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WednesdayFic recs, November 26th!13 comments · 201 views
Y’know what? Forget doing a “writeoff edition”. There’s too many damn stories to include, and they just keep pouring in. I’m just gonna post what I’ve already read and work on simply getting them all reviewed.
Blueshift’s Nineteen Neighty-Four now has a reading (part 1) (part 2) thanks to the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality podcast. Looking at the site, it’s apparently dedicated to reading a Harry Potter fanfic based around the idea of rationality? I dunno, I’m only taking the cursoriest of glances. Anyway, I liked what I heard (before realizing I’d already read the story), but I have a feeling this won’t be delivering on the MLP fics in the future. Still, worth it if you haven’t read the story: it’s funny and this guy reads well.
(I'm kind of miffed that this one didn't end up all C's. Curse you, Admiral Biscuit for being such a good writer I guess? :B)
H: 0 R: 1 C: 7 V: 0 N: 0
Home for the Holidays by Silverquill
Genre: Holiday Horror
A mare, late to the train station and desperate to get home for Hearth’s Warming Eve, accepts a ticket from a mysterious stranger and boards a “secret” train. It’s a tale you’ve likely seen before, as trains of this sort feature heavily in many types of dark stories. Still, it’s the first time I’d ever seen it in ponyfic, and the writing is decent, barring a bobble here and there. If you’re into something a little Christmassy, but not overly cheerful, check this out.
Recommended for Horror Fans
Never by shortskirtsandexplosions
Imagine our surprise when word got around the writeoff: short skirts and explosions wrote an entry! It’s too bad I ended up hating this story; I mean, really hating it and the fact that it got second place. (Being over 20k words long is suggested to have played a part in that.) I think time has quelled that opinion somewhat, or else skirts just improved the story before publication. Maybe I enjoy sadfics more. Anyway, my old argument against this was that it manipulated the reader’s emotions; now I would amend that to “features an unending slew of pony death scenes”. But Celestia is there through all of them, feeling the emotions or not as required. This story, then, is about her relationships: with Luna, with their father, and with her students, past, present and future. We see clips of her life, in the distant past, interspersed with scenes from the present-day, on an airship returning from the Summer Sun Celebration. This is equal parts immortality tract, historical world-building, and future fic. (Just wait till you find out who the Admiral is!) Above all else, it is sad, sad, sad. But not, I think, sad without purpose. Watching Celestia and Luna essentially swap positions over the course of centuries is rather powerful. That said, I did feel like Luna’s characterization was shaky — granted, even in season 2, we didn’t have much to go on for her — and some of the non-Princess dialogue is… weird. This isn’t skirts’s best fic, but it’s certainly worth the read, if you don’t mind some feels.
Recommended If You Like Sad or World-Building Fics
The Order by Bad_Seed_72
Here’s another voice I know from Scribbler’s collabs! He’s a touch mumbly in the narration, which is highlighted by just how robust some of his guest readers are, but otherwise, I have no problems with him. It’s nothing a little volume on my end can’t fix. :) (Plus he outshines a few of his own collaborators with far worse microphone quality.) He goes on the list because his only other readings are partials of Inner Demons and a comic of The Unexpected Love Life of Dusk Shine, and a Kingdom Hearts fic. Okay!
Flash Sentry is desperately in love with Princess Twilight Sparkle. Unfortunately for him, he’s a pegasus and the Order says “no”. This story made me so angry, but in the end proved to be a lesson in why fanfic readings can be misleading. Had I known about the AU tag, had I read the description, I’d have been prepared to face the subject matter (and the out-of-character Princesses). Instead, my inability to trust fanfic authors came out full force and I got mad. Having calmed down now, I still have a few questions. Foremost is, how the hell could Twilight ascend if the Order keeps everypony apart? Are the Elements of Harmony all borne by unicorns in this continuity? Was she always an alicorn? Not to mention I just didn’t buy her reasoning for the existence of the Order in the first place. Then there’s the question of Cake family, and I don’t even want to get into that. What in the heck is the point of this story? As an AU, it is definitely a good look at a dystopian Equestria, but in the end it’s just your average 1984 sort of thing. You’ve got one guy who knows that the way things are is wrong but ultimately does nothing about it. This exists solely to torture poor Flash. (An early mention of him not belonging in this world made me wonder if he was somehow human Flash in pony form, but I don't think that's what he meant.) If the unrequited romance was the point, this could have been told many ways in actual Equestria. And if that wasn’t the point, I don’t know what was. With all that said, if you’re into this kind of thing, this is rewarding. Bad Seed is of course a good writer, and I was entirely captivated by a scene toward the end, when Flash comes back to his room. I also like the way actual Equestria plays into this story; it’s quite tragic. It all comes down to how you can handle the idea of a modern, segregated Equestria.
