• Published 1st Mar 2013
  • 2,101 Views, 62 Comments

No Regrets - Ficta_Scriptor

After Twilight becomes an alicorn, the notion of immortality dawns on her and she is plagued by doubts. Distressed, she finds solace with the Element of Honesty. To have no regrets would mean the world.

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Chapter 4 - Moving Forward

Chapter 4 – Moving Forward

Twilight crept along the path in front of her, fallen leaves rustling and crumpling beneath her hooves. There was a soft breeze flowing through her mane and the tweeting of birds somewhere in the distance. Twilight gazed at the line of trees either side of the path, their branches stripped bare signifying autumn in full swing. The sun hung low in the sky behind a gargantuan cloud, patches of mauve and apricot dotting the heavens.

Twilight kept walking, her mind and body endowed with nothing but peace and serenity. The surroundings were alien yet familiar, a sense of déjà vu washing over her. Eventually the line of trees came to an end and Twilight found herself standing not far from the edge of a cliff, looking over Ponyville. She could see her old treehouse, Sugarcube Corner, the town square, and even Fluttershy’s cottage at the edge of the Everfree forest. Distracted by the view, it took a few moments for Twilight to notice the pony stood several yards away.

“Applejack?” Twilight said aloud. She walked up towards her friend who stared intently into the distance, a solemn expression on her face. Twilight stood next to her. “It’s a nice view, isn’t it?”

Applejack responded with a half-hearted nod, not so much as shifting her gaze.

Twilight bit her bottom lip, distressed by her friend’s vacant expression. “I do often miss living in Ponyville. It’s a nice place to live, don’t you think?”

Applejack nodded again, this time emitting a faint sigh.

“Is there something wrong?” Twilight looked between Applejack and Ponyville a few times. “Do you not like living here? Is there somewhere else you want to go?”

Applejack smirked. “Last time Ah got that thought was when Ah moved to Manehattan. Never did fit in ‘round those parts. It’s pretty diff’rent. Some might say it’s like comparin’ apples to oranges, an’ well…” Applejack cleared her throat, slowly turning towards Twilight. “Ya know where Ah stand on that matter.”

“You could always go on a trip somewhere, see what Equestria has to offer.” Twilight placed a hoof on her friend’s shoulder. “You don’t know what’s out there. You might just surprise yourself.”

“Maybe. But what if Ah try so hard an’ still fail?”

“You can’t think like that, Applejack. Your family wouldn’t want you to. Granny Smith wouldn’t want you to.” Twilight wrapped her foreleg more firmly around Applejack’s nape, stroking gently against her cheek. “I don’t want you to.”

Applejack gazed into Twilight’s eyes, smiling. “So what do ya want instead?”

Overcome with emotion, Twilight pulled herself into Applejack’s embrace and launched herself into a kiss. Applejack responded in kind and the two mares locked lips, each with a hoof caressing each other’s mane. Applejack’s Stetson fell to the ground, revealing her luscious blonde locks in full glory. Twilight broke off the kiss and took a step back, holding a hoof to her mouth. She shook her head.

“This is crazy,” Twilight muttered, staring deeply into Applejack’s emerald eyes. There was nothing but silence. That, and the beautiful mare before her. “You’re a mare. And my friend. I… I don’t even know why I’m doing this.”

The earth pony mare chuckled. “But it feels right, don’t it?”

“Yeah,” Twilight whispered, giving Applejack an affectionate nuzzle. “It does feel right.”

Upon the second kiss, Twilight was gradually pulled from her slumber. The unfamiliar surroundings slowly came into view and for a short while Twilight simply assumed she was in Applejack’s bed, the two mares giving in to their feelings after the events on the cliff edge. She smiled to herself, running her hooves across what she assumed to be her friend’s chest. However, she quickly realised that she was alone, merely caressing her duvet. Piecing together her memories, Twilight let out a distressed sigh. It had all been a dream.

Sitting up straight and rubbing her eyes, Twilight spent the next few minutes trying to rationalise everything that had happened. She’d kissed Applejack. Not in the real world of course, but in her dreams. What does this mean? Twilight pondered, her eyes drawn to a family photograph of Applejack on Big Mac’s dressing table. She was there for me when I needed somepony, that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be wrapped in the hooves of somepony who cares about me. But kissing her… Twilight spent a while longer staring at the picture, her heart fluttering erratically. She threw her head into the pillow and uttered a pained groan. But I don’t want to think about her in that way! I can’t! I won’t!

As Twilight pulled herself out of bed, a conversation from the previous day sprang to mind. Rainbow Dash had wanted it to be true, for her and Applejack to be together. But that didn’t make sense. Who could possibly imagine it? Was that really the direction life would take? It seemed senseless, but then Twilight thought of everything else that had happened in such a short space of time. She’d become a princess. She’d moved to the Canterlot Palace. Fluttershy and Big Mac had gotten married. Spike had grown up. The cutie mark crusaders had grown up. And Granny Smith had died.

Twilight knew that had the dream have been real and had Applejack been beside her as she originally thought, she’d have been happy. She’d still be curled up next to her, whispering about the crazy yet wonderful series of events. And the thought of kissing Applejack was a pleasant one. She was undoubtedly an attractive mare.

