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The morning light streamed through the window, not so gently stirring Rainbow Dash awake. She groaned, burying her head deeper into her pillow, resolutely determined not to wake up. A soft, warm feeling pressed against her back and side, causing the sleeping pegasus to sigh softly. It was heavenly and she soon found herself drifting back to sleep.
Some time later she faintly heard a soft rapping on the door. “Breakfast’s ready gals.” A door opened as Applejack poked her head in. “Are you two ready to—heaven’s to betsy!” She exclaimed suddenly.
Stirring, the sleepy pegasus turned her head to the door. “Why is it so early? I—huh?!” Dash blinked herself awake as she felt a pair of lavender legs wrapped around her barrel. Twisting around she saw Twilight with her head resting against Rainbow’s back, drooling slightly. “Aahh! Twilight! Get off!”
“Huh, wha—I didn’t do it.” The purple unicorn blinked her sleepy eyes as she took stock of the situation. “What’s going on?”
“You were spooning me!” Rainbow Dash shouted indignantly. Applejack could take no more. She let out a loud raspberry and she slid to the floor where she then gave up trying to fight her building laughter and proceeded to laugh her freckles off. “Shut up Applejack!” Rainbow glared at her, all too aware of the heat on her cheeks.
AJ wasn’t slow to miss it either. “Y-yer face is redder than Big Macintosh’s butt!” She squeezed out in between gales of laughter.
“Yours is going to be red too if you don’t shut it!” Dash waved a threatening hoof in Applejack’s direction. Then she turned to Twilight. “Should’ve known you’d be a cuddler.” She grumbled.
“H-hey!” Twilight Sparkle’s face was bright red too. "I didn't hear you complaining!" The two mares broke contact, unable to look each other in the eye.
Applejack, finally winning the battle for self control, wheezed. “Ooh, nelly! Ah knew having you gals here would be a blast but ah never thought it’d be this much fun!” She chuckled. “Aww, c’mon now ah’m only joking.” She assured the two annoyed and embarrassed looking mares. “We’re serving apple pancakes, fresh from the stove!”
“Sounds good.” Rainbow Dash hopped off the bed, not looking back. “I’m go hop in the shower. Be back in ten seconds flat.”
Twilight shook off her embarrassment and traded it for skepticism. “How can you possibly do that? It’s im—” Rainbow Dash revved her wings and flew out the window in a rainbow blur.
Rushing to the window, Applejack and Twilight watched Rainbow Dash fly through several clouds, breaking them up as she flew and washing herself off with the condensed water that they held. After shaking herself dry and running her hoof through her mane, Rainbow dashed back inside, nearly bowling her two companions over.
“—possible.” Twilight finished finally.
“Ta da! What’d I tell you? Ten. Seconds. Flat.” Rainbow Dash was smug.
Applejack just shook her head. “All right, Twilight you can hop in the shower. Now hurry up, nopony likes cold pancakes!”
The three mares made their way down the stairs and to the breakfast table. Big Macintosh and Apple Bloom were already seated and Granny Smith was shakily flipping the pancakes.
Licking her lips, Rainbow Dash zipped over to the table and grabbed a knife and fork. Twilight trotted over at a more sedate pace and calmly sat down.
“Morning everypony.” Twilight said politely as she took her seat, soon followed by Applejack.
“Good morning!” Apple Bloom smiled. “Did y’all sleep well? What?” She asked at Applejack’s barely suppressed snort of laughter and the twin flushes on Twilight and Rainbow Dash. “What'd I say?”
“N-nothing.” Applejack snerked, then winced as Rainbow kicked her under the table.
When Big Macintosh looked at the two mares with a questioning glance he was rewarded with a “Heya big guy,” from Rainbow Dash. “How much do they feed you to get you that big?”
“Heh, that’s just how good Apple family food is.” Applejack smiled, gently patting her brother on the shoulder. “Mind you, Mackie’s always been a bit on the big side, right?”
“But don’t let that fool you, he may look like a giant but he wouldn’t hurt a fly, would you big fella?”
