Apple Bloom trotted cheerfully up the ramp to the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ Clubhouse. She pushed open the door and bounced inside. Sweetie Belle was there already, staring at the wall.
“Hey, Sweetie!” Apple Bloom said.
Sweetie Belle didn’t answer.
Apple Bloom slowed. That was unlike her. “Sweetie Belle?” she tried again, one hoof lifting into the air.
Sweetie Belle slowly turned and looked at Apple Bloom. “One year,” she said slowly.
“One year what?” Apple Bloom asked.
“One year since we got our cutie marks,” Sweetie Belle said, pointing at the calendar.
Apple Bloom squinted at the calendar. “Really?” she said. She'd completely forgotten, to be honest.
“Yeah,” Sweetie Belle said. “It’s our one year cutie mark anniversary.”
Their ears pricked up as, from far off in the distance, they heard Pinkie Pie’s voice calling out her correction. “Cutie-versary!”
They looked at each other and grinned. Classic Pinkie.
The door opened behind them, and they spun to see Scootaloo. “Hey, girls,” she said. She slowed at their expressions. “What'd I miss?”
“It’s our one year cutie mark anniversary,” Apple Bloom answered.
Scootaloo’s ears pricked, but then relaxed when she recognized Pinkie’s voice. “Oh. Cool. I had no idea.”
“That’s it?” Sweetie Belle asked incredulously. “‘Cool’?”
Scootaloo cocked her head. “What do you want me to say?” she asked. She cracked a smile. “I’m not feeling like dancing right now, so I’m not doing that, either.”
Apple Bloom chuckled, but Sweetie Belle remained serious. “I’m serious!” she insisted. “It’s an anniversary-”
“We get it!” Sweetie Belle shouted out the window. She turned back to her friends. “So, we should do something for it.”
“Like what?” Apple Bloom asked.
“I dunno,” Sweetie Belle admitted, “but we should do something. You always do something for anniversaries.”
There was a pause.
“Yeah, we do usually do something for the last day of harvest every year,” Apple Bloom conceded.
“Rainbow Dash had that awesome birth-iversary,” Scootaloo said.
“Founders’ Day,” Apple Bloom suggested.
“And we always get cake for our birthdays,” Scootaloo added. “That's kindof an anniversary.”
“It's settled, then,” Apple Bloom said firmly. “We'll find a way to celebrate our cutie mark anniver-”
This time, all three shouted in unison. “We get it!”
Apple Bloom cast a dark glare out the window, then put forth her hoof and continued. “Cutie mark crusaders cutie-versary celebrators! Yay!”
Her two friends chuckled.
Apple Bloom blushed and dropped her hoof. “Sorry,” she said sheepishly. “Old habit.”
* * *
Sweetie Belle paced. “Seriously? We can't think of anything?” she asked.
“Nothing,” Apple Bloom said.
“Nada,” Scootaloo confirmed. She cast a forlorn look at the familiar lantern, which remained stubbornly unlit.
Sweetie Belle sighed. “Well, I guess we could go ask somepony else?”
Scootaloo sat up. “That's a great idea,” she said, reaching for the helmets. “You girls still fit in the wagon, right?”
* * *
Applejack tapped her chin. “Well, you got me,” she said. “I mean, you can't just invite everypony you've ever helped over for dinner by tonight.”
“Hey, we did help that cooking pony,” Apple Bloom pointed out.
“You taught him it was just fine to experiment by eating all his test dishes and telling him they didn’t stink,” Applejack said flatly.
Apple Bloom shrugged. “Still counts.”
Sweetie Belle shook her head. “Let's ask somepony else.”
* * *
Fluttershy chewed on her lower lip. “That's a good question,” she said. “I can't think of a good way to celebrate a cutie-versary.”
“Have you never had even one anniversary?” Sweetie Belle wheedled.
Fluttershy thought harder. She brightened as something occurred to her. “Well, on my first anniversary of moving to Ponyville, some of my animal friends held a little celebration for me. It was so cute. They sang, they danced, there was even a little talent show.” She giggled. “Terrence even brought me a few worms. I guess he didn't realize ponies don't eat worms. But he was just so earnest about it.”
“Did you eat them?” Scootaloo asked, half disgusted, half fascinated.
Fluttershy’s ears pinned. She swallowed, she bit her lip, she blushed, she dug the point of a rear hoof into the ground, and she suddenly found something very interesting to look on the ground.
