• Published 3rd Sep 2012
  • 6,069 Views, 270 Comments

Three's A Crowd - Sir0Chicken

Fluttershy and Twilight have grown close, but will the Fluttershy stand a chance against Applejack?

  • ...

Just Desserts

Falling somewhere just short of a full-fledged barn, the Apple Family home was quaint in its own way. Its design was a bit odd, Twilight thought, but she really didn't have any room to object. After all, she was the one who lived and worked in a tree. At the very least, the Apples kept their home much tidier than Twilight kept her living quarters. It looked nice and homey. The whole house simply exuded warmth.

Actually, that might have just been the kitchen. That room in particular also hosted a variety of delectable scents that wafted into Twilight's nose and tantalized her with their intangible appeal. She could feel her mouth water, and she could hardly wait for Granny Smith to bring out dinner so she could dig in.

Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh already sat at the table, joined by Applejack after she was assured that Twilight was fully taken care of. The farm pony sat between her siblings so that Big Mac separated her from Twilight, and an empty chair—presumably for Granny Smith—rested to the unicorn's left. It seemed to confuse everypony else just as much as it confused Twilight, but Applejack didn't say anything, so neither did she.

Could it be because of what I did outside? Twilight wondered. It hadn't seemed like a big deal at the time, but Applejack had seemed surprisingly uncomfortable when Twilight leaned into her. Weird was the only word Twilight could find to describe it.

It wasn't as if Twilight thought she was doing anything inappropriate. She was just telling a joke, and she'd read that delivery was everything when it came to that. Right? It wasn't like she'd been acting flirty, and besides, Applejack was a mare!

Twilight stopped herself. She hadn't actually thought of that before. True, Applejack was a mare, but what did that matter? It wasn't like Twilight hung out with many stallions, and she definitely never thought of them romantically. Well, maybe occasionally. Some of the fiction in the library was very … evocative. Either way, mares were easier to deal with. Twilight understood them. And they could be really pretty. As a matter of fact, Applejack was very pretty—but of course, Twilight couldn't date a close friend like her.

With Big Mac and Applejack whispering harshly to each other and Apple Bloom trying to listen in, no one interrupted Twilight's increasingly wayward train of thought. Or could I? Her parents had always told her that they were best friends, and that was what made their marriage so strong. With that in mind, Twilight supposed she could see herself dating one of her friends. Well, not Rarity—she seemed way too high-maintenance. And Pinkie Pie would only drive her crazy. Needless to say, Rainbow Dash wasn't even close to a good match.

I guess Fluttershy's nice, Twilight thought to herself, ignoring how strange her ideas were becoming. She'd definitely do everything she could to take care of me— she shook her head, and the Apples looked at her questioningly.

"You okay, sugarcube?" Applejack asked.

Twilight nodded, blushing slightly. "Yeah. Just got a chill," she lied. Big Mac tapped on Applejack's shoulder and they resumed their conversation, leaving Twilight to reenter her mind. Fluttershy's way too innocent to even think of that sort of thing. She's so vulnerable, I don't think she could handle the ups and downs of a relationship.

That left … Applejack, really. Twilight had to admit she wouldn't mind seeing how that scenario might play out. Applejack was one of the best ponies Twilight knew: hard-working, skilled, honest, loyal to the bitter end, and always striving to improve. She had a tendency to be simple, but not in a negative way. Applejack felt the world shouldn't have to be complicated, and Twilight admired that quality.

Of course, that was all assuming that Applejack could even be interested in that sort of thing. Other than Rarity's occasional and often tumultuous relationships, Twilight didn't know much about her friends' love lives. She didn't even know if Applejack liked mares! Or anypony, for that matter. If anypony was married to her work, Applejack fit the bill. Twilight suppressed a sigh as she surmised that she probably wouldn't stand a chance.

And then she stopped herself. Maybe I worked too hard today, she thought. I might be delirious. For a second, she felt like she actually wanted to try being more than friends with Applejack, and that was just … that was just silly!


Just then, Granny Smith came through the kitchen door with a tray in one hoof. Hobbling to the table, she placed the tray on it and said, "Soup's on everypony!"

As Apple Bloom cheered and Big Mac licked his lips, Applejack smiled at Twilight and said, "Let's eat."

Oh, this is bad. Applejack couldn't believe it. This is extremely very not good. Just as Fluttershy was trying to win Twilight's heart, here she was accidentally stealing the unicorn away from one of her best friends!

It's not so bad, Applejack told herself. I'm just overreacting. I just need somepony to talk me down. Set me straight. As she and Twilight entered the dining room, she saw Big Mac. More importantly, she saw an open chair next to him. Perfect!

