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TRANSFORMATIONS AND TRANSPORTATIONS

Celestia's sun shone brightly up in the pale blue sky, sending arcing beams of light down through the air to illuminate the scene. Every cloud shone with the bright white of pure sunlight reflecting off of water droplets. The densely packed formations of water droplets floated lazily in place. Each formation was a place where a pegasus pony could stop and rest, and none were as large as the collection of clouds which safely held hundreds of ponies in the air at once. From the weather factories to the Cloudesium, the city of Cloudsdale was a floating metropolis for the the winged citizens of Equestria.

At this moment, dozens of those winged citizens were gathered in the Cloudesium, attending a very special event, an event featuring ten pegasus ponies who all stood nervously in a row, lined up next to one another in front of a stage made of clouds. More pegasi were spread about the large stadium, mostly families and friends of the ten down in front. They had spent the better part of the last day cheering, whereas now all had fallen silent. An announcement was coming, an announcement to culminate all of the day's events. On one cloud, situated between two large pink pillars, sat five unique ponies, or more specifically, unique to Cloudsdale in that only one was a pegasus. Beside this timid yellow pegasus sat a very excited pink earth pony, and a strangely anxious-looking orange earth pony. A white unicorn with a royal purple mane, nervously contemplating her last experience in this location, and a lavender unicorn, whose magic was holding the four visitors on the cloud, sat there as well.

These five were here to support a sixth member of their posse, a blue pegasus with a shockingly multi-colored mane, who sat down next to her nine competitors. They were her support, they were her motivation. Each of the competitors had their own motivation. Almost every pony in the audience was here to support at least one of these contenders, but some, of course, were only here to see the specific ponies who now occupied the cloud stage. Upon a stage that featured a microphone and speaker system to amplify their voices, stood two more ponies. They were pegasi, like the majority of those present, but there was something quite different about them. In their daily lives, most ponies of Equestria do not typically wear clothing, exceptions to this generally being special, formal, occasions. Regardless of whether or not this event in Cloudsdale was a special occasion, it could not be considered very formal, and as such, most of the ponies present did not wear clothing. Both were dressed in blue flight suits, adorned with yellow lightning bolt patterns across each hoof and down the front of the neck. Their mouths, wings, manes, and tails stuck out of the suit, and their mere presence seemed to carry an electrifying aura that had brought the crowd to a hush as soon as they had crossed the stage. Now, the one closest to the microphone, a mare whose yellow wings betrayed the color of her coat, stepped up to the device. Her mane and tail, filled with vibrant shades of orange reminiscent of tongues of flame, fluttered behind her with every step she took. A shift in her posture alerted the crowd to her intent to speak, causing them to stare at the stage with rapt attention.

Spitfire began to speak. "Attention, competitors and everypony else out there!" She called, though it was not needed to call for them to focus, so intent was the gaze of all in audience, "I am sure you are all very pleased and impressed. I've been a Wonderbolt for years now, and even being exposed to spectacular flying on a daily basis does not desensitize me to fantastic displays of skill when I see them. Today, my little ponies, we have all bared witness to a truly spectacular display of flying skill, as is fitting of these ten very talented and inspired ponies here. These ponies have showed incredible skill and perseverance to reach the spot where they now stand, and now, the ultimate dream for one of these talented ponies will come to fruition."

Standing behind Spitfire, Soarin' tossed something up to her, who promptly caught it and held it out on display for all to see. It was another of the flight suits that they both wore. Blue with yellow lightning bolts, folded up, ready for a new owner, a pristine pair of goggles set on top. Setting it down, Spitfire cleared her throat, and once again addressed the crowd. "The winner of this Wonderbolt competition and the next pony to become a Wonderbolt is…!" She paused, reveling in the anticipation she saw in the face of every pony before her, a cocky smile reaching her face, she drew out the moment as long as she could stand it. "MISS RAINBOW DASH!" She cried to the audience.

"OhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygosh!" Cried one blue pegasus with a rainbow mane, as she leaped from her place among the nine other competitors and flipped over in the air, giddy with excitement and complete glee. This was it. This was her moment, the moment she had dreamed of her entire life, and it was here. Tears were welling in Rainbow's eyes a she flew up to the stage. She had prepared a speech for this day years ago, but now, in the heat of the moment, she found she could not speak. She could only stand there on stage, heart pounding in her chest, tears streaming down her face, and look out at the crowd with pure pride in her gaze. She couldn't find her voice for some time. When she did, her speech was forgotten. She muttered out a thank you to Spitfire and Soarin' and then took off into the air again. Expressing her joy in the best way she knew how. Somersaulting and flipping through the sky on a pure emotional high of adrenaline. Then, she shot across the stadium, bee lining straight for one section of the audience. There were five ponies she desperately wanted to see.

In a scene happily reminiscent of the last time the six had found themselves in this city, the first thing Rainbow Dash saw was her usually timid pegasus friend Fluttershy bouncing up and down and shouting with happiness. Upon seeing her, the yellow pegasus flew out to her and gave Rainbow a quick hug before they both landed on the cloud. Rainbow was immediately besieged by her friends. Pinkie Pie, Twilight, and Rarity all showered her with compliments and promises of many parties. Fluttershy remained, beaming her happiness with a she rarely displayed. But it didn't take long to notice the lack of one particular pony. The one pony she had hoped the most to please and impress didn't seem to be next to her. Rainbow pushed her way out of Pinkie's hug and saw Applejack, standing by herself somewhat behind the other ponies. There was a pained and somewhat forced, Rainbow realized with incredulity, smile on her face.

