• Published 12th May 2012
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Soarin' with Apples - Allonsbro



While spending the day at a fair in Ponyville, Soarin' is injured and stays at the farm for a while

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Chapter 6: A Quadruple Party with Fudge on Top

Ch 6: A quadruple party with fudge on top

The next day was the day of the party and everyone on the farm had the day off, aside from the work needed to prepare for the festivities. After breakfast, Granny and Applejack set themselves to work in the kitchen making pies, fritters, caramel apples and a whole host of other apple treats. Big Macintosh busied himself doing work in the small vegetable garden out back. Apple Bloom and the Crusaders went to their clubhouse to think of new ways to crusade for their cutie marks.

The preparations didn’t take long and there weren’t that many of them, so Soarin’ was left to his own devices for the day. He walked out onto the front porch, feeling the gentle breeze against his skin. Stepping off the porch, he closed his eyes and reveled in the feel of the wind as it caressed his fur and the warmth of the sun’s touch.

“BOO!”

“GAH!”

His enjoyment was cut short as he was startled by a voice from above. Looking up, he saw Spitfire hovering over him, having a laugh at his expense.

“Ha ha! Soarin’, you should’ve seen your face. That was priceless,” said Spitfire as she landed next to him.

The stallion recovered and chuckled along with his friend. “Hey, Spits. What are you doing here?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to go for a fly. You still owe me some sky time.”

The blue stallion put a hoof to his chin in thought. “Well, I don’t know. Maybe I could-raceyoutothatcloudgo!”

In an instant, he launched himself into the air, zooming to a high up cloud with Spitfire nipping at his heels. The two raced for a while, practicing a few tricks to prepare for when Soarin’ had to go back to work on Monday. Their flight took them all over the farm and eventually they flew over a road near the edge of the property. Looking down, they saw Scootaloo practicing trick on her scooter in the road with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle chatting not far away. The little orange pegasus saw them approaching and waved them down.

“Hey Soarin’! Spitfire! Down here!”

The two flew down and landed next to her.

“What’s up, Scoots?” asked Soarin’.

“I’m figuring out a new trick on my scooter. Wanna see?”

“You bet. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

The two older pegasi took places on the grass next to Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo began her show. As she did tricks on her scooter, the two Wonderbolts talked with Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, breaking conversation every so often to cheer for the orange pegasus.

“So, have you girls done anything interesting lately to get your cutie marks?” asked Soarin’.

“Not today,” replied Sweetie Belle dejectedly.

“We couldn’t think’a anything,” said Apple Bloom.

“Can you think of anything, Mr. Soarin’?”

Soarin’ thought for a moment. Glancing over at Spitfire, an idea came to him.

“Hey, Spits,” he said, making sure to say it loud enough for the crusaders to hear. “You know I’m gonna have to get you back for scaring me earlier, right?”

The fiery mare gave him a cocky smile. “I’d like to see you try.”

“Oh, I intend to,” he stated, his own confidence evident in his voice. “Using nothing but five words.”

“Bring it!”

“Okay. *ahem* Cutie Mark Crusader Wonderbolt Ticklers.”

He took a glance to see Scootaloo stop her scooter and turn her head. All three fillies now bore very mischievous grins. It was obvious they got his hint.

Spitfire looked confused. “Cutie mark wha-”

“YAY!!”

Before she could react, the yellow mare was pounced to the ground by three merciless ticklers. Immediately the clearing was filled with the sounds of Spitfire’s howling laughter as the fillies tickled her.

“Aha ha ha st-sto-ha-hap! Can’t ha ha breathe!” she cried between laughs. After a few moments, the crusaders let up, but still stayed piled on top of Spitfire as she calmed down.

“Ha ha. Wow. Thanks. I thought I would die laughing,” said Spitfire. “But aren’t you girls forgetting something?”

The three fillies looked at her quizzically.

“What?” asked Apple Bloom.

Spitfire turned and gave Soarin’ a devilish smile. “Soarin’ said Wonderbolt ticklers and there’s more than one Wonderbolt here.”

Immediately the three fillies had grins on their faces just as devilish as the one on Spitfire’s. Soarin’ silently cursed himself for such an oversight that allowed his plan to come back and bite him in the flank. Fearing the tickling to come, he did the only thing he could think to do; he took off running down the road.

He heard the sound of pursuing hoofsteps chasing him. After running for a few moments, he looked behind him to see how far ahead he was. He almost instantly wished he hadn’t. He had left Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle in the dust, but Scootaloo had grabbed her scooter and was quickly catching up.

<i>‘Oh shoot’</i>

The orange filly pulled alongside him and leapt from her scooter, tackling him and knocking him over onto his back, allowing her fellow crusaders to catch up. Immediately Soarin’ was reduced to helpless laughing and squirming as three pairs of little hooves tickled him mercilessly. Just when he thought he would die of laughter, he was rescued.

