• 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.

  • ...

Big Night Out, or, Only You Can Prevent Dumpster Fires

APPLEJACK notices Matt’s look of concern, and gently squeezes his arm with her front hoof in what she hopes is a reassuring gesture.

“Now, listen here, sugarcube,” she half-whispers. “Ah’m sure it’s all gonna be fine. Ah reckon all these ponies are all gonna be too busy eatin’ to take notice of us.”

She glances over at her brother, who looks equally uncomfortable.

All of us,” she adds, pointedly, just loud enough so that Big Macintosh can hear. No answer is forthcoming.

“...Ain’t that right, Twilight?”, she asks, noting how tightly her friend is gripping Big Mac’s hoof with her own.

“Oh!”, says Twilight Sparkle, snapping out of her reverie. “Yes. I’m sure nopony will care. It’s just two couples, out for a nice meal. If they even notice us, I’m sure it won’t raise any eyebrows. We’ll probably be at a table right in the back, anyway. We’re all worrying over nothing! How silly! Ha ha ha!

“Twi”, says Big Mac. “That smile of yours is scarin’ me a touch.”

“No it isn’t,” says Twilight, eyes flitting from side to side, her fixed grin getting somehow even creepier.

“It’s kind of a good point, though,” pipes up Matt. “I mean, you guys are famous for saving Equestria, and I’m an alien. People might stare...” he tails off under Applejack’s raised eyebrow.

“Ah ain’t famous,” says Big Mac. “Not really.”

“Yeah, maybe, compared to these two,” says Matt, “...but you’re huge. No offense. Nopony could miss you.”

Applejack rolls her eyes. “Look, ah’m not sayin’ nopony cares, or that nopony should care. What ah’m sayin’ is, you two love each other, right? And me an’ Matt love each other, right? So whether anypony cares or not, it ain’t none of their beeswax. Only ours.”

“Our... beeswax?” asks Twilight, face scrunched in confusion.

“Uh... Never mind. Hey, we’re almost to the front of the line!” Applejack gives Matt a small peck on the cheek; Twilight and Big Mac pretend not to have noticed. “Stallions first,” says AJ with a smirk, and Matt proudly steps forward.

Let them stare.

It wouldn’t be fair to say the maître d’ was fazed by the sight of Matt and Big Macintosh turning up at his station. Not exactly. Nonetheless, his stiff demeanour seemed to stiffen just that little bit more at the sight of the giant lumbering farmpony and the gangly two-legged hairless ape-thing in front of him.

“...You will want a table for four, I suppose?”, he sneers, without making eye contact.

His eyes briefly flit to their necks and shoulders, no doubt checking these “guests” have observed the dress code. It could be Matt’s imagination, but the pony with the coiffed eyebrows and pencil moustache seems almost disappointed to see that both Matt and Big Mac are indeed wearing the required jackets and ties. He’s busying himself pretending to look through his booking list, but Matt is pretty sure he’s not actually reading anything.

“So. Do you ‘ave a reservation? Only, as you can see, we are very busy this evening, and...”

His voice tails off as, for the first time, the maître d’ looks up from his podium to see Twilight Sparkle standing awkwardly at the back of the little group. He gulps, and runs a hoof through his slicked-back mane.

“...Twilight Sparkle? And... is it Applejack, too? Ah, mes amis, it is good to ‘ave you here at last! Two ‘eroes of Equestria!”

Twilight and Applejack look at each other, equally confused.

Big Mac and Matt look at each other too, although the maître d’ pony seems to be ignoring them altogether in favour of the two mares as he straightens himself up and clears his throat.

“(Ahem.) Allow me to do zis properly.”

Matt, Big Mac, Twilight Sparkle and Applejack all look at him with varying degrees of apprehension and bewilderment. The maître d’ isn’t paying them any attention, as he draws himself up to his full height to make what appears to be a memorised greeting.

“Welcome to ze ‘Ayloft, mesdames!”, he declares, with a stagey flourish. He appears to notice Matt and Big Mac for the first time, and quickly corrects himself. “Uh... mesdames, et messieurs.

There is an uncomfortable moment of silence.

“If you would all like to follow me, I ‘ave your table ready.”

The four of them share an apprehensive look before following him into the restaurant, where their table is indeed set and waiting for them.

Oh, hell, thinks Matt.

The table is right in the middle of the restaurant. Dead centre. Even in the tasteful candlelight, everypony in the place can see them... and judging by the sudden silence that’s descended upon the Hayloft, it seems everypony in the place is doing just that. Dozens of pairs of eyes turn to look at them as they move to sit down.

Matt pulls out a chair for Applejack; the memory of the last time he held a chair provokes a little internal chuckle, and helps deflate some of the tension. Big Mac likewise draws a chair for Twilight as the foursome sit down.

All four of them share yet another look. Gradually, the soft murmur of conversation and tinkling piano take over again.

This could be a long night.

Applejack is uncomfortable, although she’s doing her best not to show it. Even in her Manehattan days, she was never one for all this frou-frou fancy stuff. Now, sitting next to her human coltfriend, trying to ignore the feeling of dozens of pairs of eyes prying into her back, she’s having flashbacks to those terrible dinners with Aunt and Uncle Orange, terrified she’s going to cause a gasp by choosing the wrong fork or something.

She’s not afraid of making a fool of herself, but rather of letting Matt down. It’s almost enough to make her pine for their last date together, again set up by Big Mac, except that one had ended in a bar fight. There has to be some kind of happy medium between “hoity-toity society pony nonsense” and “watching ponies sweep blood and teeth off of the floor”. Why can’t it just be like their first date? Just her, and him, and a candlelit picnic, and... all the stuff that happened afterwards?

Get a hold of yourself, girl, she thinks to herself. Matt deserves better than this.

Matt catches her look and tries to give her a reassuring smile. She tries her best to return the gesture, but she’s not sure how convincing she is. If he weren’t there, she’d have never considered setting hoof in this place.

She looks over at her brother and Twilight, who seem a little distant from each other; they’re not sitting as closely as Matt and Applejack, and they’re not saying anything to each other, they’re studying the menus with a fearsome intensity. She still doesn’t really know what to think of them as a couple; her brain hasn’t quite caught up with the idea yet. It had been a big surprise, or rather a series of big surprises.


Applejack's reverie is broken by somepony discreetly but firmly clearing their throat. She looks up to see a tall unicorn pony in a waistcoat and tie, standing at their table, levitating a pad and pencil ready to take their order. Shoot, thinks AJ, how long has he been standing there?

The waiter pony sees the diners have finally registered his presence, and smiles. "Ma name is Garçon Gourmet, and I will be your waiter for this evening," he says, softly. "Am I to understand, this is your first time 'ere at ze 'Ayloft?"

He gives everypony a friendly smile, even Matt, who reciprocates in kind. Unlike the maître d', this guy isn't snooty at all, and his question carries no kind of edge; he seems like he genuinely just wants to help.

"Yes," says Twilight, firmly, surprising even herself. "We are here on a double date, and we have no idea what we're doing."

The evaporation of tension comes with such relief the ponies can almost taste it. Applejack, Matt and Big Mac all burst into laughter, and Twilight and Garçon join in too.

"I quite understand," says Garçon, with a friendly smile. "And forgive me, monsieur, but I cannot 'elp but notice, you are not a pony - and you are not a dragon, or a griffon, or a yak, or a minotaur, or any other kind of guest we 'ave 'ad in the past?"

