• Published 3rd Dec 2018
  • 589 Views, 16 Comments

Cupid Mark Crusaders - Coyote de La Mancha



A while back, Applejack and Rarity had broken up and were plainly miserable about it. With their own summer plans unexpectedly cancelled, the CMC decided to save the day... and see if their cutie marks were in matchmaking. It could have gone worse.

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Sharing Dreams

Starsday is normally a day of play and frolic for foals throughout Equestria. During the school year, it is the first day of the weekend where there are no classes. In summertime, as it was now, it was simply a special day when performances were most likely to be held, and colts and fillies were allowed to stay up later than usual.

But for the Cutie Mark Crusaders, this Starsday was a frenzy of underage arrangements and clandestine meetings. They weren’t dealing with fools, after all. And so, it went without saying that this was their last, final hope to save the day before their intentions were suspected.

Signs and counter-signs were created and exchanged. Unusual objects were hidden all over Ponyville, materials borrowed, purchased, or traded for. ‘Extravagance’ was a word for lesser ponies. No possibility was left unexplored, no resource untapped, and, above all, no explanations were given.

No matter what, they would not fail again.

And then finally, on Sunday, Rarity and Applejack each received a summons from Princess Twilight herself, the words formed from cut-out pieces of newspaper. It seemed that she wanted all her friends to play some kind of scavenger hunt. There was a short list of rules for playing, and the first one was that no one was allowed to talk about the scavenger hunt, even with one another.


rULe # 1 nO 1 in SCAvengaR hunT noPOny tAlks abOUt skaVaNger hUnt.


Rarity scowled at the missive through her sewing glasses, then sighed. Probably something to do with friendship. Again. Then, she shrugged. Then again, one can hardly blame her. Weekly reports to the Princess, and all that. Reexamining the note, she considered, Of course, for a game like this, with everypony starting out in a different place, it makes sense that Twilight would have enlisted help. After a hefty dose of research, no doubt.

She chuckled despite herself. And this note certainly has Pinkie Pie written all over it.

And thinking on it, perhaps something silly and jovial would help lift my spirits. I have been a bit cooped up lately. She glanced around at her neglected shop. And I certainly can’t go on like this forever.

“Sweetie, dear?” she called. “Are you staying home tonight?”

Sweetie Belle’s voice floated down from her room. “At Apple Bloom’s. Remember?”

“Honestly, I can’t say that I did. But that’s fine. I’m going to be heading out for a while. Can you be sure to be there before dark?”

“Sure thing!”

“Very good, then.”

* * * *

Meanwhile, at Sweet Apple Acres, a similar discussion was being had.

“Well, just be sure you don’t wake Granny,” cautioned Applejack.

“We’ll be quiet,” Apple Bloom assured her.

The older sister gave a knowing look. “All three of you, huh?”

“Oh, c’mon! When have we ever—”

“Yeah, let’s not finish that thought, sugar cube.”

For a moment, Applejack considered once again the prospect of staying home instead. And, once again, she shook her head. Last dang thing she needed was three hyperactive fillies in her mane all night. And besides, maybe a change of pace would do her good.

“Alright, then,” she said. “I may be out late. Y’all be good, now.”

“We will.”

“Uh-huh,” Applejack winked. “Just make sure we still got a house when I get back tonight, y’hear?”

Apple Bloom grinned. “Promise!”

And so, each one at different parts of Ponyville, the two mares began to thread together the series of clues that had been left for them.

* * * *

It was shortly after nightfall when Applejack was galloping at full speed, chuckling to herself at the irony of it all. Leave it to Pinkie to hide the prize in my own barn, an’ under my own muzzle, she thought. Probably some kinda party, as usual. Maybe bein’ the first one here lets me surprise the others, or somethin’.

But as she rounded the house, she saw that she wasn’t the first pony there. Rarity stood in the barn’s open doorway, staring in. From within the old building, there was a faint, flickering light.

Hearing the earth pony’s approach, Rarity turned. When she saw Applejack, she seemed… nervous? Afraid?

“This… this wasn’t me,” she stammered.

“What in tarnation are you talkin’ about?” asked Applejack, pushing the door further open.

Then, she saw.

A table. Dinner. Candlelight.

And only two chairs.

