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It was a rather odd request, and neither of the police officers could believe it at first. Despite having all charges cleared against her, Twilight Sparkle stubbornly refused to leave her cell. Regardless of the situation, she was determined to finish out her sentence, and she didn't plan on leaving until the twenty-four hours were up. Instead, she requested two more items for her cell within the police station - another cot, and another book.
The first request initially confused the police officers on duty, but they soon realized just what - or who - it was for. Despite only being a visitor, Applejack had also refused to leave the cell, and instead wished to spend the night with the unicorn. Had the circumstances been any different, the officers would have been well within their rights to decline such a request. And yet... they hadn't. An additional cot was taken out of storage and taken to the cell, as well as another book, and it didn't take long before both cots had been pushed together to form a makeshift bed.
Underneath the blankets, Applejack let out a content sigh as she snuggled up to Twilight Sparkle's side. "Been a helluva day, Twi..."
"Mhm." The lavender mare looked down at the earth pony and smiled faintly, letting out a sigh of her own as she pulled one of the books over and levitated it in front of her face.
"...whatcha got there?" With her one good eye, Applejack squinted at the object. "A book?"
"Yep! The Lay of the Wayward Knight, written by-"
"...sounds like a romance novel, if ya ask me."
Twilight frowned somewhat. "Well... kinda. It's a historical text. There was only ever one copy within the Canterlot Library, but I asked for another copy to be made once, so that I could take it with me."
Applejack glanced up at her incredulously. "Then how'd it get here?"
"Spike delivered it. When I didn't come back home, he started to get worried, and apparently he contacted the police, who then told him about my um... 'situation'. He's been keeping his eyes and ears open since then." The unicorn looked to her companion, a hopeful look upon her face. "Applejack, do you... want me to read to you?"
"A bedtime story?" She grinned and leaned up to give Twilight's cheek a gentle kiss. "I'd like that, Twi. Mah vision's shot ta hell anyways. Screwy depth perception an' all that."
Twilight couldn't help but blush faintly at the show of affection, and she pulled the book a bit closer so that Applejack could read along if she so desired. "It's got a bit of Old Equestrian, so if I stumble a bit with the dialogue, that's why."
"S'alright, darlin'. Yer jus' tryin' yer best." The earth pony let out a quiet yawn, and the lavender mare soon began to read.
"Once upon a time..."
As the first light of dawn began to pour through the windows of the police station, Twilight Sparkle found herself trying to turn away and hide her face. Her sleep the previous night had been adequate, at best - she awoke several times throughout the night, sometimes due to a noise or something else, but often without reason. The first time she woke up had been caused by the shuffling of chairs, due in part to the arrival of the next shift of police officers. A stallion and mare had been sitting at the table, playing cards with one another, and one of them cast a quick glance towards the cell before returning to their game. Twilight had gone back to sleep not long after.
Through it all, however, Applejack had managed to stay asleep. The earth pony was still curled up against her, a faint smile upon her face. With a smile of her own, Twilight brushed Applejack's mane aside and leaned down to-
"G'morning, Miss Sparkle. You got another visitor, if you're ready for 'em."
"...Oh. Uh... alright." The unicorn let out a soft sigh and slowly sat back up, carefully slipping out from underneath the blankets and letting out a groan as she stretched her legs. As she made her way towards the cell door, she blinked in surprise upon seeing the visitor in question - he was awfully hard to miss anyways. "Big Macintosh?"
The red stallion simply smiled and nodded in return. "Mornin', Miss Twilight. Heard what happened."
"You uh... you did, huh?" The lavender mare laughed nervously as she looked up at him. "What um... what have you heard?"
"Well, Spike came over late last night an' told me what went down."
Twilight audibly gulped. If Spike had told Macintosh what had happened, there was also the distinct possibility that the baby dragon had mentioned them. "And... what did he tell you?"
"Gave me th' rundown. Said that you an' AJ went out ta run 'errands', an' that you two apparently had a run-in with ole' Midsweet."
"Yeah, we... we did. I um..." The unicorn shifted her gaze from the stallion to the floor, and she idly pawed at the ground with a hoof. "I kinda... broke his jaw. He got a hit in on Applejack, though."
Surprisingly enough, Macintosh chuckled. "She'll live. She's always been a stubborn girl anyways. Besides, I believe I owe ya a beer for gettin' in a bit of vigilante justice on Midsweet. Bastard deserved it."
"Thanks... I think?"
"How's she doin'?"
Twilight looked over her shoulder towards the cot and couldn't help but smile. "Out like a light. She got a pretty nasty black eye out of it, but it should clear up in a few more days. Pretty sure she stayed asleep the whole night too."
