An Honest Life

This story is a sequel to The Mess We're In
Flim was never one to argue with Flam. In fact, if the situation had been any different, they might have been able to work it out. But, fate being the fickle thing that it is had other plans. After a heated fight, they split up. There was no going back, the bridge was burned and the damage done.
It soon becomes apparent that things are never as easy as they seem. Several failed attempts later, Flim is out of energy and ideas. Just when he's about to give up, a chance encounter with Applejack changes everything. Working beside the Element of Honesty was the opportunity he needed. If he could prove his sincerity to her, then nopony would question his desire for an honest life. But, as the days drag on, he realizes a truth that may just jeopardize everything. How can he prove his sincerity when he must constantly hide the truth?


12. Worth a Shot

Flim never thought he would enjoy plowing a field in the heat of the morning, but here he was smiling as he did just that. There was something to be said about the satisfaction that came from finishing a straight row with nothing more than willpower and strength alone. He supposed that was why Applejack and Big Mac enjoyed it so much. For the first time in years, he felt genuinely useful again, and he relished the fact that he had control of at least one aspect of his life even if that aspect was plowing a field.

He paused for a moment to allow for another coughing fit. Though he had been careful to take breaks, his condition had deteriorated rapidly in the week following the festival. It was inevitable, but it was disconcertingly fast. Despite that, Flim had managed to make incredible progress with the farm work. Certainly he was not as fast as Big Mac, but he was getting almost every task finished in relatively short periods of time. If only his lungs would cooperate, then he might be able to do more and stay a little longer.

Rather than easing up like normal, the pain ratcheted through his body, causing him to sink to his knees. Flim would not have minded the fits if they did not strain his sides so badly. They were so sore and weak that he could scarcely breathe without searing pain. It was too much for anypony to stand for long, and he knew it was only a matter of time before he would give into it.

"Flim?" Applejack's cautious voice drifted into his ears. He looked up to see the mare kneeling beside him, a frown stretching her freckles. Without hesitation, she unhitched him from the plow, relieving some of the pressure on his chest. "Maybe you shouldn't be plowin'."

He could only nod, wheezing as he sank completely to the dirt. An involuntary squeal of pain escaped as he felt his ribs nearly crack with a particularly strong cough. He moaned, lowering his head and keenly aware of Applejack's questioning gaze. It was not that he minded her watching him, but that she was watching him fall apart. No stallion his age should be in his condition, and no stallion anywhere liked to have a pretty mare seeing first hoof how pathetic he really was. "Sorry," he managed in a hoarse whisper.

"Don't be sorry, Flim." Her hoof stroked his side gently, and he winced at the ripple of pain. She took an intake of breath as though about to comment, but seemed to shake the thought loose. "You want me to fetch you some medicine?"

"No, I'll . . . I'll be okay." That could not have been farther from the truth, but Flim did not exactly have any medicine to take. After helping Twilight with her magic research, he had been able to buy some oxygen at least, but he did not have enough for anything else.

Applejack sighed, nodding slowly. "Okay, but, let's get you a different job at least." She got to her hooves, holding out one for him. He took it, allowing her to pull him to a standing position. They made their way towards the farmhouse in companionable silence, there really was not much to say. He would suggest it was time to leave, she would try and explain how he could still help, and they would argue about it. That was how it went just about every night, and Flim was tired of it.

Applejack began to hum, picking up her hooves as though she were walking in a parade. A part of him wanted to laugh out loud at her predictability. Whenever Applejack thought she won an argument, she would start to hum and prance just like that. It was amusing to say the least, and he marveled at the fact that she failed to notice something so obvious. Once they arrived at the farmyard, she turned back to face him, grinning broadly. "All right. Yer goin' to help me until lunch is ready."

Flim removed his hat, wiping the sweat off his forehead. "Thrilling. And pray tell, what am I helping you with today?"

Applejack's face flushed crimson, and she began to paw at the grass. "Well, I was kinda hopin' you might .  . . you might teach me some of that fancy mathematics of yers," she mumbled.

