• Published 22nd Jan 2012
  • 10,058 Views, 762 Comments

A Camping We Will Go - Trinary



Rainbow Dash and Big Macintosh take six little ponies camping. What could go wrong?

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Flared Tempers

& & &

“This here is moss.” Big Macintosh pointed a hoof. “It only grows on th’ north side of tree. So ifn yer ever lost, you kin find out which way is north by looking at the moss.” Murmured whispers and hushed conversations greeted him.

Big Mac sighed. Ever since Rainbow Dash had announced the start of the prank war it was all the little ponies could talk about, even as they went about their nature hike. He pointed out trees, how to find a trail, and even gave a small demonstration of how to buck fruit from the trees, but clearly the little ponies’ minds were elsewhere.

“The game is very simple.” Rainbow Dash had told her awestruck audience earlier that day. “Your two teams will be holding contests to see who can prank the other team. You will be scored on the quality and creativity of your pranks, the number of your pranks, and bonus points if you manage to turn one of the other team’s pranks back against them. You will lose points if your prank fails, if you get prank one of your own teammates, or if your prank hurts somepony.”

“Be mindful of each others' feelings.” Big Macintosh butted in. “Ah don’t want to see nopony in tears on account of a mean prank.” He gave them—and Rainbow Dash—a stern look. “And no makin’ up stuff about a camper being lost or hurt or in trouble. We don’t need any foals who cried timberwolf, understood?”

“Right, right.” Rainbow Dash waved him off. “What he said.”

Dinky raised her hoof. “Ooh! What if we manage to prank *you* Auntie Rainbow?”

“Huh?” Rainbow let out a startled laugh. “Ah heh, glad to see you’re aiming high squirt, but don’t get your hopes up. I’m Ponyville’s premiere prankster!”

“But what if we DO manage to prank you?” Sweetie Belle chimed in.

“Well…” Rainbow toyed with them, smirking as all six campers leaned in expectantly. “If any of you DID manage to prank the prankmaster, I suppose that would give you an automatic win. And any one request from the most spectacular pegasus around these parts.”

“And the only pegasus around these parts.” Big Mac reminded her with an eye roll. Rainbow Dash glared.

“And if you manage to prank Big Macintosh here, then he’ll be your own personal juke box for the rest of the trip!” Big Mac looked like he bit into a sour apple only to find a worm in it.

“Woah….” Gasped the campers. A favor from Rainbow Dash for anything!

“That sound good enough for you?” She asked. Her response was a dozen wide eyes.

“YEAH!” Came the enthused shout.

“All right then, good luck squirts…you’re gonna need it!”

That was this morning. As the sun moved right overhead, Big Macintosh had been pestered right and left by little ponies trying out ideas and asking for advice on pranks and gags, something Big Macintosh was not familiar with and frankly did not want to be familiar with.

“Okay colts and fillies, lunch time!” He announced to cheers and a few yays as a half dozen ponies gathered around. “Ah made apple turnovers, apple dumpling….”

“We get it, you like apples.” Rainbow Dash interjected, rolling her eyes. “Line up troops, get your fill!”

“Thanks Big Mac!” Sweetie Belle grinned as she got her lunch. “This looks really good!”

“Why, thank yew kindly Sweetie. Least SOMEpony knows how to appreciate good food.” Big Macintosh said loudly, pointedly not looking at Rainbow Dash as she ducked into her tent.

Pip was next but he stood aside in favor of the next pony in line. “Here you go first Dinky!”

Dinky beamed, about to thank Pip when Sweetie Belle shook her head. She mimed zipping her mouth closed and tilting her head back in what was supposed to be a dignified manner but came off as haughty and imperious.

Sighing, Dinky did the same. “Good afternoon Master Pipsqueak.” She sounded like she was talking through her nose, giving no indication that she even noticed his chivalry.

Pipsqueak’s ears fell. Didn’t Dinky like him anymore? She was acting all formal and distant like they were strangers. Silver Spoon, who was behind both of them, glared at Dinky. How dare she? She was being such a…such a jerk! Pip was SO nice and she was just acting like a snob!

Her eyes widened and she half-stumbled to the side. “Was that how I was acting?” She asked herself. “Is that how other ponies think of me?”

Archer reached out a hoof to steady her. “Hay, Spoony, you okay?”

“Uh, yeah. Fine, fine.” Silver shook her head. “Just thinking about some things.” She gave Dinky one last glare before stepping forward to get her lunch.

