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Apples, Anonymous and apples.

By OniiChansFables
Created: 21st October 2020 03:49:32 PM

  1. >You look back at the textbook, and type the command into your laptop.
  2. >No red lines.
  3. >Fuck. Yes.
  4. >You are the programming king.
  5. >You are also Anonymous Apple.
  6. >And you may very well be in hick hell.
  7. >Sure your cousins and grandmother are nice (bar one).
  8. >But technologically, you've been sent back a fair bit in time.
  9. >Your shitty laptop outstrips everything else on the damn farm.
  10. >The other Apples just never seemed to really care.
  11. >Mac seems to like working with machines, and seemed fairly interested when you brought up computer components, offering a slightly enthused 'yup' when you asked if he saw where you were coming from.
  12. >Applebloom looks confused, and asks really weird questions that don't bear repeating.
  13. >Hick of the Year looks at you, before shaking her head, and striding off to find the next hootenanny.
  14. >Probably.
  15.  
  16. >You stop typing as you hear somewhat light bootsteps in the hall.
  17. >This farmhouse creaks. A lot. It's old as shit.
  18. >Applejack raps on 'your' doorframe, looking somewhat put out.
  19. >”Soup's on.” She says, without much warmth before disappearing down the hall.
  20. >You stare after your cousin for a good moment, eyes narrowing.
  21. >Fuck is her problem.
  22. >Hell, everyone else seems to like you. Even Applebloom's limited attention span seems to grace you favourably.
  23.  
  24. >You don't get it. She comes in from her stupid chores whilst you're doing important shit.
  25. >Well. You will be. You're still learning at the minute.
  26. >But you're apeshit bananas at computers.
  27. >Maybe you should be apeshit apples instead.
  28. >Seriously, this place is like a large acres wide temple to the God of Apples.
  29. >Not the family.
  30. >The fruit.
  31. > This is confusing.
  32.  
  33. >Then again, you could've been the son of Aunt Orange.
  34. >For some reason, you think apples are more respectable.
  35.  
  36. >You mark your place in your ratty old textbook, and push your chair out.
  37. >You look down at your t-shirt and shorts.
  38. >Or more importantly, the skinny sonbitch beneath.
  39. >You are Mr Skeltal. It's you.
  40. >You considered taking up the trumpet for the memery.
  41. >It would've been cool.
  42. >Dad always said that the neighbours would've complained.
  43. >You said fuck the neighbours.
  44. >Dad disagreed strongly and offered to pistol whip you with his service pistol if you used that language again.
  45. >You quickly decided to shut your mouth.
  46.  
  47. >You make your way downstairs quickly, and find everyone seated.
  48. >Granny's at the head of the table, in an armed, cushion and wood affair, talking at Mac about something to do with the harvest.
  49. > Applebloom is staring ahead at the various plates in front of her, looking real antsy.
  50. >Mac's sat next to her, being quiet as shit but nodding along.
  51. >Theeeeeeeen there's her.
  52. >Arms folded, hat tilted down.
  53. >She looks like a bad western movie.
  54. >Shit if it weren't for the weird fetish for that stupid hat, and the eyes you two could look even MORE related.
  55. >And the muscle and curves she's got going on.
  56. >You're more of a line of bone and metal band t-shirts kinda guy.
  57.  
  58. >You wouldn't be too surprised if Granny and Applebloom were packing more muscle than you at this point.
  59.  
  60. >Applejack kicks the chair out next to her grudgingly.
  61. >You almost laugh.
  62. >You grab your plate, load it up and get out of dodge.
  63.  
  64. >You just finish setting your plate down on your admittedly cramped desk and look around.
  65. >You forgot your fucking knife and fork.
  66. >How in the hell are you going to eat mashed potatoes and gravy without--
  67. >You hear slow footsteps, and a heavy thud.
  68. >It repeats along the hall, and you frown.
  69. >Is Granny coming up here?
  70. >Oh, maybe she's bringing you a knife and fork.
  71.  
  72. >She finally walks into your room, and offers a wisened smile.
  73. >”Y'forget something?”
  74. >Something in her posture changes, and you, for some reason, straighten.
  75. “Uh, yeah, I didn't get a –
  76. >She cuts you off. “Seems like you went an' forgot your manners, sonny.”
  77. >What.
  78. >”Now we've been mighty patient with ya. It's been a good.. three weeks, if I reckon it right.”
  79. >She takes a shuffling step forward. Her stick thuds against the floorboard.
  80. >”But yer an Apple. An' yer under my roof. So, way I see it, when I tell 'Jack to call you down for dinner, I expect a couple'a things from ya.”
  81. >She points her stick at you.
  82. >Where the fuck is THIS coming from?
  83. >”First off, I expect ya'll to say grace with us.” She jabs the cane at you.
  84. >”Second a' all, I expect you to sit yer hiney down until you finish your plate.”
  85. >”An' thirdly, I expect that yer gonna act like a part a' the dang family, young'n.”
  86.  
  87. >Why are you suddenly so afraid of this five foot nothing old woman.
  88. >You're starting to see where dad got it from.
  89. “I--”
  90. >She holds up a finger.
  91. >”Now, what we're gonna do here, is yer gonna take my arm and help a lil' ol' lady back to her seat. Yer gonna put to use what I jus' told ya, an' we're gonna all get along real nicely.” She smiles, nodding once.
  92. >You think of arguing.
  93. >You really do.
  94. >Then she holds out her other arm, and you awkwardly slip yours through it.
  95.  
  96. >She half pulls, half leans on you as you walk back down the hall and downstairs.
  97. >You enter the kitchen again, finding Applebloom looking five steps away from eating her bow.
  98. >Mac just looks at Granny, who gives him a kindly nod, which he grunts at.
  99. >You look across the table, and find a dictionary.
  100. >You seem to be under the definition of a 'shiteating grin'.
  101. >Oh, no, that's just fucking Applejack looking about as happy as she's ever been in your company.
  102. >You, currently awkward rage incarnate, sit next to the avatar of smug and prepare for a long, awkward dinner.
  103.  
  104. >”Granny, can we eat now, puh-leeeeeeeease?” Applebloom looks pleadingly at Granny smith, who appears to have dropped her power level back to being a kindly matron instead of a soft-spoken drill sergeant.
  105. >”'Bloom, we can eat right after Anon' goes ahead an' says grace.” She looks at you, still smiling.
  106. >There's an edge there in her look.
  107. >As in, deny this and get your ass handed to you.
  108. >Your eyes slide to the side, and Applejack's grin is now threatening to consume her entire face.
  109.  
  110. >You stare at the table for a minute before trying.
  111. “Uh.. Thank you for the food – on the table. And for cooking it?” You look at Granny, who seems satisfied.
  112. >”That was terrible, A-non'.” Applebloom looks at you, frowning.
  113. >She has this weird habit of pronouncing it “Ay-nohn.”
  114. >You frown back at her, before Granny speaks.
  115. >”Ah reckon it weren't too bad for his first try, 'Bloom.”
  116. >”Yup.” Mac nods in some form of approval.
  117. >Applejack snorts, shaking her head.
  118.  
  119. >You look at her, glaring.
  120. “What.”
  121. >She shrugs coyly, beginning to load up her plate.
  122. >”Ain't nothin', Ah just reckon we shoudla maybe let Applebloom do the honours. Y'know, someone who can handle somethin' so heavy.”
  123. >Applebloom snickers.
  124. >Oh, it make sense now.
  125. “I thought you and me were the same age, now I see you and Applebloom are twins.”
  126. >Granny sits there, quietly.
  127. >”'Scuse me?” Applejack ceases filling her plate.
  128. “Ah, you're right. You're a bit larger. Probably the horse steroids, right?”
  129. >”Granny, Ah'm gonna hit him.” Applejack declares solemnly, hands tightening into fists.
  130. >Anon, 1. Crazy hick bitch, however high she can count.
  131. >Means zero.
  132. >”A.J.” Mac rumbles, and Granny slowly turns to look at her.
  133. >Applejack goes still.
  134. >”Yer gonna do no such thing, sugarcube. Yer gonna enjoy yer meal, and yer BOTH gonna stop antagonisin' eachother.”
  135. >You see a flash of dad in Granny there, before she snickers and gestures to Applebloom who puts her own fork down sadly.
  136. >You watch curiously.
  137. >”Applebloom, could ya be a dear lil' thing and get your granny some potatoes, gravy and some corn?”
  138. >Credit to the kid, she doesn't complain and sets about filling up your grandmother's plate with a “Sure, Granny.”
  139. >She flies around the table, filling the plate up quickly.
  140. >Probably eager to get back to eating herself.
  141.  
  142. >”Oh, an' one a those steaks too. Th' small one, if ya'd be so kind, sugarcube.”
  143. >Applejack looks at Big Mac before picking it up.
  144. >”You gonna be able to cut that yerself, Granny?”
  145. >”Mac, Ah can cut a steak, deary.” The old woman leans forward in her chair with a light groan of protest.
  146. >”Aw'right, but you tell me if ya struggle.”
  147. >”See, Anon',” you straighten, looking back at her, focusing. “Ya could learn a fair bit from Mac.”
  148. >Yeah, you're real eager to know basic math and how to.. drive a tractor.
  149. >You can't think of a better burn.
  150. > Plus it seems unfair to be rude to Mac.
  151. >The true enemy is sat to your left. Remember that, Anon.
  152. >”Could learn a whole heck a lot, if ya ask me.” Applejack chimes in, between a mouthful of steak.
  153.  
  154. >That's strange, you could have sworn the steak was enough beef for her for a meal.
  155. >You open your mouth, before Granny sets a look on you.
  156. >”Ah don't recall askin' on this partic-you-ler issue, 'Jack, honey.”
  157. >GRANNY YES.
  158. >Applejack's battleship is fucking sunk.
  159. >”But Ah ain't gonna deny Mac's a good role model for ya, Anon.”
  160. >Shit, ricochet. Evacuate all personnel. S.S. Smug Anonymous is capsizing.
  161.  
  162. >Your heart will go on.
  163.  
  164. >You shrug non-committally, picking up your corn and busying yourself by chewing away.
  165. >The rest of the meal passes fairly calmly.
  166. >Applejack seems to have shut the fuck up.
  167. >Mac, Bloom and Granny discuss Applebloom's schooling and homework (which she's trying to get out of.)
  168. >”Granny, Ah'll just copy Sweetie Belle.”
  169. >”Yer gonna do no such thing. Yer a smart girl, 'Bloom, smarter than me, and yer gonna work to show it.”
  170. >”But--”
  171. “I don't know. If she's smart, wouldn't she not have to work hard?” You rest your head on a hand, as the other pushes the remains of dinner around your plate.
  172. >”Hard work beats smarts anyday, Anon.” Applejack frowns. “Don't try to fill up her darn head with yer laziness.”
  173. “Ever hear of work smarter,not harder?”
  174. >”Ah didn't realise ya knew what 'work' was, Anon.” She says sweetly, batting her eyelashes at you.
  175. >You briefly wonder if you can try to run her over with the rust bucket they call a ploughing tractor.
  176. >You could probably get away with it to.
  177.  
  178. >”Can't Ah just do both? Like, work real hard AN' be smart?” Applebloom looks between the two of you.
  179. >Applejack meets your gaze. You both grudgingly nod.
  180. “I guess.”
  181. >”Uh-huh.”
  182. >Holy shit, did you just kinda agree on something.
  183. >A new age dawns on the Sweet Apple Acres custodians.
  184. >Peace, prosperity, 'Pples.
  185. >You'll work on the new slogan.
  186.  
  187. “Uh, I've.. I'm done. Can I go now?”
  188. >”Ah was under the impression that Jack was gonna show you around proper.” Granny says cryptically.
  189. >You turn to look at Applejack.
  190. >Why.
  191. >”Figure ya get no sunlight in yer room. 'Sides, startin' tomorrow yer gonna learn how to help out around here.”
  192. “What. Why?”
  193. >”'Cause we ALL help out on the farm, even Applebloom.” Applejack nods to her little sister, who beams proudly.
  194. >The cute effect is ruined by the half a cut of steak dangling from her mouth, though.
  195. >”'Bloom ya gotta cut it smaller.” Mac chides, throwing an arm back over his chair and resting after eating (in your opinion) a fucktonne.
  196. >Applebloom grunts in affirmative.
  197. ”But I don't kn--”
  198. >”Oh look, something City Boy don't know.” Applejack drawls.
  199. “Doesn't.”
  200. >”What?”
  201. “Nothing.”
  202. >Applejack and Granny quickly discuss whether Applebloom can finish up tidying the plates away.
  203. >Applebloom protests she can handle it, and Mac agrees tiredly to make sure she doesn't drop anything.
  204.  
  205. >”Aw'right, Anon. Let's show you around. Y'wanna see the Creek?”
  206. >She leaves you little choice as she grabs your bony wrist, and drags you out of the kitchen, through the main hall and out the actual and screen doors.
  207. >”Where'd'ya wanna start?” She leans against the porch's roof support pillar.
  208. “Gosh, let's start with the apple trees.”
  209. >”Anon, there are a lot of apple trees.”
  210. “You can introduce me to each one personally.” You assure her.
  211. >She seems to be buffering. Her eyes go from side to side, before she smiles, crosses the decking towards you, and punches you in the arm.
  212. >Your arm instantly goes dead, and you hold it protectively, swearing.
  213. “The fuck, you crazy hick?!”
  214. >”What're ya gonna do, tell on me?” She grins.
  215. >You narrow your eyes, still holding your arm.
  216. >”Y'gonna keep bein' difficult or are we gonna look around?”
  217. >Well, it appears your tour is now a hostage situation. You nod grimly.
  218. >”Awright, let's go.” She marches off.
  219. >Like a good little captive, you follow, glaring at her back.
  220. >Oooooh, I'm Applejack, I have muscles, and my ass has more strength than your average … strong.. thing. Fuck, you HAD something for this.
  221. >Oh well.
  222.  
  223. >The next couple of hours go by with Applejack explaining different chores and locations of the Acres.
  224. >The orchards.
  225. >The barns
  226. >Various tractors and machines they use for harvest.
  227.  
  228. >Eventually she leads you to the boundaries of the Acres, a couple hundred metres away from the other side of the hill the Apple farmhouse sits on.
  229. >The trees are noticeably bare of fruit. Probably not even apple trees.
  230.  
  231. “Where are we going?”
  232. >”Uh, th' creek?”
  233. “Why?”
  234. >”'Cause, you'll see.”
  235. “Oh good, we're taking Ol' Anon' out back to put him out of his misery. He's not good to the gulag productions with one arm.”
  236. >”Will ya stop belly-achin'? Ah didn' even hit ya that hard.”
  237. “It's not my fault you're a distant relative of She-Hulk.” You fire back, folding your arms as you walk.
  238. >”Who now?”
  239. >Is she serious. She doesn't know the glorious Shulk? You'd educate her sorry ass if you didn't think it'd be wasted.
  240. “Nevermind.”
  241. >You remember why you hate outside. It's warm, it's humid and the canopy doesn't seem to give you shade as much as trap the heat down beneath the leaves with you.
  242. >You wipe a hand over your forehead, to find it damp with sweat.
  243. >Applejack looks back at you, frowning. “What?”
  244. “I don't like --”
  245. >”Anything?” she frowns.
  246. “..Outside.”
  247. >She nods, frown deepening before sighing. She turns back to you, and starts unbuttoning her checked shirt.
  248. >You take a large step backwards.
  249. “What, in fuck's name, are you doing.”
  250. >She thankfully has a green vest on underneath, which barely leaves a whole lot to the imagination.
  251. >Your earlier assessment of her being all muscle and curves without much left for brain rings true.
  252. >”Yer just gonna complain that yer sweaty. So, wipe yourself with this.” She throws the shirt underhanded to you.
  253. >You barely catch it.
  254. >With your face.
  255. >Your hand-eye co-ordination is lacking, to say the least.
  256. >”Nice catch.” She grins at you, as you pull the shirt off your face. Now all you can smell is some weird mix of..guy's aftershave and something sweet? The fuck?
  257. >You drag a 'thank you' out of you, rather than a 'fuck you'.
  258.  
  259. >The girl has more guns than you're entirely comfortable with.
  260. >Plus she hits like a damn freight train.
  261.  
  262. >You throw the shirt over your shoulder, although judging by the fact you only have a couple of inches on your cousin, you could probably wear the damn thing.
  263. >She whistles as she walks, and you notice the forest floor, whilst muddy is worn into a sort of primal path visible even in the setting sun.
  264. >How long have you been walking?
  265. >You voice your question.
  266. >”Anon, it's been fifteen minutes.”
  267. “Ah.” You nod, not willing to betray your skinny legs are fucking screaming.
  268. >You justify it with the rough terrain.
  269.  
  270. >Eventually the pair of you come to a break in the trees, opening up into a clearing.
  271. >A large rockface houses a small waterfall crashing into a somewhat deep and large pool of water.
  272. >Applejack spreads her arms wide.
  273.  
  274. >”Welcome to th' Apple-family Creek. Ain't she somethin'?”
  275. “I have to admit it's.. alright.” You shrug a shoulder, trying not to look impressed.
  276. >It actually looks like a pretty good place to hang out and listen to music on a good day.
  277.  
  278. >”Yeeeeeeeep, we all come down here on the reunions and just mess around before dinner.”
  279. >You frown, looking around. You haven't met many of your very large family. But you can imagine a bunch of younger Apples and Oranges playing around down here.
  280. “Never had the, uh, pleasure.” You sit down on the rocks, picking one up and tossing it a pitiful distance into the water.
  281. >”Oh yeah, you and yer pa' were always .. well. Not here.” She muses.
  282. “Yeah, and now dad's not anywhere.” You mutter, throwing another rock with a fair effort.
  283. >Applejack looks suddenly awkward, rubbing an arm, not meeting your eyes.
  284. >”Look, Anon, Ah know Ah ain't said anythin' but--”
  285. “Let's just.. leave it, alright?” You wave her aside. You stare at the water, and feel your eyes sting slightly.
  286. >You are not going to cry in front of the surprisingly compassionate hellbitch.
  287. >She nods, before setting her hat on a large rock and fiddling with her vest.
  288. >Suddenly, tits.
  289. >You turn aside quickly.
  290. “Alright, I know I'm going to get tired of asking you guys this eventually, but what the fuck are you doing.”
  291. >”Uhhhh, getting ready to swim?”
  292. “Do you have to do it with your.. With those.. Naked?!” You pointedly turn away from her. You hear a some thuds, rattling and cloth rustling.
  293. >The rattling grows louder, before there's a loud snapping sound.
  294. >You feel something slap you in the shoulder.
  295. >Your thin shirt isn't much help, and fuck does it smart.
  296. >You turn around quickly, before seeing.. shapes?
  297.  
  298. >Tanned, muscular shapesohdearCelestiawhereareherfuckingclothes.
  299. >You turn around again quickly, and you're pretty sure you're blushing.
  300. >Your face feels hot at least.
  301. >You hear the belt snap again and it hits you in the lower back.
  302.  
  303. >”C'mon, Anon, we don't got a whole lotta daylight left. Get yer clothes off and hop in!”
  304. “Will you stop – fucking – belting – me?” Your request is punctuated by a belt snapping, and you barely dodging one.
  305. >”Not until ya actually engage in Apple tradition.” You hold up your hands, eyes closed and signalling for a truce.
  306. >You listen. The snapping snopped.
  307. >You pull your 1000 Lunar Years shirt off and try not to be as embarassed as all hell.
  308. >You know how you look. Pale and gangly.
  309. >At least she's not being a huge bitch and laughing.
  310. >You pull off your sneakers and socks, blindly putting them next to eachother on the rocky shore and pull down your shorts.
  311. “Am I good to go now?”
  312. >”Gee, Anon, Ah dunno. Do most people skinny dip with their boxers on, or is this a big city thing?”
  313. “No, in the big city we're civilised and use swimsuits. We also don't just strip off around family after the age of four.”
  314. >You try to glare with your eyes closed in her general direction.
  315. >No way, in fucking Hell are you ditching the boxers.
  316. >You had grander designs for ditching your underwear in front of a cute girl.
  317. >.. Girl. Just a girl. Your cousin, is decidedly not cute.
  318. >Don't make it gay, Anon.
  319.  
  320. >”S'matter, never been naked around a gal before?”
  321. “P-plenty of times.” Your 17 year old pride is slowly getting wounded via getting the shit beat out of it.
  322. >”Oh really now? Then ya won't mind, in your infinite experience, me just stepping a couple'a steps closer. Ya know, ya bein' a huge ladies man an' all.”
  323. >You point at her general direction.
  324. >You prod something soft yet .. muscular further in?
  325. >”.. Right, see, Ah knew ya were lyin'. Ah'm real good at tellin' if folk're lyin'. Can't lie for anythin' myself, for th' record. But, uh, this is kinda provin' me wrong. Awful forward of ya, Anon.”
  326. “Please tell me that's your shoulder.”
  327. >”Did Ah, or did Ah not jus' mention that Ah can't lie even if my life depended on it?”
  328. >Mission control, what do.
  329. >Arm division, PULL BACK.
  330. >Mission control, this is hand sub-unit, we are officially feeling a girl's tits.
  331. >Your brain flashes a huge alarm, 'COUSIN' appearing in neon.
  332. >You pull your finger away like Applejack's on fire.
  333. >She starts laughing, and it's surprisingly not annoying you. But you could really do with something to numb the embarrassment.
  334. >A bleach mimosa, for example.
  335.  
  336.  
  337.  
  338. >You frown, waiting.
  339. >Then the breeze hits.
  340. >Your hands quickly shoot to cover what you'd much rather remain covered.
  341. >”Hey, not bad, Anon. Ah mean, Ah ain't exactly an expert or nothin', but from Rarity's chitter-chatter yer doin' well there.”
  342. “Can you, oh I don't know, NOT? And who names their kid RARITY?”
  343. >”Would ya rather Ah laughed and made fun of ya? Also, yer called 'Anonymous.'”
  344. “Point taken, and no. Besides, no sense lying to make me feel better.” You grumble, briefly wondering if you could drown yourself in the creek.
  345. >”Thought we established Ah couldn't lie too good?”
  346. “Well, you could have a tell that I can't see.”
  347. >”Awright, well you just open those pretty blue eyes a' yers an' ya can see Ah'm bein' as true as anythin'.” She snickers, and you gingerly open your eyes.
  348. >Yep, she's standing there with her hands folded loosely under her boobs.
  349. “Could you... cover up, at least?” Your hands instinctively go to gesture as they usually do when you talk, but you catch yourself.
  350. >Can't leave little Anon' unprotected.
  351. >”What, ain't enjoyin' the show?”
  352. “Did I mention you're making this incredibly fucking weird?” Your voice hitches as you complain, and she raises an eyebrow.
  353. >”Ain't a no, so Ah'll take it.”
  354. “That's not what I –.. Look, alright, let's hear it.”
  355. >”Yer perfectly fine. Could use a li'l muscle, maybe some sun but we'll get ya all set up by the time harvest rolls around. Some farm work'll do ya good, city boy.” She nods towards you, eyes slipping towards your hands.
  356. >Worryingly, you're pleased she didn't twitch or look away or start sweating.
  357. >Somewhere, dad's looking on in puzzled disappointment and wondering where he went wrong.
  358. >He took you camping.
  359. >He bought you a BB gun.
  360. >He offered to book you into the station if you didn't do your homework, because criminals didn't do homework, son. They become prison bitches.
  361. >Normal father-son shit.
  362.  
  363. >You watch the water quietly, trying to fight off the late stages of teen hormones. There wasn't anything in the playbook about farmgirl cousins scoping you out and stripping off.
  364. >Just think about.. fuck, you don't know, sports.
  365. >The big man is currently carrying the ball down the field for a homerun.
  366. >Alright this is going nowhere.
  367.  
  368. >”So, what's th' verdict?”
  369. “Forecast includes putting the tractor in gear, attaching a rope to the hitch, slinging a noose on the other end over an apple tree and putting a brick on the gas.”
  370. >She shoves you, rolling her eyes.
  371. >”Keep talkin' like that an' yer gonna worry people, Anon. But, Ah meant about me. I gave you the patented Applejack review.”
  372. “Fine, uh, let's see.” You force yourself to look at her without looking too closely.
  373. >Girl's got a damn good figure, objectively speaking. Good muscle structure resulting in a toned stomach that makes you clench your core to compensate, thick thighs and wiry arms.
  374. >Seeing as your only experience with breasts is from the other side of a monitor, you suppose hers are nice? Not overly big, and surprisingly .. firm looking?
  375. >If you prodding them earlier was any indication firm is a good word for it.
  376. >She coughs politely, grinning behind her fist.
  377. >”Ain't polite t' stare, y'know?”
  378. “Sorry, fuck. Uh. You look good, I guess? Not to make it.. weird or anything.”
  379. >”Yer right, wouldn't be the wood yer rockin' or nothin'.”
  380. >What.
  381. >You look down, and adjust your hands quickly, and it works for the most part.
  382.  
  383. >Suddenly the water looks incredibly inviting.
  384. “Look can we just.. swim or something?”
  385. >You'd really prefer to go home and work on that tractor plan, though.
  386. >”Sure thing, sugarcube.” She grins widely.
  387. “Stop that.”
  388. >”Naw.”
  389.  
  390. >With all the grace of a doped up eagle, you rush to the water. You only relax once you're submerged up to the waist.
  391. >It's surprisingly not that cold.
  392. >Refreshing, after the humidity of the walk here, you guess.
  393. >You duck your head under the water, and will yourself to be calm.
  394. >You gotta be COOL, Anon.
  395. >You're losing your composure faster than the average Canterlot noble being asked about odd influxes in bits.
  396.  
  397. >Your lungs burn, and your narrow your eyes.
  398. >Gotta use the burn to focus.
  399. >Fire of the lungs, banish the borderline incest going down here.
  400. >A hand grips you by the shoulder, and pulls you up.
  401. >You splutter lightly.
  402.  
  403. >”Heck are ya doin'?”
  404. “Bonermancy.” You reply calmly.
  405. >”Y'what.”
  406. >You debate internally for a minute, before delving into a brief explanation of magic that you read up about online.
  407. >”Don't sound like any magic Ah've heard of, and Ah hear a lot about it.”
  408. “Don't tell me, Granny's actually a sorcerer in the Canterlot courts.”
  409. >”Ain't like that, Ah just have a friend-- Y'know, Ah'll just introduce ya once school starts back up.”
  410. >Why does that sound so fucking ominous.
  411. “Riiiiight.” You look skyward, watching as stars struggle against the last of the blue sky.
  412. “How come you “know” all this, and have all these friends, anyway?”
  413. >”Huhm?” She asks, watching the sky with you, half-floating.
  414. “Miss sexpert, and magician.” You shoot an accusing look at her.
  415. >”Anon, those are two different people.”
  416. “But not you.” You deadpan.
  417. >She shakes her head, pulling her soaking hair from her face as she thinks.
  418. >”Ya'll see what I mean when y'meet 'em. Rarity's always got her nose in some fashion or gossip magazine, and she's weird about sharin' what she knows. Thinks she's some sorta guru. Ya know th' type.”
  419. >You have no fucking clue. Your only interaction with girls outside of this incredibly weird afternoon is trying to squeak out a 'hi' to that girl in Computing class and other such failures.
  420. “Yep. Totally know what you mean.”
  421. >”Yer lyin'.”
  422. >Fuck.
  423. “Ok, so I am. But there's a DIFFERENCE between hearing something and applying it and practice, you know? I couldn't put a computer together and appraise it, you know? I need practice, miss 'Not an Expert'.”
  424. >”Anon, yer almost sounding protective of me.”
  425. “Fuck you, you know what I mean. I'm just not buying the whole 'a friend' thing. Besides, Rarity sounds like a made up name.” You glance across at her, and she sighs, scratching a cheek.
  426. >“Awright, let's put this weird jealousy thing t' rest. Go ahead an' ask me if Ah've ever done somethin' like this before.” She fixes her stare on you, arms folded again.
  427. “Alright, have you tried molesting any other family members?” You smile brightly.
  428. >”Sugarcube, Ah'll hit ya again. We're bein' serious here seein' as yer getting' all up in a fit here.”
  429. >You roll your eyes, after taking a short swim backwards.
  430. “Have you ever done any of ..” You spread your hands to gesture around. “Done THIS before?”
  431. >You hold up a finger, stopping her answer.
  432. “And no, I don't mean the whole playing around in the Creek and skinny dipping, I mean the bullshit appraisals like 'hurr durr, nice junk, you lift?'”
  433. >She smiles lightly at that, and shakes her head.
  434. > You interrupt again.
  435. “On your hat.”
  436. >”On my hat, this whole thing, ain't somethin' Ah've tried before or really wanted to before.”
  437. >You watch her carefully.
  438. >Her face is mostly blank, and you watch.
  439. >Is her being borderline expressionless a tell of hers?
  440. >You'll ask when you get back.
  441. >Probably going leave out the finer details though.
  442. >You're not even sure why this is fucking bothering you so much.
  443.  
  444. “Then how come you're doing this.. whole thing, exactly?”
  445. >Splashing water idly, she looks down. “Ah dunno, Anon'.”
  446.  
  447. >”It sounded.. fun, Ah guess?”
  448. “So you thought, 'oh yeah, Anon's a good choice.'”
  449.  
  450. >She at least has the decency to look as confused as you feel.
  451.  
  452. >”Yer family, but not.. family, ya know? Enough Apple t' stick by, but not enough that Ah feel too weird about it.”
  453. “Oh, I get it, you were just waiting for an estranged cousin who was of age. That clears it right up.”
  454. >”Will ya stop bein' such a..a..-- Look, will ya stop bein' such a pain about this? We were getting' along, can ya not ruin that?”
  455. “Look, I just don't get it. You fucking hated me before we got out here, then bam, you hit a switch or something.”
  456. >”Ah didn't hate you, Ah jus'.. didn't like ya all that much. Ya were... yer lazy, and ya got this air of .. Ah dunno, 'Ah'm better than you, Ah'm so smart.'” She looks at you with a worried expression, and you look back up at the sky for a second.
  457. >The sun's in its last few moments above the horizon, and you can see the moon being lifted slowly in its place.
  458. “So why the change?”
  459. >”Ah kinda realised as we were walkin' that yer not in the best shape.” She looks off to the side as she says this.
  460. “Yes, I know. I'm pale and stringy.”
  461. >She lets out a breath, before trying again, shaking her head.
  462. >”No, I mean yer not here for a vacation. Th' reason y'had to come here. Sure, yer probably kinda sullen and like yer own company a lot, but it got all magnified by – look Ah'm just sayin' it's been just over a month for you since ya got yer life kinda torn up.”
  463. “Look, can we not--”
  464. >She splashes you with some water, and you splutter as it goes down your throat.
  465. >”This is important. Look, Ah know what that's like. Yer not yerself. Ah ain't been the most accommodatin' given all that. An' Granny said we shouldn't antagonise eachother, an' I figure she's got the right of it.”
  466. >Your lungs no longer dealing with water intake, you fix a stare on her.
  467. “So getting along around here means 'jump his bones.' Got it.”
  468. >You get where she's coming from, though, kind of.
  469. >You have been acting kind of like an ass to her, and on a lesser level to the others at the house.
  470. >”Don't go bein' a heel. Ah'm serious. Ah want you to enjoy it here, like me and Mac grew to. Also, Ah don't recall ya complaining to the point where ya grabbed yer stuff and ran home.”
  471.  
  472. >You turn, splashing the water idly for a second as you think.
  473. >She's got you there.
  474. >Still it's so fucking weird.
  475. >Earlier you were planning on running this bit--.. her over with a tractor semi-seriously.
  476. >You hang your head, before turning again. She's watching you expectedly.
  477. “Alright, fuck, alright. What do you wanna do, then? We kinda crossed a barrier here. I sorta tiptoe'd it and you smashed through without giving a fuck.”
  478. >She holds up a hand, two fingers extended.
  479. >For once, someones doing this without flipping you off.
  480. >”Way Ah see it we got ourselves two real options.”
  481. >She taps her index finger.
  482. >”Option one. We forget this all happened, try to busy ourselves like there ain't something goin' on here.”
  483. >That option has merits, but it also has a lot of flaws. Firstly being she can't lie. The second someone asks what went down out here, she'll do.. whatever it is she does when trying to lie.
  484. >You like to think she turns blue.
  485. >She taps her middle finger.
  486. >”Option two, an' this one's got my vote – this bein' a democracy an' all – is we.. y'know, try this out. See what happens. Ah'm game if y'are.”
