Applejack’s hoof was starting to hurt. It wasn’t exactly a complaint, or a whine, it was a solemn acknowledgement. The strain meant she was giving it her all. As she stared into the magenta, narrowed eyes of her competitor and friend, she nodded. Her adversary nodded back, and she felt the strain on her hoof increase in turn. She didn’t expect any less.
The two friends sat across from each other, one front leg from each extended and locked around the other’s across an old tree stump. Applejack had to admit that Rainbow was a tough pony. She’d tried everything to get the pegasus’ hoof to move. It stayed put despite that, and now she was beginning to shake from the effort.
“It’s okay to get a little tired y’know, Applejack.” Rainbow Dash grinned as Applejack’s hoof gave a fraction of an inch. “We all know all that strength you brag about is only in your back legs, anyways.”
Applejack raised an eyebrow, and pushed with all her strength. This time, Dash’s leg budged a quarter of an inch. The latter’s eyes widened, and Applejack felt the strain on her hoof in the opposite direction. This is how she knew Dash was giving her all.
“Tough words comin’ from a pony who hardly ever has her hooves on the ground.” Applejack smirked as Rainbow gritted her teeth. “How often do ya use those legs of yours anyways? Never?”
“I do too use them!” Rainbow pushed harder, and Applejack’s leg gave slightly. Now she was the one gritting her teeth in concentration. “I bust clouds all day long!”
Applejack snorted and pushed again. Rainbow clenched her eyes shut, straining. She almost rose out of her seat with the effort to push the wrestle in the opposite direction.
“Hey, no getting out of your seat!” Applejack reminded her. Rainbow sat back down and grimaced. Applejack reveled in it. “So, ya go bustin’ fluffy, soft clouds most o’ the day, then you nap in a tree for the rest of it. You ain’t got the muscles of the hard workin’ folk!”
“I’ve been doing eighty push ups a day preparing for this!” Rainbow Dash shouted as she strained again.
“Oh really? Wanna guess how many I’ve been doin’?”
The question seemed to catch her friend off guard. Rainbow’s concentration broke from the contest to look up at Applejack’s smug face.
“Eighty-one.” Applejack heaved and slammed Rainbow’s hoof down onto the stump. The force of the push sent Rainbow Dash’s body sailing through the air a short ways before it slammed into the dirt, slid a short distance, then stopped.
“I win!” Applejack pumped her hooves into the air. “Finally! I always knew my fronts could catch up to Bucky McGillygilly and Kicks McGee someday!”
Rainbow dash grumbled as she lifted her face from the dirt. “Yeah, yeah, you win. No need to rub it in. You still couldn’t beat me in a race.”
Applejack chuckled before she trotted over to Rainbow and offered her a hoof.
“Aw, is somepony a lil’ upset that they couldn’t beat the farmer?” Rainbow accepted the outstretched hoof with an eye roll, then grumbled to herself for a moment before her face suddenly brightened.
“Brag all you want Applejack, you’ll still never be as strong as Fluttershy.” Rainbow Dash said.
Applejack threw her head back and guffawed, then wiped a tear away from her eye. “Rainbow, y’all are jokin’ right? Fluttershy? We’re thinkin’ of the same pony?”
“You're laughing, but let me tell you.” Rainbow’s eyes widened. "I’ve known Fluttershy since we were both little fillies, and I know that underneath that soft, kind exterior lurks a pony who’s at least ten times stronger than both you and Big Mac combined!” Rainbow’s hooves met with a loud clop.
“I think yer just bein’ a sore loser.” Applejack laughed, then turned to make her way back to the house.
“Applejack,” Rainbow suddenly darted in front of her. “You do know that she wrestles bears, right?”
Applejack lifted a hoof, turned her head to the side, and peered at Rainbow suspiciously. “Bears? Really now?”
“Well, I mean she really just gives them massages, but she has to get them there somehow, right?” Rainbow slung a leg around Applejack’s withers, her voice now but a soft whisper. “I mean, think about it. Have you ever seen a rampaging bear? Those things are scary. That’s coming from me!”
Applejack rolled her eyes. “I’m sure she just convinces them to come with her. Fluttershy has got a way with critters that none of us have ever seen before.” She continued on her way.
