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   Fluttershy crawled on the damp soil, holding a hoof out to a small creature. "All right, dear. I know you're scar-ed and hurt-- just- just come here and we can get you all fixed up."

    The injured ferret squint his eyes at the bright daylight, hesitantly limping toward Fluttershy beneath the boulder he had scrambled under. Particles of dirt sprinkled down from the bottom of the rock as it shook, "H-hurry up mister ferret."

    "Flut-- Fluttershy I need ya to get a move on! Ah can't hold this thing up much longer!"

    Applejack groaned as she felt her muscles pulse while tilting the huge stone up. As the ferret limped just within reach, fluttershy scooped it up with her front leg and tucked it under one of her wings, holding it snug against her side. Her breathing was raspy and stuttered while she scrambled to crawl back out from under the rock. "I'm out! I'm out!"

    The rock fell back down with a great thud. Applejack fell to her side, sprawling out her aching limbs. Her legs felt like they were rubber and her lungs drew in stinging, coarse air as her body scrambled for oxygen. She tested her muscles out to see if any of them would respond, with only dull pains as a result. The pegasus leaned up against the rock, heart still racing, as she examined her rescued friend.

    "It looks like you didn't hurt yourself any more under there. As soon as we get home I can get your leg into a proper cast."

    She gently tucked the ferret back under her wing for safe keeping. Fluttershy staggered over near Applejack and carefully lowered herself to the ground. Applejack used what little strength she had to turn herself to face the gentle pony. Her pastel yellow coat was dull and coarse with dirt, and her eyes stared into the distance, unfocused. "You okay, sugarcube?"

    Fluttershy blinked before looking back at Applejack. "I'm fine. Just a little shaken." She smiled warmly at the earth pony, "I'm sorry for putting you through so much. You're the only pony who could have helped me."

    "I think Big Macintosh coulda lifted it better for ya."

    Fluttershy glanced away, "Well, even if he could lift the rock better,” she scratched at the grass sheepishly, “I don't think I would have been able to do it. "

    Applejack tipped her head up, looking Fluttershy in eyes, "What makes you say that?"

    “I would have just been too scared," Fluttershy mumbled.

   Applejack laughed, "It took me almost a minute or so just to get ya to go under there you was so nervous."

   Fluttershy turned to face Applejack, "Yes, but you waited for me anyway.” She swept her bangs from her face, “Nopony has ever been as patient with me as you are. Every time I end up holding everypony back, you have always been the one to keep me from being left behind."

Applejack chuckled, breaking eye contact,  "Aww, shucks, I'm just doing what I think is right. Always felt wrong to me letting somepony be abandoned like that."

    Fluttershy nuzzled the earth pony before standing up, "Still, thank you. I honestly don't think I would be able to do even half of the stuff I can do if it weren't for you.” She grinned bashfully, “Whenever you're around, I just feel like something is actually possible for me."

    Applejack felt a faint rush to her cheeks as attempted to stand, "Anyways, I think we otta get goin--"

    She stumbled back to the ground, face rubbing into the grass. Fluttershy startled, running over by Applejack’s side. "Oh, let me help. Just try to lean on me."

    Applejack slid her legs back underneath herself, looking to Fluttershy “Don’t you need to take care of the critter?”

    Fluttershy peeked under her wing, the ferret was fast asleep. “He’ll be okay. It’s just a simple fracture.”

    She struggled back to her hooves as Fluttershy spread her other wing over her, gripping the orange pony’s side. Applejack’s heart skipped a beat when she felt the pegasus’s wing hold her. Fluttershy smiled to Applejack, "There we go, just let me know if you need to take a break."

    The air around Sweet Apple Acres washed with the scent of apple blossoms. The sun was glowing a piercing orange on the horizon, bathing the orchard in nostalgia. Fluttershy still had her wing around Applejack, steadying the earth pony while they made their way to the front door of the Apple family farmhouse. "Thank ya so much for helping me back here. Guess my legs are more stubborn than me."

    Applejack trotted a bit to see how well her legs were recovering. "I think I can handle it from here,” She looked down at her hooves, “Though truth be told, I think I was fine back at the market."

    Fluttershy scuffed her front hoof on the ground, grinning sheepishly, "Well, I did kind of know when you stopped leaning on me so hard."

