• 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 7: I Dream of AJ

A/N: Normally, I wouldn’t release this until I was done with ch 8, but I now have a proofreader, and he managed to help me get this out faster.

Chapter 7: I dream of AJ

The wind whistled as it slowly blew through the surrounding foliage. The sun shone down on the orchard, enough to warm the skin but not enough to break a sweat. In the distance, a small bird sang a cheerful melody before taking off from where it had alighted on a small branch. The leaves rustled in the breeze, giving the ears something to keep them distracted while the mind wandered.

A lone stallion lay on his back, his left foreleg serving as a pillow for his head, the right splayed at his side. His eyes were closed, gazing at the sea of red behind his eyelids. He felt the cool, soft grass beneath him and his ear twitched as the blades tickled it. His muscled chest slowly rose and fell as he breathed the fresh, sweet smelling air. A small smile played across his lips and he let forth a contented sigh.

He swiveled his ear as he heard the sounds of approaching hoofsteps. Recognizing them, he tilted his head up and opened his eyes to greet her. His vision tinged the scene before him with blue as a result of the prolonged exposure to the red light behind his eyes, but he knew the true nature of the mare’s colors as she approached him.

The sunlight reflected off her yellow hair, making it shine like solid gold. It draped down her left shoulder, the end tied with a red band, her tail tied likewise. Her coat was a bright orange that would have made the fruit that shared its name with the color hide in shame at its own shortcoming. Underneath her skin lay well-toned muscles, the result of years of hard work, that flexed and rippled as she walked. Her eyes, shaded by the brim of the Stetson that she wore, had a look of pure honesty and willful determination. They glinted like the greenest of emeralds, emeralds that any dragon would face any threat to keep locked within their hoard.

He smiled to himself. Too bad for the dragons, she only had eyes for him.

She drew near to him as he admired her from where he lay on the grass. Without a word, she leaned her head down and pressed her lips to his. Electric tingles danced down his spine and his heart fluttered in his chest. He reached his hooves up to gently cradle her head and returned her affections. She wrapped her forelegs around his neck, bringing them chest-to-chest.

Kiss melted into kiss as the two lovers continued to make out under the afternoon sun. The stallion released a sigh into her mouth, telling her how content he was, how happy she made him.

Their lips separated, but just barely; just enough that he still felt her lips touch his own lips when she moved her mouth to speak.

“Ah love you.”

He kissed her again, more fervently this time. She, the most beautiful mare in all of Equestria, loved HIM. He felt like he wanted to climb the highest mountain and shout his reply so that the entire world could hear. But since the only ones present to hear him were the two of them, he made known his reply in a gentle whisper in her ear.

“I lo-“

“GAH!”

Soarin’ bolted up in his bed, sweating from the very vivid dream that he’d just had. He shook his head and looked around the room, confirming that it was, in fact, a dream.

“Woah,” he said as he wiped the sweat off his face, “that was …weird.”

He flopped back on the bed and tried to go back to sleep. When his efforts proved fruitless, he decided to just get an early start. He got out of bed and went into the bathroom to take a shower. As the warm water cascaded down his back, his thoughts turned back to his dream, which was only the most recent of many Applejack-related thoughts.

The light blue pegasus had been thinking of Applejack quite frequently over the week since he had returned from his vacation. It started out with little things. He’d stop and do a double take whenever he saw a patch of orange in the corner of his eye, only to realize it was somepony else. Whenever he saw apples on a table or in a fruit bowl, there always seemed to be three of them in a very distinct pattern. He hadn’t been very concerned with it thus far, but now that he was dreaming of Applejack and Clover being intimate, he was starting to get worried.

He finished his shower, dried himself off, and went downstairs to get himself some breakfast. Upon opening his fridge, he was met with disappointment. The fridge was bare, save for the box of Hoof and Hammer baking soda he had left to rid it of the smell from the food that had gone bad during his vacation. He decided that he would get breakfast at work and went out to his front porch. After walking around to the eastern side of his house, he lay down and waited for the sun to come up.

The horizon soon began to change colors, heralding the arrival of Celestia’s bright star. As he watched it ascend into the sky, ushering in the new day, Soarin’ couldn’t help but notice that the habit he had partaken of for years felt hollow somehow. It just didn’t seem right to watch the spectacle by himself anymore. Something like this should be shared with somepony that you care about. Standing up, he took to the sky and began his early morning flight to work.

As he approached, he saw banners being put up announcing the Wonderbolts’ next show. The front walls of the office building and the cloudiseum now bore a poster with the profiles of three Wonderbolts with four more flying in the background and the Wonderbolts insignia on the bottom.

Soarin’ flew from the main office building to another building that he and his teammates referred to as ‘the Lounge.’ It had been an office building a long time ago, but then a newer, bigger one had been built and the old one had been converted into an area for the team to hang out and unwind. It had lots of couches, plenty of games and a large kitchen that was always stocked with plenty of food. There were even a couple of small rooms with beds in them so that the Wonderbolts could relax or take a nap when they weren’t training.

The blue pegasus made his way to the kitchen, made himself an omelet with cheese, potatoes and hot sauce and took a seat at the island table in the middle of the room. He was part of the way through his meal when he heard the sound of hoofsteps coming down the hall. The source of those hoofsteps came around the corner in the form of Spitfire and another member of the team, Fleetfoot.

“Hey Soarin,” the yellow pegasus greeted him.

“Hey Spits, hey Fleetfoot,” he replied. Turning to his fiery-maned friend, he asked, “how was your vacation?”

“Pretty good, actually. I spent some time at the beach and went to visit my parents.”

“How are they doing?”

Spitfire answered with a tone one might use to describe the weather. “My mom’s still enjoying Canterlot nobility and bugging me about settling down, my dad’s doing pretty good in Manehattan, and they both still hate each other’s guts.”

