Apples at Sunset

by Wolfton

You Face the Darkness With Fortitude

“And I thought I was a big eater,” says the blue one; ‘Rainbow’ if you recalled correctly.

You spare a moment to sneer at her before returning to your meal. The pony the others called ‘Fluttershy’ had laid out a proverbial cornucopia of dishes, unsure of what exactly you eat. Some of it is inedible for you, but the lettuce, carrots, peanuts and fruits hit the spot as you shovel them down. Every now and then you pause for a drink, only to attack the food more fiercely afterwards.

Poor Fluttershy has slowly retreated further and further away from you, likely intimidated by your impressive appetite.

“So, uh, whaddya s’ppose we oughta do with it?” asks the one you know as ‘AJ’, one eye on Fluttershy, one on you, wary of what you might do after your meal.

“Mmph auughh mmmphh,” you mumble, trying to tell them you are right there, though the food impairs your ability to communicate for now. The ponies take it as some sort of animal grunt and ignore you.

“Well, if it behaves, I can p-probably find it a spot w-with the other animals,” meeps Fluttershy.

If I behave? you think to yourself. I’m a perfectly polite and upstanding gentleman. You try to tell your new friends, but again, your mouth is too full.

“You sure? You don’t seem too excited about that,” says Rainbow.

“I’m, um, just a little nervous. I’m sure he’ll get along fine with my animal friends.”

AJ has been eyeing you closely, watching your reactions to the conversation. Puffing her chest out, she approaches you and pokes your side. Curious, you look down at her, swallowing your last mouthful of food.

“I think it can understand us,” she says.

“Oh, c’mon!” says Rainbow, hovering over to you and poking your head. “It’s probably just some creature that wandered out of the Everfree.”

“Okay, then where did he get clothes that just so happen to fit him?”

“I dunno, luck? Why did it run straight into my buck, if it’s so smart? Besides, it’s wearing clothes that are falling apart—you saw the condition they were in.”

The two are looking at each other, absorbed in their conversation, not watching you at all. Resting your head on your hand, you point at Rainbow and nod. “Interesting theory there, but your orange friend is right.”

You never knew jaws could drop that far.

You might enjoy this.

The afternoon sun hits your eyes, forcing you to shield them with a hand. You lean back, trying to figure out how to explain this to her.

“It’s just, where I come from, relationships are almost always one man, one woman. Or, in a pony’s case, stallion and mare. That’s how I’ve always pictured it.”

Applejack frowned, crossing her forehooves from her stop underneath the tree. It’s shortly after your little freak out over Applejack’s proposition. You’re trying to explain your side of things, but it’s somewhat difficult. This isn’t the first time your cultures have clashed.

You adjust yourself, lining your back up against the tree, again settling into a comfortable position. Your heart is still beating quickly from your tantrum. To be honest, you have a history of handling unexpected situations poorly. Most people sit down, think first and analyze things like adults. You just snap.

“I dunno really how comfortable I am with the idea of a one-mare relationship. There’s such a shortage of stallions out there, it’d just be selfish of me to keep you to myself. Not to mention, unfair to Rainbow.”

“First of all, if you say it like that, it sounds like males are just some commodity. I’ve never had the intention of wooing any other mare, and I’m perfectly happy just sticking with you. Second, I can just explain the situation to Rainbow before she gets any expectations. I’m sure she’ll understand.”

Applejack’s voice deepens to a growl. “You know I didn’t mean it like that. And this isn’t somethin’ Rainbow Dash should have to ‘understand’. All you gotta do is give her a chance. The mare’s probably already got her hopes up. You realize what kinda wreckin’ you’d bring down on her if you said it couldn’t work out jus’ cause you weren’ used to courtin’ more than one mare at once? Don’t she deserve more than that?”

You pinch the bridge of your nose. “I’m not saying—” Leaning your head back, you let out a sigh. Why couldn’t she just understand? Asking out Rainbow while you’re dating Applejack... that isn’t something you can just try!

Evening out your breath, you decide to look at things more objectively. You consider time commitments, location (Rainbow does live in the sky), hobbies and other things in common... but the thoughts feel so shallow without emotion. As your brain churns, you keep coming to the same conclusion: this is more than you can handle.

