“A-Applejack!” Came Rainbow Dash’s voice early the next morning, soon followed by the pegasus herself rushing down the hall.
The orange pony blinked and looked up from her light breakfast as her friend rushed in. “Hm? What’s all the fuss about, sugarcube?”
Dash looked as if she had rushed out immediately after waking up as her mane was even messier than usual and the feathers of her wings were in disarray. The thing that really caught Applejack’s attention though was the panicked look she was wearing.
“Rainbow Dash? What’s wrong?” The earth pony said, starting to sound worried.
“It... it’s my wings. I don’t know what’s going on, but they’re not working.” Rainbow answered, glancing back as she frantically flapped the limbs but to no effect. “Nothing like this has ever happened before and I don’t know what to do. What if I can’t fly anymore?”
“Woah, calm down there.” Applejack said, backing away a bit to avoid getting hit by her friend’s wings. “Just tell me what’s goin’ on. Ya’ll were tryin’ ta fly in the house? Maybe there just ain’t enough room in here or somethin’.”
“I told you! My wings. Don’t. Work. Remember how they were feeling weird after we got out of the forest? Well, it’s like that only even worse. Now I can barely get a few inches off the ground before getting tired and having to land again. I knew they’d be a bit sore from having to sleep on that bed again, but still, this shouldn’t be happening.”
Applejack was feeling rather overwhelmed by all this. This was a pegasus problem, not something she had ever had to deal with before, and she didn’t know what to do or say. Still, she had to try and help out as best she could, for her friend.
For Rainbow Dash.
“Um... maybe ya’ll overworked them after all. Do you think nurse Redheart might know somethin’ that will help? And I thought you didn’t like ta sleep on that bed, what happened ta the cloud? Maybe ya’ll just slept wrong or somethin’... the important thing is just ta not panic, Rainbow.”
“Well... yeah, I suppose it might be best to let her take a look.” Rainbow said, trying to take her friend’s advice and calm down a bit. “And I would have slept on the cloud like usual, but I couldn’t. Every time I tried, I’d fall through it.”
“That’s mighty strange... might be good ta ask Twilight about it too then. Whether somethin’ is wrong with yer wings or not, ya’ll should be able ta stand on clouds, right?”
“Y-yeah...” Rainbow Dash said, panic giving way to a look of dejection as she slumped down beside her friend.
Applejack leaned down to give her a soft nuzzle and a kind smile. “Cheer up, sugarcube. Ah’m sure you’ll be just fine. Now come on, let’s get you some breakfast and then go to see nurse Redheart. Though, yer fine ta go by yerself if you’d prefer.”
“You can come along if you want to, AJ. I think I’d kinda like that actually.”
As if on cue, Granny Smith came into the room with a fresh plate of food for the pegasus, placing it on the table with a kindly smile before heading back. Though she was still feeling rather down, the wonderful smell soon reminded Rainbow that she was indeed hungry and she soon began to eat alongside her friend.
Once they had both finished, the two ponies began to make their way back into Ponyville proper. As they walked, Applejack did her best to try to keep her friend’s mood up, and it did seem to be working a bit. Rainbow Dash didn’t seem quite as miserable as she had over breakfast, though she still looked rather down. The pegasus’ frown grew deeper as the hospital came into view and they stepped inside.
Even this early in the morning, nurse Redheart was sitting at the front desk, looking over some papers when the two walked through the door. Hearing them approach, she looked up with a small smile.
“Oh, welcome back Applejack, and you too Rainbow Dash. I’m sorry to say, but Mr. Big Macintosh is probably asleep at this moment. I’m afraid it’s still too early to be allowing visitors.” The nurse pony said.
“That’s alright, nurse Redheart. Ah was actually here fer a different reason. Or rather, mah friend here was.” Applejack said, giving Rainbow a gentle nudge.
“Hm? Oh, right... um, I seem to be having some... troubles with my wings.” Dash said with a little sigh. “I was kind of hoping you’d be able to take a look and see if there’s something wrong or anything.”
“Of course. Would you mind following me then?” Redheart said, stepping out from behind the desk and leading the way to an empty room. “Now, what sort of troubles do you mean? How long have they been going on?”
Rainbow Dash hesitated for a moment before following the nurse pony, giving a little glance to her friend that prompted the earth pony to follow along as well. At the questions, she thought for a moment before speaking up.
“Well... I can’t seem to fly anymore. Whenever I try, my wings start to feel really strained and I have to land again almost immediately. That’s if I’m even able to get off the ground. This started happening after my friends and returned from the, um... Everfree Forest...” Dash said, almost whispering the name and giving a little wince at nurse Redheart’s reaction.
“The Everfree Forest? Good heavens, what were you ponies doing in there in the first place? Although, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised. By friends I take it you are talking about Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Fluttershy, and the two of you? You ponies seem to have a knack for getting into trouble.”
Rainbow Dash chuckled faintly at that before wincing again as the nurse pony stretched out her left wing to get a good look over it. “Well... Twilight wasn’t with us then. She had asked us to go get this flower thing for some spell or other she was working on and couldn’t come along.”
Applejack, who until that point had been silently standing nearby, stepped forward a bit. “You know, Rainbow... Ah don’t know if this is important or anything, but ya’ll looked like you were havin’ problems inside the forest too. On the way back, after you had found that flower, I mean.”
“Oh yeah, that’s true... I just thought that was fatigue or something. Though, I’ve been through worse before and had no problems...” The pegasus said thoughtfully.
“Hmm... well, Rainbow Dash, I must say that I’m rather interested in this flower that Twilight sent you to find. I’ll have to ask her about it at some point... in any case though, I can’t seem to find anything wrong with you. Both of your wings are in almost perfect condition and, as far as I can tell, you appear to be in great health. There’s no reason I can see as to why you would be having your troubles.” Nurse Redheart said, shaking her head slowly.
“Oh, I see...” Rainbow responded, torn between relief that she wasn’t injured and worry about what else could be causing this. “Thanks for taking a look, nurse Redheart.”
“You are quite welcome. I’m sorry I’m not able to be much of a help though... perhaps your friend Twilight Sparkle might know something? She is probably the most learned pony in all of Ponyville, so maybe she’s heard of something like this before.”
“It’s not a problem. And we were going to try asking her next.” Dash said with a nod.
“Well, I wish you good luck then.”
With that, the three ponies headed back into the lobby, Applejack and Rainbow Dash walking back out of the hospital. Turning to her friend and seeing the look on her face, Applejack put a hoof gently on her shoulder.
“Come on, Rainbow... Twilight’s bound ta know somethin’. She’ll be able ta tell you what’s happenin’, Ah’m sure of it.”
“I hope you’re right, Applejack...” The pegasus said with a soft sigh as they began to make their way toward their friend’s treehouse.
Arriving at their destination, Applejack stepped up to the door and gave it a hard knock. As the day before, there was no response and she soon gave another one.
“Twi? It’s Applejack and Rainbow Dash.” The orange pony called out. “Ah know it’s early, but we need yer help with somethin’!”
A few moments passed before the door finally opened to reveal a bleary eyed Spike.
“Hm? Applejack? What’s going on?” He asked, rubbing his eyes for a moment before suddenly blinking. “Oh no, it’s happening isn’t it...”
“Wait, what’s happening?” Rainbow Dash cut in, stepping into the dragon’s view.
Spike looked around fearfully for a moment before responding. “Zombies! Twilight keeps saying it will never happen, but I know they’re real!”
The two ponies blinked and stared at him for a moment before Applejack shook her head with a little sigh. “There ain’t no zombies, Spike. We’ve got a different kinda problem here. Do you mind goin’ ta get Twilight? Rainbow Dash and I need ta ask her somethin’.”
“Oh, phew...” Spike said, looking relieved. “Sure! Why don’t you two step inside for a moment while I go get her?”
Applejack looked over to her friend for a moment before nodding and stepping through the door. “Thank you kindly, Spike.”
“Yeah, thanks...” Rainbow said, following her friend inside.
“Don’t mention it. Twilight should be here in just a second!” The baby dragon said before heading off to find the unicorn.
True to his word, the two ponies didn’t have long at all to wait before their purple friend arrived, a small cup of some steaming liquid floating beside her. Unlike her assistant, Twilight Sparkle looked quite bright-eyed, even this early in the morning, and she gave them both a bright smile as she drew nearer.
“Good morning, Applejack, Rainbow Dash. It’s good to see you again.” She said cheerfully.
“Um... yeah, good mornin’, Twi...” Applejack said, her eyes locked on something that seemed off about their friend.
It was Rainbow Dash that actually pointed it out though.
“Is that... the flower we went to find yesterday?” The pegasus asked, staring at the brightly colored plant currently resting in their friend’s mane.
“Hm? Oh, um, yes it is. Thank you so much for going to get it. It turned out to be exactly what I needed for my research.” Twilight said with a smile.
“But... yer still able ta use yer magic...” Applejack now spoke up, glancing from the unicorn’s glowing horn to the floating cup with a confused look. “Rarity said it was blockin’ magic from workin’ around it. And with it that close ta yer horn...”
“Oh, she noticed? Yes this plant does block out magic, which is what I was hoping for. Still, even though it’s a bit harder, I’ve found I can still use my magic a bit, even while wearing it.”
“Then why would you wear it at all? Ah’m afraid Ah don’t understand...”
Twilight began to look rather nervous at this question, though she spoke up anyways. “Um... that’s... well... that’s kind of what I need to talk with all of you about today over lunch. Do... do you mind if I postpone the question until then? I don’t think I’m quite ready yet...”
“Nah, of course not! Ah didn’t mean ta make you uncomfortable or anything... anyways, Rainbow had somethin’ she wanted ta ask you about.” Applejack said, prompting her friend.
“Oh, that’s right! Um... something’s been really weird since we got back from the forest yesterday. My wings don’t seem to be working anymore, or at least not well. I can’t keep myself up off of the ground for very long at all without getting really tired. Nurse Redheart said that she can’t find anything wrong, so we thought we should ask you.” The pegasus said.
“Really? Hmm...” Twilight said, looking curious as she thought for a moment. “Tell me, Rainbow Dash... have you tried to put together any clouds since then? Or... anything like that?”
Rainbow blinked at this, wondering what it had to do with anything. “Well... no, I haven’t. Well, there is the cloud bed I’ve been sleeping on. Last night, I kept falling through it for some reason.”
“Is that so... incredible, I’ve heard theories, but I didn’t think about something like this... well, I think I might know what’s going on. One last question though, did you come into contact with this flower yesterday? For an extended period of time?”
“Yeah... I was the one who brought it up to the others. One of the nastiest things I’ve ever tasted too.” Dash said, giving a little grimace at the memory of the taste. “But what does that have to do with what’s going on?”
Twilight gave a little sigh at Rainbow’s answer and nodded. “Just as I thought... you already know that this flower negates magic, right? Well, some ponies are starting to think that unicorns aren’t the only ponies with magic. They say that a pegasus pony’s ability to fly and work with clouds and weather is also due to magic, as well as earth ponies’ skill at working the ground. When you carried this flower in your mouth, it must have started to weaken your magic, and therefore your flying as well. Thankfully, this should only be temporary, though I’m sorry it happened to you. If I’d known...”
“That... that little flower is what’s causing all of this? Keep it away from me!” Dash said, backing away a bit from the plant in Twilight’s mane. “How long will I be like this?”
“Well, yeah, but you should be fine. So long as you don’t bite it or anything.” Twilight said with a soft chuckle, though she frowned a bit at the question. “I don’t really know. I’d say probably a week at the very most, depending on how long you held it.”
At these words, both Applejack and Rainbow Dash blinked before looking to each other and uttering the same word.
Twilight looked at her friends in confusion at this reaction. “I... don’t think I understand. Did something happen to Fluttershy?”
“Well, I only held the flower for a short while. Like I said, it tastes really nasty, so I didn’t want to keep it any longer. Fluttershy agreed to carry it the rest of the way back.” Rainbow Dash said, looking worried for their friend. “If it’s done this to me, I can’t imagine how much it’s affected her.”
“Oh dear, you’re right! Come on, let’s go see her immediately!” Twilight said, her eyes widening.
With that, she placed her cup down and, along with Applejack and Rainbow Dash, the three ponies began to rush toward their friend’s cottage, hoping that nothing had happened to the timid pegasus.
“Hey, Fluttershy! Are you home?” Rainbow Dash called out, knocking on the door to their friend’s cottage.
With no answer forthcoming, she was starting to grow rather worried. The three of them had rushed here as quickly as possible, her and Applejack having to slow down a bit so they wouldn’t leave Twilight behind, but it was obvious that something was not quite right as they had approached. For one thing, the scores of birds and small animals that usually inhabited the area around the cottage weren’t there which is probably what led to the next oddity, the complete lack of sound in the area. Normally, there was always birdsong filling the air near Fluttershy’s home, but now it was completely silent.
“Please, if you’re in there, open up.” The cyan pegasus said, giving another knock.
This time, the door opened and Dash gave a little sigh of relief, a small smile crossing her face.
“Thank goodness. We were starting to get a bit worried. There’s something we need to talk... about... Fluttershy...” Rainbow said, her words trailing off as she realized that it wasn’t their friend who had opened the door.
