Dear Twilight Sparkle

by Donny's Boy

Chapter 1: Dear Twilight Sparkle

"Dear Twilight Sparkle"

by Donny's Boy

dedicated to DerFurShur

Thursday was Applejack's favorite day of the work week. On Thursdays Applejack worked the western fields of the orchard, and on Thursdays Twilight Sparkle practiced her flying in the eastern fields. On this particular Thursday, Applejack happily trotted down the rows of trees, long straight lines, as neat and tidy and organized as any orchard could ever wish to be, but her eyes kept skyward.

Applejack had never once wished to be anything but the earth pony she was. Nor could she imagine losing that magical and instinctive connection to the ground and plants and nature that all earth ponies felt. Even so, she'd always enjoyed watching pegasi as they soared through the clouds. It was like watching dancing, except way high up in the air. And despite Rarity's accusations to the contrary, Applejack could appreciate a bit of prettiness here and there in life-a bit of sugar and cinnamon to spice up the apple pie.

But watching Twilight wasn't like watching Fluttershy or like watching Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy was all grace, her wings tilting in fluid, languid motions, a gentle ballet. Rainbow Dash was precisely the opposite, all brute strength and sudden movement, her wings beating against the air like a drummer on her snares. But Twilight? Twilight had neither grace nor power. Her wings flapped awkwardly, almost haphazardly, and she moved through the air in fits and starts. More than once that afternoon, the poor alicorn crash-landed in the branches of one of Applejack's trees.

If Applejack had watched Twilight's practice sessions for aesthetics alone, then surely she would have been disappointed. But Applejack didn't. She watched for what happened after Twilight would crash. What happened after every time Twilight crashed. What was happening right that very instant, in fact.

With a groan loud enough to be heard in the western orchards, Twilight picked herself from the branches and leaves of the tree in which she'd found herself, and she gave her wings a brisk shake. Then, hopping down to the ground, she began her post-crash checklist-first Twilight lifted and rotated her left fore leg, then the right fore leg, followed by her left and right hind legs, always in that exact same order. The wings came next, with Twilight carefully extending her left wing for inspection before moving on to her right. Only after these procedures had been completed did Twilight give a tiny but satisfied nod of the head.

She crouched down low and flared her wings, ready to take off, ready to try again. But then she paused. She glanced up at the sun, wearing a thoughtful frown, and then turned west. Almost as if by magic, Twilight's gaze landed directly upon Applejack across the long rows of trees. Applejack felt her cheeks heat up a bit, at being caught staring, but she shook it off easily enough when Twilight beamed at her. Neatly tucking her wings against her sides, Twilight took off in Applejack's direction at a canter.

"Good practice?" asked Applejack, once Twilight was in speaking range.

"I think so." Without hesitation, Twilight stepped up to one of the baskets that Applejack had filled with trimmed branches. She levitated it onto her back as she added, "I still have to work on my turn radius, but it's getting easier."

Applejack scooped up the remaining basket. The two ponies began towards the barn at a slow, easy pace. Both of them were tired from long days of hard physical work, after all. Besides, at least as far as Applejack was concerned, there wasn't any rush. The sun was warm and bright, a cool breeze blew through the trees, and Twilight walked close enough that Applejack could smell the wind and dirt in the other pony's mane.

It was a nice day. No rush at all, really.

"How are the trees?" asked Twilight after a few moments, breaking the companionable silence.

"Trees are doin' fine." Applejack glanced over to the nearest tree, unable to entirely suppress a proud smile. "Didn't have to do much pruning today. Ought to be a good harvest this year."

"I'm glad to hear it," Twilight replied, and Applejack could tell she meant it. Twilight always meant it.

Once inside the barn, they hauled their baskets to the back corner and set them down. Later, Applejack would sort through the wood to see if any of it could be reclaimed, for use in furniture or for the stove come winter, but that could wait. For right now, there were more important matters at hoof.

Applejack took off her hat and wiped her sweaty brow with a foreleg. "Thanks for lending a hoof with the baskets, Twi."

"I'm happy to help. I mean, really, I'm the one who should be thanking you, for letting me practice flying in your fields." Twilight chuckled. "Apple trees make for much softer landings than buildings."

