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"Thanks for foalsittin' Apple Bloom for us, Carrot. You're a true friend, you know that?" Applejack walked up to the barn, which was already being darkened by the lack of sunlight. Celestia's sun was setting and a musical orchestra of nighttime crickets could be heard chirping their individual songs. "Especially on such short notice, too. I don't think there is anypony else that would be willing to help us out like this. I owe ya one." Applejack nudged Carrot Fields with a front hoof, displaying her affection to a true neighbor. Applejack counted herself lucky. She knew that any pony with apple blood on the farm would be willing to do anything at anytime, but once you left the Sweet Apple Acre gates, it became increasingly difficult to convince someone to help watch Apple Bloom.

She couldn't ask her friends. She knew that Twilight was out of town visiting the Princess. Fluttershy couldn't do it, because the yellow pegasus had said something about taking care of a sick homesick seal earlier in the day. Pinkie Pie would be a disaster, Applejack thought, even though the Cakes trusted her with their twins. Rainbow Dash was also too risky, as the rainbow-maned friend couldn't do anything without being extreme about it. And there was no point in bothering Rarity, as Applejack figured she was probably busy with dress-making, and that because it was already getting late, she was probably already down getting her beauty sleep. Applejack had to ask Carrot. But she did trust him very much, more than most ponies she knew.

It gave Applejack a headache thinking about what she was going to do. She had gotten a telegram today from Baltimare that was a little emotional. It described in colorful language the displeasure of not receiving a shipment of apples that they had ordered, and that if they didn't have the apples they ordered by morning, that they would cancel their contract of seventeen bushels of apples a week. This loss would be a huge blow to even the most profitable of orchards, and Applejack was taking it more personal than it was financial. She could not lose a sale, not for the sake of the profit, but more importantly, not for the sake of losing good reputation on their service and relationships.

However, the local mail service office said that because it was after the delivery trucks had already taken flight to their destination for the day, there was a 20% chance that it would get to Baltimare on time, that is of course, assuming it passed the 20% of arriving there at all. Applejack couldn't take those odds. And because there were so many apples, she would need help to deliver them by hoof. Big Macintosh was ready to go as soon as Applejack was. Between the two of them, they should be able to arrive at Baltimare on time and save a sales contract from being broken. Easy as pie.

The real problem though, was that Granny Smith was out of town visiting her brother Apple Strudel in Germaney, and there was no one else at the farm to watch Apple Bloom. Sure, Apple Bloom could watch herself, she was a very independent pony for being so young. However, being grounded seemed to change the ability for a foal to watch herself. Maybe if Apple Bloom hadn't decided to try and get her cutie mark in archery and shoot flaming arrows straight at one of the storage sheds, she might have had the whole farm to herself for a day. But even a loving sister can balance easily the discipline of her younger sibling with the importance of business. And Carrot was the hero who got to carry on this unpopular tradition for the night.


Applejack swung open the door to the residence side of the barn, welcoming Carrot into their home. "Come on in Carrot. You've never been here before, have ya?" Applejack decided to give Carrot a quick tour. "This room is our living area place, to the left is a larger area, where we usually talk serious farm business, heh heh." Applejack chuckled as she nudged Carrot. "Straight ahead is the stairs that leads to all of our bedrooms, and to the right is the kitchen. If you get hungry, help yourself to anything in there that you can find. Please, make yourself at home!" Applejack took Carrot's saddle bag off, and set it on a nearby table.

She then motioned Carrot to follow her upstairs. "This room on the right is my bed room, straight ahead is Granny's room and big brother's room, and to the left here is Abby's room." Applejack opened the door to reveal Apple Bloom lying on her bed, bored out of her mind. "Don't worry about Abby, Carrot, she's had a few sour apples today."

Applejack cleared her throat and looked at her sister. "Apple Bloom, Carrot is going to be watching you tonight through tomorrow morning. I want you on your best behavior, ok Mis- What?"

Downstairs, Macintosh was yelling to Applejack about hurrying up. "I'm comin' Big Mac!"

Applejack looked back at Apple Bloom with angled eyes. "If Carrot tells us you've been a bad pony, you can say goodbye to that toy stable set you said you always wanted to have for Hearth's Warming."

Applejack dropped her expression for the sake of Carrot as she turned back to him. "Thank you so much for doin' this. Do you have any quest-" Big Mac belted again. "Oh, horseapples, I gotta go, Carrot. Thank you so much!"

Applejack ran downstairs to meet up with her brother. "Ok, big brother, lets do this. We got everything? Ok. Let's go!" Applejack walked with her big brother outside and locked the door. They fastened themselves with gear to the carts with apples to be pulled away to their destination. They would walk on foot to the train station where they would load their delivery up and take the midnight train towards Baltimare. Hopefully, they got to Baltimare before the sun rose.


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Here Carrot Fields found himself at Sweet Apple Acres, inside the iconic red barn of the Apple family which stood tall and proud on the hill overlooking the town. It was a landmark, a symbol of Ponyville, even if the humble Apples didn’t want to admit as much. He had seen it a thousand times, each time thinking about its inspiration to the local farmers, and the personal reminder about the stunning orange filly to who it belonged.

It was because of that orange mare, Applejack, that he was in that barn this evening. They needed somepony to watch the youngest member of the orchard, little Applebloom. Carrot himself wasn’t clear on all the particular circumstances behind why they needed him, Applejack had been rather distracted in packing all the apples for her and Big Mac’s trip. Not that it mattered much - he couldn’t say no to that smile her of hers anyway. Besides, he adored foals, and didn’t mind one bit foalsitting here; it couldn’t be much different that taking care of his own sister, Purple Haze.

“Hello Applebloom!” He said in his most cheerful voice, “Oi’m sure we’ll have roit fun together tonight, ye and Oi.” She seemed pretty gloomy about something or other - maybe she thought she was too old to be foalsat, or maybe it was something else. No matter, he'd do his best to make her smile. Every little foal should be full of smiles. And maybe it'd impress her sister. “Oi’m sure we’ll be just fine, Applejack; we’ll have a roit fine time and all, dinnae worry!” He smiled brightly, blushing some, even after she ran downstairs to join with her brother, putting in a few last minute preparations. Carrot turned back to the little yellow filly, "so, what would ye loik tae do first?”

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Sometimes, Apple Bloom hated the fact that she had such an intelligent and all together nosy sister. She wondered if a proper mother and father would be so in her

business and dominating an influence, constantly watching her like a hawk and commenting on every teenty tiny mistake she made. She prayed not, thought not, hoped not, because if so, she pitied everypony she knew. It was like her sister had no desire for Apple Bloom to get her cutie mark, no desire to see her sister with tiny hooves

stretch out into this big wide world and take with deep grasps and with fevered excitement what was rightfully hers. To be treated like a foal was one of the greatest

pet peeves of hers and to know that the cause behind such treatment was laughable and mistaken only led to the seeds of resentment getting watered bitterly. She was a

big pony, yet never felt like. She was a big pony, yet was never treated like one. She was a big pony, and she may as well have been a newborn foal.