“Applejack,” Rarity managed, “I swear to you, I swear, I would never do this to you…”

To her surprise, Applejack found herself smiling. A sad smile, she was pretty sure, but a smile just the same.

“I know you didn’t,” she said. “An’ I ain’t feelin’ hurt, or teased, or whatever else you might be thinkin’. But, it does look like somepony else had their own ideas about this here night.” She shrugged. “Not sure just who, but whoever it was, they went to a lot’a trouble. An’ more to the point… after all that runnin’ around, I’m hungry.” She nodded towards the interior. “What about you?”

At Rarity’s uncertainty, Applejack sighed. “Aw, heck, Rarity, I ain’t mad. But, can’t we even just eat together, like friends?”

Rarity managed a smile. “So… we’re still friends?”

Applejack blinked. “Well, um, only if you wanna be.”

It was a struggle, but Rarity regained her composure. “Yes,” she said. “I do. Very much.”

Applejack relaxed a little. “Well, alright then.”

A moment later, the barn door was closed. Sitting at the table, Applejack opened the cider jug and set up the glasses. Meanwhile, Rarity uncovered the plates before them.

“Hello, what is this?” Rarity wondered.

“Apple an’ oat stroganoff,” Applejack said as she poured. “Country style. This one’s a berry mince pie. I guess the apple butter’s for th’ cupcakes. Not sure about…?”

“Eggs benedict on wheat,” Rarity supplied, cocking her head to one side. “Not usually what one would find at dinner, but certainly edible.”

Even as each mare considered where they had seen such cooking before, a gentle tune began wafting its way to them. It was an uncertain melody at first, but definitely heartfelt, its steadiness growing with every measure. In fact…

“Wait a minute,” Applejack said, her suspicion growing. “Is that Donkey Doodle?”

* * * *

From the hay loft, Apple Bloom hissed, “What are you doin’?”

“Playing romance music,” Sweetie Belle hissed back.

“That ain’t romance!”

“It’s the only song I know by heart!” Sweetie Belle protested, still whispering.

“Well, make somethin’ up, then!”

“It doesn’t work like that!”

“Well, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it,” Skootaloo whispered. “I think it’s working.” Then, her eyes widened, staring down at the table. “Um, Apple Bloom, where did you get those candles?”

Much to Sweetie’s relief, Apple Bloom shifted her attention to Scootaloo. Sweetie Belle concentrated anew on playing Donkey Doodle as romantically as possible.

“I borrowed ‘em,” Apple Bloom said.

Scootaloo watched as the tapers continued to spark with greater abandon.

“Uh-huh,” she said. “And, where’d you borrow them from?”

“Aunt Pinkie. They’re for special occasions. An’ don’t worry,” Apple Bloom added, “I asked first.”

Just then, the candles died out.

“Not what I was worried about…” said Scootaloo, sinking down as her eyes grew wider.

Just then Applejack threw herself across the table, yelling, and suddenly the candles erupted, sending multi-colored balls of magical flame straight into the ceiling, their explosions filling the upper floor of the building.

* * * *

“Wait a minute,” Applejack said, her suspicion growing. “Is that Donkey Doodle?”

“I do believe it is,” Rarity replied. “I may even recognize the artist.” She put down her glass of cider, giving Applejack a wry look. “Three guesses as to who our mysterious benefactors might be.”

Applejack, for her part, was struggling not to smile and failing. “Rescuin’ foals from a tiny crittur? A rain storm? Mystery music tickets, if I’m guessin’ right? An’ a Candle-lit dinner in the barn, to boot? With cider?” The smile won out, turning into a grin. “Yeah. No takers.”

Rarity shook her head, and sighed. “Still, you must admit, it is a beautiful gesture.” She smiled as well. “I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them to set all this up.”

“Yeah,” Applejack agreed. “It’s from the heart, an’ that’s a fact. I reckon we got the best little sisters around.” She held up her glass. “Plus Scoots, a’course.”

Rarity clinked her glass gently against Applejack’s. “Sisters and nieces.”

“Yep. By blood or by heart.”

“Indeed.”

“Yeah.”

Applejack took a sip, quietly wishing it were something a little stronger.