So I find her attractive, Twilight mused, fussing over her mane opposite a wall-mounted mirror. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. I can think of lots of ponies that are attractive. Handsome and pretty faces aren’t exactly a rare sight in Equestria. I’ve just been spending a lot of time with Applejack, and I’ve been thinking about her a lot because of the Gala and everything else that’s happened. My mind just extrapolated those things while I slept. That’s all there is to it.

Deeming herself to be presentable, Twilight opened the door. Looking down to the other end of the corridor, she noticed that Applejack’s door was open. Curiously, she crept forward, half expecting to find Applejack still curled up the way she’d been left the night before. The bed was empty. On a small chest of drawers beside it stood a brass alarm clock reading quarter past eleven. Twilight shook her head dejectedly. It was hardly a respectable time to wake, especially for a prudent princess such as herself.

The house was eerily quiet, the creaking and moaning of floorboards echoing down the hall. Trotting downstairs, Twilight soon saw Applejack sat at the kitchen table, staring out of the window with a miniature loaf of bread nestled in her left hoof. Her ponytail was frayed and somewhat misshapen.

“Morning,” Twilight said quietly. “Sleep well?”

Applejack didn’t respond. Twilight’s smile faded, her heart skipping a beat. Anxiety quickly set in as she stepped towards her friend, the mare’s bleary eyes barely open and bloodshot. Applejack’s jaw hung loosely, a line of saliva below her lip. The half-eaten loaf of bread was barely kept within her limp grasp.

“Applejack!” Twilight cried.

“What!?” Applejack screeched, her eyes snapping open and her forelegs sent into a mad flurry, the bread toppling to the floor. She looked at Twilight with a terrified expression, but quickly hung her head, breathing a sigh of relief. “It’s just you, Twi. Oh, dang it.”

“Are you alright?” Twilight asked, levitating the bread back onto the table.

Applejack waved her hoof assuredly, taking deep breaths. “Tired,” she finally answered. “An’ hungry. Must’ve fallen asleep in this darn chair.” She looked up at Twilight, showcasing her dishevelled expression in full. She rubbed her head, wincing. “What time is it?”

“Just gone quarter past eleven,” Twilight replied, taking to the chair opposite.

Applejack let out a nervous chuckle. “Shoot. Guess Ah’ve been out longer ‘n Ah thought. Got mahself to blame for mah current condition Ah s’pose.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Twilight assured. Applejack, however, appeared entirely unfazed, staring pensively into empty space. Twilight changed the subject. “Is Applebloom here?”

“Ah saw her off a few hours ago. She’s gone somewhere with Sweetie Belle an’ Scootaloo. Did ya know they still hang out at that old treehouse? Ah’m glad she ain’t outgrown everythin’.”

“She’s a good filly,” Twilight said, watching as Applejack took a small bite of bread. She looked broken, possibly even more so than the previous day. It was painful to watch. “And she’s brave, just like her sister.”

“She certainly is brave,” Applejack muttered. Once again, the compliment was left ignored. “Ah’m proud o’ her every day. An’ she’s been a real angel all things considered. Real stubborn with her emotions though. She hides herself well, much like Granny Smith in fact.” Applejack paused for a moment before continuing. “She don’t like cryin’ in front o’ me or Mac. The old Apple family pride Ah guess. Ah’m glad she’s got friends she can be honest with, kinda like Ah do.” Applejack smiled to herself. “Where are mah darn manners? How’s about ya take a nice bath an’ Ah’ll fix ya somethin’ to eat?”

“Sounds great,” Twilight said with a polite nod.

“Bathroom is second on the right. You can use one o’ the towels in the cupboard under the sink. Just watch out when you’re turnin’ the hot tap or it’ll give ya a load in the face.”

Or how about you join me? “Sure. I’ll be back down soon.”

Twilight didn’t want to let on, but she was more than thankful at a chance to cleanse herself. It was an unfamiliar feeling, being exposed without a proper morning routine. The Apples didn’t have a polished chrome showerhead or an assortment of lathers and creams as found in the Royal Suite, but it was certainly enough. Intent on saving Applejack a few bits, she used a simple heat-inducing spell in a bath full of cold water and lowered herself in. It was the least she could do.

Applejack rubbed her eyes and sighed wearily. Grabbing another loaf of bread she cut two thick slices and set out to wash some cress in the sink. She got to thinking. It was difficult to know what to want in this veritable calm after the storm. Sitting around and moping didn’t accomplish much. She didn’t want her family and friends to spend every moment treading on eggshells, readying their shoulders for her to cry on. Similarly, it was too much to play pretend and act like everything was normal, like everything was fine. For one thing, normal wasn’t fine. But where was the middle ground? Just having somepony be there?

Twilight seemed to understand, regardless of whatever Big Mac had said. Looking past the crown, the wings or the title of princess, they weren’t so different after all. They both bottled up their innermost secrets, and given the chance to expose them to anypony of their choosing they’d decided upon each other. And somehow it made sense.

