• Published 20th Aug 2013
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Evergreen, Act I - DoctorEvergreen



A traveling merchant arrives in Ponyville, bringing with him good tidings, strange commodities and a mysterious past.

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Chapter III: Strange Friend o’ Mine

Evergreen

Fan fiction by Grey McBoyd



Chapter III

Strange Friend o’ Mine


That night, the moonlight was more luminous than ever before in Ponyville. The delicate breeze made leaves whistle as it passed by in the absolute silence of nightfall, and the moonshine through those very leaves brokenly illuminated the path as Twilight took a midnight stroll. She had been reading all day and was already nearing the end of the book that Doc had given her, half of it instructions on how the healing magic is used and the other half comprised of detailed, biological drawings showing how the magic tailors the pony body back together. Twilight thought the information to be amazingly useful and well-organized, but regarded a warning mentioned in the book, saying not to attempt use of the magic unless in the possession of a high degree in medical training. She knew she wouldn’t be able to use her new skills, but was more than content that they were at her disposal. And now, mere pages away from finishing her studies of it, she felt a period of mitigation amongst the dark blue vale of dimmed hours would be nice after reading the book for so long. A gentle flurry chilled Twilight’s back as she walked, wearing a cloak as to not freeze. She always hated cold weather, even after spending most of her life in the mountainside utopia of Canterlot, so much higher in elevation, and thus, chillier nighttime climate than its surrounding villages of the valley. Nevertheless, Twilight continued to march, embracing the cloak over her shoulders as a frigid gust rolled up under it and across her spine. She observed the various houses and buildings beyond the line of bushes she walked beside, separating the main street from the off-road trail she was on. As she sauntered by, she could see each house sitting peacefully in respite, a few lights gleaming through the windows or holes of closed shutters. But breaking the calm beauty of the night was a dark figure that Twilight noticed lurking on the outskirts of The Carousel Boutique.

“How could anypony be out at this hour?” she thought, “It’s the dead of night!”

She grew dangerously curious and figured she would follow the shadow, wanting to learn its intentions for being out at such a strange time. The shadow took a bizarre route amongst town, pausing outside the homes of Twilight’s friends and gazing at them for a minute or two. All the while, Twilight continued to pursue close behind on the off-road path, concealed by the shrubs and trees of the brush. The persona traversed from place to place, outside Sugarcube Corner, the Carousel Boutique, Fluttershy’s cottage, locations to overview the majority of Sweetapple Acres and Rainbow Dash’s home in the Clouds, lastly taking a swift but calm path to the Library. The figure stood in front of the Library the longest out of all aforementioned places, simply staring at the gigantic tree in what could be deep thought. Twilight noticed the silhouette’s shoulders rise with the black, hooded cloak it wore and then droop suddenly, as if the figure gave a sigh. Then suddenly, the shadowy pony sprinted directly for the tree and leapt vertically when it approached its base, jumping and swinging from branch to branch until it reached the pinnacle of the tree’s roof. Twilight sat in awe at what she had just witnessed, the fluid motions of the acrobatic pony as it elevated itself up the tree’s bark like a true expert. She looked again, saw the figure sit down on the canopy of leaves that made up the Library’s roof, remove its hood and show the outline of a slim colt with glasses staring up at the Moon. Twilight finally recognized this persona as she stalked around the Library to the shadow’s left, seeing the moonlight refract off the white coat of the stallion she had just gotten to know earlier that day. She continued watching patiently as Doc visually probed the lunar surface, a smile and unblinking glare displayed on his face. Twilight flinched back into the underbrush when Doc looked downwards at his chest, reached into the torso of his cloak and pulled up a C-shaped pendant strung around his neck by a thick, dark brown string. He gazed at it for a moment, then kissed it and pushed it to his forehead as a tear began to slowly roll down his cheek. Twilight wondered what this meant, as this instant of reminiscence, sadness or remembrance began to strangely bring a tear to her eye as well. She saw Doc bring the pendant back to the level of his heart, looking back to the Moon with the tear line still rolling down his cheek, motioning his lips as if to slowly read the words,

“I’m sorry.”

*****

The next day, Twilight woke up at approximately five-fifteen in the morning after willingly catching some sleep postliminary to last night’s ordeal. She pulled herself out of bed, muscles aching but mentally wide awake as she made her way to the kitchen, deciding to make breakfast herself for once. She hadn’t done so in a little while, Spike usually being the chef of the house, so she simply made a bowl of cereal and grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. She took her breakfast to the desk she usually read at and cleared up the mess of study material on the table. Afterwards, she picked up the book Doc gave her and finished it over the course of the next few minutes whilst calmly eating her breakfast. When she finished, she wondered what compelled her to act as such. She felt as though she was on auto-pilot…like she had a thought that was taking precedence over all others and forcing in a certain, unknown direction. As she watched the sunrise peek over the nearby mountain tops, blinding her for a moment, she began to wonder what the day would hold in store for her. She remained sitting there, watching the sun rise and the earth below it slowly awake until about seven in the morning. Spike was just waking up then, sleepily waltzing down into the foyer to begin his daily duties. When he saw Twilight sitting at her desk through the half open eye he wasn’t rubbing with a fist, he was dumbfounded to find her up so early. So, he began to approach, but was quickly noticed by the keenly sharpened senses Twilight had suddenly acquired that morning.

“Mornin’ Spike, sleep well?” she asked with a smile before nonchalantly looking back over the desk and out the window without waiting for a response.

“What on earth are you doing up so early? You’re going to get sleep deprived if you keep this up.” Spike responded as he pulled up a nearby chair.

“Thank you Spike,” Twilight subtly replied to his concern, “but to tell you the truth, I don’t know why I’m up so early.”

She took a long pause, looking down at her desk and at the healing book, then looking back out the window and off into the distance as she spoke.

“…I think I’m gonna go see Doc again today.”

Not wasting any time, she pushed herself away from the desk and began to head straight for the door. Spike, still oblivious to Twilight’s behavior, said to her as he looked over the back of his chair.

“Already? Jeez, you sure are on the move today. What’re you thinkin’ about that’s got you acting so differently?”

She replied, staring at the ground after a short pause of searching it for an answer, responding with a blank expression.

“I honestly don’t know what I’m thinking about Spike.”

A miniature smile pulled itself up on her face as she looked back up to him and said,

“I guess that’s why I feel so different.”

