by Professor Piggy and Donny's Boy
Synopsis: Rarity and Applejack go out for a fun night on the town with their friends, but when Rarity's flirtatious tendencies flare up, the evening rapidly turns into something more serious than either of them expected it to be. A RariJack story.
Applejack bit down on her tongue so hard that she was almost afraid that she’d bite it clean off. She stood in a corner of the main room at Berry’s Bar and Grill, as a typically boisterous Saturday night swirled around her. But even though Rainbow Dash was playing darts with Pinkie Pie over by the jukebox and Twilight Sparkle was standing atop a nearby table, reciting the Twenty-Three Maxims of Starswirl the Bearded to anyone within listening range, Applejack only had eyes for one pony and one pony alone. The exact pony who was very much not looking at her.
Rarity’s eyes were fixed firmly on the striking black pegasus who stood before her with a grin on his face, a small smile on her face. He made another bad joke, and she laughed a soft laugh that somehow sounded throughout the entire room. His grin grew wider, and he downed another drink - and bought her another, as well. Rarity batted her eyelashes and thanked him quietly, not mentioning it was the fourth or fifth drink he’s bought her - though she’d only had the first, of course. Every now and again, though, the unicorn’s eyes would wander around the room, looking for one very specific, very tacky hat. A moment later, though, her attention would be drawn back to her companion.
By now, Applejack was biting down so hard that her entire jaw ached. It was worse that it was a pegasus. She didn’t even know why, exactly, but she knew that it was. Not enough, jeered that little voice in the back of her head. Not good enough for a mare like …
“Shut up!” she growled. It was only when a few pairs of surprised eyes snapped over to her that she realised she’d spoken the words aloud. Lowering her head, she slunk over to the bar, feeling all of two foot small.
Rarity frowned as she heard the voice she loved so much growl out from the corner, and when she glanced over to see her marefriend with her head resting on the bar she sighed softly. “Thunderlane dear, do excuse me - I have pressing matters to attend to.” She took a moment to offer a small, pretty smile and traced a hoof gently down his chest, “We really must do this again sometime.” Her expression grew more serious. “But you will keep Rumble from teasing Sweetie Belle from now on, won’t you? I’d be ever so grateful.”
As soon as the pegasus agreed she spun on a hoof and trotted over to the corner as quickly as she could - or at least, as quickly as she could while retaining her demeanour. Appearances were important, after all. For a moment she stood staring down at Applejack, trying to decide what she should do.
“Applejack?” she ventured, after a long pause. “Is everything alright?”
Applejack cracked open an eye even though she knew perfectly well just who had spoken. Truth be told, she’d recognise that voice anywhere, at anytime. But still she opened an eye - just one - so she could see that face and see those deep, penetrating eyes that shimmered like a lake made dark and mysterious by night.
She didn’t bother to lift her head, though, as she replied, “I’m just fine and dandy, sugar cube. Just fine and dandy.”
It … wasn’t a lie. Not really. Not quite.
Rarity frowned. Just a little. It was quite clear that Applejack was not, in fact, okay. But pushing her might upset her more, and she could hardly just walk away. She locked her eyes onto Applejack’s marvellous green one and forced a smile onto her face. “Well, in that case would you mind terribly if I joined you? You’re quite a difficult mare to find, you know.”
At that, Applejack’s second eye opened up, and a grin flashed across her face before she could stop it. All night she’d been hoping for little more than a chance to grab a quiet moment with Rarity, to share a drink and a bit of idle chit chat. But then she frowned, as the second part of what Rarity had said finally sunk in.
“Difficult to find?” she repeated, with a short bark of a laugh. “I ain’t moved out of the same spot all danged night. Can’t see as how I’d be all that hard to find, Rare.”
Rarity glanced away as Applejack’s words, suddenly unable to meet her gaze. “I ...” She stumbled, just a little, as she spoke - she had known Applejack would be upset, but she hadn’t been expecting to feel so unwanted.