“Ah.” Soarin’ gave a curt nod in understanding and decided to change the subject. “How come you’re here so early?”

The yellow mare rolled her eyes in response. “Boss piled a major plot load of paperwork on me. I wanted to get an early start so I could get in some practice time for that show we have later this month,” she explained as she grabbed some carrots from the fridge. “How about you? You don’t usually come in for at least another hour or so. Do we have a new recruit or something?”

“No, I just couldn’t get back to sleep and I thought I might as well come in.”

Spitfire gave Soarin’ a funny look and was about to say something, but was interrupted by Fleetfoot.

“Ooh, Soarin’ didn’t do much sleeping,” she said in a suggestive tone, a sly grin on her muzzle, “were you ‘busy’ with the apples all night?” By the end of her question, her snickering had become uncontrollable and she broke into giggles, pounding the floor with her hoof.

Soarin’ let out an exasperated sigh. Like him, Fleetfoot liked jokes and pranks. Her focus, however, was on the jokes that were cruder in nature. When Soarin’ had told his teammates about his vacation, Fleetfoot made sure to point out the innuendo behind applebucking. She had also been using that joke at every opportunity and it was getting really old.

“No, Fleetfoot,” he groaned, “my relationship with my fruit is strictly platonic.”

Spitfire chuckled. “How long has she been using that one?”

Soarin’ reached a hoof up to rub his forehead. “All. Week. Long.”

“All week? Fleet, you really need to get some new material.”

The blue mare had calmed down from her laughing by this time and a frown crossed her face. “I would,” she replied, “but it seems like I’m the only one on this team that likes dirty jokes and I can’t think of any good ones. The ones I know and ‘that’s what he or she said’ jokes are all I’ve got.”

“Go talk to Rapidfire,” her teammate replied, waving a hoof. “I think he knows a few good ones.”

Fleetfoot, grinning at the possibility of learning a new joke, thanked Spitfire and left to go find Rapidfire.

Silence reigned for several minutes as the two remaining Wonderbolts munched their breakfast.

“So,” Spitfire asked at length, “what woke you up?”

Soarin’ looked up from his breakfast. “Huh?”

“You’re a pretty deep sleeper, Soarin’, so if something woke you up enough that you couldn’t get back to sleep, it must be worth mentioning.”

Soarin’ thought for a moment. On one hoof, this wasn’t exactly something that he wanted to talk about with anypony. He was, after all, having a romantic dream about a mare that was in a relationship with another stallion. On the other hoof, it was Spitfire he was talking to. They had been best friends since they were young and he knew that he could talk to her about anything. Still, it was an embarrassing subject and he wasn’t quite sure.

“I had a weird dream,” he replied, part of him hoping that she would drop it..

His friend didn’t say anything. She just looked at him, waiting for him to elaborate.

“It’s, uh…kinda embarrassing…”

Spitfire still didn’t say anything. The look on her face however, spoke volumes. Soarin’ knew that if he didn’t want to tell her, all he had to do was say so and she wouldn’t ask. But he really wanted to get this off his chest and he knew that the best one to trust with something like this was Spitfire.

He took a deep breath to collect his thoughts and explained. “OK. I had this dream last night and its got me kinda worried. There’s this really peaceful place. Y’know, sunny day, a nice cool breeze, that kind of thing.”

The yellow mare nodded.

“Anyway, there’s a stallion lying there in the grass and…this mare walks up. Then…” a light blush crept across his face, “…things start getting…intimate.”

Spitfire’s eyes widened.

“Nothing like that!” Soarin’ vehemently insisted, his blush intensifying and spreading to his ears. “Just, y’know…kissing and stuff.”

“Then what?” she asked.

“Well, the mare told the stallion she loved him and just when he was about to reply, I woke up.”

Spitfire put a hoof to her chin and hummed in thought for a moment. “Did you recognize either of them?”

Soarin’ suddenly became interested in staring at anything but the mare across from him. He mumbled something incoherent and Spitfire leaned in to listen, but didn’t catch it.

“What?”

“Yes,” he repeated, still mumbling, but loud enough to hear. “They’re friends of mine.”

“Oh,” was her reply.

“That’s not all of it,” he continued, placing his elbows on the table and holding his head in his hooves. “It’s not just the dream. I’ve been thinking about the mare a lot recently and I just can’t stop. It’s starting to creep me out a little.”

The orange-maned Wonderbolt reached a reassuring hoof across the table and patted Soarin’ on the shoulder. “Soarin’, I think I know what’s wrong with you.”

He looked up. “What?”

“Congratulations, buddy. You’re in love,” she replied matter-of-factly.

Soarin’ looked at her like she had just sprouted a second head. “What?”

“You’re in love,” she repeated. “You know, head over hooves, hit with cupid’s arrow, you’re twitterpated, your heart burns for her, …”

His friend continued listing off the various colloquialisms for being in love. Slowly a smile crept across Soarin’s face and within a few of the terms on Spitfire’s list, he had broken out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” the fiery mare asked, ceasing her listing and looking at him incredulously.

Soarin’ held his stomach as his laughter died down. “Ha ha…I gotta say you got me there, Spits. That’s a good one.” When he noticed the mare wasn’t smiling, his mirth died where it stood. “Wait, you’re serious?”

She gave him a look that said, “Uh, yeah. Duh.”

He scoffed. “Spitfire, I’m not in love with her. We’re just friends. Besides, she’s already got a boyfriend.”

Spitfire raised an eyebrow. “Wait, who are you dreaming about?”

He hesitated for a moment, deciding it would be best if he didn’t tell her who the subject of his dream was.

“Doesn’t matter.”

Spitfire sensed his hesitancy to divulge the information and backed off. “Well, then I don’t know what to tell you, Soarin’. Has it been a while since you saw her? Maybe you just miss her.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Spitfire smiled and looked up at the clock on the wall. “I’d better go get started on that paperwork. Sorry I couldn’t be of any help.”