"AJ?" She began, "What's up? I thought you would be happy for me?"

"Ah am happy fer ya, sugarcube. This is just great!" Applejack answered, she was stumbling over her words somewhat. She had never been a good liar.

"Applejack, what is wrong?" Rainbow asked, elation temporarily replaced by dread that something was amiss.

Applejack looked down. She had to tell the truth, but she didn't want to hurt her marefriend's feelings. "Rainbow, it's just that ah… Ah don't think this is going to be the best thing for us."

Rainbow Dash suddenly felt anger rise in her. "Not the best thing for us! This is what I've been dreaming of my whole life! I'm going to be a Wonderbolt, I'm going to become famous! This will be great for me… us, I mean." She shouted.

"That's just it, Rainbow!" Applejack retorted, "Now you're going to have to be off training somewhere. You'll be performing with them every other week. Ya'll hardly have any time in Ponyville anymore. I won't hardly ever get ta see ya now. Ya'll be away so much, it's going to make this extremely hard on me."

"I can't believe this! You're supposed to encourage me, the one thing I've strived for my whole life and you want me to throw it away because I will have to be gone for a while? You're supposed to be the selfless one, but you're worried about yourself now, enough to try and keep me from my dreams?"

"AH'M NOT WORRIED ABOUT MAHSELF! AH'M MORE WORRIED ABOUT-"  she stopped. Sudden realization hit her. She hadn't told her marefriend about this yet…

"Worried about what? Who? What could be so important?" Rainbow was still a little angry.

Applejack responded in a calm voice. Rainbow's anger melted away again, replaced by concern. With a little trepidation, AJ began to speak again… "Rainbow, Ah'm sorry I didn't tell you this earlier, but Ah'm… Ah'm…" The moment seemed to draw out for several minutes. Applejack was hesitant to say her next word… until… "Ah'm pregnant."

The words began to sink in. All the colors in Rainbow's field of view began to twist and blur. Applejack's face became a swirl of orange pelt and straw mane, her colors soon blending with the whites and blues of the cloud and sky behind her. The rest of her friends disappeared as well, mixing into the swirling palette of colors that now filled Rainbow's eyes. In a sudden panic, she felt the firm support of the cloud disappear beneath her. She was sinking, her hooves falling into the soft surface of the cloud as it gave way and broke apart beneath her. Then, she was falling. She felt air currents rippling her mane and tail and everything she saw whizzed past her eyes in a high-speed blur. She tried to flap her wings but it was to no avail. Her wings remained locked to her sides as she picked up speed, plummeting ever farther downward with no way to help herself. Terrified, she looked down. The swirling torrent of greens and browns below her told her that the ground was approaching fast. Then, the green melted away. The earth tones that were rushing up at her began to bubble and melt away, revealing blackness. An inky, pure blackness that stretched from horizon to horizon. There was no longer any ground rushing up to meet her, but darkness, nothingness, emptiness. Rainbow Dash felt herself fall closer and closer to the contact point with the dark, swirling, sea. She braced for she knew not what as the dark rushed up to meet her.

=============================================================================

Rainbow Dash bolted upright in a cold sweat. For a moment she looked around wildly, her heart pounding in her chest, wondering what had happened and where she was. Her sense slowly came back to her as she recognized her surroundings. She was sitting on a bench, not a hard bench, but not quite comfortable either, she wondered what she had been doing laying on a bench, when it hit her. She had been asleep, she had been dreaming, but not just any dream, she recognized that one. She had had it before several times recently, and experiencing it always made her…

In a sudden shock of realization Rainbow realized that her face was matted with tears. She looked around again in a panic. Hoping that nopony had seen her crying in her sleep, that nopony had seen her weakness. There wasn't a single pony in sight, the long corridor she was in was deserted. Dimmed fluorescent lighting that had been turned down in intensity for the night had kept the glare down enough to allow Rainbow a fitful sleep, but their glow was still enough to see the details of the hallway and to navigate by. From her position on the bench, Rainbow could see every door that lined the two walls at regular intervals. At one end, the corridor seemed to just end, but at the other end, a set of double doors showed the way out. Through the panels of glass embedded in each of the two doors, rainbow could see activity and more light in the next room. She knew what that room was. It was a room she had been in last night, before rushing in here, in a panicked craze for a reason that she was ashamed to admit, even to herself. She had been scared, she had wanted to be alone.

Rainbow found tears starting to flow again from her eyes, dripping down her already matted face. She sniffed to draw them back in. It wasn't fair. All her life she had had her heart set on that one goal, to join the Wonderbolts. She had had many dreams about the moment before, but it was only recently that her mind had perverted the happy dreams, leaving a distraught Rainbow Dash in their wake night after night. Rainbow told herself over and over that the dream was not true. Sadly reminding herself that the Wonderbolts were not holding a contest to induct a new member, that she had not competed in Cloudsdale for the title, and that she had not won. She told herself this over and over, yet she could not shake the sadness from herself. She could not shake the glaring fact that some parts of the dream had been more real than others.