That was how getting grounded made her feel, especially when it was over something as decidedly minor as worries about a non-fire. All she wanted to do was find her cutie mark, and archery was one of the few pursuits she was knowledgeable in to some extent that she had yet to really push for. Fashioning a bow and some arrows took time, but it was a large orchard with plenty of trees, alive and dead, ready for use. And when you lived near them, time was always a wonderful ally. Fashioning a roper target was a wholly different matter, as you had to take into consideration what would happen if you missed. So that took the active fields, where here family could be at any given moment doing the work that kept the Apple family name ringing from coast to coast, out as well as most of the front areas which contained all sorts of living creatures and could at any second of any day play host to a number of guests calling on the family for attention. She also needed a solid target that if missed gave her some leeway. The perfect target was thus an old storage shed that was slowly rotting away in the west fields, away from all of the vital harvesting and sickly looking.

Should it burn down to her fire arrows, which were a necessity because if she hit the target just right, it would create a funky looking pattern. Presentation was key

here as it was in all things Cutie Mark.

She had gotten a few arrows off, each one more off the mark than the last and treating the shed not as harshly as intended. Most fell short or to the side and the fire on the arrows would be extinguished by the sheer motion of the flight. It was not, in a simple manner, going as she had anticipated. It was going so poorly that even by the time Applejack wandered on over to where she wasn't supposed to be on some mad dash to collect apples for some order, Apple Bloom had given up and was packing it up. As if being denied her cutie mark by the cruel fates wasn't enough, apparently the risk posed by a gaggle of arrows on fire that blew out as they arched through the sky was too much for Applejack and now Apple Bloom as paying the price. It wasn't fair to get these sorts of double whammies, especially when it all stank of an air of hypocrisy. Applejack never told her that she had been desperate to get her own cutie mark, but she had never said she had been patient about it either. For Applejack, not saying something one way or another was the surest sign of not wanting to say anything at all.

But in the end, she figured it didn't matter what she thought. They were the big(ger) ponies and they made the rules. She couldn't stop them from grounding her yet. One day, she'd be faster than them and would just run when such a time came. Then they'd see. But she'd play along for now and for the sake of that toy stable set, she'd play along. At least Carrot was here! She liked him. Nice stallion who didn't feel the need to tell her what she needed to do all the time. She liked that. Maybe if Applejack and Carrot became special someponies her sister wouldn't feel the need to be so demanding? Probably not. Applejack was just like that.

As her sister left and Carrot basically begged her for what she wanted, Apple Bloom could summon a frustrated, annoyed sigh. What did she want? What would make her happy? Nothing except her cutie mark. But that didn't stop her from being partially sarcastic.

"Puddin'. Chocolate puddin'," Apple Bloom mumbled, her eyes on the floor and downcast as she realized they had no pudding. If Carrot was going to accomplish this task, he'd have to make puddin'. Chocolate puddin'.

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Well, at least it was better than having the foal refuse to talk to him at all; Carrot Fields had certainly had days like that with Purple. It seemed Apple Bloom was more bummed out than mad, but maybe he could cheer the filly up a little. "Oi'll take a look in yer kitchen."

Carrot hurried to check, but it was quickly apparent that there was no chocolate pudding to be had. He suspected Applebloom had been aware of this all along, but wasn't sure if the filly was being sarcastic, or if it really would make her happy. Well, he should probably make some - what foal didn't like chocolate? He returned upstairs to Abby's room to see her laying there morosely in her bed. "Oi'm afraid Oi cannae find any in th' kitchen, 'less it's hidden somewhere! Don't worry, though, Oi kin make some, it'll just take a bit!" Carrot's eyes lit up a little bit more as an idea struck him, "better yet, we kin make some! That be lovely, roit?" Admittedly, making pudding may not be that much fun for a foal, but he'd enjoyed it when he'd been a young colt. Though his parents had seemed to think it had been too messy...

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Apple Bloom's ears shot up in glee mixed with a small hint of confusion and worry as Carrot Fields returned and made his excited offer. He was really trying to make her happy, but did he know that she was supposed to be grounded? Would that piece of information have changed his mind? Regardless of the circumstances, Apple Bloom was not a nutjob and was never gonna deny an opportunity to both throw off the shackled of an ill-earned punishment and the chance to make something in the kitchen. Plus, it was pudding and no filly would ever say no to pudding.

Apple Bloom's head popped up and she smiled broadly, deciding to ignore the fact that she was grounded. After all, he was offering and she was nothing more than a good little filly playing with her babysitter. Nopony could say anything about that!

"That sounds mighty fun, Carrot! I'll show you 'round and then we can make enough puddin' for four!" Apple Bloom shouted excitedly as she exploded off of her bed and sped out of her room, through the hallway, and down the stairs. Images of bowl after bowl of delicious pudding flowing from the kitchen to the delight of all involved flooded her brain in much the same way that she imagined their bellies would be flooded with pudding soon enough.

Apple Bloom made it to the family kitchen, which echoed warmly with the afterglow of untold thousands of meals cooked by generations of her family. Organized less due to some qualified system and more due to some innate instinctual movements that any family develops over time. She had developed her own methods of removing these generational developments in a matter of moments and she went about the task with gusto this time. Within a few moments of fierce banging and clashing of pots and pans, she had placed around a dozen of them on top of the stove in various configurations to make the space. Apple Bloom looked around with hunger fiercely firing from her eyes as her mind tried to rationalize what she needed to get out to make pudding.

"Milk...and...flour...and...caramel...and...chocolate bars..." Apple Bloom wondered out loud, fetching the ingredients as she did so. It made sense to her: Use the milk and flour to loosen the caramel and use the chocolate to flavor it, and you'd have pudding. She placed the ingredients on the counter next to the pots and pans, by some grand mircale not having made a horrifying mess. Only a few splashes of milk, maybe a cup of flour, an ounce of caramel. Not bad, all things considered.

"Hmm, somethin's missin'..." Apple Bloom tapped her chin for a few seconds before the answer detonated in her mind. She went down into the cabinets and pulled out two chef hats, placing one on her head and putting the other on the table. She swiftly turned back to the food and her eyes grew big.

"Wai, this looks like tha best puddin' makin' set-up EVER!"

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Carrot trotted downstairs after the enthusiastic filly, Applebloon’s sudden change in mood made Carrot Fields smile even more - all she needed was to spend some time with somepony. She was probably just lonely - her siblings too burdened with the chores of the huge farm to devote as much time as they'd want to her. Carrot certainly knew that even his smaller farm often had him too tied up to spend all the time he'd like to with Purple haze. “Pudding for four ponies? Aye, that's a roit bonnie idea there, Applebloom!” The little yellow foal sure was generous, making sure there would be pudding for Applejack and Big Mac when they returned!

