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My Dream Mare

Rainbow Dash stood in the hayloft of the barn at Sweet Apple Acres, gazing out over the rows and rows of apple trees. The setting sun set the sky ablaze with warm colors: reds, oranges, and yellows streaked across the sky, ending in a mix of dark blues and violets closer to the horizon. If there was a swath of green, it could have passed for a perfect rainbow.

 

Some of my best work, Dash thought to herself with pride. She had made sure everything was just right; she’d wanted everything to be perfect, and it was.

She spread her wings and gave them a few flaps to work out the kinks before settling into a nearby pile of hay. Breathing in its strong, crisp scent, she stretched out the rest of her limbs and relaxed there for a minute - just waiting.

Her ears perked up at the sound of hooves climbing the loft’s staircase. She turned to see Applejack standing at the top with a smile on her face and a piece of wheat between her teeth. She kicked up small clouds of dust and hay with every step.

 

“Sunset sure is beautiful, Rainbow Dash. Ya wanted to see me?”

         “Yeah,” Dash said, smiling confidently. She motioned at a pile of hay right next to her. “I was just thinking, you know...that we could watch the sunset together. Whadda you say, Applejack?”

 

Applejack shifted the wheat in her mouth, but didn’t stop smiling. It didn’t take long for her to answer.

“Aw heck, why not, Dash? It’s been a long day, Ah could do with some relaxin’.”

 

Applejack unceremoniously flopped down on the pile of hay next to Dash’s and gently removed her hat, setting it down nearby. Wiping the sweat out of her eyes. Applejack looked out the loft and over the orchard, towards the setting sun.

         She chuckled. “You plann’d this out, didn’tcha Rainbow Dash; this sunset?”

 

“Pffft,” Dash snorted, waving a hoof. “I might have had a liiiittle something to do with it. Why d’you ask, AJ?”

“Jus’ curious is all. Ain’t every day that ends like this one.” She turned to look at Dash, who hadn’t once taken her eyes off of her. “It’s jus’ a funny coincidence, you know? That you wanted to see me t’night, an’ there just so happens to be a sunset like this.”

“Yeah...big coincidence, huh?”

Dash felt butterflies in her stomach but fought them back like she would before performing a big stunt. She wasn’t usually nervous, and why should she be now? Everything was going just like she’d planned it...

 

“It’s great you made it. You’ve been so busy lately I didn’t know if you’d have the time.”

“Aw, shucks. You know Ah always have time for a friend.”

         “Well that’s good, because...well, I need to talk to you. I’ve needed to talk to you for a while.”

         Okay, it’s now or never. If I don’t say it now, I’ll never say it.

“...Look, Applejack,” Rainbow Dash continued, her voice staying strong even as her face began to flush. “I think we both know why we’re really here. I know I’m not exactly subtle, and I know you can tell. You always could tell with these kinds of things.”

         “Mmm,” Applejack hummed, not really agreeing or disagreeing. She was still smiling...that in itself was reassuring. Dash swallowed hard and continued.

 

“I don’t think anyone should have to...stress over this kind of thing. You should just be able to come out and say it! Coolly, without it bothering anypony.”

 

Nopony minded much when Lyra and Bon-Bon started hanging out, Dash thought to herself. Why should this be any different?

 

“It just...it just seems like something that I should tell you straight up. I mean,” she laughed, accidentally letting some nervousness slip into her voice, “I wouldn’t say anything if I didn’t think I should.”

Applejack shifted on her hay, spitting out the wheat stalk hanging from her mouth. Her smile faded just a little bit, but her voice remained as warm as it had been when she first walked into the loft.

“So go ahead then, Rainbow Dash. Tell me.”

 

Dash gulped again, getting even more nervous despite how well things were going. This was the closest she’d been to Applejack in months. Dash could see the colors of the sunset reflected in her eyes, and could even see small beads of sweat on Applejack’s back, probably left over from the day’s work.

Why did something that seemed so easy have to be so hard?

 

“Applejack...”

Dash was getting a little choked up, but there weren’t any tears to fight back. Dash had plenty of time to think this over. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself down and settle the butterflies in her stomach.

 

“Applejack... I love you. I... I have for a long time, and I was wondering if you felt...well, if you felt the same way about me.”

 

There were a few things that could have happened: Applejack’s smile could have turned into a look of horror or disgust; either of the two ponies could have run away; Dash could have started stammering out apologies through tears, telling Applejack to forget she’d said anything in the first place and that she still wanted to be her friend and that she hoped this hadn’t ruined their friendship-

 

None of that happened, though. Applejack’s smile just faded away as she closed her eyes, deep in thought, before looking back at Dash. She was just looking at her - there wasn’t any trace of anger, embarrassment, or love in her eyes.

 

“Hmmm,” she sighed. “Why?”

         “Huh?”

Dash was caught off guard. This wasn’t the answer she was expecting at all.

 

“You were right before, Dash,” Applejack said slowly. “I did know. But that’s a mighty powerful word to throw around. So I wanna know why you love me, plain n’ simple. Why would a fast flyin’, daredevil pegasus like you ever love an Earth Pony like me?”

         “W-why wouldn’t I love you?” Dash protested, her voice cracking. “You’re the only pony I’ve ever met that was a match for me! That makes you the best pony there is Applejack, and...and...” Dash trailed off for a moment to take another deep breath to work up the courage. “...and you’re just a better pony than I am,” she finished weakly.

         “Rainbow Dash,” Applejack said, stunned. “I never thought Ah’d live to see the day when you’d ever-”

         “Just lemme finish, okay Applejack?”

She nodded, letting Rainbow Dash continue.

“I wasn’t a big enough pony to admit it then, but I am now. What we had before was just a rivalry - we were always trying to outdo each other. Sometimes I won, and... well, sometimes you did.”

She still struggled with the last part, even though it was true. It made what came next a little easier to say.

“And I know that... sometimes... I cheated to win, too. I’m sorry... I’m sorry about all those times I used my wings to beat you in the Iron Pony contest last year. I’m sorry for those times during the summer festival, for the winter games, and...all of them. It was wrong of me. If I were a better pony, I would have stopped myself.”

 

There. She’d said it. She’d never apologized for cheating before, but it was the truth. She couldn’t even imagine lying to the most honest pony in all of Equestria now. She could hardly believe she had ever lied to her before.

 

You never said I couldn’t use my wings.”

 

It was her pride and sense of self-importance that had kept her from admitting it before. She knew that. Finally being able to get over it - to be completely honest to this beautiful, understanding mare... It felt good. Really good. A wide smile spread back across her face.

“Hmm...” Applejack was quiet for a moment. “...So ya like me ‘cause Ah’m somehow better than you? Dash, that don’t make any sense an’ you know it. Seems a pretty weak thing to base ‘love’ on.”

“But there’s more to it than that!” Dash insisted, angry at herself for not starting with what really mattered. “If you’re thinking that there was... I don’t know, an event, something that happened that made me fall in love with you, I... that’s not how it is. I love you for who you are, Applejack: you’re the most honest and dependable pony I’ve ever met and I’ve always loved that honesty. You’re committed to your friends and family, you always forgive anypony that wrongs you, you try and support everypony you know, even if you don’t know each other that well... I’ve seen how you helped Carrot Top set up her stand every day and how you’ve shared the marketplace with her! That kind of generosity is... I don’t think I could do it if I were you, but you make me want to try. All that and... you’re beautiful too.”

