Flying is a remarkably easy thing. Any Pegasus pony, clever earth pony or unicorn could potentially fly. All it took was either the natural wings of a Pegasus, a unicorn's spell or a steam-powered flying machine. The true art, what Soarin' always reflected on, was knowing were to fly. With literally infinite directions to go, a Pegasus was only limited by their own abilities and imagination.
Soarin' had been born to fly. As a Pegasus pony that was nothing special, but for Soarin' being born to fly meant much more than simply having the ability to. To him nothing compared to the rush of wind in his mane as he sliced through the skies. The adrenaline, the thrill, and the absolute joy he felt flying; it was nothing short of paradise for him.
A slow smile found its way to the WonderBolt's face as he tore through a cloud, trailing wisps of mist in his wake. This was life! This was what he had been born to do, and joy sang in his veins. Soarin' was further fueled by a righteousness of purpose. He was a WonderBolt, a protector of Equestria. He had grown up poor and alone with only the WonderBolts to look up to. They had given him something to strive for, a model balance of athletic potential and moral goodness to hold himself to. They had saved him before even knowing his name.
A second Wonderbolt, her fur a pale grey and her mane ash white pulled up alongside Soarin'. The two grinned at each other as they flew.
"So how are things with the farmer?" Cloud-kicker sneered with her grin. Soarin' rolled his eyes and flapped with wings once, pulling in front of the mare and exploded into sub-sonic, leaving Cloud-kicker to cough in his wake. The mare Wonderbolt quickly caught up with Soarin' as he slowed and narrowed her eyes at him.
"Hit a sore spot, eh?"
"Not at all." Soarin' replied, dodging a small fluffy cloud, "Things with me and Applejack are fantastic. I just didn't like the way you said farmer."
"I just hate seeing such a fine stallion go to waste." She said with a shrug. Soarin' narrowed his eyes.
"Applejack is not a waste, rookie." He said carefully, "Watch it, or I'll have you stationed to the winter pole patrol."
"Whatever." Cloud-kicker said, "Just so you know, if it wasn't for those damn rules on fraternization Sky Runner or I would have jumped your bones by now."
"So noted." Soarin' said. Flirting, although frowned upon, was common amongst the WonderBolts. The rules were strict; no two active WonderBolts could be in a relationship. So to avoid lustful buildup, the WonderBolts made a joke of their attractions and just left it at that. Most of the time that was enough, although it was not unheard of for two WonderBolts to wed soon after one retired.
The WonderBolts were an ancient order in Equestria. They had their own Hall of Heroes, their own traditions and rituals. Although not as secretive as the Unicorn's Guild of Magic, or as massive and cumbersome as the Earth pony's Union, the WonderBolts played their part none-the-less. They were the first responders to disasters, and during rare times of war, they were the spear-tip of Celestia. Although no WonderBolt had died in combat in centuries, they were always ready. A full team of ten WonderBolts was on station in Cloudsdale every minute of the day, waiting to be deployed to anything. The rest of the WonderBolts were spread out amongst all of Equestria. Those ponies not engaged in mandatory duty rosters were free to pursue their own goals. Many WonderBolts chose to patrol the skies, or assist small towns in any way they could. Some had families, but most didn't.
To any outsider, the WonderBolts were an over-stretched, poorly organized slapdash group of show-ponies. The truth, to those who bothered to look, was almost the exact opposite. Their lack of central organization only enforced a WonderBolt's autonomous nature, but it required extreme discipline to maintain. Celestia herself had said that any potential WonderBolt had to have the personal drive to wake up every morning and actively seek to make Equestria a better place.
"I heard you took your little fillyfriend to that Promenade." Cloud-kicker said, "Pretty smooth there, boss."
"I have my moments." Soarin' said and fell quiet. That Promenade had only been two days ago, but it felt like an eternity since he last saw Applejack. He loved her. Madly. For a moment Soarin' played with the idea of flying to PonyVille to visit. But something was holding him back. Applejack was a lovely mare; she was absolutely gorgeous, with a flank any stallion could drool over. Her face was breath-taking with her soft freckles and blonde mane. And she came off as somepony naturally beautiful, as if it was not work at all. She had a razor's wit and a stubborn streak that appealed to Soarin'. And she was a family pony. So what was the problem?
Even as he thought about it, Soarin' knew the answer; he just didn't want to face it. Something seemed off with Applejack, or more accurately, their relationship. Since the night of the Gala, he had only seen her friends once more, and then it had only been the unicorn Rarity. And Soarin' had never met her little sister Applebloom, or her older brother Big Macintosh. The excuse she had given him, that it was soon too soon to harvest season, felt just like that; an excuse. Was Applejack trying to hide her family from him? From what he heard, they seemed like a loving family. Why wouldn't she want him to meet the Apples? Or worse, was she hiding him from her family? Was she ashamed to have him as her coltfriend?
"Hey!" Cloud-kicker suddenly called out, "You're spacing out again."
"Sorry. Just thinking."
"Sounds a lot deeper than 'just thinking'" Cloud-kicker did a barrel-roll over the WonderBolt and glided into parade flight next to him, "What's up?"
"I…" Soarin' didn't want to burden the rookie with his personal problems. It wasn't his place; he complained up, not down. If he was to talk to any pony, outside of Applejack herself, it needed to be Spitfire. Cloud-kicker was a nice pony, and a hell of a flyer, but she needed to see her trainers as stable experienced ponies. "It's nothing, really. Lieutenant stuff."
"Whatever." Cloud-kicker said with a shrug, "Keep your secrets. I'm gonna' head over to Manehatten. Heard there's a block party tonight." With that the grey Pegasus shifted her weight to one side and began a lazy right turn. Soarin' watched her go, lost in dark thoughts.
"Secrets." He whispered. Applejack had a secret, he was sure of it. She was hiding something. Sure she had told him all about her life and her adventures, but she never let him in. It was obvious she had a wonderful life with lots of friends, but she kept him at arm's length. Soarin' had never visited Sweet Apple Acres, or experienced the simply pleasure of walking through Ponyville with her. There was always an excuse for Applejack to come visit him, never the other way around.
Feeling increasingly despondent and slightly depressed, Soarin' swooped around a rather puffy cloud and hit sub-sonic in a flash. The Canterlot Castle was just visible on the horizon. From here it was not so much a city but a hoof-crafted landmass. The two Princesses were nothing if not theatrical, and had ordered Canterlot's construction as a base of operations from which to rule all of Equestria. It was said that when the ancient builders, led by Arch-Architect Gabriel Masonry himself, had finished the palace they had laid their tools down and wept. It was an honor that Soarin' had even been allowed to buy a small, two-level house in the lesser Bronze District. The ponies of the Silver and Golden districts made the Wonderbolt's skin crawl with their arrogance and dismissive attitudes towards ponies who had fallen on hard times. But Soarin' felt right at home in the run-down Bronze District where his fame and fortune could be put to good use helping the ponies who really needed.
Soarin' pushed himself to go faster, determined to make the most out of the rest of the day.
