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Confessions and Considerations

A light blue blur with colorful streaks flowing out from behind it fell from the sky. The speed of the fall appeared to be too fast for what was safe, and the form was speeding towards the ground at an alarming rate. Staring at the blurred, falling form, a certain earth pony couldn't help but feel a twinge of pure terror. Even as she watched the rainbow-colored comet streak towards the ground a ways in front of her she could see what was to happen. She knew full well in her heart what was bound to happen, she would be too late, she could never reach that spot in time. She couldn't help but feel the jerk in her stomach as she watched her friend plummet towards the ground in front of her. Time had seemed to slow down, her hooves hit the surface beneath her, propelling her towards the spot where the blur seemed to be about to hit. The blur fell ever closer and closer towards that spot, and her heart was in her throat when she saw contact was made. She had fully expected the sound the hit was going to make, but it still caught her off guard, still startled her, and still made her wince all the same.

In a matter of but split seconds, she covered the last few feet between her and the blue form, lying still on the ground, unmoving, and even though she knew she was expecting this, the contents of Applejack's stomach still passed dangerously close to her throat. The light orange mare stood, unmoving, over the still form of Rainbow Dash, her best friend, lying at her feet. The rainbow-maned Pegasus was splayed out in the most pitiful form possible. Applejack felt a long, slow drip of salty tear fall down her face. Then another, and another. She sniffed to keep back her tears, she had to be strong now, especially now. 'Why am ah cryin'?' she asked herself. She sniffed to hold back the steady flow of tears as she took an appropriate time to glance over the fallen body of her best friend. She began to sputter, and senseless sounds began to form a single word that drifted quietly, sorrowfully from her lips. "Why?"

She turned her head up, and gazed with complete sadness in her eyes at the splendor of Luna's full moon. The moon stared back at her, its cool, white light illuminating the scene in a such a somber way. Applejack drank in the soft light of Luna's moon, and let the realization and emotion wash over her. Staring at the moon, she filled her voice with all the terror, fear, sadness, and regret she could ever possibly hope to muster, and yelled up into the night sky. "WHY? WHY?!" The overwhelming flood of emotion released, Applejack allowed her eyes to open up, a torrent of tears escaping over her face and falling down to the ground beside the body of Rainbow Dash. Applejack allowed the natural sobs to rake through her body as she stared back down at the face of the mare. She stared with profound intensity and real sadness at the closed eyes of her best friend. All the sounds of the night faded out. She could hear nothing. All other sights faded from her vision as well as she gazed at those blue eyelids. She could see nothing else.

Her tunnel vision lasted for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably only a few seconds. Then, slowly, carefully, one eyelid began to lift, and the magenta iris of Rainbow Dash looked back up at her. A sparkle of mirth and life was alive and well within that eye, and in a flash, almost as if Applejack hadn't seen it at all, the blue eyelid flipped closed over the eye and open again before being carefully lowered back into place again. She couldn't help but smile a little from the wink.

The first sound to vibrate the thin membrane of Applejack's eardrum since her own shrill cry was a deafening roar. Filling the field adjacent to where Applejack and Rainbow Dash were there were dozens, maybe even hundreds of ponies, and all were stomping their front hooves to the ground vigorously. Applejack let the sound wash over her for a moment before the fall of a heavy curtain muffled the noise. Almost immediately, the rainbow Pegasus before her leapt back up into the air, back up into her element, and let out a whoop.

"That was AWESOME! Applejack!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed with delight "Did you see me? I was amazing! I couldn't have pulled off that controlled fall better than I did, and that crash at the end was spectacular. I bet that, plus Twilight's awesome magic sound effects, made everypony out there think I actually hit the stage!"

"Heh, yeah," Applejack started to reply, "It sure was, uh, somethin' mighty special, Rainbow."

"You were great too!" Rainbow continued on, excitedly, "I mean, you should have seen your face when I lying there, and your voice too. If I didn't know that this whole thing was scripted, I would say that you were actually terrified for me. You sounded that sincere an realistic! You're pretty great at acting!"

"Ya think so?" Applejack asked back, not generally accustomed to this kind of praise from the usually rather headstrong and self-absorbed pegasus mare. 'But I wasn't really acting, was I?' She asked herself. 'Sure I was following Pinkie's script, but there was real emotion there, I could never be that convincing if I was faking it.' She continued to think, not really listening to Rainbow continue to exclaim how awesome the performance had been. "Well, ah'm just glad I was able to help Pinkie Pie's little project." She finally said, noticing Dash had paused for a moment.

"Come on, everypony, let's go out and take a bow!" The voice of that certain overexcited pink mare reverberated through the backstage area. Behind her stood Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, and Fluttershy, all with a grin on their faces. The six friends gathered up and stepped out of the curtain to stand on the front of the makeshift stage set up behind Cupcake Corner. The continued applause of many, many, other ponies assaulted their ears and they all basked in the glow of the cheering crowd. Fluttershy seemed to fade back a bit at this confrontation, but Rarity and Rainbow Dash drank up the adoration, smiling their happy, cocky smiles at the crowd. Applejack just stood and smiled her honest smile, waiting for Pinkie to lead them backstage again.

"Thank you guys oh so much for making my play a super success!" Pinkie jabbered as she bounced around back behind the curtain. "I was so worried because I had never written one before and I thought it wouldn't go well but I wanted something extra-special for this party that I threw tonight so when I was thinking of a special thing I could do that I had never done at a party before I thought 'Hey!' I should write a play and have an extra special performance to go with the party so everypony in town could have fun watching my play and eating cake and playing party games all in the same night!" She paused for a breath before rushing on again. "But then I thought, well, I never did write a play or anything major like that before, so I got Mr. and Mrs. Cake to help me and they were just so nice and Mrs. Cake seemed to have so many good ideas and I finished writing a whole big story but then I wondered who would play all these parts if I had to perform them because even though I would have loved to play all the parts in my play I just couldn't possibly do that and Gummy can't really play them because he can't talk anyway so I asked you guys and you guys were so good!"

Pinkie Pie's constant, high-speed, run-on rambling almost always made Applejack's brain hurt trying to follow along. So she was glad when she heard Twilight pipe up and say: "That's great, Pinkie Pie, why don't we head home now though, I mean, your parties done, and I know I'm tired. I'm sure we could all go to sleep, it is pretty late."

"OK, Twi'! Thank all you guys ever so much for helping make this whole night extra super special!" Pinkie bounced off the stage and into the crowd, which was only just beginning to disperse. Applejack and the others came down off the stage too, and began pushing their way through a crowd of friendly ponies as they tried to make their way to the road. Fluttershy, not really comfortable with being surrounded by so many other ponies, took off and shyly floated above the crowd towards her cottage house. Applejack looked over to Rainbow Dash, expecting her to do the same, but saw that the headstrong mare was still drinking in the praise everypony seemed so willing to give.

"You were all so great!"

"Who knew we had such acting talent right here in Ponyville!"

"That final scene was especially good; I was really scared for a moment there!"

"Yes, especially your part, Darling." This was Rarity, Applejack realized, addressing her. "You certainly did act like a mare that had so tragically lost her love, your compassion and emotion was beautiful to watch!"

"Yeah, I agree," came a voice from the crowd, "you two played the romantic leads very well, especially for two fillies." Applejack turned to see who was talking, and saw a brown stallion she didn't quite recognize walking beside Rainbow Dash and looking between her and Dash. Dash herself was suddenly blushing and didn't seem as outgoing as she had before, she tried to hang her head to hide the blush, but it didn't seem to be working. Looking up, Dash locked eyes with Applejack, and Applejack felt her own cheeks going hot with the redness of a rush of blood she knew was making her blush as well. She quickly looked down to avoid further embarrassment, and finally found herself out on the road to Sweet Apple Acres.

"Hiya, Applejack." Applejack looked up to see Rainbow Dash, now floating lazily in the sky next to her. The rest of the crowd had gone their respective ways, leaving Applejack alone with Rainbow. Applejack felt a twinge of nervousness looking at the blue pegasus next to her, but she didn't know why. "I just wanted to tell you that… um…" Rainbow Dash stopped, seeming to be searching for words.

Applejack shook herself to get out of her reverie. "Well for Celestia's sake, Sugarcube, just spit it out!" She said, a little more harsh than she had intended, upon saying this, she detected the slightest droop in the demeanor of Rainbow Dash, a little frown, barely perceptible before the Pegasus' face lit up again, albeit a bit forced this time.

"I just wanted to say nice job acting today. I thought it would be weird playing a romantic lead with you, but it turned out awesome!" Rainbow said a little too quickly. Then, without warning, she did a double-flip in the air and rocketed off towards her cloud home in the sky.

"YEAH, GREAT JOB…" Applejack began to shout, but then quieted when she realized the pegasus probably couldn't hear her, "…acting." She finished in a strangely small voice.


On the long lonely hike back home along country roads and through the extensive orchard, Applejack had a lot of time to think for herself. "It was just actin' wasn't it?' She thought, 'But, but why did it feel so real?' When she had been performing alongside Rainbow Dash all night, she had had fun, real fun, it had been fun to play the role of two lovers with her. But nothing had been more real, nothing had felt as heart-wrenchingly close to reality as the final scene. Rainbow's big "death" scene. As she had watched that filly fall, she had felt real fear, she had felt real emotion, not just the acting everyone thought she had shown. He tears had been real tears, she knew that was true. Her honest nature would not have let her cry real ones. She had cried to the moon with every ounce of real emotion she had felt in her body at the time. 'No, that wasn't acting.' She thought. 'Then what was it?' She couldn't answer that question. She felt too conflicted.

The soft white light of Luna's moon and stars still shimmered down at her as she trudged past row after row of ripe apple trees. "Ah'll have to do some buckin' tomorrah," she said out loud, absent-mindedly to herself. She looked back up at Luna's moon. It seemed the same as before, big, full, even, and shimmering in the soft white light that so gently lighted her path home. The sight of the moon brought back the emotion she had felt at that final scene, and she felt a tear begin to well up in her eye. She shook it away. 'Why an ah cryin'? I shouldn't be cryin', it was just a play it wasn't even real!' she thought again. But it had felt real, it had felt so real. Applejack admitted to herself that she had felt terror when she saw Dash falling, even though they had rehearsed that scene and she knew full well beforehand what to expect. She had still felt terror, fear, and sadness. 'Why? Could it be ah have… feelings… for… Rainbow Dash? Maybe I lo… lo… like her?' the questions her thoughts began to pose suddenly made a switch flip in her mind. She knew that answer. Almost as soon as she realized she knew that answer though, she shook the thought away. 'That's silly, we're both mares! How could I lo… No. She's just mah best friend. We have so much in common, and we've been friends for years, seeing her falling like that, even if it was fake, must have just triggered some friendship reflex in me or sumthin'.'Even as Applejack began to tell herself that, she could feel, in the deep, unshakable bottom of her heart, that that wasn't true at all.


It was very late when Applejack finally pushed her way through the front doorway of her country home. She noticed the sweet, homely smell of baked apples hit her nose first. She sighed, she was home late, but if home-cooking still smelled that strong in the house, she knew Granny Smith was awake as well. She walked into the kitchen, and immediately saw Granny Smith sitting on a chair by the table, a fresh-baked apple pie out on the tablecloth.

"You're home late." Granny Smith spoke in her sweet old mare's voice. Then Applejack visibly saw something register in Granny's eyes. "Sit down child, you look like you have a lot on your mind. I think you need someone to talk to."

Applejack reluctantly sat down. She knew Granny Smith could see there was something troubling her, and there was no point in bluffing to try and get around it. She was a terrible liar anyway. "Granny, I just got back from Pinkie's party, and we performed a play at the end…" Applejack's voice trailed off, unsure what to say next.

"So I heard, so sorry I couldn't be there. I find it so hard to get out of the house these days."

"Granny, you really shouldn't be up this late, why don't you go get your rest?"

"Don't try to change the subject, somethin's troublin' my granddaughter, and I intend to find out what."

Applejack sighed in reluctance. She knew she couldn't get out of this now. "Well, ah think I've fallen in… developed feelings for some other pony." She tried to keep it simple.

Granny's mouth curled into a smile of satisfaction. "Well I should congratulate you then, you know I think you've been somewhat married to this here farm for most of your life, just like your brother is, I was hopin' that you spending so much more time with all your little friends would get you more out there in the social world. Now tell me, who's the lucky stallion?"

Applejack cringed, this was what she had been hoping to avoid. She knew she couldn't tell the truth. Her mind rushed, trying to think up a suitable answer. "It's Caramel, she said quickly."

"Now Applejack, you know I can tell when you're lyin' to me. Why don't you just go ahead and tell the truth, mah little honest one."

Applejack bit her lip. There was no point hiding it anymore. "Well, she said slowly, trying to pick her words. They ain't exactly a… stallion." She finished, and hung her head, ready for whatever may come from Granny's mouth at this little revelation.

Granny Smith's eyes sparked with a sudden understanding, but the smile never flinched on her face. "Now tell me, little one, why couldn't you just say that in the first place?"

Applejack looked up again, into the deep caring eyes of her grandmother. She decided then and there to just lay everything out for her. "Well, Grandad always said that it wasn't natural. That only a mare and a stallion could be natural too. He always seemed so against the whole concept, that I just figured you might be too. Ah've been scared for years to even admit to mahself that mah barn door might swing that way, because I thought this family frowned on that stuff!"

Granny Smith's eyes retained their same calm, caring, loving, and understanding shine they had had. "Now Applejack, your granddad was a great man, but he did have his flaws. That's one of his biggest right there. He didn't understand the power, or all the forms, of true love. Don't get me wrong, he loved me, and he loved your mother, and he loved you, Macintosh, and even Applebloom with all of his heart, even though it was Applebloom that caused him to lose our daughter, he still loved her all the same." Applejack saddened at that memory, learning that their mother had died of childbirth, it had been so sad for her, she had been so young. "But the one thing he didn't understand about love," Granny Smith continued on, a hint of sadness in her voice, "was its many forms. He always thought that two mares together or two stallions together was unnatural and wrong, he must not have seen the marks of the same true love that he had for me evident in those ponies, but ah did. I loved your granddad even though he felt like this, and when he died, it was still sad for me, but I want you to listen to me good now. I want you to forget everything he ever said on the subject. Applejack, the only thing that matters is love, and what lies in your heart. I want you to listen to your own heart, and no other voices."

Applejack found herself crying. She knew this was what she needed to hear. She needed to hear that it was OK, that her feelings were natural. Granny couldn't have pulled through any better than she did.

"Remember child, you need to follow your heart. Follow your heart to the ends of the earth, and you will always find happiness."

"Th… thanks… G-g… Granny." Applejack managed, sniffing away tears as her heart finally won out, she knew what she felt on the inside now.

"Good, now before bed, let's eat the rest of this pie, wouldn't want mah fine craftsmareship to go to waste, would we?" Granny chuckled, and began to dig in. Applejack followed suit.

They ate their pie in silence.


Rays of Princess Celestia's sunlight streaming in through her bedroom window woke Applejack from her deep slumber the next morning, followed closely by the shrill cocka-doodle-doo of their rooster. Applejack made her way to the window and looked out to a glorious sunrise. A wide, expansive field of fruit-laden trees looked back at her. "Buckin' time," She said to herself, "YEEEE-HAAW!" She cried as she burst from her bedroom door and galloped down the stairs. She wolfed down a quick breakfast before snatching up her favorite hat and charging outside to her trees.

A good time later, Applejack was still hard at work, it was nearing midday, and she had worked up a nice sweat. She neared her next tree, poised her front legs, and picked up her hind legs, ready to deliver a swift kick to the trunk so as to let the apples fall neatly into the buckets poised below. She delivered a powerful kick, and smiled, satisfied, as she heard the rustle start to shake the branches. But then she heard a noize that made her blood run cold.

A cry, a crying out, was emanating from inside the tree, Applejack wondered what It could be, but then her fears were confirmed as she saw somepony fall to the ground. A blue and rainbow blur hit the grassy floor in front of her, making Applejack jump back. Rainbow Dash picked herself up off the ground, looking dazed and somewhat confused, but froze when her eyes fell on Applejack.

Applejack was so severely startled that she couldn't control the outburst that came next. "WHAT THE HAY ARE YOU DOIN' HERE!" She shouted, before stopping herself, realizing she had just screamed at her best friend and the mare she probably loved.

"I was… I was just… I was only… I tried to…. I can't really… I wasn't … I… I… I…" Rainbow Dash was startled too, and she was stammering. She had no idea what to say, and even the fastest flier in Equestria couldn't think fast enough to get herself out of this situation. She could only do what came naturally to her, a reflex, and Rainbow Dash reflexes told her she needed to get out of there, fast. Without warning, she sprung up into the air and rocketed away, away from Applejack, Away from the farm, away from the prospect of explaining herself in an awkward situation.

Applejack just stood there, dumbfounded, her stupid little outburst had just driven off the one pony she had wanted so desperately to see, to talk to, when she had fallen asleep the night before. She ahd wanted to tell Dash everything she had felt that night right then and there, and when presented with a near perfect chance to do it that morning, she had gone and blown it. She hung her head in shame and finished her daily work in silence.


Applejack headed into Ponyville the next day. She had cried that night, cried over lost opportunity. Now she needed to see her friends. As luck would have it, she ran across Pinkie Pie in the center of town.

"Ohmygosh Applejack I haven't seen you since the play how have you been because I've been just great and I wanted to see you!" Pinkie exclaimed in about the fasted voice she could, rushing over to hug Applejack.

"Ooof," Applejack groaned as a solid force of Pinkie Pie crashed into her. "It's great to see you too, Pinkie. I've been well." Applejack paused, there was only one pony who she really wanted to talk to. "Pinkie," Applejack said suddenly, "have you seen Rainbow Dash, I've been lookin' for her."

"Ooooooohhh, would this happen to have anything to do with your performances in my play?" Pinkie asked with abject curiosity.

"Uh, sure," Applejack said, "let's go with that."

"I knew it, I knew it, I KNEEEEWWW IIIIT!!!!" Pinkie broke out into a singsong voice.

"Knew what?" Applejack asked, suddenly concerned.

"Applejack and Dashie are a couple, Applejack and Dashie are a couple! Applejack and Da-"

Applejack clopped her hoof over Pinkie's mouth the instant she realized what the pink mare was saying. "Pinkie, she hissed, what in Equestria's name gave you that idea!"

"Well it's obvious isn't it?" Pinkie continued at a whisper, "You and her perform as the couple in my show, and then you were acting really awkward around her after the show, and now you come into town asking me if I know where she is! This is so awesome, two of my best friends getting together, I'll have to throw a party! I mean, I knew something was happening as soon as Dashie asked me if you could play the romantic role with her in the play, but now I know something is happening, and…"

"Wait, Rainbow asked you to make us the couple in your little play?"

"Yeah, she came up to me one day and said: 'Pinkie…', wait, you didn't know?" Pinkie was suddenly incredulous.

"Ummm, no."

"OH NO! I didn't tell a secret, did I! I could never do that, never ever!"

"Relax, Pinkie, did Rainbow say it was a secret?"


"So it wasn't a secret! Now look, I need to know where Rainbow is, have you seen her?"

"I think she was at Fluttershy's cottage earlier." Pinkie finally said.

"Thanks!" Applejack managed to say before she ran off. She had another chance, and she wasn't going to blow this one.


She saw Rainbow Dash on the road to Fluttershy's cottage. The rainbow-maned pegasus was walking instead of flying, and looked somewhat dejected, Applejack noticed with a cringe. She knew that if she wanted to get the truth out of Rainbow, she would have to keep her there and make sure her pride didn't get the best of her and force her to lie and try to save face. Applejack had seen that enough to know it was a real possibility. Luckily, the pegasus didn't notice Applejack until Applejack was right up in front of her. "Hey Rainbow!" She called, out in her most friendly voice.

Rainbow Dash jumped. She hadn't expected to meet Applejack here. She had just been walking home from crying her eyes out to Fluttershy, and now this mare, the mare she had been crying about, had come to confront her. Rainbow wanted nothing more than to not go through with this conversation. She reared up on her hind legs and prepared to take flight. She lept up into the air and began shooting away when a sharp pain at the base of her tail told her she was doomed. Her forward momentum was cut instantly, and Rainbow Dash had no choice but to sink back down to the ground and face the orange earth pony.

Applejack watched as Rainbow Dash turned around and gulped. She had caught her expertly with her jaw, using years of practice to tie down the mare. Now was her chance, she wasn't going to let it go. "Rainbow, I want you to tell me exactly why you were there in my apple tree yesterday, and why you dashed off like that when I found you."

"Well, I was uh… Sleeping!, yeah, sleeping. And I was startled when you bucked me out of the tree so I flew away because I was startled." Rainbow was speaking fast, an also seemed to be repeating herself. It was not a very well-conceived lie.

"Nah." Applejack said, determined to break the shell of pride Rainbow was erecting, "I don't want that excuse, Rainbow Dash. I want you to tell me the honest truth, and now."

The shell broke. Rainbow hung her head, and stammered. "I… I… I was there because I was watching you. I come to watch you all the time, really, I like watching you buck those trees, it's pretty cool the way you do it, and I've always thought you looked pretty… pretty… graceful." Dash finished, as if revealing her emotions was painful in some way. Applejack sat there, in quiet contemplation, taking in what had been said. "Puh, Please?" Rainbow Dash began to babble, "I don't want this to ruin our friendship. I don't know how you feel about me, but please don't hate me because of the way I feel about you! You're the best friend I've had in a while, and even though we get into arguments, and we compete a lot, you're the only one I feel is most like me. I've always felt some sort of connection with you, like we're both athletes, or we're both pretty tomcolt-ish, or whatever, I've always felt close to you, but I never knew how you felt. You're the only one I can't seem to keep my head on straight around. I've always been able to hide my feelings, but now they feel stronger than ever! I can't hold them under a proud, boastful façade any more. Please, Applejack, don't hate me! Please let us keep being friends!"

Applejack had been unprepared for this string of revelations. Maybe Rainbow really couldn't hold in her feelings anymore, maybe this is what she had wanted to tell her when they were alone, after the play. In a flash, Applejack realized that she had to say something. "Rainbow, you don't have to keep your feelings bottled up." She began, unsure now, that she finally had the moment, what exactly to say. "I'm a very understanding person, in fact I…"

"APPLEJACK!" A shrill voice sounded behind them. Applejack didn't get a chance to finish confessing to Rainbow Dash before she felt herself being whirled around by another ponies arms. "Where. Are. They." Breathed a very distraught Rarity.