Dinky suddenly wasn’t feeling very hungry. This wasn’t working! Now whenever she talked to Pip, he got all sad. That’s not what she wanted!

Big Macintosh waited to sit down until he served everypony, Rainbow Dash last. He took his time in giving Rainbow her lunch, a tiny conceit on his part. To his surprise, she didn’t seem to mind his deliberateness. In fact she seemed…smug. Shrugging it off, he circled around to his spot on the camp logs and sat down.

“PFFFFRRRRRRT!” The short flatulent burst shattered the calm of the camp and seemed to echo off the trees. There was dead silence then a wave of giggles from the younger ponies. Big Mac, grateful for his red coat, stood and looked down at where he had sat. He picked a flattened object and held it up: it was a deflated whoopee cushion with a cutely drawn face of a pony giving somepony a raspberry on it.

“Classic!” Rainbow Dash laughed. “All right squirts, fess up? Who did it? Who put that there?” Six foals looked back and forth and shook their heads. “C’mon…oh all right, I admit it. It was me!” Rainbow giggled as she raised her hoof.

Big Macintosh gave her an exasperated look. “Ain’t you a little old for this?”

“Lighten up big guy.” She snorted. “All work and no play makes for a dull pony!”

Macintosh considered this for a moment. Then an idea occurred to him. “Say, which one of you thirsty ponies would like some good ol’ Sweet Apple Acre apple cider?”

The reaction was instantaneous.

“Cider? You brought cider?!” Dash’s tongue lolled out as a faint sliver of drool made its way out of her mouth. “Please tell me you’re not joking. That’s too cruel!”

“Eenope. Serious as a cattle stampede.” Big Mac reached into his saddle bag and took out a pair of large thermoses. “Specially made.” He explained, jostling them ever so slightly right in front of Rainbow’s face. “Keeps the cider nice and cool.”

Her eyes widened as if she had seen pure rapture. “Well what are you waiting for? Pour some!”

Big Macintosh thought about it. “Hm….eeeeenope!” He grinned, taking inordinate pleasure in drawing the cider just out of her reach. “Ah don’t think so.”

“What? Oh come on!” She whined. “That’s totally not fair!”

“Hm. What do y’all think? Should I give Rainbow Dash a sip?” He winked as he turned to their charges. The campers giggled and pretended to think it over.

Archer stroked her chin. “I don’t know…”

Snails piped out. “I think we should! She’s the counselor and she’s super awesome!”

“And super bossy.” Silver Spoon countered with a smirk.

Big Macintosh tossed Rainbow a grin. “Sounds like yer gonna have to give them something to convince them.”

Rainbow gave her junior co-counselor an even look. “Really. Like what?”

“Maaaaybe you should offer them something. Something…cool.” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. Usually she needed little or not prompting to show off for her fans but being made to perform for her lunch bruised her pride a little.

“All right…how about after dinner I give you all a show of some of my *fantastic* moves.”

Big Macintosh tapped his muzzle. “Hm, naah. Not enough.”

Rainbow Dash felt a vein twitch over her forehead as she ground her teeth together. “Okay…whoever comes up with the best prank by the end of the day will also get a ten minute ride from me.”

A chorus of oohs and awes broke out behind Big Macintosh but still, the large stubborn stallion shook his head. “Eenope.”

“What?!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, echoed by six little ponies. “An awesome air show and a ride?! What more could a pony want from me?”

Mac’s eyes narrowed as a clever grin crossed his freckled face. “A li’l cherry on top. You do all that…and you gotta give us a song.”

“Pfff, fine, whatever…no sweat.” She crossed her hooves across her chest. “NOW, can I have my cider?”

“Nu-uh uh! This cain’t jest be another song about you bein’ awesome and cool.” Big Mac waggled a hoof reproachfully. “This has to be a COUNTRY song!”

Rainbow Dash’s wings jutted out to the side in pure shock. “WHAT?! County?! Oh come on, country music is totally lame! Er, no offense. But there’s no way you’re gonna get me to sing country!”

Shrugging, Big Macintosh started packing his cider-filled thermoses away. “All right then, I guess you’ll have to go without until Cider Season starts….”

Rainbow bit her lip. Apple Family cider was sooo cool and delicious. It was the best drink she’d ever had. She felt her eyes watering as she watched the cider gradually start to disappear into his saddle bags. She could almost swear she saw them waving as if to say ‘Goodbye Rainbow Dash, goodbye…’

“ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT!” Rainbow covered her ears. “You win! I’ll sing, I’ll sing! Just pleeeease pour me some of that cider!”

