• Published 10th Dec 2013
  • 14,900 Views, 1,834 Comments

My Family and Other Equestrians - Blade Star

A HiE fic with a twist. Our protagonist is not alone. How does one approach being in Equestria, when their family is along for the ride?

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Chapter 76 - Apple Family Reunion - Part 2

The festivities continued throughout the afternoon. After Applejack and I had seen the dramatic conclusion of the seven legged race, which resulted in AB and Babs just about winning by a nose, we headed off to get a bite to eat. One of the many tried and tested activities of these reunions was of course, the Apple Family’s famous apple fritters. A few of the ponies who enjoyed cooking them up did their utmost to make as many as they possibly could during the relatively short time of the reunion. Of course, it was simply not possible to get enough made for everypony. Hay, they were in such demand, ponies would line up and literally wolf them down as soon as they were ready, undoubtedly ruining the lining of their throats in the process.

So, to compensate, this year, Applejack and Granny had done a fair bit of cooking beforehoof, and we had also gotten in a fairly large order from Sugarcube Corner for those with a sweet tooth. As a result, whilst not everypony would get their hooves on a fritter, they still had something enjoyable to snack on.

With both of our stomachs grumbling loudly at lack of food, the two of us headed over to see what was up for grabs. Since it was still fairly early, the two of us were able to snag ourselves an apple fritter each. I must admit, they were very tasty. But, by Luna, were they hot. I imagine I looked like my old dog when he found a piece of hot, spicy chicken. He knew it was too hot for him to eat, but he didn’t want to drop it in case something else came along and took it. Still, good eats, they certainly made my gut go quiet.

With our appetites taken care of the two of us once again began to wander around. Every now and again, Applejack would peel off and lead me over to a family member whose face seemed just familiar enough to recognise, and got us all chatting together. The sheer number of stories these ponies had to tell was just amazing. With ponies coming from far and wide, you had a huge cross section. It was like a microcosm of Equestria, all come together on this one apple farm. I talked to frontier settlers from Appleloosa, swamp ponies from the Cajun region who spent their free time hunting Chimeras, cab drivers from Manehatten with a million stories of their fares, and even one pony from the border with the Griffon Kingdom, whose attire can only be described as distinctly Bavarian.

No matter where you went around the grounds we’d set up, there was something going on; games, stories, cooking, sewing, or just ponies swapping stories and playing cards, and of course, Big Mac was contentedly looking after the hay rides. Together, the two of us spent a great deal of the early afternoon going from group to group, with AJ introducing me and catching up with her many family members.

But do you know what the best part was? In the entire time, not one of them had a bad word to say. We’re fairly lucky here at the farm. We’re far from rich, but nevertheless sufficiently well off to satisfy our needs. Some of the ponies here were living right on the edge. Braeburn for example, was almost entirely reliant on supplies coming from further up north to keep his own farm ticking over. If I thought work on the farm could be tough, the frontier was a whole different ball game, with far greater heat, less resources, and amenities I took for granted in short supply. Yet despite all this, not one of them complained about their lot. They all simply got their heads down and did their best. That’s been something I’ve always admired about Applejack, even if at times it can lead her to being as stubborn as a mule.

We continued in this fashion for a fair few hours until about four o’clock. Now came the main event. The previous year, much to Applejack’s dismay, the hay ride, which this time was at a far gentler pace, had inadvertently knocked down the farmhouse. Luckily most things were salvageable and with the family on hand, the whole thing had been rebuilt in a matter of hours, with song I might add.

That job had brought everypony in the reunion all together for one huge activity, and despite the fact that they were all working to rebuild the house, everypony had had a great time. As a result, we had decided, when planning the reunion this year, to add in a spot of building.

This time of course, we wouldn’t be rebuilding the farmhouse. However, the outlying barn in the zap apple orchards needed to be put up still. So, we decided to select that as the last big hurrah before everything began to wind down for the evening. Applejack, leaving me to my own devices for a moment, headed over to the large stage that had been set up in front of the house.

“All right everypony,” she hollered into the megaphone, catching everypony’s attention. “It’s time to get on over to the barn raisin’ in the zap apple orchard. So everypony who wants to help out, if y’all would like to follow me.” She then jumped off stage and, with me at her side, began to lead the Apple family out to where the new barn was to be built.

The zap apple barn, which had been knocked down by Rainbow several weeks ago in a sort of nuclear sonic rainboom, was very much a key part of the farm. Since we didn’t have it this year, when the zap apple harvest had rolled around, we’d had to haul everything much further out than usual; an unnecessary and tiring task. So, we would now put that all right by putting up a brand new one to store the harvest in.