“Okay, okay, okay,” Rainbow flew alongside her friend. “Forget the bear thing, how about when we all got sucked into that comic book?”
Applejack stopped, then groaned, and turned towards her friend to give her her full attention. “What about it?”
Rainbow crossed her front hooves and smirked. “Do you know who the strongest pony there was? It definitely wasn’t you, you got tied up by your own rope and couldn’t get out of it. Any guesses?”
“Fluttershy was. Don’t you remember? She got super angry and turned into that big, raging monster?” Rainbow waved her hooves about. “A-a-and, she just crushed that mane machine with her bare hooves? That’s steel Applejack! That’s much harder than wooden trees will ever be! I think.”
Applejack stomped a hoof on the ground. “Rainbow, ah’ve had enough of your sore loser attitude. Ah’ve got some chores to do. When y’all think you can talk to me without tryin’ to convince me of something that ain’t true, then come see me.”
Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Suit yourself.” As she trotted down the dirt path lined with apple trees, the rainbow maned pony called after her. “Just think about what I said, will you? You know it’s true!”
Applejack couldn’t sleep. She could already hear Granny’s voice in her head, scolding her for sleeping in and not getting chores done early. Despite that, sleep wouldn’t come. She instead found interest in the ceiling. Rainbow’s words rang around in her head, lingering longer than she cared for.
What if...she’s right? Rarity and Pinkie told me stories about when Fluttershy took those assertiveness training classes and she completely lost her marbles. She...what was it again? ‘Threw a full grown stallion into the bell on top of a tall tower!’ And what’s more, she beat up another stallion who got in the Taxi before she did.
Applejack’s worried face fell into one of panic. What if she is ten times stronger than me an’ Big Mac combined? That can’t be true! A sudden mental image of Fluttershy holding the trophy for the Iron Pony competition filled her mind. She couldn’t do anything but sob as all the silver medals fell to her, all while Rainbow Dash gloated right next to her. “Told you so, told you so!”
“Aggh!” She shot up in bed suddenly, her brows knitted into a face of determination. “Ah have to figure this out for myself.”
The next morning, Applejack trotted over the small bridge on the path towards Fluttershy’s cottage. From a distance she could see the pink maned mare standing over two small squirrels. One was chittering loudly at the other, then pointed at a nut sitting between the two of them.
“Now Mister Squirrel, I’m sure you can share the nut with your friend, right?” Fluttershy slowly lowered herself down to the squirrels level, eyes shining and full of compassion. “After all, that’s what friends do, right? They share.” A series of angry squeaks soon followed. “He’s not your friend? What happened? I just saw you two sharing nuts the other day!” More angry squeaking. “Goodness! He stole it from you in the first place? That’s not very nice.” She turned to the other squirrel. “What do you have to say for yourself?” Another series of angry squeaks. “He took all the nuts so no other squirrels could get any? That also wasn’t very nice!”
“Er...I’m not interrupting anything am I?” Applejack interjected.
Fluttershy jumped slightly, but when she saw Applejack, she smiled.. “Applejack! What a pleasant surprise!”
She chuckled. “Same to you, Flutters. What’ve you got going on here?”
“Well,” Fluttershy turned to the two squirrels. “Mister Squirrel here tried to steal a nut from Mister Squirrel. Mister Squirrel wasn’t happy about that, so he tried to take it back, and only now am I finding out that Mister Squirrel took all of the nuts this morning so the others couldn’t have any!”
“Uh...huh.” Applejack glanced back and forth between the two critters. “Look, ah know this is probably important to ya, but ah was wondering if y’all would mind helping me out with somethin’ right quick.”
“Oh of course! Anyth— Mister Squirrel, no! We don’t bite our friends!” Fluttershy batted the two squirrels apart before turning back to Applejack and smiling wide.
“Well Fluttershy, truth be told, I need some help on the farm. I know I ain’t the sort of farm pony to go out asking for help, but we got a…” Applejack glanced around for something, anything that could help her seem convincing. “A...big order of apples coming up! Yep, the Canterlot ponies can’t get enough of ‘em!”
“But...I thought the Canterlot ponies hated your apple pies.” Fluttershy’s ears drooped. “Did they change their minds?”
“Um...yep! We’ve just got a massive order of ‘em, and all our other friends are a little too busy to help.” Applejack slung a leg across Fluttershy’s withers. “So whaddya say, care to help a friend out?”