Applejack sighed and tried again to reign in the Crusaders. Right now she was trying to have a conversation with Rarity, but their words were all but lost in the shouts and chirps of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Applejack wasn't sure what had started the fillies fighting, and part of her doubted there even was a reason. All she knew was Applebloom and Scootaloo had managed to form a ball of dust around them as they fought. Sweetie Belle, usually the peacekeeper of the group, stood on the side, taunting and jeering. The ball of dust changed suddenly direction, as if the two fillies inside had both agreed on something. Sweetie Bell didn't have time to scream before she too was caught in the flurry of hooves.
"I swear, them little ones can fight 'bout most anythin'." Applejack said with a dry chuckle. Rarity eyed the dust with mild disgust but failed to keep the smile from her face.
"They're just like their big sisters." Rarity said and grinned at Applejack, "Hot headed, stubborn and passionate." A moment passed as the two watched the three fillies fight it out, whatever "it" was.
"So…" Rarity said at length, "Have you thought about what to say to Soarin'?"
"I've been tryin', but I can't for the life o' me think of somethin' to say." Applejack said, "I love him, Rarity. I don't want him to be disappointed in me."
"If he loves you even a fraction of how you love him, he will forgive you darling." Rarity said, "And if he won't, well then, I guess you'll just have to seduce him." Applejack's face went crimson and she looked at the floor.
"I ain't exactly an expert in…um…well…" She looked at the three Crusaders and was suddenly glad they could keep themselves occupied indefinitely, "In…stallions…and mares…together."
"You mean you've never…?" Rarity nearly gasped when Applejack shook her head.
"Really?" Rarity said. Applejack's eyes narrowed. There was way too much surprise in her friend's voice.
"What the hay is that suppos'd to mean?" Applejack said, a sneer growing on her face, "I ain't a slut, ya' know."
"I would never have said that, darling." Rarity chuckled nervously and scratched her head, "I had just assumed that you…" She trailed off.
"That I what?" Applejack asked menacingly, "That I would just buck the first colt who came askin' and then just give it up to anypony walkin' by?"
"Well no." Rarity said carefully, "I had just thought that you and a farm-hoof…you know, in the hay loft, too much apple cider. One thing leads to another."
"Rarity." Applejack hissed.
"Or perhaps you go to a farmer's convention and see an old childhood friend." Rarity sighed, fully lost in her fantasies, "He's grown now. Firm muscles and a proud jaw line."
"You dance and he asks you to come back to his room. His lips are like fire, and he-"
"RARITY!" Applejack nearly yelled. The unicorn blinked her eyes and shook her head to clear it.
"Apologizes Applejack, got side-tracked." The farmer stared at the unicorn with disbelief and a little sadness.
"Do…do I really acts like I've…like a barn-sour?" Applejack whispered. Rarity gasped, a hoof coming to her mouth.
"Applejack! Never!" She put a hoof on her friend's shoulder, "You are a lady…er, in your own way, of course. I…" Rarity trailed off at the hurt, dejected look Applejack had. The farmer looked more upset than when Rarity had kissed Soarin'. This was obviously important to the farmer.
"You know what?" Rarity suddenly chirped, "You're right. It was wrong of me to assume you would give up your virtue to any pony who isn't a complete gentlecolt. You deserve the same manners and respect that any of us get."
"Thanks Rar." Applejack pulled her friend into a hug. A moment passed and Rarity squirmed, suddenly uncomfortable.
"You do know how it works, right?" Rarity stuttered, "I don't have to explain…mating, right?"
"I knows, Rarity." Applejack said with a firm nod, "Life on a farm is pretty eye-opening. I just always wanted my first time to be more than…well, bucking in the barn with the hired help."
"Don't we all." Rarity said with a grin.
"Ehem." Rarity coughed into her hoof, "As it stands no. I'm still somewhat inexperienced if you must know."
"Aint found the proper stallion yet, eh?" Applejack grinned.
"He's out there!" Rarity sighed and looked out the window of the speeding train, "Somewhere. Searching for me."
"Ya' really want the stallion of ya' dreams, huh?"
"Oh, do not get me started!" Rarity suddenly exclaimed, "I…I never said this to you…put I was jealous of you. When I…"
"Of me? As in ya' wants Soarin' to yaself? Or the situation? Coltfriend n' all." Applejack asked carefully. Rarity smiled at her, but it was a sad smile.
"The situation. I was jealous you got such a beautiful stallion." Rarity thought for a moment, "Soarin' got any brothers? Or know any single WonderBolts?"
"I…I dunno'." Applejack said with a start, "I dunno' if he has any family!"
"Strange." Was all the unicorn said. Rarity retreated back into her fantasies, and Applejack knew her friend was creating her perfect stallion in her head. Only the occasional sigh or giggle escaped Rarity; Applejack chose not to ask her friend what exactly she was thinking.
By now the Cutie Mark Crusaders were panting on the floor of the train car, covered in dirt and sweat. Every few seconds, one would give a half-hearted, no energy kick to another. Applejack shook her head and trotted over to the three.
"Ya'll finished?" She asked with a cheerful, yet serious grin. The three looked up and nodded, exhausted.
"Scoot…Scootaloo started it." Applebloom said, trying to stand. Applejack helped her little sister up. She did the same with the other two. The Pegasus in question narrowed her eyes at the implied guilt she bore.
"Did not!" Scootaloo said.
"Did to!" Applebloom countered. Scootaloo dropped into a fighting stance and Applebloom rose to the challenge.
"Did not!" By now to the fillies were chest to chest, eyes narrowed and Applebloom slightly taller.
"Girls!" Rarity shouted, drawn from her fantasies, "Please behave yourselves."
"Applebloom started it!" Scootaloo squeaked, pointing a hoof at the cream colored filly.
"Did not!" The little Apple shouted back.
"You callin' me a liar?" Scootaloo growled at the other Crusader. Applebloom stuck out her tongue and made a face at the little Pegasus. Scootaloo leapt at her, and soon another dust ball had formed, hooves flying. Applejack met Rarity's eyes and they both sighed.
"How much longer until we get there?" The unicorn asked.
"Two hours." Applejack said and slumped down in her chair. Rarity shivered and closed her eyes, trying to ignore the three fillies fighting.
Soarin' landed gracefully street just outside his house. It was a compact two-story red brick block of a house, but it was home. A small chimney rose from the triangular brown roof. Around him a few ponies offered cheerful smiles and quick hellos.
"YO!" A voice boomed from the sky. Soarin' looked up in time to see a blur of speed and blazing fire slam hard into the ground. When the dust settled, an orange and yellow Pegasus stood proudly in the street. The sun's rays made her fur shimmer as if made of liquid fire. Soarin' nodded at his fellow WonderBolt.
"Hey Spitfire. I thought you were off today?" Soarin' asked. Spitfire and Soarin' had been trainees together and through their natural rivalry a friendship had formed. They had risen through the ranks of the WonderBolts together until their Wing had needed a new captain. Spitfire was meticulous and every pony in their Wing respected her, although Soarin' might have been considered the more naturally charismatic leader. But in Soarin's eyes the choice had been obvious, and Spitfire had been promoted to Captain. The WonderBolts valued fore-sight and intelligence almost as much as they did raw athletic ability. Soarin' was happy enough in his role as her Lieutenant.
