Chapter 7: Life With The Apples
It had been a week since the arrival of Astral and in that amount of time he had practically become a member of the family. His days were pretty simple, waking up, doing morning chores with Big Mac, then some breakfast and then back out to do work before dinner. It was a simple but pleasant life.
Though deep within himself Astral felt wanderlust, he wanted to go out there, explore and feel the call to adventure! Most of all though, deep within the corners of his mind he felt the need to fight. Whenever he heard a story about Applejack and her friends fighting some villain, he felt his blood rush through him in excitement! Not because of the great story, but for the wish to join in. These feelings felt familiar and of course he had put two and two together and figured it was feelings his old self had.
He had not yet shared these things with Applejack, he was not even sure if he wanted her to know about it. He was Astral Thunder now, even though it had only been a week since he arrived, he felt so relaxed and at home here, he felt happy, content, why should that stop?
Astral let out a sigh, he was not sure how long he had been standing out here in the sun looking at his half finished work. Today on this bright sunny day he had been tasked to paint the barn, the old thing always looked like it was about to collapse. Astral was amazed that almost every bloody day they needed to repair something on it.
"Enjoying ya break?"
A deep voice brought Astral back to reality, of course it was not hard to guess who the voice belonged to. Big Macintosh trotted over towards Astral as he wiped some sweat off his forehead. He was carrying a saddlebag on his back so he had probably been out repairing the fence.
"Sorry.." Astral replied. "I was lost in thought it seems.."
Big Mac shook his head. "Don't need to apologize Astral." He said and waved his hoof as if to dismiss the apology. He took a look at Astral's progress so far, his big green eyes moving across the barn, inspecting where he had painted. After about half a minute he nodded in satisfaction. "Mighty fine work Astral, keep up the pace and i reckon you should be done in time for supper." Big Mac said and walked over to an unpainted part of the barn and sat down, leaning against it with a small relaxing sigh.
Astral followed suit and sat down against the barn next to Big Mac. The two big muscular stallions looked over the apple orchard, enjoying the green scenery for a few minutes before Big Mac broke the silence. "Well, i got to thank ya.. With and extra pair of hooves we been able to get more work done." he opened one of the saddlebags and pulled out two glass bottles of Apple Cider out for them to enjoy in the hot sun.
Astral gladly took one of the bottles as Big Mac offered it. "Thank you." Astral smiled and took a sip of the cold liquid. Both of them enjoyed a large gulp of the apple goodness before they both let out a satisfying.
"That hit the spot.." Astral smirked.
The two stallions just enjoyed the moment, taking in everything and felt the summer breeze moving through their furs. Astral was not sure how much time had passed, but soon enough they both had closed eyes just enjoying the relaxing air and the small shadow of the barn that barely covered them.
"Hey.. Astral?" Big Mac suddenly said.
Astral opened his left eye to glance at the red stallion. "Hm?"
"Ah was just wondering, do you like it here?" Big Mac's question caught Astral off guard a little, it was certainly not what he had expected him to ask him, then again why would he not expect it? Like so many other questions that surrounded him, it was a fair one.
"I do." Astral said with no hesitation. Opening his other eye he looked back over the orchard. "It's hard, peaceful and yet fulfilling work.. You and Applejack, well all of you have been kind enough to let me stay here.. You have accepted me, well at least that is what i feel.. So maybe the real question is, what's not to like?"
Big Mac did not open his eyes, he simply nodded. "Eeyup.." Astral thought he was satisfied with that answer, but he was not done yet. "Well we have all grown fond of you, despite you only being here for a week.. Buck it, we might as well change your name soon if this keeps up." He let out a small chuckle. "If you keep this up we might have to call you Apple Thunder instead.."
Astral knew what he meant, him being an Apple, it did not sound half bad, though he knew Big Mac was not done. Something was on his mind. "But?" Astral prompted.
Big Mac sighed. "But none of us, not even you, knows who ya are, who ya really are..." Astral did not reply, Big Mac did not need to say it, he had already thought about it. For all they knew he could be the one who started the storm, he could be someone terrible, one who liked moving around and creating trouble. These feelings of wanting to fight only scared him even more now.
