by Fire Gazer the Alchemist

Chapter 1: Plot Science

Knock. Knock. Knock.

The sound of frantic hoof-on-door pounding roused Applejack from her sleep. At first, she thought it was imagined. Or rather, she hoped. She didn’t want to get out of bed to deal with whoever it was at the door.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Groaning, she rolled over while shaking her covers from her upper body. Her eyelids felt like lead, but she pushed them open anyway.

Her room was dark; she could only make out the outlines of her dresser, nightstand and door. Blinking away the lingering sleepiness, she peaked out her window. Hanging in the sky was the moon. It was about to kiss the horizon, but it was still technically up, officially making it an ungodly hour to come knocking at the door.

Applejack plopped the side of her face into her pillow, plunging into the cool sea of fabric. She wanted so badly to fall back asleep, even if it only for the fifteen minutes it would take for sunrise to begin.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

She grunted in the back of her throat. Ah guess nopony else is gonna get it.

Forcing herself to sit up, she felt the last of her covers slide off her and spill onto the floor. Applejack grabbed her stetson from its resting place on her nightstand and plopped it on her head. Suddenly, she was attacked by an involuntary yawn that lasted until she stood up.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Heard ya the first time,” Applejack muttered as she smacked her lips together. She cautiously walked forward in the low light of her room...

Knock. Knock. Knock.

...through the hall...

Knock. Knock. Knock.

… and down the stairs.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Consarnit, Ah’m comin’!” Applejack yelled in the loudest whisper she dared. Just because her sleep had been ruined didn’t mean she was going to let the rest of her family’s be tainted. That, and the incessant knocking was grinding away at her nerves.


“Hello!” Applejack threw open the door, her strained and irritated tone letting the pony on the other side know that she was not in the mood for anything right now.

A bright pair of violet eyes widened at the outburst and their owner backed up. Twilight Sparkle bit her lip, looking regretful for all the knocking. “I, uh… hello, Applejack. Were you sleeping?”

Her anger dampened upon seeing a friendly face was about to be at the receiving end. Still, she couldn’t stop a little irritation from slipping into her next two words. “Ah was.”

“Oh… sorry.” Twilight’s face vanished behind a levitating clipboard.

Applejack cocked her head at the strangely meek behavior, then took care to make sure her next few sentences weren’t quite so… harsh. “Eh, don’t worry ‘bout it too much. Ah had to get up soon anyway. Speakin’ of, how did ya wake up earlier than me?”

Twilight slowly lowered the clipboard, sensing an ease in tension. Then she forced out a weak laugh. “Heh, well… I didn’t really wake up before you because that would imply that I actually went to sleep in the first place. And I didn’t.”

“Beg pardon?” That was cause for some concern. Sleep-deprived Twilight was an unpredictable entity. Not Pinkie Pie level unpredictable, but worrisome nonetheless.

To be on the safe side, Applejack gave Twilight a quick once-over to gauge just how tired she looked. Her mane was unkempt and her eyes had a layer of baggage underneath, but at the same time she wasn’t swaying side to side out of weariness and all her limbs seemed stable. Twilight was clearly sleepy, but it was a manageable sleepy. As long as she didn’t start declaring herself to be random breakfast foods, Applejack saw no reason to be concerned.

“So uh, what was it that kept ya up all night? And why did ya need to see me so early in the mornin’?”

“Well…” Twilight’s eyes darted to the ground while her magic tapped a pin absentmindedly against her clipboard. “I have a… bit of an odd request. I’ve been sitting on it all night trying to figure out the best way to ask it ”

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “A request? That’s what kept ya up till four in the mornin’?”

“...yeah.” Twilight’s cheeks were alight with pink. Applejack tilted her head at this, but wrote it off as a symptom of sleeplessness.

“All right, well, ask away.”

Twilight cleared her throat. Then cleared it again. “I uh… the thing is… I need to…” Twilight paused to collect herself. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and, with professionalism that would make Ms. Harshwhinny blush, said, “I need to spend the day examining and studying your posterior for the purpose of science.”


Dead silence.

