If there was something about winters that Applejack hated, it was that she didn’t have work to do. On the farm or anywhere else. Ok, it wasn’t that winter was boring, because there was fun with the girls or her family. The real problem was that when she had a lot of free time without distractions, she started to think. Her thoughts that particular winter always ended up on the same point, or more precisely, the same pony.
Twi… Ah’m sorry. Princess Twilight Sparkle.
It had been a long time since the cowpony admitted that she liked Twilight. She remembered the first time she saw her perfectly. Her first impression was Another city pony. Cute, but a city pony. Yeah, she invited her to the meal in the farm with all the Apple clan, but deep inside she thought that as a city pony they wouldn’t have any in common.
It wasn’t till much later that she realized what a mistake that was.
Day after day, adventure after adventure, AJ discovered that she and that ‘city pony’ had more things in common that anypony would think at first sight. Though they could not find common ground in terms of learning, both always strived to be better every day, be it physically or mentally, for herself and her friends. Everyday was a new lesson for them, whether it was Applejack teaching Twilight about the farm, or Twi teaching AJ about the world beyond.
Applejack only truly learned to open her heart to the truth after she recovered her memories and spirit that Discord took for her and her friends. The draconi… dracunoc…whatever, separated them and turned her and the others into horrible opposites of their true selves. Twilight was the first to regain herself to save her friends and all of Equestria. Applejack later thought that her getting her memories back first was a little strange, because Sweet Apple Acres was far from Ponyville. Later Twilight told her that she brought her back first because she was worried that she would lose the one closest to her. In that moment that they shared moment that their memories, Applejack realized she had found the one who would be with her forever. She realized that she loved Twilight Sparkle.
That was the moment in which AJ understood how important Sparkle was for her.
Time passed, and little by little the orange pony found her passions towards Twilight increasing. She would spend all night thinking of her. Realizing that her heart was louder than her brain, she confessed. It was a clumsy tumble of words that turned into a shout, leaving her friend in shock for a few seconds before she answered that she need to think about it.
Applejack waited for a response. Days passed and she was afraid her love wasn’t reciprocated. After four agonizing days, she finally agreed.
They went slowly with the relationship. Maybe too slow. After twenty one dates, they didn’t exchange more than nuzzles. However, the feelings grew between them and Applejack knew that they were moving in the right direction.
Until the day in which Twilight became a Princess.
At the beginning, Applejack didn’t think that anything was going to change, but eventually, the truth hit her. If Twilight was an alicorn, she also was immortal. That was a big change. The ‘princess’ thing didn’t really bother her. Ok, at the beginning, when the incident with the Tree of Harmony, she and the others were worried about Twilight’s security, but only at the beginning. The immortality, on the other hoof, was different.
A droopy-eared Applejack sat in her kitchen looking out the window, burdened by these thoughts. She hadn't slept, and she had even snapped at Apple Bloom that morning during breakfast. Finally she forced herself to make a bitter decision, though it wasn't the one she wanted to make.
Tartarus. She hated that decision more than anything.
“Doesn’t matter”, she muttered to nopony, “Ah have to do it.. for her.”
Applejack would do anything for the ponies she loved. Anything.
Twilight was finishing some reports in her library after a few hours reading books about Equestrian politics and laws. Despite the fact that ‘normal ponies might consider such things to be extremely boring, the alicorn was happy. And, no, for Celestia’s sake, it wasn’t the book she was happy about. She wasn’t that big of an egghead.
No, Twilight was happy because she was going to see Applejack later.
She had to admit it. When AJ first asked her out on a date, Twilight couldn’t have been more surprised. Not only did she not think she would end up having a special somepony, but she never thought that special somepony would be a mare. For that reason, she had to ask the cowpony for some time to think about it first. Fortunately, Applejack had expected that and agreed at that moment.
The next days might have been of the craziest in Twilight’s life. They didn’t compared to the ‘Smarty Pants' incident, or the desperate week after she received a visit from ‘Future Twilight’, but she didn’t relax until she had come to a conclusion.
Which conclusion? The conclusion that Applejack was strong, loyal, honorable, mature and rational. She was always there for her friends and everypony. She was the kind of pony in you can trust blindly. Twilight knew very well that AJ could be stubborn sometimes, but also that she was the best option to be in charge of anything. Physically speaking, Applejack was the strongest pony in Ponyville for sure. After a lot of thinking, Twilight had to admit that her mane and her coat matched perfectly. Not only that, she had a very athletic body, near to perfection, with well-toned muscles. And her eyes… They were like emeralds, so beautiful and intense. Twilight realized all these things before she even stopped to consider the most relevant question of all. Would dating another mare be a problem? What would their friends and family say? That was the question she kept asking herself. But, finally, she made a choice.
It was worth it to try.