"I flew into Cloud-kicker." Spitfire said casually, "She said you were in a mood."
"I swear that rookie will be the death of me!" Soarin' sighed. The mare chuckled.
"She's just trying to look out for you. It's hero worship." Spitfire said as the two walked over to Soarin's front door. There were few things the two ponies didn't know about each other, and one showing up at the other's house was as common as Soarin' visiting a bakery or Spitfire changing her hair-style. And Spitfire seemed to sport a new "do" every other week.
"Sometimes I wonder why you assigned her to my unit." Soarin' said. Again Spitfire laughed.
"To watch you squirm." She teased. A moment passed as her grin faded as she saw the serious nature of his eyes, "This is about Applejack again, isn't it?"
"Am I that transparent?" Soarin' asked. When his friend didn't respond, he sighed, "Yeah it is."
"You need to talk to her." Spitfire said simply. Soarin' scoffed at the WonderBolt. She really was simplistic, almost to a fault. But in that she made a great Captain, as she was unwavering and resolute. But in matters of the heart and delicate issues, she lacked…empathy.
"It's not that simple, and you know it." Soarin' countered, "I'd prefer not to have a fight this early in our relationship."
"You expect this to be a fight?"
"I dunno." He sighed, "I just feel like I could be doing more? Ya' know, like I'm not impressive enough."
"Soarin' Silverbolt!" Spitfire laughed and punched the WonderBolt in the arm, "You really need to get over that martyrdom mentality you have. Not everything can be solved with self sacrifice."
"Should be." He whispered back. Spitfire was right, and that was what pissed him off the most. Growing up poor with so many responsibilities had instilled noble self-sacrificing mentality in the Pegasus. But as Spitfire was always ready to point out, sometimes he took it too far. Soarin' had no idea where the line was between necessary sacrifice and sacrifice for sacrifice's sake. All too often Soarin' took any and all guilt upon himself, believing that he was in some way responsible for events he had no control over. It was who he was, and he knew at times it was a seriously flaw in his personality.
"You look like you want to go to Evergreen." Spitfire suddenly said. Soarin' looked up and smiled.
"Yeah, I'd like that." The two were about to take to the sky when a voice called out. A familiar, angelic voice that set Soarin's heart racing.
The WonderBolts turned to see a group of ponies trotting over to them. Soarin' smiled at the sight of his fillyfriend and swept the distance between himself and Applejack in an instant. He noticed three little fillies and Rarity Unicorn with her so he gave her only a gentle hug, rather than the full passionate kiss they both wanted.
"Applejack!" Soarin' said, "Sweet Celestia I thought you had gone back to PonyVillle."
"I dids." The farmer scratched her arm nervously and looked at the Crusaders, "I thoughts about what ya' said. Abouts my family…so…" Soarin' kneeled down in front of Applebloom.
"You must be Applebloom, right?" Soarin' asked. The three fillies kept their gazes stony.
"We are the Cutie Mark Crusaders." Applebloom said. Soarin' cast Applejack a glance. The farmer chuckled nervously.
"She can be a might shy." Soarin' nodded happily, too elated by the sudden reversal of fates. Applejack seemed to have gotten over whatever it had been that kept her at arm's length.
"It's really good to see you." Soarin' said. Applejack blushed. Soarin' nodded at Rarity.
"Miss Rarity, a pleasure." He held out his hoof, "Good?" Rarity took it.
"Good." She said gracefully and smiled. A quick glare from Applejack but a large step between Rarity and Soarin'. The farmer was keenly aware none of the Crusaders had said much. She glanced down at her little sister.
"Get him!" Applebloom suddenly yelled. The other two Crusaders pounced on Soarin' before anypony could react. Rarity was about to scold her little sister but Applejack held her back.
"Let 'em." Applejack said, "They is just lookin' out for me." She sighed but smiled, "'sides what the worst they can do?"
The Cutie Mark Crusaders managed to get Soarin', who knew better than to struggle, onto a solid black wooden stool that they produced as if from thin air. Sweetie Belle then produced three matching fedora hats and overcoats from her knapsack and the Crusaders were quickly dressed as noir detectives. They even bore shining golden badges, each personalized to the Crusader.
"Where…how?" Spitfire blinked. She looked at Applejack and Rarity. The two just shrugged.
"It's part of who they is." Applejack said, "Best not to question the Cutie Mark Crusaders." She leaned forward, "Them fillies can do most anythin'."
The three Crusaders loomed over Soarin', eyes narrowed. Applebloom pulled a pad and pencil from her jacket while Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo produced flashlights to shine on the WonderBolt. Spitfire cast the mares a nervous look, but Applejack shrugged and chuckled nervously.
"Them little ones." She said by way of explanation. The three Crusaders whispered amongst themselves for a predetermined amount of time. Evidently they had planned this out. Well. For a moment Applejack wondered if this interrogation had been planned with Soarin' in mind, or if the three simple watched too many cop movies. She made a mental note to tell cousin Caramel to stop letting the Crusaders watch cop shows anymore.
"Let us begin, shall we?" Applebloom looked with grim determination at the other equally emotionless Crusaders. As one they nodded and turned their iron gazes on the prone WonderBolt.
"For the record what is your full name?" Applebloom asked.
"Soarin' Silverbolt." The young farmer made a note on her pad.
"And you are a WonderBolt?" Scootaloo asked.
"Yes. Lieutenant, first-class."
"Interesting." Applebloom said. She showed the other two Crusaders what she had written. Scootaloo nodded grimly. But Sweetie Belle was finding it hard to play detective. She looked at the pad.
"Applebloom, that's just a smiley face."She said. The other Crusaders quickly pushed her aside, their stony faces laughing nervously before again return to an emotionless state.
"Question two: what is your gross annual income?"
"Applebloom!" Applejack suddenly cut in. She had known something like this was bound to happen, but that was too personal a question for the Crusaders to ask. It simply wasn't their business.
"It's fine." Soarin' said dismissively. He met Applebloom's stare with one of his own. "Just under three hundred thousand bits." This gave the two Crusaders a pause.
"Really? Sweet!" Scootaloo chirped, but a swift kick from Applebloom had her back in detective mode, "I mean...interesting."
"Where were you April 14th at 2:33 A.M.?" Applebloom asked with faux anger.
"Home. Sleeping." Soarin' answered.
"Can anypony verify that?"
"Interesting." Applebloom said and glanced at the other Crusaders, "We'll have to look into that." Scootaloo nodded. Sweetie Belle blinked.
"How? You know we need to be in bed by nine." She said, scratching her chin in thought. Scootaloo shoved her aside again.
"Favorite color?" Soarin' looked at Applejack and smiled.
"Green." He said. Rarity put a hoof to her forehead and sighed romantically. The older Apple farmer had to catch the swooning unicorn, lest she ruin her mane and thus everypony else's trip. When the unicorn was back on her hooves, Applejack batted her green eyes at her coltfriend and blew him an air kiss. Applebloom seemed to soften up, but Scootaloo was unimpressed.
