• Published 26th Jan 2014
  • 4,493 Views, 513 Comments

The Heart of an Author - Oroboro

Mystery. Love. Magic. Murder. Truth. These are all important elements in the murder mystery Fluttershy has written, and is now asking Twilight to read. But she struggles to solve the mystery in which it turns out she's the protagonist.

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Chapter 10 - The Heart of an Apple

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or ponies, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

“Alright, let’s get this party started!”

Pinkie Pie pulled a cord and jumped up into the air as confetti and streamers fell from the ceiling, swirling around them. They received more than a few annoyed glances from the other museum goers.

“Seriously?” Rainbow Dash scoffed. “Out of everything there is to do here in Mareami, the first place we go is to a museum?”

Rarity rolled her eyes. “Really now, Rainbow Dash, a little bit of culture isn’t going to kill you. And I just have to check out the early century pony fashions exhibit. I hear some of the dresses they have are originals!”

Twilight grinned. “I know how you feel about these sorts of things, Rainbow, so I kept that in mind when I designed today’s itinerary. We’ll only be here for an hour and a half before we head down to the beach, so I’m sure you can last till then. Besides, there’s an exhibit on ancient pegasus racing you might be interested in.”

Rainbow Dash perked up visibly at that, and everypony shared a good laugh.

Applejack wiped a tear from her eye, smiling as she followed behind the others. It felt so darn good for everypony to be together like this again, even if it wouldn’t last for long. She missed all the playful banter, the gentle ribbing, and the general company of her friends.

As Twilight led the group through the museum, teaching what was surely a fascinating lesson about history, Applejack fell into step besides Rarity.

There were some ponies she missed more than others.

“Hey, Rar. Yer looking good, as always. That, uh, scarf suits you.”

Rarity turned to Applejack, blushing slightly and smiling at the compliment. “Why thank you, darling. I’m glad somepony noticed. Mareami is such a vibrant city, and I really think these colors help capture that feeling, you know?”

Applejack's heart skipped a beat. Maybe she didn't know what colors went with what city, but Rarity's passion for her craft was infectious, and she found herself laughing along with her.

Perhaps to say she was 'in love with Rarity' would be a bit of an overstatement. A foalish infatuation would probably be a better way of phrasing it. Sure, she had always admired Rarity's beauty, grace, passion, and work ethic from afar. It's not like they were even the greatest of friends. Their personalities clashed in numerous ways, and their history attested to that.

But ever since Rarity had left Ponyville to pursue her dreams, there had been a noticeably unicorn shaped hole in Applejack's heart. Sure, she missed Twilight and Rainbow Dash too, but she had recently come to the revelation that her feelings towards the absence of one friend in particular were rather different.

Still, there's no way a relationship like that would ever actually work, right? It was just a silly crush. For now, she was content to just enjoy this vacation while she had the chance.

"So, uh, how's the Big Apple treatin ya?" Applejack asked, just barely avoiding choking on her words in the process. Getting her head and heart all twisted up in idle fantasies wasn't going to do her any favors.

Rarity’s smile grew fainter, and she let out a light sigh. “Oh, it’s okay, I suppose. It’s a wonderful place, but I’m so swamped with orders I rarely get the chance to get out and enjoy it. What about you? I heard Sweet Apple Acres is expanding.”

Applejack let out a sigh herself. “Ah, you know. Flim and Flam came up with a way to bottle cider and offered to help distribute it across Equestria. Those two are a nothing but a couple of two bit hucksters, but this time they weren’t just selling empty air. Had to hire a buncha help to keep up with demand, and I’m in charge of the lot. Feels weird having ponies that ain’t Apples out there applebuckin’, but they’re good workers.”

“Well,” Rarity said, her eyes somewhat distant. “I guess that’s just where life takes us, hm?”

The two walked side by side in silence for a while, barely registering Twilight’s ramblings about ancient pegasus racing chariots or somesuch.

Rarity shook her head, turning to smile at Applejack. “Oh, what are we getting mopey about anyway? I think we both know it. Work doesn’t always compare to friendship, no matter how glamorous. I miss you all so much, sometimes.”