Flim could not help but stare dumbstruck at her. Applejack, the mare that was constantly making fun of him for his "fancy talk" actually wanted him to teach her. It would have been funny is she had not been so sincere. His voice grew soft, "Sure, I can do that."

"Great, 'cause yer goin' to have to show me that accountin' stuff you were goin' on about." She giggled, trotting to the door of the house. "Come on, we'll get a snack an get started!"

Flim rolled his eyes, but followed her inside. It might be the most ridiculous request of the week, but it was something he could do and do well. Perhaps Applejack knew that and wanted to cheer him up. Then again, he could just be imagining things. After all, he was just some vagrant ex-conman. There was precious little motivation for anypony to try and make him feel useful, even if that pony was Applejack.



Going to town used to be the one task Big Mac dreaded more than anything else. It was not as though he did not like Ponyville, he just preferred Sweet Apple Acres. Now that he had a pretty mare to call on, he saw the situation a bit differently. There was nothing better than spending a relaxing lunch with his marefriend in the park and today's had been simply delightful. Even something as mundane as strolling through town on a quiet afternoon was made exciting with Cheerilee by his side.

They were nearing Cheerilee's house when a literal horde of mares charged right in front of them, chasing something or somepony with a fanatic intensity. Well, you don't see that every day. He turned to Cheerilee, "What do you reckon that's about?"

"Isn't it obvious?" An uncharacteristically hungry smile stretched across her dimpled face. "They're after that hunk of a stallion!" Without word or warning, she bolted off to join the horde.

A sinking feeling crept into his stomach. This had to have something to do with Twilight and her student or his name was not Big Macintosh. Rather than attempting to mess with what had to be some kind of powerful love potion, he decided to go to the real source of the problem.

When he arrived at the library, he raised a hoof cautiously to the door. It was the first time in years he had actually been in the building, and he felt rather awkward barging into her home. But, his marefriend and what looked like half the mares in Ponyville had lost their minds and he would see an end to it. So, cautiously, he creaked the door open and stepped inside.

The scene could only be described as chaotic. He always imagined the uptight, organized alicorn to be a stickler for cleanliness. However, the entire floor of the library was strewn with papers, quills, books, and Equestria knew what else. There in the center of it all was Twilight looking more than a little harried. "Twilight? Uh, there's a bit of a problem in town."

"You don't say?" Spike's sarcastic voice sounded from the top of the library's ladder. The dragon made his was down, and tiptoed over the carnage to where Big Mac stood. "Twilight," he jerked a nod at the alicorn who was still intently focusing on a spell book, "spilled a mysterious potion all over Entropy." His ill-concealed snigger made Twilight huff indignantly before continuing her research. "Now he's a mare magnet! It's super funny."

"It is not funny." Twilight moaned, slamming her head into her book. "Poor Entropy, it's all my fault. I'm the worst marefriend in Equestria!"

You could say that again. Big Mac rolled his eyes, starting towards the door. "Well, hope you figure somethin' out soon. Even Cheerilee's gone a few plums shy of a fruit cake."

"Sorry, Big Mac." She gave a sincerely apologetic smile, "I'll do my best to fix things. In the meantime, could you try and help Entropy? He went to look for Flim."

Flim? "Eeeyup." Something told him helping Twilight's somewhat deranged stallion would be easier said than done, but he would do his best. "Just so long as you put her right again."

Twilight jerked a nod, returning to the book once again. Taking that as his cue to leave, he made his way out through the mess and into the sunlight beyond. Ponyville was eerily quiet with all the mares on their potion induced quest. So he shuffled back to his wagon, assuming that if Entropy needed his help, he knew where to find him. Sure enough, when he arrived at the straw laden wagon, there was something moving underneath it. "Entropy? What in the hay are you doin' in my wagon?"