Seeing a young filly go into full chef mode made him feel right at home - Purple could get the kitchen in quite a mess when she was cooking a bunch of dishes at once, and it always turned out amazing. The ingredients Applebloom had picked out were odd, though. Carrot was no gourmet chef, but he knew pudding didn’t have any flour in it. “It looks loik ye've a good choice o th' ingredients already, Applebloom! Oi was tae suggest cocoa powder and sugar, but Oi think yer chocolate bars will be a good substitute!” He wasn’t entirely sure on that part, but she seemed awfully confident about it, and a lot of the ingredients Purple used seemed strange to him, too.

Carrot flipped the chef’s hat onto his head and gave her a large warm smile; he certainly didn’t mind playing along like this. “Oi've nae had chocolate pudding with caramel before, but maybe Oi've jes missed out on a secret Apple Family recipe.” Carrot gave a wink and a grin. “Well, we won’t need this flour, what we need now is some salt and cornstarch; do ye have some in the kitchen here? Oi’ll start up th' stove while ye dig some out and we’ll make the best chocolate pudding ever!”

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Carrot said lots of words that just sounded like variations of, "Yes Apple Bloom, do as your heart commands!" to the filly, which suited her just fine. Why, maybe he would turn out to be the greatest foalsitter ever! She could do anything she wanted and he'd be there to support her every great success on the road to cutie markdom. Instead of making this one of the worst days ever and instead of having a foalsitter interfere with a filly not in need of one, he could turn out to be a magnificent boon to her. Carrot Fields, awesome foalsitter who allowed his charges to do what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it. Yes, truly the best foalsitter in all of the history of foalsitters- after today, she was sure that Cadance and Twilight were going to be surpassed by Carrot Fields and Apple Bloom!

"We're gonna make the best chocolate puddin' ever!" Apple Bloom replied with terribly adorable excitement as she started going about the businesses of deliciousness. She started pouring the milk into the lazy, lazy caramel, the glug glug glug of the milk as it hesitantly exited in all of its mass the only sound. In a minute, the milk was spent and the bottle tossed in the trash. Thank Celestia her bottle throwing skills were superior to her archery skills. She then poured the entirety of the flour in there, the obviously vital ingredient not coming out at first and then appearing in the mix all at once. A tiny white puffy cloud poofed out, covering the two gourmet chefs in a tiny layer of white powder. She tossed the empty bag away with abandon and took the mixing spoon in hoof as righteously as she would a sword.

She started mixing the three ingredients up as vigorously as she could, starting off slow and increasing in speed as the caramel loosened and gave in to the unstoppable force. She turned into a pony batter beater, the horrifying batter being ejected from the bowl with such force as to remove her head from the equation. She continued on for a full minute of excessive mixing energy before she slowed down. Finally, she pulled the spoon out which was covered in flower, milk, and caramel in all of its hideous configuration and shoved it into Carrot's mouth. He would be a wonderful test subject if nothing else and if he collapsed due to poisoning, she knew that the mixture needed something else.

"Why, Ah bet that's tha best thing ya ever tasted!" She proudly proclaimed as she started breaking up the candy bars into tiny chunks, shattering them with her hoof with loud cracks and then collecting the resulting pieces without further effort. She poured the collection of items ranging from powder to half-chunks of bars into the mixture and then made a very healthy decision. She pulled the spoon out of the mouth of an obviously pleased Carrot and went about mixing the chocolate with just as much vigor as she had before. After a minute and more clumps of batter escaping the deliciousness being created before the duo, she had finished and stood back to admire her hoofiwork.

All good things looked bad before they went into the oven, so Apple Bloom was certain that this would turn out great. It looked like somepony had taken flour, milk, caramel, and candy bars and mixed them together. Yum! The perfect pudding was coming right up and Celestia above after today she would get her pudding making cutie mark. Then she could go work at Sugarcube Corner with Pinkie and the Cakes and they'd say she made the best pudding in all of Equestria! It would be pretty dandy, and she would be sure to thank Carrot's inspired and involved leadership for her great successes. After another moment of staring at it, Apple Bloom placed it into the oven, set the temperature, and kicked the oven close and proceeded to immediately leap about the kitchen gaily.

"We're makin' puddin', we're makin' puddin', we're making' puddin'!" She chortled in a sing-songy fashion as bounced around the kitchen, finishing off with a healthy giggle.

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"We're making PUDDING?!" squeaked an eager young voice. Sweetie Belle bounced in through the door, a bright smile on her face. "Hi Apple Bloom! Hi Mister Fields! I'm ready for the sleepover! Where's Applejack and Big Mac?"

Sweetie Belle had been eagerly looking forward to this night! Every few weeks, they would plan a Cutie Mark Crusader sleepover, and even though they still hadn't gotten their cutie marks, they hadn't lost hope! This one had been planned since the last one, three weeks ago, and Sweetie had a list of new things ready to try! It was always very exciting to try to think up brand new cutie marks and new plans to follow!

She dropped off her saddlebags and hurried on into the kitchen, peering into the oven. "Oooo! Is that *chocolate* pudding? You know what we should do? We should make it Brulee style! That's this fancy sort of a way of making pudding where you put some sugar on top and then light it on fire to carmalize it, and it's how they serve it in all the fancy Canterlot restaurants! Mom and Dad *love* it when I make pudding Brulee style, and Mom says that I'm gonna be a fancy chef when I grow up cause I'm so good at cooking!" She bounced up and down in excitement as she explained, eager to show them one of her favorite cooking tricks!

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Carrot Fields was shocked - little Applebloom hadn't heard a thing he'd said about the right ingredients! Instead, she'd gone right for pouring the flour into the batch along with the other ingredients - a concoction only a foal would assume was good. One spoonful of the crazy concoction shoved into his mouth was all he needed to confirm his suspicions. All he could taste was the sticky, gummy flour, his eyes watering. Carrot so wanted to tell her that it was going to be nothing tasty like pudding, but her sheer enthusiasm, her large smile on her little face looking for approval made him do nothing but smile as best he could and nod; he was just such a sucker.

Carrot watched nervously as she placed her "pudding" in the oven. He knew it was going to be a disaster, but he didn't want to hurt Applebloom's feelings, especially after her happy little song about it. "Ach, well, we kin experiment more than once if it dinnae turn out as ye ken!" He smiled and winked, trying to show a positive face. "Oi kin show ye me own kin's recipe fer chocolate pudding too!" He didn't really have a secret family recipe, but he was at least aware of the right ingredients, thanks to his sister.

