I don't know why I was so worried about doing this again. Sure, the last cider tasting was a bit awkward, but looking back on it, it shouldn't have bothered me so much. When Rarity said that I might have a thing for Applejack, it just freaked me out a little. After all, I only had a few hours to try to come to terms with it, and I guess it just wasn't enough time to figure things out. I had a bit of time to think about it a little, and everything is going alright now. It probably helps that all my other friends are here as well. It doesn't feel nearly as strange as it did when it was just Applejack and me in here alone. And it's so great that Celestia could be here too! I never would have thought that she would have- oops! Spilled my cider...I guess I'm still a bit of a klutz. Now my mane is going to be all sticky. Applejack is getting a napkin for me. She's so sweet, always looking for ways to help out. And now she's even helping me clean up my mane so I don't have to do it! She's so helpful, and...uh...now she's...scratching my head for some reason. That's odd. I mean, it feels kinda good and all, but it's still kinda...oh. This isn't like her, she usually isn't quite this...touchy-feely. Ah, wait, what is she...oooohhh. I don't- how should I- I can't think of anything to say! Get some words out, Twilight! You have to say something! She's getting closer! You can't just let her- Wow. That-that was amazing-
Whoa. What just happened...Oh no. No. No no no no nononononono! Did I just- that she-
Would I have broke this happy dream;
It was a theme
For reason, much too strong for fantasy.
The only time of day when Carousel Boutique possessed even a semblance of serenity was, in fact, at night. Downstairs, Opalescence curled herself up on the bolt of fabric that would display her shed hairs most visibly in the morning light. Upstairs, Rarity had fallen so deeply into her slumber that her ladylike persona had crumbled completely. She snored so loudly the bed shook a little. For once, she didn't care.
Sure the week had only been seven days long, but she had compressed at least fifteen days worth of work into that time. First there had been that dress order from Canterlot, then the Cutecenera dress, then the bridesmaids' dresses...the interminable barrage of orders had just about killed her. And go figure, the universe couldn't leave well enough alone, and had capped the whole thing off by sending Twilight into an absolute tizzy at the worst possible time. Not that Rarity intended to be anything but helpful and supportive, but she couldn't help but wish that Twilight's epiphany would have happened at just about any other time.
In the end, even Rarity couldn't say how she had managed. After downing enough cups of coffee to make Pinkie Pie nervous, all the needles and fabric and dress forms had blurred together, and when the caffeine wore off she found herself staring at a completed set of dresses. For the first time that week, she found herself without an outstanding order or panicked purple pony sitting at her doorstep. She celebrated her newfound freedom from stress by toppling into bed and resolving to stay there as long as possible.
As the clock quietly struck four in the morning, Rarity was immersed in an entirely pleasant dream. Fancypants had just given her latest fashion show a rave review, and her doctor had informed her that she had a genetic abnormality in her metabolism that allowed her to eat as much chocolate as she wanted without getting fat. Even better, Opalescence had somehow miraculously taught herself to handle Carousel Boutique's financial paperwork. “On the up and up” hardly did justice to how swimmingly the day had gone. Which made the rude awakening all the more unwelcome.
She rolled over and buried her head face first in the pillow in a vain attempt to salvage the dream, but the cause was lost. Somepony was knocking on her door, and she had a vague idea who that pony might be. With a painful degree of reluctance, she crawled out of bed, peeled off her eye mask, and peered out the window. She sighed, her suspicions confirmed. She fully remembered informing Twilight that she would always be available to talk, no matter where or when, but she hadn't expected Twilight to take it quite so literally. At the moment, she rather regretted not tagging an “except in the middle of the night” clause onto the end of her offer. But that ship had sailed. She had offered herself as an adviser, and she had no intention of doing anything but holding up her end of the bargain. She sighed, ran a brush through her mane to make herself somewhat presentable, and headed down the stairs.
A blast of cold night air struck her in the face as she opened the front door. Twilight stood just outside, trotting in place. Her gaze darted nervously around the empty street, as if she feared that someone would see her. She showed no sign that she was aware that Rarity stood at the door. Rarity cleared her throat. Twilight twitched and finally noticed that the door was open.
“Rarity! I really have to talk to you about something; I-”
“Just come inside,” Rarity cut in. “It's too cold out here.” She turned and retreated into the boutique before Twilight could refuse the offer. The purple unicorn shrugged and followed Rarity inside. The fashionista was already disappearing into the kitchen.
Rarity flipped the lamp on and squinted at the sudden light. She turned away and began to dig into the cabinet in search of her teapot. If she had to be awake this early, she might as well warm herself up. Right now, everything in the world was colder than her bed. She filled the pot and set it on the stove with a clang.
“So, what brings you here so early in the morning?” she inquired, trying to sound as chipper as possible. Her face was already starting to ache with the effort of not grimacing from exhaustion. For a moment, she rather envied Twilight's apparent ability to function when heavily sleep deprived. Sure, Twilight looked a bit disheveled, but that was obviously due to stress rather than an actual lack of sleep.
