• Published 9th Feb 2012
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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 Four - Any Port in a Storm

The small gathering in Carousel Boutique was in full sway – it was almost as if the intermission after the closing of the bar across town had never taken place. Stalliongrad's finest electronica echoed off the walls of the small shop as ponies gulped down copious quantities of Stalliongrad's equally fine vodka. After all, only the best would do for a mare of such refined tastes as Rarity.

Ponyville's most glamorous citizen reclined in her chaise longue whilst slowly savouring the port she had brought up from the cellar. Vodka did nothing for her. Even the most expensive and hard-to-find brands tasted like something that somepony had distilled in a bathtub. Maybe it was a remnant of her now-bygone wilder days. On nights in Canterlot's most prestigious nightspots (or more often the less fashionable clubs of her hometown) she regularly downed the clear spirit as she witnessed her friends doing presently. Twilight and Rainbow Dash occasionally teased her that beneath her prim and proper exterior flowed the booze-addled blood of a colt from the frozen northern wastes such was her love of the drink. In fairness she had found it difficult to argue with them.

Those days were long since behind her after the disaster that occurred following the shambolic Gala. The six friends ventured into one of Canterlot's premier cocktail bars soon after their hasty departure from the castle and spell in a donut shop. Still seething with indignation at her long-awaited encounter with the 'stallion of her dreams' (she scoffed at such an idiotic fantasy nowadays) Rarity proceeded to ingest a dangerous amount of Flim's and soda – an out-of-character move given the inexpensive nature of the beverage. What ensued was a display of drunken debauchery that should have graced the tabloids. A near-brawl between her and another famous fashion designer – 'the words 'two-bit hack' would have been the only printable ones,' she ruefully reminisced – followed by a most unladylike display of dancing on the bartop, a swear and innuendo-laced rendition of 'Hush Now, Quiet Now' on karaoke and an awkward conversation with Twilight Sparkle in regards to both unicorns' love life. If it weren't for the quick actions of Fluttershy and Pinkie in bundling her into the back of their carriage the petty vandalism of Blueblood Manor would have ended the night on a felonious note.

Nowadays moderation and sophistication were the order of the day when it came to drinking. The first watchword was more flexible to her – indeed at that very moment Rarity felt herself to be pleasantly pickled – but whatever the outcome of a night's boozing she would act with her typical grace and dignity. Out went the alcopops and cheap mixed drinks, to be replaced with more mature liquors. She had developed a taste for port and cognac. Her palate for wine grew more refined by the glass. She'd even grown fond of certain whiskies – so much so that she and Octavia had made overtures about a trip to the distilleries of far-off Clydesdale. 'If only that infernal pony would get off her high horse in regards to Jura malts,' she thought, glancing over in the general direction of the music.

As expected Octavia was there by the impromptu DJ booth. She was engaged in undoubtedly intellectual conversation with Cheerilee but every so often her eyes would wander towards a frenetic Vinyl Scratch – Rarity noted a spark of affection in those brief looks. In the corner of her eyes she could see Lyra and Bon Bon slinking off up the stairs. She was far too comfortable and a little too tippled to care as to what those inseparable ponies would do with some privacy. 'Not to mention that luxurious bed,' the voice in her head muttered in a most sordid fashion, forcing Rarity to stifle a giggle.

Returning to her observation she examined the couples dancing. Pinkie Pie threw herself around with her trademark enthusiasm all while trying to keep a hold of Rainbow Dash, the pegasus seemingly powerless to extricate herself from Pinkie's clutches. Not far away she saw Twilight in what could only be described as an imitation of the bucking bronco round of the Iron Pony competition. Unlike Dash with Pinkie, Spike actively clung for his life as he held Twilight firmly by the neck with one arm and clutched a bottle of tequila with his free hand. Rarity hated to admit it but Twilight was the single-worst dancer she had ever laid her eyes on. And that was when she was sober! Not even that infamous Cutie Mark Crusader talent show performance could compare with Miss Sparkle tripping the light fantastic in any state of inebriation.

Over in a part of the room less akin to a hoedown at Ponyville Sanatorium was a sight that caused Rarity's eyes to widen. Fluttershy and Big Macintosh were moving with all the expertise of Moaning Minnie and Ginger Feathers themselves. They kept perfect time with the complex nature of the trance music pumping through the shop even whilst swaying and waltzing. Rarity was unsurprised at the elegance with which her spa companion moved – she was a fashion model for Celestia's sake – but the fleet-hoofed movements of the colossal and clumsy-looking stallion with her truly took her by surprise. It was akin to seeing Rainbow Dash silently lost in the countless works of Immortal Bard! She couldn't help but ponder whether such graceful movement was a trait all the Apple family inherited.

Rarity sighed as she took a swig of the dark burgundy liquid swilling around her glass. The rich, powerful flavours couldn't mask the heaviness in her heart. Here she sat in her fabulously decorated home, with friends that she treasured and some of the finest port known to ponykind, and yet she felt miserable for one seemingly insignificant fact. The fact that Applejack had yet to make an appearance at the Carousel Boutique that evening.

“What if she's been kidnapped by Diamond Dogs? We must rescue her at once!” came a panicked voice.

“Relax, darling. She's on her way. You know what she's like,” was the calmer and more rational response.