Applejack started to blush at the compliment, but Dash didn’t notice. She was staring down at the hay instead.

 

“I... I think you’re beautiful, Applejack. I... I...”

This was getting harder and harder to say. She wasn’t any good at sappy stuff like this, and it showed.

“I love how your eyes light up when you’re happy... I love your smile, your accent, your freckles...”

 

Dammit, why couldn’t she just say what she wanted to?

The way your mane looks when it’s untied, how it catches the light...how you always smell like fresh apples, the way the dirt and mud stains your coat after a hard day’s work...

The last two sent a shiver up her spine. It was taking all her willpower to keep her wings from springing wildly into the air. She could feel them trembling as she pressed them tightly against her sides.

 

“I think that’s enough.” Dash blinked and looked up. She was more than a little surprised to see that Applejack’s face was almost as red as the apples of her Cutie Mark. “I’ve just been sittin’ here listening to you an’ I think it’s time I said somethin’ too...”

 

Dash waited, holding her breath in anticipation.

“We’ve known each other for a good spell now, right? I still remember how on the first day you moved to Ponyville, I caught ya sleepin’ in Sweetblossom.”

That was another thing Dash found adorable about Applejack; her habit of naming her apple trees. She just smiled as Applejack continued.

“...I thought you were a thief. I can’t say we met under the best of circumstances, but... well, it didn’t end up matterin’ how Ah met ya. All that mattered was that ya became my friend. An’ we spent so much time t’gether! Felt like every other day was full of games, competitions, arguments, teamwork... I thought it was great fun. Then after Twi came to Ponyville, we made friends with the others... Pinkie, Rarity, Fluttershy... but even then I thought the best times were still the ones with you.”

 

“Yeah, they were,” Dash agreed. “Hanging out with you was...awesome. It always was.”

 

“Was,” Applejack said, quietly. Dash flinched - this didn’t sound like it was going to be good. Applejack didn’t sound as happy as before.

“It was great to hang out with ya. An’ then you stopped - you didn’t visit no more to talk or play horseshoes, have supper, or nothin’. Whenever I got a chance to talk with you, you’d be givin’ me excuses: ‘Practicing fer the Wonderbolts’ you’d say.”

She stared at Dash, frowning.

“That might’ve worked on other ponies, but Ah knew it was a buncha’ horseapples. Or ponyfeathers, take yer pick.”

         “Oh...” sighed Dash. “I should have known better than to try lying to you.”

         “Wasn’t too hard to tell it was a lie, not when I knew you were always watchin’ me from a tree. I’ve known for months - ever since ya did it the first time.”

Rainbow Dash turned an even brighter shade of crimson. Her wings twitched, rising a few centimeters before she was able to stop them from rising any further. Applejack chuckled to herself at the slight, but still noticeable, ruffling of feathers.

 

“Aw, c’mon, Dash. Why’d ya think Ah never bucked the tree you were watchin’ from?”

“Well... I... I just...” Dash’s visible embarrassment made talking difficult.

“Ah told ya I already knew. How’d you think I found out?”

         “That’s...that’s not it. I thought you knew, but I didn’t know you’d known for so long! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Easy. I figured one way or another, you’d come around in yer own time. I didn’t want to say anything ‘cause I figured it’d be better this way. I didn’t want to make you uncomft’able. I thought if I said anythin’ you’d do somethin’ stupid you’d regret. I bet that you’d be the pony to make the first move, an’ I was right.”

 

The first move...? A hopeful look spread across Rainbow Dash’s face.

“So...that means...you...?”

Her happiness was mirrored in Applejack’s face with a wide smile of her own.

 

“Did ya really think I’d come out here, sit down, and listen to you go through this only to tell ya ‘no’? Of course I love you, Rainbow Dash. I only wonder what took ya so long to ask.”

 

If there were words that could sum up the joy that Rainbow Dash was feeling right then, they escaped her. The feeling was almost as good as- no, it was even better than her first sonic rainboom. That feeling had been fueled by adrenaline and pride - it wasn’t anything at all like the  warmth that was spreading through her.

 

Applejack scooted closer to Dash. The setting sun was casting a dim amber light into the loft now. Applejack’s mane was catching that light and her eyes were shining just like they always did in Dash’s fantasies. If this was a dream, Dash didn’t ever want it to end.

Applejack leaned in closer.

 

“So what happens now, Dashie?” she asked, half-whispering Pinkie Pie’s pet name for her. “We gonna start datin’?”

         “Uhh...well yeah,” Dash said. “Er... I mean, yeah if you wanna start, that’s great, and-”

         “You know, yer cute when you’re nervous, Dash, but ya don’t have to be nervous aroun’ me anymore.”

 

Applejack leaned in even closer and gave Dash a quick kiss on the cheek before pulling her up against her body with a foreleg. Applejack started to nuzzle and lick Dash’s neck, then she slowly stroked a hoof across one of her wings.

She couldn’t hold them back any longer - Dash’s wings finally sprang up, every feather tingling.

 

Well, that was that. Before she had a chance to hang her head in shame or give an excuse though, Applejack laughed.

“There, tha’s better, ain’t it? You didn’t have to hold back for so long, Dashie. I wouldnt’a minded any - Ah like your wings.”

 

Dash let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding in and began to laugh along with Applejack. Not having to restrain her wings meant she could finally relax. Applejack gave her another nuzzling before putting her head down on her back.

Looking back over her shoulder, Dash watched Applejack breathe in the scent of her mane - just like she had always imagined she would.

 

“...You know, Applejack, I really missed hanging out with you.”

         “I missed you too. Think we can start again?”

         “Yeah, that’d be...awesome.”

 

For the next few minutes the loft was quiet as the two mares lay in the hay together.

Dash was first to break the silence.

 

“...Hey, Applejack?”

“Yeah?”

“I was just wondering, you...you didn’t really mind me watching you all the time, did you?”

         “...Nah,” Applejack said, lifting her head off of Dash’s back so she could look her in the eyes. “Ah’ll admit I’d already had some thoughts ‘bout ya before then, but...the thing is... I figured it was one-sided. When you did it the first time, Ah didn’t know what ya were doin’. When you did it the secon’ time, I guess Ah was...hopeful. When ya did it the third time...hmmm...well shoot, Ah don’t know what I was. How d’you think you’d feel if I was watchin’ you an’ you knew I was watchin’? And that ya wanted me to keep watchin’?”

         “I...I don’t think I could stand it.”

         “Why, Dash? Ah thought you liked attention.”

         “Erm...well yeah, I do, but...” Dash threw a glance back at her wings, still standing at attention.

 

“Oh,” said Applejack.

         “I wouldn’t be able to play it cool if I knew you were watching me, cause when I think about you, well...do I have to spell it out?”

“Nah.” There was a pause while Applejack looked for the right words. “I think... Ah felt jus’ like you did. No diff’rent.”

        “Yeah?”

         “Yeup. Only difference is I don’t have wings.”

“Heheh…That’s a real relief, you know? That you didn’t mind.”

        “I didn’t jus’, ‘not mind’, Dash. I said it before; Ah wanted ya to watch me. I liked it.”