“Oh Applejack,” Fluttershy’s ears folded back. ”I’d love to help you, really I would, but I couldn’t help with farm work! I’m not cut out for it like you or your family is.”
“Y’all can get the apples down from the trees, can’tcha?” Applejack reassured her, remembering the time she flew into the trees to knock the apples down. “Besides, we jes’ need a little extra muscle to get things done around there.”
“Muscle?” Fluttershy’s pupils shrank. “Y-you’re really asking the wrong pony, don’t you think?”
“Nonsense, c’mon!” Applejack began pushing her friend towards town. “We got work to do!”
Fluttershy let out a short ‘eep!’ before she flew up and back to the two squirrels fighting. “I-I’m very busy too! I have to help Mr. Squirrel resolve th—” just as she spoke, the nut the two squirrels were fighting over broke in half, and they scurried away from each other.
“You were sayin’?” Applejack crossed her front legs as Fluttershy looked around.
“I have to feed my animals still...there’s just so much to do still!” Fluttershy slowly began backing up towards her cottage.
“I’m sure it won’t take that long.” Applejack reasoned as she approached her shy friend. “Even a lil’ bit of help would be appreciated.”
“I-I’m sorry I just...I can’t right now.” Fluttershy backed into her cottage, then closed the door softly. The door opened up again, and she poked her head out and said, “Sorry.” The door closed with a gentle squeak.
Applejack took off her hat and threw it onto the ground. “Consarn it, she ain’t gonna show her stuff willingly.” Applejack stroked her chin. “Maybe there’s another way.”
“Twilight! Y’all in there? Twilight!” Applejack beat on the large, ornate doors to the castle of Ponyville’s resident princess. After a moment, one of the doors opened and Spike walked out, rubbing his eye.
“Applejack?” Spike yawned. “It’s six in the morning, why are you here?”
“I gotta talk to Twilight.” Applejack stepped over him and into the castle. “She’s here, right?”
“Yeah she’s in the library, but I don’t know if we should bother her right now!” Spike ran to catch up with her before Applejack turned left down an intersecting hallway. She knew the castle almost as well as Twilight and Spike did now, after helping redecorate it.
“What I’ve got to ask her is important, so maybe she’ll be willing to listen.” Applejack nudged open the doors to the library.
“Applejack wait, she’s—” Spike’s words were cut off as Applejack closed the doors to the library behind her.
“Twilight?” Applejack rounded a bookcase, then finally set eyes upon her friend.
Twilight was sitting at a table, her head facedown and her face buried into a book. A soft snoring sound rose from her, and her body gave the occasional twitch.
“Fell asleep readin’ again, did she?” Applejack snickered softly before quietly approaching the sleeping princess. “Twilight, I need y’all to help me out with something. Twilight?” Applejack gently poked at her, but Twilight merely snorted and moved her head, so Applejack could see what she was reading.
“Delve into your wildest fantasies as these stallions try on some of the hottest new mare designs around? What the—” Applejack’s mumbling was interrupted as Twilight suddenly jerked awake.
“Snrrrk, huh?” Twilight frantically looked around before she spotted Applejack. She gasped, flailed, then fell out of her chair and onto the floor.
Applejack kindly took a step back as Twilight finally got her footing and managed to stand up, quickly darting in front of the book Applejack had seen only seconds ago.
“Applejack!” Twilight laughed nervously. “Um, w-what brings you here?” Applejack furrowed her eyebrows as she examined her friend. Her mane was a disheveled mess, most likely a result from turning a book into a pillow. Her fur was also ruffled, and striped purple and pink stockings covered her legs.
“Well I was wondering if y’all had that spell that makes a jar easier to open handy?” Applejack took a look around at all the towering shelves of books.
“The brittle lid spell! Of course!” A book high up on the shelf to Applejack’s immediate right glowed magenta, before flying down to hover in front of Twilight. “W-what jar did you need me to open for you?”
“Not open a jar, exactly.” Applejack continued. “I actually need you to make one harder to open.” She pulled a jar out of her saddlebag. “This one, actually.”
The jar flashed.
“Done! Anything else?” Twilight asked.
