"Well? Are you going to touch it?"
"No way I'm touching it! Apple Bloom, you do it!"
"Nuh-uh! Sweetie Belle's the oldest, she should do it!"
"I'm not even a year older than you, that doesn't count!"
"Well, somebody's gotta do it, and it's not gonna be me!"
The Cutie Mark Crusaders stood before the blue box just outside of Ponyville. They had heard stories of the Doctor for weeks now, and they had finally decided to meet the colt himself.
A plan that had already hit a snag.
"Maybe we should just wait until he comes out," Sweetie Belle suggested.
"But that could take hours," Scootaloo groaned. "He could leave without ever coming out!"
Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. "Well, if we're not going to knock, then we should just call him."
The three fillies took deep breaths and yelled in unison: "DOCTOR!! ARE YOU IN THERE?!"
"You know, if you're going to yell at me, you might as well yell at me."
They turned and faced the Doctor, who wore an amused smile on his face and saddlebags full of groceries on his back. "And no, I'm not in there. I was just out shopping to restock my fridge with some of your marvelous fruits. It's brilliant you ponies somehow managed to make pears taste good, and I hate - "
"So, you're really the Doctor?" Scootaloo asked, eyes widening.
The Doctor flashed a grin. "Yep, that's me! And you must be those kids the girls are always talking about that's Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle, right?"
"That's us!" Sweetie confirmed.
"We're the Cutie Mark Crusaders!" Apple Bloom announced, posing with her friends. "We're on a quest to find our cutie marks!"
"Ah yes, those little pictures on your rumps. Funny things, those. The most impossible combination of biology and your own native magic, and you see it as naturally occurring! I've always wanted to find out how they work, but cadavers just won't do for the tests I have in mind, and I'm not too keen on testing live ponies, so "
The Doctor noticed the three fillies looking expectantly at him. After a moment's pause, he sighed.
"Let me guess: you girls want to go in the TARDIS, don't you?"
"Yes!" they said together.
"And you probably also want to travel through time, don't you?"
"And you're not going to leave me alone until I agree, are you?"
"Oh, alright then," the colt said, rolling his eyes, "I suppose there's no way out of it now."
Gasping excitedly, the three fillies high-hooved and chanted, "CUTIE MARK CRUSADER TIME TRAVELLERS! YEAH!"
The Doctor winced. "I swear, you ponies are going to be the death of me."
After watching yet another rendition of the "TARDIS Dance" (his name for the act of walking in the TARDIS for the first time, staring at the interior, walking a lap outside it, walking back in and out any number of times, and finally ending with his favorite sentence in the universe), the Doctor had asked the Cutie Mark Crusaders where and when they wanted to go. They held a short, hushed discussion among themselves (with frequent glances back at him), they gave their best "No-we're-not-planning-anything-why-do-you-ask" smiles and said they wanted to see Ponyville ten years in the future.
They were obviously hiding something, the Doctor knew, but given the generally peaceful disposition of the ponies he had met, he figured there was nothing to worry about.
The fillies took surprisingly well to the TARDIS in motion. Granted, they assumed the normal first-time-companion routine after a few minutes, but at least in Scootaloo's case it was done in excitement rather than fear.
They landed in a Ponyville nearly identical to their own. There were key differences, of course: some buildings were newer and some were older, and there were new faces mingling among the familiar. But what mattered was that it was still Ponyville, and the girls
The girls were gone.
In a panic, the Doctor ran through the town square, looking down every alley and road for the three fillies. But soon, it became clear to him that he may have potentially doomed all of Equestria.
The shop's bell rang as Scootaloo entered. "Hey, Apple Bloom Sweetie Belle! What're you doing here?"
The two mares looked up from their conversation. "Scootaloo!" Sweetie Belle said, rising to hug her childhood friend. "It's been much too long!"
"Sweetie's stoppin' nearby on her tour an' decided to visit," Apple Bloom replied. "We were just about to go find you."
