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[Sweet Apple Acres] One in Every Bunch [Closed -PM/re: join]

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Scootaloo thought it was funny that the faster the two little foals went the harder Sweetie Belle squeezed her waist. Not that she could blame Sweetie, she was going pretty fast. As the two of them raced along Scootaloo kept seeing places that would be perfect for tricks, but she didn't dare to try anything with her friend on the back of the scooter.

Scoot watched Sweetie Belle recover from being on her scooter and all she could think of is how she should have gone further into sweet apple acres before stopping because there was no way her friend would get back on. Now she'd have to be slow while Sweetie ran across the farm. 'Oh well, at least we didn't crash or I'd never get her back on a scooter again', she thought.

Moving much slower than she was before she beat her little wings and the scooter raced across the farm next to Sweetie Belle. As soon as the two little foals saw AJ Scoot gave a cheerful "Mornin', AppleJack" but her face changed as she noticed the bully from the other day. She was so distracted and nervous she crashed right into an apple tree, but quickly got up and tried to pretend she just wasn't looking where she was going. She moved over to Sweetie Belle, but didn't say anything.

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Applejack simply arched an eyebrow at the upstart colt, watching him chew on his words like he had a mouthful of worms. He had tough spirit, but it was the all awry and prickly type. She was starting to see an inkling of how he may have managed to get himself into a day's worth of work as he kicked aside one of the best apples of the season. Sometimes colts and fillies just don't realize what they have right in front of them, and it was like to drive Applejack barrels of crazy- but it wasn't that long ago she was a stubborn filly herself, buckin' trees in frustration cause Granny Smith wouldn't trust her to run the cart by herself in town.

She still remembered the day. It was before dawn, dark and gray with rainy clouds. She'd tied herself to the cart and left before anyone was up; the saddle barely fit, she had to use the cart straps and tighten them as tight as they would go to keep the entire cart from slipping off her back. It had taken her several hours to get the cart barely a mile, not even halfway to town before her brother showed up, sagging straw in mouth, sopping mane and dripping coat. He walked with her silently until she finally collapsed in frustration and tears, hiding both beneath the wide rim of her hat. She was just about to unbuckle herself from the cart when the cart began to lurch forward, threatening to run her over. Looking back she saw Big Mac pushing the cart with his head, one large eye focused on her. He pushed again, rocking the cart another few inches. Setting her hooves she pulled, slogging through the muddy ground. It had taken her another hour, but eventually with Big Mac's help, she'd made it to town. They did not sell a single apple all day as the rain poured down, until Granny Smith came to fetch them. She stood proudly, covered from hock to flank in mud, voice hoarse from shouting her wares to the empty rainy town square. Granny Smith simply eyed the soaked filly and her brother, moved around the cart, picked out some select apples, then returned to her grand-filly and set down three shiny bits on the cart next to her before making her way back to the farm, without a word of reprimand. It was the first bits she'd ever made. Everyday after for a season Big Mac helped her push the cart into town silently, making her do most of the work but giving her the extra nudge she needed, until she was finally able to make the journey herself.

Looking down at this blue colt, she wondered what it was he was pulling behind him. She could feel him tripping in his words, dragging himself along in one spot in his actions. Maybe all he needed was a little push.

"So...how do we get started?" he seemed to mewl with mixed parts resentment, mixed parts curiosity.

Applejack took a long moment to consider his question, to consider the young colt all around before letting her gaze move back up to the upper branches of the oldest apple tree on the farm. "Ever bucked an' apple tree before, Champ?" The words came out evenly, no challenge or tease in them, simple matter-of-fact honesty. Her mind and will had melded, and she was clear in her direction. "Ah need to see how strong you are, then I can know what you kin and can't do." She motioned with her head for Champ to join her close to the base of the tree. "Ya'll ever play any sports, Champ?" she had just finished speaking when Sweetie Belle's familiar voice chimed up behind her.

"Hello, Applejack! Isn't it a lovely day? We were looking for Apple Bloom, and-" the youngster stopped mid-sentence like she'd suddenly found an apple fritter in her mouth and didn't know what to do with it. Without anytime to reply, Scootaloo appeared in her regular fashion, wrapped around an appletree, or headfirst in a basket of apples. She'd seen it so many times already, she wasn't surprised by it anymore. Knowing Rainbow Dash also had that effect on her.

"Hello girls, mighty fine day to ya'll too. Last I saw Apple Bloom was back at the barn. She outta still be there, she was simmerin' up a storm bout bakin' some treats for ya'll today using the apples Ah bucked yesterday, unless she went into town a'course. We'll be headin back ta' the barn in a shake of a tail soon as Champ shows me how he'll be helping aroun' here. Ya'll two can wait fer us if you like, or you two can scoot 'a long now if ya'll prefer."