“Er… not that I can think of—” A bright, purple glow took up Applejack’s vision, and before she knew it she was staring at the morning horizon right outside the castle. She turned to say something, but Twilight was already standing at the doorway.
“Right, well, goodnight!” Twilight grasped the castle doors with her magic.
“Actually it’s the morn—” Applejack’s ears folded against her head as the castle doors slammed shut. “Huh. Someone’s awful skittish…” Applejack tucked the jar back into her saddlebag before making her way back towards Fluttershy’s cottage.
As she approached the door, she gave the jar a few good tugs to make sure it was nearly impossible for her to open. Then, she knocked on Fluttershy’s door.
“Fluttershy, you home? It’s Applejack, got a question for you!” Slowly, the door to the cottage opened, and Fluttershy stuck her head out. A bird nest with two blue jays sitting in it was on her head.
“Oh, Applejack! Good to see you again!” Her ears folded back. “If this is about the farm work, I’m still a little preoccupied.”
Applejack shook her head. “Nothin’ like that, I got something that I think you can help me with, you don’t even have to leave the cottage to do it!” Applejack winked.
“Oh! Really?” Fluttershy carefully set the nest down onto the floor. “Okay, what is it then?”
Applejack held the jar out to her. “It’s this dang jar, I’ve been pulling and biting at it all day long, but it just refuses to come off!” She held the jar out to Fluttershy. “I was hopin’ you had an idea, or there was something you could do.”
Fluttershy took the jar into her hooves. “Hm…” she flipped it around and peered at the lid from the bottom, before she tried prying it open with her own hooves.
As she watched, Applejack’s smile became wider and wider. If she could take it off, she would know for sure.
After a moment, Fluttershy frowned. “Wow, it really is stuck on there.” She turned, faced the doorway to her cottage, and tapped the jar lid on the frame twice. “There! That should be better!” She handed the jar back to Applejack. “Go on, try it!”
Applejack frowned before she pulled at the jar lid, and it immediately came off.
“Isn’t that nifty? It’s an old trick my grandma taught me!” Fluttershy smiled while Applejack merely sighed.
“Yeah, real nifty, Fluttershy.” She tucked the jar back into her saddlebags.
A sudden round of high pitched chirping came from the cottage, and Fluttershy gasped.
“I’m really sorry we can’t talk more, but I have some more things I need to do! I’ll see you um...for our weekly picnic tomorrow, okay?” Fluttershy slowly backed into her cottage again.
“Right, okay.” Applejack waited until Fluttershy closed the door to throw her hat on the ground again. “This is gonna take sumthin’ a little more drastic.”
Fluttershy opened the door to her cottage, then trotted outside before she turned around and smiled. “I’ll only be gone a short while, but try to play nice while I’m gone, okay?”
All the chipmunks, squirrels, and other small creatures nodded before running back into the cottage. Only one small while rabbit remained. His arms crossed as he impatiently tapped his foot.
“Yes Angel, I’ll be sure to remember the carrots this time. Watch the place while I’m gone, okay?” Fluttershy slung the saddlebags onto her back.
Angel nodded before giving a salute and marching back inside. Fluttershy just chuckled before she began trotting down the dirt path away from her home, humming all the while.
Nearby, a bush’s leaves parted, revealing a pair of green eyes that watched her go. When she was out of sight, Applejack jumped out of the bushes. She smirked in the direction of Fluttershy before she opened the cottage door and stepped inside...only to stop upon seeing a very displeased white bunny.
“Oh, uh… hey Angel!” Applejack chuckled nervously. “I just forgot sumthin’ the last time I was here and came to pick it up, so if ya don’t mind…” Applejack tried to step around, only for the Bunny to mirror her movement perfectly and block her way again. Her ears went flat against her head as she stared the little devil down. “You’re not gonna let this go unless I give ya sumthin’, are ya?”
Angel rapidly shook his head.
About thirty minutes later, Applejack came back with a bucket balanced on her withers. She carefully set it down in front of the ‘angelic’ door guard before stepping back and raising an eyebrow.
“Ten of the finest apples in the orchard I could find, hoof picked by me, and only from the healthiest lookin’ trees I could find. Is that good enough for ya?” Applejack glared down at the small monstrosity.
Angel got on top of the bucket and took a deep whiff of the contents, then studied them closely before he shrugged and stood aside to let Applejack pass.