Twilight hadn’t regretted her decision at all. Each date was fun, sweet and happy. Or, in a word, perfect. The same was true when they spent time with the girls. After Applejack and she told the others that they were dating, all of their friends congratulated them and seemed happy for them.
It was true that things were a little more complicated now that Twilight was a princess, but it was nothing they couldn’t handle. I mean, seriously, they had saved Equestria more than once, how could being Royalty be any more of a problem?
Her life couldn’t have been better at that moment.
“Spike!” Twilight called her number one assistant with a smile on her face, trotting to the lower floor. The baby dragon showed his face through the kitchen’s door, where he was cleaning, and answered. “Yes, Twilight?”
“I’m going out. Take care of the library, ok? You can take a break from cleaning for a while.” Twi hugged Spike for a second. “I won’t be out late.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Spike protested, “just go have fun with Applejack.”
Twilight grinned and kissed the dragon on the forehead before leaving the library.
That afternoon promised to be a very happy one.
Applejack sighed for the eleventh time since she arrived at the hill. It was cold out there, after all, Hearth’s Warming Eve was in four days, but that didn’t bother or worry her. No, she was very, very worried about what she was about to d. It would surely be the most difficult and painful thing that she ever done, but it was for the best. It was for her. No matter if the cowpony can’t live the rest of her days without crying night after night, she couldn’t let Twilight suffer.
Well, yah gonna make her suffer in a while... The thought crossed her mind, making Applejack feel dirty. This is th’ right thing to do. At least it wasn’t snowing. The sky was covered with grey clouds, but it wasn’t going to snow that day. Besides, there was enough snow on the ground. With another sigh, Applejack sat right there, waiting for Twilight. It wasn’t that the alicorn came late, it was that AJ came sooner, like every other date before. But, unlike the others, the reason wasn’t to enjoy more time with the princess, it was to end it quickly.
Lucky her, Twi, with the cape made by Rarity some time ago was coming just in time. Like always. To worsen the situation, she was grinning cheerfully.
Sweet Celestia… Don’t smile like that, Twilight. Applejack pleaded to nopony, trying to not look the alicorn. Not today.
“Hi, Applejack!” Twilight greeted her friend with a nuzzle. “Had you been waiting for very long?”
“No, Twi. Ya never make me wait.” AJ answered, trying to keep calm. She hadn’t any idea about how was she tell that to Twilight, and her chipper attitude certainly didn’t help. Definitely, it went to be a lot worse that Applejack thought.
“I know, I know.” Twilight laughed a little. “So, which is the plan for the afternoon?”
Now or never, Applejack. Ya gotta do it.
“There is… no plan, really.” The earth pony replied, feeling her mouth very dry. “Ah-No. We need to talk.” Twilight blinked in confusion. “Applejack, are you alright?”
No. Ah’m not alright. Ah feel like trash right now… Applejack thought but didn’t tell Twilight. “Yeah, Ah’m fine.” AJ lied. “Look, Twi… Ah’ve been thinking ‘bout us… Since we started dating, we had fun and everything seemed fine, but...”
At that point, the alicorn’s expression changed from happiness to worry, her ears dropped down. Under the cape, her wings shook slightly for a second, a sign of extreme worry. “But…?” Twilight whispered and the earth pony diverted her gaze.
In that moment, seeing Twilight like that, Applejack doubted. She was going to hurt the alicorn if she continued with her decision, and that was the last thing the cowpony wanted to ever do. But, if she didn’t… She could live forever sad and depressed remembering me. AJ had that thought in her mind for the last weeks. That was the reason she made her decision, which she must follow until the end, no matter the consequences.
“We… we have to break up.” Applejack stated, but she didn’t look to the alicorn. There it is. Ah said it. There ain’t no takin’ it back now.
Twilight gasped in disbelief. Her mind took 5 or 6 seconds to process the sentence. I-It can’t be… The purple alicorn thought, with pain starting to grow in her chest. “Wha-what did you say, Applejack?” She asked, waiting and praying that she didn’t hear right.
Applejack sighed, really hoping that she wouldn’t have to repeat those painful words. “Ah said… that we have to break up.” She repeated with a lower tone. “Bu-but why?” Twi muttered, with her ears totally flat, shaking with the first signs of panic. This effect was especially notable in her wings, still under the cape.
Why…? What the heck do Ah tell her now? That was the weakest part of AJ’s plan. She had to answer, but regardless of how she would look to everypony else, she didn’t want to make Twilight feel guilty. There was no way in Tartarus she wanted to do that. “Su-sugarcube… Things have changed…”
“If-if I did something wrong…” Twilight interrupted.
“No!” Applejack quickly answered. “No, ya didn’t. It’s not yer fault, Twi.”