  487. >She shrugs, attempting at non-committal and resulting in anxious.
  488. “Can I just.. ask something first?”
  489. >She nods, watching you as the light grows ever dimmer in the clearing.
  490. “This isn't like, a fucking bucket-list thing is it? Like, not a prank or some sort of weird fetish I'm indulging in. You're genuinely wanting to try this out because you think I'm alright?”
  491. >She chews her lip, and this is the most nervous you've seen her.
  492. >She meets your eyes.
  493. “Ah think ya really could be, if we help eachother out and ya try to get yerself together.”
  494. >So you're a project.
  495. >Either that or some sort of asshole that lurks in the back of the farmhouse, and eventually decides to hang himself when he finds he's burnt all his bridges.
  496. >Applejack's looking at you earnestly, and you wince as you think and look back.
  497. >The water cooling down slowly isn't helping either.
  498. “Alright, my vote's for option two. Makes a full house on that, I guess.”
  499. >You stick your hand out, careful to avoid the last mistake you made like that.
  500. >”Nuh-uh.”
  501. >Fuck, did she have cold feet?
  502. >Wait, of course she's got cold feet this water's approaching freezing.
  503. >Fuck did she have second thoughts?
  504. >That sounds better.
  505. >”We ain't shakin' on it.”
  506. >You slowly lower your hand back into the water, and nod.
  507. >”Y'ever kissed a girl, Anon?” She asks, voice quiet.
  508. >Once again, you're staring at her. She doesn't, for once, meet your eyes.
  509. >Why the fuck is she timid about THIS?
  510. >Not that you're not. This whole creek adventure has been one fucking jump to the next.
  511. >You quickly voice this.
  512. >”It's.. different. That stuff was just kinda.. y'know, foolin' around. This is a lot more personal. Plus it's got a lotta implications, an' a promise all rolled into one.”
  513. >You suppose that's true. Kissing is kind of romantic rather than lusty, you guess. Plus there is that promise you're both going to somehow work at this, stop you from being an asshole and try not to get lynched for getting a hard-on for your cousin. Then proceeding to decide that's good grounds for some kind of relationship.
  514. “Yeah, you have a point. And, uh, no. I got kissed in kindergarten once, if we're talking non-familial.”
  515. >”Ah'm startin' to reckon “non-familial”'s gonna need another qualifier real soon. But, y'know what Ah mean. On the mouth. Real kissin'.”
  516. “Oh. No.”
  517. >”See, yer already droppin' the lyin'. We're makin' good progress.” In the growing dark, you can make out her smile.
  518. “So, how do we do this, exactly?”
  519. >”Can't be that hard, can it? Just gotta, sorta mash our faces together, move our lips a li'l and there y'have it.”
  520. “Your guru friend wasn't too particular about this?” You raise your eyebrows
  521. >You both have no fucking idea what to do.
  522. >”Naw, not exactly.” She wrings her hands together, before fixing a determined look at you. “Right, saddle up, we're gonna do this, an' it's gonna work real well an' remember it's bindin' an'..”
  523. >She keeps rambling like this for a minute, and you watch.
  524. >It's still mind boggling this flusters her, but you're not exactly calm either.
  525. >Your heart is pounding like you ran however much of a marathon you could realistically manage.
  526. >You quickly try to review what you know.
  527. >Lips together, hold girl, don't get pregnant.
  528. >You're fucked.
  529.  
  530. >You quickly reach over, grabbing the back of her head. You pucker your lips slightly before pulling her closer quickly.
  531. >Click.
  532. >Oh jesus fuck.
  533. >You lean back, and sheholds her hands in front of her mouth.
  534. >You knocked your fucking teeth.
  535. >How does that even happen.
  536. >Oh Celestia's SUN that fucking hurt.
  537. >You turn back, seeing her watching you with wide eyes.
  538. >”Y'-.. Y'alright?” she asks.
  539. “y uckin outh” you manage.
  540. >”Uh.. come 'gain?”
  541. “My. Fucking. Mouth.”
  542. >She watches you for a minute, coughing lightly. Then she looks away, spluttering.
  543. >Did you knock a fucking tooth back down her throat?
  544. >How are you going to explain this.
  545. >You're dead.
  546. >You'll be deported to Manehatten to live out your days managing Orange inventory.
  547.  
  548. >Wait. No. She's laughing.
  549. “What.”
  550. >”Y'..Ya.. Y'thought y'were bein' reeeeal slick.”
  551. >You did, actually. That's how they did it in the movies.
  552. “What! That's how Max Legion would've done it.” You protest.
  553. >”Ah'm sorry, Mr Legion, Ah didn't see ya'll come in. Yer kissin' technique needs work, if Ah may be so bold.”
  554. >You put yourself out there, and here you are, being laughed at.
  555. “No, fuck it, you can kiss yourself. Seal the deal on your own. I'm out.”
  556. >You try to look dignified as you wade out.
  557. >You fail spectacularly, Applejack's laughter still not fading in the slightest.
  558. >You hear splashing behind you, and she grabs you, wrapping her arms around your chest.
  559. >You try desperately to ignore the fact you have breasts pressing against you.
  560. >It doesn't help matters they're kinda sliding due to the water.
  561. >”Anon, turn around.”
  562. >You stare ahead resiliently.
  563. “No.”
  564. >”Anonymous Apple, don't be a dang heel.”
  565. >You sigh with irritation, before turning. Her arms adjust to wrap around your neck.
  566. >”Awright, here we go – let's try slowly now. Nice an' easy.”
  567. >She leans in, eyes closed, stopping just an inch away from your mouth.
  568. >She cracks open an eye.
  569. >”Eyes shut nice an' tight, an' I'd prefer it if y'went a li'l Max Legion and decided t' sling yer arms around me or somethin'.”
  570. >You clear your throat, and try to place your hands on her hips.
  571. >She makes a pleased sound, a hum and leans back in.
  572.  
  573. >Your lips touch.
  574. >There's no static or anything like that.
  575. >You guess your fanfictions and other books lied a little.
  576. >But it definitely feels.. tingly?
  577. >Good?
  578. >She murmurs against your lips. “Maybe we should, uh, move our lips?”
  579. “Are we not doing that right now?”
  580. >”Yer ruinin' the mood.”
  581. >You gently move in slightly closer, and move your lips, mostly closing them on hers and repeating.
  582. >This is surprisingly nice. You stop focusing on patterns, and just go with it, reacting when she moves and likewise for you.
  583. >This goes on for a few minutes, and you feel heat flood you.
  584. >Mostly in your chest, lips and you can feel blood rushing to certain parts of you.
  585.  
  586. >You break apart, and look at each other for a minute.
  587. >You seem to be doing a lot of that.
  588. > She's breathing heavy, and you're sort of..not breathing.
  589. >You breath in all at once, and she snorts.
  590. >”Y'alright there?”
  591. “Yep. Just.. forgot to breathe a little in all the excitement. You know, it happens.”
  592. >”Mhmm, 'cause Ah reckon yer plenty alright, ah, down there.”
  593. >You quickly step back, not coldly, but rather embarrassed.
  594. >”Ah don't blame you, Ah feel kinda..nice, too.”
  595. >You simultaneously agree you should get going before a) The other Apples try to get a search party out for you, and b) things escalate a little too quickly.
  596. >You've decided taking time with this is probably the best route.
  597.  
  598. >You stagger around in the dark, ass-naked looking for your clothes.
  599. >You pull them over your soaking form and make a face.
  600. >This, is not comfortable.
  601. >You mop yourself off with your shirt and stuff half of it in your shorts pocket, leaving the rest free.
  602.  
  603. >Applejack's decided to use her vest as an impromptu towel and buttons her shirt back up.
  604. “Why didn't you bring towels?”
  605. >”Ah was kinda originally maybe plannin' t' sorta leave ya stranded in th' water?”
  606. “Without a towel, whereas you'd be skipping back to the house and probably say I was still in the water.”
  607. >She makes a finger gun, and fires at you. “Got it in one.”
  608. “I'm kinda glad that didn't happen.”
  609. >She reaches down, fumbling before grabbing your hand. She squeezes it once before letting go slowly.
  610. >”Yeah, me too.”
  611.  
  612. >You're both clambering back up the hill to the Apple farmhouse, before you hold out your hands, stopping her in her tracks.
  613. ”Alright, what's our game plan here?”
  614. >”Whaddaya mean, Anon?”
  615. “We left around one or two hours ago, and they're gonna be surprised we didn't try to kill eachother and hide the body in the creek or something.”
  616. >”Ah guess we just act like we ain't tryin' to do that. Like we came to an agreement.”
  617. “'Agreement' is a word for it.”
  618. >She punches you lightly in the arm, surprisingly in the same spot as earlier.
  619. “Ow. I bruised there.”
  620. >”Well, you bruise like a peach, don't ya?”
  621. >You snort at that, before pointing to the apple orchards.
  622. “You even allowed to mention other fruit products near the Sacred Groves?”
  623. >”Fer yer information, Anon, my mom was a Pear.”
  624. >You raise an eyebrow, rubbing your arm.
  625. > She pokes you in the bruised area once, resulting in you cursing lightly, before continuing.
  626. >”An' we don't worship apples, alright?”
  627. “Could've fooled me.”
  628. >”We don't!” she protests.
  629. > You, diplomatically, decide to drop it.
  630. >The nations of Anonymous and Jack will continue awkward threats over borders, somewhat fair trade and immigration laws.
  631. >The export of Applejack's fist into your Arms sector is expected to double over time.
  632. >Such is diplomacy.
  633.  
  634. >A small bark brings your attention to the dark back of the house. A pair of yellow eyes watch you carefully, before Applejack whistles.
  635. >”Winona, here, girl.”
  636. >Oh no.
  637. >This dog.
  638. >Hates. You.
  639. “Mutt.” You nod to her, and almost like she understands, she growls before crossing to Applejack's other side.
  640. >”Ya just gotta antagonise folk, huh?”
  641. “It's a dog.”
  642. >”SHE'S Winona, an' she's mah baby.” Applejack crouches down, ruffling the herder dog with gusto and cooing over her.
  643. >”An' from the looks of it, 'Bloom straight forgot to bring her leftovers.”
  644. >Suddenly, an idea.
  645. >You may be able to solve two problems with one here.
  646. “I left my original plate from dinner up on my desk. Would she eat that?”
  647. >”Anon, yer gonna learn Winona'll eat anythin'. It's pretty much chow time for her 24/7.”
  648. “Back in a minute.” You excuse yourself, before quickly walking around the side of the house.
  649. >The porch is lit up dimly, with moths idly tapping against the old bulbs.
  650. >You stomp up the steps.
  651. >”Was just about t'send Big Mac out ta look for y'all.”
  652. >Oh SHIT.
  653. >You spin around, eyes adjusting to the weird semi-darkness Granny's sat in.
  654. >She rocks gently back and forth on her chair, eyes closed.
  655. “G-granny?”
  656. >”Heehee, weren't expectin' me t'be sat out here on my own, were ya?”
  657. “No, sorry we took so long. Didn't mean to worry you or anything.”
  658. >”Anon', only thing that's worrying me right now is the issue Ah sent out two grandkids, and got one back. Where's yer cousin?”
  659. “Oh, yeah, Applejack. Sacrificed her for a bountiful harvest.”
  660. >She cackles heartily at that, shaking her head. “Don't need nothin' like that. She fussin' over Winny?”
  661. “Yeah. I'm going to get her some leftovers.”
  662. >”Well, lookit you bein' helpful. Applejack knocked some sense into ya, huh?”
  663. >You feel heat flood your face, remembering the 'deal' you both struck at the Creek.
  664. >You're eternally thankful to Luna for deciding night should be dark.
  665. >Actually, her eyes aren't even open, you're probably in the clear.
  666. “Uh, yep.”
  667. >She nods, rocking slower and slower.
  668. “You're not going to fall asleep out here, are you?”
  669. >”Naw, Ah'm jus' restin' my eyes a li'l.” She waves a hand at you, and you take that as your cue to get on with getting a certain hound's dinner.
  670. >You yank open the screen door, careful not to let any adventurous moths in with you.
  671. >Up the stairs, first door on the right.
  672. >You snag your plate with some probing in the dark, before making your way back down the stairs, out the door and past the totally-not-sleeping old lady.
  673. >You stroll back up to the shadowy shapes sat on the grass around the back of the house.
  674. “Got it.”
  675. >”Thanks. Winona, whaddaya say?” Applejack asks sweetly, as she takes the plate and holds it up above Winona's head.
  676. >Winona barks twice, before sitting and pawing at the ground in front of her.
  677. >”Atta girl.” Applejack bends over, setting the plate down.
  678. >Whoever said dogs lack dining etiquette has clearly met Winona.
  679. >Even in the dark you can see her practically inhaling everything, before chewing idly on the corncob.
  680. >She says goodnight to the dog as she walks back around the side of the house.
  681. >”Y'keep that up, and she'll be all over you. Girl loves ta eat.”
  682. “I'll, uh, keep it in mind.”
  683.  
  684. >”Granny, you asleep again?” Applejack asks as she climbs the steps onto the porch.
  685. >”Ah'm jus'.. restin' m'eyes, Applebloom.” Granny murmurs, shuffling in her seat.
  686. >”Granny, it ain't Applebloom.”
  687. >”Reckoned it'd be one a ya.”
  688. >”Ya gotta stop fallin' asleep out here, yer gonna catch a cold.” Applejack steps closer in the dim porchlight, beginning to pull the blanket gently off of the eldest member of the household.
  689. >If candy from a baby is easy, blanket from an octogenarian is nightmare mode.
  690. >Lady has grip strength.
  691.  
  692. >The two bicker over letting her have a few minutes for her 'old bones to get moving', which is argued by 'you need to get out of the cold now.'
  693. >”Problem bein', if Ah were to get straight ta bed, Ah wouldn't be able to tell ya that we fried up some apple fritters for desert when y'all were wanderin' around.”
  694. >Applejack stops tugging the blanket.
  695. >”..Fresh apple fritters?” Applejack asks, gulping somewhat audibly.
  696. >”Yeeeeessir.” Granny smiles, and you sense that the power struggle is definitely resolved.
  697.  
  698. >”Problem is, Ah don't think Ah went and made enough, clear forgot we were feedin' five, not four.” She lets this dangle over Applejack's head for a minute. “So, if one a' ya would be so kind t'help me up ta bed, I s'pose the other would be free ta decide what t'do with the remaining fritters.”
  699. >Yep.
  700. >This woman is crafty.
  701. >You can respect this.
  702.  
  703. >Applejack, on the other hand, looks like she's having a meltdown.
  704. >How much does she like fritters, exactly.
  705. >”Grannnnny” she whines, looking at her pleadingly.
  706. >She suddenly sounds much younger.
  707. >You watch with amusement for a moment, before clearing your throat.
  708. “I can take her upstairs.”
  709. >”Huh?”
  710. >Even Granny looks somewhat shocked although it makes sense from her perspective you'd try to screw Applejack over at the slightest opportunity.
  711. “I'd hurry though, I'm feeling slightly hungry from all that--.. walking.”
  712. >Applejack blinks in confusion before she grins, mutters a 'thank yewww' and disappears through the screen door as quickly as possible without forgoing ripping through the screen itself
  713.  
  714. >“Weren't expectin' that, Anon. Was half expectin' ya to eat them all t'spite her.”
  715. >You shrug as you stroll over, helping her up slowly.
  716. “Not the biggest fan of fritters.”
  717. >”Still.” She says, leaning into you as you both walk inside.
  718. >”Switch for the porch lights is on the - “ she yawns lengthily. “right.” She gestures to her side, and you quickly lean over and flick it.
  719. >”An' could ya lock the door fer me?”
  720. >You turn the locks, giving the door handle a quick tug to make sure it holds.
  721. >Satisfied, the pair of you make your way up the stairs to the first door on the left.
  722. “You don't, uh.. need any help getting dressed, right?”
  723. >You've seen enough naked family members for the day.
  724. >Well, you've seen the only family member you're somewhat okay with seeing naked naked.
  725. >You're drawing the line after Jack.
  726. >That's your line in the sand.
  727. >Is it moral? No sir, but at least you have values.
  728. >Sort of.
  729.  
  730. >“.. Between you an' Mac Ah'm surprised anyone reckons Ah can do a dang thing. Yes, Anon, Ah can get mahself dressed. Heck, Ah can even bathe on my own, too.” She grumbles, ambling over to her bedside and throwing the quilt down over the covers.
  731. >“ Ah cleaned and changed ya when ye were a tiny thing, and that's the way we're gonna keep that par-tic-u-lar issue until Ah'm in the ground mahself.” She narrows her eyes, and points a bony finger at you.
  732. >”Now, get yer caboose movin' before Applejack manages t'get through that entire plate a fritters. Girl loves ta eat.”
  733.  
  734. >You nod, rubbing your head before strolling out and shutting the old door behind you.
  735. >Half the time that woman seems like she's near senile, and the other half she's got a tongue like a damn whip.
  736. >You've decided on rule one for life at Sweet Apple Acres; Do Not Fuck With Granny.
  737.  
  738. >You walk past the empty living room and closed office.
  739. >You guess Mac and Applebloom are in bed for tomorrow.
  740. >You're going to have to get up as early as they do tomorrow.
  741. >Which is pretty much sun up.
  742. >Fuck you're not cut out for this.
  743.  
  744. >Your complaining internal monologue is cut short as you stand in the kitchen doorway.
  745. >Applejack's sat there, demolishing the plate of fritters.
  746. >Holy shit.
  747. >You thought you were a fast eater.
  748. >She's devouring these things in two bites.
  749.  
  750. “Not thinking of leaving any for me, then?” You ask as you walk in, and she freezes.
  751. >She looks surprisingly guilty.
  752. >”Ah was gonna save ya some.” She holds up her hand in a 'Scout's honour' gesture.
  753. >The effect is ruined by the half eaten fritter, surprisingly.
  754. “By 'some', are you abusing the fact you can barely count past one?”
  755. >”... Didn' we have this big ol' talk about not bein' a heel?”
  756. “Point taken, Apple Fritter.” You pull a chair out across from her and tiredly rest your head on your hand.
  757. >She holds the half eaten fritter out towards you, like a peace offering.
  758. “I'm not eating a half eaten one. You've got saliva all over it.”
  759. >You point at the offending cripple fritter in question.
  760. >”Oh, now yer bein' shy about saliva.”
  761. >You look behind her, as though the entire Apple family will materialise and decide to beat your ass there and then.
  762. “Can you be careful?” You hiss.
  763. >”Anon, Granny's deaf past five paces, Mac sleeps like the dead, an' Bloom's.. Bloom. She ain't exactly a light sleeper. Plus Ah'm speakin' quietly.”
  764. >You relax slightly, nodding at that. She'd know.
  765. “It's still got your saliva on it.”
  766. >”YOU had mah saliva on ya.” She points out, waving the fritter in front of you.
  767. >She has a point.
  768. >You gingerly take the fritter, and pop the remainder in your mouth.
  769. >You chew carefully, and she watches with a look approaching a fair percentage of smug.
  770. >Ok, fuck that's good.
  771. >No wonder she's putting them away so quickly.
  772. >It's spicy and sweet, but not overly so.
  773. >Yeah, you're definitely seeing the appeal.
  774.  
  775. >”Weeeeeeeeell?” she asks, taking a sip from the glass of milk to her side.
  776. “It's alright.”
  777. >”Anon, can ya admit ya actually like things once in a while? Or at least try for me a li'l?”
  778. >Oh my, this deal is becoming a pain in the ass rapidly.
  779. >But, you aren't exactly going back on it now.
  780. “.. It's good. Not too sweet, and has a nice spicy tang to it.”
  781. >She winks at you. “Thank yewwwww” she drawls and leans back in her chair.
  782. >She looks slightly conflicted, before pushing the plate a fraction towards you.
  783. “You're sharing?”
  784. >”Count yerself lucky. Mac nearly lost a hand tryin' to swipe some from me once.”
  785. “I'm honoured.”
  786. >”Darn right y'are.”
  787.  
  788. >She pushes the milk towards you, and you take a sip.
  789. >Compliments well.
  790. >”Speakin' of honours, yer first honour is to walk around the orchards with 'Bloom tomorrow and check on how the fruit's comin' along. See if we got any diseased trees, or pests. She'll tell ya if there's somethin' wrong.”
  791. >You can handle that.
  792. >Probably.
  793. >If Applebloom can handle it, you certainly can, right?
  794.  
  795.  
  796. >You can't handle this.
  797. >You've been up and walking for about an hour now, and your little cousin's showing no signs of stopping either walking or talking.
  798. >”An' then Ah went an' said, 'Miss Cheerilee, if you didn' want us in the supply closet, you shoulda hidden the paint bett' --” You tune her out.
  799. >You like the girl, but that way madness lies.
  800. >You already know her friends and a majority of what they've done over the past week.
  801. >Scootaloo is apparently obsessed with her scooter, what are the odds.
  802. >Sweetie Belle is the sister of one of Applejack's friends, Rarity
  803. >You pray to the divine diarchs that Sweetie Belle has no idea what a gossip magazine is.
  804. >They often go around town trying to find their 'talent'
  805. >So far they sound like a well meaning terrorism organisation.
  806. >Just this week they've managed to break the book store window, to try and fix it again with tape.
  807. >They tried to tutor other kids in their class, but wound up reading some old  propaganda books, resulting in the class trying to seize the means of production from the lunch room and trying to ensure a classless society.
  808. >They thought that meant no school, so they were naturally all for it.
  809. >They thought they were crime fighters, “'cause we got thinkin' that Uncle Core was in the police force, an' maybe it's in mah blood, Aynon'”
  810. > You don't point out that surely that means YOU'D be the crime fighting candidate, because they'd probably try another attempt but with you as the front man.
  811. >Or a battering ram for warrants.
  812. >You can still hear Applejack warning you to just use caution but go along with what she says.
  813. >Pointing out you were clearly the smarter of the pair, and no one defended your bad ideas was met with Applejack looking like she was short-circuiting before she just simply said “she's ten, idiot.”
  814.  
  815. >Applebloom stops as you approach another segment of the orchards, and she stops and waits patiently, hands behind her back.
  816. >You're still sort of struggling with the cart you're pulling.
  817. >It has a ladder in it, for the most part, and a cooler filled with a light lunch.
  818. >Yes, you're expected to be here all day.
  819. >Watching apples.
  820. >”Aynon, can ya get me the ladder again?”
  821. >You nod, unstrapping it from the cart, and setting it up.
  822. >Applebloom clambers up, eyeing the small apples on the tree.
  823. “Anything?”
  824. >”Comin' along nicely.. Ah think?”
  825. “You think? You're not sure?”
  826. >”Usually Ah got Applejack to tell me if it's good. Ah'm just goin' offa memory.”
  827. “Can't you just send her a picture?”
  828. >”On what?”
  829. “Your PHONE?” You reach into your pocket, pulling out your smartphone and waving it at her.
  830. >She scrambles down the ladder, looking at it wide eyed.
  831. >She ooh's appreciatively.
  832. >”Wow, Sweetie Belle's got one a these.” She taps the screen, flicking through the menus clumsily.
  833. “And you don't?”
  834. >”Nope, none a us do. Applejack's got a phone, but it's not fancy like this, an' Mac does, too.”
  835. >You scratch your head, watching her for a minute.
  836. >How the fuck do they get along without smartphones.
  837. >You know they don't have WiFi, and a slow ass computer plugged into a low speed broadband modem.
  838. >But smartphones are almost necessary now.
  839. >But, you do have an idea.
  840. “Applebloom, how were you going to report back where and when there were any issues?”
  841. >”Ah got my notepad.” She pockets your phone and clambers into the cart.
  842. >She pulls out a pencil case and thick notebook, and waves them around victoriously.
  843. “Well, how about we use my phone – which is still in your pocket, you thief – and take pictures of some of the apples and mark where they are in your notebook. Like, image number to where they are in the orchard and what you think is wrong or right with them?”
  844. >Applebloom, looks unsure as you've seen her.
  845. >“Ah dunno, Aynon. Ah like the way Ah do things.”
  846. “Even if there's a more efficient way?”
  847. >”A--.. Effish--” She mouths the word.
  848. >Oh.
  849. >Yeah.
  850. >She's fucking ten.
  851. ”Means it works well.”
  852. >She still looks undecided, glancing between your phone in her hand and her notebook like she can't make the connection.
  853. “Come on, it'll be like a simple database.”
  854. >”What's a database?”
  855. “.. Just go with me and agree it's a necessary evil, kid.”
  856. >She nods, but begins explaining why her method works well, holding up her notepad as though it's a sacred artefact.
  857. >She makes decent points for a ten year old.
  858. >It's tried and tested, and the Acres haven't exactly fallen under because of it's use.
  859. >But that's not an excuse for being inefficient when other options are around.
  860. >You tune out again, thinking carefully.
  861. >You could save a fucktonne of time with this, and be back before the others knew what hit 'em.
  862. >You can go back to fucking bed, most importantly.
  863. “Applebloom, have you and the other.. saracens?”
  864. >”Crusaders.”
  865. ”Crusaders. Same difference, have you ever tried to find your talent in digital photography?”
  866. >Ka-ching.
  867. >Her eyes grow wide as dinner plates, and she looks at your phone like it suddenly holds the answers to the universe.
  868. >It does, if you get signal.
  869. >Google is fucking great from a technical standpoint.
  870. >”We ain't tried that!” She bounces up and down on her feet, looking at you excitedly.
  871. >”Can Ah try that, with yer phone? Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease--”
  872. >Roughly six hundred 'pleases' in the span of six seconds, you're nodding frantically.
  873. “Yes, for the love of-- Applebloom, stop bouncing, you'll drop the damn phone.”
  874. >She stops, but she's still rocking on her heels.
  875. “So, let's do a test run. You know how to work it? The camera?”
  876. >”Kinda, but Ah think Sweetie Belle's phone is different. It's pink, fer starters.”
  877. >You frown.
  878. “Look, the case doesn't change the phone itself, but it could be different. So I'll show you, come here.”
  879. >You make a show of sliding the lock screen, and tapping the small camera icon on the main screen.
  880. “See, you just tap the middle of the screen once to focus it, then you hit this button here and it'll take the image. You can look at it, by hitting this little gallery shortcut.”
  881. >She seems to take well to the stop-whistle tour of a basic camera app.
  882. >”Tap.. here.. uh.. hang on.” She turns the camera to you.
  883. >Kchhhrrr.
  884. >What.
  885. “Don't take a photo of me!” You complain.
  886. >”Hang on, Aynon. Alright, let's just.. preview an-.. here y'are!” She holds up the image proudly.
  887. >Hell, you don't even look.. too bad, you guess.
  888. >Sleep deprived, kinda gaunt in the face.
  889. >Shit, you were so focused on trying to teach her something you look like dad did when he was teaching you.
  890. >”Whaddaya think? Think Ah got a unique style?”
  891. “Yeah, you're the next Photo Finish. Now, before you start taking apple shots, how do we know WHERE we are out here, besides 'oh, the house is up there'?”
  892. >Jerking a thumb back at the hill, where the farmhouse watches over its land like a sentry, you look around for any other indicator.
  893. >”Oh! Oh, Ah know this. We got these markers--”
  894. >MAKE US WHOLE.
  895. >You shake away the reference. No time for gaming. Gotta work.
  896. >”-- that we use to mark off sections a' the orchard. It's real clever, Mac came up with it.”
  897. >Shit, Big Mac? Guess the guy's smarter than you give him credit for, which admittedly isn't that high.
  898. >You'll have to talk to him about that.
  899. >You are trying to be less of an asshole, after all.
  900. “So where's the nearest one?” You ask, squinting in the early sun. “And what do they even look like?”
  901. >”They're like, on the dividin' fences, pretty big but not huge. Oh, an' they always face the house, 'cause that's how we do it. Work in, and work our way out.”
  902. >She beams.
  903. >Your fucking heart.
  904. >No, focus.
  905. “You mean, 'work out, work our way in', right?”
  906. >”It's a matter a' perspect've, Aynon.” She says sagely, nodding once.
  907. >She's.. actually right.
  908. >Ok, fuck this, you stroll off to find the marker.
  909. >You find the opening in the fence that led to this part of the orchard, and turn, eyeing the marker.
  910. >It's a fairly big sign, with the letter A and the old numerals 'VI' underneath.
  911. >A-6.
  912. >You bear that in mind as you walk back, and curse the heat.
  913. >When you started it was mildly chilly.
  914. >Now the sun's warming things up too quickly and too intensely for your liking.
  915. >Turns out, Ponyville's hotter than Fillydelphia by a decent margin.
  916. >You wipe sweat from your brow with a forearm, and grimace at the fresh rivulets of sweat running down it.
  917. ”A-6, 'Bloom.” You mutter, sitting on the cart. “Don't drop the phone, alright?”
  918. >She gives a cheery 'yep' and clambers back up the ladder, before taking out your phone.
  919. >She spends a long few minutes up there, trying to find the perfect angle, lighting and apple to take a picture of.
  920. “Applebloom, we don't need this to be your portfolio, here. Look, I'll take you into town to GET a phone if you're that set on trying this seriously, on the condition you don't take forever to get one photo, alright?”
  921. >You hear a high pitched, keening noise.
  922. >Where the fuck is that coming from?
  923. >It gets closer.
  924. >Oh, Applebloom's thrown herself halfway off the ladder at you to hug you.
  925. >”Thankyouthankyouthankyou” she squeals into your shirt.
  926. >Thankfully, the department likes to bribe you if say, a parent dies in active duty.
  927. >You were thinking of trying to 'upgrade' the apple farmhouse tech-wise anyhow, might as well start from the bottom.
  928. “Easy, damn. Also, try not to jump from around five feet up, you can still get yourself hurt. Then I have to explain HOW, and I'm pretty sure that won't end well.”
  929. >”Yer really gonna get me one a ' them smartphones?”
  930. >What would Applejack say at this point?
  931. >You'd try for what Mac would say, but you don't think 'yyyyep' sets a get precedent for this.
  932. “As long as you use it responsibly, keep up with class and don't use it for evil.”
  933. >Close enough.
  934. >You quickly mark down the picture number to A-6 on your little drawn table, and set the ladder down again.
  935. >Hell, maybe you'll make it to the B segment by lunch?
  936.  
  937. >Lunch passes by fairly quickly.
  938. >Granny made cheese and tomato sandwiches, and some cola. All kept nice and cool in the cooler.
  939. >You chew quietly, with Applebloom firing off questions about her new phone.
  940. >When can she have it?
  941. >Is it a birthday present?
  942. >Is she allowed to take it to school?
  943. >How many sheep does it have?
  944. >You blink.
  945. “What? Sheep?”
  946. >”Yeah, Ah hear it makes it go faster.”
  947. “Do you mean RAM?”
  948. >”Naw, Aynon, Ahm puuuuuuuuretty sure it's sheep.”
  949. >You take a long pull from your cola, and wish for a better world.
  950.  
  951. >You manage to clear halfway through B section and decide you've made good progress.
  952. >According to Applebloom, they'd still be working try to accurately sketch or describe whatever they saw about the apples.
  953. >You pack up everything in the cart, and Applebloom decides to be a pain and ride in the back, chattering away excitedly.
  954. >You can probably convince Mac to let you drive the truck, seeing as you finished early.
  955. >They weren't exactly comfortable with you driving your little car back from Filly'.
  956. >Didn't trust your mindset.
  957. >Which is fair, you weren't exactly planning on AVOIDING the left side of the road.
  958. >Nah, you don't need therapy.
  959. >That's for kids who've been raped by clowns.
  960. >Bonzo never touched you.
  961. >He was a gentle soul.
  962.  
  963. >Back in reality, you put your fucking back into hauling that cart back up the hill.
  964. >Applebloom's shouting encouragement from the cart itself, like a motivational dumbbell.
  965. >How is such a little girl so heavy?
  966. >How are you so weak?
  967. >All answered next time on Sweet Apple Acres: Gains edition.
  968.  
  969. >You set the cart's brakes outside of the farmhouse, picking up your phone and the notebook.
  970. >Applebloom proceeds to whine you forgot her, clambering out of the cart.
  971. “You're a big girl, I don't think you need to be carried.”
  972. >”Nooooooooo, but I wanna be.”
  973. >She's got you there.
  974. >You pull open the screen door, and let her in first before following with your haul.
  975. >You deposit your stuff in the office, but keep your phone. You write 'Applestuff' on the top of the page, before walking into the kitchen, following the sound of chopping.
  976. >Granny's chopping potatoes and carrots, apparently.
  977. >And can't hear you.
