• Published 9th Feb 2012
  • 8,385 Views, 377 Comments

The Sweetest Cider is Diamond White - Casper B. Wordsmith

Applejack longs for the love of a certain snow-coloured unicorn.

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Chapter One - Let's Go to the Halt

“Buckweiser, Spirits...” the orange mare said to the barstallion, resignation and weariness heavy in her voice.

The stallion, High Spirits, performed a minor double take at the pony who had graced his humble bar with her presence.

“Why, Miss Applejack! A pleasure to see you again. Rumour had it that poor Ponyville had lost it's prodigal daughter, and yet here you are.”

Applejack smiled back at her old friend, “Nah. Let's jus' say that Dodge Junction couldn't handle the likes a' me.” High Spirits noticed her demeanour seemed tinged with a sadness he'd not often seen in Applejack. Normally the farm-mare would raucously regale him with boasts of how this year's batch of 'Granny Smith's 4X Hard Stuff' eclipsed the previous harvest's, and how it promised to knock the socks off anypony unskilled in the art of drinking. This usually before she'd even taken a sip of whatever beverage took her fancy on that occasion.

High Spirits quickly filled the young pony's order, placing her beer in front of her. To Applejack's surprise he also slid a glass of her favourite gutrot – Buck Daniels – onto the bar next to it. “That one's on the house. Welcome home AJ,” said High Spirits sympathetically before moving back down the bar and leaving Applejack to her drinks. It was the kind of gesture she had grown used to over the years. One of the heirs to the Sweet Apple Acres could expect the odd favour from Ponyvillians grateful for all the family had done for the town over the years. An Element of Harmony was also high on the social ladder in the small community – a fact her beloved friends could attest to. Combining this with her status as one of the most legendary rodeo ponies to come out of the area made her as near to Ponyville royalty one could possibly be without being an alicorn.

To Applejack's credit she never took advantage these connections the way other, less honest ponies would have. Whenever possible she paid her way even though it was no secret that her income was less than substantial. Indeed she took it upon herself to treat her fellow Elements to lunch occasionally. Not to mention her pledge to raise enough to fix the town hall.

At this thought she grabbed the bourbon and necked it in one swift move. It sent a most pleasant burn towards her stomach, warming her where moments earlier the freezing pang of disappointment struck mercilessly. She quickly replaced the glass in her hoof with the bottle of cool lager, shaking her head as one does after being caught in a shower to stop the smoky and overpowering flavour of the whiskey from overwhelming her. It had been too long since she had partaken in such liquors.

AJ glanced round the small room that consisted The Engineer's Halt, one of Ponyville's less salubrious drinking dens. Railway workers crowded round tables after a hard day's work. Occasional bursts of hearty laughter and raucous but good-humoured debate echoed through the bar as the groups of muscular stallions quaffed their well-deserved ales. In the corner a purple mare – Berry Punch they called her – knocked back glass after glass of wine. She was accompanied by a pony by the name of Carrot Top and a grey wall-eyed pegasus. No surprises there, thought Applejack as she fought back a smirk. It was said that the three in question were like a witches' coven, only with gin and cursewords replacing brews and hexes. The cackles often heard echoing through still nights as they stumbled from pub to pub only helped to confirm this.

The Halt had a homely air that Applejack had long admired. No matter how many fancy Canterlot cocktail bars she'd frequented with Twilight and the girls she'd always prefer a quiet one down at her local. The quietness would naturally vary upon the night in question. She had once come close to being barred after a ferocious altercation with a Diamond Dog which saw the beast in question forcibly ejected through the bay window at the front. It took some powerful magic from Twilight Sparkle and even more powerful persuasion from Fluttershy (how she did it Applejack still didn't know) to stop High Spirits calling the Royal Guards.

Applejack savoured the malty crispness of her beer. It had felt like an eternity since she'd been able to unwind with beer or whiskey (or indeed any kind of alcohol) as she'd always been wont to do. She'd sworn off the stuff around two months prior, when Applebloom and Big Mac encouraged her to do so during her strict training regimen for the All-Equestrian Rodeo. 'Fat lot of good it did me too,' she thought wryly.

This time the twin rush of frustration and shame was too irresistible for even the beer to control and Applejack laid her head on the bar disconsolately. It was all meant to be so different. To her, defeat was inconceivable. It was like the prospect of Fleetfoot losing the Wonderbolts Derby. It just couldn't happen! But ol' Applejack-of-all-trades couldn't turn in one event-winning performance. Sure, if the competitition (and prize money) was based on overall performance, she'd have maybe brought some much-needed bits back from Canterlot. That'd have been too simple though. Life had made Applejack work for what she had. Fortune wouldn't drop something that good into her hooves without squeezing her harder than the cider press squeezed the fruits of her labour.

Except in a way it did. Even after running off to far-off Dodge Junction, she was never alone. Her pride blinded her to what mattered, and what mattered to her were the five other ponies who trekked for miles to bring her home to where she belonged. Not even a high-speed chase through the blazing southern deserts made them think any less of her. Applejack's heart swelled as she thought of Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy busting a gut to catch up with four stallions, Pinkie Pie nearly causing herself grievous harm just to speak to her face, Twilight explaining everything in her logical yet heartfelt manner, and Rarity...

