Chapter 2: Unexpected Gifts
Six mares and three fillies sat around a large table in the main room of the library as a young dragon brought in a tray filled with steaming mugs of hot chocolate. After the drinks were passed around, and the quiet yelps of impatiently scalded tongues subsided, Rarity and Applejack nodded to one another and Applejack stood up.
"Ah know ya'll are all wondering why we asked ya here tonight," she began.
"Yeah AJ, what's up?" Rainbow Dash said, somewhat surprising Applejack that she'd held her tongue even this long. "Secret meetings aren't usually your thing."
"Well, ah... I have to confess somethin' to all ya'll. I've been keepin' a mighty big secret ever since ya'll known me. I know I'm the element of honesty and all, and I like to think I never outright lied to ya about it... and I promise I thought I was doing it for all the best reasons... but now... now..."
Applejack trailed off, leaving an awkward silence that was, oddly enough, broken by Fluttershy. "I'm, umm, I'm sure you were doing the right thing, Applejack."
"Yeah AJ, we all know you wouldn't do something really wrong," Rainbow jumped in again. "So just tell us and get it over with. The curiosity's killing me over here!"
"Thanks girls," Applejack said, then paused for a deep breath. "Well, you all know my sister Apple Bloom and her friends Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, right?"
"Yeah, Scoots and I hang out all the time," Rainbow said, leaning over to hoofbump Scootaloo. "Right, Squirt?"
But Scootaloo was lacking her usual enthusiasm and barely even looked up, leaving Rainbow hanging with her hoof in the air.
"Alright, AJ, now I'm starting to worry," Rainbow said, turning back to the farm pony across the table. "What's going on?"
"Well, Apple Bloom ain't really a normal pony, and she uh, ain't technically my sister. And I only mean technically." Applejack looked at her sister and smiled before continuing. "In every way that matters, she is the best sister a pony could ever ask for. And... well, I guess I did actually kinda ask for her." She chuckled a tad nervously on the last bit. "Anyways, I guess I should start at the beginning, which was back not long after my Ma and Pa died..."
Applejack recounted the story again, leaving out a few of the more sappy details that she'd shared with Apple Bloom the night before. By the time she finished, every pony in the room was completely quiet, mugs of cocoa cooling and untouched.
"And, as I'm being honest here," Applejack continued, "I probably would've left it at that and kept it a family secret even still, but then Bloom told me that she weren't the only one with weird blood, and her friends here were similar. At that point, I weren't sure what to think, but I rushed over to Rarity's first thing this morning and asked her about her sister. We kinda beat around the bush a bit, until I came right out and told her about AB, then, well..."
"I think I should take it from here, Applejack," Rarity said, standing to face the table better. Applejack nodded and sat down.
"This morning Applejack just came rushing into my studio, looking—and forgive me for saying so, darling—quite awful. I asked her 'Whatever is the matter?' She told me she'd been less than honest when I'd talked to her yesterday, and that Apple Bloom had discovered something to upset Sweetie. She then asked me if there was anything wrong with my sister. I of course said no, as I still wasn't quite sure we were talking about what I suspected, and was in such a habit of keeping the secret. So, as Applejack said, we went back and forth a bit, until she directly told me little Apple Bloom had been a scarecrow come to life. At that, I was positively shocked. I had been expecting to hear that Sweetie herself had been found out by her friend. To learn that not only was that true, but that her friend too was in a similar situation was something I was not prepared for in the slightest. I admit I almost retreated to my fainting couch with the revelation, but managed to stay strong as I knew Applejack would not appreciate what she calls my 'theatrics' at this particular moment."
Across the table, Applejack and Rainbow shared a look and both rolled their eyes at this. Catching sight of the subtle movement, Rarity raised her voice slightly to draw attention back to her words.
"Well," she continued. "The eventual outcome was that I shared my own story of how Sweetie became my dear sister. After that, we decided to ask you all here so we could both explain the truth together, and maybe figure out exactly what's going on."
