Just one last tree and this row will be done. Applejack lifted her rear legs and gave the apple tree a buck causing apples to fall into the buckets. She smiled as she looked over the orchard of her home, Sweet Apple Acres. There was still much more work to do, and the sun was about to set. 'I best not get myself too far behind,' Applejack thought. She gathered the few stray apples that missed the buckets and loaded the buckets onto the cart.
Those buckets were heavy. It made her mad that her big brother, Big Macintosh, could carry three full buckets on his back, while she could only manage one at a time. 'Not today big brother.' She grunted in exertion and managed to get two buckets on her back. She strained to stand and walked slowly to the cart. She began to slow down due to the weight of the apples, so with gritted teeth she pushed herself harder. 'Come on Applejack, you ain't the most dependable of ponies for nothing.'
Applejack walked around the cart and lowered herself to set down the buckets. The day's hard work caught up to the work pony, and she sat down catch her breath. She looked around to make sure Macintosh wasn't there. Certain that she was alone Applejack removed her hat and looked inside.
Tucked inside the worn but loved hat was a small lock of pink hair. She smiled as she stroked the pink hair, her mind going back to the previous year when her heart made a choice that even her stubborn nature couldn't deny.
"But that'll take forever," Rainbow Dash complained.
Applejack paid no attention to the impatient pegasus. Her concern was helping Fluttershy get up the mountain safely. The time it would take didn't matter. 'Once Fluttershy is up there, I know she'll show everypony what she's made of.' She tied the petrified pony's tail to her head and dragged her along a side trail.
Big Macintosh cleared his throat and nudged his sister.
"Oh Mac," Applejack said her mind snapping back to the present, "I guess my mind wandered." She tucked the lock of hair back into the hat before putting it back on. "I hope you weren't waiting long."
"Nope," Mac said.
"Good. Well, we'd better get back to work. Them apples ain't gonna pick themselves."
"I'll be there in a sec." Applejack gave her legs a stretch and walked back onto the path towards the cart. A quick look over the fields told the hardworking pony that they wouldn't have much time left since it was almost nightfall. 'At least I can get the wagons into the shed and get started on dinner,' she thought. In spite of how tired she was, she still kept a swift trot down the path.
A cool evening breeze refreshed her sweaty coat and tired muscles. 'Thank you kindly, Princess," she thought. She walked around the carts latching them together. When she set the harness up to pull them to the shed something hit her hat. "What in the world was that," she asked. She looked over to where the object fell and saw it was a note. Applejack looked up and could not find the source of the note, so she sat down and read it. Her eyes slowly grew wide as she read the words.
Go to Fluttershy's house right now. She's been in an accident. The rest of the girls are already on their way there.
Her body went numb, and she read the note again hoping that she was mistaken. Before she could realize what was happening, Applejack charged towards Ponyville. She bolted past Big Macintosh without a word and he could see concern and fear on her face.
'Hold on, Sugarcube. I'm coming,' Applejack thought as she rushed towards Ponyville.
Ponyville bustled with activity and the town square full of ponies. These ponies stood in the way of an Applejack that was not about to weave through them. She barreled through them and not once looking back to apologize. Her tears obscured her vision, but she knew the way to Fluttershy's cottage by heart. Various scenarios ran through her head. How badly was she hurt? It had to be serious for her presence to be required so quickly. She swallowed hard and pushed herself to run faster.
Once again, the day's hard work caught up with her. She felt herself slowing down, and this drove fear into her heart. Her mind returned to the potential horrors that she could find upon arriving at Fluttershy's door.
"No," she screamed and resumed her frantic gallop. This pain will pass. 'Focus, Applejack. You need to get there before it's too late.'
"You know, Sugarcube, I'd be mighty grateful if you could start walking again. I don't mind dragging you, but we need to get to the top before it's too late." Applejack stopped dragging the paralyzed pony and looked back. She smiled as she saw the yellow pegasus's legs begin to relax. "That's right. Now we are in a hurry, but that don't mean that I'm gonna force you to move any faster than you need to."
Applejack untied Fluttershy's tail from her head and noticed a bit of hair caught in her hat. 'I'll take care of that later,' she thought not knowing that she would never want to lose it from that day forward.
Fluttershy rolled to her side and tried to stand up, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry. It's alright to be scared, but we have to get going. The girls are waiting for us, and we can't let them down."
The yellow pony dropped her head, "I. I'm scared. I'm. I'm sorry."
