• 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.

  • ...

Southern Comforts

APPLEJACK sips her tea, trying hard not to slurp too loudly from the delicate china cup. She places the cup back in the saucer as softly as she can, but her hooves feel clumsy and rough. She can show amazing dexterity cutting turf and swinging a scythe, not to mention playing her guitar and banjo... but right now, she feels like she's wearing huge, ungainly oven mitts. Her hoof rattles the crockery as she flinches; she looks up at her hostess to see if she's getting away with it, or whether her inadvertent nerves are being picked up on.

Princess Celestia smiles kindly. She has more than a thousand years of experience putting ponies at ease in her presence, many of them far less refined - or eager to appear refined - than Applejack. Moreover, Applejack is more than just another pony; she's the bearer of the Element of Honesty, one of the heroes who returned her sister to her, and saved Equestria... twice... and, most of all, she's a friend. Celestia decides to break the silence by going first.

"So... Matt came to see me a few weeks ago, asking me not to transform him into a pony. I assume you know this already," she smiles. Applejack nods in confirmation.

Celestia now hesitates for a moment before continuing. "Do you... know what else we discussed?"

"Yes ma'am. Ah believe he gave you that giant letter he'd been working on, tellin' you all about how we... uh... got together, an' such."

(Applejack's cheeks redden at this point, but Celestia says nothing, and instead politely sips her tea while waiting for her guest to continue.)

"...He, uh, said he asked for your blessing, after a fashion. He was wanting to know how you'd feel about him, uh, dating a... pony."

Celestia smiles again. "Quite so. I have to admit, I was very impressed with what he had to say. He seemed to understand the sacrifices you would be making, and did not treat them lightly."

There is a pause.



Matt wipes the sweat from his brow before hoisting another bushel of apples onto the wagon. It's a hot day, again, and the work never stops; and the days when he's far from her side are the toughest ones to get through. Still, he shows up every day and puts in as much effort as ever. As he's long since come to realise, although the work is tough, it's not just for her that he gets out of bed at an uncivilized hour each morning.

If you'd asked him a year ago whether he'd like a job hauling apples and picking weeds, he'd have turned you down flat, probably laughing in your face as he did it. Now, if you asked him if he'd like his old job back, if he missed his neurotic boss and the, uh, unique smells of the video game store, the response would likely be just as fast and just as emphatic. No fucking way.

Fresh air, great company, knowing he was doing a great job, sitting down to eat with the Apple family every day... yeah, Matt thinks to himself, this could all be a lot worse, even before taking AJ into the equation.

"Matt!" comes a gruff-sounding grunt of a voice from behind him, and just like that, the goofy grin and far-off stare disappear from his face.

Oh, shit.

In truth, he's been dreading this moment ever since he first started to develop feelings for Applejack. Now it's time to get it over with.

"Hey, Big Mac," says Matt, slowly turning around to face the music. "So... uh... what's up?"

"...What is it, Princess?", asks Applejack, her nervousness forgotten for the moment, as was Celestia's intention all along.

"I mentioned I was impressed with his reactions. Perhaps 'surprised' would be a more appropriate word."

(She sees Applejack wince, and quickly continues off her look.)

"Not by his love for you. Rather, something unexpected occurred while we were talking, something I had not prepared for. Matt reacts very... unusually to magic, quite unlike any other being I have ever encountered. I felt some of my spells would have no effect at all, while others..."

The Princess pauses for a moment, raising her teacup to her lips with a glow of her horn before going on. "...He was particularly susceptible to interrogative magic", she says, and Applejack sits up straighter.

"Now, don't be concerned, Applejack", says Celestia, placing a golden-shoed hoof on the farmpony's shoulder. "It was not my intention to use magic on Matt in that way. I only meant to ask him some questions, but even my passive magic was almost enough to overwhelm the poor colt. He... ended up telling me various things, things I am quite sure only happened in his mind. I doubt he even remembers some of the thoughts he inadvertently shared with me before I realised what was happening... before I was able to rein the magic in a little."

Applejack isn't sure if this was an invitation to pry further, or some sort of character tests on Celestia's part. But the Princess is smiling in her usual kindly way, and AJ decides Celestia wouldn't play games with her.

"Ah'm guessing you're telling me this for a reason, Princess?"

Celestia nods, and takes another sip of tea; Applejack carries on with her deductions.

