Before any of the chastised mares could respond, the Apple family matriarch looked up toward Sweet Apple Acres' front gate with a grin spreading across her wrinkled face as a cheery voice sounded over the muddy courtyard . "Another Apple about to drop on our heads, eh Granny?"
All eyes turned to see a stout mare draped in a heavy canvas cloak and broad brimmed hat pick her way across the churned up mud of the courtyard, bulging saddle bags hanging from her sides. When she stepped into the light she revealed a broad, olive green face with a bluff, open smile.
Granny Smith held up a hoof in welcome. "Just the gal I was a-waitin' fer. Howdy, Cabbage Leaf. Y'got my note, I reckon."
The sturdy mare nodded. "That I did, Granny. Sorry if the weather slowed me up a little gettin' here."
Nurse Redheart blinked in recognition and stammered. "C-cabbage Leaf, the... the midwife?"
The new arrival nodded again. "Right a roonie."
She squinted her eyes and peered at the flustered nurse from under the floppy brim of her hat. "You're one of the Heart sisters, aren't you? I heard tell you all went into medicine." She beamed at the younger mare. "Does my old heart proud to see fillies I delivered make good like that. Feels like I'm makin' a difference."
The Apple family matriarch nodded in satisfaction and turned toward the door, gesturing at it with a hoof. "Well, we got one more t' add t'yer tally, if'n you'd kindly step this way, she's been in labor fer 'bout a half hour now."
Cabbage Leaf smiled and set her jaw. "Gotcha. Bathrooms back and to the left, right? I go wash up and get to work."
With that, she clomped up the steps, slipped off her muddy boots, and went inside.
Granny Smith turned back to the zebra, stallion, and assembly of mares huddled in the rain. She snapped a hoof at Redheart and Zecora. "You, and you, go git washed up too. You'll be helpin' Cabbie out with Miss Fluttershy. Step lively now."
The zebra nodded, and started in toward the house, pausing and turning to look back at Nurse Redheart. "I am sorry to say I let my collar get hot, that I said harsh words, and that you and I fought. It is better if we work together, and both bring all of our skills to bear, for our friend and her foal are our primary care."
Nurse Redheart fidgeted and took a glance over her shoulder in the direction of Ponyville. "Yes, you're probably right. B-but... proper... proper procedures in this case..."
Granny Smith set her jaw and gazed sternly at the younger mare. "Proper procedures is what I say they is as long as your hooves are on Apple family land, missy. Either play on th' team or git the hay off our property."
The white furred mare nodded in acquiescence and fell into step behind Zecora. When they passed into the house she came up beside the zebra herbalist and leaned in, whispering with a contrite expression on her face. They stopped, and traded hoofshakes that turned into a brief hug, and then continued back toward the first floor bathroom.
The wizened mare turned to her granddaughters, focusing on the eldest, still partially tangled in the harness of the surrey. "AJ, put that contraption back in the shed then go inside and git cleaned up. Yer in charge fer the duration."
She turned to the younger sister and bobbed her head toward the bedraggled trio of Rarity, Caramel, and Pinkie Pie. "Apple Bloom, take them poor gals upstairs and get 'em settled in a warm bath 'fore they catch their death o' cold."
Without another word the Apple sisters hurried to comply. Applejack struggled back into her harness and fought the not-so-shiny-now surrey into position to roll it back into the shed. Caramel stepped aside while Apple Bloom threw a foreleg over Rarity's shoulders and clamped her teeth onto Pinkie's tail, dragging the bouncing, jittering earth pony behind as she led the shivering unicorn toward the porch.
Granny Smith nodded in satisfaction, and then turned and cracked a toothless smile at the slightly befuddled looking tan stallion who now stood in the deserted courtyard in his mud clotted pink boots, the wind whipping his rain slicker as a dejected, broken umbrella flapped in the mud behind him. She beckoned to him with her hoof. "Now as fer you, young feller. You look like you could use some coffee and pie."
A smile blossomed across Caramel's face as he stepped up onto the porch, pausing as he pulled the slightly rumpled box forth from under the cape of his rain slicker. He beamed as it dangled by it's string from his teeth. "Thanks, ma'am. Pinkie and I brought pifflenoodle too!"
The old grey mare chuckled as she went inside. "Well that's right nice o' ya, sonny. Leave yer gal's galoshes out on th' porch so y' don't track mud all over."
Fluttershy let out a small, strangled mew as another contraction coursed through her. She lay sprawled on an old quilt atop their bed, her wings hanging limply at her rounded sides as she let out a succession of ragged, panting breaths.
Seated on the floor beside the butter colored pegasus, her mountain of a husband Big Macintosh looked gravely down at his shivering little wife and gently stroked her back with a broad hoof. His low, gentle voice hung in the air against the backdrop of rain pattering against the shuttered windows. "Keep breathin', little wing, nice n' steady now. Just like they taught us in Lamarez class."
Her faint voice replied plaintively. "Oh... I'm sorry, b-big bunny. I... it's okay. R-really. That... that last one wasn't really that bad."
The huge red earth pony pursed his lips and furrowed his brow. He'd been married to the soft spoken pegasus for long enough to know when she was trying her best to downplay how bad things were. Big Macintosh was strong enough to buck oak trees in half, but he couldn't do anything to ease his beloved Fluttershy's suffering at that moment. Nothing except stand firm at her side, offering her his quiet support.
Both ponies looked up as the door to their bedroom softly opened to reveal a stocky green mare with a white streaked brown mane and tail and a head of cabbage for a cutie mark. She grinned at them cheerfully as she set a pair of saddlebags down beside her. "Hey there! So everypony here who's havin' a foal please raise your hoof."
Fluttershy furtively peeked out from behind her straggling pink mane, biting her lip as she gingerly raised one of her hooves a little. "Um...I suppose that could be...um...me...I guess... If... if that's okay with you..." She was cut off with a squeak as another contraction hit. Big Macintosh nuzzled her neck as she gritted her teeth and curled her hooves into the old quilt beneath her.
He looked back up at the stout midwife as she came into the room. "You're Cabbage Leaf, right? Granny said you were comin'. I remember you from back when Apple Bloom was born."
The stocky mare chuckled as she settled down beside him. "I was here when your momma had your other sister, and I was here when she had you too, although I'd be pretty darn impressed if you remembered that." She gave him a sidelong grin and nudged him in the side. "You're a whole lot bigger than when I first met ya. Still just as cute, tho." With a wink at the husband she turned her attention to the wife.
Cabbage Leaf ran a hoof down Fluttershy's side and leaned in to speak softly to her. "Now just you relax, honey. I've been pickin' Apples for years now and I ain't dropped one yet. I'm gonna check you over, then lets see about gettin' you up and movin' around a little."
At the sound of shuffling hoof falls at the door, she turned and beckoned to Zecora and Nurse Redheart, who waited expectantly outside. "Come on in ladies, and lets get down to business."
The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.