Apples at Sunset

by Wolfton

Your Gallop Holds a Dreadful Poise

You feel it should be raining.

The night air is chilly and unwelcoming, buffeting your exposed body in the open field. Now that you think about it, you don’t come this way very often. Rainbow is often the one to find you when she wants to hang out. Her house has always been a little out of the way, but that doesn’t stop you tonight. Your purpose is too important.

Just before you call out to her, you hesitate.

“Rainbow Dash!”

You give her a few moments. It would take time for her to respond to the call from all the way up there. Nothing happens, though. Your heart sinks, thinking perhaps you had burned this bridge as well.

“Rainbow Dash! Hey! Down here!”

This time your voice is louder, more urgent. You wait a few seconds, and then hear your name shouted back at you as a question.


Silence precedes a flurry of wind and wings, Rainbow landing just a few feet in front of you.

“Hey,” she says, much more bashfully than anything else you’ve heard out of her mouth. Her tone relieves you; she doesn’t seem to hate you. Yet.


Scratching the back of her head, she yawns and looks up at you. “How you doing?”

“Look, I know we kinda just saw each other, but I have to admit something. Something I meant to tell you earlier.”

She perks up visibly at your comment. “W-what’s up?” Her efforts to retain her usual swagger are somewhat foiled by her stutter.

“I haven’t been entirely honest with you. I, uh...”


How did this become so hard all of a sudden? You know exactly how you feel about Rainbow—that’s not the trouble here. It’s a bit odd to admit to yourself, but you’re actually having trouble admitting your feelings to a girl. Although, with both Alice and Applejack the other party had been the one to take the initiative. You suppose this development shouldn’t be unexpected.

Doesn’t stop it from feeling weird, though.

“C’mon, Stalky, don’t leave me hangin’.”

Taking a deep breath, you say, “I like you. More than a friend.”

When you first arrived in Equestria, the very first thing you noticed about ponies were their eyes. Huge things, taking up what seemed like half of their face, adorable and captivating at the same time. Much bigger than they had any business being.

Rainbow’s had somehow grown larger than that.

“Y-you’re serious? Really?”

You can’t help but crack a small smile at her response. “Really.”

Once again, you’re amazed by Rainbow’s speed as she wraps her hooves around you in a bear hug, squealing to herself. Surprised by her voracity, you stumble back a few steps before regaining your footing and hug her back. The longer the hug goes on, however, the more squeamish you become. It’s only a few seconds before you pull Rainbow off and set her on the ground.

You can tell she wanted more, but now that she’s detached, she fakes a cough and looks away. “Oh, yeah that’s pretty cool. I like you too, you know.”

You sigh. “Yeah, I know.”

She shifts uncomfortably in place a moment before asking, “So, you, uh, wanna come inside?”

Intrigued, you look up to her house, then back down to Rainbow. “And how am I going to get up there?”

Blowing the mane out of her eyes, she lets out a guffaw. “Wait here a sec.” Wind blasts from her launch point as she flies back into her house, leaving your sight for a short time before coming back with the same sort of grandeur. She holds a vial of purple liquid out to you. “Drink this. It’s a prepared spell Twilight made so yo—er, anypony could come up to my house without falling through it. Should last a day.”

You take the vial from her and inspect it before gulping it down. “That’s one problem down... but I still don’t know how to fly.”

Rainbow puffs out her chest. “Good thing I do!” Again, she takes off in a flourish of speed.

“Oh, man, you’re not seriously—” Your eyes follow her as she loops around, gaining momentum and coming at you rapidly. “You are.” An audible swallow accompanies your panic. While you trust Rainbow, you also realize she isn’t the most cautious of ponies. You take a deep breath, close your eyes, and gasp as hoofs hook around your sides, just below your armpits, and whisk you away. Wind buffets your body as you rise at an alarming rate, forcing you to squint to see where you’re going.

