The entirety of Sweet Apple Acres sat peaceful amidst Luna's cool night. Not even the grasshoppers made their melodic tune; there was utter silence all around the farm. Inside the cozily warm farmhouse, the Apple family slept in pure bliss. Each of its occupants dreamed of what the next day would bring them, whether it be adventure, love, work, or more naps. Each one anxiously awaited the morning rooster call, so that they may wake from their slumbers to begin the day.
Inside one room, the orange mare Applejack slept like a log; she did not move, nor did she make a single snore as she laid curled under her sheets. A smile across her face signaled to the world her anticipation for the quickly approaching day; her hopes that it would bring just as much joy as she desired...
The sudden noise, though not horribly loud, caused Applejack's smile to momentarily straighten out. Once it grew quiet again, her smile returned as she rolled to the other side of her bed.
Applejack rolled back to the other side of her bed; her sleepiness still kept her from opening her eyes and her mind from questioning the source of the strange noise.
That time, the mare jumped out of her bed, falling to the ground in a heap of sheets and pillows. Her face was struck with panic from the loud explosion, and the continuing roar of a possible beast from outside. Still confused, the pony tried to dash to her door, only to trip in her tangled sheets. She hit the floor with a thud, landing on her chest, her blonde mane messily falling over her face. She huffed the stray hairs from her vision as her eyes cleared up.
Hearing additional hoof steps already marching down the stairs, Applejack made haste in recovering from her tumble and caught up with the others. From the loud stomps, she was for certain it was her brother, likely making his way outside to investigate. The noise outside continued as she untangled herself, exited her room, and made her way out of the house. She was just in time to catch up with her brother as he too looked to have been utterly surprised by the noise.
"What is all that?" Applejack asked, still trying to keep her balance as she ran with her sibling.
"Ah've no idea AJ, but it came from tha barn," Macintosh said through panting breaths.
Applejack, after hearing the noise came from the barn, began to feel a worry in her gut for Kurt. Was the human alright? What had happened? Was he injured and in need of help? So many questions ran through the mare's mind that, in her haste to enter the barn, she literally bumped into Mac, who had enough of his wits about him to open the door first. Ignoring his sister's rude arrival, Mac slid the door open with ease, allowing a bright light to shine on the opposite wall.
The first thing the two ponies took notice of was Kurt's Blazer; the sights and sounds of heavy shaking and gray smoke coming from underneath the rear end of the vehicle quickly grabbed their attention. The smoke smelled horrible, causing both ponies to hesitate in their next steps. Their eyes watered and their stomachs turned as they, despite their best efforts otherwise, breathed in the horrible gas. Then, from the front of the Blazer, something stepped into a beam of light that shot from the Blazer's only remaining headlight. The figure, humanoid in shape, stood tall, dark and menacing as it raised its arms in 90 degree angles; the movement was soon followed by a deep laughter that gave the ponies goosebumps, and heavily reminded Applejack of her encounters with Nightmare Moon.
Luckily, this figure did not have a sparkling mane, nor was it even equine. Finally, the laughter stopped as the figure raised its arms above its head; it drew in a large amount of air as it bellowed over the roar of the vehicle:
"IT'S ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE! MUA HA HA HAAAAAAA!"
If the early morning hadn't been so calm, the ponies would have the sounds of thunder to accompany the figure's mad chatter. It seemed to not take any notice to the two ponies as it stepped forward to the front of the Blazer and reached under the hood. The vehicle immediately stopped its rumbling; the loud roar that had awoken the ponies died down as everything went quiet. The lone headlight beam also clicked off, revealing a very disheveled Kurt with the only remaining light, a single lamp that stood beside the Blazer.
Kurt walked around to the driver's door, an exhausted, yet satisfied expression on his face. His efforts to repair the Blazer had clearly left him without rest, but the repairs seemed to be a total success, although looks could be deceiving. First of his worries was if his cobulation of the radiator would even hold: amazingly it did. Then came reworking several other parts, mostly hoses that had been damaged. Lucky for him, he kept some of those supplies on him for work.
