The ground was saturated and sodden from the excessive amount of rain they'd gotten that year. There were small hoofprints in the mud, leaving a trail where Apple Bloom and the rest of the girls had run off together to go play. Beautiful flowers of purple and white grew out of the middle of a rain puddle, defiant against the odds of drowning instead of living. Fluttershy sighed softly in the crisp Spring morning air. It was going to be a lovely day once the sun came out. And there was so much to be done! After a week of straight rain she would have so many animal homes to check on. Rebuilding some would be inevitable, as would helping to gather food and then restocking her own supplies.
With a creak, the screen door opened behind her and she was joined by Applejack. "'Bout time Rainbow called off that storm," the earth pony mumbled sleepily. "Wonder how much damage it did to the crops."
"They looked fine to me," offered Fluttershy with a timid smile. "Oh, I hope you don't mind. I was up early with the girls and we all took a walk around the farm. Apple Bloom was worried, too."
Applejack gave a crooked grin. "Nah, o'course I don't mind, Fluttershy. I'm glad she's already thinkin' about that stuff. An' besides, you're part of the family now. This here's your land, too."
"Mornin'." Big Macintosh sidled out onto the porch as well, his orange mane disheveled and his eyes just barely open. Fluttershy giggled and moved over to nuzzle against him. He dipped his head to kiss her. "Hey there, darlin.' Did you get any sleep last night?"
She nodded, leaning her head against him. "Poor thing had such a dreadful nightmare."
"I reckon I should'a gone in but I couldn't make myself get up."
"It's all right, Big Mac. I really didn't mind getting up. She went with the others to the clubhouse this morning, though, so it seems like she's all right."
Applejack's greeting pulled the couples' attention from one another to the gray pegasus trotting up the walk. "Morning Apple ponies, Flutter pony."
"Them mail sacks sure are full," Big Macintosh observed. "What you got for us?"
"Not you, big Apple pony." She pulled a letter from her saddlebags and passed it to Fluttershy. "Flutter pony."
Fluttershy blinked and tore open the letter, carefully unfolding it. Big Macintosh read over her shoulder. "Oh my," she breathed. She turned to look at Big Macintosh, watching his face as he finished the letter. He registered surprise and met her gaze.
"What in the hay is it?" Applejack asked.
"It's a letter from the mayor of Hoofington. It seems they have had an infestation of buzzing buzzards. Somehow they found out about my gifts with animals and want me to help them."
Derpy took off in a flurry of wings and Applejack nodded, impressed. "I ain't never been to Hoofington before. You gonna go?"
The yellow pegasus reread her letter, shrugging. She finally looked at Big Macintosh again and asked, "What do you think?"
He tilted his head to the side in a nonchalant gesture. "'S up to you, darlin'. If you think you can help 'em an' you want to go, who am I to stop you?"
She gave him a small smile. "My husband."
With a grin, Big Macintosh kissed her muzzle. "I think you want to go."
"I do? I mean, yes, I suppose a part of me does. Those poor buzzards. There must be something going on. I can't imagine why they would take over a town like that unless something was terribly, terribly wrong. But I've never been that far away from Ponyville."
"That's why you take somepony with you."
Fluttershy looked at Applejack. "But who would I take? Everyone is so busy right now."
"Twilight would probably go. Especially if you pointed out that there would be a library down there that she's never seen. Somethin' tells me you mention that an' she'll have her saddlebags packed quicker than a clown runnin' from an angry bull at a rodeo."
"I'll have to go swiftly." There was obvious doubt in her eyes but they all knew she couldn't pass up the opportunity of helping anyone with an animal problem, even if it was so far away. "I should go talk to Twilight and then I'll come back and pack."
"Stop by the clubhouse on your way back," Big Macintosh reminded gently.
"Oh, of course I will!" Taking a deep breath, Fluttershy squared her withers and headed down the path that would lead from the farm and into Ponyville proper. The siblings watched her go and as soon as she was out of earshot, Applejack turned a critical eye on her brother.
"Out with it."
He blinked slowly. "Out with what?"
"I saw that look. You don't want her to go, that's obvious. What's the matter? 'Fraid you can't handle us crazy girls without her here to keep your head on straight?"
"Nope. Done it before. Pretty sure I can do it again."
"Can't stand the thought of her bein' gone for a few days? Ya'll been together long enough, I would have thought that'd worn off by now."
"Nope. I'll miss her, but I'll survive."
He was silent for a long moment, staring at the place Fluttershy slipped from their sight. When he spoke his admission was reluctant. "I don't know. Somethin' about this don't feel right." When Applejack just looked at him he shrugged. "I'm also workin' on only a few hours of sleep."
"You should tell her."
He looked at his sister, trying to figure out if she was just trying to brush him off or if she thought he was serious. "Nothin' to tell. I reckon you're right an' I just don't want to be stuck here all by my lonesome with my crazy family."
"Who you callin' crazy?" Applejack demanded. "Besides, you've always had good instincts. If you feel like somethin's off then you should tell her."
"We'll see. C'mon. We got work to do."