Applejack stared at the ground as Rainbow Dash left the kitchen, stomping her hoof in frustration. Her ears flicked backwards as she heard the front door slam closed, causing her frown to deepen. Chances were, that fool pony had damaged the door. She'd have to check it later. But first, she trotted over to the counter, grabbed a cloth with her rainbow tail and began wiping the cider off the floor. She really shouldn't have mentioned the cider's existence, but that cat was long since out of the bag.
She was so focused on cleaning that she failed to hear her brother's approach until he addressed her directly. "Sis? What the hay just happened?"
Applejack growled, flinging the cloth away. "What happened?" she spat, glaring at her brother. "Ah'll tell you what happened!" She opened her mouth, ready to say what she was thinking, what she was feeling. But nothing came out. She was at a loss for words. "Ah... ah don't know."
"Do ya want to talk?" Big Macintosh asked, watching at his sister. She was angry and confused, and he hated seeing her like this.
"No." she replied after a moment of silence, shaking her head. "Ah don't reckon ah can talk about it right now." She yawned, suddenly exhausted. "Ah think ah'll go take a nap."
Big Macintosh sighed as she brushed past him. His sister... both of them, in fact, could often be too stubborn for their own good. Especially Applejack. She might not have been willing to talk, but he'd eventually have to confront her.
Applejack put a hoof to her head as she reached the top of the stairs, gently probing her injury. She hissed at the sudden pain, pulling her hoof away, then made her way to the bathroom, intent on cleaning the bump. A riot of color caught her eye as she passed a bedroom, causing her to stare at what was hanging off of the door.
Unable to quell the wave of anger that surged up, she spun around and bucked the offending object, then continued on her way to the bathroom.
Behind her, the rainbow-colored sign lay on the floor, a large crack splitting it in half.
Rainbow Dash slowed her pace to a walk as she approached Fluttershy's cottage. She had not planned on running but she'd felt too angry, and had broken into a brisk gallop as soon as she reached the farm's fence. Minutes later, she arrived at her fellow pegasus' home, glad to have expended at least some of her pent up energy.
She glanced back to where she had come from and spotted a few apple trees in the distance, causing her to frown. She had never realized just how close Fluttershy's cottage was to Sweet Apple Acres. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to be as far away from the Acres as possible, but... she couldn't think of where else to go. Fluttershy was her oldest friend. Rainbow Dash couldn't think of another pony that she could deal with presently.
But right now, Dash didn't need a pony to talk to... she needed a place to stay, as she was now bereft of her home. She blinked as that thought crossed her mind. Home? Why did I think of it as home? She snorted, dismissing the idea, and made her way to the front door of Fluttershy's cottage. Rainbow Dash banged on it, wincing as she realized she was hitting it with perhaps a bit too much force, and hoped she hadn't frightened the pony within.
Thankfully, this didn't seem to be the case, as Fluttershy peeked over the windowsill. The timid pegasus gave a sigh of relief as she saw her friend, disappearing for a moment before opening the door wide. "Rainbow!" She said, smiling. "You gave me a fright... I thought some beast was beating on my door!"
"Sssorry 'bout that..." Rainbow Dash slurred, scratching the back of her head with a hoof. Fluttershy immediately noticed the oddity of her friend's speech, and gave her a closer look.
"Rainbow... are you drunk?"
"No!" Rainbow answered, vehemently shaking her head. This caused her to nearly lose her balance, sending her a few steps to the side as her body tried to keep itself straight. Rainbow wilted under Fluttershy's frowning gaze. "Okay... maybe I'm a little tipsy."
"Come in... I'll make you some tea." Fluttershy said, stepping aside. She watched Rainbow Dash make her way to the couch, then closed the door and headed to the kitchen. Rainbow Dash flopped onto the cushions as Fluttershy prepared the brew, closing her eyes in hopes of resting. Unfortunately, her mind wouldn't let her, looping the fight over and over again. She quickly opened her eyes as she heard the clink of the teacup touching the table, then sat up and lifted the beverage to her mouth.