“Alright, girls, Ah think he’s had enough.”

His tickling tormentors relented and he opened his eyes to see an upside-down Applejack smiling down at him. She was standing with her head blocking the sun and it framed her face in an angelic glow. Again he saw her green eyes looking into his, and again was hypnotized.

“Need a hoof?” she asked, extending a limb to help him up.

He smiled back at her and accepted the help. “Thanks. And thanks for saving me, too.” He gave the crusaders a nervous glance. “Those fillies are merciless.”

The fillies in question gave him angelic, very disarming smiles.

“Yup,” Applejack replied. “Ah came out here ta tell the girls that lunch is almost ready. Apple Bloom learned how ta tickle from me an’ Macintosh, so Ah knew you’d need the help.” Applejack noticed Spitfire standing in the clearing. “Howdy Spitfire,” she waved. “You want some lunch? We have more’n enough and yer welcome to join us.”

Spitfire accepted and the group went back up to the farmhouse. They all sat around the table and Granny brought out a huge plate of grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of fresh tomato soup.

When most of them had finished their first sandwich, Rainbow Dash came in.

“Hey AJ,” she called as she came in the house. “Look, I need your help with asking somepony on a d- Soarin!” she exclaimed, startled at seeing the light blue pegasus. “Uh, hey. How ya doin?”

“Hey Rainbow,” he replied after swallowing a bite of his sandwich.

Scootaloo excitedly jumped from her seat and ran over to her idol. “Hey, Rainbow Dash, I learned a new trick on my scooter!”

The rainbow pegasus mussed up the little filly’s mane, smiling. “That’s great, squirt. Maybe you can show me sometime.”

Though it didn’t seem possible, Scootaloo’s grin got even wider at hearing what Dash said. “You bet!”

Everypony at the table chuckled at Scootaloo’s excitement.

“You want some lunch, Rainbow?” Applejack asked her friend.

“Sure, thanks.” Rainbow grabbed a seat next to Soarin’ and helped herself to a couple of sandwiches.

“So, uh, Soarin’…” she began between bites. “Are you going to the party tonight?”

“Yeah I am. Sounds like it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

“You can bet yer left hoof it’s gonna be fun,” Applejack assured him. “Music, dancin’ and all the food ya can eat, ‘specially pie.” Soarin’ grinned at that, Spitfire chuckled.

The conversation continued, one subject leading into another as conversations do. Spitfire had just finished telling a story about something that happened to her this one time at flight camp, when Sweetie Belle spoke up about something.

“Soarin’, how did you get your cutie mark?”

The other two crusaders looked up from their lunch, smiling at the prospect of a story that might help them get their own cutie marks.

“I was in my backyard playing,” he began, “when I saw this big rainbow explosion in the sky…”

The crusaders stared in wide-eyed wonder at where the story was heading. Rainbow just stared at the Wonderbolt, mouth agape.

He continued. “Of course, that was the year after I got my cutie mark.” Rainbow frowned and Applejack tried to hide her snickering by covering her mouth with her hoof.

“Sorry Rainbow,” Soarin’ chuckled. “AJ told me about how your sonic rainboom helped all of your friends get their cutie marks and I just had to mess with you a little.”

Applejack and Spitfire laughed, both having already known Soarin’s real cutie mark story.

Rainbow gave him a light punch on the shoulder and chuckled. “Eh heh, don’t worry about it. I like a little prank every now and again.”

“So how’d ya really get yer cutie mark, Soarin’?” asked Apple Bloom.

“Let’s see,” he began again. “I think it all started when my mom and I lived in Manehattan. My mom’s an earth pony and we didn’t really have any pegasi friends that could teach me how to fly. But that wasn’t the only reason that I hadn’t learned.”

“What was the other reason?” asked Rainbow.

“Well, don’t tell anypony about this, but when I was a colt…” he looked around and leaned in to whisper in her ear, not noticing her blush. The crusaders leaned in closer to listen. “…I was afraid of heights.”

“What!?” They all jumped back in surprise.

“But you’re one of the greatest flyers in Equestria,” said Scootaloo. “How can you be afraid of heights?”

“I’m not afraid of them anymore, and it wasn’t so much being up high that bothered me; I just didn’t like the thought of falling. I typically avoided going anywhere near the edge of anything more than a story above the ground. Since flying involved jumping off those kinds of surfaces, I was always scared to try.

“One weekend the Wonderbolts came and did a show at the Manehattan Aerodrome and Spitfire’s dad took us to see it. The tricks and stunts they did left me completely floored and I thought that if that was what flying was, then I wanted to do it.

“That summer, I convinced my mom to let me go to summer flight camp with Spitfire. Spits seemed to get the hang of flying right away, but I was still afraid of falling. The coaches at the camp helped me overcome my fear of falling and Spitfire and I got our cutie marks when we won a race against a couple of other students.”

