Home Grown

by AbsoluteAnonymous

Chapter 1: Home Grown

Chances were, if you asked anypony in Equestria what an apple looked like, they'd describe a red delicious, painting for you an image of a round, ripe fruit with rich red skin and crisp, tangy flesh. But the funny thing was, nopony actually seemed to like red delicious apples very much. They were bitter and thick, making them difficult to eat raw, and weren’t any good for baking.

Yet that was the apple best known to the masses. They knew the color, they knew the shape, and they knew it as good, even if they didn’t especially like the taste upon actually sampling one.

When it came to baking pies, Granny Smith tended to prefer her namesake. Apple Bloom veered towards the Gala varieties, preferring to snack on fruit that was mild and sweet. But Big Macintosh never shared what his own preferences were, and Applejack herself had no favorite apple at all. To her, they were all good. But she admittedly had a soft spot for the red delicious - the apple everypony thought they knew until they tasted it.


Autumn was her favorite time of year. There was something undeniably comforting about the season - something warm and golden and reminiscent of home. It was the season that most felt as though it were in the midst of perpetual sunset, daylight slowly fading as the sweet smell of cinnamon and baked apples wafted from every kitchen. But maybe that was only true of the Apple family, where the kitchen truly did tend to smell like cinnamon and apple in the evenings, since that was when Granny Smith did most of her baking. It was the time of year when the harvest moon shone round and yellow over the fields at night, and Applejack knew that soon, the air would take on a frosty chill as the pegasi prepared to bring in winter.

The days were spent harvesting apples before the cold snap could claim them. Baskets for collecting the fruit were arranged under every tree. Ladders for climbing into the leafy tops were set against the trunks for Apple Bloom's personal use, seeing as how she was still too young to buck from the ground the way Applejack and Big Macintosh could. At the end of every day, the three of them would work together to gather up all the baskets, pulling wagonful after wagonful to the cellar for storage and being careful not to bruise a single one. After all, everypony knew that one rotten apple could spoil a whole bin.

Gradually, the cellar began to develop its familiar winter smell of musty apples and preserves. It was a smell that Applejack had grown up with and almost found as comforting as the smell of apple pie, like the one her granny was just now pilling from the oven and setting on the counter to cool.

"Smells good, Granny," the farmer said warmly upon walking into the kitchen and finding herself greeted by such a sight.

"Somethin' special for you hard workers," Granny Smith chuckled. With a smile, Applejack gave her a brief, affectionate nuzzle.

Although she was able to smile and chat pleasantly, Applejack was exhausted, having just put in a full day of bucking. Her orange coat was slick with sweat and her breathing was noticeably labored. Her every limb screamed for rest, begging her to lie down and take a nap - but she was used to Applebuck Season by now. Even if her body needed a break, she was strong enough to push on ahead and keep going. After all, the worst was over, now. The best apples had finally all been picked, and all remained on the trees were the cider apples, which they didn't have to be nearly as careful with. Cider season already seemed to be off to a promising start.

"Hard day?" Granny asked conversationally, examining the pastry. It was perfect down to every last detail, and Applejack felt her mouth begin to water in anticipation of the first slice. There was a reason her granny had an apple pie cutie mark.

"Not too bad," she lied. No point in getting her grandmother worried about her. She was fine.

Granny Smith sighed, turning back to cast a glance at the orange pony and smiling gently. Most of the time, the ponies in town looked at her and saw only a doddering, borderline senile old mare; it was only when she was with her grandchildren that Granny's true self shone.

This was the part of her grandmother that Applejack both loved and hated the most.

"You're just like your pa," Granny Smith said affectionately. Her voice sounded so weak, frail and wavering, but there was such a strong spirit underlying it that Applejack couldn't help but feel a burst of pride upon looking at her. "He never knew how to quit, neither. He'd push an’ push as hard as he could to get done what needed to be done, never stoppin' to ask for help."

She paused.

"He'd be proud of you, y'know," the older mare added softly. "He'd be right proud to see what you've done for Sweet Apple Acres. Your ma, too."

Applejack's throat tightened.

"Thanks, Granny," she whispered, her voice hoarse.

"Not like that fool brother o' yours," Granny Smith added with a wry chuckle. "He works hard, but you just know that his heart ain't in it. Farmin' don't suit him. So I guess it's all up to you, huh?"

All up to her.

The farm and the apples and their legacy.

All hers.

"Heh. I guess."

"Go call that fool brother o' yours inside. Get Apple Bloom and Caramel, too. It's time for supper, an' we'll have some o’ this pie for desert."

Applejack obediently trotted out of the kitchen, leaving Granny Smith alone as she went to collect the rest of her family.

The trees were painted red and orange and gold, and the contrast between their colors and the blue of the sky only served to make the sky seem even more blue. The horizon was painted with the colors of the sunset as Celestia brought the day to a close. It would be yet another perfect, comforting autumn evening at home.

And yet, Applejack couldn't bring herself to feel good about it. She couldn't help but hear her granny's words echo in her mind again and again.

So I guess it's all up to you, huh?

