It was a cool spring day in Equestria and the Cabin Fever games were well underway. The games, of course had different divisions for the different species.
It was a fairly big competition, so everypony always tried their best. This year however the stakes were especially high. Princess Celestia herself had declared that the winner of each bracket would receive one minor wish. With an offer like that every pony, no matter how unlikely, was in the competition.
Of course Rainbow Dash, Equestria's little speedster, was out in full force and doing remarkably well. The real story, however, was Apple Jack. The little pony that could was off to a cold start, but with a little confidence boost from Dash she was on the fast track to victory!
"...Aaaaaaaaaand next up in the earth pony long jump is APPLE JACK!" Pinky's voice rang through the stadium. "Who would've thought she could have done so well after her poor start!"
The stadium came alive with the roar of applause and chanting, but Applejack being the earthy girl she is waved for them to quiet down as she trotted to the line. She breathed deep as the stadium quieted down. She was off.
Her hooves echoed as they hit the hard clay acceleration lane. She hit the line and leapt for all she was worth.
"THAT'S IT! SHE'S BROKEN THE EARTH PONY RECORD! That means she earns another 10 points and clinches the division!" Pinkie was shouting other things, but nopony could make it out.
Of course other events were going on, but Applejack was in her own little world, drunk on the sweet nectar of final victory, at least until the ending ceremony.
Apparently dash had come in third behind two Wonderbolts, but Twilight sparkle had taken first and stood beside her good friend.
"I can't believe it!" Sparkle squealed "I WON!"
"Well gosh Twi, I knew you could do it, nopony's better with magic than you! Oh shh shh shh!"
Celestia walked up to the winners podium. The three stood there in awe of their sun goddess with a strange mix of self pride and reverence.
"You have each proven yourselves to be shining examples of pony kind. You're an inspiration to all ponies everywhere."
She then started to give out the prizes. The Wonderbolt was up first, and though he was normally charismatic, when it came to asking this special filly out, well, he didn't have the nerve.
He whispered in Celestia's ear.
"The courage to ask her out you say?" Asked Celestia.
Celestia giggled a bit. "Granted. Now go get her Romeo, she's been waiting a long time." Celestia smiled as he took off like a jet to a far off section of the bleachers.
"And, what of my prized student, who has made me so proud?" She asked Twilight
"I don't know Princess, may I save it for later, when I've had time to think?" She said in her usual quizzical tone.
"Why, of course. Go now, your friends would like to congratulate you."
"Thank you!" Twilight shouted over her shoulder as she trotted away.
"Appleja-" The princess didn't even have time to say her name before the excited little filly chimed in.
"Oh, wings....To fly with?"
"Yes marm! I'd love to fly SO much!"
"Granted. You'll live as a Pegasus for one year."
"One year?!" Applejack cried. "Why I thought it'd be shorter! THANK YOU SO MUCH!"
"Be ready, this will hurt for a while." Celestia's horn glowed with magic.
"OH!, woah nelly!" Apple Jack shouted as the flesh on her back rolled a bit then started parting to make way for the wings underneath.
"Big Macintosh!" the princess called out. "Come take your sister home, she needs the rest."
Big Macintosh came up to the stage and picked up his sister and slung her over his back. "Take good care of her." Celestia told the work horse.
He looked up at her brimming with pride. "Eeeeeyup!" He started carrying her home.
Applejack knew she was going to miss the after party, but she didn't care. She knew pinky pie would understand. She was more focused on the dull throbbing of her back for she knew she soon would be able to fly. Just the thought made her giddy. So giddy she squirmed a bit on her brothers back. "Oh, Macintosh! Ah'm just so darn excited, this is gonna be great! Imagine, me, dash, and fluttershy in Cloudsdale!
Macintosh looked at her with a smile... "Don't Y'all be goin away right away... Ya got year remember."
"True, but ah just can't wait!" She shouted, regrettably right in his ear.
The day grew long and Applejack lay in the barn, as she often did when the weather got nice. She tried to sleep as the amber waves of the sun drifted behind the hills, but the pain kept her up so she made her way outside to watch Luna bring the moon up over Ponyville. She smiled and thought about visiting her later. Her eyes grew heavy and she nodded off, ready for the next day. She would spend all night dreaming of living carefree like dash.
The next morning all the aches were gone. She knew dash had already made plans with her to give her lessons that day when she was done clearing clouds, but she just couldn't wait.
