Dreadful. That's a pretty accurate word to describe how you felt this morning.
It was the morning after Pinkie's party. You had trotted home alone after your little confrontation with...her. To say you weren't feeling the best was an understatement.
Groggily opening your eyes, you glance over at the clock to find it was about nine. Strangely, there was a lack of sunlight in your bedroom. Looking out the window near your bed, you find a layer of thick, grey clouds stretching across the sky. You hadn't heard of a storm being planned for today.
Gently rubbing your temples, you attempt to stave off a slight headache. Since you were never much of a drinker, alcohol had some rather undesirable effects on you. The dull pain in your skull and the repugnant taste in your mouth testified to this.
Slipping off the mattress, you shuffle toward the door. Your left hind leg feels somewhat tight today, and your right was aching more than usual. You chalk it up to the somewhat stressful events of late.
You stop by the mirror on your wardrobe and take a glance at yourself. Disheveled mane, sagging eyes, and somewhat in need of a shave. You couldn't care less, and begin to make your way to the kitchen, as a roar from your stomach informed you of just how hungry you were.
Waltzing in to the kitchen, you shook your head to relieve yourself of some of your fatigue. Not in the mood to practice your culinary skills, you settle on some oatmeal and coffee for breakfast. Gathering the necessary ingredients, you set about the preparation of your meal.
In only a few minutes, you had a piping hot bowl of oatmeal and mug of coffee resting in front of you. Taking the cup in your hooves, you take a swig of the drink. Though it stung a bit at first, you savored the bitter taste of the fluid as it flowed down your throat. You were glad to be relieved of that repulsive taste that had been gracing your tongue since you awoke.
As you were just about to set the mug back down, a sudden knocking at your door made you jump slightly, spilling the beverage on your lap. Cursing to yourself as the liquid burned your skin slightly, you reluctantly walked over to the door, attempting to clean yourself as best as you can.
Who would be visiting me? I'm not expecting anyone. You think to yourself, slightly confused. You had made no arrangements to meet with anyone, and a sudden visitor came as a bit of a surprise.
Opening the door, you find a pegasus with a pair of off-set eyes staring back at you.
"Can I help you?" You start, not hiding the annoyance in your voice.
"Mornin' sir! I have a memo for you!" She replied, not taking notice of your impatience. She grabbed an envelope out of her saddlebag and handed to you with gusto.
"Oh, well, thank you." Upon handing you the envelope, she gave a sheepish salute, and proceeded on her way.
Walking back inside, you wondered what this could be about. The mailmare never brought you your mail personally, so you figured it must be urgent. But who would send you an urgent message and why?
Trotting back into the kitchen, you sat down and began to peel open the envelope. After a few minutes of prying (you always hated the things, and preferred papers be brought to you as is), you unfold the contents to find a hastily scribbled note.
You and I need to talk.
Come down to Sweet Apple Acres around six o'clock. Come alone.
Applejack? You wondered why she would want to talk with you. Even though you hung out with her brother every now and then, you never really spoke with her much outside of getting apples from her.
Judging from the print, it looked as though it had either been written in a hurry, or she had a lack of control with a pencil. You wouldn't put the second possibility past her. She doesn't exactly seem like the kind of pony who would have patience with writing.
But now you had two questions. First, why does she want to talk? You never really spoke to her on a casual basis, and you hadn't given her a reason to want to speak with you, other than...
Oh no... You thought. That was it. The party, and how you upset Fluttershy. That was no doubt what she wanted to talk about. No, that was what she wanted to "talk" about. She probably wanted to beat you up for upsetting her friend. In fact, she wants you to come alone. Of course! She probably has some Apple Family posse just waiting to jump you as soon as you were in range!
No, no, that wouldn't happen.You're just getting paranoid. You thought to yourself. She probably just wants to hear what you have to say. And hey, maybe if you told her just what Fluttershy had been planning, she would agree with you!