Whisking away the straw, he stared down at a rather disgruntled looking Entropy. But, rather than the middle aged stallion's salt and pepper mane and lined face, he was greeted by somepony that looked twenty years younger. Apparently this was not just a love potion they were dealing with. "What in tarnation happened to you?"

Entropy sighed, rubbing a hoof through his now jet black mane. "Twilight spilled a potion on me, some kind of aphrodisiac illusion mix."

Aphro-what now? Before Big Mac could comment further, the unicorn levitated the straw back into place. "Trust me on this one, you don't want the mares to see me."

That's obvious. This was not exactly the situation he had envisioned when Twilight asked him to help, but what was he to do? He let out an exasperated sigh, "Where to?"

"Flim if you can manage it. He's the master of illusion magic around here." That seemed to be a sufficient enough answer for Entropy, and frankly Big Mac did not want to know what his adoptive brother had to do with this whole mess.

"Eeeyup." Without another word to the crazed stallion, he hitched himself up to the wagon and started off down the road. If there was one thing he had learned from living in Ponyville, it was never to question all the bizarre happenings. You had to simply let them roll off your back or they would drive you mad. Big Mac hoped that today's incident could be resolved fairly easily without too many lasting effects.

The rest of the trip he made in silence, Entropy did not speak, so he did not feel the need to. There were few ponies he really enjoyed talking to, and students of the princess that could not even control basic levitation were not on that list. Flim was different of course. For a unicorn, Flim was down to earth, reliable, and understood the necessity of shutting up and getting to work.

By the time he arrived at the orchard, sweat had streaked his sides from the oppressive heat beating down on him. Idly he wondered if Flim was doing all right. Lately he had been struggling to keep on working with his condition, and he prayed to Celestia the kid was not pushing himself again.

Thankfully, his fears were resolved when he saw Flim leaning against a nearby tree trunk and writing in a notebook. He looked up, grinning broadly, "Hey, you're back late. What happened?"

Big Mac rolled his eyes. You don't know the half of it. "Twilight," he answered simply. That was all the more explanation anypony needed.

Flim grimaced, "What'd she do this time?"

"See for yourself." Big Mac unhitched himself from the wagon, walking over to where Entropy lay hidden. Flim placed the notebook on the grass, watching with interest. Without ceremony, Big Mac cleared the straw off of the stallion.

Flim's green eyes grew wide in shock, and he nearly dropped the straw clenched between his teeth. "Is he okay? Why's he all young looking? Is it an age spell?"

"Dunno . . . ." You tell me.

Flim champed on the straw for a moment, adjusting his cowboy hat with a frown, "Should we get Twilight?"

Big Mac shook his head vigorously, "Nope." She doesn't have a clue how to fix this either.

Sighing, Flim walked over to Entropy, scratching his scruffy red sideburns with a frown, "What in Equestria did you do to yourself?"

Entropy pinned his ears, "Urgh! For the last time, it is not my fault! Twilight was experimenting with a potion and spilled it all over me." He lept out of the wagon, almost falling over from the sudden movement. "It's some kind of aphrodisiac illusion magic. I've been chased by the half the mares in Ponyville all morning. Twilight's even lost it!"

Big Mac had not heard that last bit. So that's why she was in the library! He looked at Flim, sharing a knowing smirk. Then, as if by some unspoken cue, they burst into a fit of laughter. There was nothing too terribly attractive about Entropy, especially as he was a good deal older than he was. For all the mares including Cheerilee to suddenly go after him was undeniably hilarious.

They stopped laughing, and Big Mac allowed Flim to stop coughing. Then Flim managed to stammer, "So? Why did you want to see me?"

The stallion spoke with all the air of a teacher explaining a simple concept to his student, "I assumed you would have learned a thing or two about illusion magic when you were conning ponies."

"Why . . . you . . . " Flim huffed, looking away, "So what if we did? I'm not using it anymore. I've turned a new leaf, haven't I, Big Mac?"

Why are you bringing me into this? Still, he had to admit, Flim had a point. The kid was not the same stallion he had been months ago. He nodded sagely, "Eeeyup."

