Celestia smiled as she walked down the hallway, just slightly slower than she had to.
It was a mixture of caution and the desire to savor. She nuzzled green fronds, careful not to scrape the ceiling, enjoying her progress, and as she neared Luna’s door she thought of a delightful prank.
Princess Celestia buried her head in the dense fronds of the enormous fern, and took tiny, quiet steps, creeping into the room with her face hidden in darkness. Then, playfully, she poked her head through, with a scintillating smile…
It was still dark. Celestia took in a breath, looking around in the unexpected darkness. Luna had said she’d not mope: that she would accept a plant, and the light it needed. The plant was here, but the light was not. Only the open doorway illuminated Luna’s room.
Celestia’s eyes adjusted, and made out the form of her sister—sleeping, with curtains drawn, in mid-afternoon.
No—not sleeping, dreaming. Her eyes moved under their lids, her hooves wiggled like she was creeping up on something, her lip quivered as a tragic look passed over her face.
Not just dreaming, but dream walking: working, pursuing her Princessly duties. And not just working—crying.
“Sister?” called Celestia, softly.
It didn’t take much. Part of Luna’s gift was to walk the line between awareness and slumber, to haunt the borders to dreams. She woke instantly, but her distress remained, and her eyes were full of guilt.
Princess Celestia stared for a moment, not understanding. Then, as the guilt stayed in her sister’s eyes, Celestia’s face fell. “Oh, Luna, Luna, no…”
“We are so, so sorry…”
“It is not Trixie, is it? Please say it is not Trixie Lulamoon’s dreams you are invading.”
Luna would not speak. Princess Celestia narrowed her eyes.
“Listen carefully, dear sister. If you expect to retain any—ANY! of the trust we believed you worthy of, you will explain exactly what you have done. Recount every last thing that causes you to regard us with such guilt and dismay. Do it now. We are waiting.”
Luna gazed up at her royal sister, her lip quivering. “We fear it might take some time, and do not wish to interfere with royal duties that may be more important…”
“No possible duty is more important. Nothing could worry me more than you, here and now, stalling. Was I wrong to welcome you back home from your exile in the moon? Answer!”
“Yes!” sobbed Luna. “Thy mercy was surely wrong! Banish our miserable self to the moon, we cannot resist doing dreadful things!” Luna grovelled, weeping.
Celestia was unmoved by this display. “I will be the judge of that. Neither stall, nor beg for mercy, nor demand thy own punishment! Speak!”
Luna just cried, wriggling on her bed as if trying to hide beneath it by going through the mattress from the top. Her sister watched this for a moment, and then sighed again, speaking less formally.
“I could easily have you whipped and beaten, but if Twilight’s amours have told me anything, it is that you may well enjoy that…”
Luna sobbed loudly again, and would not look Celestia in the eye, and Celestia climbed onto the bed, and extended a strong alabaster wing over Luna’s body, speaking firmly to her.
“Listen to me. It is of no importance whether you enjoy your guilt, whether you crave or fear punishment. All that matters is my little ponies, whose dreams you are again free to watch over unless I take drastic actions to prevent it. This choice is not up to you. I do not need your opinions on the matter. What I need from you—and I warn you, I shall have it, one way or another—is the truth of what you have done. Let us begin with a worst case. Have you pursued Trixie Lulamoon and raped her in her dreams? We shall define this as the acts you sought to undertake in real life: for you, I would lump intercourse and, ah, tongue play along with beatings and whippings and tying her up, as the same sort of thing.”
Luna whimpered, and looked up at Celestia’s stern eyes. “No, sister. None of that. We have done nothing of that sort.”
“Very well. I specified Trixie Lulamoon. Are you concealing that I have the name wrong, that the pony you harmed is not in fact named that? Or, that you are raping and abusing some other pony or ponies in their dreams?”
“No!” sobbed Luna.
Celestia paused, and then said, “Very well. Back to the simple question. Luna, what have you done?”
Princess Luna’s face worked, as she fought for self-control, and then she managed two words. “I watch…”
“You watch Trixie Lulamoon?”
“Does she know that?” asked Celestia, sternly.
Luna’s composure broke down. “Maybe…”
Celestia didn’t say a thing, for a while. She cuddled Luna a little closer with her enfolding white wing, and lay with her, and when she did speak it was very, very gently.
“It must stop, you know. No more. Do you understand?”