“Now why didn't y’all just say so?” Mac winked to the giggling campers as he slooowly filled a plastic cup full of cider.

Rainbow snatched it out of his hoof so fast he thought she might’ve taken half his leg off with her. She drank it down greedily, as if afraid Big Macintosh would change his mind and try to take it back. Frankly, he’d sooner try prying a diamond away from a dragon than getting between that pegasus and her cider.

When she finished, Rainbow dropped her empty cup on the ground and licked her chops for any stray drops. Her eyelids fluttered as she stared upwards, hugging her body with her legs and her wings. “So delicious…!”

Big Macintosh had to cover his muzzle with his hooves and pretend to cough to cover up his snickers. Rainbow Dash glared, silently swearing revenge for his cruel toying with her. The campers giggled and went back to their own lunches, even more intent on performing some outstanding prank by the end of the day.

“Maybe we can put a plastic spider in Rainbow Dash’s sleeping bag!” Sweetie Belle suggested.

“Spiders aren’t scary!” Pip wiggled his muzzle at her.

“They are too! Whenever Rarity sees a spider she screams and screams and screams!” Sweetie insisted.

“Doesn’t your sister do that all the time?” Dinky asked innocently. “She did that when momma got muffin crumbs in the scarf Rarity gave her.”

“Oh.” Sweetie rubbed her head. “Yeah...”

“We need to think of something else.” Pipsqueak said.

Dinky gave him a look. “What did you have in mind?”
& & &

“Do you have anything in your mind?” Silver Spoon looked at Snails in aggravation. “At all?” Their team had been brainstorming ideas for a good prank on Rainbow Dash but so far it consisted solely of Silver Spoon and Archer suggesting and shooting down each other’s ideas. Snails had been doing his utmost to be unnoticed. Usually this didn’t take much effort on his part. Most ponies tended to ignore him if he didn’t say anything. The one time he WANTED to be ignored *would* be the one time it didn’t work.

Snails shuffled his hooves. “Um, I like pudding?” He gave a weak grin, hoping Silver Spoon would give up asking him. The fact that she immediately facehoofed herself gave him hope that it would work. But Archer, still trying to improve Silver Spoon’s opinion of Snails, just wouldn’t let it go.

“C’mon Snails, you’ve got to have *some* idea.” Archer wheedled. “Anything! It’s not like we’re coming up with any great ideas.” She pointed out.

“Um, I don’t really…” Snails mumbled. He didn’t *want* to prank Rainbow Dash! If he pranked her she’d be upset with him and then she wouldn’t like him! And Snails really really *really* wanted Rainbow Dash to like him!

“Please?” Archer prodded. Snails bit his lip. He didn’t want to say anything but Archer was being so nice to him too! It was so confusing! He closed his eyes and before he could help it, he blurted out the first thing he could think of.

“Big Macintosh!” He really wished the older stallion was here to help him think. But Archer and Silver Spoon took his excited outburst to mean something different.

“Snails you’re brilliant!” Archer said, giving Silver Spoon a nudge. “Isn’t he brilliant Spoony?” Silver Spoon rolled her eyes.

“Um, I am?” Snails was, understandably, confused.

Archer didn’t seem to mind. “It’s perfect! We make it look like Big Macintosh pulled a prank on Rainbow Dash and then SHE pulls a prank on him! THEN we tell her that we did it. She’ll be so impressed that we managed to put one over on her and Big Mac all at the same time that we’ll be bound to win!”

“…Oh.” Snails blinked.

“Spoony and I will think of the start up prank, but you gave us an awesome strategy!” Archer winked at Silver. “See? I told you if you gave him a chance that Snails would be really helpful.” She was hoping that Silver Spoon would lighten up and become friends with the gangly colt. Maybe even become more than friends. The idea of Silver Spoon and Snails made Archer giggle.

Silver Spoon, missing most of the byplay, was wondering if Archer’s brain had melted. Did Archer have a crush on Snails, of all ponies? Yuck.

Snails backed away. “I’m gonna go for a walk…” He gave a weak grin, then turned and galloped off, not waiting for an answer. He had messed everything up! Now he had to do something to show Rainbow Dash that he liked her before his teammates pranked her with his idea—something he still really didn’t understand.

