4w, 2dNaNoWriMo: Week One 8 comments · 64 views
10w, 4dApplePie Ship Group Prompt Collab 0 comments · 92 views
13w, 5dName Change to "Drought" and Other Sundries 12 comments · 169 views
16w, 6dShip Group Prompt Stories 4 comments · 200 views
19w, 6dStory Recommendations of the Day: FLUFFCATION Edition! 12 comments · 269 views
23w, 6hI return from an unexpected hiatus and bring you crappy presents no one asked for! 5 comments · 173 views
34w, 2dStory Recommendations of the Day 11 comments · 253 views
40w, 2dI return in triumph and with a slightly different user's name! 29 comments · 446 views
43w, 3dMY DARK POWERS HAVE REACHED THEIR ZENITH 21 comments · 387 views
43w, 5dNew Co-Written Story: "The Eulogy of Mr. Acorn, by the Coward Twilight Sparkle" 3 comments · 266 views
“Putting Things Right”
Applejack knew, as surely as she knew that apples were the most noble of all fruits, that she was going to die. It was not a question of if but a question of when.
Still, she wasn’t going to give up without a fight. She was an Apple, after all, and Apples did not go gently into that good night. No, no, no. Quite the contrary. Apples went kicking and screaming into that good night.
So it was that she skulked across the Sweet Apple Acres orchards, glancing over her shoulder every few minutes as she bucked trees. She braced herself for impact whenever she took her cart full of apples into town, as danger could lurk behind any given shrub or barrel. Every night before going to sleep, she checked under her bed for hiding assailants.
But despite all her vigilance, when the day finally came, as she was baling hay in the barn, Applejack was still caught off guard. Because instead of a sneak attack, sudden karate chop, or a hollered war cry--or anything as ridiculous and predictable as that--she only heard a quiet, calm voice call out, “Hello, Applejack.”
Slowly, Applejack turned around and came face to face with the mare she’d been dreading for the last few weeks. She swallowed thickly. “Well, howdy, sugar cube,” she replied, forcing a grin and feeling her stomach give a lurch. “What can I do for ya on this fine afternoon?”
The pink pony stood there, unusually still, staring at Applejack with an eerie Zen-like tranquility in her eyes. “Well, you can start by apologizing.”
The farmer took a deep breath. Right to business, then. Okay. She could do this. “I’m mighty sorry, Pinkie Pie,” she began hesitantly. “I shouldn’t never have just taken off like that on y’all.”
Pinkie tilted her head. “And?”
“Uh.” Applejack could feel the sweat start to form in tiny droplets on her brow. “Uh, and I’m sorry that I didn’t just tell y’all what was botherin’ me so much.”
Pinkie’s head tilted so far to the side that it looked like it might just fall right off. “And?”
“And …“ Applejack faltered. After a moment, she shook her head. “Yer gonna have to help me out here. I got nothin’.”
“And you broke your Pinkie promise!”
“I did no such thing!”
“You did too!” Pinkie harrumphed and stomped a hoof. “Skipping out on breakfast was a mean, sneaky trick, and it totally counts as breaking your promise.”
“No, it don’t!”
Pinkie Pie’s eyes narrowed. “It totally does, and you know it does, Applejack. I know you know, ’cause you’re doing that thing you always do when you’re trying to lie.”
That brought the orange earth pony up short. She frowned in confusion. “What’re you talkin’ about, Pinkie?”
“Oh, you know!” Pinkie’s tone was still unusually serious and focused, but a small grin played on her lips. “Your eyes go all herky jerky. You can never look anypony in the eye when you’re telling a fib.”
The farmer opened her mouth, thought twice, and then shut it again. She idly scratched her head with a hoof. “Really? I do that when I ain’t tellin’ the truth?”
“Well, I’ll be. Can’t say as I ever realized that.”
The two earth ponies stood there, staring one another down, silent and at a loss for words. The tension hung in the air like a heavy weight, and the very walls of the barn seemed to gradually close in on them. Then, after seeming hours of this stand-off, Pinkie snorted. After that initial snort, Pinkie began giggling, softly at first, then louder and louder, until finally she was on the floor of the barn and gasping for air with tears streaming down her face.