“Well, it's about Applejack...”
“I figured,” Rarity grumbled under her breath, wondering what could possibly have happened that couldn't have waited until the sun came up. In the back of her mind she could tell that a snide comment wasn't entirely appropriate, but she was too tired to help herself. “If you find yourself bothering her this late at night, it's only natural that she might be a bit ornery.”
“It's not like it happened just now!” Twilight wailed, completely missing Rarity's insinuation. “Well, it did, but it didn't have anything to do with talking to Applejack. Although I guess it kinda did, but not really.”
“Twilight--” Rarity could feel herself speaking with an unusual frankness. “I would find that difficult to follow at the best of times, and at the moment I'm rather burnt out and tired and have no idea what you're talking about. Just what happened between you two that you couldn't have waited until morning to tell me? I was under the impression that you'd been doing better this past week. You didn't seem too uptight when you talked to her during the Pony Pet Playdate, after all.”
“That's different. It's easier when everypony else is around too. Besides, it didn't exactly happen between the two of us. It mostly has to do with me. Not that she isn't involved, but--”
“Twilight, please,” Rarity groaned, her half-open eye twitching.
“I-uh...I sort of had a dream about her.”
“Oh.” Rarity's eyes snapped open. “Oh my. That's quite a development. I don't suppose it would be too forward to ask exactly what your dream was about?”
“It's just- I don't know how it happened! I thought things were starting to go back to normal, but then this happened, and-” She paused, noting Rarity's glare, which said “Get on with it” more effectively than if she had spoken the actual words. “Okay, I dreamed that I was at another one of Applejack's cider tastings. It was sort of like the one I went to last week, only this time everyone else was there. Princess Celestia was there too for some reason. I'm not sure why, but I didn't really notice how odd that was. In any case, everything was going fine and we were all having a good time.
“But then I spilled some cider on myself, and Applejack was helping me clean it up with this napkin. It wasn't too bad; I mean, it was a bit weird to have her dabbing at my mane, but I figured that if it were anypony else it wouldn't have mattered, but then she just sort of started rubbing my head. Like, for no reason. But I didn't mind it too much, because it felt kinda good. Then she sort of scooted over really close to me and put her foreleg around me.”
“Uh huh.” Rarity nodded, unsure if she wanted to hear more. Curiosity got the better of her. “Then what?”
“Well, she leaned in close, and...” Twilight's voice lapsed in a murmur.
“She kissed me.” Twilight's voice was barely above a whisper.
“Oh.” Rarity could only stare for a moment. “Dare I ask what happened next?”
“I woke up! It just shocked me so much...”
“So, you dreamed that Applejack kissed you. That's quite something.” Rarity bit her lip. The rational part of her brain knew that the specifics weren't really important, but the curious part of her brain couldn't help but pry a bit more. “Was it just a kiss or the cheek, or a...more fancy kiss, or-”
“On the lips,” Twilight whispered. “Nothing fancy, though. She just sort of pulled me in and pressed our faces together. It was just so weird. I mean, it wasn't bad or anything. It was really soft, and warm, and why on earth am I thinking about this so much!? I couldn't get back to sleep because I couldn't get it out of my head! Why would I have a dream like that about one of my best friends!?”
“Well, I would assume that it goes with the territory of being infatuated with somepony,” Rarity said. “I realize it's a bit weird to think of her like that but-”
“That's the problem! I mean, yeah, before I was thinking about her a lot, but it was always just regular friend stuff. Like how I had stuff to talk to her about, or how she could totally take better care of Angel than I could, or how she could help me with the cupcakes because she's a better baker than I am. You know, typical friend stuff. But kissing? That's not something regular friends do. That's something that you do with a colfriend or marefriend. But not with a friend friend. That kind of kissing is just for a Very Special Somepony, and Applejack isn't that! Ugghhh.” She flopped onto the table, burying her head in her forelegs. Rarity regarded her friend for a long moment before noting that the teapot had started to whistle. She poured two cups as she mulled over how to respond.
“Here, have some tea.” She slid one of the cups to Twilight. “Careful, it's hot.”
Rarity watched Twilight attempt to take a sip and recoil from the heat. A thought crossed her mind. Her first inclination was to dismiss it. It was silly and Twilight would almost certainly not want to hear it. But then again, now that she thought about it, it didn't seem quite as absurd as it should have.
“Twilight, do you think that Applejack would make a good marefriend for you?”
Twilight gurgled as she fought to not spit her tea across the table.
“What!?” She managed to cough the word out as she choked down the tea. “W-what are you talking about!?”
“Well, you said yourself that only a very special somepony would do something like that,” Rarity said. “I mean, if you're thinking about her that way, even if it is just subconscious-”
“I thought that you said that it was just a crush! Some sort of temporary infatuation!”
