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Lesson Zero, part 7
nervous breakdown, failed her SAN roll
no_vampires_plz
The sun is getting low in the sky over Ponyville. No one, not even Princess Celestia herself, is more aware of this than Twilight Sparkle.

"Clock is ticking, Twilight. ClOcK. iS. tIcKiNg."

She paces back and forth in front of the window. "Keep it together," she mutters to herself over and over and over again. She can do this. She has to do this. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

But how? Rarity doesn't need help, Apple Jack doesn't need help, none of her friends need help...

Unless...

"If I can't find a friendship problem," she says to herself, "I'll mAkE a friendship problem!"

She rubs her forehooves together in glee as she opens up her old toybox. She knows just the perfect tool for this job...

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Not so very far away, three friends are laughing and playing together. The Cutie Mark Crusaders, for once not crusading at all, are bouncing a beach ball back and forth.

Suddenly, the ball starts glowing and distorting, finally exploding to reveal...

"hIiIiI, gIiIiRrRrLs!"

"Oh, hi, Twilight," says Apple Bloom, a bit awkwardly. That's rather an odd thing to do, teleporting into their ball. Also it makes it a bit hard to continue the game. Still, it doesn't hurt to be polite. "How's it go-"

"GrRrEaT! Just great." The rictus grin hasn't left her face; her left ear twitches. "You three look like you're doing great too! Looks like three good friends who obviously don't need the help of another gOoD fRiEnD..."

She lifts a well-worn plush filly doll with yarn hair and button eyes up for the three foals to see. "This," says Twilight, "is Smarty Pants. She was mine when I was your age, and now I want to give her to yOu!"

Well-worn is the adjective of the day, here.

"Uh... she's... great!" says Scootaloo, trying hard to sound enthusiastic.

"Yyyyeah, great," agrees Apple Bloom.

Sweetie Belle struggles to come up with something more than just another 'yeah'. "I really like her... mane?"

Twilight doesn't even notice the fillies' discomfort. "She even comes with her own nOtEbOoK and qUiLl--" Twilight offers the items in question to Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, respectively-- "for when you want to pReTeNd she's doing her hOmEwOrK!"

How can anyone not love pretend homework??

Edited at 2011-11-09 06:24 pm (UTC)

...Yes. How, indeed?

"That's... um... great." Somehow Scootaloo can't quite manage as much enthusiasm as she could a moment ago.

"Yyeah, great. Heheh..." Nor, it seems, can Apple Bloom.

Sweetie Belle takes a bit longer to answer, so both of the others nudge her, perhaps a bit harder than necessary. Startled, she just repeats, "I really like her... mane?"

"I just hope the fact that there are three of you and only one of her doesn't become a pRoBlEm. I'd hate to cause a rIfT between such gOoD fRiEnDs..."

Edited at 2011-11-09 06:44 pm (UTC)

Twilight's looking away. Taking advantage of the mare's distraction, Scootaloo catches her friends' eyes and twirls her hoof near her head.

Twilight shoves Smarty Pants in the fillies' faces. "SOWHOWANTSTOPLAYWITHHERFIRST?"

Quick, everypony for herself!

Apple Bloom is the first to try to get out of it. "Uh, you should play with her first, Sweetie Belle! Y'know, 'cause you like her mane so much." Having said that, she runs off so as not to be targeted in turn.

Sweetie Belle's eyes go wide. "No, no, no, no, no! I think Scootaloo should get to play with her first!" And she goes to fetch Apple Bloom back.

Oh, no, what's a Scootaloo to do? Thinking fast, she says, "I'd love to, but, um, you take her, Apple Bloom."

The earth filly manages to wriggle out of the others' grip and tries to shove them back toward the Smarty Pants. "Applejack says it's important to share!"

Something's wrong. They're acting like none of them want Smarty Pants! Why in Equestria wouldn't anypony want Smarty Pants?

I gotta think of something. ThinkthinkthinkthinkTwilightthink--that's it!

"Ooh, you're going to LiKe Smarty Pants," Twilight murmurs as she casts the spell on her old doll, "and you're going to like her mOrE tHaN aNyThInG."

Edited at 2011-11-09 07:14 pm (UTC)

As soon as the fillies catch a glimpse of Smarty Pants, they stop arguing. At least, for a moment. All ♥eyes♥ are on the doll.

"I want it!" cries Scootaloo.

Apple Bloom tries to do one better. "I need it."

Sweetie Belle, seeing nothing wrong with re-using words, simply reiterates that "I really like her mane!" She's much more certain and enthusiastic this time around.

The golden moment is broken as all three dive for Smarty Pants at once, and start fighting over who gets it.

"The 'Want It, Need It' spell. Works every time." Twilight steps over purposefully. "Okay, okay, let's break it up. I think we can all see that there's an important lesson here to be learned about--"

Unfortunately, Twilight appears to have underestimated the power of her spell. The fighting Crusaders pay no attention to her at all, even when one of them accidentally hits her in the face mid-sentence. All their attention is on ♥Smarty Pants♥.

Fortunately, they're only fillies, so the strike doesn't hurt too much. Still, she's more shaken than she lets on. "Come on, girls, we're all friends here, right? Don't you think you ought to share?"