"Good. I'm guessin' you had somethin' ta do with that, eh?"
"Wh-what? I um... well, you see..."
"Miss Twilight..." The red stallion chuckled once more and slowly shook his head, somehow slipping a hoof through the bars to place it upon her shoulder. "You of all ponies oughta know better than ta try an' hide it from me. I can tell what's goin' on, an' I jus' wanted ta say congrats."
"...Thanks, Macintosh. Really. That means a lot coming from you."
"Not sure if that's an insult or a compliment, Miss Twilight." He briefly grinned before eying her somewhat more seriously. "That's... partially why I'm here too. Ya see, a lot of th' town knows both of ya are datin' one another now, and fer th' most part, they're all fine with it. There's one pony, in particular, who probably won'."
Twilight Sparkle sighed and slowly shook her head. "...it's Granny Smith, isn't it."
"Yyyep. Now, she wasn' at th' market yesterday, so she don' know yet. Ya'll are lucky I caught it before she did. I'll try an' keep her out of th' loop for as long as possible, but I won' be able ta do it forever."
"So... what do you think we should do?"
"Finish up whatever plans the two of ya already got goin' on, an' then get ready for it. As soon as Granny catches wind of it, she's gonna want ta talk, and yer gonna have ta be there." Macintosh sighed and placed a hoof to his temple, gently rubbing it. "I got th' feelin' that's gonna get messy. Jus'... whatever ends up goin' down when that lil' talk finally happens, jus' know that I'm rootin' fer th' both of ya, an' I'll do what I can ta support ya."
Twilight was already looking up at the stallion, and she almost appeared to be at a loss for words. "Big Mac, I... you'd... you'd do that for us?"
"Miss Twilight, after everythin' you've done fer AJ an' Granny Smith, you may as well be part of th' Apple family. I'm jus' tryin' ta take care of ya."
"That's... very kind of you, Macintosh." The best she could do was simply smile back - words were rather hard to come by, considering she had never expected to hear such news from the stallion. "Is there anything you'd like me to tell Applejack once she wakes up?"
"Nothin' too big. Jus' tell her ta be ready. Oh, an' Nurse Redheart got her this. She can use it if she wants." Macintosh slipped an eyepatch through the bars and nodded once, a faint smile upon his face. As the unicorn took it from him, he turned around and began to make his way towards the exit.
He paused and glanced over his shoulder. "Yeah, Miss Twilight?"
"Thank you. Really. If I can ever find a way to repay you, I will."
"Jus' give mah lil' sister th' happiness she deserves. That's all I'm askin'. Think you can do that?" Twilight nodded enthusiastically, and he gave her a quick grin before making his way for the door once more. "Good."
And with that, he departed.
Not long after Macintosh had left, Applejack woke up, and Twilight soon delivered the news. She had panicked at first, though it wasn't exactly difficult to calm her down after a bit of persuasion on Twilight's part. Said persuasion consisted of a reassuring kiss, followed by additional excerpts from The Lay of the Wayward Knight, and it wasn't long at all until lunch rolled around.
It was a fairly simple meal - sandwiches, and not much else - but both mares were seemingly content. The police officers from the day before arrived not long afterwards, and both were rather surprised to see that Twilight Sparkle was still there. After all, she had been free to go at any time, and yet there she was, still sitting within her cell. At that point, it was a matter of principle to her more than anything else, and she was determined to stay put until her time was up.
Which... wasn't much longer. About an hour or so after lunch was over, the cell door swung open, and after calmly collecting her books, Twilight and Applejack both left the police station. Unlike yesterday, it was slightly overcast out, no doubt in preparation for a coming storm. The earth pony slowly shook her head and sighed. "Are th' pegasi behind schedule again?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. I honestly have no way of knowing with them sometimes."
"This eyepatch is so dang itchy." Applejack grimaced and shook her head, her nose scrunching up as she tried to stop an itch. "Gonna be glad when I can take it off."
"Well, once your eye heals a bit, then you can probably take it off. Until then, it's likely best to just leave it on - might keep the stares to a minimum. Fluttershy's house isn't much further." Twilight tried to give a comforting smile, but it wasn't helping nearly as much as she would have liked. With a town as small as Ponyville, everypony knew everypony else, and the pair had been stopped constantly times during their trip through the town. Some of the ponies congratulated the two of them on their relationship with one another, but most of them simply asked about the eyepatch, something that had quickly begun to irritate Applejack. As a result, Twilight Sparkle had tried to follow the fastest route through town, avoiding others when they could.