She looked up again, back to the double doors which led to the waiting room she had fled earlier. Above these doors was a sign, a sign which told her the purpose of the lonely hallway and also confirmed the truth of at least one part of her dream at the same time. In large, bold, glowing, red letters, the sign proudly displayed the purpose of the hallway and all the adjoining rooms.

The sign read: "CANTERLOT GENERAL HOSPITAL: MATERNITY WARD"

Rainbow knew why she was here. She knew why the preceding days had been filled with the mixed emotions of dread, excitement, fear, anticipation, self-doubt, and wonder. Most of all, she knew why she has parked herself on this bench the night before, as opposed to all the other benches that lined the corridor. There, directly across from her, was a door. It was not unlike all the other doors on the walls of this hallway, but this door was special, not for the door itself, but for what lay behind it. Rainbow knew what she would find should she go through this door, the door she was guarding for no reason. Inside sat a lone bed, a few machines whose functions were mysteries to Rainbow, and a few chairs and miscellaneous items. It was the bed she cared about, not for the bed itself, but for its occupant. The one pony she cared about more than all others, possibly even more than she cared about herself. The one pony she had dared to truly love ever since leaving, and then losing, her own parents and family. Applejack.

Applejack, who had been through so much in the hours since arriving at the hospital. Indeed, she had been through so much in the last few days, and she had needed Rainbow's help for almost everything. But now, Rainbow Dash felt alone, alone with her feelings of frustration and self-doubt, alone without her Applejack. 'Why am I so alone?' She asked herself for what felt like the hundredth time, 'Because you're afraid.' Was the immediate answer, and it was true. Rainbow Dash had been through a lot in the past nine months, but she knew Applejack had been through far more. And now, on the eve of the culmination of those nine months of worry and anticipation, Rainbow knew she had abandoned Applejack just when she was about to endure the hardest part of this whole process. She had abandoned her to deal with her own selfish fears, alone, in the corridor between here and there, between her beloved and the rest of the world.

As she contemplated the last nine months, Rainbow felt a sense of nostalgia coming on. Even as she contemplated this, she felt herself leaving the corridor behind, leaving the present behind, as her mind began to whisk her away on a tour of memories. Unable to do anything to change it, Rainbow didn't try to struggle. Instead, she let her mind take over, and felt herself taken back to experience a replay of unbidden memories.

=========================================================================

The day was roughly nine months ago. It was a day Rainbow Dash remembered fondly most of the time, but regretted other times. Even before she began to relive it, Rainbow knew every moment of this day.

She didn't wake up in a bed of clouds, as she had done in her home almost every morning before these last few weeks. Before, she had slept every night alone in her house in the sky, but today she found herself waking in a regular bed, sheets and a mattress supported her as opposed to cloud. It had been some weeks since the pivotal day of Granny Smith's funeral. Ever since the day after then, Rainbow had spent every night with Applejack. Sometimes they stayed up late into the night talking, letting their emotions and feelings flow, letting their shared happy thoughts and memories replace those bad ones that were still left after years of suppression. Some nights they were tired enough to simply fall asleep in each other's' arms. Rainbow Dash stayed with her marefriend each night to make sure she was OK. She wanted to be sure that AJ would not slip back into sadness again, and she knew that being there for her every night was the best way to do that.

She had grown accustomed to waking up next to her marefriend, but this morning, Applejack wasn't in the bed. Rainbow pulled herself out from under the sheets and stretched. She knew AJ had a tendency to wake up earlier than her, and would sometimes leave Rainbow to sleep for a few more hours, so waking up alone in her marefriend's bed was nothing new. She walked over to Applejack's bedroom window and looked out at the scene. Celestia's sun was high over the rows and rows of apple trees, 'wow,' Rainbow thought, 'It's already pretty late in the day.'

Not wanting to miss any more of the day, Rainbow rushed downstairs. Surprisingly, she didn't see Applejack in the kitchen, but she did find Big Macintosh there. "Hey Big Mac, what's up?"

"Oh not much Miss Dash. Ah see ya got yerself a good sleep?"

"You know it! Hey, do you know where Applejack is?"

"Eeeyup." Big Mac answered, "She told me that she was headin' out early to do some chores around the farm, and then she was a'goin' into town."

"Thanks Big Mac, I'll seeya around." Even though he still seemed a little awkward around her, Rainbow couldn't help but think of him as a big brother figure to her as well as Applejack.

"Uh, Miss Dash?" Macintosh had something else on his mind, "Ah just wanted ta thank ya for helpin' mah sister the way ya did. She really seems a lot happier now, and Ah think ya'll'r the one ta thank… So… Thanks."

"Don't mention it, big guy." Rainbow brushed it off, "anything for family, right?"

"Uh, yeah… Uh, Miss Dash?" Macintosh was obviously still a little uncomfortable around her to consider her family yet, but Rainbow hoped to make him warm up to the idea, "Ah kinda… hafta be somewhere right now… So I hope ya don't mind if Ah leave?"

