Hey guys, another fic from me. This fic is canon with Getting Back On Your Hooves, consider it a prequel of sorts, as it takes place before it. It's just a short fic, that's about all.

Anyway, enjoy!

Perfect Companions

Chapter 1- A Mare's Best Friend

"Ok, now please hold still," said Fluttershy's soft, gentle voice as she let the little fox's paw lay over her hoof, a good sized thorn lodged in the pad exposed. "This will only hurt for a second, I promise," she said, keeping her relaxed, gentle tone that seemed to be her default. With the utmost care, the Pegasus leaned down and gently took the top of the thorn in her teeth. With a quick motion, she pulled the thorn out, and before the fox could react, pulled her close to comfort it. "There, does that feel better?" she asked, lowering her head to receive a nuzzle from the grateful little vixen. "You're welcome, Violet…it wasn't any trouble."

As Violet moved off, Fluttershy looked up at all the animals that dwelled with her in her home. There were so many that most ponies wondered how she managed to take care of them all, let alone remember the names of each and every one of them. The truth was, Fluttershy honestly couldn't imagine her life without all her animal friends there. She took care of them, and when she needed them, they returned her kindness. Like when she was upset over being too weak to help with the tornado. After she broke down, when she ran off and cried her eyes out…they all came to help her. They consoled her and helped her train. Sure, it hadn't gotten her as high as she wanted, but they'd done all they could to help her. She'd always thought she'd had a bond with animals, but that moment had proven to her they cared for her just as much as she cared for them. It made her feel warm inside just thinking about it.

Fluttershy was disrupted from her thoughts by a knock on the door, causing her to give a tiny squeak and jump almost to the ceiling from surprise. "O-oh, I'm coming," she called, well, as loudly as Fluttershy ever spoke under normal circumstances.

She trotted over to the door, seeing no reason to fly in her own home. It wasn't that she didn't like to fly, she loved it as much as the next pegasi, but she just liked feeling the ground beneath her hooves most of the time. She loved the clouds, she really did, but solid earth just felt so much…safer.

She carefully opened the door to find Applejack standing before her. "Oh, hello Applejack, I-" Fluttershy started, but stopped, sniffing lightly. She gave a disgusted grimace as her nose registered a strong, horrible stench in the air. She knew exactly what it was the moment she smelled it, and once she looked down and saw a rather miserable looking Winona sitting next to Applejack, it wasn't hard to guess what had happened.

Fluttershy quickly covered her nose with her hoof as she looked to Applejack. "Um…Did Winona…get sprayed by a skunk?" she asked quietly, giving several soft coughs from the strong, horrid odor as she spoke.

Applejack, with her own hoof over her nose, gave a nod. "Yeah, we were takin' a walk and she saw somethin' in the bushes and took off after it," the Earth Pony replied, looking pretty miserable herself, and was looking a little green around the gills. "Before Ah could catch up to her, she'd gotten a real nose full, poor darlin'," she said, looking down at her dog, who had laid down to put her paws over her nose, whimpering softly, ears pinned with her tail between her legs. Applejack gave a sympathetic look to her companion before looking up at Fluttershy. "We woulda gave her a bath ourselves, but Granny Smith dumped all our tomato juice on the Zap Apple Trees."

Fluttershy blinked lightly, the sensation of tears running down her cheeks alerting her to the fact her eyes were watering. "Um…if you don't mind me asking…why did she do that?"

Applejack shrugged. "Ah don't rightly know, but Ah reckon Granny Smith knows what's she's doin' when it comes to Zap Apples. Anyway, Ah coulda just ran to the market and got some more, but Ah didn't want Winona to suffer any longer than she has to and your place was closer….If it ain't too much trouble…could yah spare some tomato juice?"

Fluttershy gave an understanding nod, and a light cough. "I understand Applejack," she said, giving a genuine smile. "I…well…live with a few skunks, I always keep some in case one of them gets startled, but mixing in a few herbal ingredients Zecora gave me will make it work better," she said, very hesitantly taking her hoof off her nose and giving a gag before turning and walking over to a cabinet, and pulling out a metal tub with her teeth. "Did you wash her eyes out?" she asked softly, then looked to Angel, about the only one of her animals who hadn't fled to the backyard to escape the skunk smell. Instead, he just held his nose and watched Winona, looking at least a little concerned for the poor dog. "Angel…um, if it's not too much trouble, could you please go get some cans of tomato juice and open them?…Please?"