Applejack sighed and gave Fluttershy a hug. She intended only to calm the poor pony, but surprised herself when she gave her a kiss on the head.
Fluttershy looked up at Applejack and said, "Thank you. You're always so patient with me. I'm lucky to have you as a friend."
The orange pony smiled and helped Fluttershy to her hooves, "I'll always be there for you. Remember that."
She reached the outskirts of Ponyville and Fluttershy's cottage came into sight. Applejack kept running and didn't slow down. She braced herself and charged through Fluttershy's front door with so much force that she knocked the bottom half off its hinge and knocked the top one loose. Large splinters bore into Applejacks chest and shoulder and just like the ponies she ran through back in Ponyville she paid no heed.
The main room was dark and Applejack scanned the room for the timid pegasus. 'Dang it. I can't see anything,' she thought. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room and she saw what she feared. Fluttershy lay in the middle of her living room shaking like a leaf.
Applejack tried to run up to her, but her legs were exhausted and felt as though she walked through sand. The extent of her exhaustion was clear, and she bumped into a table knocking off a large bowl that hit the floor with a loud splash. Still, she managed to reach the fallen pony. She reached out a hoof to turn Fluttershy over, but she couldn't do it.
"Fluttershy," Applejack whispered. 'Oh, please be ok.'
The pegasus laid there shivering and did not respond. Applejack tried to move her, and Fluttershy let out a squeak. Applejack stopped fearing internal damage. She looked over her friend tears still running down her cheeks. 'She don't look hurt,' she thought to herself. 'Maybe I better check her heart.' Applejack barely remembered what she learned in first aid class, and she lifted Fluttershy's foreleg and put her ear to her chest only to find that Fluttershy's heart was beating too fast.
Applejack took to her feet, but she didn't take her eyes off of Fluttershy. 'Ok, calm down Applejack. What can cause a pony to collapse and raise a heartbeat?' Once again, she felts pangs of panic as an image appeared in her mind. 'Poison,' she thought. 'No. Fluttershy would know better, and there ain't no way some pony would poison her. Why would anypony want to harm such a sweet thing?' Her fear began to mix with anger at the thought of Fluttershy being a victim. She remembered the note saying that the rest of the girls were on their way to Fluttershy's cottage, but they weren't there.
'Fluttershy ain't got the luxury of waiting on them. I gotta get her to the hospital.'
She lowered herself to place Fluttershy onto her back. "It's alright, Sugarcube. I'm gonna get you to the hospital."
"Applejack," a quiet voice spoke out from Fluttershy's kitchen.
The orange pony turned her head, her eyes burned with tears and anger. "Who's there," she tried to shout but came out as a hoarse cry.
Twilight Sparkle slowly emerged from the kitchen. Concern and fear etched on her face.
Applejack sighed and she patted Fluttershy on her side, "It's gonna be ok Fluttershy. Twilight's here." She looked at the lavender unicorn and said, "Look we ain't got no time to explain, but Fluttershy here might be hurt bad. We need to get her to a doc."
Twilight's eyes were locked onto Applejack's, but she managed to look over at the battered door. Her eyes then went down to Fluttershy and back to Applejack. The fear and concern on Applejack's face stunned her for a moment.
Once Twilight managed to find her voice again she said, "Applejack, she's fine." Twilight flared her horn and the lights came on.
Applejack could see the room though once again she needed to wait for her eyes to adjust to the sudden change. The normally plain room now decorated with balloons, streamers, and a big banner that read, "Happy Birthday, Applejack!" She looked around and saw the table she bumped into had presents and cups. On the floor next to the table was a silver punch bowl turned over its contents spilled on the floor.
It was at this time Pinkie Pie and Rarity made their way out of their respective hiding places. They both shared looks of concern their faces.
Pinkie walked up to Applejack, gave her a hug and whispered, "Surprise. I'm sorry."
'Surprise,' Applejack thought to herself. 'Just what kind of surprise is this?' She still felt tired and the adrenaline rush faded. The splinters stuck in her chest and shoulder began to sting. Applejack looked down and saw Fluttershy getting up, but the yellow pony kept her head down.
In a flash, Applejack grabbed the meek pegasus and began covering her with kisses on her cheeks, face, forehead, and even her snout. "Oh sugarcube! I'm so glad ya'll are ok." A wave of relief washed over Applejack. 'She's ok.' She pulled away and looked at Fluttershy. The yellow pony's face was flush and she smiled at Applejack.