As he reached for the door handle, Kurt thought he heard heavy breathing to his right. Looking to the barn's door, he saw two figures standing near the doorway.
"Oh... uh, hi?" Kurt asked.
"Kurt..." Applejack began, "it be three in tha mornin'. What'r ya doin' up?"
"I... uh, was working on my Blazer."
"At three in tha mornin'?"
"Well, I've been working on it until this point."
The moonlight finally cast itself upon the figures. From the voice, he knew one was Applejack, and seeing the size difference he figured the other was Macintosh.
"Oh.... I woke you both up didn't I?" Kurt asked.
Both ponies nodded their heads in unison.
"Shit... sorry about that. I get a little overboard with this kind of work. I guess I simply enjoy it too much, and lose track of time."
The ponies remained silent.
"Uh, I'm done now, so you can go back to sleep."
Kurt thought he could hear disgruntled mumbling as the two ponies took leave, closing the door behind them and darkening the barn further. The many windows on the Blazer's side made it visible to Kurt still, so Kurt opened the driver's door and promptly sat himself down.
"Hopefully they're not too mad."
The seat was already in its reclined position, so all Kurt had to do was lean back and close his eyes; an easy task due to his tired body and mind.
Kurt and Amanda sat on his mattress, playing with their toys as the other children did similar activities. It was a rainy day, so everyone was cooped up inside and ultimately bored out of their pre-teen minds. What Kurt and Amanda failed to notice was the pair of headlights pulling down the long driveway; an unfamiliar car to the children as some huddled to one of the few windows to see the rare sight. Whispers were shared as the children gawked at two figures scurrying out of their vehicle, a very fancy one upon further inspection, and rushed into the building's lobby.
The door opened and closed, ringing a small bell, as more of the children quieted down and looked to the door leading into the lobby. A large figure, the caretaker, could be seen through the glass window as she talked. Kurt and Amanda paid it no mind, playing and talking to themselves much like a few other children who didn't much care. Finally, the caretaker disappeared from view behind her desk, and a small light bulb above the door flashed on: it was selection time.
"Selection time," as it was called, was the caretaker's idea, and to that end she installed a light to signal to the kids to get ready, clean up, and be on their best behavior for a promising new home. Seeing the light come on, all the children who had been watching in anticipation quickly dashed for their beds as they made both themselves and their living spaces presentable; making the beds, cleaning up, and acting as sweet as they possibly could. From what they knew of the couple, albeit little more than their fancy clothes and luxurious car, the children could tell that the couple was not lacking in wealth, only heightening their desire to be adopted.
A rich family meant getting lots of nice things, after all. Things they either didn't have and wanted, or things they didn't want but could have anyway. It meant no more terrible canned, cold food. It meant no more having to settle for substandard toys worn from years of abuse. It meant a room all to themselves.
Each child waited with bated breath, until at last a couple of minutes had passed, and the light above the door switched off. Within seconds, the door swung open; the caretaker entered first, followed by a very well-groomed man and a very well-dressed woman.
The caretaker pointed out each of the children, giving the couple each child's name as the three walked down the main aisle, only occasionally stopping at one child to talk a little before continuing on. Then the couple saw Amanda. A smile spread across the woman's face, and the man smiled at his wife's smile. From their angle, Amanda was the only one visible between she and Kurt, so they walked over to her and the man spoke.
"Hello there, young lady. What is your name?"
The man had knelt down to talk to her, and only after speaking did he notice Kurt playing with her. He glanced at Kurt, and Kurt glanced at him; neither one smiled. Kurt couldn't pinpoint why, but he disliked the man. And he got the impression the man did not like him much either. The caretaker, very quick with her eyes, saw the reaction and swiftly grabbed Kurt by his arm, pulling him away from Amanda.
"Uh, come here Kurt. We have to discuss your chores."
She spoke quickly, and caught Kurt completely off guard. He looked to Amanda with a worrisome look, as the woman immediately sat in Kurt's place and began to talk to Amanda. From when Kurt's arm was being pulled, to when he was forced into the lobby, Kurt and Amanda both looked at each other as the couple continued to talk to her, apparently oblivious to her inattention. Both exasperated and confused, Kurt turned to the caretaker with a worried look, but before he could say anything the caretaker hushed Kurt with a finger over his lips.