Applejack’s breath caught in her throat, and she looked away. “I uh, miss…” she trailed off, swallowing and adjusting her hat before trying again. “Ponyville just ain’t the same without you, Rar.”

She felt tears beginning to well up in her eyes and she turned to the side, trying to rub them away. Consarnit, she was a grown mare! There was no reason she should be getting all weepy at the drop of a hat like a character in one of those romance novels Rarity loved so much.

"Applejack, is everything okay?" Rarity asked, her voice sounding concerned. The others had stopped as well and were looking back.

"I, uh..." Applejack felt the sweat dripping down her forehead, everypony’s eyes boring into her. Groaning, she clutched at her stomach. "Just need to go use the little fillies room, that's all."

"Oh. I think it's down that hallway there," Twilight said, pointing off to the right. "Don't be gone too long though, this next part is super interesting!"

It was a cliche, but the classics were classic for a reason. She bowed out of the group and headed down the nearby hallway alone. She just needed some time to get her emotions in check.


Applejack stared at herself in the mirror and splashed some water on her face. Maybe it would be better if she just avoided Rarity for the rest of this trip. As much as she loved her company, she was likely to make a complete fool of herself if she continued at this rate.

Or she could just saddle up and deal with it. She was an Apple, not some –

As Applejack exited the bathroom, her train of thought was interrupted when somepony crashed into her with a startled yelp. The pony fell to the floor, along with whatever they were carrying.

"What in the – Ah, shoot. You alright there, old-timer?"

Applejack reached out a hoof and helped the elderly earth pony stallion up. He had on a collar with a badge pinned to it that marked him as a member of the museum staff.

"I'm sorry about that, ma'am, I shoulda learned my lesson about walking too close to them bathroom doors a long time ago."

“You alright? Didn’t hurt or break nothing, did I?” Applejack asked, looking at the box that had fallen to the floor. The words ‘Princess Wishlight Exhibit’ were scrawled on the sides.

“I’m still spry, no need to worry about me. And what’s in the box is mostly junk anyway.” The earth pony crouched to pick up the box, but immediately flinched, clutching at his back. “Shoot. Musta pulled something.”

“Here, lemme help with that,” Applejack said, lifting the box up to her back. It wasn’t particularly heavy. “Name’s Applejack. Now, where do you need this thing?”

“Down the hall and up the stairs to the second floor storage closet. Thanks for the help. I’m Footnote, by the way,” he said, falling into step with Applejack as she began trotting off down the hall.

“Granny always taught me to help anypony in need. So what’s in the box, anyway?”

Footnote chuckled, shaking his head. “Eh, some nonsense about an ancient princess who could grant wishes. Exhibit spent most of its time gathering dust. If ya ask me it was probably some historian’s clever idea of a hoax.”

“It does sound a bit farfetched,” Applejack agreed, coming to a stop as she reached the stairs.

Frowning, Footnote tested the stairs with a hoof, wincing as soon as he put pressure on it. “Dangit. Musta been worse than I thought. Can barely handle stairs on a good day. Normally one of the younger workers’d be doing this job, but it’s that time of the year when all the ponies have to go out to party, and us old folk get stuck doing all the work.”

Applejack grinned, shifting the box slightly on her shoulders. “Can’t say I ain’t here to do the same, to be honest, but it seems like a museum trip was first on the agenda for me and my friends today. If you point me in the right direction, I’ll get the box there for ya.”

Footnote blinked, taken aback, before bursting into a hearty laugh. “I like you, Applejack. You seem like a good, honest pony that knows how to respect her elders. Should be the first door to the left up the stairs. Here are the keys, just bring them to the office when you’re done. I’m going to go find me some medicine to dull the pain. Thanks for everything!”

“Shucks, ain’t no problem at all,” Applejack said, blushing slightly as she tipped her hat to the old pony. She felt a warm sense of pride fill her heart as she carried the box up the stairs. Helping others always felt good, and this was exactly the kind of distraction she needed. A nice reminder of the kind of pony she wanted to be.

“Let’s see, should be in here, right?” Applejack unlocked the door marked “Storage” and pushed it open, the light from the corridor flooding into the dimly lit closet. Metal racks lined the walls filled with all sorts of barely recognizable things, and Applejack moved in slowly, looking for an empty place to put the box.