Carrot walked over to the oven, looking to adjust the temperature, when the new filly came in through the door unannounced. He had seen Sweetie Belle a few times before when she was cutting through his farm to get to AppleBloom's. "Umm, hello ... Wait?! What're ye haverin' on about a sleepover?!" Carrot was confused and a bit concerned - AppleJack had never mentioned Abby would be having a friend over, too! One filly was enough of a hooffull ... two would be a bit tricky, and how would Sweetie's family feel about this? He knew the Apples, and they seemed fine with him, but he didn't know Sweetie's family at all. "Did Applejack say ye could sleep over?"

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Apple Bloom had been so busy leaping and bouncing about in her revelry that she almost didn't notice Sweetie Belle turn this foalsitting duet turn into a foalsitting trio of singing and dancing fun, excitement, learning and pudding. Especially the pudding. Apple Bloom stopped and gave her friend a huge, almost overexcited- okay, completely overexcited- wave.

"Howdy Sweetie Belle! Big Mac an' Applejack are hoofin' it ta Baltimare with some apples on account of our las' shipment gettin' sorta messed up, and Granny'll be outta town for a while 'cause she's in Germaney visitin' great uncle strudel. They'll be gone all night! Carrot Fields 'ere is foalsittin', but he ain't like that last one I had that was a total bore. This is gunna be the best sleepover ever! Yay!" Apple Bloom punctuated her comment by jumping up in the air, landing and following Sweetie's idea perfectly. It was brilliant. Flawless.

"Why, that sounds dandy Sweetie Belle! We can make tha best puddin' there eva was and yer gonna get yer cutie mark! Maybe we can sell it and Ah can be a puddin' seller with a puddin' cutie mark!" Apple Bloom had decided that this fanciful narrative was of all her previous fanciful narratives the most realistic and utterly fantastic one. No hesitation could be found as she ran over to the oven and opened it, pulling the still-cool mixture out and putting it back on top of the stove. She then leaped on top of the counter and stuck her head in a cabinet in search for sugar just as she registered Carrot's words.

"Well, on tha off-chance these don't turn out so good, we can try any otha idea ya have! And tonight's the night we're havin' a Cutie Mark Crusader Sleepover. We stay up allllll night tryin' ta find our cutie mark, what makes us special!" She found her prize and came out a few moments later with mammoth bag of sugar on her head. She wobbled under its weight and it seemed to dance on top of her as she lowered it and lowered it towards the stove. With every passing moment it grew shakier and shakier and it didn't take a genius to see what was about to happen. Finally, it happened-

-Apple Bloom placed the huge and opened bag of sugar on the stove with absolutely no messes made. She hopped off of the counter and found another chef's hat, tossing it at Sweetie Belle. She turned around again to face carrot, almost as if she were chasing her tail.

"Nah, I tend ta only ask Applejack tha day of tha sleepover, usually on account of me not remembering what day the sleepover is a lot of tha time," She remarked off-hoofedly before doing one last turn and talking to Sweetie Belle.

"Do you wanna start tha fire?!"

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Sweetie Belle gave a bright smile and a little *squee!* at Apple Bloom's enthusiasm, and pulled out several drawers so she could climb up the makeshift staircase and stand on the counter next to Apple Bloom as she rummaged through the cupboards. A sack of sugar flew out to land on the table, as did a jar of honey, and a bottle of cooking oil. A mixing bowl landed next to the ingredients, followed by a big wooden spoon, and then Sweetie jumped from the counter to land on the table - making it creak alarmingly - so that she could dump all the ingredients together into the mixing bowl and started mixing it up with vigorous enthusiasm. Big gloopy golden globs of gelatinous goo went flying everywhere!

"Oh boy!" Sweetie exclaimed happily, "Thanks, Mister Fields! You're the *best*! Oh boy, I wonder if we'll get done with this before Scootaloo gets here! Won't she be surprised? You're in for a treat, Mister Fields! I'll be sure to give you the first, best bite!"

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Carrot Fields hesitated to expand sleeping over to watch AJ's little sister to a full-fledged sleepover with Sweetie Belle ... but ... "Well, if'n ye're sure this is roit wi' Applejack. Dinnae want tae upset yer sis, roit?" Truthfully, as much of a hooffull two fillies might be, he didn't want to disappoint them, either. Their enthusiastic smiles just melted his heart. How hard could it really be to watch two foals?

Of course it seemed they weren't really listening to him anyway, but instead focused more on their task at hand, which seemed to be about getting their cutie marks. "Oi dinno ... a cutie mark is just sommat what happens at th' roit time, ye cannae ..." His sage wisdom was interrupted by Sweetie Belle enthusiastically rifling through the cabinets. "Oye, be careful!" He ran over to catch her, sure she was about to fall, but had to duck as various food items came flying his way. Carrot caught each of the ingredients as they flew back toward him, juggling them and setting them carefully down on the table, a frantic and panicked expression on his face. "Oye, careful! Ye're ginnae-" As he placed the jar of honey on the table, a mixing bowl landed on his head, covering his eyes, it could be worse.. He let out a sigh, but jumped as he heart the thump of a little unicorn filly hitting the table. "ACH! Luna! Be careful!!" She was just like his sister, when she hurried around the kitchen gathering ingredients. Maybe Carrot was lucky - maybe Sweetie Belle also had that special chef touch.

Though ... she certainly wasn't as clean as Purple Haze. If Carrot had thought the kitchen had already been a mess, well, he was swiftly disabused of that notion as he witnessed what surely must be the true definition of chaos. Still, he wasn't really upset over it, the pair were just too adorable, and their flattery and praise was so sweet. "Well Oi'm sure ye're frosting will be bonnie. Loik Oi told Apple Bloom, if'n th' chocolate pudding dinnae work out, we kin try again, or perhaps muffins!" He wanted to make the inevitable failure as gentle as possible, his tongue still cringing from the taste of that spoonful. "Ye sure about this fire part? Maybe ye'd best let me take care of that ... fire's roit dangerous, ye know. Dinnae want ye tae burn yer little hoovses" He had some idea what they wanted to do - to make those fancy chocolate desserts like in the expensive restaurants! And those looked dangerous when grown-ups were making them!

Wait, wait, he was falling behind. "Applebloom ... did ye say there's another friend showin' up? How many did ye invite?"

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Sweetie Belle knew what she was doing, nopony could tell her differently and nopony wanted to. Seeing her excited only added to Apple Bloom's conviction that today was the day they were destined to get their cutie marks! It had to be- all of Luna's stars had aligned and fate was on their side. The unicorn hopped to and fro, obviously knowing her way around the kitchen probably even better than Apple Bloom. She went to her business and before Apple Bloom could even say adorable tornado, the mix was flying around the kitchen. To an adult this may have been an entirely unhappy event but to little ones excessive mess making equated to hard work. What other evidence could there possibly be besides a great mess and even greater results? Apple Bloom tossed her hooves on the counter and watched Sweetie Belle, overflowing with excitement, her tiny bottom hooves stomping in excitement rhythmically. Very excited.