    Applejack perked up and looked at Fluttershy as an awkward hush fell between them. She stared around Fluttershy, feeling wind flow through her coat, cool and fresh on her skin. Fluttershy avoided eye contact with the earth pony, kicking up small puffs of dust and passively watching as the wind carried it away. Applejack cracked a chuckle, "Well, I suppose I should probably turn in early tonight. Gotta let my legs recover as much as possible for tomorrow."

    "Yes, and this ferret really does need to be tended to."

    Applejack stepped toward the door, then hesitated. She turned back around and gave Fluttershy a warm neck-hug, "I really mean it, thanks for walking with me back to my house."

    Applejack quietly savored the rough fur of Fluttershy's coat before she broke off and opened her front door, looking back at Fluttershy before going inside, "I really needed it."

    Applejack stood quietly behind the closed door, dusting her hooves off in the entryway while trying to collect her thoughts. A series of thumps came from the other room as her little sister ran to her side. "You're back! You're back! I waited hours for you after you went missing but it's okay now!"

    The excited filly leaned in to her hug sister affectionately, as if she had expected never to see her again. Applejack smiled as she pat her little sister on the back, looking into the next room where Big Macintosh peacefully enjoyed the scene. "Sorry for bein' so late. Something just sorta... came up."

    Applejack smiled down her curious little sister, who asked, "What's the matter? You sound sad. Did you get in a fight with one of your friends again?"

    Her big sister looked at her hesitantly, helplessly throwing together something to say. "Well dear, uh- When your friend- I mean-"

    She stopped attempting to speak for a moment, took a calming breath, and tried again. "Nothin's wrong or anything, sugar. It's just, like when you've got one of your toys, and you have had it for so long that you think you know all there is to know about it, but then you find out that it's got a secret compartment filled with. Oh, that won't work."

    Applejack shook her head, "What I mean to say is that I'm learning things I thought I already knew."

    Applebloom pepped up, "Oh! So you found out a friend's secret or something? Did you read a diary? Is that why your friend is mad at you?"

    Her sister sighed, "No, Applebloom, I wouldn't- why are you stuck up on the idea I got in a fight, still?" She scratched her hoof on the hardwood floor, "Either ways, I guess you could say that I was keeping some secrets from myself as well."

    Applebloom tilted her head, "How can anypony have a secret they don't know about themselves?"

    Applejack ruffled her little sister's mane, "It'll make more sense when you're older, kiddo."

    She looked back up toward Macintosh, who was leaning on a counter. His face donned an impenetrable smirk and a twinkle in his eye. She chuckled awkwardly in response as she passed him by on the way to her room. Applebloom followed directly behind her big sister until a stern red hoof gently held her back. She glanced up to her big brother, who just smiled and shook his head.


    Applejack closed the door to her room and let out a pondering sigh. She shook her hat off onto the nightstand and picked her tail band out, letting her flaxen tail hang free. With a labored grunt, the sore pony slid herself onto her bed, legs still stiff from earlier. "So now what? Back on the way home, I knew what I was doin. Where did that even come from?"

    She rolled onto her side and gazed out the window at the last rays of the sunset. "Just felt so right next to her like that. I couldn’t bring myself to ruin the moment. It felt so... natural. Like it was nothing new."

    She buried her face into a pillow, "Actually, now that I think about it, she has been pretty close to me for a while. Guess I just didn't think much about it 'till now."

    A slow knocking on her door tore Applejack from thoughts. She sat up and tucked her legs under her. "Yeah, come in Macintosh."

    The door creaked open as her brother came into the room, gently closing the door behind him. He smiled at his younger sister while he sat on the edge of her bed. "Fluttershy?"

    Applejack sighed, then giggled, "Leave it to you to put two and two together."

    He chuckled, " 'Secret about yourself?' Half surprised Applebloom didn't catch on."

    "Yeah, laugh it up. You know I ain't the most subtle."

    She scooched up next to her brother, "'Course, you practically being my living diary, you probably saw it a mile away."

    She leaned against her brother, who put his hoof around her. "Earlier today. My legs were all noodly after helpin her out, so she helped me walk home. Used her wing to keep me up. Bout half way I noticed I was good enough to at least walk on my own, but I kept quiet about it."

