“Apple Bloom, get back here!”
Apple Bloom galloped through the orchard with purpose, slipping around the trees in an intricate slalom. She had to lose Applejack, and fast. Up the hill, her friends waited anxiously for her. Scootaloo was aboard her vehicle of choice, ready to get moving, and Sweetie Belle was in the red wagon hitched to the back.
She approached the hill with a few lengths between her and her older sister. Carrying two saddlebags full of Appleoosan apples didn’t make her go any faster. She strode up the hill and hopped into the Cruiser. Scootaloo floored it and got away with not a moment to spare. Applejack cried in the distance, “Get back here, you rascals! Big Macintosh will have your tails for this!”
“Sorry, Applejack!” was Sweetie Belle’s only reply.
Scootaloo kept up the pace as best she could until they reached the outskirts of Ponyville. After she caught her breath, she began, “Alright girls, Phase One, complete. Next step, Fluttershy’s!”
“Cutie Mark Crusaders, move out!” they said in unison, speeding down the hill. They sped through town, turning quite a few heads. They ran clear through a crowd of ponies.
“Sorry, everypony!” shouted the Crusaders, as they made a beeline to the outskirts of town.
The CMC Cruiser came to a screeching halt on the edge of Fluttershy’s property. Scootaloo peered around the tree, looking for the inhabitants of the cottage.
“The coast is clear,” she muttered to the other two. Quickly, they slithered from one tree to the next, finally reaching the chicken coop in the back of the property. For a brief moment, they paused and remembered the events from last time they were here. Hopefully they wouldn’t tear the property apart again.
Apple Bloom made a few quick hoof-signals to the other two, and they moved into position. Scootaloo squatted down at the entrance to the hen house, while Sweetie Belle opened the empty apple sack they had snatched a few days back. Finally, Apple Bloom pounced, slamming the side of the hen house.
The chickens erupted into a frenzy of clucks and feathers. The chickens made their way out of the coop, and Scootaloo shot in. She grabbed as many eggs as her hooves could hold, and rushed out. She ran to Sweetie Belle and deposited them into the sack. Sweetie closed it off and Scootaloo took the helm, turning the Cruiser around and rushing off as fast as they came. Applebloom shouted over the ruckus,
“Tomorrow, we’ll pay Fluttershy for these eggs, right?”
“Of course we will! That’d just be mean if we didn’t!” Sweetie Belle called back. “Anyway, Phase Two is complete. Off to Sugarcube Corner!”
“Of course,” shouted Scootaloo, “we still need to do Phase Thr- wait, who was that?”
“It’s me, silly!” said Pinkie Pie. She must have hopped on when they weren’t looking.... again. “Why do you need to go to Sugarcube Corner? I mean, besides the fact that Sugarcube Corner is the most magical awesome amazing place in all of Ponyville!”
“We need to borrow some supplies, and we need to use the ovens,” Apple Bloom stated. “We’re running a Cutie Mark Crusaders Apple Tart Bake Sale!”
“OOH, that sounds FUN! Maybe I should help you with the baked goods because I remember the last time you and I worked in the kitchen and I’m not trying to be mean but your cooking really wasn’t the best so I’d like to help the Cutie Mark-”
“OK, OK, you can help!”
They had reached the local bakery at this point, and Pinkie hopped off and pranced inside, with the Crusaders in tow. They immediately got to work, mixing together the ingredients they collected with some flour from the shop, among other things. Forty-five minutes and four batches later, the trio had three heaping trays full of apple tarts. They loaded up their loot in the Cruiser (minus a few tarts, a “tip” for Pinkie Pie) and headed to the center of town.
They managed to sell half of the tarts before Applejack showed up. “Now what in the hey is going on here??” she questioned.
Apple Bloom dropped a few bits into their money jar, then turned to her big sister. “Look sis, I’m really sorry. See, our Cutie Mark Crusades have been really underfunded, and we really need the money. We still owe the Quills & Sofas shop for the whole Cutie Mark Crusader Couch Potato incident, and everypony loves apple tarts, so we--”
“Then why did you take our last bags of Appleoosan apples?”
“Everypony knows those are the best around for tarts, and we needed to sell these real bad. And Fluttershy’s chickens make the best eggs for baking-”
“Apple Bloom, that’s no excuse. You need to learn respect for your elders and for other ponies! Now Ah’m gonna have to run out to Appleoosa to get another batch while they’re still in season.”