"Aww, hey, you only crashed twice today. That's gotta be a new record, I reckon." Applejack paused and gestured toward the farmhouse. "So! You wanna come inside and rest a spell, maybe have a cold mug of cider?"

Twilight giggled. "Why do you always ask that, Applejack? I always stay for cider after practice." Leaning forward, she added in a loud, conspiratorial whisper, "It's even on my calendar. Three o'clock, flight practice. Four o'clock, cider with Applejack."

Applejack grinned. She could tell the grin was probably a bit too broad and a bit too silly, but she couldn't quite bring herself to care.

"Sure, but it ain't proper to assume. You know what they say about assumin'."

Twilight returned Applejack's grin with one just as wide and just as happy. "Well, in that case-yes, I'd love to stay for a visit."

Dear Twi,

Naw. Too simple. Sounds like every other letter I've sent her. Well, not that I've sent her all that many letters-she's just down the road, so usually I just drop by the library-but the ones I've sent, they've all started like that.

My dearest Twilight,

Oh, lordy, no. It's like Rarity's gone and possessed me or something. Sure, the gal's got a way with words, I'll give her that, but it ain't Rarity writing this here letter. It's me. Oughta sound like me. Just a better, cleaned-up, more thoughtful-like version of me, maybe.

Dear Twilight Sparkle,

Dang it. I don't think this is going so well.

With a small, apologetic smile, Twilight stood up from the table. It was a large, round table heaped filled with all manner of bowls and platters and dishes, tucked away in a back corner of the outdoor patio at Gustave's Cafe. At least once a month, Applejack and the other girls would meet at the cafe for lunch and catching up. Not only was the food excellent, but Gustave usually gave them discounts, since he and Pinkie were on such good terms.

"Sorry to leave so early, girls," Twilight was saying, as she levitated her napkin and placed it over her now-empty plate. "The Saddle Arabian delegation is visiting Canterlot again tomorrow, you see, and I have to go over the meeting agenda and-"

"Twilight, say no more," Rarity interrupted, with a smile of her own. "We all understand that the demands of princesshood come first."

Murmurs of agreement went around the table, and they all waved as Twilight left the cafe and trotted off toward home. If Applejack waved a little harder and stared for a little longer than the others, well, maybe that wasn't the very worst crime she could commit.

"Um, Applejack?"

Giving her head a brisk shake, Applejack turned back toward the table and found all of her remaining friends staring straight at her, wearing odd smiles that she didn't like the least bit. Just a little too big and a little too bright, like Apple Bloom trying to pull a fast one after some crusading mishap or another.

Immediately, Applejack frowned. "Why in tarnation are y'all lookin' at me like that?"

"Isn't there something you'd like to share?" Rarity asked, smile unwavering. "Perhaps something you've been keeping a secret for some time?"

Fluttershy nodded. "We'd be very happy to Pinkie promise not to tell anypony. If, um, you'd like us to. Not that we'd tell even if we didn't Pinkie promise, of course …"

"Well, I dunno." Applejack reached up to scratch at her snout. "We've been workin' on a new cider recipe over at the farm, but it ain't quite ready for taste-testing yet ... "

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. "What Rarity and 'Shy are trying to get at here is-"

"We think you wanna have smoochies with Twilight!" Pinkie exclaimed as she tossed her hooves in the air, sending her water glass tumbling off the table.

"Basically, yeah." Dash gave a nod of confirmation. "And we're pretty sure Twi'd be into that, too."

Applejack gaped. She worked her jaw a bit, but suddenly her tongue was too thick, and her throat was too tight, and she couldn't quite make the words come out.

"Oh, honestly!" Rarity directed a glare in the direction of Pinkie and Dash as she simultaneously levitated the fallen glass back to its former spot besides Pinkie's dinner plate. "Do you two have no sense of romance? Or even basic decorum?"

Pinkie happily shook her head, while Rainbow Dash offered up a noncommittal shrug.

For her own part, Applejack barked out a laugh. It wasn't even that laughing seemed like the thing to do-though it did-so much as the laugh simply burst straight out of her mouth.

Pinkie frowned at her, her face contorted into an expression of grave doubt and suspicion. "What? Does that mean you don't wanna make smoochies with Twilight?"

