The Heart of an Author

by Oroboro

Chapter 2 - A Seed of Love

The feast laid out before Twilight could really only be described as a work of art. Fancy salads, elaborate soup dishes, beautiful floral arrangements, all manner of apple related dishes, and topped off with a giant cake in the center of the table. It was all meticulously crafted and arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner, complete with elaborate doilies, coasters, and tablecloth which Twilight could only assume was hand crafted by the beaming unicorn across the table.

“Let's get this party started!” Pinkie Pie screamed as the room around them exploded in a shower of confetti and streamers. Twilight flinched instinctively, and almost fired up her horn in an attempt to protect her meal but quickly noticed that none of the paper bits were falling over the table.

Even that is carefully designed, Twilight thought before she began to laugh when Pinkie immediately devoured half the cake. While she was used to such elaborate care and extravagant meals by now, nothing could beat a meal shared with friends, whether fancy or humble.

As everypony began to dig in around the table, various conversations and bits of small talk sprung up. Distracted by a particularly delicious apple salad, Twilight decided to just listen for awhile instead of joining in.

“Um. Your mane looks really pretty Applejack. You should get it done up more often,” Fluttershy said.

“Oh.. Uh, y’think so? Er, I mean, thanks sugarcube,” Applejack said, blushing and glancing over at Rarity who nodded reassuringly before continuing. “It’s uh, y’know. A special occasion and all. Do you think the princesses will be joining us?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “No, they asked to have dinner delivered to their room.”

Frowning, Twilight ran a hoof through her own mane, considering the state of it and feeling slightly confused. Everypony seemed to be taking this way more seriously than she was. Dressing up, making food, elaborate decorations... she just wasn’t sure what warranted all this effort and formality.

“Oooh, Twilight!” Pinkie pie said, waving her arms frantically as Twilight snapped to attention. “Do you remember a couple months ago when I was throwing that party in Canterlot and you were there too attending a royal ball of some kind? I don’t remember what for but I do remember that it was super boring. Then you stopped by my party for a bit but couldn’t stay long and it was kind of sad. Anyway after you left there were bunches of reaaally hilarious coincidences, with those two noble-ponies who got into the wrong party and then when that drink accidentally got spilled on Vinyl Scratch’s equipment and then somepony used somepony else’s wig to put out the fire! And then it got even funnier when…”

As Pinkie rambled on with her story, Twilight continued to smile and nod. Well, not everypony is taking this too seriously…

As the dinner wound on, Twilight indulged herself in another salad, a couple of apple fritters and dumplings, and a slice of (what was left of the) cake before she was finally stuffed. As she poured herself another glass of water, she noticed Applejack and Rarity were leaning in next to each other, and seemed to be having a hushed conversation. Feeling nosy, Twilight decided to get a little closer and listen in.

“… C’mon now Rar, I thought we discussed this already. Yer the one who’s good at flowery speeches and declarations of love. I seen you practicin’ in the mirror already,” Applejack said.

“Oh but that’s just it… although I loathe to admit it, quite frankly I talk too much. What I have written sounds like an acceptance speech. Everypony will be asleep before I get to the important part!” Rarity said as she reached over to hold Applejack’s hooves with her own. “When you say it, it’s always so… straight from the heart, and well, honest. And that’s what I want.”

Applejack’s eyes darted nervously around the table, and Twilight quickly pretended to be interested in the floral arrangements, rather than eavesdropping on what was apparently an even more private conversation than she thought. “I just… I don’t know how to say it,” Applejack whispered fearfully.

“Just tell them the truth,” Rarity said with a wink and smile, before she stood up and banged on the side of her glass with a spoon. “Attention everypony… Applejack and I have an announcement to make.”

The room quieted down as Applejack stood up and looked around the room nervously and cleared her throat. Her hoof, Twilight noted, was still cupping Rarity’s.

“Uh. Hey ya’ll. It uh, sure is good to be here with all you again. It’s, erm…” Applejacked paused, swallowing and fidgeting with her hat slightly. She turned to Rarity, who gave her an encouraging smile, and Applejack turned back to the table, a more determined look on her face.

“Ah, I’m no good at these. Look. Th’four of you are the greatest friends anypony could ask for. We’ve been through everything together, and now I wanna share this happiness with y’all too.”

Applejack closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. “I… love Rarity. I have for a long time. Last year fate gave us a chance to discover those feelings were mutual. And I’m telling you this now because we’ve decided to spend the rest of our lives together.”

