(Pony Permutation Project: Episode 9)
Early one afternoon, two unicorns walked together along one of Ponyville's side roads.
"Thanks again for accompanying me, Twilight."
"No problem at all, Rarity. So, can you tell me now why we're headed to Applejack's? I thought she was supposed to be busy today."
"Field testing." Rarity gave a confident nod towards a familiar barn as they approached it.
"...still not following."
"A couple of weeks ago, Applejack was planning her annual family reunion, and said that she needed somepony to help cater. Since a certain one of us we know quite well owed all of us an apology at the time, we figured she'd be the best one to tap. Thus, I went about crafting a most... fitting outfit." The two stopped in front of the fence to Sweet Apple Acres. "Ahh, here we are. Once again, my brilliant sense of style in action!"
Twilight looked towards the front of a house adorned with apple designs a short distance away. "Oh, it's Rainbow Dash. That makes sen-..." Her eyes widened seconds later when she realized the entirely of what she was seeing. "...Rarity, what is that?"
"Oh, come now, Twilight, you can see exactly what she's wearing."
Twilight gave Rarity a dry look. "Well, I still want you to tell me."
"Well, um, it's... how would one put this delicately... it's perfectly suitable attire for... catering. For serving. For-"
"-cleaning house, maybe?" Twilight gestured one hoof towards the pegasus, who was wearing a mid-length black dress with white lace trim, and an apron to match. "It's a maid outfit, Rarity! I've seen them before; Princess Celestia has tons working for her!"
Rarity huffed in indignance. "Well, if you already knew, then why did you ask me to tell you?"
Twilight sputtered as she tried to articulate her thoughts. "'C-Cause I didn't quite believe my own eyes, okay? Can you blame me here?"
"Look, if you don't like the outfit, just tell me. I'm quite capable of handling criticism, you know."
"No, it's a great design, technically, I just..." Again, Twilight fought for the right words. "...I just never thought I'd see those clothes on that pony!"
"The power of guilt, my dear Twilight," said Rarity, with a smile and glint in her eyes that forced her friend to back away. "The power of guilt..."
The two looked on at Rainbow Dash, who was busy greeting visitors while wearing the reddest face ever...
"Hey, folks, welcome to the Apple Family Gathering! Come in and take a seat! We've got a... um..." Rainbow Dash took a card out of one of her dress's pockets and read it verbatim. "...rip-roarin' good time all ready for y'all. Yee-haw!"
The immediate surroundings fell silent as all nearby guests stopped and stared blankly in reply.
Rainbow Dash sighed. "Look, it's my first day, okay? Just go on inside."
"Well, she seems to be doing all right," said Rarity.
Twilight shook her head. "And no better."
Rarity's head whipped to the side to see a sternly-glaring Applejack. "Uh-oh."
Applejack huffed. "Now why are y'all even here? I gave y'all strict, very strict instructions not to come by while I had Dash doin' her thing in that outfit. Last thing she needs are ponies she knows stoppin' t' linger n' stare-"
"Hi, Apple Bloom!"
"Say what?" Applejack blinked as the two turned around to see three fillies gathered around the farm's fence. "...oh no."
"Hey, girls!" said Apple Bloom, oblivious and all smiles. "Sorry I can't come out and play today. Gotta help with the family and all."
Sweetie Belle nodded. "It's all right, family absolutely comes first! I actually came out here looking for Rarity too. She said she'd be here."
Scootaloo's attention, however, was predictably already in one place. "Hey, it's Rainbow Dash! What... what's she wearing? It looks kinda... weird. Frilly."
Sweetie Belle gasped in delight. "Oh! I saw Rarity sewing something which looked like that a few nights ago! That must be it." The three looked closer. "You're right. That... does... look very un-Rainbow Dash..."
"There's gotta be a reason," said Scootaloo, "and I'm gonna find out!" She leaned over the railing, and called out, "HEY, RAINBOW DASH! WHAT'S WITH THE GIRLY FRILLY STU-mmmph?"
That last was courtesy of Rarity magically placing a nearby apple in Scootaloo's mouth... but it was too late.
"Wha-" Quick as the lightning bolt on her cutie mark, Rainbow Dash turned around--and upon the sight of the crowd watching her, actually took things rather well.
That is to say, she was skyward in a tenth of a second flat.
Applejack sighed and buried her head in her front hooves. "And this is why I told y'all not to bring a crowd over."