Once the initial shock wears off, though, you actually find the experience fairly enjoyable. Unfortunate that it lasts such a short time. Rainbow deposits you on her front steps and you stumble a bit, unfamiliar with walking on cloud, not to mention your heart racing from the brief yet intense ride.

“That was cool,” you manage to say.

Rainbow slaps you on the back, hovering by you and opening the front door. “Of course it was! You’re hangin’ with the Dash now!”

Cloud houses are awesome.

The furniture is somehow sturdy, yet fluffy and soft to the touch. When you accidentally leaned on the walls coming in, you were sure you’d fall through, only to find them just as supportive as any wall of wood or brick. And when you faceplanted on the floor from overreacting to your initial fear of falling through the wall, you discovered the pain was much worse on your ego than your face.

The couch is wonderfully plush and cozy, too. Everything about Rainbow’s house, while new and alien to you, helps you feel a bit more at ease. In fact, you almost forget about the news you know you eventually have to deliver.


Rainbow plops down on the couch next to you, putting her hind legs up on an ottoman before turning to face you. Her glee pierces you as well as any spear could.

You wish you had the ability to be subtle, to build things up in such a way you could let Rainbow down easy, but that had always been beyond you. Turning from Rainbow, you consider keeping the news to yourself. You could try having a relationship with her, leave the past in the past, move forward without batting an eye.

Chuckling to yourself, you shake your head. There’s no way in hell you would let yourself do that. Not in a million years.

Your thoughts turn inexorably back to four hours before this moment. Four hours ago, when everything was fine.

“Can’t say this is the way I’d’ve done it, but I s’ppose I’ve never really understood humans.”

You smile down at Applejack and ruffle her mane, making her jerk back and hold her hat down while frowning at you.

“You’re still in the dog house, bud. Don’t be gettin’ all touchy-feely on me.”

Sighing, you put your hand on your hips. “Alright, alright. We meeting here still?”

“Yeah. Once you’re done takin’ Rainbow to dinner, come back here. I’ll probably be waitin’ under that tree over there,” says Applejack, pointing. You make note of the tree and nod.

“Wish me luck.” Looking down, you adjust your tie and try giving Applejack a smile. She remains serious.

“Hun, this ain’t got nothin’ to do with ‘luck’ and you know it.”

You wish she knew how to lighten up a little in situations such as this. All you want is some encouragement, not forgiveness or even generosity. How do you tell her that without pissing her off further, though? No, you decide it’s something best left for later.

You start off, waving over your shoulder. “See ya, AJ.”

“I’ll be here,” she says, waving back.

The walk to the restaurant you picked out isn’t too far, but it is exhausting. Your feet feel like lead weights that get heavier with each step. You’d tried to act confident around AJ, but the truth is, you don’t even know if you have the conviction to go through with it. No matter what you do, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Just murkiness and clouds.

Rainbow’s already waiting for you, a few minutes early by your watch, but what else did you expect? She probably thinks this whole thing will turn out the opposite of what you have planned. What kind of monster invites a mare out to a fancy dinner just to tell her she’s got no chance?

Ah, yes. You.

Greeting her with the best smile you can, the two of you bump fist to hoof before heading inside. Rainbow makes a comment about the place; it’s much fancier than what she usually eats, and typically doesn’t care for it. A familiar pang rises up within you at the words, but you simply take a deep breath and offer a lukewarm agreement.

The air seems stuffy.

“Hello? Anypony in there?” Rainbow pokes at your head and you come out of your reverie, blinking.

“Sorry about that. Just... thinking.”

“Heh, better be careful about that. Might hurt yourself,” says Rainbow, smirking.

“Yeah, yeah.” You give her a playful shove for her attitude.

If only you could just relax and chat with her, have a good evening, maybe play a game over drinks or go out on a walk, then you’d be okay for the night. Don’t you deserve at least some comfort? Sighing, you lean back into the couch. It’s hard to think in this miasma. Maybe tonight, you should let your heart say the words instead of your head.

