• Published 26th Oct 2012
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Heart of Loyalty - PonyAmorous

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Chapter 1

Warm. That was the only thought that floated through Twilight’s semi-conscious mind, though calling it a fully fledged thought might have been a bit of an exaggeration.

Still mostly asleep, her mind was unable to draw on the vast reserves of what she knew about temperature and thermal conduction. She couldn’t appreciate the long journey the photons made, all the way from Celestia’s late morning sun, to her bedroom window. She only knew the pleasant tingling sensation in her face, brought about by their final collision. No thought was paid to the insulating properties of the blankets, wrapped tightly around her like a cocoon, that were responsible for the blissful sensation she was immersed in. “Cozy” she might have called it, if she were able to conceptualize words.

A second sensation intruded, a sour, discordant note in her perfect harmony of comfort. A slight irritation at the end of her nose had made itself known with all the grace and charm of a clown at a funeral procession. She attempted to snuff it out with a twitch of her nose, but it remained persistent, drawing her further and further out of her comfortable sleep.

New tactile sensations streamed in at an alarming rate. The sheets gained texture and weight. She was suddenly aware of the positioning of her head and limbs. With the flood of new sensory information, her brain began to activate more sub-systems to make sense of it all.

The source of irritation continued unabated. Tactile reports from the nose indicated that the source wasn’t internal. Some foreign body was brushing against it in a rapid, but steady rhythm. Having regained partial muscle control, and a rough degree of coordination, Twilight’s half awake mind organized a strike. A hoof struck out in a lazy arc in front of her face.

Success! For a brief moment the sensation stopped. But before her mouth muscles could pull into a tiny smile of victory, the sensation returned with renewed vigor. There was no choice left. She would need visual confirmation to defeat this foe. With a shudder, as if lifting an enormous weight, Twilight Sparkle slowly opened her eyes.

The first thing she noticed was a color.

Blue.

That was what her slowly reforming memories told her the color was called. The blue resolved itself into a shape. The label ‘pony’ was quickly found and applied, with the sub-label of ‘pegasus’ added soon after. As Twilight’s vision finally cleared, she was able to make out a huge grin, a pair of magenta eyes and a splash of colored mane.

A rainbow.

Her synapses flared to life in a cascade of associations: Joy, frustration, heartache, love—all coalesced into one unifying concept. One name that encompassed them all.

Rainbow Dash.

As soon as the thought passed through her mind, she saw the mouth in front of her move as her ears received their first audio input of the day. Twilight’s now awake brain got to work on the translation, turning the pressure waves into pitches, and finally words, carried through her head by the most beautiful voice in the world.

“Good morning sleepy head.”

***

Rainbow Dash stared at the sleeping form in front of her. She wasn’t normally one to use words such as ‘cute’ or ‘adorable’, but was at a loss for any other words to describe the scene in front of her.

Twilight could probably list off ten.

Blankets wrapped tightly around her body, only Twilight’s head lay exposed: her very own oversized purple caterpillar. The violet mane, splayed wildly across the pillows, only added to the unbearable cuteness of the scene. As amusing as watching Twilight sleep was, however, an awake Twilight was still a lot more fun to hang out with.

The smile on her face taking on a more mischievous bend, Dash extended a wing and began to brush her primaries across Twilight’s nose. She immediately had to stifle a giggle at the twitches the nose gave in response, followed by the scrunching face and incoherent moans of irritation from her sleeping victim. Increasing her pace, Dash saw the sheets loosen as Twilight squirmed within her cocoon.

Dash pulled her wing back as a purple hoof lazily reached out and swiped at it, accompanied by a faint “ehh”. Rainbow Dash split her focus between not bursting out laughing, and not dying of a heart attack.

Sweet Celestia! That was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen Fluttershy drink juice!

Resuming her efforts, it wasn’t long until she saw Twilight’s eyelids give a small flicker. Soon they began to rise, and Dash could see the beautiful purple pools beneath, staring up in a haze of unfocused confusion.

Dash smiled back at those eyes. “Good morning sleepy head.” A small grin was all the warning Rainbow Dash had of what happened next. It wasn’t enough.

With a burst of speed she would never have thought the bookworm capable of, Twilight leaped into a flying tackle that caught her straight in the chest. The next few seconds became a chaotic flurry of limbs, feathers, magic, and sheets. Rainbow Dash wasn’t exactly sure what happened, but by the end of it she found herself on her back, bed sheets tying her wings to her sides with her forelegs over her head, and Twilight standing over her wearing an evil smile.