"Slow down, Sugarcube, what do yah mean by that?"

"Sweetie Bell, Apple Bloom, the girls! They told me they were going to be staying at the farm with you today! Where are they! It doesn't look like you're watching them!"

"Whoah, Nelly. Apple bloom told me they were a gonna be at your place! You mean they're missing!"

"Well, yes, obviously. And where do you think they might have gone? Hm?" The sarcasm was evident in Rarity's tone, she wasn't kidding around.

"The Everfree Forest." Applejack said. "Ah'm goin in after them, Rarity, you go check with Scootaloo's parents, then get Twilight, and even Pinkie and Fluttershy. We'll need all the help we can get. Rainbow, I need you to…"

"Air patrol, got it." Rainbow Dash jumped in, and then abruptly shot into the sky and flew off towards the Forest.

"Well good, I'll run and get the others, you get going Applejack, make sure they come home safe!" Rarity exclaimed and then ran off. Applejack began running in the opposite direction, towards the Everfree forest. Without thinking about direction, but with the slightest perceived glimpse of footprints to tell her she was on the right track, she rushed on in.


Applejack had shoved her way through the dense brush for what felt like hours, but had really only been a few minutes, when she thought she heard a voice. "APPLEJACK!" It came from above. She looked up. Rainbow Dash was floating above the trees, obscured by branches. "They're up this way," she said, "I saw them in a clearing! Follow me! She charged ahead, and Applec]jack followed her. towards where she thought she could hear voices coming from, and a spot of brighter sunlight shone through a hole in the trees ahead of her. She charged through, and there, plain as day, sat Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo. All three looked up with a start at Applejack.

"What the hay are you fillies doin'!" She gasped.

The three looked at her, then at each other, and began to grin. "CUTIE MARK CRUSADER FOREST RACERS YAY!!!!" They shouted, and took off into the brush in the opposite direction from Applejack. "Try and catch us, Applejack!" Applebloom shouted backwards.

"Oh, Horseapples." Applejack said to herself, then charged in after them. In any normal conditions, she could outrun the three fillies like nothing, but here in the forest was another matter. Her speed was virtually useless in the dense underbrush, and she found herself slipping back as she fought through it, knowing that with their small size the three ahead of her were having an easier time and were probably slipping away. Looking up, Applejack could see Rainbow trying to keep pace and follow along without losing eye contact through the dense canopy.

With a sudden spark of realization, Applejack recognized her location. She instantly doubled pace to try and catch up with the fillies ahead of her. She could see what was coming up ahead, she had been here before. All thoughts of the tendrils of plants ripping at her pelt were now gone as she pushed herself through the foliage. She could see the trees thinning out ahead, they were reaching a break in the forest, and she knew exactly what was at that break. "Applebloom, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle! Stop!" She yelled, trying to get them to stop before it was too late. Up ahead, she could see them through a gap in the trees. They had reached the other side of the trees, and were now trying with all their might to halt their forward momentum as they slid closer and closer to the edge of a cliff.

Somewhere in the distance was a rickety rope and board bridge, which led across the gaping chasm. Applejack had been here before, on the trip to stop Nightmare Moon, and she knew that if any of those fillies went over the edge, they would essentially be goners. She burst from the trees just in time to watch Scootaloo flap her wings as an air brake. This slowed the pegasus filly, and she instinctively grabbed the tail of Sweetie Belle, sliding just in front of her, with her jaw. Sweetie Belle then reached out towards Applebloom, who was closest to the edge. Applejack hoped against hope that Sweetie Belle would be able to grab her little sister, but she pounded forward anyway, propelling herself towards the edge as well. Sweetie Belle missed. Applebloom's hind legs slipped over the edge, her momentum pulling the rest of her with them, just as Applejack launched herself through the air. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle stopped short, Scoot's wings giving the little bit of air resistance needed to keep them from plummeting, and just as Applebloom's forelegs grasped for purchase at the edge of the cliff, Applejack grabbed them. She immediately planted her hind legs in the ground and used every ounce of her considerable strength to dig in. She now had to halt her own forward motion lest she lose both herself and her sister over the edge. As her midsection passed over the side, she focused all of her concentration into her hindquarters. She had to stop her own slide! Then, she felt two small pairs of hooves grasp her hind legs and hold firm. She stopped with her front half dangling over the side, Applebloom hanging on by her two front hooves which were grasped by Applejack.

Until that moment, she hadn't heard anything. The next thing she knew, a myriad of sounds assaulted her. She heard Applebloom's scream. A terrifying, blood-curdling scream, as she saw her sister hanging there by her hooves. She heard the strained grunts of Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, both struggling to hold her and Applebloom up, struggling to keep them from falling. But the one thing she heard that brought joy to her heart was a voice. He most beautiful voice she had ever heard in her life.

"Applejack!" Rainbow Dash cried, "Applejack, down here, look down here!" Applejack looked directly down and saw, to her great delight, Rainbow Dash, she was hovering just below Applebloom's dangling hind legs. Her magenta eyes were fixed with steadfast determination, and she stared up into the green eyes of Applejack. "I'll catch her." She said simply. Trust me!"

Applejack had never felt more trust for another pony on her life than she did right now. "Applebloom," she said as sweetly as she could manage given the situation. "I'm going to let go now. Rainbow Dash is right below me, she's going to catch you. I need you to be a big pony and let Rainbow catch you." Applebloom had stopped screaming, but she was shaking now. She shook her head. "Rainbow Dash is the most loyal, trustworthy pony I know," Applejack found herself saying, "She will catch you. I promise. This is the only way to save yourself. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle can't pull us both back up."

"Hey!" Scootaloo interjected, but Applejack had won. Applebloom slowly shook her head, the fear and terror prevalent in her eyes. Applejack counted down.

"5… 4… 3… 2… 1…" And she let go. The scream only lasted for a split second before Applebloom landed squarely on Rainbow's shoulders. Rainbow immediately lifted the frightened filly up to the top of the cliff and a muffled thump told Applejack that they were safe.

"Help me Rainbow Dash, I can't hold on any longer!" Sweetie Belle suddenly cried out. Before Rainbow Dash could do anything, her grip slipped, and Applejack's right hind leg fell over the edge. Scootaloo couldn't hold on for more than a second longer without Sweetie Belle, and she too had to let go.

Applejack had never felt the sensation before. She was falling, utterly falling, and she knew there was a raging river somewhere below her. She didn't cry out, she didn't scream, she just felt the wind rushing past her ears and felt as she picked up speed, plummeting downward, farther and farther, faster and faster. Time ticked by in slow motion as she slowly fell head-over hooves. It wasn't until she tumbled so she was face-up again and looking up at the cliff's edge above her did she realize the situation. Up above her, staring downward were three little fillies. An orange pegasus, a white unicorn, and a light yellow earth pony with a red mane and a cute pink bow. Tears were falling from this one's eyes. Applejack realized that her little sister, the one who for all intents and purposes called her "mom" was about to watch her role model, her older sister, and the only mother figure she had, plummet to her death. It was this realization, staring up into the eyes of her younger sister, that this little filly, who had never known her real mother, was about to lose the only maternal figure she had, was about to witness that death, that made Applejack cry. Applejack cried not for herself, but for Applebloom, for Big Macintosh, For Granny Smith. She knew not how they would cope with any loss of this sort. In a rush, she knew she had to say something. Her kin was up there, and she had to get a message to them. "AH LOVE YOU!" She screamed at the top of her lungs, hoping that her words would reach the little crying filly at the top of the cliff.

Then, she closed her eyes. She closed her eyes and listened. She heard the sobs of a crying filly growing weaker and weaker, she heard the rushing, thundering roar of a river growing closer and closer. She didn't look, but she listened as she prepared herself for death, knowing that she had saved at least one life to balance out the loss of her own. The roar of the river grew closer still, and Applejack resigned herself for the high-speed hit that would surely be fatal. Then, she heard a new noise. It barely registered over the sound of rushing water, but it was there, and it was right next to her. A whoosh, as if there was something else cutting through the air near her. Then, there was a sharp pain in Applejack's chest. She felt the wind nearly get knocked out of her as she sensed a strong force dig into her midsection and cut her downward momentum. Then, there was a precarious dance of sound as the roaring water loomed closer, but with less speed, she was slowing down. The noise of the water got louder, but it wasn't raising in volume as fast anymore, and a new sound was there to take its place. THUMP THUMP THUMP. It sounded like…

The beating of wings. Applejack's eyes shot open and she found herself staring straight down at a rushing river, mere yards from her. She craned her head up and witnessed the most beautiful display of raw power she had seen in her entire life, even surrounded by strong farm ponies. A blue pegasus with a rainbow mane beat her wings furiously, front hooves locked around the chest of the orange mare. Slowly, slowly but surely, the kinetic energy of the downward descent was overridden and the sheer power of Rainbow Dash, the greatest flyer in Equestria, lifted Applejack up and out of the ravine. For the first time she had ever seen, looking up into the face of her savior, Applejack saw tears streaming from the eyes of the headstrong pegasus. She locked gazes with Rainbow Dash, and Rainbow Dash started back, tears flowing freely. "I… I love you too." She managed to choke out, the force of the moving air ripping tear after tear from her eyes.

The two landed at the top of the cliff. Rainbow set Applejack down and then set down herself in front of her. Applejack was silent for a moment. She was thinking again. 'Ah meant those last words for Applebloom.' She thought. 'She was going to be so said… But Rainbow must have thought ah meant her! What should I do?' In a flash, she realized that this was exactly what she had wanted. Rainbow Dash was hers, all she had to do was say yes. But… but… there was still some nagging doubt… "Remember child, you need to follow your heart. Follow your heart to the ends of the earth, and you will always find happiness." Granny Smith's voice came into her head, and Applejack understood. She understood everything.

"Listen," Rainbow Dash began to speak, the silence becoming a little too much for her, "Applejack, I… uh…"

"No, Sugarcube." Applejack cut in, "you don't have ta say anythin'." And then she rushed forward. It was now or never. Applejack planted her lips on Rainbow Dash's mouth. Rainbow was only startled for a second before she returned the kiss in full. The forest, the three fillies, everything around them began to melt away from their minds.

And for an eternal moment, two mares stood alone on the edge of a cliff, locked in loving embrace.

Grief and Grievances

        Applejack found herself crying. She had come to a brush with death. She had come so close to losing everything and everyone that she knew and loved, only to have it saved in the most remarkable way. Tears ran down her face as memories of sensations from the last few minutes flooded back to her. The helpless tumble of falling, the growing roar of a rushing river below, the twinge of pure dread and terror at the thought of loss and family, the sharp pain in her chest of hooves grabbing her, the lifting sensation of a slowing fall, the adrenaline of realizing that she was safe. Safe in the arms of a pegasus mare, the one pony she knew she knew she loved and she now knew loved her back.

        Her eyes shed tear after tear as she shared a perfect moment with the pony that had saved her life. The pony she loved. The kiss made everything melt away. All of their surroundings, all other emotions, Applejack could only feel happiness and love as she kissed Rainbow Dash. Everything seemed right in the world and her moment of pure bliss seemed to stretch out into infinity until…


Rainbow Dash broke away. Applejack gazed into the magenta eye of the rainbow-maned pegasus and saw moisture brimming there too. A pink shade crossed the blue cheeks of the other mare as the two stared longingly into each other’s’ eyes. Applejack knew that that look must be reflected in her own features. She could feel the hot rush of blood to the surface of her face, the continued stream of tears running down her cheeks. Without needing to be bidden, Rainbow Dash leaned forward and rubbed her face against Applejacks, her soft fur mopping up the wet tears from Applejack’s own face. The heat of a compassion that Applejack never even knew Rainbow was capable of warmed her face, and a soft, contented smile graced the feature of the farm-pony. She drank in the tender affection of the loving pegasus and felt her mind at ease.

A chorus made up of two voices broke the two ponies from their perceived isolation. “AAAWWWWWWWWWW” Came the sound of two little fillies from over to the side. Rainbow and Applejack both turned, still in each other’s’ arms, to see this sudden intrusion into their private world. Both were blushing even harder than ever now.

Applebloom and Sweetie Belle both had looks of abject happiness on their faces. Scootaloo just stared, dumbfounded, barely processing what she saw. “R-R-Rainbow D-Dash? Are you… Are you a… uh… Why are you…?”

        She never got to finish her question. Scootaloo found herself suddenly swept up in a forceful hug by Applebloom and Sweetie Belle. “Aren’t they just so cute together?” Sweetie Belle cried out excitedly.


“They’re adorable!” Applebloom joined in, “Way to go big sis!”


The two other fillies hugged Scootaloo tight, giggling with excitement, their previous trauma all but forgotten. After struggling at first, Scootaloo joined in the fun, rolling around giggling with her two best friends, without a care in the world.

Applejack leaned her head against Rainbow’s neck as she watched the three fillies pile on top of each other and roll around with fits of laughter in a dance commemorating the innocence and happiness of the young. She let out a contented sigh, breathing in the scent of Rainbow Dash’s mane as she inhaled again. A cool, wet scent, like the air after a good rainstorm, she realized. She breathed deeply. Applejack was glad she wouldn’t have to explain her feelings to these fillies, their joyous laughter seemed to just tell her that they understood. ‘Our friends won’t be as easy.’ She thought to herself. She thought she would have enough time to think up how to go about telling them though, time to discuss things with Rainbow, time to build up the necessary courage.

But fate is rarely so kind. A shrill voice broke through the air of the clearing on the cliffside. “Sweetie Belle! I was so worried about you; you should never run off in here again!” Rarity was here.

She burst from the forest, her mane and tail looking surprisingly none the worse for wear, and immediately saw Applejack and Rainbow Dash, looking completely startled. Applejack had her head buried in Rainbow’s mane, her scent temporarily making her forget the predicament she was in. Rainbow had a wing draped over the back of the orange earth pony, blushes filling both of their faces.

“Darlings,” Rarity began, “What exactly is going on here?”

Applejack just stood there. ‘Not Rarity,’ thought AJ, ‘She’s always with stallions. She’d probably be the least understandin’ of any of ‘em! Ah’m not ready to tell anypony yet, least of all her!’ As these thoughts flitted about her head she didn’t move, she stayed as still as a statue against the pegasus mare that made her feel comfortable.

Sweetie Belle decided to answer. “Oh, sis!” She cried, “It was so terrifying but so beautiful! Me and Scootaloo and Applebloom were sliding off the edge, and Applebloom fell off, but Applejack grabbed her, and we had to hold on to keep them from falling, and then Rainbow saved Applebloom, but then I couldn’t hold on any longer so I had to let go of Applejack and Scootaloo couldn’t hold her all by herself so she fell and we were all really scared!” She paused for breath, sounding very much like Pinkie Pie as she ran through her story at lightning speed. “And then Rainbow Dash dived down and she was going so fast, then we saw Applejack fall into the fog below us and we were really scared because we thought she was going to die but then Rainbow swooped in after her and we saw her pull her up and lift her all the way out all be herself!” She was jabbering excitedly, but Rarity seemed to be getting the entire story. A twinge of fear leapt through Applejack as she realized what was coming next. She didn’t want Rarity to know, but there was no stopping Sweetie Belle. “And then they were both crying and Rainbow Dash said she loved her! So they landed and then they kissed! And they hugged and they kissed and they cried and it was beautiful!” Sweetie Belle finished her high speed story with a little squeal of excitement.

A very perplexed looking Rarity turned towards the two mares. “Darlings, is this true?” Applejack braced for the insults that she was so sure would follow. Rarity wouldn’t be one to approve of filly-foolers. She was sure of that.

Applejack felt the comforting wing leave her back. She looked over at Rainbow Dash, who was now stepping out in front of her, a look of bound determination spread on her face as she looked directly at the white unicorn before her. “We’re in love.” She said simply, but with enough finality and purpose to speak volumes.

“Well, darlings, that’s just…” Applejack cringed as Rarity spoke, “Wonderful!” Applejack looked up, a look of confusion apparent on her face.

“Huh? She asked, unable to stop herself, “Ya’ll approve? But ah thought, what with all the stallions you’re always with, that ya’ll wouldn’t take too kindly to me and Dash…” Applejack stopped before she started rambling.

“Well, I do enjoy the… erm… company… of stallions, yes, but anypony who knows me knows that I embrace all love! If you two are happy together, then I’m more than happy. How could you think I could be so old-fashioned so as to not approve of your little romance? In fact, this would make a fabulous romance novel! Oh, I just must get your whole touching story so I can send it into my favorite author for…”

Rarity’s fantasy was cut off as a new voice sang out through the clearing. “Rarity, Applejack, Rainbow Dash!” It called. Suddenly, the shrubs where the other ponies had walked in were parted, and, horn aglow, a lavender unicorn trotted her way into their midst, followed closely by a low-flying yellow pegasus mare and a bouncing pink earth pony. Twilight Sparkle’s face turned from an expression of worry to one of joy when she saw the six ponies before her.

Sweetie Belle, now with help from Applebloom and Scootaloo, was now more than happy to regale everypony with her story of near-death and romance. Before long, every one of the group of friends was up to speed on Ponyville’s newest couple.

“I just knew it!” Pinkie began to sing, “I knew it ever since Dashie asked for that part in the play, and then when Applejack came looking for Dashie, I just knneeeeewww iiiiittt!” She bounced around everypony in excitement. “I’m going to have to throw the biggest party ever now! You guys are so great together!”

“You two are in love?” asked Fluttershy in a small, but very happy voice. “That’s so wonderful. I know several of my animal friends who behave just like you guys, and they…” Fluttershy ducked her head beneath her wing to hide a smile that was spreading across her face at the thought. “I’m sure you’ll be very happy together.” She finished in a voice that barely registered, as she slyly pawed at the ground and held back giggles at an inside joke only she knew.

“This is such an opportunity!” Twilight exclaimed, “I can learn so much about the magic of friendship from you two! Just think of all I can report to Princess Celestia on the magic of more-than-friendship! Oh, where are my manners, I’m really happy for you guys!”

The voices of all her best friends swam through Applejack’s head as the memory faded. Everypony congratulating her and Rainbow Dash. Everypony saying how wonderful it was. Everypony wishing them happiness. Applejack’s mind lingered on that day, that wonderful, magical day from many months ago. On that day, everything had seemed so perfect, everything had made Applejack happy, she had felt loved, and needed, and content. Everything in the world was as it should have been on that day when she and Rainbow Dash had embarked on a memorable journey of discovery and love those many months ago.

‘Not like today, not like now.” She thought to herself as she silently watched the coffin being lowered into the gaping hole that stood before her. That hole was a black mouth, swallowing all the happiness and joy Applejack had gained over the past few months and replacing it with a soul-chilling depression.

The voices that she had heard over those months continued to flow through her head. The voices of her friends, her family, and one voice in particular. One voice that kept recurring and repeating in her head. One voice that she longed to hear, but as she watched the coffin slip into the black void, she knew she would never hear it again, at least not outside of her mind. As the lid of the coffin, an apple pie carved into its top, sank down into the inky blackness, that voice filled her head again.

"Remember child, you need to follow your heart. Follow your heart to the ends of the earth, and you will always find happiness." And Applejack was overcome with grief.

Applejack looked around to all of her friends, her remaining family, everypony gathered to mourn with her. All of their mixed relatives had descended on Ponyville for the funeral. The audience of family members surrounded her, most crying, some trying to keep a brave face, but all touched by the loss of their oldest member. Right out in front, directly to Applejack’s left, Applebloom sobbed into the ground, unwilling to look up at the new gravestone or the black maw in front of it. Big Macintosh stood over her, stroking Applebloom’s mane with his hoof, barely fighting back tears himself. Fluttershy, calm and collected, oddly enough considering her emotional state, hovered next to them, whispering comforting words and thoughts to him. Beyond her, Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, and even Pinkie Pie, her hair down and looking quite straight, all bowed their heads in respect. Even with tears dripping down her cheeks and nose, Applejack couldn’t help but feel grateful to her friends for their support. She tried to sniff back tears, but to no avail. This pony, always a source of comfort, a source of advice, a source of help, a source of reason, was gone. Gone forever from the life of Applejack, Applebloom and Big Macintosh, and her passing left a hole that Applejack felt she might never refill.

She looked to her right. There standing next to her, a breeze stirring the hair of her mane and tail, an expression of steadfast determination on her face as she stared forward, stood Rainbow Dash. She was composed, calm, quiet, and strong. She faced forward with a strength that came from a desire to not show emotion, but it was powerful. Applejack needed that strength, needed that persistence, needed someone to be her rock in such times of loss. Rainbow Dash was her rock.

Without another thought, Applejack leaned over and buried her face in the fluttering mane of Rainbow Dash. She inhaled deeply, and just as it had so long ago, the cool, wet scent of a beautiful rain storm filled her mind. She felt Rainbow Dash’s neck vibrate ever so gently, as the pegasus nuzzled her marefriend with all the compassion and strength of a pony who was unendingly loyal to those she loved. Applejack felt supported by the strength of Rainbow Dash, she felt safe. With her face sheathed and protected by a six-colored mane, Applejack continued to cry. Rainbow Dash didn’t flinch at the tears soaking her mane and neck, Applejack needed her now, she needed her to be strong, she needed her to be there. Rainbow draped one wing over Applejack’s back and held her close, continuing to nuzzle, letting her strength and comfort support the earth pony who had lost so much, and was only now letting her emotions go, letting her loss overcome her in a grand display of a release of pent-up emotion and feelings. Rainbow Dash would be there for Applejack, keeping her close, to keep her from getting lost.

Rainbow Dash woke up in her cloud bed the next day. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes as she padded across the soft cloud floor towards her mirror, about to get ready for the day. She hated waking up early in the mornings, but she had been doing so with more frequency these past few months. If she could get Ponyville’s weather squad ready and done with their jobs earlier in the day, that meant she would have more time for Applejack.

