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Summer Nights (complete)

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Applejack had mulled it over for way way way too long. If she didn't do something about it pretty soon, ponies were gonna find out. She couldn't hide it anymore and if she kept trying she was just gonna burst! Every time she thought about it the farm mare's heart skipped a beat and then took to hammering away in her chest like she had just bucked a hundred apple trees bare! It was her first thought in the morning and the last thought every night. She just couldn’t keep it back any more. 

 

And so Applejack had taken the Princess of Friendship into her confidence. If she couldn't trust the princess then who could she trust? She didn't want anypony in her family finding out, not just yet anyway. AJ was seen in a certain light by her family and she didn't want that to change. She worried that letting on might make her seem weak. She certainly didn't want that! Applejack was many things but darn it all she was not weak and nopony would ever prove otherwise! 

 

But she had to admit...on this one she had weaknesses. Her heart was directing her head at this point and she needed help.

 

"Twilight!" She opened the door and let her friend in. "So glad yah could make it!"

 

"Sure Applejack! What did you want to ask me about?" Twi jumped in no holds barred. All she knew was AJ had asked for her help and finding out what she needed was definitely of interest. Applejack wasn't always keen on asking for help so this was something important no doubt!

 

"Wow! huh huh..." She laughed nervously. "Yah uh mind if we walk and talk? Might make it easier for me to share?"

 

Soon the two were walking through the orchard. After some small talk Applejack finally let the truth slip.

 

"So yeah... all that tah say... I uh... I'm crushin' on Rarity somethin' fierce and I had tah tell somepony." The mare's cheeks blushed crimson as she let the secret go. She suddenly felt super vulnerable. 

 

"Wow..." Twilight's excitement rose! This was amazing news! "Thank you for trusting me with this Applejack. So, when are you going to tell her?"

 

"Tell her!" Applejack exclaimed. "I could hardly tell you! How am I supposed tah tell her?! Just saunter up an' say 'hey there good lookin?' I don't think so!"

 

"I'll help you AJ, don't worry about a thing!"

-------------

 

The Summer Solstice celebration was taking place just a few weeks later and three days before the event a special letter was delivered to Rarity's home.

 

Dearest Rarity,

 

As one of my closest friends I would like to invite you to a special viewing of the Summer Solstice Celebration at the Castle in Canterlot. Please arrive at the castle the night before the event. All your meals will be taken care of and you will have a private room as well. I've invited Pinkie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Applejack as well so it should be a fun day in the city for all of us! 

 

Your Friend,

Twilight Sparkle

 

 

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Canterlot. Oh, how she loved this city.

It was the height of Equestrian nobility, the ideal of national thought and form. The glamour and sophistication that characterized the city was something that Rarity embodied internally so naturally that she always felt like a citizen of Canterlot trapped in a small town. Not that she minded her home but her heart was addicted to the grandeur of the Equestrian capital. Manehattan had its charms and Stalliongrad whispered seductively in the far north, but Canterlot was the jewel in her heart. When Twilight offered her the chance to participate in a special Summer Solstice Celebration at the castle of all places, she didn't have to think for nary a moment before accepting. Indeed, her schedule lined up well regardless and she was planning a trip to Canterlot the week after so it aligned, like the stars, rather perfectly for the busy mare.

Perish the thought of her ever being too busy for her friends, however. Despite her burgeoning fashion empire demanding more and more of her attention and, admittedly, lessening her ability to simply enjoy the little things in life as much as she once did, she always ensured that she had the time for those she cared so deeply for. Indeed, all her friends were so busy nowadays. It used to be they could make a schedule and then abandon it, aware they could make it up the next day or sometime soon. No social event was out of reach nor a friend out of touch. Now a missed lunch or spa date between friends felt like a real missed opportunity. She didn't mean to be dramatic- they saw each other plenty enough, at the very least at the School of Friendship- but an element of casual camaraderie had slowly been replaced by something more time intensive. No matter. Any time spent with one another was time well spent regardless.

So of course she replied positively to the invitation and packed for a nice little trip to the city, including some days after the Solstice was through. She was a little curious as to why there was a letter, of course. Why not simply ask Rarity herself? Honestly, Twilight could be so mysterious sometimes. Or was it obtuse? yes, obtuse. It smelled like something was up and you didn't need Shadow Spade to tell you that. She arrived to the city on the appointed night- why hadn't they all taken the train together?- and to the castle soon afterwards. It was busy with many festivities and she was a well known heroine to the Guards so walking into the main lobby was no issue. Nor was her fashion, not that it ever was!

All she had to do was find her pesky, elusive friends and enjoy them and the Solstice!

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Keep it together! AJ muttered to herself and tapped her front hoof nervously on the table top. She tried to keep her breathing calm. Twilight knew what she was doing. There was no way her friend was going to let her down. 

 

The Princess of Friendship trotted into the tea room at the castle. "Applejack! I'm so glad you made it! Everything is going smoothly," She sat down at the table next to her friend. "You look nervous," She smiled, trying to instill confidence in the usually overly confident farm mare.