Hanging onto the door was the white rabbit who seemed to live with Fluttershy, Angel Bunny Dash thought she remembered their friend calling him. Normally, the rabbit seemed to have an extreme dislike for everypony else, even the pegasus who took care of him, but today he simply looked worried.
Looking first to the three ponies at the door, Angel tilted his head toward the inside of the house before scampering in that direction. Rainbow Dash blinked a bit at this before turning to face her friends, each of which looked about as puzzled as she felt.
“Um... I guess we should follow him in then? Maybe he knows where Fluttershy is.” She said, the others nodding in agreement.
With that, the three ponies walked into their friend’s home, glancing around. Nothing seemed particularly out of place, at least as far as they could see. The little houses and perches that filled a good portion of the cottage were still all there, though nearly all appeared to be empty. In fact, apart from Angel and themselves, and a plant or two, there didn’t appear to be any other living things in the room.
“That’s odd... where are all the animals? And Fluttershy?” Rainbow Dash said, looking around and seeing no sign of the pegasus.
“That’s a mighty good question...” Applejack responded, frowning lightly. “Fluttershy? Ya’ll in here sugarcube?”
Though there was no reply to the question, a soft thumping noise from the upper room caught their attention. It almost sounded like somepony moving around...
“Hmm... I was starting to think that maybe she isn’t here, but somepony definitely is. Come on, let’s go check it out.” Twilight said, turning and starting to climb the staircase in the room.
The other two followed her, but soon found that the door leading into Fluttershy’s bedroom had been locked. Standing right up next to it though, they could clearly hear a few quiet sniffs coming from within.
“Fluttershy, are you in there? It’s me, Twilight Sparkle. Rainbow Dash and Applejack are here too. We’re all worried about you, so please open the door so we can see if you’re alright.”
“P-please go away... I... I can’t let anypony see me like this.” Came a soft reply from within the room. “Besides, if... if I open the door, you will just run away like the rest of them did. They... they ran from me, all of them. After everything I’ve done for them! How dare they--”
Their friend’s voice, which had grown louder and harsher, suddenly dropped off with a quiet whimper and the three ponies outside the door could barely hear her continue speaking. “N-no... I can’t think like that. They’ll just run away forever if I do...”
“Please open up. We’re your friends, we won’t run away no matter what. Something might be wrong and I need to talk to you about it. Please, Fluttershy?” Twilight said, growing more worried after their friend’s outburst.
Silence greeted her for a few seconds before the door finally cracked open. Almost dreading what they were about to see, the three ponies peeked through the gap. When they caught sight of their shy friend, they each gave a soft gasp.
Fluttershy looked completely normal, though even with her face averted it was obvious that she had been crying recently.
“Oh, Fluttershy. Thank goodness, I was getting so worried.” Twilight Sparkle said in a relieved tone, though she still looked fairly concerned. “What happened though? Why did you lock yourself in your room?”
Fluttershy looked away from them shyly, scuffing a hoof against the ground as she spoke. “I... I don’t really know, Twilight. After we left your house, I was feeling so tired that I just wanted to come home and get some sleep. But... I couldn’t do that. The animals still needed my help. And Angel Bunny was being... uncooperative and... I... I don’t know what happened. I was so frustrated... I think I may have closed a cabinet a bit harder than I meant too...
“And... and then they were running everywhere. Trying to get away. I... I tried to calm them down, but it was like they couldn’t understand me anymore. They were all so scared and... it was all my fault... The worst thing though was... was...” She broke off here with a little sniff, turning her watery eyes toward the three of them. “Do you remember what happened that night at... at the Gala? I was so scared that it was going to happen again and... I didn’t want to lose any of my friends here, so I locked myself up in my room. So I couldn’t hurt them, or anypony... But now you know what happened and you made me open the door, so now you three are going to hate me too...”
Twilight Sparkle blinked, caught by surprise by the verbal barrage from their normally quiet friend. Still, it was obvious that Fluttershy was in serious pain and she couldn’t just leave the pegasus like this.
“Fluttershy... none of us are going to hate you, no matter what happens. You will always be our friend, and we will always care about you.” Twilight said softly, taking a step toward the pegasus only to have her back away a bit in response. “I’m sure this is all just a misunderstanding or something. They’ll all be back in time.”
Fluttershy shook her head at this though, looking down. “N-no, I don’t think they will... you didn’t see how scared they were, Twilight. Scared of me... just like they would be with anypony else. Er, no offense...”
“None taken. I know you have a special way with animals after all. Wait...” Twilight said, frowning as a thought occurred to her. “You said that they couldn’t understand you and... and that they seemed afraid? Oh no... I-I’m so sorry, Fluttershy. This is all my fault. First Rainbow Dash, now you...”
“Oh no, Twilight. This isn’t your fault at all, it’s all mine. After all, you weren’t here then, so you couldn’t have had anything to do with it.” Fluttershy said, shaking her head again.
“No, it’s that flower. The one you carried? It... it cancels out magic and with you carrying it around for so long, you probably got a giant dose of it. Rainbow Dash is unable to fly or walk on clouds at the moment and you... but...” The unicorn began to look puzzled, trying to sort all this out. “But that’s not caused by anything magical, it’s your special talent... I think I need to do some research into this...”
“Now hold on just a minute.” Applejack said suddenly, stepping up and looking to Twilight. “Ya’ll are sayin’ that that flower there caused all this? Made Fluttershy lose her touch with critters? That thing’s dangerous, Twi! Ya’ll need ta get rid of it before it hurts somepony else!”
“I... I know, Applejack. I didn’t realize it would cause this much trouble, and I’m so sorry for sending you all to get it unprepared. But I can’t get rid of it, that would be far worse...” Came Twilight’s response.
“What? Confound it Twi, why can’t you...” The earth pony began before trailing off at her friend’s beseeching look with a little sigh. “Ah know, you’ll tell us at lunch... It better be a good reason though, after what that thing’s done ta poor Fluttershy...”
Twilight nodded slowly before turning back to Fluttershy. “I’m really sorry, Fluttershy... I didn’t think something like this was even possible, and if I’d known... I would have made sure to warn you all about it ahead of time. It... it should wear off in the next few days though.”
The yellow pegasus’ lip trembled for a moment as she turned away. “E-even if it does wear off, that doesn’t change the fact that they all hate me now... Besides, what if... what if it is just magic? What if I’m forcing them to like me... that would be even worse...”
Seeing their friend again on the verge of tears, the other three ponies were at a loss for what to say. At about that moment, Rainbow Dash felt a hard kick to one of her hind legs.
“Ow! Would you cut that out?” She said, turning to glare at the little rabbit who had been prodding and nudging her since the door had been opened. “What do you want?”
Now that he finally had her attention, the rabbit began to pantomime something, waving his arms about frantically. Rainbow just stared at him though, having no idea what he was trying to say. Seeing that he wasn’t getting through to the pegasus, Angel put a paw to his face before deciding to do things his way. With a quick hop, he grabbed onto the rainbow colored tail, using it to help him get onto the pony’s back. From there, he took up a spot right on top of Dash’s head, much to her annoyance.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing? Get down from there you--” The pegasus began but was cut off by Fluttershy of all ponies.
“A-angel Bunny? What... what are you doing here? I thought you ran away with the rest of them...”
The rabbit answered with a quick shake of his head, causing his caretaker to give a soft gasp. “So... you’ve been down there all by yourself? What did you do for dinner, or... or breakfast?”
A disinterested shrug was all she got in return, though her eyes widened at this. “Y-you didn’t? Oh dear, that won’t do at all... I think I have a carrot around here somewhere...”
Angel gave a little bunny sigh and shook his head slowly. Twilight Sparkle, though, was looking from the rabbit to Fluttershy with a little smile. Finally, she stepped forward and gently tapped the pegasus to get her attention.
“Fluttershy... you were worried about it all being magic and, in a way, I suppose it is. But, it’s a different kind of magic than you were worried about, one that no power I know of can ever take away. The magic of friendship... If you were truly forcing the animals to love you, then wouldn’t Angel Bunny have run away too? But he stayed, because he cares about you... The others may have run off for now, because they were scared, but they will be back. You just need to give them time and they’ll return.”
The yellow pony blinked and quickly turned to face Twilight. “Do... do you really think so?”
“I do.” The unicorn replied with a little smile, to which Fluttershy gave a soft smile in return.
“Hey, I don’t mean to interrupt or anything...” Rainbow Dash spoke up, shooting a little glare up toward the top of her head. “But would you mind telling your rabbit buddy here to get off my head?”
“Hm? Oh, I’m sorry Rainbow Dash.” The timid pegasus said, blinking as she noticed that Angel was still upon his perch. “Um... do you mind getting down from their, Angel Bunny? Please? I don’t think Rainbow Dash wants you to use her head as a seat any more...”
The rabbit rolled his eyes a bit, but did as he was asked, hopping down from the cyan pony’s head and making his way over to Fluttershy. With a little smile, the pegasus leaned down to give him a gentle nuzzle which he returned, reassuring her that there were no hard feelings about this. The other three ponies looked on, glad that their friend seemed to be feeling better now.
Finally, Twilight spoke up again. “I should probably be getting back to the library before too much longer... are you going to be alright, Fluttershy?”
“I... I think so, Twilight.” The yellow pony said with a nod. “Thank you...”
“You don’t need to thank me, Fluttershy. It’s my fault you got into this mess in the first place, after all. I’m just glad you’re feeling better. Oh, um... you probably aren’t going to be able to fly for the next few days either. That’s what happened with Rainbow Dash at least...”
“That’s alright. I’m not much of a flier anyways. I can make do on the ground.”
“Alright. Take care of yourself, okay?” Twilight said. “See you later on for lunch?”
“Sure, I’ll be there.” Fluttershy replied, smiling to her friend.
With a smile back, Twilight turned to face the other two ponies in the room. “Sorry again about all of this, you two. If I had known any of this would happen... I should look into things more before sending my friends off to get something...”
“It’s fine, sugarcube.” Applejack said, shaking her head with a little smile.
“Yeah, no worries Twilight. So long as I’m able to fly again by the tryouts, I’ll be just fine.” Rainbow Dash said.
The unicorn gave each of them another little smile before nodding and starting to make her way back down the stairs, waving goodbye to them both. With that, Applejack turned to Fluttershy.
“Welll, Ah should probably be gettin’ back ta the farm. There ain’t nopony there ta take care of the chores at the moment, so I’ll need ta get a head start on that if I want ta make lunch today.”
“Oh, okay. Don’t work yourself too hard, alright? Um, I mean... I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, right?” Fluttershy said, her voice fading down toward the end.
Applejack just chuckled though and nodded. “Sure thing. Ah’ll make sure ta pace mahself. Ya’ll take care.”
Rainbow Dash looked between her two friends for a moment before making a decision. “Hey, AJ... do you mind if I stay here for a bit? I mean, if Fluttershy doesn’t mind of course. I figure she could use a friend around after all this, right?”
“Hm? Oh, no problem sugarcube. There ain’t all that much ta do, so Ah can handle it.” The earth pony said with a nod. “See the two of you at lunch then, or before if you decide ta come back Rainbow. Til then, take care.”
“Heh, sure. See you then, AJ!” Dash said with a grin, waving to her friend as she headed down the stairs and back toward the farm.
Fluttershy smiled softly and nodded as Applejack left. With that, just two pegasi left in the room, and Angel Bunny, she turned to face Rainbow Dash.
“Th-thanks, Rainbow Dash. I probably could use a friend right about now.” She said softly.
“Then why didn’t you say anything? I’m sure both Twi and Applejack wouldn’t mind taking some time off to stay here with you.” Rainbow said, blinking a bit.
“Oh, well... I didn’t want to inconvenience them...”
“Fluttershy... if you want something, you should just ask. It’s not like anypony’s going to get mad at you just for asking. The worst thing that would happen is that they say no and that’s it.”
“I-I know, it’s just... I’d rather everypony else be happy, you know? I don’t mind too much...”
“Yeah, I understand. Still, you should spend some time taking care of yourself. Do things you want to do, rather than just what everypony else does.”
Fluttershy gave a little nod at that but said nothing. The two ponies fell into a rather awkward silence, one not sure what to say to fill it and the other too meek to speak up. Finally, Angel Bunny gave the yellow pegasus a little thump to prompt her to say something.
“Um... you and Applejack seem to be getting along pretty well.” Fluttershy said softly.
“Hm? Oh, yeah! I tell you, for the first few days I wasn’t sure this would work out, but it’s been great!” Rainbow Dash said, giving a huge smile. “Never thought we’d hit it off so well, but it turns out we’ve got quite a bit in common. Hanging out with AJ’s been some of the most fun I’ve ever had.”
“Oh, that’s good to hear...” Fluttershy said with a nod, smiling back to Rainbow for a few seconds before speaking again. “So... have you asked her yet?”
Dash blinked and tilted her head a bit in confusion. “Huh? Asked her what?”
Now it was Fluttershy’s turn to look confused, though her eyes widened after a moment. “Oh dear! I-I just assumed... I thought you two... eep!”
The yellow pegasus cowered down a bit and clamped her mouth shut before she could say anything else. Rainbow Dash watched her in growing confusion, trying to understand what her friend was saying.
