• Published 29th Dec 2015
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Lost Time - bookplayer



When Rainbow tries to change the course of the zap apple harvest to keep her date with Applejack, she finds that ancient magic loves an ironic twist.

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Yesterday and Today

The next morning, things were not back to normal. Rainbow woke up confused; while the bed she had slept in was comfortably fluffy, it clearly was not a cloud, and the room she woke up in was not in a cloud house. The events of the previous day came back to her, and she hugged Tank and considered just staying in bed. If she got out, she’d have to face a world she didn’t recognize, and another day of looking like an idiot as she tried to figure out what the hay was going on.

Of course, that seemed to be her life for the foreseeable future. Maybe she could just stay in bed forever.

She doubted Applejack was going to go for that, and she turned out to be correct. It wasn’t long before Applejack called for her to come down to breakfast, and Rainbow walked into a busy kitchen where Applejack was putting food on a table that seemed to be swarming with foals.

“Cider, get your mouth off that!” Applejack said, barely looking over her shoulder as the filly stopped with her mouth halfway to the stack of pancakes.

“I was just gonna put some on my plate!” Cider protested.

Leaf was sitting next to Sky’s highchair, distracting him by tossing a ball in the air, but he stopped as soon as he caught sight of Rainbow. “Mom! Are you feeling better? Do you remember stuff again?”

Applejack’s ears perked up as she flipped another stack of pancakes off the stove.

Rainbow sighed and sat down on an empty chair. “‘Nope.”

“Aww, sugar, it’ll be okay.” Applejack brought the last plate of pancakes to the table with a slight frown. “We’ll get by, we always— darn it, Sky! Dash, could you?” She nodded to where the baby pegasus had flown out of his highchair, and was hovering in the corner, grinning.

“Huh?” Rainbow said.

“Get him down,” Applejack said, sighing. “Whoever thought babies oughta know how to fly oughta have a cutie mark in bad ideas.”

“I’ll get him, Mama!” Cider said, flying out of her seat. Applejack caught her by the tail just before she upset a pitcher of orange juice that was sitting on the table.

“You sit down, missy.” Applejack said, through her clenched teeth. “Dash?”

“Oh, right. On it.” Rainbow flew up to the corner of the room and grabbed the kid. He wasn’t particularly happy to have his playtime interrupted, and he squirmed and whined all the way back to his highchair. Once there, Applejack distracted him with a pancake.

“Dig in, y’all,” she said.

The kids and Rainbow grabbed for food. Rainbow got her plate full first, and captured the bottle of syrup just before Leaf grabbed it.

“Sheesh, Mom, you didn’t have to take it out of my hoof,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“I guess you oughta be faster, then.” Rainbow smirked as she coated her pancakes.

Applejack shot Rainbow a glare.

Rainbow frowned and handed the syrup to the kid, muttering “It wasn’t like I was gonna keep it or anything.”

“You sure you’re gonna be okay today, watchin’ the kids?” Applejack asked as she took some pancakes from the remaining stack and waited for the syrup.

“Sure,” Rainbow said, shrugging. “How hard could it be?” She took a bite of pancakes.

“Mama!” Cider said urgently. “I got syrup in my mane!”

Rainbow looked over, and the end of the filly’s ponytail was covered in syrup. It looked like she must have poured it right over the hair.

Applejack gave a heavy sigh. “Over to the sink, let’s wash that out.”

“How the hay did that happen? Did she not see her mane there?” Rainbow asked Leaf.

“Mom,” Leaf said, giving her a poke on the wing.

“What? It’s hard to do that on accident, doesn’t everypony look at their pancakes when they’re pouring syrup on them?”

“No, Mom, Sky.” Leaf pointed to the ceiling.

Rainbow looked up to see the baby whiz past towards the living room. “Shoot.” She flew after him and caught him by the tail, dragging him back to the breakfast table.

After she plopped the kid back in his highchair, Rainbow stared at him. “How do we make him not do that?”

Leaf just stared at her, confused. “He always does that.”