Recommended If You Like Dystopian AUs
Kicking Back by Loganberry
It’s always fun to hear an author read their own work. He’s maybe a bit fast, and there’s some background noise that a noise removal function could fix (actually, his mic quality is spectacular given that he recorded this on a phone!), but otherwise, he’s a keeper. His voice is overall quite charming. A worthy author, and a worthy reader as well! (Though so far, he only reads his own stuff. :B)
Genre: Reaction Fic
Cloud Kicker hires an image consultant; things don’t go well. I have yet to read anything of the Winningverse (though I have plans to!), but I have enough second-hand understanding of it to recognize this as a reaction to it. So if you’re not aware what this is lampooning, it likely won’t have any effect. It comes off as just a string of mild sexual innuendo and a mare rightly upset because ponies won’t stop hitting on her. That said, it is pretty funny, it just lacks overall appeal.
Recommended If You’re Into the Winningverse
Pinkie Pie’s Last Nightmare Night by Admiral Biscuit
Downsides: Mic is a little muffled and she left in a bobble with a word. Everything else, I like. Her Pinkie voice is fantastic, and her reading speed is just north of perfect. Plus, she only bobbled one word, so I suspect that was an editing mistake rather than a lack thereof. Good to go! (She doesn’t have many readings, though.)
Pinkie dresses as Celestia for Nightmare Night. I really enjoyed this story, but as I look back on it, I realize there’s not much to it. She dresses up, she pranks some ponies, the ending is kind of amazing. It’s a really solid comedy regardless of lack of plot elements, though, and I especially like Applejack’s prank. Biscuit’s pretty skilled with these one-shotober fics.
Remedial Lessons by ChromeMyriad
With princesshood comes new understanding of the evils of ponykind; when Twilight gets upset about this, it’s up to Princess Luna to calm her down. The middle third of this is a lengthy, in-depth exploration of magical headcanon, enough that I was almost willing to call this a hard fantasy. The story's purpose doesn’t reveal itself until we’re nearly at the end and Luna lectures Twilight on the difference between darkness and evil. (An admittedly good metaphor.) I suppose this is where the Random tag comes into play. And for all that it’s somewhat long-winded about magic explanations, I did enjoy this, right up until they talk about the guards’ inappropriate behavior, which is dismissed with, essentially, “boys will be boys”. That threw me, and I feel like it upsets the tone of the entire piece. Overall, I think this was worth the listen, but be warned that you’ll have to dodge narrative obstacles before finding the point.
Recommended If You Like Magical Headcanon
Infatuation by Malus Scriptor
Genre: Epistolary Shipping
Discord writes a letter to the princess he loves. I both love and hate how slowly this story unfolds. First, we find out that the writer is Discord, which actually flipped my opinion of it up to that point. The love letter is so creepy, but I expect that from him. My opinion flipped completely once more when it was revealed that the princess he’s writing to is not Celestia, as I’d hoped thought, but Twilight. Creepy. D: If there’s one thing this story doesn’t do properly, it’s convince me that Discord really feels this way. (But then, the only Discord ship I sail is Dislestia.) Thankfully, I think it’s meant to be fucking creepy, so the author has succeeded at that. This might actually have appeal beyond shippers.