Applejack couldn’t bring herself to speak. Every attempt to push the air through her lungs and vibrate her vocal chords into some form of recognizable speech was met with failure. The best she could manage was a weak whine in the back of her throat which was more akin to Winnona begging for scraps than actual language.

It did at least make sense now why Twilight had been up all night trying to find a way to ask that question. Though, as far as Applejack could see there was no appropriate way to ask somepony if you could stare at their butt.

Twilight clearly knew this too. Plastered on her face was a smile of desperation and hope, two things that generally didn’t look well together. Her brows her scrunched together and pointed up, while her ears were folded down in an attempt to make her seem meeker and her cheeks were… flushed. Still.

Why in tarnation is she blushing so much?

While yes, it was embarrassing to ask somepony, friend or no, if you could stare at their butt, surely it wouldn’t result in more than a bit of color on your cheeks in the process. Applejack sure thought so and this made Twilight just seem weirder. Her face was practically on fire. Was it that embarrassing to ask to observe her flank?

Wait, nevermind that, why was she even asking at all?

“What?” Applejack finally croaked out, some two minutes after Twilight first posed the question.

Twilight’s eyes darted to the side. “I… I need to study your… plot. For science.”

“Yeah. Yeah, no, Ah caught that. Just… why?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, right! Of course there’s a reason. I mean, it’s not like I would come to you asking to look at your plot for no reason. Why in Equestria would I want to do that?” She laughed awkwardly, loudly, until it became obvious to her that Applejack wasn’t going to join in.

Clearing her throat, Twilight continued, “I, uh… the Equestrian Department of Agriculture is conducting a study on how well farmwork tones pony’s legs, thighs and, uh… glutes. I volunteered to help them by gathering data from farmers in Ponyville and, well... you’re my first field subject. If you agree of course.”

Applejack furrowed her brow. “Uh, why’s the EDA even doing a study like that? It seems kinda pointless to me.”

Twilight shrugged as though she would prefer to dodge the question. “Well they are bureaucrats, is there something they do that doesn’t seem pointless?”

This time Applejack snorted out a laugh. “Fair enough. But still, why me? Can’t ya just ask Big Mac?”

“I thought about it, but you know how shy he is.” Twilight rubbed her foreleg, staring at the ground as she mumbled, “Besides, I really was hoping it would be you.”

Applejack blinked in surprise. “Uh, why?”

Twilight’s head jumped up, her pupils shrinking. From the way she looked, Applejack doubted she was supposed to hear that last bit.

“Uh…” Twilight bit her lip. “It’s because we’re already great friends; I didn’t think it be so awkward that way.”

Still awkward enough for you to spend an entire night figuring out how to ask me. “So ya just need to look at mah flank—”

“For science.”

“—for a day?”

Twilight nodded.

“But... mah flank?”

Pinpricks of pink re-appeared on Twilight’s face and her ears flopped down. “Y-yeah. Look, Applejack, I know I’m asking a lot. If you aren’t comfortable with it I can try and find somepony else.”

She chewed the inside of her cheek, not wanting to let down her friend. “Well, Ah mean, it is important to ya. And since Ah’m just helpin’ out with research Ah don’t see the harm in it.”

“Really?” Twilight’s entire demeanor brightened. Her ears perked up, her eyes sparked with happiness, and she excitedly brought up her clipboard and pen. Her blush didn’t fade, however.

“Uh, yeah, sure. As long as ya promise not to make it too weird.”

“Of course. After all, what’s weird about me staring at your butt?” She paused, her smile faltering. “Uh, heh, don’t answer that.”

“Wasn’t plannin’ on it.”

“Great, then let’s get started!” A grin on her face, Twilight whirled around and targeted the nearest apple tree. “Come on.”

Applejack followed, letting the door shut behind her. Is it me, or does she seem just a mite too excited to do this? It was probably just her imagination. Without a doubt Twilight likely just wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible.

The first morning light finally peaked over the horizon as Applejack finally battered away what remained of her exhaustion. She turned her attention to the row of trees in the southern orchard and tried to push what was about to happen out of her mind.