“Okay, now that you’re hangin’ with the Dash, I’m going to lay down all the benefits you get to enjoy.” Dash stand up on her hind legs, gesturing with her forelegs. “First, ponies get to see you chilling with me, so that alone will make you twice as famous as you are now. Second, you are now privy to the greatest aerial displaying in all of Equestria and, if you’re lucky, I might take you for a spin every once in a while. Third, I’m the master of local weather, which means whatever you want, you get. Lastly,” she leans in toward you, batting her eyelashes, “I’m a spectacular kisser.”

Raising an eyebrow, you cross your arms at her, saying nothing, just holding the stare.

“Too much, huh,” she says, breaking the stare.

“Even for you. Though you had me going till the last part.”

“Hey!” She punches you in the shoulder. “I’ll have you know I really am a good kisser!”

You almost let yourself laugh, but cut it off into a cough. It was so easy to make a joke there, even though you knew you should’ve. Before this goes any further, you have to stop it. Rainbow deserves the truth without you shoving what could be in her face.

Shifting yourself so you face Rainbow, you begrudgingly start your confession. “Look, Rainbow, I’ve gotta—”

“Hold that thought! I just realized we don’t have drinks!” She rushes off to the kitchen, leaving you, mouth hanging open and bewildered on the couch. “What do you want?”

“Just, just water is fine.”

“Aww, c’mon! Have some punch at least.”

You lean back into the cloud couch, shaking your head. “Alright. Punch, then.”

The sound of clinking glasses comes from the kitchen, filling your ears with an odd background noise to the rushing thoughts in your head. You curse your weakness, your inability to do what needed to be done. You can hear the voices ringing in the back of your mind, the logical part of your brain telling you things would only get worse with time, that it’s not worth it to wait, that everything will be so much better if you forge on. But that part of your head has always been there, hasn’t it? And it’s so much easier to know the path to take than to walk it.

Leaning forward, you rest your chin on your hand, thinking, staring blankly to the kitchen, listening to the sounds of dishware and humming.

If only she knew how much harder she was making this.

“They charge how much for a lavender salad?” says Rainbow, jerking her head back in surprise.

“C’mon, Rainbow, it’s a fancy place. Of course they’re going to charge extra. It comes with the package.”

She rolls her eyes and says, “Whatever,” before looking back to her menu.

Things actually started off a bit better than you thought they would. Though, honestly, anything other than a cataclysm would be ‘better than you thought’. All you can picture right now is Rainbow crying as you tell her what you came here to say, shooting back a look of disgust as she storms out the door. Well, she might not cry, actually. She may sock you in the face instead. It would be nothing less than you deserve. Hell, a good one-two may even make you feel a little better.

You decide to talk instead of letting your morbid thoughts eat you. “I’m thinking about the ranch salad and a side of fruit. How about you?”

“Right now I’m thinking about how much it’s going to cost for me to use my napkin.”


She gives you a cheeky smile. “Couldn’t resist. But I’m still thinking about my meal. As much as they may charge, they have some pretty delicious-sounding stuff here.” She sets the menu down and looks at you. “Have you even had some of the nuts and oats they serve at an air show? Man, that slop is so unhealthy but I can’t help myself, especially the Wonderbolts’ shows. Sometimes I think that’s the reason I really want to be one.”

You laugh, but it comes out forced. Luckily, Rainbow is still busying herself with her menu, either not noticing or not caring about your sincerity. This isn’t how dates should go, you think. Could this even be called a date? It’s just the two of you, and there’s the pretense of a relationship... at least on one side of the table. Seeing as you’re “dumping” Rainbow at the end of all of this, you’d technically have to be dating her in the first place, so...

You shake your head, hiding briefly behind your menu. Dating has never been simple, though you don’t think you’d have it any other way. This is just one of the low points.

“Hey, Stalky.”

You lower the menu and look at Rainbow, curious.

“There a specific reason you took me out to this restaurant or somethin’?”