“What did you assume? Come on, now I have to know!” Dash said with a light laugh.
Fluttershy just shook her head though and refused to say anything, eliciting another roll of the eyes from her rabbit friend.
Rainbow Dash looked at her friend suspiciously, curiosity eating away at her.
“So... after all that, you’re not going to tell me anything?” Rainbow asked when it was clear that no reply was coming. “Ugh, couldn’t you give me a hint or something then? I’m dying to know now.”
That seemed to spark something in the timid pegasus. Though she still refused to meet Rainbow Dash’s eyes, Fluttershy mumbled something in reply. As close as they were though, it was too quiet for Dash to hear.
“What was that Fluttershy? I didn’t catch it.”
“I... I said...” Fluttershy said before again mumbling too quietly for the other pony.
Rainbow Dash gave a little sigh and shook her head before looking directly at her friend. “You’re going to have to speak louder than that if you want me to be able to hear you. It’s just like cheering, you have to speak up.”
By this point, the yellow pony was practically radiating nervousness. A faint blush tinted her face pink as her eyes roamed from Rainbow Dash, around the room, to the door, and then back to her friend. Finally, she took a deep breath, steeling herself.
“I thought you and Applejack were... were... eep!”
Rather than finish what she was saying, Fluttershy looked away and tore out of the bedroom, quite a bit faster than anypony had ever seen her run before. Dash was left alone in the room, blinking as she tried to process what had just happened. She turned to look at the door her friend had just run through, a mixture of confusion and incredulity on her face.
“What just happened here?” She asked after a few seconds, shaking her head slowly. “Geez, what got into her? Ugh, and I still don’t know what she was going to say!”
After waiting for a short while to see if Fluttershy was going to come back once she realized that this was her own house, Rainbow gave a little sigh and began to head on down the stairs, deciding to head back to the farm for now. She could help out with the chores, and maybe Applejack would have some clue as to what Fluttershy had been talking about.
“And then she just ran off without another word. I tell you AJ, it wasn’t like Fluttershy at... well, actually it was just like her to do that, but still!” Rainbow Dash finished saying, having told Applejack of the odd event at Fluttershy’s house.
The earth pony had been hard at work putting more baskets under the apple trees when Rainbow had arrived and the cyan pony had decided to help out as she talked. Now though, Applejack placed down the basket she was carrying before turning to face her friend.
“Huh, that is mighty strange... What was she tryin’ ta say again?” Applejack asked.
“She kept going on about how she’d thought you and I were... something, but she never finished it. That’s when she just shot off out the door.” Dash said before blinking and tilting her head a bit at her friend. “You okay there, AJ?”
The orange pony’s eyes had widened at this news and she was just staring at Rainbow Dash as her mind went over what she had just heard. Fluttershy seemed to think there was something between her and Rainbow Dash but... that idea was almost laughable. Neither of them looked at other mares like that, after all. As the earth pony thought though, she remembered that Rarity had seemed to notice something back when they met up in front of Twilight’s treehouse. Was it possible that their friends could see something they couldn’t?
At about that point, Applejack realized that her friend had asked her something and she blinked before looking up. “What’s that? Oh, yeah Ah’m just fine. Ah don’t know what she could have been talkin’ about, sugarcube.”
“Hmm... did you know that you make a really weird face when you’re lying?” Dash said, glancing over at her friend suspiciously.
“What? Ah do not!”
“Huh, I guess you really didn’t know that...”
Applejack sputtered for a bit at this before shooting a glare toward her friend that was just for show. “Ya’ll gonna keep foolin’ around, Rainbow, or are you gonna help me with these baskets? Harvest’s comin’ up before too long and it ain’t much longer after that before Applebuck season.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m helping.” The pegasus said with a little grin, grabbing another basket and taking it to the appropriate tree.
They didn’t get a chance to talk much after that, the work forcing them to spread out amongst the orchard. Before too much longer though, Rainbow Dash grabbed the last stack of baskets from in front of the barn, dragging them off to place down. Once those were finished and she headed back to the barn, Applejack was waiting for her with a wide smile.
“Well, looks like that’s all of them. Thanks fer the help Rainbow. Woulda taken about twice as long without you.” The farmer pony said.
“Heh, no problem AJ. Looks like we finished up just in time to make it to lunch too.”
“That we did. Now come on, let’s get goin’ so we’re not late.” Applejack said, turning to head toward Ponyville with Rainbow by her side.
As the two of them approached the cafe where they were going to be meeting up with their friends, three other ponies were already there waiting for them. Pinkie Pie bounded out with a huge smile to greet them while Rarity was a bit more graceful, nodding her head lightly as they approached. Fluttershy stood a short ways back, taking care not to make eye contact though her face flushed a bit as she spotted Rainbow Dash. In fact, the only one of their friends who didn’t seem to be there was...
“Where’s Twilight?” Dash asked, looking around and noticing a distinct lack of the purple unicorn.
“She hasn’t arrived yet.” Rarity responded, taking a look around as well. “Oh dear, I do so hope she shows up before too much longer. I am dreadfully curious as to what’s been going on.”
“Yeah, me too! I never got a chance to ask her my question and, even though I’m sure I already know the answer, I want to make sure.” Pinkie Pie said, though her face fell just a bit. “I hope she’s doing alright though. I haven’t seen her all day...”
“Twi’s doin’ just fine, Pinkie. Rainbow and Ah saw her this mornin’. Oh yeah, and so did Fluttershy.” Applejack said, turning to the timid pony.
“Oh, um... yes, she did seem to be doing pretty well.” Fluttershy said shyly, looking down.
“Well, that is certainly good to hear. I suppose there is not much more we can do right now besides wait for Twilight Sparkle to arrive.” Rarity said, the other ponies nodding along with her statement.
Luckily, they didn’t have long at all to wait. Only a minute or so after the white unicorn finished talking, Twilight Sparkle came into view, running toward the cafe. As she noticed her friends watching her, she slowed down and gave them all a smile as she walked up.
“Hey everypony. Sorry I’m late... I was helping Spike clean up a bit and lost track of time.” The purple pony said.
“Don’t worry about it, Twilight. It’s not really late, and besides, we got here right before you.” Rainbow Dash said with a soft chuckle.
Applejack glanced at the unicorn with a little frown before speaking up. “Ah see ya’ll are still wearin’ that flower... Ah hope you know what yer doin’, Twilight...”
At Applejack’s words, Rarity had looked over to Twilight and noticed the flower resting in her mane for the first time, her eyes lighting up.
“Oh, my! Twilight, darling, you look splendid. It compliments your mane perfectly! In fact...” The white unicorn’s voice faded out as she began to lose herself in thoughts of the perfect outfit she could put together to match with the flower. “Hmm, maybe something like... oh no, that would look dreadful. Perhaps though...”
“Er, Rarity? Ah don’t think this is the best time fer that.” Applejack said, startling the unicorn from her reverie.
“Hm, what? Oh, you are quite right Applejack. I’m afraid I can not truly help when inspiration strikes, and that flower... I did not notice back in the forest, but it truly is gorgeous.”
Twilight had been watching this exchange with mild amusement, though as she spoke, a trace of nervousness showed itself. “Well... this flower is a pretty big part of what I wanted to talk to you all about. Especially after... after recent events concerning it. Before we get started on that though, how about we grab a table and order lunch? I don’t know about all of you, but I’m feeling pretty hungry right now.”
The other ponies nodded and voiced their agreement before the group headed into the cafe, picking out a table that would be large enough to seat the six of them comfortably. After placing their orders they chatted lightly about the events of the past few days, catching up with each other now that there wasn’t quite as much tension as the last time they had met up. Before too long, their food arrived and Applejack turned her attention to Twilight.
“Well, now we’re all here and together, ya’ll mind explainin’ what’s been goin’ on, Twilight? Ah’m mighty curious as ta why yer keepin’ that flower despite how dangerous ya’ll know it is.” The earth pony said.
The purple unicorn bit her lip for a moment at the question before giving a nod. “Alright. I still don’t know if I’m ready for this, but I did promise to tell you... Here goes then.”
Twilight paused for a second to take a deep breath before continuing. “Do you remember that party a couple of months ago, when I... I kind of lost control over my magic?”
Applejack nodded along with her friends, thinking back to that night.
Pinkie Pie had thrown a party in the Library where Twilight lived, though she couldn’t remember just what it had been for. Knowing Pinkie, there didn’t really need to be a reason. The festivities were in full swing when the purple unicorn had suddenly staggered off, complaining about a terrible headache.
Before anypony could help get her someplace to rest though, objects began to lift up and fling themselves across the room, surrounded by the tell-tale glow of a unicorn’s magic. The glow began to surround Twilight as well and she too lifted up into the air, turning to face her friends as the magic built up around her, keeping the other five ponies away.
Thinking back on what had happened reminded Applejack of just how terrified she had felt that night as she looked into Twilight’s glowing eyes. For the first time since she hadmet the purple mare, she felt afraid of her friend. Afraid that the unicorn would actually wind up hurting them all... If it hadn’t been for the timely arrival of Princess Celestia, who knew what might have happened to them.
Placing herself between Twilight and her friends, the princess had born the brunt of the magical storm surrounding her pupil, keeping it from harming anypony else. After only a few minutes, the energies had died down as Twilight sank back to the floor.
After seeing to Twilight, who had fallen into a deep sleep, the princess had comforted the frightened ponies, reassuring them that their friend was going to be alright but needed to be taken to the palace to recover. With that, the alicorn had teleported both herself and Twilight away and it was several days before the purple mare had returned to Ponyville.
Applejack gave a little shiver at the memory but nodded to her friend. The fact that Twilight had brought up that night didn’t bode well at all and, from the way the other ponies around the table were looking, she wasn’t the only one feeling worried.
“Well... it happened to me again a few weeks after I got back from Canterlot. I had just finished tidying up the library when books started to fly off the shelves again. About a minute later, I woke up again, laying on the ground with the library in shambles. It’s happened three more times since that one, each of which was longer than the last. The worst thing is that there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to when they happen now. I’d be going about my daily business and then suddenly I’d lose control. Luckily, it’s never happened out in public or with anypony else around, but still... what if it does? I don’t want to hurt anypony...
“That’s when I started looking into this. Pouring myself into the research to try and find out why this is happening. Unfortunately, none of the books I read through had anything to say on the matter. In fact, I couldn’t find anything at all until just recently when I found something about that flower. That book, supernaturals, mentioned that there was a plant that grows in the Everfree Forest that could nullify magic. I didn’t know if it would work, but at least it was worth a shot.”
“The rest, I guess you kind of know. I asked for all of you to meet up at the library so that I could see if you would help me. At the worst possible time though... it happened again, right then. That’s why I wasn’t able to talk with you myself, or go with you. I couldn’t risk hurting any of you. Thankfully, this flower does seem to have done the trick. It’s too early to know if it’s going to stop the episodes completely, but it has definitely weakened my magic considerably, so hopefully that will help even if I do lose control again.
“I just... I hadn’t thought about how it would affect other ponies who came into contact with it. And for that... I’m truly sorry, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy...” Twilight said, looking sadly to the two pegasi. “And to all of you, for putting you into such danger without warning you.”
As Twilight finished up, the other ponies simply sat there in silence for a few moments, processing what they’d just heard. Pinkie Pie was the first one to react, turning to face Twilight with an eerily serious look for the party pony.
“Twilight Sparkle, I just have one question to ask you.” She said, her tone of voice causing the unicorn to wince a bit and expect the worst. “Have you or have you not messed up a major spell recently?”
The question caught the purple mare completely by surprise and she blinked a bit before responding. “N-no, not really. If anything, my magic has been working too well. Besides, I haven’t attempted any major spells lately and what I have done has all worked out perfectly.”
“Oh...” Pinkie responded, a frown crossing her face. “Drat, foiled again... I was sure that was what had happened. Guess I can cross that from the list then. That only leaves a few more options though...”
With that, the pink pony turned her gaze toward Rainbow Dash, the look on her face implying that the two of them needed to have a talk once this was all over. The pegasus simply looked back in confusion, though not nearly as much as Twilight Sparkle seemed to be feeling.
“Wait... that’s it? You... you don’t have any problems or questions about any of what I told you?” She said.
“Of course not, silly! You’ve got the pretty flower now, right? You said that will make it all better, so I believe you. After all, if anypony would know about this kind of thing, it would definitely be Twilight Sparkle! Besides, you’re doing okay and everypony else is doing okay, so it’s all okay, right?” The pink pony said brightly before looking thoughtful. “Ooh, you know what this really calls for?”
“Let me guess... a party?” Twilight asked flatly.
Pinkie Pie’s eyes went wide at that as she stared at her friend. “Woah, you can read minds now too? That little flower is amazing! I want it, can I have it? Please Twilight? Pleeeease?”
While the hyper pony was making pleading eyes at Twilight, Applejack spoke up. “Uh, sugarcube, do ya’ll really think this is a good time fer a party? Ah mean... this doesn’t seem like somethin’ you’d want ta attract attention to.”
“Well, duh.” Pinkie said, rolling her eyes a bit as she turned to face Applejack. “Every time is a good time for a party!”
