Chapter Three: Sour Apples

Fluttershy heard the gentle sizzling of oil and smelled the mouth-watering aroma of baking pastries. When her eyes fluttered open, she saw Spike turning over some grass pancakes on a grill over the library’s fireplace.

Fluttershy looked around for Twilight and found her at one of the shelves, taking inventory of the library’s books. Fluttershy yawned, prompting Twilight to turn to her. Twilight smiled and said, “Good morning, Fluttershy! How did you sleep?”

Fluttershy rubbed her eyes and replied, “I slept fine, thank you.” After yawning again, she asked, “What time is it?”

Fluttershy looked at the clock, then gasped. It was ten twenty-two. “Oh no!” Fluttershy shouted. “I’ve forgotten to feed my animal friends!”

Fluttershy started to gallop for the door, but Twilight giggled and said, “It’s alright, Fluttershy; I went and fed them while you were sleeping.”

Fluttershy stopped at the door, sighed relievedly, and smiled at Twilight. “Thank you,” she said.

Spike flipped a pancake over and asked, “So, what did you two talk about last night?”

“It’s none of your business, Spike,” Twilight said firmly. Spike shrugged and said, “Oh well. I’m sure it’s not very exciting anyway.”

Spike pulled the cakes from the grill and placed them on an already-tall stack he’d balanced on a plate on the ground beside him. He then carefully picked up the plate and steadily carried it to the table, where he placed it in the center. He then ran to the cupboards, where he picked up three sets of dishes, glasses, and silverware, which he then arranged on the table as well.

As Spike retrieved some orange juice from the ice box, Twilight seated herself at the table and patted the stool beside her own. “Come have breakfast with us, Fluttershy,” she said pleasantly.

Fluttershy hid behind her mane. “Oh, umm… well… I wouldn’t want to impose…”

“Hey, I already made the cakes,” Spike said annoyedly as he gathered the syrup and sapphires. “They’re not eating themselves, you know.”

“Oh, okay then,” Fluttershy said, obediently sitting beside Twilight.

Their meal was pleasant and quiet. There was a barely audible crunching noise as Spike chewed the sapphires he had sprinkled over his own cakes, but otherwise it was a quick, silent, tasty little meal. After Fluttershy had finished her cakes and dabbed her lips with a napkin, she cleared her dishes and said, “Thank you for breakfast, Spike. It was delicious.” She then walked out the door and began walking back to her home, calling back “Goodbye,” to Twilight and Spike.

“Goodbye, Fluttershy,” they sang back to her.

As Fluttershy closed the door behind her, she let out a satisfied sigh. She was glad she came; she felt as though a little weight were lifted off her chest, now that she had shared all of her secrets with somepony else. Now she’d have a friend to talk to about it if she ever needed it. She was also glad she could trust Twilight so much; if Twilight could keep this, her biggest secret, she could be trusted with anything.

After Twilight had finished her own breakfast, she put her dishes in the sink as she said to Spike, “Can you hold down the library for a while, Spike? I need to go see Rainbow Dash.”

Spike raised an eyebrow as he stuffed more sapphire-sprinkled pancakes into his mouth. “Dith you doo dalk afou’ Raifo lath nigh’?” he said through his filled cheeks.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Twilight said admonishingly. “And yes, we did.”

“Dith zhe do thomthing wrong?” Spike asked.

“Ooh, yes,” Twilight replied ill-temperedly.

Spike swallowed then asked, “What did she do?”

“Again, it’s none of your business, Spike,” Twilight replied annoyedly. She opened the door as she said, “I’ll be right back,” then exited, closing the door behind her.

Spike was a little more curious now. When he’d visited Fluttershy yesterday, she had clearly just been crying. And whatever had happened, Twilight was more than a little angry now. What could Rainbow Dash have done that was so awful?