 

"Ha!" AJ dropped her hoof back under the table and smirked. "Me? Nervous? No way! I'm as cool as an apple core in blizzard!" This was followed by her regular stream of half hearted laughter.

 

"Well, everything is all planned out! And don't worry, I didn't tell the other girls anything!" Twilight prided herself on following details and not just telling everypony was a big detail!

 

"Thank yah Twi, I don't know how I'd ever get up the nerve ta do this without yer help!"

-----

The summer sun was sinking fast and the solstice would soon begin! Ponies lined the streets of Canterlot to watch the spectacle while enjoying the warm summer air. Ponies with special invite also lined the rails of the castle though the promenade deck had been reserved for only the most special of friends. All of the Mane 6 had been invited to the promenade to watch the event in style!

 

"Wee!" Pinkie gave off a happy squeal as she bounded forward towards Twilight. "Thank you soooo much for the invite Twilight! It's Summer Solstice party time!"

 

"Oh, I just hope all our little friends can enjoy this as much as we do," Fluttershy lilted as she made her way out onto the deck with a collection of birds and bats flitting around her.

 

AJ trotted out too though she didn't have as much to say. She was super preoccupied with what she was going to do later.

 

"I'm so glad you all could make it!" Twilight hugged her friends tight. "It just seems harder and harder for us girls to get any time together lately!"

 

"Seriously! It's gonna be so cool to just kick back and relax with you guys like the good old days!" Rainbow exclaimed as she dove in to land from somewhere above.

 

"Yep!" AJ tried to shake off the nervous energy building inside her. "Let the good times roll huh?"

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Ahh, the activity of the city hummed along with all the excitement that it was known for in festival season, amplified by the presence of so many famous ponies. The Summer Solstice Celebration had morphed over the years from a small celebration with a few hundred to maybe a few thousand ponies to a national party day, most acutely felt in Canterlot itself. Row upon row of sales spoke to the commercial aspect of it, while musicians and entertainers of all stripes flooded the city for concerts and gigs and all the parties. Their faces were plastered on advertisements that lined the street and she could hear the far off vocals of some early performances, and the distant laughter of some comedy act. She was not here for any of that, however. She was there for her friends, and she followed the ticket to the royal palace, and from there a series of security points where her visage and ticket were enough to gain her entrance. In no time she was at the promenade deck and caught sight of her dear friends.

 

To say that they were important to her was an understatement. While she was justly proud of her career and backbone, she knew for a fact that each and every one of them had enriched her being beyond her understanding in their own unique ways. Fluttershy's gentle nature had shown her kindness and patience in the face of adversity was to be justly rewarded in time. Rainbow Dash's will to achieve her dream had emboldened Rarity to achieve hers. Pinkie Pie's boundless enthusiasm for every aspect of life was infectious in all of the best ways, and gave Rarity a boost of energy whenever she caught sight of her transparently positive pony friend. Twilight Sparkle had shown Rarity that anything and everything was possible, that balance and fairness in all things was right and proper, and not to mention that due diligence was a sure sign of success. And then there was Applejack. A special case, if only because she had known the mare longer than the others and didn't think she had necessarily learned anything from her lately. Not because she hadn't learned a lot, mind you...but Applejack was as familiar to Rarity as a proper stitch. Mysteries had long ago been dispatched between them. She was a dear friend, her oldest acquaintance, and one of the best mares she knew.
 

"Hello, everypony!" She said with a cheery entrance, head held high as she entered the promenade. She struck a pose when she had their attention, so as to better accentuate her outfit. She wore a winter hat and a fine coat with faux white furs with two matching pairs of aquamarine booties, also topped with faux fur. "I came dressed for the occasion, no?" She giggled and tittered before hugging the closest of her friends. "So good to see you! And such a special occasion to boot. I cannot imagine seeing the Summer Solstice in a better location than this. Thank you dearly, Twilight. Though I must ask, why this one? Something special about this Summer Solstice? You wouldn't be taking over Celestia's celestial duties now, would you?" She winked as part of her frivolity, though a part of her couldn't deny that with Twilight, almost anything was possible.

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AJ gulped quietly as Rarity made her entrance to the promenade. She looked even more stunning than usual in that fancy get up. The farm mare couldn't really understand why the unicorn liked the dressin' up stuff so much, but hay, if it made you look that good then why the heck not? She cleared her throat and rubbed up under her forelocks for a moment. She had to stay calm and strong. That was who she was and who she'd always be! Nothin' a pretty unicorn was gonna do to change that!

 

Even as they interacted with their friends AJ's nerves failed her yet again. As she was pulled in for a hug the scent of Rarity's perfume filled her nostrils. She couldn't help but inhale deeper before they stepped apart. Being close to the unicorn made her weak in the knees to say the least! 

 

"Well, Celestia and Luna promised me a special display for the sunset of the longest day of the year!" Twilight spoke enthusiastically. It was true that the other Princesses had promised something special for this year and asked Twilight to invite all of her friends to see it. It just so happened that AJ had asked for her help not long after she had been told that something special was already being planned. Everything had worked out too perfectly!