"Much as ah don't want to pry into Matt's secret thoughts or nothin'... ah reckon you didn't want that, neither? 'Cept you weren't given no choice in the matter?"

"Indeed," smiles Celestia, as pleased as ever by the farmpony's perceptiveness. "But one thing stood out in particular, which I don't believe he would mind me sharing with you, and which think I should divulge."

"Go on," says Applejack, more curious than nervous now.

"So. You... an' mah sister, huh?"

Matt gulps. He's not an easily scared guy, not by any means, but he well remembers being flipped in the air the last time Big Mac got angry with him, and that was just when Matt was an unidentified animal hanging around the farm. Now, Big Mac had an actual reason to be mad... plus, he was huge, and they were out in the middle of nowhere, deep in the orchard, far from the farmhouse.

But Matt has had enough of being pushed around by this insane world. His life has turned out pretty good since he decided to just roll with it, do what he felt was right, not think too much about each batshit crazy thing that happens. If he did that, if he really stopped to consider every time his mind screamed at him that something impossible was happening, he'd have fallen into a spiral he might never get out of; better to just tough it out and shove it away. He hadn't freaked out when a bunch of technicolor talking horses had invaded his apartment, and just by being kind and honest, he'd literally opened the door to a new life. He wasn't going to freak out now. If Big Mac wanted to throw down and kick the crap out of him... well, so be it. He knows he doesn't deserve it.

He looks Big Mac straight in the eye.

"Yes. Me and Applejack," says Matt. "I would have said something sooner, we didn't like the idea of sneaking around, but we had to do it together."

"You hafta understand, Matt," says Mac. "She's mah little sister. Ever since Ma and Pa... well, she's had a lot to do. Workin' the farm, runnin' the house, raisin' Apple Bloom for the most part. Enough to drive stronger ponies than me crazy... an' then she goes and gets drafted to save the damn world, just on account of bein' at a party. 'Cos we had a deal to do the catering, Matt. She didn't get no choice in none of them things; she just went and did 'em anyway. That's AJ. She always jumps in with all four hooves, always tries to do the right thing."

He smiles briefly, before his expression goes back to the serious big brother face. This might be the most Matt has ever heard Big Mac talk, and he doesn't interrupt.

"Now, ah get that there's a whole big brother thing goin' on whenever ah see her at risk of gettin' hurt," says Big Mac. His words are slow, thoughtful, but firm. "It ain't like ah believe no stallion will ever be good enough for her... heck, it ain't even like ah consider it rightly to be any o' mah business who AJ's datin'..."

"Mac, listen - "

Big Mac raises an enormous forehoof, letting Matt know there's more to come. Matt wisely shuts up.

"...'Cept, on account of our family circumstances, ah feel it is mah business. Ah ain't gonna see her hurt, Matt. Ah ain't gonna let that happen on anypony's account."

Matt hasn't dropped eye contact with Big Mac once during this exchange. He doesn't drop it now.

"Big Mac... I do understand. And I totally respect what you're saying. I understand where you're coming from. Hell, I got angry hearing Apple Bloom mention some of Applejack's ex-coltfriends being complete jerks, and that was years before I ever met her. But, Big Mac, you have to understand too."

Princess Celestia has paused, as if she's really contemplating how to say whatever it is she wants to say, and the silence is killing Applejack. Just as it's about to get uncomfortably long, just as AJ is wondering whether she should say something, the Princess finally continues her explanation.

"I asked him about whether he'd stopped to considered the risk to your reputation and friendships if you revealed your relationship to everypony. He told me his fears, all quite reasonable - if unfounded - and then, immediately after, he told me that your family and friends already knew."

"Huh... What? But they don't know. Nopony knows! Are you sayin' he..." - she can hardly form the words - "...he lied?"

Celestia shakes her head, and puts her calming hoof on AJ's shoulder once more. "No, my dear," she says, softly. "If he had lied, I should hardly have approved. And, furthermore, I trust in your judgement. I do not believe the bearer of the Element of Honesty would have placed her confidence in anyone willing to lie so readily, over matters so important."

Applejack looks quizzically at Celestia. "Ah don't understand, Princess," she says.

"I'll do my best to explain," says Celestia, draining her teacup. "Matt gave me a number of confusing answers, which I didn't fully understand at first... until I realised that I was somehow accessing his secret thoughts, whereupon I broke the connection straight away. He has been through enough traumatising experiences in our land without having to also contemplate having his mind read in passing."