“Well that’s gotta change.” Rainbow thought for a moment, then called across the room. “Hey AJ, do we have any duct tape?”

“In the barn. Why?” Applejack said as she rinsed Cider’s mane.

“We could tape this kid to his chair,” Rainbow suggested.

Applejack’s head snapped up. “Rainbow Dash. Ya’ can’t duct tape a baby!”

“Did Mommy ever duck tape me, Mama?” Cider asked.

“Of course she didn’t, half pint. Your mom’s just kiddin’. Right, Dash?” Applejack said without looking over.

“Uh… sure,” Rainbow said, furrowing her brow. “What about tying him down?”

Leaf snorted a laugh.

“What?” Rainbow asked him.

“You’re not kidding?” His mouth dropped open.

“Ha. Nah, I’m totally kidding.” Rainbow gave a grin that she hoped would save her. Now that she thought about it, she’d never seen a pegasus foal tied down, so there was probably a reason for that? It seemed like an awesome idea.

Leaf just shook his head, smiling, as Applejack and Cider returned to the table. Cider sat down and dug right into her pancakes, while Applejack finished fixing her own plate and took a bite. As she chewed, she was looking at Rainbow with a worried expression.

“What?” Rainbow asked, her own mouth full of pancake.

Applejack swallowed. “I could get Fluttershy, see if she could bring her kids over here and help ya’ out.”

Cider and Leaf groaned in unison.

“Not Fluttershy, Ma. Anypony but Fluttershy,” Leaf said, waving his hooves theatrically.

“We’ll be extra good for Mommy!” Cider added with an angelic smile.

Applejack glared at the foals. “Both of y’all cut that out! Fluttershy is our friend, and she’s a grown up pony, and I won’t have y’all actin’ like that.”

“But she’s so boring!” Leaf whined.

“Yeah, everything’s too dangerous!” Cider said, rolling her eyes. “Flying is too dangerous, going outside is too dangerous, seeing if we can build a catapult big enough to launch Sky is too dangerous…”

Rainbow snickered.

“Dash!” Applejack snapped, turning her glare on Rainbow.

“What?” Rainbow shrugged. “The kids have a point. Fluttershy would be a totally boring babysitter.”

“She knows how to handle foals, and she knows the kids.” Applejack frowned. “And I still ain’t convinced you ain’t gonna need some help.”

“What about Twilight? Or… maybe Pinkie Pie is in town?” Cider suggested.

“Ma, I can totally help Mom,” Leaf said, sitting up straight with a serious expression.

Rainbow smiled. “AJ, I can handle this.”

Applejack hesitated for a few moments. “Okay. But stay on the farm, and if the fourth sign comes up, take cover. And if there’s any problems I want somepony to come find me right away.” She turned and narrowed her eyes at Leaf. “Ya’ hear that, Leaf? Right. Away. Before you go stickin’ your muzzle in it.”

He nodded. “Yes, Ma.”

“Right, then.” She sighed and gave one last worried look at Rainbow. “I guess I oughta get movin’.”

“Have fun, Mama!” Cider said, leaning over to give her a nuzzle.

Leaf shoveled the last of his pancakes into his mouth. “Love ya’, Ma.”

“Relax.” Rainbow leaned back, waving her hoof. “Go farm some apples.”

Applejack shook her head and sighed, and headed out towards the zap apple orchard.

Once she was gone, Rainbow looked around the table. “Okay, so… what are we gonna do today?”

“I made up a new trick.” Leaf cocked his head to the side. “How are your wings after the crash yesterday?”

“Ready to fly! Let’s see what you’ve got.” Rainbow stretched her wings. Of course her kids wanted to watch her show off her flying, they were probably raised to know awesome. This mom thing would be a breeze.

“Can me and Sky watch from a cloud?” Cider grinned, bouncing in her chair.

Rainbow shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”

Leaf nodded. “We’d better go to the east orchard, so Ma doesn’t catch us.”

“Yeah… right…” Rainbow said, a slight frown crossing her face. That sorta sounded like AJ wouldn’t like their plans. But… AJ was probably a worry wart. Like wanting Fluttershy to come help. It was pretty clear that Rainbow was the awesome mom.