"Al'right smooth talker." Scootaloo said and Applebloom blinked. Wasn't she supposed to be the bad-cop to Scootaloo's good-cop? Did it work with two bad-cops? Scootaloo narrowed her eyes.
"Who's the best flyer in all of Equestria?" Scootaloo asked. He was a WonderBolt. He was proud, and would never admit another pony was better. She grinned. She had him!
"Rainbow Dash." He said simply. Scootaloo lost her balance and fell over, completely unprepared for him to get the answer right.
"He's good." Rarity whispered to Applejack. The farmer was studying her WonderBolt with pure adoration and made a mental note to give him ten kisses for every question he got right. No pony had ever gone wit-for-wit with the Crusaders.
"Best I've ever seen." She whispered back, the love and lust in her voice obvious to the unicorn.
"Touché" Scootaloo whispered when she had regained her hoofing.
"My turn! My turn!" Sweetie Belle called out, shattering the entire ominous mood the other two Crusaders had been attempting to set up. She was too damn cheerful for an interrogation. Sweetie Bell shouldered passed the other fillies.
"Favorite memory?" She asked. The others fell silent. It was a much better question than any of the ponies had thought it would be. Even Spitfire, Soarin's captain and oldest friend, took pause and tilted her head expectantly. The stallion looked at the ground and thought for a long moment. When he spoke his voice was low.
"When I was just a little colt, I worked a paper-route to earn some extra bits. I worked all summer long." He smiled at them, "I used that money to pay for a ticket to go to Princess Celestia's Camp Good-Will. I was there for an entire week. Best time of my life. " The look on the three Crusader's faces was nothing short of awe and envy. Their bright eyes were wide and smiles as bright as the sun plastered their faces.
"Was it fun?" Applebloom squeaked. Her cold demeanor was lost. Now she was a little filly with a new dream.
"Best week ever!"Soarin' said, "We camped, swam, went fishing, made all sorts of arts and crafts! Chief Librarian Solaris herself even told us ghost stories! We ate spaghetti, pizza and s'mores every night!" The three Crusaders turned as one to the other mares. Applejack and Rarity met their sisters' pleading gazes.
"Can we go?"
"I'll do all the chores for a week!"
The two mares staggered under the three Crusaders. Applejack glanced at Rarity and detected an ever so subtle nod. Applejack returned it, but knew better than to give in right away. The Crusaders had offered to do all the chores on Sweet Apple Acres! She'd take full advantage of that.
"We'll see." Applejack said carefully. The other adult ponies smiled as the three Crusaders groaned. Soarin' pulled Applebloom into a hug and gave her a noogie. The little Apple squirmed away from the WonderBolt. She shot him a glare, but Applejack felt her heart flutter at the little Apple's eyes. She had the same amused look she always had when Applejack herself gave her a hard time.
"So tell me, detectives." Soarin' said and offered his hoof to Applejack, "Am I good enough for Applejack?" The three Crusaders huddled together to whisper furiously, but the ponies doubted they were actually saying anything. Applebloom broke away from the other Crusaders and nodded slowly.
"You'll do." She said with a grin. Applejack wasted no time in taking the offered hoof and let the WonderBolt pull her into a tender hug. Applejack nuzzled the WonderBolt for a minute before pulling away.
"So now that we have that out of the way." Rarity said, "What say we go have some fun?"
"YAY!" The Crusaders bellowed together. Spitfire, unprepared for the sheer volume the three fillies could produce, staggered.
"I think I know just the place." Soarin' said. The ponies looked at him. Spitfire met his gaze and nodded.
"What?" Applejack asked, "Where?" Soarin' turned to her and offered a sad smile.
"How would you like to meet some of my family?"
"What is this place?" Applejack asked. Soarin', who was leading the group through a path in the woods, turned and smiled.
"You'll see." He said. Applejack shrugged and looked around. The sun shinned brightly through a small hole in the looming canopy. It warmed her skin pleasantly and she basked in it. Applebloom and the other Crusaders had bombarded the two WonderBolts for the entire hour long walk. Soarin' and Spitfire did their best to answer.
Soarin' had led the group out from Canterlot and into neighboring woods. Applejack studied the woods intently, searching for any sigh of where her coltfriend could be leading them. Birds of every spectrum of the rainbow chirped and squawked in the sky. Applejack smiled as she imagined the yellow finches were having a debate with the thick black ravens that dotted the trees. As the group rounded another bend, a herd of dirt-brown rabbits hopped across the dirt path. Maybe it was best Fluttershy was visiting her sister in Cloudsdale for a whole month. Although she missed her friend dearly, Applejack could well imagine the nature-loving Pegasus stopping every two steps to "ooo" and "ahh" over some varmint or another.
The wind picked up and the trees shifted and swayed, as if dancing to a tune only they could hear. Ever since she had been just a little filly, Applejack had wondered if trees were alive. Of course she knew they were alive in a technical plant sense. But since meeting Twilight Sparkle, and fulfilling her destiny as an Element of Harmony, Applejack had always wondered why none of their adventures had taken them afoul an angry talking tree. Spooky trees, sure. But no evil talking trees. It seemed only natural, given their penchant for impossible situations.
Applejack felt Soarin' brush up against her and she blushed as the WonderBolt winked at her. She winked back and was about to steal a quick kiss when the Crusaders returned from a "scouting" mission Spitfire had been clever enough to send them on. The three fillies saluted properly and made a report. Applejack sighed; no more war movies either, it seemed. Them Crusaders were so impressionable.
The group continued on the path for awhile longer. Applejack pressed Soarin' for more answers, but the WonderBolt was tight lipped. At the hour and a half mark, she got her answers.
They came to a wide clearing and Applejack saw a large four-story wooden house. The house was obviously old, but it looked well maintained. Applejack marveled at the craftsmanship of the purple wooden blanks. The roof rose high and several chimneys popped out of the black roof tiles. The windows were covered in white shutters. The entire area had an air of old warmth and memories.
"Susan!" Soarin' roared, "Susan! You have guests, you old pony!" Applejack was sure she heard a distant chuckle, but it faded in the wind. The front door opened with a slow creek. An elderly pony hobbled out. She was old, even compared to Granny Smith. She eyed the group of ponies with thin eyes, set behind thick glasses. The old pony walked down the few wooden steps down to the ground.
"Soarin, Spitfire!" the elderly pony called out and waved a hoof, "It's so good to see you." She seemed to then take notice of the other ponies, "Hello there sweeties, my name is Susan Evergreen. Welcome to our home."
"Howdy Ma'am." Applejack titled her hat, "I'm Applejack Apple. This here is my little sis' Applebloom."
"And this here Rarity Unicorn, her little sis' Sweetie Belle and this little whippersnapper is Scootaloo."
"Charmed, Mrs. Evergreen." Rarity said, offering her hoof. The elder pony shook it but did a double-take on Applejack.