Recommended If You Like Shipping or Dark Fics
Too Far by KnightMysterio
Genre: Anti-Bullying Tract
Diamond Tiara’s bullying crosses the line after Dinky Hooves kills herself. I have a lot of feelings about this story. I spent most of it rolling my eyes at how difficult it is to really do a convincing anti-bullying tract. For starters, there’s the whole suicide thing. It might just be headcanon, but unless Equestria is presented in a fic as darker than what we see in the show, I have a majorly hard time believing that anypony, least of all a filly, even knows what suicide is, let alone would consider it. I mean, the death of a single filly in Ponyville is enough of an event that Celestia and Luna come down to discuss Diamond’s punishment! In the story’s own context, Dinky's actions are a little hard to swallow. Second, there’s the question of “Who is this written for?” A bully isn’t going to read something like this, note their bad behavior, and then seek to make reparations for their actions. Anyone who believes this to be possible was most likely bullied themselves, and will quite possibly be angry that Diamond isn’t locked up, killed, or otherwise punished in this story. A naive approach to subjects like this only leads to a hokey story. (I had flashbacks to various morality cartoons I watched as a kid; anyone ever see that one where the kid falls asleep on the train and goes through a nightmarish ride with trains that talk and stuff? I loved that one.) And for most of this story, “hokey” is definitely the feeling I got, though I was impressed at the justification for use of the pathetic fallacy in Equestria. Like, seriously, bravo, it was unexpected.
This is all redeemed and recontextualized when Discord shows up. From that point, the focus shifts from “the sins of an indulgent parent” and “spoiled children are intractable” to something more along the lines of “the only solution to bullying is the willful effort of self-improvement” and “you, yes you, will never get a second chance”. Granted, some of that is still wrapped up in the — inasmuch as this is really just a ponification of recent tragic events — hyperbolic “don’t bully other kids or they’ll kill themselves” lesson. I think, in the end, I liked this, though I do still have some concerns. (Why are the Wonderbolts there save to increase the drama? Why make Silver Spoon less of a bully? Does the story want to redeem Diamond Tiara or condemn her? Why ship Filthy Rich with Derpy save to increase the drama?) A final note: The version I heard, linked in the description of the reading and possibly the same I linked to at FFN, is not currently available on Fimfic. You can search and find a journal from May of this year that tagged the story, but the story was taken down by the author to fix ”major issues”. So there’s every possibility that the story will return one day and be far different.
Recommended If You’re Concerned About Bullying
8 comments · 80 views
Hey, the writeoff's over! I finished 5th and 19th. This one's number 19. :B Just a silly random comedy that is me completely not trying to do anything like write good jokes or good stories or good anything really. The punchline is dubstep. And BDSM. Yes, my speedfic collection is now rated Teen, just because of this one story.
666 blog posts!
SundayIMDB is my TVTropes12 comments · 85 views
Pay close attention to the little girl in this promo clip:
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Andrea Libman.
Wasn't even her first role!
Isn't nature fascinating?
13 comments · 186 views
Ha haaa! I bet you thought I'd forgotten about this, eh? Well, fret no more! It's just the nature of the various reading projects I've set up that I do a little for each here and there before releasing one.
H: 0 R: 1 C: 5 V: 1 N: 3
You Learn by A Hoof-ful of Dust
Genre: Slice of Life
Three looks at Apple Bloom learning things. It’s not quite a kishotenketsu, I don’t think, but if you go into this expecting a normal mode of storytelling, you’ll be left scratching your head. Here’s the clue: the final scene is meant to be compared to the first two. Once you know that, the rest should come. Beyond narrative technique, this also features some really excellent writing (and hey, it even passes the Zecora test!) Not much happens, but it’s a very pleasant read and gets its point across in a refreshingly unique way.
The Lucky Ones by Educated Guess
A scene during the siege of a fortress. This was written for one of the World-Building Alliance things, but the world-building is really haphazard. It comes off as a list of names that refer to nothing at all, and there isn't really anything pony about it, aside from a horse pun and the mention of the pony races. I like that seaponies are a major part of this, but I can’t say the actual details of their society were terribly interesting. Mostly, I just couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. Only attempt this if you don’t mind everything being completely alien.
