• Published 28th Jun 2012
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A New Hero - Alex The Lone Wolf



What if there was another pony who joined the pony gang? (Look at longer description...)

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Fall Weather Friends

Episode 13 – Fall Weather Friends

I woke up early, feeling fully awake. Right after I made my bed, I walked towards the outside of the house. I was pretty hungry, so I decided I might get some apples from Apple Acres. Maybe I can bring some for Fluttershy too… I began walking towards Applejack's farm, ready to take on a new day.

When I arrived at the farm, I looked around for Applejack. I finally caught sight of her, along with Rainbow Dash, near a field of fruits. They had horseshoes and across them was a metal pole dug into the ground.

"Hey Applejack, what's going on?" I asked, calling her name.

"Oh howdy there Alex!" Applejack replied. "Me and Rainbow Dash were just about to start playing a game of horseshoes! Wanna join?"

"No thanks. I just wanted several apples for breakfast."

"No problem! Let me just finish this here game!"

Rainbow Dash grunted and threw a horseshoe at the metal pole. It landed a few inches from the pole.

"Woo-hoo!" Rainbow Dash cheered.

"Hoo-wee! Not a bad pitch for a pony who works with her head in the clouds." Applejack responded to Rainbow Dash's throw, playfully.

"Oh yeah? Think you can do better, cowgirl?"

"I know I can." Applejack stomped the ground with her hoof, causing the horseshoe to launch from the ground. She grabbed the horseshoe with her teeth and tossed it over to the metal pole. Instead, it landed only a few inches behind Rainbow Dash's horseshoe. "Oh, for Pete's sake!"

"Heh! Looks like this Pegasus can pitch better than the workhorse." Rainbow Dash bragged, playfully flicking Applejack's head. "The object of the game is to get the closest to the stake."

"Alright, alright. You got another throw there, pony girl." Applejack replied as she stomped another hoof on the ground causing the horseshoe to fly up and land on Rainbow Dash's nose.

Rainbow Dash moved her body to throw the horseshoe. Instead, it flew off way out of range from the metal pole. I heard the horseshoe crash somewhere else.

"Wow, Rainbow, heh. You couldn't hit a barn door with that kind of a throw." Applejack chuckled.

"Yeah, yeah. I still have the closest throw, Applesmack." Rainbow Dash kicked Applejack's horseshoe. " Just try and beat it."

Applejack grabbed the horseshoe with her teeth and concentrated. She gave a grunt with a firm throw and it landed straight on the metal pole, clattering as the midpoint of the horseshoe collided with the metal.

"Yee-haw!" Applejack cheered. "It's a ringer. That's how you do it down here on the farm."

"I lost…" Rainbow Dash announced, disappointed.

"Ah, don't feel bad, Rainbow. It's all in good fun." Applejack attempted to cheer up Rainbow Dash.

"I hate losing." Rainbow Dash contradicted.

"Besides, you're a mighty good athlete. I'm just better, heh heh heh." Applejack walked over to me. "Alright Alex, let's go get you those apples. We began walking as Rainbow Dash trailed behind us.

"Alright, Applejack, you think you're the top athlete in all of Ponyville?"

"Well, I was gonna say in all of Equestria, but that might be gilding the lily." Applejack responded.

"...and I think I'm the top athlete. So let's prove it." Rainbow Dash challenged, causing Applejack to lean her ear forward to her.

"Prove what?"

"I challenge you to an Iron Pony competition." Rainbow Dash stated, causing Applejack to raise an eyebrow in confusion. "A series of athletic contests to decide who's the best, once and for all."

"You know what, Rainbow? You're on." Applejack spat on her hoof, along with Rainbow Dash, and they both pressed their hooves together, indicating a deal. "Why don't you get the things ready for the competition while I get the apples for Alex?"

"Sure thing, Applejack." Rainbow Dash replied, with a hint of competitor aggression, and flew off.

Applejack grabbed a bag and walked over to one of the apple trees.

"How many you want, Alex?" Applejack asked.

"Um… I guess five will be fine." I replied.

"Five apples, coming up." Applejack kicked the tree, causing exactly five apples to land in the bag. "Just out of curiosity, why do you want five for breakfast?"

"I was planning to share them."

"Ooooooh" Applejack teased. "Who's the lucky pony?"

"It's not like that, Applejack…" I responded a bit embarrassed as I could feel my cheeks fill up with a little red.