"Well, what did happen?" Twilight said. "I mean, your story about your sister. We heard what happened with AJ and Apple Bloom, but if I'm going to properly study this I need to know how events played out for you and Sweetie as well."
Rarity looked around at her gathered friends and smiled. It already felt good to be sharing the weight of that secret, and besides, it was only fair that she get some time in the spotlight after Applejack had told her own entire story.
"Very well, darlings," she said, ears perking up at having such an attentive audience. "But I'm afraid this tale may not be as intriguing as Applejack's. It all began some years ago, back when I..."
"You don't mind if I take notes, do you?" Twilight interrupted, already floating a piece of parchment, quill, and inkwell to the table in front of her.
"Why of course not, Twilight," Rarity said, smiling at the still predictably bookish alicorn. "I would expect nothing less." She then summoned her best theatrical airs and launched into the story.
It all began some years ago, back when I was just a tiny filly. You all have, of course, met my parents, and while I do love them dearly, you know they aren't exactly as... well, as fabulous as one might expect parents of mine to be. My family didn't have many relatives around either, but there was one. My grandfather.
He was the most amazing unicorn, and he worked as a clockmaker in Canterlot. He also traveled quite extensively over all Equestria as well. Every time he came to visit he always brought me some exquisite little gift or bauble from the most magnificent places: a zebra-made medicine box carved from dark jungle ironwood, a hoof mirror lined with emeralds pulled from the headwaters of the mighty Ponyzon river, or a beautiful basket, hoof-woven by the llamas of Dalai. But it wasn't just the gifts that made him so special to me. It was the time we spent together.
When I was really little, I don't remember too much, other than he'd always tuck me in each night whenever he was visiting. As I grew a bit older, I remember he'd tell me stories of the places he'd been and the things he'd seen. All of them sounded so amazing compared to the mundane life of Ponyville, and I was always begging for another story, even when it was way past my bedtime. He'd always oblige, and make me promise not to tell my mother about it.
One year, when I was old enough, my parents asked if I wanted to go spend the summer with my grandfather in Canterlot. As you might imagine, I simply leapt at the chance. We had, of course, visited as a family a few times, and I had become enamored with the fabulous city the moment I'd first laid eyes on it. A chance to spend an entire summer amidst the sophisticated and fashionable ponies of the capital was more than I could've hoped for.
That entire summer was a dream come true for me. Grandfather took me nearly everywhere I asked to go. We saw fantastic plays, had box seats to the most grand operas, ate at exquisite restaurants, and took leisurely strolls down all the streets of fashion and culture in the city. My young eyes were as wide as could be when I looked through those shop windows at the fashions displayed within, as well as the rich and powerful ponies wearing them.
One evening, Grandfather somehow managed to acquire two tickets to an exclusive fashion show. It's strange, for the life of me I can't remember a single one of the designers nor any of the fashions on display at the show in the slightest, yet I have no trouble recalling every minute detail of Grandfather's face when he surprised me with the tickets.
Now, while I certainly had the time of my life that summer, one thing I had not counted on was just how homesick I might be. The first night there, after Grandfather had tucked me in and gone to bed, I was laying in a strange room, with all the odd and frightening noises of the city and, as many young fillies do, I started to see monsters in every shadow and corner. I huddled under the covers and started sobbing, wishing I was home in my familiar room and the quiet of Ponyville instead. Grandfather heard me crying though, and came in to comfort me. After I told him how I thought there might be something in the closet or under the bed, he said he understood perfectly. Then he got up, lit up his horn, and with the most wonderful sense of theater, made a grand show of checking the closet for monsters, looking under the bed for trolls, and even went so far as to stick his head deep inside each drawer in the dresser... just in case there were bats. When he finally finished, he turned to me with a flourish, saluted, and declared the room monster-free and safe for little fillies to sleep in. His antics had been enough to distract me from all my fears, and with that I was finally able to get to sleep.