"Guess you're lucky I'm so fast, or we'd have missed each other," Scootaloo laughed. "That reminds me; you done with it yet, Apple Bloom?"
"Sure am!" the earth pony ducked underneath the counter and came back up with a well-loved orange skateboard. "Here you are, good as new or as close as I could get it, anyway. You really ought to get a new one, ya know."
"Are you kidding?" the pegasus scoffed. "I had this thing made from the scooter I had when we were fillies and by you, no less. I'm not giving this thing up until it catches fire while I'm riding it!"
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Sweetie Belle said. "We don't want you on fire in the middle of a show."
"Ah, you worry too much. What's the worst that could happen?"
The three mares turned their heads to the front of the store and saw
themselves. Their younger selves.
"Woah, Sweetie," Young Scootaloo said. "I gotta say, you look good when you're older."
"Are you saying I don't look good now?" the young unicorn asked.
"Do you really want me to answer that?"
Apple Bloom stepped forward. "You're us from the future, right?"
For a moment, the mares were speechless. Sweetie Belle was the first to recover. "Um
"And you've got your cutie marks now, right?" Young Scootaloo leaned to the side to get a better look at her future self's flank, but it was covered by her saddlebag.
"Well, yes. We you get your cutie marks eventually." Future Apple Bloom answered.
"Really? What do they look like?"
"What's our special talents?"
"How do we get them?"
"C'MON, TELL US!!"
The mares shared a look, and Scootaloo cleared her throat. "Well, you see "
The Doctor burst in, gasping for breath as he approached the fillies. "I have been searching all over for you," he said, "asking everyone who would listen and making a complete fool of myself just because you ponies wouldn't stay "
It was at that moment that he realized exactly who was in the room.
"Oh, no. Ooooh, no. Ooooooh, no, no, no, no, no, no. Oh-ho, NOW you've done it! Now you've gone and found your future selves and tried to break one of the most fundamental rules of time travel. Now we'll have to deal with Reapers and ponies are going to die because "
"It's okay, Doc," Future Scootaloo said. "We weren't going to tell them anything."
"What?" said the Doctor.
"WHAT?!" said the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
"Listen, girls," Apple Bloom said, "Finding your special talents is important, but the journey you take getting there is just as important. There'd be nothin' special about it if someone just told you how to find them."
"Besides," Sweetie Belle continued, "You now know that you definitely will get your cutie marks. That's a pretty good discovery, isn't it?"
The fillies thought for a moment. "Ya know
you're right!" Young Apple Bloom said.
"It's not a matter of if we'll get our cutie marks," Young Sweetie Belle said excitedly, "but when we will!"
"Which means we don't have to worry anymore; we'll just keep trying harder!" Scootaloo finished.
The three fillies high-hoofed. "Cutie Mark Crusaders! Yeah!"
"Alright, girls," the Doctor chuckled, "I think your business here is done. Back to the TARDIS, now, and don't touch anything!"
The fillies left, already scheming about what they were going to try once they were back home. The Doctor turned to their future counterparts with a grin. "And you lot already knew this was going to happen, didn't you?"
"Of course we did," Sweetie Belle answered. "It's not like we would forget something like this."
"We've been prepared for this for years," Apple Bloom said, nodding to their saddlebags. "That's why we all wore our bags today to keep us from seeing our flanks."
"That's why I love you ponies, so brilliant!" the Doctor said happily. He turned to leave, but stopped. "Ah
since I might not be around when you do get them, do you think I could
Scootaloo gave him a sly look. "Spoilers, Doc."
Slowly, the colt grinned back. "I've taught you ponies too well."
As the Doctor left, the three mares thought about the days when they were younger. They remembered the adventures they had, the successes and failures, the triumphs and trials. They remembered how many times, even after they had returned from the future, they had felt their quest was hopeless. And finally they remembered the joy they all shared when, at last, they found their destinies.
It would be a while yet for their past selves, they knew, and they would lose their faith many times before the end. But they also knew that when the day did come, it would all have been worth it.