Just Relax

by SleeplessBrony

First published

[February Write-Off Entry] The mane six go on a vacation. Together. But can they stay together?

[February Write-Off Entry] The mane six go on a vacation. Together. But can they stay together?

Just Relax

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“Alright, that settles it. We’re going to the museum!”

Twilight Sparkle raised her hoof as she said it, grinning with victory. She almost instantly lowered it and drooped her ears as a collective groan rose up around her.

“Settles it? That ain’t settlin’ nothin’,” Applejack said.

“Yeah, you want to go to the museum,” Rainbow Dash added. “What, is it your turn today?”

Twilight was about to say that yes, it was in fact her turn, when she was cut off.

“Honestly,” Rarity began with a theatrical roll of her eyes. “I don’t see how we can spend three days in Equestria’s foremost beach community without actually going to the beach.”

“Exactly!” Applejack said, strangely enough. “Ah say we go on down to the docks soon as we’re settled up here.”

“I said beach, dear Applejack. Not docks.” Rarity shot a withering look down her nose at the earth pony.

“Well we can’t go fishin’ from the beach,” Applejack said.

“...We can see the tidal pools at the beach,” Fluttershy almost whispered.

“We can go to all the restaurants on the boardwalk next to the beach!” Pinkie Pie said through a full mouth, spraying bits of syrupy pancake.

“Ugh, not more o’ that...” Applejack started to sigh.

“Really, Pinkie?” Twilight cocked an eyebrow at her. “We did that all day yesterday.”

“I know! And we didn’t even eat at half the yummy places!” Pinkie said.

“Well one of us ate at half the restaurants in town, anyway,” Rarity said quietly.

“Guys!” Rainbow Dash stomped a hoof on the table, flaring her wings out for effect. “Guys. Everypony chill out. We all know we’re just going back to Seaside Flag World.”

Again, a collective groan rose up. Except this time Twilight was happy to be a part of it.

“We did that the day before yesterday,” Twilight explained with obvious and intended annoyance. “That was your turn.”

“My turn?” Rainbow Dash glared back at her. “We all wanted to go!”

“Yes, and we did go,” Rarity said.

“And it was great!” Pinkie almost shouted.

“Wait a minute, since when are we takin’ turns?” Applejack said. “When’s my turn? We only got two more days, and I ain’t goin’ home without-”

“Your turn?! What about my turn?” Rarity wailed. “We simply must go to the beach, that’s just what one does when one goes to-”

“I think we should go back to the boardwalk!” Pinkie yelled.

“You already had your turn,” Fluttershy said quietly. Nopony heard her.

“You already had your turn!” Rainbow Dash yelled.

“So did you!” Applejack yelled.

“So what?” Rainbow Dash countered. “My idea is way more awesome than yours. Yours is boring.”

“Yeah, ‘cuz standin’ in line for hours is thrill-a-minute,” Applejack said.

“Well at least I don’t want to just sit in sand for hours,” Rainbow Dash cocked her head towards Rarity.

“I beg your pardon?” Rarity said in her best incensed tone. “I’ll have you know that sunning one’s coat is-”

“We could be sittin’ on a boat instead, takin’ her easy-” Applejack said over the white unicorn.

“We could be eating brownies!” Pinkie Pie said over that.

“We could just...quietly...look at the...” Fluttershy trailed off, still heard by nopony.

Twilight sighed and shook her head as the table erupted into crosstalk. Yet again, she had to take charge and corral her friends.

Not that I don’t enjoy it a little, she thought.

Hmm. Odd thought. Anyway, corralling. She prepared a most leaderly tone with a smile.

Yes. Corralling.

To the museum.

“Girls,” she said just loudly enough.

None of them even looked her way. The talking continued.


“Girls!” she said again, a little too loud this time.

Still no effect.

“Girls?” she said again, jumping up right through way too loud and looping back again to being quiet.

And...no effect.


She took a moment to watch her friends bicker. There didn’t seem to be anything unusual about this bickering. She had seen it’s kind many times before. But this particular case was more stubborn than usual. It was almost as bad as the time they had all been cursed by Discord’s magic.

I’ll take “strange sentences I never thought I would say,” for two hundred.

How could taking a vacation have this kind of effect on them? They’re all supposed to be relaxed, for pony’s sake.

Step up, Twilight. Everypony’s going to be friends and have fun. Make Celestia proud!

“Girls?” she said yet again, this time with a matronly smile. The smile dove right back into a pouty frown when nopony paid attention to her.

Diplomacy exhausted, Twilight began contemplating how to get their attention with magic. She was just beginning to decide to put on a light show when all five of her friends went silent and turned to her, staring.

They’re not staring at you, they’re looking past you, you dolt.

She turned to come almost face-to-face with a mountain of whipped cream and strawberries. It took a second, but then she noticed that hidden somewhere in there were lurking what might be the soggy remains of some waffles.

“Oooooohhhhhh!” Pinkie’s eyes went wide.

“Did you guys know there’s a waffle bar?” Spike said as he joined them at the table, hopping onto a seat next to Twilight.

“You sure it wasn’t a sundae bar?” Applejack said, barely stifling a giggle.

“No, it had waffles,” Spike said as he tucked into the gooey mess on his plate. His bliss was obviously interrupted as he felt six pairs of eyes on him. He warily glanced around the table.

“Are you guys still arguing about what to do today?” he asked.

“Yes,” they all said in unison.

“Jeez,” Spike solemnly shook his head, then turned to his breakfast for solace.

Each pony at the table seemed to take a moment to let that sink in.

He’s right. Jeez, indeed.

Twilight looked down at the remains of toast on her plate, then around her at the beautiful hotel restaurant. The wall was made of lovely wooden doors, all open to let the cool sea breeze blow the smell of salt through the room. Outside, Celestia’s finest sunlight poured down from a clear blue sky.

Five days in paradise and we’ve spent a whole morning arguing.


“Alright. Girls?” Twilight said. This time, they all gave her their attention.

Back in the saddle! Bring it home, Twilight.

She smiled confidently.

“We’re not taking turns. We never really discussed that, and there aren’t enough days in this trip for each pony to get a whole day for their own activity. Correct?”

Everypony at the table nodded.

“What we are going to do,” Twilight continued, “is reach a consensus. Let’s just go around the table and each explain our suggestions, and then we can politely discuss what to do today.”

A chorus of nods and agreeable words broke out.

“Alright then. Rainbow Dash?” Twilight turned to her right.

“Seaside Flag World,” Dash said with a huffy fold of her forelegs.

Everypony else groaned loudly.