"I'm -" begins Matt, but Applejack cuts him off, with the hint of a frown.

"He's human, Mister Gourmet," she says, firmly, looking the waiter pony straight in the eye.

"Oh, I am always 'appy to meet new guests," says Garçon, his smile unwavering. "Monsieur - I apologise if this is awkward of me to say, but I only wish to make sure you 'ave a pleasant evening, and so I need to know what food you can eat. I would not wish to offend by offering you something... unsuitable."

"You, uh... don't have a problem with me being human?," asks Matt, cautiously.

Garçon looks shocked, as if the very idea had never occurred to him. "A problem, monsieur? Why would I 'ave a problem? No, I 'ave been a waiter for many years now, and it is a source of great pride to be able to bring my guests whatever it is they desire. But I would never dream of offering a pony a bowl of the rubies, or a dragon a joint of raw meat, or a griffon a plate of flower sandwiches, you understand? And since you are ma very first, uh..." - he struggles a little pronouncing the new word - "human, well, I 'ave no prior experience for to be able to improve your experience, non?"

Garçon pauses, waiting eagerly on Matt's response. He really does seem like a nice pony, he clearly truly is trying not to offend, and so Matt decides to help him out.

"Garçon Gourmet, it's a pleasure to meet you," he says, with a smile, and Applejack glows with barely-concealed pride. "My name's Matthew Williams, but my friends all call me Matt. I'm fine with vegetarian food... I can't eat hay, or flowers, but anything else you've got - fruit, vegetables, eggs, bread, rice, pasta... that's all good. I'm really looking forward to it."

Matt automatically reaches out for a handshake, before he realises what he's doing. Garçon stares, nonplussed, at Matt's strange, outstretched paw, with its weird spindly fingers. Cautiously, the bemused waiter pony reaches out and gingerly gives Matt a very light, very confused hoofbump. Matt quickly realises his mistake, and balls up a fist, gently hoofbumping Garçon back.

"Well, Monsieur Williams," says Garçon, apparently relieved to see his hoof not bursting into flames, "I am very pleased to 'ave made your acquaintances."

He draws himself up, proudly, a little stiffly, and his horn glows a gentle blue. Matt watches, fascinated, as four glass tumblers appear on their table, followed by a pitcher of water, which deftly and delicately tips to pour out four full glasses for the diners before disappearing again. Garçon is obviously concentrating hard on the spell, although you wouldn't know it to look at his face; he doesn't spill a drop, as he launches himself into another obviously-rehearsed spiel.

"Here at ze 'Ayloft, we pride ourselves on 'aving the perfect selection. Why don't I leave you fine fillies and gentlecolts, and, uh..." - he says it slowly, cautiously, as if testing the word out in his mouth, swilling it around like a glass of wine - "human, to 'ave a look at our menu? Of course, we 'ave many more dishes available which our chefs would be more zan 'appy to create for you, but zis will give you some idea of what we can do."

Big Mac practically snatches the menus from him. "Eeyup. That sounds great," says the obviously-uncomfortable red horse, the first contribution he's made to this conversation, clearly not eager to extend his participation any further.

Garçon notices, and doesn't comment; Big Mac notices he notices, and silently thanks him for it.

"I will leave you to think for a little while. Please, enjoy some of our bread while you are looking. I will return shortly!" With a bow and a flourish, Garçon withdraws, leaving the four friends looking at one another, slightly confused as to what just happened but definitely feeling better about the evening.

Making ponies happy was Garçon Gourmet's job, and luckily for Matt and Applejack, he took his job very seriously.

"It's a fine kinda place, this," Applejack half-whispers, loud enough for Matt and the others to hear, but not so loud that her voice travels to the other tables above the general murmur of the dining hall. "Ah was worried, first time ah ever came in the door, but it ain't all snooty like ah was fearin'. Ah wouldn't have brung you somewhere like that, sugarcube," she smiles, as much to Twilight and Big Mac as to Matt. "Ah mean, look at this here menu. Sure, they got all manner of that fancy frou-frou non-sense, but they also got corn dogs, they got grits, they got pancakes with syrup..."

"...they got a contract with Sweet Apple Acres for sixty bushels a month," interrupts a grinning Big Mac.

Applejack frowns theatrically, but she's grinning too. "Okay, yes, and there is that," she smirks. "But it's a good place for a date like this, ah guess. See, it ain't quite Canterlot, and it ain't quite Ponyville. Or maybe, ah should say, it's kinda both, like Canterlot with a Ponyville twist."

Matt thinks he follows now, but Twilight, unable to help herself when knowledge is being shared right in front of her, joins in with some unrequested further explanation.

"You see, Matt, there was never much call for Canterlot institutions here, and so most of the local businesses have adapted to the rather unique environment. Ponyville has always had something of a reputation for being, uh..." - she pauses, choosing her next words carefully, as if suddenly very aware that she's sitting at a table at a restaurant in Ponyville, with two ponies who happen to be from Ponyville, about to start badmouthing Ponyville - "...extraordinary", she finishes, with an almost audible sigh of relief at having chosen the right expression. "Nothing here is what other towns in Equestria might call 'normal', and that's just how everypony here likes it."

She smiles, warming to her theme. "Ponyville isn't a big town, not even by pony standards. But when it comes to making the national headlines, for magical weirdness or for ponies being heroes, well... we've got it all, right here. Home of all six Elements of Harmony, location of the return of Nightmare Moon and redemption of Princess Luna, headquarters under Discord's reign of chaos, battlefield for the whole future of Equestria, my assistant being a dragon, the zap apple harvest, the proximity of the Everfree Forest... welcome to Ponyville, right? Some ponies arrive here, take one look, and then turn tail and gallop away as soon as they can. But others - and I'm one of those ponies - we love this place so, so much, like we just know we'll stay forever. We find something here we haven't found elsewhere, something we couldn't find elsewhere. We find... home."

"I know the feeling," smiles Matt, a little wistfully, and Applejack gives his leg a squeeze with her hoof.

Twilight notices his expression, and quickly realises her faux pas. "Oh! I didn't mean - I wasn't trying to - I just..."

She's cute when she's flustered, thinks Matt, and decides to jump in before she gets any more wound up. "It's OK, Twilight," he smiles. "I meant what I said. I miss my family, and my friends, but I really do feel like this is my home now. I can't imagine ever living anywhere else now, not any more, and not away from Applejack" - she blushes, and Matt notices - "...and all of you, my new friends. Maybe I wouldn't feel the same if I'd landed somewhere else in Equestria, but Ponyville - and all the ponies in it - is just about the best place I could ever imagine living."

Matt winces in case he's just said something cheesy, but Applejack is just looking at him with adoring eyes. Obviously, he's said something right. He smiles back, and then, not wanting to break the accidental streak, he starts paying very close attention to the thick, gilt-edged menu.

He turns the page - a menu with actual *pages* is already an obvious step up from the places Matt has eaten out since arriving in Equestria, and he could swear he feels his wallet shivering in trepidation.

On this new page, something unexpected catches Matt's eye right away. There's a whole section of dishes that appear to be named in Spanish, and he recognises a lot of them.

"Huh!", he exclaims, louder than he meant to, causing his companions to look up at him. Sheepishly, he grins. "Sorry about that. I was just surprised, I recognised some of this food from back home. I didn't know there was a lot of Tex-Mex stuff here..."

"Tex-what now?" asks Applejack, face scrunched up in confusion.