Over the summer, the monster checking became a ritual every night, and while I don't think I was actually that scared after the first few days, it still made me feel warm inside that he would be so thorough every time. Eventually, it turned into a sort of game between us. By the end of the summer, the two of us had an elaborate script, where I was the princess, and he was my faithful guard. I'd tell him in my best royal voice, "Secure the perimeter, Captain!" and after his exhaustive—and increasingly comical—search, he'd then salute and tell me "These quarters are secure your highness, you may now retire." I'd then return the salute and dismiss him—assuming he hadn't made me give in and start laughing by that point.
When the summer came to a close I was simply devastated. I simply adored life in Canterlot, and the love for sophistication and culture which Grandfather and I shared. I had to return to Ponyville though, as the school season was about to start. Grandfather assured me he'd come to visit before too long though. I asked him if I could come stay with him next summer, sure that he'd say yes, so I was shocked when he only said "We'll see."
What I didn't know at the time was that he was dying. The doctors had told him he only had a few months left to live, and after telling my parents the news, had asked if he could spend his last summer with me in the city. They'd all agreed to withhold the bad news from me until afterwards, so I could fully enjoy the time with him.
When I next saw Grandfather, it was about a month into the school year. I'd only been away from Canterlot, and him, for a few weeks, yet he looked so much different. His cheeks were shallow, his ribs were showing, and there were bags under his eyes that I'd never seen before, even when we'd stayed up all night at some gala as he taught me to dance. I knew right away something was amiss, but didn't know what until he sat down in my room and explained it to me.
At first, I simply refused to hear it. Grandfather couldn't die, he'd always been there. That would be like a mountain disappearing, or the ocean drying up. But as we sat there, the truth of his words sunk in and I finally broke down in tears. He held me and rocked me back and forth as I cried. Between my sobs, I told him how much I loved all the things we'd seen and done, how much I loved this trinket he'd bought me, or that time he'd taken me to some show or another. For his part, he told me how the summer had been the best time of his life too, and how wonderful it was to spend it with such an amazing little filly.
After some time, when I had more or less cried myself out, I leaned back and asked him, "But when you're gone, who's going to protect me from the monsters?"
He smiled down at me and said, "You think I would forget something as important as that?" Then his horn lit up and pulled something out of his bag in the corner.
"I've brought you an even better guardian," he said, placing the thing on the floor in front of us.
What he'd brought turned out to be a clockwork doll he'd made. It was large for a doll, only a bit smaller than I was at the time. And, as I'm sure you've guessed, it was a white unicorn with a purple and pink mane.
"Let me show you," he said, and turned out the lights. When he did, the thing started to move. Its horn lit up with a faint glow, and then it walked to all the dark corners of the room and closet. At each, its head swiveled left and right, the light from its horn illuminating each shadowy area before moving on to the next. Once it'd swept the entire room, it marched back to the center of the floor, turned to me, and saluted.
I never did figure out how much of that doll was magical and how much was technological. Grandfather's skill at both was sufficiently advanced that the two were indistinguishable. What I do know was that it was the most amazing gift he'd ever given me. My parents later told me he'd spent pretty much the entire time since I'd left Canterlot working on it, determined to finish it before he grew too weak, and that it was the only reason he hadn't come to visit sooner.
After I told him how it was "the most wonderful, fabulous, best... thing... ever!" I was still confused by one oddity.
"But Grandfather," I asked. "Why does it look like a little filly instead of like you?"
I will never forget his reply, nor the love in his eyes when he gave it.
"Because, my dearest Rarity, an old stallion like me might be able to fight, and perhaps even defeat, a few shadows here and there... but a young filly... Oh, now that is something truly powerful. You see, a young filly like you can do anything she sets her mind to. She has her entire life ahead of her, and she has the ability to conquer absolutely everything this great big world might try to put in her way."
My grandfather died a couple of months after that. Most of his time was sadly spent in the hospital, and while we did go to visit, I still had to attend school, and my parents of course had their jobs. The funeral was one of the saddest times in my young life, but I got through it, and every night as I went to bed, that little guardian filly he'd given me dutifully paroled my room and chased away the darkness.