Bringing your hands up to your face, you shake your head. This isn’t a decision you can make now. It’s too important. You get to your feet and stand a moment.

“I... I need to think about this. I’m going for a walk.”

Applejack stands as well. “You want company?”

“No. I gotta figure this out on my own. That’s the only way I’ll really know how I feel.”

“Alright. Just try to come home before too long. Sun’s setting and dinnertime is coming around.”

You nod and start off, but Applejack says one last thing to your back.

“Come home okay, will ya? And I don’t just mean with no broken bones.”

You wave over your shoulder. I’ll do my best, you think, but keep the words to yourself.

Odd that you find yourself staring at the sunset, the very same thing that’d started your relationship with Applejack in the first place. This time, however, you aren’t at Sweet Apple Acres. Instead, you find yourself walking down a different road heading out of town. You don’t really know where it leads, but such things matter little to you at the moment.

The summer air is heavy on your breath, sweet with pollen. The road crunches beneath your feet, alien appendages themselves in this world of ponies. You bring up your hand, inspecting it like you’re seeing it for the first time. The wrinkles and creases are deep; callouses from long days of work blemish your fingers. It doesn’t belong in this world either, much like the rest of you.

But here you are.

Letting your hand drop back to your side, it occurs to you that you’ll never see another human hand again that isn’t yours. The realization sort of sneaks up on you, bringing up fresh pangs of regret. This is something you’d normally talk with AJ about, but she isn’t here right now. All you have left of Earth are memories, now, but even those will fade away with time. Time seems to get the best of everything.

Your thoughts wander back to the matter at hand: the mountain that’d been hoisted onto your back, the weight you’d have to deal with until you made a choice. Could you really date Applejack and Rainbow at the same time? Just the thought of it makes you squirm, even though you can’t nail down the reason why. They’re both upstanding ponies, tough, yet sensitive where it counts, dependable, yet not perfect—exactly what you like in a person. But, for some reason, you can’t let go of the silly idea that a relationship is only meant for two people—or ponies, whatever the case.

Why is that so important to you?

Scratching your neck, you shake your head, running up against the same wall you’d been stuck at since your talk with Applejack. The sun had now since faded, and you watch as the moon takes its place, glowing it’s own mysterious hue of gentle blue. It’s a bit different from what you were used to on Earth, but you think you enjoy it better. A cool wind brushes against your skin, but you ignore it.

You curse to yourself, angered at your own inability to focus on something so important. Until you can answer that question, honestly and completely, you wouldn’t be able to answer Applejack. Another wind, stronger and more sudden than the first, hits your back. Curious, you glance behind yourself, discovering with a bit of shock that your walk is no longer in solitude.

“Princess Luna!” you exclaim, bowing to the night keeper as she approaches. Her gait is structured and proper, but not haughty. She wears a gaze of passivity tinged with concern, eyes reflecting her moonlight.

“Hark, subject. I welcome you to another night.”

“If I may ask, what brings you here?”

She gestures forward, prompting you to continue your walk and takes up pace beside you. “You may. I come because the heart of a certain subject of mine has been yelling at the moon for two nights, now. Yesterday you wondered if I could hear your thoughts while you cast them to the sky and today I heard them especially deep and resounding. Well, here is your answer.” She pauses, considering her next words. “You are troubled.”

“You make house calls now?” you say, smirking at your own quip.

“Pray tell, what is a ‘house call’?”

You shake your head and sigh. “Nothing important. I tried to make a sarcastic joke, but I should’ve realized you don’t have phones around here.”

“No, I am afraid I have not heard of a ‘phone’ before.”

“Well, it’s this device that allows you to—”

“I am, however, quite capable of detecting when someone is avoiding a certain subject.”

Your mouth clamps shut. While this isn’t the first time you’d spoken with Princess Luna, it is the first time you’d witnessed exactly how curt she could be. “You don’t beat around the bush, do you?”

“I would like to think that, after thousands of years guiding my subjects, I know how to comfort those in need. Avoiding the subject of difficulty will lead to no form of relief. If you wish not to speak at this moment, we can walk in silence. But do not think to yourself I will allow the conversation to wind in such intricate paths as to portend some semblance of aid.”

You reply with a nod, and the two of you continue the walk without words for the moment. Luna’s arrival, while sudden, had at least given you something else to think about. It always seems easier to work through things when your brain is on autopilot. Sledgehammers aren’t as effective as a push.