“That’s what I thought.” Applejack snorted, then started to trot inside, but froze when she heard a familiar voice just over on the other side of the bridge.
“Aw, that does look painful. Why don’t you come inside and we’ll see if we can get it fixed?” Fluttershy’s voice reassured someone.
Applejack quickly rushed inside, closed the door behind her, then ignored the squawking of the birds as she rushed into the next room.
Fluttershy pushed open the door to her cottage, leading her injured patient into the next room by his outstretched paw.
“There, there, Beary. Those thorns in the woods can be nasty, can’t they? Just a little longer and we’ll have that thorn out so you won’t be in so much pain anymore.” She patted the bear’s paw reassuringly. In response, he let out a low whine. “Aw, you poor thing.”
As she rounded the corner, she noticed that this part of her house seemed to be darker than the rest, as if somebody had flipped a switch and turned the lights out while she was away. In the darkness, she could make out the faint outline of Angel Bunny in the hallway.
“A-Angel?” Fluttershy asked, which urged her pet to turn and face her in surprise. He scrambled in front of something she couldn’t quite make out. “What are you hiding, mister?” Her tone became more serious as she approached him, but he grabbed whatever it was and ran off. Fluttershy would have given chase if she didn’t have a bear to help.
She blew a strand of mane out of her face and turned back to give her patient a smile. “I’ll deal with him later, in the meantime, why don’t you come in here?”
The bear whined and gently hobbled on two legs towards her, as Fluttershy gently caressed his shoulder. “That’s it, c’mon. We’re almost there.”
Just as she entered into the room, she thought she saw a flicker of movement. As she turned to face it, someone jumped from the darkness out towards her.
“Boo!” They shouted.
Fluttershy screamed. “A ghost!” She cowered away from the spectre, but the bear roared and charged forward.
“Wai—” the ‘spirit’ began, but it was quickly picked up and tossed by the rampaging bear. The sound of shattering glass quickly followed as the ghost sailed through the window.
The ‘ghost’ sailed through the air, a bedsheet flying away from her as she turned to look at where she was heading. In front of her was the wall of trees that marked the Everfree Forest. One of said trees lay directly in her path.
“Aw, haysee—” was all she managed to get out before her entire world cut to black.
Bushes rustled as Applejack painfully pried herself free of the leaves and thorns. She held a hoof to her head as she stumbled along the dirt path leading back to Fluttershy’s cottage.
“Owww… mah achin’ head.” Applejack mumbled as she placed a hoof on the door. “Fluttershy? Fluttershy, you in there?”
“Hold on!” her friend’s soft voice came from the other side of the door. A few minutes later, it cracked open, and Fluttershy stuck her face out. “Oh my goodness, Applejack!” Fluttershy fully opened the door, her eyes wide as she noticed her friend’s beaten and bruised body. “What happened to you? You look positively awful! Oh um...sorry.”
“Ain’t nothin’, Fluttershy.” Applejack said as she turned to look at herself. “I guess I do look a little banged up, don’t I? Well that’s what happens when a beeeea….” Applejack’s voice trailed off as her pupils darted to and fro.
“A bee?” Flutterhsy suggested, her eyes growing wider. “Oh my goodness! Did you disturb a hive?”
“Uh...yep! Bucked a tree, just mah luck it had a hive of bees in it, huh?” Applejack chuckled nervously before leaning to look around Fluttershy and into her cottage. Candles lined the walls, their faint glow offering the only source of light. “What’s goin’ on in there?”
“Oh!” Fluttershy pushed the door open the rest of the way open with her wing, revealing a familiar zebra. Zecora balanced delicately on a stick with her head, her eyes shut tightly as she mumbled some inaudible words. “I called Zecora over.” Fluttershy looked to and fro before she whispered “I think my house is haunted.”
Applejack’s eyelids slowly dropped until she looked at Fluttershy with an even stare.
“...Haunted?” she questioned. Fluttershy rapidly nodded her head. “Now what makes y’all say that?”
“It was when I came home earlier today!” Fluttershy’s ears went flat as she sat on her rump. “I just went to get food for Angel, but I ran into Beary on the way here! He got a thorn stuck in his paw, the poor dear, so I promised I’d help him pull it out! But when I got to my care room, a ghost jumped out and scared me! And Beary…” Fluttershy’s lip quivered as her eyes began to tear up. Applejack merely rolled her eyes. “Beary was so brave! He tossed the ghost through my window before it could hurt anyone!”
