work. Them pies ain't gonna make 'emselves. Y'all stayin' fer dinner?" she called over her shoulder.

"No ma'am," Rainbow answered. "My parents want me back before the sun sets." Rarity nodded in agreement; her parents usually asked her to be back before sundown as well.

"Well, alraghty then. Y'all take care now. Have a nice time playin', git yer homework done, an' don' burn anythin'." The elderly mare shambled off in the direction of the house.

"Ma'am?" Rarity questioned, spinning around to face Rainbow.

"What?" she protested scratchily. "I can be polite, you know."

Applejack rolled her eyes. "Once a year, maybe. If'n we're lucky. Now c'mon, let's head t' th' treehouse." She led her to friends deeper into the orchard, Rainbow arguing with her the entire way about whether or not restraining oneself from pranking somepony counted as 'polite'.

The treehouse was located near the edge of the east orchard and was perched between two branches of a particularly wide-leafed apple tree. Although the steps up to the treehouse were rather perilous, with no safety railing to speak of, the climb was well worth it: the treehouse had a marvelous view both of Sweet Apple Acres and of Ponyville itself. From a distance, the treehouse looked shabby and malformed, but one could tell from up close how much care and love the Apple siblings had poured into its construction. Mac and AJ had even carved their names into the corner of the balcony, albeit somewhat crookedly. They had also refused any help from their parents, wanting this to be their own special project.

Rarity and Rainbow had only visited the treehouse once before, since it had been finished fairly recently, but they could tell as they stepped inside that Applejack had already been hard at work making it as homely as possible. A faint whiff of sawdust still hung in the air, and the walls were still bare for the most part, but Applejack had already hung flowery curtains over the windows, attached a couple lanterns to the ceiling, carved hearts above the doorway, and arranged three chairs and a table against the back wall.

"Looking good, AJ," Rainbow commented, eyeing the room appraisingly. "You've really fixed the place up!"

"Yes, I quite agree," Rarity added. "I would suggest a damask tablecloth, though." Applejack and Rainbow Dash glared at her, and she giggled nervously. "But it's still lovely!" she hastily amended.

Rainbow shook her head. "Same old Rares." She flung herself into one of the chairs and crossed her forelegs behind her head. "Okay. Can I tell you guys now?"

"We're listenin'," AJ assured her, taking a seat between her and Rarity.

Dash leaned forwards and draped a hoof around each of her friends' backs, her eyes gleaming. "What if," she murmured, pausing for dramatic effect, "we started a club for pranking?"

There was a long silence. "Ah dunno, R.D.," Applejack finally said, her brow creased. "After all th' trouble we got in today -"

"No, wait, hear me out! We'll play all our pranks in secret! Nopony will ever know it was us! We can plan everything from this treehouse. It can be our base of operations. And, and, and -" she was clearly racking her brains for a way to enthuse her friends. "And it doesn't have to be just for pranking! We can do other stuff, too. We can try new things like cooking and mountain climbing, we could play games and do cool flying tricks - well, I could do cool flying tricks - we could even hire ourselves out to ponies who need help gardening and stuff!"

Applejack and Rarity were looking noticeably more excited now. "I could teach you two how to make clothes!" Rarity squealed. "That would be a dream!"

"Right. And you actually know how to make clothes," Rainbow deadpanned.

"W-well, no, not yet," she faltered, "but my mother is going to teach me. And I can sew."

Rainbow groaned resignedly. "I guess you can give me sewing lessons if you agree to join the club. Applejack, what do you think?"

"Ah think it sounds fun," she replied with a slow smile. "Jus'... less prankin' and more helpin' everypony else, alraght?"

Dash, the epitome of 'selective hearing', had only heard her first sentence. "Great!!! Then let's get this club started!" She pumped her hoof into the air and then lowered it just as quickly, doubt flickering across her face. "Oh, wait. What are we gonna call ourselves?"

"The Indomitable League of Fashionable Explorers," Rarity proposed smoothly, as though she had been waiting to suggest this name from the moment Rainbow mentioned starting a club.

Applejack sighed. "Rarity, Ah lost ya at th' first word."

"Yeah, and I am not being part of a club that has 'fashionable' in its name," Rainbow snorted, looking grossed out by the very idea. "We need a different name."

Rarity looked more than slightly miffed, but graciously chose not to verbally take offense. "Well, what if we use our names?" she suggested.

"Y'know, that's actually halfway reasonable." Applejack thought for a while. "What about the AppleDashin' Diamonds?"

Rarity seemed to like it, but Dash scoffed. "No. The Dashin'Apple Diamonds."

"Why does yore name git t' be first?" Applejack protested angrily, but Dash had already moved on.

"Oooh, how about the Rainbow Squad?"

"And that is where I draw the line," Rarity said firmly. "What's wrong with the Rarity Squad? Or the Applejack Squad, for that matter? No, I simply will not be in this club unless we can think of a name that has all of our names in it. Not just yours, Dashie."

Everypony subsided into a gloomy silence. This was going to be difficult.

But then, about five minutes later, Rainbow's eyes brightened and she gasped sharply. "Guys, I think I got it," the pegasus filly said excitedly, lifting her head. "The RADs. We can be the RADs."

"The... what's?" Rarity questioned dubiously.