Entropy shot him a sour glare. "Enough comments from the peanut gallery."

Big Mac rolled his eyes. Ungrateful geezer.

"You," Entropy pointed to Flim voice icy, "tell me how to fix this mess now."

Big Mac was about to demand that Entropy learn a bit of manners, but Flim spoke up first. "All right, all right. Celestia above you're moodier than a pre-pubescent mare." Flim turned around, staring up at the apple tree. "We'll start with the illusion first. That's the tricky bit."

Big Mac followed Flim over, leaving Entropy alone. This entire situation was incredibly frustrating. "Why aren't you tellin' him to get lost?" His eyes darted pointedly over to Entropy. "It ain't like he's bein' polite."

Flim shrugged, "He doesn't mean to be." A soft smile stretched across his face, "Really, he's just upset. He'll calm down once I get this sorted out."

"But that don't mean he can go around treatin' you like his servant." Big Mac watched as Flim began to levitate the most bizarre collection of items with a single minded focus. "He's walkin' all over you." There was nothing he remotely liked about Twilight's stallion, and frankly, he would have rather seen him suffer a touch longer. Besides, nopony talked to his little brother like that, nopony. "Are you even listen' to me, Flim?"

Flim looked up apple in his mouth. "Uh-huh," he managed around the fruit. Setting it on the ground, he motioned him closer. "Listen, I know Entropy's being a jerk, but I'm not going to hold it against him."

Big Mac raised an eyebrow. It seemed a little too forgiving even for Flim. "That don't sound like you, Flim. Tell me the real reason."

"Well," Flim scratched his sideburns, apparently contemplating the answer, "I guess he reminds me of Flam. Whenever Flam gets frustrated, especially with himself, he lashes out at other ponies. It's just something that comes naturally to him." He chuckled in that soft way of his, "Guess I'm just used to it."

"Oh." So he was still thinking about Flam. Of course it made sense, but for him to admit it must have taken a lot of courage. "All right. Guess I'll help." He watched Flim mix water, bits of apple, a few leaves, and dirt into the cup seemingly at random.

Big Mac scratched his head, "So that's what potion makin' looks like. I thought it'd be a might more scientific."

Flim snorted with resulted in him coughing a few times. He turned back to him with an incredulous expression, "Seriously? This isn't a potion, it's just something I'm throwing together."

"How in the hay is that supposed to do anythin', Flim?" Maybe the heat was getting to him after all.

"You'll see." Flim strode over to Entropy with the cup. "Ready, Entropy?"

"As I'll ever be." Entropy got to his hooves, walking over to them. Big Mac could not stopper the grin as Flim handed Entropy the cup. It seemed as though the unicorn was not buying it any more than he was. "So, this is the antidote? I don't believe you."

"It's the truth." Flim held it up in his emerald magic as though showing off the greatest feat of sorcery in the past century. It was all Big Mac could do not to burst out laughing at Flim's next words, "I've used this before when my little sisters made a similar mistake with one of their potions. It really works!"

"Very well." To his surprise, the ever skeptical stallion actually drank the concoction in one gulp. Big Mac had to give him credit for that, it had to taste awful. It looked as though Entropy might gag, but he composed himself. "So, what now?"

Flim smirked, pointing at Entropy's tail. Sure enough, the ebony hairs had returned to their normal salt and pepper state. Big Mac could only stare in amazement that something so stupid had actually worked.

Entropy narrowed his golden eyes suspiciously at Flim, "What did you put into that potion anyway?"

"Oh, it wasn't a potion. It was apple juice with a bit of dirt." Flim shrugged, leaning against the wagon, "I didn't even use any magic."

"WHAT? But, you . . . look at me, I'm back to normal!" Entropy gestured pathetically to his now middle aged body.

Flim sniggered, waving away the concern with a hoof. "That you are, but it would have worked with whatever I gave you, just as long as you believed it would cure you." He shot Entropy a toothy grin that reminded Big Mac of his old conman routine. "Illusion magic is all about belief. You see what you want to see, not what is actually there. So, the only cure for illusion magic is another illusion."