That made Rainbow smirk. They just wouldn’t let AJ catch them.

"I can make a picnic lunch!” Cider said, flying out of her seat and opening cabinets.

Rainbow nodded. “That sounds good!”

“Mom. Sky,” Leaf said.

Rainbow looked around to see the kid flying out of the room. “Shoot!”

They spent the next few minutes getting ready to go out. Rainbow figured out how to put on the foal carrier, only getting tangled up once, and got Sky into it. Leaf went upstairs and came down with his Wonderbolts saddlebags on, and Cider flew out of the kitchen with a big picnic basket, which she slid on Rainbow’s back.

They made their way to a spot where the apple trees opened up over a field of some kind of crop; wheat or oats or hay, Rainbow didn’t know what it was. Leaf sat by the treeline and pulled out a notebook, and Cider spread out a picnic blanket.

Cider and Sky played in the tree branches while Rainbow sat down next to Leaf to look over his notes.
She had to admit, they were awesome. They were designed for her, so they were all blow-your-feathers-off, Wonderbolts-level stunts. She squinted at one and followed the notes in her head.

“Uh… this one’s impossible. Even I can’t make that turn.”

“Sure you can.” He pointed to a note on the list of steps. “If you come out of the flip at the right angle, the momentum is still there to give you a push.”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “But if you come out at the wrong angle, you fly into the ground and break your neck.”

Leaf smirked. “Then don’t come out at the wrong angle.”

“That’s the sign of a great trick.” Rainbow grinned. “What else ya’ got?”

“Well, I originally designed it to go into the Buccaneer Blaze, but last night I was thinking… if you went into this one.” He turned to one of the most recent pages. “I haven’t named it yet, but you could come out on your way to the top of the sky, to do a Rising Star, or a Comet Burst, or—”

“Or a sonic rainboom! Oh wow, that would look awesome!” Rainbow squealed.

As she read through the trick again her wings barely twitched, mimicking the adjustments they would make as she flew. She noticed she was doing it, then looked at the number of full pages in the notebook and shook her head in awe. “How do you do all this on paper?”

Leaf hesitated. “Mom, what happened yesterday?”

Rainbow panicked inwardly, she’d said something wrong again. But she kept her cool and shrugged. “Nothing. Just a crash, ya’ know?”

“Something’s weird with you.” Leaf frowned. “Like, you know how I do this. You always helped me, and— now you’re asking me how I do it?”

“I didn’t mean it like that!” Rainbow said quickly. “I meant… um… you’re just so awesome at it! Like, this is totally cutie mark territory, I don’t even know how you don’t have one yet.” She shook her head and turned the page, looking for something else to talk about. “Wow. This is a whole squad routine.”

Leaf looked down at the grass and smoothed it nervously with a hoof. “Just messing around.”

Rainbow grinned and nudged him with her foreleg. “I’m surprised the Wonderbolts aren’t using it yet.”

His head snapped up, frowning. “You promised.”

Rainbow bit her lip. She was back in dangerous territory, but promises were important, and she didn’t want to break one she didn’t know about. “Uh… remind me?”

“You promised you’d never tell them about these. Or anypony else.” He crossed his forelegs, glancing away. “Not until I get my cutie mark.”

“Nopony else has seen these?” She looked at him, her head tilted in confusion. “Are you nuts?”

He shook his head. “They’re not ready yet. When I get my cutie mark, I’ll do one that’s really amazing, and then you can show that one to the Wonderbolts.”

Rainbow frowned at the notebook. Some of the stuff in here was as good as what the Wonderbolts were doing… well, what they’d been doing fifteen years ago at least. Unless things got really wild in the time she was missing, she was pretty sure ponies would want to see this. But hey, they were his tricks, and it wasn’t like she’d even get to do them as a Wonderbolt…

She sighed.

“I’m getting better,” Leaf insisted. “It’ll be soon.”

“Huh?” Rainbow stared at him, suddenly pulled from her self-pity.