The table was silent for a long moment, Rarity positively beaming at her fiancé.

“You two are getting married!?” Rainbow Dash sputtered, spitting cider all over the table and quickly going into a coughing—

“Wait. What!?” Twilight cried out as the implications of what she had just read hit her.

Fluttershy snapped out of her listener’s stupor, looking up at Twilight with concern. “Um... Is everything okay Twilight?”

Twilight stared at the words on the page in disbelief, then glanced over at Fluttershy, then back to the page again before putting the book down. “Um, Fluttershy? Is there something about Rarity and Applejack you know that I don’t?”

“What? Oh no, of course not. I mean, not that I know of anyway,” Fluttershy said, blushing slightly. “This is all just fictional, Twilight.”

Twilight worked her mouth soundlessly as she tried to figure out a way to voice her objections without hurting Fluttershy’s feelings. “Uh, Fluttershy, this is…” she stopped, raising a hoof and scratching her head in bewilderment.

Fluttershy picked up the book, and began flipping through some of the earlier pages. “Oh. Um, was the announcement too sudden? Maybe there should be more foreshadowing. I tried to slip some in the argument they had earlier, but it must have been too subtle to notice.”

“That’s… not really the problem here,” Twilight said, covering her face with her hoof in exasperation.

“Oh,” said Fluttershy, looking down at her book thoughtfully. “Well than maybe it’s—“

Twilight cut her off with a raised hoof. “Look, Fluttershy. How do you think Applejack and Rarity would feel if they knew you were writing a story about them being in a relationship? What about if this ends up getting published?”

Fluttershy’s eyes went wide, and she shook her head vigorously. “Oh no, I never want that to happen. I don’t want anypony reading this. Except, um, you…”

Twilight closed her eyes, bringing her hoof down on the table softly. “Okay, so you don’t want this published and I won’t tell them if you don’t want me to… but why? Why Applejack and Rarity?”

“Oh,” Fluttershy blushed, smiling from behind her bangs. “I needed a romance subplot in order to properly tell the story. And, well…” Fluttershy ducked low, her blush growing even deeper. “I’ve always thought those two would make a pretty cute couple.”

Twilight bit her lower lip, glancing back at the book. This was… weird. Downright uncomfortable, even. Although it really was all just fictional (Or possibly not, she supposed), it somehow felt like an egregious invasion of her friends privacy.

Looking down at Fluttershy, who seemed lost in dreamland again, Twilight weighed her options. Whatever oddities she had written… and whatever surprises were still yet to come, it was clear that Fluttershy had poured her heart into her writing. It took a lot just to open up to her about it, and the fragile pegasus was as delicate as ever. Surely she could get over an uncomfortable topic for the sake of her friend?

Nodding to herself, Twilight levitated the book back in front of her. “Alright. Sorry about the interruption. I just wanted to clear some things up before continuing. “

As she searched for her place in the book, Twilight chuckled inwardly, composing a mental note.

“Dear Princess Celestia,

I know I don’t write you these letters anymore, but if I did, something tells me by the end of this you would have to read a particularly long one...

“You two are getting married!?” Rainbow Dash sputtered, spitting cider all over the table and quickly going into a coughing fit. “That’s… that’s just…”

“Awesome!” Fluttershy squealed, just a hair louder than was typical for her as she clapped her hooves together. “Congratulations. Oh, I’m so happy for you.”

Twilight caught Fluttershy winking at Rarity out of the corner of her eye. If anypony knew about this in advance, it probably would’ve been her.

Across from the table, Pinkie Pie’s eyes had gone as wide as saucers, and she began vibrating at a rapidly increasing frequency. As she began to let out a high pitched squeal and inch closer to the couple, Applejack rolled her eyes.

“Pinkie Pie, would you be so kind as to plan our wedding reception?”

“Yeeeeeeeessssss!!!” Pinkie Pie screamed as she shot off like a bottle rocket, bouncing off the ceiling and around the room like a super bouncy ball.

Even as she found herself chuckling at Pinkie’s antics, Twilight tried to pull all her thoughts together quickly. Honestly, she wasn’t quite sure how to feel about two of her best friends suddenly announcing their engagement to each other. Especially since she didn’t even know they were a couple until now. But whatever her own feelings about the matter, being a good friend was the most important thing she could do at the moment.

“Congratulations you two. This was sudden, but I’m really happy for you.” Twilight stood up, making her way over to the couple and placing a hoof on theirs. “I’d like to give you my blessings as both a royal princess of Equestria,” Twilight paused, giving them a warm smile, “and as your friend.”