Drat. So much for stalling. It occurs to you Rainbow just gave you a fantastic prompt to get this conversation done and over with, but...

“No specific reason,” you say, faking the best smile you could. “Just wanted to take you out for a meal. Nothing wrong with that, right?”

“Yeah. Nothing wrong with that.”

Her tone does not agree with her words in the slightest.

Rainbow buzzes back into the room, drinks in hoof. She sets one down on the endtable next to you while taking a sip from her own. You ignore your drink, instead facing Rainbow and opening your mouth to continue your confession.

She never gives you the chance.

“So it may be a little late for an airshow, but I figure we can head down to the lake and catch a good view of some of the owls night hunting there. You should totally see the lake at night, too, if you haven’t already. The way the moon hits it, you can see the fish really clearly through the water and maybe pick out the ones the owls are about to grab.” Her words come out rushed, like she didn’t have the time to tell you everything interesting about the lake. The moment she finishes, she looks up to you expectantly.

All you offer is a weak half-smile. “Rainbow, it’s—”

“One sec!” She snatches her glass and starts chugging. Lumps of liquid travel down her throat as she gulps rather loudly. Rolling your eyes, you shift in your seat and wait for her to finish. It feels like much more than a few seconds, but she’s done soon enough. “Oh! I forgot to mention you can see the Cloudsdale night crew charge up storm clouds from the lake as well, and there’s a storm due tomorrow so we’ll definitely catch a show!”

You make a quick mental check to see that eventually, but right now is not the time.

“There’s something important—”

“And let’s not forget about the full moon tonight! Prime lighting! Luna probably even planned—”

“Rainbow!” you yell, grabbing her hoof. She jerks back, locking her eyes to yours. “I came here not just to say I want to be with you, but that I can’t. It just... with everything that’s happened with Applejack, and the dinner, I should have told you there, and we—”

“D-don’t you think I know that?” she says to the ground, her voice deflating like an opened balloon. “You try to make yourself up like some mysterious, unsolvable puzzle, but you’re really easy to read. As soon as I saw your face when you sat down, I knew where this conversation was going... and I knew why. I just didn’t want to hear it. I wanted to have my delusion, if only for a little while. Weren’t you at least a little suspicious when I didn’t ask if AJ was okay with it?”

You blink, eyes wide in shock, and try to choke out a reply. Nothing comes to mind.

“Say something!” Her eyes plead with you, teetering between anger and sorrow.

“Look, Rainbow, I know you’re supposed to be the Loyal one, but it’s okay to want to wish for something like that, even if you know you can’t have it.” Laying a hand on her hoof, you meet her gaze with yours, trying to calm her down, let her know your regret and that you don’t hold her wishes against her.

Sneering, she snatches her hoof away from your touch. “Flapping idiot! I’m not mad at myself! Loyalty... you think you know what it means to be the Element of Loyalty? It means you do what’s best for your friends, even when it hurts. It means you look out for them, no matter how much they might not care for themselves. It means you dig down, as deep as you can, and... and...” She fidgets for a moment, trying to come up with the words. “Gah! I’m no good at these kind of things. Loyalty is just, it’s just being a friend, even if everything else is screaming at you not to be.” Her head sinks. “Even if everything inside is screaming at you not to be.”

“Rainbow, I’m sorry—”

“No!” she barks, hopping off the couch. “It’s not me you need to apologize to! I knew this could happen, and I’ve accepted that we can’t, well, that we can’t be together. I’ll live with it. But I think there’s another pony who can’t. Who shouldn’t have to.”

All you can do is gape and set your jaw, searching for the words that would explain everything. Rainbow’s stare pierces you, pleading silently, attempting to pull your heart from the cage of cold steel you’d locked it in.

You look away from her, fearing she may succeed. “It’s not that simple anymore, Rainbow.”

The blow comes from nowhere, jerking your head to the side as Rainbow follows through. You put a hand to your mouth and it comes away bloody. Silence holds the room for a moment as you look between your hand and Rainbow in disbelief.