Applejack grinned at seeing the brash, bold pegasus shrink down, suddenly sputtering syllables.

“I…w-well, okay, b-but…I…”

Dash was only turning redder, stammering like a frightened filly.

 

“Aww, what’s this?” Applejack asked, tilting her head to the side. “This ain’t the Rainbow Dash I know. Fastest flier in Equestria? Always the best at everythin’? The pony that always has somethin’ to say? The pony that ain’t afraid of anythin’?”

 

Dash couldn’t answer. She was too busy burying her face in the hay.

 

“Aw, don’t be doin’ that, Dashie… I already told ya, you don’t need to be embarrassed around me. C’mere.”

Her eyes still shut, Dash felt Applejack’s forelegs slip around her chest as the strong farmpony pulled her into a hug. Somewhere in the back of Dash’s mind, it registered that she was close to Applejack...very close. She bit her lip, trying to calm herself down. It wasn’t working. She swore she could feel Applejacks heartbeat, guessing her own must have been twice as fast. It was beating like she was running a marathon.

As Applejack squeezed her tighter, Dash’s breathing turned more and more ragged and her wings started to tremble, not content with just stiffly standing up. Applejack seemed to like the reaction.

 

“Ya know, I’d hoped I’d have this kinda effect on you, Dash,” whispered Applejack as she gave the pegasus another nuzzling, “…but I never thought Ah act’ually would. If just thinkin’ about me is enough to get you worked up… I’m wonderin’ how yer feeling right now…”

 

Loosening the hug, she gently nibbled on one of Dash’s ears before running her tongue down Dash’s neck, back, and then across one of her wings.

The near-electric jolt of pleasure that ran through Dash’s body felt more than just amazing; it felt like her super-sensitive wings were connected directly to-

 

A moan slipped out as Dash started to shiver, feeling Applejack’s breath on her back. Dash felt hot, like she was burning up inside.

 

Applejack...why are you so damn good at doing this to me?

 

“Ooh, so do ya like this...?”

         “Yeh… yessss…” Dash managed to gasp out. “But h-hold on Applejack...just s-stop for a second...”

 

Applejack flinched. She let Dash out of the cuddle and waited for her to catch her breath.

Dash was panting and sweating, hay sticking to her coat. Applejack was good at working her up; almost too good. A couple minutes more and she might have...

 

“Apple…jack,” Dash said slowly, the words punctuated by deep breaths that were gradually getting shallower. “You...you almost…” Applejack nodded guiltily.

 

 “…Ah’m real sorry, Dash. I guess I got carried away there.”

         “No! Don’t be sorry,” Dash said, putting on the best smile she could. “You’re just really good at that… A lot better than I expected.”

        “Aww, well shucks… am I? I jus’ love ya, Dash. I’ve wanted to do that for…oh, you have no idea how long.”

         “Yeah,” Dash laughed. “I mean, I understand. There’s always something I’ve wanted to do with you for a while too.”

 

Applejack snorted, covering her mouth.

 

“...Besides that,” Dash muttered, her face suddenly burning.

 

“An’ what’s that?”

        “Well…” Dash wasn’t that worried about telling her - not anymore. Compared to what Applejack had almost done, it seemed harmless. It was just a matter of saying it the right way.

“First...do you think you could do me a favor?” Applejack nodded. “Could you…untie your mane?”

Applejack didn’t even blink at the request. With two flicks of a hoof, her red hairbands were off. She’d rarely ever brushed her hair properly, so without the hairbands to hold them in place her mane and tail both looked like longer, blond versions of Dash’s own. Applejack’s free-flowing mane fell haphazardly around her neck, framing her face even better and making her look…wild.

 

She looked exactly like Dash had imagined. She felt herself scooting closer to Applejack, speaking as bravely as she could.

“AJ, I’ve always wanted you to… do you think you can… kiss me?”

 

Applejack seemed to glow as she nodded, her face lit up by her smile.

 

She was going to do it! After six months of watching her from afar, hoping and wishing and fantasizing about her, it was finally going to happen. Dash felt all of her feelings for Applejack - all of her love - condensed in this one moment. Her heart was beating faster and faster as she moved in for the kiss.

Dash closed her eyes, leaned forwards, felt her lips brush against Applejack’s…

         And then she woke up.

 

 Her eyes suddenly shot open to see the darkness of her bedroom replace Applejack’s smiling face. Her wings were stiff as boards and pressing into her mattress painfully. She’d been sweating heavily; she was damp all over, especially between-

She didn’t want to think about that yet. She tossed aside the covers and opened the nearby bedside table, removing a well-used book and pencil.

With the moonlight coming through a nearby window aiding her, she started writing everything down as fast as she could before the memories of her latest dream faded.

She wrote frantically for five minutes, her carelessness producing scribbles that only she would be able to read. That was fine, though; nopony else was going to be reading this.

Once she’d finally gotten everything she could remember into the book, she returned it and the pencil to the drawer with a heavy sigh. She took a few minutes to allow herself to try and relax. Her breathing had started to calm down along with her wings, and the sweat on her back was already drying in the cool night air coming through the window.

    She wasn’t going to be able to relax, though. At the very least, she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep again; she never was after a dream like that. It was no wonder that she was always so tired during the day...

Dammit…stupid sexy Applejack! Why do you always do this to me?

Sighing, she rubbed her temple with a forehoof. She knew the answer and wasn’t really complaining either. She always looked forward to the dreams every night.

The first dream had been the night after the Running of the Leaves last year; she hadn’t been able to sleep for nearly two days after. Back then, she’d been frightened, disturbed, and disgusted by it - Applejack had been her best friend for years. Dash hadn’t been sure why she’d dreamed about her in...that way...but she’d had plenty of time to think it over since, and there had been plenty more dreams too.

Sometimes the dreams didn’t get as far as that last one had, and rarely, they even went...farther. She remembered those with a special fondness, the vague memories enough to put a wide, silly grin on her face.

It was almost scary how accurate the dreams were sometimes. Having spent the better part of a year watching Applejack from trees in her orchard or on clouds, Applejack had never called her out on it. It didn’t make any sense. She was both sharp and smart enough to have seen her at least once... Applejack had to have known that Dash was watching her. Why hadn’t she ever brought it up?

In the dreams, Applejack often said that she knew Dash was watching, or wanted Dash to watch her, and while a big part of Dash wished it were true, she just didn’t know. She looked again at the drawer holding her journal; the memories still fresh on the pages.

Why didn’t she just confess for real? She loved Applejack with all her heart. If there was anything that was consistent between the dreams, it was that she never had a problem confessing. No matter how nervous she’d felt, she’d always been able to come right out and say it.

Applejack, I love you.

It was a constant and shameful reminder for Dash - she wasn’t confident enough. If she tried to do it, she probably wouldn’t be able to... Just thinking about Applejack; picturing her face, her smile, her laugh, and remembering how she looked when she worked-

        

With a feathery pomf, her wings popped back up into the air. Dash slapped her face with a hoof, her face burning. There was the proof. She couldn’t blame herself for avoiding Applejack. If that was all it took to give her stiff wings, actually talking to AJ would be a disaster.

Is it a bad thing to be too turned on by somepony?