As she worked her way past the darkened shelves, she caught her hoof on something and stumbled. The box tumbled from her back, the battered cardboard splitting open at the seams. Applejack winced at the sound of metal clattering across the floor.

Applejack swore under her breath, waving away the cloud of dust that had been kicked up. Gingerly, she reached down and picked up the first object in reach, which appeared to be a plaque of some sort.

“With her power, a true desire of the heart can be made into reality,” Applejack said, reading out loud. “Huh.”

As she glanced around for a new box to pack everything back up in, a glint of light caught her eye from the spilled debris. Brushing some of it aside, Applejack saw a golden bracelet, inlaid with emeralds and rubies. It was polished to a mirror shine.

“This has to be worth a fortune! And they’re just tossing it aside in some cardboard box,” Applejack muttered, leaning in closer. She stared at her own reflection in the bracelet, distorted by the curve of the metal and the low light.

“True desire of my heart, huh? No way something like that could actually be real…”

Playing with an idle fancy, Applejack crystallized her wish in her mind and reached out with a hoof, touching the bracelet.

Color vanished from the world in an instant. Applejack found herself beside a black and white version of herself frozen in time.

“What in the hay…” Applejack mumbled. Her voice was absorbed by the suddenly oppressive silence around her.

She reached over and knocked lightly on the gray version of herself, her own hoof still its usual orange. The other her was completely still, hoof still touching the bracelet. “Did I break something?”

“Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to play with other pony' toys?”

A voice rang out across the room, and Applejack spun around. Before her stood a magnificent golden alicorn with a short purple mane, her radiance sharply contrasted by the bleak gray surrounding them both.

“Who are…” Applejack paused, swallowing nervously. “Er, you’re that Princess, right? Wishlight or somesuch? Just what is going on here?”

The alicorn snorted, shaking her head. “That would be my mother. I am known as Golden Wish. And that bracelet belongs to me.”

Applejack took her hat off, bowing slightly. “I didn’t mean no offense, yer highness, honest. Just trying to pick up the mess I made.”

Golden Wish brought a hoof to her mouth, smiling coyly. “Is that all? Is the wish you hold so dear to your heart just an illusion then?”

“I…” Applejack’s eyes widened and she clutched at her chest reflexively. “You can sense somethin’ like that?”

“It’s in my name, is it not?” Golden Wish said, laughing gaily. “Your heart is true, young Applejack, even if you do not yet believe it yourself. My power can twist fate like a thread, and bring two ponies together when otherwise they would remain forever apart.”

Applejack frowned, scratching her head with a hoof. “So you’re saying that if your power twists up fate, then… I wouldn’t ever stand a chance without it? She’s destined to end up with somepony else?”

Golden Wish grinned, baring a set of fangs. “You’re clever as well as honest. I like that in a pony. You are correct. If you were to partake of my gift, her fate would be altered, as well as the fate of somepony else down the line. The two of you would be blissfully happy together. Love is a powerful magic. The other pony? I cannot say. Destiny sometimes has a backup plan.”

Applejack swallowed, sweat dripping down her forehead. “I just… want a chance, that’s all.”

“A chance is a chance is a chance,” Golden Wish said, yawning slightly. “All love comes at a cost, Applejack. You must challenge each other. It requires risk, sacrifice, dedication, perseverance, and many other things that you could find in a thousand love songs. Even with my power, it will never be easy. What does your heart say?”

Applejack turned to herself, looking herself over and staring at the braclet. “I…”

Applejack picked up the bracelet. There was no flash of light, no thunderous boom of a genie. She chuckled nervously, and placed it aside. Now wasn’t the time for silly fantasies.

“Applejack? Hello?”

Applejack froze as she heard Rarity’s voice from the hallway outside. There was no possible way that…

“I’m in here, Rar, gimme a sec and I’ll be right out.”

It was obviously just a coincidence. She did her best to put the box back together and stuffed the exhibit under a nearby shelf before exiting the storage room and re-locking the door.

