Apples at Sunset

by Wolfton


Epilogue: We Sit Beneath the Sky

“It was an absolute wreck! I mean, I’ve seen tornadoes go bad before, but this was the worst! Even Spitfire couldn’t get her jaw up off the ground!”

You imagine your face is quite similar to Spitfire’s, staring blankly at Rainbow as she tells her tale. Applejack is looking at you with a grin behind her cider mug, obviously enjoying your reaction.

“Did anyone get hurt?” you ask.

“Nah,” says Rainbow, slamming her cider on the table between the three of you. “Just some bruises.”

“I’d say somepony took a lil’ more than a bruise to her pride.”

You can’t help but grin at the comment. Smarmy Applejack.

“Hey! We got the water there eventually!”

“So you did.” Applejack concedes the point, but not without a condescending tone that gets a scowl from Rainbow. You have to hand it to her, AJ knows better than anypony else how to push Rainbow’s buttons.

“If you two’d excuse me, I gotta relieve myself. Be right back,” AJ says before trotting off back to her house at the bottom of the hill on which you were now relaxing.

Turning to Rainbow, you set down your own mug after a long draw. “So, how’d you get the water there, if what you were doing wasn’t working?”

“It was Fluttershy. She came out of nowhere, declared we’d get it done, and we did. I knew she’d come through for me.” Rainbow shakes her hoof at you. “Everypony always underestimates her, but I quit doing that a long time ago. Eventually she shows you up enough times to get it through your head she’s worth counting on.”

“Huh.” Crossing your arms, you look up at the sky a moment, suddenly remembering the feeling of soaring through the air as Rainbow carried you to the mountain those weeks ago. That reminds you of something you still have left to do. “Hey, Rainbow.”

She looks up from her cider. “Hmm?”

“I never thanked you for helping me out back then. I means a lot to me, really.”

Rainbow rolls her eyes. “Uuuughh, I thought we were just gonna be cool about it, and then you go and bring it up like a mare! Now we’re supposed to do some mushy, ‘Thank you,’ ‘No, thank you,’ ‘No, thank you,’ stuff and that’s totally not me.” She leans over and jabs you in the shoulder. “You should know by now you don’t have to thank me for that kinda stuff. You’re my friend. It comes with the package.”

“And you’re sure you’re okay with that? The ‘friend’ part? I know I didn’t exactly make it easy...”

“You dunce!” Hovering up to you, she smacks you upside the head.

“Ow!”

“I just got done saying you don’t need to mention that kind of stuff!”

“This is different, though!”

“Man, you’re my friend. That’s what matters here. The details are pointless.” She looks away a moment, checking the area for onlookers before swooping in for a hug. The abruptness of her action almost knocks you off your stool, but you quickly hug back, smiling to yourself. You have only a few precious seconds before she breaks away. “Though I wouldn’t mind a hug every now and then.” With a cute frown, she lays a hoof on your chest. “Not a word. To anypony. Ever.”

You hold up a hand as if taking an oath. “I promise.”

“I interruptin’ somethin’?”

Both you and Rainbow jerk your heads to Applejack’s voice. Rainbow yanks her hoof away and drains her cider mug. “I, uh, gotta go. Weather stuff. Catch you two later!”

Before you can even mutter a word of protest, she’s gone, leaving a brash wind in her wake. Shaking your head, you sigh, then turn to the sound of AJ’s hoofsteps.

She’s smiling with her eyes again.

“The way she flew off, one’d think she was doin’ somethin’ untoward.”

“Nah, she was just being Rainbow. You know how it goes.”

“Sounds ‘bout right,” she replies before nuzzling against your side. “Let’s go for a walk.”

Again, you find yourself wandering the vast orchard, taking in the fading sunlight and the mellow breeze, watching the fields of apple trees sway and rustle in their own little symphony. Taking a deep breath, you let your hand wander to Applejack’s head, running through her mane and nudging her hat off center. She doesn’t protest, only pushes her head further into your hand. Now feels like a very good time for the day to end, you think.

So the two of you walk together for a while, never speaking, only enjoying the what’s around you. AJ occasionally rubs up against your leg, and your hand finds a cozy home in her mane. It’s enough.

Eventually you come across a tree and Applejack gestures to it with a nod. You sit up against it, AJ sprawled out across your legs, her breaths pushing her belly against you. Removing her hat, you place it atop your own head where it sits nicely, in the meantime allowing a hand to idly massage her scalp. Applejack hums in contentment.

“You look silly with my hat on.”

“Never could pull off the cowboy look, I guess.”

“I don’t mind you lookin’ a bit silly. Reminds you how to laugh at yourself.”

“Mm hm.” Your mind is off elsewhere, a certain question burning up within you that you’d been dying to ask ever since Applejack came back from the fall. It never really seemed appropriate, but now is as good a time as any.

“Where were you those two weeks?”

Her immediate answer is only silence, though she raises her head up off your lap. With a moment of consideration, she replies, “Y’know, it’s funny... everypony’s told me I was gone for two whole weeks, but dangit if it didn’t feel like nothin’ more than an hour. But in that hour, I kinda hovered between sleep and consciousness, and my thoughts were, well...” Again she hesitates, and this time you can tell she’s frowning. “I’d rather not talk about it right now. Just know that after that hour, I showed up on the road just outside of town.”

“Did you come straight to me?”

“Sorta. I’m ashamed to say I had my doubts.” She turns to face you, a glint of worry in her eyes. “I knew I’d fallen, but somehow there I was in the middle of the road, not really knowin’ exactly how I got there. And last I’d seen ya, you didn’ want nothing to do with me.” Looking down, her words turn to mumbles. “I wasn’t too happy with you, and more than a lil’ angry at myself for lettin’ you go so easy. I didn’t know what to think ‘till Rainbow came across me.”

A shiver runs down your spine. You were not expecting that. “What did she say?”

Now AJ allows herself a smile, turning her head away and laying it back down on your lap. “Nothin’ important. Just where you were... and maybe a couple other things.”

You go back to stroking AJ’s mane, internally thanking Rainbow once again. You’d racked up quite a debt to that spunky little blue pegasus, but imagine you’ll never get to pay it off.

The wind shakes a branch directly overhead, catching your attention and you turn from the setting sun. You watch it, wondering why it seems so significant to you when you realize that not once since Applejack came back have you felt out-of-place with nature. That foreign uneasiness you always used to feel outside had totally and completely left you.

You lay your head back onto the tree and sigh. “I’d always wondered what it felt like to belong. I guess now I have my answer.”

“Oh?” says Applejack, ears perking up. “And what does it feel like?”