The Ballad of Twilight Sparkle
Chapter 9: Corrallin’ a Rainbow
“...So after that, they handed over Twilight, an' told me not to worry none 'bout Rarity, 'cause they knew where she was stayin' at.” Applejack explained as she finished her 'drink'; Pinkie Pie knew of the farmer's elevated tolerance for alcohol and had taken to making sure that the orange pony's drinks always contained equal parts thunder and lightning, as well as a heaping amount of shock and awe. 'Might as well be drinking a ball of fire.' she mused, appreciating the party pony's thoughtful gesture as she felt the drink almost dissolve her internal organs.
“Well, Ah don't know 'bout you ladies,” Applejack smiled at the group, giving Rainbow Dash a very quick glance, “But this here filly's gonna need to walk off all these drinks before she passes out from the fumes!” Pushing her chair back, the draft pony gave another quick glance to the cyan pegasus before turning away from the table, “Ya'll just keep on havin' fun, Ah'll be back lickety-split!”
“Um, be safe, Applejack.” Fluttershy watched as her farmer friend trotted over to the door and left the apartment.
“YAAWWN.” Rainbow Dash called attention to herself. “Man, I am beat! I think I'mma head outside and find a nice cloud to sleep on!” she said, theatrically stretching her hooves and wings. “Smell ya later, guys!”
“Have a good one, Dashie! Don't forget to write!” Pinkie Pie waved excitedly as she watched the pegasus walk out the door. As soon as the door was shut, she quickly turned to Fluttershy with a devious smile.
The Great and Powerful Trixie was suddenly very confused as Fluttershy not only returned the devious smile, but then directed one at the showmare as well! “What is... going on?” she asked, slightly perturbed.
“Duh! We're gonna follow them!” Pinkie explained as she and Fluttershy got up from the table.
Hesitantly getting up, Trixie still struggled to understand. “For what? Applejack said that she would return soon, and the pegasus is merely going to sleep!”
Fluttershy softly nudged Trixie's side, trying to get her to move. “Um, I don't think Rainbow Dash was entirely truthful...” she answered with a gentle smile.
Trixie started walking along at the yellow pegasus's insistence. “She wasn't?”
Pinkie Pie rolled her eyes as she walked towards the door. “Double-duh! They're a pair of fibby McLiar-liar-docks-on-fire super-bluffy spurious sponies!”
Trixie stopped, raising an eyebrow. “Sponies?”
Pinkie turned back to face the showmare. “What?”
“You... You said 'Sponies'.” Trixie stated evenly.
Hitching an eyebrow herself, Pinkie Pie tilted her head in abject curiosity until it was completely upside-down. “Silly filly, that's not even a word!” giggled the pony, the rest of her body rotating to match her upside-down head. “Sponies, hah!” the mare rotated along her lateral axis, righting herself and facing door.
The Great and Powerful Trixie had to swallow her complaint as Fluttershy gently shushed the showmare, pointing at Pinkie Pie who proceeded to turn off the light and then started to carefully open the penthouse door, peering outside as she did so. Nodding to herself, the party pony opened the door just enough to squeeze out. Holding out her left hoof back towards the pegasus and the unicorn, [Hold position], the earth pony furtively pressed her back against the hallway wall, sidling alongside it for a few steps.
Still facing down the hallway, Pinkie Pie pointed her hoof twice at the door, before pointing the same hoof downwards to the space behind herself, and finally making a small sweeping motion close to the floor. [Two, to me—stay low]
Trixie rolled her eyes. 'You have got to be kidding.' The showmare resigned herself to follow along, closing the apartment door and walking slowly behind Fluttershy, who softly ambled to the pink pony's side. Near the far end of the hallway, Trixie spotted Rainbow Dash trotting up to the elevators; she briefly wondered what the point of turning off the light in the apartment was if the rest of the hallway was lit. Pinkie Pie's motioning caught Trixie's attention—the earth pony pointed twice towards a door a short distance ahead before bringing her hoof over her head in a sweeping motion. [Two, go forward, I'll cover]
Trixie walked behind Fluttershy, who swiftly and silently trotted over to the unlocked metal door and nudged it open with her head; the space behind it seemed to be a small break room with a table and a few vending machines. Trixie winced when the door creaked as it returned to its closed position; the showmare peered out the small, rectangular window on it, but couldn't see the earth pony. 'Did she run back into the apartment?'