“No, you did help. I feel better now that I’ve talked about it. I don’t know why I was worrying so much. Thanks.”

“No problem. See you later.”

The two hugged each other goodbye and Spitfire went up to her office. Soarin’ sat at the table finishing his breakfast for the next few minutes. After washing his dishes, he decided to sit and relax for a while. With nothing to distract his thoughts, they soon turned to Spitfire’s suggestion that he may be in love with Applejack. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his hooves across his chest, chuckling again at the ludicrous idea.

The more he thought about the idea, though, the more it wouldn’t go away. His smile slowly faded as he thought back to the dream. It had been Clover who was kissing Applejack, hadn’t it?

’Of course. Who else could it be?’

Soarin’ laughed at the fact that he was even giving this any consideration. Of course it had been Clover he was dreaming about kissing Applejack. The stallion in his dream hadn’t had any wings. That must have meant that it was an earth pony.

The clock on the wall chimed the hour, breaking his reverie. Glancing at it, he realized that he still had a few hours to kill before practice started. Having no desire to spend it by thinking further about the dream, he pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind and went out to the practice field.

The Wonderbolt spent the next few hours flying around, losing himself in his flying. Eventually, a few of his fellow Wonderbolts made their way onto the field. Each donned their flight suits, but most had their goggles either strapped on above their eyes or hanging loosely from their necks. Soarin’ flew down the practice field to meet them.

“Hey, Soar,” a light yellow mare with a blue mane and tail with a light blue streak greeted him.

“Hey Soarin’,” said a stallion with a dark blue mane and a coat that was a few shades of blue darker than Soarin’s own.

The other two athletes with them, High Winds and Silver Lining were deep in conversation and paused for just a moment to wave before continuing.

“Hey, Misty, Wave Chill,” he replied.

“You’d better go get your suit on, bud,” said Wave Chill. “We’re gonna start practice soon and if Streak sees you here without-“

“ATTEN-TION!” boomed a loud voice across the field.

“Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” whispered Wave Chill.

“Shh!” Misty hissed. “Just line up.”

The five flyers all lined up and stood at attention as a stallion with an orange mane and tail marched toward them from across the field. Underneath his flight suit, he had a white coat and his goggles concealed a pair of eyes that his teammates knew to be deep orange. Tucked under his right wing was a clipboard with a small stack of papers on it.

“Afternoon, team,” he greeted his fellow pegasi, pulling out the clipboard and glancing down at it.

“Good afternoon, Major Fire Streak, sir,” they chanted in unison.

“At ease.”

The five performers each took a more relaxed stance.

“All right, I have the plans for the Autumnal Aerial performance from the choreographer.” He began walking down the line, passing a sheet from the clipboard to each performer. “It’s pretty routine stuff, but there are a few places where I need you on your ‘A’ game. Especially those of you who will be skywriti-“

The white stallion stopped when he reached the end of the line where Soarin’ stood. He stared the blue stallion down, his face masked by his flight suit and goggles.

“Lieutenant,” he said, calmly and evenly, but with enough force behind it that he may as well have been yelling.

Soarin’ immediately snapped to attention. “Yes sir?”

“Why the hell are you naked on my practice field?”

“Sir, I was flying before practice and I lost track of time, sir.”

“Well, as much as I’m sure some of our fans would love to see this much of you, I have no such desire. Get your bare flank into your flight suit. On the double!”

“Yes sir!”

About facing, the light blue pegasus began a swift trot across the field to the locker rooms. He tried to contain it, but a small smile played across his lips. He was glad that Fire Streak had been designated as their coach for the show. The white pegasus was stern and commanding, but refused to use his rank to demand respect. Outside of practice, he was approachable and very fun to be around.

“And while you’re at it,” he heard Fire Streak call after him, “see if you can get my cousin to tear herself away from her paperwork for a while and come to the practice she’s supposed to be at.”

“Yes sir.”

He made his way to the locker room and pulled an unused flight suit from his locker. After slipping the suit over his body, he stopped a moment before putting up the hood. Reaching into his locker, he affectionately rubbed the small, wooden box at the bottom of the locker. He took it out and held it in his forehooves for a moment before opening it, taking in the woody smell and feeling the smooth varnish.

He opened the box, revealing its contents. Inside was a length of black cord attached at both ends to a small, green stone. He slowly lifted the necklace out of the box and looked for a moment at the tear-shaped jewel. His mother had given it to him and he always wore it to practices and shows for good luck. After placing it around his neck under his flight suit, he lifted the hood over his face and put on his flight goggles, resting them on his forehead.

Soarin’ went to the office building and up to Spitfire’s office. Peeking in, he saw that the yellow mare was quietly dozing with her head resting on her desk. A tiny puddle of drool was pooling on her desk, staining the paperwork she had been filling out. Chuckling, he walked up to the desk as quietly as he could and poked her shoulder.

“Spits, you’re late for practice.”

His sleeping friend stirred and mumbled, but remained asleep. Soarin’ rolled his eyes and tried again, shaking her shoulder, exclaiming, “Spitfire, wake up!”

The yellow mare awoke with a start. “GAH! Whereto for, henceforth and hereto wit!”

Soarin’ laughed as the yellow mare spouted legalese in her startled state. “Have a nice nap?”

She gave him a glare that looked like she was about to give her name a literal meaning. “What do you want, Soarin’?”

He held up a hoof, assuring her he came in peace. “Streak sent me up to let you know that you’re late for practice.”

“Oh,” she replied dismissively, raising a hoof to her mouth as she yawned. “Tell him not to get his flight suit in a twist. I’ll be down in a minute.”

He nodded then left the room and made his way back down to the practice field. Fire Streak had already begun putting the team through their warm-ups. He groaned in exasperation at the further delay, and then put the team through a few laps around the track while they waited for his cousin.

