Chapter 12: Scent of Apples
Regaining consciousness can invoke a variety of emotions. For example, if somepony has a date with their special somepony later in the day, the excitement of what the future holds causes the morning experience to be one filled with hope and promise. Or if one has a test later that hasn't been studied for, panic will prompt a swift retreat into the false security of the warm blankets, and perhaps further procrastination. If, however, a pony awakens to two simultaneous and conflicting factors of equally gargantuan magnitudes, it causes utter brain chaos and the powers of rational thought are revoked. Such was Cerulean upon waking in the morning.
The first thing that he noticed was that every inch of his body was screaming language he would never dare to use extremely loudly, making sure he knew just how badly it ached. The second was a pair of orange hooves wrapped around his middle, and the sound of gentle snoring coming from a muzzle that was resting gently against his neck. It wasn't that it was unpleasant, or even that he minded, but that it was so completely unfathomable that Applejack had had that much of a change of heart that he had to wonder if he was still asleep. As he rolled over and was rewarded with a chorus of profanity from his limbs, he quickly came to the conclusion that he was very much awake. And Applejack was in his bed.
"What the buck..." he whispered, grateful that his change of position hadn't woken the sleeping mare next to him. He snickered quietly as he noted how unthreatening she seemed in sleep, and immediately chided himself knowing that when she did wake, things were going to get crazy. Whether due to his exhaustion or simply not thinking clearly, he decided it would be funny if he wore her hat, which currently resided on the night stand by the bed. He levitated it over, and as he donned the purloined headpiece he noticed that he was surrounded by the smell of apples. It was a sweet, tantalizing smell which encouraged no small amount of growling from his stomach, having overlooked dinner in his ridiculous feat of bullheaded determination the day prior.
Applejack stirred at the noise, groaning and pulling herself closer to Cerulean who was growing quite worried as the seconds stretched into minutes. The sensation of her lips brushing his neck as she nuzzled him caused his breath to catch, and for the sake of his overactive imagination and his very sanity, he decided to face the storm and wake her up. Tact would have been advisable, but he chose instead to go for maximum shock value. After all, if you know somepony is gonna freak, might as well make it big, right? He shook her gently and she slowly opened her eyes. After heaving a tremendous yawn she drew back a little and regarded Cerulean with absolute confusion, the hat on his head being adequate in her groggy state to pass him off as a complete stranger.
"Hey there, little missy. I 'ope you remember last night, 'cause I sure don't." Cerulean quipped, faking a southern drawl. While he had intended the statement to be a subtle approach to asking "Why are you in bed with me," it registered in Applejack's mind as something very different. Cerulean found himself abruptly shoved from the bed, the force of all four legs sending him not to the floor but into the wall. The wall rejected his proposed friendship, though the floor then met his face with open arms, and he lay paralyzed in agony as a fuming Applejack stood on the bed, ranting.
"What 'n tarnation are ya doin' in my bed, varmint? So help me Celestia, I'll skin ya alive if ya come near me!" she shouted, waking the entire house. Applebloom came bursting through the door, first looking to the thoroughly disgruntled Cerulean laying in a heap, and then to her sister whose face was nothing short of terrifying.
"Applejack, why are ya shoutin' at Cerulean like that? You said he could use yer bed yesterday." she asked, honestly confused as to her sister's strange behavior.
"Cerulean? What're you talkin' about?" she snapped, glaring at her sister and pointing an accusing hoof at the would-be invader. Cerulean removed Applejacks hat and looked up at her, grinning as he managed to coax small amounts of air into his lungs.
"Been a while... since I've felt... that kick of yours," he gasped, his feeble laughter turning quickly into a coughing fit. Applejack rubbed her eyes and took a second look, comprehension of the fact that she had just bucked an incapacitated pony full force causing her mood to swing around one hundred eighty degrees.
"Oh goodness, Cerulean, I'm so sorry!" she said, rushing to his side and helping him back to bed.