* * *

Rainbow Dash was busy enjoying her mid-day nap when she was awakened by the loud ringing of her doorbell. After moaning, rolling over, and yelling a muffled “Go away!” into her cushion of clouds, the doorbell incessantly continued to reverberate through her house. After a few moments of this Rainbow finally groaned, yelled, “Alright, alright! I’m coming!” and groggily walked over to her door. When she pulled it open, she found that the rather somber-looking Twilight stood beyond the threshold.

“Oh, hi, Twilight,” Rainbow said, rubbing her eyes.

“Hello, Rainbow,” Twilight said politely.

“Did ya need something?” Rainbow asked, not quite as politely.

“I need to talk to you,” Twilight replied.

Rainbow shrugged, then turned around and gestured forward. “Come in,” she said.

Twilight walked in and sat on a large, plush cloud while Rainbow returned to her usual bed-cloud. “So, how have ya been?” Rainbow asked idly.

“Fine, thanks,” Twilight said. “I’ll get right to the point. First of all, I know you’re gay, Rainbow.”

Rainbow flinched with great shock. She stuttered incoherently for a moment before saying, “H-h-how did you- who told you?!”

Twilight’s eyes narrowed. “One of your many conquests.”

Rainbow’s gaze darted around; she looked simultaneously embarrassed, annoyed, and a little angry. “Let me guess- you’re here to tell me that I’m ‘unnatural’ and ‘disgusting,’ right?”

Twilight shook her head. “Of course not. I like girls, too.”

Rainbow immediately darted her gaze back to Twilight. She was caught completely off-guard. Another time, she would have immediately begun to hit on Twilight, but at the moment Rainbow could see by Twilight’s serious expression that now wasn’t the time. “So…” Rainbow said, awkwardly shuffling her hooves, “what did you want to talk about?”

“The fact that you have many conquests who could have told me,” Twilight replied.

Rainbow tilted her head confusedly. “Huh?”

Twilight sighed. “Your swinging,” she clarified.

Rainbow cocked an eyebrow. “What about it?” she said.

Twilight took a deep breath. “It’s irresponsible, Rainbow.”

Rainbow glared indignantly at Twilight. “What are you talking about?!” she said. “Oh, is that what you’re here to lecture me about? So you’re one of those prudes who thinks that ponies should wait until marriage? Yeah, well, good luck!” Rainbow pounded her chest. “Nopony’s gonna tie me down!”

Twilight shook her head. “No, I wasn’t saying that either.”

Rainbow was completely confused at this point. “So what are you saying?”

Twilight gave Rainbow an imploring look. “I’m saying you should have been more careful. From what I hear, you regularly have one-night stands and had physical, nonromantic relationships with some of your friends, all at the same time.”

Rainbow gave Twilight an affronted look. “Yeah, so?” she said.

“So you’ve hurt other girls, Rainbow.”

Rainbow’s eyes widened. “Hurt them?!” Rainbow asked. “What are you talking about? I haven’t hurt anypony! Well, not unless they’ve talked smack about me or Fluttershy or Gi-”

Rainbow gasped with realization and slapped her hooves over her mouth. Twilight looked mildly surprised, so at least Rainbow could count them out as the potential snitch.

After Rainbow put her hooves back down she said, “You can’t tell anyone, Twi! Nopony’s supposed to know!”

Twilight recited, “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye,” while making the obligatory motions. She continued, “Anyway, that’s not what I meant. I meant you’ve hurt them emotionally.”

Now Rainbow looked a little worried. “How’d I do that?” she asked, genuinely confused.

Twilight continued gently, “Maybe you don’t know this, Rainbow, but ponies tend to develop attachments to who they sleep with. You might not have been able to see this, but I guarantee some girls have fallen for you and been crushed when you casually left them for somepony else.”

Rainbow’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?” she said.

“Absolutely,” Twilight replied.

Rainbow’s eyes narrowed and she demanded, “So how come I haven’t fallen for anypony? At this point, I should be in love with like a ton of girls, right?”