"Tell yer what.." Big Mac continued. "If ya half the stallion you are now, then you're okay in mah book." And with that he finished his cider and stood up.
Astral looked up at the massive red stallion and nodded, he understood what he was trying to say. "Thank you, i hope i will prove worthy.."
Big Mac nodded. "Eeyup, well ya can start finishing yer job." He simply replied and walked back out towards the orchard. Astral smiled and simply nodded, work first worry later....
Another two week had passed and Astral had still heard nothing from Twilight, whenever he had a chance to speak to her she told him it would take time. He understood that, but he felt frustrated all the same. One part of him did not wish her to find anything, another part wanted to find out the truth and a whole other part was afraid of what she would find!
Astral let out a small sigh as he slowly made his way upstairs. Today he had finished work early, Applejack was still at the market and Granny had gone out with Big Mac to run some errands. Which meant he was alone today and he could-
It seemed like he was not alone after all. He moved down the hall and noticed the door to Apple Bloom's room was half open. It was strange as Astral could have sworn Apple Bloom was gonna spend her afternoon with her friends. Trotting over he froze up as he heard, sobbing? Sure enough he heard small whimpers and sobbing coming from Apple Bloom's room.
Having lived here for over almost a month he had seen and heard her cry before, usually Applejack, Granny Smith or Big Mac were there to comfort her, but no one was here but him. He stood there for a while thinking about what he could do, was there anything he could do? After all he was not her brother, or father or even a distant cousin.
He could hear the sobbing continue and it was like a knife in the heart, Apple Bloom had always been so kind to him. Like all the others she never treated him like an outsider, maybe that was why he suddenly found himself standing in the doorway to her room. It was not hard to spot the yellow filly, her red mane and the big pink bow pretty much pointed her out like if there was a big sign above her. She laid with her head buried in her pillow sobbing into it, only letting her face come up when she needed more air.
"Apple Bloom..?" He said gently not quite sure if he was overstepping some sort of line by doing this, but he did not like seeing her upset.
"Mm..?" She looked up and turned to face Astral. Her eyes were red and he could see how wet her cheeks were.
Astral frowned. "What happened?" He was a bit unsure what to say or do, he was almost afraid he would creep her out.
But the little filly sat up and wiped her eyes with her hoof. "Diamond Tiara picked on me again..." She sniffled. "She made fun of mah family, calling us stupid ground sniffing yokels..." There was clearly more to that story, seeing how she had already opened up about it to him he decided to press her on it gently.
"And then what happened?" Astral asked as he trotted over and took a seat next to her.
Apple Bloom did not seem to mind as she looked down at the floor while she fiddled with her hoofs. "I... I bit her..." She looked kind of ashamed, but probably more worried about potential punishment. "After i punched her.." Apple Bloom mumbled and fiddled with her hoofs a little faster than before.
"Hmm.." Astral said and thought for a moment. "Well, i'm not your brother, sister and i am certainly not your grandmother." Astral said with a small smile and nudged her a little. It made her giggle as she thought of him sitting in the rocking chair knitting. "So i can't punish you.. But it is always right to stand up for your family and friends.." Truth be told he saw no problem in Apple Bloom giving what was coming to the filly, not that he would punch a filly himself, but they were in the same grade, so he saw no problem with it. He however was not her family, so he tried to say what he knew Applejack or Big Mac would say.
"You and your family has always been kind to me, so i know you are noble and kind, so buck what that little missy told you little princess." Astral smirked seeing Apple Bloom snicker as he said a curse word. "You have a family that loves you and two great friends, so is it really important what she thinks?"
Apple Bloom shook her head. "No.." She smiled a little and then looked up at him. "Thanks Astral.."
"Not a problem little princess.." Though he was not sure if he had said the right things, but she was feeling better now at least, he went out on a leap and decided yes he had said the right things. Then he got an idea. "How about we play while we wait for your friends to catch up with you?" He suggested
"Hm?" Apple Bloom tilted her head, but seemed excited about the prospect of playing a game with a grown up. "What game?!"
45 minutes later.
The rest of the Apple family made their way to Sweet Apple Acres. Suddenly as they came closer they saw in front of the farm house a lot of boxes, it looked like they had been put up to form a fort. Applejack tilted her head. "What the hay?"
