• Published 7th Dec 2011
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Not Unless You Mean It - Donnys Boy



Pinkie Pie's crush on Rainbow Dash is possibly the worst-kept secret in all Equestria ...

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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

She wakes up when she hears the humming--a happy, bouncing tune set in a major key. Stretching her legs and her wings, and stifling a groan at the cramps snarling up every single muscle she possesses, Rainbow Dash slowly pries open her eyes.

A pair of uncanny, undead purple eyes stare back at her.

“Gah!”

Rainbow leaps out of the bathtub that sits in the middle of Pinkie’s little studio apartment and alights on the tub edge, her heart hammering from the sudden rush of adrenaline flooding her body. A small alligator stands a few feet away on the opposite edge of the tub and blinks at her unevenly for several more moments, before finally climbing into the now-vacated bathtub.

“Gummy!” Rainbow turns towards the voice and spots Pinkie standing near the window, shaking her head at her pet. “That’s no way to treat our guest!”

Rainbow chuckles shakily and steps down to the floor with great care.

For some reason, when she gets too drunk to fly home after a night of partying down in Ponyville, she always wakes up the next day in either one of Applejack’s trees or Pinkie Pie’s bathtub. She’s not entirely sure why or how. Either way, though, she ends up feeling like she’s been hit by a train. That could be the result of too much cider rather than too uncomfortable beds, however, if Rainbow is being honest with herself.

But she much prefers not being honest with herself, as a general principle. Life is just a lot easier that way.

“Good morning, sleepy head!” Pinkie greets her in a sing-song tone, as her entire face breaks into a brilliant, blinding smile. It’s her usual smile, the smile she offers up freely to everypony in the entire world, and not the soft smile of last night. Rainbow feels both relieved and strangely disappointed.

She blinks at her friend and tries to ignore the headache that’s starting to form right above her left eye. “Hey. Mornin’, Pinkie.”

“I tried to wake you up earlier, but you just grunted at me to go away. So I decided to wait until later and then come back! And now you’re up!” Pinkie tilts her head, looking very birdlike as she does so. “I’ve been trying to decide between blueberry waffles and strawberry pancakes for brunch, but then I realized--I don’t have to decide! So I’m going to make half-strawberry, half-blueberry pancake-waffles.”

Even though her stomach gives a lurch at the very thought of food itself, let alone the specific monstrosity of sugar Pinkie is planning to prepare, Rainbow grins in reply. Pinkie’s enthusiasm is infectious, as always. Maybe brunch will be a good thing.

But first, she realizes, she should apologize. Taking a deep, steadying breath, Rainbow prepares to swallow her pride and make amends for last night. Instead, she hears herself say, “Thanks for the party, Pinkie.”

“Of course!” Pinkie bites her lip, somehow still smiling as she does so. “I’m just sorry it had to be a ‘Better Luck Next Time, Rainbow Dash!’ party instead of a ‘Congratulations On Becoming an Awesome Wonderbolt, Rainbow Dash!’ party.”

“Heh. You and me both.”

Pinkie gives a firm nod, as though something important has been settled. “Well, I’m off to make pancake-waffles! Come down when you’re ready!” With a jaunty wave good-bye, Pinkie trots off towards the kitchen.

After she’s left, Rainbow glances around the small room. It’s sparsely furnished, and it seems oddly empty for a room so tiny. Lonely, even. She doesn’t really like being here if Pinkie isn’t in the room with her.

So after splashing some water on her face over at the sink, she heads downstairs to go find her friend. Before she can complete this mission, however, she runs into the owners of the bakery, Mr. and Mrs. Cake, who are busily mixing up bowls of dough and batter while standing towards the front of the kitchen.

As soon as Mrs. Cake spots Rainbow, the older mare beams at her. “Oh, Rainbow Dash! Good morning! It’s always so nice to see you around the bakery.”

Mr. Cake, however, looks significantly less thrilled to be encountering the pegasus. He glances up for just a moment before returning his attention to his mixing bowls. “Ah, hello there, Dash. You slept over again?”