“It’s because you have a different idea of what it means than everypony else. You just regard it as a way to enjoy yourself, but for most everypony else it means more than that. For most of everypony else, it’s a very intimate and vulnerable thing to do. They naturally develop feelings for you, hoping that you’ll return them. Naturally, since you don’t, they’re heartbroken.”

Rainbow sat in silence, not knowing what to think. Was Twilight right? Had so many girls really fallen in love with her? Of course, Rainbow knew she was very hot and very cool, but…

Rainbow was honestly a bit surprised at the prospect. She now realized that perhaps one of the reasons she hadn’t thought anypony would fall for her was that she thought she wasn’t the type ponies would fall for. She was hot, famous, and good in bed, yes, but what more did she have to offer than that? For an actual relationship, ponies wanted someone who was dependable, understanding, and kind. With a sinking heart Rainbow suddenly realized she didn’t think she was any of those things.

Rainbow’s ears flattened against her head. “Wow,” she said. “I… I did all that, huh?”

Rainbow fought against her tears. “Some friend I am,” she said. She never felt less true to her Element than now. A loyal friend didn’t hurt her friends like this. “Who have I hurt?” Rainbow asked.

Twilight shook her head. “It’s not my place to tell you.” She smiled at Rainbow. “But just know- I’m here for you. If you ever need somepony to talk about anything, you can always talk to me.”

Twilight trotted over to Rainbow and lifted her chin up, looking right into her eyes. “And Rainbow,” she said, “you’re a wonderful friend. The fact that you feel guilty about any damage you’ve caused makes me know that you would never do it on purpose. You just… didn’t know, that’s all.”

Twilight hugged Rainbow. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You have a good heart. I can see why you’d be so easy to fall in love with.”

With a last, sympathetic smile, Twilight walked back to the door and waved at Rainbow, saying, “Bye!” She then exited, closing the door behind her.

Rainbow sat alone on her cloud, thinking over what she’d just heard. She had broken some hearts. Who was in love with her? Rainbow closed her eyes and rubbed her head. Could Fluttershy or Gilda be in love with her? Rainbow chuckled. “Nah,” she said. “Gilda didn’t have any trouble with crushing our friendship when she visited, and Flutters has been doing just fine without me.” Rainbow cringed. “In fact… I’ve been pretty awful to her since we came here.”

Rainbow bitterly remembered some of the times they’d been together since they’d moved here. The trip up to kick the dragon out of his cave stuck out particularly vividly in her mind. She’d callously told the others that Fluttershy would just be dead weight and berated Fluttershy for her anxiety over it all.

Rainbow started tearing up again. Even if Fluttershy wasn’t in love with her, Rainbow had still treated her like a disposable toy. Rainbow began whimpering as she felt tears begin rolling down her cheeks. Fluttershy was one of her best friends, and she had still treated her like garbage. Even after Fluttershy had spent so many nights alleviating her loneliness.

Rainbow had never felt so guilty. How could she even tell who she had to make amends to? She couldn’t even remember some of the girls she’d seduced. Who had she led on? Was she still leading anyone on? How could she let them down easy? What could she do to make it up to them?

Rainbow began sobbing into her cloud cushions, despairingly coming up with no answers. She cried for a good long while before she at last sat up, sniffed, wiped her nose, and sighed. She might not be able to clean up all of her mistakes, but she was still going to at least try to atone for some of them.

Where should she start? Rainbow laid on her fore hooves, thinking about it for a moment. First, she needed to apologize to Fluttershy. She also needed to right anything wrong she’d done to her. Or at least make up for it. But how?

Rainbow groaned and rolled over. “I don’t have anything she’d want,” Rainbow said. “And a stupid little apology isn’t gonna be enough. What can I do for her?”

Rainbow closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. “Come on… come on…” she muttered. At last the answer struck her.

