• Published 3rd Aug 2012
  • 9,412 Views, 361 Comments

A Dash of Apple - Lycan_01

Applejack tries to teach Rainbow Dash how to cook. Naturally, disaster and awkwardness result.

  • ...

Proper Table Manners

Applejack did not like or appreciate being poked in the ribs. Especially when she was sleeping. So naturally, when she felt something jabbing her in the side of her chest, her first instinct was to grunt and lash out with one of her forehooves. And almost immediately, she felt her hoof strike the furry hide of another pony in very close proximity.

“Yeowch!” a familiar, raspy voice yelped in response. “The hay was that for?!”

Applejack forced her eyes open, but her vision was blurry from having just woken up. “Bwuh?” she asked blearily, shaking her head and blinking her eyes in an attempt to clear her vision. “Rainbow Dash? That you? What’s goin’ on?” she groggily inquired.

“I poked you to wake you up. You poked back. Hard,” the blue blur beside her replied back in a flat, unamused tone. “Better be glad you hit my shoulder, and not my wing.”

“Sorry…” the earth pony apologized, before pausing to yawn and rub at her eyes. “Wait, why was Ah asleep?” she grumbled.

“You were really tired after our late night of hot and spicy lovemaking, so I let you sleep in,” Dash cheerfully replied. “You were awesome, by the way.”

At this point, Applejack’s eyes opened widely, her pupils shrank, and her entire face – as well as much of her fur – turned the same color red as her cutie mark. “We-did-wut-now-wut?” she quietly babbled. Her mind was quickly overwhelmed with panic and confusion, and her heart began to hammer nervously in her chest. “Do-wut-now-huh?”

Her bewildered response was instantly met by raucous laughter from Rainbow Dash. As the earth pony’s vision finally came into focus, she could now clearly see her azure friend sprawled out on the grass beside her, rolling around as she laughed hysterically. “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist!” Dash managed to apologize while gasping for air. Wiping tears of mirth from her eyes, she sat up and grinned at the mortified earth pony. “Nah, we’re in the orchard. You took a nap.”

Applejack looked around. Sure enough, they were out in the orchard, sitting underneath an apple tree. The sun was setting, painting the cloudy skies above them a beautiful mixture of orange, crimson, and purple hues. “A nap, huh?” Applejack asked, gazing up at the colorful sunset as her heart and mind settled down. “How long was Ah out?”

“Not too long,” Dash said with a shrug of her wings. “You were kinda tired, so we sat down for a bit. You nodded off, and I figured you probably needed the rest.”

“Aw, nice to know you care ‘bout mah well-being,” Applejack replied with a playful smirk. Though her tone was joking, there was some sincerity in her words.

Dash waved her right wing in a dismissive gesture, and turned her nose up indignantly. “Well excuuuuuse me for trying to be a good special somepony,” she huffed, though it was obvious from her tone and the look in her eyes that she was just playing around as well.

The two mares quickly burst into a small bout of giggles, finding amusement in their mutual silliness. Once they’d finished laughing, Applejack raised a curious eyebrow. “So, what’d ya wake me up for?”

Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to answer. However, before she could say anything, a loud dinner bell began to ring from somewhere across the orchard, and Granny Smith’s voice echoed out across the farm. “Ah ain’t gonna say it again! Dinner’s just ‘bout ready!”

“Oh mah gawsh!” Applejack yelped in horror, staggering to her hooves in panic. “Why didn’t ya say dinner was ready?!”

Dash gave another shrug of her wings. “I was getting there,” she replied flippantly.

The orange mare fixed her with a steely glare. “No time for bein’ dawdling around, Sugarcube. When Granny says it’s dinner time, it’s dinner time. We gotta get back to the house, now.” And with that, she broke into an all-out gallop back towards the farmstead.

There were only a few things which piqued Rainbow Dash’s interest very easily. The idea of getting from Point A to Point B very quickly was one of those things. Grinning confidently, the pegasus flexed her wings and sank into a ready-to-go stance. “Challenge accepted.”

With a streak of prismatic awesomeness, the rainbow-maned tomboy took flight. Applejack looked back over her shoulder, and grinned at her airborne friend. “Ah may be a bit sleep deprived, but Ah can still whoop ya, Rainbow Dash!” the earth pony bragged.

“Yeah, well,” Dash grinned wickedly, “At least the view is nice.”

Applejack’s concentration shattered. “Hey!” she yelped, looking back over her shoulders with an indignant expression and vibrant red cheeks. “Ah… uh… Ah totally don’t know how to respond to that, actually,” she sputtered in bewilderment, unsure of whether she should be offended or flattered by Dash staring at her rump. And in her confused state, her focus was off the race, and her galloping speed dramatically decreased.

“I think you shouldn’t let yourself get distracted so easily! Aw yeah!” the pegasus whooped victoriously as she zipped past the farmpony.

“H-hey!” Applejack stammered. “That’s not fair! You did that on purpose!”

“That doesn’t mean it was a lie, though!” Dash retorted. Once again, Applejack’s steady stride took a hit as her mind went from racing mode to distracted and over-analyzing mode. Dash looked back over her shoulder, took one look at the earth pony’s blushing and bewildered face, and immediately began to laugh.

“Fine, fine, laugh all ya want,” Applejack huffed, before grinning wickedly. “Though who’s got the great view now, huh?”