"Applejack?" She asked, "As in…" She looked at Soarin' who nodded. Susan moved faster than a pony her age had any right to and pulled Applejack into a fierce hug. The farmer was surprised by the sudden affection but eventually hugged back.
"Oh Soarin', she's even more beautiful than you said." She gave the WonderBolt a light smack on the head, "Shame on you, young stallion." At this both Soarn' and Applejack blushed.
"Ya' talk about me to ya' friends?" Applejack whispered to her WonderBolt. Soarin' draped an arm around her and gave her a loving kiss on the forehead.
"You're my fillyfriend." He said simply, "Ain't no pony more important." Applejack sighed happily and leaned into him. Their displays of affection were all but ignored by the other ponies who were talking happily, although every pony had noticed. Applejack had never had a pony display his affection for her; she liked it. Applejack snuggled closer and a stray thought entered her mind.
I could get used to this…
"I take it you came here to see my little ponies?" Susan asked after catching up with Spitfire. Soarin' nodded and Susan smiled sweetly. She turned back to the old wooden house.
"KIDS! SOARIN' AND SPITFIRE ARE HERE!" She shouted. Her voice was like a fog-horn, echoing around the entire clearing effortlessly. Applejack was impressed. The older pony's lungs must have been massive. Then the farmer heard another sound. At first she thought it was the pre-rumble of a sudden shower. She looked up, expecting grey skies. But it was clear and blue. The noise only grew louder and a dust cloud seemed to be gathering from the opposite side of the house. The rumble reached a crescendo and Applejack's breath caught in her throat.
"Soarin'!" The voices of almost twenty little ponies shouted together. The thunder of little hooves on dirt drew all their attention to a herd of ponies charging towards them.
"Crusaders, with me!" Soarin' shouted and took off in a head-long charge towards the orphans. Scootaloo gave a whop of joy and followed the WonderBolt into the horde. Applebloom was seconds behind the other Crusader. Sweetie Belle, on the other hoof, idled next to her sister, staring at the giant wrestle match taking place ahead of her.
"Just go." Rarity sighed without even looking at her. Sweetie gave her a hug and charged in after the other Crusaders. The ponies hugged and smiled and bombarded Soarin' with hundreds of questions. The three Crusaders had each paired off with hoof-wrestling or tug-o-wars.
"It's good to see him happy." Susan said, eyeing the growing rumble.
"Mrs. Evergreen…uh…what is this place?" Applejack asked. The mares gave her amused glances. Even Rarity looked at her. Applejack had a niggling feeling in the back of her mind as to what this place was, but she needed to hear it. To make it real.
"This is the Evergreen Orphanage." Susan said with a sad smile, "Established by Princess Celestia herself almost two hundred years ago. My family has been the keepers of this place for generations."
"Soarin' was…uh, is an orphan?" Applejack asked, trying to keep the tears from her eyes.
"He didn't tell you?"
"No…well...I mean I guess this is how he told me." She motioned to the building. Susan offered her a gentle smile.
"Come my dears. I suspect we have a lot to talk about." Susan moved away and seemed to adopt a referee's role to the melee. Soarin's booming laughter filled the entire area. All of the colts and fillies were just as happy as him.
"Oh sweet Celesita Applejack, he's good with kids." Rarity breathed out, "If you do not bed him soon, I will have to do it myself."
"Hooves off!" Applejack hissed at her friend. Spitfire grinned at the two mares.
"She's right, you know?" The WonderBolt put in, "I know a lot of mares who would kill to be you, Applejack."
"I have a plan, thank ya' kindly!" Applejack said, trying not to sound defensive. The two mares with her gave her amused looks.
"…No…" Applejack said, hanging her head, "I ain't got a plan."
"Not to fear, dear Applejack!" Rarity called out, "I think-" Spitfire put a hoof to her mouth.
"Just stop." She said with a shake of her head and turned to Applejack, "It will happen naturally. Don't let miss prissy pony here fill your head with romantic fantasies."
"You are so cynical, Miss Spitfire." Rarity said to the WonderBolt.
"Not every stallion is a prince, Rarity." Spitfire said, "They have to make do with what they know. Don't go filling Applejack's mind with fantasies that A. She doesn't want and B. Will make her time with Soarin' seem lacking." Rarity thought on this for a moment and nodded.
"I see now why you were made Captain of the WonderBolts." She said at length, "Very well." Rarity turned to the farmer, "Applejack, you are on your own." She winked, "I'm sure you know what to do."
The farmer blushed and quickly went to round up the Crusaders before they created a dust-storm, or uncovered ancient pony ruins. With those three, literally anything was possible. Twilight had once joked the three were as likely to catch the ancient Kraken itself while fishing in PonyVille Pond as they were any local fish. It was true enough, and it was best for the three to have a pony watching them as much as possible. And now with two dozen little colts and fillies to offer advice to the Cutie Mark Crusaders, today would be a day to remember. For good or ill.
"SOARIN'! SOARIN'! I'M OPEN!" shouted little Cherry Blossom, one of the orphan ponies. Soarin' nodded and bucked the football high into the sky. The ball twirled gracelessly in the air and several of the fillies and colts scrambled to be the pony to catch it. Ultimately it was Peaches N' Cream who caught it in mid-air. The little filly stuck out her tongue at an annoyed Scootaloo and took off in a sprint. The Crusader narrowed her eyes at the unspoken challenge and ran after, determined to get the ball for herself.
"Nice catch Peaches!" Spitfire shouted from under a tree. Spitfire and Applejack sat under an oak tree, braiding the manes of some of the little fillies. It was hot, and only the most athletic ponies were out in the sun. Although a WonderBolt, Spitfire had elected to remain in the shade with Applejack and some of the orphan ponies.
"Okay dear, now wait a few minutes for the paint to dry before running around." Rarity said to a bright-eyed blue unicorn filly. The filly, Bubbles, jumped off her chair and trotted over to group under in the shade. Rarity watched her go and sighed happily. Right now her respect for the WonderBolts was at an all time high.
Rarity had used her magic to set up a quick table on the grass. As per her fanatic fashion nature, the unicorn had brought a massive amount of make-up and beauty supplies. "For emergencies." Had been the reason given.
It was Sweetie Belle who suggested setting up the beauty booth, and Rarity had been teary eyed when she agreed. It seemed Sweetie Belle had inherited her sister's spirit of generosity. So the two alabaster unicorns were painting hooves, braiding manes and apply soft make-up to any filly who wanted it. And all of the fillies did.
"Peaches! Peaches! Over here!" Shouted a little brown colt with a blonde mane. Peaches tossed the ball; Oliver jumped into the air to catch it, but missed. The ball bounced off his hooves, and tumbled through the air into a bush of snowberries.
"Darn it!" Oliver said as the ball disappeared into the bushes.
"Oliver Spring! Watch your language young colt!" Susan said softly, but firmly.
"Sorry Miss Susan." Oliver said, hanging his head.
"It's okay. Now, go get the ball. Others want to play." Susan said with a smile.
