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The Hugs Went Away Again · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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"What?" Derpy looked up blinking from her attempt to shove the too-large package into the mailbox next door.

Golden Harvest ignored the mean little part of her that wanted to growl at the befuddled mailmare. "Mr. and Mrs. Hug," she said again, gesturing to the little house whose yard shared a picket fence with hers. "They're not home right now. They won't be home for the rest of the week, in fact."

Derpy did some more blinking, and the mean little part of Harvest whispered something about how Derpy's eyelids really ought to move from side to side. Harvest shook the whisper away and focused on Derpy saying, "But I didn't see a 'stop mail' notice at the post office."

All Harvest could do was smile and shrug and remove the sneer that the mean little part of her wanted to put in her voice. "Heartfelt said they'd be gone till next Monday, and I saw Tender loading quite a lot of luggage into their cart before they left yesterday." She sighed, trying to make it sound charmingly wistful instead of teeth-grindingly jealous. "They live such a romantic life, always going off on their trips..."

A grunt pulled her back from her thoughts about the energetic pursuits certain fit young newlyweds might be up to on a fine early evening like this, and she watched Derpy flapping mightily, her face scrunched and her front hooves dug into the sides of the giant package. Her efforts finally popped the crate out of the mailbox, and she collapsed to the sidewalk, sweat dampening her hide as the box dropped beside her with a metallic sort of clatter. "I, uhh..." Derpy gave a big, goofy grin. "I don't suppose you could accept delivery, then?" she asked.

Of course, the mean little part of Harvest immediately started crowing about how taking the Hugs' package would be perfect. It took Harvest a minute to breathe all that away and decide that it actually would be the neighborly thing to do. "Sure, I'll sign for it." She gave Derpy a smile that had her meaner self seething. "That way you won't have to lug it all the way back downtown."

"Hooray!" Derpy somehow got the package airborne again before crashing it onto the sidewalk at Harvest's gate. "Thanks, Carrot Top!"

Halfway down the front path, Harvest almost put a hoof wrong at the name, and the mean little voice inside her asked with a mean little snicker, If she's talking to me, shall I answer her?

"Oh, now, Derpy," Harvest said as cheerily as she could, pushing herself into motion again. "Just call me Harvest." At the gate, she clenched her teeth around the pen Derpy offered her and wrote Golden Harvest in big letters at the bottom of the sheet on the clipboard Derpy held out with her other wing.

"Thanks again, Carrot!" Leaping into the air, Derpy whirled and careened away down the street.

"It's—" Harvest started, then squeezed her muzzle shut rather than shout her name. A featherbrain like Derpy would never remember it anyway, and—

And that was a mean little thought. Harvest shook it away, stepped through the gate, lowered her head against the side of the box, and pushed it up the path to her front door. It rattled the whole way—not like broken glass, she was glad to hear, but with that same metallic clatter she'd noticed earlier. Maybe the Hugs had bought a wind chime for their back patio?

If wind chimes were made of anvils, the Carrot Top part of her muttered, but Harvest shook it away again before rubbing the little ache between her ears: it really was a heavy thing to push with one's head...

Ignoring her inner calls to crack open the crate now and see what was inside, Harvest spent the next several minutes working her hooves under the edge of the box so she could heft it up the little step onto her front porch. That called for a quick breather, then she bent her neck, huffed and puffed and shoved the thing up next to the door.

Which was as far as she was going, she decided. It had already been late in the afternoon when she'd glanced out the window to see Derpy trying to stuff this monstrosity into the Hugs' mailbox. With supper rapidly approaching, she went into the house, dug out the big red and white checked tablecloth she used whenever she and the Flower sisters had a picnic, and tossed it over the box.

"To keep the dew off," she explained quietly to Carrot Top's confused inquiry. That got her a silent but rude response, but she was used to such things after all these years: she shrugged, went indoors, and had a very tasty carrot and beet salad before going to bed.

A thump woke her, everything so dark, she figured the moon must be very low, maybe an hour away from dawn. No reason for things to be thumping and waking her, at any rate.

Silence filled the bedroom, and she was just closing her eyes, deciding that the thump had been the tail end of a dream—

When something else thumped. It was a familiar thump this time, though, the sound she knew from all the times she'd stumbled a hoof over the leg of that end table she liked so much even though it was ever so slightly too big to fit beside her sofa.

Which meant somepony was in her front room.

Shoving her blanket to the side and rolling to her hooves, she was bursting through the bedroom door and galloping down the hallway before the kinder, gentler part of her knew what was happening. Past the bathroom door and the kitchen, she could make out a shadow moving among her furniture, a pony-shaped shadow, the spot of light at its forehead telling her it was a unicorn.

She peeled back her lips, and a monosyllabic word for manure hissed out between her bared teeth. Leaping, she launched herself spinning from the hallway door and scissor kicked her hind legs through the spot where she felt sure unicorn's head would be.

A very satisfactory impact rattled her bones, and the manic joy pumping through her mind, body, and soul peeled her lips back even further into a grin part of her was glad she couldn't see. The unicorn's low grunt told her he was a stallion, and the way he didn't crash instantly to the floor told her he had some training.

The Golden Harvest part of her cringed inside, but outside, she nodded. She liked a little challenge now and again.

Unicorns, though, were trouble: best to put this one down quick. Bending in ways she knew she'd regret in a few hours, she hit the easy chair beside the fireplace with both forehooves, pushed off, and rebounded hard into the still-off-balance unicorn. Her inner self winced at what might've been bones cracking, but there wasn't time to dwell on it. No way was this guy working alone.

Which was when strong fetlocks seized her barrel, pulled her roughly into her hind legs, and squeezed her firmly backwards against a muscular chest. "We don't want any trouble, Ms. Harvest," a low voice growled into her ear. "We just want the box."

