Rarity didn't look up from her sewing when she heard the knock at her door. She squinted at the stitching as she fed a length of blue and white fabric through her sewing machine, making sure every thread met her meticulous standards. The knocking grew louder, and Rarity grit her teeth.
“Come in!” She said, and got back to work.
“I ain't bein' a bother, am I?” Applejack's familiar drawl carried easily over the thrum of the sewing machine.
“Of course not, darling! Give me just a moment, and let me finish this. Business has been booming at my Manehattan boutique, so I'm playing catch up to make sure they'll be stocked for the fall fashion season. I'm not ignoring you, I promise.”
“Hey, don't worry 'bout it. I knew you were workin' late, so I brought over some of them apple fritters ya like so much. I'll just leave 'em here on the table n' get goin'.”
The mere mention of such warm, sweet, flaky pastries was enough to make Rarity's mouth water, and the accompanying smell of fresh baked goods wafting through her workshop elicited a rather unladylike rumbling from her stomach.
“Oh! Excuse me.” Rarity finally stepped back from her sewing machine, and took off her glasses. This done, she turned to face Applejack with a rueful grin. “I suppose it has been too long since I've had something to eat. But you will stay, won't you? The only think that makes your famed apple fritters taste better is pleasant company.”
“Aw shucks, you're just sayin' that.” Applejack's cheeks tinted a little in embarrassment, and she pulled the brim of her hat lower to hide it.
“It's true! And besides, if you leave them here, I'm afraid I'll eat them all in one go, and then I'll pass out on the couch in a pastry-coma and then nothing will get done. You wouldn't do that to me, would you, Applejack?” Rarity fluttered her eyelashes at Applejack.
“Well, shoot, when ya put it that way, I guess I gotta stick around. But no fancy silverware, alright?”
“If you insist.” Rarity said with a disappointed little sigh.
“'sides, they taste better when ya eat 'em with your hooves anyway.”
“Fine, fine.” Rarity trotted over to the table where Applejack had deposited the basket full of the tantalizingly tempting treats. “But perhaps you might take your hat off while we eat? Please?”
“Oh, alright.” Applejack said. She doffed her battered hat, rolled it onto one of her forehooves, and with a practiced flick of her leg, she sent it sailing across the room to land perfectly atop an empty hat-rack in the corner. “Ha! Bullseye!” Applejack pumped her hoof in triumph.
It took Applejack a moment to notice the look of slack-jawed shock on Rarity's face. “Uh, it weren't that fancy of a trick.” She said, feeling suddenly self conscious.
Looking paler than usual, Rarity opened and closed her mouth a few times as she remembered how to speak. “Applejack.” Her voice trembled, and her body followed suit. “What happened to you?”
“Huh?” The cowpony blinked, and wiped at her chin. “Don't got somethin' on my face, do I?”
“You … you don't know?” Rarity lunged across the table, cupping Applejack's cheeks between her hooves, staring into her eyes. “Oh no. You must be in shock. Are you hurt? Are you bleeding?” Her voice grew more and more frantic with each question. “What was it? Were you attacked by timberwolves? Did you get caught in a fire? Has Discord turned evil once again?”
“Whoa, whoa, hold up!” Applejack pushed Rarity away, though not without some difficulty. “What n' blazes are you talkin' about?”
“Your mane!” Rarity said in a ragged gasp. “What happened to your mane!?”
“Uh. I got a haircut this mornin'?” Applejack ran one hoof over the neatly clipped buzz of hair along her scalp. “Heck, almost forgot 'til you brought it up.”
“A haircut?” Rarity's gaze darted from the short-trimmed hair beneath Applejack's hoof, down to the long and loose locks flowing down the back of her neck. “Did you lose a bet?”
“Did the Cutie Mark Crusaders try their hoof at hairdressing?”
“Was your hairdresser … blind?”
“No! What n' tarnation's gotten into you, Rarity?”
“You mean--” Rarity trembled as the terrible concept dawned on her. She shook her head, and then steeled herself to actually put the stomach-churning idea to words. “You mean you let someone cut your mane like that on purpose?”
“Course I did!” Applejack said. “It's the newest thing!”
“It … what?”
“It's called a mullet.”
"Mullet?" The very word tasted foul on Rarity's tongue. "Isn't that a sort of grain?"
"You're thinkin' millet."
"Thought I'd change things up from that ol' braid, y'know?" Applejack shook her head, causing her blond tresses to ripple over her neck and shoulders. "Ain't you always goin' on 'bout how style says stuff 'bout who you are?”
“That … that haircut definitely says something.” Rarity murmured.
“I know, right? It's like, in the front, it says 'that's a pony who don't take no guff,' but in the back, it says 'that's a pony who knows how to party.' Ain't it great?”
“Uh.” Rarity said.
“It's practical, too! This way my hair don't get too sweaty when I'm workin', and I can still get all pretty n' fancied up next time ya drag me to one of your fancy-pants schindigs.”
“I … I don't think that's going to be an issue.” Rarity said.
“Darling.” Rarity rubbed at the bridge of her nose. She thought closing her eyes would help, but the image of Applejack's mullet had already been seared into her retinas. “Do you trust me?”
“After all we've been through, I reckon that goes without sayin'.”
“It deserves to be said.”
“Fine, I trust you.” Applejack said.
“Then please, please listen to me-- that … mullet is the single worst thing that has happened to you in your entire life. It might even be the worst thing that has happened to any pony in the history of civilization.”
Applejack frowned. “Iffin' you didn't like it, y'all coulda just said so.”