Applejack laughed. "I'm just messing with you. Go on and share those apples, and don't forget to come for the competition!"

"I won't." I said as I grabbed the bag with my teeth and placed it on my back. "I'll see you later."

Applejack waved as I began walking, even continuing to chuckle at the comment she had made earlier.

I walked over to Fluttershy's home. She had just finished feeding and taking care of her animals.

"Hi, Alex!" She announced as she began flying over to me.

"Hey, Fluttershy." I answered. We walked towards the cliff with the ocean below it. I placed the bag near us.

"What do you have?" Fluttershy asked.

"I brought some apples for the both of us."

"Oh, Alex." Fluttershy blushed. "You didn't have to."

"Well, I wanted to. I thought we could have something to eat together."

"That's really nice of you." She thanked. "These look delicious!" Fluttershy exclaimed, observing the apples.

I grabbed two and gave the shiniest one to Fluttershy who couldn't stop staring at how beautiful and delicious it looked. She carefully held the apple between her hooves and began nibbling on it. I bit pieces of the apple as I stared out into the ocean, feeling the firm but light breeze blow our manes.

"Oh." I remembered. "Applejack and Rainbow Dash are having this competition to see who the better athlete is. Do you want to go see?" I asked Fluttershy.

"Sure!" Fluttershy exclaimed softly but cheerfully.

After we finished our apples, I stood up and helped Fluttershy up. Then, we started heading towards where the competition was to take place.

Along the way, we met Rarity and Pinkie Pie. They looked as if they were heading towards the competition as well.

"Hey, Pinkie Pie, Rarity. Are you going to watch the competition?" I asked them.

"Yep!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed.

"I suppose so. It sounds like fun." Rarity added. "Spike invited us, so I said, 'Why not?'"

"I see…"

We all arrived at the area of the competition to see Twilight observing Applejack and Rainbow Dash set up the competition. Spike was on top of her. He jumped on top of her head and exclaimed, "Let the games begin!"

Rarity and Pinkie Pie sat themselves on the wooden bleachers nearby. Fluttershy and I walked over to the scoreboard. Fluttershy was going to be changing the score since she was the only other pony who could fly. I sat next to her, observing the start of the first event.

Twilight was standing on the side of the track, which was filled with barrels of flowers, with Rainbow Dash. Applejack readied herself, observing the obstacles in front of her.

"Ready. Set. Go!" Twilight exclaimed.

Spike began the timer as Applejack raced hastily across the track, dodging the barrels with very swift maneuvers. However, for some reason, Applejack tipped the barrel as she passed by it. She crossed the finish line, aware of this action.

"Time, Spike?" Twilight asked.

"17 seconds!" Spike announced.

"You're kiddin'!" Applejack responded, excitedly. "That breaks my record from last year's rodeo."

"But… you got a five second penalty for nudging the barrel."

Applejack sighed. "Nuts n' shrews." She kicked the rock in front of her. "Still, that's 22 seconds. Not too shabby." She noticed Rainbow Dash sweating nervously. "Hey, don't be nervous. Remember, it's all in good fun. Now git on up there." She nudged Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow Dash flew to her position and readied herself.

"Ready. Set. Go!" Twilight announced.

Spike clicked the timer, sending Rainbow Dash off. She sprinted across the track, dodging the barrels. Her speed blew the flowers on the barrels as a rainbow trailed behind her. She reached the finish line.

"Woo! That was some fancy hoofwork there, Rainbow!" Applejack congratulated.

"Thanks, but I couldn't have been as fast as you." Rainbow Dash replied, flying back to the beginning while panting.

"18 seconds!" Spike presented, shocked.

"18 seconds. Rainbow, are you sure you're not secretly a rodeo pony?" Applejack asked, jokingly.

"Rainbow Dash wins the barrel lead!" Twilight exclaimed.

Fluttershy flew upwards to the scoreboard and placed a cardboard apple, which had the number one, onto the scoreboard next to Rainbow Dash's symbol.

"Oh, I can't believe I won." Rainbow Dash expressed.

"Yeah, well, don't you go gettin' used to it." Applejack assured.

The next event began. More ponies had joined to watch the competition. The next part of the competition was to prove strength by knocking a ball to hit the bell above. Rainbow Dash walked towards the painted target and kicked it. The ball flew upwards and rung the bell. Ponies cheered. Rainbow Dash shook her hooves in cheering.

Applejack was lying on a tree as Rainbow Dash came to brag. She had a straw of wheat in her mouth.

