Big MacIntosh deposited the letter on the kitchen table as Applejack munched on her breakfast. "Ya got mail." He said, simply.
Applejack paused, and peered at the pastel pink envelope. It looked entirely out of place against the battered brown planks of the kitchen table. "You sure it's for me?" Applejack said.
"Huh." Applejack looked back down at the letter. "And you sure your-" she paused, then cleared her throat, "your...friend with the post office got the right address?"
"Eeyup." Big Macintosh said. "Got your name on it."
"Huh." Applejack scarfed down the last bite of leftover apple cobbler, and leaned in to look at the letter, even going so far as to poke at it with one hoof. "Welp, guess I'm just used ta gettin' bills n' stuff in the mail. I mean, alla my friends live close 'nuff that they don't need ta send me fancified letters." Applejack paused, and sniffed the envelope, "'specially ones that smell like they've been doused in highfalutin' perfume. Think there mighta been a mixup, n' I jut got the mail for some other pony named Applejack?"
"Mmmnope," the stallion said.
Applejack reached for the letter, and then held her hoof back at the last moment. "And...you're not even gonna ask who might be sendin' your little sister fancified stationary?"
"You gotta be the least protective big brother ever." Applejack said.
"Or maybe I just figure you can handle yourself." Big MacIntosh trotted out of the kitchen before Applejack could get the final word in. "Ain't none of my business anyway."
The blonde cowpony glared after her departing brother, and then looked back to the letter that'd sparked the conversation in the first place. She flipped it over with a flick of her hoof and looked to the return address in the corner.
Applejack let out a slightly relieved laugh as soon as she saw her friend's address. Of course Rarity sent it! The unicorn must have been having some sort of hoity-toity, fancy-pants event (possibly with Hoity Toity or Fancy Pants in attendance). It would've been easier if Rarity had just told her, of course, but there was probably some rule of etiquette about sending out written invitations, Applejack decided. She smiled, ripped the envelope open, and looked over the letter within eagerly.
I must speak with you. Meet me at the Westpoint Overlook at sunset.
"Well, that ain't very specific." Applejack said to herself.
"What ain't?" Applebloom's head popped up over the edge of the table.
"Fancy letter here." Applejack said.
"Oh! Oh! Oh! Lookit!" Applebloom put her front hooves on the table and leaned over, knocking over the salt and pepper shakers as she got a better look at the envelope. "Somepony's sent you a love letter!" Applebloom gloated over this for a moment, and then made a face. "Gross!"
"It ain't a love letter." Applejack grumbled.
"Sure looks like one! It's all pink and flowery n' there's a heart on it!"
"Applebloom, we live in Ponyville. Everythin's pink n' flowery n' gots hearts on it."
"Oh yeah." The little filly scratched at her head. "Still, who's it from?"
"'Rarity. Which is how ya know it ain't a love letter. She's prolly workin' on some big project, n' wants everypony there to see it once it's finished."
"Neat! Can I go?"
"Nope." Applejack said.
"Aaaw, why not?"
"Ya didn't get an invitation."
"Hey, I'll tell ya all 'bout it when I come back. Betcha it's gonna be pretty borin' anyway. I'm just glad it ain't 'til sundown. I got lotsa chores ta work on, and plenty of time ta do 'em."
"Hurry, Fluttershy! We don't have nearly enough time!"
"I'm trying!" The pegasus huffed, and started beating her wings even harder as she shoved a large, puffy cloud across the sky.
"A little to the left!" Rarity said, craning her head to look up at her pegasus friend. "Wait, no, that's too far left. More to the right...ah, perfect!" Rarity eyed the sky with an artist's trained gaze. "Now, let's move on to the next one!"
"Um." Fluttershy panted and wiped sweat from her forehead. "Not that I'm not happy to help, but...if you need all these clouds moved around, maybe we should get Rainbow Dash? 'cause, y'know, that's kind of her job."
"Oh, I wouldn't think of it!" Rarity said, "I mean, yes, Rainbow Dash is the best flyer in Ponyville, not to mention an expert at weather-wrangling...but she lacks...certain qualities. Subtlety. Tact. I simply couldn't in good conscience entrust her to such a matter when Applejack's delicate emotional state is on the line."
"Did you just call Applejack delicate? I don't think she'd agree with that." Fluttershy said as she went over to another cloud, pushing it slowly into place.
"Well! Of course not! Applejack and I rarely agree on anything. But it's obvious that her bravado and occasionally . . . blunt nature is really just a defensive mechanism she puts up. Why, I imagine that behind all the dropped syllables and incomprehensible country metaphors, there's a really a vulnerable, scared little filly who only wants somepony to hold her and pamper her and love her even when her guard's down." Rarity gave a little sigh at the thought.