That proved to be a much more difficult task that first anticipated. As Applejack walked over to the barn, she couldn’t help but feel regret for her choice. How could she not? One of her closest friends was about to spend the next several hours staring at her butt. Even just a minute of that would probably make her uncomfortable, but hours?

In fact, just thinking about it made Applejack’s own cheeks warm up. She quickly loaded the day’s baskets into a cart before Twilight could notice.

When they made it to the first tree Applejack positioned the baskets underneath and prepared herself to give it a good kick. Her leg muscles tensed up, her plot pulled back and the scratchy noise of pencil-on-paper hit her ears, interrupting her.

Blinking, Applejack stopped mid-kick and looked over. Then she immediately wished she hadn’t.

Twilight’s face couldn’t have been more than a foot away from her… posterior. Granted there was a clipboard between the two, but every few seconds it was dropped so Twilight could drink in another look at Applejack’s taut rear end, blush included.

It was the first time anypony had ever really watched her buck an apple tree, which only served to make Applejack a little self-conscious about her own butt. Not helping was the near-fixation Twilight currently had on her flank.

Needless to say, it was already making her uncomfortable.

She cleared her throat, catching Twilight’s attention. “Yes, Applejack?”

“Uh, could ya move a bit away? Ah just don’t want to buck ya by accident.”

“Uh, yeah sure.” Twilight took a step back. A tiny one.

Applejack bit her lip and motioned with her hoof. “Further.”

Another tiny step back.

This time, Applejack groaned. “Twilight, I’m going to need a lot more room than that.”

Twilight blinked, observing the barely-more-than-a-foot-distance between her snout and Applejack’s butt. Her face lit up again. “I-Is it already too much?”

Applejack bit her lip. “Yeah. Ah just think it probably wouldn’t be if ya just gave me a bit more space. And Ah mean real space; enough so it doesn’t feel like ya might accidentally kiss mah flank if you lean in too much.”

Twilight’s face went from a splash of pink to an ocean of red in a heartbeat. “Uh, I-I-yeah, sure, of course, absolutely!” She backpedalled, bringing one of her wings out to fan away the heat radiating from her face. “I mean, why would I want to be close enough to your flank to kiss it? Or any part of you for that matter? Not that you aren’t kissable or anything... or your plot! Just… gah!” Her wing beat double-time, as if that would somehow distract from her red face.

Applejack watched in confusion at the flustered mess that had once been Twilight retreat several more yards away.

“Uh, is this far enough?” Twilight called out from three rows of trees down.

It took Applejack a moment to register the question. “Uh, yeah. But how do ya plan on—”

A bright flash of light interrupted Applejack’s question and the answer shortly followed. Even with the space between them, it was plainly clear that Twilight had just teleported a pair of binoculars to her side.

Sure, why not? Might as well just get a camera while you’re at it. Applejack focused her attention back to the tree. At least now she could pretend that nopony was scrutinizing her.

...Except for the fact that she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

She shot a quick glance back at Twilight, who quickly yanked her eyes away from the binoculars and into her clipboard, as if that would somehow convince her she wasn’t staring.

Sighing, Applejack kicked the tree, knocking free a dozen or so apples and watching them all perfectly fall into the waiting baskets.

It’s gonna be a long day, isn’t it?

Forty-four trees later, Applejack knew something was wrong with Twilight.

In hindsight, she really should have guessed it earlier, but her exhaustion just made her write off Twilight’s weird behavior as… well, exhaustion.

Now that Applejack was wide awake it was a different story.

Every time—every goshdarn time— she even remotely glanced at Twilight, she was face-deep in her binoculars, which were flank-deep in Applejack. While this shouldn’t be a problem, Applejack had begun to notice a pattern. A rather concerning one.

Each time she glanced over at Twilight, her friend would duck from watching to note-taking. Not switch, but duck. It was like she was a child who’d been caught with her hoof in the cookie jar and thought nopony would notice if they pulled out and acted like nothing was wrong.