After several agonizing minutes, they finally arrived at Fluttershy's cottage, and Applejack let out a huff as she took a seat upon the ground. A faint frown upon her face, Twilight decided to take the initiative, and she gently knocked upon the door. She tapped a hoof against the ground as she waited for a response, and she began to worry that the yellow pegasus might not even be home, but the door eventually cracked open.
"Oh... hello girls. I kept waiting for you to show up yesterday, but you never did."
The lavender mare grinned sheepishly. "Eh heh... yeah. About that."
"I already heard what happened. Are you two alright?" Fluttershy quickly threw the door open and began to hastily inspect both mares. "You're not hurt or anything, are you? I mean, if you are, maybe I could help or..."
The pegasus soon trailed off, and Twilight let out a sigh and cocked her head. "You found the eyepatch, didn't you?"
As Fluttershy frantically flew around her, Applejack let out a sigh. "Fluttershy, I'm fine. Really."
The yellow pegasus furiously shook her head. "You have an eyepatch, and eyepatches aren't just handed out unless it's serious!"
"Fluttershy." The earth pony grabbed hold of the pegasus, bringing her to a stop and staring at her. "It's jus' a blackeye. Nurse Redheart got this fer me so maybe folks wouldn' stare so much... hasn' helped much, though."
Twilight Sparkle took a step towards the both of them, her head still tilted. "Fluttershy, remember when Applejack and I saw you in Ponyville yesterday, and we asked if you had some free time?"
The yellow pegasus slowly nodded.
"Well... could we come in so we could talk?"
"Oh, um... not to be rude or anything, but if it's about the two of you, I kinda already knew..."
Both Applejack and Twilight simply blinked at her, and the earth pony eventually spoke up. "...uh, what?"
"Well, I mean, you and Twilight did start spending an awful lot of time together after you two got back, and with the way you both acted around one another, I started to think that something might have been there. And then when Twilight asked your brother out on that date, it seemed like something was really bothering you." Fluttershy barely lifted herself off the ground and began slowly hovering back and forth as she continued. "And then there was everything that happened yesterday. Twilight, can I... ask you something? I mean, if it's okay, that is. I don't wanna make you angry by asking about what happened in the market."
Twilight nodded and raised an eyebrow. "Sure, I guess?"
"Okay, so... Applejack's ex hit her. And then you showed up and intervened. And then you hit back, right?"
"You were angry at him, weren't you?"
"Angry? That uh... might be an understatement." The unicorn lowered her head slightly, ears flattening. "I was furious. I... I wanted to kill him."
"Yeah. I mean, he hurt Applejack, and I just wanted to protect her, but..."
Fluttershy leaned towards her. "You were trying to defend her because you cared about her."
"I... well... I care about you too. You and the rest of the girls."
The yellow pegasus smiled faintly. "You know what I meant, Twilight."
"Yeah... I do." Twilight turned towards the earth pony and gave a smile of her own. "Applejack means a lot to me. I just didn't want to see her get hurt.
Applejack blushed faintly, and Fluttershy flew between the two of them, pulling them both into a hug. "I'm so happy for the both of you! It's always nice to see love blossom, especially when it's between two of your friends."
Both Applejack and Twilight returned the hug, and the yellow pegasus soon landed, letting go of the both of them and smiling at them. The earth pony cleared her throat and peered towards Fluttershy. "So, one thing I wanna know is... jus' how did you know all this? I mean, nopony's told ya or anythin', right?"
"Oh, no. Nopony told me anything. It's just, well... when you take care of animals as long as I have, you learn to look at all the little details. I mean, they can't always tell you if they don't feel well, so you have to watch for the signs yourself. I... had a bit of a hunch anyways." Fluttershy smiled sweetly in return, and Applejack couldn't help but chuckle.
"Awfully perceptive, aren'tcha?"
"Mhm! I-" A crash from within the cottage caused Fluttershy to quickly turn around, and she let out a sigh. "I wish I could stay and talk, but Angel Bunny is probably digging around for a snack again..."
Twilight nodded and gave Applejack a gentle nudge, causing the earth pony to get back up. "Well, thanks for being so understanding Fluttershy. It means a lot to know that you and the other girls support us."
"Oh, any time, Twilight! I'm just proud of you both for opening up to one another."
With that, the yellow pegasus hastily retreated into her home and shut the door behind herself, and muffled yells were heard within not long after - more than likely caused by Fluttershy admonishing Angel. As Twilight and Applejack trotted back towards Ponyville, the orange mare turned towards her companion. "So, jus' Rainbow Dash left, right?"
"You uh... remember she lives in that cloud house, right?"
"...let me get the balloon."