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Staring off into the orchard, he waited till he was spoken too once more before reluctantly dragging his hooves to join the filly at the base of the elder tree, silently marvelling at the size of it compared to him and yet still retaining that sharp and sour look to his face. Ears plastered back against his skull in irritation as he heard out the others words. Buck a tree? He had to peer at her a moment or two.

Small memories of youthful tantrums played out in his head as soon as his father had mentioned the notion of moving here, breaking shelves with his back hooves and ending up with that stinging stream of tears pinching at the flesh of his cheeks and making his eyes red raw by the end of it. But he had strength there. It's how he got his cutie mark after all.

Taking a moment to eye said mark up, he felt a small, weak sliver of pride slowly wriggle around in his chest before it grew amazingly so, blotting out the old memories like black clouds in a clear sky as he held up his head to look the other in the eye. A cocksure smile slowly coming to his face.

Especially at the last question.

He could've gone giddy as the ego took the reins and he turned so his back hooves faced the base of the stupid tree, tail twitching away as he boasted rather freely.

"Am I good at sports? Pfah! Lady, I aint just called Champ 'cause it sounds awesome, it's cause my parents -knew- I'd be awesome."

Yes, his parents did. His mom especially. The tension welling up in his legs, he was just about ready to kick it when---...THEY turned up.

Blinking first at Sweetie Belle's appearance, he had to gawk a little, frozen in place like a frightened fawn before the orange little wizze Scootaloo came crashing into the scene and he shook his head. Eyes narrowed from the wide saucer plates they were as a tiny, ignorant snort blew out from his nostrils like a cornered bull, lips pulled in an irritated sneer as a groan escaped him.

"Ah no, not you GIRLS again!"

His anger, however, would have to wait as it seemed. Glancing up at the blonde haired, good natured filly going on about something with the barn and yadda yadda, blah blah. When he was told what he had to show there was another, small snort that escaped that little muzzle and soon his back hooves smacked into the base of the tree with a resoundingly loud mule kick.

The branches trembled and soon the apples fell, granted, not as much as AJ had managed to dishevel from their home tree, but deffinately enough for a colt his size should have been able to bring down. Give a couple more. And he rose his head with enough pride to fell a peacock.

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Sweetie Belle's little heart swelled happily inside her little chest, and a bright smile mirrored that across her face. If he was helping Applejack out so proudly, he couldn't possibly be the big meanie she'd thought he was! He must have just been having a bad day!

"Oh,that's *wonderful*!" Sweetie Belle chirped happily, trotting towards one of the piles of empty baskets that seemed omnipresent around the farm, just waiting to be filled with apples. "How very *nice* of you! And you look like you'll be able to help a lot! I've only ever seen Applejack and Big Mac buck a tree better than that!" That might not be technically true - there'd been plenty of ponies who'd bucked a tree just as well as Champ, but they were all grown-ups, which meant it wasn't as impressive. Grown-ups could do anything, after all!

She took ahold of a handle of one of the big empty baskets in her teeth - they were pretty much just as big as she was - and dragged it over towards the tree that Champ had just knocked some apples out of. Her little hooves dug at the soil, a little trail left in the dirt and grass as she struggled briefly with the basket, getting it into place. She let go of it and looked up to Champ, her eyes shining. "Probably want some baskets under the trees to catch the apples, though! Otherwise you gotta pick them all up off the ground, and that's no fun, I know! We helped Apple Bloom do that a bunch of times! We're too small to do very well at bucking trees - Apple Bloom and Scootaloo only get two or three apples a buck, and I'm lucky if I get one ... but I'd imagine that it must be a lot more fun to get in a good kick than to have to go around picking them all up by hoof!"

And with that declaration, she bent her head to happily pick up one of the apples Champ had just knocked out of the tree, hopped up to put her front hooves on the edge of the basket, and drop it inside, wanting to help Champ with at least the apples from *this* tree!

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'You girls... who does this pony think he is' Scoot couldn't believe he was here, of all the ponies in Ponyville it had to be this one standing next to AJ. Grudges weren't something Scoot had an easy time letting go of, especially when somepony makes her friends cry. Worst part is Champ made Sweetie cry really badly, not just a few tears... and she even ran away because of him!