Now that's where the second question came in. Should you go talk with her? Well, from what Big Mac has told you, his sis can be quite stubborn sometimes, refusing to take "no" for an answer. If you didn't show up, who's to say she wouldn't come knocking on your door, angry for you missing your appointment?
Swallowing the small lump in your throat, you decide it would be best to simply take it like a stallion and face Applejack. Regardless of what she had to say to you, you figured you at least owe her this, especially for the free apples she provided during your treatment.
With the plans for your day pretty much set, you let out a sigh and trot back into the kitchen to a cold bowl of oatmeal.
The time to face Applejack had come.
You had opted to stay at home until the moment came. The pain in your leg has since subsided, and you were ready to begin the trek to Sweet Apple Acres.
You had taken a few minutes before leaving to clean up a bit, including what was left of the coffee on your lap. Combing your mane, brushing your teeth, and throwing on a jacket, you were ready to go.
Stepping out your door, you notice the clouds have since become darker. They blotted out all sunlight, casting an eerie, dark shadow over all of Ponyville, seemingly full of sorrow and hate. A pretty good reflection of how you felt.
You began trotting through town to your destination. The generally happy atmosphere of the town was strangely absent. It almost seemed like the houses around you were in limbo, oddly still, almost haunted even. You precariously make your way to the town center.
Looking around, you notice some ponies giving you an odd mixture of looks. Some looked confused, perhaps at the absence of your usual chauffeur. Others look concerned, and you figured they were probably worried as to why Fluttershy was not with you. A select few threw you looks of extreme scorn. You could almost feel the daggers of their glares driving into you. Of course, they probably got some false story Fluttershy told them. Had they known the truth, they would be on your side.
You spoke to no one as you approached the farm. The solemn air surrounding the town seemed to cause ponies to repel from you. You didn't care, and were only concerned with how to deal with the farmer pony you were going to speak with.
After about ten minutes, you had arrived at the entrance to the Acres. Taking a look at the note she sent you, you realized that Applejack gave you no specific location on the farm to meet here. Not wanting to let your appointment go missed, you start to look around.
Eventually, you found Big MacIntosh on the outskirts of the Acres. He was simply looking off into the distance, with no particular object in focus that you could find. Cautiously approaching him, you decide the only way you would find his sister would be through him.
"Hey, Big Mac?" You start, slightly unsure of yourself.
Big Mac slowly turns around and looks at you with an expressionless face. Looking you up and down, he takes a deep breath before responding.
"Ya ain't exactly the smartest pony, are ya?" He says with no emotion in his voice. The question caught you slightly off-guard.
"W-what?" You respond, unsure of what brought about such a statement.
"I thought you were better 'n that." He drops his gaze to the ground at your hooves.
"H-hey, I'm not about to be tricked like that! I'm not gonna be used again!"
Big Mac merely sighed and shook his head. "You're lookin' fer mah sister, right?"
"Uh, yea...you know where she is?"
Big Mac simply pointed to a clearing on the other side of the farm. With his duty done, he trotted off without another word.
At this point, you were getting nervous. Now Big Mac was against you, too? If anyone, you figured he would stay loyal to you at least. But then again, with all you've been through, how can you trust anyone anymore?
Taking a deep breath, you begin walking the direction you were pointed.
After what felt like forever, you finally made it to the area Big Mac had suggested. With trees on all sides of you, you were surprised you actually managed to find this place. The entire farm looks the same, and you wondered how any of the ponies living here didn't manage to get lost on the fields.
Scanning the area, your eyes are brought to the one, colorful object in the vicinity.
Precariously, you begin to walk toward her. She had her back turned to you, and it seemed as though she hadn't notice you yet
You stop moving when you were about ten feet from her. The silence was unbearable. There was not a noise to be heard but the gentle rustling of the leaves. Applejack's mane and tail simply flowed in the wind as she stood, facing the other direction. You decide to break the silence.
