The screech of a horn and the subsequent rumbling of train wheels in motion passed somewhat gratingly through Applejack’s ears as the Friendship Express made its exodus from Manehattan Station, bound for midwestern Equestria and towns that included Canterlot and Ponyville. The slightly homesick pony stared out from her window seat in silence, watching as the train chugged across the departure track of the Hoovesboro Bridge, and the fast-moving, over-bustling city gradually became a distant sight. She exhaled a nervous breath which was absorbed by the window, knowing that within only four short hours, she would find herself staring into her family’s smiling faces again, welcoming her home while simultaneously prodding her with questions as to why she had been called to Manehattan and what she had done while there.
Seated beside her was Rarity, her face forlorn, her head turned away to render even accidental eye contact impossible, and Applejack knew exactly what was bothering her. In fact, she had been awaiting Rarity’s emotional breakdown for hours now, convinced it was all but inevitable, but Rarity remained remarkably composed beyond expectation. Applejack assumed that perhaps avoiding eye contact was simply all she could do to keep her composure until she reached the confines of her Ponyville boutique where she would have a fainting couch and several buckets of ice cream at the ready for a long and private cry.
Applejack found herself struggling to suppress her empathetic nature, her need to console and comfort her dear friend. It was pointless to even attempt. She knew that nothing she could say would matter, not unless she changed her mind decided to give Rarity exactly what it was she wanted. And Applejack simply could not do that...
“I don’t wanna lose you as a friend,” she said after she could no longer handle the silence between them.
Rarity shifted slightly as she seemingly debated with herself whether or not to reply. She slowly turned back around.
“You won’t,” she said softly. “As I said before, I was prepared to return home disappointed. It may dwell on my mind for a while, but I possess the strength to move forward without affecting our friendship.”
Applejack did not feel entirely reassured, yet she decided to keep the conversation going for as long as Rarity was willing to maintain eye contact.
“My family is gonna be expectin’ me to come home with quite a story to tell of everythin’ that happened on our trip,” Applejack said with a frown. “I’m not really sure how can I avoid tellin’ ‘em about last night.”
“You could simply tell them that we had ourselves some fun with the spare time that we had, which is the honest truth, technically speaking,” Rarity replied with a casual smirk. “There’s really no need to go into any specifics, is there?”
“What if they end up askin’ me the wrong question?” asked Applejack. “I ain’t much for keepin’ secrets when it comes to havin’ to lie.”
Rarity shook her head. “Of course not. I’d never advise you to lie, dear. Should you choose to tell your family the truth when you see them again, I shall stand by your decision.”
Applejack exhaled a hesitant sigh, mulling over the difficulty of her situation.
“And what about our friends?”
“I shall stand by your decision,” Rarity repeated.
Applejack could think of nothing else to say, and her eyes returned to the window to see the gradually disappearing Manehattan, where last night’s events would be added to the vessel of secrets that numerous other tourists and visitors had concealed within the city over so many years---secrets to remain undisclosed upon the return home.
“It’s going to be quite a lengthy ride back,” Rarity said with a tired yawn, then rested her head against Applejack’s neck.
“You don’t mind, do you, darling?” she asked.
“N-no,” Applejack replied, her heart skipping.
Applejack bit her lip as the exotic scent of Rarity’s mane reignited the vivid memories she had spent hours attempting to expel from her thoughts. She stared back out the window as her mind swarmed around the events of the previous night, once again attempting to understand how she could have possibly arrived at this moment...
It was just after 10 PM, and like any Manehattan night, the city was thoroughly abuzz with activity. The recent news circulating from city block to city block was that after several long years, the influence of Charity Kindheart had again swept across the neighborhoods of Manehattan, and her Midsummer Theater Revival, which had united them so many moons ago, had returned to do so once more. Tonight’s play, a reenactment of Charity’s arrival in Manehattan over thirty years ago, was performed on a makeshift stage for an audience who watched from the street, which had blocked the roadway enough for curious passersby to take notice and for cab drivers to fume with irritation at having to take an alternate route around.
The viewers who were old enough to remember when Charity was around were almost instantly taken back to a long-forgotten time when the community was not dominated by the self-serving sentiment that plagued it now. Other viewers were simply amazed at the sight of their neighbors acting friendly and courteous towards each other for the first time, particularly after the play had ended and many of them made the decision to commit themselves to the effort of sprucing up the community park, which had long since been overrun with weeds that nopony had ever cared enough to pull and tall grass that nopony had ever cared enough to mow.
Still reeling from the overwhelming satisfaction of their success, and after sharing a fond farewell with Coco Pommel, Applejack and Rarity stepped inside the massive Manehattan train station, ready to return home and report the news of their accomplishment to their friends and families.
“Two tickets for a train to Ponyville, good sir!” Rarity said boastfully to the mustachioed stallion at the ticket kiosk.
“Sorry, miss,” the stallion replied with a slight shake of his head. “The last train going in the direction of Ponyville departed five minutes ago. Won’t be another until noon tomorrow. If you’re willing to wait another hour, the next train coming in will be going to Baltimare, and you should be able to get to Ponyville from there. Beyond that, I’m afraid there isn’t anything else I can do for you.”
Rarity’s eyes widened and she cast a slight glance to her left, where Applejack stood piercing her with a look of deepest annoyance.
“Another…hour, you said?” she asked meekly.
“‘Fraid so,” replied the stallion, looking up at clock just above the kiosk. “And given that it takes about two hours to reach Baltimare, I’d wager you wouldn’t reach Ponyville until around 4 AM or so. It’s up to you, of course. I guess it just depends how much of a hurry you’re in.”
“Well, shoot,” Applejack said, exhaling a heavy sigh which sufficiently complimented her expression. “I suppose we’ll just hafta catch the train tomorrow, then.”
With that, she turned and marched out of the station’s exit doors, stepping back into the warm Manehattan night, illuminated vivaciously by the scattered lampposts as well as the innumerable lights escaping from nearly every window of every nearby building. It came as no surprise to her that taxi cabs still rushed the street in all directions during a time of night when most of Ponyville would have just begun to settle down for a peaceful sleep. As she had learned as a filly, nopony ever seemed to sleep in Manehattan. The cabs would run all night long, the lights would remain on until morning, and the commotion outside would refuse to subside.
“I do so apologize for this, Applejack,” Rarity said as she rejoined her just outside the station. “Er...you’re not angry at me, are you, darling?”
“Angry ‘bout what?” Applejack questioned facetiously, her eyes narrowing halfway into a glare. “‘Bout how we would have made that last train had you not spent twenty minutes tryin’ to find that pony a scarf?”
“Oh, come now, it was hardly my fault!” Rarity protested. “Her sweater was teal, and I can tell you from experience that almost nothing blends well with that color, except for only the lightest shade of magenta, which was regrettably absent from the shop. It took forever to find a suitable substitute.”