“Aw, come on!” Rainbow Dash threw her hooves up. “I only went on the Disaster Dasher six times!”

“Can’t you fly?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“It’s different,” Dash said.

“Be that as it may, we already did that,” Twilight cut in. “So I’m afraid it’s a no on that one. It’s only fair.”

Everyone except Rainbow Dash nodded in agreement.

“Horse apples,” Rainbow Dash muttered with a very adolescent sulk.

Twilight almost scolded her but caught herself, deciding instead to move on around the table.

“Applejack?” she asked.

“Fishin’!” Applejack said proudly.

“Oh no!” Fluttershy said quite loudly.

“Oh, don’t worry yer pretty little head. We’ll throw ‘em back. It’s all about the sport, ya know what I mean?” Applejack said.

“No,” Fluttershy almost whispered.

“Yes indeed, nice relaxin’ day on the water,” Applejack continued. “They got a one-day charter boat for us tourists. Go out, take ‘er easy on the waves, maybe wrangle a shark or two. I ain’t never been on an honest ocean fishin’ trip.”

“Don’t listen to her!” Rainbow Dash stood up. “She tricked me into fishing with her once. We just sat there for hours. Boooooooooring.”

“That’s the relaxin’ part!” Applejack said. “Besides, it picks up when you catch something. Then it’s all about...uh...fightin’ the fish. Struggle! Pony versus nature!”

“Yeah, five minutes of fun. After five hours of sitting. Boring,” Rainbow Dash said.

“Yeah, no, let’s do your idea then,” Applejack said with a glare. “Five minutes of a ride after five hours of standin’ in line. Doesn’t get any more pulse-poundin’ than that.”

“May I?” Rarity raised a hoof. “I think I speak for more than just myself when I point out that this...fishing sounds far too barbaric for my tastes.”

Fluttershy nodded furiously, while Pinkie Pie went on eating pancakes. Twilight just heaved a heavy sigh.

This is going so well.

“Let’s save our votes for the end,” Twilight said. “Pinkie? Do you really want to go back to the boardwalk?”

“YES!” Pinkie looked up with syrup caked around her lips. “There’s a taco place and a pie shop and a store for balloons—a whole store! Just for balloons! And there’s tons and tons and tons of neat little souvenir stores, and funny cutouts and statues to take our pictures on, and those little carts that you put a bit in and then ride but they don’t go anywhere and-”

“That all sounds great,” Twilight said. “And it was great, yesterday. When we did all that.”

“But we didn’t see everything! There’s still dozens of places I didn’t-”

“Right, we get it. Moving on,” Twilight said, more than a little brusquely.

Pinkie Pie deflated a little, shooting huge, blue puppy dog eyes at Twilight.

“Sorry, Pinkie, it’s just that we spent all day doing that. It was fun, but-” Twilight started to say.

“I can’t do that again. I tried to fly last night and I was so full I almost ralphed all over the place,” Rainbow Dash said.

“Like you did after your sixth ride on the Disaster Dasher?” Applejack asked.

“Heh, yeah,” Dash shrunk a little on her seat.

“Ooh, I remember that!” Pinkie perked up. “You ralphed everywhere! You were all like, bleeeeeeeeehhhhhhh!”

“Naw, Rainbow doesn’t ralph like that,” Applejack said. “She does it all short and weird. Like...bleh. Bleh. Hnn...bleh!”

“No way! You guys are way off. I ralph all cool like,” Rainbow Dash holds her hooves out, like a diver steadying herself for the plunge. “I’m like this...and then...BLEH!”

“Whenever I ralph, I like to-” Pinkie started to say.

“AHEM,” Rarity said loudly. “Can we all please stop saying ralph?”

“Throw up?” Rainbow Dash said.

“Puke?” Applejack said.

“Blow chunks?” Pinkie Pie said.

“None of the above,” Rarity said while narrowing her eyes. “This is hardly appropriate conversation.”

“Yeah, it’s not like I’m eating or anything,” Spike said between messy bites of waffle.

“You girls are starting to make me feel a little sick,” Twilight said. “Rarity, you said you wanted to go to the beach?”

“Oh, naturally! We shall luxuriate upon the sands! A healthy dose of sun can do wonders for one’s coat, you know,” Rarity said with a giddy giggle.

“So...more sitting,” Rainbow Dash said.

“Yes!” Rarity said happily. “We can lie in the sun, and then lie in the shade. We can chat while sipping exquisite tropical drinks. We might even field compliments from a well-muscled young stallion or two.” Rarity bounced her eyebrows just once and lightly nudged Fluttershy with a hoof. Fluttershy did her best not to notice but froze up anyway.

“Pass,” Rainbow Dash said.

Twilight didn’t say anything, but she agreed with an eye roll. “Fluttershy,” she said instead. “What do you want to do?”

“Me?” Fluttershy said. “Oh...um...I don’t know. Nothing, really.”

“Wouldn’t you like to relax on the beach?” Rarity said.

“Umm...maybe.” Fluttershy put on a hopeful and patently fake smile.

“What about fishin’? Dontcha wanna meet all the neat sea critters?” Applejack asked.

“Oh no! Not like that! I...I just couldn’t!” Fluttershy said in a panic.

“Well that settles it. Fluttershy and myself makes two votes for the beach,” Rarity said with her snout high in the air.

“Um...I didn’t...vote...for the beach.” Fluttershy said.

Rarity turned to her, her mouth hanging open in shock.

“Votes at the end! Save it for the end!” Twilight said, quickly, before Rarity could begin whatever theatrics she had in store. “That just leaves me.”

“I think we should all go to the arcade!” Spike said.

“That just leaves me,” Twilight continued.

“Aww!” Spike said into his gooey mess of waffles.

“Spike, I already said no. I don’t want you rotting your brain with that garbage,” Twilight said. “As for me, I would like to go-”

“To the museum,” All her friends said in unison.

“Yeah, we know,” Applejack said sourly.

“Sure, Twilight,” Pinkie said mockingly. “Let’s all spend our sunny beach vacation at a dusty old quiet museum.”

“No offense, darling. It hardly seems an appropriate use of our time,” Rarity added.

Twilight sank into her floor cushion a little, feeling her ears flop down. Aware of the frown on her face but powerless to stop it, she soldiered on.

“You girls do know that this is one of the oldest maritime-”

“We know, you told us, like, a million times,” Rainbow Dash said.

“Sorry girl, but it doesn’t really grab me by the hocks, if you get what I’m sayin’,” Applejack added.

“Not how I would put it, but I must agree,” Rarity said.

“Mmm,” Fluttershy nodded.