Carrot seemed to take in the situation and quickly chimed in. He was a good foalsitter, agreeable, smart, with many good ideas for treats. Were there other qualifications for a foalsitter? Apple Bloom didn't think so. If there were they were likely pretty far down the list.

"Ya, she's only said no to a sleep'ver a few times, like six or ten or somethin' like that. Almost as often as Ah ask, come ta think of it. Oh well, she ain't 're now!" She giggled ferociously as she looked back at Carrot, contemplating how it could be that everypony in the world didn't know of the Cutie Mark Crusaders in theirr entirety. Silly Stallion was so caught up in his posters of mares and such that he wasn't paying proper attention!

"Jus' one more member of tha Cutie Mark Crusaders left, Carrot. 'Er name's Scootaloo, a blank flank jus' like us! Ya ever see a tiny lil' orange Pegasus filly on a scooter, zoomin' up and down tha town? That's her. Ah hope she brought 'er scooter too, 'cause we could really use it ta set up a stand and sell all of the treats we'll be makin'," Apple Bloom said with flourish as she looked at what Sweetie Belle was doing, nodding as she thought about the muffins. She wasn't as big a fan of them as some ponies were, but who didn't like a nice muffin or five every now and then?

"That sounds like a real good idea, Carrot. Why, we could make muffins anyway and have ourselves a good ol' fashioned picnic! As for tha fire, Ah think ya can do it if ya really wanna. 'Ere, lemme get it for you!" Apple Bloom's eyes shot off with excitement as she pulled the concoction out of the oven and slammed it down on the stove-top, sending a giant clack across the barn. The mixture had evolved into this greyish mash, streaked with bright brownish yellow and deep, dark brown. Much of it was uneven and fitted into odd angles, some areas absent to the bottom of the pan. Apple Bloom could only assume it'd take the form of pudding after it was allowed to cool. She mashed it all anyway before looking up at Sweetie Belle.

"Is't done, Sweetie Belle? You can pour it on top while I go get the thingamajig so Carrot'an start tha fire," She blew out of the side of her mouth as she trotted deeper into the barn. After a few moments, she returned, balancing an old horn-looking object that was covered in cinders at the end. She mosied on back to Carrot and dropped it on him for safe keeping.

"That's Granny's ol' dragonsbreath contraption. Ya hafta get close an' it can take a few seconds, but it starts a real' good fire!" Apple Bloom said, nearly stroking the old device with all of the care she could muster. Slight worry tickled her, her brow furrowed and she took in Carrot with a concerned and slightly menacing edge.

"Naw you be careful, 'cause Granny said she ain't seen one like it since she was a young mare an' that's longer than Ah think Celestia's been alive, so if ya break it, she might huntcha down like Cerberus and drag ya down ta ta-tar-us," She began before doing an abrupt change in mood, smiling and waving her rearing up in excitement, "Naw stop lazin' 'bout and start a fire!"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sweetie Belle had just finished dumping the honey-sugar glaze over the pudding when she saw the dragon's breath contraption, and her eyes widened. "Oh boy!" she exclaimed excitedly, "We don't have one of those! We gotta make do with matches and stuff! Oh boy, I can't wait!" She didn't wait, indeed, grabbing the dragon's breath from Apple Bloom before Carrot could respond, and bringing it over to the table. She pulled out a welder's mask seemingly from nowhere, and plopped it down over her face, then stuck the end of the horn underneath her mask, took a deep breath, and blew.

Time seemed to go in slow-motion as the flames blew off of the smoldering embers, reaching out towards that golden, gooey mess the fillies were trying to call pudding ... the flames crackling, flaring, licking hungrily towards the cooking-oil rich concoction ... one little tendril of flame touched...

Sweet Apple Acres was a lovely place at night - the rolling hills covered in nice, comfortable apple orchards, the crickets chirping merrily away, the big moon hanging low overhead and spreading a cool, comforting light over the darkness. The farmhouse itself was a peaceful, rustic, classic scene, the very image of calm tranquility, a dark form with firelight flickering in the windows ...

The night lit up briefly as a bright, glaring light flared out of the kitchen window, accompanied by a distant 'FOOM!' noise. When it cleared, the bush outside the kitchen window was half-gone, smoking from the black tips of seared branches.

Inside the house, Sweetie Belle lifted her welder's mask so her clean, pristine white face could peer out at the black, charred, solid mass in the scorched and twisted bowl. "Yay!" she cried happily, and then her voice cracked as she exclaimed, "It's *PER*fect!"

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Carrot Fields stared at the enormous cornucopia shaped fire horn with disbelief. He wasn't surprised that such a thing existed, nor was he even all that surprised that Abby's frail grandmother used it, but he was bewildered that anypony would be nuts enough to use such a thing inside. Before he could spoil the moment for the pair with his adult "lameness" and opt instead for the safety of matches, Sweetie Belle grabbed it and prepared to blow. "Wait! Dinnae -!" Before he could finish his sentence there was a bright white flash where all time stood.

The next thing Carrot knew, he was blinking out of a soot-blackened face, his mane blasted backwards and darkened black. He coughed, and a cloud of dark smoke escaped his mouth. it tasted of ash and soot; like that first time you push a brush up and old chimney and all the old collected ash comes tumbling down and makes that awful gray cloud, bitter and dry on your tongue.

In the center of the blast zone was the kitchen table, its once green and red cloth now charred and blacked, lines radiating outwards from the large heat-deformed bowl with the smoking gray mass of ... something ... still bubbling away inside. Carrot was stunned. He'd been in charge for less than an hour, and he'd already allowed the entire kitchen to be destroyed! What would Applejack say now! Something along the line of not wanting him to ever set hoof on their property again, no doubt.

Carrot just stared, gaping, for a moment, his eyes wide, then he shook himself out of that, little puffs of soot shaking from his face at the rapid movements of his head. He had to set things right, or at least clean things up! First things first, get the problem items somewhere safe to cool down. He grabbed the smoldering horn and ran it outside, then carefully set it down on the gravel path. It could no doubt cool down just fine there. He ran back inside and took up some cooking mitts, and the bowl followed the horn - with somewhat less caution against damage. A quick drenching with a hose ended that smoldering hazard. "Phewwww ... That was close!"

Carrot wasn't sure what to say to Applebloom and Sweetie Belle. They were sincere in their desire in making treats, but they were also really, really bad at it. He sighed. He could take them out for pudding later - right now they had to clean up that mess. He trotted back in, "Sorry, lasses, that ye nibbles turned intae a pig's blanket!" He looked at the little white unicorn, "As ye kin see, ye cannae jes light up yer food wi'out knowin' jes what ye're doin'! Dinnae feel down, though, Oi'm sure wi' practice ... a lot a practice ... ye'll get th' hang of it! Someday!" He nodded. "Now ... We need tae get this kitchen clean, and then we kin hie on out fer some pudding, a'ight?"