“Well, no use in complainin’ about it now,” Applejack said, rolling her eyes. “I guess we oughta go back to Coco’s place and tell her we’ll be stayin’ another night.”
“Well, yes, we could do that….or we could do something more fun?” Rarity said with a sly grin.
“Like what?” Applejack asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, now that our mission is complete, and given the circumstance we find ourselves in, I see no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves with the spare time that we have,” Rarity replied, her eyes glowing with anticipation. “So….what do you say we check ourselves into the Windsorhoof Hotel tonight? I assure you, it shall be an experience unlike anything you can imagine!”
“Oh, yeah?” said Applejack, her interest piqued.
“It is quintessential destination for the Manehattan tourist looking to indulge in highest standards of relaxation the city has to offer. We could enjoy the 24-hour spa, where we’ll receive the most relaxing messages from some of the most practiced massage professionals in the city! We could also soak in their mineral hot tubs while sipping on spiced apple cider that they’ll serve per our request! And most fortunately for you, I shall cover everything myself, including the room!”
“I dunno, Rarity,” said Applejack, shaking her head. “I wouldn’t want you to spend so much on me. You already bought me this hat, and that was more than enough...”
“Nonsense, darling!” Rarity boasted, waving a hoof dismissively. “Consider this my gift to you for not only lugging my heavy trunk around on this trip, but for everything you did to grant us our mission success. Were it not for your efforts to build that makeshift stage, Coco would never have been able to restore the Midsummer Theater Revival, and she may have ended up throwing in the towel altogether. That is why you absolutely deserve to be treated like royalty tonight, and I am going see to it that you are! The only question that remains is whether you’re up for it.”
She stared pleadingly into the green of Applejack’s eyes, awaiting a favorable response.
“Did you say ‘spiced apple cider?’” Applejack asked.
“Unlike any you’ve ever tasted before,” replied Rarity with a sly wink.
“And...they have steam rooms?”
“With steam heated to absolute perfection.”
Applejack raised a hoof to her chin. “Well, I suppose since we have the time to kill, there’s no harm in—”
Rarity squealed with excitement. “My thoughts exactly, dear! Come, Applejack! Relaxation awaits!”
And she whipped herself around and began a trot down the sidewalk, her merrily swishing tail inviting Applejack to accompany her. Chuckling to herself, Applejack followed, pleasantly anticipating what the night had in store for her.
The Windsorhoof was several blocks downtown, but a quick cab ride delivered the two ponies there within only fifteen minutes. The building stood at least twenty stories tall from what Applejack could tell. The hotel’s name was situated near the top, lit in shimmering gold and written in a elegant cursive slant.
“My sincerest thanks, good sir,” Rarity said to their cab driver, levitating a small bag of bits into his open hoof.
“Not a problem, miss,” the cab driver replied as she and Applejack stepped onto the sidewalk and Applejack hoisted Rarity’s bulky trunk onto her back again. “You two have yourselves a pleasant night.”
“Oh, we certainly plan on it,” Rarity said with elation, casually winking in Applejack’s direction. The cab driver placed the bag in his jacket pocket, tipped his hat to the two mares, and rushed off to find his next fare.
“Gosh, Rarity,” Applejack said uncomfortably. “I could’ve covered that, at least.”
“Applejack, please,” Rarity replied with a playful chuckle. “You’re not paying for a thing tonight.”
Applejack frowned slightly. Regardless of how generous Rarity was, Applejack was loathe to having another pony’s hard-earned money being spent on her behalf, especially after she had experienced firsthand just how competitive and strenuous Rarity’s line of work could be during their first trip to Manehattan.
Before she could say something in protest, Rarity happily trotted inside the hotel, and like before, the jovial swish of her tail invited Applejack to join her. As she stepped through the front doors, Applejack entered a lobby more fancy and homely than she had ever seen. A smooth marble floor gleamed beneath her hooves, a great chandelier hung from overhead, and various sets of furniture surrounded a roaring fireplace which filled the room with such a homelike comfort that almost made her feel as though she was back in Ponyville. The fireplace lured her nearer, and she closed her eyes as thoughts of home permeated her mind, reminding her that she would need to somehow make it up to Apple Bloom for missing the Sisterhooves Social this year...
“I’ve got our room key!” Rarity boasted as she rejoined Applejack, whose eyes snapped back open.
“Our room is on the twenty-second floor, second floor from the top!” Rarity said, grinning excitedly. “Elevator’s this way, dear!”
Rarity took Applejack by the hoof and charged towards the elevator, pulling her away from the comfort of the fire and the thoughts of home.
“I’ve secured us a luxury suite,” Rarity said as they entered the elevator and she pressed the number ‘22’ on the panel. “It’s called the ‘Garden Suite.’ Apparently, they’ve designed it to match the appearance and ambiance of a garden! We’ll just take a quick moment to see the room, drop off my trunk, and then it’s off to the spa!”
“A luxury suite, too?” Applejack groaned as the elevator lifted from the ground.
“Applejack, honestly,” Rarity replied, slightly agitated now. “I am treating you tonight, and that is simply all there is to it! I can spend my own money however I choose, and if I choose to spend it on you, then you are just going to have to accept it.”
“You’re right,” Applejack said, nodding. “I’m sorry, Rarity. I truly am grateful for this.”
“As I said, darling, you deserve it,” Rarity said with a smile before closing her eyes and squealing excitedly. “Ooooh! This is going to be so much fun!”
Applejack chuckled. Seeing Rarity enjoy herself was enough to put her mind at ease about the mounting expenses of their one-night vacation.
The elevator eventually came to a halt on the twenty-second floor. The two ponies soon discovered that their suite was far isolated from any of the other rooms on the floor, which Applejack surmised to mean that it was the largest. With palpable anticipation, Rarity inserted the key into the door’s lock and slowly opened it up.
The fresh scent of flowers was the first sensation to overwhelm them, permeating the room through the vents. As they stepped through the door, their eyes beheld two beds adorned in green-and-yellow silk bedspreads sitting side-by-side near the back wall. A wide window with nature-themed curtains had been fitted along the right wall, giving them an incredible view of the moonlit city. The ivory-colored walls were enhanced with detailed images of all manner of spring flowers, with the room’s floral scent lending the impression that the flowers were actually real. The carpet was green and resembled grass, with tiny spots of various bright colors spread over it, resembling flowers, and the ceiling was delicately painted to resemble a cloudy blue sky. The soft, ambient sound of trickling water reached them as they neared its source, which was a stone fountain in the far left corner, built upon a large mass of rocks where water flowed through them into a rounded bed of smooth pebbles.