“Go ahead, stare all ya want. I don’t mind being ogled by you,” Dash replied with a smirk. “Especially if it means I get to win a race.”

“Galdurnit,” the orange mare deadpanned. Oh well. As much as she hated losing, she couldn’t complain too much – the view really was nice. From her spot in second place, she could clearly see Dash’s toned back and shoulder muscles flexing taut with every powerful beat of her wings. And she was practically mesmerized by the wind sweeping through her friend’s chromatic mane and tail, causing them to flutter and flow wildly. The latter also served to draw Applejack's attention towards a set of very firm and shapely haunches.

Applejack grinned. Yeah, losing this race was something she could very easily live with.

A few minutes of later, the two mares arrived at the farmhouse, both slightly panting and red-faced from the effort. Dash arrived first, with Applejack trailing just behind her. And just before stepping inside, Applejack paused to pull the brim of her hat down over her bruised eye. Which turned out to be a very wise decision, as the moment she stepped through the back door, she was accosted by her grandmother.

“Well it’s about time!” Granny Smith said with more than a little irritation as she stepped in front of the two friends. “Ah already caller fer ya once. What took ya so long? Know what, nevermind, not important. Just wash up an’ get ready fer dinner.” The old mare then smiled, all of her irritation seemingly evaporating. “Ah hope y’all enjoy everythin’ Ah fixed up fer ya,” she said kindly.

Dash and Applejack both leaned sideways to look past Granny Smith. The kitchen table, which had been completely bare when they left for their little trek, was now completely set with a tablecloth, plates, cutlery, and food. Lots and lots of food. Both pony’s mouths instantly began to water at the sight of everything before them, with included sweet potato casserole, fried okra, fresh-baked buttery bread rolls, corn on the cob, cut green beans, fresh garden salad, baked potatoes, and various other vegetarian food items.

“Wow,” Dash said, amazed at the sight in front of her. “Granny Smith, you did this all by yourself?”

“With all sorts of help?” the elderly mare tilted her head to the side in confusion. “No, darlin’, Ah did it all by myself! Wadn’t nothin’ to it, though. Been cookin’ all mah life.” Apple Bloom, who was already seated at the table with Big Mac, gave Dash a knowing stare. “Now, y’all wash up an’ get ready.”

Dash and Applejack nodded, and quickly scurried over to the kitchen sink, where they washed off their hooves. After drying them off with some paper towels, they quickly took their seats at the table. Granny Smith sat at the head of the table, while Applejack and Dash sat on one side, with Big Mac and Apple Bloom seated on the opposite side. “Thanks for inviting me over for dinner, Granny Smith,” Dash said with a grin. “This all looks so awesome!”

“Glad ya think so,” Granny Smith replied kindly. “We can all dig in, just as soon as Applejack takes off her hat.”

Time froze.

“Do wut?” Applejack quietly asked, her blood running cold. “Why do Ah gotta do that? Y’all never make me take mah hat off.”

“Yesss, but we never have special guests,” Granny Smith replied with a forced smile. Her eyes burned with the dangerous, non-verbal warning of “DO NOT ARGUE WITH ME, MISSY,” that only parents, grandparents, and Fluttershy were flawlessly capable of.

“Oh, I don’t care,” Dash interjected with a nervous smile. “She can wear her hat. I totally don’t care. Really. Don’t care!”

“You totally don’t stare?” Granny Smith asked, having misheard Dash again. “Well that’s good ta hear. Starin’ is rude, after all,” she said while waving a hoof dismissively at the pegasus. “Now then, Applejack. Yer hat?”

Applejack knew arguing would just make things worse. With a sigh, she removed her hat, and placed it on the back of her chair. The moment her black eye became visible, her entire family reacted. Granny Smith’s expression became one of concern, while Apple Bloom looked rather confused. Big Macintosh visibly tensed up, and narrowed his eyes at Rainbow Dash; Dash noticed this, and tried to put on an innocent smile.

“Now Applejack, what happened to yer face?” Granny Smith asked, her voice tinged with worry.

“Ah got hit with an apple,” Applejack replied casually, trying not to end the conversation as quickly as possible. “Just an accident. No reason to worry.”

“An accident?” Apple Bloom asked.

Rainbow Dash noticed that while Granny Smith and Apple Bloom were focused on Applejack, Big Macintosh was still staring at her. In fact, while everypony else’s attention was elsewhere, he raised a hoof to his eyes, then pointed it at her. Dash swallowed nervously. Great, an angry over-protective big brother was now going to be watching her like a hawk. That’s totally how she wanted this fancy family dinner to start out.

“Yeah, totally freak accident. Didn’t see it coming,” Applejack explained flatly. She wasn’t lying; she was just leaving out most of the details. “No pun intended.”

“Well Ah would hope there was no fun intended. Not sure how Ah’d feel if my grandbaby was one of them gals who likes getting’ hurt fer kicks. Masks-of-kicks or whatever ya call ‘em. Anyhoo, do ya need some ice or somethin’ fer it?” Granny Smith offered.

“Nah,” Applejack shook her head, choosing to ignore the implication that she was a masochist. “It’s fine. Don’t hurt at all. It’s just a tiny bit tender.”