Fine. Fine, I see how it is.

“Alright then,” Twilight said, doing her best to sound impartial. “Why don’t we just take a vote then and-”

“All against going to the museum say nay,” Rainbow Dash yelled.

“NAY,” everyone but Twilight said.

“All fer goin’ fishin’, raise ‘em up,” Applejack said. She raised a hoof and found herself completely alone in doing so. “Aw, c’mon!”

“Say ‘yea’ if you think fishing is a cruel and unnecessary sport for ponies who are insecure in their own marehood,” Rarity said while raising a hoof. She nudged Fluttershy.

“Oh! Um...yea.”

“Me too. But only because fishing is boring,” Rainbow Dash said.

“Say yea if you think Rarity’s just a fusspony who doesn’t want to get her hooves dirty with bait,” Applejack said while glaring at the white unicorn.

“YEA. Ha!” Rainbow Dash barked.

“Um...yea,” Fluttershy said again.

Rarity turned to Fluttershy again with a gasp of betrayed shock.

“Put your hooves in the air if you like to PAR-TAY!” Pinkie Pie yelled.

Everyone at the table took a second to just stare at the pink earth pony.

“This isn’t working,” Twilight said. “We need to vote secretly. Spike?”

She turned to her assistant only to realize that he was, in fact, still stuffing his face with waffles. He looked up at her with a big chunk of whipped cream stuck to his chin and she realized that he also, in fact, did not have any of the usual notebooks or quills she usually made him carry for her.

“Never mind,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”

Twilight got up from the table, grumbling under her breath.

Who wouldn’t want to go to the Barnstable Maritime Museum? It’s famous!

She made her way over to the counter and politely asked to borrow a pen and some paper.

They would love it if they just gave it a chance.

She made her way back to the table, still grumbling.

Reading is fun. Learning is fun. I bet they all vote for the museum—they’re just embarrassed to say they want to do something nerdy out loud.

It’s NOT nerdy.

No, it is.

Fine, it’s nerdy. But it’s still fun!

Darn right it is.

“Alright, everypony, let’s sort this—huh?”

All five of her friends were on their hooves, ready to leave.

“What are you girls doing?” Twilight said, almost dropping her vote-casting supplies.

“Well, we took a quick vote while you were up,” Applejack said, rubbing the back of her neck with a hoof.

“We’re all gonna do different stuff,” Pinkie Pie said.

“What?!” This time Twilight did drop her pen and paper.

“Sorry, sugar cube. We agreed to meet up again for dinner,” Applejack added.

“Unfortunate. But expedient. It seems this is the only thing we can agree on at the moment,” Rarity said. Everyone at the table except Twilight voiced their consent.

“I don’t agree with it!” Twilight yelled.

Consent-voicing stopped as everyone raised their eyebrows at Twilight.

“We’re friends!” Twilight said. “Friends! On vacation! Together! We should be spending time together. Remember what happened when we all split up at the Gala? Disaster!” Twilight toned down the bossiness and turned up the sad friend hoping for reconciliation. “And it’s just not the same without you girls.”

“Aww!” Rarity put a hoof to her chest.

“Shoot,” Applejack wiped at the corner of one eye. “When you put it that way...”

“Maybe we should stick together this whole time and never take a break from each other,” Pinkie Pie said.

Ha! Got them right where I want them!

Finishing blow?

Make it happen!

“Thanks, girls. I don’t know what I would do with you,” Twilight said. “But I think it would be more efficient if we apologized and made up on our way to the museum.”

Everyone except Twilight loudly yelled her down.

“Boooo!” Pinkie yelled.

“Ugh, my coat needs sunning,” Rarity said.

“Nice try, Twi,” Rainbow Dash said.

Shoot. Timing. Always lose it on timing.

“Well what are we going to-” Twilight started to say.

“Look, apologies to everypony,” Applejack cut her off. “But I gotta skedaddle if I’m gonna make my boat. Y’all have a good one.”

“What? Wait!” Twilight said.

But she didn’t. With a quick bow and a tip of her hat, Applejack trotted right out of the restaurant.

“Yeah, I gotta go if I’m gonna beat the rush,” Rainbow Dash said. “Fluttershy, you coming?”

“No,” Fluttershy said, looking perplexed that she was even asked.

“Aright. Pinkie?”

“No way! I’ve gotta move my rump if I’m gonna catch all the lunch specials!” Pinkie said, hopping off in a hurry.

“Suit yourselves,” Rainbow Dash said, taking off with a few flaps of her wings.

“Wait!” Twilight yelled.

“Darling, I really don’t see why you’re being so obstinate,” Rarity said. “Wouldn’t you like to go to your museum?”

“It’s not my museum,” Twilight said with a grimace.

“Mmm. Fluttershy, shall we be off to the beach?” Rarity said.

“Beach? Um...sure. Yes,” Fluttershy said.

“Wait! We’re supposed to-” Twilight said.

“Ta for now, Twilight!” Rarity trotted off with Fluttershy in tow, leaving Twilight alone at their table with a baby dragon just finishing his breakfast.

“...spend time together,” Twilight finished.

She looked down at Spike, who looked up from his plate just in time to burp loudly.


“Excuse me,” Spike wiped at his mouth. “So...can I go to the arcade?”


“Aww...” Spike sulked just a little, resigning himself to his fate. “Fine, I guess we’ll just go to the museum.”

“Wrong again, Spike.”


“We are going to find my friends,” Twilight said with a determined gleam in her eyes.

“Oh no,” Spike said.

“We are going to get my friends together,” Twilight said with a stomp of her hoof.

Spike sighed loudly.

“And we are going to have fun. Together!”

Grudgingly, as if at gunpoint, Spike climbed up onto Twilight’s back, settling into his usual spot.

“Ready?” Twilight asked.

“Does it matter if I say no?”

“Not even a little bit!”

Mere minutes later, Twilight was trotting her way down a long and weathered dock. Spike was still on her back, bouncing along with a weary look on his face.

“Why can’t we go see Rarity at the beach first?” he asked again.

Twilight groaned like a mother with very frustrating foals. “If you had been listening, you would’ve heard me when I deduced that we need to get Applejack first before she goes out on a boat where we can’t get her.”


Twilight pressed on, surrounded by the sound of waves rocking boats and the caws of seagulls high above them.

“I still don’t get what the big deal is,” Spike said.

“The big deal?” Twilight came screeching to a halt, bouncing Spike off her back and onto the damp wooden planks.

