• Published 8th Aug 2017
  • 5,179 Views, 47 Comments

A Familiar Feeling - Poptard



When Big Macintosh brings Sugar Belle to meet the family, one Apple doesn’t seem too fond of her, and Sugar Belle has no idea why.

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Where The Apple Falls

It was only fair that after so many trips Big Macintosh made to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, Sugar Belle should return the favor. So when her large red stallion made his next early morning delivery of apples, the emptied wagon had plenty of room for a travel bag, plenty of comfy blankets, and one contented pink unicorn. Sugar Belle blew a stray bang of her puffy purple hair out of her face, watching Mac pull her along the winding country trail. As peaceful it was to listen to the sounds of nature and the gentle grinding of the cart’s wheels, she could only deal with the silence in bursts. Fortunately, she had somepony to talk to, though not necessarily “with.”

"Mac?" She inquired, raising her head off a pillow.

"Hmm?"

"Are we there yet?"

Mac returned a small chuckle. Sugar Belle continued, "We've been on the road for... three hours now?"

"That sounds about right. We'll be there with a few hours to spare before sundown."

"Still, it's so far!" Then Sugar injected a little spice into her voice. "Do you always walk this much, twice a week, just to see me?"

Big Macintosh looked back at her, a strong blush showing even with his deep red coat, and a coltish giggle followed. She gave him a sugary smile back.

It was still so easy to turn him back into the lovestruck colt who could barely get a sentence out, but to be fair, Mac could easily flip it around when he felt like it. Well, when he wasn't hitched to a wagon, so Sugar Belle considered herself safe from any surprise snuggles until they arrived at Ponyville. Just thinking about the place prompted her next question.

"What are you looking forward to most once we get to Ponyville?"

A deep bass rumble sounded through his barrel as he hummed in thought, which Sugar Belle loved to hear, preferably without a few feet separating her ears from the source. Mac took a while to respond, before finally settling with, "Hafta go with showing you around my hometown, darlin’."

She rubbed a hoof along her chin. "Mac, you know I've been to Ponyville before. It was when Starlight and her friends received those awards for saving Equestria, remember?"

"Mmm. Can't forget." Mac looked back at her and grinned. "Then was when I first saw that pretty purple mane of yours." Now it was her turn to blush.

He continued, "'Sides, you're going to see more just than the train station and the inside of Twilight's castle. Ponyville's full of interesting places and ponies, and I just know you're gonna love it."

Sugar Belle met his grin with her own. "You 'know' I'm going to love it."

Mac looked back to the winding road ahead. "Eeyup."

Sugar Belle giggled. "Well then, could I get a sample?"

"Eeenope. No spoilers."

She gave a little pout. "Please?"

"Nope."

"Pleaaaaase?" The pink unicorn fluttered her eyes a bit. She knew he could never resist it when she fluttered her eyes at him. ...And she just realized she'd fluttered her eyes at the back of his head. That wasn't the first loving expression Sugar Belle had made at Mac's posterior, but this one wasn't likely to win a play-argument.

"Well, alright."

Well, unlikely didn't mean impossible. Mac's passenger gave another contented sigh as she lowered her head down onto her plush pillow, which thankfully was still nice and warm. Sugar Belle closed her eyes and let his baritone wash over her, and settled in for his local lore about how Ponyville's library used to be in a living tree. Maybe it was the story, probably it was the storyteller, but Ponyville sounded more and more charming every minute.


It was another three hours before the couple's wagon finally crested the last ridge into Ponyville’s valley. To Sugar Belle's delight, she kept Mac talking for an hour and a half out of their six hour total trip, a fact that Mac seemed surprised to hear once she told him.

"Guess I'm getting more comfortable talking 'round you," Mac commented.

"Eeyup," she replied, followed by them both giggling.

They reached the home stretch, and Sugar Belle found herself drawn to the green rows of apple trees that passed. This patch was empty of the reds, crimsons or yellows of ripening fruit, probably already picked and stored away, but the unicorn enjoyed the endless sea of green stretching beyond her view. It definitely beat a bunch of flat sand as a backdrop, for sure.

Four figures waited for them on the dusty road. The smallest, brownest one barked and ran toward them, exposing itself as a dog as it leaped into the cart and started licking its unicorn occupant. The other three continued waving as Big Macintosh pulled up and unhitched himself, and went to rescue Sugar Belle from Winona's excited, slobbery greeting.

"It's nice to see you again, Miss Sugar Belle!" Apple Bloom greeted. The filly slipped around her older brother as he finished helping his marefriend off the apple cart, and soon replaced Winona as the creature getting uncomfortably comfortable with Sugar Belle.

She took it in stride, returning the hug and laughing, even as Big Mac's stern look made his little sister quail after a few seconds. "You too, Apple Bloom! I hope you haven't been causing too much trouble."

"Nuh uh, I promise." The filly gave her most innocent smile she could manage. But Sugar Belle still looked to Mac for confirmation, and he nodded. She patted Apple Bloom on the head as she turned to the other two ponies watching the greeting. Of course, she recognized Applejack; it was kind of hard to forget one of the ponies that helped save her village from its megalomaniac mastermind. It was the old green mare next to her whom Sugar Belle hadn't met before. "Hello-"

"Well, aren't you a pretty thing!" The grandmare of the family moved with the speed of a pony half her age as she became the third Sugar-hugger in thirty seconds. "Mac's been telling me all about his new beau! Not with his words, naw, but Granny Smith knows! That's me, by the way."

Sugar Belle's vision swam from the forceful hug, and she eventually came to her senses experiencing a familiar embrace from behind. Mac wrapped his forelimb around her and extracted her from Granny Smith's grasp, who was now simply shaking her hoof and telling how glad she was to see Mac settling down and how they're going to get along just dandy and that she couldn't wait to delight their guest with a hearty, home-cooked Apple afternoon lunch and so on.

