Free Ride on the Friendship Express

By TotalOverflow, 2012

"AAAAAAAAHHHH!"

"For goodness sake, Sweetie Belle! Stop screaming! And open your eyes!"

I opened them, slowly, and stopped kicking at the air. The ground was several yards below, and I was swinging gently, bumping into Apple Bloom and Scootaloo who hung nearby. Our hooves and manes were tangled in the ropes, and looking up I could see the sails, torn and shredded, caught amongst the higher branches.

"We're alive!" Apple Bloom laughed, "we're alive!" She gave a buck and a twirl and yelped as she flipped upside-down.

I could only move my left hoof. The rest were all tangled in twisted rope. I swung gently, feeling nauseous from the fall and sudden crash landing.

"I can't...quite...!" Scootaloo struggled, spinning around, "argh! Check my flank! Did I get one?"

Leaning over, I glanced at the orange filly's flank. Bare.

"Nope," I said, not bothering to check my own. "I don't think I even want a cutie mark in hang-gliding."

"That wasn't hang-gliding!" Scootaloo grinned, fighting with the ropes, "that was para-gliding!"

"What's the difference?" I asked, tugging at the harness around my body with my teeth. With each movement I swung a little, the harness digging into my stomach.

"You 'hang' with hang-glidin'," Apple Bloom answered, still upside-down, "and with para-glidin' you...uh, 'para?'"

"How do you 'para?'" I asked, "that's not even a word, is it?"

"I thought you would know," Scootaloo snarked.

I stared at her. Why would I know?

Apple Bloom huffed. "That ain't very nice, Scootaloo!"

Wait, what? Did she just insult me?

"Look, whatever!" grunted Scootaloo, gnawing at the ropes around her hoof, "let's just get out of this mess!"

Why would I know whether 'para' was a word or not?

"Oooh, I'm gettin' dizzy!" Apple Bloom squealed, kicking until she righted herself. "Sweetie Belle, can you use yer magic ta get us outta this?"

'Para...' Like paramedic?

"Sweetie Belle?"

I snapped back to reality. "Huh?"

Scootaloo groaned. "Use your magic to cut the ropes!"

"Oh, uh, I'll try," I said, closing my eyes and focusing on my horn. I always had trouble getting it to do anything. Rarity said I'd get better as I grew up, and Twilight Sparkle offered to teach me, but-

"Well? Can you cut it?"

"Huh? Oh! Right, um..." I squinted and pushed, trying to get my horn to do anything other than sputter. It tingled and sparked a little but that was it.

"Sorry," I sighed.

"Humph, fat lot of good your horn is," Scootaloo grumbled, massaging her cheek, which was getting a little red. I frowned and tried to swing myself free. Parakeet?

"If Applejack were here, she'd get us down in a jiffy," Apple Bloom offered, worming her hoof free from her harness.

"If Rainbow Dash were here, she'd have us free before Applejack even got here!" Scootaloo remarked.

"Huh, guess yer right. Rainbow would know all about gettin' outta trees, considerin' she crashes into 'em all day!" Apple Bloom shot back.

"Oh yeah? Well at least Rainbow Dash would know better than to put worms in muffins!"

Parachute? I could have used one in that fall.

"Applejack was pullin' double duty! Loads more work than Rainbow Crash has ever done!"

'Para'...'Para'...

"That's only because Rainbow Dash is so awesome, she doesn't need to work on a muddy farm all day!"

No, I don't think 'para' is a word, but to make sure I'd need a...Oohhh.

"Hey!" I glared at Scootaloo, "I told you I'm not a dictionary!"

She looked at me like I just sprouted a second head. "Wow, you're slow!"

"Oh...Oh yeah?" I stammered, "well, I wasn't the one who suggested para-gliding! In fact, I told you it was a bad idea!"

"And like your ideas are so much better!" Scootaloo barked, "Cutie Mark Crusader Funeral Crashers!"

"I TOLD you I didn't know that was a funeral!" I shouted, my eyes watering. I've done a lot of embarrassing things...but that was one of the worst.

"That's only because you're so stupid!"

"Scootaloo!" Apple Bloom yelled. My mouth hung open but I couldn't think of anything to say to defend myself, and my vision became blurry. "Watch yer language!"

"W-well, at least I'm..." Scootaloo's voice wavered and her eyes were squinty. She glared and pointed a hoof at Apple Bloom. "It's your fault we're in this mess, anyways!"

The earth filly was aghast. "MY fault! If you hadn't swerved ta the left then we wouldn't've gotten tangled in the first place!"

"Yeah, well if you'd jumped when I said so, that wouldn't have happened!"

"You should've known better'n suggestin' para-glidin'!"

"And YOU should have known better than to LIE about getting your cutie mark!"

"Stop it!" I screamed, lunging forward.

CRACK

We looked up to see the branch we dangled from snap and splinter before giving way, sending us careening to the ground below, landing with resounding 'thuds.' Panting for air I stumbled to my hooves and threw off the remains of the harness and ropes. The others teetered about, their eyes spinning.

At last we all stood, staring each other down. It was so quiet.

"You know," Apple Bloom said after a moment, "ever since I met you two it's been nothin' but accidents an' mishaps every day! I probably would've gotten a nice, shiny cutie mark in sellin' apples by now if you two weren't always draggin' me off ta try some crazy, stupid stunt!"

"Oh yeah!" Scootaloo shouted, "well, maybe if you two weren't always so clumsy and, and slow," she looked right at me when she said that, "I could actually get my cutie mark and...and...and make some real friends!"

The two fillies glared at each other, then turned their attention to me, almost expectantly.

I tried to blink the tears out of my eyes. "Well, m-maybe, I..." I sputtered, "maybe I d-don't need you guys either!"

That did it. Scootaloo clenched her jaw and took sharp breaths while Apple Bloom stood stiff as a tree, glancing menacingly between us.

"Well, fine!" Apple Bloom said, "I don't...I'm..." She shut her eyes and ran, running between the trees and out of sight, sobbing and coughing. Scootaloo spun her gaze upon me. Her purple eyes flicked back and forth between mine. She became blurry and I couldn't hold back a tear any longer.

She scoffed. "Geez, what a crybaby! I don't n-need you!" she said, her voice cracking a little as she turned and galloped away.

I watched her go and tried to suppress a sniffle. I failed.

I knew I shouldn't have gotten out of bed today.


Steam burst from the wheels and gears of the candy-colored train as it slowed to a stop, casting the station in a sudden cool shade. I shivered.

PHWEEEEEEET

My ears folded back at the loud whistle and bells. It was too early for this.

"Look honey, here comes Rarity now!"

I looked over my shoulder, past Mom and Dad to see Rarity step onto the nearly empty wooden station, about a dozen huge bags levitating in the air around her. She set them down neatly and in order of color and strolled over to meet us.