The Baltimare Chase by DegeTheMighty
Genre: Chase Scene
Shining Armor pursues a fugitive through town. For just being a long action scene, this is really intense and it grabbed me immediately. There’s no real explanation for how they got into this situation, but the action flows smoothly and the writing is evocative. That said, it could also use some cleanup; this feels like a first draft, with typos, LUS, and some passages that need tightening down. Still, if you like action scenes, this is pretty short, and has a couple neat ideas to boot.
Recommended If You Don’t Mind LUS
Winter Threads by Dreamy Days
Genre: Slice of Life
A pegasus walks around Manehattan and thinks about all the ponies who he could help, but can’t. He does end up helping one, thank goodness, because this would have been very dull otherwise. I once wrote a story where the narrator wandered around his town, commenting on the bleak bleakness of everything about him, and the first third or so of this made me think of it (and how awful it was). Instead, what we get is a lesson in the value of kindness, wrapped in some fairly lackluster and unfocused writing. Not to mention, it’s very Earth-analogue. (I can’t imagine a pony threatening another the way the bellhop does; also why is it the bellhop’s business who’s paying what for their room?) I suppose this might be worth it if you need something to restore your faith in humanity.
On a Cool Summer Night by psp7master
In the early days of Equestria, a stallion from Saddle Arabia is called under the tutelage of Star Swirl the Bearded. What caught my attention is that, when writing about ancient Equestria, we usually just write about, well, Equestria. I’ve never even considered what the zebras or anyone else might have been doing at that time. That said, this does have some problems, all of them conceptual. (Well, I did tire of the continual stream of honorifics directed at the Queen, but that at least fits.) I was charmed by the idea that Saddle Arabia is matriarchal, just like Equestria, so the slightly less appealing aspects snuck up on me. Yeah, Islamic culture is just sort of copy-pasted into this as world-building, and while the ending is nicely surprising, well… The confluence of the events with what goes into them is problematic, to say the least. I did at least enjoy it while reading.
Recommended If You Like World-Buidling
Leaving the Ground Behind by q97randomguy
Genre: Inner Monologue
A pegasus mailpony — no, not that pegasus mailpony — makes a delivery and contemplates the joys of flight. I’m surprised by this, because it gets somewhat poignant by the end. I mean, this is just a character sketch for an OC, but the character ends up being pretty compelling. Interesting.
Recommended for Slice of Life Fans
Folksong by Adda le Blue
Genre: Personal Writing
Most of this reads like free-verse poetry, with a staccato, otherworldly feeling to the writing. It’s very hard to figure out what’s going on, but in a way that only makes you want to read further. Here’s what I know: the main character is a pegasus, part of the Royal Guard, and, I think, was originally human. Or else visited the human world once. She plays guitar. She’s learned that her father died. She has tumultuous sex with an unknown stallion. She blacks out from drinking too much and wakes up in Princess Luna’s bed, which is where things get considerably more concrete. Given the mental impairment, I think the scattershot writing really fits the mood, if nothing else. I do feel like there are one or two details this might need, just so we can draw solid conclusions by the end, but I’d recommend this just for the experience. I’ve definitely not read any fics like it. Check it out if you're up for a challenge!
Recommended for Fans of Experimental Writing
What Color Are My Eyes? by Protopony350
Vinyl Scratch sets the record straight about the color of her eyes. Do not read this without heeding the warning in the description, it is very a propos. I wish I had more positive things to say about this. The idea is creative, and the final line is just perfect, not to mention I got a perverse kick out of Vinyl’s thinking that a pony with a scalpel cutie mark was a doctor. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have much going for it other than shock value. The writing is rushed and full of typos, and there is definitely room for expansion. I think the only people who would want to read this are those who enjoy gorefics.