Minutes later, she was making her way to the town square to see the famous white caravan open for business, Doc standing behind the counter as he waited for the avalanche of customers to come pouring in for the morning rush hour. Twilight spotted Doc and her blank expression of deep thought instantly disappeared, reconstituted with an expression of sunlight and joy. She cantered happily towards the caravan and was noticed by Doc as she drew closer.

“Hey Twilight, you’re up early.” Doc said as Twilight came up the steps of the platform and Doc leaned on the counter with his elbows.

“Yeah, I actually got some good sleep last night, if you can believe that.” Twilight responded, stepping up to the counter.

“I didn’t know you haven’t been getting good sleep lately, something wrong?”

“No, just a lot on my mind, you know?” she said while scratching the back of her head.

Doc took out a mopping rag from under the counter and began to clean the countertop with it.

“Yeah, I know how ya feel. Anyway, need anything?”

“No, not really. Although, I did finish the book you gave me.” She said.

“In two days?!” Doc responded in surprise, “That’s impressive, even for me. *heh* And I’m assuming that by ‘a lot on your mind’ you meant ‘pulling all-nighters reading the darn thing’, right?”

“Yeah, that’s most of it.” Twilight said as her cheeks crimsoned a little, followed by the both of them chuckling like good friends.

“So, have anything planned for the day?” Twilight asked happily as they finished sighing from their laughter.

Doc looked to the top right of his eyes and placed his non-busy left hoof on his muzzle in contemplation of any recent requests. He continued to compel this thought for a few more seconds until his eyes widened and he spoke.

“Oh, I remember AJ asking me to help at the Acres with some harvest work. Why do you ask?”

Twilight leaned slightly forward, widened her irises, and asked politely with a childishly ambitious face.

“May I join you?”

“Um…sure.” Doc responded, mildly surprised by the question before he continued, “Never took you for the working type though, no offense.”

“None taken and believe me, I’m not the working type,” Twilight humorously mentioned, “but I figured I could just be there to make your job easier, ya know?”

Doc tilted his head slightly to the left and smiled as though he were just given a very nice compliment.

“Thanks Twilight…” he said brightly, “that’s very kind of you. If you want to meet up with us, go see AJ, Big Macintosh and myself outside the gates to Sweetapple Acres in about…”

He checked the watch on the wrist of his left foreleg.

“one hour.”

“I’ll be there” Twilight said as she happily gave a closed-eyed grin accompanied by a salute.

She began to walk away from the caravan, but before she could get too far, Doc caught her attention.

“Hey Twilight!”

She turned around and Doc said after putting the mopping rag back under the counter.

“You seem…‘different’ somehow…I like it.”

“Thanks…” She said with a slight blush before continuing to walk towards wherever she would spend the next hour in anticipation.

*****

The past hour had been a painful wait, but about fifty minutes later, Twilight was walking on the trail that led to Sweetapple Acres, ready for her day of honest farm work. She saw the farm as she drew closer, the barn in a much calmer state than usual with AJ and Mac in serious conversation, standing several yards past the wooden, labeled arch that served as the main entrance to the estate. When Twilight was within ear shot of the two, she shouted to catch their attention, succeeded, and continued towards the farm to talk with her work-horse friends who were now in a surprisingly happier mood. When the three met up a few feet from the wooden arch, Twilight greeted them in the casual way she does. AJ gave the same old greetn’ as always and Big Macintosh simply smiled and raised his hoof lightly off the ground in a shy, miniscule wave.

“So, you need sum’m?” AJ asked Twilight as they finished introductions.

“Actually, I came here to help you and Doc with the apple harvest this morning.” “Realleh?” Applejack asked after gawking with disbelieving look, “Whah the su’en urge ta come’n work on the farm?”

“I just felt like helping somepony today, especially if it’s Doc and you guys. I hope you don’t mind.” Twilight responded.

“ ‘Course we don’t!” AJ kindheartedly answered, “The more, the merrier, raht Big Macintosh?”

He responded, the same subtle way he always has, giving a light nod and saying that one word in his deep, disused, hardworking voice.

“Eeyup.”

Several minutes passed. In the distance, Doc was just trotting over the hill and into view of the farm on the same trail taken by Twilight. After crossing under the arc unnoticed, Doc spoke to the trio of friends as he approached from behind them.

“Don’t tell me you guys are starting without me.”

Twilight instantly recognized his tone, spun around and gave Doc a grand, squeezing hug.

“Doc!” she said, “It’s so good to see you again!”

“Whoa!” Doc responded, elbows pointed outwards above Twilight as she wrapped around his ribcage, “*heh* You really are in a good mood today! What’s got your chin so high?”

“I just felt like doing stuff with you today.” Twilight responded, “For some reason, I felt happier when I saw you and…I guess I just wanted to keep it up.”

Doc once again smiled as if he was receiving the nicest of adulations before promptly hugging her back.

“Alraht ya luvbirds, break i’ up.” AJ sneered with a smirk, “We’ll have plenty a’ tahm fer that later.”

They both broke the friendly embrace instantly, Twilight’s cheeks crimsoning exceedingly as Doc responded, scratching the back of his head with his right hoof as his own blush was minor in comparison to Twilight’s.

“Er…yeah, I guess your right.”

A moment later, he noticed the presence of Big Macintosh, saying to him in a much calmer state,

“Hi Mac.”

Mac, who scarcely spoke, responded deeply.

“How many times ‘ave Ah told’ja not ta call me that?”

“Not enough apparently.” Doc replied with a clever smile, “Still as subtle as ever, I see.”

Mac smirked to Doc’s wise comment, giving his usual, “Eeyup.” a much prouder, yet friendlier affliction.

“You still up for the usual post-harvest race?” Doc spunkly asked before Mac and Doc butt foreheads like young bucks, both of them with a happy, competitive look on their faces and a hoof up in a challenging drawback.

“D’ ya realleh think I’ll say no?” Mac answered at Doc’s face in a much more gutsy voice than how he usually speaks.

“Boys!” AJ exclaimed, causing the both of them to look alertedly at her, listening as she ordered to them and made her way to some nearby saddlebuckets.

“You two c’n have yer tussle after we harvest.”

She grabbed two of the saddlebucket pairs and individually slung them at the guys’ stomachs in turn with the first two commands she gave, wearing an authoritative but friendly smile on her orange, sun-soaked face.

“Now, shut up, break it up and git busy, we got work ta do.”