“Cooooool,” said the fillies, filled with awe.

When lunch was finished, most of the Apple family went into the barn to finish setting up for the party in a couple of hours. Soarin’ offered his help, but Applejack adamantly insisted that they would be fine and Rainbow and Spitfire, equally adamant, egged Soarin’ into a race. The three of them raced around the edge of Ponyville and hung out until it was about time for the party to start. They had one last race to the front gate of the farm.

“I won!” proclaimed Rainbow as the three of them landed in front of the gate.

“No way, I won,” Spitfire countered.

Both mares frowned at each other and turned to Soarin’. “Soarin’, I won didn’t I?” they both said in unison.

“Uh…” Soarin’ suddenly grew very nervous. The next words out of his mouth could lead to certain disaster. “Well…” he started, choosing his words carefully. “Isn’t it more important that we all had fun? Y’know, good sportsponyship and stuff?” He hoped against all hope that that would work.

It didn’t. They both gave him a half-lidded stare. “Who won?!”

His first attempt failed, he wracked his brain to think of another solution without having the wrath of either of them aimed at him. “Uh…you <i>both</i> did?”

Both mares rolled their eyes, giving Soarin’ a ‘you’re hopeless’ look. He sighed in relief that he had managed to come out unscathed. The three of them walked up to the barn and Soarin’ moved to open the door…

“SURPRISE!!!!”

Soarin’ swore he felt his heart leap into his throat. He jumped up in surprise and landed on his back outside the barn door.

“Wh-what’s going on?” he asked of the many faces smiling at him from inside the barn. The entire interior of the building was bedecked with streamers, balloons, and confetti in a multitude of colors. All of Applejack’s friends and immediate family were gathered and staring at Soarin’ with the look someone gives you after they’ve just seen that they scared you out of your wits.

Spitfire and Rainbow Dash, both laughing at his reaction, offered him a hoof to help him up.

“Were you two a part of this?” he asked.

“Yep,” said Spitfire. “Applejack asked me to keep you distracted after lunch until the party started. Plus, the opportunity to see you get spooked again was too much to resist.”

“I knew it,” he said, “you just like seeing me fall on my flank.”

He got to his hooves and was met with the blue eyes of Applejack’s friend Pinkie Pie.

“Hi, Soarin’! Were you surprised, ‘cause you looked surprised. But I guess it’s only natural to be surprised since this is a surprise party. Though it was supposed to be an end of cider season party but then Applejack asked if we could change it and we did. Now it’s an end of cider season, welcome to Ponyville, thanks for helping out, farewell party. It’s four parties all rolled into one. That’s a quadruple party! Plus, we have fudge, so that makes it a quadruple party with fudge on top!”

Almost as quickly as she had appeared, Pinkie was gone, tending to the food and partying and leaving Soarin’ still confused at the door.

“What was she…fudge…wha?” he stuttered, confused as he came into the barn to join the party.

“Howdy.”

He turned and saw Applejack and Clover coming towards him. Clover walked with one foreleg over Applejack’s shoulder and Applejack leaned against him.

“Hey,” Soarin’ replied. “Do you happen to know what Pinkie was saying? She talked so fast that I didn’t quite catch it.”

Applejack chuckled. “Yup, she does that sometimes. She was sayin’ that Ah had her change the party a bit this year. Normally we just celebrate the end’a cider season, but since you helped us so much and yer leavin’ tomorrow, Ah thought we’d throw you a party. When Ah ran the idea by Pinkie, she made it a welcomin’ party too ‘cause she didn’t throw ya one when ya first came here.”

He smiled at her. “AJ, you didn’t have to do all this for me.”

She waved a hoof dismissively. “Ponyfeathers. You’ve earned it. Now come on, Ah made a few pies with a different mix’a apples and Ah want yer honest opinion.”

“You two go on ahead,” said Clover. “I’ll go get us some cider.”

When Clover was out of earshot, Soarin’ whispered to Applejack. “When are you going to give Clover your surprise…”

His question trailed off as they neared a table by the wall loaded with various desserts and pastries. A large section at one end of the table had several pies and their delightful smell wafted up to his nose, intoxicating him.

Applejack noticed his sudden hypnotization with the food and chuckled to herself. “Eat up, partner. There’s plenty. Ah gotta go and get the party started. Be sure ta tell me what ya think.”

The orange mare walked away and Soarin’ continued staring intently at the pies. Just as he had decided which one to try first, Applejack got up on an old crate and called for everypony’s attention. Soarin’ carried his pie over to the gathering to listen to what his friend had to say.

“Thanks fer comin’ everypony,” Applejack began, “and thanks again fer helpin’ us out with cider season. Big Macintosh’s been keepin’ track’a sales and we’re about ta find out how well we did. Everypony cross yer hooves.”