“Oh, my stars!” Rarity squealed with disbelief, her eyes nearly welling with tears. “I don’t believe I’ve ever beheld such a divine room!”
Applejack expressed her own surprise wordlessly as she examined the room in a wide-eyed stupor. Even without Rarity’s passion for aesthetics, she knew that she had never before stepped hoof inside a more elegant hotel room. She walked to the window and stared out over the impressive sight of the Manehattan skyline. From the twenty-second floor, the building tops of the entire district were in full view, and she was amazed by how far she could see from so high up. The ponies walking along the sidewalk from below appeared smaller than insects.
“Something wrong, dear?” Rarity asked, appearing next to her.
“I’ve never been this high up in a buildin’ before,” Applejack noted, her voice indicating a sense of wonder.
“Magnificent, isn’t it?” Rarity asked, nudging her slightly.
“It’s somethin’, I’ll give ya that,” Applejack replied nonchalantly.
Rarity rolled her eyes. “Oh, please, Applejack. I know you’ll always prefer Ponyville to anyplace else, but surely you can admit that the big city has just a few perks as well? You could never get a view like this in Ponyville.”
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Alright, fine. It is a really nice view.”
Rarity chuckled, then levitated her trunk from Applejack’s back and set it upon the leftmost bed.
“So, are you ready for some therapeutically relaxing spa time, also unlike any we could get in Ponyville?” she asked excitedly.
“And spiced apple cider?”
“And spiced apple cider,” Rarity reaffirmed with a grin.
“Well, I suppose I am!” Applejack said, now appearing genuinely excited.
“Then let us be off!” Rarity exclaimed, and the two ponies zipped out the door with such speed that Applejack’s brand new stetson flew off her head and fell to the floor.
It was after midnight by the time the two ponies returned to their garden-like hotel room after nearly two hours of blissful relaxation that had more than lived up to Rarity’s superfluous pitch. Applejack could hardly recall feeling more unburdened in her entire life. She could still feel the exhilarating pleasure of multiple pairs of tender hooves sliding gently across her back, still taste the spiced cider on her tongue, and still feel the soothing steam coursing through to her lungs. It was indeed an experience that made Ponyville Day Spa, which she had always enjoyed well enough, seem stunningly inferior.
“Admit it, darling, you’re glad we missed that train home now, aren’t you?” Rarity asked after they entered their room.
“You know, I just might be,” Applejack said with a chuckle. “Thanks for this, Rarity.”
“You’re quite welcome, dear,” Rarity replied. “There’s nothing wrong with taking some time off to relax every once in a while.”
“I suppose,” Applejack conceded with a nod. “So, uh, you said you had a surprise waitin’ for us when we got back?”
“But of course!” Rarity replied excitedly, then pointed to the corner table, where a large bottle and a pair of glass mugs sat upon it.
“What’s that?” Applejack asked, squinting with confusion.
Rarity grinned as she levitated the bottle and thrust it towards Applejack’s face.
“Manetrotter Orchards Hard Cider,” Rarity said as Applejack simultaneously read the label. “I had this delivered to our room while we were out.”
“Hard cider?” Applejack said with surprise.
“It’s nothing like the cider you produce at Sweet Apple Acres, or even like the spiced cider we had earlier,” explained Rarity. “It’s—”
“I know what hard cider is, Rarity,” Applejack said sternly. “We used to have it at our family reunions before I was born. Granny’s shared the story about the first time she tried it back when she was about my age. Let’s just say, it ended with her wakin’ up in a chicken coop next mornin’.”
Rarity raised an eyebrow. “As...er...enticing a tale as that sounds, would you be up for a little drink?”
Applejack rubbed beneath her muzzle. Ominous warning bells sounded off within her head, yet she was still too curious about the mysterious nature of hard cider to pass this opportunity by.
“I suppose….there’s no harm in havin’ just a few glasses,” she said cautiously.
Rarity beamed and directed Applejack to take a seat at the table.
Once they were seated, Rarity levitated the cork from the bottle, and a silent stream of vapor emerged from its mouth and subsequently disappeared. Rarity poured their mugs half full and set the bottle back down. By appearance, the hard cider seemed no different than any ordinary apple cider, but Applejack still studied it carefully as though expecting to find traces of whatever it was that made ponies act so foolishly whenever they drank it in large quantities.
“Shall we?” asked Rarity as she gripped her mug.
With a deep breath, Applejack picked up her own mug.
“To the success of our mission!” said Rarity holding up her glass towards Applejack.
“The success of our mission,” Applejack replied, and they clacked their mugs together before simultaneously lifting them to their lips.
As it made contact with her tongue, Applejack discovered that the hard cider was much tastier than she expected, so much so that she could barely restrain herself from emptying her entire mug. There was certainly a kick to it, something that desired to put a bridle around her muzzle and ride her wildly around the room, but Applejack was stunned to think that she might have preferred the hard cider to her homemade cider, though she would certainly never reveal that to her family.
“So what do you think?” asked Rarity once they had both stopped drinking, both of their mugs nearly empty.
“It’s…good,” Applejack replied, clearly awestruck. “In fact, I think I’d like a bit more.”
“Indeed,” Rarity replied, levitating the bottle again.
They spent the next half hour gradually emptying the bottle and delving into conversation as the drink took hold of them, thrusting them into an altered state of awareness where they were vulnerable to anything, including each other.
“Honestly darling, I simply cannot believe you left this city behind,” said Rarity after downing the rest of her mug, her voice somewhat hazy. “I cannot say I would have done the same. Granted, Canterlot would be my first choice for a home outside of Ponyville, but Manehattan is a very close second.”
“It ain’t what you think it is,” replied Applejack, shaking her head. “The noise just never ends. All night long, them taxi cabs just run across the street. If we weren’t up so high, we’d be hearin’ ‘em now.”
“A minor grievance at best,” stated Rarity.
“It ain’t to me,” Applejack said, shaking her head. “I’d never give up the peaceful nights on the farm. At times you can hear the pigs all up in a fuss if they get spooked by somethin’, but that’s about it as far as noise goes.”
“You truly don’t like this city, Applejack?” asked Rarity after a moment, appearing disappointed.
“It ain’t that I don’t like it, exactly. It’s just that I don’t fit in like you do,” Applejack answered. “You were born into the small town life, but you adjust to this city like you’ve been livin’ here since birth. I just don’t have that, and I realized that when I was a filly.”
“Let us not forget, Applejack, we only completed our mission because you managed to find a way by which you could connect with the ponies of this city,” said Rarity. “You inspired an entire Manehattan neighborhood to embrace the friendly, small-town lifestyle and strengthen their community, and I do not believe that was any small feat. I daresay you fit in better than you think.”
“I dunno,” Applejack replied, staring at the few remaining ounces of cider in her glass. “Besides, it’s ain’t like I solved the problem all on my own.”
