Twilight Sparkle inhaled slowly, reveling in her victory and looking down at the result of her newest spell. She examined the stuffed pony toy closely. Moments before, its coat had been a bright pink. But with the help of her new spell, it now exhibited a dazzling azure. After her confrontation with the changelings, she became curious about the transfiguration magic they used. It was a field of magic she had never encountered before, and she wanted to study it more closely. To her surprise, she found other unicorns had already researched the subject extensively and developed a wide variety of transformation spells for ponies.
She levitated the toy into the air above her desk, turning it in slow circles. Oddly, the eyes hadn't changed along with the rest of the toy. They should have become azure as well, but had adamantly remained lavender instead.
She glanced at the clock to see if she would have time to correct the spell before going to bed. It would be time to close the library soon. There were only two other ponies in the room. Rainbow Dash, who was sitting at a nearby table and reading an adventure novel, and a fuchsia unicorn Twilight had never seen before browsing one of the shelves.
Twilight sighed, hesitant to tell the two patrons they would have to leave. With Spike away in Canterlot at Princess Celestia’s request, the library was a much quieter place than usual. There was a time when she had preferred spending her time alone and even looked forward to when Spike would leave. But her experiences in Ponyville had changed that. She wasn’t comfortable with the quiet of the night anymore. It always felt like there was something missing when she couldn’t hear Spike’s soft snoring at the side of her bed.
Twilight heard a knock at the library’s front door, interrupting her thoughts. Twilight pushed the stuffed pony aside. “Come in,” she called. The door swung open, revealing an orange mare carrying a bucket of apples on her back.
“Hey Twilight,” Applejack greeted, stepping through the doorway. “Here’re the apples you ordered.”
Twilight eagerly levitated the bucket off her back and onto the floor. “You’re a life saver, Applejack. Without Spike around to cook, I thought I was going to starve.”
Applejack chuckled, shifting her eyes to the sides and rubbing the back of her head. “Sorry it took so long, we’ve been mighty busy at the farm today.”
“It’s no problem,” Twilight said, examining her new apples. “These look delicious.” She pulled a plump, red apple out of the bucket and held it up to her mouth, taking a large, slow bite. Its sweet, moist flesh spilled into her mouth with a satisfying crunch.
“Excuse me,” Twilight heard a voice behind her say. Turning around, she found the fuchsia mare standing in front of her. “You’re the librarian right?”
“Yemph mph,” Twilight answered, her mouth still filled with bits of the apple. She swallowed the rest quickly. “Yes, I am. Is there something I can help you with?”
“You’ve got a little something right here,” the mare said, indicating a spot on her chin. Her long blonde mane flitted about in front her eyes and face while she spoke.
Twilight noticed a dribble of apple juice slipping down her chin. She swiftly swiped it away, and letting out a hollow laugh. “Sorry about that can I help you?”
“Yeah, my name’s Sugar Sweet,” the mare replied, smiling sheepishly. “I don’t read very often, but I was looking for some good romance, the kind with lots of, eh, physical intimacy.” Sugar Sweet’s voice was high-pitched and every word out of her mouth seemed to have a sort of playful undertone, like she could burst into laughter at any second.
“Well…” Twilight began, rubbing a hoof to her chin. “I’m not very experienced with the genre myself, but my friend Rarity just returned a romance novel that she seemed to enjoy.”
“Rarity? The unicorn that runs Carousel Boutique?” Sugar Sweet asked, her eyes lighting up.
“Yeah, do you know her?”
“Uh huh, she’s one of my best customers,” Sugar Sweet answered, smiling widely.
“That’s a lie!” The sudden outburst came from Applejack, who had been standing quietly off to the side throughout the duration of the conversation. “Rarity would never do something like that.”
Sugar Sweet looked at Applejack for the first time, her eyelids widening. “Are you Applejack?”
Applejack appeared to be taken aback by the recognition. “Yeah, what’s it to ya?” she asked, narrowing her eyes.
“Wow, I can’t believe I actually met you,” Sugar Sweet exclaimed. “Rarity talks about you all the time.”
Applejack’s face turned a light shade of pink. “Really?”
“Yeah, all the time during our sessions.” Sugar Sweet nodded rapidly causing her mane to lash up and down wildly.
“I’m sorry,” Twilight broke in, “but what exactly is it that you do?”