"Uh, that's the human word for it, we named it after the places back home where we first started making this kind of food. I haven't thought about it in months, but now I'm thinking I should have some. Oh, they have quesadillas!", he grins, scanning a few more lines of the menu before he realises a deathly silence has fallen on the table.

Matt looks up from the menu to see three horrified faces staring at him. Or, more accurately, two horrified faces, and Twilight Sparkle's catatonic, thousand-yard stare.

Matt looks from pony to pony, hoping for an explanation of what he just did. None is forthcoming. "Uh... what just happened?", asks Matt.

"Shh, it's OK, Twi," says Big Mac, soothingly, stroking Twilight's mane as the unicorn stops hyperventilating and slowly returns to Equestria. "Ain't nobody gonna be bringing... those... to the table."

Twilight shakes her head, and now it's her turn to grin sheepishly. "It's not like I'm scared of q... of que... of that particular meal!", she insists. "It's no big deal! And it's definitely not that I get freaked out whenever anyone even says the word! Who's silly enough to be afraid of food? I'm not!" She gives a snorting, unconvincing laugh, but the grin is still fixed on her face, and she's clenching her teeth hard enough that her eye is twitching.

Matt glances over to Applejack, and they share a look, or a series of looks, having a whole conversation in four seconds using just their eyebrows.

"Really?", asks Matt's brow.

"Really," replies AJ, with the eyebrow equivalent of a resigned shrug.

"What do I do?", ask Matt's eyebrows, concerned.

"Move on, quick sharp," AJ's face replies. Matt is briefly confused as to why her eyebrows talk in a Southern accent. He loudly clears his throat.

"Uh, anyway, I don't think I want to try any of those... dishes," he says, warily, watching out of the corner of his eye to see if Twilight flinches. She doesn't.

Crisis averted, but now Matt is a little scared to make any more out-loud observations on what he wants to eat tonight. He finds himself wishing Garçon had just suggested something for him.

He hears a quill scratching on a pad, and is startled to find Garçon Gourmet standing next to the table again.

"So, mesdames et monsieurs. How may we at ze 'Ayloft delight your palates tonight?"

"I just don't know what to pick," says Matt. "It all looks so good. Can you, uh, maybe... recommend something...?"

"Monsieur Williams," smiles Garçon, with practised ease, "ma special ability 'as always been to 'elp choose the perfect food for every guest. Now... in your own case, from what you 'ave been telling to me, ma recommendation would be to 'ave..."

Quiet has descended on the table, as the four friends tuck into the huge quantity of food. Just as Garçon promised, it is delicious. They all share occasional looks and smiles, as if to reassure each other how much they're enjoying the food, but otherwise, not much is being said. It's not really awkward, though; now that Twilight has said what they were all thinking, that none of them know what's expected on a double date (or in a fancy restaurant, for that matter), they're all feeling much more at ease.

“This isn’t my usual kind of place, but this food is amazing, and Applejack deserves to have a nice night out,” thinks Matt. “She can see I can be a sort-of-normal coltfriend, someone who doesn’t get into bar fights every time we go out anywhere. Well, not every time, anyway.”

He smiles at her.

“This isn’t my usual kind of place, but this food is amazing, and Matt deserves to have a nice night out,” thinks Applejack. “He can see I can be ladylike, that everything I do doesn’t have to revolve around farming and apples and country life. Well, not everything, anyhow.”

She smiles at him.

“This isn’t my usual kind of place, but this food is amazing, and Twilight deserves to have a nice night out,” thinks Big Mac. “She can see I can treat her to a nice date, in public, that she doesn’t have to be scared, that I don’t just go quiet every time there’s lots of ponies around. Well, not every time, anyway.”

He smiles at her.

“This isn’t my usual kind of place, but this food is amazing, and Big Mac deserves to have a nice night out,” thinks Twilight Sparkle. “He can see I’m not always such a basket of nerves. Well, not always. And we can have a nice meal together. Ohmygosh, the food is really, really good. I wonder if these hay fries are from grass grown here in Ponyville, or whether they’re grown elsewhere and dried out here? I could ask Garçon, I suppose. I wonder if he's the sort of pony who likes to talk about food? Silly question, he's a waiter, I'm sure he is! Such an interesting subject, hay fries. First brought to Equestria by a visiting Saddle Arabian merchant, who used her talents for frying dried pulses and applied the same techniques to the plentiful local grass, thereby inventing a delicacy which even gained the approval of Princess Luna, back in the days before she was exiled of course. What was that merchant’s name? Oh, shoot, I can’t even remember off the top of my horn. I know it was in volume fourteen of Canterlot Chronicles, but I couldn’t very well bring the book with me on a date! And I certainly can’t go running off to the library to look it up! Even though I know that book is only two shelves up, and so I could be back here in around... thirteen minutes, give or take, provided I didn’t run into anypony on the way, although then again there’s no guarantee that Big Mac wouldn’t be upset if I left, even if I explained it was just to look something up in one of my books, or perhaps I could trim the time down by just teleporting over there, grabbing the book and teleporting back again, except it’s not exactly right next door, and so the drain on my magic might leave me a bit weakened and our enjoyment of the evening would be less than optimal; maybe there’s a mathematical solution whereby the amount of time spent away from the table, and the amount of magical energy consumed during said interval, can be counterbalanced against the social demerits I’d no doubt accumulate for being absent from the table during a double date like this, not that it being a double date is a problem! I bet, if I were to just use this napkin to sketch out a quick equation, I could establish the socially acceptable and magically optimal parameters for just such a situation, and maybe then send on the results of my research to Princess Celestia for peer review, and she'll be sure to say...”

“...Twilight?” asks Big Mac, concerned.

“Hm? Wha?” blurts Twilight, looking up suddenly.

“Ah didn’t think you was listenin’”, he says, slowly. “You’re, uh... you looked kinda spaced out there, and you was drawin’ on yer napkin.”

Twilight looks down. Her napkin is indeed covered in scrawled doodles, all mathematical symbols and runes and drawings of angles and marginal notes so tightly packed she couldn’t even read what she’d just written. She noticed she was also levitating a quill with her magic, and promptly let it drop to the floor in embarrassment, kicking it under her chair with an outstretched hoof as if that would make it disappear. Why had she even brought a quill with her to the restaurant? She wasn’t even sure she remembered doing that. Silly question, though, because when is it *not* a good time to bring a quill with you, since the moment could arise at any time when inspiration might strike, and to be left unable to write down what could turn out to be the seed of a scientific breakthrough, just for the sake of social niceties, even if those niceties *were* all to be nice to a pony who really was very sweet and very special to her, although she often had a funny way of showing it and...

“Twilight!” barks Applejack.

“Oh!” says Twilight, sheepishly, and blushes a bright red, bright enough to almost match Big Mac’s coat. “Was I doing it again? I’m so sorry! This is all just so strange for me!” She hurriedly corrects herself. “Not strange because of you guys, of course! No way! Ha! No, it’s just strange because I’ve never really gone out on dates before and now here we all are and it feels like everything is changing and I don’t know what it means, and I don’t usually like not knowing what things mean and it makes me want to do RESEARCH!

She realises she’s jumped up on all four hooves on her chair in excitement, and everypony in the restaurant is once again staring at her, not least her table companions. Slowly, Twilight sits back down and shrinks into herself.

Big Mac puts a giant hoof around her shoulder. She looks up at him in embarrassment.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “Am I ruining everything?”

“Nope,” he says, and kisses her forehead. Matt and Applejack glance at each other, and share a little smile. She squeezes his hand under the table with her hoof.