Rainbow Dash had managed to exceed her checkout limit - again. The cyan pegasus had already moved beyond the Daring Do series and had set her sights on other books. It often meant that she had to travel to other libraries, some as far away as Canterlot, but it was almost always worth the trip. Still, she now had a hefty stack of books to read, and she had every intention of reading them all.
It had taken more pillows than she initially thought, but she was now comfortably propped up on her bed, her nose buried in yet another book. Her latest find was a bit of a guilty pleasure for her - romance novels. Given that she and the rest of her friends had risen to prominence as a result of their deeds, it was only natural that some of the characters were often based upon them, or they actually were the characters. It could be a bit awkward at times, but she had learned to ignore it. And sure, the writing had the tendency to be a bit cheesy, but the other parts of the story almost always overcame it. The adventure, the drama, true love... with a grin on her face, she quickly returned to where she had left off, reading aloud as she continued her story.
"The remains of the sundered godling raged helplessly as she molded a mortal shell around it, giving it the form of a clawed horse, milk-white of coat and black of eyes. "I condemn you," she said again, "to life. You will tarry here until you understand." With a small fraction of the power she'd taken from the godling, she bound its essence to the twisted forest it had created, imprisoning it more surely than Celestia ever had. "Now," she hissed. "Run." It bolted into the darkness, vanishing among the trees."
Upon reading about yet another villain being vanquished, Rainbow Dash let out an excited little laugh. She already knew what was coming next, however, and it sent her own heart aflutter.
"Now she turned her attention to the fallen unicorn, for whom less than a breath had passed. There was a spark of life there, but it was fading. She gathered up all the misused godhead she had stripped from the spirit, filtered through her essence and cast again into a precious dowry. Luna was not a goddess of healing, and this was far beyond her abilities. But while she might not be able to restore Twilight, she could still save her. Gently, gently, she lifted the unicorn's body up. Slowly, slowly, she leaned forward. And tenderly, tenderly, she pressed her muzzle against Twilight's own in a soft kiss. And through that kiss, she breathed divinity."
"I knew it!" The cyan pegasus pulled the book to her chest and squealed, pushing her glasses back up onto her muzzle and opening the book once more. Glasses - sometimes she wasn't sure if she loathed them or liked them. They looked a bit goofy at times, but ever since she had picked up her reading habit, she had become increasingly more prone to getting headaches while she read. The glasses seemed to alleviate it, and for that, she was thankful. Rainbow Dash was just about to continue reading when she heard a knock at her door, and she set aside her copy of Apotheosis as she walked over to investigate. "Yeah? Who is it?"
There was a soft voice on the other side, one she was both familiar with and also didn't quite expect for obvious reasons - Twilight. "It's me, Rainbow Dash. I've got Applejack with me too. Have you got time t-"
The door swung open and Rainbow Dash looked back and forth at both mares. "How did you even... oh. Right. Balloon and the-"
"Cloudwalking spell. Are you-"
"Yeah, I remember now." The cyan pegasus paused for a moment and stared at Applejack, tilting her head ever so slightly. "...what's with the eyepatch?"
The earth pony stared right back at her, and Twilight Sparkle had apparently joined in. "Uh... I think a better question is, 'What's with th' glasses?'."
"I whooped ya th' last time we sparred. Don' make me do it again."
"...alright, fine. But you gotta answer my question after I tell you." Rainbow Dash sighed and pushed the glasses back up. "I... got glasses because I started getting headaches if I read for too long. And they work, so... yeah. That's the only time I wear them anyways."
Twilight couldn't help but giggle and grin. "Aw, you got reading glasses!"
The pegasus groaned and slowly nodded. "...yeah, Twilight. I did. Now c'mon, AJ, spill the beans."
"Fine." Applejack huffed and brushed a bit of her mane across her face, likely with the intention of covering the eyepatch up. "Me an' Twi were out an' about yesterday. Stopped ta get lunch, an' I ended up runnin' into mah ex."
"...you had an ex?"
"Shush, RD. I ain't done talkin'. Anywho, we got ta arguin', an' then he tried ta drag me off so he could... well, I'd rather not say. So I kicked 'em in th' side. Probably broke a rib or two. An' then he managed ta get a hit in on me."
The cyan pegasus seemed rather skeptical of that. "He managed to get a hit in on you? How?"
"That son of a bitch is faster than he looks. An' it was jus' one hit, but he got me good. Got all wobbly on mah hooves an' I ended up fallin' down."
From her spot off to the side, Twilight frowned. "...that sounds like a concussion. Applejack, those are serious."
"Don' worry, Twi, I told 'em at th' hospital. S'alright. Anywho, he gave me a pretty nasty blackeye, so Nurse Redheart got me an eyepatch. That's why I got one."