A familiar yet unpleasant urge struck AJ in the lower abdomen. Were those butterflies back, she thought anxiously. No, she realised with growing relief. Just a desperation to reach the little fillies' room. No-one could deny that Applejack could drink with the best of them. A slightly darkened patch on the rear wall from where Rainbow Dash brought up several pints of cider and five shots of sambucka following their Running of the Leaves drinking contest was a constant reminder. None of the other girls were neither brave nor stupid enough to even attempt to keep up with the farm pony when the drink was in full flow. This ability to outlast even the most wizened old stallions in pursuit of bacchanalia came at a cost however, and it wouldn't be a night on the lash without at least ten visits to relieve herself. Applejack rose from her stool at the bar and turned towards the tiny bathroom at the very back of the small pub, only to come face to face with a familiar cotton-candy maned ball of energy.

“HI APPLEJACK!” came the high-pitched and excited greeting that startled Applejack so much that her flank soon found the unforgiving stone floor.

“Pinkie Pie, what in the hay are you doin' here?!” Applejack exclaimed, dragging herself up from the ground.

“Well, me and Rarity got back into Ponyville just as the sun was going down once we'd gotten the train from Canterlot and after she'd dealt with Dashie for leaving us in the desert we went and met Twilight and Fluttershy at the library and figured a welcome home drink would be in order and turned up at Sweet Apple Acres to get you and Mac said you weren't home but could probably find you in town and Dashie suggested we try here and now here I am!” she stated in a single breath, finishing with an exaggerated flourish of her eyelashes. Pinkie Pie's ability to cram so many words into a solitary sentence never ceased to astound Applejack. Much like her twitching and her hyperactivity, it was just a phenomenon that was to be accepted without question.

“That's all fine an' dandy, sugarcube, but where are the rest of them then?” asked Applejack, still startled at the veritable vichyssoise of verbiage just dumped upon her.

Pinkie's left forehoof gave an uncontrollable shudder and her jaw juddered from side to side for the briefest of moments, “Right there, silly!” she stated in her sing-song voice.

Applejack turned around in time to see the large wooden door swing open and a purple unicorn stride in, one who was beaming at the sight of the first pony she'd spoken to upon arriving in her new hometown. Fluttershy followed in her wake, apprehensive as always but with a small smile across her face. Her first glance at Rainbow Dash nearly caused AJ to buckle with laughter. The multi-coloured pegasus entered sporting a dress and bouffant that wouldn't look out of place at the Grand Galloping Galas of yore, and wearing a look of the utmost disdain at her appearance. Not even the dress she herself had sported for a dare with the fashionista could compare to the puffy monstrosity somehow forced onto Dash. A mental note was made never to drive Rarity to the point of such cruel vengeance. 'Rarity...' was the soft and almost longing call from deep inside the recesses of Applejack's mind, sated immediately by the sight of the glamorous mare entering the Halt with nary a hint of the usual contemptuous look she wore upon crossing the threshold.

“Gals! It's great to have ya'll here!” Applejack declared loudly, every ounce of the gloom she had entered the pub with earlier that evening having dissipated like a snowcloud at Winter Wrap-Up.

Twilight responded first, manner of factly as always; “Of course we'd be here, Applejack. What kind of friends wouldn't want to welcome their friend home with a...”

“A PARTY!” Pinkie squealed in interruption. Such loud enthusiasm drew some dirty looks from the three inebriated musketeers in the corner.

“A party would be a bit loud,” Fluttershy said in her trademark timid mutter. “A drink or two amongst friends would be downright lovely though.”

“Seconded. Urgh,” Rainbow Dash was visibly struggling with her dress and hair, trying with increasing frustration to remove the garish bows from atop her head. “Come on Rarity! This is just evil!”

Rarity snickered loudly. “Oh Rainbow, can't you see you look absolutely darling!” her words oozed with sarcasm, so much so that all ponies bar Rainbow Dash were at pains to contain their laughter. “And besides,” she continued with relish, “When I feel you've been a prim, proper and pretty pony, or you've repaid your debt in liquors, I'll lift the enchantment. And I'm sure you know I like the pricey ones.” AJ let a slight smirk grace her lips at the deviousness of this plan. 'So devilish, so inventive,' chimed the little voice in her head.

“Last time I nap outside Carousel Boutique,” Rainbow grumbled as she trod towards the bar and the first of the inevitable and relentless (yet never vindictive) jibes from High Spirits that he usually greeted his regulars with.

Applejack made as if to pull her friends in for a hug before the unpleasant urge fired through her body again. Excusing herself quickly she trotted off towards the bathroom as her friends crowded the bar. From the corner of her eye she could see the bartender grinning at her, likely at the sight of the Element of Loyalty in her 'finery'. A smile widened at the thoughts of a night of revelry, rowdiness and...

Her gaze wandered slightly towards the ivory unicorn mockingly and dramatically swooning over Rainbow Dash to the amusement of all. An uncharacteristic skip broke her gait. 'Yes, a night of that,' she thought with a twinkle in her eye.