"Though that isn't quite how I'd phrase the question," said Rarity, "I must admit that I, too, am a bit curious as to your reaction."

Applejack looked around the table at each of her friends in turn. Pinkie and Rarity were staring at her with rapt attention, of course, but even Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash were looking at her, too. All of them just staring and waiting. Applejack drummed her hooves on top of the table, just to give her legs something to do. They were itching to move, to run or kick or just do something, and the fidgeting helped, if only a little.

"I like Twilight," Applejack finally said. She bit back a sigh. "Dunno if there's much more to say, really."

"Well, are you going to ask her out?" asked Fluttershy, leaning forward eagerly, her eyes shining as though the fate of the whole universe hinged on the answer to her question.

Applejack sat back a little. Mostly just to regain a bit of personal space but also, honestly, maybe a little because she was intimidated by the look in Fluttershy's eyes. "Uh …"

"What? You mean you're just gonna lead Twilight on?" Nearly growling, Rainbow Dash crossed her forelegs across her chest. "That's totally bogus, A.J.!"

"No!" Applejack shook her head so quickly that her hat nearly flew off. "I ain't said that at all!"

Dash frowned a little harder and looked about ready to argue the point, but Rarity leaned across the table and laid a gentle hoof over Rainbow's. And though Rainbow didn't quite lose her frown, she blessedly kept her mouth shut.

"Darling?" Rarity began, facing Applejack, those piercing blue eyes boring right into the farm pony. Applejack almost wished Rarity had just let Dash say her piece. "If that's not what you're saying, then just what are you trying to say?"

"I ..."

The rest of whatever she'd been about to say evaporated into the air, because it was right about then that she realized her heart was beating a little too fast, and her mouth was a little too dry, and her breathing was a little too shallow. And just when had her legs started shaking so bad?

"I ... I don't know."

And Applejack realized, with a sinking heart, that she'd spoken the honest to Celestia truth. That was the problem, right there. She didn't know just what exactly she was trying to say.

Dear Twilight,

Your eyes are like orbs of

Orbs is a funny-sounding word. Sounds weird. Wrong. Kind of like ogres, and ogres ain't a good thing.

Your eyes are like

Like water? Nah, that's too trite, and besides, they ain't really much like water unless you've been crying. And goodness knows how I hate to see you crying.

Like gems? Well, they sparkle plenty, so I reckon that works. But gems are awful hard, and you only get that hard look in your eyes when you're facing down some ugly critter that's aiming to hurt us or something like that.

Like fire? They kind of are, because of how passionate you are and how much you care about everypony and everything. Still, fire can destroy a whole bunch of stuff and kill a whole bunch of ponies, so I don't know if you'll be too keen on that comparison.

Maybe I ought to forget similes and metaphors for right now. Just leave all that to the poets and that stash of books Fluttershy don't think we know about.

Your eyes are so pretty.

By the Moon and Sun, that sounds so stupid and simple-headed. I mean, your eyes are pretty-prettiest pair of eyes I've ever seen, though I'll admit I'm probably biased on that-but it just seems like a letter like this deserves something a bit better. A bit more … I don't know … more zap apples, less regular old Red delicious.

Maybe I'll try with the similes again.

Applejack smiled as she stared down at the framed photograph held between her hooves. Her friends smiled back up at her, and behind their smiling faces hung a large "Welcome home, Princess Luna!" banner. To this day, Applejack didn't know how Pinkie Pie had made the sign on such short notice, but in the here and now, that wasn't what drew her attention.

No, what drew her attention were five necklaces and a tiara, glittering and shining from the photograph, just as she'd remembered them. And it was so, so easy to remember them, to remember how she'd felt that day, powerful and connected and more alive than she'd ever been.

"You're still missin' it."

Applejack didn't jump, didn't yelp, didn't even bother to turn around. She'd lived too long in this house to get spooked by the sudden intrusion of that quiet, deep voice.

Instead, she sighed. "Yeah. Reckon it's a mite bit selfish of me, but I do. It's just …"

Big Macintosh didn't speak. He simply waited for her to finish her thought. That was one of the good things about Mac. One of the bad things, too.