"Sis, you're actin' funny." Applebloom stated matter-of-factly, taking a few steps towards the pair as her sister fussed over his bandages. She was quickly waved away, and the door slamming in her face told her that her opinions were no longer welcome. Applejack listened as a steady stream of muttering receded down the hallway and out of earshot.
"Sorry 'bout that Cerulean, I'm not used to wakin' up to anypony else bein' in my bed," she explained, returning to his side. "How are ya feelin'?"
Well, let’s see now... Me, a unicorn with a startling average physique, took on a job doing intense physical labor for hours on end without using my magic to help. "Do I even need to answer that?" he retorted, shooting her a wry smile. He magicked Applejack's hat over and plopped it on his head once more, the scent of apples again causing no small amount of groaning from his stomach. Applejack left and returned a short while later with a tray of mouth watering apple confections and a glass of fresh squeezed apple juice, a small amount of pulp still swirling in the cup. Cerulean lost no time demolishing two apples, an apple fritter and a good portion of a large apple crumble. Having taught himself not to eat past his limit regardless of how good the food was, he begrudgingly set the treats aside, silently chastising his stomach for it's fairly limited capacity.
As he was eating, Applejack had begun removing the bandages she had placed on him the night before, their chemicals long since exhausted. He blushed lightly as she removed the ones on his chest and flanks, hoping she didn't notice.
"What are you thinkin' about, Cerulean," she questioned, fixing him with her deep emerald eyes. She had noticed.
Somehow, I don’t think telling the pony that only yesterday was convinced I was after one of her best friends for less than noble reasons would take kindly to being told how nice it felt when she was touching my flanks. "Am I right to assume that 'nothing' is not an acceptable answer?" he responded hesitantly. Applejack shook her head firmly. "Ok then... Why were you in bed with me?" At this point Applejack matched Cerulean's blush and turned away from the grinning stallion that lay in front of her. Even the simplest of answers can become a convoluted mish-mash when emotions are involved, and Applejack's unintelligible stammering proved this to a tee. This amused Cerulean to no end, his attempts to suppress his giggling largely unsuccessful which only compounded Applejack's already flustered state.
"I couldn't sleep last night so I came back here, and I still couldn't sleep cause a certain somepony was hoggin' the bed, so I had to get close so I could fall asleep proper, ya hear? Nothin' more!" she managed to get out, her voice unusually subdued. Cerulean picked up on a hesitancy placed in the last two words, and stared at her hard. She shifted uncomfortably from hoof to hoof under his penetrating gaze. "All right, fine! I wanted to know what it was like to sleep with somepony, ok?" Cerulean wasn't sure how to respond. How could she go from cold shoulder to cuddly in less than twenty four hours?
"Oh, uh... ok? So..." he faltered, unsure of where to steer the conversation. He must have been feeling very bold that morning, perhaps due to his victory the night before, but he felt like testing the waters, her limits, and perhaps his own mortality. "How was it?" Applejack's shock propelled her off the back of the bed, tumbling to the floor causing Cerulean's bed to reverberate under the impact. She quickly stood up, preparing to make a defense when Cerulean's horn glowed briefly, causing a small pile of snow to fall onto her head and soothe the burn. She gave a small, surprisingly delicate sigh before remembering Cerulean's inquiry and again becoming flustered.
"What kind of question is that, Cerulean? Honestly, some ponies have no common decency..." she muttered, avoiding eye contact. It was... different, in a good way. Ah liked it a whole lot more than ah care t’ admit, so hopefully he don’t ask.
"Are you still wary of me?" She faced him again, his face serious and full of concern. She walked over and sat by the bed. She drew silent in deep thought for a while, pondering the seemingly simple question as her mind seemed to be running a million different directions at once.