"Good morning Father, Mother," she said with a flick of her mane. "Hello, Sweetie Belle."

"Hey, g'morning, Rarity!" said Dad, wrapping a hoof around her, "so, you looking forward to your vacation?"

"A whole four days in Prance," Mom said dreamily, "you're one lucky filly!"

Dad laughed. "You gonna visit that big tower you see in all the pictures?"

"Well, we'll have to see," Rarity said, fluffing out her mane, "I'm sure Twilight has an agenda for us to follow once we arrive, and Celestia forbid we break from the schedule."

I honestly couldn't tell anymore when Rarity was being sarcastic.

"So, you'll be able to take care of Opalescence for me while I'm away?" she asked.

"Oh, don't worry about li'l Opal," replied Mom, waving a hoof in the air, "we just love the li'l darling, and she gets along so well with Sweetie Belle!"

I shuddered at the thought of my last encounter with that cat. It took weeks for my fur to grow back.

"What the-Rarity!"

Twilight Sparkle stepped onto the platform, her satchels filled with books. She stared at the huge array of bags and her jaw fell open.

"I told you to only bring the essentials!" she said, poking one of my sister's bags. Spike the dragon arrived soon after, dragging what I assumed to be the rest of Twilight's luggage: a single suitcase.

"These are essential!" My sister waved her hoof toward her row of bags. "How can I survive without a different outfit for-"

"Three bags, Rarity!" Twilight interrupted, "JUST three!"

Rarity's mouth opened and closed dramatically. "Wha-! Wha-! Three! Surely you can't be...!"

"Uh, where is everyone?" Spike asked, dropping the suitcase and leaning on it.

"Oh no!" panicked Twilight, "the train leaves in ten minutes! Where are they!" I glanced around the station, which besides us was completely empty.

"Um, I'm here," came a soft voice. Fluttershy stepped onto the platform as several dozen bunnies, cats, mice and birds all hopped along behind her or sat on her back.

"Oh, Fluttershy, how cute!" said Twilight, "all your little animal friends came to say goodbye!"

"What do you mean? They're coming with us."

"...What? You...you can't bring animals with us!"

"But you won't even notice they're there!"

"There! I'm ready now, Twilight."

"Rarity, I meant you could bring three bags! Not leave three!"

"WHAT!"

"And where's Rainbow Dash?"

"Here I am!"

The blue pegasus casually drifted in on a cloud, her head and front hooves dangling over the edge.

"Great!" Twilight sighed, "you're all packed? You got your ticket?"

"Yeah, uh, about that," grinned Rainbow, rolling onto her back, "I don't think I'm going."

"WHAT!" shouted the purple unicorn, her eyes wide as dinner plates, "but, but, I thought we went over this!"

"Yeah, you know, I'm sure Prance is a great place and all, but...well, you know how it goes."

"But what about the culture?" Rarity gasped, "the fashion?"

"Gag."

"What about the art and museums?" Twilight added, "and the food?"

"Double gag. Wait, food? I thought they only ate snails and frog legs."

"How horrible!" gasped Fluttershy.

"Where did you hear that?" Twilight rolled her eyes, "Prance is known for it's chocolate and pastries. There's crêpes and chocolate mousse and-"

There was a streak of rainbow and the blue pegasus suddenly stood beside the unicorn.

"Well what are we waiting for? Let's go!"

"We're waiting for Applejack and Pinkie Pie."

"Oh great," Spike said sadly, "now I'm hungry. I didn't even have time for breakfast this morning," he added with a pointed glare at Twilight.

"Um, Twilight, I promise they'll be very well behaved-"

"No animals!"

"There we go! I cannot make any more room than that!"

"Rarity! What on earth do you need eight bags for?"

"In the fashion capital of Equestria, I cannot afford to wear the same thing two days in a row!"

Twilight face-hoofed and looked Rainbow Dash over with one eye.

"And where are your bags?" she sighed.

The cyan pegasus shrugged. "Meh, I like to travel light. Besides, if I have to, I can just borrow some of Rarity's stuff. Looks like she has enough for all of us."

"You wouldn't dare!"

"My friends wouldn't take up nearly as much room as all this luggage..."

"No animals!" groaned Twilight, "no cats, no mice, not even a chicken!"

Just then, an orange pegasus filly barreled onto the station. "Rainbow Dash! Rainbow Dash!" she yelled, running to the blue mare.

"Hey, squirt!"

"I thought you were gonna show me your new tricks today!" Scootaloo pleaded. I noticed her cheek was still a little red from the fall yesterday.

"Well, uh, you see," Rainbow scratched her neck.

"I wanted to see you being awesome!"

"Hmm..."

Rainbow glanced around the station and Scootaloo did too. She made eye contact with me for a moment before frowning and looking away. I clenched my teeth.

"Mom," I began, "can't I go too?"

"Oh, sorry dear," she smiled, patting me on the back, "your sister really needs this time away with her friends. You'll understand when you're older."

"Besides," chuckled Dad, "aren't you looking forward to playing with your little friends this week?"

I looked back to Scootaloo, who purposefully avoided eye contact with me. I sighed and stared at the floor.

"Is anyone else hungry?" Spike asked, rubbing his stomach, "I am."

"Well, Applejack was supposed to bring the snacks for the trip," Twilight said, frantically crossing things out on a magically floating checklist, "where IS that pony?"

"Now 'member! The Golden Delicious need ta be bucked t'morrow, the cows gotta milked no later'n Thursday, an' Filthy Rich is comin' by sometime this week ta have a chat 'bout next year's Zap Apples. Got all that?"

"Eeyup."

Applejack, Big Macintosh and Granny Smith stepped onto the platform, Apple Bloom bouncing around like a rabbit behind them.

"Don't worry, big sis!" Apple Bloom said, "We can handle the farm while yer gone!"

"Oh, good, you're here at last, Applejack!" Twilight sighed, "are you ready to go?"

"Yup!" Applejack grinned, patting the pair of satchels on her sides, "managed ta get all my chores done an' still get packed all in one mornin'!"

"So you have some food?" Spike asked, drooling a little.

Applejack stared blankly at him.

"Oh hay! I'll be right back!"

The orange pony dashed off.

"Bring me mah blanket while yer down there!" Granny Smith shouted after her, "Ah'm freezin' mah buns off out here!"

Big Macintosh chuckled and Apple Bloom explored the station a little, smiling widely. Eventually she walked in my direction and saw me. Immediately her smile faded and she threw her snout in the air.

My heart sunk.

"We don't have time for this!" Twilight trotted in place, "The train is leaving soon! And where's Pinkie Pie!"

"How about if I only bring Angel Bunny, Mr. Mousey and his family-"

"No animals!"

"So hey, Twilight? Yeah, I think I'm gonna stay behind after all."

