The ponies gathered in the parlor of the farmhouse at Sweet Apple Acres sat in silence, too anxious to talk but still drawing comfort from each other's presence.
Caramel shared the love seat with Pinkie Pie, gamely trying to sip his coffee or take a bite of a pfeffernusse without spilling or getting crumbs all over due to his fiancee's relentless oscillations.
The pink mare herself was looking a tad green around the gills, and was uncharacteristically uninterested in any of the apple based baked goods freely on tap in the kitchen.
Rarity huddled on the couch wrapped in a rustic quilt, her mane bound up in a red and white checked towel, a cup of tea cooling on a barrel converted into an end table next to her. She was looking a bit peaked herself, her deep blue eyes never settling for long on any particular point in the room, although whether it was from her recent ordeal or simply from being immersed up to her horn in the Apple family's down home country decor she declined to say.
Granny Smith sat placidly on a rocking chair, humming tunelessly to herself as she worked at knitting a set of foal booties with a beatific expression on her wizened face.
Apple Bloom sat beside her on a little stool and busied herself carving a small figure of a pony out of a block of apple wood, letting the shavings flutter quietly into a bucket on the floor.
Applejack's physical nature was getting the best of her at the moment. Lacking a quiet hobby to occupy her mind and without even the minimal distraction of feeling under the weather like Pinkie or Rarity, all the blonde farm mare could do was pace, which was even more infuriating because she was trying her best to walk softly and not disturb the occupants of her brother and sister in law's room.
The orange earth pony's head whipped around as a blinding flash of light blossomed outside, followed by a yelp and a splat and the frantic barking of Naomi, starting from a point under the porch and then moving out into the courtyard.
Applejack rushed over to the radiator, plucking up her drying hat and flipping it onto her head, then galloped out the door, screeching to a stop on the rain dampened planks of the front porch as the other ponies craned their necks in curiosity. Apple Bloom dropped carving and knife into the bucket with a plunk and rose, following her sister outside and taking up a position at her side, her brow sternly furrowed.
Naomi was running laps around a steaming, hemispherical crater in the yard, from which a mud and soot smeared unicorn rose shakily to her hooves, a plume of grey smoke rising from the tip of her glowing horn as it faded from white-hot to yellow to ruddy red. The new arrival shook her head and blinked, and then gave the Apple sisters a grin, her violet eyes and white teeth showing plainly in her soot blackened face.
An equally wide grin spread across Applejack's face, causing her freckled cheeks to bunch up under her smiling eyes. She bounded down the steps and slid down over the lip of the crater, throwing her front hooves around the unicorn mare's neck. "Howdy, Sugarcube! Glad you could make it."
Twilight Sparkle hugged Applejack back with shaky limbs. "At least an acceptable percentage of me did."
Apple Bloom let out a sigh and turned toward the door with a lash of her tail. "I'll go n' fill up th' tub agin..."
As soon as Applejack had led a slightly disoriented and staggering Twilight Sparkle inside, Rarity was on her feet and hurrying to join them, followed closely by Pinkie who didn't get up so much as allow her vibrations to carry her off the edge of the love seat and onto the floor. The quartet of dear friends, two thirds of the Elements of Harmony, all embraced and exchanged warm greetings with one another as Caramel and Granny Smith looked on.
When the group hug disengaged, the lavender unicorn looked expectantly at her friends. "How's Fluttershy doing?"
Before any of them could answer, a fearsome shriek like a roaring manticore came from the cloistered back room, followed by a voice the group of mares had first heard when the chaos had reached its absolute height at that first Grand Galloping Gala they'd attended so many years ago. "YOU DID THIS TO ME YOU BIG... LUNK-HEADED... BRUTE! NO! YOU KEEP BREATHING! THAT'S RIGHT, TRY TO KEEP BREATHING WHILE I STRANGLE YOUR STUPID HEAD OFF OF YOUR BIG... FAT... RED NECK! LET GO OF ME YOU NAGS! I'M GOING TO STRANGLE HIM! LET ME UP SO I CAN STRANGLE MY HUSBAND!"
In the stunned silence that followed, only the sound of Granny Smith's low chuckle and the rhythmic clack of her rocking could be heard. The old mare smiled fondly as she knitted. "Such a sweet filly. I sure as shootin' weren't so gentle with my husband when I was a-birthin' my first."
The group of younger mares merely gaped at her, and looked up in unison as the bedroom door opened with a soft click. Nurse Redheart came tottering out, her nurse's hat askew. The sounds of low murmuring and sobs could be heard from the dim room behind her. She gave them a glassy eyed smile before glancing in the elderly Apple clan matriarch's direction and clearing her throat. "Um..."
Granny Smith kept gently rocking with her eyes on her knitting. "China hutch by th' kitchen door, third drawer down."
Nurse Redheart nodded and stumbled to where she'd been directed, pulling open the drawer and lifting out a small jug marked with three X's. With shaky white hooves gripping the sides, she pulled the cork with her teeth and set it aside, then raised the jug to her lips and took a long pull from it. She coughed, wiped her mouth with the back of a hoof, replaced the cork and then very carefully replaced the bottle, slid the drawer shut, then turned and crossed back to the door.
After staring long and hard into the room, the pink maned medical mare set her hooves, adjusted her hat, hiked her tail, and strode back inside, pulling the door gently closed behind her.
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.