“Or maybe she's not coming at all.”

“Why would she do that?”

“The same reason she left for Dodge Junction. To get away from you.”

Rarity swallowed the drink hard in a vain attempt to silence the two elements of her psyche currently locking horns. It had been like that for months ever since she first entertained the prospect of something more than friendship with the farm pony. She could even pin that exact moment, a fact that surprised her given the hectic nature of her life at the time.

It was late, during that night at the Ponyville Library.

**********

Applejack and Rarity had reconciled their differences and lifted the smog of antagonism so as not to ruin poor Twilight's first experience of a sleepover. Fun had been the order of the evening once the 'tree through the window' problem had been solved and exhaustion took its' course as for the second time the three ponies lay their sleepy heads down for a night of slumber. Except for Rarity that rest never came. She sat bolt upright in the small bed Twilight had graciously provided. It had nowhere near the comfort level of her own four-poster but was adequate for its' temporary purpose. Moreover it was perfect to act as a makeshift psychiatrist's couch as she tackled the enigmas keeping her from rest. One of whom was snoring lightly in the bed next to her.

Rarity had long wondered what problems Applejack had with her. She had always tried to act amiable towards her but something hung over their conversations which led to the odd blazing row as demonstrated earlier.

“Maybe she finds your accent and manner too refined?”

The unicorn nearly laughed at the thought. It was a common misconception amongst her friends – and much of Ponyville in fact – that Rarity was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Whilst not impoverished by any means her upbringing was not the parade of débutante balls or garden parties with royalty that many seemed to believe. Her father was a mid-level manager at CanterBank, lucky enough to take early retirement upon the birth of his second daughter such was his fiscal prudence. Her mother was a former fillyhood theatre star with some lingering connections to the entertainment industry that occasionally threw some minor work her way. The manner of speaking and air of sophistication which she adopted was a result of heavy early exposure to wireless dramas of Jane Mare and the like, not to mention her love of Canterlot culture. No more, no less.

“Perhaps it is your success that bothers her?”

Another scoff. Surely Applejack of all ponies would appreciate a hard work ethic? Okay, her methods were distinctly different from hers – AJ was the sword to Rarity's pen. However both shared that desire to be the best in their field (or fields in Applejack's case). No, it couldn't be that.

“Could it be that she is jealous of your beauty?”

A barely audible titter escaped Rarity's mouth. 'There's a possibility,' she thought. She was one of the few ponies in the small town that turned heads wherever she went. Her mane was always groomed perfectly, her tail likewise. In terms of physique she kept herself in prime condition. Not to the extent of Rainbow Dash, but trim enough to maintain the curves that earned so many double takes. Whereas Applejack...

She turned her head and looked downwards at the orange earth pony, only to be taken aback with what she saw. How had she been so blind? Maybe the light of the moon played tricks with her mind, but all she could think was how stunning Applejack actually was. Her face possessed a softness that she must have overlooked due to the slightly gruff accent it usually accompanied. The few freckles on her cheek made her look a little filly-ish, a little more innocent. She had never been a fan of the colour green but coupled with her blonde mane her eyes made her stand out from the crowd – blonde ponies typically had blue eyes after all, but this change gave her a uniqueness. Through the covers she could make out the contours of her body. Powerful and muscular but with a femininity that belied her tomboyish nature. 'All that makes her a Rarity, don't you think?' her mind chimed in.

Rarity buried her head in her pillow at the terribly cheesy nature of that last thought. It was true though. Out of all the ponies she knew she couldn't think of any others that had that same alluring mixture of the plain and the peculiar. And it set her stomach aflutter in the way no pony had in as long as she could remember.

Over time these feelings only became stronger. The one-on-one dressmaking sessions allowed Rarity a chance to get to know Applejack better than she ever had. Outwith an incident where her wandering hooves had nearly caused a scene they went swimmingly. At the Gala and during her time with the oafish prince all she could do was compare and contrast him with the mare in the garden, dressed in the finery she had put so much love into and looking every bit as radiant as she hoped. That night in the back of the carriage she made a solemn vow to herself.

'No more subpar stallions,' her mind cried out, 'All I want is the complete bushel of Applejack!'

**********

Rarity snapped herself out of her trot down memory lane and lifted herself from her comfort, smiling as always but with pure determination flowing through her. She had to find the pony she wanted to spend the evening with – 'no, spend my life with!' she mused – no matter where in Equestria she was. Okay, she was maybe acting a little melodramatically, as she was known to do, but she couldn't care less.

“Where ya off to Rarity?” Spike drunkenly drawled, still draped over Twilight's back like a scaly leather saddle.

Rarity smiled back at the young dragon, “Just off out for some fresh air, Spikey Wikey,” she responded with an aloofness that betrayed the resolute nature of her task ahead, “Maybe see if I can spot our dear friend Applejack.”

She continued to the door at a casual pace so as not to arouse suspicion. Not that anypony would care what with their varying states of sobriety or – in some cases – the fact that they were wrapped in somepony's grasp (she shot a quick look at the ballroom-dancing sibling of her love to be certain of that). Reaching the door she took a quick yet deep breath bracing herself for what could be an arduous journey and even more difficult conversation if her liquid courage lasted.

Little did she know that on the other side of that door stood the pony that would consign those plans to the bin.