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True Colors · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Friendship is Strawberries
“Winter Wrap-Up, Winter Wrap-Up! ‘Cause tomorrow spring is here!” Twilight Sparkle could not help but sing quietly to herself while arranging her desk. Books on the left, fresh sheets of bright white parchment to the right, inkwells lined across the top, and the library window wide open to let the distracting scents and sounds of spring waft across it all. Springtime in Canterlot was so different than here in rural Ponyville, and she wanted to get it all down in a proper friendship report for Princess Celestia.

That meant research! Books on critter care for her times with Fluttershy, agriculture for days spent with Applejack, and baking for Pinkie Pie. (Although Pinkie didn’t really follow recipes. She grabbed them by the taste buds and led them in a parade all over town.)

For a friendship report in the process of production, it was remarkably short. The droning of the beehive made Twilight remember that she wrote better with a cup of warm tea by her side, the rustle of the oak leaves made her reminisce about many spring mornings spent in the back yard of her parents’ house in Canterlot with a stack of books, and a whole list of other distractions had kept her from even putting a dot of ink down. Even Spike was suffering from a bad case of springtime, because she did not hear the sounds of dusting coming from the main library room as she had requested. Instead, she could hear the occasional page being turned directly underneath the library window where there was a comfortable tussock of grass in the warm sunshine, the perfect place for a lazy dragon who wanted to catch up on his comic book reading.

“Morning, Twilight.” Applejack poked her nose around the corner and looked over Twilight Sparkle’s tidy writing desk. “Got a minute?”

“Of course, Applejack.” Twilight put her unblemished quill down and turned to face her friend, which would at least be more productive than her writing this morning. “I read up on the apple tree diseases in the books you recommended, but I haven’t had a chance to—”

“Now hold up.” Applejack shook her head with a growing smile. “Can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but today ain’t a day for working.”

“I understand,” said Twilight with a frustrated huff of breath. “I just can’t seem to write anything this morning.”

“That’s on account of what day it is.” Applejack moved over to Twilight and nudged her toward the door. “Come on out and we’ll show you. And leave all that stuff behind,” she added when Twilight’s notebook and writing supplies took flight behind them in the light glow of magic. “You ain’t gonna need none of that during Springtime Strawberry Season.”

“Strawberries?” Twilight licked her lips and smiled while the glowing quills and notebooks found their way back to the desk. “At the castle, Princess Celestia has most of one greenhouse dedicated to strawberry plants. On the first day of Winter Wrap-Up after the unicorns get done melting all the snow, we all used to go to the kitchen and eat strawberries and ice cream together.” Her smile lost a little bit of its eagerness, and Twilight took a slow breath while Applejack was walking with her down the stairs. “Oh, I forgot. She probably did that weeks ago with Princess Luna.”

“The princesses are probably havin’ a good time up there in Canterlot, catching up on what they’ve missed,” admitted Applejack. “That don’t mean you can’t build some new traditions here in Ponyville.”

“Oh, yes!” Twilight lit up her horn again once they reached the bottom of the stairs and a tin pail floated out of the closet to follow behind them. “I love going shopping with my friends. How many strawberries are we going to buy? I could bring a basket, but… What’s so funny?”

“Nothing.” Applejack finished snickering into a hoof and opened the library door. “Ah sent Spike out to round up the Crusaders, and the rest of our friends will meet us on the way. You’re going to like this, Twi. There’s probably even a friendship lesson in there somewhere.”

Contrary to Twilight Sparkle’s expectations, the place they wound up was certainly not a marketplace. In fact, it looked more like a broad, hilly field.

“Welcome to Strawberry Fields,” said Pinkie Pie, bouncing through the short grass ahead of the group. “Home of the most superdelicious delectable strawberries in all of Equestria.”

“Oh, yea!” Rainbow Dash rubbed her forehooves together. “I’ve been looking forward to this all year.”

“If’n it involves food or cider, you’re always looking forward to something,” said Applejack.

“My little creature friends say the strawberries are really good this year.” Fluttershy bent down and looked under a tuft of grass. “I don’t see any here, though.”

“Or here,” said Rarity, also with her nose to the grassy ground.

“Well, don’t that beat all. There’s wagon tracks here.” Applejack stepped over a pair of shallow ruts with a scowl and continued walking. “Always some city slicker shows up to clean off a patch of the early strawberries and don’t even leave none for the princess.”

