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Late Bloomer (fic in progress)

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Late Bloomer (fic in progress)

Post by InterNutter on Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:46 pm

I own nothing, nor am I writing this for profit. MLPFiM belongs to the Hasbros and Lauren Faust. I just own my OC.

LOOOOOONNNNG fic below the spoilers. Seriously. Get a snack/meal and a cuppa. This may take some time.

Spoiler:

Late Bloomer

"Excuse me?"

Twilight startled. She swore there hadn't been anyone else in the library a minute ago. "Where did you come from?"

The strange unicorn was tall and gangly, though of about adult pony height, she had obviously yet to fill out. "Trotston. Originally," she said. Her straight, brown mane hung over most of her face as she hung her head.

"Trotston, Maressechusetts?" Twilight Sparkle grinned in spite of herself. The other hub of intellectual pursuits and high culture.

"Yes. Maressechusetts." A nervous, dull aqua hoof pawed gently at the floor. "I -um- came here to... help."

"Thankyou, I already have an assistant. Spike got really upset the last time I got another helper."

"Oh. Sorry. Um. I actually meant I was looking to help someone specifically. The -uh- crusaders?"

"The cutie mark crusaders?"

"...'es..." the stranger's head dropped so low that her horn nearly touched the floor.

"I think they were helping make deliveries for Mr and Mrs Cake over at Sugarcube Corner." Twilight busied herself with some books. "Why do you want to--?" but once she turned back, the aqua pony was gone.

Twilight looked for her outside, but only briefly. There was no sign of the stranger anywhere. "Wow," she said finally, "that was weird."

*

Pinkie was bouncing. She loved to jump because of the tickly way her tummy felt. And it was a fun way to get to the top shelves in Sugarcube Corner's bakery.

"Vanilla!" she cheered, adding way too much to the mix.

"...excuse me...?"

Pinkie stared and gasped. A new pony! She'd certainly never seen this pony before and that had to mean she was new in town. And if she was new in town, that meant she couldn't possibly have any friends! And that was so horrible that she, Pinkie Pie, had to fix that immediately!

Pinkie ran off at warp seven to tell everypony about the new pony and the surprise welcome party so she could make some friends!

*

"Pinkie, dear. We're back," sang Mrs Cake. She never liked leaving Pinkie alone in the kitchen. What Pinkie lacked in cooking skill, she made up for with joyous enthusiasm.

Unfortunately for the Cakes, that enthusiasm extended to baking at every opportunity. Which meant yet another batch of baked bads.

"Something smells... good," said Carrot in amazement. "You think Pinkie actually read a recipe, Cup?"

"Anything can happen... I guess..." she tentatively crept into the kitchen, as if anticipating an earth-shattering kaboom.

What she found was a stranger. A dull aqua unicorn with a straight brown mane and an equally straight brown tail. She wore an apron over a rather austere pink dress. "Oh, hello," said the stranger. "The pink earth pony left a batter half-made, so... I thought I might help? I made a rather lot, fixing up the batter, so..." she gestured at a three-tiered cake and three boxes of cupcakes. "I think I went a bit overboard. Sorry. Um. Only... The order was a bit smudged where it was supposed to say what quantity..."

"This... is... perfect," said Mrs Cup Cake. She sampled a spare cupcake. Bliss. Even her own grandmother couldn't have done better. "If you want a job, dear, you can come by and bake with us any time."

"Thank you, ma'am, but... I was hoping to help out the cutie mark crusaders. Do you know when they'll be back from making deliveries?"

"Oh dear. They already went to help Fluttershy at her cottage."

"Oh. Okay. Thank you anyway."

"Aw no, thank *you*, miss...?"

"Um. Star Wishes." She sidled out the back door, tidying up after herself all the way. She came back in, briefly, to return the apron. "Sorry."

Carrot nibbled some of her cupcake. "Mm! Think we could hire her, dumpling?"

*

Fluttershy counted the ducklings as they entered the pond. "...five, six, seven..." no number eight. "Where's Peepers?"

"Um. Is this him?" the stranger was tall and skinny and awkward, with Peepers sitting on her back like a Princess in her carriage. "He was lagging way behind with a limp, so... I gave him a lift. Was that okay?"

"Was that trouble leg hurting again?" she asked the duckling.