"Halt!" Astral's voice bellowed as he walked over. The three Apples turned over and Applejack's face burst into a smile as she snickered. There, walking towards them was Astral in his chainmail, a bucket on his head for a helmet and a broom for a spear. He looked at Granny Smith and smiled. "Aha, the queen has returned!" He looked back towards the fort. "Princess, the queen has returned along with Sir Mac and their chambermare!" He called
Apple Bloom walked out, a red cape tied to her neck, she looked, smug, but it was all in good fun. "Let them enter!" She called.
Scootaloo walked beside Apple Bloom on her right side while Sweetie Belle was on the other. She wore a small pot from the kitchen on her head, a towel wrapped around her neck as a cape like she was a great commander. "Open the gate!" She commanded to her only soldier.
Astral nodded. "Yes captain Scootaloo!" Astral made a quick salute and opened the small fence gate so the three ponies could enter. When Granny Smith passed him he bowed low. "Your majesty! Sir Mac!"
Applejack raised an eyebrow. "Hey! Why am I a chambermare!?"
"Sush!" Granny Smith smirked putting on a royal tone, which only sounded more funny mixed in with her heavy accent. "Now that is nowhere for a chambermare to talk to mah loyal guards." She held her head high and walked past Astral.
"Granny!" Apple Bloom ran over to her with Sweetie Belle right behind her. Sweetie Belle had a small staff and a floppy hat, and like her friends she had a towel tied around her neck like a cape. "I am princess of the land of Apples!" She declared with a laugh.
Granny Smith chuckled. "That's nice, but how about we go in and enjoy some cookies from the royal treasury?" She smiled. "You and ya friends"
The three fillies let out a. "YAAY!" And hurried inside with Granny smith.
Astral let out a chuckle as he took off the bucket helmet. "Seems like you had fun." Applejack smirked as she walked over with Big Mac pulling the cart.
"Well she came straight home from, uhm, school?" He had not heard about school before he came here, or at least he did not remember hearing about such a place. "She was upset because some filly picked on her. They had a fight that did not end to well for the other filly, Apple Bloom sure ended it." Applejack and Big Mac frowned. "I'm sorry, you were not home and i did not like to leave her crying in her room... I told her it was okay to stand up for your family and friends, but not to punch or bite.." His ears flattened a bit hoping they were not upset with him.
To his relief however both Applejack and Big Mac smiled warmly. "Thank you for taking care of our sister, ah have a talk with her after i put this here cart away." Big Mac said with an approving nod, and with that he walked away towards the barn dragging with him the cart.
Astral was left with Applejack who let out a small chuckle. She opened her mouth to say something when the door to the farm house burst open. Apple Bloom ran towards Astral with a small plate on her back, trying her best not to drop it as she ran. Both of the young adults looked at her as she came to a full stop in front of Astral, she had a big smile on her face as she went up on her hind legs to hug him.
The plate was just about to slide off when Applejack quickly moved down and grabbed the plate with her mouth. On it was two cookies, they smelled amazing to Applejack, but it was not hard to guess who Apple Bloom had brought them out for. More fun was it to see Astral be taken aback by the sudden hug, he looked confused at first and then hesitantly placed a hoof onto Apple Bloom's back. "Thank you for cheering me up and playing with me and mah friends.." Apple Bloom said cheerfully before letting go. "I brought you cookies! Better hurry back in!" And before Applejack could say anything about the plate Apple Bloom was already gone.
Applejack chuckled and placed the plate on her hoof holding it out to him. "Looks like ya got yourself a fan." She smirked.
Astral shook his head, a faint blush burning on his cheeks. "I just did what you and Big Mac would have done.." He mumbled and reached out and took the plate.
"Yeah you did, and i am glad you did." Applejack smiled. "It is nice to know you were there for her when she needed somepony. You cheered her up, that's what matters."
"T-thanks.." Astral smiled a little still feeling a bit embarrassed, but not uncomfortable. He held the plate towards her. "Cookie my lady chambermare?" He asked bobbing his eyebrows teasingly.
Applejack laughed and took one. "Thank you my lord!" She said while rolling her eyes a little. The two of them shared a nice laugh and enjoyed the cookies..