"No worries here," Rainbow chuckled, "I'd hate for you to keep Fluttershy waiting anyway." Rainbow shot him a knowing smile. Even though his coat was red, the blush that crossed his face was obvious. Rainbow giggled a bit as she walked out the front door, Macintosh following behind her, his head down to keep his embarrassment hidden. She took off into the sky almost immediately, and did a few loops to stretch out her wings, having not used them for several hours. Then, watching Big Mac trot off in another direction, towards a certain cottage, Rainbow shot out over the fields of trees in the orchard, hoping to see Applejack still attending to her work. She didn't find the orange mare in the orchard though, so she assumed she must have gone into town already.

She shot through the air towards Ponyville, eyes peeled for a certain orange coat and straw-colored mane and tail. She couldn't find her, however. After searching for a while, Rainbow felt her stomach begin to complain, forcing her to stop for lunch. It was only after eating that she decided that Applejack must have gone somewhere, and that she would see her whenever she got back. She spent the rest of the day hanging around Ponyville. She saw Rarity and Pinkie Pie, but after talking with them learned that even they hadn't seen Applejack that day. The sun had started to dip low in the sky when Rainbow finally spotted another of her friends. Twilight Sparkle had been in her library all day, but when Rainbow came knocking, she invited her to watch the sunset with her up on her balcony. They shared a light dinner and talked for a little while. Eventually, the conversation turned to Rainbow and Applejack.

"We've hardly seen you around recently, Rainbow. Don't forget, even if you and Applejack are spending a lot of time together, you should still find some time for the rest of us!" Twilight chided, half kidding.

"Well, I guess we have been spending a lot of time away from everypony… But I actually haven't seen AJ all day today." Rainbow responded, jokingly adding: "I'm getting a little worried."

"Well she was here earlier; she came to leave a message with me for you, actually."

"Really? That's the best news I've heard all day!" Rainbow was suddenly excited, "Why didn't you say so earlier, though?"

"Because I wanted to spend some time with you. If I had given you her message right away, then you'd have rushed off to meet her without paying me a second thought." Twilight shot back.

"Alright, alright. I'm sorry I haven't been paying as much attention to the rest of you guys recently. I'll make it up to you, I promise." Rainbow Dash didn't want to start an argument. "Now, AJ's message. Lay it on me!"

"She came by earlier and told me that she was going to find a quiet place to think for a while." Rainbow's heart sank a bit, that could be almost anywhere, but she had an idea. "She told me that, if you came looking for her, she would be at 'the place where it all began.'"

"Where what all began?"

"I don't know, that's all she said. 'Where it all began' She must think you know the answer."

"Well, I'm not sure what that means, but I think I have an idea where she would go. Thanks for everything, Twi'!" Rainbow rose up into the air off the balcony. The sun was already below the horizon, but she thought she could still catch AJ wherever she went.

"No problem, Rainbow!" Twilight called out as her pegasus friend shot away  into the last dwindling rays of sunshine. "Go get her." She said as soon as the pegasus had gone. Smiling to herself, she turned and trotted back into her tree home.

It didn't take Rainbow long to reach her destination. The cemetery loomed in front of her, and she knew exactly where to go. The gravesite she was searching for was fresh, it had been refilled only a few weeks before, after all. But surprisingly, when Rainbow reached the spot and hovered overhead, there was no Applejack to be seen. Rainbow was stumped. This was where she had been sure she would be, having a one-sided conversation with Granny Smith as Rainbow had seen her doing a couple times recently. Rainbow thought again, 'the place where it all began…' it only took a moment more to figure out. With a flash of sudden understanding, Rainbow shot off in another direction, the Everfree Forest loomed ahead of her. She flew over the treetops, knowing full well where she was going. She had been there twice before, after all. Even in the darkness that had replaced the rays of the setting sun, Rainbow dash could make out a decrepit castle, a rickety rope bridge, a deep canyon, and a cliff face that had become all too familiar to her. Lying out in the open, a safe distance from the edge, and staring up at the sky, lay one pony that Rainbow hadn't seen all day.

She landed softly behind Applejack and padded up next to her. She lay a wing across the back of her marefriend and was rewarded with a happy smile when Applejack looked up at her. She lay down next to her. "What are you doing out here, AJ?"

"Sugarcube, Ah've just been doin' some thinkin' lately." Applejack answered, leaning her head to rest it against Rainbow's neck.

"About what, hun?"

"About us mostly, but also about Granny Smith, and the whole family. Mostly about our future though." Applejack fell silent for a moment, contemplating how to best put her thoughts into words. "Ah feel like Granny Smith deserves something. Ya know, something to continue her… legacy… in the Apple family. She was the last of her generation in the family, and Ah think…  Ah think having a new generation in the family might show her we loved her enough to continue her legacy. Ah feel like seeing another generation born would have been something she'd have liked."

"So you want… new foals in the family?"

"Ah don't know, Sugarcube." Applejack sighed, "Ah know the Apple family is spread out all around Equestria, and there is probably some new foals on the way right now. But here, in Ponyville, this piece of the Apple family pie feels… lonlier… ever since Granny Smith passed on. Ah think we could use a new member the most…"

"Well, everypony already knows about Big Mac and Fluttershy. I mean, it's not exactly a secret anymore. But, knowing Fluttershy, I don't think they'd be… well… you know… anytime soon…"

Applejack chuckled at that. "You and your mind Rainbow Dash, somepony aught'a teach you some manners! But yeah, Ah get what ya'll are tryin' ta say. Actually, Ah was thinking… Ah was thinking Ah might like to have one mahself…"

"Are you leaving me for a stallion?" Rainbow suddenly tensed up, full of dread.

