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Sour Apples - Part One (Anon x Applejack)

By: Leucine on Sep 24th, 2013  |  syntax: None  |  size: 43.44 KB  |  views: 200  |  expires: Never
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  1. >It's been a good year for you in Equestria. You'd really settled into your life here and accepted it as your home and that was in no small thanks to the friendliness of the ponies who made up its community.
  2. >And that easily went double for the tan mare sitting by your side, a mug of hard apple cider in her hoof.
  3. >"Here's to another year with great friends!"
  4. >Dash, at her toast, clinks her mug a little too hard against AJ's, sloshing some of the liquid across her.
  5. >"Aw- consarnit, Rainbow why'dja hafta slap 'em together so hard!"
  6. >The blue pegasus is already below her, collecting the runoff from her mane while trying to contain her giggles.
  7. >"I'm sure she didn't mean it, AJ. Besides, you look kinda cute with your mane wet like that." And she does, you reflect. Altogether too cute but you couldn't say that.
  8. >She smiles sheepishly, turning aside from you. You're almost sure you spot a blush but you'd rather err on this side of caution, no point in ruining a good friendship by taking her up wrong. You'd done that so much lately, chalking up these little things to Applejack just being that way. She was... yeah, she was a pretty beautiful pony with a sparkling personality but you'd never want to insult her by implying she was sending you signals.
  9. >Looking around the bar you see all sorts of other ponies laughing, talking, drinking. The rest of the girls had been at the party Pinkie Pie threw earlier but had since retired, leaving you, AJ and R.D. to the drinking.
  10. >"Uh, sugarcube?" She's looking back at you now, holding out her mostly empty mug.
  11. >"Mind if Ah take a swig a yours? Somep0ny's gone and emptied most a mine."
  12.  
  13. >You nod, passing AJ your own, your hand brushing lightly against her fetlock. As always, her coat is softer than any material you could put name to. You only wish it wasn't restricted to these little touches.
  14. >After that little episode the three of you settle into more friendly chat, going from recent developments in sporting events, the upcoming apple harvest, Wonderbolt tours and... oh yes, ponies they might have the hots for. Dash plays it cool by insinuating she might allow her standards to lower enough to finally find someone while AJ... she gives a brief glance at you before stating she's not really interested in ponies right now. Too much going on at the farm.
  15. >You were left out of that line of questioning, thankfully. Well, not exactly thankfully as it would have allowed you a nice opportunity to gauge some reactions.
  16.  
  17. >The evening wanes and the three of you continue to drink on but not to the point of inebriation. Still, you offer to walk Applejack home to a few jeers courtesy of Dash. And a few angry responses from AJ about being able to handle her alcohol better than any prissy pegasus.
  18. >This is something you always enjoy - just being around Applejack. It's why you'd taken up a job performing various tasks around the farm. The pay is good but the company, food and surroundings would have been worth it all the same.
  19. >What few ponies are out at this time of night stop and greet the two of you on your way back. It's nice to have this feeling of familiarity in what was previously such a strange world.
  20. >Tramping up to the farmhouse, AJ stops short of the door, looking back at you with a smile.
  21.  
  22. >"Listen, sugarcube, I had a real great time with ya tonight." Her smile turns a little shy as she looks off to one side. "And... well... I was wonderin' if ya might like ta come out tomorrow... I-It's just Ah've got some fierce work pilin' up and Ah hate ta ask on yer day off..."
  23. >You raise a hand. "It's fine, AJ. You know I'm always happy to help you." And it's worth any effort to see her smile like this.
  24. >She hops of the from the decking and puts a quick hug around you.
  25. >"Thanks, Anon, Ah don't rightly know what Ah'd do without ya sometimes."
  26. >Nor you her.
  27. >You know you hold her for far longer than is really necessary but she also seems just a little reluctant to let go... or it could just be you projecting. Or not. Damnit, maybe you should just come clean and tell her.
  28. >"Hey, AJ..."
  29. >She's already stopped in the doorway, looking back at you.
  30. >"Uh... What time should I come out at?" Nice going idiot.
  31. >"Aww, any time before one's jus' perfect, sugarcube. Night now."
  32. >"Yeah, good night." Idiot.
  33.  
  34. >The walk back to your own home is a little less joyful than that back to Sweet Apple Acres. Back to that quiet little house just on the outskirts of Ponyville. It's not like you lacked for friends among the community but man has emotional needs that friends can't fulfill and you're no less a slave to that than any other.
  35. >But maybe you could break on through. Maybe tomorrow you could... what? Say it to her? Risk everything? Could you stand to go on like this, wondering in private and always lamenting what might be? No. No, you'd just have to take a chance and trust your friendship would weather any rejection.
  36.  
  37. >Sleep is somewhat restless for you that night. The prospect of losing AJ is something that weighs heavily upon you while in equal measure you can't suppress a certain excitement at the prospect - no matter how slim - that she may return your feelings.
  38. >So come morning you clean up, get dressed in some good duds - good enough to be presentable without looking out of place on the farm - and make a hearty breakfast. The idea of heading into town and passing some time idly does come to mind but you know well you'd never be able to settle your mind on anything with this hanging over you.
  39. >At least the weather is keeping up, with nary a cloud in the sky. If nothing else you'll be able to enjoy the day out with Applejack.