The first hour or so into the harvesting went smoothly. All four of them walked along a trail on their way back to the farm to dump off the saddlebuckets of apples each had on their backs, filled to the brim with a good days work. Most were silent as they cantered, the only real noises being the harmonious melody of surrounding birds, the rustling of leaves as they danced in the sunlight and Big Macintosh whistling the classic “Blue Moon” as he trotted, almost unaffected by the manual labor he was so accustom to over the years. Doc, stepping to the beat of the tune Mac trilled, being one of his favorites, kept up with the group despite the large, heavily-filled tub he slung between the two buckets on his sides, acting as though such labor was simply average work.

The girls had nothing special for their harvesting manner. They simply walked at their own pace and kept to themselves. Twilight, however, sped up her trotting at one point, catching up with AJ and whispering to her in disclosure from the guys.

“Hey Applejack.”

“Sup?” AJ responded without the slightest ounce of secrecy or discretion.

“Why were the guys butting heads and talking all manly an hour ago?” Twilight continued, ignoring her friend’s lack of reticence.

AJ secluded her tone only slightly, the guys being a little farther up the trail, so they were out of ear shot all the same.

“Oh they’re jus’ boys, always pickin’ scraps with one another. *sigh* Ah’m jus’ glad they see eye ta eye.”

In the short distance, Doc flaunted the fact that he was carrying more than Mac in his face, causing him to sock Doc in his upper foreleg with the same competitive smile his good friend wore.

“Ah jus’ can’t ever imagine those two bein’ enemies.” AJ continued, “Idiotic brothers maybeh, but never enemies.”

A miniscule fight built up between the guys, Doc pushing back after getting knocked in the bicep and Mac pushing back twice as hard after that, causing Doc to lose his balance and plow back-first into a bale of hay on the side of the road, dropping every apple he was carrying out of the various types of buckets he had along his body.

“Boys!” AJ yelled as the guys were laughing happily over the situation.

This caught both of their attentions in a sudden frightening, much like a wild animal as it spots a threat.

“Wha’d Ah say about you two scrappin’?” AJ bantered in a parental tone, “At leas’ drop yer share of the apples off before ya start! Dang near spilled e’ry last one outta yer buckets. *sigh* Really, what am Ah gonna do with you two?”

She stuck her hoof out to Doc and began pulling him up from the stack of hay.

“You could stop acting like our mother for one thing.” Doc said with a pressured tone as he was rose back to his hooves.

If Doc hadn’t already been up, AJ would have dropped him like a rock and said the same thing she said then.

Don’t you start with me Doc. If Ah wasn’t here ta keep an eye on ya both, not a single bit of work would get done. Ya’d probleh break e’rything in the farm with yer constant bickerin’ just before breakin’ yerselves! Now pick up yer mess, the farm’s just a bit up the road.”

Twilight caught back up with her, now trotting ahead of the group as the guys were farther back, placing the apples back in Doc’s buckets, then slinging their forelegs over the other’s shoulders and giving an affable hoof-bump, accompanied by a friendly set of chuckles.

“Like Ah said Twi,” AJ said to Twilight with the slightest bit of reticence before looking over her shoulder and at the brothers in arms, saying in a voice of family pride and bright expectations, “idiotic brothers, but never enemies.”

*****

The barn came into view soon after, surrounded by the various stables and coops of livestock with fenced-in areas of storage by their sides, just as the quartet of workers had left it. The only difference they could see was AJ’s little sister, Applebloom, searching for something in a frantic panic by the front of the barn and looking quite concerned. The group approached the barn as they passed between a large gap in the fence, serving as the way of passage to the acres of trees behind them. As they neared the barn, Applebloom was facing the other way, scanning the hillsides that surrounded the farm with a distressed hoof an inch from her frowning, worried muzzle.

“Lookin’ fer somethin’ sweetheart?” AJ asked her as the group was in front of the barn, several feet from the troubled filly.

“Applejack!” said the foal as she turned around, large eyes opened to the widest.

“Ah thought you two lef’ the farm fer good.” she said with a frightened tone as she leapt at her sister, constricting her leg in a loving grasp, “Ah was scared you were never comin’ back.”

“Aw sweetie,” said AJ gently as she knelt to Applebloom’s level, “ya know we’d never leave ya bah yourself lahke that. Ah’m sorry we hadn’t told ya where we went, must’a slipped mah mind. We promise ta never leave ya out of the loop again, under any circumstances.”

AJ gave her a loving hug as her sweet little sister was on the verge of tears. Mac comforted her as well, stating in his deep, somewhat caring voice.

“Yeah, never as long as we live. We’re a family,” he continued as he put a re-assuring hoof on her shoulder, bringing her back to a smile as she snuck tears back into her eyes with a sniff. She promptly hugged them both over their shoulders as Mac finished, “an’ that’s never gonna change.”

Twilight and Doc watched the heartfelt moment of this loving family with smiles on their faces. After several more moments of hugging, Applebloom opened her eyes and looked between the shoulders of her siblings, still squeezing their necks as she noticed a certain white stallion she didn’t recognize. She snapped instantly from her melancholy state into a gleeful expression.

“*gasp* Ya’ll made a new friend!”, she excitedly said, darting between them and stopping directly in front of Doc with a slight-forward lean, friendly grin and a look up to him like an anxious little angel.

“Hi! Ah’m Applebloom. What’s your name?”

“I’m a doctor,” Doc replied after giving a closed-eyed smile and kneeling to Applebloom’s level, “but you can call me Doc if you want.” Twilight was actually surprised by such a calm reaction, given that if she were in his shoes right now, she would have reacted and spoken much more awkwardly.

“Are ya a doctor that makes ponies feel better?” Applebloom continued.

“Yup, that’s my job!” Doc replied with the same kind expression, “What about you? What do you do here on the farm?”

“Oh nothin’ realleh.” AB replied, “Mah big brother an’ sis say Ah’m too little ta help with anything, so Ah jus’ sorta stay on the farm an’ play around.”

“Are they crazy?!” Doc said as he looked over Applebloom and directly at AJ and Mac, who had entertained looks on their faces by what they were witnessing.

“I’m sure you could handle this farm all by yourself if you had to.”

As he said “all by yourself”, Doc lightly grasped the tip of her nose and wriggled it back and forth playfully, making her giggle as she raised her forelegs up to her chin, burying her face in her pasterns.

“Your so nahce mister.” she said as her giggling came to a stop, “Can we be friends?”

“In the words of your faithful brother over there,” he replied just before giving the most accurate impersonation of Mac Twilight had ever heard, “D’ya realleh think I’ll say no?“ and smiling properly.

The next noise they heard was the sound of Applebloom’s name being called in the distance, shouted by voices familiar to the little filly’s ears. The voices drew closer as her good friends, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle could be seen dashing towards the farm on the trail to its entrance.