“What do you think you would do if you were in my position? In general, at least. You’re all alone, and while your morals and ethics line up mostly with those of the beings you’re with, it’s not quite the same. And those things, while they seem minor at first, are actually a massive gorge when you look closely.”

“I believe I would stand by my principles,” says Luna, pausing a moment to breathe in the night air. “But that is not blind allegiance to my old world or a stubborn rooting in my way of thinking. Indeed, I have been proven wrong many times in my long life, some of those occurrences more recent than others. Principles, however, can always be traced back to their root. That is the commonality between our societies; we both share things like respect for another pony—or human, in your case—a desire to avoid suffering, a longing to find friendship, belonging, and love. I stand by my principles because I know where they come from, and I know they will lead me in the direction I wish to live.”

“I sounds so simple...” you mumble, voice trailing off into thought. Once again, the weight of your past is clouding your mind, though this time you think you prefer it this way. What sort of future could you build if you neglected where you came from? You run a hand through your hair and huff. This would be so simple if ponies just saw relationships the same way you did.

“You must ask yourself the correct questions, subject. No one can ask them for you.”

So where did this desire to be with Applejack and Applejack only come from? Was it a question of respect? Of privacy? You frown. Of selfishness? Relationships between two people are special because... because why? You never asked yourself that question before. Never had a reason to and now that you’re thinking about it, you wonder if that’s because that’s because monogamy was more widely accepted on Earth or because it’s something you believe in.

Partners are supposed to understand each other better than anyone else. They share a deep connection that could never be copied or faked... but why couldn’t you just have it with two ponies? It wouldn’t be the same for each, but it would still be unique and just as powerful.

“I don’t think I could give my entirety to two different ponies. One would know things about me the other would not. I may refrain from being open with one because I might think the other would understand me better.”

“There are many ‘maybe’s in there. Is that truly what is stopping you? Taking a chance? And what is to say that situation is not acceptable to your partners? They could very well want exactly that. Do not misunderstand me, I am not arguing one way or another. This is your decision alone. I only wish to elucidate all avenues of thought.”

She speaks no lies, but you remain unsure. Maybe you are thinking with your head too much and not your heart. A relationship is made of emotions as well as logic.

And what do your emotions say?

“I’m afraid.”

Luna nods. “It is reasonable, nay, expected to fear the unknown, to hesitate when faced with such a choice. It speaks volumes that you’ve given yourself a chance to consider it before deciding. Your fear should give you confidence—but do not allow it to cripple you.” Her tone shifts from reassuring to cautious. “Do your feelings perhaps have basis in the past?”

You chuckle to yourself. “Which feelings don’t?”

“I do not wish to pressure you, but if you feel talking about it may help, I—”

“I left her, Luna.”

Her mouth snaps shut and surprise flashes across her eyes for only a second. She doesn’t reprimand you for interrupting, though.

“She was so confident. So ambitious.” You bring your hands to your face, wiping them across your cheeks before letting them drop back to your sides. “Everything I thought I wanted, just so much of it that I couldn’t hold onto myself. I left her. I wasn’t torn away by my voyage here, she didn’t break up with me or even die in some accident.” You held Luna’s gaze with your own, sharp as a knife. “That’s what I’m afraid of. That when the time comes, I won’t be able to handle things working out. I’m addicted to my own misery, to discontent. I’m terrified of the idea that both Rainbow and Applejack will be able to love me, and I’ll be able to return it. No one person is supposed to be that lucky and even if someone is, it certainly shouldn’t be me.”

Luna suddenly stops walking. You take a moment to react and stop yourself, then turn around and look at her.

She looks perplexed and almost... hurt. “Is that what you truly believe? That you don’t deserve it?”

You shrug. “I’ve done nothing to earn it. I’m an average person who’s made too many mistakes. Maybe things’ll work out with Applejack, but only because she’s a good pony. There’s nothing remarkable about me... and I’m alright with that.”

“All of my subjects deserve happiness. And not because they’re heroes or princesses or ponies of stature, but because every last one of my subjects are good. I believe that beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

“I don’t deserve happiness simply for refraining from being a terrible person. That should be expected.”