“My point is that I don’t believe you have any genuine reason to doubt yourself,” Rarity continued. “While there’s no doubt as to your preferences, I truly believe you can belong anyplace you want to belong.”
Applejack smiled appreciatively, slightly flattered.
“Golly, what time is it?” she asked after a moment. “I ain’t usually up this late.”
“I’ll tell you what time it is, Applejack,” Rarity said, suddenly grinning maliciously. “It’s time for me to finally hear your Manehattan accent!”
Applejack laughed nervously while simultaneously shaking her head as though she had just heard the punchline of a joke that was blatantly awkward on top of being unfunny. She suddenly regret ever telling her friends about the false accent that her Aunt and Uncle Orange had instructed her to speak with while she lived with them in Manehattan.
“If it’s all the same, I think I’m gonna pass on that.”
“It most certainly is not ‘all the same’”, Rarity replied with a scoff. “If you truly wish to reimburse me for tonight, Applejack, then this is all that I ask.”
Applejack shifted uncomfortably. “Eh...I’m sure I could find another way to pay ya back.”
“Oh, come now!” Rarity urged, leaning in closer. “Just one little sentence?”
“Please, please, please?”
Applejack sighed, shaking her head. “You’ll just laugh at me.”
“I would never!” Rarity protested.
Applejack stared at her with doubtful suspicion.
“Come now, darling, you cannot truly think me that insensitive, can you?” Rarity asked with a few persuasively innocent bats of her eyelashes.
Applejack sighed with defeat, no longer willing to carry on the fight against Rarity’s persistence.
“Fine,” she said with annoyance. “But I'm only doin’ this for you, so I’d appreciate it if you kept it to yerself.”
“My lips are sealed, darling,” Rarity said with a victorious grin. “What happens in this room, stays in this room.”
Feeling embarrassed already, Applejack briefly closed her eyes, cleared her throat, and prepared her voice to produce an accent that she had never imagined would emerge from her mouth again.
“Rarity dearest, this cider is simply divine. Never in all my years has my tongue been graced with such an exquisitely fine-tasting beverage. Truly, your unique taste for magnificence is just as unmatched as your keen eye for it.”
Rarity did not laugh, nor did she offer any sort of reply at all. Applejack’s eyes cracked opened again to see her staring blankly as though confused.
“What?” Applejack asked, her voice normal again.
“That was how you spoke back then?” she asked. “Forgive me, but that speech seems far too eloquent for Manehattan standards. It seems rather fit for Canterlot, actually.”
“It was just how my aunt and uncle Orange taught me to speak,” Applejack replied with subtle resentment. “They said that as ‘quaint’ as I was, there was no place for a farm filly in a city like Manehattan. So...they did their best to change me.”
“Change you?” Rarity questioned.
“Back then, I had thought they were just tryin’ to help me fit into the big city lifestyle better, but I think now that they only did it ‘cause they didn’t want their friends to know that they had relatives in an old country town like Ponyville. The story they gave is that I was one of their Fillydelphia relatives who came to experience the sophisticated Manehattan life, and they told me that if I clung to that little white lie, there’d be big opportunities for me in Manehattan. But I think all they wanted was for me to become a pony who wasn’t…well, me.”
“That’s awful!” Rarity cried with disbelief.
Applejack shook her head. “It don’t bother me anymore. In fact, I haven’t seen ‘em since the day I decided to return home to Sweet Apple Acres. They were mighty insulted when I left, and they cut ties with us Apples for years. They only just recently allowed our cousin Babs to meet us and come to our reunions, but they still refuse to come themselves.”
Rarity looked at her sorrowfully. “You never told me anything about this before. Heavens, Applejack, I don’t even know what to say…”
“I try not to reflect on it,” Applejack said with a slight shrug. “Besides, I’m still grateful to them for takin’ me in at a time when I was still figurin’ out who I wanted to be. I don’t have any hard feelings.”
“Well, I, for one, don’t think you need to change for anypony, not your accent, nor even your appearance,” said Rarity with a comforting smile. “You’re gorgeous just as you are, darling.”
Applejack blinked with surprise.
“You really think so?”
“Why, of course, dear!” Rarity exclaimed.
“Well, I can’t say I ever would have thought you’d use a word like ‘gorgeous’ to describe me,” answered Applejack. “In fact, I remember you once sayin’ that my mane looked like a filthy clump o’ hay.”
“What?!” Rarity sputtered, appearing flabbergasted. “When was that?!”
“Er...quite some time ago ,” Applejack replied. “I think it was just ‘fore I went to Dodge Junction to earn money that I didn’t win at that rodeo. But it’s alright, I wasn’t hurt by it or anythin’. You did kinda have a point. I had just finished roundin’ the pigs back up and one of ‘em had knocked me face first in some mud. I hadn't had the chance to wash up ‘fore you saw me.”
Rarity’s irises shriveled to the size of dots as she recalled the event. She sat frozen in silence for a moment, then unexpectedly rose to her hooves.
“Come with me.”
Rarity turned and strode into the bathroom. Confused and curious, Applejack followed her, stopping in front of the mirror into which Rarity was staring.
“As I look into this mirror now, do you want to know what I see?” Rarity asked, staring into Applejack’s eyes through her reflection.
“I see two stunningly beautiful green eyes which leave me with the impression that I am staring into a pair of the rarest and purest of emeralds. If eyes truly are, as they say, the ‘windows to the soul’, then surely your soul must be an undeniably pure one, borne from a lifetime of fiercely upholding the virtues of honesty and humility. Even if I did not know you, it would take but a single look into your eyes to make me believe that I could trust you with my very life. It is no surprise to me that the Element of Honesty chose you to represent it, and I can scarcely think of a single pony in all of Equestria who is more deserving.”
Applejack fell motionless while Rarity gently placed a hoof on her cheek, her voice becoming tender.
“I see three adorable little freckles sitting in perfect alignment on each side of your face. Flawless in their simplicity, they bestow your visage with an exuberant sense of uniqueness which is exclusive only to you. They illuminate your cheeks enhance your beauty while also accurately identifying you as a pony who cherishes her exceedingly strong roots to her home and family. They are a rather enviable aspect of your face.”
Rarity ceased speaking and began to slowly stroke Applejack’s mane like the fur of a cat. Applejack remained staring at her own reflection, entirely stiff except for her steady breaths.
“And finally, I see your hair, golden as sunshine, as poised and humble as your freckles, tied down at the end, perhaps to spare other ponies the envy of seeing how magnificently your locks flow in the bare wind. Even while you shelter your hair with a stetson, it remains as glorious as ever, and may arguably be the greatest asset to your beauty. The point I’m trying to make, Applejack, is that I believe that you are a beautiful and stunningly gorgeous mare, and I am truly sorry if I ever made you feel anything less.”