Applejack couldn’t help a chuckle of her own. “All right, sugar cube, you win. How can I make things up to ya? You tell me what I gotta do to put things right, and I’ll do it.”
Immediately Pinkie Pie hopped back to her feet with a grin. “Whatever I want?”
“Sure thing.” Applejack wasn’t at all sure that she liked Pinkie’s grin, but there was no turning back now. “Whatever you want, Pinkie.”
Pinkie’s grin stretched across her entire face, impossibly wide, and a glimmer shone in those blue eyes. A glimmer not unlike the one the pink pony had gotten that day she and a certain good-for-nothing pegasus had painted all of Applejack’s apples. And suddenly, Applejack was sure. Dead sure.
She didn’t like that grin. Not one little bit.
“Yer serious about this? This is what you want me to do to make things up to ya?”
Pinkie Pie shot her a suspicious look. “You’re not trying to break another promise, are you?”
“No! No, I ain’t tryin’ to do anything o’ the sort.” Applejack rolled her eyes. “I was just figurin’ … you know what? Never mind. If’n you’re really so dead set on helpin’ me buck apples, grab a basket from over yonder and let’s get started.”
As Pinkie bounced off to fetch the basket, the farmer just shook her head. This was the weirdest favor that she’d even been asked for--to let somepony else help her--but she was in no position to question things. The farm could always use some extra helping hooves, and Applejack had indeed told Pinkie that she’d do whatever the crazy pink mare wanted. Besides, as far as punishments went, it wasn’t so bad to have to listen to a few hours of “chimmy cherry chonga” this and “pickle barrel kumquat” that.
Well, she hoped it wouldn’t be that bad, anyway.
But Applejack was taken completely by surprise by what actually occurred--absolutely nothing. As Applejack went down the rows of trees, bucking and busheling, Pinkie did the same, albeit at a slower pace. Pinkie uttered not a single word, asked not a single question, sang not a single song, and the afternoon passed quickly and quietly.
Towards sundown, the strange silence grew to be too much for Applejack to bear, and she carefully set down her basket of apples. She turned around and, after a moment’s hesitation, called out, “Uh, Pinkie? You all right over there, sugar cube?”
Pinkie froze but didn’t turn around. When she finally spoke, her voice was unusually soft. “I knew what they were doing, you know. I can be a silly filly sometimes, but I’m not stupid.”
Applejack frowned. “What who were doin’?”
“Our friends. When they asked me to go help you in the cherry orchard.” Pinkie glanced over her shoulder and met Applejack’s gaze. “I knew they wanted me to go annoy you so much that you’d have to tell us what you were hiding. But I didn’t want to annoy you, Applejack! I don’t want to annoy anypony!”
“Pinkie …” Applejack trailed off, unsure of what to say.
“So I was just going to talk to you about nice, safe things, so you’d feel better and maybe want to tell us about what was bothering you, but then I got really excited while talking to you, because we don’t ever really talk just the two of us.”
Applejack began to protest that last statement but then, quickly reconsidering, she decided to keep her peace. Because Pinkie was right. Wasn’t she? They never really did talk one on one, did they? It was … it was a strange thing to realize. It made Applejack’s stomach feel a bit funny, a bit achy.
As Applejack thought over all of that, Pinkie Pie continued on. “And the more excited I got, the more I started talking, and the more I started talking, the more annoyed you seemed to get …” She looked down at her hooves. “And I guess I ended up annoying you anyways. I didn’t mean to, though.”
Applejack had thought she couldn’t feel lower than she had when she’d first seen all of her friends come into Dodge Junction, but she’d been wrong. Because right now, hearing the vulnerability and utter brokenness in Pinkie’s voice--this was the lowest she’d ever felt in her life.
“Pinkie Pie, I don’t …” She considered telling Pinkie that she hadn’t been annoyed back in that cherry orchard, but she knew Pinkie would see right through her if she tried. After a moment’s thought, she quietly said, “I ain’t annoyed right now. Haven’t been annoyed once the entire afternoon, actually. Fer whatever it’s worth.”
Pinkie lifted her head, curious. “Really?”
“Really.” Applejack grinned at her, a grin as wide and as honest as the day was long.