All there was to do left was wait for the fourth affectionate gesture, but it never came. As Granny Smith's hoof slowed, Sugar Belle looked at Applejack, who was still off to the side and hadn't moved an inch. In fact, the way she balanced herself, her serious expression... she didn’t look that happy at all.

Once both of Sugar Belle's hooves were free, she gave Applejack a tiny wave, which was gingerly returned. They were already a little familiar, after all. Mac squeezed her a little tighter, and she knew he was smiling as he showed his little sister his crush-turned-marefriend.

"Hi, Applejack," she said.

"Howdy," Applejack replied. She scrutinized them both, mane to hooftip. "So, you an' my brother, huh?"

"Eeyup," they said together. Granny and Apple Bloom gave a toothy grin of approval, while Applejack was simply nudged towards a smile. Big Macintosh ran a hoof through her purple mane, ending with a small tug on her beaded scrunchie as he continued, "First delivery was just business, every other time was for Sugar Belle. You've never met anypony as dedicated, kind, or sweet as Sugar here. And I'm a darned lucky stallion to have her."

Sugar Belle lifted her muzzle to rub into his neck, and used the smooth wood of his yoke to support her chin. "He is pretty lucky." She opened an eye to look at Apple Bloom, who was looking very sheepish, and most likely hadn't given the rest of the family the full scoop. Luckily, the pink unicorn was saving that for a dinner story, at least. "And strong, and thoughtful, and nice. Big Mac here had no idea how to talk to a filly when we met. But here we are!"

"That sounds ‘bout right," Applejack said, shooting a sly look to Big Macintosh. She adjusted her hat, and gestured around. "Welcome to Sweet Apple Acres, sugarcube! Best farm in Equestria, hoofs down!"

"This is so exciting, really!" exclaimed Sugar Belle as she stood, taking a few paces forward, feeling the dirt under her hooves and smelling the country air. "Ever since Mac and I started dating, I've been so looking forward to see where the best Apples in Equestria were made."

Mac caught what she said, and gave a small giggle. Granny spoke up, "Now, now, come and get settled in, Sugar. "

"Actually," Big Macintosh interrupted. "Ah promised to show Sugar around the town. She's really been looking forward to it." Sugar Belle nodded.

Granny gave a tiny frown, which reversed itself just a moment later. "Well, alrighty then. Don't stay out too long now, we're gonna be having a big Apple Family supper to celebrate havin’ our very special guest over."

"Sure," said Mac. “Definitely!” assured Sugar Belle. They two closed the gap in between themselves and started to walk towards Ponyville proper. Winona followed, yipping along the way, but the dog knew to turn back once they reached the front gate. She watched Winona as she reached the rest of the family, who were waving goodbye. And Sugar Belle could have sworn Applejack was actually frowning at her.

She didn’t have much time to process it. "And don't think you can avoid me showin' ya filly your baby photos, Mac!" Apple Bloom called at the retreating pair. The red stallion started galloping, and a laughing Sugar Belle galloped after him. This was going to be fun.


As any proper bakery should, a bell rang to announce a new customer, and this unique gingerbread-shaped store was certainly a proper bakery. Vibrant rows of colorful candy and enticing baked treats covered every wall, and decorative paintings of the same fit everywhere else. In Ourtown, the beige-grey sandstone took a heap of colorful drapes and potted plants to disguise the dullness, but here even the doorframes captivated her. She loved it already.

From the door behind the counter, a pleasant voice sounded, "Welcome to Sugarcube Corner! I'll be with you in juuuust a sec."

A swirl of light crimson and pink mane poked out from the doorframe, followed by the smiling cyan Earth pony that owned it. “Hello there, Big Macintosh- oh, oh! Is this what I think it is?"

They both flashed a grin at the mare. Mac said, proudly, "Table for two, please."

Their hostess nodded vigorously, not even attempting to conceal her smile, then walked over to the customer side of the counter. The cerulean mare introduced herself as Mrs. Cake (but you can call me Cup Cake, of course), and that she and her husband owned the store. Sugar Belle returned the greeting, and they'd just sat down when Mrs. Cake noticed Sugar Belle's own cupcake cutie mark. That led to a delightful conversation about their shared professions, the joys of owning bakeries, and diverted towards a discussion on expert-level baking techniques, only to be interrupted when a stomach grumble put the date back on course.

"Two blueberry muffins an’ two garden sandwiches on baguettes, please, with extra berries in one.” Mac ordered something light for the both of them. She nodded. Her coltfriend was always good at remembering what she liked, though he sometimes slipped up the first time around. Sugar Belle twirled her mane around her hoof, remembering how Big Mac had won her over. Hopefully all the property damage was behind them.

“Something the matter, Sugar?” Big Macintosh asked, as he noticed her staring idly in his direction.

“Just thinking, big guy.” Sugar Belle gave a coy smile. “I was expecting our food to be something apple related, actually.”

“Trust me, you’re gonna be seeing a lot of apples while you’re staying here. Even the mashed potatoes at dinner tonight’ll have an apple kick to ‘em. Heck, I’m an Apple mahself and I sometimes need to come here for lunch.”

She giggled, and lowered her eyelids considerably. “Oh Mac, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of apples.” Sugar Belle made sure to punctuate that with brushing her hoof over his, which led to some boyish giggles of his own.

Mrs. Cake returned, sandwiches prepared as ordered, but she had ‘misheard’ their order to include one extra large strawberry shake with two straws precariously close to each other. Sugar Belle, proud and experienced owner her own pastry shop, knew exactly what was happening. She was very familiar with that trick, and now she got to be on the receiving end. Mac, the inexperienced and innocent colt he was, never saw the soft pink snout coming, and Sugar Belle giggled as their muzzles booped. When they pulled apart and looked away, blushing, Sugar Belle snuck a peek at Mrs. Cake and gave a wink.