    Applejack cuddled her head into a more comfortable position, "Turns out she knew the whole time. I felt so content next to her. Felt so familiar, like we were long time lovers or somethin'."

    Macintosh stroked her arm endearingly, "What makes you so sure you weren't?"

    She sat straight up again, looking her brother in his big unassuming eyes, "That, well, the more I think about it, the more it looks like that. Just can’t recall when I actually began to feel, well, romantic towards her, but I can tell it’s nothing new. No way she doesn't feel it too. She knew what was up the whole time and she was awfully bashful to admit it."

    She looked down at the floor, "I just don't really know what to do with all this now. Should I just ask her out or somethin? Try to keep this under wraps? Just wait for her to do somethin about this?"

    Macintosh removed his arm from his sister, "Think about what you are to her."

    She stared at her brother, "What is that supposed to mean?"

    He stared back, grinning.

    Applejack flopped back on the bed, "Oh, this is all weird now. I'm just glad we ended up living with Granny Smith. Old Grenadier wouldn't have any of this business. Remember when she called you a gelding[1] last time we saw her 'cause you didn't have a filly?"

    Macintosh grunted, "Yup."

    "She'd probably call me a jackmare[2]. Fillyfooler I can deal with, but not jackmare."

    He looked back to his sister, "Least nopony around here would ever call you that. Most wouldn't think any different of you."

    Applejack rolled on her side and grabbed her brother, pulling him down onto the bed, hugging him tightly, "I love ya too, bro."

    Mac squirmed uncomfortably before surrendering to her death grip. He sighed contently, "Granny Smith sure raised us right, didn't she?"

On to Part Two>>>

[1]Gelding: proper term for a castrated horse. More or less the equivalent to calling a man a "faggot"

[2]Jackmare: Combination of Jack (meaning a fertile male equine, usually a donkey) and Mare.

Equivalent to calling a lesbian a big ape, or "dyke"

    Fluttershy tucked the wounded ferret into a soft lined cubby in her wall, his leg bandaged up, "There, now you rest up until that bone mends. And remember not to pick at the splint."

    The ferret limped around in a circle until it was curled into a small puff of fur. Fluttershy smiled and closed a little curtain over the ferret's room. She yawned, "That took longer than I expected. It's almost time for bed, and," she scratched at a front leg, crumbling some small pebbles of dirt from her fur, "I'm still all dirty from earlier."

    She closed her eyes at the recollection of the day, "Applejack. She knows now."

    Fluttershy picked up a lantern and left her cottage. She followed the stream by her house to a small pool that was dug into the middle of the current. She set her lantern on a small post near the pool and eased herself into the cool flowing water, wading into the middle of the stream. "What am I going to do now?"

    The water caressed each hair on her coat, gently lifting the dirt out of her fur, "She's such a support for me. It's not like I can't function without her, but I can just do so much more with her."

    Her coat began to return to it's normal pastel yellow as the dirt washed off from her skin, "I didn't even notice when I fell for her. Water is wet, trees grow, and birds fly. You learn to walk before you gallop, but I’ve been ‘galloping’ with her for so long I didn’t even notice when I stopped walking."

    Fluttershy looked into the sparkling water, taking a deep breath before immersing her head. Her mane fanned out into a nebulous cloud of hair behind her as the water separated each strand, "Was the love built around her support, or was the support a product of our love? That really doesn't matter at this point I guess. It’s like the two notions grew into each other like trees. One and the same."

    She gasped for air as she emerged from the water, her mane sleek and clean, "So if I want this..." The last patch of mud flushed out of her tail, "I need to show her how strong she makes me. I need to make the first move."

    The lantern flickered off as Fluttershy set it on a small table near the front door, her fur still wet from the bath. Humming to herself, she cast a fluffy towel on the floor, smirking as she got it perfectly even. She flopped down onto the towel, giggling to herself as she rolled around the terry cloth. Rubbing her face on the soft fabric, she grabbed it between two hooves and rolled herself up in it, laughing when she found herself coiled up in the wet towel. "Simple pleasures."

    She struggled around until she freed a leg from the cotton cocoon she had herself trapped in and slipped out, leaving a lump of fabric on the floor. She giggled again as she picked up the towel and tossed it into a wicker basket. Fluttershy looked out the window into the night sky, seeing the moon nearing it's zenith, "That late already? Time for bed, I'm going to need to be well rested for tomorrow."

