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Dash groaned as she rolled over again, pulling her blanket over her face. What the heck was Twilight thinking, asking her on a date? She wasn’t the kind of pony who was even interested in that stuff. Why didn’t she tell her ‘no’? She could have ended this whole thing before it even started and enjoyed her nap in peace instead of mentally flying in circles. This clearly wasn’t getting her anywhere and her wings and legs were beginning to twitch, the urge to be doing something growing.
Kicking off her comforter and springing into the air in one swift practiced motion, she flew across her room, opting to use her bedroom window as an exit. She needed to be outside. She needed to think. Flapping a few times to gain a bit of speed, she settled into a winding slalom-like pattern. As the breeze ruffled her coat and tugged her mane and tail behind her, her mind began to clear. She needed to talk to somepony about this. She needed somepony to help her make sense of it all, even if all that pony did was listen as she worked it out herself.
She considered her options as she bobbed and fluttered on the currents. With Twilight out of the question and Pinkie Pie busy doing whatever she did to prepare for parties, Rainbow’s go-to ponies were both out. Rarity seemed like a good option, but the unicorn would probably get all wide-eyed and try to get her to pick out dresses for their date. Dash didn’t need the kind of help Rarity had to offer and she sure as hay didn’t want to spend the rest of the day having bits of fabric pinned to her. Fluttershy was nearly as bad as Rarity: her head was full of that romantic goop she constantly read. Dash’s face twisted into a sour expression as she recalled trying to read one of those stories. Give her Daring Do or Danger Mare any day of the week.
That left only Applejack. Talking with her number one rival about love and dates and other romantic junk wasn’t Dash’s idea of a good time. She’d probably never hear the end of this, but the pegasus was out of options. Applejack was the one pony likely to understand her. Neither of them had ever really been into the whole dating thing, or at least Dash didn’t remember AJ talking about it at all, and she’d certainly never seen the farmer all prettied up, trotting flank to flank with somepony going to a fancy dinner or whatever it was ponies did for these things.
Yeah, it might mean giving AJ material to use against her in the future, but Rainbow was cool enough to overcome any amount of taunting Applesnack could dish out. Her mind made up, she ceased her directionless gliding and shot off towards the outskirts of town and Sweet Apple Acres.
Rainbow Dash twitched her ears, turning them towards the smallest of sounds as she flew low over the orchards. Applejack was probably out bucking apples, or picking corn, or putting prunes in her trees. Maybe she was developing a whole new way to avoid fun.
The sharp snap of hoof on wood echoed through the trees. Dash pivoted towards the noise and shot off in that direction. Sweet Apple Acres was only large if you were forced to trot the whole thing. She located AJ in next to no time.
When Rainbow found her, Applejack was performing her customary applebucking routine with one notable difference. The tree she was pounding was devoid of apples. Dash settled onto a large branch in a nearby tree to watch for a moment. She looked on in confusion as AJ reared up on her front legs and kicked the bare tree, causing a number of small twigs and branches to fall. AJ shook her head, dislodging the debris that had fallen onto her hat.
“Hey AJ! What’s up?” Dash called from her perch.
AJ’s hat swiveled to reveal the orange earth pony’s face. “Well ain’t this a surprise.” The farm pony’s mouth broke into a grin. “Twilight told me about the party and I figured you’d be lazin’ the day away somewhere.” Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, “I hope you weren’t thinking of taking a snooze in one of my trees, Dash.”
Dash laughed and she rubbed the back of her head. “No way, not a chance.” She leapt from the branch and glided down to land next to her friend. “I actually just need– wanted to talk.”
Applejack turned and trotted towards the next tree. Dash kept pace with her. “I’m a mite busy at the moment, Rainbow. I gotta get these here trees pruned before the next growing season.” As she turned and got in bucking position, she saw Dash’s face screwed up in confusion. “It means to get the dead and weak branches off of ‘em. Trees need that energy for makin’ apples. A weak branch that’ll fall off before the apples are ripe is just a big waste.” AJ’s powerful legs shot out and thumped into the tree, shaking it. “Well, as you can see Rainbow, I’m mighty busy. Maybe y’all could visit later?”