  978. >Usually you'd try to sneak up and spook someone in this case.
  979. >But given the woman's heart may not take it, and she has a knife, you wisely decide to keep your throat in one piece.
  980. >Applebloom strolls in, bellowing in greetings.
  981. >”Granny!”
  982. >Your grandmother starts, and looks about, first at you then down towards the sentient bow.
  983. >The girl has a closet full of bows, with Applejack's hats in the hall.
  984. >It's ridiculous.
  985. >”Yer finished already?” She frowns, and puts the knife down, leaning heavilly on the counter.
  986. >”Mhmm! An' Aynon's gonna get me a new phone!”
  987. >Granny looks at you for a minute.
  988. >”Ain't that nice, dear? So, Anon, why is that, 'xactly?”
  989. “She doesn't have a phone, Granny.”
  990. >”She don't need one, Anon, she's ten.” Granny watches Applebloom as she speaks, looking somewhat confused.
  991. >”But Sweetie Belle has one! She can do all kinds a stuff with it, like look on the internet an' use it like a calculator an' call people.”
  992. >”Can't y'just do that on the computer?”
  993. >”Granny, Ah can't carry the computer around. It's big an' heavy!”
  994. >You raise your hand, drawing the older woman's attention from Applebloom, who has her arms folded.
  995. >Apparently the girl's chosen this hill to die on.
  996. >It's funny because the house is on a hill.
  997.  
  998. “I mean, sure it's fun for her, but what if you need to get a hold of her, and she's not at Sweetie Belle's or Scootaloo's? Out playing?” You take out your phone, tapping it.
  999. >”An' we used Aynon's phone t'finish our work early.”
  1000. >”Issat right, now?”
  1001. >You nod, and bring over the phone.
  1002. >Granny grabs a pair of thick framed, red glasses and puts them on as you show her the images of apples and various small insects roaming the trees.
  1003. >”These are real nice, Anon', but Ah'm not seein' the point.” She states simply, looking at you through thick lenses.
  1004. >”Granny, point is, we can just take photos and say where we took 'em if we don't know whether the area a' the orchard's good or not!”
  1005. “I'm new at this, and Applebloom's not too sure about some of them. We can't exactly take Applejack and Mac away from their chores every other minute just to check if the apples are okay or not.”
  1006. >”Y'got a point there, I s'pose it does save us some time. Who's thought this'n up?”
  1007. >Applebloom opens her mouth to speak but you cut in.
  1008. “Applebloom. She saw me playing around and remembered phones like this have a good camera, because she played with her friends and asked if we could try it.” You smile.
  1009. >Applebloom looks at you, and Granny looks at her, smiling.
  1010. >”Well, lookit you bein' a lil genius. That's mighty clever of ya, but Ah'm still not sure, Anon. Y'hear all sorts of bad stories about kids with these phones.”
  1011. >Shit she's got a point.
  1012. >But hopefully the kid won't be sending nudes to other kids, or threatening to fucking rek them with a Royal Guard copypasta.
  1013. “I'll put some locks on it, make sure she has to get approval from one of us for anything fancy or dangerous. Plus, I really think you being able to get a hold of her would be handy. It's what dad did with me, and I turned out--.. okay?” You finish, trying for a winning smile.
  1014. >Granny politely decides not to bring up the fact you were a borderline shut in, besides work and the occasional treadmill session at the gym when dad pushed you to it.
  1015. >”Alright.. but you get in ANY trouble with that thing, an' it's gone, y'hear me, 'Bloom?”
  1016. >”Yeah, Granny. Ah promise Ah'll use it responsibly.”
  1017. >”Y'sure ya want to spend yer money like this, Anon?” Granny asks, fixing a look on you, and idly playing with a small pearl necklace around her neck.
  1018. “I'm sure. Think she's earned it. Besides, it'll make working easier on everybody, right?”
  1019. >She agrees, before turning back to the boiling pot and scraping the carrots and potatoes in.
  1020. “Can we borrow the truck to head into town?” You ask, stopping by the doorway.
  1021. >You'd almost forgotten to ask.
  1022. >”Mac ain't usin' it, he's meant t'be clearin' the barn.” She nods, before frowning. “Y'sure yer alright to drive, Anon?”
  1023. >You nod at the question, frowning.
  1024. “Applebloom knows the way to town, right?”
  1025. >”Ain't what Ah meant. Promise me yer gonna drive careful.”
  1026. “Promise, Granny.”
  1027. >”Awright, you two made me a promise each, so stick to 'em. Dinner's at six, mah special stew – oh, could you be a sweetheart an' pick up some fresh bread from th' bakery? Sugar cube watsits..”
  1028. >”Sugarcube Corner, Granny.” Applebloom pipes up, scratching the tip of her nose.
  1029. >You agree, and take the single pair of car keys out of the bowl on the hall table and head out to the truck.
  1030.  
  1031. >You climb in, turning on the engine.
  1032. >Applebloom hops in, quickly doing her seatbelt.
  1033. >You buckle up.
  1034. >Seeing as Applebloom's kinda vibrating in her seat with excitement, you think it best to put the truck into drive and start heading out.
  1035.  
  1036. >The drive is fairly peaceful.
  1037. >You go to put the radio on, but Applebloom slaps your hand.
  1038. “Ow? What was that for?”
  1039. >”Mac' has the radio just where he likes in, Aynon.”
  1040. “... In the 'off' position?”
  1041. >She shrugs and you drop it.
  1042. >Ponyville's roads are much different to Fillydelphia's.
  1043. >There's precious little traffic until you get to town itself, even then there's barely any.
  1044. >Hell, you weren't driving on actual tarmac until you managed to get a mile or so away from Sweet Apple Acres.
  1045. “Alright, where am I going here?”
  1046. >Thinking on it, you haven't been to town once before this.
  1047. >It's small, and almost picturesque in places. A mix of new and old. Some places are cottages, and others are modern storefronts.
  1048. >”Y'gotta take the right here.”
  1049. “Can I go right on a red light here?” You ask, stopping and peering around.
  1050. >A small green sedan across from you goes to your left, so you're assuming it's cool here.
  1051. >You quickly turn the corner, and seeing as no one honks their horn, you think you're in the clear.
  1052. “It's th' next... left, Ah think.”
  1053. >You use your turn signal, because you're fucking responsible, and head down the street on the left.
  1054. >You slow to a couple of miles per hour, looking at the store fronts.
  1055. >Then you see a giant sign shaped like a cupcake, with 'Sugarcube Corner' written in a substance that resembles frosting.
  1056. >”There!”
  1057. “I figured. Why are we getting the bread before your phone?”
  1058. >”'Cause the corner shuts early today.”
  1059. >Fair enough.
  1060. >You make a note to put the truck in park, because surprisingly you don't want to somehow crash it despite not being in the cab.
  1061. >Applebloom slides along the seat to come out your side and you shut the door.
  1062. >Well, slam it.
  1063. >It's a bad habit.
  1064.  
  1065. >She leads the way, looking for all the world like a soldier entering enemy territory.
  1066. >She holds up a fist, and you stop.
  1067. “What are we doing?”
  1068. >”Shhhh, she hears we're in here an' we're done fer!” She whispers back.
  1069. >It's pretty empty, besides a matronly looking woman behind the counter and a tall, thin man wearing a small white and red cap.
  1070. >”Well, hello there, Applebloom! Not with your friends today? And who do we have her--”
  1071. >”DIDSOMEONESAYAPPLEBLOOM?”
  1072. >There's a pink frilly blur.
  1073. >Applebloom is swept off her feet behind your field of vision.
  1074. >”No! Anon, HELP. Put me down y'dang pink menace!”
  1075. >You turn to see the problem.
  1076. >Applebloom has been captured by a walking frilly dress worn by cotton candy.
  1077. >Wait, no.
  1078. >The cotton candy is bright pink hair.
  1079. >She's being crushed against the other woman's chest, who's asking questions rapidly.
  1080. >”Get yer dang puppies outta my face, Pinkie! Ah just wanted t'buy some bread!”
  1081. >Pinkie, throws her hair out of her face.
  1082.  
  1083. >She's on crack.
  1084. >No one smiles like that otherwise.
  1085. >Applebloom's writhing in her grip like a snake.
  1086. >”Anon, ya gotta run before she sees ya!”
  1087. “Too late.”
  1088. >”Ohmigosh are you NEW?!”
  1089. >She drops Applebloom with little warning, who falls down with a thud in a heap.
  1090. >Your hand is suddenly being shook with vehemence.
  1091. >”Hi, I'm Pinkie Pie, I live here with the Cakes and I really like making new friends, some people say I'm hyper but they're like, BORING so I just hang out with my other friends and occasionally I try to make new ones. You're new, I don't know you, usually I throw parties for people who are new but we had to stop that after I managed to get icing all over the kitchen trying to bake a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge cake with seventeen tiers because Mr and Mrs Cake – they're behind the counter, and my bosses, and my landlords – said I couldn't do it but I totally tried, and it mostly worked!”
  1092.  
  1093. >You stare.
  1094. >She grins at you.
  1095. >Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
  1096. >You're starting to think you have, and it's this fucking girl.
  1097. >She gasps, and puts her hands in front of her mouth.
  1098. >”I didn't even ask your name, like, duh how am I gonna be your new best friend if I don't even know your name?”
  1099. >Never give demons your name.
  1100. >Sorceror 101.
  1101. “Anonymous Apple.”
  1102. >Fuck.
  1103.  
  1104. >If possible, her eyes go wider. She silently points at Applebloom frantically.
  1105. >”Then that means you two are related? You're not brother and sister, because Applejack's her brother and Biiiiiiiiiiiig MacIntosh is her sister. Wait, no, I'm being silly. Other way around! Sorry, sometimes I talk so fast I mix things up, but you've gotta be like, her cousin or SOMETHING, I'd bet my hat on it.”
  1106. “You're.. not wearing a hat.”
  1107. >”I'm supposed to, and a hair net, but I don't because I'm never on baking duty for the customers, always for fun. I just wait tables and work the register, isn't that CRAZY?”
  1108. “Yep. Downright insane. Can I go now?”
  1109. >”No way! You're Applebloom's cousin, which means you're ALSO Applejack's cousin, which means we're family-best-friends! That's, like, super sacred special and waaaaaaaait what did you come in here for again?”
  1110. >You swallow. Applebloom is already trying to hide in a booth, holding a pillow in front of her.
  1111. “Bread. Something fresh. It's going with.. with a stew?”
  1112. >Mr and Mrs Cake, apparently, are no fucking help with this creature. Mrs Cake only gives a warning when Pinkie vaults over the counter and rummages around the display cases.
  1113. >”We goooooooooooooot pumpkin bread, multigrain, sourdough, white bread, brown bread, half-white-half-brown bread, spicebread, tigerbread, baguette bread – but that's just a baguette, silly – cheese bread--”
  1114. >You lean forward on the counter, trying to stop her.
  1115. ”We'll take the tiger bread. Yep. That. Preferably now.” You stress the last, because you can already see her attention waning.
  1116. >She snaps a salute, before diving into the back.
  1117. >”Seeing as we're super best friends, I'll get you a fresh one!” She calls over her shoulder.
  1118.  
  1119. ”You hire her?” you ask, aghast.
  1120. >”She's.. a little energetic, but she's a hard worker and a sweet girl. Like she said, if you're Applejack's cousin you're practically friends by association. You'll be seeing her a lot, I imagine once school starts back up after summer.” Mrs Cake smiles kindly.
  1121. >”Not to mention she's great with the kids.” Mr Cake puts in, hitting the keys on an old fashioned register. “Your total is four bits for the loaf of tiger bread – excellent choice, by the way, always my favourite for a sandwich.”
  1122. >That's a pretty good price.
  1123. >You fish in your pocket and hand it over.
  1124. >”So, haven't seen you around before, but we did hear you moved on up to the farm the other week. Your granny and Big Mac were here looking for that little one and mentioned it. They were thinking of getting a cake.” Mr Cake nods over at Applebloom, who looks like she's shellshocked.
  1125. “Oh, yeah. We're solving the whole 'can't find her' issue. You know of any decent cell phone places nearby?”
  1126. >”Well, there's only the one Powerhouse a few blocks over, but they're pretty decent if you ask me.” Mrs Cake chimes in, shuffling trays of cupcakes into rotation in the counter's display window.
  1127. “Thanks.” You turn to your traumatised little cousin. “You know where that is?”
  1128. >”U-uhhuh.” Yeah she's out of commission.
  1129. >Pinkie returns with a loaf of bread wrapped up in a bag.
  1130. >Steams rises slowly from in, before she puts it into another bag and hands it over.
  1131. >”You'll love it, that's a Pinkie Pie guar-an-tee!” She winks, jabbing herself in the chest with a thumb.
  1132. >You nod politely, giving a subdued thank you.
  1133. “Well, we'll let you.. get on with it. Mr Cake, Mrs Cake. Miss Pie.”
  1134. >”Call me Pinkie, everyone does, except my mom and dad who call me--”
  1135. >You grab Applebloom and, once again, get out of dodge.
  1136.  
  1137. >Your navigator is somewhat out of it.
  1138. “You, uh, okay there, Applebloom?”
  1139. >”T-they were in mah face, Anon! All Ah could see..” she gibbers.
  1140. >Ah, she'll be fine.
  1141. >You cross a few blocks, with various people either nodding to your little cousin or looking at their stalls and stores worriedly.
  1142.  
  1143. >You finally find Powerhouse after asking around a little, given Applebloom's mostly staring dead ahead.
  1144. >She snaps out of it when you walk in, instantly rushing to the displays and giggling.
  1145. >”Applebloom, I've told you, if you're just going to mess around with the displays all day you can le--” The short, bespectacled woman in a polo shirt looks at you following her.
  1146. >”She's with you?” she asks, adjusting her glasses.
  1147. “Yep. Looking for a phone for her.”
  1148. >”Oh, well, what sort of model are you looking for?”
  1149. >You pull your phone out from your pocket.
  1150. “Maybe an older Sundance? This is the six, but maybe she'd be good with a three or four? Nothing too fancy, just something she can use for the internet with a data package, decent battery so we can get a hold of her if she's outside – that sort of thing?”
  1151. >You talk shop, occasionally breaking off to find Applebloom trying to tug you over to one phone or another. She also tries to convince you to buy her a tablet at one point, instead of a phone.
  1152. >Which defeats the whole purpose.
  1153. >Eventually you settle on a Sundance 4X. It's got a large screen, it's solid and the package you get on it nets her pretty much unlimited data, calls and texts.
  1154. >You figured it was cheaper rather than her going over her data allowance and paying out the ass for it later.
  1155. >”Can Ah play with it now?” she asks, struggling to peek up on the counter where the phone sits in it's box.
  1156. >You're busy signing the required forms, occasionally asking her questions.
  1157. “Birthday?”
  1158. >”Second a June, 992nd year of th' Celestial Era.” she states proudly.
  1159. >You mark it down before filling in the rest with some ease.
  1160.  
  1161. >”Will that be bits or card?”
  1162. “Card, please.”
  1163. >She pulls out the small card reader, and you slot it home and type in your pin quickly.
  1164. >You take the receipt and card, and stick the receipt in the box.
  1165. >”Any problems, you have a year warranty, as long as it's not something like .. dropping it in a puddle, smashing it, stuff like that.”
  1166. “Alright, thanks. C'mon, 'Bloom.”
  1167. >You grab the bag the phone is in, and walk out.
  1168.  
  1169. >”Can Ah hold it on the way to the truck?”
  1170. “You promise not to drop it?”
  1171. >”On mah.. mah.. Ah promise!” She nods fervently.
  1172. >You hand her the bag, and she walks somewhat slower, holding it in both hands.
  1173. >You guarantee she'll be slinging it onto the couch in a week.
  1174.  
  1175. >You get to the truck, and climb in.
  1176. >Applebloom's begging to open it.
  1177. “You can read the manual.”
  1178. >”Aynon, c'moooon.”
  1179. “No, Applebloom. I need to set it up, and I'll do it back at the house. Just.. read up and make sure you don't brick the damn thing by the end of the day.”
  1180. >She grumbles, but pulls out the small booklet and gets to reading.
  1181. >You quiz her on the way back about the specs of the phone, to make sure she actually read through it.
  1182. >Surprisingly, she gets everything right.
  1183. >Maybe this was a better idea than you thought.
  1184.  
  1185. >You swing the truck around so it's facing the front gates of the farm before parking it up and getting out.
  1186. >You quickly walk up to the house with Applebloom holding her prize in tow.
  1187. >”We're baaaaaaaack!” She calls into the house as you walk in, practically skipping into the kitchen.
  1188. >Granny's sat there, reading the paper. She lowers it, offering a little wave at the pair of you.
  1189. >”So, how much did she swindle y'for, Anon?”
  1190. >You pull out a chair, gesturing for Applebloom to slide the box over to you.
  1191. “Wasn't cheap, but she promised she'd look after it. She knows she won't get another if she breaks it.”
  1192. >You pull the phone out, turning it this way and that before you start taking the back off and putting the SIM in and the battery.
  1193. >You run through first time set up, with Applebloom listening closely, and even running off to get paper to take some notes.
  1194. >Just in case, you suppose.
  1195. >You take a look at the phone information when it boots up, and get the number out.
  1196. >You write it down on the small notepad next to the kitchen phone.
  1197. “Alright. Now if you ever need Applebloom you can call her on this. Keep it charged, and you can pretty much go wherever you have reception.”
  1198. >”Reception?” she asks, tilting her head.
  1199. “It's like.. if the phone can connect to other phones. See these bars up here?”
  1200. >You spend another ten or so minutes going over the little icons in the taskbar at the top and what they mean.
  1201.  
  1202. >”Almost forgot, Anon. Applejack finished her chores, came in lookin' for the pair of ya. She looked at the notes in the office about the orchards, reckons she needs to talk to ya. Ah reckon she'll be out front.” Granny says, still watching Applebloom tinker with the new phone.
  1203. >You quickly detour into the office, grabbing the 'Applestuff' notes in question and head outside.
  1204. >Sure enough, you spot her sitting on a fence down the hill a little.
  1205.  
  1206. >You walk over, feeling somewhat nervous.
  1207. >You haven't really spoken today.
  1208. >What if she thought it all through and doesn't want to go through with it anymore?
  1209. >Shit.
  1210. >You want to turn around and go back to the house.
  1211. >Say you couldn't find her.
  1212. >But you actually have to talk to her about farm stuff, so can you get away with avoiding it?
  1213. >The gravel of the path around the fenced off field crunches underfoot.
  1214. >She turns, spots you and gives you a smile you're not entirely sure you deserve.
  1215. >”Hey.” She greets, raising a hand, swinging her legs back and forth on the fence.
  1216. “Hey.”
  1217. >Smooth as fuck.
  1218. >Good job, retard.
  1219. >”Heard you and 'Bloom finished early.”
  1220. “You heard right.”
  1221. >”Wanna tell me about it, or y'gonna stand there lookin' awkward all day?” She pats the fence besides her.
  1222. >After a second, you nod and climb up the fence.
  1223. >Not exactly gracefully, but shit, you're not Anon Spider, are you?
  1224. >You sit down, and she shuffles up closer.
  1225. >”So, how exactly did y'manage to finish hours ahead a schedule?” She prods you with an elbow, grinning.
  1226. “We thought of a new method.”
  1227. >She makes an interested noise, watching the field as she waits.
  1228. “Take photos of apples, ask you, Mac or Granny if they're decent or a problem. Mark down where they are if the photo isn't good enough, or if you need to check it out in person.”
  1229. >She whistles appreciatively.
  1230. >”Well, ain't you smart? Workin' one day an' already shakin' up the apple industry.”
  1231. “Shut up.”
  1232. >”How'd ya convince Granny Applebloom of all folks needed a phone?”
  1233. >You hold up a finger, and adjust your anime glasses in your head.
  1234. “Told her the entire thing was Applebloom's idea.”
  1235. >Applejack frowns at this, giving you a sidelong glance.
  1236. >”So ya lied to her.”
  1237. “Well, yeah, but it worked out.” She narrows her eyes.
  1238. “What? Applebloom got an actual phone she can use, the orchard rounds are faster and I wasn't a huge asshole who took all the credit. Way I see it, I did everything right here, Applejack.”
  1239. >”Ya lied. Ya let Applebloom take credit for work she didn't do. And get rewarded for it. What sorta  standard d'ya reckon that sets for her?”
  1240. “That occasionally you can share success with other people?” You ask, frowning.
  1241. >”No, it tells her that y'can coast by on other people's efforts, Anon. C'mon. She's a good girl, but ya keep treating her like that she's gonna wind up spoiled.”
  1242. >.. For fuck's sake.
  1243. >Alright, she raises a valid point, but you were just trying to speed things along.
  1244. “Okay, okay. I won't do it again. The whole not working for it, thing. Even if I do find it backwards.” You concede.
  1245. >Applejack rolls her eyes at that, but she grabs your hand and squeezes it, rubbing a thumb over your knuckles in a small swirling pattern.
  1246. >”Thank y'Anon.”
  1247. “You do realise I still disagree, right?”
  1248. >”Yer entitled to yer own opinion. Give it time, Ah reckon you'll come 'round.”
  1249. >She sounds so damn convinced that for a second you half expect your viewpoint to flip instantly.
  1250. >It doesn't.
  1251. >Oh well.
  1252. >You both sit like that for a while, hand in hand.
  1253. >It's pretty much the most you figure you can get away with.
  1254. >It's not hard to explain away.
  1255. >Compared to kissing, anyhow.
  1256. >That'd be somewhat difficult to explain away.
  1257. >You really doubt 'I fell' is going to cut it with that.
  1258. >You snap your fingers sharply, before reaching into your back pocket and pulling free your 'applestuff' notes.
  1259. “You looked at these?”
  1260. >”Mhmm, didn't have th' pictures t'go with the descriptions, though.” She reaches over with her other hand, keeping you both linked by your hand-holding in the middle.
  1261. >She sets it on her lap, and looks.. oddly focused.
  1262. >Occasionally her eyes flicker, and she looks up before seeming to brace herself and going again.
  1263. >Around the fourth time this happens, she notices you.
  1264. >”Y'always watch people when they're tryna read, Anon?”
  1265. >Defensive is a word for it.
  1266. “Mhmm, book reading is my fetish.” A hand digs around in your pocket for your phone as you talk. “Ohhh, Applejack, read to me harder.”
  1267. >You lean your head on her shoulder, faux-moaning.
  1268. >”Anon will you quit it?!” She squeaks.
  1269. >She fucking squeaked.
  1270. >She looks pretty red, too.
  1271. >”Mmm, tell me definitions, narrate for me.”
  1272. >You almost fall over as she storms off towards the orchards in a hurry, shoulders hunched as she looks at the notes.
  1273. “Applejack! Where're you going?” You call.
  1274. >”A-6” she yells back, not bothering to look at you.
  1275. >Did you cross a line or something?
  1276.  
  1277. >You find her, oddly enough, two sub-sections over to the right, stood there in the central path and eyeing the trees.
  1278. >As you approach you can see her sounding words out, one finger following along.
  1279. >You don't remember Applebloom's writing being that long or hard to read, but hey.
  1280. >Your writing's not exactly perfect.
  1281. >Far from it, in fact.
  1282.  
  1283. “What're you doing here?”
  1284. >”Ah'm lookin' at the trees?”
  1285. >“Is this the wrong A-6?” She looks worried, adjusting her hat quickly.
  1286. ”What do you mean THIS A-6, 'Jack? It's clearly signposted.”
  1287. >”It ain't, alright?” She says defensively, colour in her cheeks.
  1288. >You roll your eyes, and point at the old numerals.
  1289. “I.V. Four.”
  1290. >You rub your forehead, feeling the sweat building. You've been out here with Applebloom once today already, doing rounds and now you're here with Applejack and apparently having trouble.
  1291. >You grab her hand, tugging her along after you.
  1292. >You pass another segment of the orchard, and stop before A-6.
  1293. ”Where are we now, 'Jack?” You watch her, frowning.
  1294. >”A.. 4?”
  1295. ”No, that's VI, which is six. You're fucking with me, right?”
  1296. >You watch her, folding your arms.
  1297. >She looks like she's not having a good time.
  1298. >She looks angry and upset all at once.
  1299. >Her eyes are a little red and her jaw's tight.
  1300. >”Look, why's it matter so dang much, Anon?”
  1301. “Because if me and Bloom tell you we think there's a bad batch out in A-6, we can't have you going to A-4 and checking out the wrong trees. It's like one big fucking semantic error.”
  1302. >”I--” she starts, but you cut her off in a hurry.
  1303. “ How exactly are you fucking this up?”
  1304. >She closes her eyes for a minute.
  1305. ”It's basic literacy.” You point out.
  1306. >Her eyes snap open.
  1307. >She points at your chin, getting real close, and practically snarling.
  1308. >”Ah see ya got this all figured out, Anon, so I'll get outta yer way and stop causin' damned 'semantic errors'. Check the orchard out on yer own, alright?”
  1309. >And with that, she marches off.
  1310. >You stand there, watching her go.
  1311. >The hell was that about?
  1312. >You play it back in your head, thinking.
  1313. >She struggles with numerals and places them wrong.
  1314. >She didn't like you watching her read, and kept breaking off to regain composure.
  1315. >She seemed to have a fucking nightmare of a time reading even Applebloom's quick notes.
  1316. >What--
  1317. >Then it hits you.
  1318. >She can definitely read, but something's stopping her from doing a good job of it.
  1319. >No wonder she was getting pissed, you were fucking rubbing it in her face.
  1320. >First of all with your play-seduction, then actually stepping close to calling her stupid.
  1321.  
  1322. >You're about ready for your 'Asshole of the Year' award and 'Making fun of learning difficulties' ribbon.
  1323. “Fuck me.” You groan, before setting off after her rapidly retreating form.
  1324. >This is going to be difficult, to put it lightly.
  1325.  
  1326. >Aw fuck she's sat on the porch steps.
  1327. >Alright, you can either man up, approach this calmly and settle things with your quasi-... romantic interest slash cousin or be a complete coward and try to ghost her.
  1328. >Option two sounds fucking delightful, so you aim to powerwalk past the second you get up the steps.
  1329. >You almost fall on your face as a hand grabs your ankle, awkwardly bringing a stop to any forward momentum you had.
  1330. >”Sit yer butt down, Anon'.”
  1331. >There's a psychological effect you remember reading about wherein the more choice the person has, the unhappier they are.
  1332. >Clearly the reverse is true, as you have no choice, and are very much the opposite of pissing yourself laughing about this development.
  1333. >You sit down slowly, not really looking at her for a minute.
  1334. “Sorry,” you start.
  1335. >It seems like a good opener.
  1336. >”What're y'sorry for?” She asks, tilting her head further down her face.
  1337. “Didn'--.. I didn't know. About your whole.. thing.”
  1338. >”Mah thing.” She repeats, rolling a shoulder.
  1339. “Your thing with.. words. Reading.”
  1340. >”Ah don't HAVE a thing.” She folds her arms across her chest.
  1341. “Guess it doesn't count as lying if you're convinced, right?”
  1342. >”Anon, Ah'm just dumb.” You barely made out her chewing her lip.
  1343. “So if we were to look at your school records, you'd be failing across the board, right?”
  1344. >”Well, no, but I ain't exactly doin' great in Equestrian.” She's taken up scratching a knee with all five fingers in a slow movement. You watch for a while.
  1345. “You struggle with anything else, or is this 'being dumb' all limited to just Equestrian?”
  1346. >”Uh.. Math word problems, anythin' too wordy or like algebra. Ah get the letters all turned around or in the wrong order.” She admits.
  1347. >She looks down between her knees.
  1348. “Yeah, that isn't being stupid, that's a genuine learning difficulty if I'm on track here.”
  1349. >”Well, no kiddin' it's a learnin' difficulty, Anon, Ah told ya it ain't easy.”
  1350. “No, I mean--”
  1351. >”Ah'm playin' around. Ah know what a learnin' difficulty is.” Looking up, she gives you a tight smile.
  1352. “And I thought you were supposed to be a dumb country girl?”
  1353. >”Anon, we're doin' real good at the minute on the whole reconcilin' and understandin' part a the whole shoutin' and stormin' off thing, so try not t' push it just yet.”
  1354. >You nod, before propping your head up on your hand and staring out at the front of the farm.
  1355. “I just thought we were doing jokes. Anyway, I'm going to take a wild stab at it, and say the others aren't exactly aware of it too much?”
  1356. >”Naw, I jus'.. sorta get 'Bloom or Mac' to guide me to whatever section we have to do if we're harvestin', an' the rest a my chores don't exactly require a whole lot a readin', ya know? Not like the pigs want a bedtime story before we put 'em inside fer the night.” She snorts.
  1357. “Ok, hold up, are we doing jokes, or is this just a YOU thing at the minute, because I've got like.. twenty ideas for a good pig joke.”
  1358. >”A'ight, let's take a tone break. What've y'got for me.” She mimics you, head on her hand as she watches you.
  1359. >Still kinda red about the eyes, but not about to rip your damn head off.
  1360. “Pigs in a blanket.”
  1361. >She blinks.
  1362. >She snorts again.
  1363. >”A-.. Ain't funny.”
  1364. “Why're you smiling then?”
  1365. >”Ah thought of a funnier joke Ah told 'Bloom the other week, that's all.”
  1366. “Riiiight. Look, back on task here. You realise the fact you decided you didn't need help, and the whole 'I'm a proud independent woman' thing didn't win you any favours?”
  1367. >”Ah don't need help. Ah've managed just fine on mah own, Anon.”
  1368. “Managing just fine? Bull-fucking-shit. Give me Applebloom's notes.”
  1369. >She looks uncertain, before reaching into her pocket and pulling out the crumpled and slightly torn piece of paper.
  1370. “Alright, let's test this, see how well you're doing.” You point out a small paragraph Applebloom wrote earlier.
  1371. >She looks at you, and looks about five seconds away from begging.
  1372. >”Anon, please. C'mon, Ah'm fine, alright? Let's just drop it, heck, forget all about it.”
  1373. “Jack. Come on. I need to prove my point.”
  1374. >”Don't you dang near always?” She mutters, raising her head to look at the sky.
  1375. >She takes a moment, before adjusting her hat back to it's normal angle and takes the paper from you, taking care to smooth it out.
  1376. >After a few seconds, of scanning the paragraph, she starts.
  1377. >”Apples – no , wait, ON p..lot... look...fine? Smo—Some .. deter- BET-TER than .. ott-hers?” Her voice shakes a little as she reads uncertainly, occasionally stopping to try mouthing the word to herself.
  1378. >You feel pretty bad. She's looking back at you, red in the face, every other word.
  1379. >You do your best to keep your face as neutral as it usually is when you're just sat there listening to something.
  1380. “Hey, nicely done.” You congratulate
  1381. >But, you need to slam this point home.
  1382. “Maybe you're right, and you can manage.”
  1383. >She sags slightly with relief, grinning tiredly at you.
  1384. “So you won't mind just running through the rest with me, to see what me and Bloom need to look out for.”
  1385. >Aaaaaand she's wide-eyed.
  1386. >She's gone from red to rapidly approaching as pale as her tan will allow.
  1387. >You make a fist with your right hand, so you don't start shaking or anything yourself.
  1388. >She swivels her head from the double sided page, back to you, flipping it over quickly.
  1389. >”.. Anon, Ah thought y'liked me.” she whispers, and you barely catch it.
  1390. >Yeah, you feel like shit, if that slight icy feeling in your chest is anything to go by.
  1391. >Were you dramatic, you'd say your heart's trying to freeze itself over to skip forward to the easier times.
  1392. >But, the moment's dramatic enough already, so you look around and wrap an arm around her.
  1393. >She hiccups slightly, eyes closed and fist scrunching the paper.
  1394. >”Ah can't, alright? Ah can't make it through all a that in any decent time.”
  1395. “How the hell did you manage this far like this, without anyone picking up on it?”
  1396. >She makes a show of trying to hide another hiccup by coughing into a fist, and leans against you.
  1397. >”Ah.. just sorta hid it all.”
  1398. “School? They assess us for this sort of thing in Filly', don't they do that here?”
  1399. >”Ah wouldn't finish the paper. Ah'd get in real deep trouble for it, but Ah wouldn't do it. Rather they think Ah'm lazy than stupid.”
  1400. >That sounds like something she'd do.
  1401. >”So they put me in th' lower classes for Equestrian, an' Ah got away with it – sorta. There were kids who actually didn' have a care in the world for class there. So Ah jus' modified my work to make it look like Ah gave up and got bored. Fit right in with the delinquents.”