“Uh, yeah.” She feels suddenly ashamed, without really knowing why. “Pinkie had a party last night, and you know how late those can go …”

But then Pinkie Pie swoops in to save the day, much in the same way that Mare Do Well once scooped up a half dozen construction workers and ferried them out of danger. “Heya, Dash!” she greets her friend loudly, motioning Rainbow over towards the back of the kitchen, where she’s set up her grand brunch preparations. “Wanna help me make pancake-waffles?”

“Y-yeah! Sure!”

Dash doesn’t mention that her desire to help stems mostly from the coinciding desire to avoid Mr. Cake’s disapproving presence. But then, not every single thought has to be shared between friends, right? Right.

Somewhat surprisingly, Pinkie proves to be a good cooking instructor. She whispers endless encouragements to Dash as the pegasus measures and mixes and pours. And when the first pancake-waffle turns out black as coal, Pinkie gamely gobbles it down and pronounces it delicious.

Rainbow can’t help but smile at that, despite the throbbing ache that’s now overtaken her entire head. Pinkie is a terrible, terrible liar. Almost as bad as Applejack, really.

It’s cute, though, how she’s trying not to hurt Dash’s feelings. Almost unconsciously Rainbow steps closer to the pink pony, close enough that she can feel Pinkie’s fur brush up against her own. The kitchen starts to feel very hot and very crowded.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Fluttershy’s voice whispers in the back of her mind: Not unless you mean it.

Quickly she steps back to where she was before, so that she’s still standing close to Pinkie but no longer actually touching. Pinkie shoots her a puzzled look, which Dash resolutely ignores. She stares down at the counter and her flour-coated hooves. They continue mixing up the batter for their next attempt at the pancake-waffles.

They’re well into their third batch of the breakfast hybrids when a soft tinkle comes from the front door, signaling the arrival of a customer.

“Good morning, dearie!” Mrs. Cake calls out, full of her usual good cheer.

“Sorry to be interruptin’ yer baking, folks,” Applejack apologizes, wearing a sheepish smile and dipping her head in a quick bow of greeting. “I’ll be outta yer manes just as soon as I collect my farmhand for the day.”

Rainbow frowns.

“Aww.” Almost immediately, Pinkie starts pouting. “But Rainbow Dash is helping me make waffles! I mean, pancakes! I mean, pancake-waffles!”

Applejack chuckles lightly. “Sorry, sugar cube, but I got my claim in fair and square last night. Rainbow belongs to me today.”

For just a second, Rainbow can swear that she sees something strange and dark in Pinkie’s eyes--anger? fear? despair?--but then the pink earth pony is all smiles and sunshine again. “That’s true,” Pinkie agrees, nodding seriously. “Dashie did lose the bet, didn’t she?”

Finally, Dash has had enough and blurts out, “What are you two talking about?” She gives both the earth ponies a glare, too, just for good measure.

A glare that goes ignored. Instead, Applejack and Pinkie look at one another in surprise, and then Pinkie starts giggling while a slow, amused smile eases onto Applejack’s face.

“Well, I’ll be. She don’t remember, do she?”

“Oh, gosh! I don’t think she does!”

Mr. Cake makes a harrumphing noise in the back of his throat. Dash hazards a glance towards the stallion and notices him shaking his head and pursing his lips.

It takes all of her self-control to keep her wings from spreading out in a defensive display.

“All right, all right, all right!” Rainbow has to take control here; otherwise all of these stupid, smirking earth ponies will drive her completely nutso. “So, there was a bet, I lost the bet, and now I gotta work for AJ doing …” Here, she falters a bit. “Doing something. I guess. Anything else I oughta know?”

Applejack shakes her head. “Naw. That ‘bout covers it.”

“Ooh, wait!” Pinkie raises a hoof, like a filly in a classroom who has a question for the teacher. “Dashie should know what the bet was about.”

Rainbow’s eyebrows knit together. “Uh, really, that’s okay …”

But Pinkie is not to be deterred. “Last night, you said you could fit five apples in your mouth,” she begins excitedly, earning Dash another glare from Mr. Cake, “and Applejack said there was no way you could fit five apples in your mouth. But you said you totally could, so Applejack said you should prove you could, and then Twilight said that she had a really bad feeling about what was gonna happen next--”

The rest of Pinkie Pie’s retelling is cut off as Applejack unceremoniously shoves Rainbow out the front door of the bakery. Once outside, Rainbow takes to the air and hovers along behind Applejack as the earth pony begins trotting down the street. She doesn’t even have to ask to know that they’re headed straight to the farm.