“Darn tootin’! He knows what would happen if he did, right?” Applejack gently punched him in the shoulder as he looked down at her fondly.
Rainbow tilted her head. “So, Big Mac, do you ever say anything besides eeyup and eenope?”
“…are you going to now?” Dash prodded.
Rainbow sighed. “Should’ve seen that coming.” Applejack gave her a friendly smile.
“Don’t mind him, he’s always been a mite quiet. Shoot, one time we had mah Uncle Bad Apple over and he said he’d bet that he could get Big Mac to say three words t’him at dinner. And Mackie just *looked* at him said ‘You lose.’ ”
Dash chuckled. “I’ve known guys like that myself.” She thought of the guardponies when they were on duty. Those guys wouldn’t even crack a smile, much less talk.
“Soup’s on!” came Granny Smith’s call as the pancakes were ready. As a guest, Rainbow Dash was served first. Licking her chops, she reached for the first pancake only to have Applejack none too lightly smacked her hoof with a fork.
“Ow, what was that for?” Rainbow couldn’t help whine.
“You kin wait for everypony t’be served before you start stuffing your face.” AJ warned her as the pancake laden plates were being given out.
Rainbow Dash crossed her hooves. “Ugh, fine.” Even in the country, she couldn’t escape manners and rules. Not cool. Finally, as the final plate made contact with the wooden table, Rainbow Dash dug in. Loudly. “Hmm, delicious!” She said around a mouthful of pancakes, delicately spraying her plate with soggy crumbs.
As Rainbow Dash scarfed down her pancakes—fairly ripping them apart—Twilight Sparkle sat with dignified poise as her horn glowed, surrounding her knife and fork with lavender magic. She used them to precisely line up her stack of pancakes and then neatly cut three slices, horizontally and vertically making each piece of perfectly equal size. Then she slowly started to pour the syrup onto her pancakes with the practiced measure of a chemist adding a rare, vital ingredient to a concoction that might explode if too much was used.
“Land sakes, girl there ain’t a syrup shortage!” Granny Smith exclaimed as she shakily dug her into her own pancakes. “No need to take all day about it!”
Twilight squirmed in her seat. “Sorry, ma’am. I just…I just like things to be…orderly.” She set her syrup aside and started telekinetically lifting her fork.
Applejack gave her a soft nudge. “Shoot, nothing to be sorry about, even if you do sound a bit like that fussbudget Rarity.” She pulled a comical face.
“I thought she sounded nice.” Twilight admitted sheepishly. “I’m just sorry I couldn’t answer her questions about fashion in Canterlot. Maybe I should read up on it more…”
Rainbow Dash gave an elegant eye roll. “Do yourself a favor and skip it. Besides, I’m hoping to keep as much distance between me and anything fashion-related as possible.”
Breakfast started to wind down. Big Macintosh headed out to the orchard while Apple Bloom made her way to school. Granny Smith went to take a nap in her rocking chair, leaving Applejack and her friends to clear the table. “So, you gals got any plans for the day?” Applejack asked over a glass of milk, looking at Twilight.
The purple unicorn wilted under the attention and scrunched her head down as she idly jabbed at her pancakes. “Well, actually Rainbow Dash and I are supposed to check out the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration.”
“Y’are?” AJ smiled. “Don’t that just beat all? Why didn’t you say anything about that when we met Rainbow?”
Rainbow Dash gave Twilight an annoyed look out of the corner of her eye. “It’s just something I was kinda roped into doing. Twilight’s brother asked me to help and she’s supposed to be some sort of organizing egghead, so…” She shrugged.
“Egghead?” Twilight mouthed the word silently, indignant.
Applejack shrugged. “We’d be pleased as punch to help you out anyway we can. Shoot, half the reason we decided to have the reunion in Ponyville this year was so the whole family could help out with the catering preparations. Want to sample some more of our victuals?”
“No thanks!” Twilight said quickly and even Rainbow Dash grimaced at the prospect.
“Yeah, we’re good.” Rainbow Dash stretched out a kink in her neck. “I think if we ate anymore I wouldn’t be able to fly and Twilight here might turn into an apple.”