"WHAT! Rainbow-!"

"It's just that I've got fans here, and..."

"Rainbow, you do realize the Wonderbolts will be performing in Prance while we're there, right?"

"Really! Sorry, squirt! I've gotta go!"

"Aww!"

Scootaloo pouted and walked away, eyes glued to the floor. She wasn't paying attention and bumped into Apple Bloom.

"Watch where yer goin'!" the yellow filly glared at Scootaloo.

"Why don't you watch where you're going!" Scootaloo glared back, marching away. I watched my former friends stomp to opposite ends of the platform and cross their arms.

"Oh, honey, the bowling tourney's starting soon!" Dad said suddenly.

Mom gasped. "Already! We got to get going!"

They leant down and kissed me on the head. "Have fun with your little friends tonight. We'll see you after the tourney!"

They rushed over to Rarity and hugged her goodbye. 'Tourney.' That's a funny word. 'Tourrrrrrrney.' I watched them step off the platform before my mind finally registered what they just said.

"Wait, couldn't I come with-"

"And don't be late for dinner!" Mom shouted as they disappeared into a stage coach and were hauled away.

Letting out a long breath, I sat on my haunches. Applejack had returned and was hugging Apple Bloom goodbye.

"All right, I think I'm ready now!" Applejack said. I noticed she was wearing an extra pair of bumpy looking satchels.

"Mmm, thanks for the apple," said Spike, licking his claws.

"The train to Prance is about to leave!" the conductor pony shouted, "aaaaaaall aboard who's coming aboard!"

I've always wanted to say that. 'All aboard!' Hey! Maybe I could be a train conductor! Yeah! Cutie Mark Crusader Train Conductors! Just wait until I suggest this to-

Oh. Right.

I looked over to Apple Bloom and Scootaloo who stayed far away from each other and never looked my way.

"Oh no! We're still missing Pinkie Pie!" Twilight squirmed.

"I'll get her!" bellowed Rainbow Dash, flying off in a streak of colors.

"Angel Bunny would be very quiet, you wouldn't even-"

"Fluttershy, no animals are allowed at the hotel!"

"What! That's awful! Couldn't we find a better hotel?"

"It's the best hotel! That's why they don't allow animals!"

"That's terrible! What kind of a place is Prance?"

"Okay. Seven bags! That's the best I can do."

"What-no! Rarity, you-I don't-what-! Rgh! Don't you want to buy things in Prance?"

"Well, of course."

"Then you're going to need room to carry it back!"

Rarity gasped. "Goodness, you're right!"

Horn glowing, my sister threw her bags into the air and evacuated their contents, filling the sky with dozens of dresses, hats and accessories which sorted and stuffed themselves into the floating bags, seemingly at random.

"Why, in that case, I shouldn't bring any more than three bags at most! Oh, but there's no time to get these extra bags back home before the train departs!"

"I'll take care of it Rarity!" Spike announced, hopping forward and flexing his muscles.

"Oh, why thank you, Spike! You're such a little gentle, er...dragon"

The purple dragon blushed, held out his arms and gasped beneath the sudden weight of bags and attire landing on him. He tried to salute while Rarity floated her three remaining bags, one of which was nearly empty, toward the train.

"Nononononononono it's not ready!"

Everyone turned to watch as Rainbow dragged Pinkie Pie along by her cotton candy-like tail.

"What's not ready!" groaned Twilight.

"The party's not ready yet!"

"What party!" Twilight nearly shouted, a loose hair sticking out of her mane.

"Our farewell party!"

"What farewell party!"

"My farewell party for us!"

"You were organizing our own farewell party!"

"Well, duh! I'm only the most party planniest pony in Ponyville! Who else could it be?"

Everypony became completely silent for a moment before they all broke into uproarious laughter, gathering into a big group hug.

"Pinkie, you're so random!"

"Oh, girls, this is going to be so much fun!"

"I've always wanted to go to Prance!"

"This is going to be the best vacation ever!"

I couldn't help but smile. They were going to have so much fun. They were such good friends! They never fought, not like...

That settled it. I stomped my hoof on the ground, my mind made up. If Apple Bloom and Scootaloo weren't going to be my friends anymore, then I just had to make some new friends! I knew Applejack was a great sister, and she would be a great friend too! Twilight could teach me how to do magic better, and Fluttershy was always so nice to me! Pinkie Pie was loads of fun, and Rainbow Dash...well, she's cool. Even Rarity had been so much nicer to me ever since the Sisterhooves Social.

This was the best idea ever! Even better than getting Big Macintosh and Ms. Cheerilee to fall in love!

Now that they were my friends, I needed to spend time with them, and what better way than a vacation? But, wait...I didn't have a ticket...

My eye fell upon Rarity's bag, the zipper slightly open. The bag was only half full.


OoooOOOooh, I had no idea what it felt like to be levitated. It felt like all my insides were floating around, sloshing into each other, making me sick. The bag I hid within was half full with nightgowns, blinders, slippers and Rarity's glasses which kept smacking into my nose as we hovered around. I was even flipped around a few times and had to fight to contain my breakfast. The heavy smell of Rarity's perfume wasn't helping, either.

At last the world stopped moving and my insides fell back into place, which didn't feel as good as I'd hoped. Poking around in the darkness I eventually found the zipper and unzipped just enough to see, and get some air.

My bag (well, Rarity's bag) was sitting on a sort of rack hanging from the ceiling. I glanced around the beautiful train in wonder. This must be the luxury car Rarity went on and on about: there was a table directly below me with a bowl of fruit, to the right was a long sofa, and plush looking bunk-beds lined the rest of the car toward the door at the far end. It even smelled nice in here.

"Oh my, it's even lovelier than I imagined!"

I watched as Rarity and the others all trotted about, investigating the car. Weird, they all looked so different from above. Kind of like long, colorful peanuts.

Heh, 'peanut.'

"Sheeeooot, talk 'bout fancy!" Applejack tossed her satchels aside and hopped onto the sofa, testing its bounciness. "I always wanted ta see the inside o' this car!"

"Do mind the upholstery," Rarity snipped, "you'll never see the inside of this car again should you damage it!"

Twilight placed her satchels and suitcase on an empty bed. "I figured we deserve a little luxury every now and then."

A blue peanut with outstretched wings strolled by. "Meh, it's all right," she remarked, flying onto a soft looking top bunk bed. I quickly ducked further into my bag so she wouldn't see me.

Pinkie Pie bounced about, grinning from ear to ear. "I want the top! I want the top!" She leaped to the top bunk on the other side. "I've always wanted the top! Isn't this train amazing!"

"Yes, it *mmf* is lovely," said Fluttershy, who kind of waddled around.

"You okay, Fluttershy?" Twilight asked slowly.