"Oh, no, Rainbow. Ah could never do that. You've brought me too much happiness to do that. Ah love you, Ah love you far too much to do something awful like that to you." Applejack shook her head, calming the overactive fears of her pegasus lover, "Ah just wish there was some way it could be possible for me…"

"Maybe there is." The voice from behind them made both Rainbow Dash and Applejack jump and whirl around in place. A pony stood back there, shrouded in darkness from the shadows of the trees that stood behind them. As the newcomer stepped forward into her moonlight, both mares gasped in shock.

"P-princess Luna!" They both gasped, bowing down as was custom.

"Rise, my little ponies, you need not fear me." Princess Luna said, a strange smile playing across her face. "In fact, I think I may have the answer to your problems."

"What do ya mean, Princess?" Applejack questioned.

"I think, that if you two really want a foal, then I could help you with that." Rainbow and Applejack just silently stared at her for a moment, letting her words sink in. Princess Luna just stood there, grinning at them, as if she enjoyed her little intrusions…

"Pardon me, Princess," Rainbow Spoke up, "but isn't that a little, uh, private?"

"Well, when you have conversations under the moon, you can't expect me to not listen in." The princess giggled, an action that left both the other ponies somewhat perplexed, "Besides, I still feel indebted to you and your other friends for rescuing me from the darkness that held me. If you really want this foal, then consider it a repayment out of my gratitude."

"But… how?"

"Well, I think it's safe to say that I'm well versed in certain forms of magic that even your friend Miss Sparkle has not come across yet." She paused before continuing. "But first, I need to know if you feel you are ready. This is a life-changing thing, if you are going to take care of a foal, you need to be completely prepared to face the responsibility."

Applejack surprised everyone, including herself, with what she said next. "Yes." She said with an air of determination that could be nothing less than the truth. "Ah've been like a mother to Applebloom her whole life. Ah think Ah'm prepared for this, and Ah know that Ah really want it."

"In that case, I assume you're going to be having the foal, then?"

A little hesitation, but then, with the same determined voice, "Yes."

"OK, then." And with that, Luna's horn began to glow. Rainbow, who had been watching Applejack, expecting something to happen, now felt tendrils of magic wrap themselves around her own body, and she began to rise off the ground and levitate, only this wasn't due to her wings.

"Uh… What's happening?" Rainbow called out, feeling the princess's powerful magic wrap itself around her. Luna only giggled a bit, while Applejack could do nothing but stare. Rainbow's eyes went wide with shock when she realized that she seemed to be… growing? She could feel herself getting somewhat bigger, her snout was expanding, and she felt a tingling sensation and then the feel of swelling in her most private of areas… almost as if… "Oh, Celestia." He squeaked when he realized what was happening.

The transformation complete, Rainbow set his hooves down on the ground once more. He felt dizzy, he felt… completely different. He looked down at himself, swallowing a huge lump when he realized what exactly the princess had done.

For their part, Luna and Applejack couldn't seem to help but laugh at the confused new stallion. AJ found that she could barely stand any longer, and fell onto her side. Luna, who knew full well what was going to happen, regained her composure enough to address the two of them. "That spell will only last until sunrise." She told them, "So I would suggest making good use of my night. I don't suppose that should be too difficult, considering most ponies use my night for their more… intimate pursuits."

Applejack ceased her giggling, and both her and Rainbow's faces went hot with embarrassment, remembering a night several weeks previous. "But, Princess… Why?" she said.

"Because I feel like I am doing my duty to help my subjects with their problems. Problems of this nature seem to fall under my domain." She grinned at them, a knowing smile on her face. "The night favors lovers, anyway." And with that, she rose from the ground and disappeared amongst her moon and stars.


Through the window, Rainbow and Applejack could see that Twilight was up late reading again. Applejack trotted happily up to the front door and knocked. Rainbow hung back, embarrassed. Twilight answered. "Applejack? What are you doing here so late?"

"No time to explain, Twi', but Ah need ya'll ta give me that spell that'll let me walk on clouds again. It's important." Applejack said, suppressing laughter.

Twilight looked out the door past Applejack. Her gaze fell upon a visibly different Rainbow Dash, still holding back in the shadows, an awkward smile on his face. Suddenly realizing the situation, Twilight looked like she needed to giggle as well, but she held in the urge. "I have no idea what other magic you two have been exposed to tonight, but I suppose a little more won't hurt." She performed her spell on Applejack. "Good night, girls- whoops, I mean, good night AJ, and -snicker- Rainbow." After seeing that Applejack was safely out of the way, Twilight shut the door again. The muffled burst of laughter that followed still reached their ears.

Applejack turned. "Well, Rainbow Dash." She said, a playful smile crossing her lips. "Ah don't believe Ah've ever had the opportunity ta visit yer house. What do ya say we make a night of it? Ya'll can give me the grand tour."