“Ew,” Scootaloo muttered, looking sidelong at Fluttershy.
Apple Bloom narrowed her eyes. “Oh, like you've never eaten anything weird,” she challenged.
“Never a worm,” Scootaloo protested. “What, have you eaten one?”
It was Apple Bloom’s turn to pin her ears. “You know, even if I did-”
“We are not having this conversation!” Sweetie Belle interrupted shrilly. She lit her horn and dragged her two friends away by their tails. “We are asking somepony else!”
As they were forcibly dragged away, Scootaloo cast a dour look at Apple Bloom. “I liked it better when all she could do was shoot sparks with that thing,” she grumbled, gesturing with her head towards Sweetie Belle’s horn.
Apple Bloom nodded wryly.
* * *
Rarity tittered. “Anniversary? I can't say that I do, really. Well, I guess that's not entirely true.” She paused, and amended, “We do have an anniversary sale coming up in Canterlot, though, so I suppose there's that…”
Scootaloo shuddered, suddenly recalling their last attempt at a bake sale.
“But you don't do anything special?” Sweetie Belle prodded.
Rarity shook her head. “Oh, I never look back at the past, darling. It distracts from the now.”
Scootaloo rolled her eyes; but Sweetie Belle raised a hoof. “What about retro fashion?” she asked. “That's from the past, right?”
Rarity giggled. “That's quite different, Sweetie. We take cues from the past; we don't duplicate it exactly. I mean, I couldn't just copy Primline’s Fall design from twenty years ago; I'd also put a different pattern on the trim, perhaps add a sash, and I always felt that the colors she chose were a bit muted…” Her voice trailed off, and her eyes brightened. “Ideaaa!” she sang. She lit her horn excitedly.
And with that, the three crusaders found themselves forcibly deposited outside.
“Welp,” Scootaloo said, standing up and brushing off her foreleg, “that was a bust.”
“There's still a few other ponies we can ask,” Sweetie said doggedly. “We can't give up yet.”
* * *
Spike chuckled. “Yeah, give up on that,” he said, smoothing the pink apron he wore. “Twilight went up to Canterlot this morning, and she won't be back until this weekend.”
“Ok, we can ask you, then,” Sweetie said, determined. “How do you celebrate anniversaries?”
As if on cue, a timer rang from somewhere inside. “Like this,” Spike said, hurrying off and beckoning the crusaders to follow.
They quickly arrived at the kitchen. Apple Bloom paused at the enormous pile of comic books they passed. Spike pulled out a tray of cookies from the oven and held them out proudly. With quick, practiced motions, he flipped the tray, sending the cookies twirling through the air and landing neatly on a nearby cooling rack.
Scootaloo picked one up; but Spike gently took it from her and put it back on the plate. “Unless your teeth can crunch emeralds, I wouldn't try one.”
This did much to quell Scootaloo’s curiosity.
“You make cookies?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“I make gem cookies,” Spike corrected, bringing the cooling rack over to the table. “And I read comic books.”
“What anniversary are you celebrating, anyway?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“The anniversary of the last time Twilight left me alone,” Spike answered, choosing one out of his many comic books. “Which was three months ago, come to think of it.”
“That's not a real anniversary,” Sweetie protested.
“And that's why you've never been invited to one of my parties,” Spike said loftily, reaching for a cookie.
But Sweetie Belle was not to be dissuaded. “Ok; does Twilight celebrate any anniversaries?”
Spike chewed thoughtfully and tapped his chin with the other portion of his cookie. Then he brightened. “She celebrated the first anniversary of when she got her library card.”
“What did she do?” Sweetie prompted.
Spike scoffed. “What do you think she did? She went out and got another book.”
There was a pause.
“I don't know what I expected,” Sweetie Belle said.
“I vote we don't do that,” Scootaloo interjected. She had reached behind her and retrieved her money, and was currently shuffling some bits in her hoof. “I think I've got enough for something at Sugarcube Corner, and that's it.”
Sweetie Belle brightened. “Of course! Why didn't I think of that sooner?”
* * *
Pinkie Pie giggled. “Ooh, of course!” she said. “Cutie-versaries are the greatest! Why, I celebrate mine every year!”
“Yeah?” Sweetie Belle said, excitedly. “What do you do?”
“I do the same thing I did when I got it!” Pinkie answered happily. “I throw a party for my family!” She emphasized this by throwing her forelegs wide.
