Flying High, Falling Hard

by Soundslikeponies

Chapter 29: Apples and Amends

Apples and Amends

Flying High, Falling Hard by soundslikeponies

It was a bright and beautiful morning upon which Rainbow Dash sat outside the gate of Sweet Apple Acres, biting her hooves. Apologizing wasn’t something Dash had ever been good at. Sorry felt so empty, but she could never think of anything to say beyond that, other than maybe a second sorry. When she was in flight school she’d gotten in a big fight with Gilda once, but Gilda being Gilda, and Dash being Dash, they were both tough enough to take it. Neither of them had to apologize, they just both stopped mentioning it and went back to being friends. That’s the way Dash was used to having things work.

Well, there was also Fluttershy. But Fluttershy was so kind and accepting that the couple times Dash had done something wrong, she’d forgiven Dash pretty much the second she said sorry for it.


Dash jumped, spinning around to see Applejack next to a cart full of vegetables. “Oh, uh, hey Applejack.”

Applejack narrowed her eyes. “What’re you doin’ outside the farm?”

“Um... nothing. Just sitting here.” Dash let her gaze wander anywhere but at Applejack. She looked at the vegetables stacked up in the cart and chuckled. “Heh, I guess you guys don’t just eat apples three meals a day after all, huh?”

Applejack snorted, her brow furrowing. “No, no we don’t, despite what some ponies might think.” She gave Dash a look of not-so-veiled irritation. “Though this is for the livestock. Now would ya mind steppin’ aside?”

Dash glanced back at the gate and realized she was in the way. Giving a sheepish grin, she stepped aside. “Uh, right. Sorry.”

Applejack rolled her eyes and shook her head as she dragged the cart past Dash. Its wooden wheels clacked so loudly that it made Dash wonder how she hadn’t noticed it approaching. “Mind if I tag along?” Dash asked.

Applejack paused and gave her a scrutinizing once-over. Eventually, she shrugged. “Sure, if that’s what you want.” Dash began trotting alongside the cart. “So what really brings you out here?”

“Oh, well I was just looking to see if Scootaloo was—” The lie died on her tongue as she saw the flat look Applejack gave her. She swallowed the dry lump in her throat. “Actually, I came here to apologize.”

“Apologize for what?” Applejack asked.

“Y’know. For back when I shouted at you and Fluttershy.”

“Oh.” Applejack blinked, then her expression turned sour. “Well then, ya don’t need to apologize for that. I was actin’ a right-proper mule, but apology accepted anyways, I guess.”

Dash’s eyebrows raised. “Wait, I didn’t?”

“Nope,” Applejack said, refusing to make eye contact.

Dash gave her a perplexed look. “So... are you still mad at me?”

Applejack stopped, the cart becoming still. “If I had to be honest, I’m not the most fond I’ve ever been of you right now.”

“Huh? But you just said...”

Applejack huffed, picking up the cart’s reins once more towards the barn. “Y’know, after being friends as long as we’ve been I’d figure you’d at least try talkin’ to me instead of avoidin’ me.”

Dash traced back over their conversation, wondering if she’d missed something. “Uh... I’m avoiding you?”

“With a great deal of effort, too. I spent an entire day looking for you. You weren’t home, you weren’t at the weather center, you weren’t at any of your usual flying spots, and you weren’t at the library. I tried asking all our friends about you, and none of them knew where you’d gone off to.” Applejack took a deep breath. “Yet the next day, Fluttershy tells me how you dropped by her place and the two of you made up. So I hear that and I’m thinkin’, ‘great! Maybe she’ll stop by today or tomorrow so I can apologize to her for actin’ like an idiot.’ But she doesn’t come today, or the next day. Ya know how long she takes?”

Dash winced more and more as Applejack went on. “A week?”

“A week and four days,” Applejack corrected.

“Listen, I wasn’t avoiding you. Me and Twi were in Canterlot the day you came looking for me. There was something really urgent and important that came up that we had to do over there.”

Applejack stopped the cart again, taking a seat and crossing her hooves in front of her chest. “And the week and a half after?”

Dash’s ears pressed flat against her head. “I was... uh...” Avoiding you. “I was busy spending time with Twilight at the library. There’s a lot going on between us right now,” she said—which was true, but not much of an excuse.

Applejack’s look plainly said she was unconvinced. “And during that time there was no way you could’ve stopped by my place for half an hour? Maybe even less than that?”

“I told you, I had to be with Twilight. She’s been spending all day, every day, reading books, and I’m starting to get worried about her.”

“I know you ain’t fond of readin’, but that sounds perfectly normal to me.”

“You don’t understand,” Dash said with a groan.

Applejack snorted. “I think I understand plenty.”

“I knew you’d be like this!”