“Yes it is that simple, idiot! And you know what makes it so freakin’ stupid? The grand irony of it all? It’s not about pride! If you were any other stallion in existence, the only thing keeping you here would be the fact you’re too darn uppity to go back and apologize! But noooo,” yells Rainbow, hovering her face into yours, ignoring the blood coming from the corner of your mouth, “you have yourself pegged as some kind of martyr who’s gonna save Applejack from yourself before she actually starts caring about you. Well news flash, bud, it’s too late for that!”

Grunting, you shove Rainbow back, the confusion on your face turned to anger. “I never would have given her the attention she deserved. There’s too much behind me, dragging me down. It’s better this way.”

“And where in Equestria did you get the idea you never deserved her?” Rainbow zooms right back up to your, prodding your chest with a hoof. “What the heck could you have done to not deserve her? Everything I know about you, everything, says differently. Your actions are say you’re a good person, but your head is determined to pull you down ‘till you’re nothing!”

“I tried as hard as I could to keep it going, Rainbow!” you scream, standing up. “It didn’t work out!”

Rainbow is clearly unimpressed. “Remember what you asked me after that race?” She waves her hooves in air quotes. “‘How do you do that? Just shrug it off?’ That’s you preparing for failure before anything’s even begun. I said, ‘practice’, but you know what the truth is? Every loss destroys me. Breaks me into a hundred little pieces that I have to fly around and collect just to have together so they can be cast apart again. Only in my ambition am I vulnerable, and only in my ambition am I invincible. I don’t ‘shrug it off’, it just looks that way. But I’m able to go again and again and again because the world still doesn’t recognize my name, and because I know, in the end, the only one that can really stop me is myself.

“You? You’re a born loser with that attitude. You go at life with half-attempts and mediocre effort so that when loss does find you, it doesn’t hurt. The closer you get to success, the more you fear it until eventually you’re sabotaging yourself, just like you did with Applejack. You deserve her and she deserves you, you know that. You just can’t handle the fact you might be happy for once.”

There it is, laid bare. You’d protest, but the more Rainbow had said, the more you realized she was right. Laying back into the couch, you let out a long, heavy breath, thinking on her words, searching for your own answer. The two of you sit in silence but for the beating of your heart and the panting coming from Rainbow.

“L-look, I know I got kind of carried away. Sorry for yelling. Not sorry for the words, though. You’re still an idiot.”

And why should she be sorry? you ask yourself, thoughts suddenly falling back with razor-sharp focus to your conversation last night with Luna.

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

As burning ignites within your chest, a purpose, strong as the one you felt on that bench yesterday. You stand up without a word.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

You pause a moment, looking between Rainbow and the doors. “North.”

As much as you love dramatic exits, your bravado was cut short when you realized there was no way off the cloud without Rainbow’s help. She was more than happy, of course. Said she would have insisted on coming with you anyways.

Which brings you to where you stand now, outside the Apples’ house, one hand raised, about to knock on the door. Rainbow’s a little behind you, to your right. You can hear her nervous panting; it sounds exactly like how you feel. You’d hesitated enough tonight. With as much boldness as you can muster, you knock on the door. Three succinct, powerful knocks.

Big Mac is the one to answer the door, opening it with a creak. The moment he lays eyes on you, you can tell he’s less than pleased to see you. In fact, as he spins around and lifts his hind legs into the air, you realize he’s not content attacking with only bitter looks.

The buck blasts you clear of the doorway and a solid four feet back, landing you on your back hard, knocking the wind out of you. In a second, he’s on top of you, snorting fury into your face. If Rainbow hadn’t been there, you don’t know how long you’d have lasted.

“Big Mac! He’s here to help, not gloat, you haybrain!” She struggles to push him off, but he’s content with glaring daggers into your face from inches away.