The baker looked pleased that both ponies fell for a timeless classic, but it wasn’t just delight in the blue mare’s face. Her eyes were glistening too, twinkling like a fresh glaze of icing. She didn’t linger on it too long, since there was a very bashful stallion in front of her that demanded her full attention.

Soon, warm conversation resumed. Big Macintosh had a surprising number of stories to tell about this establishment, and he recounted them all with his relaxed, deep drawl, carefully selecting his words yet still plentiful with them. Since they had started dating, his voice had grown on her. Sugar Belle would have listened to Mac narrate the telegram directory, so it was extra wonderful today’s subject matter was so interesting. Sugarcube Corner counted even princesses as their patrons, and had won “Best Cake In Equestria” at the Royal Canterlot Bake-Off several times. Sugar Belle looked at Cup Cake again after that, and realized she’d seen her before at one of those baking competitions. If both of these blueberry muffins were anything to go by, the blue baker had earned her ribbons.

Sugar Belle did have a bit of trouble getting the sandwich down, though through no fault of the food. She nearly spit it out laughing as Big Macintosh told her of his first “date” here, under the effects of the love potion his little sister had brewed. Then she took another unexpected pause when she found the distinct taste of a single pea hidden in her leafy treat, another classic pastry maker trick to test if another baker was the real deal or not. Still, she finished her sandwich and both muffins before her coltfriend ate half of his own meal, with plenty of appetite to spare for tonight’s feasting.

Big Macintosh was just wrapping up his last story of the time he lost his voice. “... and then Fluttershy got her voice back to normal, an’ she found she liked singing after all. Us Ponytones still sing once a month here, but with a smaller crowd. She’s Fluttershy, that’s for sure.”

“You’re full of surprises, Mister Macintosh! I never knew you were in an acapella band. After all, that was a country track you sang back then,” Sugar Belle said, using her magic to wipe a napkin over his lips.

“Eeyup. Being the bass is my strong suit. Now, I sometimes hear you hummin’ when you’re baking. Can you sing too?”

Eeyup,” she mimicked. “I have a pretty sunny singing voice. Though it’s mostly just in the shower.”

“I’d love ta hear it sometime.”

“Sure!” She wiggled her eyebrows and twirled her mane hair around her hoof. Then she went for the kill. “Can your home’s shower fit two ponies, big guy?”

The couple hadn’t yet progressed past nose nuzzles, so Big Macintosh would definitely need a minute to recover from that line. Sugar Belle used the time to count out the bits to pay for their meal, one by one, plus a generous tip for Mrs. Cake. With a little extra bounce in her step, so the pink unicorn trotted over to the counter to chat with their hostess. Cup was alternating between glancing at a picture on the table, and fawning over the young couple in love. When Sugar Belle came close, she looked at her, and said, “I knew you looked familiar, dearie. You were that sweet little filly who won Baker’s Northeastern eight years ago.”

Sugar Belle’s eyes widened a bit. She hadn’t thought about that particular bake-off in a while. Cup turned the photo around, a capture of the winners of the event, and Sugar Belle saw her teenage self front and center. The little girl stood proud with a brace-filled grin and a blue ribbon held in her cyan aura, next to a marbled cake that looked delicious even as a picture. Cup Cake was in the photo as well, holding the white ribbon of third place in her mouth. Sugar Belle smiled a bit as she remembered how that same ribbon was on display back home.

“Earning first place at such a young age!” Mrs. Cake commented. “Wherever you were competing later, you must’ve earned top marks for sure!”

She glowed at the praise. “Aww, thank you, but you’re no slouch yourself, Mrs. Cake. Your blueberry muffins are probably better than mine! And, I noticed a little something extra hidden in the sandwich.”

“Oh, I was almost worried you wouldn’t spot it, princess.” They both giggled at the mock-title. “There’s only a few ponies with as good a palette each generation, and to have one come visit out of the blue... oh, it’s just a real treat.”

“You’re too kind!” Sugar Belle looked down at the counter. The baked goods on display were the standard fare, but were crafted with a skill that comes from decades of experience and finely-tuned cooking equipment. An idea popped in her head. “These all look so good, I almost wish the Apples weren’t going to have such a huge dinner for me. But I know! What if tomorrow we baked a few quick treats, together?”

Mrs. Cake seemed surprised at the offer, and then nodded and smiled. With a slight quaver in her peachy voice, she said, “You are really just like her...” Sugar Belle noticed her eyes getting wet again.

Sugar Belle titled her head, raising an eyebrow. “Just like... who?” A bit of red filled her peripheral, as Big Macintosh made his way over to the register as well.

“Oh, it’s just... So long ago, Big Macintosh’s mother and father would always sneak out on dates here.” She sniffled a bit. “They would always sit across from each other, and the first time they shared an ice cream shake...”

Sugar Belle raised a hoof to cover her mouth, her eyes twinkling in understanding. “Would it look just like that?”

Mac looked away bashfully, as Mrs. Cake gave a nod. “They were both such wonderful ponies. Big Mac’s mom and I grew up together, and I would never have been the baker I am today if she wasn’t always helping. And look at you and Mac! It was only a year ago he was as quiet as a mouse, but you two are chatting away the evening! Thank Celestia I got to see it.”

Sugar Belle “awwed,” and leaned into her coltfriend. He was a bit farther than she’d estimated, so she toppled into his embrace, and they both giggled. She levitated the meal’s payment, but Mrs. Cake wiped her eyes and shook her head. “Oh, no no no! This is my treat, please!”