He nodded vigorously, showing his weaker, webbed foot to her.

"We both know you need to exercise it, Peepers, but hurting yourself isn't going to help you get better. You're allowed to call me if it's painful." Fluttershy helped him into the pond. "You take your time in this pond, now. Swimming is really good therapy for your leg."

"Aaaaawwww..." cooed the stranger. "I wish I had that knack," she sighed.

"Um. I didn't catch your name, miss...?"

"Star Wishes. I... came looking to help..." the rest of her sentence was an inaudible mumble.

"Well, I'm always glad to welcome a helping hoof. There's so much that still needs to be done..." Fluttershy rattled through a lengthy list.

"Always glad to be useful," said Star Wishes.

"You're not from around here, are you?"

"Um. No. I originally came from Trotston."

"Maressechusetts?"

"That's where it was the last time I looked..."

*

"Nothing else?"

"That's everything," said Fluttershy. "Thank you very much."

"Oh, it's nothing special. Do you know when the girls will be back, perchance?"

"Back?"

"From wherever they're off to. I... sort of came looking for them and... got caught up."

"Oh. I didn't mean to impose."

"It's not a problem, honest. Just... point me in the right direction, if you please."

"I think they went off to help Rarity in the Carousel Boutique. It's on the other side of town, though."

"Not a problem. I have long legs," cheered Star Wishes. "I'm certain I can catch them up. Thank you so much, miss Fluttershy. Ta-ta-aa!"

She certainly could run very fast.

*

Rarity picked up the last of the mess. She didn't mind teaching the girls, really, but her own little sister had two left hooves when it came to sewing the more complicated garments. As in, anything more tricky than a belt.

Someone came galloping up to Carousel Boutique, and skidded to a dignified trot just lengths before the door.

Oh dear.

Rarity could see exactly why this pony needed to be here. She needed a makeover tout suite!

"Welcome, miss...?"

"Star Wishes. I came--"

"I know exactly why you came, darling. Right this way."

"I'm actually looking for--"

"--a fresh new style that suits your personality? Of course. Did nopony *tell* you that fairy pink is completely wrong for the aqua hide? You need something that accentuates the real you."

"Oh. Um. That's very kind of you, but--"

"And that dowdy old thing just *has* to go this *minute*!"

"No I'd really rather--"

"And by the way, sweetheart, do I detect a trace of Trotston in your accent?"

"Um... Yes?"

"Trotston, Maressechusetts? *The* hub of everything stylish and witty?"

"Unless it's moved..." allowed Star Wishes.

"How could you be raised there and not know the most basic rules of style?"

"I was... kind of isolated. No, please don't--"

The almost frumpy pink dress flew away from Rarity's grasp as she saw the truth.

The dress was hiding a horrible secret.

Her latest client was... a blank-flank. Completely without a cutie mark.

And she was starting to cry. Very genteelly. Trying to be brave and stifle all hint of emotion. And completely failing at it.

"Well. Bang goes that last hope. I know how ponies gossip, it's going to be all over town before sunset...."

"Dear, it's only a handful of minutes until sunset..."

"My point, precisely." She cowered in place. "I can't afford your fashions, anyway. I spent my last bits just getting here."

"Nonsense. I consider it a service to attire you in something more flattering. You can pay me back at your convenience, later. But for now..." her tape measure flew - literally - as she took the filly's measurements. "Something simple, elegant, flattering but not *too* revealing, of course. And your secret is safe with me."

"Forgive me if I don't trust that statement," said Star Wishes, cowering behind the modesty screen. "I've been mislead before."

Rarity observed everything she could about the young newcomer in that instant. This was a hurt and betrayed soul. Building some level of trust would be difficult, if not impossible. "Is there a particular style you admire?"

"Just... Practical, thanks. I've already been doing a rather lot of running around. Something hard-wearing and -er- concealing."

"Of course," Rarity compared some fabric samples against ms Wishes' hide. As with all aquas, blues made her look green and greens made her look blue. And different shades of aqua were completely out. Reds clashed and yellows showed the dirt, as did white and cream. Aha! Just the right shade of violet.

Night had barely begun by the time she'd finished the simple frock. Simple, elegant and refined, and yet Star wishes regarded her reflection with timid doubt.