  40.  
  41. >Living on the opposite side of the town from the farm meant a fair walk but at least it gave you some time to decide on what you'd do. Obviously leave asking until the end of the day, maybe ask if she'd like to get something to eat in Ponyville and then when you get her back home ask her where it's quiet.
  42. >You've just enough time to run through it a few times before you come up to the farm, AJ already visible, hauling apples back from the orchard to the root cellar. Now this is something you'd be glad to help out with. Not the bucking itself, your legs just didn't have the kind of strength but you were more than happy to carry plenty of buckets.
  43. >Spotting you, she sets down her buckets and waves. You return it, jogging up to her.
  44. >"Well howdy, Anon! Ya know there weren't no need fer ya ta come out this early."
  45. >"Just means we can get finished sooner, right?"
  46. >She practically beams, nodding before allowing you to take the buckets while she retrieves more for herself.
  47.  
  48. >You've carried a couple of loads to the cellar before you're forced to stop and take off your shirt, tying it around yourself. AJ comes walking up but stops short, staring at you. You walk up to her, her eyes not leaving you.
  49. >"You okay, AJ? You... want me to put my shirt back on?"
  50. >Ponies never showed any problem with you disrobing to any degree but you'd still prefer not to offend any sensibilities if you suspected you might. AJ continues staring for a moment longer before shaking her head slightly and smiling.
  51. >"Nah... nah, Ah told ya before, Ah don't mind it none."
  52. >She keeps her eyes quite straight as she trots off ahead of you. Alright, you know your work on the farm has evened you out since you arrived here but surely she wouldn't be staring unless she just happened to like you. The thought sets the embers of your hope to a greater flame.
  53. >After that she becomes a little less reticent about looking at you and think you even catch her staring once or twice again after.
  54.  
  55. >With you helping in hauling the apples quite a few more trees are harvested than otherwise would have and by the end of the work day AJ is talking happily about how she really needed to catch up after Big Macintosh put his leg out while ploughing one of the fields.
  56. >You're walking back to the farmhouse, sure this is the perfect opportunity to ask her out, when she pre-empts you and asks you in for dinner. It certainly puts a dent in your plans but you couldn't turn down Apple family hospitality. Not to mention how delicious the meal was guaranteed to be.
  57.  
  58. >The interior of the Apple family homestead was always a joy to be in. Every inch spoke of rustic charm from the aged wooden walls to the worn but comfortable furniture. To say nothing of the very family that inhabited it.
  59. >Having taken up a position on the farm, this wasn't the first time you'd been invited in to dinner but it was never any less wonderful for that. Granny Smith somehow always managed to pile the table to near overflowing with steaming apple dishes. And there was always a story to tell to at least one, about how this aunt had passed the recipe down to her as a girl or that had won her grandfather first place in the Fillydelphian Farmer's Faire.
  60. >Pulling up a chair and sitting down, you let the weight off your legs and sigh heavily. AJ more tiredly walks to her own, wincing as she sits down. She spots you eying her and waves a hoof.
  61. >"Ah... Mah hooves are jus' killin' me after today, sugarcube. Don'tcha worry none."
  62.  
  63. >You look at that strained smile for a moment longer before nodding and turning to Big Macintosh, enquiring how his leg is faring. A short reply about it feeling much better is all you get but as you'd expect of the gentle giant he has the same kindly smile he always does.
  64. >"So Mister Anon, ya've been here fer a year now, how're ya likin' Equestria?"
  65. >You turn to your side to see Applebloom smiling brightly to you. The little filly would delight in asking all sorts of questions about Earth whenever you'd be over working though she never seemed to get over ponies just being another animal back home.
  66. >"Applebloom, you don't have to call me 'Mister' Anon, but it's pretty nice. All of you ponies have been good to me, you here especially. You know I won't ever be able to repay you for your kindness."
  67. >"Aww hush up now, yer always gonna be welcome here as a friend a ours, ain't that right, Mac?"
  68. >"Eeeyup."
  69. >"See? All he does is sing yer praises."
  70.  
  71. >"Uh, actually, AJ ain't you the one who-"
  72. >"Haha! Now, Mac, don'tcha think you should eat up before yer food goes cold?"
  73. >"But Ah was jus'-"
  74. >"Whadda ya think, Granny?"
  75. >The ancient mare stops nibbling at her own dish to look up blearily to Macintosh, Applejack and back to him.
  76. >"Yer ne'er gonna grow none 'less ya eat up, Mac! C'mon now, don't that suppah look mighty tasty?"
  77. >"Yes, Granny."
  78. >AJ passes you a very forced looking grin before motioning you to tuck in to your own food which you dutifully oblige. Conversation passes about the table as evenly as it always does but AJ keeps an eye to Mac whenever he speaks. Applebloom peppers you with a variety of questions about Earth music, having heard about some of it before. That quickly ends as she suddenly shifts the topic to whether you had any girlfriends, adding a very badly suppressed series of giggles.
  79. >Again, AJ looks quite intently over to you as you respond that yes, you've had one or two but it was nothing serious. The filly asks if you've found a special somep0ny before Big Macintosh leans across the table to tap her shoulder and whisper something to her.
  80. >She gives him and odd look than passes it from you back to him.