“No, Pinkie, I think Applejack is right. What if this doesn’t work? What if it happens again while I’m at the party? With all those other ponies around... somepony’s bound to get hurt. I think it’s better if I play it safe for now, until I know it works.” Twilight said, shaking her head sadly.
“Aww... okay then Twilight, if you’re sure. I’ll just have to give you a rain check on that party then.”
As a lull occurred in the conversation after this, it was Rarity’s turn to speak up. “Unlike Pinkie Pie here, I’m afraid I do have a question about this, Twilight. Two, in fact. The first involves that flower of yours. You said that it has effects on other ponies... what did you mean by that?”
“Oh... well, like I said, this plant nullifies magic. For a unicorn, that would cause the weakening or loss of their magic for a short time. Pegasi on the other hoof, lose the ability to fly and to manipulate clouds and weather. At least, that’s what I had thought, after hearing from Rainbow Dash...”
Twilight gave a little sigh as her eyes fell on Fluttershy and she continued. “Fluttershy though... while she lost her flight as well, it also seems to have taken away her ability to communicate with animals.”
Rarity’s eyes widened at this and she too turned to face the timid pegasi.
“Fluttershy, darling, is this true?” She asked, answered by a little nod from the yellow pony. “But... that’s part of your talent, isn’t it? Your cutie mark, the thing you can do better than anypony else... why would it affect that?”
“I don’t know. Honestly, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.” Twilght responded, shaking her head. “It just shows that I need to do a lot more research into this, especially now that it has affected two of my best friends...”
“I see... Well, I suppose that helps to lead into my next question then. Did you try to send a letter to Princess Celestia? I’m sure that she would be more than willing to help out her prized student, after all.”
“N-no, I didn’t...” Twilight said, looking away. “The princess and I... we don’t talk much anymore. I still send her my friendship reports but... since that night, something seems different about our relationship. When I was in Canterlot, it was like she was deliberately avoiding me. I don’t know what’s wrong, but she doesn’t seem to be as open as she used to be... Maybe she’s upset that... that I lost control like that. Or she thinks that I’m not worthy of being her pupil anymore. If that is the case, then I have to try and take care of this on my own.”
“Twilight... I know that you and Princess Celestia are close, and it is odd that she would try to avoid you...” Rarity said, leaning over and placing a hoof gently on the purple unicorn’s shoulder. “And I can understand just where you are coming from but... maybe you should ask for her help anyways. Whatever is happening could be exceptionally dangerous to you or maybe even to somepony else.”
“I... you’re right, Rarity. The risks are just too great. Still... I don’t think I can do that. Not yet...” Twilight said with a little sigh. “If this doesn’t work though, if it happens again... I’ll write to her. I promise that.”
“Well, you just be sure to do what you think is right. That’s all anypony can ever ask of you.” Rarity said, giving a little smile to her friend.
Twilight returned the smile before turning back to her friends. “Well... does anypony else have a question they’d like to ask?”
Rarity and Fluttershy shook their heads in response. Pinkie Pie took a moment to think about it before doing likewise.
“Well, it is a lot to take in. Still, like Pinkie Pie said, I trust that you know what you’re doing. If you say that it’s alright now, then that’s good enough for me.” Rainbow Dash said with a little smirk.
At that, Twilight turned to Applejack to see what the farmer pony had to say. “How about you, Applejack?”
The earth pony was silent for a moment before she gave a little sigh. “Ah’m not sure Twilight. Ah can kinda understand why you need ta keep that flower around, but knowin’ that yer just carryin’ around somethin’ that dangerous... Ah’d be lyin’ if Ah said that didn’t worry me a bit. Still, Ah suppose it’s better than the alternative. And you’ve given me no reason not ta trust yer judgement, so Ah’ll trust you on this one too.”
Twilight’s smiled at this as she nodded, prompting a smile from the orange pony as well. “Thank you, all of you. I didn’t really know how you’d react to this and... I guess it was kind of silly of me to worry so much. I should have known better than to think this would tear us all apart.”
She gave a smile to each of her friends, the other five ponies returning it. With that, the topic turned to lighter topics as they finished off their lunch. By the time when they had to go their separate ways again, everypony was in great spirits, joking and laughing amongst themselves as they bid their friends farewell.
Rainbow Dash and Applejack began to make their way back to the farm, talking over what they had just heard.
“You know, Ah never would’ve thought it was somethin’ like this. Though, Ah guess this does clear up a lot of questions about what’s been goin’ on...” Applejack said, musing on this for a moment before noticing that Rainbow Dash didn’t seem to be paying attention. “Somethin’ wrong, sugarcube?”
“No, no... at least, I don’t think so.” Dash said, shaking her head a bit as she turned back to walk with her friend. “It’s just... I could have sworn I saw Pinkie Pie watching us. When I looked again though, there was nopony there.”
“Huh, that’s strange.” Applejack said, looking back for a moment as well before giving a little shrug. “Well, Ah can’t see nopony there. Maybe yer just imagining things, Rainbow?”
“Hmm... yeah, you’re probably right.” The pegasus said before tilting her head a bit at the odd way her friend was looking up at her. “Hey, AJ, what’s up? You’re looking at me all weird...”
The earth pony chuckled softly before pointing a hoof toward Rainbow. “Ah guess yer too caught up in yer own thoughts ta notice, but take a look Rainbow. Notice somethin’ different?”
It took Rainbow Dash a few seconds to realize what her friend was going on about. She was having to look down at Applejack, which meant...
“Oh my gosh! My wings... I’m flying again!” She said excitedly, looking back to see that she was indeed flying. “This is great! I didn’t think it would wear off so fast, but this is so awesome!”
“Heh, it sure is sugarcube..” Applejack said, laughing as she watched the excited pegasus fly around above, pulling little loops and spins as she reveled in the return of her flight. “Though, Ah guess that means you’ll be wantin’ ta go practice some more now, huh.”
“Oh yeah! I mean, if you don’t need me to keep helping at the farm.”
“Nah, we’re pretty much finished fer the day. Besides, only a few more days left til the tryouts. Ah suppose Ah can let ya’ll take a bit of a break ta get ready fer that.”
“Yes! Thanks AJ!” The pegasus said happily as she flew back in to pace her friend’s walking.
“Heh, don’t mention it, sugarcube.”
With her flight back in proper shape again, and thanks to Applejack’s lenient work schedule, Rainbow Dash began to practice harder than ever over the next few days. With the tryouts coming closer and closer, she wanted to be sure that she would do her very best. Still, at her friend’s insistence, they continued to have little breaks throughout the day to keep the pegasus from wearing herself out too much.
Finally, after a long time of anticipation and preparation, the big day came. Despite having had quite a hard time getting to sleep the night before, Dash woke up feeling well rested, physically ready to meet the day, and so nervous she was almost feeling sick.
“C-come on, Rainbow... you can do this. You’ve had plenty of practice and know exactly what you’re going to be doing. Now, you just have to do it in front of all of Ponyville and your childhood heroes, who are going to be judging you on how well you do.” She said into the mirror before shaking her head. “No, no, no! I can’t think like that. Just gotta... gotta go out there and do my best! Yeah...”
A knock on the door snapped her out of these thoughts and she headed over to open it, looking down to see Applejack’s little sister. “Oh, hey Applebloom. What’s up?”
“Mah sister told me ta come up and get you, Rainbow Dash. She’s fixin’ up a big breakfast and says it’s almost ready.” The little filly said, looking up to Rainbow.
“Is that so? Well, l’d better not keep everypony waiting then, huh.” Dash said with a little grin, doing her best to push down the feelings threatening to overwhelm her and leave her a trembling wreck. “Come on, let’s get going then.”
With that, the two ponies began to head down the hall toward the stairs that would lead them down to the dining area. As they walked, it was obvious from the way she kept glancing over at Rainbow Dash that the little filly had something to say. Still it took a few moments before she actually spoke up.
“Um, miss Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo says that yer gonna be real famous after today. Is that true?”
“Heh, of course it is. I’m probably the fastest pegasus in all of Equestria, and definitely the most awesome. After the Wonderbolts see me perform, they won’t think twice before offering me a spot on the team.” She said with a grin, partially for Applebloom and partially because she needed to hear it said out loud. “And no need to be so formal, kid. You can just call me Rainbow Dash, or Dash, or whatever really.”
“Well, mi-- ah mean, Rainbow Dash, when yer all famous... are ya’ll gonna have ta leave Ponyville?” Applebloom asked.
At the question, Rainbow Dash nearly froze up on the spot, having never thought of that side of things before. She didn’t have an answer for the filly as she didn’t have one for herself. In all honesty, that probably was what would happen, but could she actually do that? Leave Ponyville behind, along with all of her friends? Leave Applejack?
“I... I don’t know. I guess I’ll probably have to, since the team is located in Cloudsdale. I’m sure I’d have to move out there once I get in.” The pegasus responded after a moment.
“Oh...” Applebloom said, looking kind of sad at this news as they descended the stairs.
Applejack was waiting for them near the bottom, wearing a wide smile as she greeted the two ponies. “Hey little sister. Thanks fer wakin’ up sleepyhead here in time fer breakfast.”
“Hey, you know perfectly well that I need to be well rested for today.” Dash retorted, though she cracked a small smile.
“Woah, simmer down there. Ah was just playin’ with you, Rainbow.” The earth pony said with a light chuckle before noticing the look on her sister’s face. “Hey there sugarcube, what’s got you lookin’ so glum?”
“It’s nothin’...” Applebloom said, though that obviously wasn’t true.
Applejack seemed to have picked up on this as she raised an eyebrow at the filly before speaking again. “Nothin’, eh? Well, Ah think Ah might just have some news ta help cheer you up. Guess who’s comin’ home from the hospital today?”
This did the trick as Applebloom’s eyes widened and an excited smile appeared on her face. “Big Macintosh? He’s all better now?”
“Heh, he sure is. Nurse Redheart let us know that he’s doin’ well enough ta come home finally, though he won’t be up ta much work fer a while yet.”
“Yay! Big Mac’s comin’ home! Big Mac’s comin’ home!” Applebloom said happily, the gloom from before completely replaced by joy as she bounced away through the house.
Rainbow Dash and Applejack chuckled softly as they watched her before the pegasus turned her attention to her friend. “So, your brother’s getting released? That’s great news, AJ! I’m so glad to hear he’s doing better.”
“Heh, Ah know just what you mean, Rainbow.” The earth pony said with a wide smile, though it faded a bit as she continued. “Though... Ah got some bad news fer you. You see, with Big Macintosh comin’ home today... well, Ah kinda need ta be here ta help out and make sure he gets settled back in and all...”
Rainbow Dash puzzled over this for a moment before getting what this meant and frowning a bit. “Oh... so, you’re not going to be able to make the tryouts?”
“Ah’m afraid not, sugarcube.” Applejack said, shaking her head. “Ah wish Ah could, Ah really do, but...”
“It’s fine, AJ. I understand.” Dash said, giving her a little smile. “He’s family, and family comes first. You take good care of Big Mac today, alright?”
Hearing this, Applejack gave a weak smile back and nodded. “Will do, Rainbow. Thanks fer bein’ so understandin’...”
In reality though, it was a big problem. Rainbow Dash had been counting on having all of her friends there to provide support for her, but now she was going to be missing her closest friend. The nervousness she’d been feeling earlier, which had never quite left, returned in full force and, though she continued to try and hide it, Applejack knew her well enough to notice.
“How ya’ll holdin’ up, Rainbow Dash?” She asked in a concerned tone. “Think yer gonna be alright fer the tryout?”
“Hm? Y-yeah, of course. I’m going to be just fine, AJ. Just fine.”
“Well, if you say so. Come on, Ah fixed ya’ll up a nice, hearty breakfast. Yer gonna need all the strength and energy you can get.”
With that, the orange pony began to lead the way toward the table where, true to her word, a nice breakfast had been set out for the pegasus. Though the last thing Dash felt like doing at that moment was eating, she did her best anyways, knowing that she needed to have a good breakfast before this. The rest of the ponies who lived at Sweet Apple Acres were also having seated around the table, all talking excitedly about Big Macintosh’s return. Rainbow didn’t join in as, though she was quite happy to know that the Applejack’s sister was recovering well, she had too many worries of her own to feel the same joy the rest of them felt.
Finally, after finishing up her food and sitting around with the rest of them, Rainbow Dash stood up to make her leave. “Well... I guess I should probably be heading down there now. Thanks for breakfast, AJ. Ya’ll say hey to Big Macintosh for me.”
Applejack chuckled softly as her friend slipped in a bit of the farmer drawl and nodded. “Sure thing. Good luck to ya, Rainbow Dash.”
“Yeah, good luck Dash!” Applebloom said, beaming over at her.
Even Granny Smith spoke up, giving the pegasus a rather creaky smile. “You get them, dearie. Show them what you can do.”
“Heh, thanks everypony. I’ll do my best!” Dash said with a little grin, her confidence boosted a little by this.
With that, she gave one last grin to her friend, which Applejack returned, before turning and heading out of the house and taking flight toward Ponyville. Her destination wasn’t in the town itself though. The day before, a pegasus work crew had flown in straight from Cloudsdale to begin putting together the stadium the tryout would be held in. They’d even added in a set of solid bleachers for the large number of earth ponies and unicorns that lived in Ponyville who might want to come by and watch.