Luna nodded, jerkily, not quite in control of her motions. Her voice was steady enough as she said, “Yes, sister,” but her body trembled dreadfully and could not be comforted by wing-hugs.
“Oh, Luna. I daresay that is the important one—but are there others? That you are, shall we say, stalking in dreams? I am not sure what we are to do with your normal dream duties—we did, after all, make do without them for many centuries.”
“Th… there is one other. Not the same. I seek T… her, but this other one, she seeks me. It is some distraction…”
“Perhaps it is best you not entertain such distractions!” suggested Celestia. “Are there still more? How far does all this go?”
“No farther!” protested Luna, still trembling. “And I entreat you, do not blame me for this other unicorn, her dreaming pursues me with an uncanny fervor!”
“There is a difference between blame,” said Celestia, “and responsibility. Even if it is so, Luna, you are much older than she, and I do hold you responsible for your behavior. It must stop. You can stay far away from both of them, so that they haven’t the faintest hint of your presence?”
Luna nodded, sadly. “Yes…”
“Do so,” said Princess Celestia. She gulped, thinking things over. “And… do not tell anyone of this, please. All I wished, all I wished for you was to bring you back into my Equestria, loved and safe. I cannot begin to imagine what my little ponies would make of a Princess who could lust over them in their dreams.”
Luna was quiet for a moment, then said, “Yes, sister.”
“Here is your plant. Please allow light in your room, that it may nurture this fern, and perhaps cast a little light upon the darkness of YOUR dreams.”
Luna began to cry again, but all she said was “Yes, sister.”
Celestia rose, and walked solemnly out of Luna’s room, without further comment. The dark Princess gazed bleakly at the wall, in the light from the hallway. Then, she winced, for the air was split by a brief scream or cry of frustration that echoed alarmingly in the hall, then the clack of a stamped hoof.
Luna tried to remember the last time she’d provoked her sister into a scream, but it had been too many thousands of years ago.
Rarity smiled at the customer. “It’s made of the finest silk, darling—why, at the shop in Fillydelphia, I confess I purchased three bolts of the material, all they had! It is most unfair to other artistes, I fear, but I wished only to bring the highest in fashion to my discerning clientele.”
The fellow fluffed his wings uncomfortably, making a face. “No, no… I’m afraid you’re not following me. Do I have to spell it out?”
Rarity bowed her head gracefully. “If you would be so good as to express your wishes, nothing would please me more than to fulfill them—in fashion!”
The pegasus customer snorted. “No doubt! Thank you for the clarification!”
Rarity blinked. “I beg your pardon, sir?”
He drew himself up haughtily. “It is really quite simple. I wish assurances that the material used in my suit is in no way used for any of your… OTHER work.”
The elegant white unicorn’s jaw dropped. “But it is suit material, sir, not leather or sheer silk or… or anything like that!”
“Please, explain no further,” said the stuffy pegasus. “I don’t wish to know anything more. Again, I only wish assurances that nopony will see the material in my fine suit used… elsewhere.”
Rarity pulled herself together. “Of course, sir! I promise you, your garments can be as exclusive as you wish them to be! Why, for a reasonable extra charge, your suit can be both bespoke and unique—I will file away all remaining bolts of the material for future use on your couture, as I said I took the liberty of purchasing every bolt that existed and that permits me to make this special offer…”
The pegasus humphed. “How much? Never mind, that won’t be necessary. I accept your assurances, Miss Rarity. I may say that if you do not understand the difference between reserving a pattern for my use alone, and… well, I should not have to say it. Please proceed with the suit, the fabric is indeed wonderful. I won’t have to avoid your couture today!”
“Thank you,” said Rarity, her eyes too wide and her smile terrifyingly brittle.
“When can you have it ready? It must be no later than two weeks from now, I am attending a Fancypants dinner party…”
“Rarity!” shouted an angry voice—a very familiar angry voice that froze Rarity to the spot in immediate panic.
The pegasus gentleman glanced at the door of the Carousel Boutique, taking in the irate lady unicorn, and he nodded. “You’ve never let me down yet—I shall trust you completely. Remember, no… you know! Not a trace!”
Rarity nodded, trembling, and the gentleman looked her over.
“Ah… and please, by the next time I see you—cover that.”
“What?” squeaked Rarity.