Rainbow Dash turned her head and looked back down the hallway towards the penthouse door. 'Great, now I'm hearing things too! Gotta calm down, it's just Applejack! Just Applejack!' The pegasus gulped as she turned her attention back to the digital display above one of the elevators. It seems this particular elevator had gone up and stopped at the 86th floor. 'Alright, here goes nothing!' Rainbow Dash pressed the metallic button on the wall between the two elevators, calling the closest one back down. The acrobatic pony didn't need to wait long, hesitating for only a moment as the elevator returned and opened its doors for her.
Trixie's eyes became small black dots as she witnessed Pinkie Pie's head peek out from under the hallway's long, luxurious carpet. The carpet itself was completely flat, no indication whatsoever that the earth pony's entire body was still underneath. The azure mare watched as Pinkie rolled out from under the carpet and sidled against the metal door, her unruly mane covering the small window. Trixie stepped away from the door when she heard Pinkie give two swift knocks. “Uh... Yes?”
“The password is 'Extrapolate'!” hissed the party pony urgently.
Fluttershy walked past The Great and Powerful Trixie and pulled the door open. “Hello, Pinkie Pie.” she greeted pleasantly.
“Hiya Fluttershy!” Pinkie Pie waved before turning to Trixie and nodding once. “Ma'am.” she said respectfully.
The showmare's mane became slightly frazzled as her left eye twitched. “Ma'am?!”
“Shh! C'mon, we gotta hurry before we lose 'em!” Pinkie Pie darted down the hallways towards the elevators, Fluttershy gamely flying behind her. Trixie heaved a sigh as she galloped towards the pair, stopping next to them and turning her attention towards the elevators. “It stopped!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, pointing at the floor display.
“Well then, shall we get this over with?” The Great and Powerful Trixie stepped up to the call button, but the party pony pulled her back by her tail. “What is it now?” asked the showmare, turning back to face the pink pony with her tail in her mouth.
“We can't use the elevator! It'll give our position away! C'mon—” Pinkie Pie trotted towards a door next to the farthest elevator. “We gotta take the stairs!” she explained, holding the door open for her squad.
The stairwell was decidedly utilitarian and undecorated, providing a deep contrast to the magnificent hallway the ponies had just come from. The Great and Powerful Trixie was thankful that elevator had stopped only five stories above theirs—there was entirely too much alcohol in her system right now to handle any kind of strenuous exercise. “What is it that the two ponies are hiding?” asked the showmare, wondering what the point of all this was.
Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie exchanged a look, the pink earth pony grinning mirthfully and the yellow pegasus smiling shyly. Both turned to face the showmare. “Um, Classified Information.” answered Fluttershy, winking sweetly at Trixie. The azure mare was slightly taken aback at the sight, finding the cuteness disarming.
Reaching the 86th floor, handily marked by the number painted on the wall in large red letters, Pinkie Pie handed the pegasus a tactical mirror. “Alright, we're here! Sergeant Fluttershy, security sweep!”
The kind pegasus nodded, taking the mirror's handle in her mouth and sneaking it under the door, which was promptly opened from the other side by a security mare. Fluttershy let out a goat-like bleat as her body went completely rigid, tipping over with a loud clatter. The Great and Powerful Trixie looked between the yellow pegasus on the floor and the uniformed pony in front of her. “Uh...”
The earth pony security guard arched an eyebrow. “The Observation Deck is closed after 9pm, ladies.”
The showmare fidgeted. “R-right... Trixie must have lost track of time...” Poking and nudging the downed pegasus, Trixie laughed nervously. “Such a kidder, this pony is... Apparently...” The unicorn's eyes suddenly went wide. Behind the security mare, a very familiar silhouette materialized from the shadows—the messy mane was unmistakable, though the goggles with glowing green lenses were new. Trixie's blood chilled as she watched Pinkie Pie's forelegs stealthily encircle the security mare's neck. 'Oh Celestia is she going to—'
“PLEEEEEASE~?” Pinkie Pie enveloped the security guard in a hug. “We just GOTTA see what our friends are up to!”