“I warned you, stranger. I thought you got the message. If you ain’t smart enough to learn the first time, though, I’ll gladly give you another lesson!” He lifts up a hoof to smash your face in, but Rainbow grabs it and holds him back. Even using her entire body, you can tell she’s having trouble.

“Dang it, Big Mac, you’re not helping!”

He directs his anger to her for a moment. “Why you protectin’ this vermin? He made my sis’ cry in front ‘ta Apple Bloom! How’s she s’pposed to deal with that at her age?”

Rainbow’s grip weakens and both your faces lit up with shock.

“She... cried?” you ask.

Big Mac turns back to you, shaking his hoof free of the still-bewildered Rainbow. “O’ course she did, you dirt-kicking, worthless little—”

“Whatcha doin’, big brother?”

His faces drains of anger, flashing horror before he turns to give Apple Bloom the most neutral smile he can muster. “I was jus’—”

“We were messing around,” you say, sharing a glance with Big Mac before turning back to Apple Bloom. “Nothing more.”

She frowns, downtrodden for a moment before bouncing over to you, getting a good look at your face. It occurs to you you never cleaned up after Rainbow hit you, and now you’ve probably got dirt all over yourself as well. You offer Apple Bloom a shrug and a smile. “How are you doing?”

“I’m not the one with dirt in my face. Granny’d get mad at me for walkin’ around like that.” She turns to her brother, frowning. “Why’d you go and have to do that? Now he’s gotta clean up.”

Big Mac glances to his sister, keeping one eye trained on you the entire time. “Jus’ in good fun.”

“Well, get off him, we gotta get him inside and clean that dirt off.”

“I’m not sure—”

“If ya don’t, I’ll have to get Granny to get you two ta stop playin’ around.”

The irony of such a young filly bossing around the towering stallion that is Big Mac around isn’t lost on you. If the situation weren’t so dire, you’d be laughing. With a groan, he steps off of you, though not losing sight of you for a second. Rainbow helps you up and you brush yourself off before turning to Apple Bloom.

“Why don’t we go inside, then?”

She flashes you a grin, bounding inside. Just before you can follow after her, Big Mac gives you a not-so-friendly nudge, almost knocking you back down. The two of you share a glare before crossing the threshold.

The Apple house is warm and inviting as it always is, albeit soured by the angry red stallion sharing the kitchen with you, Rainbow and Apple Bloom. The rustic aura is complemented by the creak of the wood floor as you walk. You shrug Big Mac’s presence off, trying to keep you thoughts focused on the task at hand: finding Applejack. To the best of your knowledge, she’s in her room.


You shake your head, trying to get the image out. Only one other time had you seen her cry: not even a week ago, facing the sunset on that grassy hill. Tears did not become Applejack. They spoiled a face made for smiling, eyes made for looking forward, cheeks made to brush a hand against. A mare that strong should never cry.

Reluctantly, you move over to the sink and start the water without a word, unsure what to say or even who to say it to. Your hands move sluggishly to the water, carrying something heavier than the droplets you now splash on your face.

“Hey, um, maybe...?” It’s Rainbow.

“Yeah.” Shaking your hands free of the water, you wipe them and your face before turning around. You look Big Mac right in the eyes, taking on the full brunt of his grimace. “Where’s AJ?”

“She went—” Apple Bloom starts, but Big Mac holds up a hoof to silence her. You figured it’d be like this.

“Why should I tell you?”

Pouting, Apple Bloom began to bounce up and down next to her brother. “Why don’t you tell him, big bro? He’s a really nice stallion!”

“He ain’t no stallion.”

His words are ice, settling upon the scene like hail. Never, during your entire time with the Apples, had anypony brought up your species as a negative.

“What I am doesn’t matter. I love Applejack.”

You only manage to anger him further. “Maybe you shoulda figured that out before you sent her here as you did.”

A small squeak comes from Apple Bloom. If she hadn’t realized how AJ got in her state, she sure did now.

