• Published 25th Aug 2018
  • 795 Views, 52 Comments

Sensation - Appleloosa - Vivid Syntax



It's been an eventful year since the accident took Soarin's career from him, and Braeburn remembers every moment. He may say he's content, but there's something desperate behind those bright, green eyes.

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Chapter 2 - Have a Seat

"Hey. Heeeeeey." A feather pokes my side as a raspy voice fills my ear. "Psst! You gonna wake up? The sunburn's a bitch out here."

His breath tickles my ear, and my eyes flutter open. I smile. "Morning, Soarin'."

He stands in front of me, grinning wide and holding a glass full of water just above my head. "Aw… You know, I was just about to do it."

I laugh. "I don't doubt it."

He sets the glass down gently with his… Wow. His forelegs look stronger, much better than the last time I saw them. Sure, there's a tiny amount of swelling around his fetlocks, but that could be from practice as much as anything else. They still look off, but he stands proudly on them, like he's in no pain at all. "Jeez, how's your neck?"

I, however, am. I sit up and immediately wince. "Fine until you mentioned it." Soarin' gives me a hoof. I stand, accept a hug, and say, "How you been, buddy?"

He blows a raspberry. "You wanna be here all day?" He rolls his weight backwards and bows down, stretching out his forelegs.

Don't stare at his legs. "I already am, smartass."

Soarin' chuckles, a broad grin on his face.

I reach out and lightly punch his shoulder. "So," I say with a cocky tone. "Colt Scout Jamboree, was it? Think you're ready?"

His grin grows even more. "Haha! Not even close." Did he just shiver?

With a deep breath, my voice softens. "Seriously, though, how are you feeling?"

He sucks in a big breath, eyes wide. His smile grows broader and he stands up straighter as he looks at something in the distance. "Good," he says in a squeaky voice. "And…" He laughs and shakes his head. "And maaaaaybe like I might puke." At once, he reaches out a wing and pulls me in for a hug. "Thanks for coming."

"Wouldn't miss it." I hug him back, and we separate.

"You, uh…" Soarin' nervously runs a hoof through his mane. "You still good to help out with Braeburn today?"

"Certainly." I look out to the orchard again and squint at the light. "I'm glad this is all working out, too. You were right – it sounds like he needs to talk through a few things."

Soarin' starts to respond, but we hear the front door open. Braeburn's voice echos through the house. "You up, Blue? Mac's here."

Soarin' fluffs out and then flattens his wings. "Out back, Applebutt." He turns to me. "We cool?"

I wink in response.

We walk into the parlor from the back door. Soarin' immediately races to Braeburn's side and runs his body along his coltfriend's, like a cat would. Braeburn laughs and reciprocates. He pushes Soarin' a little harder and forces him to the side, making way for a gigantic earth pony stallion to step past. The new stallion has a red coat, wide hooves, and an orange-blonde mane. "Mornin'," he says in a low, masculine voice.

Braeburn tears himself away from Soarin' and steps up to the new pony. "Vivid, this is my cousin McIntosh. Folks call him Big Mac for short."

I extend a hoof. "Pleasure to finally meet you."

He looks me up and down. Seemingly satisfied, he shakes my hoof. "Pleasure's all mine."

"Hey!" Soarin' interjects. "You didn't say that when we met."

"Heh heh," Big Mac rumbles. "Well, Vivid here didn't barge into the house in the middle of a storm." He moves over and gives Soarin' a crushing hug. Soarin's spine pops four times. "You turned out to be a keeper, though."

Braeburn moves to the kitchen. "I'll whip us up some grub."

Soarin' pulls away from Mac, then steps over to give Braeburn a kiss. "I got it, babe."

"Aw, you'll be on your hooves all day, Blue." He pulls a pan out of a cupboard. "I don't mind."

Soarin' wheels around and shuts the cupboard door. "Heh. Weeeeeell, I mind." He playfully whaps Braeburn with a wing.

Braeburn sets his jaw. "C'mon, Blue. I gotta do somethin' today. Already gonna drive me nuts not helpin' with the jamboree."

Soarin' scrunches his face up with a smirk and gives a teasing shake of his head. "Nuh-uh. You've got tons on your plate already, Applebutt. You're entertaining guests, prepping the orchard, and…" He makes a little circle with his hoof. "…probably a bajillion other things. You gotta let me have something. Just for today? Please?"

Braeburn's voice lowers. "Soarin'…" His eyes droop. "You know I'm already havin' a tough time. Can't I help at all?"

Soarin' pauses, eyes a little more open. His expression fades, and he notices the slight crease on Braeburn's forehead. He sighs, then forces a smile. Actually, I don't think it's forced at all. "Together?"