Later, when I first got my cutie mark, I assumed all my problems were behind me. I'd found my destiny, and I just knew I was heading straight for the top of the fashion world. As I grew up, fame and fortune continued to elude me however. By the time I graduated, I was surprised, then later affronted, that all the fashion and design houses I'd sent my portfolios to had turned me down. "Lack of practical experience" was what the kinder replies said. The less kind ones... well, you can imagine how cruel some fashionistas might be.
Needless to say, I found myself less than enthused when the only job I could find was as a seamstress at the local cleaners. Why, it was nothing more than minor alterations and the occasional repair. It was at least enough to let me move out on my own though, and I was ever so determined to be independent.
As I worked that dreary job in the back with all the noisy machines, I grew more and more depressed. It was simply awful. It didn't help things that most of the friends I had from school had moved away, following their own destinies to jobs or further schooling in great cities like Manehatten or Fillydelphia, while I was stuck here in Ponyville replacing lost buttons.
By no means can I claim that my hardships were anywhere near what Applejack may have experienced, but regardless, I still found myself in quite a state of depression. Between the thankless job and my unfortunate lack of social life, I entered a bit of a downward spiral. I had thought the world was to be my stage, but discovered I wasn't even granted an audition.
The one thing that never changed though, was that every night when I shut off the lights, that little guardian would make its rounds and salute me, even though I'd long since lost my fear of the dark. It had become such a consistent thing over the years that I hardly even gave it a thought by that point, no more so than one would think about the toaster popping up toast each morning. But one day it was all just too much. A customer had yelled at me for letting out his coat too much—even though the buttons were still about to pop due to his rather ample physique—and somehow that was the final straw.
I went home and just sulked. I tried making some tea to cheer myself up, but it didn't help. I couldn't concentrate enough to read, and I was so fed up with the job that I couldn't bear the thought of looking at one more needle or piece of thread. Giving up, I went to bed early, and when I shut off the lights and the little filly started marching, I broke down in tears. I remembered what Grandfather had said, how a young filly like me could handle anything. But this wasn't some design challenge, some project to complete, or even some wrong to be righted. This was just life, and I was simply failing at it. What was the point of it all? Nothing I was doing made any difference in the world. Nopony would even notice if I disappeared tomorrow. I wasn't important enough to matter to anypony or anything.
The next day I skipped work entirely, and didn't even send a note. I merely stayed at home and sulked in a completely undignified sort of way. I did the same the next day as well, and the day after that. Why, I didn't even comb my mane for three days I was so depressed, can you believe that? All I could think of was how much promise and joy I'd seen in the world during that one magical summer in Canterlot with Grandfather, and how utterly far away and unreachable that now seemed. Then the doorbell rang.
At first, I merely ignored it. I imagined it was probably somepony from work, wondering why I'd missed my shifts, and I was in absolutely no condition to want to explain myself. But then it rang again. And again. I still ignored it. Then it played the chorus from Neightoven's Ode to Joy, which, until then, I would've sworn was impossible for a single hoof-sized brass bell on a pull string.
It was, as I am sure many of you have surmised, Pinkie Pie. Like Applejack, I didn't know her well at the time, so it was rather surprising to find this strange pink mare on my doorstep offering me a cupcake. I can only imagine how absolutely dreadful my mane must've looked by that point, but at the time it didn't even occur to me. I remember being confused as to why exactly she was there, but in my depressed state, I believe I would've gone along with pretty much anything at that point. So, like Applejack, when she insisted I make a wish, I merely mumbled something quick and generic to see her gone, but I'm quite sure now my heart was wishing for something very strongly. I don't think I'd ever put it in words at the time, but now I think I'd say my wish was something along the lines of "to have something worth living for." By that, I certainly don't mean to imply that I was suicidal or anything of the sort, merely that I wanted a purpose in life, some raison d'être.