The only thing Applejack hadn’t been able to figure how was the why behind it. She had already given Twilight permission to stare at… places. It wasn’t like she was going to suddenly get angry at her for doing her job and Twilight knew her well enough to know that wouldn’t happen.

So what was going on?

With a disgruntled sigh, Applejack raised her legs to kick the forty-fifth tree of the day and felt a rumbling in her stomach.

Guess it’s about time to eat. She delivered a buck to the tree and watched as the apples tumbled into the basket.

Wiping the sweat from her forehead, she turned. “Hey, Twilight!”

In a blur of purple and red, Twilight’s face went from the binoculars to her notes. With her quill darting along the paper she managed a shaky attempt at non-chalantness. “Y-yeah?”

Applejack barely suppressed a groan. “Are ya willin’ to break for some lunch?”

Twilight’s clipboard descended and she smiled. “Uh, sure. That’s sounds nice, actually.”

“Ah’ll bet.” Applejack trotted over to her. “Ya probably skipped breakfast this mornin’ when ya came over here.”

In reply, Twilight’s stomach let loose a growl that gave Applejack’s a run for its money. “Yeah, I guess I did.”

“Don’t sweat it, Ah didn’t get to eat anything either ’cause of yer experiment, so we’re in the same boat.”

“Oh… sorry.” Twilight pinched her lips together and looked down.

“Ah already said not to sweat it, Sugarcube. ’Sides, a little hunger never bothered me.”

Twilight managed a smile as they walked , but from where Applejack was standing it seemed a little forced.

Maybe Ah should lighten the mood a little bit. She looks like she could use it. She cleared her throat, thinking of something humorous.

“Say, ya don’t have to measure my flank or anything before we eat, right?”

What?” Twilight backpedalled, her magic cutting off and dropping her clipboard and quill. Her wings awkwardly flared and her faced ignited with the color red. “Wh-Why would you think I’d want to do t-that?”

Applejack blinked in confusion as Twilight put a solid five feet between them. Her face contorted into a mixture of shock and bewilderment, not to mention it looked hot enough to turn water into steam. Applejack winced a little; this had been the exact opposite of what she’d hoped to do.

“Uh, Ah didn’t mean it, Twi. Just thought it be a little funny is all.” Twilight raised her eyebrow. “Well, Ah mean, don’tcha normally have to measure stuff when you’re science-ing and such?”

The purple on Twilight’s face regained some ground and she took a deep breath. “W-well, normally you collect data like that in an experiment, but I’m just observing so that’s not necessary. Unless…” She shook her head, in a vain attempt to dissipate her blush. “No! No, I don’t need to.”

Geeze, that one little joke really got her wound up. The latent question of “What is wrong with Twilight Sparkle?” poked at her conscious again. Maybe once her friend calmed down she could try to figure out what was going on over lunch.

Utilizing a tried-and-true breathing technique, Twilight managed to restore her face to its natural color, collect her notes and rejoin Applejack for the rest of the walk to the house.

“Have anything in particular ya wanna eat?” Applejack asked as she nudged open the door to her home.

“Well, watching you work all day did kind of make me hungry for apples.”

“Huh, Ah wonder why.” Applejack flashed a grin and got one in return. She trotted over to the kitchen, then paused, indicating the nearby sofa with her hoof. “Why don’tcha take a load off while I whip us up a few apple fritters then.”

Twilight set her notes down on the coffee table, but didn’t make a move to sit. “I’m fine for now.”

“Uh, you sure? Ya must be exhausted after being up all night.” She turned her head and slightly mumbled the rest. “Might even be makin’ ya act a little weird.”

She shook her head. “No, I’m fine. My circadian rhythm will be a little offset tonight, but for now I’m awake and alert.”

“Ah see.” Well she’s still able to use big words. Must not be as tired as Ah thought.

With theory number one shot down, Applejack retreated into the kitchen, only to be followed.

“Want some help?” Twilight offered, rounding the corner.

Applejack stopped and pinched her lips together. “Ah… guess. Though the only thing Ah’ll be doing is takin’ some leftover fritters from the fridge and reheating ’em. ”

“Well I can help with that.” Twilight’s horn sparked to life. “I know a few reheating spells that’ll only take a second.”