"Mighty respectable," She spat the wheat out of her mouth. "but let me show ya how it's really done." With no hesitation, Applejack kicked the painted target, breaking it into little pieces as the sound of broken wood cried out. The ball launched straight towards the bell, even knocking it off the wooden piece of board it was attached to. The bell continued to fly upwards at an amazing speed as ponies cheered and Rainbow Dash stared at the scene, dumbstruck. "Years of applebuckin'." Applejack walked near Rainbow Dash, kicking a tree Rainbow Dash was under. Several apples fell on top of her head.

Fluttershy happily added a one to Applejack's score.

Applejack's family, Big Macintosh, Granny Smith, and Applebloom, came along and sat in the stands for the other event, cheering loudly.

The next event consisted of a sort of bull riding event like in a rodeo. Except, both the ponies had to see how fast they could shake off the victim… who was Spike.

"Why me?" Spike questioned.

"Go!" Twilight announced, regardless.

Applejack began shaking Spike off. "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa-hoa! Whoa! Whoaaa!" Applejack kicked him off, flying him towards the sky and landing on a stack of hay nearby. "Ouch."

Rainbow Dash emerged from the hay. "Ready for another pony ride?" she asked.

"No." Spike strained.

"Go!" Twilight announced.

Rainbow Dash immediately began bouncing rapidly. "Guh guh guh guh guh guh guh guh guh guh guh guhwhoaaaaaa" Spike flew off from Rainbow Dash instantly.

As Twilight observed Spike fly across the sky, she yelled out the winner. "Rainbow Dash wins the bronco-buck!"

Spike crashed over to the scoreboard as Fluttershy added a point to Rainbow Dash's score.

"And I lose…"

Applejack and Rainbow Dash were inside a square surrounded by wooden gates. They had lassos, which Applejack perfected easily, however, Rainbow Dash was having a little trouble with it. The next event consisted of roping the victim as best as it could be done. However, the victim was Spike again, who stood at the center of the square, annoyed.

Applejack twirled her rope around and threw it at Spike, instantly catching him by his arms and feet and dragging him towards her. Ponies threw roses at Applejack as a congratulation to her.

"How do I get roped into these things?" Spike struggled with his position.

Rainbow Dash grunted. "Does this count?" She had tied herself onto a tree. She struggled to free herself.

Fluttershy added another score to Applejack's.

Several events continued to occur. One was a ball bouncing event, which Applejack struggled to keep up with Rainbow Dash, who bested her, easily. Fluttershy had caught one of the roses that fell with her mouth and placed another apple to Rainbow Dash's score.

The next event was hay throwing. Rainbow Dash began and threw the stack of hay across at the end of the line. Rainbow Dash flew over to her accomplishment and taunted at Applejack, but was cut short when Applejack crushed her, literally, when she threw the hay stack right on her. Fluttershy's bunny, Angel, added the score to Applejack.

After, Rainbow Dash and Applejack were leg wrestling, but surprisingly, Rainbow Dash won that one, as if it wasn't a challenge at all.

Then, it was a football kicking contest. Both ponies kicked the ball, but Applejack was farther; it almost hit the ponies that were watching the competition on the clouds. Fluttershy was about to add a score to Applejack, but the football knocked the cardboard apple from her hooves and placed it for her.

Finally, Spike announced, "Fillies and gentlecolts, at the halfway point our competitors are tied at 5 and 5!"

"Who are you talking to?" Twilight asked.

"Them!" Spike pointed to the chattering large crowd that gathered for the competition.

The competition continued with Applejack and Rainbow Dash competing to how many pushups they could do.

"95…" Twilight announced as they strained themselves. "96, 97, 98, 99..." Both of the ponies were on the brink of giving up. "a hundred!" Rainbow Dash managed to push herself up and cheer. Applejack was still struggling to do it, but her legs gave up and she crashed on the floor. She muttered something under her breath.

The next event was to see how far each of the ponies could jump. Applejack began, gaining a good amount of distance from where she jumped. Rainbow looked a bit worried. She began running and jumped. However, before she landed, she saw how she had a lower distance than Applejack. She immediately stopped before touching the ground, and flew over a few feet to win against Applejack. Applejack saw this, and looked irritated, but she let it slip.