Sugar Sweet puffed out her chest, standing up a little straighter. “I’m an escort!”
“Oh, okay…” Though, Twilight still was still unsure precisely what it was Sugar Sweet did for a living or why Rarity was seeing her.
“I don’t believe you,” Applejack said, obstinately. “Rarity would never do something like that.”
“Whatever,” Sugar Sweet replied, “believe what you want, but I see her every Wednesday.”
“You… you’re…“Applejack’s mouth twisted violently, her face red. “You’re a liar!” she finally managed to shout, stomping away.
Sugar Sweet rolled her eyes and turned back to Twilight. “Could I get that book now?”
“Oh, yeah of course.” Twilight levitated the book out of the return pile and towards Sugar Sweet.
Sugar Sweet snatched the book out of the air and began hurriedly flipping through its pages, not giving any one passage enough attention to read all the way through.
“So, you say you’re an escort…” Twilight began, searching for the best way to approach the subject without sounding ignorant.
Sugar Sweet looked up from her book. “Oh, are you interested in my services?”
“Well, what services do you offer?”
“I do whatever you want me to do,” Sugar Sweet answered, her voice dropping in pitch. The playful undertone remained, but a much more suggestive quality had emerged.
“Uh…” The ‘escort’s answer only served to confuse her more.
“There’s no need to rush,” Sugar Sweet said, her voice could almost have been considered sultry. “Let me tell what, the next time you’re feeling lonely, you just give ole’ Sugar Sweet a call and we’ll see what I can do about it.”
“Alright,” Twilight answered, “I’ll definitely do that sometime soon.”
Sugar Sweet turned around with a wink and trotted out the door. “I hope I see you again soon.”
When the door closed, Applejack ran towards her, her eyebrows drawn up disapprovingly. “Twilight, what are you thinking?”
“Hiring an escort is immoral,” Applejack explained.
Applejack looked at her like she’d just declared that apples were a vegetable. “Don’t you know what an escort is?”
Twilight glanced at the ceiling, recalling her vocabulary lessons in school. “Escort. Noun. A group of ponies, or a single pony, accompanying another or others for protection, guidance, or courtesy: An escort of sailors accompanied the queen.”
Applejack facehoofed. “That ain’t what she means by ‘escort’, sugarcube. She’s saying she’s a,” her voice dropped to nearly a whisper, “mare of the evening.”
Applejack sighed deeply. “Twilight, please don’t make me say it.”
“Say what?” Her voice’s pitch rising as her frustration increased.
“She’s a hooker,” Rainbow Dash called out bluntly, not looking up from her book.
‘What?!” Twilight shouted, finally realizing the implications of her conversation with Sugar Sweet. “But she said Rarity is one of her customers!”
“I know,” Applejack said, looking away, her muscles tensing. “But I don’t believe it. Rarity wouldn’t do something like that.”
“So you think she’s lying?” Twilight asked, shaking her head in an attempt to cast away her interaction with the ‘escort’.
“I don’t know,” Applejack replied with a sigh. “I’ll ask Rarity about it tomorrow, she’ll set things straight.”
“If you ask her about seeing a hooker, she’ll just lie about it,” Rainbow Dash said, still looking down at her book.
Applejack shot a glare towards Rainbow Dash, who was too busy with her book to notice. “No, Rarity would never lie to me.”
“I think Dash is right,” Twilight interjected. “She’d be so embarrassed by her friends finding out that she would probably deny the whole thing.”
“What should we do then?”
Twilight took a moment to consider her options, taking note of everything she knew about Rarity and what Sugar Sweet had said to her.
“Sugar Sweet said her sessions with Rarity are every Wednesday. All we have to do is wait outside Carousel Boutique on Wednesday. If Sugar Sweet doesn’t show up, we’ll know she was lying,” Twilight explained triumphantly.
“Eww!” Dash finally looked away from the book, her face screwed up and tongue sticking out. “You’re gonna watch them?”
Twilight’s face turned a fierce shade of red. “Not like that! I’m just going to ascertain whether or not Sugar Sweet is telling the truth.”
“Count me out,” Dash said, picking up her book again. “Who cares if Rarity is seeing a hooker?”
“Who cares?” Applejack cried angrily. “You should care. You’re her friend aren’t you?”
Dash waved the question off with a dismissive hoof. “Calm down Applejack, it’s not that big a deal.”