The night of the Gala was special. If it weren’t for the passing of Granny Smith, Applejack would’ve remembered that sooner. With all that had happened since she’d not taken the time to fully look back on it. Despite all the tears and the anguish it was one of the happiest days in recent memory. The funeral could take precedence over everything else for now, but after that, wouldn’t it make sense to focus on that memory, of that night, and move forward? It was a strange, foalish thing for two grown mares to share their sleeping space as an act of friendship. But perhaps it represented the pinnacle of honesty, for two friends to ignore all social standards and give each other the warmth and comfort that they needed. And if that was the case, if they were willing to make that leap, then the level of trust that they shared could not be understated.

Ah hope we can help each other, Applejack said inwardly, putting the finishing touches on Twilight’s sandwich. An’ even if we don’t find that answer we’re lookin’ for, at least we’ll have tried together. An’ maybe that’ll be answer enough. Hopefully.

Twilight plodded back downstairs and gladly accepted the meal, looking a lot more refreshed. Applejack thought it endearing how Twilight could carry herself with such regal poise, but at the same time accustom herself to the world of the commoners. Twilight wouldn’t want ya thinkin’ of yourself like that, Applejack reminded herself.

The funeral was just four days away. It was both plenty of time and no time at all to prepare. The invitations, ceremony, flower arrangements and wake had all been dealt with, which left only a few minor details. And her eulogy. Applejack knew what she wanted, but didn’t know where to start. It didn’t help that at the back of her mind she was plagued by thoughts of financial worry and possible debt. It felt cruel to worry about money at such a time, but it was inevitable. One bad harvest or tainted crop could potentially spell an immediate death sentence on the farm. They’d come close on a few occasions, namely right after her parents passed away. Those were tough times, especially for Granny Smith.

“Ah feel like goin’ for a walk, Twi,” Applejack said abruptly. “An’ Ah could use some company.”

The two ponies trekked along a well-trodden dirt path bearing west from Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack taking the lead. Twilight found it strangely liberating to be the one following instead of leading. They traced a route along the outskirts of Ponyville, the market stalls and stores bustling while some ponies pulled bundles of hay and various wares in wagons. Weather ponies circled above, strategically reforming cloud clusters and darting across the heavens. There were no overpowering corporations here, just hard-working folk, many of which stuck to family businesses or self-built endeavours. It was a world apart from the streets of Canterlot.

The two remained fairly tight-lipped, but not uncomfortably so. The heavy atmosphere felt suitably lifted simply by being outdoors. Applejack did make a few comments along the way, mostly pertaining to Ponyville’s recent changes. A new family moved in here. A new set of buildings there. Zecora had apparently even managed to set up a reputable business of her own, where groups of school-foals had constantly attempted to break her stream of rhymes, which they’d supposedly managed a few times after sporting purple clothing while carrying oranges and silverware. A lot had changed in just five years. Twilight felt a pang of guilt. This used to be home.

The route twisted past a familiar lake and a small wooded area, the leaves a spectrum of oranges, reds, browns and yellows. For a short while Twilight hoped for rows of leafless tress like the ones from her dream. A thought passed that she and Applejack were effectively alone. Which meant that something like that could very well happen. Twilight’s pulsed quickened.

“A’course Applebloom an’ the trouble-makers still roam the land,” Applejack began with a smile on her face. “Still the cutie-mark crusaders in everythin’ but name.”

“What do they call themselves now?”

“Just ‘The Crusaders.’ Ah kinda like the ring it has to it, almost like superheroes.”

“So what do they crusade for now that they have their marks?”

Applejack chuckled. “Nothin’. Everythin’. Just ‘cause they found their talent don’t mean they’re gonna let go what brought ‘em together in the first place. It’s mostly whatever crazy adventure they can think o’ goin’ on. They’re always travellin’, mostly just to see what’s out there. Ah s’pose the journey meant more than the destination for ‘em.”

“Maybe they’re still on their journey?” Twilight suggested, picking her words carefully.

“Just glad they ain’t gone on any adventures lookin’ for colts, at least none Ah know about,” Applejack said with a smirk. “But you’re right. Maybe that’s the whole point.”


Applejack sighed, slowing her pace almost to a crawl. “We used to do the same, didn’t we? Little adventures an’ excursions all over the place. Even when things went wrong it wasn’t all that bad.” She stared dejectedly into the dirt, tears about to form. “But when all that ended, y’all found your own paths. Ah know Ah should just be content with what Ah have. Granny was.”

Twilight placed a hoof on her friend’s shoulder as they came to a stop. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of in standing up and saying you want more. It’s only the means in which you try and get there that makes you good or bad. And I have no doubts which one holds true for you.”

Applejack smiled weakly. “You’re a good princess, Twi. You’ll make somepony real happy someday.”

Twilight’s heart jolted. She simply smiled back at the friendly comment, a fire rising in her cheeks. The fur on her chest prickled. All too suddenly, she felt an inexplicable surge in her brain, like a powerful machine springing to life, with little left over for speaking or acting. An idea presented itself and solidified in a matter of moments. Once it was over, Twilight regained her ability to think. And just in time.