After, both ponies had to take several chicks across the mud to their mothers, without getting them dirty. Applejack began walking towards the other side, but her hooves flung dirt at the chicks, causing them to leave. Applejack gasped and noticed Rainbow Dash, who was walking to the mother while using her wings to cover the chicks from getting dirty, as she grew more irritated.

"Alright, you two. This is the final event. Give it all you've got." Twilight announced.

The two were having a tug of war battle, with each end of the rope grabbed with their teeth and a red flag in the middle. Below the rope lay a pool of mud. Spike flashed his flag. Each pony began grunting, trying to pull the rope to their side. Applejack had the lead.

"Looks like the workhorse might come out ahead in this one." Spike announced.

Applejack had finally managed to pull Rainbow Dash over the mud… but Rainbow Dash suddenly separated her wings and began flying. Rainbow dash flew above, causing Applejack to hover right above the mud, helpless.

"That's not fair!" Applejack mumbled with the rope in her mouth. "You can't use your wings to help you win!"

"Huh?" Rainbow Dash asked, holding a hoof near her ear.

"You're cheatin'!" Applejack exclaimed, still holding the rope tight between her teeth.

"I can't understand you with that rope in your mouth." Rainbow Dash replied.

Applejack, unable to have some time to think, released the rope from her mouth. "I SAID,- uh-oh." She fell straight towards the mud and got herself covered in it.

Every pony cheered. Rainbow Dash placed the 15th cardboard apple to her score and bragged, causing me to be disappointed on how Rainbow Dash competed. "Woo-hoo! I win by a landslide..." She flew over to Applejack. "…or mudslide in your case." She chuckled and flew straight above us. "I am the Iron Pony!"

"Only 'cause you cheated!" Applejack intervened.

"What?" Rainbow Dash flew towards Applejack.

"You used your wingpower to help you win over half those contests!"

"Sounds like sour apples to me."

"Are you sayin' you didn't use your wings?"

"Well... no. But you never said I couldn't use my wings."

"I didn't think I needed to tell you to play fair."

"I still would have won even without my wings."

"Hah! Prove it!"

"Gladly. How?"

"Tomorrow is the annual Runnin' of the Leaves. I challenge you to race me in it."

"Heh! Easy shmeasy." Rainbow Dash began flying away, but Applejack pulled her down.

"Hold on! There is one condition: the point is to run, so no wings allowed."

"No wings?" She kicked Applejack off her. "No problem."

They both spat on their hooves and shook.

They both went their separate ways and the crowd broke up and dissolved, leaving Fluttershy and I by ourselves. In a moment, the day faded into night.

"They're really worked up on who's the better athlete… aren't they…?" Fluttershy asked.

I sighed. "Yeah… I guess we'll just have to see what will happen tomorrow…" I looked over to Fluttershy. "C'mon, I'll walk you home."

"Okay…" Fluttershy blushed.

I had walked Fluttershy home and told her that I'd see her tomorrow.

When the next day arrived, the Running of the Leaves, I met up with Fluttershy at her home and began walking towards the location of the annual event.

"Welcome to the annual Running of the Leaves!" We saw Pinkie Pie above us in a hot weather balloon. " This is Pinkie Pie, your official eye-in-the-sky announcer! As everypony knows, the running is a very important tradition, for without it, the autumn leaves of Equestria would never fall. So get ready, ponies. The Running of the Leaves will begin in five minutes."

"Are you going to be in the Running of the Leaves, Alex?" Fluttershy asked me.

"I never thought about participating… maybe I will." I responded, suddenly feeling the urge to run. "What about you Fluttershy?" I asked.

"Oh, no. I think I'll just watch… If you run, I'll be cheering for you!" Fluttershy smiled.

I looked away, feeling a little red. "Thanks… Fluttershy."

Fluttershy wished me good luck and flew upwards, towards the sky. I think she's going to watch me from above… I went over to sign up and received a number for the race. I walked up the starting line to see Applejack stretching. She turned around and noticed me.

"Alex? I didn't know you were going to run too." She said.

"Yeah… well I just felt a sudden urge I guess." I answered.

"Well, good luck to ya, partner." Applejack smiled.

However, Rainbow Dash began walking towards the starting line as well, being herself.

"Pardon me, excuse me. Make way for the Iron Pony."

"The Iron phony, you mean." Applejack responded, losing her smile.

"So, Applejack, you ready to win second place?"

"I'm ready to run a good, clean race."

"Yeah, yeah..."

"You are not allowed to use your wings!" Applejack assured.