Applejack looked into those beautiful blue green eyes, and she could not help herself. She leaned in and kissed Fluttershy on the lips. In this betrayal of her emotions, Applejack felt nothing but joy. Fluttershy's soft lips tasted sweet, and Applejack enjoyed the scent of her mane. If she had to give the feeling a name, she would say that is felt like kissing spring.
The timid pegasus froze for a second and began to return the kiss. She lifted a hoof and stroked Applejack's cheek. A small squeak escaped her when the strong work pony tightened her embrace, and they remained that way until a voice shouted out.
"What the hay is going on," Rainbow Dash shouted.
The shock of what happened hit Applejack like a bucket of ice water. She pulled away from Fluttershy and took a few unsteady steps back causing her to fall onto her haunches, but she kept her eyes locked on her friends. They all had concerned looks except for Rarity who looked as though she was about to burst from giddiness, always the romantic that one, and Rainbow who was angry. 'What the hay is wrong with Rainbow,' Applejack thought, but a sharp pain knocked her focus down to her chest.
"Ow," she looked down and saw Fluttershy had a large splinter in her mouth. The blood on the splinter reminded Applejack of her less than graceful entrance. She lowered her head and said "I'm mighty sorry about your door there Fluttershy. I promise I'll get her fixed for you good as new."
Rarity still had a radiant smile on her face and said, "Applejack, you simply must tell us what spurred you to kiss Fluttershy."
Applejack sighed and said, "Alright everypony. Well, I don't really know where to begin. I mean, I always thought Fluttershy's sweeter than a caramel apple, and-"
"Oh come on. You really expect us to buy that," Rainbow asked.
Applejack walked up to the blue pegasus and tried to put a hoof on her shoulder. When Rainbow knocked it away Applejack asked "Rainbow did I do something wrong? I understand if this is a shock to you but I can't help that I feel this way for Fluttershy."
Rainbow Dash shook her head, "Yeah yeah yeah. Nothing I haven't heard before." She turned to Fluttershy and said, "Fluttershy, Outside! Now!" Rainbow Dash made her way outside of her cabin and gave Fluttershy a stern look and a quick glare to Applejack.
"Um, I'll be right back. I promise," Fluttershy said to Applejack and gave her a hug before she made her way to the entrance of the cottage. She stopped to examine what was left of her door before she stepped outside. Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to speak and then looked up. She shot up in the air and Fluttershy slowly followed.
"Um, anypony know what's going on," Applejack asked.
Twilight left to the kitchen to grab a first aid kit, and Rarity asked. "What do you mean?"
Applejack face darkened, "I mean, just what the hay is wrong with ya'll? How could you send me that note, and cause me to think poor Fluttershy was hurt?"
"Ugh, Rainbow," Twilight said. She set the first aid kit down and rubbed her face with a hoof. She looked to Applejack and said, "I'm really sorry, but we needed a reason to get you here, and Rainbow said that you're always rushing to help Fluttershy." Twilight smiled and nudged Applejack, "I guess we know why."
"Uh, yeah. I guess we do. Listen girls. I have to know right now. Are ya'll ok with this? The last thing I want is to lose my friends."
Pinkie gave Applejack a big hug, "Of course we're ok with it. The look on Fluttershy's face was priceless. I don't think I've seen her happier."
Applejack smiled and looked to the other two ponies who were nodding in agreement. She blushed and said, "Thanks. I really appreciate it."
"Great," Twilight said, "Now let's get you cleaned up." She began to clean Applejack's wounds and pull all the splinters from her shoulder and chest.
Above the cottage, another conversation was taking place.
"Rainbow what's wrong," Fluttershy asked her friend.
If the blue pegasus heard her, she made no sign of it. She just kept mumbling to herself before saying, "I can't believe it! Applejack now thinks she can save you! Gah!" She turned to Fluttershy and said, "Don't even give me that look! I know what's going on here. Applejack thinks she can take care of you. Protect you. Heck I think she could." She flew closer to the yellow pegasus until their noses were touching. "But the real question is 'How long is she gonna put up with you?'" she asked with a poke of her hoof into Fluttershy's chest.
Fluttershy looked down to her cottage and said, "I, um, don't think she would do that. She isn't like that." She looked at Rainbow Dash and asked, "Please, Rainbow Dash, tell me why you're so mad?"
Rainbow Dash gave her friend a smile and said, "I'm not mad. It's just that
" She flew around Fluttershy a few times before saying, "Look I know you like her, and I know she really likes you," she said flying closer to the yellow pegasus and placed her hooves on her shoulders with a look of genuine concern. "I just don't want you to have to nurse another broken heart. You've been hurt before. I don't want to see you be, you know, 'broken' again." Fluttershy flinched as unwanted memories began to flood her mind. She was grateful when Rainbow gave her a shake.