"Um. Rarity?" Fluttershy said. "Have you been reading romance novels again?"
The vaguely dreamy expression on Rarity's face fell in an instant. "I fail to see what that has to do with anything." She said, flatly.
"If you say so." Fluttershy murmured, hiding behind a puffy white cloud.
"Now Fluttershy, as much as I love chatting with you, we absolutely must get everything perfectly into place before Applejack arrives! If the setting sunlight doesn't hit those clouds at just the right angle, we won't get that lovely shade of sunset-orange that will match my outfit!"
"Oh yes, I've put together an ensemble just for the occasion. Something a bit billowy for that added dramatic flair. And oh! I've got to get the picnic basket put together. Nothing too fancy, of course. Cucumber sandwiches, a bottle of wine...oh, bother, do you think I should serve a white or a red? The red would be a little easier to serve, since it wouldn't need to be chilled...but you don't think it'd send the wrong message, would you? I made sure to bring both, just in case."
"Wine sends a message?" Fluttershy said.
"Of course! Everything sends a message! Which is why it's vital that we make sure every little detail is in order before Applejack arrives."
"Oh. Um." Fluttershy looked downwards, where, sure enough, an orange pony in a cowboy hat trotted up the road towards Westpoint Overlook. "I think Applejack's arriving right now."
"UWAAAAH!?" Rarity leaned precariously over the edge of the cliff. "She's here!" she said, "Why is she here?"
"Um. Didn't you invite her?"
"I know that, but she's early! Why is she early? Oh no, it's worse than I thought! Applejack has become so infatuated with me that she shall seize upon any opportunity to spend time with me!"
"Or maybe she just wanted to be polite."
"Applejack, polite? Well...it's possible, in a country matters sort of way, but...augh, there's too much to do!" Rarity levitated a forest-green cloak from within her saddlebags and threw it around her shoulders. She fussed with the catch slightly, and frowned. "Hmf. Should have brought a mirror." She sighed, and looked to her makeup kit. "...or a bigger mirror, at least. How do I look, Fluttershy?"
"Only . . . nice?" The corner of Rarity's eye twitched.
"Well. Uh. More than nice? I mean, you always look very pretty and refined and poised, and today isn't any exception?" Fluttershy managed.
"Oh no!" Rarity said, hiding her face in her hooves, "that makes it even worse! As once she gets sight of me, Applejack's sure to-"
"-sure to what?" Applejack said, trotting around the corner.
Rarity went pale (or, paler than usual) and slowly turned around. "Sure to...talk to me." Rarity said, biting briefly at her lower lip. "Or...well, talk at me. And you're probably going to say something about how you don't understand how I could spend so much time on looking as good as I do, and probably mention I need to get more dirt under my hooves or...something." She trailed off.
"Welp," Applejack said, flatly, "hate ta dissapoint, but I think ya look kinda purdy right now, so there. Quit yer fussin'."
Rarity gasped, faintly. She immediately shared a horrified look with Fluttershy, and mouthed the words: 'it's worse than I thought.'
"So, where's everypony else?" Applejack said, glancing around, "or didja just invite me n' Fluttershy?"
"Ah. Yes. That." Rarity looked from one side to the other. "Er. I...did invite the others. Yes! It's just that they couldn't make it. Busy schedules, you know. Twilight studies, Pinkie parties, and Rainbow Dash...does...pegasus stuff." The unicorn trailed off, and looked to Fluttershy for support.
"Oh. Yes." Fluttershy murmured. "Pegasus...stuff. That, um. I have to go do too now. With a bear." And, seizing upon the opportunity to escape, Fluttershy bolted off with the sort of wingpower that would've impressed a Wonderbolt.
"Huh." Applejack pushed her hat back, "Guess it's just you n' me, Rarity. Go figure!" She smiled, and leaned over to nudge the unicorn playfully. "But I'm warnin' you, don't try any funny buisness."
"Funny business?" Rarity said. She fought down the urge to blush. "Whatever do you mean by that?"
"I dunno. You're the one who invited me!" Applejack said, "I mean, I thought you were gonna truss me up in some sorta fru-fru ballgown or somethin'. Dunno why you'd do it all the way out here, though. Then again, I ain't all refined n' ladylike like you are."
Rarity bit at her lower lip, and breathed in deeply. Honesty, she realized, that was the way to go. "Applejack," said the unicorn, "I didn't invite you out here for anything relating to fashion."
"Shoot! That's a relief!" Applejack laughed. "So why did ya bring me out here?" Applejack looked around for a moment, eagerly, "ya didn't bring a record player or somethin', didja?"
"I didn't invite you out here for a dance lesson, either." Rarity said.
