"Hey, Mac, can I borrow her for a second?" Rainbow Dash tried to speak louder than the music around them as she approached Applejack and her brother on the crowded dance floor. She grabbed her friend's wrist, barely waiting for Mac's silent nod, drawing her across the room in a hurry.
"Whoa, there." Applejack protested, almost stumbling in her boots.
"C'mon, Aj. Pinkie put in her head she can beat us in a dance-off."
"What? No way."
"That's what I said." Rainbow forced their way over the mass of students surrounding an open spot near the stage, where Pinkie wiggled her upper body, making faces with abandon under the colorful lights.
"Oh, you found her," Pinkie squealed, throwing her wobbly arms in the air "Are you gonna show me that super-secret-special-dance of yours now?"
"You can bet on it, Pinkie."
Applejack met her gaze with a nod.
"Okay, girls show me what you got."
The electronic beat died on the large speakers and a dancing remix of a pop song took its place. Applejack stood by Rainbow's side, moving her arms to the sides of her body in synchrony with the other girl as the famous bass line took over, turning their heads in unison. They closed their eyes, effortlessly stepping back and forth in harmony, gathering cheers from the audience.
"Not bad, but take a look at this." Pinkie giggled. She crouched on place, her face transforming into a parody of any cover of Rarity's favorite magazines, lips pressed together in a pout. She kicked her feet with the beat and moved her arms all around in front of her chest, approaching her friends and turning back again. The students howled in surprise and amusement, Bulk Biceps shouting "yes, queen" in the middle of them, way too excited.
"Wow, she's good." Applejack said, eyes wide open.
"We gotta step our dance up."
The duo sped up their pace, fired up by the heat of competition. Applejack held her hat in place with one hand as she and Rainbow Dash slid on the dancefloor, high-stepping together. It didn't take long until their style started to ooze into the choreography, moves flowing seamlessly from Rainbow shoulders and sharp and precise coming from Applejack.
Across them, Pinkie twisted her hips making her dress spin around and whipped her hair with a grin, not a sign of being dizzy. She made all kinds of faces, holding weird poses now and then as the audience around them clapped to the rhythm, shouting and whistling.
"Yay" cheered Fluttershy, almost inaudible, squeezed between two large seniors.
The music came to a crescendo, the howlings, frenetic steps and laughter filling the space near the stage until the song died on the speakers. There was a brief moment of silence before a slow tune filled the air, pulling out disappointed groans from the students gathering around - and an excited squeal from Rarity and some of her friends across the gym - and the dance came to an end.
"What? That's not fair," said Rainbow Dash with a frown.
"Oh, bummer. I didn't even get the chance to try a death drop."
"Death drop?" Applejack wiped the sweat in her forehead, catching her breath. "That sounds mighty dangerous."
"It's just a name, silly. No one really dies, unless they do."
Applejack opened her mouth to reply. Rainbow didn't give her a chance.
"So, who won?"
"Those guys didn't pick a winner," Rainbow gestured around to the students leaving the spot near the stage and pairing up for the next dance. "Hey, we won, right?" She shouted to a startled Fluttershy.
"Hum…" Fluttershy looked both sides, twisting a lock of her bangs. "I don't know. I mean, hum, I really liked both."
"Folks seemed pretty worked up with that fancy footwork of yours, Pinkie," said Applejack. "Where did ya even learned to do that?"
"Pff, internet." She dismissed the question with a flick of her hand. "Where you girls learned?"
"We made a routine for Spring formal before all that Sunset Shimmer situation."
"Urgh, guys, focus," Rainbow interjected, "You're missing the point here, we need to pick a winner."
"Well, Fluttershy says she likes both, so I guess it's a tie." Pinkie shrugged.
"A tie? C'mon." She threw her hands in the air, her cracky voice an octave higher.
"We could do it one more time, all or nothing. Fluttershy calls Rarity and they get to pick the winner." Applejack suggested.
Fluttershy stared at them from behind her bangs, head sinking between her bony shoulders.
