• Published 2nd Apr 2013
  • 11,610 Views, 408 Comments

To Be Young and Stupid - Crowley



Apple Bloom enlists your help in gaining her Cutie Mark. Adorable hijinks ensue.

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Prologue

Canterlot Train Station

10 years ago

A blistering winter wind whistles through Canterlot city’s foggy streets, the frost biting at anypony unfortunate enough not to be wearing a scarf, or at least a cosy saddle. By the railroad tracks of Canterlot Train Station, a cluster of ponies, most complete strangers with one another, huddle for warmth.

Two members of this pony-cluster happen to be husband and wife. A union that both hardy earth ponies, Ponyville farmers by trade, take as a blessing until their dying day.

Another couple, further along the station, are exchanging hushed words over their child. The father is unicorn, complete with a posh Canterlot air about him. The mother, like the slumbering foal in the baby pram, is a pegasus. And further again, a third couple, a jolly earth stallion and a cheerful unicorn mare, this time with a young unicorn filly next to them, her glowing yet tired smile breaking through the young filly’s shivers. The mother of said filly has an undeniable bulge in her stomach. Another bun in the oven, as they say.

A sense of relief can be felt from the ponies waiting out in the cold; their train had finally come into view. It pulls into the station without a hitch. The earth stallion working the engine pokes his head out to the freezing travellers outside, apologising for his lateness.

“The weather’s a nightmare,” he says, removing his engineer’s cap to mop his brow despite the surrounding frost. “Shame about that incident with the weather factory in Cloudsdale, but I’m sure it'll be over within the week!”

Without further ado, the train doors open, allowing everypony on the station to scramble aboard. The many ponies all take different places on the trains. The earth pony couple take a few seats near the front, out of everypony else’s way, courteous as they are. The couple with the foal sit somewhere in the middle of the train, as soon as they find a place with enough room to store a baby pram. Finally, the couple with the unicorn filly push their way aboard. They were too generous in getting on the coach, letting other ponies on first, becoming one of the last few to fit on. They end up having to shift to the furthest carriage, but as luck would have it, they find a table for the pregnant mother and her eldest daughter to sit by.

The engineer of the train finally re-doffs his cap and signals the all-clear to close the train doors and leave the station. Without a moment to spare, the train sets off.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the train, the family in the furthest carriage have just settled down by their table.

“That was a wondrous trip to Canterlot, Father!” the white unicorn filly - with an uncharacteristically refined tongue for a youth - beams. “So much glamour, so much life, both in the ponies living there and what they wear! Their dresses, their hats and tuxedos! Their clever use of gems and… and…” she trails off to release an adorable little yawn. It’s been a big day for her.

“Well, I sure hope it’s inspired you, kiddo,” the father smiles, patting his daughter’s back, “It’s why we went there for your cute-ceañera after all.”

He’d have kept talking about the cute-ceañera, but his thoughts are cut short by the gentle kick of the foal in his wife’s womb.

The mother gasps. “Oh my stars, Rarity, quick, put your hoof right here...! Feel that? That’s your little sister kicking…”

A little further up the travelling train, another family huddles over their baby’s pram. The unicorn and the pegasus. Their conversation isn’t as buoyant as it is bittersweet.

“It’s okay, honey,” the rich unicorn father gently places a hoof on his pegasus wife’s shoulder, “Ponyville’s one of the best places a pegasus could grow up in. Not so much as Cloudsdale, sure, but she’s going to have a wonderful life, you’ll see.”

“I know, I know,” the mother sighs, “She’s going to live a great life and have tons of friends of every pony race. I’m just worried about the moving itself. The fact that I had to leave Cloudsdale altogether, or else you‘d never be able to see her grow up.”

“That’s why we’re not living in Canterlot either,” the husband explains. “We can all start fresh, a new life together. And don’t worry about the house; the payment is entirely sorted out and we’ll be shifting the rest of our belongings over in the next few weeks. It’s just gonna be you, me and little Scoots, all in this together.”

The two lovers nuzzle each other in support. The foal in the pram turns over in her sleep, flittering her tiny wings like a hummingbird.

The two earth pony farmers at the front of the carriage catch a view of this tender exchange before turning to each other.

“Are you alright, sugarcube?” the mare nudges her husband gently. “You’ve been quiet ever since we left your brother’s place.”

“I have, haven’t I?” her husband drawls in a homely southern accent. “It’s jus’ that I’m thinkin’ ‘bout our kids back in Ponyville. I know we couldn’t miss goin’ to see my brother’s first foal bein’ born, but we couldn’t afford to take our own kids with us. I wager Mac or Jack would’ve loved to see their little cousin for the first time.”

“But what about little Apple Bloom?” the wife casts a quizzical look.

“Yeah, but she’d be too little to remember summat like this. But seein’ little Babs lying there in her father’s arms got me thinkin’,” a moment of reminiscent pause from the earth pony father. “I miss holdin’ my own kids. First thing I’m gonna do when we get back is give my son an’ my daughters a hug.”

“And if they’re asleep when we come home?”

“We give ‘em the nicest breakfast known to pony-kind come mornin'. Eggs and toast with melted butter, peppered with daisies and dandelions, a side of apple sauce to dip if they want, the whole thing.”

“Oh stop it, you’re makin’ me hungry,” the wife teases with a giggle.

“Just wait until we get back, dear, and you’ll see how hungry I am myself.”

Meanwhile, at the front of the train (more specifically, the steam engine itself), the earth pony driver shovels one last scoop of coal onto the roaring fire. That should do until the train reaches Ponyville; it’s an entirely downhill affair from Canterlot’s mountain, so all he needs to do is keep the embers alive for now and let the downhill slope take care of the rest.

It goes so well at first. The gentle chug of the train sailing along the side of the mountain in a smooth, steady decent lulls everypony into a sense of contentment. Despite the frost and feral winds that whirl around outside, it’s calm and cosy in every compartment.

The train-driver breathes a sigh of contentment, looking up at the propped-up frame of his loving wife and newborn baby colt in a humble black-and-white photograph sitting above the engine’s stove.

A photo frame that promptly topples over from the sudden shocking jolt of the train.

His innards lurch as the train seems to throw itself back and forth without warning. Stumbling towards the engine, he grasps the fallen photograph in a foreleg.

Another sudden jerk from the train. The passengers can be heard panicking from the ruckus. The freezing wind battering the train is threatening to throw the whole thing off-track. Even worse, the train is hurtling along the track much faster than the driver expected it to be.

He reaches a shaking hoof towards the lever for the brakes and pulls it as hard as he can, expecting the train to screech to a standstill. No such luck.

Then it occurs to him. The frost outside. It’s iced up the entire railway line. The train itself is slipping out of control, careening down Canterlot’s mountainside at a dismal speed. The fear and fright of the passengers aboard didn’t help.

And then it happens; the final sickening throw of the train as it tries to turn a corner by Canterlot mountain’s misty cliff side.

The train’s going too fast to remain on the tracks.

The tracks are too icy and slippery to keep the train steady.

It all falls into chaos. The child, pregnant mother and father in the furthest carriage take refuge under their table. The rich unicorn father throws himself over his pegasus child’s pram in order to protect it from harm. The earth pony farmers, husband and wife, hold onto each other as tightly as possible. One could almost hear them whispering “I love you” to each other.

The train driver takes one last look at the family photograph; his lover and his newborn child, before holding it to his chest as a tear rolls down his grizzled cheek.

With a wretched groan, the train breaks from the rails and tumbles down the steep incline in a mess of commotion and pandemonium.

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