This project was by no means as ambitious as last year. This barn wouldn’t be that large, probably it was about a third of the size of the farmhouse. Still, with just Applejack, Big Mac and I on hand, working on it in addition to our normal workload, it would have taken several weeks. With a workforce of roughly fifty able bodied ponies however, we could have it all done and dusted by the end of the day.

Mac had already gotten most of the materials needed set out and ready. Planks, beams, nails, lengths of rope, hammers, saws; pretty much everything you might need to build and raise a barn. Personally, I’d never done anything like this. Okay I’d done a bit of woodwork in high school, but nothing like this. Still, I would have plenty of help if I needed it. As the whole crowd assembled in front of the site, they all began to break off into groups. For a moment, I feared a previously well-repressed high school moment would rear its ugly head.

“Alright, Bones, ya fancy helpin’ me and a few of the other guys out?” Big Mac asked me kindly.

“Sure, Mac,” I replied. “What are y’all gonna be doin’ anyway?” He gestured to the various cuts of wood.

“We’ll get the frame put together and raise it all up so the others can start buildin’ round it,” he answered. Since we were building on the same spot as the old barn, foundations were not an issue. The first big step then was to create the basic frame of the structure, which would take the weight of the roof and walls. With those up, the first floor (for the barn would have a loft) could be put in place and everything else built around it. Whilst it would be easy enough to put each section together, it would take a fair amount of physical strength to haul each part into place by pulley.

And so, everypony split of into various groups to work on all the parts that needed to be built and put up to complete the new barn. Applejack and a few others got to work on sawing up wooden planks to make the walls and floor of the barn, with Apple Bloom and Babs helping out. Granny and some of the physically weaker family members began to sort out the paint and wood glue.

As for Big Mac, several of the other male family members, including Braeburn, and myself, we set to work on building the frame of the building. First on the agenda, naturally, was to make a start with putting the wall frames together. The floor would be just dry earth. We all began to steadily arrange the various cuts of wood into position to nail, or glue them together. In the end, the new barn would be a fairly simple design, but in order for it to stand up, a lot of supports were needed. This wasn’t just some wooden box you could throw up.

It was hard work, but by no means beyond anypony’s ability. So as we toiled we all began to make conversation with each other. Most of them knew my own back story, which avoided the issue of me recognising some of them without having met them beforehand.

A key example of this was Braeburn himself. Now, for the record, I have no problem with Braeburn; he’s a stand-up guy and honest as the day is long. However, back on Earth, the fandom had contrived some rumours about him, that did not exactly sit well with me. At times the guy can come across as slightly nuts, not Pinkie Pie nuts, I mean lived-on-the-frontier-too-long nuts. And, of course, as it is said of the Roman emperor Nero; the rumours persist.

As we continued working, steadily putting together what would eventually be the south wall of the barn, Big Mac struck up a conversation with me.

“Say, Bones, can Ah ask ya somethin’?” I briefly paused in my labour to turn to him; his tone of voice sounded pretty serious.

“Sure, Mac. What’s on your mind?” He scratched the back of his head nervously.

“Well, ya see…” he trailed off. “No, forget it, Bones. It’s not important.” He hurriedly returned to hammering in a few nails into one of the beams.

“C’mon, Mac. Ah ain’t gonna tell nopony,” I replied. One advantage of using magic to hold a hammer instead of your mouth; you can talk and work. Big Mac continued working in silence for a few moments before speaking again.

“No, don’t trouble yourself none, Bones. It ain’t nothin’ really,” he answered. I imagine my look mirrored Applejack’s expression when she knows somepony’s lying. Sighing a little, Mac came out with it. “Well, ya know Ah been seeing Cheerilee every now and then?”

“Ah know Ah’ve seen ya sneakin’ off the farm in the dead of night to go see her,” I returned, grinning. Big Mac, in spite of the colour of his coat, blushed up to his ears, visibly. I relented a little. “Sure, Ah know you’re bout as sweet on her as Ah am with AJ.”

“Well, ya see, Ah’ve been thinkin’ of takin’ her out some place. On like, a date.” Again, his noticeable blush returned.

If I had to perform an analysis, I’d say Mac is just as much as awkward around the concept of love and romance as I am. Whereas Applejack and I don’t hold much stock in romantic overtures though, I know he does greatly. In something of a clichéd manner, the strong, quiet stallion is a big softie when it comes to love. But due to his own nature though, I figured that such grand gestures wouldn’t come easily to him, at times he can be just as shy as Fluttershy.

