"Well, Ah gotta say, cuz, this looks like a better harvest-ta-be than Ah've ever seen." Braeburn said as he and Applejack trotted about the orchard. The rest of the party had gone without major event (although it may be noteworthy that Pinkie and Rainbow had somehow tricked Twilight into drinking hard cider and... let's just say the six friends will never look at scented bookmarks the same way again). In the morning Braeburn had requested to examine the impending harvest with AJ. So, there they were trotting between trees, examining the trees for signs of disaster.
"That's mighty kinda ya ta say, Braeburn. This harvest could be troublesome, though." Applejack replied without looking at him.
"Why d'ya say that?" He asked politely.
"Well, for the last few years its been me, Big Mac, and the gang, but this year Rarity is busy with dress orders, and Twilight has some convention in Canterlot. Rainbow has them tryouts fer the Wonderbolts, so all we got is me, Big Mac, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie." She answered, holding a hoof to her chin as she attempted to remember if there was anything else.
"Hmm. You know Ah got the buffaloes helpin' out on my harvest."
"Yeah, they love them pies so much that they wanna help make 'em this year."
"So Ah was thinkin'...maybe Ah could help out here fer yer harvest?" Braeburn asked.
"Ah don' know..."
"Come on, cuz, it'll be fun!" Applejack looked at him now. At first she focused on his face, showing with childlike want, but eventually she caught site of the feather and had to look away.
"So he'll be helping with the harvest?" Fluttershy asked.
"Eeyup." Big Mac answered. Fluttershy had stopped by to see Applejack and had run into Big Mac instead. He had seen fit to inform her that Braeburn would be here a few weeks longer. "Only problem is findin' him a place to stay that long." Big Mac said suggestively.
"Y-you don't have any room?" She asked.
"Eenope. Our guest room will be full a' apples when we start harvestin'. Helps organize."
"O-oh, okay." Fluttershy mumbled. After a silent moment of thought she got an idea. "M-maybe he could...maybe... stay with me? If he wants to..." She asked quietly.
"I think that'd be nice and convenient."
"Ah said it'd be convenient. What's wrong with that? Now we don' havta find a place for him ta stay." Big Mac answered the upset Applejack.
"Ah just don' ..." She stopped there not really knowing where to go with this without saying something she'd regret.
"Is somethin' wrong sis'?" She hated it when people asked her questions and she didn't want to tell the truth. She couldn't just lie either. It wasn't in her nature, hints how she became the Element of Honesty, but that didn't mean she couldn't avoid the truth or just twist it a bit.
"Naww, this is really convenient isn't it? I s'pose it's best he stay with Fluttershy than any of my other friends. She DOES live the closest."
"Plus, they seem kinda close already, if you catch mah drift." Big Mac said, grinning.
"Yeah, there's that too." Applejack said before turning and walking back into the farmhouse to tell Braeburn where he'd be staying. Hopefully, he wouldn't be wearing that hat.
The next morning Braeburn woke to the rooster's crow. He rolled over too far on the couch and fell to the floor. Opening his eyes, his mind muddled by sleep, he slowly remembered where he was; Fluttershy's cottage. The rooster threw him off. As he got up he heard the flapping of wings and glanced over to see Fluttershy hovering down the staircase.
"Oh, I'm sorry did the rooster wake you? I should've told Atlas not to crow this morning. I'm sooo sorry." She said hurriedly when she saw him still sitting on the floor.
"Fluttershy. Ah live on a farm and wake up to the rooster's crow ev'ry morning. Ah'm fine, jus' forgot where Ah was is all." He assured her while he got.
"O-oh...uhm, what would you like for breakfast?"
"Oatmeal sure would be nice."
"Okay I'll make some." She said before fluttering into the kitchen to put water on to boil. While she was doing that Braeburn found himself marveling at all the different animals and critters wandering around the small house and wondering at how in the world such a timid and shy pegasus could befriend so many different types of animals.
When the oatmeal was done they sat down at the table and silently ate their bowl's worth. At first the silence was awkward but eventually it became something more of a friendly... lack of sound.
Over at Sweet Apple Acres Applejack was tending to her animals, giving polite hellos to the cattle. Once that was all taken care she got to work with the small crops that had to be harvested earlier, such as corn. As could be expected of any moment of boring work, Applejack couldn't help but let her mind wander. Sadly, it only had one real place to go to.
Fluttershy and Braeburn. She couldn't stop the image of HER feather stuck in HIS hat flashing forward in her mind. That just hurt her. There was a time when she felt like this whole thing was a two way street, but that time had long since passed. Now she only felt betrayed, and angry at herself for feeling that way. Obviously it wasn't Fluttershy's fault if she didn't return the feelings, and apparently she never would, but consarn it if she still felt this way no matter what she did.