Braeburn's eyes brighten. His face relaxes, then he theatrically sticks out his lower lip as he pretends to ruminate. "Hmm… Yeah, I can live with that."

"Okay. Agreed."

"Agreed."

They stare at each other for a moment. Then, at the same time, they stick their tongues out and each make a "nnnng" noise, followed by a shared laugh and a quick nuzzle.

Braeburn turns towards the counter. "Frittatas?"

Soarin' gives him a wing-hug. "I'll do the peppers if you've got the onion."

"Cheater. Heh heh."

As Big Mac and I finally follow them into the kitchen, I whisper to him, "Are they always like this?"

He laughs low and whispers back, "Eeyup."

We sit at a small kitchen table that's pushed to the side of the room and watch them work. Soarin' and Braeburn move fluidly around each other to gather ingredients and prepare the pans and the oven. Braeburn steps with confidence and grace, and even though Soarin's hooves clearly aren't as practiced as his coltfirend's, he does a great job weaving around Braeburn so that they're hardly ever in each other's way. Eggs get cracked, vegetables get diced, and a dozen subtle, delicious scents fill the small room. Braeburn puts the kettle back on to make some coffee.

"Gimme a hoof?" Big Mac asks me, nabbing my attention. We pull the table away from the window and position four chair comfortably around it. I sit with the sun at my back – maybe it'll balance out the warmth radiating from my face.

I relax into my chair as Soarin' tests the heat of the cast iron pan. "You two work well together."

Braeburn cranes his neck to see us. "Well, it took some adjustment."

I raise an eyebrow. "How so?"

Braeburn waves a hoof. "Aw, you know how it is." Soarin' bumps his flank with his own. "Hey!"

Soarin' flashes a grin. "Story time!"

"But we're–"

Soarin' interrupts him with a kiss. "I can take over, Applebutt. It's mostly mixing at this point, and I could use the practice with my coordination." He jerks his head to our table. "Have a seat." He rolls back and stretches his forelegs again with the same motion as before, like he's done it thousands of times.

Braeburn starts to protest, but then he smiles smugly. "Fine, mister." He rinses his hooves quickly. "You win, but you get to brown the onions."

"Aw…" Soarin's thrashes his tail once behind him, like a colt right before he gets an award, and he speaks cheerfully. "You got me."

Braeburn takes Soarin's face in his hoof, then leans in and kisses his forehead. "Darn right I do. And I ain't lettin' go." He turns to sit at our table, leaving Soarin' with a dopey, love-drunk look on his face. "Jeez, where to start…"

I shrug. "How about with the move?"

Braeburn smirks. "Ya' mean movin' Blue's caravan across the whole of Equestria?"

Soarin's ears flatten. He mumbles, "It wasn't that much stuff."

Braeburn uses his bombastic mayor voice. "Well, I do beg to differ, sir."

I chuckle and feel a familiar thrill go up my spine. "Last minute packing?"

Braeburn rolls his eyes. "Like you wouldn't believe."

==X===X===X===X===X==

If there's on thing that'll prove real friendship, it's asking somepony to help you move. Luckily, we've got some mighty fine friends.

Course, directing that many ponies is a chore in its own right, and Soarin', well…

I was great!

Naw, you weren't.

We were scrambling to finish packing up Soarin's condo back in Cloudsdale. Soarin' kept pacing back and forth in his bedroom upstairs while I folded those blankets he likes so much. He would occasionally stop to hover, slap his hooves to his face, and stretch his skin down, like he wanted the bags under his eyes to be even bigger. He kept shouting, "I don't know, I don't know!" as he'd flit from room to room trying to answer Fleetfoot and Fire Streak's questions. "Just… shove stuff in a box and we'll figure it out when we get there."

Fire Streak shrugged and stacked some photo frames into a chest. "You got it, bro!" Always enthusiastic about helping, that one.

Soarin' winced. "Eh, not like that." When he saw Fire Streak's expression flatten, Soarin' went slack and plopped back down to the floor on all fours. "Sorry, bro. Just please be careful with those."

Fleetfoot laughed. "What's wrong, Soarin'? Forget how to be a leader already?"

Soarin' half-growled, half-groaned.

I finished packing the blankets into some luggage and stood up. "He's mighty attached to those, Streak, and I am, too. I don't have copies of all of those yet." The answer always seems obvious when you're not the one with the responsibility. "Could you please grab some extra packing paper for those?"

Fire Streak swiveled his ears forward as it hit him. "Oh! Yeah, can do. Don't know why I didn't think of that." He grabbed some paper and continued packing.

"Yeah, like that," Soarin' sighed. "Thanks." He had that look he gets sometimes, like he's been awake for days, so I did what I always do: I let him know I was there for him. Soarin' loves being touched, so I walked up and rubbed my flank against his. You should see his face melt when he unwinds like that. He relaxes, and he takes a deep breath, and he always gives me a little cuddle to show his appreciation.