Granny Smith frowned. “Are ya sure, darlin’? Ah know a herbal remedy that may work. Just need some egg yolk, some cayenne pepper, and some dog fur.”

Applejack’s good eye twitched slightly at the thought of having to either drink such a concoction, or smear it on her bruised face. Thankfully, Dash jumped in to help her out. “C’mon, she’s Applejack! It’ll take more than an apple to the face to slow her down! She’s totally fine!” the cyan pegasus proclaimed proudly, trying to ignore the continuing stare from the large red stallion sitting across the table from her. However, Big Mac quickly softened his gaze when Applejack finally took notice and shot her own harsh, warning glare at her brother. “So, how ‘bout that dinner?”

“Yer right, Applejack certainly is a winner. Ah’m glad ta see you have such a high opinion of her,” Granny Smith grinned. “Well, enough dilly-dallying. Everybody dig in!”

Everyone nodded in agreement, and quickly dove into the feast before them. Aside from asking or offering to pass certain dishes around the table, there wasn’t much conversation while everyone filled their plates and started eating. However, once the meal was properly under way, the long-dreaded interrogation began.

“So, Rainbow Dash,” Granny Smith said with a polite smile as she scooped some sweet potato casserole onto her plate, “Why don’t you tell us more about yerself?”

Rainbow Dash looked up from her meal and gave an idle, unified shrug of her wings and shoulders. “Eh, there’s really not much you don’t already know. I’m a pegasus from Clousdale, I’m leader of the Ponyville Weather Patrol, I’m the bearer of the Element of Loyalty, and I’m Applejack’s best friend,” she factually replied.

Granny Smith worked her jaw thoughtfully. “Hm. Loyalty, eh? That’s promising.”

Dash smiled innocently, trying not to betray the rising sense of nervousness she felt. So this was it. This was how the scrutiny and over-analysis of her would begin, and how her quality as Applejack’s special somepony would be analyzed. Oh well, at least the food was good.

Sure enough, Granny had many more questions for Dash. How long she’d lived in Ponyville, how long she’d worked on the Weather Patrol, where she went to school, how she met Applejack, how long they’d been friends, what her favorite color was, whether she had any pets, and various other mundane and normal inquiries. Dash managed to give satisfactory answers to all of them, though she had to repeat herself several times because of Granny’s hearing problems. Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Big Mac (who eventually became more receptive towards Dash as the conversation progressed, and after Applejack shot him a few warning glances for good measure) would occasionally join into the discussion, or add an amusing joke or snarky comment.

The dinner seemed to be going rather well, overall. Everyone was getting along well, the discussion had not led to any awkward or tense moments, and best of all, the food was delicious. Halfway through the meal, Granny paused in her question asking to let Dash actually have a moment to enjoy her food. Eventually, though, the old mare cheerfully resumed her inquisition. And she did so by throwing the pegasus quite a curveball. “So, Rainbow Dash, what sorta aspirations and goals have ya got in mind?”

Dash grinned confidently. “Oh, well I totally want to-“ she was cut off by somepony kicking her in the shin. Looking over to her right, she saw Applejack giving her a warning look. Apparently, “I want to be a Wonderbolt!” was not what Granny needed to hear. Unfortunately, Dash didn’t really know what else there was to say. While dreaming of being a Wonderbolt was probably too lofty and unrealistic of a goal to tell Granny Smith, she couldn’t think of something else off the top of her head. Besides, anything else seemed too lowly, unproductive, and simply not awesome. She needed to think of something interesting, professional, and truly worthy of respect. But what?

And then it hit her.

“I want to be an archeologist!” Dash proudly proclaimed.

“An archaeopteryx?” Granny Smith blinked in confusion.

“No, an archeologist,” Dash corrected her with an excited grin. “You know, like someone who studies history and ancient cultures, explores old ruins, digs up buried treasure, writes books and teaches classes, and other stuff. Some prefer to work in the field, while others get jobs as professors at big schools. Some even do both!” she said, practically squealing. Apparently the prospect of being an archeologist was something that might have actually interested her, if she stopped and thought about it.

Apple Bloom’s eyes widened. “Coooooool!”

“Huh. Well, Ah dunno ‘bout diggin’ around in the dirt and stuff, but bein’ a professor is certainly somethin’ fancy and worthy of respect,” Granny Smith mused.

“Eeyup,” Big Mac nodded in agreement.

Applejack simply stared at Rainbow Dash in disbelief. Had she really just proclaimed her life’s aspiration was to essentially be Daring Do? Perhaps she should have just let her say “The Wonderbolts” and left it at that.

“So how long has that been yer goal?” Granny Smith asked.

“Oh, y’know,” Dash waved a hoof dismissively, “Awhile.” And by awhile, she meant thirty seconds. It wasn’t her fault the meaning of the word “awhile” was subjective.

“And how long is awhile?”

Dash blinked a few times, feeling a spike of nervousness rising within her. “Oh, uh, y’know, it’s-“

“Doesn’t matter how long it’s been,” Applejack suddenly interjected with a cheerful smile. “What matters is that she has a goal and stuff, and ain’t lazy or unrealistic ‘bout what she wants to do. Am Ah right?” she said, turning to smirk knowingly at Dash.

“Yeah. That. Totally that,” Dash deadpanned.