“Oh Twilight, thank you…” Rarity said, sniffling as her eyes beginning to mist over. “Ugh, you promised yourself you wouldn’t cry. Get it together Rarity!”

Rainbow Dash flew over the table and up to Applejack, casually slinging a forehoof over her shoulder. “Geez. Congratulations! That’s pretty great and all, but did you really have to keep it a secret for so long?”

Applejack blushed, turning away and looking slightly ashamed. “Aw hay. It’s not like we were particularly tryin’ to keep it a secret or anything. There was just… never really a good time to bring it up. And it was only last month when I proposed and she said yes that we felt like… we had something strong enough together to show off to th’rest of you and be proud of.”

“Oooh, and such a gallant proposal it was,” Rarity said with a dramatic flourish, causing Applejack to roll her eyes. “I’ll have to tell you all about it later.”

“Group hug!” Pinkie shouted, pulling the other five ponies into a stranglehold of an embrace.

“It’s um, right through here,” Fluttershy said, fumbling with the keys to what was apparently the back door to the mansion.

“Alright, let’s move this party to somewhere more fitting!” Rainbow Dash said.

As soon as Fluttershy pulled the door open a hair, the door banged open, hurling the dainty pegasus into Rainbow Dash with a blast of frozen air and whipping snow.

“How is this supposed to be better than inside? Where it’s all warm and toasty?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow skeptically as she tried to shield her face from the wind. The pitch blackness outside wasn’t helping matters either.

“Oh it’s really quite nice out there darling, but I’m afraid we’ll need your help to make it more… hospitable,” Rarity said as she and Applejack helped the downed pegasi to their hooves. “Could you give us a little light out there for starters?”

Shivering from the cold, Twilight focused her horn, conjuring a large ball of light which she sent to float up and out the door. She was surprised to see so much green illuminated under the soft magic. It was easily garden worthy of the royal palace. The trees were in full bloom, the grass was a luscious shade of green and flowers wreathed the several pools of water scattered about. Such carefully sculpted natural beauty was starkly contrasted by the snow still whirling about.

With a tentative step forward, Twilight was surprised to find that the ground underneath her hooves was radiating warmth.

“Cannonball!” Pinkie yelled as she bolted outside and immediately made a big splash in one of the pools. Twilight’s worries about her friend freezing to death in the water were quickly squashed when she took a closer look and saw the steam rising from the pools.

“So there’s hot springs here. That’s pretty nice – but even with that it won’t be very nice out here with all this wind,” Twilight said, squinting as a particularly large gust blew more snow into her eyes.

“Kinda hoping you could take care of that too, Twi. Y’know, make a big shield or something,” Rainbow Dash said.

Twilight thought about it for a moment, and figured it should probably work. Channeling a more powerful spell, she felt a bead of sweat drip down her face as large pink bubble began to descend over the entire mansion. After a few more moments of focus, Twilight felt the wind stop and everything suddenly became quiet around them.

As she let the spell go, Twilight wiped the sweat off her brow and paused to admire her handiwork. She wasn’t her brother, but the shield would do its job keeping the storm out of the mansion. As well as anypony who wanted in or out. Although it was only strong to the point where anypony could probably break through if they tried hard enough, bringing the whole spell down with them.

With the wind cut off, Twilight could already feel the warmth of the garden starting to fill the area and she took a deep breath, enjoying the sweet smells of the flora and the dampness of the air.

“Hey Applejack, bet you can’t beat me in underwater wrestling!” Rainbow Dash said with a grin, flying towards one of the nearby hot springs.

Applejack immediately jumped at the challenge, and Rarity rolled her eyes. “Really now. Hot springs are not swimming pools. They are for relaxing.” With a sigh, she turned to Fluttershy and Twilight. “Care to join me?”

“Gladly,” Twilight said with a smile, and the three of them moved to one of the unoccupied pools while the other three splashed and played.

“Oh sweet Celestia that feels good,” Twilight moaned as she sunk into the hot water. Immediately she felt her tired muscles begin to loosen. She had forgotten that her shoulders and joints weren’t supposed to feel that stiff in the first place.

After lounging in silence for a few minutes, listening to the sounds of laughter coming from nearby, Twilight turned to Rarity and spoke up. “So… you and Applejack, huh?”

Rarity smiled, leaning her head back as she stared skywards. “Life sure has a way of taking you by surprise, doesn’t it?”

