“... And now Twilight is stuck in her bed for who knows how long!” Rainbow concluded her spirited report. She had flown towards Sweet Apple Acres as soon as she could break away from her duties that day. She had a little more work than usual, as she had promised to cover for somepony else’s shift in return for that raincloud she'd borrowed.
“Ah knew it!” said Applejack. “Those two mean nothin’ but trouble! Yah made sure he won’t be doing anything?”
“Yeah, I arranged something, alright?” Rainbow grinned. “So, how about I borrow a thundercloud next? With one of those babies, I can make them run like rabbits!”
“Nah, there’s no need for that,” said Applejack with a smile. “Mine can crack any minute now. You should’ve seen him this morning, all stiff an' clumsy. He’s still keeping up appearances for mah family, but he won’t last very long!”
“Great!” said Rainbow. She took a look around. “Where is he anyway?”
“Ah put him in front of a wagon and now he’s busy taking the apples I buck down towards the barn.”
Rainbow frowned as she seemed to realise something. “Wait, isn’t it a little risky to let him out of sight like that?”
Applejack waved her hoof at her friends concern. “Nah, as long as he’s working, Ah got a pretty good idea where he’s at. Besides...” She chuckled to herself. “He’s supposed ta run away, isn’t he? And he won’t be doing much running while Ah’m looking over his shoulder.”
Rainbow’s eyes widened. “Wow,” she said. “That’s actually pretty clever.”
“Yah didn’t need ta look so surprised, yah know. Anyhow, at that crawling pace of his, he shouldn’t be back before ten minutes or so. Unless, of course, he already...”
“Why hello there!” a cheery voice shouted from a distance. A smiling Lucky Chance approached the pair with his empty cart. “If it isn’t that dashing rainbow-coloured mare whom I’ve only met once before so I can’t possibly remember her name! How have you been?”
Taken aback by his sudden appearance, Rainbow stumbled for words. “Euuhr, it’s Rainbow Dash. Been doing this and that, you know?”
“Really? How nice,” was Chance’s answer. He turned his attention to the stack of full baskets. “Hey, Applejack, are these all the apples you got for me?”
“Erhm, yeah. Ah didn’t expect yah ta be here so soon, so Ah had a bit of a chat with Rainbow here.” Applejack looked away embarrassed.
“Hey, don’t worry! Happens all the time!” said Chance before emptying a basket into his cart. “But you might want to step up your game a little. Granny wants to fire up the cider presses!”
“The cider presses?” Applejack aped with shock.
“That’s right! ‘Keep them apples coming,’ she told us, so I guess there won’t be any more breaks for today, eh?”
“No, no, of course not,” Applejack mumbled.
“Well, then I’ll be going. Bye, Rainbow Dash, nice to meet you again!” Without waiting for an answer, Chance marched off with his load, leaving behind the two mares with open mouths.
Eventually, Rainbow found her tongue again. “Wait, what just happened?”
“Ah... Ah don’t get it! He could barely stand only this morning!” Applejack exclaimed.
“Well, he seemed pretty eager to me. You sure you don’t want me to get a thundercloud?”
Applejack huffed. “He’s... he’s bluffing! There’s no way he could’ve perked up like that!” Applejack angrily kicked the nearest tree. “Well, Ah’ll show him! Ah’m gonna teach him a thing or two about honest work!” she said as dozens of apples fell around her.
“It’s all starting to make sense now,” said Midnight Watch from his table.
“Well, it better!” Spike replied, trying to hold back his laughter over the way Midnight studied so seriously. “You’ve been mulling over the first three pages for over an hour now!”
Midnight showed him a grin of his own. “You can keep laughing, Spike, but I’ll have the last laugh! Allow me to demonstrate my terrifying progress after only a single hour!”
Midnight closed his eyes in concentration for a few seconds, and by the time he opened them, a small, ice blue aura had appeared around his horn.
“Okay, activating your magic. That’s a start, I suppose,” said Spike, unimpressed.
“Hah! That’s nothing. Watch this!” Midnight stared intensely at My First Spellbook. While his frown grew deeper, another ice blue aura appeared around the book.