Sugar Belle gave a half-smile, unsure, but never dropping her cheerful expression. The unicorn would normally never say no to saving a few bits; they were rarely exchanged in the limited pool shared between Ourtown residents, and favors and IOUs were the default currency. Yet, she’d had such a wonderful date in Sugarcube Corner thanks to Mrs. Cake, and she couldn’t let leave such a nice pony with nothing but a warm feeling.

“Really, I insist,” she said, but only got another solemn headshake. Sugar Belle looked down at the pastry display, and eyed one of the cupcakes closest to the glass - Orange Tangerine, extra sprinkles.

“Actually, could I have something for the road?” She asked, as bubbly as possible. “It just looks so good!”

“Of course, dearie! And before you ask, this one’s on me, too.”

Since the blue baker was an Earth Pony, she had to lean down to retrieve the pastry tray, and then select that particular cupcake, and finally return upright to wrap the treat in a travel box. That gave Sugar Belle a few seconds to carefully, quietly levitate the bits into the tip jar, where they blended in perfectly with the coins already inside.

She felt green eyes upon her, and turned to see Mac trying to decide how he felt about her action. On one hoof, his marefriend did go against Mrs. Cake’s wishes and pull a little sleight-of-hoof trick on her. At the same time, he knew she did it for the best possible reason, and his own worker’s pride would’ve insisted on a tip in the same situation. Sugar Belle looked a little worried until he leaned in and nuzzled her just above the ear, signalling his approval.

After all, unexpected treats were the best. Right after them were cupcakes for the road.


Less than two hours later, Sugar Belle found herself on the opposite side of the counter, helping bake the delicious apple treats for their upcoming dinner. The pink unicorn took a deep breath, inhaling the marvelous aromas of cinnamon and apples intermingling with the rising dough and firewood. She loved creating pastries even more than eating them, so Big Macintosh must’ve made sure his family left a few gaps on the menu to be filled by their special guest. With Applejack helping her, it’d be a great chance to show off a bit of her own baking skill while also getting to know her coltfriend’s sister a little better.

It was a little awe-inspiring, standing next to one of the multiple-time saviors of Equestria, doing something as simple as making apple fritters. Yet Applejack didn’t seem to let it go to her head. Every time she came up, Mac always spoke so highly of his sister, how she’s Ponyville most dependable, level-headed, and down to Earth filly.

... But Big Mac also said his sister was one of the most welcoming, earnest, and well-meaning ponies that Sugar Belle would ever meet. That didn’t seem to be the case, but she’d never known her coltfriend to tell a lie. It wasn’t that Applejack was trying to make her feel unwelcome, but she knew how to tell when somepony wasn’t pleased with her. Some cues were as subtle as avoiding eye contact, and some weren’t, like the complete lack of any small talk as the two mares worked in tandem. It bothered her to think that Applejack hated her, and the familiar, horrible idea wasn’t going away, sitting like an undercooked cookie in her gut.

For the third time, Sugar Belle tried to start up another conversation. “You know, it was really great walking through Ponyville. Even ponies I never met said hello and wished me a good evening. You’re all so nice here.”

“Uh huh. Friendliest town in Equestria, after all. ‘Specially since, ya know, Twi lives here, and she’s the Princess of Friendship.”

Sugar Belle pursed her lips, and spoke as she mixed a bowl of batter with her magic. “Well, mostly everypony. I noticed a few mares here and there giving me a nasty look when they thought I wasn’t looking.” That part was true, a couple of ponies did give her glares when they saw her next to Big Macintosh. Sugar Belle just left out how she considered Applejack to be one of those mares.

Applejack tapped her chin, leaving a dollop of pie crust batter on her chin. Sugar Belle stifled a giggle at the sight. “Aww, sorry Sugarcube. But it’d make sense. Ah’ve caught nearly half the town’s fillies making goo-goo eyes at mah brother at one point or another. He was Ponyville’s most eligible bachelor, after all.”

Was.” Sugar Belle emphasized, in a singsong fashion. She could hardly blame all the other fillies, seemingly losing their established dreamboat a newcomer almost overnight. But Mac was happy, she was happy, and that’s what mattered, and she would do her best to win them over.

“Yep,” Applejack responded flatly.

“I hope they’ll come around eventually,” Sugar Belle said. “I wish I could get along with everypony.”

Applejack shrugged. “Shucks. Ya can be the ripest, juiciest apple in Equestria, and some ponies are always gonna hate apples, no matter what.”

Sugar Belle remembered exactly where she’d heard that tone of advice-dealing. Less wisdom, more justification. It comes from a contest judge eliminating her from a competition, and a landlord explaining why she was being evicted. To get it from Applejack... She just wished that aphorism wasn’t about her.

The egg timer rang. Both mares’ ears perked up, and Sugar Belle was the closest to the oven. No time to mull over Applejack’s answer further. The pink unicorn put the oven cloth in her mouth, and expertly removed the tray of apple fritters. Sugar Belle had her horn’s magic, yes, but feeling the heat of the baking process always gave her a better feel for the batch. And, Sugar Belle thought to herself, maybe Applejack will like it more. She’s an Earth Pony, after all.

After the fritters were cooled and glazed, she lifted one at random off the tray, and then turned to Applejack while wearing the best smile she could. “Here,” she offered, “I think I’ve been getting really good at these apple recipes.”

Applejack leaned in and took a bite, and Sugar Belle watched a parade of emotions march across the farmer’s freckled face. Surprise, delight, then bitterness and frustration, ending with a blank stare at the floating fritter. Sugar Belle cleared her throat, “So, how does it taste, Applejack?”

Applejack tilted her head up and looked back to her. "Tastes just l- It’s real good, Sugar," she said.

Sugar Belle released the breath she was holding, and perked up immediately. Applejack was telling the honest truth (at the risk of stating the obvious, she thought to herself with a giggle). Her taste tester licked her lips, and asked, "You doubled the cinnamon, didn't ya?"