“Good morning to you too Dash.”

Giving her wings an experimental flex, Rainbow Dash was shocked to find that Twilight had surprisingly good knot work. Nothing she couldn’t get out of with a little work though. She had spent enough time with Applejack to pick up a few things. If she could just keep Twilight from noticing her movements, and picked the right time to strike, she could still turn the tables.

The interesting thing was that she couldn’t think of any reason why Twilight of all ponies would have tying restraints as part of her skillset. She had pulled it off so quickly and efficiently as well. Did she practice this kind of thing in her spare time? Rainbow Dash briefly wondered what scenario the over-prepared Twilight had been expecting to encounter and gave a brief blush at the speculation. Twilight didn’t seem to notice, and gave a dramatic clearing of her throat.

“AHEM! Bedroom court is now in session. Honorable judge Sparkle presiding.” Twilight gave a dramatic flourish with her hoof before shoving it in Dash’s face and putting on her most judicial look. “Rainbow Dash! You stand accused of the unforgivable crime of disrupting my sleep! Do you have anything to say in your defense?”

You got this Dash. Just stay cool and keep her talking.

Flashing her sexiest grin, Rainbow Dash gave her response. “It was a community service. More time asleep is less time with me, and it would be terrible if anypony missed out on even a second of my awesomeness.”

Twilight gave a brief sigh and a roll of her eyes. “Plea rejected!” A quill rose up off of a nearby table and floated to her side. “Now for your punishment!”

Dash squirmed and writhed under the vicious tickling assault that followed, but refused to give her tormentor the satisfaction of making anything other than a few pained grunts. Although it strained her concentration, it also allowed the perfect cover for her to work at her bonds. Soon the little egghead would get what was coming to her.

“Hmm…didn’t somepony once say something about having their hooves touched?”

Rainbow Dash stopped cold. “You…you wouldn’t.”

“I think it was something like ‘I really really love it when ponies touch my hooves.’”

“No! I-” Dash’s further protestations were cut off by peals of girlish squealing as Twilight renewed her assault. “OKAY! NO! NO! STOP! LET ME TRY AGAIN! LET ME TRY AGAIN!”

“I’m listening. Do you have a good reason for interrupting my beauty sleep?”

“It’s…uhh…umm…redundant! Yeah! And inefficient!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Yeah! It’s an inefficient use of your time to sleep any more than you really have to when you could be out being brilliant and awesome and making Equestria a better place. I mean, you’re already the most beautiful pony there is, so it’s not like beauty sleep can really do anything more for you.”

Twilight was struck silent. Ears lowered and face turned slightly away in embarrassment, her cheeks burned red. “Dash…you…you really think I’m beautiful?”

“Of course! And…I really want to tell you that I…I…”

“Yes?” Twilight leaned closer.

“I…”

“Yes?” Twilight stared down, completely enraptured, straining to hear Dash’s next words.

NOW!

With Twilight distracted and off balance, Rainbow Dash pulled her hind legs up and bucked Twilight off and over her head. Wasting no time, she sprung up and used her teeth to pull loose the knots binding her before turning on the still disoriented Twilight. In a flash, she had her pinned.

“I got you.” She briefly wondered what she should do with her prize before a grin began to creep across her face.

“Twilight Sparkle! You stand accused of being too damn sexy! You are also charged with theft for stealing the heart of one Rainbow Dash, world's greatest flyer and all around most awesome pegasus. The loss of this eligible bachelorette comes as a crushing blow that the mares and stallions of Equestria may never recover from. How do you plead?”

“Guilty! I throw myself at the mercy of the court!”

“There is no mercy! There is only…THE RASPERRIES OF JUSTICE!”

The various pieces of bedroom furniture sat in solemn observance as the defendant’s sentencing was carried out. The walls of the makeshift courtroom reverberated with the sounds of justice. Incidentally, justice sounded like the shrieking giggles of a young unicorn as she suffered a savage oral assault to the stomach.

Ha! Take that miss sparkly magic flanks! Rainbow Dash always comes out on top!

Having finished her momentary pause for breath, Dash lowered her head for another strike when her target suddenly vanished in a blinding flash of light. At the same time, a new weight appeared on her back and drove her face forward along its original path, straight into the mattress. A pillow moved to cover each of her wings, each weighed down by a hoof, as a third hoof planted itself in the small of her back, effectively pinning her.