The little filly thought about it for a moment, then turned back to her sister. “Look Applejack, I feel mighty foalish right now. I’d like to make it up to you. Let me go out and get the apples. Before you ask, I’ll find someone to come with me. I know you don’t think I’m mature enough to handle it on my own.”
Applejack was a bit surprised. She thought for a moment, then said, “Fine. Maybe it’ll teach you something about honesty...” She dropped a few bits into the jar and walked away with a handful of tarts, grumbling as she trotted back to Sweet Apple Acres.
A while later, Fluttershy showed up. She took a look at the situation from a distance, then waited a bit. Once the crowd cleared out a bit, she walked up to the trio. “Um, girls?” she whispered. “Girls?” she said a little louder. Still no answer. “Girls!” she yelled. (as loud as Fluttershy yells, that is) Sweetie Belle turned to her, then nudged the other two.
Scootaloo was the first to pipe up. “So, Fluttershy, how’s it going?”
“Well, um, there’s been some trouble with the chickens,” she said, with the slightest hint of anger. “Do you know anything about it?”
The three looked toward each other. Finally, Scootaloo piped up. “We’re awful sorry, Fluttershy. We’ll close up the sale for the day and come take care of the chickens.”
Fluttershy didn’t expect that from Scootaloo. Nevertheless, ten minutes later they were at her cottage, wrangling the chickens... again. Once the job was done, Apple Bloom turned to the nature-loving mare and began,
“Once again, we’re just terribly sorry about all this. Here, take these, for your trouble.” She turned and grabbed the last few tarts from the tray. “I’m sure Angel will love them!” She smiled and set the tray down.
“I’m sure he will. Um, thanks for, for your help. You three are really maturing.” She took the tray with a grin and trotted back to her humble abode.
Apple Bloom was beaming when they turned to head back to town. Their next stop was Quills and Sofas. Since the idea was hers, Sweetie Belle headed in to repay the shopkeeper. While she was gone, Scootaloo turned to Apple Bloom, bearing the jar with what money they had left. “It’s a little less than we expected, huh.”
“It looks that way.”
“Here, you need to go to Appleoosa, right? It’s too bad there isn’t enough here for three tickets,” she said with a smile.
Apple Bloom paused for a moment, then said, “You’re right. Besides, I need to find someone to ‘chaperone’ me. I just wish Applejack would recognize that I’m -- we’re - maturing, like Fluttershy does.”
Sweetie Belle re-emerged from the little shop. “It’s getting late,” she said, “I’m going to head home. Good night!”
Scootaloo took the Cruiser, and Apple Bloom took the money and the burlap sacks. Today was Thursday, and the next train to Appleoosa left on Friday, Apple Bloom thought. Who am I going to take with me? Applejack will have to agree, so that narrows it down a bit. I need someone who can afford to take a week off. That rules out Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash was an option, but Scootaloo would never forgive me for taking a week with Dash without her. Twilight could come, but she has her studies to worry about. What’s a filly to do?
The sun went down just as she passed the library. Suddenly, a whisper jolted her back to reality. “Apple Bloom! Psst! Apple Bloom!” It was Spike. She looked at him funny as he beckoned her behind the shrub. She followed him back.
“Whatcha’ up to, Spike?”
“Twilight fell asleep on her books again, and I don’t want to wake her up. Can you give me a boost to the window?”
“Sure thing, Spike!” She followed him over to the kitchen window. He hopped up on her back and up to the windowsill. He was a tad heavy on her back, but she wasn’t about to complain about it. It felt good to help someone, after everything she had messed up today.
“Thanks, Apple Bloom. I owe you one.” He smiled at her. “Good night!” He began to close the window.
“Wait,” Apple Bloom said, just a tad too loud. “Spike, I need someone to go to Appleoosa with me to get a batch of apples. Long story, really. If you’re not busy, would you... be willing to go with me.. this Friday?” She clammed up ever so slightly. Why am I acting like this? she thought to herself.
“Well, sure! I’m sure Owlowiscious can pick up for me in the meantime. I’ll meet you at the train station on Friday afternoon. Sound good?”
Apple Bloom blanked for a moment. She snapped back, stating “Y-yeah. I mean, if it’s O.K. with Applejack. S-see you then?”
“See you then.” He smiled, bid her good night, and closed the window. She sat there for a moment, contemplating what just happened. What’s causing me to act this way? She shook it off and trotted back to Sweet Apple Acres.