Rarity shook her head fervently. "And miss my hard work in action? Surely you jest! Besides, I only brought Twilight." She gestured to the Cutie Mark Crusaders. "They all came on their own."
It was all Twilight could do to hold in her giggling as she watched her orange-coated friend repeatedly thud her head against the fence. "S-Sorry, Applejack. I'll fix everything. See you later, okay?"
Her horn glowed, and a second later, she, Rarity, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were gone...
...and Rainbow Dash did a header into the ground.
"Rainbow Dash!" Applejack rushed over to her. "You okay, sugarcube?"
Rainbow Dash's eyes twirled. "Ohhhh... I had the worst dream just now. Half the ponies we knew found out about this stupid outfit and were starin' at me..."
Applejack helped Rainbow Dash up. "Nah, you were just seein' things. Look, I... you sure you don't wanna just take the sucker off? I'm startin' to feel a mite guilty myself for wranglin' you into it..."
Rainbow Dash took a few seconds to think about it, then shook her head. "Nuh-uh, nothin' doin'. I promised to wear this in the first place since I owed you, and this Element of Loyalty does not break her promises. Besides, if I can't handle wearing an outfit as goofy as this, then no way do I deserve to wear the coolest one ever as part of the Wonderbolts. I'll beat this yet!" She looked around. "So this is what an Apple Family Gathering looks like, huh?"
Applejack nodded with a big smile. "Yep! We have one o'these every year. Everypony who's anypony in the Apple Family shows up here, and we all catch up on months past while havin' ourselves a grand old feast!"
"That a fact?" Rainbow Dash paused, then asked, "So do orange Apples exist now, too?"
Rainbow Dash gestured in one direction with a hoof, to note two orange-colored earth ponies walking up the path towards them... bearing cutie marks of a whole and sliced orange, respectively.
"What in the..." Applejack did a double-take, then smiled and rushed in for a hug. "A-Aunt and Uncle Orange! Y'all actually made it! When my first set of invitations didn't reach you, I panicked something fierce, and-"
"-so much so that you postponed the party for us," said Uncle Orange. "Really, now, you didn't have to go so out of your way..."
"But I wanted y'all here. I wanted to catch up on old times. Plus I wanna show you what I've been learnin' even though I didn't stay with y'all for very long..."
"Applejack, are you still on that?" Aunt Orange asked.
Applejack blushed. "Only a little, still, I suppose..."
"Well, don't be." Aunt Orange sighed. "We'll talk over dinner, okay?"
Rainbow Dash pointed. "This way, folks! Enjoy the party." She led the Oranges inside, and finally, Applejack... who had a a nervous look on her face that Rainbow Dash didn't usually see. "Hey, AJ." She placed a hoof on her friend's shoulder. "You all right?"
"H-huh?" Applejack's nervous look was gone as quickly as it had arrived. "Oh, uh, sure thing! C'mon, RD, that's all the guests. Let's get this party started!"
You can do this, Dash.
Rainbow Dash hovered in the corner of the Apple Family dining hall, steeling her nerves with deep breaths as she observed the mass of ponies sitting at a fittingly massive rectangular table.
You can do this. You can totally serve all these ponies you don't know while wearing this stupid outfit. Actually, that might even work out. They don't know you either, which means word about this might not spread! Right?... Right?... Okay, I should stop thinking about this.
She got her opportunity to do just that when Applejack tapped a glass at the front of the table.
"Attention, everypony, attention! First of all, I wanna thank y'all for coming to this annual Apple Family Gathering, where we celebrate all things Apple! That covers all of you, all of our kin... and that also means the family business. Roll the slides, Big Mac!"
One hearty "Ayyyyy-yup" later, the lights dimmed and a slide projector did its work, showing a pie chart--drawn to resemble an actual apple pie--on the far wall. Behind Big Mac, Apple Bloom smiled with pride at her work.
"Now as y'all can see here, this's been a banner year for us, with record numbers done on Zap Apple Jam, and our trademark homemade cider! Once again, all supply's sold out, and we're doin' so well that we done reached our limit on just how much product we can move by ourselves while still keepin' food supplies around for the winter months! Which is where Appleloosa comes in. Braeburn?"
A caramel-colored earth pony walked up to the front. "Yessirree! With help from Applejack's keen farmland senses, we've managed to survey enough land to feed our town and have ample supply left over to lend to the business as a whole. Once winter's over and wrapped up, we'll be expanding onto that land in full--and when everything's all said and done, Ponyville's Sweet Apple Acres and Appleloosa's Apple Orchards will share what they've got, as the start of a grand Equestria-wide project known we're callin' Sweet Apple Farms!"