“I would agree. That does not make it easy, however. It takes effort. You have, at the very least, earned the right be a little selfish. The world asks so much of you. Do you not deserve something for yourself?”

Bringing a hand over your eyes, you sigh and shake your head. “I think we’ve come across a fundamental difference of opinion here.”

Luna steps forward, leaning in toward your face. “And have you learned something from it?”

‘No,’ you’re about to say, but you stop yourself. Isn’t this what you have been searching for? The chasm that separates you from the ponies? Luna had laid it bare for you—do you have the wisdom to take what you need from it?

“I... think so.”

“It pleases me to hear it.”

She turns her head, now looking past you. Something had caught her eyes. Curious, you look over your shoulder and your stare lands on a stunning landscape, one that captivates you with a glance. Not too far off is a familiar peak, cutting through the horizon and standing out from the background. Towering above it is a glowing moon. Its position appears to place it just atop the peak, like a ball precariously balanced on a pen. The wind buffets your face, but you squint to keep your eyes open, feeling like if you closed them you’d lose the scene forever.


Luna shifted her gaze to you, clearly impressed. “You’re familiar with its title, then?”

“Yes, someone told me about it earlier. Said it means, ‘Horn of the Valley’.”

“I suppose if that is one translation. It is not the one I intended, however.”

You gape at her. “You named it?”

“Indeed. ‘Yevan’ means ‘depression’ or ‘dip’. ‘Suun’ is ‘peak’ or ‘highest point’, so when applied to landscape, they’re naturally translated to ‘valley’ and ‘mountain’. This land was originally settled by unicorns, however, so ‘horn’ was adopted instead of ‘mountain’. ‘Tat’, the conjunction, means not only ‘of’, as in ownership, but also ‘in the midst’. Therefore, the original intended title of the mountain was, ‘High point in the midst of a depression’. I much prefer that one.”

“Yeah, I think I do, too.”

The two of you watch as the moon rises, ever so slowly lifting from the mountaintop. It feels much easier to think like this, like the river of your thoughts had just been freed from a dam. No small thanks to Luna as well.

“Now we will hug.”

Your jaw drops to the ground. “W-what?”

“I enjoy hugs and find them most therapeutic.” She pauses, raising an eyebrow at you. “Unless you do not like hugs?”

“N-no, hugs are great, I just... I’m not used to hugging a princess. Seems, eh, out-of-place.”

“Well, your princess is requesting one.” She turns to face you, standing up straight. You rub your hands, sweaty from nerves, together before bringing them out a bit. Hugging another person is simple enough; you both put out your arms and hold each other. Without arms, though, ponies just kinda... stand there.


You squat down, sinking your head to her eye level, then stiffly bring your arms around her neck. Her coat is warm against the chilly wind of the night. Unconsciously, you draw your hand down her neck onto her back, running your fingers through her coat, finding it soft and smooth like silk. When she hooks a hoof around your side and pulls you in further, you can’t help but jump a bit. Her sentiment is not unappreciated, however.

Dipping into the silence, you almost find yourself getting comfortable. Relaxed. Something you’d had precious little of. You close your eyes and lean into her neck, listening to her pulse.

A moment later the two of you break away. As you get back to your feet, you let out a sigh, smiling on the inside. Although the princess is being courteous and informal, it still doesn’t feel appropriate to show your feelings so frankly around her.

“That was an excellent embrace. I commend your ability to hug.”

You give her a half-smile. “Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.”

“Yes,” she says, looking back to Canterlot. “I have duties and important things I must return to—and I believe you do as well, now. I enjoyed our talk. If you ever have need of one again, look to the moon and wonder. It would please me to converse, rather than let you wallow in doubt.”

You nod. “Thanks, Princess. You’ve shown me a lot. I owe you.”

Bending her legs in preparation for takeoff, she shoots one last look your way. “I will consider us even if you go speak with your mare. Farewell, subject.”

With that, she’s gone.

You wrap your arms around her, pulling her close, breathing in the smell of her coat. She stands there awkwardly.

“So, uh—”

“Just enjoy the damn hug.”

Letting out a giggle, she smiles and puts her forelegs around you, sighing in contentment as she rests her head on your shoulder. The two of you hold each other for a while, never saying anything, not even making a sound, just listening to each other breathe.

“You made up your mind, then?”