  1402. “And no one ever called up Granny and started asking questions?”
  1403. >”Ah did well in my other classes. Well, Ah'm pretty average in most. Ah get on like a house on fire with math as long as it ain't wordy or algebra. Ah'm pretty athletic, so Ah usually do great in gym. Same goes fer stuff like cookin', and sciences if Ah just have to listen an' form my own opinions.”
  1404. >She shrugs her shoulder, half nuzzling into your shirt.
  1405. >Part of you wants to warn her you both only have a certain amount of leeway as far as this goes.
  1406. >The other, majority shareholder in your nerve endings decides to shoot the logical part of your brain, watch it stop twitching then double-tap for good measure.
  1407. >You rub her shoulder, awkwardly.
  1408. >You aren't exactly sure what to do with girls.
  1409. >This is compounded by the fact you're also not sure what to do when upset, despite spending a good three weeks recently despondent and barely looking after yourself.
  1410. >This is further compounded by the fact that you're not exactly a big family man.
  1411.  
  1412. >But you guess you'll make a decent try of it for your cousin.
  1413. >You know, the one who you've practically forced into tears by being a tease, an asshole and a hardass all in the short span of thirty minutes.
  1414. >World record?
  1415. >You think so.
  1416. >”Guess ah just was a disappointment rather than a trouble kid, ya know? Sorta flyin' under the radar for the most part.”
  1417. “You're.. not a disappointment. Even with the trouble with, you know, reading.”
  1418. >She sniffles softly, reaching up and rubbing her nose.
  1419. >The girl can't lie through body language either, apparently.
  1420. >”How'd ya figure that one?”
  1421. “Anyone in this house ever treat you like you were a disappointment?”
  1422. >”Well, there was this one guy for a couple a weeks --”
  1423. “No, shut the fuck up, that wasn't disappointment, that was loathing. Answer the question seriously, farm girl.”
  1424. >She takes in a deep breath, holds it for a second before breathing out slowly, gathering herself.
  1425. >”Ah guess no one does. But they don't know, Anon.”
  1426. >seriously
  1427. >You raise your eyebrows at her, and she looks about, almost as if the other Apples are going to burst out of the fucking floorboards.
  1428. “You think, after all these years of you avoiding this shit like it's the plague or working your ass off to read some fairly simple stuff – no offence – that they have no idea? Fuck, I'd put money on even Applebloom knowing.”
  1429. >She shakes her head slowly, not believing what you're saying.
  1430. “Hell, I'll double this imaginary bet. The reason they didn't say anything? They love you and don't want to risk upsetting you for something so stupid. To them it's a non-issue. You're still a fucking annoyingly hard worker, and honest to a fault.”
  1431. >”So what's yer reason for deciding to open up that can a worms?”
  1432. “I..”
  1433. >You think it through. You love her like family, and you feel something for her romantically.
  1434. >But you don't want to blur the two, which is a big ask anyway.
  1435. “I'm.. invested in you,” you try.
  1436. >“Oh, gee. Anonymous Apple, yer a regular romantic. Suddenly, Ah don't feel so bad about my problem. Nope, not when yer 'invested' in me.” She looks somewhat bemused, smirking and eyeing you from her position on your shoulder.
  1437. “No, that doesn't make sense. I'm.. fuck, words are hard, okay? I want.. you to be happy with who you are, I guess. Even if that means working for it.”
  1438. >You frown, closing your eyes and trying to think of how best to explain.
  1439. “And I want to be happy with who I am, and you're sort of pushing me towards that – being proud of myself, happy I'm me.”
  1440. >This is getting real fucking sappy real fast.
  1441. “I just don't want it to be uneven, OK? I want us both to, fuck I don't know, push eachother but be constantly happy with eachother even if at the minute we want to smash the other's head against a wall until they stop moving?”
  1442. >”Wooooooooooooow” she drawls, nodding once.
  1443. “What?” You frown.
  1444. >”It that hard to say 'Ah love ya' for a guy, or it just you?”
  1445. “What part of that, in your head, said 'I love you'? You need to take that fucking hat off, it's trapping the sun and steaming your brain.”
  1446. >”Ah .. READ.. between th' lines.” She winks at you, and you hang your head and groan slightly.
  1447. “Fuuuck offffff.”
  1448. >Apparently, you're a fucking tsundere storm at the best of times.
  1449. >She adjusts, and you're just about to ask what she's doing when she props herself up, presses herself against your shoulder and kisses you on the cheek.
  1450. >”Ah love ya, too, Anon.”
  1451. >She settles back down, and leans on you.
  1452.  
  1453. “You barely know me, 'Jack.” You point out, idly tracing patterns in her shoulder, following the outlines of the muscles underneath the shirt.
  1454. >”Ah reckon y'can love someone if y'don't know 'em all that great.”
  1455. “Explain.”
  1456. >”Cause Ah ain't felt this excited to find out more about someone before, an' so far, even if y'are an awkward, gangly heel who's got th' emotional range of a snake-hide belt Ah'm lovin' what Ah see.”
  1457. “Twenty minutes ago you were pissed at me and essentially told me in country-bumpkin to go fuck myself.”
  1458. >She snickers, nodding.
  1459. >”Yeah, but who's the fella who started talkin' about basically lovin' eachother even though we wanna, what was it now, “smash eachother's heads 'gainst the wall 'til we stop movin'?”
  1460. >That would be you.
  1461. “Some dumb fuck who's probably got sunstroke from working in the fields all day.”
  1462. >”Y'were walking around with a cooler and a ladder an' sendin' 'Bloom to do the actual work.”
  1463. “I was the support aspect of the team, and I think without me the entire venture was doomed.”
  1464. >”Uh-huh.”
  1465. “That's my story and I'm sticking to it.”
  1466.  
  1467. >”Mighty admirable.”
  1468. >You examine her out of the corner of your eye.
  1469. “So, you alright now?”
  1470. >”Well, the problem ain't solved, but Ah guess it feels a little easier given Ah sorta admitted there was a problem?”
  1471. >You rub your face somewhat tiredly.
  1472. >Apparently emotional moments are draining.
  1473.  
  1474. “You want to actually tell the others about your issue, or are you leaving it up in the air?”
  1475. >”Ah'll keep it to mahself fer now.”
  1476. “Fair enough, but why?”
  1477. >”Well, y'said they probably already know an' are just bein' nice about it. Y'reckon Ah can actually get some help for it?”
  1478. “There has to be something. Online workbooks, or something in school or a tutor out there.”
  1479. >Dyslexia isn't exactly rare, but you think you're pushing your luck hoping for someone actually in town who specialises in dealing with it specifically.
  1480. >You're actually kind of impressed.
  1481. >She managed to shoulder it, and work with it the best she could.
  1482. > And, if she told you correctly, didn't lie about anything once.
  1483. >Well. It's up in the air if pretending to be lazy to cover for her pride is a lie.
  1484. “What about your friends? Would any of them help you?”
  1485. >”Th' girls? In a heartbeat. Quicker than, but Ah don't really feel comfortable announcin' it to 'em. Twilight'll probably try to start up a study group fer mah sake a mind. Everyone else 'sides maybe Dash won't care too much, but still. Ah don't want 'em to KNOW, ya know?”
  1486. “I guess I see where you're coming from.”
  1487. >You think on that for a minute.
  1488. >You've met Pinkie, who claims she's a friend of Applejack's.
  1489. >Although, given her.. her-ness, you can't really take that at face value.
  1490. >She seems to think she's everyone's friend.
  1491. >Rarity's Sweetie Belle's older sister, and apparently some form of lewd archivist.
  1492. >Now you add a 'Twilight' and a 'Dash' to the mental list.
  1493. >Four friends isn't bad, given she spends most her time on the farm.
  1494. >You could probably count your friends from Fillydelphia on one hand.
  1495. >A closed hand, really.
  1496. >You weren't exactly social at the best of times.
  1497. >Just you and dad was decent enough.
  1498.  
  1499. “So, let's check and see if I have this right. 'The girls' you mentioned back at the creek. You actually hang out with Pinkie Pie for more than five minutes at a time?”
  1500. >”Yessir.”
  1501. “Rarity's actually a decent person despite dispensing sex advice and facts like it's going out of style.'
  1502. >”Ah don't think anything Rarity does would carry th' risk of “goin' outta style”, but yeah, Rare's is good people.”
  1503. >She shuffles about for a minute, standing and stretching before sitting down and leaning her back against your left arm, leaning against your side.
  1504. “.. Comfortable?”
  1505. >”Yep, even if Ah've sat on rocks with more meat on 'em.”
  1506. >You quickly knock her hat askew, before trying to remember who you've asked about.
  1507. “And Twilight is?”
  1508. >”Y'wouldn't believe me if Ah told ya.”
  1509. “But I know you're always telling the truth.”
  1510. >”Still.” She hums idly as she rests on you.
  1511. “Alright, Dash?”
  1512. >”Dash is.. fast, in pretty much everything. Sorta stick by ya t' the end kinda gal. Can get kinda cocky, though. Ah reckon you'll get along real well.”
  1513. “Small, but sweet group of friends.”
  1514. >”Y'forgot someone.”
  1515. “Then I haven't heard of them, or met them. Who?”
  1516. >”'Shy, an' she's pretty skittish. You gotta lure her over with cute animals. Winona loves her when she comes over.”
  1517. >Makes six of them.
  1518. “Sounds like you all balance out.”
  1519.  
  1520. >”What're yer friends back in Filly' like, Anon?”
  1521. >Ah.
  1522. >Think fast.
  1523. >Just make it seem like you drifted from group to group, but ultimately never really made close friends as a result.
  1524. >It's foolproof.
  1525. “I didn't really have any.”
  1526. >What the fuck.
  1527. >You didn't mean to tell her the truth.
  1528. >Now you sound lame and antisocial.
  1529. >Which isn't to say you aren't, but you're trying the whole new, improved Anonymous regime.
  1530. >”Y'can probably just talk to me an' the girls, if yer not afraid a six teenage girls.”
  1531. >The offer takes you off guard.
  1532. >They sound pretty tight-knit given your limited knowledge.
  1533. >”If y'aint sick a me by the time vacation wraps up.”
  1534. >That's another point that's starting to worry you.
  1535. >You haven't exactly been slow and careful about this.
  1536. >You have just over five weeks before classes start back.
  1537. >You're pretty sure slow and careful don't tend to crop up together in Applejack's plans too often, if ever.
  1538.  
  1539. >The offer may fall flat if you burn through the whole budding forbidden romance thing too quick.
  1540. >Not a fun thought.
  1541. >You think that'd make the remaining year before you manage to head out for college very taxing on both parties.
  1542. >You'll deal with that when – if- the time comes.
  1543.  
  1544. “Thought I started out sick of you?”
  1545. >”Ya got a point, maybe we'll just go in reverse an' wind up wearin' matchin' outfits?”
  1546. >As if that would happen.
  1547.  
  1548.  
  1549. >It's around three weeks to school resuming, and here you stand.
  1550. >You're wearing fucking matching outfits.
  1551. >Jeans, a white shirt and a pair of the same colour check shirts Mac bought in bulk for working around the farm.
  1552. >Apparently he kept tearing them, or getting them soaked in oil from trying to keep the tractor up and running.
  1553. >A pair of borrowed boots from Mac's earlier days and if it weren't for the lack of hat you'd be identical.
  1554. “Not a fucking word.”
  1555. >”About what, Sugarcube?”
  1556. >Judging by that grin, she knows.
  1557. “Alright, play dumb, won't be ha-”
  1558. >”Gotta say, ya look great.”
  1559. “Jack.”
  1560. >”Wish Ah had the same fashion sense.”
  1561. “Jack.”
  1562. >”Who does yer outfit?”
  1563. >You pretend to laugh silently, clutching your ribs before flipping her off and straightening.
  1564. “Can we just get on with work?”
  1565. >”My, Anon', wantin' to actually DO work?”
  1566. >She gestures around the barn, half covered in harvested hay stacks that need to be put up in the hayloft.
  1567. >You elect to ignore her and sit on a hay bale.
  1568. >It's not that you can't think of anything witty to say.
  1569. >Ok, it is, you're stumped.
  1570. >”Good thing for all a this hay, else Ah might find myself all concussed, y'know, from when Ah faint an' you try an' catch me and yer arms snap off from the sudden actual weight yer tryin' to lift?”
  1571. >She leans into your field of view, white grin still present and growing slowly.
  1572. “I'm putting on muscle.” You protest, jabbing your now constantly sore arms.
  1573.  
  1574. >Around the day after you simplified the orchard rounds, they decided 'Bloom could just go around snapping shots from the ground thanks to the handy zoom function.
  1575. >You rendered the ladder obsolete with that phone.
  1576. >You feel a sense of pride, which is vastly overshadowed by the monster you've created.
  1577. >Turns out, Applebloom loves her new phone.
  1578. >She's usually watching TED talks or tutorials for different crafts, determined to mimic it to see if she's any good.
  1579. >You've managed to see the three Crusaders in action around the farm.
  1580. >They apparently have a clubhouse in the outskirts of the forest, just in enough for them to have 'privacy' to talk about whatever terrorism they're unleashing on Ponyville next.
  1581. >See, their recent venture was quite spectacular.
  1582. >They decided to move the small clubhouse.
  1583. >You quickly realised this was not a correct assumption when you slammed facefirst into a large wall, which had been somehow masterfully painted to look like the gap between some trees.
  1584. >When you later wandered back into the house to wash the blood from your face and to check you didn't break your nose, you were told they had taken up camouflage painting as their latest venture, and it serves you right.
  1585. >This was, of course, chorused by Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, the latter who told you only those pure of heart could enter the clubhouse unscathed.
  1586. >On one hand, this is bullshit.
  1587. >On the other, you do tend to make moves on your cousin every other day if you both have downtime.
  1588. >Fucking magical clubhouses and their heart-reading properties.
  1589. >You're brought back by Applejack squeezing an arm tightly.
  1590. >You let out a light complaint of pain, before she nods.
  1591. >”Well, Ah guess y'are. Which leads me t' tellin' ya that yer gonna be liftin' the hay up to the loft today.”
  1592. >You twist, looking back up at the hay loft.
  1593. >That's around fifteen feet up.
  1594. >How heavy are hay bales.
  1595. >You stand up and try to lift it.
  1596. >Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
  1597. >And.. go?
  1598. >You're certainly pushing, but it's slow going.
  1599. “How the fuck am I going to lift this?”
  1600. >”Y'won't. That's one a the larger ones, which we cut down t'be smaller. The ones yer gonna be lifting are juuuuust over here.”
  1601. >She leads you around the small wall of larger hay bales, before pointing under the loft's outcropping.
  1602. >You follow the direction, before muttering a small prayer.
  1603. >There's a lot of them.
  1604. >Each pile is stacked around three feet high, three stacked bales per pile.
  1605. >You quickly count how many are in a row.
  1606. >There's around fifteen, and that's not even touching the sides of the barn walls.
  1607. >Given the barns a good forty feet wide if you had to guess, this looks like a lot of work.
  1608. “Alright, how many rows are behind that one?”
  1609. >She mumbles something.
  1610. “Didn't catch that.”
  1611. >She mumbles again, a bit louder.
  1612. “Try that again?”
  1613. >”Four.”
  1614. “Applejack, what's four by fifteen?” You turn to her, but before you've finished turning she's already answering.
  1615. >”Sixty.”
  1616. >You did have plans for today.
  1617. >Mostly trying to finish reading some Battlemace 40,000 book you hadn't read on your laptop.
  1618. >Apparently, that's going out the window.
  1619.  
  1620. >Wait, maybe not.
  1621. >You walk over to the first row of hay, before trying to lift the one off the top.
  1622. >Alrighty, you get some lift, but not a lot.
  1623. >These things are heavy for a bunch of dried grass.
  1624. >”Yer liftin' it wrong. Watch.” She instructs, stepping out from behind you, and putting her arms beneath the bale before lifting it with a grunt.
  1625.  
  1626. >She marches back out from the shadow of the loft, and begins attaching the bale's harness to a hooked rope.
  1627. >”Don't matter anyhow. Yer gonna climb up there, an' pull.”
  1628. “The winch makes it easier right?”
  1629. >”It's a pulley, Anon. An' yeah. Reverses liftin' force when y'pull,, if Ah remember right.”
  1630. >Huh. Didn't know that.
  1631. >You scale the ladder, which you sadly didn't manage to make obsolete.
  1632. >You're pretty high up.
  1633. “Alright, before I look down, what happens if I fall?”
  1634. >”Well, y'could either land on the hay, or the floor.”
  1635. “Right.”
  1636. >”Y'land on the hay, you'll probably be fine.”
  1637. “And the floor?”
  1638. >”Y'probably won't be fine.”
  1639. “Ah.”
  1640. >”Don't worry, Ah'll catch ya. Probably.”
  1641. >You frown ahead of you as you resume climbing, refusing to look down.
  1642.  
  1643. >You pull yourself over the edge of the loft, and walk over to the pulley system.
  1644. >You give the rope an experimental tug.
  1645. >It doesn't move.
  1646. >”Alright, just start pullin' when yer ready.”
  1647. >Huehuehue.
  1648. >No, brilliant moments of comedic genius later, pulling up heavy hay now.
  1649. >You put both hands on the rope, and begin pulling.
  1650. >It's slow hard going, but you manage to get the hang of it.
  1651. >It eventually crests the loft and hangs there.
  1652. >You've found a problem.
  1653. “Uh, Applejack?”
  1654. >”Yeah?” She looks up from retrieving another hay bale from underneath you.
  1655. “How do I get it on the platform?”
  1656. >”Yer gonna push it reeeeeal hard with yer leg, let it swing out, then onto the loft an' yer gonna let go of the rope so it falls onto the loft and stays put.”
  1657. >Ok, that can't be hard.
  1658. >You raise your leg, and kick out.
  1659. >It doesn't move too much.
  1660. >”No, y'gotta PUSH with yer leg, or yer just gonna wind up wastin' energy an' tire yerself out.”
  1661. >Oh. Okay.
  1662. >You try to balance with one foot, and desperately hope you don't fall and break your neck.
  1663. >You push it away from you with your leg, putting some force into it.
  1664. >It begins to swing out and in.
  1665. >Not enough, though.
  1666.  
  1667. >”An' again.” Applejack calls out from below.
  1668. >You try again, and it builds up enough speed to swing over the edge comfortably. You let go of the rope.
  1669. >The pulley rattles and the hay hits the loft.
  1670. “We have contact!” You yell down.
  1671. >”Y'got what now?”
  1672. “We.. got the hay up here?”
  1673. >”Yeah, Ah can see that. Now hurry up an' unclip it, then shove it back some so y'have room for the next one.”
  1674. >You do as your told, and lower the rope for the next load.
  1675.  
  1676. >By bale ten, your hands are burning.
  1677. >By bale seventeen your arms and shoulders ache something terrible.
  1678. >By twenty you call for a break.
  1679.  
  1680. >You're sweating a fair bit, and a little low on breath.
  1681. >Applejack climbs up the ladder leisurely, and looks at the small covering of hay bales across the loft near you.
  1682. >She lets out a long whistle.
  1683. >”Well, look here. Ah'd say we're pretty much done fer the day.”
  1684. “Really?”
  1685. >”Yep, an' by my count only forty more t'go.”
  1686. “Do sheep really need that much hay stored?”
  1687. >”Funny story, this is only some a the hay. Mac's gonna slowly bring the rest over the next few days.”
  1688. “Well, fuck.”
  1689. >She starts stacking the ones you've pushed aside, leaving you sitting there gently rubbing your aching hands.
  1690. >By the time she's finished you're awkwardly trying to rubbing your own shoulders and back.
  1691. >She sighs, and after a few seconds she thrusts her gloves at you with a “hold these.”
  1692. >You hold the rough leather gloves.
  1693. >They're well worn.
  1694.  
  1695. >”Annnn' take yer shirt off. T-shirt, too.”
  1696. “What, why?” You ask, turning to look at her.
  1697. >”Ah can't exactly get into the muscle with the layers on, Anon.”
  1698. “I.. alright.”
  1699. >You unbutton the work shirt, tugging it off before pulling the damp white t-shirt up over your head.
  1700. >She plucks it from your hands, dabbing at your shoulders, arms and back.
  1701. >”Gotta get the sweat off.” She explains, before setting her hands on your shoulders, beginning to knead the little muscle mass you have there.
  1702. >It feels good and at the same time, really fucking sore.
  1703. >She's mercilessly digging her thumbs into the muscle, and you feel small pockets of heat releasing as she goes.
  1704. >”Anyone ever say yer stressed?”
  1705. “I think I have decent reason as of late.”
  1706. >”Oh, yeah. Sorry. Wasn't thinkin'.” She apologises, squeezing your left shoulder gently before resuming the assault.
  1707. >You let your head hang, occasionally groaning as she manages to get to the more tender spots and it starts getting painful again.
  1708.  
  1709. “Not the most sensual massage here.”
  1710. >”D'ya want the massage t'be 'sensual' or d'ya wanna be able to actually use yer arms tomorrow?”
  1711. “Use of my arms, please.”
  1712. >”Wise choice given we gotta lift another twenty a these tomorrow at least.”
  1713. >She lifts up your left arm with one hand, whilst pushing her fingers into the bicep and tricep for a while before moving onto the next arm.
  1714. >Your arms still hurt, but instead of stinging they have a dull throbbing pain.
  1715. >She digs her knuckles into the sides of your shoulders for a few minutes, resulting in you speaking up again.
  1716. “Can I change my mind for the sensual massage?”
  1717. >She stops, and steps around so she stands in front of you.
  1718. >You look up at her, confused.
  1719.  
  1720. “Alright, I'm sorry for being an ass. Carry on as you were so I can actuall-”
  1721. >You're interrupted by a boot to the chest, which barely moves and yet somehow manages to slam your back against the scattered hay stalks covered the loft floor.
  1722. “What the fuck, Jack?”
  1723. >You're cut off as she straddles you, resting on your hips.
  1724. >She pulls your head closer to hers, before forcing you into a kiss.
  1725. >Her lips hungrily grip yours, and once she's sure you're not moving anytime soon, her hands trail down your jaw to your neck.
  1726. >She gently but firmly massages the sides of your neck leading into your shoulders.
  1727. >You're a little busy to remember the technical term.
  1728. >Jack probably would know, but she's a little busy too.
  1729.  
  1730. >You feel a slight sharp pain on your mouth.
  1731. >She's bitten your fucking lip, and if you weren't entirely a 10 on the Mohs scale, you certainly are now.
  1732. >As she pulls back she drags her teeth along, keeping eye contact as she goes.
  1733. >You stare at the small seas of green, before she snickers and pecks you on the lips.
  1734. >You keep staring.
  1735. >”How's that fer sensual?” She asks, adopting a smug expression before climbing off you.
  1736. >As she walks to the ladder, she sways her hips a little noticeably and whistles.
  1737. >You watch her ass as she walks before disappearing over the edge and down the ladder.
  1738. “Yeah, that works.” You mutter, running a hand through your hair.
  1739.  
  1740. >A few days pass much the same.
  1741. >You get up bright and early
  1742. >Granny makes breakfast.
  1743. >Applebloom, armed with her phone, skips off to try and finish the rounds, with only a few segments of the orchards left.
  1744. >Mac quietly sips on his coffee, checking his rough notes for how many loads of hay he has to bring to the barn (which thankfully you have until the end of summer to lift up to the loft.)
  1745. >You clear your throat, given the girls have disappeared to start on work.
  1746. >Mac looks up at you, still sipping his coffee.
  1747. “Hey, Mac?”
  1748. >”Yup?”
  1749. “I have to ask, what's the deal with the orchard markers?”
  1750. >It's been bothering you for a little over a week, since you and Jack had your little “revelation.”
  1751. >Not the revelation about deciding to try your hardest to break social norms without being noticed, but the whole dyslexic thing.
  1752. >”Easier to burn in, an' it looks nicer.”
  1753. >You think it through.
  1754. >You're pretty sure it takes MORE carving to burn the Old Numerals in, as opposed to modern day numbers.
  1755. “What do you mean it looks nicer?”
  1756. >”Ah did try for regular numbers, in th' beginnin'. But they didn't look so good, an' one mistake sorta throws th' entire thing off. Numerals are more uniform.”
  1757. >This may the most he's said to you in one attempt.
  1758. >You savour the moment, as Mac redirects his attention to the small 'shipping log' he has.
  1759. >You suppose it SORT OF makes sense if Mac really does care about how what he makes looks that much.
  1760. >You guess it's like coding style for signs.
  1761. >Although you're pretty sure he's not telling the entire truth about that.
  1762. >Oh well.
  1763. >You finish up, mopping up the remnants of syrup on your plate with the last of your pancakes and taking your plate to the sink.
  1764. >You quickly wash it, then set it aside to dry.
  1765. “See you later, Mac.”
  1766. >”Yup.” He waves.
  1767.  
  1768. >You head out to the barn, hurrying to get out of the early morning heat.
  1769. >You enter the cool shadow of the barn, and look around for Applejack.
  1770. >You hear some grunting from behind THE WALL.
  1771. >Also known as The Fuckhuge Wall of Hay.
  1772. >You walk around quietly, spotting Applejack lifting bales and carrying them over to the small staging area you've set up for the rope.
  1773. >An idea strikes you.
  1774. >If you're quiet, you can surprise her.
  1775. >You must be the shadow.
  1776. >Become the wind.
  1777. >You begin sneaking.
  1778. >Luckily, the hard packed earth underneath the floorboards gives little give, so creaking isn't a problem.
  1779.  
  1780. >Neeeearly there.
  1781. >Neeeeearly.
  1782. >You leap forward, jamming your thumbs into her sides.
  1783. >She yelps, spinning around quickly.
  1784. >And subsequently catching you in the fucking jaw with her elbow.
  1785. >MAN DOWN.
  1786.  
  1787. >”Fer Sun's sake, Anon, y'scared me half t' death!” Applejack complains, as she starts fussing over you, prodding your jaw gently and feeling along it.
  1788. >You decide to risk talking.
  1789. “Somehow, I'm sure you're the true victim here.”
  1790. >Ow.
  1791. >You're going to do less of the talking thing.
  1792. >But at least you can move it
  1793. >That's good, right?
  1794. >”Shut up an' let me keep lookin' at it.”
  1795.  
  1796. >You prop yourself up on your elbows and she gently moves your jaw up and down and guides it from side to side.
  1797. >It hurts a little, but hey.
  1798. >”Well, yer lucky y'were so close.”
  1799. “No, I'm pretty sure my ass is on the floor because I got so close. Seriously, try doing that shit from ten feet away. I dare you.”
  1800. >”No, Ah meant you were inside the arc. Less momentum built up an' all that.”
  1801. >You raise a brow.
  1802. “Can you even spell momentum?”
  1803. >”D'ya WANT yer jaw broken, Anon?” She asks, pressing down a little harder on the spreading bruise.
  1804. “Okay, okay, ow, fuck. I get it. Can you stop trying to puncture my jaw, and kiss it better or some shit?”
  1805. >She takes a second, before removing her hat and tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She gently kisses the bruise and leans back, smiling at you.
  1806. “Did you have to be so genuine about it?” You ask, refusing to look at her.
  1807. >”Genuine's practically mah middle name.”
  1808. “... How- How does that work?”
  1809. >Apple-Genuine-Jack?
  1810. >Apple Jack Genuine?
  1811. >Apple Jack Genuine Apple?
  1812. >You decide that's up to your life's Grand Author, in this twisted tale.
  1813. >You then stop being theatrical and look back at her.
  1814. >She returns her hat to the top of her head, and offers you an arm.
  1815. >You clasp forearms, and get yourself back on your feet.
  1816. >”Ah wanna get another thirty up there today, an' that's on the low end, alright?”
  1817. >Celestia give you strength.
  1818.  
  1819. >The hours go by fairly fast, even if you feel your progress doesn't.
  1820. >Time doesn't really seem to be managed in minutes, but more in pulls on the rope.
  1821. >Your hands have started turning from small blisters to rough callouses.
  1822. >Jack had denied you gloves on the basis that it'd do you good to have callouses in the long term.
  1823. >You'd pointed out SHE wore gloves all the time.
  1824. >”Gals gotta have dainty lookin' hands, Anon. 'Sides,” She grins. “ Ah figured you'd prefer 'em soft..” she trails off, idly clasping her hands behind her back and pushing her chest out a little.
  1825.  
  1826. “What do you .. “
  1827. >Tickticktickticktick.
  1828. >Ding.
  1829. “Oh.” Your eyes widening,you turn and quickly hurry up the ladder.
  1830. >You are going to TRY your best not to be molested today, but so far the diarchs aren't exactly smiling upon you.
  1831. >She laughs as you go.
  1832. >Seeing as pretty much every other day you've been ambushed either in the hayloft, or ambushed in the hayloft.
  1833. >You're really spoiled for choice.
  1834.  
  1835. >By the time it's mid afternoon you've struggled to get thirty bales up the loft.
  1836. >You struggle, but you do it.
  1837. >You call out the count, and Applejack clambers up to help you stack them.
  1838. >A good chunk of the outcrop is covered in stacked bales now.
  1839. >Applejack looks satisfied with the work, before sitting on the edge and swinging her legs.
  1840. >”C'mere.”
  1841. >You walk over and sit down.
  1842. “My hands hurt.”
  1843. >”Yeah, they'll do that. Give 'em here.”
  1844. >You offer out your hands. Mostly callouses.
  1845. >”Lemme guess, your knuckles hurt, right?”
  1846. “Yeah.”
  1847. >”That's 'cause ya've been gripping and hauling a rope all dang day.”
  1848. “Not by choice.”
  1849. >”Ah forget the part we co-erced ya into helping out.”
  1850. >Well, shit she's got you there.
  1851. >You'd sort of volunteered to help out around the barn.
  1852. >Sure she'd said you were doing it, but you didn't refuse?
  1853. “I guess you've got me there.”
  1854. >You both quickly try to figure out how many stacks of hay bales are left, before your phone buzzes in your pocket.
  1855. >APPLEBLOOM: Creek? Pls.
  1856. >Applejack leans over your shoulder, peering at it.
  1857. >”Wonder why she didn't try text messagin' me?”
  1858. “You can just say 'texting'.” You point out, thumb idly tapping the message, highlighting it then deselecting it repeatedly.
  1859. >She rolls her eyes.
  1860. >”Why didn' she try textin' me?”
  1861. “I'll ask.”
  1862. >ME: Why didn't you text your sister?
  1863. >You both wait a second before the phone vibrates again.
  1864. >APPLEBLOOM: Cause Mac said he needed help with sheep from Apple Jerk.
  1865. >You read it aloud, pushing Jack's head away from yours.
  1866. >You appreciate privacy in some shit.
  1867. >Jack proceeds to try angrily reaching for your cell phone -”Who in the heck is she callin' Apple Jerk?!” -  before another message comes through.
  1868. >APPLEBLOOM: Applejack*
  1869. “It was just autocorrect, calm down.”
  1870. >”.. Autocorrect?”
  1871. >Oh sweet Sun.
  1872.  
  1873. >You spend the next minute trying to explain the concept of the phone predicting what you're typing.
  1874. >”So it can write messages by itself?”
  1875. “Not entirely, but words it can guess based off the previous words in a sentence, right?”
  1876. >”Ah kinda get it. It magic?” She asks, looking somewhat cautious.
  1877. “Yeah, no, surprisingly magic doesn't fix everything. This is pure old algorithms. How have you never encountered autocorrect before?”
  1878. >She pulls out a brick of a phone, still sporting multi-function keys.
  1879. “Still, surely your friends have texted you something weird before?”
  1880. >”Anon', Ah ain't exactly the best to spot if they spelt somethin' weird.”
  1881. >Oh yeah.
  1882. “Okay, point taken, but.. wait, how do you text?”
  1883. >She thumbs around on her phone for a minute, slowly presses some keys, and a second later an alert pops up.
  1884. >APPLEJACK: hi
  1885. >She shrugs, putting it back in the front pocket of her jeans.
  1886. “Wouldn't Mac text you?”
  1887. >”Unless he's comin' straight here from the house, sure.”
  1888. “I guess I'll wait with you until he shows.”
  1889.  
  1890. >You pass the next thirty or so minutes trying to convince Jack that she should get a decent phone.
  1891. >Whilst she says she appreciates the UI (“Them icons would probably be real helpful.”) she doesn't seem to think it'd be worth it.
  1892. >”Anon, Ah can get by just fine with this. It gets calls, it makes 'em and I can get text messages.”
  1893. “What if you want to check out Friendtome?”