“Glad you could finally join us,” he said sarcastically when Spitfire came out onto the practice field. He didn’t take his eyes off the clipboard he was staring at.

She tried to give him a dirty look, but the effect was lost by the smirk on her face. Her stride didn’t even falter as she sauntered past him to start warming up. As she went by, she gave him an affectionate bump on the shoulder.

“Good to see you too, Streaky.”

“Alright, team,” Fire Streak shouted over the field. “A couple more minutes of warm ups and we’ll get going.”

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Soarin’ came home late that night tired and sore. It was the kind of sore that he only got when he’d worked his hardest. A large contented smile was plastered on his face as he alighted on his porch.

The practice session had gone well. They had begun with blocking. Fire Streak told them what they would be doing in the show and where and when to do it. Then they practiced it in bits and pieces, helping each other, making sure it looked right. Over the next month until the show, they would go over all of it, not performing the whole thing until all the parts were perfect.

Soarin’ paused a moment before going in to look up at the night sky. The moon was bright and the stars twinkled beautifully against the deep midnight blue backdrop of the night. Stepping away from the door, he laid out on his back and gazed up at them for a while. He remembered a time long ago when he, Spitfire and the other foals would catch fireflies in his backyard. They’d lay out on the grass and count the stars (the count had gotten up to sixty-eleven when they gave up). The light blue stallion reached a hoof up, pointing out and tracing the constellations.

“One, two, three…” he counted as he moved his hoof from star to star.

They say that gazing up at the night sky can make you feel small and insignificant. For some reason, Soarin’ had never felt that way whenever he looked up at the stars. His mother had always taught him that each and every star was special and unique, just like ponies. Each star had a name and a role to play in the grand display that was the night sky.

“Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five…”

Though he didn’t want them to, Soarin’ couldn’t keep his thoughts from returning to the dream. He chuckled to himself again. Maybe he had been over thinking it. Maybe Spitfire was right. He was probably just missing Applejack. He couldn’t be the stallion in the dream. His brain was probably just processing the memories from Applejack and Clover’s romantic evening the night before the party.

“Fifty-six…fifty-*yawn*seven…fifty-eight…”

He still found it a little weird that he was dreaming of a friend and her boyfriend being intimate, but found relief in that at least it hadn’t been him making out with Applejack in the dream. Soarin’ felt his eyes start to get heavy. Snuggling into the cloud, he brought his hoof down to his chest and continued counting.

“Sixty…sixty-one…sixty-two…”

He felt his mind slowly giving way to the exhaustion that the day had wrought. The Wonderbolts performed this show at the end of every summer for the city of Cloudsdale shortly before the ponies on the ground held the running of the leaves. Soarin’ had participated in the event every year since he first became a Wonderbolt and it was the reason why he enjoyed fall the most. The show was different from what they usually performed, but it was no less fun and exciting for him.

“Sixty-nine…sixty-ten…sixty-eleven…”

The tired Wonderbolt let his eyes close and fell asleep on the soft cloud of his front porch.

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The rest of that month flew by fairly quickly for Soarin’. Between practice flights for the upcoming show and his other duties as a Wonderbolts, he managed to keep busy. The dream didn’t bother him again, which was a huge relief and soon he stopped thinking about it entirely.

He did, at one point, have a dream where Applejack brought him the world’s biggest pie, which he then proceeded to dive inside and swim around in, but that was understandable. After all, he really liked pie and Applejack’s pies were the best.

Practice for the show was going quite well. When the team had gotten the blocking down, they started putting the show together and ironing out the kinks. Most of Soarin’s days ended with him coming home and plopping into his bed, exhausted but happy.

Soon the day before the big show came. The Wonderbolts lined up in front of their coach for his customary pep talk before the final practice session.

“Alright, team,” Fire Streak bellowed as he paced in front of the lined-up flyers. “This is it. This is what all our work comes down to. We’ve practiced this over so many times we can do it in our sleep, but we’ve only got today left to iron things out before we perform for the Autumnal Aerial tomorrow. So, I want this practice to be flawless and I will accept nothing less than perfection from you. Clear?”

“Sir, yes sir,” the team replied.

“Good. Take your positions.”

The flyers saluted and trotted out to the center of the field, where they arranged themselves in a large circle. They each looked to Spitfire, waiting for her signal. Speakers around the stadium blared to life with a slow tune. She gave a quick nod and they began flying in a circle. With two clicks of their back hooves, the flyers ignited the smoke streams from their tails. Simultaneously, they altered their flight path to an upward angle, causing them to leave a cylindrical smoky cloud in their wake.

The six pegasi continued ascending, making their cylinder taller the higher up they flew. When they reached the top, they began widening the circle as they ascended, making a bowl shape. At the top of the bowl, they began to close the circle as they continued spiraling up. As they went higher, the circle grew tighter and tighter until they were flying so close to one another that they had to fly tilted to the side so as not to bump one anothers’ wings. At that point, they turned off their smoke streams and veered up and away from the likeness of a tree that they had just created.

Soarin’ paused for a moment to admire the tree, then followed the other two Wonderbolt stallions into a backflip, diving down at an angle toward the ground to one side of the tree. The mares of the group did the same, going to the opposite side. When each team reached the bottom, they formed two smaller circles, turned on their smoke trails and began flying straight up.

Soarin’ spared a glance at Wave Chill and Silver Lining. This part had to be timed perfectly. If it wasn’t, the spectacle lost a great deal of its impressiveness. The three stallions made eye contact with one another, slightly nodding their heads as they counted the seconds. He brought his forehooves close to his body in preparation and they did likewise. When they were level with the widest part of the first tree, the three stallions reached their forehooves out, pressing them against one another. They were close enough that their legs were still bent and at the right moment, Soarin’ pushed against his teammates and they pushed back, sending the three moving away from one another. He leaned into the backward momentum, going into a dive that curved down and back in the direction of the three-stream pillar. Clicking his hooves again, he cut his stream and tilted to the left a few seconds before he hit the smoke.