When Twilight took the seat to the left of Big Mac, it made things a bit more awkward, but when she had to decide between sitting next to her friend and sitting next to her brother, there was little question. Big Mac had never been the loquacious type, but Applejack needed advice fast, and he had a way of cutting right to the core of things.

Of course, that also meant that he wasn't afraid to call somepony out when he saw something wrong. As Applejack sat next to him, he turned his head, the glare on his face making it apparent that he was about to speak up.

"Just hear me out, big brother," she whispered hastily, hoping to head off whatever sharp words he had in mind.

"Make it quick then," he rumbled, taking his sister's cue and keeping quiet. "The way I see things, you're bein' mighty rude to your friend Twilight here."

"It's just—it's complicated," Applejack started. "For starters, I think Twilight's flirting with me!"

A bemused smile spread across Big Mac's face. "That's cute," he said simply.

"Not helping," Applejack hissed. "I happen to know somepony who has her eye on Twilight, and I am not going to mess things up for her—or him. I won't say which."

Big Mac thought for a moment and blew out a sigh. It seemed he would have to use more than a few words to answer that. "I have two problems with your thinkin', sis," he began.

"Them being?"

"Well, first, how do you even know if Twilight's sweet on you?" He asked right back. He glanced at the unicorn, seeing her absorbed in thought and added, "I can't see it right now."

"She was—it—" Applejack breathed out in frustration. "Let's just say she was getting awfully touchy feely out there, and maybe I'm overreacting, but I don't want to see F—my other friend get hurt."

Big Mac frowned as he guessed who Applejack was concerned for. "I don't need to know," he said tersely. "And either way, don't you think you're being a bit selfish?"

Applejack was completely lost with that twist of logic. "Beg pardon?" she asked harshly. "I'm trying to spare my friend's feelings, and you go call me selfish?"

"Psst! What're y'all talkin' about?" Apple Bloom suddenly interjected. Both of her siblings glared at her, and when Applejack hissed, "It's private, sis. Hush!" she backed away, thoroughly discouraged. Applejack and Big Mac kept their eyes on her for a second before continuing.

"You're trying to make yourself feel better, like you're bein' generous or something," Big Mac accused, returning to their conversation. "If Twilight—"

Applejack turned her attention to Twilight when she saw the unicorn shake her head suddenly, like she was clearing her thoughts or trying to get rid of a distraction.

"You okay, sugarcube?" Applejack asked without thinking. Shouldn't say "sugarcube," she scolded herself immediately after.

"Yeah," Twilight answered, a slight blush on her cheeks. "Just got a chill." She didn't seem eager to start a conversation, so Applejack went straight back to her conversation with Big Mac.

"Like I was saying," her brother started as he regained his train of thought, "if Twilight's taken a shine to you, who are you to say no just 'cause somepony else wants her. This should be your choice—and Twilight's, if she's made it."

Applejack was surprised by the conviction with which Big Mac spoke. He'd said more than he typically said in a full day right then and there. And despite the voice in Applejack's head still warning her to shut out her brother's advice, she found it remarkably appealing. It sounds so right, but … Fluttershy's such a good friend. Still, never thought he'd put so much thought into this kind of thing, she mused.

"Did you hear me?" he asked sharply as Applejack silently stared into space.

Drawn out of her thoughts, she nodded. "Yeah. It's just … I don't know."

Big Mac smiled. "You never do, sis."

As he finished his sentence, Granny Smith came through the kitchen door with dinner. Applejack's stomach rumbled in greedy anticipation as the meal's sweet scent filled her nostrils, and her eyes grew big as saucers as the older pony placed a tray on the table. It was piled high with apple turnovers and apples coated in homemade peanut butter—Applejack's favorite.

Looking to see what Twilight thought of the meal, she looked at the unicorn. Seeing an equally hungry expression on her friend's face, she smiled warmly as they locked eyes and said, "Let's eat."

The meal was absolutely delicious. There was no way Twilight could deny that. Nothing surprising, all in all. The Apples only brought the very best apples and apple-based products to market, and they kept the same standards for their own consumption. They were the family business that anypony could get behind, including Twilight.

"This is amazing, Mrs. Smith," Twilight exclaimed as she swallowed a slice of peanut butter apple. "Thank you so much for letting me have dinner with you guys."

Granny Smith waved a hoof dismissively. "Oh, it's nothing for one of Applejack's best friends," the older mare drawled easily. "And call me Granny, hon."

Twilight smiled and nodded. "If you say so, Granny."

As a momentary quiet settled over the dinner table, Apple Bloom took a bite of apple turnover and asked, "Are you going to be having dinner with us all the time, Twilight?"

"Apple Bloom! Don't talk with your mouth full!" Applejack snapped at her younger sister. The filly lowered her head in shame, but Twilight waved her rude behavior away.