Small twigs and branches fell all around her and Rainbow was forced to dodge one or two of the bigger ones. “Well, I kinda wanted to talk to you. Maybe...” She wasn’t sure about this. But if there was one pony she could trust to give her straight advice, it was Applejack. “Maybe if I helped, we could talk?”
Applejack lashed out again with her hooves, smirking as Dash scrambled to dodge another torrent of debris. “Sure. If you think you can keep up.”
“Keep up? Of course I can keep up.” Dash crouched, then practically flung herself at a neighboring tree. Her powerful wings pumping as she built up speed in the short distance. She planted her hooves in front of the trunk, swung around, and slammed her rear hooves into the tree sending the whole thing shaking. Dead branches and twigs rained down from above. Balanced on her front hooves, her rear legs still held up in the air, she gave Applejack a triumphant grin. “See? I totally got this.” It was pretty cool and the effect was only a little ruined when a branch the length of her wing landed on her head, driving her to the ground.
Applejack laughed as she trotted over to help the pegasus to her hooves. “Well, I see you certainly got something, sugar cube. Alright, you help me prune these trees and we can talk while we work. It must be pretty important if it’s keeping you from your nap.”
After shaking her head to clear her vision, Dash took up position next to Applejack. “I’ve got a bit of a problem,” she said as Applejack bucked the tree, showering them both. A second later Dash gave a grunt as she kicked out her own legs. “See, after my practice today, I had a little chat with Twilight.” More twigs rained down leaving bits of bark stuck in her mane. She was going to need to fly through a cloud after this, maybe even brush her hair. She hoped she could find her comb. “And well...” Rainbow paused as Applejack reared up for a final buck. “She kinda asked me out.”
Applejack’s eyes shot open wide and hooves missed their mark by a mile. She overbalanced and fell prone to the ground, her hat landing in front of her. She looked up at the pegasus, who wasn’t paying attention to her. “You wanna run that by me again, sugar cube?”
Dash reared up and bucked the tree, pumping her wings to add to the power of the kick. “Twilight. She asked me out. On a date.”
“I see.” Applejack climbed to her hooves. She dusted off her hat and settled it back onto her head before continuing. “And you said...?” She let the question hang between them.
“What do you think I said?” Dash rolled her eyes. “I said I needed to think about it.”
“Um, that’s not–”
“I mean, I’ve never even been asked out before!” Dash half-heartedly bucked the tree again. “It was totally out of nowhere!” She tapped a hoof against the trunk. “I just don’t know what to do.” She hung her head. Saying it out loud sucked. She hated to let a friend down, but she was totally out of her depth here.
“Well.” AJ rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, um. I can’t say it ain’t a bit shocking to me too.” Applejack walked over to her friend and placed a hoof on Dash’s withers. “The question is, do you like her?”
“Of course I like Twilight!” Dash’s head shot up. “She’s a great friend! What kinda question is that?”
“No, you featherbrain.” Applejack cuffed her lightly. “Do you like her? Could you see yourself snuggling up to her and spending your days just being with her?”
“I–” Dash paused for a second. “I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about this stuff, you know?” She turned away from Applejack. “I’ve always been thinking of the Wonderbolts as my future and I’ve never put much thought into dates or romance or anything.” Dash sat back on her haunches, slipping out from under AJ’s reassuring hoof.
“I’ve had ponies say they loved me for my flying, or because I saved them.” Dash waved a hoof off in a northeasterly direction. “And the whole Elements of Harmony thing. But I’ve never really had a pony tell me they were interested in me for me. I mean, Twilight’s not some star-struck filly seeing her first air show or a kid I just pulled out of a well. She’s the totally amazingly powerful student of the Princess. You saw her handle that ursa. I mean she’s– she’s practically the– the me of magic!” She turned back to Applejack, her eyes widening. “And she likes me?” She wasn’t sure if that was a statement or a question.
Applejack rolled her eyes, but her grin belied her annoyance at Rainbow’s antics. “I could’a guessed that, RD. Seeing as how she asked you out and all.”
Dash looked up at the sky, her eyes focusing on something off in the distance, her mouth turned up into a slight grin. “Heh. She did.” For a moment, Dash re-lived that memory. “And the way she asked, that was pretty awesome.”