Walking through the woods near the camp, the young colt hung his head. He had no idea what to do. He sniffed. Then he sniffed again. Something smelled nice. Looking around he found that he had walked into a patch of flowers. And what flowers! He saw flowers with petals of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet! Just like a rainbow.

That’s when Snails got the greatest, most bestest idea he ever had EVER.

& & &

Dinky sighed and put her face in her hooves as Pip excused himself to grab some more cider for the group.

“What’s wrong Dinky?” Sweetie Belle asked.

“It’s not working!” The blue-gray unicorn filly pouted. “I’m acting all lady-like but Pip doesn’t ever notice!”

Sweetie Belle tapped her muzzle with her hoof. “Hm. Rarity says that sometimes colts can be a little dense.”

Dinky protested immediately. “How can Pip be dense? You see how little he is?”

“No no no, not dense like heavy. I mean that some colts don’t pick up on romantic stuff as fast as fillies do. Rarity says that we’re more mature than colts at our age.” Sweetie beamed. Then she giggled. “Hee hee, dense. Rarity would know about dense boyfriends. She once dated a rock!”

Dinky giggled. “No way! Did he bring her flowers?”

“That’s it!” Sweetie exclaimed. “Flowers!”

“Huh?”

“Nooothing.” Sweetie Belle giggled. “Um, I haveta use the little filly’s room. Be right back!” She zoomed off leaving a confused Dinky Doo behind. Now Sweetie just had to find Pip…
& & &

Back at the campground, the two counselors kept a loose eye on the campers as they huddled and walked and whispered around the nearby woods. Close enough to come in case they needed help, but far enough away to give the foals a bit of autonomy. So far, Big Macintosh had to admit, they’d shown some real signs of learning to think and act for themselves. They earned the chance to show them big ponies what they were capable of.
Of course, there were more practical reasons to why the two adults were staying put. Rainbow Dash fanned herself with one wing. “Wheew. Hot day today.”

“Eeyup.” Mac agreed. “It’s purty hot all right. Least a ways you ain’t pulling the plow on the farm as the noon sun beats down on your back. Now THAT’S hot.”

“Try clearing the clouds on a day like that. You’re so high up that you think your wings might actually melt! I need to wear my goggles just so I don’t go blind. And on days where there isn’t a breeze and it’s really humid? Forget it; it’s like flying in soup!”

“I’ll take you at yer word.” Big Macintosh got comfortable. “Mind if ah ask you something Rainbow?”

“Knock yourself out.”

Macintosh grunted. “Thanks. Ah was wondering, how’d you get roped up in this little expy-dition?”

“Eh.” Rainbow shrugged expressively with her wings. “You know that pink stuck up girl, Diamond Tiara?”

“Eeyup.” Big Mac gave a rueful nod. “Ah sure do.”

“Well, she and Silver Spoon were saying nasty things to Dinky about her mom.” Dash scrunched up her muzzle in disgust. “I went to Cheerilee to let her know, then she pitched this idea and well, here we are.”

“Mighty nice of you.” Big Mac said evenly. “Ah didn’t know you were so close to Ditzy and her kin.” He smiled at Rainbow’s embarrassed laugh.

“A heh, yeah, well…somepony had to help Ditzy out with her flying. Can’t have her crashing into everything.” She rubbed her head.

“So, you were afraid she’d steal yer thunder, Rainbow Crash?” Big Mac teased, regretting it when Rainbow Dash gave him a glower Applejack wouldn’t have been ashamed to call her own.

“Do NOT call me that.” She ground out, her teeth almost grinding together. “Got that?”

“Got it. Mah apologies Miss Dash.” Mac said, honestly contrite. “Ah heard AJ call you that once or twice…”

Rainbow half-turned away and crossed her arms. “Hmph. She knows better than that.” Then she yielded. A little. “Of course I miiight’ve called her Ampleflank right before that.”

Startled, the big red stallion let out a whinny of pure amusement. “Ampleflank? Oh apple pie, ah’ve got to remember that one!”

Rainbow Dash cracked a smile. “Yeah, that is good, isn’t it?” She preened a little, her temper forgotten. “Anyway, Ditzy’s all right. You just sort of have to…you know, look up once in a while.”

“How’d you get to be friends with Miss Doo? Ah thought she annoyed you.” Big Macintosh asked, hoping not to provoke Rainbow Dash’s somewhat unpredictable temper.

