If there was a device to measure the amount of hate given off by a single pony, Flim was certain it would have been broken after reading Applejack. Ever since he woke up, she had done nothing but glare at him. Currently she was boring into the back of his head as he finished the flapjacks.
He levitated the plate of pancakes onto the table, taking a seat beside Apple Bloom. For some reason, more than likely Apple Bloom, it had become his spot. "There we are."
"Wow! They look great, Flim." Apple Bloom rubbed her hooves together before helping herself to a few.
Granny smiled at Flim. "Yes, thank you dearie."
Applejack huffed, looking away from Flim, but grabbing a few pancakes anyway. "Yeah, yeah. Real thoughtful." When she took a bite, her eyes grew wide and Flim almost laughed out loud. He had always been good at making pancakes.
He started to cut the pancake and eat it piece by piece, keenly aware of Apple Bloom's staring. Before he could ask what was so fascinating, she stopped sticking face to the plate like her family and grabbed a fork. Flim could not help but chuckle when she attempted to cut the pancake like him. "Apple Bloom what are you doing?"
"Just practicin' my fancy eatin'. Like you!" Apple Bloom's eyes sparkled with admiration. It was hilarious to see how much she enjoyed emulating him. Though she seemed to be having difficulty holding the utensil with her hoof.
Flim lit his horn, catching her fork in his magic. "Here." He cut the pancakes in a matter of seconds. "Table manners are a little different for earth ponies than they are for unicorns."
"Oh, what's the difference?"
"Well, for one thing, it's perfectly acceptable for you to bring the mouth to your food. You've got it easy!" Flim continued to eat, bringing the fork to his mouth with magic. "Not so much for us."
Apple Bloom nodded, going back to her old way of eating the cake. "Yeah, it's a lot easier our way."
Granny laughed at her granddaughter then turned to Flim. "So you ready for today, whipper snapper?"
"Yes. I double checked the supplies like you asked."
"What supplies?" Applejack's expression darkened and she gave a suspicious glance at him. "What are you up to?"
Granny clapped a hoof on the table. "We're makin' some comm. . . argh! What did you call them again, Flim?"
Flim swallowed a mouthful of pancake. "Commemorative caramel apples. I thought it'd be a great way to get the Sweet Apple Acres name out there."
Applejack raised an eyebrow, "Commemorative caramel apples?" Judging from her less than enthused expression, she was not keen on the idea. "An just when were we sellin' these apples?"
"Oh, I thought this afternoon would be a splendid time." He chuckled to himself, standing to start the dishes. "You can't be that against it, Applejack. It'll mean a tidy profit for the farm."
Apparently the prospect of a tidy profit changed things because Applejack stopped glaring at him. "Fine. I'll let you try this fool idea. But I'm comin' with you this time!"
Flim could not help but smile. This was his chance to impress Applejack and prove his sincerity. He was not about to mess it up.
"What? There's no way!" Scootaloo stood huffing by the tree.
Apple Bloom was smirking back at her, panting just as hard. "I won. Ain't that right, Sweetie Belle?"
Sweetie Belle nodded, pointing to the makeshift finish line scratched in the grass. "You sure did. By at least a stride too." Her expression turned to one of admiration. "That was incredible, Apple Bloom! Where'd you learn to race like that?"
That was just the invitation she needed. Apple Bloom stood in front of her friends, puffing out her chest. "Flim taught me."
Scootaloo gaped at her, "What? That conman guy?"
"He ain't a conman! Not anymore." The thought of Flim made her feel happy all over. He was like the brother she always wanted. Not anything like Big Mac. "He's smart, funny, an really nice! Way cooler than Big Mac."
"Really?" Sweetie Belle looked intrigued. "So he knows all about racing?"
"You bet! He even said he won races when he was younger."
Scootaloo brought them into a huddle. "Well then, if he's so fast, we should ask him to race us."
"Yeah!" Sweetie Belle hopped with excitement. "We might get racing cutie marks."
Apple Bloom felt her stomach drop. She broke the huddle with a swipe of her hoof. "We can't girls."
They glanced between each other, chiming in unison, "Why not?"
Her hoof cuffed the grass nervously. "'Cause Flim can't run. He told me himself."
"That's what I said. But he got real mad when I asked him to run with me." The thought of him snapping at her again made her stomach churn. "I don't want to upset him again."
Sweetie Belle looked thoroughly confused. "How can anypony not be able to run?"
"Maybe he's just scared he'll keep running forever and die!"