"But why tell you something like that, which just flat out ain't true?"

"Oh, Applejack," smiles the Princess. "Don't you see? He was outwardly scared about telling your family and friends, but subconsciously, he already packaged that worry with a happy ending. He was confident that he'd be accepted as your coltfriend, that he'd become a member of your group... because of his love for you."

Applejack blushes furiously. This time, Celestia notices, and gives her another little smile. "In short... in his heart, he believed it would be alright, even if he didn't realise it on the surface."

"So, what you're tellin' me is, deep down he wasn't really worried about us going public at all?" asks Applejack. "Like... he had a picture in his mind somewhere about how it was going to go great, and that came out like that's how it already went down? And he can't even remember?"

"Exactly," smiles Celestia. "It was one of the things that made me believe he had your best interests at heart. A reason, among many, for me to approve both his request... and your relationship."

Applejack doesn't reply; she's blushing, and tears have begun to well in her eyes.

"I asked him whether he understood the sacrifices and risks you would face if the two of you began a relationship, and he answered me truthfully and honestly, even without his mind being an - unintentionally - open book. I know that you won't be affected by my magic in the same way, and I would like to ask you the same questions, if you don't object."

"What you have to understand, Big Mac, is that I love her. I would never, ever do anything to hurt her. I have a pretty good idea what she'll have to put up with on account of dating me. Or, well, what we'll have to put up with, I guess. But we've talked it over, a lot. And we decided it's OK. It's all going to be OK, because..."

It's time for Matt to get cheesy again, but it's for a good cause, he reasons to himself as he winces internally.

"Because we love each other. Whatever happens, we want to be together. She's everything to me. Literally. I'm lost on an alien planet here, and she's the most important thing in my life. She always will be."

Matt fixes Big Mac with a sterner stare than before. The balance in this conversation has tipped his way, and he's going to press it home.

"You're right, she's been through a lot. She's special. I know she's special. I wish she did, sometimes, though it's so like her not to think of herself that way. Every day, I wonder why someone... somepony as special as Applejack might be interested in a guy like me. But you know what? In the last few months, literally everything I knew about the world is gone, along with everyone I ever knew in it. If this amazing girl wants to date me, I'm not going to question it. I just have to try and do my best to deserve her."

Big Mac's expression doesn't change, and for a moment Matt wonders if his little speech has had any effect. It's true, he thinks to himself; it's all true. If he was just some skeezy lowlife who wanted to use her, to chalk off "have sex with a pony" from his weird-ass bucket list, who didn't really care... The thought boils Matt's blood, and he has to stop himself going further down that path. Point is, he thinks, If he was some asshole who didn't care, Big Mac would have every reason to kick his ass. But that's not Matt. Can't BIg Mac see? Can't he tell?

Finally, slowly, a smile breaks across the huge red stallion's face, and Matt relaxes.

"I take it... I guess we get each other, huh?", asks Matt.

"Eeyup," replies Big Mac, with a grin.

"The same questions you asked Matt? Whadda'ya mean, Princess?", asks Applejack.

"I mean as follows. Having spoken to him, I am satisfied he understands what you are potentially risking to be with him. Now, I wish to speak to you, in order to ascertain whether you understand the same for him."

"Well...", begins Applejack, brow furrowed in concentration. "It ain't like we don't talk about this sort of thing already. And he himself has said it; he's the only human in this world, and it ain't as though he can go disappointing his family or nothin'. Ah guess ah just hoped that, with there only bein' the one of him an' all, everypony would just have to accept it, the human in Equestria can like ponies, the ponies can like the human. Already we had that whole business with Lyra an' the paper, and it seems half of Equestria must'a read that story, on account of there ain't hardly a day goes by without someone mentionin' that humans and ponies can be attracted to each other..."

"Quite," interrupts Celestia, kindly, "but that is not exactly what I was asking."

"How so?"

"You said yourself, Matt is the only human in this world. Now, the two of you may not fear ostracism, at least on his part. But I believe there is much more to consider."

"Such as what, exactly?" Applejack is confused.

"Such as, for instance... You already know how lucky you and your friends were, travelling through Twilight's portal, not to mention getting back safely. To begin, I would like you to consider what might have happened, had that last part not occurred - as is the scenario Matt is actually living out, at this very moment. Take away the "getting back safely" part, and imagine. Twilight and the five of you have fallen through the portal into a strange and frightening world, and you cannot get back to Equestria again."