The whole room applauded, and Rainbow Dash could see Applejack basking in the chorus with a smile wider than she'd seen her wear in quite some time.
"Hear hear! With that all said, that's all for our presentation. So dig in! We got an extra-huge spread tonight, and some supersonic catering help to go with it! Y'all want something from the other end of the table, Apple Bloom an' our Rainbow Maid here will go grab it for ya, lickety split!"
Rainbow Dash waved. "You got it! I'll make sure you get your feed at lightning speed, guaranteed!"
A half hour later, Rainbow Dash was living up to her word, and feeling quite good about it--as were the gathered Apple Family feasters.
"...okay, that's one bowl of zap apple cinnamon oatmeal, five fruit-kebabs, and one Apple Princess Salad! Enjoy!"
"Thank you so much! Such superb speed!"
"Indeed! Usually Big Macintosh helps Apple Bloom with the serving, but you're certainly taking a load off of his hooves... and at such a faster pace!"
"Heheheh. Well, that's what you get when you call on supersonic help!"
"So I see! I'll have to tell absolutely everypony back home about your work... and in such a cute outfit as well! What's your name, dear?"
"Oh, it's, uh... it's... I... uh... Igottago."
She flew away as fast as she could, eventually finding herself at the other end of the table, where:
"Hey, Rainbow Dash! Glad y'all're here!"
She looked over to see Applejack with the two orange-colored ponies from earlier. "Oh, hi, AJ. Finally sitting down to your own dinner?"
"Heh, yeah. Had to help put the equipment away, so now I'm ready for a break--time to catch up with some family! Could you go grab some of our specialty apple gumbo? I wanna show my aunt and uncle here what they've been missin'!"
"Coming right up!" Rainbow Dash was gone and back in a flash, using her mouth and a ladle to spoon out gumbo into huge bowls. As she did so, she was unable to help but eavesdrop on the conversation taking place...
"I have to say, Applejack, I am surprised we got timely invitations for once." Uncle Orange took a spoonful of gumbo, "hmm"ing in approval. "But they certainly seem to have been worth the wait."
Applejack nodded. "We weren't ignorin' y'all or anything. Least I don't think that was the case. Granny Smith kept thinkin' that was the case, though. So I looked into it extra hard." Her face scrunched in confusion. "Just how much do y'all travel in a year?"
Aunt Orange laughed. "Quite a bit, actually. And while we're gone, the mail piles up, and poof, by the time we get around to it, usually the whole event's already behind us."
"Well, that's all in the past. Now you're here, and you've seen how we do things. Big Mac gave you a tour of the farm, you've seen our presentation, and, well, you've met our excellent service. So..." Applejack laid her hooves on the table. "...guess it's time for the million gold-bit question: what'd y'all think?"
The Oranges looked at each other, and then at Applejack, who looked at the both of them with reservation. Finally, Aunt Orange sighed. "Applejack..."
Applejack shook her head. "It's okay, Auntie. I know we're family, and I know you think you gotta be nice. But if you are, I won't learn nothin'! So I don't want you to give me the 'niece' answer. If this were one o' them fancy Manehattan boardrooms, or even one o' your shiny-gourmet social events... would I stack up any better than I used to?"
"Applejack..." Aunt Orange started again.
Applejack reached forward, taking one of each relatives' hooves into hers. "Tell me. Please."
"Well... if we must." Uncle Orange dug into a a saddlebag lying next to and brought up a newspaper, already turned to a page with a huge red circle on it.
Applejack looked inside the circle to see two pinstripe-wearing unicorns smiling in front of a complicated contraption. "Hey, this's an ad for the... 'Super Speedy Cider Squeezy... 6500?' Why those no-good Flim-Flams... wait." She looked closer. "'Previous model tested and proven superior to the Apple Family's cider production process, three-to-one?'" She slammed her hooves on the table. "T-they can't print that! That's false advertising!"
Uncle Orange nodded. "That's what we said. However, one of the letters we sent in response was to your mayor... who replied by saying that, technically, they were right. Taken on both your own merits, it did outperform your farm, regardless of product quality--and that was after you brought in last-minute outside help. Do you plan to place those helpers full-time on your payroll?"
For a few moments, Applejack attempted to calculate the chances of her friends agreeing to do just that; unfortunately, once her mind cycled to Rarity, it instantly declared the whole thing a lost cause. "I... uh..."