“Be like what, exactly?”

“Stubborn!” Dash shouted, crossing her own hooves in front of her chest. “You make everything so difficult! I just came here to apologize for shouting at you.”

“Well, you’re doin’ a real bang-up job of that, aren’t ya?” Applejack’s lips formed a thin line. She stood and turned away, her shoulders tugging on the cart’s reins once more. “I just might be stubborn, but I ain’t no coward.”

Dash clenched her teeth and flew around in front of Applejack. “You saying I am?”

Applejack ignored her, merely keeping her lips shut and her eyes forward. Rainbow flew out of her way as she walked past, glaring at her. “Hey! Applejack!” she shouted in protest as her friend continued walking away. Applejack didn’t stop.

Dash landed back on the ground, staring daggers at Applejack’s back. She grumbled and kicked a rock. She came out here to apologize, and for what? To have it spat back in her face? She had more than half a mind to just leave right then and there. Only reason she didn’t, was that it’d prove Applejack right.

Rainbow Dash flew back after her, determined  to show she could be just as stubborn. “I’m sorry for not coming sooner. And I’m sorry for shouting at you just now.”

“Sorry’s just a word,” Applejack said, arriving at a small brown barn. Stepping out of her harness, she opened the doors to reveal a dusty and empty interior. She pushed the cart inside and sealed the doors.

“Big Mac’s problem now,” she said, turning to Rainbow. “But I’ve got a half dozen other problems to deal with myself before noon. So if ya wouldn’t mind leavin’ me to it...”

Dash’s eyes lit up. “I could help,” she offered.

Applejack actually let out a small chuckle at that. “You? Doin’ farm work? Ain’t that a bit mundane for ya?”

Dash had to bite her tongue to keep from retorting.

Applejack sized her up, mulling it over. “Well, if you wanna be insistent,” she said, after some time, “there’s some hay bales that need moving. The cows got taken to a new barn an’ we haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

“Hay bales?” Dash had expected something harder. “Sure, I can do that.”

“Ya sure?” Applejack asked with a smirk. “‘Cause the barn they need movin’ to’s all the way on the other side of the property.”

Dash gained a look of dread upon her face. She glanced over her shoulder, where hills upon hills of apple orchards sprawled into the distance. “Uh...” She tried to recall how many acres Applejack’s farm was. “How far is that, exactly?”

“Only half a mile. So a full mile for a round trip,” Applejack said, her smirk growing wider. She walked around the side of the barn and pointed to a bunch of giant hay bales lying out in the field. They were each made up of eight smaller bales and each looked the size of a small cart.

“By myself it would’ve taken twenty trips, but with you here I’d say it’ll only take a dozen from the both of us.” She chuckled. “Assumin’ I take three per trip and you take two. Wouldn’t want to make you plum tuckered out after just the first couple of trips, now would we?”

“Huh? I can totally take three,” Dash said, ruffling her wings. “It’ll be no sweat.”

They’d been at it for hours. Dash crawled along the ground on their sixth trip, sweat dripping down her muzzle. It just so happened the barn they were taking them to was uphill, with no real proper road leading to it. The barn was in sight, but the last stretch was by far the steepest, most difficult section of the trip. The grass was unkempt, clumpy, and riddled with hidden potholes for the cart wheels to get stuck in.

“If you can’t take three, you might wanna consider leavin’ a bale at the bottom and makin’ two trips!” Applejack shouted from up ahead. Her cart was nearly at the top. Dash had bit off more than she could chew and Applejack knew it, her victorious smirk taunting her from up the hill. “Maybe even take ‘em up one at a time, real slow like, if this is too tough for ya.”

Dash grit her teeth. “I can handle three just fine!” she shouted back, trying to make a show of pulling her cart. One of the wheels caught on a bump, causing her to stumble and fall to a knee, scraping it on the ground. She winced and tried to correct her mistake as nonchalantly as she could.

There was a pause from up ahead. “Y’alright?” Applejack asked.

Dash climbed to her hooves, shaking though they were. Her legs felt like a jumbled mess of rusted springs. “I’m fine!” she shouted, putting one hoof in front of the other.

Applejack lingered on her a moment. “Just makin’ sure,” she eventually shouted, before going back to minding her own cart.

Somehow Dash managed to get a bit of momentum. For minutes, she forced herself to keep it going, knowing that if she stopped she probably wouldn’t be able to get the cart moving again. Then one of the rear wheels snagged on a pothole, bringing the cart to a dead stop. She bit back a curse, and tried uselessly tugging at the reins to get it moving again.

Applejack, who’d already gotten her cart to the top of the hill, came walking back down to help. “I’ll get around back and push,” she simply said.

“I didn’t ask for help,” Dash said.