"Um… OK." Rainbow answered. He was still getting used to this…

"Well what are ya'll waiting for, ya big, strong, stallion?" AJ grinned, "Ah can't exactly fly mahself there!"

What followed was the strangest night Rainbow had ever had in her entire life.

==========================================================================

That was how, nine months later, Rainbow Dash found herself in the Maternity Ward of the nearest hospital, waiting in a corridor outside the room where Applejack was about to start her most difficult undertaking without her lover by her side.

The self-doubt and worrying had started the day afterwards, and never really gone away since. Rainbow contemplated her situation as the images of the memory faded from her vision and the hallway reappeared to her. 'I have no idea what I've gotten myself into.' She thought to herself. "I'll never be able to be a parent!" She suddenly cried out in frustration.

"And why is that?" Came a voice from beside her, to her left. Rainbow jerked her head around. Lost in her reverie, she hadn't noticed this other pony come in. She looked… familiar… for some reason. She was an earth pony with a cream colored pelt. Light blue eyes stared expectantly from under a mane of deep blue and pink.

"Do I… know you… from somewhere?" Rainbow asked hesitantly.

"We both live in Ponyville. I'm Bon-bon, if that helps." That's right, Rainbow thought, she did know this pony. She had only seen her a few times before, and had hardly ever spoken with her. Why was she being so friendly all of a sudden? "I'm here with my wife, Lyra. She's in one of the rooms down there." She gestured further down the hallway. "We're expecting a new child, and Lyra is receiving a scheduled checkup here today." Bon-bon explained, happily.

"So… Why are you telling me this?" Rainbow was more than a little incredulous.

"Because you look distressed and I think I can help. Now. Applejack is in that room, isn't she." Bon-bon said, pointing with a hoof. Rainbow was momentarily shocked. "Don't act so surprised, you two have been the talk of the town for months now. We've all seen Applejack getting bigger, it's not hard to make out what's going on. The real question is: What are you doing out here, when you should be in there with her?"

Rainbow didn't know what to say. This mare she barely knew was going to help her with her problems? Well, it was worth a shot anyway… "I don't think I'm ready for this, I don't think I'm ready to be a parent." Rainbow said.

Bon-bon's blue eyes sparkled with understanding. "That's normal for first-time parents. Tell me, what exactly are you afraid of?"

"I don't think I'm ready to give up everything to be a parent. I mean, my greatest dream ever since I was a filly has been to join the Wonderbolts, but if I have a family, I couldn't possibly go away for weeks on tours and practicing. I'd have to give up my dreams. How can I be a good parent if I have divided attentions?"

"You're afraid of responsibility."

Rainbow was taken aback. She hadn't thought of her fears like this before. She thought she was just being selfish, but this… This idea seemed to make sense. "Yes…" she started to say, but no. This wasn't the whole problem. This was only a piece of it. The real problem was deeper, even more complicated than that. She had struggled to reveal the real issue even to herself, it had been far too painful to think about, but now… now seemed like the right time to discuss things.

It only took a moment's hesitation before Rainbow released all of her inner fears and doubts to Bon-bon. "But there's more than that." She said slowly. "Applejack's mother died of childbirth when her second daughter, Applebloom, was born. Applejack's father just left them. He stood up and left one day, after their mother was gone, and nopony has heard of him since. I'm afraid… I'm afraid of losing Applejack. I'm afraid that, if I lose her, I might turn out just like her father. It might be too much for me to handle, and I'd abandon our little foal just like he did. I don't want to be like him, I don't want to fail her, but I'm afraid I will." Rainbow finished, hanging her head.

"Tell me something." Bon-bon replied, "Do you love her?"

"What?"

"It's a simple question. Do you love her?"

"Yes." Rainbow Dash sighed, "I love her more than anypony else. This may sound crazy, but I think I love her even more than I care about myself."

"And would you still love her… Even if you lost her?"

"Yes. Yes of course I would." Rainbow said, she knew she could never just stop loving Applejack.

"And if you lost her, and all you had to remember her was the foal that she gave you, a foal that was the essence of not only her, but yourself as well, why would you love them any less?"

"I… I… I wouldn't." Rainbow cried, realization suddenly hitting her, her spirits lifting instantly. She couldn't stand it anymore, she had to see her. "Th-thank you." Rainbow stammered as she rose up off of the bench. She galloped across the hall and put a hoof on the door handle.

"You're welcome." She heard as she opened the door and slipped inside the room.

Inside the treatment room were a few odd machines. A dozing nurse sat in one of the few scattered chairs, and there was a single bed. In that lone bed lay a rather large orange earth pony with golden straw-colored hair, green eyes, and cute freckles on her cheeks. Applejack's eyes opened as soon as she heard the pegasus step in the door. "What took ya so long, Sugarcube?"

"I made a mistake, Applejack." Rainbow said, "But it's a mistake I'll never have to make again. I'm not going to leave again. I promise." She trotted over to her lover's bedside and stood over her. She nuzzled Applejack's face gently. There were a few beads of sweat present there, but not too many, certainly not as much as were expected. For a few long minutes, Rainbow stood there, nuzzling and protecting her beloved, letting unspoken words repair her mistake.