Applebloom, who was reading to several of the younger ponies from a picture book looked up and sighed to herself at Oliver's cuteness. Oliver smiled a toothy grin, and spun his baseball cap around so a small amount of his blonde mane poked out. Maybe it was his light freckles, or maybe it was his careless blonde mane, but Applebloom found it hard not to watch the colt as he played.
"I'll get it first!" Scootaloo suddenly shouted as she charged passed the colt. Oliver was stunned for a second and looked around aimlessly. His gaze met Applebloom's and she nodded expectantly towards the bushes. Oliver tilted his cap and charged in after the Crusader.
"Appwebwoom?" One of the smallest unicorn colts, Tinny Twist, tugged at the Crusader's leg. She looked down and smiled reassuringly. The little colt fur was a blotchy grey/black and when he smiled, Applebloom saw he had a front tooth missing.
"Sorry" She said and turned back to the book and began to read. She tried not to glance at Oliver who seemed to be giving Scootaloo a run for her bits. Applebloom wasn't sure who she wanted to win. Scootaloo was her friend, but if any Crusader needed to be taken down a notch it was her. And that Oliver…she would have to ask Applejack what this warm tingle was.
Soarin' landed right outside the snowberry bush and waited expectantly for the two ponies inside to fight it out. He had to admit the Crusader Scootaloo had a limitless supply of energy.
"HEY SOARIN', THNIK FAST!"
Soarin' spun on his hooves and found a bright red ball flying directly at him. The ball connected with Soarin' face with a thump.
"Oh, a sneak attack, eh? Come here you!" Soarin' laughed and began to chase the Pegasus who had kicked the ball around. The Pegasus colt led Soarin' over to the oak tree, where Applejack and Spitfire were grinning knowingly.
"NOW!" Candy Corn shouted. On command, the red filly Cherry Blossom, Peaches N' Cream and Carrot Stick launched out of the tree at the WonderBolt. Soarin' laughed at the three took him to the ground. They were soon joined by Scootaloo and Oliver, who had dropped the ball in favor of playing dog-pile on Soarin'.
"We got him!" Carrot Stick shouted as he wrestled to keep Soarin's hooves to the ground. Scootaloo tried to pin the WonderBolt's eyes shut while the others tried to hold him down. Soarin' wrapped his right arm around Scootaloo's waist, and lifted the filly off his face and set her down with a thud behind him. Each pony in turn was wrestled off Soarin', but the second he was up all five ponies tackled him back to the ground.
"I haven't seen my little ponies this happy in ages." Susan said, watching Soarin' and the ponies roll around on the ground.
"Yeah…Soarin' has a way with kids. Probably because he's not so different from them." Spitfire laughed. Applejack laughed with the WonderBolt.
"He's got a good heart." Applejack said happily as she finished braiding a filly's brown mane.
"Come here you!" Soarin' shouted.
"He does. Like the ponies here, he's just looking to have some fun." Susan said before trotting quickly back to the house. Some of the fillies and colts wanted a cold drink.
"He's a keeper. Hold on to him." Spitfire said with a smile. Applejack blushed, but couldn't help but agree. Applejack watched her WonderBolt playing effortlessly with the ponies. Soarin' was hovering just out of reach from the little ponies, the most annoyed of which was Scootaloo. She kept jumping and flapping her wings desperately but each time she fell back to earth. Soarin' snatched Oliver's cap from his head and plopped it on Scootaloo, over her eyes. The Crusader growled and fumbled to get the cap off.
"Soarin' has always been a good colt." Susan said with a tray of fresh lemonade balanced on her back.
"He grew up here?" Applejack asked. Susan gave her a slow nod.
"Most of his life." She said, "It was a hard life. We stay open thanks to Celestia herself, but still…these little ponies don't have many luxuries."
"How long have Soarin' and Spitfire been coming here?" Applejack asked. The question had been itching at her mind for several hours now.
"Hmm…let's see. Once or twice a week for…almost five years." Susan said, "At least together. Soarin' visits all the time."
"Sugarcakes…" Applejack breathed. This was a whole new side of the WonderBolts that she had never seen before.
"I got 'em! I got 'em!" Peaches shouted as she clung to Soarin's arm to keep him from moving any of the other ponies off.
"Miss Applejack, is it true that you and Soarin' are…in love?" A little filly with a short black mane asked. All of the fillies turned their attention to Applejack, who was blushing and trying to find the right words. Even Spitfire and Susan arched their eyebrows, studying the farmer intently.
"Ya'... we is." Applejack said eventually. Most of the fillies giggled, others made an "Aww" sound.
"Applebloom! Back-up!" Scootaloo shouted desperately to the other Crusader. The little Apple only laughed as Scootaloo fell to the ground again. Although it looked fun, she would never leave the little ponies she was reading to. Besides, Scootaloo could do with a little hard earned humility.
"How long have you two been dating?" Susan asked, generally curious.
"Almost two months now." Applejack said proudly.
"Did he rescue you from a dragon?" Daisy asked.
"Did he save you from your wicked step-mom?" Peaches N' Cream asked seconds later. The filly had gotten tired of trying and failing to bring Soarin' down, and had joined the group under the tree.
"Is he brave?" Kristy Cream asked, dreaming of a brave knight errant. The two Creams, although twins, could not have been more different. Kristy Cream was a rapidly developing baker and chef, where as Peaches N'Cream would not have been out of place as an assistant in the Carousel Boutique.
The question bombarded Applejack, who was at a loss to all of them. It's not that she couldn't answer them, it just as soon as she thought of the correct words, another question was asked, and then another.
"Has he ever kissed you?" Daisy asked sweetly. Applejack looked down at her and felt moved at the curiosity she saw in the filly's bright blue eyes. To her surprise, nopony asked another question; all of the girls wanted to know the answer to Daisy's question.
"Uh ya'…he has." Applejack said simply; all of the girls giggled at her answer.
"What's it like?" Kristy asked, as she stretched her legs and rested her head against the Oak.
"Smoochin'?" Applejack inquired. In truth, Applejack already knew what she meant, but she needed to buy time to think of an answer.
"No. Being in love. What's it like?" Kristy asked, closing her eyes and letting herself day-dream.
"Love is very odd…" Applejack began, "it's when ya' can't live without somepony in ya' life. It's when ya' know that ya' would do anythin' to make 'em happy, when seein' them upset tears ya' heart apart."
"How do you know when you're in love?" Spitfire asked. Applejack was surprised to hear her take part in the conversation, but when she saw the look in Spitfire's eyes, she understood.
"Ya' just know. It's like somethin' in ya' life is just perfect and the one ya' love fits into ya' life like a missin' puzzle piece." Applejack said, watching Soarin' dreamily. Soarin' and the other ponies had tired themselves out, and now they just rested on the grass, talking lightly and telling jokes. All save Scootaloo, who never knew when to quit.
"How will I ever find love?" Peaches N' Cream asked shyly.
"Ya' heart little ones" Applejack said simply. All the fillies, with the exception of Susan, Spitfire and a sleeping Rosie Sunshine, looked up at the apple farmer.
"My heart?" Kristy asked, touching her chest gently.