“*gasp* Girls!” Applebloom said in joyful surprise as she turned around and began running towards the wooden archway to meet up with them.

As all three approached the arch, they greeted each other happily, grinning and laughing after bits of friendly small talk.

“We’ve been looking for you everywhere.” said Scootaloo, “Where’ve you been?”

“Ah was lookin’ for these two.” she replied as she pointed over her left shoulder with her right hoof and at her older siblings, “Whah? Ya need me?”

“Yeah!” Sweetie Belle answered, “We need you for our weekly brainstorming session. How could you forget?”

“Guess Ah had other things on mah mahnd. Oh, bah the way, mah sis and bro have a new friend with‘em taday.”

The two fillies’ eyes widened with a smile as they looked around Applebloom and at the only one amongst the crowd they were unfamiliar with. The process of them approaching Doc was virtually identical to Applebloom’s that was recently displayed, followed by both of them standing in front of the white stallion and saying, “Hi!” in practical harmony.

“Hi,” Doc happily replied, still knelt to their general level, “I’m guessing you’re friends of Applebloom.”

“That’s us!” Scootaloo spunkly replied, “Who are you?”

“Just a doctor,” he answered subtly while putting a humble hoof on his chest, “but you can call me Doc.”

“I’m Scootaloo, and this here’s Sweetie Belle.”

The pale filly gave a closed eyed grin to follow Scootaloo’s introduction.

“It’s very nice to meet you.” said Doc politely before shaking both of the little fillies’ hooves like a kind, gentle giant.

“So since you’re a doctor,” Scootaloo asked, “I’m guessing that means you fix ponies up?”

Doc answered the same way he did for Applebloom, then continued his conversation with the girls, talking to them with his friendly tone and answering any questions they asked. Twilight listened to them at first, but gradually let the talk grow hushed to her ears as she looked at Doc, a thoughtful simper across her muzzle, seeing him as not just another standard in the background. She saw a real pony in that knelt, smiling father figure, somepony to look up to and seek guidance from, somepony with friends to care about and be cared for…with a story to tell and a real life to live.

*****

Doc ruffled the two fillies’ heads as he finished his conversation with them and began standing back up.

“You’re a cool guy Doc.” complimented Scoots, “Think you could join us for some brainstorming back at our clubhouse?”

“I’d love to kidos,” Doc responded, “but I have a few things I need to finish up here first. Promise I’ll join you some time soon.”

“Okay.” Sweetie Belle said as she and Scoots hugged Doc over his shoulders, “See you later Mister Doc!”

They released the embrace and pranced over to Applebloom, conversing about what to do with the rest of the day. After a minute or two of discussion, they nodded their heads in some sort of agreement and proceeded in the direction of a certain part of the estate, assumingly to the trio’s clubhouse. Before she and her friends got too far away, Applebloom looked back at the group with a smile.

“Bye Doc!” is what she happily said before continuing on with her fellow crusaders and out of sight.

“Ah never knew you were good wi’ kids.” AJ mentioned as she approached Doc, “Ah always took ya fer the brotherly tahpe.”

“*heh* Thanks.” he replied, “Just trying to spread a good mood, I guess. But anyways…”

Doc then lifted the large tub of apples he had back onto his spine with a grunt and continued in a pressured voice.

“Let’s drop these off already…before my legs cave in.”

After placing the various saddlebuckets and baskets back in the barn, the group decided to cool off at a nearby rectangular table with a few bottles of sarsaparilla in the midst of the afternoon sun. Twilight sat on side, Doc sat at the end on her right, Mac sat at the other end across from him and AJ on the side to his left. The wood of the table was splintered and worn, and the only thing to sit on were small wooden boxes, but it all felt perfectly in touch with the theme of the situation. After some affable conversation, Doc, hunched over with his elbows on his knees, wiped the sweat from his brow using his free foreleg and spoke.

“It’s been a while since I’ve had this good, old, western feeling after a good days work.”

“Ah know!” AJ acknowledged, “This is honestleh more work than Ah’ve seen get done ‘round here in a long tahm. Even on our good days, Me and Big Macintosh don’t get this much done. Reckon how that happened?”

“Probably cause we got some help from little miss ‘non-working type’ over here.” Doc answered, looking at Twilight as he took a sip from his sasperilla, a cocky smirk barely visible on his face.

“Well excuuuuse me for not being confident in my abilities.” Twilight responded as she put her right hoof on her chest and looked directly back at Doc, speaking in a near identical tone that Dash would use, just before she returned to her noble persona and continued, “I’m just glad I could help.”

“So’re we!” AJ remarked happily, “Today was enough ta cut this month’s harvestin’ in half! We can’t thank ahther of ya enough.”

“Think nothing of it.” Doc humbly replied, “It’s always a pleasure to get some work in these old bones once in a while.”

“Oh! Speaking of which,” He said a moment later as his eyes widened in sudden joy, “I almost forgot about our little competition.”

“Oh yeah.” Mac responded casually before finishing off his sarsaparilla in a final chug and standing up from his box, stretching his leg muscles as if before a vigorous work-out.

In the mean time, Doc ran into the barn for some reason and Twilight, confused, finally asked in a slight burst of frustration.

“Ok, that’s it, what is this ‘competition’ you all keep talking about?!”

“E’ry visit that Doc makes, these two digits play a game.” AJ calmly answered, despite the slight volume of Twilight’s outburst.

Doc came back out of the barn, pulling a large hay cart in the direction of the dirt road across from the barn doors, turning and facing it down the direction of a long road that appeared to go off into the distance and farther into the estate.

Doc ran back into the barn swiftly, pulled an identical cart out and placed it next to its twin as AJ continued her explanation.

“Each of ‘em gets a cart and fills it full a’ sacks of the biggest, heaviest apples we got. Then, ya see the trail over there?”

They both looked at and down the road that the carts faced.

“That there’s a three mahle long trudge ta the edge of the property, first ta get there n’ back with their cart wins.”

Doc emerged from the farm once more with two large sacks on his back. He appeared to be in somewhat of a struggle to take each step to the cart before offloading the sacks in a burst of relief, then repeating the process several times as the girls continued their conversation.

“Wow, three miles back and forth?!” Twilight reacted, “Don’t you think that’s pushing it a little?”

“It was their ahdea, not mahn.” remarked AJ, “*sigh* Ah swear, these boys ‘re gonna break themselves if they keep this up. And y’know…it’s weird…Mac only acts lahke this when Doc’s around.”

Mac was currently helping Doc load some of the sacks into the carts after he finished stretching, so he was out of earshot from AJ’s remark.