Rainbow saw and felt it happen before it really registered what she was witnessing. She watched as every muscle in Applejack's body seemed to tense up at once, causing AJ to intake a sharp breath. The combined flexing of almost every muscle in her body caused Applejack to groan, and Rainbow Dash stepped back, suddenly understanding what was now happening. The nurse who had been sitting nearby and dozing off suddenly bolted awake when she heard Applejack begin to groan, she quickly called a doctor and another nurse pony to the room.

"It's OK, AJ." Rainbow Dash said, calming and soothing her beloved, "You can do this. I'm here for you. We're together."

============================================================================

'Oh, no.' Rainbow thought to herself, hours later. 'Maybe I'm not actually ready for this after all.' She had spent an unknown amount of time at AJ's side as the doctor and nurses bustled around, trying to make everything go smoothly. She had never endured this much noise in her life. The moaning, groaning, and screaming were going to drive her insane, she reasoned. She could never have thought that anypony, even Applejack, could seemingly go through this much pain yet still strive forward. It killed her inside to know that she could literally do nothing. Even the helpful words of encouragement she kept repeating didn't seem to have any effect, and Rainbow suspected Applejack had tuned them out long ago in order to focus on the task at hand. She kept saying them though, mostly because it gave her something to do while she stood around worrying and feeling useless.

"You're doing great, AJ, everything's going just fine." She muttered, mostly to herself.

"Push, push, almost there!" cried a nurse.

Applejack let out another scream, causing Rainbow to wince.

Soon, every noise blended into one in Rainbow's head. She no longer heard the instructions and words of the doctor and nurses, she no longer heard the individual cries of her lover, she didn't even hear her own hollow words of encouragement any more. Every sound mixed together into one long, drawn-out symphony of cries and shouts that assaulted Rainbow Dash's ears. Her eyes were riveted to the scene. She watched her beloved Applejack struggle to push new life into the world, wriggling and tensing up beneath her sheets as a nurse tried to guide the foal into the open air. Every noise hit her ears like the pounding of a drum as the scene unfolded before her. Then, the crescendo of sound reached new levels of volume as Applejack released a long, loud, drawn out cry that served to drown out every other sound in the room. Rainbow winced in shared pain and tried to close her ears to the assault, but then, mere seconds after it began, the shout died down, and the level of noise in the room decreased dramatically.

Rainbow Dash was then greeted by a new sound. Another cry, but this wasn't one of the pained, struggling cries Rainbow had heard for so long, it was new. It was the first sound made by a new life as it breathed the outside air for the first time. It was the most beautiful sound Rainbow had ever heard.

Her head swam. She had to shake herself to desensitize her ears from the ordeal they had just been through. The room was now quiet save for the heavy breathing of an exhausted orange earth pony and the soft whimpering of a brand new pony. Rainbow's ears were still ringing however. So much so that she barely heard the nurse when she approached her. "Congratulations. It's a filly." She barely heard as she reached out to accept a bundle from the grasp of the nurse. She looked down into the smallest, most adorable face she had ever seen. She was orange, a few shades lighter than the color of Applejack's pelt. Her eyes were closed, but the little filly was awake, squirming around in its bundle. Her little mane was ruffled from being dried off, but Rainbow could see plain as day the golden straw color. Spread through her mane, though, Rainbow saw streaks of dazzling color. Sharp lines of red, orange, and yellow adorned her forelock, and Rainbow Dash could see green, blue, and indigo further back. Streaks of every color of the rainbow flowed in perfect harmony with the rest of her mane. The sight of her own daughter brought tears to Rainbow Dash's eyes. She looked up, and gazed lovingly, smiling into the face if Applejack. Applejack, exhausted after her ordeal, reached out her front hooves. Rainbow understood at once. She carefully set the bundle of filly down in her lover's arms.

"What are we going to name her?" She asked as she handed her off.

"Applejoy, we'll call her Applejoy." was the immediate answer. Rainbow liked the name; it seemed to fit the little bundle of joy that now lay before her.

At that moment, in one of her first conscious acts, the little filly rolled over on her mother's chest and slipped out of her blanket, exposing two tiny wings for the first time. She opened her newborn eyes and blinked as a rush of light hit her newly exposed pupils. She looked up into the face of her mother, and then her momma, with her brilliant pink eyes. As she gazed upon the full face of her daughter, Rainbow swore she could see a tiny smile cross her mouth. "Yes," she said, reaching out a hoof to stroke Applejack's chin and receiving a beautiful look of pure love in return, "Applejoy is a perfect name."

One nurse had to be the bearer of good news. She slipped quietly out into the hallway. The results of her foray were soon heralded, as a giddy, bouncing Pinkie Pie leapt into the room. Followed by Rarity and Twilight Sparkle, looks of pure excitement across their faces, Fluttershy trotted softly into the room as well, Big Macintosh at her side with a yawning Applebloom just waking up on his back. A glint of gold reflected off Fluttershy's right front hoof as she crossed the room, but she and Big Mac had already been congratulated. This moment belonged to Equestria's newest family.

"Oh my goodness she's so adorable you guys look so cute together I'm so happy for you I'll have to throw a huge party for you all now oh what's her name what's her name?!" fired off Pinkie as she bounced about the room, literally overflowing with excitement, nurses trying to get her to calm down.

"Applejoy," Rainbow Dash answered, caught up in the moment herself.