"Stay with me," Rainbow said. "Now don't get me wrong, I trust AJ. I know she'll treat you right. But tell me this, do you love her?"
"Um," Fluttershy said, "I don't know. I only just found out she likes me."
"I'm sorry Fluttershy but that just isn't good enough," Rainbow said.
"I want to find out for myself," Fluttershy said. "No. I need to find out. I know you are only looking out for me but I want this. If things don't work out I think we could still be friends."
With a sigh Rainbow Dash said, "Alright let's get you to your girlfriend."
Fluttershy smiled and followed her down.
Once both pegasus ponies were on the ground Fluttershy ran back into her cottage. Twilight had finished cleaning up Applejack's shoulder and chest and bandaged her up. Fluttershy ran over to Applejack and threw her forelegs around her giving her kiss on the cheek and a quick peck on the lips.
Applejack looked over to Rainbow and saw that she was no longer mad and now was concerned. Rainbow motioned for Applejack to follow her outside and she did so.
Once they were both outside Applejack said, "I hope you don't expect me to follow you on up."
Rainbow Dash just paced back and forth for a bit before looking Applejack right in the eye, "If you hurt her-," she began.
"Now hold on there," Applejack interrupted. "I ain't looking to cause nopony any pain. I just fell for the filly and now I think I can-"
"Take care of her," Rainbow Dash finished for Applejack her eyes narrowing having heard the same line before.
Applejack just looked at Rainbow a little taken aback by what she said. She shook her head and said, "I don't know what you think my motives are, but I am not looking to be Fluttershy's personal shield." The words caught Rainbow Dash by surprise. Applejack continued, "Now don't get me wrong. I want to take care of her, but," she looked over to Fluttershy who was now nervously talking to the other ponies, "that pony is far more capable than she even realizes. You've seen it Rainbow. Remember how she dealt with that manticore and then with the dragon?" Applejack could feel her cheeks begin to redden as she remembered their trial that day. She shook her head and said, "That's a little bit of the true Fluttershy coming out. She can be as tough and dependable as she wishes she could be, and it can't be forced out. It needs to come out at its own pace at its own time."
Applejack looked back to Rainbow Dash and saw her smiling. Rainbow lifted a hoof and said, "Listen. I'm sorry I'm being so protective of Fluttershy, but she has had too many heroes try to save her and end up hurting her." She lowered her head and said, "I wish I could say all the pain was emotional, but one just lost patience and resorted to a little 'slap her down' therapy." Rainbow shook with anger when she said that. She looked up to Applejack and saw genuine concern on the mare's face. With a grin Rainbow said, "Oh don't worry. He received more than a little therapy from me. Of course that resulted in another of many disciplinary problems that led me getting kicked out of flight school." She looked back to Fluttershy, and smiled at the yellow pony. She was finished cleaning up Applejack's heroic entrance and was smiling at her friends. Rainbow leaned towards Applejack and said, "I wouldn't do anything different. I don't like to admit it and you better keep it to yourself, but I can't stand to see her sad."
With a nervous cough Rainbow said, "Well anyway it's about time we started your birthday party."
"Yeah about that," Applejack said. "Ya'll do know my birthday ain't till tomorrow right?"
"Of course we do silly," Pinkie shouted, "but we figured that there would be no way we could keep a surprise party hidden from the Element of Honesty on her birthday. You'd see right through it!"
With a laugh, Applejack and Rainbow Dash went back inside the cottage. Applejack nuzzled Fluttershy's cheek and gave her an affectionate kiss.
"Oh they're so cute together," Rarity said. She sat down on Fluttershy's couch and said, "Now Applejack, please finish your story.
Applejack turned to Rainbow Dash and when the blue pegasus smiled and nodded she said, "Well, like I said, I've always thought Fluttershy was cute and sweet. Before Twilight came to Ponyville, we never spent a lot of time together, but the few times we did talk they were great." She put her leg around Fluttershy, "It wasn't until we had to face that scary dragon that I understood what I felt."
She took her hat off and showed everypony the lock of hair she saved, "This lock of hair got caught in my hat. I look at it when I'm too tired. It's comforting." She cleared her throat and said, "Anyway, I fell in love with her when she stood up to that dragon. All of us failed in trying to convince him to leave, and it wasn't until Fluttershy scolded him that I saw her true beauty and strength." She leaned and gave Fluttershy a kiss on the head earning her a giggle from the shy pony.