  1894. >She waves a gloved hand dismissively.
  1895. >”Ah don't use that thing. Waste a computer space.”
  1896. “Okay, first of all, each website doesn't take up space in the – Okay, forget it. Just, how do you check out what's going on with people?”
  1897. >”Ah.. ask 'em when Ah see 'em?”
  1898. ”What if you don't see them for a while?”
  1899. >”See the above. Or if Ah have their cell phone number Ah can call 'em?”
  1900. >She looks at you like you're stupid.
  1901. >Which is fine, because you're probably looking at her like she's pants-on-head retarded.
  1902. >Not that you're a huge social media user, but you use it to keep touch with some 'friends' and family, and to follow some groups.
  1903. “So who manages the Sweet Apple Acres page?”
  1904. >”Th' what?”
  1905. >You're interrupted from flipping your shit and wondering how they get anything done when Mac slowly drives in on a fairly worn out tractor.
  1906. >”A.J, you in here?” He calls as the engine winds down.
  1907. >”Yeah, Mac. Ah'm just up the loft.” She replies, before standing and dusting herself down.
  1908. >You're pretty sure you still look like some sort of rural gargoyle.
  1909. >”C'mon, wipe that look off, an' come on down.”
  1910. >She disappears down the ladder, Mac half-shouting he needs help to herd the sheep back to their pasture from grazing.
  1911. >Your phone vibrates.
  1912. >APPLEBLOOM: Creek pls Anonymity
  1913. >APPLEBLOOM: Creek pls Anonymity
  1914. >APPLEBLOOM: Creek pls Anonymity
  1915. >APPLEBLOOM: Creek pls Anonymity
  1916. >APPLEBLOOM: Creek pls Anonymity
  1917. >Well she found the copy and paste function somehow.
  1918. >You're almost proud.
  1919. >APPLEBLOOM: Another*
  1920. >APPLEBLOOM: Angle*
  1921. >APPLEBLOOM: Your name*
  1922. >Well there goes the pride.
  1923. >You quickly type back you'll take her if she stops spamming you, and climb down from the loft.
  1924.  
  1925. >You walk around the Haywall and find Mac and Jack (Bright Mac was a poet) talking somewhat quickly.
  1926. >They stop as you get closer.
  1927. “What's wrong?”
  1928. >”Sheep are startin' to wander off into the forest.”
  1929. >”Yyyyup.”
  1930. “Why's that a bad thing?”
  1931. >”Besides the fact that they could get lost?  Timberwolves start prowlin' closer towards the end a summer.”
  1932. “Can't you just.. I don't know, shoot them?”
  1933. >Big Mac's annoyed 'Nnnnope' and Applejack's shocked 'No!' come out at the same time.
  1934. >Sensing a large lecture coming your way, you hold up your phone like a shield, as you retreat shouting 'takingapplebloomtothecreekbye'.
  1935.  
  1936. >You quickly escape to the safety of the house, and lean back against the door after it shuts.
  1937. >Not that it'd do much good.
  1938. >If Mac and Applejack were that eager to talk to you, you doubt this rickety old door would do much to deter them.
  1939. >You walk into the kitchen, peeking around.
  1940. >Applebloom's sat at the table, surprisingly not on her phone.
  1941. >She's skimming through a book.
  1942. >You peer over her shoulder, and do your best to broadcast your arrival.
  1943. >You've had experience enough today of frightening one of the sisters.
  1944. “What're you looking at?”
  1945. >”Frogs.” She points at the diagram eagerly.
  1946. “Why?”
  1947. >”'Cause they're good eatin', Aynon. Creek's got plenty of 'em!”
  1948. >You look at her for a long moment.
  1949. >She cracks into a large, wide grin and begins giggling.
  1950. >”Ah got ya, Aynon! We don't eat frogs. Promise.”
  1951. “Glad to hear it. But, seriously, why the book?”
  1952. >”Ah wanna make a small pool an' catch some tadpoles.”
  1953. >Sounds.. harmless enough.
  1954. “Let me guess, I'm the manual labour?”
  1955. >”Nawh. Well. Yeah.”
  1956. >She giggles again, hopping out of her chair and tucking the large book under her arm.
  1957. “What exactly will you be doing as I'm hauling rocks?” You crouch down slightly to her eye level, frowning.
  1958. >”Swimmin'. Ah mean, scoutin' for amphibeens.”
  1959. “.. Amphibians, “ you point at her clothes. Short-style overalls and a yellow shirt.
  1960. >Plus a fuckhuge bow.
  1961. “And you don't have a swimming outfit.”
  1962. >You're not too eager to repeat the whole 'haha we don't have swimming costumes let's ogle eachother and make out.'
  1963. >You're already going to hell for Applejack. You're going to try not to heat up the shackles.
  1964. >”Ah do, Ah'm wearin' it underneath this!” She thumbs a strap of her overalls, before skipping off down the hall.
  1965. >You watch her go, before dragging your feet after her.
  1966.  
  1967. >You follow the path best you can, but Bloom leads the way, chattering rapidly again about the best way to lure frogs into the small rockery.
  1968. >Apparently the best option is to just sort of hope they wind up hanging out in the pond you make.
  1969. >Scientific.
  1970. “What if they don't show?”
  1971. >”Aynon, y'gotta have faith in stuff.” She huffs at you, and hands you the book. “Look!”
  1972. >Walking whilst reading and navigating a book from the index is sort of difficult, so you stop in the middle of the path and read by the thin light shining through the canopy.
  1973. >You quickly scan the page about frogs and their reproductive cycle.
  1974. >Bloom seems to have circled random parts of the book in pencil, and drawn small frogs and tadpoles everywhere.
  1975.  
  1976. >Well, you're not getting any info out of this clusterfuck.
  1977. “I see,” you lie.
  1978. >”Yep, Ah told ya!”
  1979. >Apparently only one of the Apples here has a lie detector built-in.
  1980. >This is going to make it a lot easier to deal with this entire afternoon.
  1981.  
  1982. >You clear into the creek shortly after, with Applebloom already struggling out of her clothes.
  1983. >You really hope she wasn't bluffing about the swimsuit.
  1984. >Turns out, she's not.
  1985. >It's a bright red one piece number.
  1986. >You let out a sigh of breath you didn't realise you were holding.
  1987. >”So, whaddaya think, Aynon?” She asks, hands on her hips.
  1988. >Oh no.
  1989. >OH FUCK NO.
  1990. >You quickly bundle Applebloom in your arms, wade out slightly to knee depth and swing her back and forth.
  1991. >”Aynon, what in the heck are y'doin?!” she shouts.
  1992. “Preventing the timeline where I get lynched! You reply, and let the end of your swing carry her off, sailing through the air a short while before splashing into the water.
  1993.  
  1994. >It briefly strikes you that you didn't check that the ten year old you just threw into the creek could swim.
  1995. >It also crosses your mind this what perhaps a paranoid thing to do.
  1996. >Although, is it better to perhaps fall victim to a potential for lynching as a result of your underage cousin, or to be lynched for drowning her in the creek.
  1997. >A wiser man might already be tearing off his shirt, but you've decided your clothes (yes, even your now soaked through shoes and socks) are staying firmly on.
  1998. >Applebloom breaks the water in the five seconds all this takes, shouting angrily.
  1999. >You decide to block it out.
  2000. >That shortly fails as she gets closer, and therefore, louder.
  2001. >”WHAT IN TH' HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU? AH ASKED YOU A SIMPLE QUESTION AN' YA THREW ME IN WITHOUT EVEN CHECKIN' IF AH COULD SWIM, ANON. AH COULDA -DIED-.”
  2002. >You hold up your hands placatingly, trying to mollify the berserking ten-year-old.
  2003. “In my defence, I merely acted for a greater cause.”
  2004. >“WHAT. GREATER. CAUSE.” She yells, punctuating each word with an angry kick or splash of water as she wades towards you.
  2005. >The Cult of Not Going to Jail.
  2006. “It is beyond your understanding, young one.” You reply sagely.
  2007. >You dodge a pebble that went wide, and blink.
  2008. >Oh yeah, she's pissed.
  2009. >She either can't lift a majority of the large rocks that make up the bottom of the creekbed or isn't entirely decided on trying to give you a head injury.
  2010. “Could you STOP?” You ask, dodging the small barrage of occasional pebbles, before she staggers to land and begins slapping you repeatedly.
  2011. ”Ow, fuck, just – QUIT IT.”
  2012. >You begin to wonder what evil cursed this creek.
  2013. >The Curse of Fatherly disappointment.
  2014. >So far, if dad's watching, he's seen you make out with your cousin, now throw another into the creek and proceeding to get your ass beat.
  2015. >You're not a fighter, it's true.
  2016. >Well. You've had some self-defense lessons.
  2017. >It just never covered pissed off pre-adolescents.
  2018. >You can't exactly hip check the kid.
  2019. >.. Or could yo.. – no.
  2020.  
  2021. >You suppose if you were watching this, it'd be hilarious.
  2022. > You're watching a four and a half foot girl, of which most of that height is a bright pink, sopping wet bow, attacking a nearly grown man.
  2023. >And the girl is winning.
  2024. >On the basis you can't exactly strike back, and the factor she's not pulling any punches – or slaps.
  2025. >You keep retreating until you trip over, and fall onto your ass.
  2026. >Bloom plants her knees on your chest, and keeps slapping.
  2027. >You raise your arms to protect the face.
  2028. >”Ya dang apologise, right now!”
  2029. “Okay, for the love of Ce-- I'm SORRY, but it was necessary!” You try to explain, still enduring the rain of pain.
  2030. >She hits HARD for a kid.
  2031. >”Say yer gonna make it up to me!”
  2032. >Ah, there are the warning bells.
  2033. >Hello, old friends.
  2034.  
  2035. >You roll, throwing off the very hydrated Applebloom, and stagger to your feet.
  2036. >Sadly, she jumps at you, clinging on with legs and one arm and smacking you with the other.
  2037. >You proceed to flail around trying to dislodge her.
  2038. >”Say it, ya Sun-forsaken idiot!”
  2039. “If I say it will you get the fuck off of me, you psychopath?!” You cry out, still spinning in circles.
  2040. >It'd be easier to get her off – no, stop that- if she hadn't managed to clamber up to your shoulders and had one arm across your eyes.
  2041. >”Ah ain't a psychopath, Ah'm justified!”
  2042. >Unsurprisingly, she's fucking loudly screaming in your ear.
  2043. >It sort of takes a little of the fear of the situation away when her voice cracks halfway through from how high pitched she's yelling.
  2044. >You're really thankful the creek is so far away from the farmhouse.
  2045.  
  2046. “Alright, I'll make it up to you! Just LET GO!”
  2047. >”Swear on somethin' y'care about! It's a Crusader Contact!”
  2048. “Do you mean 'compact'?”
  2049. >You feel something swap you in the face.
  2050. >”Don't correct me when yer makin' a Crusader Compact!”
  2051. >You try to stop spinning before you fall and break both your necks.
  2052. >It's really a miracle you haven't already.
  2053. “Alright, I promise on my.. laptop that I'll make it up to you.”
  2054. >There's a moment's consideration.
  2055. >The creek is quiet.
  2056. >Applebloom's parsing all of this.
  2057. >Eventually she wiggles up  you, so you're face-to-face, even if she is upside-down.
  2058. >She's red in the face, nearly matching her hair and her eyes are narrowed to slits.
  2059. >She calmly, but quietly explains that the penalty for breaking a Compact is ' a lotta ' pain.
  2060. >You ask what form the pain comes in.
  2061. >Seeing as you're family, she says she'll only kick you in the 'boy parts' once.
  2062. >How fucking magnanimous of her.
  2063.  
  2064. >Whilst she's confused about the meaning of 'Magnanimous', you quickly try to ask her what she wants in repayment for this.
  2065. >”Tell me Ah look cute.”
  2066. >The warning bells have elevated to station-wide critical klaxons.
  2067. >You grind your teeth for a second.
  2068. “You look very cute in the swimsuit.” You say mechanically.
  2069. >You did sort of swear your laptop or your dick on this.
  2070. >She beams brightly at that.
  2071. >”Thaaaaaaaank yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew.”
  2072. “That wasn't so bad, I guess.”
  2073. >”Y'aint done.”
  2074. >what.retrieve(allOf);
  2075.  
  2076. >”Ah want an apology kiss.”
  2077. >You take a moment to consider this.
  2078. >You begin walking.
  2079. >”Uh, Aynon, where're we goin'?”
  2080. >You hold up a finger to silence her.
  2081. >It's awkward walking with a small girl dangling from over your head, but you manage.
  2082. >She manages to twist herself around onto your shoulder.
  2083. >Not in time though.
  2084. >You stand on the small rise up to the cliff-face.
  2085. >The water churns invitingly below you.
  2086. >”Yer not throwin' me in again.” She says smugly, and you feel the patented Apple family strength as she fucking clamps to your shoulders.
  2087. “You're right, I'm not.”
  2088. >You wish you had a cool line for this.
  2089. >Something about 'cooling off' or 'I never said I was throwing YOU in' or some shit.
  2090. >You shrug as much as you're able, drop your phone on the grassy rise and throw yourself into the water with grace, with style.
  2091. >You are truly Max Legion.
  2092. >Now, he probably wouldn't have screamed on the way down higher than Applebloom did, that is true.
  2093. >But only his kind would have the grit to go through with a plan like this, and you're counting yourself among them.
  2094.  
  2095. >You breach the water, and feel the cold grab you from everywhere at once.
  2096. >You feel Applebloom detach as she swims to the surface, and you follow suit.
  2097. >You awkwardly perform the worst breaststroke known to man, and Applebloom follows suit.
  2098. >Neither of you are the BEST swimmers, per se, but you're managing.
  2099. >You hit the rocky shore at the same time, and Applebloom is quietly muttering to herself, then you about how she's going to take your laptop and throw it down the well.
  2100.  
  2101. >”So, y'gotta choice. Yer computer, or the Quitter's Pain.”
  2102. >Somehow, you hear the capitalisation.
  2103. >It's really weird.
  2104. >Now, on one hand, you need your computer.
  2105. >On the other, you ALSO need your balls.
  2106. >However, she can destroy your computer and get off fairly lightly if you complain.
  2107. >If she puts you in the hospital with balleosis, then you probably have the high ground.
  2108. >Did you mention you're spoiled for choice nowadays?
  2109.  
  2110. >Your earlier assessment of the Crusaders probably being a terrorist organisation is really starting to  sound plausible.
  2111. >You stand facing her.
  2112. >She glares at you, and adjusts her footing.
  2113. >She's a good twenty feet away.
  2114. >”Ah want a run up,” she'd explained calmly.
  2115. >Well. About as calm as you can be after being thrown into a cold ass creek twice within minutes of eachother.
  2116. >You close your eyes and await your fate.
  2117. >You hear stones grinding against eachother as she runs.
  2118. >You feel the slight breeze.
  2119. >The faint sun through the canopy on your skin.
  2120. >The sound of the waterfall crashing into the creek.
  2121. >Then you ascend.
  2122. >Whilst it's probably only a few inches, the shock straightens your legs so rapidly you jump up slightly.
  2123. >You thank Celestia and Luna she didn't put her fucking shoes back on.
  2124. >You land back on the ground within the second, and collapse to your knees, coughing with your head resting on the stones below.
  2125. >For her credit, Applebloom doesn't laugh.
  2126. >From what you can make out through your blurred vision, she looks sombre.
  2127. >Like an executioner performing her duty.
  2128.  
  2129. >You mentally slide 'cult' into the Crusaders' categorisation.
  2130. >It takes you a few minutes to feel like your balls haven't been kicked up into your general abdomen area, and a few more after that before the urge to try vomitting subsides.
  2131. >You lie on the ground, breathing heavily, and looking up at the fragments of sky you can see.
  2132. >Applebloom pokes you with a foot.
  2133. >”Y'alright?” she asks tentatively.
  2134. “Just fucking peachy, 'Bloom.” You wheeze.
  2135. >”.. Yer not gonna tell on me, are ya?”
  2136. “That depends, if I need some sort of surgery on ol' lefty, I'm selling you out faster than Applejack disappears at the words 'fresh fritters'.”
  2137.  
  2138. >”That's pretty fast.” She nods, looking worried.
  2139. “Against everything I've been taught, no, I'm not going to- “ you hold up a finger as you hack and cough for another minute. Convinced your balls aren't trying a bid for freedom via your oesophagus you turn back to her. “ - tattle on you. We made a deal.”
  2140. >She gives a nervous 'Thank y'Aynon' before sitting down next to you awkwardly.
  2141. >You're both silent for a minute.
  2142. >Typically, in these types of moments (Balls being kicked, Wars, Famine and Poverty) there's not much to be said.
  2143. >Just a quiet appreciation for things when they were better.
  2144. >And an eager wait for when things can be considered 'better' again.
  2145. >You're not expert in being dick-kicked, so you place a rough marker on another half hour before you can call this entire thing 'better'.
  2146. >”Would it help if Ah said Ah'm reeeeal sorry?”
  2147. “A little. I should probably apologise for deciding the best course of action was to throw you into the creek.”
  2148. >”Part a bein' family is acceptin' faults and mistakes and workin' past 'em, Granny says.”
  2149. “Wise woman. But Granny, I hope, has never had her scrotum rebound off the inside of her skull and back down.”
  2150. >Bloom lapses into quiet again, and time goes by.
  2151.  
  2152. >Eventually you stagger off to retrieve your phone from the rise.
  2153. >Luckily the soil prevented it from being cracked.
  2154. >You have two new texts.
  2155. >You quickly open them.
  2156. >APPLEJACK: r u still at creek?
  2157. >APPLEJACK: r u ok?
  2158.  
  2159. >You quickly hope she can't detect a lie over text, and given her track record with anything more advanced than a box tv, you should be fine.
  2160. >ME: Doing great, trying to catch tadpoles with Applebloom. Will be back soon.
  2161. >You think about adding an 'x' on the end. That's what cutesy people do right?
  2162. >You decide against it.
  2163. >If someone read the text they might get suspicious.
  2164. >You wind your way back down the rise to the shore of the creek, nodding to Applebloom.
  2165. >”We goin'?”
  2166. “Yeah, got a text from Jack. Get you clothes and your book and let's go.”
  2167. >She hurries to pick up everything, and you both walk back the way you came.
  2168. >It's fairly quieter than you were on the way in.
  2169. >At least you broke the Curse of Father's Disappointment Creek.
  2170. >No, that name doesn't work anymore.
  2171. >Cock-Kick-Creek?
  2172. >Yeah that'll do.
  2173. > Getting back seems to take a long while.
  2174.  
  2175. >That night dinner's a quiet affair, with Applebloom being fairly sullen (despite you being the victim here) and Mac and Applejack debating trying to deter the timberwolves somehow.
  2176. >They're going back and forth on reinforcing the fences, and having one of them monitor the sheep at all times when they're grazing.
  2177. >You idly prod your peas around your plate as you watch.
  2178. “I still don't see why shooting them isn't an option.”
  2179. >Mac just leans back in his chair, looking like he wants to agree but doesn't.
  2180. >Applejack looks at Granny, who's now watching you carefully.
  2181. >Applebloom goes to speak, before she's shushed quickly by Mac.
  2182. >Granny finishes chewing and swallows, before speaking.
  2183. >”'Cause the Timberwolves are a sign, Anon'.”
  2184. [spoiler] original idea did not steal [/spoiler]
  2185. >You resist the urge to groan.
  2186. >Of course.
  2187. >The old woman believes in some sort of prophecy, or doomsday prediction.
  2188. >”Wipe that dang look off yer face, sonny. Ah ain't lost mah gourd yet. When the timberwolves start howlin', it's the start a' the Zap Apple harvest.”
  2189. “What the fu-” Granny raises an eyebrow. “- What's a 'zap apple'?”
  2190. >The mental image you're getting is a piece of fruit made of pure lightning.
  2191. >Now, whilst that sounds metal, you're not exactly eager to harvest this thing, or be within fifty feet of one.
  2192. >“It's a special type a Apple, only shows itself for 'round.. five days at a time, an' it has some requirements, or signs.”
  2193. >At first she had your curiousity.
  2194. >NOW she has your interest.
  2195. >She holds up a wrinkled hand, extending her index finger.
  2196. >“First off, y'got the Timberwolves howlin'.”
  2197.  
  2198. “So no shooting them?”
  2199. >”Anon', shut yer yapper – an' no. Y'can't shoot 'em. Things're made a wood.”
  2200. >Hold on.
  2201. >Wolves.
  2202. >Made of wood.
  2203. >Something's not exactly adding up here, but you are discussing apples made of lightning.
  2204. >Given the reputed high population of Unicorns in Ponyville, you're assuming one of them decided to start throwing fucked up magic everywhere and no one called the Magic Busters.
  2205. >”Second sign bein' the zap leaves. Yer gonna get strong winds and storm clouds. Then y'get blue sparks runnin' along the branches. Don't. Touch. 'Em.”
  2206. >She say the last to Applebloom, who looks indignant.
  2207. >”Ah KNOW not t'touch 'em, Granny!” She protests, before Granny turns back to you.
  2208. >”Then y'got the apple crows make when they fly, blue flowers on the trees. Then y'get the meteors, an' fiiiinally y'got the last storm. After this, th' apples are all ripe, an' we gotta get to harvestin' 'em all sorts a quick.”
  2209. “So I'm guessing we like these apples? They're good?”
  2210. >Granny laughs at that.
  2211. >”Good? Anon, these Zap Apples're GREAT. If Ah told ya how much y'could make offa the jam we make from 'em ya'd think Ah was goin' senile.”
  2212. >You resist the urge to point out that you're well past that point, and nod instead.
  2213. “And when do we harvest them?”
  2214. >”Ah have no idea.”
  2215. >You wait patiently for her to shout 'gotcha!' but it never comes.
  2216. >She just smiles at you.
  2217. >You look across to Big Mac, who shrugs.
  2218. >Then Applejack.
  2219. >She shrugs too.
  2220. “Let me try again; when do they usually get harvested?”
  2221. >”Weeeeell, usually after the five signs Ah just told y'about.”
  2222. >You stare at her.
  2223. >She blinks owlishly at you.
  2224. >This is slowly ticking past 'Retarded' and straight onto 'Fucking Lunacy' on your bullshitometer.
  2225.  
  2226. >Something must show on your face, because Applejack hops into the discussion.
  2227. >”What Granny's not really explainin' too good, is that we don't KNOW when they start t'ripen fer harvest, 'cause it's random.”
  2228. “Random?”
  2229. >”Yup.” Mac chimes in.
  2230. >”Only once a year, at any time in th' year, Aynon!” Applebloom joins cheerily, seeming pleased with her contribution.
  2231. “So how do you plan around them?”
  2232. >”Welp, usually we jus' drop everythin' for a few days.” Applejack shrugs, leaning back in her seat and letting it teeter on it's hind legs.
  2233. “What about class?”
  2234. >”Applebloom goes t' school – an' Ah SEE ya startin' to argue, missy, an' Ah don't recommend it.” She points a finger accusingly at the youngest member at the table, who promptly shuts her mouth with an audible click of teeth.
  2235. >”Applebloom -” She shoots her sister a warning look. “ Goes to school, and me and Mac actually harvest the Zap apples. Granny gets on their good side.”
  2236. >Now, there comes a time in every man's life where he makes a choice.
  2237. >You can either ask about Applejack's schooling.
  2238. >Or how the disturbingly zoned out woman at the head of the table gets on an electric apple's 'good side.'
  2239. >You go for the latter.
  2240. >After a five minute crash course in polka dots, bunny costumes and singing to the water to make the Zap apples happy, you quickly check out, your curiousity more than sated.
  2241. >You backpedal the second there's an opening, and ask about Applejack's classes.
  2242. >She quickly looks at a particular spot in the ceiling just behind the ceiling fan, and says “Ah'm fine, don't ya worry.”
  2243. >You are 100%, unequivocally convinced.
  2244.  
  2245. >You wind up helping Mac with the dishes and garbage, before heading up to your room.
  2246. >You quickly boot up your laptop, and lament the lack of WiFi.
  2247. >You briefly consider the small fortune you have to your name and the merits of 'upgrading' the house's infrastructure a little.
  2248.  
  2249. >You quickly jot down a small note on your 'to-do' list to call up the provider for the house's internet connection and ask about an upgrade tomorrow.
  2250. >You also quickly scrawl a reminder to look for a decent second-hand car dealer.
  2251. >You highly doubt Mac is going to be able to drive all three of you to class without making more than one trip.
  2252. >You're checking through your mental catalogue for a good minute, and are in the middle of debating whether you could use a new soldering iron when there's a knock on your door.
  2253. >You're around a quarter of a second of the way through saying 'Come in' when Applejack strolls in like she owns the place.
  2254. >You suppose she does more than you, but still.
  2255. “Heard of knocking?”
  2256. >”Ah just did.”
  2257. “Yes, but I mean as more of a request than a warning.”
  2258. >”Shut up, Ah need to talk to you about something.”
  2259. >Something in her tone sets off the now very familiar alarm bells.
  2260. >You try to discretely nudge your former kitchen table chair across to the doorway for an easier escape as she sits on your bed, but the scraping sound sort of gives it away.
  2261. >”So, Applebloom mentioned somethin' about the creek.”
  2262. >You somehow doubt it's going to be about how guilty she is of ensuring you can't have children until repairs have been undergone on your soldier's base camps.
  2263. “Oh, what about?”
  2264. >You don't realise you've crossed your legs until you've rested your hands on the upper knee about as casually as a three-volley salute.
  2265. >Applejack blinks, looking confused before focusing on your face again.
  2266. >”She mentioned ya decided to take a 'forfeit' rather than givin' her an apology kiss.”
  2267. “I did nothing wrong.”
  2268. >”Anon, she said y'threw her into th' creek.”
  2269. “An accident.”
  2270. >”Twice.”
  2271. >Now that's a bit more damning.
  2272. “If it helps the second time I threw us BOTH into the creek?” You offer hopefully.
  2273. >”Yeah, surprisin'ly it don't.” She drawls.
  2274. >You sit there for a moment, drumming your fingers and trying to think.
  2275.  
  2276. “Would it help if I said I was trying to avoid a repeat of our creek visit?” You half-whisper, looking at the door.
  2277. >”Y'tried to stop a ten-year-old from seducin' ya?” she says sceptically.
  2278. “Ok, let's ignore that tone in your voice a second, because yes. Ten year olds are not for le-.. not meant to be doing that sort of thing.”
  2279. >You tuck the spaghetti back into your pocket.
  2280. >You pick up some from the floor.
  2281. >Ravioli.
  2282. >Ravioli.
  2283. >Don't lewd the Apple loli.
  2284. “She was asking if her swimsuit looked cute to start with, come on that's weird.”
  2285. >”Anon, how is that weird? Girls like t' know they look cute in new clothes.”
  2286. “It just IS, alright? I don't know how things work out here in the sticks,” she rolls her eyes at that. “but back in Philly if you complimented a little girl's swimsuit you'd get the shit beaten out of you.”
  2287. >”Even if she's yer cousin askin' what ya think?”
  2288. “Yes. No. I don't know, alright? It's just – it's weird.” You throw up your hands, and just stare at the spinning ceiling fan.
  2289. >”Alright, Ah guess that explains the whole 'he answered really weird', but Ah don't get why ya chose a 'forfeit' over kissin' 'er.”
  2290. “'Jack, can we just drop it with the words 'it would've been weird'? You're obviously angling towards something, so say it.”
  2291. >She looks at you, and sighs.
  2292. >”Applebloom took it kinda hard. Ah'm just sayin' she may have a li'l crush on ya.”
  2293. >CALLED IT.
  2294. “Aha, I knew--”
  2295. >”Shut yer mouth a sec'.  Y'gotta fix this. She ain't takin' it too well, heck, she turned on the waterworks an' started askin' me if Ah thought she was ugly.”
  2296. >You've found that over your course of staying here you're feeling like an asshole less and less as you adapt to being a decent fucking human being.
  2297. >But on the occasions you DO wind up feeling bad, it's not the funnest time.
  2298. >You managed to make a ten year old cry and break her self esteem.
  2299. >No girl should go through that.
  2300. >Not until college.
  2301.  
  2302. “Okay, look, I'll deal with it later.”
  2303. >”Y'mean now.” She says, looking pointedly at you.
  2304. >You've heard of family abilities.
  2305. >Some people are incredibly talented at what their parents excelled at, or their grandparents.
  2306. >For example, a particular unicorn might possess an aptitude for shield magic if their grandfather did.
  2307. >Applejack seems to have also inherited the uncanny ability to stare you down like Granny.
  2308. >This, is not a good thing and makes you run a few degrees colder for a second.
  2309. “Apparently I mean now, what was I thinking, I'll go. Right now. To fix things. With Applebloom.”
  2310. >You quickly leave the room, with the staring Applejack sat with her arms folded on the edge of your bed.
  2311. >You swing the door shut softly, and lean against it for a minute.
  2312. >Not really to block her from following, as the door opens into the room and you'd just fall back with it were that the case.
  2313. >More so to catch your breath and gather your thoughts.
  2314. >You're clearly not going back in there until you've somehow restored a young girl's sense of self worth.
  2315. >You can't exactly lie and say you did it, because Jack'll just walk across the hall and ask.
  2316. >Then presumably kick the door down with a 'yeehaw' and proceed to lasso you (She's assured you she has that skill) back over to Applebloom and make sure you .. apologise?
  2317. >How the fuck do you go about this?
  2318. >”Hey , sorry I didn't kiss you back there, I thought it'd open the floodgates to some really weird shit because it did with your sister.” isn't going to cut it too well.
  2319. >You decide, as with most things in life, to wing it.
  2320. >You walk across the hall, and knock on the door.
  2321. >Eventually you hear footsteps, and the door creaks open a fraction.
  2322. >It's dark, and you can barely see the sliver of Applebloom's face by the hallway light.
  2323. >“.. Hey Aynon.” she looks around the hallway as best she's able.
  2324. “Hey.”
  2325.  
  2326. >You both stand there for a long minute, before you shuffle your feet a little.
  2327. “Mind if I come in to talk a second?”
  2328. >The door slowly swings open, and she retreats to her bed.
  2329. >You slowly walk in.
  2330. >You haven't actually been in here before.
  2331. >The door's always been shut with some warning on a piece of paper taped on to the handle.
  2332. >You take a moment to look around in the dim light.
  2333. >There's a small team's worth of sports equipment shoved against the side of the closet.
  2334. >The desk is stacked high with random books and scraps of paper
  2335. >The wastebasket's overflowing with crumpled balls of paper, too.
  2336. “Mind if I turn on a light?”
  2337. >She gives a subdued 'yeah', and you take that as the most you're going to get for a little while.
  2338. >You feel something with slightly sharp edges on the bottom of your foot.
  2339. >You bend down and pick up the offending crumpled sheet.
  2340. >Unfolding it, you see a rough list, all items on it scribbled out. You briefly spot 'Computer stuff' surrounded by question marks underneath the scribbling.
  2341. >You set it on the desk, and opt to sit on foot of the bed, your back against the wall.
  2342. >Surprisingly, sitting there and waiting for Applebloom to get the ball rolling isn't exactly working.
  2343. >Looks like it's on you.
  2344. “Soooooooo.” You say, sort of slapping your thighs with your hands.
  2345. >You look over at her, and she's sort of huddled up in her blanket.
  2346. “You okayyyyyyyyyyy?”
  2347. >For some reason, you've taken to drawing shit out like your little cousin has suddenly come down with a case being severely retarded.
  2348. >”Yep.” She mutters quietly.
  2349. >You tap into your inner Applejack.
  2350. >The lab boys determine this to be bullshit.
  2351. “Would ya be more honest if Ah talked like thiiiiiis?”
  2352. >You wipe off the cleaver you used to butcher the Acres accent, and carry on with your mission.
  2353. >She giggle-snorts slightly.
  2354. >That's a good sign at least.
  2355.  
  2356. “So. Bullshit aside, what's wrong exactly?”
  2357. >”Applejack didn' already tell ya?” She look at you from beneath the patterned blanket hood.
  2358. >You adopt a look of innocence.
  2359. “She might have mentioned one or two things. Not everything, though.”
  2360. >Silence.
  2361. >You can practically hear the gears churning.
  2362. “Don't make me do the Applejack voice again.”
  2363. >”Alright, jus'.. it's embarassin'. Do Ah have t'say?”
  2364. “I'd prefer it if you did.”
  2365. >”Promise y'won't laugh or nothin'?”
  2366. >You cross your heart with a fingertip, and lean back against the wall again.