"I dunno," she finally muttered. She shrugged and set the photo back on her bedside table. "It's hard to describe to other ponies how it felt, wearin' them shiny little doodads. I could feel the others, Twi and all of 'em, when the necklace was on. The way I can feel my own hoof or heart right now."

"They're still your friends, A.J. Even better friends now than they were then."

Applejack rolled her eyes. It was rude, and Big Mac didn't deserve it, but she couldn't quite help herself. "I know that! That … that ain't the point I'm gettin' at." She shook her head. "I got a good life. A real good life. Good family, good friends, roof over my head, food in my belly. Got nothing to complain about, and so I don't complain. But those necklaces …"

The soft clop of hooves against well-worn wood. A gentle warmth against her side.

Her eyes stayed on the photo. There they all were, so much the same and yet so different. A seamstress and a weather pony. An animal warden and a baker. A farmer with hooves still caked with dirt from the fields. And there in the middle of them all stood a pony who'd traveled all the way from the shining capital of Equestria, a pony full of ancient knowledge and arcane magic, a pony destined to conquer the greatest of evils and to pass the most difficult of challenges.

A pony destined to become a princess.

"We were special, Mac," Applejack confessed, her voice quiet and ashamed. "Just for a while, I was the Element o' Honesty, and I was special. 'Cause of … 'cause of her. 'Cause of them."

Big Mac made a thoughtful humming noise in the back of his throat. "A.J.? You ever reckon you weren't special 'cause of the Elements?"

"You mean 'cause everypony's special in their own way? I know that. I do. I was just-"

"Eeenope. Not what I meant at all." He wrapped a foreleg around her shoulders. "Just meant that maybe the Elements chose ya 'cause you were special all along, instead of the other way around."

Applejack simply sat there for a few minutes, silent, dumbstruck by her brother's suggestion.

"No," she said at last. "I don't reckon I ever did think o' things that way."

Macintosh gave her shoulders a squeeze before standing up. Applejack could hear his joints pop as he stretched, followed by his hooves heading away. The hoofsteps paused near the doorway, and Applejack's ears gave a flick. She could tell her brother had something else he wanted to say, and she waited for whatever might come next.


"Yeah, Big Macintosh?"

"The way I remember you tellin' it, the Element of Magic only popped up once the rest of 'em were found first. Just somethin' to keep in mind for when you finally ask her out."

Applejack gave silent thanks for having her back turned to her brother, because she could feel a blush burning on her cheeks hotter than the sun in August. She cleared her throat and then, for lack of a better plan, cleared it again.

"I … uh …" Applejack chuckled weakly. "That obvious, huh?"

Big Mac let out a snort.

Dear Twilight,

I wish I was good enough for you.

Big Mac would kick my flank if he caught me writing that. Besides, that ain't really it, is it? That I think I ain't good enough? I mean, I don't have the same pedigrees that some of them noble ponies in Canterlot got, but the Apple family name is a known quantity, you might say. It's a good name. A respected name.

Could be that I don't have the book-learning you do, but heck, you just love learning for the sake of learning. Other ponies not knowing something you know just means you get to teach them something new, and your eyes always light up like fireworks at the Grand Galloping Gala whenever you get the chance to share a little of what you know. Could just ask you to explain all about magic theory and whatnot, and you'd be happy as a pig in mud as long as I listened, and you know I would. So I don't reckon that's it.

Dear Twilight,

I wish I could just

Just what, now? Tell you how I feel? Ask you out? Plant a big one right on you the next time I see you around town?

Heck, I don't know. Something, though. Anything.

I ain't exactly what you'd call a thinker or a planner. Got a good enough head on my shoulders, I like to think, but chess ain't really my game, if you catch my drift. I'm better when I'm doing-running, jumping, hauling, bucking. Now just look at me. Can't even finish writing one simple little letter to one of my best friends. Can hardly even finish a single dang sentence.


Dear Twilight,

I wish I knew just what I wanted to say to you.

There. That's at least a little closer to being something what's true.

The sun beat down from above, and Applejack had to shield her eyes against it in order to see Twilight. Even then, high above the earth, Twilight was little more than a silhouette, a dark, tiny dot dancing among the clouds.

