"Jeez, Berry, had enough?" The voice echoed mysteriously through her ears and she turned a bleary gaze towards the speaker. Blinking unevenly, she took another swig of her beer and smiled crookedly.
"Only if you've had enough of your FACE." She slurred, laughing as she wobbled in her chair. Downing her beer, she was just about to order another when two pairs of legs looped under hers, lifting her off the stool like she weighed nothing. Hooves scrabbling on the floor, she managed to kick over an empty stool and scoot a chair aside.
"Come on, Berry Punch. Time to go home." It was her friend, Carrot Top, who usually insisted on coming with Berry to the bar whenever she caught wind of her going out. Smiling, Berry draped her arm over Carrot Top's back, leaning heavily on her as the other pony dropped them at the front door.
"Make sure she eats something after she pukes. I swear, she had like, twelve beers and three shots." He said, shaking his head as the music and chatter died away behind them. Swaggering to and fro, Berry Punch and Carrot Top made it back to Berry's house, fumbling about at the front door before finally swinging inside.
"Gonna... HRK." Carrot Top pushed her face into the kitchen sink just as she heaved the first time, left her there while she fetched water. It was at that moment Berry Punch realized something...
I have a problem... That thought perpetuated all through the stomach-emptying ordeal, into the next morning. Nursing a cup of tea and a vicious headache, she sat on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and generally feeling sorry for herself. A gentle knock at the door made her lift her head slowly.
"It's unlocked..." Carrot Top peeked her head in, saw her friend, and smiled.
"Hey there... Just thought I'd check on you." She said softly, closing the door behind her. "Feeling okay?"
"Ugh, no... I swear, if I ever drink again, it won't be for another year..."
"If I had a bit for every time I heard that..." Carrot Top sighed.
"Nothing. Here, let me refill your tea. You need something to eat, too. I'll make you breakfast before I go to market today." That's right, it was Saturday... Carrot Top usually went to market in the mornings, which kept her busy throughout the night. It was Saturday nights Berry usually was able to drink alone. Somehow, though, the thought didn't seem that appealing to her.
"I don't think... I'm going to the bar tonight." She muttered softly, pulling the blanket around her chill shoulders.
"Really? That's a surprise." Carrot Top vanished into the kitchen, taking the empty cup of tea with her.
Was it really? Jeez... How in the hoof did I get so low? She shivered and sneezed, feeling a cold coming on. Carrot Top returned with a fresh cup of steaming tea, noticing Berry Punch's haggard expression.
"Oofdah, girlie... You need some hair of the dog that bit ya."
"No, please... No more this morning."
"Trust me, it takes the edge off. I'll make ya a Bloody Mare. You won't even taste it." She patted Berry Punch's flank through the blanket with a soft smile.
"Th-thanks, Carrot Top..." She muttered softly, sipping the scalding hot tea carefully. The smell of sizzling eggs and hashbrowns made her move to the table in the kitchen, and she drank the tea and alcohol in equal measure. Feeling marginally better, she and Carrot Top chatted about nonsensical things, how well her garden was doing, if she and Big Mac had gone on another date recently. Carrot Top turned the conversation around with a simple question delivered with a smile over her shoulder.
"What about you? Hearts and Hooves day is around the corner. Got somepony special in mind?" It should have been a simple answer. Berry Punch had always answered questions like them with an off-hoofed 'Nah' or 'Not this year' but what was keeping her from getting someone?
"I-I really don't..." She said, setting her tea cup down. The realization that she had never even thought of anypony else in such a way struck her suddenly. Sure, back in school, she had a crush, but he ended up going off to Trottingham for college, and she had discovered the drink later on that year... Since that time, she had been dominated by alcohol. Not that she minded, she had tons of great memories. Like that one time she had... She had...
"Berry?" Carrot Top asked. "You're crying..." Lifting a hoof to brush at her face, Berry Punch saw it was true. Her hoof glistened with moisture, and she felt her chest shake with the effort of holding back. Unable to handle it anymore, she broke down, collapsing onto the table with a cry of despair.
"I'm hopeless!" She wailed, blubbering helplessly. Carrot Top rubbed her friend's back, trying to comfort her.
"There, there... You just haven't met anyone special is all. Come on, pull yourself together, girl." She nuzzled Berry's neck gently, staying with her until she managed to bring the tears down to a sniffling, quivering sob.
"S-seriously... Who would want to date me anyways?" She whimpered, waving a hoof over her body. "Look at me... Unassuming, plain old Berry Punch..." She sniffed the air tentatively. "And I smell like a bar."
"Probably because you spend all your time in one. Come on, go get yourself a shower, I'll have breakfast ready for you by the time you're done." She slipped off with a prodding push from Carrot Top, urging her down the hall. She slipped into the bathroom and cranked the water on hot, losing herself in the steam and her thoughts. She didn't cry again, but the clenching feeling of lonliness grasped her heart and wouldn't let go very easily. Still, the hot water and soft soap left her feeling a lot better for the hangover, and when she toweled off, her body felt refreshed and renewed, if still a little slow. When she returned to the kitchen, however, all that was left was a hastily scrawled note and breakfast.
'Had to go to market, will be back to check on you tomorrow. Behave!' the last word was written bigger and bolder than the others, and she smiled at that. At least she had Carrot Top, who was always a good friend to her... She ate her breakfast and curled up on the couch with another cup of tea, thinking long and hard about who she was going to ask to Hearts and Hooves day...
"Nothing! I swear, no one comes to mind! Not a single one!" She slapped the table with a hoof, making the plates clatter slightly. In the din of music and chatter, it went seldom noticed by anypony aside from her and Carrot Top.
"Really? You have got to be kidding. What about that one pony, eer... What was his name..." Carrot Top gestured with a hoof, trying to conjure up a memory. "You know, his mark is an hourglass?"
"Naaw, he ain't my type." Berry Punch grunted and threw back another swig of beer. She was drinking carefully today, making sure to take it easy. Carrot Top had to be helping, she saw her whisper to the waiter more than once.
"Well, there has to be SOMEpony in town who will go out with you." She said, looking out over the gathered bodies in the bar. "What about him?" She pointed to a stocky colt sitting alone at the bar, nursing a whiskey.
"Eew! Just... EEW! No!" They laughed and ate the greasy bar food for a little before setting on some other topic of conversation. Stomachs full and drinks in hand, they took two seats at the bar, chatting loudly about an embarrassing moment Carrot Top had had at the market last week.
"And just when I went to pick it up, we-"
"Excuse me, ladies." Carrot top was interrupted, both her and Berry Punch looking up. "Can I get you anything to drink?" The pale yellow mare was actually quite beautiful... She had a long, well-kept mane of aqua blue, and her mark was that of three raindrops.
"Wh... Where's Lush?" Berry asked, inquiring about the usual bartender.
"He got sacked. Turns out he was taking money from the register or something like that. I dunno. I just started. Name's Raindrops. You name it, I can mix it!" She smiled and laid a hoof on the bar, leaning in close. "Seriously, ask me anything." She ruffled her wings. A pegasus. Smiling, Berry Punch decided she had better test the new bartender.
"Make me a Manehattan." Raindrops just smiled and slipped off, busying herself.
"Berry, I don't think you should-"
"Just one drink. I wanna see if the new blood can handle herself." Berry said.
"You've had three beers already. You know what they say... 'Liquor before beer, you're in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker.' Just take it easy, okay?" Carrot Top finished her second beer, casting a worried glance at Berry Punch.
"I'll be fine. This'll be my last drink tonight. Though I might settle for one more beer after this one." Just as soon as she turned to look at the new bartender, a martini made it's way to the bar before her. She blinked down at it.
"Manehattan. This one's on the house." She curled her lips into a devilish smile, winking just as Berry took the first tentative sip. No way she could have banged one of these out so fast. She swirled the drink around her tongue before swallowing with a look of disbelief on her face.
"No way. This is probably the best Manehattan I've ever had. Like, ever... how in the hoof did you make one so quickly?" Raindrop just gave her a sly wink.
"A gentlecolt never asks, and a mare never tells. Come on, let's get another." She clapped a hoof onto the bar, leaning in as Carrot Top ordered a drink.
"Got it! Fuzzy Flank, comin' right up!" She trotted off and started building the drink, pouring two or even three liquids in at the same time. Berry took another sip as she watched her work. admiring both talent and grace in equal measure. "On the house as well. Name's Raindrops, don't forget!" She left the drink in front of Carrot Top and went off to take another order, plopping four beers onto the bar for a group of farmers coming in after a long day out.
"Look at you." Carrot Top said, nudging Berry Punch suggestively.
"What?" She asked, tearing her eyes away from Rain Drop as she worked.
"I never figured you for the type to go after other mares."
"WHAT?!" She glanced around furtively, leaning in close to Carrot Top. "Where did you get THAT idea?" She whispered fearfully.
"You fancy her." Carrot Top gestured with her drink, which was obviously tasty, if she could drink half of it that fast. Or had she really been looking at the bartender for that long? "I've never seen you stare so intensely at somepony for so long." Biting her lip, Berry Punch glanced back at Raindrops before leaning in closer.
"Is it obvious?" She asked softly, almost afraid of the answer.
"Well, to anypony else, no. But I've known you since we went to school together. To me, it's plain as day. Come on, now. Do you really fancy her?" She asked. Berry gnawed on her lip before hanging her head with a slightly ashamed nod. She was never one to think somepony could take themselves by surprise. Obviously, she was wrong.
"Yeah, kinda... Actually..." She admitted. "I dunno, something about her... Just... I dunno." She sipped at her drink, afraid to look back at Raindrops, who was busy swapping out an empty keg with a full one. "I need another drink." She muttered.
"Not here, you don't. Look at you, flustered over being called out. Come on, let's take a handle home tonight. Lucky for you I don't have anything going on tomorrow, so I can stay over. That's alright, isn't it?" Berry nodded and finished her martini before slipping off the stool.
"Yeah, come on... Let's just... Let's go." She slapped down twenty bits, more than enough to pay for the drinks, food, and an exremely hearty tip.
"Hey, isn't this too-"
"Come on!" Berry Punch grabbed Carrot Top's foreleg and dragged her out of the bar, walking fast with her head down.
"Jeez, calm down..." Carrot Top pulled her arm away and trotting to catch up. "Not like it's that big a deal or anything... Hey, slow down! Liquor store isn't even close closing yet!
"I REALLY need a drink." She was blushing furiously as they swept into the liquor store. The sanitary linolieum tiles gleamed as she grabbed a bottle of vodka and set it on the counter.
"Four bits." She pushed them across the counter and took the bottle, walking as quick as she dared.
"No mixer?" Carrot Top asked.
"I've got it at home." She was suddenly feeling very rushed, for some reason Berry Punch couldn't describe. She left the store and trotted home, Carrot Top keeping pace with a worried look. They pushed through the front door, Berry Punch shutting it behind Carrot Top firmly.
"What has gotten into you?" She asked, looking at Berry Punch with a concerned draw to her brow.
"I'minlovewithanothermare." Berry Punch sputtered quickly, breathing heavy from the exertion and embarrassment.
"I'm... I'm in love with another mare!" She said hurriedly, flushing even brighter. Carrot Top blinked.
"And?" Berry Punch looked up, her mouth wide open.
"Wh... Wha- how... How are you taking this so well?!" She put her hooves on Carrot Top's shoulders, shaking her friend. "I just confessed to you I'm a lesbian! Or at least bi, hell, I don't know! How are you okay with this?!"
"Who isn't?" Carrot Top shrugged the hooves off her shoulders and grabbed the vodka. "I mean... Lots of ponies these days are. Can't blame them, either..." She twisted the cap off and took a small swig, grimacing. "Where's that mixer..." She padded off into the kitchen, leaving a dumbfounded Berry Punch on the threshold. They both settled in at the kitchen table, a heavy mix of vodka and orange juice before them.
"I mean, is it really okay?" She kind of felt bad for not really knowing the sexual norm of Ponyville citizens these days... Damn it to the hoof, she was around it enough. Too bad all her memories of seeing other couples, straight or not, were so damn fuzzy and hard-to-grasp.
"Of course it is. I mean, so am I." Carrot Top was talking about this whole thing like it wasn't a big deal! What the hay!
"How can you be so calm?" Berry Punch asked.
"It really isn't that big of a deal, hon. You're blowing this way out of propotion." Grimacing, Berry Punch stared at her drink, swirling the contents around her glass with a frown. "I'm more surprised you weren't up until now." Carrot Top just got a glare in return. "What? Honestly, I thought you were into other mares from the start. Why else did you think I've been friends with you for so long?"
"Well what about you and your dates with Big Mac?" She asked.
"Pfft. No more of a date than just taking a walk. Big guy's so big and shy, doesn't say a word aside from 'eeyup' or 'nope' all night. I gave up on him a while ago. We're more friends than anything, now." Carrot Top flushed a little more, either from the drink or memory, Berry Punch couldn't tell. "I dunno how to put it... Some mares just know better how to please you than a colt. This one time with-"
"DON'T WANNA HEAR IT!" Berry Punch wheeled away and started pacing in the kitchen, shaking her head as Carrot Top burst out laughing. Well, she sort of did, but not from her one friend. Even now, thinking of Carrot Top as anything else seemed wrong. But somehow, the entrancing Raindrops didn't... Frowning slightly, Berry punch swiped her drink off the table and downed it, crunching an ice cube before refilling.