 

"That sounds like it's probably somethin' really good!" AJ trotted over to the Princess. "I wonder what it is..."

 

The girls spent time talking and and relaxing on the promenade. It was a glorious evening, if a little on the chilly side for this time of year. Applejack gazed out over the crowds of ponies in Canterlot, her eyes resting on the slowly setting sun. She had know Rarity for such a long time. Much longer than the others. They had always been close friends. They understood each other. When just the two of them were together things just naturally clicked. It had taken a lot of years for the feelings she had to build up. AJ knew that part she loved the best about Rarity was that they just felt right together. Natural and free. However, bottling up her feelings was taking that away from her.

 

That's why she had resolved to let her feelings show. She had to tell Rarity. Sure it would probably mess with their friendship some if the unicorn didn't feel the same way. At this point it was a gamble she was willing to take!

 

A short while later members of the royal guard starting setting a table on the promenade. This was soon laden with food and drink for Twilight and her friends. 

 

"Looks yummy!" Pinkie proclaimed as she popped a candied apple slice into her mouth. "It is yummy!" She giggled and dug into the food. 

 

Soon all the friends were eating and laughing together. AJ would have loved the time if not for the knot in her stomach. Soon it would be up to her... to let her feelings be known...

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It would stand to reason that if they were being invited up here that the Princesses may have something up their royal sleeves. After all, it had been a number of years since this special collective had been formed and the Princesses rarely invited them as a group to anything less than some sort of unique event. It usually ended with them saving Equestria. Hopefully this 'something special' wasn't that because it had become a bit trite over time and she had just enough of this adventuring malarkey, thank you very much! "Oooh, sounds splendid. Hopefully it won't be the sort of special that ends up with us having to save the world again. I'm not dressed for that activity, not tonight," she said with more than a little hint of concern. After all, there was rarely a time when it seemed like her concern could be called misplaced. Luckily, even if rarely was she wrong when she allowed her concern to show, she was around the proper ponies in case pessimism was shown to be wise.

 

The food arrived and soon Pinkie Pie was on it, with the rest of her friends no doubt close behind. Rarity might have some later but at this moment she didn't really feel like eating. Being here with her friends was good enough nourishment for the fashionista's feisty soul at the moment. Honestly, for as silly as it sounded it was true. They all did something important in making her feel whole. She once heard that Equestrians existed substantially in a world of almost universally unyielding kindness, where uncouth and unkind elements were the exception rather than the rule and this seeped into how they had evolved. Maybe Twilight could tell her if any of it made sense but she had to say that she didn't feel the need to eat as long as she was enjoying the fine company gathered tonight. In time however, everypony moved over to the food and so did Rarity. She wasn't going to be impolite, after all. "A small bite can't hurt my figure tonight, I suppose," she said with mock concern and a smile as she moved and made small talk.

 

"Rainbow darling, did you really not think to do something with your mane tonight? Part of it is still matted from a show. Tell me you at least showered!"
"Fluttershy, that was a marvellous display when you got that manticore to calm down on the road out of town. What was his name, again?"
"Pinkie Pie, did you SEE- or, more accurately, HEAR- Cranky and Matilda? I couldn't believe my own ears. I didn't think Cranky could laugh."
"Twilight, you're getting better about presentation recently. Have you considered getting a formal design for your castle staff?"

 

In time she made her way to the balcony, levitating the plate over the side while she threw her crossed front hooves over, gazing out over the city.
It gave her some time to think. Applejack seemed odd, didn't she? SOmething about her seemed pensive, not as direct and actionable as normal. Was something the matter? If it was, she was bottling it up rather well. No matter. Rarity wasn't a mare who let stuff like that go, by the by. She searched for a topic...ahh, that would do.
"Applejack, dear, come here. I think I spot an apple merchant down there. I wasn't aware your family had been contracted for the festivities tonight!" She asked excitedly, though it was mostly an excuse to pull Applejack closer and get her talking about something she was confident in. Applejack was somepony who operated on stability and if she was unstable she needed to be made stable in order to be comfortable. She knew her friend well. Well, she hoped she did!
 

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AJ had a knot in her guts the size of a raccoon after a night in a corn field...or somethin' like that...

 

She wished fervently that she could just relax and have fun like her closest friends were all doing. They chatted, sipped fancy drinks, munched yummy foods from the Canterlot Castle kitchens. Yet Applejack found herself still standing, hooves up on the railing gazing out over the city. She just had to get these feeling wrangled! The only way she knew how was to just let it all out....but she couldn't! Deep inside she felt ashamed. Twilight had done so much to arrange all this for her to do what needed to be done and she just couldn't get herself to do it! The earth mare had achieved so many wonderful goals in her life. But this one, telling the mare of her dreams what she really thought.... it was different.