“Sounds good to me.” She popped open the fridge and glanced over the contents. In the background, she could hear the squeak of the cupboards opening followed by the clattering of plates.

As Applejack took the fritters out she turned and saw Twilight halfway through setting the table.

“So.” Applejack nudged the fridge door shut and prepared to test her second theory. “Have ya been able to get some good… uh, science-y whatevers yet?”

Twilight’s finished levitating the plates as traces of pink flushed on her face. “Uh, yeah. I’ve gotten some pretty good, f-firm observations so far.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow at the blush forming on her friend. So maybe it is embarrassment after all. “Must be a little awkward to just stare at my butt for a few hours.”

“Kinda.” Twilight bowed her head slightly in a poor attempt to hide her expanding blush.

She set down the apple fritters, passing to Twilight’s plate and keeping one for her own. “Can’t imagine how much worse it’ll be when ya have to ask other farmers to do this.”

Twilight opened her mouth, looking like she was about to say something, but then charged her horn and hit the two fritters in from of them with a magical heat wave. Within seconds they were steaming hot; their sweet aroma making Applejack’s mouth water.

“Nicely done.” Applejack tore into hers, finding the fritter to taste as fresh as when it was hot out of the oven. Twilight was a little slower to eat, poking at hers a little longer and Applejack took note. “Somethin’ on your mind, Sugarcube?”

“...Yes, actually.” Twilight’s blush grew steadily. “Uhm… Applejack, I was thinking. Maybe I could make a case study out of you?”

She chewed slowly. “A what?”

“A case study. Essentially I’d just be focusing all my time on you opposed to a bunch of different ponies.” She fiddled with her fritter. “It could be good for the research the EDA wants and we’d get to spend a lot of time together and… you know, that kind of stuff.”

Applejack swallowed and tried not to laugh at the absurdity of the idea. “So what you’re saying is, ya want my permission for exclusive butt-staring rights?”

“Uh, wha-I, um, t-that’s one way of putting it.” Twilight’s face lost what little purple it had been retaining. “I mean, I wouldn’t put it that way. Ever. I just—”

“Twilight, it’s fine. Ah was just messin’ with ya... again.”

“Oh, right. Sorry.” She rubbed the back of her neck and looked away. “But, uh… would you let me?”

“Let you what?” Applejack shoved what remained of the fritter in her mouth.

“Let me perform a case study on you.” She bit her lip. “The, uh, butt-staring rights.”

Applejack paused, her half-chewed fritter pushed into her cheeks. So she wasn’t kidding.

Twilight really did want to observe her… body and just hers for the EDA. So this meant she wasn’t embarrassed by staring at her plot for hours on end? Or at least, she was more embarrassed at the thought of observing anypony else’s flank and just decided to take the lesser of two evils? If either were the case, then theory number two had just been shot and buried.

But that couldn’t be the case. Applejack didn’t have any other way to justify Twilight’s weirdness today. How else could she explain all the blushing, erratic behavior, stuttering...

It was then she realized that she’d been blankly staring at Twilight without answering. In fact, she hadn’t even thought about her answer. She swallowed what remained of the fritter and gave it all of two seconds of thought. “Uh… Ah guess ya can.”

Twilight’s whole face brighten, and not from redness this time. “Really?” Applejack nodded her confirmation. “Oh thank you Applejack! You have no idea what this means to me! I promise it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks.” She pointed her face at the floor. “...or months.”

“Months?” What the hay did Ah just agree to?

Twilight’s lip found its way into her mouth . “Well, that’s a… rough estimate.”

“Rough, huh? You sure 'bout that? If Ah didn’t know any better, Ah’d say ya almost enjoyed staring at mah flank.” Applejack laughed this time, seeing as how Twilight needed a cue to know when she was joking today.

“Heh heh, right... hahaha…” Twilight continued to awkwardly laugh along, even after Applejack had stopped. Long after she had stopped, come to think of it.

Seemingly aware of this, Twilight shoved her apple fritter in her mouth, muffling her horrible awkwardness until it finally died down. Applejack could only raise an eyebrow in concern.