  2367. >”Ah think – Ah mean, ya seem.. really cool? Like, not cool like Mac, but yer just kinda good at stuff? Like with the computers, an' this phone y'got me an' other stuff like that, ya know?”
  2368. “Well, if I thought I was cool, I'd be embarrassed too.” You mutter. “Trust me, you think I'm cool now? Go back eight years. Flame shirts for days.”
  2369. >”What's a flame shirt?”
  2370. “Before your time. They were short-sleeved and had shit like flames and dragons on them. But that's not what we're .. look, all joking aside, why is finding me 'cool' embarrassing?”
  2371. >She fidgets, before speaking.
  2372. >”It ain't like findin' Mac cool, not entirely, really. It's like Ah wanna impress ya, like .. it's all kinda  lovey-dovey.”
  2373. >Well that confirms what Jack said about the crush.
  2374. >”Issat weird?” she asks quietly.
  2375. >You sigh a minute, thinking it through.
  2376. >You're not in the mood to follow up being an asshole with being a hypocrite.
  2377. “No, it.. happens.”
  2378. >”It does?” She seems to perk up, and one side of her bow pops free from the blanket fort.
  2379. “Yeah, cousins can get crushes on eachother all the time. Something to do with familiarity but not being the same, you know? You get a bunch of shared values, and closeness from an early age, but not early enough your brain doesn't kick the shit out of the idea when it springs up.”
  2380. >”How'd ya know that stuff?”
  2381.  
  2382. >You neglect to mention you raced into the study one night when everyone else was sleeping, and started typing away on this shit like crazy before deleting history as through the feds were at the door.
  2383. >You stopped just short of hammering the hard drive and claiming Mac downloaded a virus again.
  2384. “Covered it in Psychology back in Filly.” You lie, scratching a cheek.
  2385. >”Woah. So cousins can really be eachothers special somebodies?”
  2386. >Oh shit.
  2387. “Well, uh.”
  2388. >She looks at you hopefully.
  2389. >All the innocence of a childhood crush, right there in those amber eyes, literally wrapped in a bow.
  2390. >You better nip this in the bud.
  2391. “No. It's.. just you can't. Not seriously.”
  2392. >She deflates a little.
  2393. >Well, you had to do some heart breaking, but it'll help the kid out in the long te--
  2394. >”How come?”
  2395. >What.
  2396. “What?” You repeat.
  2397. >”How come they can't be all special somebodies, but all seriously? It ain't like they're brother 'n' sister, right?”
  2398. “It's.. different than that, yeah, but it's still family. You just don't. It's not really allowed.”
  2399. >You both stop and think for a minute.
  2400. >Whereas you can't really guess what 'Bloom is thinking, you're feeling sort of guilty.
  2401. >But you guess this is one of do what you say, not what you do kind of situations.
  2402. >”But how come?”
  2403. >Oh for fucks sake.
  2404. “Because it's.. bad, I guess?”
  2405. >”Y'guess? Y'ain't sure?”
  2406. >Once again the ten-year old has you on the ropes here.
  2407. “It's complicated, alright?” You rub your face, trying to buy some breathing room.
  2408. >And shit is it complicated.
  2409. >You could go into a 'love is all that matters except for when it doesn't' argument.
  2410. >Shit, there's a crowned PRINCESS of the stuff.
  2411. >Maybe you should write at some point.
  2412. “Look, on one hand you don't choose who you randomly fall in love with, right?”
  2413. >”Uh-uh.” She shakes her head.
  2414. “But we don't choose a lot of things, like..you don't feel this way about the other Crusaders, right?”
  2415.  
  2416. >You're reaching here, but this might work.
  2417. >”Nope. Half th' time we wanna try throwin' eachother offa somethin' really high up.”
  2418. “Yeah, exactly. Wait. Stick a pin in that. But imagine you did for a second. Say you felt all romantic for.. Sweetie Belle or Scootaloo.”
  2419. >She makes a face from her blanket fort, with an exaggerated 'Euugh'.
  2420. “Yeah, my point exactly. If you DID though, it'd feel natural. And you wouldn't mind, but people would, right?”
  2421. >”Maybe if yer from the past, Aynon.”
  2422. >Well, she's got you there.
  2423. >”Wait. Are ya sayin' EVENTUALLY y'can be all close to yer cousin?”
  2424. >Oh Celestia, she's shuffling closer.
  2425. >The effect is ruined as she falls onto her stomach, face into the mattress.
  2426. “Ok, no, that's not – Look, I'm just saying it gets complicated when it comes to stuff like this, and people go by what society says at the time, right?”
  2427. >She mumbles something into the bed, and you sigh.
  2428. “If you ask 'why' again, I swear I'm telling 'Jack what the forfeit was.”
  2429. >”Mffgrgm.” She replies intelligently.
  2430. “Look, do you see where I'm coming from here? You like what you like, but sometimes you have to.. avoid it.”
  2431. >”What if y'can't?”
  2432. “Trust me, you can.”
  2433. >You, on the other hand are another story entirely.
  2434. >Poor impulse control, and pretty much guaranteeing this is your only shot at anything resembling normal romance and a desire to just see how long it goes are driving factors.
  2435. “Plus, if you were to decide to go for your cousin you'd probably have to choose someone who wasn't say, seven YEARS older than you.” You prod her head with a finger.
  2436. >She struggles back up onto her wrapped elbows.
  2437. >”So Ah'd have t'trade places with Applejack. She's yer age. Wait. So if y'liked Applejack ya'd--”
  2438. >Diversion time.
  2439. >You proceed to gracefully push her head back down onto the mattress.
  2440. >”Aynon, would ya – MFFRM!” She manages, before you introduce her face to the mattress again.
  2441. >You need to think.
  2442.  
  2443. >You look around the room in panic.
  2444. >Ok, think, Anon. You just have to stop her asking any more questions along that line of thought.
  2445. >You're still busy with one hand on your chin, and the other tangled in Applebloom's hair as you keep her pinned when the door slowly opens.
  2446. >Applejack stands there, peering at the two of you for a minute.
  2447. >”What in the heck's goin' on in here?”
  2448. >Oh no.
  2449. >She looks pissed.
  2450. >You hold up both hands to explain (or ward off any swings), a side effect being Applebloom springing upwards.
  2451. >”Aynon was jus' tellin' me about how cousin's bein' all special is alright, sis'! An' how it's fine, but not seriously 'cause a society so as a form a compermise-”
  2452. “Compromise?” You offer, confused at where she's going with this.
  2453. >” - Yeah, that, but he's gonna let me be his special somebody fer th' day fer Heart an' Hands!”
  2454. >Applebloom finishes with a big smile.
  2455. >You didn't agree to this.
  2456. >You're left staring at the youngest Apple as Applejack speaks.
  2457. >YOU DIDN'T AGREE TO THIS.
  2458. >”That's .. real sweet of ya, Anon'.”
  2459. >You turn back to find Applejack's anger apparently gone.
  2460. >She's smiling and leaning into the door frame, relaxed as you've seen her.
  2461. >Oh come the fuck on.
  2462. >On one hand, that's bullshit and you never agreed to this.
  2463. >On the OTHER hand, you've somehow been roped into another of Applebloom's shenanigans. But at the same time you've convinced Applejack you solved her little esteem crisis, and even covered up the “slamming a kid into a mattress” issue.
  2464.  
  2465. >You could work with this.
  2466. >AND without YOU lying, which is becoming trickier to do as of late.
  2467. “Yep. That's me. Old.. sweet.. Anonymous. Yes. That's me. Of course.”
  2468. >Your acting award is in the mail.
  2469. >Not being sent to you, of course.
  2470. >But hey.
  2471.  
  2472. >You hear Applebloom let off a high pitched squeal.
  2473. >What the fuck is that?
  2474. >WHY the fuck is that?
  2475. >She seems to shuffle in her blanket, before springing herself at you.
  2476. >”REALLY AYNON? AH PROMISE AH'LL BE TH' BEST SPECIAL SOMEONE Y'EVER GOT, AH SWEAR.”
  2477. >So to recap; The ten year old that tried and failed to get a kiss out of you and kicked you in the dick for it, has now swindled you through childish wiles and opportunism into being her special someone in the new year.
  2478. >And is now currently writhing about in your lap like some sort of demented caterpillar due to being wrapped in her blanket.
  2479. >Whilst the cousin you're in a hidden relationship with is stood in the doorway, seemingly pleased at this development.
  2480. >What's WRONG with this family?
  2481.  
  2482. >The obvious answer is 'you', but you elect to ignore that.
  2483. >You awkwardly pet Applebloom on the head as she's busy trying to cuddle her way into your chest cavity.
  2484. >You mouth 'help me' to Applejack, but she simply watches with a smirk.
  2485. >It's up to you and your newly found strength to prise off the small girl.
  2486. >You manage fairly decently.
  2487. >She's sort of like a small hay bale.
  2488. >Just more energetic.
  2489.  
  2490. >You deposit her at the head of the bed, and making sure your face is hidden from Applejack, glare a warning at her.
  2491. >She beams back.
  2492. >Kids are little shits.
  2493.  
  2494. >You turn and walk out, with Applejack following turning as you pass and shutting the door with a soft click.
  2495. >“Can't believe y'solved that so well.” She remarks as you both cross back into your room.
  2496. >You sit down in your chair heavily, awkwardly slumping on the unforgiving wooden frame.
  2497. “Neither can I.” You rub the bridge of your nose with your thumb and forefinger, squeezing your eyes closed.
  2498. >”But, in all honesty, that was a real sweet thing ya did fer her.”
  2499. “The whole Hearts and Hands thing? I guess, but aren't you mad or anything?”
  2500.  
  2501. >She snorts and grins at you.
  2502. >”Anon', it's not like yer exactly plannin' on puttin' th' moves on 'er. Knowin' Applebloom she's gonna show y'off to her friends, make y' take her on a “date” and that'll be that.”
  2503. “A date.” You deadpan.
  2504. >”Yeah, y'know, a trip to th' movies, or dinner or somethin'. 'Course, y'can expect her to bring Scoots an' Sweetie along too.”
  2505. >You're tormented by the mental image of you, a near grown man, sat in a romantically themed restaurant with the Crusaders.
  2506. >But if you change a few little things..
  2507. >You blink, and and idea slowly forms in your mind.
  2508. “Would you like that?” You ask, opening your eyes and looking at her.
  2509. >”Huh?”
  2510. “A movie date, or something.”
  2511. >She looks unsure.
  2512. >”Ah dunno, Anon'. Ah mean, sure Ah'd love that kinda thing, but it's sorta.. awkward t'pull off, ain't it?”
  2513. >Frowning, you look out the window and think a minute.
  2514. “I mean, is it so odd for cousins to go to see a movie with each other? Not like we're going to advertise the fact it's a date, seeing as if we go out of town it'll just raise more questions from Granny and Mac.”
  2515. >She chews her lip, which means she's thinking pretty hard on the subject.
  2516. >You let her think it through, watching her carefully.
  2517. >”When were y'thinkin'?” She's idly fiddling with a glove she's pulled off of her belt, tugging and balling it.
  2518. “How about Saturday? Something on late, we could probably just blend in to the back seats when the actual movie's on.”
  2519. >”Alright, but Ah get t'pick th' movie.”
  2520. “How does that work?”
  2521. >”You got to pick th' time, so Ah get t'pick th' movie.” She explains, before standing with a stretch.
  2522.  
  2523. >You unashamedly watch her shirt ride up, revealing a sliver of toned midriff before she snickers, and you realise you've been caught.
  2524. >”Enjoyin'?”
  2525. “A little.” You shrug, and she walks over to you, leans down and gently presses her lips against yours.
  2526. >”Night, Anon'.”
  2527. “Night, 'Jack.” You reply, and she opens the door and slips back out.
  2528. >You quickly tug off your boots, throwing them over to the side before taking off your shirt and jeans and throwing them over the back of your chair.
  2529. >You knock the lights off, and climb into bed, relaxing and letting the sound of crickets and the house settling relax you.
  2530. >You do feel a little giddy, though.
  2531. >After all, you just went and arranged your first date.
  2532.  
  2533. >The next few days past almost agonisingly slowly.
  2534. >You spend most of it planning with the older two Apple siblings about a rough quick-response plan for the ZapApples, whenever they decide to fucking show.
  2535. > You and Mac briefly try arguing for getting rid of the timber wolves again (it still worries you that some hunks of wood decided to up and start behaving like wolves), but Applejack isn't having any of it.
  2536. >You and Mac share a look, and the topic is swiftly dropped.
  2537. >The rest of your days before the big night are spent helping out with simple house chores with Granny, due to the other Apples setting up the 'buckers'.
  2538. >You've been told these large machines are essentially gathered up, before being let loose and slamming a pad into the tree to shake off the apples.
  2539. >Apparently it's a good method, based on the fact that only the 'good 'uns' will fall down, being ready for harvest, and through that, selling.
  2540. >You had been surprised you hadn't been allowed to help set up the small army of machinery.
  2541.  
  2542. “So, APPLEBLOOM is able to help out, but I'm not?”
  2543. >”Yep.” Mac replies, throwing the large toolbag over his shoulder, resulting in a lot of clanking metal.
  2544.  
  2545. >”That's pretty much the gist a it, yeah.” Applejack mutters as she quickly inspects her own toolbelt.
  2546. “Can I ask why?”
  2547. >”Depends. Reckon y'can do it in twenty words or less, an' without swearin'?” She asks, briefly looking at you.
  2548. “Fuck you. Ok, now that's dealt with; WHY?”
  2549. >”It'd take too much time to teach y'how to distance 'em, an' how to do minor repairs like 'Bloom. Plus, she's small an' careful with this sorta thing. Y'wouldn't be able t'fit yer hand in the mechanisms without the chance a' triggerin' 'em an' losing fingers.”
  2550. >”Yyyyyyup.” Mac agrees.
  2551. >You look over to Applebloom, who's traded her bow .. for a bow. Just kidding, she always wears those things.
  2552. >The real change is the heavy duty gloves and bandoleer over her overalls with a compliment of wrenches, spanners and hammers.
  2553. “So, once again, Applebloom understands how to do this, but it'd take too much time to get ME up to speed?”
  2554. >Applejack throws her hands into the air for a moment, and strides off before returning with a bundle of blue design paper and various rough print-outs.
  2555. >You peer at the designs.
  2556. >You have no fucking idea what this is.
  2557. >You can see wheels, a main body and a huge.. turret? What the fuck is that?
  2558. “What the fuck is that?”
  2559. >”That, is Mac's baby. Main body a the Buckers, where all the main mechanisms sit.”
  2560. “So, what, Mac – no offense – managed to come up with this?”
  2561. >Applebloom looks at Mac, as though it's obvious, and Applejack looks somewhat awkward, like you've brought up a bad topic.
  2562. >”He likes that sort a thing.” She shrugs a shoulder, avoiding looking at you.
  2563. “.. Right. So you got like giant springs in there, or something?”
  2564. >Mac looks amused at that, he shakes his head. “Noooooope.”
  2565. >He walks over, tapping the main chamber.
  2566. >”Pistons. Got 'em hooked up to a DCV at sixty bar.” He explains. As if you fucking know what that actually means.
  2567.  
  2568. >You raise an eyebrow.
  2569. >You can't just throw together a whole machine like this.
  2570. >Somewhere, someone had to bring physics and shit in.
  2571. “Now, I'd buy Mac knowing mechanisms like that.” You nod at him.
  2572. “But I've seen you try to do math, big guy. It wasn't pretty. Who did the calculations for this farmland siege weapon?”
  2573. >The two turn in unison to Applejack slowly, and she looks guilty as all hell.
  2574. >”Ah had help from Twilight with it..” She offers weakly.
  2575. >You file this away under 'shit to discuss later' and let your shoulders slump.
  2576. “Alright, fine. I'll just.. help out here, I guess.” You wave at them, and they all look at eachother before nodding and heading off.
  2577. >You hear Applebloom chattering about when she's going to get to help actually USE the buckers, before the door shuts and they're all muffled beyond understanding.
  2578. >Of course you don't get to use the hydraulic battering rams.
  2579. >YOU get to stay inside and.. find.. Granny...
  2580. >Oh shit.
  2581.  
  2582. >You eventually find her, hidden away in the pantry, sorting through various jars and cans.
  2583. >”Who's creepin' up on me?” She asks, not bothering to look away from her task.
  2584. “Just me, Granny.” You announce, stepping closer to see what she's looking at. “.. 'Cha doin'?”
  2585. >”Well, Ah jus' didn' realise how little space we got in here.”
  2586. >You look around the expansive pantry.
  2587. >It's shelves are nearly bare.
  2588. >Barely a fifth of it is used.
  2589. >You look back at her.
  2590. “Huh?”
  2591. >She turns back to you, with some THICC spectacles on the bridge of her nose.
  2592. >Seriously, though. It's like she cut the bottom off a glass soda bottle and called it a day.
  2593. >She thrusts the jar she's holding in your face, and you look at it. It's filled with .. jam?
  2594. >It has a label, but it's in presumably Granny's quick and rough handwriting.
  2595. >”Y'see this, sonny?”
  2596. >Given that it's going to require invasive surgery to remove it if she pushes it any closer, yes.
  2597. “I.. do?”
  2598.  
  2599. >”This is one a th' few jars we got left from the last harvest. Regular apple jam.”
  2600. >She points around with her stick.
  2601. >”All a these here shelves are gonna fill up with apple jams, preserved apple slices an' the like over the next couple'a weeks, an' that's not even countin' fer what we usually sell. This is usually th' personal stock an' some reserves t'sell fer emergencies.”
  2602. >You re-evaluate the pantry.
  2603. >It's huge.
  2604. >That's a lot of apples and apple accessories.
  2605. >”See, we can always go out into town t'get more stuff when we need it, but we gotta store all a this pretty much immediately. So we're gonna get t' seein' what we can get gone, an' see what we gotta keep.”
  2606. “Well. Alright. Let's get started, I guess?”
  2607. >”Hold it, young'n.” She hobbles off into the kitchen, and you hear loud static before there's silence.
  2608. >You hear her rummaging around, before going quiet again.
  2609. >Then it begins.
  2610. >”Ifffff only... I had a chance, to love yoooooou” the radio croons, occasionally spitting out a pop of static.
  2611. >Granny warbles along as she shuffles back in, and begins taking down things from the lower middle shelf running along the walls.
  2612. >You love your family, you love your family, you love your family.
  2613. >This becomes your mantra against insanity for the next several hours of the 'Best Hits of Song Sterling”, and Granny's accompanying sing-along as you sort through the pantry.
  2614.  
  2615. >”Hooey! Ah do love a lil' Sterlin' in th' mornin'.” Granny says as you both slowly walk out of the pantry, your task done.
  2616. >Her, due to having hips that probably saw the birth of the nation.
  2617. >You, due to finding your motor skills tied directly to your will to live.
  2618. >It took a direct hit today, so you're cutting yourself a little slack.
  2619.  
  2620.  
  2621. >You get to spend what little is left of the morning (and half the afternoon) preparing lunch.
  2622. >Granny makes idle chatter as she orders and instructs your way to making a decent chilli.
  2623. >She also almost makes you slice your fingers off with a line of questioning.
  2624. >”So yer takin’ Applejack out inta town tomorrow night, huh?”
  2625. >You stiffen, the sharp knife narrowly missing the tips of your fingers before your body locks it into place against the cutting board.
  2626. “Uh, yeah, Granny.”
  2627. >Once again, being as smooth as this is a liability.
  2628. >Slipping and sliding all over the place due to reduced friction.
  2629. >”Why’d ya stop choppin’? – Anyhoo, Ah was jus’ wonderin’ what y’were plannin’ on doin’.”
  2630. >You still don’t turn around, and resume some semblance of dicing the onions, sawing at them nervously to avoid any surprises rendering you fingerless.
  2631. “You just, uhh, caught me by surprise, you know? But, yeah. Movie.” You clear your throat, wincing. “Going to go see a movie.”
  2632. >You nod, more to her than yourself.
  2633. >She coos.
  2634. >”Aw, Ah used ta love th’ pictures! Never got to go all too often, y’know, but Ah saw one or two on th’ rare occasion.” She muses, and you risk looking over your shoulder to gauge exactly what’s going on.
  2635. >She’s resting her hands on the crook of her cane, and has her head set atop both hands, watching you through her glasses.
  2636. >”So, Ah’m decidin’ whether or not t’give ya th’ speech Ah always said Ah’d give when a boy took Applejack out fer th’ night.”
  2637. >Oh sweet Sun and Moon no.
  2638. “Granny, no.”
  2639. >She clears her throat, and it sounds like a fucking train switching tracks.
  2640. >”Awwwwlrighty. Y’listen here, Anonymous Apple – Ah want mah granddaughter back b’fore Midnight.” She points her cane to the old sunflower shaped clock above the doorframe to illustrate her point.
  2641. “Granny, please.”
  2642. >Nope, old bat’s enjoying herself too much.
  2643. >”Ah want her t’tell me she had a good time, yet didn’ feel obligated inta doin’ nothin’.”
  2644. >You’ve long since set the knife down to cover your face with your hands.
  2645. >Which is good, because otherwise it looks like you’re sawing through an artery to end the embarrassment.
  2646. >One of hers, or yours.
  2647. >Jury’s still out.
  2648. >“An’ Ah want her t’ tell me my boy raised himself a proper gentleman.”
  2649. >You rub your eyes, willing everything to just stop for five seconds because this is fucking –
  2650. >You pull your hands away, your eyes watering.
  2651. >You were cutting fucking onions.
  2652. >You now have onion in your eyes.
  2653. >And sweet merciful diarchs, does it burn.
  2654. >”.. Y’alright there, sonny?” Granny asks uncertainly as you feel the counter to guide yourself to the sink, tears streaming and the sting forcing your eyes shut.
  2655. “I got – onions – in my – eyes. “  You manage, stopping occasionally to pull your hands away from your eyes.
  2656. >”Fer the love a.. “ You hear the elderly woman sigh, before rapidly clicking her way towards you.
  2657. >She grabs your arm and sets you down slowly, trusting you to manage not fucking up sitting down on a chair.
  2658. >She’s almost rewarded with you falling flat on your ass, but you manage to pull it off last minute.
  2659. >You sit there in the chair, unseeing through blurred, squinting eyes.
  2660. >You hear a faucet run for a minute before she clicks her way back over.
  2661. >A chair scrapes the tiles and you feel something soft and wet dabbing at your eyes.
  2662. >”Now, what’d we learn?” She asks, a mix of both amused and utterly let down by her bloodline.
  2663. >It’s really impressive to pull off.
  2664. “To wash my hands before I touch my eyes when cutting onions.”
  2665. >”That’s right. Jus’ be thankful y’weren’t cuttin’ chillies fer dinner.”
  2666. >She snickers to herself as she keeps dabbing at your eyes.
  2667. >Eventually silence reigns in the old farmhouse, occasionally broken by her moistening whatever’s she’s using to clean your eyes out and the ticking of the sunflower clock.
  2668. “For that speech you gave – were you planning on me being the first guy to take ‘Jack out?”
  2669. >”Whussat?” She asks, and you open your eyes. Some sting, but otherwise you’re fine.
  2670. >You go to wipe the tears away, and her wrinkled hands grab yours in a vice grip.
  2671. >You guess ‘old man strength’ has a female counterpart.
  2672. >She stares you down, before pushing the bowl she’s been dampening a tea towel with towards you.
  2673. >You quickly dip your hands in, scrubbing them of any onion juices before drying them in the towel and dabbing at your eyes.
  2674. >You start again.
  2675. “You said you’d had that speech planned a while. But you also said about ‘your boy raising himself a proper gentleman’.” You risk raising an eyebrow at her.
  2676. >She returns the gesture.
  2677. >”Y’know, Anon, sometimes y’strike me as a smart young feller. Then y’go an’ jam onion into yer peepers.”
  2678. “Point taken, yeah.”
  2679. >”But Ah figure tellin’ ya t’behave yerself like Ah told Mac when it comes t’ this sorta thing couldn’t hurt none.”
  2680. >”Get y’started right before goin’ out on the town with a real girl.” She nods to herself and slowly stands before beginning to stroll off.
  2681. “Isn’t Jack a real girl?”
  2682. >You close your mouth with an audible snap of teeth.
  2683. >But there’s no taking that ambiguous question back.
  2684. >Not now.
  2685. >Good job, retard.
  2686. >She gives you an unreadable look, peering over the top of the half-moon lenses.
  2687. >”Ah s’pose she is.”
  2688. >You’re left staring as she shuffles back out into the hallway.
  2689. >And you’re still staring at where she was as the stairs creak in complaint as she heads up to her room.
  2690.  
  2691. >The BIG DAY passes rather slowly.
  2692. >You briefly stop downstairs to help with lunch again –and avoid getting anything in your eyes – before disappearing back up to your room.
  2693. >Surprisingly, you’re the only one who really uses the new blistering speed WiFi.
  2694. >Blistering speed in this case being around 2MB/s.
  2695. >Which isn’t bad considering you’re on a fucking farm.
  2696. >You mostly spend the afternoon navigating through your usual websites, listening to music and occasionally trying to fix that loop in your recent project.
  2697. >Duh-dum!
  2698. >You click over onto the chat client and see who’s trying to get your attention.
  2699. >One of your internet friends.
  2700. >Who are you kidding all you have is internet friends.
  2701. >Spamming you with an invite to play some zombie shooter.
  2702. >bassbeat: fucker you there?
  2703. >bassbeat: i can see youre online, dude.
  2704. >You quickly begin typing back, before he can fill your chat with meaningless shit.
  2705. >Nope, not such luck.
  2706. >Your family is insulted.
  2707. >You’re called various tiers of scrub and faggot.
  2708. >suomynonA: Please calm the fuck down, Bass.
  2709. >bassbeat: finally, whereve you been?
  2710. >suomynonA: Had to move, stuff happened.
  2711. >You quietly neglect to fill your old buddy bass in on exactly what ‘stuff’ is in this case.
  2712. >You’re going for the pretend-it-didn’t-happen approach.
  2713. >bassbeat: wait, youre not in philly anymore?
  2714. >suomynonA: Nope. Carted off just beneath Canterlot.
  2715. >bassbeat: that fucking sucks, you shoulda come to mane. we coulda hung out and I wouldve shown you my new tracks.
  2716. >suomunonA: I’m not listening to your fucking mixtape.
  2717. >bassbeat: your loss dude, its like fucking dragonfire.
  2718.  
  2719. >Minutes pass as you elect to not dignify bass’s shit with a response, idly running unit tests as you wait for the clock to tick down.
  2720. >You’re bombarded by a metric fucktonne of links to a soundrainbow page, before bass changes tactic.
  2721. >bassbeat: im just gonna leave those there, and when you get a sense of taste, you just click the link mmkay? anyhow seeing as youre BUSY what are you BUSY doing?
  2722. >suomunonA: Passing time until my date.
  2723. >You quickly tab to another window before stopping still.
  2724. >Oh no.
  2725. >BUH DUM, BUH DUM, BUH DUM.
  2726. >The chat client loses its shit, and you quietly open it back up.
  2727. >Yep.  Bass is going fucking crazy.
  2728. >bassbeat: you
  2729. >bassbeat: fuckin
  2730. >bassbeat: WHAT
  2731. >bassbeat: REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
  2732. >You watch in equal parts amusement, horror and curiosity as bass proceeds to write something akin to a dissertation on how the news that you, despite the odds, have a date.
  2733. >bassbeat: fuckin NORMIE.
  2734. >He finishes with that accusation, and goes silent.
  2735. “Good talk, you fucking retard.” You mutter, before pushing your chair back with a groan of wood on wood.
  2736. >You look at the ceiling for a minute, before scooting back to your desk.
  2737. >Back to testing.
  2738.  
  2739. >Fuck testing.
  2740. >It has now been three hours . Meaning your date-but-if-anyone-asks-not-a-date is in .. thirty nine minutes.
  2741. >You are done with this code.
  2742. >You slam the laptop shut as hard as you can get away with while making sure you don’t break the damn thing.
  2743. >Juuuuuust enough to make sure the bundle of transistors knows who’s the boss around here.
  2744. >Well. In the grand scheme of SWEET APPLE ACRES, you’re probably at the bottom of the totem pole.
  2745. >But the old laptop ranks BELOW that, and that’s just how it has to be.
  2746. >You quickly rummage through your closet, pulling out a clean set of jeans, a white t-shirt and a blue hoodie.
  2747. >Casual, and clean.
  2748. >That’s how dates are meant to go, right?
  2749. >But this also has to look like not a date.
  2750.  
  2751. >Yeah, you think you have this under wraps and sufficiently locked down.
  2752. >You rush off down the hall and grab a shower.
  2753. >Being the master of getting your shit sorted in five minutes, shower-wise, has its perks.
  2754. >You’re not sure what those perks ARE exactly, but fuck, surely there’s perks.
  2755.  
  2756. >Oh, right. It gives you more time to internally scream about having no fucking idea what you’re doing.
  2757. >Usually not knowing what to do on a date isn’t so bad.
  2758. >As far as you understand, that’s par for the course.
  2759. >Not knowing what to do on a date with your cousin, though. That sounds like shit they don’t even have a wikiHow for.
  2760. >Oh shit.
  2761. >You can practically feel the lightbulb’s glow from atop your soaking head.
  2762.  
  2763. >So that’s the scene set.
  2764. >You’re stood there, naked besides a towel furiously researching ‘how to date a cousin’ like a retard and hoping your ISP is watching some other deluded fucktard’s weird searching habits today.
  2765. >That’s also around when you happen to glance to the clock in the corner of your screen and realise you have around ten minutes to meet Jack in a presentable state – that’s IF you’re being generous.
  2766. >Or honest with yourself.
  2767. >Or loyal to the concept of time.
  2768. >Or laughter-.. yeah this didn’t work to begin with.
  2769. >You resume panicking about your evening.
  2770. >Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckwhywhywhy
  2771. >You slap yourself.
  2772. >Ow.
  2773. >Ok, hysterics dealt with.
  2774. >First step; get dressed.
  2775. >You quickly towel off any water from the shower, whilst simultaneously yanking your boxers up.
  2776. >Ok, chest dry, head next.
  2777. >You use one hand to effectively drag the towel around your hair, as the other pulls up the clean pair of jeans.
  2778. >Ok, all dry. This is going alright.
  2779. >Deodorant.
  2780. >After .. shave?
  2781. >Can you get away with using it if you didn’t shave?
  2782. >Fuck it.
  2783. >You slap a small amount on your cheeks before tugging your shirt on before donning THE CEREMONIAL HOODIE.
  2784. >Just kidding, it’s a normal hoodie.
  2785. >You bought it for like five bits last year.
  2786.  
  2787. >Wait no, stop being dumb. Downstairs.
  2788. “JACK WE GOTTA –“ You yell as you thunder down the old staircase.
  2789. “-- .. go?” You pause, as she walks in through the front door in the middle of your yelling.
  2790. >”Ah’m guessin’ yer in some kinda hurry?” She looks at you quizzically, giving you a once over.
  2791. “Well. Yes? Movie?” You explain, or try to.
  2792. >You’re pretty sure panicking managed to break what little sanity you had left after yesterday’s multi-hour devotion to the best hits of Song Sterling.
  2793. >Fuck that guy in particular.
  2794. >Well, seeing as she’s checking you out.
  2795. >You quickly see what she’s wearing to your not-date.
  2796. >HERE SHE IS FOLKS, APPLEJACK APPLE SPORTING A DE-LIGHT-FUL SUMMER ENSEMBLE DENIM-ESQUE DRESS.
  2797. >OH MY GOODNESS, LOOK AT THAT – A FANTASTIC ADDITION TO THE HAT OF A FLOWER, COMPLETE WITH A LIGHT SCARF TIED OFF AT THE NECK TO BEAT THE EVENING CHILL.
  2798. >JUNE, WE’RE SEEING SOME TRADITIONAL COWBOY BOOTS HIDING THOSE ANKLES, ALWAYS IMPORTANT FOR A PROSPECTIVE SPECIAL SOMEBODY.
  2799. >Hold the fuck up.
  2800. >Boots.
  2801. >You follow Jack’s gaze to your own feet.
  2802. >Ah.
  2803.  
  2804. >Five minutes later you’re putting the old pickup into reverse and slowly pulling back out of the side of the barn.
  2805. >”Can’t believe y’forgot yer dang shoes.” Applejack snickers as you quickly flip her the bird before twisting the wheel with one hand, before using the other to shift into first.
  2806. “It’s an easy mistake to make, alright?”