Eyes on the Road by Art Inspired
Lightning Dust tries to redeem herself in Rainbow Dash's eyes and be recruited into the Wonderbolts. This gets off to a poor start with a telly prologue that lays out just how things have changed since Wonderbolt Academy. The writing continues to be telly, and in need of a good proofread, as we move into the main portion of the story. Now, this does set up some good interpersonal tension, and I liked Spitfire’s dynamic with Lightning Dust. But all of that is dropped for chapters two and three, which are a lengthy action scene involving a race to determine the next Wonderbolts recruit. This is a setup I have some issues with, but really, it’s not the worst part of this story. Rather, the author attempted a “it doesn’t matter who wins, the important thing is they make up” ending, which would have been the right thing to do if so much attention hadn’t been put onto the race. I didn’t like the race segment, but I wanted to know who won! That kind of ending only works when the personal drama is front and center. Suffice to say, I found this story supremely unsatisfying to read, and it would take a lot of work to improve it.
Ra Ra Raspberry by Loganberry
Genre: Historical Crossover by Way of Musical Reference
The tragic tale of Raspberry Ripple, who loved too much. If you are not up on memes — and I mean really up on them — you will miss out on this story’s central joke. However, you might still get the historical references, so there’s something to be said for this; knowing the referenced song will thus explain why certain odd choices in telling the story were made. I was charmed by the storyteller approach, which helped wave away some of the flimsier parts of the story, as well as the “alternate Equestrias” framing narrative. I can’t really think of anything else to say that wouldn’t spoil it. I guess, if you read it and are still confused, click on this for the answer. (But not before, I’m serious!)
Recommended If You’re Knowledgeable About Memes
by Present Perfect
Applejack couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"All right, sugarcube, lemme get this straight: ya tried bakin' muffins, but they jumped outta the oven, ran across the kitchen, and then exploded all over you. Twice."
Rainbow Dash nodded vigorously, sending congealed blobs of muffin batter splattering onto her hooves. "Yeah! It totally wasn't my fault, AJ, I swear!"
"Uh-huh. Ya sure you followed the recipe? To the letter?"
Rainbow rubbed the back of her head. "Uhh... Well, maybe I cut a few corners..."
Applejack stomped a hoof. "Cut corners?"
"Yeah, but nothing major! Recipes are just guidelines, you can leave stuff out sometimes, you know?"
"And just what, pray tell, did ya cut?"
Rainbow ducked her head. "Maybe the baking powder. I mean, I couldn't figure out if I needed baking powder or baking soda, so I just kinda threw in some of both..."
"Consarnit, Rainbow Dash!" Applejack put her hoof over her face. "Just stop, I don't wanna hear no more. I ain't never seen you set foot in a kitchen before save for dinnertime. Tell me again why you're so dead set on bakin' things yourself instead of, I dunno, havin' Pinkie Pie help?"
"No, see, that's just it! She's done so many nice things for me lately that I wanted to do something for her for a change. Something, I dunno, that would mean something to her. When you're always baking for everypony, it's probably nice when somepony bakes for you, right?" As she talked, Rainbow's face gradually grew redder and redder.
Applejack nodded slowly. "So them rumors is true. You're sweet on her, ain'tcha?"
Rainbow Dash's entire body shook. "Wait, uh, no, I, what? What rumors?"
Applejack chuckled. "Ponies talk, Rainbow Dash, it's just how things are. Besides, I can't think of no other reason why the Rainbow Dash I know would be so dead-set on doin' something she ain't no good at."
Rainbow bit her lip. "Well... That's why I came to see you, AJ. You're just as good at baking as Pinkie Pie. You gotta help me put something together for her, please! I'll do anything!"
"Well, it ain't gonna mean much if'n you don't do the work yourself. So I'll supervise and direct, how's about that? And in return, you can maybe send a little extra rain over to Sweet Apple Acres next week?"
"Perfect! Name your day; I'll push the clouds there myself!"
Applejack spit on her hoof. Rainbow Dash did likewise, and they shook. "All right, then, sugarcube! Let's get bakin'!"
Rainbow Dash had always found that following rules made it hard to concentrate. Phrases like "do this" or "make sure you" were like hooves on a chalkboard, and she immediately tuned out whenever anypony started using them. Sure, it sometimes strained her work life; but it wasn't like they could keep the skies clear without Rainbow Dash there to help them, so she was able to get by.