“I said it might just be an infatuation. And I stand by that. You shouldn't put too much stock in your dreams, anyway. You know as well as I do that most of the time they don't make any sense whatsoever. You were there yesterday when Pinkie told us about her dream, remember? About how she was floating on a balloon that was really a giant donut when the diamond dogs began to shoot magic beams at her that turned whatever they hit into chocolate? You can't take them too seriously.”
“But that's Pinkie. It makes sense for her to have dreams about random stuff like that. And my dream wasn't anywhere near that crazy. It seemed so real, for a moment I almost didn't realize that it had been a dream. Well, that sea serpent from the Everfree Forest was there, wearing a rainbow clown wig, but other than that it was just like real life!”
“Which brings us back to my question.” Rarity rapped a hoof on the table. “Speaking purely hypothetically, of course, do you think that Applejack would be a good match for you?”
“I don't know! And it doesn't matter anyway. There's no way that it could happen.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Isn't it obvious? If she was my very special somepony, it means that by definition all my other friends aren't special ponies!”
“Well, if you want to be technical about it, that isn't necessarily true. She would be your very special somepony, which means all your other friends can still be special, just not as much.”
“That's just as bad!” Twilight groaned.
“Okay, let's tackle this from a different angle.” Rarity rubbed her forehead with a hoof. “Let's just assume for a second that Applejack could somehow be your very special somepony without affecting any of your other friendships, and that all of us are perfectly alright with it and aren't belittled in any way. Are you still with me?”
“I suppose...” Twilight mumbled.
“Well, if it were the case that it would have no negative effects on any of your other friends, would you want Applejack to be your very special somepony?”
“I-I don't know. I've never really thought about her like that. I don't know why she wouldn't be a good very special somepony. I'm sure that if anypony-”
“I'm not talking about anypony, Twilight. I'm talking about you.” Rarity thrust a hoof in Twilight's direction. “Would you want Applejack to be your Very Special Somepony? Yes or no?”
“I-uh-er... I-” Twilight's tongue stumbled around in her mouth as her brain tried to tell it what word to form. “I-I... I suppose so.” She slumped on the table, coming dangerously close to upsetting the teacups. “What am I supposed to do? How could I let this happen?”
Rarity restrained her urge to shout “Aha! I knew it!” The last thing she wanted was to substantiate Twilight's assumption that this was a big deal. The first thing she wanted was to ensure Twilight that there was no reason to get worked up over her sudden epiphany.
“Twilight, you didn't let anything happen. You can't always control things like this, and you most certainly haven't done anything wrong in admitting how you feel. If anything, being honest about it will make this whole ordeal easier on you.” Rarity patted Twilight's shoulder as she thought over what she would say next. As much as she wanted to be supportive, the second thing she wanted was to go back to bed. “And while we're on the subject of things that will make this easier, you should probably go back to sleep. The middle of the night is the worst possible time to concern yourself with stressful matters. Why don't you sleep on it and consider the matter with a clear head.”
“But what if I have another dream?”
“I don't think there's anything you can do to prevent it if it happens again, but then again it is just a dream. I know the... content might have shocked you a bit, but I really don't think it's anything to worry about. If you think that way about Applejack, there's no point in denying it. Besides, can you really honestly say that the idea of actually getting together with her has never crossed your mind?”
“Well, Pinkie did say that we would make a cute couple.”
“Now that I think about it, I suppose you two would go quite well together. Normally, I think your respective colors might clash a bit, but in this case- wait.” Rarity's teacup stopped halfway to her mouth. “Pinkie knows about this?”
“Yeah, I blurted it to her while I was helping her decorate cupcakes. I made her promise not to tell anypony. You know how she is about promises.”
“That would explain why I haven't heard about it.” Rarity nodded and took a sip of her tea. “Although it does explain why she started giggling uncontrollably when you and Applejack had to share a hot tub during our spa visit.”
“Ugh, don't remind me of that! It's why this whole thing is so terrible. That shouldn't have been awkward at all, but I could hardly even look at her. How can I be her friend if I'm always thinking about her-”
Rarity cleared her throat. There was likely a lot more she could say, but she wasn't in a mood to say it well, and even if she did, Twilight was in no position to process any advice correctly anyway.
“You need to just relax a bit. Go home, get some rest, and then we can talk it over when we aren't in danger of fainting from exhaustion.”
“But I'm wide awake.”
“Well, I'm not.” Rarity leaned in close so Twilight could clearly see the bags under her eyes.“Or at least, I shouldn't be. I've had a long week and I need my beauty sleep. Unlike some ponies I actually have to rest to regain my composure.”
“Okay, I get the hint. We can talk about it later. How about lunch?”
“Lunch would be wonderful.”
“I suppose I better get going, then. Thanks for the tea. It was delicious. Oh, and sorry about waking you up. I just didn't know what to do.”
“Don't worry about it, dear. I did tell you to come by any time after all. Although I admit that I would greatly appreciate it if next time you think over whether the issue could possibly wait a bit.”