“It’s almost lahke i’ gives ‘im a reason ta…Ah don’t know, ‘act out’ or sum’m.” AJ continued, “*sigh* Ah really don’t know.”

She looked off in the direction of the guys, watching them work for a moment before a humble smirk grew lightly on her face.

“Ah’m jus’ glad, even after all we’ve been through, keepin’ the farm up n’ runnin’ n’ all, that he’s still as happy ‘n healthy as always…”

AJ then looked down at the wood of the table as her happy, humble expression quickly began to droop, as if she couldn’t stop thinking about something she really didn’t want to. A moment later, once all the happiness had fled her hardworking demeanor, she sighed through her nose before slumping down onto the table, leaning on it with her elbows and slightly burying her lower-face in her forelegs as she finished.

“…that we all are.”

Twi noticed her depressed state and wondered what could be bothering her at a time like this.

“Well…” she stated in a friendly tone, trying to keep the conversation in a light-hearted mood, “I hope that I can see more of that joy in the future!”

She reached across the table and placed her hoof on AJ’s shoulder as she continued, hoping to relieve her of her sudden melancholy.

“I sure know I’m happy to be here with you.”

AJ looked up from her dejected slump and at Twilight as she spoke. As she heard her friend’s kind words, AJ let a different kind of smirk creep up the side of her muzzle, one that was subtle and tired, silently thanking her for such comforting words. Though before anything else could be said, they were quickly interrupted by Doc.

“Hey gals!”

This caught their attention before they looked over, hearing him speak as he stood next to the two waiting carts.

“It’s ready.”

*****

“Okay,” said Doc with a slightly pressured voice as he assisted Twilight and AJ in securing the last heavy-duty buckle on the industrial harness that clung to his torso, now only covered by the skintight, pitch black undershirt that Doc refused to take off, saying he was nervous about being naked around friends. They thought it ridiculous, but went with it anyway considering he was at least comfortable with taking his white shirt off, which, along with all his other belongings, could be seen lying on a crate next to the fence that sat just a few meters away. Once the three friends finally secured the buckle with a burst of relief, Doc gave the harness a final tug for security before finishing his sentence in a slightly exhausted tone.

“I think I’m all saddled up.”

“Alrahty then,” replied a drained AJ, standing up on her hind legs with her forelegs on her knees, catching her breath with several deep coughs covered by one of her fore-hooves.

After hitting herself in the chest twice in response to her coughs, she stood up in a somewhat triumphant pose, her neck and brow saturated in perspiration with hooves on her sides as she looked over Doc’s harness. As she visually checked it, Twilight collected herself in the same way AJ did, panting heavily before AJ spoke.

“That looks about raht. Now,” she looked over to Mac, who was attempting to secure the first clamp on his own and failing miserably. She pointed at him and continued, “ta get you hooked up.”

She walked over to Mac and helped him secure the first clamp with embarrassing ease. Twilight eventually finished collecting herself a few moments later and proceeded to assist AJ. As they completed fastening and tightening in a much easier fashion than before, the girls stood on the side of the road next to the brothers at heart they knew so well, ready to witness their annual struggle and the outcome to behold.

“Alraht you two,” said AJ as the girls finished catching their breath, “*cough* you know the drill. Yer gonna get a warm-up period makin’ it from here ta the fence.”

She pointed to an open space in the fence approximately ten meters down the dirt road, serving as the border between the orchards of apple trees, the trail that continued down their middle and the farmland itself.

“Soon as you get there,” AJ continued, “that’s when the race really starts. Give it yer all on the count ‘a three…One…”

The two combatants revved up into a sprinting position and tensed their muscles.

“…Two…”

They looked each other square in the eye with faces not of cocky competition, but of true, sporting rivalry. They looked straight forward, took a deep breath and then…

“…Three!”

The two got off to a slow start for the beginning of their trek, like trains flaring their engines for departure, faces beat red with strain and backs pulling in an abaft position, forwardly dislocating the axes of the carts’ iron wheels from the rust that held them in place. They gradually gained speed after the first few meters and began pulling with grand, athletic lunges in a forward lean, their heads, shoulders and fore-hooves thrown forward in momentum with each step. As they continued, their expressions began to transform from the gritting of teeth in tolerance of pain, to angry, small-mouthed stares of determination, their awkwardly bent spines eventually bending forwards and into a much more direct manner. Twilight could tell that this race would have an interesting conclusion as she witnessed the intense passion in both of the stallions’ eyes, their bodies picking up speed from struggling, to striding, then slowly galloping, and finally galloping at near-full speeds as they proceeded down the last few meters and through the gap in the fence. They galloped off into the distance and out of sight, leaving the girls in a small silence before AJ proclaimed happily.

“Well…that’s that.”

“That’s that?” asked Twilight, “What do you mean that’s that? Aren’t we going to…I don’t know, follow them or something?”

“D’ya realleh wanna follow those two fer three mahles straight, and then another three back from there?” replied AJ as she began to make her way back to the table where the four sat a moment ago.

“Oh…yeah, good point.” answered Twilight as her head sunk into her shoulders slightly and she accompanied AJ back to the table.

They both sat at different locations than before, AJ sitting in Mac’s spot and Twilight pulling her box around and up to AJ’s right.

“So…” Twilight asked as she sat on her box with a slightly happy bounce, “how long does it usually take them to get back?”

“ ‘Bout half an hour ‘r so.” she replied, “Ya’d be suprahsed how fast they are fer heavin’ such a heaveh load. *heh* Gonna get ‘emselves hurt, Ah tell ya.”

As she finished, she looked down at the bottle of sarsaparilla she recovered from her previous side of the table, the humble and tired smile she’s been wearing almost the entire day visible on her kind face.

“Why are you always so concerned on the well being of those two?” Twilight asked, noticing AJ’s recent motherly behavior.

“‘Cuz if Ah’m not Miss Sparkle, then who ‘n Equestria ever will be?!” she bellowed back with an angered face and severely austere tone.

*****

Twilight’s eyes widened and her head shot back in response, completely surprised by such a furious reaction. The honest work horse immediately snapped out of her furious phase a moment later and back to her normal self with a shake of her head.

“Oh jeez, Ah’m sorry Twi!” she quickly said, “Ah just…*sigh* it’s…a long story.”

She then tipped her hat down over her eyes in shame, bottle of sarsaparilla still in her adjacent hoof.

“Listen Applejack,” responded Twilight, “I’ve heard that excuse enough times to last me the week.”