“Oh yeah?” Applejack said, giving her a light glare. “Well I’m givin’ it. And you’re clearly in need of it, whether you’re askin’ for it or not.”

Dash huffed, but said nothing. The fact that she needed Applejack’s help stung her pride, but she’d would just look even more foolish if she tried to keep going on her own.

“Three, two, one, push!” Applejack shouted. Dash trudged forwards, feeling the rear wheel come free and the cart become lighter. Applejack continued to push the cart from the rear, Dash pulling the reins. They dragged it to the top of the hill, and upon reaching the flat ground outside the barn, Dash collapsed. She rolled onto her back, panting and staring up at the pale blue sky. The clouds and ground were spinning.

Applejack came around the cart and took a seat. Taking off her hat, she wiped the sweat from her brow. “Well, I think now’s a pretty good time to call it quits.”

Dash rolled back over and stood, her legs trembling from holding her up. “I can... still do... more,” she said between breaths.

“It’s fine, really. I wasn’t planning on doing more than a quarter of it today. Between us, we’ve managed to do more than half of it.”

Dash nearly let out a sigh of relief, and dropped back to the ground to rest.

Applejack walked over and sat on the grass next to her. “Y’know, I been thinkin’ some things over,” she said, her eyes avoiding Dash’s. “I’ve never personally met somepony who was… a fillyfooler. A couple stories I heard growing up made them out to be some kinda deviants. But after you n’ Twilight’s announcement, I’ve been thinking about that time with Zecora, and how we all judged her based on stories we’d heard, rather than actually get to know her ourselves.”

Dash’s glanced at Applejack out of the corner of her eyes, her ears perking up. “So then...?”

Applejack gave her a smile, albeit a bit of a tired one. “Well, I already know you n’ Twilight. So I guess if you two are happy together, well, then I’m happy for ya.”

Dash slowly sat up, her muscles protesting the move. She made an effort to return the smile, rubbing the back of her neck. “Well, I’m sorry about ignoring you, and stuff. I guess I was just afraid that if I came over here and found out you wouldn’t change your mind, I might lose a friend for good.”

“I ain’t always stubborn,” Applejack said with a laugh. “But I guess I can see where you’re comin’ from.” She stuck her hoof out. “What say we put this behind us?”

Dash took her hoof and shook it, unable to keep the relieved grin off her face. “Yeah, sounds good.”

However, her smile faded as her hoof fell back to her side. “You know, it was a weak excuse, but I wasn’t lying when I said I’ve been worried about Twilight.”

Applejack ears perked forward. “Are you sure you aren’t worryin’ needlessly? I’d reckon that as the Princess’ student it’s pretty much her duty to spend a lot of time studyin’ magic.”

“I usually find her at her desk, or on the floor, asleep with her muzzle buried in a book. She looks really bad. I don’t think she eats except the times when I’m there, and I’m not sure how much longer she’ll be able to go on. She’s going to burn out sooner or later, and I think it’s more ‘sooner’ than ‘later’.”

“Have ya tried givin’ her an honest good talkin’ to?” Applejack asked.

Rainbow Dash nodded, her ears drooping.

Applejack sucked a breath in through her teeth. “Well, I sure do wish I could help, but if you’re her marefriend and she didn’t listen to you, then I really doubt she’d listen to me.”

“I’m going to make her listen to me. Just once,” Dash said, firmly. “Pinkie Pie’s going to be throwing a party this Saturday. And I plan on dragging her to it kicking and screaming if I have to. Pinkie said she could use your help with making food for the party.”

“Well, there’s an awful lot of work on the farm this week,” Applejack said. Dash’s face fell. But then Applejack lifted a hoof to her chin. “Buuut, if this is all really as important as you said, I’ll just have to make time for it.”

Rainbow Dash let out a sigh of relief and smiled. “Thank you so much, Applejack—and I really do think it is important.”

Applejack gave a humble smile and tipped down her hat. “Well, things like being there is what friends do, ain’t it?”

Dash winced, though she knew her friend didn’t mean it like that. “Yeah, I’ll try to keep that in mind next time.” She glanced up at the sky to see the sun directly overhead and suddenly realized how much time had passed since she got there. “Listen, I should probably go check up on Twilight, but if there’s anything else you want me to—”

“Just go,” Applejack said with a smirk. “Make sure Twilight stays safe, alright? She’s our friend, too.”

Dash’s mouth open and closed a few times as she tried to think of an appropriate response. Eventually she settled for a nod, then flew away.

The works of Star Swirl were a complete mess, if Twilight had to be honest. It was quite obvious that his personal notes were in fact personal, and that he hadn’t written them with the intention of anyone else reading them, otherwise he might have chosen to make them legible.