Her answer surprised. “Well duh, of course she does, sometimes.” Big Mac blinked, but Rainbow went on. “But hay, if I could only be friends with ponies that never annoyed me, I wouldn’t have any friends.”

“Mighty big of you.” Big Macintosh drawled lazily. “Rest assured, ah’m sure the feelin’s mutual.” He paused. “So….do I, er, annoy you?” He asked curiously.

Turning over, Rainbow gave him an odd half-smile. “You…annoy the ever loving daylights out of me.” She smiled as she said it.

“Aww shucks. You annoy me too.” Big Mac batted his eyes sweetly. Rainbow gagged.

“All right, don’t make me yack up my lunch.” She rolled over onto her hooves and shook herself off. “…Say big guy?”

“Hmm?”

“Does AJ ever, you know, talk about me?”

“Ah reckon she might’ve mentioned you a time or two.” Big Macintosh said evenly, with just a hint of a coy tone.

“…like?” Rainbow prodded.

“Whelp… Big Macintosh drawled. “I hear tell that you might be a fan of those Wonderbolt ponies.” His voice was completely deadpan. “Why? Was there something else you were thinking of?”

“Heh, nah…I guess I was just being silly.” Rainbow chuckled.

“Eeyup.” Mac smirked. “T’ain’t like AJ would ever say anything about that time you crashed into one of our trees and got stuck for two hours until she came and got you out.”

“HEY! She promised she would never tell anypony that!” Rainbow flushed crimson.

Big Macintosh shrugged. “Well, t’be fair she was a little woozy at the time.” He defended. “Had a bit of a fever and we got to talking…it jest came up.”

“Just came up huh?” Rainbow glowered at Big Mac, her face still red. He chuckled at the sight. Her eyes narrowed. “Yeah, I guess strange things can come up…like that time when Applejack was five and she caught you trying on your Granny’s make-up?”

Macintosh almost choked on his wheat. “H-hey now! It t’werent like that at all!” He protested as Rainbow Dash giggled and rolled over on her back in mirth. His ears grew hot. “Mah friend dared me to!”

“Sure, sure.” She snickered. “I believe you.” Rainbow cooed patronizingly.

“AJ swore she’d never tell!” Mac fumed.

The pegasus shrugged. “What can I say?” She could’ve said that she only learned that juicy little tidbit because Apple Bloom and her friends decided to be Cutie Mark Crusader Potion Makers. They tried to cure Applejack’s hiccups and instead had her spilling so many secrets that she ended up stuffing her hat in her mouth to get it to stop. Still…payback justifies many things, Rainbow Dash thought.

“That durn…all right, then. How’d you like to hear about the time she tried cutting her own hair and got mistaken for a colt for three months?”

“Would I!”
& & &

Snails beamed happily as he gleefully trotted back to camp, a large rainbow bouquet of flowers clutched firmly in his mouth. They looked really nice! This was the best idea ever!

Then Pip came barreling out of the flower patch, clutching his own rainbow-colored bouquet. It was the strangest thing. Sweetie Belle had come up to him when he was getting the cider and then she mentioned that she’d seen the ‘most beautiful flowers in all of Equestria!’ just a few minutes away from camp. Then she’d walked off saying something about how much girl’s liked it when a nice boy gave them flowers.

Pip was a little confused. Did Sweetie want some flowers? Then why didn’t she get them herself if she knew where they were? But he did get a great idea: he’d get some flowers for Dinky! Maybe then she’d stop being so…whatever…towards him. He had picked *so* many flowers that he had to hold his head backwards to prevent himself from tipping over.

It was a rather awkward walk, considering he couldn’t see the ground in front of him. Finally he had to stop and take a rest, carefully depositing his bouquet at the foot of a large stone. Pip wiped his forehead and walked off to see if there was anypony around camp to see him bring his prize in.

From the opposite direction, Snails approached with *his* bouquet of flowers for Rainbow Dash and deposited near the same stone. He needed to wash some prickles out of his muzzle before he presented them to Rainbow.

“Look!” Archer pointed to Silver Spoon as Snails exited the woods. “See? I *told* you Snails had some good ideas! He picked all those great flowers! Now all we have to do is make Rainbow Dash think they’re from Big Macintosh!”

“How will *that* be a prank?” Silver Spoon asked dubiously.

“It will be once we put in the poison ivy!” Archer grinned, pointing at a bush.
& & &

As the sun started to set, Big Macintosh and Rainbow Dash called the campers in for dinner. A cozy campfire was lit and Big Mac was serving dinner while oh-so calmly reminding Rainbow Dash of her earlier promise.