The entire gathering waited with bated breath as Macintosh gave his sister a folded piece of paper that he held in his teeth. She slowly unfolded it, looked at what was written and gasped.

“You sure you got yer fancy mathematics right, big brother?”

“Eyup.”

The orange cowpony looked at the paper again for a long time, her eyes starting to get misty.

“Don’t keep us in suspense, Applejack,” said Rarity. “Have you sold enough cider to make it through the winter?”

“She looks like she’s crying,” said Sweetie Belle.

Apple Bloom ran up to the crate her sister was standing on and hugged her leg. “What’s wrong, Applejack? Are we gonna lose the farm?”

The orange cowpony smiled at her sister and hugged her. “No, Apple Bloom, we ain’t losin’ the farm.”

“Then why’re ya crying?”

“Sis, Ah’m cryin’ cause…” she lifted up the paper for her sister to see. “That’s how much we made sellin’ our cider.”

The yellow filly looked at the paper for a moment. “Is that a lot?”

Her sister nodded and looked to all the ponies present. “This year, our cider sales’re almost double what we usually sell!”

A series of gasps, oohs, and aahs was heard from every corner of the barn, followed by cheering and congratulations. Clover came over to the crate and hugged his marefriend, who then pulled her brother and sister in, making it a group hug.

“Do ya know what this means?” asked Applejack, tears still streaming down her face. “We can finally fix the roof, and do a whole mess’a other repairs around the farm! Thank you! Thank you so much fer helpin’ us everypony.”

“Let’s get this party started!” shouted Pinkie as she started passing out mugs of cider.

Applejack raised her mug to give a toast. “We’da never been able ta do this without y’all helpin’ us. You folks’re all our friends and, more importantly, our family. Ta family!”

“To family!” repeated all the guests, taking swigs from their mugs.

Soarin’ had been to a fair number of parties in his years as a Wonderbolt, but none could hold a candle to the one he was currently attending. The Apple siblings had each brought out a guitar, a violin, and a jug, respectively, and, accompanied by Twilight Sparkle’s assistant Spike on the piano, soon filled the barn with an upbeat country tune. Almost every guest was stamping their hooves madly to the tune the four musicians played and the cider flowed well into the afternoon and early evening.

About an hour or two into the party, the Apple siblings and the dragon pianist put away their instruments and a record player replaced the upbeat music with a slow tune. Applejack crossed the barn and offered Clover her hoof.

“Mind if Ah have this dance, partner?”

His eyes widened in surprise. “I thought you hated slow dancin’.”

“Ah wanted ta do somethin’ special fer our anniversary and Ah knew you liked it. So Ah asked Soarin’ ta teach me. Ah still prefer square dancin’, but this slow stuff ain’t so bad. Kinda grows on ya after a bit.”

He smiled, took her hoof and they helped each other up on their hind legs. She leaned her head against his chest and they began to dance, moving back and forth and slowly making their way across the barn.

Soarin’, having long ago finished two pies, was giving his stomach a rest when he and Rainbow decided that they wanted some more cider. The rainbow-maned pegasus had been hanging out with Soarin’ for the whole evening. At the cider barrel, they ran into Twilight and struck up a conversation. Twilight was explaining a scientific book that she just finished reading.

“So anyway, the author concluded that if you take an eleventh-dimensional matrix and fold it into a mechanical-” She paused in her explanation as she caught sight of the couple on the dance floor. “Awwww.”

Her conversational partners snapped out of the zoned stupor that her lecture had put them in and turned to see what had drawn her attention. Soarin’ smiled as he watched the couple dance. Clover whispered in Applejack’s ear, making her laugh, smile and blush as they swayed to the music. It felt really good for Soarin’, knowing that he had helped her do something special for the one that she loved.

As he watched them dance, Soarin’ couldn’t help but notice an odd feeling sprouting in his heart. He saw the way his two friends looked at each other and couldn’t help but feel a longing for something like that. He wasn’t jealous of them, but he could remember that giddy feeling in his chest whenever he locked eyes with a mare that he cared about. He let out an inaudible sigh, wishing he had somepony whom he could make feel the way that it looked like Clover made Applejack feel.

He was snapped out of his thoughts as Rainbow fidgeted and cleared her throat next to him. “So…” she began. “You, uh, wanna dance?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you danced, Rainbow.”

“Well…actually…” she replied, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof. “I don’t. I’ve never really been into that sort of thing, but it kinda looks like fun.”

He smiled. “I’d be happy to teach you if you want.”

“Okay, I’d like that.”

They both reared up on their hind legs and Rainbow wrapped her hooves around his neck. This dancing position was a little more intimate that he had expected, but Soarin’ was nothing if not adaptable. He reached his hooves down and gently placed them on her hips.

*POMF*

He pulled both hooves back in surprise as Rainbow’s wings popped open. The two of them just stood there in awkward silence, Rainbow blushing profusely and Soarin’ wondering why she was opening her wings. Suddenly, he came to a realization.