"Don't tell me you've never-"
"Not with anypony." She said, almost tossing the vodka back in the freezer.
"Not yet." She plopped back down in the seat tiredly. Carrot Top sobered slightly with a few more chuckles.
"That's a surprise. I honestly thought you'd done it with your friend from High School... What was her name again?" Berry Punch remembered a vague pony from her High School days, a good friend who had been there through thick and thin. But that was years ago... She strained to remember a face, a name, anything... She was starting to get frustrated. The only ponies she seemed to recall from the recent years were Carrot Top, the bartender Lush, and a few select drinking buddies. Of them all, Carrot Top was the most prominent, having been the pony to carry her home and take care of her.
"Hell, I don't remember..."
"Aah, no big deal. Come on, another drink." Carrot Top was obviously feeling it, her speech getting slightly more and more slurred as the night went on. The two of them burned it down, sharing the bottle, and she was almost certain a few kisses. Apparently Carrot Top learning she was eligible and interested in other mares was an open invitation. She couldn't say she hated them, just that the next morning, she didn't remember any of them. She woke the next morning feeling warm and fuzzy, her head only slightly foggy. When she rolled over, however, it all changed. Carrot Top shared her bed, breathing heavy and even. When she felt Berry waking up, though, she came out of it, smiling at her.
"Mornin'." She said offhandedly, smiling at Berry Punch.
"G-good... We didn't, did we?" Berry Punch had to ask. Carrot Top blinked, then furrowed her brow trying to remember. She always had a better memory than Berry did.
"No... I mean, I think we kissed a few times, but by the time you passed out, I didn't want to go downstairs to the couch. Just kinda curled up here." Noting the visible sigh of relief from Berry Punch, Carrot Top just grinned and kissed her friend's cheek. "Woulda been nice, though." Laughing at the glare, she slipped out. "I'm gonna go home for a shower. Want me to come back over?" She asked, shaking her mane out. Berry Punch shrugged as she rolled out of bed.
"If you want, I guess... I'm just gonna stay home today."
"I should probably catch up around the house and take care of the garden... I'll see you Friday?"
"Yeah, see you."
"What?" Berry Punch looked up right as Carrot Top stepped forward, pressing her lips firmly to Berry Punch's.
"Mff!" Carrot Top stepped into it more, sealing their lips together. In the early-morning fog and conflicted emotions about mares in general, Berry Punch could do little else than stand there, her knees steadily growing weak. Carrot Top's scent filled her nostrils, which were flared anyways. She inhaled deeply, her eyes slowly fluttering closed. The soft feel of the pair of lips against hers made her shiver slightly, afraid of what this meant, afraid for it to end... Quick as it had begun, it was over, Carrot Top just smilling at her huffy expression.
"Now imagine that was Raindrop-"
"OH GET OUT!" Berry Punch cried, exasperated as she tossed a pillow at her fleeing friend. Once the door shut downstairs, she flopped onto her bed, groaning inwardly. Left alone to her thoughts, she rolled over into the blankets and lay there for a long time. How much am I smitten with her? Should I go talk to her? What should I do? These questions and more plagued her mind that day, throughout the shower, making breakfast, cleaning up... Before she knew it, it was almost eleven at night. She had been obsessively scrubbing the kitchen sink clean. Tsking, she tossed the sponge aside and rinsed out the suds before going to bed. Friday, she decided, she would go back... The thought made her both happy and fearful at the same time...
"Ask her already! How hard can it be?!" Carrot Top nudged Berry Punch with her shoulder, urging her on.
"I can't! I swear, one drink isn't enough to get me THAT loose." Blushing slightly, Lily ducked her head down as Raindrops swept past, delivering a drink to another patron. The bar was unnaturally busy that night, they had been lucky to swipe two seats as another couple left.
"So get another drink! Means you still have to ask her." By Celestia, Carrot Top knew how to grin like a demon when she had to. Berry Punch glared at her, but that look quickly shifted into fear as she called out to Raindrops.
"Bathroom!" She gasped, slipping off her stool with an embarrassed flush. She heard Carrot Top order two drinks for them, groaning softly as she pushed into the mare's room. She returned to a couple of drinks, Carrot Top already a ways through her own. Picking hers up as she slipped back onto the stool, something caught her eye, though... It was a note scrawled on the napkin.
Off at 2. Nightcap? Your place. She looked over at Carrot Top, who was hurriedly swigging her drink down.
"Don't tell me..."
"I gotta go, need to get ready for Market tomorrow."
"Don't do this to me..."
"Lots of stuff to prepare."
"I'm not ready."
"Haven't even pulled the radishes yet... Sheesh." Carrot top clinked down her share of the tab and slipped off. "Oh. And good luck!"
"You bitch." Berry Punch turned back to her drink with an even deeper blush, feeling a gaze on the back of her neck. She looked up at Raindrops, smiling softly down at her.
"Well?" Berry Punch couldn't bring herself to say anything. Raindrops, instead, took the empty glass leftover from Carrot Top and shot Berry Punch a sly wink as she slipped away. Her cheeks had to be glowing red-hot from the heat she was radiating, the flush almost burning her muscles. She turned the napkin around and around, reading the note over and again. To her fortune, there was a pen laying nearby, almost certainly left over from the note written before her. She hastily scrawled her reply on the back side of the napkin and left it with the payment at the bar.
122 Hoofington LN
She spent the remainder of the two hours left pacing worriedly, taking a shot of rum to ease the edge on her nerves. Feeling a lot more warm and only slightly less nervous, she answered the knock at the door shortly after 2.
"Heya, Raindrops." She said, welcoming the Pegasus into her house. She carried a six-pack of wine coolers, smiling as she set them down.
"Berry Punch, right? I bet you don't remember me."
"You mean from the bar? I just saw you, like, three hours ago..."
"No, silly filly! Here, I bet this helps." Raising a hoof, she scooped her hair back into a high ponytail, and the image suddenly struck in her mind.
"Oh my... From High School!" realization suddenly flooded Berry Punch's memories, Raindrops' face sticking in with that void of a friend she couldn't remember. The two embraced, laughing at the happenstance.
"Carrot Top actually reminded me. I gotta say, when I saw you two last week, I couldn't even remember." Raindrops smiled and offered her a wine cooler, popping the top and taking a swig. "Hell, with all I drank through college, I'm not surprised." Chuckling, she and Berry Punch sat on the couch, and proceeded to catch up. Raindrops told Berry Punch stories from her college days, recounting wild frat parties and lost loves, while Berry Punch listened intently. So many lost memories of hers were flooding back, from childish pranks to drama and everything inbetween.
"Did you ever make it with what's-his-face?" Berry Punch asked, finishing her second wine cooler, feeling pretty well toasted by now.
"Who? Filthy Rich? Naah... He kind of turned out to be a snob in the end. What about you? You were head-over-hooves for Hoity Toity way back when. He ended up moving to Canterlot, too..." Berry Punched waved a hoof drunkenly.
"After he took off, I kinda forgot about him. Was it really Hoity Toity? Wow, I'm way out of it..." She sighed and accepted the third and final wine cooler, clinking her bottle with Raindrops' before drinking nice and long.
"So, what about now? I mean, Hearts and Hooves day is next week. I was gonna ask if you had somepony..." Now it was Raindrops' turn to blush. Berry Punch returned with a soft blush of her own.
"I haven't had anypony for a long, long time..." She muttered, suddenly feeling a little downtrodden.
"Tell me about it... Ever since I moved back to Ponyville, I haven't found anypony worth it." She was so thankful the topic of conversation had changed... Still, her words echoed in Berry Punch's ears... Blushing slightly, she couldn't help but ask the question that had been plaguing her mind for the past few torturous hours.
"Would you... I mean... D'you... Wanna spend Hearts and Hooves day with me?" Silence reigned. Raindrops swirled her drink around her bottle slowly. Berry Punch couldn't bring herself to look at her guest.
"One condition." Raindrops said, finishing her third wine cooler. She set the bottle with the others on the floor as Berry Punch looked up. "I leave here with a kiss." Those words made her heart jump. It hammered against her ribcage now, her breathing suddenly a lot more shallow than it should have been. If she was drunk, it didn't feel like it anymore. Everything seemed to snap into sudden, sharp contrast as she fought with the words to say. Then it became clear as day. What she had to do. Slowly, she leaned across the couch, eyes closed. Apparently, Raindrops was much of the same mind.
Their lips met smoothly, not rough like when Carrot Top had kissed her the other day... It was a gentle, sweet touch... The kind that warmed Berry Punch more thoroughly than a hot shower. She whimpered into the lips pressed against hers, one hoof rising to cup her cheek softly. She felt the pegasus wings wrap around her, drawing her into a sweet embrace. The soft scent of alcohol and rain water filled her nose, made her inhale more deeply. She felt herself lose track of time and space as Raindrops' tongue brushed her lips, almost as if asking entrance... Who was she to deny it? Her mouth opened, their tongues met, and she melted into the embrace. Just as soon as she felt herself growing more and more heated, it ended. Blinking, she looked across at Raindrops, who had a sly smile and a soft blush on her cheeks.
"Save it for later, lovergirl." She teased, kissing Berry Punch's neck softly before slipping away. The burning feel of that kiss stayed with her as Raindrops opened the door. "I'll see you next week, then. Ta." And she was gone... A chill breeze blew in the front door, and Berry Punch suddenly felt so cold... Getting up, she shut the door, the memory of the warm kiss still fresh in her mind. Deciding she had had enough, she skipped the remainder of the last wine cooler and went to bed.
"So? How did it go?" Carrot Top whispered softly, leaning close to Berry Punch. She flushed and turned her head away.
"I don't wanna talk about it."
"Your cheeks say other wise. Look at you, blushing like a bride! Ooh, details, deatils, girl! Tell me about it!" The bar was slow that night, next to nopony there that late. It was a Sunday, the end of the week. Though for Carrot Top and Berry, who made their living during Market on Saturdays, it might as well have been the weekend. Berry Punch sipped her Bloody Mare and grimaced.
"I said I don't wanna talk about it." She repeated softly.
"Oh come ON... Don't tell me you struck out?"
"No, not that..."
"So did it..." Carrot Top gasped as if realizing something, leaning close as a few glances were shot their way. "Don't tell me you popped your cherry!"
"NO!" Berry Punch felt her cheeks heat even more as she whirled on her friend, drawing curious looks. She ducked her head down and glared at Carrot Top, who was struggling to keep from laughing. "Look, we... We just kissed, alright?"
"So you struck out."
"No..." Berry Punch sighed. "I got her to agree to spend Hearts and Hooves day with me."
"So why do you look so sad?"
"I... I don't know if I should feel this strongly for her just yet." She dropped her voice as the mare in question walked up with a smile.
"Hey Carrot Top, Berry. Can I getchya anything?" She winked at Carrot Top slyly, who took a few long, awkward moments to look between the two of them.
"Pictures, for one." She said with a sly smile.
"I'm down." Raindrops hopped over the bar and draped a hoof over Berry's shoulder, cutting her off. Berry could only blush brighter as she stammered, trying to wriggle out from underneath the leg across her back. Raindrops just pulled her lips around into another hot, passionate kiss, just as Carrot Top snapped a picture.
"Hmm. Just as good as last night." Raindrops teased, smiling deviously as Carrot Top fought to keep from falling off her stool with laughter.
"Shut up, you." Berry swiped a hoof at Carrot Top's shoulder, leaning in to Raindrops gently. "Did you think of what you wanted to do for Hearts and Hooves day?" She asked quietly.
"Nothing special... If you don't mind."
"No, that's fine.... So, what, just hang out?"
"Sure. We'll drink, catch up some more... Kiss." Another sly smile that made Berry Punch shiver, and she shot a glare at Carrot Top, who was looking at both of them suggestively.
"S-sounds good..." Berry Punch whimpered, sneaking a quick kiss before Raindrops went off to refill beers.
"Soooooooo..." Carrot Top leaned in close to a flushing Berry Punch.
"Last night, eh?"
"I said shut up."
"Come on, tell me about it!"
"I told you, we just kissed... I guess I owe you, though." She whimpered, hanging her head. "I'd never have remembered her if you hadn't..."
"Damn straight you owe me." She teased, finishing Berry's drink quickly. "Spicy. Anywho, what are you two doing, then?"
"Nothing, really..." Berry wasn't even sad to see her drink go. She wanted to remember today, embarrassing moments aside. "Just going to hang out and catch up... It's been so long, and we didn't get much of a chance last night. She took off right after that kiss." The memory made her sigh, leaning her cheek on her hoof as she put a leg on the bar. Carrot Top mimiced her from the other side, grinning stupidly.
"You think you're gonna get laid?" What normally would have made Berry Punch sock her friend and blush furiously just made her shoot a playful glare at her.