“Duly noted,” Twilight said with a chuckle. “I'll try not to come by in the middle of the night unless it's an emergency. I'll see you tomorrow. Or later today, I guess. It is after midnight, isn't it?”
Rarity just glared.
“I'll let myself out.” Twilight began to back out of the kitchen. “Thanks again for listening to me.”
“Aw shucks. That was an awful throw.” Applejack glared unhappily at her horseshoe. It had slipped as she made her throw, and it was pure luck that it had landed in the sand pit.
“Ha, let me show you how it's really done!” Rainbow Dash snatched up her own shoe and hurled towards the pole. It landed right at the foot of it, only a few hair's breadths away from touching it. “There we go.”
“Lucky shot,” Applejack grumbled. “You mind if I ask you a question?”
“What, you want to know how I got so awesome? Sorry, that's my secret.”
“I'm bein' serious!”
“Sure, sure, ask away.”
“Well, I've been hangin' out a bit with Twilight this week-” She paused to throw the horseshoe. It bounced off the pole with a clank. “-and she's been acting kinda weird lately. You think there's anything up with her?”
“Twilight acting weird? She's probably just stressed because she's been studying too much or something.” She tossed another shoe. It bounced off the edge of the box and landed on the grass. “Oh, horseapples, that was awful.”
“Studyin', huh? That's exactly what Twilight said when I asked her about it. You ain't hidin' anything, are you?”
“Oh no. You saw through our conspiracy,” Rainbow Dash deadpanned. “Twilight has been replaced by a changeling and I'm covering for her. I can't believe you saw through her brilliant ruse.”
“Ha ha, very funny.” Applejack rolled her eyes. “But really, I feel like something is botherin' her and she doesn't want to tell me.” She picked up her final horseshoe and tossed it. Rainbow Dash watched unhappily as it caught the pole perfectly and slid down to the dirt. “Hah, now that's how you're supposed to throw it! That ain't luck, that's skill!”
“Yeah, yeah.” Rainbow Dash clenched her final horseshoe between her teeth. With the flick of her neck, she sent it sailing through the air. It landed in the sand with a dull thud. “I guess you win this one.”
“Ha, that's what, six in a row?”
“I'm having an off day, okay? It happens.”
“You sure you don't wanna go best out of 13?”
“I'll pass.” Rainbow Dash sighed. “Unless you want another iron pony competition, I think I might as well go train some more.”
“Yeah, I don't think so. Especially after what happened last time. But really, you think that Twilight is okay? I still feel like she hasn't been quite herself lately.”
“Maybe she developed Egghead Syndrome.”
“Yeah, I heard you get it if you spend too much time inside around musty old books.”
“If that were a real thing, she'd probably have got it a long time ago.” Applejack chuckled. “Maybe it's nothing. She did try to drink that cider stuff that my sister and her friends made. That stuff would make anypony sick for a few days.”
“Yuck, if she drank that, maybe I really should check on her.” Rainbow Dash stuck out her tongue in disgust. “If I run into her, I'll see how she's doing. You still up for helping me train this afternoon?”
“Alright, I'll meet you out at the track then and make sure you remember the oil can for the catapult. Later!” Rainbow Dash took to the air and headed into town.
“That's mine.” Twilight licked her lips as the waiter set the plate on the table.
“Then the garden salad is yours.” He set the other plate down in front of Rarity. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
“Thank you. That will be all.” Rarity waved him away. When he had moved out of earshot, she leaned in. “Now that we're both fully awake, is there anything else you would like to discuss?”
“Well, I was thinking about what you said last night. Mostly the stuff about how I have to just be honest about how I feel. And even though I know that I feel like-”
“What was it you were doing last night, anyway?” Both Rarity and Twilight turned to find Pinkie Pie sitting at the table's third chair, which until roughly four seconds ago been unoccupied.
“Pinkie, what are you doing?” Rarity said in a huff as she returned to her seat, having jumped out of it at the sight of Pinkie’s sudden appearance. “It's quite rude to intrude on a private conversation like this.”
“Sorry, I just heard Twilight talking about last night, and I was curious because last night I was going downstairs to get some chocolate milk and I saw that the lights were on in the library, which isn't that weird because Twilight is always up late. But then she went outside, which is really weird because she never goes outside at night.” She wiggled, somehow causing her chair to wobble towards Twilight. “So you were at Rarity's, huh? Why would you go to the boutique in the middle of the night? Did you need an emergency dress or something? If you ever need one, I have one hidden under your spare bed.”
“No, it wasn't anything like that. It's-” Twilight leaned in and whispered. “It's about Applejack.”
“Oooooohhhhh!” Pinkie winked at her, and immediately began to stare into space, doing her best to look like that philosopher pony statue she had seen at Canterlot. “Hmmmmm...” Her eyes turned to Rarity, the rest of her body completely prone. Then her gaze shifted to Twilight. Then back to Rarity. Her eyes narrowed.
