• Published 28th Nov 2019
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Quantum Leap Forward - Halira

Cheerilee wakes up twenty years in the future, in the body of Big Mac's daughter. Now she must find out how to get back to her proper time and body.

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Chapter 7: Apple Family Bonding

Waiting to be summoned from Candy's room seemed to take forever, and the lack of any clock made it hard to determine how much time had passed, hours for certain.

To pass the time she did check the closet again, just to make sure it was toys in the chest, and not some other disgusting surprise. It did turn out to be toys, but they were coated with a heavy layer of dust. That was another thing to worry about with Candy. It was partial evidence that the filly wasn't engaging in normal play. Everypony claimed that pretending to be other ponies was Candy's form of play, but surely the filly took time to be just a normal little eight-year-old in between those incidents, right? She'd have to ask.

However, she wasn't precisely sure what she could do to help Candy out. It wasn't like the filly was present to talk to about her problems. All she could do was look for clues in what Candy had in her room, as well as try to take in as much information as she could about Candy's life. Being in Candy's body did give a unique perspective on Candy's life, and how she experienced the world. Hopefully she would learn enough that she could communicate any issues she found to the adults in Candy's life.

The window didn't offer much of a view. It gave an excellent view of the apple orchard, but from this vantage she didn't see any activity at all. It was possible that Big Mac had been called inside to discuss his daughter, and therefore had not returned to working out in the trees. Not being able to see anything but trees just made the slow passage of time all the more dull. It was a pretty view, but it was also a pretty boring one.

Sunset was in progress by the time a polite knock came at the door. The door opened without her giving any permission, and she was left staring at a green earth pony stallion that could have been a younger Big Mac with just a different coloration. That physique made her believe that many a mare had many an indecent fantasy about him. Everypony that looked at this young stallion had to know who his father was.

"Time for supper. Ma and Pa have invited Silver Spoon and her wife to eat with us. They said they'll have a discussion with you about today as we eat," the stallion-- no doubt Bright Pear-- announced. He had a very slight country inflection to his words, but it was far less pronounced than his little brother's. It was more like he was taking time to think about each word before it was said. Cheese had mentioned that Candy normally had an accent as well, and she wondered how strong it was, as the family seemed to have a range.

She hopped down from the bed and allowed herself to be led like a prisoner down the hall. She got a good look at Bright Pear's cutie mark from this angle; it was just a cross section of a big green pear cut in half. Not the most original cutie mark, but she had expected at least some sort of apple included. The pear blood just bled true in this one.

Bright Pear turned his head as they walked and gave her a curious eyebrow. "Are you still pretending to be Cheerilee? You're being mighty quiet."

"I am Cheerilee," she replied, though she was getting tired of repeating that. "And did you know Candy has a mound of moldy muffins in her closet?"

The mammoth stallion stopped walking and gave her a befuddled look. "You have what in your closet?"

"Candy Apple has a huge pile of muffins molding in her closet," she said slowly. "Do you want to take a minute for me to show you?"

Bright Pear looked towards the staircase then back towards Candy's room, then let out a long breath. "Honestly, I just don't know what goes on in your head. Alright, let's see the muffins."

She led him back into the bedroom and pointed at the closet. "They're in the back corner, behind the dresses. I'll stand back here, if you don't mind. I've gotten enough of that stench for today."

"It can't be that bad," Bright Pear said, as he was opening the closet. He paused when it was halfway open, and scrunched up his muzzle in disgust. "Or maybe it can…"

The stallion stook his head into the closet and pushed the dresses out of the way. Cheerilee backed up some more as the smell came drifting back towards her. The oldest Apple sibling quickly jerked his head out and closed the closet door. "Sweet Twilight, that's a powerful stench! Why would you even do something like that. You're going to attract bugs into the house!"

She stomped a hoof. "It's Candy, not me! I don't know why she's doing that, but I felt like it needed to be brought to everypony's attention."

Bright Pear gave her a long silent look, then walked over to her. "Look…I really don't know what's going on with you this last year, sis, but you do know that you can talk to me, right? I know a lot has been changing; all with me spending time working on getting the pear farm back together, me spending a lot of time with Strawberry, and Aunt Applebloom getting ready to have a foal. If you need somepony to talk and vent to I'm still your big brother, and I'll still make time for you." He gave her a sad look. "I know Strawberry would love to meet you, the real you, not all these others you've been playing. I keep telling her that you're the best little sister, but right now you just ain't you."

Candy definitely had no shortage of ponies that cared about her, not that she ever doubted the Apple clan. She just wished they were talking to Candy instead of her. "I'm not Candy Apple," she replied for what seemed the thousandth time, with likely a thousand more such assertions to follow. "But you seem like you care about her a lot. When I get out of this body, and she gets back in, I'm sure she'd love to hear that."

Bright Pear frowned. "I'll take that answer as you do want to talk, but you want to wait until later. I can deal with that." That wasn't what she meant at all, but he was trying to interpret from the perspective Candy was playing an elaborate game of pretend. She wasn't going to object to him seeking out Candy to talk when this was all over; that filly clearly needed some help.