Rarity’s string of compliments left Applejack equally embarrassed and flattered, yet they urged an encompassing warmth to spread from within her heart. A pair of quiet tears simultaneously trailed from her eyes as she stared at herself in the mirror, tears that had somehow been able to squeeze through her fortified emotional threshold.
“Oh, darling, I’m so sorry,” Rarity said as she noticed the tears. “I never meant to upset you.”
“No, it’s fine,” Applejack replied, shaking her head and wiping at her face. “I guess I just wasn’t expectin’ all that.”
“Well, I meant every word of it, dear,” Rarity stated before unexpectedly planting a quick kiss upon Applejack’s cheek.
Applejack’s mouth fell slightly open, suddenly struck with a feeling comparable to being an apple tree that had just been bucked. As much as she had not anticipated the contact of Rarity’s lips to her cheek, it somehow managed to seem as though it had been intended by fate to happen in that moment. A surge of burning white heat rushed to Applejack’s cheeks as she slowly turned her head to meet Rarity’s smiling face, only to find that she was lost for a verbal response. She managed to return an appreciative smile before exiting the bathroom as the silence between them became embarrassingly awkward, crossing back over to the window to stare out upon the active Manehattan nightlife.
“It truly is a lovely view, isn’t it?” asked Rarity, suddenly appearing beside her.
“It sure is,” Applejack replied silently.
As though suddenly under the influence of a trance, Applejack turned her eyes from the window and onto the mare standing next to her, several seconds passing in slow motion before Rarity met her gaze. They looked at each other in a silence that no longer seemed uncomfortable or embarrassing. Rarity leaned in closer, reducing the gap between their noses to mere inches. An inexplicable symbiosis took hold of the two of them, and neither could turn away. In that moment, they both knew what the other was thinking. They both knew what the other desired.
After a few seconds which passed in slow motion, it finally happened....
Their lips made contact, locking tightly together as their eyes simultaneously closed, falling victim to the exhilarating compulsion of the moment. Time went still and the two ponies fell entirely numb to the reality of what they were doing, only knowing for certain how right it felt. How natural it felt. How comfortable it felt…
Eventually, Rarity separated their lips, prompting their eyes to spread open again to see their faces inches apart. Their cheeks were as red and hot as the passion that had ignited between them, and their breaths were heavy with unbridled exhilaration.
Neither of them took the opportunity to speak, and after another moment, Rarity leaned in and made contact with Applejack’s lips again. The process was repeated; time slowed to a halt and they closed their eyes, buried in blissfully paradise, ignoring any feeling that might have told them they were doing something they should not be.
“Stop, stop,” Applejack suddenly said in a whisper, softly pushing against Rarity’s neck to disconnect their lips. Reality had at last come crashing down upon her, and the moment of desirable bliss dissipated almost instantaneously.
“We can’t do this,” she said silently, shaking her head with regret.
“Do you truly wish me to stop?” Rarity whispered back, disappointment shining in her face.
Applejack did not answer, realizing that in spite of how aware she was that what they were doing surely had no positive outcome, there was nothing she wanted more in that instant than to feel Rarity’s lips pressed upon her own again. She could hardly believe how suddenly these romantic feelings had materialized while she was staring at herself in the bathroom mirror, and Rarity’s flattering compliments had seemed to translate into a declaration of love.
“N—No…” she replied softly.
Rarity smiled. “Then we can do this.”
Applejack made no further protest as Rarity leaned in to kiss her even more deeply. Their hearts pounded with equal intensity and their passion exploded across every inch of their bodies, leaving them both with the impression that this was the only right thing in the world.
Their lips eventually parted again, and reality crashed down upon Applejack once more. She suddenly remembered that at noon tomorrow, they would be boarding a train back to Ponyville, back to their lives and the friends and family who were awaiting their return. Whatever blissful peace they were enjoying within the privacy of their hotel room would inevitably end before long.
Rarity stared at Applejack in silence, smiling enticingly as though awaiting a sign of approval to resume kissing.
“I think we’ve had a mite too much to drink,” Applejack said uncomfortably, breaking eye contact with Rarity to stare at the now-empty hard cider bottle on the table alongside their two empty glass mugs.
“We’re all alone, you know?” Rarity replied, ignoring her words. “We’re all by ourselves in this peaceful little garden. Whatever happens tonight won’t be known by anypony but ourselves. It won’t leave this room. It’ll be our little secret.”
She then tried to initiate another kiss, but Applejack quickly raised a hoof to assert that this would go no further.
“We’ve had too much to drink,” she repeated, shaking her head sorrowfully.
Rarity blinked, seemingly insulted.
“Do you mean to say that you think I am only acting on impulse? That my feelings for you are entirely disingenuous?”
“I just want to be sure that we really know what we’re doin’,” replied Applejack. “I’m tryin’ to spare us both some embarrassment in the mornin’.”
Rarity sighed solemnly, then returned to the table.
“Applejack, in my trunk, just beneath my lovely assortment of hats and scarves is my diary,” Rarity said as she took a seat. “Would you be a dear and bring it to me?”
Applejack was confused but nevertheless complied, trodding over to the trunk on the bed and pulling the diary out of the cluster of hats, scarves, and neatly-folded dresses. She then returned to Rarity, who gripped it with magic, flipped rapidly through dozens of pages until she stopped somewhere near the center, and placed it upon the table.
“Read it,” she urged, indicating Applejack to sit down.
Applejack’s eyes widened, knowing how much Rarity cherished the privacy of her diary.
“Go on, darling,” Rarity ordered with an encouraging nod.
Applejack sat herself down and stared at the open entry, which was dated over a month ago. With a great deal of apprehension about reading Rarity’s private thoughts, she hesitantly started from the top.
It’s currently two in the morning, and I realize that I’ve not been up this late since I was designing my signature collection for Canterlot Carousel’s grand opening. I truly wish I could say that it was merely another strenuous deadline keeping me from attaining a peaceful night’s rest, but alas, it is not quite so simple. I can only trust that once I finally get my relentless thoughts down onto paper, I might be able to get some sleep and thereby spare my eyes the scourge of hideous bags sagging beneath them in the morning. And so here I find myself, sitting at my kitchen table, transferring the words from my mind into my little private book in the hopes that it provides me the same cathartic comfort it always has. I truly need it right now.
Opal has jumped up on the table, and if I know my cat, there will be no persuading her to return to bed until I’ve done the same. I am thankful for her company and have expressed my gratitude by filling her milk bowl, which she now sips from contentedly as collect my thoughts. While I watch her drink from her darling little bowl, I suddenly understand that it is the only thing that I have any desire to dwell on at the moment. It is certainly preferable to dwelling upon the bewildering thoughts in my mind and the dubious feelings in my heart which leave me thoroughly petrified and at a loss for any straightforward means of addressing them. But no matter how much I may keep my mind busy with meaningless distractions, I remain aware that they will not permit these feelings of mine to subside. As such, it is finally time for me to address them, for the night is getting no younger, and my fleeting rest continues to slip away.