His logic was sound, if a little unconventional. Big Mac watched the older stallion open and close his mouth as though trying to find an intelligent comeback. Finally, he managed to speak, "Brilliant. Why did I not think of that?"

"Because you're a boring old sock, that's why!" Flim laughed at his own jab, striding over to the still dazed unicorn. "Ready to get rid of your 'mare magnet'?"

"Please." An ever so slightly nervous expression flitted across his lined face, "Is it going to be quite so backhanded?"

"No, more like upfront."  How on earth was Flim going to fix something that complicated? Big Mac watched with keen interest as Flim leaned in closer. To his utmost shock and horror, Flim actually kissed Entropy right on the muzzle. There was the faintest ripple of magic around Entropy, and Flim took a step back, gagging. "Celestia! Do you ever wash? Your breath stinks."

Big Mac's heart was pounding so fast in his chest he thought it might burst. This had to be some kind of joke, certainly Flim did not lean thatway, did he? "But, I thought you liked mares."

Flim face hoofed, "Of course I like mares! But, to break the spell, somepony of the same gender had to kiss him, and frankly, I didn't think you'd be so eager to jump in."

"Why in Equestria was that necessary?" Entropy's voice was shaking even as his face turned beet red.

"The potion is designed to attract the opposite gender. So, it doesn't know what to do when somepony of the same gender makes advances." Flim proceeded to wipe his muzzle on his hoof, glowering at it with distaste. "Don't ask me to do that again, that was gross!"

So that was it. Leave it to Flim to know something so obscure and stupid. Still, he was more than a little relieved to hear that the kid would not be putting the moves on him anytime soon. He had heard enough of their conversation for a lifetime, and started out towards the fields. There was still a lot of work to be done, and frankly, he did not want to be associated with Entropy any longer than necessary. The stallion was a walking disaster.

He paused at the tree, waiting for Flim to catch up. Flim walked over to him, canteen slung over his collar and a confused expression on his face as he glanced behind him at Entropy. Big Mac nudged him in the ribs, smirking a little, "What? Pinin' after yer true love?"

"No!" Flim flushed, fidgeting with the canteen, "He's just really weird, that's all."

Big Mac could not help but give an exasperated snort, "Well that's obvious, ain't it?"

"True enough." Flim chuckled, levitating his notebook from where it rested on the grass. "Guess I'd better get back to work."

"An just what exactly are you workin' on?" He certainly would not have considered scribbling in a notebook to be work, but maybe Flim's definition was a little softer. "Somethin' Applejack put you up to?"

"Well, yes. But, it's really important!" Flim raised the notebook so he could see. The entire page was absolutely covered in mathematical formulas, graphs, and what looked to be a grid of some kind. "Applejack wanted me to teach her accounting for the farm. Do you realize that you've never done a proper inventory of your assets and liabilities? There's not a single record! How in Equestria you managed to run any business without records for so long and still stay afloat is beyond me."

Flim's rant was irritating, but he did have a point. "Guess we never had the time to do an 'inventory.' Will that help the farm?"

"Oh, indubitably." Flim grinned wickedly, stroking the notebook like a kitten. "When I'm through streamlining things, you should be seeing at least a ten percent increase in profit."

"You can really do that?" Big Mac wanted to believe him, but it did sound a little too good to be true.

Flim jerked a nod, "Yeah, I know a thing or two about running a business. Flam and I were in charge of the financials for the circus."

"Yer family trusted you with that?"

"Sure. A Skim's not a Skim until he's pulled his weight, that's what Dad always says." Flim grinned prancing in place as though the pleasant memory was too much to keep in. "Every one of us siblings had an important role to play. Kept us responsible, you know?"

"Eeeyup." He scratched his head, thinking hard, "Guess we were the same. It does feel good to do something for yerself when yer young."