AJ tipped her hat up slightly with a flick of her hoof as she listened, looking at Twilight as she spoke before looking back down at the table when she was done, knowing just who Twilight was talking about.

“So tell me…please…” Twilight continued, sounding as quiet and concerned as she could, “what’s wrong?”

AJ answered her with a sigh followed by another question.

“Ya ever wonder whah we live with Granny Smith n’ not our Ma and Pa?”

Twilight’s eyes dilated a little in the surprise of understanding AJ’s situation.

“Oh…Applejack…I’m sorry I brought that up.” she said consolingly, “We don’t need to talk about it if you-“

Ahp!” AJ swiftly lifted her hoof in a stopping motion, cutting Twilight off, “Ya asked fer me ta tell ya what’s wrong, so Ah’m gonna tell ya!”

She spoke with a reassured look on her face just before taking a swig of her quarter-full sarsaparilla and slamming it back on the table. What little carbonation left in the sarsaparilla could be heard fizzling from the impact before AJ continued, returning to her depressing demeanor.

“It was back when Big Macintosh and Ah were jus’ youngins, n’ Applebloom was practic’lly a newborn. Back then, we were jus’ gettin’ the farm started.”

She pointed out at the sea of apple orchards just beyond the fence with an outstretched foreleg.

“Not a single tree that you see out there today was even a saplin’ in the dirt back in those days. That’s whah mah Pa constantly worked the fields, while mah Ma was just busy keepin’ us three fed, healthy n’ happy. Both of ‘em did a dang good job doin’ it though, and they both had this special thing about ‘em. Pa would always have his horse collar ‘round his neck for the plowin’ that took the whole day from ‘im, and mah Ma always wore a hat…don’t know whah though…n’ she never told us. As difficult as it was ta get bah, Me, Big Macintosh, Applebloom, Granny Smith, we all stayed happy, doin’ jus’ fahn and makin’ sure we always got through our problems…as a family.”

“Then…some tahm later, after the farm was built to a good standin’, Ma and Pa said they had ta go. They were in the military at that tahm, mah Pa workin’ as a soldier and…mah Ma as one a’ them field medics. We asked ta come with ‘em, but they said we had ta stay…that…there’d be a chance they might not be comin’ back.”

AJ started to tear up a little, her voice sounding much weaker than when she started. But she still tried to keep the situation in a relatively happy mood by attempting a smile and giving a little snicker of remembrance as she continued.

“Our little hearts just started breakin’, but they comforted us and…said that they’d be alraht. Pa gave his horse collar ta Big Macintosh and…mah Ma…”

AJ gripped the brim of her hat as what little strength she had left crumbled to pieces and the tears she had been struggling to hold back began to roll down her face. She didn’t finish that sentence, merely continuing as her nose began getting very stuffed up.

“It’s jus’…*sniff* Ah can’t stop thinkin’ about ‘em, y’know? *sniff* Doc always remahnds me so much a’ mah Pa and…what he said earlier, ‘bout how Ah should stop actin’ lahke his mother…*sniff* Ah just…”

Once again, she couldn’t work up the strength to finish her sentence. All she could do was use the same hoof she grasped her hat with to cover her eyes, sniffing occasionally as she cried to herself in silence.

Twilight just sat there for a moment, stuck in disbelief that AJ, her strong, hardworking, independent and loveable friend could ever have had such a lonesome, depressing childhood. She wondered what could be done to cheer her up, what she could possibly do or say that would bring back the jolly, orange workhorse she was just sharing drinks with moments ago. But as Twilight continued to ponder, AJ just sat and continued to weep, so many thoughts and memories that she had dealt with for years, now rushing back into her head. It was a horrible feeling, one that grew worse with each passing second, until AJ suddenly felt a slight pressure around her middle. She looked down from her hoof in slight surprise to see Twilight, forelegs out and wrapped around her stomach, head slightly down and eyes shut sadly…Twilight was giving her a hug. Out of all the complex or emotional things she could have done, Twilight just chose a subtle, harmless way of saying “I care, and I’m here if you need me”. Such simplistic compassion from an in-depth mind like hers brought a small smirk to AJ’s face, the kind of smirk you give someone when you’re truly happy they exist. A moment later, AJ closed her eyes and hugged Twilight’s back gently with one of her forelegs, saying in a quiet, tired, recently-been-crying kind of voice.

“Thanks sugar cube. *sniff* Ya really are quaht the sweetheart.”

Twilight gave one last tight squeeze on AJ before releasing her grasp on her and sitting back up in her seat. They both faced the table and grabbed their drinks once more before AJ wiped the remaining tears out of her eyes.

“Anywho,” AJ continued, “*sniff* back to mah parents leavin’. After mah Ma…well, y’know…”

She motioned her hoof a little towards her hat before continuing.

“She said that no matter what happens ta ahther of ‘em, we’ll always be safe, always be strong…”

She turned her head to Twilight, staring her right in the eyes with a face that spoke who she truly was with absolute, unintended perfection. What Twilight saw in those eyes was a mare, one that, at her young age, had already been through so much in comparison to all of the happy, carefree ponies around her. From her childhood, she had practically raised her baby sister, kept her family’s farm alive and growing, and still always had the time for what mattered to her, the happiness of her friends. Twilight looked into those eyes for that split second, understanding AJ through her glare of hard-earned strength and experience, cheeks moistened and miniscule smile barely able to stay up as she finished.

“…that we’ll always be a family. But then…next thing Ah know…they got up…and were gone.”

Silence followed as they just stared at each other for several seconds, motionless, the only noise being a passing breeze that lightly shook the branches of nearby trees. The sound of a loose apple thumping against the dirt in the distance could be heard before it rolled in the lush grass surrounding its tree, coming to a calm, crooked stop a moment later. The moment of silence these two were having ended as AJ just stared back at her drink, her smile of motherly content for Doc and Mac now back across her face. Twilight put her left hoof on AJ’s shoulder, asking “Are you okay?” her in simple body language. AJ replied in the same silent way, just giving a calm nod that signaled “Yeah, I’m good.” Twilight then figured that since they were all square and done with each others’ concerns, why not still make this a good time? She lifted her sasperilla bottle and what was left in it up in proposal of a toast, right before AJ noticed it, smiled, and lifted up her own near-empty bottle in acceptance. Both of their drinks met with a nice, friendly chink before they happily chugged what was left in their bottles and slammed them back onto the table, laughing a little at each other’s own happiness like real friends. It was nice.

“Applejack!”