Share? The word catches one pony's attention, briefly. Apple Bloom pulls slightly out of the struggle for just long enough to say "No way!" Then she's back to fighting, as hard as ever.

Fine. They want to do it the hard way? Twilight can do it the hard way.

Only she can't. Within a few seconds of diving into the fray, she's flung clear, and smack into the face of a stallion watching from nearby. But he's a stallion she recognizes, so maybe she can still turn this around!

"Big Macintosh! Thank goodness--you've gotta help me get that doll away from those girls!"

Big Macintosh calmly surveys the scene, and responds, "Eeyup."

He sets down the bucket he's carrying and walks over to the squabbling fillies. He deftly reaches in and snags the doll in his teeth, pulling it clear before any of the Crusaders even notices.

"Oh, thank you so much," Twilight breathes. "Now if you could just give her to me..."

"Nnnope."

Big Macintosh effortlessly pulls the ♥doll♥ out of Twilight's magical grip and begins trotting away.

It gets worse.

Big Macintosh isn't running alone, any more. The Crusaders have noticed that he's got the ♥doll♥, and are giving chase. "Give her back!" "No! Don't touch it!"

It's still a beautiful day, and several other ponies are out enjoying the weather. Big Macintosh and the others run past the mayor, who calls out, "What's all the commotion about?"

"They're fighting over that ♥doll♥!" answers one mare, who then starts after it herself.

"That incredible, amazing ♥doll♥!" contributes somepony else.

More and more ponies join in the chase, and Big Macintosh can't avoid them all. Before long he's surrounded by a struggling pile of ponies, trying to keep Smarty Pants out of their reach.

Somewhere in that pile is Twilight Sparkle, attempting to get a line of sight so she can disenchant Smarty Pants.

"Can't--get--a--clear--shot--!"

Big Macintosh is both strong and big, but nopony can keep on top of that kind of pile forever. As he sinks, the doll gets closer and closer to the other ponies.

Finally the mayor, of all ponies, manages to get high enough. "Give me!" she shrieks, and snatches it. Then she tries to run off.

A few of the piled ponies have realized that Big Macintosh no longer has the doll. Between that and the sudden need, not just to keep it, but to get it back, he manages a burst of strength that sends them flying. "Nnnope," he says, and charges after the mayor.

And once they've recovered, the rest of Ponyville goes charging after Big Macintosh. Except for Twilight, still stunned and horrified by what she's witnessed.

"Oh, what have I done??"

Back at the picnic Twilight left a while ago, things are winding down. It's almost sunset, and the picnic supplies are getting packed up.

Applejack is the first one to notice the ground shaking. "Y'all hear that?" she asks. The others look around, just as the herd comes thundering between and around them. "What in the name of all things oats an' apples is going on here?" she demands.

Possession of the doll is still being hotly contested. A pegasus manages to snatch it away from the mayor, only to find herself in a tug-of-war with another pegasus. Both of them lose their grips, and Smarty Pants lands not far from Rainbow Dash. The latter turns to get a look -

"DON'T LOOK AT IT!"

Twilight claps her forehooves over Rainbow Dash's eyes.

"Don't look at what?" Rarity asks.

"My Smarty Pants doll!" Twilight covers Rarity's eyes too before she can catch a glimpse of the toy. "I enchanted her and now everypony is fighting over her!"

"W-why would you enchant your doll?"

"Well, I had to do something!" Twilight wails. "I had nothing to report to Princess Celestia. I thought if I couldn't find a problem, I'd make a problem. The day is almost over!"

"Not almost..." Applejack corrects her, turning to watch the sun slip fully below the horizon.

"TWILIGHT SPARKLE."

A beam of white light shines down on the six ponies from directly above. Hovering above them, gleaming bright as the noonday sun, is Princess Celestia in all her glory. She does not look happy in the slightest.

Apple Jack gulps. "Whoa nelly."

Celestia's horn gleams gold, and a ripple of light passes over the fighting citizens of Ponyville. Immediately, they stop in their tracks, blinking in bewilderment. As one, they all stare at the bedragged Smarty Pants doll... then, as one, they all turn and go their separate ways. Clearly, this is one of those things that Will Never Be Spoken Of Again.

(Well, everyone leaves except Big Macintosh, who grabs Smarty Pants in his teeth and takes off running.)

The Princess settles on the ground next to Twilight Sparkle. The unicorn pony cowers, looking even more miserable than before.

"Meet me in the library," is all Celestia says before flapping her massive wings and taking to the air once more.

Slowly, with the grim reluctance of a prisoner being led to execution, Twilight gets to her feet.

"Goodbye, girls. If you care to visit, I'll be in magic kindergarten, back in Canterlot."

And with that, she begins the long, slow trudge back to the town library.

Wait, what?

"Magic kindergarten?" asks Fluttershy.

"Canterlot?" echoes Rainbow Dash, shocked.

Nopony speaks for a moment, until Pinkie Pie wails, "We're never gonna see Twilight again!"

"What're we gonna do, y'all?" asks Applejack, gently patting Pinkie on the back.

Rarity has... well, not an answer, but something to say. "Of all the worst things that could happen, this is the worst possible thing!" On seeing everypony else's expressions, she adds, "What? I really mean it this time!"

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