Rarity smiled as Applejack came into view. “There you are. You took a while, so I was starting to get worried. A museum worker pointed me in this direction.”

“Yeah. Just got caught up helping a pony, that’s all,” Applejack said, blushing slightly.

“Is that so?” Rarity said, grinning coyly as she reached over and brushed some of the dust out of Applejack’s mane. “I know this museum isn’t the most interesting activity, darling, but Twilight’s having the time of her life, so we should really do our best for her sake, don’t you think?”

“I didn’t, I mean…” Applejack stammered, her face growing even redder before she realized she was being teased and turned to glower at Rarity. “Har har.”

Rarity kept on smiling mischievously, even as she tried to feign innocence.

As the two made their way back through the museum, Applejack mulled over her feelings. Maybe there was no such thing as wish granting magic, but it wouldn’t hurt too much to just take a chance, would it?

“Hey, Rar…” Applejack said, turning away. “Do you know what the schedule for tonight is?”

Rarity frowned, raising a hoof to her chin. “Hmm. I know the beach is next, and then I’m sure Twilight has some other stuff planned afterwards. I think after six or so she’s left the schedule open for us to do what we please. Why do you ask?”

Swallowing, Applejack stopped in her tracks and turned to look Rarity in the eye. “You want to, uh, go stargazing later? I hear the view overlooking the Mareami beaches at night is simply to die for.”

Rarity blinked, looking Applejack up and down. “I suppose so. I’ll bring it up to the others, and see how they feel about it.”

Applejack winced, shaking her head. “No, uh. I mean, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie wouldn’t be all that interested, and Twilight would just spend all her time spitting out star factoids. And Fluttershy…” Applejack stopped, growling as she knocked a hoof on her head. “Dangit. What I’m trying to say is that I think it should be just me and you. We, uh, don’t really hang out enough, y’know?”

“I see…” Rarity said, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes. With a smile, she turned back to Applejack. “Well, I can’t say your logic is perfect, but you are correct on that account. Alright then, it sounds like a plan. I’m sure the others have things they want to do on their own or with each other, anyway.”

Applejack’s heart raced as they continued back down the hall. She’d done it! Now all she had to do was go out tonight with Rarity and… do what, exactly? Confess? What happened to just avoiding her so as to not get into embarrassing moments just like this one? Maybe she could fake a stomach ache and just back out now.

No. It was time to saddle up. Now was as good a time as ever to face the truth about her feelings head on.

Bitterly, she realized that even should the worst happen, the fallout wouldn't be so bad with Rarity gone most of the time.

Applejack stared into the night sky, listening to the waves lap against the shore below. Even though it was summer, a chill wind was blowing towards the ocean, and she shivered in her solitude.

She was early, of course. Probably too early. She paced back and forth, trying to plan out what she was going to say while simultaneously berating herself to just let it all come naturally.

After what seemed like an eternity of agonized internal struggling, she finally spotted the object of her frustrations on the road below. Rarity noticed her on top of the ridge and waved as she began to make her way up the slope.

“Hey Rar,” Applejack called down to her, her voice cracking slightly. She winced and hoped Rarity hadn’t noticed. She needed to get her act together, and fast.

“Lovely night, isn’t it?” Rarity said, smiling. She lifted a picnic basket from her flanks and set it on the ground. “I hope you don’t mind, but I brought a few things to make this a more proper outing. I’m sure we’re both stuffed from dinner, but a few drinks and a light snack or two never hurt anypony.”

“Uh, yeah, sure. That’s fine,” Applejack said, watching as Rarity pulled out an elaborately embroidered blanket from the basket and laid it down on the damp grass. Why hadn’t she thought of anything like that? Stupid.

“Now then,” Rarity said as she finished unpacking, “let’s see this gorgeous view in all its nocturnal glory, shall we?”

Winking at Applejack, Rarity moved past her up to the top of the ridge, her breath catching in her throat as she gazed onto the beach and the ocean below.

“Sure is somethin’...” Applejack muttered, moving to stand by her side. “Granny took me here once when I was just a filly. Ain’t never forgot the sight.”

The beach below them glittered in a dazzling rainbow of colors, the moonlight reflecting off of the multitude of tiny, crushed gemstones that the beach had instead of sand.