His eyebrows lifted. A wing gestured to her belly, and her frantic glance revealed there was a subtle mark, a bruise. She’d overlooked it. Lyra’s hoof had jabbed her there when Lyra had mounted her so roughly and fucked her, and to a pony the position of the mark was exceedingly suggestive, and spoke eloquently of just such carryings-on.
Rarity stared frantically at her gentleman customer, her lip quivering, as her mother advanced across the floor with curt, irate steps.
“I’ll let you deal with this other customer…” said the pegasus.
“I am her mother!”
He cleared his throat. “I’ll be going. The fabric is perfect, go ahead—remember, two weeks!” With that, he trotted out of the shop with insulting haste, glancing back over his shoulder all the while.
Rarity’s mother didn’t wait for him to be gone. “How difficult can it be, Rarity? Is it really so difficult to not be a filthy… to not go back to your old ways?”
Rarity backed off a step, trembling. “What?”
“I would have thought you’d figured things out, you of all ponies—that you would cooperate and understand what was being asked of you, when I decided that Sweetie Belle would have to stay with you for the time being!”
“I don’t know what you…”
Rarity’s mother snarled, “No. You know what I mean. You know exactly, exactly what I mean.”
Rarity couldn’t answer. She could only stare into those raging eyes, drowning in the contempt, the disgust that had welled up from its source long ago and suddenly flowed fresh again.
“If there is any decency in you,” said Rarity’s mother, “you’d better come up with it now. If there isn’t, you’d better fake it, like hell.”
Rarity was gritting her teeth. “Hell? Hell is the scorned and rejected, coming out of the past to haunt the present. Leave me alone!”
Rarity’s mother screwed her eyes shut in obvious pain from what seemed a low blow, but then her eyes opened, and she glared under lowered brows and hissed her parting words.
“No, Rarity. Hell is for you if you cannot protect your little SISTER,” she spat, “from harm.”
Again, Rarity couldn’t answer.
“Watch it,” added Rarity’s mother. She turned, and stalked off, leaving the shop empty.
Rarity stood in the middle of the shop, trembling, staring into space. There was nowhere in Equestria anymore that felt safe enough to scream in, nor would any scream, no matter how dreadful, be enough.
Rarity’s eye twitched as she tried to lock down her feelings and put up her old familiar facade. Outside, she heard the sound of children playing in the distance, but she could not make out what they were saying. There was just that sound of childish want, the voices ringing out with innocent, selfish demand, not questioning their wishes, not thinking for a moment of the consequences of their greedy, immature hungers and vanities.
Or perhaps it was just her filthy self calling out of the past and chaining her to her fate.
Rarity turned and began to walk, awkwardly, like a broken toy, toward her sewing machine, so she could sew only chaste and nonsexual fabrics into an un-filthy, forgivable suit for her good and proper customer, and with each tottering step she locked the inner screaming into a tighter and tighter box, boxes within boxes, throwing away each key with methodical deliberateness.
She wouldn’t need them where she was going, thought Rarity, for the truth of her would never see daylight again.
Outside, the Cutie Mark Crusaders headed down the street, arguing. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle trotted side by side, while Scootaloo kept pace on her scooter, occasionally circling the two or zipping off with wings revving up to full effort, only to return immediately. She wouldn’t go far, as Apple Bloom was scolding Sweetie, which didn’t appear to sit well with the filly pegasus.
“Ah said y’all got to stop bein’ silly, there’s serious stuff we got to think about! All that nonsense about wantin’ fudge like we was a bunch ‘a babies…”
Sweetie gave Apple Bloom a sidelong glance. “You just got a free piece of fudge out of it. Who’s the silly one now?”
Scootaloo grinned. “Way to go, Sweetie Belle!” she said, ruffling Sweetie’s mane with a hoof.
“That’s as may be,” said Apple Bloom, stubbornly. “I enjoyed th’ fudge too, but try this on for size—we got to make things ready for th’ new foal, right? Which means preparin’ for things like wings and horns and such?”
“Or both,” said Sweetie Belle.
“Horseapples,” said Apple Bloom. “You know good an’ well there ain’t no such thing as a pegacornasus. They’re called alicorns and there’s three of ‘em in these parts, countin’ Princess Cadance.”
“So?” demanded Scootaloo.