"That's just stupid, Scoots!" Though, the girls got Apple Bloom thinking. There was no real reason he could not run. He was completely healthy. Plus his form was perfect, he had to be crazy fast. It was too much of an opportunity to pass up. "Could we make him run?"
Sweetie Belle gasped. "That just might work!"
"Yeah!" Scootaloo looked particularly devious. "It's supposed to rain tomorrow."
Apple Bloom lowered her head in defeat. "Yeah, all day."
"It's the perfect chance."
"Chance for what?" Sweetie Belle's hoof tapped impatiently against the ground.
Scootaloo brought them back into their huddle, "Think about it. We can pretend Apple Bloom is lost or something." Apple Bloom shot her a dirty look but Scootaloo ignored it. "You don't really have to be lost. Anyway, we put her in some danger, and make him think he has to run to save you."
The plan sounded well and good, but it sounded far too risky. "That's great an all. But what if he really can't run an I get hurt?"
"Oh, don't be such a baby. You're not really going to be in any danger. Right, Sweetie Belle?"
"Oh all right. Apple Bloom held out a hoof for them to do their cheer. "Cutie Mark Crusaders go!" They started back to the clubhouse to plan. It sounded like she might get a chance to run with Flim after all. Once he started running again, he would race her all the time. They just had to give him a push in the right direction.
Rainbow Dash had to think of a better prank. After Entropy showed her up this morning, she was determined to top it. Flying over Sweet Apple Acres gave her an idea. Maybe Applejack would know of a good trick. She spotted the earth pony bucking apples right below. She swan dived down to meet her. "Hey, Applejack!"
Applejack jumped in the air, wheeling around to stare at her. "Rainbow Dash! What in tarnation are you doin' scarin' me for?"
"Chill out, Applejack." Rainbow waved a hoof dismissively, "I was just seeing how you're doing."
She snapped back, "How's it look like I'm doin'? I've got to buck all these apples this mornin' 'cause Mr. Fancypony decided to try a little experiment."
"Experiment?" Somehow, Flim trying an experiment did not surprise her much.
"Yeah. We're sellin' caramel apples in town." Applejack snorted, bucking the nearest tree so hard a few leaves came down with the fruit. "He thinks it'll be a right profitable venture."
Caramel apples? Rainbow could not stop the smirk from stretching across her face. It was the perfect opportunity for a prank. Swap out a few apples with come caramel onions and enjoy the laugh. She started up into the air. "Thanks, Applejack."
Applejack looked more than a little confused. "Thanks for what?"
"Oh you know, stuff." She sped off before Applejack could get another word in. Today was going to be epic.
Sometimes Applejack wondered if the world was out to get her. Maybe it was all her imagination, but she doubted that. But, if the world was not out to get her, Flim certainly was. The arrogant little twerp had fooled her family, but she would not be swayed. Honest salespony her hoof. She knew what kind of tricks he was up to and was not going to let him get away with it.
"Applejack? Are you all right?" Flim waved a hoof in front of her face, causing her to start back. Unfortunately, she was still attached to the cart and it rolled back with her.
She pinned her ears at him, "Celestia what's wrong with you?"
Flim rolled his eyes, walking down the road. "Well forgive me for being concerned. In the future I shall turn a blind eye whenever I see my employer losing all semblance of focus."
"Don't you start that fancy lingo with me! It ain't impressin' nopony." Seeing that he was not going to stop, she pushed her weight in the collar and pulled on. "An don't get any ideas impressin' Apple Bloom either."
Flim's ears moved back, obviously listening to her. Without turning around, he responded in an almost perfect imitation of her accent, "Well I can't see what the fuss is all 'bout. It ain't like I’m tryin' to impress anypony. Just talkin' the way I was taught to. I suppose I could talk like y'all from now on if that's more comfortable."
Applejack practically roared with frustration. "Stop it!"
A small smirk stretched across Flim's face. "What? I ain't allowed to talk fancy an now I ain't allowed to talk like you folks. I just can't win, can I?"
"ARGH! Fine!" She shot forward until she could look Flim in the eye. "I'll let you talk your way, all right? Just stop with yer little game."
Flim's smug little expression made her want to scream. He resumed his typical showman accent, "A most judicious decision, Applejack."
Urgh! I swear unto Celestia, if I have to put up with you for one more day . . . To preserve what was left of her sanity, she attempted to focus on the road. They were almost to Ponyville with the apples. If all went well, she would be far too busy to worry about Flim. Speaking of apples . . . "Say, Flim. How were you plannin' on sellin' these to the townsponies?"
He struck a little show pose, "Oh, I have my ways."