"However you want to take it. Let's just get going," she grumbled. She had to plead her case to Big Mac, and the quicker she got it done the better.

Bright Pear led her back down to the kitchen without any further discussion, looking like his feelings were hurt the whole way. She felt a little sorry for that, but his sister just wasn't here right now.

There was a large dinner table in the kitchen. Caramel, Big Mac, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack were already seated, and Ma Apple was busy working at the stove, getting last minute preparations together. Five additional seats were set that were currently unoccupied; those for her, Bright Pear, Ma Apple, Silver Spoon, and Silver Spoon's yet unknown wife.

Ma Apple looked up from her work as the entered the kitchen. "Go ahead and take your seats. Silver Spoon and Twist should be here any minute."

"Ma, Candy has a mess in her closet that you should know about," Bright Pear said with a hint of timidness.

Ma Apple waved a hoof dismissively. "Talk to your pa about it. I'm busy at the moment."

The green stallion turned to the elder stallion. "Pa… Candy has been hoarding muffins in her closet, and they are all molding. It smells bad, real bad."

The Apple matriarch swirled around from her work. "You're my muffin thief?I knew I wasn't going crazy, I just didn't know who was takin' them." She looked over at Caramel. "I owe you an apology. I had thought it was you. You're the one with the sweet tooth."

Caramel rubbed his head nervously, and his ears sagged. "Um… I might'a actually taken one or two. Not too many, but a couple."

Applejack beamed at the young colt. "That was right honest of ya. Ya didn't have to confess to that after your sis was caught at it, but ya did anyway. Good on ya."

Caramel's ears picked up. "Does this mean I ain't in trouble?"

"Not my call, sugar cube," Applejack said as she drew her hat over her eyes.

"You're not in trouble," Ma Apple called out from where she was working. Levitating a jar of some sort of spice and measuring it out into a pot. "Just ask before taking muffins next time."

Bright Pear gave Big Mac a dubious look. "You might want to see Candy's closet before you make any decision. I've got no desire for her to be in trouble, but that closet is really bad."

All eyes turned to the Apple patriarch. Big Mac sat silent for a moment before answering. "I'll check after supper." And with that he went silent again. It seemed that he hadn't got much more talkative in the past twenty years.

With Big Mac having spoken the matter seemed to be closed for the time being. She prepped herself to make her case for him, but before she could speak conversation resumed. "Hey Bright, is Strawberry not coming over for dinner tonight?" Rainbow Dash asked the young stallion.

Bright Pear took his seat while shaking his head. "E'nope. She says she has to help her ma with something tonight. She'll probably be over tomorrow."

Rainbow got a mischievous grin. "You two have been together for a while now. Have you considered popping the question?"

Applejack gave the pegasus a jab in the side. "Don't go pressurin' the boy. He's young, don't need to be gettin' hitched so quick."

Bright Pear gave the pegasus a grin to match hers. "One thing at a time. I want to get the pear farm up and running right. At least get the house up to speed. Although… I could draw it out indefinitely. You know, like you do with my aunt? When are you going to pop the question?"

She resisted the urge to laugh as she watched Rainbow Dash blush and let out an incoherent stammer in response. Applejack pulled her hat down even lower over her face, but it couldn't hide the flustered look on the farm pony's face. Rainbow, trying to salvage the situation, drew herself up straight. "Well… it's not like me and Applejack can accidentally make a colt or filly, and I know what I've heard from your room."

Applejack gasped and boxed her lover in the side. Rainbow winced and turned on her. "Hey! What was that for? I was just telling the truth. I thought telling the truth was your thing."

"Don't be talkin' about that in front of the foals!" Applejack said in a harsh whisper.

"What? They've had the talk given to them," the pegasus said in confusion.

Applejack facehooved. "Rainbow!"

"What?" The oblivious pegasus replied.

Ma Apple hurried over and set a huge pot of some sort of soup in the middle of the table with a loud thunk. "I think we should agree that is still inappropriate discussion in front of the foals."

"E'yep," Big Mac said with a nod.

The unicorn turned to give her eldest son the stink-eye, and Bright Pear seemed to try to sink down in his seat. "As for you… I'm going to pretend that I don't know anythin'; you're not a colt anymore. I do need to remind you that your siblings might hear you. It makes me wonder if Candy's-- inappropriate incident involving the subject-- was a result of that."

"I'll keep that in mind," Bright Pear responded, with perhaps a hint of relief that his mother wasn't going to make a further issue of his escapades with his marefriend.

Cheerilee couldn't help but giggle at the back and forth. One of the downsides of being a teacher was she didn't get to be around humor like this too often. Sure, she did have some time for herself, away from her classroom, but she found herself censuring what she said even outside of class; it was just habit. It was a shame she couldn't really join in on this. She was sure she could add in a witty retort or two, if given the opportunity.

There were more urgent things to take care of anyway. She needed to make her case to Big Mac. "I came up with proof to prove I'm Cheerilee that can't be in that book."

"Oh crabapples, knew this was comin'," Applejack said, with a pronounced eyeroll. "Wouldn't be a new act without her giving proof. What's it this time?"