Soarin’ cast a glance at the rest of the field. A big, dopey grin crossed his muzzle as he noticed that both halves of the squad had finished at the same time. The two teams moved ninety degrees clockwise around the middle tree and repeated the process, again timing it perfectly. When they finished, they regrouped above the display just as the music came to an end. The end result of their work was a large smoke tree surrounded on four sides by four smaller, more palm-tree-looking ones.

The six fliers descended to where their coach was standing. His face was unreadable as they stood at attention before him, awaiting his appraisal of their progress.

His stoic expression slowly formed into a small smile. He gave a small, almost imperceptible chuckle before ushering forth a single word that swelled the performers hearts with pride.

“Flawless.”

As one, the team let out a whooping celebratory cheer. Most did a leap in the air or a small backflip and gave each other hugs and hoof bumps. Fire Streak cleared his throat and they quickly fell back in line.

“However,” he continued. “I need to make sure you can do it flawlessly several times before I’ll be satisfied that you can do it flawlessly for the show tomorrow.”

A long groan resounded from the team and they took to the skies to clean up the smoke. Soarin’ lost count of how many times they made and remade the smoky trees that afternoon. He knew that he would sleep soundly that night.

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Speed. Agility. Heart-pounding adrenaline.

With these three things, he was in his element and today he had them in spades. The crowd roared as he soared through the air, their cheering drowned out by the wind screaming in his ear. He looped, twirled and dove, performing increasingly complex and dangerous stunts.

At last it was time for his finale. He flew straight up, going higher and higher so the audience had to crane their necks to see him. When he reached the proper altitude, he closed his wings, letting the hand of gravity pull him toward the stadium below. Tilting his wings, he corkscrewed as he went down, fighting dizziness as the ground below spun in his vision.

Faster and faster he fell, reaching terminal velocity. As he neared the ground, he pulled up at the last second, earning a loud ‘ooh’ from the crowd, followed by stamping hooves and cheering voices. From there he went into a series of tight loops through rings of fire, then a bout of dodging random streams of thick, gooey liquid rainbow that would cause him to fall if he was hit even once. His routine ended with his signature trick, falling at near sonic rainboom speeds into a thunderhead only to slingshot out by the force of the sound barrier.

He took a few bows and enjoyed the crowd’s applause for a few moments when his routine was finished. When the loudspeakers began announcing the next performer, he turned and went down the long, dark hall to the locker room.

As he got further down the hall, the cheers of the audience faded into silence. The walls also started getting darker and soon the only thing he could see was his own fur. He became filled with a sense of apprehension and hoped that he would come to the end of the hall soon

He heard a faint sound and his ears perked and swiveled, listening. Just when he started to think the darkness was playing tricks on him, he heard it again, a little louder. It sounded kind of like the sound of somepony crying.

“Hello?” he called out into the darkness. His only reply came when he heard the sound again. A chill ran through his heart as he found that he recognized who was crying.

“AJ?”

No sooner had he said her name, he whirled around at the sound of another sob and saw her standing off in the distance. Concerned, he galloped in that direction. Her face was covered by her right foreleg and tears were streaming down her cheeks.

“AJ, what’s wrong?”

She didn’t answer him. She only continued sobbing. Suddenly she stamped her hoof on the ground and cried out in anguish, then collapsed and fell over on her side. She was lying there in front of him, bawling her eyes out.

“Applejack, what’s wrong,” Soarin’ repeated, becoming more desperate. “Please, let me help.”

The orange mare’s crying subsided for a moment. Almost silently, she whispered, “please help me.”

In an instant, Soarin’ was kneeling at her side. “I’m here, AJ. I’ll help you. What’s wrong?”

No matter how much he tried to console her, she seemed not to hear him. He tried reaching out and touching her shoulder, but she didn’t react.

“*sob* Please…Ah can’t…Ah’m all alone and Ah can’t *sob* Ah can’t do this,” she repeated over and over, not speaking to anypony in particular.

Seeing her hurting like this and not being able to help broke Soarin’s heart. “You’re not alone, AJ,” he said, tears coming to his eyes as he desperately tried to help her. “You’ve got your family and Clover and all your friends. You’ve got me. Just please tell me what’s wrong. You don’t have to be alone!”

He didn’t know how it happened, but one minute he was lying there holding her and the next minute they were both falling through the void. Reflexively, the blue stallion unfurled his wings, catching himself and going into a hover. He saw Applejack fall past him, a look of terror on her face.

“AJ!”

As quickly as he could, he flew after her, desperately trying to catch her as she fell. His wings became a blur behind him. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments and he saw in them the sheer and utter terror that she was experiencing as she fell. Seeing that fear instilled an even greater fear in him and he pushed his wings harder, reaching his hooves out to grab her.

As he drew closer to her, it felt more and more like he was flying against the pull of gravity. He strained his wings and stretched out his hoof, bringing it within inches of hers. He continued straining and pushing himself to get that small distance closer, but the forces pushing him away from her were quickly becoming too strong and their hooves became farther and farther apart.

“No!” he shouted, redoubling his efforts. Hot tears streamed down his face as he realized that he might not be able to save her.

“Soarin’,” he heard her call out. Again their eyes met and he saw the desperation in them as she began to fall away. “Help me.”

Suddenly the blue pegasus felt himself being pulled away from the orange mare, watching hopelessly as she fell into oblivion.

“Applejaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!”

Soarin’ screamed as he shot up in bed, covered in a cold sweat and panting heavily. Looking around, he saw that he was in his own bedroom and it had all just been a bad dream. As images from the dream flashed again through his mind, Soarin’ shoved his head into his pillow and wept.