“You sure you’re doin’ all right, Twi?”

“Mmhmm!” Twilight nodded, sending crumbs onto the table. She stood, gulped down her food and grabbed her supplies. “We should probably get back to work, though.” Bowing her head, Twilight rushed for the door.

“Yeah, sounds good.” Applejack stood up, more confused than when she’d sat down. She followed Twilight outside, wondering just what the heck she was going to do.

Several hours later, Applejack was still pondering that question. She gave her last tree of the day the hardest kick she could muster and smiled when the final bunch of apples clattered into the bucket.

Sweat ran down her face and she lifted her hoof to brush it off, only to be interrupted when a towel was levitated in front of her.

She blinked and looked over, seeing Twilight’s smile and glowing horn, which was all she needed to understand.

“Thanks, Twilight.” She grabbed the towel and ran it along her face.

After lunch, Applejack had been a little less strict about how far away Twilight would have to be before she could… observe. It was the only way they’d be close enough to hold a conversation.

Even so, she hadn’t been able to glean anything new about Twilight’s weird behavior. Every time she broached the subject, Twilight just shifted it away to literally anything else. On the positive side, they did have some pretty good conversation because of it…

No, no, stay focused. Applejack tossed the used towel around her neck, only to see Twilight levitating the buckets of freshly bucked apples onto her cart. She turned and smiled at Applejack.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I kinda felt like helping a little. It’s been weird just watching you work all day.”

“Ah appreciate it, Sugarcube.” Applejack trotted around to the front of the cart to strap it around her back. “Say, it’s pretty late. Would ya like to stay for dinner?”

Twilight pressed her lips into a thin line and glanced at her clipboard. “I don’t know. I really should get back to the castle so I can look over all these notes.”

“Aw, ya sure?” She snickered. “Ah’m sure mah family would love to hear all about how ya spent the day starin’ at mah flank.”

A blush crept onto Twilight’s face. “Well now I’m definitely not going.”

Applejack couldn’t force back a laugh. It was pretty funny to mess with Twilight occasionally, even if she didn’t really understand where all the embarrassment was coming from.

“Okay, okay,” she said when her laughter ended. “Even so, it was pretty nice to spend the day with ya. Ah had fun… in a weird kinda way.”

“Yeah, I had fun too.” Twilight’s eyes suddenly bulged. “Uh, I mean, not because I was staring at your flank or anything! I just enjoyed that the normal amount. I mean… Gah!”

“Twilight?” Applejack watched as Twilight’s face exploded into a blush for… was it the two hundredth time that day? And Ah still didn’t even understand why...

“I’ll see you later, Applejack.” Twilight flared her wings and ripped herself from the ground. Her clipboard was slightly delayed, being held in magic, but it whipped after her, a few paper fluttering loose from the speed.

Applejack watched her go in surprise. As Twilight faded into a purple speck in the sky, her lost notes landed in the grass.

“Uh… was it something Ah said?” She blinked, the shock of what had just happened finally dissipating.

What the hay just happened? They’d gone from lighthearted joking to… whatever that was in just a few seconds. It was clear embarrassment had been the cause, but still, Applejack had to ask why?

She’d been under the impression that Twilight wasn’t that embarrassed anymore about staring at her flank. After all, that’s why she’d asked Applejack to do a case study, right? If that wasn’t it, then that would mean Twilight was still bothered by staring at her butt, yet wanted to keep doing it for some reason?

Applejack glanced down at the notes Twilight had left behind and sighed. “She’s probably gonna need those back. Maybe Ah can ask her what’s going on while Ah bring 'em over.”

She bent down to scoop up the lost papers, but paused. Twilight had written down everything she’d done today in her notes and Applejack knew she had a fairly strong stream of consciousness style of writing. Maybe, just maybe, whatever weirdness that had been going on inside her head and snuck into her notes.

Lifting up the pages, Applejack chose one at random and read.