Sugar Belle nodded. "Eeyup!"

Applejack looked a little annoyed by that. Okay, she wouldn’t use that line around her. The orange pony continued, "Funny. I’dn’t’ve thought you’d coulda read the Apple Family cookbook without me noticin’.”

The pink unicorn paused, “You did... would... whaa?”

After a moment, Sugar Belle finally deciphered the country contraction. “Oh! Actually, I didn’t read your family recipe.”

She turned and sat, pointing at her pink cupcake cutie mark. "Call it my intuition. You Apples just seem like a double cinnamon type of family!"

Applejack's eyes opened a bit, looking at Sugar's mark but quickly settling on her poofy tail at her hooves, a little amused. "You're right about that, Sugar."

The pink unicorn beamed at her. Yet once that exchange finished, Applejack turned right back around and got to mixing the next bowl of batter, leaving a smiling Sugar Belle grinning at the back of her yellow mane. Her smile grew smaller and smaller until it was nothing more than a pursed frown. Sugar Belle stood up and cleared her throat. "So, did you like it?"

"Sure did," Applejack responded, not turning her head. It was an honest answer that didn't answer her question honestly. Finally, Sugar Belle worked up the nerve to choose a better question.

"Applejack, is something wrong?"

"What?"

The farmpony stopped stirring the bowl and turned to her. She looked genuinely confused to see Sugar Belle frowning. The pink unicorn immediately averted her eyes, rubbing one forehoof with the other as she offered, "I know I don't know you that well yet, but you're acting pretty uncomfortable. And it's only around me. I didn't want to say anything, but... I want us all to get along. If there's something I'm doing that’s bothering you, please, just tell me?"

Applejack opened her mouth to respond, but she discarded her first answer. If Sugar Belle hadn't been so focused she would have missed it. A beat later, she gave a reassuring look and said, "Don't worry none, Sugar. You're doin' just fine."

She seemed to be telling the truth, but it didn't seem to match up with how she was acting. The averted gazes, frowning to see her with Mac, those glances at her mane...

Wait, it couldn't be. She gasped, perplexing Applejack further. Quickly, Sugar Belle peeked around the kitchen doors, trying to see if Big Mac had somehow snuck his massive frame inside and within earshot. The coast was clear. She leaned in and whispered to Applejack, "Do you have a crush on me?"

Applejack blinked once, then twice, then took a deep breath and burst out laughing. Loud guffaws erupted deep from her barrel, and she had to lean on Sugar Belle to stop from keeling over (and despite her nearly identical frame to the unicorn mare, Applejack's weight nearly toppled her). Sugar Belle winced and looked away. That was pretty solid misread on her part.

Applejack wiped tears of laughter from her freckled cheeks, struggling to get her fit under control. "Sugar, you are one silly pony!” Another laugh took another few seconds to finish. “Missy, I can pinkie promise ya, I don’t feel that way about you.”

The Element of Honesty, unsurprisingly, was telling the truth. Applejack shook her head mirthfully and resumed the food preparation, with a low chuckle occasionally escaping from the farmpony’s lips. Sugar Belle inwardly groaned, and decided to cut her losses. It was a familiar and stale routine, to bury herself in the baking, and treat her passion like it was a chore. However, it kept her focused, or distracted, she didn’t care. There wasn't a word between the two that wasn't a simple order or request, until the food was done, and their strange one-sided animosity persisted well into dinner.


Sugar Belle felt quite unwell. That part was true. Needing to use the washroom was just an excuse to leave the table, however, and one that she hoped her coltfriend would pick up on. She did keep up the ruse by standing in the doorframe of the bathroom. It was just far enough that she couldn’t make out any specific words, only voices, so she sighed in relief and motioned closer when a familiar red mass rounded the corner.

Big Mac titled his head quizzically at his marefriend, but approached without hesitation when he saw how distraught she appeared. Once he was close enough, she cast her eyes downward and pushed her forehead in, and as she hoped, she felt Big Mac drape his hoof over her withers. He began to rub softly, but let her speak first.

Sugar Belle took a deep breath, then released it. She listened down the hall, where all three of the remaining Apple voices seemed to be having a great time without her intrusion. With that, she pulled Big Macintosh into the washroom and shut the door. Sugar Belle took another deep breath, and confessed, “I think Applejack hates me.”

The rubbing stopped as he flinched, and she did too at his reaction. Big Macintosh’s other hoof came under and cupped her jaw, and raised it to look her in the eyes. His own were filled with only concern, easing her worry just a bit. He said in his quiet rumble, “What makes you say that, Sugar?”

“It’s the way she acting around me, Mac,” Sugar Belle explained, and told him everything she noticed. “Is she ever like this when you have a guest over?”

He tapped his chin, racking his mind through what must’ve been decades of memories. “Nnnope. She is being a mite quiet today, Sugar. But that don’t mean she hates ya.”

“It doesn’t mean she doesn’t!” she said suddenly, raising her voice. Sugar Belle quickly covered her mouth with her hoof, then peeked out the door to listen if her tiny outburst had carried to the dining room. Judging by the continued conversation, she was in the clear. From her bed in the hallway, Winona gave the mare a very odd look. She sighed, and brought her hoof to the bridge of her nose. “I must sound so paranoid right now.”

“You don’t to me, darlin’,” he reassured her. “I know why that bothers ya.”

“You would remember, wouldn’t you? You always do.” She closed her eyes. “Just when I thought I put it all behind me...”

His hoof began stroking her head and mane again, and Sugar Belle relaxed. At least there was a silver lining to her mini-breakdown, in that her coltfriend would be extra affectionate. Exhausted, she said, “Is it selfish of me to want your sister and I to get along? Your family is just so wonderful to each other, but I can’t be a part of it until you all want me here.”