Fluttershy sat down on her haunches on the opposite side of the table, observing Rainbow Dash as she drank. Something seemed off about the other pony, more than just the fact she seemed inebriated, which was itself a rare occurrence. The athletic pony didn't indulge very often, and in fact tended to abstain entirely. She was well aware of the effects of drink, and preferred to remain in control of herself. A drunk pegasus was prone to meeting the ground headfirst.
But this? This was different. She had never seen Rainbow Dash as drunk as this, regardless of of her denial. Maybe something happened...?
"Rainbow... is something the matter?" Fluttershy asked, jumping as the other pony forcefully slammed the cup onto the table, causing the remaining tea to spill.
"Heck no, everything's fine!" Rainbow replied, grinning and waving a hoof in the air. She hoped that would be enough to fool Fluttershy. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Unfortunately, Fluttershy was not fooled. She sat, staring at Rainbow Dash, a slight frown on her face. The latter fidgeted, looking down at her hooves, unable to meet her friend's gaze as Fluttershy waited for her to talk. Finally, as Fluttershy made no move to break the silence, Rainbow couldn't hold it in any longer. "I mean, I've gotta be fine, right?" she snapped, facing away from Fluttershy. "It's not like I've been horribly maimed or anything." She pressed on before Fluttershy could say anything. "Nah, just my best friend stole my wings. Other than that, everything's fine!"
Shocked at the venom in Rainbow's voice, Fluttershy struggled for words. "Rainbow..." she started, once she figured out what she wanted to say. "You know as well as I do that she didn't do anything of the sort!"
Rainbow Dash leaned back on Fluttershy's couch, her muzzle pointed at the ceiling as she let out a growl. "Oh yeah? She called me useless without them. Worthless."
Fluttershy gasped, unable to believe what she'd heard. "Oh... but surely she didn't mean it?"
Rainbow Dash snorted. "She wasn't drunk, Fluttershy. Meant every word." Rainbow grinned as a thought struck her. "Element of Honesty, remember?" She sobered up once again as she said her next words. "Worst part is... she's probably right." She continued as she saw Fluttershy start shaking her head. "What good am I if I can't fly?"
"Well," Fluttershy started, caught off guard at the question. "You're..." she faltered, trying to think. As self-deprecating as Rainbow was being, Fluttershy honestly couldn't think of things Dash was good at. She'd devoted her entire being into physical performance, and flying was her entire soul. There was, however, one thing that did come to mind. "You're loyal. That's what counts."
Rainbow's frown, which had grown deeper as Fluttershy seemed unable to respond, eased up marginally. "... Maybe." She mumbled. Sighing, she looked at her friend. "Fluttershy... do you mind if I crash here tonight?" Rainbow asked, wincing as she reflected on her choice of words.
"N-no, not at all!" Fluttershy replied, glad that she had apparently managed to get through to the other pony. "Stay as long as you want. You can use my bed..."
Rainbow Dash nodded her thanks, sliding off the couch and making her way to the steps leading up to Fluttershy's room. Fluttershy watched silently, then glanced to her front door, in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres.
She had to get to the bottom of this.
Night had fallen, and all seemed silent on the farm. The farmhouse was dark, all the ponies within fast asleep, both young and old.
Outside, however, two shapes could be seen sitting under an apple tree, deep in discussion. The larger of the two, a stallion, kept talking as his companion, a small pegasus mare, listened to his every word.
"... and then Miss Dash headed off. I reckon she went straight to your place."
Fluttershy's face fell as Big Macintosh finished telling her what he'd heard. "Oh dear. This is bad. What do we do?"
"Ah can give Applejack a talkin' to," Big Macintosh suggested, "but you know how mighty stubborn she can be."
Fluttershy nodded, well aware of the fact. "Rainbow is the same way..." She sighed, feeling dejected. "How could this have happened? They seemed to have such good times together lately..."
Big Macintosh nodded silently. "They did. Ah've never seen Applejack's this happy before. Ah think Miss Dash means a whole lot to her."