Caramel was only a farmhand. Big Macintosh was willing to work, but expressed no desire to help manage the everyday affairs of Sweet Apple Acres. Apple Bloom may not have had her cutie mark yet, but she didn't seem especially inclined towards farming, either, and Applejack suspected that when her sister's mark finally manifested itself, it would have nothing to do with the fruit their family was named for. Granny Smith was aging.

Applejack was the force that kept Sweet Apple Acres alive. It was all up to her. There was nopony else. And someday, when she herself became too old and ailing to run the farm longer, she would pass the business down to her children.

There was nopony else.

It was all up to her.


The red delicious was an apple that everypony thought was their favorite, but then once they took that first sinful bite, they realized that it wasn't quite as good as they'd thought.


"Applejack, darling?"

Applejack whipped around at the sound of Rarity's voice, far more eagerly than she would've liked. Her entire body ached. The simple act of turning to look at something made her wince in pain.

"Howdy, Rare!" she answered with a broad smile, tipping her Stetson at the unicorn in greeting. If she smiled widely enough, maybe Rarity wouldn't notice the wince. There was a difference between the small deceptions that kept ponies from asking uncomfortable questions and outright lying.

"Oh, dear. Did you hurt yourself?"


"Nah, I'm fine," Applejack answered calmly. "You got a reason for bein' out here, Rarity? I'm sorta busy."

Her voice came out a little sharper than she intended. Rarity raised her delicate eyebrows and eyed the empty tree Applejack leaned against. In the distance, Big Macintosh was bucking another tree. Caramel and Apple Bloom were working together to load the wagon with the baskets he filled.

Although Applejack was hot and sweating, the air had a nip to it that must have been getting to those ponies who hadn't spent their days bucking apples for cider season. Rarity wore an elegant violet and gold scarf around her neck to protect herself from the cold, as if that was all that was needed to keep herself toasty.

Without really meaning to, Applejack found herself staring at the scarf. It wasn't an intentional thing, but her eyes seemed drawn to it of their own accord, until Rarity's voiced snapped her out of it.

"I simply wanted to see if you'd be joining us for our picnic this afternoon," Rarity said lightly, a small smile on her face. It seemed almost strained. Where Applejack was down-home friendliness and charisma, Rarity was high-society ice and aloofness. Those who knew the unicorn well enough knew what a good heart she had, and how she always had the best intentions; but those who couldn't be bothered to look past her shallow exterior saw only the elitism. Applejack had admittedly done the same back in the early stages of their friendship, making the mistake of thinking that Rarity was just another high-class mare who thought she was too good for a little hayseed like herself.

But she'd been wrong. After all, here was Rarity now, coming out to the orchard to find Applejack and extend a personal invitation. A true big-city sophisticate wouldn't have dared to set hoof in such a place and risk dirtying her precious self.

Rarity was different.

"Yeah," Applejack found herself saying. "Yeah. I guess I can come. We're almost done here for today, anyway, so it shouldn't take that much longer."

Rarity's eyes lit up. "Wonderful!" she said happily. Her smile widened and seemed to grow a bit more genuine. "Would you like me to wait for you? We can walk over together."

Yes. Yes, she wanted Rarity to wait for her. "I suppose that'd be all right," Applejack said, trying to sound casual. "You can head on up to the main house if you'd like. I'll be there soon."


Again, Rarity's eyes drifted across the orchard, taking in the sight of what seemed to be about a thousand apple trees.

"Would you...like any help?" she managed to ask, sounding as though it would be a great burden if Applejack were to say yes, but one she would shoulder bravely.

Applejack almost snorted in laughter. "Nah. 'S'all right. But thanks all the same, Rare."

Rarity sniffed. "I just thought I'd ask. There's no need to be rude, you know.”

She sighed, lifting her head with a bored expression as she glanced around her.

“You work so hard,” Rarity murmured thoughtfully. “I’d think I understand better than anypony how it is to have an ethic such as yours, but surely you must grow tired or bored of such thankless labor.”

“It ain’t thankless,” Applejack answered curtly. “Not at all. An’ I don’t get bored, neither. It’s all worth it."

“How so?”

Applejack fell silent.

There was something about the way Rarity phrased her question. No, not phrased it. Something about the way she said it. As if the answer truly mattered to her. As if she genuinely wanted to hear what Applejack’s reason was. After all, it wasn’t as though anypony would blame Applejack if she ever decided to abandon her life of drudgery for something more glamorous. She’d even tried once before, when she’d gone to Manehatten to stay with her aunt and uncle.

What nopony understood was that it wasn’t just her cutie mark that compelled her to stay on the farm. It wasn’t just a sense of duty or obligation. It was more than that. Much, much more.

So instead of answering Rarity’s question, Applejack gestured with a sweep of her hoof towards the orchard sprawling before them to indicate the whole of Sweet Apple Acres.

"This land here's just as happy to grow apples as it is to grow anythin' else," she said quietly. "It's just up to me to make it happen. And I ain't lettin' anythin' stop me."

Again, Rarity lifted her perfect eyebrows, as though waiting for further explanation; but when no explanation came, she didn’t press the issue. Without another word, she began to prance over the hill, leaving Applejack to follow her with her eyes as Rarity headed for the house. To wait for her.

And the unicorn truly did prance, Applejack realized after a moment of watching her leave. Her trot was dainty, yet imperious, commanding respect. It was the walk of a true lady.