See you then...
Spike awoke to a crash. He leaped out of bed and rushed down the stairs to find the source.
Twilight had fallen asleep on her books again last night, so Spike guessed it was a crooked stack of literature tipping over. The latest topic was Pet Care - ever since Owlowiscious joined their little family, Twilight had been researching how she was supposed to care for him (Not that he needed the care, he is a fairly independent owl) in her typically obsessive fashion.
Twilight was groggy at best, so she said little other than a grumbled “Good Morning.” Spike knew his job well, so he set straight to cleaning up the mess. Owlowiscious assisted, and they had everything neat and taken care of in a matter of a few minutes. He then set to making breakfast - nothing fancy, just some corned oat hash. Between that and a few cups of coffee, Twilight was back to her bubbly self in a matter of minutes. Finally, Spike spoke up.
“So, Twilight, what are your plans for the next week?”
“Oh, nothing much,” she replied, “I plan to finish my books on pet care, then look into learning some gardening. Fresh herbs are hard to come by around here, so I figured I could learn to grow my own. Hey, maybe Zecora could help me with that - I should head out there sometime!”
Spike cut in, “That all sounds great, but I need to take this next week off.”
That took her by surprise. “Well, why so sudden?” She asked inquisitively.
“Apple Bloom asked me a favor. She needs someone to go with her to Appleoosa to get some apples. She never really said why, just that Applejack needed them. The train leaves this afternoon. I’ll work ahead a bit on my chores if you need.”
“Work ahead?” the purple mare chuckled, “If you’re going to Appleoosa for a week, then you need to get your things! Besides, maybe you could get me some of those Western alchemical supplies.”
“Sure, no problem. I’m going to go get ready.” Spike hopped up the stairs to get his stuff together.
He found it quite odd that he was so excited about this. Huh, this must be just what I need. It’ll be great to escape the monotony of my apprenticeship, if only for a while.
But that can’t be it. This feeling is different. I guess the only other thing that has excited me so much was... Rarity.
He shook off the thought, and took his half-full bag down the stairs. He found Twilight in the study, poring over her books again. Spike walked right up to her and gave her a hug. She turned to him with a smile and returned the gesture. “Before you go,” she said, “take this.” She turned to her left and procured the purple dragon’s tuxedo. He had completely forgotten about it.
Twilight placed it in his claws and said, “I’m pretty sure you’ve grown out of it. If you hurry, you can take it to the Carousel Boutique and have Rarity alter it.”
“Good idea. But why would I need formal attire for this trip?”
“You know Appleoosa. Odds are there will be a ‘shindig’ at some point during the week, and I’m sure Apple Bloom would want to go. Now hurry, your train leaves in one hour.”
“Thanks again,” Spike called as he left. “see you in a week!”
“Have fun!” was the purple mare’s reply from the other room.
Spike tried to make good time to Rarity’s shop. He was sure it would be open, but he wasn’t sure how long Rarity would need to fix up his tuxedo. In five minutes, he was at the door. The store was open, so he just walked right in.
“Welcome to the Carousel Boutique, where every garment is chic, unique and magnifique!” was
Rarity’s greeting. She turned around to see who her customer was. “Oh, hello, Spike! What brings you here today?”
“Hi, Rarity. I need this tuxedo altered to fit me again, if you have the time.”
“Oh, it shan’t be a problem. Bring it over here, if you will.” He obeyed the white mare’s request. She brought over her measuring tape. As she was measuring him, she thought aloud. “If you are here in Ponyville for good, I really should get a dragon mannequin, shouldn’t I?” she said with a giggle.
Spike chuckled in return, more as a token gesture than anything else. His mind was in other places at the moment. Once she had finished her measurements, she got to work on the garment. “So, who’s the lucky girl?” she said to Spike.
The question startled him. “What do you mean?” was his nervous reply.
“Spike, darling, I’m not that foalish. Nopony brings in a fine tuxedo like this without some plans for it. I’ll ask again - Who’s the lucky girl?” She seemed genuinely interested.
“I’ll start from the beginning. Last night, Twilight fell asleep on her books again, this time right in front of the main door. I had returned from playing spectator to Rainbow Dash’s latest stunt.” He paused.
“Go on, please, go on.” the dressmaking mare said.