“Oof!” Spike bounced to his feet, rubbing his now-sore rear. “You could warn a guy. Especially one with a full tum-”

“The big deal?!” Twilight got right in his face. “The big deal is that I’m on vacation with my friends and they’ve all split up! This is supposed to be our quality time. Together!”

Spike just stood there, staring back at her with a blank face. “It’s just one day,” he said finally.

“It doesn’t matter. We’re the Elements of Harmony! We’re best friends! We can do anything as long as we’re together!”

“Okay, okay, calm down.” Spike waved her down with his claws. “But you don’t have to do everything together, right? Don’t you want to go to that dumb museum?”

“It’s not dumb!” Twilight snapped back at him. He cringed, and she took a deep breath. “Sorry. But I don’t think we’re doing it right. We’re supposed to do things together.”

“Says who?”

“Says me!” Twilight glared, a little annoyed again. “Now come on! I can see Applejack up there.”

Indeed, the orange earth pony was just up ahead, helping to load boxes of something onto a slightly-battered little boat. Twilight made her way up to the small crowd of ponies at that end of the dock, with Spike shuffling along behind her.

“Applejack!” Twilight yelled as she got close.

Applejack looked up from a long and narrow case and smiled instantly. “Howdy, Twi! What’s up?” she said.

“I need to talk to you,” Twilight said in a dire tone.

“Well make it quick. We’re shippin’ out in just a minute.” Applejack paused, giving Twilight her full attention.

“Don’t go. We need to get the group back together.”

“Oh for pony’s sake, Twilight, it’s just one day.” Applejack rolled her eyes and went back to heaving gear on board.

“See? I told you she wouldn’t go for it,” Spike said.

Twilight hinged her jaw back together and closed it, readying another attack. “You can’t tell me everyone’s friendship is less important than fishing.”

“You been studyin’ theatrics with Rarity or what? It ain’t a big thing. I really wanna do this, and nopony else does, so that’s that.”

Twilight took a moment to prepare a rebuttal, letting her eyes wander. About a half-dozen ponies, obviously other tourists, were scattered around the dock, either helping Applejack or just nervously standing there with life vests on. An older stallion with a messy beard silently oversaw the whole thing. His cutie mark was a shark’s jawbone with a hook through the middle.

He’s kind of scary.

What’s so great about fishing, anyway?

Stuck on a boat with a creepy guy like that.

Mean thought. Stay on task.

“So you really just want to go out and, what...catch fish all day?” Twilight asked.

“Sure I do. I love fishin’. Do it all the time back at Sweet Apple Creek,” Applejack said, not pausing at her work at all.

“You do?”

“Yes indeed. But I ain’t never gone sea fishin’ before. And Ole’ Salty over there says he knows a few tricks to bring a few sharks in. Ain’t that right, Ole’ Salty?”

Twilight and Spike’s eyes shot over to the bearded stallion. He responded with nothing but a cold, mean glare. Twilight fought the urge to cringe, but Spike openly whimpered a little and hid behind Twilight’s legs. Applejack just chuckled.

“Heh, ain’t he a character?” she asked.

“Wait,” Twilight said, recovering from the glare. “You want to attract sharks?”

“Heck yeah!” Applejack’s eyes lit up. “Meanest beasts of the waves! Shoot, there ain’t a critter on land I can’t wrangle, and if I can rope me a shark or two that’s all the more notches on mah belt.”

“Huh,” was all Twilight could manage to respond with.

A bell rang out. Any ponies not already on the boat began shuffling onto it’s creaking planks. Applejack paused and put a hoof to Twilight’s shoulder, looking her right in the eye.

“Look, I can tell yer a little upset,” she said.

“Just a little,” Twilight said.

Spike snorted loudly. Both mares gave him a look.

“But really, it’s all good. I’m sorry we ain’t stickin’ together the whole time, but this is somethin’ I really want to do, and it’s a rare chance at that,” Applejack continued. “Go have fun. I’ll see you at dinner, aright?”


“Unless you wanna put out to sea with me?” Applejack said as she hopped into the boat.

Twilight pictured rough water, slimy, smelly bait, and hours of nothing to do but sit in the sun and feel sick to one’s stomach.

“No thanks,” she said.

“Yeah, I thought so.” Applejack started to drift away as the boat cast off. “Y’all have fun at that marathon museum.”

“Maritime!” Twilight yelled.

Applejack chuckled again, slowly getting farther away. She waved a few times and then turned away, putting on a life vest of her own.

Twilight stood on the dock, stock still, watching the boat slide off into the ocean. After a few seconds, she felt Spike tugging at her foreleg.

“Well that’s that. Can we go get this museum over with now?” he said.


Spike balked at her, looking confused. “What are you talking about? Applejack’s gone.”

Twilight turned and stuck her snout up in the air. “We’ll just have to come back once we have the pegasus ponies on board,” she said in her most officious tone.

Spike groaned and slapped his forehead.

“So...you’re gonna try Rarity next?” Spike asked.

Twilight barely replied, just flicking her ear a little as she scanned the beach. They were making their way along the edge of the sand, down a pretty sidewalk full of ponies enjoying the day.

“Not that I’m complaining,” Spike drummed his claws together, “But I thought you said you needed a pegasus?”

“We’re right here at the beach. We might as well.” Twilight scrunched her nose up, obviously failing to find her target. “Besides, Fluttershy is probably with her.”

“Right, right,” Spike nodded along.

“I’m not seeing her, though—oh. Oh no,” Twilight stopped short as she spied a small group bordering on a crowd gathered around one spot on the beach. All stallions, from the look of it.

“What?” Spike said.

“Come on,” Twilight almost grumbled. She led the way through the beach, taking just a moment’s delight in the feeling of her hooves sinking into warm sand with each step. They picked their way through small groups of ponies lying on towels or sitting in folding chairs, all talking and laughing and having the best of times.

Of course, the group was all stallions. Almost a dozen of them, gathered with their backs to her. Rather than shoulder her way through a bunch of males, Twilight circled around to the water side.

And there, lying on a blanket, basking in adoration, was Rarity.

“Twilight!” She sat up a little and raised her sunglasses. “So good to see you! You decided to come enjoy the beach after all?”

“No. I came to—wait, what is this?” She realized that Rarity’s onlookers were arranged in a semicircle around her, leaving Twilight feeling like she was on a stage.

“Oh, well they can’t be blocking my view of the ocean, of course. Isn’t it just—shade!” Rarity clopped her front hooves together twice. One of the stallions rushed to position an umbrella over her.

“Aren’t you sunning yourself?” Twilight cocked an eyebrow.

“Periodically. Honestly, Twilight, the things you don’t know surprise me sometimes.”