“Uh, Rainbow…?”

“I’m sorry! I just-”

“Did you mean that you wanted to sky dance?”

She paused for a moment. “Uh…yes?”

“Well, why didn’t you say so? I should warn you though, I haven’t done it in a while, so I might be a little rusty.”

He unfurled his own wings, took her hoof and lead her into the air above the party. Normally, the dance would be done to traditional pegasi music, which involved a greater use of trumpets and drums, but the current melody that played was sufficient. The only pegasus dance that Soarin’ knew was a very old one that hailed from the days before the triumvirate when pegasi culture was more warrior-centered. The movements of the dance relied on physical strength and trust in your partner, as these things were very important to the pegasi warriors.

They danced for a while and then took a break, both landing to mingle and enjoy the party. Rainbow went to go get herself some cider and Soarin’, seeing Applejack and Clover sitting on a bench by the wall, went to talk with them.

“Hey,” he called.

“Hey,” said Clover. “You two looked pretty cool up there. Where’d you learn to dance like that?”

"The mayor of Cloudsdale is a history buff and hires the Wonderbolts to appear at parties. Did you two enjoy your dance?”

Applejack leaned closer to Clover and he wrapped a foreleg around her. “Yup. Thanks fer teachin’ me.”

“No problem,” he replied.

Another song started up and Applejack’s eyes sparked with recognition.

“Whoo doggy,” she exclaimed, pulling on Clover’s leg. “Ah love this song.”

“AJ, we’ve been dancin’ for an hour,” Clover complained. “I need a break.”

The orange cowpony looked a little disappointed and Soarin’ figured that he still had a couple of dances left in him.

“I’ll dance with you, AJ,” he offered, “that is if Clover doesn’t mind.”

“Nah. Go ahead, sweetie. I’ll get the next one.”

She leaned up and pressed her lips to Clover’s in a kiss that left him wide-eyed for a moment before he closed his eyes and pressed back. They broke the kiss and, in a mildly sultry voice, Applejack said, “See ya later, partner.”

Soarin’ offered her his hoof, she took it and they walked out to the dance floor.

“I hope I don’t look that goofy whenever I get kissed,” said Soarin’ as the two of them reared up and stood together, beginning to dance.

“Ah like it when Clover gets that look after Ah kiss him,” she replied. “Ah like makin’ him feel like that and Ah’d bet my bits that yer old girlfriends thought the same.”

“Hmm, I never thought of it like that.”

They continued dancing and talking for a few more songs. Soarin’ alternated between making eye contact with Applejack and watching the rest of the party guests. A few of Applejack’s friends had joined in the dancing as well. Twilight was dancing, rather badly, by herself and Pinkie Pie was doing one of the strangest versions of the chicken dance that Soarin’ had ever seen. The little dragon, Spike, had been hovering around Rarity the whole evening and looked like he was trying to get her to dance. Fluttershy and Macintosh had also joined the other ponies on the dance floor. Over by the food table, Spitfire was talking and Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo were listening with rapt attention. Based on her body language, Soarin’ guessed that Spitfire was telling the story about her Wonderbolts audition.

Seeing Scootaloo brought a couple of questions to Soarin’s mind. Over the past two weeks, he’d seen how good she was on her scooter, but he realized that she had never flown. Most pegasi children took every opportunity to fly once they learned. The thought that she might not even be able to fly yet started niggling in his mind.

Being raised on the ground might have been a factor, but plenty of pegasi learned to fly being raised on the ground. He wondered why her parents hadn’t sent her to flight school. Tuition was a little on the expensive side, but there were quite a few scholarships available, many from the Wonderbolts themselves.

“Yer awful quiet,” said Applejack, breaking his reverie. “Everythin’ okay?”

“Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking.”

“What about?”

“Scootaloo. I was just wondering why I haven’t seen her flying yet. It’s probably none of my business, but most pegasus foals her age fly all over the place.”

Now it was his dance partner’s turn to fall silent. Applejack’s expression turned to one of contemplation, as if she were choosing her next words carefully. Soarin’ worried that he may have been too nosy and asked about something that he shouldn’t have.

“If it’s a touchy subject, you don’t have to say anything,” he assured her. “Like I said, it’s probably none of my business. I was just curious.”

“Nah, it ain’t a sore subject ‘er nuthin’, Ah guess Ah’m just not sure. Most’a what Ah know about Scoots is what Ah hear from Apple Bloom. Ah know she’s got an older brother ‘cuz Ah met him when he came ta pick her up a couple’a times. But now Ah’m thinkin’ about it and Ah can’t remember ever meetin’ her parents. Ah don’t think she really has anypony to teach her.”

Soarin’ turned his gaze again to where the three other pegasi were talking. Not being able to learn to fly was something he was familiar with and thnking that Scootaloo might not have been able to fly made him feel sorry for her.