“So you don’t automatically get no alicorn jes’ by pegasuses and unicorns pokin’ each others’ personal parts,” said Apple Bloom. “Otherwise we’d be swimmin’ in ‘em by now. Ain’t like there’s never been a pegasus an’ unicorn makin’ mommies and daddies together!”
Scootaloo scowled at Apple Bloom. “What’s your point? You’re just being mean for no reason. How do you know it can’t ever happen?”
“But that’s just it! Whatever th’ foal is, we got to be prepared, and…” Apple Bloom gulped. “We got to know. It’s important. I don’t rightly know where Princess Celestia and Princess Luna did come from. It was in olden times—but we got ‘em, all right. An’ Princess Celestia does mighty important stuff, an’ Princess Luna went to th’ bad once and done terrible things. What if it ain’t just Sweetie Belle bein’ silly? What if it’s true? We got to know, and I plain can’t work out how we’re gonna do that.”
Scootaloo stopped dead in the middle of the street, her jaw dropping open, and her wings sprang up. She gasped, “…whoa!”
“Whoa ain’t gonna do us a bit of good, Scootaloo! We need more giddy-up and less whoa if we’re gonna work this one out!”
“No, I… whoa! Oh my gosh!” squeaked Scootaloo. “I.. wow!”
“What the hay is the matter with you?” demanded Apple Bloom.
“Nothing!” said Scootaloo. “Nothing at all! Oh my gosh. You came to the right pony, that’s all I’m gonna say. Guys! Go to the clubhouse, now! We’re going to solve this mystery and find out everything we need to know. Meet me there!”
Sweetie bridled. “Where are you going?”
“I’ll be right back!” called Scootaloo, already retreating at alarming speed. “Meet me there!”
She veered behind a building and was out of sight. Apple Bloom and Sweetie looked at each other.
“We’d better humor her,” said Sweetie.
It didn’t take long to reach the clubhouse. They’d barely climbed the ramp before they heard the rattle of tiny wheels behind them, and the bang as Scootaloo hit the ramp in turn. They whirled to face her, and saw their friend rearing happily in the doorway, kicking the air with her forehooves and grinning with something in her mouth.
It was a glittering, ruby-toned gem, held in her teeth.
“What the hay is that, Scootaloo?”
The triumphant, breathless pegasus trotted into the clubhouse with high, prancing steps. She put the gem down on the same cushion she’d used for the magic bit, and turned to address her friends. “My Mom used this thing once! She was in a fight with my Dad. Apple Bloom, check it out! Use it on me!”
“Ya din’t answer my question. What IS it?”
“The answer to our problem, that’s what! It’s this magic gem. Take it in your teeth, look at me, and say ‘Reveal’!”
“An’ how am I supposed to talk with a thing in my teeth?” demanded Apple Bloom.
“Just do it, okay? It’s easier for unicorns, they can just hold it with their magic. Do it anyway, go on!”
Apple Bloom glowered, but she bent and seized the gem in her teeth. She lifted her head, glared at Scootaloo as if expecting some prank, and said, “R’veal.”
Her eyes went very wide right away, and Sweetie Belle screamed.
Floating in the air over Scootaloo were several full-size spectral ponies, and a foal. The foal floated just over Scootaloo’s head, its tiny wings oddly right-sized on the impossibly tiny body. Legs, by contrast, were long, bony, and the head seemed huge. It floated contentedly, as if peacefully asleep, and Scootaloo grinned from underneath it.
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle stared, amazed. “How could you be so… scrawny?” said Apple Bloom. “Them Cake babies are fat ‘uns!”
“That’s me right as I was getting born,” said Scootaloo. “I asked the same thing. I drank a lot of milk right away when I was born—that’s what foals do. I was big and strong in no time!” She stared challengingly at Apple Bloom, defying her to point out the truth—that she’d been a small, scrappy tom-pony from birth and was never big or strong.
Apple Bloom’s attention, however, was drawn to the life-size spectral images surrounding the foal.
There were three. One was recognizably Scootaloo’s mother, Flight Lightning. The two others were stallions, but only one was a pegasus. He gazed down at the Crusaders with a grumpy look, head high and contemptuous. The other was an earth pony, larger, his head bowed—but he wore a wicked, mischevious smile that lit his face up. His green eyes glinted even as a ghostly specter, and his light russet mane fell carelessly over them. Sweetie stared up at him, her mouth falling open in awe. Scootaloo’s Dad was one sexy stallion.