“Then, why? What happened? I don’t understand-” Oh, Celestia… AJ thought. Twilight was on the verge of tears. The earth pony didn’t have to look at her to know it, just by hearing her voice she could tell that.
“It.. it’s complicated… But Ah swear to ya. It’s not yer fault, Twilight…” the orange pony said, with her ears stuck to her skull, as low as her mood.
“In that case, explain to me, please.” the alicorn begged, making her best to not cry. A battle she was losing.
“I-I was mistaken” That was a bad excuse, but was the best she could make after days thinking about it. “Ah-ah mean. Wh-when Ah asked ya for a date it was ‘cause Ah had a big crush in ya. But after the dates… It was fun, really, Twi, no doubt.” The worst part was coming. “But Ah realise that Ah didn’t love you. Not really.” Her entire body trembled and she swallowed hard while she lowered her head, trying to hide her face behind her Stetson. “Ah’m very sorry, Twilight… If ya want to blame me, Ah-Ah will understand it.”
Twilight Sparkle was in shock. She opened her mouth trying to say something, but no words came out. Tears flew down her cheeks without control, as she was unable to contain it anymore. Why was this happening to her? To them? “A-Applejack. Re-really if-if I did. If I make any mistake o-or if I-I can d-do anything to fix this.” AJ nodded. “Sorry, Twi. Trust me. Ah feel really bad about all this. The la-last thing Ah want is-is to hurt you, sugarcube. But if we-” Don’ look at her now, AJ. If ya do ya won’t be able to finish. “If we continue with this ya will suffer in the end. More than now.”
“Applejack…” Twilight started to say between sobbings. In that moment, something clicked in the princess’ mind.
AJ hadn’t looked at her at any moment.
“You’re lying.” The alicorn said with strength. Her eyes stared at the cowpony at she got closer to her.
Applejack froze in her place. Her hooves shook, and not from the cold snow on the ground. Dammit, Twi. You and yer pretty genius brain. She thought, swallowing again. “Ah’m not lying, Tw-” she tried to answer, but Sparkle cut her words.
“You don’t know how to lie. Should I remind you about the incident with Discord? Everypony knows you’re the worst liar in Ponyvi-No, in all of Equestria. Are you gonna tell me that all the fun, all the feelings, all the good moments we spent together on our dates were false?” She stopped to cry and started to got angry.
“W-well, no, Twilight, but...” Applejack replied, but her tone didn’t look firm.
“Applejack, maybe I don’t know much about relationships, but I know you very well, better than any of our friends. On our dates, you were happy, happier that I’ve ever see you. So-” She hit the ground with a hoof. “What’s really going on here?”
Applejack looked away, very nervous in that moment. “Nothing more than Ah already said.” she muttered.
“Yeah? Then, why won’t you look at me? Something this important should be said face to face.” Twilight accused. Applejack understood that. If she wanted her plan to work, she couldn’t leave the things half done. Using all her will, like she never had before, she looked Twilight in the eye and spoke.
“We’re done, Twilight Sparkle.”
Now was Twilight who froze in her place, her lips making a thin line. She turned pale and her eyes dampened before she nodded. “I un-understand, Applejack Apple. Take care.” Applejack looked at her while she turned back and moved away. One part of her was screaming, wishing to run after her and hug her with all her strength to never lose her. But she stayed there without moving, until Twilight disappeared in the distance. Then she allowed herself to break and she sobbed, letting all her tears drop from her nose. “Please. Forgive me, Twi. Forgive me.”
Spike was eating some gems, sitting in the middle of the library and killing the time. Just as he was about to put a beautiful sapphire in his mouth, the door opened and Twilight came in, her head and ears dropped down. “Twilight?” Spike said, raising an eyebrow and looking the clock. “You’re home early. Did you have fun with AJ?”
The alicorn put away her cape without raising her head. Even her wings were down. “I don’t want to talk about it, Spike.” She replied softly.
The baby dragon noticed that something was wrong. “Twilight? What happened?” He asked with caution, but Twilight snapped.
“I said that I don’t want to talk about it!” She yelled at Spike, looking him angry. He took a step away, surprised and scared, making Twilight react. “S-Spike. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to-to...” She couldn’t take anymore and fell on the floor crying, her face buried in her forelegs. The dragon, shocked, ran to her and embraced her, very worried. The moment that she felt the embrace, the alicorn buried her face in his small chest, making him wonder what had happened out there with Applejack? He didn’t know, but he knew now wasn’t the best moment to ask again. She was in a bad mood. She was in clearly pain and Spike had to be there for her. For his best friend. For his sister.
“Do you… do you want a cup of cocoa?” The dragon asked once Twilight was too tired to cry anymore. The alicorn nodded weakly without saying a word, still asking herself why Applejack would leave her.
She didn’t have an answer.