"I'm so sorry about that Kurt. It's just that those two are looking for a daughter, not a son."
Kurt immediately realized what was going on and made a dash for the door. There was a loud buzz as he reached the handle, and tried to open it; it was securely locked.
"I'm sorry Kurt, but if there is a chance they may adopt her, then I'd rather see her go to a home than live here any longer."
Kurt began to panic, looking for any possible way to eavesdrop on their conversation. He got lucky, as part of the door frame was horribly misshapen, and made it possible for him to peer into the room through the sizable crack. Kurt watched as the couple talked to Amanda, watched as with each passing minute, her once gloomy and confused face began to grow brighter, and watched as she even began to smile and laugh a couple times, clearly delighted.
As Amanda's smile grew, Kurt's shrank. From what he saw, it was clear the couple adored her, and if she wasn't just putting on a friendly face for them, she liked them too. If she were adopted to this home, though, he'd lose his only friend. For nearly six months, Amanda was all that Kurt had bothered to like about the orphanage. Kurt had to act quickly; if he didn't do anything, then he'd lose her for sure.
After several more minutes, the couple got up from the beds and made their way to the door Kurt was peeking through. He backed up and heard the buzzer ring as the door was unlocked. The couple opened the door, and walked over to the desk, again oblivious to Kurt's presence as he eavesdropped from behind the open door.
"Oh, she was so precious," the woman explained, smiling brightly.
"Yes, I know. So nice and gentle. I think she might just be the one we're looking to adopt," the man added, a good-natured chuckle punctuating his words.
"That is so good to hear. When would you like to fill out the paperwork?" the caretaker asked.
"Well, we need to get the house ready for her and all. We didn't honestly expect to find such a sweet girl so soon, but well, she's just too perfect to let go. Still, we could sign the papers as early as tomorrow, I think," the woman continued, complete harmony in her voice as she looked back through the open door at Amanda.
"I have to agree honey, she is what we are looking for. A girl that won't be any trouble or hassle to deal with," the male added.
"It is settled then. Shall you come by around the same time tomorrow?"
The two nodded, grabbing their coats and walking back to the exit. As they passed, they glanced down to Kurt who only glared at the two friend thieves. They wanted to take Amanda away from him, and he couldn't have that. Kurt thought about it more, what they had said about her, and knew immediately what he had to do to keep her by his side. He'd show them just how "nice" and "gentle" Amanda really could be, preferably the kind involving a fist and a target. And if those friend thieves saw it, they'd realize things about Amanda that would immediately deter the two from wanting her as their daughter.
Kurt felt bad at these thoughts; the way he was thinking of her made Amanda sound like a horrible person and a bully, when the reality was far more different. But he was only doing what he could to keep their friendship alive, right? He was her friend, and she was his, right? He'd miss her, and she'd miss him, right? Friends forever, right?
It wasn't nice, but it was necessary.
Along with the rising sun, the morning brought with it high hopes for Kurt. Though his recurring flashbacks still lingered in his mind, he was able to push the dreadful feelings back as last night's first, and successful, test start on his Blazer had him glowing with pride. With any luck, he would be able to take his Blazer on its first official test run after such a terrible accident. Last night's start up was a huge boost for Kurt's mood, and his hopes of leaving this world were, in his eyes, looking more of a possibility than ever. To the ponies he had woken up however, it made their mornings a little more troublesome as their restful night had been so rudely interrupted.
Figuring it would be wise to stay out of their manes for the time being, he took the advantage of their morning distractions to scavenge for anything he could use for a bumper. When the coast was clear, Kurt walked toward a large, familiar forest that loomed on the horizon. He remembered seeing it on his last outing when he and the ponies retrieved his Blazer. If he could find a good sized piece of timber, he could throw it on. Even if he had to trim it a little for a more proper fit, it was a better substitute than anything else he could think of.