"My little ponies, if ya' listen to ya' thumper, ya' will always find love. But ya's need to listen carefully, because ya' can't always hear ya' ticker all the time. I gots lucky with Soarin', and I thanks Celestia for givin' him to me. I loved him more than I does sunshine, and an Apple loves sunshine." Applejack said as she stifled a yawn. She looked around and found that the other fillies were asleep, off dreaming about their Prince Charming. Applejack smiled and closed her eyes. Soon, the farmer had drifted into a dream of her own, thinking of Soarin'.
Applebloom finished reading from the picture book and smiled down at the knee-high colts and fillies. There were five of them, and she doubted their combined age was greater than ten. The wide-eyes of the fillies and colts studied Applebloom intently.
"Another?" One of the little fillies asked. Applebloom nodded.
"Sure. Why don't ya'll head over to the oak tree over yonder, and I'll go inside to fetch another one." Applebloom offered. The little ponies nodded and galloped away. But their legs were short, and what they considered a gallop was little more than a slow trot for Applebloom. But then the little grey colt, Tinny Twist, tripped on his own eagerness and slid on the ground. The little colt came to a rest a few feet away and began to whimper.
"What happened little one?" Applebloom asked Tinny Twist. The little colt looked at the Crusader with unshed tears in his wide eyes. He looked down at his scraped knee. There was a thin trickle of blood running down is leg.
"I scwaped it." He said. A second pony's shadow suddenly appeared next to Applebloom.
"We have a few band-aids inside." The larger colt said. Applebloom felt her cheeks flush and looked up at Oliver's concerned yet cute face.
"…okay." Applebloom said without even thinking. Oliver knelt down and placed Tinny Twist on his back to carry him inside. Applebloom followed the two inside.
"You really should just give up." Soarin' called up to the only filly who was still trying to conquer him. Scootaloo growled and continue her desperate crawl over Soarin's standing body. She pulled, bit and tugged at the WonderBolt, but he didn't so much as waver.
"Never!" Scootaloo called out. Soarin' sighed and plucked the Crusader from his body.
"Okay, enough." He plopped the grumbling Crusader down on the ground. She glared up at him, but it soon turned to a grin and the two laughed.
"This is gonna' sting a little." Applebloom said before dabbing the antiseptic ointment on Tinny Twist's scrapped knee. The little colt hissed, but Oliver held his hoof so Tinny suffered through. Applebloom peeled a band-aid and placed it gently on the red spot. She gave it one kiss and patted Tinny on the head.
"There ya' go, ya' brave stallion." Applebloom said with a grin. Tinny Twist pulled her into a little hug and hobbled off, testing his wound gingerly on the floor.
"I'll clean it again before we go to bed tonight." Oliver said as he watched the patchy colt hobble off. Applebloom found her usually confident voice all but lost at her proximity to Oliver. What was happening to her? She had never been this…what? Shy? Self-conscious? Why couldn't she talk to this colt?
"He uh…ya'…ok…" Applebloom stammered out. When Oliver laughed Applebloom felt like her heart would burst from her chest. Whether it was from embarrassment or something else, she had no idea. What had Rarity said that one time? Try talking about them?
"So uh..." Applebloom began, "How long have ya' lived here?" She inwardly winced. This was an orphanage. What kind of question was that? Oliver smiled sadly.
"My parents died three years ago." He said sadly. Applebloom looked at the ground and offered a mumbled apology. Oliver only smiled back and gave her a quick jab in the arm.
"Hey, we have some carrot cake in the kitchen. Want to split a slice with me?" He offered. Applebloom instantly brightened up and she nodded her head vigorously. Without thinking she took his hoof in hers.
"Ya' bet I does!"
Rarity watched Sweetie Belle and tried desperately to keep the tears of happiness from spilling out and ruining her make-up. Her little sister stood behind a little filly and was expertly braiding her hair and chatting away as if they two had been friends for ages. The Crusaders had made friends with every single orphan and were single-hoofedly making their weeks.
"Hey Rarity?" Sweetie called out, "Amber wants me to braid some sunflowers into her mane. Can you show me how?" Rarity nodded silently. Sweetie Belle almost never asked for help, on anything. It was a sign of how truly happy and relaxed the little filly was that she was willing to admit she didn't know something. Rarity effortlessly plucked a hoof full of the flowers from a nearby bowl and showed both Sweetie Belle and the filly Amber how to braid. The two fillies smiled brightly at the mare and instantly changed places so Amber could braid Sweetie's mane.
Rarity sat back down and watched them. A small shadow fell over her and she looked up at the filly Cheery Blossom. The filly sat down nervously and quickly looked around to make sure no pony had noticed her. She had a tomboy reputation to keep after all. The filly placed both her front hooves on the table and Rarity nodded in understanding. She pulled the massive make-up kit from where it laid on the ground and popped it open to reveal endless rows of colors, shades and brushes.
"What color?" She asked with a smile.
"Red." Cherry said with a blush. Rarity smiled.
"My favorite color." She said and pulled the cherry-red hoof paint from its spot. The unicorn's horn glowed briefly as she unscrewed the cap and dipped a wide bristle brush in the paint. "Let's begin, shall we?"
Applejack and Susan Evergreen moved quickly and effectively through the kitchen of the Evergreen Orphanage. They day had gone and it was getting close to dinner time. Many of the colts and fillies were in the main room watching cartoon shows. Soarin', Spitfire and Rarity were with them, to keep some semblance of order. The littlest foals had been put in bed for a quick nap. Applejack had been delighted when Applebloom and her new friend Oliver Spring had offered to do the work themselves. Applebloom had really taken a shine to both the little ones, and the freckled Oliver. Applejack had noticed the blush the two little ponies had when they thought nopony was looking. Applejack thought it was adorable; her sister's first crush!
"This is a magical place." Applejack said after a moment. Susan looked up from the carrots she was chopping and nodded slowly.
"We're the only orphanage in all of Equestira." Susan said, "Princess Celestia herself tries to visit at least once a year. Though I imagine with Luna back, we'll be entertaining two princesses this year."
"Why haven't I heard of this place before?" Applejack asked. The two worked like cog-wheels in the kitchen, chopping, cutting and cooking a huge pot of stew for the little ponies. Applejack quickly tasted the broth and added another pinch of salt before dumping in two chopped onions.
"We try to keep a low profile." Susan said, "My little ponies need to be adopted by truly loving parents, not ponies looking for social accolades. On average one pony is adopted a month."
"Was Soarin' ever adopted?" Applejack asked. Susan stopped working and looked at the farmer.
"No." She said at length, "He went into the Royal Foster Care system when he turned ten, but he had…trouble."
"Trouble?" Applejack asked eyes wide in shock.
"Oh no, nothing like that." Susan chuckled, "The worst thing I've ever caught Soarin' doing is stealing a cookie from the jar. No, he's just stubborn as a mule that one. He was in the foster care of a well-to-do family that wanted to send him to pony boarding school. He just didn't like it there. Said the colts were arrogant and superior."
