• Published 5th Sep 2017
  • 1,247 Views, 21 Comments

Five First Dates - Sixcardroulette

So, Applejack is in a relationship now... with a human. Hilarity ensues. Sort of.

  • ...

A First Date, or, My Dinner with AJ

It's the middle of the night. The sky is dark, the moon is pale. Save for the occasional hooting owl, it's a quiet night tonight. All across Ponyville, ponies are tucked up in bed, fast asleep, and safely watched over in their dreams.

At Sugar Cube Corner, Pinkie Pie has somehow managed to roll out of bed and across her room without waking herself up, and she's now wedged in the corner, hind legs halfway up the wall, head buried in the rumpled sheets. In her dream, she's bouncing along a rainbow path lined with candy flowers under a fluorescent green sky. A passing rabbit doffs his top hat, and Pinkie giggles and pulls out a tuba to serenade him with a solo. As the tuba starts to play itself and the sky begins to rain marshmallows, Pinkie and the rabbit start to waltz with one another, suddenly and inexplicably surrounded by thousands of singing frogs in a kaleidoscopic parade. From behind a cotton candy knoll, Princess Luna shakes her head, smiles, and moves on.

In her giant cloud condo, Rainbow Dash has a huge smile on her face, as her dreams flit between epic adventures. Rainbow is flying with the Wonderbolts as her sonic rainboom makes the crowd's manes stand on end. Rainbow is kicking and punching an endless series of changelings in the face. Rainbow is charging across a finishing line ahead of her competitors, being presented with a winners' medal by Spitfire herself. Rainbow is swooping in, rescuing Daring Do from a perilous collapsing temple just in the nick of time. Rainbow is... winning a ballroom dancing competition with Tank? Yes, there she is, holding him aloft in his little matching tuxedo, soaking up the audience's applause as the judges give them perfect scores. From the back of the crowd, Princess Luna smiles to herself; she knows Dash will prefer she keep that last one a secret. She returns her coat check ticket, and moves on.

At Fluttershy's cottage, the timid pegasus has exhausted herself looking after her animals, but her well-earned sleep will be a peaceful one; her birds have made sure that she's covered and snug, and even Angel Bunny fluffed up her pillow for her. (He may be a pint-sized sadist, but deep down, he really does care.) In her dream, Fluttershy lazes on her back in a rowboat, drifting down a still, calm river, watching the clouds form familiar shapes as two of her goats row the oars in tandem. The goats' rhythmic rowing forms a kind of soft metronomic beat, and songbirds come to perch on the sides of the boat and quietly sing a subtle lullaby. Hidden among the cows who wave from their pasture, Princess Luna smiles at Fluttershy's expression of contentment and relaxation, and moves on.

At Carousel Boutique, Rarity sprawls in her massive four-poster bed, a sleeping mask over her eyes, an elegant silk kimono draped around her, the effect only slightly spoiled by the dribble of drool accumulating on her pillow. Like Fluttershy, she's earned it; she's worked her hooves to the quick this week, sketching out her entire fall line and making most of the outfits from scratch, including her usual mid-stream changes and on-the-fly improvements. Having scarcely slept all week, she could barely see straight by the time she staggered upstairs, her tiredness evinced by the fact she only took half an hour to get ready before finally collapsing into bed.

Now, in the land of dreams, Rarity holds court at a fancy after-party, where a succession of awestruck ponies queue to compliment her on the elegance and beauty of her new creations - and their creator. A rather young-looking stallion, clearly new to this game, is trying to act sophisticated, applauding the designer's bravura use of innovative textures; Rarity immediately sees he's terrified, and guides the conversation away from her, subtly flirtatious, commending the colt on his bold choice of ascot. As he walks away with a smile and a new-found confident air, Princess Luna smiles too. She puts her empty wine glass on the bar, and moves on.

At Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack... ah. Yes. Well, everything seems fine here. Luna will just leave this dream be for the moment. She'll come back later. Maybe it's time to check in on Fillydelphia.

In the Golden Oak Library, Twilight Sparkle is asleep, face down on a pile of parchment, smearing the last lines she wrote, the ink staining her fur. She dozes peacefully, burbling about infusing gems with crystal magic; her candle has long since burned out, and there's melted wax all over the desk. In time, Spike will wake up and find her like this, and help her to bed so she can sleep properly. He's used to the routine by now.