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Scootaloo wailed, her "singing" very off key and VERY loud. Slamming the door to a nearby music store, the very musically enthusiastic (but not all too musically gifted) orange filly didn't seem to notice the many ponies staring at her. Some were covering their ears or groaning in pain. It was just like the night she and the other Cutie Mark Crusaders did that horrific talent show act, the night Scootaloo realized that she was an absolutely awful singer. But did she care? Of course not!

Scootaloo grinned, hopping on her beloved scooter and zooming off to her next destination in a cloud of dust. The roads of Ponyville were nice and smooth, the tires beneath Scootaloo's hooves running in perfect syncronization. Scootaloo chuckled, grinning deviously, and flapped her wings harder. While it was just a foal's scooter and couldn't really go to the intense speeds professionals liked to cruise at, Scootaloo made a whirring sound with her mouth and pretended to go approximately 120 miles an hour. The vibrations she imagined to feel were pretty intense, and she kicked a hoof out in glee. The momentary loss of balance was startling, but quite thrilling as well. She could still hear music in her head and she enjoyed the feeling of wind in her mane, slapping her forehead and running behind her in brilliant fuschia. Her tail too wiggled and flapped behind her and she giggled. What a lucky filly she was!

Soon Scootaloo had arrived at Sweet Apple Acres. She didn't want to get off her scooter just yet, and spent her last few seconds on it as slow....as....possible. Scootaloo decided to weigh the pros and cons of her situation. Should she ride some more or see her friends? On one hand, she had so much fun every time she hung out with the Cutie Mark Crusaders. On the other...she was already having fun. After a few seconds of pondering she sighed and hopped off her scooter, laying it to rest nearby. Her helmet was set next to it, but in her head, the music was still playing. She couldn't resist the urge to...to...


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There was a momentary flash as the Dragonsbreath lit up the kitchen, briefly illuminating even the darkest of corners. It was as blinding as it was deafening and for a fraction of a moment in time Apple Bloom didn't know where she was. That ended just as quickly as it began, the fire intense yet brief as it blew out of every orifice leaving the kitchen. What remained was darkened considerably, the ancient and well-maintained structure nearly buckling under the heat and intensity of the change in mass below. Apple Bloom wasn't entirely undamaged, her entire front side that faced the fire utterly and completely taken by severe ash and the accumulation of soot. She blinked a few times, revealing un-blemished eyelids that acted as oasis' of normality in a sea of black. Her bow was also entirely untouched for reasons unknown. She smiled, her country white teeth a contrast to the black that surrounded it. It was cooked now!

Apple Bloom turned to her friend-turned-firemare and nodded emphatically in agreement. It was absolutely perfect! Look at the way that the expertly crafted crispy surface flaked off in the wind as the charred mess in front of them glistened in the wide-open windows that allowed in sickly streams of light through the haze and ash that flittered about the room daintily before seemingly vanishing into nothing or adding a layer of debris to the party. It looked absolutely beautiful!

"Ya did a great job, Sweetie! Why, Ah reckon it does lo-" She screamed and began right before Carrot did whatever it was he planning on doing. She followed him quizically as he took the delicious looking pudding out. She couldn't see what he was doing and as he came back in, she realized she couldn't hear him as well. Her little filly ears had been packed full of ash and soot as well as the normal gunk and grime that were found in a filly without the degree of fascination with cleanliness' ears. As he spoke or talked at Sweetie Belle, not a word of it reached Apple Bloom. He seemed happy though and so she smiled and nodded excitedly along until he was done. Curious to see what had made him so happy, she hopped away and trotted outside. There before her was the result of his plan, which now made so much sense: he had added water to the mix! Not only had it likely cooled it down, but now it looked like pudding. Carrot Fields was a cooking genius! Maybe he and Applejack could go baking some time, why Apple Bloom bet that Applejack would have quite a battle on her hooves there! She stuck a hoof in and surrounded it with the odd-textured mess and gave some consideration...who should have the honor of first bite?! Well, Sweetie had started the fire and Apple Bloom had gotten all the ingredients, but Carrot had been awfully nice and helpful. She got a huge amount of the mix all over her hoof and started galloping on three legs into the house and into the kitchen

"FIRST TASTE TA CARROT!" Apple Bloom yelled out before jumping up and shoving her hoof down Carrot's throat and allowing the 'pudding' to roam free in his mouth and throat. She extracted her hoof and fell to the floor, the impact shaking loose all of the ash and soot from her ears and returning her hearing to her. She threw two hooves against his stomach and looked up at him excitedly.

"How does it taste, huh? Delicious, Ah bet! Why, we made tha very best puddin' evah! But naw we seem'ta be outta puddin', so now ya can show us how ta make everything else! How is it?" She asked, her soot-covered face bright and cheery regardless as she looked directly up at Carrot with all of the adorableness she could muster, which was quite a lot of adorablenessity.

That plan was derailed just as she heard Scootaloo crooking or strangling a chicken or whatever it was that she called her form of 'singing'. It was awful but all Apple Bloom could hear was how happy Scootaloo sounded and how that also signaled that the Cutie Mark Crusaders were here. Her eyes turned the brightest shade of joy possible.

"Scootaloo!" She belted out before turning around, rearing up, and blasting out of the front of the house as fast as she could possibly go. She saw her Pegasus friend and leapt in the air, perhaps higher than Scootaloo had ever been herself!

"Scootaloo! Why're ya so dang late?" She said, trotting next to her friend and giggling. The Cutie Mark Crusaders were here in force and already the overpowering desire for adventure, fun, and cutie marks was starting to eat away at her heart..

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Sweetie Belle licked her lips as she looked down at the smouldering grey lump before her. It looked like it had turned out even better than she'd expected! Nice and crunchy, just how it was supposed to be! She plotted out how to divide it up properly, totally ignoring Carrot's silly panicking with the dragon's breath horn. Should she save some for Scootaloo? Should she take some how for mom and dad and rarity? Real honest-to-goodness chocolate brule made with a fancy contraption! Rarity aught to be impressed with that! It was even an antique! Antiques were even fancier!

But her musings and droolings were interrupted when Carrot grabbed the bowl from under her nose and ran it outside, too. She blinked, startled for a moment, then belated followed after. "Wait, what are you-" she started to squeak at him, but then stopped in horror as she watched him dumping water all over her PERFECT desert! She let out gasping little noises as he started saying ... something? She couldn't quite work her way through the strong accent, but she just looked up at him with a trembling lip. "You *ruined* my pudding!" she whimpered, looking utterly dejected...