“Lissen, Rarity…”

“Applejack, I…”

They both stopped, eyes meeting, their hooves touching lightly by the flaring candles.

Then, the candles abruptly died out.

Together, the mares stared at the candles. They’d seen this before.

“No,” Rarity whispered, “they didn’t…”

With a roar, the candles came back to life, shooting fireworks into the ceiling, even as Applejack leaped across the table, bringing Rarity to the ground.

“They did!” Applejack yelled as they fell. “Foals! Run!”

* * * *

Back in the present, Applejack, Rarity, Sunrise and Twilight all looked at Pinkie Pie. Pinkie, meanwhile, examined the sky with great interest.

“Um, mistakes may have been made,” she said at last.

* * * *

The building flooded with fire as more magical explosions of every color detonated all around them. Lacking any anchor in the ground, the firework candles tipped, then sped unevenly in every direction, propelled by the force of their festive ammunition. In no time, the ponies were trapped in an inferno of every possible color. Explosions burst forth all around them, destroying crates and barrels, scattering the hay and setting it on fire.

The rear of the loft was ablaze with burning hay bales, three fillies screaming as the heat pressed in on them. Below, there was only a small clear space around the table, with fire on all sides. The hay acted as kindling, preparing the rest of the barn for what a true fire could become. Already, tongues of gold and orange flame licked the walls and ceiling hungrily on all sides, trapping the ponies within. And throughout it all, more spheres of flame continued to hurl themselves irregularly in all directions.

“Levitate the girls down!” Applejack shouted. “I’ll get th’ door!”

In an instant, Applejack was in the air, her powerful legs carrying her towards the massive portal.

Even as Rarity’s delicate blue aura enveloped the Cutie Mark Crusaders, even as she strained to take their weight, allowing them to leap to the small circle of safety unharmed, Applejack struck the massive barn doors with all her strength.

But there is a great difference between the force generated by a pony who stands, and one who is unsupported in mid-air. And, though the heavy oak doors did open somewhat, Applejack fell upon that impact, screaming as she landed full-length in the fire in front of the doors.

The foals gasped in horror as the fire enveloped her, even as Rarity spun in response to the cry of pain, eyes wide.

APPLEJACK, NO!”

And where there had been an inferno on all sides, now suddenly there was a storm. Snow and ice sprayed across the whole of the barn’s interior, smothering the flames, freezing the fireworks into silence. Icicles hung from the rafters. Frost left its patterns across the walls. The floor became slick with half-melted ice even as the support beams groaned from the sudden temperature shift.

And then, silence. The only sound was the labored breathing of Rarity, her eyes still huge with terror, gasping for breath as the glow of her horn slowly subsided.

With some difficulty, Applejack pulled herself to her hooves. There was a quick embrace between herself and Rarity, and then she opened the doors the rest of the way, allowing the five of them, soot covered and coughing, but alive, to emerge into the nighttime air.

* * * *

It was perhaps a minute later that they all stood between the house and the scorched and blackened barn, watching it send a continuous, massive tower of smoke into the sky.

“Oh, oh, my land,” Apple Bloom breathed through her tears. “Oh, Applejack, oh, I am so, so sorry…”

“We all are,” said Skootaloo, staring at their handiwork.

“Heck with that,” Applejack said. “I’m just glad you’re alive.”

Rarity hugged Sweetie Belle while the five of them contemplated the damaged building, still billowing up thick plumes of smoke into the nighttime sky.

“Rarity?” asked Sweetie at last, “how did you do that?”

“Do what, sweetheart?” Rarity asked absently.

“That thing with the frost. I didn’t know you could do that.”

“Normally I can’t, dear. But, well, with loved ones in danger…”

She and Applejack looked at one another. Then looked down, their cheeks coloring slightly.

“Um, ladies?” said Applejack at last.

“Would you kindly excuse the two of us a moment?” Rarity finished.

The three fillies nodded and walked the rest of the way towards the farm house. Granny Smith and Big Mac were waiting, and there was no sense postponing the inevitable.

Once the CMC were out of earshot, Rarity spoke. Very distinctly, very clearly.

“I,” she said, “am an idiot.”

“No, you ain’t. Not ever.”