Her eyebrow raised ever so slightly, "Yer ways don't have anything to do with that showpony technique of yers?"
"Well . . ." Flim seemed a bit worried, biting his lip. His hoof stamped the dirt in frustration. "It's the only way I know how to sell anything, Applejack!"
"Seriously?" The laughter came before she could stop herself. "You really are somethin'! You mean in all yer years of wandrin' 'round Equestria, you never learned to sell things like normal ponies?"
Flim's sour expression made her laugh even harder. He sighed, rubbing a hoof in his forelock. "What would you have me do, boss?"
She shrugged, stepping over the bridge into town. "Well, for starters, you might try just askin' the ponies without makin' it into a big show."
"But the show sells it!"
Seriously? He's a might touched in the head. "It's a little too much attention for this mare. But, if you want to, I'll let you do it just for today. I'll admit I'm curious to see how it works with apples."
Flim pounded a hoof into the air. "Excellent! It's certain to get the farm some much needed publicity."
I think I could live without yer kind of publicity. Applejack continued down the road and into the market. Ponies' eyes turned to follow their progress. Try as she may to act normal, she was starting to feel like a circus animal. "Flim, why are they starin'?"
"I haven't the foggiest inclination." Flim smiled, waving as though he were some kind of celebrity. A few of the fillies and colts laughed at that, trotting along beside them before Applejack shooed them away.
They reached her favorite sales point and started to set up camp. Applejack had not understood why Flim wanted to bring four empty crates and a board, but now she understood. It made a nice platform to display the caramel apples on. Flim seemed just as nitpicky as she was about setting things up right. All part of his little strategy no doubt. Once they were done, she turned to Flim, "So you goin' to get started?"
Flim raised an eyebrow. "Do I have your blessing now, boss?"
Applejack snorted, starting to get even more irritated with him. "Just get goin' Flim or yer out of a job."
"Right, right." To Applejack's distaste, he jumped on her innocent wagon. Clearing his throat, he began in a carrying voice, "Ponies of Ponyville, today is your lucky day! For right here at this very spot, you have a chance to make history."
"Huh?" Bulk Biceps stopped sniffing the flowers of the flower stand and turned to him. "History? YEAH!"
"That's right my muscular friend. For today, and today only you and your fellow townsponies have the great pleasure of participating in Sweet Apple Acres history."
A few more ponies began to gather, muttering among themselves. One purple pegasus spoke up, "What kind of history?"
"Well that's where my dear employer Applejack comes in." He pointed down at Applejack, and she cringed a little. "She's so modest. It was her famous apples that went into our fabulous limited edition commemoratory caramel apples you see before me now!"
The murmuring grew more excited, and a few ponies began to crane their necks to better see the apples. Bulk looked a little unsure, "But you always sell caramel apples."
"How right you are. But," Flim levitated one of the apples up for them to see. "These particular caramel apples are produced from a brand new, one of a kind, never before seen recipe! Utilizing only the finest ingredients, Granny Smith and yours truly have crafted these sumptuous apples for your eating pleasure."
Ponies began to chatter animatedly amongst themselves, nudging and pointing at the apples on display. Applejack could not help but be impressed how easily Flim had excited the ponies about simple caramel apples.
Flim held up a hoof, "But wait, ponies. There's more. These delightful, scrumptious apples are available only for today. Don't miss out on the opportunity!" With that, everypony began to mill around Applejack to buy the treats.
With Flim's help, they managed to sell out in a few minutes. Applejack watched as the first ponies took a bite. He stomach dropped when she saw their reactions. They coughed, spitting out chucks onto the grass. Carrot Top glowered back at her. "What's the big idea, Applejack? These aren't apples, they're onions!"
"She's right! So much for honest Applejack."
"What? No, I didn't—" Applejack rounded on Flim so quickly that he looked scared. Her voice was low and threatening. "What are you playin' at?"
Flim gulped, eyeing the now angry crowd. "Nothing!"
Applejack glanced nervously at the ponies closing in. Thinking fast, she dragged Flim into the nearest alley. Her hoof pressed him hard against the brick. "Explain, Flim."
"I don't know what's going on!" Flim looked close to tears, "I used apples. Granny helped me. Honest, Applejack."
"Don't talk to me about honesty!" Her hoof pounded the wall beside him leaving behind a substantial crater. Every fiber in her being hated the stallion in front of her. She had known he was up to no good, but she never thought he would do something like this. "Do you know what you did? You ruined our family's reputation! Now how am I supposed to get it back?"