“I know you wanna show them,” he said with a sad smile. The he swallowed and frowned at the notebook. “I just— I want the tricks I show them to be as awesome as your flying, Mom.”

Rainbow furrowed her brow. What the hay was the kid talking about? These were already awesome, and when a pony could do something awesome, they should show it off. If they got more awesome later, even better. And it wasn’t like ponies would think it was the best he could do, the kid didn’t even have a cutie mark yet.

But she didn’t wanna stick her hoof in her mouth again, so she shook her head. “Hey, don’t sweat it. Let’s put together a quick routine here, I’m dying to get in the air.”

Leaf and Rainbow spent the morning looking through the notebook, talking through a killer series of his tricks. Rainbow wished she had more of an audience than just the kids, she was going to look awesome. She always loved the prospect of looking awesome, and the more excited she got, the more Leaf’s eyes lit up and the faster he talked, tossing ideas at her and making notes for new ones to figure out. Rainbow couldn’t help getting lost in a conversation about flying.

After a while, Cider and Sky landed. Rainbow was kind of surprised to see them, which she had to admit probably wasn’t a great thing when she was supposed to be in charge. But they were both in one piece.

“Lunch time!” Cider announced, sticking her head in the picnic basket she’d packed.

Rainbow glanced at Leaf and shrugged. “Sounds like a good idea. Flying takes fuel, after all!” She turned to Cider. “So, what’s for lunch?”

“Mama’s fritters, and Mama’s apple crisp, and Mama’s donuts that she hides in case I get into the fritters and apple crisp, special Cider Splash sandwiches!” Cider explained, laying out the food around the blanket. “See, you take two of Mama’s cookies and fill them with Mama’s apple butter.” The filly demonstrated, taking a bite out of the result.

Leaf leaned over and whispered, “The sandwiches are pretty sweet. I’d go with Ma’s baking.”

He got himself some apple crisp, while Sky grabbed a fritter and started muching.

“Uh… yeah.” Rainbow raised an eyebrow. She was pretty sure Pinkie Pie would be jealous of the amount of sugar here. “Shouldn’t you have packed something besides dessert?”

Cider replied with her mouth full. “It’s all got apples in it. Mama says there’s nothing healthier than apples!”

Rainbow shook her head and shrugged, grabbing a fritter. It sounded reasonable, when she put it like that. All the kids were getting fed, at least.

“Mom’s gonna do some of my tricks for us soon!” Leaf told his siblings.

“Oooh!” Cider squealed. “And we get to sit on a cloud, right?”

“Sure thing.” Rainbow grinned and nodded. This taking care of foals thing was easy.

They finished eating and Rainbow grabbed a cloud for Cider and Sky. She set it over the trees, far enough back that she could use all the air over the open field and not worry about knocking them off. The pegasus foals flew up and bounced on the fluffy mass a few times before settling in.

Leaf sat on the ground by the edge of the field. As Rainbow flew into the open air to get in place, she wondered if he minded being the only one of them without wings. It was a tough break, the kid probably would’ve loved to fly. But even from the air she could see the huge grin on his face, so it didn’t seem to get him down.

Rainbow turned her attention to flying, doing a quick run through of some of the tougher new tricks before starting on the routine they’d worked out. They worked great, he’d figured out just the right number of wingbeats to pick up speed, and the momentum pushed her to the natural but unexpected next point once her form was right. When she had those down, she got ready to put it all together.

She looked down and gave Leaf a quick salute, which he returned, and she grinned as she set off.

Twisting and flying through the air felt more right than she had since her crash yesterday. She focused on that feeling of weightless tumbling, and the adrenaline of waiting for exactly the right moments to adjust, pulling her up seconds before the impact of hard earth, or sending her spinning while her wings wrestled forces for control.

The sky hadn’t changed, and she loved it. She’d loved flying from her very first memories as a foal, and she’d love it until she died. As she pushed her body and beat her wings, the air rushing through her mane and feathers, it didn’t matter how old she was, or if she had kids or not, or what she could remember. All that mattered was she was there, and the sky was there, and they were doing awesome things together.