As he watched the two mares and the filly talking and laughing and the way that Scoots was looking at Rainbow, he remembered something Applejack had told him the week prior.

<i>That little filly is Rainbow’s biggest fan…</i>

Suddenly, he was struck with an idea.

“Hey, AJ, I need to go take care of something. Do you mind if I cut our dance a little short?”

She seemed to see what he was thinking. “Nope, go on ahead.”

“Thanks.”

Soarin’ made his way across the floor to the trio of conversing pegasi. The three smiled at him as he approached.

“Hey, Soarin’,” they all greeted him simultaneously.

“Hey, girls. Are you enjoying the party?”

“Heck yeah,” said Rainbow. “It’s, like, at least twenty percent cooler than last year.”

“Yeah,” Scootaloo agreed. “And Spitfire tells the best stories.”

“Cool,” said Soarin’, smiling at the filly. If his idea worked, then she would soon be telling flying stories of her own. “Hey, do you two mind if I borrow Rainbow for a bit? I need to talk to her about something.”

“Go right ahead, Soarin’,” said Spitfire, giving him a look somewhere between mischievous and encouraging. He ignored it and led Rainbow aside to talk privately for a moment.

“So, uh, listen. I kinda wanted to ask you something,” he started.

“Yeah?” she urged him to continue, her voice sounding hopeful.

“Yeah. And I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”

“Oh?” Her face bore a quizzical expression one might wear if a surprising turn had just been taken.

“See…,” he rubbed the back of his head with a hoof, trying to form the words the right way. “We haven’t known each other very long, but from what I’ve seen, you’re a really good flyer. I was wondering if you’d like to…”

“Yes! Of course I’ll go-“

“…keep an eye on Scootaloo?”

“Huh?” The rainbow-maned pegasus looked at the Wonderbolt with a confused expression. Soarin’ thought that she may not have heard him. The party was a little loud after all.

“Would you mind keeping an eye on Scootaloo?” he repeated. “You know, hang out with her every now and again, show her some tricks. I’m not sure, but I don’t think she can fly yet and I think she’d really like it. Maybe you could even teach her if you’re up to it.”

Rainbow remained silent for a moment, mulling over his request. Soarin’ thought he saw a look of disappointment on her face and thought she might be trying to find a way to say no without hurting his feelings. The last thing he wanted was for her to feel forced into doing something she didn’t want to do.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he assured her. “I just thought it sounded like a good idea. She really looks up to you. If you can’t or don’t want to, I’ll understand.”

“What? No, I can totally do it. I…was just a little surprised that you asked me to do something like that.”

“Awesome! We’ll talk to AJ tomorrow and find out where Scootaloo lives. You should probably see if it’s okay with her parents. I’ll go with you tomorrow morning before I leave and vouch for you if you like.”

“Okay.”

They agreed to meet the next morning and rejoined the conversation with Scootaloo and Spitfire.

As the party continued long into the night, the younger party guests (and the oldest one) had increasing difficulty hiding how tired they were. Apple Bloom was placed on Granny’s back and the elder mare took her inside to put her to bed before going to bed herself. Likewise, Rarity and Twilight had Sweetie Belle and Spike placed on their backs respectively to take them home for some much-needed rest. Seeing how late it was, Fluttershy wished everypony good night. Big Macintosh put Scootaloo on his back to take her home and left with the yellow pegasus.

Soarin’, Spitfire, Rainbow, Applejack, Clover, and Pinkie Pie decided that they wanted to keep the party going for a little while longer. They talked and laughed until Luna’s moon was high on its path through the heavens.

Big Macintosh soon returned from walking Fluttershy home and dropping Scootaloo off. He poked his head into the barn, announcing that he was heading to bed as well. The group began taking down and putting away the decorations. When they were done, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow and Spitfire left for their respective dwellings. Clover volunteered to stay a little longer and finish cleaning the last of the decorations.

Soarin’ and Applejack went into the farm house and ascended the stairs to their respective rooms. Remembering something, Soarin’ turned and called out to Applejack in a soft voice as she was opening her door.

“Hey, Applejack?”

She turned and looked at him. “What’cha need, partner?”

“In all the excitement from the party, I forgot to say congratulations. You know, for doing so well with your sales. Also, thanks for the party, and for letting me stay here. These past couple weeks have been great and I just wanted to say thanks for letting me have this experience.”

She just stared at him, smiling for a moment before replying. “Yer welcome.”

He smiled back and turned to go into his bedroom. “’Night, AJ.”

“Soarin’?”

He turned around again to see that Applejack had stepped away from her door and was now much closer. She reached up and pulled him into a hug, which he gladly returned.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

A puzzled look crossed his face. “What are you thanking me for?”