“I came back to the library, and I was looking around for a way to get inside when Apple Bloom walked by. I asked her for her help, and she asked me to go to Appleoosa with her, out of the blue. I think she said it was a favor for Applejack. I agreed to go, because, I mean, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t? Anyway, I woke up this morning to pack, and Twilight gives me this, in case the locals decide to hold one of their ‘shindigs.’”
There was silence for a bit as Rarity continued her work, but she eventually piped up, “Spike, you don’t seem yourself today. I don’t mean that is a bad way, but you’re just a little... different.”
“I guess you’re right. Usually, I’m just so... weird around...” Hold it, Spike. Say something else. “this time of day.” he finished with a lie. She’s right. Usually, whenever I’m around her, I’m gaagaa over her. What’s different today?
“There, all done.” Rarity took the now-altered tuxedo and brought it to her customer. He stared at it for a moment. “What are you waiting for, darling? Go try it on!”
“Uh, sure. Be right back.” He took the suit and put it on. It fit perfectly, just like any work Rarity did. He walked over to the mirror and admired her handiwork. Rarity turned away from her newest dress to see him.
“Oh, you look magnificent, darling!” she complemented him.
“Thanks. I’ve got a train to catch, thank you so much for your help.” He procured a few bits from his bags, but she turned them down.
“Anything for a friend.” She helped him pack away the garment (after she noticed how HE tried to do it) and bade him goodbye.
Spike was running late at this point. He hurried down the road that led to the train station.
The train was due to leave in ten minutes. What was taking Spike so long. Had he forgotten about her? No, she thought, he couldn't have.
One minute passed....
Five more long minutes. She was sick of waiting. She put on her saddlebags and turned away. Just as she began to walk home, she heard him.
“Apple Bloom! Apple Bloom, wait!”
Her face brightened as the little purple dragon rushed toward the boarding platform. Out of breath, he hopped on the train, and she followed right behind. They got back to their cabin and set down their stuff. He caught his breath, then turned to her.
“Sorry I’m late, I had... some work I needed done.”
“Oh, it’s fine. I’m glad you made it in time though!” Apple Bloom said with a smile.
Spike returned the smile, then asked, “So, start from the beginning. Why is Applejack sending you to Appleoosa?”
That was the ice-breaker Apple Bloom was waiting for. She always loved storytelling, and this was no different. She covered the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ latest plan, the incident with Applejack, what transpired at Fluttershy’s, and Applejack’s plight. By the time she had recapped to this point, the sun had set. Spike stood up and said. “So, it’s getting late. Want to go fetch some food with me?”
“Sure!” All the storytelling had made her hungry. The two headed to the main car and ordered dinner. They decided against room service, deciding that they had the whole trip to spend in their cabin.
The dinner was terrific. Spike got his favorite, a big bowl of that turquoise from the buffalo tribe’s stores which he so loved, and Apple Bloom got a big fruit platter, with everything from apples to oranges to pears. It was so good, they almost forgot to talk. Apple Bloom was the first to speak.
“Wow, isn’t that sunset just beautiful?”
Spike turned to look out the window. The sun setting over the plains of the West was a breathtaking sight. “Yeah, I guess it is.” Spike was never one for ‘natural wonders’ but he meant it then.
They retired to their room for the night. The train was due in Appleoosa tomorrow. The cabin only had one bed, so Spike elected to sleep on the floor, with the extra blanket and pillows.
Apple Bloom hit the lights. “Good night, Spike. And thanks for coming.”
“Good night, Apple Bloom.”
“Attention passengers, this is your conductor speaking. We will be arriving in Appleoosa in thirty minutes.”
Spike awoke to a knock at the door. Apple Bloom must have ordered room service. He rolled out of his makeshift bed to answer the door. Apple Bloom had ordered oats and a fruit smoothie. She had ordered him topaz and amethyst with a tall glass of water. Well, you can’t go wrong with amethyst, Spike thought.
Spike took the food with a mumbled word of thanks. He turned around to bring the little filly her food, only to find the bed empty. Where did she run off to? he thought. Oh well, she couldn’t have gone far. Besides, she’s old enough to take care of herself, at least on a moving train. He set their breakfast on the bedside table and started cleaning up his stuff.
Apple Bloom returned a few minutes later. “Morning, sleepy-head!” she said with a wink. She must have cleaned herself up, Spike thought as he noticed the bow in her mane.