“I would have thought that after I went to escort dear Fluttershy home you’d have had some fun with Pinkie and Rainbow Dash. I have to admit, it didn’t occur to me you’d stay right where I left you. I apologise.”
A soft snort escaped the earth pony. “I played a few games o’ darts with Pink and RD, sure enough, after you came up with that sorry excuse to leave me behind.” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Nothing like the games you were playin’ with old Thunderlane over there, though.”
Rarity rolled her eyes. “Oh, don’t even get me started on Thu - wait. Excuse me?” Her eyes snapped to Applejack’s, nothing but shock in them. “Whatever do you mean, darling? I didn’t ‘leave you behind.’ I wouldn’t.” She moved her stool a little closer and rested a hoof softly on Applejack’s back.
Applejack felt every muscle in her body go rigid the instant the unicorn touched her. She loved the feel of that soft, familiar hoof against her back, as warm and as welcome as a summer’s breeze. But even as she responded instinctively to her marefriend’s caress, she couldn’t help but remember that just minutes before this same hoof had been caressing somepony else.
Clamping shut her eyes again, she struggled with the sudden tightness in her throat and stinging in her eyes. Her words came out angrier than she meant them to when she finally replied, “I ain’t stupid, Rarity. Ain’t blind either. I seen …” She swallowed thickly. Gave her head a rough shake. “I saw how you were flirtin’ with that stallion over there. Battin’ those pretty blue eyes o’ yours, laughin’ that laugh you got … touchin’ him ...”
Rarity almost pulled away at the anger in Applejack’s voice, but stopped herself. “That’s what you’re upset about?” She frowned, just a little - she didn’t like that she’d upset the one she loved. Not at all. “Applejack, dear - I was merely flirting with him a little so he’d listen to what I had to say. It doesn’t mean anything.” She leaned down and kissed the earth pony’s orange muzzle, letting out a little giggle. “I’m all yours, darling! Surely you know that?”
Though she didn’t pull away from the kiss, Applejack frowned. None of what she was hearing was making a lick of sense. “But … you were … you were touchin’ him, Rare. Doesn’t that …” She paused and chewed thoughtfully on her bottom lip. She wasn’t good with words, not the way that Rarity was, but she had to try to get to the bottom of things. “How can it not mean anythin’? You sayin’ that it don’t mean nothin’ when we … well … y’know?”
Rarity’s breath caught in her throat, for just a moment, and her body tensed. That had hurt. “That is entirely different, Applejack. And no, that is most certainly not what I am saying. You mean the world to me, darling.” She couldn’t keep a slight edge from creeping into her voice as she added, “And I would hope you know better than to think I wander around doing that with just anyone.”
That tone. Applejack knew that tone like she knew the back of her own hoof, and it immediately set her teeth on edge and caused her hackles to rise. She opened her mouth to reply but, before she could, the bartender stepped forward and coughed none too subtly.
Well, they had been sitting at the bar for quite a while without ordering, hadn’t they? The earth pony gave the bartender, a small slip of a pegasus, the friendliest nod that she could muster up. “I’ll have a cider, thank ya kindly.” Then, after a moment’s hesitation, she added, “And a glass o’ your best Merlot for the lady here, too.”
When Applejack turned back around to face the unicorn beside her, she froze. Rarity’s eyes, they looked … hurt. Not that fake kind of hurt, when Rarity was complaining about something small and minor, but a deep, real hurt. The kind of hurt that Applejack just plain hadn’t seen in those eyes but a half dozen times in all the years they’d known one another.
She swallowed again and suddenly felt as lost and adrift as a Red Delicious at a vegetable stand. “I reckon I just don’t understand,” she admitted quietly. “I don’t touch nopony but you. Not like you was touchin’ that pegasus. Because when I touch you, it means I … I …”
“It might interest you to know that Thunderlane’s little brother, Rumble, has been bullying Sweetie Belle,” Rarity cut her off casually. “I was discussing the matter with the idiot in the hopes he would put a stop to it. He was more interested in flirting with me and plying me with drinks, so I played along to get him to listen.”