At last, she turned, with a strangely well timed strike of lightning accompanying her action. The look she gave you struck fear all throughout your body. Her eyes were filled to the brim with anger, and she wore a powerful scowl on her face. You knew you were in serious trouble.
"So," she started. "You actually decided to show up, huh? Ah figured you'd be to much of a coward to leave yer house!"
"Hey! Just because I'm not in the best condition, doesn't mean I'm afraid of you!" You retort, matching her volume.
Letting out a haggard sigh, Applejack looks away before continuing. "Ugh, Ah don't even know why Ah'm doin' this...you of all ponies don't deserve it."
"What are you talking about?"
Looking back up, she continued. "Why did ya do it? Goin' and crushin' poor lil' Fluttershy like that?"
"Because," you begin. "I've been tricked one too many times, I'm not about to let it happen again!"
"Tricks!? What in the hay are you talkin' about?"
"I know exactly what Fluttershy was doing!" You start, certain in every word you said. "She never cared about me, she was using me to make a quick buck! All the care, the food, the housing, everything makes sense! She was taking care of me because she was going to make me pay up! The moment I was out of this cast and back to my normal, healthy self, she was going to slap a bill in my hooves and expect me to pay for her services!"
Lifting your chin in confidence, eyes closed, you were certain that your reasoning was sound. Opening an eye to take a look at Applejack, you find that her face wore an expression of shock, bewilderment, and confusion all in one. You must have convinced her your logic was completely reasonable after all.
"You...you are such an idiot!"
"Ya really think Fluttershy was just tryin' ta turn a profit by usin' you!? You have gotta be the dumbest colt Ah ever met!"
"Well, yeah! It makes perfect sense!"
At this, the orange mare let out a loud groan and planted a hoof on her face before continuing. "Now jus' how do ya think she could've made a profit with all she spent!?"
"She could have just charged for all the food and the housing and whatnot!" You retort, certain that your logic was sound.
"Oh my Celestia," she started, never taking the hoof from her face. "And just how do you think she could have made up for all the fees?"
"She could have...wait, what?"
Finally removing the hoof from her face, Applejack looked right at you. "Y'know, the fees?"
"Er, what are you talking about, what fees?" You had no idea what she meant by that.
"Ah'm talkin' 'bout the...wait, did she not tell you?" She bore an incredulous look on her face.
"I have no idea what you're talking about!"
"Oh my stars," facehoofing once again, she continued. "She told me she would tell you about it, but Ah didn't think she'd take so long!"
"Tell me about what!?" You were getting a bit tired of this game of Twenty Questions, and wanted the details now.
"Lemme ask ya this...how much did all yer hospital fees cost ya?"
"Hospital fees? They...er..." You couldn't answer. You just now realized that you hadn't paid a single bit to that hospital since your injury. "I....I don't know..."
"Now lemme ask ya this; Did anyone at that hospital ever come up to ya and hand you a bill?"
"I..." You were dumbstruck. Hospital fees weren't exactly cheap, but you realized you never paid any, and had never even seen any. "But...how is that..."
"Ah'll answer that, because yer too stupid ta see it yerself. Fluttershy paid for all of your expenses!"
"Wha...But why did I never-"
"Fluttershy specifically asked yer Doc to send all the bills to her without tellin' you, so you wouldn't have ta worry 'bout 'em!"
You were dumbfounded, to say the least. "But...how could she afford all that?"
"That ain't important. What matters is that she took care of you entirely out of the kindness of her heart. All you could do was spit in her face for all she had done."
This could not be happening. She had paid for your hospital bills? On top of that, were the physical therapy sessions and checkups after you were discharged added on to that? Just how much did she pay for you? You had no idea, or anyway of knowing. But, for some reason, you still had your suspicions.
"Wait..." You say. "Why should I believe you?"
"Even if ya don't take mah word for it, would ya deny it if ya saw all the bills?"
She had a point. Even if you didn't believe her, Fluttershy probably kept the bills somewhere in her home where you wouldn't find them.