"Mama always said that purple was a royal colour and not for... More common ponies," she said. "Are you certain this style isn't... fast? Mama always said a lady should be decently attired..."

"The question, dear," said Rarity, "is, do you like it?"

Star Wishes stared into the mirror. Not at herself, but at the dress. Then her gaze went to the door, then the ceiling, then her own hooves, then the window and finally, to Rarity. "...yes...?"

"Then it's perfect, isn't it?"

Mirror, door, ceiling, hooves, window, Rarity. "...yes...?"

"Then *I* am glad to have another satisfied customer. We can discuss payment when you have a job. Now... I'm terribly sorry I overrode you, earlier, I simply couldn't help myself. What did you really come here for?"

Mirror, door, ceiling, hooves, window, Rarity. "...um... I came to help the Cutie Mark Crusaders."

"Oh, of course. Yes. They're all sleeping over at Sweet Apple Acres. It's down Horseshoe Lane, right at the end of the road, you can't miss it."

"Well, if they're sleeping there, I'm bound to catch them," cheered Star Wishes. "Thank you so much for the dress, I'll make sure to repay you as soon as possible."

"Of course you will," she said. "See you again soon?"

"I hope so," was all Star Wishes said before she genteelly trotted outside... and then galloped like hell for Sweet Apple Acres.

*

Applejack breathed a sigh of relief. Good beans and butter, those fillies were hard to get settled down. Now all she had to do was help Granny to bed and close up the farm for the night.

Big Macintosh was already out like a light. He'd done a whole passel of heavy lifting and moving, so Applejack didn't blame him one bit. She just tucked him in and kissed his brow before moving on.

Granny was asleep in her chair. Applejack gently helped her up onto her own back.

"C'mon, Granny," she whispered, "Y'all don't gotta go to bed, but'cha can't sleep here."

Granny halfway woke, but fell back to snoring. She was almost as light as a Pegasus pony, these days. Applejack took the grand old lady to her bed and carefully tucked her in.

"G'night, Granny," she whispered, and turned out the light.

Applejack checked on the fillies - still fast asleep - then the pigs and the chickens and sundry other critters around the farm. She was just about to close the gates when she heard somepony galloping closer.

From the sound of things, they were pushing themselves awful hot.

Applejack squinted into the darkness to try and figure out who it was. A unicorn. Too tall and thin to be anypony Applejack knew. And there was nothing chasing her, so why...?

The stranger realized she was being observed and slowed to a trot. "Sorry to be such a bother. I didn't want to keep you up."

"Well, if you're hurryin' to get here, ah reckon ah can hold th' gate 'till you does," countered Applejack.

She returned to a canter, taking the hint, and was soon inside and almost automatically assisting Applejack. "Are the Cutie Mark Crusaders here? I've been trying to catch up with them all day."

"Well, they're here, but I just got them rambunctious fillies to sleep. Is it urgent, miss...?"

"Star Wishes. No. Not exactly urgent per se... Just... Important. I can wait until tomorrow." She looked around. "I believe the traditional emergency bunk is in the barn?"

"Not on this farm, missy. Why, Granny Smith herself'd have my guts for garters if she found out I let a guest sleep in the barn. You just follow me. Name's Applejack, by the way. Where'd you say you was from?"

"Uh. Trotston."

"Trotston, Maressechusetts?"

"Everyone's been asking me that... Now I don't know if I should be so sure..."

Applejack laughed at her joke. "Don't you mind us. Old bean town has a bit of a reputation. Next to Canterlot, it's pretty fancy-schmancy. Lots o' folks kinda admire it 'n' all."

"Ah," said Star Wishes as she followed. "All right. Um... I have to confess that I didn't see much of the -uh- Trotston scene."

"Don't worry yourself none," Applejack smiled. "Just be yourself and folks'll warm right up to you."

"Oh. Thankyou. Mama always said to do what she said. I'll have to think about that." She looked around to discover they were in a guest bedroom. "My goodness, this looks lovely. Is all this hoof-made?"

"Yyyup! Granny does most of it, now, but Maw and Paw put that there quilt together on their anniversary."

Star Wishes bit her lip and blinked away tears. "It's beautiful... Thankyou. I'll... I'll do my best not to mess it up."