“Unicorns are dirty cheaters,” Dash grumbled through a face full of bed sheets. A cheerful voice answered back. Dash couldn’t see, but she could easily picture the smug grin and a stuck out tongue.

“Well you know what they say. All’s fair in love and war.”

***

Twilight beamed as she ate her waffles. The chocolate chip stuffed morsels were delicious enough on their own, drenched in sweet syrup, but the sweetest taste of all was that of victory. She had done it. She had won. After years of suffering and heartache, she had finally made her dreams come true. Dash was hers, and now she could finally enjoy their life together.

She would have called it the first day of the rest of her life, but aside from being terribly cliche’, she wasn’t sure it was entirely accurate. Did yesterday count as day one or day zero? It certainly was the sort of thing worthy of starting a new calendar system, to start with the day Dash had flown over to deliver her confession of love.

But that could wait.

Most of the rest of the day, whatever it was, had been spent in bed, save for the occasional ventures made downstairs to get food and water. Several attempts at finishing a board or card game ended in failure, and the playing cards and game pieces lay strewn about from when they would inevitably toss them aside and race back up the stairs.

Twilight smiled. It had been a VERY good day. As wonderful as yesterday had been though, a whole new set of experiences lay ahead.

From now on, we’re an actual couple, in an actual relationship!

Twilight had often struggled to picture what life with Dash would be like. Now it was no longer a matter of academic speculation and idle fantasy. She would finally be able to experience it for herself.

As excited as she was about the start of her new life, Twilight’s attention was quickly being monopolized by the delicious meal in front of her. Her taste buds sang in delight, while her stomach was grateful for any offering after the appetite she and Dash had worked up earlier.

“These waffles are amazing!” Twilight choked out through a mouthful of syrupy goodness. “I can’t believe I never thought of adding chocolate chips before!”

“I’ve been doing it for a while now,” Rainbow Dash managed to respond between mouthfuls of her own. “I find that it really gives me that extra bit of energy I need for intense morning flight practice.”

“Well you certainly know how to improve a meal.”

“I sure do. My awesome presence makes any dining experience 20% more enjoyable.” Dash gave a small flutter of her wings and shot a cocky smirk across the table.

“I was referring to the addition of chocolate,” Twilight responded with a flat look.

“Yeah, that works too. Chocolate does seem to improve anything it touches. We’re kinda alike like that.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow in amusement. “Sooo...what happens if both Rainbow Dash and chocolate are used at the same time? Are the bonuses additive or multiplicative?”

Dash gave a grin as she casually inspected a hoof. “Well that probably depends on how close the two are. If chocolate and me come into contact, you’re probably going to get some synergistic effects,” she said with a wink.

Twilight stared, mouth hanging open in shock. While a small part of her was making a mental note to conduct empirical testing at a later time, the majority was wondering where Rainbow Dash learned to use ‘synergistic effects’ correctly in a sentence.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“It’s just...how...why...where did you learn about synergy?”

“From you silly.”

“What?”

“Yeah, a while back we were talking about large scale weather effects and how you calculate wing power for large groups of pegasi. You said something about it not being as simple as just adding them together. What was it? Non-linear systems? Second-order effects?”

Twilight reached back in her memories. That brief conversation had to have been at least two months ago. “You...you actually remembered that?”

Dash gave a quick roll of her eyes. “Yes. I am actually capable of learning things you know. Especially when you explain them so well.”

Twilight could feel a faint burning sensation on her cheeks. “I didn’t think anypony really listened when I start rambling on about things. I assumed they just tuned me out and waited till I was finished.”

“No way. I always listen when you talk. You’re always so excited about whatever you’re talking about that it’s kinda infectious. I might get a bit lost in some of the technical stuff, but I like hearing you explain things.”

To say that Twilight was ‘happy’, would be an understatement. In fact, calling that description an understatement, would itself be an understatement. Her face stretched with a smile so large that it felt like her eyebrows and the corners of her mouth would stretch themselves right off her face. She hadn’t thought it physically possible to love Rainbow Dash more than she already did, but it seemed Rainbow Dash made a habit out of achieving the impossible.

“WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MY LAB?!” Strange. She had meant that to come out at a normal volume.

“Uhh...sure?” Rainbow Dash replied with the kind of caution one might reserve for dealing with a crazed animal. “Just, err, let me up first?”

Twilight glanced down to see that she was currently standing on top of her marefriend, who was flat on her back on the kitchen floor. What she had intended to be a casual leaning over the table, had in fact been more similar to a pounce. Trying not to die of embarrassment, she quickly backed away to let Dash up.