"I could win this race with both wings tied behind my back." Rainbow Dash bragged.

Applejack had this seductive look on her face. She grabbed a rope nearby and literally tied Rainbow Dash's wings, making sure she is unable to fly. "Trussed up like a turkey. Well, a turkey who can't fly, that is."

"Very funny." Rainbow Dash responded, sarcastically.

"'least now we know we're racin' fair and square."

Trumpets sounded throughout the area.

"Racers! Please take your positions!" We heard Pinkie Pie announce.

Spike came out of nowhere, in front of us, and called out to Pinkie Pie. "Um... Pinkie Pie?"

"Hey, Spike! What's up? Oh wait, it me, I'm up!" Pinkie Pie laughed.

"Uh, yeah. I know you're doing the announcing today and stuff and... I'm sure you're gonna do a great job and all, but... I was just wondering..."

"What?"

"Aw... Forget it." Spike began walking away, but Pinkie Pie called after him.

"Spike! Would you like to be my co-reporter? We could comment on the action together."

"We could?" Spike replied, excited.

"Climb on up." Pinkie Pie tossed a rope, which Spike grabbed and began climbing on to the balloon.

Applejack, Rainbow Dash, I readied ourselves into our positions, but all of a sudden, Twilight jumped into the starting line with us.

"Twilight? What in tarnation are you doin' up here?" Applejack asked.

"I'm racing." Twilight responded.

Rainbow Dash laughed. "Good one, Twilight!"

"I'm not joking." Twilight replied, keeping her positive mood.

"What? You're not an athlete, you're a... well... you're an egghead."

"I am not an egghead, I am well read."

"Egghead" Rainbow Dash whispered over to Applejack who began snickering.

"Just let her race, will you girls?" I asked, looking at them from the corner of my eye while being slightly annoyed.

"Thank you, Alex." Twilight thanked, confidently.

"But have you ever run a race?" Applejack asked.

"Well, no, but I do know a lot about running." Twilight responded.

"And you know this from..." Rainbow Dash added.

"Books. I've read several on the subject."

Rainbow Dash and Applejack continued snickering. "What'd you read, 'The Egghead's Guide to Running'? Did you stretch out your eye muscles to warm up?" Rainbow Dash laughed, even causing Twilight to sigh and become annoyed as well. "Get it? Eye muscles."

I sighed.

"Scoff if you must, Rainbow. But the running of the leaves is a Ponyville tradition, and since I'm here to learn, I've decided I should experience it myself." Twilight replied.

"Well, I think that's just dandy, Twilight. Good luck." Applejack snickered.

"Yeah. See you at the finish line... Tomorrow." Rainbow Dash and Applejack continued laughing.

I rolled my eyes and told Twilight, "I bet you've read this kind of scenario in a book, Twilight. I'm kind of guessing the same outcome is going to happen, just like in the book. Don't worry about Applejack and Rainbow Dash. Just have fun, I bet you'll do great."

My response caused Applejack and Rainbow Dash to burst out laughing. "Stop! I can't breathe!" Rainbow Dash laughed, holding her sides.

Twilight rolled her eyes, but looked at me. "Thanks, Alex." She smiled. "At least SOME pony appreciates me participating in this race!"

Applejack and Rainbow Dash continued laughing until Pinkie Pie announced again.

"All right, ponies, are you ready?"

"Get set." Spike added.

Every pony took their position. The drums rolled and the bell finally rung. I took off, almost starting in the lead.

"And they're off!" I heard from Pinkie Pie. "Welcome to the official coverage of the Running of the Leaves!" Pinkie Pie announced as she hovered above us in her balloon. "You know, Spike, despite its name, the leaves don't do any of the actual running. No, that's left to My Little Ponies."

"Why, yes, Pinkie, it's the running of the ponies that causes the leaves to fall." Spike responded.

Many leaves from the trees fell as we continued running through. "Ugh. Those lazy, lazy leaves. But this year, the run is about more than the weather. It's about the race to the finish and the two runners who want to win it: Applejack and Rainbow Dash."

Applejack was in the lead by a few inches so far, with Rainbow Dash behind her. I was trailing behind both of them, but I was pretty close. I couldn't see Twilight, she must have been somewhere behind me.

"You know, Pinkie, these two ponies have a bit of a grudge match they're trying to settle. Trying to prove who's the most athletic." Spike announced.

"Yes, and 'grudge' rhymes with 'fudge'."

"Yes it... does. What?"