‘And now,’ Rainbow thought soberly as she made her way downstairs, ‘I’ll need to be spending more time with her than ever.’ The funeral had only been yesterday, and even then, Granny Smith had only passed away a few days before that. “Natural causes. She was just getting on in years. Everypony’s body must give out eventually.” Nurse Redheart had said. Applejack had been excruciatingly upset ever since then, so much so that it very nearly tore down the brave façade that Rainbow Dash kept up around everypony else to see her marefriend in so much pain and distress. Rainbow had been going to see her every day, offering comforting words, a wing to hold her, and all she could offer. It was the least she could do, but it didn’t seem to be having the desired effect. Applejack was still miserable.

Throughout her duties as a weatherpony, Rainbow could not keep focused. More than once, one of the other weatherponies had to call out to her to get her back on track when she zoned out and made a mistake while not paying attention. She was thinking about Applejack, about all the pain she must be in, about how she needed to be there to help her. For the rest of the day until their jobs were finished by early afternoon, Rainbow couldn’t keep her mind on her work.

When they were finally finished though, Rainbow breathed a sigh of relief. In the early afternoon light, Celestia’s sun high over their heads, she flew off away from the other pegasi without waiting for formalities. She flew as fast as she could do so safely towards Sweet Apple Acres. Row upon row of fruit laden trees loomed on the horizon, and Rainbow flew faster to reach her destination as it neared. She soared above the stands of trees that seemed to stretch out into infinity and the barn and Apple family farmhouse loomed in her sights. As she got closer though, a voice loomed up from below that made her stop in her tracks and dive fast for the ground.

“Miss Rainbow Dash!” Big Macintosh called. He sounded worried.

“Macintosh, I told you that you don’t need to be all formal with me, just call me Rainbow or something, OK?” Rainbow tried to smile, but she could tell they were both worrying about the same thing, or rather, the same pony.

“Sorry, but there ain’t no time for pleasantries Miss Dash!” Macintosh seemed frantic now, “Applejack’s gotten herself worked up into a state, and I think ya’ll’r the only one who can git ‘er out o’ it.”

“Where is she?” Rainbow asked, suddenly tensed up.

“She hasn’t come out o’ her room all day.” Macintosh responded, he was worried.

“Let’s go.” Rainbow and Macintosh took off running for the house, Rainbow had to use her wings just to keep up with the great ground speed of the distressed red farm stallion.

They arrived at the house soon enough, and Rainbow Dash literally flew up the stairway towards Applejack’s room, Macintosh right below her. They both arrived at her door at the same time, pausing to compose themselves before announcing their presence. Big Macintosh knocked. “Sis, there’s someone a here ta see ya.” He said in the kindest voice Rainbow Dash could have imagined he had.

“Macintosh, Ah already told ya Ah don’t want ta see anypony.” Came a voice filled with sadness from inside.

Rainbow now put on her best, most comforting air she could, and began to speak. “Applejack, please let me in. I hate to see you all sad like this, and I can make it better, honestly. Trust me, please. I want to help you. I love you.”

Applejack stumbled for a moment, but responded. “Rainbow, please just leave me be. Ah don’t want ta lose anypony else, Ah don’t want ta hurt anypony else, Ah don’t want to see anypony else.”

Rainbow Dash was stunned. This wasn’t the Applejack she knew. Applejack must be in a truly depressed state if she was cutting herself off from her friends and family. ‘But, why?’ Rainbow thought. She was just about to respond to Applejack, when Big Macintosh interrupted.

“Miss Dash. She’s blamin’ herself. I can’t reason with her either. I think she just needs some time to herself to sort things out. Thanks for tryin’, miss Dash.” Macintosh could see that talking through a closed door wasn’t going to help. He led Rainbow Dash back downstairs.

The two sat around the big table in the Apple family’s kitchen. Macintosh had gotten them some apple treats to snack on. They sat together in silence, both wordlessly understanding that something needed to be done, neither knowing what was best. They ate, and then just sat around, not talking, for a good while, several hours passed in understanding silence, until Big Macintosh finally broke it.

“Uh… Miss Dash?” Rainbow had given up trying to keep him off the formalities. “Ah wanted ta say somethin’…”

“Yes?” Rainbow asked, “What is it?”

“Well, Ah, yh… Ah gotta say. At first, Ah was… skep… skept… worried about you and Applejack. Ah didn’t understand yer… relationship very much. Ah, ah thought it was unnatural.” Macintosh was stumbling over himself, obviously embarrassed to be saying this. “But, Ah, Ah saw how happy you were makin’ mah sister. She’s been happier nowadays than I ever did see her before. And I decided it was alright, it was alright that you two were together. She’s been so happy lately, and Ah know that Ah have you ta thank for it.”

Rainbow was silent for a while, she let Big Mac’s words soak in. She was glad that he had found reason to approve, then he spoke again: “But now, she’s sadder than ever. Ah think she’s blamin’ herself for Granny Smith and everythin’ that’s happened.” Rainbow let him speak, she could tell this was something important he was trying to say. “Ah can’t stand ta see her like this, Miss Dash. Whatever ya do, ya just gotta make her happy again. She needs somepony, and ya’ll’r the pony Ah think she needs.”

Rainbow Dash contemplated this for a moment. Big Mac was right. Applejack needed somepony, and she needed them now. “I think I know what to do.” She said quietly.

“OK. Do what ya need ta do, Miss Dash. I think Ah’m just gonna… go out for a little while.” He said. He sincerely hoped that Applejack might find some happiness with Rainbow Dash, the love for family that had always seemed to hold them together transcended any preconceived notions and opinions about their relationship he had. The sudden appearance of the face and pink mane of a certain yellow pegasus in the kitchen window told him he might find his own happiness soon enough as well. “Applebloom is at a sleepover at Rarity’s.” He said finally, and got up to leave through the kitchen door.

Rainbow Dash followed him. He turned when they reached the outside. “Thanks, Miss Dash.” He said. Fluttershy floated down next to him and gave him a look of pittance. She blushed slightly when she saw Rainbow Dash, but Rainbow nodded her understanding and watched as Macintosh walked away towards the town, Fluttershy floating close by him. Rainbow would have time later to ask questions about this new development. Right now, she had somepony else to cheer up. Possibly in much the same way that Fluttershy must be cheering Big Mac up, talking, understanding… She shook that thought from her head as the late rays of a now-descending sun cast apple tree shadows across the front lawn. She looked up at the second floor of the house, up towards her destination, swallowed a nervous lump, and took off into the sky.

The brilliant red and orange hues of one of Celestia’s fabulous sunsets filled Applejack’s vision. She gazed out her open window at the cloudless sky and the distant horizon, both accented by color and brilliance that was formed by the sun dipping below the horizon line as it finished its daily journey across the sky. On any normal day, Applejack would have thoroughly enjoyed the sensation, the warmth of the sun barely heating up the last of the day, a cool breeze blowing in to flutter her mane and cool down the sun’s rays, the palette of colors turning the sky into a brilliant spectacle, but today was not one of those days.

Applejack had locked herself in her room that day, grief and sorrow blanketing out all other emotions like they never had before. Turning from the spectacular sunset to her bed, she lay down, preparing for a sleepless night, buried her face in her pillow, and cried some more.

“Ah’m so sorry Granny Smith.” She sobbed to herself, or, she assumed to herself, “Ah shoulda taken you to the hospital earlier, Ah shoulda done somethin’! Ah’m supposed to take care o’ mah family, and ah blew it! Ah’m sorry!”

At that moment, a soft thump behind her caused Applejack to bolt upright and swing around. There, just under the still-open window, with the last rays of dissipating sunlight lighting her mane, stood Rainbow Dash. Her head was down, but her gaze was locked steadily on Applejack, a look of pure compassion across all of her features.

“R-Rainbow?” Applejack stammered for a moment, “Y-ya’ll need to git out o’ here, Rainbow Dash, ah can’t stand ta… Ah don’t want ta…”

“No Applejack.” Rainbow cut her off before she could continue. “We need to talk. Now.”

“There’s nothing; ta talk about.” Applejack began to retort, “Ah lost a loved one, and Ah’m sad. There’s nothing more to it.”

“Applejack,” Rainbow continued to talk, determined to help, no matter what, “I know that isn’t true. Granny Smith was dear to you, yes, but she was old. Macintosh even said he saw what was going to happen, he was expecting it, and I know you were too. You shouldn’t be locking yourself away from everypony else because of this, it isn’t healthy. Keeping to yourself and keeping all of your feelings bottled up won’t solve a thing. It will only make things worse.”

“You would know all about keeping your feelings to yourself, wouldn’t you?” Applejack retorted, her pride hurt.

“Yes. I would.” Rainbow continued, she could sense that Applejack was only lashing out because she was scared. “You know how I was before that day I saved you. You know how much I didn’t like sharing my feelings with anypony, but you also know that ever since then I’ve shared everything with you. I’ve had complete trust in your honesty and your willingness to help solve my problems, and now I need you to trust me. You won’t help yourself by grieving alone, Applejack.”

Applejack knew the truth in Rainbow’s words. In one motion, she ran forward and threw herself into the arms of the pegasus before her, she hugged her tight trying to cry, but no tears would come. Her body had already cried enough tears, so she just remained there, embracing Rainbow Dash, willing the world to be a better place. “Ah’m just so… so… so scared Rainbow.” She finally managed to get out. “Ah’ve lost so much, and this just feels like, like the final straw.”

Rainbow Dash stroked her mane, calming and soothing applejack. “You don’t need to be scared Applejack, I’m here for you, your family is here for you, the rest of our friends are here for you. This isn’t something that you have to face alone.”

“But, Ah just feel scared Rainbow. What if Ah lose you, what if Ah lose more o’ mah family? What if Ah lose mah friends? Ah can’t take it anymore, Ah feel like mah world is crashin’ around me, and everypony Ah now is at risk o’ fallin’ away from me just like Granny Smith.”

“I’m no closer to death than princess Celestia. I’m not going to leave you. Big Macintosh is not going to leave you. Applebloom is not going to leave you. Our friends are not going to leave you. We’re all here for you, and none of us can stand seeing you like this.”

“But, ah’ve lost so many of mah closest family, first Ma, then Pa, and Grandad after them, and now Granny Smith. Who’s to say that everypony isn’t just going to be lost from mah life? Especially now that Granny Smith is gone, me and Macintosh will have to be the oldest here, and it’s all mah fault!”

“No. No it isn’t your fault.” Rainbow Dash continued to be soothing, compassionate, and understanding. She needed to be. “Everypony has to pass on at some point, Applejack. Granny Smith just reached her time. That’s all. There is nothing you could have done to prevent her time from coming when it did. It isn’t your fault. You couldn’t have stopped it. All you can do is accept it and move on. I know it’s hard, but Granny Smith would have wanted you to. She wouldn’t want you to be like this. And I’m still young, our friends are still young, your brother and sister are still young. Our time isn’t close to coming yet, we’re going to be here with you for a long time Applejack, and I won’t let you torture yourself out of the irrational fear of our loss.”

“But ah could’ve taken her to the hospital earlier, ah could’ve seen how sick she was getting before it was too late, ah could’ve saved her, ah could’ve protected mah family!”

“Applejack, even Nurse Redheart said that it was a long time coming now. There was nothing you or anypony else could have done about it. It was just time. You can’t blame yourself. It will never help you.”

“But Ah still feel like Ah could’ve done something.” Applejack began.

“You will always feel that way when something like this happens. But you can’t dwell on it. The past is the past, we can’t change it, beating yourself up over it won’t solve anything.”

“Rainbow? Did Ah ever tell you the story of what happened to mah Ma and Pa?”

“It might’ve come up, but please, if you want to, tell me again.”

Applejack walked over to her bed. She curled up on it and looked up expectantly at Rainbow Dash. Rainbow took her cue. She softly padded over to the bed as well and climbed up. She lay her wing down on top of Applejack, holding her in a tight embrace, and nuzzled her gently. Waiting patiently for the earth pony to start. After a few moments of contemplative silence, Applejack began.

“Ma was one of the nicest mares Ah have ever had the pleasure of knowing. For as long as Ah can recall, she loved me, and Big Macintosh, and Pa with all of her heart, and we all loved her back. Then, one day, she had ta go ta the hospital. Now, Ah didn’t understand at the time, but that was when Applebloom had to be born, so we stayed with Grandad and Granny Smith while Ma and Pa left for several days. Then, one day, Pa came in carriyn’ the cutest little baby filly Ah ever did see in his hooves. I ran up to him and asked: ‘Where’s Ma’ ‘cause Ah didn’t see her anywhere. He just said: ‘Your Ma’s gone on.” And walked inside. Granny Smith had to explain to me what he meant. She had to explain to me all about how Ma had died of childbirth, and how she wouldn’t be coming home any more. We attended the funeral that week. Ah was sad for a while at first, but Ah had the rest of mah family and a new little baby sister to cheer me up. So I got over it. Pa never got over it, Ah don’t think. For weeks after he would just sit in his chair, not talkin’ ta anypony, sometimes readin’ his newspaper or sometimes just starin’ off into space. Then, one day, he just got up and walked out the front door. We never saw him again, and Ah haven’t heard of him since. Grandad passed on soon after that. Granny Smith said he must have been driven to the edge by grief for his daughter, but she stayed with us. Granny was always there for us, and we grew real close. It was just after Ah returned from Manehatten and got mah cutie mark that Ah decided Ah was goin’ to be like a mom to little Applebloom. Ah wanted her to grow up like she had loving parents, and Ah’ve been there for her ever since. And now, Granny Smith is just gone. Just like that, and ah feel like every link Ah had to mah parents is somehow broken, like ah’ve lost a huge part o’ mah family. And Ah guess Ah have.” Applejack finished her story, and began to cry again, weeping soflty into Rainbow Dash’s mane. Weeping for her loss, for her family, for everything she had held back for years.

Rainbow didn’t miss a beat. “Applejack,” she said in the softest, most soothing voice she had ever heard come from her own mouth, “You’re feeling so bad right now because you never let these emotions go. You just let them build up inside of you and now they’re all forcing their way out. I want you to let them all out now. I’m here for you, I will make you feel better. Trust me.”

And Applejack did. She spent what felt like hours crying to Rainbow Dash, letting years of pent-up emotions spill out from her body, only to be mopped up by the compassion of the mare she cared about most. Time was immeasurable, immaterial. When the last of her tears finally dried up, Applejack knew she was done. She stared into the magenta eyes of the rainbow-maned pegasus next to her, the strongest pony she had ever known. This pony who could take on the burden of a tortured soul and bring it out of the dark. She stared into her eyes, and found only love staring back.

Then, Rainbow Dash leaned forward and kissed her. Applejack kissed her back, and with their lips pressed together, everything in the world seemed to brighten. Applejack felt her fear, her anxiety, her uncertainty, and the last remnants of all the emotions she had harbored for so long begin to bubble away. Then, in a strange, unexpected move, Applejack felt Rainbow Dash’s tongue slip into her mouth. In an instant, all the remaining feelings Applejack had dealt with for the past few days were gone, to be replaced by a feeling Applejack could only know as an elated high of pure bliss as she allowed the rest of the world to slip away around her…

The two mares lay together for the longest time, sweat glistening on their bodies after their shared experience. Each was taking deep breaths, gradually coming down from that state of bliss-like high that had sustained them through their accelerated use of energy. Applejack lay on her back, and sighed in an expression of pure love when Rainbow Dash crawled over and rested her head on her lover’s chest. They lay there for some time, letting their heart rates slow down and their breathing get back to normal. They lay without speaking for longer than either cared to count, bonds building between them as they communicated without words. Then, Rainbow Dash spoke.

“You see, Applejack,” She began once her breathing had normalized, “I love you. I love you more than I have anypony else for a long time, probably since I last saw my own parents. And you know what? There are so many other ponies who love you too, Applejack. Big Mac and Applebloom love you. Twilight, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy love you. Even Rarity loves you, while you two may not get along the best. My point is, you are loved by so many ponies, and none of us can stand seeing you tear yourself up over your loss. It’s OK to be sad, but let me be there for you, let us be there for you. We all want what’s best for you, Applejack, we all want to help, and we all love you.”

“Ah know, Sugarcube,” Applejack finally said, only happiness flowed in her voice. “Ah love you too.”

And with that, the two mares felt themselves being pulled into the comforting grip of sleep. Inside an orange earth pony, the hole that had been forming in her heart for several years began to reseal itself, thanks to the undying love of the now sleeping blue pegasus whose head rested on her chest.

Transformations and Transportations

        Celestia’s sun shone brightly up in the pale blue sky, sending arcing beams of light down through the air to illuminate the scene. Every cloud shone with the bright white of pure sunlight reflecting off of water droplets. The densely packed formations of water droplets floated lazily in place. Each formation was a place where a pegasus pony could stop and rest, and none were as large as the collection of clouds which safely held hundreds of ponies in the air at once. From the weather factories to the Cloudesium, the city of Cloudsdale was a floating metropolis for the the winged citizens of Equestria.


At this moment, dozens of those winged citizens were gathered in the Cloudesium, attending a very special event, an event featuring ten pegasus ponies who all stood nervously in a row, lined up next to one another in front of a stage made of clouds. More pegasi were spread about the large stadium, mostly families and friends of the ten down in front. They had spent the better part of the last day cheering, whereas now all had fallen silent. An announcement was coming, an announcement to culminate all of the day’s events. On one cloud, situated between two large pink pillars, sat five unique ponies, or more specifically, unique to Cloudsdale in that only one was a pegasus. Beside this timid yellow pegasus sat a very excited pink earth pony, and a strangely anxious-looking orange earth pony. A white unicorn with a royal purple mane, nervously contemplating her last experience in this location, and a lavender unicorn, whose magic was holding the four visitors on the cloud, sat there as well.

These five were here to support a sixth member of their posse, a blue pegasus with a shockingly multi-colored mane, who sat down next to her nine competitors. They were her support, they were her motivation. Each of the competitors had their own motivation. Almost every pony in the audience was here to support at least one of these contenders, but some, of course, were only here to see the specific ponies who now occupied the cloud stage. Upon a stage that featured a microphone and speaker system to amplify their voices, stood two more ponies. They were pegasi, like the majority of those present, but there was something quite different about them. In their daily lives, most ponies of Equestria do not typically wear clothing, exceptions to this generally being special, formal, occasions. Regardless of whether or not this event in Cloudsdale was a special occasion, it could not be considered very formal, and as such, most of the ponies present did not wear clothing. Both were dressed in blue flight suits, adorned with yellow lightning bolt patterns across each hoof and down the front of the neck. Their mouths, wings, manes, and tails stuck out of the suit, and their mere presence seemed to carry an electrifying aura that had brought the crowd to a hush as soon as they had crossed the stage. Now, the one closest to the microphone, a mare whose yellow wings betrayed the color of her coat, stepped up to the device. Her mane and tail, filled with vibrant shades of orange reminiscent of tongues of flame, fluttered behind her with every step she took. A shift in her posture alerted the crowd to her intent to speak, causing them to stare at the stage with rapt attention.

Spitfire began to speak. “Attention, competitors and everypony else out there!” She called, though it was not needed to call for them to focus, so intent was the gaze of all in audience, “I am sure you are all very pleased and impressed. I’ve been a Wonderbolt for years now, and even being exposed to spectacular flying on a daily basis does not desensitize me to fantastic displays of skill when I see them. Today, my little ponies, we have all bared witness to a truly spectacular display of flying skill, as is fitting of these ten very talented and inspired ponies here. These ponies have showed incredible skill and perseverance to reach the spot where they now stand, and now, the ultimate dream for one of these talented ponies will come to fruition.”

Standing behind Spitfire, Soarin’ tossed something up to her, who promptly caught it and held it out on display for all to see. It was another of the flight suits that they both wore. Blue with yellow lightning bolts, folded up, ready for a new owner, a pristine pair of goggles set on top. Setting it down, Spitfire cleared her throat, and once again addressed the crowd. “The winner of this Wonderbolt competition and the next pony to become a Wonderbolt is…!” She paused, reveling in the anticipation she saw in the face of every pony before her, a cocky smile reaching her face, she drew out the moment as long as she could stand it. “MISS RAINBOW DASH!” She cried to the audience.

“OhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygosh!” Cried one blue pegasus with a rainbow mane, as she leaped from her place among the nine other competitors and flipped over in the air, giddy with excitement and complete glee. This was it. This was her moment, the moment she had dreamed of her entire life, and it was here. Tears were welling in Rainbow’s eyes a she flew up to the stage. She had prepared a speech for this day years ago, but now, in the heat of the moment, she found she could not speak. She could only stand there on stage, heart pounding in her chest, tears streaming down her face, and look out at the crowd with pure pride in her gaze. She couldn’t find her voice for some time. When she did, her speech was forgotten. She muttered out a thank you to Spitfire and Soarin’ and then took off into the air again. Expressing her joy in the best way she knew how. Somersaulting and flipping through the sky on a pure emotional high of adrenaline. Then, she shot across the stadium, bee lining straight for one section of the audience. There were five ponies she desperately wanted to see.

In a scene happily reminiscent of the last time the six had found themselves in this city, the first thing Rainbow Dash saw was her usually timid pegasus friend Fluttershy bouncing up and down and shouting with happiness. Upon seeing her, the yellow pegasus flew out to her and gave Rainbow a quick hug before they both landed on the cloud. Rainbow was immediately besieged by her friends. Pinkie Pie, Twilight, and Rarity all showered her with compliments and promises of many parties. Fluttershy remained, beaming her happiness with a she rarely displayed. But it didn’t take long to notice the lack of one particular pony. The one pony she had hoped the most to please and impress didn’t seem to be next to her. Rainbow pushed her way out of Pinkie’s hug and saw Applejack, standing by herself somewhat behind the other ponies. There was a pained and somewhat forced, Rainbow realized with incredulity, smile on her face.

“AJ?” She began, “What’s up? I thought you would be happy for me?”

“Ah am happy fer ya, sugarcube. This is just great!” Applejack answered, she was stumbling over her words somewhat. She had never been a good liar.

“Applejack, what is wrong?” Rainbow asked, elation temporarily replaced by dread that something was amiss.

Applejack looked down. She had to tell the truth, but she didn’t want to hurt her marefriend’s feelings. “Rainbow, it’s just that ah… Ah don’t think this is going to be the best thing for us.”

Rainbow Dash suddenly felt anger rise in her. “Not the best thing for us! This is what I’ve been dreaming of my whole life! I’m going to be a Wonderbolt, I’m going to become famous! This will be great for me… us, I mean.” She shouted.

