Two Paths

by Sir0Chicken


Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Applejack shouldn't have run from her friends. She knew that now. She knew it when she looked Fluttershy in the eyes and lied to her face. It was impulsive. It was irrational. It was… stupid.

She squeezed her eyes shut and scuffed her hoof against the dirt road. Inside, her thoughts and emotions raged, kicking up a storm Applejack could not escape. Her lips quivered, and all she could do was force herself forward. One step, two steps, and she strode through the gate that marked the beginning of Sweet Apple Acres.

She glanced back in the direction of Fluttershy's cottage, but she didn't stop. A walk became a trot, then a canter. Before she knew it, she was galloping at full speed through the apple orchard. She didn't know why. All she knew was the storm raging in her head. She couldn't fight it off, so she ran.

As she ran, she blinked rapidly. Her eyes stung with what would no doubt become tears, but she could not let them come. Without slowing, she squeezed her eyes shut. They remained closed for a moment, two… three…


She grit her teeth, and when her eyes opened once more, the tears were gone. All that remained was an unending fire.

Fluttershy watched as Rainbow Dash flared her wings. Fluttershy knew what would happen next. As Rainbow stretched her wings skyward, she paced about Fluttershy's bedroom. She knit her brow and darted her eyes every which way. After a few moments, Rainbow snapped her wings back to her side. She stopped pacing, but the furrowed brow and shifting eyes remained.

"Come here, Dashie," Fluttershy said. She took a step forward and extended a hoof. "I know you're upset. Come here."

Rainbow took Fluttershy's hoof and pulled her friend in for a quick hug, but the embrace only lasted a moment. Before long, she grit her teeth and pushed Fluttershy away. "I've got to go," she said.

The breath caught in Fluttershy's throat, but she shut her mouth and nodded.

Rainbow turned toward the door. "Maybe I'll be back for dinner?" She glanced back at Fluttershy and offered a smile. "Sorry to bail. This can't wait."

"Do you want me to come with you?" Fluttershy pushed her mane out of her face and gave a firm nod. "I'll come with you."

"No. It's fine." Rainbow massaged her forehead and sighed. "I'll take care of it."

Fluttershy frowned and creased her brow. "You can't just blame yourself, Dashie," she said, taking a step forward with each word. "Applejack a friend to both of us, and if you think she needs your help, then she needs my help too."

Rainbow shook her head. "No, you just… I've got to do this myself, okay?"

Fluttershy wilted and lowered her head, but she still stared up at Rainbow. "Why won't you let me help, Rainbow Dash?"

"Please…" Rainbow stiffened, then sighed and slouched her shoulders. "Please, don't make this harder than it needs to be." She put a hoof on Fluttershy's shoulder. "I'll be right back. I promise."

Fluttershy forced on a smile. Her lip trembled, but she still leaned into Rainbow and nodded. "As long as you promise, Dashie, I'll trust you."

Rainbow grinned and puffed out her chest. "Well what did I just do?" She glanced out the bedroom window and saw the sun hanging high in the sky. "Not sure what I'll have to do, but I'll be back by sundown." She nudged Fluttershy and smirked. "I think it's gonna be another cold night, don't you think."

Red exploded onto Fluttershy's cheeks, and she stepped away as she tried to find refuge in her mane. "Oh… my."

Rainbow couldn't wipe the smile from her face, but she pulled away as well. "I mean, I can always sleep on the couch again if you'd like."

"No." Fluttershy answered immediately. She hesitated before shoving her mane out of her face and rushing up to Rainbow. Her embrace nearly knocked Rainbow off her hooves, but the two ponies quickly found their balance and began rocking each other slowly as they hugged.

"Hey, Fluttershy," Rainbow whispered.

"Yes, Dashie?" Fluttershy replied.

"This is pretty cool." She let her hooves linger on Fluttershy's coat as she slowly moved away. "I'll see you this evening."

Fluttershy nodded and walked her friend to the front door. "I'll have dinner ready."

"Awesome." Rainbow trotted out the door and down the road to Sweet Apple Acres.