Angel nodded, hopping off to follow his owner's command without hesitation. Fluttershy wasn't that surprised, she had noticed the six pets, now seven, with Spike's new baby pet phoenix, got along rather well. Even Opal, while still very aggressive, at least tolerated the others presence on Pony Pet Play Dates, and the others seemed pretty friendly with each other. Winona always seemed to enjoy them a great deal, loving the opportunity to just play with her owner and make friends with the other animals, being a very friendly dog in general. Angel had been hesitant to be around her at first, dogs and rabbits didn't quite get along, but after awhile, the two of them had become pretty good friends.

Applejack directed her dog over to the tub before sitting down and covering her nose again as soon as she was capable of doing so. Being a quadruped who really needed all four hooves on the ground to walk properly had it's disadvantages. "Yeah, that was the first thing Ah did when Ah got her home, Ah know that stuff stings somethin' awful when it gets in your eyes," she said, only not petting Winona to comfort her to avoid getting musk on herself. She looked down at her old friend with concern. "It'll be alright, Winona, yah know Fluttershy will take good care of you."

Fluttershy gave a nod and mixed the herbs in the cans of tomato juice that Angel brought over. She poured the first can on tomato juice on the collie and beginning to rub it into her brown and white fur with her hoof, though at the moment, the white on her muzzle and chest was tinted slightly yellow from the musk. "Poor baby, I know it's awful," she said as calmly as she could, Angel assisting her with a sponge attached to a broom she kept for times like this.

"Yah got that right, peeyew!" Applejack exclaimed, giving a grimace, her eyes watering a little. "Those little critters can sure kick up a big stink, no wonder even bears don't want to tangle with 'em."

Fluttershy nodded. "It's because they need a good defense, after all, they aren't very big and they can't run very fast. They need something to protect themselves," she explained, pouring another can of tomato juice on Winona and continuing to clean her. Truth be told, she liked skunks. They were kind of like her, they didn't fight unless they absolutely had to, and when they did, they didn't truly hurt the other animal, just send it running. They even both had a…weapon, they really don't like using if they could help it. They had their musk, she had the Stare. "And it smells a lot worse to her than it does to us. Ponies have really sensitive noses, but canines have an even stronger sense of smell. To us, it's bad, but to her this is like torture."

Applejack nodded, giving Winona a sad look. "Ah know, that's why I tried to get her to yah so quick."

Fluttershy gave a nod as she looked down at the beautiful coat of the collie, she could tell even through the layer of tomato juice that Applejack must have taken excellent care of the little dog's coat. As she moved her hooves gently over the tiny body, she could tell she was in very good condition. Looking up, she saw Applejack's sympathetic look to her little dog. It was clear she meant a lot to the farmer pony. From what she'd heard, Discord had swapped Winona and Big Macintosh minds during his reign, but that hadn't effected the Apple Family's love of their canine friend that much at all, even if Big Mac did need some time to recover from the experience. That's when a thought occurred to Fluttershy.

"Applejack…umm…if you don't mind me asking…how did you get Winona?" Fluttershy asked, her voice timid and soft. It'd just now hit her, for all the care she gave Winona, and in fact most of her friend's pets, she had never thought to ask where they'd got them. And not every creature told you their entire life story when you meet them like Spike had. "Y-you don't have to tell me…I'm just curious…"

Applejack blinked in surprise at the question. "Oh, it's no problem, sugarcube," she replied, as she gave a rather bittersweet look. "Ah don't mind tellin' yah…"

Fluttershy saw Applejack's expression. "Oh, it's fine, you really don't have to if you don't want to," she replied apologetically as she continued working on Winona.