Rarity shook her head violently. “Yes. Yes, I am,” she said. “I pushed away a treasure beyond all reckoning. Someone who held my heart, and who still holds it. And all for the sake of… things. Status. Stores. A life I don’t even have yet, and might never have.”

Applejack looked up to see Rarity staring at her, blue eyes full of sadness.

“You will,” Applejack said. “It’s your dream.”

Again, Rarity shook her head. “Oh, but it’s all changed now! Every time I see myself in the future, in business, it’s in fashion. But every time I see myself in the future, and happy, it’s with you. For over a fortnight now, I’ve been constantly thinking of the places we might go, thinking of jokes or songs you might like to hear, wondering how you might like the fare at this town or that city someday…” She looked away.

“And then… and then, I have to remind myself,” she said miserably. “I don’t have you to share all that with anymore. And I never will. Because… because I threw it all away. I was so concerned with proximity and location, I didn’t stop to think about the way the orchard and your mane catch the morning light in the autumn. So worried about the dirt and the hay, I didn’t stop to think about the way you smell of apple blossoms in spring, or about that light in your eyes when you’re out there in the orchards, doing what you love.

“And, well, I was so concerned about the dream I’d had since childhood, so afraid of losing control, I became utterly recalcitrant. I didn’t understand the beautiful vision standing before me until it was too late.”

Rarity looked down again, eyes screwed shut. “And I’m not saying that I know how it would have worked between us. Maybe it couldn’t have.” The tears were flowing freely now, as she went on, “But I should have tried! And if it didn’t work out, you deserved better than some nervous excuse for a break-up that left you thinking I didn’t want to see you at all! Because that wasn’t true! It was never true!

“But I didn’t give you better,” she wept. “I handled the matter, if I might call it that, exactly as I did. And if that isn’t idiocy, I honestly don’t know what is.”

Several heartbeats passed before Applejack spoke.

“Hey?”

Still crying, Rarity looked up into Applejack’s green eyes.

“It ain’t too late.”

Rarity blinked, gave an uncertain snf? sound.

“I spent the last couple weeks an’ some change thinkin’ I was never gonna see you again, outside a’Element business an’ maybe by accident,” Applejack said. “An’ darlin’, I thought I was gonna just about die.

“You say you were scared about losin’ yore dreams? Well, truth be told, so was I,” Applejack went on. “All my life, all I wanted was the farm. Grow up here, live an’ die here, be buried here. The acres, the trees, the sun an’ the breeze… if there was a heaven, I always figgered it couldn’t be much better’n this.

“An’ then, there you were.” She gave a sad smile. “I never in all my days thought I’d see anythin’ more beautiful than this place. An’ when I did, well, I guess it was kinda scary. So, I also got kinda recal… recall…” She gave Rarity a look of quizzical amusement.

“Recalcitrant,” Rarity said, also smiling a little. “Though, actually, I may have used the term improperly.”

“Well, since Twi ain’t here ta correct us, let’s jus’ call it stubborn.”

Rarity’s smile grew. “That seems fair.”

“All right, then” Applejack smiled back. “Anyway, I got stubborn my own self. Leave the farm fer some big ol’ city? Or even a shop in Ponyville? Shoot. Not this gal. Not now, not ever.

“But, then we split up. An’ it got so that every mornin’ I’d be thinkin’ about the sunrise, an’ wonderin’ if maybe you saw it. Or there’d be a square dance comin’ up, an’ I’d wonder if you’d like to go – it was you showed me how square dancin’ an’ ballroom dancin’ were so close t’each other – an’ then I’d remember again: there weren’t no you an’ me no more. There was just me.

“An’ for the first time, Sweet Apple Acres was a lonely place. Every place was. ‘Cuz you weren’t there with me.”

Again, for a time, silence grew between them.

“I remember that dance,” Rarity said. “Ridiculous umbrella, giving way like that.”

Applejack smiled in reminiscence. “Yeah, that was just a lucky break for me.”

“I was positively mortified to be caught in that thunderstorm, and my mane was completely soaked…!”

“Apple cart was stuck, no pullin’ it out just then anyway…”

“We both took shelter under that awning… what was the shop again?”

“No idea. I just remember you.”

“And after a while, we started talking about the Gala, how grand it would be…”

You started. I was talkin’ about how I didn’t never do such a froo-froo kinda dance.”