    Fluttershy crawled into bed, wrapping herself tightly in her blanket, "I can do it. I can do it. I'll show her how strong I am."


    Applejack balanced herself on a step ladder, her head in the branches of an apple tree. Applebloom sat at the base of the tree, notepad and pencil in front of her.

    "Now this, this is what we gotta look out for." Applejack snapped off a burnt looking branch from one of the apple trees, tossing it down in front of Applebloom.

    "This is called 'fireblight,' it can kill a tree and all the trees near it if left unchecked. Given how all the trees are near each other around here, this needs to be checked for regularly."

    Applebloom scribbled notes down on the pad and drew a rough sketch of the diseased branch for reference. "If you find this in any tree,” Applejack continued, “you need to break off the infected branch. You can't let it get to the trunk, or the tree won't stand a chance."

    Applejack climbed out of the tree with two more infected branches, "And be careful with these. Leave 'em laying around and they'll infect other trees. You gotta get these things completely away from the orchard. It's best to burn 'em."

    The filly continued to scribble on her notepad, making sure not to miss any information. Applejack spat and sputtered, trying to get the taste of the diseased branches out of her mouth. When she opened her eyes, she saw a faint spot of pink in the distance. Her eyes shot wide and her heart skipped a beat, "Aaa- Applebloom, uh, that's enough for today, why don't you go back to the house and, uh, get ready for school?"

    "But it's the weekend."

    Applejack grunted, "Okay, uh, well, I think Macintosh told me he needed your help with the pigs again."

    Applejack glanced toward Fluttershy as she neared. Applebloom followed her gaze and caught sight of the pegasus, "Are you just trying to get me to leave? "

    Her older sister desperately whispered "Would you? Please?"

    The filly smiled, "Okay then. I'll be back at the house then if you need me."

    Applejack sighed in relief, "Well she sure took that well."

    Fluttershy strode up to Applejack with confidence. Applejack looked around to make sure Applebloom had gone out of sight, "Oh, now what am I gonna do?"

    "Oh, hello Applejack, I was just nearby and I think..." She saw the nervousness in Applejack's eyes. "...  you might like some help?"

    Fluttershy scolded herself silently, swearing to make her move next chance she got. Applejack stuttered, "Uhh, yeah! I was just checkin’ these trees for diseases. Bit of an outbreak in this part of the orchard. ''Aag, play it cool Applejack. Just act like you always did around her. Don't want to make it too awkward. Just see where to go from here."

    Fluttershy looked at the pile of burnt looking branches on the ground, "Oh, dear, is that fireblight?"

    Applejack tried to compose herself, "Yeah! Yeah, there's been a problem with that stuff lately."

    Fluttershy smiled, "Oh! I can help with those. I'd have a much easier time getting to them than you using a stepladder. Okay, I'll help her out for a bit and see if I can work it into conversation somewhere."

    "Sure! I'll just gather the branches you toss down and pile 'em up in that clearing over there to burn. Yeah, a romantic little bonfire! I can do it there."

    "Oh, um, Applejack?"


    Fluttershy hesitated, gazing towards Applejack a few seconds. "Maybe later, yeah. Later. Did you know that this is usually transferred by bees? That's how these infections get into orchards in the first place."

    "Really? I never did figure out how this darn stuff gets into the trees. I should have known you'd know that."

    Applejack kicked the branches into a small bundle, "We'd make a good team tending this farm."

    She looked up to Fluttershy in the tree, with a smirk.

    Applebloom tossed her notepad onto the kitchen table on her way to her room. Big Macintosh looked up from his book at the sound, "Applebloom? Aren't you supposed to be with you sister?"

    "Nah, something seemed to bother her or something so she told me to get out of her mane for a while. I don't know what her problem is all of the sudden. All I know is It must have something to do with Fluttershy."

    Macintosh slipped on the counter he was leaning on, knocking his book to the floor. "I just don't know how she could possibly bother big sis like that. Unless, do you think she used The Stare on her?"

    He looked down at his book that lay face down on the floor, ponderously darting his eyes around. "Nope."

    "Then what could she have done to bother Applejack like that?"