Closing your eyes, you tilt your head downward. “I made a mistake, Big Mac. Everyone does, though my mistake was much worse than most, and yet lies unforgiven.”

“Darn right it is.”

“I need a chance to make it right.”

“I think you had your chance.”

“There are such things as second chances.”

“Maybe where you come from.”

“I can help her, Big Mac.”

“You’ve helped quite enough, Twig.”

With each exchange, you voices become louder and more irritated, grating on the peace of the Apple house like a sandpaper. You pinch the bridge of your nose in an effort to calm down.

“Believe me when I say this is the most important thing I could do in my entire life. I love her, Big Mac. Let me tell her that one more time. Let me stop her crying, I want to help, please.”

You can feel your lips quivering as the words leave them.The last word comes out as more than a plead; a grovel, more like, an appeal to the part of him that knows mercy.

He says nothing at first, only glaring at you, followed by a snort. He opens his mouth to give a reply, but is cut off.

“She ran off to the mountain, colt. Probably made it all the way there and then some by now.”

You recognize the old, craggy, yet sage voice of Granny Smith right away, eyes darting to where she stands behind Big Mac. The rest of the room reacts in much the same way.

“The mountain? Yevantatsuun?”

“Eh?” She leans an ear toward you. “You know it’s name? Yeah, she ran off to Dragon Mountain. Hardly let ol’ Big Mac and myself get off a word before she booked it.”

With the most humble smile capable, you clasp your hands together in front of you. “Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. You won’t regret this.”

“‘Course I won’t. Macintosh here don’t know how love glints the eyes, but I see it well enough in yours.”

It’s Apple Bloom’s turn to speak up. “How does it look?” She’s glancing back and forth between Granny and you, trying to find what Big Mac could not.

Granny mumbles to herself a moment, taking a step forward before answering. “Like ya got a rock stuck in your horseshoe, Little Bloom.”

You smile one last time at Granny, then look to Rainbow. The two of you share a razor-sharp stare, nodding once before you head for the door, Rainbow right in front of you. A few steps before the door, you nod to Big Mac, letting him know all he needs to know in that gesture before you and Rainbow disappear into the night.

Granny, Apple Bloom and Big Mac all step out to the front porch, squinting at the sky in order to make out the fading form of Rainbow flying you North. Big Mac whinnies and shifts restlessly.

“I still don’t see it.”

The ground below you is a blur, whizzing by as Rainbow flies the two of you toward the mountain. The familiar feeling of flight is exhilarating, but you can’t lose yourself in it; too much else lies in your thoughts. Rainbow carries you as far as she can before exhausting herself, which ends up being almost all the way to your destination. Before you land, you think you can make out a spot of orange on the path upward—it’s hard to tell in the shadow of the mountain.

Your flight stops somewhat abruptly, forcing you to roll as your feet hit the ground. Dash slumps over beside you, panting like a dog. Concerned, you get up to check on her, but she shakes her head and waves you off.

“Something... more important... than me,” she manages to get out through her breaths.

You nod, giving her a pat on the back in appreciation before taking off up the mountain path. AJ’s close, you know it.

After several minutes of running you still haven’t seen Applejack, and you’re a decent way up the mountain but also tiring quickly. Making a mental note never to question her endurance, you set off after a short breather, this time pacing yourself a bit better. You regulate your breathing, taking in the scent of the night and letting the twilight’s cool, clear air cut through you. With each step your eyes sharpen, attention fixed on the path before you, though your mind is elsewhere.

To tell the truth, you haven’t even thought of what to say when you see her. ‘I’m sorry?’ ‘Take me back?’ Something like that might work with her, but she deserved something more... honest. From the heart. You smirk to yourself, picking up the pace. It’s a good thing you know exactly what you came here for.

So deep in your thoughts you are that you miss a small sign to the side of the road. No one could really blame you for it; it’s a small sign, made for ponies, off practically hidden in the bushes. It had been placed on the path after the last time a certain group of ponies had scaled the mountain in an effort to avoid the same incident that had befallen them.