After an hour of walking and keeping an eye out for any wandering ponies, Kurt made it to the forest edge. Its looming trees and darkened entrance despite the sunlight gave him the shakes, but Kurt wouldn't let himself scare that easily. He entered the forest slowly and cautiously, unsure of what he would find in this place. Each time a bird would chirp or another noise reached his ears, Kurt's nerves took just that much more abuse as he nearly jumped out of his shoes on more than one occasion. He couldn't lie to himself any longer; this place, full of the unknown and nearly pitch black despite the morning sun above, gave him the willies.
"Just look for a fallen tree, and get the hell out of here," Kurt muttered to himself, repeating this sentence so often it almost sounded like a chant.
Thankfully, he never had to venture very far into the forest; roughly twenty feet from the entrance, he saw what he was looking for - a short distance ahead, he spied a fallen tree which appeared to have been cut into pieces, possibly to be moved for the oddly clear path that ran as far as Kurt could see.
Despite his careful meandering earlier, seeing the prize made Kurt throw caution to the wind; the speed at which he moved in rushing towards it was as though the timber simply lay in an open field.
"Ok, just grab it and get the-" Before Kurt knew what happened, he was face first in the dirt. He quickly rose his head, spitting out the dark, grimy soil from his mouth as he rubbed his nose.
"That hurt..." Kurt thought as he tried to sit up, dislodging his foot from the plant root that had tripped him, "What the?"
Kurt looked around himself, unsure if what he was seeing was real or not. The blue flowers in front of him, arranged in a large patch wasn't a rare sight; Kurt had seen plenty of blue flowers even back on Earth. Though pretty, these flowers made Kurt feel uneasy nonetheless; perhaps it was their ominous positioning in the middle of the otherwise clear path carved for travelers, or it might've just been the forest itself giving him the creeps even a cute, harmless rabbit would seem unsettling in this setting but Kurt wasted no time in quickly removing himself from the patch.
Kurt, from a sudden onset of curiosity, bent over and gave one of the blue flowers a quick sniff. His nose immediately seemed to flare up, forcing him into a brief chorus of sneezes.
"The hell? It smells like sneezing powder," Kurt grunted between sneezes as he stood up.
He knew all too well the familiar smell of the prank tool back from his days in the orphanage, one of the few things that would linger in his mind for the rest of his life. He shook his head to dispel the thought and continued his march to the tree. He checked each individual section for the best one, grabbed it, and began his march out of the forest. This time he passed by the blue flowers, wanting to avoid a second sneezing fit.
"Park 'er right here Macintosh," Applejack said, standing beside a market stand which sat on the main streets of town.
With virtually no effort, Mac set down the cart full of apples and apple accessories, and with a little help from his sister he unhitched to rest his back.
"Do ya need any more help there AJ?" Macintosh asked, taking a seat on the cobblestone street they parked on.
"Ah should be good Mac, so y'all can head off back to the farm 'n tend to them fillies."
Macintosh let out a slight sigh as he remembered his duty for the day, and braced himself for the battering he was sure to undergo.
"Now ah know we've had to watch 'em three times this week already, but everypony else is busy, and right now with most of the fields bucked 'n harvested we can divvy up the load some. Which means ya'll have 'ta watch dem fillies, now get back to tha farm before them three destroy it."
"Eeyup," Mac agreed with a half-hearted sigh, as he began to trot back towards the farm.
Applejack returned to the apple stand and set it up. First the sides that folded down, which already held fresh apple pastries to be sold - apple pies and apple strudels better than any to be found elsewhere. With a satisfied smile and quick survey of the rest of her merchandise, she got into her position behind the stand and waited anxiously for customers with a large smile on her face. She and Macintosh were fortunate they were able to go back to sleep after this morning's debacle with Kurt's Blazer; though it was only a couple extra hours of rest, it made all the difference. Mac was affected by it more than she, but her brother was a tough one, and tonight would get plenty of rest to make up for the loss of sleep.
Suddenly, Applejack heard the loud stomping of hooves approaching and gazed to her left. A bright smile gleamed from her face as she recognized her good friend Twilight Sparkle, no doubt here for an apple to go with her lunch.
"Well, howdy there Twilight!"
Twilight walked right on by, not even sparing a passing glance towards the orange mare. Applejack stuck her head from around her stand, confused; she thought maybe she didn't hear her.