As the stadium came into view and she landed to walk inside, it was all Dash could do to keep herself from shaking and to take the next step forward. It all came down to this, one last performance. If she pulled this one off, she would finally have achieved her lifelong goal of joining the Wonderbolts. The weight of this hit her hard, doing nothing to help ease the nervousness that was continuing to build.
A white coated, sunglasses wearing pegasus was standing watch in front of the entrance, since the stadium was supposed to be closed at the moment. As Rainbow approached though, he gave her a respectful nod, letting her through. Once inside, another pegasus, this one beige with short blue hair, flew over to greet her with a wide smile.
“Hey, great to see you Rainbow Dash! The name’s Star Spotter. I’m overseeing preparations here for the tryout today. There’s still some time before the Wonderbolts are scheduled to arrive, so if you’d please follow me, I’ll show you to the waiting room.” The pegasus said.
Dash nodded and followed after him, soon being led into a rather decently sized room containing a few cushions and a sofa in case she wanted to lie down for a moment. After leading her inside, Star Spotter turned to face her again before he left.
“Well, here we are. If you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask. Any of the workers here will know how to find me, so just ask them and we’ll make sure to take care of whatever you need.”
“Alright. Th-thanks.” Dash said, nodding again to the pegasus before taking a seat on one of the cushions after he left.
Now began the worst part of any competition, the waiting. The anxiety and stress from before was nothing compared to actually being here and having to wait for the moment when she would be performing in front of all of those ponies. Having nothing to do but sit there and wait didn’t help to take her mind off things at all.
As time passed, way too slowly for her tastes, other ponies began to drop by. Members of the weather team, come to wish her good luck or to see how she’s doing, ponies she knew from around the town. Scootaloo came by for a while, her visit actually helping to cheer Dash up a bit. Something about the filly’s dead certainty that her hero could do anything seemed infectious, leaving Rainbow Dash feeling a bit more confident than she had been before the visit.
The stadium was already starting to fill up, Rainbow Dash could hear the noise of the crowd even from in her room, when her friends came by in a group. Pinkie Pie was the first one into the room, bouncing in with a wide smile on her face as usual.
“Hey there, Dashie!” She said brightly, hopping over to the pegasus as the others began to file in. “Are you excited about this, because I sure am! This is superly-duperly great! You’re going to finally get to join the Wonderbolts and everypony will see you as you fly out there and do your little twirls and loops and whoosh right up into the air, zooming around.”
The pink pony waved her forelegs around as she spoke, making sound effects as she played out Rainbow Dash’s routine, the sight of which caused the pegasus to give a little laugh. “Heh, yeah Pinkie, I’m excited. Though, I still have to go out there and actually do well enough for them. We can’t be sure I’m a Wonderbolt just yet.”
“Ah, details-schmetails.” Pinkie said, waving that matter away.
Twilight Sparkle stepped forward at this point, giving her friend a little smile. “So, how are you feeling, Rainbow Dash? Are you ready for this?”
“Heh, ready as I’ll ever be. I’m Rainbow Dash, I can do this with no problem at all.” She answered, again wearing a mask of confidence that she wasn’t actually feeling. “You’ll see. I’ll do so great, they’ll add me onto the team right here and now.”
Twilight gave a soft laugh at that and nodded. “Well, we’ll certainly be rooting for you, Rainbow. I’m sure you’ll do great.”
“That’s right, we’ll all be cheering for you, darling. We have the utmost faith in your abilities.” Rarity said with a dainty smile.
“Um... I’ve even been practicing my cheers a bit. Do you... do you want to hear one?” Fluttershy asked, shyly.
“Sure, I’d love to.” Dash said with a grin, turning to her pegasus friend.
“Okay. But... you, um, you might want to cover your ears first. It’s kind of loud.” The yellow pony said before taking a breath. “Yay!”
Rainbow had to admit that it was an improvement from her previous attempts, though a light breeze would still drown it out. Pinkie Pie on the other hand, turned to Fluttershy and shook her head.
“Aw, that’s not how you do it, Fluttershy. Here, let me show you.”
With that, the pink pony took a huge breath only to find Twilight quickly putting a hoof over her mouth.
“No! Not again Pinkie! Remember what happened last time?” The unicorn said, her eyes wide.
She only removed her hoof once Pinkie had nodded, the pink pony letting out the breath she’d taken in before giving her friend a little frown. “Aww, you’re no fun Twilight. Besides, the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ treehouse looks much better now that they’ve rebuilt it.”
Twilight gave a little sigh at that as Rainbow Dash laughed at her friend’s antics. Though it was far from gone, being around these four ponies was making her feel far less nervous and more at ease. Unfortunately though, it couldn’t last forever and, after several minutes of talking and joking around with each other, it was time for them to head on up to the stands, Dash’s show starting shortly.
Alone again, Rainbow began to pace back and forth in the room, waiting for the call for her to head on out as she tried to mentally psych herself into doing this. She knew she was good enough and she just had to show everypony else, show the Wonderbolts. It was all a matter of practice and skill and she had more than enough of both. Finally, a glimmer of hope broke through and she began to grin to herself as she stretched out her wings and legs, certain that she would be able to succeed.
At last, the call was given and she flew out into the open stadium, met by cheers from the audience. Looking around, she saw a sea of almost entirely familiar faces. It looked like the entirety of Ponyville had shown up for this, or close to it at least. In addition, there were a few pegasi she remembered from Flight School. And there they were, seated in a special stand where they would get the best view, the Wonderbolts. Though they were all in full uniform, Dash knew enough to be able to tell each member of the team apart from the others. The current captain of the team gave her a little smile and a nod, signalling the start of the tryouts.
With that, Dash went into action, soaring high up into the air as she began her routine. She was going to go all out for this, using ever trick in her book and even a few she made up specifically for this event. Once she had gone high enough, she turned around to look back down at the ground and the crowd below. The cyan pegasus hesitated for just a second before adopting a determined look and diving down to build up speed. At the last possible second, or so it seemed to the viewers, she pulled out of the dive, going right into her Super Speed Strut, a trick where she continued moving at flying speed while looking as if she were merely walking.
From there, she curved immediately into the slalom section of the stadium, refusing to allow herself to reduce in speed even the slightest bit as she hurtled through the cloud pillars. Still, she managed to make it all the way through without even the slightest bump into an obstacle, curving back up to begin the actual trick portion of the show. That was where things began to go wrong.
It started simply enough, she wound up coming out of a trick too fast and overshot her turn just a bit, winding up a few feet away from where she should have been. Like any good stunt flier, she was able to make it seem deliberate, but she knew full well that other fliers like the Wonderbolts would know she’d messed up. That one simple mistake began to unravel the confidence she had built up, paving the way for more.
As the nervousness began to make itself known once more, she started to make other small mistakes in her tricks. None of them were large enough to be noticed by most ponies, save for those that make their living pulling the same kinds of stunts. Rainbow Dash wasn’t even able to pull off the Buccaneer Blaze like she’d been planning due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was rapidly turning into a disaster and her having to constantly check to see how the Wonderbolts seemed to be taking it wasn’t helping much either.
The show went on though, Rainbow Dash doing her best to try and salvage what she could of her routine. By this point, she knew that there was one thing she had left that could turn this into a success. The thing that she was known for as being the only pony to ever pull off in the history of Equestria. The Sonic Rainboom.
Dash had known this might come up, but she had been hoping it wouldn’t. She had only pulled off the trick twice, and never when she was actually trying to. Both times had been accidents and, no matter how hard she tried in practice, she hadn’t been able to do it again. Still, after yet another trick went wrong, nearly sending her crashing into the audience, who clapped and cheered, thinking this was all part of some death-defying stunt, she knew she had no choice.
As the time came for her big finale, Rainbow rocketed up into the sky, gaining altitude rapidly. Finally, as high up as she felt comfortable going, she looked back down at the stadium far below her. This was it. This was the moment of truth and... she couldn’t do it. Dash hung there in the air for a few seconds, biting her lip as she looked over the crowd. If she tried this, she’d just crash and fall and they would all be there to watch her failure. But on the other hoof, she had no choice now but to try.
While she debated this with herself, the pegasus let her eyes roam over the crowd, still able to pick out faces she knew. After a few moments, they settled on all of her friends sitting there and cheering her on.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five?
Dash blinked to make sure she wasn’t seeing things, but no, she was there. Seated amongst her friends was a familiar orange pony, smiling up at her.
At that moment, as she saw those eyes locked on her, watching nothing but her, something clicked. A confident smirk spread across Dash’s face as she looked down at her best friend.
She could do this.
That was all she needed and Rainbow Dash began her dive. Down she flew, faster and faster, until a cone of air began to form around her.
The cone threatened to stop her dive. To send her shooting back up as she had been so many times during practice, but she pushed on anyways. She could do this, and she would do it.
For the Wonderbolts.
As Dash drew closer and closer to the ground, the cone continued to grow tighter around her until, finally, it exploded. A ring of rainbow colored light burst out from around Rainbow Dash as she shot forward, easily going twice as fast as she had been before, if not more so. Taking a glance back, she could see that her tail and mane had blended together into a solid rainbow streaking out behind her.
With a wide grin on her face, she pulled out of the dive, shooting back up into the air to form a huge arc over the stadium, a beautiful rainbow siting there in the air for everypony to see.
Finally, she approached the ground again, working to slow herself down before coming to a skidding land in the center of the stadium. After the Rainboom, the entire crowd had fallen silent as it watched her. Now, as she stood there, breathing heavily and watching the ponies in the stands, noise came flooding back. Cheers and applause rained down from all directions as the audience applauded the pony who had once again done the impossible.
Throughout it all though, Rainbow Dash’s eyes had fallen onto one pony and one pony alone, the orange earth pony seated with her friends, shouting and stamping her hooves like everypony else. With that, Dash took her bow before being led back into the waiting room.
Dash paced back and forth in the waiting room for what felt like ages, restlessly awaiting something to happen now. She knew she should probably be taking it easy, laying down and resting up after all that she’d just done, but the adrenaline was still coursing through her and she couldn’t just stay still. With the absence of anypony else there to talk with, she was left with only her thoughts to keep her company.
Over and over again in her head, she looked back upon the performance she’d just pulled off and tried to imagine what the Wonderbolts might be thinking. She’d made mistakes, that much was certain, but were they enough to cancel out the successful tricks? Had she done well enough to make it?
Sooner or later though, the pegasus’ thoughts kept returning to her finale. She’d actually done it again, her third Sonic Rainboom. Yet she still didn’t know how. No, that wasn’t true... she knew exactly how she’d managed to pull it off. But that answer simply raised more questions. There was one thing Dash was certain of though, she needed to talk with Applejack.
Finally, her pacing was interrupted by a knock on the door. For a brief moment, Rainbow Dash hoped that it was somepony coming to tell her how she’d done, though that wasn’t likely at all. It took time for the members of the Wonderbolts to analyze a tryout and there was no way they’d finished up that fast, or probably would today for that matter.
She was far from disappointed once she opened the door however as standing there were her friends, all beaming excitedly to see her.
“Hey guys, what took ya so long?” Dash said with a grin upon seeing the five ponies there.
“We came as fast as we could, but the crowds were so thick it took forever to get here.” Twilight said, stepping into the room as the pegasus stood back to let her friends in. “That was amazing though, Rainbow Dash. I had thought your Best Young Flier’s performance was great, but this was easily the most spectacular show I have ever seen!”
“I know! You were super-duper-specially awesome today, Dashie! When you did that thing with the flip and the shoom and whoo, well even I was speechless!” Pinkie said, pantomiming some complex trick with a huge smile. “Oh, I’m going to have to throw the bestest party ever after this!”
After the pink pony had walked in, it was Rarity’s turn to enter and face Rainbow Dash. “Rainbow Dash, I won’t even pretend to say that I understand the whole trick flying thing, but what I saw out there today... that was true art. Maybe a bit more... physical than most, but still a thing of extraordinary beauty nonetheless.”
“Oh wow, a Sonic Rainboom! I.. I still can’t believe it. I mean, not that I didn’t think you could do it, but still... this is so incredibly wonderful!” Fluttershy said with a smile to her pegasus friend, still a bit more excited than her usual timid self. “Were... were you able to hear my cheering?”
“Heh, I sure was, Fluttershy.” Dash said with a grin as she looked at all of her friends. “Thanks, all of you. It means a lot to me that you all came out here to support me in this.”
Her friends all smiled brightly at this, all save one. Applejack, who had entered in a few seconds after Fluttershy, gave an almost imperceptible wince at these words. Catching this, Rainbow Dash turned to face the earth pony with a little grin.
“Hey there, AJ. Glad to hear you made it! How’s Big Macintosh doing?”
“He’s just fine, and still as stubborn as always. He refused ta let me do anythin’ ta help and kept sayin’ Ah should be here rather than at home. Though, Ah have ta say that Ah’m mighty glad Ah took his advice. Ah only caught the end, but that were plum amazin’ sugarcube!”
If Dash had been feeling happy before, it was nothing to how she felt now. The cyan pony’s face practically glowed as she grinned widely to her friend following the compliment.