She is on my mind again.
I’ve seldom ceased thinking about her since we parted ways earlier today, or yesterday, as it were. I cannot deny my feelings for her, nor can I will them away. I never imagined I’d find myself in such a circumstance, but love simply happens as it happens, and I’ve always been so blissfully susceptible to its caprices. I’m much too embarrassed to even mention her by name, but I know that my future self who looks back upon this entry will know exactly who it is I’m talking about (And should anypony be reading this without my express permission, I insist that you cease at once. That means you, Sweetie Belle).
As she pervades each and every crevice of my thoughts, I find myself longing to see her again. Though I know that she’s merely a ten minute walk away from home, I miss her as though she were on the opposite end of Equestria. I can hardly wait until our eyes meet again, and the joy of being in her presence overwhelms me. If only she knew how my heart flutters when I see her stunning emerald eyes, her magnificent golden hair, and her adorably delightful smile….
But alas, she does not know, and I cannot say for certain whether she ever will.
Perhaps one morning, I shall finally wake up and realize just how foolish I am for entertaining these feelings toward her. Surely, surely, I cannot fall in love with another mare….can I? After so many years of dreaming to meet the stallion who would sweep me off my hooves, is it truly going to be a mare who captures my heart instead? But should that day never come, should these feelings endure and my attraction to her prove to be more than a fleeting illusion bound to pass with time, I shall endeavor to reveal them to her, though it is disheartening to even think about such an insurmountable task. Given the difficulty I have expressed in simply transcribing this entry while I am in the privacy of my home and in the presence of only my thirsty cat, the very notion of actually confessing these feelings directly to her face feels as though it would require all of the strength and resolve of Celestia herself.
And even if I could….what if it did not go the way I desired? What if I am rejected, or even worse, what if she finds my attraction towards another mare repulsive, and my confession irreparably damages our friendship?
No. That would never happen. Though I do not expect her to reciprocate my feelings, to outright reject me in the cold manner my fears have conjured is an act far removed from the scope of her character. She is kind, compassionate, and gentle, in so many ways the model of a lady, no matter how adamantly she may deny it. I realize now that even if she does not share my feelings, she will at least understand them, and if and when the day comes that I bare my heart to her, she will not betray that trust.
I suppose that is why I have fallen so deeply for her.
I’d like to think that she’s sound asleep at this very moment after a hard day’s work, completely oblivious to how much my heart yearns over her. It is a peaceful and comforting image, and perhaps it may even help me back to sleep.
Opal just finished her milk, and now that my thoughts are permanently sealed within the pages of my diary, I think I am ready to thrust myself back into Luna’s embrace.
Disorientation had gripped Applejack by the time she finished. She looked up slowly at Rarity, whose relieved smile did not conceal the noticeable redness in her cheeks. Before Applejack could make an attempt speak, Rarity once again magically flipped forward several more pages to a second entry and motioned for her to continue on reading. Applejack hesitantly complied again. The new entry was only two days old.
I can hardly believe it! Twilight’s castle map has summoned Applejack and I for a friendship mission in none other than the magnificent city of Manehattan! We’ll be leaving in a few hours, and my excitement is brimming as though I’m a rambunctious young filly on Hearth Warming Eve. Not only will I be returning to one of the most fabulous cities in all of Equestria, second only to Canterlot itself, I will be returning alongside the very pony who still makes my heart flutter with her very presence, yet who still remains blissfully unaware of it.
Alas, there is a downside to my inexplicable fortune. The annual Sisterhooves Social is tomorrow, and Applejack and I both know that we won’t likely be back in time for it. I was truly looking forward to spending some sisterly bonding time with Sweetie Belle, not to mention having the opportunity to run the race without being covered head to hoof in mud (I still have dreadful memories of trying to get all of that mud out of my mane last time). I shall have to bear the news to her before we leave, and I do not imagine she’ll take it well.
Still, I can hardly stop myself from trembling. This is the golden opportunity I’ve been awaiting for so long, and I do not intend to let it slip through my hooves. I vow to myself now that by the time we are boarding the return train to Ponyville, Applejack will finally know how I feel about her. Goodness, just writing those words consumes me with an equal measure of exhilaration and trepidation, but I shall stand firm in my conviction.
I must pack for the trip now, and I trust that my next entry will expound Applejack’s response to my confession. One way or another, this shall be a friendship mission to remember.
Oh, Sweet Celestia, give me strength…
As before, Applejack looked back up at Rarity in numb disbelief, her heart thumping rapidly,
“So you see?” Rarity said, blushing more brightly. “I’ve felt this way for quite some time now. I’ve spent many a sleepless night wondering how I was ever going to express my feelings for you, and at long last, I finally have. I won’t regret a thing when I wake up in the morning.”
“I….I dunno what to say,” Applejack replied, cheeks flaming as bright as Rarity’s.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen, darling,” Rarity replied. “Believe me, I’ve tried to convince myself that I don’t truly feel the way I do. But feelings are not easily denied. You’ve been such a good friend to me, and...suddenly, it's become harder to imagine the faceless stallion of my dreams and much easier to imagine you standing in his place.”
Applejack fell into silence as she stared out of the window, deep in thought, still trying to make a lick of sense as to how the last twenty minutes could have been anything more than a hallucination brought on by the cider she just drank—the cider that Granny had always warned her against.
“Might I ask what you're thinking?” Rarity said nervously, apparently fearing that Applejack was attempting to come up with the kindest way possible to turn her down.
“As I was buildin’ that stage for the play, Coco pulled me aside and said she believed you had feelings for me,” answered Applejack, looking back at her. “She said she could tell by the way you look at me, and the way you were talkin’ about me while I was tryin’ to fix up the park. How you said things like ‘Applejack won’t let us down. She's the most dependable pony you’ll ever meet.’”
Rarity appeared surprised. “She did?”
Applejack nodded. “I’ve been thinkin’ about it ever since. I thought she had to be crazier than Pinkie Pie in a cupcake factory to think that you’d ever have feelings for a pony like me. I told her I was sure she was mistaken.”
“She wasn’t mistaken, Applejack,” Rarity said, smiling with embarrassment. “And I must say, I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say ‘a pony like me.’ Do you mean a pony who scarcely hesitates to put others before herself? A pony who values honesty above all else, and who is more empathetic and trustworthy than any pony I’ve ever met?”
She paused and gently caressed Applejack’s cheek. “A pony who is as incredibly strong as she is stunningly gorgeous?”
Applejack trembled again, well aware of how much she desired to submit.