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” Granny Smith said with a smile. “Well, Ah hope it all works out for ya in the long run. Too many ponies these days ain’t realistic ‘bout what they wanna do with their lives. They wanna be a fancy model, join the Wonderbolts, marry a Prince, or somethin’ like that,” the old mare shook her head, chuckling softly.

Dash swallowed nervously. Great, her real dreams would be considered immature and unrealistic. Good thing she wasn’t the Element of Honesty. “Yeah,” Dash grinned nervously. “That’d just be silly.”

Grand Inquisitor Granny Smith still had more questions, though. “So Rainbow Dash, what about your family?”

A look of worry flickered across Applejack’s features. She automatically realized that the answer to this question was one Granny definitely wouldn’t like, and was horrified that she hadn’t thought to warn Dash about it earlier. “What about my family?” Dash asked, a hint of wariness to her voice and her expression.

“Well, tell us about them. What do they do? What are they like? Any siblings?”

“Eh. Not much to tell. Dad’s retired. Mom still works in the Department of Meteorological Services, and I’m an only child,” Dash stated in an almost offhanded manner. “And my parents are pretty cool, I guess,” she shrugged.

Apple Bloom and Big Mac exchanged quizzical glances. Applejack looked uncomfortable. Granny Smith simply frowned. “Well, do they ever come to visit? Or you go visit them?”

“No ma’am,” the blue pegasus replied politely, idly poking at her mashed potatoes. “We don’t really visit each other, or talk all that much.”

“You don’t chalk a bunch?”

“They don’t talk that much, Granny,” Apple Bloom repeated.

“Oh. Well why not?” Granny Smith asked in a somewhat curt manner.

“Huh?” Dash looked up from her plate, slightly caught off guard by the elderly mare’s tone of voice. “Why not what?”

“Why don’t ya talk much? Ain’t ya close?” Granny asked, narrowing her eyes.

“Close? Uh…” Dash blinked. “I mean, yeah, we’re close. We’re just not… like… close close, like some families are.”

“Well, why not?” Granny asked. There was no missing the disapproval in her voice.

Rainbow Dash swallowed nervously. Somehow, she’d inadvertently walked into a social minefield. Somehow, she naively hadn’t realized that Granny Smith and most of the Apple Clan, who prided themselves for their close familial bonds, would not understand or approve of such loose and aloof family dynamics. “I, uh… I… we…” the pegasus stammered, her mind racing as she frantically tried to come up with a response that wouldn’t make things worse.

“Ah think that maybe it’s just a pegasus thing,” Applejack suddenly interjected with a sheepish smile. “Ya know how birds throw their young’uns out of the nest, an’ then they fly off to do their own thing? Ah wouldn’t be surprised if’n that’s how pegasi families an’ stuff work, since they’ve got that avian nature about ‘em. It ain’t nothin’ wrong with Dash an’ her family, really. It’s probably just, y’know, how they’re supposed to be or somethin’.”

“Uh, yeah,” Dash smiled nervously. “Pegasus thing. That sounds about right.”

Granny Smith kept her eyes narrow, maintaining her scrutinizing stare at the blue pegasus. Eventually, though, she gave a small shrug. “Ah suppose that makes sense. It’s just kinda weird meetin’ somepony who ain’t got the same attitude ‘bout family like we have. I woulda thought somepony who’s supposed to be Loyalty incarnate or somethin’ like that would have stronger family ties an’ whatnot.”

Applejack frowned. “Now Granny, that ain’t exactly fair,” she said indignantly.

“No, no,” Dash smiled softly, despite the unsettling feelings Granny Smith words had caused in her gut. “I totally get what she’s saying. I get that it’s weird. But like AJ said, it’s just a weird-o pegasus thing,” she lied. She also made a mental note to write a letter to her parents as soon as possible, and maybe see about arranging a visit at some point. “Anyway, got any more questions?” She hoped the answer was yes, so they could change subjects and move on quickly.

Naturally, the answer to her question was yes, and with that answer came more questions. Favorite food, favorite animal, opinions about current events in Ponyville and Equestria abroad, whether that was her mane and tail’s natural color, whether she’d ever had a special somepony before, and a variety of other random and sometimes nosy things. Rainbow Dash, though, had no problems answering any of her inquiries. Truth be told, she was enjoying being the center of attention, even if there was under scrutiny for it.

Overall, things seemed to be going great. Everyone appeared to be having fun and enjoying the meal, and Dash had managed to avoid doing anything that would cause any sort of problems. Or at least, so she thought. But it turned out she was wrong.

Unlike all the other ponies at the table, Dash was a pegasus. And unlike every other pony at the table, Dash was using her wings to assist her at the table. Moving bowls and plates closer or further from her, lifting items off the table to pass them to somepony else, and other small and subtle movements and nuances that were second-nature to her, but extremely out of place at a dinner table full of earth ponies. This behavior, of course, was totally normal for a pegasus, especially one such as Dash who possessed expert mastery and control of their feathered limbs.

Unfortunately, nopony ever bothered to tell Dash that using your wings at a table full of non-pegasi was considered bad table manners, and even rude in some circles.