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Spitfire had never considered herself a morning pony. However, she did love mornings on the day of a performance. She didn’t have to come in to work until a couple of hours before the show, meaning she got some well-enjoyed extra time in bed. She could wake up and take a long, relaxing shower followed by a leisurely flight to work. It felt good to have a break from the usual hurried rush in the morning that led to the inevitable afternoon crash and she was going to enjoy it.

The yellow mare thought she would begin her day by warming up for the show in the stadium and then maybe ironing out the kinks in a couple of tricks that she would be doing for a show in a few months. As she entered the stadium, she saw that one of her other teammates had the same idea. A lone stallion donned in his uniform was flying in wide ascending circles in the middle of the stadium. He appeared to be practicing the routine that the team would be doing later that afternoon.

“You know there is such a thing as over-practicing, Soarin’,” she said when she had flown within hearing range of her teammate.

The blue stallion turned to give her his attention and the yellow mare’s smile fell. Even with his costume obscuring his face she could see the haggard and exhausted expression he wore.

“Sweet Celestia, Soarin’, you look awful.”

“Didn’t sleep well,” he replied. His words were monotone, his answer almost robotic.

“How come?”

He was silent for a moment. “Just couldn’t sleep.”

Spitfire sighed. “Come on,” she said, turning in the direction of the lounge. “You need to try and get some rest before the show.”

He was too tired to answer and if he did it would have been of no use, so he followed her to the lounge and into a darkened room with small cots lining the walls. Spitfire took a place on one of them and lay down.

“Come on,” she said, patting another cot next to hers.

“It’s not gonna help, Spits. I tried everything last night but I couldn’t sleep.”

“Well, then I guess we can just sit here and talk.”

Soarin’ groaned, knowing that there was no winning once Spitfire had made up her mind about something. He unzipped his flight suit and slowly slipped out of it. Tossing the garment aside, he took a place on the cot next to Spitfire’s and lay down. The yellow mare rested her head in her forehooves and, with her eyes gestured for him to do the same.

“What’s going on?”

He averted his gaze and said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

She lifted her head and gave him a serious expression. “Normally I’d back off if you don’t want to talk about something, but I can’t this time. Whatever is going on with you is affecting your performance. That means you’re putting the team at risk and it’s my job as captain to make sure that the team stays safe. Now you can either tell me what’s going on or I’ll find somepony to sub for you in the show.”

Looking into Spitfire’s eyes, Soarin’ saw how serious she was and decided to relent.

He sighed. “OK, you remember how I had that dream about a month ago?”

After thinking for a few moments, she nodded. “Yeah, a friend of yours was kissing somepony, right?”

“Yeah. Well…I had another one about her last night.”

Spitfire laid her head back down in her forehooves, not saying anything and allowing him to continue as he was ready.

“I was flying in a show and when I was heading to the showers I saw her crying. She kept saying that…that she was all alone. She looked so sad and...and I couldn’t do anything. Then we were falling and I tried to catch her but I just couldn’t and then…she was gone.”

Spitfire remained silent for a moment, collecting her thoughts. “I think I already know, but do you want to tell me who your friend is.”

Soarin’ bit his lip but decided that he might feel better if he told her. “It’s…Applejack.”

The yellow mare gave a small nod. “Yeah, I figured.”

“What am I gonna do, Spits? I have feelings for another stallion’s mare. Does that make me a bad pony?”

She placed a hoof on his shoulder. “Soarin’, you’re being too hard on yourself. Having feelings for Applejack doesn’t make you a bad pony.” She gave him a small smile. “Frankly, I’m not surprised. I didn’t get to know her very well, but it seemed like you two hit it off even better than you and I did when we met.”

Soarin’ finally allowed Spitfire a small smile. He laid his head down rolled over onto his back, getting more comfortable on the cot. There was silence for a few more moments and Spitfire noticed that her teammate didn’t look any drowsier than he had been.

“There’s something else bothering you isn’t there?” she asked.

He turned his face to her. “You never know when to let up, do you?”

“Nope.”

He sighed and looked back up at the ceiling. “I’m not sure. Something about the way AJ was acting in the dream just rattled me.” He placed a hoof on his chest and idly toyed with the green jewel on the end of his mother’s necklace. “She seemed like she was in some kind of trouble. I know the dream wasn’t real, but I just can’t shake what I felt when she was there crying and asking for help. It feels like I’m still there next to her, trying to help her.”

“Sounds like it really shook you up.”

“Yeah, but it’s not just that. When I woke up, I realized it was only a dream, but that part just seemed more…real. When I go back and remember it, it’s almost like it’s an actual memory and not just a memory of a dream.”

Spitfire thought over his answer, but was at a loss about what to say. “I don’t know what to tell you, Soarin’. Maybe you’re just overtired. You’ve been working really hard lately.”

“Yeah, *yawn* you’re probably right. It just felt so real.”

The yellow mare smiled. “Getting sleepy?”

“Yeah,” he replied, snuggling into the cot. “Thanks, Spits. I always feel better after we have these talks.”

“What are friends for?” said Spitfire as she got up from her cot. “Night, Soarin’. I’ll come and wake you when the team starts doing warm-ups.”

“OK. ‘Night.”

By the time the yellow mare had reached the door, she could hear her teammate snoring softly. She stood in the doorway for a moment, watching the rise and fall of his chest and thinking about their conversation. She let out a sad sigh when her thoughts connected this new information with information she had picked up about a certain other pegasus on the night of the Apple’s party.

“Love triangles,” she said morosely to herself. “Somepony always gets their heart broke.”

Backing out of the entryway, she closed the door, sending the room into darkness.