“L-let go of me!” The security guard slipped out of the party pony's embrace in a slight panic; dusting herself off, the mare looked back at the trio of trespassers. “Look, none of you are supposed to be up here, I could lose my job if anyone notices.” The guard glanced around the spacious, darkened room, illuminated only by the moonlight filtering through the expansive windows and her own flashlight. “I'm already pushing my luck letting those two outside, there's no way I'm gonna keep letting more ponies wander around like that.”
Pinkie Pie grinned. “But, don'tcha wanna know why those two wanted to be all alone out there?”
- - -
On the outdoor deck of the 86th floor, two figures stood in the darkness, softly outlined in blue moonlight. “...So.”
Applejack shuddered a bit. It had taken quite a bit of convincing to make the security guard open the door to the Observation Deck's outdoor section. The height was considerable, the night view was spectacular, and the strong breeze was as cold as the moon. None of that mattered right now. “Listen here, Rainbow Dash, Ah know how you must be feelin', but you had drank so much last night, Ah really thought—”
Rainbow Dash, who had been sitting on top of the handrail at the ledge of the deck, turned to face the farmer and hopped down to the floor. “I was not drunk, AJ! I just needed something to loosen up, ya know, a little liquid courage to pour my stupid heart out like an idiot!”
Applejack winced. “Yer not an idiot, Ra—”
“Man, it's like I don't learn! Great burn there Applejack, you really had me going there last night—must have laughed all the way to the farm!” 'Don’t cry in front of AJ, don’t cry in front of AJ.'
The farmer quickly headbutted the pegasus, sending her skidding a few feet back. “Ok, Ah take that back, yer some kinda idjit alright!” Internally, Applejack was in a world of pain—Rainbow Dash's head was harder than any tree the orange pony had ever bucked. 'I guess that was to be expected.'
Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth, a tear welling in her eye. “What was that for?!”
The draft pony trotted over the pegasus, gently placing her forehead against Rainbow Dash's own. “Dash, ya'll wern't the only pony doin' some heart-pouring down there by that meadow last night, now was you?”
The acrobat pressed back against Applejack's forehead with some force. Rainbow Dash had been replaying Applejack's words from the previous night in her mind every chance she got; the pegasus had to admit that the smooth-talking farmer could probably talk her way into anypony's barn. “Yeah well, I'm not the one that just up and ran away first chance she got!”
Applejack matched the pegasus's push; they were both straining to budge the other, and neither could gain any ground. “Dangit Rainbow Dash, if Ah didn't love ya so much I would pummel some sense into that bird-brain 'o yours! Ah already TOLD you, Ah ain't that kind of mare!” The farmer felt herself losing ground as Rainbow Dash began flapping her wings to push back harder. “Mah Granny always done told me to treat a Lady right!”
Rainbow Dash's effort quickly petered out as she stepped back from Applejack. The cyan pegasus looked decidedly nonplussed. “Wh... she did?” She couldn’t picture the prehistoric pony being that... nontraditional.
Applejack blinked, then blushed. “Uh, ok, she told Big Macintosh to always treat a Lady right, but s'all the same thing anyways!” The orange pony stamped her hoof. “Point is, Ah ain't the kinda mare to just love 'em and leave 'em, Rainbow Dash.” Not that she had actually had the opportunity to do so before, but still.
Rainbow Dash blinked, her eyes widening at the intensity of Applejack's gaze. The constant breeze blowing across the outdoor deck picked up speed, whipping the farmer's long mane. The pegasus blushed a bit at the sight. “But, when I woke up you—”
“It was getting' to be mornin' and Ah had first shift at the farm and it wern't gonna do me any good for Granny to wake up an' find that Ah hadn't returned home all night!” The earth pony smiled, still looking straight into Rainbow Dash's eyes. “No offense Sugarcube, but you must be the downright laziest filly in Ponyville—Ah really thought you would still be sleepin' by the time my shift was done with, Rainbow Dash.” Applejack's eyes shone mirthfully. “B'sides, Ah couldn't bring mahself to wake ya; ain't nothin' in Ponyville quite as adorable as yer sleepin' face.”
Seeing the honesty in the farmer's eyes, the pegasus lowered her gaze, blushing brightly. “...So when you were chasing me 'round town...”