Rainbow Dash was leaning against the doorframe of her home, and she continued to eye Applejack even as the earth pony finished her tale. "Huh. So uh... I get the feeling you two came here to do something besides tell me about how Applejack got beat up."
The orange mare quickly scowled at her, and Twilight Sparkle ignored it for the moment, stepping forward. "We did, actually. Applejack and I were going to show up yesterday so we could talk, but uh... yeah. Things got complicated."
"Alright. I'm listening."
"Well..." The unicorn gave a quick glance towards the earth pony, and soon directed her attention back at Rainbow Dash. "Do you want the long version or the short version?"
"Short version's fine."
"Alright. Um..." Twilight sighed, mentally prepared herself for what would come next, and continued. "Applejack and I are... dating."
That certainly seemed to catch the cyan pegasus' attention, and Rainbow Dash immediately straightened up and began to glance back and forth between the two of them. "...the two of you? Really?"
"Yeah? And?" Twilight leaned forwards, peering at her, and Rainbow Dash let out a nervous little laugh.
"Eh heh, well... I mean, I knew you two were friends and did a lot together, but I never um... you know, expected the two of you to get together. Like, ever."
"An' what th' hay is that 'spose ta mean?" It was Applejack's turn to join in, and the pegasus quickly realized that she was beginning to tread on thin ice.
"Well, it's just... okay, look." Rainbow Dash sighed and placed a hoof to her forehead, gently tapping it against her skull. "You guys are a lot alike at times, but at the same time, you two can be complete opposites! I mean, yeah, you've both got a lot of common sense and stuff... usually. But you're really physical, and Twilight just... isn't."
Twilight raised a hoof, a faint grin upon her face. "Um, Rainbow? I broke a guy's jaw yesterday."
"...um. Wow. Really?" She pushed her glasses up once more, and upon getting repeated nods from both Twilight and Applejack, chuckled softly. "Dang, Twilight! I never knew you had it in ya!"
"Yeah... me neither." Twilight leaned over and took a peek into Rainbow Dash's home. She found it rather entertaining to see several stacks of books upon the table, but what really interested her was the book that was lying open and face-down upon her bed. "Hey... Rainbow?"
"What book are you reading?"
The pegasus blinked and shuffled nervously. "It's uh... it's Apotheosis. Why?"
"Apotheosis... I know that one." Twilight sighed and slowly shook her head. "Are you honestly reading a romance novel about myself and Princess Luna?"
"I... uh..." Rainbow Dash began to blush and nervously glance around. "...maybe?"
Applejack cleared her throat and spoke up. "Is it bad that I'm more interested in why RD's readin' romance novels, rather than th' fact that mah girlfriend is in it?"
"Hey, they're good! I mean... the writing might not be, but there's always a happy ending. And uh... some of the other writing also helps." The cyan pegasus coughed and quickly continued. "And besides Twilight, just think about it! If you had hooked up with Luna, you could have been a Princess!"
Twilight simply rolled her eyes and smiled. "I'm pretty sure that would never happen anyways. And besides, I think I got something better."
Rainbow Dash snickered and let out a whistle. "Smooth operator. Somepony's gonna get laid tonight."
"Dangit, RD..." Applejack groaned and placed a hoof to her face. "Twi ain't ready fer that sort of thing, so no, she ain't gettin' laid."
"Well, she still seems to know just the right words to say, so... point still stands." The cyan pegasus sighed and pushed her glasses back up onto her muzzle once more. "Stupid things keep slipping... you two need anything else?"
"No, Rainbow. Twi, I'll wait fer ya back at th' balloon." With that, the earth pony promptly stood and turned around, walking away from the both of them.
"Sheesh, what's her problem?"
Twilight Sparkle sighed and took a seat upon the cloud, rubbing at the back of her neck with a hoof. "The whole day, ponies have kept asking about the eyepatch, and her patience is basically gone. Your jokes... haven't exactly helped, Rainbow Dash."
"Yeah... about that." The cyan pegasus let out a sigh of her own, and she looked Twilight dead in the eye. "Look, I know I poked fun at the two of you, but... I'm happy for you guys. Really."
The lavender mare stood up and turned to make her way towards the balloon, and as she did so, she glanced over her shoulder and gave Rainbow Dash a smile. "I know, Rainbow. And thank you."
With those last few words, Rainbow Dash returned a smile of her own and soon disappeared back into her home, and Applejack and Twilight Sparkle began their descent back to Ponyville. There was trouble brewing on the horizon, and they both needed to be ready for when it finally came - at the very least, they needed to be there for one another.
And that was something they both planned on doing.