Dash always knew what to say in the dreams, at least when starting out. It was always perfect: the talking, the cuddling, the way that Applejack would look at her, undo her hairbands and let her mane freely cascade down her neck in a waterfall of gold... The first kiss... It was a series of images that she had long since gotten used to.

What still surprised her was that Applejack was always the bold one in the dreams - always taking the lead. Applejack was the one who held her, nuzzled her, licked her, kissed her… and Dash admitted that she liked that fantasy version of Applejack...a lot.

That’s all that vision of Applejack was, though; just a fantasy, and if she never did anything about it, that’s all it would ever be.

If there was even a small chance that Applejack might say yes though… she could… no, she should… but if she said no…

“Aaargh!” Dash yelled in frustration.

Why did she have to be such a wimp about this? It was so uncool to slink around like she had, deliberately avoiding Applejack while stalking her at the same time. Applejack had to know what she was doing by now. It was a miracle she hadn’t been caught by somepony else like Apple Bloom, Big Macintosh, or Pinkie Pie. Especially Pinkie Pie. It had gone on for too long already. She needed to just do it - confess - and get it over with...

Why hadn’t she? She didn’t know.

The pent up stress was making her feel weak and she hated feeling weak, but the dreams always made her feel so good. Every time she’d had one about Applejack, she felt…happy, even if it was a fleeting, hollow happiness. Maybe that was the problem? That if she confessed, and Applejack rejected her, that the dreams would stop? Even though they were just dreams, they were all she had, and she treasured them. The proof of that was in her journal.

She shook her head; she wanted some fresh air to clear her mind and get Applejack off of it for now. Her wings were loose enough for it now anyway.

She jumped through one of her large bedroom windows and took to the sky, quickly leaving her cloudhouse behind. The chilly night air felt good blowing through her mane and over her body, drying off what little sweat remained. She breathed in, smelling the dampness of the fresh air and the faint scent of apples. The moon was hanging low in the sky, the sun just an hour or so from rising over the horizo-

Wait, what in the…? Apples?

Whether by instinct or accident, she was flying right over Sweet Apple Acres. With an exasperated sigh, she let her forelegs hang loosely below her. Even when she wasn’t thinking about Applejack, she was still thinking about her.

Ugh... I give up. I can’t keep doing this.

She was tired of running, tired of hiding, and tired of feeling so insecure, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it - she didn’t want to do anything about it. She just wanted to rest, to think…to daydream for a while. Spying a nice cloud, she swooped in and settled down onto it.

She could easily make out the acres and acres of apple trees in the moonlight. Beyond them was a barn and a house where she knew a certain sweet, hardworking, honest, and beautiful mare was dreaming.

Dash promised herself that she’d confess to Applejack when the time was right. Even if her dreams were fantasies, she wanted more than anything to believe that the love she’d dreamt in Applejack’s eyes was real. She wanted to believe that someday, she might even become a part of the family sleeping in that farmhouse.

For now though, she’d keep things the way they were. Having dreams about the pony you loved wasn’t so bad...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unbeknownst to Dash, within that farmhouse Applejack had recently woken up with a start.

If memory serves correctly, there are three links hidden in this story. If you didn’t find them all, don’t worry. They weren’t important. Instead, have a proper link to something. This song was actually written by a fan, Lavender_Harmony. You have no idea how honored I am by this, so many thanks, Lavender! I really like it!

One last thing I want to point out. When I wrote this story, Wingboners were still kind of a funny joke. I tried to turn it into something a little more serious, and I admit I might have gone too far with in in some places. Still, I hope it didn’t ruin the chapter for you.

-Lysis


A Misunderstanding

Applejack woke with a start, her body covered in sweat.

She’d had another of those dreams, and just like all the rest, it had left her breathless. Panting, she looked around at the darkened bedroom dimly lit by moonlight coming through the nearby window. She knew she wouldn’t be getting back to sleep. Not after a dream like that...

        Well, that, and the fact that she’d have to get up in about an hour anyway to start working. Mostly though, it was the dream keeping her up.

        Consarn it, Dash! If only ya knew how good ya are at doin’ this to me...

        

        A part of her found it ridiculous that the thoughts and dreams managed to keep her up like this, but on the other hoof, they weren’t normal dreams. Not hardly. There wasn’t anything normal about dreaming herself... doing that with another mare...

Just thinking about it was enough to make Applejack blush deeply, thankful she was hidden in the darkness and solitude of her room. The memories of the dream were still so fresh: she could easily recall a few key moments if she-

 

No! Those are bad thoughts, Applejack!  

She scolded herself like a little schoolfilly for even thinking about thinking about them. 

One half wanted to buck herself as hard as she could for thinking like that while the other half kept whispering that it couldn’t be wrong if it felt so right. Why else would she look forward to the dreams every night? Why else would she imagine each of them coming true?

...Why did she ever have to fall in love with her best friend?

Applejack pressed her head back into her pillow, her ragged breathing gradually returning to normal as she forced herself to think calmer, safer thoughts. Just as she was starting to relax again, she froze, hearing the creak of the door as it slowly opened, dim light from the hallway spilling in. Bolting upright, she saw Apple Bloom standing in the doorway, groggily rubbing her eyes.  

“Apple Bloom,” Applejack asked, confused, “what’re you doin’ up so early? You don’t have school for another three hours. What’s wrong with you?”

Apple Bloom yawned. “Nothin’s wrong with me, sis. Ah was jus’ worried about you. Ah heard noises in here. Yer alright, arent’cha?”

“Oh. Er...”  Horseapples... Ah woke her up? Applejack nervously flicked her tail under the sheets, hoping Apple Bloom wouldn’t be able to see her strained smile in the gloom. “A-Ah’m fine, Apple Bloom, really. Sorry for wakin’ you up.”

“S’ok,” she yawned again. “Not the firs’ time it’s happened,” she added in a half whisper as she turned to leave.

Applejack felt her gut drop through the floor.

“W-wait Apple Bloom, whadda ya mean it’s not the first time it’s happened?” As soon as the words passed her lips, she felt very stupid for even asking. What else could Apple Bloom have possibly meant?

As for Apple Bloom, she blinked and turned around.

“Ah mean ‘zactly what I said! It’s not th’ first time Ah’ve been woken up. Mostl’y it’s jus’ by a noise outside or sumthin’. Sometimes it’s owls that wake me up.” She paused thoughtfully before continuing, “Ah don’ think it was any of those that woke you up tho’... Are ya havin’ nightmares, sis?”

“Oh. Er... I’m, uh... No, it wasn’t a nightmare, Apple Bloom. Just a dream.”

“...Musta’ been some dream then.”

“Yeah... some dream,” Applejack chuckled softly.

Apple Bloom tilted her head to the side. “Why’s yer face all red, Applejack?”

Applejack suddenly had a very strong urge to bury her face into her pillow again.

  “It... I... I-it’s jus’ warm in here, that’s all! Ah’m just hot!”

“Eh,” she shrugged. “... whatev’r ya say, sis. Ah’m glad yer okay but Ah’m tired, so Ah’m goin’ back ta bed.”

“A’course, Apple Bloom!” she agreed just a little faster than was necessary. “Ah’m sorry you got woken up in the firs’ place. I’ll get you up for school like always in a few hours, so jus’ go back to sleep.” An’ please, by Celestia, forget this ever happened.