"Yes, I'm fine!" the yellow pony wriggled her unusually round looking wings, "everything's fine here!"

Twilight just glared at her.

"Oh, fine." Fluttershy opened her wings and several small critters poured out. "I'm sorry, friends." She shooed them out a window and closed it behind them. Sighing sadly, she sat on the couch beside Applejack. "I'm sorry, girls...I just get so worried about them when I'm not around."

"Don't sweat it, Fluttershy," Applejack smiled, patting her pegasus friend on the shoulder, "I know they'll be fine. If there's one thing I've learned 'bout animals, it's that they always get by."

The yellow pony smiled. "Thank you. I really should just try to enjoy myself."

"And enjoy ourselves we will!" Pinkie blared, munching on a banana from the bowl, "this is gonna be the most fantastically amazing vacation ever!"

PHWEEEEEEET

The train lurched forward suddenly, sending me sliding a few inches. Angling myself and carefully unzipping the bag a little further, I was just barely able to peer through the window and watch the scenery roll by. We were leaving Ponyville, and Prance was just a day and a half's travel away!

I decided that now was as good a time as any to start spending time with my new friends, so I grabbed the zipper and-

"Ticket, please."

I froze.

"Oh, certainly."

Ticket?

"Ticket, please."

"There ya go!"

I didn't have a ticket.

"Ticket, please."

"Of course."

Uh oh. Maybe I should have thought this through a little more.

I crept deeper into the bag, watching through the zipper as the conductor pony asked to see everyone's ticket.

Without a ticket, I wasn't allowed on the train! What would he do if he found me? Throw me out? Leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere? Tell my parents!

The conductor left the room. Phew, I wasn't seen. Now I could-

"Don't pack away your tickets girls," Twilight announced, "the conductor's going to need to see them again at every stop."

Oh, come on! Did I have to stay in here for the whole trip?

Rainbow Dash groaned. "But we're the only ones in this car!"

"It's his job, Rainbow. He doesn't make the rules."

"Yeah, well...Those rules are stupid."

I sighed and tried to make myself comfortable.

The train's whistle blew again and I lunged at the chance to unzip the bag a little further without anypony hearing, taking deep breaths of the fresh air.

"Rules are there fer a reason, Rainbow," Applejack said, "'sides, why're you complainin'? You ain't even got any bags."

"Yeah, but I'll be using my ticket as a bookmark, and I don't wanna lose my page when I need to show it to that guy!"

"You ain't got any books, either."

"I'll just borrow some of Twilight's. Looks like she brought enough for everypony."

What a mooch.

"How did you know?" Twilight smiled, floating a book out of her satchel, "I even brought the latest Daring-Do-"

Rainbow was at her side in a flash of colors and snatched the book out of the air.

"Awesome!" she grinned, flapping onto her bunk and flipping open the book. The others chuckled and I leaned back amongst the nightgowns, trying to think things through.

Watching my new friends from above, while interesting (this must be what it's like for birds), didn't really help me become better friends with them. So how would I spend actual time with them, without being seen by the conductor pony and getting in trouble? I suppose I could just hide in my bag anytime he comes by, but what if he came by for some other reason? He'd grab me by my mane and throw me out the window!

Hmm, this required more thinking. I pulled one of my sister's nightgowns over myself and closed my eyes.


PHWEEEEEEET

I snapped awake and gasped for air. Where was I? How long was I here? Why couldn't I breathe!

Glancing around in a frenzy I spotted the opening in the bag and reached for it, taking deep breaths of the cool outside air. My cheek and left hoof felt funny and tingly and even hurt a little bit, but I tried to stay quiet so I wouldn't be heard.

Wait a minute, where was everypony? I glanced around the car and didn't see them anywhere. Come to think of it, it was very quiet...I don't think the train was moving.

Oh no! They LEFT me! They must have found me sleeping, and they got angry that I snuck aboard and deserted me!

Panicking, I shoved my head out the hole and immediately pulled it back in when I heard something move on one of the lower beds.

"Where are they?" Rainbow groaned, rolling off the bed and staring out the window, "how long does it take to go to the bathroom?"

The bathroom?

What a relief, they didn't leave me. It was just a bathroom break.

Oooohh...I could sure use one of those right about now...

I bit my lip and watched as Rainbow Dash hopped onto a different bed, book in hoof. The bed she chose was right beside the far door between the bunk beds, but there was another door behind me, between the table and sofa. I couldn't see her, but she'd see me if I tried to sneak down!

"Oooh, a skull made of crystal? This ought to be good!" I heard the blue pegasus chuckle.

Oh man, I needed to go! Maybe I should create a diversion. I could probably throw one of my sister's slippers to distract Rainbow, or maybe try to use my magic to distract her, or maybe-

"Ugh, this is actually kind of stupid," the blue pony mumbled, setting the book aside and trotting to the door, "I need to stretch my wings." She left the car and closed the door behind her.

Okay, that made things easier.

I fully unzipped the bag and took a step onto the metal rack, immediately tumbling over my hooves onto my face. It felt like years since I'd stood! My legs were all wobbly.

I jumped off the rack onto a top bunk and climbed down the ladder, then opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. Standing on my hind legs I looked out the window to see a station filled with ponies. I even saw Rainbow fluttering around out there.

Hmm...I needed a disguise...but where would I get one?


"Here you go," I said, making my voice as rough and deep as possible as I passed the washroom key back to the pony at the desk. The nightgown wrapped around my head almost fell off and knocked off my sunglasses, which I hurried to put back on. I tried to smile casually and the station pony gave me another weird look as he took the key back, shrugging.

"I'll never understand fashion," he said.

Shuffling underneath the loose nightgowns I had arranged to look somewhat dress-like I waddled away from the desk but stopped at a candy-rack. My tummy rumbled and my mouth watered. It felt like years since I ate anything! But I had no money...

"Excuse me," I heard Twilight ask the station pony, "do you have anything for a headache?"

Forgetting my hunger for the moment I ran outside, focusing on not being seen or falling over myself. I looked for my train car and my heart sunk when I found it. When I left the train, the conductor pony wasn't around, but he was outside our car now. I paced a little, hoping he'd-

BUMP

"Oh my, I'm dreadfully sorry."

I froze. I'd know that voice anywhere.

Looking up slowly I saw Rarity, wearing a large pink hat and thick sunglasses, standing over me.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

I cleared my throat. "Uh, I'm fine, but you should watch where you're going, lady!" I said, trying to sound as gruff as possible as I pushed past her.

"Well, how rude!" she huffed, marching into the station.

Sighing with relief, I turned my attention back to the conductor. He walked back and forth between the two train doors and I bit my lip, fearing there might never be a good chance to sneak past him onto the train.

"How DARE you say that about my apples!"