I said softly into his ear, "Streak's got it taken care of, Big Blue. Try to focus on the big stuff."

Soarin' groaned and looked down at his legs. He still had his braces on in those days, leftover from the, uh… accident. He grumbled, "You mean like the big stuff you won't let me carry?"

I hugged him close. "Not like that. Fleetfoot's got a point, though."

"Nice!" she gloated.

Soarin' glared at her.

Nothing that an even tone couldn't diffuse, of course. "I mean like directing. Fitting things into the moving trailer." I ran a hoof through that wild mane of his. "Making decisions is the hardest part, but when push comes to shove, you're good at that." I kissed his cheek. "You've made a hell of a lot of tough choices before."

His eyes widened a bit, and I could see a bunch of memories – not all pleasant, mind – play behind his eyes. But he understood, and he smiled at me. "Yeah. Good call. Thanks, Applebutt."

"Any time, Blue." I gave him one more squeeze, then left him to strategize about which boxes to carry down first.

I walked down the stairs to the main level and surveyed the surroundings. Most of the condo had been cleared out already, but the occasional Wonderbolt would flit through and grab something else to haul outside (and sneak one of the appetizers I'd made for them). I dipped into the parlor and found Miss Holli there, patching up a hole somepony had made in the wall.

Miss Holli's a wonder. There's nothing she can't do, whether it's doing half again her job at Soarin's favorite restaurant, giving advice to a sad pony who needs it, or, apparently, cloud masonry. She smoothed over a section of the wall with her trowel, wiped some sweat from her forehead, and acknowledged me. "Hey, Cutie!" She dropped the trowel into her bucket of… liquid cloud, I suppose? I never did quite figure out how it all works. "Everything running smoothly?"

Without a thought, I picked up some of the cloud-bubble wrap and carefully wound it around a lamp that Soarin's had forever. "Mm… Sort of."

"Soarin's losing his marbles up there, isn't he?"

We shared a laugh. "Something like that. Here, lemme take that trowel from you for a while." Miss Holli wouldn't let me, of course. She's mighty kind and more than a little stubborn. Always has been, from the first time I met her. She'd shown up early that morning, too, with tools to patch up the outside and the inside of the house. Now, I know a fat lotta nothin' when it comes to fixing cloud buildings, but when I wasn't helping Fleetfoot get some of the larger boxes out the back door, Holli showed me a bunch of different techniques she was using, from patch jobs to structural work. I lament that I didn't have time to practice what she showed. Though, I suppose earth ponies can't really pick up clouds. Those enchanted horse shoes are great for walking around, but they ain't really built with finesse in mind.

After a while, I heard a whistle blow outside. "Better go check on Spitfire," I said with a look over my shoulder.

Miss Holli chuckled. "I'd be more worried about the rest of the team. She's working them pretty hard." She picked up her tools again. "You go on, Cutie. I'm about done here."

With a quick bow and another thank-you, I walked out into the back yard. Spitfire was doing what she does best. "C'mon, 'Bolts! I've seen stronger wing flaps on a housefly! Now get that bookcase into the trailer before I make you start over!"

"Ma'am, yes, ma'am!" Wave Chill and Sightseer replied in unison. They hitched up their wings and floated carefully but quickly towards a giant moving trailer. It was one of those massive ones that you only ever seen when somepony's moving out. Soarin' was paying a fortune to get it delivered out to Appleloosa, but I can't say no to him. It's not like I had much at my place in those days. I hadn't thought Soarin' had much, either, but that trailer was getting full mighty fast.

"And don't scuff anything!" Spitfire picked up a box of books and placed it delicately in the trailer, right on one of the last open spaces on the floor. "Braeburn worked hard to make that bookcase look perfect!"

That got a small blush out of me. I picked up a small box and–

It was the biggest one, wasn't it?

Maybe.

I stuck the box on my back and followed her to the trailer. "Aw, you don't need to be so hard on them. Heck, I honestly did a pretty roughshod job getting it functional again." I mulled on it a bit. "Could use another touch-up. That corner looks a little wobbly, too, not to mention the uneven coat of paint on the right side. What it really needs is some detail work. A nice design, maybe."

I kept watching as they loaded it in, and I didn't snap out of it until I felt a couple hooves lift the box off my back. "Heh heh," Spitfire chuckled. "Nothing but perfection. You're a pony after my own heart, Braeburn." She grew artificially serious again, the way she does. "But these colts are getting out of weightlifting practice for this, so I'm not letting them off easy." She blew her whistle. "Move it!"