An earth pony stallion, the grip, the muscles, and the filthy stink told her. "Call me Carrot Top," she said, and flexing her hind legs, she flipped herself upward before the guy could adjust his grip. Keeping her shoulders fixed, she slammed her withers into his mouth and let gravity do the rest, crashing him heavily back onto the floor with her on top, another crack telling her that the impact had at least dislocated his jaw.

It also loosened his hold on her, and she pushed away, sprang for the front door, sure that a team like this would have a—

She flung the door open just as the expected pegasus was turning away from the nets, ropes, and grappling hooks attached to the gondola of the hot air balloon floating about three yards above the front lawn. This one was a mare, Carrot could see in the light from the street lamp, lashes plainly visible around her eyes, the only part other than her dark-green wings that didn't seem to be covered by her black skin-tight suit.

Those eyes widened, but Carrot was already aiming her front hooves at them, her rear hooves propelling her off the porch with enough force to meet the pegasus halfway. Her first strike rolled those eyes back in the mare's head, but Carrot wasn't willing to leave things to chance at this point: she managed to smack the pegasus four more times in the face before they hit the grass, and she once again made sure that she was on top when they hit.

"Amateurs," she muttered, grabbing the rope coiled at the mare's waist. Lassoing the balloon, she hauled it down, bound the pegasus in the nets under the gondola, then dragged the two from inside and tied them up the same way. Removing a few sandbags got the thing rising, and she watched it drift away into the darkness.

Inside, Harvest's little voice wondered if the three were going to be all right.

"Are any of us?" Carrot asked with a bark of a laugh.

She turned, headed back inside, and while she closed the door, she didn't bother locking it.

Stepping out into the late afternoon sunlight, Harvest smiled at the earth pony couple on her front porch. "Heartfelt! Tender! Welcome back! Do you have a wonderful time?"

Both the Hugs returned Harvest's smile, but the way their eyes kept darting sideways made Carrot give a little inner snort.

"We did," Heartfelt said, a little blush pinkening her dun-colored cheeks, and she almost sounded like a pony who'd actually had a wonderful time somewhere recently.

Harvest nodded. Heartfelt was definitely the better of the two when it came to this nicer part of the job. "Won't you come in?" Harvest asked, and since she truly meant it, she didn't have to fake any of her enthusiasm. "I'd love to hear all about whatever you'd like to tell me!"

Tender shuffled his light-blue hooves. "We don't want to keep you from your supper, Harvest..."

"That's hours away," Harvest answered, aiming the tiniest prod at Carrot to show her how this sort of thing could be done without even the slightest bit of meanness. "Still, I understand. You've just returned, after all, and must be tired. You can tell me all about the trip tomorrow or the next day: whenever you're feeling up to it." The little prod she got back from Carrot made Harvest add an extra layer of sincerity to her words.

"It's just—" Tender did some more hoof shuffling. "We, uhh..."

Heartfelt's mouth tightened, and Harvest sadly subtracted the extra points she'd awarded the mare just a moment ago. "We forgot about the box, all right?" she said quietly, her voice rougher. "We admit it. Is that what you want?"

"Me?" Harvest's shock and confusion, she knew, would've sounded entirely genuine had anypony been passing along the street at that moment. "Why would I want anything other than to hear about the wonderful trip from which my new neighbors have just returned?"

Carrot's grudging admiration for her use of the phrase 'from which' warmed Harvest's kind and gentle heart as did the honest embarrassment on Tender's face. "We screwed up," he said quietly. "We screwed up bad. We'll take whatever punishment you deem appropriate, ma'am, but—"

"Whatever punishment?" Harvest lowered her own voice, let the slightest bit of Carrot's growl come into it. "Did you actually just say that to me?"

Both the Hugs went completely pale, and it took some effort for Harvest to keep Carrot from fully bursting out right then and there.

Tender swallowed. "If that's what you deem appropriate, ma'am." And the real salty stink of his fear told Harvest everything she needed to know.

"Oh, you two!" Harvest giggled, stepped forward, and touched a hoof gently to each of their snouts in turn. "When you have multiple ops in play at once, it's vitally important to remember the little things. Fill out one 'stop mail' form, and you've got the protective power of Equestria's postal system working for you. Because you and I won't always be neighbors, you know." Turning, she grabbed the tablecloth in her teeth and pulled it away to reveal the crate underneath.

The wave of relief that washed over her from the Hugs was more than a scent. It was as if she could feel their tensed muscles relaxing. "Thank Celestia," Tender more breathed than said.

"No," Heartfelt said, and Harvest turned back to see the mare looking at her with her emerald eyes wide. "Thank you, ma'am."

Harvest giggled again. "You two are maybe the best agents I've ever trained," she said, and even Carrot didn't grumble at that. "So mark this down as another lesson learned and tell me you'll join me for lunch tomorrow." She clapped her hooves together. "I can't wait to hear what fun you had on your trip!"

Tender had already wrestled the crate up onto his back. "Wouldn't miss it for the world," he said.

All of Heartfelt's bubbliness had returned. "It's definitely a date!" She spun for the front walk. "Oh! Lemme get the gate, honey!"

As they headed down the sidewalk for their own gate, Harvest saw exactly what she expected to see: two nice young newlyweds. It was what she'd trained them to be, after all.

What Carrot had trained them to be, she hoped never to see...

Carrot silently and grouchily cleared her throat then and wondered about dinner. Harvest smiled and headed inside.
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#1 · 1
My problem:

With this story is that it doesn't seem to be about anything. A lot of stuff happens, but when I asked myself, "What's this story about?" I couldn't come up with an answer. I'm hoping to figure something out before I post it at Fimfiction. :)