After a few seconds, she notices just how very bright it is outside and suddenly wishes she had her sunglasses. Ow. “Well, a bet’s a bet. What am I gonna be doing today?”

“Oh, nothin’ much,” says Applejack in an excessively loud tone of voice. She briefly glances back towards Rainbow, wearing an evil grin. “Just helpin’ me buck some apples in the west field.”

“Whoo hoo. Sounds like good times.” Dash doesn’t even bother to hide the sarcasm in her voice as she rolls her eyes--instantly regretting that decision when it triggers another stab of pain in her head.

“Aw, don’t be a sore loser, now.” Impossibly, Applejack’s voice sounds even louder than it did before.

Wincing, Rainbow whimpers, “Could you … maybe not talk so loud? Just for a while?”

Applejack just chuckles in reply. But she stays blessedly silent for the rest of the trek out to Sweet Apple Acres.

Once there, Applejack bypasses the orchards and walks right up to the farmhouse, with Rainbow a few paces behind. The farm pony tells Dash to wait outside, then disappears inside the house. In just a few minutes she returns with a cup, which she sets down in front of the pegasus. She motions for Rainbow to drink.

Dash leans over the cup and takes a cautious sniff. Immediately her stomach rebels, and she rears back with a distressed neigh. She looks at Applejack with undisguised horror and disbelief.

“Scale of the dragon what bit ya,” Applejack explains. She gestures towards the cup again. “Go on, drink up. It’ll be a misery goin’ down, but you’ll feel better for it after a bit.”

This is a terrible idea. But she’s followed through on much more terrible ideas, so after taking a deep breath, Rainbow grabs the cup in her mouth and downs the cider in one long gulp. She starts coughing almost immediately, and Applejack slaps her on the back, rather roughly.

After her coughing fit finally subsides, Dash glares at Applejack accusingly. “You are trying to kill me. Aren’t you?”

“Oh, Celestia.” The other pony rolls her eyes. “C’mon, you. There’s apples waitin’ to be bucked.”

The rest of the morning passes in relative peace and calm. Applejack and Rainbow Dash work side by side, methodologically going down the rows of shady trees, filling the bushels high with fruit. Only a few words are traded between the two as the hours pass and, even then, only those words that are essential to the job.

Silently, almost subconsciously, they begin competing with one another, each pony trying to empty the trees faster than the pony beside her--but it’s a friendly sort of thing. At least, it feels friendly. There’s no arguing, no fighting, just grunting and bucking and sweating and open blue sky.

By the time they’ve finished with the west field, Rainbow’s head doesn’t hurt at all.

Slowly they begin the long, tiring walk back to the barn and farmhouse. They walk side by side, in companionable silence, until at some point Rainbow realizes Applejack has stopped moving. She turns back and sees Applejack studying her with a conflicted expression on her face. Then, after a moment, that conflicted look hardens into determination.

Dash stifles a sigh. She knows, just knows, what’s coming next, and she dreads it. The only thing worse than a Twilight lecture is an Applejack lecture.

“So,” begins Applejack, sounding uncharacteristically apprehensive, “Rarity says you got yerself into a whole heap o’ trouble after I left the party last night.”

“Yeah, well, Rarity has a big mouth.” Rainbow pauses and frowns. “Wait a minute. You already talked to Rarity today? Before you showed up at Sugar Cube Corner?”

Applejack blushes, for some strange reason, and suddenly her eyes won’t meet Dash’s. “Don’t change the subject, Rainbow!”

Dash lets out the sigh she’d been holding in. “It was no big deal, okay? I just said something dumb. I said a lot of dumb things last night. Besides, Pinkie and I talked this morning, and we’re cool.” Then, in a slightly more tentative voice, she adds, “Everything’s cool ...”