“You know, we could simply enjoy ourselves for now,” Rarity said in a whisper.
“There’s no need to think about what will happen between us after tonight. For now, we can simply pleasure ourselves while we’re safe within the privacy of this room. And tomorrow, it shall be nothing more than a memory, unless we should decide to take it further.”
She leaned closer, and Applejack’s heart leapt as passion took hold of her again.
“Just let me know if you want to stop,” Rarity whispered.
She brought their lips together again and Applejack momentarily lost herself, though she remained clutched tightly onto her lingering feelings of doubt, refusing to let them fade away. No matter how much either of them may have desired it, they could not simply indulge themselves without consequence. They could not simply pretend that this night would exist in an isolated bubble which would not have even the slightest effect on their lives.
Nevertheless, Applejack still felt fairly content to worry about the inevitable consequences later. The proverbial damage had already been done. They had already taken this further than they should have, and there would surely be no additional harm in going just a little bit further—to continue to lose themselves beneath the safety blanket of bliss which comfortably gripped the both of them.
Applejack pressed against Rarity’s lips with a comparable degree of passion, and they slipped from their seats, falling to the floor while their kiss continued on uninterrupted. They paused long enough to crawl their way over to the softness of the bed, then pressed their lips back together as though they feared their passion would fade away.
“How do you feel?” Rarity whispered after an undeterminable period of time passed and their lips parted as the need for air overwhelmed them.
“I dunno,” Applejack replied in a low voice, “I can’t stop thinkin’ bout my family, our friends,and our sisters. I don’t reckon I’d even want to know what any of ‘em would think about what we’re doin’ right now.”
Rarity frowned. “You want to stop now?”
Applejack answered with a strained nod. The image of sliding beneath the covers with Rarity had flashed through her mind, and she knew she needed to end this before her temptation could reach that dangerous point.
Unwilling to utter a word or look into Rarity’s frowning face, she fell down upon the bed, intent to sleep away the remainder of this debaucherous night. She closed her eyes, only to open them again within seconds as Rarity lay down beside her, setting their noses mere inches apart again. For a wild moment, Applejack took this as Rarity’s attempt to continue beyond that dreaded point of no return, but she simply kissed Applejack’s forehead and closed her eyes, becoming still and silent.
Applejack suddenly recalled that the last time she and Rarity had shared a bed, they had descended into a feud over the blanket. The circumstances now could not have been more opposite as she fought off the desire to resume kissing Rarity’s enticing lips and slip into that pleasurable trance once more. But she instead closed her eyes again, permitted her exhaustion to overtake her, and fell soundly asleep.
Applejack remained asleep all through the sunrise, and by the time her eyes creaked open, it was well after eight the morning. She glimpsed Rarity’s sleeping face lying just in front of her own and just barely stopped herself from springing out of bed in utter shock.
With the alcoholic cider cleared from her system and no longer distorting her perception of the previous night, reality struck Applejack like a hot apple pie to the face, and she knew at once that her each and every memory of the last few hours had not been a dream. She and Rarity had kissed—multiple times—and they had both enjoyed it. She had read two entries in Rarity’s diary, in which her dear friend had expressed deeply-concealed feelings for her. And all of Applejack’s concerns, which had seemed so far away as she lost herself in Rarity’s lips, now seemed as encompassing as a bottomless pit from which there would never be any hope for escape.
As she slowly rose from the bed, Rarity snapped back to consciousness with a yawn. She smiled as her eyes met Applejack’s, apparently feeling no shock and only satisfaction towards everything that had happened last night.
“Good morning, my dear,” she said contentedly.
“Er, mornin’,” Applejack replied, embarrassment sweeping over her at once.
Rarity rose from the bed and briskly trotted to the bathroom while Applejack remained frozen in place, uncertain about what she would do now.
“My apologies, Applejack, but I might be a little while,” Rarity said before entering the bathroom. “It takes quite some time to put on my face in the morning.”
“Oh...thasawright,” Applejack replied, unable to conceal the embarrassment in her voice.
Rarity flashed a charming smile, then entered the bathroom and shut the door, leaving Applejack alone to contemplate what was to happen next. She strode to the window, momentarily astonished by how distinctive the Manehattan skyline appeared in the daylight as opposed to at night. The Hoovesboro Bridge was now visible in the distance and she could now see several pegasi soaring through the fresh morning air, many of which appeared to be sightseeing, while others appeared to be en route to their day jobs. Down below, swarms of ponies still covered every sidewalk, while cab drivers were more active on the roads than usual, many presumably transporting the wingless to their own daily grind. As far as the outside world was concerned, absolutely nothing had changed in the last several hours. It was simply a brand new day, same as any other.
Applejack thought about Apple Bloom and how disappointed she had been at the news that her big sister would be missing the Sisterhooves Social. What would she think of her big sister if she knew what had happened last night?
She thought about her deceased parents and wondered how they would have reacted to her actions. She was loathe to the thought that they would have been ashamed of her.
She thought about the rest of her friends, and the familial bonds she had built with them over the years, bonds that up until now, she was certain never had even the remotest chance of ever turning romantic…
Turning away from the window, Applejack decided to restore the bed to its pre-slept state in an effort to rid herself of the foreboding on her mind. She glanced over at the table to see the empty bottle of hard cider lying sideways on the table along with the two mugs. Applejack glared at the bottle, recalling Granny Smith’s warning story and thinking that she would have preferred to find herself waking up in a chicken coop rather than beside her best friend, with whom she had allowed her passion to run wild.
The bathroom door opened again by the time Applejack was tucking the pillows in place. Rarity stepped out, her eyes and mane entirely alight, and her eyelashes lined to perfection. Applejack blushed at the sight of her, realizing she had a lingering desire to lose herself in Rarity’s lips all over again.
“Well, it would appear we have over three hours to kill before we need to be at the train station,” Rarity noted. “Would you happen to have any suggestions for how we spend the time?”
Applejack shook her head, turning back to the bed as though it still demanded her immediate attention. But from of the corner of her eye, she noticed Rarity approaching and retracted herself slightly with the intent to reject any further advances.
“I’m afraid there is something I must now confess,” Rarity said with a heavy sigh. “I hope you won’t be too angry with me.”
Applejack blinked, her heart skipping and tail swishing impulsively.
“Well, the truth is that I planned this entire thing,” Rarity said, staring Applejack hard in the eye. “I instructed Coco to drop a tiny hint about how I felt about you, I checked the train schedule just before the play to see when the last train to Ponyville was due so that I could delay us long enough to miss it, and I made advance reservations here to secure this room for us.”
Applejack simply stared back at her, feeling no anger or even surprise at Rarity’s words. So much had seemed to go Rarity’s way last night that it was easy to believe she had tipped the scales in her own favor.