With that, the six ponies spent the next several minutes talking cheerily amongst themselves, going over the incredible stunts they had seen that day and how they thought Rainbow Dash was going to do. Twilight Sparkle and the others seemed to have very high hopes for her, though the pegasus wasn’t so confident. Still, four of her friends seemed to be having a good time, though Applejack still looked a bit troubled over something. Though the others didn’t seem to notice, Rainbow was able to tell.
“Oh goodness, look at the time! I must be off if I want to get anything done today.” Rarity said after looking up at the room’s clock. “Congratulations again, Rainbow Dash. I do so hope that you make the team.”
“Ooh, that reminds me! If I’m going to throw a party, I need to get baking right away! Sorry to just greet and run Dashie. I’ll be sure that your party is extra-special fun to make up for it!” Pinkie Pie said, waving to Rainbow before following behind Rarity.
“Thanks again for coming out here. And no worries, Pinkie Pie.” Dash said with a chuckle. “Guess I’ll see the two of you tonight at the party then.”
“I should probably be headed out as well, Rainbow. I promised Fluttershy I’d help her try and find some of the animals that ran off.” Twilight said, the yellow pegasus giving a little nod as well.
“Ah, okay then. You two have fun then. Or... I dunno, maybe you’ll have fun?” Rainbow said with a light laugh and a shrug. “Take care, Twi, Fluttershy.”
The two mares nodded and made their way out the door, closing it behind them. Rainbow Dash just stood there stiffly for a moment, looking at the door before glancing over to Applejack, who had stayed behind.
“They’re all gone now, right?” The pegasus asked.
“Let me check.” Her friend responded, opening the door and peeking both ways before returning with a nod. “Yep.”
At that, Dash promptly flopped over onto a cushion with a sigh of relief. At some point during their talking, the adrenaline had worn off, leaving the pegasus feeling the full effects of the crazy stunts she had pulled. Not one to show weakness, even in front of her friends, Rainbow had managed to keep herself upright the entire time.
“Phew, thank goodness. I mean, not that I don’t want to spend time with them or want my friends gone or anything. I just don’t think I could have lasted much longer.”
After a few seconds, she managed to pull herself up into a sitting position. Turning to face the orange pony, she gave her a little look.
“What’s on your mind, AJ? You’ve had this look on your face since you arrived. Is everything alright with your brother?”
“Hm? Oh... nah, everything’s just fine, like Ah said. It’s just...” The earth pony fell off for a moment with a little sigh. “Rainbow, Ah’m sorry. Ah should have been here the whole time. All that talk about supportin’ you and then Ah’m not there when ya’ll really need me...”
“Is that all? Come on, Applejack, you’re smarter than that. Big Macintosh needed you there, or you thought he did at least. That’s what matters. You weren’t here because you were helping out your family, and nopony can fault you for that.”
“Ah... Ah suppose yer right, Rainbow. Ah did what Ah had ta do, like always...” Applejack said with a little sigh.
“Besides... you were here when it really counted.” Dash said, smiling as she faced her friend. “I wasn’t going to do it. The Sonic Rainboom, I mean. I got way too nervous up there, thinking about how I’d never managed to pull it off when I wanted to. When I looked down and saw you watching me though... I knew then that I could do it. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I just knew that, so long as you were there, I could do anything... and then I did.”
The orange pony looked over to her friend, a small smile of her own appearing. “Ya’ll really mean that, Rainbow?”
“Heh, of course I do. That’s why I was kinda hoping to get a chance to talk with you, so I could say thanks. Thanks to you, I might actually have a chance of making the team now.”
“Nah. Ah wasn’t here ta watch it, but it sounds like you did mighty fine anyways. That Rainboom was just icin’ on the cake, right?”
“Are you kidding me? I made so many mistakes, it’s a wonder they didn’t just cancel it right then and there.” Dash said with a slight chuckle, shaking her head.
“If you say so, sugarcube. Ah still think ya’ll must have done great and that yer just sufferin’ from a lack of confidence in yerself.” Applejack replied with a grin.
“Heh, you’re probably right about that. Guess we won’t know for certain for a couple of days though.”
With that, the pegasus tried to stretch out for a moment before laying down on her side with a little groan.
“Ugh, I hate this bit after a huge thing like today. I’m exhausted, sore all over, and I won’t even know if I made it until I get their answer... this stinks.”
Applejack walked over to stand beside her friend, wearing a little smirk.
“You know, Ah’m surprised at you, Rainbow. Lettin’ yerself be seen by somepony else like this... what happened ta the whole ‘Ah’m Rainbow Dash and Ah can do anythin’!’ bit?”
“You would have seen through that in a second, AJ.” Dash said with a chuckle. “We’ve hung out together far too much for me to try to pull that one on you.”
“Heh, Ah reckon you might be right about that.” The earth pony said, chuckling softly as well. “Though... do ya’ll think it’s a good idea ta let yer closest competition see you like this? Ah mean, Ah already know Ah’m the better athlete, but ya’ll could at least try ta pretend.”
“What? You’re talking to the Iron Pony here. I could still beat you in a race, right here, right now.”
“Is that so? Well then, ‘Iron Pony’, how about we test that? Right here. Right now.” Applejack said with a grin.
“You’re on! First one to get from the stadium to the farm wins. We’ll start right outside the stadium.”
“Sounds good ta me. Get ready ta lose again, Rainbow.” Applejack said with another grin, making her way to the door.
By the time she reached it though, there was a faint thump from behind, followed by her friend’s voice.
“Um... AJ? Could I get some help back here?”
“What do you need...” The orange pony began, turning around and falling silent.
Rainbow Dash was flopped out across the cushion. From the looks of things, she’d tried to get up, only to fall over again. As she saw this, Applejack couldn’t help but crack a smile, chuckling softly as she walked over to help her friend up.
“Yeah, that’s it. Keep laughing...” Dash said with a little glare. “I swear, if I could move my legs right now...”
That just caused the earth pony to give a light laugh though, shaking her head a bit. At this, Rainbow couldn’t keep herself from laughing either, using her friend for support as she rose unsteadily to her hooves.
“Heh, ya’ll alright, sugarcube?”
“Yeah... like I said though, my legs are really sore and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be flying for at least an hour or two.”
“Guess that means our race is off, right?”
“Are you kidding? Of course it’s still on! You’re just going to have to carry me to the farm so I can win.”
With another laugh from the both of them, the two ponies began to slowly make their way out of the room and back toward the farm, Dash leaning against Applejack for support as they walked.
Applejack pushed open the door to Rainbow’s room and carefully led the pegasus inside and over to the cloud bed, Dash gratefully sinking down onto the plush material. While the walk, or flight, up to the stadium hadn’t been bad at all, it was quite a different matter when one pony could barely walk and the other had to support the both of them. Still, it hadn’t been all that bad and they had made it back to the farm with little problem.
“Whew, it feels so good to get off my hooves... I think I could just lie here forever.” Dash said with a grin as she stretched out on the cloud.
Applejack chuckled softly at this, watching her friend for a second before turning to head back out. “Heh... well, if ya’ll need anything, just ask and Ah’d be happy ta get it for you.”
As she opened the door though, a sound from behind made her turn back to look. Rainbow Dash had sat up a bit and was looking at her with an almost sheepish look.
“Hey, AJ... um, would you mind maybe staying in here for a bit? To keep me company.” The pegasus said.
“Heh, course not, sugarcube. Ah’d be happy ta do so.” Applejack said with a smile, shutting the door and making her way back over to her friend, a little smirk appearing. “Though ya’ll ain’t afraid of bein’ alone, are you?”
“No, of course I’m not. I live alone for one thing, remember? Before I moved in here at least. I just don’t... er, want to be alone at the moment...” Dash said, frowning a bit as she realized this probably didn’t help her case.
“Ah suppose Ah can understand that. Though... is there somethin’ buggin’ you, sugarcube?”
“No, there’s nothing. I mean, I don’t think so at least. It’s like I said back at the stadium though. I just feel better, more confident when I know you’re here, by my side.”
Applejack nodded slowly and looked over to her friend. “Rainbow... you know that we’re gonna have ta part ways at some point, right? Ah mean, after this season’s over and our bet ends, yer probably gonna go back ta yer cloud home, right? Ah ain’t always gonna be right here beside you.”
“You could be though.” The pegasus said, causing both of them to blink in surprise.
“W-what was that?”
“I... I said that you could be.” Dash answered softly, a faint blush starting to appear. “I mean... I could resign from my spot on the weather team and come work here next season too.”
“Yer gonna be a Wonderbolt and a farmer?” The earth pony said, raising an eyebrow at that.
“Well... I could try, you know? It might take a bit of work, but nothing I can’t handle.”
“Do ya’ll really believe that, Rainbow?”
“Yes! Or... I don’t know. But what I do know is that I don’t want this to end.” Rainbow said, looking over to her friend. “I can’t go back to the way it was. Maybe living alone was enough for me once, but not anymore. Living here has been great, but even more so has been being able to see you everyday. I could deal with living alone again if I could just have that too.”
“Ah don’t... what are ya’ll tryin’ ta say?” Applejack asked, blinking a bit as she listened to her friend. “You want ta keep on livin’ here or somethin’?”
“I... um... ugh, I’m not sure why I’m saying all this.”
“Don’t worry about it none, just say what yer thinkin’ sugarcube. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with speakin’ yer mind when yer troubled like this.”
Rainbow Dash felt a hoof on her shoulder and she looked up again to her friend. As she looked into the earth pony’s eyes, it was just like back at the stadium, that same surge of feelings came rushing up to her. Confidence filled her once more, along with the knowledge that she could tell this pony anything. Her greatest dreams, her deepest secrets, all of it. Still, that didn’t help much if she herself didn’t know what she was trying to say.
“Consarnit Rainbow, this ain’t like you. If there’s somethin’ ya’ll feel you need ta say, then just say it.”
“I don’t know what I’m trying to say, that’s the problem AJ. I just... I want to be here because that’s where you are. I want to be able to wake up in the morning, open that door and see you there before we go out and work the farm or hang out or... or just be together. What we do doesn’t even matter anymore, just so long as it’s you and me...” Dash said before looking down at the cloud with a little frown.
“And I don’t understand it. I haven’t felt anything like this with my other friends. I mean, I enjoy hanging out with them as well, but compared to the time we’ve spent together, even when it was just sitting around doing nothing but relaxing, it just doesn’t compare. The happiness I feel with them seems like almost nothing when compared to what you bring me, just by being there. With you around, I know that I can do absolutely anything, no matter how tough it might be...”
Applejack listened to her friend speak, watching the confused look Dash was wearing. When the pegasus had finished, she paused for a moment before taking a step forward so she was standing closer to Rainbow.
“Is all that true, Rainbow? Is that really how you feel?”
“I... I think...” Rainbow Dash began before shaking her head a bit. “No, I know that it is. I think I’ve suspected for a while, but I knew for sure today. That’s how I feel, but I just don’t get why. I can’t think of why I’d be feeling like this. It doesn’t make sense...”
“Maybe... maybe now’s not the time fer thinkin’ then.” Applejack said with a soft smile. “Maybe it’s time fer actions ta show you the way.”
With that, the orange pony gently wrapped her forelegs around Rainbow Dash in a tender hug, simply holding close to her. Though they had hugged before, this time felt different, as if it were something more than just a friendly gesture. Rainbow blinked for a moment at the sudden move on Applejack’s part before she began to smile a bit too and returned the hug.
“Ah know just how you feel, sugarcube. Since ya’ll came ta work on the farm, Ah’ve been feelin’ happier than Ah have in a good while. Sure, there’ve been some ups and downs since then, but Ah’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent together. If ya’ll want me ta stay by yer side, Rainbow, then Ah’d be more than happy to. Fer as long as Ah can, and as long as you’ll have me.”
“That’s all I could ever ask, AJ.” Dash said with a smile, giving the earth pony a gentle nuzzle.
The two ponies sat there for a few moments, locked in the embrace. Both wearing little smiles, they stared into each others eyes, seeing the identical emotions reflected within. Slowly, they began to move a little closer, their faces growing closer and closer together.
Suddenly, the door to the room burst open, startling Rainbow Dash enough to cause her to fall off of the cloud, dragging Applejack with her. The two landed in a tangled heap on the ground, both looking up toward the door. Applebloom was standing there, wearing a rather puzzled expression.
“A-Applebloom! Ya’ll ain’t supposed ta just barge into somepony else’s room.” Applejack said, blushing a bit as she hastily got up to her hooves.
“Sorry... Ah just wanted ta come see Rainbow Dash and ask her somethin’ and Granny told me you were in here too, so Ah figured she weren’t sleepin’ or nothin’ and Ah could just go right on in...” The filly replied.
“Heh, no worries kid.” Rainbow Dash said, her own face about as flushed as Applejack’s. “So... what’d you want to see me about?”
“Well, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle are back at the tree house and we were wonderin’ if you’d mind comin’ over ta tell us how the show went. We all had ta go ta school and couldn’t see it...”
Dash thought about it for a moment before glancing over to Applejack. For a moment, it had seemed like the two were about to share something special before they were interrupted. She didn’t want to just leave her friend like this if Applejack wanted her to stay. However, the orange pony gave a little sigh before chuckling softly and nodding. With that, Rainbow turned back to face the filly with a little grin.
“You know what? Sure, I don’t mind going over it again. You go on ahead and let the others know, I’ll catch up in a second.”