With an elaborate roll of her eyes, Rainbow Dash took to the air and performed an even more elaborate roll through the darkening sky. Her prismatic contrail seemed all the more dazzling as she tore through the evening. No pony had ever seen a rainbow at night before, after all.

While she might only be performing in the hopes of getting more cider, Rainbow Dash loved to fly. And with an appreciative audience…well, she was in her element. She spiraled, twirled and zoomed over the campsite, reveling in the oohs and awes of the little foals.

“That’s so amazing!” Sweetie squeaked as she watched as Rainbow Dash double backed and seemed to tie a rainbow knot in midair.

“Blimey!” Pip’s jaw dropped.

Dinky, temporarily forgetting to be lady-like, cuddled up close to him. “Yeah…”

"Dun forget about yer song!" Big Macintosh called with a smug grin. Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth but forced herself to seem nonchalant.

"If you want a country song, then fine. Here's a little number I learned over in Appleloosa courtesy of a fellow named Braeburn." Rainbow grinned. "A real rarity, an Apple stallion you could actually hold a conversation with!"

"Git on with it!" Big Macintosh called out, but he was smiling. This oughta be good fer a laugh, he thought to himself. A hot shot like Rainbow Dash trying to sing country? Oh what AJ wouldn't give to see this!

Feeling a bit nervous, Rainbow Dash cleared her throat and started to sing, drifting slowly across the sky.

"Take my love, take my land

Take me where I cannot stand

I don't care, I'm still free

You can't take the sky from me." Rainbow spread her hooves up, indicating the heavens above her, the dark sky glittering with stars. Big Mac felt his jaw drop. He wasn't the only pony.

"Take me out to the black

Tell my ma I ain't comin' back

Burn the land and boil the sea

You can't take the sky from me." Rainbow's sandy voice, nowhere near as graceful as Fluttershy's or Rarity's or any of her other friends, somehow made the song seem more...real, somehow.

"There's no place I can be

Since I found serenity

You can't take the sky from me..." Her voice drifted off as she flew up, towards the sky, her legs and wings outstretched.

There was a sudden silence that lay over the camp. Then it was shattered with shouts, applause and whistles from six amazed young ponies and grown work pony who felt his grasp on reality shaken.

"That was..." Big Mac coughed. "That was quite something Rainbow. Ah tip mah hat to you." He made as if to do so, despite not wearing a hat."

"That was AWESOME!" Snails exclaimed.

Sweetie Belle rubbed her eyes. "It was so beautiful..."

That’s when Pip suddenly remembered. “I have to go!” He stood up suddenly, causing Dinky to overbalance and topple over. “Be right back!”

Snails, who was in the process of tying his own long neck in a knot trying to follow Rainbow Dash’s twists and turns, suddenly remembered that he had someplace to be. “Gotta go!” He yelped as he darted into the forest too. Despite Pip having a head start, Snails’ longer legs got him to the stone first. Grabbing the bouquet—and not wondering why it was suddenly on the other side of the rock from where he had left it—Snails ran back to camp, Pipsqueak hot on his hooves. Rainbow Dash had landed and was busy bowing to the applause of the fillies.

An unlucky tumble through the bushes let Pipsqueak arrive ahead of Snails, but Snails popped into camp right after him. “D’nky!” Pip said around a mouthful of flowers. “Fwr ‘ou!”

“Awww…” Sweetie Belle and Archer coooed as Dinky’s face lit up in a bright blush. Silver Spoon crossed her hooves. Dinky didn’t deserve somepony as nice as Pip after the way she’d been acting.

“Thank you…” Dinky hugged the flowers, rubbing her face against their soft petals. “They’re so beautiful.”

“You deserve it Dinky!” Pip smiled warmly.

Snails, not wanting to lose the moment, walked over to Rainbow Dash. “Ah gut oo somfin!” Snails grunted to her.

“Huh?” Rainbow blinked. You…got me flowers?” Snails gave his friendliest—and goofiest—smile. “Gee, that’s really—”

A sudden shriek cut her off. Rainbow turned to see Dinky furiously scratching her face and chest with her hooves. “Make it stop!” She whined as she continued to scratch. “It itches!”

“Hang on little miss, ah’m a comin.’” Big Macintosh hurried over. He examined the dropped bouquet. “Looks like you got exposed to poison ivy.” He said sympathetically as Dinky sniffled. “Try not to scratch.”