Big Macintosh’s coarse hooves reached the blue beads of her hair scrunchie, and he paused. “Family,” he repeated to himself, turning them over and over. Sugar Belle had to maneuver around her anchor to look at Mac with a perplexed expression, just in time to see him visibly solve his little mystery. “That’s it! Sugar, remember what Mrs. Cake said to you near the end of our date? You reminded her of somepony.”

“Mmhmm, she said that I reminded her of... of your mother.” She inhaled. “That means Applejack... She’s not fully over it, is she? Oh, I must’ve been drawing up all kinds of awful feelings for her all day.”

Big Macintosh nodded solemnly. “You probably have. But that ain’t important now, Sugar. You’re ya own mare, and AJ needs to know that.”

“How?” She pressed herself into him once more, but to her surprise, he pulled away. Big Macintosh took both of her hooves in his, and held her gaze.

Firmly, he asked, “Sugar, can you tell the family why you ended up in Starlight’s village?”

Sugar Belle immediately frowned, and tried to pull away. “Big Mac! You know that’s very personal to me! Why would you think I’d tell it to anypony I just met, even if they are your family?”

Big Mac wasn’t letting her go, however. “Sugar, please. Applejack needs to know why she’s hurting ya. Sis’ a good pony at heart, so she’ll make this right.”

She relaxed, and Big Macintosh dropped her hooves. Sugar Belle asked, “What about the rest of the family? Them too?”

“Well, it’d help them get to know ya better, especially Applejack,” he stated, plainly. “Two apples in one bite.”

Sugar Belle tried to visualize that idiom, and giggled a bit. It staved away the unease for a moment. Then she had to make a difficult choice. But, there was only one option with an outcome she wanted.

“Okay Mac. I’ll do it.”

Moments later, Big Macintosh stepped into the dining room doorway, and gestured her forward. Sugar Belle peeked around the corner, still finding the Apples chatting and dining as usual. Doing just fine without her, the thought crossed her mind. She exhaled, trying to shoo the idea with it, and followed he coltfriend back into the room. When the rest of the family finally noticed her return, she offered only a sheepish smile.

“Well, welcome back, missy!” Granny Smith greeted. “Tell me, how exactly did Big Mac help ya use the washroom?”

“Uhh...” She was at a blank, but she saw Applejack and Apple Bloom covering their mouths and giggling, while Big Macintosh was rolling his eyes. Then she giggled too, as she got an idea about Mac’s excuse for leaving the table.

“Anywho,” Granny announced, wiping her mouth with a napkin, “I hope ya feeling better now. Ya been quiet as a field mouse the whole dinner.”

“Yeah,” added Applejack. “You didn’t come all this way just to say nothing now, sugarcube.”

“Oh, I’m alright now. Thanks.” Sugar Belle offered.

“Good, you’re just in time to stop gabbin’ and listen for one of Granny’s famous dinner stories. Now, back in–”

“Actually,” Big Macintosh interrupted, “I think Sugar Belle here wants to tell a story. Ya know, to help us get to know her better.”

The whole table seemed a bit surprised at the eldest Apple sibling speaking over Granny Smith, but the old green mare was the first to lean forward intently. She asked, “That true, Sugar?”

Sugar Belle was just taking her seat again, and she nodded yes to the question. She added, “It’s a good one. It’s, ah, how I ended up in Ourtown.”

Three mares, three blank stares. “In Starlight’s village, I mean.”

“Oh.”

The room felt warmer all of a sudden. It was stuffy, like the air stopped circulating, and all eyes were on her. Sugar Belle probably would have laughed it off and tried make herself look small, if she didn’t see Big Mac giving her an encouraging smile. Like he thought it was the easiest thing in the world to talk with him nearby. When their roles were reversed, that was always true.

Sugar Belle started with a nervous giggle, but started nonetheless. She began with a little explanation on how Ourtown’s residents gave up their cutie marks in an attempt to force equality on themselves. That part came easy; it was simply stating facts. Then came the personal part.

“I got my cutie mark by – how else? –making cupcakes. It was my school’s bake sale. I made such a mess baking for the first time, I didn’t even see my mark under the batter until I took a bath! That was the fun part of my life, just baking whatever recipes I could find, and sharing them with my friends. I even entered Baker’s Northeastern for fun, and won my first blue ribbon.”

“Whoa nelly, that fancypants cookoff in Fillydelphia?” Applejack added, “Every Apple knows that one as ‘the one we never placed higher than a green ribbon.’ You’re telling us you beat all of those double-layer cakes with fillings from fruits I never even heard of, at your age?”

“Mmhmm! It really was fun, and I came home with so many ideas for new recipes. Though I think I won because a few of the best cooks missed that year. And...” Sugar Belle reached for her mane tip, playing with the tip again. “It’s also the only blue ribbon I’ve won,” she confessed.

“I was invited onto a cooking competition show. ‘Crucible Cook-Off,’ it was called. Yes, that one, with the loudest, angriest host chefs in Equestria, but I thought I didn’t have anything to worry about, you know? I loved baking, and my cutie mark and blue ribbon proved it. It was great, at first. We worked together in teams, the recipe book was this tall–” she raised her hoof off the table high enough to fit her head under it “–and if we won, we’d get our own restaurant in Canterlot.

“Of course, I found out the hard way it wasn’t a cakewalk. We all loved cooking or baking, but only one of us could win.. I guess everyone else decided it wasn’t going to be me, behind my back. I thought they were being nice when they let me try the tastiest-looking but hardest desserts, but they were just making sure I could take the blame if something went wrong. When it did, they... all turned on me. After that, I couldn’t- They were all whispering behind my back, everyone was waiting for me to mess up, so that meant I was focused on them so I did mess up, so it kept snowballing...” She couldn’t help but steal a look at Applejack. When their eyes met, Applejack looked away. “At the end, I had to give the most famous food critics in Equestria burnt baklavas. Then...”