Twilight stared at Rarity’s entourage, trying to grasp what the appeal of this could possibly be.

Sure, a few of them are good-looking, maybe. I guess.

They’re not even talking. They’re all just...standing there.

With dopey looks on their faces.

“Don’t you want to help me get everyone back together?” Twilight said.

“Twilight. Please.” Rarity theatrically rolled her eyes. “I think you can see that I am quite enjoying myself.”

“Doing what? Sitting here while these creeps stare at you?” Twilight said, expecting a reaction from the crowd. Nopony even looked her way.

“What I am doing is generously sharing my beauty with the entire beach. If these gentlecolts wish to show me their appreciation, what’s the harm in that?”

A few of the stallions nodded, beaming at the lady before them.

“Ugh,” Twilight groaned.


She shook her head, wondering how Rarity eats this kind of thing up. “Rarity, come on. Finding our friends is more important than getting doted on. You should come with us. Back me up, Spike.”

She turned to her assistant, only to see him standing there with that same dopey look on his face, ogling the white unicorn.

“Ugh! Spike!” Twilight groaned again.

“Huh?” Spike blinked a few times, coming out of his trance.


“Don’t you want Rarity to come with us?” Twilight said.

“How about I just stay—”

Spike trailed off as a new stallion came trotting up the sand. He stopped in front of Rarity and nodded at her.

“Good day.” Rarity nodded back.

“Hey. I’m Hard Pecs,” he said.

“And I am Rarity,” she said.

“Cool. Check this out.” He stood rigidly, flexing the muscles of his upper body.

Rarity put a hoof to her chin, appraising his talents with a trained eye. “Hmm,” she squinted. “Acceptable! You may stay,” she said with a wave of her hoof.

“Righteous.” He grinned and joined the crowd.

Spike watched all this with his jaw hanging open in a most forlorn manner. “Twilight’s right. You should come with us,” he said to Rarity.

“I’m sorry, Spike, but Fluttershy and I are having a perfectly lovely time right here,” Rarity said, lowering her sunglasses again.

“What? Wait, where is Fluttershy?” Twilight said, looking at an empty blanket next Rarity.

“Oh?” Rarity popped her sunglasses up yet again. “Hmm...she was right here. I think she went to get a drink or something. Yes, that was it. She is taking her time, it seems.”

“I’ll go find her!” a stallion perked up.

“I’ll get you a drink!” another stallion offered.

“I’ll get you and your friend a drink!” yet another stallion said.

“Thank you, kind sirs! Thank you! Twilight, would you like anything?” Rarity said.

“No. Thank you,” Twilight said, just this side of venomously.

“Very well.” Rarity clopped her hooves again and a few of the stallions took off like servants.

Males. Blech.

“So...you aren’t coming with us?” Twilight asked.

“I’m afraid not. Many apologies Twilight, but I’m quite happy right here. Why don’t you go enjoy the museum? I’d love to hear all about it later.”

“What?! Then why don’t you just come with me?”

“Oh, it’s so much better to hear it from you. I love how you can get excited over even the most bor—er, dry things.”

“Arg!” Twilight groaned loudly and trotted away, dragging Spike along with a bit of magic.

“I’ll see you later!” Twilight heard Rarity say as she stomped away, cursing the way her hooves sunk into the sand.

“Hey...uh, Twilight?”

She stopped and turned on Spike. “Don’t tell me you want to stay?”

“Well, the beach is really nice—” he started to say.

“You really want to just sit there and watch a bunch of dumb, beefy stallions suck up to Rarity?”

Spike slumped on his feet, looking lost and abandoned. “No.”

“Me neither.”

“Okay,” Spike said grudgingly. “What about the group then?”

“I don’t know.”

Twilight turned back to her stomping, wandering down the beach, not really sure where she was going. Spike padded his way along with her.

“I mean, without those two it’s—”

“I know, Spike,” Twilight cut him off, furrowing her brow.

What now?

She kept walking, slowly evening out from angry stomping to just frustrated pacing.

Maybe with the other three we can convince Rarity...

But that still leaves Applejack.

Get Applejack, then she can get Rarity. She always knows how to rile that fussy unicorn up.

But to get Applejack we need a...

Fluttershy! She can get both of them. Rarity listens to her.

But I’ll probably need Rainbow Dash to get Applejack.

“Twilight?” Spike said.

“Huh?” Twilight stopped short, noticing just now that the beach had changed character quite a bit.

“Where are we going?” Spike asked.

Good question.

Twilight looked around. Instead of sand, the beach ahead was a jumble of dark, sharp-looking rocks. The crowds were gone, replaced by a few foals climbing around and...


A yellow pegasus, sitting on a rock looking down at something.

“Huh. Well, that was easy,” Twilight said. “Come on, Spike.”

They picked their way slowly over the rocks, avoiding small pools here and there. It was much more quiet—the hubbub of ponies relaxing had been replaced by just the caws of gulls and the sound of waves crashing against rock. And the occasional squeal or laugh from the playing foals.

“Hey, Fluttershy!” Twilight yelled as they got closer.

Fluttershy looked up in surprise but smiled right away. “Hi,” she said.

“What are you doing?” Twilight asked as she carefully climbed nearer to her friend.

“Oh, nothing. I’m just—careful!” she yelled suddenly. “You’ll step on Claudia!”

“Huh?” Twilight froze, one hoof in the air. She looked down to see a small shell resting on the rock below her. “It’s just a sea...shell?”

A crab slowly poked it’s head out from the shell’s opening and resumed it’s slow march across the rocks.

“Oh. Coenobita clypeatus. Neat,” Twilight said.

“What?” Spike asked.

“It’s a hermit crab,” Fluttershy said. “I think hermit crabs are my favorite sea creature. They’re so small and cute and shy.” Fluttershy’s ears perked up, and she nodded down into the shallow pool below her. “Sorry, Mr. Starfish. I like you, too. But hermit crabs are still my favorite.”

“So...you just left Rarity on the beach?” Twilight asked.

“I don’t think she’ll mind. She seems awfully busy,” Fluttershy said.

Spike snorted loudly and narrowed his eyes.

“And I’ve been busy, too. I’m making so many new friends here,” Fluttershy added.

“Huh.” Twilight frowned down into the dark pool of water. “Are you sure you don’t want to try and help me gather your real friends? You know, other ponies?”

“No, that’s okay. We have the whole rest of vacation to spend together.”

“Because I really need your help convincing Rarity. And maybe you could fly out and talk to Applejack, too,” Twilight said.

Fluttershy’s smile faded just a bit at the mention of Applejack, and she stared off into space. Then something in the water caught her eye.