"Hey Twilight! Aren'tcha gonna get yer apple for lunch today?"
Finally the purple mare stopped and turned around, giving Applejack a stare that, if the saying really held true, would've dropped Applejack dead on the spot. Applejack's entire mane almost stood up on end in response as her purple friend gazed at her with an angrier glare than she had ever seen on her.
"Uh, hey sugarcube, ya a'right?"
On closer inspection, it was clear to Applejack that something was amiss with Twilight; unless her eyes were playing tricks on her, Twilight's normally bright purple coat and mane looked shades darker than was normal. Twilight looked around a moment, before she suddenly smiled brightly, as though she just now recognized her friend giving her a quizzical look. The smile, seemingly bereft of genuine joy, sent chills down Applejack's spine, rather than reassure her.
"Oh, yes, I'm doing just fine- Applejack -, yes, just, fine. And yes, my daily apple. I'll take one please."
Another chill coursed through her body.
Though her friend spoke fluently, as though nothing was wrong, it was the slight pause before and after Twilight said her name that spooked Applejack's body into slight trembles.
"Uh, right. Ya been studyin' too long again there, sugarcube?"
"No, I'm just fine," Twilight answered, then tossed some bits from her saddlebags to the stand using her magic. Applejack cautiously pushed forward a fresh apple, which Twilight took and placed into her bag.
Before Applejack could say anything more, Twilight turned around and began walking away without saying a word.
"Somethin' sure don't seem right with her," Applejack spoke out loud with worry for her friend.
"With who, dear?" Rarity spoke, as the white unicorn strolled from the corner of Applejack's vision into view.
"Oh, mornin' Rarity. Did'ja happen to speak with Twi as she walked by?"
"Actually, she seemed to be rather distracted so I didn't bother her. Why do you ask?"
"Well, somethin' didn't seem right with her."
"Oh? Well, from that large boom that came from your farm last night, it wouldn't surprise me if everypony was a little on edge this morning."
Applejack gulped loudly. "Ya mean everypony in town heard that?"
Rarity nodded with a smile. "I just figured Kurt had done something again. I wanted to come to you first and make sure he was alright before I took him some fabric samples for his suit."
"Uh, yea, everythin's just fine."
"Well, just to be on the safe side I had Fluttershy go give him a quick checkup."
"Owch... owch..." Kurt complained as Fluttershy dabbed more peroxide onto his chin.
"I'm sorry, I know it stings, but I must make sure it's not infected," Fluttershy said sternly. It was evident she was doing her job when she did not allow her shyness to hinder her. She had nearly tackled Kurt to the ground to treat his minor scrape.
"Yea, but I said I was fine. I just tripped, nothing to it."
From outside, the two heard Macintosh calling out for somepony.
"Oh look, it's Mac. I wonder what he's doing here?" Kurt seemed to moan.
Fluttershy suddenly seemed very interested in the barn's walls, looking away from the human, a slight blush enveloping her cheeks at the mention of Mac's name. Kurt took the hint and couldn't help but grin at the sudden change.
"Yes, I wonder who he is here for," he said teasingly.
The barn door then clicked open, causing Fluttershy to jump in fright. In her haste to hide, she bucked her rear hooves wildly to run, kicking Kurt in the shins in the process.
As Fluttershy dove for cover, Kurt fell onto the ground, face first, dirtying his chin more than it had been before.
"Oh, sorry ah spooked ya Kurt," Macintosh walked over and tried to assist, "Ah'm lookin' for the fillies. You seen 'em?"
Macintosh grabbed Kurt by his shirt collar, and pulled him up to his knees.
"No, and it wasn't me you spooked," Kurt answered through gritted teeth. He pointed to a pile of hay, where a pink tail stuck out like a sore thumb despite its owner's best attempts to conceal it.
"Oh! Fluttershy, Ah'm sorry ah spooked ya." Macintosh walked over slowly, being sure not to make any sudden movements that would frighten her.
"Oh, To-" Fluttershy stopped, spying Kurt looking at the two, "I mean, um, Big Macintosh, it's alright. I just get frightened easily."