Sugar Belle inhaled, then exhaled. She hadn’t thought this far ahead with how to tell her story, and she probably sounded like she was rambling. As she was still searching for the right words, Big Macintosh wrapped his hoof around hers, and gave it a squeeze. His fetlocks tickled her sensitive inner wrist, and the pleasant sensation loosened the anxiety just a bit. Sugar Belle squeezed back and gave him a nervous smile.

“Anyway, that was the probably the worst night of my life. After that, I couldn’t make a cupcake for myself without wondering if somepony else would spit it out in disgust. Baking wasn’t fun anymore, and my cooking got worse and worse. It seemed like everything about my talent was a mistake. Then I met Starlight Glimmer.”

The room was a little blurrier, but Sugar Belle felt a little calmer, oddly. She was still squeezing Big Macintosh’s hoof like she was getting the last bit of icing out of its tube, however. Applejack cleared her throat, and spoke up, “Gosh, sugarcube, that sounds horrible.” There was a softness in her tone that wasn’t there all day.

“But you’re better now, right?” Apple Bloom asked, sugary and sincere. Sugar Belle couldn’t help but smile at the adorable little filly.

“Oh, definitely. Mostly.” Sugar Belle looked at Applejack. “I have your big sister and her friends to thank for that. But you know that story already.” All the Apples nodded.

“We threw a big party after we were freed, and Pinkie Pie helped me make the food. I had only been making awful muffins for years, I was worried Pinkie Pie would blow my cakes out of the water. Of course, she did. I just had a boring iced vanilla cake, and somehow Pinkie came up with marbled, three layer cake with buttercream frosting, and I didn’t even have any of those. I asked my friends what they thought of both of them afterward, and they said they liked both. Pinkie’s cake was better, definitely, but they still liked eating mine!

“That made a world of difference, knowing that ponies still liked what I made even if I wasn’t the best. I just stopped worrying so much. I started baking for myself again, and trying out new recipes and adding new ingredients. A lot of the early stuff came out a mess, but the more I tried, the better the treats came out, and I had so much fun each time.” She put a hoof over her chest and sighed contentedly. “I remembered why I loved baking. It was like getting my cutie mark all over again!”

After that, Sugar Belle needed a breath, and only then did she realize how excited she was. She rolled her weight back in her chair, returning to the nervous smile that served her so well. Everyone in the room was focused on her as she finished her tale. Even Winona had moved her hallway bed to the doorframe to listen attentively. The pink unicorn gave a tiny wave of the hoof and said, meekly, “The End.”

Big Macintosh’s hoof cupped around her head to her closer, and the larger pony kissed her forehead when they met halfway. “I’m proud of ya for sharin’ your story, Sugar. Took a lotta moxie.”

Sugar Belle leaned into him a bit more. “Oh, it was nothing.” It was just the opposite, actually. “I know, it was a lot of personal stuff, and probably went on too long. After all, I’m a baker, not a storyteller.”

“It’s alright, Miss Sugar Belle,” said Apple Bloom. “We’ve heard stories about Granny and mah sis and brother more times than I can count. It’s about time we heard something new over dinner that wasn’t from our family.”

“I’m gonna hafta stop you there, AB.” Applejack interjected, making Sugar Belle tense up. “Sugar might be new here, but I’ll be darned if we aren’t gonna treat our here guest like family.”

The unicorn perked up another order of magnitude, cerise eyes open and ecstatic. She looked to Big Macintosh, whose green eyes and wide smile read “Ah Told You So,” and she was grinning too much to care. Then she looked Applejack dead on.

The orange farmpony had only her eyes and a wry smile, but Sugar Belle read the apology in her face, and also the sincere hope. It was a look that said she didn’t mean to give her worry, and how she wanted to start over again. Without a word in return, Sugar Belle gave a tiny nod. Apology accepted. They grinned together, honestly and widely.

Applejack said, “I think we’re gonna get along just fine now, sugarcube.”

“Eeyup.”

They both giggled at that response. It felt wonderful.

A clang of silverware against ceramic caught Sugar Belle’s attention. “Now, now, Missy,” Granny Smith began. “Hope ya can eat like an Apple! Now that your mouth is done gabbin’, get some food in there! We didn’t make all this food so ya can peck at it like a hen on a diet.”

Sugar Belle’s stomach rumbled in agreement, since the unicorn hadn’t had a bite since the dinner started. Her appetite had returned along with her good spirits, it seemed. Granny was right, the table spread looked like it could feed them for a week. And there was an intimidatingly large number of apple-themed dishes. Sugar Belle decided to ease into the apple buffet, and levitated over a ladle of plain mashed potatoes to start. She took a bite.

They were apple-flavored.


Between the five of them, there weren’t even any leftovers. Afterward, the family of earth ponies witnessed the wonder of a practiced unicorn horn versus a sink of dirty dishes for a scant two minutes, which gave them all plenty of time to relax, bond, and enjoy the evening. The sky was dark, the hearth was lit, and everything was just perfect for the pink unicorn.

Granny Smith ate her fill and immediately retired to bed, while Winona watched the fun from another doggie bed in the family room. Big Macintosh sat next to her on the couch, arm around her barrel in classic perfect pony paramour position, and the other two Apple siblings sat on either side of her as they flipped through the Apple Family photo album.

“...and that’s why Big Macintosh is in a bunny onesie!” Apple Bloom finished her story. Sugar Belle giggled politely and intentionally failed to hide it behind a hoof, and delighted in the blush on her coltfriend’s face.

“Aww. Don’t be embarassed, big guy!” Sugar Belle offered in a delighted voice. “You look adorable as a cutesy-wootsy bunny rabbit.”