“Ah wanted to apologize, explain...” the farmer turned her head as she blushed, but still met the pegasus's gaze. “An' maybe pick up where we left off?” Applejack raised her eyebrow suggestively.
Rainbow Dash's wings popped to full span immediately. “Uh.”
Applejack chuckled. “Twice in one night? Yer gonna hafta get that looked at, Hun.” she joked, rather flattered at the response.
After picking her jaw up from the floor, the pegasus's face grew defiant. “G-good luck getting your hat back, tree-hugger!”
The farmer stepped closer to the acrobat. “Oh-ho-ho-ho, is that a challenge? Ah already ran all the way here from Ponyville for that thing, and the hat! It'll be easy as apple pie!”
Rainbow Dash blinked. “Wait a sec... Did you just call me...”
Applejack smirked. “Ah might've...”
“...A 'Lady'?! Who you callin' a 'Lady', chump?” the pegasus accused, pointing a hoof at the farmer.
Applejack face-hoofed, and she actually felt as if at least four more faces had hoofed at the same time. “You shore are slow fer a pony so quick, Rainbow Dash.”
The pegasus's eye twitched. “Who you callin' slow—” Rainbow Dash barely avoided the orange hoof that almost decapitated her. “HA! Not even close, Appletini!” joked the acrobat, holding on to the cowpony hat and taking flight.
“Git back here ya mangy mustang!” the draft pony chased after the low-flying pegasus, who remained just out of reach for her. Applejack's hooves flailed ineffectually as Rainbow Dash easily dodged all of the farmer's attempts at taking back her hat.
“Come at me, Sap-sucker!” challenged the cyan mare, flying away from the Observation Deck and hovering a distance away from the building. Illuminated from below by the building's ground-level floodlights, Rainbow Dash grinned victoriously at the earth pony—a grin that quickly faded as she witnessed the orange pony step away from the handrail, only to blast into a sprint before leaping over the ledge, and using the safety fence around the Deck as a stepping stone.
“HORSEAPPLES!” cursed the winged pony as she hurriedly propelled herself towards the airborne, not-winged pony. Awkwardly catching the farmer, Rainbow Dash held her close to her own body. “AJ what in Equestria do you think you're doing?!” she asked, extremely alarmed. Staring into shining, green eyes, Rainbow Dash only then realized how close Applejack's face was to her own; she almost forgot to keep beating her wings, and she most certainly forgot how to breathe.
“Well,” began the farmer, deftly pulling at the drawstring around Rainbow Dash's neck and taking back her hat, “Ah reckon I’m getting my hat back is what I’m doing—that there means Ah won; now where's my prize?”
The now completely red Rainbow Dash found her voice and intelligence lacking. “I... Uh, I...”
“You? Ah won me a Rainbow Dash? I s'ppose that ain't a half-bad consolation prize.” Applejack brought her hooves around Rainbow Dash's neck and hugged her gently as they touched ground back on the Observation Deck.
Rainbow Dash didn't trust her brain or mouth anymore, so she just opted to return the embrace, hugging Applejack tightly, and nuzzling the side of her face. Each mare whispering confessions made the night before, they held each other like that for a few minutes, until a small voice cut through their near silence with a “Yay.” that startled them into separating.
The couple looked at each other, and then towards the darkness of the indoor section of the Deck, where a sudden shuffling erupted, hushed voices urgently whispering calls for silence. The bright moonlight shone upon the 4-pony lump trying to look inconspicuous at the edge of the shadows inside of the building. Applejack and Rainbow Dash trotted over to the lump, standing right next to it and looking down upon it.
“Don't worry guys, their visual acuity's based on movement—they'll lose you if you don't move!” whispered a familiar, jovial voice.
Applejack stomped her hoof, startling the pony mass. “Ya'll oughta be ashamed of yerselves, spyin' on yer friends like that!”
“Y-yeah!” exclaimed the security pony, quickly rolling away from the rest of the group and training her flashlight on them. “We've caught you red-hoofed, uh, friend-spies!”
“Super lame, guys!” Rainbow Dash hoped they couldn't see her tremendous blush in the dark.
Fluttershy lowered her head, mane covering half her face in utter disgrace. “Oh, I'm ever so sorry Applejack, Rainbow Dash! Um, I was just so happy... I shouldn't have screamed like that, and, um, I most definitely shouldn't have spied on you like I did...” the pony looked up at the couple pitifully with her uncovered eye.