Like with the scarf, the workhorse found her eyes drawn to Rarity's retreating form against her will and had to shake her head to snap herself out of it.

As she bucked and gathered the very last of that year's crop, Applejack found her mind returning to the unicorn and her graceful walk again and again. Rarity was so different from herself.

Applejack knew exactly who she was; the rough-and-tumble country girl with integrity and grit. Hardworking and dependable. Unafraid to get dirty. Determined to always put her family and the family business first, before anything else, before herself and before personal pleasure. Rarity was pretty much her exact opposite. Elegant and lovely. Perfection given flesh.

There was nothing wrong with admiring beauty. If Applejack occasionally found her gaze lingering upon Rarity, it didn’t necessarily mean anything deep. As humble as she was, Applejack could still admire loveliness. Like the trees; didn’t she always pause to marvel at the fall colors? Watching Rarity was the same as watching the leaves change. That was all.

The key to deception is finding the single kernel of truth within the lie, and developing your story from that. Applejack wasn’t a liar, but she was exceptionally good at disguising unpleasant and unwanted realities in the name of tact; so it was easy for her to convince herself that there was nothing more to her feelings than admiration. For the admiration was there; she just had to convince herself that that was all there was to it.

But it wasn’t easy. Not when Rarity would glance at Applejack with something like half a smile and she found herself wanting to see the rest of it. Not when Rarity would laugh in that delicate, tinkling way she had and Applejack found herself thinking of times that she’d heard the unicorn laugh for real – loud and noisy and completely, utterly inelegant.

She wanted to see Rarity smile for real, hear her laugh for real, wanted to be the one to make her do it; and then Rarity would lean forward, reaching for something and accidentally brushing against Applejack , sending a current of electricity through her body - paralyzing her and making her forget whatever she’d been about to say.

It was difficult to make herself believe that the only reason the farmer admired the unicorn was for her beauty when what Applejack found herself admiring most were those moments when she forgot the elegant facade and let her true self shine through.

They went to the picnic, talking about nothing in particular as they walked together, side by side along the winding dirt road that led away from Sweet Apple Acres. Instead they made idle chit-chat about the weather or how their individual enterprises were going. Rarity complained about how she was so busy sewing that she had no time to herself anymore, and Applejack listened, countering with no stories of her own.

The key to deception was to find the kernel of truth; so rather than try and fail to lie her way out of any potentially awkward situations she found herself in, Applejack found that kernel of truth.

Rarity would squeal in disgust at the thought of getting muddy, and Applejack would roll her eyes on cue, sighing loudly about the unicorn’s fussiness. Rarity would brush against her by mistake as she leaned forward to reach for somethin, and Applejack would impatiently snap something about being more careful. Rarity would be doing nothing at all and Applejack would try not to stare, try not to turn red, and would privately remind herself that as lovely and generous and kind-hearted as Rarity was, Rarity was just another city-slicker who would probably look down on a country mare like herself.

That was easier. Much, much easier than just letting go and seeing where her feelings took her.

And yet, even through the bickering and disagreements, Rarity never seemed to let it faze her. She continued to push, to try and reach out to Applejack, and that only made it harder for Applejack to pull away.

"Applejack?" Rarity asked sweetly at one point, glancing up from where she was playing with Fluttershy's luxurious pink mane. "You still seem so tired. You know what you need?"

"Not a makeover, that's for sure," Applejack answered curtly through the pieces of straw she held clenched between her teeth.

"Oh, please? You have such beautiful hair, and such a pretty face! It would be fun to do you up! Don't you want to see what you'd look like as a lady?"

Applejack kept her eyes tightly shut. If she broke, gave in and looked, she knew exactly what she'd see; Rarity feigning innocence, eyelashes fluttering delicately to match the wheedling tone she spoke with. Applejack couldn't take seeing that right then. Besides, Rarity's attempts to convince her were a real laugh; see what she looked like as a lady? Applejack already knew, and hadn't liked it one bit.

"No thanks, Rare," Applejack said in a cool tone. Rarity sighed audibly at that, but when the farmer opened a single eye to see what she was doing, she saw that the unicorn had turned her attentions back to Fluttershy. Good.

Applejack absent-mindedly lifted a hoof to her mane. Her hair was rough, and could've maybe used a brushing, now that she thought about it.

As long as she'd kept moving, Applejack hadn't really noticed how sleepy she truly was; but now that she was able to relax, leaning against the trunk of the tree, she could feel herself beginning to drift off. That was another thing she loved about fall. Although it was a time for hard work and industry, it was still such a lazy season, especially when it was coming right off the heels of summer.

As she dozed off, she dreamt of somepony running a hoof through her hair and fell asleep with a smile on her face.


"You are taking the day off!" Rarity announced grandly.

"Aw, shucks, Rare. I can't. I gotta - " Applejack began, but was cut off by the placing of an expertly manicured hoof over her mouth, muffling any further speech.

"Shh! Not another word!" Rarity hushed. "We are both hardworking business mares, but Celestia knows that Carousel Boutique can stand to be closed for one day; and Sweet Apple Acres can stand to be without their Applejack for a day, as well. You're coming with me. I've taken the liberty of speaking with your family already, and they agree that you need a rest."