Apple Bloom blinked puzzledly, as if trying to think of something, and then looked back up at the grumpy pegasus. “How come there’s two stallions, Scootaloo?”
“There just is, okay? That’s my Mom and my Dad and the earth pony. If I have to guess, I think he’s the one who did the wing thing on my Mom. ‘Cos she’s a pegasus, see?”
“Doing the wing thing makes you a Dad?” gasped Apple Bloom.
“Duh, why else would Rainbow Dash make such a fuss about it?”
Sweetie said, “Your pegasus Dad looks mad. And I never saw him before…”
“You won’t,” said Scootaloo. “He doesn’t want me as his kid. That’s why we had to use the jewel—he didn’t want to help me and Mom. Don’t ask me about that part, okay?”
Sweetie’s lip quivered in dismay, but Apple Bloom’s expression was suddenly transformed. She spat the jewel out, and began hopping up and down. “Do me. Do me!”
Scootaloo lifted an eyebrow, coolly. “Oh, now you like it? I told you it was a great idea…”
“Scootaloo!” chided Sweetie. “Don’t you understand anything?”
The filly pegasus opened her mouth, but the sarcastic remark didn’t even get out. She looked at her earth pony best friend, the bouncing and frantic eagerness and something in the eyes, and she remembered: Applejack was not Apple Bloom’s mother, but her big sister.
She took the gem in her teeth, looked at Apple Bloom, and said “R’veal.”
Another set of images came into view, and Apple Bloom craned her neck madly, looking up at the spectral figures. There was the tiny baby foal, herself: then, two others, much like they were in the picture on the Apples’ living room wall, but different.
The stallion, a blue-gray color with pale green mane and tail, wasn’t looking out of the picture blandly—he was gazing down at his foal with obvious adoration, and Apple Bloom gulped, tearing up, for it looked almost like he was looking directly at her. Of course, he was, since the foal was her as well. His gaze was so compassionate, Apple Bloom could nearly understand why he’d lost his life in the farm accident, trying to save his… well, you couldn’t describe any Apple mare as simply a ‘wife’, especially Applesauce. She’d cut a swathe through the available stallions, all the while running her farm with an iron hoof, and nopony talked about it, but Applesauce had not dignified this fellow with a name. He was a hired hand, and the picture they had was literally the only record that existed of him, and it was candid, an accident—Applesauce looked extremely surprised in it.
Once, Granny Smith had chuckled ruefully, while looking at the picture. When asked what the joke was, she’d said “My girl woulda died all over agin, poor thing, if she knew th’ big picture of her would be her without her hat!”
Apple Bloom’s father smiled out of this picture with perfect serenity. Beside him, Applesauce looked completely nonplussed. She had no smile for him, probably just a scolding for dallying with a photographer rather than working. If she’d had a good word for him, it would likely have been a coarse appreciation of his stallionly attributes, possibly contrasted with others she had enjoyed.
And yet, he was the one who’d died with her. Apple Bloom looked up into his spectral eyes that smiled down at her with a limitless, selfless love… and for the first time, she understood, at least in a small way.
Her gaze shifted to the mare also floating over her. She couldn’t see the face, though Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo seemed transfixed by it. She saw just that strong, shapely pony body, decorated all over with the scars and scrapes of hard and dangerous farm labor, and she studied her mother’s image in awe. This was the mare who set the tone for all the Apple family, who’d carried on the legacy of Granny Smith’s mother, who, it was said, would not even bow her head to Princess Celestia herself. This was Applesauce, the impossibly hard act to follow, the sorely missed matriarch who’d pushed her own mother aside and completely dominated, building the farm into a major business and creating an industry out of cider and Zap Apple jam.
Sweetie and Scootaloo stared in awe, cowering a little. The picture on the wall at Sweet Apple Acres was no preparation for the sharpness and fierceness of Applesauce’s gaze. That hat they’d seen so often was pulled low over her eyes, and those eyes burned, and she wore a hard little smile that felt dangerous and frightening, like somepony who was going to get what she wanted, that very second, no matter who she had to stomp to get it. The swagger was off the charts. It explained a lot about Apple Bloom and Applejack, that this was their mother.
Apple Bloom was looking at the stallion again, gazing up into those eyes.
“Ah… am proud of you…” she said, and started to cry.
“H’y, ‘re you okay?” said Scootaloo, around the jewel.