With yet another large yawn and a few tottering steps, Apple Bloom turned around and went back to her room. It was only after Applejack saw the hall light go out and heard her door closing that she let out a sigh of relief.

The silence of the room was stifling, and in the quiet it was easy for her mind to start wandering again.

Ah can’t believe I woke her up... she heard noises from me? What in the hay was I doin’ while I was having that dream... ’bout... Dash...?

Well, she could guess what she’d been doing while she was asleep, and she remembered enough of the dream to know it had been more of a roll in the hay than anything else. She remembered Dash’s smile, how they’d held each other close... the whispering... the nuzzling… that first kiss... and then… how they’d-

Applejack couldn’t suppress a hot shiver at recalling the memory, the sensation coursing through her body before being replaced by an overwhelming sense of… frustration.

Dammit, Applejack! There’s no point in thinkin’ about Dash that way! It’d never work out... she ain’t like you...

She tossed aside the covers. As the chill in the room hit her exposed body for the first time she realized how much that last dream had really made her sweat. It covered her from head to hoof. It was all over her.

The sheets would need washing. Again.

Angry at herself, she stormed over to the window and threw it open, letting in a nice fresh breeze to help dry her off. She rested her head on the windowsill.

Her mind started wandering. Again.

Applejack easily remember how she’d first met Dash; she’d met her long before the other girls. Dash had been sleeping in one of her favorite trees, one she’d named Sweetblossom. At the time, Applejack had been angry, thinking Dash was a thief after some free apples... Nowadays she thought about it differently. Why would she have chosen a hard tree branch over a soft cloud if she’d wanted to take a nap? That was Dash, though... doing the unexpected.

That was a good way to describe it; unexpected. Applejack couldn’t explain it otherwise.

She would have never guessed back then that she’d be thinking and dreaming about that same mare this way.

For years, the land had been her sole love. She’d never had the time for colts while she was in school and she’d poured all her free time and energy into Sweet Apple Acres when classes were over. It was all about the well being of her family. She’d never spent much time worrying about herself. Her work ethic paid off, but had an unfortunate side effect; despite living her whole life in Ponyville, she’d never really known its residents.

Once she’d met Dash though, all that changed. For the first time she could remember, she had a friend. Not just a friend, a best friend - somepony to hang out with, somepony that could keep up with her. An equal that just happened to be a pegasus with a free spirit, big dreams and even bigger ambition.

The dreams started a year after she’d met Dash. There weren’t many of them, but they were vivid and they lasted: staying with her even after she woke up. To this day she had yet to forget a single one.

At the time, she had felt angry and conflicted. Mostly just angry.

It’s not like Ah’m onea them ‘fillyfoolers’! Ah like boys just fine!”

        

She knew she’d been lying to herself. If she really wasn’t some ‘fillyfooler’ then why was it always Dash - another mare - in her dreams? Why was it that Dash would always return her feelings in those dreams, as if she felt the same way? Then again, if she was a fillyfooler, why was it only Dash that had that effect on her? Why not other pretty mares?

Again, part of her knew the answer; because Dash was special, not just another pretty mare. Although, she was that, too.

It took Applejack a while to finally accept it, and longer still to embrace it. Once she had, the dreams stopped. She never once mentioned the dreams to anypony else, least of all Dash. It hadn’t felt right at the time to bring it up. A few years passed without incident, without anyone learning about her secret.

Then just last summer, she’d met Twilight and the other girls and started going on adventures with them all. During those few, short months up until autumn, she’d gotten to know Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and even made friends with Rarity, Ponyville’s resident fashionista; a pony she’d never had anything but animosity for until a sleepover at Twilight’s changed all that.

Her daily life was suddenly full of laughter, adventure, and above all, friendship. It was probably the second happiest time in her life, right after when Dash and her had become best friends.

Everything took a turn for the worse though when that year’s “Running of the Leaves” came around. Not only did the dreams come back stronger than ever, but Dash … she also changed. Almost every time Applejack had tried to talk to her afterwards, Dash had found some excuse not to hang around with her and Applejack didn’t have a single clue as to why.

At the time, seeming to lose her best and oldest friend for no reason at all wasn’t even the worst part. Dash might have been avoiding her, but almost every afternoon she’d hide in a tree or on a cloud and watch the orchard for hours at a time while Applejack worked. Dash would just watch her...

Dash had started watching her a week after the race. The first few times she’d done it, Applejack had been confused but happy. She’d felt sure that Dash would come back around to being her friend sometime soon. After a while though, with things staying the same, the happiness started to fade and was replaced by despair.

She asked herself why. Why did Dash keep hiding in apple trees and clouds, watching the orchard during the days? What was she watching... who was she watching? Could there be some truth to her fantasies - that Dash was spending all those hours watching her?

She couldn’t see how it was possible, considering that there was a far more obvious pony for Dash to be spying on: Big Macintosh. It’d made far more sense to her back then, and still did.

Her brother had caught the eye of other mares before, but he’d always turned them down politely. If Macintosh was waiting for the right mare to come along, and if that mare happened to be Dash, what would she do? What could she do? Probably just be happy for the two of them at least. Keeping her family happy was in the best interests of the farm, after all. She’d try to stop any jealousy from getting in the way, if they wanted each other.

It didn’t make any sense though. Dash had been watching even when Big Macintosh wasn’t working. And if she was after Mac, why would she be avoiding her like that? If she was after Macintosh, she’d still spend time with her...

Applejack felt hot tears run down her cheeks and splash on the windowsill. She didn’t bother trying to stop them.

...Ah miss her.

For a while Applejack stood there at the window, letting the cool morning breeze wash over her and help ease the stress out of her system. A few minutes later she wiped the few remaining tears from her face.

Dammit all... I’m not supposed to cry. I’m stronger than that.

Applejack wasn’t sure if it was knowing she didn’t have a chance with Dash that was setting her off, or more uncertainty, or just the stress of everything coming to a head. It was all just sort of bleeding together that night. Whatever the cause was, the dreams weren’t helping either. This wasn’t a problem she could fix. She couldn’t and didn’t want to do anything about her feelings; just like she couldn’t and didn’t want to do anything about the dreams. She hadn’t once been able to bring herself to confront Dash while she was hiding and watching all those times.

All she could do was work as hard as possible. If Dash was watching Mac, let her watch him! Macintosh could do whatever he wanted, and she had no right to interfere in any of it - or any of Dash’s voyerisms. Applejack had worked twice as hard as usual when she was around, putting on just as good a show as Mac did! She didn’t have anything to be ashamed of, one way or another!

‘Sides, Dash would’a said something by now if she felt anythin’...

Thoughts like that wouldn’t help matters or make her feel any better. Hard work would. She needed to wash up, go downstairs, and prepare for the day anyway. Macintosh would already be up making breakfast for himself. At least she’d have company... Maybe they could talk a little. She’d like that: some simple conversation to get her mind onto the things that mattered. Applejack closed the window and turned to head to the washroom.

If she’d looked over her shoulder and back through the window though, she might have seen a pegasus swoop in to lie down on a cloud hanging over the orchard.

Big Mac was already in the kitchen, having gotten up early (like always) to prepare himself for the long day of work ahead. He’d just finished heating some water on the stove for oatmeal and already had a pot of coffee ready. He turned, surprised, as he heard hoofsteps coming down from upstairs.