"Well, that's just a darling name, for an absolutely darling little filly. You two must be so proud." Rarity chimed in.

"I agree. You all look so beautiful together. And your little daughter is the cutest little filly I've ever laid my eyes on." Twilight spoke up.

"Oh my," Fluttershy almost whispered, "This really is so adorable, she's even cuter than all the little baby animals I've seen born. She's just so cute."

"Eeeyup." Big Mac continued after his fiancé finished speaking, "Good job little sis, you too, Miss Dash."

"Ah'm too young ta be an aunt." Applebloom spoke up, still slightly annoyed at having been woken up.

Rainbow Dash looked around the room at all the happy faces of her friends. She felt pure joy at this moment. She turned back once again to look at Applejack and their little daughter. Tears fell freely down her face as she gazed into the eyes of the ones she loved most. No one, she decided then and there, not even the Wonderbolts, could ever separate her from her family.



AUTHOR'S NOTE:

One of my goals in writing this story was to create a big shout-out to EsperDerek.

EsperDerek, who many of you know, wrote one of my favorite fanfics of all time. His amazing "Out in the Cold" series of stories. This story series has persisted to become one of my top two fanfics of all time, and I've read hundreds.

So, now, I find myself in the situation of writing my own pregnant-pony-couple story. Whose work should influence me, but his?

So, with EsperDerek's permission, I preceded to write a scene that did a shout-out to his fic. The scene in Rainbow Dash's memory, the one featuring Luna, is this scene. I loved his characterization of Luna (especially as opposed to the sad Luna so many other people write about), and tried to pattern my version of Luna after his.

As such, I also featured a direct quote from him. "The night favors lovers, anyway." Was one of my favorite lines from his fanifc, and it seemed fitting for me to use it in my own.

So thank you to Esperderek, and thank you to everyone who will be reading my own story!
The third story in my Applejack x Rainbow Dash fanfic series.

Roughly 9-10 months after helping her marefriend out of emotional trauma, Rainbow Dash may face some of her own. Dreams left in question. Futures uncertain. Self-doubt and fear abound as one question surfaces in the mind of a pegasus: "Might I be in over my head?"


Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and other My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic characters and themes are (c) by Hasbro and [link]


Also, a huge thank you goes out to My-Little-Brony! ([link])

For doing the cover-art for this fic. I love you right now, MLB.

NOTE: Even though MLP belongs to Faust and Hasbro, the concept of Applejoy (her name, her story, her description, and her character) belong to me. She is the intellectual property of Thomas W. Neumiller, aka BronyNeumo

:iconappledashcuddle1plz::iconappledashcuddle2plz:
:iconappledashcuddle3plz::iconappledashcuddle4plz:

The rest of this story:

Part 1: [link]
Part 2 (full): [link]
Part 2 (censored): [link]
Part 2.5: [link]
Part 3: HERE! Deleted scene (full): [link]
Part 4 (full): [link]
Part 4 (censored): [link]
Part 5 C-0: [link]
Part 5 C-1: [link]
Part 5 C-2: [link]
Part 5 C-3: [link]
Part 5 C-4: [link]
Part 5 C-5: [link]
Part 5 C-6: [link]
Part 5 C-7: [link]
Part 5 C-8: [link]
Part 5 C-9: [link]
Part 5 C-10: [link]
Part 5 C-11: [link]
Part 5 C-12: [link]
Part 5 C-13: [link]
Part 5 C-14: [link]
Part 5 C-15: [link]
Part 5 C-16: [link]
Part 5 C-17: [link]
Part 5 C-18: [link]
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:iconhoneyheart1190:
HoneyHeart1190 Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist

WOW!!

your on a shipper streak!!

appledash, fluttermac AND a lyrabon ship!!

good job!!

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:iconangelcatzrule:
ANGELCATZRULE Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2012
Ignore my comment on the Previous Chapter. Also, Bon bon has my respect now. and i started squeling when Luna made her apperance.
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:iconbronyneumo:
BronyNeumo Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2012
Thanks much!
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:iconangelcatzrule:
ANGELCATZRULE Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2012
Anytime!
Reply
:iconkittamaru:
Kittamaru Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012
Damnit, yes! That is how Luna would (should!) be! Yes, she has her past and her pain to contend with... but she is Goddess of the Night! She is the overseer of lovers! Her Night is beauteous beyond compare! I hope so much that they will start to show her more, hm, happy side in the show! The end of Nightmare Night... that was perfect! As is this story!
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:iconbronyneumo:
BronyNeumo Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012
I've always thought that controlling the night came with some prevail over lovers. Thanks!
Reply
:iconcmarvelhalofan:
Cmarvelhalofan Featured By Owner May 21, 2012
The emotions here are very similar to the ones I had when my little cousin was born this is your best work. P.s you should really play hl2 : )
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:icontentaclerap3:
TentacleRap3 Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2012
I haven't finished reading yet, but.....when apple jack gave rainbow the news.....lolwut
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:iconbronyneumo:
BronyNeumo Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2012
It explains later on.
Reply
:icontentaclerap3:
TentacleRap3 Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2012
Well, i've just finished reading the lot. Thanks for writing it, its the perfect distraction from life....Very well written by the way.

But....in what world is Dashy cyan ^.^
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