  81. >"But Ah don't get it. Everyp0ny deserves to find their special somep0ny!"
  82. >"Applebloom, hush, we ain't gonna talk about that at the dinner table."
  83. >"But-"
  84. >"Ah said hush now!"
  85. >The stern look he gives her says all and she falls silent, keeping her eyes on her food. AJ looks apologetically at you before glaring at her brother who doesn't notice, eyes only for the food in front of him.
  86. >Speaking of which, your own is sadly rather uneaten but now that Applebloom has been settled down that can be rectified.
  87.  
  88. >Conversation is slow to start up after that and AJ appears particularly unwilling to join in. Perhaps this isn't a side of her brother she doesn't like to see or maybe there are problems with he and Applebloom that you don't know about. In any case, it's not your place to pry and ruminating on it won't offer answers.
  89. >"Say, AJ, would you maybe like to go out for drinks this weekend? No Dash or any of the other girls, just... you know... friends."
  90. >She looks up very suddenly, a little smile growing on her lips as you go on before she nods, going back to her meal looking decidedly better.
  91. >The rest of the meal proceeds well enough, until you're left there with AJ as Big Macintosh goes off to help Granny Smith into bed and tuck Applebloom into her own. Standing, AJ winces once more before lightly walking carrying her plate over to the sink.
  92. >"AJ, are your hooves really that sore?"
  93. >She takes her time turning around, not quite looking at you but when she does... she sees the look on your face and nods.
  94. >"Right, c'mon."
  95. >"Wh-Whut are ya doin'?"
  96. >You don't respond except to gently lead her up the stairs and to her room, gently shutting the door after you. AJ stands in the middle of the floor shuffling nervously. You had nothing planned for tonight but you could help with the hooves situation.
  97. >"Would you mind sitting on your bed."
  98. >She hesitates only a moment longer before doing so, hind legs dangling over the edge while her forehooves like in her lap.
  99. >"Whut have ya in mind, sugarcube?" Is that a little grin forming on her lips?
  100. >"Look... I just want to help you with those hooves." You walk over to the bed and motion back along it. "Could you lie back please? Just relax."
  101. >She takes a deep breath before doing so, scooching back along it.
  102.  
  103. >She hasn't made any objection so far so... worse comes to worst you could still play it off as innocent. Hell, even if you didn't have feelings for her you're sure you'd be hard put to not offer her this.
  104. >Kneeling down at the edge of the bed you take one of her hooves in your hands - she hisses sharply at the touch.
  105. >"How bad?"
  106. >There's a little pause before she responds. "Pretty bad..."
  107. >No point starting there then, should have known better anyway. You move a little further up her leg, to the hock, and start gently rubbing and pressing at the muscles. There's a gasp from above you as the leg tenses up before relaxing dramatically.
  108. >"S-Sugarcube?"
  109. >"Do you want me to stop?"
  110. >There's no response. You hear a long exhalation and see her sink a little further into the bed. That's a definite no, then.
  111. >You're no masseuse but you could still pick out the tough knots in the muscle and work them out, earning you deep sighs and satisfied groans as the leg becomes increasingly limp under your touch. Working your way down there's no hissing or other indication of pain and you finally come to her poor, overworked hoof.
  112. >It's a little dusty so you take a cloth from her bedside locker, gently rubbing at it before going to work upon it. It's far softer than you would have expected of an Earth horse's hoof; there's a definite strength to it to support her but also just a little give. The breathing above you is low and soft now so you take your time switching over to the other leg, proceeding along it in the same fashion.
  113.  
  114. >When you're done you stand and gaze upon a very, very satisfied looking Applejack. That smile... it's one you haven't seen before. Such unbridled gratitude. So... maybe now is the right time. You sit down on the bed next to her and she pulls herself up, sitting close next to you.
  115.  
  116. >"Anon, Ah-"
  117. >"AJ, there's something-"
  118. >You both stop, blushing slightly, both suddenly realising in one glorious moment what the hell is going on here.
  119. >"Ladies first."
  120. >She sniggers into a hoof before looking at you much more seriously and... is that a hoof on your shoulder?
  121. >"Well, Ah... Ah've been mighty sweet on ya fer some time now, Anon. Yeah, Ah know Ah'm a pony an'... well yer not but..."
  122. >"Doesn't matter, does it? Not to me, anyway. Because I think... to -me- at least, you're beautiful, AJ."
  123. >The mare looks snaps her face away. "No... p0ny's ever said Ah'm... beautiful."
  124. >You tilt her face around to you, seeing a wide smile on it.
  125. >"Must have terrible eyesight, then."
  126. >She chuckles throatily at that, a sound that sets your heart to fluttering whenever you hear it. And this time is in no way an exception.
  127.  
  128. >"So ya don't think Ah'm some kinda... perve-pony?" Her eyes fall into a little frown.
  129. >"I could ask you the same. I mean... I -am- the one who just gave you a hoof massage." Good grief, you did, didn't you? And there had been nothing wrong with it. All you'd done was made her feel good.
  130. >"An' Ah'd be lyin' if Ah said I wouldn' want another one a those again. But fer now Ah think Ah'll jus' take one a these."
  131. >"One of wh-"
  132. >You don't have time to finish before she gently presses her lips to your own. You had your reservations before about how well your own lips might have met with hers but you needn't. These pony lips were surely made for nothing else but to be kissed.