“Mornin’, AJ. What’re you doin’ up so early?” His easy, strung out drawl was soothing, already helping Applejack relax a little bit more. It must have been a gift her brother had.

“I couldn’t sleep, Macintosh. Ah think I’m gonna start early today.”

“Mmm,” he hummed. “Well, have a seat. I’ll get you somethin’ hot to drink inna minute.”

“Thanks,” she sighed. “Ah could use it. Granny Smith alright?”

“She’s fine. Still sleepin’ when I looked in on her.”

He finished pouring a large mug of hot coffee, placing it on a tray and setting it down in front of her. Applejack glumly stared into the drink, studying her reflection. She looked haggard; there were bags under her eyes and her mane was going every which way. Even after freshening up, she didn’t look very fresh. She didn’t really care anymore.

“Sugar?” he asked.

“Two- no, three. Thanks.” Just the way she liked it.

Black as midnight, sweet as a stolen kiss, Applejack thought wistfully to herself as she took her first sip. Well... no, not as sweet as a kiss... not nearly...

She might have wanted to talk to Big Mac before, but not now. She didn’t feel up to it anymore.

Big Macintosh didn’t say anything about his sister’s somber expression, pouring his own  coffee and ladling out some hot oats for the two of them before taking a seat next to his sister. While he tucked in, Applejack just stared at her bowl, taking small halfhearted sips of coffee.

No hint of a smile anywhere; mane untied and uncombed; she’d even left her treasured hat upstairs. Mac could tell something was wrong with her, but then again... there’d been something wrong with her for a while.

“Applejack,” he said, breaking the silence. “It bothers me to see you this unhappy.”

He got a heavy sigh and a halfhearted glare in response.

“D’you want to talk about it, AJ? Sumthin’s been on your mind for a long time now. I can see it. You’re not as happy as you used to be.”

“Mac, I’m not... aww, who am I kiddin’?” Applejack heard her voice crack, but wouldn’t let herself cry in front of her brother. “Yer right. Of course yer right. You’re almost always right. Even Apple Bloom’s guessed right. Ah need some help...”

“Eeeyup. Ain’t hard to guess, though. Pretty obvious somethin’s off with you. I’d like my happy little sister back. I don’t like seeing you mopin’ around all day.”

“Ah do not ‘mope around all day’, Macintosh!”

“Keep sayin’ that, Applejack. You always were the worst liar I’ve ever known.” He got a light shove in the shoulder for his candidness. He waited until Applejack took another sip before continuing, “Is it because that pegasus friend of yours stopped hangin’ around with you?”

Applejack almost choked on her coffee.

“Mmhmm,” hummed Macintosh to himself. “Thought so. What happened between you two? I used to see you t’gether a lot.”

“I don’t know what happened,” Applejack answered honestly. “Ah wish I did know, but it... it hurts, you know Macintosh? I don’t know why she ain’t talkin’ to me anymore.” She sighed. Macintosh refilled her cup and dropped in a few more sugarcubes. She thanked him, and went back to looking at herself in the black drink.

“Macintosh... can I ask you somethin’ personal?”

“I guess you can.”

“Erm... how many mares have... uh, well, you know... Wanted to talk to you? In private? I mean, how many… told you that they... that they have feelin’s for ya? Er, ‘confessed’? Wanted to-

“I know what ya mean AJ,” Big Mac interrupted, saving Applejack from embarrassing herself any further. “Hmm... a few. Some were direct, some not so much. None’a them were her though.”

“Who’s ‘her’, Macintosh?” she asked, half confused and half sick with worry. She had to know now, one way or another. No matter how much it might hurt her.

        “Well...” he said thoughtfully, “there’s one mare I’ve had my eye on for a long time. Jus’ me though. Ah don’t think she knows I exist.”

        “Sure she does,” moped Applejack. What with her watchin’ you all the time? Sure she does...

“No, I don’t think she does. I’ve never talked to her, and... well, I just don’t think we have much in common.”

That’s probably true, but...

“‘Sides, Miss Fluttershy’s too timid. I’d scare her off if Ah ever asked her out.”

What!?” Applejack’s head whipped around, eyes wide. “What’d you just say, Macintosh?”

“Ah’m talking about Miss Fluttershy,” Macintosh repeated. “I’d like to ask her out sometime, but... I don’ know how to do it. If I asked, she’d probably run away, or agree ‘cuz she’d be nervous about sayin’ no to somepony like me. Ah’m not exactly the most approachable guy around.”

“Well. I... well that’s, uh... interestin’, Macintosh,” Applejack stuttered, still shocked. “I... hadn’t guessed you were after Fluttershy, of all ponies.”

“Well, not ‘after’, I’d just like to talk with her sometime, you know?”

Applejack shook her head, torn between relief and indecision, not knowing whether to be happy or sad with the news. Macintosh might not be pining for Dash after all, but that didn’t mean Dash still didn’t have her eye on him. She hadn’t really figured out anything after all.

Macintosh sat watching her silently as she tried to process what he’d said. He frowned, considering whether he should speak up or not. He hesitated at first, but finally gave in. His sister was far too stubborn to just come out and say what was obvious to him.

“...Applejack, I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to be so direct, but if you think you love her so much, why don’t you just tell her? Can’t be that difficult.”

“What... are you talkin’ about, Macintosh?”  Applejack asked, not sure if she’d heard right.

“That other pegasus pony friend of yours. Look, it’s pretty simple; if you’ve got such a huge problem, you gotta go an’ talk to her. Just get it over with and tell her that you love her. It can’t hurt anythin’.”

For a while, Applejack couldn’t say or do anything but sit at the table blankly staring into her coffee. This time she actually saw the blush spread across her face.

“...How’d you know, Macintosh?”

“You talk in your sleep, sis.”

Oh. Really? Do I? What- but if I do that though, wouldn’t Apple Bloom...? Oh no, that’s what she meant by ‘noises’ !

A look of panic spread across Applejack’s face. Before she could say anything though, Macintosh put a hoof to her mouth to stop her.

“Apple Bloom doesn’t know anythin’ about what’s been goin’ on. I told her a long time ago ya were just dreaming about how things used to be. Before that pegasus started ditchin you.”

The relief Applejack felt in knowing that Apple Bloom was still in the dark was short lived - as Macintosh finished, something he’d been doing while they were talking finally clicked into place and it didn’t sit well with her.

Her ears flattened against her head as she gave Macintosh a proper glare, sitting up straight to look him square in the eyes.

“Darn it Macintosh, her name is Rainbow Dash! Quit callin’ her ‘pegasus’! You weren’t talkin’ about Fluttershy that way!”

“Well, sure. But she’s a different kind of pony; farthest kind of pony from Rainbow Dash you can imagine. Fluttershy’s got a better personality, a better attitude, she’s good with animals, she’s not selfish-”

“What do you have against Dash? I thought you actually liked her - that’s why Ah hadn’t ever brought it up with her before!”

Applejack didn’t mean to be so defensive, but dammit, Macintosh was crossing a line! He wasn’t being fair with Dash, and she wasn’t even there to defend herself!

As for Macintosh, he just sat there, unflinching.