“And, well, I was determined to prove you wrong.”

Applejack grinned. “An’ you did.”

“And then…”

“Yeah.”

They both smiled. It had been their first kiss. Completely unexpected, very gentle, and very, very nice.

“It still ain’t too late,” Applejack said.

Rarity’s smile faded. “Oh, Applejack. How can we go back?”

“We can’t,” Applejack said, “so we don’t. We go forwards, instead.” She stepped closer. “We take chances with each other, an’ we accept our mistakes. We let each other in, we get hurt, we say sorry when we need to an’ mean it like the dickens. An’ we be there for each other like family, an’ do everythin’ we can ta make this work.”

“And… what about our dreams?” Rarity asked softly. “Which of us gives up her dream?”

“I’m… I’m thinkin’ neither one,” Applejack replied. “I’ll allow I dunno exactly how, but maybe we can blend ‘em, ‘steada havin’ ta choose one or the other.”

Rarity cocked her head to one side, considering the possibilities. Boutique refreshments? Designer cider flavors?

“Then again,” Rarity said, in a more contemplative tone, “as I think on it, just thinking aloud, mind you, how much of our difficulties ultimately lay in location?”

“Oh, at first glance, I’d say a fair amount,” Applejack allowed. “I’m sure we’ll find others… wait a minute.” The farmer’s eyes widened. “That’s it! Why, I bet if we can get Twilight in on this… why, she’s the strongest mage around, aside from the princesses. I bet… wait, what were you thinkin’?”

The unicorn shook her head. “Nothing, dear. Finish your thought, do.”

“Well, anyway, what if Twilight could whomp up a spell to make it like we were havin’ the same house? Like, a common door, maybe? On one side, you’re in my house… step through, an’ you’re in yours?”

“A tesseract,” Rarity mused. “Hm. It’s theoretically possible, of course… but the degree of finesse and energy required to construct a stable five-dimensional architecture, especially between pre-existing three-dimensional structures, is prohibitive. To say the least.”

“Well, it was just a thought.”

“No, no, it’s a good one,” Rarity assured her. “It’s just that I very much doubt that even Twilight could perform such a feat.”

“Well, maybe not yet,” Applejack said. “But give that gal some time, I reckon there ain’t much she won’t be up for. An’ heck, we ain’t in that much a hurry, are we?”

Rarity smiled. “No. I suppose we aren’t.”

“Well, then… Rarity?”

“Yes?”

Applejack ran a gentle hoof along Rarity’s mane, down her neck. “We don’t really need a storm, do we?”

Rarity voice was a whisper, as, eyes closed, she leaned into Applejack’s kiss.

“No…”

* * * *

Meanwhile, out of earshot but not out of sight, three young fillies whinnied and pranced with delight.

“It worked!” cried Apple Bloom.

“They’re together again!” cheered Sweetie Belle.

“We’re geniuses!” crowed Skootaloo.

Granny nodded at the couple, locked in each other arms. “Welllllll, thet took long enough. Now, as fer yew three,” she went on, turning her attention to the CMCs, “any a’you know how ta fix up a half-burnt barn?”

In an instant, the jubilation vanished. The three fillies shook their heads, no.

“Well then, see that yew git here at th’ crack a’dawn tomorra,” the old mare said. “Me an’ Big Mac’s gonna larn ye.”

“Eeeyup,” frowned the huge stallion.

“Yes, ma’am.” The three of them chorused, subdued.

“An’ yew kin come back come the fall, every mornin’ yer not in school, an start helpin’ with the buckin’.” She went on. “Had us a lotta preserves go up in that stunt a yours, so yew kin help us replace ‘em.” Her eyes narrowed. “’Specially yew, Apple Bloom. Since yew got more experience, I ‘spect more apples from ye.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they said again.

“Well, alright then,” Granny nodded. “We know yer sorry, an’ yore makin’ amends. Let’s go git washed up fer supper, an’ we’ll talk no more about it.”

“What about them?” asked Apple Bloom.

Granny scarcely gave the two lovebirds a glance. “I’m thinkin’ they’ll be goin’ out ta dinner tonight, like as not.” She turned, making her way back into the house.

“We’ll save ‘em some pie.”

Author's Note:

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