Leaf watched her the whole time, he barely moved. The grin stayed on his face, but she could practically see the gears turning in his head, taking apart every move she made and building new ones. It made her extra careful to keep her form right; not only should he see everything exactly the way it should be done, but she had to guess he’d spot it right away if she got lazy with her leg or tail positions. But that made the flight even better, giving her a good reason to be on top of her game. No wonder her body was in such good shape after having a kid.

She could’ve stayed in the air for hours, but she was just about to finish the routine after about twenty minutes when she saw it happen.

Cider was distracted, she had been for the past few minutes, looking over the edge of the cloud at the tops of apple trees below. Sky was pulling off pieces of cloud to chew on, like any of them might taste different from any other. Cider didn’t notice Sky crawl under her hooves until she tried to take a step back, then she lunged forward to keep from stepping on her brother, falling head first over the edge of the cloud.

She shouted, and her wings sprung open, but she didn’t catch air.

Rainbow flipped in the air and zoomed for the ground under the treeline where Cider had almost instantly disappeared. There was a few seconds of branches whipping her face and wings, and then her forelegs were full of the little brown filly. She was close enough to the ground to use her hooves to brake, skidding to a stop among the trees.

Panting, Rainbow looked down at Cider.

The filly blinked up at her, then started to sob, wrapping her forelegs around Rainbow’s neck. “Mommy, I was scared, and my wings didn’t work right, and I fell, and the trees hurt, and—”

“Hey, you’re okay. I got ya’. Dives can be tricky, especially if you weren’t ready.” Rainbow noticed Cider had scratches all over her face and neck; she was bleeding on Rainbow’s coat. Or, at least some it it was Cider, Rainbow had a few scrapes herself.

“Mom!” Leaf yelled, running over. “Is Cider okay?”

Cider was starting to calm down, sniffling and wiping her face on Rainbow’s coat.

Rainbow nodded.“Yeah, she’s—”

Suddenly Cider wailed again, and the waterworks returned. “I have an owie! Mommy, I’m hurt!”

Rainbow sighed. “It’s just a few scratches. You’re fine.”

Cider shook her head and gasped, “I’m not fine, Mommy! I need a bandaid!”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “Come on, kid. Stop crying. I saved you.”

Cider answered by crying even louder. By now she sounded like she’d lost a limb, it’d be amazing if AJ didn’t hear it across the farm. Rainbow looked at her again, but she definitely wasn’t hurt. Rainbow had seen kittens do more damage to a pony than the fall had done to Cider.

Rainbow looked at Leaf with a confused shrug.

Leaf nodded, then said, “Hey, Cider, you knocked down, like, a hundred apples.”

“I did?” Cider looked up, the crying stopping right away. She gave a few leftover sobs, but she was blinking and looking around.

“Yup. Look over there,” Leaf motioned to where Cider and Rainbow had both crashed through the apple trees, and the ground was littered with fruit.

Cider smiled and wiped her eyes with the back of her hoof. “Do ya’ think Mama will let me help with harvest this year?”

Rainbow regarded the suddenly sunny filly in her forelegs with the flattest look she could give. “Probably not by falling on your face.”

“And not if she finds out you were on a cloud without Mom,” Leaf added. “We need to figure out something else to tell Ma.”

Rainbow blinked, suddenly remembering the whole not-letting-AJ-catch-them thing. “She’s not supposed to be on a cloud?”

Leaf nodded. “It’s against the rules.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that!?” Rainbow asked both of the foals, waving a hoof.

Leaf shrugged, his eyes wide. “I thought you knew! You and Ma made the rules!”

“Great. Just great.” Rainbow smacked her hoof to her face. “Okay, what do we tell AJ?”

“You could tell her you took us to pick blackberries,” Leaf suggested. “Cider always gets her face scratched up picking blackberries. But you’d need to figure out how you got scratched too.”

Rainbow nodded. “I’ll tell her a branch snapped back and caught me in the face.”