But this wasn't a situation where getting by would cut it. Applejack was a harsh mistress in the kitchen, and it took all of Rainbow's mental fortitude to keep from balking at her friend's every command.
"Focus, Rainbow Dash. Remember Pinkie Pie. She's your goal. Pinkie Pie."
She and Pinkie had never really hung out before Twilight Sparkle had come to Ponyville. Sure, Pinkie knew when Rainbow's birthday was and had thrown her parties before, and Rainbow liked attending the parties thrown for other ponies, but otherwise, she had never been more than a mild acquaintance. Even after Twilight had brought the Elements of Harmony together, Rainbow had treated the pink mare with a certain amount of aloofness. Her giddy randomness was entertaining, but a little too goofy for a pony as cool as herself to be associating with.
It wasn't until the unfortunate events with Gilda that Rainbow had seen a different side of her friend: both a cool prankster and a sensitive, caring pony. That she could pull stunts the way she did and get away with them, without hurting anypony's feelings, made Rainbow just a little jealous. Her own pranking at Junior Flight Camp had nearly gotten her expelled once, and she always got in trouble regardless. Pinkie Pie worked her pranking magic with just the right combination of mischievousness and thoughtfulness.
It had been the pranks that brought them closer together as friends, and it was that caring mischief that had made Rainbow realize that her feelings for Pinkie Pie didn't end at friendship. She wanted something more; she wanted Pinkie's caring directed at her in particular. There was nothing saying whether Pinkie would accept, of course, but that kind of fear had never stopped Rainbow Dash before.
Even if she really wanted to let it stop her now.
This baking was her chance at popping the question, as it were. There would be no better time to ask Pinkie about her feelings than over a hot pan of muffins. Or cupcakes. Or maybe strudel; she thought Pinkie might like strudel.
"Naw, I don't think you're ready for somethin' that complicated yet. Let's stick to cupcakes."
Measure, stir, measure something else, stir again: all the work was really getting to her. Especially since Applejack, having picked up on the gravity of the situation, was being a severe fussbudget about everything and a complete pain in the rear.
"Now make sure you watch the meniscus, Rainbow Dash... See how that water curves up? Y'all gotta account for that so the measure's accurate."
"Three-quarters cup doubles to a cup 'n a half, not a cup 'n a quarter!"
"Don't crack them eggs on the bowl, you'll get shells in the batter!"
It wasn't like Applejack at all, but as annoying as she was being, Rainbow Dash was glad her friend was forcing her to be extra careful and make sure that the cupcakes would come out perfect.
Or as perfect as possible, anyway. The first batch hadn't burned, but they had stuck to the pan.
"Oh my stars! How in the hay did we both forget to put in the cupcake cups? I reckon I'm a-worryin' about all the wrong things, I'm so sorry!"
"Ohmygoshohmygosh, I blew it! Everything's gonna be ruined!"
"None of that now, this is no time fer panickin'! Quick, get them other two pans and put the cups in; I'll try pourin' the batter back outta this one and we'll do it again."
It was a good thing they'd made enough batter for more than one batch. Missing six cupcakes overall would be less of a blow than having to do an entire dozen over again. That said, they both had to agree, tasting the few salvageable bits, that the cupcakes themselves were excellent.
Rainbow Dash had picked out a recipe in Applejack's collection that the cowpony hadn't used before. She'd warned her that by doing so, they risked making something that might not come out the way they expected, but Rainbow was insistent on making something that Pinkie wouldn't have already tried. She wanted it to be something memorable. The recipe of course called for apples, but also carrots, strawberries, and bananas, which just happened to be in season. The resulting cake was light and chewy, pleasantly fruity, sweet without being sugary, and with just a tiny bit of crunch from the shredded carrots.
"All right, sugar, these look perfect! Yer really doin' great!"
"Thanks, AJ." Rainbow wiped the sweat from her brow, only some of which was due to the heat of the kitchen. "Do you think she'll like them?"
"Of course she will, don't you worry none! I'll make up the frostin', and why don't you start pipin' in the cream filling?"
"Cream... filling?" Rainbow Dash began sweating anew.