“Shut it off!” begged Apple Bloom. “That’s enough!”
Scootaloo spat the jewel out, and the two Crusaders rushed to hug their stricken companion. Apple Bloom heaved a quavery sigh. “My sakes… thank you. Gosh.”
“We should try to do our foal next! We already know what Sweetie’s mom and dad look like,” said Scootaloo.
“Hey!” objected Sweetie. “Not fair! I get to see Mom and Dad all spooky looking too!”
Scootaloo pouted. “Fine. But then it’s time to do the foal. I want to see if Apple Bloom is there, after what she did.”
Apple Bloom gasped. “Ya think… oh, no no! Oh no you don’t, y’all leave me out of it, you hear?”
“It’s not up to me,” said Scootaloo. “Whether you like it or not, this thing will show whether you’re the daddy.”
“You take that back! I din’t mean nothin’ like that!”
“Please!” said Sweetie. “Show me Mom and Dad and then we’ll do the foal.”
Scootaloo grabbed the jewel back up in her teeth, looked at Sweetie, and said “R’veal…”
…and found herself staring at Sweetie’s dad, Rarity, and a foal.
“You said it wrong!” complained Apple Bloom.
“Well, you did it wrong then! You’re bitin’ it all sideways. That’s her big sister right there! Or somethin’ like that…”
Sweetie gazed up, shocked speechless. Over her head hung the tiny foal, herself at birth. There was her Dad—but there was Rarity, full of attitude, as if she’d barged into the vision just because it would look pretty.
“Here, lemme try,” said Apple Bloom. Scootaloo dropped the jewel, and the vision disappeared. Apple Bloom picked it up, and fixed Sweetie with a gimlet stare.
Sweetie as a foal, Sweetie’s dad—and Rarity. Again.
They stared at the sight, perplexed. It wasn’t just Rarity, either. It was Rarity at the age Sweetie now approached, a much younger Rarity. Her mane and tail were far less elaborate than they’d become in adulthood. She stood just a little taller than Sweetie Belle, at exactly the same stage of adolescence where her limbs began to grow longer, her body began to contour and refine its shape, casting off foalish roundness but still taut and fresh.
Her eyes were not nearly so made-up as they had become, but all the same, there was a look in their half-lidded depths that commanded attention. Not with the aggressiveness they’d seen in Applesauce’s eyes—these eyes in their vivid, luminous purple exuded utter confidence, a confidence that wasn’t even matched by the Rarity they knew. The neurotic fussiness they knew wasn’t so much as hinted at here.
The three ponies continued to stare at the vision, taking in the simplicity of that naively coiffed yet ravishing mane and tail, seeing every exquisite contour of the young pony body before them as young Rarity stood in spectral splendor, her pose pure sculpture to make the greatest artists weep, and that proud little smile never leaving her lovely face.
This filly Rarity was heart-stoppingly, arrogantly, catastrophically beautiful—and clearly knew it to the tips of her hooves.
They glanced at Rarity’s Dad. His spectral form smiled back with that boyish grin, just the same as the one they always saw. He seemed so happy that he was almost bashful.
Apple Bloom spit the jewel out and scratched her head. “Sump’n funny here.”
“That’s for sure!” agreed Scootaloo. “Sweetie’s the one pony here where we get to see both of her folks all the time! Sweetie Belle, did your Mom look like Rarity when she was younger?”
Sweetie couldn’t answer. She knew her Mom could never have looked like that. Her Mom had a bulgy horn and was heavyset and none of her school pictures had looked anything like her daughter. Sweetie gulped. There was a hint of bile in her throat, something sour trying to come up that didn’t belong in daylight.
“Maybe showin’ my Mom broke it,” said Apple Bloom proudly. “Hey, we should check th’ foal, that’s what we were settin’ out to do!”
“Right!” said Scootaloo. She grabbed the jewel, trotted over to Sweetie, gazed at her belly and screwed up her face in concentration. “R’veal!”
“R’veal, I said!”
Apple Bloom scratched her head with a fore-hoof. “It ain’t workin’. Seem to me this thing shows a foal just as it’s born, and a bunch of other stuff around it. Right?”
“Yeah, pr’tty much…”
“Well, what if the foal ain’t born yet?” asked Apple Bloom.