"It's OK, Twi," says Applejack, reassuringly. "This is a mite strange for all of us, ah reckon. But as far as ah can 'stablish, there ain't no call to act any different than if we was eatin' at home."

She pauses, and looks over to Big Macintosh, and then to Matt, before adding: "Well, ah mean, maybe not our home, but, y'know, home in general. Say, is that the wine list?"

"Are you gonna be drinkin', AJ?", says Big Mac, with a hint of concern. The last few times he's seen Applejack get drunk, it's not been a pretty sight.

"Ain't you?", says Applejack, eyebrow raised.

"...Eeyup," says Big Mac, with a shrug.

"I'm still not sure," says Matt. "I don't want to just start on the cider before I really know how it'll affect me, you know? AJ's told me about the magic that goes into the making of it... Magic does unexpected things to me, and I don't want everypony here to see a drunken human stumbling around the place."

"They got beer," says Big Mac, matter-of-factly. "No magic in that."

"Garçon!" exclaims Twilight, suddenly, and everypony turns to look at her. "We'll have four ciders, please," she smiles, as the friendly waiter trots up. "And... four beers."

"Right away, mademoiselle," says Garçon, with a little bow, and Twilight smiles as she thanks him.

She notes her friends' shocked expressions. "What? I can handle a few drinks tonight, out here with my friends! Do you know why?"

She milks the silence for a moment, then produces something from under the table, with a theatrical flourish.

"...Because of THIS!", she beams, with her biggest, nerdiest smile, holding up... a scrap of parchment she's clearly torn from a much bigger roll.

Matt looks at Applejack, who just shrugs. He looks at Big Mac. No help there. He turns back to Twilight.

"What... does that do?", he asks, feeling a bit stupid.

Twilight rolls her eyes. "It doesn't do anything, Matt, it's a scroll. I copied these calculations from one of Starswirl's monographs on the metabolization of alcohol by carbon-based animals. Look!" She smirks.

Matt looks at the scroll. It is covered in indicipherable scribbles and diagrams, with tiny pictures of ponies and lots of columns of numbers. He looks up again. Twilight has a huge smile on her face, and she's waiting eagerly for his approval.

"That's, uh... great?", he offers, speculatively.

"I KNOW!", she beams. "I don't want to brag, but I totally have one of the only four surviving copies in all of Equestria! Even Princess Cadance doesn't have that one, and..."

She notices Matt, Applejack and Big Mac, all looking lost.

"...Anyway," she continues, "according to Starswirl's calculations, a pony can safely consume alcohol at a given rate depending on body mass and avoid the common effects of intoxication. I adapted the calculations for myself, also building in an allowance for specific strength of the beverage, of five per cent either way. Even Starswirl didn't think to add that in as a consideration, though I suppose there might have been less chance of variation in his day..."

She tails off again, as she notices everypony is still staring at her.

"Don't you see?", she giggles. "So long as I follow these instructions, and only drink at the specified intervals, I won't get drunk!"

Twilight is drunk.

"No, no, no!", she giggles. "I'm talking about something else! Something... difference! Different!" She gives an amused snort. "I think I ate those hay fries a little too fast. Well, not fast, that's kind of the point! I think I'm still hungry, though. Starswirl's calculations are... uh... hard to read."

"...That's a coaster, Twi," says Applejack.

"Starswirl's coaster is hard to read, then. Fine," pouts Twilight, before giggling again. "But I really don't think he'd mind if I had some more cider! We could ask him, I suppose!"

With lightning reflexes, Applejack leans across to stop Twilight from jumping on the table, knocking over an empty cider mug in the process.

"HEY! STARSWIRL!", giggles Twilight. "I summon thee! My question is this - thus? - I have questions for... thou? Thee? Ugh, I can't remember my Old Ponish pronouns properly for some reason. Uh... I mean... Starswirl! SHOULD WE HAVE MORE BEER?!"

Big Mac cups his hoof over Twilight's muzzle as she snorts with laughter. "Shhh," he chides, gently. "We got all night yet, Twi."

"Sure do," agrees Applejack. "And beggin' your pardon, but ah don't reckon your Mister The Bearded is gonna make an appearance just to guide you on your drinkin'."

"Spoilsport," laughs Twilight, and blows a raspberry.

"You're soundin' more like Pinkie Pie than Twilight Sparkle," giggles Applejack.

"Am not," pouts Twilight. "You're just saying that because you're haven't drink enough much as me."

"What?" interrupts Matt.

"More beer!" shouts Twilight.

"Is, uh, is that... a good..." begins Matt, but he's interrupted. A tray with four more bottles of beer floats over to their table, Garçon Gourmet clearly having heard Twilight's shout and interpreted it as a drinks order.

Twilight boggles for a moment at the sudden appearance of the beers, and then gives another amused snort. "Hey, look! As if by magic! Well, no, it is by magic, I suppose, but you all know what I mean," says Twilight, and collapses into fits of giggles. This time, Applejack joins in, taking a mighty swig from one of the bottles. Big Mac gives a shrug, and takes one for himself, the three ponies now all chugging beer in front of the flabbergasted human.

...Fuck it, thinks Matt, and grabs a bottle too.

"This is great," swoons Twilight, swooning and leaning into Big Mac. "I like having a boyfriend."

"Twilight, you're drunk," says Big Mac, reprovingly.

"No!", she giggles, before giving a snort. "Um, well, not much. Maybe a little. But..."

She turns to look at Applejack, and accidentally knocks one of the empty beer bottles on the floor. It doesn't break, but lands with a loud enough clongggg that everypony within a four-mile radius seems to turn and stare anyway.

"Quite a bit, actually," Twilight murmurs, a sheepish blush forming on her face.

"D'you wanna go home and rest it out?," asks Big Mac, tenderly. "Ah know you ain't usually much for drinkin'. Ah don't wanna ruin the night."

"Psh!" Twilight snorts again. "No, that's alright." She giggles a little. "Isn't my boyfriend sweet, though? Don't you guys think he's sweet?"

Applejack rolls her eyes. "Ah know him pretty well already, Twi," she says. "All mah life, in point of fact."

Twilight sticks her tongue out. "Alright, fine, you can be excused. But Matt still has to answer the question! Hey! MATT!"

Uh-oh, thinks Matt, having been quite pleased at staying out of this conversation so far.

"Matt?", snorts Twilight.

Matt seems to be extremely interested in the forkful of spaghetti he's holding.

"Maaaaaaaaaatt," giggles Twilight, in a ridiculous sing-song voice.

Wow, that spaghetti really is fascinating.

"MATT!" barks Twilight, and Matt starts in his seat.

"What?", asks Matt, exasperated.

"Don't you think my boyfriend is soooo sweet? And you guys are sooooooo sweet too." Twilight dissolves into more giggles.

Matt looks at her, and then looks at Big Mac, and wonders what he's supposed to say about the various relationships . He knows too much. He knows more than Applejack knows. He knows more than Twilight knows he knows. He knows more than Applejack knows Twilight knows he knows. And he knows Big Mac knows almost nothing.

Maybe it's the beer, but he can't get all those knows-es straight, and so he just hopes he can trust himself not to say anything stupid. And he really hopes Drunk Twilight won't say anything even stupider.

Oh, hell, she's looking right at him, and batting her eyelids in a mock-sensual way, just one step away from making kissy faces. If AJ notices this, there might be a full-on girl fight, right here in the restaurant.