“And y’all are lookin’ for some way to win her over an’ sweep her off her hooves, right?” I asked, chuckling. Just to be clear, I was in no way laughing at Big Mac; I’m nowhere near brave enough. I just found it amusing that the stallion that was head over heels in love would come to the asexual novice for dating advice.

“Sorry, Mac, Ah wish Ah could help ya on that front. Me and AJ may have had a couple ‘dates’ if ya wanna call ‘em that. But Ah ain’t no romantic, silver tongued devil. Hay, if it weren’t for her, Ah’d probably never even said nothin’ ‘bout it.” Mac returned to his work, as did I. I hated to turn him away, but I also know you shouldn’t give advice on things you don’t have knowledge of. I’d never forgive myself if my suggestions, Celestia forbid, caused any kind of upset between those two.

It was then though, I remembered something; a letter I had received not so long ago, from a certain princess of the Crystal Empire. I may not have that much of a grasp of romance, but Cadence is a walking, talking, and extremely irritating, incarnation of Hearts and Hooves Day. Undoubtedly she would be able to provide some useful advice. On a more self-interested note, if I could get her to turn her attention to Big Mac, perhaps she would leave me alone.

“Hey, Mac,” I called, setting down the tools that were currently floating in my magic. Big Mac once again looked up. Between the two of us, we were slowing construction down no end.

“Ah may not be an expert on romance, but Ah sure know somepony who is. If ya write up a letter to her sayin’ what advice y’all are needin’, Ah’ll get Spike to send a letter off to Princess Cadence next time Ah go to Twilight’s.” At this Big Mac brightened up considerably, and in turn, his work ethic increased ten-fold.

About twenty minutes later, between the lot of us, we had managed to get the first side of the new barn put together and ready. Now all that needed to be done was to haul it into place and settle it.

“Alright everypony!” Braeburn called as we took the strain on all of the lines. “On three. One, two, three, pull!” Straining with the weight of the heavy frame, we steadily began to lift what would become the south facing wall of the barn off the ground. Ever so slowly, and with our muscles straining, we eased the structure into the air. Eventually, we managed to haul it up and into position, and a few other family members settled and secured it in place.

The whole process was then repeated for the other wall at the north end. And when that was completed we had something that was beginning to resemble a barn. The structure was now two walls connected together by the floors on each level. With these in place, we had a much easier time getting remaining walls into place.

As we worked on hauling everything into position, Applejack and a few of the others perched themselves on the first floor and steadily began to connect everything together (when we actually raised everything, it was all either tied down by ropes or leaning against another part of the building). We everything was nailed in, the building was safe to move around in and it no longer precariously wobbled in the slightest breeze.

Our work now switched from working on the frame of the building to putting up all of the panels that would make the walls, as well as the roof of the building. Apple Bloom and Babs, with Mac’s help brought in a whole new load of wood. This stuff first had to be sanded down and then one at a time connected to the frame.

Since Equestria lacks some modern technologies, particularly power tools and cable television, this would all be done by hand. So a great many of us were required to simply sand down the panels, mainly working together to make the whole thing go a little faster. After all, we were on the clock somewhat here. Ideally, the barn would be complete and ready for use by the early evening, when we’d all get together back at the house for a hoe down. Since Mac was busy looking after the fillies, Applejack and I paired up to get some work done.

“So what were you and Big Macintosh yappin’ ‘bout earlier, Bones?” she asked inquisitively. Whilst I was not bound to silence by Pinkie promise, I doubted Big Mac would want AJ knowing about his plans. The fact that he still continues to sneak off the farm should be testament enough for that.

“Oh nothin’ much, ‘Jack. We was just swappin’ a couple stories is all,” I replied. “Some of the guys were thinking of startin’ a pot for some of the events when the Equestria Games rolls around.” Equestria’s answer to the Olympics wasn’t far off now, less than a month away in fact. Twilight and the girls would be going, but Mac and I would be staying here to tend to the farm. Still, we’d get to hear about the results quickly enough. Though I couldn’t help but be a little sad that I couldn’t go with AJ.

“Is that so?” Applejack returned, somewhat suspicious. They say that love is blind, and given that, on occasion I’ve been able to just about sneak a white lie past her, I’m inclined to agree. However, Applejack continued to examine my features, looking for the tell-tale hint of a half-truth.

“Yeah, you know how guys can get,” I continued. “Why d’ya ask anyhow?” Applejack grinned.

“Well, ya see, Ah’ve been noticin’ how Big Mac’s been headin’ off the farm every now and then.” Rolling my eyes, I relented a little.