"Have you girls listened to what is playing right now? I can't duckwalk to this super-sweet-and-extra-slow-no-fun-for-singles-romantic-song."
"Ah reckon Pinkie is right." Applejack sighed.
"Argh, you too, AJ?"
"Girls look at that," Pinkie pointed across the dance floor in a sudden burst of energy, cutting short any argue Rainbow Dash intended to start. "Principal Celestia is bringing the biggest, pinkiest, most delicious looking punch ever." She beamed, her eyes shining in excitement. Pinkie jumped in place, shaking like an old washing machine ready to take flight, as the other girls looked puzzled in the general direction she was pointing, trying to figure out Celestia in the middle of the students.
Without warning, Pinkie grabbed Fluttershy by her wrist. The shy girl squeaked in surprise as her friend dragged her along, dashing through the dancefloor under her indistinct and ignored protests. Applejack moved an inch of the way before Pinkie run into her, but Rainbow wasn't so fast. Pinkie hit her in the shoulder as she ran away, not noticing it in her frenzy, and Dash fell sitting on the floor.
"Ya okay?" Applejack offered a hand and she grabbed with a scowl.
"Ya can't really get mad at her, it's just Pinkie being Pinkie."
"Yeah, I know." Rainbow easied her expression, looking back at some students doing their best to deflect the cannon pink ball running around with Fluttershy attached.
Applejack was just a few inches away, still wrapping Rainbow's hand into her grasp, sending warmth all up to her elbow. Dash turned her head again and none of them moved.
Rainbow blinked twice, the air becoming dense around her like it always did when she was alone with AJ. She watched the colorful lights dance over Applejack's eyes as the ballad played on the speakers, a lump in her throat trying to escape and Rainbow swallowed. A subtle shade of pink spread thought Applejack's freckles as she gazed back, lips slightly open.
"We should get out of here, this place is way too mushy," Rainbow freed her hand and passed it through her bangs in an exaggerated motion, trying to conceal the warmth showing on her face.
The girls walked to the main exit of the gym. They looked around the room, focusing on Photo Finish taking a shot of Lyra and Sweet Drops and Pinkie surrounding Principal Celestia with a bowl of punch over her head, in an attempt to shake off the awkwardness between them.
"Still can't believe you set for a tie." Rainbow was the first to speak as they advanced into the corridor. The few students outside the door were talking and laughing and didn't pay any attention to them.
"Pinkie had a point, Ah reckon. Ah love to win just like ya, but a dance-off doesn't sound so mighty important now that we saved the whole school from a demoness and all."
"Yeah, but a win is a win. Better finish the day with two of them than one."
Applejack scratched her chin, working with that logic. "Well, whaddya say we gather the girls on the Acre's next Saturday and go against Pinkie again?"
"There's gonna have any cider?"
"Ah could fix some."
"Awesome." Rainbow perked up, eyes glowing in excitement "I'll drink ten gallons of it. And then we'll crush her, no ties."
The girls entered the main hallway, leaving the muffled music behind. There was no one but them in the infinite rows of lockers.
"You think we'll ever see Twilight again?"
" She got her crown back and the ol' portal is all closed, so my guess is no more princess and no more magic for a while."
"That sucks, those pony powers were really cool."
" I mean, have you seen me fly, right? I went so high and then I glided like WHOOSH" Rainbow motioned with an arc and jumped in front of Applejack, walking backward in the corridor. The farmer rolled her eyes with a smirk.
"Then I went so fast over you and Rarity-"
"Ah was there, Rainbow," she chuckled.
"So you saw when I did that backflip."
"Everyone did, you almost crashed into the portal."
"Crash? Pff. You're just sore 'cause I looked so cool and all you got were cute pony ears." Rainbow provoked with a grin.
"They weren't cute," Applejack furrowed her brows.
"Oh, so cute."
"Ya had them too, right there in your head."
"Nah, mine was totally cool and aerodynamic."
"Like Fluttershy's? 'Cause she could fly too and her pony ears were really dang fluffy."
"Nope. Totally different."