Naturally, Dash was oblivious to the looks she was starting to get, especially after slipping her left wingtip under the platter of dinner rolls and passing it over to Applejack. After that expression of avian dexterity, all eyes were upon her. Apple Bloom was watching with rapt attention, finding Dash’s wing manipulation to be cool and fascinating. Big Mac was giving her a dubious look, wondering if she knew the error of etiquette she was making. Granny Smith looked particularly irate, and was giving Dash a very disapproving glare.

Applejack, though, was staring as if spellbound, her eyes transfixed upon the feathery blue wings.

It wasn’t as if she’d never seen Dash use her wings before. She’d seen her use them for everything from flying to pushups before, and had quite enjoyed observing the mechanics of pegasus flight during their race earlier. But she’d never actually taken the time to study and observe them so closely and in such detail, nor had she had such an opportunity to see just how talented Dash was with them. Not to mention the fact that she’d always seen them from the perspective of a friend, not as an admirer and Dash’s special somepony.

And it was now undeniable that Dash’s wings had a certain exotic and strangely alluring quality to them, which left Applejack rather mesmerized. Her eyes ran up and down the length of the wings, analyzing every detail of the limbs. The spacing of the joints, the range of motion, the manner of how they folded and extended. The feathers were also of great interest. There were actually multiple types and layers, which varied in size and density depending on their location. Primaries, secondaries, tertiaries. They were apparently much more complex and intricate than she’d ever thought. For some reason, she just couldn’t tear her eyes and mind away from those blue wings.

Applejack soon found herself pondering what it would be like to be hugged in a tight feathery embrace by both wings, or to have her face lightly caressed gentle azure wingtips.

“Applejack, why ya got that goofy look on yer face?” Apple Bloom suddenly asked, forcefully yanking Applejack back to reality.

“Do what now?” Applejack asked absent-mindedly, before frowning. “Goofy look? Whatcha talkin’ about?”

“You were staring at Dash’s wings,” Apple Bloom replied, pointing at the pegasus’ feathered limbs. “And ya had a goofy look on yer face.”

Rainbow Dash looked over at Applejack and gave her a knowing grin. “Why Applejack, why ever would you be staring at my wings?” she asked with false ignorance.

Applejack blushed. But before she could stammer out a reply, Granny Smith interjected with a rather grouchy answer. “Cuz it’s rude to use ‘em at the table with earth ponies,” she said with a disapproving glare. “It’s bad table manners .”

Rainbow Dash cringed. “Oh jeez. I didn’t know that,” she said apologetically. “I’ll just, uh, stop. Right now. My bad.”

Applejack gave an aloof shrug. “Ah don’t see a problem with it, personally,” she said innocently.

“Because of their semistry?” Apple Bloom asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Huh?” everypony else replied in unison.

“Whatever that fancy word was that Rainbow Dash said earlier, ‘bout when things are evenly arranged or somethin’. Ya had the same look on yer face she had when I saw her admirin’ yer cutie mark,” Apple Bloom observed with oblivious naïveté.

Instantly, Applejack and Rainbow Dash both blushed a dark shade of red. Big Mac leveled a death glare of doom at Rainbow Dash, who sank back into her chair in a vain attempt to put some distance between them in case the hulking stallion decided to vault the table. Granny Smith simply burst into a hearty laugh. “ Looks like my grandbaby takes right after me,” the elderly mare said with a cheerful grin. “Ah remember back when Ah was young, an’ dashin’ stallions from all around ‘admired my cutie mark’ all the time.”

Applejack’s good eye gave a slight twitch. As if this moment were not bad enough, now she had that to think about.

“So, uh, something else,” Dash squeaked with a nervous smile. “Lets, uh, move on to something else.”

“How ‘bout painting?” Apple Bloom asked cheerfully.

“Painting?” Dash raised an eyebrow, momentarily confused.

Applejack’s quickly went from blushing to ghostly pale. She knew exactly where this was going. But before she could do anything to stop it, Apple Bloom had already answered. “Yeah, has Applejack painted you yet?” the little filly curiously asked.

Granny Smith grinned excitedly. “Oh, my darlin’ is an artist? This is news ta me! Applejack, whatcha been paintin’?”

“Uhhh…” Applejack faltered, eyes darting around nervously. “Well, uh, ya see…”

Rainbow Dash quickly put two and two together, since Applejack had mentioned something about Rarity saying she painted mares. Unfortunately, before she could once again jump in and lie for Applejack’s sake, Apple Bloom interrupted with an explanation of her own. “Rarity says she paints mares because she’s a fillyfooler,” the young pony stated matter-of-factly.

Rainbow Dash went pale. Applejack put her hooves over her eyes, wishing she could find a rock to crawl under and hide. “Here it comes…” the orange mare muttered weakly, expecting Granny to outright correct her.

Instead, Granny Smith scowled. “She said what? Was that supposed to be an insult?” she growled. “Is that prissy little fashion-y unicorn talkin’ badly about my grandbaby?” And while Big Mac said nothing, his deep frown and the look of unbridled fury in his eyes seemed to indicate that his overprotective brother instincts were operating at full throttle now.

“Wait, no, no!” Applejack looked up frantically, panicked by the idea of her grandmother and/or brother being angry with Rarity for no good reason.

“No, she said a fillyfooler was just a pony who liked to paint mares,” Apple Bloom explained cheerfully. “Why would that be an insult?”

Granny Smith stared at her for a moment, before letting out an amused laugh. “Oh sweetie, that ain’t what a fillyfooler is!”