“That’s just it, Rainbow!” Applejack retorted, “Now you’re going to have to be off training somewhere. You’ll be performing with them every other week. Ya’ll hardly have any time in Ponyville anymore. I won’t hardly ever get ta see ya now. Ya’ll be away so much, it’s going to make this extremely hard on me.”

“I can’t believe this! You’re supposed to encourage me, the one thing I’ve strived for my whole life and you want me to throw it away because I will have to be gone for a while? You’re supposed to be the selfless one, but you’re worried about yourself now, enough to try and keep me from my dreams?”

“AH’M NOT WORRIED ABOUT MAHSELF! AH’M MORE WORRIED ABOUT-”  she stopped. Sudden realization hit her. She hadn’t told her marefriend about this yet…

“Worried about what? Who? What could be so important?” Rainbow was still a little angry.

Applejack responded in a calm voice. Rainbow’s anger melted away again, replaced by concern. With a little trepidation, AJ began to speak again… “Rainbow, Ah’m sorry I didn’t tell you this earlier, but Ah’m… Ah’m…” The moment seemed to draw out for several minutes. Applejack was hesitant to say her next word… until… “Ah’m pregnant.”

The words began to sink in. All the colors in Rainbow’s field of view began to twist and blur. Applejack’s face became a swirl of orange pelt and straw mane, her colors soon blending with the whites and blues of the cloud and sky behind her. The rest of her friends disappeared as well, mixing into the swirling palette of colors that now filled Rainbow’s eyes. In a sudden panic, she felt the firm support of the cloud disappear beneath her. She was sinking, her hooves falling into the soft surface of the cloud as it gave way and broke apart beneath her. Then, she was falling. She felt air currents rippling her mane and tail and everything she saw whizzed past her eyes in a high-speed blur. She tried to flap her wings but it was to no avail. Her wings remained locked to her sides as she picked up speed, plummeting ever farther downward with no way to help herself. Terrified, she looked down. The swirling torrent of greens and browns below her told her that the ground was approaching fast. Then, the green melted away. The earth tones that were rushing up at her began to bubble and melt away, revealing blackness. An inky, pure blackness that stretched from horizon to horizon. There was no longer any ground rushing up to meet her, but darkness, nothingness, emptiness. Rainbow Dash felt herself fall closer and closer to the contact point with the dark, swirling, sea. She braced for she knew not what as the dark rushed up to meet her.

Rainbow Dash bolted upright in a cold sweat. For a moment she looked around wildly, her heart pounding in her chest, wondering what had happened and where she was. Her sense slowly came back to her as she recognized her surroundings. She was sitting on a bench, not a hard bench, but not quite comfortable either, she wondered what she had been doing laying on a bench, when it hit her. She had been asleep, she had been dreaming, but not just any dream, she recognized that one. She had had it before several times recently, and experiencing it always made her…

In a sudden shock of realization Rainbow realized that her face was matted with tears. She looked around again in a panic. Hoping that nopony had seen her crying in her sleep, that nopony had seen her weakness. There wasn’t a single pony in sight, the long corridor she was in was deserted. Dimmed fluorescent lighting that had been turned down in intensity for the night had kept the glare down enough to allow Rainbow a fitful sleep, but their glow was still enough to see the details of the hallway and to navigate by. From her position on the bench, Rainbow could see every door that lined the two walls at regular intervals. At one end, the corridor seemed to just end, but at the other end, a set of double doors showed the way out. Through the panels of glass embedded in each of the two doors, rainbow could see activity and more light in the next room. She knew what that room was. It was a room she had been in last night, before rushing in here, in a panicked craze for a reason that she was ashamed to admit, even to herself. She had been scared, she had wanted to be alone.

Rainbow found tears starting to flow again from her eyes, dripping down her already matted face. She sniffed to draw them back in. It wasn’t fair. All her life she had had her heart set on that one goal, to join the Wonderbolts. She had had many dreams about the moment before, but it was only recently that her mind had perverted the happy dreams, leaving a distraught Rainbow Dash in their wake night after night. Rainbow told herself over and over that the dream was not true. Sadly reminding herself that the Wonderbolts were not holding a contest to induct a new member, that she had not competed in Cloudsdale for the title, and that she had not won. She told herself this over and over, yet she could not shake the sadness from herself. She could not shake the glaring fact that some parts of the dream had been more real than others.

She looked up again, back to the double doors which led to the waiting room she had fled earlier. Above these doors was a sign, a sign which told her the purpose of the lonely hallway and also confirmed the truth of at least one part of her dream at the same time. In large, bold, glowing, red letters, the sign proudly displayed the purpose of the hallway and all the adjoining rooms.


Rainbow knew why she was here. She knew why the preceding days had been filled with the mixed emotions of dread, excitement, fear, anticipation, self-doubt, and wonder. Most of all, she knew why she has parked herself on this bench the night before, as opposed to all the other benches that lined the corridor. There, directly across from her, was a door. It was not unlike all the other doors on the walls of this hallway, but this door was special, not for the door itself, but for what lay behind it. Rainbow knew what she would find should she go through this door, the door she was guarding for no reason. Inside sat a lone bed, a few machines whose functions were mysteries to Rainbow, and a few chairs and miscellaneous items. It was the bed she cared about, not for the bed itself, but for its occupant. The one pony she cared about more than all others, possibly even more than she cared about herself. The one pony she had dared to truly love ever since leaving, and then losing, her own parents and family. Applejack.

Applejack, who had been through so much in the hours since arriving at the hospital. Indeed, she had been through so much in the last few days, and she had needed Rainbow’s help for almost everything. But now, Rainbow Dash felt alone, alone with her feelings of frustration and self-doubt, alone without her Applejack. ‘Why am I so alone?’ She asked herself for what felt like the hundredth time, ‘Because you’re afraid.’ Was the immediate answer, and it was true. Rainbow Dash had been through a lot in the past nine months, but she knew Applejack had been through far more. And now, on the eve of the culmination of those nine months of worry and anticipation, Rainbow knew she had abandoned Applejack just when she was about to endure the hardest part of this whole process. She had abandoned her to deal with her own selfish fears, alone, in the corridor between here and there, between her beloved and the rest of the world.

As she contemplated the last nine months, Rainbow felt a sense of nostalgia coming on. Even as she contemplated this, she felt herself leaving the corridor behind, leaving the present behind, as her mind began to whisk her away on a tour of memories. Unable to do anything to change it, Rainbow didn’t try to struggle. Instead, she let her mind take over, and felt herself taken back to experience a replay of unbidden memories.

The day was roughly nine months ago. It was a day Rainbow Dash remembered fondly most of the time, but regretted other times. Even before she began to relive it, Rainbow knew every moment of this day.

She didn’t wake up in a bed of clouds, as she had done in her home almost every morning before these last few weeks. Before, she had slept every night alone in her house in the sky, but today she found herself waking in a regular bed, sheets and a mattress supported her as opposed to cloud. It had been some weeks since the pivotal day of Granny Smith’s funeral. Ever since the day after then, Rainbow had spent every night with Applejack. Sometimes they stayed up late into the night talking, letting their emotions and feelings flow, letting their shared happy thoughts and memories replace those bad ones that were still left after years of suppression. Some nights they were tired enough to simply fall asleep in each other’s’ arms. Rainbow Dash stayed with her marefriend each night to make sure she was OK. She wanted to be sure that AJ would not slip back into sadness again, and she knew that being there for her every night was the best way to do that.

She had grown accustomed to waking up next to her marefriend, but this morning, Applejack wasn’t in the bed. Rainbow pulled herself out from under the sheets and stretched. She knew AJ had a tendency to wake up earlier than her, and would sometimes leave Rainbow to sleep for a few more hours, so waking up alone in her marefriend’s bed was nothing new. She walked over to Applejack’s bedroom window and looked out at the scene. Celestia’s sun was high over the rows and rows of apple trees, ‘wow,’ Rainbow thought, ‘It’s already pretty late in the day.’

Not wanting to miss any more of the day, Rainbow rushed downstairs. Surprisingly, she didn’t see Applejack in the kitchen, but she did find Big Macintosh there. “Hey Big Mac, what’s up?”

“Oh not much Miss Dash. Ah see ya got yerself a good sleep?”

“You know it! Hey, do you know where Applejack is?”

“Eeeyup.” Big Mac answered, “She told me that she was headin’ out early to do some chores around the farm, and then she was a’goin’ into town.”

“Thanks Big Mac, I’ll seeya around.” Even though he still seemed a little awkward around her, Rainbow couldn’t help but think of him as a big brother figure to her as well as Applejack.

“Uh, Miss Dash?” Macintosh had something else on his mind, “Ah just wanted ta thank ya for helpin’ mah sister the way ya did. She really seems a lot happier now, and Ah think ya’ll’r the one ta thank… So… Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it, big guy.” Rainbow brushed it off, “anything for family, right?”

“Uh, yeah… Uh, Miss Dash?” Macintosh was obviously still a little uncomfortable around her to consider her family yet, but Rainbow hoped to make him warm up to the idea, “Ah kinda… hafta be somewhere right now… So I hope ya don’t mind if Ah leave?”

“No worries here,” Rainbow chuckled, “I’d hate for you to keep Fluttershy waiting anyway.” Rainbow shot him a knowing smile. Even though his coat was red, the blush that crossed his face was obvious. Rainbow giggled a bit as she walked out the front door, Macintosh following behind her, his head down to keep his embarrassment hidden. She took off into the sky almost immediately, and did a few loops to stretch out her wings, having not used them for several hours. Then, watching Big Mac trot off in another direction, towards a certain cottage, Rainbow shot out over the fields of trees in the orchard, hoping to see Applejack still attending to her work. She didn’t find the orange mare in the orchard though, so she assumed she must have gone into town already.

She shot through the air towards Ponyville, eyes peeled for a certain orange coat and straw-colored mane and tail. She couldn’t find her, however. After searching for a while, Rainbow felt her stomach begin to complain, forcing her to stop for lunch. It was only after eating that she decided that Applejack must have gone somewhere, and that she would see her whenever she got back. She spent the rest of the day hanging around Ponyville. She saw Rarity and Pinkie Pie, but after talking with them learned that even they hadn’t seen Applejack that day. The sun had started to dip low in the sky when Rainbow finally spotted another of her friends. Twilight Sparkle had been in her library all day, but when Rainbow came knocking, she invited her to watch the sunset with her up on her balcony. They shared a light dinner and talked for a little while. Eventually, the conversation turned to Rainbow and Applejack.

“We’ve hardly seen you around recently, Rainbow. Don’t forget, even if you and Applejack are spending a lot of time together, you should still find some time for the rest of us!” Twilight chided, half kidding.

“Well, I guess we have been spending a lot of time away from everypony… But I actually haven’t seen AJ all day today.” Rainbow responded, jokingly adding: “I’m getting a little worried.”

“Well she was here earlier; she came to leave a message with me for you, actually.”

“Really? That’s the best news I’ve heard all day!” Rainbow was suddenly excited, “Why didn’t you say so earlier, though?”

“Because I wanted to spend some time with you. If I had given you her message right away, then you’d have rushed off to meet her without paying me a second thought.” Twilight shot back.

“Alright, alright. I’m sorry I haven’t been paying as much attention to the rest of you guys recently. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” Rainbow Dash didn’t want to start an argument. “Now, AJ’s message. Lay it on me!”

“She came by earlier and told me that she was going to find a quiet place to think for a while.” Rainbow’s heart sank a bit, that could be almost anywhere, but she had an idea. “She told me that, if you came looking for her, she would be at ‘the place where it all began.’”

“Where what all began?”

“I don’t know, that’s all she said. ‘Where it all began’ She must think you know the answer.”

“Well, I’m not sure what that means, but I think I have an idea where she would go. Thanks for everything, Twi’!” Rainbow rose up into the air off the balcony. The sun was already below the horizon, but she thought she could still catch AJ wherever she went.

“No problem, Rainbow!” Twilight called out as her pegasus friend shot away  into the last dwindling rays of sunshine. “Go get her.” She said as soon as the pegasus had gone. Smiling to herself, she turned and trotted back into her tree home.

It didn’t take Rainbow long to reach her destination. The cemetery loomed in front of her, and she knew exactly where to go. The gravesite she was searching for was fresh, it had been refilled only a few weeks before, after all. But surprisingly, when Rainbow reached the spot and hovered overhead, there was no Applejack to be seen. Rainbow was stumped. This was where she had been sure she would be, having a one-sided conversation with Granny Smith as Rainbow had seen her doing a couple times recently. Rainbow thought again, ‘the place where it all began…’ it only took a moment more to figure out. With a flash of sudden understanding, Rainbow shot off in another direction, the Everfree Forest loomed ahead of her. She flew over the treetops, knowing full well where she was going. She had been there twice before, after all. Even in the darkness that had replaced the rays of the setting sun, Rainbow dash could make out a decrepit castle, a rickety rope bridge, a deep canyon, and a cliff face that had become all too familiar to her. Lying out in the open, a safe distance from the edge, and staring up at the sky, lay one pony that Rainbow hadn’t seen all day.

She landed softly behind Applejack and padded up next to her. She lay a wing across the back of her marefriend and was rewarded with a happy smile when Applejack looked up at her. She lay down next to her. “What are you doing out here, AJ?”

“Sugarcube, Ah’ve just been doin’ some thinkin’ lately.” Applejack answered, leaning her head to rest it against Rainbow’s neck.

“About what, hun?”

“About us mostly, but also about Granny Smith, and the whole family. Mostly about our future though.” Applejack fell silent for a moment, contemplating how to best put her thoughts into words. “Ah feel like Granny Smith deserves something. Ya know, something to continue her… legacy… in the Apple family. She was the last of her generation in the family, and Ah think…  Ah think having a new generation in the family might show her we loved her enough to continue her legacy. Ah feel like seeing another generation born would have been something she’d have liked.”

“So you want… new foals in the family?”

“Ah don’t know, Sugarcube.” Applejack sighed, “Ah know the Apple family is spread out all around Equestria, and there is probably some new foals on the way right now. But here, in Ponyville, this piece of the Apple family pie feels… lonlier… ever since Granny Smith passed on. Ah think we could use a new member the most…”

“Well, everypony already knows about Big Mac and Fluttershy. I mean, it’s not exactly a secret anymore. But, knowing Fluttershy, I don’t think they’d be… well… you know… anytime soon…”

Applejack chuckled at that. “You and your mind Rainbow Dash, somepony aught’a teach you some manners! But yeah, Ah get what ya’ll are tryin’ ta say. Actually, Ah was thinking… Ah was thinking Ah might like to have one mahself…”

“Are you leaving me for a stallion?” Rainbow suddenly tensed up, full of dread.

“Oh, no, Rainbow. Ah could never do that. You’ve brought me too much happiness to do that. Ah love you, Ah love you far too much to do something awful like that to you.” Applejack shook her head, calming the overactive fears of her pegasus lover, “Ah just wish there was some way it could be possible for me…”

“Maybe there is.” The voice from behind them made both Rainbow Dash and Applejack jump and whirl around in place. A pony stood back there, shrouded in darkness from the shadows of the trees that stood behind them. As the newcomer stepped forward into her moonlight, both mares gasped in shock.

“P-princess Luna!” They both gasped, bowing down as was custom.

“Rise, my little ponies, you need not fear me.” Princess Luna said, a strange smile playing across her face. “In fact, I think I may have the answer to your problems.”

“What do ya mean, Princess?” Applejack questioned.

“I think, that if you two really want a foal, then I could help you with that.” Rainbow and Applejack just silently stared at her for a moment, letting her words sink in. Princess Luna just stood there, grinning at them, as if she enjoyed her little intrusions…

“Pardon me, Princess,” Rainbow Spoke up, “but isn’t that a little, uh, private?”

“Well, when you have conversations under the moon, you can’t expect me to not listen in.” The princess giggled, an action that left both the other ponies somewhat perplexed, “Besides, I still feel indebted to you and your other friends for rescuing me from the darkness that held me. If you really want this foal, then consider it a repayment out of my gratitude.”

“But… how?”

“Well, I think it’s safe to say that I’m well versed in certain forms of magic that even your friend Miss Sparkle has not come across yet.” She paused before continuing. “But first, I need to know if you feel you are ready. This is a life-changing thing, if you are going to take care of a foal, you need to be completely prepared to face the responsibility.”

Applejack surprised everyone, including herself, with what she said next. “Yes.” She said with an air of determination that could be nothing less than the truth. “Ah’ve been like a mother to Applebloom her whole life. Ah think Ah’m prepared for this, and Ah know that Ah really want it.”

“In that case, I assume you’re going to be having the foal, then?”

A little hesitation, but then, with the same determined voice, “Yes.”

“OK, then.” And with that, Luna’s horn began to glow. Rainbow, who had been watching Applejack, expecting something to happen, now felt tendrils of magic wrap themselves around her own body, and she began to rise off the ground and levitate, only this wasn’t due to her wings.

“Uh… What’s happening?” Rainbow called out, feeling the princess’s powerful magic wrap itself around her. Luna only giggled a bit, while Applejack could do nothing but stare. Rainbow’s eyes went wide with shock when she realized that she seemed to be… growing? She could feel herself getting somewhat bigger, her snout was expanding, and she felt a tingling sensation and then the feel of swelling in her most private of areas… almost as if… “Oh, Celestia.” He squeaked when he realized what was happening.

The transformation complete, Rainbow set his hooves down on the ground once more. He felt dizzy, he felt… completely different. He looked down at himself, swallowing a huge lump when he realized what exactly the princess had done.

For their part, Luna and Applejack couldn’t seem to help but laugh at the confused new stallion. AJ found that she could barely stand any longer, and fell onto her side. Luna, who knew full well what was going to happen, regained her composure enough to address the two of them. “That spell will only last until sunrise.” She told them, “So I would suggest making good use of my night. I don’t suppose that should be too difficult, considering most ponies use my night for their more… intimate pursuits.”

Applejack ceased her giggling, and both her and Rainbow’s faces went hot with embarrassment, remembering a night several weeks previous. “But, Princess… Why?” she said.

“Because I feel like I am doing my duty to help my subjects with their problems. Problems of this nature seem to fall under my domain.” She grinned at them, a knowing smile on her face. “The night favors lovers, anyway.” And with that, she rose from the ground and disappeared amongst her moon and stars.

Through the window, Rainbow and Applejack could see that Twilight was up late reading again. Applejack trotted happily up to the front door and knocked. Rainbow hung back, embarrassed. Twilight answered. “Applejack? What are you doing here so late?”

“No time to explain, Twi’, but Ah need ya’ll ta give me that spell that’ll let me walk on clouds again. It’s important.” Applejack said, suppressing laughter.

Twilight looked out the door past Applejack. Her gaze fell upon a visibly different Rainbow Dash, still holding back in the shadows, an awkward smile on his face. Suddenly realizing the situation, Twilight looked like she needed to giggle as well, but she held in the urge. “I have no idea what other magic you two have been exposed to tonight, but I suppose a little more won’t hurt.” She performed her spell on Applejack. “Good night, girls- whoops, I mean, good night AJ, and -snicker- Rainbow.” After seeing that Applejack was safely out of the way, Twilight shut the door again. The muffled burst of laughter that followed still reached their ears.

Applejack turned. “Well, Rainbow Dash.” She said, a playful smile crossing her lips. “Ah don’t believe Ah’ve ever had the opportunity ta visit yer house. What do ya say we make a night of it? Ya’ll can give me the grand tour.”

“Um… OK.” Rainbow answered. He was still getting used to this…

“Well what are ya’ll waiting for, ya big, strong, stallion?” AJ grinned, “Ah can’t exactly fly mahself there!”

What followed was the strangest night Rainbow had ever had in her entire life.

That was how, nine months later, Rainbow Dash found herself in the Maternity Ward of the nearest hospital, waiting in a corridor outside the room where Applejack was about to start her most difficult undertaking without her lover by her side.

The self-doubt and worrying had started the day afterwards, and never really gone away since. Rainbow contemplated her situation as the images of the memory faded from her vision and the hallway reappeared to her. ‘I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.’ She thought to herself. “I’ll never be able to be a parent!” She suddenly cried out in frustration.

“And why is that?” Came a voice from beside her, to her left. Rainbow jerked her head around. Lost in her reverie, she hadn’t noticed this other pony come in. She looked… familiar… for some reason. She was an earth pony with a cream colored pelt. Light blue eyes stared expectantly from under a mane of deep blue and pink.

“Do I… know you… from somewhere?” Rainbow asked hesitantly.

“We both live in Ponyville. I’m Bon-bon, if that helps.” That’s right, Rainbow thought, she did know this pony. She had only seen her a few times before, and had hardly ever spoken with her. Why was she being so friendly all of a sudden? “I’m here with my wife, Lyra. She’s in one of the rooms down there.” She gestured further down the hallway. “We’re expecting a new child, and Lyra is receiving a scheduled checkup here today.” Bon-bon explained, happily.

“So… Why are you telling me this?” Rainbow was more than a little incredulous.

“Because you look distressed and I think I can help. Now. Applejack is in that room, isn’t she.” Bon-bon said, pointing with a hoof. Rainbow was momentarily shocked. “Don’t act so surprised, you two have been the talk of the town for months now. We’ve all seen Applejack getting bigger, it’s not hard to make out what’s going on. The real question is: What are you doing out here, when you should be in there with her?”

Rainbow didn’t know what to say. This mare she barely knew was going to help her with her problems? Well, it was worth a shot anyway… “I don’t think I’m ready for this, I don’t think I’m ready to be a parent.” Rainbow said.

Bon-bon’s blue eyes sparkled with understanding. “That’s normal for first-time parents. Tell me, what exactly are you afraid of?”

“I don’t think I’m ready to give up everything to be a parent. I mean, my greatest dream ever since I was a filly has been to join the Wonderbolts, but if I have a family, I couldn’t possibly go away for weeks on tours and practicing. I’d have to give up my dreams. How can I be a good parent if I have divided attentions?”

“You’re afraid of responsibility.”

Rainbow was taken aback. She hadn’t thought of her fears like this before. She thought she was just being selfish, but this… This idea seemed to make sense. “Yes…” she started to say, but no. This wasn’t the whole problem. This was only a piece of it. The real problem was deeper, even more complicated than that. She had struggled to reveal the real issue even to herself, it had been far too painful to think about, but now… now seemed like the right time to discuss things.