“Uh, Applejack?” Twilight had to trot faster to keep up with her friend. “I’m pretty sure Princess Celestia doesn’t get her strawberries from Ponyville. I’ve seen the plants in the greenhouses.”

“Them’s city strawberries,” scoffed Applejack. “They ain’t got a lick on the taste of our country berries.”

“Found one!” declared Rainbow Dash, diving into a distant tuft of grass nose-first.

“There’s a whole bunch over here!” said Pinkie Pie while chewing.

Even Rarity had her head down and was nibbling at something with quiet noises of appreciation, while the Cutie Mark Crusaders had convinced Spike to head off with them to search for strawberries away from the adults. Twilight bent down like the rest of her friends and nosed around the bushy grass, searching for a while before looking up and calling out to Applejack.

“Are you sure there are strawberries here? All I’ve been finding are these little red things.” She levitated up a few of the tiny red berries only to have Rainbow Dash come darting out of the sky and snap them up.

“Pretty good,” she declared before flitting away, calling back over her shoulder, “You probably should pick them without magic.”

“Without magic?” echoed Twilight. “What does that mean? And where are the strawberries, anyway?”

“Those are strawberries, sugarcube.” Applejack moved a tuft of grass to one side and pointed to the broad-leafed plant it exposed. “See? You gotta get in there with your teeth and give ‘em a tug. If they don’t come loose, they ain’t ripe yet and you should pick some other.”

“Those aren’t strawberries,” said Twilight.

She bent over, took one of the bright red specks in her teeth like Applejack had suggested, and tugged. Flavor spread over her lips and tongue, the sun-warmed sweetness of spring that made saliva flood her mouth and cramps lock up the muscles of her jaw so she could not even chew. The tiny aggregate accessory fruit broke up into smallish fragments against her tongue, each bit becoming even tastier than the first bite. All of the memories of her foalhood flooded back, from eating strawberries and ice cream with her family on the back porch to that first time Princess Celestia shared the immense juicy products of the Royal Greenhouses after a brisk day of wrapping up the Canterlot winter. Those berries had been nearly as large as her hoof, but their taste was a weak second to the wild variety. It took Twilight several minutes of chewing and swallowing before she could respond to Applejack, who remained standing by her side with an unabashed smile.

“So,” she said. “Is them strawberries or what?”

Twilight did not answer at once. She was too busy nipping off several more of the ripe red fruits and chewing. “Ther’e good,” she managed after a few more. “N’ver had anything like them before.”

“Really?” Applejack shook her head and began nosing around another clump of grass. “Just remember to leave a couple for the princess afore you move on.”

Twilight Sparkle wanted to object, but she was too busy finding more of the little red flecks of joy. After all, if the Ponyville tradition of Winter Wrap-Up had sounded odd to her Canterlot upbringing, the least she could do was to play along. Certainly the local creatures would appreciate a few of the delicious berries, even though Strawberry Fields seemed to spread out over a lot of territory.

She could see several other colorful ponies out in the hilly field, alone or in pairs, all with their heads down and enjoying the day just as much as Twilight. The rest of the Ponyville residents had spread out for their own berry searching, bright bits of colors scattered out across the green spring grass. Some of them had even quit picking berries, content to sit next to each other in the spring breeze and just enjoy the sunshine.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders had taken Spike up the hill in their search for even riper berries, and between the four of them with their noses down and their rears up, Twilight did not think there were very many ‘princess’ berries being left behind their path.

While picking, Twilight tried to put a few of the strawberries in the pail she was carrying in her magic, but they were all so delicious, and Rainbow Dash seemed to make a game out of snatching the floating berries. After an hour or so of roaming up and down the hills with her friends, swapping stories and calling out when they found a dense group of strawberry plants, Twilight took a peek inside the pail.

Three strawberries.

She looked both ways, made sure she was not being watched, and gobbled them up in one bite, putting the pail on a nearby rock to pick up later. It made the strawberry picking process easier without the distraction, and gave her a few chances to tempt Rainbow Dash with a floating berry before gobbling it up herself, to the laughter of all of her friends.