  2807. >”Aw, were ya gettin’ all nervous-like?” She coos, honeying her words.
  2808. “I will kill us both.”
  2809. >”Naw, but yer gonna try when y’realise me an’ Applebloom were walkin’ up t’ the porch when y’were hoppin’ around tryin’ t’get yer clothes on.”
  2810.  
  2811. >The rest of the trip into town is a little hazy, but you vaguely remember Applejack alternating between laughing and pitching her voice up and repeating Applebloom’s questions.
  2812. >Really, it’s a miracle that you made it to Ponyville proper without trying to run the two of you off the road.
  2813. >Apparently when it comes to death threats, you’re not a man of your word.
  2814. >”How come Ay-non’s swingin’ his thingy ‘round instead a jus’ –“
  2815. “Ok, can you STOP for like five minutes and give me directions to this fucking movie theatre?” You practically beg, gripping the gearstick tightly in a claw grip as your other hand squeezes the steering wheel.
  2816. >”Huh? Oh, sure. Yer gonna want t’take the left by the Town Hall an’ keep drivin’ for a few minutes. Yer gonna know when y’see it.”
  2817. >She pulls down the sun visor, sliding the mirror before pushing it back up, and you return your eyes to the road.
  2818. “So what are we watching?”
  2819. >She hums noncommittally, and you suppose that’s all the answer you’re getting.
  2820. “Ok, how about this: what KIND of movie do you want to watch?”
  2821. >She makes a show of looking out of the passenger side window.
  2822. >You shrug to yourself, and indicate left before making the turn.
  2823. >Why?
  2824. >Because you’re RESPONSIBLE.
  2825. >You keep driving for a little while, before spotting a large digital sign scrolling through movies and show times.
  2826. >The movie theatre itself seems to be a repurposed old single-screen, if the front is anything to go by.
  2827. >Also the parking lot’s surprisingly empty, but it is a Thursday, you guess.
  2828. >You park up near the edge of the parking lot.
  2829. >”Ain’t we gonna park closer?”
  2830. >This is part of your cunning plan, which CANNOT, WILL NOT fail.
  2831. “We are not, no.”
  2832. >Step 1: Distance yourself from the movie theatre.
  2833. >Step 2: Hope for cold summer night chill to make Jack shiver.
  2834. >Step 3: OFFER HOODIE.
  2835. >Step 4 is to be announced at a later date.
  2836.  
  2837. >You didn’t get to read that far in that ‘cute dating tips’ article.
  2838. >”Can Ah ask WHY?” She asks as she climbs out of the cab of the truck.
  2839. >You walk around the back of the truck to her side to find her looking at you expectantly.
  2840. “.. Also no.”
  2841. >She looks at you for a long moment, before you awkwardly shuffle past.
  2842. >Anonymous Apple, avatar of the virgin walk.
  2843. >She matches your odd gait with her own usual stride, and you walk in a companionable silence as you cross the parking lot.
  2844. >You reach the old, cross-door brass handle and tug it open.
  2845. >You really hope it looks as effortless as the image you’re going for.
  2846. >”Havin’ trouble?”
  2847. >Shit.
  2848. “Guess they don’t – oil the hinges or something.”
  2849. >”Suuuuuuure.” She drawls, before rolling her eyes and walking through the expanding gap in the doorway.
  2850. >Being a gentleman is hard.
  2851. >It’s hard, and no one understands.
  2852. >You really wonder how this would’ve gone if you hadn’t been put through your paces with farmwork over the past few weeks.
  2853. >Probably very poorly.
  2854. >You twist from the waist, swinging the old door just ajar enough for you to slip in without risking it slamming back into you.
  2855. >It’s not until you walk in that you see Jack covering her mouth with her hand, laughing at something just to the left of you.
  2856. >You turn, and stare at the button, then its twin on the wall to the side of the entrance outside.
  2857. >DISABLED ACCESS: PLEASE PUSH HERE.
  2858.  
  2859. >Once your cousin’s successfully calmed her tits, you start eyeing up the posters in the lobby.
  2860. >You did suggest the digital display, but she seemed pretty adamant on avoiding that and stubbornly marched over to the nearest blown-up display.
  2861. >You glance about as she scrunches her face slightly and scans the title.
  2862. >You leave her to her work.
  2863. >She’ll ask for help if she needs it.
  2864. >And from what you’ve seen she’s been making an effort on not avoiding trying to read since that night on the porch.
  2865. >She tugs your shirt sleeve, snapping you out of whatever reverie you were in.
  2866. >”Uh, Anon?”
  2867. “Yes?”
  2868. >”Writing’s kinda tricky.” She says quickly, frowning.
  2869. >She walks over to the poster in question, and you take a good second to realise the problem.
  2870. >The font is shit.
  2871. >It’s like someone tried to blend an old sci-fi movie style with wingdings.
  2872. “Uh.” You offer, intelligently.
  2873. “Yeah this isn’t.. the best – ok, I think that’s a.. Fuck if I know.” You admit.
  2874. >You try to figure out what the movie itself is about from the poster itself, ignoring the title.
  2875. >There’s a guy kicking his way through a vent?
  2876. >”Reckon it’s good?” She asks, propping a hand on her hip.
  2877. “Let’s  just.. leave this as a last resort. Nothing else catches our eye, we’ll see vent-man or whatever this is.”
  2878. >”Mhm.” She hums and resumes her rounds of the other posters.
  2879. >You follow, occasionally whispering corrections to her if she misreads something now and then.
  2880. >Of course, the foyer’s practically empty. It’s just you, her and some old guy ordering at the concession stand.
  2881. >You turn back at the most recent poster after Applejack speaks uncertainly.
  2882. >”Sol Voolt?”
  2883.  
  2884. >The poster depicts a glorious figure clad in golden armour, wings spread wide, surrounded by soldiers. On the horizon, the moon eclipses the sun.
  2885. “Betrayal from the crown?” You read. “How the fuck were they allowed to make this?”
  2886. >Yeah, the fact that something called SOL VULT making it through filming is surprising.
  2887. >The fact it wasn’t a straight-to-DVD thing is even more confusing.
  2888. >”Ah dunno. Musta gotten permission, or somethin’. It’s a touchy subject for ‘em.”
  2889. ”For who?”
  2890. >She blinks, looking awkward. “Uh. Nobody.”
  2891. >Applejack hurries off to another poster, and you’re left looking at Sol Vult.
  2892. >Fucking crazy.
  2893. >You shake your head, and catch up to your cousin, who’s occasionally looking at you sheepishly but otherwise trying to concentrate on the poster.
  2894. >”Mane-hatter. No, ManeHATTEN.. Psycho?”
  2895. >The poster is of a sharp-dressed man, covered in blood and holding a kitchen knife.
  2896. >You turn to her.
  2897. “This.” You say, brooking no argument.
  2898. >”Why?”
  2899. “I have a friend in Mane’, I want to see if it matches what I’ve heard of the place.”
  2900. >”Ah mean, it looks sorta.. gruesome.”
  2901. “Our other choices so far are vent-man, or whatever the hell that was or revisiting the fucking Nightmare Revolt.”
  2902. >”Y’got a point.” She admits. “Awlrighty, let’s get goin’.” She grabs your wrist, and tugs you along after her.
  2903. >You are totally unhappy with this near hand-holding.
  2904. >This is terrible.
  2905. >Woe.
  2906. >”Welcome to The Reel, how can I help you?” The bored looking guy at the booth asks, barely managing to keep his head up with his hand.
  2907. “Could we get two tickets to Manehatten Psycho?”
  2908. >He looks at you dully for a moment, before speaking: “You both students?”
  2909. >”Yep.” Jack says cheerily.
  2910. >He slowly rings you up, hitting keys on a small computer.
  2911. >”Where do you wanna sit?” He says, turning the monitor towards you.
  2912.  
  2913. >From your quick count, seven seats are taken and scattered throughout the rows. But the back left looks free.
  2914. “Can we get those?” You ask, hovering your finger over the row of two in question.
  2915. >”Yeah, sure man.” He blinks tiredly, and taps on the keyboard.
  2916. >You briefly look at Jack who seems to be looking somewhat anxious.
  2917. >”Alriiiiiiight my guys, two student seats, weekday, peak time tickets.. Comes out to 14 bits, you wanna pay cash or card?”
  2918. >You quickly hold your card over the scanner, and it beeps.
  2919. >”You guys want anything from the concessions stand?”
  2920. >Applejack, without saying anything, quickly drags you over to the glass-counter and stares at the popcorn wide-eyed.
  2921. >The bored ticker-seller reaches under the booth, pulls on an apron and staggers over to the concession stand, propping himself up again at staring at you both.
  2922. >”Welcome to The Reel, how can I help you two today?”
  2923. >You share a look with Applejack, before slowly looking back at the former-ticket seller.
  2924. >He has ascended.
  2925. >He is now the Divine Giver of the Popped Corn.
  2926. >Also probably stoned.
  2927. >”Uh, can Ah have a large sweet popcorn aaaaaaan’ Ah guess a cola?”
  2928. >”You guys want the couples thing. Discount. Wait. No, man. The.. Couple’s deal thing. I forget, dude.” He shrugs.
  2929. “We’re not a couple.” You say
  2930. >Jack is quickly making some sort of sounds of denial, shaking her head vehemently. Sadly, she’s not forming words. Or she’s ascended to Astral Hick Speech; such is the strength of her denial.
  2931. >You probably should be more enthusiastic about this.
  2932. >The guy’s head slowly angles to look at Jack’s hand wrapped around your wrist, before slowly craning back up to the two of you.
  2933. >Jack’s hand unlatches at the speed of sound, leaving the sound barrier concussed from the thorough thrashing.
  2934. >He winks, and it’s the slowest wink you’ve ever seen. He just seems to be blinking one eye very slowly, as the other one blinks occasionally in the meanwhile.
  2935.  
  2936. >What.
  2937. >”Just saying, it’s cheaper, man. Even if you’re not a couple.” He winks again in the oddly slow fashion.
  2938. “We’re not. But, sure, if it saves me a couple of bits. Thanks.” You scan your card again, and the scanner beeps as the transfer goes through.
  2939. >Applejack is oddly quiet, which is a sudden change from her sperging out completely a half minute ago.
  2940. >You suppose acting like you’re mentally incapable for a little while isn’t lying.
  2941. >You really need to nail down any loopholes she can use for lying at some point. [spoiler] haha wow meta [/spoiler]
  2942.  
  2943. >Jack is just casually staring off ahead of herself.
  2944. >Not-A-Stoner is sluggishly scooping popcorn into a large old-fashioned red and white bucket.
  2945. > Step 1: Cut a hole in the bucket
  2946. >Wait, no.
  2947. >He turns, and you quickly lean over into Jack’s line of sight.
  2948. >Her eyes widen, and she looks off to her left.
  2949. >You shuffle around quietly, and lean back into her vision.
  2950. >”Quit it.”
  2951. >She now turns to the right.
  2952. >”Anon, quit it.” She mutters.
  2953. >You lean across her, sneaking back into her eyesight.
  2954. >She twists, and slugs you in the side of the head.
  2955. >It’s not a full on strike, but it’s a good fucking warning shot.
  2956. >You’re left bent over, and rubbing at where she cuffed you.
  2957. >”You alright there, man?” the Dank Knight asks.
  2958. >You quickly look up, wincing.
  2959. “Yes. Just a sudden onset of a concussive headache, I guess.”
  2960. >You don’t have to look over to your cousin to know she’s looking oddly smug.
  2961. >”Yeah, he gets ‘em sometimes.”
  2962. >”Oh, dude, I used to get headaches all the time. Stress or something, then my buddy got me this miracle cure, you know?”
  2963. >You think you do.
  2964. >You give a polite smile, straightening up slowly.
  2965. “I think I’ll be fine. Some tender LOVE and CARE should do me fine.”
  2966. >Placing the drink and popcorn on the counter, the guy just gives a shrug.
  2967. >Jack just snickers before passing you the drink, and she takes the popcorn.
  2968. > You both walk off down the main hallway, coming to a T-junction of two corridors extending off to either side of you.
  2969. >You look at the gently lit signs.
  2970. “What screen were we?”
  2971. >Applejack shrugs. “Check the tickets, Ah guess?”
  2972. >It’s a decent idea.
  2973. >You use your free hand to rummage through your pockets.
  2974. >Front right is a bust.
  2975. >Front left has nothing to contribute to the Empire’s harvest.
  2976. >Back pockets are a little trickier to get to.
  2977.  
  2978. >You’re still a little stiff from recent work, and the sore muscles are informing you they’ve given up tricky tasks as a bad habit.
  2979. “… Jack, fun question – can you check my back pockets for the tickets? I’m a little stiff—“
  2980. >”Why, Anon’! Yer awful forward fer a first date,” she mock swoons, before you turn around. “Gal might get th’ wrong idea.”
  2981. “Please shut your fritter-hole and just get the tickets.”
  2982. >Without ceremony, or a pillow to bite you begin to undergo being violated in public.
  2983. >You fancy that most people would be shy, and gentle – above all else discrete- about searching someone’s ass pockets for missing tickets.
  2984. “A lifetime of using force on everything leave you fucking incapable of being gentle?”
  2985. >After a beat she digs her fingers into your gluteal, causing you to tense and nearly drop the damn drink.
  2986. >”Ah’m sorry, was that gentle enough fer ya?”
  2987. “My bad, next time I’ll use a word you can spell.”
  2988. >She snorts, but just moves onto the next pocket.
  2989. >”Welp, that aside, ain’t no tickets in yer jeans.”
  2990. “What about your-“ You begin, turning back to face her.
  2991. >”Anon, it’s cute y’reckon anythin’ this girly has pockets. T’cut y’short, no, Ah  ain’t got ‘em.”
  2992. >She gestures to the dress with her free hand, and you’re left frowning.
  2993. >Then you hear it in the silence.
  2994. >Amidst the flickering bulbs illuminating the hallway.
  2995. >Dress shoes pounding on a carpet.
  2996. >H-he’s fast.
  2997. >Two tickets are held in front of your face, an arm extending from over your shoulder.
  2998. >You can feel slightly ragged breath on the back of your neck.
  2999. >”You forgot your tickets.” He whispers.
  3000. >nani?
  3001. >You slowly pluck them from his hand, staring at Jack.
  3002. >Your dependable, hard-working cousin, who will surely save you—
  3003. >Who is stood there, quietly munching popcorn as she watches you get fucking  ‘nothin personel’d.
  3004.  
  3005. “Thank you?” You ask uncertainly.
  3006. >”Screen five, dude.” He says softly, patting you on the shoulder as you stand there stone-still.
  3007. >You slowly turn to look back, but he’s already strolling off, whistling in no particular tune you recognise.
  3008. >”Funny fella.”
  3009. “Think it’s safe to turn my back on him again?”
  3010. >”Ah dunno. Give it a shot.” She says around a mouthful of popcorn.
  3011. >You turn back around.
  3012. “So. First off, thanks for the assist there, ‘Jack.”
  3013. >”Y’looked like y’had it covered on yer lonesome.”
  3014. “I hate you. A lot.”
  3015. >”Nah, y’don’t.” Jack swallows the most recent handful, and uses the hand to grab you by the wrist.
  3016. >“Movie time!” She announces, before tugging you behind her as she follows the signage to the right screen.
  3017.  
  3018. >You stroll into the screen itself, and notice the lights are already dimmed.
  3019. >Well, you’d like to have strolled.
  3020. >Applejack’s still dragging you.
  3021. >The entire room is a shock of colours, as the trailers on screen quickly change from snippet to snippet.
  3022. >Come to think of it, it’s kind of surprising you managed to somehow stumble in in the middle of the previews.
  3023. >You both duck slightly and quickly pass in front of the main block of chairs, before reaching the aisle and following it to the end.
  3024. >You shuffle in, and seat yourself on the innermost seat of the pair you bought, briefly banging your elbow on the wall in the process.
  3025. >Jack sits herself down and immediately fixes her sight on the technicolour display.
  3026. >In the lull between what appeared to be more advertising for something to do with Vent Man and the next trailer you hear the projector spinning away just to your right.
  3027.  
  3028. “Sort of cool to actually HEAR a tape projector.” You whisper, leaning over the dividing armrest.
  3029. >Although, you don’t have to lean far, given the “cozy” sizing of the seats.
  3030. >”Huh?”
  3031. “Projector. Back in Philly the movie theatres use digital projectors, this one sounds like it’s a genuine old-fashioned film-reel based one. Pretty cool, huh?”
  3032. >She gently plucks her hat off of her head, setting it on the top of the empty chair the next row down, before facing you.
  3033. >”Anyone ever tell ya that y’get weirdly excited over some a th’ weirdest stuff?”
  3034. “..No.”
  3035. >She snorts, shaking her head.
  3036. >”Liar.”
  3037. >You idly sip from one of the pair of straws jammed into the soda cup, before setting it in the centre armrest between your seats.
  3038. >The next trailer seems fairly interesting.
  3039. >It opens on a bunch of marching soldiers clad in gold, white and bronze. Some pegasi are hovering in a V-formation above formation, and blowing loudly on trumpets.
  3040. >Then it gets confusing.
  3041. >You suppose the director is getting around the whole stigma of the Revolt by having Nightmare be eleven years old?
  3042. >Yeah you have no fucking idea.
  3043. >Then strands of hair tickle your neck, and Jack whispers to you.
  3044. >”We’re gonna play a li’l game.”
  3045. >It practically comes out a purr.
  3046. >Boner, this is High Command, you are not authorised for expansion operations.
  3047. >Dammit, men, Major Boner’s gone AWOL.
  3048. >He’ll face the firing squad for this in time.
  3049. “O-oh yeah?” You ask, refusing to look away from the screen of what appears to be yet another Vent Man movie, judging by the camera traversing a series of air ducts.
  3050. >”Yup. Ain’t too many people here, so Ah reckon we got the perfect set up fer it.”
  3051. >High Command, Major Boner is siphoning resources from our supply trains!
  3052.  
  3053. >You clear your throat before answering as her hand gently trails around to the other side of your neck.
  3054. >”Awwwwlright. Here’s how we’re gonna be doin’ this – “
  3055. >You try to quietly cross your legs.
  3056. >”Y’look at the other folks in the theatre, an’ y’gotta guess why they’re here an’ why they’re watchin’ the movie.”
  3057. “Oh.”
  3058. >High Command, reports indicate Major Boner has been shot down over the Twist expanse. Overwhelming success on all fronts.
  3059. >You slowly uncross your legs, and nod.
  3060. >Jack pushes your head to face the centre rows where a majority of people are sat.
  3061. >Two couples.
  3062. >A group of three guys idly chatting amongst themselves and occasionally laughing at whatever’s going on onscreen.
  3063. “Alright, where am I starting?”
  3064. >”Group a guys sittin’ in the middle.”
  3065. >You scratch your cheek as Jack practically rests sprawled over the armrest and with one arm pointing your head around like a mounted gun.
  3066. “Alright, uh – Polyamorous gay guys out on date-night and masquerading as bros.”
  3067. >”Ah’m listenin’..”
  3068. “Guy on the left thinks Cale Bristian looked cute on the poster, because who doesn’t like a crazy guy in a suit – boyfriends one and two came along because they were promised some sexual favour or another.”
  3069. >Jack snickers, nodding in approval.
  3070. >”Uh-huh, right – how ‘bout th’ two gals in front?”
  3071. >You frown, and squint slightly.
  3072. >They both look really familiar for some reason. Something about the hair colour in the bursts of white light.
  3073. >”Anon? Equestria t’ Anon.” Jack prods your cheek with a finger, looking at you.
  3074. “Sorry, thought I’d seen them around or something. Easy, they work together – go out a lot to movies because they can’t find a guy.”
  3075. >”’Cause they’re secretly sweet on eachother or somethin’.” Jack nods.
  3076. “Oh, yeah, undeniably. Keep sabotaging themselves and eachother so they’re always going out on these fake-not-fake dates. Right is planning on joking kissing left and seeing where it goes, and has made jokes all week about how left better put out, but she means every word.”
  3077. >”Aw, that’s all kinds a adorable.” Jack coos, nodding again in approval. “So, whaddaya reckon about th’ pair towards th’ back?”
  3078. “Don’t even get me started on the weird fucks sat in the back row.”
  3079. >”Why’s that?”
  3080. >You gesture to the screen, which is showing a bunch of ratings and certificates for Manehatten Psycho.
  3081. “We’d miss the actual movie from me trying to explain the whole story.”
  3082. >”Ah s’pose.” She concedes, settling back into her chair, although she leans so she’s resting to her left – and as a result, partially onto you.
  3083. >It’s a pretty movie.
  3084. >Some Earthen’s going semi-nuts over trying to compete with a unicorn co-worker, and the stresses of booming Manehatten.
  3085. >It’s funny in a dark way.
  3086. >It’s kind of weird how businessmen seemed to really like business cards, reservations and murdering eachother as they explain musical trends.
  3087. >I mean, the music thing seems to line up fairly well with Bass, given his constant fucking music mixing.
  3088. >Maybe it’s a Manehatten th—
  3089. >”TRY GETTING RESERVATIONS IN DORSIA NOW YOU STUPID FUCKING BASTARD!”
  3090. >Applejack nudges you with an elbow, looking up from where she’s ended up on your shoulder.
  3091. “Mm?”
  3092. >”Yer buddy like that?” She whispers.
  3093. “Oh yeah, Bass probably offs guys from work on a weekly basis.”
  3094.  
  3095. >The image doesn’t really work in your head.
  3096. >Seeing as you’ve never actually heard or seen Bass, despite your years of gaming together.
  3097. >He always types, and claims that he doesn’t own a webcam.
  3098. >So you’re just picturing Baitmen with a unicorn horn and leaving it at that.
  3099.  
  3100. >You’d be lying if you said the movie was really setting a mood.
  3101. >Jack just sort of grabs your hand without looking at you, hesitant as you please which gives you some minor form of stroke because when you come to you realise you’ve let her fingers thread through yours.
  3102. >Not nervous.
  3103. >It’s just a tense movie.
  3104. >Yeah, that sounds about right.
  3105. >Probably why she’s idly running a thumb along the side of your hand, too.
  3106. >You’ve noticed she fidgets when nervous, and you suppose this is no exception.
  3107. >Her hands are oddly soft considering she seems to spend most of her time swinging for you, pulling rope or using farm equipment.
  3108. >Now you think about it’s the gloves she wears. They’re pretty thick for the dexterity she gets out of them.
  3109. >Of course, this weird (romantic?) contact is causing you to lock up, and just stare ahead without actually watching what’s going on.
  3110. >.. Your hand is getting sweaty.
  3111. >YOU’RE getting sweaty.
  3112. >You’ve progressed beyond spaghetti spilling; you’re now at the point of feeling sorry for the usher who has to clean up this mountain of lasagne when the lights come back on.
  3113. >You quickly untangle your hands, idly setting it in your lap.
  3114. >”What’re y’doin’?” Jack asks.
  3115. “Not doing that anymore.”
  3116. >”An’ why not?”
  3117. >Knees feeble
  3118. >Arms pendulous
  3119. “My hands are sweaty.”
  3120. >”Well, yeah, Ah figured that one out. “
  3121. >You say nothing for a moment, before Jack sighs.
  3122. >”Gimme yer hand.”
  3123. “It’s sweaty. It’s gross.”
  3124. >”Anon, did y’consider jus’ wipin’ it on yer hoodie?”
  3125. >You did not
  3126.  
  3127. “Not as such, no.”
  3128. >”So why don’t y’go ahead an’ do that?”
  3129. >You shake your head at her.
  3130. >She nods hers, pushing herself up to try and see you better in the varying light levels.
  3131. >Probably doesn’t help it’s a night time scene.
  3132. >This retarded mime show between the two of you goes on for a while longer than strictly acceptable, even in the current setting.
  3133. >It eventually devolves to Jack spearing your thighs as she keeps trying to grab one of your hands.
  3134. >Then her half on-top of you and awkwardly trying to pin down an arm against the armrest as quietly as she can to grab the hand in question.
  3135. >She finally succeeds as you give up, because you can see heads turning now and then back to your mini strife.
  3136. “It’ll just get sweaty again.” You complain quietly.
  3137. >”Anon, stop bein’ a heel – yer takin’ a girl out on a date. Y’hold hands, ‘cause that’s how it works, y’hear?”
  3138. “Yes, but – “
  3139. >”Ya can remember seein’ me workin’ this summer, right? In case it ain’t obvious, Ah don’t mind sweat. In mah mind, sweatin’ means Ah’m workin’ hard. Means Ah’m doin’ it right.”
  3140. “Doesn’t explain why you don’t mind ME being sweaty..”
  3141. >”’Cause that jus’ means yer workin’ hard t’make this special fer th’ two of us, y’know?”
  3142. >You wipe your hand off on your hoodie, before sliding your fingers through her waiting.
  3143. >She gives a barely audible pleased hum, and immediately begins rubbing her thumb along your hand.
  3144. > You slowly look at her in the dim lighting of the projector light.
  3145. >Then at your hands.
  3146. >You’re probably going to guess that that bubbling tingle in your chest means she’s right about the ‘special’ part, anyway.
  3147.  
  3148. >The credits start to roll, after the breakdown to end all breakdowns, and you quietly untangle your hands, just as the lights come back on.
  3149. >You both watch everyone else walk out, chattering loudly to themselves.
  3150. >Dudebros leave first, followed by the oddly familiar duo and the other couple.
  3151. >You stand in the slightly cramped row, and gather up the popcorn bucket from the floor and the cup as Jack retrieves her hat.
  3152. >She sets it back atop her head and leans against the back wall and waits for you to get your collective shit together.
  3153. >You make your way into the aisle and head across to the screen door, briefly stopping to dump the cup and bucket into the trash.
  3154. >Why? Because you’re responsible.
  3155. >Walking into the slightly brighter hallway, you go on the defensive.
  3156. >No idea when that cashier’ll show up and wreck your shit, after all.
  3157. >“Y’know, that was pretty nice.” Jack muses, strolling besides you.
  3158. ”Mhm.” You nod, trying to avoid leaning too much to check down the main junction in the hallway for the Dank Knight.
  3159. >”What’re y’doin’ there?”
  3160. “I’m on the lookout – anyway, what time is it?”
  3161. >In response, a hand slides into your right pocket and she removes your phone.
  3162. “What the fuck are.. yo..”
  3163. >Jack is fiddling with the volume buttons on the side.
  3164. “Button’s on the top right.”
  3165. >”Huh?.. Oh. ‘Ppreciate it. Jus’ comin’ up on ten.” She says as she turns the lock screen towards you.
  3166. “Wait, why didn’t you check your phone?” You reach to take your phone back.
  3167. >Jack begins demonstrating the limited capability of her ‘pockets’.
  3168. >”Like Ah said – ain’t got pockets on this darn thing.”
  3169. >She looks down in frustration at her dress.
  3170. >Then her eyebrows raise.
  3171. “What’s up?”
  3172. >”Idea’s what’s up. Look’t this;”
  3173. >She then proceeds to hide your phone in her cleavage.
  3174.  
  3175. >Or at least that’s how it starts before she turns, fiddling with herself for a minute before placing her hands on her hips with a “ta-da.”
  3176. “..Where’s my fucking phone.”
  3177. >”Magic trick, can’t give away mah secrets, can Ah?”
  3178. “That’s not magic. That’s you stealing my phone, which I’ll be taking – no, having – back. “
  3179. >She folds her arms, frowns slightly before re-adjusting and letting her arms cross beneath her bust.
  3180. >”Yer right, it ain’t magic. But, it does mean I got myself the upper hand when it comes t’ negotiatin’.”
  3181. >You take a moment to get your thoughts together.
  3182. >You were watching a movie.
  3183. >Now your phone is being held hostage.
  3184. >And your cousin seems to be the technoterrorist in charge of negotiation.
  3185. >You sigh and begin walking, turning slightly back to talk to her as she begins to follow you to the foyer.
  3186. “Alright, let’s pretend this isn’t entirely stupid – what are you negotiating for, using my phone as a hostage?”
  3187. >”Easy, dinner.”
  3188. “You took my phone, because you want dinner.”
  3189. >”Yyyyyyup.” She drawls, nodding.
  3190. >Your choices appear to be going along with this, or her probably strapping your poor Sundance 6 in front of one of the Buckers and letting the thing loose.
  3191. “What if I just take the phone back?”
  3192. >You stop, turning to her and briefly clocking Dank Knight sweeping around the nearby poster wall.
  3193. >”Yer gonna reach in my dress, in the middle a the foyer.” She points down the top of her dress, by way of illustrating her point.
  3194. “Well-“ you begin, but she cuts off you, stepping closer.
  3195. >”Then yer gonna fumble around, tryna figure out where Ah’ve got yer phone.”
  3196. >Another step.
  3197. >HIGH COMMAND, APPLEJACK CONTINGENT HAS ENTERED NO FLY ZONE AND IS NOT RESPONDING TO OUR HAILS.
  3198. >You’re practically nose-to-nose.
  3199.  
  3200. >”Ah was right, yer all sorts a forward!” She then throws her arms around your shoulders, hugging you and burying her face in the crook of your neck.
  3201. >Maybe you could.. wrap an arm around her back and somehow push the phone out with your free hand?
  3202. >”Aw, that’s sweet, dudes.” You hear Dank Knight, stopping his sweeping to watch this supposedly ‘sweet’ moment.
  3203. >You can feel Jack grinning against your neck, snickering.
  3204. >Yeah, she’s got you cornered here.
  3205. >You got played by a country bumpkin, Anon.
  3206. >Good. Fucking. Job.
  3207.  >It’s also a stupid idea given how freakishly strong she is, now you think about it.
  3208. >She’d break out of whatever pitiful hold you could throw at her before you got your phone.
  3209. “Dinner it is, my favourite cousin!” You beam at Dank Knight, who’s leaning on his broom smiling sleepily.
  3210. >You make a show of hugging her tighter.
  3211. “Hate. You.”
  3212. >”Nah, y’love me. Anyhow, dinner, here we come.” She waves to Dank as she drags you behind her with her other hand, securing your wrist pretty damn well.
  3213. >Stupid cute Applejack.
  3214.  
  3215. >You enter into the brisk evening air, and look expectantly at Jack.
  3216. >This is it.
  3217. >Plan give-girl-hoodie is go.
  3218. >You exaggerate a shiver.
  3219. “Sure is cold, huh?”
  3220. >”Nawh.” She dismisses it, continuing to pull you across the parking lot without looking back.
  3221. >What.
  3222. >Wait, does she run hotter than you or something?
  3223. > You know there are differences between the three main groups of the population, but you’re sat firmly in the same group.
  3224. >No horn on her head, and she definitely isn’t packing a pair of wings based on that day at the creek.
  3225. >The window for your plan swiftly closes, because you’re both stood at the old pickup before you know it.
  3226. >Well that went fantastically.
  3227. >You walk around to the driver’s side, unlock the door and climb into the cab before reaching over and swinging her door open.
  3228. >She climbs in, slamming the door behind her.
  3229. “Alright, where are we going for dinner?”
  3230.  
  3231. >”It’s this kinda ol’ mom-and-pop diner that’s been here fer a while.”
  3232. “That doesn’t sound so bad, actually.” You mutter as you focus on backing out of the parking spot, despite there being one other car in the entire lot.
  3233. >On the other side of the lot.
  3234. >It’s good practice.
  3235. “So where is it?”
  3236.  
  3237. >You look around the much smaller parking lot you’ve been navigated to.
  3238. “I don’t see it.”
  3239. >”Funny story, we gotta use our legs an’ walk a li’l ways to it.”
  3240. “I have walked places before. Harder to drive around back in the city than it is here.”
  3241. >Which is an understatement.
  3242. >Some places were impossible to reach unless you used the underground concourse.
  3243. >And even then you may have to walk a good while to find the fucking place due to the maze-like street plan.
  3244. >Jack listens as you explain, before climbing out of the truck.
  3245. >”Yeah, Ponyville’s kinda like that, ‘cept y’can usually figure out where y’are by the buildings.” She calls over to you, before hopping off the sidestep and slamming the door shut.
  3246. >You lock the truck up after climbing out yourself, and meet her at the tail.
  3247. “What do you mean?”
  3248. >”Well, y’said Fillydelphia’s all kinda built together, right?”
  3249. “Yeah.”
  3250. >”Ponyville’s built up in the same area, but it’s all sorta organised by time. Town centre’s the oldest part with town hall an’ th’ like.”
  3251. “So shit isn’t just slammed together, it’s all chronological, sort of?”