“I thought it was impressive in the daytime, but…”

While the radiance of the beach had been almost blinding under the afternoon sun, the subdued light of the moon and gentle lapping of waves caused multicolored illusions to dance across the shore, rainbow shadows flickering in and out of existence with each shift of the water.

“Oh Applejack,” Rarity said breathlessly. “Thank you for inviting me up here. This may be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever laid eyes on in all of Equestria.”

It pales in beauty next to you. Applejack mentally slapped herself for even thinking of a line that cheesy. “It ain’t nothin. I mean, you like gems and all, and you certainly seemed to like it earlier today when we were all swimming. Just figured I’d show you it in a different light.”

Rarity laughed gaily, turning to Applejack with a grin. “To tell you the truth, this place kind of makes my horn itch like crazy. This great horde of gems, and they’ve got it so enchanted nopony can walk away with even a single grain.”

Applejack nodded. “Sure felt bad for Spike, though. Poor fella musta drooled enough to raise the sea level a couple inches.”

The two of them shared a laugh before lying down on the blanket, leaning over the edge of the ridge to watch the light show below. They sat like that in silence for a while, listening to the sound of the waves and the cries of cicadas.

Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Applejack broke the silence. “Hey… Rar. Can I ask you an honest question?”

Rarity turned to Applejack, her eyes widening slightly with a hint of curiosity. “Go ahead, darling.”

“Are we…” Applejack stopped, swallowing nervously as she tried to suppress the shaking of her hooves. “Are we really friends?”

Rarity’s mouth fell open, and she flinched back, looking hurt. “Of course we are! Why would you even say something like that?”

Applejack shook her head. “I… I mean, we, we don’t always get along, you know? And we don’t really like the same things, or have much in common at all, really. I don’t generally care much for fashion, or appearances, or proper decorum, or any of that stuff you like, and I know you don’t care nothing for farm work or getting dirty or any of the stuff that I like to do.”

Rarity blinked a few times, then sighed. “Come now, I thought we were already past stuff like this. Yes, we’ve had our share of disagreements in the past. And our hobbies don’t mesh up very well together. But you really should know better.”

With a soft smile, Rarity reached over and placed a hoof on Applejack’s shoulder. “You may be a great farm pony, and you might not care when you get dirty, but is that all that defines you?” She moved her hoof down across Applejack’s chest, bringing it to rest over her heart. “You, Applejack, are an honest, hard working pony who finds joy in the work she does, cares deeply for her family, and would never hesitate when it comes to helping a friend.”

Rarity pulled her hoof back and placed it over her own heart. “On the surface level, sure, but here? Do you really think we have nothing in common?”

Applejack swallowed, tears welling up in her eyes. Rarity was right, of course. She knew that already. It was a big part of the reason she was up here. “Sorry, you’re right. I can be a mite fool sometimes.”

The two sat in silence again, Applejack occasionally sniffling and wiping at her eyes. She had already messed up, but there was no turning back now.

“Rarity…” Applejack said, her voice wavering as she looked away. “Do you… do you think that…” Squeezing her eyes shut, she forced herself to continue. “We could ever be… more than friends?”

Applejack kept her eyes closed, the silence stretching on for what seemed like an eternity until she felt Rarity’s hoof on her shoulder.

“Applejack,” Rarity said, her tone serious. “I’m as perceptive as anypony. I can read the situation. But miscommunication leads to ponies getting hurt. If there’s something you’re trying to say to me, please say it to me straight.”

“Shoot,” Applejack muttered under her breath. Summoning every scrap of willpower she had she stood up, she turned to face Rarity head on, her eyes full of tears. “I like you, Rar. I like you a lot. Maybe this is even what ponies call love, I dunno. But I just can’t get my mind off you. You’re so beautiful and graceful and talented. Your passion for your craft is infectious and makes me want to smile as sure as any musical number by Pinkie Pie. Ever since you left Ponyville, there ain’t nothing what feels right anymore. The world is a grayer place without you in it. It may have took me a while to realize what it was I was missing, but it was you, Rarity.”