"You mean these bitter'n dry lumps o' mud? I'll call 'em what I want!"

Over at the far end of the platform an apple salespony was yelling at Applejack, and she was yelling right back.

"I won't stand here and let you insult my family's business!" he shouted, waving around an apple.

"Hey now, you said yer apples were the best 'round, an' they aren't! I want my money back fer that worthless excuse of an apple!"

"Oh, like you know anything about apples!"

"Oh ho ho boy, you did NOT just say that!"

I saw the conductor pony trot to join the growing crowd. Or maybe he wanted to break it up? I didn't care, I took my chance and ran into the train car.

Back inside our car, I tossed the bundle of nightgowns onto the luggage rack and started to climb up after it, but then my eye fell upon the table and the bowl on it, a single pear resting within.

Blurgle, my belly went.

That pear looked so good.

I jumped down and walked toward the table, but just when I was about to reach for the bowl I heard Rarity and the others. I heard their hoofsteps on the metal stairs outside. Reaching one more time for the bowl and only managing to knock it away further I gave up and clambered up the beds and onto the metal rack, dragging all the nightgowns with me into the bag as the door opened.

"So what was all that about?" Rainbow asked, stepping inside, "I thought we were stopping for a bathroom break?"

The others followed close behind.

"Yeah, sorry about that," Twilight said sheepishly, "Pinkie Pie wanted to see the candy store across the street, Fluttershy got caught up with a stray cat, Rarity saw a hat store and Applejack..."

"I'd rather not talk 'bout it," the earth pony said bluntly, sitting on the couch and pulling her hat over her face.

"Did you have to insult his entire family?" Twilight sighed.

"I SAID, I'd rather not talk 'bout it!"

"All that commotion scared off that poor cat," Fluttershy said sadly, "if only I could have brought him along with us..."

"Fluttershy, just...just drop it, okay?" Twilight groaned, rubbing her head, "I'm getting a headache..."

"The candy store only had gumdrops," Pinkie said, pouring the contents of a little white bag into her mouth, "mmm, and they're not very good."

"But you're eating them anyways," commented Rainbow.

"Candy's candy," shrugged the pink pony.

"Did you girls see that rude pony with the awful fashion sense?" Rarity asked, reclining on a bed, "I swear, it looked like she just threw her ensemble together out of old nightgowns! Nice nightgowns to be sure, I own some just like them, but I'd never be caught dead wearing them in public! Talk about a crime against fashion!"

I giggled to myself.

PHWEEEEEEEET

With a heave and hissing noises, the train started moving again and I disentangled myself from the 'crime against fashion.'

"Oh no!" gasped Twilight, "I think I forgot my schedule at the station!" She pressed herself up against the glass, staring at the platform as it faded from view. "Pony feathers! All I wanted was a simple bathroom break, but no, everypony had to wander off and make it some big ordeal!"

"Hey, I didn't do anything!" Rainbow said.

"And I simply wanted to see what lovely chapeaus were available," Rarity huffed.

"Goodness sake, Rarity," Applejack snipped, "is clothin' all you care 'bout?"

"Well, at least I don't go picking fights with other fashionistas! You didn't have to try one of his apples, you know."

"An' just let him go on thinkin' his apples are the bee's knees? No way! An' t'werent a fight"

"It was enough to scare off that poor cat..."

"Fluttershy, just drop the whole animal thing!"

"How can you say that!" Fluttershy said softly, "animals are my life!"

"Girls, girls!" Pinkie shouted, hopping between everypony, "let's just calm down, okay? We're all just being grumpy-pants because we're hungry!"

Hungry.

"Yeah, you're right," Twilight murmured, sitting on a bed and wrapping a pillow around her head, "my head's killing me. Let's just eat something. I'm sorry I got angry with you all."

"I'm sorry I yelled," added Fluttershy.

"Pft," scoffed Rainbow, "more like whispered."

"Actually, I could do with a mid-afternoon snack," Rarity said, trotting over to the bowl on the table, directly below me. She lifted out the pear - my pear! She was going to eat my pear! She spun it around in the air, admiring its perfection before she took a delicate chomp.

I could smell it! I was starving up here, and my own sister ate my pear!

"Well, got some fritters here, one fer each of us," Applejack said, grabbing her satchel from a bed and pulling out the treats. She placed the six fritters on the table. "Made from real apples too, not like them ol' withered lumps of-"

"Why don't we just forget about all that, okay?" Twilight said, "I don't think my head could take another argument."

I could smell those fritters from up here...they smelled wonderful! Who cared about that old pear, gimme one of those! Twilight and Rainbow Dash took a fritter each and bit into them.

"Whoa!" Rainbow grinned, "this is amazing!"

"Mmm!" added Twilight, still holding the pillow to her head, "is this a new recipe?"

"it's an old family recipe," replied Applejack, "made with a special ingredient I was savin' fer a special occasion, an' this is it!"

"Oooh, a secret ingredient! This I got to try!" Pinkie lunged for her fritter and took a big bite. "MMMM! Applejack, you have to tell me the recipe!"

"No can do, sugarcube. It's a family secret."

"Oh, this is wonderful," Fluttershy said, chewing happily.

"Enjoy 'em, girls," said Applejack, "'cause that was the last of the special ingredient. We're not gonna get fritters this good ever again."

"Eeek!" Rarity screamed suddenly, "I think there's a leak in here!"

I closed my mouth and swallowed. So hungry!

"Aren't you going to have yours, Rarity?" Twilight asked, eyeing the last fritter on the table.

"I'll have it if you don't want it!" Rainbow blurted.

I barely caught myself from screaming.

"Hey now, just one each!" said Applejack.

"I think I'll save it for a little later," Rarity answered, floating the fritter around with her magic. She moved the empty bowl to the edge of the table and placed the fritter in it. "I'm afraid I'm not hungry at the moment after eating that pear."

My pear.

"Aaww," moaned Rainbow, landing on her bunk.

"Well, I guess I could begin rewriting our schedule," Twilight said, resting on a bed and peeking out from under her pillow. She used her magic to open her bags and pulled out parchment and a quill. "Let's see, first we should check in at the hotel..."

"Couldn't we go for a coach ride around the city first?" asked Pinkie.

"Ooh, yes!" Rarity said, "I'm dying to do a little sightseeing!"

"You mean, 'shopping?'" snickered Rainbow.

"Well," pondered Twilight, "I suppose we could take the scenic route to the hotel." She began writing down a few notes.

My interest was officially lost at that point, and whatever they talked about went in one ear and out the other as all my attention was fastened on the fritter. It felt like years - no, forever since I ate anything! I'm sure Rarity wouldn't mind if I had it. She's always complaining about wanting to lose weight, so really, I'd be doing her a favor!