Applejack had to wonder what the living heck that was about. "It's made to be used, Sugarcube. Wouldn't be right for all that work to sit there and go mouldy..."

The aqua unicorn gave a weak, watery smile. "I'm certain it will be extra warm, tonight. Thankyou."

"Goodnight," said Applejack. "We get started pretty early around here."

"I'll try to be prompt."

Applejack left her to her own devices and tucked herself in. There was something odd about that pony...

*

"Good morning, Starshiiiinne... The earth says 'hello'. You twinkle above us. We twinkle below..."

Somepony was in good spirits.

Applejack extracted herself and followed her morning ablutions before stumbling downstairs to the delicious smells.

"Eggs, milk or butter," Star Wishes' voice was lecturing. "They're binding agents. They turn the flour into the gooey batter, and the batter is what we need to turn into something yummy."

"Whoah," said Applebloom, "Pinkie never mentioned that..."

"Some ponies do tend to leave out important steps, sometimes." Star Wishes had added Granny's apron to her dress and was busy mixing up a feast. "I like to be thorough. Oh, good morning! Did I... go overboard? I think I made the mistake of assuming there were more hungry mouths..."

There she went, apologizing again. "Aw, don't you worry, none. There's two more little fillies upstairs with empty legs, ah reckon. And anything they can't handle, me an' Big Macintosh'll take care of for ya."

Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo almost floated down the stairs, borne aloft by the enticing aromas.

"Mmmhhh... Almost makes up for getting up so early."

"I'd say it already has..." said Scootaloo.

"Well, if all a'y'all had gone to sleep when I tole ya..." Applejack grinned. "Well, there's plenty. Dig in!"

"My... How informal," murmured Star Wishes. She edged onto a seat and gave herself a tidy sampler. "Mama would be appalled. I think I like the idea." Then she giggled.

Applejack watched the younger pony as she worked her way through a more generous portion. If there was any trait she could pin on the aqua unicorn, it would be - nervous.

It was little things. The way she quickly checked behind her as if it were a matter of habit. The flinch at loud noises - or rude ones. Star Wishes almost ducked and covered when Applebloom let loose a championship-winning belch.

"What are those ones?" said Big Mac.

"Apple scruffs. Granny Smith told me the apples needed eating up, and scruffs are ideal for leftovers. Try one? Mama says they're passable."

Applejack tried one. They were way better than passable. They were the best things she'd ever tasted. "Your mama must have some high standards, bless her heart."

Flinch. Twitch. "Oh. Yes. Mama does have a perfectionist streak. Um. Bless her heart." Duck, shoulder check, window check. "At least I learned how to do things correctly."

"Ah s'pose I'd better introduce ya. Star Wishes, these fillies are the girls you're looking for. My li'l sister, Applebloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle here is Rarity's sister. Fillies, this here is Star Wishes. She's come all the way from Trotston to help y'all out."

"No way," said Applebloom.

"Cool," said Sweetie Belle.

"Awesome," said Scootaloo.

"Trotston, Maressechusetts?" said Granny.

"Everypony's been saying that. Is there another Trotston, somewhere, I'm not aware of?"

The table burst into laughter. Star Wishes joined in only after she recovered from her flinch.

"So why'd you wanna help us?" said Scootaloo.

Now she looked downcast. "Um. That's... kinda personal? I don't want it getting around. Um. One pony knows... I suppose you fillies can know. Um." She looked around. "After breakfast? Maybe we could go somewhere? The crusaders and I? Somewhere... um... private?"

"There's the clubhouse," offered Applebloom. "That's plenty private."

*

"Whoah..." Star Wishes smiled tentatively as she looked around the clubhouse. "Who fixed this place up? It... sort of feels older than it looks."

"Oh, it weren't nothin' special," Applebloom dismissed. "Just a few tools and a lick o' paint. Some of the ole wood had t' be replaced. Nothin' big."

"Awright, so what's this big secret?" said Scootaloo.

"Um," Star Wishes glanced out the door, out the window, down to her hooves, behind her, and then faced the fillies. "I... want to join..."

"What?"

"Join?"

"Us?"

Door, window, hooves, behind, fillies. "I'm..." door, window, hooves, behind, fillies, "...also a blank-flank." She lifted her skirt so they could see.