Hey, that might be kind of... NO. Bad Matt's brain. Bad!

The Elements of Harmony are not going to be breaking up over the purple book horse having too much beer.

He decides to say something.

"I'm, uh... You guys are great together. I'm so glad you're a couple," he stammers. "Big Mac is a cool guy. Although he did throw me in the air one time."

Big Mac looks down at the table, with a sad puppy look on his face.

"...But I totally forgive him", continues Matt, rather hastily. "Big Mac, you're good with me."

Big Mac looks up, with a happy puppy look on his face.

Applejack, who either didn't notice the (hopefully) pretend flirting, or wasn't going to make anything of it, now decides to speak up. "You guys sure did surprise me, ah ain't gonna lie! But ah appreciate Big Mac told me first. Even if'n he didn't mean to."

"Huh?" asks Drunk Twilight, drunkenly. "He didn't tell you first. Matt already knew."

Applejack's jaw physically drops, and her eyes go wide. She turns to Matt, with that expression of total shock.

Thanks, Twilight.

He turns to face Applejack, who is giving him the grumpy scowl he knows means he's in trouble.

"You keepin' any more secrets from me, mister?", she says, accusingly. Matt can't help but notice her voice is unmistakeably starting to get slurred too.

"...All of this only happened because all of you keep asking me not to tell each other things!", moans Matt, exasperated. "All the ponies in this town are crazy!"

Twilight opens her eyes and nods enthusiastically in agreement. "See, that's what I said! See? It's not just me!"

Applejack punches Matt, quite hard, in the shoulder.

"Ah ain't mad," she says, cosying up to him.

"...Ow?" says Matt, pointedly rubbing his shoulder. "You could have fooled me."

"Aw, shucks," she drawls. "Ah'm awful sorry about that, sugarcube." She leans in close, as though to inspect the reddened arm, and then scrunches up her face, as if she's only just remembered Matt wears clothes. "Was meant to be a lil' thump, y'know? Playful-like. Although..." A huge grin crosses her face. "...Ah seem to recall you not havin' so very many reservations about a little rough and tumble now and again..."

"Hey, look, it's Garçon!", says Matt, almost in a shout, as the waiter pony passes their table. "Come on over, Garçon! And definitely don't let Applejack finish this sentence! I mean, uh, we need more... uh... stuff!"

"Eeyup." Big Mac looks relieved, but Twilight seems a little disappointed she won't be hearing more about this. Still, Matt's interruption has had the desired effect, as AJ has stopped talking and is instead nuzzling herself against his arm.

"Monsieur Williams," says Garçon, stifling a giggle of his own. "May we bring you and your party... some more drinks?"

"I'm not sure that's really the best idea -", begins Matt.

"Four more beers!" shouts Twilight.

"And some dandelion wine!", giggles Applejack.

Matt looks helplessly at Big Mac, who can only shrug a resigned "...Eeyup". Twilight is making exaggerated kissy faces, and he's trying to fend her off.

"...What they said", nods Matt, defeated.

"You never answered my question," slurs Drunk Twilight.

"I did," said Matt. "You guys are a cute couple."

"Oh yeah," slurs Drunk Twilight. "Sorry." She starts to giggle again.

Matt really doesn't think he can trust her to keep quiet if this carries on. Even without looking over, he can sense Applejack getting uncomfortable at all this out-in-the-open relationship talk; but nowhere near as uncomfortable as she'll be if Twilight suddenly blurts out she made Matt kiss her before coming back to Ponyville. Which Applejack doesn't know. Which Applejack must never know, or she'll buck Twilight's head in before anypony gets a chance to explain.

And what if Twilight blurts out that she tried to get Matt to kiss her before shuffling off to Canterlot? Applejack knows about that one, but Matt is willing to bet fifty bits to one that she hasn't mentioned it to Big Mac, and he definitely isn't keen on that becoming public knowledge. It must already be killing AJ to keep a secret like that from her brother, even if it is just to protect him.

Nope. Time to try and change the subject.

"Twilight, come on. Can we just..." he tries to cut in, but Giggly Drunk Twilight turns her attention back on him. Or, rather, on him and Applejack. He looks over; AJ looks about as comfortable with this as he is. Which is to say not at all.

"Now, you wanna talk about a cute couple," Drunk Twilight grins, "let's talk about you two! Yeah, I've seen the way you keep looking at each other! You guys are soooooo cuuuuuuuute," she slurs, before collapsing into another fit of giggles.

"Have some water, Twi," half-growls Applejack. "You'll feel better for it soon enough, ah promise."

Twilight looks at her hooves for a moment, seemingly distracted. She shakes her head, and immediately regrets it. "I think maybe I should head off to the little fillies' room for a moment. Splash some water on my face." She looks up, sheepishly. "I think I'm a bit drunk."

"Good idea," says Applejack. "Ya want me to come with?"

"No," says Twilight, and suddenly starts giggling again. "I don't want to drag you away from your boyfriend."

They can't see it, but both Matt and Applejack roll their eyes in perfect synchronicity.

"I bet he's a really good kisser, right?", giggles Drunk Twilight, and Matt almost falls off his chair.

Applejack looks away with a coy blush. Matt just glares. Big Mac is watching in amusement, though Matt is pretty sure he wouldn't be so amused if he knew what Twilight was talking about.

"Not that I'd know, of course," says Twilight, winking.

"Twilight!" growls Matt under his breath, but she just giggles and lolls against Big Mac's enormous shoulder with a big goofy smile on her face.

"I'll be back in a moment," she says, stumbling to her hooves. "Hey, I know! Shall I get us some dandelion wine on the way back?"

"NO!" three voices bark in unison.

Twilight gives an unsteady shrug, wobbles a little, and then trots off to the bathroom. She bumps into Garçon on the way, and whispers something in his ear. The waiter pony looks briefly concerned for a moment... but only a moment.

Another bottle of dandelion wine levitates itself onto their table.

"So... how come the Appleloosan oats are, like, three times the price of the other oats?," asks Matt, studying the menu, as Applejack starts her assault on her umpteenth mug of cider. Big Mac is busy shovelling hoof-fuls of the 'ordinary' oats into his face.

"I'm... not... sure," slurs Twilight, eyes derping. "I *have* always kind of wonderrrred what the diff'ence is between those oats and the ones here, the ones they have here, in Ponyville," she says.

"An inflated price tag," mutters Applejack, under her breath. Twilight isn't listening.

"Let's tryyy them!", Twilight rasps into Big Mac's ear. "Look at the menu!", she exhorts, levitating it out of Matt's hands before he can object. "Look! They're only a few... uh... a lot more bits than the Ponyville ones. And I would like to try. For, um, science!"

"There's no point, Twi," says Big Mac, gently. "They really ain't no different."

"But... but... RESEARCH!", whines Twilight, loudly.

"You bein' cheap for your date there, Big Mac?", guffaws Applejack, earning a sharp glare from her big brother.

"It ain't that!" says Mac, disgruntled.

Applejack giggles into her hoof. "Ah'm only teasin'," she says, giving Big Mac a conspiratorial wink before leaning over towards Twilight. "Ah do believe he'd spend his last bits to make you happy, Twilight."

Big Mac nods. "Thanks, AJ. Look, Twi, trust me on this one - we know the gal who grows 'em. She's family. Ah can say for a fact, hoof on heart, there ain't no difference I know of, 'cept the name." He pauses, and takes another mouthful of food. "If anythin', these Ponyville oats're better," he says, still munching, bits of chewed-up oats spraying on the table.