    Macintosh hesitated, staring out the window for a moment. "Well, you know how such good friends Bon-Bon is with that one unicorn?"

    "Yeah! they're always going places with each other."

    "Well,” Macintosh cleared his throat, “about that..."

    Applejack tossed the last of the branches into a big pile. The stars were peaking out through the last rays of the day, "Fluttershy, Thanks again for all the help. It'd have taken me days to sort through this acre alone."

    Fluttershy dug at the grass, "Now or never, I have to do this. Oh, it was nothing really. Actually I've been meaning to ask..."

    Applejack did a double take at the pegasus, "She's doing it? She's doing it! Act natural, gotta keep stable for her."

    "... What were you going to be lighting the fire with?"

    Applejack grimaced at the sudden shift in the question, "What's wrong? Am I being too pushy?  Well, I've got the pile doused in moonshine. I usually have a bottle of it around for this sort of thing."          

    Applejack held a piece of flint to the ground and shaved some sparks into the pile. A puff emerged from the inside of the pile and a low blue flame engulfed the dead branches, slowly turning a brilliant yellow as the wood began to burn. "Well, now that that's over with, Fluttershy, I gotta tell ya, I know why you came."

    Fluttershy inched away, nervously avoiding eye contact with Applejack, "I mean, what happened yesterday, It got me to thinking about us."

    The pegasus sat, staring at Applejack, tears brimming in her eyes. "I have to tell you, Fluttershy, I lo-"

    Applejack cut off. She examined her love, the look on her face. She wasn't brimming with anticipation. She looked like a cornered wounded animal, begging for mercy. "Think about what you are to her."

    Fluttershy gazed back at Applejack, waiting for her to get it over with. A pang of regret passed through her mind. The earth pony stammered, "I, Fluttershy, I'm. I didn't realize."

    She walked over and offered Fluttershy a hoof to help stand. Fluttershy Wrapped her neck and front hooves around Applejack, tears moistening the back of her orange neck. "I'm sorry, Applejack. I just. I tried, I really tried."

    "Darlin’, it's okay. Just take it one step at a time. It'll happen soon eno-'

    Fluttershy broke off and stared at Applejack in front of the rumbling fire. She backed up and clenched her eyes tight, "I'm sorry!"

    In a flurry of tears and feathers, the pegasus took to the skies as fast as her wings could carry her. Applejack lowered her head, watching her shadow dance in the flickering light. "Oh Applejack! Are you okay?"

    A smaller shadow came into range as she felt her little sister rub up against her. "What happened? I thought you two, well."

    Applejack stared in shock at Applebloom, then looked around the nearby tree line, finding the large red stallion, slowly trying to back away. She looked at him in bewilderment. Catching her gaze, he sheepishly stepped forward, "She was old enough to know."

    Applejack sighed, closing her eyes while sorting her thoughts out. Applebloom tried to make eye contact with her big sister,  "Why didn't you just tell her? You both knew."

    She met her little sister's gaze, "Sugar, I. Well, you might not understand, but I didn't want to take it away from her."

On to Part Three>>>

    "Failure. Failure! You're a failure!"

    Fluttershy yelled to herself, staring fiercely at her forelegs. She drew heavy, vicious breaths. The pegasus threw the front door to her cottage open. Her walls were crawling with small animals, who all snapped to the smashing door. Fluttershy's wings dropped limp as she raised her head, an intense death glare striking every creature in the room. A stampede of little paws echoed as the animals scrambled out of the cottage. She shook as she tried to shut the door gently, turning her head to see the pink towel from the night before.        

    "So sure, huh? So convinced! Of course you could do this!"

    Her hoof pressed hard into the floor, "Then what happened? You failed again! That's what happened!"

    Fluttershy smashed the wicker hamper with her hoof, leaving splinters all over the floor. "You always do this! Every single time!"

    She spun around, sweeping carefully placed baubles off a counter with her front leg. She stared at the curtains, the sight of them tied up like Applejack's tail seemed to mock her. She flew up and yanked the curtains off the windows, throwing them straight down each time. Her vision tunneled, seeing the mess she made of the place.