Applejack wrenched her head way, even though a part of her almost wanted Rarity to keep her hoof where it was. "Well, that's might sweet o' you, Rare; but I don't tihnk I can. I just - "

"Not another word! Didn't you hear me?" the unicorn interrupted, looking almost annoyed. "Your family agrees, and I insist that you accompany me."

"Accompany you where?"

"The spa, of course." Rarity answered primly. "Fluttershy is busy with a wounded raccoon and can't escort me today, and of all the friends I could've elected to take in her stead, I think that you'd benefit the most."

Leave it to Rarity to find a way to insult a pony in such a benevolent way that they were left feeling confused as to whether or not they'd actually been insulted.

"Gee, thanks," Applejack said coldly.

"Oh, darling, I didn't mean it like that!" Rarity hastened to apologize, catching herself. "Forgive me, I simply meant that it might help you to relax or ease your stress!"


That was when Applejack made her fatal mistake. She looked up, and found herself looking into Rarity's azure eyes. Smiling and concerned and sincere.

"All right," she blurted out without thinking.

Rarity blinked, looking stunned, as though she hadn't expected Applejack to give in so easily of her own accord. But she immediately recovered, and with a girlish squeal, threw her forelegs around the farmer's neck in excitement.

"Applejack, dear, it will be wonderful, trust me!" she cried happily. "You'll love it, guaranteed!"

Applejack couldn't speak.


Applejack was the force that kept Sweet Apple Acres alive. It was all up to her. There was nopony else. And someday, when she herself became too old and ailing to run the farm longer, she would pass the business down to her children.

There was nopony else.

It was all up to her.

The farm and the apples and their legacy.

All hers.


Applejack watched as curls of steam rose from the water she and Rarity were submerged in.

She had submitted to every form of torture Rarity had seen fit to subject her to so far, with the sole exception of the mud bath. Although Applejack may have been a farm girl who was unafraid to get dirty, even she had her limits. Despite Rarity's insistence that the bath was made from imported mud that would serve to rejuvenate their complexions as a vital ingredient in a complex detoxification process, Applejack had stubbornly drawn the line at wallowing in filth like a pig. The spa attendants hadn't seemed very flattered about the comparison, but Rarity had merely sighed and given up, conceding that they could try something else.

The massages, the sauna, the facials - Applejack had endured them all, no matter how much of an affront to her dignity they had been. Not out of choice, but because Rarity had laid those wheedling azure eyes on her at every turn. And, to her credit, Rarity hadn't said one word about how awkward Applejack knew she must have looked, even though the farmer knew that she must have stuck out like a granny smith in a barrel of Cortlands with the way she tried to act like she belonged.

It was easy to pretend that the heat of the water was why her face was so red, and it was easy to forget thought entirely when Applejack saw Rarity sidling up next to her, smiling so serenely, mane twisted into a knot and her coat slick from water and steam.

"Isn't this lovely?" Rarity asked peacefully, giving her an encouraging smile. "You can just feel all your cares melting away."


"Something on your mind, Applejack?" Rarity asked with a curious tilt of her head.

Yes. But no. Yes, but...but Applejack couldn't tell. Couldn't tell her the truth.

"I gotta go," Applejack blurted, abruptly rising the water and scrambling out of the tub, ignoring the exclamations of protest from the attendants standing nearby.

"Go?" Rarity repeated, sounding alarmed. "Go where? I thought - "

"I, I'm sorry, but I gotta run. I gotta run right now. I'm powerful late for, uh, somethin'." Applejack stammered, backing away. In her haste to escape, she bumped a nearby table of bath salts and oils, nearly knocking it over.

If Rarity had anything to say in reply, Applejack didn't hear. She was too busy getting out of there, ignoring the fact that she was still damp and dripping all over the place.


Fillyfooler, fillyfooler, fillyfooler.

The word sounded so dirty. Wrong. Almost obscene.

And why shouldn’t it have sounded obscene? It was the kind of word that parents trained their foals never to say. It was the kind of word that playground bullies used to torment one another. It was a curse.

It meant so much and yet so little.

Fillies liked colts. Mares liked stallions. Colts and stallions liked them back. There was never any question about it, never any doubt, never any room for interpretation. Mares and stallions fell in love and had foals, and the foals grew up and had foals of their own, and that was how society survived. That was what progress was. Those were the facts of life.

Fillyfooler, fillyfooler, fillyfooler.

You couldn’t like mares if you were a mare. You couldn’t watch them. You couldn’t want them. You couldn’t long to touch them or hold them or be with them. You just couldn’t, plain and simple, because that was wrong and sick and perverted.

Applejack may have still been a young pony, but she was still the one who kept Sweet Apple Acres alive. They all knew that was true. She was the hope of the farm, of the family business. Granny Smith could do little more than cook these days; Big Macintosh had no desire to manage the farm; neither did Apple Bloom.

Sweet Apple Acres was all that was left of her parents, and she needed to keep it going, for their sake.

They would be so proud of her, Granny had said; and Applejack needed to believe that.