“It is too a big deal! Doing that is dangerous, she could get hurt, or worse. The Rarity I know would never see a floozy like Sugar Sweet. If she is, and I really doubt it, there must be something very wrong with her. Right Twilight?” she asked, looking to the unicorn for support.
“Applejack is right, we owe it to Rarity to figure this out.”
“Well you two have fun with that,” Dash replied, rolling her eyes.
“Rarity would do anythin’ she could to help you if she thought you were in trouble.”
Dash let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine, whatever, I’ll go.”
“It’s settled then,” Twilight declared. “Next Wednesday evening we’ll all meet together outside Carousel Boutique.”
Rarity stood by the desk, scratching a pencil on a sheet of drawing paper. Applejack assumed she was designing a new dress. She tried to focus on the image emerging on the paper, but Rarity was turned away, facing the wall. Applejack’s attention kept getting caught by the shapely curves of the unicorn’s flank. Occasionally, Rarity cutely swished her tail to one side. Applejack tried to look away, but found herself entranced. Her gaze anchored to that pearly white flank, willing the tail to swish again.
Applejack shook her head in attempt to get her mind back in order. “Where’s Rainbow?” she asked, turning to the pony hiding in the bush with her.
Twilight shrugged. “I don’t know. She said she would be here.”
As if on cue, Rainbow Dash appeared in the air above the dress shop. She glided past the building, her head swiveling around and searching the ground below.
“Pssst!” Twilight called out, trying to catch the pegasus’s attention.
Dash stopped in midair, her ears perking up at the sound.
The pegaus quickly flew towards where Twilight and Applejack were hiding. “What are you guys doing in a bush?”
“We’re tryin’ to be discreet. Now get in here!” Applejack said, pulling Dash into the hedge by her forelegs. “Where’ve you been all night anyway?”
Dash spat a branch at Applejack’s head. “I have better things to do than watch Rarity get laid.”
“That ain’t gonna happen,” Applejack replied, swiping the branch out of her mane.
“Then why are you even here?”
“Shush!” Twilight interrupted. “Somepony’s coming.”
Dash and Applejack fell silent. They heard the sound of hooves approaching from the street. Sugar Sweet appeared, her mane tied up in a ponytail, trotting out of the shadows and towards Carousel Boutique.
“No!” Applejack moved to jump out of the bush.
Rainbow Dash pulled her back. “Quiet, don’t let her see you!”
Sugar Sweet looked around suspiciously before shrugging and continuing to the front door of the boutique.
Applejack felt like she’d been bucked in the chest. She had always thought Rarity was more of a higher class than other ponies, more refined. It didn’t seem possible that she could do something so degrading and shameful.
“What’s she doing?” Dash whispered, interrupting Applejack’s thoughts.
Sugar Sweet’s horn began to glow a dim yellow. The light steadily grew, passing from her horn and traveling in arcs along her legs until it had consumed her entire body. When the light finally dimmed, her entire coat had transformed from a light fuchsia to a golden orange and her horn was no longer visible.
Twilight gasped. “That was a transformation spell!”
“Hey Applejack,” Dash said, pointing a hoof towards the now-orange mare, “she kinda looks like you now, all she’s missing is the—“ Sugar Sweet pulled a brown Stetson hat out of her saddle bag and plopped it onto her head.
There could be no doubt, Sugar Sweet was purposefully imitating Applejack. Applejack’s brain went into overdrive, furiously searching for some reasonable explanation for what she was seeing.
The door to Carousel Boutique opened and Rarity appeared in its entrance. “Hello?”
When Sugar Sweet answered, her voice no longer contained any of the playful quality from before, and instead adopted a familiar country twang. “Howdy Rarity, may I come in?”
“Oh, yes of course Applejack.” Rarity moved aside, ushering the imposter through the doorway.
Applejack’s mind fell into an abyss. She watched dully through the window as Rarity dropped a purse of bits on the tabletop. Sugar Sweet examined its contents closely before pouring them into her own saddlebags.
Applejack’s head was completely blank, all save for a single question that dominated her mind.
“Applejack?” She heard Twilight’s voice, but it sounded distant. “Are you okay?”
