• Published 5th May 2018
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Alternate Beginnings: Year One - Doug Graves



Seven years before the events of MLP:FiM, a human appears in Equestria, meeting Applejack and other ponies of Ponyville.

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3 After Dinner*

‘A warm bed…’

The words echo in Applejack’s mind. She stares blankly at the dining room table for several long seconds before she glances to her bedroom, thinking about the novel on her nightstand she had recently finished. 'Just a little something to take the edge off' Rarity said when she lent it to her. Could he really be thinking about that? She looks at Big Mac; he slowly recovers as well, glancing at the door to the kitchen Doug just walked through. The sounds of the sink starting and dishes washing echoes from the kitchen. Applejack barely notices as she thinks back to the day they had spent together.

It is infrequent, to say the least, for them to have visitors at the farm. Most ponies prefer to do their shopping at the market, and even the business contracts for other towns and cities generally gets handled at Ponyville. Despite the town being primarily earth ponies, there is a dearth of ponies who are interested in working for hire at the farm; they hadn’t needed it when her parents were around, and her Apple pride has kept her from reaching out to any pony now that they could use the help. Well, other than during Winter Wrap Up, but that just goes to show why they don’t pursue hiring ponies without a strong recommendation. Why, last winter that colt Caramel misplaced their spare snow plow!

Applejack has very high standards for any pony that wants to work with her. They have to be able to follow her instructions, performing tasks how she wants. They also have to be able to work independently, since she doesn’t like having to hold somepony’s hoof while they work, or even to have to double check their work once they say it is done. The work is from sunup to sundown, with a brief break for lunch that the Apple family provides. It is grueling work for an earth pony, and those few that are up for it generally have farms of their own. But work those grueling hours Doug did; while he might not have the rugged endurance she or Big Mac possessed, he had kept at it. Applejack always felt more tired learning than working, and he spent almost the whole time learning new things, how Applejack likes things done, and assisting wherever he could.

“Nnope.”

The hard statement startles Applejack out of her thoughts. Big Mac is giving her a stone-faced glare, and she returns a look no less stubborn, “What did you say?”

Big Mac shakes his head, “Nnope.”

“You want to know why Ah was considering his proposal?”

Big Mac continues his hard glare at Applejack; he knows she has to get this off her chest, if nothing else.

Her tone gets harsher as her rant builds up, “Ah can count on one hoof how many mares have come to this farm interested in you, Big Mac. And Ah can use that same hoof to count how many ponies have come here interested in me. You know why that is?”

Big Mac stares back at her for a few seconds before saying, “Ah know where you’re going with this, Sis, and my answer is still Nnope.”

Applejack continues unabated, “It’s because no pony wants to put up with the work we do around here. Ah know Ah'm not the easiest mare to get along with or work under. Most ponies chafe at getting bossed around for so long, having to do things a certain way, especially if it ain’t got to do with their talent. But, you should have seen him, Mac.” Her tone becomes more wistful, almost hopeful, “He didn’t complain once, the entire time we were working. Even after he hurt his leg bucking a tree, and failing miserably.”

“But Applejack, it’s too soon, too quick. Ah ain’t even gonna mention that he ain’t a pony and it would break Granny’s heart to not have foals playing around the farm again. Or how the townsponies will react to him. Ah can see you’ve made up your mind, but that ain’t gonna make me happy about this, no ma’am. He ain’t got my blessing, and ya should forget this whole proposal business and treat it like a misunderstanding.”

Applejack takes in his words, a tear forming in her eye, “But what if it ain’t a misunderstanding, Mac? Ah know he ain’t a pony, but Ah feel differently about Doug. Maybe it’s love, maybe Ah'm just being a foal, but Ah had one of the best days of my life out there with him. Ah want to spend the rest of those days with him too, teaching him how to be an Apple, how to farm even though he ain’t an earth pony. And maybe Celestia will hear my wish, and we’ll have the clip-clop of little hooves around here soon enough. But if Ah say no to him, and he decides to leave?”

The tears are coming unhindered now, and Big Mac moves over to Applejack, laying a comforting hoof over her. She nuzzles up to him, sobbing into his coat. In a low voice, Big Mac says, “He really means that much to ya?”

Tear-streaked eyes look up, meeting Big Mac’s, “He does, Celestia knows why, but he does.”

The moment is broken when Doug’s footfalls signal his return to the dining room. He gives a friendly smile to the two ponies, and Applejack motions with a hoof. She manages to make out without her voice breaking, “Last doorway on the left.”