    Her teeth gritted, her head was pounding and her eyes were clenched tight. Fluttershy let out a brutal yell, stomping off to a corner of the room. A sheet hung over a tall object. She grabbed the sheet and ripped it from the furniture. A wood framed body mirror provided Fluttershy her target. She gazed into the mirror, soaking in every detail of the figure that gazed back. "Pathetic."

    Fluttershy's face hardened, a flame eating away at the back of her eyes. She glared into the eyes of her mirror twin. Minutes passed as fluttershy unleashed the true force of her "stare" upon herself. She felt a soft pressure rubbing against her leg. The injured ferret stared up at her, trying to limp away at the stare he got in return. Her legs grew weak, her throbbing headache became a cold light headed sensation, and her eyes softened. Fluttershy fell to the floor, heaving sobs reverberating throughout the cabin. She buried her face under her front leg, the ferret curling up against it. She peeked under her leg, the small creature looking back at her. She uncrossed her legs, letting him curl up against her chest. Fluttershy reached over and pulled what remained of the sheet over her and the small creature.


    The morning light poured in through Fluttershy's window, warming the sheet that covered fluttershy and her little friend. The mare stirred, stiff and sore from sleeping on the floor instead of her cozy bed. She checked down by her belly to see her patient curled up against her. A placid smile stretched across her face. She pulled the sheet off from her head, smile dampened a bit.

    Her cottage was still trashed from her meltdown the night before. things knocked off counters, curtain rods yanked from their spot. The usual pristine sound of small animals coming and going was replaced by a stale silence. Fluttershy stood, shaky from one of her legs being asleep. She suppressed her tears, forcing the memories of last night into a haze at the back of her mind with all of the other incidents. Fluttershy lifted the dead-sleeping ferret and tucked it back into his little room, making a warm sigh as she drew the little curtain over the front. "I should clean up."

   She opened the front door to let the fresh air in, Standing in the breeze, she stared outside to the wondrously sunny morning. The world, however, felt uninviting to her. Apathetic to her happiness, directly hostile to her ambition. Fluttershy nervously turned away from the door and quietly began cleaning up her mess.

    Applejack pondered over her saddlebag. Her bed was covered in articles of affection, surrounding her empty bags. Flowers, some sweets from Pinkie Pie, multiple drafts of the same sappy love note, simple pieces of jewelry fashioned from bits of old farm tools and rope courtesy of Applebloom. She carefully examined each piece, deciding which to take with her. "Maybe second note, gear necklace, and the poseys? Nah. Fifth note, the candied rose petals, and the orchids? Ahh, why am I having s'much trouble with these darn things?"

    Applebloom giddily peeked around the corner, whispering to Macintosh, "Do you think Fluttershy'll like any of my pieces?"

    Macintosh patted his sister's head, "Eeeyup."

    "I was so excited for big sis,” she chirped, “I just had to do somethin'."

    He gave a proud look to Applebloom "But for now...”

    He ruffled the back of Applebloom’s mane affectionately.

    Applejack frantically packaged and repackaged her bags, groaning each time she unpacked it. The mare jumped at the touch of Big Macintosh's hoof on her shoulder. She looked at him, who simply smiled and shook his head. Applejack also saw her little sister excitedly peeking around the door frame, giving her a friendly wink. Applejack smiled back at Macintosh, grabbed five of the candied rose petals, and tucked them under her hat.

    Applebloom squealed quietly as her big sister walked past her, giving Applebloom a warm glance. Macintosh Placed a hoof around the little filly as they both watched Applejack open the front door. Granny Smith sat in her rocking chair on the front porch, peacefully enjoying the bright spring day. She watched her granddaughter close the screen door behind her, "I'm proud that you can do this in the open these days."

    Applejack smiled at her grandmother with misty eyes, "No small thanks to you for that."

    She gave her grandmother a warm hug before setting off for Fluttershy's cottage. Granny smith's face dampened with tears of joy, witnessing first hand the fruits of her activism all those years ago.

    The rugged earth pony stood atop a small hill overlooking Fluttershy in her garden, watching her beloved sit amongst her flowers with animal friends. Fluttershy looked up to the hill, Applejack diving behind a tree just in time to avoid detection, "How to go about this?"