 

Of course there was always the looming fact that Rarity wouldn't feel the same way. AJ wasn't even sure if the unicorn would even want to be with a mare. She thought perhaps she would considering the heart melting looks AJ had spied Rarity give to stallion and mare alike. But perhaps that was just Rarity being well, being nice? A sigh escaped AJ's muzzle as she thought of a night with just herself and Rarity with all the truth out on the table. She'd romance the unicorn something wonderful that much was for sure. Nopony would treat Rarity the way Applejack would! AJ was more than genial with friends and family alike...but with the mare of her heart's dersire? Well... it made her heart speed up just to think of it.

 

Applejack, dear, come here. I think I spot an apple merchant down there. I wasn't aware your family had been contracted for the festivities tonight!"

 

The farm mare's blush deepened as Rarity suddenly appeared just down the balcony from her. She sucked in a breath and adjusted her stetson betwixt her ears. Time to be regular Applejack. Calm Applejack. Level headed Applejack... anything but the mushy mess she could feel herself becoming even as she tossed her hooves up next to the unicorn's.

 

"An apple merchant yah say?" She squinted and tried to find where Rarity was gesturing to. "Oh! Ha ha yep!" How could she be so silly to forget about cousin Apple Bonnet! "That's cousin Apple Bonnet alright. She's spendin' a few days gettin' used to the apple sellin' buisness. Came into Canterlot two days ago to get used to the big city." She glanced again and smiled as the mare she was speaking of hoofed a small bag of apples to an eager client. "Looks like she's doin' jus' fine! Even these city ponies can't deny themselves good honest apples..."

 

She glanced over at Rarity, feeling better to be talking about something she knew all about. It felt good to have a little confidence back since she'd spend the past day in nothing but worrying and mulling over areas of her life she had no practice in and no control of. 

 

"How's the food?" AJ asked freely. Suddenly feeling more like her usual self. "That oat bake looks right delicious!" Oh, an' don't forget to throw in something Rarity felt good talking about! "I-i like yer uh outfit Rares. Looks really nice on yah!"

 

The sun finished setting in fire red glory as AJ enjoyed spending time with her friends but particularly Rarity on this evening. It wouldn't be long before the show would begin!

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Rarity looked out at the apple merchant, the one Applejack spoke so proudly of. It was a common theme with Ponyville's favorite citizen. Constant pride in her family, excitement that they exceeded their challenges. There was always pride inherent in the humble mare from Sweet Apple Acres that was constantly forgotten by her friends. Applejack was not a simple mare but she was a mare who knew how to appreciate the simple things and had found her place in life quicker than most. Her pride was no less strong than the pride Rarity or Rainbow Dash felt in their work, even if Applejack was considerably less noisy about her many accomplishments. It took well-earned pride to recognized well-earned pride, and Rarity recognized Applejack above and beyond what others could.
 

"Well, she does seem to be doing well. A word of advice you should feel fine to pass along to her, as well as a word of warning: The avenue she is selling her wares on is known for three things. One, they are thought of as generally low-quality, low-class. Two, having a cart or stall is not well thought of. She may want to look into a new location as well as a storefront. And third, it is known for thieves. Tell her to check her stock at the end of each day and keep very good records of what she has sold so she can accurately report it to the Guards," Rarity fired off quickly. This city was delightful but there were still necessary skills one would need to learn. "They can help her get reimbursed," she finished off positively. It was true: The city would reimburse if it was was legitimately tracked loss due to theft. To a certain amount, anywho.

 

Applejack spoke a bit more rapidly once whatever malaise had conquered her earlier disposition evaporated. The food was indeed a worthy topic! "It is quite good, of course. The Royals certainly don't let the quality of their ingredients or those using them fall below expected standards. I'm not likely to eat too much though. Not entirely hungry just yet. The oak bake does have a nice scent to it, does it not? You're Ponyville's best baker, what do you think?" She asked, ever mindful of what Applejack had done. There was a misnomer in Ponyville, at least by guests, that Pinkie Pie was the baker's dozen when it came to quality and success, but locals knew the truth. There was never an Apple who couldn't cook and Applejack, were she not a farm mare, would almost assuredly have been the familly's baking ace. 

 

Then Applejack rather unusually complimented her on what she was wearing. Well, how nice of her to notice. Applejack may not have necessarily had an eye for fashion or much of a care for it, but even she recognized true glamour when she saw it. She tittered and twirled. "I'm glad you noticed. Actually, you may have some familiarity with it. Your cousin helped model a version of this during the spring shows. Changed a bit of the trim, a few small details, no big deal," she said with a smile. Oh, that little model of hers! Whatever had she done to infect the Apples with such a deadly ailment?! "Oh, has the terrible, awful, corrupting curse of fashion sensibility slowly started to infiltrate the Apple family?" She spoke with mock horror, ending with hooves over her eyes in a dramatic fashion.

The horror!

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Woo-eee, Rarity sure did know a thing or two about Canterlot! Though AJ was a pony with a proper respect and knowledge of business sense, she didn't carry a carrot to a corn field of what Rarity had under her belt. Some ponies night get offended to be offered such a hoof load of information on running an apple stand as she was just given, but not Applejack and certainly not from Rarity. The farm mare knew good common sense when she heard it and everything just mentioned was on that plate.