  133. >There's no tongue exchanged this time, it's just an innocent expression of the long held love between the two of you. The time for greater intimacy could still wait.
  134. >You hope her smile is as wide as your own as you pull apart, looking into those beautiful green eyes. Those green eyes that spoke of long summer days in endless fields and all the joy of a simple life with her.
  135.  
  136. >"Do ya want me ta..."
  137. >"Hmm?"
  138. >She motions down at herself. Oh. Oh!
  139. >"No! No, wait, I don't mean no! I-" You grunt, throwing a hand against your head and rubbing it absently. "I mean, not now, I don't think either of us is ready for that but... yes, some day." The hand comes down, letting her see your smile. "I did say you're beautiful."
  140. >"Well... yer a pretty darn handsome feller yerself, hun'."
  141. >Her hoof stays on your shoulder, despite neither of you making a move or saying another word.
  142. >"Want me to stay over with you tonight?"
  143. >"Huh?" She looks down to the bed, back up to you before blushing lightly. "Oh... s-sure, that'd be rightly nice."
  144. >"Yeah..."
  145.  
  146. >You wake early to something moving against your side. You'd complain but it feels damn good. Soft, warm, hair like AJ's...
  147. >Oh. That's right, you'd fallen asleep with her. A night of lying together in each other's embrace... you never could've imagined how good it might really feel.
  148. >She gets up ahead of you, telling you to wait a little before coming down. It's not that she's ashamed of it just... her family's a little old fashioned so she'd like to give it a bit of time before telling them.
  149. >That's no problem for you, not going to complain about a little extra time in bed. Which you would do if she doesn't tell you that you need to go and ruffle up the bedclothes in the spare room.
  150. >Groaning heavily you drag yourself from the Applejack scented bed and plod into the spare room, pulling back the covers and flopping in...
  151.  
  152. >Some time later a jabbing sensation comes at your side. You grunt heavily, slapping at it but it persists.
  153. >"C'mon, Anon, ya gotta get some breakfast inta ya!"
  154. >That voice... you know that voice.`
  155.  
  156. >You turn and blearily gaze up at an altogether too bright and cheerful little yellow face gazing down at you.
  157. >"Morning... Applebloom."
  158. >"Mornin' Anon! Now come -on-! We gotta get down 'fore the rest a them eat our breakfast up!"
  159. >You push yourself up and the covers off. Applebloom seems unperturbed, as a more wakeful mind might notice, at your relative lack of clothing. Scratching at yourself you throw on a pair of trousers and a shirt before ambling out to the bathroom.
  160. >Or you would if a heavenly scent didn't stop you in your tracks. This... whatever this was easily put to shame the sumptuous supper you were fed last night. Applebloom sees you daydreaming and knocks a hoof against your leg.
  161. >"Exactly! So get ta washin' or Granny'll never let ya eat."
  162. >And with that little tidbit offered she's running off down the stairs. Well, there's nothing for it save to get yourself washed up.
  163.  
  164. >Dressed fully and coming down the stairs the smell intensifies. Pancakes? Pancakes with very thin slices of caramelised apple, AJ informs you before tossing it on the skillet.
  165. >"Didja sleep well las' night, sonny?"
  166. >Granny Smith passes you a friendly smile as you sit across from her at the table. Right, AJ must have given them the story about how tired you were after your work yesterday and had decided to avail of the guest room. So you just nod politely before tucking into the plate of pancakes already in front of you.
  167. >Applebloom is already wolfing her own down while Big Macintosh slowly works through his own, passing one or two over to her as she finishes her own. She smiles up at him as he does so and he down at her. It's nice to think that such disagreements as they had last night could be so easily forgotten but then that was just another one of the little joys of this family.
  168.  
  169. >Big Macintosh looks up, passing you an odd glance, before going back to his meal. Presently, AJ sits down next to you, depositing a plate of pancakes in front of herself. She wastes no time tucking in with all the manners of her younger sister. Then again, the others seem too taken up with their own plates to notice or care.
  170. >Breakfast chat is subdued and mostly restricted to the farm chores for the day. Applebloom shucks on her saddlebags before offering quick kisses to her family - stopping just short of you before going through with it anyway - and is off out the door excitedly.
  171. >You don't have anything else planned for today and were scheduled to come to the farm anyway so you offer to get an early start alongside AJ. Naturally, she's glad for the help.
  172.  
  173. >Walking out through the orchard you hear a strange whooshing noise overhead. This is quickly followed by a cry of 'Look out!' before yourself and AJ dive to each side, narrowly missing being slammed into a tree alongside Rainbow Dash.
  174. >She's thankfully okay, if a little dazed and the two of you sit her down to set her right.
  175. >"Celestia, Rainbow, think ya could practice somewhere a little more open next time?"
  176. >The pegasus shakes her head before giving a pleading look at her friend.
  177. >"Yeah but nowhere else has obstacles like the orchard."
  178. >"Whut, ya mean obstacles like us?"
  179. >A soft growl falls into a groan as she stands herself up. "I'm sorry, geeze!"
  180. >Noticing you, she quickly looks between yourself and AJ. "Hey, what's Anon doing here so early anyway?"