“She knows about it, okay!?” Twilight blurted.
“Knows about what?” Pinkie asked. Twilight couldn't tell if Pinkie was feigning ignorance for the sake of the secret, or if she was just that oblivious.
“About my...thing for Applejack,” she muttered. “I actually told her about it the morning of the day I told you. She's been giving me advice on how to handle the situation.”
“Ooh ooh, can I try?” Pinkie raised a hoof and waited for Twilight to acknowledge her.
“Can you try what?”
“Giving you advice!”
“You? Giving advice on relationships?” Rarity's voice sat halfway across the gap between frustrated incredulity and an attempt not to laugh. “What, pray tell, do you know about such things? I've known you for years, and I cannot remember you getting ever being in any situations which would give you any insight into such matters.”
“Well, neither have you,” Pinkie retorted. “I mean, sure you might have read a lot of books about relationships, or romance, or princesses learning to better appreciate their new gardener, but that's totally different from what's going on! Applejack totally isn't Twilight's gardener!”
“No, but I have been the subject of romantic advances before. I have firsthoof experience.”
“And I don't!?” Pinkie glared at Rarity for a moment with an especially beady eye. Rarity swallowed and leaned back. Then with a twitch, Pinkie snapped back to her previous grin. “You're right, actually. I don't. Well, there was this colt who had a crush on me way back in my blank flank days, but I'm pretty sure I scared him off when he actually tried to talk to me, and that’s not really very helpful.”
“Exactly. I don't mean to belittle your... appeal, but I don't think it's an unfound assumption that I've likely received more attention of that sort than you have.”
“Well duh.” Pinkie rolled her eyes. “But that doesn't mean that you can give better advice than I can.” She switched back into philosopher mode for a moment before smiling widely and clapping her hooves together. “I know what we can do! I'll be Twilight's adviser, and you can be Applejack's adviser! Then after we advise them we can compare notes! Although that might be tough, because my hoofwriting is pretty hard to read, but I could explain them to you.”
“Why would I be advising Applejack? She doesn't even know what's going on.”
“Cause she's the one that Twilight has a crush on, and you know all about what that's like.”
“That is true, but I hardly think Applejack would appreciate me attempting to run her love life.”
“But you're telling Twilight what to do, aren't you?”
“That's because she asked me for advice.” Rarity sighed with exasperation. “But really, she simply wondered if I could tell her anything to better inform her own decision. I'm hardly trying to coerce her into doing things.”
“So if she says it's okay, I can give her advice too?”
“I suppose so.”
Pinkie turned her attention to Twilight, who was nibbling at her sandwich.
“Hey Twilight, can I give you advice about Applejack? Can I? Can I? Pleaaasseee?”
Twilight swallowed her mouthful.
“You might as well,” she muttered. “I need all the help I can get.”
Pinkie grinned and winked at Rarity. The white unicorn rolled her eyes.
“Let's hear it, then,” she said.
Pinkie nodded, cleared her throat, and took a deep breath as she prepared to stun her friends with her brilliant insight.
“I think you should ask her out!”
Both unicorns released a synchronized groan as they smacked their faces on the table.
“Pinkie, that's exactly what you told me before. That doesn't help me at all.”
“Well, you obviously didn't listen to me last time, so I figured I'd say it again.” Pinkie shrugged and snatched one of Twilight's hay fries.
“I'm not sure how that sort of advice is exactly useful in this situation,” Rarity said, smacking Pinkie's hoof away as it moved dangerously close to her salad.
“What do you mean? Why wouldn't it be useful.”
“Because I'm trying to figure out whether or not I should even consider the possibility of telling her about how I feel. Going and just asking her out would be jumping the gun. I don't want to do anything until I figure out whether it would be a good idea.”
“Well, you're never going to find out if it would be good or not until you actually do it,” Pinkie said. “It's like when I get a box of chocolates from Bon Bon's shop and it doesn't have the label in it. I don't know if I'll get one of the yummy caramel ones or one of the icky coconut ones until I actually eat them!”
“I'm sure if you examined them closely enough you would be able to tell.” Twilight began to tap her hoof on the table to punctuate each point. “Between the spell, the weight, and the fact that Bon Bon always uses the same molds for a given filling, it shouldn't be that difficult. Not to mention that you could just ask her not to put any coconut candies in the box.”
“Ugggghhhhh.” Pinkie shook her head. “First of all, not having any coconut in the box totally makes it boring because there aren't any surprises. Second of all, Bon Bon charges extra for special orders. Third of all, that totally wasn't the point of my... what do you call that again?”
“Right, that! I'm just saying that you won't know how cute of a couple you and Applejack would make until you're actually a couple. Spoiler alert: it would be really really cute. Especially if you wore her hat.”
“But what if we don't? What if I decided to do that, and she turned me down?”
Pinkie opened her mouth to respond, froze for a moment, closed her mouth, and then deflated slightly.