"It's okay, Applejack." Trying to read her friend's expression, she failed and answered, "I don't know. I'd certainly love to if it's always this good." Unable to stop herself for another moment, she levitated a turnover into her watering mouth.

"Maybe not always, Apple Bloom," Applejack told her sister condescendingly. Looking straight at Twilight, she added, "She's got a lot of other friends, and I'm sure she wants to spend plenty of time with them, too."

Stung by Applejack's none-too-subtle hint, Twilight plastered a fake smile on her face to mask her hurt feelings. "That's true." A hint of sincerity crept back into her grin as she said, "I'll definitely eat with you guys every once in a while, though—if that's alright, of course."

"Absolutely," Big Mac interjected to everypony's surprise. He smirked at Applejack—if Big Mac was even capable of smirking—and said, "So long as you like it here, you're always free to hang around."

Applejack glared at her brother for a moment before smiling at Twilight and saying, "That's right, Twi. You're always welcome. But don't think you have to skip out on anypony for our sakes." She added the last sentence as casually as possible, which only made the message she was really trying to convey painfully clear to Twilight.

Silence once again fell, allowing Applejack's hostile subtext to burrow deeper into Twilight's confused mind before anypony worked up the courage to speak.

"So how did planting the carrots go today?" Big Mac finally asked. "Did you have fun with Applejack here?" If he were a lesser pony, he might have yelped as Applejack kicked him in the shin, but as it was he simply smiled pleasantly at Twilight.

"Yeah!" Apple Bloom chirped. "What'd you guys do?"

"Planting carrots mostly sort of speaks for itself," Twilight deflected, unwilling to risk whatever Applejack's dismissive reply could be. "Of course, you plowed the fields already, but I made sure I had the chance to at least try that before we really got started."

Applejack smiled in spite of herself and let out a brief chuckle. "Yep. She got it in her head that she needed to plow a row all by herself. You should've seen her straining and pulling in that yoke of yours, Big Mac."

"Hey!" Twilight said sharply. "You never said that was his yoke. I though you both used it."

Big Mac let out a deep, throaty laugh. "Nope."

"Glad to see you're back to normal, brother," Applejack said out of the corner of her mouth. Immediately moving past the sarcastic jab, she turned to Twilight. "I tried to tell you not to worry about it. And besides, you did great with your magic."

"Ooh, that sounds so cool!" Apple Bloom practically shouted, and she bounced in her seat excitedly until a sharp look from Granny Smith instantly calmed her down. She looked down at her hooves, keeping to her own thoughts.

Applejack wanted to keep a sober expression. She knew she had been rude since dinner started, but it was all for the right reasons. Twilight was a great friend, but so was Fluttershy. She'd be a two-bit Flim Flam hustler before she saw either of them hurt.

Who are you to say no? Big Macs unsolicited advice floated into her mind once more, harrying her thoughts. This should be your choice.

If Applejack had learned anything over the past few years, it was that trying to manipulate other ponies never turned out well. And if she just let things take their natural course…

Aw, what the heck? Applejack finished her internal debate in a matter of moments, and her stern expression melted away into a genuine smile. "It was," she chuckled, leaning back in her chair. "It was something else."

Twilight beamed as she saw Applejack drop the gruff demeanor she'd been displaying. "Thanks, AJ."

Applejack laughed again, truly enjoying herself. I'm just being friendly is all. "No need to thank me, sugarcube." Her smile never left her face as she added, "Just don't think I'll forget about that cool magic of yours the next time a field needs plowing."

Just as Applejack finished speaking, Apple Bloom's ears perked up, and she nearly hopped out of her chair as she said, "Oh! That's what she said!"

Twilight dropped her fork in mid-air, and after it finished clanging against her plate the room was silent for what seemed like an eternity. Seeing the less-than-positive reaction to what she had just said, Apple Bloom withdrew into herself, trying to become as small as possible in hopes that she'd make a smaller target for her sister's wrath.

The effort proved futile, as Applejack's eyes not only glared daggers at her, but also smoldered, essentially hurling flaming daggers at the poor filly. Next to the severely irked mare, Big Mac seemed undecided between embarrassment and uncontrollable laughter. Twilight's mouth still hung open from when she was about to eat another bite of apple turnover. She was too shocked to close it—or to look away from Applejack's scowling face.

Fortunately, Granny Smith came to the rescue of everypony present. She smiled and faced Apple Bloom with ageless calm, saying, "I guess it's true. She did say it."

With that, Big Mac finally made his decision. His rich laughter shook the room as he let loose all his immaturity in one hearty burst of mirth. Apple Bloom, however, no longer found anything funny about her own joke, as Applejack's deathly gaze still bore into her soul like a changeling's horn, attached to a phoenix's talon, pushed forward by a zebra's charge, as hot as dragon's fire, and even scarier than … clowns, maybe. Although Apple Bloom figured that even her big sister would be hard pressed to beat those comedic horrors.