Sometime in the afternoon, a six-way fun fight started when one of her friends, who was strongly debated, spit an overripe strawberry in the wrong direction. The end result was inevitable and terribly juvenile, but Twilight found herself repeatedly dodging and darting from clump of grass to tussock, searching for the dark redness of a tiny strawberry past the peak of perfection to return fire.

They broke off for a delayed lunch once the game had been called on account of being unable to score hits due to so many reddish blotches on all of the giggling participants. Between Pinkie Pie’s sandwiches and ice cold lemonade, everypony was feeling a little less picky and more chatty, leaving the six of them to sit and talk while relishing their together-time. It seemed like they never got the time to all just get together without there being some sort of world-threatening disaster or big social event.

They talked while watching the sun start to descend and the other Ponyville ponies start to trickle back into town, leaving just the six of them watching the strawberry-smeared Crusaders play with Spike by leaping and jumping across tufts of grass with no indication of tiring.

“We need to do this more often,” said Rarity, delicately touching a napkin to her lips despite having numerous strawberry stains all over her normally clean coat and mane. “Well, not this per se. The first day of strawberry season only happens once a year, after all.”

“You’re right. This is… nice.” Fluttershy shifted positions to free up a wing, and used it to gesture to the sunset-tinted houses of Ponyville. “I mean it’s always nice to spend time with friends, but today is really… nice.”

Pinkie Pie grunted in the affirmative from where she was still lying on her back. Her distended stomach waved back and forth while she rubbed it and licked her lips. “Oh, yeah. Soo many strawberries. Oh, and there’s another one.” Quick as a wink, she wriggled to one side and slurped up another hidden red berry. “But not that one,” she added, squinting at the berry next to it. “We’re saving you for the princess.”

“Worth missing a day of work, ain’t it, Twilight?” Applejack took a moment to look back over her shoulder at where her friend was still trying to find words to respond. “You okay there, sugarcube?”

“I’m wonderful, Applejack. This is just so…”

“Awesome?” asked Rainbow Dash. She popped another strawberry into her mouth and waved at the sunset. “I mean the way the afternoon crew got those high clouds to line up with the sunset. That’s skill right there. And—”

Twilight held a hoof over her friend’s mouth so she could get a word in edgewise. “You’re right, Rainbow Dash. It’s awesome. Thank you all for sharing your special day with me.”

Rainbow Dash polished a berry-splattered hoof on her berry-splattered chest. “Hey, it’s been pretty awesome to spend today with you too. It’s nice to slow down sometime and enjoy the little things in life.”

“Speaking of little things,” said Rarity, “Sweetie Belle and her friends haven’t slowed down yet.” Down the hill, the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Spike were still doing something inscrutable in the way of young ponies (and dragon) that involved a lot of running around and shouting at the top of their lungs. “When we get them all back to the spa for a good scrubbing, they’ll probably splash all the soapy water out of the tub, too. If the rest of you would like to accompany us to the spa for this evening—”

“And I’m out,” declared Rainbow Dash, popping up into the air with a flick of her wings.

“Me too,” said Applejack right after her, although it took her two tries to stand up.

“I really need to get back to my house,” said Fluttershy.

Pinkie bounced to her hooves with no trace of her previous lethargy. “And I need to get the ice cream over to the spa for our party tonight!”

Twilight Sparkle snickered at the change that swept across her friends.

“Ice cream?” asked Rainbow Dash. “What flavors?”

“It’s a seeee-cret,” declared Pinkie Pie while bounding away in the direction of Ponyville.

“Well, I suppose the work will wait until tomorrow,” said Applejack, following along at a slower pace. “Y’all coming?”

“Oh, yes! Come on, girls! And Spike!” called out Fluttershy. “We’re going to have ice cream over at the spa.”

As Twilight followed her friends down the hill and in the direction of Ponyville, she could have flown even without wings. Puting her responsibilities to the side for a while to spend the day with her friends had given her the most amazing floating sensation, a happiness in her heart that could not be kept bottled up. It called for a Friendship Letter at the very least, as a tribute to the wonderful ponies she had met in this crazy but wonderful town.

Over the last few months, she had gotten to know her friends far more than just on the outside. She had laughed with them, cried with them, and now, gotten covered in strawberry bits with them during this most memorable day. It was a side of the Elements of Harmony that could never be captured in a newspaper article or photograph, a togetherness that surpassed all words, and would make the most difficult to write Friendship Letter of Twilight’s life.