“Ooh, look at that! Shelly decided to come out of the water!” Fluttershy gushed. Another tiny hermit crab was climbing it’s way up the rocks. “Look at you go! Such a brave little girl. You go right ahead and climb out there and find your friend, Shelly. And if anything scares you, you can hide in your shell. Anytime you want,” Fluttershy said with dreamy eyes.

The crab clambered it’s way up out of the pool and paused, seemingly looking up at Twilight.

It’s not even cute.

Usually Fluttershy’s animals were at least cute.

Look at those blank eyes.

It’s just a crab, for pony’s sake.

“Aww, he is kind of cute,” Spike said.

“She,” Fluttershy said.

“Oh. Sorry,” Spike said.

How can she even tell?

“Seriously? You would rather sit here looking at a puddle than save our vacation?” Twilight said.

“Save?” Fluttershy said, suddenly very concerned. “Oh...um...I didn’t know it was going badly. I’m sorry.” Fluttershy looked around the pool one last time, quite pitifully. “I guess if it’s really important I can leave my new friends and help you.”

Twilight opened her mouth to thank her, but froze instead. Fluttershy was staring at her with ridiculously big, sad eyes, looking as if Twilight had threatened to murder her hermit crab friends.

“Aww...Twilight, come on!” Spike said.

Twilight sighed in defeat.

How does she do that?

“Nevermind. We’ll come back for you,” she said.

“Okay,” Fluttershy said, back to normal.

Twilight turned to go without a word.

Between Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, one of them should get Fluttershy to come along.

And that’s it. Down to two.

Will you just go to the museum already?

No! These two could be the key to unlocking the rest of them! If I get one, the rest will fall like...like—

“Dominoes?” Spike said.

“Huh?” Twilight stopped and blinked a few times. “Was I saying that out loud?

“Yes.” Spike folded his arms with a glare. “Are you okay? You’re sounding a little crazy again, like that time you thought you were gonna be ta—”

“I’m fine!” Twilight snapped. She immediately felt bad and unconsciously checked her mane for appropriate, non-crazy straightness. “Sorry. I’m really sorry, I just don’t want to give up on this.” She darted her eyes around, bowing her head lower to her little dragon. “You won’t go anywhere, right? You’ll stick with me?”

Spike sighed and quietly held his claw up for a bump.

“Always,” he said.

She bumped a hoof against him and stood upright, feeling sure in her cause again.

“I know,” she said. “Now come on. One of these last two could be our big break.”

She took off across the rocks at a hermit crab’s pace, with Spike slowly following.

“Although I wouldn’t mind running to the arcade for just a little bit...” Spike said.

“Brains. Rotten. Made of rotten goo,” Twilight said. She turned back to him and noticed just how far behind the young dragon had fallen. With a glow of her horn, Spike was lifted up into the air by a red glow and gently perched on her back.

“Too slow,” she said, smiling.

“Thanks.” He smiled back.

Together, they ambled inland.

“Naw, like I said before. Pass.”

Rainbow Dash slurped loudly at a straw leading into some kind of unnaturally-colored drink.

“Pass? That’s it? Pass?!” Twilight said.

“Yeah. Pass.” Rainbow Dash didn’t even look over.


“What are you even doing here?” Twilight asked.

Twilight had found Rainbow Dash, unexpectedly, sitting on a bench just outside the gates of the amusement park.

“Doing?” Rainbow Dash looked back and forth before shrugging. “I dunno. Chilling. Taking a breather.”

“Did you get sick again?” Spike said.

“No shut up.” Rainbow Dash glared and slurped angrily at her straw. “At least I didn’t get sick after one ride.”

“Yeah, but I puked fire,” Spike said, puffing his chest out.

“Heh, yeah.” Rainbow Dash slurped more and stared off into space. “That was pretty rad.”

Why is everypony talking about vomit all the time?

“You really aren’t going to help me?” Twilight asked again.

“What’s the big deal?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I just thought the Element of Loyalty would say more than pass.”

“Jeez.” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Lighten up, Sparkles. We’re on vacation.”


“Hey!” Rainbow Dash sat up. “Why did you wait to bug me until last? You thought I wasn’t gonna help, didn’t you?”

“Well, uh...you aren’t?” Twilight said.

“Yeah, what?” Spike scratched his head.

“I can’t believe this. You really thought the Dash would leave her friends hanging. Unbelievable.”

“You are!” Twilight yelled.

“They aren’t hanging! Nopony is hanging!” Rainbow Dash threw her hooves up.

“Hey, we didn’t leave you for last,” Spike said.

“Huh?” Both mares turned to him.

“We still haven’t talked to Pinkie Pie.”

“Hey, Pinkie! I just saw her,” Rainbow Dash said, settling down instantly.

“You did?” Twilight perked up.

“Yeah, she was going into that cheesy restaurant over there. She wanted me to go with her, but I...uh...didn’t feel like it.”

“You’re still sick to your stomach,” Spike said.

“Thhhppppt,” Rainbow Dash stuck her tongue out at him and went back to her drink.

“Will you come with us if Pinkie Pie does?” Twilight asked.

“No,” Rainbow Dash said.

“Alright then! To the cheesy restaurant!”

Twilight trotted off, ignoring the confused looks from Rainbow Dash and Spike.

“I said no!” Rainbow Dash shouted after her.

“She said no,” Spike said, catching up to Twilight.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” Twilight pressed on, marching to...

She stopped short in front of a large, gaudy building. Laughter and yelling rang out from inside, mostly that of foals. A large sign was above the door.

Cheeseman’s Cheeseside Cheesetorium

Twilight glared at it, the way she would glare at a troublesome lab specimen.

“Hey, this place looks great!” Spike said.

Twilight turned her head just enough so her little dragon wouldn’t see the face she made.

This place looks...ugh...loud.

Come on, Twilight. You can do this. For your friends.

This is it. The keystone. My last, great hope. And it’s...

Pinkie Pie.

Twilight almost shuddered. Instead, she steeled herself up and entered.

Blaring music invaded her ears immediately. Everywhere she looked it was bright, flashing lights on arcade games or garish animatronic ponies singing tinny songs. Small crowds of fillies and colts darted everywhere, completely ignored by their parents.

It’s...it’s horrible.

“Stay close to me, Spike.” She glanced around, trying to find the most ridiculous thing in the room and thus also her pink earth pony friend.

“Hey, they’ve got Wagon Commander!” Spike started to drift away.

“Oh no you don’t!” Twilight dragged him back with a magical grasp. “We’re only staying as long as we have to.” She perched the slightly sulky dragon on her back.

