Soarin’ sighed, quietly, as Braeburn rooted through the pantry and cupboards to find the things he needed to “make the best pie possible”.
He’s not bad looking, no. But... Soarin’ crinkled his nose as he thought. Something about him just sets my teeth on edge. It might be his attitude. It might be his whole “woe is me pity my poor broken shell of a body” thing.
Braeburn dropped a pan onto the counter with a clatter, and the pegasus winced. Or it’s his attitude. Nothing’s worse than a stallion who cares only for himself.
“So what brought y’ out to Ponyville?” the yellow pony asked over his shoulder, cautiously. His “guest” hadn’t left yet, so there was at least a chance that if he made nice he wouldn’t be seeing one of the Guard.
“I’m taking a bit of a vacation. Spitfire suggested it.”
The earth pony dropped a mug of water on the table, and flicked his tail at it as he turned. “Drink up. So, Ponyville, huh? I... guess I can see why she’d say this was a great place,” Braeburn said, the tone of his voice clearly indicating otherwise.
Soarin’ rested his chin on a hoof. “Okay, Braeburn, why are you here, then?”
The yellow stallion’s smile turned slightly glassy. “Oh, I just thought I could use some time with the family, you know how it is...”
The pegasus stared at the other pony, flatly, making it as obvious as he could that he wasn’t buying it. Finally, the other cracked.
“All right, I left my hometown ‘cause... ‘cause I didn’t want to stay there any longer than I had to, all right?”
Ah, progress. Soarin’ nodded. “Well, seems a bit extreme, but a change of scenery is always nice. Plus, as you said, you’ve had such wonderful talks with everypony you’ve met.”
Braeburn glowered at him, and the blue stallion returned the look with the blandest smile he could muster. “Once y’ get your pie, you’re leaving,” the Appleloosan grumbled.
“This... this is a lot of paperwork,” Rainbow Dash stared at the pile in disgust.
Applejack merely sighed and stuffed the lot into her bags. “Well, the mayor said we had t’ fill all this in ‘fore we could adopt anypony.” She sniffed. “‘Sides, it shouldn’t take too long if we both work on it.”
The pegasus coughed. “Ah, yeah. About that... Igottagodosomethingseeyalater!”
With that, the rainbow-maned mare was nothing more than a fading blur into the distance.
“Rainbow Dash! You get back here this...” the farmpony sighed in annoyance when it became clear that her partner couldn’t hear her any more, and wasn’t planning on returning anyway.
After a few moments, she stopped glowering at the evaporating trail the pegasus had left behind, and stamped over towards the nearest diner. I don’t know why I put up with her sometimes...
Knock knock knock knock knock knock.
“Just a moment! Spike, get the door, please!” Twilight called over her shoulder. “There, Fluttershy, that should be enough reference material for you to find what’s wrong with Angel, right?”
“Uhm... yes, thank you,” the quiet filly replied, nearly buried underneath a pile of various texts, tomes, and scrolls all relating to animal health. Several of them were only tangentially related to rabbits, one dealt with the care and feeding of weasels, and three more Twilight levitated over were about astronomy. “I, uh... I guess I’ll be going now... so you don’t need to trouble yourself any more...”
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK!
“Spike! Could you... Oh, right, I told him he had the afternoon off...” the unicorn sighed to herself as she flipped the latch on the door open.
“It’s about time! Twi, you busy?”
“Well, I was giving Fluttershy some advice for-”
Rainbow Dash kicked the door shut behind her - rebounding it off a squeaky yellow mare who’d attempted to make her way past when no one was looking - and flicked her wings closed. “Yeah, yeah, right. So, Twi, you know that ‘walk on clouds’ spell you cast on everypony a while back?”
“I’ll... just be going...” Fluttershy mumbled as she reopened the door and wobbily stepped through it.
Twilight sighed as her friend left, and turned to face her newer visitor. “Yes, Dash, I remember it. Considering Rarity almost died that day, it’d be pretty hard to forget. Why?”
“So, uh... if you cast it on something a pony was wearing, would it work on them?”
“Why do you even need to know? You’re a pegasus pony, you can already walk on clouds.”
“Pleeeeeease, Twi? Just tell me?”
The unicorn tapped a hoof on the floor, thoughtfully. “Well, I don’t... hmm... Let me check! Spike, fetch me Nine Magical Incantations You Can Use Every Day, Levitation Spells for the Grounded, Flight Runes for the Foolish, and How Not to Leave a Crater: a Study!”