Applejack didn’t answer. The scene playing out before her wholly consumed her attention. Rarity and the imposter were sitting close together on the couch. It was strangely familiar to a scene Applejack had imagined many times before. But whereas in her mind everything would be perfect, here everything was wrong. The fake Applejack placed a hoof on Rarity’s chest and drew it in slow circles. She dipped her muzzle forward, inching closer and closer to Rarity’s, their lips nearly touching.
“I’ve seen enough,” Applejack declared, standing up out of the bush and marching towards the door.
Rarity closed her eyes as Applejack’s lips brushed lightly against her own, trying to draw the moment out for as long as possible. Applejack pulled back away, far too soon for her liking. She could feel the farm pony’s warm breath on her neck and a hoof slowly traveling up and down her chest.
She sighed inwardly as she noticed Applejack’s golden eyes. No matter how perfect everything else was, the eyes were always wrong. The real Applejack had alluring emerald colored eyes.
Rarity closed her eyes again. As long as she couldn’t see them, it felt almost real.
A loud pounding at the front door shattered her fantasies. “Rarity!” an angry voice shouted from the other side. “Open this door right now!”
Rarity looked between the door and the golden eyed Applejack sitting next to her, her throat tightening in panic.
It can’t be…
“I said open this door now!”
The fake Applejack motioned her towards the door. Rarity tentatively got up off the couch and walked towards it. She cracked it open, just wide enough to see who was on the other side. She peeked her head around the corner, dreading what she was about to see.
Please Celestia no…
The real Applejack was standing in front of her boutique, wild-eyed and breathing heavily. The farm pony pushed her two forelegs against the door, shoving it open and charging inside.
“What in tarnation is goin’ on in here?”
Rarity looked between the two Applejack’s, suddenly feeling very faint. She opened her mouth to speak, but her voice caught dryly in her throat.
This isn’t real, this isn’t real, this isn—
“I should go,” Sugar Sweet said quietly, dropping her accent and moving towards the door.
Applejack stepped in front of her. “Y’all are gonna stay right where you are. Why are you dressed up like me?”
“Look, just calm down—“
“Answer me!” Applejack yelled, advancing on the other mare threateningly.
Sugar Sweet held up a hoof in defense. “I just do whatever the customer tells me. It isn’t my fault!”
“Is that true?” Applejack turned to Rarity. “Did you pay this… this whore to dress up like me?”
“Well,” Rarity began, her voice unusually quiet, “yes, but—“
“I can’t believe this!” Applejack shouted, throwing her hooves into the air. “This is disgusting. You’re disgusting!”
Rarity fell down in front of her friend. “No, it isn’t what you think.”
“I don’t even know what to think anymore.” Applejack pointed an accusing hoof at Rarity. “You, of all ponies, were playing twisted little games with a street mare. A street mare pretending to be me!”
“No, it isn’t like that! Please listen to me,” Rarity pleaded, tears slipping down her face.
Applejack turned away from her. “I think I’m gonna be sick.”
“Please let me explain,” Rarity said, grabbing the farm pony’s shoulder.
Applejack shrugged her off. “Don’t touch me.”
Rarity fell back onto the floor. “But Applej—“
“I’m leaving.” Applejack turned to look back at the unicorn on the floor, her eyes narrowed. “I wouldn’t want to ruin your evenin’.”
With that, she galloped out of the boutique, nearly barreling over Rainbow Dash and Twilight in the process.
“No! Wait!” Rarity cried, running after her.
Twilight and Dash continued staring in the direction their two friends had gone, neither sure what to do next.
Sugar Sweet appeared in between them. “Boy that sure was a doozy. Thank Celestia she paid in advance,” she said, playfully tapping Twilight on the shoulder.
Sugar Sweet’s eye brows drew up in surprise. “Hey, you’re the librarian. I have a slot open now, if you wanna have a go.”
Rarity galloped forward as fast as she could, a painful ache accompanying each step she took. But she wasn’t fast enough, Applejack, who was in far better shape, was easily pulling away from her and out of sight.
“Applejack, please wait!” Rarity called, the tightening in her throat increasing, but the other mare continued on, moving farther and farther away from her with each passing second.
From the very first time she met with Sugar Sweet, Rarity had known it was going to end like this. She always knew her friends would discover what she was doing. She knew she was ruining her friendships, all to play out some silly little fantasy. But still, she hadn’t stopped and now she was going to pay for it.
The ache in her legs was becoming overwhelming, but she couldn’t stop. If there was any chance she could salvage her friendship with Applejack, no matter how small, she had to take it.