 

Applejack nodded along as Rarity listed off the advice, ticking it all down in her head. She would be sure to stop Apple Bonnet before she left tonight and pass on the indicated safety measures and tips. She certainly didn't want anything unforeseen befalling her cousin, it was her first time selling in the big city afterall. Up until tonight she had only worked in Appaloosa. Sure, there were thieves there too but Apple Bonnet knew Appaloosa and she didn't know Canterlot!

 

"Whew! I'll be sure tah let 'er know Rarity," She winked at her friend. Feeling more at ease than ever. "Thanks fer the heads up, Hi'm sure cousin Apple Bonnet will but overly obliged to yah!"

 

Then the unicorn made mention of her baking abilities! She had to turn and look out over the city once more as a hint of a blush came to her cheek at the praise. It was true of course, no pony couple bake em; and sell em' like AJ but far be it from her to start braggin' it up right now. 

 

"Learned from the best on that front," She smiled and nodded in the direction of Ponyville. "Granny taught me the basics and Hi just sorta took off from there!" Usually AJ had the appetite of a full grown stallion but she didn't tonight. She may have been loosening up, but the knot in her stomach wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. "Yeah, they do have good ingredients 'ere. Tha best Hi wager since Sweet Apple Acres regularly sends apple shipments, an' zap apple jam, an' cider too on occasion. In fact Hi guess Hi wouldn't be surprised if that apple turn over on the table wasn't made from this year's crop."

 

AJ was thrilled to see how Rarity lit up at the mention of her duds. Sure it had been a reach for the farm mare but it had obviously paid off in spades. Though she mocked her new found interesting in fashion, AJ knew Rarity appreciated the gesture more than she was letting on.

 

"Heh heh," Typical easy going laughter escaped AJ's muzzle as Rarity mocked utter horror at an Apple taking interest in clothing. "Well, that interest lies mainly in the orange side of the family," She winked at Rarity obliging her work with Valen. "But I've come to know when somethin' looks right good on somepony," She gulped lightly. "Or when somepony looks right nice i-in somethin'..." Her voice trailed off and the previous blush was nothing akin to the pink that now covered the mare's cheeks. 

 

She sucked in a breath and spun towards the table and their friends. "Uhhhh, sun's set... let's go find out what's gonna happen next!"

 

AJ trotted quickly to the group of friends only to notice Twilight and Rainbow Dash were gone. Spike made his way to the group as well.

 

"Come on everypony! To the balcony!" Spike led them up a set of steps on the side of the upper terrace that spiraled around a turret and ended at a comfortable sized balcony. It was about as high up as one could get on the castle without being a pegasus or other winged creature. AJ wasn't one for hieghts but the railings were firm and the balcony quite large so she wasn't unsettled.

 

"Twilight said to take a seat, wrap up in the blankets," He gestured to a pile of neatly folded warm blankets that had been left for them on some rather comfy looking love seats. The seats were set fairly far apart from each other, one being up on a higher landing of the balcony and the other on the lower. There were about fifteen more spiral steps between them so each seat was pretty much private. "...and watch the show!"

 

Fluttershy and Pinkie took the seat further up, wrapping up and gazing skyward. Pinkie munched away on treats she had brought up from the terrace and there was a dispenser of hot chocolate set up on the balcony as well.

 

"OOooo, cozy!" The Ponk pronounced cheerfully as she snuggled down in the blankets. She spoke rather loudly and if not for that wouldn't have been heard.

 

AJ looked towards the other seat and swallowed lightly again. Her heart started to beat a bit quicker at the thought of sharing the seat and the rest of the evening's events alone with the beautiful unicorn.

 

"Uh, after you Rarity!" She smiled and gestured towards the cushioned seat.

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Applejack took tremendous pride in the accomplishments of her kin, as much as she took pride in her own. This was known, and Rarity had just thought about it. What was not as readily apparent unless you gave yourself to dissecting the way a pony looked at the world was that she was as equally pleased by their success on a deeply personal level as one could be in their own. Hearing her discuss her own skills as a byproduct of that started off feeling unusual, though as always it moved back to her family. The skills and methods taught to her by Granny Smith no doubt helped inform not only her baking and work ethic but the warmth and friendly forwardness that was her most personable quality, among other innate features intrinsic to her agreeable nature. "Well, I know I see shipments of Sweet Apple Acres product as far north as Seaddle sometimes. You're secretly a very successful business magnate, though you'd never admit to it," she teased, knowing Applejack's self-identity as a down-home mare would be challenged by this objective fact.
 