Rainbow crossed her arms, facing an unamused Applejack. The farmer stared at her sulked face, eyes wandering slightly to her compressed lips as Rainbow tried her best not to ease under her gaze. A loud sound of metal hitting the floor and sudden cussing from a familiar voice cut between the girls picking on each other, grabbing their attention.
They ran to the entrance wall to find Sunset Shimmer jumping in one foot while holding the other between her hands, face twisted in a grimace of pain. Snips was in front of her, yelling to Snails help him pic the toppled cart full of bricks on the floor, the skinny boy just staring at them both in confusion.
Snails approached Sunset under Snip's protests, trowel full of cement in his hand. "Are you okay?" He asked in a monotonous slow tone, blinking first one eye then the other.
"Of course I'm not okay, this idiot is trying to kill me."
"I'm not. None of it would happen if you helped me with the cart in the first place."
"Are you kidding me? I'm doing the front wall all on my own, why you didn't call Snails?"
"Does he looks like he can lift anything to you?"
"I could try." Snails cleaned his ear with a finger, looking at the puffy yellow content with a blank expression.
"We shouldn't even be here," Snips snapped, "If it wasn't for you, we would be right in that party, picking up girls and eating cupcakes." He pointed a finger at her, brows almost fusing to his hard eyes.
"He has a point, you know." Snails shrugged, the cement in his trowel dropping over Sunset's jacket, smudging her shirt and dripping to her boots.
The boys gasped and tensed up at the sight of the mess. Even Rainbow and Applejack held their breaths, eyes wide open in expectation.
Sunset flared her nostrils. Her jaw clenched, showing a mass of gritted teeth as she approached Snips and Snails, menacing as only she could be. The boys lowered their heads and closed their eyes, waiting for the worst.
They expected her to start yelling or even send a punch right through their noses, but nothing came. Snips was the first to peek up, followed by an apprehensive Snails. They saw her flustered face contort and her open chest witters, fists trembling slightly around her body as she did the best to keep together, her misery betraying on her face.
"We should do something," Applejack urged.
"Wait," Rainbow held her arm. "Look."
"What is going on here? I heard some noises," said a figure coming from the west hallway, lit only by the faint light of the main hall, broken lamps still hanging from the ceiling.
"Nothing, vice-principal Luna. We were about to start the trophy wall," Sunset ran the back of her hand over her eyes in a swift motion before turning around.
"I see," Luna passed her eyes across the hall, checking the wide hole where the glass doors used to be and the patched patterns of fresh cement around the main wall. She watched Snips drop the trowel on the floor - kicking it behind his body clumsily- and the fallen cart, bricks spread all over the place. Then she saw Sunset Shimmer, all dirty and red.
"Alright, I guess this is enough for tonight," Luna sighed, ticking a piece of paper in her clipboard. "You can go home now."
"Can we go to the party?" Snips asked, enthusiastic. "We might still get some cupcakes, Snails."
Luna raised a brow, "Go home, kid. You're all expected to be here tomorrow morning to keep cleaning this mess."
The boys groaned, disappointed.
"As for you, Sunset Shimmer, come with me. Let's find you some clean clothes in the lost and found."
The girls watched Snips and Snails disappear together in the east hallway, kicking some rubble and complaining. The vice-principal shook her head, taking notes in the clipboard and leading back to the path where she came from, Sunset following her from a distance, eyes on the floor.
"I almost feel bad for her," Rainbow said, squeezing Applejack's arm before releasing it.
"She kinda deserves it after what she did to everybody in this school."
"Ah'm not saying she doesn't, 'cause she does," They started walking, entering the same hallway as the boys a few moments before. "Ah'm just glad Twilight and the girls were willing to give her a second chance."
"I still think it's weird she wants us to look up for Sunset Shimmer."
"She's been nothing but awful, Ah reckon, but Ah can't help but sympathize. If it wasn't for my friends Ah could be just as rotten as her, ya know?"
"What you talking about?"