It had now been a full month since Astral had arrived here in what they called Equestria. Twilight had still not yet come up with anything, she had even written to their princess about the translation, but so far had received no reply. Astral worried a little in the beginning, even if they got the text translated there was no way of knowing if it would even help.
So he figured he might as well learn more about Equestria, he lend a few books from Twilight and brushed up on the basics. The history, geography and who the rulers were and so on. Applejack and her friends were always helpful in explaining things he did not understand like the elements of harmony and the magic of friendship.
One evening Astral found himself outside on the porch, looking up on Luna's night sky. It was hard to imagine a single pony could lift the moon and another lift the sun, but then again by now he had learned it was just how things were. His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the door open and hoof steps trotting up to him, he did not need to look to guess who it was. "It's mighty pretty ain't it?" Applejack asked as she sat down beside him.
"It is.." Astral nodded not looking at her, he just kept looking at the stars.
"Are ya homesick?" Applejack asked after a few moments of silence.
"I don't even know where home is, or if i even have one."
Applejack nodded slightly. "Sorry, i did not mean to make ya feel bad or nothin." She sighed. "Ah was thinking, maybe you could give me a hoof tomorrow?" She asked with a small smile looking over at him.
Astral looked back at her, tilting his head slightly. "But i always help out?" He asked.
Applejack shook her head. "No ah mean you could help me with some chores and then, maybe, you know we could hang out afterwards.."
Astral noticed her blush slightly as she looked back up on the stars. He tried to think for a moment, they hung out, right? Yeah after work, at lunch, with her friends and with Big Mac and her sister. Then again it was not often they had much alone time, not that it should matter, right?
Now that he was thinking about it, he did not mind spending some alone time with her. He felt his cheeks blush. She was a kind and honest mare, a bit of a temper, but hard working and beautiful, he also admired her strength, he was not sure why he found that quality attractive, but he did.
He looked back up on the sky, feeling his heart beat faster and somehow only now sensing everything about her. Like he knew exactly where she was, of course he KNEW where she was, but it was like he was hyper aware of her now. Her breath, her mane and her eyes, like he noticed all sorts of things with the small glances he began to give her more and more he suddenly noticed.
He remembered Rarity speaking of something like this when two ponies went out alone together, she had called it a date. It sounded foreign to him, but it was clearly something more intimate than just hanging out. Was this what this was? A date? He did not know why the prospect of such a thing made him sweat a little and made him feel nervous, but he gulped and asked. "Like..like one of those dates..?" He asked carefully while feeling his face become redder.
Applejack blushed as well, but neither of them dared to look at each other. "W-well, yeah, that be nice.." Applejack was not one to dabble much with such things, but.. She had wanted to, though she did not have experience in these sort of things, she wanted to experience it all, and Astral felt like a good choice to explore it with. "A date then.." She smiled and stood up. "I better go to bed, don't stay up all night.." She said softly before walking inside.
Astral heard the door close and as soon as it did he let out a deep sigh. He was not sure why, but her saying yes to the date thing made him feel happy. He placed his hoof over his heart and smirked. "Yes!" He said in a loud whisper.
Meanwhile Rainbow Dash had just brushed her teeth and was on her way to bed when she heard something that sounded like a squeal. Rainbow's ears shot up and she turned her head towards Applejack's door. "What the hay?" Rainbow made sure no one was looking as she moved over to the door and peaked inside through the keyhole.
There on the bed, moving around like a pig in mud was Applejack. She was hugging her pillow tightly and rolled around with the biggest smile and the biggest blush Rainbow had ever seen. She buried her face in her pillow and let out another squeal, this time however it was muffled by the pillow.
Rainbow smirked and trotted down the hall and into Big Mac's room. "Mm? What was that?" Big Mac asked from the bed, scooting over to give his fillyfriend more space.
Rainbow giggl-CHUCKLED! As she closed the door behind her and turned off the lights. "Nothing, i just pulled a small prank on applejack with a rubber spider." Rainbow covered for Applejack while she smirked. Big Mac spooned his lover from behind and Rainbow scooted closer to him. With a small smile she could not help but think: 'Good for you Applejack, good, for, you~'