But just down the corridor, in what used to be a spare closet and is now the guest bedchamber, Matthew Williams isn't asleep. He's staring at the ceiling, wide awake, his eyes tracing the outlines of gnarled tree roots again and again in the gloom as he thinks over the events of earlier in the night.

He knows he should be sleeping; he's not sure what time it is, as it's too dark to see his old-fashioned alarm clock, and he can't just look over at a flashing digital display like he would back in New York. Whatever, it's definitely way, way after midnight. Time to go to sleep. But that isn't on the agenda. Instead, he's just lying on the bed, trying to make sense of it all. His bewildered brain isn't really up to the task.

Every now and again, he'll puff out his cheeks, or mutter a one-word exclamation, before going back to his contemplation of the ceiling.

Damn, says Matt, to nopony in particular.



...This could go on for a while.

Several hours earlier, Matt had been trying to come up with a special home run romantic gesture for his first date with Applejack, something to sweep his beloved marefriend off her feet; something to show her just how much he loves her. Turns out he needn't have worried so much. Applejack is apparently rather better at this stuff than he is, because she'd beaten him to the punch.

Matt enters the old, abandoned barn, and his eyes go wide. AJ has set out a checkered gingham tablecloth over what looks to be an upturned cider crate, with flowers, glasses of water, mugs of cider, plates of food... and candles. There are two little wooden stools on either side of the "table", and AJ is sitting on the far side from him, the flickering orange and yellow light from the candles casting a beautiful glow on her orange and yellow coat, her lovely green eyes twinkling with pride.

He can't believe she went to all this trouble. He can't believe she managed to keep it a secret, not just from him but from Granny and the rest of her family. And most of all, he can't believe she did this for *him*.

"Cat got your tongue there, partner? C'mon and have a seat. Ah didn't do this just fer my own supper."

Matt would love to give her an answer, to let her know how astonished and impressed he is, how blown away he is, but his mouth needs a moment to reconnect with his brain.

"AJ... this... wha... you... and... uh... I... huh?"

No, that was gibberish. Try again. Say something nice. She deserves something nice.


Real smooth, idiot.

Lucky for him, Applejack finds it cute, rather than being disgusted she's landed herself with such a goofball.

"Ah reckon we might be able to work you up to full sentences by the end of the night," she smiles, remembering a story Princess Cadance once told her.

"I... I'm just... Well, speechless."

"Ah noticed", she giggles.

"Applejack... this is perfect."

"Ah'm glad you approve," she says, and flashes him that beautiful smile. "An' ah'm mighty glad you won't spend the whole night mumblin', 'cause that coulda got old real fast."

"I'm just amazed. Have I mentioned lately how much I love you? How you keep on finding new ways to surprise me?", he says as he takes his seat.

"Once or twice," she smirks, and passes him a mug of soft cider.

Applejack is resting on a giant haystack, buffing an apple against her coat until it shines like a polished horse-chestnut. She looks at her reflection in its mirrored surface. She likes what she sees; she looks happy.

A breeze blows in from outside, through the open barn doors, her hat fluttering on its peg, her mussed mane playing in the fresh summer air. Applejack closes her eyes. This is bliss.

"Ah know you're there, Princess," she mutters, without opening her eyes.

"There is no hiding from you, I see," says Princess Luna, coming out of the shadows of the barn.

"Ah figured this was a dream. Ah take it you were here for the, uh, earlier... activities?" She looks up at the Princess.

If Luna were her younger self, if she hadn't spent years travelling through ponies' dreams, seeing almost everything one could possibly imagine, she might have blushed. Instead, she just gives Applejack a smile, and it's the farmpony's turn to blush.

"I thought it best to leave the two of you with your... activities," she explains. "Though Matt himself is not asleep."

"Huh," says Applejack. "That so? Ah musta had quite the effect on him."

"Indeed," says the Princess. "I would have left you alone altogether, but I wanted to make sure you were alright. I can see I have no need for concern. I shall take my leave. Would you like to forget I was here?"