"Oh my..." Rarity mumbled under her breath, her mouth hanging open as color crept into her cheeks.

“I… right then,” Applejack said, pulling her hat down over her face. “I’ve said my piece. Just go ahead and tell me off so I can go home, cry for a bit, then come back in the morning and pretend this never happened. Then I’ll move on with my life.”

Rarity pursed her lips, her eyes becoming downcast. “Is… that what you want me to do?”

Applejack turned away, and took one step down the hill. “Shoot. That’s probably for the best, right? What I want don’t matter. It’s just a silly fantasy.”

“What about what I want?”

Applejack froze in her tracks, and slowly turned back around to look at Rarity, her breath catching in her throat.

“Applejack…” Rarity said, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. “I’m not going to say that… I’m secretly madly in love with you too, or anything like that…” she paused, pawing at the ground and blushing, turning her head and giving Applejack a coy smile. “But you are a pony close to my heart, Applejack. If I mean enough to you that you want to be more than friends and start a relationship, well, I’d be willing to give it a shot.”

Applejack stared, her mouth hanging open. All the conflicting thoughts and desires in her mind collapsed into a black hole of fantasy made reality, leaving her both overcome with joy and terrified at the prospect of it all. For all of her idle dreams, she had never put much thought into the idea of actually being in a relationship with Rarity. It had simply seemed too outlandish to actually consider. But here she was, staring her in the face.

“Applejack… come on now, don’t leave me out in the cold here,” Rarity said, her blush growing deeper. “I’m opening myself up here too, you know.”

“Ah, shoot, I,” Applejack stammered, trying to force the right words out of her mouth. “I’m sorry, Rar, I just, I mean, would something like that really be okay with you? I wouldn’t even know where to start… I ain’t exactly a prince come to sweep you off your hooves.”

Rarity giggled slightly. “Oh, I don’t know about that. You’ve got your fair share of princely qualities, even if you won’t admit it. And a date like this,” she said, pausing to turn and gesture towards the ocean lights, “would sweep any mare off her hooves.”

Applejack felt her face burning even hotter, and when Rarity leaned in and kissed her on the cheek, her heart threatened to tear itself out of her chest.

“Is that enough to let you know I’m serious?” Rarity asked, backing away. “Tell you what. This is all pretty scary and new to me too. How about we just lie down here and enjoy the date some more, and we can work out the details in the morning, hm?”

Applejack swallowed and took a deep breath before nodding silently. She moved back up to the top of the ridge where she laid down. Rarity joined her, her warm body pressing against her side.

As the symphony of lights continued to play below, the new couple held hooves, their hearts fluttering with the excitement and anticipation of the moment and what was yet to come.

Applejack rested a hoof on the railing, staring at the bustling lights and sounds of the city streets a thousand feet below her.

Eight months. That’s how long ago she had summoned up the courage to turn her mental fiction into reality, and her life was all the brighter because of it. That’s not to say it was easy going. Like any couple new to love, they made their fair share of mistakes. Their differing attitudes on life often drove them to argue. Their work and passions often pulled them far apart.

But through it all, in both high times and low, Applejack had felt Rarity’s affection for her grow, eventually blossoming into love of its own accord, and her own feelings for the unicorn of her dreams simply doubled in response.

Which was why she was here, on the tallest building in all of Manehatten, ready to seal her feelings with an eternal promise.

“Sweetheart?” Rarity called out from the door of the observatory platform. “Why don’t you come back inside, it’s freezing out here.”

The gusts of winter wind this high up bit into her flanks, but Applejack gritted her teeth and ignored the pain. “I’ll be in shortly, Rar. Just gimme a few more minutes, okay?”

The inside of the observatory platform, while warm and toasty, was filled with tourists. And while the chill wind left the outside area with privacy, it was more than a little distracting when it came to romance. She really should have thought this through better.

“Applejack, what’s the matter?” Rarity asked, placing a hoof on her shoulder and causing her to jump slightly in surprise.

“I… I’m just thinking, that’s all.”

Rarity pulled her cloak in tighter around herself, and moved in closer to Applejack, sharing her warmth. “Today really was lovely, you know. The dinner, the play… all this time I’ve been living in Manehatten, and yet I’ve never once come up here. Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of this city, as opposed to the view of the carriage in front of me when I’m stuck in traffic.”