For today, she was just going to relish this feeling, right alongside the sticky strawberry stains across most of her coat and the delicious burps that triggered laughter in all of her friends while they walked and joked on their way to the spa. It was so distracting that Twilight forgot all about something until her friends had gotten to the edge of the field and were headed back into Ponyville under the reddish light of the impending sunset.

“Oh, I left my pail!” she said, stopping abruptly and turning around. “Go on to the spa, girls. I’ll be right back.”

“I can get it for you, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash made a quick loop.

“Or you could just leave it there until tomorrow,” said Applejack. “It’s going to be dark soon, and it’s just a pail.”

“No, it will just take me a minute. I know where I left it, so I’ll be back before you know it.” Twilight galloped back up the hill, heading to where the pail had been left. It still took a few minutes of looking around until she found it, but when she went to pick it up, Twilight could hear… laughter?

Sneaking up to the top of the low hill, Twilight Sparkle peeked at the last two ponies she expected to see snacking on the sun-warmed tiny strawberries. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were fairly dancing across the field, diving down on clumps of strawberries and engaging in tickle fights to claim the reddest and most tasty, or chasing each other around with a few overripe berries thrown between them. It seemed to be a familiar but out of practice habit for them, and would have been the first time the two princesses had the opportunity to engage in the juvenile play in centuries. A tension that could have cracked the world was unwinding with every giggle or stolen berry, leaving Twilight transfixed by the sight.

She watched for a time, secure behind a thick tuft of grass with the pail almost forgotten in her teeth, before turning and heading back to Ponyville just as quietly as she could, as not to disturb the elder alicorns and their play. Her smile made it difficult to keep a good grip on the recovered pail, but that was just fine. She fairly danced through the twilit streets, galloping and hopping about like a foal until she reached the spa with its enticing scent of hot water and lilac steam. With a skip and a leap, she jumped into the bath with the rest of her friends, exalting in the way they returned the favor with soapy splashes of their own until all of them had matching wet smiles just like hers.

Once the splashing had calmed down and Applejack had retrieved her hat from the bottom of the spa tub, she asked, “So, Twilight. You gonna write today up as another friendship lesson for Princess Celestia and Princess Luna so they know about Springtime Strawberry Season?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Twilight smiled back just as broadly as she had ever smiled before in her life. “I’m pretty sure they know already.”
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#1 ·
· · >>MLPmatthewl419 >>georg
S1 fanfiction in this year and age? You spoil me, author. I don't know how to feel about the lack of Beatles references, though.

Anyway, this was... Nice. Really nice. Each of the M6 had a little time to shine and we also get some solid character interactions. All in all, a very enterteining and somewhat nostalgic story. It pains me to not have much else to say. I would have liked to know a bit more of the history of the Fields, or more about Twilight's past experiences with strawberries.
#2 ·
· · >>georg

It's been too long since I've read a good S1 fic. And while I echo what >>Zaid Val'Roa said about history, I do not feel it is very important.

Great job, and thank you for participating.
#3 · 2
· · >>georg
An unusual timeframe we have here.

While everything here is great, from the characters' interactions and voices to the pace, I feel it lacks some stakes. We have a complete arc, but this arc isn't that big. That's my main concern with this story, but aside from that, the whole is solid and stands on its own.

I also need to mention how you nicely set the timeframe, without being too blunt, screaming "THIS HAPPENS IN THE PAST!"

So good job for the S1 fic, and thank you for sharing.
#4 · 1
· · >>georg
Well, that was a serious story of serious seriousness.

On the subject of this story's execution, I have nothing but praise. It managed to jump back in time with grace, it has the right atmosphere for Season 1, all the ponies feel in-character for the season, it was well paced, and god-damn, I think I have diabetes now.

However, on the subject of the story's substance, there just isn't much there. It was cute, and warm and fluffy, and that's about it. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but as stories go, this one's scope is pretty unambitious.

Still, ambition isn't everything. If this was on my slate, it would be very near the top of the ones I've read so far.
#5 · 2
· · >>georg
Preface: I had fun and enjoyed my stay in the Strawberry Hill.