“I do apologize for my dishonest pretense, Applejack,” Rarity continued. “It’s just that I knew I wasn’t going to get another opportunity like this again. I knew you would want to go back home as soon as we finished our mission, but I just wanted us to spend a little vacation time in Manehattan together, without the rest of our friends. And in all fairness, we had already missed the Social, so I knew that there was no particular hurry for us to return home.”
“Why’d you do all this?” Applejack asked.
“As I said in my diary, I wanted to make you aware of my feelings before we returned home,” she said silently. “But it was my hope that if I could position us within the proper casually romantic setting, perhaps I might inspire similar feelings in you.”
Applejack sighed deeply, knowing that it was now time to do what she knew was necessary, no matter how much she desired not to.
“I really am glad we spent this time together, Rarity, but I don’t think we can take this any further.”
Rarity frowned, her voice going quiet.
“Might I ask why not? We kissed last night, and not against your will. Perhaps it was presumptuous of me, but I thought it was an indication that you wanted us to be together.”
“I was caught up in the moment last night,” Applejack said apologetically. “I do feel somethin’ for you, but we’ve still got our lives to consider—our friends, our sisters. It's all just a heap too much.”
Rarity lowered her head.
“I know that. I certainly haven’t forgotten them. I knew that attaining the blessing of our friends and sisters would be a difficult, yet surmountable challenge standing in our path. However, I’ve since been reliant on the idea that if they knew we were truly in love, they would accept it.”
“I don’t think I can take that chance,” Applejack said, shaking her head.
“You truly believe your family would expel you?”
“Well, of course not, but I don’t wanna put them in that position. I just don’t think I can be selfish enough to look Apple Bloom square in the eye an’ tell her that I'm in love with the sister of one of her friends. It's too heavy a burden to drop on her, and our friends.”
Rarity fell entirely silent, and Applejack thought it was but a matter of time before she fell to the floor in tears, her hopes shattered to pieces.
“I think would have preferred it if you'd just rejected me before our lips ever touched,” Rarity said softly, starting down at her hooves. “I’m certain it would have felt less painful than the feeling of losing something I thought I had.”
“I’m sorry, Rarity,” Applejack said sincerely, her heart aching. “I do value our relationship, but I think a friendship is what it should remain.”
Rarity looked Applejack in the eye again. “I understand. I knew from the start that having everything go my way would be quite the long shot. I prepared myself for this possibility. And after all, putting your own desires aside for the sake others is exactly what I would expect from you.”
Rarity then smiled in an effort to show that she had no hard feelings, but of all the smiles Applejack had seen spread across her face over the last ten hours, she could tell this one was by far the least sincere.
“So, what do you think we should do with our last few hours in Manehattan?”
Applejack shrugged and suggested sightseeing, to which Rarity replied positively. As they spent the next few hours taking in more of what Manehattan had to offer, Applejack’s heart ached with unbearable regret—regret that she had permitted an inexplicable passion to overrule her common sense, regret that she had left her closest friend deeply disappointed and feigning a happy face, and regret that the fledgling romance that had blossomed between them beneath the Manehattan moonlight would now wither away as though it never existed at all.
Applejack’s left foreleg had fallen numb as Rarity slept against it. The images passing quickly from the windows seemed to blur together as she remained engulfed in heavy thought.
Applejack had never been in love, and was quite sure she would not recognize the sensation if it ever came over her. Yet there was still some unknowable force that had kept her lips pressed against Rarity’s, some unknowable force that prevented her from turning away.
Rarity had been willing to burn through so much money to have their one-night vacation, hoping beyond expectation that they would both be returning home deeply in love. She surely would not have gone to such lengths if it was not her desire to develop an intimate bond with Applejack that could potentially last for the rest of their lives…
Applejack stared down at the innocently sleeping pony on her shoulder, still surprised by how much she found herself attracted to her, longing for her.
“Rarity?” Applejack whispered, gently shaking her awake.
Rarity sprang back to consciousness and looked up.
“Do you love me?” Applejack asked, her voice low.
Rarity stared deeply into Applejack’s eyes, then nodded once.
Applejack’s heart skipped at her answer.
“What does it feel like, bein’ in love?”
“It is a sensation beyond description,” Rarity replied promptly. “When you stare into the eyes of the pony you love, it is as an elated rush causing you feel as though the world around you is but small and insignificant. For a rather fleeting moment, you come to the realization that nothing matters save for the pony staring back at you, as well as the realization that you would do anything to maintain her smile, her contentment, her happiness. It overwhelms you, and you desire nothing more than to lose yourself in your love for as long as you possibly can.”
Applejack swallowed hard, her insides churning, her every instinctual resistance suddenly fading away.
“I love you, too.”
Rarity offered no reply, then straightened herself back on her seat.
“And shall I assume that changes nothing?” she asked bitterly.
Suddenly apathetic to the fact that they were no longer confined within a private hotel room, Applejack leaned into Rarity’s lips for another swift, impulsive kiss.
“Or...shall I assume it changes everything?” Rarity whispered once their lips parted, blushing brightly.
“I wanna explore this feelin’,” Applejack said silently. “I’ve never felt anythin’ like this. I don’t reckon I can just let it slide on by.”
“And what of sisters and friends?” Rarity asked with a frown. “Did you not tell me earlier that their feelings take precedence over your own desire to be happy?”
“I don’t wanna hafta spring it up on ‘em,” Applejack said heavily. “Maybe we can just take some time to warm ‘em to the idea. Drop some hints or anythin’ that makes it less of a surprise when we finally decide to let ‘em know.”
“And should your family wish to know, in detail, exactly what you did in Manehattan last night?”
“I’ll tell the truth,” Applejack replied. “I’ll tell them that last night, you and I decided to take our friendship a little further. It’s not somethin’ I’m keen to do, but if they ask for the truth, they deserve to have it. And I know that whatever happens, however they feel about it, they won't love me any less.”
Rarity stared Applejack hard in the eye, her face full of skepticism towards this unexpected turn of events.
“You truly mean it, darling? You’re truly willing, in spite of your reservations, to give me what my heart has desired for quite some time?”
“It ain’t just your heart’s desire anymore,” Applejack said, tenderly caressing Rarity’s cheek. “It’s mine, too.”
“You know, there’s something I’ve been thinking ever since we left home. What if the map’s true intention for sending us to Manehattan was so that we could fall in love?”
Applejack blinked and pondered this for a moment.
“Well, that wouldn’t make for much of a ‘friendship’ mission, would it?” she replied with a chuckle.
“Admittedly, it would be nice to know that the map approves, at least,” Rarity replied happily.
They chuckled in unison, then crossed their hooves together, intent to enjoy the rest of the train ride thoroughly engrossed in each other’s company and imagining their potential future together.