"Undoubtedly. That's why I'm thinking we should give Apple Bloom responsibility for some aspect of the farm." That was a little farfetched, and Flim shrugged in response to his skeptical look, beginning to write in the notebook. "It'll take me a few days to do the survey."

"That's okay." Truth be told, he would not have cared if it took a few months to complete. The longer it took, the longer Flim could stay and the happier every member of their family would be. Big Mac dreaded how Applejack would react once Flim left. Despite her adamant assurances that she was not interested in him as a stallion, every one of their conversations somehow ended up back on him. Ah well, what would come would come, and there was no point dwelling on what he could not change. As always, he would cross that bridge when he came to it.



"It's hopeless, girls!" Apple Bloom splayed herself out on the floorboards of the Cutie Mark Crusaders' clubhouse. Sure she was being a little theatrical, but there was a good reason to be. After all, they had tried just about every trick in the book to get Applejack and Flim to sign the papers to no success. It had been over a week, and she had the distinct impression that her sister wanted to be an old maid and Flim was following suit. "Why won't they sign 'em?"

"Beats me." Scootaloo tossed their crumpled up checklist into the trash can. "We tried everything! Even my super awesome idea didn't work."

Sweetie Belle raised an eyebrow, "You mean the one where you tried to write your own certificate or the one where we stole Applejack's hat to force her to sign it?"

The pegasus shrugged, looking out the window, "Both I guess."

"Urgh! Admit it girls, they were all stupid ideas." She could not stop the panic from rising in her voice as she continued, "Flim's goin' to leave, Applejack's goin' to be sad, an it's all our fault!"

"Calm down, Apple Bloom. We'll think of something." Scootaloo frowned, tapping her chin with a hoof.

"That's it!" Sweetie Belle's exclamation made them both jump. Her eyes shone with excitement, as she hopped across the floor. "It's so simple."

Apple Bloom highly doubted that. Nothing they ever did turned out simple. "What's so 'simple', Sweetie Belle?"

Her friend paused in front of them, a wicked grin stretching across her face. "We'll make them fall in love!"

"Oh, no, no, no, no, NO!" Scootaloo dismissed the thought with a wave of her hoof. "Remember the last time we tried to make ponies fall in love?"

"But, Big Mac's datin' Cheerilee now," Apple Bloom interjected.

Scootaloo rolled her eyes, "Yeah, but Flim's not Big Mac. He's super, SUPER smart, and if he finds out, he'll sell us to the black market."

Black market? Apple Bloom stifled a laugh, "Where did you hear somethin' like that from, Scoots?"

Sweetie Belle shot Scootaloo a knowing smirk. "You've been reading Spike's comics again, haven't you?"

"No, well yes, but that's not the point." Scootaloo waved her hooves wildly around the clubhouse. "You can't out-con a conman!"

Apple Bloom felt her stomach drop from under her. "Point taken. But what about—"

"—Apple Bloom! Come on, it's time for dinner!" Flim's voice sounded from below the tree house, carrying up to the open window.

"Argh, sorry girls, I've got to go." They nodded, waving goodbye. Apple Bloom trotted out the door and down the ramp to the grass. It was a bit strange to see Flim actually getting her in person, generally she just moseyed on home when it got close to supper time. "What're you doin' here, Flim?"

"What?" He stuck out his tongue in a playful way. "You too cool to walk to the house with me?"

She shook her head, hugging his leg tightly. For once, he was not covered in sweat, and that at least was a good sign. Flim's long steps made it difficult to keep up, so she got into a kind of jig to keep pace with him. "So, what were you doin'? You ain't sweaty like normal."

"Surveying, Apple Bloom, surveying." He held up a notebook in his magic, "I'm going to figure out how to maximize your profitability."

"That sounds fancy." It did sound fancy, and a great way for Flim to stay a little longer. "So, how long will you be surveyin'?"

"Oh, a few days at least." They started to walk off together in silence for a few minutes. Flim looked ahead as though he were going to stay quiet the rest of the way. Then, he spoke in a soft voice, "I was thinking about asking Applejack to give you a little more responsibility on the farm."