"Uh, Princess?" says Applejack, with some trepidation. "Actually, if it ain't too much trouble, can you fix it so as ah'm dreamin' about mah date again? Ah could stand to have that dream some more."

"As you wish," smiles Luna, and the barn disappears into the æther.

Applejack's heartbeat is thudding in her ears as she trots towards the old barn, and gingerly pushes open the weathered and splintered door.

Behind her, Matt has gone completely silent. She can only hope he's happy; she almost daren't look around to see. Instead, she checks the barn in front of her. The tablecloth is still there, wild animals haven't knocked over the cider or eaten the flowers, the plates of food are still perfectly arranged... Most importantly, the candles haven't set fire to the straw.

Their date can go ahead. If he likes it. Does he like it? Will he like it? Why isn't he saying anything? Is he just being his usual goofy self, or did he have something more formal in mind, more romantic? Was this a stupid idea? She only wanted to do something nice and romantic for him, to show him how much she loves him, even if it's just proving she's capable of being just as corny as he can be.

She looks around, and almost laughs; Matt's vacant and uncomprehending expression kind of reminds her of when it's time to feed the sheep. It's cute, but she'd best not tell him that's what she was thinking; it would probably be taken the wrong way. Time to take the lead and snap him out of it.

"Well?", she asks, trying her best seductive drawl, hoping her nerves don't show through it and bring everything crashing down. "Are ya comin', human, or not?"

Matt hears a noise from Twilight's study, which snaps him out of his reverie. He's about to get up and investigate, but as he opens his bedroom door, he hears Spike leading the half-asleep unicorn to bed.

"Okay, Twilight, that's enough studying for one night. You'll wake up Matt."

"Hrmurble ruby magic mrumble spell brmbrble amethyst in the potion?"

"That's right. Now, into bed you go. Goodnight."

Matt closes the door again and climbs back into his own bed. He still can't sleep. He's still fired up thinking about earlier in the evening.

Everything is different here. If he was back in New York, he'd be able to call Applejack on the phone, or at least send her a text so she wouldn't be woken up at 4am, or whatever time it was. Actually, if he had a phone, he'd be able to check what time it was, and probably decide not to try and call. Actually, if he was back in New York, a lot of people would still be making noise outside at 4am, and also he wouldn't have met Applejack, and he'd have to get up for work in the morning, in a video game store that smelled less of fresh-cut grass and apples, and more of BO and disappointment.

He lost his train of thought for a moment there. Maybe he's getting sleepy after all. Can't stay up all night, want to be bright and fresh for Applejack tomorrow. Mustn't be late, or turn up groggy and rambling. He's sure nopony has ever seen Applejack staggering around half-asleep, bumping into things.

One thing hasn't changed, and that's his still being somewhat prone to screwing up.

"Ah wouldn't do this for just anypony, y'know?" She gives him a smile as wide as a mile. Matt feels his heart skip. Even in the fading light of the sunset, in the dim candlelight of the empty barn, she looks beautiful.

Matt realises he's staring, and decides to try and cut the tension. "I bet you say that to all the stallions", he jokes, but this time Applejack doesn't return his smile.

Quickly, he tries to recover. "I'm sorry", he blurts out, "that's just an expression from back on Earth, it's meant to be a... sort of... joke... but..."

His voice tails off in the darkness. There's an uncomfortably long pause. It's getting noticeably darker outside, so that Matt now can't see her expression so clearly when she leans away from the candles.

"Ah know there weren't no malice in it, Matt. Ah know you better'n that."

She doesn't sound angry, at least. That's something.

"Ah just needed a moment, is all. See, ah never really told you about mah... relationships in the past, and fer good reason. Ah reckon the past is somepony's private business, and furthermore ah reckon y'all could do without hearin' the details of what ah did before ah met you."

"AJ, look, I promise I didn't mean - "

"Let me finish up", she says, quietly. She's still calm, not scolding, not upset.

"Ah have no secrets to keep, but ah don't intend to think about anythin' that happened 'fore now. I may have gotten a tad personal at the dance after all that cider, but it might surprise y'all to know ah try to keep mah, um... romantic life a bit of a secret, even from mah friends, even from mah family."