Spike whistled with some begrudging respect. “Oooh, a basic enchantment! Not bad.”
“Are you starting to get it now? Well then, for my next trick, I will now turn over the third page of this book, revealing the fourth!” Midnight clenched his teeth with great force and stared at the book. The page seemed to move a little, but not quite enough.
Midnight tried harder. As his concentration grew, sweat drops formed on his forehead, and veins started popping up in his neck. He'd made a very bold claim, and he'd put everything he had into his effort. The page started wiggling, not quite in the right direction.
Finally, with a deafening rip, the page came loose from its base and stood upright for a moment. Midnight let go of the spell, and the page fell next to the book, proudly displaying the curly 4 printed at the bottom.
Spike and Midnight looked upon this scene with silent horror. Eventually, Midnight was the first to regain his senses and started to swipe the page towards its rightful place with his hoof. He then looked at Spike and asked “For the sake of Twilight, can we agree that this never happened?”
He would not get an answer right away, as a soft knocking came from the front door. Midnight reflexively slammed the evidence shut. “Didn’t you put up a sign?” he asked.
“Yeah, I did. ‘Closed due to illness, please do not disturb,” Spike answered as he went to answer the door.
“Well, then who is conceited enough to knock anyway?”
“Oohh, my Spikey-wikey! I came as soon as I heard the news! Isn’t it just horrible?” A white mare stood in the door opening, announcing her presence with loud drama. Midnight put his hoof to his forehead with an exasperated sigh.
“Rarityyyyyyy...” was the only word that Spike could say in greeting.
“Spikey-wikey,” Rarity continued, “could you please let me see Twilight? I just have to check up on her. Pleeeeeaaaaase?” she fluttered her eyelids in her usual manner.
Spike didn’t stand a chance. “I... don’t... yeah, sure. Come...”
“Hey, hey, hold it!” Midnight protested and walked towards the door.
“Oh, if it isn’t the dapper stranger from the other day! How have you been?”
“I almost got eaten by an Ursa Minor,” Midnight flatly stated. He tried hard not to get caught up in her pace.
“Oh my, how very interesting! You have got to tell me all about it one of these days. Sooo, about Twilight...”
“Didn’t you hear that she can’t have any visitors?” Midnight interrupted.
“Why yes,” Rarity said, “but Rainbow asked if I could check up on her anyway. You know, just a little. There’s can’t be harm in that, can it?”
Check up on Twilight or on me? Midnight wondered. “Look, I can assure you that Spike is already taking good care of all the checking once every hour. The doctor explicitly told us not to let anyone visit her while she rests.”
“Oh, of course, of course, I can see you are very dedicated to your task,” Rarity said, as she closed in on Midnight. “But surely you can make an exception, right? Just one small visit from a good friend. Can you do that, hmm? For me?”
Rarity was looking Midnight straight in the eye with those huge, attentive eyes of hers. He wasn’t quite used to so much female attention, and he felt like he was being drowned on the spot. However, he quickly regained his senses. This is no time for swimming, he thought while shaking his head. He had a job to do.
“I’m sorry, but the doctor’s word is final: No visitors until she wakes up on her own. Please come back tomorrow,” Midnight stated.
Rarity did not back off. “I see,” she said. “So, if I were to walk past you anyway, would you actually fight to get between me and my friend?”
“Yes,” said Midnight without thinking. He could slap himself immediately afterwards, as he knew that this wasn’t a particularly sensitive answer.
Surely enough, Rarity jumped backwards with a shocked gasp. “You brute!” she shouted. “How could one be so heartless? To lay a hoof on a sensitive lady, whose only crime was to visit her best friend?”
“Actually, I didn’t...”
“Very well!” said Rarity while turning her back on Midnight. “I shall surrender to your harshness for now. But this isn’t the last you’ve seen of me!” She walked off with a most haughty step.
Midnight closed the door. Spike, who had been watching from the background all lovestruck finally seemed to realise what had just happened. “That didn’t go so well, did it?” he said.
“Good enough for me,” Midnight calmly said as he walked back to his book. He’d help Twilight in any way he can, even if he had to antagonise all of Equestria to do it.