The unicorn turned her gaze to Applejack, doing her best to keep the tears from falling. “When you touch me it means more to me than you can apparently believe.” She stared steadily into those brilliant green eyes for a moment, and then, just as suddenly, sighed and looked away. “I’m sorry, dear. Please, go on - I’d love to hear it.”
The bartender came with their drinks, and Applejack sent her off again with a brisk nod. She stared at Rarity even though the unicorn had averted her gaze and felt a sudden, fluttery panic in her chest. It was as though she was falling and had nothing to grab onto, just falling endlessly, faster and faster.
“We both know I ain’t too good with words or all that romantic kinda stuff,” Applejack said, only able to avoid stuttering through sheer force of will. “So I need you to … I need you to know, I need ya to understand, that when I do this - ” She reached forward and cupped Rarity’s face in both forehooves, gently, tenderly. Almost instantly that awful feeling in her chest subsided, if only a little. “ - that it means I love ya. That I need ya. That I’m your mare and nopony else’s.”
For an instant, Rarity didn’t say a word. Then, suddenly and with no hesitation, she threw her forelegs around Applejack’s next and pulled her into a forceful kiss, pouring all her anger and hurt into it and stealing whatever she could of the happiness the other pony gave her. When she pulled away she gave Applejack a small, sad smile.
“I never, ever doubt that, darling. I never will. I know you love me. And nothing means more to me than that. Or ...” She actually blushed, a little, gesturing at the pair of them. “Or this, for that matter.”
Applejack just sat there, struggling to get enough air into her lungs after that heart-stopping kiss, for several moments. As much as the mare beside her could pluck at her every last nerve, there was no denying that Rarity never, ever failed to take her breath away. And Rarity never, ever would.
Then, once she was feeling a bit more in control of herself, the earth pony leaned forward and nuzzled her cheek against the other pony’s. It felt unspeakably good to do so, to feel that warm fur against her own, to catch the scent of apricots in Rarity’s mane. It felt solid. Real. Reliable.
It felt like someone had thrown her a rope to hold onto.
“Still don’t understand,” Applejack murmured into her marefriend’s fur. “But then, wouldn’t be the first time there was something I didn’t understand about ya.”
Rarity let out a soft chuckle, closing her eyes and letting the feel of Applejack against her become the whole world. “I assure you, Applejack, there are many things I fear I will never understand about you as well. Not that that’s a bad thing - a mare must maintain some mystery, after all.”
She trailed off, and when she spoke again a moment later her voice was softer, more serious. “But I’d like you to understand this, I think. I hurt you. I know I did. And I don’t ever want to do that to you.” She bit her lip softly. She wasn’t good with words, really. Not when it mattered.
“Applejack, do you remember a year or so ago, not so long after you swept me off my feet, I came to see you at the farm?” She exhaled, just a little, and pressed herself closer as she pulled up the particularly unpleasant memory. “I was ... not in a good state. I was a mess, in fact. Fluttershy had … said some things, and they had scared me badly.”
Applejack froze just a moment before reaching a hoof around Rarity’s shoulders and pulling her close, close enough that she could smell the wine on the unicorn’s breath. “O’ course I remember, sugar cube. And I remember tellin’ ya that ‘Shy was dead wrong about everything she said that day, too.”
In fact, that day was the day that Applejack almost went storming off to that little cottage by the woods to give a certain pegasus a very loud, very detailed piece of her mind. It had only been the combined arguments and pleading of Big Macintosh and Granny Smith that had kept her from doing so. Things were fine in the here and now, of course, but back then, Fluttershy had diligently avoided setting a single hoof on Sweet Apple Acres for weeks.
Frowning suddenly, Applejack added, “But what’s any o’ that got to do with anything?”