She broke the hug and he noticed she had tears gathering in her eyes. “Ah’ve been too busy this week ta make it ta town, but the girls were tellin’ me that folks have been comin’ up to ‘em all week and askin’ about you. Then, last night when Ah was takin’ care’a the last customers while the rest of ya ate supper, almost everypony in line was askin’ where ya were.”

“Okay…,” said Soarin’, not quite sure what she was getting at.

“Don’tcha get it?” she asked, her smile widening. “We’ve done the same thing every year ta sell our cider ever since our run-in with those Flim-Flam brothers. The only thing different about this year is you. Havin’ you here was what got so many ponies ta come out and buy our cider. Ya even got those unicorns ta come all the way from Canterlot just ta buy our cider.” She blinked and a tear ran down her left cheek. “Thank you.”

Reaching her head up, she gave Soarin’ a light kiss on his right cheek. Immediately, his face felt like it was on fire.

“Yer a really good friend,” the orange mare said as she pulled him into another hug. “All yer help meant a lot ta me and-”

Suddenly a soft knocking on the door downstairs interrupted her.

“Hmm, that must be Clover,” she whispered. “Ah’d better go get that b’fore Granny wakes up. G’night,” she said as she made her way down the stairs.

“Uh…yeah, good night,” he replied, reaching a hoof to touch his cheek.

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Soarin’ awoke a bit later than usual, which was not surprising to him since the party the previous night had gone quite late. Looking out his window, he saw that the Ponyville early morning weather team had left a layer of grey clouds in the sky to prepare for a light rain scheduled for later in the evening. He was glad that he enjoyed the job he would be returning to the next day. The combination of the gloomy sky and the foreboding of going back to a job that one hated would, for lack of a better phrase, really really suck.

He turned from the window with a smile on his face, looking forward to the day. He had good news for Scootaloo and he couldn’t wait to see the look on her face when he and Rainbow told her that her hero would be teaching her to fly. With a ginger spring in his step, he trotted out of his room and down the stairs.

As he entered the dining room, Soarin’ couldn’t help but notice a deviation from the usual cheerfulness that was the atmosphere of the breakfast table. It seemed that most of the family had decided to sleep in and Applejack was the only member of the family present. Big Macintosh’s trademark yoke was missing from its hook on the wall, so the big stallion must have gone out already. Granny and Apple Bloom were probably still in bed.

It seemed that the only pony who chose not to sleep in was Clover, who had come over earlier than usual and was standing next to Applejack at the counter, helping her make breakfast. He whispered in her ear and gave her light kisses on her neck, making her giggle and playfully push him away so she could focus on the oatmeal cooking in the pot on the stove.

“Morning,” the Wonderbolt greeted the two of them as he entered the kitchen. They both jumped a little, having not heard him approach.

“Oh, uh, hey Soarin’,” Clover greeted him. The grey stallion must have come over in a hurry, because his mane looked like he had just gotten out of bed.

“Hey, Clover. What are you doing here so early?”

The stallion fidgeted. “Uh…just wanted to come over and see my special somepony. I, uh, thought I’d help her make breakfast.” Soarin’ didn’t notice that Applejack’s face had turned beet red.

The Wonderbolt asked them if they needed any help and they set him to work cutting some apples. The smell of oatmeal and cinnamon soon filled the house, rousing Granny and Apple Bloom and bringing them downstairs. Gathering the food, the three cooks set the table for breakfast.

“Did you hurt yourself last night, AJ?” Soarin’ asked as they made their way into the dining room. She was walking a little funny, almost like she was sore from something.

“Uh…” Applejack stopped in her tracks, almost spilling the oatmeal. Her eyes shifted side to side and her face reddened a little. “N-no, Ah don’t think so. Ah, uh, must’a…pulled a muscle with all that dancin’ last night.”

The group ate a hardy breakfast and set about beginning their chores. Soarin’ asked Applejack where Scootaloo lived and then went to meet up with Rainbow. The two of them met at Rainbow’s cloud house and took off to the area at the edge of Ponyville where Scootaloo lived.

The orange pegasus lived in a small, single-story grey house that looked like it could use some repair. The paint was cracking and a few of the shingles were peeling. The house was far from decrepit, but could have done with a little bit of TLC.

Upon knocking, a stallion answered. He introduced himself as Scootaloo’s brother. He invited them into the house, explaining that Scootaloo had gone to ride around on her scooter and their father was not available.

The stallion seemed to like the idea of Rainbow hanging out with Scootaloo and possibly teaching her to fly. He was Scootaloo’s legal guardian until their dad came back and it was more than okay by him. They soon agreed on a time when Rainbow and Scootaloo could get together that fit in with Rainbow’s schedule, and one that would work with Scootaloo’s schedule once school started. Rainbow would pick Scoots up from school a couple times a week to hang out and then bring her home.