They heard Doc’s voice shouting desperately and urgently from what sounded like the gap in the fence, the spot where the race had begun. Surprised and a little worried of his tone, the girls turned in his direction, their eyes widening, pupils dilating and breath catching in their throats with terror of what they saw. Doc stood there, dirt stains littering his coat and jeans, both of the industrial harnesses the stallions were originally wearing now tightly wrapped around his wrists as they connected to the two carts behind him, one looking much more mangled and broken than the other. Big Macintosh’s pale, barely conscious face could be seen hanging off the right side of Doc’s back and blood could be seen running down one of Mac’s legs as Doc yelled to the girls with a deadpan and authoritative expression.

“We’ve got a problem!”

*****

The girls panicked at the sight and ran over to help as fast as they could.

“Wha’ happened?!” screamed AJ, horrified to see the very thing she saw coming but hoped not to happen.

“I’ll explain later,” Doc replied, ordering them with a straight and stern face, “but right now I need you two to clear the table, Mac’s hurt badly.”

With very minor hesitation, AJ ran over and knocked all the empty bottles of sarsaparilla off the table with a quick swipe of her foreleg.

“Let’s get these harnesses off you!” Twilight nervously proposed after deciding to stay with Doc.

“No time! We need Mac on that table now!”

Doc began pulling the two carts at an extremely fast rate for how heavy they were. Twilight watched as both carts were pulled by each of his forelegs in turn with his hind legs’ steps, left…right…left…right. She looked back down the road where he came from and saw a small trail of blood that followed Doc’s left side in a dotted-looking line. She could tell in a moment that this couldn’t be good.

Doc quickly lunged himself, Mac and the two carts over to the table and offloaded Mac onto it on his right side, showing a mortifying wound in his left flank, starting at his cutie mark and ending at the half-way point of his shin. The torn muscle of his leg twitched and staggered at a violent rate, jiggling any of the skin that hung off the tips of the wound as they looked like fresh, red leather.

AJ nearly threw up when she saw this before asking Doc once again in a much more infuriated tone.

“What…happened?!”

Doc replied seriously while reaching into his pocket, taking out a small multi-tool, flipping out the knife feature and cutting the straps that connected the harnesses on his wrists to the carts.

“While we were racing, Mac’s cart hit a big rock, flipped into the air and landed on his leg, splinching the flesh, breaking the bone and severing his femoral artery.”

They looked over to Mac in fear, his only movements being his face twitching in agony and his chest moving in and out with his staggered breathing as the wound bled profusely onto the old wood of the table. Doc placed the survival tool back in his pocket and commanded while putting his hoofs together and rubbing them like a true doctor.

“He’s losing a lot of blood so we need to fix him now!”

“AJ!” he barked.

She turned to him, eyes and ears wide open.

“I need you to get me a glass of milk and a bucket of hot water. Don’t ask questions, just do it.”

After a second of confusion and making sure she heard him right, AJ nodded her head and ran off to get the supplies. Doc turned around and spoke to Twilight in a quieter but still commanding tone.

“Twilight, sweetie, I need you to go inside the barn and get me two rags, they should be on a crate to your right as soon as you walk in, okay?”

Twilight nervously nodded and ran as fast as she could into the barn, seeing three rags placed on top of a box just a few feet from the entrance. She quickly swiped two of them with her mouth and ran back outside to see Doc, who was now looking franticly off in the distance for AJ while occasionally comforting Mac.

She ran over to him and muffled words through the rags.

“I go’ f’em!”

“Good,” Doc replied, “now keep Mac calm while I move these carts out of the way. We’re gonna need lots of room.”

He ran over and began amazingly shoving the carts several meters back with a single push, the muscles in his forelegs flexing and the veins his body coursing up against his skin as his expression remained austere and unchanged.

As Doc finished shoving Mac’s much more broken cart aside, they heard AJ’s muffled yelling as she approached with a glass of milk in her mouth and a bucket of water slung over her shoulder.

“You got the stuff?” Doc asked before she nodded, trying to not spill the milk. Once she got closer, she gave the glass of milk to Doc and he chugged it in several seconds.

“Okay,” he instructed after wiping his mouth, “put the bucket next to the table where Mac’s head is.”

Twilight took the bucket from AJ and did so.

“Hoof me one of the rags.” requested Doc.

Twilight did, followed by Doc slinging the rag over the buckets edge, getting closer to the table and standing up on his hind legs next to it. He supported himself on the table with his elbows and began to hold his hooves close to Mac’s wound as Twilight told Mac he would be okay in the calmest voice she could. Mac nodded to her twice with his mouth puckered and his eyes closed, all he could do in his severe state of pain. Doc’s hooves began to glow with an aura, but not the green one he had when he healed Twilight’s scrape the day they met. This aura was as white as Doc’s coat, and looked much like a unicorn’s magic as it surrounded the splinters and other pieces of wood in the ripped flesh of Mac’s leg. One by one, the pieces of wood rose out of Mac’s flesh and were telekinetically thrown over Doc’s shoulders, as if Doc somehow had the use of telekinetic magic as an earth pony. Such a feat confused Twilight for a second before an order from Doc snapped her nervously back into reality.

“Okay,” he said, “now put the other rag in his mouth. Mac, I’m gonna need you to bite down on that as hard as you can in a second, alright?”

Mac nodded his head, looking down his side and at Doc as Twilight put the rag sideways in his mouth. Doc waited a moment as the aura on his hooves changed from white to green, followed by him rolling his shoulders and cracking his neck twice.

“Okay,” he said sternly, “on the count of three. One…two…three!”

Doc’s hooves glowed brighter as he appeared to be putting himself in severe pain. Mac, however, sounded much worse as he screamed in agony through the rag, almost as if his leg was being slowly severed by a rusty saw. Twilight and AJ put a hoof on their muzzles in concern as they watched the strange, excruciating process, completely unable to understand just what was actually going on. Doc suddenly released his strain and caught himself on the saturated table, now drenched in blood from Mac’s wound. Mac’s violent screaming slowly came to personal whimpers of pain and then back to his staggered breaths, all at a very quick rate. AJ rushed over to help get Doc back onto his hooves, but he merely pulled himself back up and said in a tired voice before anypony even got the chance to ask.

“I put the fragments of his bone back in place and healed the fracture enough for it to recover on its own. *phew* Now,” he put his bloody hooves together once more and continued in a slightly reassured tone, “to heal the outside.”

*****

About a minute or so into the healing process, Doc began getting focused on putting every strand of the muscle in Mac’s leg back together. AJ stood next to Mac’s head, holding his hoof in support. Twilight stood next to Doc, observing his work with a shaken curiosity.