Applejack chuckled nervously, furiously trying to run through her prepared speech in her mind. She had wanted everything to be perfect. Rarity liked perfect. She deserved perfect. Applejack was anything but, but being around Rarity made her want to strive for that ideal. Unfortunately, as much as she tried, her efforts tended to fall short.

But for some strange reason, Rarity had always shown an otherworldly amount of patience and understanding for Applejack’s flaws and always forgave her imperfections in the end. There was no turning back now. This would just have to be another notch in her legacy of ‘Almost, but not quite.’

“Rarity…” Applejack said, steeling her nerves and turning to face her. The blood in her veins heated up with adrenaline, and suddenly the cold seemed almost non existent.

“Yes, dear?” Rarity asked, shivering slightly.

This was it. “You know I’m not the best with words… I spent days trying to figure the right words for what I’m about to say, and musta wrote it and rewrote it a dozen times. None of it worked, and no amount of flowery speeches ever felt like they were truly coming from me. So I’ll just keep this short and simple, like I always do.”

Rarity’s mouth fell open, and her eyes began to glisten. “You’re…”

Bending down to her knees, Applejack reached into the pocket of her suitcoat and pulled out a small box. “Rarity, I love you more than anything. These past eight months were the happiest I’ve ever been, and even when things got rough, I couldn’t imagine a future where you’re not there by my side. Will you marry me?”

The tears in Rarity’s eyes began to spill over, and she lept forward, locking lips with Applejack in a tight kiss before pulling back. “Absolutely YES.”

All at once it was like the weight of the world was lifted off of Applejack’s shoulders. Not that she had really expected to be rejected, but her own eyes were wet with tears as her heart threatened to burst with joy.

Gingerly, she picked up the ring in her teeth. It was a band of intertwining white and red gold, and a diamond with the image of an apple magically engraved into the center. It had taken a lot of saving, but was more than worth it, in her mind.

Rarity bowed down and Applejack leaned forward, slipping the ring onto her horn and lightly kissing the top of her head.

“Er, Applejack?” Rarity asked, after Applejack stayed in that position for more than a few seconds.

Burning with embarrassment, Applejack mumbled, “Mah lips’re stuffk to tha ring…”

Rarity burst out laughing, causing Applejack to yelp in pain as her head jerked around with the movement. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Here, let me fix that.”

With a tingle of magic, Rarity heated the band of metal slightly and Applejack was able to pull free without tearing any skin.

“Dangit. I’ve just gone and made a big mess of this, haven’t I?” Applejack said, rubbing at her lips.

Rarity moved closer and threw her forehooves around Applejack’s neck, burying her face in close. “Perfection belongs in romance novels, Applejack, not real life. Real love is stupid and silly, and full of all the little mistakes and moments like this that make ponies ponies. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and what happened here tonight really has no bearing on my decision to do so.”

Pulling back and kissing her on the cheek, Rarity smiled coyly. “Although, don’t get me wrong, the effort is certainly appreciated.”

Unable to help herself, Applejack burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all.

“I love you, Rar,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye.

“I love you too, Applejack,” Rarity said, moving close to stand next to her. “You know, I was really hoping this was what today was all about. I guess some wishes do come true after all, you know?”

Applejack chuckled, throwing a foreleg around Rarity’s shoulder. “They sure do.”

A memory came back to her, a fleeting wisp of a half-forgotten fantasy, and Applejack’s heart froze solid.

“Congratulations! You two make a cute couple.” The voice of Golden Wish carried across the silent rooftop, frozen in time.

Applejack pulled away from herself, turning to face the alicorn behind her. “What do you want?”

Golden Wish winced, putting on a hurt expression. “Ouch! What, not even a thank you? Is that any way to treat the pony that made all this possible?”

“I didn’t…” Applejack growled, stomping a hoof. “My relationship was built out of mutual trust and hard work. I don’t remember you having anything to do with it.”