Applejack isn't just talking to Matt now, she's letting things out which have been locked away for a long time. It's a blessed relief.

"Just because ah'm supposed to be the Element of Honesty, that don't mean everypony gets to read me like an open book. We Apples don't usually go blabbin' to all an' sundry 'bout our private lives. An' so, there's all kinds of things in mah past that nopony knows about, because ah never felt like they needed to know... ah never felt like they needed the burden of knowin'. But you, Matt, you're different, and ah don't wanna have no secrets from you. So if ah haven't told you somethin'... I mean, ah'm happy to answer any an' all questions you got, but..."

Matt reaches out and finds her hoof, and gently draws her towards him, her face illuminated again as the moonlight and candlelight glow around her. She's smiling.

"It's just... Ah don't go doin' this kinda thing for anypony - any stallion. Ah never doodled on mah schoolbooks about who I had a crush on, or headed on over to the spa to gossip about good-lookin' colts with Rarity or whoever else. And now, you got me bouncin' around like a filly. It ain't like me."

She thinks to herself for a moment, and puts a hoof to her chin as she raises her eyebrows and scrunches up her face. It is possibly the most adorable face Matt has ever seen her make."

"Hmmm. Or, ah don't know, maybe this is the real me, the real Applejack. Point of fact, ah never really felt this way 'bout anypony before. An' ah reckon... Ah reckon it's the same for you too, Matt, ain't it? Ah can feel it when we're together, when you look at me, when..."

She looks down at his hand on her hoof.

"...When you touch me. When ah touch you. Ah just feel... safe, ah guess."

"Safe", Matt repeats, mesmerised by her. He doesn't let go of her hoof. "I guess there was a time when... I mean, if a pretty girl said I made her feel safe, I'd be a little disappointed."

"A pretty girl," Applejack repeats. "Ain't been called that in a while. Don't mind hearin' it now, neither."

Now it's his turn to gently hush her, with a finger to her lips.

"But with you? Safe is beautiful. Whenever we're together I just feel like this is right, you know? Like..."

He grimaces at how cheesy he's about to sound, but hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

"Like this is meant to be. Like this is where I'm meant to be. Applejack, I don't care about the past. I care about us, here, now."

She rolls her eyes in mock disgust at his corny romance talk, but her smile lets him know she appreciates the sentiment all the same.

Again, he feels the need to keep talking to fill up the silence. "I mean, here we are, alone, and it's... I just... You're... We..."

She chuckles quietly to herself. This human is undeniably sweet, but it's also funny to see how easily he turns into a rambling dork when they're alone together. It's kind of adorable, actually. Soon enough, he'll learn that he doesn't need to worry about scaring her away, that he can be himself completely, that she likes him for him. Even when he keeps talking.

Applejack wakes up unexpectedly. At first, she worries there's another storm outside, and her first instinct is to run and check Apple Bloom is safe, and then she worries about Matt not staying put inside his lightning-rod protected tree. She's already reaching for her hat and bands when her brain takes over from the adrenaline rush, and she realises there is no storm, it's a peaceful, cloudy night. She looks around her room, quickly adjusting to the dim light; a breeze from the open window has knocked one of her lasso ropes to the floor.

She yawns, relieved, and lies back down. It's not time to get up yet. She'll pick that up later... in the morning...

She snuggles down into her pillow, and tucks the blankets over her again.

...tidy up and wash up... in the morning... before she sees Matt...

She's asleep once more. Whether it's Luna's doing or just her own imagination putting in a double shift, Applejack is back to dreaming about their date again.

He's still talking.

"So, AJ. I know you said the main reason you liked me was because I was nice to you, made you feel special, but..."

She interrupts him with another little giggle.


He stops talking.

"There's more to it than you just bein' nice to me. You get that, right? I mean... OK, that's how ah figured out you might be... interested, sure, but it ain't just that. You're kind to everypony. You're funny. You're sweet. And it's cute when you go all kinda dorky on me when you worry ah don't get you, like what you're doin' right now."

Matt is glad she can't really see him blush in the semi-darkness.