Apple Bloom asking Fluttershy about why she didn’t have a special somepony had brought her to tears. Maybe Fluttershy wanted a girlfriend, but was just unable to get one because… well, look at how her last attempt to do that turned out. When she’d tried last time, the entire world turned against her. Maybe the reason it upset Fluttershy so much was because she really wanted to have a special somepony, but to do that she’d have to come out, and she was afraid all of her friends would abandon her if she did.

Rainbow sat up. “I know what I’ll do for Fluttershy,” she said resolutely. “I’m going to break the ground for her.”

Rainbow was going to come out to their friends and thereby test how accepting they would be to Fluttershy. Rainbow flinched, realizing that she was risking the abandonment of her friends as well, but then she shook her head. “No,” Rainbow growled. “I’m done running away. If my friends ditch me, let ’em. I deserve it anyway.”

Rainbow smiled, remembering something. “Well, at least Twilight will be on my side.”

Rainbow chuckled to herself. Twilight was a fillyfooler too. “That’s weird,” Rainbow reflected. “I’m usually able to tell.” Rainbow hadn’t seen Twilight check anypony else out. Maybe Twilight was just married to her work. She was completely devoted to her mission of mailing her friendship lessons to Celestia-

Rainbow’s eyes widened, then she grinned. “Ahh,” she said. Yes, Twilight was completely devoted to Celestia. Obsessively. Sure, Twilight was a pretty nutty egghead of a student. But when she’d gone completely off the deep end only a couple months ago, while she’d been pretty upset over the idea of failing, what she was really upset over was the idea of disappointing Celestia.

Rainbow snickered. Well, if she ever wanted to get her hooves on Twilight, Rainbow knew now that she’d just have to dye her coat white, dye her mane in nebula colors, paint a sun on her flanks, and get a tiara and some golden shoes. Then all she’d have to do is give Twilight a little “test,” then offer her a reward for acing it…

Rainbow shook her head. No, she couldn’t do that anymore. If she was going to have Twilight, she was going to win her over honestly. She was going to be serious. No more cheap, easy conquests. Rainbow wasn’t going to hurt anypony else.

* * *

Spike grumbled as he put plates on the table. Yesterday and today had been very weird and very busy, and he’d never been given a break. Twilight was cooking some hayburgers and hay fries for their friends, who Rainbow was inviting over at that moment. “What is this for, Twilight?” Spike asked irritatedly. “I was gonna read some comics.”

“Rainbow’s gonna tell something very important to all our friends,” Twilight replied. Spike sighed as he went to gather some glasses of water. “Is this about Fluttershy and Rainbow?”

“Yes,” Twilight said. Spike was extremely confused now. What in Celestia’s name could be going on? Spike sighed and said, “I suppose you’re still not gonna tell me about it?”

“It’s not mine to say,” Twilight said.

Spike shrugged. “Oh well. At least I’ll hear about it from Rainbow.”

Right then Rainbow darted back into the library, panting slightly. Owlowiscious hooted in surprise as Rainbow said, “Everypony’s coming.”

“Great,” Twilight said. She nodded over toward Spike. “Help set the table, please.”

“Sure thing,” Rainbow said, then she walked over to help Spike carry the glasses.

After they had set up the table and Twilight had finished cooking dinner, they waited at the table for twenty minutes before their guests started arriving. While they waited Rainbow said to Twilight, “Hey, thanks for doing this.”

“No problem,” Twilight said cheerfully. “If you ever need my help, I’m right here.”

Rainbow smiled. “Thanks.”

After a long silence, the first to arrive was Pinkie Pie. She bounced cheerfully into the room, saying, “Hi, everypony! Hi, Dashie! Where’s the surprise you told me about?”

Rainbow chuckled nervously. “Actually, the surprise isn’t a thing; it’s a secret.”

Pinkie gasped. “A secret? I love secrets! They’re so mysterious and secretive! So what is it, Dashie? Huh? Huh?”

Rainbow gave Pinkie an anxious smile. “I’ll tell you when everypony else is here. It’s… not gonna be easy to say.”

Pinkie tilted her head quizzically, then closed her eyes and grinned. “Okay!”