“Sorry about that. I guess I got a little overexcited. You don’t really have to see the lab if you don’t want to.”

“No no. It sounds pretty cool actually. But later in the day we should head over to my place. I’ve got a pretty awesome surprise planned.”

“What is it?”

“...”

“Right. It wouldn’t be a surprise if you told me.”

Twilight ran a hoof through her now sticky coat. In her excitement, she had accidentally knocked over the plates, spilling syrup on both of them.

“Sorry about this too. Looks like we may need to add a quick shower to the start of that list.”

“Sounds good to me. I’ll go get that started.”

As Rainbow Dash trotted up the stairs to the bathroom, Twilight reflected on the morning so far and the rest of the day yet to come. First she would get to show off all of her work to the pony she loved. Maybe Dash would even want to help her out in some future experiments! Then there was this mysterious surprise Dash had planned for her. Whatever it was, it certainly looked like it was going to be a good day.

The sound of running water reached Twilight’s ears, along with a voice. “Hey Twilight! You coming or what?”

Yes. It was going to be a very good day.

***

Fluttershy collapsed on her couch with a sigh. Mornings were happy occasions, to be greeted with a warm, bright smile, but today she wanted nothing more than to stay in bed and sulk. But however much she wanted to spend the day hiding under her sheets, she had her responsibilities. The animals had to be taken care of, so she had reluctantly pulled herself out of bed and got to work.

She made sure all the animals were fed and their homes cleaned. She tended to the sick and injured, dispensing medicine and changing bandages where needed. The sun was at its midday peak by the time she had finished all her duties and let herself fall onto the couch for a rest.

A few seconds after burying her face into the cushions, something struck her lightly in the back of the head. Fluttershy looked up to see an annoyed looking white rabbit sitting on top of the back of the couch, and a carrot resting beside her head.

“Angel? What is it? Is there—” Fluttershy was interrupted by the grumbling of her own stomach. Angel pointed at the carrot and then at her.

“Oh. Right. I guess I got carried away and forgot to make myself breakfast again. Thank you.” With a nod, the white rabbit hopped away. Fluttershy took the carrot between her hooves and began taking dainty little bites off the end. As she nibbled, her mind began to wander.

Try as she might, she couldn’t help but be drawn back to yesterday. She thought she had gotten over this. She thought she had moved on. It had been what? A year? A year and a half since she and Twilight had broken up?

You mean since Twilight dumped you, a small voice in her head reminded her.

They had since patched things up and gone back to being good friends. It had hurt for a while, a long time in fact, but she had survived. Eventually, the wounds in her heart had healed, life had gone back to normal, and she had emerged a stronger mare from the experience. Or so she had thought. What she had seen yesterday had torn open those old wounds like a jagged knife and caused them to bleed anew.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger...feh! She had tended to too many injuries to ever believe that old cliche'. More often than not, what didn’t kill you left you scarred at best, and crippled at worst.

Fluttershy tried to force herself to think of something else, but what she had seen through that window replayed itself over and over in her mind. It was like seeing an entirely new side of Twilight. She had shown so much passion! So much love!

She was never like that with me.

Having finished her carrot, she threw herself back down on the couch and closed her eyes. The memory continued to replay itself with crystal clarity. Twilight and Rainbow Dash with their forelegs wrapped around each other, kissing each other again and again with complete abandon as they stumbled around the room.

What she hated most of all was the small spark of anger it stoked within her. A bitter sea of jealousy rose up inside her and poisoned her thoughts against her best friend.

Ever since they were little fillies, Rainbow Dash had been there for her; there to chase away the bullies. There to lend comfort and support when she was feeling down. There to believe in her and give her the needed push when she was unable to believe in herself.

Rainbow Dash?

Yeah?

Why do you hang out with me?

What?

I mean...you’re brave and strong, a great flyer, and really cool. I’m none of those things. Why do you bother to hang out with me?

What do you mean? You’re cool!

No I’m not.

You calling me a liar?!

No! I-

Listen. I wouldn’t hang out with a pony if I didn’t think they were cool, and I’m definitely the leading expert on the subject. So it doesn’t matter what anypony else thinks, it doesn’t even matter what you think, cause I think you’re cool. If anypony says otherwise, they’re an idiot. It’s okay if you don’t believe in yourself. Just believe in the Rainbow Dash who believes in you.