“And what’s it gonna be?”

You frown, knowing she wouldn’t like the answer. There is no way for you to say anything else, though. You break the hug, crouch down and look Applejack straight in the eyes.

“You’re the only mare I could ever see myself with. I like Rainbow, but I could never accept the both of you at the same time.”

She frowns. “That ain’t the answer I was hopin’ ta hear.”

“It’s the only answer I have.”

Pausing, she looks behind herself into the house, then turns back to you. “This ain’t the best place to be discussin’ this. Come on inside.”

She leads to you past the living room, upstairs into her room and takes a quick look down the hallway before closing her bedroom door behind her.

“Now why don’t you explain yourself?” she says, walking over to the bed and sitting up against it.

“As I said, Applejack, the idea that a relationship is just one man and one woman comes from my world, and it’s extremely important to me.”

“Uh huh, yeah, I got that. What I missed was there part where you’re fine and dandy with throwin’ Rainbow out to the timberwolves ‘cause the idea of givin’ her a chance made you a mite uncomfortable.” Her voice carried flat and blunt.

You frown at the accusation. Earlier, you wouldn’t have been so sure, but after your talk with Luna, you think you have a response. “It’s not about that, Applejack, and I’d appreciate a chance to explain myself before you go to town on me.”

She waves off your rebuttable. “I know, I know, I ain’t bein’ fair to you. You just struck a sore spot here.”

“Thanks,” you say with a nod before continuing. “As I was saying, this isn’t about Rainbow. I really like her, and if things were different I could see myself loving her, too. But if I were to date—hell, if I were to even try to date—both of you at the same time, it would ruin me. It’s not a question of comfort, it’s one of integrity. What we have is special because it’s only ours. When I have something I want to talk about, it’s not that you’re the only one to go to, it’s that you’re the only one I want to go to. With two partners, you both only know a part of me; the part I want to show you. I shouldn’t have that kind of choice, not just because it wouldn’t be fair to either of you, but because relationships shouldn’t have that kind of option. They should be hard, they should have dilemmas, and the only way to solve those dilemmas should be through communication with your partner. Your only partner.”

Applejack crosses her arms, considering your argument. Her eyes dart across the floor and occasionally back to you, mind ticking away. Sweat forms on your neck as you wait for the reply.

“I still don’t like it.”

Huffing, you pull your hair back. “‘Don’t like it’? What don’t you like about it?”

“It sounds like an excuse. I know you hold your ideals from the human world important, and I respect ya for that, really. But, I guess what I don’t understand is why you’re so inflexible about it. Ain’t there some kinda compromise to be found? I’d love it if you were able to find comfort in Rainbow for somethin’ you weren’t able to talk about with me. I even bet that Rainbow would feel the same way. Isn’t that what a relationship is about at its core? Makin’ your partner happy?”

You find yourself pacing around the room, trying to find the right way to state your feelings. Applejack isn’t getting it. “Making your partner happy is a large part of it, but it should be done honestly and openly. You can’t ignore everything else for some single-minded notion of happiness. Yeah, you can strive for it, but you also can’t avoid every pitfall along the way. The bad times can strengthen a relationship just as well as the good.”

She slams a hoof on the floor. “What is it with you an’ bein’ sad or troubled? All I hear outta you is doom and gloom about the future. What’s wrong with tryin’ everything you can to avoid it? What’s wrong with hopin’ you’ll never have to be heartbroken and dejected?”

“Because it’s fake!” you yell, your volume getting away from you.

Applejack gets to her feet, eyes ablaze. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize relationships needed your approval to be real.”

“It’s not my approval, it’s just how to the world works, okay? You think I want things to work like this? You think I wouldn’t love our relationship to be sunshine and rainbows all the time?” Shaking your head, you throw a dismissing wave at her. “Ponies just ignore the harsh side of things. Doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”

“Oh we’re ignorant, now? And when did you become the expert on what makes a relationship, huh? Last I heard, you screwed the pooch on your first one.”

She realizes her mistake moment the words are out, gasping and covering her mouth with her hooves.

You turn on her, fury and conflict dancing in your gaze. You let out a few loud, slow breaths through your nose, trying to burn through her with your eyes.

“I-I’m sorry... I shouldn’ta said that.”