"He ain't wrong," confirms Applejack, nonchalantly wiping the oaty spittle off her cheek as she drains yet another mug. Matt can only watch in horror.

"But I wanna tryyyyyyy!", whines Twilight, giving Big Mac her best big puppy-dog eyes. "Come onnnnnnnnnnn, Big Mac!"

Other ponies are most definitely looking at them now.

Matt rubs his temples. "I tell you what. I will get them for us," he says. "If that's alright with everypony else."

"Eeyup," says Big Mac, with a shrug.

"Squeeee!" goes Twilight, with a manic grin, clapping her hooves together in delight.

"Well... aw, what the hay, if you're buyin', ah'm not gonna turn mah snout up at 'em. They're your bits," says Applejack.

Matt leans over and whispers in her twitching ear. "It's worth it to snap Twilight out of it," he says, and gives her a wink. She gives a beaming smile, and nuzzles his neck. Her breath smells of booze, and Matt briefly tries to count up how many drinks she's had already, before thinking better of it. She's doing OK. Better than Twilight, anyway. He calls Garçon over again.

"Can we get a platter of the Appleloosan oats, please?", asks Matt, trying not to seem like he's acting the big shot. He thinks he sees the merest flicker of movement from Garçon's eyebrows, but otherwise, the waiter pony is the very picture of professionalism.

"Of course, monsieur. I will return with them momentarily."

"And four more beers!" shouts Big Mac. Everypony else turns to look at him.

"What?", he asks, muzzle scrunched up in a quizzical expression. "I'm still thirsty."

"...And four more beers," confirms Matt.

This can't end well, he thinks.

There's a commotion, building to a murmur throughout the Hayloft. Matt and Applejack share a look; for a moment, the rest of the diners aren't looking in their direction, and they crane their necks to see what's so interesting.

"Looks like someone famous has arrived," says Matt.

"Can ya see who it is?", asks Applejack.

"No, but I don't know pony celebrities anyway, so I wouldn't recognise them even if I could see," says Matt.

"Here's hopin' they're more famous than us," says Big Mac. "Maybe then, some of these ponies will shake their heads and stop their starin' over here."

"These aren't any different from the other oats," says Twilight, frowning.

Applejack squints, and Matt looks over again to see what's happening. For just a fleeting moment, he gets a clear line of sight through the crowd of heads before his view is blocked again. He couldn't be sure, but that almost looked like...

"RARITY!" hollers Applejack, standing up on her chair, waving to her friend.

Everypony in the restaurant is looking at them again.

"Darling!" cries Rarity, as she trots over to their table. "Of all the ponies I thought might be here tonight, I must say you are one of the last ponies I expected to see!"

Rarity leans in and ostentatiously air-kisses Applejack on each cheek, while carefully avoiding smearing her make-up or mussing her hair, instead giving her farmpony friend a "non-hug" hug.

"It's good to see ya, Rarity," smiles Applejack, and pulls Rarity in close for a "hug" hug, squeezing her tightly. Big Mac and Twilight both giggle as Rarity struggles to extricate herself from her friend.

"Oops, sorry 'bout that," laughs AJ, and Rarity momentarily recoils from the smell of alcohol, glancing down towards their table, taking note of the growing number of empty beer bottles, cider mugs and wine glasses which Garçon hasn't yet had a chance to remove. She seems to be searching for an appropriate response, before Applejack jumps in again. "What brings ya here tonight?"

"Oh!" exclaims Rarity, snapping herself back to the present. "I am here with my coltfriend. He was a little self-conscious about us going out together in Canterlot, so I invited him to dine with me here in Ponyville. But I see you already had the same idea, no? Hello, Twilight. Matt, Big Macintosh."

"Your coltfriend?", begins Twilight, looking up from her expensively disappointing oats, before she catches sight of the big brown earth pony standing behind Rarity.

"Donut Joe!" she beams, and jumps up to give her old friend a hug. Matt raises an eyebrow, but nopony else seems at all bothered by the show of affection.

"Joe is an old friend from Canterlot," explains Twilight as she sits back down with Big Mac. "I often stop by whenever I'm back in the city. Rarity! I had no idea you were a couple now!"

"It seems there's a lot of that about," smirks Rarity, noting Twilight and Big Mac snuggling up together. "May I say, it's about time."

Twilight blushes, as Rarity straightens out her hair and gives Joe a peck on the cheek. Now it's the baker pony's turn to blush. Once again, Applejack gives Matt's hand a squeeze.

"Well! Here we thought we'd be the center of attention, stepping out as a couple," says Rarity, amused. "Instead, we find ourselves relegated to third billing. Fancy that!" She looks around, and spots Garçon in the crowd.

"Oh, Garçon, dear?", she asks, sweetly, fluttering her eyelashes. "I do so hate to impose, but do you think maybe it would be possible for us to have a table near our friends here?"

Garçon's previously unflinching demeanour visibly cracks before Matt's eyes, the waiter pony blushing furiously under Rarity's smile. "Anything for you, mademoiselle," he blushes, and trots back to the kitchen for supplies. Matt can only watch in amazement, as Rarity's sweet, wheedling smile disappears the second Garçon's back is turned, replaced with a victorious smirk and a knowing glance at Joe, who just smiles back with pride.

It's a good thing she's on our side, thinks Matt; he isn't sure the stallions of Equestria would put up much resistance if she were to turn evil.

"Oh!," exclaims Rarity, suddenly the picture of embarrassment. "This is all assuming you don't mind Joe and I butting in like this. If anypony would prefer, we can of course withdraw! And Joe, dear, I must apologise, I never even asked you whether you would be comfortable eating with all of us!"

Rarity turns to Applejack. "Although, I must say, it does come as something of a relief to run into you like this. I have been wondering how best to break the news of our... romantic attachment. I suppose that's that taken care of!"

Applejack gives Rarity and Joe a big smile. "Well, ah hafta say, congratulations to the pair of ya. Ah knew Rarity would find herself a good stallion one of these days."

Rarity squints at her. "You're, um... you're not surprised, Applejack?"

Applejack scrunches up her face. "Surprised? Yup, that's me. Surprised all over. Quite a surprise, this." Her eyes are flitting from side to side.

"...Matt already told you, didn't he?", says Rarity, flatly.

Applejack pauses for exactly twice as long as expected.

"...uh ... No?"

Rarity rolls her eyes.

"Well, I suppose we can be open now, since the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Ahem. Joe, dear," she exclaims, loudly enough for anyone within fifteen tables to hear. "Would you mind awfully joining me for dinner with my friends? I know it isn't quite the romantic date I promised you, but..."

Applejack puts a hoof across her friend's chest. "It's OK, Rarity. Ah got this," she interrupts. She looks over to Donut Joe.

"Joe, ah meant it when ah said ah was pleased for Rarity findin' herself a good stallion. Ah was real happy when ah heard the news. Ah'd be honored if you'd sit with us, for sure..."

Joe starts to fidget nervously, but Applejack continues.

"...but ah reckon you might like a lil' more privacy, am ah right? Why don't y'all ask Mister Garçon there to set you up with a nice quiet booth? All o'these ponies starin' like their eyes is stuck... It don't bother me none, not any more. We can take the gawpin' for ya, for tonight."

Joe looks at Applejack in silent relief, and nods in frantic agreement. Rarity watches him turn away to find Garçon, and mouths her thanks to Applejack before turning to join him. It's Matt's turn to swell with pride, and he squeezes his amazing marefriend's hoof in solidarity.