“Uh huh.” Applejack snorted before she turned and began to trot away. “I was just comin’ to check on ya, ‘Shy. I gotta get back to the farm before Granny, Apple Bloom, and Big Mac start ta worry about me.”
“A lot seems to be happening to you today.” Fluttershy flew up next to her friend. “Why don’t you go home and try to get some rest? You deserve it!”
“Right...rest.” Applejack sighed as her friend flew back into her cottage. “Honestly, that pony’s scared so often ya think she’d be used to it by now.” She grumbled herself as she stomped down the dirt path back towards town. “I can’t let it end like this, there’s gotta be sumthin’… think, Applejack, think, what’s one thing that Fluttershy would do anything for? Something to really bring out the best in her?”
Applejack’s wandering eye spied some of the animals hopping about in Fluttershy’s yard. The apple pony never smiled as deviously as she did in that moment.
“Ah, what a beautiful day!” Fluttershy exclaimed. Celestia’s sun was just breaking over the distant horizon, showering the land of Equestria with a golden light. Birds flitted about in the sky’s above, humming a tune that Fluttershy responded to in kind. She was so enthralled by the sights and sounds that she almost didn’t notice the small booth off to the side of the path she usually travelled.
Fluttershy stopped and eyed it curiously. It certainly hadn’t been there before, she was almost certain that she would have noticed it. It reminded her vaguely of some of the booths she’d seen at a circus somewhere before. A long pole with a bell on top sat off to its left, and on the shelves behind the booth were…
“Oh my goodness!” Fluttershy’s ears perked as she quickly galloped up to the counter, eyes wide and sparkling as she eyed the multitude of toy animals lined up against the walls. “They’re so cute!”
“That they are, ma’am,” A pony with an orange coat, striped shirt, stetson hat, and a mustache rose from beyond the counter. “And they can be yours if you just manage to ring that there bell at the tippy top of the ‘strength-o-meter’!”
“Strength?” Fluttershy’s ears flattened. “Oh, I’m sorry, but I’m not so sure I can—” Fluttershy’s eyes narrowed, then she tilted her head to the side. “Wait, Applej—” She nearly stumbled back as a large hammer was shoved into her hooves.
“Well, ya never really know until you try!” The familiar pony circled around to her side. “Besides, you really want one of those animals, don’cha?”
“Oh, I-I do.” Fluttershy looked between the adorable toy animals and the ‘strength-o-meter’.
“Then give it a shot! Whaddya you got to lose, right?” Fluttershy hesitated only for a moment before nodding her head. “Great! Now just give it a whack, hard as ya can!”
Fluttershy let out a shallow breath, then raised the mallet high. She stumbled back a bit from the sheer weight of it. Behind her, she could’ve sworn she heard the mare chuckle. What she didn’t see, however, was the large, bulky stallion who took notice from the skies above right in that instant.
Fluttershy swung the hammer down as hard as her small body would allow. She felt the gentlest tap as the hammer made contact, and…
...the peg flew to the top of the pole. A loud ringing sound came before the bell completely flew off and clattered to the ground. Fluttershy opened her eyes, amazed as confetti shot from the contraption. “I did it? I did it!” She quickly shot over and immediately grabbed as many of the small toy animals as she could, nuzzling into them with a happy squee.
The showmare, on the other hand, picked her jaw up at the floor. Her eyes drifted down to the pedestal the hammer struck, and then glared in disdain at the massive, hulking pegasus who withdrew his hoof from it with an innocent smile.
A biting remark was on the tip of her tongue, but then Fluttershy blew past her, arms full of the stuffed animals she had just ‘won’.
“Wait!” Applejack galloped after her. “Ya’ll were only supposed to take one! Fluttershy!” It was no use, her friend was already a speck in the distance. She snorted. “Great, now ah’ll have to explain to Big Mac why his stuffed animal collection went missin’ again.”
The familiar thump of apples falling to the ground was music to Applejack’s ears. She wiped the sweat from her forehead before lifting her hind legs and bucking the tree again. It shook from the impact, and more apples fell into the baskets arranged around its base.