It only took a moment’s hesitation before Rainbow released all of her inner fears and doubts to Bon-bon. “But there’s more than that.” She said slowly. “Applejack’s mother died of childbirth when her second daughter, Applebloom, was born. Applejack’s father just left them. He stood up and left one day, after their mother was gone, and nopony has heard of him since. I’m afraid… I’m afraid of losing Applejack. I’m afraid that, if I lose her, I might turn out just like her father. It might be too much for me to handle, and I’d abandon our little foal just like he did. I don’t want to be like him, I don’t want to fail her, but I’m afraid I will.” Rainbow finished, hanging her head.

“Tell me something.” Bon-bon replied, “Do you love her?”


“It’s a simple question. Do you love her?”

“Yes.” Rainbow Dash sighed, “I love her more than anypony else. This may sound crazy, but I think I love her even more than I care about myself.”

“And would you still love her… Even if you lost her?”

“Yes. Yes of course I would.” Rainbow said, she knew she could never just stop loving Applejack.

“And if you lost her, and all you had to remember her was the foal that she gave you, a foal that was the essence of not only her, but yourself as well, why would you love them any less?”

“I… I… I wouldn’t.” Rainbow cried, realization suddenly hitting her, her spirits lifting instantly. She couldn’t stand it anymore, she had to see her. “Th-thank you.” Rainbow stammered as she rose up off of the bench. She galloped across the hall and put a hoof on the door handle.

“You’re welcome.” She heard as she opened the door and slipped inside the room.

Inside the treatment room were a few odd machines. A dozing nurse sat in one of the few scattered chairs, and there was a single bed. In that lone bed lay a rather large orange earth pony with golden straw-colored hair, green eyes, and cute freckles on her cheeks. Applejack’s eyes opened as soon as she heard the pegasus step in the door. “What took ya so long, Sugarcube?”

“I made a mistake, Applejack.” Rainbow said, “But it’s a mistake I’ll never have to make again. I’m not going to leave again. I promise.” She trotted over to her partner’s bedside and stood over her. She nuzzled Applejack’s face gently. There were a few beads of sweat present there, but not too many, certainly not as much as were expected. For a few long minutes, Rainbow stood there, nuzzling and protecting her beloved, letting unspoken words repair her mistake.

Rainbow saw and felt it happen before it really registered what she was witnessing. She watched as every muscle in Applejack’s body seemed to tense up at once, causing AJ to intake a sharp breath. The combined flexing of almost every muscle in her body caused Applejack to groan, and Rainbow Dash stepped back, suddenly understanding what was now happening. The nurse who had been sitting nearby and dozing off suddenly bolted awake when she heard Applejack begin to groan, she quickly called a doctor and another nurse pony to the room.

“It’s OK, AJ.” Rainbow Dash said, calming and soothing her beloved, “You can do this. I’m here for you. We’re together.”

‘Oh, no.’ Rainbow thought to herself, hours later. ‘Maybe I’m not actually ready for this after all.’ She had spent an unknown amount of time at AJ’s side as the doctor and nurses bustled around, trying to make everything go smoothly. She had never endured this much noise in her life. The moaning, groaning, and screaming were going to drive her insane, she reasoned. She could never have thought that anypony, even Applejack, could seemingly go through this much pain yet still strive forward. It killed her inside to know that she could literally do nothing. Even the helpful words of encouragement she kept repeating didn’t seem to have any effect, and Rainbow suspected Applejack had tuned them out long ago in order to focus on the task at hand. She kept saying them though, mostly because it gave her something to do while she stood around worrying and feeling useless.

“You’re doing great, AJ, everything’s going just fine.” She muttered, mostly to herself.

“Push, push, almost there!” cried a nurse.

Applejack let out another scream, causing Rainbow to wince.

Soon, every noise blended into one in Rainbow’s head. She no longer heard the instructions and words of the doctor and nurses, she no longer heard the individual cries of her partner, she didn’t even hear her own hollow words of encouragement any more. Every sound mixed together into one long, drawn-out symphony of cries and shouts that assaulted Rainbow Dash’s ears. Her eyes were riveted to the scene. She watched her beloved Applejack struggle to push new life into the world, wriggling and tensing up beneath her sheets as a nurse tried to guide the foal into the open air. Every noise hit her ears like the pounding of a drum as the scene unfolded before her. Then, the crescendo of sound reached new levels of volume as Applejack released a long, loud, drawn out cry that served to drown out every other sound in the room. Rainbow winced in shared pain and tried to close her ears to the assault, but then, mere seconds after it began, the shout died down, and the level of noise in the room decreased dramatically.

Rainbow Dash was then greeted by a new sound. Another cry, but this wasn’t one of the pained, struggling cries Rainbow had heard for so long, it was new. It was the first sound made by a new life as it breathed the outside air for the first time. It was the most beautiful sound Rainbow had ever heard.

Her head swam. She had to shake herself to desensitize her ears from the ordeal they had just been through. The room was now quiet save for the heavy breathing of an exhausted orange earth pony and the soft whimpering of a brand new pony. Rainbow’s ears were still ringing however. So much so that she barely heard the nurse when she approached her. “Congratulations. It’s a filly.” She barely heard as she reached out to accept a bundle from the grasp of the nurse. She looked down into the smallest, most adorable face she had ever seen. She was orange, a few shades lighter than the color of Applejack’s pelt. Her eyes were closed, but the little filly was awake, squirming around in its bundle. Her little mane was ruffled from being dried off, but Rainbow could see plain as day the golden straw color. Spread through her mane, though, Rainbow saw streaks of dazzling color. Sharp lines of red, orange, and yellow adorned her forelock, and Rainbow Dash could see green, blue, and indigo further back. Streaks of every color of the rainbow flowed in perfect harmony with the rest of her mane. The sight of her own daughter brought tears to Rainbow Dash’s eyes. She looked up, and gazed lovingly, smiling into the face if Applejack. Applejack, exhausted after her ordeal, reached out her front hooves. Rainbow understood at once. She carefully set the bundle of filly down in her lover’s arms.

“What are we going to name her?” She asked as she handed her off.

“Applejoy, we’ll call her Applejoy.” was the immediate answer. Rainbow liked the name; it seemed to fit the little bundle of joy that now lay before her.

At that moment, in one of her first conscious acts, the little filly rolled over on her mother’s chest and slipped out of her blanket, exposing two tiny wings for the first time. She opened her newborn eyes and blinked as a rush of light hit her newly exposed pupils. She looked up into the face of her mother, and then her momma, with her brilliant pink eyes. As she gazed upon the full face of her daughter, Rainbow swore she could see a tiny smile cross her mouth. “Yes,” she said, reaching out a hoof to stroke Applejack’s chin and receiving a beautiful look of pure love in return, “Applejoy is a perfect name.”

One nurse had to be the bearer of good news. She slipped quietly out into the hallway. The results of her foray were soon heralded, as a giddy, bouncing Pinkie Pie leapt into the room. Followed by Rarity and Twilight Sparkle, looks of pure excitement across their faces, Fluttershy trotted softly into the room as well, Big Macintosh at her side with a yawning Applebloom just waking up on his back. A glint of gold reflected off Fluttershy’s right front hoof as she crossed the room, but she and Big Mac had already been congratulated. This moment belonged to Equestria’s newest family.

“Oh my goodness she’s so adorable you guys look so cute together I’m so happy for you I’ll have to throw a huge party for you all now oh what’s her name what’s her name?!” fired off Pinkie as she bounced about the room, literally overflowing with excitement, nurses trying to get her to calm down.

“Applejoy,” Rainbow Dash answered, caught up in the moment herself.

“Well, that’s just a darling name, for an absolutely darling little filly. You two must be so proud.” Rarity chimed in.

“I agree. You all look so beautiful together. And your little daughter is the cutest little filly I’ve ever laid my eyes on.” Twilight spoke up.

“Oh my,” Fluttershy almost whispered, “This really is so adorable, she’s even cuter than all the little baby animals I’ve seen born. She’s just so cute.”

“Eeeyup.” Big Mac continued after his fiancé finished speaking, “Good job little sis, you too, Miss Dash.”

“Ah’m too young ta be an aunt.” Applebloom spoke up, still slightly annoyed at having been woken up.

Rainbow Dash looked around the room at all the happy faces of her friends. She felt pure joy at this moment. She turned back once again to look at Applejack and their little daughter. Tears fell freely down her face as she gazed into the eyes of the ones she loved most. No one, she decided then and there, not even the Wonderbolts, could ever separate her from her family.


One of my goals in writing this story was to create a big shout-out to EsperDerek.

EsperDerek, who many of you know, wrote one of my favorite fanfics of all time. His amazing "Out in the Cold" series of stories. This story series has persisted to become one of my top two fanfics of all time, and I've read hundreds.

So, now, I find myself in the situation of writing my own pregnant-pony-couple story. Whose work should influence me, but his?

So, with EsperDerek's permission, I preceded to write a scene that did a shout-out to his fic. The scene in Rainbow Dash's memory, the one featuring Luna, is this scene. I loved his characterization of Luna (especially as opposed to the sad Luna so many other people write about), and tried to pattern my version of Luna after his.

As such, I also featured a direct quote from him. "The night favors lovers, anyway." Was one of my favorite lines from his fanifc, and it seemed fitting for me to use it in my own.

So thank you to Esperderek, and thank you to everyone who will be reading my own story!

Memories and Matrimony

        The bundle of light orange was curled up against Applejack’s chest. The last rays of Celestia’s setting sun illuminated each stripe of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple hair as the streams of natural light shone through the window. This light caused each streak of color to shine and stand out against the light straw-blonde mane and tail of the little pegasus filly that rested against her mother. With each breath, the chest of the small pony rose and fell as she slept. Applejack reveled in the sensation against her pelt as each of Applejoy’s breaths caused her body to press against her mother’s chest. Applejack smiled down at her sleeping daughter. It had taken several hours of gently rocking and feeding the filly to finally get her to sleep throughout the night, but the blissfully peaceful look on Applejoy’s face made it all worth it. Just that look on her daughter’s face could fill Applejack with a happiness that she had, in truth, not stopped feeling since the birth of her little filly, or even the day she found out she was pregnant. It was a happiness she had not known since the death of Granny Smith, but had finally rediscovered when she and Rainbow began rebuilding her family. As she gazed into Applejoy’s pink eyes, memories flooded Applejack’s mind. A day in the hospital room, when Nurse Redheart had offered the first ‘Congratulations’, or later that same day when Rainbow had produced the little box with a golden band inside. That led to the day, several months into her journey, when they had sealed their love with a ceremony in front of all their friends. But most of all, the day her ball of joy had come into the world.

         Applejack looked up from the sleeping form of her daughter to the door that led from their living room into the shared kitchen and entrance area. She was watching, waiting for a sight that she looked forward to after every long day of tending to her filly’s needs. She waited for that door to open, and for a figure to step from the entrance hall and back into her life, a sight usually heralded by the setting of the sun. With a small creaking noise that warmed her heart, the door Applejack was watching began to swing open. Carefully, quietly, the other pegasus that Applejack loved with all her heart crossed the threshold. “Good evening, Rainbow.” AJ whispered, trying not to wake the sleeping filly as she said this and as she carefully picked herself up off the couch and moved to the floor, leaving Applejoy curled in a ball on the cushion behind her. She trotted across the living room to where Rainbow Dash stood by the door.

        “Hey there, Honey,” Rainbow whispered back as Applejack left her a quick kiss on the cheek. Something felt wrong though, Rainbow’s eyes seemed to be slightly glazed over, almost as if…

        “What’s wrong, Sugarcube?” Applejack asked, worry suddenly starting to creep up on her.

        “Nothing, AJ.” Rainbow answered with a sigh, “I guess I’m just tired is all.”

        “You’re working too much.”

        “No I’m not.”

        “Yes you are. Ah know you’ve been working the apple cart in town every afternoon for a while now, on top of your weather duties.”

        “Because it needs to be done, and you obviously can’t do it, and Big Mac has too much on his mind recently. I’m happy to pick up the slack.”

        “But Ah hardly get to see you during the day anymore, and Ah worry that you’re overworking yourself.”

        “Just think of it like I’m bringing in extra bits for the family while you’re on maternity leave.”

        “Ah own half the farm, Rainbow. Maternity leave is paid.”

        “All the same, I’m going to keep doing it. I feel like it’s the least I can do.”

        “The least ya can do for what?”

        “For us, AJ, for the family.” Rainbow explained, “I’m a part of this whole family now, and with you taking care of Applejoy, and Applebloom still being too young to work the stand herself, I feel like I should be the one to take some of the work off Big Mac’s back. The wedding is tomorrow, and the last thing he needs is a full work schedule when he should be preparing.”

        “Ah can see there’s no point arguin’ with you.” Applejack sighed, resigned, “Just please, when ya’ll are out there doin’ what’s best fer the whole family, try ta remember me, sitting here all day alone, waitin’ fer ya ta come home.”

        “I’d never forget you, honey. Who do you suppose I think about all day?” And with that, Rainbow leaned in and plated a kiss right on Applejack’s lips, holding it there for a moment to lift both their spirits. “Now,” she said, turning to head into the shared kitchen and eating area which divided their side of the house from Macintosh’s, “I’m tired. So I’m going to go grab a quick bite to eat and then head upstairs to bed.”

        ‘Now this ain’t right.’ Applejack thought to herself. Every day when Rainbow came home, especially once she had started picking up extra work recently, she had been extremely hungry. ‘Somethin’s on her mind, and it ain’t just that she’s tired.’ Applejack decided, ‘after all, she’s always been hungry enough to eat… well… a horse. Today shouldn’t be any different. Somthin’s botherin’ her.” Applejack sighed as she watched her wife head to the kitchen. She herself turned around and trotted back over to where Applejoy was still lying on the couch. She carefully picked her sleeping daughter up and settled her onto her back for the walk upstairs to the nursery. ‘Granny Smith’s old room,’ she thought absent-mindedly, and with a pang of sadness that was gone instantly, ‘No. The nursery.’

        After tucking her tiny pegasus, who surprisingly hadn’t even woken up, into her crib, Applejack headed back down to the kitchen. Strangely, she didn’t find Rainbow either there or in the dining room as she had expected, so she begrudgingly trudged back upstairs to their shared room. ‘Ma and Pa’s old room.’ Was the again unintended thought that she shook off immediately. Reaching the doorway, Applejack stopped and listened. She could hear a soft sobbing sound, a quiet weeping, coming through the closed door. ‘That’s it.’ She though, ‘That pony’s got somethin’ that’s botherin’ her, and she’s goin’ ta tell me whether she wants ta or not.’ She quickly thrust open the door and stepped inside. Rainbow, sitting on the bed, quickly looked up as if startled and tried to sniff away the tears that were evident on her face. “Sugarcube, tell me what’s wrong, and tell me now.”

        “Nothing is wrong, AJ,” Rainbow stammered, “It’s just… allergies. I think I have Hay Fever.”

        “Ah can tell when ya are lyin’ ta me, Dashie.” Applejack retorted, “Please just tell me the truth. Ah love you, and Ah hate ta see you feelin’ like this and tryin’ to deny it.”

        Rainbow broke down. “I’m sorry, AJ…” She said, “It’s just that… it’s… it’s today, AJ.” Applejack didn’t understand. Rainbow continued, “Today’s the day that… that… that…” She stopped, obviously at a loss for words, fresh tears brewing in her eyes, whatever she was trying to say seemed too painful. Applejack watched as Rainbow pulled herself up from her laying position and reached over to a nightstand on her side of the bed. She opened a drawer, one of the nightstand drawers full of the trinkets and small items that she had deemed most important to her during her big move from her cloud house down to the remodeled Apple Family house several months ago.

        Applejack watched as Rainbow pulled her hoof back out of the drawer, with what looked like a very old piece of paper in her grasp. It was yellowed, with small cuts and tears in places, and it seemed crinkled, as if it had been kept for years, which, AJ realized, it may have been. She wondered what was on the paper, from what she could see of it from across the room it looked like it may be a clipping from a newspaper. Whatever it was, it was obviously important to Rainbow Dash, who reached out as if to hand it to AJ. Applejack crossed the room and climbed into the bed next to her wife. She could see that the piece of yellowed paper was indeed a newspaper clipping, an issue of the “Equestria Daily” Newspaper. Applejack took the old newspaper page from her wife and began reading. The first thing she noticed was that the paper carried the same date as today, only different. It was the same month and day, but the year was over a decade in the past. Applejack wondered only briefly why Rainbow would keep a newspaper clipping from so long ago. She didn’t have to look far to find her answer however. Farther down on the page, circled in ink that had obviously been there for as long as Dash had had the newspaper, was one particular short article. It read:

Two Ponies Killed in Tragic House Fire

A fire broke out in a small house on the outskirts of the small town of Maresburg in the wee hours of the morning yesterday. When fireponies reached the scene, they found that the home’s two occupants, a married couple by the name of Blue Thunder and Sky Dasher, had both passed on due to the fumes and flames that filled and consumed their house before rescuers were able to respond. The ponies of…

        Applejack stopped reading. She looked up from the text. She knew those two names, the names of the ponies who had been killed in the article. She knew them not from experience, but from stories, tales of a certain pegasus from when she had been young. “Rainbow,” Applejack said as she turned to face the mare beside her who now had even more tears in her eyes, “Your parents. Is this… is today the anniversary of the day they died?”

        “No,” Rainbow responded, glumly, “Today is the anniversary of the day I found out.” They were both silent for a moment, Applejack said nothing as she processed this, she only stared into the deep magenta eyes of her wife, willing her to go on. After a moment, Rainbow continued: “I was at flight school in Cloudsdale. This was before I even had my cutie mark, and it was today, all those years ago, that one of my instructors came rushing into my room with a newspaper in her mouth. That was it. She had circled the article, she tried to tell me it was OK, that it was just a horrible accident and I shouldn’t feel too bad, but I did anyway. I had to find out from a newspaper, AJ, a newspaper, and almost two whole days after it happened too.”

        “Ah know, Sugarcube.” Applejack said in her sweetest voice, leaning over to nuzzle her lover, “That sounds horrible, and it’s a terrible way ta have ta find out. But why didn’ ya tell me this before? Ah coulda’ talked with you about it, you don’t need to feel this bad.”

        “Because whenever I talk about them, and about how I wasn’t there for them, I always feel so guilty. I’ve never liked to talk about it, it brings up too many bad memories.”

        “Now wait here just a minute, Sugarcube. Weren’t ya the one tellin’ me before, back when Granny Smith died, that I shouldn’t feel guilty about her? Yet here you are sayin’ ya felt guilty about yer own parents all these years? Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite?”

        “No, AJ, it’s not like that,” Rainbow sighed, “I know their death isn’t my fault, and I don’t blame myself for it. The fire was a horrible accident. But I’ve always felt guilty about them because of the way I acted to them before.” She paused for a moment, putting words together in her head, “Let me tell you a story.” She said finally.

        “My parents lived in Maresburg for a long time. It was a really small town, even smaller than Ponyville, so when I was born, I came into this world in the only clinic for miles around, on the ground.” Rainbow Dash began her story, and Applejack snuggled in next to her to listen, making sure her comforting presence was known. “Because I was born on the ground, and as pegasus fillies can’t really fly until they get older, my parents bought a little old house in the hills outside of town and moved the family in.” Rainbow leaned back over to the still opened drawer and pulled something else out. It was a photograph; probably older than the newspaper but kept in much better condition by the frame that held it. She handed it over to Applejack, who took it, setting the newspaper down.

        Applejack smiled when she saw the three ponies in the picture. Two of them lay on the ground while one large stallion stood over them. The proud-looking, muscular, pegasus stallion had a deep blue coat and a mane and tail of an even darker shade of navy blue. He stood tall and proud with his powerful wings outstretched, a grin on his face. Laying down at his hooves was a smaller pegasus mare. She looked fragile, delicate. Her coat was a mix between light shades of blue and purple, and her wispy, pure white hair fluttered in a gentle breeze. A happy, blissful smile rested on her face and her eyes gazed at the third pony in the picture. Curled in a tight ball, sound asleep, at the ends of her four outstretched hooves was a small pegasus filly with a light blue coat and a short mane and tail that carried the colors of the rainbow. Blue Thunder, Sky Dasher, and Rainbow Dash. Besides knowing their names, and hearing that they had been gone for many years, Applejack had never known much about her parents-in-law. She had only seen a picture of them on one other occasion. AJ looked up from the photograph to find Rainbow Dash had been silently watching her as she studied it. Applejack shifted herself over so she was touching the rainbow-maned pegasus and leaned against her, gently nuzzling to show her she cared. With the picture lying next to them, Applejack silently pleaded Rainbow to continue with her story.

        Communicating with Applejack on a level neither of them really understood, Rainbow heard her silent pleas, and began again in earnest. “We lived outside of Maresburg for years in that little house as I grew up. My father was the weatherpony in town, he was the only one, because the town was so small. He had never had any great aspirations in life, so he lived content with his job and his family. Mom was always a stay-at-home mare, so neither of my parents really had any dreams for themselves or for me. Dad always thought I’d follow in his footsteps and become Maresburg’s weatherpony someday, and I was fine with that for a while as I grew up, but then, we took a trip. My parents took me to Cloudsdale as a reward as soon as I learned how to fly from my dad. It was my first time in a big city, and while we were there, I saw something that changed my life forever. My parents took me to a show by the Wonderbolts, and I loved it. From that moment on, I wanted nothing more than to one day be a Wonderbolt. But my parents had other ideas. They had always lived a small town life, and when I told them of my dreams, they said ‘your aspirations are too great’ and that I would never achieve it. They still wanted me to live a simple life, grow up with them, and eventually take over dad’s job. But by then, being a small-town weatherpony wasn’t going to cut it for me.”

        “Isn’t it ironic how that’s exactly what ya are now? A small-town weatherpony?”

        “Hey, don’t interrupt me!” Rainbow said with a small laugh, “So, my parents and I drifted farther and farther apart as I got older. I probably got a lot more rebellious and headstrong than most ponies my age, because I really wanted to chase my dreams and my folks seemed to be in the way of that. I practiced on my own and I got pretty good at flying. But I was also alone and away from my parents a lot, so I guess they got worried about me, they never did understand that a small town life wasn’t going to be for me like it had been for them. They thought I was just wasting my time. Then, one day, we got into a big fight about my future. They seemed bound and determined not to let me go live my own life, and it just got too much for me. I screamed at them, and I argued with them for hours. I was still furious with them that night, so I gathered up all the bits I had ever earned and all the little things that I cared about and I flew off into the night. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I didn’t want to see my parents after they had done, so I left. I got my wish. I never did see my mom and dad again.” Rainbow stopped, tears welling in her eyes again. “I’m… I’m sorry, AJ, I don’t want to be like this, you shouldn’t have to see me like this.”