"h'ok, it can't be that hard ah just flap em like this righ?" In a few moments Applejack was airborne, only just. She made the mistake of attempting to steer herself like a bicycle and ended up slamming through the chicken coops. That wasn't about to slow her down, though, as she tried other methods of control.
All the commotion had attracted the attention of her big brother.
"Well, what have we here?" He chuckled. "Ah thought Rainbow was gonna teach ya?"
"She was....WooooOOoooOOOOah, IS, ahhhhhhhhhh!"
*BOOF* She landed in the compost heap this time. "But, she's.....late?" She climbed out with a little help. "Dash sure makes it look easy huh?"
"Eeeeyup, you should wait for her to teach ya, but ah know y'all can be stubborn as a mule..."
"Ah'm not stubborn as a mule..." She muttered still trying to fly.
All of a sudden a blue streak came from the sky.
"Well speak of the devil." Chuckled Macintosh. "Maybe you can stop yer crashin and learn fer a change."
"Ah'll stop yer crashin." Applejack said.
"Hey AJ, Hey Macintosh!"
"Hi,an bye, Rainbow I got orchards to tend to." Sighed Macintosh.
"OH! Before ya go guesswhatguesswhatguesswhat?!? The Wonderbolts want ME to be a sub!"
"That's Amazin, sugarcube! What was it that made em come to their senses?!"
"Well, ya know how I came in third and how only two Wonderbolts place better than me? That means I beat the other Wonderbolts!"
"wasn't any surprise ta me. Y'all shoulda been a full fledged Wonderbolt by now in mah pinion." Macintosh chimed in.
"That's what I was sayin." Joked dash. "Well I won't keep ya, sides AJ and I got a lot to get done today.
"Eeeyup. Macintosh strode away twards the orchards.
"Man of few words..." Dash sighed. "He's so dreamy."
"Y'all 'll excuse me if'n Ah don't find mah brother 'dreamy'." Applejack said making air quotes with her hooves.
It was a perfect day for flying. Dash had, after all been looking forward to this just as long as Applejack, so she made sure the weather was optimal.
After a bit of discussion about steering, Applejack took to the air like a duck to water. She spent the whole day just flying about with one of her closest friends, even learning a few cool tricks.
"Just how, can this day get any better?" Applejack murmured laying back on a cloud with Dash.
"Well.." said Dash. "You've gotten really good [b]really[b/] quickly.... and well... In Cloudsdale tomorrow is the monthly races...I think you're good 'nuff for the Am circut."
Applejack looked at her like she was joking. Dash turned her gaze to meet Applejack's. Applejack saw she was serious and burst into a fit of giddiness
"Y'all REALLY think so?!"
"AJ, I wrote the book on flying, it'll be cake for you. Now go home and rest, you'll need it.
"Oh Dash ah'll make y'all proud ah promise!"
Applejack rushed off to the farm to rest up.
It's Cloudsdale, 8:15 in the morning. The air is cool and crisp, fresh in the lungs and all the pegasai who have any interest at all in racing are on the tracks.
"It's a swell day to be at the tracks in clouds dale today! We would like to welcome all veteran racers back! It's been a long winter and it's time to shake of the rust!"
"That's right, Al, we'd also like to take a moment to welcome all the new racers today, especially a late entrant, the first earth pony to become a pegasus Ponyville's own APPLEJACK!"
Applejack looked to be a crowd favorite still riding off her popularity from winning the Cabin Fever Games.
Even still, she was nervous. It felt like her heart was going to beat right out of her chest. She leaned up on the divider between the racers and spectators to talk to dash.
"Dash?" she whispered. "Ah'm so nervous, ah don think ah can do this."
Dash leaned in. "Would it make you feel better if I flew beside you?"
"It might." Applejack still looked decidedly scared.
"All right, but ya gotta promise ta finish kay?" Dash poked her nose with her hoof tip.
"Alright." Applejack said her nerves noticeably subsided.
Let it not be said that Rainbow Dash doesn't Know her friends. She knew that putting Applejack in a situation where she had to hold to an agreement would get her to do most anything.
"ON YOUR MARKS!, GET SET," *PAK*
Once the starting gun had been shot all the armatures were off the line in a snap. Applejack was off to a rocky start, fighting for last place. One or two laps in she was doing better, holding her own in the middle of the pack bust still looking unsure. She looked over to Dash who was matching her pace the whole way. Dash gave a sympathetic look,mouthed "Remember your training" and made a little scooting motion with her front hooves.
That was all she needed, she took off like a shot. Dash was almost as surprised as all the other pegasai who were bumped out of the way of this mare on fire.