She scanned the room some more, trying desperately to tune out the...well, everything. Off to the edge of the restaurant there was a large cluster of young ponies, all gathered around a low table. A sign overhead proclaimed it to be the Cheesetastic Arts and Crafts Activity Center.

And sticking out from the hubbub was a spastic poof of pink mane.

Ah ha!

Twilight made her way over, almost tripping over playing foals only a few times. Pinkie was indeed seated at the low table, surrounded by foals. All of them were doing...something. The table was covered in rocks and seashells, as well as a seemingly endless supply of glitter, glue, googly eyes, and all sorts of other decorations.

“Twilight!” Pinkie bounced up at the sight of her. “I didn’t know you liked Cheeseman’s!”

“Uh...” Twilight looked around her as if to confirm that she didn’t. Pinkie took the pause as an opportunity to dunk her face in a pot of fondue.

Doesn’t that hurt?

“Ah!” Pinkie gasped as she came up for air, licking the molten cheese off her face in one impossible motion. “Isn’t this place the best? They’ve got games and music and fun things to do! It’s like a party all the time!”

“Yes...yes it is,” Twilight said, grinning uneasily.

“And they’ve got cheese fondue and cheese sticks and cheese pizza and cheesy bread and squeazy cheese and cheesy cheese! I just love cheese! I love to SAY cheese! Cheese!”

“Cheese,” Spike said with a giggle.

“Hee hee! Cheese! Cheezy wheezy peazy sleazy meezy!”

“Uh,” Twilight said again.

“Come on, Twilight, say cheese!”

“...Cheese,” Twilight said flatly. “What are you doing?”

“I’m makin’ souvenirs!” Pinkie held up a messy, glued-together pile of shells. It’s half-dozen googly eyes rolled lazily at Twilight. “This one is Mr. Shellington. And this one,” She held up a large shell with a tiny cardboard top hat, “Is Lord Shellsworth III. And this one is Milton.”

She help up Milton. Milton was a dark rock covered in glitter, with one big googly eye.

“Milton?” Spike asked.

“I couldn’t think of a third shell pun,” Pinkie said.

“What about Shelly?” Spike offered.

“Of course! Good one, Spike!” Pinkie slapped her forehead. “But I can’t rename Milton now. I’ll save that one.”

“Pinkie...” Twilight said. “Milton is a rock.”

“Shh!” Pinkie jumped forward, pressing a hoof to Twilight’s lips. “He doesn’t want the other shells to know. he gets really embarrassed about it.”

“Oh. Sorry,” Twilight said.

Wait, what?

Twilight shook her head, remembering her mission.

“Pinkie, will you come with me and try to gather everyone to do something together?” she said.

“Huh?” Pinkie bounced on her hooves. “You only came here because you want me to leave and go do something else?”

“Yes,” Twilight said.

“But I can’t go!” Pinkie said. “I’ve got to glue some pipe cleaners on some shells! And after this I need to go to the balloon store, and after that there’s a candy store down the street, and after that...”

“You would rather do all that alone than meet up with your friends?” Twilight cocked an eyebrow.

“Jeez, Twilight, it’s not like I’m never gonna see you girls again. I was with you yesterday. And the day before that. Besides,” Pinkie waved a hoof over the table of foals, busily constructing their own tacky messes of shells. “I’m meeting all kinds of new ponies. It’s okay to split up for a little bit sometimes.”


“Didn’t you want to go to the museum anyway?” Pinkie said.

“Yes, but that’s not the point!”

“Then what is the point?” Pinkie said.

“To have fun together!”

“But I am having fun.”


“Twilight,” Pinkie said, her tone adding don’t be silly. “I know nopony else wanted to do this with me. It’s okay.”

“But...you...we...” Twilight sputtered, one eye twitching.

“Uh...Twilight?” Spike reached a claw out in concern.

“It’s okay! Go to the museum!” Pinkie waved her hooves around.

“Fine!” Twilight yelled. “Fine, maybe I will!”

“Okay!” Pinkie beamed at her.

“I’ll just go. By myself!”

“Uh...” Spike held up a finger.

“With Spike!”

“Have fun!” Pinkie waved.

Twilight turned and stomped away, dragging spike along again with magic.

Can’t believe this.

I’ll show them. I’ll show them all!

I am going to have an amazing time at that museum and that is what I will do.

Twilight muttered quietly as she slammed the restaurant’s doors open, ignoring the strange kinks she could feel in her mane.

“So...museum?” Spike said.

“YES,” Twilight almost growled.

She placed him on her back yet again and trudged off to have some fun.

“Wow! Wasn’t that fun?” Twilight said.

She was trotting down the street again, but the sun was much lower in the sky. Ponies crowded the streets, ambling along in groups, all chatting about where to go for dinner. Twilight herself had accumulated a few new friends.

“I can’t wait to get home and read all of these!” she said, relishing the heavy shopping bags hanging at her sides. She took a sip from a drink floating by her head, another souvenir from the museum’s gift shop.

“Wasn’t that replica of the town’s first lighthouse interior amazing?” She turned to Spike.

He nodded slightly, mostly just walking with his claws in his pockets.

“Did you know it was one of the first hollow wick lamps used in Equestria?” she asked.

“Yeah, I was there when you read it.” Spike sighed.

Twilight stopped walking, taking the time to really look at her assistant. Spike paused with her.

What’s his deal?

I feel much better.

Definitely not tardy.

Indeed, her mane was straight and normal. Her brain was full of interesting new facts. How could anyone be glum after that?

Well, it is Spike.

“...You didn’t have fun at the museum, huh?” Twilight asked.

“No, it was okay, actually,” Spike said. “I don’t know. I guess I thought the gift shop would have, like...toys or something. Cool stuff.”

“Well, it’s really geared to be a research institution. Mostly.”

“So that’s why it was all books.”


They continued standing still, a calm island in a sea of tourists.

He didn’t have fun.

Poor little guy. After listening to me rant like a crazy pony all morning, too.

You know, after all that—I had a great time.

She tried to picture what kind of bedlam would have erupted if she had dragged all her friends to the museum.

It was so nice to just have a quiet, calm look around.

I had fun. I had a fun, good time and—oh shoot.

Yeah, I might have...done that thing again.

“Hey Spike?” she said.

“Yeah?” He barely looked over.

“Sorry. About this morning. I think I got worked up over nothing again.”

“It’s cool,” Spike said, still not looking.

What is he looking at?

She followed his eyes to another bright building full of flashing lights and electronic noise. They were standing just a few doors down from an arcade full of laughing, happy foals.