    She closed her eyes and contemplated the subject for a moment, eventually reopening them, rising to her feet. The mare walked back into the open, once again overlooking her beloved. She carefully set her hat at the base of the tree, taking care not to spill the small bag of candies. She whipped her head to the side, catching her ponytail in her mouth and pulling the scarlet band out of the end, her tow hair loosely unraveling into it's natural frizzy state. She pinched the tip of her tail with her back hooves and removed the band from it as well. Applejack placed the bands inside her hat and gave her mane a light shake, loosening the remainder of stuck mane.

    Fluttershy eventually looked back up the hill, her face freezing at the sight of Applejack. Slowly, she rose to her feet, stuck to the ground she stood on. Applejack took a deep breath, and made her way down the hill, nervously rehearsing what to say in her mind. Splash splish splash.

    Applejack looked down. The cool, clear stream flowed up to her calves, embracing every step she took toward Fluttershy. The cold bite of the water comforted her heart and refreshed her mind, a look of confidence conquering her face. Fluttershy's ears folded back, eyes darting around. The small animals near her backed off, distancing themselves to nearby foliage. Applejack strode up face to face with the pegasus, lightly stamping her front foot when she stopped, an action Fluttershy involuntarily mirrored. Despite her best efforts, she couldn't avoid Applejack's eyes for long, eventually surrendering to her gaze. The earth pony's mane was filled with stray hairs and split ends. The breeze cascaded down to the couples skin, coursing along their undercoat as if they were both shaven and bare to the world. Fluttershy felt her eyes grow heavy with tears, closing them to hold them back, "I lo- I... I can't."

    Her tail went limp as she began to step away. The warm rough texture of Applejack's fur stopped her, sliding her head along the pegasus's neck. Fluttershy moved closer, pressing her front to Applejack, sliding her head closer to the earth pony's ear, feeling the tickle of her frizzed mane. "I, I..."

    Applejack broke the embrace, compelling Fluttershy to look her in the eyes once more. Her pink mane was ruffled, caught up in her face. She shivered a bit at Applejack's wet fur wiping across her forehead, sweeping her mane clear. The water evaporated from her forehead, coolness seeping into her mind. The words hanging on her tongue no longer seemed like an admission. They resonated as an established fact through her head, losing their power against her will. Fluttershy rest her forehead against Applejack's, a low giggle developing in her lungs. She chortled, "I love you Applejack."

    Applejack, nuzzled the side of Fluttershy's head, "I love you t-"

    Fluttershy's wings flared out and pumped once, pushing her into Applejack, wrapping their front legs around each other before falling over to the ground. The pegasus playfully smiled at her lover, a faint blush warming her cheeks while she bashfully loosened her grip. Applejack's mouth stretched into a wry smirk. She grabbed Fluttershy in a bear hug and rolled her around, switching their positions. The two burst out into laughter, holding onto each other as they lied in the soft grass.

    Fluttershy felt at her coat, wet and disheveled from Applejack's legs. She grinned sheepishly at Applejack, considering what to do. The earth pony leaned in to nuzzle at Fluttershy, who instead planted a soft peck on Applejack's cheek. The two stared at each other, waiting for one to crack. Applejack blushed and looked away giggling, triggering another volley of pecks from Fluttershy. The earth pony squirmed about laughing before making a decisive move. She swung her head around to intercept Fluttershy's next peck. When their lips met, Fluttershy startled, her limbs froze while a pressure burned in her chest, heart pounding even faster than before. She briefly pulled back, processing just what she had been doing. She fondly soaked in the image of Applejack laying next to her in suspense, etching it into her memory, before returning back to the kiss giggling once again. "You know, I just got a really silly idea, Applejack."

    The orange mare smirked curiously.

    The couple sat at a table in front of Sugarcube Corner, eating the candied rose petals and watching busy passers by. Twilight was chatting with Rarity in front of a fruit cart, while Dash practiced her basic exercises above the vibrant bustle of the market. Fluttershy found herself holding the last petal, staring at it intently. She took a deep breath, held half of it with her lips, and looked to Applejack. The earth pony smirked, "You sure ya wanna do it this way?"

    Fluttershy pondered for a moment before gently nodding her head. Applejack and Fluttershy winked toward Pinkie Pie, who winked back knowingly as she swept up around the front of the bakery. Applejack turned to face Fluttershy and smiled, "Well, here goes nothin'."