Scootaloo had already taken in a huge inhale of air getting ready to start yelling at Champ when from behind her Sweetie started going on about how good he was being. As a confused, irritated look spread across Scoot's face all she could do was stare at her friend and watch her be nice to this bully. She tilted her head and watched Sweetie help him and although she kept trying to start talking nothing was really coming out at first "I...um... but... Sweetie Belle... what are you doing... why are you being nice to him?" At this point Scoot was getting really annoyed, he was a jerk and now she couldn't even get mad at him or else SHE would be the jerk. A loud sigh escaped her and she just stood there still on her scooter staring at this whole weird scene.

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The branches above shivered, and apples came loose, tumbling around Applejack, thudding in the soft grasses of the hill. ...five, seven, maybe thirteen... eighteen, twenty-two... twenty eight,[/i]she thought to herself. The hail came to a stop, a few last apples falling with resounding thumps on the other side of the tree. Thirty one, at least. Applejack looked up at the old apple tree, it was large and old; it took quite a buck to relieve it of its burden of fruit. Applejack had already given the tree a decent buck; the tree didn't produce as many apples as it used to, and they were much higher up as its branches reached toward the sky unlike any of the other trees on the farm. She figured champ should be able to shake an average tree loose of its ripe apples within a few solid bucks, if he put that much effort into each one. Applejack was... impressed she thought. When Big Mac was his size, he could fell quite a few apples due to his large size; but champ was not too far behind in ability as Big Mac had been at his age.

If champ found himself motivated, he could buck as well as any of the other adults around town, or her cousins for that matter. Applejack looked to Champ, who looked so smug with himself, one would think he'd just won the Running of the Leaves. AJ tried hard to suppress a smile; his confidence was so puffed up with hay that he looked like he was practically about to burst of it- she couldn't help but see a little sliver of herself, and feel a little stab of embarrassed shame for her own stubborn pride. Instead, she caught Champ's eyes, looked around at the apples that had fallen, then gave him small nod of respectful approval. "Ya got spunk alright, Champ, that's a good buck you got in you. Ya might be right to be a bushel proud." Applejack moved her gaze up the tree, where the branches still clung on to the fruit that had proved more stubborn than Applejack and Champ so far. Applejack spoke to Champ, while still evaluating the tree, "Lets start here- give this ol' gal a few more bucks and see what we can get off 'er. Then we'll make our way back to the barn along the baskets Ah've already laid out, and it should be about gettin' towards noon then."

Applejack turned to Sweetie Belle, who had begun chatting cheerily, and put herself to helping with gathering up the loose apples that had fallen. She smiled inwardly as she listened to Sweetie Belle talk about helping Applebloom with the same task. It was unexpected of her and Scoot to show up, but quite well timed as well; it made it a lot easier having a body or two to pick up the loose apples that didn't make it to the barrels. Now AJ wouldn't have to do it all herself later on. Moving to a few barrel halves that she had left in a pile just a moment of a trot away, she bit down on them and began arranging them in a loose groups around the tree beneath the largest of the branches and loads. Most of the barrels were already in position for the acres that she had prepared for buckin', but sometimes a few adjustments were needed here and there.

She was a bit surprised at Sweetie Belle's enthusiasm to help Champ, which was pretty obviously not shared by Scootaloo, but it seemed Scoot was a bit hesitant. Seems all three girls were part of the supposed argument. Maybe this would be good for all of them, it certainly seemed Sweetie Belle was over what had happened. She never was able to ask Apple Bloom the details, but she also knew sometimes foals had to learn from their own mistakes, and how to work them out.She was happy to help, but maybe this time she would wait and give Apple Bloom the chance to make the first step.

"...why are you being nice to him?"

Applejack listened to the conversation while moving the barrels, and soon as the barrels were in position, Applejack moved past Scootaloo, giving her a simple heartfelt smile and warm look as if to answer her question, then picked up an apple just behind Sweetie Belle and deposited it in the barrel-half that the young filly was draped over. "Thank ya for the help girls, it makes a slow job go an awful lot faster."

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Champ suddenly felt rather...cornered and unsure of himself. At home, he often liked, nay, loved being the epicenter of attention around his friends...but this lot were still really unknown to him and that messed him up just a little inside when he was getting attention. Especially when Sweetie Belle, the little filly he'd made cry the other day, was suddenly so happy and chirpy towards him. His ears splayed against his head in confusion and he tilted back just a little bit as he watched the little white unicorn with big, wide eyes as he stood there stock still like a deer stared down by a wolf.

Staring at her in confusion, the well sized colt peered between her and Scootaloo and couldn't help but be sharing the sympathy with the annoying little orange best. Frowning at them both he scuffed his hoof against the ground as his confusion turned to irritation.

"Yeah...why ARE you bein' nice to me?"