“I’m more interested in why you’d think I’d ever want anythin’ to do with Rainbow Dash,” he said slowly. “Me, I couldn’t care less about that puffed-up flypony. She ain’t my type at all: she’s a boastful show off with an ego so big ya couldn’t spit without missin’ it. Far as I can tell, she’s got no redeemin’ qualities at all.”

“Ah can’t believe what I’m hearin’ come outta you! Of course Dash has good qualities!”

“...Alright, fine,” he admitted. “I don’t know much about Dash, but I do know she was your friend for a long time. I know there was somethin’ in her you saw that I still haven’t. So what was it? Why do you love her, AJ?”

“Ah love her for her fearlessness! The way she’s willin’ to help out, no matter what the problem. How she... ya know, how she takes life by the tail and makes it do what she wants it to! Dash has spirit, she ain’t afraid of the unknown!” Well... that, and she’s the sexiest pony Ah’ve ever seen...

“You mean she’s ‘wild and free’? If you ask me, I’d say that’s exactly the kinda’ pony you should be avoiding. Those kinds’a ponies don’t really care much for relationships,” Macintosh said bluntly.

“Macintosh, yer jus’ … yer jus’ wrong! Dash ain’t like that … she’s not that one dimensional! Ah know she’s a better pony than what you think of ‘er! I jus’ know it!”

“So you know because you know?”

“Keep yer fancy reasonin’ outta this, Macintosh! You said it yourself, Ah was Dash’s best friend so I know her better than any other pony in alla Ponyville! That’s a guarantee. You’ll just have to take my word for it Macintosh - that ‘flypony’ is more than you think she is... an I believe in her.”

Macintosh shrugged. “You still haven’t answered my other question; why would you have ever thought Dash an’ I were an item, Applejack?”

“Well... that’s easy. I mean, she’s always watching the orchards when you’re working! I’d just thought she had her eyes on you or somethin’!”

“Was she now?” He raised an eyebrow, his passive expression suddenly gone.

“Yeah, from clouds or trees. She’s been doin’ it for about six months. Since last fall, Ah think.”

“Hurrrm...” Macintosh took a few seconds to think, his look of surprise replaced by a scowl. “Was she only watching when Ah was working, or did she watch when you were workin’ too?”

“Well, I... Ah don’t know. She watched when I was workin’ alone, but if ya didn’t notice her when you were workin’, how can Ah answer you?”

Macintosh huffed, but kept his voice even. “She shouldn’ta done that. Spying on you? That ain’t right. You should’a said somethin’ about it earlier. She must have been botherin’ you. I’ll have to have a talk with her about it...”

“Macintosh, just stop. Please.” Applejack had a hoof out on his shoulder. “You don’t need to get mad at her for watchin’ me.”

“Why not? Why did you put up with it for so long?”

“Well... I guess it was just wishful thinkin’ at the time, but... Ah kinda liked it... a lot. I like bein’ watched by Dash.”

“...You do, huh? You really like her that much?” Applejack nodded slowly. “... Look, jus’ go talk to her, an’ get this out of your system.”

“Macintosh, I-”

“No. Don’t talk to me - I’m not the pony you need to talk to.” He got up from his chair, gently brushing her outstretched hoof aside. “Ah need to start work anyway. I’ll see you outside in a few minutes.”

Macintosh walked out without another word, leaving his food half eaten and Applejack looking crestfallen. She hadn’t felt up to eating anything in the first place, and even less so now.

She sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that morning, not knowing whether to feel happy or sad... Sure, Macintosh wasn’t actually gunning for Dash and from what he’d said she’d likely be the last mare he’d ever be interested in. He didn’t seem to like her at all and it worried her almost as much as the imaginary relationship had.

At the very least, it meant that there wasn’t anything stopping her from flat-out asking Rainbow Dash anymore. Of course, the problem now was how to do it. They were such simple words… just four little words that had played out in her dreams for weeks and weeks and weeks...

Dash, I love you.

More often than not, it was actually Dash who had come out in the dreams and said it: Applejack, I love you.

Dash was always adorable in the dreams, often showing sides of herself that Applejack had never seen before; a nervous side, or a shy side... of course, those versions were just dreams! Nothing more than wishful thinking...

Applejack realized she’d been daydreaming again. She got up from the table and walked out the door into the cool morning air. Maybe it would help clear her head once and for all.

The stars were beautiful in the dusk, the moon still casting its pale glow over the apple trees. The dawn was far away and the sun’s light was just starting to cast a rosy glow in the sky.

A nearby cloud caught her eye... a small cloud, like the kind Dash always liked to take naps on...

- - -

Rainbow Dash gazed down on Applejack from her cloud, wondering what she was doing up this early. Her hat wasn’t anywhere to be seen, and her untied mane looked messy. On any other day Dash would have done anything to see Applejack with her hair down and her hat off, but this was different. She got the feeling that something was wrong. As she looked closer, her curiosity turned to concern.

Applejack looked depressed, beaten, and tired. Her ears were flat against her head, her shoulders slumped. She looked for all the world like a pony who needed someone else to give her a hug. Somepony to help her...

Wingboners be damned, Applejack needed her! Without considering what would happen next, Dash rolled off the cloud and started gliding down. Applejack seemed to spot her immediately judging by the way she froze up with her mouth hanging open.

Dash’s ground approach, as usual, was perfect. She touched down lightly and tucked her wings tightly against her sides. So far so good, she thought, but she was already getting a little nervous. She gulped, resolving to try her best to keep her wings down. Even if they didn’t behave, she knew it wouldn’t be important. Applejack was all that was important right then and she was still staring at her through wide eyes, visibly shocked that she’d shown up.

Why’s AJ looking at me like that? Never mind, not important! She started trotting over towards Applejack. Okay Dash, just play it cool. Ask her what’s wrong.

“Hey… AJ... Morning! I uh... I was watching you and I... well, is something wrong with you?” Oh, ponyfeathers. That didn’t come out right.

Applejack’s expression softened for a moment while she thought. She nodded slowly, frowning.

“Yeah... yeah, Dash, there’s somethin’ wrong, all right.” Her voice had a hard edge to it that Dash wasn’t expecting. She almost took a step back, but stopped herself.

“Okay so, uh... what is it?”

“It’s a lotta things... things that ain’t easy to talk about.” She motioned off to the side. “Can we take a walk?”

“S-sure.”

- - -

Applejack led the way for Dash, walking out into the nearby orchards. The trees loomed over them silently, casting long shadows in the dawn. Dash was feeling more and more skittish, being this close to Applejack. Despite looking haggard and tired and having dark circles under her eyes and a frown on her face instead of a smile - despite all that, she was still beautiful.

It could never be easy, could it?

- - -

Macintosh ain’t anywhere aroun’, Applejack thought to herself. An’ Winona’s still sleepin’. Good. She needed to be alone to do this. If Dash was going to drop out of the sky and walk right up to her... it was almost like a gift from Celestia.

“Hey, AJ...?” she heard Dash ask, sounding uncertain, “I uh... I saw Big Macintosh come out of your house not too long ago. Did you and him have a fight or something?”

“...No, not really, Rainbow Dash. We had a talk. A talk about somethin’ we shoulda’ talked about a long time ago.”

“Well, okay. So what’d you talk about?”

Applejack went quiet. This is it, Macintosh. You wanted me to talk with her, I’m talkin’ with her. I’ll be doin’ it my way though.