Doug looks oddly at her before nodding, saying, “Well, it’s been a long day, and I’m going to turn in. See ya later, Big Mac, Applejack. Good night!”

The two ponies nod at Doug as he walks out of the room. Applejack looks up at Big Mac, giving him another squeeze. “Ah know ya still ain’t happy about this, but give him a chance. Ah know Ah took up most of his time today, try to spend some time with him tomorrow. Ah gotta go freshen up; good night.”

“Night, sis.” The two ponies split up, Big Mac to his room while Applejack heads to the bathroom.

Doug groans as he lowers himself onto the bed in the guest room. He suppresses a shiver as he lays down, the cold sheets slowly absorbing the last remnant of water on his bare skin. The bed barely fits his full height, and there isn’t a lot of space on either side of him. His body aches as he pulls the sheet aside and slips under, closing his eyes. He will be sore tomorrow, and doesn’t think Applejack will let up.

It has been a long first day, here in Equestria. Doug still has no idea how or why he woke up with nothing in the middle of a field next to a road on another world, but it sure could have turned out worse. Some of the stories Applejack has told him make him happy he woke up here instead of the nearby forest or the griffon lands. And for the ponies giving him the benefit of the doubt, taking him in, feeding him. Way better than he would have expected to be treated, and definitely not how he could imagine it turning out if the situation was reversed.

His skills from his previous job are useless, unfortunately. He has no idea how the equipment he used before works, at least as far as building one from scratch. He hasn’t seen a powered vehicle, them relying on literal pony power to get things done. At least his hands and tall stature make a lot of tasks comparatively easy for him, but a lot of their stuff is designed for ponies. He doesn’t quite grasp exactly how the ponies can pick things up, but his mind mostly shuffles that enigma into ‘It’s magic!’ and leaves it at that. His experience playing Dungeons and Dragons has really helped with the transition, making the whole concept of ‘poof! Strange things happen! Deal with it!’ a little easier. Or with the existence of magic at all. Still feels strange, but at least he hadn’t panicked too much when he first met Applejack. Or found out she could talk.

Applejack is attractive, at least for a pony, but he doesn’t know how to take a lot of her banter. She hasn’t mentioned a boyfriend (coltfriend? stallion?), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one in the nearby town. He generally flirted right back, or at least what he hopes is flirting, what with it being another culture and all. It doesn’t seem like she took offence, but who knows how she actually took half the stuff he has said to her, or if what she has said to him has a different meaning. "Oh, jeez," he mutters to himself, "I made a wildly inappropriate joke about her brother. I'm lucky she didn't buck me in the head." Aside from that, though, she sure is something else. He certainly feels more comfortable around her than any of his previous relationships, short lived as they were. Maybe that's why it slipped out.

He is quickly picking up how things are supposed to go around the farm. Applejack has been a patient, if strict, taskmaster. She certainly likes things done her way and nearly bucked him a couple times he had suggestions for how he could help out or do things differently. She was slowly coming around as the day wore on. Maybe she realized he was being honest in his attempts to help, or she noticed his limitations. How these ponies keep working for hours still amazes him. He will definitely need to get into better shape, starting with cardio. Maybe a jog tomorrow morning. And every morning after that.

After several minutes he hears the door creak open, and Applejack walk inside. He rolls over on the bed to get a better look; her eyes are a little red, and it seems like she hastily tried to make herself more presentable. Doug sits up as Applejack moves to the side of the bed. He tilts his head, raising an eyebrow at her. “Did I pick the wrong room? Sorry if I did.”

Applejack shakes her head before looking him in the eyes and saying, “It ain’t that. Did ya mean what ya said earlier, at dinner?”

Doug nods, saying, “Applejack, today turned from what could have been the worst into one of the best days of my life. I really enjoyed working with you, learning about the farm, and especially eating your cooking. I don’t know how it could have gone any better.”

Applejack smiles at him, “Doug, Ah feel the same way, Ah just had to be sure.” She pulls the sheet off his body, carefully climbing onto the bed. He automatically moves his arms to the sides of her barrel as she moves on top of him. She looks him in the eye and says, “Doug, Ah accept your proposal.”

Doug smiles back at her and says, “I’m glad to hear that.” She gently pushes him down on his back as he tentatively asks, “Applejack? What are you doing?”

“Shhh,” she replies in a soft voice, “Ah'm helping warm up the bed. Just like you asked.” She closes her eyes before moving down, kissing him full on the lips. Doug's trepidation dissipates as the mare slowly moves a hoof down his body, closing his eyes and kissing back.