But how to get it? The others were all paying close attention to Twilight and made suggestions about their trip. The bowl was directly below me, but Rarity was standing right next to it. I needed a way to get down there, grab it, and get back up before they saw me. Maybe I could use my magic...

"Rrrrgh," I struggled, pushing into my horn and focusing on the fritter. Finally my horn lit up a little and the fritter glowed. A wide smile stretched across my face and I tried to lift it. It wiggled around a bit, but I couldn't get it to do anything else.

Sighing, I let go and my horn stopped glowing. Okay, so that wouldn't work. There had to be some way to get it...

I looked up to the ceiling and saw a horizontal metal bar hanging above my head.

"Hmm..." Putting a hoof to my chin, I formulated my plan. I grabbed a couple of Rarity's most stretchy nightgowns and tied them together, making a make-shift bungie cord. Now I just needed to tie it to the roof, but I had to distract everyone first...What to do...

"Oh, look everypony!" Pinkie shouted, pressing her face against the window opposite the table, "look at that!"

The others hopped over and huddled against the windows, staring outside.

"How lovely!" Rarity said, "you can see all of Ponyville, Canterlot, and even Whitetail Woods from up here!"

"Cool!" Rainbow said, hovering above them. "I think I can even see Cloudesdale!" Everypony else mumbled in agreement, pointing out other vistas and locations.

Something clicked in my mind. I was wasting my opportunity! Quietly, I stepped out of the bag and, standing on my hind legs, tied one end of the nightgown cable to the ceiling and wrapped the other end around my waist. Now or never!

I jumped off the edge, snatched the fritter with my teeth and was yanked back up to the rack. Grabbing onto the ledge with my front hooves, I pulled myself up and quickly untied the nightgowns from the ceiling and jumped back inside the bag.

I couldn't believe that worked! I was good at being sneaky! Maybe I earned my cutie mark in sneakiness! I checked my flank, but there was no cutie mark. Oh well, at least I had the fritter!

Taking a big bite, I let the sweet, sweet apple goodness wash over me. This was, without a doubt, the best thing I had ever eaten in my whole life! I devoured the fritter in a flash and rested on my back, licked my lips, closed my eyes and smiled. Oh yes, that was good. Why, I could probably just fall asleep right now...

"HEY!"

I jerked back to reality.

"Rainbow, you ate my fritter!"

"What? No I didn't!"

Oops. Did I just steal?

"Don't lie to me, you had your hungry little eyes all over it!"

"Rainbow, how could you!" Applejack said, "I only made one each!"

"I didn't take it! It was probably Pinkie! She loves sweets!"

"Why would I take it? I already had one!"

"Oh come on! You could eat an entire bakery in one sitting!"

"How could I eat a whole bakery? I couldn't eat a building! Unless the building was made of gingerbread! Ooh! A gingerbread bakery! It would look just like Sugarcube Corner, but you could eat it! That would be SOOOOO-"

"Pinkie!" moaned Twilight, "could you lower the volume please! My head is killing me!"

"I demand you apologize to me right this instant, Rainbow!"

"For crying out loud, Rarity, I didn't touch your fritter!"

"Oh, just admit you took it and stop yelling," Twilight groaned, "just give me some peace!"

"Hey, I'm peaceful! I'm not the one who gets in fights over dumb apples!"

"What'd you just say 'bout apples?"

"Oh, please stop arguing," Fluttershy said.

I couldn't believe what was happening. They shouldn't be fighting like this! They were friends! Real friends don't fight!

"Yes, indeed," added Rarity, "all this commotion is wreaking havoc on my mane!"

"Dagnabbit, Rarity! Is yer mane all you care about?"

"Well! At least I take pride in my appearance! I'd never go galavanting about with a rat's nest of a mane like yours, Applejack!"

"You take that back right now, Rarity!"

"Picking fights again, Applejack?" snarked Rainbow.

Oh no, this was all my fault! If I hadn't taken that fritter, this wouldn't be happening! I could feel my vision get blurry and my throat got tight.

"Just ask Fluttershy!" Rarity said, pushing the yellow pegasus forward, "go on, tell Applejack that even rats wouldn't touch her mane!"

"Oh, um, I don't, um..."

"Leave Fluttershy outta this!" Applejack growled.

"Yeah, that scaredy-cat's no good at arguing anyways!"

Pinkie gasped. "Rainbow Dash! Fluttershy's no scaredy-cat!"

"Oh, right, you're the scaredy-cat! You were screaming and running around more than anypony at Nightmare Night!"

"That was just for fun! At least I'm not afraid of trees!"

"It was dark, I couldn't see! Besides, they were, like, evil and possessed by Nightmare Moon!"

"SHUT UP!"

Everyone turned to stare at Twilight Sparkle, who clutched her head. "Just, just shut up, all of you!"

Everypony was silent and I buried my face in my hooves. It was because of me that they hated each other! I should have just stayed at home...

"Just," Rarity sighed, sitting on a chair, "just...forget it."

This was the Cutie Mark Crusader break up all over again...

I looked out the zipper and saw everypony sit down, on beds or the sofa, and just sit quietly. They didn't look at each other.

Crawling deeper into the bag, I stuffed my face in Rarity's nightgowns to hide my sniffling.

"You know," Fluttershy said after a minute of silence, "those trees were pretty scary. For trees, I mean."

"PPPFFT!"

Pinkie Pie exploded into laughter. "Evil and possessed trees? That's almost as threatening as a bowl of applesauce!"

"Don't underestimate the power of applesauce!" Applejack said menacingly.

That did it. Everypony started chortling and laughing.

"Hee hee, applesauce?" giggled Fluttershy, "watch out, those stains will never come out!"

"Ha ha ha!" Rainbow guffawed, "wh-what about, evil applesauce from evil trees?"

"IT WILL STAIN YOUR SOUL!" blared Pinkie.

"Hahahaha OW my HEAD!" laughed Twilight, grabbing her forehead.

"I really don't see what's so funny," said Rarity, "stains are simply dreadful and no laughing matter!"

Even I couldn't help but laugh at that. Luckily, everypony else was laughing so loud they didn't hear me.

"I'm sorry I got so riled up," Applejack said, still giggling a little, "I've just been sorta on edge t'day."

"Sorry about yelling," said Twilight, "and...sorry, Fluttershy. I know how much animals mean to you."

"Oh, it's all right Twilight," Fluttershy smiled, "you've been so busy, trying to take care of everything. I'm not surprised you have a headache."

"And I'm sorry I got so upset over a silly old fritter," said Rarity. "In fact, I should really be thanking you, Rainbow. I've been trying to watch my figure lately, so thank you for not letting me eat that fritter."

I knew it.

"Uh," stammered Rainbow, "you're welcome, I guess? I still didn't take it."

"Well, if you didn't," frowned Applejack, "then who did?"