Her heart lept in her chest. Was he serious? She practically screamed with delight. Applejack was always reluctant to put her in charge of anything important, this could be her big break. "You mean it, Flim?"

He chuckled, rubbing her forelock with a hoof. "I mean it, you're more than ready to prove yourself, and frankly it's about time Applejack let you grow up a bit."

"Oh my gosh!" She pranced in place, too excited to contain herself. "What am I goin' to do? 'Cause I can plow an applebuck, an—"

"—Hold on there, tiger. I don't even know if Applejack will say yes yet." Flim's eyes turned ahead of them toward the farmyard.

"Shoot," Apple Bloom waved the thought away with a hoof, "she'll do anythin' you ask her to."

Flim raised a skeptical eyebrow, "I doubt that, Apple Bloom."

Apple Bloom only rolled her eyes. This was exactly why it would be impossible to get him to fall in love with her. "You know, you ain't a bad catch, an she knows it."

"Huh?" Flim stopped dead in his tracks staring at her as though she had three heads. "Who told you something like that?"

"Granny." In fact, her grandmother seemed to talk a lot about Flim lately. It was a little weird, the way she went on about it, it was as though Granny wanted Applejack to fall for him as much as she did. Maybe this was her chance to convince him. "Yup. She's always sayin' how yer kind an honest an a hard worker an real patient with Applejack's mood swings an stuff."

Flim opened and closed his mouth as though he wanted to argue, but did not say anything. Instead, he lowered his head and walked on towards the farmhouse. "I'm nothing special," she heard him mumble under his breath.

Apple Bloom wanted to smack him. If there was anypony who was special to her outside of the family, it was Flim. He was like the brother she never knew she wanted. If she could find a way to have him stick around she would. After all, Big Mac was not going to teach her the best way to sell apples or tell crazy stories about growing up in the circus or teach her to play strange card games. Flim was different, but the best kind of different in the world, the kind their family needed so badly.



"Can I bring a picnic blanket?" Apple Bloom puffed out her chest, as confident as ever. Her mane was wrapped in a towel, still damp from her evening bath. As usual, they were gathered on the living room rug, and as usual, Flim was teaching her another game. This one however, was proving a little difficult for the filly.

"Nope." Flim winked at Applejack who way lying beside him on the rug, an equal smug grin on her face. She had figured out the trick in no time at all, and was having just as much fun teasing the filly as he was.

Applejack tapped her chin in a gesture of mock consideration, "May I bring snow boots?"

"That you may, Applejack, that you may." It was too funny to see Apple Bloom's expression after his statement.

The filly stood up, staring angrily at them. "That don't make any sense. How come she can bring snow boots to a picnic, but I can't bring a picnic blanket?"

Flim shared a knowing look with Applejack before bursting out into laughter. His was still accentuated by coughs, but it was a little better than this morning. Poor Apple Bloom looked close to crying from frustration. Sighing, he continued, "Apple Bloom, it's not what you're bringing, it's how you ask."

Her eyes grew wide as saucers with the realization. "May I bring apple juice?"

"That you may." Flim chuckled as she hopped around the room in a fit of glee. Just then, the clock chimed ten, and he knew it was time for her bed. "Apple Bloom, bedtime."

"Awee, but can't I stay up a little longer?" She looked pleadingly into Applejack's eyes, "Please, big sis."

"Nope. You've got a big day tomorrow." Applejack raised her hoof, pointing to the stairs. "Get on to bed, I'll check on you in a bit, got some things to talk to Flim 'bout."

Instead of her usual pouting spell the filly jerked a nod, cantering up the stairs and out of sight. Flim scratched his forelock in wonder, "What do you think that was about?"

"Beats me." She looked into his eyes, frowning. "You ain't feelin' much better, are you?"

"Not really." His sides had been aching all day after the fit, and even surveying was enough to take out his energy. "Still hurts," he mumbled under his breath.