        “No.” Applejack whispered, still nuzzling and comforting her wife, “Ah think ya need ta say this. Ya should just let it all out.

        Rainbow took a couple deep breaths and continued. “I finally found my way back to Cloudsdale, the place where my dreams started, and I used all the money I had to get enrolled at the flight academy. At first I thought that my parents would send somepony looking for me, but no one ever came and found me. I only found out later that when they reported me missing with the Maresburg sheriff, the only search that got started was a local one that never reached Cloudsdale. At flight school, weeks turned into months, and I didn’t really tell anypony about where I came from. Only one of my instructors, she was the only one I felt comfortable to open up to, knew about me and my parents, because I told her. She was the one who found the newspaper, she was the one who brought it to me all those years ago today.” Tears were continuing to flow freely down her face now, but Applejack kept nuzzling her. She remembered a time when she had been sad, depressed even, and she had only Rainbow to thank for lifting her spirits then, it was her turn now. Rainbow needed her, and she wasn’t going to let her down.

        “I left after we had a huge fight. I told them I hated them. I told them I never wanted to see them again. In all those months I was in Cloudsdale, I never tried to send them a letter. I never tried to contact them. I never reached out to them again. And then, I found out that they died. They died and the last they knew of me was a hateful disrespectful child who abandoned them. I never got the chance to apologize, to tell them I loved them. They were just gone. For months I couldn’t think of anything but them. My grades slipped, I stopped seeing what few friends I had made, and I even thought about just ending it all a couple times. I was that miserable. I don’t think a day goes by now that I don’t feel guilty. They were the first two ponies to love me, the first two ponies I ever loved, and I failed them. I completely, utterly, failed them. I try to block out my feelings nowadays and forget my memories, but… every year… on this day… they just get to be too much to hold in.” With that, her story finished, Rainbow finally broke down completely. Tears rolled freely down her face and she sobbed heavily from the guilt and the sadness.

        For several minutes Applejack did nothing but nuzzle her wife as soothingly as possible. Then, she turned her head and locked eyes with Rainbow Dash. She stared deep into her lover’s magenta eyes and watched each tear as it formed, pooled, and then rolled downwards. Finally, she spoke. “Sugarcube,” She said slowly, “Let me dry those tears fer ya.” She leaned in and began kissing Rainbow’s face. Each time a fresh tear appeared, Applejack would wipe it away with a kiss. The tears tasted salty on her tongue, but Applejack didn’t stop. She had to do this for Rainbow. Rainbow had done the same for her all those months ago, and it was time to repay that debt. The smallest trace of what could be called a smile crossed Rainbow’s face as the tears stopped flowing. She knew what was coming next. With no more tears to kiss away, AJ pulled her face outward slightly. She and Rainbow stared at each other for a few moments, faces merely inches apart, before she leaned in and pressed her lips to those of her lover’s. Applejack could feel Rainbow’s body relaxing as she kissed her deeply, tongues locked in a well-rehearsed dance that had been acted out many times before…

They lay with each other for a long time. Silently letting their love and compassion for one another express itself silently, they both thought their own thoughts and allowed themselves to rest in each other’s arms. Finally, a question that had been bothering Applejack for a while came to the surface.

“Rainbow?” She said, lifting herself up slightly, “Ya said… ya said earlier that ya… ya thought about… about… “ She struggled to phrase her question delicately, “ ya said: ‘I even thought about just ending it all sometimes’, didja… didja mean…”

“Killing myself?” Rainbow asked, AJ could only nod as she felt her face blanch, Rainbow Dash just sighed. “Yeah, I guess I did think about it at one point.” She admitted, “I’m glad I didn’t, though.”

“Well… What… What kept ya… What kept ya from…”

“Actually doing it?” Rainbow’s voice was no longer sad, instead it was filled with a cold factuality, as if she were beyond feeling sad about her past and was going to answer Applejack’s questions with purpose, “It wasn’t a what, that stopped me. It was a who. Back then, when I was deepest in my depression and thinking about suicide, was when I met Fluttershy.” Rainbow paused for a moment before continuing. “She was, is, the nicest, kindest, most caring, understanding, and selfless pony I have ever met. When we were at Cloudsdale flight school together, she found me, a few weeks after I heard the news, crying to myself. At first I thought she was going to laugh or look the other way like almost everyone there did, but she didn’t. She comforted me, she lay down next to me and asked me what was wrong, and I told her everything. For the next few weeks, we just talked. I opened up to her, told her everything about my life, and she listened, and consoled me. She seemed to have an answer for everything, and every time I needed somepony to talk to, or somepony to cry on, she was there for me. I didn’t have a friend in the world until I met Fluttershy.”

“Oh, Rainbow.” Applejack could feel tears even coming to her eyes as her partner’s story sank in, “Ah’m so glad she was there fer ya. Ah’m so glad ya had somepony ta be there with ya.” Applejack was silent for a moment. She had a new question, but she didn’t feel right asking it…

“What is it, AJ?” Rainbow suddenly questioned. She could sense that there was something else on her wife’s mind.

“Well, Ah… Ah was just wonderin’… didja… didja love her, Rainbow? Like you love me?” Applejack felt horrible that she had even thought of the question, but deep inside, she knew she had to hear the answer.

“No.” Rainbow said quietly, seemingly not surprised by the question. “I mean, I knew that I was a fillyfooler back then, but I never felt that way towards Fluttershy. In many ways, she was like a sister to me. She was my protector, she protected me from my own sadness, my own fear, my own past, but that’s all she ever seemed to be. A sister. That was a time when I didn’t really think about love and relationships, all I needed then was family, and Fluttershy became like family to me. In the time that I knew her, I felt truly happy knowing that somepony was looking out for me. Then, one day, I saw her being bullied by those two stupid colts. She was still so shy around everypony else, I think she would’ve still been shy towards me if she hadn’t found me crying when we met, and I hated them for hurting her like they were doing. I felt like she had done so much for me, that she deserved me to protect her too. That’s why I challenged them to that race, but you’ve already heard that story.”

“Yes, Ah remember, that’s when ya got yer cutie mark.” Applejack said.

“Yep. And that’s the day I discovered racing. That day, I got a lot of my personality back. I got most of my pride back by beating those colts, and I remembered my dream to become a Wonderbolt. After that, I was a lot more like the self I had known before my parents died. I kept racing, I kept wanting to go faster and faster, and I made a bunch more friends, like Gilda, who enjoyed racing and flying as much as me. That’s also when I fell back into my rebellious streak. I started talking to Fluttershy less and less because I felt I didn’t need the little therapy sessions any more. I started breaking the school rules and slacking off, racing was the only thing I really cared about. Eventually, I left. I didn’t feel like flight school could suit me anymore and I left. I flew around Equestria for a while and eventually found my way back to Maresburg.”

“Maresburg hadn’t really changed since I left. It was still a tiny town and there were many of the same people there, some of them shocked to see I was still alive. The biggest difference… was out where my house used to be. It was just gone. The grass had grown over the spot where my old house stood and if I hadn’t had my memories, I wouldn’t have known anything ever stood there, let alone burned to the ground there. The only thing there to remind me of my old life was on top of the hill behind the house. That was the hill I flew off of when my dad was teaching me to fly. On the very top stood a gravestone. It read: ‘Here lies Blue Thunder and Sky Dasher, husband, wife, and loving parents. May their dreams live on in their daughter.’ Not only was it my parents’ grave, but it mentioned me. I stayed up there for hours, just sitting on the ground and staring at it. That was the first time I realized that I truly had nowhere to go. I couldn’t stay in Maresburg, that place had too many bad memories. So I left that night, and for a long time, I just wandered around Equestria. I slept on clouds and I did various odd jobs to raise bits for food, and I lived like that for a long time. I didn’t even keep track of time during that period of my life. I just existed, roaming from place to place. Then, one day, I overheard two strangers having a conversation, and I heard a name I never thought I would hear again. Fluttershy. I jumped into their conversation and asked what they knew about her, I found out that she was living in Ponyville, so I set out at once.”

“I think I know why I’m the element of Loyalty.” Rainbow suddenly said, throwing Applejack off with her change of subject. “Ever since I lost my parents, failed my parents, I have been afraid. I used to be afraid to get close to other ponies, so in the time since learning of my parents’ deaths I shied away from others. But then, after talking to Fluttershy and growing close to her after several weeks, I realized that I was afraid not of getting to close to another pony, but I was afraid of failing them. I didn’t want to get too friendly because I was terrified I might fail them like I failed the first two people to ever love me. Even now, I love you, I love our friends, and I know I could never let any of you guys down because that would be failing, and I could never do that. That’s why I’m the element of loyalty. That’s why… that’s why I cried the day I saved you, at the cliffside, because I came so close to watching you fall to your death, so close to not being able to catch you, so close to failing you. That’s why I came to Ponyville. When I heard that Fluttershy, the best friend I had ever had, was her, I had to see her. I had to make sure we were still friends after what I did. I had to make sure I hadn’t failed her.”

“When I got here, we were still friends. She was so happy to see me, she demanded that I tell her everything that happened to me while I was away. And I did. In the end, she said: ‘Oh you poor thing!’ and took me under her wing again. She told me I should settle down from my travels, and sheshowed me the town, but most importantly, she introduced me to everypony she knew. Even though she was still her shy self and didn’t know that many ponies, I still met those she did know.”

“Ah remember that! She introduced ya ta me!” Applejack exclaimed, all the pieces of the puzzle finally fitting in in her head.

“And I fell in love.” Rainbow finished, “I fell in love with the town, with the ponies here, and most of all, with you. From the moment I met you and got to know you, I felt that I could have something special with you. Here was a pony who was an athlete just like me, and shared enough of my interests to not get boring, but still had a level of kindness that other athletes I had met couldn’t hope to match. In a way, you were athletic like Gilda, but nice like Fluttershy. All the qualities I had enjoyed in my other friends seemingly wrapped up in one.” Applejack nodded. She had heard this part of the story before. She had heard Dash’s claims of ‘love at first sight’ before, but this story still made her happy. She would never get tired of hearing it. “That’s why I built my cloudhouse here. To be close to Fluttershy, and to be close to you, to get to know you better. I wanted to really get to know you, to spend time with you, because I had never felt the way I felt about you about anypony else before. I challenged you to all those competitions partly because I felt an athletic rivalry with you, but also because I just wanted to be with you.”

“So in all that time, why did it take ya several years to tell me how ya felt?” Applejack thought she knew the answer already, but she didn’t want this to end. This was the longest the Rainbow pegasus had ever talked to her for, and she was enjoying every minute of it. She enjoyed hearing of her lover’s life, and she enjoyed being able to share feelings with the mare she loved so much.

“Because you had become my best friend, and I was afraid of ruining our friendship by trying to take it to the next level when I wasn’t sure whether you liked me in the same way. It seems silly now, but I always thought you would reject me for being a fillyfooler. Then, that day after Pinkie’s play, when you caught me in your orchard, I was so flustered that I didn’t know what to do. So I went to Fluttershy. I cried to her, and she comforted me again. She told me to just let everything out and tell you the truth. But when I was leaving her house, and you surprised me on the road, I was so startled that I almost let my fear of rejection overcome me again and I almost let my normal, prideful, self win out. But when you questioned me I remembered Fluttershy’s advice, and I told you everything. And even though Rarity interrupted you and I didn’t get to hear your response, I still think it was better that she did interrupt us, because maybe saving your life sealed the deal.” Rainbow finished with a wink.

“Yeah, Sugarcube, Ah guess it did seal the deal.” AJ chuckled. “Still, why didn’t ya tell me this before? Ya never told me that it was Fluttershy who convinced you to tell me your feelings.”

“I guess it just never came up. It’s just one more thing that I owe to Fluttershy. She told me to tell you my feelings, she introduced you to me, she convinced me to stay in Ponyville, she taught me to believe in myself after my loss, she probably saved my life. Without Fluttershy, if I was even alive, I never would have come here, I never would have met you, and Applejoy would never even have existed.”

Applejack shuddered at the thought. “We might never have gotten the elements of harmony together and maybe Nightmare Moon would have ruled Equestria!” She added, shuddering a bit more. “Ah guess we all owe a lot to little Fluttershy. Who woulda thought she affected all that.”

“She certainly made my life the best it possibly could.” Rainbow said with an air of finality.

“Well, her weddin’ is tomorrow, if we owe her so much Ah think we should get a good night sleep so we can give her the best support possible.”

Rainbow looked over at the clock and was startled by what it said. ‘Have we really been talking for that long?’ she asked herself. “I guess you’re right.” She said, settling into the sheets and pillows that she had grown so accustomed to recently.

“Rainbow?” Applejack said as she settled herself down into bed next to the blue pegasus. “Thanks.”

“For what?” Rainbow asked.

“Fer tellin’ me your story. It means a lot ta me knowin’ you trust me enough to spill yer whole life story ta me in one sittin’. Especially considerin’ all the bad stuff you’ve been through.”

“No Applejack, thank you. Thanks for listening, thanks for understanding, thanks for making me feel better, but most of all, thank you for being yourself.” She yawned before finishing, “I love you.”

“Ah love you too, Sugarcube.” Applejack said, batting a single tear away from her eye.

With that, Rainbow Dash and Applejack, lying next to each other in the bed that they shared as a couple, let sleep take them. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Rays of sunlight shone out over a bright green field surrounded by tall trees, cutting through the perfect blue of an infinitely clear sky. The weather pegasi, especially Rainbow Dash, had worked diligently to make sure the sky was completely clear and bright for this important day. Down in the field, a large gathering of creatures created a sea of color to clash with the green that surrounded them in the grass, trees, and other plants in the clearing. On one side of the field a large mass of ponies had gathered. All earth ponies, and all with an apple-related image as a cutie mark. They were all there to support one pony in particular. Big Macintosh, looking uncomfortable in a stiff tuxedo, gave a nervous smile down at the members of his extended family who had gathered to support him on his big day.

At the head of the clearing a simple temporary stage had been erected. Flowing from the top of the stage down to the ground were large lace sheets, decorated intricately with frills and designs that spoke of elegance and beauty. Surrounding the stage were strings of flowers, strung up on poles that were also decorated with flower heads. In truth, there were flowers all over the clearing, some strung up as decorations, but many more naturally growing in the space around the stage. Big Macintosh stood near the center of the stage, although slightly to the right. Behind him, his best friend, Caramel, as well as Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, two of his cousins, stood. All three were also dressed in tuxedos. Standing on Macintosh’s right, directly in the center of the stage, stood an older, graying, pony in flowing robes. The wrinkles and the serious expression on his face could not hide the gleam in his eyes that betrayed his inner mirth, he loved his job. His happy eyes swept out over the crowd assembled in front of him again. Any minute now, the show would start. As he moved his gaze from the assembled Apple Family, across the aisle that separated the two groups, he saw one of the strangest sights he had seen in his many years as a minister. In the bride’s side, the few well-dressed pegasi were completely outnumbered by small animals. Rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, ducks, and numerous other creatures had descended on the clearing.

Suddenly, everypony’s attention was grabbed by the sound of light hoofsteps approaching the center aisle. A small, white, unicorn filly with curly pink and purple mane and tail slowly trotted down the aisle. Held in front of her by nearly all the magic the filly could muster was a small wicker basket. At intervals of every few seconds a small shower of flower petals would fly out of the basket and scatter themselves to the ground, spread out delicately by the proud little unicorn who was trying her hardest.

“Oooooh. Just look at my darling little sister.” Rarity, standing in the traditional spot for the maid-of-honor, exclaimed, “She was just born to be a flowergirl!”

“Ah hush Rarity,” Applejack, standing beside her, said, “Ya said tha same thin’ at mah weddin’”, this earned a giggle from Rainbow, who stood on AJ’s other side.

“Only because it’s true.” Rarity retorted. “At least I had the good sense not to bring my daughter up to the stage.”

“Ya don’t have a daughter.” Applejack answered, looking down at the cute little orange pegasus rolling around at her and Rainbow’s feet, “And we couldn’t very well leave her alone in the audience while her parents were up bein’ bridesmaids.”

“Will you two quiet down?” Twilight Sparkle interjected from beside Rainbow, leaning in to make herself heard, “Fluttershy is coming! Quit your bickering!”

“OhmygoshI’veneverbeensoexcitedinmylife!” Squealed Pinkie, fifth in the row. “I can’t wait to see Fluttershy she’s going to look so amazingly beautiful and the reception party I planned is going to be so amazing!”

“Pinkie shhhhhhhh.” Twilight hissed, “Here she comes!”

Everypony suddenly felt their gaze drawn to the opposite end of the field. At the end of the clearing, from behind a stand of trees, a light yellow fore hoof was cautiously, tenderly, timidly, placed out in the open. It was followed by a second hoof and soon the blushing yellow face of Fluttershy. The silky white flowing headpiece she wore complimented her flowing pink mane beautifully, and as she gingerly stepped  farther out into the open, she revealed the beautiful, silky, flowing, white, dress and gown that draped over her back and down her flank. A long flowing train trailed out behind her, ending in the beaks of several songbirds, diligently holding up the end of the train for their favorite pony.

“Isn’t her dress just gorgeous?” Rarity exclaimed, “I spared no expense you know. I think this is my finest ever work, the real silk, the lace trimmings, don’t you see how it highlights the color of her mane? Why, I think…” A chorus of four “sssshhh”s brought the fashionista turned maid-of-honor to silence.

Fluttershy continued to gracefully move down the petal-covered aisle, the entire crowd moved to silence. Finally, after a moment that stretched into hours with the beauty it contained, she climbed the steps to the stage and took her place next to Big Macintosh, as large a smile as anypony had ever seen her show on her face.

Clearing his throat, the old minister began his speech. “Fillies and Gentlecolts. We are gathered here today to witness the joining of this mare and stallion in Pony Matrimony.”

“Now I do believe it is time for the ring bearer to come forward!” The old stallion called much later. Everypony’s attention was again turned to the aisle, where now, pink bow held high on her head, Applebloom trotted proudly towards the stage. On her back lay a dainty pillow, this in turn carried two hoof-sized rings. When she reached the couple and the minister she lay her parcel down on the stage in front of them and moved off to the side to join Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo in watching. “Now,” The minister spoke, handing the first ring to Macintosh, “Do you, Mister Macintosh, take Miss Fluttershy to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

“Eeeyup. Er, Ah do.” Macintosh said, grinning sheepishly as he stumbled. He slipped the first ring onto Fluttershy’s outstretched hoof.

“And do you, Miss Fluttershy, take Mister Macintosh to be your lawfully wedded husband?” The old stallion asked, turning to the bride with the other ring.

“I do.” Fluttershy gasped out, sniffing to hold back tears of pure happiness as she in turn slipped the second ring onto Big Macintosh’s hoof.

“Then by the power vested in me, and with the combined blessings of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, Sun and Moon, I now pronounce you Colt and Wife. You may kiss the bride!”

With that, Big Macintosh swept Fluttershy into his powerful grasp and locked her in a big, yet still gentle, kiss. Tears fell freely down Fluttershy’s face as she returned it. A wild cheering broke out from the assembled Apple family, Fluttershy’s few assembled relatives adding their applause as hundreds of animals began making their own noises.

Applejack felt tears come to her own eyes as she watched her brother and one of her best friends express their love for each other. She could hear both Rarity and Twilight Sparkle muttering about how beautiful it was, and from the sounds of water splashing the stage she could tell that Pinkie Pie was once again bawling much like she did at the return of Princess Luna. Scootaloo found herself unwittingly being hugged by the rest of the CMC as they expressed their adoration for the spectacle, and the sounds of this struggle reach Applejack’s ears as well. AJ felt a face nuzzle up against her cheek and turned to find herself staring right into the eyes of Rainbow Dash. Her magenta orbs filling Applejack with warmth as the blue pegasus leaned forward for a kiss of their own. Any semblance of worry about stealing the spotlight from the bride and groom was lost on AJ as she felt herself melt at the touch of their lips.

As both couples continued to kiss, bonds of love growing stronger, a small, light orange pegasus filly with rainbows in her straw-colored hair looked up from her place on the floor. She gazed up at her new aunt and uncle, and finally up at her parents, and in a language only she could understand, began to giggle her approval.


Author’s note: And thus ends the final installment of my Appledash fanfic. As it wove its course, it left many readers crying, it left some laughing at parts, and it left some claiming it to be the greatest Appledash ship-fic ever written. I’ve done all three, but only because I’m extremely emotional and also extremely full of myself.

I had a couple goals with this fourth story. First, I really wanted to explore the history of Rainbow Dash, by writing a backstory to explain her actions, to give a sad view on the life of a pegasus who obviously grew up pretty fast. Ever since I wrote Grief and Grievances, I wanted to write a story in which Applejack heals Rainbow Dash, just to show how the couple is mutually supportive of one another. I also really wanted to establish Fluttershy as a major player in the story by incorporating her into a big place in Rainbow’s life story. With those goals in mind, I wrote the majority of this story with the aim of pulling on the heartstrings of the readers with a tale of unreconciled loss, then make it all better by having the strength of Applejack’s love help to heal those wounds.

Explaining Fluttershy’s role in Rainbow’s life also created a Segway for me to take into my last scene. My final goal for this story was to write a beautiful scene to wrap up everything that had happened previously in the fic. I think FlutterMac’s wedding accomplishes that.

Wait, what’s that you say? You think I threw FlutterMac’s relationship in there too fast and didn’t give it enough time in the previous stories to warrant a big scene like the wedding? Well you know what this means don’t you? This calls for a sidestory! Yes folks, I will be writing a sidestory featuring Fluttershy and Macintosh’s burgeoning relationship as it happened off-screen during my AppleDash story. You can expect it within a few weeks.

Finally, there are a few people I’d like to thank:

First, Lauren Faust and the entire MLP: FiM team, both for creating the show that kickstarted this wonderful fandom and gave birth to countless ideas, including mine, but also for keeping copyright restrictions open enough to let those ideas grow.