"You're honest, which is kind of a big deal to me, what with mah Element an' all", she continues. Both her hooves are holding both of his hands now. "And ah don't mind admittin' it, ah think you're attractive. Ah never woulda figured I'd be thinkin' of anypony - anyONE - in that kinda way, other than a stallion, but, well... Ah guess you sorta feel likewise? What with mah bein' a pony, an' all, instead of a..."

She pauses, with a raised eyebrow and a quizzical look on her face. "...What d'yer even call the female of humankind, anyways? If'n it's not an insulting kinda question."

Matt breaks into a hearty laugh. He loves this girl; she's taken the conversation out of some murky waters and back to the two of them just being happy in each other's presence, and she probably did it without trying, without even having to think about it.

"AJ, I think I'm the only one who needs to worry about saying stupid things in this relationship," he says as he composes himself. "You're fine just as you are. And we say 'woman'. I sometimes have to stop myself saying it when I'm talking about ponies here. Especially the one I'm crazy about."

Applejack gives him a giggle of her own. "Crazy is right, ah reckon", she says. "Ah spent this morning thinkin' too much about, well, us. What are we doin'? What am I doin'? But, bein' honest - which, as ah said, is kinda mah thing, right? - bein' honest, it don't bother me none at all."

At some point, she's moved around the table to sit next to Matt, and now they're looking at each other in the candlelight.

"Ah just wanna be with you, Matt. Ah don't care for usin' all kinds of fancy explanations as to why our bein' together is happenin'. Ah'm just mighty glad it's happenin'. Every morning, when ah get out of bed, ah think about the chores ah got lined up today, and just knowin' ah'm gonna be seein' you... You're the best part of mah day."

Everypony is asleep at Sweet Apple Acres, and Applejack is having the nicest dream of the whole group.

If Applejack were awake, she'd be thinking about how the evening ended; well, not so much the very end, as Luna has already been treated to a re-enactment of that. Rather, the conversation she and Matt had had as the stars came out.

She'd never admit it to anypony else, but she often felt the pressure to be strong and stoic, like her brother, or fiercely independent, like her granny and her little sister. If she wasn't quite as laconic as Big Mac, and her temper was rather quicker to flare up, she still avoided talking about her feelings, and especially her insecurities.

Until now, that is.

Matt, giant goofball that he is, had blurted out some more nonsense reasons as to why he was scared he wasn't good enough for her. Applejack, giant goofball that she could be, found this astonishing, and instead of comforting him, she'd blurted out her own reasons as to why she was scared she wasn't good enough for him.

More than anything else, that conversation had confirmed in her mind that he, this creature, this human, was the one. The One.

Applejack rolls over in her sleep, and lets out a contented whinny.

"Ah still can't rightly believe ah up and lied to Granny like that. Right to her face. If ah wasn't certain ah'd be puttin' it right straight away, if ah didn't know for absolute certain it was only a little white lie, that nopony would be hurt, that it was just fer us..."

Matt is about to say something; it had taken him completely by surprise as well, and the very notion of Applejack lying had left him somewhat confused; of course, a lot of that confusion had dissipated as soon as AJ slipped her foreleg into his arm, as indeed had most of his other thoughts. Still, AJ feels the need to clarify what she means.

"Y'see, Matt... Ah never mended Twilight's book bag. Ah never even saw it was broken. Ah made up that story."

Matt tries not to laugh, because that was obviously a big deal for Applejack to admit she broke one of the central pillars of her character, and for the sake of their relationship. But still, it was a terrible lie, and the way Applejack had said it, standing up and the dinner table and announcing she needed to go to Ponyville, had been staggeringly obvious. If Granny Smith hadn't bought it, though, she'd done a good job of not letting on.

"Don't worry, AJ," he says, as calmly as he can manage. "I'm sure Granny won't mind as soon as she finds out the real reason. And, like you said, nobody will get hurt."

He holds her close.

"And for whatever it's worth, whilst I don't want you going and betraying your strongest beliefs on my account, I'm glad you did it this time. This is just... I can't imagine a better first date. And I was definitely surprised. In a good way."

She rests her head on his shoulder. "Ah am glad you like it. And ah'm glad you understand."

"It's the best gift you could have given me. And I promise, no more lies, no more sneaking around. If I'm going to be the coltfriend of the Element of Honesty, and the eldest daughter of the Apple family, I'm going to do my best to live up to your standards."