A bare. Unadorned. Aqua rump.

"But.... you're old."

Star Wishes lowered her skirt again. "Too old for your group? I'd hoped..." she sighed, hanging her head. "Mama said I was chasing rainbows. I should have known there was no hope."

"Great beans and butter, filly," Applebloom blurted, "were you raised by Dragons?"

"Um. Just one. Does that matter?" Twitch.

The fillies' jaws dropped.

"You were really bought up by a dragon?" said Sweetie Belle. "A full-grown fire-breathing scales and spikes *dragon*?"

"There's a dragon being raised by a pony right here in Ponyville," said Star Wishes. "Why is the opposite so shocking?"

"They eat meat!" Sweetie Belle yawped.

"And other stuff..." added Applebloom.

"You coulda been et up," said Scootaloo.

"Well, obviously, I wasn't." Star Wishes waved a thin leg. "Maybe I was too scrawny." She smiled in the watery, nervous way of someone who was hoping they just made a joke and everyone would laugh, now.

"Aheh, heh, heh," Applebloom managed politely. "We need to discuss a few things, if'n you don't mind." She whisked her friends into a corner.

"...m'kay..."

"How could someone that old not have a cutie mark?"

"She was bought up by a dragon, guys..."

"Wouldn't it look... Y'know... Weird?"

"She wears a dress all the time for a reason. It'll just look like she's helping us out."

"We don't have to tell anyone she's a member..."

"She obviously needs our help."

"It'd be jus' plain mean t' turn her away..."

"We have to help her. One more Crusader is one more angle to help us all get our cutie marks."

"Agreed."

"Agreed."

"Awright miss Wishes, you are officially--" they turned to find the clubhouse empty of tall, thin unicorns. "...gone?"

They rushed outside.

Star Wishes was walking slowly towards the track that lead to the gate out of Sweet Apple Acres. All the same, she was quite a long way away.

"Hey!"

"Wait up!"

Scootaloo sped past on her scooter, faster than the other two could gallop. She raced in front of Star Wishes and blocked her path. "Don'cha know it's *rude* t' leave without sayin' g'bye?"

Star Wishes stumbled backwards. "I... I know. I do know. I'm so sorry, I just... I... I..."

Applebloom caught up first. "Take a breath. Take your time. It's okay, now. She ain't here."

A deep, shuddering breath. "I wanted to leave before I could get thrown out. I've been all over Equestria, and there's no help anywhere. You were my last chance and... And..." tears fell.

"We were just about to welcome you in," said Sweetie Belle. "We agreed."

Star Wishes stared at her. "I'm... I'm sorry. I thought you said you were going to welcome me in."

"I did."

"We are."

"Welcome to the Cutie Mark Crusaders, miss Star Wishes!"

"Just like that?"

"Ah-huh."

"No tests? No initiations? No... Hazings? No oaths? No rituals?"

"None of that stuff..."

"We're not up to any of *that*..."

"We're sorta new."

"You're absolutely certain? Just like that, I'm in?"

"Yyyyyup," said Applebloom.

Star Wishes sat, gently twitching, on the pathway. "Mama always said... She never wanted... Just like that... Just like that..."

"What's wrong with her?" winced Scootaloo.

"Dragons are lots of things," said Sweetie Belle, "but many of them are just plain mean. There's a treaty? But it only does so much. We help their babies hatch and help them learn we're not bad to dragons. They... let us. And they try not to be mean to us."

"Huh?"

"You were absent, that day," said Applebloom. "There used to be wars. Now... There aren't."

"I guess one dragon thought she'd try to even the score..." Sweetie Belle did her best to soothe Star Wishes. "You can guess it doesn't turn out well."

Scootaloo crept up to Star Wishes. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. I didn't know."

Star Wishes swallowed and pulled herself together. "It can't be helped. Can't be undone. We move on knowing better, hm?"

"I... guess. Am I forgiven, though?"

"Um. Yes?"

Scootaloo breathed again. "Okay. So where do we start?"

"I'd be happy to accompany you on your plans for today... If that's all right."

"It's better than all right," said Scootaloo, "today, we're helping the coolest Pegasus pony in all Ponyville!"

"She means Rainbow Dash," hissed Sweetie Belle.