“So, mister, since yah’ve been travelling and all that, yah must have seen some adventure, haven’t yah?” Applebloom asked Chance. They were pulling an empty cart each. Chance had been hesitant to accept the little filly’s help, but gave in once he saw that she had a cart of her own, more appropriate to her size.
“Sure did,” he answered with a grin. “Let me tell you about the time I met a skull kid in the Lost woods. I was travelling along the road, minding my own business, until suddenly holy fruitbaskets, Batman!”
That last part wasn’t part of the story. At least, not that particular story. When Chance and Applebloom reached the hill where Applejack would be harvesting, they were welcomed by a positively huge pile of baskets filled to the brim with apples. From behind the pile, Applejack appeared carrying one last basket that she added to the heap. “Hey there, partner! How do you like them apples?
Chance believed he'd heard a little shortness of breath in her voice, but he had bigger things to worry about at the time. “That’s... quite a lot,” he mumbled.
“What’s the matter?” Applejack asked in a mocking tone. “Afraid yah can’t handle it?”
This time, Chance was sure of what he'd heard. A sparkle appeared in his eye, and his grin returned to his face. “Oh, turning this into a competition, are we? Alright, you’re on! Loser pays for drinks next time we’re in town!” To put some strength to his statement, he spat on his hoof and presented it to Applejack.
Applejack gave this some thought, after which she spat on her own hoof and bumped it against Chance’s. “Deal!” she said.
Chance turned to his little friend. “Applebloom, load up your own cart and go ahead without me, okay?”
“Okay, mister! What are yah gonna do?
“I’m going to get an extra cart, of course!” he said as he galloped away.
“Bring a few extra baskets while yah’re at it!” Applejack shouted after him.
After applying some transparent tape with help from Spike, Midnight went back to his book, with Spike sitting across of him with a book of his own. As he was just about to figure out how to properly direct the target of his telekinesis, his ear seemed to catch something. Before he could figure out what it was, however, it was already gone.
“Spike, did you hear something?” Midnight asked.
Spike thought about it for a second. “Nope, pretty sure I didn't.”
Satisfied in his curiosity, Midnight went back to his book, only to be disturbed once more by a sound he couldn’t quite place.
“Spike, I’m sure I just heard something!”
Spike shrugged. “Eh, you’re imagining things.”
Suddenly, a clear and fast beat came from the front door. Midnight felt the sudden urge to slam his head onto his desk, but he decided against it once he realised his horn might make that exercise a little more painful than required.
Spike opened the door and spoke with the visitor. Midnight could only hear Spike’s half of the conversation, however, as the visitor spoke very softly.
“Oh, hey, Fluttershy! ... Yeah, she’ll be alright... Sorry, no visitors; doctor’s orders.... Oh, hey, thanks! ... Yeah, will do... Bye!” Spike returned holding a large basket covered with a blanket. “That was Fluttershy,” he explained. “She wanted to deliver a few get-well-soon cookies for Twilight.”
Midnight sighed with relief, knowing that the peace wasn’t being disturbed for very long. “Well, that’s very nice of her.”
“Sure is. You want one?"
Midnight thought for a second. “Nah, they’re Twilight’s. I’m sure she’d like it if we saved them for her.”
“Hey, that’s right! I’ll put this on the table, and we’ll guard it with our lives!”
“That’s right, buddy!” Midnight made a little room on his side, so that the basket could be set in the middle of the table, after which Spike went back to his seat. They both quietly read their books. Midnight was a little curious about what Spike was reading, but he was a little afraid to ask.
Midnight heard the sound. The unmistakable sound of a cookie being chewed. He jumped up. “Hey! What did we just talk about?” he shouted, but only after a second of silence, he realised that Spike had done the same. After the guards decided the other was not eating a cookie, they both slumped back into their seats.
Again, they sprung up, and saw once again that neither of them had broken their vow. Midnight felt a little uncomfortable with the situation.
“We are not getting paranoid over a bunch of cookies, are we?” he asked laughingly.