"I can't believe you kept your feelings hidden for almost a year," Twilight said.
Applejack nodded leaning in to nuzzle Fluttershy one more time and said, "Well, yeah. Ah just didn't want to lose what we already had as friends. Though there were times that I really wanted to let my feelings known, I still kept them to myself. It's silly now but then it seemed for the best." She looked back at Fluttershy, stared into those beautiful eyes and said, "Though I really wish I said something sooner."
Applejack stood up still standing close to Fluttershy and said, "Now let's get this party going."
"Yay," the other ponies cheered
As usual, it was another Pinkie Pie party success. All the ponies danced and laughed the night away.
Once the party finished Applejack went to work rebuilding Fluttershy's front door. "It's a mighty good thing Rainbow has a habit of crashing into your door Fluttershy, but how many spare doors do you have?"
Fluttershy giggled and said, "Oh just that one, and she doesn't crash. She just, um lands harder than she intends."
Rainbow groaned and Fluttershy giggled again.
"Well, I promise that this will be a door that you'll be proud of." It took some doing, but she made a few improvements to it. She made it lighter so Fluttershy would be able to open it easier and moved the hinges so the door would open wider in case she needed to bring in a wounded critter. Once the work was done the only ponies still there were Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy who lived there.
"There," Applejack said admiring her work, "Why I reckon it's better than new." She looked over to the other two ponies and could see that Fluttershy was falling asleep and Rainbow still had something on her mind.
"Well Fluttershy," Applejack said to the sleepy pegasus, "I best be getting home." She gave her a kiss on the cheek and said, "What do you say we have lunch tomorrow?"
Fluttershy blushed and nodded. "Good night Applejack." She gave Applejack a kiss on the cheek and before the orange pony could turn away, she gave her a quick kiss on the lips earning her a blush from the earth pony.
"Yeah night everypony," Rainbow Dash said before she soared out of the house.
Applejack left Fluttershy's cottage with a huge smile on her face. 'Best birthday ever,' she thought to herself. She was so lost in thought that she didn't notice Rainbow Dash land next to her.
"There something you need to know," she said startling Applejack out of her thoughts.
The two ponies stopped and Applejack said, "Well it must be mighty important if you didn't want to say it back at the party."
"Yeah," Rainbow said, "Look. Fluttershy hasn't had a lot of relationships. She just isn't that kind of pony, but the few relationships she's had haven't ended well." Rainbow flapped her wings taking flight and circled Applejack as though she were looking for the next words. After a minute, she landed and said, "Most of what happened to Fluttershy is harmless. Some colt would get tired of her shy and timid nature and dump her. You remember the one that hit her?"
"Well like I said I got him," Rainbow said with a grin but her expression went dark, "But there was one I couldn't get, and it was the one that hurt her the most. The worst part is that I don't even know who it was. Fluttershy never told me, and I'm not about to force it out of her." She looked at Applejack and said, "I'm telling you this because Fluttershy and me have a deal. If she has found someone she can truly trust then she'll tell them what happened. You know how long it takes Fluttershy to say things that don't matter so this will take a long time for her to tell you. But when she finally does, just listen." Rainbow's eyes were wet with tears, and she remembered what that colt did. She leaned into Applejack's neck and began crying and cursing softly into her mane.
"Shh, ok Rainbow," Applejack said. She held the sobbing pegasus. After a few minutes, Rainbow regained much of her composure and gave Applejack a weak smile.
"Thanks," she began, "I'm sorry about that it's just that when she tells you about him." She paused to try and maintain her composure. "When she finally tells you, you'll understand." Rainbow sniffed back some more tears before taking off.
"Night Rainbow," Applejack said as Rainbow Dash flew away. She wondered just what happened to Fluttershy to have this strong a reaction to Rainbow. 'She'll tell me when she's ready,' Applejack thought.
She looked up to the sky and realized the time. Applejack took a few steps and stumbled forward. She wore herself out today, but she didn't care. She looked to the second floor of Fluttershy's cottage and saw her girlfriend standing at the window. 'My girlfriend,' she thought. The thought sounded like music to her.
Applejack waved and smiled as Fluttershy waved back. She turned and started walking back home. 'Just what happened to her,' she thought. Applejack shook her head instead focusing on how she finally shared her feelings with Fluttershy. There was a new feeling in her chest. It was a warmth that Applejack hoped would never go away.