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Soarin’ reveled in the cheers and shouts of the crowd as he and his team flashed smiles and posed for the cameras. Soarin’s nap had done him a world of good and he and the team had performed beautifully. As one, they made their way to the wings of the stadium as a few of Cloudsdale’s public officials flew out to begin their part of the show.

If a non-Cloudsdale resident were attending the event, they would have equated it to a cloudy version of the running of the leaves. The Cloudsdale ‘Running of the Leaves’ was more of a kick-off for one of the weather factory’s busiest seasons. Over the next few months, they would be stockpiling clouds in order to prepare for winter.

Soarin’ pulled down his hood and watched for a few moments as the mayor, the CEO of the weather factory, and the Cloudsdale city council had a race around the cloudy trees the Wonderbolts had made, the motion of their wings creating a draft that slowly dispersed the puffy foliage. Leaning against the wall, he thought he would stay and watch for a little while.

“There he is,” the blue stallion heard one of his teammates say from the end of the hall behind him. Hearing the scampering of little hooves, he turned just in time to be greeted by two familiar faces.

“Scoots?”

“Hey, Soarin’,” the little orange pegasus excitedly greeted him as she cantered to where he was standing. A blue and yellow backstage pass dangled from her neck on a lanyard that was a little too big for her. She reached a hoof up to bump his.

He returned the hoof bump and looked down the hall to see Rainbow Dash approaching. “Hey, Rainbow.”

“Hey,” the rainbow-maned pegasus replied, her own lanyard swinging back and forth as she walked.

“You guys were totally wicked out there,” Scootaloo gushed.

“Thanks, kid,” said Soarin’, tousling her mane. “So, how have you girls been lately?” he asked as the three of them began walking back down the hall to where the rest of the Wonderbolts were.

“Awesome!” said Scootaloo. “Rainbow’s been teaching me to fly. I’m not very good now, but I’ll get better when my wings are bigger.”

The blue stallion gave Rainbow a knowing smile. “That’s awesome, Scoots. Hey, do you girls want a tour? I can introduce you to the team if you like. They usually like to hang out in the lounge after a show.”

“AWESOME!” both girls squealed.

Soarin’ led the two other pegasi on a tour of the Wonderbolts headquarters. Scootaloo gawked and gushed, wanting to know what each and every building was for and asking question after question. When they were almost finished with the tour and heading in the direction of the lounge, Scootaloo’s questions subsided and Soarin’ took the opportunity to catch up with Rainbow.

“So, how come you and Scoots came up for this show? Those passes I sent you were good for any show, and I thought you would be participating in Ponyville’s running of the leaves.”

“I would have,” the prismatic pegasus replied, “but when AJ said she wasn’t running, the race just didn’t seem challenging enough. She’s the only one who can keep up with me, so racing without her was just gonna be lame.”

“Wait, AJ didn’t run?”

“Nope. Y’know it was weird. She almost never passes me up on a race.”

“Did she say why,” asked Soarin’, curious.

“No. Actually it was Apple Bloom that told me a couple days before the race after I asked her why I hadn’t seen AJ in a little while. Apple Bloom said she was just busy.”

Alarms sounded in Soarin’s head. Something was wrong. He and Applejack had talked about the running of the leaves and she had said that it was one of her favorite events of the year. He knew that she wouldn’t miss it for the world. Plus, it was fall and most of the apples would have been harvested by this time, so what did Applejack have to keep her busy enough to miss the race? A sinking feeling filled his chest as he remembered how real his dream had seemed.

“You OK?” asked Rainbow, breaking his reverie.

“Huh? Yeah, fine. Hey, listen. Do you mind if I introduce you to a few of the ‘bolts and go take care of something? It’s pretty urgent.”

The prismatic pegasus looked a little disappointed, but agreed. The three of them soon reached the lounge. Soarin’s teammates were all there, chatting, eating, playing games and congratulating themselves on a show well done. Soarin’ introduced Rainbow and Scootaloo to coach Fire Streak and excused himself to find Spitfire. He asked to speak with her in private and they moved to a secluded corner of the room.

“When’s our next show?” he asked quickly.

She quirked an eyebrow at how frantic for an answer he sounded. “Nightmare Night, I think. We might have to do a couple of parties between then and now, though. Why?”

“I might need to be away for a few days.”

The yellow mare’s eyes widened a little. “How come?”

“I…have to check up on something.”

His friend gave him a look that told him she wasn’t buying it for a second. “What’s going on, Soarin’?”

He sighed and relented. “I think AJ’s in trouble.”

Spitfire rolled her eyes. “Soarin’, it was just a bad dream. Stop worrying over nothing.”

“I can’t. Rainbow said that she wasn’t doing the running of the leaves and she hasn’t seen her in a while.”

“She’s probably just sick.”

“That’s not it.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do.”

Spitfire rubbed her temple with a hoof. “Do you realize how crazy you sound right now?”

Soarin’ couldn’t give her a response. He merely hung his head.

The fiery-maned mare sighed. “Look, Soarin’, I get it. Thinking she must be in trouble must be hard for you. I just don’t want to see you get hurt and if you go back now, I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Are you sure that this is a good idea?”

Soarin’ didn’t answer for a moment, then gave Spitfire the only answer he could. “No, I don’t. But what am I supposed to do, Spits? AJ means a lot to me and I just can’t shake this feeling that something’s wrong. I can’t just abandon her. Besides, I Pinkie promised that I’d come back to visit and now is as good a time as any.”

Spitfire was going to object, but realized that Soarin’ had made up his mind. “OK, I’ll cover for you. But Soarin? Please, be careful.”

“I will.”

The two of them left their little corner and rejoined the party.

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The next morning found Soarin’ making the long flight to Ponyville. As he flew, he tried unsuccessfully to quell the sense of dread in his chest. A small voice inside of him kept telling him that this was a bad idea and he was probably worrying over nothing. Part of him believed what the voice was saying. He knew seeing Applejack would probably be painful, but the feeling that something was wrong overpowered any hesitation he felt.