"Welp," Kurt began, managing to stand on his own, "I think I'm gonna go outside for some fresh air and leave you two love birds alone."
From Kurt's remark, neither Fluttershy nor Big Mac seemed able to look at the other all of a sudden. Both faces turned beet red; Big Mac's even more so. Before either of them could deny what Kurt had said, the human wobbled out of the barn, shutting it behind him. With a sigh of relief, he leaned against the wood planks and closed his eyes.
"Ah, fresh air. I should be alright out here, no ponies to kick me or plants to trip on," Kurt mumbled to himself.
A distant crack reached Kurt's ears, followed by the shouts of several fillies, snapping Kurt to attention. Before he could understand what was going on, however, a baseball dropped from the heavens right onto his head, causing him to collapse. Kurt moaned from the pain rocketing through his skull as three fillies all rushed over to find their baseball.
"Ha! Home run, told ya I could do it," Scootaloo boasted as she picked up the baseball.
"Oh, howdy there Kurt," Applebloom started, "Whatcha doin' layin' on tha ground for?"
Kurt slowly rose his head to look at the filly. A large red bulge now sit on his forehead like a stumped unicorn horn.
"Oh, nothing. I just felt like giving your planet a big hug for loving me so much." Kurt then dropped his face back into the dirt.
The three fillies shrugged, then ran off to continue their game. Another sound then caught Kurt's attention, this one being the barn door swinging open, then slamming into his injured shin. Kurt let out a muffled moan of pain from the ground as he laid still, in too much discomfort to even grip his leg.
"Um, Kurt," Fluttershy started, "Why are you laying on the ground?"
"Because your planet's gravity figured it was unfair that I can stand on two legs." Kurt finally sat up, rubbing his head.
"Oh my, wha-"
"I'm fine Fluttershy, really, I'm ok. I've been through way worse than this." Kurt reassured the mare, then stood up and rested a hand on the barn side.
"Well, are ya by chance busy Kurt?" Macintosh then asked.
Kurt looked around, then shook his head, "I guess not. Why, you two wanna go roll in the hay or something?"
Macintosh's face grew bright red once more, though Fluttershy looked to the human confused, "What do you mean?"
After all the things that Kurt had been through within the past fifteen minutes, Kurt let out a chuckle, "Nothing at all Fluttershy. You two have fun, I'll watch the girls. That is, I'm assuming that was what you were going to ask me Mac?"
Macintosh nodded, "Eeyup. Thank ya Kurt. You've had good practice watchin' them, so ah figured you'd be tha best one ta ask."
Kurt waved his hand towards the couple, "No problem, now you two play safe."
Mac and Fluttershy nodded, then began to slowly trot away from Kurt.
"Oh, and make sure you use protection!" Kurt shouted.
Either ignoring Kurt or not picking up on what he meant, the two ponies didn't pause to answer as they walked together, chatting in that laconic, awkward way Kurt had grown to associate them with. Despite not even being human, it felt nice to Kurt that the concepts of love and family were nonetheless no different on Equestria. It also warmed him to know that he gave the stallion the courage to express his feelings towards his love unlike on Earth, where he had grown up to look out for himself and no one else, the idea that he managed to craft love where it had previously gone unexpressed gave him a strange, yet very welcome glow that was almost entirely missing from his time on Earth. The vibrant colors and almost universal friendliness he had been shown since he arrived brash blue pegasi notwithstanding despite the inadvertent abuse to his shin and the massive, decidedly painful lump resting atop his head, only heightened that warm feeling.
He was beginning to like it here.
"Stop that," he chastised himself mentally. "You don't belong here. You're human. You're just too different."
By this point, Big Mac and Fluttershy were but dots on the horizon far off in the distance yet close in proximity, seemingly getting more comfortable with each other's presence with every step. With a sigh, accompanied by more sadness than he had expected, Kurt then turned his attention towards the Crusaders, still at their ball game.
Roughly five in the afternoon, Applejack was finally back home, the apple cart nearly completely devoid of the treats that had covered it since she set up shop. Most of the specialty items had been sold, and all that remained were some standard apples, straight from the tree. Resting the cart beside the barn, she ventured to the door to check up on Kurt.