Second, Mister Tadgh, my editor, whose hard work, English skills, helpful ideas, and late nights really helped make this fic shine.

Third, Esperderek, once again, for being the driving force behind Applejoy.

Fourth, My friend My-Little-Brony, for drawing the cover-art for this story (the picture of the hospital scene) free of charge.

And fifth, every reader who ever liked my story, and especially those who stopped to give me feedback, both positive and constructive. I love you guys.

Sympathy and Synergy

         “Oh my goodness, oh no, oh no, oh no,” Fluttershy zipped along the as fast as she deemed safe for all the trees that surrounded her. Her quarry, the two young rabbits that bounded along ahead of her, constantly just out of her reach, ducked and weaved their way through the trees of Sweet Apple Acres with ease. Fluttershy mentally chided herself for attempting to handle the Baby Bunny Census herself this year. She had been worried that having Applejack round them up would scare them off like last year, but she had been utterly unable to keep them all in check by herself. Now, these two babies had run off, and if she didn’t get them back to their mother, they might be lost. It was all made worse by the fact that they had run into Sweet Apple Acres. Fluttershy knew Applejack had a good heart, but the last time that rabbits had gotten into her crop, she had chased them around calling them “thievin’ varmits’. Those were older bunnies and they could handle it, but Fluttershy feared that if AJ ran across these and assumed they were up to mischief, she might really scare them. With thoughts of defenseless baby bunnies in her mind, Fluttershy was bound and determined to catch them before they ran into somepony.

        So focused was she on the escaping bunnies, that she didn’t even notice when they did run into somepony else. The rabbits however, did, and sensing the presence of another pony, skidded to a halt. Fluttershy noticed nothing but the baby bunnies stopping, and saw her chance. She pounced and landed with her forelegs surrounding them, her head above them, preventing their escape. “Gotcha!” She said with a quiet note of triumph in her voice, a little louder than she would around other ponies, but then again, she didn’t know she was around another pony.

        “Good afternoon, Miss Fluttershy.” The kind voice of a stallion sounded from nearby.

        “eeep!” Fluttershy resisted the urge to jump backwards only for fear of losing the bunnies again. She cautiously looked up to see a large dark red earth pony stallion with a short, orange mane and tail and deep, caring green eyes smiling down at her.

        “What brings you down to Sweet Apple Acres today?” Big Macintosh asked the trembling yellow pegasus, “Here to see Applejack?”

        Seeing Big Macintosh, who was at least familiar to her, calmed Fluttershy’s nerves slightly. “Oh, no…” She began quietly, “I was just catching these two bunnies. They escaped and I have to bring them back to the census.” She explained, blushing and hiding her face behind her long mane even as she did so.

        “Well, then ah suppose ya’ll be needin’ somethin’ ta carry them home with.” Macintosh said. He turned around and reached for something behind him with his mouth. He brought his head back around, holding an apple bucket in his jaw. He placed it gently beside Fluttershy. “You can use that, if ya like.”

        “Oh. Thank you, but I couldn’t take this from you.”

        “No, I insist. You’ll need this to carry them anyway. And ya can just bring it back when yer done.”

        “Oh, thank you, Macintosh.” Fluttershy said, placing the bunnies in the bucket, “Is there anything I can do for you?” She asked before taking the bucket handle in her own mouth, she felt like she now owed him for some reason, even though she wasn’t expecting him to have anything she would be able to do.

        “Actually, Ah think there is.” Macintosh said, somewhat surprising Fluttershy, “Ah’ll show ya if ya follow me to the barn.” Fluttershy hadn’t really been expecting there to be anything for her to do, and she had to get back to the rest of the bunnies, but she had offered, after all, and there was a sparkle in his kind eyes that made it impossible for her to refuse. Without speaking, she floated gently up to him, stopping next to him, signaling for him to lead on. He turned and began trotting towards the barn, Fluttershy flapping along beside him. She could tell that he was keeping a slow pace for her comfort, even if it might be slower than he was used to.


        ‘He looks so big and strong and tough, but he really is gentle, isn’t he?’ She idly thought to herself, unable to keep her eyes off her companion. She suddenly realized what she was doing and shook herself to remove her gaze. Could she be having a… crush… on Big Macintosh? No. No. He was Applejack’s brother. Applejack was one of her best friends; she couldn’t have feelings about her big brother. Sure, most of the other colts in town were loud and brash, always trying to impress somepony or show off, they had always seemed so rude and unkind to her. And sure, Big Macintosh had never been like that, so modest, so humble, so quiet all the time, so caring and supportive of his family, so polite every time she or her other friends came around to see Applejack. He was a gentlecolt, to be sure, and he… Fluttershy shook herself again. She couldn’t be thinking like this! She had always shied away from most company, except for that of her friends. She had never felt this way about anypony else before, but she found she couldn’t help but keep throwing him sidelong glances. Her gaze kept falling on his tall, muscular, frame. His wideset shoulders and lean, rippling leg muscles. His orange mane, individual hairs dancing in a soft breeze, entrancing her for a moment… She blinked. ‘Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no.’ She thought to herself.

        “Are you OK, Miss Fluttershy?” Big Macintosh asked. He looked at her, holding the door of the barn open, waiting for her to enter.

        “Oh, yes. I’m fine.” She said meekly before entering. He followed her through the doors and pointed a hoof towards the back of the barn.

        “He’s back there.” He said, indicating a pile of hay towards the rear of the barn.

        ‘He?’ Fluttershy thought as she trotted over. She looked down, and saw, to her surprise and delight, a tiny kitten curled up in a ball in the hay. He was a calico kitten, and his eyes were closed in sleep. Despite his warm, soft bed, he still looked uncomfortable, his sleep seemed troubled, and his breathing appeared to be a little ragged.

        “Ah found him two weeks ago. Back when it was still winter, before Winter Wrap-up, Ah mean.” Macintosh said from behind her, “He was cold and all alone out in a field on the farm, so Ah brought him here to warm him up. At first Ah thought he was just getting’ over being cold, but now it’s been spring for a week, and the weather has been getting even warmer, and he still hasn’t improved. Ah think he may be sick. Ah know yer good with animals, so Ah was wonderin’ if there was anything you could do for him.”

        Fluttershy almost didn’t hear him as she went into a frenzy of activity, checking the tiny kitten’s heartbeat, his breathing, and everything else she could think of. Then she stood up. “He is sick, but I can fix him. I should go back to my cottage to get some supplies.” She stated. “That is, if you want me to…”

        “Oh go ahead, please, Miss Fluttershy.” Big Macintosh nodded his head with sincerity. “Ah just want Lil’ Hayseed to be OK.”

        Fluttershy took the basket of bunnies in her mouth again and flew off towards her cottage. ‘Such a cute kitten. And he’s already given him a name? He must really care about him. I had no idea he was so passionate for animals…’ She found herself landing at her cottage soon enough, and she placed the baby bunnies in the chicken coop enclosure, where she had temporarily placed all the bunnies that were waiting for the census. Then she flew inside. She stopped at a drawer in her kitchen and began digging through it. She soon produced a small white set of saddle bags with a red cross and a black paw print on it. “Here it is, the Kitty Cat Care Kit,” She said to herself as she slung the bags over her back and took off out her front door again. She wasted no time getting back to the barn at Sweet Apple Acres. When she landed in the doorway again, Big Macintosh looked shocked at her speed. She had always felt that she could give Rainbow Dash a run for her bits if there was ever an animal in distress, after all.

        “Could you please warm up some milk, Macintosh?” He ran off to the kitchen before she could even say: “That is, if you want to.” Then, she set to work. She first removed a small pouch of catnip from the bag and swung it in front of the little kitten’s sleeping face. His nose twitched and Fluttershy was rewarded when his tiny feline eyelids lifted to reveal sparkling blue eyes. She waited for Macintosh to return with a bowl of warm milk. When he did, she reached into her pack and removed some cat medicine. She gently crushed the pill into a powder and stirred it into the milk. She then carefully set a saucer in front of the kitten, who lapped at it heartily. She smiled to see that he was getting his medicine. Then she turned back to Big Macintosh. “This medicine should make him all better soon. If you want me to, I can come back every day to check up on him. Unless it would be a bother, I don’t mean to impose…”

        “Naw, that would be great, Miss Fluttershy. I hope he does get ta feelin’ better soon. Thank ya so much for yer help.”

        “I’ll see you tomorrow, then? That is, if you want…”

        “Of course. I’m sure Lil’ Hayseed will enjoy your visit too.”

        As she flew home again, it took Fluttershy a moment to realize that Big Macintosh had meant HE would enjoy her visit. ‘Is he looking forward to seeing me?’ She asked herself as she flew, a strange carefree feeling of giddiness washing over her.

        She returned to the farm every day for the next week. For the first couple visits, she gave Little Hayseed more doses of the medicine, and by the third visit, he had greatly improved. Fluttershy told herself that she was coming over every day to make sure the little kitten was doing OK, but in the back of her mind, she knew that the kitten had recovered, and she had another reason for wanting to come over every day. She didn’t want to admit it to herself, but she wanted to see Big Macintosh more and more. Each day she got less and less shy around him, and found herself engaging in longer and longer conversations with him. She had never known him to share her interest in animals, but she often found herself talking with him for long periods of time about them. His knowledge of creatures, especially those he looked after on the farm, astounded her and only made her want to be with him more. She still didn’t tell him of her feelings though, she still feared what both he and Applejack would think…

        On the eighth day, she came to Sweet Apple Acres and was unable to find Macintosh. After searching a little bit, she found that she couldn’t find him, nor Applejack, Applebloom, or any of the Apple family on their farm. A quick check revealed that they weren’t in town either. Perplexed and slightly worried, Fluttershy decided to turn to the one pony who might know where they were.

        Fluttershy flew towards the towering cloud house with a rainbow waterfall. Applejack and Rainbow Dash had been dating for several months now, ever since Rainbow had saved AJ’s life at the cliffside back in the fall, and if anyone knew where Applejack, and by extension, the rest of the family, was, it would be Rainbow Dash. She landed on the cloud outside the front door, and composed herself before she knocked. After knocking, she heard hooves coming closer to the door from inside the house.

        “Hey Fluttershy, what brings you here?” Rainbow Dash said as she opened the door, greeting her pegasus friend.

        “Oh, hello, Rainbow Dash. I just had a question.” Fluttershy said.

        “Well, come on inside. This is no place to talk.” Rainbow gestured towards the door. Fluttershy smiled at the invitation, Rainbow had become much less self-centered ever since she had begun seeing AJ. She stepped inside the cloud house and Rainbow gestured towards a couch, where they both sat down. “What is it you were going to ask me?”

        “Well, I was just wondering where Applejack, Applebloom and Big Macintosh were. I haven’t seen them anywhere today, and I thought you might know where they are, considering you and Applejack are… together…” Rainbow was silent for a moment, causing Fluttershy to worry. “But if you don’t know where they are that’s OK too, I’m so sorry I intruded, I’ll just leave now.” She almost got up, but Rainbow’s outstretched hoof stopped her.

        “No. I know where they are. You might not like this, Fluttershy.” Rainbow said, “They’re all at the hospital.”

        “Oh dear, is somepony hurt? Why didn’t they tell anyone?” Fluttershy squeaked, worry filtering into her voice as she feared the worst.

        “Actually… It’s Granny Smith. You and I both know she’s getting pretty old, and Applejack told me that last winter was especially hard on her. They finally took her to the hospital today, and AJ seemed really worried. I don’t want to think about it, Fluttershy, but I fear the worst.” Rainbow said, she sounded pretty worried too.

        Inwardly, Fluttershy couldn’t help but feel slight relief. At least it wasn’t Big Mac or Applejack who was hurt, but she knew that it wasn’t good for Granny Smith to be in the hospital either. She was old, and if she was getting sick, the outcome could be pretty bad. Fluttershy gulped at the thought.

        After speaking a little longer, she bid Rainbow goodbye and headed home again. Nopony saw head or tail of any Apple family member for two more days, and then they showed up in town again, less one member. News spread fast, mostly from Nurse Redheart, the source of the diagnosis: “Old age and natural causes”. Old age and natural causes were enough to fracture a close-knit family, and enough to bring every citizen of Ponyville to offer words of sympathy.

        The funeral was scheduled for the next week, and Applejack, leaning against Rainbow Dash for support and comfort, trying to fight back tears, personally asked Fluttershy and each of their other friends if they could be there for her on that day. None of them would have thought to do anything less. As such, they all found themselves up front and center in a graveyard. All of the mixed Apple Family relatives had descended on Ponyville for the funeral. The audience of family members surrounded the eight ponies up front. Most of them were crying, some were trying to keep a brave face, but all were touched by the loss of their oldest member. Right out in front, Applejack stood, tears flowing freely down her face, staring at the dark maw that the coffin was to be lowered into. On her right stood Rainbow Dash. She wore a brave face, and Fluttershy could tell Rainbow was blocking out all emotion for Applejack’s sake.

Fluttershy pawed the ground. She knew she should have felt sad, but she felt more nervous than anything. Between Fluttershy and Applejack stood Big Macintosh, he was trying to stay composed, but Fluttershy could tell he was close to tears himself. His hoof stroked the red mane of the small yellow filly below him. Applebloom sobbed into the ground, unwilling to look up at the new gravestone or the black hole in front of it. Fluttershy, trying to stay calm and collected, which she was finding difficult due to her emotional state, hovered next to them, wondering what to do. Beyond her, Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, and even Pinkie Pie, her hair down and looking quite straight, all bowed their heads in respect.

        Fluttershy contemplated what to do. She kept looking up Big Macintosh’s face. He looked sad, but he was trying to hide it. Meanwhile, he continued to comfort Applebloom. Fluttershy couldn’t help but think what a good pony he was being. He kept trying to comfort his family, even though he probably needed comforting himself. Herein lay Fluttershy’s dilemma. She was beginning to feel comfortable around Big Macintosh, but she wasn’t sure if he would accept if she made any advances, even if she did want to try making him feel better. As she argued with herself in her head, she glanced back up to his face. The look in his eyes made up her mind completely. Slowly, gradually, she rose up off the ground and floated next to him. She brought her mouth down to his ear and whispered. “Um… Macintosh?” He looked up at her, saying nothing but willing her to continue. “Are you… are you going to be OK?” She saw him nod. A single, curt nod.

“Oh, Macintosh. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I know she must have meant a lot to you, and I… I think… well… if you’re feeling sad, I can be here for you. If you want me to, that is.” This wasn’t working. There was really nothing she could say at this moment. But she wanted to help him, she wanted to be able to do something. Fluttershy looked back down at Big Macintosh. He had shifted his gaze back to the grave. She looked down. Her words weren’t helping. She felt sad that she couldn’t do anything to help, but then her expression brightened as she saw Macintosh’s hoof. It was still stroking Applebloom’s mane. ‘Maybe that’s it!’ she thought suddenly. Tentatively, she reached her own hoof out towards Big Macintosh’s own orange mane. She felt the hairs of his mane touch her hoof and began to imitate his own motion with her hoof. She dragged her hoof through his hair and smiled for him when he looked back up at her. She watched as but one lonely tear broke through his defenses and fell from his eye.

        She continued this motion for a while, saying nothing more, until she got tired of hovering. She landed, but even then, she decided to try and make her comforting presence known. She continued to look up at him, and he down at her. She wasn’t quite as tall as he was, but as if to remedy this, she found him leaning his own head down to meet hers. They both looked at each other for a shot while before Big Macintosh spoke. “It means enough that you care.” He said. Then, without warning, he leaned his head over and gently nuzzled the side of Fluttershy’s face. Fluttershy stood rooted to the ground in both shock and enjoyment. As she took in the feeling of his cheek against hers, she began to rub back, overcoming her shyness for this earth pony, this pony she now knew she wanted to be with.

        She thought about him all that night. She still couldn’t get him off her mind the next day as she tended to her animals. She had never felt such a strong desire to be with somepony before, and especially now that he had lost a loved one, she found herself wanting to be there for him. To make him feel better, to see him happy again. As afternoon approached, she couldn’t fight the urge anymore. She left her cottage and headed over to Sweet Apple Acres.

        In the waning light of a setting sun, she approached the Apple Family’s farmhouse. As she got closer, she could see ponies through the dining room window, talking. As she approached the window she recognized Big Macintosh and Rainbow Dash. They were chatting about something at the table. Macintosh was talking, and Rainbow seemed to be listening, nodding her head as if understanding something Big Mac had said. As Big Macintosh finished speaking, he looked up at the window where Fluttershy had her face pressed. Her blue eyes met his deep green ones and they locked gazes for a moment. He gave her a warm smile which she promptly returned, and then he and Rainbow stood up and headed towards the door. Fluttershy left the window to meet them. Big Macintosh and Rainbow Dash left the house, and Fluttershy flew the short distance over to them. “Thanks, Miss Dash,” She heard him say as she landed next to the two of them. She looked up at Macintosh with a sympathetic look in her eyes, and even then felt warmth in her cheeks as she knew Rainbow was watching her. She looked over to her friend, and saw Rainbow Dash nod in understanding. She smiled for her oldest friend before following Big Macintosh, who was now walking down the path towards town.

        Looking back, she saw Rainbow kick off the ground and fly up into the air, before disappearing into the open window that she assumed led to Applejack’s room. She turned to Big Macintosh walking next to her and asked: “What is she doing?”

        “Applejack took Granny Smith’s death very hard. She locked herself up in her room today, and Ah couldn’t get her to come down. So Ah asked Miss Dash if she could fly up there and cheer her up. Ah really hope she’ll be OK.”

        “Don’t worry. If anypony can cheer her up, it’s Rainbow Dash. She is the element of Loyalty, after all.” Fluttershy said. “Speaking of which, Macintosh, how are you doing? I know you’re worried about Applejack, and you were worried about Applebloom yesterday, but I want to know about you. How are you taking this?”

        “Ah suppose Ah’m takin’ it better than most. I knew Granny Smith was gettin’ weaker for a while, and Ah guess you could say I saw it comin’, but… but…”

        “But it still hurts now that she’s not here anymore?”

        “Exactly.” Macintosh sighed. “Miss Fluttershy? Ah just wanted to let you know… how much it means to me that ya care enough to ask about me. Ah feel like, sometimes… other ponies just see me as a quiet farmpony without feelings, and don’t pay attention to me. Ah get used to it, but it’s still really nice to have somepony like you ask me how I’m feeling and spend time with me.”

        Fluttershy stopped and threw her forehooves around his neck, catching Macintosh by surprise. “I’m so sorry you feel like that Mac.” She sobbed. “Nopony deserves to be ignored. You can always come to me if you need a little kindness.” She held onto his neck, wanting with all her heart to be there for him.

        “It’s OK, Miss Fluttershy. Like Ah said, it means enough that you care.” He said. She pulled herself away, blushing again. He continued, “Actually, Ah wanted to make it up to ya.”

        “Oh.” Fluttershy squeaked, “You don’t have to do anything for me. I’m just happy to be here, with you.”

        “But I want to. Please, Miss Fluttershy, let me take you out to dinner tonight.” He said.

        Fluttershy couldn’t argue. “OK. But nowhere fancy. I don’t want you to spend your bits on me”

        “Ah know just the place.” Macintosh replied with a wink.

        As they reached town, they heard voices off in the distance. “Ahhhhhhh! Look! Can’t you see them! Run, run, RUN!” They both looked to see what was happening, and were surprised as the flower sisters rushed past them. Roseluck, Lily, and Daisy had worked themselves into some sort of panic.

“Oh dear, what do you think is wrong?” Fluttershy asked, suddenly worried that something might be happening.

        Macintosh chuckled. “It’s probably nothing. Ah’ve worked the apple stand next to their flower stand for years now, and Ah can tell you, they act like this almost every spring.”

        “Aaaaah! Ohmygosh! Look! In my garden! Purple roses!” They heard from some distance down the road.

        “See, they’ve always had a flair for the dramatic.” Macintosh and Fluttershy shared a laugh at the thought of ponies getting so worked up over flowers. The unexpected interruption did have the good effect of lightening the mood, and both ponies found themselves more relaxed. In no time at all, Fluttershy found herself at the door of the restaurant Macintosh had been leading her to. “After you, m’lady.” Macintosh said with a grin as he held the door open. Fluttershy blushed as she walked inside.

        Dinner was light-hearted and enjoyable. They shared many laughs and stories as they ate their way through salad and sandwiches. Macintosh found a release in telling Fluttershy stories about Granny Smith and his childhood. Fluttershy listened intently to each one. She laughed at some, she cried when he told her of losing both his parents, and they kept talking late into the evening. When they left the restaurant, Macintosh, ever the gentlecolt, offered to walk her home. They walked the path to her cottage in silence, Fluttershy reflecting on all the fun she had had that night, more than she had in a while.

        “Thank you for dinner, Macintosh. I really enjoyed myself.” She said when they reached her door.

        “It ain’t a problem, Miss Fluttershy. Thanks for bein’ there for me. It really does means a lot to me that ya cared for me when I needed it.”

        Before he could walk away, Fluttershy hovered up so that her mouth was level with his ear. “I still do.” She whispered.

        With that, Macintosh turned around and planted a big kiss on Fluttershy’s cheek. She was shocked and immediately began to blush, the unexpected move catching her off guard. She didn’t say anything for a moment, just floated in stunned silence. Seeing this, Macintosh thought he had overstepped his bounds, and turned away, beginning to walk home with his head hung in shame. Fluttershy saw this, and would have none of it. She sped through the air to get in front of Big Macintosh. In the split second it took for her to turn herself around in front of the Farm pony and face him, she had made her decision. She chose to let go of all fear, abandon all trepidation, and forget her shyness. Macintosh barely had time to react to suddenly having a pony in front of him before she pressed her lips to his.

        For any other pony in Ponyville, the time could be measured in seconds. A couple dozen ticks of a clock and this particular moment would be over for them. For Fluttershy and Big Macintosh, however, no unit of measurement could accurately represent the moment they experienced as they were pressed together. For them, time and other such logical things ceased to exist as the universe stopped, just for them. It could have lasted for an instant or an eternity, but when they pulled apart, neither cared. For a long time afterward they just stared into each other’s eyes as the universe got back up to speed around them.

        “Good night, Macintosh.” Fluttershy spoke first. As she passed him, walking back towards her house, she let her long, pink, tail flit across his still-frozen face.