“Since you mentioned surprises, I take it you knew in advance, Fluttershy?” Twilight asked.

“Well, I still go to the spa with Rarity occasionally, and I knew they were dating,” Fluttershy mumbled, sinking into the water until her head was barely above it. “But I didn’t know there was going to be a wedding.”

Rarity laughed gaily, turning to face the others. “Speaking of that… would you two do me the honors of being my best mares? Applejack will ask Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie to do the same for her.” Rarity paused, glancing over as her fiancé held onto Rainbow Dash with her forehooves as she struggled to fly out of the water. “Well, I’m sure she’ll bring it up eventually.”

“Oh yes! Oh, I’d love to,” Fluttershy said excitedly, nearly jumping up out of the water.

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” Twilight said teasingly. “But I’d be honored to, Rarity.”

“Great! Oh, I’ve already got the perfect dresses for you thought up. It’s going to be so magical!” After beaming with excitement, Rarity frowned, tapping a hoof on the water in thought. "Well actually... I imagined you officiating the wedding as well, but it just occurred to me you might not be able to do both."

Twilight felt herself heat up with embarrassment at the idea. “Well, I mean I technically could, but Princess Celestia might be a better choice. I’m not sure you want somepony officiating your wedding while crying the whole time.”

“Oh Twilight,” Rarity giggled as she moved over to give the unicorn a quick embrace. “You’re a good friend, you know?”

“I practically majored in friendship, so I’d certainly hope so,” Twilight said, grinning. “But this is a big step. No matter what, we’ll do our best to help you out.” Fluttershy nodded in agreement as Rarity sat back down.

“A big step… you got that right.” Rarity’s smile waned somewhat as she peered into the water blankly. “We have to be apart from each other so much because of business, but we still both want to start a life together. It’ll have to work somehow…” Glancing up, Rarity stared at the still frolicking Applejack with a strange look in her eye.

Twilight glanced over at Fluttershy, both of them frowning at the sudden change in mood. “Um, Rarity? Is everything okay?” Twilight asked.

“Hmm? Oh, no, it’s nothing dear…” Rarity said, her expression a stiff mask.

“Does this have something to do with the fight you two were having when I arrived?” Twilight asked.

“What, that? Oh, that was nothing to worry about. Just a simple little spat about the food we plan to have at the wedding. Nothing to worry about,” Rarity said, the strain in her voice becoming more evident.

“Rarity…” Twilight chided  as she moved in closer.

Rarity’s lips began to tremble, and she glanced up at her fiancé, who was still occupied and well out of earshot. “I just…” With a loud sniffle, tears began to fall from her eyes, barely noticeable with all the surrounding steam and water.

“I just love her so much!” Rarity cried out, burying her head in Fluttershy’s shoulder. “I do! And I’m willing to give anything, my whole self, mind body and soul to her! But even though she’s the one who started this… and she’s the one who proposed…” Rarity sniffled again, wiping at her eyes with her hoof.

“She’s holding something back… I can feel it. There’s something in her heart she absolutely refuses to share, and refuses to even acknowledge it’s there. Whatever is eating her up… it’s gotten noticeable in other ways too.”

“There there…” Fluttershy cooed as she lightly rubbed Rarity’s shoulder with a hoof. “Have you tried talking to her about this? Surely with a pony as straightforward and dependable as Applejack you can just skip to the heart of the matter, can’t you?”

“But that’s just it!” Rarity wailed. “I’ve tried. She refuses to trust me enough even to admit there’s a problem, and always tries to turn it back on me somehow whenever I bring it up.”

Twilight frowned, considering her words carefully. This was going to take a delicate hoof, but she was unsure of her own ability to give the correct advice in matters of the heart.

“This secret...” Twilight paused, choosing her words carefully as she tried to gage Rarity’s reaction. “Whatever it is, are you sure that it has to do with you? Everypony is entitled to keep a few things to themselves.”

Sniffling one more time, Rarity took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “I’m sorry. Maybe you’re right, Twilight. I can get a little wrapped up in myself sometimes. Perhaps I’m worrying over nothing." Glancing back over at the pony that was the source of her woe, she wiped at her eyes some more. “But I don’t know. I feel like it’s important. I can just sense something is off sometimes, you know? There’s a pained glance, or a vacant look in her eyes. Maybe a hostile reaction to an innocuous question. It’s always so faint, but I know it’s real.”