Pinkie left me standing in the doorway with the cupcake after I'd made my wish, so I took it into the kitchen. I was rather hungry, and in my depression, had rather little concern for what it might add to my figure. It was, like all of Pinkie's baking, absolutely delicious. I stayed downstairs for the rest of the day, and actually found enough focus to read a bit and distract myself some.
When I finally retired for the night, I went to my room and shut off the lights by rote as I entered, expecting the glow from the clockwork filly to light my way to bed. When the familiar blue glow failed to appear, I switched the lights back on and was startled to see a very real, very alive, and somehow very familiar filly curled up and sleeping on the middle of the bed.
Now, I confess I did not act nearly as instinctively as it seems Applejack did. I had absolutely no idea what to make of the situation at first. I thought perhaps this filly has fled into my apartment while escaping bullies at school or some such, even though she looked a bit young for school. As I stared at her, I began to see the clear resemblance to the automaton Grandfather had given me, and all my rational explanations started to fade. I did make a quick survey of the room however, just in case the clockwork had been misplaced or moved by this new intruder. My search came up empty of course, so I turned back to the foal on the bed. As I did so, she woke up, opened her eyes, and smiled the sweetest smile I've ever seen.
"It wasn't an immediate epiphany," Rarity concluded. "But in hindsight, I feel it's pretty clear. That little clockwork had watched over me for years after Grandfather died, but I no longer needed something to watch over me, instead, it was my turn to be the watcher. I needed the responsibility and the sense of purpose that comes from protecting something precious. Sweetie Belle was exactly that, in the form of a little sister I'd never had until that moment."
With that, Rarity turned to her little sister and gave her a big hug before carefully wiping the tears from her eyes.
"That was a lovely story, Rares," Applejack said, noticing that there wasn't a dry eye in the room, hers included. "But what I wanna know is what exactly was in those cupcakes."
For the past several minutes Pinkie had been bouncing up and down in the far corner of the room rather faster than physics would normally allow. Upon mention of the cupcakes though, the frequency somehow sped up even further, approximating that of a jackhammer.
"Sorry everypony," Applejack said, "I made her Pinkie Promise not to talk until I said so, as I was afraid we'd never get get through this before dawn otherwise." Applejack turned to the pink blur. "Okay Pinkie, you can talk now. Where exactly did those cupcakes come from?"
Pinkie took a deeper breath than any pony thought possible... and then kept breathing in until candles all the way in the kitchen were starting to go out. Then she smiled and said:
"So I got three wishes from Genie and wasn't sure what to do with them so I kept them in the pantry until just the right moment and then one day I finally had an ear and two tail twitches at the same time and I knew I had to bake some cupcakes so I did and I chose pink because it's my favorite color even though the cake was blueberry which would normally be blue but you can make pink blueberry and in fact you can make pink just-about-any-flavor if you really want because the color doesn't actually change the flavor though some ponies find it weird if they're eating blue lemon cake but these weren't lemon they were really good pink blueberry cupcakes and I put the wishes in all three and left them on the window to cool and normally I wouldn't do that because everypony knows that's how you get ants but that's also how you get aunts and since my left front hoof kept sproinging every time I thought about pickles I knew I had to put them on the window then when I came back there were now only two just like I expected and then my tail started twitching again and it was like right right left poing left so I knew I had to take a cupcake to a pony on top of a barn which seemed really silly even to me because why would a pony be on top of a barn instead of in one but the tail is never wrong so I went and took the cupcake to Applejack and told her to make a wish because you can't have a wish in a cake and not have somepony make a wish on it and then she wished I would leave and I did even though I knew that wasn't really what she wished for and on the way back home my tail went all poing poing right left poing and so of course I had to take a cupcake to a doorbell symphony but when I got there I found the doorbell but no symphony so I had to make one myself and it took a few tries but then I got it or at least I think I got it and it sure sounded like a symphony to me or at least part of one and then Rarity answered the door and her mane was all messy which is funny because Rarity's mane is never messy except that time she got all in the mud in that race or maybe when we were trying to get that dragon to leave the mountain but it didn't matter that her mane was funny and so I gave her the cupcake and then she made a wish that wasn't really her real wish and then I went home and had a party for my tail because it had finally stopped twitching."