“Yeah,” you say, voice dripping with venom, “you ‘shouldn’ta’.”

It takes every ounce of your willpower to keep from either storming out or screaming at her face. In fact, the conflict of deciding which to do is likely the only reason you haven’t already started. She has no idea, none at all what Alice had put you through. AJ hadn’t even lived in the same world. How could she possibly understand how hard it was?

A stray thought surfaces for a moment: she might. If you tell her.

You stomp and spin around, clicking your tongue. “Tch.” Twisting your glare into a sneer, you walk away from Applejack, unable to look at that vulnerable face of hers anymore.

“Alright.” She walks up to you and touches a hoof on the back of your leg. “I think I can accept this, but I’d like to ask something in return. Tell Rainbow Dash everything, and do it to her face.”

You cross your arms. Not even going to address the elephant in the room? Maybe it’s better that way.  “What exactly is, ‘everything’?”

“Everything. Your feelings for her, the fact we had a discussion about it, and that you rejected the idea.” Her voice comes out soft and understanding, but you can hear a tinge of frustration as she mentions that last item.

You rejected the idea? You open your mouth to protest, but keep quiet. She’s right, you know, you think to yourself. You hate how you can’t let your rage free when she’s in the right. Shaking your head, you wave her off. “Alright.”

“Good. Cause I’m plum tuckered an’ I don’t think we should stick around for even another minute in this room together.” Staring straight through you, she points to the door.

“Feeling is mutual.” You pause. “I hope you understand why I’m doing this.”

“I do. That don’t mean I still ain’t angry as a bull. Now get,” she says, jabbing her hoof toward the door.

Nodding, you walk out, though your stride is lethargic. With one hand on the doorframe, you pause, opening your mouth as if to say something more, but Applejack beats you to it.

“Look, hun, I get what you’re sayin’ and I understand why you’re bein’ a stubborn ol’ mule about it. That still won’t change what my heart’s tellin’ me about this. I feel like its wrong all over. So unless I get some time to mull this over, I’m gonna explode.” She walks over to the door, throws it open, and points to the hallway. “We’re done talkin’ now.”

Holding your head up high, you shrug and walk out. The door immediately slams behind you.

Tomorrow. You have to confront Rainbow tomorrow. If you don't distance yourself and Applejack from this situation as soon as possible... who knows what will happen.

You’d never seen the moon glare with such ferocity.

Typically, you imagine the glow as soft, comforting even. A guide home, beacon for the straying traveller. Someone like you. Tonight, however, it’s angry. You think you know why.

A full day has passed since your talks with Luna and Applejack, and in such a short time, everything has spiraled out of control.

The path is silent but for the occasional breeze rushing across the grass and sending waves through your short hair. There are no words to be spoken, not any more. The ones that linger lay heavily on the air, pressing down on you like a lead blanket. It was a mistake, of course, but when had you ever discovered your mistakes before you made them? When did you ever stop yourself when you needed to?

Your breathing turns even and deep as you attempt to bring yourself back down, to ground yourself before your mind ran off with your thoughts again. Turning from the moon, you direct your gaze down the road where she’d walked off to. Probably heading back home; that’s where she went where she needed support, where you went for it as well.

You doubt you’d find it there any more, though.

With a frown, you turn around and start ambling down the street, wresting with thoughts of where to go next. You could try to undo what you’d done, sure, but how would the end result be any different if you didn’t figure yourself out? So for now, you need to move forward. Find somewhere—or someone—that could get you where you need to go.

Wherever that place is.

Pebbles scatter across the path, knocked loose by your somber gait. Twilight took you in when you’d first arrived, maybe she would be a good pony to go to. There’s probably still a spare bed in her house, and she likely knows you enough by now to realize when you need space. Spike would probably appreciate the extra company, too. Could Twilight help you with this, though? Really help you? You’d like to think so, but there’s a part of you that’s telling you you’ve hidden too much of your past from her. She wouldn’t have the necessary context to help.

There is one other pony you can go to. Somepony you know well, somepony who understands you well enough to be that help. You twist you face, conflicted by the thought. Maybe she is the source of your troubles, but it would be unfair to blame her. It’s not her fault, truly. You’re the one who screwed everything up. The point is conceded with a sigh.

You need to have a talk with Rainbow Dash.