He tails off at that last word, and Applejack senses him noticeably tightening up.

"What's wrong, sugarcube?"

"...Do you mind that Celestia didn't change me into a pony?"

She sits up in surprise. "What? Where's this comin' from?"

"I was just wondering," he asks, clearly nervous again. "Do you regret the decision, not to change me?"

"It was mah choice, weren't it? Sure, ah would have respected you if you'd said no, but ah like you this way. More'n ever, if you want the truth of it."

"I know, it's just... I worry for you. If you'll get... well... don't laugh..."

She wouldn't dream of it. "What is it, Matt?"

"If you'll get bored, or fed up, of what ponies will say about us, and want to go back to, well, ponies."

Applejack laughs, and then quickly remembers Matt asked her not to. Before he can get uncomfortable, she pulls him into an even tighter hug.

"Matthew Williams, you listen here," she says, still laughing. "Ah don't give a rotten apple what other ponies might say. Ah know how ah feel about you. Ah like you for you, pure an' simple. And when ah say you make me feel special, it ain't just because you act nice to me, and it ain't because you're the only human in this world and ya chose me. Though that's nice, don't get me wrong. But you make me feel special because you appreciate me for bein' me."

Matt hasn't loosened his grip on her, but somehow, she feels the warmth radiating out of him at her words. She can't believe he's got it this bad, just for her.

"D'you know why ah laughed just now?", she asks, still resting on his shoulder. "Ah weren't laughin' at you, Matt. Ah laughed because ah was havin' the same kinds of worries and fusses and all. You worry ah'm gonna think you ain't good enough for me someday? Ah worry you'll think I ain't good enough for you, sugarcube."

"What are you talking about, Applejack? You're... There's not... I can't even."

"Ah can play the society pony, as you saw. But ah hate that stuff. Ah prefer gettin' dirty, workin' up a sweat after a long day's work in the fields. Bein' a farmer... it's not just mah job, Matt. It's mah destiny."

She pulls away, and points to the three red apples on her flank, before continuing.

"But it ain't yours, Matt. There are ponies all over Equestria whose life dreams and destinies don't got anythin' to do with buckin' apples, or tillin' fields, or feedin' pigs. Aren't you apt to get bored of this life you weren't born to? Don't you see ah worry your head might be turned by some of them other ponies, who don't just kick apples off a tree? Ponies who are more refined...? Prettier? Cleverer?"

Matt is silent for a moment, and then he smiles.

"Applejack", he says softly. "Those other ponies? Prettier? Cleverer? Than you? They don't exist. I only wish you could see yourself the way I see you."

"Ah wish the same thing," she says, softly.

Matt and Applejack look into each other's eyes for a moment, the candlelight flickering on the walls. Neither of them says it, but both of them feel it; their insecurities have all but melted away in the face of their beloved looking longingly back at them.

She loves him so much.

He loves her so much.

The electricity in the air, the tension that's been building up all through their date, suddenly sparks to life.

They grab on to each other for a frenzied, passionate kiss, hands and hooves and tail and legs everywhere. But this time, instead of diving into the nearest pile of hay or tackling each other to the floor, things slow down, becoming softer, more tender, the kisses longer and more considered, the touching less urgent. Their breathing is heavy as they hold each other, listening to their thundering heartbeats above the roar of blood in their ears.

They lie against the barn wall in a comfortable embrace. Neither of them has to say it; nothing more is going to happen for the moment. It's dark outside now, and pretty soon the other Apples will be wondering where AJ is. But there's no disappointment. They have all the time in the world. Together.

After a long pause, Matt once again decides to break the tension. "Probably best if we don't start rolling around by a naked flame in a pile of hay in a wooden barn," he jokes. This time, Applejack joins in too, giving that droll Southern chuckle as she gently wipes Matt's brow with her hoof.

"Ah reckon you're right on that score, sugarcube," she laughs. "And besides, ah spent all afternoon makin' this food, an' here we are just talkin' and kissin' and lettin' it all go cold."

Matt holds her close and kisses her forehead.

"Ah may be in love, but ah was always taught never to waste good eating", she says.