The other pony falls silent for a bit and, just as Rainbow is starting to think maybe she’s won this round, she speaks again in an oddly hushed tone, “Y’know, you got a head as hard as a mule’s. Could frustrate a zebra right out o’ her stripes, I reckon.”

Guess the lecture isn’t quite over yet, Dash thinks sourly.

She flutters into the air and hovers there, a few feet off the ground. She crosses her front legs over her chest and doesn’t even try to hide the annoyance written all over her face. “Is there an actual point to this little chat, AJ, or are you just tryin’ to point out how much better than me you think you are?”

“What I’m tryin’ to say,” replies Applejack, infuriatingly placid, “is that it’d take a peculiar kinda pony to put up with all of your hogwash, Rainbow. Somepony who’s just a might bit crazy, maybe. Somepony who can laugh at life and not take ya none too seriously.”

Rainbow can’t help but roll her eyes. While she’s not the most observant of ponies, to say the least, Applejack is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the temple. “So, what? You’re saying I should go throw myself at Pinkie Pie?”

“Now, sugar cube, I didn’t say that.” Applejack sighs and looks away. “What I’m sayin’ is that, if you do get all romantic with that pony … well, you could do worse ‘n Pinkie.”

At that, Dash snorts.

Applejack lifts an eyebrow. “You don’t think so?”

“C’mon, AJ! We’re talking about Pinkie Pie here.”

“I ain’t kiddin’ with ya, RD,” Applejack retorts, her eyes snapping in anger. “If you get with that girl, you better recognize she’s somethin’ special. Somethin’ worth treatin’ right.”

Frowning, Dash wonders if they’re still talking about just Pinkie Pie. It’s an uncomfortable thought. She shoves it away. Hanging her head, she mutters sullenly, “Everypony’s treating me like I’m some kind of heartless monster.”

“Oh, sugar cube.” In an instant, Applejack’s voice has melted into warmth and sweetness, as smooth as hot apple cider. “All I want is for you to look before you leap. Just this once. That’s all I’m askin’.” She trots over and affectionately nudges Rainbow’s shoulder with her own. “I’d feel just awful if anythin’ happened to either of ya.”

Dash finally looks up, right into her friend’s honest, bright green eyes. She finds herself blurting out, “So you’re actually okay with all this? Not that I’m saying I actually want to get with Pinkie--’cause I sure as hay don’t--but, I mean, y’know. You’re not upset?”

Applejack pauses. Paws at the ground thoughtfully. “Maybe I was, back a while ago. Maybe I wasn’t. I ain’t really sure.” She gives her head a rueful shake. “But truth of the matter is--you and Pinkie are best friends, just about. And you got … some kinda thing … between the two o’ ya that a pony would have to be blind not to see.”

Rainbow Dash opens her mouth to protest this absurd statement. For some reason, though, the words won’t come out. She wonders at just what Applejack means, but she’s not sure she wants to hear the answer.

“Anyways, I done said my piece. That’s more’n enough meddlin’ for one day.” Applejack jerks her head, gesturing towards the buildings still some distance away. “Let’s get all these apples back up to the barn and call it a day.”

Rainbow Dash follows along at a much slower clip than she did before. She feels like she’s just finished flying a marathon race, that’s how suddenly exhausted she is. All this thinking and talking and feelings and junk can really take it out of a pony.

But there’s still something she has to say. She stops walking.

“AJ?”

Applejack glances back over her shoulder, her face open and friendly, wordlessly inviting Dash to continue.

“You and me …” This is hard. Deeply unnatural. She hates this kind of stuff--but she loves Applejack more than she hates the awkwardness. “We’re okay, right? We’re still friends?”

Applejack smiles, slow and gentle. “I’m a tough ol’ farm pony, Rainbow. Would take a lot more than some fool-headed pegasus to break this gal.”

Rainbow returns her friend’s smile, feeling happier than she has in weeks.

---
Author's Notes: Credit where credit's due. In the initial draft, Rainbow Dash woke up from Pinkie's humming and just looked around the room until she spotted Pinkie. It was my beloved Spouse who suggested that Dash get an eyeful of the reliably creepy Gummy first thing in the morning.