"Perhaps... I doubt it. We hardly re-connected... Not to mention I've never done it with anypony else." She sighed and smiled at her newfound girlfriend, working hard at the other end of the bar. "Though it wouldn't be the worse thing ever..."
The big day arrived shortly after the beginning of next week. Grapes, Berry Punch's main stock, weren't in season just yet. She made her money selling them late-spring, early-summer, and spent the rest of her time drinking. Carrot Top, however, was busy that Saturday. Thankfully. She couldn't bother Berry Punch on the day she'd been looking forward to so much. She followed the directions to the address given to her, a house just on the other side of the bar from where she lived. When she knocked on the front door, it opened almost immediately, Raindrops looking just as stunning as ever. She welcomed Berry Punch inside, taking the handle of vodka and a bottle of soda from her.
"Glad you found this place. I was starting to worry."
"Fashionably late, as always." Berry Punch smiled and leaned in for a soft kiss, which Raindrops gladly gave her. They started drinking right away, sitting side-by-side on Raindrops' couch, talking a laughing as they slowly warmed up and the sun began to fall.
"Whoo... Feeling it tonight. I can't keep up with you, Berry." Raindrops muttered, swirling her drink around slowly. It was only her fourth.
"What, think you've had enough?" Berry asked, finishing off her fifth glass of soda and vodka mixed.
"Probably..." Berry Punch smiled and took the glass from her, tossing it back like a pro.
"Then quit, ya sissy." She teased, feeling warm and loose, just a bit tipsy. Lauging, Raindrops kissed her deeply, wrapping a hoof around her gently. Berry Punch leaned into the kiss heavily, groaning as she returned the embrace.
"Berry." Raindrops whimpered inbetween kisses. "I don't..." They broke apart slowly, Berry fearing the worst from just those two words. She heard anything from 'Don't want to go farther' to 'Don't love you' and everywhere inbetween. Instead, Raindrops caught her by surprise. "I don't want to be alone tonight... Please, could you sleep over?" She almost sighed in relief. Nodding, she nuzzled into Raindrops' mane, inhaling the clear scent deeply.
"You only had to ask." She said softly, pressing close. Raindrops gently stood up, both of them stumbling a little as they made their way back to the bedroom. Before she knew it, Berry Punch and Raindrops were beneath the covers, kissing heatedly... A hoof on her chest, though, stopped her.
"Please..." Raindrops whimpered. "N-not... Not when we're drunk? I... I wanna remember my first time." Berry sighed and started to leave, to go to the couch, but Raindrops pulled her tight. "I didn't mean leave, silly... Just... Lay with me? Please?" That soft, whimpering tone of hers made Berry Punch's eyes close, her body relax against the warm embrace.
"I love you, Raindrops..." She whispered softly, closing her eyes and resting her back into Raindrops' hold... The words that whispered into her ear carried her off into the night.
"I love you too, Berry Punch..."
---------- Notes from the Author ----------
I wrote this as a request to ImJustAnotherBrony, but I rather enjoyed it. This pairing works extremely well, and after just a little research, damn near wrote itself. I feel Carrot Top as the sexy, devious, but well-meaning friend lent quite a bit of depth to a rather dry and somewhat difficult-to-write ship. I normally write clop, so staying away from that was a little difficult as well. Still, I think it all came together well in the end. I hope you enjoyed reading it ^.^
While this was originally supposed to be a one-shot, I've decided to make it as close to full-length as I can. I'm writing the second chapter now, with at least one more to follow after that, perhaps more if I can see the story going where it's headed in my mind. In addition, Her name isn't "Rain Drop" it's "Raindrops" so I've gone through and fixed that. My apologies for the clerical error :P
Caught a few more grammatical errors throughout, missing a "T" in one bottle, and a mention of "Nobody" instead of "Nopony" so I apologize for the sloppy editing, in addition to the lateness of this one. Anywho, thanks to everyone for the read ^.^
A fuzzy memory arose through the haze as Berry Punch squirmed underneath the warm covers. She smiled and nuzzled closer to the warmth pressed against her back, felt it nuzzle closer in return. This is nice, She thought. Normally, she woke from sleep feeling bleary and hung-over, or sometimes still dizzy from a late nightcap. Not so this morning. I know I drank last night, and I know it was a lot... Still, much like everything from her recent past, she found it difficult to focus on any one thing. Sighing softly, she was instead content to merely float along on a cloud of warmth and comfort, that is, until a foreleg wrapped around her from behind.
"Hmm..." She muttered, smacking dry lips. That's odd, who could possibly be holding me? The leg tightened, drawing her tighter against the furry warmth... She squirmed slightly, but was loathe to open her eyes and see who she was sleeping next to. Somepony warm, that's as much as I can tell... Rather than fight it, she tried to doze off, feeling the dark tendrils of sleep wrap around her mind once more. Sadly, a soft nuzzle into her mane kept her from slipping off completely. The hoof wrapped around her started making lazy circles on her chest, which now felt tight. There was pressure from a pair of lips, and she felt her eyes blink open slowly.
"Heyy..." She muttered, groaning softly.
"Good morning, sleepyhead." Female... That voice, it was feminine... Okay, I'm awake now! Rolling over, she looked straight into the eyes of none other than Raindrops, the new bartender from her favorite watering hole. She fought a throaty groan, but couldn't win.
"Did... Did we...?" Raindrops' face furrowed into a slight frown.
"You... Don't remember?"
"Just... Just tell me, did we b-"
"No." Raindrops sat up and slipped off the bed, shaking her frumpy mane out. "No we didn't. I wonder what else you don't remember from last night..." She clomped to a nearby vanity, the pegasus started brushing her mane out, returning it to some semblance of it's graceful fall around her neck.
"I-I'm sorry..." Berry Punch whimpered, suddenly feeling very embarassed.
"What else don't you remember, hmm?" Raindrops looked at her reflection in the mirror, fighting with one stray strand of her bangs. "Or do you remember anything? Anything at all?" Berry Punch nibbled her lower lip, trying hard to remember what had transpired the night before... It was Hearts and Hooves day... She had been trying to spend some time with the bartender... Oh no, she couldn't remember anything else!
"I... I remember a kiss..." She offered weakly. Raindrops just dropped the brush on the vanity and turned to her.
"I think you should leave." She said softly. "Next time you try to be all lovey and coming on like that, you should think about being sober for it."
"Hey, I-" Those words cut her deep, but the look from Raindrops stopped her. She shut her mouth and fought back tears as she slid out of the warm bed. "I'm sorry..." She whimpered softly, leaving the room with her head hanging low. Raindrops unceremoniously shut the door behind her, leaving a very sad and very cold Berry Punch on the threshold of depression. Slowly, she made her way home, passing dark doorways and closed businesses. There was nopony else on the road... They were all probably still snuggled up close to their own somepony special, making breakfast for their families... Leaving poor, drunk, hopless Berry Punch alone to her thoughts, just like every other Hearts and Hooves day, just like every other year of her pathetic, miserable life... Why, then, did this one hurt so much more than every other one? A trail of wet drops in the dirt marked her trail back to an empty, cold home...
"Hey, Berry Punch! Fancy meeting you here!" The teasing voice of Carrot Top rang out through her pounding head. Why is my head pounding, again? Have I been drinking? She opened her eyes unevenly, noting the rather messy stand of beer bottles surrounding her spot at the kitchen table. "Jeez! Somepony's been hitting it REAL hard, huhn?" She winced at the noise, like she was getting pelted with hail.
"Shaddup..." She moaned, taking another swig. The bottle spilled a little onto her coat, and was quickly taken from her. She stared blankly at empty hooves before turning slow eyes upon Carrot Top's blurry outline. "Heyy... Giff it back..." She muttered.
"Berry, I haven't seen you in a week. Have you REALLY been drinking this entire time?" The words echoed around her head, ringing in her sensitive ears, setting her on edge. She slowly sank her head back down to the table, feeling worse and worse as the seconds passed. "Oh my Celestia... You're really not doing good, girl... Come on, let's get you to the hospital..." She felt herself slowly being lifted. The motion dreged up her stomach, the contents quickly emptying onto the table. Quickly fading, she fell into the puddle, her last sight that of Carrot Top scrambling with the phone.
She fell. Hard. Fuzzy memories came and went, and now and then, a blinding lance of white-hot pain shot through her head. Lost track of time, spent curled up and shivering in her dark delierium, Berry Punch only slowly noted the world had stopped spinning around her. Bloodshot eyes finally opening, she managed to get a blurry picture of the room around her. White... Too white... she managed to think, blinking unevenly. She raised a hoof to her face, felt a pressure, looked down and saw the needle.
"Huhn?" She followed the trail up to a bottle of clear liquid hanging on a hook above her, saw a nurse taking notes.
"You're up! Oh good, we can rule out a Diabetic Coma... Miss Punch, I'll go get the doctor..." The nurse left, slipping the clipboard into a holder at the bottom of the bed. She returned a few minutes later with a doctor in tow, his red cutie-mark in the shape of a cross. It reminded Berry Punch of blood, and she felt her stomach churn.
"Oop, here ya go." A bin was shoved under her muzzle as she dry heaved, spitting up mostly phlegm and saliva. Coughing a few times, she laid back, groaning softly. "We almost lost you, Berry Punch. You really need to learn to take it easy. You're obviously in no shape to go home, so you're going to stay here for a few more days while we monitor your insulin levels. Your liver may have been heavily damaged. When they brought you in, your BAC was .229. Almost triple what a normal drunkeness would feel like. We need to make sure you won't suffer from this." All of it just floated through her head. She groaned and rubbed her face with the leg that wasn't pricked with a needle. "And you're suffering from dehydration. We'll get some fluids in you, get you up to stretch your muscles, and get you home in a few days. Relax, Miss Punch. And thank your friends for their help."
"Friends?" She muttered.
"Miss Carrot Top and a rather charming yellow mare that didn't leave her name..."
"Blue hair?" She smacked dry lips.
"That's the one... We'll get you some ice chips. Relax, Berry. We'll take good care of you." The doctor left her then, chatting with the nurse about some medical jargon.
The next few days passed agonizingly slow, but she did feel better once the dry heaves stopped. The walk felt wonderful to stretch her muscles, but much to her dismay, nopony came to visit. Not even once. Once she felt strong enough to walk home from the hospital, she signed papers and was released, making it back to her dirty home. At least, she was expecting it to be dirty. Instead, the living room was free of it's usual clutter, the floors looked mopped, and even waxed... She furrowed her brow and peeked over the edge of the couch.
"Oh, Carrot Top..." She groaned, seeing her friend snoozing peacefully under a blanket. Quiet as could be, she padded into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and peered inside. Before she got to looking good, though, she stopped. The kitchen was clean, too... Sparkling, even... Blinking in disbelief, she resumed her search, and spotted a six-pack of beer still on the top shelf. Taking one and cracking it open, she took a long swig and relished the heady taste of the bitter hops.
"Hey," Carrot Top muttered from the doorway, rubbing a hoof into a tired eye. "Hey, wait, no! Berry, don't start again!" She groaned, quickly swiping the beer from Berry Punch. The magenta-coated mare watched in disbelief as the remainder of the beverage was emptied into the sink.
"What the hell, Carrot Top?!" She said, moving to grab another from the fridge. Carrot Top quickly kicked the door closed and moved between Berry and the door.
"No! No more! I'm not going to walk in here and see you like that again!" Her friend's nostrils flared as she spread her legs, getting low and balanced. She looked ready to charge. Berry lowered her own head, pawing the floor.
"Get out of the WAY, Carrot Top." She grunted. "I've been locked up for who-in-the-hoof-knows-how-long, I think I can have ONE beer." Her friend shook her head and snorted.
"One turns into three or four, turns into another hospital trip. I'm not going to lose you again, Berry." Stamping a hoof, Berry Punch grunted and left the kitchen, walking quickly to the front door. "Hey! Where are you going?!"
"To the bar!" She grunted, kicking the door closed. All my REAL friends are there...
"Berry! Stop!" Carrot Top chased after her, running to catch up. Berry Punch ignored her and kept walking. "Would you LISTEN to me?!" Just keep walking... "STOP!" Carrot Top screamed in the middle of the road. She did, suddenly aware of all the eyes turned to them. Turning around, Berry Punch fixed Carrot Top with a gaze, not speaking, just staring at her friend as she started to sob.
"When I found you last time, and they came to pick you up, you flatlined, Berry... You DIED." Tears began spilling down her muzzle, falling into the dirt road. "I watched them bring you back three times before you were stable enough to move, and that's when... When SHE showed up." She spit the word, almost like she was disgusted to say it. "Flyin' in like she was the most important thing in the world, telling them to move, to let her see you... And when she finally did, saw you laying there, passed out, she..." Carrot Top choked, swallowed her anger. "She RAN. Just RAN AWAY." Carrot Top was screaming now, and left Berry shocked, completely unable to say a word. A small crowd gathered around them, watching the spectacle play out as the sobbing earth pony cried at a statuesque, unmoving Berry Punch.
"Why don't you see it?" She choked, barely loud enough to be heard. "Why don't you see how much it's hurting you? How much it's hurting... Hurting me?"