The point was that Applejack's glare was very, very imposing, and Apple Bloom had to fight the urge to whimper so she could stammer, "I—I'm sorry, Applejack. It—the kids at school—"

"They don't allow goats at the Ponyville Schoolhouse," Applejack interrupted harshly.

Twilight, of course, couldn't let such a statement go uncorrected. "That's just because there aren't any goats in Ponyville."

"I mean my classmates," Apple Bloom sputtered. "Scootaloo said that's what the adults say, and it's supposed to be funny and cool."

Applejack breathed a sigh, relieved that however off-color Apple Bloom's joke had been, it hadn't been intentional. "First off, Apple Bloom, I don't ever want to hear you saying that again. Second, it ain't funny—or cool. Who the hay told Scootaloo it was?"

"Who do you think?" Apple Bloom chirped, immediately returning to her perky, endlessly energetic demeanor. "Rainbow Dash!"

Figures. Applejack could only offer a strained smile in the face of her exasperation. "Sugarcube, she's definitely wrong about that. I wouldn't trust everything Rainbow says. You got that?"

"Okay." Apple Bloom cast her gaze down to the floor again.

"It's not that big a deal, though," Twilight said, succeeding in sounding completely unfazed. "Right, Applejack?"

Applejack smiled and rolled her eyes. "You're right, Twi." As Apple Bloom began to smile, her sister gave her a brief glare and added, "But don't do it again."

Everypony laughed at that, except Granny Smith. As the laughter died down, her snores began to fill the room, and when repeated nudges from Apple Bloom failed to rouse her, Applejack chuckled and looked away from Twilight, focusing instead on nothing in particular.

"So, uh…" She stumbled on her own thoughts as Granny Smith's snoring cut through her mind. Pursing her lips in thought, she regained her train of thought. "I think we ought to let Granny have her rest. You done eating, Twi?"

Twilight nodded slowly; she could already feel the food coma coming. "I don't know if I could eat another bite."

"Well don't you fall asleep too," Applejack laughed, walking over and grabbing Twilight's forelegs. "C'mon, let's go. Outside."

Her friend cooperated—albeit reluctantly, and before long the two ponies were alone, with nothing but the chirping of crickets breaking the stillness of the evening. The sky still retained a bit of a pink hue as the sun set on Equestria. Struck by the beauty of the scene, Twilight smiled and leaned into Applejack. Once again, to the unicorn's dismay, her earth pony friend pulled away.

After she retreated from Twilight's touch, Applejack began to trot down the road away from Sweet Apple Acres. After taking a few steps, she turned to Twilight and asked, "You coming? I'll walk you home if you want."

Sighing, Twilight weighed her options. "I guess it is getting dark," she mused. Her decision made, she nodded. "That'd be wonderful, AJ—Applejack."

"AJ's fine, sugarcube," the mare chuckled, nudging her friend playfully. Remembering herself, she looked away in embarrassment and added, "I mean, either name's fine."

Twilight just nodded silently, not sure how to react. When she noticed that Applejack had started to blush, she did the same, and the two walked in awkward silence for what seemed like an eternity.

At last, Twilight found something to break the terrible lull in their conversation. "Have you been to town lately, Applejack?" she asked simply, unable to create a segue out of nothing.

Applejack snorted a brief laugh. "I saw you just a few days ago, Twi."

Twilight blushed again after realizing how silly her question had been. "Oh yeah. But I mean, like, besides that."

"So you mean, like, did I do anything else that day?" Applejack asked, a smirk on her face.

Her friend's sarcastic expression made Twilight feel she'd said something wrong, but she couldn't place it. "Could you say that again?" She tilted her head as she asked the question.

Applejack's smiled and threw her head back before replying. "I guess I, like, went to Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie Pie sold me these apple cupcakes that were, like, the best." When she said, "like," she took care to dwell on the word, so her joke would not go unnoticed a second time.

Twilight's annoyed expression let her know that the joke had landed, and she laughed as a small smile sneaked its way onto the unicorns face. "It ain't my fault you were talking like a valley filly, sugarcube."

Surrendering to Applejack's mirth, Twilight laughed in return and said, "That's the first time I said it in forever, AJ. It's not like I do it often—and I used it right that time!" She pointed a hoof accusingly in case her friend thought differently.

Applejack lifted a hoof in surrender, rolling her eyes as she replied, "If you insist. Who am I to question Celestia's favorite student?"

Now it was Twilight's turn to roll her eyes. "Well I didn't get that way by being wrong, now did I?" For the third time that day, she leaned into Applejack as they both laughed at their verbal duel.

This time, at last, the farm pony didn't pull back. This time, she just smiled as the two ponies approached Ponyville.