Now, for a few sporadic seconds at a time, she actually felt ill will towards her oldest friend, and hated herself for it. She wanted all her friends to be happy, Twilight and Rainbow Dash especially. She wanted to be happy for them; part of her was. But jealousy twisted and agitated her mind towards unkind thoughts.

Fluttershy rolled over onto her back and blew long pink strands of mane out of her eyes. Keeping this all to herself couldn’t be good for her. She considered whether she should talk to somepony. Then again, she didn’t want to bother anypony with her problems. Who would she even talk to anyway? Rainbow Dash and Twilight were off the table for obvious reasons.

Pinkie Pie? Pinkie would probably throw a party together the second she heard a word about Twilight and Rainbow Dash getting together. Fluttershy didn’t know if their relationship was supposed to be secret or not, but memories of her own traumatising experience made her quickly abandon the idea. Besides, even if Pinkie promised to keep it a secret, she wasn’t exactly the first choice of mares for advice and support with romantic issues.

Rarity? Rarity would normally be the perfect choice for confiding her troubles. Unfortunately, as much as Fluttershy loved Rarity’s companionship, their heartfelt conversations, and their trips to the spa, she also knew that her friend was a terrible gossip. It would be the second fastest route, next to telling Pinkie herself, to ensure the entire town knew. Worst of all, Rarity might offer to “help” in her own unique way.

Applejack? Fluttershy thought for a while. Applejack had always been a good listener, and she always gave practical, level headed advice. Furthermore, she had always shown the utmost discretion. There probably wasn’t any good advice to be given. There probably wasn’t much more to be had than some kind words and a patient ear, but it was more than she had at the moment.

With a sigh, she rolled herself off the couch and stood up. “I’m going out for a bit Angel. Look after the house while I’m gone okay?” she said before closing the door softly behind her.

***

“And here are the centrifuges. They separate compounds of different mass through centrifugal force. They take a while, so I’m usually working on something else while they run. Ooh! And over here we have the spectrometer and the x-ray diffraction setup!”

Rainbow Dash simply nodded as Twilight continued to show off every piece of equipment in the room. It was certainly well stocked. She might not know what half of these things were, much less what they were used for, but it was an impressive setup all the same.

The best part was watching Twilight hop around like an excited filly showing off her toys. It was a sight she couldn’t help but smile at. Images of a younger Rainbow Dash, gushing over the Wonderbolt memorabilia littering her room, rose from her memory. Though their backgrounds might be different, there was that same twinkle of excitement that lit up the eyes.

That was probably what she loved most. Those deep violet eyes. They always shone with curiosity and wonder; one could almost see the never ending hunger for knowledge. A hunger that would never be sated until every last secret of the natural world was revealed. Those eyes saw every day as an opportunity for discovery and improvement, not just on a personal level, but for all of ponykind.

As much as she could have sat there and watched Twilight for hours, a glance at the clock revealed that the time was slipping away from them.

“Twilight?”

“LASERS! I should show you the lasers!” Twilight ran over to a pair of cabinets.

“Twilight.”

“I have a red one AND a green one. They’re both helium-neon though, so-”

“TWILIGHT!”

“Hmm?” Twilight questioned as she momentarily paused, dusty padlock suspended in the air.

“As awesome as lasers sound, and they do sound pretty awesome, I think it’s about time we get going.”

Twilight scrunched her face in confusion. “Get going? Get going to where?”

“To my place of course. I’ve still got that cool surprise for you. Now come on!” Rainbow Dash said before grabbing a mouthful of purple tail.

“B-But the science! The sciieeence!” Twilight weakly protested as she was dragged out of the room. “Alright, fine. But we’re definitely continuing this later.”

Rainbow Dash released her grip and sighed. “Don’t worry, I’m sure all your egghead toys will be here when you get back.”

“Hey!”

“Now come on, let’s get going.”

With only a small amount of grumbling, they finally left the library and began the modest trek to where Dash’s cloud house was parked. Though the trip itself was uneventful, Rainbow Dash felt her insides buzz with nervous energy.

I hope she likes it. What if she doesn’t? Nah, she’ll totally love it. Of course she will.

She had been thinking about this ever since she had woken up in the middle of the previous night and had difficulty getting back to sleep. Instead, she had been content to watch the steady breathing of the sleeping unicorn beside her. It had got her thinking.

Regardless of whether it was strictly necessary, given the rapid escalation of their relationship to its current state, a mare like Twilight deserved some first class wooing. She needed to come up with some kind of gift, date, romantic gesture...something that would really wow her. But what could she possibly give to Twilight that the unicorn couldn’t easily get for herself?