"I don't know..." Berry Punch whispered.
"I don't know... Why..." She felt herself start to shake, trembling from head to toe.
"I DON'T KNOW!" She broke into a run then, running fast and hard past a crying Carrot Top, shouldering her way through the crowd, pushing her weak muscles as hard as she could. Tears streamed down her face, stinging the flesh as they cooled in the chill air, all the way back to her home. Shakily, she opened the fridge, fished out a beer, cracked the top, and took a drink. The taste assaulted her tongue, filled her with a disgusting bitterness. Heaving, she let it all back up into the sink, tears and snot mixing with the brown liquid down the drain. At some point, she felt a hoof on her back, a voice in her ear.
"Come on, let's get rid of the others." Still sobbing, a complete mess, Berry Punch let Carrot Top drain the rest of the beer and half a bottle of rum left in the cupboard, washing her guilt away with the alcohol... So why was she still shaking and crying? Why wouldn't this feeling pass? Carrot Top gave her a glass of tea, made her lunch, all of it tasted like ash and went down without a fight. She was walked to bed, tucked in, and could hardly feel the pair of forelegs wrapping around her, trying to keep her warm.
She just felt cold the entire night... Never once closing her eyes to sleep.
"Berry? It's been a month, are you okay?" Carrot Top asked through the phone. Berry Punch was silent before nodding. Remembering she was on the phone, she sighed and gave a small noise in her throat.
"Yeah, I'll be fine... The crops are coming in tomorrow, and Market the day after... I'll do some work, get some bits back under my saddlebags, and I'll be fine." Carrot Top breathed a sigh of relief. She seemed to be happy her friend was back again.
"Thank goodness... Are you gonna need help?" She asked. Again, Berry Punch shook her head, scoffed at her own stupidity, and spoke.
"I should be okay... The rest of the family will be there to help out... And I'll get to see you the next day, right?"
"Yeah, I'll be there..." Carrot Top sighed and let a few moments pass. "I guess... I'll talk to you later, then?"
"Sure. See ya." They hung up, leaving Berry Punch alone in the kitchen. She looked at the shining table, at the meticulously clean floor... Seems that's all she could do these days was clean, and when she was done cleaning, clean some more... There were some bags from Carrot Top at the front door, groceries, no doubt. Berry Punch went to lift them, but felt her muscles strain at the slight load. Had... Had she lost weight? Grunting, she noted her arms and sides were a lot more slender than they used to be... She was always a fairly curvy pony, well-built but lacking definition. Just hauling the three bags with a few groceries left her winded, though... She panted in the kitchen, feeling her muscles shake. How long had it been since she had had a decent meal? Her stomach rumbled, and the sight of lettuce made her mouth water. Quick as she dared, she threw together sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce into a salad, quickly scarfing it down.
Hunger quelled, she packed away the rest of the groceries, struggling with the milk more than she would have liked. Finished, and feeling much more tired than she ought to have, Berry Punch decided a shower and bed were in order. Doing both, she woke the next morning feeling rested and refreshed. An early call from her brother confirmed they had arrived in town and were waiting at the market for her. Throwing on a hat and her saddlebags, Berry Punch left her home and made her way to the busy market. Day before sales, all the surrounding farms came and unloaded their wares, set up stalls, and generally made ready to make some money. Berry greeted her family curtly, gave a quick hug to her little sister, and started helping.
"Oof!" She grunted, feeling the first basket almost make her buckle under it's weight.
"You doin' okay?" Her sister asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Fine," She grunted, adjusting and carrying the basket to the stand. Not fine! Not fine! She thought, barely managing to set the basket down without spilling the grapes onto the dirt. "Haah..." Panting and sweaty already, she set her saddlebags with the stand and went back for another. And another. And another after that. Working hard, she had unloaded six baskets from the full cart on her own, while the rest of her family had already done at least ten apiece. Since she didn't live on the farm, and wasn't there to help with the harvest, she liked to put a little more effort in around this time of year. But it wasn't even lunchtime yet, and she felt tapped. Breaking for some water, her brother came over.
"Alright," He said low, casting a quick glance back at the rest of the family working hard. "Talk to me. What's wrong?" Her brother, Winter Wine, was a hard-working earth pony, much like the rest of her family was. His mark was a slightly-tilted wine glass full of a rich, red wine, and accented his white coat well. She heaved a sigh and looked at him, biting her lip softly.
"Listen, I... I think I've got a problem." He blinked once before gesturing for her to continue. "Well, about a month and a half ago, I went to the hospital... They said I had alcohol poisoning, and, well..." She leaned in a little closer, dropping her voice. "I flatlined three times..." He went rigid right away, inhaling slightly.
"By Celestia, are you okay?!" He asked, leaning in even closer. He nudged her shoulder with his, his brow drawn down in true worry. Berry shook her head, raising a shaking hoof.
"I don't think so... You know me, Wine, I'm always one to work hard, to prove my worth during Market... Six baskets and I'm tapped. Look at this..." She waved a shaking hoof in front of his face, frowning at the worry that had been plaguing her since last night with the groceries. "I feel like I've wasted away... I've lost who-knows-how-much weight and, and... I can't sleep, either..." She was starting to tear up now.
"Hey, hey, take it easy. Listen, let us handle this, okay? I think I know exactly what you need. I'll talk to mom about it- Ah, ah... Relax. I'll leave out the hospital bit." She had opened her mouth to complain, but was stopped when he put a hoof to her lips. "Go... Go talk to the commissioner about our stall, okay? I know I usually do it, but you've been here a dozen times. You should be able to handle that much. Takes a good two hours to fill out all the paperwork... Go." He swatted her flank with a warm, brotherly smile. She shot him a weak one in return, fetching her saddlebags and making her way to the commissioner's stand. Since it was their first time back since the last market, they needed to fill out the paperwork for the stand, all the tax information, and get a permit. While she busied herself with that, Winter Wine was talking with the rest of her family.
"Here you go, Miss Punch." The elderly colt handed her a ticket. "Just put that on the front of your stand, and you're good. Remember, we need a copy of your sales ledger at the end of the day tomorrow."
"Of course. Thank you." She took the ticket back to the stall and set to putting it on the front, unaware that her family had moved in behind her. When she was done and turned around, she was greeted by none other than her mother.
"H-hello, Mom..." She muttered, slightly shocked. "What's with the face?" Her mother, tapping a hoof, wore the look of a mare that had dealt with more than one juvenile in her day.
"You're coming back home." Were the first words out of her mouth. She opened her own to reply, but was silenced with nothing more than 'That Look.' "Go home, pack your things. We'll be by in the cart to pick you up at five. Apparently, you need an intervention. Winter will handle market this year. I think you need to get some hard work to toughen up that back of yours, missy." She reached out, snatched Berry's dropping chin with a hoof, lifted her eyes back up. "And next time you decide to go to the hospital... Just..." Tears welled up in her mother's eyes. She couldn't handle that look of hurt... "I'm heartbroken... You could have died, and I wouldn't have known a thing." She whimpered. "Not. One. Thing. Go. Go and pack your things, now... She let her daughter go, turning to focus on the work that still had to be done. She and Winter Wine shared a look, something along the lines of 'I had to tell her' and 'I understand' before she left to go back home. When she slipped inside, all she could do was stand against the door, stare at the floor.
"Berry?" The knock at the door came with a haunting voice she didn't expect to hear. Quickly, she whirled about, opening the door to Raindrops.
"Oh!" She cried, rushing forward and burying her face into her mane, crying her eyes out as the yellow mare rubbed her back soothingly.
"I just heard from your brother..." She said softly. "I... I wanted to come and say..."
Anything but that, please! ANYTHING but goodbye...
"You gonna be okay, sis?" Berry Punch stood on the threshold of her childhood room, back on the vineyard in the middle of nowhere, closest only to Ponyville, and way too far away from anywhere else. She nodded softly, swallowing hard.
"Yeah. Just... Just a little nostalgic, is all..." She said softly, looking around at the well-kept belongings still in their place, picked up only to be dusted or cleaned. These were toys she had had since she was a filly...
"Okay... Dinner's in a half hour... Papa's gonna be happy to have you back." She smiled and ruffled her sister's mane playfully, sending the older filly off with a smile. Her bags were already here, leaning against the wall... Slowly, as if in a daze, she set about to unpacking them, thinking about Raindrops' last words to her.
"I just wanted to say, I'll see ya around..."
"Berry! Lunch's ready!" Hoisting the last basket up into the cart, Berry Punch swicked the sweat off of her brow with a hoof, inhaling the fresh, heady scent of grapes all around her.
"Coming!" She called, trotting happily away from the morning's rough work. Four months had passed, and Berry hadn't had a single drop to drink, not to mention she was eating healthy, working hard, and slowly beginning her road to recovery. Losing the weight had been a boon for her, as it let her build herself back up. With three squares a day and all the hard work anypony could ask for, Berry was slowly gaining muscle tone, and a very alluring form. She caught sight of herself in the mirror that morning, and couldn't help but marvel at the pony she was slowly turning into.
Her family walked that fine line between buff and overweight, usually sporting a healthy gut thanks to a little too much wine and great food. But ponies like her father, Harvest, were hulking masses of muscle and brawn. Even Big Macintosh, whom Berry saw at market every now and then, would be envious of her father. Her mother, on the opposite end of the spectrum, was a little rounded-out, but none less worse for the wear. She had a different sort of strength to her, a sort of determination that came from a lifetime of tending to family.
Berry Punch came upon a blanket laid out with a picnic basket that appeared to be stuffed full of sandwiches, and a big bowl of salad already laid out. "Woah." She said, noting the veritable feast.
"Not all of it's for you, fatty." Winter Wine teased, trotting up from the opposite side of the fields. She glowered at him as he picked a sandwich up and downed it in one bite.
"Look who's talking, the master lush of them all." She followed suit, quickly snatching a second sandwich that he had been extending a hoof towards. He laughed and swatted at her, missing by a scant inch that she leaned away from.
"Hey, you two, knock it off." Berry's little sister, Grapevine mumbled with a pitcher of iced tea held in her mouth. She spilled a little and muttered a word teenage fillies shouldn't be saying on a normal basis just yet.
"Woah, hey, there little filly! Where'd you learn that word, huhn?" Berry Punch said with a teasing smile, swallowing a swig of iced tea and sandwich. Daffodils. her favorite.
"Oh come ON, Berry, you've worked with daddy enough at market to know he's not the cleanest-mouthed pony in Equestria." Chuckling, she ruffled Grapevine's purple mane and pulled her little sister close to her side.
Winter Wine was right... This is exactly what I needed. hard work, and family... They talked and laughed and ate, the three of them devouring the whole feast in short order. Taking a few minutes to stretch a full stomach, they lazed about for another five minutes or so, joking and talking about life in general.
"Welp," Berry Punch stretched her legs, feeling the muscles ripple under her skin. "Best get back to it. See y'all at dinner." Oh no, I'm starting to talk a farmpony now... Soon enough and I'll be able to keep up with the Apples... Smiling to herself, she waved goodbye to her siblings and went back to the fields. The work was easy enough, really... Pick ripe grapes and toss them into the basket, load full baskets onto a nearby cart, prune dead vines and leave unripened grapes behind. Throughout the day, Harvest would come out and haul full carts back to the storage cellar, where their mother either jarred, mashed, or stored grapes according to what they needed done. When they were full up on storage space, they would go in to market, and make a financial windfall
Their family held the largest grape farm west of Canterlot, and supplied wine, jam, preserves, and fresh grapes to Ponyville, Las Pegasus, Manehattan, and Trottingham. Ponyville just happened to be the closest of the four towns, so that's the one they went to market regularly in. About once or twice a year, though, they'd go to the other cities, and sell enough to get them through the rest of the year, and then some. All-in-all, it was a profitable business, and they lived comfortably, if far away from anywhere else. When Berry Punch was a filly, she asked her father why they lived and worked where they did, and why they weren't any closer to any other major cities.
"You see, Berry." Her father had said, walking with her down the long rows of grape vines long ago. "Look how much darker the dirt is here..." Indeed, the earth seemed almost black, in comparison to elsewhere she had visited. Even over the hill, the dirt was brown and hard. But underneath her hooves, it was soft and a rich, almost blackish-brown. "Long, long ago, a glacier moved through this area, and behind it, it churned up alllll the earth, picked it up on it's underside... Hundreds of years passed as the glacier ground it's way down here, eventually melting away and leaving behind all the sediment it had picked up. This is where it stopped. This entire field in this valley is where that glacier made it's deposit, leaving behind a rich, thick soil that is ideal for growing grapes. West of Canterlot, the earth is more suitable for growing roots, trees, and other vegetables and tougher fruits. But here, in this one valley..." He swept a hoof out at all the surrounding latticework of grapes. "The soil, sunlight, and moisture are just right for growing the tender grape vines. Countless generations of our family have lived here. My Grandfather spent his life working here, and my father after him. So will I, Berry Punch. I've put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this work. Some day, you'll understand all about a labor of love."