  181. >"Well... Anon here was powerful tired yesterday so... uh, he decided ta stay over?"
  182. >Ah, that was Applejack. Even when she did lie it was pretty bad and her face would contort into some horrible rictus.
  183. >Dash scrutinises her for a moment before shrugging. "Whatever, it's not like you guys were getting up to anything. Now -that'd- be bad!"
  184. >Neither of you say anything in response.
  185.  
  186. >At the first sign of being asked if she'd like to help out Dash is off like a shot, offering some half-hearted sounding apologies as she loops and barrels through the skies. Applejack mutters a few choice oaths but you like to admire Dash's aerobatics; that is, before you're called back to where you are by a gentle hoof to your side. Right, you've got a lot of work to do.
  187. >Today is a little different, with a variety of tasks spread out through the farm. Hauling apples, carrying equipment out to the fields, some re-fencing... you've seen it all since you took on work here. And yes, it could often be hard but it was good, honest work. And now AJ was free to admire you without your shirt. At least where there weren't any other ponies about to see her ogling.
  188. >Big Macintosh, in particular, seems to pay more careful attention to the two of you when he's about but you manage to ditch him later in the day. Sneaking off into a secluded part of the orchard while giggling like schoolkids... Okay, you really should have outgrown all that but there was a certain undeniable innocent fun to be found in it.
  189.  
  190. >You finish a little earlier this evening and AJ seems very pleased with the work.
  191. >"Say, sugarcube, wouldja mind comin' with me? There's somethin' Ah've... well you'll see."
  192. >You cock an eyebrow at her but she just chuckles and motions with her head to follow her, which you do.
  193. >She leads you off, deep into the orchard, through parts you haven't often been called out to. Through the canopy overhead you can see the sun sitting low in the sky. At least you had some time before supper would be served up, last thing you wanted was AJ getting in trouble...
  194.  
  195. >You emerge into a small clearing with a small view of the sunset overlooking Sweet Apple Acres. AJ is smiling at you widely but quickly starts scuffing a hoof at the dirt.
  196. >"Sometimes when Ah like ta jus' get away fer a bit Ah'll come out here. An'... Ah use ta think it'd be nice ta have ya with me."
  197. >"And if I'd known you had somewhere like this I'd be sorry I couldn't share it with you."
  198. >She looks up from scuffing. "Well, we're here now, Ah guess. Ain't no reason we can't enjoy it."
  199. >You can't disagree with that and so the two of you sit down with your backs to a tree, though AJ takes care to rest her head on your shoulder. The feel of that soft mane is something you hope never to miss out on again.
  200. >"You know, I'm a little surprised you're interested in me. I have to look pretty weird to you ponies."
  201. >She shuffles against you slightly. "Ah guess. Ah mean, some p0nies might say ya look weird but... Ah dunno, there's jus' somethin' about ya that when Ah look at ya Ah like how it feels."
  202. >You lift an arm and gently settle it over her shoulders, pulling her a little closer.
  203. >"But what about me?"
  204. >"Hmm? What about you?"
  205. >"Well..." She shuffles again, lowering her head a little closer to your chest. You both slouch further down. "Ah mean, ya say Ah'm beautiful but..."
  206. >Right, that's a fair question considering what you've just asked. "Would you believe me if I said I felt the same as you?"
  207. >"Ah dun rightly think Ah'd ever doubt ya, sugarcube."
  208. >"Well, okay. Let's see... you've got such cute freckles-"
  209. >"Whut? Mah freckles? But fillies always used ta make fun a me fer 'em."
  210.  
  211. >"Pfft, they were just jealous I bet. Anyway, like I was saying, I know you're fond of your hat and it does look good on you but that mane is just gorgeous."
  212. >No response, maybe she's just enjoying the attention.
  213. >"Those eyes... I think I could get lost in them if I stared for too long. Every time I'm out in the orchard all I can think of are your eyes, you know. And... okay, I'd be lying if I said you didn't have a great body too."
  214. >Now she giggles, pushing against you but only succeeding in pushing you down further. You're both lying down on the ground now, AJ half over you.
  215. >"I mean it! All the work you do here really pays off, you know." You punctuate that with a gentle stroke of her back. She turns her smiling face to look up at you.
  216. >"Ain't no p0ny ever said anythin' so nice about me, Anon. That's why Ah like ya, cause yer awful sweet ta me."
  217. >You let her see how widely you smile at the compliment, as her hooves move over you. It's nice here, good, peaceful.
  218.  
  219. >The two of you don't have much to say after that. You lie together watch the sun going down until it's dark and the coolness of the evening sets in. And even then you stay on just a little longer, for yourself you're loahte to ever leave the simple joy of this place and this pony.
  220. >AJ makes the promise that the two of you can come out here as often as you want, Big Macintosh doesn't know about it or at least he tends to keep away from it and you'd hear Applebloom coming from a mile away.
  221. >The walk back to the farmhouse is much more enjoyable than any one previous. You keep a hand at AJ's shoulder, feeling her warm slightly under the touch. She smiles up at you, you smile down at those eyes.
  222.  
  223. >That hand comes off her sharpish as you spot Big Macintosh standing out on the porch, watching the two of you approach. Had you really been out that late? If the look he's sending his sister is any indication then you were.