" If Ah won a dollar every time people call me a hayseed or stick rude notes on my locker about the way Ah talk or the way Ah dress, our barn back home would be twice as big right now."
"What? I didn't know that."
"Guess ya were too busy being awesome to notice, Miss football team captain." Applejack chuckled, hitting Rainbow ribs with her elbow.
"Heh, sorry about that." Rainbow looked away, rubbing her neck. "Since when this is going on?"
"Since the fair in freshman year."
"Are you kidding me?"
"Those jokes and comments got old pretty fast and Ah used to be really upset about'em. Still am sometimes, to be honest." Applejack adjusted her hat and kicked a small piece of rubble before looking at Rainbow again. "If it wasn't for my friends by my side, Ah could have done things Ah would regret, just like her."
"I don't think you would ever get that nasty, AJ," Rainbow passed an arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer.
"Well, Ah never been a pony all alone in a weird dimension, so we'll never know that for sure," Applejack embraced her friend's waist and Rainbow held her breath to the touch of her firm hand holding her tight. "Just hope Sunset accepts our friendship."
"So you really think someone can change like that?"
"Ah guess we'll find out."
"Alright. Now we just need to find a way to make people stop calling you names."
Applejack chuckled, rolling her eyes. "Yeah, right."
"What, I'm serious. And I know how we gonna do it."
"And how's that? You're gonna gather everybody in the schoolyard and shoot'em with a magic friendship beam?" She raised a brow, a smirk crossing her face as she faced the girl by her side.
"That would actually be pretty awesome," Dash raised a brow of her own "But no. We're forming a band."
"How a band will solve anything, Rainbow Dash?"
"Everybody knows being in a group is the coolest thing ever, especially if you're playing with me," Rainbow used her free hand to grab Applejack's hat, placing it in her own head. "We give them one badass performance and BAM: they forget about your drawl and treat you like a rock star."
"That's nonsense, ya know that?"
"Flying ten feet in the air because of some magic pony crown sounds like nonsense as well, but, hey, guess what? It happened." Rainbow shrugged. "I think you're just scared 'cause I'm the best player in town, but It's fine, AJ, I can go easy on you.
"Scared? Geez, ya really are too big for your britches," Applejack let go of her waist, annoyance boiling inside her chest. "Ah ain't scared of anything." She walked in front of Rainbow, crossing the door to the outside yard near the empty soccer field. Dash had to run a few steps to catch up with her.
"So, what you say? We could be The Rainbooms."
"That sounds like the Rainbow Dash's show to me. I can just take off the notes from the locker's door when they appear, end of the story."
"You're a tough girl, I get it, but where's the fun in that?" Rainbow walked around in the trance of her own cracky voice. " I could get the girls to join. I heard Rarity rock the keys, and Pinkie get the Drums. I'd be lead singer, of course."
Applejack relied on the goal post and slid her body to the ground, sitting with a leg bent as Dash continued to speak. Rainbow had that shine in her eyes that the farmer knew too well, the one she got every time the best idea ever crossed her mind - which meant she would keep bragging, either AJ listened or not. She knew she could cut her off or pick on Dash's idea, explain why playing in a band wouldn't bring those mean comments to an end, but she just took a deep breath, deciding it would be best to let it pass this time.
Her eyes wandered to the center of the field and she could picture Rainbow's back when she approached her the day before, her scapulas dancing on the tight shirt as Dash trained alone. She could see Twilight completely breathless trying to figure out how to run in two legs, Rainbow scoring merciless against her. She could even hear Pinkie beaming on the bleachers, "Hugs! Hugs are always good." if she tried hard enough.
"You're not listening to a word I'm saying, are you?" Dash sighed and let her body fall, sitting careless on the grass next to her.
Rainbow grunted. "Playing some wicked solos in front of the school is awesome and I'm sure people will see how cool you are once you get going with your bass."
"Ya said that already."
"Yeah, but you know what? There's another reason why I wanna do this," Applejack faced Rainbow with curiosity. "I want the band 'cause I miss spending time with you, alright?"
"You're really making me say it?"