They would be proud of her. She’d protect their legacy. She’d keep them alive. She was the only one left who could do it. The only one left who would do it. Every day, no matter how tired or sore or in need of a break she was, she'd go and buck. She'd go and sell. She'd go and do whatever needed to be done, and atop her head, Applejack would wear her Stetson hat. Her father's hat. The sign of the promise she'd made; the promise to keep the family together, no matter what. To keep the farm together. The family was the farm, and that was all she had left.

Someday, she would grow up and get married to a noble stallion, and she’d have children of her own; and her children would grow from foals into mares and stallions, and then they would inherit the farm, in turn. They would love it as she did and keep it as safe as she had. And that was the way it was meant to be.

Fillyfooler, fillyfooler, fillyfooler.

When Applejack closed her eyes, she saw a unicorn with an indigo mane and a pure white coat, smiling at her with that perfect curving mouth.


"So you think I'm an unnatural pervert," Rainbow Dash said calmly.

"What? No! Darnit, Rainbow Dash, that's not what I meant and you know it!" Applejack snapped.

"Oh, sorry. I thought you were trying to say that mares who like other mares are unnatural and perverted, and since I like mares, I thought that meant me, too, but I guess I was wrong. So." And here, Rainbow Dash spread her hooves before Applejack in a gesture of sincerity. "What did you mean?"

"I just meant that...well, it's okay for you."

"Right! Got it. So what you're saying now is that it's okay for me to like mares, but everypony else in Equestria would be sick and wrong to like somepony of the same gender. Is that it?"


Rainbow Dash raised her eyebrows at Applejack, and Applejack sighed.

The two of them were laying side by side on the grass by a stream, listening to the babbling of the water and talking in low voices. Normally Rainbow Dash was the last pony in Equestria anypony would've gone to for a deep, heart-to-heart conversation like this, but Dash was the only pony Applejack could think to ask at the moment.

"I'm sayin'...I'm sayin' that I can't like mares. I just can't. The farm...the farm needs me. An' the only way to keep Sweet Apple Acres alive is if I have a family; it's a family business, after all, and it needs a family. It's not that there's anythin' wrong with bein'...one o' those...it's just that I can't be one o' those."

Applejack gulped.

"What would Granny say?" she whispered.

"Your granny wouldn't even care," Rainbow Dash answered breezily with a dismissive little wave of her hoof. "Relax. She loves you to bits. And your brother? Why even worry about him? He's the nicest guy in the world. If I was still into stallions, I'd probably give him a shot." Applejack made a sound of disgust, but Rainbow continued on obliviously. "And Apple Bloom's still at that age where she barely even knows what words like fillyfooler or coltcuddler even mean - just that kids at school use them as insults. So if you teach her that being gay isn't a big deal, she'll grow up thinking it's not a big deal."

"It ain't that easy, RD. You're talkin' like all I gotta do is head on home and say, oh, by the way, I like mares now. I mean, Granny...it'd just break her heart." Applejack sighed.

When her eyes fell shut, she thought of curving white flanks and shining diamonds.

It wasn't like she hadn't tried - because she had.

She'd tried so, so hard to do right by her family.

At the Grand Galloping Gala last year, when Rarity had stopped by her apple stand with that prince of hers, Applejack had tried to see what other mares saw in him. What Rarity herself saw in him. Applejack had tried to see how handsome he was, how regal, but instead she'd seen...nothing. Nothing but pettiness and cruelty and shallow good looks on a purely aesthetic level.

And then, when she'd looked over at Rarity, Applejack had seen generosity and a kind spirit and the sort of nobility that came from within, rather than from a title granted you by the princess.

"Sweet Apple Acres is a family business, just like I said. It needs a family. Fillyfoolers don't get families." Applejack said, quietly and firmly. It was basic logic. Two mares couldn't have children.

"That's a load of horseapples," Rainbow Dash retorted, sitting up and stretching. "What about that couple we see around town sometimes? Lyle and Bonnie or whatever. They wanna adopt a kid, apparently. Do that if you want a foal so badly."


"So that means your problem isn't your family, and it isn't the business. The problem is that you can't accept that you're gay." Rainbow Dash continued, just as calmly as before.

Applejack had come to her with world-shattering news, and the pegasus was taking it all in stride. She didn't know if she should be shocked or relieved that Rainbow seemed to accept it so easily. Maybe she could be both. A part of her was grateful for Dash's characteristic bluntness, even as she resisted the urge to buck her.

"How did you decide?" Applejack asked in a low tone, still lying on the ground.

Rainbow Dash snorted. "You kidding me, AJ? I always knew, since I was a filly, and so did everypony else. And besides, it's not like it's something you can just decide one day."

She didn't say anything more, and Applejack let it go. If the full story was something that even a pony as tactless as Rainbow didn't want to get into, Applejack doubted that she really wanted to know.

"You could be bi, I guess, instead of flat-out gay," Dash continued; still so chattily, still so breezily. "But you should probably still suck it up and tell your family that you like mares too, even if you are open to trying guys."

"But how do I do that?"

Rainbow frowned. She was hovering in midair, right above Applejack at this point. She tapped her chin thoughtfully, crossing her legs as she struck a philosophical pose.

"Got it!" she announced suddenly, jabbing the air with her forelegs in an emphatic gesture. "Don't tell them, show them. Like, one day when they're all out, you and me go to your place and start making out. They walk in, and bam! See you with another mare. Then you can say, sorry, guys, but my awesome pal Rainbow Dash is such a stud that I couldn't help but jump her bones." And here Dash placed her hooves on her hips, rocking them back and forth for good measure.