Spike rubbed his chin. “Weeelllllll, they are Fluttershy’s...”
“We are NOT getting paranoid over a bunch of cookies!”
“Okay, okay, easy!” said Spike. “There’s got to be an explanation for this.”
This time, the guards were aware. The sound most definitely came from the basket itself. They gave each other a look and nodded in silent agreement. Without hesitation, Spike pulled away the blanket.
In the middle of the basket sat a small white rabbit, gorging itself on the cookies. When it noticed that it had been discovered, it looked a little startled, but soon the only thing that spoke from its eyes was defiance. It leaped out of the basket, but didn’t count on there being an open book on landing spot. It slipped on the pages, and in that moment of weakness, Midnight snatched the little creature’s ears with his teeth and brought the struggling critter towards the door.
On opening the door, he saw that Fluttershy had already came back. When Fluttershy realized that it was Midnight that opened the door, she seemed to shrink three inches. Midnight threw the rabbit into the open saddlebag Fluttershy was carrying, and gave her an expactant look. All that was required for this whole thing to end was a simple apology, and then he could return to his studies.
The apology never came. Fluttershy knew what she had to say, but seemed a little scared of the strange stallion expressionlessly glaring at her.
Eventually, Midnight gave up. After all, he knew this pony quite well, so he knew what the problem was. He couldn’t let her leave like that either, though. “You can fly, right?” he asked. Fluttershy seemed to shrink even more, and no longer even pretended to look at him, but eventually managed to force a nod. “Look, Twilight is sleeping in her room. If you want, you can watch her through the window. Just don’t go inside or make any noise, okay?”
Fluttershy finally reacted; she straightened her back a little and was now almost looking at Midnight. “Thank you,” she said before flying off, and Midnight was sure he saw a hint of a smile there.
When he closed the door and turned around, he was met by a shocked Spike. “Wow,” said Spike. “That was actually pretty kind of you.”
“You don’t need to sound so surprised. Anyway, could you get me a glass of water? My tongue is about to realise it might have tasted bunny earwax.”
Lucky Chance was walking the trail from the harvesting spot to the cider press for the god-knows-how-manyth time that day. He was pulling two large carts and Applebloom’s minicart, in addition to his full saddle baskets. But soon, it would be done; Granny Smith had told him that this would be the last load. Just one more load and he would have done it. He would have kept the cider presses going, and kept up with Applejack as well. His step slowed down as he thought about it, but there would be no giving up now. He could already see the press where Granny, Applebloom and Big Macintosh were waiting for this final load. Big Macintosh had almost finished with the last of the apples they had left, so they had to be quite eager for more apples by now. Only ten more steps of his front-right leg to go. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Black.
Lucky Chance had no idea for how long he had been out, but when he opened his eyes, Granny Smith and Applejack seemed to be having an argument right on top of him.
“What do you have to say for yahrselves, young lady?”
“Don’t yah ‘but Ah’ me! Ah heard all about this little wager of yours. Yah thought that spurring on some greenhorn would be funny?”
Applejack looked away. “Well...”
“Enough!” Granny cut her off. “There won’t be any apple pie for a long time, young lady!”
Chance weakly raised his hoof. “Erm, I’d appreciate it if I could be part of this discussion.”
As everyone realised that Chance had awakened, the argument stopped. He hastily assured them that he was just fine. Big Macintosh helped Chance to get up. He felt a little dizzy, but could stand anyway.
“Yah had something ta say?” Granny asked after she felt assured of Chance’s condition.
“Yes,” said Chance, taking a deep breath. “I’d like to admit that I had reached my limits long before I suggested the competition to Applejack. I was a little desperate to show my gratitude towards the Apple Family, so I just kept chugging along despite my limitations. That was my fault, and my fault alone, so I should be the one who should be punished, not Applejack.”
Granny gave Chance a stern look while she thought it over. Eventually, she sighed. “Fine. Forget Ah said anything. But yah better keep this in mind, boy: If yah work with the Apple Family, yah’re with the Apple Family. And no relative of mine puts themselves in danger with no good reason, yah got that?”
“Yes, Granny. Thanks!”