Applebloom grinned widely at this and gave a happy little hop. “You will? Alright! Ah’ll head over there right now!”
With that, the filly turned and happily began to make her way back to the other Crusaders, closing the door behind her. Rainbow chuckled softly before turning back to face Applejack again. With the memory of what they had nearly done though, they both looked up at each other for a moment before glancing away, blushing.
“Um... AJ...” Dash said finally, at the same time as her friend.
“Rainbow...” Applejack said before falling silent to let the pegasus speak.
“About, well, all of this... I just don’t know. It seems so sudden and... I guess I’ve got a lot to think about. I mean, this isn’t the way I am. I don’t like other mares, not like this. But...” The pegasus hesitated here, casting about for the right words. “There’s something... special about you. It’s completely different, and I guess I just need some time to process what’s happening.”
Applejack nodded slowly as she listened to her friend’s words. “Ah understand, Rainbow Dash. This... somethin’ about this just feels right. But what if it’s too early ta tell? Ah don’t rightly know what’s happenin’ and Ah think yer right about that. Ah think we need more time ta think on all of this. This is a mighty big change, after all...”
“Yeah. Though... maybe we should give it a chance. Take things nice and slow to see if maybe it could actually work out. If it does, then that’s great and if not... then we’ll still be friends, right?”
“Course we will. Ain’t nothin’ gonna ever change that. Still... Ah think ya’ll might be on ta somethin’ there. The best way ta find out if somethin’ will work is ta try it out. Though, what did ya’ll have in mind?”
“Well, um... maybe we could hang out tomorrow or something? I mean, differently than we normally do. I mean, we could, er, go to a nice restaurant or watch the sunset? Or...” Dash trailed off as she tried to think of what they could do.
Applejack leaned over to give her a soft little nuzzle and a smile, eliciting another faint blush from the cyan pony. “Don’t worry too hard about it, Rainbow. Ah’m sure we’ll find somethin’ ta do tomorrow.”
“Yeah...” Dash replied with a little smile in return.
With that, the two ponies stood there in a rather awkward silence for a short while until Applejack finally spoke up again.
“So, er... what happens now? Where do we go from here?”
“Well, I guess I’d better head on over to the tree house then, before Applebloom comes back wondering what’s taking so long.” Dash said after a few moments.
“Alright then. Um... do you mind if Ah come along?”
“Of course not. I’d be happy to have you there as well.”
Applejack gave her a little smile and the two headed out of the room and began to make their way toward the tree house that served as the Cutie Mark Crusader’s clubhouse. Rainbow Dash was still feeling a bit sore and still had to lean on Applejack for support, causing the both of them to blush a bit at the contact. As they walked though, Dash thought on something for a moment before speaking up about it.
“So, Applejack... what do you think we should do about our friends. I mean, if we do go through with this and... and it works out... how do you think they’ll take it?”
“Ah’m not sure... Ah can’t imagine they’d have any real problem with it, right? They’re our friend’s, after all. Still... maybe we should keep quiet until we know fer certain...”
“Yeah, I think you’re right. We might have to tell them eventually though.”
“Then we’ll tell them, together.” Applejack said with a little smile which Dash returned.
With that, the two continued on their way toward the tree house, each pony lost in their own thoughts about what the future might hold for the two of them.
Rainbow Dash stared at her reflection in her bedroom’s mirror, occasionally running a hoof through her mane to try and get it to cooperate, though she wasn’t having much luck with that. Today was the day that she and Applejack were going to go out on their little date of sorts and, from the moment she’d woken up, the pegasus had been feeling rather nervous. At the moment, she was busy trying to make sure she looked her best before heading out to meet Applejack. After all, that was what ponies did before something like this, right? She swore she had heard that somewhere at least.
Finally, with a little sigh as her mane continued to remain in its usual state, she shook her head a bit and began to walk toward the door. Maybe she was going about this wrong? After all, she and Applejack had already become great friends just by being themselves, so why should this be any different.
Dash made her way out of the room and down the stairs, spotting Applejack waiting for her at the bottom. The two ponies smiled and greeted each other good morning before heading to the table where breakfast was waiting for them. As they’d agreed the day before, neither of them said anything about their plans for the day while in earshot of anypony else. While they were both certain that their friends would take it fairly well, Applejack had been a bit uncertain as to how her family would take it.
After the quick breakfast, the two made their way outside, standing around near the barn for a few moments. Finally, Applejack turned to face Rainbow Dash with a little smile.
“So, got anything special planned fer today, sugarcube?” The earthpony asked.
“Um... well, I was thinking we could start by maybe taking a walk around Ponyville. Maybe head to one of the parks or something like that. Then maybe go grab some lunch at someplace nice.”
“That sounds good ta me.”
With that, the two ponies trotted side by side as they headed toward the town. It was still a bit too early for there to be much of a crowd out in the streets, but they did pass by a few ponies as they wandered through Ponyville. In general though, there didn’t seem to be too much of interest going on in town that morning. That didn’t seem to matter to either of them though. Simply by each other’s presence, both ponies were finding the walk quite enjoyable as they chatted lightly and joked around together.
The two of them had planned to find a nice and quiet spot with which to test the waters between them, someplace where they wouldn’t be likely to run into too many other ponies. With that thought in mind, the two mares made their way toward a rather familiar spot in one of Ponyville’s parks, a little bench set amongst a small grove of trees. They had often come here to rest up after Rainbow’s practice sessions, though now it was the semi-privacy rather than the shade it provided that they were looking for.
As they both sat down, Rainbow Dash hesitated for a moment before unfolding a wing and placing it gently over Applejack. The earth pony blinked a bit at the sudden contact before giving her friend a little smile scooting over a bit closer to her.
“So, we’re here now... Ah guess that makes this our first date, huh.” Applejack said after a moment.
“Yeah, I guess it is. That’s kind of an odd thought.” Dash said with a slight chuckle.
Applejack gave a little nod in reply, but said nothing. A rather awkward silence settled over them as neither pony quite knew what to say at the moment. Finally, Rainbow spoke up again, simply to try and fill the silence with something.
“So, um... the weather team sure did a good job today. It’s wonderful out here.”
“They sure did. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect weather ta get ready fer Fall.”
This time it was Rainbow’s turn to nod as the silence fell over them again. After a moment, the orange pony gave a little sigh before turning to look at her friend.
“What the hay happened ta us? Ah mean, on the way here, everything was just fine, but now listen ta us! That’s if we’re sayin’ anything at all.”
“Well... I don’t know. What are you supposed to say at something like this? I can’t even ask how your day’s been or anything, because I was there for it.”
“Ah guess ya’ll got a point there, sugarcube.” Applejack said with a little chuckle before giving the pegasus a curious look. “Though... ya’ll ain’t never been on a date before, Rainbow?”
Dash blushed slightly at this as she answered. “Well... you remember that story I told you about that note? Yeah... how many dates do you think the ‘creepy, stalker filly’ went on?”
Seeing her friend’s eyes widen at this, she decided to amend it a bit. “Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what they said about me. Still...”
“Oh... Ah’m sorry, Ah didn’t mean ta bring up anythin’ hurtful or nothin’...”
“Nah, it’s fine.” Dash said, waving it away with a shake of her head. “The names didn’t hurt me too bad then and even less so now. We were all just kids then, after all. After that though... I guess I never really took the time to go looking. Kinda wish I had now though... Er, so I’d have experience and... um... so, now that I’ve opened up, what about you?”
Applejack smirked a bit at her friend’s attempts at changing the subject, but decided to go along with it anyways. “Well, Ah guess Ah’ve been on a couple. Nothin’ recent though. Only one Ah can really remember was durin’ mah stay in Manehattan. This little colt asked me out and, though Ah didn’t much like him, mah aunt and uncle made me go. Said somethin’ bout it not bein’ proper ta refuse a gentlecolt’s company til you’ve at least given him a chance. Hmm... thinkin’ back on it though, Ah guess Ah was kinda harsh on him that day, really. It weren’t his fault, after all. He didn’t know Ah didn’t want ta be there. Never got a chance ta apologize neither...”
“Oh? What happened on the date?”
“Well... we went ta some fancy restaurant fer dinner. The food was terrible, and Ah’m afraid his company weren’t much better. He was too... stuck up, Ah suppose. We were just too different. Rarity’s personality might have been a better match fer his, but mine... wasn’t.”
Rainbow Dash nodded a bit as the earth pony finished up her story. “So, what about us then? Do you think our personalities could match?”
“Heh, we’ve been friends fer a good while, haven’t we Rainbow? Not ta mention the time we’ve spent together lately.” Applejack said with a chuckle, giving the other pony a wide grin. “In all that time, I ain’t once felt like givin’ ya’ll a good buck.”
Rainbow raised an eyebrow at that before speaking. “Oh? What about at the Running of the Leaves last year? You seemed pretty upset over that.”
Applejack sat there for a moment before laughing and giving a nod. “Alright, Ah might have wanted ta give you a little one then. Still, Ah’d say our friendship speaks fer itself.”
Dash smiled happily along with her friend at that. Now that they were actually talking, and with the warmth and comfort of her friend close to her side, she was rather enjoying herself now. The two were too wrapped up in each other’s company and their conversation to notice the approach of another pony though.
“Aha! I thought I heard you two. Hey Applejack, hey Rainbow Dash.” Twilight Sparkle said, smiling brightly as she walked toward the bench occupied by her two friends. Her eyes fell upon the wing still stretched out across Applejack’s back and she blinked for a moment.
“What’s going on?”
Hearing their friend’s voice, both ponies jumped a bit and looked up to face her, a faint blush appearing on them both. The last thing they had expected was for one of their friends to come by, yet there was the purple unicorn, looking a bit puzzled by their reaction.
“Oh, um... hey Twilight.” Dash said with a nervous chuckle, blinking a bit as she glanced over at her wing. “Er... well, it was getting really sunny and I was trying to give Applejack some shade.”
Applejack wisely kept her mouth shut, simply nodding along and letting Rainbow talk. Twilight however, raised an eyebrow at that, looking up to the trees above, their leaves providing quite a bit of shelter from the sun.
“I see...” The unicorn said after a moment before shaking her head a bit. “So anyways, what are you two up to? Aren’t you usually working up at the farm around now, Applejack?”
“Well... yeah, but we decided ta come on up here ta enjoy the scenery since it’s such a beautiful day. Er, sunny though. Definitely sunny.”
“Yep! It’s such a nice day for a trip to the park.” Rainbow agreed with a nod. “What brings you here though, Twilight?”
“Oh, I like to take walks around town this time of day.” The purple mare said with a smile. “After the Running of the Leaves, I thought it would be a good idea to try and exercise a bit more. Maybe I’ll even place a bit better this year, though it doesn’t really matter what place I come in. When I was walking by though, I thought I heard your voices and decided to come and say hi.”
“Oh well uhh...” Applejack stuttered, her eyes shifting back and forth, “Well, hi then!”
Twilight stood there for a moment in silence as if she expected a further response from her friends. Once it was clear that none was coming, she tilted her head a bit, giving the two of them an odd look.
“Um... is everything alright? You two seem to be a bit... nervous, almost.”
“What? N-no, we’re just fine, Twi.” Applejack said hastily. “Ya’ll just startled us is all. We weren’t expectin’ ta see anypony else out here now.”
“We?” Twilight asked, looking from one friend to the other.
“Ah... Ah mean, me and Rainbow. Er, Rainbow and I. Ah mean... the pegasus beside me here and mahself.” The earth pony replied, growing more flustered with every word.
“Yeah, what AJ said. We were both, um, here when you showed up suddenly, so it startled both of us.” Rainbow Dash said with a little nod. “We.”
“Okay...” Twilight said, dragging the word out a bit as she looked at the both of them again. “Well, it’s been great talking with you two again but, um... I should probably be back on my way. Got a lot of work ahead of me if I want to be in good shape by the Running of the Leaves.”
With that, the unicorn backed away for a moment before turning and walking away. The two ponies on the bench said their goodbyes as their friend left before Applejack gave a little sigh of relief.
“Whew... well, that could’ve gone a lot worse...”
“Yeah, I didn’t think we’d see anypony here today, especially not one of our friends.” Rainbow Dash said with a nod, turning to look to her friend. “Do you think she... noticed anything?”
Applejack thought on that for a moment before shaking her head. “Nah, Ah reckon not. She’d have said somethin’ in that case, right?”
“I guess you’re right about that. She did seem kinda suspicious though...” Dash said, relaxing a bit now that they were alone together again.
This time it was Applejack who made the move, scooting over closer to the pegasus so the two were lightly touching. At this, Dash smiled at her and leaned over to give her a little nuzzle, causing a faint blush to appear on both ponies. Still, though they fell into silence once again with neither pony knowing what to say, a good deal of the awkwardness from before seemed to have left along with Twilight, allowing the two friends to simply enjoy each other’s presence.
“So... do you want to see about maybe getting something to eat?” Rainbow Dash said after a while, finally breaking the silence.
“Hmm, Ah reckon Ah might be a bit peckish.” Applejack replied with a little nod. “Sure, that sounds good ta me.”
“Great!” Dash said, getting down off the bench. “Come on, I know a pretty good place.”