Those had been the words Berry Punch had, thankfully, never drank away. She worked harder than ever now, clearing out another whole row of grapes in a short hour. She loaded up the rest of her grapes into the cart, smiling when her father came lumbering out to haul the full thing away.
"First of the day, eh?" He grunted gruffly, smiling as Berry Punch helped him hook up to the cart.
"I'm hoping to get three today." She muttered, focusing on the girth strap around his massive stomach.
"Easy, not too tight. One more notch. There ya go." He grunted, flexing against the cart. "Don't overdo yourself, Berry... It's a hot one today." Indeed it was... Early September, the temperatures still hadn't dropped enough to warrant a coat. In fact, they hadn't dropped at all... They were both lathered in sweat, and she probably stank of the rich, dark earth and musk. Sniffing the air, she caught a faint whiff of her father's scent, a heady sort of male scent. To her, it was the smell of her father, her papa, the colt she cared for the most. She nuzzled into his mane for a moment, inhaling the comforting scent as he draped a hoof over her shoulder.
"Thank you," She muttered softly.
"It's just a hug." He shrugged.
"Not that... For everything... I... It seems hollow now, but I'm sorry for the whole hospital thing." The mood turned somber as her father awkwardly patted her shoulder.
"R-right... Erm... Well... Your mother and I are just happy you're safe now. It's good to have you home, helping out with the harvest. When they brought you back three months ago, you looked like a skeleton. Had all of us worried. Good to see you're gettin' some meat on that rump." He swatted her flank and she yelped, rubbing the spot with a hurt look. Her father just chuckled and pulled the cart along. "Guess I don't know my own strength. Get back to it, Berry. Ain't gonna get three carts standin' around like that." She smiled and trotted back to where she had left off, setting baskets at intervals she knew they would be full at. It was nearing the end of the season, quite a few dead vines to prune, all the dry or drying vines would be hauled away at the end of the season, and used for fires during the short, temperate winter. She set her mind to her work, and filled out the second cart by mid-afternoon.
"Cuttin' it close, girlie." Her father teased her as he picked up the second cart.
"Don't you worry. I'll have a third for you before sunset." Watching him drag the heavy load away, Berry set back to work, and oh how she worked. Muscles burning and sweat running down her in rivulets, she finished out her portion of the orchard, and had enough time to kick back with a small bundle of grapes for a snack. Harvest shook his head in disbelief as he hooked up the third and final cart.
"A pony of her word. Just like your mother." They laughed and Berry walked back with him, amazed at how easily he seemed to haul the heavy cart. "Help me unload?" He asked, stopping inside the dark, musty storeroom. She nodded and set about to unloading baskets, feeling the burn and fatigue slowly come to a head. Finally, the last basket found it's way to the storeroom shelves, and they shared a moment of exhaustion and contented happiness.
"I don't understand how you can do this every year, in and out, like it's nothing." Her father wiped a hoof across his brow, smiling as he plopped his haunches onto the ground.
"Aww, this is just the hard part of the season. More ripe grapes to be harvested, and a lot more dead vines to prune. Early on, it's real easy work. Two, maybe three carts a day, plenty of time to relax and enjoy a glass on the patio. And all winter long we get to play in the snow. I uh... I hope you'll be around to help us finish out the harvest...?" The innocent question brought back a completely random, equally unwanted, memory. She kicked a hoof and thought for a few long moments.
"It wasn't really my choice to come here in the first place... Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I did, and it's what I needed, but... I mean, will mama let me go?" She asked. Harvest drew his brow down, as it was his turn to think.
"You let me worry about your mother, Berry. I'll see about getting you back to Ponyville in time for Nightmare Night." She gave a slight, sad nod and sat next to him, gently leaning against her father's heavy shoulder. "Hey," he said, nudging her, not enough to push her away, just enough to catch her attention. "That was the last of it for today. We'll relax tomorrow, take a weekend, so to speak." Today was Wednesday... And Berry hadn't had a day off since she was brought here. The thought of relaxing for a day seemed almost alien to her at this point.
"Really?" She asked. Vague memories of a nearby lake with a rope swing came to mind, and she remembered a younger self with Winter Wine and Grapevine visiting the watering hole on hot days.
"Sure. All that's left are the dead vines and covering the crops for the first freeze. You didn't leave any behind did you?" She thought for a few moments, remembering a cluster here or there that seemed to be not quite ripe yet.
"A few, I think..." Her father smiled, seemed to well up with a bubbly sort of happiness.
"That's good! Triple budders! They'll fall off during the autumn, seeds will fall and plant, and we'll have thicker vines next season... That's great news!" He threw a hoof over her back and pulled her close, laughing. She inhaled his comforting scent happily, smiling at his jovial, belly-rolling laughter.
"What's so funny?" Her mother's voice greeted them as she strode around a corner, looking as beautiful as ever. While her father was massive and white, accounting for the male side of the family's lighter coat colors, her mother was the deep, accentuated purple the females got their manes from. Slightly less rounded and beginning to show the signs of age, her mother was nevertheless beautiful. Harvest guffawed and stood up, going to kiss his wife gently.
"My beautiful Grapejuice, your daughter has just informed me we have triple budders in the crop this season." Berry smiled sheepishly, dusting her flank of as her mother smiled at her.
"Really? In the Southeast vineyard? That's great news! I'll have to ask Winter if the Southwest has the same... Grapevine, too..." She smiled and nuzzled Berry Punch's mane, filling her with a sort of warm, appreciative feeling... "Probably because of all the hard work you've put into it." She smiled and cupped Berry Punch's cheek with her hoof, beaming at her daughter. "I'm proud of you, Berry Punch. You've really managed to turn it around. That, and your help has been invaluable around here. Go on, go shower up and get ready for dinner. Your father and I have a surprise for you." With a happy bounce to her step, Berry Punch went back to the upstairs bathroom she and Grapevine shared between their rooms, taking a quick shower to rinse off and smooth out her mane. She teased the curls back into the purple hair in the mirror, wondering what the surprise was her parents had in store for her. Making her way back down to the dining room, she saw the table laid out in the usual spread, her mother working hard through the day to prepare the meal for the family of five. They took their seats, Harvest looking around as they pressed hooves together and said their graces.
"We thank Celestia for the sun that lets our grapes grow, we thank Luna for the cool night that nurtures our vines, we thank our friends for keeping us strong, and our family for keeping our hearts warm throughout our days. Amen." The last word echoed as all five repeated it, taking a moment with closed eyes before setting in on the food.
"So, Berry! Turns out you weren't completely worthless after all. Mama tells me the southeast vineyard has triple buds." Winter Wine teased, nudging her with an elbow as he shoveled peas onto his plate.
"Really?! No way! I thought I saw some, but I put them in with the others..." Grapevine admitted with a slight flush, her young eyes wide. Her mother leaned over, smiling as she spoke.
"Remember, my little grape, younger grapes are not quite grown yet. Better to leave them on the vine if you aren't sure. But I can pick them out in the morning. Don't worry. It's been a while since we started a cask of bitter, right Winter?" She asked, looking over at Berry's brother, stuffing his mouth with a roll.
"Hmm hm!" He swallowed with a breath. "Yeah, I don't think I started one since... Shoot, about five years ago." His face screwed up with concentration. "Not a fan of bitter... I like a deep Red... Speaking of which, shall I, father?" Harvest looked up from his own half-empty plate.
"That's right, I nearly forgot. Go ahead, Winter." He set his utensils down with a wide smile at Berry Punch, who seemed to be getting smiles from everyone at the table.
"What?" She asked, a spoonful of peas halfway to her still-open mouth.
"You'll see..." Harvest teased, slipping away and into the kitchen. He returned, carefully balancing five wine glasses. Five? There were five of them there... They didn't mean... No...
"Aah, cherie'!" White Wine came back to the dining room, producing a beautiful bottle with a flourish. "Grape Reserves, circa 6433... This wine is nearly eight hundred years old." He said, gingerly working at popping the cork. Berry Punch felt that familiar tightness return to her chest as the cork gave way with a soft pop, the first acrid scent of alcohol hitting her nose even from this distance.
"Oh my, might I?" Harvest asked, inhaling as Winter waved the bottle underneath his nose. "Oh my Celestia... That's an awfully heady scent... Give it time to breathe, now..." He cautioned.
"Come now, father. I am the connoisseur here. But this may be a little too much for Grapevine to handle." He glanced at his mother, almost asking permission. Grapejuice turned her gaze at the teenage filly, who seemed to be squirming excitedly.
"A small glass." She conceeded with a nod and a wink, noting Grapevine's happy smile with one of her own.
"None for me." Berry Punch stood from the table, her chair clattering across the floor.
"Berry, are you sure?" Harvest asked, swirling his own glass. "We brought the reserve just for you..."
"I said no thanks!" Stomping off, Berry left the table, her stomach suddenly feeling sickeningly full.
"Berry!" Her mother called after her, but was responded to with the sound of a door shutting. Throwing the lock, Berry collapsed on the bed, choking on a sob and the sour taste that were both tight in the back of her throat. Sniffling and whimpering, she tried to calm her stomach, breathing deep and shaky. Unable to hold back, she rushed in to the toilet and upended, losing what she had eaten for dinner and the grapes form earlier. Shaking, with a sour taste in her mouth, she washed her face and brushed teeth before returning to her room.
The hell is wrong with me? She thought, clutching her pillow in her forelegs, quivering atop her covers. A soft knock came at her door, but she ignored it. The windows darkened, her eyes drooped, and no one knocked again...
The crow of a rooster roused her in the morning, soft, warm light filling the bedroom. She groaned and rolled over, not wanting to move, feeling a headache from the tears and the forcibly emptied stomach. She knew they were taking an off day, so she didn't feel bad about oversleeping. Laying there, basking in the shafts of warm sunlight, she could have spent the day enjoying the warmth and relaxing, but another soft knock caused her to look at the door.
"Come in," She said softly, but cursed when the handle rattled against the lock. "Hang on!" Getting up, she threw the bolt and opened the door to Grapevine's smile.
"Heya sis! We're goin' swimming. Aren't you gonna come with?" She nearly refused. But her happy little sister made her smile and shake her head.
"Ugh, fine... I need something to eat before we go." She groaned, ruffling the happy filly's mane before following her downstairs to the dining room. Harvest sat at the head with the newspaper, and glanced up at them with a smile.
"G'mornin', girls." He muttered, slightly frumpy. Even farmponies deserved to sleep in now and then, Berry supposed. "Don't eat too much, your mother's packing a lunch fit for Celestia herself." He flicked the paper, going back to reading. Nopony had mentioned last night yet... Her outburst, leaving the table unceremoniously... Thankful for the small things, Berry took her seat and bit into toast with butter and grape jelly before ladling oatmeal into a bowl with some sugar and honey. She ate light, not wanting to unsettle her queasy stomach, and smiled as Winter ruffled her mane in passing.
"Mornin, pop." He said to his father, taking his seat as his father's right. "Are you gonna join us, mom?" Berry Punch looked up in fear as her mother walked in, sipping at a glass of tea as she took her own seat.
"Perhaps later, I do have my own work to do, you know." She teased, winking at Berry Punch. Relieved her mother wasn't angry with her behavior last night. They finished up and even helped their mother clean up before getting ready to go. Towels and lunches were tossed in the back of a cart as Harvest began hooking up.
"Wow, really?!" Grapevine smiled at the thought of getting pulled along. "I almost NEVER get to ride in the cart anymore!"
"Come on, then." Harvest grunted, tightening his own girth strap. "Just like when y'all were fillies. Oof, sheesh, Wine, take it easy on those cheeseballs, ya lardass." He grunted as Winter Wine clambered up into the cart.
"Oh cut it out, ya old nag. Hya!" He swatted Harvest's wide flank, and got a bone-rattling buck in return. Wheezing, clutching his chest, and glowering at the laughs from the other three, they all set off for the swimming pond. Grapevine laughed with glee every bump they went over, and every hill they picked up speed down. Berry Punch and Winter Wine enjoyed the rolling views of the vineyard as they left the farm behind, made it out to the lake. Giggling with childlike delight, her younger sister bounded off to the lake, jumping off the shore into the cool, clear water in an unceremonious belly flop. Caught in the moment, Berry followed after with a slightly larger splash.
"Bah! Fillies, both of ya! Lemme show you how a pro does it!" Winter Wine took a running start and tucked into a cannonball right next to the two laughing, splashing sisters. None of them were prepared for what came next. With a bellowing cry, Harvest leapt high into the air and leaned back into a picturesque can-opener. Water crashed, filling face and mouth, and Berry Punch caught a brief glimpse of Grapevine flying through the air, landing in the water almost ten feet away.
"Holy crap, you just threw Grapevine!" She cried out, thrashing through the water towards where she saw her sister land. The giggling teenage filly surfaced before she could get there, grinning from ear to ear.
"That was FUN! Do it again!"
"Hey, you doin' alright?" Harvest asked, sitting next to Berry Punch as they watched Grapevine and Winter Wine splash eachother gleefully. She gave a slight nod, swallowing the bite of her sandwich from the lunch basket.