"And I like fudge. But if I eat too much fudge I get a pudge and then I can't budge."

"So... no fudge?"

"Oh, no thanks. I had a big breakfast. Let's check in with our two competitive ponies, Applejack and Rainbow Dash. Having come fast out of the gate, Applejack and Rainbow Dash are evenly matched running neck in neck. But what's this? Applejack is making a move, she's now ahead by a nose. But Rainbow Dash pulls at Applejack's have-it and takes the lead. She's ahead by half a nose. Or maybe three quarters of a nose. No, about sixty-three point seven percent of a nose... Roughly speaking. Applejack sees this move and pushes forth with her strong workhorse legs slinking ahead by three hundred and fifty noses!" Pinkie Pie described exactly what was going on between the two.

Only a few feet away from them both, I continued running, trying to balance myself to where I could eventually pass them. Applejack looked behind at Rainbow Dash and muttered something. Rainbow Dash glanced at her wings, then over to Applejack, saying something as well.

"Ho-hold your horses, Pinkie! Rainbow Dash is catching up the frontrunner Applejack!"

"What an upset. I thought Applejack had this in the bag."

"You didn't think I was gonna let you off that easily, did you?" Rainbow Dash shouted, tying with Applejack ahead of me.

Applejack had her concentration on Rainbow Dash, but she tripped on a rock, falling to the ground while Rainbow Dash continued. I immediately stopped and called over to Applejack.

"Applejack, are you alright?" I shouted over to her.

"I'm fine! Don't worry about me! Keep going!" She yelled back.

I noticed the large crowd of ponies catching up. I nodded and continued to run after Rainbow Dash. The distance between Rainbow Dash and I had significantly grown when I stopped for Applejack. When I had her in my sight, she looked back and laughed.

"Good luck trying to catch me, Alex!"

I didn't say anything, but just continued my concentration on the race. Rainbow Dash stuck out her tongue and purposely lowered her speed. At this point, I took her bragging for an advantage and increased my acceleration, which in a matter of seconds, I passed her while she was having her eyes closed, for the sake of showing off. When she opened them again, she dropped her jaw.

"Huh!" She shouted, surprised. I continued running, lowering my speed by just a pinch to save up some energy.

"Go, Alex!" I heard very softly above me.

I looked up. It was Fluttershy who waved at me, smiling. I nodded at her and continued racing. In back of me, I heard:

"I don't believe it. After a huge setback, Applejack is back at the front of the pack. And Alex managed to beat them both! What an amazing move!" Spike's voice exclaimed.

"She's the head of the pack, all right. The pick of the litter! The CAT'S PAJAMAS! Oh wait, why would Applejack take some poor kitty's PJs? That's not very sporting of her."

"Oookay... Let's get back to the race."

Applejack must have finally caught up to Rainbow Dash.

"Not so fast, Applejack! This race isn't over yet!" I heard Rainbow Dash.

"It is for you. Heh."

"Whoa."

After that, I didn't hear Rainbow Dash anymore… I wondered what happened to her…

I shook my head and kept it in the race.

"Welcome back, Ponyvillians, it's me, Pinkie Pie." Pinkie Pie announced a while later.

"And Spike. Looks like Rainbow is doing her best to catch up."

"I'm not sure how ketchup is going to help her in this contest. Now, in a hot dog eating contest it can make them doggies nice and slippery, but personally I prefer mustard. How about you, Spike?"

"Uh... I... like... pickles?"

"Aaand it looks like Applejack has found herself in quite a pickle as Rainbow overtakes her."

"Look, ma, no wings." I heard Rainbow Dash as she had caught up to Applejack again. I had passed through a forest, quickly dodging a branch that stood in the way by sliding underneath it and continuing to run.

"As the racers enter Equestria's Whitetail Wood, Rainbow Dash is back in the lead, but Alex still has first place!" Spike announced.

I didn't know what was going on behind me. I really wanted to look back, but I was afraid that I might trip. I continued to focus ahead while a little while later, I heard some hooves land and gallop behind me, almost close to me.

"Applejack…? Where in the world did you come from?" I heard Fluttershy above me.

"No time to talk!" Applejack responded as she panted. "Need to make a move!"

"A move?" Fluttershy questioned.

Applejack didn't answer, instead, I heard her stop to kick something behind me.

I had just finished passing through an area with two paths. There was an arrow with a sign pointing to go right. I maneuvered right and continued galloping, hearing much more noise behind me. As much as it tempted me to look behind me, I didn't.