“Heh, sure thing, sugarcube. Right behind you.” The orange pony said with a grin, hopping off as well before following her friend back into the town proper.
All things considered, lunch had gone fairly well for the two ponies. Rainbow Dash had led her friend to one of the nicer restaurants in Ponyville, though it still wasn’t overly fancy. The food was amazing though, and the two had talked a bit more as they ate. When it came time to pay for the meal though, a bit of an argument had broken out. Rainbow Dash had tried to pay for the entire thing, but Applejack refused to let her. It was only resolved when they realized they were attracting quite a bit of attention from the other diners and Applejack had deferred to the pegasus.
Once lunch was finished with, they had decided to take another little walk around the town, mainly so that Dash could try to come up with something else for them to do to pass the time.
“Ah still say ya’ll should’a let me pay fer mah own food at least...” Applejack said, turning to glance at the pegasus walking beside her.
“Aw come on, AJ, I couldn’t do that. I picked out where we were going to eat, right? It wouldn’t be fair to ask you to pay just because I thought we should go someplace a bit nice.” Dash said. “Besides, either you or somepony else in your family has been cooking for me for the past few months. The least I can do is to treat you to lunch, especially since we’re... you know.”
The earth pony thought on that for a short moment before giving a little sigh. “Ah suppose yer right, Rainbow. And it’s not that Ah ain’t grateful ta you or nothin’, cause Ah really am. It’s just... Ah dunno. It don’t feel right havin’ somepony else payin’ fer me. Ah guess Ah might have ta get used ta that, huh?”
“Heh, you might.” Rainbow answered with a little grin. “Though if it really bothers you, it doesn’t have to happen again. I just thought it’d be kinda a nice thing to do, even if it’s only this once.”
Applejack chuckled softly before giving a little smile to her friend. “Well, thanks Rainbow. It may not seem like it, but Ah really do appreciate it.”
“Hey, no problem AJ.” Dash said brightly, returning the smile.
As the two ponies continued on their way, the town bell tower began to chime the hour, letting them know that it was only one o’clock. This didn’t mean too much to Dash, besides the fact that there was still a ways to go before the sun began to set. Applejack however, blinked a bit as she heard the bells, her eyes going wide.
“Oh, hayseeds!” She said suddenly, causing Rainbow to turn to look at her.
“What is it, AJ?”
“Ah can’t believe Ah forgot!” The earth pony said. “Ah... Ah promised Fluttershy Ah’d help her gather up the animals and help take care of them today...”
“You did? Oh...”
“Ah’m so sorry, Rainbow. Ah told her Ah’d help a couple days ago, before Ah knew anything about us doin’ this, and then Ah forgot last night... But... Ah could always let her know Ah’m busy today. Ah’m sure she wouldn’t mind postponin’ it until some other time.”
“No... it’s fine, AJ.” Rainbow said, putting on a little smile. “Fluttershy’s counting on your help, after all. Don’t worry about it, I understand.”
“Yer sure ya’ll don’t mind?” Applejack asked hesitantly.
“Nah, of course not. You’re Ponyville’s most dependable pony and I’m not about to make you lose that title. Besides, I wasn’t really sure what we were going to do for the next few hours anyways.”
“Well, if yer sure... Like Ah said, Ah’m real sorry about all this, Rainbow... um, see you back at the farm then?”
“And like I said, it’s fine. That’s cool with me, see you back at the farm.” Dash said, giving her friend another little smile and a wave as the earth pony turned and began to make her way toward Fluttershy’s cottage.
As soon as Applejack was out of sight, Rainbow Dash gave a great sigh and looked away, her wings drooping as she slowly walked along the road.
“Cheer up, Rainbow Dash.” The pegasus said, talking quietly to herself. “It’s not like the date was going anywhere anyways. I mean, walking through town, sitting on a bench and talking... these were the best I could come up with? Ugh...
“Besides... there wasn’t much I could say or do, really. She made a promise and I could never ask her to break one of those. What is it Pinkie Pie always says? Losing a friend’s trust is the fastest way to lose a friend--”
“Forever!” Came a voice from a box laying nearby.
Dash jumped as a shockingly pink pony burst from the box, glaring at her.
“P-pinkie Pie! How long have you been in there?” Rainbow asked, blinking a bit at her friend before narrowing her eyes. “Have you been spying on me?”
“Hm?” Pinkie Pie said, blinking a bit as well before giving her a huge smile as she stepped out of the box. “Oh, hey there Dashie! Of course I haven’t been spying. That’d be silly. I’ve got too many cakes and goodies to bake to just sit around! Besides, how could somepony fit in that little box, let alone sit in it all day.”
“But... you just...” Dash said before shaking her head clear and giving a little sigh. “Sorry Pinkie Pie, but I don’t really want to talk with anypony right now. I kinda want to be alone at the moment...”
“Aww, what’s got you so down, Dashie?” The pink pony asked as she bounced over to her friend, giving the pegasus a little frown.
“I... I thought today was going to be, well, special or something. But... I don’t know...”
“Every day is special, Dashie. They’ve all got something that makes them unique and fun! In fact, I know just what will turn that frown of yours upside down.” Pinkie said with a grin, taking a deep breath.
Before she could actually get started though, she suddenly found a hoof pressed to her mouth as Rainbow shook her head. “N-no! I mean... thanks, Pinkie Pie, but I don’t think a song is going to help out.”
“Oh...” Pinkie said once Dash had removed her hoof. “Well, cheer up anyways. Things are never as bad as you imagine them to be. There’s always a good side to everything, you just have to find it. Or sometimes it finds you. Oh, and occasionally somepony else finds it for you and then shows it to you. Like this one time I was feeling pretty down and I came across a puppet show and it made everything all better. Ooh, I should put on a puppet show for you!”
Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but chuckle softly at her friend’s antics, giving the pink pony a little smile before shaking her head. “Thanks again, but I’ll pass on that one too, Pinkie Pie. Besides, I don’t want to keep you away from your baking if you’ve got so much to do.”
“Ah, I almost forgot about that! You’re right, those cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and delicious treats aren’t going to bake themselves!” Pinkie replied before looking thoughtful. “Well, except for that one batch of chocolate crunchies, but the Cakes still don’t believe me about that one. Anyways, I need to get back and take the cookies out of the oven before they burn again. I hope you feel better Dashie! See you later alligator.”
With that, Pinkie Pie waved to her friend before hopping off and around a corner. After a moment, Dash peered curiously around the corner, only to find that the pink pony had managed to vanish completely. Not surprised at all by this, she glanced over to the clock tower again and gave a little sigh, resuming her walk.
After a short while of meandering aimlessly through the town, Dash finally decided that maybe she should just go ahead back to the farm and wait for Applejack to return. There must be something there for her to do in the meantime as well, which was better than simply waiting around. With that thought, she turned and began to make the trip back to the place she’d been calling home for the last few months.
Unfortunately, upon her arrival, it turned out that there wasn’t much at all that the pegasus could do to help out. Though the few chores that were available ate up some time, before too long, she was left with nothing to do save for taking up a spot in one of the apple trees, left alone with her thoughts. Looking up at the sky, Dash gave a little sigh as she watched the sun starting its slow trek down to the horizon.
The shadows were already growing quite long when the sound of hooffalls began to come nearer. Dash was so caught up in her thoughts about the day and where she felt she’d gone wrong to notice until a knocking on the tree caught her attention. Glancing down, the pegasus spotted her friend standing at the foot of the tree, looking up at her.
“Oh, um... hey AJ.” Rainbow said, hopping off the branch and fluttering down to land beside the earth pony.
“Hey Rainbow...” Applejack answered, looking at the pegasus for a moment before glancing away.
“How’d things go helping out Fluttershy?”
“Pretty good. Managed ta get all the critters rounded up and accounted fer.”
“Ah, that’s good.”
The two ponies fell into a rather awkward silence, neither quite meeting the other’s eyes. Several moments went by like this before somepony finally broke the silence.
“I’m sorry about today.” They both said at the same time before blinking a bit at each other.
After a second, Applejack spoke up again. “Ah’m real sorry, Rainbow. Ah know Ah had promised Fluttershy Ah’d help but... that weren’t no excuse. Ah shouldn’t have just ditched you like that, especially not today. Fluttershy wouldn’t have minded if Ah told her Ah needed ta postpone it until tomorrow or... Ah could have done somethin’ better than Ah did and Ah’m sorry fer it...”
“It’s fine, AJ. You made a promise to Fluttershy and I’m not going to ask you to break that. Besides, it’s not your fault at all. You didn’t know we were going to try having a date today. If I’d planned this for a few days later rather than today... none of this would have happened. Maybe I could have come up with something good for us to do as well then...” Dash said with a little frown. “Ugh, I must have taken you on the worst date you’ve ever had...”
“So... ya’ll didn’t enjoy the time we did spend together today, sugarcube?” Applejack asked, tilting her head a bit.
“Well... yeah, I did. Lunch was really good and I enjoyed our talk at the park, once we started actually talking, but I know you must have been so bored. I mean, what pony takes their date to the park just to sit around and talk...”
Applejack chuckled softly and gave her friend a little smile. “Dash, not once durin’ our date was Ah bored. Sure, it weren’t no race or competition, but that don’t mean Ah didn’t enjoy it. Besides, Ah’ve already told ya’ll about mah worst date ever and this one’s not even close ta that bad.”
“You really mean that?” Rainbow asked, a small smile forming at her friend’s words.
“Course Ah do, sugarcube. And, you know... the day ain’t over just yet...”
“No, it’s not is it... There was one last thing I was hoping we could do, but I was starting to get kinda worried we’d miss it.” Dash said, pausing for a moment before meeting Applejack’s eyes. “Applejack, would... would you like to sit out here and watch the sun set with me?”
“Ah’d love to, Rainbow Dash.” Applejack replied with a nod, smiling over to the pegasus.
Rainbow Dash smiled back before turning to look over to the sun’s position. “Oh, we should probably get going now then, if we want to find a good spot before it’s too late.”
“Hmm... Ah reckon that hill over yonder might make fer a good spot.” Applejack said, nodding over to a hill overlooking the orchard.
“Heh, that’s where I was thinking of.” Dash said with a chuckle.
With that, the two ponies began to make their way toward the spot in question, sticking fairly close together as they walked side by side. Before long, they had made it to the top of the hill, getting a good view of the entire apple orchard from here as well as the sun as it gradually approached the horizon.
After a few short moments of standing there beneath one of the trees, looking first at each other and then out at the view, Applejack made her way over to a nice spot beside the tree and settled down so she could look out across the landscape. Rainbow Dash joined her, taking a seat beside her friend as she too looked out at the horizon.
Already, the slowly fading light from the sun had given everything an orange tint, forming almost a preview of what was to come in the coming months as the leaves turned. Before long, the orange was joined by shades of red and pink as it grew darker, Celestia’s sun slowly sinking down.
“Wow, it’s... incredible...” Rainbow said softly, captivated by the beautiful scene before them.
“Yeah, it really is somethin’ huh...” Applejack replied with a little smile as she too watched the setting sun. “You know... Ah never really get a chance ta see this. Ah’m always too busy workin’ or doin’ somethin’ ta take the time ta really appreciate the sunset.”
“I know what you mean. Even though it happens every night, I guess it’s kinda hard sometimes to just sit down and enjoy the view.”
The orange pony nodded a bit at her friend’s words, turning to glance over at her pegasus friend with a little smile, receiving one in turn. A chill wind blew across the hill, heralding that the Autumn would be there soon. With less and less light from the sun coming down to warm the land, it was actually starting to grow a bit chilly.
With a slight shiver, Applejack instinctively huddled up to the pony beside her for warmth. It wasn’t until she noticed Rainbow Dash looking over at her that the earth pony realized that they were actually close enough to be touching lightly.
“Oh, er...” The orange pony began to stammer, her face reddening a bit.
Dash gave a little smile before unfolding a wing and draping it gently over her friend. “Here you go. Heh, guess it is getting a bit cold, huh.”
“Well... maybe a bit. Ah just wasn’t prepared fer it.” Applejack replied, smiling a little before leaning over to give Rainbow a gentle nuzzle. “Thanks, sugarcube...”
The two ponies sat together like that, smiling softly to one another as the last few rays of light played across them. As she looked into Rainbow Dash’s eyes, an odd feeling began to build up in Applejack’s chest, almost warm despite the coolness of the air. A faint blush began to rise up on her face, mirrored on the pegasus opposite her as they both began to slowly lean in toward each other.
As the sun’s final rays faded away, their lips met in a tender, delicate embrace. Yet, there was still a passion to it, carried through from both ponies. They held there together for a moment that seemed simultaneously like an eternity and not quite long enough before pulling apart again.
“Dash...” Applejack said softly as the kiss was broken, her face a mere few inches from Rainbow’s. “Ah still don’t know what ta think about all this. About today and... and everything. But, Ah do know... Ah know that this is where Ah want ta be... right here, by yer side...”
“I can’t explain it, AJ, but somehow... this seems right to me. Like this is what is meant to be. Who... who I’m meant to be with...”
“Ah think... Ah think Ah know just what you mean. That this... is how it’s supposed ta be.”
With that, the two ponies again lapsed into silence as they came together in a kiss once more under the pale light of the moon.