"Aw." Applejack tried (and failed) not to look disappointed. "So, uh. What're we doin' all the way out here?"
"Because..." Rarity shook her head, and soon found a distraction in her picnic basket. "Oh! Applejack, it's a long walk from your farm, isn't it? You must be parched! Here, have a drink." Rarity levitated the bottle of red wine from the basket, uncorked it, and poured two glasses. Applejack balanced hers carefully between her hooves, and sipped experimentally.
"Huh. Ain't cider, but it'll do." She said, licking her lips.
"In any case," Rarity drained half her glass in a gulp, "I brought you out here to...talk, Applejack."
"Seems a whole lotta effort for conversatin'. Why didn't ya just swing by the farm?"
"This...this is more than just idle chitchat, darling." Rarity drained her glass, then poured herself another. "It's...well..." she pulled in a deep, steadying breath. "I...well, we just need to talk."
"Ya said that part already."
"It's more than that. It's...well, we need to talk. About Us." Rarity pronounced the strategic capitalization.
"Us?" Applejack blinked. "Like, me n' you n' Fluttershy n' Rainbow Dash n' everypony else?"
"Not quite. Just...us. Specifically, you and I." Rarity closed her eyes, then tilted her chin up higher. She threw her cloak back in what she hoped was an appropriately dramatic manner.
"Wait, why we gotta talk 'bout me 'n you specific-like?"
"Oh, darling." Rarity turned, fluttering her eyes dangerously at Applejack, hard enough to make even the rough and tumble cowpony take a step back. "Haven't you been paying attention? Haven't you...noticed, anything?"
Rarity sighed, with no small degree of melodrama. "Please, Applejack. You may be...straightforward, but I know you're not dumb. As, well...over the past few months, I realize we've spent a bit of time together. Maybe not a LOT of time, but it's certainly noteworthy, nonetheless. Noteworthy enough that, well, one might assume that certain...feelings were coming into play, however subtly." Rarity closed her eyes again. "And, after long deliberation, I realized that it just wasn't fair to either of us if I were to allow things to go on their present course. Something must be done."
"What...kinda feelings?" Applejack said, warily. Even still, her freckled cheeks began to go slightly pink. "Shoot, Rarity, you ain't been readin' them romance novels again, have you?"
"I fail to see what that has to do with anything." Rarity said, narrowing her eyes ever so briefly.
"Iffin' you say so." Applejack scratched at the back of her neck, nervous. "Hoo-ee. Feelin's, huh? Ya brought me all this way to talk 'bout that, so I guess it's important."
"Well, yes. It is important. To keep such emotions bottled up so long can't be healthy."
"Ya think so?"
"Well, shoot." Applejack pulled in a deep breath, and then stepped closer to Rarity. Very closer. "Well, uh. I ain't really used to this sorta thing, so...uh...I don't wanna go 'round complicatin' things, y'know?"
"Yes, complications tend to be...complicated." Rarity took a step back, and then a half step forward. "Which...is why we've got to take decisive action, here and now, to ensure that things don't get out of hoof. You understand, don't you?"
"I think I do." Applejack said. "I'm pretty good at actin' decisive-like." Before Rarity could reply, Applejack leaned forward, puckering her lips to deliver a chaste, almost childish smooch onto the corner of the elegant unicorn's mouth.
"Eheh. Too much?" Applejack backed up, her cheeks flushing bright red. "Uh. Didn't mean ta get...fresh. Sorry! But, uh. Iffin' it helps, I...kinda feel the same way, Rarity. Maybe." Applejack cleared her throat, loudly. "Tell ya what, this...this is a lotta stuff, y'know? Why don't the two of us just, um...think 'bout it, y'know? You're a unicorn, you're good at thinkin', right?"
"Right!" Applejack said, and then took off down the road. "Seeya later, Rarity!" The cowpony stopped after a few steps, and looked over her shoulder. "Or, uh. Should I call ya somethin' special? Like, um. Baby? Honey? Sugarcube?"
"Sugarcube is...fine?" Rarity said, as if the very words she spoke were alien to her.
"Sugarcube it is!" Applejack said with no small amount of elation. "Only...shoot, I call everypony sugarcube. Huh." She shrugged. "I'll just figure that part out later. Sugarcube." She winked knowingly at Rarity, and then trotted back down the path.
Rarity stood for several long minutes, watching Applejack's exit (and not for the obviously crass reasons, either).
Eventually, Fluttershy poked her head out of the cloud she'd been hiding in. "Um. Rarity? Are you and Applejack broken up yet?"
Very slowly, Rarity turned her glare upon the yellow pegasus.
"Oh. Um. I'll take that as a no?"