"Really? You think they're..." The yellow pegasus trailed off, looking far more concerned than a moment before. "Oh, my. I thought Rainbow was too upset for just another one of their little spats." When she looked back up at Big Macintosh, her expression was one of determination. "We can't let them fall apart like this. It isn't fair to either of them."
The stallion's response was direct, and to the point. "Eeyup."
Fluttershy stood up, extending her wings in preparation for flight. "Thank you for telling me all this, Big Macintosh. I think I need to let the girls know... I'll contact you if we can think of anything we can do."
Big Macintosh nodded, and watched as Fluttershy took to the sky, heading towards Ponyville.
The next morning, Applejack found herself waking to the glare of sunlight making its way through her window. Unlike most days, where she woke up with the dawn or even before it, the sun now stood high in the sky, pointing to a near-noontime hour. Ah must've been plum tuckered out, Applejack thought, blinking blearily. She couldn't remember the last time she had woken up so late, even on days with little to do. Momentarily confused, she wondered what happened the previous day which could have tired her out so much. Oh, right, she thought as the memory surfaced, that happened. Her mood instantly took a nose dive, only getting worse as her wings got caught in the blanket. Untangling herself, she glared at the offending appendages, then snorted in frustration.
She made her way down the stairs, listening for telltale signs of activity, but heard nothing from within the farmhouse. She sighed with relief, thankful that she would not have to face her family just yet. She knew Big Macintosh would be after her, but she did not feel like talking at the moment. Or, in fact, that talking would help at all in the first place. Granny Smith would try to get her to talk as well, and Applejack would be hard pressed to refuse the matriarch of the family. But she was especially thankful that Apple Bloom was in school. As strict as Applejack sometimes had to be with the filly, she still often found herself unable to deny her little sister anything. To top it off, she had noticed the disappearance of Apple Bloom's hoof-made rainbow sign this morning. She just didn't have the heart to face her sister regarding that subject.
Eager to escape the farm and reduce any chance of meeting the rest of her family, she wolfed down a few apples, then took off in the direction of Ponyville. While she did not feel like talking to anypony, she definitely needed to check on one in particular.
A short while later, she arrived in the center of town, having run at a brisk pace. Directly in front of her loomed her destination: the Ponyville library. As she lifted her hoof to knock, a loud bang made itself heard through the door. Forgoing courtesies, she shoved the door open, standing ready to give whatever had made the noise a taste of her hooves.
What she found instead was a cloud of dust, and a unicorn coughing in the middle of it. Recognizing her friend, Applejack spun her tail to help clear the air. "You okay there Twilight?"
"Appl-" Twilight started, but was interrupted by another series of coughs. When the air cleared and she had gotten her breath back, Twilight focused on the other pony. "Applejack!" She said, suddenly nervous. "What brings you here?"
"Ah'm just checkin' on a friend! Ah see you're out of bed?"
Twilight rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Yes, yes, I'm fine. I told Rainbow the same thi-" she paused, mentally slapping herself. Fluttershy had visited her last night, and had shared what she'd learned from Big Macintosh. Too caught up in her experiments, she had completely forgotten what they'd agreed on: if either Rainbow or Applejack showed up, don't mention the other until they could come up with a plan.
It hadn't been a minute, and Twilight had already failed spectacularly. Thankfully, Applejack had not noticed the pause... she'd frowned, looking away as soon as she heard Rainbow's name. The silence stretched uncomfortably, until Applejack sighed. "Ah'm actually here about that subject, Twilight. Have you figured out anything yet?"
Twilight hesitated, unable to think straight. Fluttershy had not only told her about the fight, she'd also mentioned her suspicions. More than ever, they had to help Rainbow Dash and Applejack make up. And she'd completely blown it.
Applejack watched in silence, a grim expression settling on her face. "Ah see."
Twilight blinked as she heard Applejack's words. "What? Oh, no no no..." she stammered, frantically shaking her head. Applejack had completely misunderstood her silence. "I, uh, I've actually got a few ideas, and I'm working on them." She glanced at her experiments table, where some of the dust was still settling. She was definitely making progress, but at an agonizingly slow rate. Seeing Applejack now, she wanted to elaborate... but she couldn't. She didn't know how long it would be, and she refused to make a promise she might not be able to keep.