Maybe if she wasn't so pretty or so shy this would be easier, but no, Fluttershy was just... wonderful. Or at least to Applejack she was.
She shook her head to clear her thoughts. This form of self-torture just wouldn't do her any good. She knew it and so would anyone else with any common sense.
She sighed heavily, again upset with her inability to change the subject in her head.
"Somethin' wrong, AJ?" She jumped at the sound of Applebloom's voice behind her. She turned to face her sister quickly.
"The harvest is jus' fine, why?"
"Ah wasn' askin' 'bout the harvest-"
"I'm okay, Applebloom, I feel fine." Physically, at least.
"Uh-huh? Well alright then."
"What are ya doin' in this field, anyway?"
"Ah was lookin' fer you. You left the house lookin' real glum this mornin'..."
"Ah told you I'm fine." Applebloom eyed her suspiciously, but didn't pursue the matter.
"Alright, if you say so..."
"Ah do." Applebloom continued to watch her carefully, but finally gave up and turned to trot away. She stopped, remembering something suddenly. "Oh, Ah almost forgot; Rainbow Dash is here to see you."
"RD? Did she say what for?"
"Somethin' 'bout helpin' before the harvest."
"Alright, Ah'll be right there."
It was such a weird shape. It could've been anything. Maybe somepony had started digging and given up or maybe Big Mac had slammed his hoof here a few too many times. It could've be where somepony had left a large heavy object for a few hours. It looked like whoever had made it had spilled some orange liquid on it and let it dry.
As Rainbow Dash was examining this oddity in the ground Applejack trotted up beside her.
"Watcha starin' at, RD?" She barely glanced over her shoulder at AJ's voice, but merely continued staring at it.
"Hey, AJ....Do you have any idea what this is?" She asked indicating the strange shape in the ground. Applejack glanced at it then looked back at Rainbow.
"That'd be yer face print from the reunion, when you had a bit too much hard cider. Ya tried to show off when you couldn' even see who ya were showin' it to."
"But I don't even remember drinking!" Rainbow said, shocked
"That's what Ah mean by 'too much'." Applejack's reply was completely deadpan. She had expected that after that fourth bottle Rainbow would stop remembering and eventually have to ask questions about that night.
"Oh... Well, uh, I came by to see if there was anything I could help out with before I go to Cloudsdale tomorrow."
"Ah can think of a few things."
A few hours later the pair had finished painting the barn after fixing a hole in it's roof. Once that was all said and done the two sat down to some well earned apple juice. Rainbow couldn't help but look a bit distracted, as she kept glancing around for no apparent reason. Eventually, AJ started to get curious about what was going on in the weather pony's head.
"What's on yer mind RD?"
""I was just thinking..."
"Good, it feels right, don't it?" Applejack replied with a smirk.
"Shut up." Rainbow retorted while punching her playfully. "Anyway, I was just thinking about Braeburn and Fluttershy..." She said, watching Applejack carefully. Her face darkened noticeably at the mention of the new couple.
"Oh, that. What about it?" She asked, her voice a little more edgy than she would've liked it to be.
"That. That right there." Rainbow pointing at her while she took a swig of juice.
"Excuse me?" Applejack asked, now confused.
"You don't like them together. I don't know why, but I can tell you don't like it." Rainbow said with growing confidence. "So what is it, AJ? What's wrong with them being together? Do you feel protective of Fluttershy?"
"She can handle herself."
"Do you think they won't last?"
"They probly will." Ouch...that was the hard truth, too. She honestly thought they would. She started getting the urge to get out of there before that stinging in her eyes got worse.
"Do you think he'll go to fast for her? Or she'll go to slow for him? What's wrong Applejack?"
"Look. They make a great couple and I see no reason why they shouldn't be together." Applejack said, her eyes beginning to glaze over.
"Then what's wrong with y-" She stopped when she looked at at AJ's eyes. "Ohmygosh." She whispered. "You're sweet on Fluttershy, aren't you?"
"No." Being the Element of Honesty came with perks. People always believed you because they knew you wouldn't lie. But, occasionally, if you did lie, anypony could tell.
"AJ. I've known you for a LONG time and I know you don't lie. I know you would never stab me in the back or hurt me for real, because you are an honest, loyal, good friend. And I know you would never even consider lying to me when it matters, but I have a problem."
"What?" AJ asked, worry obvious on her face.
"You just did."