"Thankyou," said Star Wishes. "I haven't met all the Pegasus ponies, yet."

Applebloom finished fixing the cart to Scootaloo's scooter. "Oops. We don't have a spare helmet."

"I can keep up," breezed Star Wishes. "Long legs come in handy for running."

"We'll meet up at Misty Mountainside. That's near to where Rainbow's cloud castle is."

"...misty mountainside, cloud castle. Got it." Star Wishes nodded. She stretched as the crusaders boarded their usual travel arrangements.

"You gonna be okay?" said Scootaloo.

"I'm not good for much, but I can run," grinned Star Wishes.

*

Rainbow Dash stretched when she heard the low rumble of Scootaloo's rapid wingbeats. Showtime.

For a Pegasus foal with Stumpy Wing, she sure got around fast enough. Maybe if she got Fluttershy, some hummingbirds, and a few bumblebees together...

Meh. That could keep for if Rainbow's other ideas didn't pan out.

She flew down to Misty Meadow, setting up the last of the cloud obstacles, and almost freaked out when a strange pony nearly galloped into her.

"Whooops!" The stranger leaped over Rainbow, barely clearing the cloud hoop before tumbling to a halt. "Terribly sorry about that. Wasn't expecting low-flying Pegasii..."

Scootaloo came to a halt, the other two fillies cheering.

"Whoah!"

"Cool!"

"That was awesome!"

"Dumb luck I didn't wreck anything," said the gangly unicorn as she straightened herself out. "You must be miss Rainbow Dash. This is certainly an impressive set up, you have here."

"You can call me Rainbow," said Rainbow. "Or RD if you want to be informal."

"Um," the stranger checked behind her, above, to the left and to the right before admitting, "...idon'tthinkican..."

Great. *Two* Fluttershys in one town. "Whatever suits you best," she breezed. "I'm a pretty informal filly, myself. By the way, I didn't catch your name."

"Um." Behind, up, left, right. "I... Um."

"This is Star Wishes," said Sweetie Belle.

"She's helpin' us out," added Applebloom.

"She's from Trotston," said Scootaloo.

"Yes... Trotston, Maressechusetts," said Star Wishes in the tired tones of someone who was weary of being asked.

"Pfft. I know where Trotston is," Rainbow dismissed. "Come on, we got a lot to do."

"So what are we doing?" Scootaloo bounced up and down in eagerness.

"I've been asked to help out with the Fairy Flyers group in Flight Camp, next year. You know, inspire them, boost their confidence... That sorta stuff." A suitable camouflage for the real purpose, help exercise Scootaloo's stumpy wings and help her actually fly. Something Rainbow had been roped into by Scootaloo's family because the younger filly idolized Rainbow. "I need to make sure this set-up's perfect for them and you--" she indicated Scootaloo, "--seemed to be the coolest tester I could find."

Scootaloo practically glowed. "Really?"

"Really-surely."

"So what do we do?" said Applebloom.

"You three can be my ground crew. Run along under the track and be ready to lend some help. Not that we'll need it."

Scootaloo sized up the course and started for her scooter.

"Not so fast, young lady. The Fairy Fliers won't have vehicles, so neither should you."

"But... I..." she hung her head. "I can't go up. Just along."

And here came the confidence part. "Did I ever tell you I met Cloudrip at the Grand Galloping Gala?"

Scootaloo instantly cheered up. "The Cloudrip? From the Wonderbolts?"

"The one and only! He told me a little secret," Rainbow's voice fell to a whisper, "He used to have the same trouble. In fact," a theatrical look around the meadow. "He still has stubby wings."

"No way!"

"He showed me his secret to getting maximum air. Want to try it?"

"Do I?"

Hook, line and sinker. Oh yes. Rainbow quickly got her new protege to accept the lessons she'd frowned upon from her teachers and parents. Cheered on by her friends. It was only a matter of minutes before Scootaloo was flying - weakly at first - around the gentle obstacle course.

Five laps was plenty for her, right now. Rainbow let her rest up. "What do you say? Will the Fairy Flyers have any trouble?"

"That last triple hoop's a bit tough," admitted Scootaloo.

"Yeah? I thought it should be challenging... but it shouldn't be *too* challenging... How would you fix it?"

"Maybe... Put the middle hoop lower? So they can swoop?"