Before she was out of earshot, Fluttershy stepped out the door and hollered, "Wait!"

Rainbow glanced back. "What?"

Fluttershy grinned sheepishly and blushed. "Good luck."

Rainbow beamed and opened her wings. "Thanks."

Applejack had to work. Time stopped for no mare, and she couldn't let the farm waste away just because of a stupid relationship problem. She had things to do, apples to harvest…

From the top of a hill, she could see the old rotting barn. The useless, disgusting barn. She glared down at it and snarled. That barn!

Twilight told her that barn needed to go. She promised to help. As if she'd even have time for that anymore. Applejack rolled her eyes as she galloped down to the decrepit structure.

The stench of decay filled Applejack's nostrils and burned her eyes, but did not hesitate as she stomped into the barn. She threw her gaze all about, glowering at every plank, every stake, every nail. Stupid, stupid stupid! She squeezed her eyes shut and bucked out behind her.

Her hooves sailed through the air, but when they finally stopped on the ground again, she wasn't finished. She lunged forward, feeling a satisfying crack as she pounded a nearby barrel. She struck the old, brittle container again.

From there on, she couldn't stop. The containers went first. Barrel and crate alike were no match for Applejack's rage. They crumbled like so many cupcakes on Pinkie Pie's plate.

But soon enough, those distractions were gone. All that was left was the barn. Its walls, its rafters, its support beams. This was where it would get tricky, but she had to press on. I've got to get along on my own. There are no guarantees in life. She trudged over to the barn door and aimed at the hinge. She picked up her back legs. Here goes nothing.

Before she could carry through with her strike, Applejack was stunned by a flash of color that blew by the outside of the barn. Blue, red, yellow, and all the colors of the rainbow zoomed through the air right by her. She blinked. Rainbow… Rainbow Dash?

Another streak of color, and Rainbow was in front of her. She flapped her wings hard as she touched down and tossed back her mane. "I thought I saw you there," she said. Then she saw the destruction inside the barn. "Whoa! Dude, Applejack, what are you doing?"

"I'm just dealing with things," Applejack shouted. She pointed inside the barn. "It's fine."

"Applejack, come on." Rainbow took a step closer, shaking her head. "I know you're upset, but you can't just go breaking all your stuff. We can talk about this."

"Go kick a cloud," Applejack spat. "I don't need you flying around telling me what to do."

Rainbow scowled right back at Applejack. Her wings flared out as she hissed, "Yeah, well you can…" She stopped herself short. Her wings fell to her sides and looked down at the ground. "Look, I know things are tough with you and Twilight, and I know we haven't always gotten along so great." She bit her lip for a moment. "I know that's sort of my fault a lot of the time."

Applejack shook her head and pulled Rainbow close. "It's not your fault," she said, her voiced much quieter than it had been moments before. "It's just… Things are tough, you know?"

"I know." Rainbow nodded and straightened herself. "That's why I came out here. I wanted to help you," she pointed at the smashed boxes, "and stop you from doing stuff like this."

Applejack raised a hoof. She shook her head and made her way over to the wreckage. "Wait up just a moment," she said. "I'm not just doing this 'cause I'm angry. I've been meaning to take this barn down for a while now." She frowned despite herself. Twilight was supposed to help.

"Okay." Rainbow trotted over to Applejack and draped a hoof over her withers. "That's fine. You need some help?"

Applejack sighed. "Sure," she intoned.

Rainbow grit her teeth and looked away. She exhaled sharply and turned back to Applejack. "What's is wrong with you, Applejack?"

Applejack wilted under Rainbow's gaze. "I'm sorry," she said. "It's just, Twilight was the one who was so dead set on tearing this barn down and, well, she told me she'd help out."

Rainbow furrowed her brow and peered closely and Applejack's face. "Do you want her to help or something?"

Seeing Rainbow's face, Applejack let her jaw drop slightly. "Of course I do. Marefriends do stuff together." She threw dirty look Rainbow's way. "You obviously know plenty about that."

Rainbow glared right back. "Okay. First, that's not at all what was happened. Second, we're friends, but don't you dare say something like that about Fluttershy."