Applejack burst out laughing, and after a beat, Rainbow Dash did too.

"Why've you been thinking about this, anyway? Got your eye on somepony special?" Rainbow Dash asked after their laughter finally began to fade, dwindling to just the occasional helpless chuckle.

Applejack swallowed.

"Who says I got anypony special in mind?" she answered as steadily as she could. "Maybe I'm just curious. I've been wonderin' 'bout myself for a while now, and I guess I just needed somepony to...to tell me it's okay."

"A while?" Dash repeated. "How long?"

The farmer's memory flickered, unbidden, to Rarity in the rain. Holding Rarity. Sharing a bed with Rarity.

"A while. A year, maybe."

Rainbow Dash whistled. "Wow, seriously? It must've totally killed you to hold in a secret like that for that long. But why'd you tell me?"

"Because....because I knew you wouldn't treat it like a big deal, I guess."

"That's cause it's not a big deal." A scowl darkened Dash's face. "At least, it shouldn't be."


When Applejack returned to Sweet Apple Acres that afternoon, after abandoning Rarity and talking to Rainbow Dash, she was surprised to run into Fluttershy as the yellow pegasus came down the road from the opposite direction.

"Oh, hello, Applejack!" Fluttershy asked sweetly. "Did you and Rarity have fun?"

Instead of answering, Applejack's eyes fell on the saddlebags bulging with apples that Fluttershy wore strapped across her back.

Fluttershy immediately turned bright red when she saw where the farmer's eyes had fallen.

"Oh, um," she mumbled. "The market gets to crowded during the day, you see, and, and your brother promised me once that he'd save apples for me, for my animals, and, well, Angel really wanted apples, so..."

"Hold up there, sugarcube," Applejack interrupted. "I ain't wonderin' 'bout why you're comin' back from my farm. I'm wonderin' where you got the time to go get apples if you were too busy tendin' to some wounded critter to meet Rarity today."

Fluttershy turned even redder.

"Oh, I told Rarity you'd find out!" Fluttershy squeaked, stomping her delicate hoof with as much frustration and ferocity as she could muster. "But she - "

"Rarity?" Applejack interrupted. "Find out what? What're you talkin' about?"

"Please don't be mad, Applejack! She j-just wanted you to come with her, so we made up a story, and I only went to get the apples because you were still supposed to be with her! Please don't be mad!" Fluttershy pleaded, her voice tinged with desperation.

Fluttershy and Rarity had schemed together to get Applejack to the spa. There was no injured animal.

"Why?" Applejack asked slowly, more to herself than the cowering pegasus. "Why'd you - "

"She just wanted to go with you, that's all! She - eep!" And Fluttershy's hooves flew to cover her mouth as she caught herself in the midst of betraying her friend's secret. "I'm sorry! I've said too much! Please don't tell her I told you!"

Applejack was no longer listening, having already turned tail so that she could gallop back the way she came.


Was it too much to hope for? Too much to want? That maybe, maybe, maybe...

Had they truly planned it? What would've happened if Applejack had stayed at the spa? Would Rarity have...

Oh, Celestia. What was she thinking? Applejack had barely come to term with her feelings herself, and she didn't even know if Rarity was the same way. Maybe it was all some huge misunderstanding and Rarity really was no more than a kindhearted mare, concerned for her friend. After all, Rarity used to fantasize about marrying the prince. Surely that meant she...

But she'd only wanted the prince because of his title. And Rarity had changed her mind about him, anyway. What had Rainbow Dash said? You could be bi, I guess, instead of flat-out gay. Maybe that's what Rarity...

No. She'd look like a fool if she charged into the boutique, expecting Rarity to swoon for her, especially after so many tension-filled months of arguments and strained conversations. And the farm. The farm, the farm. What would happen to Sweet Apple Acres?

The farm was her parents. It kept their memory alive. She couldn't give it up; it would be the same as killing them herself.

But...this didn't have to be a barrier. Rarity was a savvy business mare, after all; it wasn't as though she'd be completely useless, and she certainly wouldn't try to actively inhibit Applejack's work. And Applejack could do what she could to help Rarity in turn, even though she didn't know a thing about fashion, and...

No, no, no. It was ridiculous, completely ridiculous, to be thinking that way. Even if she potentially had feelings for Rarity, it didn't guarantee a future together, especially when Applejack didn't even know whether Rarity liked mares or not.

She just needed to know that it was okay. That their future could work, should it come to that. Otherwise, she'd never be able to let herself fall.


The kitchen felt tiny and confining that afternoon. There was no spicy smell of baking pie to welcome Applejack, only the sight of Granny Smith and Apple Bloom hunched over a cookbook together.

"Hi, Applejack!" Apple Bloom called out upon seeing her big sister. "What're you doin' back so early? It's supposed to be your day off, remember?"

Granny Smith chuckled, but Applejack couldn't even bring herself to do as much as crack a grin. "Run along, Apple Bloom," she ordered curtly, using her best big sister voice. "I need to talk to granny in private."