Rarity sighed, shaking her head. “Oh well. Relationships aren’t supposed to be easy, after all. I’m sure we'll be able to work this out eventually.” Turning to the others, she put on a smile again. “Thanks for listening, you two. I’ve been holding that in for awhile now and it feels good to get that off my chest."

“If you ever need to talk, we’re here for you Rarity. Don’t bottle it all up,” Twilight said, leaning back and allowing herself to relax. As she looked up at the sky from this angle, she found the snow making elaborate patterns as it fell on her shield and slid down. They really were quite pretty.

Eager to change the mood, Rarity struck up a conversation regarding some of the recent fashion lines she had been working on in Manehatten, and while Fluttershy seemed interested, Twilight quickly tuned them out. Two of her best friends were getting married. Everything was going to change.

Or was it? With a sinking feeling in her gut, Twilight realized that their group dynamic would barely be shaken up at all. After all, if everypony only gets together once a year, the difference becomes pretty negligible.

So nothing was going to change after all. Well, maybe a little. There was still the wedding to look forward too. And they’d still write each other letters, and Twilight was sure she’d be hearing from either Applejack or Rarity in the future when they hit low points in their relationship. Maybe they will even have babies in the future. So this was a good thing.

Or was it a bad thing? What if Rarity’s worries were serious? Serious enough that they end up breaking up? Would we have to pick and choose between friends? Would one of them refuse to come to the conferences because the other would be there? What if—

“Hey there silly-filly!” Pinkie Pie said, her face suddenly appearing inches from Twilight’s, looking down on her. “You know from this angle it looks like you’re smiling!”

Twilight jumped slightly at the sudden appearance of her friend, but quickly regained her composure. Staring up into that impossibly wide grin, Twilight couldn’t help but start smiling again herself.

“Oh no! Now it looks like you’re frowning! Oh wait, I’m upside down. So now you have to frown so you can smile? Hey, that’s not right!” With some impressive contortions, Pinkie managed to trip over herself, flipping into the pool and splashing all of them.

Twilight shared a glance with Fluttershy and Rarity before all three burst out laughing, Pinkie Pie flailing around in the water as she tried to right herself. Like nothing had even happened, her pink curly mane shot back up out of the water. “Hey, you girls ready for ghost stories?”

“Ghost stories?” Rarity asked, raising an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware that was on the agenda.”

“Accordin’ to RD this here mansion’s supposed to be haunted,” Applejack said as she trotted up to join the others alongside Rainbow Dash.

“Hey, if you girls knew the history of this place, you’d never sleep a wink. So that’s why I’m going to tell you every detail!” Rainbow Dash said, grinning wickedly.

“Since when were you such a history buff?” Twilight asked, getting up out of the hot spring and shaking herself off.

“Well, I mean Fluttershy’s the one who found it all. I just read all the cool parts,” Rainbow Dash said as she offered a hoof to the yellow pegasus to help her out of the water.

Everypony’s attention turned to Fluttershy, who blushed and began fidgeting with her mane, squeezing water out of it. “Oh. Um, it’s nothing really. I just read some of the books here in the library. And well, I kind of heard about the legends before coming here. But it’s not all scary. There’s a love story too...”

Rarity perked up at that while Fluttershy spaced out for a few seconds, a goofy smile on her face. Twilight found herself chuckling. She couldn’t deny she was still pretty curious about this mansion herself, if for no other reason than because she didn’t already know about it, which was a rare thing these days.

“’Y’all reckon we should take this party back inside then? These springs are nice and all, but there’s only so much soaking a pony can take,” Applejack said.

“I agree… any longer and I’ll start to get pruney,” Rarity said as she climbed out of the pool. Walking over to Applejack, she leaned in and fussed with her mane slightly, brushing some of the wet hair out of her fiancé’s eyes. “And it looked so nice done up too… oh well. I knew it wouldn’t last long.”

“Yeah, well. Y’know I always say you look real pretty when you let your mane get all wet like that,” Applejack said, grinning as she leaned over and gave Rarity a peck on the cheek.”

“Heeeeeee!” Pinkie Pie squealed, bursting out of the water to land next to the blushing Rarity. “You two are so adorable together! Ooh, I bet when we’re telling ghost stories later there’s gonna be a really scary moment, and Rarity’s going to be all ‘Eek!’ and Applejack’s going to hold onto her to comfort her, but then later on there’s going to be a reaally scary moment and then Applejack’s going to go “Eeek!” and then they’ll both have to hold each other!”|

The group’s laughter echoed throughout the garden as they made their way inside.