Alas, they didn't have time to unpack her latest tickling of Applejack's self-deflated ego as Spike called them to take their real positions. Rarity followed until they came to a set of steps on the side of the upper terrace that spiralled around a turret and ended at a comfortable sized balcony, one that was much higher up than its surroundings. Indeed, she didn't think such towers were even open to the public. Either they were reserved exclusively for royalty or they were used by guards, right? She was proven wrong. What a special treat! She had always considered herself a high society mare but this was something apart entirely. Nopony that she was aware of had ever had the pleasure of using these towers. Truly, Twilight was going out of her way for them. But why? What was so special about this night, this event that they had experienced before, that was making Twilight go all out? She resolved to ask her later. Maybe it was as simple as Twilight was becoming comfortable in exercising her power. Maybe not. It was something to unpack later.
 

Applejack offered to take the balcony at the top with Rarity. How considerate! And likely warm. Applejack exuded quality body warmth which would provide invaluable on such a cold night. "Why thank you Applejack! Now don't sell yourself short. You must keep warm yourself, you know," she said with a wink as she trotted up to the luxurious seat cushion. She laid back into it and stretched out her body, taking up her fair share and then some. A breeze visited her and left her mane rolling and whisping over the top of the cushion as she leaned into it, mussing up her mane momentarily only to force it back into its proper place. Readied finally, she patted the cushion. "Applejack dear, come on. The show is about to start!" she trilled out to her friend as she prepared to spend the rest of the evening with her. Or however long the event lasted, mind you. She wasn't sure if there was a major difference in the way Ponyville and Canterlot celebrated in terms of how much time was spent, though she could only hope so. More time with friends was always well spent.

 

When Applejack finally did make her way over, Rarity sighed. "What a fine evening this is turning out to be. I remember running Ponyville's Summer Sun Celebration for all those years, but to experience the originator from all the way up here? How wonderful!" she tittered, "truthfully, I always mark this day for causes other than the Summer Sun itself. It reminds me of when we all grew closer all those years ago...how long it has been! I swear I can feel the encroaching of age, but no matter. Applejack, what do you remember of the Summer Sun Celebration in your own family? I'm sure the Apples have creative ways to celebrate it."

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Applejack blushed at the statements the unicorn made. They weren't even praise, merely stating fact, but AJ never was good at having attention drawn to her for such matters. Really there were few places she was comfortable with attention and most of those had to do with physical strength, not business abilities. The blush came mostly from Rarity pointing out that AJ was in fact special in many ways. It meant the world to the farm pony that Rarity spoke well of her and she wondered for a moment or two if she might even hold a special place in Rarity's heart...

 

"Applejack dear, come on. The show is about to start!" 

 

AJ gulped again, trying to calm down. Just the thought of sitting so close to Rarity got her more flustered than a raccoon caught in a corn silo! "Uhhh yep, comin'!" She responded as she trotted over to the cushioned seat. 

 

"Well now, this looks right comfortable! Twilight pulled out all the stops fer us tonight," She sat on the edge of the seat. "Ah think only royalty has ever been allowed up 'er!" She scooted back a bit, but didn't close the gap between the two at all. "As fer us Apple, oh yes we've got our traditions for the solstice celebration fer sure! Begins with bucking the early summer apple trees, ends with eatin' hot apple pie! Lots of other traditions in the middle of course!" She couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of all the odd traditions her family had. This one included Big Mac dressing as a butterfly and Apple Bloom dancing around him...

 

AJ cast her eyes skyward at let out a long whistle. "Wow! Sure is a perfect night..." She scooted a bit more before a shiver went through her. "Brrrr! Perfect an' gettin' chilly too!"

 

There was a big folded blanket on the back of the seat and AJ reached for it. She carefully unfolded it and nodded to Rarity. "You cold Rares?"

 

Right as she was about to offer the blanket to the unicorn a sonic rainboom lit up the sky! She would have to save her question of Rarity's family traditions for later, the show was starting in earnest!

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Applejack seemed apprehensive or unnerved. Not unnerved exactly. Flustered? yes, Flustered. She didn't sit close. She scooted about awkwardly. Had some trouble starting up her speech. The situation seemed to put her into some strange spirit. One of Rarity's brows raised and her face was less than impassively concerned. Was there something wrong? Was she not comfortable? She opened her mouth to speak when Applejack started speaking herself, and the momentary uplift in Applejack's spirit was plain enough to see without interruption. She instead allowed herself to be transported to a better frame of mind, a better frame of time.

Apple family traditions always put Rarity at ease. They had grown up in the same town but may as well have grown up in polar opposite worlds. Her parents were well to do and while her father was from Mustangia and carried along some traditions of the native Mustangs, neither were much for old familial traditions and the warmth and comforts of years gone by. They didn't disdain the past, not at all! Instead, they were forward facing to a fault. They were small-town wealthy and spent their money on luxuries. The Apple family was secretly incredibly wealthy, but also put that wealth into business nationwide. They revered the past and carried on traditions and customs that lived long in memory and would survive the passage of time. What they lacked for in immediate wealth they made up for in wealth of memory. Everything Applejack was and would be was tied up in the long and storied traditions and customs of her family. There was far more to their customs than harvesting apples and making pie, she knew that much- but the aforementioned fluster and bluster was masking it behind a veil of confusion that was striking her friend.