Maybe it's just me and my headspace being what it is, but I kept expecting a sudden dark turn. Twilight not recognizing the wild strawberries threw up warning flags in particular. Granted, I know wild and domestic fruits often look very different, but nowhere is it indicated that these wild berries are in any way fundamentally different from the kind she's use to; merely better.

Anyway, once I let go of my expectation of cosmic and/or bodily horror, I really enjoyed everything. Fun, season 1 (good job!) slice of life bit. In particular:
A tension that could have cracked the world was unwinding with every giggle or stolen berry, leaving Twilight transfixed by the sight.

Was a fantastically descriptive line, for me, and really drove home the rebonding that Celestia and Luna doubtlessly had to do (and then do again later, because learning is hard).
#6 · 1
· · >>georg
Awwww. This is a really nice, warm, picturesque little slice of life with big feelings. It's well written and left me with a good feeling. One of my favorites so far. Thank you. :)
#7 ·
· · >>georg
Genre: Season 1

Thoughts: I think the story succeeds in its aim of being a cute and pastoral slice-of-d'aww. It also seems to be evoking feelings of nostalgia from the audience, which makes sense; my perception is that the early-early fandom was a special time the likes of which hasn't been seen since, what with our newfangled Starlight Glimmers and Applejack's Parentses and our MTV.

But I wasn't around for the early fandom; I rolled in during the long lag between seasons 4&5. As such, I can appreciate the feel of those early episodes, but pressing this hard on the nostalgia button doesn't quite do it for me. I recognize that the story is succeeding at its goals in doing so, but it's going all-in on something that doesn't make a strong connection with me, if that makes sense.

The one other thing I want to mention is the recurring thing about saving some berries for the princess. I liked how this was woven in as a thematic/background element; it did a good and interesting job of establishing the expectation that we'd eventually get an explanation. I was slightly disappointed when the explanation ended up being the straightest possible answer to the mystery, though. It was in keeping with the cute-for-cute's-sake tone of the piece--and maybe the fault lies with me for expecting something that this just wasn't. But I dunno, I thought this could've gone bigger in that moment.

With all that said, I'll tier this highly because it really is a strong piece. But at this point the competition in that tier is pretty stiff, and the advantage may go to fics with larger ambitions, even if their execution isn't quite this crisp.

Tier: Strong
#8 · 3
· · >>Not_A_Hat
>>Zaid Val'Roa

By the way, this will go up on Fimfiction within the next week.

Twilight Sparkle has learned many lessons about Friendship in Ponyville. On this beautiful spring day, she learns a very special lesson that she never anticipated.

Friendship is Strawberries placed seventh in the True Colors writeoff, placing just beneath six very good stories that I encourage you to read. It came from a story that has been floating around in the back of my head for years, and is based in my farm upbringing. In spring, my family always used to go to the one pond that had wild strawberries growing all around it (and how they spread there is a mystery) to snarf down as many of the tasty little bits of sugar as we could find. Wild strawberries are far sweeter and tastier than the ones you grow at home, and way better than whatever you find in the stores. Some of that is the outside environment, I suppose. Some of that is who you are with.

Zaid/MLPMatthew: There’s a lot of internal depth in the first few seasons that you don’t get later. Twilight is growing into her position and learning all about the town and her new friends. The winter turtle… um… I mean tortoise episode is a good example. The first time something happens is special. The second or third, not so much.

Fenton/GAPJaxie: That’s what you get with a slice of life episode. No great conflicts, no giant villains. Just strawberries and ice cream. Yum.

Rao: The dark tragedy is the next day when Rarity finds out the strawberry stains do not wash out! Oh, the agony!

WillowWren: Thank you. That’s exactly the state of mind I was looking to promote.

Coffee: Yep, I’m getting better at interweaving threads, and I love disrupting people’s expectations by simply *not* making some wild twist in the middle of the story. By the way, did you notice where I put Trixie?
#9 ·
· · >>georg
I didn't comment on this story when I read it last night, but the line 'first day of strawberry season' had me picturing ponies in camouflage, stalking through the woods in hunt for the wild strawberry, which they would then subdue and drag back to their house to mount on the wall.

Anyways, my theory on why they taste so much better is that there's only so much strawberry flavor to go around, so breeding for larger berries simply dilutes it.
#10 ·
>>Not_A_Hat. My Little Far Side?