"Yeah, these're filled cupcakes. I was kinda surprised you wanted to do somethin' so complicated, but I reckoned you were up to the challenge. Cupcakes're still easier 'n strudel!"
Ohmygoshohmygosh, so much can go wrong right now! Her first instinct was to make for a window, but she stilled herself. Don't chicken out now, Rainbow Dash. You're halfway there already! Just think about your goal, think about the filly. Think about Applejack too, she's put a lot of hard work into making sure you aren't a total screwup! You can't let her down!
She watched Applejack for a moment, busily mixing a few tablespoons of milk into a heap of powdered sugar. They'd been rivals for so long, but in the end Applejack had always proven to be a great friend. Sure, Rainbow could be kind of overbearing occasionally; okay, she could be really overbearing all the time. But that was just how she was, covering up insecurity with blustering, and Applejack had never let her down when she'd needed help despite all that. This baking help was just one of the most recent examples of her dedication.
Rainbow found herself a little jealous of Applejack, too. She, after all, was supposed to hold the Element of Loyalty. She'd come through for her friends if they were in a bind, sure, but she had a tendency to stick to the blustering and overbearing thing when the chips weren't all down. Applejack's innate understanding of her friends' needs -- like Rainbow Dash wanting to get everything perfect for Pinkie -- was what Rainbow liked about her. She would've made a great Loyalty.
"Rainbow, them cupcakes ain't fillin' themselves! D'you need a hoof?"
"Wha? Oh, sorry, Applejack, I was just..."
Rainbow felt herself blush. "Sorry, I thought you had some flour in your mane."
"Oh, do I? Pshaw, I'll wash up after we're done." She laughed. "I reckon we'll both need a bath!"
She turned back to the frosting and Rainbow back to the filling. Suddenly, her heart was pounding in her chest, like she'd just been flying at top speed until she was completely winded. Thinking about Applejack was bringing up the same feelings that thinking about Pinkie had! What was wrong with her?
You silly filly-fooler, you can't go falling for all your friends!
"Ugh! No, Rainbow Dash, you really gotta press it in there or the fillin's gonna squish out all over the place! Here, let me give you some help."
Without waiting for her to respond, Applejack pressed up against her back, forelegs curled around her, directing the filling bag in her hooves into the cupcake. Rainbow Dash suddenly knew how those cupcakes felt, fresh out of the oven. Her hooves went numb, just following along with whatever Applejack was doing. Her friend's instructions were like the buzzing of summer insects in her ears. The blood coursing through her veins made her feel like her head was ready to explode.
She dropped the filling bag, whirled around and embraced Applejack, kissing her passionately. Applejack stood stock-still. Rainbow's breath caught in her throat. In an instant, she was out of the kitchen and flying anywhere.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid, Rainbow Dash! What is wrong with you?" Tears ran into the corners of her mouth, the salty taste adding sting to her recriminations. She didn't get much further than the edge of Sweet Apple Acres before she couldn't see anymore and skidded to a stop under a tree, flat on her belly, head buried in her hooves.
She lay that way for quite some time before she heard Applejack calling her name. Unable to stem the waterworks, she did her best just to quiet her sobbing, and hoped her friend wouldn't find her.
"Rainbow Dash, there you are."
"Go away!" She sniffled and smeared her face into the grass. It burned.
"Sugar, I dunno what's goin' on in that head o' yourn, but I ain't leavin' until you tell me what's up. I don't care if you gotta let it all out first or what, but I'm waitin' right here with you until you do."
She sat down next to Rainbow, who gradually calmed down, though every time she glanced at her friend, who was stoically avoiding meeting her eyes, she felt a knot pulling tighter at her heart, threatening to start her up all over again.
At length, Applejack said, "You feelin' any better now?"
"Yeah... I'm sorry you had to see me like this... And what I did, AJ, I'm..."
"Don't say it! Don't you say it."
Applejack pointedly looked away from her. "I got a hunch there's somethin' goin' on right now, and it ain't between you'n me. So don't apologize none."
"I don't understand... I don't understand you, or me, or..."