Matt is momentarily thrown off guard by her comment. She's in love. She's said it before, of course, but not just dropping it off-handedly into the conversation like that. Does she even know what she just said?

She's smiling at him. He's learning the difference between her many smiles. This one is one of his favourites, a playful smirk with a gleam in her eye beyond the candlelight; she's in on a joke, and she's waiting for him to catch up. Oh yeah, she knows exactly what she said alright.

"I love you too, Applejack", he says. She smiles, and pushes an apple fritter into his mouth.

"Ah know, Matt. Ah know."

Matt's thoughts are getting fuzzier and hazier as he starts to succumb to the need for sleep. He thinks back to when he asked for her thoughts on where the relationship was going. He's not thinking about how Applejack dealt with his worries, exactly, but more about how he felt comfortable enough to voice them to her in the first place.

She's amazing, he thinks, as his eyelids start to droop. I'm the luckiest man in the world. Well, I'm the only man in this world, but... wow.

Only one guttering candle remains alight. The food is all gone, the soft cider has been drunk, and Applejack and Matt are cuddled up in a corner of the barn, pleasantly full. As is becoming habit, AJ is resting on Matt's chest. As is becoming habit, Matt is stroking her coat, and his fingers keep making their way to a little fluff of fur just below AJ's neck.

"You really like playin' with that bit of fluff, huh, don't you?", she asks, teasingly, without looking up. "Ah never can get it to stay down with the rest of mah coat. Whatever ah do, it don't matter none, it always just kinda... poofs up again. Ah've tried brushin' it, trimmin' it, even borrowed some of Big Mac's pomade one time... never makes no difference."

"Well, I'm glad," he replies. "I think it's beautiful. Sue me, I think you're beautiful," he replies.

"Oh, no, how terrible," she giggles. "Well, ah don't mind you likin' it. When you run your fingers through mah coat, or over mah cutie mark, or, yes, when yer playin' with that fluff there, it's like nothin' ah've ever felt before."

She looks up at him now.

"Yes, ah've had coltfriends in the past," she says, looking at him earnestly. She's letting him know she's okay with talking about this now. She's the one who brought it up, not him. "...But none of 'em had fingers."

Matt laughs. "I thought you were going to say something cheesy and romantic, there, like I would have done."

Applejack is laughing too. "Like what, sugarcube? 'Oh, Matt, you're the only one in all of Equestria who can make me feel like ah do right now'? Nope. Ah mean, sure, that's true..."

She's climbed up on top of him now.

"...But naw, mostly, it's all about the hands."

She leans in for a kiss, and Matt is happy to oblige.

"So what did ya think of our first proper date, Mr Williams?", she asks coyly as they break the kiss. "Was ah worth waitin' for?" She kisses his neck. "Or do ya not want to judge until the date is officially over, huh?"

She whispers in his ear. "If you ain't had yer fill of apple pie for one night, that is."

Matt blows out the candle.

All is quiet in Ponyville, and Matt is finally, finally drifting off to sleep. As he closes his eyes once and for all, and the bed melts and the room starts to dissolve, he's blissfully happy. Still, one lingering question floats around just before disappearing down the whirlpool of his thoughts.


His fuzzy mind tries, and fails, to grasp the thread of his question, but fragments of ideas loom and retreat. AJ has very little time to herself, which was the whole problem in the first place. And Matt was with her most of the day Saturday, less the time she spent baking in the kitchen ready for market. And when they got to the barn, the table was already laid, and the candles were already lit.

How did Applejack put this togethzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz?

"Thanks fer seein' me," says Applejack, nervously. "Ah hope you know, ah would never normally bother you over somethin' so personal, but ah need your help."

The guard ponies are doing their best not to eavesdrop, but they can't help glancing at each other, wondering at the farmpony's lack of deference. Beyond a simple bow and a doffing of her stetson when she came in, Applejack hasn't shown any of the usual formal etiquette.

They needn't have worried.

"Of course, Applejack. As soon as I received your letter, I was happy to help. In fact, I am honoured you came to me."

Princess Celestia smiles good-naturedly, and motions for Applejack to take a seat.

"Now, before we make any plans, I would like to hear your thoughts on a few ideas of my own. But first, my dear, let me offer you some tea."