"I dated Big Mac a few times, and I can tell all about those dates!" She announced proudly, victory assured.

Ma Apple gave Big Mac an eyebrow. "You dated Cheerilee?"

Big Mac squirmed under his wife's gaze. "E'yep, once or twice."

Cheerilee banged her hoof thrice on the table. "Three times if you count the love potion incident where we almost got married."

Ma Apple started placing out bowls for the soup. "I read about the love potion incident, but the other dates weren't mentioned." There was a careful calm to the unicorn's voice, and it suddenly occurred to her that the unicorn might be the jealous type. It wasn't anything that had ever really been put to the test in her time. That took some of the wind out of her sails, as she didn't want to cause that kind of friction.

Big Mac decided that taking initiative now was the best course of action. "Nothin' much happened, dinner or two, then Cheerilee said she weren't interested; said I didn't talk enough for what she was lookin' for.."

Well, that was true, and neither of the dates had been that memorable. She just remembered being bored to tears and feeling like she was putting all the work into trying to have a conversation. Having a good listener to vent to was great, but she really longed for some back and forth conversation with another adult at the end of a day of dealing with foals. After the second date, it had become painfully obvious that Big Mac wasn't going to provide that. It wasn't a total loss; the failed dates made her understand how important that aspect of a relationship was to her.

"Big Mac was just too quiet," she continued. "That might work for some ponies, but not for me. He was kind of a homebody too, and I like going out and seeing things, not staying cramped up at home. It just wasn't a good match."

"Welp, can't say I would have ever told ya about that," Applejack said thoughtfully. "Though I suppose Applebloom could have mentioned it, or even Cheerilee herself. I doubt my brother did." She gave Cheerilee a doubtful look. "Got any actual details about these dates?"

She fidgetted in her seat. "Well, they were here."

"We've already established my brother is a homebody," Applejack said dryly. "Anythin' else?"

They were so dull! She tried to remember details. "You, Granny Smith, and Applebloom ate dinner with us."

"Course," Applejack said with a snort. "Ole' Granny cooked up most meals back then. Any fool pony could guess we were there. Remember what was for dinner? What the weather was like? Anything?"

She tried, but she couldn't. "No," she said as she lowered her head.

Applejack laughed. "Good, because I can't either."

"Flapjacks and apple fritters," Big Mac said, in a rare interjection. "I remember tryin' to help Granny and ended up burnin' them."

She bit her lip in frustration. She had gotten so wrapped up worrying about Candy that she hadn't taken the time to remember every detail she could. Perhaps this wasn't as good a plan as she originally though, or at least, not as well developed as it should have been. She still couldn't remember for sure what was for dinner back then, even with Big Mac saying it. It was just too boring a pair of dates. This whole avenue wouldn't work now anyway. "I'll think of something else," she mumbled. "I'll prove who I am yet."

Conversation resumed around the table as everypony waited. The food was ready, but the Apples thought it rude to start eating until their guests had arrived. She'd try to not make too much of a scene as Candy's punishment was decided; no need to get the filly in further trouble. Her focus of thought right now was on who she could go to for help.

"Does my sister still live in town, or did she move away again?" She asked aloud. Her request earned her confused stares all around.

"Ya don't have a sister," Applejack replied. "Don't recall Cheerilee havin' a sister either."

It wasn't surprising, she and her sister rarely spent time together. Her sister had spent a lot of time away from Ponyville in her youth and early adulthood, only recently returning to it in her own time. She loved her sister, but they were different enough in interests and personality that they didn't have much of anything to bond over. "Cherry Tea is my sister, it used to be Cheeritee when we were foals, but she changed it after getting her cutie mark. Similar coloration me-- me when I'm actually me, talks like she was born and raised in Canterlot, sells tea. Do you know her?"

Applejack's brow furrowed. "I think I remember a filly by that name from back when I was in school. Was kinda quiet."

"I know Cherry Tea," Ma Apple replied as she sat down in her seat. "Very posh, as she would put herself. She's the top provider and distributor of tea in Ponyville. I never knew she was Cheerilee's sister, but I can see the resemblance now that you mention it. Her son is actually in the same class as you, Mint Cherry." She gave Cheerilee a warm smile. "If that's true, that's very good research on your part. Don't think I'm not proud of how well you can research things. I tell everycreature that you're the brightest little filly in town."

"If only she didn't use that to lie about who she is all the gosh darn time," Applejack muttered.

That was promising. If nopony knew that she and Cherry were sisters then it would be a bigger stretch for anypony but her to recall stories about their foalhood. Her little sister had to believe her.

Though she frowned at learning about Cherry's son. Cherry wasn't even seeing anypony last she heard. She tried not to, but felt some jealousy for her little sister who seemed to have settled down and had a family. The feeling was forced down, as it wasn't fair, but it was still there. For all she knew she had a dozen foals of her own by this point, as she hadn't asked. But that might not even really be her, it might be Candy, as she hadn't ruled that out yet.

There was a knock at the door, announcing Silver Spoon's arrival. It was time for dinner to start, and Candy's discipline and punishment to be discussed. Hopefully whatever they came up with wouldn't interfere too much with doing what she needed to get back home.

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