His questioning would have to wait however, it seemed. With a blink, he looked to Applejack with such a look that he was caught offguard, for once looking like a curious little foal instead of somepony trying to make other's day a misery. That look however was short lived.

Yes. He did deserve to be proud. He'd done a dang good job and what's more, if it was kicking then atleast he'd be able to pretend it was his favourite ball or something. Or someone that really ticked him off.

But even those thoughts, he mentally chided himself on...but he snapped out of that. Darnit. He was strong.

Looking to the honey colored mare again, his head tilted slightly and he looked back to the apples in the tree and the baskets that she and Sweetie were arranging.

Readying up his legs, his tongue stuck out in faint concentration and soon again those powerful little sporter's hind legs smacked against the trunk again. Another explosion of sound and the apples began falling again, some falling into the baskets, some on the ground...and one well aimed one landing smack on his head.

Letting out a small groan he raised a hoof to rub at his head, frowning at the opposing fruit.

"Stupid apple." He said bluntly.

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Sweetie Belle looked confused at Scootaloo and Champ's questions... "Well... c-cause... cause he's being nice an' helping Applejack. I know he was mean the other day, but ... everyone has bad days, sometimes. Sometimes me an' my big sister Rarity make each other feel bad, but we're still bestest friends... and sometimes Applejack and Rarity yell at each other, but they're still good friends, too! Sometimes we feel bad, and that's when we need our friends most of all."

The words made her think of music... the music she always heard around her in everyone's words, and in nature, and in the thump of a cart wheel bouncing over a stone...

o/~ o/~ o/~

When your heart feels like it's going to burst,

And the world seems to have given you its worst,

and you feel like you've been left alone,

and you don't know where you can call home,

that's when a smile means the world to you,

and a friend's the best to help you see it through...

o/~ o/~ o/~

She paused, thinking... there had to be more to the song than that, she knew it... but she ducked her head as the notes got away from her, realizing that she'd gone and blurted out music in front of everyone again. She hid her head embarassedly behind the basket she'd been propped up on, trembling nervously...

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AJ smiled warmly at her as Scoot was pouting and it made her feel silly. Then everypony started talking and Scoot quietly listened to Apple Jack and Sweetie Belle. She thought about what the two of them were saying and looked at Champ who WAS actually helping and not being mean to Sweetie. Maybe Champ wasn't so bad... he WAS helping Apple Jack after all. Her cheeks turned bright red when she realized maybe she was going about this all the wrong way. Everypony can be a jerk sometimes but she was a jerk back then nopony would get along. Being so stubborn she just stood there and thought and was hoping maybe somepony else would do something.

Before Scootaloo could say a word Sweetie Belle started singing. Scoot listened happily to the song and then glared at Champ, afraid he'd laugh at her again. She ran over and hugged her friend and then looked straight into Champ's eyes. Her face was very serious, which was almost concerning and a little scary looking despite her being so small. "Alright listen, I'm willing to let what happened go. I know everypony has a bad day, and I know you come off as big and scary... so maybe it wasn't all your fault. Just know that if you EVER make my friends cry on purpose again, we will never be friends." She stood next to Sweetie Belle still staring straight at him. She was very serious about this and hoped he realized how mad he made her that day. She didn't say another word, just looked at him expecting a reply.

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Applejack finished adjusting the barrels as another shower of apples came down, a few bouncing off her hat, rolling down the brim; others falling around with heavy thunks as the barrels caught them. With a satisfied nod she turned her ears to the conversation behind her without turning her head.

"Alright listen, I'm willing to let what happened go. I know everypony has a bad day, and I know you come off as big and scary... so maybe it wasn't all your fault. Just know that if you EVER make my friends cry on purpose again, we will never be friends."

Applejack raised an eyebrow at the little scene taking place behind her, and just as she decided to pipe up and opened her mouth to speak, she thought thought better of it. Scoot was pretty headstrong, rather like Dash at times when it came to what she'd put her mind to; but Champ was a pot o' brewin' firecracker's too. The way this was going, she was pretty sure there would be more spilled milk and rotten apples between the fillies and colt, but sometimes, a pony just had to learn for themselves. Lifting her head from a barrel she spared a sidelong glance at Champ, who had been rubbing his head from where the apple had hit him. A moment of curiosity passing through her.