“If Applejack doesn't feel the same way, it could completely ruin our friendship,” Twilight continued, her lip starting to wobble. “I don't know what I'd do if that happened! I don't think I want to take that risk.”
“You see now why this is such a sticky situation?” Rarity said. “Twilight has to consider all the aspects of the situation before acting. Measure twice, cut once.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Pinkie grumbled. “I still think it's boring though.” She turned back to Twilight. “You don't want to be boring, do you? Life isn't any fun if you take forever to do anything. Sometimes you just need to go and do something crazy! Like just go and join a pie eating contest for no reason!”
“I guess I can see what you're saying...” Twilight gazed pensively at her half-eaten sandwich.
“Twilight, just think about this for a moment!” Rarity put a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. “This is far too important to just rush into. I'll reluctantly admit that Pinkie does have a point, though. Sooner or later, you ought to do something. But even in that case I think the matter merits proper deliberation-” She cast an eye in Pinkie’s direction. “...not a clumsy, hastily made decision. This is far more important than a pie eating contest.” She turned her attention back to Twilight. “But ultimately, the choice is yours, of course. I trust your intellect enough to know that you'll make the right decision.”
“Yeah, what are you gonna do? Huh? Huh!?” Pinkie started bouncing in place, her face dangerously close to Twilight's. “Are you gonna tell her? Are you?”
“I don't know!” Twilight flailed her forelegs for a moment before pressing her hooves to the sides of her head as if she was trying to keep it from splitting in half. “I really appreciate the effort you two are making to help me out, but I just don't know!” She took a few deep breaths to calm herself down. “I'm sorry, I'm just not sure what to think. Both of you have some really good points, but I'm really tired after last night and I don't think I'm up to making that decision right now.”
“What did happen last night, anyway?” Pinkie asked. “You never did tell me why you were over at Rarity's in the middle of the night. If it wasn't a dress emergency, what was it?”
“Promise not to say a word of this to anypony?”
“Sure thing!” Pinkie bounded off of her seat and began her customary pantomime. “I even added another step! After I move into the house on top of the hole and mow the lawn, I take the clippings and make a mulch pile! Now what was it you were doing at Rarity's house?”
Twilight braced herself. As soon as the explanation left her mouth, Pinkie would probably gasp loud enough to make her headache even worse.
“I-I had a dream about Applejack. I dreamed that...I kissed her.”
As expected, Twilight heard a gasp. Not as expected, it wasn't a Pinkie gasp; it wasn't nearly melodramatic enough. Still, it sounded familiar. She bit her lip and slowly turned around, hoping that it wasn't who she thought it was. A frustrated groan escaped her mouth as she realized that her guess was correct. Rainbow Dash hovered just behind her. The enormous grin plastered across the pegasus' face told Twilight that she had most definitely heard everything.
“Wow, Twilight, I never would've pegged AJ as your type.”
“Ugghhh...” Twilight crossed her forelegs on the table and buried her face in them. “I'm sorry, I can't do this now. I need to clear my head.” She leaped out of her seat and bolted down the road towards the library, leaving her three friends to stare at her as she disappeared around the corner. It was Pinkie who broke the silence.
“So...can I have the rest of her sandwich?”
Rarity just sighed and shook her head.
“Alright, last one.” Spike plucked the book out of Owlowiscious’ talons and slid it into place at the top of the shelf. “Awesome! All of the cookbooks are now sorted by cooking style, arranged alphabetically. Classic Equestrian, Gustav's Guide to Griffon-style Grilling, Baking with Mulia. I really need to get Twilight to actually read these sometime; she's gotta be sick of eating out all the time. Anyway, nice job, dude.”
He raised a claw at the owl in expectation of a celebratory gesture, only to be left hanging as Owlowiscious hooted once before fluttering over to his perch and immediately falling asleep.
“Oh, right. You can’t high five because you can’t fly with only one wing. Oh well. Thanks anyway. I wonder if I can get a snack before Twilight gets back from lunch-”
Spike wobbled precariously on top of the ladder as Twilight burst through the door.
“Whoa!” Spike flailed his arms, in an attempt to get a grip on something. He latched his claws onto one of the books, which slowly began to slide from its place on the shelf. “Ahhhh!” The ladder toppled, bringing the dragon and the books on the shelf along with it. He groaned. As a dragon, he was more than durable enough to be uninjured, but the prospect of reordering everything was quite unpleasant. He shoved the books out of his mind for the moment and turned his attention to Twilight, who was stomping her way up the stairs. “Are you okay, Twilight?”
“I'm fine, I'm just tired,” she snapped. “I didn't sleep well last night. I'm going to go take a nap. Make sure nopony bothers me, okay?” She disappeared into her room and slammed the door without even waiting for a response.