Applejack followed her gaze, then glanced back at Twilight. "Well, ah'll leave you to it then." She nodded her farewell, and trotted out of the library. As she closed the door behind her, she let out a snort of frustration. Yeah, that looked real promising... Twi never would admit when she was plain stumped.
Her day now even worse, she wandered through town, letting her hooves take her where they wanted.
Inside Carousel Boutique, a light humming could be heard. The source was none other than the residence's owner, as she moved about in her inspiration room. Several sheets of paper floated around her head, covered with designs and recent ideas. Yet as she rolled them up and placed them into a basket, Rarity could not help but give a sigh. None of these designs had been created today, as she was simply too distracted to think up any new creations.
Besides, the issue at hoof was far more important. She thought back to the day Applejack had stumbled into the spa. She had only been teasing the poor dear with that talk of being attached to Rainbow Dash's hip, but if Fluttershy's hunch was right... she had been more on the mark than she could possibly have imagined.
Yet, as much as she wanted to gloat, she just did not have the heart for it. Not now, after hearing about the fight. She could barely even imagine what might have caused a clash of that magnitude. Having had several 'heated discussions' with the farmpony herself, she knew how argumentative Applejack could be about things. But it was always minor fights, however loud they might have gotten during the conversations. Even during the sleepover at the library, they had never truly had a fight that could risk their friendship.
This, though... she had never imagined that things would get so out of hoof. Admittedly, Rainbow Dash and Applejack had a history of fighting. The running of the leaves in particular came to mind; by the end of the race it had actually come to blows. But if Big Macintosh's report was accurate, this fight was far worse than any that came before.
That simply would not do.
Yet as determined as she felt, she could not think of what to do to help. Wanting to was one thing, coming up with a plan was an entirely different thing.
The jingle of the shop's doorbell interrupted her thoughts, forcing her towards the main room of the boutique. She was about to launch into her welcoming speech when a mass of pink fur and hair materialized in front of her face.
"Hi!" Pinkie exclaimed, a large grin on her face.
"Hello Pinkie," Rarity replied, smiling at her friend. "What brings you here?"
"I need your help! It'll take no time at all with you there, and I just know everything will be perfect if you're helping!"
"Help with what?" Rarity asked as she watched Pinkie bounce around her.
"With a party, duh!" Pinkie replied, as she kept bouncing.
"A... party? Whatever for, Pinkie?"
Pinkie paused in mid-air to stare at the other pony. "You don't need a reason for a party!" She said, before landing once more. "But in this case, it's a party to celebrate Twilight's recovery!"
Rarity blinked. She could think of a number of retorts to the first statement, but only one thought was relevant right now. "Are you sure this is a good idea, Pinkie? Haven't you heard of Rainbow Dash and Applejack's fight?"
"Of course I did! That's why I want to organize a party! It needs to be the bestest party ever, to make them feel better! So I need your help!"
Rarity could only stare in disbelief at Pinkie's eager smile. Sighing, the unicorn put a hoof on pink pony's shoulder. "Pinkie, dear... I don't think a party is going to help."
Pinkie tilted her head in confusion. "What? Parties always help!"
"Pinkie... if you invite them both, neither will come." Rarity said, shaking her head. "You can't just invite one of them, and a party without either would just be... sad."
Pinkie's expression fell as she processed Rarity's argument. "No... party?"
"I'm afraid not." Rarity replied. She watched as Pinkie simply stared at the ground, before standing up and slowly leaving the boutique. She hated to see her friend like this, but a party was probably the worst idea possible in this situation. Alone once more, she headed to her room, hoping a bit of sewing would help ease her mind.
Outside, Pinkie sat under a nearby tree, seemingly drained of energy. The very idea of a party not helping was an alien concept. Parties fix everything! Even when there's nothing to fix! She stared at the ground, a hint of tears forming at the edge of her eyes.
No! She thought, frowning, then stood up and stared straight ahead. If a party can't fix it, somepony needs to take it into her own hooves! And that pony... is me!