She threw the filled baskets into the wagon before grabbing a few more empty ones, and arranging them around the base of another tree. She grunted, lifted her hooves, and kicked.
“Yaaaaah—!” Applejack cast a glance behind her to find one of her baskets filled, not with apples, but with a rather dazed looking Rainbow Dash. “Ow… c’mon, don’t you ever look up before you start bucking these things?”
“Ah’ve told ya’ll before not to go napping in mah trees.” Applejack rolled her eyes, then yanked the empty basket out from underneath her friend. “Ya’ll best just git. I have a lotta work I gotta do, and not a whole lotta time to do it.”
Rainbow climbed to her hooves, eyebrow arched. “Wow, who woke you up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?”
“It’s mah own fault, really.” Applejack grunted as she kicked another tree. “Trying to see if Fluttershy really was as strong as you said.”
“Yeah, ya’ll heard me. I spent most of yesterday trying to see if there was any truth to what ya said the other day—” Roaring laughter cut her off before she could finish.
Applejack whirled, frowning. “C’mon now, what’s so funny?”
“You actually believed that?” Rainbow wiped a tear from her eye. “Applejack, I was totally kidding! Fluttershy couldn’t hurt a butterfly! Not because she wouldn’t, but…” Rainbow struggled to hold her laughter in. “It’d probably overpower her!” Rainbow fell onto her side, legs kicking in the air. “And you actually— oh my Celestia, that is the best!”
Applejack rolled her eyes and crossed her hooves, waiting politely until Rainbow finished mocking her. “Funny, Rainbow, real funny.”
Rainbow shot forward, forelegs touching Applejack’s shoulders. “You gotta tell me what happened! You just gotta!”
Applejack smacked Rainbow’s leg off before turning back to the tree. “Later. Ah’m gonna finish my chores, then head down to Fluttershy’s to apologize fer all the trouble ah’ve been givin’ her.”
“Aw c’mon, not even a little? I gotta know some details!” Rainbow shook with excitement.
Applejack glanced at her over her shoulder. “Don’t you have some clouds to get bustin, anywho?”
“Well yeah.” Rainbow nodded. “But not until like, eight in the morning.”
Rainbow scrunched her eyes, then quickly whirled around to look at the sun, which was obscured by a rather large number of clouds. “Oh horse apples!” Rainbow Dash was gone in a blast of wind, and Applejack only barely registered the now-distant words. “I’ll come back for the details later!”
Applejack took a deep breath as she cleared the small hill leading towards Fluttershy’s cottage. She’d run the conversation through a thousand times in her head, and she still couldn’t quite think up the exact words to say. “Fluttershy, look, ah’m awful sorry about being a bother yesterday...no, no, that’s not right…”
As her friend’s home finally came into view, the words she’d been planning died in her throat. Fluttershy was outside with her animals, but that wasn’t what caught her off guard. No, that was the giant dragon skeleton that laid sprawled out in the front of her house. It took up her entire front yard and most of the land on both sides of her house, its tail reaching back through the trees of the everfree forest. Whatever kind of dragon it had been, it was huge.
Applejack erupted into a gallop, approaching her friend quickly.
“Fluttershy!” Fluttershy glanced up from her work, the handle of a blade caught in her mouth and a pair of safety goggles over her eyes.
“Oh, Applejack!” She carefully set the blade down and took the goggles off, then threw her hair back to get it out of her eyes. “What brings you here?”
“What bring me h—” Applejack repeated the words incredulously, before gesturing to the behemoth. “What do ya think?!”
“Oh, this?” Fluttershy regarded the bones as if they were the most ordinary things in the world.
“Yes this!” Applejack practically shouted. “What happened?”
“Dragons have rather nutritious and magical properties stored away in their bones. It’s part of what lets them live so long!” Fluttershy explained as she climbed the reptilian corpse. “This one was already dead when I found him, up in the mountains not far from where we drove off that big dragon one time! I'm going to put the remains to good use and make some healthy medicine out of them.”
“B-but-” Applejack stammered. “I don’t understand, how did it get from there to her? Did- did ya…” Applejack gulped. “...drag it here?”
“What?” Fluttershy giggled. “Oh no, silly.”
Applejack let out an audible sigh of relief. “Good. Ah was beginning to think—”
“I flew it here!”