It was a surprise to everypony as Applejack took the lead, but that wasn't enough for her. Applejack started picking up speed, giving Dash a run for her money.
"Here we are in the last lap, applejack is poised to lap everypony as she takes home first place!"
"That's right Tim, but will she be able to beat out our unofficial entrant?"
Sure enough being as competitive as she is Applejack started trying to beat Dash. as soon as Dash caught on she swore Applejack wouldn't beat her....she couldn't.
"That's it folks Applejack is the March AM champion!"
"And what's more she beat Rainbow Dash by a nose!
"What?!" Gasped Dash, "H-H-HOW?!"
"WOW Dash that really was fun... HooEE, ya say they got another'un next month?"
"Y-y-yeah." Dash said softly "fun..."
"Are y'all ok Dash?" asked Applejack
"Errrrrrr,I......I......How?!" Dash wasn't making much sense.
"What's wrong with ya, Sugarcube?"
"You've only been flying for a day and a half.....HOW DID YOU BEAT ME?!" Dash looked rather distraught, and it was scaring Applejack.
"Why, y'all been teachin me, a course."
"You're not even a pegasus! HOW?! WHY?! You had to show me up DIDN'T you?!"
The spectators were dumbstruck. Rainbow dash wasn't well known for her sportsmanship, but this was way out of line, even for her.
Dash looked disgusted and depressed if such an expression were possible. "I'm gone." Was all she said before taking off for somewhere far removed from Cloudsdale.
Applejack stuck around for the festivities that followed, but all that night all anypony wanted to talk about was Dash's out burst. All Applejack ever told them was that she was probably under a lot of stress, and tried her best to keep the conversations from turning into Dash hate fests.
Applejack had grown tired of talking about Dash and the party was winding down so she decided to head home and call it a night.
"Ah wonder what could have possessed that filly to act like that? Did it really mean that much ta her?" She thought
She landed by the farm gate. Even though she had wings, there were still some places she'd rather walk. As she passed the small garden and potting shed she felt a creepy chill run down her spine.
"AJ." Dash's voice came from inside the barn.
"Dash?" Asked Applejack. "What in tarnation are y'all doin in mah barn?" Apple jack kept her distance.
"We....We need to talk." Dash's voice almost cracked as she called out to Applejack.
"Well a course we do, but why don't we do it in the house?" Applejack asked. "It's warmer in there ah rekon."
"We need to talk......Alone." Dash said solemnly.
"Well, ah suppose..." Applejack said as she lit a lamp and carried it in.
"You can't keep doing this." Dash looked at Applejack like she was going to break into tears at any moment.
"Doin what sugarcube?" Applejack put a hoof on Dash's shoulder.
"Flying." said dash trying to keep composure.
"What? Y'all know I can't do that... being a pegasus means it's yer job ta fly isn't it?"
"YOU'RE NOT A PEGASUS!" Dash screamed, so loud she thought the rest of the Apple family might hear.
"B-But Ah am, Princess Celestia made me one....Member?" Stammered Applejack.
"I DON'T CARE!" Shouted Dash again. "Anyways, if you keep it up, you'll be better than me...That can't happen."
"Is that what this is about Dash?! Ah would'a though you of all ponies would'a been supportive." Applejack was always assertive when she thought she was helping her friends understand they were going down a bad road.
"You're not even supposed to have wings! You're supposed to stick to being good at being an earth pony!"
"Well ah rekon I got these wings fer a year,Dash."
"I can't deal with that! NO!"
"It's just one little year! Y'all 'r gonna have ta put up with it!"
"W-w-w-huh? I-I-I CAN'T! YOU CANT!"
"You can and will."
Dash's eyes glazed over, her ego had gotten the best of her. She tackled Applejack and pinned her wings to the floor with her hind hooves.
"YOU CAN'T" *THWACK* Dash's hoof came down on Applejack's face.
"I'VE BEEN WORKING YEARS TO GET THIS FAR! IT'S NOT FAIR!" Dash screamed with another sick thwack to Applejack's face.
"Dash! Stop! It doesn't have ta be like this!" Applejack shouted with blood spraying from her lips.
"THIS IS ALL I HAVE, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT FROM ME."
Another hoof came down and Applejack's skull gave way.
"ALL" *Thud* "I've" *Thud* "GOT* *Squish*
Dash was openly sobbing above Applejack, trying to catch her breath.
"AJ?" Dash asked quietly.
"C'mon, AJ get up." She nudged Applejack's lifeless body with her hoof.
"Oh, Celestia, what have I done?!