  224. >"Granny's pretty sore ya missed supper AJ, I'd suggest ya get in an' apologise ta her."
  225. >She mutters softly to herself before nodding to him and then turning to you. "Ah'll see ya tomorrow, sugarcube."
  226. >Inside she trots while Big Macintosh waits after, giving you that same odd look from the other night.
  227. >"You were out mighty late with mah sister, part'."
  228. >You shrug as nonchalantly as you can. "We were just talking, you know how she gets when she starts."
  229. >He nods. Slowly. "Jus' be sure ta get her back earlier next time. An' stay where Ah can see ya'll."
  230. >You don't get a chance to ask him what he means before he turns and heads inside himself.
  231.  
  232. >Tonight, your home doesn't seem quite so unwelcoming. Maybe it's just that your mind is taken up with the memories of last night with AJ, or the knowledge that you don't have to be afraid of saying anything to her anymore. Or maybe, just -maybe-, because you'll now have more reasons to ask her over.
  233. >It doesn't really matter, though, as sleep comes for you quickly and easily tonight, the work of the day catching up to you immediately.
  234.  
  235. >It's Friday, which means drinks tonight with Dash. Even that seems more appealing now. You don't have to stare into your mug, thinking about AJ. But you've got another day on the farm before that. And what a day it is. If Big Macintosh was watching you yesterday he's practically all over you today. Surely he couldn't have caught on to what's going on... And if he had what would it matter anyway? AJ said they were a little old-fashioned but it couldn't be that bad.
  236.  
  237. >Or maybe it is, as any time you're seen with AJ he's carefully scrutinising what you're doing. And here you were hoping for a chance to quietly run your fingers through her mane or steal a quick little kiss. Maybe you could ask her out for those drinks later...
  238. >You're carrying loads of apples back to the root cellar with Big Macintosh when he starts speaking.
  239. >"Ya know mah sister's a pretty sweet girl."
  240. >You give a grunt in response.
  241. >"An' Ah know she's gonna find a nice pony ta settle down with on the farm."
  242. >"Yeah... well, she's her own mare. Her choice."
  243. >You hear him stop, resettle the buckets on his back before continuing on. "If she knows whats good fer her she'll settle down."
  244. >"What if she doesn't."
  245. >"She will."
  246. >You grunt, more against resettling your own load than against how frustrating this is.
  247. >"You're her brother, Mac, not her-"
  248. >"Ah'm lookin' out fer her. That's what ya do fer ponies ya love."
  249. >"Sounds to me like you're trying to control her."
  250. >No response. Did you hit a nerve? "Mac, I'm sorry-"
  251. >"Jus' drop it."
  252. >At that kind of flat tone you're not going to argue.
  253.  
  254. >A very uncomfortable silence falls between the two of you for the rest of the day. You've never known Big Macintosh to hold a grudge, let alone get this angry about anything but you do your best to keep out of his way all the same. With any luck he'd calm down in a day or two and you could apologise properly.
  255. >That chance to ask AJ never comes about as she's off into the farmhouse for supper before you can say more than a good evening to her. Maybe Big Macintosh chewed her out last night... You couldn't imagine such a thing but it couldn't be pleasant.
  256. >Dash is waiting just outside the farm for you as she does every Friday.
  257.  
  258. >Well, waiting might be a little generous to the mare, seeing as she's flitting about impatiently.
  259. >"Dude, c'mon! We've gotta get started!"
  260. >"Didn't you have weather duty today?"
  261. >She throws her hooves at her face, mock crying. "I got done early and I've ben waiting to go drinking with you! C'mon!"
  262. >Dash practically drags you off, laughing, in the direction of the Watering Hole. She'd been one of the first ponies to befriend you on your arrival and shortly thereafter turned into your most trusted drinking buddy and bro in general. That was until you'd taken up your job on Sweet Apple Acres and fallen head over heels for the gorgeous mare working there. Dash was still your bro, of course but she had to share that soft spot with AJ.
  263. >At the bar itself she sits you down and orders a few mugs of cider to start before quickly asking how your day was. You get a couple of sentences in before Dash interrupts, declaring how she'd come up with the perfect trick, sure to finally land herself a position in the Wonderbolts. Apparently the collision with the tree that morning had served as inspiration.
  264.  
  265. >The evening proceeds like that, with Dash carrying most of the chat, asking now and again about how much time you've been spending on the farm and with AJ, in particular, lately. Especially the way you stayed over last night. You assure her it was just the work and a good meal, you couldn't drag yourself home after it.
  266. >Your time with her draws to a close and you say your goodbyes, parting ways for the night. At least you have tomorrow with AJ to look forward to.
  267.  
  268. >The evening drinks can't come soon enough. A few games of hoofball with Dash, something sweet at Sugarcube Corner, perusing the books at the library while she gushes over the latest Daring Do novel... yes, finally the day winds down and, at the bar, a familiar tan pony strides through the doors.
  269. >"Well howdy, ya'll. Hope ya don't mind me joinin' you two tonight."
  270. >Dash waves her on over, ordering another mug of cider. "Sure! Hay, at least you don't mind keeping up with us." She turns to you, frowning slightly and continues in a hushed tone. "Why didn't ya tell me Applejack was coming?"
  271. >You shrug, mulling over the last of the cider in your mug. "Must have just slipped my mind."