"Yeah... I'm sorry about last night, I guess I'm just scared, is all." She muttered, flushing from embarrassment. She got a hoof rubbed into her mane in return, making her laugh and push him away.
"A glass won't hurt you, Berry." Her father said, settling into his lecture mode that all parents seemed to have mastered. "You gotta learn to take things in moderation, is all... A glass of wine with dinner, a few beers with friends at the bar, those are all fine. But you can't drink alone, you shouldn't drink on an empty stomach, and I get the feeling you won't drink when you're already drunk." She nodded at his words, feeling less like a scolded child than a student getting a very valuable lesson from a respected teacher.
"I suppose I could try a glass tonight..." She muttered.
"You can try a glass in your home in Ponyville." She looked up at him with big eyes, her heart suddenly fluttering in her chest.
"Your mother and I talked about it last night. Despite your outbreak, you've come a very long way, Berry. We're both proud of the changes you've made in the past four months, and your help has been invaluable. If you feel ready to return to Ponyville, we aren't going to stop you. But we would love to have you around to finish out the harvest..." She squealed and threw her arms around his massive shoulders, kissing him from excitement. Unable to hold back anymore, she got to her hooves and danced around a little, filled with a sort of girlish delight, both from the praise and the prospect of returning home. Unable to contain it, she galloped full-speed into the water and cannon-balled right inbetween her brother and sister, who laughed and splashed her in return. Back on the shore, Harvest rubbed his lips with a slight blush, watching his happy son and daughters play in the water.
"I sure am a lucky father..."
Berry sighed as she stepped into her old home, feeling like the return was something she had been missing for the longest time. She shuffled through the mail, deposited her bags, and settled down to read a few letters, mostly from market ponies who had missed her through the grape season. There was one, though, from Carrot Top.
I've been missing you a lot lately... Market really isn't the same without you to go grab a few drinks with on Sunday night. I just wanted to let you know I'll be waiting for you to get back, if you get back... I really think we need to have a talk, about our friendship, about us... Call me when you get back?
Short and sweet... Wondering what Carrot Top wanted to talk about, she dialed the number, listened to the phone ring.
"Hey, Carrot Top, it's Berry..." She said softly. Forgetting she had arrived late that night, Berry cursed herself for waking her friend.
"Oh... Heeyyy..." The tired earth pony groaned into the phone, inhaling through her nose. "Good to hear from you again..."
"Yeah, tell me about it... Listen, I'm sorry I woke you, i just figured you'd want to know I'm back..."
"No, don't worry about it... It's good to hear from you again. I got market tomorrow, though... Can I call you when I'm free?" Berry nodded into the phone, Why couldn't she buck that habit?
"Yeah, of course. I'll probably just be catching up again, cleaning house, unpacking, you know... I'll talk to you then?"
"For sure. G'night Berry..." Carrot top groaned.
"'Night." They hung up. She still hadn't got an answer from her friend about the short letter... Sighing, Berry Punch decided to leave it until the next day, when Carrot Top wasn't sleeping. She went to bed herself, stretching out on the cool sheets with an appreciative sigh of comfort.
"Heya!" Carrot Top wrapped her hooves around Berry Punch's neck, kissing her friend on the cheek. "Wow, look at you! Lookin' sexy!" She teased, swatting Berry's flank with a laugh. She got a nip on the neck in return, laughing all the while. "I guess some good ol' farm work was just what you needed, huhn? Feeling better?" Berry invited her inside with a smile.
"So much better... I have to thank my family for helping me out so much. And you, too... If you hadn't found me that night, I'd probably not be here..." She muttered with a slight flush.
"Just glad you're okay, Berry. And looking none too worse for the wear! You lost weight, trimmed up, and... Wow, you look incredible!" Flicking her tail, Berry Punch grinned and did a turn for her friend. It was Sunday, but the bar was the last place Berry felt like going. Settling for some company at home, Carrot Top was more than happy to oblige with a visit.
"Why thank you, m'dear. Glad you like what you see. Hey, I meant to ask..." She trotted to the kitchen table and laid a hoof on the note, looking back as her friend followed her. "What'd you mean when you said we had to talk?" Now it was Carrot Top's turn to flush.
"Well... It's... It's about us."
"I gathered that much."
"And... What happened."
"And how I feel."
"About how... I don't want to lose you..."
"Carrot To-" She was cut off with a hoof to her lips, her blushing friend fighting with the next words... No, not from you, not from my friend... Please, anypony but you.
"I..." Carrot Top leaned a little closer, still afraid to look her in the eye. "I love you..."
------------------- Notes from the Author -------------------
I understand this is supposed to be a Berry Punch x Raindrops ship, and it still is. Trust me, I have a plan for this new development. There are two chapters left, at least, before this story is done. With a possible epilogue. Still much to look forward too!
I made a slight edit to this chapter, but I think I might have missed it... Berry's mother has been named "Grapejuice" and her little sister is named "Grapevine." I had originally typed both of this in as two seperate words... (Grape Juice, Grape Vine.) Obviously they work better when put together. If you spot one that's different, please let me know? I've been over it twice, but I get the nagging feeling I missed one somewhere...
Keep an eye out for the next chapter, "Hair of the Dog" in the next few days! ^.-
"Woah, easy, Berry Punch... Take it easy..." Carrot Top shifted her weight underneath the inebriated pony, hefting her a little higher as they swaggered down the street.
"'M fine, Carrot Top..." She mumbled. She was drunk, no doubt about that, but not nearly as bad as she had been before. Or as she should be right now. "Jes get me in the door. I'ma go to bed..." Ugh... She was leaning on her friend again. No, not her friend... Carrot Top was something more. Ever since her confession last week, Carrot Top had slowly become closer and closer. She would give her soft kisses when they said goodbye, press close when they said hello, stand against her side in public... Berry Punch didn't know how she felt about her yellow-coated friend... She didn't know how she felt period.
So she tried to lose her feelings in the drink. The call of the creature had returned, and she answered it willingly. Saddened and sickened with how she had fallen, Berry Punch seemed to slowly be returning to an introverted, sad state. What's more, she was getting a lot more drunk on a lot less of the drink than normal. She still had her hardened, toned curves from the hard summer of work, though, and had taken to a four-mile run every morning to keep up her figure. It was during that time that she got a blissful break from Carrot Top's almost constant advances. That is, until she had found out about Berry Punch's exercise routine and insisted on joining. Then, Berry Punch didn't even get that.
"Here we go." Carrot Top swung them through the front door, and Berry Punch smoothly pulled away. She swaggered towards the stairs a little unevenly, but without help from Carrot Top.
I've dragged my sorry flank home after worse... She thought grimly as she plodded up the stairs. Glancing back, she saw the door was still open, Carrot Top watching her go. "Something wrong?" She asked, swaying slightly.
"J-just making sure you're okay!" Carrot Top whimpered slightly, as if she had been caught doing something she ought not to be doing.
"And looking at my flank." Berry Punch muttered.
"No. You may not share my bed. If you really need a place to stay, the couch is open. Good night, Carrot Top." She groaned, ascending the last few steps. Carrot Top, ever vigilant, closed the door behind her and curled up on the couch. Seriously, she needs to know when to give up... But at the same time, I don't want to lose a friend... What do I do? Heaving a sigh, she turned the shower on cold and stood under the numbing stream, watching the water circle the drain for what felt like fifteen minutes. When she exited, absent of steam, the clock on her bedside table betrayed it had only been five. Drying off, she went to curl up in bed, but saw Carrot Top in her doorway.
"What's wrong?" Berry Punch asked cynically, her head low as she made her way to the far side of the bed. "Need a glass of warm milk to lull you to sleep?"
"Berry, let's stop dancing around the issue like a snake that's going to bite us." Carrot Top said softly. "I know you're tired and drunk and really not in the mood, but... We need to talk about this." Well, there was some truth to that. Berry Punch sighed and looked at her long-time friend over the bed.
"You're right. Let's talk, then." Carrot Top slipped inside her room, shut the door behind her.
"I've said it dozens of times in the past week, and I know your ears to be anything but deaf. I love you, Berry... I really do. Seeing you do this to yourself on account of my confession is... Well, it's kind of hurtful... You know how I feel about you drinking, and while I'm glad you've been taking it easy, I hate to see you fall again... And I DO love you. A lot. All these years being your friend has made me see that... I just..." She took a hesitant step closer. "I just don't want to lose you. Ever. Please, tell me you feel at least some of the same things I do?" Berry Punch sighed and curled up on the bed. Carrot Top appeared downtrodden. She turned and placed a hoof on the knob, ready to leave, when Berry Punch spoke.
"We'll give it a try. But I don't love you any more than as a friend, Carrot Top. That, and if I ever get uncomfortable with our relationship, I reserve the right to end it at any time." She rolled over to look at her friend, still on the threshold. "I just don't want to lose my only friend... I'll do anything to keep you, even if it means being your..." She blushed. "Your lover... So please... Don't leave?" Carrot Top smiled wider than Berry Punch had ever seen, which made her smile in return.
"Does that mean I get to share your bed after all?" She asked. Berry Punch rolled so her back was turned, inviting Carrot Top to spoon. She did so willingly, curling up to Berry's back smoothly. While she wasn't sure the motivation behind it, Berry Punch was thankful for the warm presense against her back. She sighed contentedly, closing her eyes and letting the alcohol and exhaustion carry her off to sleep.
She didn't dream. At least, she didn't THINK she dreamt... Memories and vision floated past incoherently, left her confused as she shifted from one state of mind to another and back again. Groaning and tossing, she woke up a lot earlier than she would have liked, and to the sound of Carrot Top's heavy breathing. Groaning softly, she slid from the bed, careful not to wake her friend. It was early autumn, the leaves slowly turning from their healthy green to a faded sort of brown. They were beginning to fall, and in the pre-dawn light, Berry looked out at the still town in the early morning light. Feeling restless and a little hungover, she decided it was time for her daily run. It'd be good to take one without Carrot Top for once. Quiet as could be, she left her home and walked to the starting place, feeling the encroaching headache vaporize in the chill air.
As she approached the starting point of her usual run through the trails around Ponyville, Berry Punch spotted a pegasus in the air above her.
"Who in the hoof?" She muttered, looking up at the flyer. She squinted and looked closer, watching them dart behind a could before arcing into a graceful turn. "No way..." That blue mane... It couldn't be... Just as they turned into an easy dive, coming to a wind-swept halt ten feet in front of her, Berry Punch saw it was none other than... "Raindrops."
"The one and only." The yellow-coated mare grinned and flapped her wings a few times, stretching. "It's hard to catch you away from Carrot Top, you know that?" She said. Berry blinked.
"What? What do you mean, catch me away from her?" Raindrops blinked to mirror Berry Punch, then sighed and covered her face with a hoof.
"Wow, she really didn't tell you anything, did she?" She muttered, looking up at last. "Listen, we've got a lot to talk about,"
"I'll say." Berry Punch felt herself puff up, feeling a little offended. Here was the mare she had started to care for, and right when she started feeling worse than ever, right when she needed a friend more than ever, she had dashed off like Berry was a leper! All those long months, and not a single word from the mare who was supposed to be her friend, her special somepony. "I haven't heard from you in almost five months, Raindrops. Longer than that, even. Not when I was in the hospital, not when I was with my family... Not even when I got home! If you thi-"
"Stop." Raindrops dropped her head, sounding both angry and frustrated. "Like I said, there's a lot we need to talk about. Not here, though." She looked up, casting a glance over Berry Punch's shoulder. "She's coming. If you can get away from her for even an hour, we REALLY need to discuss everything that's been happening. And I mean EVERYTHING. Come to my place if you can. Please, Berry... Trust me on this." There was hurt in her voice. Berry Punch backed away a step, her eyes suddenly wide.
"Wait, what do you mean 'Everything?' What's going on?" Raindrops shook her head and turned away, taking off into the sky. "Wait!" Berry Punch called after her, watching the pale yellow pegasus disappear behind another cloud.
"Was that Raindrops?" Carrot Top said, panting as she caught up with Berry Punch. "That girl was just trying to set you off again, wasn't she? Ooh, I knew she was no good!"
"I think... I just... I'm so confused." Berry Punch said softly, looking forlornly at the cloud that concealed the pegasus.
"About what?" Carrot Top said, nudging her shoulder. "You know I'll answer any questions you have, Berry... I've been nothing if not truthful with you. Come on, let's talk about it." She said, gesturing to a nearby bench. Berry Punch walked over to it in a haze, plopping down with a heavy sigh.
"I just... What's going on lately?" She muttered softly.
"Well, you're trying to get back on your hooves. Aside from last night, which is the worst I've seen you since you got back, you've been doing really well... I mean, you've been worse than last night. A lot worse. So I guess there's not any reason to be angry or worried... As long as I'm around to take care of you, right?" Carrot Top smiled and nudged her again, scooting close on the bench. Berry Punch didn't even feel like she was there...
"She said there was a lot to discuss... What could she have meant?" Carrot Top snorted.