Flim pinned his ears, and pushed her off of him. The usual smug expression was gone, replaced by one of contempt. "Don't tell me about a lost reputation! You don't know the first thing about a lost reputation!"
Applejack had had enough. There was no way in Equestria she would put up with his backtalk. She pounded a hoof against the ground. Her voice was firm and steady as a rock. "That's it, Flim. I gave you a chance and you blew it. Yer fired. I don't ever want to see yer smug little face in my orchard or Ponyville again. Get lost."
Without another glance at Flim, she started back towards the crowd. Perhaps she could salvage the situation before it escalated any further. To her surprise, when she came back, everypony was quiet, staring at none other than Rainbow Dash. "What's goin' on?"
"Applejack! There you are." Rainbow did a spectacular midair spin before her. "I meant to explain everything, but wanted to wait until you came back."
"Explain what. There ain't nothin' to explain." She glowered back at the alleyway. "Flim's gone an soiled our reputation."
"What are you talking about?" Rainbow's laughter was like a bucket of ice water being dumped on her head. "Applejack! He didn't do anything! I did."
"You?" There was no way Rainbow Dash would do something like that, was there?
The townsponies began to whisper amongst themselves pointing to Rainbow Dash as she pulled out a crate of unmistakable caramel apples from behind the wagon. "Sorry everypony! I thought it'd be a fun prank to pull off, switching the real apples with caramel onions."
One of the mares huffed, "That wasn't very nice, Rainbow Dash."
Her ears flattened a bit, "Sorry. I really didn't think you'd get so mad." She flew back to Applejack, gripping her in a tight hug. "Please don't be mad at Applejack. It was my prank."
After a bit of muttering, the townsponies nodded, lining up to take the real apples. Applejack watched them, trying her best to smile though her insides were now churning uncomfortably. When they left, Rainbow Dash turned back to Applejack. "I'm really sorry Applejack. I thought they would laugh."
"It's . . . it's all right, Rainbow Dash." Applejack's entire body felt numb.
Rainbow did not seem to notice, and started looking around. "Hey, where's Flim? I thought he'd get a kick out of the prank."
"Gone." It was all she could do to say that much.
"Oh, he go back to the farm?"
Applejack shook her head, trying to fight the nauseous feeling washing over her. "No, I . . . I fired him."
"YOU WHAT? But he didn't do anything wrong!" Rainbow started to shake her. "He's a good stallion, he works hard, you said so yourself."
"He's always such a showoff! I was plum tired of him outshinin' everypony else." Why am I explain' myself to her anyway? Applejack snorted, "Then somepony got it into her head to make it look like he was tryin' to sabotage our farm."
"Hey, don't point the blame at me!" Rainbow looked angrier than Applejack had seen her in months. She shook her even more violently. "Did you ever stop to think that he was showing you up to impress you? He wants to prove how honest he can be. But you never even gave him a chance!"
"I . . . I . . ." Rainbow was right and she knew it. These past few days she had been looking for an excuse to hate Flim. Because of that, she had completely missed all the good he was doing. And now she had fired him for no fault of his own. Panic began swept over her. I've got to find him. Without another word, she took off at a gallop. She could only hope she was not too late.
Why? Why could he do nothing right? It was as though he planned on the apples turning out to be onions. Who could plan for something like that? As far as he knew, they were apples. Argh! It had been such a simple plan. How could it go so wrong?
Flim was so distracted by his thoughts that he did not even notice where his hooves were going. When he looked up, he was by some tree line on the opposite end of Ponyville from the farm. Though he had no idea where he was, it did not bother him. There was no point in trying to name all the places he had wandered through over the years. So he walked, walked wherever he felt like and that was good enough for him.
Generally, leaving a place was refreshing. But now a small pang of regret nagged at him. Working for the Apple family had been fun. Sure Applejack was a bit of a jerk, but the others were great. Now he would likely never see them again. And all he could think about was that little filly being disappointed in him. He hated disappointing kids. It was something he always tried to avoid.
Walking down the road, he noted that he had absolutely no bits, no food, and no supplies. It was though he had never even worked at Sweet Apple Acres. Well, he was full this time at least. That was some comfort. And maybe he would find work in the next town. Or be run out of it. Either way, it was better than standing around feeling sorry for himself.
The sound of hoofbeats drew his attention back towards Ponyville. He felt his stomach lurch at the sight of Applejack. Most stallions upon seeing a fairly pretty mare running at them, would have been at least partly interested in her or the reason behind her charge. The only thought that consumed Flim was how dreadful her galloping form was. It had to be the loosest, most uncoordinated motion he had ever seen.At least I know where Apple Bloom gets it. He stood still, allowing her to come up to him.