Rainbow Dash coughed, scuffed the floor, and looked at a wall while Twilight stood there, grinning in the silence.
“Spike! I asked... right, right, time off...” The purple mare sighed in annoyance, focused, and four books lit up with a purplish-red aura before floating over to her. “Let’s see... Hmmm, yes, yes, possibly, that could work, oooh, I never thought of combining those together...”
The purple unicorn didn’t seem to hear her. “Oh, and the magical matrices really interact like that? Astounding! Wow, Princess Celestia never told me about this!”
“... I’ll just check back later.”
Soarin’ stared at the mush on the plate in front of him. It was, he had to concede, technically a pie. He’d watched as apples had gone into it, as had butter, flour, sugar, and the seasonings that Braeburn had very insistently moved to block every time the pegasus had tried to peek.
The chef was now sitting directly opposite from him, and was glowering, his eyes boring into the blue stallion’s, flicking down to the dish, then returning to meet his guest’s. It was quite clearly a challenge.
Soarin’ dropped his eyes once more to the plate and the warm, gently cooling, and slowly spreading pool of gunk. Delicately, he picked up a fork in his mouth and gave the substance an experimental prod. When the metal tines failed to dissolve, the pegasus dropped the cutlery with a clatter, and took a careful bite.
He paused, mid-chew, with his eyes focusing off into the distance. Fascinating. I didn’t realize it was possible to feel my taste buds dying.
“There, y’ got your pie. Now you can go.”
The pegasus didn’t answer, his eyes staying fixed on the horizon. Ah, to spit or to swallow. The age-old question.
Then again, the pony on the other side of the table had been a complete jerk, and Soarin’s head still hurt from earlier, so perhaps a little rudeness was in order. He opened his mouth and let the vaguely food-related, partially chewed substance drop back onto the plate. “I don’t know what that stuff was, but it definitely wasn’t a pie. And it wasn’t ‘the best pie possible’ unless you have never cooked before, only glanced at a recipie, and weren’t paying much attention to begin with.”
“Why... I oughta... that there was an Apple-baked pie! T’ ain’t my fault y’ don’t know good pie when y’ have it!”
“All right, then. You eat it,” Soarin’ retorted, pushing the plate over to the other pony.
Braeburn gave the mush a slow, distrusting look, and the blue stallion did his best to resist crowing out loud. “Awright, so I could have done better,” he conceded.
This time it was Soarin’s turn to give the pony opposite him a long, flat stare. Finally, the cowpony caved.
“Awright, it’s downright awful.”
“And you said...”
The Appleloosan sighed. “I said I’d make y’ a good one.”
Braeburn’s eyebrows furrowed. “And...?”
Soarin’ buried his face in his hooves. “You said you’d tell my why your family avoids you while you were at it.” And, if this is how you act around them, I can see why.
With a deep sigh, the yellow stallion got to his hooves and headed over to the countertop, this time intent on baking properly instead of merely tossing everything together and halfheartedly hoping.
“One more thing...”
Braeburn grit his teeth. “What. Else. Is it. You want.”
“Can I get something to wash the taste out of my mouth?”
The Appleloosan let out a defeated sigh and nodded. “Fine, fine. Some cider it is...”
It’s a nice place... Rainbow Dash thought to herself as she hovered outside her home, examining it from every angle. Shame, really, but sometimes ya gotta give things up.
The pegasus lifted a leg, ready to start, and froze, unable to continue.
I... I’ll miss the fountain, and the rainbows... Her hoof lowered, resting gently against the cloud edifice.
I... I guess it can wait... the blue mare sighed as she rested her forehead against the structure. There’s no rush, after all... the papers need to be filed... But I should at least get it moved...
A moment later, she had her hooves planted in the foundation of her house, and with tremendous effort and hundreds of wingbeats, managed to get it to slowly shift towards Sweet Apple Acres.
“It... can... hover... over the... farm... for a bit... first...” she ground out as it gently bobbed towards the fields and orchards. There was nopony else to hear it, but she felt better saying it out loud.
“So, you came out to Ponyville because...”
“I already told y’ that I don’t want t’ talk about it.”
Soarin’ rolled his head back and winced as a few muscles complained. “Right, because that’s worked so well for you so far. Tell me again how many friends you have?”
Braeburn ground his teeth together. “Fine. I got beat up in an alley, and didn’t want to stick around in case the ponies responsible wanted t’ finish the job.”
“There, was that so hard?” the pegasus asked, a faint smile hovering on his lips.