It is currently thirty minutes into my observation of Applejack. No abnormalities or unexpected occurrences have surfaced yet… at least on the subject’s side of things. I however cannot seem to keep my heart rate down every time I so much as glance at her perfect adorable … her flank.

I had anticipated some problems like this, but so far it is much more severe than I originally thought. I’ll have to try and keep myself in check in the future…

Applejack stopped reading and her eyelids narrowed in confusion. What the hay? She shook her head, certain she had read that wrong and moved on to another page.

It is currently one hour and forty-seven minutes into my observation. I can’t stop staring. Only if she looks over at me do I have the strength to tear my eyes away for fear she’ll find out what’s going on.

I’m not even staring at her butt any more, it’s just… her. The way she moves as she goes to kick the tree, her golden hair flowing from the force of her buck as sweat glistens off her perfectly toned muscles…

By Celestia, she’s gorgeous.

Applejack gulped and chose to pretend she hadn’t read that part. Her eyes skimmed a paragraph or two down.

I lost track of what the time is, but we just stopped for a lunch break. Applejack eats fritters in the most adorable way possible. She has agreed to be the subject of my case study and I had to restrain myself not to tackle her with a hug. This is great news! Not only will I be able to actually get work done (hopefully), but I’ll also get to spend more time with Applejack!

She flipped to the final page.

It’s been approximately four hours since lunch. I’ve forgotten to write in a lot of my observations; Applejack and I were just lost in our chat and honestly, I’m just glad she let me get close enough to talk to her. I think this is a good sign that’s she’s gotten more comfortable with the study as a whole. Maybe she won’t be too offput by having me observe her for a few weeks… or months...

Maybe she even likes me back.

“...Aw hay…” Applejack nearly dropped the papers. Try as she might, there was no pretending to unread that.

She stood still for a few minutes, processing what she’d just learned. All of the puzzle pieces were finally clicking together. It was clear why Twilight had been acting funny all day and—now that Applejack thought about it—really obvious too.

“Shucks.” Applejack rubbed the back of her neck and looked at the papers again. “Ah need to go talk to her.”

Twilight groaned as she collapsed on her bed and not just from exhaustion.

“I. Am. An. Idiot.”

Of all her “observations” from today, that one was the most astute by far.

Seriously, what had she been thinking? Short answer: she wasn’t. She couldn’t have been thinking to say something as moronic as that and then leave right afterwards. Her pillow was only a hoof length away and she grabbed it, shoved it against her face and screamed without hesitation.

What is wrong with me? I could handle being around Applejack for weeks despite my feelings, but the second we’re alone and I have to look at her flank I turn into a stammering idiot. She peeled the pillow from her face and sighed. I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t want to see me again for a few weeks… or months…

And who could blame her? Things had finally begun to feel less awkward between them and then she had to go and say she enjoyed staring at Applejack’s butt. Now there probably wasn’t any way it could possibly be more awkward. The universe probably had physical laws that prevented any more awkwardness from existing in it.

At least that meant there was no way her situation could get any worse.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Her head drifted up from her bed upon hearing somepony tapping her bedroom door.

“Twilight?” It was Applejack. Applejack was here, right now.

It looks like I was wrong about the universe. “Y-yeah?”

“Do ya mind if Ah come in?”

She pushed herself into a sitting position. “I… sure.” What is she doing here?

The door opened, revealing Applejack. She looked sweaty, not from field work this time, more like from running. Her breaths were short, but heavy.


“I’m sorry,” Twilight blurted out. Applejack blinked and opened her mouth to respond, but she wasn’t done just yet. “I didn’t mean to keep making everything so awkward. I know you were uncomfortable from the start and I tried but… I just couldn’t.” She hung her head. “Sorry…”

“It’s all right, Sugarcube, Ah understand.” Applejack walked over and took a seat next to her on the bed.

“Really?” Twilight looked up.

Applejack nodded. “More than you realize.” She held up her hoof. In its grasp were three crumpled papers.

At first Twilight raised her brow in confusion. Then it dawned on her what she was looking at: notes. Notes of hers, to be precise, that had probably come loose when she’d flown off. Notes that contained everything she had been writing…

She felt her face heat up for the… was it the two hundredth and first time that day? “I-I-I-I—”

“You all right, Twi?”