“C’mon, ‘Jack. Ya know he’s been seein’ Cheerilee every now and again. Not getting’ all protective all of a sudden are ya?” That got her to blush a little and to let things be. We happily chatted as the barn continued to develop. Eventually, with all the panelling done, we progressed onto painting the whole thing.

As ever, the barn was to a typical bright red colour. On the wooden roof, using a combination of lifts and my own magic, we rolled out strips of waterproof material to keep the roof dry. As it was, there were a few gaps in the panels, but this was deliberate. When the rains came again, the wood would warp, contract and expand with the moisture, so it needed room to settle.

Eventually, after I’d say around five hours of hard work with a workforce of just under fifty ponies, the whole thing was complete. It was getting into late evening by that point and it was time to move on to the final part of the reunion; the party.

Without a doubt the moment everypony looked forward to in the reunion, was also the last act. It was also why, each and every year, a few ponies such as Fiddlesticks brought their instruments with them. Overall, we had a violin, a banjo, guitar, and even a double bass. As a result we had more than enough to set up a little posse of musicians and have a song and dance before everypony had to say goodbye until next year.

Of course, as this was a party, there was also plenty of food and drink to go around. I had even volunteered some of my moonshine for the festivities; I’d been rationing it carefully ever since I’d gotten it for Hearth’s Warming. All in all, it was the sort of party I was happy to attend. No obnoxiously loud music that repeated itself every thirty seconds, no overly drunk idiots to deal with and no flashing lights that made vision a laughable concept. In case you haven’t guessed, I didn’t go clubbing much.

Anyway, with the paint on the barn still drying off we all headed back in a group to the barn. Fiddlesticks and the others were still just getting themselves set up on the small stage. The party would be in the barn part of the farmhouse. As I’ve said before, its large size made it an excellent venue. As we settled Fiddlesticks and the others were just getting ready to play.

“Just give us a minute y’all,” Fiddlesticks called out over the general chatter. Ponies steadily began to quieten down. At the moment, the group were checking their instruments against each other to make sure they were in tune. “We’re just gonna start with an old Chineighs song called ‘Tu-Ning’.” That got a laugh out of everypony. A few minutes later they began to play.

With everypony’s spirits now well up and about and food and drink flowing around freely, the dancing began. Now, as I have previously proved, I can dance. My grandfather taught me how to do waltzes and a couple other slow dances. Unfortunately, he neglected to tell me how to perform what was on offer here. Obviously, this was of a far faster pace and with a far greater variety of moves. Add in the fact that it’s all done on four legs and you’ve got one hay of tricky dance style. For me, I might as well have had four left feet.

Luckily though, as ever, Applejack was on hand to help me out. Whilst a few of her relatives were dancing the night away, she kindly took me aside and taught me a few moves. In reality, it all looked complicated, but wasn’t too hard. That and I refused to accept that a university graduate such as myself was going to be defeated by dancing.

Eventually, we both returned to the group and easily slotted back in to the routines with me leading as custom dictated. This time I had a much better experience. Everything just seemed to flow more easily. We all happily danced around the barn with our small little band using a seemingly endless supply of tunes. Some even had words and had ponies, AJ included, up on the stage singing for a few numbers.

As time went on, everypony continued dancing, laughing and generally enjoying themselves. In particular when poor Braeburn ended up having to dance with Granny Smith. However, slowly, little by little, things began to wind down as the evening drew on. Everypony would be heading off not long before sunset. AJ and I were sitting down at one of set up tables catching our breath when Fiddlesticks called out as the most recent song finished.

“Alright everypony, Ah’m afraid it ain’t too long ‘fore we gotta wrap this up for another year. But Ah also know no reunion would be complete without a nod to all you husbands and wives out there that have made this whole family spread ‘cross Equestria like wildfire. So, how bout we play y’all a couple romantic tunes for ya before we head on out?” The assembled couples all heartily shouted their agreement and began to take to the floor, whilst bachelors like Mac, Braeburn and Caramel respectfully bowed out.

Oddly though, Applejack stayed put. Now I was a little out of breath, but I was more than willing to take a pleasant waltz with my marefriend.

“C’mon AJ, Ah think that’s us,” I said encouragingly, nudging her side gently. Applejack though, shook her head.

“Sorry, Bones,” she replied. “Ah may be good at dancing, but Ah never could get all that fancy high class stuff.” She looked genuinely sad that she couldn’t. I was surprised too; she’d spent most of this party teaching me a style of dance far more quick-fire and tricky than anything that was going on right now.

Why shouldn’t I return the favour?