“Everything, dear. And believe me when I that I remember every word you said as though it were yesterday. I shall never forget it.” She paused, briefly, to nuzzle her cheek against Applejack’s. “But I never really explained to you how much it meant to me, did I? So now that’s just what I’m going to do.
“I want you to consider something, for me.” Her voice was soft and quiet, but not unhappy - she did, however, sound a little frightened. “Consider that in that moment, for the first time, I was sincerely questioning whether my life meant anything - whether I meant anything. In that moment, I was more afraid and more lost than I have ever been, before or since. Do you understand that, Applejack?”
Applejack knew she had to tread carefully, now - she just wasn’t sure how to do so. Her first instinct was to simply refute what Rarity was saying, to tell Rarity that her life meant so very much. That Rarity herself meant the world.
But she didn’t say that. Instead, she began stroking her hoof down the unicorn’s back, softly and reassuringly. Then, deciding to just take the plunge, she opened her mouth, only to find herself musing, “I reckon it must’ve felt how it did when I was workin’ out on that lonely little cherry orchard. Good old reliable Applejack … suddenly not so good and not hardly reliable.”
Rarity rested her head on Applejack’s neck with a soft sigh. She felt the fear drain out of her, just a little, as Applejack stroked her. “Yes,” she said softly. “Yes, I reckon it must have.” Her tone was sad now, as she thought back to the days she thought she’d lost Applejack forever. “We’re ... a lot alike, you know. We’re very, very different as well but ... in some of the worst ways, we are the same.”
She paused for a moment, trying to choose her next words carefully. “I don’t like ponies to see me when I’m not at my best. I don’t like dealing with ponies when I’m not in control. Because it makes me feel like I’m failing. You don’t. You never have.” She let out a slightly dry laugh. “I’m really making a mess of this. What I’m saying, Applejack, is that you are the only pony in the world who knows how deeply I was hurt. How scared I was. And if it hadn’t been you, it would have been nopony. That part of me is for you. Only for you.”
Applejack shut her eyes. Her hoof continued stroking down Rarity’s back as she tried to think of something to say. Something adequate to what Rarity had just revealed to her. But words eluded her, so instead, she simply continued to hug the unicorn close against her. Then, with a hint of a grin, she replied, “You just said ‘reckon.’ Maybe we really are the same.”
Rarity smiled, and squeezed Applejack gently. “What can I say, darling? Your charming habits are rubbing off on me. Soon we shall have to fight over your hat.”
“Rare, you know I love ya more’n life itself.” Applejack chuckled lightly. “But if you lay one hoof on my hat, so help me Celestia, I’ll hide every bolt o’ fabric in your entire boutique.”
The laugh that escaped Rarity then was neither gentle or ladylike - it was, all things considered, rather close to a snort. Immediately after realising this, the unicorn opened her eyes, just for a moment, and glanced around to ensure nopony had heard. When she was satisfied, she allowed herself a small smile. “I quite understand, dear. And it looks so much better on you, anyway.”
Then, she pulled back to stare straight into Applejack’s breathtaking eyes and match her grin. Her expression grew serious a moment later though. “Applejack, when I ... well, flirt with ponies like I did with Thunderlane, it’s not something I really think about - it never has been, because I don’t mean it. Not a word of it. It’s not like that with you. Every word I say, everything I do, every time I touch you, you are all I’m thinking about. And when I’m not with you, I assure you that you still have the monopoly on my thoughts. You are my world.” She bit her lip, and kissed the earth pony on the forehead lightly, blushing. “The reason I can do it so easily - the reason that it never occurred to me it would hurt you - is that it’s not the same to me. It’s not even similar. But of course, that’s not how it looks to you - not how it feels for you to see it. I’m sorry, Applejack. Truly.”