"But...why? Why would she do all of this for me?"
"Well," she retorted, "if ya had asked me that before ya went 'n' crushed her little heart, I coulda told ya that she cared about ya, but now she probably don't give a rat's ass about ya."
"She cared about me?"
"Yes, ya dunderhead! Ah know yer stupid, but ya can't be blind too!" With a sigh, Applejack seemed to deflate a bit. "Do you know how much she talked about you? When you weren't around?"
"Er, no, I..."
"Really now, you were all she ever talked about! Ah never heard the end of how nice you were, handsome, so on..."
"She...she really said all that?"
With an incredibly serious look on her face, Applejack came right up to your snout. "Yes, she really did. You meant that much to her."
"I...I..." You collapse to the ground, burying your face in your hooves. "Oh dear Celestia, what have I done..."
The ramifications of your accusation had finally sunk in. The pegasus who had given so much, toiled so hard to help you recover, did everything solely out of her heart. Her heart, the same one you ever-so-mistakenly destroyed.
When you first accused her, you didn't want to believe it. A powerful force in your mind made you think that it was true. Some deeply engraved memory, perhaps. Whatever force it was, you wished it to be smitten by the Goddesses above for it driving you to make such a terrible mistake. The mare of your dreams probably hated you now, and it was all your fault.
The voice of a rustic earth pony brought you out of your wallowing.
"Ya dun goofed, is what you did!" She barked, not caring about how bad you felt right now. "And I have half a mind to beat the hay outta you right now!"
Without looking up, you respond. "You may as well...I probably deserve it..."
"Yer darn right ya do!" Her words cut into you like a knife. "But....I can't."
"Wh-what?" This time you look up to a rather sullen look from Applejack.
"I can't beat you down, because..." The farmer pony looks away into the distance. "...Because she told me not to."
"Wait, she told you-"
"Yeah, that's right. Ah told her you and Ah were gonna have a chat, but she made me promise not to hit you over what you did to her."
"But...if anything, I figured she'd want me dead..." Why would Fluttershy not want you hurt? Your accusation was dumb enough to warrant a beating, but she refused to let it happen.
"Ah don't know. Perhaps she still cares about ya. Fluttershy isn't one to hold grudges, but it ain't easy to win back her trust. Maybe she wanted to give you another chance..." She snaps her hate-filled glare back to you. "Not that you deserve another chance!"
"She...really?" Had she really wanted to believe you weren't a complete screw-up? She really was offering another chance?
"Yes, really. But lemme tell ya this..." Suddenly, Applejack pulled you uncomfortably close, until your snouts were touching and her eyes were right in yours. "If you ever, and I mean EVER, hurt that pegasus' like that again, I swear I will beat you down into fertilizer, is that clear?"
"I..." You knew this promise would be the most important one you would ever keep in your life. "I swear, I will fix this."
Applejack's bright, green eyes peered straight into yours for what felt like an eternity. It was as though Applejack was searching your soul, attempting to find truth and sincerity in your statement. After some time, she finally backed off, seeming satisfied with your answer.
With a deep sigh, she started. "...She's probably at her house, if ya wanna find her. Don't mess up this time."
"I won't, I promise."
You begin to conjure up plans. How should you go about this? Should you go for the blunt approach with an "I'm sorry," or should you pour your heart out in an attempt to regain her trust? You mulled over all possibilities, trying to come up with the best solution.
"Oh, and one more thing?"
The orange mare's voice snapped you out of your thoughts. Whirling back around, you-
-find her hoof meeting your face with a high velocity.
"Ow! What the heck, I thought she told you not to hit me!" You yell, picking yourself up from the ground.
"Nah, she told me not to hit you because of what you did to her. She nevah said Ah couldn't hit you 'cause I felt like it."
Feeling like you may have ever-so-slightly deserved that, you turn around and begin walking toward the cottage of the pegasus for another confrontation with Fluttershy.
Only this time, things would play out much differently.