  3252. >She nods, briefly gesturing to a side-alley and walking down it before resuming. “Ah mean, y’got buildin’s bein’ renovated, like th’ library an’ some other ol’ stores, but a lot ain’t changed too much.”
  3253. >You come out onto what looks like an older street, leading up to an intersection with a small park-looking area on the other side.
  3254. >Just across the street and away from the intersection sits an older, retro looking building.
  3255. >A neon sign proudly announces its name to be the ‘Diviner Diner.’
  3256.  
  3257. >It’s lit up brightly from inside, and you can see plush red booths besides tall stools at the main counter.
  3258. >Looks fairly quiet, and there’s a parking lot for three roughly patched on by the entrance, all full.
  3259. “Didn’t take you for a history buff – and I can see why we didn’t drive here now.”
  3260. >”Ah jus’ listen a lot t’ Twilight – she’s sorta obsessive ‘bout this kinda thing..” She follows your finger to the mini-parking lot. “Yeah, got a warnin’ that th’ spaces were usually taken from Pinkie.”
  3261. >You look at her, and worry must show on your face, even if the street lights aren’t much help.
  3262. >”Somethin’ wrong?”
  3263. “If the Pink Menace is in there, I’m leaving you –and my phone- here and driving back to the farm.”
  3264. >”Nawh, she jus’ says she comes here sometimes with th’ Cakes an’ the kids. Remember her sayin’ th’ Cakes said it was here when they were kids.”
  3265. >You mentally upgrade it from ‘retro’ to ‘vintage as fuck’, and cross the street.
  3266. >It almost feels like the chill of the air is sapped away as you step into the light spilling out from the windows, and you frown.
  3267. >You don’t feel any sort of heater blasting you with air.
  3268. >Shrugging it off, you pull the door open for Jack and follow her in.
  3269. >They even have the fucking chess-board tiles.
  3270. >And a Jukebox is playing some fairly jaunty tune.
  3271. >Weirdly, only one booth is taken by a tired looking guy sipping coffee and flicking through different newspapers.
  3272. >Jack goes on ahead, and looks around by the counter for someone.
  3273. >Then she slaps her hand down, and a bell chimes loudly, despite the ambient noise the jukebox provides.
  3274. >There’s a burst of light, and a kindly man appears in a white shirt, cap and striped apron.
  3275. >Jack manages to look non-plussed, but you’ve walked back against the door.
  3276. >Dad’s number one rule: Don’t fuck with Unicorns.
  3277. >”Welcome to the Diviner.” The elderly Unicorn says, speaking in a fairly bass-rich tone.
  3278.  
  3279.  
  3280. >You calm yourself down a little. Magic is to be expected a lot more towards Canterlot.
  3281. >Get a grip, Anon.
  3282. >”I’m the titular Diviner, but just call me Mal’, I’ll be the lucky gentleman at your service this fine night.”
  3283. >A fairly impressive moustache is almost enough to distract from the fuck-off horn jutting from his forehead.
  3284. >He beckons you closer with a small gesture, waving his hand.
  3285. >”Now, I’ll ask the lovely young lady you’re accompanying to pick somewhere to sit and we’ll get down to brass tacks.” He gives a cheery wink to Jack, who just tips her hat and strolls off to a booth further along the diner’s length.
  3286. “Uh.. hey.” You offer uncertainly, jamming your hands into your pockets.
  3287. >”Fun night?” He asks, propping himself up on his elbows and looking at you with an amused glint to his eye.
  3288. >Of course, your eyes keep nervously glancing up to the horn sat atop said eye.
  3289. “Yessir,” you respond, almost by instinct, nodding quickly.
  3290. >”My boy, you’ll have to excuse me for being forward – but you’re awfully nervous. Now, from what these eyes see your lady – “ he nods over to Jack, who’s idly leaning back in the booth. “ - isn’t causing the grief. Might I hazard myself a guess and say it’s the horn?”
  3291. >Instinct says to deny everything.
  3292. >Logic says that’s retarded, because evidence says yes.
  3293. >Never argue with evidence, Anonymous.
  3294. “Yessir.” You admit, tensing.
  3295. >This guy’s throwing you off, and making you all sorts of fucking nervous.
  3296. >Unicorns that live long enough are supposed to be powerful as all shit.
  3297. >Smart, too.
  3298. >Natural selection at work.
  3299. >The stupid power players get themselves blown up by fucking up.
  3300. >Plus Mal’ introduced himself by teleporting without breaking a sweat.
  3301.  
  3302. >”City boy, hm?” He briefly strokes his moustache, before nodding. “Well, rest assured, my boy – any patrons under my roof have nothing to fear. Besides, between you and me – Enchantments and teleportation are my specialty.”
  3303. “So.. why not Enchanter Diner?”
  3304. >He levels his gaze at you, raising an eyebrow.
  3305. >”Does that roll off the tongue as well?”
  3306. “It does not.” You admit.
  3307. >He nods, satisfied and pushes himself back to his full height.
  3308. >It’s not overly impressive, but given the fact unicorns enjoy making physics their bitch you aren’t going to bring that up.
  3309. >He tilts his head at you, curiously.
  3310. >”Two coffees, two sweet teas.” He nods.
  3311. >How in the fuck
  3312. “How—“
  3313. >”Part of the enchantment work at play. I get general ideas of the best orders. Not advanced mind scrying, but it does well enough.”
  3314. >You stare at his back as he turns on his heel, beginning to levitate glasses, coffee cups and jugs in a halo of white light.
  3315. >He turns to wave you away, still looking amused. “I’ll have it sent over. You can order the main course when ready.”
  3316. >You quickly stride over to the booth, sitting down in a hurry.
  3317. >Jack turns from looking out at the darkened street.
  3318. >”Somethin’ wrong?”
  3319. “He’s –“ you start, before clenching your jaw.
  3320. >You wave a hand quickly at Mal’s general direction.
  3321. “He read my fucking thoughts, Jack. To figure out what I wanted to order.”
  3322. >She shrugs, setting her hat down on the booth next to her and tousling her hair before carefully trying to organise it.
  3323. >”Annnnn’ that’s a problem how?”
  3324. “What if he figures it out? You know, us.” You hiss, looking over the back of your booth back towards the service counter.
  3325. >”Ah’m gonna go out on a limb here, an’ say he’s all sorts a aware that we’re on a date.” She drawls, slinging a toned arm over the back of her bench and relaxing back.
  3326. “No, ‘Jack. That we’re fucking—“
  3327. >Flash.
  3328. >Mal appears, setting down two coffees in front of you, not spilling a drop.
  3329. >”I shall kindly ask you to refrain from such in my diner. This isn’t the nine-seventies.” He chuckles, and is gone again.
  3330. >You stare at Jack over your coffee.
  3331. >Keep staring.
  3332. >Don’t think about how good she looks with the slightly messy hair.
  3333. >Also fuck that coffee smells amazing
  3334. “See?” You ask.
  3335. >Flash.
  3336. >Mal sets your iced teas down, ice cubes clinking against the glass in a way that can’t possibly sound that way without magic.
  3337. >Look, as far as you’re concerned everything in this old fashioned diner is magic until proven otherwise.
  3338. >”Please order when ready. Although, I request you do not take too long, we shut briefly at daybreak for a thorough clean up and staff shift change.”
  3339. >Aaaaaaaand he’s gone.
  3340. “Jack, please tell me you get what I mean.” You’re almost pleading, and you seem to find your coffee and iced tea FASCINATING.
  3341. >”Yer overreactin’. Trust me, folk here wouldn’t jus’ up an’ start reading yer mind.”
  3342. >She retrieves a straw, removing the paper packaging from one end, before aiming the other end at you and blowing.
  3343. >You stare at her, unimpressed as the wrapper hits you in the cheek.
  3344. >She smirks.
  3345. “Real mature, hick. Look, maybe we can just.. drink this, pay up and get out of here.” Jabbing a thumb over your shoulder towards the exit, keeping your eyes locked on hers.
  3346. >She HAS to understand this is fucking weird.
  3347. >”Ohhhh no. Ain’t the deal.”
  3348. “What.”
  3349. >”See, Ah still got yer cell phone.”
  3350. “You can just say phone.”
  3351. >”Whatever. Look, way Ah see it, we’re sorta here until Ah get a nice dinner date.” She holds up her index finger. “Orrrr option two, is we set ourselves down and see how long y’can last without yer c—phone ‘cause y’went an’ reneged on yer promise.”
  3352.  
  3353. >She can fucking walk back.
  3354. >You’ll buy a new phone.
  3355. >Fuck it.
  3356. >You’ll buy a new cousin.
  3357. >Why stop there?
  3358. >You’ll buy a whole new family.
  3359. >That should stop the daddy issues, too, hopefully.
  3360. >You plant your hands on the cold table, ready to push yourself to your feet.
  3361. >you’ve had enough of this magic horseshit.
  3362. >Something yanks your knee forward, forcing it to bend.
  3363. >You slam back into the booth, and look down.
  3364. >Yep, there’s Jack’s boot.
  3365. >”Anon, y’promised me a date. An’ I’m getting’ it. But, Ah promise Ah’ll make it all sortsa worth yer while.” She smiles slowly, tilting her head slightly as though waiting for something.
  3366. >The tip of the boot gently strokes your knee, before gently sliding up your inner thigh.
  3367. >Tap. Tap.
  3368. >Her boot retracts, setting down on the floor, as she smirks around her straw.
  3369. >Slurping indulgently at the iced tea.
  3370. “..So, Anon, reckon yer thirsty enough t’stick around?”
  3371. >She has no fucking idea.
  3372. >You throw back a mouthful of the iced tea, taking an icecube into your mouth and focusing on solely that.
  3373. >Gotta divert bloodflow somehow, right?
  3374. >”S’matter? Somethin’ on yer mind?”
  3375. “Yeah, leaving your ass here.”
  3376. >You look out the window, trying to pick out which fucking alleyway you came through.
  3377. >”Figured y’had other plans for it, but sure, let’s go on ahead with that.”
  3378. >Well.
  3379. >Hell awaits.
  3380. >You’re sat on a date with Jack.
  3381. >And awkwardly trying to adjust certain anatomy with one hand as you tap the glass to draw her attention.
  3382. >Anonymous Apple.
  3383. >Master of subterfuge.
  3384. “Which alley did we come out from, again?”
  3385. >”Don’cha worry none, Ah remember. Also, y’ain’t gonna find the way back to Mac’s truck with yer hand down there, Ah’ll tell y’that much.”
  3386. >You look back at her, and she’s calmly glancing through one of the menus.
  3387. “I.. I’m looking for my phone, alright?”
  3388. >”Y’mean the phone y’know darn good and well is squarely lodged right under the left-most member a’ the C-team?”
  3389. >She sets the menu down, sliding it across the table to you.
  3390. >C’s?
  3391. >Well, shit.
  3392. >They looked bigger.
  3393. >You start to glance at the menu before she stretches, setting her arms beneath her chest and crossing her wrists, drawing her arms out with an exaggerated groan.
  3394. >You’ve seen shit like this on the nature channel.
  3395. >Some animals use hypnotic movements to draw in their prey.
  3396. >Fuck that.
  3397. >You aren’t being prey.
  3398. >You’re above being prey.
  3399. >You’re a predator.
  3400. >An Apple
  3401. >Wait fuck no that doesn’t work.
  3402. >EITHER WAY.
  3403. >Situation critical.
  3404. >What’s in the environment?
  3405. >You don’t trust your voice to not crack like you just hit puberty.
  3406. >Moving isn’t going to work.
  3407. >Wait. The plastic coating on the menu.
  3408. >You grip tighter, letting the slight sting draw you out of it, and lock your eyes to the menu.
  3409. >”Enjoyin’ th’ show?”
  3410. “Fuck off.” You retort.
  3411. >You’re a man of wit, even in the hard times.
  3412. >Or rather the times when some things are hard.
  3413. >See, that went better than the apple predator line, you’re getting back on your game.
  3414. >This wanton seduction will not stand.
  3415. >You are a bastion of values.
  3416.  
  3417. >Besides being a borderline recluse.
  3418. >And throwing a ten year old into a creek.
  3419. >Twice.
  3420. >And causing your cousin to have a breakdown over her reading impairment.
  3421. >And rubbing onions into your eyes.
  3422. >Sure, you were the victim then, but there was a victim.
  3423. >That has to count against you.
  3424. >It fucking stung.
  3425. >Now you think about it, you’re a danger to society.
  3426. >Next you’ll be raping villages.
  3427. >Pillaging children.
  3428. >Burning women.
  3429. >Pirating WinRAR and framing it on Granny.
  3430. >Have you done that yet?
  3431. >Of course not, but like fuck are you gonna wait around until you do?
  3432.  
  3433. >You scan the menu carefully, almost hiding behind it.
  3434. >Oddly, the jukebox keeps churning out very.. slow, sensual songs.
  3435. >You hadn’t noticed earlier.
  3436. >Maybe that’s what’s making shit a little more heated than usual.
  3437. >Anyhow.
  3438. >Burger and fries sounds good.
  3439. >You still give the rest of the menu a glance over, briefly debating chicken.
  3440. >AYO.
  3441. >HOL UP
  3442. “So, what’re you getting?” Asking whilst hiding behind some laminated craft paper isn’t the boldest move, but if it isn’t the safest currently, you’re shit out of ideas.
  3443. >”Ah kinda wanna try the Slimmin’ Pot Roast.”
  3444. >You scan the menu.
  3445. >Well.
  3446. >Two out of three isn’t bad.
  3447. >You slide the menu back across the table, tapping the word “Simmerin’”.
  3448. “Close, give it another shot.”
  3449. >”Oh, fer..” She sighs, rubbing her forehead. “Eyes are jus’ a li’l tired.”
  3450. >She fidgets idly with the remnant of her straw’s paper packet, tearing it into small pieces.
  3451. “You’re getting pretty good though. I mean, the font isn’t easy.”
  3452. >She looks at you, quickly.
  3453. >”Yeah?”
  3454. “Yeah. It’s sorta done all.. bubble-like. No wonder Pinkie likes it here, huh?” You try, smiling, hoping to distract her from the mistake.
  3455. >“How’d’ya figure?”
  3456. ”Strikes me as a girl who likes obnoxious shit.” You shrug a shoulder, setting the menu down.
  3457. >“Figured she’d like ya pretty well, then?” She flicks a stray scrap of paper at you.
  3458. “Jack, we were having a moment there.”
  3459. >”..Awright, y’ain’t obnoxious. Thanks fer pointin’ out mah screwup an’ bein’ all nice about it.”
  3460. “Anytime. I’m not aiming for a repeat of a couple weeks back. You ready to order—“
  3461. >FUCKING DIARCHS IN A BURLAP SACK
  3462. >Light flashes brightly as your waiter / psychological nightmare warps in next to you
  3463. >Mal and Jack look at you, somewhat worried.
  3464. >”Y’alright?”
  3465. “Y-yeah. Fine.”
  3466. >”Are you quite sure? Because you seemed to squeak.” Mal asks, clasping his hands in front of him.
  3467. >Fuck you.
  3468. “It was a battle cry. For the Earthen uprising.”
  3469. >Mal considers this, and then nods. “I look forward to meeting you on the field of battle – now! I believe orders are to be taken, or more accurately, divined and hungers assuaged. Although, I do ask you both delay assuaging a particular hunger here, as I said.”
  3470. >He points at you.
  3471. >”One B..” He clears his throat, offering a smile and trying again. “And for you, my good Earthen firebrand?”
  3472. >Wait, can’t he read your
  3473. >oh
  3474. >You catch up with what’s going on.
  3475. >He’s being fucking nice.
  3476. “Can I get the Equestrian All-For Burger with some fries?”
  3477. >”And will that be with any sauces or extra side dishes?” He asks, writing on thin air.
  3478. >Or maybe he’s being a dick.
  3479. >You can never tell with these guys.
  3480. “No, that’s fine.”
  3481. >He makes to grab something between thumb and finger, before yanking it to the side.
  3482. >His horn glows, and a now-visible notebook page floats beside him.
  3483. >OH SHIT
  3484. >OH FUCK SON
  3485. >HE DOIN MAGIC AN SHIT
  3486. >SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET
  3487. >Before you know it he’s repeating the motion, and a second page floats next to the first.
  3488. >Then he disappears, and pops up again behind the counter.
  3489. “Wait – I didn’t even hear him take your order like he did for me.”
  3490. >Yeah you’re a little confused.
  3491.  
  3492. >”That’s prob’ly on account a ya bein’ all zoned out by his pullin’ paper from nowhere. Plus, Ah don’ mind him jus’ skimmin’ it outta mah head. Side effect a Twilight exposure.”
  3493. >You shrug it off, and idly chit-chat about mostly normal shit as you wait for your meals.
  3494. >School starting back up.
  3495. >Some chores on the farm you need to figure out.
  3496. >Trying to argue that ‘work’ is not a hobby.
  3497. >Followed by you trying to find out what the fuck a hobby’s definition is online, without access to your phone.
  3498. >It didn’t go well.
  3499. >Dinner itself goes much of the same, and apparently you were both hungrier than you thought.
  3500. >It’s no surprise Jack finished first.
  3501. >You’re still idly nibbling on a fry as you think, and try to avoid thinking too much about HER.
  3502. >It’s really tricky, considering trying not to think about something involves thinking about something.
  3503. >Especially when the something is a someone sat across from you, idly wiping her mouth with a napkin.
  3504. >Snuggling back into the booth, she sighs contently.
  3505. >Dontthinkaboutitdontthinkaboutit
  3506. >fuck she’s cute
  3507. >SHIT
  3508. >Surprisingly, Mal doesn’t materialise to slap your shit and decry you as a dirty cousin lover, so you got that going for you.
  3509. >”How’s yers?” She asks, cracking open an eye.
  3510. “’S fine.”
  3511. >”Looks like yer strugglin’. Ah spy with mah li’l eye.. half a huge burger an’ a heap a fries. Want a hand?”
  3512. >You pluck another fry from your plate, jabbing it at her.
  3513. “Firstly, mine. Secondly, how in fuck’s name are you still hungry?”
  3514. >She attempts a pout.
  3515. >”Ah work a lot. Body’s built to put it away, y’know?”
  3516. “Put it away WHERE?”
  3517. >”Muscle. “ She flexes an arm idly, bicep tensing.
  3518. >”Also gotta fill out these curves with a teeeeeeny bit a paddin’.” She pats her hip, hidden by the table.
  3519. >You chew for a moment, before pushing the plate a little more to the centre.
  3520.  
  3521. >Not an outright invitation, but enough she should get the message.
  3522. >You snag your coffee cup, and take an experimental sip.
  3523. >It’s still at the perfect temperature.
  3524. >You squint at it.
  3525. “Try the coffee.” You nod at her cup.
  3526. >Chewing, she follows  your eyes.
  3527. >“Why?” She asks, through a mouthful of food.
  3528. >Apparently confusion fucked up the table manners region of her brain.
  3529. >Poor Granny.
  3530. >All that hard work for nothing.
  3531. “Because it’s still warm. Somehow.”
  3532. >Jack sets down the rest of your burger she has appropriated.
  3533. >She swallows, clearing her mouth before taking a sip.
  3534. >”Huh. Ain’t that somethin’. Wonder how they do that?”
  3535. >Maybe you could ask
  3536. >You slowly turn your head to see Mal stood there expectantly.
  3537. >Yeah, fuck it, not even strange anymore.
  3538. >You point towards the coffee.
  3539. >”Forgive my interruption, is something wrong with your coffee?”
  3540. “No, it’s just.. still warm?”
  3541. >”Ah, yes. Another small enchantment, powered by myself, that allows the coffee to be continually kept at a certain temperature.”
  3542. >You swirl the dark liquid around the cup.
  3543. “Never heard of that before tonight.”
  3544. >”Really, now? Where was it you lived before coming here?”
  3545. >”City boy over there’s from Fillydelphia.” Jack nods at you.
  3546. “Yeah. And coffee shops were pretty much the only place I left the apartment for.”
  3547. >Mal rubs his chin thoughtfully, occasionally reaching up with a finger to smooth his moustache.
  3548. >”Tell me, were these establishments part of a chain?”
  3549. “Uh, yeah. Youngbucks, Cesto. Things like that.”
  3550. >He snaps his fingers with an affected ‘eureka!’ face.
  3551. >”It would be rare for a chain to bother hiring a unicorn of talent significant to allow for them to enchant that many mugs. Especially in such a large city. Folks coming and going so often. No, no. Simply not effective.”
  3552. >You take another sip, listening carefully to the aged owner.
  3553. >Dude knows his stuff.
  3554. >”I imagine your trips weren’t that long, even on days you were planning on enjoying the ambience?”
  3555. “No, I mean, yeah – that’s right. Probably half an hour, read a little or fu—“ you catch yourself in time. “ –iddle. Fuiddle.  Fiddle around on my phone then get back home.”
  3556. >”Well, most in a large city just want the product. It’s why I relocated. Quality over quantity, despite quantity being a quality all on its own, you see?” He nods towards you, as though checking you understand.
  3557. >”Hold up a minute. Y’don’t gotta sacrifice quality for quantity. Not if y’do it right, anyhow.” Jack interjects, leaning forward on an elbow.
  3558. >Mal looks slightly surprised, then amused. “Forgive me, but what lead you to this? I am inclined to believe my own experience in this, dear.”
  3559. >Jack narrows her eyes slightly. “Heard a Sweet Apple Acres?”
  3560. >Mal nods, folding his arms loosely.
  3561. >Jack begins to grin proudly.
  3562. >Mal’s eyes widen, hurriedly holding up a hand.
  3563. >”Miss, I do believe I have made an err—“
  3564. >”Mah family runs the darned thing.”
  3565.  
  3566.  
  3567. >"Ah, well -- You see, I.. The thing is that -- "
  3568.  
  3569. >You watch Jack's grin widen, the hole Mal's digging himself deepen and allow your thoughts to broaden.
  3570. >Does this mean Jack's able to fuck with mind readers?
  3571. >Does her tomfoolery know no bounds?
  3572. >Can she be stopped?
  3573.  
  3574. >Probably.
  3575. >Toying briefly with the idea of somehow snatching your phone while she's distracted by watching the elderly Unicorn flounder before deciding it could never work, you look around for a clock.
  3576. >11:35-ish.
  3577. >Meaning you've got 25 minutes, give or take, to haul it back to the Acres.
  3578. >And by 'it' you mean your smug cousin.
  3579. >Lest ye face the Wrath of the Ages.
  3580. >As in, the wrath of however old Granny is.
  3581. >Actually, how old IS she -- wait no, shit, time's running out.
  3582.  
  3583. "Jack, as much fun as you're having with Mal, we need to shoot off."
  3584. >Jack almost pouts. Almost.
  3585. >But she certainly doesn't stop herself from 'Awww'ing with genuine disappointment.
  3586. >The look she was giving Mal as he struggled to recover was sort of like how a shark eyes up a particularly slow and chubby guy in a raft.
  3587. >Sure, it's not the healthiest pursuit, but boy will it be something to do.
  3588.  
  3589. >"You're leaving, yes, excellent -- not that I mean I'm GLAD to see you go, just that.. I.. you." Jack somehow manages to keep her head on a swivel facing Mal as she pushes herself up.
  3590.  
  3591. >"Good talk, sugarcube." She boops him on the horn.
  3592. >Wait.
  3593. >Isn't that like
  3594. >Sexual assault for unicorns?
  3595. >Either way, Mal zaps the fuck out of there with a slight shriek that's very strange in contrast to his usual bass.
  3596.  
  3597. >He ducks behind the register, sorting through the contents of the shelves manually to drown out noise.
  3598. >Almost like he's avoiding talking to someone.
  3599.  
  3600. >Poor guy.
  3601.  
  3602. "Jack, you alright to head out as I pay up?"
  3603.  
  3604. >"Awlrighty. Later, Mal'! Nice talkin' t'ya." She sets her hat at an angle, and salutes as she strolls out.
  3605.  
  3606. >Leaning on the counter, you peek over at Mal.
  3607.  
  3608. "You alright?"
  3609.  
  3610. >Straightening hurriedly, Mal brushes down his immaculate apron.
  3611. >"Yes, yes, quite, I just forgot where I put the coffee."
  3612.  
  3613. "You.. forgot where you put coffee."
  3614.  
  3615. >Mal gulps, his adam's apple bobbing above his collar.
  3616. >"Yes."
  3617.  
  3618. >You narrow your eyes, leaning closer.
  3619. >You don't even fucking NEED AppleSense to see he's lying.
  3620.  
  3621. "Despite running this place since the Cakes were kids, I'm guessing."
  3622.  
  3623. >Mal's sense of sight seems to zero in around 1000 yards behind you.
  3624. >"Well, you see, I-- The thing is, that I have.. coffee wraiths. YES. Coffee wraiths. They.. steal coffee."
  3625.  
  3626. "Coffee wraiths. In this finely warded town, localised entirely behind your service counter?"
  3627.  
  3628. >"Yes."
  3629.  
  3630. "May I see them?"
  3631.  
  3632. >Mal's eyes dart to the left. "No."
  3633. "... Well, I'll pay up and be on my way so you can sort out the Coffee wraith issue. There a card reader hidden back there, or are there transactionmachine wraiths there too?"
  3634.  
  3635. >If you were to chart a graph with Mal's nerves over Time Passed Since Jack's Departure it'd be a harsher plummet than the Minneapolis trade figures during the Recession.
  3636. >He holds out a hand, and the machine appears - free of fictional wraiths, too.
  3637. >You slot the card home, and tap in the PIN.
  3638.  
  3639. >The machine beeps, and prints out two receipts. Mal hands you one with a smile.
  3640. "You sure you're alright?"
  3641.  
  3642. >A loud, forced laugh is your answer.
  3643. >"Of course, my boy! Never better, hale and hearty."
  3644.  
  3645. >You don't take the receipt fully, yet.
  3646. ".. Because earlier you seemed to squeak."
  3647.  
  3648. >Mal seems to be getting flashbacks to, oh, four minutes ago.
  3649. >He goes pale and glances between where Jack's perched herself on the steps outside and you rapidly.
  3650.  
  3651. "You have a nice night now, Mal.
  3652.  
  3653. >You feel oddly pleased that you've gotten payback on the mind reader, and whistle as you stroll out.
  3654. >Damn, it's good to be you.
  3655.  
  3656. > You step out into air that's only slightly cooler than inside the diner, and make your way down the steps.
  3657. >Holding out a hand for Jack, you can't help but grin.>Granny'd hate it, but Dad may have taught you the safer option to deal with Unicorns when they start getting flashy.
  3658. >Don't fuck with them.
  3659.  
  3660. >But is it really fucking with them if they dig the hole and you quietly push some dirt on them with your boot?
  3661. >It's less fucking with them, more a masturbatory aid.
  3662. >You see Mal's head swivel rapidly towards you from behind the diner glass.
  3663.  
  3664. >You like to think you can see his soul trying to depart his earthly shell.
  3665.  
  3666. >You grab Jack's hand and you both stroll off into the street proper, stifling a laugh.
  3667. >"Heck did y'think at 'im?"
  3668. "Looooooooooooooong story, despite it taking around a half second of thinking."
  3669. >Jack looks over her shoulder before resuming watching where she's walking.
  3670. >"Almost feel kinda bad for 'im. Looks like he's havin' a small meltdown."
  3671. "I'd look, but I think I have the decency to feel bad, so I won't."
  3672. >"What're ya implyin'?" She asks. You assume she's glaring from under the darker shadows her hat's throwing her eyes into.
  3673. "That you're some form of torture put upon these good townsfolk."
  3674. >"Yeah, but y'kept sayin' that about Pinkie," she points out. "Look how that turned out."
  3675. ".. 'How that turned out'? I STILL think she's my punishment for trying to dickslap one of the Two as they held court in a previous life."
  3676.  
  3677. >How long ago would this life have been for such a sentence?
  3678. >OH. Time. Age. Granny.
  3679. >You turn to Jack.
  3680.  
  3681. "Hey, important question."
  3682. >"Shoot." She mimes the cocking of a gun.
  3683. "How old is Granny?"
  3684.  
  3685. >She slowly turns her finger gun on herself, and mimes firing.
  3686. >dis gurl was bulli 2 death by couzin who ask 2 many question, pls share this post for awarniss
  3687.  
  3688. "YOU don't know either!" You step back to give your accusing point full power.
  3689. >"What?! Yes Ah do!" She huffs indignantly.
  3690. "Oh really? How old is she then?"
  3691. >"Ah.. well, she's.. at least our age."
  3692.  
  3693. >Well
  3694. >She's not wrong?
  3695.  
  3696. "Well, yeah. I was hoping for something a little more accurate. Eighties? NINETIES?"
  3697. >Jack seems very enthusiastic about studying her shirt.
  3698.  
  3699. "..This is so fucking dumb. How do YOU not know how old your grandmother is?"
  3700. >"Hey, y'don't know neither."
  3701. "I've been here less than half a year. She hasn't had a birthday since I got here, I would have noticed you all rocking around with streamers and a cake."
  3702. >Jack mutters something.
  3703. "Didn't catch that."
  3704. >She resumes walking, and talking.
  3705.  
  3706. >BUY THE NEW DOUBLE ACTION WALKING TALKING APPLEJACK DOLL NOW, SHE TALKS, SHE WALKS. SHE WALKS AND TALKS, TALKING WHILST WALKING. NOW AVAILABLE ANYWHERE BUT THE DIVINER DINER.
  3707.  
  3708. >"Ah was gonna say, durin' yer first month y'were kinda.. well, kinda a bag of dicks."
  3709. >You nod. "That's fair."
  3710. >"A real big bag of 'em." She insists, flinging her arms wide for emphasis.
  3711. "Okay, got it. Big bag of dicks."
  3712. >"Chopped up ones." She adds.
  3713. >Wait what.
  3714. "Okay, Jack. I get it."
  3715. >"Nawh y'don't. We coulda done a Conga line past yer room and yelled the barn was on fire - which happened one day, the barn, not the conga- and y'wouldn't and didn't notice."
  3716.  
  3717. >Hat's gotta be blocking her ears.
  3718. >Time for surgical procedure, hat removal.
  3719. >You pluck the battered stetson from her head.
  3720. >"Hey!"
  3721.  
  3722. "Okay, first off: I get it. I was a dick."
  3723. >"Bag of 'em."
  3724. "Alright, whatever. Second off: hat's now hostage until you answer my questions. Third off, and question time: when the hell was Granny's birthday last?"
  3725. >Applejack.exe has encountered an unexpected runtime error.
  3726.  
  3727. >"Weeeelll... ssssssaaaaaaaaame time as every year?" Finishing with a smile, she looks at you nervously.
  3728. "I mean. Yeah. But what date? And what milestone?"
  3729.  
  3730. >Applejack.exe has really encountered an error. Please, for the love of all things good and orderful, stop asking her about Granny's age.
  3731.  
  3732. >Now you think on it, any time you asked dad he'd just shrug and say 'older than her teeth, younger than my Granny and probably duking it out with the Diarchs for oldest things walking with ease.'
  3733. >You'd brought up that Granny didn't walk with ease, according to what he'd said before.
  3734. >Dad had offered the age-old adage of  'son, carry on and the apartment stairs are gonna mean you can't walk with ease neither.'
  3735. >Really, the man's a loss to not only you, but Philosphers and the Sciences alike.
  3736.  
  3737. >Snapping back to reality in front of the truck, or more accurately, because Jack slugged you lightly in the shoulder.
  3738. >You're pleased to note that you no longer lose use of the arm she hits.
  3739. >Either you're getting stronger, or she's sweet on you.
  3740.  
  3741. >"Y'alright there?"
  3742. "Yeah, just trying to think if dad ever mentioned Granny's age."
  3743. >"An' did he?"
  3744. "He did not, no."
  3745.  
  3746. >You both briefly ponder this issue, before you remember you're burning time before the Aged One lays down the law.
  3747. >Clock strikes midnight, and Granny may get striking all on her own.
  3748. >Not that you think she'd actually hit anyone.
  3749. >Same as dad never did.
  3750. >Unless he was at work.
  3751. >Different story then.
  3752.  
  3753. >But you aren't enjoying the thought of getting yelled up at.
  3754.  
  3755. >This is a good motivator for you to quickly unlock the truck cab, reach across and open Jack's door for her and pull off the second her seatbelt clicks home.
  3756.  
  3757. >It's fifteen minutes to the acres, you got a half tank of gas, half a pack of cousin. It's dark, and she's wearin the stetson she snatched back from you at some point.
  3758. >Hit it.
  3759.  
  3760.  
  3761. > responsibly, because you're a responsible adult, dammit.
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