The sudden silence was deafening, the assembled ponies feeling as though they'd just entered the calm eye of a verbal hurricane. Twilight looked down and found that her enchanted note-taking quill had gone off the end of the parchment, onto the table, off the table, and was halfway to the kitchen still scribbling notes across the floor.
Applejack shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Now back up just a minute here," she said. "You're tellin' me ya got three wishes from a genie?"
"Not a genie, silly," Pinkie replied. "I got them from my friend Genie. He's a unicorn baker and infernomancer over in Fillydelphia."
"And where do ya suppose he got them from?" Applejack said.
"From a genie of course! That's like the only place to get wishes in a three-pack, and he's like the best infernomancer there is. You should see him work! He puts all these elaborate runes on the floor of a dark basement and summons up these humongous fire creatures then gives them what for. He's all 'I want three wishes' And they're all like '500 bits' and he's like 'No way, I'll give you 250' and then they go 'Okay, fine, but only if you throw in another one of those banana cream pies. My wife loves those and...'"
"Enough, Pinkie!" Applejack interrupted, "We're gettin' off topic."
"Okie dokie loki!" Pinkie said, and then sat quietly smiling.
"Wait a minute," Twilight said. "This Genie friend of yours... His name isn't actually Generous Melody, is it?"
"Oh wow! You know Genie too?" Pinkie replied.
"He was one of the examiners when I was trying to get into school."
Pinkie looked at Twilight and just tilted her head.
"You know," Twilight continued. "The day I got my cutie mark? When I turned my parents into plants, levitated all the teachers, and turned Spike into a fifty foot tall, roof destroying dragon?"
"Oh, that day!" Pinkie said, leaving Twilight a bit unsure if she was being sarcastic or sincere.
"Well... apparently after that day, he had a bit of a breakdown. Celestia later told me he'd stormed in to give his resignation, saying he felt he'd be safer working with fire elementals from the nether realms than with the sorts of young fillies Celestia obviously wanted at the school."
"Wait, let me get this straight," Rainbow Dash said. "On your first day of school, you actually scared a teacher so bad, that he ran halfway across Equestria to get away from you?"
Twilight, still feeling pangs of guilt, even though the incident had been years ago, and well beyond her conscious control, could only sigh, "Yeah, I guess I did."
"Oh Twi, that is so awesome!" Rainbow said, slapping Twilight on the shoulder. "Hilarious and awesome! Do you have any idea how many of my teachers I would've loved to do that to?"
"Well, I still don't feel great about it."
"Oh lighten up, Twi. Besides, if you hadn't done that, Pinkie never would've had wishes to give out, and three awesome fillies wouldn't be here!"
Twilight smiled at that. "I guess you're right. It all worked out in the end."
"Right," Rainbow Dash said, turning back to Pinkie. "I've got a question. If you got three wishes from a genie..."
"Not a genie..."
"Argh, right... fine. You had three wishes from your friend Genie... But why didn't you make a wish yourself?"
Pinkie thought about this for a moment, then looked at Dash with her head tilted in genuine confusion. "I don't understand."
"Why didn't you use one of the wishes to get what you wanted instead of giving them away."
"But why would I use a wish to wish I could do what I was already doing with the wishes?"
"Wait," Dash said, processing that for a moment. "You're telling me the only thing you would've wished for was to give away the wishes?"
"Of course, Dashie. Can you think of a better way to use three wishes to make other ponies happy?"
Rainbow Dash was a bit surprised at that. It made sense, at least in a Pinkie Pie sort of way, and while she knew her friend was always wanting everypony to smile, she'd never quite realized it went so deep as to completely negate even the thought of using a wish for her own self. Still though, Rainbow thought she saw one flaw in the logic.