“We were talkin’ about you.” She whipped around suddenly, startling Dash. “You’ve been avoidin’ me for months, Dash. That’s what me an’ Macintosh were talkin’ about. Six months now,“ she growled, her voice growing in volume with each passing word. “It’s been six months of you wantin’ to be as far away from me as possible! Six months of makin’ me wonder what the hay I ever did to deserve my best friend ditchin’ me like that!”

Dash was struck dumb - she was speechless. It had been ages since she’d seen Applejack angry, let alone this angry. She racked her brain for a quick answer and fell back on the old standby.

“W-well it’s not my fault!” she blurted out. “I’ve been real busy practicing!”

“An’ just how is that ‘not your fault’, Dash?” Applejack asked, raising an eyebrow. “T’aint like yer being called away for weather work. You keep tellin’ me you’re taking time to practice stunts, or whatever. That ain’t work! That’s nothin’ but play!”

“Well … well, you buck apples, don’t you?” Dash was looking away, not making eye contact with her.

“Sure,” offered Applejack, not sure where this was going.

“Well, that’s your job, so you do it. With me, weather work is just a side thing. You know for me it’s the Wonderbolts or bust. I’ve gotta be able to impress them, so practicing my tricks is pretty much a requirement! If I’m not the best flier with the best tricks, then I don’t get in!”

Applejack scowled and shook her head. “Rainbow Dash, Ah’ve heard you give that excuse for months, an’ you should be ashamed of yerself for ever thinking I’d swallow it! I never have and your tricks’re already fine. There’s some other reason yer avoidin’ me, isn’t there?”

“Now hang on a second here,” Dash said, starting to sweat a little. “I had a good reason for not hanging out with you, and I’m sor-”

“There’s another side to it,” Applejack interrupted. “You’ve been tellin’ me one thing and doin’ another, haven’t ya?” Element of Loyalty, my flank.

“What are you talking about, AJ?”

Dash was getting more and more nervous by the second, and Applejack wasn’t helping matters. She was pacing back and forth, glaring at Dash, gradually getting closer to her. She had to make her position clear, but there wasn’t any way to do it gently. Dash would obviously deny it, judging from the way she was already acting.

Applejack decided to cut to the chase; maybe it would catch Dash off guard and she’d let something slip.

“...You’ve been watchin’ me work, haven’t you, Dash?”

Just like she’d expected, Dash’s eyes went wide in surprise.

“W-what?! No!” Dash stammered out. “I... uh... well, that is, I-”

“You think Ah didn’t see you?”

“I, um... well, no, but-”

Ha! So Dash was watchin’ me.

At that moment, Applejack knew for sure. With a steely glint in her eyes, she backed Rainbow Dash against a tree and pointed a hoof right at her chest.

“Dash, I wanna hear you admit it! You’ve been watchin’ me for months now, haven’t ya? You like makin’ me feel like this?!”

“Well... Well, I...” Shoot! Cmon, Dash, think of something, don’t just stand there like an idiot!

Applejack had Dash right where she wanted her. She leaned in closer, dropping her voice.

“You just curious about how a farmpony works her land, or does it go deeper than that? Is that it? Do ya like watchin’ me work? Did I always put on a good show for you? Did it make ya happy? Was it everythin’ you expected?”

She’d leaned in so close her nose rubbed against Rainbow Dash’s. She could see the blush spread across Dash’s face.

Dash felt a powerful tingling sensation run down her back, spreading into her wings. They started trembling.

Oh, hailstones! Dash thought in a panic. Not now, please not now!

It was already too late. Just like they had a half an hour ago, her wings suddenly popped up into the air. Dash could actually feel the heat coming off of her face; it was so red. Applejack raised an eyebrow and took a step back, a curious expression replacing the frown for a moment.

“Uh... Dash? Did your wings just...?”

“N-never mind them!” Dash hissed through clenched teeth, suddenly more embarrassed than she could ever remember being. And right in front of Applejack... she wouldn’t be able to explain her way out of it... there simply wasn’t a way to talk yourself out of something like this. Not when taken in with the blush, too.

Neither one was an outright admission, but they were more than enough for Applejack. She couldn’t help but grin a little at the sight as poor Dash blushed furiously. Now that she had her answer though, it was time to act on it.

Ah’ve talked too much.

She suddenly leaned forwards and kissed Rainbow Dash square on the lips. Then, breaking the kiss to nuzzle her neck instead, she threw her her forelegs around her in the tightest hug she’d ever given another pony.

Dash’s mouth hung open for a few seconds from shock, her thoughts in total disarray. Once she’d realized what had just happened, she wrapped her forelegs around Applejack to return the hug with just as much feeling, if not more. Thrown off balance by having to stand on their hind legs, they tumbled onto the grass under the nearby tree, still tightly holding each other.

- - -

It was almost too good to be true, but it wasn’t a dream. It was much more personal than in her dreams. Not sexual, just … warm. Loving. Being hugged by Applejack - the real Applejack - was the best feeling in the world.

“Why couldn’t ya just tell me, you stupid, silly pony?” Applejack whispered into her ear. “Do you know what ya put me through?”

“...No,” Dash answered, feeling tears squeezing through the corners of her closed eyes. They were tears of joy; relief; remorse; all three mixed together, and she didn’t care. She didn’t care anymore if Applejack saw her crying. “No, I don’t. I don’t deserve this... I’m a terrible pony, aren’t I? I... was afraid of what you’d say, or that I’d screw up, or that you’d laugh at me, or-”

“Dash, you don’t ever have to be ashamed in fronta’ me. We’ve been friends for years. Did you really think we’d stop bein’ friends if I ever said no?”

“Well, I... I don’t know. I guess … yeah...

“Dash... you’ll always be my very best friend.”

- - -

An hour or so later, Big Macintosh crested the hill, Winona following faithfully behind him. He scanned the trees; he’d been looking for Applejack for the past twenty minutes. It wasn’t in her nature to be late for work. A flash of color caught his eye on one of his passes. He found it again under the apple tree his sister had named Sweetblossom... and with it, he found his sister.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash were sound asleep, lying together in a heap, holding each other close. Applejack was mumbling softly to herself, and Dash’s wings were standing straight up, twitching slightly as she dreamed. Both mares were smiling.

        He didn’t say anything, instead just shifting the bit of hay in his mouth, Winona standing quietly at his side.

        Well sis... if ya really love her that much after all she put you through... after all that... then good luck to ya.

        Big Macintosh turned to head back to the house. He’d have to wake Apple Bloom up for school now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmA5bGv6FSQ

As for the two of them, they just lay there together, both wrapped in the bliss of dreams.

                

Despite the “Incomplete” tag, you can consider this story completed.

This story has an "incomplete" status only because my plans for the sequel changed. I made a blog post about it on my fimfic page, but the short version is that the planned sequel didn't work with Dream Mare as the setup. So I decided to rewrite the 'sequel' as a completely different story. It's still connected spiritually to this one, though. When the sequel is posted, I'll update the status on this story’s page to "Complete" and hopefully post a link to the sequel in the story description. I apologize for my lateness and I promise to keep working hard.

If you want to send me direct comments or complaints, you can e-mail me at gearsofw[email protected].

Thanks for reading.

-Lysis lied. There are actually four links.