“If we were picking blackberries, we’d have blackberries to eat,” Cider said, pouting. “Now I want blackberries.”

“Good point.” Rainbow turned to Leaf. “Can you run into town and buy some blackberries?”

“Sure.” Leaf nodded.

Rainbow grinned. “Great. I’ll take Cider back to the house and we’ll get cleaned up. And when AJ gets home, we were picking blackberries all day.”

“What about Sky?” Leaf asked, looking up.

Rainbow blinked. Then it hit her. “Shoot! I’ll get him, you get the blackberries.”

Rainbow set Cider down and took off for the cloud, as Leaf ran off towards town.

***

That evening, Applejack seemed to buy the story hook, line, and sinker. Rainbow was surprised, Applejack’s lie-detector was usually better than that, but she wasn’t about to complain. Of course, AJ might have been distracted, because it turned out their picnic lunch had consisted of every sweet in the house. Since Cider was hurt that only earned her a stern word or two, and Rainbow got off with an exasperated look and a few grumbles.

Other than that, the evening was peaceful. Applejack made a blackberry and apple pie, and Rainbow found the shelf with her Daring Do books, starting with the oldest one she couldn’t remember. Leaf and Cider played a board game on the floor, though they spent most of their time keeping pieces away from Sky.

All in all it wasn’t a bad time. Sure, the kids were kinda noisy and distracting, but there was pie, so it evened out. And after a while AJ went upstairs to put the kids to bed, and even the noise died down.

Rainbow was still reading when Applejack came back down. But all of a sudden the quiet stopped.

“Rainbow Dash, why would you leave those babies alone on a cloud?” Applejack asked.

Rainbow looked up, her eyes wide. Applejack’s mouth was set in firm line, and her eyes were narrowed.

“Cider told me,” Applejack added.

Rainbow rolled her eyes and set her book aside. “That snitch!”

Applejack frowned. “She ain’t a snitch, she just told her mama the truth.”

“That’s, like, the definition of snitching,” Rainbow explained.

“Well it was the right thing to do, and what you shoulda done from the start!” Applejack snapped. “Why in Equestria would ya’ let her do that?”

Rainbow shrugged. “I didn’t know she wasn’t allowed!”

“She’s a little kid! You think she’s gonna pay attention to the edge of a cloud and how fast she’s gotta start flappin when she falls off it?” Applejack asked, sitting in a chair and crossing her forelegs.

“She’s a pegasus! Pegasus foals play on clouds!” Rainbow waved a hoof for emphasis. “I only played on clouds when I was her age.”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Yeah, but you lived in Cloudsdale. She’s lived on the ground her whole life.”

Rainbow frowned. “She should be able to handle it.”

“She poured syrup on her mane this mornin’, Dash,” Applejack pointed out. “I know ya’ didn’t mean for anypony to get hurt, but you’re the grown-up, you gotta think ‘bout this stuff. We talked about this before, and we decided after flight camp she oughta be good enough with her wings to handle herself.”

“Fluttershy fell off a cloud at flight camp,” Rainbow muttered.

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “So ya’ thought Cider oughta practice fallin’ off clouds? We had to make a decision, and that’s what we decided on to keep the kids safe. If you don’t think that’s right, you gotta talk to me, not just go behind my back and try to hide it when it didn’t work out how ya’ thought. We need to be able to trust each other.”

Rainbow sighed. It wasn’t her fault that Cider didn’t know how to pull out of a dive. Well, maybe it kinda was, but only because she should have taught her way before this. The kid was going to flight camp. Sure, she didn’t seem to care about flying, and she didn’t totally suck at it or anything, but the last thing they needed was for her to turn out to be a basket case like Fluttershy.

“Has she ever been to Cloudsdale?” Rainbow asked.

“A few times.” Applejack hesitated. “Maybe you oughta take her up before camp and show her around?”

Rainbow smiled. “That sounds good.”

Applejack smiled too, and she seemed to relax a little. “Better make it soon, I don’t wanna be stuck dealin’ with Sky on zap apple harvest day, and Cider ain’t gonna wanna miss the jammin’. She looks forward to it all year.”