Applejack chuckled. “Heh, good point. What else do you ladies have to check up on?”
Twilight consulted her checklist, seeming almost giddy at the prospect of organizing. “After catering is…weather!”
“Huh, that should be Ditzy’s department.” Rainbow stretched her wings. “Let’s go check it out.”
“Mind if ah come with? I normally wouldn’t be one to skip out on chores, but with mah whole family here, ah think they’ve got it covered. Ah wouldn’t feel right leaving two guests of the Apple family to wander through town all by their lonesomes.”
Twilight bit her lip. “Oh, well, that’s very nice of you but we’d hate to impose…” Rainbow Dash nudged her.
“Chillax, Twilight. If she wants to come, let her come.” She shrugged her wings expressively. “After all, some ponies just can’t ever get enough opportunity to watch me.”
“That’s right!” AJ smiled evenly. “Ah wouldn’t want to miss whatever shenanigans you two girls will get into. You’re a regular hoot!”
Dash’s smile thinned out as she rolled her eyes. Soon, the three ponies were walking (well, two were walking and one was flying just above them) down the main road to Ponyville. Applejack had been providing most of the conversation, pointing out the different types of apples they grew and explaining how the farm worked. Twilight was too shy to really say much for herself and Rainbow Dash was just enjoying the chance to spread her wings.
After a while, Applejack’s thoughts turned away from all things apple and apple accessories. “Say, I’ve been meaning to ask—what does Shining Armor do that he can ask you two to be in charge of the preparations?” Applejack asked curiously.
“Um, well…” Twilight glanced to Rainbow Dash. Applejack picked up on it easily.
“Rainbow, what’re you not telling me?”
Dash sighed as she lowered herself to the ground. “Fine…Shining Armor’s the captain of the royal guard.” She grumbled.
Applejack’s jaw dropped slightly but her face didn’t betray much else…her hat however flipped in midair and landed again on her head. “Ah see.” She blinked. “But how does he know you? Ah get that Twi’s his sister…are you two friends?”
“Not really.” Rainbow Dash said before she could think better of it. “I just met her last night.” Twilight scuffed her hooves on the ground, her ears flattening against her head.
“Y-yeah. We’re not friends.” Twilight mumbled.
Applejack narrowed her eyes and whipped her tail against Rainbow Dash’s flank. “Ow! What was that—oh.” Dash winced, part in pain and part in chagrin. “I mean, uh, I think we COULD become friends though!” She added with an extra wide smile. “I mean, hay, any sister of Shining Armor has got to be pretty cool, amiright?”
“I-I don’t know…” Twilight said shyly, her head retreating underneath her mane.
"Ah’m sure y’are sugarcube.” Applejack gave her a supportive look. “So, speaking of your brother, how does the captain of the royal guard know Rainbow Dash?”
Twilight, feeling a bit flustered, blurted out. “Oh well he was sent to bring her back after she…”
“Hey!” Rainbow exclaimed in outrage, making the purple unicorn shrink down.
“I’m so sorry! I forgot…” She lowered her head.
Applejack came up to stand between the two of them. “Hey now, enough of that.” She looked at Dash. “Leave the poor girl, alone. Yer scaring her. ‘Sides, ain’t like ah didn’t figure that out when we first met anyhow.”
Snorting, Rainbow Dash looked to the side. “…Whatever.” She mumbled. “Still shouldn’t be talking about me like I’m not here.”
“Okay, yer right. Ah shouldn’t have asked her. But that’s on me, not her.” AJ fixed the pegasus with a look. “So what exactly is it you were running from?”
“I’m not running from anything!” Rainbow flared her wings and pawed at the ground with her hoof like a bull preparing to charge. “I just wanted a break from Canterlot, not that I’d expect *you* to understand.”