Finally reaching their destination, Rainbow Dash wasted no time springing into action.

“Okay, so should I close my eyes or WHAAAA-!” Twilight’s question was interrupted as Dash flew down, wrapped all four legs around her torso, and launched up into the sky. “WHOA! Dash! What are you doing! You better not drop me!”

“Relax. I won’t drop you. Well, except for a little bit right here.” Dash released her grip, but only allowed Twilight to fall a couple feet before she pulled a tight loop and flew underneath to catch the falling pony on her back. After a moment of disorientation, Twilight caught on and wrapped her hooves around Dash’s neck in a tight grip.

With her passenger secure, Rainbow Dash began flying in earnest, reveling in the wind rushing past her face. She was back in her element, the one thing she knew she could do better than Twilight. Better than anypony else.

As she weaved through cloudbanks, diving and corkscrewing through the air, she felt the grip around her neck loosen from a panicked death grip to one of tense excitement. She could almost make out shouts and cheers mixed in with the sound of wind rushing past her ears. Her suspicions were confirmed as she paused momentarily at the apex of a steep climb. She felt Twilight lean forward to whisper one beautiful word into her ear.

“Faster.”

***

It wasn’t a long journey from Fluttershy’s cottage to Sweet Apple Acres. Not in terms of physical distance anyway. With both locations sitting right on the edge of the Everfree Forest, Applejack was actually her closest neighbor. Still, the snail’s pace at which Fluttershy proceeded down the worn dirt road dragged the trip out to a length that most ponies would find disagreeable, and Rainbow Dash would consider intolerable. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t in any particular hurry.

Passing over the last of the small hills, her destination finally came into view. Hundreds upon hundreds of apple trees stretched out as far as the eye could see. Down below, Applejack, a tiny orange figure, loaded the last of several large baskets, brimming with freshly bucked apples, into the back of a cart. She then circled around front and began attaching the harness. From the looks of it, she was just getting ready to finish up her work for the day.

Fluttershy gave a small sigh. Part of her had been hoping that Applejack would be far too busy to talk, giving her an excuse to go home. After taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly through her nose, she made her way down the rest of the path and up to the picket fence. It didn’t take long for Applejack to take notice and give a friendly wave, shifting course slightly to greet her at the gate.

“Hey there Fluttershy! What brings you around? You need anything or are you just popping in for a friendly visit?”

“Oh, hi Applejack. I just wanted to talk. That is, if you’re not too busy. If you’re busy I can come back later. It’s no problem really.” Already, her natural cringe had shifted into a quarter turn, preparing to turn around and head home.

“Shucks. Ain’t no problem at all. I was just about to drop this last load off in the barn and call it quits for the day. It’s a bit too toasty out here to really be pushing too hard anyway. Just follow me on over and then we can hang out as much as you’d like.”

Fluttershy silently fell into step beside Applejack as they made their way to the large red barn, newly raised from the most recent disaster that had demolished the old one last month. After the last cart of apples was safely stowed away, Applejack turned to say something, but the words died on her lips as she caught a closer look at Fluttershy.

“Are you alright there sugarcube? You look a bit...down. Is something wrong?”

Fluttershy cringed and attempted to hide behind her mane. “Is it that obvious?”

Applejack simply nodded. “Anything you wanna talk about?”

“I...c-can you keep a secret?”

“Well I don’t usually care to keep many of my own, but I ain’t about to go blabbing any other pony’s business if that’s what you’re wondering. Don’t care much for gossip.”

“Well, It’s not exactly my secret. Actually, I don’t know if it’s really supposed to be a secret or not. I mean, it’s about somepony else. OH! But it’s not gossip! At least I don’t think it counts as gossip. I just mean that I...uh...I think that...” An orange hoof gently pressed itself against her mouth.

“Hold on there sugarcube. Why don’t you just tell me what’s bothering you?”

“O-Okay.” Fluttershy took another deep breath and attempted to calm her nerves. “Yesterday I was going to Twilight’s place to...um...visit. When I went to knock I heard...I mean I saw...I mean I heard, and then I saw through the window...not that I was spying or anything! I definitely wasn’t spying! I just heard weird noises and then I looked through the window and saw...”

“What? Twilight ain’t hurt is she?”

“Oh no, she’s fine.”

“She’s not summoning and making pacts with demons or something?”

“Oh goodness no! Nothing like that. It’s nothing bad really.”

“Landsakes! What is it girl?!”