Upon reaching him, she lowered her head, huffing. "Flim . . . I'm glad I found you."
Flim raised an eyebrow, and blurted out the next word before he could stop himself. "Ugly."
"WHAT?" Apparently calling Applejack ugly was not the wisest of choices. She stood up straighter, eyes challenging, "An just what is ugly, Flim?"
"Your running!" Flim could not help but burst out laughing. "By Celestia, I've never seen form that ugly before. What, were you impersonating a goose?"
She looked flustered for a moment, then regained her attitude full force. "Well sorry for bein' a lousy runner. It ain't like I've ever seen you run before."
That shut him up. He looked away, "Well, I never had a good enough reason to."
"Uh—huh. Pot callin' the kettle black I see." Clearing her throat, she continued in a softer tone. "I came to get you."
"What? You incarcerating me for disturbing the peace?"
"Not hardly." Though, from her expression, she had considered the possibility. "Rainbow Dash told the truth. She switched the caramel apples with onions. You weren't to blame."
Flim started at that. "Why would she do something like that?"
"Don't ask me! Reckon she though it was funny." Applejack avoided his gaze, and began to paw at the dirt. "I . . . I shouldn't have yelled at you or fired you. I been treatin' you pretty rotten since you came."
Flim could not believe what he was hearing. He lowered his head to her eyelevel, causing her to jump back a bit. It was obvious she had something else to say. "And?"
"And I'm sorry for not givin' you a chance. You aint' been nothin' but kind an helpful since you showed up. I guess I was too blind to see 'cause," The next words came out in a rush, "because I was jealous, okay?"
"Jealous? Why in Equestria would you be jealous of me?"
"'Cause yer so good at everythin'!" Her hoof was digging a rather large crater in the dirt now. "You know just how to pick apples, are a better salespony than I'll ever be, Apple Bloom adores the ground you walk on, an," Her voice grew shaky, "an can do just about anythin' I can do ten times better!"
Flim felt his heart pounding fast. All this time, he had been doing those things to make her life easier. But she thought he was only trying to usurp her. It was the most ridiculous thing he ever heard of, and yet it made perfect sense. How did I miss that? He lifted her chin, looking her in the eyes. His voice lost all trace of smugness, and became soft, "Applejack. I'm not trying to make you feel inferior. Honestly, I'm not. I just thought that if I worked really hard, you'd come to see how sincere I was."
Applejack was staring at him as though they had just met. Flim took her small nod as acknowledgement. She stammered something incoherently. Then, she spoke in a small voice, "Okay. I'll stop bein' so jealous. Yer good help, I've been a right fool not to see that from the get-go."
"Thanks." He really did not know what else to say, so he started back the way Applejack came. "So, should we get the cart?"
"Yeah. That'd be a start."
As he walked alongside her, Flim noticed how covered in sweat she was. "So, you looked pretty hard for me?"
Applejack nodded. "I wanted to set things right before you got too far."
"Thanks. I appreciate it." Flim could not help but be curious about Applejack. Why was she so worried about him being better than her? She had the best reputation of any apple farmer he had met. It was as though she were trying to prove herself. He decided to steer clear of that touchy subject for the moment. "So, do you always run that ugly or was that because you were worried?"
She glowered at him. "I run like that all the time. Ain't it normal?"
"For someponies maybe. But it's sloppy."
"So? I get where I need to go."
Flim rolled his eyes, "Yeah, but you could go a lot further and a lot faster if you had better form."
Applejack stared open mouthed at him. "So that's what you were teachin' Apple Bloom!"
She's just now figuring this out? "Yes. And I could teach you too if you like. It'd give her somepony to race with."
"Couldn't she race with you?"
Flim gulped, avoiding her gaze again. "Well, yes. But I'm much too fast. When I race, I kinda lose my focus and can't slow down."
Applejack raised a skeptical eyebrow, "Uh—huh. Sure you do."
"It's the truth!" It was actually the truth. But only part of it. Flim chuckled, "Let's change the subject, shall we?"
"To those friends of yours and Ponyville." They really were valid subjects. He knew precious little about the town he was temporarily calling home. It might be nice to get a little background.
She sighed, "All right. But it's a long story."
"Well, we've got time." Flim gestured to the sun still bright in the sky and the far distant orchard just barely visible on the horizon. "Lots and lots of time."
Yeah! Another chapter. And a Bulk cameo. Gotta love Bulk! Things are about to get interesting . . .