Applejack paused for a moment, thinking back to that night in New York City when her life had suddenly changed forever. What if...?

"Now, think about the situation as you already know it. Matt took you in and hid you away, at some risk to himself. He shielded you from those who would harm you, whether it be through malice or curiosity, and kept you all safe. He lost his job, and a considerable amount of his savings, as a direct result of trying to keep you all safe. He risked arrest by helping Twilight research how you might return home."

"Ah know all of this, Princess," says Applejack, a hint of indignation flaring in her voice. "Ah was... kinda... there."

Celestia is not offended by the cowpony's forthright attitude; she could not have chosen a better Bearer for the Element of Honesty, and she knows it would be hypocritical to call Applejack out for being too outspoken. Instead, she gives a patient smile, and continues her explanation.

"Now, consider that Matt went through all of that, and was then ready to say goodbye to you all, never to see any of you again, and return to his life after you had... effectively... destroyed it. Until he fell through the portal himself, he was quite prepared to try and live the rest of his life in his world, despite the damage you had all done. Not just to his own circumstances, all of which might have been smoothed over eventually. No, rather, I speak of the damage you all had done to his mind."

There is a moment of silence, while Celestia allows Applejack to catch up with her thoughts.

"Big Macintosh, you listen here", snorts Applejack, angrily. "Ah got a bone to pick with you."

Big Mac squirms uncomfortably as his sister gallops towards him. In the background, he can see his younger sister with a surprised look on her face. Obviously Apple Bloom has been talking to Applejack about whatever she saw earlier. He has about five seconds to put all of this together and try and come up with an explanation before a very pissed-off Applejack arrives.


"Ah understand you and Matt had a little talk today, huh?" she spits. "Mind tellin' me just what it was that got you so hot an' bothered that you had to go yell at mah coltfriend?"

"Yell?" replies Big Mac, his eyes widening in genuine surprise. "Ah never yelled, AJ. Ah just wanted to make sure mah sister was in safe hooves... hands... whatever. Ah like Matt. Ah like him a lot."

"Well, you listen here, big brother," scowls AJ, though some of the anger has peeled away since she first came over. "Ah appreciate you lookin' out for me an' all. Ah guess it's what big brothers do. But still, ah want you to remember this, on account of ah ain't plannin' to hafta say it again."

Big Mac gulps.

"Ah ain't a filly no more, Big Mac. Ah can make mah own decisions. An' while ah do appreciate yer heart was in the right place..."

Her eyes narrow.

"...if ah ever hear you givin' Matt any trouble on account of our bein' each other's special somepony, ah ain't gonna be happy. You get me?"

Applejack gives a snort, blowing the forelock of her blonde mane up away from her eyes. Big Mac slowly nods, and then puts a hoof on his sister's shoulder.

"Ah get you, AJ," he says, calmly, and then smiles. "But you got it wrong. Now, it ain't like ah spend much time thinkin' about whatever stallions you want to go datin'. Fact is, though, Matt is different."

"Human, you mean?", says AJ, still sounding a little bitter. "We're over that. Ah even saw Celestia about it. Ah don't care if ponies can't deal. Ah never expected you to have a problem, though..."

"Nope," says Big Mac. "Nope, that ain't it. What ah mean, AJ, is that ah ain't seen you like this before. Ah get a different feeling about Matt. It ain't about protectin' you from some random guy. Ah could already tell this weren't some fling. It weren't that."

He gives her a huge smile. "It was about... seein' whether you're both feelin' the same things. Whether he loves you as much as you love him."

Applejack's jaw drops.

"An' he does, by the way," smiles Big Mac.

By the time an out-of-breath Apple Bloom can reach the clearing, Applejack and her big brother are locked in a tight hug. Apple Bloom opens her mouth to start the contrived explanation she had planned on the way over... and then thinks better of it, and backs away before they realise she's there.

"You see, Applejack", says the Princess, again not unkindly; "the feeling you and your friends had when you first fell through that portal? Do you remember? Seeing that harsh, strange world, unknown creatures everywhere, the sense that nothing you knew before could ever quite be trusted again? Matt would have felt the same thing upon encountering you."

Applejack doesn't reply.