"Aw! Why can't I listen? I'm a big pony too, y'know! I can handle grown-up talk!" Apple Bloom whined, pouting.

"This ain't grown-up talk, this is granny and grand-daughter talk, and you're the wrong grand-daughter. Now run along," Granny said easily, giving the filly a gentle nudge. With an exasperated sigh, Apple Bloom leapt off the stool she was perched on and sauntered out of the room. She stalled, taking long, slow, meaningful steps and casting one final plaintive look back at the older ponies before finally exiting.

Applejack watched as she left and sighed in relief once she was gone; but when she lifted her head to smile gratefully at her grandmother, she was met with a crooked smile - loving and understanding, if aged. Would it still be so loving once Applejack told her?

"Granny, there's...there's somethin' I gotta tell you."

"Well, I reckoned as much, considerin' how you came in here sayin' you needed to talk in private an' all," the older mare said with another crooked grin, but Applejack couldn't relax.

The last time she'd been afraid of her grandmother, she'd been a filly who'd known that she'd done something wrong and was awaiting punishment. It was like she'd gone back in time to that age where she hadn't had any sense and had to be forced to confess her sins against her will.

Your granny wouldn't even care. Relax. She loves you to bits.

When Applejack looked in her granny's eyes, she saw love. And that's what this was all about, after all. Love and loving somepony else and what you'd do for that love.

The easiest way out was through.


Things always seemed to slide away in the end. Moments came and went. Silence was fleeting and peace was even more so. The moment between Applejack ending her confession and Granny Smith actually responding seem to stretch on infinitely; yet it was still far too short, and she desperately wanted to cling to it.

The older mare was no longer smiling by the time Applejack had finished. Instead, she looked solemn, her eyes grave. Again, Applejack couldn't help but feel a flash of fear, reminiscent of when she was young and had been caught in some new mischief.

"Of all the..." Granny Smith spluttered. "You..."

"I'm sorry," Applejack instantly replied. "I'm so sorry, Granny."

"Y'know, I used to think that you got all the sense in this family. Your brother may be good for facts an' figures, but he don't got much o' a head for business, and you do. But now I'm wonderin' if you have any sense, either."

Applejack winced.

"Granny, I...I don't..."

But she was interrupted by a pair of forelegs wrapping around her neck, and although the embrace was old and frail and weak, in that moment, the pony who held her seemed just as strong as Applejack could remember her being all those years ago.

"Silly girl," Granny Smith muttered. "Darn fool of a girl. Didja really think that I'd never forgive you? Where'd you go an' pick up a notion like that? D'you think me so small-minded that I'd throw out my own grand-daughter because of who she was? You think so little of me that you think I'd do that?"

"No! Of course not!" She instinctively wanted to add ma'am, the way she used to when she was little, but Applejack managed not to. "I, I thought you'd be ashamed."

"Nothin' you could do could ever make me ashamed o' you," Granny Smith said firmly, tightening her hug.

"But...the farm. I gotta run the farm, and I gotta pass it down to my own kids, too, and..." Yet again, Applejack found herself trailing off, but made herself finish. "Ma an' pa left the farm to us, and it's my job to keep it goin', and I gotta keep it safe. I need to know that I can leave it in good hooves, too, and how can I do that if don't even have my own family?"

At this, Granny Smith pulled away, cupping Applejack's stricken face with her trembling hooves.

"That's the silliest thing you've said yet. You'll always have a family. Even if we're all dead an' gone, you've gone and made yourself loved in this town all on your own. There'll always be friends for you out there," she said calmly. "An' even if you hadn't, you've done more'n enough by now. Your parents would want you to be happy more'n anythin' else. They ain't gonna be proud of you for bein' so weak a pony that you forget all about yourself for somethin' as meaningless as apples. They'd be proud of your for growin' up to be the strong, lovely, hardworkin' pony you already are. Bein' a good pony is more important than bein' a successful one."

"But Sweet Apple Acres - "

"If you're happy with farm work, they'd want you to farm. If you're happier in Manehatten, they'd want you to be in the city. If you're happy lovin' a mare, they'd want you to find a nice young mare and settle down, no matter what some small-minded folks might think. That's good enough for me, too."

"I am happy with the farm," Applejack said hoarsely.

"Then do that. All any of us want for you is for you to be happy, sugarcube. Your parents are proud o' you for bein' their daughter, and I'm proud of you for bein' my grand-daughter, and nothin' you can do can change that. Got it?"

Applejack's eyes fell shut.

Azure eyes, pure white coat, warm smile. A beautiful heart that nothing could change. She swallowed, a sudden lump appearing in her throat; but although her eyes stung, she felt herself smile anyway.

"Thanks, Granny," Applejack said softly.

"You know what else you are?" Granny Smith replied, turning back to hunch over her recipe book. "Somepony who never breaks her word, an' as I recall, I was promised that you'd take a day off for once."

Applejack grinned, and lifted her hooves to adjust her hat. "Heh. You're right. I guess I'd better skedaddle."

"I guess you'd better."

She left the house feeling about a thousand times lighter, wearing an enormous smile.


When Rarity opened the door of Carousel Boutique, she was wearing an enormous smile of her own.

"Welcome to - "

It faded the moment she laid eyes on Applejack.