“But it itches!” Dinky wailed her voice hitching. Silver Spoon tried, and failed, to conceal a nasty little smirk. Serves her right, she thought. Rainbow Dash noticed.

Big Macintosh rubbed Dinky’s mane. “S’okay sugarcube, ah got something that should make the itching stop.”

Pip started to babble out apologies. “Dinky, I’m so sorry! I—”

“If you didn’t like me all you had to do was say so!” Dinky sobbed, glaring at Pip and then Sweetie Belle. “I should never have listened to you! Pip hates me now!”

Sweetie Belle and Pip looked at each other and then at Dinky, each feeling horrible. “Y-you don’t understand!” Pip squeaked.

“I—I never meant to—!” Sweetie started.

“S’alright, we kin sort this out later.” Big Mac stepped in. “C’mon Dinky, let’s wash this stuff off.”

Rainbow wanted to fly off and make sure everything was cool, but she still had a little colt standing before her with a bouquet of flowers. Looking from Pip to Snails, Rainbow Dash figured out what happened. “Nice try Snails.”

“I—but—” Snails sputtered. Rainbow laughed.

“S’okay. Points for effort. I have to say, I didn't see it coming from you.” She gave him a gentle noogie. “I’d take you for that ride, but I want to make sure Dinky’s okay. Have a good one champ!”

“C-champ?” Snails face heated and his grin got even wider and goofier. Rainbow Dash started down to the river where Dinky was taking a bath with some sort of goo Big Mac had brought with him—probably another one of Zecora’s brews. She was about to ask Dinky how she was when a large solid red wall of pony blocked her path.

“Whoa!” Rainbow Dash drew back. “Didn’t think a guy as big as you could sneak up on anypony!”

Macintosh wasn’t smiling.

Rainbow’s own smile faltered.

“So….how’s Dinky doing?”

“She’s fine.” Big Mac’s voice was hard, like granite. “Surprised you could leave. Here ah fig’red you’d be too busy congratulating the pony that did this to Dinky.”

“What? No, of course not!” Rainbow blurted out. “Pranks are supposed to be in good fun! Whoever put that poisin ivy in the flower’s Pip picked for her—that’s just mean!”

“Mighty thin line you draw between good fun and mean.” Macintosh said stonily. “Wouldn’t be surprised if the foals you’re so busy preening yourself for missed the distinction.”

Her eye’s widened as she picked up at what was left unsaid. “You think this is MY fault?” Rainbow demanded hotly.

“Ah didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t need to! I could tell what you were thinking!”

“Well, maybe I think instead of goofing around, y’all could’ve been teaching this foals about responsibility and hard work, like you were supposed to.” Macintosh looked down at her.

Rainbow Dash returned his look without a blink. “Hey things have been going pretty fine up until now! And I work plenty hard at what I do!”

“Oh yeah, ah can jest tell. Must be powerful tiring finding the right one of OUR apple trees for you to nap in!” A sure sign of his anger, Big Mac seldom resorted to outright sarcasm.

Rainbow flew up, pushing her snout against his aggressively. “If it weren’t for the clouds and the weather I push around you wouldn’t HAVE any apple trees!”

“And here I thought it had something to do with the hard work my family’s been doing since before Ponyville existed that had something to do with it.” Big Mac’s sarcasm was biting as he shoved back. “But then, hard work ain’t something yer likely to understand!”

“What’s THAT supposed to mean?” Rainbow Dash seethed.

“What ah said. Work hard? You spend all yer time napping when you’re supposed to be moving the clouds!”

“That’s because I can get my work done faster than you can say ‘eeeeeyup’ big guy.” Rainbow said, half braggingly, half challengingly.

“Then that ain’t hardly working hard, is it?” Came the ready response.

“I work *plenty* hard training for the Wonderbolts! Do you know how much effort, how much practice I put in every single day? Is it any wonder I need to rest up?”

“Oh now THAT’S important.” The red stallion snorted. “Doing some silly tricks in the air? What good does it do anypony? At least applebucking gives you plenty of apples.”

Rainbow looked fit to burst at having somepony casually disregard her dreams and sacrifices as being of no importance. “Gee, I forgot, if it doesn’t have to do with apples you can’t understand it!”

“I understand plenty! I understand that you do whatever you like to do, whenever you like to do, without a care in the world. And what do you do with all your free time? Laze about and show off and brag. Some of us WORK to earn our keep instead of spending all of our time dreaming silly dreams!”