"No, I'm not Cerulean. You've earned my complete trust, first colt to have it in a long time," she finally responded, offering a weak smile. She bowed her head and gently rested a hoof over the bruise the cart wheel had made, stroking it lightly. Cerulean was fine with that, until he felt another pony join him on the bed and place two hooves against his shoulders. He opened his eyes to see a rosy cheeked Applejack sitting off to his side, who began to gently massage his aching limbs. It was painful at first, but grew quite relaxing. At least for his shoulders. His heart had the opposite reaction, which decided that his face needed about twenty percent more blood pumped into it than it had already.
"Don't get the wrong idea here, I've been overworked a time or two mahself, and a good massage will do wonders fer the pain. It's my fault you're like this anyhow, so it's the least I can do." Cerulean nodded slowly, not making eye contact. He closed his eyes but shortly after snapped them back open, as the image that came to his mind would have made even the loosest of ponies cringe, deciding it would be better for him if he focused intently on the nightstand. "Cerulean?" Applejack's voice drew his eyes once more to hers. "What was it like, kissin' Twilight?"
What the... why in Equestria would she be asking something like that? As Cerulean's mind scrambled to find a way to describe the torrent of emotion that boiled within at the meer memory of the event, Applejack's hooves slowly slid from his shoulders and onto his chest, resuming their gentle, though firm, circular motions.
"Well... It's rather hard to describe," Cerulean managed, immobilized as his muscles relaxed from her skillful hoof strokes. "The kiss itself was gentle, but what happens inside feels kind of like somepony stoked a fire inside your chest and then struck you with lightning. The world fades away and a strange tingling tickles your stomach. It's... Amazing, really." Applejack said nothing and shifted slightly, pulling the blankets back and shifting her hooves to his back legs. He flinched slightly as her warm skin made contact with his flank before moving to his upper thigh. He tried not to think about how good it felt, and not just on his muscles. His horn, however, radiated a soft blue light as Applejack gave him more stimulation than Twilight had dared thus far.
"I've never kissed anypony before," she mentioned casually, though her voice carried a tinge of regret. "I've no fascination with mares, and since colts 'ave always frightened me, it didn't leave a whole lot of opportunity fer romance t' bloom." For the first time since he had met her, Cerulean saw Applejack looking frail, and it scared him deeply.
Applejack, if my mind weren’t so consumed with Twilight, I would have seen past your facade. You’re... really lonely, aren’t you. I wish I could help... He reached up and gently placed a hoof on top of hers. "Don't worry, Applejack. Your time will come." he said softly, hoping his words would help calm her down. They did, though not nearly the way he had expected, as she finished the massage and stood over him on the bed.
"I wanna know what it feels like," she whispered, voice wavering as she leaned a little closer. Cerulean didn't have the strength, ability, or will to move as she leaned even closer, her mouth just inches from his own. She hovered a moment, looking into his eyes and forcing him to confront a most startling realization; when she wasn't causing him massive physical agony and impaling him with her withering gaze, she was actually very cute. As the thought danced through his head like Pinkie on a sugar high, Applejack made the final push and brought her lips to meet his, both of them blushing deeply. A familiar but yet slightly different sensation from the one he had experienced with Twilight's kiss burned within his chest, and the faint taste of apples graced his senses.
I didn’t really think... that one night alone would feel so strange. I guess I should have expected it, given how it felt when he was in the hospital, but I just thought that was because he was hurt. Am I just overreacting? Are my emotions playing tricks on me? Would I even be able to tell the difference? This is all so new to me... All I know is that I don’t like waking up alone anymore. Twilight cracked open her eyes and placed a hoof over where Cerulean would have been asleep. “Cerulean, you dolt... I just want you here.” She sat up, took a few moments to stabilize her mind and ascended to the second story to shower.
She turned on the flow, giving a few moments for the temperature to rise to an appropriate level before realizing that she would be in need of a new mirror, as her current one was clearly lying. For one, there was simply no way she could have bed mane that bad. Secondly, there were tear stains on her cheeks. I know I was tossing and turning a lot last night, but I... did I really miss him that much? She placed a hoof over the reflection of her cheek, wishing she could feel the warmth from a certain blue stallion that was quickly becoming more ingrained into her heart than she dared to guess. It was terrifying.