Pinkie bounced around the library for the next few minutes. “Ooh, I can’t wait to hear the secret! I wonder what it is? Oh, I hope the others come soon!”

“Settle down, Pinkie,” Twilight said. “Everypony should be here any minute.”

Right after she’d said it, the door opened and they all turned to see Rarity and Fluttershy entering together. “Good evening!” Rarity greeted them jovially.

Twilight said, “How are you doing, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy smiled. “I’m doing very well. Rarity took me to the spa, and now I feel a lot better.”

“That’s good,” Twilight said. As Rarity and Fluttershy took their seats, Applejack entered close behind them. “Sorry I’m late, ya’ll,” she said, taking off her hat and wiping some sweat from her forehead. “One of our barrels broke, and we had a right mess to clean up.”

“It’s alright,” Twilight said. Once everyone was seated, Pinkie shouted, “So, are you gonna tell us the secret now, Dashie?”

Applejack and Rarity raised their eyebrows. “‘Secret’?” Rarity said. “Is that what you wanted to talk about?”

Rainbow chuckled anxiously and shuffled her hooves. “Yeah,” she said. “But… if it’s all the same to you, would you all mind if we ate first? It might… uh… upset the rest of the evening.”

They all replied that they wouldn’t mind, then Pinkie cried, “Dig in!!” and they began eating.

There was little conversation, and the meal was over quickly. Once they’d all put their dishes away, they all sat back at the table and Pinkie asked eagerly, “So, can you tell us the secret now, Dashie?”

Rainbow shuffled her hooves for a moment, took a deep breath, then looked over at Twilight. Twilight smiled and nodded, reassuring her.

Rainbow exhaled and said, “Alright. First, you all have to promise you won’t tell anypony.”

Everyone recited, “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

Rainbow took another breath, then said, “Alright. Here it goes.”

Rainbow shuffled her hooves, darted her eyes around, and began blushing. As she gathered her courage Pinkie leaned forward, her eyes wide with excited anticipation.

Rainbow licked her lips. “Alright. So, I’m a… a…”

Rainbow tightly shut her eyes. She finally blurted out, “I’mafillyfooler.”

Applejack’s eyes widened with shock and she said, “Wha-” but she was interrupted by Pinkie Pie, who leapt straight into the air with an extremely high, long, dramatic gasp, then shot out of the library, leaving the door lightly creaking as it swayed behind her.

Everyone stared after her, stunned. After a few moments Rainbow sank down, her ears flat against her head. “Well, that went well,” she said sulkily. Twilight reached over and patted her shoulder sympathetically.

Everyone turned back to Rainbow. “You… you’re really a fillyfooler?” Applejack asked, her shock still evident.

Spike scratched his head. “Uhh… what’s a fillyfooler?”

“It means I like Mares,” Rainbow said flatly. Spike’s eyes narrowed in puzzlement. “You like Mares…?” His eyes then shot open, and he said, “You mean, like, you like like Mares?!”

Rainbow shrugged. “Yeah.”

Spike slumped against his chair. “Wow. That’s… weird.”

“No it isn’t, Spikey-wikey,” Rarity said. “There are actually many ponies like that. There’s nothing weird about it- it’s just a little uncommon, that’s all.”

Rainbow perked back up. Rarity was on her side?

Applejack huffed. “Ah disagree,” she said, frowning. “It’s more than just weird- it’s downright wrong.”

Rarity and Twilight turned angrily to Applejack. “Why do you say that?” Twilight asked.

“It just ain’t natural,” Applejack replied. “A Mare oughta be with a Stallion, and a Stallion oughta be with a Mare. That’s the nature of things.”

“And why, pray tell, do you make that declaration?” Rarity asked.

Applejack glared at her. “You can’t make a foal with two Mares or two Stallions. If it were meant to be that way, they could. But they can’t. And the line has to be drawn somewhere- say it’s alright for a Mare to be with another Mare or a Stallion to be with another Stallion, next thing ya know they’ll say it’s alright for a pony to be with lotsa other ponies, or for me to be with Big Mac, or Winona.”