The lonely sign is left in the dust. Its message, “Avalanche area,” is kept to itself for now.

You’re forced to slow down just a bit when you come upon the next portion of the path as rocks, boulders, and hills of dirt make the earth difficult to get by. Luckily, however, you don’t need to get far. Not far ahead is the orange coat and brown stetson you know so well. A wave of euphoria washes over you, almost taking your balance. Steadying yourself, you can’t help but grin.


Two things happen at once.

The first is Applejack’s reaction; turning around, eyes wide and bloodshot, locking her vision on you. That wonderful shade of green lifts your spirits higher than ever.

The second is a deep, terrible rumbling. Had you seen the sign earlier, you’d have known exactly what is happening, but as you stand, you’re nothing more than confused. The following seconds make your situation abundantly clear. Rocks, some as small as your thumb and others triple your size, start rolling down the cliff face above you.

Glancing between Applejack and the avalanche, you start to run toward her but she shakes her head and waves you back, galloping your direction. There’s no time to think, only react. Your brain and chest are on fire, the former overwhelmed by the situation and the latter worn from your journey here. You spin around and sprint  back the way you came, keeping your feet despite the litter of rocks and dirt. When you feel you’re clear, you turn around, locking your gaze on Applejack, whispering to yourself, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon.”

She can’t get hurt. Not when you’re so close. Not when you’ve finally found your destination. Not when everything is so clear.

Her body betrays her urgency, legs pumping like a machine as she gallops, eyes focused with determination at her goal. They flicker upward at the raining boulders, allowing her to duck in and out of them. And she’s fast. So fast.

Just not fast enough.

One takes her full in the side, colliding with a sickening crunch of bones and pain and a grunt from Applejack. Its momentum sends her body flying clear of the mountain’s edge.

Your heart seizes, your chest tightens and your mouth widens in a silent scream, horror stealing the air from your lungs.


‘AJ’ regains her composure first, leaning up against a wall with a smirk.

“You were jus’ waitin’ to do that, weren’t you?”

You grin, taking another bite from your apple. “You’re pretty quick. Maybe I was.”

“You know, you coulda just said, ‘Howdy’ when you first saw us and avoided this whole mess.”

You were in no condition for civil conversation back then, but you weren’t about to admit that to her. “Probably. This way was much more fun, though.”

“You can talk?!” comes a shout from Rainbow.

All you offer her is a raised eyebrow, slightly amused albeit confused by her slowness. AJ does the berating for you.

“O’ course he can, you dunce!” She gives her friend a light smack upside the head. “An’ I thought you were s’pposed to be the fast one! Go get Fluttershy back here, let her know.”

“Yeah, yeah,” grumbles Rainbow, slinking off to get Fluttershy.

You turn back to AJ. “So I take it you’ve never seen anything like me before.”

“Sure haven’t.” She walks up closer to you, eyes wandering over your body as she inspects you. “Wha’chu called?”

“My species? I dunno, maybe I should keep that to myself. You ponies seem an awful aggressive type.” You tap the bruise Rainbow’s buck left for emphasis.

“That’s just Rainbow. An’ we fed you, didn’t we?” She grins. “‘Sides, I’d hate to have to add another one just to get you to talk.”

“I suppose you did give me some decent grub.” At this point, she’s moved close enough for you to feel her breath on your skin. The distance makes you a little uncomfortable, but you do your best to keep relaxed. “I’m a human.”

She’s too busy examining you to reply right away. It almost feels like her eyes are groping you.

“You eye up every male you meet like this?”

The jab takes a second to register, and in that time you thought you’d made some social blunder. However, AJ throws her head back and laughs, allowing you to let out a sigh of relief and chuckle along with her.

“I like you.” She holds out a hoof. You hesitate a moment before taking it. “Name’s Applejack.”

You give her yours, finding her hoofshake just as strong as she appeared.

“I think we’re gonna get along just fine.”