Scootaloo’s eyes went wide. She stood for a moment, and then she’d spit the jewel onto the floor and was stamping a forehoof in utter frustration. “Augh! Stupid rotten lousy crummy…”
“Now take it easy there!” laughed Apple Bloom. “Guess you din’t think it all the way through, huh? Don’t even say nothin’, I can see it already. Nice try!”
Scootaloo glowered at Apple Bloom, grumbling “Gee, thanks for nothing.”
“Now, you take that back to your Mom,” suggested Apple Bloom, “and you thank her, hear me? Dang. Will she let us have it again? I felt like my Daddy was lookin’ at me and he liked what he saw. I… I’d like to see that face again sometime.” A little tear came, unashamed, to her eye.
Scootaloo wasn’t on the same wavelength as her friend. She scoffed. “Yeah, right. Like my Mom would have stuff like this. Dad’s such a jerk sometimes, he doesn’t give us anything, even after the thing with the jewel. And this earth pony guy, I’ve never seen him, ever! I ought to ask Mom why this other guy can’t help us for a change. He can’t be worse. I think Mom just doesn’t want to talk to him, but he’s like my other Dad or something, and it’s just stupid!”
Apple Bloom blinked. “Jes’ a moment. Your Mom din’t give you this thing?”
“Of course not!” said Scootaloo. “We hardly have anything. I told you, my Dad’s kind of a big jerk. I like your Dad better, Sweetie. He always looks so friendly. Remember how he played ball with us one day and it was just like he was one of us kids?”
Sweetie didn’t answer. She hadn’t even blinked—she just stared, unmoving.
Apple Bloom glared at Scootaloo. “I thought you got it from your Mom. Din’t you say something like that?”
“Nah! I said my Mom used this thing once.”
“So where’d you get it?”
“Town offices,” said Scootaloo casually, and Apple Bloom’s jaw dropped.
“Say what?” she gasped.
“I should probably go put it back,” added Scootaloo.
Apple Bloom gulped, looking sick. “Ya think? Yes, you should go put it back, right away. Hear me? You go put that back right now!”
Hearing her tone, Scootaloo stiffened. “All right—on one condition.”
“Ain’t no condition!” yelled Apple Bloom.
“One condition,” insisted Scootaloo. “You don’t tell anypony we took it! Got it? Otherwise I won’t put it back. Do we have an agreement?”
Apple Bloom’s face was a turbulent mess of conflicting emotions, most of them bad. “But… you can’t… I…”
Scootaloo trotted over to glare point-blank, and Apple Bloom cowered back a little from the ferocity, apparently feeling too vulnerable to fight back as usual.
“Do we have an agreement?”
“Uh, yeah!” said Apple Bloom. “An agreement is what we got! Ah’ll do whatever you want, just promise you’ll go put that thing back, please?”
Scootaloo’s gaze was truculent. She regarded Apple Bloom skeptically.
“Right now?” pleaded Apple Bloom.
Scootaloo glared for another moment, and then bent and picked up the jewel.
“Nop’ny!” she said, and, glancing back over her shoulder, walked out of the clubhouse. Sweetie and Apple Bloom heard her wings rev up, and then the rattling wheels of her scooter as it whooshed off back into town.
Apple Bloom tried to smile at Sweetie, whose face was expressionless with shock.
“My sakes. What a day. I reckon I’m jes’ gonna… go home! Yep. Go home and I’ll go right to sleep. Okay? I’m jes’ goin’ home and not talk to nopony and I’ll just have a lil’ nap after all this excitement.”
She squinted at Sweetie, and waved a hoof in front of Sweetie’s eyes, and Sweetie blinked, with a little start, coming back to reality.
“Got that? You tell Scootaloo that’s all I’m doin’. I need a nap pow’ful bad.”
Sweetie nodded, slowly. “Okay.”
Apple Bloom backed away, grinning frantically, and made her way down the ramp, still holding a horrible smile until she was out of Sweetie’s sight. As soon as she wasn’t visible, Sweetie heard her hooves galloping madly towards Sweet Apple Acres.
Sweetie gulped. That sour taste was still there. Maybe that was what you could expect if you were a pregnant filly.
Sweetie Belle began to walk, as if in a dream. Her head spun and she felt like she was watching herself from above as she made her way, step by dazed step, down the ramp and onto the grass.
She gulped again, and set off in much the same hesitant, stunned, very slow way, toward town.
Specifically, the Carousel Boutique.
She had to talk to her ‘big sister’.