Twilight seemed especially incensed, but before she could respond Rarity said, “Now Applejack, you have no basis for that claim. Ponies are already allowed to be with their own gender, and nopony except crazy ponies are trying to marry their pets or their siblings. Ponies also said that it wasn’t right for Unicorns to marry Pegasi or Earth ponies.”

Applejack stood up. “Ah don’t care what ya say. It ain’t right- Ah don’t want my friends oglin’ me without my knowledge, and ah don’t want nothin’ to do with this.”

Twilight placed her hoof on the table. “I’ll have you know, Applejack, that I’m bisexual. I like girls too. So if you don’t want to be Rainbow’s friend anymore, you’re not my friend anymore either.”

Applejack’s eyes widened with shock, then she glared at Twilight. “That’s alright by me. Ah don’t want friends who keep secrets like that anyway. Goodbye.”

Applejack trotted briskly out the door, then slammed it behind her.

Everyone was silent for a while, then Rainbow sank back down, tears welling in her eyes. “Well, great,” she said, her voice cracking. “I’ve lost two of my best friends tonight. Things couldn’t be better.”

Rarity shook her head. “Of course not, darling.” She walked over and comfortingly stroked Rainbow’s mane. “You still have me and Twilight.” Rarity turned to Fluttershy. “And you too, right, Fluttershy?”

Fluttershy was hiding almost completely out of view, trembling behind the table, only her eyes peeking over the edge. Rainbow blinked upon seeing her; she’d completely forgotten that she was there.

“Umm… yes,” Fluttershy whispered, rising back up. She was trembling. “Oh dear… Applejack… and Pinkie…”

Tears began welling in Fluttershy’s eyes, as well, and then she broke down and began sobbing loudly. “I… I can’t believe…”

Rarity trotted over to Fluttershy and embraced her. “Shh, shh…” she whispered soothingly. “It’ll be alright.”

Rainbow sighed, put her chin on the table, and allowed tears to fall silently from her eyes. “This didn’t go nearly as well as I’d hoped…” she muttered.

Rarity turned back to Rainbow, still holding Fluttershy. “Applejack’s being ridiculous,” she said. “So what if you or Twilight might be attracted to her? It’s no different than Spikey’s crush on me. He’s doing no harm, and we can still be friends.”

Rainbow smiled softly. “Well, honestly, I think you’re all really hot.”

Rarity smiled back. “Well, I’m flattered, just as I said. No harm’s been done, and we’re still friends.”

“And I’ll still be your friend,” Spike said, standing.

Rainbow smiled at Spike, her tears flowing more quickly. “Thanks.”

Spike turned to Twilight. “So, you’re a… um, ‘fillyfooler’ too?”

Twilight smiled. “Yup.”

Spike scratched his head. “Wow. So two of my friends are fillyfoolers?”

“Three,” Fluttershy whispered, and they all turned back to her. Fluttershy gave them a small smile as she wiped her nose. “I’m a fillyfooler too.”

“Wha-” Spike said, growing more stunned by the second. He turned to Rarity. “Are you one too?”

Rarity chuckled. “Oh, no, dear. Although I will admit the very occasional attraction to the odd Mare, by and large only Stallions satisfy my tastes.”

They all shared a laugh, and they all felt a little better. Rainbow stood up and said wearily, “I guess I’d better get going now. See ya tomorrow, everypony.”

“Just one more thing,” Rarity said, standing. “Rainbow, can I tell Sweetie and let her tell her friends?”

Rainbow raised a brow. “Why?”

Rarity smiled enigmatically. “I think they’ll benefit from knowing. I’ll make sure they don’t tell anypony. Trust me.”

Rainbow thought about it for a moment, then smiled, shook her head, and shrugged. “Alright. I guess you can. Good night, everypony.”

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