Applejack shook her head. "Naw, Ah don't mind, Ah just was thinkin' about some sad times is all, maybe it'll do me some good to talk about 'em after all this time…anyway, it wasn't long after Applebloom was born…"

Applejack, just a teenager, bucked an apple tree, filling a basket, then hauling them over to their proper place, where Big Macintosh carried them from there.

"Even back then, we Apples were hard workers…but yah see, our folks, they had a job that meant they traveled a lot, all over Equestria. Ah know farmin' is a lot of physical work, but it's also a business, Fluttershy. And back then, lots of other Sweet Apple Acres all over Equestria were just gettin' started. My parents were the owners of the original Sweet Apple Acres, they had the most experience outside of Granny Smith, and she couldn't travel that much anymore, so the Apple Family elected mom and dad the bosses of all of 'em. Eventually, that meant the job would just come down to monitorin' their progress by mail, mostly only helpin' 'em when and if they needed it, but in those early years, it was lots of hooves on trainin' of the other families to run their farms.

"We didn't see 'em all that often…Their job was important, the family really needed 'em if the other farms were gonna succeed, and we couldn't turn our backs on our kin…but that didn't mean it hurt any less when they had to work on our birthdays…At the time, they'd been called away on emergencies on my birthday two years in a row…"

Applejack watched Applebloom, just a little foal, barely weaned, curl up asleep in her crib, hugging a stuffed animal. Applejack looked up to Big Macintosh, who even then was considerably larger than her. "Big Macintosh…Will mom and dad be there for my birthday tomorrow?"

Big Macintosh looked down into the pleading eyes of his baby sister, then gave a little smile. "Eeyup…"

Applejack gave an excited shout, only to be shushed by Granny Smith, who pointed to the sleeping Applebloom. Applejack returned a nervous smile and hugged her big brother.

"Ah can't tell yah how happy Ah was Fluttershy! After two years, my parents would finally be there for my birthday! And it only got better…"

Applejack ran up and hugged the big strong, red, stallion with an apple and a calculator for a Cutie Mark, who hugged his daughter back, yellow mane tickling the mare's face as she was careful to avoid knocking his hat off. Seeing her mother, Applejack released her father and embraced her mother. Her mother looked almost exactly like her color scheme, only ever so slightly darker and having five apples for her Cutie Mark instead of three, a blue bow on her tail. She also kept her hair down instead of in a ponytail like her daughter.

"Dad's name was Big Red, he was Granny Smith's son…My mom was named Applejack too, it's kind of an ancestral name. Ah don't know how far back it goes, but it's just been tradition on mom's side to name your eldest daughter Applejack."

"Applejack, yah sure have gotten strong," her mother said, smiling to the orange mare. "Have yah taken good care of your baby sister?"

Applejack nodded. "Sure have! She's doin' just fine, mom."

Her father nodded. "That's our Applejack, the most dependable of ponies," he said proudly, messing up her mane and taking the hat off his head, sticking it on hers in the process. "Happy birthday, Applejack, we're sorry we missed your last two…" he said, guilt clear in his face.

"It's…it's alright," said Applejack, trying not to look upset. "Ah know your job is important and all…"

The elder Applejack hugged the younger. "That's no excuse…but we got yah somethin' we hope will make it up to yah."

Big Red put a hoof to his lips and whistled. Applejack blinked, then looked at the wagon her parents had came in just in time for a little border collie to come running out and tackle her. "Her name is Winona, we thought yah could use a little more company around here while we're gone."

"And when she gets bigger, she can even help yah out around the farm," said the elder Applejack, smiling as she watched the scene.

Applejack laughed as the little puppy licked her face and wagged her tail. Applejack looked at the little collie and smiled. "Winona…she's great! Thank you so much!" she said, giving a chuckle as the pup licked her nose again.

"The rest of the day went perfect, all of it…we had a big party, Pinkie wasn't around yet to throw it, but we made do. That day was just…wonderful…But like the old sayin' goes…all good things must come to an end…Ah only wish that day was all that ended…."