Sometimes youngin's suprised ya. She didn't know much about Champ other than her time with him today. Maybe he didn't have any friends since moving here. Perhaps he missed his old friends. She thought back to when she had left the farm for her new life in Manehatten, and how homesick she had felt once she'd gotten there. She didn't know what Champ had left behind, but she could see the weight of that cart on his shoulders, how his behavior helped him to disguise it; but she knew it was there. She remembered it all too well. She shook out her tail and mane rather loudly in the silence that had elapsed, and thought she felt the eyes that turned to her. With practiced ease she walked to the next nearest apple tree, a few trots away, and gave it a sound kick with one hoof in passing. It was much younger than the tree Champ had been bucking, but its branches still wide and full of the delicious fruit. Apples rained and thudded into barrels around her as she casually continued past the tree and over to fetch a nearby cart, empty except for a few loose apples from the day before.

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Watching both fillies after the offending apple was placed in a basket and he couldn't help but raise an eyebrow as Sweetie began singing, she really had a nice voice...he was a little suprised. Then again, he hadn't heard her singing over those other two...whatever they were doing. It certainly hadn't been singing. It made him frown in faint confusion at the little white unicorn, especially when she hid herself under a basket.

Heh. Chip used to do that. Chip had been a frightfully nervous colt.

The thought briefly tugged a smile on his lips before it vanished, staring at Scootaloo as she made some big speech about him behaving or else they'd never be friends.

It was the 'or else' that really put him off.

Ears flattening slightly as he stared the little orange filly, getting upclose and personal as his equally orange eyes just glowered her.

"That suits me -fine-!" Came his snarl before moving to grab the basket Sweetie was hiding under, peering at the unicorn questioningly before he settled it on his back.

"What is it with girls being so shy over singing and stuff?"

Stupid girls.

Squaring his shoulders he moved over to where AJ was, peering at her as she apparently looked at him and his ears flicked at the noisy rustling of that haybail of a mane and tail. Eyes narrowing before he moved to the tree with basket in hoof. Why was she looking at him?

Pfft, if he knew bumpkins knew what a camera was he'd have asked her to take a picture to make it last longer.

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Sweetie Belle peeked carefully over the top of the basket to watch Champ's reaction, trembling as she hid. And as she watched that small, gentle smile spread across his muzzle, she let out a sigh of relief and let herself straighten up, just a little, her eyes shining as she gave Champ a soft, relieved, and caring smile of her own, sharing that nice little moment with him. She wasn't sure what she had said that had made him smile like that, but she saw a friendly heart somewhere in there, but also a bit of that pain which always seemed to be coursing through him.

Then Scootaloo gave her a hug, and she smiled and nuzzled at her friend, as she reluctantly allowed herself to give Champ a second chance... though when Scootaloo's voice became hard and threatening, Sweetie Belle gasped. "Scootaloo!" she gasped, softly, and watched that wall slam up again in Champ's eyes.

Sweetie glanced over at Applejack, her eyes pleading for help. Applejack was a grown-up! Grown-ups knew how to do everything! She could help Champ, right?

She nuzzled at Scootaloo again. "Scooooot," she said, worriedly, "I'm glad you're always there to protect me, but you don't threaten people with friendship! You don't say never! Friendship is always there... there's always new friends to make, even if you don't expect it! Friendship helps make everything better, even the rough spots! Sure, sometimes you get hurt... but it's like your adventures! You're not scared of scraping your knee or bumping your head, because you want to find out what awesome stuff is over the next hill! If you didn't risk getting hurt, you'd never find all the awesome stuff in the world! It's the same with friendship... if you never let your heart get hurt, you'd never get a chance to find all the awesome *people* in the world!"

She glanced over at Champ again, hopefully... she wanted to see that lil' smile from him again...

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Well, that didn't work out like she wanted it to. Little Scootaloo was getting frustrated with this whole situation, and she didn't know how to fix it. Her eyes softened when she heard Sweetie say her name, but listening to what she was saying was just making her feel so much worse. She didn't know what to say anymore! Champ kept being mean to everypony and Scoot just wanted him to disappear. A little into what Sweetie Belle was saying, Scootaloo just wasn't listening anymore. Too lost in deciding what to do next to hear her friend talking, she only noticed when Sweetie Belle stopped talking.

The conclusion that Scoot came to was that she just didn't care anymore. A sense of hopelessness about the whole situation made her give up on any ideas of Champ not being a jerk in the future. If he picked on her or her friends she'd stand up to him like she was before, but other than that Scoot had no intentions of saying another word to that colt. Luckily she wasn't too far from her scooter, and without a word she walked over to it and put her helmet on. She looked over at Sweetie Belle trying not to let AJ or Champ see her eyes, because they were showing how she felt quite obviously "Forget this, I'm going to find Apple Bloom." With that she zipped off towards the barn, buzzing her little wings as fast as she could.

[scoot exits]

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