It didn’t help that her eyes stung with dryness. She knew that rubbing them would only make matters worse, yet couldn’t stop from doing so anyway. Her stomach rumbled, but she ignored it.

Everything would have been easier if she could just use the spell outlined in Star Swirl’s notes: a spell to transform oneself into a full-blooded alicorn, not just a mere addition of wings. The transformation described was much more elegant than her own, but the methods were still a few years out of her grasp. The bits and pieces she could gather, however, had helped with the progress on her own spell greatly, a spell she could see working very soon.

The library door opened, and Twilight’s ears turned to it. From the heavy breathing and slight sluggishness of the hoofsteps, it seemed as though Dash was back from flying practice.

Dash walked over to her desk side, before promptly flopping down on her stomach. She opened her wings, letting them rest at her sides. Taking a deep breath, she let out a loud sigh and relaxed. “Hey,” she said.

Twilight glanced away from her scroll. “Hey, yourself.” She turned back to her work, but felt a guilt at the lack of attention she’d been paying Dash lately. Setting her quill down for the moment, she turned to Dash. “You look exhausted.”

“My hooves are killing me,” Dash said.

Twilight wrinkled her nose. “From flying?”

Dash blinked. “Oh, uh, yeah. I was doing some ground exercises and stuff.”

A silence hung in the air for a few moments. Seeing as Dash didn’t feel like talking, Twilight picked up her quill and began to take notes once more, while Dash watched.

Dash cleared her throat. “So there’s this party Pinkie’s throwing on Saturday...”

Twilight’s quill scratched on her scroll as she copied down a few more notes on pegasus cloud walking. “I’ll still be busy Saturday. There’s a chapter in Star Swirl’s notes that he left encrypted, and it’s going to take time to translate it all.”

Dash let out a groan. “Come on! Just leave your stinkin’ books for one night!”

“I’d lose a whole night’s worth of studying. I can’t afford to do that, not when I’m this close to finishing the spell.”

“Arg! You don’t need any stupid wings!” Dash shouted, crossing her forehooves and pouting.

Twilight rounded on her. Over a week’s worth of pent up frustration bubbled to the surface. “How can you say that when I’ve been doing all this hard work to make things better for us?” she asked, glaring.

“Why do you think they would change anything?” Dash said. “You’re not making things better, Twi, you’re making them worse.

Dash’s words hurt, and Twilight’s glare evaporated. As she let out a sigh, it felt as though all her energy left with it. “I’m just doing what I know. I’m just trying,” she said, ears drooping.

Dash’s glare disappeared as well. She sat up, wrapping a wing around Twilight. “Hey, I’m not mad at you. I just hate seeing you put yourself through this.”

“But I need to finish this. It’s just something I have to do.”

“Well then I’ll support you,” Dash said. “Like I have been. But I’m telling you right now, Twilight, you need to spend a night away from your books.”

Twilight fell silent. She knew one night wouldn’t make much difference, but with the spell being so close to complete, the desire to finally see it finished was unbearable.

However... there were the worried looks Dash had been giving her, and the one she was giving her right now. Sometimes while studying she could feel Dash’s eyes boring into the back of her skull, fretting.

She let out a dramatized sigh. “Alright. I’ll go.”

Dash swept her up in a hug, kissing her cheek. “C’mon, it’ll be great! Trust me on this.”

A bit of a smile tugged at Twilight’s lips. “I still want to study leading up to it, though.”

“Of course,” Dash said. “But you should probably eat something and get some sleep before the party, since you look kinda... yeah...”

Now that Dash mentioned it, Twilight noticed how droopy her eyelids felt. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, hoping it would go away, but only made it worse. “Alright,” she said, sighing, “I guess it wouldn’t be good to show up looking like a zombie.”

Dash snickered. “To be fair, I’ve seen zombies that look more alive than you right now,” she said. It earned her a frigid glare from Twilight, and she began to sweat. “Hey, uh, I was just teasing. But you do look like you could use something to eat. I’ll go grab us something from the fridge,” she said, quick and apologetic, and then retreated out of the room.

Twilight shook her head. She caught her reflection in the window, noticing Dash was more right than she’d like to admit. It had been hours since she had gotten up for a drink. “Could you bring some juice or water as well?” she shouted at the kitchen, hoping it didn’t sound like a confession.

There was a silence, then, “Which one?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Twilight said, setting down her quill. She glanced down at her notes. Her eyes had trouble focusing on the words and they itched like mad from all the times she’d rubbed them. She rubbed them again while her inner monologue battled over the virtues of long term versus short term gratification. Twilight stood. She figured she wasn’t getting any more work done here and that it might be nice to eat a meal in the kitchen, rather than at her desk, for a change.

She walked into the other room to join Rainbow. The spell was left behind, at least for tonight.