"As for zap apple products... lovely as they are, they're always so rare and their processing methods so particular that they're hard to correctly price as even a specialty commodity!" Aunt Orange shook her head. "Selling the jam here for so low doesn't help matters."
"Especially given the method of delivery for all of your products." Uncle Orange put down the newspaper. "Single stands just do not cut it outside of small towns like this--though, honestly, seeing them here was so quaint a sight it almost made me want to build a summer home here."
"Well, whadda y'all have in Manehattan?" Applejack asked.
"In Manehattan, we have store chains. Duplicates of the same shop, which sell the same products under the same name, and streamlined to maximum efficiency."
Applejack scrunched her brow. "That doesn't sound very personal-like or customer-friendly..."
Aunt Orange shrugged. "Customers get used to it. We were surprised too. The worst chains, however, are the ones which spread themselves too thin. Balance is always important."
"And finally, let's not forget about the Grand Galloping Gala." Uncle Orange pushed his bowl to the side to make room for a magazine. "News of Canterlot events always reaches Manehattan in record time--and from there, we heard tales of an Apple Family stand that made... well, an all right amount of money, but not very much in the grand scheme of things...?"
"I... I made enough to do some farm renovations..." Applejack visibly slumped--and the second she did so, Aunt Orange got out of her chair and moved to hug her niece.
"Applejack, we love you--and we only told you all this because you asked. You've always dreamed big... but you also inherited your grandmother's stubborn streak. When it comes to business and profit, you constantly stop yourself before you aim too high. However... if we're to believe your presentation, it looks like you want to break away from that. Am I on the right track?"
Applejack sighed. "Yeah, you are. I made a decision a while back that my responsibilities to this farm... they're bigger than any o' my own feelings." She looked up at her aunt. "So, what would you suggest I do to help turn things around?"
"Why don't you start by not listening to these guys?"
The three earth ponies looked over to see an annoyed Rainbow Maid flying over to them, stopping in front of Applejack, who could see a striking determination and empathy in the pegasus's eyes. Still...
"...look, Dash, this isn't a good time-"
"Sorry, Applejack. I know I'm butting in, but I can't believe what I'm hearing! You really wanna reduce everything you've done on this farm to nothing but money? I've seen you bust your flank every morning to make sure your crops are in the best shape, and it's paid off more times than I can count! If you were really doing so badly, could you even afford to have this huge feast? Would ponies camp out for your cider and jam?"
"Hold on, there, Rainbow Dash, this isn't about-"
But Rainbow Dash refused to be stopped now. "Why don't you tell them about the ponies who've come from neighboring towns just to get the stuff you make? Why don't you tell them how leaving Manehattan was how you got your cutie mark? Why don't you tell them about how this whole town got founded because of your farm?" She glowered at the Oranges. "Or does that not matter to them either?"
"RAINBOW DASH!" Applejack got up and stomped a hoof. "That's enough! You're way outta line, girl!"
"Me? In case you didn't notice, I'm defending you here while you're getting all the hard work you've put into your farm dumped on by these two! How could I possibly be the one out of line?"
"Because this's a matter that don't concern you!"
The entire room fell silent and stared upon Applejack's outburst--but Applejack was the only one who didn't notice, as she gasped to catch her breath and calm down. "You ain't got an apple on your flank, so it ain't your business, and you wouldn't understand. 'Kay?"
Both ponies were finding it increasingly harder to see through misting eyes. Neither of them felt it necessary to admit it.
"...actually, I think I understand just fine." Rainbow Dash took off her uniform. "Apple Family Gathering, right? No non-fruits allowed. I knew agreeing to this was a dumb idea to begin with--but I did it for you." She tossed the uniform onto the table and looked straight into Applejack's eyes. "Didn't know that was a dumb idea too."
"Wha... no, Rainbow Dash, wait! I didn't mean it like that!" She ran out the door, chasing after the already airborne pegasus. "I didn't..."
She trailed off--there was no point to talking to a barely-visible speck in the sky, after all.
In the space of an hour, the dinner had finished, and everypony was mingling outside on the farm grounds, leaving Applejack alone in the dining hall.
She could barely believe it--after what had happened, she hadn't been sure if she could actually make it to this point without any more hitches. But... well, outside of that one thing that had happened, everything had turned out okay! Party successful!