"And so, I ask you to consider this from his point of view. You ruined his life, not just for the present, but forever. He would have lived out his days there on Earth, looking up at the stars and knowing you - we all - were out there somewhere, but never to be seen again. Knowing he would never be able to use magic, or fly, or find escape from the shackles of the laws of physics as he had previously understood them. Knowing he would never be able to talk to anyone else on his entire planet who had shared his experiences, having to keep them to himself, forever. And, Applejack... he had accepted this."

"Ah guess ah never really thought of it that way, Princess," AJ says, thoughtfully. "But, in truth, ah don't quite see what it has to do with our relationship. Ah mean, whatever he'd gotten himself prepared for - and ah ain't tryin' to do him down here - well, it weren't somethin' he had to actually face, on account of the fact is he did fall through the portal. He did see us again. None of what he thought was gonna happen actually came to pass."

"Do you think so?", asked Celestia, quizzically raising an eyebrow. "He still had his entire world, his entire life, taken away from him. He found himself in a harsh new world, as you did. He adapted quickly, as you did. But consider how lucky you were, and how lucky he is. There is a reason I forbade Twilight, or any other unicorn, using that particular magic. None of you had any idea where you would end up. Even the world you travelled to was dangerous enough - you might have been captured on sight, tortured, imprisoned, experimented upon... killed."

That last word leaves the Princess' lips almost in a whisper, and hangs heavily in the air before she continues.

"And so, you were very lucky in encountering a sympathetic soul on arrival, rather than a hostile one. But even had you not, you were still lucky to arrive in the world you did. Only random chance kept the six of you alive. You might have ended up in a world where none of you could speak the language, unable to communicate. You might have ended up in a world where you were unable to breathe the air, or where the water was poisonous to ponykind, or where the temperature would have killed you. I have seen other worlds, Applejack, that nopony should ever venture forth... dark, frozen worlds under cold, lifeless stars, molten worlds where the very air would set your skin aflame, worlds buried far underwater with only ancient ruins for company."

The Princess has turned away from Applejack for a moment, her eyes closed, her breathing heavy.

"It is nothing short of a miracle you were able to come back to the same dimension you started out from... indeed, it took many moons of tests on all of you to determine that you actually had returned to the same dimension. But that is a story for another time."

She turns back and fixes the farmpony in her gaze.

"Any of these fates might have befallen you and your friends, Applejack. Any of these fates might have befallen Matt."

Celestia gives Applejack another moment to digest all of this information.

"You are not the only pony who has remarked to me, or whose remarks have reached me, concerning just how blasé Matt has appeared to be with the changes that have occurred in his life of late," says the Princess, kindly but firmly. "I do not presume to know his innermost thoughts, but I do believe - from our interview, from his letter, from my own observations, and, yes, from what he unwillingly shared with me before I stopped him - I do believe I have been given an unusual insight into his feelings, and specifically about his being stranded here."

Applejack looks up at the Princess, knowing what she's about to say.

"He is not blasé, Applejack. He is terrified."

Applejack's voice, when it comes, is quieter than usual, but the Princess is surprised all the same by its firmness.

"Ah know he is, Princess," says AJ, looking back down to the immaculately-polished floor tiles, a heavy teardrop splashing upon her reflection. "Ah remember how scared ah was when we were stuck in his world. Ah remember it right well. An' ever since ah met him again, ah've always been thinkin'... is that how he feels now? Trapped, confused, frightened?"

She looks up at Celestia, eyes filled with tears.

"Ah never told him what happened with mah parents. Ah stopped him askin' one time, and then... he knew never to bring it up again." She smiles. "He's kinda like that. An' so am I. We see a lot of us in each other, me an' him. So when ah asked him one time, how did he feel about bein' lost in this world, without his family, just gettin' used to the idea that not everythin' here was tryin' to kill him, just tryin' to even process how lucky he is that he didn't get dragged off to the circus or cut up for experiments or whatever, and he kinda clammed up... ah figured it was best ah didn't labor the point too much further. It's what ah would have wanted. It ain't that ah don't take those things serious, Princess. Of course ah do. But ah respect him enough to give him his space. If'n he ever wants to open up, ah'll be right here for him. If'n he don't ever want that, well, that's all good by me, too."

Celestia smiles. So far, this is exactly what she was hoping to hear. She gently lifts Applejack's chin with her golden-shoed hoof, as the farmpony wipes the tears from her eyes and smiles back at her.