“Ah think you’d look even better in that outfit, darlin’.” Big Macintosh said back, his face cooling a bit.

Sugar Belle stuck out her tongue playfully, “You’re going to have to wait, Mac. I can’t do the family traditions if I’m not part of your family yet.”

“In name, Sugar Belle,” Applejack said. “You’re already an Apple in spirit.”

Sugar Belle smiled. It was night and day between her night and day with Applejack. “Eeyu–”

“Don’t wear it out, sugarcube,” Applejack interrupted, in a firm but not overly rude fashion.

The pink unicorn tilted her head in acknowledgement. Saying nothing but Eeyup all the time would get old. Big Macintosh gave a deep belly chuckle at the polite shutdown, and Applejack just shrugged in response. Sugar Belle ignited her horn and used her magic to flip through the album, searching for a picture with a good story as she spoke. “Well, that’s only fair, and I- waaait a second, where’d this picture of me come from?”

All the Apples looked confused. “What? We don’t have no pictures...” The boisterous evening suddenly hushed itself.

Sugar Belle looked more closely at a black and white picture of herself, except it wasn’t a photo of herself at all. The mare in the photo had a similar poofy mane with hair decorations, but no horn. The cutie mark was different too. Sugar Belle looked to Big Macintosh, whose eyes were wide and ponderous as he said, “Sugar, that’s a photo of my ma. Buttercup.”

He turned a page with his hoof, showing another photo of Buttercup, this time in color and with a pony she could only guess was her husband. With the added detail, she noticed more of the differences, but also a few more odd similarities. Still...

Sugar Belle looked over to Applejack. Her lips formed a thin, neutral line, and her green eyes bounced between the photo and Sugar Belle herself. It looked like her breath caught in her chest, and Sugar Belle worried she was slipping back into her previous attitude. She shifted her own look back to the album.

“So...” Sugar Belle started. “...I’d like to know more about your parents.”

They told her. Each Apple sibling took turns weaving a colorful history about how their father Bright Mac met Buttercup, and how they struggled all their lives to make their forbidden romance official. Then came the anecdotes, like when Bright Mac taught his son how to applebuck, or Buttercup showing Applejack how to strum a guitar, and their lullabies for when their children refused to sleep. All of them were misty eyed by the end, even Sugar Belle.

“Your parents went through so much,” Sugar Belle finally said. “Buttercup, especially. She’s definitely my kind of mare.”

“You’re right about that, Sugar Belle,” Apple Bloom added. “You are a lot alike.”

“Eeyup,” agreed Big Macintosh.

“Yeah. Real alike.” Applejack continued. It looked like she was frowning, which made the unicorn’s heart start pumping faster. This issue was settled, right? “It’s almost suspicious.”

Then one corner of the frown shifted further to the side. Applejack gave a wicked smirk at her big brother. “So, your marefriend reminds all of us of our Ma, Big Mac.”

Sugar Belle didn’t even try to hide her laughter.

Mac looked confused for a moment. Then he looked dumbfounded. And embarrassed. Very, very embarrassed. “Uhhhhh...” .

“You’re dating a filly who reminds ya of Momma! Haha! Don’t one of Twi’s books call that a fancy name or something?” Applejack asked.

“Ooh! Ooh!” Apple Bloom leapt up from the couch cushion and waved a hoof. “I know this one! It’s called a-”

“It ain’t that!” Big Mac countered, a bit louder than his normal speaking voice. His furious blush and the mares giggling all around him severely undercut his serious tone, however.

Applejack kept smiling. “Sounds exactly like that ta me, Mac.”

“Eeenope! Sugar’s a unicorn, Ma’s an earth pony. She don’t always act like Ma. It doesn’t line up!”

Sugar Belle spoke up as she fought back the giggling. She could focus on the weird later, right now it was just funny. “I’m going to have to side with my stallion here. At least from what you told me, I’m more rowdy than your mother, I need a little more excitement, and for one I definitely know I’m a unicorn.”

Big Macintosh whickered in approval, glad how his marefriend came to his defense. His innocence was his downfall once again, however. Sugar Belle winked at Applejack, and continued, “I just look a lot like your mother, is all.”

Her stallion whinnied in shock from the betrayal, while his sisters started a fresh round of laughter. He protested, “No! Come on, y’all!”

“She’s right, ya know,” Applejack said. “Our ma had a poofy mane.”

“I have a poofy mane!” Sugar Belle sang, laying herself flat on the couch and tossing her mane dramatically to the side. From her vantage, she saw Big Macintosh’s green eyes, which begged for mercy. But teasing him was too sweet.

“Yeah! And Ma had blue hair scrunchies!” Apple Bloom piped in.

“Oh, you mean like these blue hair scrunchies?” Sugar Belle took the closest mane decoration, the one that Big Macintosh loved to play with, and waved it right at him.

“Can’t forget how good of a cook Momma was.”

“I love cooking! Just like her!”

Big Macintosh had given up trying to defend himself by then, simply leaning his head back into the couch and shutting his eyes. The jesting continued back and forth between the three girls, until Sugar Belle finally decided Big Mac suffered enough. A delicate wave of the hoof ended the teasing, and Apple Bloom and Applejack returned to the album, flipping through their parents’ section and recounting the happy memories from before. The pink unicorn lit her horn and pulled Mac’s head back down, right into an apology noseboop.

His marefriend said, all sugary and serene, “Cheer up, Big Mac. You know we’re just having fun. And it’s kinda cute, actually.”

His annoyed expression mellowed immediately, as he looked down into eyes that promised plenty of make-up cupcakes tomorrow. He rolled his eyes, and she giggled, and all was well once more. Sugar Belle could save the wondering about their future for later. Right now, she just felt like spending the evening with her newfound family.

Author's Note:

Been a while. Hope you like it.

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