The two earth ponies crested the last hill that stood between the orchards and the farmhouse as the sun just began to touch the horizon. Applejack walked with a steady gait that was just a smidgen slower than the one she’d had at the start of the day, while Pinkie bounded forward with as much pep and enthusiasm as she always had. The farmer had to admit she felt a touch jealous of her friend--she’d give her best lasso to have just half the energy that Pinkie seemed to have.
They pulled their carts, filled to overflowing with apples, into the barn that stood next to the house. Applejack shrugged off her harness and gave her left shoulder a good, solid rotation. The joints loudly popped and cracked as she did so. Then she did the same thing with her right shoulder and let out a little sigh of contentment as everything settled into its proper place.
From the other side of the barn, Pinkie observed in a thoughtful tone, “You work really hard.”
Applejack chuckled, at both the obviousness of Pinkie’s statement and the serious expression on the other mare’s face. “Reckon I do, sugar cube. Ain’t nothing wrong with a bit o’ hard work, though.”
“But when do you have fun?”
“All the time. Workin’ is plenty fun.”
The pink pony snorted. “I mean real fun, Jack!”
“Well, if yer talkin’ leisure activities an’ all, I practice for rodeos and play horseshoes and---wait a minute.” Applejack’s eyebrows knit together. “What’d you just call me?”
“Jack!” Pinkie Pie repeated helpfully, throwing in a giggle for good measure. “It’s short for Applejack, and it rhymes with Big Mac! Rhyming is important, y’know.”
Applejack just stood there, dumbfounded. “I … don’t really have a good response to that, I don’t reckon.”
“That’s okay! You don’t have to respond!” Pinkie grinned. “So, what fun thing should we do right now?”
“Pinkie, I appreciate the sentiment, but I still got lots o’ work left to do.”
“Oh.” The other earth pony dropped into a pout, for the briefest of moments, before she brightened again. “Well, how about tomorrow, then?”
Applejack almost said no. She opened her mouth, and her lips started forming the word, but then she paused. Pinkie was staring at her with huge, pleading blue eyes. It was a lot like the puppy dog eyed looks that Applebloom would sometimes give her, the looks that nearly always caused Applejack to cave in to whatever her sister wanted.
“Tomorrow would be fine,” the farmer heard herself say. “After I’m done selling at the market, you can come on over and watch me practice some lasso tricks, if’n you’d care to. Can’t promise you’ll find it interestin’ at all, though.”
Pinkie Pie beamed back at her. “That sounds great, Jack! See ya tomorrow!”
And with that, the bubbly pink mare bounded out of the barn. Applejack watched her go with a bemused expression on her face. Then, with a little mental shrug, she began sorting through all the apples they’d picked earlier that day, separating out the good from the bad. Despite the crick in her back, she found herself humming cheerfully as she worked. It had been a good day. They’d cleared a lot of the orchard that afternoon, and it had been nice to be able to look over her shoulder as she bucked trees and receive a friendly smile in return.
But as she continued sorting in the barn, something pricked at the back of her mind. She couldn’t quite place her hoof on just what it was, until she remembered that odd little nickname Pinkie had used right before she’d left. Pinkie didn’t really have a lot of little nicknames for other ponies, not the way that Rarity called everyone “darling” or Applejack herself tended to refer to others as “sugar cube.” In fact, as far as Applejack could recall, Pinkie Pie had only ever given a special nickname to one pony, and that was only after--
Applejack suddenly frowned.
No, came the immediate protest from the rational part of her mind. There ain’t no way she’s sweet on me like she was on … naw. Naw. There just ain’t no way.
She sat back on her haunches. It was just Pinkie being friendly and random, the way she was with everypony … wasn’t it? The very idea that it might possibly be something else, something more, was a strange thought. Too strange a thought. Quickly she decided not to waste her mental energies thinking such ridiculous things. She was a practical working mare, after all, and she didn’t have time for that kind of silliness. So after giving her head a firm shake, Applejack returned to her apple sorting and her humming.
Besides, it might be a pleasant change of pace to have someone other than Applebloom watch her practice her lasso tricks. Might even be fun.
Author's Notes: APPLE PIE! Best. Ship. Name. Ever.