Sweetie Belle blinked. “So, we should throw a party?” she guessed.
“Nooo; you should do what you did when you got your cutie mark!” Pinkie said, smiling widely.
That smile faded slightly as she realized that Sweetie Belle was not smiling. “Well, we can’t exactly help Diamond Tiara figure out her destiny again,” she said. “And there’s a distinct lack of foals without cutie marks around to help right now.” She looked over, as if expecting her friends to have another suggestion, and saw Scootaloo.
She was eating a sundae.
“Seriously?” Sweetie asked incredulously.
“I was hungry,” Scootaloo defended herself around a mouthful of ice cream.
Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes, and looked over to Apple Bloom for support… only to see her snacking on a cookie. “Oh, come on!”
“What?” Apple Bloom protested. “Spike’s looked really good!”
Sweetie Belle sighed. “It’s hopeless.” She slowly trudged out of Sugarcube Corner.
Concerned, her two friends (after quickly shoving their food into their mouths) chased after her.
“Sweetie Belle?” Scootaloo started. “Are you ok?”
The unicorn threw her head back. “No!” Sweetie Belle shouted, her voice squeaking in frustration for the first time in a long time. “I am not ok! I just wanted to do something fun together! I wanted to celebrate getting our cutie marks! I wanted it to be great! A new cutie mark crusader tradition! But nothing! Is! Going! Right!”
“Calm down, Sweetie Belle,” Apple Bloom said comfortingly. “There’s a few other ponies we haven’t asked yet. Like Rainbow Dash.” She turned to Scootaloo, who was painfully holding her head. She paused. “Scoots?”
“Brain freeze,” Scootaloo explained through gritted teeth. “And Rainbow Dash is off on tour with the Wonderbolts.”
“Argh!” Sweetie Belle shrieked. “This could not be going worse!”
Apple Bloom’s eyes widened. “Sweetie Belle, don't say that out-”
There was a crack of thunder, and rain poured down in buckets, instantly soaking all three crusaders through their coats.
“…loud,” Apple Bloom finished dryly.
The three young mares stood in the rain. Sweetie Belle bowed her head, Scootaloo massaged her temples trying to clear her brain freeze, and even Apple Bloom’s bow drooped.
And then Scootaloo looked up. “Hey, I’ve got an idea,” she said brightly.
* * *
The three crusaders sat in their clubhouse, now much drier and wearing thick Apple-family blankets, surrounding their trusty lantern.
Sweetie Belle frowned, looking at the marshmallow on the tip of her branch. “This feels… wrong,” she said slowly.
“I’ll take it, then,” Apple Bloom said, reaching out and pulling off the marshmallow. She stuck it on the end of her own branch, bringing the total up to two, and put it down next to Scootaloo’s, though not quite as near to the flame.
Scootaloo grinned and blew out her flaming marshmallow. “We always used to roast marshmallows and make s’mores when it rained,” she said, reaching for the graham crackers.
Apple Bloom forewent the crackers and popped both marshmallows in her mouth. “I vote this be our tradition,” she said. At least, that’s probably what she said; it was difficult to understand her through the marshmallows.
Sweetie Belle sighed, but gamely lit her horn and pulled another marshmallow onto her stick. “I guess,” she said slowly. “But next year it has to be bigger.”
“Yeah,” Scootaloo said, putting another marshmallow on. “We’ll have a big bonfire!”
“Gotta let it burn down to coals,” Apple Bloom said, snacking on a cracker. “Heat’s better and more even.”
Scootaloo held up her burning marshmallow. “If it’s not flaming, it’s not good,” she said before blowing it out.
“Golden brown,” Apple Bloom argued.
Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes as her friends continued mock-arguing.
“But seriously. We can have a big block party.”
“Yeah. Invite everypony. Lots of marshmallows.”
“I know Rainbow Dash would keep the skies clear for us.”
Sweetie Belle nodded, getting into it now. “Yeah. And we can have Pinkie Pie do a shield cake or something.”
“Yeah!” Apple Bloom cheered. “This is going to be the best cutie mark anniversary tradition ever!”
“Cutie-versary!” Pinkie supplied helpfully from the window.
Apple Bloom stared. “How did you…?”
“I heard my name,” Pinkie said, crawling in. She reached into her tail and pulled out a two-pronged metal roasting stick, and smiled hopefully. Scootaloo shook her head, but tossed a marshmallow over.
And so the three crusaders and one party pony roasted marshmallows long into the night.