The cowpony looked over his shoulder, ready to skewer his visitor with a poisonous glare, and was extremely annoyed to discover the blue pony wasn’t even looking at, or apparently even paying attention to, him. “So, any other pryin’ questions you have for me?”
“Oh, I’m sure I can think of some eventually,” Soarin’ replied lightly, waving a hoof through the air.
The yellow stallion grumbled under his breath, and turned back to watch the baking pie. This one, at least, was not bubbling worryingly; in fact, in all regards it was a normal, well-behaved pie that was not about to gain sapience and decide to eat the town.
Braeburn wasn’t sure if he should be happy about that or not.
“Well, at least I’m here of my own choice, not ‘cause my boss told me I needed t’ get out of town for a while!”
“Oh, come on, that’s the best you can do? Please, I work for the Wonderbolts. Some of us swear like sailors -” Sorry, Spitfire, but you do, “- when our tails get caught in doors. I doubt that anything you say could shock me.”
“That so?” the cowpony answered, then took a deep breath before exploding, “Well then, y’ bare-flanked, knock-kneed -”
Applejack tipped her hat back out of her eyes and eyed her partner as she wearily dropped to the diner’s patio. “And just where have y’ been, Dash? I’ve gotten all th’ paperwork done ‘cept for the things y’ need to sign, thank y’ very much, so you better have a darn good reason t’ just fly off like that!”
Rainbow Dash didn’t reply immediately; instead, she raised a hoof and, when the waitress materialized, asked for a large glass of water.
“All right, all right. I just got finished moving my house over to Sweet Apple Acres.”
The farmpony opened her mouth to speak, paused, and then started over. “Y’ mean, you moved the things in your house over t’ the farm?”
The spectrum-maned pony lifted her head and an eyebrow as she responded. “No, I moved my house. The whole thing.”
The waiter returned with a small dandelion salad for Applejack and the requested water. “Now why’d ya go and do somethin’ like that, sugarcube? I thought that y’ liked havin’ your place off by itself... or am I thinkin’ too hard?”
Dash took a chug from the glass and set it back down. “Nah, I... well, if I’m gonna be a parent I gotta act the part, right?”
Applejack gave her friend a long, slow look.
“I know, I know, this is me saying it. Don’t stare at me like that.”
Braeburn sat back on his haunches, smirking smugly. “There. Told y’ I could swear.” Soarin’ stared, and the cowpony leaned against the table, his grin broadening. “Anything else y’ wanna hear?”
The pegasus blinked, and a slow smile appeared on his lips. “Really now? I’ll give you some points, ‘cause it was kinda inventive in places, but I’ve heard worse.”
The yellow earth pony gawked, “y’ can’t be serious!”, and Soarin’ let out a deep laugh.
“Oh, I’m serious. Last week, for example, Spitfire got really frustrated with how one of the other pegasi was slacking off, and called him a ‘tail-knotted, duster-winged - ”
Applejack took another bite of her salad, and continued, “so, you’re... actually wantin’ to rebuild your place around th’ farmhouse?”
The spectrum-maned pony sighed, slightly regretfully, and nodded. “If we’re going to adopt Scootaloo, I think she’d feel happier to have a pegasus home to sleep in... even if she can’t fly yet. But at the same time, she’d need to get up to the place, and I don’t want to take her too far away from you, so... reshaping it so it’s part of your house seemed like the best idea.”
The farmpony nodded, tracing a hoof over the table. “Seems like a good idea t’ me.”
“Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the good part, yet. You know that walk on clouds spell Twilight cast on almost everypony a while back? I asked her if it was possible to use it on something a pony could wear, but would let them feel the effects!"
“Y’ gave Twilight a reason t’ go research magic. Horseapples, now we’re not gonna see her for a week!”
“Well, uh... it was the only thing that came to mind. So, the paperwork... where do I need to sign again?”
“Only in a couplea places,” Applejack sighed. “Though I gotta say, I’d have liked t’ not have to do it all on my lonesome,” she continued, pulling the papers from her packs.
The pegasus ducked, a slight flush on her cheeks. “Sorry, AJ.”
“And by the end of it, she looked like she was about to catch fire, she was so angry!”
Braeburn chuckled as he checked the pie in the oven, and upon deciding it was done, pulled the confection from the heated appliance. “Awright, I’ll concede, I haven’t heard most o those.”
“Oooooh, that smells great. Much more like an actual pie, not... whatever that first thing was.”