"Hey Kurt, how ya doin'?"
Applejack peered inside, not seeing the human anywhere.
Curiosity working her hooves, she stepped inside and looked around. She first checked his Blazer, but didn't see him anywhere. She then checked the stalls, but no luck. Everything in the barn was almost as she remembered it, as if Kurt hadn't even been inside it since this morning. The only thing strange that stood out to her was the large piece of timber attached to the Blazer's front end. Suspicious, she stepped back outside and looked for her brother and the fillies he was suppose to be watching.
As she searched the entirety of the farmhouse and the barn, not only did she not find Kurt, but she didn't see her brother or any of the Crusaders. Just as worry over them began to take hold of her, she spied Kurt walking towards her from one of the many trails. He was also carrying two large objects in his arms with his back arched forward slightly. As he got closer, she could make out one more large object resting on his back.
"Kurt?" Applejack questioned as she ran to him.
"Shh!" Kurt hushed the mare, as he continued to walk.
Applejack then took notice of the three objects he was carrying; Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle each resting in an arm, and Applebloom perched safely on his back. All three were sound asleep.
"Ah don't understand, where is Mac? He's supposed ta be watchin' over 'em," Applejack whispered as she followed beside Kurt.
"He had to help Fluttershy with something, so I watched the fillies for him."
"Again?" Applejack questioned, then smiled, nudging Kurt gently in the sides with a prodding hoof, "Heh, if I hadn't known ya too good ah'd almost say you care 'bout dem girls."
Kurt was silent for a moment as he thought. "They're young Applejack. They deserve to enjoy their youth while they can. Playing, having fun, and being together. Friendship is a important thing to have when you're young, you know," he answered, in a somewhat emotionless, robotic tone.
Applejack nodded, "Yup, even more so as you age."
Kurt showed no change in emotion. "Maybe for some," he muttered.
The coldness in Kurt's voice nearly hurt Applejack, but she didn't allow it to hinder her mood at all. Though he was obviously troubled and needed somepony to talk to, there wasn't anything she could do until he was ready. She lead Kurt inside the house and showed him where to place the three fillies to sleep. Careful not to wake them, he placed them onto the bed with Applejack's assistance and covered them up for the night. It was still early, but the day's adventures had already taken their toll on the fillies.
Kurt practically collapsed once he and Applejack walked onto the porch, telling her that the Crusaders weren't the only ones tuckered out.
"Y'all aright there, Kurt? Need some water?"
"That would be nice, thank you."
Applejack made haste to retrieve a glass of water for the human, then rushed back outside, careful not to spill it.
"Here ya are Kurt."
Kurt took the glass from the pony, and downed half of it in one gulp, not even caring that she had held it in her mouth.
"Them fillies wear you out again?" Applejack questioned, sitting beside the human.
"Oh yea, at least they didn't tie me up this time." Kurt couldn't help but let out a light laugh as he remembered the fiasco from their last encounter, though the laugh was cut short due to his burning lungs.
Applejack joined in the small laugh. She couldn't help but look at Kurt, who stared blankly at the setting sun. She too followed the sun with her eyes as it crept lower and lower, darkening the landscape in the process.
"You know, back at the orphanage, I used to sit and watch the sun set just like this."
Applejack nearly choked on her breath. She remembered he had mentioned something before about being an orphan, but he never seemed to want to talk about it. Now though, he brought it up on his own accord.
"All by yerself?"
Kurt lowered his head, looking to the ground. "No."
Applejack remained silent for another few seconds, choosing her words carefully. "Were it with-" She paused a moment, remembering Kurt's actions when she had last mentioned the name.
"Amanda?" Kurt finished for her.
Applejack laid her ears flat from Kurt's tone. Merely speaking the name out loud made him sound more defeated than an entire day of keeping track of the Crusaders. She was sure now that everything Kurt had been struggling through, maybe his entire life, was due to this Amanda.
"She's yer friend, right?"
Applejack tensed up, her ears laying even more flatly against her head if it were possible. "Was" did not sound good.