"Great idea. I'll tweak that and you can test it for me tomorrow." And tomorrow, Rainbow will have added another, subtle tricky part to exercise Scootaloo's wings.

"There you are!"

Star Wishes yipped and shrank in on herself.

"Oh, hey, Pinkie," said Rainbow.

"I've been trying all yesterday to throw you a welcome-to-Ponyville party at your place and I just can't find where your place is. How am I supposed to throw you a welcome home party when there's no home to welcome you *to*?"

"I'm sorry," said Star Wishes. "I'm sorry. I... I haven't earned a place to stay, yet. I hadn't even thought I was inconveniencing anyone. I'm terribly sorry."

"You have nowhere to go?" Pinkie's eyes wobbled with unaccustomed sadness.

"I'm sorry," said Star Wishes.

"That's even worse than not having friends, yet..."

"I'm sorry."

"There's only one thing to be done!"

"Th-there is...?" stammered Star Wishes.

"We have to find someone who wants to share *their* house! Any preferences?"

"Please don't throw me out?"

"Silly filly! Who'd want to do that?"

"Um..." behind, up, left, right. "Nobody you'd know?" Flinch.

"Great!" Pinkie grinned. "I'll have everything together at Pioneer Park by the time you're done here!"

"...really...?" Star Wishes boggled.

Sweetie Belle whispered in Star Wishes' ear.

"Oh. Sorry. Um. Thank you, miss Pinkie Pie."

"It's no problem at all! All you have to do is be there and have fun!" Pinkie literally bounced away.

Star Wishes was checking around herself again, huddling up and subtly trembling.

Rainbow landed beside her. "Are you okay?"

"Um. I don't know. I don't know." Her breaths started getting faster. "I've never been to a proper pony party, previously...."

"What. Seriously?" boggled Rainbow.

"Her mom's a dragon," said Scootaloo.

"What?" Rainbow stared at her. "Seriously?"

"It's not so bad as everyone seems to think," said Star Wishes. "Mama loves me. She fed me and clothed me and cared for me. She tried her best to teach me all the good things. It's not her fault I always got things wrong."

Rainbow shared a Look with the other three fillies. It said: This filly is way too tense; we need to help her chill out for a while.

All three nodded solemnly.

"So... Anyone up for a game of Nonsense Tag?" offered Rainbow.

"What's Nonsense Tag?" said Star Wishes.

"It's a lot like regular tag," said Applebloom. "'Cept you make a silly rule to catch the next pony."

"And it's gotta be something everyone can do," added Sweetie Belle. "Or something you know the tagged pony can do."

"Like this," said Rainbow. "To catch the next pony, I had to fly upside-down." She hovered upside-down to prove her point.

"And we should stay in the meadow," added Scootaloo. "To make it fair."

"Nonsense, indeed. Ponies play this?"

"Yyyup!" Applebloom grinned.

"We'll give you a head start," offered Rainbow, still Topsy-Turvy. "I'll be 'it'."

"Um. Shouldn't... we... hurry up... to Pioneer Park?" Star Wishes cringed.

"We really should let Pinkie Pie set up," advised Sweetie Belle.

"One quick game won't hurt," added Applebloom.

"It'll get you into the party spirit," said Scootaloo.

"Um." Behind, up, left, right. "If you're sure it's okay...."

Four unanimous grins and nods answered her.

"All right," announced Rainbow. "You've got until 'five'. One. Two..."

All four fillies ran.

"Threefourfive, readyornothereIcome!" Rainbow kept upside-down as she flew low above the ground. Star Wishes was fast, but Rainbow was faster. "Tag! To catch the next pony, you have to... Run backwards!"

"Ah! An equalizing challenge! Now I get it..." she turned her head and scurried backwards after one, then another filly. She finally caught Sweetie Belle. "Tag! Um. To catch the next pony... you... have to make a rhyme! Featuring their name."

"Oo! Tricky!" Her first few attempts were marred by misses. "Rainbow dash, I'm on you like a rash. Oops. Scootaloo, I'll catch you. Darn it!"

"Pity you can't be chasing me," Star Wishes singsonged, "I have tagger's immunity..."

"Gotcha, little Applebloom. I caught you, even though you zoooooom!" Sweetie Belle sang.