“Huh, that's weird.” Spike glanced at the pile of books on the floor, which Twilight had completely disregarded. Sure, Twilight didn't get angry every time the books got scattered; if she did she would have snapped years ago, because no book made it more than a week without getting knocked out of place at least once. But even so, those occurrences usually merited a “Spike, can you help me reshelve these?” or at the very least a frustrated grunt. This time, Twilight hadn't even acknowledged the books. If not for the fact that Spike had bailed out right in front of her face, he'd be tempted to think that she hadn't even seen it. It was the fourth book spill this week, and for the fourth time Twilight paid it the same amount of attention she usually paid to her wardrobe: none whatsoever. Spike had been tempted to send Celestia a letter about Twilight's odd behavior; ever since he had returned from Canterlot she had seemed...on edge. As if she were aware of some impending disaster that sat far enough in the future that it didn't merit a psychotic break. Not yet, at least. Still, it wouldn't be the first time she was stressed. Maybe he could give her another few days. He was about to get back to restocking the shelves when he heard a loud knock on the door.
“Hey, Twilight, you in there? Open up!”
Spike scurried over the door and opened it just enough to see Rainbow Dash hovering just outside, a few inches above the ground.
“Hey, Rainbow Dash. What brings you here?”
“I gotta talk to Twilight about something.”
“Well, she's taking a nap. Can you come back later?”
“A nap!? Why is she taking a nap now of all times?”
“I don't know.” Spike shrugged. “You're the one who naps like four times a day. You tell me.”
“I only nap because I train so much.” Rainbow Dash said in a huff. “It's not like Twilight does half a dozen cloud slaloms every morning for a warm up! She just... sits and reads. It's not like she has extra egghead muscles or something that would make her tired. Besides, she's never really needed much sleep anyway. Are you sure I can't talk to her? It's kinda important.”
“Nope, she told me not to let anyone bother her. I guess she couldn't sleep last night or something. What do you need to talk to her about anyway?”
“I-uh, well, it's...stuff.”
“Ugh, fine. I guess I'll come back later.” She landed and trotted away, making her dejection as blatant as possible in a transparent effort to get in.
“Okay, see you later then!” Spike closed the door behind her, oblivious to her attempted guilt trip. “That went well. I didn' think it would be so easy to get her to go away. I wonder what she wanted to talk abo-”
The entire library trembled as a very familiar thud sounded from the top of the stairs. Spike groaned and put a claw to his forehead.
Rainbow Dash rubbed her forehead. She could perform a sonic rainboom while accelerating upwards, but she still hadn't quite figured out how to burst through Twilight's window without catching something on the windowframe. It was like threading a needle, only failure to keep from touching the edge resulted in a crash landing and a headache. At least she could reliably hit the window. It certainly hurt less than faceplanting on the side of the library..
The pegasus looked up. She had about half a dozen different reasons to believe that Twilight would freak out at the sudden entrance, running the gamut from the horror of having Rainbow Dash discover her dark secret, to the typical reactionary anger at the fact that, once again, the window would have to be repaired. But Twilight wasn't freaking out. Rather, she was curled up on her bed, her head buried under her pillow, the rest of her body trembling. Rainbow Dash took a cautious step towards the bed.
“Twilight? You okay?” No response. The pegasus took another step forward and reached out a hoof. “Are you awake? Twilight?” She leaned in and jabbed Twilight right in the cutie mark.
“Aaaahh!” Twilight nearly did a full backflip before landing awkwardly on the bed. “Rainbow Dash, what are you doing here!?”
“I-uh, just thought I'd drop by see how you were doing. You know, after that thing at lunch. Rarity filled me in.”
“Ugh, this is so embarrassing!” Twilight rolled onto her back and talked to the ceiling. “You weren't supposed to find out like that! You aren't mad at me, are you?”
“Mad? Why would I be mad?”
“Well, you're one of my friends, and I ended up caring more about somepony else and then I didn't tell you about it!”
“Oh, is that it? Eh, that doesn't bug me. If you've got a thing for AJ, that's totally cool. I mean, sure it would have been kinda weird if you were like actually going out with her or something and tried to hide it, but if you just have a thing for her, I don't mind. I mean, if I had that kind of dream about like, Fluttershy or somepony, it would be really awkward. Not that I had a dream about Fluttershy or anything.”
“Thanks.” Twilight closed her eyes. “I'm glad you don't mind.”
“So...are you going to go for it?”
“Huh?” Twilight's head swiveled to look at the pegasus, who stared at her with one eyebrow raised in an expression of naughty inquisitiveness.
“Applejack. Are you gonna ask her out?”
“Why does everypony assume I'm thinking of making a move on Applejack?” Twilight sat up and glared at Rainbow Dash. “Right now I just want her to be a friend! Why would I want things to be different?”
“I just thought that if you had those feelings about her you'd, you know, do something with them.”
“You've been hanging out with Pinkie too much.”
“Oh come on, Twilight. You totally have the hots for her. Yeah, I didn't really notice it, but now that I think about it you're really being kinda obvious about it.”