“Good. Now get inside, y’all. We’ve got a good day ta celebrate!”
Relieved by this resolution, everyone headed indoors. In their excitement, however, they couldn’t see Applejack lagging behind a little, hanging her head.
Midnight was once again absorbed in his book. He felt that now it was finally the time: this time, he would properly perform the trick that would allow him to turn the page of the book. He readied himself, horn glowing with magic...
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
His horn fizzled out as Midnight groaned in frustration. The groan was soon followed by a chill down his spine; so far, both Rarity and Fluttershy had already visited, and Applejack was supposedly working all day on the farm. So that would mean only one person was left to appear in front of the door.
“We are not at home!” he shouted towards Spike, who was about to open the door.
“But, Midnight, maybe...”
“I could hear you shout ‘We are not at home’ just now!” said the person at the door.
Midnight recognised the voice, and it was certainly not Pinkie Pie. I guess even Rainbow isn’t stupid enough to unleash Pinkie on the library with Twilight in this condition, he thought. More than a little relieved, he stood up. “Let me take it,” he offered. “If she’s going to yell at me, she might as well do it outside.”
Midnight opened the door, and sure enough, there stood the mare he was having so much trouble with earlier this day. “Look, I get that you are upset, but...”
“Oh, what have I done?” Rarity interrupted him.
“Wait, what?” Midnight asked. He certainly didn’t expect this.
“I went to Doctor Stable’s practice just now,” Rarity explained. “and he told me that Twilight can not have any visitors today.”
“Well, yeah, that’s kind of what...”
“But I just kept going! I couldn’t believe that not a small exception for poor little me could be made! Oh, how selfish I was! Can you possibly believe it?”
“S-sort off, I guess, but...”
“So here I’m standing, in front of your door again. What am I supposed to do now?
“Well, you could...”
“Is it too late to ask for forgiveness? Is my misdeed too severe? Oh, what am I going to tell to my poor Opal? What can I...”
“JUST GO AWAY!”
Lucky chance was about to get ready for bed. He'd had a fun evening with the Apple family, for the most part. As he got in the bed, he heard the screaming door, indicating that someone had followed him.
“Ehm, can we talk for a minute?” Applejack asked.
Chance grinned. “Sure, but not too long. This bed is starting to look more tempting by the second.”
Applejack entered, closing the door behind her. “Well, ah was just kind of wondering,” she said while digging at the floor. “Why did you do it?”
“Yah know, go so far. With work. Why did yah do that?”
“Well, I already told Granny, didn’t I? I was feeling so grateful...”
“Don’t give me that!” Applejack snapped. “Yah’ve worked more than yar fair share on the farm. There’s no way yah didn’t get that, so yah didn’t have any tabs open with us. So, why did yah go so far anyway?”
Chance sighed. “Yeah, I suppose that does look weird to you. In fact, just this morning I was just about to complain to you and demand a lighter workload.”
“Granny said she was counting on me. Where I’m from, people think of me as some unreliable bum, and today had been the first time in ages anyone thought I could be counted on. I’m sure you understand why that meant a lot to me.”
Applejack looked away. “Yes... Ah see.”
“Well, that’s only most of it. I was also fired up by that challenge of yours.”
Applejack visibly flinched. “Look, Ah’m sorry...”
“No, no, we’ve been over that.” Chance waved with his hoof. “I was the one who proposed the competition, so the blame lies with me.”
Applejack opened her mouth, but didn’t answer.
“Anyhow, to put the whole thing in short: I felt that I raised your expectations, and I didn’t want to disappoint you all. Does that make sense?”
Applejack nodded. “Yes. Yes, it does.”
Having satisfied her curiosity, Chance let out a mighty yawn. “Well, if that’s all, I’d like to get some sleeping done, if you don’t mind. So, good night!”
“Yeah, good night,” said Applejack as she walked out of the door. “And thanks for today.”
‘Sure, no problem.” Chance grinned. “Anything for the Apple family!”
Applejack walked away without saying anything more, hoping that she wouldn’t ever have to explain why she needed to thank him.
The author should really stop writing stuff after midnight.