The Appleloosan didn’t dignify that with an answer, instead cutting two slices and depositing them on plates. “Well, if y’ want it that much, c’mon over and get one. Not like I can carry two o’ these at once right now.”
Soarin’ snorted, but obediently got to his feet and sauntered over to the countertop. “So, I win, then? You’re not as experienced as you thought you were, hmm?”
Braeburn shot his companion a glance, but the blue stallion was too busy eyeing his slice of pie to notice. Not as experienced my hind hoof... His gaze travelled along Soarin’s body, examing it in more detail. Pretty muscular. Trim build, though. Might have a lotta stamina, that’s never a bad thing... And despite all those injuries o’ his, he’s still not bad lookin’...
The cowpony, nervously, acted on impulse. It was, he admitted later, a fool thing to do, but the part of his mind that normally shot down this variety of terrible idea was off in a corner being weepy.
The Appleloosan leaned over, and before Soarin’ could take a bite out of what seemed to be a very good, extremely tasty, and enthrallingly delicious pie, the yellow stallion kissed the pegasus on the lips.
Soarin’, who had, perhaps unwisely, had shut his eyes. This... doesn’t seem right. I don’t taste apple, and that texture is way too soft... for... He opened his eyes, and his wings unfurled with a shocked snap. He’s... oh, Celestia, I don’t... “Igottago!” he yelped, his hooves scrabbling on the floor as he backed out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. In his haste, he knocked Braeburn off his hooves.
The yellow stallion gasped in shock as he fell, then hissed as his broken leg was jarred by the impact with the floor. By the time he recovered and looked up, there was nopony else in sight, and he could hear the door banging shut behind the Wonderbolt.
… I just had t’ be stupid, didn’t I? Braeburn rubbed at his face, tears starting to form in his eyes. Just had t’ go and scare off the one pony... He dissolved into sobs.
“Well, it’ll need some work, but I think it looks all right from here, Dash,” Applejack called up to her friend. “I can see how y’ would want t’ make it more accessible to Scootaloo, too.”
“Awesome. Anything else you can think of?”
The elder Apple sister shook her head. “I think that’ll ‘bout cover it. Want t’ come in for a bit, or just gonna call it a night now?”
“Eh, I think I’ll grab some of your leftovers, if ya don’t mind,” the pegasus shouted down to her partner, before jumping off the edge of her cloud, flipping several times in midair, and landing on one hoof.
Applejack chuckled and shook her head. “Showoff,” she muttered under her breath as she pushed the door to the farmhouse open. Rainbow Dash just flashed her a broad smile.
Both of them paused at the sound of muffled crying.
“Is that...” Rainbow Dash begain, glancing over to her friend in puzzlement.
“Sounds like ‘im,” she returned absently as they rounded the doorframe. “Braeburn? What in Equestria’s gotten into you?”
“He... he left...” the yellow colt replied, looking up at the pair and scrubbing at his face weakly. “He... left.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Who left? Big Macintosh?” Dash was hovering over the earth ponies, looking back and forth between Applejack and her cousin.
“S-S-Soarin’. He... we were talkin’, and then I did somethin’ I shouldn’ta, and he left...” He threw himself at his cousin, who caught him awkwardly, and patted his back before giving her companion a puzzled look.
“Soarin’? Th’ Wonderbolt?”
“I’m sorry! I was just so happy t’ have somepony t’ talk to an’ now he’s gone!”
Rainbow Dash touched ground for a moment, and carefully rested a hoof on Braeburn’s shoulder. “I’ll go see if I can find him. He couldn’t have gone far, right?”
The Appleloosan sniffled, and gave the aqua pegasus a teary grin. “Thanks... I sure ‘ppreciate it...”
The pegasus exited the Apple family’s home, as quickly as she could. It was, perhaps, a little rude of her to leave Applejack to deal with the situation, but she wasn’t sure she could cope with Braeburn suddenly expressing a normal pony’s reaction. She’d gotten so used to thinking of him as “that hateful jerk”...
Man, I do NOT envy AJ right now. Better her than me, though!
Meanwhile, the hard-working filly was doing her best to console her cousin. “Don’t worry, Dash’ll find him. And get yourself off the floor and have a nap, Brae. Some rest’ll do ya good.”
“Thanks...” he sniffed again, hauling himself to his hooves. “Thanks, cuz. You take care yourself...” he said over his shoulder as he left the room.
“Well, I’ll be,” Applejack softly said to herself. “Looks like he ain’t as stony as all o’ us thought...”