Turning away, she allowed her mind a hiatus from such thoughts and simply enjoyed her shower for the basic pleasure that it was. Upon drying herself, she returned to the mirror, wiping away the steam with a towel and grabbing her brush to begin righting her the disaster that was her mane. Now, her hair was naturally straight, so it didn’t take too long, but Spike began to wonder just what was prompting her to take so long.
“Uh, Twilight? You never spend that much time on your hair. Don’t you have someplace to be?”
“Yes, Spike. And that’s exactly why,” she said softly, smiling as she looked at herself in the mirror. What she saw was a simple, plain, unicorn librarian unworthy of a second look. But, to him... “I’m beautiful,” she whispered. Spike followed her as she trotted downstairs, curious as to why she was beaming but happy to see her joyful after how depressed she had been when Cerulean was hospitalized. “Spike, gather up the books on this list so I can read them when I return.” Spike accepted the parchment and watched as she made for the door.
“Twilight, does he really make you that happy?” She paused, giving it some thought before turning back to her favorite dragon.
“Yes, Spike. He does.”
“Even though he’s reckless, dangerous, and not that bright?” To his relief, Twilight chuckled at his assessment, regarding the confused dragon with faint amusement.
“I can’t deny the reckless and dangerous parts, but he’s teachable. He’ll learn. After all, who better to teach him than me? I mean, I’m like the smartest unicorn in Ponyville!”
“Yeah, that’s why you charmed half the town with Miss Smartypants. You know, maybe you two are good for each other, though I fear for the town if you ever get married.”
“S-Spike, what are you... I wasn’t even...”
“Twilight, you totally were.”
So what if I was? It’s my mind, I’m allowed to think whatever I want! “Just make sure you get those books,” she muttered, closing the door and breaking into a gallop. The thought of seeing him filled her with energy, and as she made it to the front door, she made sure her mane was still in order and knocked on the door. Her unspoken inquiry for entrance was answer a short time later by none other than her messenger from the previous evening. "Thanks for letting me know Cerulean wouldn't be home last night, Applebloom. I'd have been very worried if you hadn't come to me."
"Sure thing, Twilight. I'm sure Applejack wouldn't want you frettin' over nothin,'" she replied happily, leading Twilight to her sister's room. Twilight waved to the various members of the Apple family milling about, tending to various chores and preparing for a day in the orchard.
"It didn’t sound like nothing last night. How could he have not been able to at least walk home? Did he get injured?" Applebloom shook her head as they ascended the steps and stopped short as Applejack's room came into view, clearly marked by her Cutie Mark being carved into the woodwork.
"My sister was right cruel yesterday. She made Cerulean work sunup to sundown in the orchard, until he finally passed out. I offered to 'elp 'im, but she told me not to." Twilight gritted her teeth as a variety of unclean words infiltrated her usually tame vocabulary. It was also then that her mind comprehended that they were indeed not heading towards the spare beds, but to Applejack's room, leading a host of unpleasantries to float through her mind. Had they not been otherwise engaged, Applejack and Cerulean surely would have heard the heavy hoofsteps leading up to the door, which swung open quite loudly.
The gears in Twilight's brain ground to a halt as she beheld the lip-locked pair, both seemingly oblivious to her presence. Her eyes shot from Applejack, then to Cerulean who was still wearing her hat, to the water that was still spilled on the ground, to their cheeks, and then to nothing in particular at all. A rather steamy scene began to play through her mind in fast forward, her internal temperature rising to keep up with the fast paced action that danced before her eyes. The sound of something bursting into flames made Cerulean wonder if he was simply delirious, but Applejack seemed to hear it as well and pulled back, looking over her shoulder.
"Oh dear Celestia, have mercy on us all," Applejack muttered, swallowing hard. Cerulean was met with the most frightening sight, and he had no means of escape. There in the doorway stood Twilight, her coat white hot and bathed in deep crimson and orange flames.