With a dejected sigh, Applejack went from the dining hall to the back kitchen... where she saw somepony she absolutely didn't expect sitting at the center table, both sets of legs crossed. "R-Rainbow Dash?"
The pegasus closed her eyes and shook her head. "You know, I thought about staying angry. I really did. But then I thought about things a little more. You're all about the honesty, right? And what I was saying out there was the honest truth. You are that special."
Applejack backed away. "Dash, about before, I-"
Rainbow Dash held up a hoof. "So here's how this is gonna work. Turns out I'm awful fast." Within three seconds, the door behind Applejack was locked, the windows were blinded, and a piping hot apple pie was fetched from the oven. "Meaning I control where this begins and ends. You promised a talk over one of these before the party." She pulled up a chair beside herself, and grabbed a knife. "I'm cashing in."
Applejack sat down. "Dash... I'm sorry about earlier. Really I am."
Rainbow Dash nodded, and cut slices of pie for both of them. "I know. And I forgave you already 'cause I'm awesome like that. So why don't you tell me what you're sorry about?" She ate a spoonful of pie, perked up, and quickly offered a new spoonful to Applejack. "But first, have a bite of this, cause wow, my compliments to the chef!"
That got a giggle out of Applejack. "Finally," said Rainbow Dash. "Progress."
"Nah, it's just cause I made that one. I know how great it is." Applejack still accepted the spoonful, however. "Look, you were right about all o' that stuff. The cutie mark, the town founding, what I've done for the farm... all of it. But those are things I don't always like to remind myself of, much less anypony else."
"'Cause it puts me in a lot o' weird, awkward places. Not sure if you noticed, but family's an awful big thing far as us Apples are concerned--we're everywhere, and we're made up of so many different ponies it's hard to think straight. We all know this, too, but still... imagine you had to tell some o' your relatives you only got your cutie mark once you got away from 'em. How do you think they'd feel?"
Rainbow Dash thought it over--at least for as long as she could. "...okay, that doesn't sound like fun."
"Nope. And all that stuff with Flim n' Flam and the cider... that all actually happened. If y'all hadn't helped me out, we woulda probably lost the business! Y'all really saved my bacon there, but it was really an eye-opener. Wasn't all too proud when Aunt and Uncle Orange went straight for that first." Applejack sighed. "And the Grand Gallopin' Gala... same thing."
"The Gala was weird for all of us, though."
"True, but I was the only one of us with money ridin' on the line to go with reputation. You don't make the 'Bolts, you can try again later. No Gala money meant no replacin' our shoddy old barn, which really would've been a problem for our farm down the line."
Rainbow Dash raised her hoof, beaming. "I helped with that! I totally helped with that! Heh heh."
Applejack giggled. "Yes, sugarcube, yes you did. But the biggest thing you brought up is something that's weighed on my shoulders ever since I was a little filly."
Rainbow Dash blinked in confusion. "What's that?"
"Ponyville." Applejack's stare shifted into space. "It was founded by earth ponies. Specifically, my clan. The origin of Sweet Apple Acres, this whole town, the reason everypony's even here in the first place, is sittin' in a rocking chair outside right now. I look at her and... well, imagine one more thing for me, will you? What if the Wonderbolts came to live with you?"
Rainbow Dash thought about that for a few seconds, which was all it took for Applejack's analogy to hit her--hard. "...yyyyyyeah. Awesome in the short term, but then I'd be watching my every move..."
Applejack threw up her hooves. "I've got the world's biggest horsehoes to fill! Thanks to my cutie mark, I know my place is here, but at the same time it also means I've got to make sure I don't ever let the farm or my family down--which I do way too often already!" Her voice cracked. "Every time business is slow, every time I screw up pickin' apples, every time I choose my beliefs or make myself happy over makin' sure everything's in just so tip-top shape... shoot, I missed out on a whole lotta city-fied business smarts! I bet the Gala coulda gone a whole lot differently if I'd just stuck it out." She took hold of Rainbow Dash's hooves, closing her eyes in a futile attempt to to hide her feelings. "Auntie and Uncle Orange were right. I'm just kiddin' myself. I'm a mess--and I always have been."
Rainbow Dash rose from her chair, and soon, Applejack could feel two legs circling her from behind in a tender hug... just before she found herself rising off the ground.
"...come on," Rainbow Dash said.
"Huh?" Applejack looked around in a mild panic. "Whoa, whoa, wait, hold on now," she managed to utter as Rainbow Dash opened one of the windows and sailed her outside. "I-I-I don't really do the sky stuff! Put me down!"