“Good morning,” the baby dragon replied, “the food is here.”
There weren’t any chairs in the room, so Apple Bloom sat on the bed, while Spike elected to stand by the nightstand. They ate in silence - it was a bit awkward, but neither dared to break the ice.
Spike finished his gemstones, and set the plate aside. “How long was I asleep?” he asked.
Apple Bloom giggled. “It’s almost two o’clock. You’ve been asleep all morning, and afternoon too.”
Spike scratched the back of his head. “I guess I really needed the rest.”
“I guess so,” she responded with a grin.
After they finished eating, they set to pack up their things. Spike, being half-done already, was the first to finish. He looked over to Apple Bloom, who was struggling to fit everything into her saddlebags. It must be tough for an earth pony to accomplish a task like that. “Hey, do you want some help?” he asked.
She tried one more time to stuff everything in, then backed away with a huff. “Sure, thanks.” she replied simply.
With the assistance of his dragon fingers, Spike had the task accomplished in a matter of minutes. Just as he finished, the loudspeaker clicked on.
“Good afternoon, everypony, this is your conductor speaking. We are arriving in Appleoosa in five minutes. Thank you for choosing the Pony Express, and have a nice day.”
The train arrived in the station, right on schedule. The duo headed for the exit. As they disembarked, Apple Bloom hesitated. Spike turned to her and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she responded. She hoped he would drop the issue.
The exact opposite occurred. “No, really, what’s the matter?” he pressed her.
“I’m fine, really.”
“C’mon, Apple Bloom. We’re friends. What’s up?”
“I’ve... I’ve never been to Appleoosa.”
Spike paused. “That’s all?” he asked with a chuckle. “Look, you’ve braved the Everfree Forest multiple times. This place is nothing.”
“Are... are you sure?”
“Positive. Now come on, we’ve got to find Braeburn.” He beckoned for her to follow. Reassured, she tailed the dragon into town. They were going to stay in a friendly little motel by the station. Spike got their room key, and they went to drop off their things.
The room was quaint, but clean. There were two beds, plus a kitchenette and a bathroom. Spike took the bed on the left and began to unpack his things. He set aside his snack bag (which was half empty at this point) and hung up the tuxedo Rarity had altered for him. Apple Bloom didn’t bring much either, so she set her toiletries in the bathroom and took her coinpurse. Finally, she pulled the red bow out of her hair and donned her sunhat, a straw hat with a matching red bow. It was a gift from Sweetie Belle on her last birthday. This was the first chance she had had to wear it. She left everything else in her bag, electing to take it as she needed it.
Spike turned to the little mare and said, “Let’s go find Braeburn. He’ll give you the grand tour.”
“Sure, let’s go.”
The two set off for the orchards on the west end of town. As they walked, Spike marveled at the development of the town. He didn’t notice until now, but Appleoosa was now a trading hub for the greater part of western Equestria. Rail lines criss-crossed as they branched away from the station. Ponies of all kinds, from tenderfoot settlers to grizzled travelers to families of tourists went about their business. Spike even saw some buffalo in the crowd. He noticed Apple Bloom sticking really close to him. Sheesh, the commotion must be intimidating for a small-town farm mare like her. he thought to himself. He decided to cut to the outskirts of town, where the crowding wouldn’t be so bad.
Apple Bloom kept as close to her friend as she could as they weaved through the crowd. If this is a little town, I can’t even imagine what Manehattan must be like, the filly thought. I guess I understand why Applejack wanted me to bring someone with me.
The crowd finally thinned, and not a moment too soon. A few minutes later, Spike stopped. Just before Apple Bloom opened her mouth, he called out, “Hey! Little Strongheart! Little Strongheart!” Spike waved as a little brown buffalo girl ran to them. Spike wrapped her in a big hug as she halted in front of the two.
“Hey, Spike! What brings you to Appleoosa?”
“My friend Apple Bloom,” he gestured to her, “and I are here to get a batch of Appleoosan apples. How’ve you been?”
The buffalo girl sighed. “Things have changed for the tribe since you were last here. Chief Thunderhooves has fallen ill, along with many of our tribe. All these tourists and newcomers have brought illness with them, and passed it on to us. Most of us younger ones can fight it off easily, but I worry for the Chief.” She paused. “Oh, just look at me, bothering you with my problems. I haven’t even introduced myself to your friend.” She turned to Apple Bloom. “Hi, I’m Little Strongheart. By the look on your face, you’ve probably never seen a buffalo before.” She chuckled, and held out a hoof.