"What happened?" Applejack looked to Kurt's face, now full of sorrow.
"I happened, that's what." The words, barely audible, nevertheless took a concentrated effort from Kurt to find the courage to say. He rested his head against a deck post, suddenly not wanting to look anything human or pony in the eyes.
Applejack remained quiet, expecting Kurt to continue his story. Instead, he slowly stood up, his knees popping.
"Owch, they are gonna be tender tomorrow," Kurt mused as he leaned on the porch for support.
Applejack remained where she sat, trying to think of reasons Kurt could be so reluctant to talk about Amanda.
"Kurt, ah don't know what ya did to her or what happened between ya two, but ah'm sure you could fix it once ya get back."
Kurt stopped in his tracks, only turning his head slightly to glance at her.
"I can't..." Kurt began, taking a deep breath.
Applejack stiffened her back, unsure what to say. Then, from the only visible eye she saw a tear start to run down his cheek.
"I can't because she's dead."
Kurt continued to the barn with a slow pace, looking down at the ground in shame and guilt as a second tear joined the first.
"And it was all my fault."
Applejack remained on the porch, watching him as he reached the barn, every last one of his actions half-hearted. Even the slight echo of the barn door shutting as he stepped inside and closed it seemed less lively. The orange mare was left speechless. Kurt had finally revealed a large piece to the puzzle she had been slowly building in her head, but was only left with more questions than answers.
Minutes later, Kurt still couldn't believe what he had just done.
He had taken a secret he had guarded with his life, one he had never told a single soul, and spilled the beans at the drop of a hat to a pony. And not just any pony, but a sentient orange mare that could think and speak for herself and was no doubt using those talents to judge him at this very moment. She and Kurt had been getting friendlier towards each other, something he strangely liked; now, she would never look at him the same way again. Her silence as he left the porch spoke volumes on that subject. If the concepts of love and family were the same here as they were on Earth, no doubt the concepts of death and who to hold accountable for it were also identical.
Then Applejack would probably tell the rest of her family, and they would never look at him the same way again.
And they'll tell two friends and they'll tell two friends and before he knew it Kurt would be ostracized by the same society that, despite his being a completely different species from anything they had ever known, nevertheless welcomed him with open arms or hooves, as was the case.
Kurt couldn't find it in himself to even make the effort to walk towards his Blazer. Beat, tired, and above all else, his mood ruined, Kurt just wanted to sink into the hay lining the barn's floor. Sink into the hay where none of these ponies would find him, and never resurface. Equestria didn't seem to love him quite enough to grant him that luxury, though.
All the while, his mind swam. Why did he tell Applejack? What was so different about her that somehow made it alright? Was it due to his exhaustion?
Did he perhaps blindly believe that she would be more compassionate about it than any of the others?
Was it honest trust?
The taste of hay made its way into Kurt's mouth; sometime during his thoughts, he had simply fallen to the barn's floor, unaware the entire time. Closing his eyes, he recalled the little bit of advice Applejack had told him earlier, that hay may be more comfy than his own Blazer. And, though it was an anthill of comfort versus a mountain of sorrow, he nevertheless afforded himself a quick smile despite it all.
"She was right," he thought, "this hay is pretty nice."
Well, this took damn long enough. Sorry if things are a little rough, it's been a while since I've worked on this fic. Oh, and a HUGE thanks to who worked his magic fingers and made this chapter amazing! You rock, woo hoo!
So yea, it's actually another slow chapter, but this is it folks. This should be the half way point. From here on out, things are gonna get interesting, so hopefully you enjoy it!
Ok I think your button is broken..I keep hitting next for the next chapter but its not budging.. You seriously need to fix it lol !! As usual you never fail to amaze and being a fan of the FlutterMac I love seeing how that is going.. Looking forward to the next chapter
What in the HAY are you talking about?! This entire story has been PHENOMENAL!!! I can't say that I've read something THIS good in a while! I'm not kidding, I'm DYING for you to write the next chapter. You're such a professional at this. Honestly, I'm really thinking of printing this out and saving it for the rest of my life to read occasionally. GREAT work, ROBCakeran53! You make us proud!