By this time, however, the were already a couple of hundred feet up. "Not sure you want that at this height," said the pegasus. "Relax, you'll be safe. But can you look down just once? For me?"
After much hesitation, Applejack did so, and her mouth widened in marvel. "...whoa. We sure do take up a big chunk o' this town, don't we?"
"You don't know the half of it," Rainbow Dash said, a wistful air about her voice. "You probably don't notice it since you're always on the ground--but I fly over Sweet Apple Acres all the time, and every year all I do is see this place grow bigger and bigger. Whatever mistakes you've made, you're clearly doing something right."
"But... well, okay, that's a point, but still-"
"Look. If you'd stayed in Manehattan as a filly--and stayed miserable--would the farm be this huge now? And would you still be so jazzed to work on it? Would you be able to feed as many ponies as you do right now? You've got almost your whole worldwide family over there, and they barely make a dent in the place!" She laughed. "Plus, I don't think anypony's complaining about a lack of eats!"
Applejack smiled. "Truth be told, there used to be times I wasn't sure if I could pull that kinda thing off. Now it's second nature."
"Exactly what I mean." Rainbow Dash began a slow descent. "Every flight camp in Cloudsdale has a saying: the only way to really lose a race is not to enter it. Speed, technique... you learn that as you go, but only through really gettin' in there first. Sometimes you come in last. Sometimes you crash. It just means you get faster, maybe find some shortcuts, and learn to dodge. All that takes is time and determination... which I know we've both got buckets of!"
"Now that's a fact," Applejack said jovially as Rainbow Dash flew into Applejack's bedroom, where the party could still be seen taking place a short distance away.
"And now we're back at Apple-level," said Rainbow Dash, flopping onto Applejack's bed. "Whoo, that took more out of me than I thought it would. I guess muscle really does weigh more than fat," she said with a laugh.
"You're walkin' a fine line there, sister." Applejack joined her friend on the bed, giving her a playful punch as the two looked out the window. "Yeah, I think I see what you're sayin'. Look at 'em--everypony's just so happy to be here." She looked out over Sweet Apple Acres. "And apples far as the eye can see, too..."
Rainbow Dash nodded. "It'll take a lot to bring this place down. It's literally everywhere around us."
Applejack nodded back. "Thanks, Rainbow Dash. I think I really needed you to show me all that. I love Sweet Apple Acres like family... which means I also worry about it a lot. To say Granny Smith's gettin' on in years is an understatement, and Apple Bloom's still too young to be thinking about this sort of thing, so the well-being of this place is gonna fall on me for a good while to come." She paused. "And Big Mac, I guess, but I'm still the spryest of the two of us."
"I've heard Cheerilee might think differently," said Rainbow Dash under her breath.
"Nothing, nothing. So... you okay now?"
"Gettin' there. Maybe I'm... not such a mess after all?"
"Finally, she gets it." Rainbow Dash wrapped her friend in another hug. "And she'll only improve over time. Just a hunch I've got."
Applejack leaned into the gesture. "I sure hope so. 'Cause I've still got plans for this place. Big ones. Rainbow, I..."
She sighed, broke the hug, then held the pegasus at foreleg's length while meeting her eyes.
"...I know I blew up back there, but now that my head's clear, I want you to know I really appreciate how you stuck up for me. Family or not, everything you said was stuff I've wanted to say for a long time, and you just laid it all out on the table without a second thought. Glad somepony had the guts, 'cause I probably never would've."
Rainbow Dash smiled in reply. "No problem! Even if I'd known what would've happened, I still would've done it. Going straight ahead at top speed--it's what we do! You make friends with a pegasus, expect her to always tell it like it is!"
Applejack giggled. "And here I thought honesty was my element."
"And I thought loyalty was mine. But after seeing how you stick so close to your family..."
A mischievous grin crossed Applejack's face. "...wanna switch?"
The room fell silent for a few moments, until Rainbow Dash answered with a knowing wink and laugh. "Nah. It'd just confuse ponies."
Applejack winked back. "Exactly my line o' thinkin'. So... feel like stayin' with me 'till my mind's right enough to get back out there?"
"As long as you need... just so long as I don't need that goofy maid outfit to do it."
"Furthest thing from my mind."
And as earth pony and pegasus shared a quiet embrace while looking out at the sunset, Granny Smith turned and walked away from the bedroom door where she'd been watching... with a smile of her own.