"So... ah reckon you just earned us another course, AJ," grins Big Mac, interrupting the moment. "You wanna order something else?"

"Don't get the oats," murmurs Twilight.

"...Matt, was there somethin' you wanted to try?", asks Applejack. "Other than, y'know, the, uh..." - she whispers behind her hoof - "Q word?"

Matt looks over the menu again, and smirks to himself. "Would it be too corny if I said I actually kind of had a hankering for some... apples?"

"That would be apple-y, not corny, silly!", comes a familiar voice, from a direction Matt can't quite pinpoint. Matt recognises who it is immediately, but that doesn't stop him being physically knocked off his chair by the aftershock from a pink motion blur bouncing across the table. Beer and oats go flying. Matt's pants are wet. He really, really hopes it's beer.

"PINKIE!", snarls Applejack, unamused.

"...Pinkie?" says Matt.

Twilight looks up blearily at her friend, who has just stage-dived across their table, and who is now sitting on it with her hooves crossed and a serene, smiling expression on her face, as though she's meditating.

"Would you like some oats?", asks Twilight.

"So, uh, Pinkie," says Applejack, ignoring Twilight. "What, uh, what are ya doin' here?"

"I came to deliver some cakes!" says Pinkie, eyes still closed. "Only then I was walking back through the kitchen and I looked over and I saw a table with my four amazing friends sitting there, and I said to myself, Pinkie Pie, I said, that looks like Applejack and Matt and Twilight Sparkle and Big Macintosh! And it looks like they're having super fun, and I thought, what could make a super fun evening even more super fun? And the answer was, BALLOONS!"

"...What?" asks Matt, taken off guard. He's getting used to Pinkie Pie by now, at least so far as anyone or anypony can 'get used' to Pinkie Pie, but even he wasn't expecting that.

"You know! Balloons!" says Pinkie, suddenly appearing next to Matt in a conspiratorial huddle.

"What are you talking about?" he asks.

She looks at him in confusion for a moment, and then her eyes widen in apparent sympathy. "...Wait, do you not have balloons back where you come from? Oh no, that would be just the saddest thing ever! Poor Matt!"

She strokes his hair in an attempt to comfort him. He looks at her, more confused than ever. "I know what balloons are, Pinkie! I just... why would you want balloons on a date? And you haven't got any balloons."

Pinkie's eyes widen even further, her pupils narrowing to tiny pin-pricks, her mane somehow becoming even poofier and more unruly. She lets out a dramatic gasp, before clutching Matt close to her.

"Okay. First of all, I've always got balloons. And second of all, this is a date? Oh! That's so fun! No! Wait! That's not fun! Not that kind of fun! You know what? You definitely don't need balloons for that! NO BALLOONS! Oh no! I'm interrupting! You guys are all on a date! I'm... a party crasher!"

Her lip wobbles ominously.

"It's OK, Pinkie", smiles Applejack, taking the opportunity to gently prise her bewildered boyfriend from Pinkie's grip. "Just... can ya lower yer voice a touch? Folks are kinda starin' at us again."

Pinkie looks around, and sees Applejack isn't wrong; ponies hastily look away as soon as she makes eye contact, but there was definitely a lot of staring going on.

"You got it, Applejack! I'll be just the quietest pony ever!" Pinkie leaps up with a huge grin, making a triumphant (and very loud) SQUEE! noise, before stopping in mid-air, her eyes popping open in sheepish embarrassment. She slowly drifts back down, as Matt watches in astonishment.

"Oops! I was being all loud again. Oh! Sorry! I interrupted! Again!"

"It's OK," says Big Mac, with a smile.

"Phew! Thanks, Big Mac! I was worried you'd be cross with me for interrupting again, and... Oh no! I interrupted again! Oops! Sorry!" She mimes locking her mouth and throwing away the key.

"But, Pinkie," says Applejack. Predictably, Pinkie only shrugs and mimes towards her "locked" mouth. Applejack rolls her eyes, but Matt can see the beginnings of a smile there.

"You can talk," says AJ, and Pinkie mimes finding the key on the floor and unlocking her mouth. "Phew!" she says. "That was hard work! Keeping quiet like that? No thank you!"

She pauses. "But I'd totally do it for my friends!"

Matt suddenly finds himself, Applejack, Twilight and Big Mac smooshed together with Pinkie in a giant five-way hug. The pink party pony looks happier than ever as she squeezes her friends tight to her.

Before anypony can process what's happening, Pinkie is gone.

Matt looks at Twilight and Big Mac, who both look as stunned as he does. Applejack looks over to him with a sympathetic smirk.

"Some night, huh?", she grins. "Ah wonder if anypony else is gonna show up?"

Matt is about to answer, but before the words can come out, another loud shout rings across the dining hall.

"Ohmygosh! AJ?"

"...Rainbow Dash?!"

"...so they make us wear these stupid formal clothes, right? And they're nothing like the ones Rarity makes. Some factory in Cloudsdale churns these things out. I should totally recommend they speak to Rarity next time I get to talk to Spitfire."

Rainbow Dash downs the dregs of her umpteenth mug of cider.

"And Soarin is all, 'you gotta go to this thing, Dash, it's good for morale', and I'm like, 'it's not good for my morale hanging out with a bunch of reserves in a fancy restaurant just because we all happen to live near Ponyville!' I mean, I love all my friends, and I'd never let the Wonderbolts down, but come on, I know I'm faster than any of these guys. I got here first, didn't I?"

"I, uh, don't think it's a race to see who can get here first...", Applejack tries to interrupt, but to no avail.

"Yeah, yeah, sure, but answer me this, what self-respecting wannabe Wonderbolt would wanna be the one who shows up last to a reserves dinner?" She gives a confident smirk. "Not me, that's for sure. Hey, is anyone gonna eat those oats?"

Twilight pushes the plate over to her, and Rainbow starts shoving them into her face. "So, what are you guys all doin' here?"

"We're, uh, meant to be on a double date," says Applejack, firmly. Rainbow Dash doesn't pick up on the undertone.

"That's awesome!", she says, between mouthfuls of oats.

It's Twilight's turn to try now. "We were, um, enjoying being together. Just the four of us."

"That's cool", says Rainbow, clearing the plate. "We can totally hang out until the other reserves show up. Hey, can we get some more drinks?"

Applejack is about to interrupt, when Rainbow drags a chair over to their table. Garçon Gourmet immediately approaches.

"Mademoiselle Rainbow Dash," he says with a smile. "It is good to see you again, but ze table for your party is over zere."

"It's quite alright, Mister Garçon", says Applejack, with a shrug. "Rainbow is gonna sit with us for a spell while she's waitin' on her friends."

"Slowpokes aren't even here yet, can you believe it? And ya don't have to call me 'Mademoiselle Rainbow Dash' every time I come in here, Garçon," grins Rainbow. "What did we agree last time?"

Garçon grits his teeth and smiles. "Very well... Dash," he sighs, the informality clearly paining him. "Shall I bring you some more drinks?"

"You know it," giggles Rainbow, and Twilight starts giggling too.

Matt and Applejack share a look.

Rainbow leans back in her chair, and then stops as she feels something unusual. She reaches behind her back to find what's brushing against her wing, and pulls out... a green balloon?

She frowns in confusion. "Uh... Was Pinkie Pie here?"

"I was!", chirrups Pinkie, suddenly sitting next to her.