"Oh. Hello, Applejack," the unicorn greeted in a cool tone. "Forgive me. I thought you might be a customer."

"Well, I ain't a customer, but I do got somethin' I wanna tell you, Rare," Applejack boldly declared. "Mind if I come in?"

"Hm. Very well, come in if you must. But wipe your hooves first."

Applejack stepped inside and obediently did as she was told under Rarity's appraising gaze.

"So what did you need to tell me?" Rarity asked, still coldly.

"Rare, I wanted to apologize," Applejack answered, cutting to the chase. "That wasn't right, me runnin' out on you like that, 'specially when you went to all the trouble o' tryin' to make it a nice day for the two of us."

Rarity blinked behind her red-framed glasses. "That's quite all right," she said after a moment, magically removing the spectacles and setting them down on a nearby work table. "I understand completely. You aren't comfortable with places like that, and I shouldn't have pushed you to come. I only..."

"Only what?"

"It feels as though we have so litte in common, and I hate that," Rarity said softly. "I worry that you still think of me only as yet another fashion-obsessed snob and social-climber. I suppose I hoped that if I could convince you that my hobbies aren't that bad, you might think better of me, and...I don't know. I wanted to share something with you."

"You wanted me to see you as somethin' more." Applejack clarified. Rarity shrugged, adopting an indifferent attitude.

"What does it matter? It's over now," Rarity replied stiffly.

"I don't look down on you. That's what it matters," Applejack answered, still speaking as calmly as she could. "I used to be afraid that you looked down on me, too, but you don't, do you?"

"No!" Rarity cried. "Of course not! How could I do anything but respect you? You're so much better than I am, in every way, and I - "

"Well, I feel the same way! So why're we afraid of each other?"

Rarity averted her gaze, instead opting to look somewhere at the floor.

"I ran into Fluttershy. I know you two planned this, Rare."

Rarity flushed. "I don't see what...what of it?"

Applejack grinned.

She leaned forward, so that their snouts were practically touching.

"I only said yes because I wanted to do somethin' together, too," Applejack said lightly. "Because I've realized somethin'."

"And, and what might that be?"

That was when her courage failed her. Applejack drew back, praying that her sudden blush wasn't too noticable.

"Oh, nothin' much," she said, affecting a breezy tone, much like the one Rainbow Dash had used. "Just that you're right. We don't got much in common and don't spend much time together because of it. I think we gotta fix that. So since I went to the spa, next time, I think you gotta do somethin' I want."

Rarity visibly relaxed. "Well, obviously; that's only fair," she replied graciously. "But I can hardly be expected to go to a rodeo or spend a day bucking apples in the mud, you know."

"Course not," Applejack readily granted. "But it's almost cider season, and everyone at Sweet Apple Acres is gettin' ready. If you wanted to come on over to help squeeze or sort, I'm sure that'd be fine."

"I don't really enjoy getting sweaty."

"An' I don't really enjoy havin' strangers put their hooves all over me," Applejack retorted, remembering the awkward massage at the spa. "But if you give it a shot, then I'll be happy, an' next time, you get to pick."

"Like the Dares," Rarity said.

Applejack blinked.

"The sleepover," Rarity explained quickly, looking flustered. "I'm sorry. You probably don't remember. It was over a year ago, at Twilight's first sleepover. You and I were the only guests, and we played Truth or Dare, and just kept Daring each other to do things we hated. Only this time, I suppose we'll be doing it on purpose, won't we? You must've forgotten."

"No, no, I remember," Applejack said slowly. "I remember just fine."

There was a moment of silence.

"I suppose I can take time out of my schedule," Rarity said at last. "Say, tomorrow afternoon? I could drop by for a while."

"You'll get plenty o' cider for your trouble," Applejack promised. "An' afterwards, I'll let you sample a piece o' my special apple spice cake. Plus, you get to make me do somethin', too."

It wasn't an especially romantic suggestion, but it wasn't like Applejack was actually asking Rarity out on a date, anyway, so it didn't matter.

Rarity smiled. "Well, how could I possibly refuse now?" she said softly. "That sounds lovely, Applejack. Tomorrow afternoon is fine?"

"Yup. That should be just dandy."

Another moment of silence.

"Very well. I'll be there."

They said very little else after that, and the sun was just beginning to set when Applejack finally left, a ridiculous grin on her face.

It hadn't gone exactly as planned, true, and it may not have been a declaration of love; but it was a start. A declaration of friendship, at least, and of the intention to work together towards something bigger.

For a moment, snout pressed against snout, Applejack had almost wanted to kiss the unicorn. It was a good thing she hadn't, she decided. After all, this was still so new to her - this acceptance of what she wanted and desired. But even so, it was just a start, after all. It was permission to let herself admit that she was feeling what she was feeling, even if they turned out to be as fleeting as everything else in life.

Granny Smith hadn't looked at her in disgust. Rarity hadn't look at her in hate. Rainbow Dash had listened without judging. They'd each taken a bite of the apple, and although they may have found it different than expected, they'd pronounced it good anyway.

Applejack made it back to the farm just as the sun had finished casting its golden fingers over the orchard. A surge of pride swelled within her chest as she surveyed her home.

Hers, and it always would be. She'd make them proud.

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