Rainbow Dash had managed to catch up behind me and shouted. "You're not going to get away with first place, Alex!" Then, she shifted the tone of her voice. "What the hay? You said no flying!"

"No, I said no wings!" Applejack exclaimed behind me.

"I must say, Spike, that this has been the most interesting Running of the Leaves in Equestria history!" Pinkie Pie announced as we passed through trees containing buckets to receive their sap.

"With the most interesting announcing."

"But it isn't the running that's been fascinating. It's the lack of running!"

More grunts formed behind me. Then I felt a sudden heavy wind blow my mane, which soon died down. What was that all about?

"Once again, Rainbow Dash and Applejack are neck in neck, jockeying for position. Applejack inches ahead, now it's Rainbow, it's Applejack, it's Rainbow Dash, it's Applejack—

Pinkie Pie announced. I could finally see the finish line in front of me. Was this it? Was I really going to be first?

"You're almost there, Alex!" Fluttershy exclaimed, excitedly.

I had a good, large distance between the crowd and me. I was almost there! The finish line was only several feet away from me! I started giving a final push to my running, however, I somehow tripped and landed on the ground, only a few feet away from the finish line. I could hear the crowd catching up to me.

"Alex!" Fluttershy exclaimed, worried now.

I tried running again, but I grunted in pain when my legs wouldn't run anymore! I must have sprained something! I continuously tried to increase my speed, but I could only limp towards the finish line.

"Ouch!" Pinkie Pie announced on the balloon. "Alex took a fall and that will really affect him since he's in first place! All the other ponies are catching up to him!"

Fluttershy had descended besides me, still flying, and tried to help me.

"No! I can do it!" I responded, still limping towards the finish line.

"C'mon, Alex! You can do it! Just a few more steps!" Fluttershy encouraged.

I continued limping towards the finish line, my heart pounding inside my chest, as if it wanted to come out. I released grunts and groans with each step and strained my eyes. The finish line was only a few feet in front of me.

"Oh no! Is he going to make it? The crowd is right behind him!" Spike exclaimed.

It was true as I could hear the clatter of all their hooves.

"C'mon Alex! I believe in you!" Fluttershy exclaimed.

This had sparked something inside me. I continued to quickly limp towards the finish line, feeling the breath of the crowd of ponies behind me. I gave one last grunt and attempted to leap past the finish line. I felt myself landing on the grass and closed my eyes, panting. I had no idea if I had made it or not. I could hear Pinkie Pie announce something excitedly, but I was too busy taking in rapid air to hear anything clearly. After a moment, Pinkie Pie must have returned to Applejack and Rainbow Dash. "It's Applejack, it's Rainbow Dash, it's Applejack, it's Rainbow Dash—

So did I really not win? And it was actually Applejack or Rainbow Dash?

"Alex! Alex!" I heard Fluttershy's voice. "Are you okay?"

"I won!" I heard Rainbow Dash exclaim.

"No, I won!" Applejack counteracted.

I opened my eyes and noticed Fluttershy looking at me worried.

"I think so…" I responded. "What happened…?"

Fluttershy and I looked towards where Applejack and Rainbow Dash were fighting.

"I won!" Rainbow Dash argued.

"You tied!" Spike announced.

"TIED?" Rainbow Dash and Applejack exclaimed in unison.

"For first?" Applejack asked.

"For last!" Pinkie Pie answered.

"LAST?" Applejack shouted, shocked.

"Then who won?" Rainbow Dash questioned.

Spike and Pinkie Pie walked over to Fluttershy and me.

"Fillies and gentlecolts!" Pinkie Pie announced. "I present to you our winner: Alex!"

My eyes widened immediately when she said that. "Me? I won?"

"Yep!" Pinkie Pie responded while Spike placed a medal on my neck and gave me a trophy.

"Alex, you did it!" Fluttershy exclaimed, hugging me. I could only lay breathless. I actually won? Every pony cheered, leaving me in awe.

"What about Twilight?" I heard Rainbow Dash. "How come SHE has a medal?"

"I got fifth place, which is rather good considering that I've never run a race before." Twilight walked over to me and congratulated me.

"What? How's that even possible?" Applejack asked.

"You ran so slow, and looked at the scenery!" Rainbow Dash added.

"Exactly. I paced myself, just like my book said. Then at the end, when all the other ponies were worn out, I sprinted to the finish." Twilight explained.