“Well lookie at miss bashful,” Applejack taunted. “Not that there’s any…” Applejack trailed off, frowning in deliberation over her next words. Her gaze shifted back and forth until she met Twilight’s eyes once more, if a little uneasily. “What Ah mean to say is, Ah mean it as a compliment.”

“Well thank you,” Twilight replied. She hoped she was playing it cool. “I’ll take it as a compliment, as intended.”

Applejack smiled back and the two walked onwards in silence. Now there were too many questions, too many suspicions in Twilight’s mind. She knew that if her reaction to such a simple comment was any indication, it meant that she’d been lying to herself. She also knew that she should have realised this sooner. Dreams about kissing was near enough the most obvious indicator anypony could wish for, or indeed, dread.

I like Applejack, she said inwardly. There. I admit it. I like her. Which I guess makes me bisexual. Did not see that one coming... Okay, focus. How long have I liked her? I don’t know. Maybe I always have and I’ve been too stupid to notice. No, that can’t be right. But my feelings can’t just have appeared out of thin air. Or maybe they did. Which is worse? I don’t know. Ugh, this is so frustrating!

Twilight stayed trapped in her thoughts for a few minutes more as Applejack led her on wordlessly. And so she started to wonder. There was a chance that Applejack might feel the same way. And maybe, just maybe, Rainbow Dash had been right about all of this. And why shouldn’t she be? Wouldn’t it be an endearing last step for their little group, for the two remaining mares who haven’t found love to find it with one another?

Love? Twilight questioned. The word had surrounded her since foal-hood yet she knew very little about it. She could understand the love between family and friends but actual romantic love was mysterious, somewhat mythological in her eyes. She had seen love between other ponies but never felt it, and until that point it never seemed to matter. It couldn’t be quantified or even identified. How could somepony say with definitive accuracy what love was?

But Twilight kept her focus. This wasn’t about love, this was about happiness, and that was a much easier emotion to explain. Would trying to pursue a relationship result in happiness? The mere thought of telling Applejack the truth sent shivers up her spine. They had been friends for nearly eight years. What would she think? Twilight tried to imagine if the shoe was on the other hoof. If Rarity confessed that she had feelings for me, I wouldn’t know what to think. I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it. I’d wonder if she imagined us together in her private moments. Being friends would be too difficult. I wouldn’t know whether to give her space or act like nothing was different. Our friendship would change, and not for the better.

Twilight glanced over at Applejack. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to see her act in a similar way. Nopony could take that kind of news and shrug it off like it was nothing. And as for the plans to help Applejack find her place in life, even so much as mentioning ‘feelings’ could ruin everything. At best, she could grin and bear it without an issue, all while refraining from physical contact lest she give the wrong impression. At worst, it could prove too large a barrier and the very closeness the two found at the Gala would be diminished. And if that happened, who would be there to help Applejack with the very things that tore her up inside? Especially just after Granny Smith’s passing. No… Keeping quiet was the right choice.

There is another possibility, a voice from the back of Twilight’s mind piped up. What if she feels the same way? What if… you’re the key to her happiness?

“Here we are,” Applejack declared solemnly, breaking Twilight from her trance. She’d barely even noticed where they’d been heading. They were stood just outside one of the orchards connected to Sweet Apple Acres, in front of a large oak tree. Beneath it were two stone crosses with the names ‘Pink Lady Apple’ and ‘Cortland Apple’ chiselled on the front. The bunches of flowers on each had withered away.

“Your parents,” Twilight said.

“Sure are,” Applejack said as she stepped closer to the headstones. She sighed. “It’s been a while since Ah came here. Too long, perhaps. Ah know Mac comes here sometimes an’…” She trailed off, holding a hoof to her face. “Sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Twilight whispered. “You let it all out. Don’t worry about me.”

“With all due respect, Ah wasn’t talkin’ to you, Twi.” Applejack stared intently at her parents’ final resting place. “It’s mah folks Ah owe an apology.” She took a deep breath. “Hey, Ma and Pa. It’s been a while, ain’t it? Ah’m sorry Ah didn’t come here sooner. Ah ain’t never gonna forget ya’ll. Movin’ on don’t mean pretendin’ things never happened.”

Twilight watched with a mixture of curiosity and sorrow as Applejack continued talking to her dead parents, telling them about Granny Smith and the missed opportunity to say goodbye. A tear escaped down Applejack’s cheek but Twilight did nothing to interrupt, comfort or console. To do so would feel out of place. Applejack had barely mentioned her parents in the entire time Twilight had known her, and even then it was only fleeting. And now she was talking directly to them as if she stood alone at the edge of the field where nopony could listen in on her innermost thoughts. But Applejack had brought her here for a reason, and Twilight was beginning to understand why. In some strange way it both scared her and strengthened her resolve. Thankfully, the latter rang true more than the former.

Another tear ran down Applejack’s cheek as she neared the end of her speech. “Ya wanna know somethin’, Twi? In spite o’ everythin’, Ah’m not feelin’ too bad right now. Better than Ah was, anyway.”

“Well that’s good news,” Twilight replied. “And that speech of yours was beautiful.”

Applejack smiled. “Ah didn’t bring ya all the way up here for no reason.” She closed the gap between herself and Twilight. The two mares were barely a yard apart. “You’ve done a lot for me already, but Ah’m afraid Ah need more.”

“R-really? What do you m-mean?” Twilight stuttered, the heat on her cheeks rising. This only intensified as Applejack stepped ever closer, their noses almost touching. Twilight was frozen in anticipation, her mind swimming with imaginings of her friend pushing out her lips and begging to be loved. She let out a sharp gasp as Applejack suddenly leapt forward, wrapping her hooves tightly around her neck.

“Somehow Ah just know you can help me,” Applejack whispered. “Just you bein’ here fills me with hope. That’s why Ah brought ya out here. Ah wanted you to see me in these moments, to understand how Ah truly feel. Despite bein’ the Element of Honesty Ah’ve hidden a whole lotta things from just about everypony. But maybe Ah need somepony else to hear me out. An’ Ah can trust you, Twi.”

Twilight returned the embrace, brushing through Applejack’s mane. She wanted to tell her how beautiful she was, and how every second spent with her only reinforced her feelings. But that was neither here nor there. “I’m always here for you, Applejack. Always.”

“Ah’m glad to hear it,” Applejack whispered, wiping at her eyes. She took a deep breath and uttered a tiny chuckle. “We’d better get back Ah suppose.” She turned to her parents’ gravestones. “Stay put ‘til Ah get back, ya hear?”

This time it was Twilight’s turn to laugh, and the two friends began the trek back the way they came.

Later that day

Twilight gazed over another neatly stacked bundle of pamphlets. The mountain from before had been reorganised so far, but Twilight had made no headway in coming to a decision. Sifting through the various wonderful places around Equestria left her feeling sour, especially since many of them were bereft of the luxuries she was accustom to every day. Being out of her depth was one thing, but Twilight couldn’t comprehend any decision that would give Applejack a new lease on life. It simply couldn’t b that easy.

You’re just overthinking things, Twilight said inwardly, taking a deep breath as she sat at her bedroom desk. Nothing is going to magically make everything all better, and something is better than nothing. Applejack will be happy to have any kind of break, and that’s a start.

Twilight hopped down from her chair and began pacing back and forth. After a few moments her eyes fell on something behind her bedside cabinet. Curious, she levitated it in front of her face, only to recognise it instantly. It was the photo taken by Broadsheet on the night of the Gala. She concluded it must have been dropped there amidst the tearful conversation she’d shared with Applejack. It had caused her great pain to see it before, the faces of her friends noticeably worn next to her own. But now something else stood out that mattered more than anything. Applejack was smiling. Not the fake, weak smile Twilight has seen over the past two days, but a hopeful smile. A smile that would be worth moving mountains just to see again.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. “Twilight? It’s me,” Spike called. “Can I come in?”

“Of course,” Twilight answered, tucking the photograph into her top drawer.

Spike crept inside warily, dressed up in his usual black business suit. Even at three heads taller than an average pony Twilight still found him adorable. He clawed the back of his neck anxiously. “So how are they holding up?”

“Not so great,” Twilight replied solemnly, sitting on her bed and gesturing for Spike to sit next to her. “Applejack’s in a bad way. We walked up to her parents’ graves this morning and she said some things. Mostly apologies.”

Spike sat glumly beside her. “What about Applebloom and Big Mac?”

“Applebloom’s holding up pretty well, all things considered. As for Mac…” The image of Big Mac’s furious eyes sprung instantly to Twilight’s mind. “He’s not himself right now.”

“It just seems so strange, you know? Like it came out of nowhere, unexpected. At the Gala, Sweetie and I were talking about why Applebloom might not have been there. Turns out Applebloom mentioned something to her about Granny but didn’t make a big fuss or anything. I feel so guilty, having fun while all that was happening.”

Twilight rubbed Spike’s back affectionately. “You’ll get to see Applebloom at the funeral. I’m sure she could use every friend she has right about now.”

“I know. I just wish there was more I could do.”

Twilight nestled herself into Spike’s chest as he draped arm around her. “We can only do so much, Spike. Don’t let it get to you.” So easy to say, Twilight mused. Yet so difficult to follow. As her mind swam with thoughts of the upcoming funeral, Twilight remembered something. “Spike? I’ve been meaning to ask you something. It’s been on my mind since the Gala.”

“Oh. Oh,” Spike said nervously, his cheeks glowing red. “Look, I want you to know that I’m not overstepping any boundaries, even if it seems like it. What Sweetie Belle and I have is… special, but we know not to take things too far, and—”

No Spike,” Twilight interrupted. “That’s not what I was asking.” A grin spread across her face. “You and Sweetie Belle? Really?”

“Wait, what!?” Spike exclaimed. He shook his head in frustration. “I just spilled the beans and you didn’t even know!?”

“Well I do now,” Twilight said with a chuckle. Noticing Spike’s sullen expression she decided not to probe any further, even if she was itching to know more. “But that’s for another time. I wanted to talk to you about something more serious.”

“Right,” Spike replied, sighing with relief. “What is it?”

Formulating the question was easy, but Twilight had a hard time spitting it out. It felt like she was breaking some kind of taboo, an untouched subject that she and Spike had never even hinted at. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves. It didn’t work. But she needed to say something. “Spike, the night of the Gala, I cried myself to sleep. That’s why Applejack stayed, to console me.” Spike raised a claw to his face in shock. Twilight continued, feeling tears threatening to escape as she did so. “We’re going to outlive them all, aren’t we? By hundreds of years, at least.”

The two stayed silent for about ten seconds, their eyes locked. Beyond her control, a tear escaped Twilight’s right eye. Spike slowly wiped it away with his claw and spoke. “Do you want me to be honest, Twilight?”

“Yes,” she answered without hesitation.

Spike turned away momentarily, seemingly too afraid to speak to her face. “The day you became an alicorn I was so happy. Before that, I would have these scary thoughts about living on without you as this big, mean, lonely dragon. So… I was happy that you could always be there for me. I knew our other friends couldn’t always be there, and that’s upsetting, but you matter the most. And now…” Spike turned towards her, looking lost as he thought of what to say next. “Now I can have you by my side until the end, but you’re in pain. You… You cried yourself to sleep, Twilight. I don’t know what to think about that.”

“I know it’s early days,” Twilight muttered, forcing herself not to cry. “I just wanted to know how you felt about it, so we could support each other.” She bit her lip. “I wasn’t expecting that to be your answer.”

“I’m sure we’ll get through it,” Spike said. “I mean, we all have to deal with it sometime, one way or another. It’s just one of those things.”

“I know.”

“I’d try not to think about it, otherwise you’ll just go crazy. I wouldn’t want to spend every day worrying about the future. You know what they say, life’s too sh—” Spike cut himself off. “Sorry. Bad joke.”

“It’s okay,” Twilight replied, despite a small part of her wanting to thump his side for such a comment.

“But Twilight, I’m a little confused. Your... well, situation is much more similar to Celestia’s. Why don’t you talk to her about this?”

Twilight uttered a nervous chuckle. “Because I know what she’ll say.”

Spike merely raised his eyebrows and nodded. Clearly, he wasn’t about to question that statement.



“I’m sorry for bringing it up. I wasn’t trying to upset you.”

Spike grinned and ruffled her mane playfully. “Don’t sweat it.” He paused for a moment, looking to one side. “But like I said, it’s probably best not to think about it.”

Twilight gave a weak smile, quickly combing her mane back into place. It was obvious that talking to Spike about her woes was pretty much out of the question. Forcing him to discuss something that he felt so adverse to thinking about would be cruel, especially considering that he had his own set of problems to deal with. If his growth over the past few years was anything to go by, death wasn’t the only thing that could separate him from his loved ones. Feeling guiltier with each passing second, Twilight thanked Spike for his support, as well as the various pamphlets he’d helped to collect. She thought to lighten the mood with a jibe about his apparent crush on Sweetie Belle — maybe even an empty threat about a truth spell — but it didn’t feel appropriate. In his emotional state, he might take such comments to heart.

As Twilight watched Spike pace down the pearly white hallway, she sighed. There was no easy answer to her problems. She thought to consult Luna, but was too afraid to deal with such a conversation. This was, after all, the mare who had spent a thousand years in isolation. It would surely be an insult to ask for her advice on such issues. In fact, the only friend who had made a dent in her turmoil was Applejack.

Applejack… Applejack… Twilight repeated internally. You think you’re worthless but you have worth beyond measure. She was the mare that Twilight yearned for, the one she couldn’t stop thinking about no matter how hard she tried. Supressing risqué thoughts about Applejack was a new habit, spurred on by her insistence in having the utmost respect for her friend, even beyond the real world. If only she were here now.

“Your Highness?”

“Yes?” Twilight asked automatically, turning to see one of her personal guards — Scimitar — stood by the door.

“If I may, Princess,” he began, relaxing his usual upright stance. “You’ve been collecting details of a fair few Equestrian attractions. Might I make a suggestion?”

“A suggestion?”

“It’s for your friend, isn’t it? The one who stayed a few nights ago?”

Twilight nodded uncertainly. “Applejack.”

“Applejack, that’s right,” Scimitar said. “Well, I was thinking about your predicament when I remembered somewhere I’d visited a few years ago with an ex filly-friend.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow disgruntledly. “I believe I made it quite clear last time that Applejack and I are j-just friends.” Even while speaking with maximum authority in her voice, Twilight couldn’t help but falter as the memory of her dream sprang to mind. Just friends indeed…

“I know that, your highness. Apologies once again for ever having said otherwise.” The off-white stallion bowed his head respectfully before continuing. “I would only recommend this place for the right reasons. It’s a resort on the coast of East Flankshire called Calcolt Manor. It has a health spa, live music, swimming facilities, not to mention a nice selection of surrounding restaurants, beaches and entertainment venues. It’s a bit of a hotspot for griffins, assuming that wouldn’t be a problem for either of you.” Scimitar blushed and bowed again. “Which… obviously wouldn’t matter. But in all honesty, it’s the one place I would recommend to somepony who’s been through a tough time. I can tell you more about it, if you would like, your Highness.”

“Please do,” Twilight replied, her smile broadening. Things were looking up.

Four days later

Twilight stepped down from the royal coach, Spike, Celestia and Luna right behind her. The journey to the funeral site had been quiet, barely a word save for the odd comment from Celestia about the day she first met Granny Smith. Luna had been deathly silent, which as Twilight had learned over time meant she was deep in thought. Spike had said a few things about Applebloom and how sorry he felt for her.

There were already around forty ponies or so stood in a group upon their arrival, most of them from the Apple family. In a stark contrast to the sombre occasion, the sun was shining brightly. By all other accounts it was just another beautiful, picturesque day in Ponyville. Twilight quickly spotted Applejack, Big Mac and Applebloom stood near the centre, talking with Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy.

“Here goes, I guess,” Spike muttered to Twilight as the royal sisters strode towards the others.

Twilight followed after them, quickly catching up to her friends. Applebloom was the first to spot her and gave her a big hug as they exchanged greetings. She was sobbing uncontrollably. It was the first time Twilight had seen Applebloom so overcome with distress, likely the weight of the situation finally dawning on her in full force. Spike quickly cut in, dropping onto one knee as the young mare clutched at his chest. Twilight watched him whisper something in her ear as she heard another familiar voice.

“Glad you could make it,” Applejack said with bleary eyes.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Twilight replied. And then they held each other as they wept.

Not much was said between then and the first hymn, the Apples exchanging respectful glances with each other and comforting those who were in tears. Applejack, Big Mac and Applebloom shared embraces with various friends and family members before the cart carrying Granny Smith’s coffin was pulled into place and ponies were assigned seats by two unicorn stallions in relative silence, a young mare playing a violin leading with a sorrowful melody. The seating was nothing more than rows of simple wooden benches, along the lines of those used in primary schools. Twilight sat between Rarity and Spike in the second row. After a minute or so of ponies shuffling around, the priest in front of them — a middle-aged earth pony stallion — tapped his hoof gently on the wooden stand. As everypony fell silent, he spoke.

“We are here today to remember a remarkable pony. Granny Smith Apple was not just your average mare, she was in many ways a pioneer who has left a great legacy behind her. At the founding of Ponyville she was there alongside her family, planting the seeds that would grow into the illustrious Sweet Apple Acres. In a sense, this entire community owes her for her hard work. Without the farm that we can all bear witness to today, Ponyville could never have hoped to become the great village that it is now. I would think it impossible to find somepony who has not tasted the apples grown here, or the cider that spawned its own annual festival.

“But she has done more than that. She has raised Applejack, Applebloom and Macintosh: three fine grandchildren. Though I never had the pleasure to converse with Granny Smith myself, from those I have spoken with I believe I have some idea of the fun-loving, caring mare that she was. For example, I spoke to a young filly who said, ‘she must be hanging out with some really cool angels.’ I think she may be right.”

The priest finished his speech and the congregation began the first hymn of the procession, ‘Bless Thy Soul.’ Twilight struggled at first, having heard the hymn only a few times in her life. They sang of the passing into the next world, of a blessed soul rising into the heavens and into the great beyond. They sang of eternal happiness and reward. The song itself was beautiful, a fitting send off to a great pony. Twilight only wished she could believe what she sang was true. In fact, she envied those that did.

As they reached the second chorus Twilight glanced up towards Applejack, partly wishing she’d had more meaningful things to say on such a day. Applejack wore a long, silky black dress. On any other day Twilight might have called it beautiful, but more important things took precedence over her appreciation. Twilight could only wonder what was going through her mind.

Applejack held back a sob as the congregation finished the final verse. She supposed the hymn would do well to instil hope into the hearts of her family, particularly Applebloom. She wondered how her unshakable faith from her youth had eroded over time. She wanted to believe that Granny Smith was just over the next hill, waiting for her beside Mama and Papa. It would be cause for celebration as a tired old mare finally found peace with the son she’d mourned for so long.

But that was it. It was merely a thought: a heartfelt wish made so as not to incriminate the existence of being. If true, it would be the greatest gift ever conceived. Applejack wished with all her heart that she could believe in it once again, that she could leave her doubts behind and move forward with newfound confidence. She wanted a sign. She wanted something to aid her at such a time, yet all she was left with was the soul-crushing notion of life without respite. That maybe, just maybe, death was the end. That perhaps the mare who had cared for her and taught her valuable life lessons was now nothing more than a rotting pile of bone and meat. It was too horrible to consider. So why don’t Ah believe otherwise?

Silence fell as the hymn ended. The priest stepped up to the stand once more. “I now invite Applejack, the eldest granddaughter of the dearly departed to the stand.”

Applejack felt a friendly nudge from Big Mac. His smile gave her some comfort as she traipsed to the platform, a written speech clutched between her teeth. She carefully placed the parchment onto the stand, taking a moment to gaze upon the family and friends that surrounded her. After a quick glimpse at the polished mahogany casket to her left (Ah’d do anythin’ to have ya back. Ah can see your face, clear as day.) Applejack cleared her throat and looked down at her speech.

“Most of y’all know how much Granny Smith meant to me, mah brother an’ mah sister. She was more than just our Granny. She raised us when our folks passed away, doin’ everythin’ she could for us. To see your own child pass is somethin’ no mother should bear, an’ yet she showed more courage than just about anypony Ah’ve ever known. Ah coulda thanked her every day an’ it would never have been enough.

“This is the kinda time where ponies say, ‘Ah’m sorry for your loss.’ Only thing about that is, Ah like to think about how much we’ve gained thanks to her. Ah feel beyond grateful to have known Granny Smith, an’ the times we’ve spent together won’t be forgotten that easily. She always gave so much and asked so little even when everythin’ was against her, right ‘til the end.

“Granny always talked a lot — anypony can attest to that — an’ while she had a habit of ramblin’ on about the good old days, she was also full of wisdom. The best piece of advice she ever gave me was to hold mah head high an’ be proud of whatever Ah’ve achieved, ‘cause there’s no small feat in bein’ good to your fellow pony. An’ Ah’m sure we can all say she practiced what she preached.

“Today is a day we all feel the sorrow of seein’ her leave us, but Ah like to think the joy she brought outweighs that. Today, may we show our respect by mournin’ her death. Tomorrow, may we show our respect by celebratin’ her life. May we remember everythin’ she did that made us who we are today.”

Applejack stepped down from the stand, pacing slowly back to her seat. She wasn’t sure at what point she’d started crying: it could’ve been at any time. Big Mac rubbed her hoof affectionately, whispering the words “You did good. Granny ‘d be proud,” into her ear.

And so it was onto the next hymn, just like that. The way time slipped by at light speed was maddening. Applejack had spent days agonising over every word of her eulogy, looking back on all the years Granny Smith had raised her, everything she’d done for her summed up in a short memorial service at the Farfields. The previous week had felt like an eternity, but that morning had been a blur. Everything Granny’s life had been leading to was slipping away, every chance they had to stand together and remember a great mare condensed to a passing visit. There were places to go, ponies to see. Time would move on.

“In sure and certain hope that the departed may find eternal rest…”


“We commit her body to the ground. Equus to Equus…”


“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”


Granny Smith was lowered slowly into the ground, destined to spend her days after life next to her only son. A lime-green marble headstone stood upright, surrounded by white lilies, roses and apple tree leaves. It was the least they could do. Applejack’s chest tightened as she uttered a silent farewell. Goodbye Granny. Ah promise to make you proud.

Apple family members and friends alike surrounded the grave, giving their respects as the first shovelful of dirt was dropped by a unicorn undertaker. Celestia herself walked up to Applejack and her siblings, giving them her personal blessing. Most were crying. Big Mac wasn’t, but Applejack had a feeling that would come later.

Pinkie had been the first of her friends to walk up to her, being unusually silent. She whispered something about how beautiful the speech was before wrapping Applejack in a warm embrace. Rainbow Dash and Rarity stepped up next, the fashionista’s makeup running in a way that would’ve been comical under different circumstances. Rainbow Dash didn’t seem to know what to say while Rarity barely stopped for breath, complimenting the memorial service, floral decorations and talking about the great things Granny Smith had done in between matting her eyes with a lavishly decorated handkerchief.

And so they all stood huddled in groups, quietly rambling and laughing nervously amongst themselves, gearing up for the trip to the Apples’ barn. Granny’s wake would prove to be not unlike the usual family reunion, which Applejack supposed would be the right way to go about it. Family was, after all, what Granny Smith had dedicated her life to. But it felt too soon. Applejack clamped her eyes shut, almost fit to burst as a maelstrom of emotions and memories surged through her.

“Listen here, Applejack. Your Mama and Papa are lookin’ down on us right now. They’re still gonna be lookin’ after you, day an’ night.”

“But Granny… Ah just wanna seem ‘em again… Why did they have to go?”

“Sometimes that’s the way things work out, little one.”

“But it’s not fair!”

“Ah know. It ain’t fair on any of us, ‘specially your folks. But it’ll get easier, Ah promise you.”

“How? How can it if they’ll never come back?”

“They’re in your heart, ain’t they? You’ll be carryin’ ‘em around forever an’ ever. Iff’n you be a good little filly an’ make ‘em proud, they’ll be real happy. Everythin’ is gonna be alright, Applejack. Ah’m…”

Applejack’s reverie was cut short by Twilight’s hoof caressing her mane. The alicorn pulled herself in close as Applejack sobbed into her nape. It was a moment Applejack almost wanted to last forever. She tried to speak but her words were muffled into nothingness. Twilight hushed her soothingly, running a hoof down Applejack’s back like a mother to a foal.

“Everything’s going to be alright, Applejack,” Twilight whispered, planting a small kiss on her forehead. “I’m here for you.”

“Ah know.” Despite all the sadness and the worry, Applejack couldn’t help but smile. Maybe what Twilight said was true. Maybe one day, everything would be alright. “Ah love ya, Twi. Ah really do.”