  272. >She looks at you for a moment longer before turning back to AJ.
  273. >"Ah hear you got yerself a new trick, Rainbow. How's that workin' for ya? I'm surprised yer head ain't lumpier with all the trees ya must be knockin' into." She sniggers into a mug, continuing on to take a drink.
  274. >Dash shoots you a glare. "Yeah... well... we'll see who's laughin' when I'm on the Wonderbolts!"
  275. >She huffs and hops off the barstool, making for the restroom. You take the opportunity to move onto it, sitting next to AJ. Her hoof touches your hand and you gladly hold it.
  276. >"Ah was missin' you today. Ah just feel like Ah'm walkin' on eggshells at home, with the way Mac talks about us spendin' time together. Ah'm not sure if he's caught on."
  277. >"So what if he is? He's going to have to accept that you're seeing someone sometime."
  278. >"Sugarcube, Ah don't think that's his problem, see-"
  279.  
  280. >"Hey! Why'd ya take my spot?"
  281. >Dash is huffing once more behind you, glaring at you and... AJ. Seeing your hand on her hoof she immediately stops, looking between you. "Uh... what're you guys doin' anyway?"
  282. >AJ immediately drops your hand, putting hers to one side and not quite looking at either of you. You look to her and then to Dash, feeling more than a little put out but recalling she still wants to keep this quiet.
  283. >"I was just checking AJ's hoof for... uh, splinters. Right, AJ?"
  284. >She nods, still not looking at you.
  285. >"Besides, Dash, you snooze you lose, right?"
  286. >"Is that so? I'll remember that."
  287. >A little more glumly she hops onto your previous barstool, pulling her mug over to her.
  288. >Chat picks up after that, Dash complaining about weather duty, AJ complaining about rot in one of the trees and you just enjoying the sound of her voice. Which is probably why you both start leaning a little closer to each other over time.
  289. >"Hey, you guys okay?" Dash is looking at you quite intently at saying that. "You're not tired or anything are ya?"
  290. >You pull yourselves straight, much to her sniggering. "Geeze, holding hooves, staying overnight... anyp0ny might think the two of you are an item!" She allows her sniggering to intensify as she picks up her mug, putting it down at the lack of an echoing stream of laughter.
  291. >"Guys? C'mon, don't... okay, joke's over." Her eyes are flitting between you faster now and you force out a little laugh in response. Jesus, she's not serious is she?
  292. >"S-Sure, Rainbow, heh, you really got us!"
  293. >But the mood is soured and you can feel it. Dash tries to keep your cheer but with AJ looking increasingly down beside you it's hard.
  294.  
  295. >You decide to call it a night shortly after, Dash making a nervous departure while AJ offers to walk home with you. Doesn't quite want to go back to her own just yet.
  296. >You're still in the more public part of Ponyville so you can't risk slipping a hand over her, as much as you'd like to. Anything could get back to her family and while you could still only guess at what that'd result in you would prefer not to take any chances. All the same, it's nice to be able to enjoy her company on the walk back.
  297. >Arriving at the house, you look about quickly before bending down and planting a very quick kiss on her lips. She falls to her rump, dumbstruck before scanning her own eyes about, smiling up at you when she sees there's not onlookers. And then motions down with a hoof.
  298. >The second kiss is much more enjoyable, slower, her soft lips taking their time to press up against yours before she slowly pulls away, eyes fluttering open.
  299. >"Guess this is goodnight then." You turn and open your door, looking back to find AJ still standing there, nervously shifting from one hoof to the other.
  300. >"AJ?"
  301. >"Ah... Ah dun wanna go back to the farm tonight, Anon. Could Ah..." She looks up, not saying it, but clearly written in her face and in her eyes. You nod, motioning her in before shutting the door after.
  302. >There's no talk, no polite enquiries about coffee or anything else. You just lead her up to the bedroom and lie down on it with her. Clothes aren't taken off and hooves meet hands, meet forelegs, meet chests, meet backs.
  303. >She huddles in close against you, her forelegs lightly pressed to your back as you gently rub hers.
  304. >"Ah'm awful sorry, sugarcube, Ah jus' wanted ta be near ya tonight."
  305. >"There's nothing I would have liked better either."
  306.  
  307. >AJ seems a little reticant before falling asleep. Surely whatever problems she was having at home couldn't be that bad. But if they were you'd be sure to stick by her no matter what she needed. It was something you'd come to admit to yourself some time ago: you genuinely cared about her.
  308. >And no matter the circumstances that brought her under your roof this night you were going to enjoy her closeness. Her mane smells slightly sweet and of that rich, earthy scent you always get when in the orchard. You stroke it a few times, face buried in it as AJ sighs softly against you, her grip relaxing.
  309. >You kiss it once, twice and a third time, delighting in how the taste is more intense than the scent.
  310.  
  311. >With the morning you wake before her, something you find unusual given her years on the farm. As such, you think the better of waking her, instead pulling the covers over her while you wash yourself and go down to set some breakfast on for the two of you.
  312. >You're almost finished getting it ready when slow clopping comes down the stairs, followed by a rather loud yawn.
  313. >"Mornin', Anon. Sorry Ah'm... ah, up so late."
  314. >"Even you deserve a lie-in every now and then." She chuckles at that, sitting down at the table while you plate up some scrambled eggs and fried vegetables.