Slowly, Applejack made her way to Rainbow Dash’s side. “Easy there sugarcube, take it easy. Yer among friends here.” She put a comforting hoof on Rainbow’s withers. “And don’t be too sure of that there Rainbow. Ah think ah know exactly what you’re going through.” Confident that she had Rainbow Dash’s attention, she went on. “When ah was a little filly ah left home because ah wanted to get out, see the world. So ah went to live with some relatives in Manehattan because ah felt trapped at home.” Her gaze turned misty, lost in nostalgia. “Turns out though that ah hated Manehattan. Ah didn’t like how the ponies there acted, or how I was supposed to act in order t’fit in…ah felt more trapped there than ah ever did at home. Soon ah got to thinking about home and how homesick I was; wondering what to do.” She chuckled. “You’d never believe how the answer came to me, but boy howdy, did it ever! Ah went straight for home, lickety-split! And when ah arrived I knew this was where ah was supposed to be.” She cast a look at her flank. “That’s when ah got my cutie mark too.”
“That’s cool and all Applejack buuut I’m not quite seeing the point.” Dash stated.
“Fair enough, lemme spell it out. Yer running—pardon—taking a break from Canterlot? And no offense, but you don’t seem like one them hoity-toity Canterlot ponies to me.”
“I’d be more offended if you said that I WAS.” Rainbow said curtly.
“Ah figured.” The earth pony deadpanned. “So ah’m guessing that you don’t want to be stuck being with those stuck-up royal-city types.” AJ reasoned. “So every now and then you bust out and do your own thing…and your folks have t’send the royal guard out to bring you back home. Am I right?”
“…” Rainbow Dash nodded numbly. Beneath her cowpony exterior, Applejack could be pretty smart—especially where it came to ferreting out the truth about other ponies. The only detail she had wrong was just who sent the royal guard out after her. Though she would never admit it, she was actually pretty touched that this pony she’d only met yesterday considered her enough of a friend to share a really personal story about herself. Rainbow considered telling AJ her own cutie mark story, but didn’t want to make her feel bad by having a way cooler story...and she didn’t want to deal with explaining what happened after her Sonic Rainboom and her failure to pull off another one. “Yeah, that’s it.” She said, convinced that she wasn’t even really lying to Applejack. “You got me.”
“Heh. Ah may round-up sheep, but that don’t mean y’get to pull the wool over mah eyes.” AJ gave a small smirk. “Not much gets past THIS cowpon—eeek!” She yelped as she tripped over a small hole and her face had an abrupt encounter with the dirt.
Rainbow Dash fell on her back laughing. “Hahahaahaha! Oh geeze, you’re a silly pony Applejack!”
“Are you alright?” Twilight asked Applejack as she walked over.
“M’fine.” She grumbled as she pulled her face out of the ground. “Ptooh!” She spat out some dirt. “Ah guess Winona’s been digging again…” After shaking her head, she glared at Rainbow Dash, still holding her belly and rolling on her back. “You finished?”
“Pfff…j-just about!” She wheezed, laughing some more.
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Soo…how often does your brother have to chase RD here down?” She asked Twilight.
“I don’t know exactly.” The purple unicorn admitted. “I do a lot of studying for school and Shining Armor’s with the guard. I couldn’t say for sure.”
“Is it a lot?” Applejack wheedled.
Twilight nodded. “Um, I guess so.”
AJ broke into a wide grin. “Aaaah, I thought so.” With a smug grin she idly asked out loud—loud enough for Rainbow Dash to hear over her own laughter—“Ah wonder if Rainbow started running away just so she could have your brother be the one to come bring her back.” She drawled. Twilight hid her face behind her hoof, trying to suppress a giggle. “One might almost think that she had a *crush* on him or something.” Applejack winked at the unicorn, making her almost shake with repressed laughter.
“HEY!” Rainbow Dash’s laughter suddenly cut off as she sat up. “I do NOT have a crush on Shining Armor!”
Applejack pursed her lip and gently tapped a hoof against her muzzle. “Eh, nah. Don’t believe you.” She smirked. “Tell you what, why don’t we go ask some of the folks in town who were at the party last night what they think?” She reared up and shook out her forelegs. “Yeehaw!” She started running down the road to Ponyville.
“Applejack! Get your big apple flank back here!” Rainbow Dash flapped her wings and took off, leaving Twilight behind to be buffeted by the wind that marked her departure.
“Hey, wait for me!” Twilight called, galloping after them.
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