She was higher up than she usually dared to go, and Applejack felt a ridiculous twinge of worry, a slight cramp in her stomach. Surely Twilight could take care of herself-had done exactly that, on more than one occasion, as well as taking care of all Equestria-but still Applejack found herself wishing Twilight would fly a little lower. Just a little. A smidge.

Applejack forced herself to look away, to turn her attention back to her trees and all the work she had to do that afternoon. Not that there was really all that much work, to be honest. Last week had taken care of all the pruning, and it wouldn't be until a few weeks more that she would need to-


Instantly Applejack's ears swivelled, and a split-second the rest of her followed. She was halfway across the orchard before she even consciously registered that it had been Twilight who'd let out the yelp.

Up above, Twilight was hurtling downward. Hurtling down toward the ground below far too fast and with her wings askew at entirely the wrong angles. Applejack felt her heart leap into her throat, and she galloped even harder.

The alicorn's eyes went wide as soon as she spotted Applejack and the collision course they were on, and Twilight shouted some words that might have been a warning or perhaps a command to get out of the way. Applejack couldn't quite tell. She couldn't hear much over the rushing of the wind past her ears or the pounding of her heart against her ribs.

And then, just a hair's moment before Twilight was due to crash, there came a flash of blinding light.

Applejack's entire field of vision exploded into a million shades of violet, and the world gave a sickening lurch as that same light faded as suddenly as it appeared. Applejack felt herself go into freefall, but before she could even try to get her legs beneath her, she hit the ground and rolled, end over end, finally coming to a halt when she smacked up against something large and none too soft. Sweet Apple Acres' barn, if she had to guess, by the size and the solidness.

Panting hard, she simply lay there for a few seconds with her back against the dirt as she tried to regain her bearings. It took her a few seconds more to realize that part of the reason she was having trouble getting her breath was that something heavy and purple-or, rather, someone heavy and purple-was sprawled right across her chest.

For her own part, Twilight was gazing down at her with eyes as focused and urgent as any Applejack had ever seen. Tiny sparks of lingering magical energy crackled all around Twilight, like a fearsome and holy halo, and suddenly Applejack found it hard to breathe for an entirely different reason.

"Are you okay?" Twilight gasped out, breathing hard herself.

Applejack managed a somewhat shaky nod. "Yeah. How 'bout you?"

"I'm all right. I think so, anyway." Twilight let her head droop a bit, and her chin grazed the fur on Applejack's chest. "I lost control in a thermal, and it … it took me longer to remember I could use my magic than it really should have."

"You don't say, now," replied Applejack, her tone as dry as dust.

"Well, what about you? What were you thinking, getting in the way like that? I almost …" Twilight swallowed. Her eyes softened. "I mean, I could have ..."

Almost despite herself, Applejack chuckled. "None of that, now, missy. I didn't save you from tumblin' off a cliff in the Everfree just to lose you to a … a thermos or whatever you called it."

"A thermal," said Twilight, smiling through a sigh. "It's a column of air that rises due to convection and …"

It was a perfect moment. Twilight was laying right there, warm and soft and babbling on about aerial physics in that excited way of hers, and all Applejack would have had to do was lean forward a little. If this had been a fairytale, she supposed she probably would've. She'd have stolen a kiss from her beautiful princess, like a valiant and worthy knight of yore, and then they'd get married and live happily ever after and probably adopt a whole bushel of foals.

But, of course, life wasn't a fairytale. So instead of leaning in for a kiss, Applejack reached up with a hoof and gave Twilight a gentle poke in the side. "Sugar cube? Don't mean to interrupt the flying lesson, but it's startin' to get a bit hard to get a good, deep breath in the old lungs here."

"What?" Twilight blinked and then glanced around, as though just then realizing the position they both were in. "Oh! Oh, sorry, Applejack!"

Quickly Twilight scampered back onto her hooves. Blushing, she offered a hoof to help Applejack up next. Applejack accepted with a grateful grin and a nod.

"I reckon it's not quite four o'clock yet," said Applejack, as she dusted herself off and slapped her Stetson back atop her head, "but how would you feel about a cider anyhow?"

"I have to say … a cider sounds perfect right now."

Together the two ponies began ambling toward the Apple family's farm house. Applejack could feel Twilight's gaze linger upon her as they walked, and she turned to the alicorn with an eyebrow raised in silent query.