Matt wipes the sweat from his brow before hoisting another bushel of apples onto the wagon. It's a hot day, again, and the work never stops, but... Huh. Deja vu.

"Matt!" comes a gruff-sounding grunt of a voice from behind him, and just like that, the goofy grin and far-off stare disappear from his face.

He turns to see Big Macintosh, trotting up towards him again; only this time, there's no frown, no scowl, just a look of concern. The big red stallion clears his throat, and an unexpectedly timid voice comes out.

"You, uh... ya wanted to talk to me, Matt?"

"Yes. Yes I did. Come on over."

The giant farmpony and the human sit down together beside the cart.

"What I wanted to ask you about... Oh!", says Matt, noting Big Mac's pained expression. "It's got nothing to do with me and AJ, don't worry."

Big Mac visibly relaxes.

"No, what I wanted to ask about was... How are things with you and Twilight?"

Big Mac is momentarily lost for words. Not a rare occurrence, of course, but this seems more like shock than his usual stoic consideration.

"Ah... Y'all wanted to ask about Twilight?"

"You and Twilight, yeah. I know we live together, but I don't really know her all that well. Still, what I wanted to say was, well... I'm kind of alone on this planet, in a lot of ways. Right? I mean, all my friends from back home, gone. My family, my parents, gone."

"Ah understand, Matt, an' ah know it can't be easy, but what does this have to do..."

Matt holds up a hand, and now it's Big Mac's turn to shut up for a minute.

"I'm telling you this because, well, I'm not alone on this planet at all, not any more. AJ, you know about. You guys, too, it's been such a help being able to hang out with you, and the way you've made me feel welcome... I've really needed it, and I'll never forget it. And Twilight, and her friends, all the girls, are kind of my friends now too."

It takes a moment for Big Mac to process what Matt is saying.

"I don't have any guy friends here. No-one - nopony - I can go and kick back with, grab some drinks, watch the game... not that I know what kind of games you guys even play here, but whatever. What I'm saying, Big Mac, is that I consider you a friend. One of my best friends. And I don't want it to be awkward because I'm dating your sister, and you're dating my roommate."

Big Mac gives a tentative smile.

"So, with you and Twilight... and I don't want details!", he quickly interjects - "I wanted to talk to you. You see, since I bumped into you both over at the library last week, she hasn't mentioned it at all. I tried to bring it up a couple times, but she'd always just change the subject. I guess what I'm asking is... are you guys OK? Will you be OK if she's just in this for a fling? Because I kind of get the feeling you don't see it that way."

Big Mac looks quizzically at Matt for a moment, and then gives a snort, then a chuckle, and finally tips his head back and roars with laughter, before playfully punching Matt on the arm with his forehoof.

"Matt," says Big Mac, tears of laughter in his eyes, "it's mighty fine of you to even care. But you shouldn't worry none on our account. We've seen each other a few times since then - we've even been out on a date together, while AJ was off in Canterlot with the Princess. Ah don't know what she's thinkin', but ah don't believe she'd hurt me. Ah know ah wouldn't hurt her, for sure."

"That's a relief. I mean that. I want you guys to be happy," says Matt.

"Ah appreciate the concern," says Big Mac, his voice returning to normal. "An' ah sure appreciate you not tellin' AJ any of this. Twily... uh, Twilight doesn't want that conversation until she's ready, an' ah respect that."

"What are friends for?", grins Matt. "If anyone understands having to wait when you want to tell the whole world..."

"Hey!" barks Big Mac excitedly, making Matt flinch in surprise for a moment with the change of volume. "Ah just had the best idea! Ah know how we can break that ice!"

"Uh, Big Mac?"

"You, and AJ. And me. And Twilight. We can go on a double date! Can you imagine?"

Matt can indeed imagine. What he can't do is explain why this is the worst idea of all time. Firstly, he is pretty sure Twilight has not mentioned to Big Mac that she tried to kiss Matt, and that she only hooked up with Big Mac to start with as an angry rebound fling. Secondly, Matt has told Applejack all about that incident, but not its weird aftermath, when Twilight had demanded he kiss her again as the price for her returning to Ponyville. Thirdly, Matt has no idea how AJ will react if she realises Matt knew about Big Mac and Twilight before she did. Fourthly, Matt has no idea how AJ will react when she finds out Big Mac and Twilight are a couple, but he can easily see it going badly. And fifthly, he's a human, and he and AJ have never been seen together in public before. In short, this double date idea has every chance of becoming a gigantic clusterfuck. But how can he tell Big Mac?