Apple Bloom returned the gesture. “I’m Apple Bloom, Applejack’s little sister. Nice to meet ‘cha!”
Spike said, “Say, we’re looking for Braeburn. Have you seen him anywhere?”
“Yeah, I have. He’s out at the orchard, leading the applebucking efforts. Let’s go, I’ll come with you two.”
As they walked, Spike and Little Strongheart caught up on the year they had been apart. Apple Bloom had an immediate connection with Little Strongheart - they were both the little girls of their families. The little pony told the buffalo girl all about the Cutie Mark Crusaders - and Cutie Marks, for that matter - and Little Strongheart told her all about the buffalo tribe’s rites of maturity.
It took them forty-five minutes to reach the orchards. They found Braeburn with the group of applebuckers just as they were breaking up for the day. He looked ragged from the work, but his face brightened when he saw them. He broke into a gallop and met them at the edge of the buffalo trail.
“Howdy, cousin Apple Bloom! Why didn’t you tell me you were comin’ to town?” He pulled his cousin into a hug.
“It’s a funny story really,” she began, “I ended up using the last of the apples you sent us a few weeks ago, so Applejack sent Spike and I to get more. Is there enough in this year’s harvest to spare us a few bags?”
“Anything for family!” was his cheery reply. “Let’s get moving. The apple caravan is headed into town any minute now, and we might be able to catch a ride.”
Spike and Apple Bloom began to follow him, but Little Strongheart stayed behind. “I’ve got to get back home. It was really nice seeing you all.” Her three friends exchanged goodbyes, and Little Strongheart started a healthy gallop back to her home.
Apple Bloom, Braeburn, and Spike caught the caravan just as it was pulling away. The two ponies found a spot with their hooves dangling off the side, while Spike found a cradle to lie down in between a few bags of Granny Smiths. Braeburn turned to his cousin and began, “You’ve grown like a red delicious tree, haven’t you?”
“I guess so. It’s been a few years, hasn’t it?”
“I haven’t seen you since the Apple Family Reunion, so that’s... two years. Yessiree, just after that reunion, the first caravan of us settlers came on out here to Aaaappleoosa!”
I’m just about sick of all this chatter, Spike thought. Oh well, at least Apple Bloom came out of her shell a bit. Then again, we’re still out of the city. Hopefully Braeburn can keep her happy for the night.
After ten minutes of the Apple cousins’ chitchat, the caravan reached the freight station. From here, the harvest would go all over Equestria. Appleoosa didn’t even need the apples for food anymore - all the supplies the bustling town needed came from elsewhere. I wonder how many other Apple cousins Braeburn has to deal with, always knocking on his door for another bushel, Spike thought with a chuckle.
As the sun began to set, the freight workers set to their jobs, unloading the apples and packing them into crates, sealing them off, and sending them to their destinations - Western settlements all across the plains. The entire process was like clockwork. Not wanting to interfere, the trio got off the cart. Braeburn found two bags of the finest assortment of apples and pulled them aside. The line foreman, an indigo stallion with five o’clock shadow and a grimace to frighten a manticore, opened his mouth to protest, then noticed who he was about to yell at. He shrank back and continued his work. Wow, Braeburn has influence, big time, Spike thought. Definitely a pony you want on your good side.
Spike did his best to carry the smaller of the two bags, while Braeburn took the larger on his back. They elected to take their burden to the postmaster to have it shipped to Ponyville. After all, mail trains left every other day, while passenger trains to Ponyville (and Canterlot) were limited to once a week. He attached two letters.
“Say, what are those for?” Spike asked.
“One’s to Applejack, askin’ her to pick up these at the station. The other’s... for a friend.” Braeburn replied. “Let’s go.”
As they proceeded back from the post office, the yellow stallion turned to his companions. “Well, now that the work’s all done, why don’t I show you two the town?”
“That sounds great, Braeburn!” Apple Bloom replied.
“Follow me. I know this little saloon you’ll just love!”
Braeburn led the way, with the other two in tow. The Saturday night crowd was in full swing, and the congestion in the town square made getting around “slow as molasses” as Applejack would say. Apple Bloom saw her cousin turn and say something, but she couldn’t hear what due to the noise. He turned a hard right, almost charging through the masses of ponies. Apple Bloom found a spot between her two friends, happy to have them leading her way.