She didn't even seem comforted when Carrot proceeded to start eating the ruined, now-liquid pudding ... just sighing and staring down at the floor. This was just like whenever she tried to cook for Rarity. Rarity always panicked over her cooking, too. What was so bad about doing things a bit fancier than usual?

All that completely disappeared from her mind, however, as soon as she heard Scootaloo's awesome voice sounding over the hills of Sweet Apple Acres! She perked up instantly, a huge grin spreading across her face. She was *so* jealous of how Scootaloo could just belt out tunes like that in front of everyone and not care what they thought! She wished she could sing more like Scootaloo did, but she always got so self-conscious! Well, unless it just came to her and she was singing before she realized it, but still!

She ran out right behind Applebloom, grinning eagerly, "SCOOTaloo!" she squeaked, her voice cracking on her friend's name. "Yay! Cutie Mark Crusader sleepover at Apple Bloom's is a GO!" She held out both of her hooves so she could high-hoof her two friends!

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Carrot Fields sighed, near disaster averted - right as Applebloom stuffed most of the burnt mush into his mouth. His cheeked puffed full of the concoction which tasted a little bit like sugar, a little bit like cocoa, and whole lot like the leftovers of a campfire. His first instinct was to spit it out, but Applebloom's lovable expression of joyful anticipation left the gray stallion with no choice. Slowly he worked the mush in his mouth, steeled up his courage, and swallowed, giving an awkward smile with tears shining in his eyes. Crisis averted!

Or so he thought. As happy as Abby was, the little white unicorn was upset, her squeaky voice and heartbroken expression piercing right to his heart. He didn't want to have the poor little foal upset with what must surely have been her first time in the kitchen. "Well, ye see, Sweetie -" Before he could say more, Sweetie's little attention span suddenly refocused itself, she and Abby running outside.

Carrot frowned as he heard a third voice, and followed the two fillies out to see a third little foal with a scooter. Dawning comprehension settled in. He was foal-sitting a threesome, now. "Umm … girls? How many of yer wee friends are goin' tae pop up t'night?" Carrot had a dread apocalyptic mental image of an entire herd of little fillies running around a farm in flames. The things he'd go through for the sake of his bonnie neighbor.

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Scootaloo was so incredibly excited for the night! It was going to be awesome- so very awesome- especially now that Scootaloo was here to ramp up the party. The filly high fived Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, so incredibly excited to finally be hanging out with them again. While the quest for their cutie marks was the initial goal, Scootaloo also liked the times when the three fillies could just hang out. They were so much fun! Apple Bloom was filled with energy and ideas while Sweetie Belle provided insight and a cool tune.

That was going to be helpful tonight. If somepony didn't help Scootaloo get these songs out of her head, she was going to explode into a kajillion pieces. Or something like that. But it was awfully catchy, and she was still humming. If only she DID have a talent in music, and didn't sound so awful when she sang. Of course, the little orange filly didn't care about how she sounded. She just wanted to enjoy herself!

"Sorry to be late, gals, I was listening to some tunes and I forgot what time it was."

Shrugging, the filly turned to see a tall strong-looking stallion with bright red curly hair. He looked familiar, but no name came to mind. Struggling to pull something out of the corner of her mind, Scootaloo awkwardly waved a hoof and averted his eyes. He had a nice....nose?

"Oh, hey...You..."

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This world of theirs was little more than a rolling ball of possibilities and obstacles that needed to be conquered. When the trio weren't together, these things were often masked as family, chores, schoolwork, and a whole host of standards which held a filly down. When the trio were together however, the filter was removed and they saw the world for what it was: Near endless possibilities and a playground of the heart and mind. The Crusaders weren't just important to each other because they were friends or because they all wanted to get their cutie marks. No, Apple Bloom also looked at them together as something nearly magical just by being together. Something happened to them,something clicked, and together the Crusaders were capable of doing anything!

But first and foremost, she had to introduce Mr. Fields to Scootaloo.

"That's mah foalsitter for tha evening, Mr. Carrot Fields! He's a mighty kind stallion and all, and he really liked our awesome puddin'! He has a crush on mah sister and has this real' funny accent. Sometimes Ah just hafta nod along when he startes talkin' cause Ah don't understand a lick o' what he just said," Apple Bloom said with a smile, followed not at all slowly in confirmation when he started to speak. Apple Bloom smiled all the while and when he was done askin' his question, Apple Bloom looked at Scootaloo with a wide smile and bright eyes.

"Ah told ya! Isn't his accent justha' coolest thin' ya've ever heard?" She giggled for a few seconds before calming down and deciding that he was probably wanting an answer.

"This here's Scootaloo, Carrot. She's tha third and final member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders!" She exclaimed, and as if on cue, she heard the ever excited squeal of Sweetie belle as she proclaimed the Cutie Mark Sleepover at Apple Bloom's a go! Apple Bloom reflexively high-hoofed and it was as if time stood still and she underwent a transformation. By the time she landed back on her hooves, it was full on Crusading time.

"Well Crusaders, Ah already tried out archery and Applejack grounded me 'cuz Ah nearly burned an old storage shed down. Ah guess I'll try something later. Sweetie, Ah think it's yer turn. Maybe y'all are wanting some sort of fashion cutie mark? Ah reckon Ah could lend ya mah bows and such if ya wanted," Apple Bloom felt a little silly offering her bows to her friend, but who was the pony who helped her sister run a boutique? Sweetie Belle. She had a better shot at a fashion cutie mark than anypony else for sure!

"So if ya wanna try that, Ah guess Scootaloo can get all ready ta be prettified..."

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Sweetie Belle's attention was caught by one word from Applebloom: Crush. Mister Fields had a crush on Applejack? Why, how roMANtic! A sweet pair of farmers, next door neighbors, gazing across the fields into each other's eyes ... it sounded just like one of Rarity's romance novels that she kept taking away from Sweetie before Sweetie could get more than a few pages in!

But as exciting as romance might be, it paled in comparison to the idea of sleepover makeovers! She bounced in place on her lil' hooves. "Why, that's a *great* idea, Applebloom!" she squeeked. "It'll be *just* like all the times Rainbow Dash comes over to the Boutique and Rarity makes her all pretty!" Her bright smile took up most of her face as she started running through the ideas. "Ooo! I'll need a brush, and do you have a makeup kit? And hair clips and hair pins!" She paused a moment ... then gave a flat, serious expression. "Your ribbons... they're not on spools, right? Cause spools of ribbon are nothin' but trouble, believe me." Then she was instantly back to her cheerful, eager self, poinging up into the air as she bounced around the other three ponies. "And I'll need costume pieces *poing* but tableclothes will do *poing* and we can play truth or dare while we do it! *poing* and we'll need snacks! *poing* and it'll be so much *fun!*"

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Carrot Fields listened as Applebloom introduced him to the latest arrival to the farm, smiled warmly as she told about him - right up till the part about him having a crush, where his eyes widened and his face reddened to match his mane. Was he that that obvious? After all he was just very ... friendly towards her sister, that’s all! It was the neighborly thing to do!