Spitfire's quite the pony. I've got the utmost respect for her and the rest of the Wonderbolts. What they do seems impossible, and not just because I don't have wings. I've seen their shows dozens of times now, and every time, my jaw drops at their sheer power and synchronicity. If anything, seeing them perform such amazing feats over and over again is more impressive, because they never miss a beat. Spitfire and Fire Streak are phenomenal leaders, and of course, they've always taken care of Blue.

I think that's the thing that surprised me the most. Growing up, we took it for granted that country folk form the tightest communities. When folks have to rely on each other for just about everything, that's when you forge your strongest bonds. You got no choice. Everypony always warned me: don't go to the city. You'll be forgotten there, and everypony's too busy to reach out a helping hoof. And while I've met my share of rude ponies in the big cities, well, the thought that they're too busy to form bonds of their own? Naw, that's a myth. The way the Wonderbolts come together in the middle of all that noise, in the middle of all those reporters and fans and the pressure of altogether too many eyes on them… Well, it's impressive. And humbling. They're some of the closest-knit ponies I've met, and the way they've embraced me and Blue has made me rethink more than a few things. They're a big reason we were able to move in the first place.

The job loss insurance helped, too.

Oh, hush. I ain't gonna spend my breath talking about finances, especially when there's praise to heap on good ponies.

Spitfire had everything under control, like usual, and after working up a small sweat getting our couch into the trailer, I caught Soarin' out of the corner of my eye, standing in the middle of the now-empty parlor. He looked… down.

When Spitfire wasn't looking, I whispered to the colts, "There's fresh lemonade for y'all in the fridge. If she gives you guff, you can blame me."

Wave Chill wiped the sweat off his forehead. "Thanks, bud. You're a bro."

Sightseer let out a whooping sigh, too. "Yeah. I could certainly use it."

I took care of one more box, asked Spitfire about the weather to give the colts some cover (she still hasn't forgiven me for that), and headed inside once they were safe and snacking in the kitchen.

Even with all the activity buzzing around, it felt like just the two of us. Soarin' ascribes all sorts of stuff to "earth pony magic" – feeling calmer around us and such – but I don't think that's quite right. I think it's love. When you love somepony, you can just tell what they're feeling, just from the little things: how they stand, how they position their wings, the way the breathe. It ain't even a conscious thing, really. You just sync up somehow, and having somepony there to experience life with you is calming. You know you're not alone.

But Blue looked lonely in that room. I pressed up against him and gently asked, "What's on your mind, Blue?"

He sighed. "It's…" He shook his head. He wanted to keep his feelings in, but he knows better. "It's weird seeing it so empty." His voice was heavy, and he turned to me with sunken eyes. "Like, it's just a stupid condo, but we have a lot of memories here, Applebutt. It feels like we're leaving it all behind."

I kissed his cheek. "That's why we're bringing all the furniture, love." Originally, he'd hesitated when I'd asked about moving the furniture, but I'd insisted for exactly this reason. "To remind us. We'll carry this room and everything that happened here with us." My, uh… Hm. Yeah. My bracelet felt real heavy on my fetlock. "Good and bad, we'll keep it all with us. Always."

His head dropped, and he laughed at himself. "I don't know why I get so attached."

I kissed him again. "I'm glad you do, because I like that you're attached to me." That got a smile out of him. "And it ain't like we can't visit Cloudsdale from time to time. I know how hard it is to move."

Soarin' turned to me, a tired smile on his face. "You're the best, Applebutt." He reached over and hugged me, and I hugged him back in that big, empty room where we'd grown so much.

After a little more packing and a whole lot of cleaning, we said our goodbyes to our friends. There were some tears, certainly, and a lot of hugs, and I wish we'd spent a little longer, if I'm honest.

Ha!

What?

You earth ponies and your long goodbyes.

Well, what can I say? I like to savor the sweet moments in life.

The whole team saw us to the train station with our bags, and Soarin' and I never left each other's sides once we loaded the train.

And as sad as it was to leave them, I was excited to return home. Appleloosa has so much to offer new settlers, and I knew Soarin' would thrive here. Call me greedy, but I wanted him here with me, too. My life had felt so incomplete without him. Even with all my responsibilities and all the friends I have here, I still found time to miss him, every time I had a quiet moment. It added up to a lot of missing him.

Soarin' shook as the train pulled away, so I held him close until he calmed down. It's a singular feeling, being there for the pony you love. In some ways, it's like tending the orchard or helping manage the town, but this was deeper. Supporting Soarin' gave me a purpose, an anchor in a crazy world, and no matter how scary his recovery or his therapy or the move got, we had each other. I promised myself I'd see him through all the dark and the light times, and in exchange, I'd always have a reason to get up in the morning. We finally had a clear direction, and we spent the rest of the day chasing the western sun.

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