Finally, they reached the saloon doors. The noise of the saloon was less than that of the commotion outside, but not by much. The place was packed with locals and tourists of all sorts. The tables and booths formed a large circle around the stage floor in the center. There, a few older earth ponies played banjos and saxophones. There was a thick haze of smoke throughout the establishment. The furniture was old, but of a higher quality. Braeburn trotted up to a table, and the two ponies there, seeing who he was, immediately relocated to another table with some friends. That’s the kind of pony I want to be, Apple Bloom thought. I wonder what he did to get that kind of respect?
The three sat down. Spike and Apple Bloom eyed the menu. The saloon’s waitress, a turquoise unicorn mare with a fork-and-spoon cutie mark approached them.
“What’ll it be, sweeties?” she asked cheerily.
“I’ll have the usual.” Braeburn said.
“Could I just get a bowl of emeralds, and a sarsaparilla?” asked Spike.
“Sure thing, hun.”
“Ummm... I’ll have the Sunflower Deluxe sandwich, extra seeds, and a hot cider.”
“Alrighty then, it’s on the way!” The bubbly waitress turned and continued her rounds.
Apple Bloom was the first to speak up. “This is a real fine place, Braeburn. Do you own it?”
The stallion chuckled, “Nope. But, I reckon you two noticed the kind of respect I get ‘round these parts. That ain’t no coincidence. Spike, you saw what the other settlers and I made of Appleoosa in our first year. After you left, things boomed even more. The pressures of a growing town were just too much for most of the others. I was the only pony to step up, to lead the masses. Pretty soon after, they elected me mayor. Now, I bow to nopony. Personally, I’d pass on all the attention, but who else can do the job?”
“I guess that’s the kind of problem you want to have,” Apple Bloom said with a chuckle.
“Sure thing, I don’t mean to complain. Hey, our food’s here!”
Sure enough, the cheery waitress was back with their dinner. Braeburn’s influence assured that their order came before everypony else’s. They didn’t talk much - the food was terrific. When they finished, Braeburn called for the waitress.
“We’d like our bill, please.”
“Aw, shucks. You know full well that you don’t pay here.”
Braeburn sighed. “Fine. Thanks for the munchies!”
The mare winked and trotted away again. Braeburn dropped a few bits on the table and they left.
The crowd outside had thinned a bit. The mayor-pony turned to his friends. “Alrighty now, I’m gonna show you two the town the way only I can!”
So, the three spent the next half hour at a steady trot getting the Braeburn-style show throughout Appleoosa. He didn’t show them much they hadn’t seen already, but they feigned interest for his sake. Afterward, they returned to the motel. The sun had gone down by now, revealing the starry, moonlit sky. The moon was almost full, and waxing.
Braeburn broke the silence, “It’s been mighty fun tonight with you two. There’s a hoedown this Wednesday, and I want to see y’all there, ya hear?”
The two paused. Spike remembered what Twilight said:
“...You know Appleoosa. Odds are there will be a ‘shindig’ at some point during the week, and I’m sure Apple Bloom would want to go...”
I don’t want to go to some party, but I’m sure Apple Bloom will. “Sure thing! We’ll see you then?”
“Sounds like a plan to me! Good night, you two.”
“Good night” said Apple Bloom.
The cowpony trotted off into the night. Spike turned and unlocked the motel room. He walked over to his bed and collapsed into it. “Geez, after a day of walking like that, my legs could fall off!”
Apple Bloom laughed. “You and me both. I’m gonna hit the hay. Seeya in the morning!” She climbed into bed, slipping between the sheets.
“Good night,” Spike said with a smile. He looked to the nightstand, and found a quill and paper.
Dear Twilight Sparkle,
I wish you could have been here to see Appleoosa - it’s changed so much since last year! We tracked down Braeburn and ran into Little Strongheart along the way. Apple Bloom seems to be having a good time, and the apples are on the way to Ponyville now. I’d love to write more, but I’m about to collapse from exzaus... exh... being tired!
I hope to see you soon.
He rolled up the letter, took a deep breath, and sent it on it’s way. Just as he laid back, he let out a belch. The letter he just sent procured itself before him. It took the baby dragon a moment to realize that he was the one who received all of Twilight’s dragon mail. He tucked the letter in the bedside table and rolled over. Moments later, he was in a deep sleep.