"Oooh, niiiice," cooed the aqua unicorn. "You have almost perfect pitch."

"Thanks!"

"Ahem..." said Applebloom. "It's my turn to do what?"

"Oh yeah. Uh. To catch the next pony, you have to... Jump everywhere!"

Laughter soon rang out in Misty Meadow. As did silly voices and the occasional yawp of mayhem.

The stranger from Trotston relaxed enough, Rainbow judged. "Okay, let's pick it up tomorrow after Scootaloo tests my next setup. Right now, we have a pretty park party to play at."

"Oh. Yes." Star Wishes shrank in on herself again. "Um. Are there rules?"

"Just be yourself and enjoy," advised Rainbow. "You'll fit in in no time."

"Race ya there?" challenged Scootaloo.

"But--"

"C'mon," said Applebloom. "You know you can have fun."

"Stay close to me?" Star Wishes begged. "I've... um... never been to a party... previously."

"Sure thing," said Sweetie Belle. "You'll be fine."

"I'm gonna win this time," cheered Scootaloo. "Readysetgo!"

Star wishes chased after them with a yelp.

*

She knew she was getting close when she saw the balloons, but dan't stop. The strange, pink pony would be angry at her. Star Wishes didn't handle anger very well.

Oh no.

Crowds.

She'd never been around large groups of ponies. The largest number she'd encountered had been ten. And they were... mean.

"Stay strong, Star," she told herself. "Sparkle, sparkle. Stay strong. Life is all an act. Play a part. Consider confidence."

She no longer had the strength to run down the road, after her friends. She slowed to a canter. Then a trot. Then a walk.

She could feel her own heartbeat, thundering inside her chest. She could feel her legs trembling. Hear her own teeth chattering out of pure petrifying panic. Any instant, now...

"Hello."

Star Wishes shrieked, jumped, and landed in a defensive ball with a mortifying blurt of, "Ididn'tmeanit!"

It was the yellow pony, miss Fluttershy. She'd moved so softly that Star Wishes hadn't heard her land over her own cacophony.

"Oh my goodness," cooed miss Fluttershy. "I thought *I* was nervous. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be so frightening. It's okay, now. Just take some nice, deeep breaths..."

Her gentle hoof reminded Star of Mama's talons, and the alone togetherness that had filled their lives. "Thank you. I know I shouldn't get so worked up, but I can't help myself. I just know something's going to go wrong, and I'm going to be in the centre of things. Messing it all up for everyone. Um. Every*pony*."

"Now, now. You should try to think *positively*, Star Wishes. You need to remember, you're a very helpful pony. And very nice. And kind. And thoughtful. Even if you *do* manage to get something wrong? I'm *certain* every pony there is going to forgive you."

"Does it count if I'm not that certain?"

"It's okay to be nervous. You can give every pony a chance, and when you do, you'll find they're all nice in their own way."

"...when you walk through a storm," Star mutter-sang under her breath, making each foot move towards the party through sheer strength of will, "hold your head up high... And don't be afraid of the dark..."

"That's the spirit," encouraged miss Fluttershy. "You can do it."

"...at the end of the storm..." her feet were beginning to obey the tempo. "There's a golden sky... And the sweet, silver song of a lark."

Sweetie Belle walked on one side, having found her again, and miss Fluttershy kept her company on the other. Not boxing her in. Not forcing her forward. Just walking with her.

And singing along.

"Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown..."

Star shut her eyes, trusting her friends to keep her walking straight, so she wouldn't have to keep staring at the growing circus of a party in front of her. Other voices joined in as well, making her feel bold enough to sing out loud.

"Walk on. Walk on... With hope in your heart," thousands of voices joined the swell. For the first time in a long time, Star felt like she belonged. Like she was part of something bigger. "And you'll never walk alone!"

Like she was making the bigger thing better, just for being part of it. "You'll ne-veeeerrrr waaaaaaaaalllk alooooooone!"

And then she realised that her untrained Alto had rang out across the clearing unassisted.

Star Wishes opened her eyes, an apology ready to fly from her lips, to find the pink pony grinning at her.

"Wooooooowwwww.... Now *that's* what I call an *entrance*!"

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InterNutter
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Posts : 32
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Join date : 2011-11-26
Age : 45
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