Pinkie Pie threw herself to the ground in front of Rainbow Dash. “I'm sooo sorry, Dashie! The suspense was totally killing me! Do you know how long I've been holding on to my 'Congratulations Rainbow Dash x Applejack!!' party banners? Months! Mooonnnthsss!”
Ignoring Pinkie Pie's freakish contingency planning, the farmer turned to Trixie. “Well? Ain'tcha gonna apologize?”
The Great and Powerful Trixie, who had been standing to the side and looking at the scenery, faced the earth pony with surprise in her eyes. “Apologize to... Trixie's friends?”
Applejack raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Uh yeah, ya know, the ones ya'll were spyin' on durin' a real intimate-like moment?”
Trixie smiled from ear to ear, schoolfilly giddiness coursing through her body. “Yes! Trixie will apologize, for it is her duty as a Friend to—to her Friends!” Stepping up to the couple, the azure mare reared up and kicked her forelegs excitedly. “Applejack and Pegasus! Friends! Trixie is Sorry!” she announced gleefully.
Applejack raised her other eyebrow. “Huuokay... Uh, apology accepted, Ah guess? We was gon' tell you guys anyways, ya'll didn't need to sneak around like that.”
“Still it was so cool and romantic!” Pinkie hopped happily in place. “And who knew Rainbow Dash could blush so red! Just look at 'er, guys! No wonder Applejack likes her so much, she looks like a pony-shaped apple!”
Rainbow Dash blushed further as the security guard oh-so-helpfully pointed the flashlight at her; this could destroy her awesome reputation! She needed to divert this mushy attention elsewhere—she needed a scapegoat or... 'A scapehorse!' The pegasus grinned, looking at The Great and Powerful Trixie with an evil glint in her eye. “Hey hey hey! What're you guys fussin' over me for? I already got the girl,” the pegasus used her colorful tail to whip Applejack's rump, causing her hat to pop off her head for a second. “..Shouldn't we be concentrating on Trixie and her Twilight rut?” she asked, pointing a hoof at the blue mare.
The flashlight's spotlight quickly switched over to the scandalized unicorn—in the darkness, a certain farmer smacked a certain pegasus upside the head so hard it almost rearranged the colors of her mane.
One hoof in the air and mouth hanging open, the showmare in question blushed deeply. “Trixie's Twilight what?!”
- - -
“S'too early Spike...” Twilight Sparkle murmured softly as she felt someone nudging her gently, chasing away her dreams. The unicorn would have ignored the intrusion upon her comfortable respite, but the smell of a delicious breakfast quickly reached her nose and lingered there, teasing her with the promise of deliciousness if she would just get up out of bed.
Opening her eyes, Twilight Sparkle was treated to the sight of a large, unfamiliar room; and that was just the half she could see, as she lay there on her side. The nightstand was much farther than the one back at her treehouse—this bed was expansive, to say the least. It was also insanely comfortable; the librarian wondered if it was made from pegasus down. The side of the room she was facing had a wall-to-wall window currently covered by a curtain, but the soft, white glow around it indicated that it was already morning.
Twilight stretched happily—she felt incredibly well-rested, unlike the morning of her first hangover. Turning over to her other side, the smile quickly ran away from her face as her blush made a triumphant return. Next to the bed, magically floating a tray full of food, stood a smiling, equally-blushing blue unicorn.
“G-g-good morning, Twilight Sparkle—”
- - -
Outside of Trixie's room, the showmare's new friends and co-conspirators stood at the door, ears pressed against it. “Do you think she's gonna like it?” whispered the pink party pony.
“Like it? Shoot Hun, Ah cooked that myself! She's gon' love it!”
“Oh my, I hope so, Trixie was so nervous... ”
“Pshh, c'mon! Twilight's been pathetically lusting after that pony for months now! ”
“Just like you with AJ, Dashie! ”
The muffled explosion, the shattering noises, and the screaming that buffeted the door quickly silenced any objection Rainbow Dash was going to raise against Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie Pie's eyes sparkled. “Wow, they must be really going at it!”
End Chapter 9
Bonus Art! Lazily-colored version of the Billboard!