        “Good night, Flutter.” She heard from behind her, and her heart threatened to burst.

        The next day, Fluttershy knocked on the door of Carousel Boutique. “Come on in, Darling, we’re just about to open anyway!” She heard from inside. It was still a few minutes from opening time. Fluttershy opened the door and stepped inside the shop. “Oh, Fluttershy!” Rarity sang out, “What brings you here this morning?”

        “I need to talk to you about something.”

        “Darling, you’re my best friend, you can tell me about anything.” Rarity responded.

        “Please promise you won’t gossip about it all over town?” Fluttershy asked.

        Rarity’s ears flinched. If she was worried about gossip, then this must be especially interesting. She had to promise, though. She wouldn’t tell a soul. “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!” she said as she went through the motions.

        “I had a date last night.” Fluttershy stated.

        “Oh, Darling, that’s just fabulous!”” Rarity exclaimed, “Who’s the lucky colt?”

        “Big Macintosh.” Fluttershy said simply, blushing slightly as she did so.

        “Oh. Come to think of it, I do remember you stroking his mane at the funeral.” Rarity said, “You must tell me everything!”

        “Well, I was worried about him, so I went to see him at Sweet Apple Acres, and then we walked through the orchard to get to town, and we talked some. Then he offered to buy me dinner, but I tried to tell him it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. So we ate dinner together, and we talked for a long time. He told me stories from his foalhood, and we just sort of talked until it was really late. Then, he walked me home. He told me how nice it was that I cared about him and how much it meant to him that I came to ask how he was doing. And then… he kissed me… on the cheek.”

        Rarity gasped. “What did you do?”

        “I just hovered there. I was so startled, not that I didn’t want it, I just wasn’t expecting that. So I was just silent for a bit. Then he started to walk away, he looked so sad. Maybe he thought that I didn’t want it. I was scared he would leave…”

        “So what happened? Tell me tell me tell me tell me!”

        “I flew after him and I kissed him right on the lips.” Fluttershy squeaked, “Oh, Rarity. I’m so confused. I don’t know if I did the right thing, or if I’m taking this too fast, or if… or if… I…I… I think… I think I love him.” She finished, her voice growing particularly quiet.

        “Oh, Darling!” Rarity cried, embracing her best friend, “You did just the right thing. You couldn’t have him leave thinking you didn’t like him back, could you?”

        “I guess… but… but does he even like me?” Fluttershy asked.

        “Well, what did he say when you kissed him?” Rarity responded.

        “Well… He said ‘Good night.’ And… and…” She paused, blushing as if it were embarrassing to continue, but continued anyway. “And he called me ‘Flutter’.”

        “Well there you go. Big Macintosh is a very polite, formal pony when it comes to interacting with others. I don’t think I’ve heard a time when he hasn’t referred to one of us, except for his sister, obviously, as ‘Miss Rarity’ or ‘Miss Fluttershy’, or the like. If you got him to call you a name like ‘Flutter’, then he must really like you and feel comfortable around you.” Rarity said with a smile on her face. Fluttershy began to cry. Rarity was taken aback, “Fluttershy, darling, aren’t you happy?”

        “I am, Rarity, I really am!” Fluttershy said between sobs, still holding onto Rarity, “I just don’t know what to do now! I don’t want to ruin this, but I have no experience! I don’t know what to do!”

        “Well, you’ve come to the right mare for advice, Fluttershy!” Rarity exclaimed, smiling as her friend’s sobs slowed. “And my advice is this. Go find him. Spend more time with him, and be yourself. He likes you for who you are, and if you keep being the nice, kind, caring, sweet, and cute Fluttershy we all know and love, you’ll never lose him.” She said with all the sincerity she could muster.

        “Th-thanks R-Rarity,” Fluttershy said as she pulled from her friend’s embrace. “I’ve got to go find him now!” She declared, and before Rarity could get a word in edgewise, she was out the door.

        Rarity sighed. “First Rainbow Dash and Applejack, and now Fluttershy.” She sighed again, “Don’t worry Rarity, you’ll find somepony soon enough. The perfect stallion is out there waiting for you, you’ll find him soon enough.”

        As if on cue, the bell to her front door rang again. “Ooh! My first customer of the day!” She exclaimed as she headed out to greet them.

        She was confronted with a tall, handsome, unicorn stallion whom she had never seen before. “Is this where I can find the acclaimed fashion designer, Rarity?” he spoke in a smooth voice that seemed to flow through the air like silk.

        ‘Yes, perhaps I will find him soon enough.’ Rarity thought to herself as a smile crossed her face, ready to greet this new customer.

        Fluttershy flew so fast along the path to Sweet Apple Acres that she almost flew right into Big Macintosh, who was coming the other way. “Well, hullo there, Flutter.” He said, brightly, “Ah was just comin’ ta see ya.’

        “Good morning, Macintosh, I was just coming to see you too.”

        “Well, I guess it’s a good thing we found each other, then.” He replied with a smile.

        “Yes, yes it is.” She said, answering a question she could have taken two ways, and answered both in the same way. “How is Little Hayseed doing? Is he well?”

        “Eeeyup. He was up and playing around in the barn early this mornin’, that medicine ya gave him really worked wonders.”

        “Oh, it’s nothing special. I just love helping out little animals.” Fluttershy responded, meekly shoving away the compliment.

        “Flutter,” Big Macintosh said, bringing his head down to nuzzle Fluttershy gently, causing her to blush, “What you did was really good. Ah’m real thankful for it.” Big Mac paused as if just noticing something, “It’s gettin’ pretty late in the morning. Ah guess Applejack is up by now. Ah should probably be getting’ on home.”

        “But uh… but weren’t you just there?” Fluttershy asked as she started to follow him along the path.

        “Nope. Ah slept in the barn last night.”

        Fluttershy gasped. “But why?” She stammered, “Weren’t you cold? Weren’t you uncomfortable?”

        “Nah. It actually gets pretty warm in the barn, and Ah had plenty o’ soft hay ta sleep on. Ah’ve done it plenty o’ times before.”

        “But why this time?”

        “Well… Uh…” Macintosh suddenly looked uncomfortable, “Miss Dash was… uh… in there uh… ‘comfortin’’ Applejack last night. I didn’t feel comfortable goin’ into the house.”

        “Oh…” Fluttershy whispered, “I see.” She blushed again at the idea of two of her best friends… she shook herself. She didn’t need those thoughts…

        “Ah figure it’s about time to head back for breakfast now.” Big Mac said, turning his head back in the direction of the house.

        “Ok. I guess I’ll be going then.” Fluttershy whispered uncomfortably and began to rise off the ground.

        “Why don’t you come with? You’re just as welcome in mah house as Miss Dash is.” Macintosh said, turning to her.

        “Well, thank you for the offer, but I would hate to impose…”

        “What’s worryin’ you?” Macintosh asked, sensing that there was something wrong.

        Fluttershy sighed. “I… I just… I just don’t know, Mac. What about Applejack? What will she think of… us? I mean… she is your sister…”

        The faintest glimmer of a frown crossed Macintosh’s face before he smiled again and answered her, calm and collected. “Well Ah suppose there’s only one way to find out.” And with that, he brought a hoof up to rest on Fluttershy’s back, causing her to land softly next to him. She pressed herself up against his side for a moment. Then, with her strong, caring, protecting stallion at her side, Fluttershy began the long walk to Apple Family house.

        “Well Ah’m happy for y’all!” Applejack exclaimed, surprising Fluttershy as she embraced her, “but Ah gotta say, it took ya long enough! Ya came over every day for a week, even after we all knew that silly cat was all better. It ain’t hard to guess what ya were really after.”

        “It’s good to see ya feelin’ better, sis” Big Macintosh spoke up, saving Fluttershy from the embarrassment of responding as red spread across her face.

        “Well, Ah have mah own pegasus ta thank fer that.” Applejack responded, turning to face a cyan pegasus with a rainbow mane, sitting at the kitchen table with a hot drink in front of her and beginning to develop a blush of her own. Rainbow Dash stood up and walked over to the other three ponies in the room. She placed her hooves around Fluttershy’s neck as well and hugged her oldest friend for a moment.

        “Don’t be upset, Fluttershy,” She said as she looked at her friend, “If anypony deserves this, it’s you.” Her eyes spoke more than her words. They spoke of the many years of experience the two pegasi had shared. Fluttershy knew the sad story of Rainbow Dash and the role she herself had played in it just as well as Rainbow herself did, and the look in the cyan pony’s eyes told Fluttershy just what her friend was thinking of. Cloudsdale, Flight School, and a little yellow pegasus filly who had mended a broken heart, and was now getting her due in return.

        Fluttershy smiled to her friends, finally hugging Big Macintosh as a single tear of joy ran from her eye. “So what do ya want to do today?” Macintosh whispered into her ear as he nuzzled her.

        “Oh, I don’t know,” Fluttershy answered, her heart feeling lighter now that she had no further worries. “I think a nice walk in the park would be lovely. But you don’t have to buy me dinner again. Oh, no, I don’t mean that I didn’t have fun last night, I really had a great time, but I… just don’t feel… comfortable… with you spending bits on me…” She finished, hiding her face behind her mane as she felt she had said too much.

        “A walk in the park it is then.” Macintosh said, continuing to nuzzle her cheek, bringing a smile to both of their faces. “But what do you think we should do for dinner then?”

        “Well… You could come to my cottage… I mean, I’m a pretty good cook… If you want to, that is, I don’t want to force you…” Macintosh’s only answer was to gently press his lips to hers, causing her second-guessing to melt away in a small moment of passion. Smile still on his face, he led his marefriend out the door and back outside, on their way to the park.

        “Looks like we have the house to ourselves again,” Applejack said, turning to face Rainbow once they were alone.

        “Do you think I should tell them about the storm the weatherponies have planned for later?” Rainbow asked.

        “Nah.” Applejack replied, drawing closer, “They’ll be fine. Besides, Ah’m not ready fer ya ta leave just yet.” She whispered as she locked her mouth with Rainbow Dash’s, her tongue slipping inside the mouth of her partner…

        Just as Rainbow Dash had known, the storm was scheduled for that night. Everypony in Ponyville took their shelter indoors as the swollen black and grey clouds, put in place by the pegasus ponies of the weather team, unleashed their contents on the sleepy community. Droplets of water pelted down from the sky, falling thick and fast to soak the town and surrounding countryside. Winds blew in a frenzy, whipping some of the falling water into even more directions and causing further confusion in the gathering storm, as moving air and water combined to create billowing sheets of water that were thrown down at a frightening rate from the storm clouds. Every few moments, a bolt of electricity would flash from the sky, the lightning and the exploding crashes of thunder that tagged along adding more noise and confusion to the scene of chaos that was quickly enveloping the outdoors. In truth, pony-made storms were not meant to be this violent. However, unforeseen circumstances and outdoor events, especially the funeral, had necessitated the rain that was supposed to be falling steadily for a few days to be held off until the third day. Behind schedule and with a quota to fill, the Ponyville weather team had had no choice but to use the power of a major storm to dump the week’s required fill of rain in one day.

        The first thunderstorm of spring meant plenty of water for plants that had had but a few weeks since winter to grow. Around Ponyville, homeowners and proprietors retired to the beds in their houses and shops as the night grew late. It was the thought of all the help the plants were getting, and the beauty that would come of it, that allowed most ponies to tolerate the cacophony and drift off to sleep. But sleep did not come to everypony. In the outskirts of Ponyville, on the edge of the Everfree Forest, stood a cottage. Within the small structure was a room full of comfortable looking furniture, but the pony who would normally use them was instead on the floor. Curled in a tight ball on the rug in the middle of the floor and shaking in fright, a soft yellow pegasus with a flowing pink mane tried to block out the flashes of light and explosions of sound that assaulted her senses. Fluttershy was terrified.

        Hiding from the outside world behind her mane, half-eaten dinner forgotten, Fluttershy might have even forgotten about her house guest had he not spoken up. “Flutter? Are ya OK? Is there something wrong?” Big Macintosh stood over her, staring down at her shaking form with care and concern in his eyes. ‘She was fine right up ‘til the lightnin’’ He thought to himself.

        “I… I… I-I really d-don’t like s-storms.” She managed to squeak out.

        “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” Macintosh said as he lay down next to her, “It won’t hurt you in here.”

        “B-but w-what if the l-lightning s-s-starts a f-fire?” She looked up into Big Macintosh’s face, tears nearly forming in her eyes. “It’s just so d-dangerous… I’m scared…”

        “Don’t worry, Flutter.” Big Mac whispered soothingly to her, “Ah’m here. Ah’ll protect you. As long as Ah’m here, you’re safe. As long as Ah’m here, nothing can hurt you.” He snuggled up close to the still-shivering mare and lay his foreleg over her, stroking her with his hoof in an effort to calm her down.

        Fluttershy tried to stop shaking. Gradually, she managed to stop focusing on the storm. She let the sweet, succulent aroma of apples wash over her as she embraced the earth pony next to her tightly. As she held him close, she could feel his heartbeat through his chest, slow and steady, calm and collected. She let the feel of each individual beat relax her as she felt her own fast-paced heart slow down too. The noise and the flashes that so bothered her became but a backdrop to the warmth and pleasure she felt surge through her as she held the strong pony beside her. Her protector. Her lover. Her Big Macintosh. The frenzied panic of terror left her system as she was overcome with a different emotion. She suddenly found herself very tired, but above all, happy. Heart rate slowed, shivers subsided, Fluttershy opened her eyes to gaze into those of the pony whom she held so close, and was holding her back.

        “I love you.” She whispered, before she, content and at peace, drifted off to sleep in his loving, caring, protecting embrace.

        Sugarcube Corner was decorated lavishly. Pinkie Pie had pulled out all the stops for this celebration. All around the room, streamers were hung, streamers of every color of the rainbow. Hanging from the ceiling alongside the rainbow streamers were hearts and apples cut out from paper, which had obviously been hoof-made. On one side of the room an impromptu dance floor had been set up, and it was here that the pony guests had rocked and swayed to music both fast and slow for much of the night. Across the room, on the opposite wall, the first of two long tables had been set up with white table cloth and a place setting for each guest. Each place setting had the usual dishes and silverware, including flasks which Mr. and Mrs. Cake kept filled with Sparkling Apple Cider. The center of each platter featured a six-colored striped rainbow napkin with an apple placed on each. The second of these white-clothed tables stood against the rear wall. This table held an abundance of food for the ponies. Pies, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, and every type of apple treat imaginable filled plates the whole length of the table.

        The piece de resistance, however, adorned the center of this table. A towering cake that rose high and barely missed touching the ceiling. It was Pinkie Pie’s pride and joy. Six layers tall, each layer featured a coating from one color on the rainbow, from red on bottom to purple on top. Polka-dotted across the exterior were the shapes of apples, drawn in red and green frosting. At the very top sat a real apple, and cascading down the sides of the cake were two ribbons of rainbow frosting. These stripes, made from strips of each color applied via pipette, resembled six-color waterfalls wherever they stretched down the side of a layer. It was the largest, most intricate cake Pinkie Pie had ever designed.

        Of course, it was the first wedding cake she had ever designed. In the center of the room, beneath a large, hanging banner that read: “Congratulations Applejack and Rainbow Dash!” stood Ponyville’s newest, and arguable happiest, wedded couple. The reception had gone well so far, the time had been spent dancing and feasting on treats, but the dinner had yet to be served.

        From his own position, Big Macintosh could see the friends and neighbors from around Ponyville that had shown up to celebrate the happy event. Even though the wedding had been less than formal and nowhere near orthodox, Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity had still served as bridesmaids, and he himself had insisted on escorting his sister down the aisle. Applebloom had been Ring Bearer, and she, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo, who had enjoyed their roles as Flower Girl and (self-appointed) “Rainbow Dash’s personal assistant”, respectively, were now having fun on their own.

Even Princess Celestia and Princess Luna had shown up to see two elements of harmony married, and he could see them having a discussion with Miss Twilight Sparkle at the head of the dinner table. Fluttershy was safely out of the way talking to Miss Pinkie Pie, and all the other ponies, except for Rainbow Dash and Miss Rarity, had left his sister. Now was the time to approach her, if he didn’t do it now, he would never get the chance to ask. As he walked up to the group of three, he noticed that his sister and Miss Rarity were still having a conversation. He politely stopped to wait.

        “But darling, I still don’t understand why you went so fast in planning this affair. You didn’t even give me the chance to make either of you fabulous new dresses for the occasion.” Rarity said.

        “Ah told ya, Rarity.” Applejack responded, “Ah didn’t want no fancy new dresses. You know Rainbow and Ah were never ones for them fancy frou-frous, and we didn’t want our weddin’ to be gussied up like that.”

        “Besides,” Rainbow chimed in, “We had to get this out of the way fast. Or else this little pony would have messed things up!” She knelt down and gently nuzzled the side of Applejack’s swollen midsection with her nose for emphasis, causing AJ to giggle and playfully shove her away.

        “Not here, Rainbow Dash.” She said in a mock-serious tone that betrayed her inner mirth, “Ah don’t even think Ah could fit into a fancy weddin’ dress in this condition,” she continued, addressing Rarity as she looked down at her significantly bigger self.

        “Well I suppose that’s true, when is the little darling due, anyway?” Rarity asked.

        “Nurse Redheart says it should be about two months now.” Applejack replied, looking up and spotting her older brother for the first time, “Hey Big Mac, ya waitin’ fer me?”

        “Hello sis, Rainbow, Miss Rarity.” Macintosh spoke up, “Ah was just wonderin’ if Ah could ask y’all something.”

        “What is it, Big brother?” AJ asked him, her curiosity now piqued.

        “Well,” Macintosh struggled to think of a way to explain without giving too much of his plans away, “Ah hid mah ‘special present’ in a box under mah chair at the table. Ah was hopin’ ta take it out and use it durin’ dinner, but seein’ as how this is yer celebration, Ah figured Ah should ask y’all for permission first.”

        “What do ya mean by yer ‘special present’?” AJ asked, confused.

        “Ask Miss Rarity, she’s the one Ah bought it from.” Macintosh responded. Rarity, who knew exactly what he was referring to, rushed over to Applejack and whispered in her ear. As she whispered, Macintosh was able to watch his sister’s expression as Miss Rarity revealed his secret to her, finally finishing when AJ’s smile had reached its widest.

        “Big Mac,” She said, happiness clearly audible, “Ah can’t think of a better weddin’ present than that.” She tried to give him a hug, but was thwarted by her belly.

        “A better present than what? What is he going to do?” Rainbow piped up, kept out of the loop and not understanding.

        “Patience, Dashie,” Applejack said as she turned to face her wife, “You’ll find out soon enough,” and she leaned in to give her a kiss.

        Big Macintosh swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. Now that the moment he had waited for was finally here, he was nervous. Extremely nervous. But, he decided, there was no turning back now. He looked up and down the table, his sister and sister-in-law were seated at one end, and Fluttershy was of course right next to him, while the two princesses were at the other. He actually hadn’t counted on the rulers of his country being there at this moment, but it was a factor he was prepared to deal with. He rapped his glass five times with the hard edge of his hoof before he rose from his seat at the table, feeling all eyes shift to him as the buzz of conversation fell to a hush.

        “Attention everypony.” He spoke loud and clear, trying to make himself understood as well as he could. “Ah have an announcement to make.” He looked around the table, most ponies looked confused, but his sister shot him a big knowing grin and Miss Rarity seemed excited enough to burst. “First, Ah’d like to congratulate my little sister Applejack, on her happy occasion, and officially welcome Rainbow Dash into the Apple Family!” This was met with a chorus of agreement from around the table, and Macintosh waited until it died down to continue. “Mah sisters and Ah have been through a lot in the past few months. Well, Ah guess Applejack more than the rest o’ us.” That brought laughs from some ponies, including, he noticed, Princess Luna, who was holding her hooves to her mouth with the spark of an unshared secret in her eye. “It got me thinkin’, that with Rainbow Dash, and especially today, Applejack seems to be at her happiest.”

        Macintosh turned her gaze to the shy yellow pegasus mare sitting next to him. This was the moment now, he thought. No turning back. “Now, Ah think most of y’all know that me and Fluttershy here have been dating for a while now.” He gave her a smile and got only a look of confusion and nervousness in return. Fluttershy’s eyes flicked about the room, suddenly aware that she was now the center of attention, before they returned to meet Macintosh’s gaze.

“Fluttershy…” He began, searching for the right words, “what Ah’m tryin’ to say is… Ah love you. Ah love you as much as a member of mah own family and maybe even more. Ah want to see you just as happy as Ah know mah sister was today. Ah want to be there to make you happy, to live with you. Ah…” He paused as he suddenly pushed his chair out of the way behind him and swept his hoof down to scoop up a small box that had sat concealed underneath. He lifted it up on his front hooves as he knelt down on his forelegs, holding the small blue velvet box up in front of his face. “Ah want to spend the rest of mah life with you, Fluttershy. Will you… will you marry me?” he finished as he flipped the lid off the jewelry box.

        For a few moments that never seemed to end, Fluttershy was silent. She stared at the little box that rested on the hooves of her stallion, and she felt her heart beat faster. The beautiful ring sat there, a brilliant and flawlessly carved pink gem sat attached to the golden ring. It was carved in the shape of a single butterfly. As she took in the beautiful pony and the beautiful engagement ring before her, Fluttershy could feel the excitement rising in her body. Of all the ponies in attendance, only the other Elements of Harmony and Princess Celestia had been at the Grand Galloping Gala to witness the last time Fluttershy’s excitement had gotten the best of her. Thus, they were the only ones not shocked when her rising emotions broke over the top of the emotional wall that normally prevented her from being anything but timid when in the company of so many ponies.

        With one flap of her wings, Fluttershy leapt into the air in the room and soared over their heads, releasing her emotions in a sudden expense of energy as she cried “YESYESYESYESYESYESYES!” in rapid succession. Almost as soon as she had flown up she dove back down to embrace Big Macintosh. She hit the astounded stallion hard enough to knock him onto his side as she peppered his surprised face with kisses, bathing him in her love and a few tears of joy. Fluttershy didn’t care that everyone was watching them and applauding them, congratulating them, she didn’t care that she was the center of attention. In that perfect moment on that perfect night, Fluttershy was the happiest mare in Equestria, and that was all the mattered.