"Whaddaya reckon?", says Big Mac eagerly, looking not unlike an excited puppy waiting for Matt to throw a tennis ball.

"Uh...", he begins, racking his brain for the right words, but his brain is just going EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE and not helping very much.

"That's... a great idea," says Matt, unconvincingly. "The four of us... in a small space, surrounded by ponies... watching two celebrities and an alien... with sharp knives around... it sounds great," he continues, not entirely sure what words are even coming out of his mouth. "But, uh, the thing is..."

Big Mac's face falls.

"...The thing is, and I think it's a great idea, but the thing is, uh... Well, me and Applejack, we haven't ever been out in public as a couple. We've had two dates... I mean, we had the dinner with the family. One date. We've had one date, it just feels like two because, you know, love. Uh... We've had one proper date, but, well, we haven't gone out in public, and, uh..."

Matt has never been particularly good at bullshit, and from that garbled non-explanation, he's pretty sure Big Mac can sense something's up. Hell, a small child could probably sense something's up. But, like Granny Smith before him, if Big Mac sees through him, he doesn't let it show.

"...Ah guess ah never thought of that," he finally mutters, thoughtfully. "Okay then. Ah have another great idea."

"Shoot," says Matt, warily.

Celestia looks kindly into Applejack's green eyes.

"Applejack, have you considered the kind of commitment you are taking on here? It is quite possible you are Matt's only anchor, that his romantic feelings for you have been bolstered by his need to cling on to something, or somepony, in this world which is so strange and hostile towards him."

"Princess, it kinda sounds like you're tellin' me..."

"That if you do this, for better or worse, it may well be the last relationship Matt ever has with anypony or anyone. Yes. That is what I am saying, Applejack."

AJ turns away, sucks in her cheeks for a moment, and then purses her lips, letting out a long, slow breath.

"An' maybe you're right, ah reckon. It's a possibility, ah guess, that he only loves me because ah'm here for him. That if ah ever took that away, he'd be lost, an' he wouldn't want me anymore anyhow. That if ah go on datin' him, ah'll have to always be extra careful, because, in a manner of speakin', ah sorta hold his life in mah hooves. That about right, Princess?"


"Ah see," says Applejack, face still scrunched up in thought. She looks up at Celestia once more.

"But there's one thing you ain't reckoned on, Princess." She looks Celestia right in the eye, and gives a smirk.

"Ah don't care."

Celestia is too stunned to say anything.

"D'you hear? Ah don't care. Oh, now, don't go gettin' the wrong idea. Ah care about Matt. Ah care about him a lot. More'n anythin', if push came to shove. Ah would never go doin' somethin' to hurt him, not on purpose. No, when ah say ah don't care, ah mean it don't figure in my thinkin' that all this might be him puttin' me on a kind of pedestal or somethin'. That ah might be takin' on the role of his, uh, anchor, here in Equestria. Ah already know all of that. Guess what? It don't matter none. He's as much mah anchor as ah am for him. He can put me on his pedestal. Ah already put him on mine."

Applejack is pacing the floor, as Celestia sits and listens intently.

"Ah need him, Princess. Ah love him. More'n anythin', like I said just now."

She snorts and shakes her mane, tossing her ponytail from side to side as she talks.

"See, ah do understand him. What he's feelin', what he's seein'. On account of the same thing happened to me. So if we were of a mind, the two of us could share our sob stories, talk about how alone we felt in the wrong worlds, talk about our fears and all that stuff."

She looks the Princess in the eye again.

"But we don't. And d'you know why we don't talk about that stuff?"

She bursts into a huge smile, and Celestia can't help but do the same.

"Because we don't need to, Princess. When ah'm with Matt, ah don't worry none. Not about a thing. None o' that hooey makes no difference to us bein' us. Ah just live in the moment, enjoyin' bein' close to him, an' knowin' he's enjoyin' bein' close to me. Ah just... live."

Celestia smiles broadly, finishing her tea, as Applejack looks up at the huge stained-glass palace windows, looking at the orange panes that represent herself.

"Ah just live," she repeats, to nopony in particular.

"Well, Applejack," says Celestia, after a moment. "I believe you've answered all of my questions as well as I could have ever hoped."

She smiles and holds Applejack's chin in her hooves again. "Not that I ever expected anything less from my Element of Honesty. I am only sorry that you had to hear all of that."