Soon enough, the rolling hills of Sweet Apple Acres came into view. Most of the trees in the orchard had yet to change, but slight tinges of the autumn colors could be seen if one were to look closely enough.

He landed by the gate and was greeted with the sound of barking as Winona came bounding up to him from the house.

“Hey, girl,” he greeted her as she playfully yipped and licked his face. “I missed you too. Where is everypony?”

The herding dog gave a few small whimpers, then bounded off into the orchard. Soarin’ shrugged off the dog’s strange behavior and took off again. Glancing at the sun’s position in the sky, the light blue pegasus guessed that Applejack would most likely be out in the fields. He flew over the rows of apple trees, scanning the areas with unbucked fruit and looking for a sign of the orange mare.

Spotting an orange speck in a clearing near the edge of the Apple’s property, he angled toward it. He chose to land a short distance away to buy himself some time to think of something to say.

His thoughts were lost, however, as he approached the orange mare. She was turned away from him with her head pressed against a single tree in the middle of the clearing. The trademark Stetson that normally adorned her head was absent and her golden mane looked frazzled and messy, but not in the way that it did when she was working. It looked more like she hadn’t brushed it in a while.

He was just working up the courage to greet her when he heard something unexpected; a small, almost imperceptible sniffle. Taking a few steps closer, he heard a few more and a realization came to him that broke his heart.

Applejack was crying.

Tentatively, he approached the orange mare and called softly when he was near enough.

“AJ?”

She gasped and whirled around to face him. Her face had wet streaks that she quickly tried to cover up by wiping off with her hoof. Dark circles surrounded her eyes and she looked like she hadn’t slept in a while. She took a few breaths before replying.

“Howdy, Soarin’,” she greeted, a hitch in her voice as she gave him a strained smile. “What, *sniff* What brings you here?”

“What’s wrong, AJ? Are you OK?” he asked, taking a step closer.

“Y-yup, Ah’m-,” she hiccupped, “Ah’m fine. Uh…Apple Bloom tells me that Rainbow and Scootaloo went to see your show. How’d that turn out?”

“Applejack,” he pleaded, ignoring her obvious attempt to change the subject. “You’re a terrible liar. Look, if you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to. Just say the word and I won’t ask again. But I can tell that something’s bothering you and I want to help. What’s wrong?”

She just stared at him for minutes that seemed to pass like hours. Her face held a cornucopia of emotion and she couldn’t bring herself to look him in the eye. He could see her trying with every ounce of strength that she possessed to hold back the wave of emotion threatening to overwhelm her. Her face concealed a mixture of utter sorrow, anguish and, something that broke the blue stallion’s heart, fear. Whatever was making her feel this way was terrifying her and Soarin’ hated seeing her like that.

He tried to comfort her, just wanting to be able to do something. Carefully, he placed a hoof on her shoulder. Then he moved his other hoof to her chin. She flinched a little, but didn’t stop him from turning her head so she was looking at him. He gave her a smile that he hoped was comforting despite how helpless he felt.

“Hey,” he whispered, “whatever it is, I’ll help you. It’ll be OK.”

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The dam of emotion broke and the orange mare leapt forward, burying her face in his chest. A fresh wave of hot tears flowed down her face, soaking into his fur as she sobbed uncontrollably.

“Ah don’t know what to do,” she cried, speaking rapidly between sobs. “Ah’ve never been so scared and I don’t know what to do.”

“Shh, it’s OK,” he whispered, gently stroking her back as she cried. Tears began building in his own eyes from seeing how torn up she was, but he held them back. He had to be strong for her.

She continued crying against him for a long while. Taking a few deep breaths, she pulled her face away from his chest and looked up at him. He didn’t say anything, allowing her to say whatever she wanted to when she was ready.

“Ah…Ah’m pregnant,” she whispered, almost choking to get the words out.

Soarin’ was speechless. His first instinct was to congratulate her, but he thought that probably wasn’t the response she was looking for. He tried to think of something to say to comfort her, but he knew nothing he could say would make what she was feeling go away. He held her close so she was crying against his chest again and unfurled his wings, wrapping them around her, just wishing he could take away how scared she was.

“Ah don’t know what to do!” she sobbed. “Ah ain’t even told mah family or Clover yet! Ah don’t know what they’re gonna think of me. What if Clover doesn’t want a foal? What if mah family disowns me?”

Soarin’ broke the hug and looked her in the eye. “Whoa, AJ, calm down. Your family won’t abandon you. You Apples are the most loving family I’ve ever met.” He reached a hoof up to wipe away one of the tears running down her cheek. They’d never leave you when you need them like this.”

The orange mare sniffled. “They’re still gonna be disappointed, though.”

He gave her another comforting rub on the back. “Maybe. Do you want me to come with you to tell them?”

She thought about it for several moments and then nodded.

“OK,” he said, “Do you want to go tell them now?”

Again Applejack was silent for a while. “Probably best to get it done with,” she murmured, wiping the rest of her tears off her face.

The two of them began making their way back to the farmhouse. The pace they took was slow, almost as if they were walking to an execution. The comparison was ludicrous, but that was the only thing Soarin’ could compare it to.

Applejack was obviously still terrified of telling her family of her predicament. The blue pegasus carefully extended a wing and placed it on her back, letting her know that he was there with her no matter what. She looked at him and gave a small smile, grateful for the assurance.

When they reached the farmhouse, Applejack stopped at the door, hesitant to continue.

“Hey,” Soarin’ whispered, “I’m right here. I’ll help you. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

Gathering her courage, the orange mare let out a nervous sigh and the two of them walked through the door.





Proofread by the grammatically awesome ACTASAP. Thanks buddy.

Author's Note:

Proofread by the grammatically awesome ACTASAP. Thanks buddy.

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