"She's probably just trying to confuse you. Trust me, if she cared, she would have been there for you. She didn't bother to visit once when you were in the hospital. And rumor has it, she was off with some colt while you were with your family." Carrot Top's words sounded true. Berry didn't want to believe it, but it sounded so right. She groaned and sunk her face into her hooves, wanting the world to just go away. There was one way to make that happen... But first, she needed a jog. She stretched with Carrot Top, listening to the idle chatter from her friend... No, her MAREfriend... About how Raindrops was a horrible pony, how she didn't care for anypony but herself, how she would betray a friend at the drop of a hat... It all fell on deaf ears, Berry Punch listening to her own thoughts instead.
Things to discuss? Hard to 'catch' me away from Carrot Top? What does it all MEAN? Those and many other thoughts like it pounded through her head, nearly driving Berry Punch insane with all the incessant questions... And no answers to be found. At least, none that she could trust. Before she knew it, she was alone on the road, her legs pumping furiously beneath her. She ground to a halt, barely lathered in a thin layer of sweat as she turned to look behind her. Carrot Top was struggling to catch up, panting and lagging behind quite a bit. A faint cry of 'wait up' reached her ears, but Berry didn't feel like waiting. In fact, she didn't feel like being with Carrot Top just then. Picking the pace back up, Berry Punch cut through a field back towards Ponyville. Carrot Top followed, suddenly louder as she tried to get Berry to stop. Berry knew it. Carrot Top knew she knew it. Now it was a race to get there... Both mares destined for Raindrops' home. Berry Punch vaulted a fence, turned a corner, and took off, renewed energy filling her veins.
"Over here!" The voice made her skid to a halt, she back pedaled and looked down a side alleyway. Raindrops waved a hoof from behind a doorway. Quickly, Berry Punch dashed down the alley, ducked into the doorway. Both of them were as quiet as they could be, breathing deep and heavy, trying to listen for any sounds. Hoof beats soon met their ears. Carrot Top huffed past, running as fast as she could. Working out with Berry Punch for a few weeks had her accustomed to running, but not quite as able as the magenta mare was. Sighing when her hoof beats faded into nothing, Berry Punch stepped out of the doorway and turned back to her supposed friend.
"Start explaining. I want your side of the story, one hundred percent truth, from the day after Hearts and Hooves day."
"Alright then. Here goes." Rain Drops plopped down and lifted her eyes, narrowing them slightly as she recalled the memories. "The day after, when you couldn't remember what had happened, I got angry, kicked you out. I'd like to think I wasn't without my reasons, but I didn't know you'd hit the sauce so hard. I checked in on you a week later, right at the same time Carrot Top did. Well, about five minutes after she did. I flew in right as they were going to put you into the ambulance... I saw your body, limp and unconscious, and I... I fuckin' lost it, Berry..." She was legitimately crying then. "I don't know how or when, but I ended up at a friend's house... We dated a long time ago, but he and I are straight. No funny business. He helped me cool my head, got me back under control. When I was good again, you were still in the hospital. But that little..." She shot a glare to the mouth of the alleyway, where they had last heard Carrot Top pass.
"No, you need to hear this. She took over your medical stuff, told the doctors she was the closest thing to your family you had, and wouldn't let anypony see you. Man, even LUSH came outta the woodwork to come check on you. She didn't let anypony aside from the doctors and the nurses into your room. She sat outside the entire time, doing nothing but shooing us all off, and getting security to kick us out if we got too antsy." Berry Punch was shocked. She opened her mouth to speak, found she couldn't.
"Lush, me, a couple of the guys from the bar... Big Mac stopped by to say hi, since he heard about it. And you know how cool he is, doesn't say a word normally. And I'm willing to bet that she didn't even tell you how we all fixed your house up. I got in pretty good with a nurse, and while she couldn't get me in to see you, she did let me know you were getting ready to go home. Me an' Lush went and cleared up your home, got it all nice and shiny. Then... Then... SHE butted in, kicked us out, and acted like SHE had been the one that was concerned all along, had kept your house clean. That day on, I couldn't get to you without runnin' into her. I just had to watch. I was obsessed. I quit bartending, followed you everywhere, like some lovesick little puppy... I swear, I watched you every day I could, I watched you waste away. I was there when you got the talking-to from your mom... I watched, from a distance, as you went back home. I had so much to tell you, I needed to say it all, that I love you, that I missed you, about what Carrot Top had done, about all that had transpired over the past few weeks, but when I finally caught you alone, finally got a moment to just... TELL you all that had gone wrong, I... I..." The tears flowed faster now as Raindrops collapsed, sobbing into the dirt. "I couldn't say it!" She wailed, sniffling and sobbing in frustration. Berry Punch felt her own throat tighten at the display, wondered if she could endure it, watching her friend sob and choke and cry. Slowly, she advanced on the sobbing pony, gently lifted her chin up.
"Do you still love me?" Berry Punch whispered gently. Raindrops sobbed, gave a hiccuping nod.
"Mmhmm..." She said softly. "You've ch-changed a lot, but it's all for the better..." Her voice was low with a whimper, and she sniffled as her head nuzzled into Berry's hoof. "You're so beautiful, and so much more vibrant now..." Another sniffle. "I've been watching you ever since you got back, and I'm astounded... You drink a little, just enough to get pretty loose, but not so much that I have to worry... And even if I did, SHE does it all for me... I swear, if I could just... Just... BE with you again, I'd..."
"You'd WHAT?" The voice made them both jump. Carrot Top stood at the entrance to the alleyway, looking down at both of them, her breath coming in pants. "Lie to her some more? You know just as well as I do all the words you've said to Berry, ever since you met her again, were all lies. I swear, if I could never have reminded you two of your past, I would have..."
"No, wait..." Berry cut in. "That's so wrong. Even without everything else, Raindrops and I were friends. What kind of friend would you be to not tell me about her?"
"The kind of friend that cares!" Carrot Top cried, her eyes closed as she lowered her head slightly. "The kind of friend that keeps mares like HER away from you! She just wants to USE you, Berry! She's done nothing but lie from day one, and it's all so she can... Can..."
"CAN WHAT?!" Raindrops roared, finding her strength again. She struck an intimidating pose as she rose to her full height. "Go ahead and say it, I DARE you!" She advanced at Carrot Top, huffing.
"So you can seduce her into bed!" Carrot Top hardly had a moment to breathe before Raindrops countered.
"So I can seduce her into bed?! ME?!" She snorted and lowered her head, pawing at the ground. "YOU'RE the one who's been lying up and down to her! YOU'RE THE ONE WHO'S BEEN TRYING TO GET HER INTO YOUR BED!" She glanced back at a flustered, shocked Berry Punch. "And I guess it's worked... You've made her so blind to who her real friends are, all she sees are the fake ones." Raindrops sighed and stood up normally, glaring down at a suddenly-whimpering Carrot Top. "If you've any sense of decency, you'll fess up to her, and be a true friend, one who lets the one she loves live her life. Who'd be happy to see others be happy." She scoffed and spread her wings. "You make me sick." And she was gone... A puff of wind kicked up as she flapped off, leaving one shocked Berry Punch and a softly crying Carrot Top in an alleyway as daybreak came, cold and forlorn...
"Tell it to me." Berry Punch said coldly, sliding a cup of hot chocolate across the table to Carrot Top. "All of it." Her friend took it with no small amount of reluctance, gently swirling the contents before taking the first sip.
"I don't know how much she told you..."
"It shouldn't matter if you tell the truth." Berry Punch said, sitting opposite, her expression both haggard and serious. Carrot Top cringed slightly.
"I suppose you're right... Well, it started that day I found you... I checked on you, you collapsed, I called the ambulance, and just as they were putting you in to take you to the hospital, she dove in, screaming about how she mattered more, how she just had to see you. When she finally caught a glimpse, she froze and took off. From then out, I didn't see her. At all. Not once." She shook her head, sipping the hot chocolate once again. "She just vanished... I heard she ran off to be with some colt, an old boyfriend, and who-knows-what they were doing. Just goes to show how much she really cared for you..." Carrot Top looked up, and Berry Punch almost blanched at the fake smile she got.
"Well, after the incident at the market, you left to be with your family, and it was business as usual around here. I had the crops to tend to, and I'd stop by to clean your place now and then. I never really drank much, it just didn't feel right without you. I missed you so..." She reached across to lay a hoof on Berry's, but Berry pulled hers away. Frowning, Carrot Top continued. "Then you came back. And I realaized how bad it was without you. I mean... I was so out of it, I could hardly farm, was barely making it to market on Saturdays..." She whimpered and reached further, almost pleading with her eyes. "I need you, Berry... With you gone, I just feel so... So..." Her lip trembled almost too obviously as she feigned sadness. It almost made Berry lose it. Roughly, she scooted away from the table, made her way towards the front door.
"Wh-where are you going?" Carrot Top called, following after her.
"I need some answers." Berry Punch said in a low tone.
"F-from who? You can't believe what SHE-"
"Not from Raindrops. And not from you." Berry Punch pulled the door open, grimacing at the chill bite in the air.
"I think it's time I paid Lush a visit."
"Wh-what do you need to talk to Lush for?" Carrot Top whimpered, plodding along after Berry Punch, who was adamantly walking down the street.
"To find out the truth." She muttered, rolling her eyes.
"Why, though? Why don't you trust me?"
"Because you're one of the two involved. If I get the back-and-forth from the only two people involved, neither can be trusted... Mom always told me a story about a baker and a farmer... The baker said the farmer was giving him bad ingredients, but the farmer said the baker was just making bad food, so it came down to someone else, I forget who, to settle the dispute..." She shook her head. "That's not important. If Raindrops is lying, Lush will be able to tell me. But if you're lying, Lush can say so, too. It's... yeah, it's hard to explain." She muttered. It all made sense in her head, she just couldn't explain it.
"Still... I haven't given you any reason NOT to trust me..."
"You haven't. But neither has Raindrops. Not in MY eyes, at least... Look, in a situation like this, I should be able to trust both of you, right? Well I'm getting two different stories... So I need someone else, trustworthy or not, to shed some light on the situation." She was right, wasn't she? It was either trust her friend and believe that the kind-hearted and admittedly frustrated Raindrops was a filthy liar and had left her, or believe Raindrop's story and come to grips with the fact that her best and only friend was greedy, a liar, and had done some pretty messed up stuff. She needed someone from the outside, someone who wasn't that involved, to tell her what the two had done truthfully. That person just happened to be the same she had trusted to refill her glass when it got a little low for the past... Who knew how many years. She turned down another street, saw it wasn't the one she was looking for, and turned back.
"Berry, we've been walking for an hour since we left your house... Are we lost?"
"Not lost." Berry said quickly. "Just looking for something that I don't know it's location... I'll know it when I see it." Names, numbers, details... Berry had never been good with any of those. Particularly street names. Ponyville wasn't very big, so she knew how to get to all the places that mattered by heart, not by street name. She had been to Lush's place once or twice for an after-last-call nightcap, but therin lay the problem. She had been completely toasted those times. Remembering his specific residence was going to be tough.
"Seriously, my hooves hurt..." Carrot Top whined.
Oh, go soak your head... Berry Punch thought to herself. They walked for a while longer, checking one more street, then another. Finally, they found one that looked familiar. Berry Punch walked down it, scanning homes, yards, trees... Looking for the one that seemed most familiar. Then it was there. A shriveled, dead brown oak in front of a decent-sized home. Without a second doubt, she plodded up to the front door, knocked three times, and waited. It was still relatively early in the morning, Lush and his night-owl lifestyle was either still asleep or just starting his day.
"One moment! Sheesh, is my newspaper subscription up or something?" She heard him mumble from the other side of the door. Haggard, wearing a bathrobe and slippers, Lush answered the door.
"Hey there, bar-t." Berry Punch said softly, a coy smile on her lips.
"Sunava... What the... How in the..." He peeked his head out, looked left and right down the street, then quickly pulled Berry Punch inside.
"Sheesh," Berry Punch said, chuckling as she stumbled a little from his insistent pull. "Ain't even gonna buy a girl a round, eh?" She saw, much to her surprise, that Carrot Top was left on the front porch. She knocked and hollered, to which Lush pushed the door open with a glare.
"You aren't welcome in my home. OR on my property. Go wait on the street." He grunted gruffly. The knocking and hollering seemed to stop after that. "That pony..." He mumbled, jerking his head towards the kitchen, indicating she should follow. "I don't know how you're still her friend. Honestly... Coffee?" He asked.
"Answers, actually." He just chuckled and started brewing a strong blend. Berry Punch sat at the kitchen table, patient for now. That, and she was honestly enjoying a few precious moments without Carrot Top. A quick glance out of a nearby window and the sound of hooves on hardwood told her Carrot Top was adamant in not retreating to the street. She was pacing on the front porch, looking worried and more than a little outraged. The sight actually brought a smile to her face.
"Alright then. You first or me?" Berry Punch blinked.
"Wait, you mean...?"
"I've got some questions of my own." He said gently, sipping at the steaming coffee.
"I... I guess, me first..." She said, slightly embarrassed.
"I'm an open book."
"Raindrops told me some things..."
"About Carrot Top..."
"And me in the hospital."