"Why not wish for unlimited wishes?" She asked the still smiling Pinkie. "Then you could give lots away."
"Oh Dashie, you're so silly. Everypony knows you can't wish for more wishes."
"Because wishes are already unlimited."
"But you said you only got three!"
"Exactly! That's why I had to give them away!"
Rainbow Dash facehooved, sighed, and turned to the resident magical expert. "Twilight," she said. "Maybe you can make some sense out of this?"
Twilight looked up from her notes, having previously acquired more parchment and set the quill to repeat what'd previously been transcribed on the table and floor. "What?" She said, hearing her name. Then, as her brain replayed the last few seconds of the conversation, continued. "Oh, right, of course."
"So Pinkie," Twilight began. "Let me see if we can sort out a few more things."
"Sure thingy, Twilight!"
"You said you put the wishes into cupcakes?"
"And how, exactly, did you do that?"
"That's like cake baking 101. I mean, birthday cakes are only the number one most popular cake ever! And it wouldn't be a birthday cake without a wish!"
"Oooh-kay..." Twilight said, mentally squashing all the questions on that deep down next to the ones concerning "Pinkie Sense" before looking back at her notes to formulate the next question in a hopefully more Pinkie-proof way.
Scootaloo took that moment to speak up. "This is great and all," she said, her voice high and quavering at the edge of tears. "Pinkie and her magic cupcakes, and AJ and Rarity getting magic little sisters! But it still doesn't explain about me!"
Twilight turned to the orange little filly and put a comforting wing around her. "Oh Scootaloo, I'm sorry. We didn't mean to ignore you."
The filly leaned into the embrace and sniffled before looking up. "Sorry, I didn't mean to yell... it's just... just, I asked my parents if I was adopted or something, and they got this funny look in their eyes, but..."
Sweetie Belle came around the table to comfort her friend, "What'd they say, Scoots?"
"Well, they said 'No, of course not' and wanted to know why I'd think that. I didn't tell 'em about what we found in the clubhouse with the blood and stuff, just said it was because of how I can't fly and they can. So they just told me I'd get there one day and all that like they always do. But I heard them talking late last night about how they'd 'found' me, and they sounded just as confused about where I came from as I am."
Twilight looked down at Scootaloo with serious concern on her face. "So your parents don't know you're here, or any of what's going on with you and your friends?"
"No," Scootaloo admitted, hanging her head. "I just told them I was heading to go play with my friends in town like I always do."
Twilight sighed, as she could easily imagine how badly Scootaloo's parents might react if they found out about all of this and their daughter's involvement without their knowledge or consent. Just as she was about to explain her concerns and tell the filly that she had to go home, her eyes met those of Applejack across the table. The look on the farm pony's face said she was thinking the same thing. It was Applejack who spoke up first though.
"Ah know what yer thinkin', Twi, but it ain't gonna make no difference to send her away now. In for a bit, in for bushel, and we're quite a few bits in already."
"What?" Scootaloo said, looking up. "You can't! I have to know what's wrong with me, and my parents aren't going to tell me even if they did know!"
"Whoa, slow down there, sugarcube," Applejack said. "As I was just sayin', there's no point in doing that now, right Twilight?"
"I suppose I do see your point, AJ," Twilight admitted, then looked down at the filly under her wing. "You can stay. With that said however, I don't think we've actually figured out anything about your history specifically. I can only assume it has to do with that third cupcake that went missing, but I don't think there's much chance we'll find somepony that knows what happened to it."
"Uhh... actually," Rainbow Dash said, rubbing the back of her head with a forehoof in embarrassment. "I kinda sorta might know where it went."
Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack all got "that look" in their eye, turned as one to the prismatic pegasus, and with a sigh said, "Rainbow Dash..."
"Look guys, it wasn't as if I knew it was magic or anything," Dash said, looking around nervously for approval. Getting only silence in response, she decided to just plow ahead with her story.