With that taken care of, the two pegasi left Scootaloo’s house and made the trip back to the farm. The trip quickly became a race around town, making the time it took to get back that much longer. Soarin’ still had some time before he needed to get back to Cloudsdale and Apple Bloom and the crusaders, who were bored stiff after their idea for a cutie mark in barn demolition had been shot down, wanted to have another picnic for lunch. The rest of the family was hesitant with the grey clouds, but agreed when Rainbow assured them it wouldn’t rain until later. When lunchtime rolled around, they were all gathered on the front lawn eating sandwiches. When lunch was finished, it was time for Soarin’ to leave. Each of his new friends gathered around to wish him well.

“Do ya really have ta go Soarin’?” asked Apple Bloom, making her eyes wide and giving a little pout.

“Yeah,” agreed Sweetie Belle as she and Scootaloo added their own pouts to the mix. “Can’t you stay a little longer?”

Soarin’ reached down and ruffled their manes, breaking the adorable looks before he could give in. “Sorry, girls. I wish I could stay longer, but I have to go to work tomorrow.”

“Alright,” they sighed. Taking a step forward, they gave him a hug.

“Bye, Soarin’,” said Scootaloo.

Soarin’ extended his hoof, giving Scoots a hoof bump. “See ya, kid.”

“I wish you didn’t have to go. I was hoping to see you fly.”

“Tell you what,” he said, leaning down to the filly’s level. “How about if I send Rainbow some tickets to our next show and you two can go together.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Actually, better yet, why don’t I make them backstage passes instead? You two can come and meet the team after the show and we can show you around headquarters.”

The filly began jumping up and down, squealing and screaming with glee.

“Will she be okay?” asked Soarin’.

“Eventually,” said Sweetie Belle.

The group all laughed and Soarin’ turned to Rainbow. Her jaw looked like it was ready to fall off her face at any moment. A tap on her shoulder caught her attention.

“Thanks again for doing this for me, Rainbow. I’ll send all of you those passes soon.”

“Awesome!”

“See you around?”

“You bet!”

Soarin’ gave rainbow a hug they wished each other good luck.

Big Macintosh was next. The large stallion gave Soarin’ a very firm hoofshake, but said nothing. The look in his eyes, however, told Soarin’ enough. Instead of letting words get in the way, Soarin’ felt that just shaking the red stallion’s hoof was enough.

“See ya later, buddy,” said Clover, giving Soarin’ a hoofshake. “We’ll have to have another pie-eatin’ contest sometime.”

“You bet. I’d be happy to kick your flank again,” the pegasus replied jovially.

“Ooh! Ah almost fergot,” said Granny. She pulled out a box and held it by a string in her teeth. “Ah made you a pie ta take home with ya.” She placed the box on the ground and pulled Soarin’ into a hug. “Ya take care now an’ come back soon, alright, sonny.”

“I will,” he replied, returning the hug.

Finally the only pony left to say goodbye to was Applejack. The two of them just stood there for a few moments. Soarin’ decided to start with a hug.

“Thank you,” he said as he hugged her, “for everything.”

“Yer welcome,” she replied. Breaking the hug, she pulled out a small bag and gave it to him. “Here. Ah was gonna give ya this this mornin’ but it slipped mah mind.”

“What is it?” he asked, opening it up. Inside, the bag contained a number of bits.

“It’s what you earned workin’ for us.”

He frowned. “AJ, I can’t accept this.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “Why not? You earned that fair and square.”

“Because, it wouldn’t be right. You took me into your home when I needed help, without even hesitating or asking for anything in return. You fed me the best food that I’ve ever had every day. But more than that, you made me feel like I was another member of the family. My mom always told me that you help your family because they’re your family, not because you stand to gain something.” He passed the bag back to her. “You don’t owe me anything.”

The apple mare reluctantly took the bag back. “Alright, Ah’m still gonna make you some pies the next time ya come around, no charge.”

“It’s a deal.” Soarin’ gave her another hug then turned in the direction of Cloudsdale. “Well, I’d better get going.” Picking up the box with his pie in it, he took to the sky and began the long flight back to Cloudsdale.

“Bye Soarin’,” waved the crusaders.

“See, you later, buddy.”

“Come back soon, ya hear?”

“Eeyup.”

“Bye Soarin’.”

“See ya ‘round, partner.”

He turned mid-flight and waved back at them. “Bye, guys. I’ll come back soon. That’s a Pinkie Promise.”

<i>”Foreverrrrr,”</i> whispered a nearby cloud.

Author's Note:

A/N: So so sorry for the long wait. I thought I would have it done by the end of September, then by Halloween. School’s just been keeping me busier than I thought it would.
If the end sounds like it’s a conclusion, it’s not. The story is only a little less than halfway done with the outline I have planned. I had originally planned this content in the previous chapter, but it would have been too long. Also, random Doctor Who reference in there somewhere. See if you Whovian bronies can find it.

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