A few weeks later, Applejack peeked out the window to see a grim faced stallion dressed in a black suit hand Granny Smith and Big Macintosh a letter and her father's hat. She couldn't hear what was going on, but she could see both of them look shocked…then start crying…

After a bit, they came in, Applejack looked at her brother, who looked more broken and weak as she'd ever seen him…she felt her heart sink. "Big Macintosh…what happened?" she asked, now fearing the answer. Sensing her worry, Winona stayed right next to Applejack, looking up at her with worry in her eyes.

Big Macintosh looked at his sister, tears in his eyes. "Applejack…Ah…Mom and dad…they…" he tried to say, but couldn't bring himself to say the last horrible words.

Applejack felt like she suddenly had ice in her veins. Just looking into his eyes, she would see the truth. "…T-They're…t-they're not coming back, are they?" she asked, as if numb all over, as if her heart stopped.

Instead of his typical 'Eeyup', Big Macintosh merely nodded grimly. Applejack slowly sunk to a sitting position, Big Macintosh catching his sister as she fell forwards and broke down crying. Winona gave a soft whine and snuggled up to her owners to do what she could to give them comfort. Applejack wrapped a hoof around her and pulled her close as she sobbed.

"T-there'd been an accident…" said Applejack, holding her hat to her chest, her father's hat, her voice cracking as she spoke. Now her eyes were full of tears, and it wasn't from the sharp, still lingering scent of skunk spray still in the air. "…That was the last birthday Ah ever spent with my parents…And Winona was the last birthday present they ever gave me."

Fluttershy struggled to avoid crying herself, no easy task for the timid Pegasus. It was hard to watch strong willed Applejack be brought to tears by memory of a personal tragedy, it hurt to watch. But Fluttershy was the Element of Kindness, and right now the kind thing to do wasn't to break down crying at the sad story. She could also tell Applejack was trying to resist crying openly, she didn't want to make this harder than it should be. She turned, and hugged Applejack gently, not saying a word, just being there for her. Applejack finally stopped holding in her tears and cried on Fluttershy's shoulder as she returned the hug. After a short while, Fluttershy finally spoke. "I-I'm sorry…I didn't know…"

"…No…no, it's alright," Applejack replied after a few silent moments of letting her tears flow freely as her friend did her best to comfort her. She looked up at her friend and giving a smile. "Ah think it did me good to talk about it…thanks for listenin'," she said, sniffling a little and blinking away the remaining tears. She looked down as Winona squirmed her way between the two and, still dripping with tomato juice, nuzzled her owner to comfort her. Applejack smiled and pet the collie's head with her hoof. "They were right…Winona did keep me company while they were gone…Ah needed all the family Ah could get…and she's family too…"

Fluttershy smiled, watching the collie lick her owners face. "I understand…My animals are my family too…"

Applejack nodded, giving a smile to her friend. "Ah know, Ah don't think there's a mare alive who knows what Ah'm sayin' better than you, Fluttershy," she said, feeling better just having talked about her pain with a friend who listened. "Thanks for bein' my shoulder to cry on…and thanks for cleanin' up Winona, it means an awful lot."

Fluttershy nodded with a blush at the gratitude. "It was nothing…any good friend would do the same thing…How about we wash her off…then I could make some tea…if you are ok with that, I mean, it's up to you."

Applejack smiled. "Sounds right fine to me."

As they washed Winona off, Fluttershy thought about what she'd learned…she'd never even thought about how much you could learn about somepony just from their pet. Getting Tank showed that Rainbow Dash cared much more about loyalty than speed, coolness, and radicalness. Finding Owloysius had brought to light just how much Twilight really cared about Spike, leading to her taking on a dragon (Fluttershy shuddered at the thought) to save him, and Owloysius by her side through it. And getting Peewee had shown Spike he had a good heart for refusing to sink to those teenage dragon's level, even though he knew what they'd probably do to him for it. And now she discovered that Winona was a comforter that came when Applejack was at a dark point in her life and needed it the most.

Fluttershy wondered just what stories her other two friend's pets had behind them…

Yeah, Applejack's mother was either the G1 Applejack or the descendant of her, whichever you prefer. Just a mythology gag. Anyway, this MAY be longer, maybe not. This was meant to either be a self contained story or the first chapter of a larger one.

Anyway, please tell me what you think!