“It’s not?”

Big Mac was smart enough to know where this was going. “Oh, you know what? Ah forgot to feed the chickens,” he casually observed, rising from his seat and trotting towards the back door. “Ah’ll be right back.”

“Alright, hurry back,” Granny Smith cheerfully told him as he passed. She then looked back at Apple Bloom and smiled. “Well, Ah didn’t want you worryin’ ‘bout things like that, but Ah hate fer ya to have the wrong ideas. No, darlin’, a fillyfooler is a mare who likes and courts other mares.”

Applejack leaned forward and placed her forehead on the table, doing her best to hide from the world. Rainbow Dash just looked down at her plate and began to poke at her mashed potatoes, which had suddenly become the most fascinating thing in Equestria.

“Oh, okay,” Apple Bloom shrugged, and returned her attention to her own plate.

The dinner table was silent for several long, awkward seconds. Finally, Applejack sat up and stared dubiously at Apple Bloom. “Okay, how long have ya known?” she asked flatly.

Apple Bloom smiled deviously. “Since yesterday afternoon.”

“And what?” Applejack raised the eyebrow of her good eye. “No freaking out? No bad reaction? Nothin’?”

Apple Bloom shrugged. “Ah mean, it’s kinda weird, yeah. But maybe Ah’m just too young to understand it. Besides, ya can’t help likin' who ya like.”

“Smart kid…” Rainbow Dash mused.

“And as long as yer happy, Sis, Ah’m happy. Plus, Rainbow Dash is really cool,” the filly added.

Dash grinned. “Very smart kid.”

“Yeah. That’s a relief ta hear ya say all that…” Applejack sighed. She then frowned. “Hey wait, how’d ya know ‘bout us bein’ together anyway?”

Apple Bloom stared at Applejack with a blank expression for a long moment. She then turned towards Granny Smith and grinned over-enthusiastically. “Thanks fer dinner Granny! May Ah be excused?” Before Granny could say yes, or mention desert, Apple Bloom was already galloping for the door. “Oh no, mah homework!” she proclaimed with false panic. “Ah totally forgot about it! Goodnight y’all!”

And with that, she was gone, leaving just Applejack, Dash, and Granny Smith at the table. “Well, guess ya know what this means,” the elderly green mare suddenly observed aloud.

“What’s that?” Dash asked, genuinely curious. Was there some cryptic Apple Clan ritual she didn’t know about involving the last three people at the table doing some sort of square dance? Wait, no, didn’t you need four people for that? Maybe it was a triangle dance then. Dash had no idea what to expect.

Granny Smith grinned. “More desert fer us!”

“Yeehaw!” Applejack exclaimed, hopping out of her chair. “Want me ta go on ahead an’ grab the fritters?”

“Go right on ahead, darlin’. Ah’m done with my meal. Are you finished, Rainbow Dash?” Granny Smith asked.

“If by finished you mean ready for fritters, then yes,” Dash grinned excitedly. As Applejack grabbed a platter of fritters from the counter and set it on the table, the blue pegasus clopped her hooves together excitedly. “Aw yeah! This is gonna be so awesome!”

And awesome it was. The fritters, as expected, were amazing. Dash, Applejack, and Granny Smith greatly enjoyed their desert, and Big Mac returned shortly thereafter to partake in the baked awesomeness as well. After eating her fill, Granny Smith bid them all good evening, and left to go upstairs – taking a small plate of fritters up for Apple Bloom as she went. Once Big Mac was finished with his meal, he also decided to take his leave, allowing the two love-birds to enjoy the rest of their meal in private.

Once they were alone, Applejack looked over at Dash and smirked. “Well, that coulda gone worse.”

“Mrphmurm,” Dash’s reply was muffled by a mouthful of fritter.

Applejack roller her eyes. “Now darlin’, ain’t nopony ever toldya not ta talk with yer mouth full?” she asked with a playful smile.

Dash finished swallowing her food, and shot a crooked grin back at the earth pony. “Nope, and nopony warned me about the wing thing either.”

The blonde mare smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, uh, sorry. Kinda forgot about that. Mah bad.”

“Eh, don’t sweat it,” Dash replied, giving a dismissive wave with her right hoof and her right wing in unison. “I think everything went pretty good, over all. Aside from your grandma’s opinion of the whole ‘want to be a Wonderbolt’ thing. Hey wait, how does she even know about them anyway?”

Applejack shrugged. “Ah honestly have no idea. Ah’ll ask her ‘bout it later. Anyhoo, you done eatin’?”

Dash patted her stomach and sighed. “Yeah, I think I’ve eaten enough. More than enough. I’m not even sure I can fly like this.”

“Wanna go fer a trot, then?” Applejack asked with a cheerful smile, picking her hat up off the back of her chair and placing it back in its rightful spot atop her head. “After we clean up a bit, of course.”

“Sure!” Dash beamed. “Sounds good to me.”

The two mares quickly began cleaning off the table, setting the dirty dishes on the kitchen counter near the sink. Applejack would clean them when she got back, unless Big Mac was nice enough to do them in her absence. Once the table was clear, Dash and Applejack trotted out the back door, and into the cold night air.

“Dedgum, it got chilly fast…” Applejack observed, absentmindedly taking a step closer towards Rainbow Dash once they were outside.