“Yeah, actually, I was talking with Applejack about it this morning. Come to think about it, I was actually coming to see how you were doing when I stumbled into your-”
“Applejack noticed!?” Twilight practically leaped off the bed, grabbed Rainbow Dash's shoulders, and began to shake her. “What did she say? Is she suspicious?” Twilight's eyes widened as she inhaled sharply. “She knows, doesn't she? Oh nononononono, what am I gonna do!?”
“You can start by chilling out!” Rainbow Dash pried herself out of Twilight's grip. “She doesn't know about your crush, she just thinks you've been a bit high strung lately. And I kinda think she might have been onto something. You're kind of a mess.”
“I'm sorry, I just don't know what to do! I just want everything to go back to the way is was, but it's impossible. It's like the harder I try to just act normal, the more difficult it is. It's so stupid!” She groaned and flopped over on the bed, burying her head in the pillow.
Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to respond, and realized she didn't really know what to say. She stepped forward and patted Twilight on the back. For a long moment, both ponies were still. Then Twilight stirred and spoke, her voice muffled slightly.
“I'm going to tell her.”
“Huh?” Rainbow Dash's ears twitched as if unsure of what they had just heard.
“It's not fair.”
“What's not fair?”
“It's not fair to her. To Applejack.” Twilight sat up. “It's not fair that almost everypony else knows, and she doesn't. It's not fair that we all have to hide my secret from her. It's not fair that I can't talk to her, that I can't be normal around her, and she doesn't know why. And it isn't fair that all my feelings toward her have changed, and I'm trying to hide it from her.” She slammed her hoof down on the bed. “I know it might completely mess everything up between us, but it just feels wrong to hide it from her. It's like I'm lying, and I can't do it. Not to Applejack. I don't know how I'll do it or how long it will take me, but I have to tell her.” She thrust a triumphant hoof into the air.
“Whoa...” Rainbow Dash could only stare. She could hardly even remember the last time she had seen Twilight so dead set on anything. Her friends had told her about the unbeatable determination that Twilight had dredged up to drag her friends out of Discord's influence, but being the last one rescued, Rainbow Dash had never seen it herself. Looking at Twilight now, she finally had an idea of what they had been talking about. If Twilight had declared her intent to master the Sonic Rainboom, for a split second Rainbow Dash would have believed her. Then she deflated.
“Oh, who am I kidding?” Twilight's resolve vanished as she hunkered down against the bed, trying to make herself as small as possible. “I don't know anything about this stuff! How am I going to tell her without messing everything up? I don't know how to do it properly.”
“Well, first, you gotta stop freaking out. Believe me, that does not end well. Whatever happens, happens, you know?”
“That's not very reassuring. What if something happens that I don't want to happen?”
“Worry about it then. If nothing actually happened yet, who cares?” Rainbow Dash waved a dismissive hoof in the air. “I try not to think about what happens when I crash unless I actually crash. Yeah, crash landings suck, but I'd rather wipe out in the middle of some awesome trick than just sit around.”
“Then what am I supposed to think about?”
“Think about how awesome the trick is gonna be when you pull it off.” Rainbow Dash jumped into the air and did a quick backflip. “That's the whole reason I fly, after all. Don't think about the bad stuff that might happen, and focus on the good stuff. Not that you don't prepare for it. It's not like I go straight to the Sonic Rainboom after all. You have to be ready for it.”
“You're right.” Twilight hopped off the bed. “I just have to think positively! Try not to think about how messing this up might completely ruin our-”
“Stop that.” Rainbow Dash gave Twilight a solid tap on the head with her hoof. “From now on, you think about three things.”
“Three things, got it.” Twilight whipped a notebook out from under her bed.
“First, think about how awesome it'll be if you do it right. Second, think of things you can do to make it easier to do it right. Third...uh...”
“Well, what's the third thing?”
“The third thing I usually think of is 'how would the Wonderbolts do it?', but that doesn't really help you much.”
“Actually, the basic idea might be quite helpful.” Twilight finished scribbling the third point on her notepad. “In fact, that might be just the solution to my problem!”
“Of-of course!” Rainbow Dash nodded emphatically. “Um...how?”
“Well, the best way to learn how to do something is to look at how the professionals do it, right?”
“Thank you, Rainbow Dash. You've actually been really helpful.”
“That's what I'm here for, obviously.” She fluttered into the air and crossed her forelegs and continued to nod. “You ever got any other questions, just come right to me! Or like, send your owl up with a message or something.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Twilight bounded towards the stairs. “I'll let you know if I have any more questions.”
“Okay, I guess I'll see you later then.” Rainbow Dash hopped out the window, stopping on the sill to look back over her shoulder. “And don't worry, I won't tell anypony else.”
“Thanks!” Twilight called after her, but Rainbow Dash was already gone. The unicorn took a deep breath. “Okay, Twilight you know how to do this. You can figure this out. It's time to do some research.”