Everypony hummed thoughtfully and I ducked a little further into my bag.

Pinkie gasped. "What if it was a ghost!"

"Oh Pinkie," chuckled Twilight, "you know there's no such thing as ghosts."

"We'll see, Twilight Sparkle," the pink pony replied in a low voice, "we'll see."

The others all laughed.

HANG ON.

What just happened?

Everpony was fighting just a few seconds ago, but now they were talking and laughing like nothing happened? I thought they hated each other.

Maybe I was wrong. Why didn't this happen for me and the Crusaders? Why did we still hate each other?

I needed to know. I needed to find out first-hoof: why did they still like each other? It was time get out of this stuffy bag!

"Ticket, please."

Whoof, that scared me.

Hunkering down in my bag, I decided to just sit tight and watch.

It was a good thing I did, too. The train only made one more stop that day (and it was a short one; nopony left the car) but the conductor walked through the car a lot, and sometimes he even stopped and talked with the girls for a bit. He was quite interested in hearing all about Applejack's tussle with that apple salespony. She wasn't very interested in talking about it, but that didn't stop him from asking. Applejack was clearly getting frustrated with him. I could tell because she threw Rainbow's book at the door after he left.

I had no idea how much time passed, but eventually the sunlight faded and it became dark. The conductor pony walked through the car, lit the lamps and said goodnight.

"What a day!" Rarity yawned, stretching, "I cannot wait to change into my nightgown and get some sleep."

Nightgown?

Uh oh.

The bag's zipper glowed blue and unzipped itself. Scrambling as deep as possible I pushed all her nightgowns toward the opening.

"Ah, here we are." A nightgown floated out of the bag and the zipper zipped itself up. "Hmm, how odd," Rarity said.

"What's odd?" asked Twilight.

"This nightgown is all stretched!" Rarity exclaimed.

I held my breath.

"Maybe the gown isn't stretched out," Pinkie suggested, "maybe you lost a whole bunch of weight by not eating that fritter!"

The others laughed and Rarity chuckled nervously. "Perhaps," she said.

"Phew." I immediately covered my mouth, but they didn't seem to hear me.

Within ten minutes everypony had gotten ready for bed, and they all crawled into their bunks. A couple beds were still empty, and I really wanted to sleep in one. Even after they were all in bed they still kept talking and giggling. It reminded me of my sleepovers with the Crusaders.

A tear rolled down my cheek. I missed them. Curling into a ball I let the rumbling of the train lull me to sleep.


BLURGLE

My hunger woke me up. I hated that feeling, waking up hungry. That fritter was good, but that was ages ago. There was no way I could get back to sleep without getting something to eat. Poking my nose out the zipper, I eyed the room. Everypony was fast asleep. Where did Applejack put her bag? There it was, on the sofa. She wouldn't miss one apple.

"Okay," I whispered to myself, "got to be extra careful."

Crawling out of my bag, I stopped at the closest bunk bed. Rainbow Dash was sleeping on it, cuddling her book.

I gently lowered myself onto Rainbow's bed, taking care not to wiggle the bed too much. So far, so-

"SNRG."

I froze.

"Bluh, not this time...Ahuizotl..."

Rainbow rolled away, pressing her face into the wall.

"Phew..." I crawled down the ladder. Once I hit the floor my legs felt all wobbly again, but I had no time to worry about that. I moved over to the couch and opened Applejack's satchel.

"Oooh..." One massive, shining apple was inside. It was big, but I managed to eat the whole thing within seconds.

"Mmm, so good," I said happily.

"Mm, wha? Who...?"

Without thinking I ducked under the table, making myself as small as possible. I could just barely see the form of Pinkie Pie shuffle and sit up on the upper bunk opposite Rainbow. She glanced around.

"Is somepony there?" she asked.

I held my breath and closed my eyes, certain this was the end.

"Huh, guess not," Pinkie said, falling back onto her bed.

Oh man, that was way too close. I waited a few moments and when I felt it was safe I climbed back up the ladder onto Rainbow's bunk. She was still mumbling quietly to herself, her nose against the wall. I reached up and grabbed the edge of the metal rack.

"AAAAAAAHHHH! GHOST!"

I snapped my head back over my shoulder to see Pinkie Pie staring wide-eyed at me.

"GHOST! G-GHOST!" she shrieked, flailing her arms. Leaning a little too far forward, she tumbled off the edge of the bed and collapsed on the floor, tangled in her blanket. Panicking, I jumped onto the rack and rushed inside my bag and covered myself in nightgowns.

"What...what?"

"I SAW THE GHOST!"

"OooOOooh, Pinkie, please stop screaming..."

"I did! I saw it! I knew this train was haunted!"

"Ugh, what's going on?"

"I heard a noise, but I didn't see anything, but then I did see it! It was standing over Rainbow Dash!"

"W-what? Over me! What was it doing!"

"It must have put a curse on you! Oh no! You're going to be haunted for the rest of your life!"

"What! I don't wanna be haunted!" whined Rainbow, pulling the covers up to her chin.

Fluttershy squealed. "W-w-w-w-where d-d-did it g-g-go?"

"I don't know! It just vanished!"

"Pinkie, it was just a dream. Please, go back to sleep!"

"But Twiliiiiiight!"

"I already told you, there's no such thing as ghosts. Now please, just go back to sleep."

"B-but, what about me? I don't wanna be haunted!"

"You're not haunted, Rainbow! Just go back to sleep!"

"Hmm...? What? What's going...*yawn*...on?"

"Nothing, Rarity. Go back to sleep."

"Mmm...Okay..."

"I DID see it!"

"Just go to sleep, please? The train arrives early tomorrow."

"Okay, okay."

"Goodnight."

"..."

"Twilight?"

"Yes, Fluttershy?"

"You promise there's no ghosts?"

"I promise. Now go to sleep."

They were quiet after that. A sudden thought crossed my mind and I checked my flank.

Darn. No ghost cutie mark.


PHWEEEEEEET

I jerked awake to the whistle. Peeking through the zipper I saw everypony was up and moving around, placing their bags by the door. How did I sleep through all that? Rarity had even returned her nightgown to my bag! How did she not see me?

"We're here! We're here!"

"All right, everypony! Grab your things and let's get going!"

There was a hum and I was surrounded by a blue glow.

Oh no. Not again.

My insides started floating again and I was shaken and bounced around as Rarity lifted the bag with her magic. My stomach lurched and I held my belly. Levitation is not recommended this early in the morning.

At last the world stopped moving and my guts fell back into place. Dizzy and having trouble breathing, I nuzzled around until I found the zipper and pushed it open a tiny bit, just enough to get some air. Suddenly everything started bouncing again, but not because of magic. I realized we must be on a coach.

"Look, look!"

"Oh, how wonderful! Prance is even more beautiful than I imagined!"