Dash unfolded her right wing, and draped it over her friend. Applejack responded by inching closer and leaning against Dash, relaxing against the warm pegasus. “Y’know, maybe a walk isn’t such a good idea. I don’t want you to be too cold and get sick or something.”

“Eh,” Applejack shrugged. “It ain’t too bad. Ah’ll be fine, don’t you worry. Actually, hang on a tic. Ah got an idea...”

Before Dash could react, Applejack ducked out from under her wing and started to gallop away. “Hey, wait up!” the pegasus yelped, taking flight after her friend. “Where are you going?”

“You’ll see, just follow close!” the orange mare called back over her shoulder without slowing down. She led Dash in a half-circle around the farmhouse, before disappearing into the barn.

Dash, more than a little curious, gave chase and followed her into the barn. Closing the doors behind her, the pegasus looked around the dark interior of the structure, trying to spot her friend. “AJ? Where’d you go? What are you doing?”

Light suddenly blossomed from one of the corners of the barn. Applejack had lit an oil lantern, and its flickering flame cast a gentle orange glow over the surrounding surfaces. Applejack was almost camouflaged against the now-orange wall behind her – a fact that slightly amused Dash. “Ah’m just sheddin’ a little light on the situation,” Applejack smirked as she cantered back over towards Dash.

“That pun was almost painful,” Dash replied with a smirk of her own.

“Aw hush,” the blonde mare rolled her eyes. “Ah’m funny an’ you know it.”

The two mares shared a giggle, before Dash raised an eyebrow and looked around the inside of the barn. “So, why are we here, exactly?” She then gave Applejack a knowing, mischievous look. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

“What? N-no!” Applejack sputtered, blushing furiously. “Ah just wanted ta talk, honest!”

Rainbow Dash stuck out her lower lip. “Aw, how disappointing,” she pouted in a playful, joking manner.

Applejack grinned wickedly, and took a step forward towards the pegasus. “Well if’n yer disappointed, maybe Ah should try ta fix that. C’mere now, Sugarcube,” she leered.

Now it was Dash’s turn to panic. “Wait, what?!” she yelped, blushing furiously and taking a step back. “Hang on a second!”

Applejack immediately stepped back and began laughing. “Not so funny now, is it?” she asked between chuckles.

“Yeah, yeah, serves me right,” Dash huffed, rolling her eyes. “So what’d you wanna talk about, anyway?”

Applejack shrugged, and sat down on the hay-covered floor. “Nothin’ particular. Just thought you’d like the privacy. This way we can talk ‘bout whatever we want, maybe trade a few hugs, an’ not have ta worry ‘bout anypony botherin’ us. Plus, it’s warmer up in here than it is out in the orchard.”

“Yeah, you’re right. About both of those things,” the blue pegasus mused, settling down on the barn floor beside her friend. “Thanks for inviting me over to dinner, by the way. I really enjoyed it, obvious awkward moments aside.”

“No problem,” Applejack smiled. “Ah’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“And I’m also glad you enjoyed my wings,” Dash grinned, unfolding her wings and flaring them, practically flaunting the feathery appendages in Applejack’s face.

The orange mare’s face turned rather red. “H-hush up now!” she growled indignantly. “There ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little curious interest!”

“Curious interest, eh?” Dash asked coyly. “What is it about my wings that makes you so curiously interested, anyway?”

Applejack’s blush deepened. “Uh, well,” she looked around nervously. “Ah dunno exactly. They’re just, y’know… interesting. Like, weird, but in a good way. Wassat word… uh… Exotic? Yeah, exotic.”

“Exotic? I like it,” Dash grinned smugly. “Makes me sound sexy!”

“Well, uh, sexy works too,” Applejack quietly muttered.

“My wings, or me?” the pegasus asked with a wink.

Applejack smiled sheepishly. “Uh, both?”

Dash chuckled. “Heh, no wonder you like it so much when I poke at you with my wings,” she observed with a smirk.

“Hey!” Applejack protested, leaning towards Dash. “That ain’t exact- heegurgurk…” her words melted into incoherent noise as Dash suddenly ran a wingtip up the side of her neck, along her jawline, and across her nose, overwhelming her senses. This, of course, left Dash giggling in amusement. Once Applejack regained her senses, she raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “What does that one mean?”

Dash shot her a quizzical look. “What does what mean?”

“That little wingtip stroke thingy. The cutie mark one is a show of affection, right? What’s the neck and face one mean?” the blushing earth pony inquired.

“Oh, pfft,” Dash waved a hoof flippantly her friend. “No real meaning. I just think it’s adorable and hilarious when your brain melts like that and stuff.”

Applejack blushed furiously, and looked away bashfully. “Adorable, ya say?”

“Ee-yup,” the pegasus said with a playful smirk, before extending her wing and repeating the motion. Only this time, she was much more slow about it, gently grazing the primary feather up Applejack’s neck at a deliberate, almost languid pace. Applejack visibly shuddered as a chill was sent running down her spine from the sensory overload. Dash slowly traced her wingtip along Applejack’s lower jaw, following the length of jawline to her chin, before grazing the feather up and over the vacant-eyed earth pony’s lips and nose.

And then Applejack sneezed.