“Oh? And what way was that?”
Dash’s face broke into a grin and she turned towards Applejack once more as her eyes lit up in excitement. “It was really cool. She waited ‘til everypony else had left for home and just asked. ‘Would you like to go out with me?’ She just said it!”
Applejack’s brow rose. “Just like that?”
Applejack let out a low whistle. “Boy howdy, that musta taken more than a bit of courage.”
Courage? Twilight? Dash wouldn’t have pointed that out as one of her friend’s major traits. She was the fearless one. Applejack too. Probably. Pinkie didn’t count; Dash wasn’t sure the pony knew what fear even was. But Twilight?
Applejack interrupted her thoughts. “It all comes down to how you feel about her, RD. If you don’t think you could ever love her, it’s best to say ‘no’ now and save her some heartbreak later. But if you think you might...” She let the thought hang in the air for a minute. “Well, ain’t nopony ever harvest an apple without tending a tree first.”
Rainbow’s brow wrinkled and she frowned, bringing a hoof to her muzzle in thought. What did trees and apples have to do with how she felt about Twilight? How did she feel about Twilight anyway? Well she was the smartest pony in Ponyville and the most magical, even if she never rubbed it in anypony’s face. In fact, she kinda went out of her way not to show off. She was confident in her magic. Dash’s eyes went wide as a thought struck her. Twilight didn’t need to tell everypony how good she was because she simply didn’t care what they thought of her talents. Dash had never thought about it before and she would Sonic Rainboom through the Everfree at ground level before she ever admitted it, but Twilight was far more sure of herself than Dash was. That was pretty cool.
“Heh, yeah.” Dash’s brow furrowed in thought. “Yeah, I guess I do like her enough to try some of that stuff.” Her cheeks were warming again. Neither had mentioned any of the things “that stuff” could refer to, but Dash’s mind teased her with more than a few images. Her expression grew more serious and a hint of worry began to creep onto her face. “It’s not like I’m promising anything if I say yes to one date, right?”
“Nah, sugar cube.” The earth pony dismissed her final concern with a single wave of her hoof. “That’s pretty much the whole point of datin’, seeing if y’all could work together long term like.”
“It’s just–” Dash paused. “What if things don’t work out? Won’t it get weird?”
Applejack’s brow creased and she said nothing for a moment. “Well Rainbow, to my way of thinking, things’re gonna be weird no matter what. Twi’s already seen to that. Saying ‘no’ ain’t too much better than things not working out.”
“Then...” Rainbow’s eyebrows drew close together, “I think– I think I’ll say ‘yes’.”
“Atta girl!” Applejack drew her into a one-legged embrace. “I’m mighty proud that you could bring this to me.”
“Thanks, AJ.” Dash’s face relaxed and her mouth spread open in a broad grin. “You know? I feel a lot better about this.”
“You’re excited?” AJ grinned back at her.
“Yeah. Like– like I’m about to show off my best trick.” Her cheeks almost hurt from smiling so wide. “And you guys are there and the Wonderbolts are there and I’m ten seconds away from pulling off the most amazing stunt in history.”
“I’m happy for you RD, no matter how this date thing with Twi turns out.” Applejack nudged her with her muzzle. “Course you know, I ain’t letting you get off easy now.” Applejack snickered. “You still gotta help me with these here trees, only now I’ve got some music for us to listen to.” As she spoke, she tapped Dash’s forehead lightly with a hoof.
“Music?” Dash’s ear perked up. One of the more boring things about helping AJ was that there was nothing to do but mindlessly kick trees. If Applejack was gonna provide entertainment, maybe the rest of the afternoon wouldn’t be so bad.
Applejack tilted her hat forward. “Yeah, music.” She trotted off to the next tree. Dash’s eyes followed her, brows raised, waiting to see what her friend meant.
Applejack flashed her a predatory smile over her shoulder, the kind of smile that raised hairs and kept Dash up at night. In her best sing-song voice she began belting out the lyrics to a song every foal knows. “A Rainbow an’ a’ Twilight, sittin’ inna tree...”
Dash rolled her eyes and sighed. It was going to be a long afternoon.