The Princess stands up and extends her wings out to their full length, the impressive sight even fazing Applejack for a moment.

"Very well, Applejack. I know now what needs to be done," she smiles. "KIBITZ!", she commands, her voice suddenly loud and echoing, making the farmpony jump. Immediately, a hassled-looking unicorn with a moustache and a huge sheaf of papers pokes his head around the door.

"Your Highness?", he asks.

"We have a proclamation to make, Kibitz," booms Princess Celestia, and without further instruction Kibitz shuffles the papers with his magic and produces a fresh quill to start writing on a clean new scroll. He's good, thinks Applejack. Celestia begins her proclamation, and it's just as loud as before.

"Let it be known throughout Equestria that from this day forth, it is our wish that any pony may form a romantic relationship with any human, without fear of reprisals or repercussions, protected under the law, provided both parties consent. This is the will of the Princess. This is our wish, and we shall not be dissuaded from it. By order of Princess Celestia," she concludes.

AJ glances up, but Kibitz has already finished writing and is rolling the scroll up ready to be posted across the land.

"Thank you, Kibitz," bellows Celestia, and the unicorn bows and leaves the room as quietly as he entered.

"That ought to do it," grins Celestia with a wink. "And if anypony dares to mess with you two after this, they'll have to answer to me."

"Uh, Princess?", says Applejack, a little hesitant after that display of Royal Canterlot Voice. "Ah don't mean to pick holes, seein' as how that was kind of amazing an' all, but... 'any human'? There's only one human here... won't everypony know that this rule is about Matt? That it's all just somethin' you wrote for Matt an' me?"

"I'm hoping so," smirks Celestia. "And I know Cadance will be pleased, after all that work helping you set up the date. Luna wouldn't tell me anything about it, just blushed a lot... which I assume means congratulations are in order? For a successful picnic, of course. Now, would you care for some cake?"

For the first time today, Applejack bursts out laughing. Celestia joins her. The two of them are still laughing together when a tray of cake magically appears.

How did she do that?, wonders Applejack. It's as if she had a tray of cake sitting around just waiting for us to... Oh.

"So, like ah said, ah have a great idea," says Big Mac, rambling. "Ah agree, since Celestia only just went an' told everypony you were dating a pony, it might be best for AJ if we hold off on the whole double date thing until word gets out just who the lucky mare is."

"Or stallion," points out Matt, with a laugh. "If those journalists have seen us talking, expect some pretty unflattering front pages," he says, recalling the whole fiasco with Lyra.

"Eeyup," laughs Big Mac. "But listen. Here's mah great idea. Ya ready? How about, for your first 'real' date together, out in public like, ah set you guys up at a place ah know? Someplace way out of town, where AJ ain't so famous, and where nopony will give a buck about seein' you and a pony?"

"That..." says Matt, surprised, "...is actually not a bad idea at all."

"No need to sound so surprised," smirks Big Mac in mock indignation.

"No," laughs Matt, "I just meant I'd never considered that. You would do that for us?"

"You've been pretty great about me and Twi," says Big Mac, earnestly. "And besides, ah like you."

Their conversation is interrupted as Applejack trots over to their clearing. "What are you two boys talkin' about, all huddled up like this?", she asks, sticking her tongue out.

"Actually, AJ, in point of fact, we were just sayin'..."

"Another time," interrupts Matt. "Applejack! How are you doing?"

"Ah'm good now we're together," she says. "Honestly, ah half got to thinkin' ah'd never be finished with the west orchard for today. But seein' you makes it worthwhile."

Matt glances over towards Big Mac, expecting a look of disgust. Instead, Big Mac simply gives him a nod and an encouraging smirk. If he had thumbs, he'd probably be giving Matt a thumbs up; as it stands, his expression simply says "go for it", as he conspicuously makes himself scarce.

Applejack saunters up to Matt, and they kiss, not caring who sees, not bothered about what anypony else thinks. We've earned this, they both think to themselves.

A loud voice carries across the orchard. It's Granny Smith, using that bullhorn she sometimes brings out for special events.

"Soup's on, everypony!," calls Granny. "If Applejack and Matt are done canoodlin', that is."

They both stop kissing and blush furiously. Okay, so maybe they do care a little bit about what other ponies think.

Just a little.

Author's Note:

This is the last of the long talky chapters.