Applecores and Rainbows
Rainbow Dash lied just outside of her cloud home, on the outcrop facing Ponyville. The early morning light shined through her house in the sky, its warm beams causing the billowy mass to glow softly. It wasn't often she got to see this time of day. In fact, all she wanted at that exact moment was to be asleep. She had spent most of the night repeating that mantra, in between quick night-flights taken in an attempt to clear her head. None of it had been successful. With the sun quickly rising to wake all of the ponies beneath it, she was becoming aware that she was simply making it an all-nighter.
Why did she say that? She felt it, and had wanted to ask for a while, but why did she have to finally get the courage to do it? Why couldn't she have stayed content with saying she would do it 'soon' like she had so many times before?
The previous evening, she had asked her good friend Applejack out on a date. A question that had been fluttering through her mind for many weeks now. She finally, by some strange power, worked up the courage to ask her.
And then she ran away.
"Good one, Dash," she berated herself.
She knew it had been a mistake to ask the moment the words left her lips. AJ isn't like that, she had told herself. AJ doesn't feel for mares that way, not like she does. She had used that to calm the feelings each time the question boiled its way to the top of her throat. Why hadn't she that time?
It didn't matter. She had blown it. And badly. Not only did she ask, but when the answer seemed hazy, she bolted. What was she supposed to do now?
She was snapped from her internal monologue by a soft bump on her head. An apple fell from above, bouncing harmlessly off of her scalp and landing in her folded forelegs. She was growing tired of seeing apples. They just made her think of AJ, and reminded her more of wh-
Where the hay did an apple come from? She looked up from her perched place on the cloud. Nothing but blue sky met her gaze. She humored the thought that maybe one of the apples launched from her Sonic Rainboom had exited the atmosphere, and had just now fallen to hit her. It was in that thought that she realized a voice had been calling her for some time now.
"Rainbow Dash, if ya don't get yer butt down here right now, Ah'll fetch mah lasso and get ya down mahself!"
It was Applejack. She must have been shouting up to the blue pegasus for several minutes already. Dash leaned over the edge of her cloud to see the orange pony below.
"Whadda ya want, AJ?" She hadn't tried to cover the tiredness in her voice.
Aj looked back up into the cloud. "Ah want ya to get yer flank down here! I gotta talk to ya."
Dash cringed. Some part of her had wanted AJ to forget of yesterday's events, but she knew that wasn't likely. She might as well face the pony. Once before she had ignored the threat of a lasso, and quickly found it to not be a hollow warning. She flew down to meet... to meet who she hoped was still her friend.
"Okay, okay. I'm down now. So, what's up?" Dash tried not to let the nervous fluttering of her heart break into her voice.
"About time ya got up, ya lazy filly." AJ joked, not realizing just how long her friend had been awake. "First'a all, we're s'pose to hang out today if ya remember." Oh, Dash remembered.
"Second'a all," Applejack pushed forward a small basket full of red apples from the family's own land. "Here's a little somethin' for helpin' us out. All the workers get a basket'a apples for their assistance. And one of 'em's probably sittin' up there, since I had to get ya down here somehow." At least that explains the sky-apple.
"Third'a all," AJ continued, suddenly looking much less cheery, "Ah been thinkin' about yesterday."
Dash knew what was coming. She had expected it. But she didn't want to hear it. She could live with it as long as she didn't have to hear it. "AJ, look..."
The earth pony didn't wait for her friend to finish. "Ah ain't much'a one for the big theatrics or nothin', so if we're doin' this, we're goin' t'do things simple. None'a them big fancy-schmancy dinners or romantic dances or nothin'. Kay?"
Dash was about to interject when she picked up the words. Had she... did she...
"AJ... Did you just... Are we thinking about the same thing?" Dash hated how naive she sounded.
Applejack sat down, a shy smirk crossing her face. "Ah think we are. Sug', Ah can honestly say Ah've never thought of a mare in that way before, but Ah guess Ah've never thought of anypony that way. Courtin's just never been a part'a mah life. When ya asked me, Ah freaked out a little, and Ah'm awfully sorry for puttin' ya out like that."
Dash was still in a stupor. She could hear the words, but none seemed to register. "Wait, wait, wait! Did... Are... You..." Her tongue rapidly threw out words as if bailing a flooded raft, hoping one of them would lead to what she meant.
AJ continued, trying hard not to laugh at the funny look on the pegasus' face. "Would ya let me finish here, Rainbow? Now, Ah ain't saying Ah feel one way or the other just yet, but, you've been mah best friend for years now, and if there was any pony Ah'd give it a try fer, well, it'd be you."
Dash continued to stare with a mixed look of excitement and confusion, and in her mind she must have had the goofiest grin on her face. "So... what you're saying is...?"
AJ smiled at her friend. "Yes, Ah'll go on a 'date' with ya Dash. What can it hurt to give it shot?"
That was all Dash needed to hear. Instantly, she was propelled into the air by her wings, one hoof held high. "WHOOHOO!"
The farmer pony held back a laugh, its escaping bursts catching in her throat. Dash realized what she was doing, blushing a deep red. She landed back on the grass below, an embarrassed smile stretching wide. "Uh, I mean, 'cool!'"
AJ couldn't hold it in anymore. She burst into a rolling laugh, grabbing her sides. Dash found herself laughing at her own silliness as well.