“It's not that!” Rarity paused, and held up a hoof. “Well, it is that, but that's just the start of it. There are a great many things that I 'don't like.' Counterfeit handbags. Off-brand champagne. Pastel plaids. But this … this is something else entirely! It's not personal distaste, it's concern! Why, if I let you leave this shop looking like this, who knows what will happen? What if the authorities see that haircut and mistake you for some kind of transient, and throw you in jail!”
“Ponyville don't have fashion police,” Applejack said.
“Then what if some kind of small rodent mistakes the back of your neck for its nest and then it starts living there and the next thing you know you'll have contracted rabies or the plague or some other horrible disease?”
“Now you're just makin' that up.”
“What if Twilight takes us along on an important diplomatic mission? The dignitaries would take one look at this 'mullet' and decide that Equestria obviously has no concept of culture. Why, they might even declare war on us then and there!”
“Ain't nobody fought a war over a haircut!”
“Then we mustn't give them an excuse to do so! Although … “ Rarity rubbed at her chin, and eyed Applejack pensively. “Perhaps if there was a war, there'd be a draft, and then you'd be forced to just shave all of that off to fit military regulations.” The corner of Rarity's eye began to twitch. “I suppose that'd be the silver lining of so much death and destruction.”
Applejack squinted at Rarity, sizing her up. “When's the last time you slept?”
“Don't try to change the subject.” Rarity glanced at the clock on her wall anyway.
“I ain't changin' nothin'. You've been workin' so hard you're goin' crazy. Again.”
“The only thing driving me to madness is that haircut, Applejack! Why, it's as if someone has carved some kind of arcane blasphemy into your head, the very sight of which is enough to drive a poor mare to insanity! We'll have to get Twilight-- she's got the most experience with that sort of thing. Are you sure your barber wasn't secretly a doom cultist? You know, with robes and chanting and blood sacrifices and the like?”
“That's it, I'm leavin'.” Applejack trotted across the room to collect her hat and flip it back onto her head. “Y'all just gimmie a holler when you're done goin' crazy."
“Wait.” Rarity said. “You're leaving?”
“Just said so.”
“But … but you can't! What if someone sees you? What if they see you leaving and think I cut your hair?!” Rarity shrilled. “I'd be ruined! Unless … “ Rarity looked Applejack up and down. “Yes. That's it. That's the only solution.”
“Do what now?” Applejack took a careful step for the exit.
“A little trim is all you need!” Rarity's horn glowed with magic, and the door slammed shut, bolt sliding into place. Rarity kept up her telekinesis, and every set of scissors in the store lifted into the air, coming to orbit around Rarity like a steely constellation. “Now just hold still."
She stepped forward, and the scissors all snip-snipped the air in perfect unison.
Rarity woke in a hospital bed, surrounded by soft flourescent lights and the smell of antiseptics. She blinked, and then sat up with a start, heart pounding. Vague flashes of steel and fighting and fire flashed replayed in her memory.
“Oh! Applejack!” She cried, and rolled awkwardly out of the bed, tangling in the backless hospital gown. “What have I done?”
“Whoa, calm down, sugarcube.” The sound of Applejack's drawl soothed Rarity's panic, if slightly. Applejack stood up from where she'd been sitting in the corner of the hospital room. She had a few band aids taped into place along her scalp, but was otherwise intact. “Y'all just went a little crazy, that's all.” Applejack paused.
“Oh! Applejack!” Rarity threw herself onto Applejack, pulling her in for a tearful embrace. “I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you! I … I don't know what came over me.” She sniffed, and pulled the solid cowpony closer.
“Heck, I should be the one apologizin', after I hit you over the head with your own sewin' machine.”
Rarity blinked. “What?”
“Don't you remember? You kept slingin' them scissors at me like ninja stars, so I figured the only way to stop ya was to just lay ya out.”
“Oh.” Rarity said. “... is the sewing machine alright?”
“Think so. That thing's solid steel. Which is why I threw it at ya.”
“Thank you. I think?”
“Hey, just relax, Rarity. Everypony goes a li'l bit crazy now n' again. Least ya didn't get brainwashed by an evil spellbook n' try to take over the world this time.”
“I appreciate your optimism.” Rarity said, and reluctantly pulled away from Applejack. “But honestly, there's no excusing my behavior, fatigue-induced-insanity or no. Your … style is your choice, and it was wrong of me to impose on you like I did.”
“Yeah, well. Guess you won in the end.” Applejack doffed her hat and turned her head, revealing her short-cropped hair. “Y'all took enough chunks outta the back that I had to get it all trimmed to make it even.”
“Oh thank Celestia.” Rarity blurted. She held a hoof up to her mouth, and blushed. “Sorry, Applejack. But this new style does look better. It's very … butch.” She trailed off, momentarily distracted by the thought.
“Thanks. I think.” Applejack said. “But, there's one more thing y'all should know.”
“So, uh, y'all kinda needed a coupla stitches after I hit ya. And they kinda needed to trim some of your mane to put 'em in, and--”
“GASP!” Rarity said the full word. She shoved Applejack away and galloped into the hospital room's tiny bathroom, all the better to stare at herself in the mirror. Sure enough, a large chunk of her normally glorious mane had been shaved away, just to the left of her horn, revealing the thin line of a shallow head wound. Some little optimistic part of Rarity's mind at least admired the neat knots of the stitching. Of course, the hair further back on her head and down the back of her neck remained untouched, long and luxurious and barely even rumpled from the earlier fracas. Somehow, that made it worse.
“Uh.” Applejack's head appeared in the mirror, over Rarity's right shoulder. “Nurse Redheart says it shouldn't leave a scar iffin' ya don't pick at it.”
Rarity closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath.
“Applejack.” Rarity said. “I need your help.”
“What can I do?”
“I need you to buy me a wig.”