Susan sighed, "Honestly I think Soarin' spent too long here. He's never taken much for himself. Always so willing to sacrifice or give up something for another pony. Sometimes I wish he had been adopted as just a little foal. His sense of self is...lacking." She turned to the grim and silent Applejack.
"That's why I like you, Applejack Apple." She hugged the farmer, "You have a backbone. You'll keep Soarin' happy, won't you? Even if you have to force it down his throat?" Applejack nodded gravely.
"I promise by my Grandpappy's hat!" She titled the ever present brown hat on her head, "I is never gonna' hurt Soarin'."
Applejack cuddled closer to Soarin' as the two sat in a slow carriage as it neared Canterlot. The night air was crisp, cool and oh so welcoming. As their side, the Cutie Mark Crusaders were curled up on each other, sleeping. Funnily enough, Sweetie Belle snored the loudest with a thin line of drool dripping onto the floor. During their long goodbye at the Evergreen, Applejack had watched with a tight grin as Oliver Spring gave Applebloom a single peck on the cheek. Even sleeping the little Apple was a bright red as well...a real apple. Rarity was looked out the window at the stars, reminiscing on the day. She had seen Sweetie Belle really shine in helping other ponies. The Crusaders had been nothing short of saintly with the little orphan ponies. Spitfire had taken off from the orphanage itself after all the goodbyes, saying something about a party in Manehatten.
Applejack firmly believed in days that when shared with that special pony, made you love them all the greater. Today had been one of those days. Today had cemented and gilded her love for Soarin'. This was no longer a simple first-love giddy high. This was almost a complete wholeness found in another pony. Applejack had watched Soarin' play tag, hide-and-seek or any number of games with all the orphans and the Crusaders. He had been perfect. Applejack couldn't remember when the Crusaders had been this happy. Usually their adventure ended in sore ankles, mud and sadness from not getting cutie marks. But today the Crusaders had put their mission aside and had just been fillies.
The carriage stopped outside Soarin's house and the two ponies reluctantly pulled away from each other. Soarin' gave Applejack a quick kiss.
"I'll see you later?" He whispered, well aware of the sleeping Crusaders.
"Ya' better believe it." Applejack said, "I loves ya' so much!" The two embraced one more time before Soarin' closed the carriage's door behind him. Applejack sighed but yelped when she felt a swift kick to her rump. She turned to a glaring Rarity.
"What in the hay?"
"What are you doing, Applejack?" Rarity hissed, "The Crusaders are asleep and we are bound for PonyVille. I can take them from here. You get going! Spend the night with your coltfriend."
"I…is ya' sure?"
"Applejack, march!" Rarity pointed out the door. Applejack hesitated for only a second before charging out the door after Soarin'. Rarity watched the farmer disappear into the darkness. "Go get him, girl."
Applejack opened the WonderBolt's front door and cautiously stepped inside. The rooms were dark and she heard the pressurized hiss of a refrigerator shutting. Soarin' was in the kitchen. Applejack watched him from the shadows for a moment. He gulped back a tall glass of milk and washed the empty glass in the sink. His muscled body sent all too familiar warmth through the farmer and her legs began to shake. Tonight! It had to be tonight!
"Soarin'?" Applejack's voice was breathy, and filled with something the Wonderbolt couldn't believe: lust. The farmer's hips swayed in a way that made Soarin' gulp as she walked over. But 'walk' wasn't nearly close enough to describe the way the farmer seemed to glide over the ground. The way she moved was like liquid velvet, flowing in a way that sent a rush of blood through Soarin'. When Applejack finally reached him, she looked at him with half-lidded eyes and a knowing grin.
"Uh…um, hey…AJ." He stuttered dumbly. Applejack put a hoof to his mouth and shook her head.
"Do us both a favor; just shut up." She closed the distance between their lips in a passionate kiss. Soarin' inhaled deeply as he took the earth pony in his strong arms. She smelled like apples and fresh grass and Soarin' found his noble strength waning. Did she know how attractive she was? How much Soarin' wanted her?
Applejack bit down on his lower lip and pulled hard. The Wonderbolt hissed and heard her chuckle. Well two could play at this game. Soarin' took to the air, his wings effortlessly lifting both ponies off the ground. Applejack gasped as she suddenly found her hooves dangling just above the ground. The farmer gasped in delight and surprise when she found herself pressed against the wall of his house, hooves dangling. Soarin' took both her front hooves in one powerful hoof and held them above her head. He ravished her lips with his passionate lust and Applejack felt her mind slowing. She placed her lower hooves on the wall and kicked off, tumbling to the ground in a tangled mass of blue and dull orange fur.
Still, Soarin' was nothing if not an athlete. He effortless twisted in the air, placing Applejack beneath him. But instead of colliding hard to the wooden floor, Soarin' wrapped his arms around the farmer and with one quick flap of his wings, he halted them an inch over the ground. Slowly he lowered Applejack to the floor. The look in her eyes was nothing short of fiery lust. She lunged at him, drawing him down to her. Applejack hissed in pleasure as Soarin' trailed kisses up and down her neck, then to her ear and back down to her collar-bone.
"Let's…" Applejack began but was cut off by Soarin's lips. A moment passed before he pulled away to kiss her body. "Let's continue this in your bedroom."
Soarin' met her gaze, his eyes wide in surprise.
"Are you sure?" He asked, "For real sure?" She pulled him closer.
"I have nev'r been more sure of anythin', hero." She whispered and sealed the words with a kiss. The Wonderbolt took to the air again, carrying Applejack in his powerful arms. Their lips never broke as he effortlessly glided to his bedroom. Applejack felt a moment's trepidation when Soarin' laid her on his soft, warm bed. Their kissing became heated, passionate but careful. Soarin' took his time with her, making sure every kiss and movement was completely wanted.
Applejack had never considered her life perfect. She loved her family and her friends, but there was always more to learn; always another lesson. It was only by the grace of Celestia that none of her mistakes had been unforgivable. Her stubborn streak had ensured life on the farm was never perfect, as the farmer had a nasty habit of biting off more than she could chew.
The moment when Soarin' whispered her name before pushing inside her was the closest she had ever been to perfection. There was pain, but Applejack was a strong pony; she endured. Soarin' whispered her name and his love for her, never once pulling away. He was the knife that tore her open and the salve that healed her. Applejack had never known a pony could feel this complete, this in love. The act itself was more pleasurable than she could ever have imagined, but it was as nothing compared to the pleasure of sharing something this intimate with Soarin'. His arms held her closer, and his lips, when not kissing her, whispered sweet nothings. This must be what Rarity had meant when she said she wanted the perfect pony.
Hours later, after the two ponies had made love for what felt like to Applejack as a blissful eternity, they lay curled up close to one another. Applejack rested her head against Soarin's firm toned chest and released the more contented sigh she had ever had. Seemed that flight shows weren't the only performances Soarin' Silverbolt was good at. Applejack shuddered as a cold wind blew through the open window. As if sensing her chill, Soarin who was sleeping peacefully, pulled her closer to his warm body.
Even asleep, he loved her!
Her life was now perfect.