Curious, no?

"Oh, I am a bit chilly, I suppose," she replied evenly, her slight concern more noticeable than she would have otherwise meant. Her voice always carried a dramatic rise to it that was at times almost impossible to circumvent, her emotions equally worn and embellished on sleeves as embellished and stark as they were. Still, a blanket was welcome in all cases. She was about to ask if everything was alright when the show started, and her eyes were attracted to the lightshow on display. While in no way as much a fan of the art of the firework as Pinkie Pie, whose wild exclamations could barely be hard from where the Ponyville natives were stations, she certainly appreciated the intricate patterns of fire and light on display. Everypony was a weaver of some kind. Once you accepted that, you accepted so much more.

"Oooh, what a show. You're right- she has pulled out all the stops this year," she said and then laughed, giving her friend a sideye smile, "makes me think she is trying to impress somepony. Who do you think the lucky stallion is?"

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"makes me think she is trying to impress somepony. Who do you think the lucky stallion is?"

 

Applejack swallowed hard, being caught off guard by the question. She still hadn't come anywhere near where she wanted to in regards to expressing her feelings for the mare next to her. She felt she was letting herself down as the knot of anxiety tightened in her stomach at the thought of what she knew she needed to say. She just couldn't bring herself to broach the topic. The topic where her heart would be bared and exposed for the breaking. Nope, it was too much. She knew Twilight would be disappointed, especially after all the hard work she had put into helping. They had been allowed on the royal balcony for Celestia's sake and AJ still couldn't do it!

 

"Uh," She worked on unfolding the blanket with her eyes cast skyward. At least there wasn't going to be any awkward silences. The light show had started off with a bang and promised to continue in the same manner. It was only a moment before the rest of the Wonderbolts burst across the skies, trailing plumes of sparks and colored fire!

 

"Stallion...or mare..." The words came out softly and she wished suddenly that she could suck them back in. "Whoever it is, it must be somepony pretty darn special," She finished with the unfolding. 

 

AJ wished she could snuggle up next to Rarity. She loved being near the unicorn. She always smelled amazing and just being close was enough to melt the farm mare's heart. But, she couldn't bring herself to make a move like that. Instead she scooted closer, little by little until she could feel herself come into a comfortable distant from her friend. Somewhere between distant and awkwardly close. Perfect right? She took the blanket and tossed one side over her friend's legs, keeping the other to place over her own. The warmth increased right away and AJ sighed.

 

"Turnin' out to be the perfect evenin'," She glanced over at Rarity, noting how the lights from the show reflected in her eyes. She was beautiful. AJ was happy to even know Rarity. But she'd be so much happier to be closer to her than she was. Both in the physical and emotional senses. 

 

scoot

 

Without hardly a thought she'd scooted so close their legs were touching. Now that she was here she didn't know what to do. She didn't want to move away that was for sure!

 

A sudden cascade of stars and sparks lit up the sky! It appeared to be magic that only the Princess of the Night could conjure!

 

"Wooooow!" As the sparks flew Applejack's front hoof moved to rest on Rarity's upper leg. She moved it away quickly afterwards and gulped.

 

Wow indeed. She sure was makin' a right mess of this...

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"Ooh, I hadn't even considered that. I suppose Twilight could be with whomever she wants, and probably gets a lot of suitors," Rarity replied with a small titter. Truth be told she had just been playfully suggesting the concept of Twilight trying to impress somepony. She didn't seem the most romantically inclined mare in all of the nation and Rarity doubted that Twilight would go through all this effort on her own selfish account. It wouldn't fit. No, she was far more likely to go through this for somepony else's benefit. Well, more like Rarity's benefit. She was likely the only mare who would want to arrange such an extravagant display to enhance her pursuit of a suitor. Not that she'd need to do so- Rarity was perfectly capable of enhancing her search regardless of the input of others. She could be accused of many things but being romantically stunted was certainly not one of them.

 

Her thoughts on the matter were scattered about by Applejack's increasingly awkward behavior, which only made Rarity more and more concerned that something was eating up her normally collected friend. She scooted around, placed her hooves awkwardly, blushed and moved around. If Rarity didn't know better, which she did, she'd guess Applejack was having some sort of romantic stunting of her own right about now. It was worrying no matter what it was, though. Rarity did not know many mares with more confidence and stoic ability to trudge forward through adversity so something causing her friend to become more than a little peckish physically was, well, concerning. "Applejack, you seem tense. Is anything the matter?" Rarity asked directly, her voice carrying a small edge of concern as she pondered the many routes such an answer could take. She reached out and took her friend's hoof in hers in an act of reassurance.

"You can tell me anything."

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Applejack gulped again as her friend gave her a concerned look followed by questioning of the farm mare's state of being. Inside her heart beat fast and she knew there was a deep crimson blush on her cheeks from the accidental touch she had bestowed on the unicorn. 

 

"I-i uhhhh," 

 

FLASH SCATTER!