“’Jack, a couple hours ago, Ah’d have told ya there was no way, no how, I could dance all this country stuff. But Ah ain’t half bad now am Ah?” I said. She shook her head, brightening up. I placed my hoof on her own. “C’mon, Ah’ll be the teacher this time.”

Just as we got up, the little string band was finishing their first song. Whilst they were getting ready for the next, I trotted over to them.

“Hey, Fiddlesticks!” I called. “Any chance ya can gimme a couple blank music sheets; Ah got a piece Ah’d like ya to play.”

“Sure, Blade Star,” she replied, setting her violin down for a moment. Rummaging through some of her things, sitting in a bag a little way off stage, she handed me some sheets and a pencil. I knew the perfect tune for this moment. Back when I used to play, I’d completely memorised it, so jotting down the right notations was no issue. With help from the other players, we were able to translate them for the other instruments. With that done, I returned to the floor and gestured for Applejack to come up.

“Alright, ‘Jack. Trust me, there ain’t nothin’ to this. Just take it nice and slow and follow me.” And with that the music began. It started with just Fiddlesticks, but with each verse, a new instrument was brought in, until eventually everyone was playing.

It was a beautiful piece; a soft, warm melody, yet at the same time, powerful and haunting. As the music continued, the two of us steadily moved around the floor. Applejack had only a little trouble keeping up. To this day, I am thankful ponies don’t have toes. With her forelegs gently wrapped around me, I led her gently, and in time she learned the steps and rhythm. It sort of reminded me of that time I had danced with Luna in Canterlot. Of course, this was far more, intimate than that. As we continued, the two of occasionally kissed on the cheek and whispered to the other. It was just, pleasant. This was probably the closest I’ll ever get to romance, it was, nice.

But sadly, all good things must come to an end and each part faded away again until only Fiddlesticks was playing. Finally the last note fell and the two of us separated. It was at this point, we both realised something; we were the only ones on the dance floor. Everypony else had stopped to watch the two of us. As we parted, we looked out to everypony else, they were smiling, even Big Mac was. And then they began applauding. The two of us both blushed at our very public romantic moment. I think that tune, at that moment, became to us what many couples refer to as ‘Our Song’.

With the dance over, all that remained was the farewells. It would be another year before we would all see each other like this. I’d made a whole slew of friends over the course of the day, from all over Equestria and beyond. I’d had a great time at the reunion, in the past I’d shunned such large social gatherings, but this had been a lot of fun, and something I looked forward to again.

We, that is me, AJ, Mac, Apple Bloom and Granny, all gathered to wave goodbye to our extended family. Babs promised to write to AB as soon as she could, Braeburn and Mac planned to pool their combined knowledge to help fix a few irrigation problems both farms had been having, and I assured Fiddlesticks that I would double check with Twilight to see if any music books from my old world had come through the rift and send them to her back in Dodge Junction.

Of course there was one last matter to attend to before they all left. As a group, we all gathered ourselves in front of the barn. It took a fair bit of organising, but eventually everypony was in frame and visible on the camera. With one great cry of ‘cheese’ we took the family photo, this time with a young unicorn added to the ranks. With that done, it was time for the off.

And so, in a variety of vehicles from pony powered carts, to taxis, to balloons and airships and even just on foot, the vast Apple family once again dispersed across Equestria, returning to their respective homes. We’d see the odd one or two perhaps, but it would be another year before we all got together again. And do you know what? That left me feeling a little sad, like a kid of December 26th, knowing Christmas is as far away as it can be.

Still, we’d all had a great time together, and it was nice to have the farm to ourselves again. All we needed to do now was clean everything up and pack it away for next year.

However, whilst today had been fun, and more fun times were ahead, on the horizon, there was trouble brewing. Very soon the elements would be needed again to quell a great evil. A storm was approaching.

Author's Note:

Proofread by Sidetrack.

There we go, that's the last proper arc complete. We now move into the three epilogue interludes and then one final arc before the end.

Fun fact; 'Ashokan Farewell' despite sounding as if it came from the mid-1800's was actually written in 1982. Due to its use in Ken Burns' The Civil War series, many mistakenly believe it is from that period.

Now, what's next? Well, we're going to have a little bit of a time skip. To remind you all, this story takes place during Season 4, but prior to the Equestria Games and the finale. Both of these events are going to be skipped over. We'll pick up next with a trio of interludes around a fortnight after the events of the finale. The story will finish early in Season 5.

Oh, and DDoS people; congratulations. You managed to delay this chapter by a total of six hours. *slow clap* :trollestia:

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