Somehow, in her mixture of shock and disorientation, Twilight managed to comprehend Applejack’s question and nod.

“Good.” She uncrumpled one of the papers and looked at it. “Is… uh, is it true, Twilight? Do ya like me?”

Twilight swallowed and mustered the courage to speak without stammering. She almost succeeded too. “Y-yes.”

“Ah see. And ya made up some story about the EDA doing research to stare at mah flank because…?”

“I didn’t make that up!” Twilight managed to meet Applejack in the eye. “A-Applejack, I wouldn’ lie to you. The EDA really is doing the research and they asked me for help. I said yes because… well, I just really wanted to spend more time around you. With you. I didn’t know that I’d have to… stare down there until after I agreed to help them.”

“Oh.” Applejack chewed the inside of her cheek, likely feeling guilty about her accusation. “All right, well if that’s the case then Ah just have one more question.”

“What is it?”

Applejack looked her in the eyes. “Why me?”

Twilight blinked. That wasn’t quite the question she’d expected to hear, but she didn’t have to think too hard about the answer. “Well, it started a month ago. I just… I couldn’t get the thought of you out of my head. You’re brave, you’re strong, you’re able to keep a level head, even when I can’t, you’re always there for me no matter what, you’re beautiful, you’re amazing, you’re courageous… I could go on, but at this point it would pretty much be synonyms.”

Applejack couldn’t hold back a smile, or a blush. “Wow… Ah never knew you felt that way about me.”

“Yeah, I was pretty good at hiding it… until today that is.” Twilight looked down. “So.. uh… did you ever…”

This time Applejack couldn’t hold back a sigh. “Ah’m sorry, Twilight. Ah just… Ah’ve never thought about ya that way.”

Her breath caught in the back of her throat and every muscle in her chest tightened. Barely blinking back tears, she opened her mouth. “O-oh… Okay, I underst—” She was interrupted by a hoof pressing against her lips.

“Ya didn’t let me finish,” Applejack said, lowering her foreleg. “Ah’ve never thought about ya that way, but that don’t mean Ah’ll never think about ya that way.”

Suddenly, Twilight was able to breathe again. She celebrated this achievement by breathing so deeply she nearly coughed. “R-really?” It had always been a long shot for her feelings to be mutual and she couldn’t be sure, but she was at least getting a strong “maybe” vibe from her friend.

Applejack smiled and nodded. “We can at least talk about it, but not right now. It’s been a long day, and you’ve been up since last night. How about ya grab some shut eye and we can talk a little more when ya come over tomorrow for the research.”

“Yeah that sounds… wait.” Twilight nearly did a double-take. “You mean you’re going to let me keep observing your flank?”

“Well... yeah. Ah am your case study after all. Besides, what kind of pony would Ah be if Ah deprived ya of such a great view.” She patted her rump and winked.

Twilight didn’t even try to fight back her blush, or the laugh that followed. Applejack giggled a little as well as she got up from the bed.

“Ah’ll see ya tomorrow, Twilight.”

“Bye Applejack.” Twilight smiled brightly as her potentially-more-than-a-friend left her room. It was at that moment that her lack of sleep finally caught up with her. She yawned for a solid ten seconds and her eyelids turned to lead. Sinking down onto her bed, she used what little remained of her energy to flick off the lights.

As Twilight drifted off to sleep, she kept her smile wide. She had no idea what tomorrow was going to be like, but for now she was just glad everything had worked out.

Applejack was also glad everything had worked out. As she walked out of Twilight’s castle, she couldn’t help remembering the events of today in a new light.

Sure, it was weird to think that Twilight, a pony she had considered a friend for so long, liked her as more than that, but that didn’t ruin her memories of today. It really had been fun to spend some time with Twilight, flank-watching notwithstanding. And the way she’d blushed each time Applejack had made a joke about it had been… kind of cute.

Okay really cute. Red was a good color on her. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to see her in it more often.

You know… Ah think Ah’m actually looking forward to tomorrow.

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