"Cool, check that out! I bet I could do some awesome loops around that!"

Fumbling for the zipper I peeked out. My bag was strapped to the back of an open coach and all around was the most amazing city I had ever seen. Ponyville was nothing compared to this place! The buildings were tall and had funny little metal designs around the windows, there were pretty street lamps all over the place, and the ponies were all dressed so fancy! One was all black and white and acted funny. He looked like a clown that forgot to put on color.

A scent caught my nose: bread! Fresh bread! Oh my gosh, that smelled amazing! And I wasn't the only one who thought so.

"Can't we please stop at a bakery first!" Pinkie pleaded.

"Sorry, the hotel's our first stop, then we can visit a bakery or two."

"A bakery or two! Twilight, there's got to be millions of bakeries here and we have to visit them all!"

The wagon hit a bump and my bag moved so I couldn't see anything anymore. Everypony pointed out a lot of interesting buildings or shops and I had to listen, trying to imagine what they looked like from the short glimpse I got of the city.

After a long time we finally arrived at the hotel. Or at least, I assumed so from how I was levitated out of the wagon and into a building. I kept my eyes closed but I got sick again anyways.

My bag and I were set down on the floor, and after catching my breath, I peered out the zipper to see the hotel lobby. It was grand and lit by a big chandelier and there were lots of fancy looking couches and little marble tables. The girls walked to the counter.

"Good morning," Twilight said to the stallion at the desk, "we have a reservation for a party of six?"

"A PARTY!"

There was an explosion of confetti and balloons.

"Not that kind of party, Pinkie!"

"Aww."

"Eh, oui: Twilight Sparkle, no?" asked the stallion. I liked his accent. Actually, now that I think about it, he looked a lot like the pony who runs the Clover Café back in Ponyville. He even has the same mustache. Maybe they were brothers?

"That's right!"

"Which among you is...Mademoiselle Rarity?"

"Ooh, mademoiselle, how fancy!" Pinkie chuckled.

"Why, that would be me," Rarity said, hopping forward.

"We rezeived a telegram last night for you." The stallion passed her a little note.

"Oh, for me? Hmm, let's see..." Rarity mumbled to herself. "WHAT!" she shrieked, "oh no, oh NO!"

The others gathered around, asking what was wrong.

"It's...it's...oh no," my sister stuttered.

I leaned forward, trying to hear.

"It's from home...from my parents," she said, "they...they say that Sweetie Belle's gone missing."

Huh?

Oh.

Ohhhh.

Oh no.

"I...It says she never came home last night. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo have no idea where she is."

Everypony became silent.

Oh man, this was not good.

"Well, what are we doing, hanging around here!"

Everypony looked up to Rainbow Dash in shock. "Let's go back and look for her!"

"No," Rarity said suddenly. The others gasped and my mouth fell open.

What did she mean, 'no?'

"Whaddya mean, 'no!'" shouted Applejack, "yer li'l sis is missin'!"

"I will go back myself!" Rarity answered, "I couldn't dream of causing you all to miss your vacation on my account."

"But Rarity, it's not on your account!" said Fluttershy, "we couldn't possibly enjoy ourselves knowing Sweetie Belle could be in danger, right girls?"

The others all nodded in agreement.

"But, but my sister is my responsibility. I should-"

"Nothin' doin', Rarity."

"We're going with you and that's final!"

"We'll find Sweetie Belle together!"

"I insist!"

"And when we do, we'll throw the biggest, most amazing, most spectacular party ever!"

Rarity sniffled. Was...was she crying?

"Oh, thank you so much, girls!" she sputtered, "you five really are the greatest friends anypony could ever hope for!"

"Eh, pardon," the hotel pony began, "so, I take it you shall not be staying with us?"

"I'm afraid not," Rarity answered, "cancel our reservation! We must catch the next train to Ponyville!"

My eyes became blurry. What amazing ponies! They cared so much about each other that they would cancel their vacation just to stay together! To have friends like them...nothing would be better.

But...what about that big fight yesterday on the train? I didn't think real friends would ever fight like that...like how Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and I fought. Fights like that would tear ponies apart!

Maybe...maybe real friendship was stronger than that.

"Very well," the stallion said, "please sign to show you rezeived your telegram."

Rarity leaned in to the desk and grunted in frustration. "Oh, this is silly, why do they make these lines so small! I need my glasses!"

Her glasses?

Oh NO.

Clop clop clop

Zzzzzzzzip

"S-SWEETIE BELLE!"

"Uh...hi?"

She stared at me with the biggest eyes I'd ever seen. A tear rolled down her face. I didn't know what else to do, so I jumped out of the bag and held her tight.


Since the next train to Ponyville didn't leave until that evening we spent the day together in Prance. First Rarity sent a telegram home telling everypony I was safe, then we visited a few bakeries and I got to try a croissant for the very first time, and Applejack bought a pie. She didn't let us eat it, though. She said she was saving it for 'somepony special.' After that we checked out a few other shops and saw some really old buildings filled with beautiful art. I'll never forget that day.

We took the evening train, and even got the same car, and I even got to sleep in a real bed! They eventually figured out that I was the ghost and that I ate the fritter, and I told them how I hid in the bag the whole time. We laughed a lot and even sang a few songs, but I had trouble falling asleep that night. I knew I would be in a lot of trouble when I got home.

The next day we stopped at that station again and we found out what Applejack was planning with that pie. That poor apple salespony, he never even saw it coming.

We arrived in Ponyville that evening and I was sent straight home. Mom and Dad gave me a huge talking to about what I did and I was grounded for a couple weeks: no dessert, no after-school playtime and no crusading for cutie marks. They said we'd talk about it more in the morning and sent me to bed, but I just sat there staring at the ceiling. I felt awful about what I did.

"Psst! Sweetie Belle!"

I glanced out the window to see Apple Bloom and Scootaloo sitting in the tree just outside.

"Huh?" I whispered, "what are you doing here?"

"We just wanted to say, we're...we're sorry," said Apple Bloom, "we were really worried about you."

"We thought you ran away because of us!" added Scootaloo, "I'm sorry I called you stupid."

"It's okay," I smiled, "and I'm sorry too."

"So, uh," said Apple Bloom, "are we still friends?"

They looked at me with wide, concerned eyes. I thought for a moment, then grinned. We all grinned.

"Best friends," I said.

"Forever!" we all added.

"Awesome!" said Scootaloo, "we'll see you tomorrow!"

"Oh, an' Sweetie Belle?"

"Yeah, Apple Bloom?"

"Thanks fer comin' back. The Cutie Mark Crusaders just aren't the same without you."

They waved goodbye and hopped down the tree.

You know, even though sneaking onboard that train was a bad idea and I got in huge trouble for it, I don't really regret doing it.

I learned a lot about friendship.