"The RADs. Look. You take the first letters of each of our names. Rarity, Applejack, Dash. Then you make it stand for 'Really Awesome Daredevils'. See? The RADs! And it sounds like 'rad', which is totally rad!"

"That... is a horrible name," Applejack said, crossing her hooves over her chest skeptically.

"Hey! Guys, come on! We can call ourselves the Daredevils for short."

Neither of her friends looked particularly pleased by this prospect.

"We're not gonna find anything else better, you know," Rainbow Dash wheedled.

At this, Rarity sighed and bit her lip unhappily. "You're right. I still prefer 'The Indomitable League of Fashionable Explorers', but... I guess I could agree with the name you've chosen."

"Yeah! Now that's what I'm talking about!" Heartened by her friend's support, Rainbow flicked her jagged mane out of her eyes and glanced over at Applejack. "AJ?"

"Well... Ah guess it ain't what we're called that counts, but what we do," Applejack conceded. "Ah'm in."

Rainbow smiled wickedly. "Girls, this treehouse is no longer just a treehouse. It's a clubhouse."

Applejack and Rarity began to smile along with her as they realized the implications of this statement. The possibilities ahead of them were endless.

"Shall we deliver our first-ever club statement?" Rarity asked eagerly.

"You bet," AJ and Rainbow answered simultaneously, wearing matching roguish grins. The three best friends hopped out of their seats onto the table and slammed their hooves together into a three-way high five, whooping with delight. "REALLY AWESOME DAREDEVILS FOREVER! YAY!"

***

"An' that," Applejack finished, grinning down at the three awestruck little fillies clustered attentively by her hooves, "is how our club got started."

"Awwww," the Cutie Mark Crusaders whined simultaneously, realizing that the story was over. "That's it?" They had been hanging on Applejack's every word for the past forty-five minutes, and, as such, it was rather a shock when her rich country twang fell silent.

"Fer now," Appejack replied. "It's gettin' a bit dark, an' Ah wanna finish this card game b'fore Ah have t' help Granny with dinner." Her words were friendly, but her voice was stern, and Apple Bloom knew better than to beg for more of the story.

"I have a question," Sweetie Belle piped up. "Rarity, did you really race them back to the farm?"

Rainbow snorted with laughter. Rarity, annoyed, tossed her mane and looked pointedly away. "Don't look so surprised. I can run when I want to."

"Back in th' good old days," Applejack teased, nudging Rarity's shoulder. The alabaster unicorn frowned at her, her sapphire eyes glinting dangerously, and AJ held up her hooves placatingly. "Only jokin', sugar."

Scootaloo clasped Rainbow's hind legs and looked up into her big sister's face, her eyes shining. "Did the words you wrote on the wall turn out to be true?"

"Believe it or not, kiddo, they did," Rainbow chortled. "Miss Cheeritree ended up marrying that Mr. Dandy. Just a few months later, I think. And guess what? They had a little foal together named Cheerilee!"

"Whoaaa," the Crusaders chorused, wide-eyed. To think that their own teacher's mother had taught their big sisters!

"Yeah, our little prank turned out t' be helpful in th' end," Applejack said, her eyes distant as though she were thinking back to her fillyhood. "Y'know, we were a lot like you three when we were fillies. We liked t' help ponies too. We jus' went about it th' wrong way."

The Cutie Mark Crusaders didn't know whether to feel pleased or insulted by this comment.

"We abandoned our club about ten years later, when Fluttershy and Pinkie came along," Rarity said. "You three would have been about a year old at the time. We stopped because we were friends with those two, and we felt bad leaving them behind to go have fun on our own. Fluttershy would have been terrified out of her wits by half the things we got up to, and Pinkie... well..."

"What we were doing was nothing compared to Pinkie's antics," Rainbow finished with a grin. "There was no point even trying to prank anyone around her. She could do everything we did and more."

"But that's a story fer another time," Applejack said. "Ah need t' get back t' kickin' Rainbow's flank at cards."

"Awwwww," the Crusaders whined again. "We want to hear more!"

"Oh, I can't bear to see you so sad!" Rarity exclaimed, scooping her sister up and cuddling her close. "Why don't we all meet at my house tomorrow? We can tell you some more of our stories then."

"Fine by me." Applejack raised an eyebrow at Rainbow. "Dash?"

"Anything for you, AJ," she replied, batting her eyelashes teasingly as she used one of AJ's favorite terms of endearment for Rainbow.

"Oh, shut up." The farmpony gently nudged Apple Bloom to her hooves. "Y'all go back t' playin', now. We'll meet at Rarity's place tomorrow. Alraght?"

Apple Bloom mulled it over and then gave a firm nod. "It's a plan!" She turned to her friends. "C'mon, guys, let's go'n find somethin' t' do!"

The little fillies whooped with excitement and hoofbumped high in the air, energized by their big sisters' stories. "CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS LOOKING-FOR-SOMETHING-TO-DO-ERS! YAY!" With that, they leapt off the porch and trotted away into the apple orchards, silhouetted by the light of the slowly setting sun.

Applejack huffed a rueful chuckle. "Those three are growin' up."

"Yeah," Rainbow agreed. "Better hope they don't turn out too much like us, though, or Ponyville's in for it."

"Maybe we should warn everypony to batten down the hatches," Rarity joked.

"Maybe so. But first," Applejack said, eyeing the sky blue pegasus seated next to her with a sly smile, "Ah got some more chocolate coins t' win."

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