"I don't believe it. Twilight beat us." Rainbow Dash exclaimed, surprised.

"Well, with all your horsing around, it was quite easy."

"You're right, Twilight. Our behavior was just terrible." Applejack admitted.

"We weren't very good sports." Rainbow Dash added.

Every pony suddenly gasped and bowed.

"Sounds to me like an important lesson was learned."

"PRINCESS CELESTIA?" Rainbow Dash and Applejack cried out as Fluttershy and I turned around to see Princess Celestia walking towards us.

"W... What are you doin' here?" Applejack asked.

"Fall is one of my favorite seasons, so I came to celebrate the Running of the Leaves." She answered as ever pony bowed… except me... I couldn't since I had sprained my leg…

"I'm sorry you had to see us being such poor sports, Princess." Applejack apologized.

"That's all right, Applejack. Anypony can get swept up in the excitement of competition." Princess Celestia accepted the apology.

"It's important to remember that the friendship is always more important than the competition." Twilight taught them.

"Exactly, Twilight. Now, unfortunately, because the two of you were busy tricking each other instead of shaking down leaves, many of the lovely trees of Equestria are still covered." Princess Celestia looked over at the covered trees.

"Why, Princess, I bet we can knock those leaves down for you lickety-split. Whaddya say, friend? Wanna go for another run?" Applejack asked Rainbow Dash.

"I'd love to stretch my legs." They both sprinted towards another group of covered trees to finish the job.

"Congratulations on achieving first place, Alex." Princess Celestia said, walking over to me.

"…Thank you Princess Celestia… but I couldn't have done it without Fluttershy…" I looked over to her, which caused her to blush.

Princess Celestia smiled. "That's fantastic. You did amazing throughout the whole race."

"You watched me the whole time…?" I asked, shocked.

She chuckled. "Of course… your friend was with you, every second of the race."

I looked at Fluttershy again, who started rubbing her legs with her hooves.

"Your concentration and being focused on a single goal is what brought you to achieving it. You didn't give in nor surrendered to Rainbow Dash's… comments… though suffering a minor unfortunate accident, you still managed to pass the finish line a second before anypony else."

"Wow…" I said. I still couldn't believe that I had actually won. "Well, thank you, Princess."

The princess moved her horn towards my leg and used her magic. My leg felt different afterwards. I shook it and there wasn't any more pain!

"Let this experience be your motivation to continue to work hard to achieve your goals." Princess Celestia told me, giving one of her heartwarming smiles.

I nodded.

"I'll see you soon, Alex! For now, I must speak with Twilight." Princess Celestia announced.

"Goodbye… Princess Celestia." I responded and bowed.

She nodded and smiled. Then, she began walking with Twilight to talk to her, privately.

The crowd had soon vanished when everything was over, leaving Fluttershy and me, once again. Carrying the trophy on my back and the medal on my neck, we began walking towards Fluttershy's home. Night had begun to fall.

"Are you sure you're okay, Alex?" Fluttershy asked.

"Yeah… Princess Celestia cured it." I replied.

"That's great…"

We stopped in front of Fluttershy's door. I looked at the ground.

"…Thank you so much Fluttershy… for being with me while I ran…"

Fluttershy blushed. "It was nothing… I wanted to see you win…"

I looked up to her. "You thought I would win?" I exclaimed.

She shook her head and spoke softly. "I knew you would win."

I stared at her… feeling tears form in the corner of my eyes.

"Fluttershy…"

All of a sudden, something unexpected and amazing happened. I hugged Fluttershy, with no fear of disappointment… for the first time in my life…

"Oh, Alex…" Fluttershy's cheeks bloomed with redness. She accepted my hug by hugging me back. The feeling in my heart was intense and filled my whole body with pleasure.

After a moment, we pulled away, continuing to look at each other.

"I'll see you later…" Fluttershy spoke with a tender smile.

"Of course…" I responded. "Good night, Fluttershy…"

"Good night, Alex." She kissed my cheek and entered her home.

I walked all the way home with my mind paralyzed.

I had placed the trophy on a shelf near my bed and stripped myself of the medal, also placing it near the trophy. Finally, when I had reached my bed and snuggled in it, all these thoughts raced inside. They wouldn't let me sleep, but not in a bad way. It was good as that very strong feeling in my heart was blooming intensely, like if it had filled my entire body instead.

When I was finally able to sleep… I had the best rest ever…

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