She floated a pouch full of bits from out of her saddlebags and hovered it in the air in front of Spike.

“Hey,” she said.

Spike turned and set a new record for wide eyes the moment he saw the bits. “Whoa!” he said. “Really?”

“Sure. You’ve earned it,” Twilight said as he took the money. “You know the way back to the hotel?”

“Uh huh.”

“Good. Don’t stay out too late,” she said.

He grinned and took off, trailing a stream of thank-you thank-you Twilight-you’re-the-best. Twilight smiled and set off towards the hotel.

Can’t wait to tell everyone about the museum!

And hey, I won’t be boring them too much. They weren’t there.

How neat is that?

It was a short walk back. She had intended to stow her books up in her room and maybe, just maybe, sneak in a bit of reading before dinner, but it was not to be.

Rarity was sitting in the lobby. She perked up the moment Twilight walked in.

“Twilight! How was your day?” she said.

Hmm...how was my day?

“Great. After I stopped freaking out a little,” Twilight said bashfully.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. At least you didn’t require divine intervention this time,” Rarity said.

Twilight was thankfully distracted form having to respond to that by the look of her friend. Rarity was positively glowing, sitting there with a relaxed smile and an unmatched luster to her coat.

“Wow,” Twilight said. “I guess the sun really does wonders.”

“Doesn’t it?” Rarity said with practiced nonchalance.

“You’re alone? I kind of thought you would be trailing a gaggle of admirers.”

“Oh, please. Those colts?” Rarity made a gagging face. “Pleasing to the eyes, perhaps. But not a single one could carry a conversation.”

“So you just let them dote on you all day and then dropped them?” Twilight said with a cheeky smile.

“Well, what kind of mare would I be to refuse freely offered kindness?” Rarity said with a wink.

Twilight hemmed a bit, not sure what to think of that. Rarity looked past her and Twilight followed her look just in time to see Fluttershy walk in.

“Fluttershy!” Rarity put on a look of concern. “Where have you been? I thought you-”

“Tidal pools,” Fluttershy and Twilight said in unison.

“Oh. I suppose that makes sense,” Rarity said.

“Sorry I just left...” Fluttershy started to say.

“Think nothing of it.” Rarity got up and gave her friend a short nuzzle.

“What’s up, ladies?” Rainbow Dash strutted in the door, flaring her wings out. “You guys decided where to eat yet? I’m like, starved to the max.”

“Not yet. We were waiting for-” Rarity said.

“Dashie!” Pinkie bounced into view. “Flutters! Rarity and Twiiiiiiilight!” she sang as she came up to them.

“Hi Pinkie,” they all said back.

“Where’s Applejack? I have presents for everypony!” Pinkie said.

“Presents?!” Rainbow Dash perked up.

“Wait a minute—we didn’t agree on a time to meet up. How did you...?” Twilight wondered aloud.

“Howdy, y’all!” Applejack walked in at last.

“Applejack!” everypony but Twilight yelled.

Huh. There’s that special friend connection again, I guess.

“Now that everone’s here, I can—whoa, what is THAT?” Pinkie’s eyes bugged out in Applejack’s direction.

Applejack puffed her chest out, posing proudly. Her coat was almost as lustrous as Rarity’s after a day out in the sun. A simple cord hung around her neck, bearing a few jagged shark teeth.

“Oh no!” Fluttershy gasped. “You didn’t...?”

“Relax, ‘Shy. They shed ‘em all the time. Ah didn’t kill nothin’.” Applejack said.

Fluttershy loudly breathed a sigh of relief.

“I must say, Applejack, that looks quite rogue-ish. Very dashing.” Rarity put a hoof to her chin. “I like it.”

“Yeah, not gonna lie. Jealous,” Rainbow Dash said.

“You won’t be after you get THIS!” Pinkie Pie handed her a shell with other shells and pipe cleaners glued to it.

“Uh...thanks?” Rainbow Dash said. Pinkie ignored her, handing out more ridiculous presents around the circle. When she got to Twilight, she held up Milton. Twilight graciously took the one-eyed rock.

“I know his secret is safe with you,” Pinkie gave her an exaggerated wink.

“Thanks, Pinkie,” Twilight said.

“Well, this certainly is...something.” Rarity daintily floated a clam shell a safe distance from herself.

“Isn’t that one neat?” Pinkie said. “I covered it in rhinestones just for you.”

“Oh?” Rarity examined her gift again, and a warm smile played at her lips. “Thank you, Pinkie.”

“She painted rainbow flames on mine. Awesome!” Rainbow Dash said. “But seriously, dinner. Now.”

Everypony nodded or voiced some kind of agreement.

“Wait,” Twilight said. “Before we do that. I want to apologize. About earlier.”

Her friends stared at her blankly for a full second before breaking out into good-natured giggles and chuckles.

“Huh?” Twilight squinted at them.

“Shucks, Twilight.” Applejack slapped her on the back. “You don’t gotta do all that. Yer heart was in the right place.”

“I thought it was sweet the way you wanted us to stick together. Even when we didn’t want to,” Fluttershy added.

“I don’t think I even really wanted to,” Twilight sank a little on her hooves. “I just got all...I don’t know.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rainbow Dash said.

“Besides, sometimes we really do all need rounding up,” Rarity said.

“Just not this time,” Pinkie chimed in.

“Exactly. So...food? Now? For the starving pegasus?” Rainbow Dash said.

“Sounds good. Let’s get some grub. Together,” Applejack said, giving Twilight a warm look.

Twilight shot it back, feeling a warm smile creep out onto her own face.

You girls are the best.

She said it with her eyes.

I’ve learned so much from them. Still learning. Always learning.

“Hey,” she said out loud. “I should probably write Princess Celestia a long, exhaustive, detailed letter about what I learned today.”

Again, her friends stare blankly at her for a moment.

“It’s been a while since I did one,” Twilight said sheepishly.

“You mean it’s been a while since you made Spike write one,” Rainbow Dash said.

“Aren’t we on vacation?” Pinkie cocked a confused eyebrow.

Twilight blinked a few times, letting that one sink in.

“You know what?” she said. “You’re right.”

Miles away, and a few hours later, Princess Celestia looked up as a burst of green flame materialized out of nowhere. She dropped the scroll she had been reading. She always made time to go over the latest report from Twilight or one of her friends.

But instead of the thick-rolled-up letter she had been expecting, a single paper card fell down.

A postcard. The front was a picture of a sunset over an empty strip of sand meeting water.

And on the back?

Having a great time! Can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get back!

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle