After Rainbow Dash moves to Ponyville, Applejack and Dash slowly become friends. But as their friendship grows, Dash realizes some different feelings about her friend. One stormy night, Dash tries to explain those feelings to Applejack.
Rainbow Dash and Applejack have been friends for a long time, but their friendship took a long time to get to where it currently is. Along with this long-grown friendship are some different kind of feelings on Dash's side. Now these feelings have grown strong enough that Dash is afraid they may ruin their friendship. After things seem to go too far, Rainbow Dash decides one stormy night that it's time to explain her feelings to Applejack. Even if it means she can never take her flying again.
Thank you to my wonderful proofreader, WhatTheMoo for helping with my story! (Chapters finished: 1-5)
The two mares sat in silence. The battering rain caused the hay loft roof to creak, and the wind howled with defeat, unable to penetrate the warmth. The single oil lamp in the middle of the room cast long shadows on the walls. The silence was so thick it felt like butter on a brisk winter morning. Finally, the tangerine mare spoke.
“So, fer how long?” Her southern accent cut through the butter-silence like a warm knife. As the words tumbled from her tongue, her tangerine coat turned a soft scarlet, more like a sunset. To hide it, she pulled her brown hat down on her face, but the color could not be hidden from the other mare.
“Eh, some time,” said the other mare. “It was strongest most recently, but it started a long time ago, I guess.”
“When did it start?” asked the embarrassed mare.
“Start? Well, that’s a long story and I don’t-”
The orange mare lifted her stetson, revealing her brilliant green eyes.
“Ah have time.”
Chills ran down the coat of the other mare, the gaze of the green eyes fueling the fire in her heart. She sat up.
“Alright, you asked for it, Applejack,” she said as she took to her storyteller’s stance.
“Let’s hear it,” replied Applejack.
The blue pegasus stretched her wings and took a deep breath.
“You remember the day we first met?” she asked with a mischievous smile.
“How could Ah ferget, Rainbow?” said Applejack.
It was a late summer day in the sky, and the playful Rainbow Dash was ready to strike. She was sitting on a slightly off-white cloud when she gave it a lick--then a large bite--testing for the texture and moistness. It was scratchy, with lots of water when she bit down. “Perfect!” squeaked her little voice, and with that, she grabbed the cloud and went zooming off with it across the sky.
She soared over what looked like tons of apple trees, though this didn’t mean anything to the filly, for she was searching for any sign of somepony below. However, after several zig-zags and still no luck, the young Dash was about to give up. Suddenly, a tree to her far left shook, along with the sound of a struggling pony. Quickly and quietly, Dash flew up to the tree--a rather young sapling with only a few tiny apples on it--while staying out of sight.
Sure enough, Dash’s hopes were rewarded with the sight of a tiny orange filly, trying defiantly to buck the tiny tree. After exhausting her efforts, she turned around and whined.
“Aw, c’mon, Bloomberg!” shouted the filly.
Dash’s hooves went straight to her mouth to keep from snickering. Was this filly really talking to a tree?
“Listen, Bloomberg,” she reasoned, “Ah have planted ya, and watered ya, and made sure ya got lots of sunshine, and now ya have four shiny apples! See mah basket? It’s plum empty! If you won’t give me yer apples, Big Mac will win again for sure! Give em’ over, or Ah’ll pick ‘em mahself!!” She stuck out her bottom lip at the tree, and then turned around to try and buck again.
Rainbow Dash was doing everything to keep from bursting into a fit of giggles. She watched as the filly retracted her hind legs, balancing wobbly on her front ones, and let them go with all her little might. The tree shook tremendously, and one apple especially began to wiggle. She whirled around, standing on her hind quarters with her hooves upward towards the teetering apple. With her eyes wide, and her mouth an open smile, she waited for the pleasure of her first apple to fall from all her work. She was rewarded in no such manner.
Water filled every open crevice, and it gushed into every available space on the tiny filly’s face. She sprang back, coughing and gagging on the liquid, trying to dig it out of her eyes and ears. Once an ear was empty, however, it was soon filled with the sound of a cackling nuisance from above. Sitting back up, she saw a now snow-white cloud hovering just above her tree.
“Hey! That wasn’t very nice!”
The laughing paused as the head of the blue filly, sporting her rainbow hair, emerged from the cloud.
“You should have seen your FACE!” squealed Rainbow Dash.
“Ah coulda choked on that water y’know!” The filly stuck out her lip again.
“Afraid of a little water, are ya?” teased Dash.
“No, Ah ain’t afraid!” shouted the filly. “C’mon down here and Ah’ll give ya rotten vermin what ya deserve!”
“You askin’ for a fight?” asked Rainbow Dash mischievously. She descended from her cloud onto the dirt. “Challenge accepted.”
“The filly’s face took on a worried look, and she hesitated.
“What’s wrong?” asked Dash with a frisky look, “Chicken?”
The filly’s eyes widened at the insult. “Am not!”
“Are too!” taunted Rainbow. To prove her point, she opened her wings and strutted around like the associated bird. “Bok-bok-BOK! Bok-bok-BOK!"
The filly’s face reddened at the taunting, and finally she cried, “That’s it! Nopony treats an Apple that way!”
With all her might, she threw her front hoof at Dash. Dash, however, dodged the gesture and it only hit her ear.
“Well, if that’s how we’re gonna play...” said Dash, and with that she kicked the filly in the cheekbone. The filly rubbed the sore, her eyes narrowing.
“Fahne. You asked for it.”
Dash was expecting another lash, but the filly instead turned her back. Only realizing what was happening when it was too late, she couldn’t brace for the impact as the filly bucked her right in the stomach. Dash flew and hit a tree, her head throbbing and her lungs out of air. Her eyes stung, but she bit back the tears and gritted her teeth.
“Told ya you’d get what ya deserved!” The filly puffed triumphantly.
Dash’s eyes narrowed, fire blazing in their centers. There was no way she was going to be humiliated by this stranger.
Propelling herself forward with her wings, Rainbow Dash threw herself at the filly at full force. The two balls of fur clashed and began to tumble down the orchard path, fighting, kicking and biting each other ferociously. Every time they hit a root or a rock, the victim was incited into more violent prospects, and the war continued. Finally, Dash pinned the filly against one of the many apple trees and thrust her hoof straight at her face. A satisfying ‘crunch’ came from the muzzle of the filly, quickly followed by a cry.
“OW!” The pinned filly, filled with rage, threw herself against the nearest limb of her attacker--Dash’s wing. She grabbed it and jumped, flipping over it twisting the flesh and feathers around in a circle. As the filly crashed to the ground, a sickening ‘SNAP’ filled the air. The filly jumped back in horror, to see the wing outstretched, and bending in an awkward angle. Rainbow Dash gasped loudly, extending the rest of her limbs in shock. A small silence followed. It was soon broken by the loudest, scariest, high-pitched scream.
The filly just sat there, unsure what to do, covering her flattened ears. She almost reached forward to shut the mouth where the scream was coming from, but it was too late. An aged green mare being pulled by a young, strong red colt came thundering through the orchard to the scene.
“What in tarnation is going on here?!” shouted the mare.
“She started it!” shouted the filly, pointing to Rainbow.
Rainbow stopped screaming to take another shaky intake of breathe. The mare dismounted from the apple cart she had been riding in, apples falling and bouncing along the hardened path. The screaming continued just as the mare approached her.
“Miss, we can’t help ya with all yer hollerin’!” shouted the mare. Rainbow Dash ignored the comment, too frightened and in pain to listen. This had never happened before. Suddenly, a drop of something warm and sticky dripped on Dash’s forehoof. Stopping the screaming, Dash opened her eyes to see a red circle of liquid. She began to tremble.
“SWEET CELESTIA! NOW I’M BLEEDING!!”
“No, Ah’m bleeding, stupid.”
Dash looked up to see the broken muzzle she had induced finally taking its toll on the filly’s face, swelling and bleeding.
Unsure how to react, Dash simply said, “Ew.”
The green mare, now having a chance to speak without having to worry about Dash screaming, spoke. “Applejack, were ya participatin’ in a fight with this young filly?”
Unable to lie, Applejack lowered her head. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Ah told ya not to do such a thing!” scolded the mare. “See? Now somepony has gotten hurt!” The mare then turned to Rainbow. “What’s yer name, Miss?”
Realizing not only that she was surrounded by strangers, but that if her father found out about this incident she would certainly be grounded, Rainbow Dash sealed her lips.
“Miss, we need to know yer name and where yer from if we’re gonna be able to help you.” Dash still refused to speak. She turned her head and tried to move away, only to be met with more pain. She cried out.
“Young Missy,” said the mare with softer tone, “If ya just tell us yer name, we’ll make that there wing of yers stop hurtin’. Alright?”
Dash opened her eyes, eyes filled with fear and confusion--and now faith. Taking another shaky breath, she said as calmly as she could,
“Rainbow Dash. My name is Rainbow Dash.”
“More like Rainbow Splash.” murmured the orange Applejack beside her.
“Applejack! Don’t speak to our guest that way!” scolded the green mare. “Sorry, Miss Dash. Where do you live?”
“Guest?! She’s more like an intruder!! That’s what she is!”
“Applejack! Mind yer manners! Cloudsdale? Aren’t ya a little ways from home young missy?”
“Well, flight camp ended so Dad lets me play on my own. As long as I get home by sundown, I stay out of trouble.”
“Ah’m sorry to say that ya won’t be able to get home by sundown t’night. Yer in Ponyville now, and now we gotta take ya to the Ponyville hospital.”
“P-Ponyville?” Rainbow’s face wrinkled with worry. She was far from home. And now she was going to have to go even farther so nurses and doctors could poke and prod her with tubes and needles. But that all seemed worth it if it meant the pain would stop. So with a shaky nod and a tiny “okay”. Applejack and the unnamed placed her in the applecart. Then they proceeded in taking Rainbow Dash to the barn to get a more suitable traveling cart.
“That was really the first time you broke a wing?”
“Well, it certainly wasn’t the last!”
“Hey! I’m not done...”
The four of them were on the road now. Dash had shoved herself into the farthest back corner, faced away from everypony else with her hooves thrown over the side, like a hopeless kitten. The old mare tried to break the silence with a little conversation.
“So, a little quarrel with mah granddaughter, huh? Oh, Ah bet you two are close to the same age! How old are ya, sugarcube?”
Rainbow Dash pushed herself farther into the corner. “Not tellin’.”
Applejack, who was sitting on the opposite side of the cart, flipped her head around towards Dash.
“‘Not tellin’?! Ooh ya should have more respect towards Granny Smith, ya ungrateful vermin!”
“AppleJACK. No more insults, please!” Granny Smith pleaded with her granddaughter.
Rainbow Dash pushed herself even farther until it began to hurt. Her lip stuck out over the edge.
“You stick that lip out any farther and a bird may come and lay an egg on it!” giggled Granny Smith.
Rainbow turned and gave Granny Smith a disdainful look, then continued to stare at the brown road. Brown. Such a boring color compared to the streets of Cloudsdale, where there is blue and periwinkle and lavender roads, houses, and factories. Here there were only cottages and trees. Lots of trees. Never before had she seen so many trees. No trees in Cloudsdale. And there were rocks here, and roots, and splinters. Too many hard things to scratch you up. Dash looked down at her coat. She looked horrendous. There were grass stains, bruises, splinters, cuts, bite marks, and scrapes all along her body. She then looked over at Applejack. And snickered.
And she thought her coat was bad! The green grass stains and the blue bruises stood out on the orange filly’s coat. Applejack turned her head to see what was to snicker about, her face looking a little upset to see it was her.
“Well,” said Applejack huffily, realizing that she did look terrible, “You...You look like something the cat dragged in!”
Satisfied with her insult, Applejack turned away. Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, had no idea what it meant, so she sat forward just in time for Granny Smith to announce,
“There it is! There’s the Ponyville hospital!”
The sudden shout made Dash jump, which in result jostled her wing. The action caused her to moan in frustration at her stupidity. She then looked up to see the white building, probably the only structure that looked similar to a Cloudsdale one. The cart came to a stop.
“Alrighty, Big Mac, you pull the cart over there; Ah’m gonna take the girls inside.”
Granny Smith got up and out of the cart, and then helped the two fillies to the ground. As they walked towards the doors, Applejack stopped.
“Ya comin’, sugarcube?”
“Ah don’t need to go in the hospital. Ah’m fine. There’s no reason to.”
“Ah’d say that a broken muzzle is a plenty good reason!” Granny Smith grabbed the filly since she refused to follow.
So, the three of them walked in the doors of the hospital. A fair-sized white mare with pink hair approached them.
“What happened here?” asked the white mare.
“Aw, mah granddaughter picked a fight with this young filly, Rainbow Dash, and now we’ve got a broken muzzle and a broken wing. Can ya help us, Nurse Roseheart?”
The mare nodded. “Over this way, Miss Dash.”
Rainbow was glad she was finally getting away from the orange filly and her crazy grandma, so she gratefully followed.
The hospital smelled as if it were too clean, but the sounds of coughs and moans coming from the rooms argued otherwise. everything felt gross and sterile at the same time, which didn’t make much sense.
The nurse led her down the faded green halls until they reached a room with a white bed in the center. Around it were many strange lamps and screens, which the nurse described as x-rays. She then invited Dash to lay on the bed.
After several x-rays (which consisted of loud noises and beeping sounds) and then the beginning of a cast, the nurses inquired of her the contact information to her father, which she utterly refused to give. As the sun began to set, and the thoughts of a worried and frightened Dad became more frequent in Dash’s mind, she began to weaken her resistance.
Finally, for a trade to get some colorful fruit snacks and toys, Rainbow Dash gave in. Her dad showed up soon after the phone call, and gave her a stern scolding. That, plus the news that she would have to stay in bed for a few days, and not fly for at least a week afterwards, Dash finally let everything go and tears streaked down her face. Her compassionate father, deflated at the sight of his only daughter so frightened about being in a new place, and so disappointed in a simple adventure’s outcome, decided the doctor’s orders were punishment enough, and that on the way home they’d stop at her favorite place for ice cream.
“It’s an amusing story, Rainbow, but what does it have to do with this?”
“Hang on, you wanted me to start at the beginning, right?
“Well, yes, but-”
“Just let me tell the story, okay?”
“Fahne. What’s next?”
“Well, we didn’t see each other again until I moved to Ponyville...”
Dash clung to the side of the carriage, slightly squashed by the bags and suitcases around her. On the floor of the carriage she spotted the Wonderbolt doll that her friend from Cloudsdale, Fluttershy, had hoof-stitched herself. Leaning over, she picked up the doll with her teeth and brought it onto her lap, grasping it tightly with her hooves. She was too old for dolls, exactly twelve years old that very day, but today was a stressful day, and squeezing the tiny plush doll made her feel a little better. But her heart sank deeper when she heard her father’s voice from the front of the carriage.
“We’re here, Dash.”
She didn’t want to be here, though. She watched blankly as her dad pulled the carriage around the front of the new cloud house. It was tall, with a rainbow fountain running down the side and pooling in the front. There was a tiny window on the top floor. That was where her bedroom was; she got to be inside it when they had first checked out the house. The walls were all white and there was no furniture inside. She had felt like she was in some kind of alien hospital. She didn’t know how she could live in there.
“This is our new home,” sighed Dad with relief.
Maybe it was his new home, but Dash knew her home was in Cloudsdale. Her bedroom was now being explored by strangers with hungry eyes wanting to steal what was rightfully hers. If it hadn't been for Dad losing his job at the weather factory, and a weather pony job conveniently opening up in Ponyville two weeks later, she wouldn't be in this stupid position. She should be grateful, but she didn't want to be grateful that she was leaving her beautiful and exciting home for this lame town.
“Yep” was all Dash could manage as she hopped out of the carriage onto the cloud porch. Dad looked over and saw the disappointment on her face. Moving sucks, especially when you move on your own birthday, and this was clearly shown in Dash’s attitude. She gave Dad a scowl, and sat down. Dad’s gaze went downward, only to be suddenly lit up with an excitement and mischievousness in his eyes.
“You know,” said he, “I heard there’s a bakery here in Ponyville.”
“Who cares?” said Dash, letting the doll slump beside her as she unfolded her hooves.
Dad rolled his eyes and approached Dash, lifting her hoof and placing some bits in it.
“Here,” he smirked, “Go get yourself something sweet.”
“I don’t even know where this stupid bakery is!” objected the filly.
“You can see it from here,” observed the patient father. “Right down the street that way. Go on, the moving carriage isn’t here yet anyway, so this will give you something to do.”
“Fine,” huffed Dash. “But only because I could really use a milkshake right now.”
With that, Rainbow Dash lifted off the porch, leaving the doll and her Dad behind, the bits in hoof. She began to fly over the dreary town, at a slow and reluctant pace, mulling over all the upsetting feelings in her tiny body. It seemed unfair that of all the days of the year, her birthday was the one they had to move on. She already had her birthday party with all her old friends, but she still was completely refusing to make new friends. She had to stay loyal to each of them--she didn’t want to replace them. Nopony could replace them. No pony could replace Gilda. Gilda was the only one who could fly with her (and keep up), challenge her, and push her limits. No common Ponyville pony could fill that hole in Dash’s torn heart. Gilda was her best friend, and Dash was there for her every wingbeat along the way. How was she supposed to survive in this lame town with a bunch of dweebs?
Before she knew it, she had arrived at the bakery. Still lost in thought, she landed on the front steps, placed the bits between her teeth, and pushed open the door. With her eyes glued to the hardwood floor, she slowly looked forward just in time to be met by a bouncing pink blur.
“SURPRISE!!” screamed a chorus of joyful voices as streamers and balloons caressed the newly arrived Dash who then dropped her bits.
Dash recognized something in the confusion, and looked around for a familiar white pegasus with yellow hair, but saw none. Instead, a lively young, pink earth pony bounced into her personal space.
“WELCOME to Ponyville!! I’m Pinkie Pie!” giggled the pink filly.
“Um, hi,” said Dash, slightly annoyed by the sudden energy in the other pony. She took an awkward step back against the door. “I’m--”
“Rainbow Dash!! I know because I know everypony in Ponyville, and I heard you were moving here!!” interrupted Pinkie Pie.
“How convenient,” grumbled Dash under her breath.
“AND,” the hyperactive filly continued, “I heard that today is your BIRTHDAY! So I thought there couldn’t be a better way to celebrate a birthday than with a PARTY!! Especially a surprise party!! Were you surprised?? Wereya? Wereya? Huhhuhhuh???”
“Very surprised,” snapped Dash grumpily. “You made me drop all my bits!”
“Oh, you won’t need any of those! Since it’s your party, everything is free, silly!” Pinkie Pie snorted. “Here, there is a reserved seat for you at this table!!”
Against her will, Dash was dragged to a table in the center of the room. At it was a white unicorn with a carefully curled purple mane, and an orange filly with a stetson hat.
“I’ll get you something!!” squealed Pinkie Pie. “What would you like? We have cookies, cupcakes, apple fritters, apple cider, cream puffs, punch, sarsaparilla...”
“I’ll have a milkshake,” interjected Rainbow. She had not forgotten her original purpose of being at this stupid sugarhouse. “Oki doki loki!” giggled Pinkie brightly, “What flavor? We have--”
Dash quickly shoved her hoof at the pony’s mouth, not wanting to hear another stinking word from the annoying filly.
“Surprise me.” Rainbow raised an eyebrow, looking into the filly’s bright blue eyes. She then let go of her.
Pinkie sprang into the air and whirled around towards the kitchen. “Ooh! I LOVE surprises!!”
Taking a deep breath of relief, she sat down at the table. Her eyes then looked up at the other ponies at the table. The white one gave a gentle smile and small encouraging wave. The orange one, on the other hoof, just stared suspiciously at her. That’s when it clicked. It had nearly been thirty moons since they had last seen each other, but Dash could recognize the orange pony as the image of a scratched up orange filly with a bad temper came to mind.
“Well if it isn’t Apple Smack,” taunted Rainbow with a sneer.
The white unicorn raised an eyebrow. “You two...know each other?”
“That’s where Ah remember you,” ignored Applejack. “Yer that little intruder Ah got into a pickle with several moons back.”
“I wasn’t intruding,” laughed Dash sardonically. “Just pullin’ your tail a little.”
“If by ‘pullin’ mah tail’ you mean breakin’ mah muzzle, then yeah, I guess ya pulled on mah tail a little.” Applejack sat back in her seat, folding her hooves.
The white unicorn fidgeted slightly, unsure what to do in the current situation. “Well it’s lo--”
“Well at least I didn’t break somepony’s wing!” Dash raised her voice, and leaned over the table towards Applejack. “Or made her feel unwanted in this dorky town!!”
Applejack now stood, pressing her forehead against Rainbow’s. “You WERE unwanted! You were screwing around on private property!!”
A sky blue glow encircled them both and placed them carefully back into their seats. The white unicorn, from whom the magic had originated, cleared her throat and spoke.
“It looks like you two have had quite the history,” she said, eyeing Applejack to keep from interrupting. “But if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to introduce myself. I am Rarity. And you must be Rainbow Dash.”
“The One and Only!” beamed Rainbow proudly.
“And thank Celestia that’s the case,” murmured Applejack under her breath.
“Hey! I heard that!!” Dash whirled her head back in Applejack’s direction, sticking out her lip.
“Applejack, please,” scolded Rarity. “We are here to welcome Rainbow Dash to Ponyville, remember?” She turned back to Dash. “So how old are you turning my dear?”
“She’s not tellin’,” snickered Applejack.
Rainbow’s ears flattened, and she growled and gritted her teeth. She knew she shouldn’t attack Applejack in the middle of the party, but she sure wanted to.
“Twelve.” She answered through her clenched teeth.
Rarity’s face plastered on an over-exaggerated smile at the response. “Twelve?! What a great year, if I do say so myself! Pinkie threw a party for my twelfth birthday this year as well! That was several moons ago, but I do still remember how much fun it was. Pinkie Pie can sure throw a party!”
“Ah have to agree,” said Applejack with a smile. That was the first time, Dash realized, she had ever seen Applejack smile. It was the kind of smile where the left side of her mouth lifted higher than the right, and her green eyes glossed over as she remembered the wonderful time she had. It made something inside Dash tingle, just at the tips of her ears and the tips of her hooves. It was just after that sensation, however, that she realized she had zoned-out.
“Huh?” Dash tilted her head, then shook it to clear it.
“Git out of the clouds, Rainbow Splash,” teased Applejack. “The party’s down here.”
Dash’s face felt hot with embarrassment. She had no idea what had gotten into her, and now it had gotten her the wrong kind of attention. She darted her eyes away from Applejack to Rarity, who was giving her a questioning look. There was no way to get out of this situation without making it worse. She had to bail.
“Well, then...” Dash struggled to find the right words, “Then if this lame thing is what you call a party here in this lame town, then I’m leaving!!”
“What?” Rarity’s eyes widened in confusion with the sudden change of subject.
“I said, I’m tired with hanging around you dorks!” shouted Rainbow Dash, gathering more confidence.
Just then, Pinkie Pie returned with a rainbow shake on a waitress platter.
“Hey Dashie! I brought your surprise milkshake! It’s--”
“Yeah, dorks!” Dash began to hover, ignoring the shake. “All of you in your little dork town!! I can’t stand it!”
All of her anger about moving, about being embarrassed, losing Gilda, and everything else broke through her seams, and Rainbow Dash let out one final scream:
“CLOUDSDALE WAS WAY COOLER THAN THIS!!!”
She turned and burst through the swinging doors, the frantic cries of Pinkie Pie calling after her:
“Don’t forget your milkshake!!”
"Ah had felt so bad after you left, it had seemed to be all mah fault."
"In a way, you were the reason I bailed. But just not in the way you thought."
"Ah also didn't realize you moved THAT DAY. I should have been nicer."
"AJ, chill. The story's not over yet."
Dash plopped herself on the empty bedroom floor with a thud. She was so angry at everything in the whole world. She walked over to her tiny window, where she saw the dull town that was now supposed to be her home. She saw all the cottages, the bakery, and what looked like a farm in the distance. Dash gritted her teeth.
She was angry with Applejack. If it weren’t for her, she wouldn’t have left the party. If it weren’t for her, she wouldn’t have been embarrassed. If it weren’t for her, she would be sipping that delicious-looking rainbow milkshake. As if on cue, Dash’s stomach growled. She face planted the window sill.
A soft knock came from the bedroom door.
“Go away,” Dash grumbled through the window sill.
The door opened, and Dad’s soft voice filled the empty room.
“Did somepony order room service?”
Dash lifted her head, and turned towards the doorway. There stood Dad, his wing balancing a gleaming rainbow milkshake.
“So...” Applejack’s gaze fell. “Is that when it started?”
“Maybe a little, but I still kinda hated your guts.” Rainbow Dash smirked a little.
“Well thanks,” said Applejack, returning the smirk. “What’s next?”
“The day I napped in your orchard.” Rainbow’s smirk grew to a playful smile.
“You were always one fer intrudin’,” Applejack chuckled.
Rainbow zoomed around one of the many cottages in Ponyville, coming to a screeching stop once safe in its shadow.
“Phew,” Rainbow drew a hoof across her forehead. “I think I lost her.”
“Rainbow DASH! There you are!” squealed Pinkie Pie.
Rainbow took off again, racing around the town, looking for a new hiding spot. Pinkie had been following her all day long, and Dash had gone everywhere. She had been in Ponyville for little over a week and Pinkie had already dropped off seven milkshakes, lead three private tours of the town, and left a couple of surprises for her around her house. Dash couldn’t take it anymore, and so she had zipped behind Sugarcube corner, around Carousel Boutique, over the library, under a few trees, and into every cloud in the sky. She’d gone to every place in Ponyville--except Sweet Apple Acres. Nothing could convince Dash to go anywhere near that place.
She now dove into the schoolhouse bell tower, carefully clinging onto the bell clapper. Softly, she let out a breath of exhaustion. She let her eyes adjust to the darkness of the tower, looking around cautiously. Then her heart froze. There, below was a figure holding the rope to the bell clapper. The dim light couldn’t show too much about the figure, but her voice filled Dash with so much alarm, it’s a wonder her heart didn’t burst.
Pinkie tugged on the rope, trying to reach Dash. The sudden jerk caused Dash to hit the side of the bell and to fall. The frightened pegasus angled her fall towards the schoolyard, landing heavily in a sandbox. Meanwhile, Pinkie, who saw her actions may have hurt her, dropped her grip on the rope and landed onto the landing below. However, she didn’t land right, and this caused herself to slip and fall down the staircase that went up through the tower. Bouncing like a rubber ball, her cries echoed out of the top of the tower.
Without giving herself time to think, Rainbow took off towards the park, going on hoof since she was too dazed to take to the sky. She ended up collapsing in a bush behind a park bench. There she gave herself a self-assessment. She came off with a few bumps and bruises, but the biggest casualty was her wing. It wasn’t broken, but it sure stung. She rubbed it softly with her hoof, but pain shot through the sore, causing her to jerk back and moan.
Dash popped her head out of the bush in alarm, to find a greenish mare with yellow hair sitting on the park bench. Worry and concern filled her amber eyes.
Dash’s cheeks felt hot as she realized how silly this had to look. “Oh, erm...” She scratched the back of her head with her hoof.
“You’re that new filly in town, huh?” Familiarity dawned on the mare’s face. “Rainbow Dash, is it?”
Rainbow suddenly cut herself off, as she spotted who she was hiding from in enough time to dive back into the bush.
“Hey, Sassaflash!” called Pinkie Pie. “Have you seen Rainbow Dash? Ooh that rhymed!”
Sassaflash shifted in her seat. “Uhm, why? You need her for something?”
“Oh, I was just wondering if she wanted to play down by the watering hole with a group of friends. Plus, I think I may have hurt her over by the school house, and I wanted to make sure she was okay.” Pinkie’s ears drooped.
“Oh my, what happened?” A warming smile of comfort came over Sassaflash’s face.
Pinkie explained the bell incident in detail, her guilt clearly showing. The bush behind the bench shuddered slightly.
“I didn’t mean for her to get hurt, honest!” Pleaded Pinkie. “I just want her to feel welcome.”
“I’m sure your intentions are good,” comforted Sassaflash, "but it seems you have welcomed her a bunch already. Maybe she just needs a chance to make friends on her own.”
“I guess you’re right,” sighed Pinkie. Then she lit up. “Hey! Do you want to come to the watering hole instead?”
The green mare smiled. “Sure!”
The two began to trot off, but at the last second Sassaflash turned back to the bench and gave it a wink.
After they had left, Dash lifted her head above the green leaves. That mare had just covered for her. And they hardly even knew each other. A feeling of care and connection warmed in Dash’s chest. But she quickly shrugged it off, and stood. She began walking down the path in the opposite direction of the watering hole.
But she didn’t walk far. Even though she was an athlete, sprinting around the town for thirty minutes wasn’t her go-to workout. Before long Dash’s hooves began to drag and her eyelids began to droop. Dash was a lazy pony, and right then that lazy pony needed a nap. Finally, the need for sleep was so strong she climbed up into the nearest tree, and fell asleep.
“Ah didn’t realize Pinkie gave you such a hard time.”
“Yeah, that first bit in Ponyville was pretty rough.”
"Although, Ah did already know ya were a lazy pony..."
"Ya walked right into that one."
"Guess that's true..."
The world suddenly shook back and forth in large, sudden surges. Well, Dash’s world did at least. She grabbed onto the nearest branch, her eyes now widened and awake. The shaking stopped followed by a chuckle from below.
“What are you doin’ on mah property?” called a southern voice from below.
Dash peered over the edge of her branch with a scowl. Sure enough, there was Applejack. Disgruntled at being awoken, her mood was particularly foul. Slowly, she began to remember the events before her sudden slumber. Then her sleepy gaze sharpened, and her temper flared.
“This isn’t your property!!” argued Dash. “This is the park!”
Applejack chuckled. “The park? Then why are ya in an apple tree?”
“I am not in an apple tree!” Dash turned away towards the leaves of the tree. She was face to face with a shiny red apple. Her cheeks began to blaze.
“I am in an apple tree,” Dash said, turning as red as the apple and feeling her stupidity full force.
“Yes ya are,” The smug look on Applejack’s face made Dash feel even worse. “now get your flank out of it.”
Rainbow didn’t have much of a choice unless she wanted to look even more ridiculous, so she let herself down off the branch onto the dirt.
The two stood there, a pace or so away. Rainbow’s ears were flat against her head, trying to get the heat in her cheeks under control. When she did look up, Applejack still had that smug smile on her face. That smile from the party. But Dash was already too embarrassed to notice the tingling sensation this time. She just gave Applejack a slightly agitated, slightly bored expression and spoke.
Applejack’s smile widened. “Oh, nuthin’.”
“Nothin’?” Dash inquired. “Then why are you looking at me like that?”
“‘Cause yer funny,” Applejack chuckled.
“Funny?” Dash repeated again. “What are you saying?”
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Nuthin. Now git off mah property.”
“Okay.” Dash raised an eyebrow. “And I won’t come back either.”
Dash began to hover above the ground, her wing feeling much better after the nap.
“Fahne by me,” smirked Applejack. “We don’t need vermin like you on this farm.”
Her voice was so playful and insincere that Rainbow Dash almost didn’t leave. But knowing she wasn’t safe from Pinkie for long, she decided to go home. But that wasn’t the last time she got bucked out of the orchard.
The very next day, Dash landed on the outskirts of the park, nerves tense. She knew Pinkie could jump out at any moment, and she was just waiting for it to happen. She turned her head towards the path that led to Sweet Apple Acres. And she couldn't resist.
Soon she was soaring above the trees, looking for the plushest, shadiest one. Spotting one that fit her standards, she dove down inside its foliage. She stretched out along a large branch and let her eyelids rest. It was the most peaceful she had been since she's arrived in Ponyville, and she loved it.
Before long, Applejack came down the orchard path with apple cart in tow. She stopped abruptly, spotting the lazy pegasus hanging from the branch of the larger apple tree, munching on one of its juicy fruits.
"What the HAY do ya think yer doin'?!" Applejack shouted.
"Just chillin'." Rainbow put on her coolest look and smirked.
"Well," Applejack's cheeks flushed slightly. "Git out of here and chill somewhere else!"
Rainbow put on a completely put-out face. "Aw, you're no fun."
"It's in mah job description." Applejack finally smirked. "Now leave and remember not to come back this time."
"I will!" Dash huffed playfully, and zoomed into the clouds.
She was back the next day.
This time she was in a shorter tree, performing over-exaggerated pull-ups on the lowest branch.
"What do think yer doin' this time?" Applejack raised an eyebrow.
"Just workin' out the ol' muscles," Rainbow puffed between each lift. "You know how stiff they can get."
This time Applejack rolled her eyes. "The only one who is workin' here is me." With that she kicked the tree.
Rainbow dropped from the branch only to be caught by her wings and propelled into the sky.
Applejack just shook her head and went back to applebucking.
Soon every morning for the next week Applejack would find Rainbow 'napping' in a different tree in the orchard. It soon became their little game, and every time she was caught, she’d be bucked out of the tree. Applejack was so skilled at tracking her down though, Dash soon gave up on sleeping and just waited while she mock-snored.
However, one particular day Applejack took a little longer to buck her tree, and Dash was soon dozing inside one of the trees in the south orchard, her rainbow tail lazily draped down the trunk on that late spring day.
Applejack snickered when she approached the tree finally, beads of sweat lining her face under her hat. She could hear the quiet snoozing inside the leaves, and she knew she shouldn’t, but the temptation was too great. She turned her back to the tree, and gave it a good kick.
Dash’s eyes flew open, realizing her guard was completely down, and that she was caught. Unable to brace herself, she slipped from the branches and onto the hard ground. Pain and soft aching ran up through her flank and hind legs.
“OW, AJ! What gives?!” Rainbow blurted out loudly.
Applejack stifled a giggle.
“Ah’m sorry, Rainbow. You just looked so peaceful.” she winked.
“Okay, okay, I’ll 'git off yer property’!” Rainbow mimicked a southern accent as best she could.
She crouched down and jumped into the sky, only to be yanked back down onto the path. Whipping around, she saw Applejack standing on her tail.
“Ya want somethin’ to drink before ya leave?” Applejack sounded more sincere than normal. She’d never asked Dash to stay before.
“Depends,” Dash shot a suspicious glance at the farm pony before giving her a playful grin. “You got juice boxes?”
“Sure,” Applejack returned the playful grin.
Dash found herself genuinely excited now. “Really? What flavor?”
“Apple juice, of course.”
“Of course.” Dash frowned and rolled her eyes. “Alright, show me where they’re at,” she sighed.
“Over by the barn,” Applejack laughed. “C’mon, you slow pony!”
“Slow? Who’re you calling slow?!”
And with that, the two raced to the barn laughing and shouting the whole way, like real friends.
Applejack's chuckles echoed through the hayloft.
“Heh heh, if there was one thing Ah loved more than buckin’ apples, it was buckin’ you out of those trees.”
“Yeah,” Dash smiled at the friendly memory. “Those were the good days, weren’t they?”
“Ah guess,” Applejack’s smile faded. “But it wasn’t always a bed of roses.”
“That’s true. Like that Mother’s Day, a few weeks later, remember?”
One of the better differences that Dash had discovered between Ponyville and Cloudsdale was that Ponyville’s sky was always free. She did not need to share it. So today, Dash looped, and whirled, and cork-screwed, and dived, and dashed, anything to take her mind off the heavy feeling in her heart. Nothing was working though, even as the day crawled on. Finally, the sun began to set, so Dash decided to do a free fall as her finale. She couldn’t do it near town in fear someone would chew her out for recklessly flying, so she took to the open fields for the stunt. She was as high into the air as she could get without feeling too light-headed, the ground below just a mere green blur. Then she folded in her wings and fell.
She almost didn’t want to open them up and save herself.
The ground would have been so nice to crash into, it would have meant instant nothingness. But Dash had dreams to fulfill and a dad to care for, so she opened her wings in enough time to crash on a green hill without harming herself.
She lay there in the grass, breathing in its scent, feeling the spots where the grass must have stained her coat. It was peaceful. And lonely. Then a cry made her jump nearly out of her skin.
The cry was so heart broken and scared that Dash questioned her still being alive and not just a ghost lying next to her body. But she was still very much a living pony, so when a very shaken Applejack came up over the side of the hill, Dash was a little irritated.
“Oh.” The farm pony sheepishly looked away, realizing her mistake. “Yer fine.”
“Well, yeah why wouldn’t I—” Dash put the pieces together and stopped. “You thought I—”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Dash hopped up from the ground and to Applejack’s side.
“Hey.” She looked into the teary green eyes of her friend. “It’s not like it hasn’t crossed my mind, but I’d never go through with it. I’ll always be there for my friends.”
“Good,” huffed the orange pony. “Cuz I don’t want another reason to hate this stupid day.”
Rainbow turned her head suddenly and took a step back. “What?”
“You heard me.”
“Well yeah but I didn’t kno—” Applejack shot her a look so deadly she almost didn’t continue, “—know you were just like me.”
Applejack’s wet eyes widened. “Come again?”
Rainbow smiled with a little bit fondness. She looked cute when she was surprised.
“I don’t have a mom, either.”
“Really?” Applejack’s ears drooped as she realized her rudeness. “Ah’m sorry for your loss.”
“Eh, it’s okay.” Dash shrugged her off. “I was four.”
“Oh.” Applejack lowered her gaze. “Seven.”
Dash took another step back in shock. “Seven?! Oh wow!”
“Yeah,” Applejack’s voice sounded gritted and offended. “Not my fondest memory.”
“Hey, I’m sorry.” Rainbow stepped forward, allowing her wing to wrap around the farm pony. Applejack tensed at first, then relaxed a bit. A warm tingling filled Dash’s cheeks.
“Ya…” Applejack struggled for words. “Ya mind if I let loose on ya?”
Rainbow sat down, her wing still around the other pony.
Taking a deep breath, Applejack sat and began to speak in a lowered voice.
“It was the worse combination. There had been a nasty drought because the other ponies wanted more sunshine than rain, so the Pegasi were ordered to schedule a nasty storm by the mayor to make up for the loss of water. Our crops were taking it pretty hard, and we needed the water badly. So, everyone piled in the farmhouse and prepared for the howler.
“Ah remember Ma in the rockin’ chair with baby Apple Bloom, and Pa with Big Macintosh on the couch sanding the new baby cradle. Apple Bloom was very new, and we were still tryin’ to make room for the new addition. Ah was with Granny Smith, putting together a puzzle by the warm fire. Then a terrible swooshin’ sound was heard from outside, and Pa ran to the window.
“Because of the lack of rain, none of the crops had rooted very well, and were being washed away in the storm. The erodin’ plants made an enormous mudslide, that was tryin’ to wash away some of the property. It was particularly attackin’ the barn where all the livestock was. Pa wouldn’t have that, so he left the safety of the farmhouse to clear some of the mud away.
“Ah stayed by the fire, thinkin’ everything was fine, but Big Macintosh, still on the couch, looked out the window. Apparently the mud only increased in size, and eventually Pa started calling for Ma. Ma got out of the chair and took one look outside and rushed to Granny Smith.”
“Ma,” she said, “take the baby.”
Granny Smith took Apple Bloom into her arms and then grabbed my Ma’s hoof.
“Hey now,” she said looking into her daughter’s eyes. “You be careful out there, ya here?”
Ma smiled slightly. “Ah will, Ma.”
She then turned to us.
“Big Mac, you look after your sister, ya hear?”
“And you be good for him, okay sugar cube?”
She knelt down beside me.
“Alright, Ah’ll be right back.”
Then she went into the storm.
“Ah went onto the couch by this time, and watched Ma and Pa fight the mess. Then, all at once, Ma slipped into the mud, after trying to stick a shovel in the slide. Pa cried out Ma’s name, and then spotted her a few paces away. He dove bravely into the muck, disappearing for a few seconds. They were the longest seconds of mah life. And then they popped up, Pa carrying Ma to safety. Then just as they were getting to the edge where it was sturdy, Ah saw a huge wave of mud coming up behind them. Never before had Ah seen anything like it. Ah pressed mah face against the glass, screaming at them to look out, but they didn’t hear me.
“The wave engulfed them, and may other items in its wake. I cried out their names, scanning the wreckage for their tiny bodies. Nothin’. Ah would have gone out there to search for them, even possibly save them, but Big Mac stopped me. I tried to git around him, but he ended up pinning me to the floor. Apple Bloom began cryin’ from all the commotion, Granny Smith standing dumb-founded at the window, while I laid of the floor screaming ‘Let me go!! Let me go save ‘em!!’ and all Big Mac said in reply was:
“The next mornin’, we searched the yard for ‘em. The mud had either dried or washed into the river, and so we came out with shovels to see if they were buried. We never found either of ‘em.
“And… and the stupidest thing was…” Applejack began to choke on her tears. “...every single animal in that dumb barn was FAHNE!!”
Dash gave Applejack a squeeze.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay.”
Applejack finally found her composer and wiped her eyes.
“Yeah, now it is. Ah am so grateful for the family I still have. Ah love them so much. It’s just days like this that are no good at all.”
“Yeah,” Dash smirked a little, “today sucks.”
“So.” Applejack sat upright and sniffled. “Tell me your story.”
Dash’s stomach turned with grief as the memory was nothing but a faded blur.
“Aw, it’s not much.” Dash shrugged off the offer a bit. “But I’ll tell you what my dad told me.”
“Basically, my mom got really sick. I don’t know what kind of sick, or what made her sick, but she got so sick they had to take her to the hospital. I remember coming in to visit her a ton, the whole thing went down over a few months. I remember coming in and she’d say ‘Don’t worry, Mommy’s gonna get better’. But she never did.
“I was over at my pal Fluttershy’s house when she died. That’s where Dad would send me when she wasn’t looking too good. He didn’t know she was gonna die this time. So my mom never got a chance to say good bye.
“I don’t remember her much, but I have this picture my dad gave me that’s from their wedding day. She had a white coat, with a beautiful flowing rainbow mane. Dad liked to joke that they met at the Weather factory and fell into a rainbow vat together, but I’m not sure if I believe that at all. She had what looks like a sunrise for a cutiemark. Altogether she was pretty awesome.
“Still, it’s not really fair I can’t remember my own mom. It… it really sucks.”
Grief was a strange thing to Rainbow, and she had struggled with it all her life. It felt heavy and empty, like something inside her had been torn out and been replaced with a lead ball. She had no idea what to do with it.
Dash held back the tears, not wanting to ruin her perfect record of not allowing anyone to see her cry.
Applejack began to return the embrace, putting her hoof around the pegasus’ neck.
“It’s alright. Ah won’t tell anypony.”
So Dash let it out.
Tears came that had been held back for years. They rushed down the filly’s cheeks, wetting the fur and causing it to take on a glossy, polished look. Rainbow had never before felt so sad, so unhappy. But with each sob came a feeling of relief, as if feelings that had been rotting inside her were finally letting go.
"And... and... everypony else has an awesome mom! Even you can remember yours!!" Dash yelled.
"There, there," Applejack tried to comfort her, but she was getting too choked up to say much more. "It... it was just their time, Ah guess..."
"Well," Dash tried to bite back the tears, but only more seemed to come. "It shouldn't have been!! Dad and I need her! Do you know how bad his cooking is?!"
Applejack let out a laugh through her tears. Rainbow swiveled her head towards the sound.
"Are you laughing at me?!"
"No..." Applejack said still choking on tears, "that was just so random, and it sounds like his cooking is AWFUL."
Memories of choking on burnt pancakes and liquid toast brought Dash a smirk to her face.
"Yeah," her vision still blurred by tears, she tried looking at Applejack. "It's pretty terrible. Eating out is our main option most days. But he's gotten better. He can now make sandwiches and the occasional bowl of cereal."
"Bowl of cereal?!" Applejack chuckled harder. "You don't MAKE cereal!"
"Well, my dad has to. He needs help with other things, too. Like laundry. And sometimes when I can't sleep, I find him crying alone in his bed. A dad isn't supposed to be without his wife. At least your parents went together."
Dash began to choke up again. She looked over to see Applejack doing the same. So she leaned into her, feeling her shudder and sob, while replying with some of her own tears. Being motherless was hard.
Then something dawned on her.
After her fair share of sobbing, Rainbow pulled back a little so she could look her friend in the eye.
“Hey, I didn’t know you lost both your mom and your dad. I’m sorry about that.”
“Aw, you didn’t know. I forgive ya.”
The two sat in silence for a moment.
“Hey, ya know what could make us feel a little better?”
“A nap?” Dash’s wet eyes grew large at the thought of her own soft bed.
“Apple fritters.” Applejack winked.
Rainbow laughed truly for the first time that day. “AJ! You and your apples!”
“Are you sayin’ you don’t want any?” Applejack shot her a sly look.
“Oh no, I’ll have some!” Dash said hurriedly. “I’ll even race you to ‘em!”
“You got yourself a deal, Rainbow!”
Applejack wiped a tear from her eye. She looked over to see tears staining the other pony’s face.
“Ya cryin’ over there?” Applejack sniffled.
“Noo…” Rainbow whined, trying to rub the red out of her eyes.
“So, what happened next?”
“Well,” Dash sniffled and sat a little straighter, “Things went pretty normal as far as friendships go, all the way up to when Twilight showed up. We were close enough friends to talk and tease, but we didn’t really hang out until after Twilight brought us together.”
“Yeah, that’s true. So when was…” Applejack stuttered a bit. “...the next time you felt… ya know…”
“Gotcha. Probably not again until the Running of the Leaves.”
“Aw yes, the day you thought you were better than me.”
“Yep, and we discovered that I was obviously the best.” Dash winked mischievously at Applejack.
Applejack and Rainbow ran off into the wood, laughing and smiling. As the ground trembled from their hoofsteps rolling across the path, the branches of the tired trees finally let go of their grasp on their brilliantly colored leaves, causing them to fall and decorate the world.
As the friends finally worked together to do something right, the leaves painted everything in their bright oranges, strong reds, warm golds, and lazy browns. It was truly a magnificent sight, transforming the landscape into an entire sea of festive autumn beauty. Even beside the colors, there was nothing that beat the melodious crunch of each leaf under their hooves, or the earthy smell of old wind and leaves turning to dust. Laughing aloud in satisfaction of both physical work and wondrous reward, Rainbow Dash turned to look at her friend.
Unlike the forest and its falling leaves, the two of them looked far from beautiful and brilliant. Their manes were frazzled, their coats scraped up and messy, everything a little ruffled from all their previous fighting and competition. But one feature of Applejack’s caught her friend’s attention as it was unscathed by their roughness and bad sportsmanship.
The day had waned quite a bit since the race had started, and all though it was not quite sunset, it was no longer broad daylight either. The losing light gave the falling leaves a soft golden rim, turning the whole world into something that was both warm and welcoming. The lack of a bright sun overhead also kept sunlight from masking the light in Applejack’s eyes, causing them to shine now with more radiance than ever before.
They were happy, joyful eyes that sparkled with her laugh as they ran. They shined a brilliant emerald green against the ambers and pumpkins of the autumn around her, which blended nicely with her own coat. Applejack now turned Rainbow’s direction, eyes only widening as she caught the gaze of her friend.
Those big, green eyes.
Dash had experienced day dreams before, but never one such as this. She had fallen and was engulfed by those eyes. A giant untamable tingling sensation ran all the way down her back, across her galloping hooves, up to the tips of her wings and ears, and down her tail. A warmth filled her chest, and it bubbled up her cheeks and into her ears. The sensation as a whole was fascinating and fantastic, so much so that Rainbow’s lips made a small sheepish smile of wonder.
Slight confusion touched the overwhelming eyes, but Applejack brushed it aside and returned the smirk with a sweet smile.
The smile activated another chain of tingles and chills that ran through Rainbow’s body. It almost made her giggle with delight. Never before had she been so consumed, so intrigued, so… distracted.
Catching her hoof on a more than obvious root sticking up in the path, Dash tumbled forwards, caught completely off guard. She flailed her legs out in alarm, consequentially tripping her fellow runner and causing her to cry out and fall. The two mares rolled and bounced along the path, until finally finding peace in a large pile of newly fallen leaves.
Blushing uncontrollably, Dash lifted her head out of the leaves to find her friend upside down against a tree.
“Whoops, my bad…” Dash helped her friend up, cheeks burning.
Applejack chuckled. “Heh heh, that’s alright. We could use a break anyway.”
The fire in Rainbow’s cheeks dwindled as her attention turned to her burning lungs. They had been running for quite some time, and they hadn’t even thought to take a break.
“Yeah,” she panted, “I guess you’re right.”
The two sat in silence for a moment, catching their breath. Finally, Applejack spoke.
“Ya know,” she chuckled, “you are a hoot, RD.”
Dash, still a little shaken up, laughed nervously, but smiled.
“A hoot? Like an owl or somethin’?”
Applejack raised an eyebrow at her friend.
“Ah mean Ah think you are fun to be around, sugar cube.”
“Oh,” another nervous laugh escaped Rainbow’s lips. “I get it.”
“But ya know,” Applejack’s expression changed to one of sincere thoughtfulness, “Ah still feel like we don’t know each other a whole lot.”
Even though she was flustered, Dash understood what her friend was saying. Gaining some confidence and feeling herself again, she began to hover.
“I get where you’re coming from. Even though we hang out and stuff, we don’t really talk very much.”
Applejack looked around. “Well, while we get all these here leaves to fall, we’ll have plenty of time to talk. Whaddaya think we should talk about?”
Rainbow shrugged and smirked.
“I dunno, the deep stuff.”
Applejack raised an eyebrow. “The deep stuff?”
Rainbow’s smile widened. “Yeah, ya know, like ‘What’s your favorite color?’”
Applejack chuckled. “My, that’s mighty too deep fer mah taste!”
Rainbow returned the laughter. She then landed by Applejack and began to trot down the beaten path.
“No, but seriously, what’s your favorite color?”
The other mare caught up and almost instantly matched her stride.
“Hmmm…” she looked at the path and leaves thoughtfully. Finally she decided and spoke.
“Green. Ah work in the orchard so much, and it’s everywhere. In the trees, in the grass—“
“In your eyes…”
“What?” Applejack turned her head towards Rainbow, now interrupted.
Rainbow’s cheeks had that burning sensation again. Why was she being so stupid today?
“Oh, yeah! Mah eyes are green too!” Applejack caught on, ending the awkward moment.
“Yeah, that’s what I meant.” Rainbow let her gaze fall and her voice trail off.
"But anyway," Applejack continued, "Ah've been around it so much, Ah feel like it's become apart of what Ah do. Who Ah am. What Ah will be."
"So one day you're gonna be green?" Rainbow chuckled as an image of a green Applejack danced in her head.
"No," Applejack rolled her eyes. "Not like that. Like Ah'll be a farm pony for a long time."
"Yeah, whatever." Dash still had that image in her head, and it was highly amusing.
“So, then what’s your favorite color?”
Rainbow turned to her left to see Applejack looking at her expectantly.
“Me? Eh, probably the color of the sky. Or the clouds. Any colors really, but especially the ones I’m around when I fly.”
“Ah bet.” Applejack looked up the sky. “Ah have always wanted to be able to fly. What is it like?”
“It’s pretty cool.” Rainbow shrugged. “It feels free up there, away from the ground.”
She took her eyes off of the sky to look over at Applejack. Her eyes were huge and filled with wonder.
“Tell me more.”
“Well, learning how to fly is hard. After spending your first bit of your life under the grab and pull of the ground, it can be hard to break free from its grasp. But the first time you do,” Dash paused for a small inhale as she recalled the memory. “it is nothing like anything else you’ll experience. You’re free, and the ground can’t get you anymore. The clouds are soft and defenseless, and so you become the most powerful thing in the sky. You control where to go, what you do, how you do it, all in your own way. Once you start flyin’, you never want to stop.”
Applejack’s eyes where as big as dinner plates on her face. She looked up at the sky, which was now orange with the now setting sun. A small shimmer of a tear flashed in her eyes, but she brushed it away and kept looking upward. They were both silent for some time.
“Lucky,” She finally said.
Guilt filled Dash’s heart as it sank. She had totally forgotten that she was talking to an earth pony. Every close friend she had could fly, or would fly eventually. But earth ponies don’t fly, can’t fly. Applejack would never be able to fly. Unless…
“Hey!” Her sudden outburst made Applejack jump.
“You may not be able to fly, but I could help you!”
Applejack tilted her head.
“You could ride on my back!”
Applejack’s face lit up. “Really?!”
“Really! Let’s try!” Dash crouched down and spread her wings.
Applejack hopped on, but very soon Rainbow began to see some holes in her plan. Being an earth pony, Applejack had very thick bones and a strong build. And also being a farm pony, she had more muscle than most stallions do. This meant that she was very heavy.
Rainbow tried to remember she practiced every day, and she was very tone herself, but she could see her legs shaking under the weight of her friend. This could only mean more pressure on her wings. But she tried anyway. Besides, her legs were tired from running. But she hadn’t used her wings all day, so they should be fine. Hopefully.
She tried to jump off the ground, but it turned into a very heavy step. There was nothing to drop off of, so this meant Rainbow had to attempt a straight up take off—the hardest kind. As she flapped her wings, and tried to get off the ground, she only managed to lift an inch or so before coming back down hard. Finally she collapsed, huffing and puffing.
Applejack’s disappointed face made her feel worse.
“Ah’m sorry, Rainbow,” she sighed. “Ah just wasn’t meant for the sky.”
“That’s…not…true!” Rainbow panted. “I… just need… more practice.”
“Ah’m not sure if—”
“No!” Rainbow stood, having caught her breath. “I am going to train every day until I’m strong enough to take you into the sky!”
“Really?” AJ raised both eyebrows, impressed by the dedication.
“Yes.” Her eyes didn’t lie.
And so it was. The two continued their run into the sunset, causing the remaining lazy leaves to fall. And after it was all done, the two separated ways.
As Dash flew off to her home, she realized something.
After Gilda came to Ponyville, Dash had realized that her old friends were just cool-obsessed jerks. Yet when she moved to Ponyville, she wished she had Gilda with her because Gilda pushed her limits and improved her skills. Gilda challenged her. She thought nopony could replace her. Especially not a common earth pony. Who knew she could be so wrong?
Dash opened her front door and stepped into the foyer. Without even looking up, she turned and began up the stairs that led to her bedroom. The door appeared ahead of her before long, and her hoof easily turned the door knob. The room, once empty, was now littered with Wonderbolts posters and different trophies, along with old chip bags and dirty laundry. Dash walked slowly to the window seat, pushing over a pile of trash to the side so she could rest her tired legs. They would be sore in the morning, and that made her happy. It has been a long time since a hangout with a friend ended with sore muscles.
She wondered where her friend was now. Probably in her room taking off her hat, rubbing her aching legs as she sat on her bed. Dash could see the tip of the barn, a mere speck in the distance. As she rubbed her own legs, the gears in her head turning, the epiphany hit her like she hit the balcony of the library only a week or so earlier. She smiled at the new thought, stood up and climbed into bed. She would sleep easily, and what she now knew would probably help her dream. Her tired body sank into the cloud mattress, and her eyelids fluttered, that smile still clinging to her face as she dreamed of the training and daring to come.
Applejack was her challenge now.
The orange farm pony sat silently, her head down, and her hat covering her face.
“So, that’s when it really started hitting me hard. But I wasn’t sure about it, yet.” Dash explained.
Applejack silently shrunk deeper into the hay beneath her.
“I didn’t want to admit it, I thought it was just a feeling you get when you’re close friends with somepony.”
Applejack’s muscles strained, and her grip on her hat became tighter. She showed every symptom of embarrassment.
Dash paused again, noticing the tension in the other mare. Despite it, though, she chose to continue. This was important for both of them.
“But then it wouldn’t leave me alone. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get these feelings to go away. I especially needed to get them under control if I was to do well in my performance.”
Applejack lifted her head from the straw and lowered her hat, revealing a bright red face and slightly puffy eyes.
“Performance?” Applejack’s voice cracked, as she finally looked up. “For what?”
Rainbow slammed the door on her home as she marched inside. After huffily landing on the couch, she began to stare at the ceiling. What was she going to do? She had failed the Sonic Rainboom a thousand times now, how was she going to win this competition? She gritted her teeth as she rubbed her chin, still a little sore from her recent crash into the library. There was so much to worry about, and that trick needed more work than there was time for. And then there was also Applejack.
“Goll-ee. I’d love to see you strut your stuff in that competition.”
Ever since the Running of the Leaves, Dash had been having troubles being around AJ. It seemed to be those eyes. If she looked too close, she’d fall in. But they were just friends, obviously. There was no way she liked Applejack. At least, that's what she thought. The whole thing was very confusing. And AJ herself wasn’t making it any easier.
She cursed at the ceiling as she thought of how eager the farm pony was to see her perform. It really wasn’t fair at all. She wanted her to come so badly, but she knew it wasn’t going to happen.
“Ah’m sorry, Rainbow. Ah’m just not meant for the sky.”
Frustration filled her veins. In more than one way. Why did AJ have to limit herself like that? Why did she kick herself in the ego over and over? That pony was far from prideful. The sad face of her friend kept appearing in her mind, disappointed and upset. Dash couldn't stand it. And the fact that AJ could upset her with that face made her angrier. She threw a pillow across the room.
Suddenly, the phone rang.
The phone was a new addition to the home. Only one pony had its number. The pony who installed it. The pony who told her to use it often. The pony that told her to be careful, and responsible, even if he wasn’t always.
Dash fell of the couch and scrambled for the phone before it was too late. She stood, cradling the phone to her ear and rolling her eyes.
“Hey Dash! Judt checkin’ in.”
“I know.” She smirked. He’d been calling for the last month since he left to claim his job back at the weather factory. She didn’t want to leave her friends, and she claimed she was old enough to live on her own. He knew she was. He just wasn’t. He ended up leaving her the house and his job as a weather pony since she had been taught how to clear the sky since she was young, but he also left the phone as a sign they were not truly separating. She giggled as she thought how dependent he was.
“The Best Young Flyers Competition id today, right?” The voice sounded stuffy, and there was a sniffle heard from the other line.
Dash frowned. “Yeah, it is. You okay, Dad?”
“Yeah, I’m judt fine! I’ll be there, don’t worry!” The sound of somepony with a tissue.
“Dad.” Rainbow’s voice was stern. “You’re sick, aren’t you?”
“No I’m not! I am not going to midd today for anyting!” Loud coughs followed.
“You are sick, Dad! You need to stay in bed!” Dash’s face got red with disappointment and frustration.
“No!!” He sounded like a stuffy toddler.
“Dad, if you try to come today I will personally take you back to bed, and miss the competition!”
Silence for a moment.
“Fine. I have the feather flu.”
“That’s a good Dad.” Rainbow smirked fondly at the phone. “Don’t worry, I’ll do fine at the competition.”
“How will I know?” The voice sounded just as disappointed as she was.
“You’ll know when you see it out your window.”
Dash felt this was a little bit of a lie, since she still couldn’t pull off a Sonic Rainboom, but she had to find a way to calm Dad down.
“Okay, I’ll be watching.”
“From your bed?” Dash asked suspiciously.
“From my bed.” Dad agreed.
After a little more chatting and then their exchange of ‘I love you’s, Dash put the phone down with a sigh. Not even her dad was gonna make it. Her only family. All she had was Fluttershy. She walked upstairs and curled up on her bed even though it was covered with Cheetos. She wasn’t going to sleep. She was going to not-cry for a few minutes, that’s all.
“Wait. You went into the competition knowing NO FAMILY was going to be there to support you?”
“Yup. It was going to be a rough day. But then you guys did actually show up, which helped a little.”
“Ah’m glad we did too. You needed it.”
“Although, having you there was a teeny problem.”
Dash peeked outside the performance curtain, her eyes immediately going to the platform her friends were on. She smirked as she looked at each one of them. Twilight was sitting patiently for the contest to start. Fluttershy was also quietly sitting there, smiling at Pinkie Pie who had some weird foam… thing in the air that had a #1 on it. And then Applejack. Applejack was closest to Rainbow, facing away with her eyes on the weird foam shape that her friend was holding.
The strange tingling feeling was back.
Dash dove back through the curtain, terrified by it.
After frightfully swapping a few contestant numbers, Dash finally started pacing the room. She had to sit down, or she'd waste all her energy, so she tentatively sat. First it was a normal sit. Then a crouch-sit. Then a tightly curled, shaking, nervous wreck of a ball. Thoughts of her being catapulted through the skies and out of the stadium, breaking her body on her father’s window came flooding into her mind. She was about to disappoint her dad, her friends, her heroes, her princess, and her-”
Rainbow stopped for a moment.
No-no-no-no-no-no. No way.
Applejack was many things, but she was not THAT.
The idea of it made her quiver harder. What was wrong with her? Was all she knew to be true just a mumbled mess of goo? Was she really that spineless, that stupid to even think that? She really was a nervous wreck! Were her lines of direction really so erased by her day dreams? She looked around the room.
The whole place was a giant blur, her vision out of focus from her nervous breakdown.
This was it. This was the lowest point in her life. If it got any worse, she would surely combust into flame, or explode, or melt like a witch swimming in a pool.
“Number 15! Let’s go!”
The quirky voice came from above her as she felt someone prod her with her hoof.
Well, it definitely got worse.
She watched all her life swim before her as she continued to vibrate and jitter. It was a miracle that the fully beautified Rarity could even get her to stand. Oh wait, she didn’t. It was the backstage pony.
Rainbow Blaze sat back against the headboard of his bed, a box of tissues on his lap. The doctor has come in to see him a few times, but he had refused to go to the hospital. He had a window to watch.
The room had gotten super stuffy since that morning, and now he could feel the beads of sweat on his forehead and under his mane. It was uncomfortable to be sick, but it was even more uncomfortable being hot, sweaty and sick.
Disobeying the doctors orders, he got out of bed and walked towards the window. His head swam as he had stood up to quickly, and he caught the bed post to keep from falling. After he had regained composure, he went and pushed open the window and stepped onto the balcony.
The fresh air felt amazing even as Blaze shivered from his fever. It cooled off behind his ears and he ran his hooves under his mane as to expose under that as well. After this, he placed both hooves on the banister.
Good thing he did, too.
An explosion shook the whole house and sent a shockwave of wind rushing straight at Rainbow Blaze. He gripped on for his life as the gust blew at his robe and tugged on his mane. Finally it was over, and he looked up.
A beautiful rainbow decorated the sky with a shine so bright it almost required sunglasses. The sight could have brought tears to any eye. But this was especially a sweet moment for this father.
Blaze leaned on the banister with the fondest of smiles on his face, pride filling him to the rim. He knew exactly what had happened, and he couldn't be happier than in this moment, as sick as he was. Quietly he whispered sacredly as the rainbow began to fade:
“And so ya did it.”
“You did the sonic rainboom, even though you were a mess.”
“Well, yeah, because my friend’s life was on the line. But I didn’t fully realize that until three days later, in your orchard.”
It had been a few days since the competition, but the events that had occurred there were still fresh in everypony’s minds. Not because they wanted to remember it, but because Rainbow Dash hadn’t stopped talking about it. Twilight kicked her out of the library, Pinkie just talked over her, Fluttershy listened anyway, Rarity was too embarrassed to listen, Scootaloo and her friends had heard the story countless times, and Applejack’s patience was growing very thin.
Rainbow was in the orchard again while Applejack harvested apples and such, teeth grinding as the pegasus yapped on about ‘then Rarity this’ and ‘then the Wonderbolts that’. Finally, before Applejack swung at her, she snapped.
Dash jumped back in surprise.
“You really think Ah want to hear that darn story again?”
Rainbow tilted her head, slightly hurt.
Applejack sighed. How was she going to knock this through that ego?
“Give me one good reason why it should be told so many times.”
Rainbow fell silent for a few moments, tapping her chin with her hoof. Applejack almost sighed in relief at the silence, finding the problem solved. But, to her dismay, Rainbow spoke.
“Well, I guess it's because I'm so excited.”
“Yes,” Applejack’s ears drooped. “But shouldn’t have that rubbed off by now, sugar cube?”
AJ waited for the unwanted reply as she grumbled, “Then what is it?”
Applejack suddenly jerked upward, looking Dash straight in the eye.
“Surprise?! What are you surprised by? Are ya surprised ya saved Rarity?!”
“Well, yeah.” AJ gawked in dismay, as Dash continued. “I guess I’m surprised that my first reaction was to rescue her with so much force I did a nearly impossible trick. Even after all she did that day.”
“Well, of course!” Applejack was so taken aback she threw her hat.
Rainbow marveled, never seeing her friend so upset.
“Yer the element of loyalty, for cryin’ out loud! You forgave her, risked yer own life, and punctured the stinkin’ sound barrier in a split second just to save yer friend because she was in DANGER. And Ah am pretty sure a good friend told me you ‘never leave mah friends hangin’’!”
Applejack’s face glowered, her cheeks were flushed and her green eyes pierced Dash with her stare.
“I-I um, guess you’re right. I will do anything for my friends.” Although she was slightly distracted by AJ not wearing her hat, she realized her friend was right.
AJ picked up her hat and solved the problem.
“That’s right. You would. You react differently than anypony else, because you care deeply for each of yer friends. Enough to dive straight towards the ground at unimaginable speed. Because,” she shot Dash a smirk, “Ya are just that awesome.”
Dash chewed on that for a moment. She thought about her actions. And then her feelings towards her friends. Towards Applejack. A smile began to creep onto her face, an epiphany dawning on her.
And then it clicked. Her scapegoat.
Dash swooped down to AJ and wrapped her in a big hug, excitement filling her completely.
“YES! That’s it! It makes perfect sense!!”
She did a looptiloop and then began flying away, a laugh between a battle cry and a victory shout escaping her lips.
The earth pony put on a very confused look, as she watched the pegasus fly away.
“Erm… yer welcome?”
This was it! This explained everything. Dash felt the way she did because she was LOYAL. It was just her loyalty to her friend. That made sense, right? It did for Dash. She soared through the sky with a giggle.
It wasn’t a crush.
It wasn’t love.
She was safe.
With another a giggle, she shot off towards home, riding on all her relief.
“Wow.” Applejack looked up.
“Yeah, it was stupid, but I would believe anything to admit it wasn’t true.”
“Ya never would fall with a fight.” The farm pony smiled fondly.
“Yeah, a fight I would soon learn I was losing.” Dash frowned.
An awkward silence followed.
“But that left me satisfied for a while. Until a certain change of scenery.”
A single apple tree stood on the top of a hill, overlooking the entire orchard. It practically shone against the dusk.
“Bloomberg, this is yer special day. Mama’s so proud!”
Applejack beamed at the now full-grown tree, Rainbow standing beside her. It seemed like only yesterday that tree had borne its first bushel of apples, with a tiny filly trying relentlessly to buck them down. Rainbow turned and smiled fondly at the orange mare.
She could still see the messy filly she first met behind those green eyes. If that silly tree had not shook and caught her eye, the two of them would never share such a memory. She took her eyes off the mare, and silently thanked Bloomberg for introducing her to such a pony. Such a stubborn, hardworking, beautiful pony.
Dash kicked herself in the shin and shook her head. She was doing it again. It was her loyalty, she insisted. She cared deeply for each of her friends, and that was all this is. Just normal friendly care.
She zoned back into reality just in time to see Little Strongheart wave their direction. Immediately she jumped off the ground with a smile and glided over to her friend, Applejack following close behind.
“Are you two ponies willing to go for a run?” Little Strongheart asked with a small smile.
“You bet!” Rainbow swung her hoof with enthusiasm.
“Yesiree!” Applejack winked and laughed.
With that, the three of them all turned and headed over the hill towards the now setting sun. The dirt road caused dust to billow up behind them as they ran, or flew, in Rainbow’s case. After the second hill, the road dropped and presented before them a beautiful western terrain with red rock basking in the sun set. It was quite the sight.
The girls ran down the path and through the golden desert as it turned a rose color, laughing and racing all the way. Finally, Little Strongheart slowed, and the other two did the same. The place they had stopped at was a small clear piece of land, closely surrounded by dried logs that looked like benches. A blackened pit sat dead center. It was a small campsite. The girls gathered around. Little Strongheart and Applejack sat down against a log, while Rainbow stood and leaned up against another.
“Huh,” Dash panted, “You are quite the runner, Strongheart.”
“And you are one swift flier!” Little Strongheart replied with a smile.
“Hey, what about me?” AJ joked.
The three girls laughed in unison.
“So, you come here often, sugar cube?” Applejack asked the buffalo.
“Yes.” She nodded. “I came here quite a bit when the Appleloosans started moving and settling here.”
“Well, Ah’m just glad that yer kin and mah kin are friends now,” AJ sighed as she leaned up against the log she was sitting in front of.
Rainbow smiled. AJ was so funny with that accent of hers. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but… Rainbow thought for a moment. It was just kinda cute how she’d say things. It was… something she could really get used to hearing.
“Yeah, you can say that again!” Dash smiled.
The trio sat in silence for a moment, until a very loud growl sound caused both Applejack and Little Strongheart to jump. Rainbow just blushed.
“Aw, horseapples,” Rainbow scratched behind her ear nervously. “I was so busy planting that tree I forgot to eat any dinner.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that sugar cube,” AJ jumped up. “Ah’m sure one of those apple pies are left. Ah’ll just grab you one.”
Rainbow’s blush worsened. “Um… no, you don’t have to do that—”
Applejack cut her off and looked over her shoulder.
“But Ah want to.”
With that, she ran off towards the town, calling she’d be back soon.
Rainbow’s knees weakened and she sat down, her blush worse than ever. She had been with AJ for the last few days. Fighting, arguing, getting along, working together, the usual. It was nice to be friends again. Yet, it felt like the Running of the Leaves all over again.
“I can see you like her.”
The voice made Dash jump as she whipped around towards Strongheart.
“Do you not?” the buffalo raised an eyebrow.
Rainbow turned away, half because she felt a little invaded, the other half to hide the blush.
“No.” She folded her hooves. “I don’t.”
“If you like her, why have you not told her?” The buffalo tilted her head.
“I don’t like her!” Rainbow’s face warmed up more.
Little Strongheart stood.
“Then why do I sense such a great deal of care towards her from you?”
“It’s… it’s my loyalty.” Rainbow huffed. “I care deeply towards all my friends. She’s no different.”
Strongheart giggled. “I am not sure I believe you, Rainbow Dash.”
“Well,” Rainbow swallowed hard, “It’s true.”
The buffalo walked up and put her face inches from the pegasus’.
“Do you believe that?”
Rainbow had no idea what to say. She wanted to say yes, but her tongue couldn’t form the word. Just then, Applejack walked up.
“Here’s yer pie, RD!” The farm pony slid it over.
Rainbow hurriedly grabbed a piece with her hoof right out of the center and stuffed it in her mouth.
Pieces of crust and apple filling smeared all over her lips and even stretching onto her cheek as she indulged into the newly brought food. Glancing up from her meal, Dash saw a very happy AJ as to see her trip was not in vain, but Little Stongheart just shot her a look. It was the kind of look you wouldn’t normally see from the buffalo, but the look was the same nonetheless.
The unconvinced look.
Dash shut her eyes and continued to dig into the pie, making satisfying grunts and swallows all the way. It was very delicious, and the devouring was sincere, but the mess also tried to get her mind off of what Strongheart had said. She didn’t like it one bit. But as hard as she tried, the sweetness of the pie couldn’t get that uncomfortable taste out of her mouth. The one she got when she was wrong.
Far before she wanted it to, the pie was finished and she was licking the tin for the last crumbs. When there really wasn’t anything else left, she looked up, drawing a hoof across her mouth as to find any stray messes. Applejack was laughing, and that was enough to make RD turn bright pink.
“You enjoy that pie there, partner?” AJ chuckled.
Dash smirked sheepishly. “Uh, heh, yeah. It was really good.”
She sat up straight, pushing the tin away. With a deep breath, she tried to get her cool.
It didn’t help that both Applejack and Strongheart were laughing at her.
“What??” She huffed.
“Uhm,” AJ chuckled some more, “You got somethin’ right here.”
She touched her own cheek, modeling for Rainbow.
Rainbow, consequently, mirrored her action and touched the wrong cheek.
“No,” Little Stongheart piped up, “Other cheek.”
Dash touched the right cheek, but first too high then too low. By this point the other two girls were trying not to split their sides open from all the giggling.
“Where??” Dash panicked, still unable to find the defiant crumbs.
With another chuckle, AJ stepped forward.
“It’s alright, Ah’ll get it sugar cube.”
Dash tried to swat her away.
“No! I can get it myself!”
AJ just caught the hoof that was swung at her and pulled her close so she could reach.
“Hold still, Ah got it.”
Dash pouted, now defeated seeing as she was pinned between a rock and a hard place. She waited unhappily to be cleaned off from the crumbly mess on her face.
Applejack gently wiped off the crumbs with a little rubbing, causing them to lose hold on the fur and fall to the ground.
“Just a little more…”
Dash sat stiff and still, her ears pointing straight up, and her face completely flushed. It was a very awkward position, being so close to AJ. Applejack had a firm hold on Dash’s hoof with one of her own, her shoulder a breath away from Dash’s muzzle. She could feel the farm pony’s breath on her face as she leaned in to see better in the losing light. Her heart was pounding like it would surely explode. She couldn’t breathe. It was horrible.
Applejack sat back and inspected her work, still holding onto Dash’s hoof so she couldn’t get away.
She reached forward and brushed off the final crumb, and let go of her friend.
Dash shot into the air at top speed, zigging and zagging to shake off the blush.
More laughter came from below.
Dash stopped midflight, and looked down on the camp.
“Was it really that hard to sit still that long, Rainbow?” AJ called.
As to prove her point, she did a few loops and twirls in the air.
The action was replied with more giggles.
After Rainbow had safely landed on the ground, the other two were on their hooves.
“Hey. What’s up?” Rainbow tilted head.
“Little Strongheart says we should get a fire goin’. Ah agree, since the sun has set and all.”
Rainbow looked at the horizon in surprise.
“Yesiree. So, you comin’ to gather some firewood?”
Applejack smirked fondly, her eyes still sparkling from all the laughter.
The two didn’t have too much trouble finding what they needed, there was plenty of tumbleweed and dried wood. They were soon back to the campsite with enough wood to last the whole night. Little Strongheart was waiting for them.
“I see you have gathered plenty of wood.”
“Yep!” Dash dropped her load into the fire pit. “You got the fire?”
“Ya sure?” AJ tilted her head. “That looks like two normal rocks to me.”
“Oh, c’mon, AJ!” Rainbow did a front flip and landed next to the buffalo. “Tell me you’ve used flint and steel before!”
“Ah guess not.” Applejack sat down across the others, her eyes filled to the brim now with curiosity.
“Show me?” she asked.
Rainbow smiled at her friend as she looked downward to watch. Strongheart had the two rocks in the crevices of her hooves, ready to strike. But the buffalo didn’t move.
The pegasus looked up with irritation.
“Well? Are you gonna show her or what?” She asked the buffalo.
“How about you light the fire, Rainbow Dash?”
Dash eyed Little Stongheart with suspicion, and slowly took the rocks.
Dash didn’t have the same hooves as the buffalo, so she held one in her mouth and the other in her hooves. Tightly keeping the one in between her teeth stable, she firmly struck it with the one in her hooves. After several tries, a few sparks escaped the collision and landed on the dry twigs and tumbleweed, catching them in a golden glow as they began to burn.
Rainbow sat up and spat the rock out, satisfied by her job well done. Applejack sat mesmerized by the slowly growing fire.
“Well Ah’ll be.” She breathed.
Rainbow mused at how much this fascinated Applejack. Her eyes were huge, their green irises glowing in the new firelight, their centers reflecting the growing flames. The tingling sensation began to return, but this time Dash let it. She let herself fall into Applejack's eyes. There was a whole new world in those eyes. And she felt so happy when she went there. She’d only been in this position a hoof-ful of times, but that was enough to tell she enjoyed it. She couldn’t explain it, but she did.
And she’d never want to admit it.
The voice nearly made Dash jump out of her skin. She looked shakily over at Little Strongheart, who was smiling widely.
“What?” she asked half distracted, half irritated.
“Do you want to tell stories too?” Little Strongheart asked.
Confused, Dash looked up at AJ who was looking expectantly back at her.
They must have been talking while she was… busy.
“Oh, yeah, of course!” She quickly caught on. “Can I go first?”
“Sure,” said AJ, “Tell a good one.”
“Well…” Dash scratched her chin as she thought through all the stories she knew. She needed one to make up for her… daze. And she knew just the one.
“Oh! I got a good one…” A mischievous grin kept onto her face.
“Oh?” Applejack raised an eyebrow.
“It was the day I single-hoofedly saved Rarity’s life!”
“Oh, please tell!” Little Strongheart piped up.
Applejack let out a dramaticized groan as she used her hat to cover face.
Rainbow’s smile widened.
And so the stories began, the girls taking turns being the storyteller, their shadows fading as the fire burned on. The three laughed, gasped, and shivered story after story. Finally, Rainbow concluded her final tale, only to find half her audience asleep.
Applejack had curled up on her hat, softly snoring.
“It wasn’t that boring, was it?” Dash chuckled quietly.
Man, the farm pony had many words that described her, but ‘adorable’ wasn’t normally one Dash thought of. That is, not until now. She listened to the snores and blushed softly, a smile just shaping her lips as she looked at her friend. AJ’s hair was slightly ruffled, and coming out of its once secure knot, her chest moving up and down at a slow and steady rate, and her muzzle was tucked under one of her hooves. She looked pretty darn adorable.
“Rainbow Dash, clear as glass.” Mused Little Strongheart.
“Aw shut up.” Rainbow rolled her eyes.
“You cannot expect me to believe what you have said to be true,” the buffalo continued, “And that you believe it too?”
Dash sat back, knowing there was no way out this time.
“How… how can believe that it’s not?” She sighed. “How could I possibly admit that I like her? It… it’s wrong.”
The two sat in silence.
“How… how do I know if I even do?” Dash straightened up. “Maybe it is something else, and I’m just jumping to conclusions.”
“I do not think so,” the buffalo shook her head, “but I do know a way you could discover if your feelings are true for sure.”
Dash turned to her new found friend, her eyes filled with confusion and desperation.
“Service.” Strongheart answered.
Dash tilted her head.
“Serve her.” The buffalo repeated. “See how it feels. You help your friends out when in need, yes?”
“See if serving Applejack feels any different. Also,” she smiled, “service is a great way to disguise one’s feelings, while still expressing them.”
“What does that mean?” Dash folded her hooves in irritation.
“If your feelings are true, service is a great way to keep them hidden, without bottling them up, as you’ve done so far.”
Dash looked down at the once glowing fire, which was now just a bunch of glowing embers.
“Now, I suggest we get some sleep, before the sun rises.”
Dash let herself plop down on the ground, shifting until she got into a comfortable position. It wasn’t the first time she’d slept on hard ground, and after today, she could sleep on anything.
“Yeah, okay, whatever.”
“Ah remember that night,” Applejack blushed, “but Ah’ve never thought of it like that.”
“Well yeah, that was an interesting time.”
Dash looked over at the farm pony. A single tear ran over her freckles and dripped off her chin.
“Hey, you wanted me to tell you, remember?” Dash raised her voice. “Well now I’m telling you!”
“Ah know,” Applejack sniffed. “Ah just… it’s just hard.”
“Well, it’s hard for me too.” Dash gritted her teeth, trying hard to keep her cool.
“Do you want me to stop?”
“No.” Applejack wiped her eyes and looked up. “No Ah don’t. What’s next?”
“Well, after some consideration, I decided to follow Little Strongheart’s advice.”
“By serving? How in the hay did you pull that off?” Applejack chuckled.
“By destroying things.” Dash smirked.
“And if a certain crazy purple unicorn hadn’t scared the crap out of me, I might have learned something.”
Rainbow landed onto the hardened dirt path at an uncomfortable trot. She was so nervous that she felt stupid. It had been several weeks since her conversation with the buffalo, but the advice hadn’t left her, even after all the havoc she and the others had been through lately. Still, she was worried sick about the result.
She was heading down to Sweet Apple Acres to see if Applejack needed help with anything. A harmless little trip, it shouldn’t raise any suspicion, right? Still, Rainbow couldn’t find a way in her head to ask Applejack if she needed assistance without sounding… creepy.
“Hey, AJ, can I do some chores for you?”
“Hi Applejack, do you need help? Because I am good at helping ponies, so maybe I can help you…”
“Applejack, can I serve you?”
Dash groaned at how stupid her ideas were getting. This was a terrible idea. Why was she even attempting this? There was no way this would end well…
Dash almost cried out she was so surprised to see the very farm pony she was thinking of standing right in front of her.
“What brings you to the farm?”
Dash scrambled for words, but nothing was coming up. She would just have to wing it.
“I was wondering if you needed… help...with anything...” She trailed off.
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“Uh…” Applejack paused for a moment, looking concerned at Rainbow.
A small silence followed. Dash hung her head. She ruined it.
“Actually,” AJ continued, “Yes, Ah do. Ah was on mah way to find you, to be honest.”
Dash lifted up her head, her ears perking up.
“Yeah,” AJ laughed, “Ah have an old barn that needs to come down so Ah can build a new one. Ah was wondering if you could help me this afternoon before the picnic.
Dash’s eyes lit up. This was perfect.
She felt like herself again, and she shot Applejack an excited smile.
“When can I start?”
“How ‘bout bring yer best safety goggles and be back here in a half an hour?”
“You got yourself a deal!”
With that, Dash went shooting into the sky.
“Ah was wondering why you had gotten so mousey all of the sudden…”
“I was nervous, okay?”
“Why? You were just asking if you could help.”
“I was worried that helping you would be different, and that everything would change.”
Back at the house, Dash was still unsure about the whole ‘service’ thing. She stood in front of the mirror, contemplating two different bottles. One held a coat conditioner, and the other was a mild perfume. She sat there staring at the bottles, tempted to use them. She gave herself a glance in the mirror.
She saw a nervous pony who needed to take a chill pill.
In aggravation, she threw both bottles into the sink. What was she thinking? This was just a friend helping out a friend, not a date. Honestly, who was she turning into? Twilight Sparkle? The thought of her being anything like the slightly obsessive purple unicorn almost made her gag.
She checked the clock. Fifteen more minutes.
“Come on, Dash.” She spoke to the mirror. “Get yourself together. This isn’t going to be any different. Don’t worry.”
The more she really thought about it, the more she relaxed.
“Now, AJ needs some help on the farm,” she continued, “and you never leave a friend hangin’, so you are just gonna go down there, and rip this barn to pieces for her, okay? Simple and fast.”
She nodded, her reflection doing the same.
“This is what Rainbow Dash does. She helps her friends. And Applejack is one of her friends, so she’s gonna help her. She doesn’t like her, she is just helping out a friend in need of her awesomeness.”
Taking a deep breath, she put on the safety goggles so they fit snug around her eyes.
“Let’s do this.”
The flight back to the farm was fairly uneventful, the afternoon calm and ordinary. The wind was cool, and ponies trotted to and fro to their own businesses and homes. Twilight Sparkle could be seen walking happily around town, until suddenly turning a running towards Rarity’s boutique. Rainbow didn’t really care, but she still automatically catalogued this and other events as she flew.
As she landed onto the dirt and soil of Sweet Apple Acres, she found Applejack waiting for her.
“You ready partner?”
Dash took a deep, confidant intake of breath. This should be easy.
“Yep!” She replied with an encouraging smile.
“Okay, follow me.” AJ turned around and began leading Rainbow to the destruction site.
The target was a brown, chipped, rickety old barn with faded paint and rusty hinges. It sat on top of a hill in the orchard, away from everything else. The thing looked like it hadn’t been used in ages.
“You want a tour?” Applejack asked playfully.
“Why not?” Rainbow shrugged.
The door creaked loudly as AJ heaved it open, the smell of stale air hitting their noses. Inside it was dark, and a little eerie as the shadows danced on the old walls. A small breeze passed by outside, and the whole barn swayed and groaned.
“Wow,” Dash raised an eyebrow, “how old is this barn again?”
“Too old.” Applejack turned to RD. “You think you can take it down?”
“In this condition,” Dash gestured to the barn around her, “I could destroy it in my sleep.”
“Alrighty then,” laughed the farm pony, “let’s begin.”
She put on a helmet and the two exited the barn.
“Wait,” Dash suddenly stopped, “this could get a little… messy. Where are you gonna be in all of the commotion?”
“Aw, don’t worry about me. Ah’ll be in the dried up water canal over there.”
She pointed to a large ditch near the edge of the hill.
“Ah hear ya,” Applejack smiled again. “That’s why I asked you fer help. ‘Cause Ah knew you could get the job done without too much trouble.”
“Yep,” Dash blushed slightly, “that’s me.”
Applejack ran over to the ditch and hopped in.
“Alright, get to it RD!”
With a strong nod Rainbow took to the sky and distanced herself from the barn. Her heart was pounding. She was helping Applejack. Or about to, at least. This was the test. And she was so scared it would be different. But she needed to suck it up and give it her best.
Steeling herself, Dash gave out a battle cry and ninja-kicked through the side of the barn. Pieces of wood went flying as she hovered in the center of the barn, adrenaline pumping.
She felt amazing.
Encouraged, Dash kicked a wall to her right and then threw herself at it, bursting through the other side. Pieces of shattered wood covered her body, and with a mighty shake, she threw them off.
Never before did she feel so…
It was hard to describe, but destroying the barn felt incredible, as if she had been handed a plate of pure energy. She was invincible, and nothing could stop her.
With this in mind, she flew towards the barn at neck-breaking speed and collided with the side of the barn again. Once inside, she used her hoof to break through a beam, bucked through the hayloft ladder, and bit into a plank and threw it out of the barn with everything she had. After that, she took off, looping and weaving through the barn at high speeds, yelling crazed ninja noises the whole way.
The barn was weak. One more blow, if it was powerful, could finish the job. Doing a loop away from the barn, she used the distance to gather speed as she soared at the barn, determination on her face. Just before impact, however, the world came to a halt.
A magenta aura engulfed Rainbow’s tail, causing the rest of her to halt and dangle in the air. Blood rushed into her head, making her dazed as a purple unicorn approaching spoke.
“Listen Rainbow, I know you’re upset with Applejack, but don’t worry,” Twilight Sparkle winked. “Whatever it is that has come between you two, I know that I, as a good friend, can help resolve your problems!”
Twilight released Rainbow, causing her to face plant onto the ground. The pegasus sat up, slightly confused.
“Uh, what are you talking about?” Dash rubbed her neck.
“Oh Rainbow Dash!” Twilight laughed as she put her hoof around Rainbow’s shoulder, “You don’t have to hide your feelings from me!”
Dash froze. How did she know? Was her service that obvious?
Twilight put both her hooves on Dash’s cheeks. “I can tell you two must have had a terrible fight!”
Thoroughly confused, Dash let Twilight drag her to the nearest park bench. Using her magic, Twilight then made a clipboard, quill, a pair of secretary glasses, and a goofy hairstyle appear.
“Now,” Twilight patted Dash’s head comfortingly, “Why don’t you tell me all about your issues with Applejack?”
Rainbow couldn’t be more confused. Did she know about it or not?
“I don’t have any issues with Applejack.” She said.
“You don’t?” Twilight asked peering over her glasses. “Then why are you destroying her property?”
Dash stumbled to answer, trying to keep from talking about service. She had to get her off her tail.
“Because she asked me to,” she said slowly. Sitting up, she proved her point. “Right Applejack?”
As AJ explained the whole thing to Twilight, Rainbow gave a sigh of relief under her breath. That was close. It was hard to tell for sure if she knew or not, but if she did, she probably thought it wasn’t true now.
“Now get back to it RD!”
Rainbow snapped back into reality and put on her goggles.
“You got it, boss!”
With that, Rainbow took off so fast she left rainbow dust on the bench.
Once in the sky, she could see nearly the whole orchard. The barn with its tiny surrounding fence stood exactly below her. Her heart was pumping again, only for different reasons. She had almost been caught because of this whole service thing.
Caught. She acted like it was a thing. Was it? Anger bubbled up in her cheeks as she fought with herself over it. Did she like Applejack or not? No. She couldn’t. But yet…
Channeling her anger downward, she let out a frustrated cry with all her might as she forced herself to the ground.
Rainbow smashed into the barn, causing a giant explosion of dust and rainbow as a Rainboom with a mushroom cloud shot into the air. Debris from the demolished building landed everywhere in a several yard radius, covering both Applejack and Twilight in the canal.
As the dust cleared, Applejack popped out of the mess with a smile, shooting into the air like a rocket. She did it, and she knew she could do it.
The farm pony trotted over to where the barn had been, which was now only a blacked, smoking spot of land.
“Well,” Applejack chuckled, “You sure overdid yerself this time, Rainbow.”
She looked around, not seeing the pegasus anywhere.
A groan came from a pile of debris over to her left.
“Rainbow!” AJ cried, running over to it and digging with her hooves
Underneath the surface of the dirt and splinters was Dash, goggles twisted and scrapes all over her body.
“Oh Rainbow,” Applejack chuckled and took of her helmet.
Dash blinked, bringing the world slowly back into focus. Standing above her was Applejack, her hair ruffled rom being in the helmet, her face silhouetted by the afternoon sun, the whole thing in a dreamy blur. Wow. She was beautiful.
Shaking her head, Dash cleared away the fog in her brain and slowly sat up. The demolition around the place surprised her.
“Whoa,” Dash rubbed her head. “Did I get it?”
“You more than got it,” Applejack laughed. “You mind helping me clean up?”
Help? Rainbow’s eye twitched.
“Uh, actually,” she tried to find an excuse. Then it dawned on her.
“Igottogetreadyforthepicnicsobye!!” Dash shouted before disappearing and shooting across the orchard.
No. No more service for her. She couldn’t stand to help that pony anymore. Too many crazy things happened, and she was done with craziness. After this fiasco, Dash would have to think twice before helping AJ again.
“You talk about it as if you were scared of me.” Applejack said, an upset look on her face.
“I wasn’t scared of you, I was scared of liking you,” Dash sighed. “And then others finding out about it. I hated the idea of having a crush on one of my friends. Wouldn’t you feel the same way?”
“Right. And I felt like that for a while. It kept me pretty anxious, and I was going through a rough time. I thought I was going through a downward spiral, and that only if something drastic happened would I be saved. If only I knew then how true that was.”
It had been a week without the farm pony in town, and everypony was excited and anxious as they set up the decorations for the surprise homecoming party. Dash helped hang up various streamers, a smile on her face at the thought of her friend coming home. She couldn’t wait to hear all about the rodeo.
Dash smiled wider as she dreamed of the hours she’d spend in the orchard listening to Applejack’s voice as she carried on and on about all of her ribbons and events. It would be nice for a change have Applejack talk about how awesome she was instead of Dash listening to herself drone on.
“I think Applejack’s coming!” Twilight called peering through the barn door.
Dash swiftly flew up into the hayloft of the barn, her eyes widening with excitement as they turned off the light.
In the darkness, Rainbow imagined her friend walk in, covered in ribbons and carrying a trophy, all the while a smile on her face. She was going to be so happy, and Dash couldn’t wait to make her even more elated with this surprise party.
The barn door opened. Rainbow’s heart skipped a beat.
“SURPRISE!!” The ponies shouted.
“Surprise!” Pinkie shouted late. “Shoot!”
But there was no Applejack there. Just a mailstallion who had a very surprised look on his face.
After taking his letter, the group huddled around Twilight Sparkle as she read aloud.
“Family and friends, Not coming back to Ponyvile. Don’t worry, will send money soon.”
Twilight flipped the paper over, then over again.
“That’s all there is.”
The whole barn gasped.
Dash couldn’t believe it. She almost wanted to swoop down and pick up the letter, and read it over and over again.
Applejack wasn’t coming back. That’s what it said.
Rainbow’s mind churned at the thought, something screaming inside her head.
“What do you mean Applejack’s not coming back?” She threw up her hooves, thoroughly perplexed. “She loves Ponyville!”
The rest of the group shouted and protested to the letter. They were all upset, especially AJ’s family.
“Something just dreadful must happened to make her not return!”
Rainbow puzzled over the idea. AJ knew how to care for herself. But then again, she’d never leave her family and friends behind.
As her friends worried at what might have happened to Applejack, Rainbow made up her mind. She wasn’t about to sit there and watch Applejack leave her behind. She was going after her. Friend or… not, Rainbow wasn’t about to lose her forever without an explanation. And even that wouldn’t really cut it. So Dash decided she was getting her back.
“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go find her!”
Bidding their farewell, the girls ran their way to the train station.
Hours later, Rainbow groan as she stretched out on one of the risers at the rodeo arena. She lifted her head up, casting a gloomy look on the place. It was almost empty, save a few stray custodians. Them, and her tired friends. They had been searching forever. It seemed they would never find Applejack at this rate.
Dash laid back down, watching her vision get glossed over as she tried not to tear up. Never find Applejack? As in, no more playing in the orchard? No more racing? No more joking, or fighting, or getting along? No more… green eyes? Dash felt herself choke up at the thought. Her lungs heaved as she did all she could to keep from crying. She swallowed hard, and rubbed her yes.
No. She was not going to lose her friend. Or whatever she was at this point. She wasn’t about to let Applejack go away and never come back. Applejack loved Ponyville, and she loved the orchard, and she loved hanging out with Dash on Fridays. Something was wrong. And Dash had to find her. Or die trying.
“Girls!” Twilight’s cry snapped Rainbow out of her thoughts. “We have a lead on Applejack.”
Well, at least Dash didn’t have to die trying now.
“Ah can’t believe mah absence made such an impact that day.”
“Well of course it did! We had to find you!”
“And that you did.”
“Yeah, but once we did, you weren’t too jazzed about it.”
“But you know why now…”
“Yeah, well I didn’t then. And after you said that you were going to talk after we hunted you down in the cherry orchard, I was still really upset.”
Applejack slowly walked away after she pinkie promised to tell the whole truth at breakfast. The other girls smiled in relief.
“Alright girls,” Twilight smiled. “Let’s get some rest too. We don’t want to be late to that breakfast!”
Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Rarity nodded and started following Twilight. Dash, however, said nothing. Twilight looked back.
“Rainbow?” she asked, “You coming?”
“Yeah,” Rainbow rubbed her neck, “just gimme a sec. I’m gonna check out this orchard.”
The others following Twilight sent her looks of concern, but Twilight just nodded and gestured the others to follow. Soon Rainbow was alone.
The pegasus lifted her head, watching the pink leaves fall from the cherry trees.
“Ah thought cherries would be a nice change from apples, so Ah took the job and came here.”
Dash frowned. The cherry trees were pretty, but they weren’t the same as the large, homey apple trees.
Maybe this is what AJ meant by ‘change of scenery’.
She kicked a tree. Only a few cherries fell.
“That’s dumb.” Dash grumbled as she walked further into the orchard.
She should be grateful. Applejack was okay. No pony was holding her hostage, no pony had kidnapped her or forced her to stay. She was choosing to be here.
Which somehow seemed worse.
Dash pressed herself against one of the many tree trunks and sighed. She wished Applejack would just come home. Couldn’t she see they had gone through so much trouble to find her?
“Well Ah didn’t ask for you to come looking for me!”
The words dug into her, as she thought of how upset Applejack was. She didn’t want to be found. She didn’t want to see her friends. She didn’t want to hang out with Dash on Fridays anymore.
Rainbow’s legs weakened and she fell to the earth, tears welling in her eyes. She leaned down with her breath on the soil, trying to get herself under control.
And to make matters worse, her heart was throbbing. Never before had it felt so… broken. But that couldn’t mean… Dash tried to continue to suppress the feelings, but it wasn’t working anymore. What was the use anyway? Applejack would be gone, so who cared if she did have feelings for her. Maybe this was happening so she could get over it.
The thought pained her more as she thought about fate toying with her, giving what she wanted a little by taking what she wanted a lot. Finally some tears slipped through her defenses, leaving little circles in the dirt. She stood and looked at the sky.
“As Celestia as my witness,” Dash choked through her tears, “I will never deny my feelings again—if I don’t lose my friend.”
With that, she wiped her tears and stood a little straighter. Then thought about what she’d said.
Rainbow went running out of the orchard.
“Dash, you know that's not what I meant at Dodge Junction.”
“Yeah, I know that now, and I’m glad.”
“That makes me feel so awful that you thought I was abandoning you.”
“It’s okay, it didn’t matter later.”
“Huh? Why not? Because you guys caught me?”
“No, because of something much, much different…”
The carriage narrowly crashed through the boondocks in time as the train soared across the tracks.
Dash’s heart skipped a beat, but it seemed that she was fine. They almost had her now.
“Oh no!” cried Fluttershy, “How are we gonna get around that train?”
“Twi, hold on to something!” Dash ordered as she fidgeted her wings out from under the cart handles.
“Ready?” she turned to Fluttershy, who quickly caught on.
“Oh, I guess I am…” she smiled nervously.
The two pegasi leapt into the air, wings unfurled, soaring above the train.
They landed with a thud, Fluttershy panting slightly, but Dash only glaring at Applejack. Trying to escape, Applejack began to run. Rainbow was sick of running. It was time to put this goose chase to an end.
Wriggling out of the hold the cart had on her, she shot herself towards the runaway.
“Not so fast!”
The two ponies collided, send objects flying in every direction.
As the dust cleared, Dash stood above Applejack, blood pumping through her veins. She was ready to fight her, which is what she expected to happen. But it didn’t.
Instead, a sad whimper of defeat escaped the farm pony as she choked up:
“Fahne. Now you know.”
The farm pony covered her face in shame.
Shame. Shame wasn’t fighting. Immediately Dash’s face went to one of concern. She stepped away quickly, giving her space.
“Know what?” Twilight inquired.
Applejack stood. The sadness in her eyes made Dash almost burst.
“Well, just look!”
Around them were many colored ribbons scattered around the place.
Dash recognized the problem almost immediately, even before she said it.
“There’s every color of ribbon down there,” AJ looked so broken as she finished, “every color…but…blue.”
Rainbow understood. She hadn’t lost a race too often in her life time, but she can still remember the pain in her heart as the red ribbon was around her neck, and someone else was on the top of the podium. They were both athletes. They both had felt it.
AJ explained that she didn’t win any prize money, and hung her head.
“Ah didn’t want to come home a failure.” She sighed.
Dash stood still. The moment in time froze.
Applejack thought she was a failure. That she was nothing at all without that money. At the thought, Rainbow’s heart finally began to burst.
This pony, was at a moment so low, she would rather abandon her home and her friends just to avoid this confrontation. And Rainbow’s heart went out to her.
“Applejack, you’re not a failure!” Twilight shook her head and smiled.
Rainbow smiled too.
“And we’re your friends!” she chimed in. “We don’t care if you came fiftieth place!”
Something was changing. Something that had felt so wrong before was now feeling so right.
“You’re still number one in our books!”
“So, you’re not upset or disappointed?” AJ turned to the girls.
The girls shook their heads.
In fact, Dash was feeling far from upset. She felt as if a pound of bricks were lifting off her shoulders. She began to hover above the ground.
“But if you never came back,” Fluttershy continued talking down below, “we’d never be able to fix the hole in our hearts!”
That is when it clicked.
A warmth was released out of Dash’s heart into the rest of her body, until she was filled to the rim with the feeling. She looked down at the orange earth pony, with her cowboy hat, her freckles, her smile. Her green eyes, her honest heart, her stubbornness, her strength. She knew if she lost these things, she’d never be the same. The feeling overpowered her as she realized now fully for the first time…
She was in love.
The joy of this realization, this epiphany was so tremendous, Dash began to cry.
Naturally, she covered it up.
“Darn it!” she shook her head and folded her hooves, “Now you got me actin’ all sappy!!”
As Applejack felt encouraged and agreed to go home, Dash remembered her promise. And there, at Dodge Junction, she silently noted the defeat of a battle she’d been fighting for a long time.
And she was so glad it was over.
“So that was the day,” Dash sighed, “and the day I finally accepted it was real. And it wasn’t going anywhere.”
“But you still couldn’t tell me?” Applejack cocked her head.
“Oh, hay no!” Dash laughed. “I had nearly lost you as a friend to a cherry farm. You really think I was gonna risk it all again by telling you my feelings?”
“Ah guess not…”
A small silence followed.
“But,” Dash thought for a moment longer before speaking, “I did think about it once. And I almost did too.”
“Really?” Applejack sat forward, “when?”
“Soon after the whole rodeo fiasco actually,” Dash laughed again.
The schoolhouse bell rang as fillies and colts poured out, cards and gifts in tow. The rest of the town welcomed them as mares and stallions paired off two by two. The whole town was very much alive on this special day, and love was in the air.
Rainbow’s friends were all very busy.
Rarity was bedazzling herself up as she prepared to meet her “Secret Admirer”, Fluttershy was hiding in her home with her animals away from all the commotion, Pinkie Pie was busier than ever serving milkshakes for two at Sugarcube Corner, Twilight Sparkle was comfortable in the library reading romance novels, Spike was readying his next gift to give to Rarity anonymously, and Applejack was working in the orchard because work still needed to be done on a holiday.
Oh, and Rainbow was having a nervous breakdown.
Normally, Rainbow Dash couldn’t give a flying feather about Hearts and Hooves day, except for maybe the candy, but other than that she found it sappy and dumb. It was a whole day set aside for what exactly? Giving roses and chocolates to somepony to show how much you love them? Yeah, sappy and dumb.
But this year was different. All those other years, she had never had a special somepony. She’d never liked any colts at school. She’d much rather beat them in a race then get a card with a crappy poem on it. And the fillies at school were girly and frilly and annoying. Nothing about them seemed appealing.
Now all of that had changed for Rainbow, as she remembered a promise she’d made at a certain cherry orchard a few weeks back. She loved somepony, and she felt she had to do something now. Hearts and Hooves day actually mattered this year.
The whole purpose of Hearts and Hooves day was to tell your Very Special Somepony how much you cared about them. Since Rainbow had decided to be honest with herself about her feelings, maybe it was time to be honest with Applejack too. Honesty was her thing, right?
Dash muttered these thoughts under her breath as she flew towards Sugarcube Corner, the saddle bag on her back shifting as her wings flapped. It was the first stop she would have to make if she was going to get everything she needed.
The three most important ways to show your Very Special Somepony how much you cared about them was by giving them chocolates, flowers, and a gift. Thus, Rainbow decided these three things were necessary for when she was to confess her feelings to AJ.
The bakery soon appeared in front of her and she landed beside it. Looking up, she wasn’t surprised to see a long line of nervous stallions and the occasional mare waiting to go inside. Dash knew she couldn’t wait in line. Not so much for the time that would be spent, but the number of witnesses. Just because Dash was going to give these gifts to AJ, it didn’t mean she wanted to be seen buying and carrying them around.
Quickly and quietly, Dash slipped in through the back door on the other side of the building.
Inside the bakery, Dash casually leaned up against a wall as she watched a bouncing pink blur rush between the oven, stove, and the serving counter. She then spotted something on the floor and picked it up, a mischievous smile on her face.
Pinkie pulled out a heart-shaped cake out of the oven and slapped it onto the counter, immediately layering on pink and white icing on top. After shaking on a few heart-shaped sprinkles, she hit a bell sitting on the counter, causing a stressed Mrs. Cake to pick it up and take it out of the kitchen.
Quietly as she could, Dash slipped her discovery under the bell on the counter, right before sliding into the shadows.
Pinkie set down a tall chocolate milkshake onto the counter, placing two straws inside along with a cherry on top. She hit the bell.
Pinkie stood still, her eyes wide as bits of her curly mane stuck out in odd places. She was slightly singed, a bit of smoke rising from her hoof that was placed on the bell. She reached over and lifted the bell, revealing a hoofshake buzzer.
Rainbow burst into hysterical laughter.
“Good one, Dashie!” Pinkie laughed as she ran her hooves through her mane, returning it to normal.
“Why, thank you!” Dash bowed low as the baker resumed her bustling around the kitchen.
“So what brings you to Sugarcube Corner?” Pinkie smiled as she stirred a pot filled with a milky white substance.
“I need your help with something.”
Pinkie stopped stirring. “Oh, I’m so, so sorry Dashie, but I can’t prank ponies today!” She frowned, turning to Dash. “I’m just super duper busy helping all these ponies with these tasty treats!”
“Oh no-no-no,” Dash shook her head, reassuring her friend, “It’s not pranking. It’s something else.”
Pinkie dropped her spoon into the pot she was stirring.
“Oh my gosh!!” The pink pony jumped into the air, landing right in front of Dash’s face. “You have a Very Special Somepony?!”
Beads of sweat formed on Dash’s forehead as she thought of what to say.
Pinkie gasped and shot into the air again, before bouncing around the kitchen.
“Oh my gosh you do!! Don’t worry, I won’t tell anypony!! Pinkie Promise!”
She then proceeded to recite the Pinkie Promise before jumping back into Rainbow’s personal space.
“Who is it??!!”
Dash swallowed hard as the question hit her like a pound of bricks. So this was why she didn’t want to do this. She sat there awkwardly, not saying anything.
“Oh, okay I get it!” She smiled and bounced over to give her a hug. “It’s a surprise! Well, what would you like to give your Very Special Somepony?”
Dash sighed as she was let off the hook. Thank Celestia.
“A box of chocolates would be cool.”
The fact was that a box of chocolates was far from cool, but Dash needed some normal-sounding excuse to buy them.
“Oki doki loki!” Pinkie bounced over to a counter holding several boxes.
“How many? Six? Twelve? Twenty-four?” She held up the respective boxes with each number.
“Uh…” Dash’s eyes shifted between the boxes. Applejack liked chocolate, right? But maybe not that much…
“Twelve is good.” Dash nodded towards a medium-sized heart-shaped box with a crimson bow.
“Good choice!” Pinkie opened the box, and pulled out a tray of chocolates sitting in little paper cups.
Dash’s head swam with all the options. Who knew there was so many kinds of chocolate?
“Erm…” Rainbow tapped her chin, “Just… just throw in a little bit of everything.”
Pinkie placed twelve different chocolates into the box, then closed it and tied the bow.
“Tag or nor tag?” She smiled.
“No tag thanks.” Dash shook her head, then stopped. “Actually, you better put the tag on.”
Pinkie pulled a tag out of her mane and tied it with a crimson string before handing the finished product to the nervous pegasus.
“Perfect!” She chirped.
“Thanks,” Dash smiled nervously, and offered her a few bits. “This is enough, right?”
“Oh, Dashie!” Pinkie rolled her eyes and pushed away the money. “You don’t need to pay me! This is your first Very Special Somepony gift!”
Rainbow smiled in thanks, returned the money to her saddle bag along with placing the chocolate box inside, and exited the bakery.
Once safe outside and behind the building, Dash pulled out a pencil from her bag and scribbled ‘To: Applejack’ on the tag before she forgot.
The next stop was at Roseluck’s stand. The rush had died down now that it was well past lunch, so there wasn’t a line.
Dash landed in front of the stand, catching the mare’s attention.
“Rainbow Dash?” Roseluck tilted her head slightly. “What brings you here?”
Dash sighed, annoyed her purpose wasn’t obvious.
“I want to buy some flowers,” she said flatly.
“Oh, lovely!” Roseluck put on a grin. “What kind would you like?”
Learning her lesson from the bakery, Dash decided precision was needed here.
“I want a small bouquet with six red roses.” She paused. “Actually, make it seven.”
The mare blinked at the very exact order as it came to be a little more of a surprise than seeing Rainbow buying the flowers in the first place, but she prepared the bouquet despite it.
“Oh,” Rainbow quickly added, “and a crimson bow would be cool too.”
“Here you are…” Roseluck tentatively handed the bouquet over. “That’ll be seven bits.”
“Thanks.” Dash handed over the money and flew away.
Well, that was really awkward.
Rainbow placed the roses gently into her other saddle bag, and then let down on a cloud. Curling up on the fluffy white surface, she peered over the edge. There were so many pairs sitting together, or walking together, or even a few hiding in the park rubbing noses and kissing.
Rainbow tried to imagine herself doing that. What would it be like to date Applejack? And how awkward would it be to hold hooves? To rub noses? To kiss??
The images in her head made feel dizzy and her heart race all at once. Her first reaction to these ideas was to dry heave over the side of the cloud. But as she continued to think them, she felt more… tingly. Shivers ran down her spine as she thought about kissing the orange mare.
These sorts of things would happen if she told AJ her feelings—if she accepted her, of course.
Now having a little motivation, Dash looked into her saddle bags to see what she had so far. She had the chocolates and the roses, which meant all that was left now was the gift. So, like a fancy gem or a love poem? No, that wouldn’t go over very well. She needed something else.
Dash clapped her hooves as she had an idea of what else to give. Dash needed to give some heartfelt gift to Applejack. Not like a jewel or necklace or love poem, but something Applejack could really appreciate. Something she could use.
Immediately, Rainbow took off into the air as to circle Ponyville for the right shop. What was something a farm pony would need all the time?
A shovel? Because that’s totally a gift of affection.
Some fancy soap? Because that’s not offensive.
A sofa maybe? Because that wouldn’t be creepy at all.
Tired of circling the town sarcastically shooting down her ideas, she landed in front of the “Tin Tinker” shop. She opened the door, revealing all sorts of random tin things.
The owner of the place, Tin Tinker himself, was a goofy looking unicorn with a lime green coat and a wild, greasy, forest green mane. He always had huge glasses on his face that made his eyes look enormous, and a wide toothy grin to go with them.
“Hello Miz Rainbow Dash!” The goofy unicorn welcomed his customer. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for a something.” Dash puzzled over all the little trinkets in the shop. “A useful something.”
“A useful something?” The unicorn walked over to a counter and pulled out a drawer underneath it before pulling it up onto the counter. “We call those utensils. You like any of these?”
Dash shifted her gaze to the utensils. There were forks, knives, spoons, can openers, bottle cap openers, and wait. What was that?
“Hey, what’s this thing?”
She gently touched her hoof to a circular tin object. It had six little wedges and a circle on the inside, and two handles on the outside.
“Oh, this hear?” Tin Tinker lifted the object with his magic, a green aura engulfing it as it raised to eyelevel. “This hear is an Apple Cutter. You place it horizontally on the apple like this, then press down. It’ll cut it into six little wedges, and it cuts out the core!”
Dash’s eyes widened as she stared at the Apple Cutter. This was perfect.
“How much?” She reached into her bag for her bits.
“Eh, I’d say four bits would fit the bill.”
Dash placed the money on the counter, and took the utensil. She then zipped out of the store without saying another word. Setting her destination to Sweet Apple Acres, she soared through town, diving between the couples and the occasional school filly at high speeds.
Reaching the edge of the orchard, where no pony else was, Rainbow ditched the saddle bags and pulled out the roses and chocolates. The chocolates were a little warm, and the flowers a little bent, but they would have to do. With confidence, Dash placed everything under her wings and walked towards the barn.
Walking gave time for Rainbow to think. In her head she walked herself through the steps of her little plan, carefully going over each detail.
First, she would go over to the barn and knock on the door, the gifts tucked safely behind her back. It being sunset now, Applejack would be in the barn replacing the plow and other tools after the day’s work.
Next, Applejack would open the barn door, and Rainbow would talk to her. Their conversation would consist of the weather and how she was, and then slowly digress to Hearts and Hooves day.
Then, Rainbow would tell Applejack that she needed to tell her something. At this point she would reveal the gifts out from behind her back.
Finally, Rainbow Dash would tell the truth to Applejack, and—
The sound of three exhausted fillies snapped Dash back into reality as she dove behind a tree. Peering from her hiding place at them, she saw Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo gathering apples into a cart. What were they doing here? It didn’t really matter to Dash, it just meant they were another obstacle she would have to get around.
Brushing her belly on the long grass, Dash crouched as she snuck around the group at a pace that would make Tank proud. However, her concentration was soon broken by the sound of more ponies approaching.
Quickly rolling and diving behind yet another tree, Dash peeked at the new arrivals.
It was Big Macintosh and Miss Cheerilee coming over to talk to the girls.
Ignoring their conversation, Rainbow decided to change plans to sitting and waiting until the group was gone. There were too many ponies, and that put her at too high of a risk to be caught carrying flowers and chocolates. Instead, Dash resumed going over the plan.
Finally, Rainbow would tell the truth to Applejack. AJ could react in three possible ways. She could react positively, negatively, or indifferently.
If Applejack was positive about it, Rainbow Dash would most likely gain a marefriend. This made Rainbow a little unsure, but then again a marefriend is with whom one rubs noses and kisses. So that sounded pretty sweet.
If Applejack was indifferent, the two would continue their friendship. This reaction was the most appealing to Dash. It meant that things might get a little awkward between them, but other than that, they could keep being the good friends they were. Plus Rainbow could get it off her chest and feel safer around Applejack.
But what if Applejack reacted negatively? What if, after she confessed, she asked Applejack if they could still be friends, and she said—
“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!” The Cutie Mark Crusaders cried out.
Rainbow Dash nearly jumped out of her skin they startled her so bad. Adrenaline pumping, she soared out of her hiding place and barely stopped herself from thrusting the barn door open and tearing inside.
Now standing in front of the barn door, Rainbow’s heart began to race faster. She leaned forward and listened through the wood. She could hear Applejack whistling inside the barn as she put her tools away.
Stepping a bit away from the barn, Dash took a deep breath. The red paint looked more orange than red in the setting sun, which was now casting shadows of apple trees all around her hooves. Everything was set up to go through with her plan.
All Dash had to do now was knock.
As Rainbow lifted her hoof to knock on the barn door, a horrifying dropping sensation kick started in her stomach. If she knocked, there would be no turning back.
If Applejack reacted positively, negatively, or even indifferently, none of those outcomes would result in how things already were. Every time she tried not to blush when those green eyes looked at her, there would now be a return of affection, or an awkward smile, or maybe a glare and a scowl. But not the blind innocence she already had.
And although the positive or indifferent outcomes seemed to be a fair trade for that innocence, the negative option sounded unbearable. She could lose her friendship forever. She would always regret telling her. It was only a small chance that Applejack would do this to Dash, it was still a chance. A chance so devastating it made the whole thing not worth it.
It would mean the loss of eleven bits and maybe half an hour, but this didn’t bother Rainbow Dash as she dumped the chocolates, roses, and Apple Cutter into a nearby barrel by the barn. It was the closest thing to a trash can, so she stuck them there.
Before she could be caught she flew away, heading for home and a warm bed to hide and fall asleep in.
“You placed them in a barrel?” Applejack sat up and looked Rainbow straight in the eye.
“Um, yeah.” Rainbow avoided her gaze. “It was dumb, idea.”
“No. It wasn’t dumb.”
Rainbow looked back at the farm pony, who was dead serious.
“Ah found that barrel,” Applejack spoke shakily, “and everything in it. Ah was so surprised to see mah name on that tag, Rainbow. Ah had never received anything so wonderful on Hearts and Hooves day.”
“Really?? And what about the Apple Cutter?”
“Ah found that too. Wasn’t sure what it was at first, but the second Granny Smith laid eyes on it, she got so excited to show me how it worked. I had silently thanked the mysterious pony who had gifted it to me as I took a bite of a perfectly sliced piece. Who knew I was thanking you all this time?”
“Heh, yeah, that was me.”
The two sat silently for a bit as AJ laid back down on the hay.
“So.” Rainbow cleared her throat before she continued, “The defeat on Hearts and Hooves day haunted me for a long, long time. It even eventually began to weave its way into my dreams. One particular night after that particular dream, I actually woke up and decided to visit the subject of said dream.”
AJ raised an eyebrow.
“You watched me sleep? When was that?”
Dash rolled her eyes, dismissing the concerned expression.
“We were on a camping trip, and you were only one tent away.”
It was Hearts and Hooves day, the sun was setting, and Rainbow Dash stood in front of the barn door with gifts tucked under her wings. Summoning all the bravery she had she knocked on the door. Applejack’s whistling stopped, and she peered around the door.
“Oh, it’s just you Rainbow.” Applejack opened the door fully. “What’s up?”
“H-how are you?” Rainbow asked shakily.
“Fahne…” AJ said slowly. “A little uneventful, but that’s how work can be sometimes.”
“That’s good,” Rainbow gave a cheesy smile. “So uh, nothing happened at all? Because it’s Hearts and Hooves day and stuff.”
She mentally kicked herself for sounding so stupid.
“Nah,” Applejack replied, “somepony needs to do the work on a holiday. Why?”
This was her chance. She took a deep breath and revealed the gifts out from under her wings.
“B-because…” Rainbow stuttered, “I was w-wondering…”
Applejack stood there, green eyes wide, surprise on her face.
Swallowing hard, Rainbow spit it out.
“Will you be my Very Special Somepony?”
A small silence followed. Slowly, Applejack found her words.
“W-why me?” she seemed to be holding something back, but Dash didn’t catch what.
“B-because…” Rainbow’s tongue tripped on itself and nearly kept her from finishing her sentence. But it had to be said.
“I love you, Applejack.”
The face of the orange mare lit up, a bright smile on her lips. She cried out with joy and tears on her cheeks:
She took the gifts and squeezed Rainbow in a tight hug, the kind that puts nervous hearts to ease. Her embrace was warm, and so full of love that it made Dash nearly burst.
They pulled away a bit, hooves still holding onto each other’s middles.
“Y-you mean,” Dash tried to suppress tears of joy, “you love me back?”
“Of course Ah do!” Applejack smiled wide and warmly, “Ah have fer years!”
“Oh my gosh! So have I!!”
“Ah just dreamed one day you would like me back and tell me, because Ah was too afraid you didn’t feel the same way!”
“Same here! This is the best Hearts and Hooves day ever!”
“Then there is just one way to celebrate,” Applejack batted her eyelashes.
Rainbow understood. Gently at first, then a little faster, they leaned in until there was no space between them. They their lips locked together, their breath mingling as they shared their first kiss.
Applejack’s lips were soft for such a tough farm pony. They felt like rose petals under her own.
Together they stood, the sun setting, the gifts were now on the ground as they were dropped in all the excitement. Dash closed her eyes as she let herself be carried away in those beautiful green eyes, kissing the most beautiful mare in Equestria.
She opened her eyes, expecting to see a blushing farm pony.
She was instead met with the maroon inside of her tent. She sat up, confused and feeling misplaced. Slowly, thoughts of the present began flooding her clouded brain, and her heart sank.
It had been a few months since Hearts and Hooves day. What she had experienced was just a dream. Now she was on a campout with her friends and the Cutie Mark Crusaders. She turned and saw a restless Scootaloo, her foreleg twitching and her eyebrows furrowed.
Must be fighting a dragon or something. The brave kiddo.
Rainbow put a hoof on the filly’s shoulder. At first she jerked away, but soon relaxed. With that, Rainbow lifted her hoof, and exited the tent for some fresh air.
The night was cool and beautiful. The moon was almost full. Probably would be tomorrow. Dash sighed as she took in the cool air, her warm body allowed to relax and cool off. A breeze combed its fingers through her mane, causing it to flow and fly its colors. She stretched her wings, contemplating a night flight.
No, she shouldn’t go too far from camp. It was late, probably three or four in the morning.
She instead surveyed the camp ground. The fire pit was long out, her logs and rocks still laying there where they had been placed. To her right was Rarity’s blowup mansion, and to her left was AJ’s orange tent.
A thought fought its way to the front of Rainbow’s mind. She knew she shouldn’t, she could get caught. But it seemed so harmless, she decided to anyway.
Slowly, she approached the tent of the farm pony and her sister. As she carefully undid the flap, she poked her head in the opening and peered inside.
The inside was a pumpkin color, and like two little leaves sat two sleeping bags. Applebloom’s was a light lime, while Applejack’s was a forest green. A little uncomfortable with just her head inside, Dash walked all the way into the tent and sat on the end of Applebloom’s bed, since the tiny filly couldn’t possibly fill its large size all the way.
With a better view, she noticed AJ’s hat over by the pillow of the farm pony. Sitting on the pillow was the bed head, strands of blonde hair sticking out in many directions. Her eyes were shut peacefully, and soft snores came from her open and slightly drooling mouth. To anypony else, she would have looked silly, or even a little gross.
But to Dash, she was beautiful.
Without warning, tears stung her eyes as she looked upon the sleeping mare.
It wasn’t fair. She stared at the figure with a pain of longing, and wishing that the dream was real. She was angry with herself for not bucking up and telling Applejack in the first place, and for the past few months she had been tortured by it whenever she saw her and whenever she slept.
Some dreams were depressing and sad as Applejack turns her down and breaks her heart. But those were much less painful than the happy ones. The sad dreams reminded her of why she didn’t do anything that day. But the happy dreams reminded her of how things could have changed for the better. A day that could’ve changed her and Applejack into a ‘We’. Into a couple or pair. Into something beautiful.
As these yearning thoughts taunted her mind, tear began to escape her grasp and run down her cheeks. Even in the company of the two sleeping ponies, she felt so alone.
She wished she could do something. She was too afraid to share her feelings, too afraid to express them through service, too afraid to do anything. She was a useless scardypony that should be locked up in Tartarus and shunned for her cowardice. Instead she silently wept, her tears flowing freely from her eyes now like a lonely river.
Suddenly, along with her own tears, Rainbow picked up the sound of somepony else crying. It was Applejack. Hairs standing on end in fear of getting caught, Dash was about to bolt for the door when she saw Applejack turn towards her.
The mare’s eyes were still closed, but her eyes were rapidly moving underneath their lids as if trying to see. She whimpered again, this time a little louder. The filly to her left stirred at the noise, but didn’t wake up.
A little voice in the back of her head told her to leave before they woke up, but Dash thought otherwise. Her heart going out to her distressed friend, she felt she had to do something. Less than gracefully, she hopped between the two sleeping bags and very gently knelt beside Applejack. Hesitantly, she reaches her wing out and wrapped it around her shoulder.
At first Applejack struggled under the new weight, and Rainbow feared she would wake up and find her. As soothingly as she could muster, she cooed to the sleeping mare.
“Hush, it’s okay now.”
The worry and anxiety melted off of Applejack’s face as she relaxed and settled under Rainbow’s wing. A warm relief filled Dash’s chest as she saw her relax, and she gave out a sigh. She continued to coo quietly as to lull Applejack back into her deep sleep.
“Ssh, that’s it. Everything is going to be alright.”
Blush began to fill Dash’s cheeks as she watched her wing rise and fall with AJ’s breathing. She felt a little guilty, as she was holding her without permission, but she brushed the feeling aside as she enjoyed the gentle moment. Laying here, with Applejack being adorable, gently assuring the world was alright—because now it was.
In her sleep, Applejack began to stroke the wing around her, curious as to whom it belonged to.
What happened next could never had been expected or prepared for.
“Are you mah angel?” Applejack asked. Her words were slurred and mashed together, as sleep prohibited annunciation.
Rainbow whipped her head over to the sleeping pony.
“Are you mah angel?” This time the question came not only louder, but also with more earnest.
Dash observed as Applejack talked in her sleep, unsure if she should reply or retreat from the tent. But one look at the stirring Applebloom said she better reply.
Quick and without a second thought, she replied softly:
This seemed to satisfy the sleeping mare for a bit, but before long she spoke up again.
“How long have Ah had an angel?”
The question caused Dash’s gears in her head to turn. What an interesting inquiry from someone still wrapped in their dreams.
“For… some time now.” She replied tentatively.
Concern began to creep on Applejack’s face.
“Will you ever leave me, angel?”
A warmth stirred inside of Dash’s chest, and though her face was stained with tears, she smiled. She knew exactly what to say this time.
“No. I will never leave you Applejack. And even though you may not see me when you wake, or feel my love throughout your day, I’m there. And I love you very, very much. And I will never leave you, or desert you when you’re lonely, or let you down. And if you try really hard, you can find me. But most importantly, remember I love you. Can you remember that?”
Slowly and sleepily, Applejack nodded. Dash wasn’t even sure if she got all of the message, but it was worth a try.
The two laid together side-by-side for a few more minutes, enjoying the small embrace between them.
Rainbow knew that if either of them were, Applejack was the angel. She looked at the messy hair, drool, and snores that made up her good friend. Yes, Applejack was the real angel.
Soon Applejack began to fall back into her deep slumber, and Dash decided it was safe enough to leave. Sleep was returning to her own eyes, and she decided she better get back to her bed before she resumed her own slumber.
As she exited the orange tent, the cool outside dried her wet cheeks. She began to sort through her thoughts and feelings while walking back to her own tent.
Laying down on her back onto her purple sleeping bag, a smile began to appear on her face.
She was Applejack’s angel. And even though she wasn’t sure how she would express the love she felt, for now she would support Applejack, even protect her, but most importantly be there as her friend to help her in times of need. She’d be there on Mother’s and Father’s day, on Applebucking Day, on good days and bad days, happy days and sad days, exciting and boring days, she’d always be there.
Because she was loyal. Because she was Rainbow Dash. Because she was in love.
With this new mission in mind, she closed her eyes with a pleasant smile, welcoming whatever dream came as she fell asleep.
“You… Ah…” Applejack blushed madly, taking in what she had just been told.
“Ah said that?”
“Yeah… apparently you can have conversations in your sleep.” Rainbow said it jokingly, but her smile faded when she saw the farm pony’s face. Applejack was really upset. She was shaking a little, and she had her hat pulled down so it covered her entire face.
“I-I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—” she tried to apologize.
“No.” Applejack sat up, her cheeks still burning crimson, but her eyes holding new warmth. “It’s fahne. Please, continue.”
“Okay…” Dash swallowed and sat straighter. “So I continued to keep my feelings a secret, and meanwhile things got really busy. We had Twilight becoming an alicorn, her coronation, her strange trip into that one portal, and then the Summer Sun Celebration again.”
Applejack nodded. She remembered it being a stressful time.
“But even after all that excitement, you seemed really bored. You had turned to overworking yourself in the farm, and I wouldn’t have that. I needed to get you doing something else before you farmed yourself to death.”
Applejack chuckled. “And how exactly did you get me to stop working too hard?”
AJ’s laughter giving her confidence, Rainbow puffed out her chest, blew on her hoof, and rubbed it on her chest with pride.
Rainbow frowned as she watched with concern as Applejack continued to buck from a tree. It wasn’t unusual for Applejack to be bucking for apples, but this was the same tree she had bucked fifteen minutes ago, and thirty minutes before that. Frankly, Rainbow was worried that Applejack was working on the farm so intensely that she was losing track of where she had and hadn’t been.
It had started soon after the Everfree Forest had been stopped, and the Elements were returned to the tree. For no real reason and without warning, Applejack began to throw herself wholeheartedly into her farm work, and it was starting to get a little too intense for the farm pony. And it definitely was making Rainbow nervous.
She’d tried a variety of different ways to distract Applejack from her work. She had tried sleeping in the trees again, or asking if she wanted to hang out. She even tried being directly concerned to Applejack, but even that didn’t work.
“AJ, seriously, what gives?”
“Ah don’t know what yer so worked up about, Ah’m just workin’.”
It was starting to get a little unnerving that AJ didn’t even know she was working too hard. Rainbow soon put it upon herself to figure out a way to save Applejack from herself before she passed out on the plow.
Sitting on her white cloud in the sky, she recollected a certain autumn day when the two had a friendly game of horseshoes that quickly got out of hoof. Having a final idea, she lifted off the fluffy white substance and descended to the apple farm below.
Leaning up against a tree and watching with an unamused expression on her face as Applejack bucked the same tree for a fourth time, Rainbow spoke.
“You know what I’ve realized, AJ?”
Applejack just rolled her eyes and continued bucking as she was pestered again by the blue nuisance. However, Dash waited for a response expectantly. Annoyed, AJ huffed loudly and replied.
“You’re pretty tough.”
Rainbow’s compliment met the mare with surprise. Lifting her hat to wipe underneath, she turned to her.
“But,” Rainbow slowly advanced the mare, “as tough as you are, I wouldn’t suggest that you’re the ‘daring type’.” She emphasized the words carefully and distinctly. Applejack raised her eyebrows.
“Oh really? You think so?” Applejack’s tone had changed, like a dog’s bark when it’s challenged.
“Oh, I know so,” Rainbow flicked her tail slightly, and lifted her chin. “On the other hoof, I think I am VERY daring. I would go so far as to say that I’m the Most Daring Pony in all of Equestria!”
“You would, huh?”
Rainbow smiled as she nodded with a smug expression and began to hover. Her plan was working.
“Ah beg to differ.”
“What?” Rainbow put on a fake expression of surprise. “You think you’re more daring than me?” She waved AJ off.
“Pfffft! In your dreams!”
Applejack’s face reddened at the gesture, but let her finish.
Dash was so close, one more insult should do the trick.
“I bet if we had a competition, you wouldn’t even last the first dare!”
That was it. The look on AJ’s face looked very distracted from her farm duties now.
With that last remark, Applejack leapt into the air and tackled Dash to the ground. Puffing a little steam out her nostrils she glared at the pegasus below her.
“Bring it on, Rainbow.”
Amusement all over her face, Dash just smirked.
So it was settled. A ‘Most Daring Pony’ competition began between the two after lunch. With Pinkie as the judge, the two ponies continued to perform baffling dares that the other delivered.
“I dare you to jump off the barn roof onto a trampoline!
“Ah dare you to hang upside down and recite the Ponyville anthem while being tickled!”
“I dare you to drink a gallon of water in 30 seconds!”
“Ah dare you to stick more than ten apples in yer mouth!”
“I dare you to smell this!”
“Ah dare you to eat that!”
“I dare you to swim across the river blindfolded!”
“Ah dare you to sneeze with yer eyes open!”
As the dares went on, the suspense continued to grow. Finally it came down to the final task—the Bee Stare. Covered in bees from head to hoof (save their eyes), the two stared intensely at each other as they spoke through gritted teeth.
“I’m not gonna move, you move.”
“Nuh uh. There is no way Ah’m movin’
“This is the most daring dare anypony ever dared dare another pony in a dare!” Pinkie announced from the judges table.
“Huh?” the two darers asked.
“It’s exciting!” the pinkie mare clarified.
“Uh, what ya’ll doin’?” the bee keeper pony asked.
Dash tuned them out as Pinkie explained to the bee keeper what was going on. She had been successful in keeping up her competitive spirit, while keeping Applejack busy. Most importantly, they were both having fun this time. This wasn’t like the Iron Pony Competition. They were just having fun daring each other to do outrageously awesome things.
“I’m gonna need my bees back.” The bee keeper interrupted her thoughts.
Oh no. If they couldn’t finish this dare, they’d have to think of another one. And they were running out of good dares. Before long, Applejack would go back to her insane farming madness. What was Dash going to do then?
“But then we’ll never know who the most daring pony is!” she argued.
It was a weak argument, and was treated as such. The bees were taken anyway, and after some discussion on numbers and disagreement on how they had tied, along with the great judge Pinkie bailing on them, Dash was sure keeping the competition going was hopeless. But she had to keep up the spirit.
“Okay, no problem.” She flicked her tail and put on a determined look. “We just have to come up with another daring dare.”
A small silence followed as they surveyed the farm for ideas.
As Dash's eyes searched the surrounding farm with little hope of finding anything good, a dare idea came to the front of her mind.
I dare you to fly.
At first, the idea was stupid. Rainbow could fly, and Applejack couldn’t. Simple as that. But a nagging memory soon came to mind.
“I am going to train every day until I am strong enough to take you into the sky!”
Rainbow’s heart sank as she remembered her promise. It was so long ago. But she had promised. She wondered if Applejack still remembered…
“Ah think Ah might have an idea of what we can do,” Applejack broke the silence, returning Dash to reality.
“What?” Rainbow raised an eyebrow.
With that, she ran into the Everfree Forest, Rainbow hot on her heels.
One old legend, a small spook, and a hoof-bump deal later, the two girls were wandering around the old Castle of the Two Sisters together. They had found an old staircase and were slowly descending into a pit of darkness, Applejack on hoof and Rainbow in the air.
“I sure hope you’re not afraid of the dark, Applejack!”
“Ah can’t say that Ah am.” Applejack huffed as she spiraled down the staircase. “And even if Ah was, Ah’d be at least fifty-percent less scared of it than you, Rainbow Dash!”
She peered over the stairwell at the pegasus, her ears back and a pout on her face. Even in the dark, Dash could tell she was being adorable.
However, the comment was pretty weird. Fifty-percent less scared? What? Of course, Dash new her percentages as far as coolness levels went, but scared levels? What was this silly pony talking about?
“I don’t know how all that math works, because I’m not scared at all!”
Dash smiled at the response, zipping downward towards the end of the stairwell. She knew Applejack was copying her just because she was trying to sound tougher, but it was hard for Dash to get over the fact of how cute it was.
She had discovered more and more things about Applejack that she found… appealing since she’d decided she really did care for her. It consisted of the small things mainly, like how she snuck her hat in to wear it at that wedding when Rarity wasn’t looking, or how she talked all sweet to her dog Winona after coming home from a long trip. It was becoming more and more common lately, but Dash couldn’t put a hoof on why.
The girls reached the bottom of the gigantic staircase to be met with a strange sight. Chills running down both their spines, Applejack just stared at it with a jaw-dropped expression while Rainbow gulped and spoke shakily:
“W-What’s the matter? It’s just a dark hallway full of disembodied pony legs…”
Applejack pulled her hat down further on her face while Dash covered her own with her wings leaving slits for her eyes.
“Yeah…” AJ replied also shakily. “Nothin’ creepy about that.”
Sarcasm? From the honest one? Interesting.
Carefully and slowly, the two made it down the hallway. Meanwhile, Dash began to contemplate the flying she had promised.
How long had it been since she’d made that promise? Judging by the Summer Sun Celebration recently, it must have been nearly a year ago. Had it really been that long already? She had sure slacked off this year… but then again, there had been a lot of fighting for Equestria in the past year. She must have already gained at least some muscle naturally, and maybe a little extra after the Wonderbolts Academy. But… doesn’t one pony also gain a lot of weight in a year? How many pounds had Applejack gained?
Before she could look around and judge the stature of her companion, she felt a hoof around her shoulder.
She felt herself warm with excitement and pride as she smiled and closed her eyes.
“Applejack, if you’re scared, you can just admit it. You don’t need to put your hoof around me.”
“Uh, Ah’m over here.”
Rainbow looked over to the left to see Applejack waving a ways down the hall. Disappointment and frustration first filled Dash’s head, until she realized her true mistake: If Applejack wasn’t squeezing her around the shoulders, who was?
Looking over to her right, she saw a ghost-white disembodied hoof coming from the wall, wrapping around her head and neck.
Okay, the shadows and moving curtain were a little startling, but this was truly terrifying.
“AAAAAAAHHHH!!” Rainbow screamed.
“AAAAAAAHHHH!!” Applejack agreed.
With that, the two girls soared out of the hallway.
Waves of shivers running down her back, Dash screamed accordingly, rubbing her neck and shoulders up and down as if trying to wipe something away. They continued scrambling through the corridors at a neck-breaking pace until a cord from a creepy organ was played.
Applejack screeched to a stop, causing Rainbow to smack into her and crash from her frenzied flight.
“You hear that?” She said with a shaky voice.
Of course Dash heard it. The organ echoed through the halls and bashed against their eardrums. One would have to be deaf not to hear that organ. She sure wished she had mentioned the flying thing earlier, because that sounded a lot better than this creepy place.
“You mean, the creepy sound of a haunted pipe organ?” Rainbow replied tentatively.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Hey, Applejack had used sarcasm earlier. Might as well return the favor.
Just then, the organ played a key so loud, so unnerving, that it literally made the two girls jump. Into each other’s arms. But at this point in time, Rainbow wasn’t really paying attention to the embrace. She was legitimately freaked out now.
So the two dove further into the castle.
“Rainbow, Ah already know this part. We all scare each other and then find out it was just Pinkie playing the organ. What does this have to do with anything?”
“I guess I was just trying to get to after all that.”
“Then why’d you start out talking about all the…”
“The… ya know… ‘adorable’ stuff?”
“You want me to finish or not?”
“Yes, Ah do, but stay focused, okay sugarcube?
The group was heading home. After all, it was late, and time for everyone to get some rest after scaring each other all day. Rainbow had graciously offered to walk Applejack home, and since they were both a little jumpy from earlier, AJ accepted the offer.
The two split off from the others as the barn soon came into view. Slowly, they approached the safety of the oil lamp hanging above the porch. They stayed there for a moment, enjoying the silence of the night. Applejack was the first to speak.
“Well, that was sure an adventure, huh?”
Rainbow laughed. It sure was. And if it wasn’t for herself it never would’ve happened. She made a mental note to give herself a pat on the back later.
“Yeah, yeah it was.”
“We may haven’t proved yet who the Most Daring Pony is, but we both know it’s me.” The farm pony winked.
“In your dreams, maybe!” Rainbow scoffed.
The two laughed under the weak lantern light, the crickets chirping in the background. The sound was music to Dash’s ears, and she opened her eyes to meet the sparkling emeralds of the other mare’s. They looked amazing in the moonlight.
It was likely they would have another daring contest sometime in the near future. But before they did, Dash knew she had one specific dare she wanted to accomplish first.
As she said goodbye and lifted off the porch, gently floating up into the stars and onto the midnight air, she remade the promise she had vowed nearly a year ago.
It was time to help Applejack finally fly.
“So, that was the day you remembered?” Applejack tilted her head.
“Yep, it sure was.” Rainbow nodded.
“So, why didn’t ya just ask me to go flyin’ the next day?”
“I didn’t want to fail again. I decided I needed a little training first. I had Twilight enchant some bags of flour for me and I practiced flying them around the town and gently depositing them on clouds. When I wasn’t busy flying flour, I was lifting heavy objects the town needed me to lift. However, that got a little… distracting.”
“What happened? What was the problem?” Applejack sat up.
“Not what, but who.” A sly smile slid its way onto Dash’s lips.
“Fahne then,” Applejack yawned and rested her head on one hoof. “Who was the problem?”
Twilight and the others looked at a very unhappy Applejack as a very strange Rarity left the boutique. The reddened face of the farm pony made the whole thing look rather serious, but Applejack just grumbled.
“It, nothin’. Just… go prepare this new theme.”
She didn’t sound very convincing.
“Is… is there any way we could help, maybe?” Fluttershy asked timidly.
A long, slightly awkward silence followed.
Everypony glanced nervously at each other, unsure of what to do. Applejack glanced around the boutique, before spotting something. After spotting the said something, she calmed down considerably, and even put on a calm smile.
“Ya know, there is one thing Ah could use help with,” Applejack continued to grin.
“Yes?” The four others asked.
“Don’t do anything that is at all related to this new theme. Take a break, get a drink of water, and get something to eat. Can ya girls do that?”
More worried looks were exchanged, but they agreed and left the boutique.
All except Applejack, of course.
Rainbow waited for her to exit so they could talk, and so she could ask what all the fuss was about with Rarity, but she never came out. What was she doing? Probably a prank or something, judging by the smile. A prank she could wait for—interrupting somepony while they are working a prank wasn’t something Dash liked to do. It never ended well. After about a minute of waiting though, Dash got bored and decided to take that break.
She wouldn’t go far, so she could be there when Applejack finally showed her face, but Rainbow Dash was currently preoccupied with her training to get Applejack into the sky. This mainly consisted of bags of flour to lift on her back to nearby clouds.
However, as Ponyville Days began to make her busy, she decided to volunteer to put up decorations. That way she could be helping her friends and continuing her training. Sure, ribbons and lights were lighter than bags of flour, but it worked on her precision instead.
But now she had an excuse to not put up any more decorations, thanks to Applejack. So she might as well work with the flour again. She remembered she had moved three bags to a cloud just to the right of the boutique.
She had ordered these special bags from Sugarcube Corner. Unlike other bags of flour, which weighed around ten pounds in a loosely packed sack, Rainbow had asked for the bags to be filled to their seams with flour, over doubling the weight. It made the bags very heavy and very, very fragile. So with only a total of sixty-nine pounds, it was a very fragile sixty-nine pounds.
After carefully placing the bags of flour on her back, she began to gently glide around the boutique and other buildings, making sure not to tip too much or flap too hard. It was technical and a little exhausting, but it was a good ten or fifteen minutes of training. Feeling satisfied enough to stop for a drink, Dash landed back on the cloud and carefully deposited the flour bags onto it.
Just then, somepony stepped out of the boutique.
At the time, Rainbow had been flying above the cloud, making sure the bags were placed evenly as so they wouldn’t slip off and hurt somepony. She looked down at the sound of the boutique door. She was completely unprepared for what she was about to see.
What stepped out of that shop was a beauty dressed in a mint green skirt with a rose pink trail, complete with lace and diamond pattern. The top was a raspberry color topped with a mint accent, all of it leading up to her chest where it made a sort of flower shape there. Most of her golden blonde hair was up, pinned with one raspberry and one mint colored gem. She had single ringlets coming down on either side of her face as if to frame it, and a rebellious lock stretched in the front as it curved out in front of her forehead. The rest that was left down came so in the back on her neck, finishing off the piece like a signature.
She was breathtaking.
The phrase ‘to go yeep’ is a term most commonly used for owls when they are so shocked or frightened while flying that their wings lock into place, causing them to plummet to the ground. Like previously stated, this is mostly a term for owls. However, it has been discovered in other winged animals, pegasi included.
This was the first and only time Dash ever remembered going yeep.
She was fortunate enough to be shortly above a soft surface when it happened. It was unfortunate that the soft surface was made up of three overly-packed bags of flour.
As Applejack stepped out of Rarity’s boutique, a puff of white powder exploded to her right, showering the grass and flowers below. It most definitely caught her attention, especially when the white head of a mare poked above the surface, slipped, and fell to the ground. Concern written on her face, she approached the coughing white mass to find out who it was.
“Rainbow?” Applejack tilted her head which now looked a lot taller with her hair up, “What in tarnation are you doing?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing…” Dash choked before coughing some more.
“Oh this?” Applejack gestured to the dress, as if just remembering it. “This… uh, this is… uhm…”
Her voice trailed off as no real explanation came to mind.
Dusting her muzzle off, Rainbow stood.
“You know what? If you don’t ask, I won’t.” She laughed with another cough.
“Deal.” Applejack smiled. “Could you help me with something?”
“Sure, as long as you don’t mind that I look like a ghost.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem. Ah need you to walk with me to the barn. Ah’ll explain on the way.”
So the two began to stroll quickly through town, undoubtedly turning heads the entire way.
Applejack began to yap on about this plan of being a model for Rarity’s fashion show. She said something about Rainbow signing her up under ‘Applejewel’ and how she was going to strut and pose on the runway built in the barn. That last part caused Rainbow to unsuccessfully suppress a laugh.
“What?” Applejack shot her a look of irritation.
“You want to pose on a runway? Like a model?” Dash couldn’t contain her amusement. “You sure you can do that?”
“It can’t be that hard,” Applejack argued. “All Ah have to do is—”
Applejack came to a screeching stop. Rainbow did the same and doubled back, now even more amused than before. Meanwhile, terror was the farm pony’s main emotion.
“Ah don’t have any idea what Ah’m doin’!” Applejack thought of her last time on a runway, presenting a hideous Gala outfit. “Ah don’t know how to model!”
As amusing as this all was, Dash knew she had to help her with what she knew about modeling. It wasn't much, but she did know something about how you had to 'strut and pose'.
“Well,” Rainbow tapped her chin, dusting some flour off, “I know models walk while moving their hips back and forth a lot. That’s the strut part.”
Applejack walked while swinging her hips. “Like this?”
Rainbow was supposed to helping AJ. But this was definitely distracting.
“Uh… y-yeah.” Rainbow stammered. “Then they pose. Just act like you’re getting your picture taken.”
Applejack made a cheesy smile.
“No, not like that,” Rainbow shook her head. “Act like the picture is going to be put on the front of a magazine.”
She demonstrated by flipping her mane with a seductive smile, which resulted in a large cloud of flour.
“Uh…” Applejack tilted her huge head of hair, “Ah don’t think anything Ah do would look like the front of a magazine.”
Dash laughed and gestured to AJ’s dress and hair.
“What?! Look at yourself. You could look like that without trying.”
The farm pony’s cheeks looked considerably rosier as she replied a ‘thanks’.
“Now, you said there’s not much time. Just strut and make a pose really fast.”
Applejack relaxed her face and began to walk with a sway in her hips. She then paused, lifting her leg and looking playfully calm.
“Good.” Rainbow kept her eyes focused on Applejack’s face, and not her swaying hips. “Now turn.”
Applejack turned sharply, causing her skirt to flick as she did so.
“That was great!” Dash bit her lip to keep from sounding too excited, but it was hard. “Now strut and make your final pose!”
Applejack really swayed her hips now, before swinging back around with a sassy pout on her face, blinking once and keeping her eyebrow raised.
Dash’s wings snapped open. Two pegasus phenomena in one day. Wow.
Applejack's pout quickly melted to a look of worry and concern.
“How was that? Did Ah look alright? It felt really silly.”
'Hot’ was on the very tip of Dash’s tongue. It took all her strength to stay cool. Well, cool-ish.
“Good,” Dash sputtered, shuffling nervously. “You look good. I mean! Uh, I mean your pose was perfect. Real good. Uh, just do that, yeah. I’m… I’m gonna sign you up now Appleje—Applejack, uh as Applejewel, right? Yup, so, uh… bye.”
And with that Rainbow disappeared into the barn.
“So that explains why you were covered in flour.”
“Yup, and besides the powder all over me, the flour was forgotten, along with the training.”
“Did you really think Ah looked… hot... in that dress?”
“Uh… I’m gonna finish the story now…”
The Ponyville Days Festival turned out beautifully. Everypony was wearing fancy clothes as they danced graciously in town square. Applejack stood alone at the front of the town hall, gracefully looking over the gala as Trenderhoof gently danced with her grandmother.
Dash was lying on a cloud above the gala, nervously tugging on her dress. After Rarity realized how great Applejack had looked in one of her dresses, she decided to have the rest of the girls pick one out to wear. Hers had an ice blue top with a Safire stone, with a mix of different blues weaving down her skirt, and a robin egg trail lined with white feathers. Her hair had been put into a slightly messy bun, and she had small pearls all over the whole thing. Rarity had said there was too much blue, but Dash didn’t really care.
She peered back over the edge of the cloud at Applejack, who was wearing her dress and hair from earlier. Horseapples, why did she have to be so pretty? She felt ridiculous in this stupid dress, silly and out of place.
She watched the ponies below slowly waltz in pairs, and her heart felt heavy as she saw Applejack with nopony. She wanted so badly to go down there and ask her to dance, it didn’t seem all that scary. None of her friends were there, and all the other couples were busy with each other. No pony would notice.
She summoned all her courage and took off from the cloud, circling around the town hall once before landing beside Applejack.
“Oh, hey there sugarcube!” Applejack smiled in greeting, “Nice dress! Is that one of Rarity’s?”
Dash stood there for a second. She hadn’t expected AJ to talk to her before she tried to ask.
“Uh, yeah it is.”
“So, you here to dance?” Applejack raised her eyebrow.
Yes. That was why she was here. Now she was just going to open her mouth and ask her…
“Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to taste some cider.”
Dash nearly slapped herself in the face for being so chicken, but oh well. What was done was done.
The two made their way to the Silent Cider Auction and Tasting and soon had a lovely conversation over two glasses of high quality apple cider.
“Were you able to get all that flour cleaned off?”
“I think I may have missed some in my hair, because after I showered I found something all sticky and gross…”
Applejack threw her head back with laughter at Rainbow’s misfortune.
Even besides the dress, she was beautiful tonight. Her green eyes twinkled with laughter in the moonlight. Her curls bounced as she laughed, and the cider glistened on her lips.
Dash had always had a short attention span, and was quite used to being distracted. But of all the days she had been so, this was the day she was distracted the most. So amazingly and hopelessly distracted. And it was awesome.
Both mares were particularly red in the light of the oil lamp, which shook as the barn creaked, the storm still roaring outside. The silence that followed was hot and uncomfortable, much like the faces of the mares. Finally, Rainbow coughed nervously and sat up.
“So, where was I?”
“Uh… you were distracted…” Applejack continued to blush.
“Oh, right! I completely forgot about the training for a few more weeks after that,” Rainbow explained. “It wasn’t until a time of crisis and imprisonment that I realized I should probably focus and get my game on.”
“What do you mean?”
“We all were put into some serious danger," Dash explained. "The kind that makes your life flash before your eyes. The kind that reminds you that if you don’t make it out alright, there will things left undone.”
“Like taking me flyin'?”
“So, what was so life-threatening? What happened? Is this about yer test for the Wonderbolts Reserves?”
Dash sat down on the cold metal beside Applejack, staring at the metal bars surrounding them. She felt weak, which was a new and uncomfortable state to her. It made every breath, every glance, every thought exhausting. Turning her head was a chore. But she did so anyway just to see the depressing puddle that was Discord.
She had been betrayed. They had all been betrayed. And now they sat here, in this cold cage unable to help themselves or others. And yet, she couldn’t help but feel bad of her betrayer. Even if now she was a weakened shell of herself left to die.
At least she was a weakened shell of herself left to die with Applejack.
As hard as it was, she turned herself to the left to see the heartbroken mare. Her hat sagged on her forehead, and her eyes were cast downward.
Their once brilliant emerald color was now only a translucent grey green. Those eyes, the ones she used to fall into, were now nothing but hollow shells, like empty corners filled with cobwebs. The sight made her heart break and her own hollow eyes brim with water. The sound of her sniffles caught AJ’s attention.
“Hey,” her voice was tender, but strained, “What’s wrong sugarcube?”
Dash scoffed at the question.
“What’s wrong? AJ, we’re left here to die in a cage.”
The careless remark put a distressed look on everypony‘s face, and Fluttershy began to sob more earnestly in the corner.
“W-what?” Spike’s terrified eyes made everyone feel more awful.
“Rainbow…” Applejack squeezed her eyes shut, tears on her eyelashes, “let’s not think like that…”
“Yeah!” Piped up Pinkie Pie weakly, “Besides, Twilight will save us, remember?”
“That’s right, dear,” Rarity added. “Although, I must admit we are in a tight spot.”
“Maybe too tight,” Rainbow sat forward, tears still threatening to flow. “You saw that thing. It was HUGE. Do you really think Twilight could handle him all on her own?”
“Of course she can!” Spike shouted. “She’s been able to defeat anyone who has gotten in the way of her friends!”
“I don’t know…” Rainbow sulked and curved her tail around her now blank flank. “You have to admit this looks bad.”
“It does, Rainbow.” Applejack put her hoof on Dash’s shoulder. “It really does.”
Silence followed as the six of them sat together, sad and scared and worried. As the silence stretched on sounds of Tirek’s shouting in the distance could be heard. Dash tried to keep her mind from wandering back to reality, and instead thought of the past few weeks. And months. And years.
And as she thought, she soon realized she had forgotten something. Something important. It bothered her so badly that she quickly turned to the farm pony beside her.
“AJ,” the break in the silence made everypony jump, “I’m so sorry.”
“About what?” Applejack tilted her head, “This wasn’t yer fault.”
“I…” Dash paused to take a shaky breath. “I never took you flying.”
The surprise in the faded eyes of her friend almost brought them back to life, and tears began to form on the sides of her eyes.
“You… you remember?” she choked.
“Of course I remember! I’ve been training in secret so I could surprise you!”
Tears spilled over onto her freckled cheeks as Applejack turned to look at the sky.
“Ah though you had forgotten all about it,” she admitted, “so instead of reminding you I just pretended it had already happened.”
“Pretended it had already happened?” Dash echoed. “Why?”
“Ah didn’t want to bother you or make you feel rotten. So instead every time Ah thought about it Ah would look up into the sky, and pretend to remember.”
The cage fell silent. Even Fluttershy’s sobs sounded quieter. All eyes were on Applejack, who was now looking at the reddened sky. Her words were like magic, and everypony sat still and listened as she spoke.
“Don’t you remember flyin’ in the clouds? It was cool, and free, and safe up there. In a world of blue and white, you floated without a care. The air was deliciously crisp, and the wind combed through your hair.
“There were no ceilings, no floors, no confines left or right. You just flew up into the sun, consumed by all the light. And there you bathed in it all, which was so warm and bright.
“You were flying with yer friend, and there you two did play. Together you two cleared the sky and bucked the clouds away. They were softer than apple trees, and easier to sway.
“Do you remember when she dropped you? And slowly you did fall? There was nothing to grasp or hold, nothing touching you at all. Just the air and sky around you, making you feel small.
“But if you remember right, yer fear left you, and soon you were free. You were flyin' on yer own, above yer beloved country. It almost surprised you when you saw nothing where wings were s’pposed to be.
“And just when the ground came close, and it seemed that you might crash, you were saved and brought back into the sky by loyal Rainbow Dash! And you two continued to roam free, without any clash.
“Don’t you remember the day you flew? Don’t you remember the day you soared? The day you looped, the day you dived, the day you shot and scored?”
Applejack paused to sob, almost too discouraged to continue. But after a deep breath, and a look at all the wet faces around her, she decided to finish strong. Even Discord was listening.
“No. Ah don’t remember any of that, and it’s a memory that Ah will miss. But once this future dream becomes mah past, Ah’ll have time to reminisce.”
They could have heard a pin drop. No one spoke, or sniffled, or dared to breathe. They all just wanted to hold onto the spirit of the moment, which was gentle and wise, peaceful and understanding. But something that beautiful could not last forever. Finally the tears came, and sounds returned to the cage. Rarity was the first to speak.
“That was beautiful, darling.” She tried to wipe her messy makeup off her cheeks with no success. “Where did you learn to recite such elegant poetry?”
“Mah Pa.” Applejack replied, the glimmer of a small smile on her lips. “He would use poems to be sweet to mah Ma. Ah remember when Ah was just a little filly, he was recite them to me to help me fall asleep, or to feel better when Ah was upset.”
The rest of the group whispered praise and thanks for the beautiful poem through their tears. All except Dash. She tried so hard to keep in her tears. She gritted her teeth, and slumped against the bars. Applejack noticed, and put her hoof on the distressed pegasus’ shoulder.
“Rainbow, are you alri—”
Dash through herself at Applejack, burying her face into her chest and weeping softly. She didn’t want anyone to hear her, or see her. But she felt like she was going to die. And she felt so, so bad that Applejack never got a chance to fly. And it was all her fault.
Applejack awkwardly cradled her broken-hearted friend who sobbed apologies into her left shoulder until she had regained her composure. After that, she sat up, and cleared her head. If this was the end, then there was one more thing she had to do.
“Applejack, forget that just happened.” She tried brushing the dampness off AJ’s shoulder. “There is something I need to tell you. And this is super important.”
Applejack opened her eyes wider with curiosity.
“What is it, Rainbow?”
“I…” Rainbow took one of Applejack’s hooves into the two her own. “I just want to say that… I…”
“What is THAT?” Pinkie cried as she pointed into the sky. A purple dot came descending down from the sky at a surprisingly fast rate.
“It’s Twilight!” Spike cried with excitement.
Just then, a surge of pink energy came blasting towards the ground far away, producing smoke and orange energy to combat it. Seven jaws dropped.
So, they weren’t gonna die. Rainbow dropped AJ’s hoof and turned towards their fight. From what little she could see of it, it looked EPIC.
“Uh, RD?” Applejack looked still very confused. “Weren’t you just saying som—”
“Forget it.” Dash waved her off.
Before another word could be exchanged, the group was suddenly engulfed in seven separate bubbles and disappeared into thin air.
The rest of an epic showdown, a trade, and the gift of a key later, the six friends were standing around the mysterious chest, which was loaded and ready to be unlocked.
“Together, I think we have to do this together!” Twilight announced.
Dash stood in front of her key.
They were safe. They’re strength was back. Everything was going to be fine.
Dash looked across from her.
Applejack’s eyes were green once more, the kind of green that had originally caught her attention. As she looked into those eyes, she fell into their depths as if it were the first time.
There, she remembered the day she first met those eyes. She remembered the day she first got caught by those eyes. She remembered the day she first played with those eyes. She remembered the day she first saw tears in those eyes, and shared her own. She remembered the day she tripped on an autumn path in the middle of the woods with those eyes. She remembered the day she found an excuse to run away from those eyes. She remembered the day she blushed at those eyes over a stubborn crumb of pie. She remembered the day she tried to serve those eyes. She remembered the day she almost lost those eyes, and realized she was in love. She remembered the day she was too afraid to look into those eyes and tell the truth. She remembered the day she visited those eyes when they were closed. She remembered the day she stared into those eyes brimmed with bees. She remembered the day she lost herself completely in those eyes. And finally, she remembered today, when she looked into those eyes, now hollow and scared, afraid she would have to say goodbye to them forever.
There had been so much history, and for such a long time. And Applejack could have died today and would have never known about it. And that, more than anything else, scared Rainbow Dash.
Soon after this mess was cleaned up, Applejack would want to go flying. That was obvious, of course. But what wasn’t quite so obvious but just as important was that Rainbow knew there was something else she had to do. A fear she had to face, a risk she had to take. No more waiting. It was time.
With this in mind, she turned her key.
Tears decorated the stands of hay on the floor of the hayloft, and sniffles could be heard above the storm.
“You almost told me.”
“That’s right, but I decided to tell you at a better time, and in a better place.”
These words upset Applejack, and her took her hat off and threw it against the floor with some force, cheeks red and stained with tears.
“Tell me? You never told me anythi—!”
Dash’s look caused Applejack’s yell to die in her throat.
“AJ, that day didn’t go exactly how I had planned…”
“How was it planned, Rainbow?” Applejack retorted angrily. “Because I can’t think of any plan that would be worth exchanging for what you ended up doing.”
“Applejack,” pleaded Rainbow, “it wasn’t like that. I never meant to… to make you feel…”
The pegasus bowed her head in an attempt to hide her tears, but a loud sob escaped her throat before she could stop it. It wasn’t a little ‘oh poor me’ sob. It was a deep, cutting, heartbroken sob. The kind that makes others cry too.
Applejack’s face softened as she let her friend cry herself out. The sobs kept coming, and her shoulders heaved up and down with every one. Applejack held it together, but only just.
“Ah’m listening now,” she said softly, “Please, keep telling the story.”
Dash sat up and wiped her tears away unsuccessfully.
Rainbow Dash hardly ever got up early for any reason unless it was for an important occasion. Good thing today was such an occasion. Today, all of her planning, practicing, and training would be put to the test to see if it was really worth all the effort. As she emerged from sleep to the sound of her alarm, her mind found her reason of doing so, causing her insides to twist into nervous patterns and anxious knots.
Today was the day.
No sooner had this thought crossed her foggy, sleepy mind that she hit the clock and leaped out of bed. She darted around the room, bumping into walls and dressers, wading through laundry, sleepiness depriving her of exactly what she was supposed to do next. Catching herself and taking a deep breath, she organized her thoughts and faced the door.
First thing was first: she needed to take a shower.
Rainbow’s idea of a shower was normally a dip under a raincloud and a few laps around the house to dry off. But today, she had something else in mind.
Rainbow had hardly ever used shampoos or conditioners before the Gala, but when the idea of impressing the Wonderbolts became a top priority, she had to take a trip over to Rarity’s place. There she was prescribed hygiene gels and goos that matched her personality and style. After the Gala utterly flopped, the bottles were left untouched in Rainbow’s bathroom. Today she would put them to good use once more.
With the help a scalding shower, a fresh-scented shampoo to match the fresh air outside, a sleek conditioner for improving speed and agility, a body soap that made her coat soft but not greasy, a few blemish ointments, a blow dryer, a comb, a brush, a toothbrush, some floss, some mouthwash, and a mild perfume for good measure, Rainbow Dash was ready.
So they had plenty of time to fly, Applejack and Dash had planned for their outing to be after breakfast Friday morning. Rainbow recollected back to the Thursday evening before when she had checked with Applejack to make sure she was ready.
“I need you to answer the following questions honestly, as they are for your safety.” Rainbow stood at attention like a general.
Applejack raised an eyebrow.
“What makes you think Ah, of all ponies, would be dishonest?” She chuckled.
“Just…” Rainbow lost the general-like stance for second, “just answer the questions, okay?”
“Do you have any problems with motion sickness?” Rainbow had regained her general-like attitude, and practically barked the questions.
“Any illness or ailment?”
“Any current injuries?”
“Problems with projectile vomit?”
“No?” Applejack looked at Dash like she was crazy. Dash continued.
“Do you get dizzy easily?”
“Don’t think so…”
“Get tired easily?”
“Any fear of heights?”
“Not that Ah know of.”
“Great,” Dash stopped standing at attention and smiled. “Then you’re good to go tomorrow. We’ll start tomorrow morning after breakfast. Eat lightly, so you don’t get sick. Don’t worry about lunch or dinner, I’ve got that covered.”
“Fantastic!” Dash was giddy at the thought of this finally coming together. “It’s a date then!”
“Hmm?” Applejack tilted her head, unfamiliar with the phrase.
“I-I mean…” Dash stuttered as she tried not to blush madly, “T-that it’s a plan, er… an idea, uhm… that it’s set in stone!” She finally added.
“Oh right! See ya tomorrow then?”
Now Dash nervously fussed with her forelock in the mirror. The hair was smooth and clean, but it was getting in her face and covering her eyes. Today had to go without a hitch, otherwise there could be terrible consequences. Everything had to be perfect.
Rainbow was so anxious she found trouble eating. The knots in her stomach refused to go away, making every pastry, fruit, and cereal look unappetizing. Finally she decided on two pieces of toast smothered in zap apple jam. She had always thought that Granny Smith’s zap apple jam had some amount of luck in it, and right now she felt she could use all the luck she could get.
As she shoved the messy multicolored toast into her face, her eyes darted to the clock.
Oh pony feathers. She was going to be late.
Without another thought, she dropped the toast and soared upstairs to grab a few things (goggles, scarves, etc.) and then back downstairs and out the door.
Even though she had gotten up early, she was still going to be late. It must have been all that showering and mane-dressing and perfume using. She silently cursed Rarity for giving all those goos to her in the first place. Her pointless perfume hit her muzzle like stupidity does to one who doesn’t study for a final.
Yeah, that was a bad idea.
Her hooves hit the ground running as she headed for Twilight’s castle. She was supposed to meet Applejack there so Twi could recast the Cloudwalking Spell. She bit hard on the fabric strap of the goggles in her mouth, bits of saliva dripping on the ground as she charged towards the edge of town.
Panting and nervous, Dash knocked on the enormous door of the castle. She caught her reflection in the crystal-like castle wall. Her hair was already messy, and drool was streaked across her cheek.
Twilight opened the door to see a very anxious Rainbow Dash rubbing her cheek as she stared at her reflection.
Dash stopped messing with her cheek and jumped.
“Uh, hey Twi. AJ here yet?” Beads of sweat appeared on her brow.
“Sorry Rainbow, you just missed her.” Twilight’s gaze turned to one of concern. “Are you alright?”
Dash nervously laughed and shrugged her off.
“Ha! Of course I am! I’m about to spend the day with one of my friends! What could be better?”
Suspicion threatened to question in Twilight’s eye, but she let it go.
“Alright, you two have fun then. She said to send you to the farm. She forgot something.”
Dash nodded in thanks and shot off, not wanting to risk another minute of being questioned.
As the dust from the road billowed up around her, she dropped the goggles from her mouth down onto her chest. She had the strap around her neck, and was holding it to keep it from bouncing. But she was so nervous that now it was covered in spit causing the strap to stick to her fur, which was really gross. Dash was sweating so much anyway, that it didn’t really matter. In fact, that didn’t even bother her. It was something far worse that was bothering her.
She was scared out of her mind.
Dash was a brave pony. She could easily take on any adventure, any quest that was thrown at her. She got stage fright once, but that was fixed by her amazing loyalty and awesomeness. But this was different. You couldn’t win somepony over with just awesomeness. At least, not Applejack.
As if on cue, Applejack appeared in front of her.
Throwing her hooves into the dirt, Dash tried unsuccessfully to stop. Goggles and other accessories went flying as the two mares collided, twirling and tumbling across the orchard path. Finally Applejack, who weighed substantially more that Rainbow due to having solid bones and other boring factors, pinned the pegasus to the dirt with a shove.
“Whoa there, partner!” She laughed with a cough.
Dash looked up at Applejack, her blonde hair a little messy, and her hat missing. She was a little flushed by the collision, but by the look of the smile on her warm, orange, freckled face, she seemed to be fine with the accident. No harm done.
Still, Dash laughed nervously and her face warmed at the sight of being on bottom.
“Yeah, sorry, I’m late.”
"Looks like yer on time to me,” AJ chuckled again. A bit of thrill flashed in her bright green eyes. “You excited?”
Seeing the situation from the bottom and having her mind slightly in the gutter, Dash’s face grew pale.
Applejack tilted her head in confusion at the outburst.
“Fer flyin’? Are you excited to go flyin’?” she asked again.
“Oh.” If her hooves weren’t pinned, she probably would have hit herself. “Yes, yes I’m excited.”
“Good!” AJ rolled off her friend and let her get up. “Are y’all ready to go?”
Dash dusted herself off and looked at all her belongings scattered around the place.
“Yep. After we pick this up, We’ll be ready for takeoff. I’ve ordered a lunch of hayburgers and fries for noon, and then I have dinner planned for sunset.”
Applejack picked up the goggles Dash had been holding earlier and dusted them with her tail.
“Are these fer me?” she asked curiously.
“Of course!” Dash said brightly, picking up Applejack’s stetson and putting it on while striking a pose. “You can’t go on your first flight without flight goggles!”
Applejack laughed. It gave Rainbow more confidence, and she liked that.
“Don’ Ah jus’ look butiful in this har hat?” Rainbow mocked playfully, strutting around and showing off her new accessory.
“Very cute, Dash.” AJ raised an eyebrow. “But Ah want my hat back when yer done.”
Dash was caught by the comment. Cute? She was probably just playing, or using the word casually, but… Dash paused mid-step and blushed madly. Luckily Applejack had turned around to pick up a scarf. Once Dash regained control of herself, she quickly took off the hat and hurriedly shoved it back onto Applejack’s head.
“Hey!” Applejack pushed the hat off her eyes and whirled towards her attacker.
“You said you wanted it back.” Dash said indignantly as to cover up the blush.
Applejack rolled her eyes and handed her the rest of the stuff.
“C’mon sugar cube, are we going flyin’ or what?”
Remembering the plans for the day, Rainbow smiled.
“Yep! Let’s head over to the runway!”
With that, the two started off down the path.
The ‘runway’ was a cleared bit of ground that lead straight to a drop off over by the Everfree forest. Dash had mentioned this place a couple times before, but this was the first time Applejack had actually seen it. It looked like the world just stopped right there. As they prepared for flight near the edge, she couldn’t help but feel a little nervous.
“So, goggles or no goggles?”
“You’ll probably want the goggles for the first part,” Dash advised. “Just to get you used to the wind without discomfort.
“How do you get these dern things on?”
Rainbow turned and laughed to see Applejack struggling to get the goggles onto her head with her hooves.
“Here, let me help you.”
“Alright, but be caref—ow! Hey! Stop it! Ow!” Applejack struggled as Dash tried to put them on for her.
“Hold still, silly pony!” Rainbow teased as she adjusted the strap a little. “There. How does that feel?”
“Uh… snug.” Applejack played with them a little, then looked up. “How do they look?”
The goggles enlarged Applejack’s eyes by a considerable amount, and the strap caught a bit of her blonde hair which caused it to stand straight up. Along with the goggles, she had a green scarf that matched her enlarged eyes, and her beloved stetson sitting on top. A bit of warmth fueled in Dash’s cheeks as she gazed upon her crush. She looked positively adorable.
“Like a dork,” Dash answered with a smirk. “You ready to go?”
“Maybe?” Applejack frowned a little.
“Maybe?” Rainbow echoed, surprised by her uncertainty. “Why maybe?”
“Scared?” Rainbow scoffed. “Why would you even need to be scared? You’re flying with me!”
Dash puffed out her chest proudly, as if it proved her point. But in all truth, she was scared too.
“It’s not that,” Applejack explained. “Ah’m just afraid that it won’t be as great as Ah’ve hoped it to be.”
Rainbow understood completely, as this was her same fear.
“Listen,” Rainbow leaned in, although she was talking to herself just as much as she was to Applejack. “Everything is going to be fine. And awesome. It won’t be as great as you’ve imagined. It will be even better! I promise.”
Applejack stared at her through the goggles, her giant eyes filled with faith.
“Okay. Let’s do this.”
“Alright!” Dash said excitedly, her heart still in her throat despite the short pep talk. “Hop on!”
As Rainbow Dash knelt and spread her wings, Applejack nervously climbed over and onto her back. She sat mostly on Rainbow’s back, with her front hooves wrapping securely around Rainbow’s neck and chest. Finally, she leaned forward into almost a laying position, her chest against Rainbow’s back, and her head beside and slightly above Rainbow’s.
As Applejack let out an anxious breath into Rainbow’s ear, Rainbow smiled and allowed herself to blush. Never before had she been so close to her. She could feel Applejack’s racing heart on her back, nearly echoing her own. After so long, it was time.
It was time to fly.
Rainbow Dash stood. Her muscles strained under Applejack’s weight like they did before, but this time her legs were ready. She took a steady step forward, then another, and another. Soon she was at the very edge of the drop off. A few rocks crumbled and fell off the edge, bouncing and breaking as they fell down and down.
This was the first time for Applejack to really see how far the drop was. She gulped and tightened her grip slightly around Rainbow’s neck. Rainbow smiled nervously and spoke.
“You ready, partner?”
“Ready.” There was unease in Applejack’s voice, but she seemed determined.
With this last remark, Dash took a few steps back and prepared for takeoff. Then with a short running start she jumped off the cliff, wings closed.
The two shot down at a terrifying speed, spinning and tunneling towards the spiked rocks below. Dash could hardly breathe as Applejack squeezed her tightly and shrieked all the way down, fearing for her life.
As they neared the bottom, Dash realized how bad of an idea this idea was. She had no idea if her wings could bear Applejack, let alone veer her up from a straight descent to their death. This definitely was not a very thought through or safe plan. But it was sure thrilling.
At the last possible second, Dash made a silent prayer for success and opened her wings. Her feathers caught the air and immediately turned their fall into a float. With a few strained but powerful strokes, Dash lifted them up and out of the canyon and into the sky. She did it! It would be easy riding from here on out.
Applejack let out a whoop and a cry of joy as they lifted from the ground. But Rainbow wasn’t finished yet. To celebrate her success, she had a few tricks she had been waiting to perform with a passenger on board.
No sooner had they lifted from the rocks did she begin to loop and twirl much to Applejack’s delight, who cackled and hooted with each turn and drop. Before long Dash could feel Applejack’s heart in sync with her own, as they zipped and soared through the sky.
After a significant amount of time performing tricks, Rainbow decided to take a break and go for a more gentle approach. She began to glide over Ponyville, the wind guiding her beside the clouds. Applejack sighed at the view.
Below could be seen every little detail of Ponyville, including the miniscule ponies going about their day. The fillies and colts had just started school, so only the few early shoppers were seen walking the streets in the morning sun. The boutique was just opening, the library had already opened, and the bakery never closed. Pinkie could be seen as a little pink spot rushing around and saying good morning. Fluttershy was up tending her animals as the birds came out and circled her home. Even Sweet Apple Acres could be seen in the distance, as the tiny farm ponies began another day of work. The bell tower called out the time, and the smell of another day could just be made out over the breeze. The whole experience was amazing.
“You having fun yet?” Rainbow called over the wind.
“Yes!” Applejack replied gleefully as she took in the scene.
“We’re only getting started! Hold on!”
Dash rushed over to a cloud.
“Why are we stopping?” Applejack whined as she was invited to get off onto the cloud.
“Because,” Dash explained, “I thought you wanted to help me clear the sky.”
“You won’t be needing these, though,” Dash took off Applejack’s goggles and tossed them down to a conveniently placed picnic blanket below.
“Huh,” Applejack chuckled, peering down at the blanket. “Nice shot.”
Rainbow laughed in reply. Little did Applejack know she’d been practicing this same sequence over the last month at least a thousand times. She was glad she just made the shot.
“Ok, hold still.” Dash instructed. “I’m gonna get you situated.”
“Situated?” Applejack inquired. “What do ya mean?”
“Well, I figured,” Dash explained as she began flying around and pushing clouds into position. “If you are gonna buck clouds, you are gonna buck ‘em the way you buck trees. And you buck trees in a straight line. So technically, you would need two lines of clouds and a path of clouds to walk on in the middle. Like so.”
She stepped back to admire her work. As stated, there were two rows of clouds placed above a path of clouds that ran in between the two. Applejack looked at it all with a familiar smile.
“Give a try,” Rainbow invited.
Applejack stepped forward, prepared, and threw her legs out at the cloud.
The cloud instantly dissipated on contact, but Applejack was thrown off by how easy it was. She began to wobble and then fall off the side of her cloud path. Luckily, Dash came down and caught her.
“Careful,” Dash cautioned playfully, “Clouds aren’t trees. You don’t have to kick them as hard. You need more agility and less strength for this game.”
“Game?” Applejack gave Rainbow a funny look.
“Yeah, we’re gonna have a race! First one who kicks all her clouds wins!” Dash gestured above them, where the same amount of clouds were floating, only instead of a straight line they were spread out in a random pattern.
“To make it fair,” Rainbow patted Applejack’s head with a smirk, “I made my course harder since I’m more experienced.”
“Okay,” Applejack raised an eyebrow with a competitive smile, “let’s start.”
“What?!” Dash pretended to be surprised. “No more practice hits?”
“Nah,” Applejack turned and waved at her dismissively. “Ah want to kick flank already.”
Rainbow smiled to see her game was on, and flew into position.
“You asked for it! On your mark, get set, GO!”
The next ten seconds were filled with a flourish of white clouds and zipping ponies that could break every academy record in the book. As Applejack reached the finish line, she was disappointed to see Rainbow already waiting for her.
“Not bad, for a newbie.” Rainbow remarked with a wide smile.
“Goshdernit, Rainbow!” Applejack stomped her hoof. “Why do ya gotta be so fast?”
“It’s my job.” Rainbow smiled and landed beside the disappointed loser. “Don’t worry, this next adventure is way more fun.”
“Oh?” Applejack tilted her head. “What is it?”
Dash smiled and ran over to the other end of the cloud path. She began pushing the clouds together, squishing the line shape and giving it a more blob appearance. She then muzzled herself into the cloud surface and began back-stroking.
“Cloud swimming!” She announced. “Come on in! The cloud’s great!”
Applejack stepped into the blob, sinking in down to her shoulders.
“That’s it! Now paddle!”
After a few tentative strokes, Applejack soon got the hang of it and began swimming around. The two swam and dove, splashed and played, frolicked and danced. It was incredibly fun.
“Ya know,” Rainbow smiled fondly as Applejack continued to play, “I’ve never been able to share this with anypony.”
Applejack glided over, a look of pure happiness in her eyes.
“Well,” she said, “now you can.”
Aw, she was cute. Rainbow felt ready to take it up a notch.
“Hey, you ready to go flying some more?”
“Yeah! What do you have planned this time?”
“Oh, something special.” A mischievous grin overtook her nervousness. This was going to be awesome.
Once again, two began to climb the skies, only this time higher and higher even as the air became thinner and thinner. Soon the edge between sky and space became a fuzzy fade of color, and the air was thin and cold. It was as if a sight unseen was taking all their air, causing both girls to feel breathless and cold. But even through all this, Dash found the strength to maneuver Applejack off her back until she was holding her in her arms.
“What are you doin’?” Applejack’s large, green eyes were filled with worry and anxiety.
“Do you trust me?” Rainbow asked honestly.
“Do you trust me?” She repeated the question.
Applejack gazed downnervously at the world below, then back at Rainbow.
“Yes?” She finally replied.
With the right answer, Rainbow Dash let her go.
For that a split-second, time stopped. Applejack felt as if she was free. She floated in air, with zero gravity, free of anything to keep her there. She was just being.
Then time resumed and she began plummeting to her doom.
Rainbow watched as Applejack struggled and screamed as she fell faster and faster. Her heart throbbed as she saw the fear in her eyes, and heard the desperate pleading in her cries. But then Applejack turned around, and stopped crying. And that was when Rainbow started falling. It was just like the poem.
Applejack finally saw it. She understood the beauty that Rainbow loved so dearly, almost as much as Rainbow loved her. The feeling of flight was finally hers, and now they could fly together. Sure, the ground was beautiful, but this moment between them, this connection through flight was something far greater.
Dash dove towards Applejack, a cone of resistance forming around her as she did so. Tears from the wind passing by her streamed from her eyes. Her lips flapped wildly and her teeth chattered. But all this she ignored as she prayed for Applejack to turn back around.
An indescribable sound came from above Applejack and she watched in awe as a display of color exploded with the force of a thousand trains. She had been amazed when she had been above it the first time, but below was an entirely different story. The Sonic Rainboom glimmered against the bright blue background as it galloped across the sky in all directions. A beam of rainbow came reaching down to her, almost gently as she neared the ground.
Rainbow caught her in her arms and soared upward, her hoof just barely kissing a blade of grass from the ground below. Holding her tightly and catching her hat as she flew, Rainbow turned towards the sky and arched in her signature rainbow. Even as the wind rushed past, she could hear Applejack’s cries of joy in her ear. She was immortal, unstoppable, and invincible all in one shot.
She did it.
”So, that was that day.”
“Hey! Don’t ferget the end!”
“What end? You know what happened.”
“Ah’m not sure Ah do, Rainbow.”
“You don’t want to know my end of the story.”
“Yes Ah do. Tell me!”
“Fine. Here’s what happened.”
Dash took another bite of her dinner as she ate on the cloud beside Applejack. It had been a wonderful day soaring and diving with her, and overall it had been a lot of fun. But even after so much success, the nervous feeling was back. She still had one more thing left to do.
She gazed out in front of her. They decided to place the cloud over the orchard, facing the sunset. The sweet smell of apples filled the air and mingled with the smell of their dinner. The soft sounds of crickets were quietly beginning, and the wind rustled the leaves in the trees. Some spots had already been overrun with shadow, waiting for moonlight, but the tips of the apple trees were still golden with the fading sunset.
It was beautiful, but not as beautiful as the mare beside her.
Applejack seemed to radiate off sunlight, her coat resembling that of a setting sun, with her orange fur and blonde hair. She sat forward as she ate, looking up and down the scene, taking in her home. Her eyes glistened through it all, shining like fresh blades of grass emblazoned with morning dew. Never before had these eyes held so much joy as to have it spilling out their sides in the forms of smiles and laughter. Yes, the air had been blessed today with a full rainbow of different laughs from her, ranging from giggles to whoops, chuckles to cackles, and snickers to cries.
Even now she continued to speak, her golden country accent causing the clouds to blush with joy.
“That was the most amazing thing today.”
“It sure was,” Rainbow agreed. “How was flying with me?”
“Fast.” Applejack chuckled. “You fly faster than you know ya are, Rainbow. Today was the fastest I’ve ever done anything.”
“Well, that’s how I like it.” Dash smiled widely. “Fast.”
“Yup.” Applejack sighed as she continued to stare at the amazing view.
Rainbow felt sweaty again. She knew she had to tell her, but she didn’t want to. She liked where she was. She was safe where she was. But she also wanted more. She wanted Applejack to love her back. And she couldn’t do that until she came clean.
Honesty was the best policy. Especially with Applejack.
Rainbow sucked in a deep breath and spit it out. Here went nothing.
Applejack turned her head towards her. She was smiling, the kind of smile that reached up and sat on her dimples, giving her a pleased, happy look. She was so happy. And all Rainbow wanted to do was make her even happier.
Maybe she didn’t have to tell her after all. Maybe there was a way she could just show her. Just in that moment, Dash decided to do something she’d been longing to do for a long time, something she had been waiting for the right time to do.
So as the sun set over the orchard, casting its light on the pure white cloud, Rainbow Dash did something incredibly and unimaginably stupid.
She closed her eyes, leaned forward and kissed Applejack on the lips.
Her lips were warm, and velvety, but stiff and hard. And then they were gone.
Rainbow opened her eyes just in time to see a very surprised Applejack fall off the cloud.
Alarm bells ringing, she shot off the cloud and perused Applejack, trying to catch her. But Applejack swung her hoof right at Dash’s cheek, making its mark and causing her to veer off and into a tree.
Meanwhile, Applejack hit the ground.
The cry of pain echoed through the orchard as Applejack’s hind legs snapped on impact causing her to crumble to the ground and wail. Immediately, Big Mac came running, along with Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Granny Smith. Shouts of alarm echoed from each of them, and they all came swarming around her, scared and surprised.
“Somepony call a doctor!”
“Where does it hurt?”
“Git the wagon, we need to take her to the hospital!”
They carried her away, all the while she screamed and cried.
Rainbow’s limp body stuck through one of the taller trees, forgotten and alone. Well, almost alone.
“Rainbow Dash? Is that you?” squeaked Scootaloo.
Dash looked down at the crusader, who still had her cape on from a recent adventure.
“Do you need help?” questioned Scootaloo.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she processed what had just happened.
“Yes. I need help.”
Never before had anything been so honestly true.
”There,” Dash sobbed. “Now you know. I did something super stupid, and it got you hurt.”
“Ah thought you trapped me up there so you could kiss me.” Applejack’s voice was quiet, and slightly sad.
“Celestia no!” Dash yelled through her tears. “I was just trying to show you how I felt! How I feel! I thought a kiss would be better than words!”
“What in Tarnation gave you that idea?!” Applejack spat, her flame returning from earlier that night.
“I dunno!” Rainbow squeaked. “I guess I thought the scenario would have another end if I kissed you, a better one.”
“How’d that work out for ya?” Applejack mumbled curtly.
“Aw shut up and let me finish the story!”
Applejack stared at her.
“What else is there to tell?”
“Today.” Rainbow said it almost gently.
“Ah already know about today!”
Applejack sighed, losing her fight as the desperate plea caused her to cave.
Rainbow pumped her wings against the hot afternoon air. It was a burning summer day, so it only seemed fitting the pegasi were scheduling a storm today.
She grabbed another cloud and maneuvered it to the left. They had been working all day covering the sky in a thick blanket of dense clouds. While the rest of the town was being shaded by the incoming storm, Rainbow was hot and tired of being out in the sun all day, slaving away.
She scratched her muzzle, wiping the sweat away from the bandage that stuck to it. It was hard enough to breathe in the hot weather, but the broken muzzle made it all the more difficult.
Taking another break from work, Dash let herself fall into another daydream, as she had commonly done so for the past three weeks. This time the dreadful memory took her to the waiting room of the Ponyville hospital.
Dash had limped into the building, scratches and bruises engulfing her body. A great deal of blood came from her face, swallowing her muzzle and dripping off her chin. She walked in just after the other girls had rushed in. They were all standing in a huddled group, nervously sharing concerns about the recent news.
When they saw her, the rushed over to her like a group of frightened foals, fussing over her every detail.
“Rainbow!” Twilight caught sight of her first. “What happened?”
“Oh my…” whimpered Fluttershy as she saw Rainbow’s condition.
“Why darling, you’re bleeding!” Rarity rushed forward with a tissue, and pressed it against Dash’s muzzle.
“You look AWFUL!” Pinkie cried out.
Although the presence of her friends was comforting, the questions they asked caused her stomach to churn. She stood there in her tears as Twilight called for a doctor, and was given a chance to remain silent as a nurse came out to address her muzzle. She could hardly feel it, or anything else bruised or bleeding about her body, as all that was on her mind was a pain much more distracting.
“Why are you crying?” Pinkie finally asked once Dash had been bandaged.
Dash just shook her head, unable to speak. Her voice left her far before she had arrived, and had still not returned.
“Is it about Applejack?” Twilight tilted her head.
Upon hearing her name, Rainbow began to sob once more, unable to stop the incoming mess of hiccups and tears. This surprised all of her friends, causing them all tear up at the sight of the broken mare. Whatever was wrong, they knew it was serious.
“Oh, there-there darling,” a tissue wrapped in a turquoise glow came rushing to Rarity’s aid. “Everything is going to be alright, don’t worry.”
As the girls wrapped her in a group hug, Dash knew Rarity was wrong.
The five of them stayed in the waiting room for several hours. At one point Rarity and Pinkie left and brought back midnight hayburgers and cupcakes, and a few hours later Twilight went off and came back with books. Many of them made short trips home, explaining to their families that they would be gone for the night. No pony slept, though the night wore on. Perhaps it was because they couldn’t sleep, or didn’t want to, or didn’t care. Either or any, they continued to wait.
Soon the sunrise crept across the white linoleum floor, its light bouncing around the room and jabbing into their tired eyes, causing them to squint and shift uneasily. The hospital was quiet, with the occasional sound of the squeaky wheels of a cart carrying medical supplies, or the quiet sound of a cough from the hallway. Finally, the doctor stepped into the room, causing the tired girls to quickly stand up.
“She’s doing fine,” the doctor assured before they could ask. “You may all go see her now.”
They hurried down the hall in a single-file line to room 13, a smaller room with a silent door. Twilight opened it, and peeked in nervously. Then a smile broadened on her face, and she stepped inside. Next came Rarity, who immediately began fussing over the patient, showing relief on her face. Pinkie bounced in after that, confetti popping out of her mane, eagerly smiling and ready to give a hug. Fluttershy tip toed in behind her, allowing herself to breathe once she saw everything was okay.
Last in line, Dash limped into the doorway, her gaze down. She stepped a hoof into the room, only to hear the cold voice of the patient in the bed.
Rainbow froze. She just stood there, hoof stretched forward, caught mid-step.
“What?” one of the other girls asked, Dash couldn’t tell which one.
Cautiously, she let her gaze rise, catching glimpses of the confused looks on the other faces in the room. She stopped at the eyes, green and cold, glaring from the bed. Trying not to cry, she grabbed her voice back from oblivion and spoke.
“Git out of here.” Applejack’s words ran hers over like a steamroller.
“But—” Dash tried again, this time the words dying in her throat. “I-I’m sorry—”
“Git out.” Tears began to form in Applejack’s eyes, but her stern voice didn’t waver.
“Applejack please!” Rainbow let the tears return, but she stepped further into the room. “Just let me explain—!”
Applejack lurched forward in the bed, her strung up hind legs and the grasps of their friends keeping her from falling out.
“GIT OUT OF HERE YOU GOOD-FER-NOTHIN’ PIG!” she screamed.
Rainbow leaped forward at her, swinging and sobbing.
The girls protested and cried for order, but soon the doctors came galloping in and dragging Rainbow out kicking and screaming, tears rolling down her cheeks. She was deposited on the floor of the waiting room, where she fell apart and sobbed heavily into the rug, her rainbow mane matting in the puddle of tears and tying in knots. The shrill scream repeated over and over in her head, as she hiccupped and gagged on tears, blubbering about something sorry.
Another hour passed. Dash sat upright in a chair, her cheeks dry but her eyes still red. She kept her chin lifted slightly, staring powerfully at the wall. Her breathing was calm, and in all she looked composed yet indignant.
A door down the hall opened, paused, and then closed. This was soon followed by the clicking of hooves on the linoleum. Around the corner came Twilight, Rarity, Pinkie and Fluttershy. Twilight’s eyes were red, but she walked with her head held high, only glancing in Rainbow’s direction. Rarity completely ignored her as she passed by with her eyes closed. Pinkie’s head was down, her eyes nervously glancing at Dash, but too afraid to stop. Fluttershy’s cheeks were still wet, and as she approached she began to weep and threw herself into Rainbow’s arms.
Rainbow held her, knowing that Fluttershy hated it when ponies got hurt, and when feelings got hurt too. Fluttershy blubbered about ‘mean things about you’ and ‘told me to ignore you’ and ‘when she screamed’ until finally concluding with ‘it was awful’. When she was done, she quickly apologized and stood.
“It’s okay, Flutters,” Dash assured her friend, “I’m okay.”
Fluttershy said good bye with a weak smile and left the hospital after her friends. Dash felt bad for lying, but what good had honesty done to her recently?
The next week Dash spent in the hospital, sleeping in the waiting room. Fluttershy would come visit her often, and the other girls passed her as they came in to see Applejack. She’d offered to help bring dinner to Applejack, or bring her a book, or even refill a glass of water. Each time her offer was denied; the doctors explained that it caused the patient to stress, and they wouldn’t have that.
At the end of the week, Applejack was released from the hospital. But she didn’t walk out of the doors. Applejack’s break had been so severe that even with the aid of healing magic, the bones wouldn’t be stable enough to walk on until another two weeks. Even after that, there would still be physical therapy and more time until she was allowed to work in the orchard and resume apple bucking.
So she could leave the hospital and recover at home, Applejack had been given wheels. They attached to a brace on her hip joints, which extended long, supportive metal wiring around the casts. The wheels themselves were placed just behind her hind legs, suspending the casts and her tail. All the weight went into her hips where she pressed on the brace to move. She teetered forward like a wheelbarrow, and it was hard on her back, but she could move.
When she got tired of dragging her behind everywhere, there was a hoofrest that could be unfolded and had wheels underneath. Pinkie remarked that now she could turn into a cart, and as long as she had her friends around she could go where ever she wanted.
Rainbow knew this was a lie. Applejack couldn’t go where she loved most.
Throughout the two weeks that Applejack became part cart, Rainbow lingered on the edge of Sweet Apple Acres, pacing nervously throwing salty tears onto the soil. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t regain composure. Applejack wouldn’t speak to her, or even look her way. Applejack didn’t just reject her, she hated her now.
Never before had Dash cared so deeply about somepony. Her heart throbbed in her chest as she thought how such an innocent, gentle gesture had turned out to be so wrong. She had tried to be sweet, and she ended up hurting the pony she loved the most.
Her friends had been less than supportive, confused and unable to communicate with their distraught friend. They couldn’t understand her crazy outbursts or translate her ever-flowing tears. They just stood in their doorways, pity on their faces, and sorrow in their eyes.
Finally, Applejack was released from the casts on her legs. Even though the casts were off, there was still white bandaging tape on her hind legs for support as she walked around town for the first time in weeks. Pinkie Pie had offered to throw a ‘No More Casts’ party, but Applejack had asked for the party to be postponed until she could finally work on the farm.
Applejack’s demeanor towards Dash changed once the casts were removed. Although she still refused to speak to her, Rainbow often caught her staring at her for long periods of time. It made Rainbow feel quite uncomfortable, but she had let be because frankly, she did the same thing when Applejack wasn’t looking.
Rainbow stepped back into reality. It had been about three days since Applejack had her casts taken off. That meant about three and a half weeks since the accident.
She stared at the sky. It was nearly covered in grey clouds now. Letting her eyes fall, she saw an orange mare with two bandaged legs and a stetson.
Three and half weeks, and the last thing they had said to each other were words of anger and regret. For three long weeks, she had writhed in agony with a broken heart, unable to apologize and be forgiven.
Today, that was going to change.
Giving the rest of her responsibilities to the remainder of the weather team, she floated down to the streets of Ponyville. Even though her heart was in her throat, Dash couldn’t wait another second. Just a couple of paces away from where she landed was the mare, coming home from her third day of therapy. She was carrying some groceries that she graciously picked up on the way home, and was heading there now.
Taking in a shaky breath, Rainbow called to her.
Applejack froze, as if debating whether or not to respond. She slowly put the grocery bag that was in her mouth onto the ground, but didn’t turn to face Rainbow.
“Howdy.” Her voice was steady and emotionless.
Rainbow’s heart nearly stopped at the reply. Taking in another breath and a step forward, she continued their fragile conversation.
“H-How are you?” She tried weakly.
“Fahne,” Applejack turned slightly, so a fraction of her face could be seen by Rainbow. “You?”
“Uhm…” Dash swallowed. “good.” She lied.
The two stood in silence for a moment, Dash dreading what she was about to say next. Knowing Applejack wasn’t going to just stand there forever, Dash went in for the apology.
“Look, AJ, about what happened—”
“Ah don’t want to hear it.” Applejack’s tone went cold and she turned away. Rainbow knew she was losing her again, and panicked.
“B-but, please, I just—”
“Ah don’t want to hear it Rainbow!” Applejack swiveled around to face her for the first time. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, and her teeth were clenched. She looked hurt, and upset. The whole of it was like a dagger in Dash’s chest.
“I know I hurt you!” Rainbow choked, yelling at the pain.
Applejack took a step back, surprised. It was strange, seeing Rainbow looking like this. There were tears in her eyes, eyes that hadn’t slept in weeks, and her voice was raspy and sore, and her mane was more of a wreck than usual. But most of all, she looked like she was hurting. A lot.
“I know I hurt you,” Dash repeated, “and I’m so, so sorry!”
“But why?” Applejack nearly pleaded the question. “Why did you do that?”
“Because… because I…” Rainbow felt her chest heave, and her restraint shatter. After so long, she finally had to say it. Applejack needed to know.
“Because I love you!”
Applejack’s eyes widened as she watched Rainbow collapse on the ground, her composure lost. The pegasus sobbed into the ground as the sky finally sealed, a grey shadow casting over everything.
“You… what?” Applejack
“I love you, Applejack!” Rainbow lifted her head from the dirt, her eyes red but honest. “I have for a long time. I was too afraid to say so, in fact for years I didn’t believe it myself. But it’s true. Every time I look into your green eyes, I know it is. I know I hurt you, and I am so sorry. I just want you to forgive me. Please.”
By this point the rain began to fall. It started gently but soon began to strengthen. Applejack stood there, cheeks wet, eyes wide, staring at the figure before her. Rainbow stood, looking Applejack straight in the face.
“Please.” She said again.
The rain began to pour. It soaked Rainbow’s mane and weighed down Applejack’s hat. They stood there, face to face, thunder and lightning surrounding them. Applejack’s wide eyes streamed with tears, and she backed away.
“Ah… Ah…” Her voice wavered as the storm nearly drowned it in the noise of rushing water.
Rainbow’s heart sank. It didn’t work. Telling her the truth only made it worse.
Applejack choked, then turned away.
“Ah gotta go!” she cried, running away into the storm.
The storm worsened, the streaking rain causing her retreating figure to disappear into the blurry surroundings. Like walking through a veil, she was gone.
Rainbow stood there, the rain masking the flow of tears on her cheeks, her mane sagging down in her face, her ears drooping and defeated. She had done it, she had told the truth, and she had lost the one pony she had loved the most. Standing in the rain, blind and broken, she whispered beneath the thunder the only words she could say,
Applejack stared at her hooves, listening to the patter of rain outside. She had been quiet for a while, sitting still and breathing slowly.
Tired of the silence, Rainbow spoke.
“Tell me,” she said gently, “Why’d you run away?”
“Well,” Applejack shifted and looked up, “it was a lot to take in. The idea of you likin’ me… all this time… it was hard to swallow.”
“Yeah,” Dash sighed. She never was good at subtly.
“Ah guess it was just hard to believe that our friendship was a lie.”
Dash sat up, her brow furrowed.
“It wasn’t a lie, AJ.” She said firmly. “Just because I liked you did not mean that was my only reason I was your friend. In fact, our friendship came before this. It was what started this. I didn’t realize I cared for you until I knew who you were.”
Applejack caught her gaze.
“I don’t love you for your looks, AJ,” Rainbow explained, “I love you for who you are. Your personality, your determination, even your stubbornness. Everything else doesn’t matter.”
Applejack sat up straighter, warmth in her cheeks. She smiled sweetly, the kind of smile that reached her eyes. It had been a while since Dash had seen that smile.
“Thank you, sugar cube.”
They shared the moment together, allowing the falling rain to play in the background. Dash was the first to finally speak.
“So, shall I finish the story?”
Applejack tilted her head.
“Well we kind of left off with me standing in the rain all alone…”
“Oh, right. Sure, you can tell the rest. What happened after Ah left?”
A clap of thunder bellowed in the background of the grey abyss surrounding Rainbow Dash. She stood with her head down, her eyes cast downward, her vision blurred both by rain and tears in her eyes. Her once-vibrant mane drooped in the gloomy storm, the colors dull and faded. Lightening flashed, temporarily illuminating the dreary scene in white light. Rainbow noticed a lump on the ground.
As thunder clapped again, Rainbow took a step toward the shape, unable to see anything with the storm worsening as it wore on. When the lightning struck again, Rainbow could see that the shape was the bag of groceries that Applejack had set down before Rainbow’s heartbreaking confession. From its size and amount of vegetables inside, the whole bundle must have cost over twenty bits or so. The bag had tipped and the food was now covered in mud, but with a little washing it would still be edible.
Rainbow stood over the bag, the rain running off her bandaged muzzle and onto a bushel of dirtied broccoli.
The pain in her chest made her grit her teeth. She cringed at the bitter taste in her mouth. It was the taste of rejection. Only once before had she thought to consider the harsh rejection she might face in telling Applejack her feelings. A pitiful question wandered across her mind, wondering if the outcome would have been better if she had told her that Hearts and Hooves Day so many moons ago. Dash hung her head.
After so long, and so many memories, Dash had lost the one pony she truly cared about. Surely their friendship would be ruined because of this. The idea brought so much pain to her that it swelled in her chest, causing her to throw her head back and cry out in agony.
The scream was swallowed by the sound of rain and thunder, forgotten by the world save the pony who uttered it.
Dash hung her head again, her broken mind wandering and worrying. It seemed that the other girls wouldn’t understand either, and so she would soon lose their friendships too. What was the loyal Rainbow Dash to do if there would be nopony to be loyal to? Perhaps she would run away, far from Ponyville to a place unheard of, maybe even somewhere besides Equestria. Deep down, Rainbow knew she could never do that. Her ties were too strong here.
“I never leave Ponyville hangin’!”
Her own voice echoed in her head, leaving Dash feeling more empty and worthless than before. She was stuck here, forced to suffer with this loss in a town they both lived in. It seemed that one simple act had ruined everything in a single blow.
“Bad move, Dash,” she told herself. She stared up at the sky, raindrops filling the crevices of her face.
“Whoever said that honesty was the best policy was an idiot.” She growled at the sky, letting rain roll off her chin.
She stood there, resentment and anger settling in. But it had been a long day, and both of these emotions were quite exhausting, so she abandoned them both for self-pity, which took far less energy. She hung head once more, her eyes cast downward, her heart heavy.
The bag of groceries still sat below her.
Rainbow stared at it, almost more thoughtfully than sorrowfully. As the brown paper bag sagged in the rain, Rainbow felt a prompting in her heart. The words startled her.
Go after her.
Dash blinked. She wasn’t sure if she believed it, but it seemed as if the groceries were calling for their rightful owner. Perhaps she was losing her sanity over the rejection? She shook her head to try and clear it. She then glanced back at the soggy bag only to feel it again.
Go after her.
Her troubled heart pounded inside her chest. Her ears stood at attention. She knew she heard it this time. Her eyes stared at the bag of groceries, the rain pouring over the dropped vegetables.
You love her. Don’t let her go.
The voice was her own. It was determined, and firm. It sank deep into her mind, and once it was realized, Rainbow understood.
She was right. Rainbow was loyal, which meant that she was there when her friends needed her. And right now, Applejack needed her most, even if she didn’t want her. Rainbow couldn’t just stay sorry for herself and lose this. She had to go after her.
She had to.
In a single motion, Dash scooped the food back into the bag and lifted it by the strap. Somehow, despite the paper being soaked by the rain and mud, it held, and soon Rainbow was galloping into the nothingness in the direction Applejack had gone.
However, just as Rainbow began to search for Applejack, the storm worsened. The rain around her created walls in every direction, the giant droplets slapping her face and back and chilling her to the bone. The amount of rain made it impossible to breathe, and often she choked as she brought in more water than air. Her eyes were nearly sealed shut at the droplets weighed on her eyelashes, and the wind blew her about like a rag doll. Before long, she was blind, deaf, and unable to control the direction she was heading.
Rainbow knew she was in trouble. If she didn’t find shelter soon, she could get lost out in the storm for good. For all she knew she was far out of town in the middle of nowhere, and once she finally collapsed nopony would ever find her. Her legs were already begging for a rest, but she continued to press on despite them, her burning determination barely keeping her warm.
Just as Dash was about to give up, a barrier came out of the murky mess. Unable to stop herself, she slammed face first into it. Dash cursed loudly, cradling her already damaged muzzle. She then took a look at what she had bumped into.
It was a barn door.
Relieved to find some shelter, Rainbow quickly grabbed the handle with a hoof and yanked. It budged slightly, a warm glow of light seeping out of the opening. Encouraged, she pulled harder. To her dismay, the door did not move any further.
Dash peered into the opening with frustration. She saw a lit oil lamp, and an old blanket hanging up on the far side of the room. It was warm and dry inside. As she was soaked and freezing she began to frantically yank at the door.
“C’mon you stupid door! Open already!”
She yanked a final time and placed her head against the door, beaten. She had come so close, and now she was going to freeze to death outside a barn door. How pathetic. She allowed herself to cry a little. As the tears trickled off her soaked chin, she heard a familiar voice from inside the barn.
“If you think Ah am lettin’ you in, yer wrong!”
Rainbow’s heart skipped a beat. She forgot her numb hooves, and the fact that her muzzle was throbbing. She forgot the rain, and the cold, and the groceries. She stared desperately through the opening, eyes searching for her friend. An orange hoof blocked her sight.
“Applejack,” she pleaded. “I need to talk to you.”
“Ah feel you’ve said enough already!” Applejack’s voice quivered from inside the barn.
“Listen,” Rainbow tried to stay calm, but her emotions were overwhelming her. “I just—”
“No, you listen to me!” shouted Applejack.
Rainbow jerked away at the door, frightened by the sudden outburst.
“How do you think I feel?!” Applejack shouted again.
“How do you think I feel knowing my best friend has loved me all these years?!” Applejack’s voice was shaking with rage. Sobs could be heard from outside the door. She was very upset.
“I’m sorry, I—”
“How do you think I felt after my best friend KISSED ME?! What in Celestia’s sake was that back there?!”
“No! You listen here, Ah’m confused and upset and the last thing I want is to talk to you! I just want to be ALONE.”
Rainbow stared at the door, eyes wide. She could here Applejack’s sobbing clearly through the barn door.
What had she done?
Rainbow's resolve shattered. What was she doing? She was making it worse. Applejack hated her, she didn't need Rainbow, and she definitely didn't want to see her ever again.
She should've went home. She should've gotten out of the storm when she had the chance. She turned to the rain around her, the thunder growling above her.
No. Getting lost out in a storm would be the perfect way to die.
Crushed, Dash hung her head. She turned and began to walk away. She thought about saying goodbye, but decided against it. Applejack was right, she has said enough already. She walked away from the barn, unable to see a thing but not caring. She had nothing left to live for anyway.
Light crawled up from behind her and touched her hooves.
She turned, to see Applejack in the open doorway. Her eyes were wide and wet, and her whole countenance seemed unsure and worried. Interpreting this gesture as a farewell, Rainbow continued to walk into the storm.
She only got a few more steps before Applejack spoke.
Rainbow turned, ears drooping, tears mixing with rain. What did she want now?
“Come in,” Applejack whispered softly.
Rainbow stayed where she was, unsure of whether to listen or ignore.
“Come in.” Applejack said it more firm this time. “Ah don’t want you out in this storm.”
Rainbow moved ever so slowly, but she turned towards the barn. Her steps were heavy and worried. She leaned down and picked up the grocery bag, and brought it inside. Applejack ushered her in, although she kept her distance.
“There.” Applejack huffed as shut the door.
“Thanks.” Rainbow looked up through her soggy forelock and sat down on the hay.
“As upset as Ah am,” Applejack turned towards Rainbow and bit her lip. “Ah’m not about to let you freeze to death. You can use the blanket right there.”
She gestured to the one hanging on the far side of the room. Rainbow sluggishly grabbed it and wrapped it around herself. Now that she was in warmth, the shivering really stared to kick in. She sat on the hay-covered ground with her teeth chattering uncontrollably as Applejack stared at her.
Her green eyes were confused, regretful, yet curious. It was an interesting mix of emotions, but it was an interesting time. Rainbow pulled the blanket around her tighter.
“T-this doesn’t mean Ah want to speak to you.” Applejack suddenly blurted out nervously. “Ah’m going up in the hayloft, and you better leave me be or you’re out in that storm again.”
Applejack shuffled nervously, unsure if whether she should leave or say something more. Finally she decided leaving would be best and climbed into the hayloft above.
Rainbow sat in the barn, slowly regaining control of the shivering. She could hear the boards above her creak, and the sound of a depressed sigh from above. She stared at the ceiling, her heart pounding.
You love her. Don’t let her go.
Rainbow’s mind raced. She was sitting in a barn, with the love of her life who was refusing to talk to her. A little hope began to swell in Rainbow's chest. She just needed to tell her everything.
But how was she supposed to get Applejack to listen when she was upset and confused? Rainbow looked down at the straw, shivering and searching for an answer. Her eyes traveled to the barn walls, with their beams to help keep the barn standing. They reminded Dash of a cage.
Rainbow sat perfectly still. She had an idea. An outrageous, ridiculous, horrible idea. But it might work.
Beginning to sweat, she sat up and coughed. She heard a short intake of breath from above.
Here went absolutely nothing.
“Roses are red,” Rainbow began, “Violets are blue…”
She choked. This was terrible. But she couldn’t just stop, so she continued.
“I know that it’s weird, but I love you.”
The silence afterward was deafening. Yet, somehow Rainbow knew somepony was listening.
“You see, I fell,” Rainbow carried on bravely, “Yet it was you who was broken. You took it as a threat, but it was supposed to be a token.”
Feeling maybe she could rhyme after all, Rainbow gained confidence and sped up.
“I wanted you to accept me, I thought a kiss would work But instead you were scared, and now I look like a jerk. I just wanted to be honest, I wanted to be true However all I did was really hurt you. I never wanted to do that, it tore me apart! Since we were young, you were close to my heart. Your freckles, your smile, those big green eyes The first time I felt it, it took me by surprise! I fell but I decided to keep it a secret, I had your friendship, and I wanted to keep it. That was dumb, yes I know, now you’re hurt and you’re scared. But please don’t forget all the times that we’ve shared. Yeah, I gave you a kiss on a cloud in the sky Who knew that it would be a kiss goodbye? But, roses are red, violets are blue, And no matter what happens, I’ll still love you.”
As Rainbow concluded the poem, the barn feel completely silent. The only sound to be heard was the rain outside. Not even the breathing of the two mares could be made out in the long silence.
Rainbow fidgeted, worried she had botched it.
The boards above her creaked, and Applejack’s head appeared at the top of a ladder leading to the hay loft. Silently, she gestured to Rainbow to come up.
Rainbow Dash grabbed the blanket around her in her teeth, took a deep breath, and climbed the ladder.
The two mares sat in silence. The battering rain caused the hay loft roof to creak, and the wind howled with defeat, unable to penetrate the warmth. The single oil lamp in the middle of the room cast long shadows on the walls. The silence was so thick it felt like butter on a brisk winter morning. Finally, Applejack spoke.
“The end?” She asked. The words were rubbery and uncomfortable to say.
“I… I guess it is,” Rainbow seemed to be having the same problem. “Well, that’s the story up to now, anyway.”
The barn had warmed up quite a bit since the two had begun their lengthy storytelling. Applejack took off her hat to wipe away some sweat, and Rainbow let out a low whistle of exhaustion.
“Whew, it’s kinda stuffy in here,” she said.
After such a long time of just talking and listening, the silence became increasingly awkward for the two. Finally, Dash couldn’t take it anymore.
“So, should we get some fresh air, maybe?”
“Not a bad idea, Sugarcube.”
Slowly, the two girls descended from the hayloft. With some effort, the barn door opened. Immediately, cold air slapped against their hot cheeks and the sound of rain flooded their ears. Rainbow sighed with relief, and Applejack took her hat off once more to let the air touch the top of her head.
Rainbow took the time to take a look at the farm mare beside her. With her eyes closed as she cooled off, Applejack was slowly breathing in the stormy air, with just a hint of a smile on her lips. Finally Applejack’s eyes opened, and Rainbow looked away.
“What?” Applejack had noticed Rainbow’s downward gaze, and was concerned.
Rainbow took a deep breath in. There had been a lot of talking that night, but they had still not addressed what should have been discussed for three long weeks.
“Applejack,” she said cautiously, “are you still mad at me?”
Applejack looked out into the storm, thinking.
“Mad?” she repeated. “Ah was only mad in the hospital, and with those casts on. No, Ah’m not mad anymore. Ah’ve been confused, and upset, but now…”
She paused as she searched for the right thing to say, as if it were hiding somewhere in the rain outside.
“Ah don’t think Ah’m upset or confused anymore. Ah guess now Ah’m just curious.”
Applejack turned to look at Rainbow in the eye.
“Yeah, Ah guess Ah just have a lot of questions.”
Rainbow sat down and smiled. Questions she could handle.
“Ask away,” she said confidently.
Applejack sat also, so they both were sitting on the dry edge of the barn with a waterfall of rainwater inches from their hooves.
“Alright,” Applejack took in a deep breath.
Rainbow sat up straighter, preparing to answer. She knew that she had to be honest, and she was ready.
“Why do you still have that bandage one yer nose?”
It took Dash off guard, and she tilted her head in confusion. Applejack explained herself.
“It’s been three weeks and Ah’ve been through casts and therapy, and yer still wearing that darn thing on yer muzzle.”
“I guess I just never took it off,” Rainbow laughed, then regained her composure. “It was a reminder to me of what I did, and the guilt made me keep it.”
“You have really been working yerself up over this whole thing, haven’t ya Sugarcube?”
Rainbow’s cheeks reddened as she let her gaze fall.
“Yeah, the thought of you hating me was really awful.”
Applejack placed a hoof on Dash’s shoulder. Dash looked up.
“Ah don’t hate you, Rainbow. Ah was just… confused.”
“Yeah, I know that now.” Rainbow smirked and placed her own hoof on the one on her shoulder.
They sat there for a moment, their eyes locking, embracing the moment of finally being friends again. After a bit of listening to the rain, Applejack spoke.
“So, could I take the bandage off now?”
“I could do it myself,” Rainbow half-protested.
“Ah want to do it,” Applejack assured her. “Ah can see it.”
Rainbow nodded and held still as Applejack gingerly removed the bandage. Underneath, the fur was flattened and stiff, the muzzle showing it had healed long ago. Applejack sat back, inspecting her work.
“There you are, Rainbow.” She smirked, happy to see her friend’s face without the distraction of the bandage.
Rainbow tried not to blush, but it was hard with Applejack staring at her.
“So, uh, anymore questions?”
Applejack looked away and turned towards the inside of the barn so that the light illuminated her face.
“A lot of the questions are just to mahself. Ah can’t really think of another one—”
Applejack seemed so sad as she began to speak that Dash stopped her.
“Can I ask a question?” Rainbow quickly interrupted, unable to stand seeing her friend sad again.
Rainbow looked at Applejack, realizing she hadn’t prepared a question to ask. Her eyes darted about, landing on Applejack’s bandaged legs.
“Do… do your bandages come off?”
Applejack looked down at her legs, then back up at Rainbow.
“Yes,” she said slowly, “why?”
Rainbow really felt terrible about the whole thing, and it had been something she had wanted to see since the accident.
“I…” Rainbow stammered as she searched for her words. “I just want to see the damage.”
Applejack stared at Rainbow. Her green eyes searched Rainbow’s for sincerity, and found it.
“Okay.” She extended her right leg towards Rainbow.
Rainbow raised her eyebrows.
“You want me to take it off?” Her voice squeaked as she said it.
“Ah took yours off, go ahead.”
Tentatively, Dash grabbed the edge of the bandage in between her two hooves and pulled on it. Very slowly, she went around Applejack’s hind leg and unraveled the bandage, occasionally looking up to Applejack to make sure she wasn’t being too rough. Applejack closed her eyes, letting the bandages be removed.
Rainbow finished the first leg and worked on the second, using the same carefulness. She was extremely nervous, and even though the cool air from outside was surrounding her, beads of sweat formed on her brow. Finally, both bandages were laying on the straw ground of the barn.
Applejack’s hind legs looked puffy and angry. The fur was pointing in all sorts of angles, and the muscles were suffering from atrophy. They were a little swollen, and as Applejack stood, she winced. The cold air was particularly unkind to them, and it was less than comfortable.
Rainbow’s heart pained as she saw the consequence of her simple action. Tears formed in her eyes.
“I… I am so sorry!” She choked.
Applejack stepped forward and caught her tears.
“Ah told you it’s fahne now, Rainbow. I forgive ya.”
Rainbow shivered as she squeezed her eyes shut and leaned into Applejack.
“It looks like it hurts!” She cried.
Applejack patted her back reassuringly.
“It doesn’t, it doesn’t. Ah’m okay.”
They stayed that way for a while, until Rainbow had settled a bit. She sat up, and wiped her eyes. Applejack did the same.
“How about we don’t cry anymore today?” Applejack suggested with a smile.
“Deal.” Rainbow smirked back.
The rain filled the silence that followed as Applejack began to put the bandages back on her legs.
Rainbow watched her. Applejack had changed since she had told her that she was in love. Her eyes were always darting around, and Rainbow could tell she was thinking. She continued to shift in her position, even though she needed to sit still to put the bandages on straight. Rainbow recognized what was different.
Applejack was restless. It was time for something else.
“Can those bandages get wet?” Rainbow asked as Applejack finished on the second leg.
“Yes?” Applejack tilted her head. “Why?”
“I was wondering,” Rainbow poked her hoof into the straw beneath her, “if you wanted to go storm flying.”
Applejack sat still. Her eyes stopped shifting. Rainbow could see her realizing the invitation for what it really was. More than a friendly adventure into the rain, it was something far greater.
Rainbow stood and extended her wings, tempting Applejack with the shifting of her shoulders. Applejack looked up into the sky, the rain drops shooting towards her. She considered the invitation, her conscience battling behind her eyes.
Applejack stood and stretched her legs, shifting her weight slowly. Rainbow caught her gaze, and locked eye contact. Applejack looked inside those determined magenta irises. She stared for a moment, smiled, and put her trust into her words.
Rainbow’s wings shot out and Applejack climbed on. They stepped out from under their safe roof, not even bothering to close the door. Rainbow looked up, squinting at the dark sky.
Rain attacked her eyes, making sight impossible. Without a word, Applejack removed her stetson and placed it on Dash’s head. With enough protection from the rain to be able to see, Rainbow took off.
As Rainbow’s wings pumped against the pouring rain, the billowing wind attacked from the side, attempting to push the two girls off course. Applejack squeezed Rainbow tighter as they tipped, pressing her face into the rainbow mane in front of her.
Rainbow took this gesture as encouragement, and pressed against the wind, putting all her effort into getting higher. The cloud layer above was just in reach.
Lightning flashed behind them and illuminated the path ahead. They were almost there.
Rainbow’s wings strained against the storm. She hadn’t flown Applejack in so long, and her energy was dwindling. The clouds above suddenly seemed so far away.
Applejack felt them going down. Blinded by rain, she reached forward and ran her hoof down Rainbow’s neck, trying to show encouragement. She put all her energy into the brush, trying to transfer it to Dash. Dash couldn’t do this on her own.
Rainbow felt a warm, firm hoof on her neck and chest, and her cheeks burned. A smile split her lips and even though her teeth were clenched she was happy. Newfound strength entered her wings as they pumped against gravity and the rain. She threw her head forward, her forelock brushing the black clouds above her.
Applejack leaned forward and held on tight.
They burst through the cloud layer, their manes soaked and smiles on their faces. Rainbow held onto the hat on her head and twirled in the sky gleefully at their victory.
Together, they did it.
Applejack let out a whoop as they looped in the moonlight. The remaining raindrops flew off her mane, and the two of them dried off in the warm night air. Rainbow laughed and Applejack opened her eyes to finally see.
Above the cloud layer was a beautiful world of moonlight and thunder. A few light grey clouds floated about, and a dark carpet of storm clouds purred below. The moon was big and bright, the moonlight pouring about so heavily they could almost taste it. Everything was silvery and smooth, gentle and warm.
After a bit of looping and shouting, Rainbow landed on one of the light grey clouds and let Applejack take it all in. They breathed in the moonlight, gasping for more with each inhale.
Once Rainbow finally caught her breath, she turned to the mare beside her.
Applejack’s mane was wild from the flight and her eyes were wide with wonder. Never before had she seen anything like this. It surrounded her in beauty and caused her freckles to twinkle like stars and her mouth to break into a smile. She was so happy.
Rainbow, caught in the moment, took a chance.
Applejack felt a soft warmth around her shoulder. Feathers, now dry and gentle, wrapped her in a small blanket. She looked up to see Dash’s wing around her, and those magenta eyes waiting for her. A small tingling sensation stirred inside her as their eyes met.
Those big, beautiful, sparkling eyes.
Around those eyes were the familiarities of her close friend Rainbow Dash. Her mane was messy, the multiple colors mixing and mingling on her forehead. She still sported Applejack’s hat, which was now tilted at a cute little angle.
So many questions floated around in Applejack’s mind. One particular question surfaced, and poked her in the heart.
Do I love her?
Applejack’s quickening heart skipped a beat as Rainbow smiled.
“That was fun, huh?” Rainbow asked.
Applejack’s tongue was suddenly dry.
“Y-yeah, it was.” She choked.
Rainbow’s brows furrowed, and the wing around Applejack tensed.
“Is… is this too much?”
The wing began to shrink away.
“No!” Applejack made Rainbow jump, and the wing quickly went back to around her. “Uh, Ah mean, no. It’s fahne.” Her cheeks burned.
Rainbow’s eyes searched Applejack’s, and then returned to the sight around her.
“I love to fly,” she sighed as she gazed on the storm below them. “Once I started, I couldn’t get enough of it. It never gets old.”
Applejack followed her gaze out into the sky.
“Ah love to fly too.” She said.
Rainbow stopped, and turned to Applejack.
“You do?” She asked. “I mean, you still do? Even after—”
Applejack cut her off. “Yes.”
Rainbow chewed on her lower lip as this began to sink in. Applejack felt that tingling sensation again.
“Listen,” Applejack shifted on the cloud so she could look Rainbow in the eye. “I want to say thank you.”
Rainbow looked very surprised.
“Thank you? For what?”
Applejack took in a deep breath.
“Thank you for telling me the truth. Ah see now that it was very hard fer you to be honest. You struggled with being honest with yourself, with others, and with me. But after some mistakes, you decided to tell the truth. And above all the things that have happened in the past little while, that is the most wonderful thing you could have done. Thank you.”
Rainbow stared at her, speechless.
Applejack looked into those eyes. She thought about all that had happened, and all that she had heard. Rainbow loved her. It was strange, but it didn’t upset her anymore. No one had ever loved her like Rainbow did. No one was as dependable as Rainbow was. No one had told the truth like Rainbow had done.
A thought popped into Applejack’s mind. Her cheeks burned and her heart began to race. Maybe it was true, maybe she really was. She stared into Rainbow’s eyes, searching for answers. She was replied with a warmth in her chest.
“Rainbow…” Applejack choked. “Do you really love me?”
Rainbow blinked, and looked deeper into her green eyes.
“Yeah, I really do.”
“Well, Ah…” Applejack stammered, her nervousness tripping her tongue as she tried to choose her words carefully. “Ah…”
Rainbow lowered her head and frowned. Rainbow knew Applejack didn’t return her affection. She couldn’t. Taking a deep, calm breath, she prepared to break her own heart.
“But if that bothers you I can—”
“Rainbow, Ah think Ah love you too.” It came out so fast Applejack couldn’t stop it.
“Ah don’t know fer sure, but…” Applejack’s cheeks reddened and she couldn’t breathe. “This,” she leaned on the wing around her, “this feels right.”
Rainbow’s face burned with blush. She couldn’t believe this was happening.
“Are you saying…”
“Ah’m saying that Ah think…”
Applejack choked and started over. She didn’t think, she knew.
“Ah want to give you a chance.”
Rainbow’s heart skipped a beat. This wasn’t real.
“W-why?” She stammered.
Applejack thought for a moment.
“Because you’re my best friend, you love me more than anypony else, and you’re honest about it. What else could Ah have ever asked for that would be better than that?”
They sat there in the gentle breeze and the moonlight. Rainbow had turned to Applejack so that they were face-to-face. She searched Applejack’s eyes. They were honest eyes, telling a truth she had so longed to hear. It filled Rainbow with joy, but yet there was still a pain in her heart. Something was missing.
“I have a question,” Rainbow’s voice lowered and she barely smiled.
“Ask away,” Applejack smiled, her heart beating rapidly.
“Can I…” The words died in her mouth and she started over. “May I…”
Dash tried to say it, but it was too much. She wanted a do-over, and a second chance. But it was too painful of a memory to ask if she could try again.
Applejack set her hoof on Dash’s shoulder. Dash turned, her eyes meeting Applejack’s. She understood.
Applejack stared into Dash’s magenta eyes. She remembered what Dash had said earlier that night. The tingling sensation returned, this time stronger.
It was time to fall into those eyes.
“Sure, Sugarcube.” Applejack whispered.
Rainbow leaned forward, holding Applejack securely in her wing. Applejack met her halfway, and together they fell into the kiss.
Rainbow’s heart exploded as Applejack pressed into her and ran her hoof down Rainbow’s mane. Applejack was warm and sweet, firm but soft. The tingling sensation, after being asleep with grief, flew about her, running down her hooves and wing tips and burning in her ears. The lips against hers were velvety and smooth. Something inside her, that had been hurting for a long time, healed.
Their breath mingled in the moonlight as Rainbow laid down on the cloud, the stetson on her head pushing her mane up into her eyes. She let out a small sound, caught between a whimper and a sigh, and Applejack replied with a gentle moan. Wrapping her in her wings, Rainbow held Applejack close.
Many would think that Applejack tasted like apples. This simply wasn’t true. She tasted like never being alone again.
As they came up for air, all the worry, regret, confusion, and grief melted away. They gasped in the night air, smiling brightly at each other.
“That. Was. Awesome.” Dash breathed.
“More awesome than flying?” Applejack smirked, the taste of Dash still on her lips.
Dash chuckled, causing Applejack above her to bounce.
“You tell me,” her magenta eyes glimmered in the moonlight.
“Yes,” Applejack whispered, leaning in so Dash could hear.
“Are you glad you gave me a chance?”
“Are you glad you told the truth?” Applejack shot back.
Rainbow laughed again.
“AJ, you are adorable.”
“And you are a dork.” Applejack chuckled.
“I’m not a dork!” Rainbow protested. “I’m awesome!”
“Fahne,” Applejack rolled her eyes and smiled. “Yer an awesome dork.”
She then closed the space between them once more. Rainbow let out a little gasp, and then their lips met again. The kiss was warm and fantastic, and Rainbow said so with a sigh.
Applejack pressed into her partner, no longer confused or upset. She knew exactly where she belonged, and it was right here. In this kiss in the moonlight she promised she would never leave Rainbow.