"Ah might have heard it wrong the first time around."
Rainbow shifted in place. "It's always fun to do stuff with you, like the dance-off, or just spend time after school playing in your garage, okay?" She faced the sky, watching the full moon. Nighttime had this effect over her, making words she wouldn't dare to say slip easily. "It's been forever since the last time we got to do something together."
"Shucks, we really messed up."Applejack ripped out some grass, concealing a smile. "You remember last time?"
"Of course I do, sleepover at Pinkie's."
"Ah never thought Fluttershy could throw a pillow like that." She laughed.
"Yeah, and we got to keep playing that new Daring Do game."
"All the girls went to sleep and we spent hours trying to beat that dang underwater level."
"Then we went outside to check that weird noise-" Rainbow cut herself off and bit her lip, conscious of her words. The air around them shifted, weighing on them.
"And Ah almost kissed ya."
"Yeah." She rubbed her neck, trying to find something to do with her hands.
"Can Ah tell you something?" Rainbow nodded. "That's why Ah got so angry about ya never showing up at the baking sale. It made me look like a liar in front of everyone, but also-" she paused "-also made me think ya didn't want to look at my face anymore."
"You kidding? First the empty stalls and then you stop talking to me at all, I was sure you were ditching me, just didn't know why."
"Ah'm mighty sorry about that."
"Heh, don't be. I should've asked you what was going on instead of keeping away like an idiot."
The girls sat in silence, savoring the irony of the situation. The electricity ran in the air between them, the feel of falling hitting Applejack's belly as they side gazed at each other.
"Do you want to resume from where we stopped the last time?" Dash forced a confident smile, heart beating on her throat.
"Ah reckon Ah do."
Applejack leaned over and held Rainbow's nape with her cold hand. She gazed into her eyes, approaching their faces until their mixed breathing was brushing into their lips, making Dash's heart skip a beat. Applejack closed her eyes and pressed her mouth against hers, enjoying the softness of the thin lips and the warmth coming from Rainbow's cheeks.
Dash sat still, absorbed by the lightness of her perfume and the pressure of Applejack's grasp until the farmer moved away. Rainbow blinked twice before grabbing her freckled shoulders and rushing her back.
Applejack parted her lips, welcoming the harshness of Rainbow's tongue playing with her own. She groaned and pushed forward, their chests touching as the farmer caressed Dash's hair.
"Wow," Rainbow exclaimed
"That was nice," Applejack smiled, cheeks tinted pink.
She passed an arm across Rainbow's shoulder, taking back her hat from Dash's head before pulling her closer again in an embrace.
"So, what happens now?"
"We just kissed, does that mean we have to date now or something?"
Applejack chortled. "Seriously?"
"What? Maybe we should ask Rarity about it."
"Don't ya know what she's gonna say? I am so happy, for you, darling." Applejack put on her best Manehattan accent, sweeping her bangs with affectation. " Then she'll tell us to get all prettied up and to go on three dates in fancy places and wear matching boots or something."
"Geez, that sounds so lame."
"Ya think so?"
"You don't?" Rainbow stared at her, eyes open in frightened surprise.
"Oh, no, Ah think it's a great idea. Best Ah ever heard." Applejack stared at her with the best serious face she could manage. She did the best to stop the corners of her mouth from twisting as Rainbow crumbled into perplexity.
"You're kidding me, right?"
"Does raspberries have seeds?" Rainbow furrowed her brows. Applejack snapped.
She burst into a peal of deep laughter, head thrown back and belly shaking. She had to use her free hand to sweep the moisture from her eyes. "Shucks, Rainbow, of course Ah am."
Dash stared at her, unamused.
"It's been a plumb crazy night" Applejack put a green lock of hair behind Rainbow's ear. "Why don't we just stay like this a little longer and seize the night? We'll have of time to figure out what we wanna do later."
"I guess you're right this time."
Dash kissed the farmer again. She settled her head in the curve of of her neck and they remained in silence for a few minutes, hugging each other on the football field.
"So, AJ, about the band-"