Applejack sighed, stroking his back gently with a hoof. "You'll be okay, Flim. It'll work out."

He looked sadly at her. She of all ponies should have seen that it was pointless, but he would not argue, he was far too tired tonight. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

"Well, Big Mac mentioned somethin' about you wantin' to give Apple Bloom some responsibility on the farm." Her face tightened, staring up at the stairs. "You sure she's ready for any?"

Flim snorted, rolling his eyes. "Yes. Heck, Flam and I were managing financials at her age. I think you can trust her with a project or two."

Applejack raised a skeptical eyebrow, "What kind of project are we talkin' 'bout here? The kind with potentially dangerous equipment?"

"Oh, there's always a little risk, Applejack, but that's what makes it fun." He levitated his notebook over, flipping to a page with a small diagram. "I thought we might let her build an invention for the farm."

"Oh, no, no, no." Applejack threw up her hooves in protest. "Can you imagine what kind of trouble she'd get into? An, invention makin' not easy."

Really? "That's the point, Applejack. It'll challenge her, make her think for herself and gain a little independence. Besides," he paused to allow for a few coughs, "Flam and I were making successful inventions at her age."

"But, she ain't genius unicorn business ponies." She gestured to his horn, "You kind of had a head start."

Flim rolled his eyes, "My being a unicorn has nothing to do with my ability to make inventions. In fact," he puffed out his chest confidently, "we didn't even use magic for our first few inventions."

"Seriously?" Her eyes widened, and she let out a long whistle. "Well color me impressed." For a while, she just stared at the rug, apparently mulling something over. "I got somethin' I've been meanin' to ask, but I didn't want to in front of Apple Bloom or she'd fuss."

Flim's heart skipped a beat. "Go for it."

"Well, Braeburn's asked me to come an help out with an apple judging contest in Appaloosa day after tomorrow." She sighed, pawing at the rug, "I was plannin' on takin' the night train tomorrow, an getting' back 'round the same time the next evening. But," her voice lowered to a near whisper, "I'd really appreciate yer company."

"You want me to go with you?" A whole day with Applejack was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Besides that, it would get him off of the farm and doing something useful for other ponies. "Yes! I'd love to."

"Really?" Applejack's face lit up, and she actually hugged him. "Thanks. I was so worried you'd say no."

Flim felt as though his skin might catch fire from the contact. He patted her back gently, "Why would I say no to a whole day with you?"

Applejack pulled away, giggling almost nervously, "Well, it ain't like I've been real nice to you this whole time."

"Shoot," he waved the thought away with a hoof, "I know you didn't mean anything by it. Besides, you had a right to be angry."

"True enough." Applejack cuffed him playfully on the head. "See you tomorrow, then."

"Night." Flim watched her leave up the stairs, and slowly got to his own hooves. Despite today's relatively relaxing pace, he was still in a lot of pain. He hobbled up the stairs to his room, wondering about the day's events.

As he settled into bed, he levitated the canteen from this afternoon, wondering. After helping Entropy out, he had handed him the canteen, claiming that it was a potion he made up. Every story he had heard about Entropy indicated that the unicorn was clueless when it came to magic. However, Entropy seemed adamant that he could make potions successfully. "'Take a few sips of this in the morning and in the evening and it'll help your lungs', huh?"

He opened the canteen, smelling the sickly sweet, purple solution with trepidation. It would not have bothered him so much if Entropy had not tacked on the little tidbit about it being some kind of illegal magic. If he drank it, he would technically be an accomplice. Still, if it would help his lungs, it was worth a shot. Without another moment's hesitation, he took a few sips of the vile stuff, and closed the canteen. "Guess we'll see in the morning." With that, he closed his eyes and drifted into unconsciousness.


Author's Note:

Finally finished another chapter. Sorry for the wait guys and gals. I wanted to catch TCARW up with AHL so that I could continue to tie the stories together. More to come soon. Thanks for reading!

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