 

Fireworks began firing off! Lots of them in all the colors of the rainbow! The Wonderbolts began to weave in and out of the flaming blasts, trialing colored smoke and sparks behind them. The pyrotechnics lit the sky just enough for the colored smoke to be seen and appreciated. The was truly an epic display... though it was outmatched by the epic display AJ knew she was making!

 

"You can tell me anything."

 

How she wished that was true! She could tell Rarity anything... anything except the one thing she most wanted to say. Though she wanted to just be out with it, there was a barrier resting firmly over her mouth. She knew she was stubborn but it seemed she was even going to be stubborn against herself on this one.

 

BOOM!

 

A huge firework exploded almost directly overhead! Sparkles rained down onto them from above.

 

"OOOoooo pretty!" Her ears flicked to where Fluttershy and Pinkie were sitting.

 

"Huh huh..." Trademark AJ awkward laugh. "Sounds like Pinkie's havin' a great time," She glanced at her friend for just a moment. "Hope you are too sugar cube!" She sucked in a breath.

 

"Ya know Rarity...I uhhh, I really like..."

 

CRACK!

 

More stars burst before them as the Wonderbolts continued their epic routine.

 

"This show." She resigned herself. This just wasn't going to happen tonight... or maybe ever...

 

She felt her heart sink, disappointed in herself.

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Applejack wore the look of a flustered and confused mare poorly. Her features, often riven with confidence and dripping with certainty, lost themselves in an August sea of concern written deeply and boldly in her. It was highly concerning to see her friend in such straits, but Rarity knew better than most the value of Applejack's stubborn qualities and knew that if the mare wasn't going to talk about it, it was best not to push the issue. In time she would open up about whatever was ailing her and Rarity would be ready to help one of her oldest and dearest friends. Of course, that didn't stop her mind from running rings around it in an effort to decipher what the awful little problem was that was sinking her friend's confidence so.

The fireworks provided a wondrous spectacle. Rarity had seen more than a few such spectacles recently so she wasn't enamoured with it as much as her loudly exclaiming friend. The show was well-made and had such great patterns to it. Many thought she enjoyed such things less than others but she'd put forward the belief that she had a deeper appreciation for the artistry of it all. Big set piece projector show? Had to have a fabulous set design, or exquisite effects and costumes. In the arcs and explosions of light and sound in the sky she saw the same heart of artistry as she wove in fabric. She always believed that when you looked deep in others you would find a deeper appreciation and respect, and often times, many similarities that would be cross at first.

It gave her time to ponder what was wrong with her friend. Was she in trouble? Applejack was a very stubborn mare and would be reticent to seek aid, which could explain why she was having problems discussing it. But she had overcome some of the greatest issues she had regarding her willingness to seek help- Applejack had grown in that realm of mental engagement. Reticent or no, she had come to her friends for help before and would again. Why only Rarity? Why had her demeanour changed so radically? Rarity prided herself on knowing just what her friends needed and delivering it to them just when they needed it, but she was at a loss.

Another chill in the air. She scooted closer to her warm friend, not heeding the boundaries of personal space as she allowed herself the enjoyment of the night. “I'm enjoying the show as well. Zamponelly is putting it on this year. They always do such good shows- remember the Summer Sun Celebration the year before Twilight came to town? That was them as well,” she said before a large, unladylike laugh erupted from her, “oh, when Miss Hooves managed to drag that chain of fireworks near the Town Hall minutes before the show, I thought Amethyst was going to keel over from panic!” Rarity said as she turned to Applejack.
“It certainly has been such a long time, hasn't it? Why, I feel now as if I were barely a mare all those years ago! It does seem like time flies when you're enjoying it with such fine company.”

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Applejack's heart soared as Rarity moved closer to her under the blanket. The story the unicorn shared served to put her at ease. She felt the pressure she had put on herself melt away as they reminisced on summers past. AJ was a sucker for tradition and family history and this shared memory was  special to her indeed.

 

"Yup! That was the last summer we were anything like fillies!" She thought back on all the good times they had shared when they were younger. At tat time Rarity had been a close friend to Applejack. She hadn't had to feel awkward around her at all. They shared secrets of all sorts, laughed late into the night, cried together when one of them took a tumble and got scraped up. She chuckled. Who was she kidding? It was always AJ that took the tumbles. But Rarity had always been there to help her friend up.

 

"Remember that one summer rodeo?" Applejack smiled at her friend. "When I missed that last barrel by a fraction of a step and took it down. Ended up in a cloud of dust and one skinned up knee." She nodded to her friend. "You'd come to watch that one and I might have been showin' off jus' a tad..." She clucked her tongue. "I shouldn't have tried to show off on that last part of the run. Would have won and impressed you!" She laughed and then blushed again.

 

She sucked in a breath as another round of fireworks scattered overhead and the Wonderbolts finished their performance with a display of lightening and rainbow smoke.                 "Couldn't ask for finer company than you Rarity."

 

She may not have been able to actually pronounce her true feelings tonight, but Rarity was right. It was fine to just enjoy the show with the best company she could have asked for.

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