“At least I *have* a dream to follow! Ever since I was a little filly it’s been my dream to fly with the Wonderbolts, wear their uniform, be one of them! Ugh, look who I’m talking to. You’ve never had a dream in your life!”

“What?!” Big Macintosh exclaimed, his red face flushing angrily.

“The only thing you do is the do exactly what your parents and grandparents did and then have foals so you can teach them to do exactly what you’ve done.” Rainbow explained, snorting. “You never had to figure out anything, you had it all laid out for you! A family, a job…some of us had to *find* the thing that gave our life meaning.” Below her rage, her voice hitched ever so slightly. “You just work like a good little colt with your ‘eeyups’ and ‘eenopes’ while you let everypony around you make your decisions for you! It’s no wonder you never talk, you never have anything to say! You’re whole purpose in life is to be a placeholder, a link in a chain.” Rainbow’s chest heaved as she struggled to maintain her composure. Then she said the most hurtful thing imaginable. “…I feel sorry for you Apples.”

Big Mac stomped his feet angrily, shaking rocks several feet away. Of all the things anypony had ever said to him— “Whut’s THAT supposed to mean?” Big Macintosh started getting REALLY angry. No pony bad mouthed the Apple family!

Rainbow Dash’s magenta eyes narrowed. “You honestly think that you have all the answers, that everything you do is just SO perfect!” Rainbow’s voice became low and hick-ish, letting her eyes cross. “We’re the Apples, eyup! We think on account o’ we ain’t use no then there ma-gic or pegasuses that we’re somehow more honest and better than everypony else in Equestria. Eeyup!” Then her face and voice returned to normal. “You are totally full of yourselves!”

“Well ain’t that the pig callin’ the mule smelly!” Big Mac practically roared in disbelief. “And ah know we’re more honest and hardworking than a certain air-headed layabout! Ah’m sure Miss Doo will be mighty pleased that her daughter got all het up and upset under the watch of a future Wonderbolt. That’ll make it all better.”

Rainbow’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t you DARE. Remember who I am? The Element of Harmony I represent? I would do anything for Dinky or any other foal here. And when I’m done here I’m gonna give that brat Silver Spoon a piece of mind for her nasty little trick.”

“Don’t give away more than you kin spare.”

“You want a throw down? Then let’s go!” Rainbow put up her hooves.

“STOP IT!” Came a thin, high shriek from behind them. They turned to see Dinky standing, shivering in the shallows of the river. The two ponies raced over to her.

“Dinky, are you okay?” Rainbow asked, reaching out a hoof.

“NO!” Dinky cried, batting it away. “I feel so bad inside! Pip doesn’t like me anymore I’m itchy and wet and two grown-ups I really like are fighting and I want my momma!” She started bawling.

“Oh, Dinky” Rainbow wrapped her forelegs around the little filly. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’ll be okay, it’s okay.”

On her other side, Big Macintosh started to gently rub the upset girl’s back with one of his giant hooves, with surprising tenderness.

Dinky whimpered. “Please don’t fight anymore…” She sniffled. “I don’t like it. It’s scary and it makes me feel bad…”

“We’re mighty sorry Dinky.” Big Macintosh rubbed her back like he did for Apple Bloom when she was upset. “We’re the adults and we should know better.”

Rainbow Dash nodded as she sat in the cold river and hugged Dinky. “Yeah, we were being super lame.” Dinky sniffed again. “Come on. Let’s go get warm by the fire before you catch a cold. Then we’ll all go to bed. Things will be better in the morning, okay?”

“M’okay.” Dinky whimpered. Big Mac lowered himself down and gave the filly a ride on his broad back. Rainbow Dash and Big Macintosh didn’t look at each other the whole way back.

The rest of the night didn’t go much better. When they got back Big Macintosh put Dinky to bed. Rainbow Dash called Silver Spoon out and took her for a walk outside camp. The others heard shouting as Rainbow Dash accused Silver of putting the poison ivy in Pip’s flowers for Dinky and Silver Spoon cried and shouted that she didn’t.

In camp, Archer groaned. Pip was mad at Sweetie Belle. Dinky was mad at Pip and Sweetie Belle. Silver Spoon was mad at Dinky, Rainbow Dash was mad at Silver Spoon, Big Macintosh was mad at Rainbow Dash and Rainbow Dash was mad right on back to Big Macintosh. How had everything gone so wrong?
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