“Applejack, ple—“ Rarity was so focused on the retreating pony in front of her, she didn’t notice the tree root sticking up out of the path. Her hooves tripped over the root, her body tumbling along the ground and covering her pearly white coat in grime. Falling face first into the dirt, she finally stopped rolling.
It was over. She felt her eyes begin to water again. Applejack was running away, out of her life forever. She closed her eyes, praying that she could have a chance to go back and do it all over.
“Are you alright?”
Rarity looked up in surprise. Applejack was standing over her, reaching a hoof out to help her up. Her chest was heaving and sweat dripped down her forehead. Rarity felt lightheaded as she took Applejack’s hoof. She had actually come back for her.
“Applejack…” Her stomach screwed up into a knot when she saw the expression on Applejack’s face, pity and anger. But she had come back. There was still a chance to set things right. “I’m so sorry, can you ever forgive me?”
Applejack looked away. “…I don’t think so.”
“But, we never did anything like that, I swear!”
The farm pony snorted indignantly. “You’re tellin’ me that ya’ saw a call girl once a week just to sit around and talk?”
“We may have… kissed once or twice,” Rarity admitted. “But it never went any further! I swear to you, we never did anything else.” Rarity had been adamant in her boundaries with Sugar Sweet.
Applejack turned back toward her. “How long has this been going on?”
Rarity remained silent, unsure whether it would really be best to tell the truth.
“Weeks, months, years? What?” Applejack cried, her voice rising.
“It’s…” Rarity looked awkwardly at her hooves. “It’s been going on for quite some time now.” She peeked up cautiously, apprehensive of what Applejack’s reaction.
To her surprise, Applejack merely sighed. “Why?”
Rarity looked back down. “It’s… it’s just…” She had already asked herself the same question many times and never found an answer that made sense. “You’re so rugged and strong, you’d never want to be with a pony like me.”
She waited for Applejack to answer, but the farm pony remained silent.
Rarity decided to move on. There was nothing left to lose. “But I really like you, and I thought it would be okay to pretend, just for a little while, that… that you liked me too.”She looked up to meet Applejack’s eyes. “I promise I’ll never see Sugar Sweet again. Please say that we can still be friends,” her voice began to break, “I just don’t want to lose you.”
Applejack sighed again, but didn’t respond.
“You know what really gets under my skin?” Applejack asked, stepping forward. “It isn’t that you were dishonest with me, or even that you were seein’ a call girl.”
Applejack stepped forward again, a fire lit behind her eyes. “What really bugs me is that we could’ve been together all this time. But you were too busy spending all your time with some floozy to realize how I felt about you.”
“Wh-what are you saying?” Rarity asked, her voice shaking and her eyelids drawn up wide.
Applejack moved forward again, she was so close, Rarity could feel the earth pony’s warm breath tickling her nose. “I guess what I’m sayin’ is, I don’t understand why you would take an imitation when the real thing is standing right in front of you.”
Applejack leaned her head forward, her muzzle getting closer and closer to Rarity’s own, their breath intermingling in the small space between them.
The sound of her pounding heart filled Rarity’s ears. It felt like it was going to break out of her chest at any moment.
Finally, Applejack moved forward one last time, pressing their lips together softly, almost as if she expected the unicorn to break. Rarity froze, unable to react or think. She had imagined and fantasized about this moment so many times. It didn’t seem possible. Realizing what was happening, she pressed eagerly back against Applejack.
When, to Rarity’s infinite disappointment, Applejack finally pulled away, she was panting heavily and her face was flushed.
Rarity’s breathed just as heavily, her mind still reeling from the kiss. “I-is this real?” she managed to stammer.
“Mm-hm,” Applejack answered, nuzzling her cheek.
Rarity examined the other mare closely, still not sure if it was just another one of her dreams. She looked into Applejack’s eyes, the one thing that always gave the dream away. But they were emerald, just like they were always supposed to be.
“How about I walk you back home?” Applejack whispered into her ear.
Rarity nodded slowly, falling in step next to Applejack. Feeling lightheaded, she leaned heavily against the bigger pony as they trotted slowly back the way they came. Rarity noticed Applejack pinch herself sharply on the foreleg.
“What did you do that for?”
Applejack smiled bashfully. “I just wanted to make sure.”