As the outbursts subsided, Dash spoke. "So, uh, anything in mind for the first date?" A relief like she rarely felt flushed over as she said that. This was really happening.
"Well," the orange earth pony began, "Ah can't say Ah've ever been on a date before, so Ah don't rightly know. What do ponies normally do on these things? Go for walks or somethin'?"
"Great idea!" Dash shouted. "A walk through the park. Let's go." It wasn't anything different from what she and AJ had done many times before, but it was made all the better knowing that she was going with her 'date'. A girlish squeal rang in her mind.
The two walked off towards the Ponyville park, the basket of apples left sitting on the ground behind them, forgotten entirely in the excitement. Dash didn't care, since she had a much more beautiful apple in her sights now.
Hours had passed as the two ponies strolled through the park. They had almost forgotten how long they had been walking as conversations grew, evolved, and adapted between them. They had even begun to talk of the Rainboom incident on the farm with a light air.
"Ah don't know what was more a sight, Rainbow; yer Sonic Rainboom, or all those apples flyin' off like startled chickens!" AJ joked with her friend. She found the entire fiasco becoming more humorous as time passed, just as she had with last year's Grand Galloping Gala.
Dash blushed lightly. "Hey, I thought it'd work! How was I supposed to know apples could fly like that?"
The pair shared another laugh. There had been many between them on their walk, each pony feeling their sides beginning to grow sore from the joyous talk.
"So, Rainbow," AJ began to ponder as the two continued. "Ah was just wonderin', but have ya ever been with a mare before?"
Dash froze in place, gaze locked onto her friend and her face as red as Big Macintosh's coat.
AJ respoke the question in her head before realizing how the words had fallen. "OH! Nonono! Not like that, ya gutter-brain! Ah mean have ya ever dated another mare before?" She hadn't meant to sound nearly as forward, but it was still better than its previous wording.
The petrified pegasus eased her stance, her face sinking into contemplation. "Well, sorta. She wasn't really a 'mare,' though. I guess she'd be more a 'hen.'"
AJ knew who she meant. "So, ya did date that Gilda girl? Ah heard about her. Bad egg, Ah was told."
"She wasn't always like that," Dash replied. "Well, maybe she had been. But I never saw it. Anyway, we sorta tried it in Flight School. Never got very far, though. She wasn't very comfortable with me being a filly, or a pony for that matter. I think she mostly did it to rebel against the norm or something. After about a month, we cut it off."
Silence fell over the group. AJ had no history of her own to speak of. Though the family was never kept from dating, none of the Apple's ever seemed to take up the pursuit. Many of her distant family members had been married by arrangement, and even she had been loosely mentioned for such to a stallion named 'Red'. It seemed common amongst her clan to never take the chance. It was fairly new territory for both ponies.
"So, no," Dash continued, a grin on her face. "I've never 'been with' a mare." She chuckled softly.
"Ya know Ah didn't mean it like that, Dash!" AJ laughed with the pegasus.
"You've really never thought of dating or anything?" Dash asked in return.
AJ was now on the stand. "Well, no, Ah haven't. Ah mean, there's some stuff Ah thought of. Like gettin' married, and startin' mah own family. Ah just never really put much thought in the stuff between. Ah mean, Ah ain't one for all that romance and such. It always seemed silly t'me. The kinda stuff Rarity'd like. Gettin' yerself all pretty for some stallion, just so ya can go out and pay too much t'eat too little in a place with too dim'a lights. Nah, that ain't fer me. Ah guess Ah just always thought if somepony was interested, they'd come find me." Somepony had, she thought.
Rainbow Dash looked down, a weak fear in her eye. "You... are you okay with being with a mare? Like me?"
AJ scoffed. "Well, shoot, Sugarcube. If Ah wasn't, why would Ah be out here with ya?"
"For me..." Dash spoke under her breath.
AJ felt the words sting at her, but could understand where they had come from. She had agreed under the pretense of 'try it and see.' As much of a compliment as she tried to dress it as, it was still a gambled venture. And she had at first been defensive of the implications that she would like a mare that way.
"Rainbow... Well, Ah couldn't tell ya." Applejack retorted. "Ah'm uncomfortable with the whole 'courtin'' thing, but it ain't because yer a mare. Ah just ain't ever felt right in a social sorta way. Yer mah best friend, Dash. Ah don't care if you were a mare, stallion, mule or dragon. Ya asked me out. If our friendship means anything, I had to give it a try. And if it doesn't work, Ah promise you it ain't because'a what you are!" She had hoped the words were some comfort.
To her relief, Dash looked to her with a renewed happiness. "Thanks, AJ. That's all I could ever ask for."
The farmer felt something tug at her heart. "All right, already. We can't be gettin' too sappy on the first date!" She smiled to her winged friend.
"So," Dash picked up the conversation from there, "how are you liking your 'first date?'"
AJ stopped, sitting back on the edge of the trail. They had long since passed the threshold of Ponyville, and could now see the stretch of plains between the outlying park and distant mountains. It was quiet out that far by themselves, but peacefully so.
Dash turned to her friend, worry flickering into her eyes.
Applejack leaned in, placing a quick kiss on the pegasus' muzzle. "Ah like it enough to do it again."
Dash again flushed a bright red, a huge smile beaming across her face. She sat beside the orange pony, as both stared into the serene view in the distance.
AJ nuzzled closer to the blue pony. "It's a beautiful sight, ain't it?"
Dash looked to her friend. "I'd say."