The embarrassment waned with the relief that this was the last of the fillies to be coming over. He wasn’t sure how much more he could deal with. Carrot tried to calm himself as he gave a warm smile at the little pegasus; not only had he seen her running around his fields with her friends before, but she also fit the description Dash had given about a fillyfan she had "for being so awesome and cool."

"Well, it's roit nice ta meet ye, Scootaloo! Oi reckon Oi hearda ye from me friend, Rainbow Dash! She told me about a cute lil' orange pegasus filly who's roit flustered over her!" Carrot patted her head. "Oi'll have tae let her know Oi met ye next Oi see her, then!" She looked back to Applebloom. "Oi'll assume that yer kin's roit wi' this too, then?"

At least now they were talking about some nice, safe activity like makeovers. It sounded like something little fillies would typically do, and how much damage could that possibly cause? "Alright. Ye girls go and do that while Oi hie to an' tidy up th' kitchen, then Oi kin get ye some snacks!" Hopefully the snack part would be easy once he had the Crusaders safely away from any food or fire.

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Understanding Mr. Feilds' accent was a near impossible task for young Scootaloo. She'd never heard anything like it, and she wondered to herself where the heck it was from! Why did he say his "I"s so funny? Scootaloo shook her head, reminding herself that people couldn't help the way they talked. However, sometimes Scootaloo really got confused by how the Apple Family members spoke. And Twilight's big words. And Pinkie Pie's fast talking. And Sweetie Belle's squeakiness. And....maybe Scootaloo really was the only one who talked normally. Her and Rainbow Dash, of course.

Scootaloo rolled her eyes at the mention of Mr. Fields having a crush on Applejack. Gross. Poor Applejack must have felt victimized, after all every single stallion has cooties. Scootaloo shuddered and shook her mane out, dragging a hoof across the ground. She couldn't believe people actually LIKED romance. How disgusting!

Scootaloo didn't have much time to reflect, however, it was crusading time! Scootaloo couldn't wait to get some cutie mark searching DOWN. Until...until...things took a turn for the worst.

"Makeovers?! UGH! NO!"

Scootaloo wailed, knowing FOR CERTAIN her cutie mark wasn't in makeup or dressing up or anything that involved "up". Scootaloo was a filly of action, one that simply didn't have time for looking nice. She wanted to kick flank and take names! Not have her name taken and her flank prettified.

But Sweetie Belle was already on the move, plotting ways to make Scootaloo look....Celestia forbid...NICE.

"NO. No no no no no no no no no no! NO!"

Scootaloo protested, kicking her legs and stomping her hooves on the ground. She was going to throw a hissy fit alright, a real big one too.

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Was this all right with Applejack? Well, probably not if you had asked her beforehand but now that they were here Apple Bloom didn't see it as a possibility that she'd kick the two other fillies out. Even of grounded, Applejack wasn't about to treat Apple Bloom's friends with disrespect. So would she have okayed the sleepover? From Apple Bloom's point of view, it was a definitive yes. Plus, he was about to get them some snacks and she wasn't about to distract him from that most vital of tasks because without snacks she just wasn't sure they could as a group replace the energy Sweetie Belle was expending by jumping up and down.

"Yah, Applejack'd be fine with it, Carrot. And thanks for tha snacks!" She yelled off, watching his form trail into the house before turning back to Sweetie Belle. Say what you want about her, and you could only ever say nice things because the unicorn was easily one of the sweetest ponies you could ever know, but you had to admit that she knew an awful lot about fashion. Or at least she knew enough to talk about a fair bit which was enough to drive the current discussion fast enough for Apple Bloom's tastes. Pretty much everything Sweetie said she either understood or decided to gamely glance over as she nodded along with excitement. No, she didn't have a makeup kit. No, she didn't have hair clips or hair pins. No, the ribbons weren't on spools. No, she had no costume pieces but yes, she did have table cloths! The fact the answer was almost universally no to her questions didn't stop her from nodding her head due to excitement, and eventually bounce up and down along with Sweetie. Eventually, that came to a stop.

She closed her eyes and gave a hearty giggle.

"Naw, Ah don't have any of that! Just some bows and a table cloth. Ah'll get'em right naw," She began to turn around when Scootaloo threw a temper tantrum. Geez Louise, the pegasus could be so immature and angry sometimes, like somepony had forgotten to change her as a foal and she hadn't forgotten the shabby treatment. Scootaloo was the most prone to outbursts out of the group and that was saying something considering the three were hyperactive under any definition. Apple Bloom drew back and shook her head at Scootaloo's outburst.

"Alright, alright, if it makes ya that upset we won't do it, ya big baby," She sighed, looking sympathetically over to Sweetie Belle, "Ah'm sorry, maybe ya can try it on me," She offered up as she trotted away. It was not the best of ideas seeing as Apple Bloom was not given over to looking good in various outfits but what was she to do when her friend's cutie mark was at stake? Apple Bloom was a little saddened that Scootaloo didn't want to help Sweetie Belle find her cutie mark, but, well, it was Scootaloo. Maybe Apple Bloom should have reset her expectations.

Still, this left a hole in their plan, a gap that needed filling. They needed some sort of model for Sweetie Belle to prettify and her options were limited at best. Scootaloo revolted at the mere thought and as far as Apple Bloom was concerned you couldn't make her much prettier than she was already, being modest enough to know you couldn't do much to a patch of dirt and arrogant enough to believe that it was already home to the prettiest of any flower. As she grabbed a few of her ribbons and placed them delicately in a basket beside her bed, she ran through the available moves. It wouldn't make sense for Sweetie to try and prettify herself, right? Naw, they didn't have any good mirrors like that outside. Apple Bloom sighed as she came back outside, resigned too her fate as the model for the evening.

"Here ya go-" She began before her churning mental prowess turned up a result that she hadn't considered before. Her face lit up and she promptly galloped away.

"Ah got it!" She bellowed out as she tore back into the house and found Carrot. Why, if Sweetie Belle gave him a makeover, it'd be super easy! Not only was he a big pony and working on big ponies would probably help her earn her cutie mark faster, but since he was a colt if they made him look even half-way decident she'd get her mark for sure! What genius!

She grabbed ahold of him with her teeth and tugged at him.

"Carrot! Carrot! Get on out thar when you're done with the snacks! We got the best idea EVER for ya!" She clapped her hooves together in excitement, reared up, and galloped out the door again, giggling all the while as she approached Sweetie Belle.

"Carrot Fields! Why, you'll earn yer Cutie Mark for sure on 'im! he's a big pony and if you can get a stallion to look even a little good, then it HASTA be yer special talent!"

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