"Ooohh, THAT... I remember that. Couple o' months ago." He sighed and looked down into his mug, expression suddenly darker. That, and the early morning, made him look like one very tired, very grumpy old colt. Lush was a unicorn of considerable talent. His mark was that of a crystal-clear bottle filled with a light brown liquid. It was difficult to tell apart from his dark brown coat. His calling had always been the drink, and he was an expert on many types of liquor. While he took to bartending easily enough, his true passion was in drinking. Unlike Berry's former self, though, Lush knew his limits, and stayed well away from them. He had always hinted at a fairly dark story involving the one time he had really flown off the handle, but none had heard it, to the best of her knowledge... At the moment, he looked so old, but Berry knew him to be in his late twenties.
"Alright... When you went in, I didn't know about it until the next day. Raindrops landed at my front door, which was a pleasant surprise. She and I went to bartending college at the same time. We were okay friends, said hi now and then. Chatted. Nothing too serious. Which was why I got mighty surprised when she started yammerin' and stutterin' about one thing or another. The only thing I caught was 'Hospital' and 'Scared.' So, naturally, I jes' followed her. She took me to the hospital, and on the way I managed to find out it was you that was in. Well, no one knew where your limits were like I did, so I figured she had just given you too much, and you were in for some bad side effects, seein' she was the new bartender an' all..." He shook his head slowly.
"I was way mistaken. Anyway, when we showed up, that... That... HER. She was just sitting in front of your room, glared at us real mean-like when we walked towards her. Raindrops tried to pretend that she wasn't there, to just go in. Kinda hard to do when she moves in your way. I swear, you coulda lit a cigarette with the sparks between them two. Thinkin' both of them needed a day to cool off, I brought Raindrops back here, gave her a drink to steady her nerves, and talked her through it." Lush raised his head with a smile. "She loves you, you know that, right?" Berry Punch listened to his words with a tight throat. She managed a nod before speaking.
"Yeah... Now I do..."
"Anyways, we cooled off. A few drinks and some good sleep later, don' worry, we dinnit do anythin'. I slept on th' couch. We went back to the hospital the next day, ready to talk things out. Seems we were the only ones willing to do so. She had convinced the doctors to let her take over for you. Some technical hospital bullocks about you not bein' in the right state of mind to decide what was right for you." He scoffed and sipped his coffee some more, grimacing at the bitter taste. "She wouldn't even let us see you, let alone talk to you. Raindrops bought a card... Hang on..." He slid from his chair and went to a nearby drawer, rummaging about. Finally, he produced a slightly dusty envelope, floating it over to Berry Punch with magic. carefully, she opened the envelope, filled with what appeared to be confetti.
"Careful." He took it from her once more, his horn glimmering as he upended the envelope, gently shaking out a pile of shredded, torn paper. "It was a nice card, really. She left it on your window, but when Carrot Top found out, she had one o' the pegasus nurses fly up an' take it down. Tore it up on the spot. I gathered what I could, thought you ought to know how much she really cared about you." Berry Punch's hoof shook as she shuffled through the bits, trying to make sense of what was written on the card. She really couldn't... It had been so completely demolished, she couldn't even begin to make sense of what was written.
"Is... Is that all of it?"
"Oh, not even... You shoulda' seen it. Once Carrot Top found out she had gone to say goodbye to you, she damn near lost it. Went off like a rocket on Raindrops. That argument won't easy be forgotten by anyone." He chuckled softly. "Carrot Top was really inconsolable. Sobbing, screaming, just goin' off at the mouth, no one could stop her once she started in on Raindrops. An' you know what? Raindrops just stood there. She just took it. It started to look less like Carrot Top yellin' at a pegasus than a mouse tellin' a mountain to move. This is a pony I've seen toss beligerent drunks outta her bar with little more than a batted eyelash and a firm kick. She's done worse for lesser things. Iffen you ask me, she shoulda put Carrot Top in her place. 'Stead, she just flew off. No one saw her for a month. When she came back, she jes wasn't the same. It was only once you got back into town she got normal again. Started bartendin', laughin'... You mean the world to her, Berry Punch. Carrot Top wants you for herself. What's worse, she's willing to hurt anyone in her way. You need to have a long talk with her, make her see the error o' her ways, so to speak." He finished his first cup and poured another, leaving Berry Punch looking at the shredded card on the table before her.
"I gotta go." She scooted her chair back, drawing a look from Lush.
"Not until you've answered my questions." Berry Punch sunk back into her chair.
"R-right... Sorry..." She mumbled, feeling slightly embarrassed. Second mug of black coffee before him, Lush took his seat at the other end of the table. He looked at her for a few long moments, sipping the hot liquid and scrutinizing her.
"Do you love her?" He asked softly. Berry Punch felt her throat tighten at the word.
"Y-yeah... I do..."
"Are you gonna go find her, so she can help you through this mess?"
"Yeah I am." She nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat. For some odd reason, she felt tears begin to well in her eyes.
"Is anypony gonna stop you once you leave this house?" She looked up at him, her expression serious.
"Not a soul."
"Get goin', then." He waved her off, smiling into his coffee mug. She left through the front door, at least, she would have tried, if Carrot Top hadn't been blocking her way.
"Move." Berry Punch growled.
"No." Carrot Top stamped a hoof and lowered her head. "I want to know why you won't trust what I say."
"Because apparently, you've been lying to me. Now MOVE." Berry Punch took a stance similar to Carrot Top's, spreading her legs to steady herself, lowering her center of gravity...
"I'm NOT lying!" Carrot Top returned, huffing slightly. "You can trust me, Berry! I've been your friend longer than them! I know you better than they do! I LOVE you!" She scraped a hoof on the wood of Lush's porch, tears brimming at her eyes as she quivered visibly.
"If you loved me." Berry Punch said, her tone low. "You would have let me see my friends. Apparently, you just don't care about me." She straightened, looking down at Carrot Top. "If you LOVED me, Carrot Top." She stepped closer. "You wouldn't have acted the way you did. I think you need to take a closer look at what you think love is." Coldly, she brushed past, leaving a stunned Carrot Top waiting on the threshold to a very unfriendly house.
Raindrops didn't take long to find. She wasn't in her home when Berry Punch checked it, nor was she at the bar for breakfast, which they sometimes served. She was, however, laying on a cloud not too far from the town square. Berry Punch looked up and spotted the signature yellow coat she boasted, a hint of her blue mane. Smiling, Berry Punch sat her haunches down and called up to her.
"Hey!" Raindrops didn't move. "You, up there on the cloud!" Nothing. "You're a horrible kisser!" That got her attention. Snapping her head up, Raindrops swung around, scanning the ground until she spotted Berry Punch, grinning from her spot on the ground.
"You're a liar." She called down, a smile on her face.
"So prove me wrong." Raindrops jumped off the cloud, falling into a graceful dive aimed for Berry Punch. They met in a warm hug, two lovers embracing for the first time in what felt like ages. Berry had almost forgotten the clean scent of her mane, the blue strands clinging to her face and neck as they gently wrapped their legs around one another.
"I missed you." Raindrops whispered softly.
"Not nearly as much as I missed you..."
"That's two lies in one morning, Berry. You ought to know better." They shared a laugh, shaking against one another as the laugh slowly broke down into tears. Raindrops sobbed once, shaking as she clung tighter. Berry Punch couldn't help but feel her own lips curve into a soft smile as she rubbed her friend's... No, her lover's back... Raindrops broke down into a sobbing mess, her tears staining the magenta mare's hide as they embraced. Some passersby cast a glance or two their way, but none gave them more than an understanding smile. It took her a few moments, but Raindrops came around to it, sniffling softly as she pulled away with a smile.
"You okay?" Berry Punch asked, looking Raindrops in the eye.
"Now I am..." They kissed softly, the soft peck almost taking Berry Punch by surprise. She tensed slightly, feeling those soft lips against hers, the hoof cupping her muzzle tenderly... It ended much too soon, just as Berry was beginning to relax into it. With a soft breath, she nearly melted, feeling Raindrops hug her to support her. With a soft flush, Berry felt... Something... Something warm begin to stir inside of her.
"Your place or mine?" She whispered softly.
"I don't... Have a place anymore."
"Well, when you run away from your job for a whole month, the boss expects you to make back what he lost... I've been sleepin' on clouds for weeks now..." Berry Punch smiled at the pegasus analogy for homelessness, giving Raindrops a flick with the end of her tail as she tore herself away, turning down the road.
"Come on, silly filly."
"Wh-where?" Raindrops asked, trotting to catch up.
"Where else? You're gonna stay with me 'til you're back on your hooves."
"What?! N-no, I can't..."
"You can and you will." Berry Punch walked insistently, a reclutant Raindrops following behind.
"Where am I gonna sleep?" Berry Punch just grinned back at her.
"You have to ask?" They walked in silence, sharing more than one suggestive smile on the way. Berry Punch opened the front door of her home, swept them both inside smoothly. "Now, where were we-" She was cut off as Raindrops smoothly pressed their lips together, moaning as she pressed so tight against Berry Punch. She was so insistent, Berry felt the wall bump against her flank. The kiss was insistent, passionate... And maybe just a touch rough. Berry Punch's heart was hammering against her ribcage. She wasn't sure if it was the situation, the absence she had suffered, or the fact that Raindrops was VERY insistently pushing her tongue into her mouth.
"Mff..." She groaned, not entirely hating the feeling. Raindrops pulled away, panting slighlty.
"S-sorry..." She muttered, her yellow coat flushing at the cheeks. Berry Punch smiled in return.
"Don't you dare apologize for that." She muttered, pushing her lips back to Raindrop's once more. They stumbled over eachother's hooves up the stairs, into the bedroom, onto the spread. The kisses were turning much more heated, quite a bit more passionate...
"Shh." She was silenced with a hoof against her lips. "Trust me." Berry Punch muttered. "I don't plan on forgetting a single detail from today..." Berry Punch never forgot the day Raindrops made her explode...
"I gotta say, you two look mighty fine together." Lush said, raising his glass as Berry Punch and Raindrops slipped into the bar together. They blushed slightly and took two of the other three chairs at his table. "How goes it?" They nudged eachother with a soft smile.
"Doin' good. Raindrops got a spot on the weather team, and since it's almost market season, I'll be helping out with the family." Berry Punch filled her friend in on the last eight months of activity. It had been a long and decidedly warm winter. Meanwhile, Carrot Top had decided to take some time for herself, and had sent Berry a letter two months ago saying she found a nice 120 acres out near Appleoosa just begging for a potato field. She was going to try to set up a farm while she re-evaluated her... Priorities. Berry had sent a return letter, wishing her the best, and forgiving her friend for her actions. Carrot Top was, after all, still her friend. Meanwhile, she and Raindrops...
"Berry, you're flushing. Don't tell me you haven't been drinking already?"
"Oh! N-no! I... I don't drink very often anymore..." She admitted, shooting an embarassed glare at Raindrops.
"So, why are your cheeks dark?"
"N-no reason..." She batted at Raindrop's hoof, which had been sliding places it ought not to underneath the table. Lush just shook his head and took another sip.
"Kids these days..." Lush thought he caught a soft whimper from Berry Punch, but it was lost as Raindrops called out an order for two beers... "Honestly..."
---------------- Notes from the Author ----------------
You know, this story was supposed to be done four chapters ago. I originally wrote it as a request for another user who has since stopped using fimfiction.net. It came to me in an odd sort of fashion, I'll admit...
For those of you who don't know, I'm primarily known for my other work "A Different Kind of Love" and "A Different Kind of Love: The Lost Chapters." Both of these stories are humanized erotic tales about a changeling. Upon finishing ADKOL, I opened up requests for the second story. As long as the pairing wasn't completely ridiculous, I would write a short, erotic chapter about any two ponies (*Cough* Humans *Cough*) and publish it within a week, give or take.
Suddenly, a wild I'mjustanotherbrony appeared! While all erotic fiction is technically ship, I hadn't actually written a legitimate "Shipfic" yet. That call changed when I'mjustanotherbrony directed me to a blog post of his, requesting a fic be written. Well, I had never even HEARD of Raindrops before that day. Needless to say, I had to do some research. She's an incredibly under-appreciated and obscure part of the show, and as far as I know, is only seen in the opening for a brief moment. (When Twilight and Spike hop out of the balloon after landing in Ponyville, Raindrops and Berry Punch can be seen on the left side of the screen before it wipes to the shot of the other 5 Mane 6 ponies.) These two look SO happy together! Once it was brought to my attention, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I saw this plot develop in my head... It took root, and I agreed to write the chapter right away.
What was originally supposed to be just another request eventually turned into this... This... Well, THIS! After the first chapter, I got even more of the plot rooted in my brain. I couldn't leave it as it was. I really couldn't. Unfortunately, it was shortly after the first chapter was written that I'mjustanotherbrony left Fimfiction, and couldn't read the remainder of the story that he was to thank for.
In short, if any of you know him, or have an alternate point of contact, I would appreciate it if you could let him know, or tell me what it is so I may inform him... It just doesn't feel right finishing a story without giving proper thanks to the one who inspired it, you know?
I hope you enjoyed the read as much as I enjoyed writing it.