“So Doc,” she asked, still sounding a bit nervous, “how did that bone thing work again?”

He answered quickly without looking away from restitching the flesh of Mac’s leg.

“When a bone snaps completely, bits and pieces of the outside are spread out and the marrow is separated from its other half. Undamaged tissue cells around it will divide and form a sort of…collar of tissue around the break, that being where new bone comes from. I have to get all the pieces together and solidify them before that happens, and then I use that tissue division to my advantage by speeding it up to heal the skin and flesh. But the process of moving all those pieces back into place without severing any arteries or nerves is both painful, challenging, and has to be done before the collar forms.”

“Oh, so you just speed up natural bodily processes when you heal ponies?” “Exactly…well, sort of.” he replied, “If the damage is too severe to heal on its own, kinda like this one, I heal it myself, and that’s another long story. In terms of the pain, well, the pony just has to deal with it the best they can. Even if I fix the injury, I can’t stop it from hurting just as much as before. The reason for this is that, even if I wanted too, I can’t fix the nervous system of the injury…last time I tried, I put the poor pony in a coma for a week.”

A few moments later, Doc seized the glow of his hooves and let them rest.

“Okay…flesh is done.” he said before rolling his shoulders and saying through a sigh as his hooves rose once more, “Now for the skin.”

As his hooves began to glow again and the wound began to shrink, AJ asked, also sounding a little shaky.

“Bah the way, w-what was the milk fer?”

“I need calcium in my system to work on bones…and lucky me, the one day I don’t have my flask full of milk just had to be today.”

He began reducing the glow of his hooves as the wound came to a miniscule close and the flow of blood completely stopped.

“And…done! Should be good now.” concluded Doc as he made his way to the bucket by Mac’s head.

The skin looked flawlessly repaired, with only a minor twitch that caused the newly formed skin to cringe. The only other imperfection was that Mac’s cutie mark on that side of his body had a seamless triangle of blank skin splitting up the right side of the apple core and ending at its center.

“Ya awright big guy?” asked AJ as she patted his hoof comfortingly.

“Eeyup…” he responded, same way he always does, “Ah’ll be fahn.”

He sat up slowly, gripping his leg and grunting in tolerated pain while putting a hoof to the temple of his wobbly head.

“Mah head’s a bit swimmy though.”

“Yeah,” said Doc as he washed his blood drenched hooves in the bucket of water, “you lost a lot of blood over the last…”

He put a half-way cleaned hoof up to his muzzle in thought of how long it had been since he was hurt.

“…fifteen minutes.” he continued, “I should carry you to the hospital. There, we can pump you back up to working condition and have you back out here in no time.”

“Don’ you worreh none.” said Mac dismissingly, “Ah’m jus’ fahn.”

He then got down from the table, tried to stand up and failed as his leg zinged with razor-sharp agony, his knees wobbled twice and he fell. AJ quickly grabbed his hoof in mid-fall panic before Mac spoke through gritted teeth.

“…Then again…maybeh not…”

“Your legs don’t have enough juice to keep you on your hooves,” said Doc like the semi-sassy pony of medicine that he is, “and if you keep trying to act tough, there won’t be enough blood in you to keep anything of yours running, now grab on, hospital’s not that far from here.”

Doc stuck his hoof out and gave a friendly, reassured smirk. Mac gave an identical beam back at him despite the constant twinges of pain that shot through his closed injury. He grasped Doc’s hoof with a flick of his wrist and a brotherly thwack as their hooves met. Doc pulled Mac up and onto his shoulders in a supporting stature from Mac’s left side, almost the same way they were an hour or so ago when Twilight noticed how brotherly they acted.

“And not only are you running on empty,” Doc mentioned with a slightly pressured voice due to Mac’s weight, “I just fixed that leg your trying to stand on. Do that again and I’ll just leave the re-broken bone to fix by itself. Now let’s get moving.”

“Any way Ah can help?” AJ asked proudly.

“Sure.” Doc answered, “Would you mind giving me a hoof with Mac while I get these harnesses off my wrists?”

“Sure thing.” AJ responded before she ran over to support her injured sibling.

She worked her way under her brother’s right foreleg and supported him as Doc did the opposite, working his way out from under Mac’s shoulder.

“Thanks sis.” said Mac gently as AJ struggled to hold up his muscle weight.

Doc took the multi-tool back out from his pocket, flicked the knife feature out once more and began cutting the straps that were just before the bases of each clamp. As he simultaneously removed the bunched up harnesses and let both bundles of useless leather and metal hit the dirt, he revealed a half-foot stretch of severe cuts, gashes and stressed skin where the harnesses violently clung to his wrists. Doc rolled his wrists in the palms of the adjacent hoof with an unaffected look on his face, followed by Twilight noticing these wounds.

“*gasp* Your hurt!” she said worriedly before running over to help him.

Doc calmly put his hooves up to stop her panic.

“Relax…relax…” he said, “It’s just a flesh wound or two.”

“Flesh wound?!” Twilight responded loudly, “There’s…”

She began counting his cuts, silently saying each number she counted to herself before looking back up to him and continuing.

“Fourteen horrible cuts going down your shins!”

“Relax…” Doc repeated with a smile on his face and a calm, joke-like tone, “I’ll be fine.”

“Ya realleh should get that looked at though.” AJ proposed in a pressured tone as she kept herself from collapsing.

“It’s okay.” Doc responded, “I’ll have this fixed in a minute, I’m too lazy to heal them now. But anyway,” he looked at Mac with a smile on his face, “I think we have something much bigger to attend to at the moment.”

He ran over to the crate that supported his things and swiftly put on his shirt, making sure to conceal his strange, C-shaped necklace, leave the top two buttons un-fastened and roll his sleeves just high enough to be above his elbows. Doc rushed over to AJ, who was just on the verge of collapse, and braced Mac on his left side once more. AJ exhaled with great relief as the weight of Mac was lifted from her shoulders.

“If ya’ll don’t mind,” She said tiredly after a short pause of recollecting herself, “*pant* Ah’m gonna go get another drink.”

She then made her way into the barn, tired and really in the mood for another sarsaparilla. As Doc and Mac began limping in the direction out of the estate, Twilight stopped them.

“Hey Doc!” she said, catching his attention.

He turned both himself and Mac to his left with an alert expression.

“…thanks” said Twilight coyly as she gave a shy smile.

“Just doing my job.” Doc said with a modest beam. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he turned back around, continuing his walk as he finished, “and we’ll both be right as rain!”

Copyright 2012

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