“Well, Rainbow Dash was there with her.” Fluttershy nervously ground a hoof into the ground. “They were talking, and then they...” she mumbled something incoherent and turned a bright shade of red. Any attempts by Applejack to get her to repeat herself only made her blush further.

Seconds passed as Applejack sat in confusion, wheels turning in her head as she tried to make sense of the story. “What? What did they....oh....ohhhhh!” she exclaimed as she finally caught on, a mild blush starting to form on her own cheeks. A moment later, the last piece clicked into place and her features shifted from surprise to gentle concern. “Oh.

A weak “yeah” was all Fluttershy put up in reply.

“Well, better follow me then. Come on.”

Applejack walked with mysterious purpose towards the Apple family house, trailing a confused but obedient Fluttershy behind her. Fluttershy followed her into the kitchen where she was directed to take a seat. She watched as Applejack pulled various ingredients, bowls, pans, and mixing tools out of the many cabinets. After a flurry of activity, Applejack put something in the oven before turning around and placing two large mugs of cider down on the table between them.

“Part one. A large, frothing mug of Apple Family Cider.” She pushed one of the filled mugs across the table to Fluttershy, who cautiously began to sip at it. After a minute or two of quiet sipping, Applejack spoke again.

“So. Twilight and Rainbow Dash huh?”

Fluttershy simply nodded.

“Well I guess I can’t be too surprised really. I knew Twilight was carrying a torch for Dash for quite a while a ways back. Least I had my suspicions. I just thought if anything were to come of it, it would have already.”

“I’m happy for them,” Fluttershy mumbled as she swirled her cider.

“Now I know that ain’t the truth. Not all of it anyway.”

“I am. Kinda. I mean, I know I should be.”

“There ain’t no ‘should’ about it. You feel how you feel and that’s it. You can talk about actions all you want, but ain’t no pony got the right to tell you how you should feel about anything, so don’t make yourself feel any worse by adding unneeded guilt into the mix.”

Unsure what to say in response, Fluttershy simply lifted her mug for another drink.

“Now I ain’t gonna be so bold as to say I know exactly what’s going on in your head, but I’m guessing from the fact that you’re here now that this news don’t quite sit right with you. You wanna be happy for your friends, but the whole thing just digs up some unpleasant memories?”

Fluttershy nodded. “That sounds about right.”

“Well I ain’t gonna sugarcoat it, there’s no simple solution for it. There’s no magic words I can say that’ll make it all better. The best I could say is something about how time heals all wounds, but time is a pretty lousy doctor. It usually gets the job done eventually, but never anywhere near as fast as we’d like, and its bedside manner ain’t exactly gentle in the meantime. Point is, there isn’t anything I can really do to fix your problem.”

Fluttershy seemed to deflate even further. “That’s okay. I didn’t really expect anything.”

“But that don’t mean I can’t try to cheer you up a bit, using a tried and true Apple family secret.” The buzzing sound of a timer rang through the kitchen. “Speaking of which...” Applejack got up and retrieved the pan from the oven. After carefully transferring the contents onto a large plate, she retrieved a tub of vanilla ice cream from the freezer, dropping several large scoops on top of the hot pastries. Turning around, she placed the large plate down on the table between them.

“Part two! The special ‘heartbreak remedy’ apple turnovers, topped with vanilla ice cream! And while we enjoy these, step three. Tell me everything about what’s been going on with your critters lately.”

The two ponies wasted no time digging into the delicious treats. The small packets of apples, cinnamon, and sugar, cooled from their near molten state by the ice cream, made it hard to focus on any depressing thoughts, and talking about the exploits of her beloved animal friends made her troubles even harder to remember. After a few hours of storytelling and shared laughs, Fluttershy left with a genuine smile on her face and a package of apple turnovers to take with her. The smile, like the supply of treats, wouldn’t last forever. It would surely fade in time when she got home. Still, it was one more smile than she would have had if she had stayed at home.

Meanwhile, Applejack relaxed in her seat, glad that she had been able to help her friend, if only for a little bit. She stared down into her now empty cider mug and thought about the news. It looked like Twilight had finally made it. Good for her. And good for Rainbow Dash too for that matter. It was good that at least one of them had been able to find somepony else eventually. If it made another one of their friends happy too, all the better.

Applejack refilled her mug before reaching out with a hoof and popping another turnover into her mouth.

***

The last rays of Celestia’s setting sun stretched out across the sky, bathing the horizon in a splash of color. The tight center of blazing orange and yellow shifted outward into countless shades of red, and finally into gentle hues of blue and violet where night began to encroach. It was a sight Twilight had seen many times before, but never from this far above.