“Is that so…” Golden Wish said, letting out a sigh. “You made the wish, didn’t you? From your heart's greatest desire sprung forth a seed of love. Perhaps your tender care and gardening has caused it to grow into a beautiful flower, but were it not for my intervention, you would still surely be wallowing in self pity all by your lonesome.”

Applejack pawed at the ground in frustration, looking away. “Rarity is a grown mare. She made the decision to give me a chance of her own free will. You had nothing to do with it.”

“Did she, now?” Golden Wish asked, a smirk playing at her face. “Just what do you think a wish is, Applejack? You called on my power, and I was generous enough to grant it to you. You have what you wanted, yes? Take your beautiful flower, pluck her from the ground, and place her in a vase on your bedside table. She is yours.”

Applejack’s eyes widened, the color draining from her face as what the horror of what she may have wrought slowly dawned on her. “No…”

Golden Wish threw back her head and laughed as Applejack sunk to the floor, covering her ears with her hooves.

“Oooh. We get to have a wedding! Oh, this is going to be so wonderful… Oh, and I guess we should really tell all our friends at some point, don’t you think? Maybe we can make a big announcement of it at the next conference!”

Applejack didn’t respond, her mind racing with all sorts of troubling implications. There was no possible way things had actually turned out the way they did because of that, was there? It was all just a silly legend, and it was all just a coincidence.


Applejack let out a sigh as she sat on the entranceway to the “Dragon-Mare Manor.” She had gotten into yet another fight with Rarity. It was all her own fault, of course. The stress and guilt was weighing heavily on her heart. Worse yet, this mansion seemed to have some sort of connection to that stupid legend from the Mareami museum, and it was getting harder and harder to deny the thought that she may have committed the ultimate sin.

Wallowing in her own misery, Applejack watched from a distance as a sky carriage slowly descended to the runway. Twilight stepped out, stumbling awkwardly as she pulled her bags from inside. At least it would be good to see her again.

After sending the pegasus guards on their way, Twilight trotted briskly towards the mansion, waving cheerfully.

“Hey, Applejack! It’s good to see you!” Twilight said, beaming as she threw her forelegs around Applejack in a tight hug.

“Hey, Twi,” Applejack said, returning the hug before pulling away and sitting back down.

Twilight frowned, looking Applejack over. “You look a little down. Is something wrong?”

Applejack sighed, burying her face in her hooves. “I just got into yet another fight with Rarity, that’s all.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Another fight? Just how often are you two together that this is a reoccuring problem?”

“Oh, right. Yeah, Rar and I have been dating since the last conference. Got engaged actually, few months back.”

Twilight’s mouth fell open and her wings extended in shock. “Buwaaaaaaahhhh,” she exclaimed elegantly.

Applejack chuckled bitterly, shaking her head. “Right, shoot. Rarity wanted it to be a big announcement at dinner. Pretend like you’re surprised, okay?”

Twilight shook her head rapidly. “I’m sorry, wow! Congratulations? I’m happy for you! I mean, that is, if you’re happy…”

“I should be, Twi. I’m the luckiest mare alive. Or possibly the worst. It’s complicated.”

Glancing at Twilight’s confused expression, she added, “Don’t worry, it’s something I have to deal with on my own. How come Spike’s not with you?”

Twilight looked Applejack over worryingly, but decided to let the topic go for now. “He’s sick, I’m afraid. Nasty case of the dragon flu. He sends his love, and he wishes he could be a part of this.”

Applejack nodded as Twilight continued talking and they entered the mansion together.

This was going to be a difficult vacation.

In another world, in a building fabricated from nothing and located somewhere in the border between fiction and reality, two mares watched the scenes unfold before them.

On one side of an elaborately furnished lounge, Twilight Sparkle glared daggers at the other occupant.

Looking to the windows, which showed a scene of Applejack and Twilight entering the mansion, Golden Wish turned to Twilight, gesturing at the chessboard laid out on the table in the center of the room. The chess pieces in back rows on either side were elaborately carved to resemble Twilight and her friends.

“Well then, Twilight Sparkle. All the pieces are in place now.

“Are you ready to start the game?”

Author's Note:

Thanks to Kalan, Sereg, and JeffCvt for editing!

For info on current chapter release schedule, see here

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