Applejack dug a hoof into the ground. "You know what? Yeah, let's talk about this. Right now." She waved a hoof at nowhere in particular and said, "Fluttershy only just got shot down by the mare of her dreams, and where do I find you? In her bed!"

"It's not like that!" Rainbow flared her wings and creased her brow. "She just didn't want me out in the cold. And besides, it's been weeks since you and Twilight started dating."

"Oh, sure." Applejack began to take a step forward, then stopped and put a hoof on her forehead. "Look, I don't care about what happened between us. It's all in the past." She finally took that step forward and brought her face within inches of Rainbow's. "But if you think you can walk all over Fluttershy just 'cause she's hurting, you've got—"

There was a loud smack as Rainbow punched Applejack in the jaw. Applejack went down in a heap, but she had only fallen for a moment before she was back on her feet. She lunged at her assailant, but Rainbow was already in the air, hovering up near the top of the doorway.

"Get down here, Rainbow," Applejack snarled. She stomped a hoof, but Rainbow only shook her head in response.

"I'm not coming down until that stops." She pointed at Applejack's scowling face. "I'm sorry I hit you. We just both need to help you."

Applejack's scowl remained, but she softened her stance. "Fine," she growled. "I won't do anything. Let's just talk things through."

Rainbow nodded and slowly floated back to the ground. After touched down, she closed her wings and took a step closer to Applejack. "I swear, I'm not trying to do take advantage of Fluttershy. She asked me to stay with her—honest."

Applejack raised an eyebrow. "You sure you don't have any sort of angle you're playing."

Rainbow shifted about as a deep blush spread across her face. "Well, um, I mean…" She giggled, then straightened herself and cleared her throat. "I mean, she's cool." She looked away for a moment before glancing back at Applejack. "You know?"

Applejack didn't smile, but she nodded. "I know what you mean," she said. "But I'm warning you. If do wrong by her, you do wrong by me. And I'm not in the forgiving mood."

Holding out her hooves, Rainbow nodded. "Look, Applejack, I get it. I mean it. Could you just, like, cool it for a sec?"

Applejack chuckled. "Sure."

Rainbow finally exhaled. "Thanks. Anyway, back to the subject. Why does Twilight need to help you do something boring like this?"

Applejack's gaze flew in all directions. Finally, she looked back at Rainbow and stomped a hoof. "It's just… It's what marefriends do."

"No it's not." Rainbow pointed at the barn and said, "Marefriends don't do boring stuff together. They have fun." She flew into the air and knocked on the rafters. "You're supposed to do the boring stuff on your own so you can surprise your marefriend." She chuckled. "In fact, uh, I haven't really had the chance to do that so much lately."

"I just think you're missing the point," Applejack said as she glanced at the dirt.

Rainbow flew down and grabbed Applejack's shoulder. "Sorry, AJ, but you're the one who's missing the point. Look, you and Twilight won't always be right next to each other. You've got different things going on in your lives. That's just how life works. What you've gotta do is make the best of what life gives you."

Applejack took a deep breath and smiled. "You just might be right, Rainbow."

"Of course I am." Rainbow puffed out her chest and brought up a hoof. "So what's the plan?"

Applejack glanced at the ground and pulled back. "Actually, do you know when Twilight gets back from Canterlot? I mean, I know there's no reason you'd know, but—I don't know—maybe I'll meet her at the station or something." She scuffed the ground and bit her lip.

"Aw." Rainbow clasped her forehoofs together and smirked. Once she was finished, she pursed her lips for a moment, then shrugged. "Sorry. I've got nothing. You could probably go ask Spike sometime if you really need to know." She flared her wings and pointed up at the rafters. "Anyway, you want me to help you tear this thing down or what?"

Applejack smirked. "I guess so. It wouldn't be the first time we did something like this."

Rainbow nodded and held out a hoof. "Just like old times?"

Applejack's face fell. "I don't think it'll ever be like old times," she whispered. She managed a thin smile. "It can be like good times, though."

Rainbow grabbed Applejack's hoof and shook it vigorously. "That's good enough for me, AJ."