Twilight Sparkle lay stretched across a large cloud, staring out at this daily occurrence with newfound wonder. She might normally give a shiver from the frigid air, but the feathered wing wrapped gently around her and softly pressing her against the warm body of the pony beside her kept the elements at bay. Together they watched the end of a perfect day.

It had been glorious. Dash had actually taken her flying, and it had been everything she had ever hoped and more. Though she had quickly gotten over the terror of the initial surprise, her heartbeat hadn’t slowed for the entire experience. The rush of wind on her face, the disorientation as the horizon spun and land flipped over sky, the fluttery feeling of her blood being pushed around by rapidly shifting g-forces, and the knowledge that, despite all of it, she was perfectly safe in Rainbow Dash’s hooves.

Twilight had often spent a great deal of time fantasizing about what a perfect day with Dash would entail. A small part of her had worried that the elaborate pictures she had painted in her imagination would dwarf anything that could actually be lived up to in reality, that she was simply setting herself up for disappointment. Now the real thing exceeded anything in even her most wild imaginings.

As Twilight continued to watch the sunset, nestled comfortably against Dash’s side, a growing warmth spread within her. A bright flame of joy, almost painful in its intensity, that threatened to burn her from the inside out, as if the setting sun was falling straight into her heart as it dropped below the horizon. The pressure grew so strong that the start of tears were beginning to form in her eyes, and she briefly wondered if it was possible to actually die from happiness.

Unsure how to relieve this pent up energy, Twilight turned and squeezed Rainbow Dash as hard as she could, pressing her face deep into her marefriend’s coat. She inhaled deeply, and the sweet scent of fresh rain on a sunny day filled her nose, only serving to bring the tension within her to even higher levels.

Rainbow Dash, momentarily surprised by the sudden motion, turned her head and began to nuzzle Twilight gently behind her ear. Twilight instantly felt her muscles begin to relax. The inferno within her heart ebbed away, transmuted into a sweet and blissful calm. As she stared once more at the final shimmering hues of dusk, she thought once more of the wild splash of colors beside her. They were all there, except of course for green.

Three...Two...One.

And there it was, the brief flash of green that accompanied the very end of a sunset as the sun passed just the right point to preferentially focus the right wavelengths with minimal scattering. For one glorious second, all the colors of her namesake were together. Then it was gone, and the soft blanket of night stretched across the land, bringing with it the soft glow of the moon and stars.

***

Twilight waved goodbye from her doorstep the next morning. Unfortunately, Dash had weather duty today, though she had accompanied Twilight on the walk home and left with promises of returning as soon as she could. Knowing how fast a motivated Rainbow Dash could move, Twilight wasn’t terribly worried.

She had her own things to do anyway. Somepony had to watch over the library during open hours, even if visitors were rare. Furthermore, they both left the place a bit of a mess, and she wanted to get it cleaned up before Spike came back from Canterlot later in the evening.

Turning around to head inside, Twilight stopped as something caught her eye. Half concealed in a nearby shrubbery was a small brown package. With rising curiosity, she picked it up in her magic and carried it inside, placing it on the kitchen table.

Did I get something in the mail? There doesn’t seem to be any address label on it. It doesn’t look like a standard shipping box either. Just a hastily hoofwrapped package.

Whatever its source, the only answers to this mystery would be found inside. Twilight carefully opened the package and looked inside. What she saw cut straight through her cheerful mood like a knife. The blissful haze that had filled her mind for the past two days evaporated like a morning fog in the burning rays of the sun as she looked down on something that shouldn’t have been there.

Between her hooves lay a familiar pair of goggles, burnt and broken, with a few strands of her lavender mane stuck in the strap.

Author's Note:

My deepest apologies for pretty much up and abandoning this project for months. I hate it when authors do that. I was away for so long that I kinda lost my connection to the story and had to reread Then Tomorrow Came to remember what I was even going for.

The next chapter will probably be the hardest to write. I keep occasionally getting ideas for cool things later in the story, but it's writing the early sections and getting there that's hard. Also got a nasty overloaded quarter of classes, including one that has me out camping in the middle of nowhere every other weekend in preparation for spending the first 6 weeks of this summer doing the same. This combined with having to move within the next week or two means there might be a wait for the next couple chapters, though hopefully nothing as severe as for this one now that I'm no longer actively avoiding writing. Again, super sorry about that.