Applejack scooted closer. "Understandin' yer feelin's is hard, sugarcube. Sometimes it hurts a lot. Shucks, I ain't even the best pony you should be talkin' about this to. But, well..."
She sighed. Rainbow waited for her friend to continue, but she didn't. Out of tears, she heaved herself up onto her flanks and wiped at her face.
"Applejack, I feel so stupid."
"I can understand why ya might feel that way."
"I don't even know why! I just... It felt good, you being so close, being such a good friend and all..."
"And you just got caught up in the moment, is that all?"
Rainbow was ready to agree, but she stopped. "No, there's more to it than that. I really like you, Applejack, a whole lot. Maybe as more than just a friend, I don't know. I respect you an awful lot, I... I look up to you, even if I have a hard time admitting it."
Applejack smiled. "You do, really?"
"Y-yeah... But I wouldn't think that you'd..."
Applejack leaned over and pecked her on the cheek. She got red-hot once again. Her legs felt shaky.
"That's mighty sweet o' you to say so, Rainbow. But I wouldn't want to get in the way o' you and Pinkie Pie."
"I been thinkin' about it lately; I guess my barn door swings both ways, you could say. And yeah, so maybe I've thought about you like that." It was Applejack's turn to blush, a look that was entirely bizarre on her. "I dunno if anythin' would ever work out between you 'n me, though, us bein' rivals for so long and all. I really think you got a better chance with Pinkie. I... I hope this works out for you, Rainbow Dash, I really, really do."
"But I haven't even asked her yet, and I..." She swallowed, and her voice came out in a squeak. "I betrayed her. Some Element of Loyalty I am."
"Betrayed nothin'! Sometimes, a pony like you just has more love than she knows what to do with. And I'm... I'm mighty flattered you shared a little with me. I hope we can be better friends for it." She stood. "As for your element, ain't no one I know that's more loyal than you, and that's a fact. So don't you go second-guessin' or worryin' yourself about that none."
Rainbow smiled at long last. "Thanks, AJ. Although I kind of feel like the Element of Honesty right now, since I've been spilling my guts all over you."
Applejack laughed. "I reckon we'd be able to swap Elements pretty easy, if it came to it. But what's that matter now, anyway? C'mon, Rainbow Dash, race you back to the kitchen!"
She joined in the laughter. "Last one there has to fill the cupcakes!"
Applejack didn't mind doing the filling. Rainbow Dash had really taken to the frosting, after all, and it was the one part of the whole process she seemed to have any knack for. Applejack even let her do the final decorating without any interference. And in the end, they had a dozen and a half beautiful cupcakes, with cream filling and strawberry icing, cherries on top, and maybe just a few too many sprinkles. But that was okay; where Pinkie Pie was involved, you could never have too many sprinkles.
She sighed as she watched her friend leave, saddlebags brimming with cupcake boxes. Rainbow had wanted to deliver them in person, and AJ felt, after all that had happened, that that would be best. She still needed some time to think.
Everything she'd said to Rainbow had been true, of course. She was still wrestling with her feelings, with who she was. The thought of coming to one of her friends and being rejected was terrifying; that's why she'd kept it all to herself. But after opening up to Rainbow Dash, it felt like a whole peck of apples had been taken out of her saddlebags. She realized she'd needed that for a long time. The affection her friend had shown had been extremely tempting to give in to, to accept wholeheartedly; but thinking back over it, Rainbow's dedication, and her desire to impress Pinkie was way more important. She couldn't risk Rainbow's feelings while indulging her own. Then she'd be the betrayer.
It don't matter too much, she told herself. She wasn't ready to settle down with anypony yet, anyway. There was too much work and not enough time for it; she was married to the farm, at least in this stage of her life, and she was fine with that. Letting Rainbow go didn't hurt as much as she thought it would have, and that alone let her know that it was the right thing to have done.
Besides, she kind of preferred the rivalry. It kept life fun.
"Love ain't gonna get in the way o' Loyalty, Rainbow Dash," she said to herself, "and that's the Honest truth." Then she smiled, shook her head, and went back into the kitchen to clean up.