Whatever magic there was in the moment was instantaneously shattered. Dash recoiled back a step, and both mares stared unsurely at each other for a moment, before bursting into hearty laughter in unison. Dash rolled over on her back, holding her stomach with her wings as she cackled. Despite her own chortling, Applejack tried to pull her hat down over her face, deeply embarrassed by the mood-breaking sneeze.

In the midst of their mutual laughter, Dash suddenly reached a wing over and lifted Applejack’s hat off her head. “Hey!” the earth pony protested, reaching out for the old Stetson. But Dash had already set it atop her own head, hopped up, and taken flight. “Gimme that back!”

“Hmmmm,” Dash pondered, rubbing her chin thoughtfully as she hovered a few feet off the floor. “Nah, I think it makes me look sexy. Err, sexier.”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Be that as it may, it’s mah hat. Get yer own!”

“Let me think about it. Uh… Nah!” the pegasus smirked, buzzing a quick circle around her friend. “Why can’t we share it?”

“Ah just said, because it’s mine. Now give it back!” Applejack demanded. However, while she was attempting to sound stern and authoritative, the amused smile on her face defeated the purpose. “Or else!”

Dash hovered around so that she was eye-to-eye with Applejack, their faces just inches apart. “Oh yeah? Or else what?” she sneered smugly.

Without any warning, Applejack leaned forward and forcefully kissed Dash. Needless to say, the suddenly-distracted pegasus found her ability to fly hampered, and she dropped unceremoniously to the floor. Thankfully, she landed on her hooves, although she barely managed to stay standing since her legs were rather weak and wobbly.

And then Applejack pounced, grabbing Dash in a bear-hug and wrestling her onto a nearby pile of hay. “Gotcha!” she exclaimed triumphantly, reaching up to bite the brim of her hat, yank it off Dash’s head, and toss it back up onto her own scalp. “There we go, much better!”

“Heeey, that wasn’t fair,” Dash frowned. “You tricked me.”

Applejack smirked. “Aw hush, ya know ya liked it.”

“Well, yeah, but that’s not the point,” the pegasus muttered, trying to hide the goofy grin that kept trying to force its way onto her face.

It was at about this time that the two mares realized just how close they were. Sprawled out in the hay with Applejack laying on her left side and Dash resting on her right, they found themselves face-to-face with only inches between their bodies. Both ponies blushed and briefly looked away, before quickly returning their gazes to each other. “Uh, should we, uh, get up and, uh…” Dash muttered, unsure of what to really say or do.

Applejack averted her gaze again. “Ah mean, uh, Ah got no complaints. Just sitting here with ya…” she paused, and shifted her eyes back towards Dash. She found herself staring into the pegasus’ eyes, and smiled softly. “It’s… nice.”

“Yeah…” Dash quietly replied, a content smile forming on her own face. “This is nice…”

For a moment, the two blue and orange ponies stared at each other, silently smiling as they gazed into each other’s eyes. Eventually, Dash raised her left foreleg and wrapped it around Applejack, before pulling her in closer so they were pressed against each other. Applejack smirked softly, lifted her right foreleg, and returned the embrace. And finally, Dash unfurled her left wing and draped it over Applejack, more for the purpose of cover and warmth than for hugging.

“Did Ah mention this was nice?” Applejack asked dreamily.

“Yeah, you mentioned it,” Dash replied with a smirk.

“Well, it bears repeating,” the orange mare grinned. “Though, Ah think Ah know something that would make it better.”

Dash didn’t ask what she meant; she already knew the answer. Both mares leaned their faces in closer to each other, until their lips were barely grazing. After a slight bit of nervous hesitation from both parties, they both pressed into the kiss, and closed their eyes as their minds faded off into blissful contentment.

Neither mares knew how much time passed during the kiss – not that they really cared, or had the mental capacity to do so. Eventually, they both mutually broke the kiss, and smiled at each other in content satisfaction.

Applejack lifted her head to nuzzle against Dash’s face and mane. “Rainbow Dash… Ah really like you…” she quietly whispered in the cyan mare’s ear.

Dash returned the nuzzle, and whispered her own response into Applejack’s ear. “Good. Because I like you too. A lot.”

“Good,” Applejack sighed contently. She continued to nuzzle for a moment, before pausing to ask: “You ain’t in a hurry to return home, are ya?”

“Nah,” Dash smirked. “I can stay a bit longer.”

Applejack yawned deeply, before snuggling her face into Dash’s neck, and tightening her hug around the pegasus. “Good. Cuz Ah don’t feel like lettin’ go just yet…”

Dash let out a yawn of her own, before tightly squeezed the blonde earth pony in turn. “Heh. I got no complaints with that…”

And so the two friends lay there, contently embracing each other…

…before falling asleep and waking up in the same position the next morning.

“Y’know… Ah don’t know what’s worse,” Applejack grumbled upon waking up and realizing where she was. “The fact that we actually fell asleep like this, or the fact that somepony tossed a blanket on us without waking us up.” She looked down again at the red-and-white checkered blanket that somepony had placed over her and Dash during the night to keep them warm, before letting out another embarrassed groan. “Ah kinda wanna say the latter…”

“The latter,” Dash groaned, burrowing her blushing face into Applejack’s mane so she didn’t have to look at the condemning quilt. “Definitely the latter…”