“So you… uh… don’t know when the zap apples will come?” Rainbow glanced at the walls and floor, anywhere but at Applejack. She still couldn’t quite believe she’d permanently thrown who knew how many years of magic out of whack.

“Not for fifteen years.” Applejack gave a snort. “It’s a right pain in the tail, all this waitin’ with only one day to harvest. But magic is as magic does.”

“I guess.” Rainbow said. Sometimes magic was as pegasi did. But she had a great reason, and at least that had worked out. Sort of. Of course, she wasn’t sure exactly how...

“AJ, what was our first date like?”

Applejack smiled at Rainbow. She gave a happy sigh, and settled into her chair. “I dunno that it was the best night I ever had, but it was up there on the list. It was real simple, we went to that old cafe that used to be in town for supper—”

“The cafe closed? They had the best tulip sandwiches!”

Applejack nodded. “The fella that ran it moved to Hoof City. Me and you went there the last day they were open. It was sad to see it go. Anyhow, we had dinner there that evenin’, then we stopped by the park, cause the Ponytones were rehearsin’. That was my idea, I figured you wouldn’t try nothin’ in front of Mac. We listened to them for a bit, then you said you had somethin’ special to show me.”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow.

“I was kinda nervous, but I trusted you. And you took me back here to the farm, to one of the big hills, where you had a blanket laid on top. Then, we talked.”

“Talked?” Rainbow furrowed her brow. What kind of pony just wanted to talk to a hot mare like AJ?

“Yup. With words and everythin’. “ Applejack chuckled. “It started off bein’ about how great you were, so I just let you talk. Then the real stuff started comin’ out.”

Rainbow regarded her suspiciously.

Applejack tilted her head, still smiling. “You just told me all about you, about why you wanted to be a Wonderbolt, and the kinda pony you try to be, but you know you ain’t, sometimes. And that scared ya’.”

Rainbow’s cheeks started to feel hot as she opened her mouth to protest, but Applejack cut her off.

“I understood ya’, Dash,” she said in a soft, firm voice that made Rainbow relax. “And I told ya’ the kinda pony I try to be, and how hard it can be to know I ain’t always that pony inside, even if I am outside. And… I’ll hurt myself that way, but I’m too scared to show it. And you got me.”

Rubbing the back of her neck, Rainbow had to look away from Applejack. There was something in her eyes, like she expected Rainbow to say something —or know something — and Rainbow didn’t even know where to start.

Applejack went on, “And then, the fourth sign for the zap apples came, the meteor shower, and we were so high up it was like we were in the middle of it. And you took my hoof, and looked me right in the eye, and you said, ‘AJ, if you wanna date me, sometimes I might do dumb stuff. But I promise I’ll always come through for you in the end.’ And I knew you meant it. And… I knew I was fallin’ in love with you.”

Rainbow’s eyes went wide. “On our first date?”

Applejack just stared with a faraway look in her eyes. “There was somethin’ about you that night. We got each other, and the more we talked, the more it was like we’d always known, but it was a surprise at the same time. Love’s another kind of magic, and I figured that’s what it was.”

“Do you think it was me who did that?” Rainbow asked with a frown. She was thinking about all the stuff Twilight said, about her brain getting switched, or somehow going back there knowing what she knew now.

Applejack looked at Rainbow, and the smile fell from her face. She sighed, then said, “I dunno. I feel like I don’t know nothin’ anymore.”

Rainbow snorted. “You and me both.”

“I reckon I oughta go to bed.” Applejack stood up and headed for the stairs. “Turn out the lights when ya’ come up.”

“G’night,” Rainbow said, but there was no answer.

Rainbow looked after her. She hadn’t meant to make AJ confused, but… well, this was confusing. She was just trying to figure things out. Not that knowing all that made anything more clear, it just added to the pile of stuff that made no sense.

She sighed and picked up her Daring Do book. At least she always understood what Daring did and why she did it. She tore through another five chapters before she decided she’d better get to bed.

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