"That was still a completely stupid thing that you did back there," Twilight began, her voice stern.

Applejack frowned and opened her mouth to protest. But then, as Twilight's sternness melted into a warm smile, the farm pony paused.

"Completely stupid," Twilight repeated softly, "but completely brave and completely selfless." She brushed shoulders with Applejack and gave her a brief nuzzle. "Thanks, Applejack."

"Weren't nothing," Applejack lied through her teeth.

Dear Twilight,

Once upon a time, you came into my world and made the stars align.

I love you.


Applejack waited.

She was good at waiting. If she hadn't always been-and she hadn't, not as a young filly, anyway-the years had forced her to learn how to be. All those weeks of endless crying, back when a tiny Apple Bloom had colic and nothing and no one could comfort her. All those months of heavy, hurtful silence back when Macintosh, never the chattiest of colts to begin with, gave up speaking altogether as he kept a lonely vigil for ponies who never would make it back home. All those springs spent sowing and preparing in hopes of a healthy harvest come the fall.

All those endless dark hours, after the Element of Magic had exploded like a bomb, just seconds after the completion of old Starswirl's spell, and not a one of them knew whether the crown's bearer would ever be returned to them.

Applejack was good at waiting. She'd had to be. And so she waited.

It was Thursday, and she sat in the orchards, her eyes fixed unseeing upon the prize tree of the season. The air around her thrummed with the lazy heartbeat of early summer, still and warm, and yet the sweat trickled icy-cold down her back. Finally, after what might have been minutes but could have been hours, she heard it-the distant beat of wings against the air. Wingbeats far too quiet to belong Rainbow Dash and too clumsy to be Fluttershy.

Applejack swallowed.

The landing wasn't as hard or as loud as Applejack had expected, and she felt tempted to smile. All those Thursdays of practice had paid off, it seemed.

"I got your letter," came that voice Applejack knew so very well, quiet and yet as commanding as a thunderclap, as demanding of Applejack's attention as a bolt of lightning.

In response, Applejack gave a stiff nod. "Reckoned you would've by now."

It was a dumb thing to say. Too dumb and too simple, even for a pony like Applejack. But before she could begin to think of something else to say, something better and something that actually meant something, she felt a hoof fall soft upon her cheek.

She turned, more on instinct than anything else. Twilight Sparkle's face hovered just centimeters from her own. Those purple eyes sparkled under the sun like an entire universe of stars, and Applejack felt her throat tighten.

Slowly, deliberately, Twilight leaned toward her, and yet somehow Applejack was still caught by surprise when their lips actually met. When she found herself actually kissing Twilight.

Applejack returned the kiss, gingerly at first, all while trying to memorize every single thought and every single sensation. The roughness of Twilight's lips, chapped from so much flying practice, no doubt. The slight bitterness on Twilight's tongue, the taste of those awful herbal teas the alicorn so loved to drink. The distinctive scent of magic, acid and metallic, that always lingered in Twilight's mane. The warmth in Applejack's own chest, which expanded out like rays from the sun, to the extent that Applejack felt certain she'd burst right open.

Reluctant as she was to end the moment, to end the kiss, Applejack was the first to pull away. To pull back and reestablish a bit of space between the two of them. Still Twilight was staring straight at her, straight through her, and Applejack couldn't help but tremble slightly at the intensity of the other pony's gaze.

"I'm glad you sent the letter," Twilight finally said. She extended a wing and laid it across Applejack's back, lightly, almost delicately.

Applejack smiled. Twilight smiled back.

Applejack thought about explaining herself. She thought about telling Twilight about all the letters she'd written and then rewritten and then thrown away. About describing how hard she'd struggled to find the words to say what she wanted to say, to say what she meant, because a pony who was a librarian deserved only the very best words. She thought about talking about everything Twilight meant to her and everything she felt for Twilight.

But all Applejack ended up saying was, "I'm glad I wrote the letter."

The End.

Author's Notes: The scene with Big Mac was adapted from a Thirty Minute Ponies Stories submission for Prompt #557, "Big Mac has something to say." Applejack's final love letter, of course, is borrowed from the opening lines to "Shine Like Rainbows."

As always, thanks very much for reading!

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