Applejack pulled back a bit, herself, enjoying the cool feel of air against her forehead, where Rarity’s warm lips had just been. Rarity’s kisses weren’t usually like that. Usually, they were quick, fierce, passionate. Almost devouring. This sudden burst of tenderness was a little unusual - but not unwelcome.
“I’m sorry, too, Rare. I know you and me are different, and we both got our own peculiarities and all. And I do trust ya. More than … more than I really got words for tellin’ ya.”
Feeling that she’d said what she had to say - and feeling a bit tuckered out from all of the serious emotional discussion - Applejack reached over and finally took a sip from her long-neglected cider. It tasted wonderful. Smacking her lips in satisfaction, she glanced around the bar.
Twilight was still on a table not too very far away, but by now, she’d been joined by Ditzy Doo. The unicorn and pegasus each had a foreleg slung around the other pony’s shoulders, and they were singing Hearth’s Warming Eve carols at the tops of their lungs. Meanwhile, over by the jukebox, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were desperately trying to look as though they weren’t eavesdropping on Applejack’s conversation with Rarity and doing a very poor job of it. Pinkie even gave a smile and a wave when she noticed that her fellow earth pony had turned her eyes in their direction, while Rainbow just groaned and dropped her face into her hooves.
Applejack rolled her eyes and turned back towards her lovely unicorn companion. “You gonna drink your wine or ain’t ya? The night’s still young, sugar cube, and I reckon we are too. Young enough, anyways.” She grinned, a broad, happy grin. “Still got a chance to get in a bit o’ fun before closing time.”
Rarity smiled back - warmly at first, but it quickly turned challenging as she narrowed her eyes ever so slightly. Lifting her wine glass to her lips, she downed it in one swallow without ever looking away from the earth pony - her earth pony.
“A thought occurs to me, my dear Applejack.” Her tone was casual, light - but her eyes were dancing. “It occurs to me that were we to engage in some sort of drinking competition, I would undoubtedly lay waste to you. What do you think?”
Almost involuntarily, Applejack’s eyes narrowed, and her blood started pumping just a tiny bit harder through her veins. “What do I think?” she repeated, cocking an eyebrow. “I think this ol’ farm pony is about to drink you under the table, little missy, is what I think.”
The grin on Rarity’s face grew a little wider, a little more manic, and she raised a hoof to signal for the bartender. And then, as casually as she had spoken, she leaned forward and planted a kiss on Applejack’s muzzle. “Don’t fret too much, darling,” she said kindly. “I shall be the epitome of modesty when I crush you beneath my hoof.”
The bartender came over, and Applejack had to take a moment to collect her wits after the kiss she’d just received. Once she had, though, she met her marefriend’s grin with one just as wide and just as smug. To the bartender, she said, “Two shots o’ whiskey, please. And leave the bottle on the bar, will ya?”
Two small shot glasses and a bottle of amber-coloured liquor were delivered to the battleground in short order.
Rarity raised the glass to eye level, narrowing her eyes further as she anticipated the victory ahead of her. As she stared into Applejack’s blazing, perfect eyes she felt her heart skip a beat and reminded herself again just how lucky she really was. She didn’t say it, though. She didn’t need to. Instead, she bought the glass closer to her lips and whispered, “I love you, Applejack.”
Applejack froze, just for a second, and felt a surge of warmth that had nothing to do with the alcohol she’d been drinking. Swallowing hard, she managed to reply, “Love you, too,” without her voice trembling too terribly much.
Then she threw back her head and downed her whiskey in a single gulp, eyes watering as she felt it burn its way down to her stomach. It took nearly all of her willpower not to choke or spit the drink back out, and she knew - knew as surely as she knew that there was not a tastier apple in all of Equestria than an apple from Sweet Apple Acres - that she would be full of the most sincere regrets come the morning.
But then she looked at the unicorn sitting across from her, gazed into those beautiful, taunting eyes, and she knew something else: Life was good. And of all the regrets she had ever had or ever would have, Rarity would never be one of them.