"GYAAAH!" Rainbow leaps in shock. A dozen pairs of eyes stare at the startled pegasus as she floats back down to table level. "Uh, I mean... Hey, Pinkie. 'Sup?"

"Oops! Sorry Dashie! I didn't mean to scare you!"

"Ha! Please! Scare me? I was just, uh... excited to see you!" bluffs Rainbow Dash. "What are you doing here?"

Matt and Applejack share another look.

"Heyyy!", says Pinkie. "Does this mean we can all hang out together after all? Only I was hiding over there so I wouldn't get in the way of Applejack and Twilight and their big double date, but now it looks like it's a friends party after all!"

"I know, right?" says Rainbow Dash, leaning back on the chair and stretching out her wings in nonchalant fashion. "And Garçon is gonna bring us some more drinks. Hey, we should get some more dandelion wine! That'll help sort the ponies from the foals, when the other reserves finally decide to show up!"

Matt and Applejack share a third, increasingly concerned look.

"That sounds super fun! Hey! Garçon! HEY! BRING US SOME DANDELION WINE!", shouts Pinkie, and every single pony in the restaurant turns to stare again.

Matt and Applejack don't share a fourth look, because Matt is too busy facepalming.

"It's a shame you can't eat hay, you're missin' out."

Matt grimaces, and then chuckles. "It's really a pony thing, I think. Don't worry, this is plenty good for me," he says, taking another bite of the delicious apple cobbler. Almost as good as AJ's, he thinks.

Rainbow and Pinkie are unconvinced.

"So... are ya sure? Like, what would happen if you tried a mouthful, huh?", asks Rainbow, eyebrow raised.

"I don't think anything would happen, Eyebrow. Uh... Rainbow. But it wouldn't taste good to me, and I wouldn't be able to swallow it. I might choke or something."

"So you don't even wanna *tryyyyy*?" says Pinkie, in her most wheedling tone.

Matt puts his head in his hands, while a blur of pony voices swirl around his head.

"Don't make the poor colt do things he's not comfortable with."

"Pffff! It's just hay! He'll be fine!"

"...Uh, ya think maybe he can get a word in for hisself?"

"Hay! Hay! Hay! Hay! Hay!"

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Hehehehe! Can everypony be a bit less noise? Please please please? Ooh, are you going to eat that, Big Macintosh?"


"(giggly snort)"

"Ugh. Sappy."

"Hay! Hay! Hay! Hay! Hay!"

"Yeah! HAY! HAY! HAY!"

"I AM NOT EATING HAY!" shouts Matt, and then realises that, for the 158th time tonight, he has gained an audience of a restaurant full of gawping ponies. He slumps back down into his chair, as the pony chorus gets distracted by something else, and starts loudly discussing it at length.

"This is fucking ridiculous," he mutters to Applejack. "I'm glad you're here, I wouldn't want to have to try and explain it to you later."

He winks at her. "I'm glad you're here, full stop."

She smiles back. "This is turnin' out to be a mite more... eventful than ah thought," grins AJ, and puts her hoof on Matt's hand. "Reckon we should prob'ly call it a night soon. Twilight's... had enough," she says, looking with some concern at the nearly-passed-out unicorn, sitting there with apple cobbler smushed on her face while her friends gesticulate and argue animatedly about whatever the hell they're now talking about.

"Probably," agrees Matt. "Are you OK?"

"Ah'm just dandy," says Applejack, giving him a smirk. "Ah can hold mah liquor a touch better than these fillies."

"Can NOT!", barks Rainbow Dash, out of nowhere.

"Can so," says Applejack, "but ah ain't makin' it a competition or nothin'. Ah learned mah lesson never to go out drinkin' with you and Pinkie," she says.

Matt opens his mouth, briefly considers asking for more of this story, decides against it, and closes his mouth again.

"Well, ladies," says AJ, stretching out her front legs as she gets to her feet, "ah do believe we're gonna be callin' it a night. Twilight, y'all gonna be OK? Ah know mah brother is gonna look after you..."

"Eeyup," nods Big Mac.

"I'll bet," snorts Rainbow Dash, earning herself a clip round the head from Applejack.

"Just be safe, ya hear?", continues AJ, ignoring her friend's creasing up with laughter. She looks over to Matt. "Ah reckon we ought to get outta here before Fluttershy shows up or somethin'."

Matt has been in Ponyville long enough to know exactly what's going to happen next, but it doesn't stop him banging his head on the table when it happens anyway.

"...and so I wouldn't usually come to collect these scraps during business hours, but Angel really wanted a cherry and I didn't know where else to go at this time, and... Oh! Eep!"

"Hi, Fluttershy," says Matt, without raising his head from the desk.

"...Hi, girls," says Fluttershy, frozen.

"Hey, Fluttershy," calls out Applejack. "Me an' Matt are headin' off home now, but you're welcome to stay here with the others?"

Fluttershy is still frozen to the spot, which looks a bit strange considering she's hovering a few inches off the ground, eyes wide as satellite dishes. Matt looks up to see what's happening, and then realises who Fluttershy is staring at.

Fortunately, Rainbow Dash is now arguing about clothes with Rarity. Something about compression shorts versus a frilly hemline. It's getting heated. Pinkie has produced a referee's uniform and whistle from somewhere, and is trying to break it up. Twilight is now snoring happily, muzzle in the apple sauce. Big Mac looks over to Matt for support.


Applejack extends her hoof to Matt, who gladly takes her arm-in-arm.

"Goodnight, ladies," says Matt. He turns to Big Mac. "It was good to see you guys," he says, honestly.

"Eeyup," says Big Mac, but he's looking at happy sleeping Twilight. She's gathered the dishes around her as some sort of makeshift pillow, while he tries to scrub some of the food from her face.

Applejack pulls Matt away, with a smile.

"Just another night out with the Elements of Harmony, huh?", he asks, not quite sure what just happened.

"Ya get used to it," smirks AJ, and pulls him tighter. Heh, he thinks, at least I'm not in trouble any more.

On their way out, they walk past Garçon at the bar.

"Uh... Mister Garçon?", says Applejack. "Can we square what we're owin' right now, and then leave the others to 'tend to the rest o' this later? Only, ah think those guys are, uh..."

She looks back over towards their table, where Rainbow Dash is now attempting to down an entire plate of hay, and even Rarity is giggling her encouragement.

"...gonna be here a spell," says Applejack, a little shamefaced.

If Garçon is at all fazed by any of this, he doesn't show it. Instead, a bill magically appears in front of him. "Bien sûr", he says with a nod and a smile. "Whenever you are ready, mes amis."

Matt smirks. Beautiful girl on his arm, fancy restaurant... it's time. He's been waiting to do this his entire life.

He pulls out the bag of bits he brought with him tonight. Pretty much all his savings since he arrived in Equestria, all the money he's made from working on the apple farm, but, well, fuck it, what else is he gonna spend the money on?

Matt drops the bag of bits on the bar with a theatrical flourish. "Keep the change," he says, as suave as he can possibly manage, grin as wide as the Hudson.

Applejack rolls her eyes in mock irritation, but from the extra squeeze she just gave him, Matt can tell his gesture wasn't completely wasted, even if he never gets to do that again in his life.

Totally worth it.

"I think I'm going to like it here", he mutters to himself.

"You better," snorts Applejack, as she pulls him close.

They wander off into the night.

Author's Note:

Is anyone still reading this? (Haven't had any up or down votes or comments in forever)...

I'm having fun writing it anyway. One more chapter to go!