  315. >The meal passes in a nice silence, so you think. Stealing little glances at AJ makes her look away from you until finally she asks what you're doing. So you tell her she just looks so nice in the morning light, like this.
  316.  
  317. >But the meal ends eventually and the two of you set off to Sweet Apple Acres with AJ looking a little less exuberant about doing so than usual.
  318. >You're on the way when your curiosity gets the better of you and you ask.
  319. >"Jus'... some li'l thing between Mac an' me."
  320.  
  321. >"Oh yeah? What kind of thing?"
  322. >"Kind a thing Ah'd prefer not ta talk about."
  323. >You both stop, she sighs, looking down before back up at you. "Ah'm sorry, sugarcube, Ah don't mean nothin' by it. Jus' he's bein' a big galoot like he is so often."
  324. >You put a hand on her shoulder, uncaring at this moment for who might see. "If you need to talk about it I'm right here."
  325. >She's biting her lip but shakes her head. "Nah, we can work it out. Always do."
  326. >You'd prefer to be able to offer help but... you know better than to push at her when she doesn't want it. Besides, if it really is a family matter it might cause problems for an outsider to poke into it.
  327. >Neither of you say anything more the rest of the walk but AJ tenses up very suddenly as you approach the farmhouse and looking at it yourself you see why: Big Macintosh is standing at the porch again.
  328. >"Look, you jus' let me take care a this." You nod in response, being sure to keep an eye to her brother.
  329.  
  330. >The closer you get the more easily you can see that he's looking pretty angry, shifting his gaze from one of you to the other as he shifts his weight from hoof to hoof.
  331. >"AJ, what were you doin' out all night!"
  332. >She winces slightly at that before setting her face to a frown. "An' what business a yours is'at?"
  333. >He stamps a hoof and you're almost sure you can feel the force from it where you're standing.
  334. >"Ya'll were at his house, weren't ya?" He motions his head to you, keeping his eyes fixed on her.
  335. >AJ shuffles, glances up to you and you... What possible excuse could you give? He must have known you were out drinking last night.
  336. >"Ya'll went drinkin' and then stopped at his house. Don't tell me nothin' happened, AJ, don't lie ta me."
  337.  
  338. >"Nothin' happened and don'tcha call me a liar, Mac." She growls out the response, lowering her head. "An' even if we did t'ain't none a your business."
  339. >"A course it is! It ain't right, AJ! He ain't even a pony!" He's bellowing the words out, stomping his hoof down the emphasise each point. Now you really -can- feel each stomp.
  340. >"Well maybe Ah don't see how! Maybe Ah think ya should be happy Ah found a... a special somep0ny!"
  341. >Mac stops his shifting in place, eyes going wide before narrowing sharply. "So ya'admit it. You really have gone and started courtin' this feller."
  342. >"Ah have. Ah love him, Mac and Ah ain't about to make anymore bones about that witcha. Ya'll can either accept it or... well Ah don't know what!"
  343. >"If ya know what's right you'll stop this." She gasps, hat snapping back.
  344. >"Mac are... are ya threatenin' me? Yer own kin?"
  345. >"If that's what it takes ta make ya see sense." Whoah, now this is something you -can't- just ignore.
  346. >"Hey, Mac, leave her alone, alright? She's a big girl-"
  347. >"Ah don't recall askin' you no questions, Anon." He keeps his eyes resolutely fixed on AJ as he addresses you. "And fer yer own sake Ah suggest ya get, right now."
  348. >This guy, this big oak of an earth pony, is easily twice your weight and way stronger but you'll be damned if you're going to let him threaten AJ and now yourself. A man has his pride.
  349. >"For your sake -I- suggest you don't threaten me, Macintosh."
  350. >Now he does turn, slowly and you suddenly feel very small and helpless under those unforgiving eyes.
  351. >"Part', Ah'll say this one more time 'cause I consider ya a friend: get."
  352.  
  353. >"This ain't you Mac, what the hay's gotten into ya?"
  354. >"What's gotten into -you-? Is it this weirdo? He do somethin' to ya?"
  355. >"Who the fuck do you think you're calling a weirdo!" Probably not your best choice of words but you're really too angry to have thought that through.
  356. >Like a flash Mac's wheeled on the spot and you're lying on your back, pain lancing through your chest.
  357. >"Anon! Celestia, Mac, what the hay are ya doin!"
  358. >The pain is too much for you to open your eyes so you just lie there, wishing the pain would stop while blood thunders in your ears and voices come through dimly.
  359. >"Puttin' a stop ta this."
  360. >"Ya try that with me and I'll knock yer buckin' teeth out!"
  361. >There's a pause, a loud snort, you can feel a hoof being stamped down harder than before and then clopping.
  362. >Something nudges you and you moan softly at the pain the movement causes.
  363. >"Ah'm sorry hon' but Ah gotta get you some help!"
  364. >You feel yourself being lifted... pain darts through your chest, you try to scream, to give voice to it but all that comes out is a small croak.
  365. >"Please! Please hold on, Anon, just hold on! Ah swear you'll be alright!"
  366. >Clopping and you're being jostled about. You can't even move your arms to hit her to stop before you black out, the last thing you hear before doing so is the soft weeping of Applejack...
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