“Aw, sugar, you don’t gotta settle on it right this instant…”
Rainbow Dash’s mane was frazzled, as she leafed through the pages of the book. “Stupid thing! Why can’t it have just a simple list?”
“Ya mean, like a book o’ foal names?”
Applejack smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling in amusement. “Maybe ‘cos it ain’t any such thing? That there’s a book of apple cultivars, sugar.”
“And whose fault is that?” demanded Dash.
“Got me there. Totally my fault. I reckon Granny Smith would back me up, though. We got you fair and square, Rainbow. You’re an Apple, and the name’s gotta be apples.”
“Yeah, but… Oh, come on! ‘Gravenstein’. What kind of monster would name a foal that?”
“An appley one?” chuckled Applejack.
Dash snorted, and kept looking.
“Ya know, I did suggest that if it’s a filly we ain’t had an Aurora in the family for a while…”
“Too girly,” objected Rainbow Dash.
“Fillies get to be girly! Honey, all my life I weren’t allowed to be girly and you know how that messed with me!” protested Applejack. “Just think about it, okay? ‘Aurora’. Real pretty, huh?”
“No. Not awesome enough.”
Applejack shook her head. “Pinkie an’ Fluttershy are comin’ over soon, you should put th’ book down so we can say hello when they get here. How about Cortland for a colt? Ain’t that a lil’ awesome?”
“It sounds… namey.”
“We’re PICKIN’ a name!”
“I would never go on a date with a colt named Cortland,” said Rainbow Dash. “Not happening!”
“Dammit, Dashie, you ain’t goin’ on a date with him. The most intimate he’s gonna git with your marehood is… well, yeah, that’s pretty up close and personal. But I jes’ think you don’t quite get the point here!”
“We have to agree. You told me, if we don’t agree, we don’t use it,” said Dash.
Rainbow Dash’s jaw dropped as she stared at her marefriend. “You’re joking.”
“Ain’t jokin’. Doesn’t that sound like a fine important fellow? If it’s a colt, that is.”
“Cry-BABY-on. Bzzt! No way.”
Applejack sighed. “Aw, sugar. I guess I see your point. Maybe the poor lil’ scaper is lucky you’re testin’ out names for tease-ability! Slow up, there, you’re skimmin’. Hey, how about Katy for a filly? That’s nice, ain’t it?”
“Boring,” said Rainbow Dash. “Oh for pete’s sake! ‘Knobbed Russet’?”
“I guess we can agree on some things,” said Applejack. “No way! Uh… Laxton? That’d be a colt, I reckon.”
Dash looked thoughtful. “I like the X. Sounds like a lawyer, though. Not too bad, but there’s gotta be something better. There better be something better! It’s not fair, all these apples have stupid names!”
“Well, find a good one!” snapped Applejack. “We ain’t even halfway yet! Uh, Malinda? Margil?”
Rainbow Dash just shuddered, and didn’t even dignify the suggestions with a response. Applejack sighed and watched her flip pages.
“Mother,” said Dash. “What kind of joke is that? Hi, Mom, you’re an apple. Oh for… ‘Muscadet de Dieppe’. Who comes up with this stuff?”
“My Jewel,” read Applejack. “Jewel for short?”
Rainbow Dash cringed. “I’m not sure you’re quite getting the idea of the awesomeness here…”
“Well, give me a dang example, sugarcube!” demanded Applejack. “You hate everything! Newtown Pippin… we could use Pippin… Nickajack…”
Rainbow Dash flipped angrily through the pages, flip, flip, and her wings flared out slightly, covering the book from Applejack’s sight.
“Aw, now, sugar, you won’t even let me see them names? It’s supposed to be both of us lookin’ for…”
Dash froze. Her wings arched up to either side of her.
“Oh boy. What you got, Dashie? Out with it.”
“Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh oh my gosh…”
“What is it?” said Applejack, trying to stick her head in and see, but Dash covered the pages with her trembling hooves.
“It’s the name, Applejack. It’s the name of our new foal. Oh my gosh!”
“What? Dammit, Rainbow Dash…”
“You gotta promise you’ll let me have this! You gotta!”
“That ain’t fair when you ain’t tole me what it even is, Dashie!”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes were wide, crazed. She gulped. “Okay… but it’s gotta be this. I’m begging you, Applejack. For me. This is our foal’s name. Please?”
“Consarn it… All right. Maybe. Now tell me.”
Rainbow’s hooves were trembling as she revealed the page.
“Northern SPY,” she said, with awe.
Applejack just looked at her for a minute, and Dash’s gaze grew more and more frantic. As she was about to launch into a torrent of pleading, Applejack cut her off.
“This for a colt, honey, or a filly?”
“Both! Either! Applejack!” protested Dash.
“Well now… skin color a green ground, flushed with red stripes… you got red stripes in your mane and tail…”
“Oh my gosh Applejack, please!”
“Says here it matures late…”
“So did I!” begged Rainbow Dash.
“Whaddya mean ‘did’, sugarcube? You sure are soundin’ like a big pony around about now…”
“Northern Spy. Northern Spy,” said Rainbow Dash. “Come on, just listen to it, how good it sounds, how much more awesome can you fit in a damn name? Applejack!”
“Says it’s tart…”
“SO AM I!” yelled Rainbow Dash.
“No kiddin’?” smirked Applejack. “Look, it says, dull and irregular shape…”
Rainbow was getting adorably flustered. “Listen…”
“Lack of disease resistance…”
Tears came to Dash’s eyes. “Look. Just give this to me, okay? Pleeeeease! Please, please… What do I have to do, I don’t care what it is, I’ll…”
“Kiss me, ya silly girl,” said Applejack.
Rainbow Dash gulped, leaned over, and pressed lips to her country pony beloved’s. Her eyes begged desperately. Applejack’s twinkled with amusement, the edges crinkled.
“Northern Spy it is!”
Rainbow Dash squealed and bowled Applejack over, kissing her madly as she laughed and fended off wing-snuggles. They cuddled in a giddy pony pile while Rainbow Dash collected herself, Applejack hugging her close while she gradually stopped hyperventilating.
“Dang, honey,” she said.
“You sure are a silly pony,” said Applejack indulgently.
“Oh, please, tell me you like it? I want you to love it too. Northern Spy. It’s so perfect, I want you to be happy with it and not just let me have it…”
Applejack silenced her with a gentle hoof to the lips. “Hush. I love it. I’mma call that name and you can hear it across town. With a foal from you, sugar, they’ll have to, he or she’ll be everywhere. Northern Spyyyy! That foal will hear me callin’, bet your life.”
“Oh thank goodness,” said Rainbow Dash. “Yeah, you’re right, that works! I didn’t think of that. I saw the name and I just freaked out and it had to be that…”
“Yeah,” said Applejack. “I saw you fall in love with that there name. One look and you knew.”
Rainbow Dash nodded. “I didn’t even read that other stuff. You know, about how it’s tart and has red stripes and matures late. Which one convinced you?”
“Beg your pardon?” blinked Applejack.
“The things about the apple. You were reading them, and you ended up letting me have it. Was it when you realized you could yell the name real good? I could see that.”
“You mean… when did I decide on the name? That what you mean, Dashie?”
“Yeah! It seemed like you didn’t buy it at first,” said Dash. “Then something won you over. This is the name of our foal, Applejack! It’s right here under your hoof where you’re cuddling me. I feel like… if I had to talk you into it, I want to know what convinced you. ‘Cos you let me have this. I’ll owe you forever for that, I love you so fucking much…”
“Weren’t hard. And yeah—there was a moment when I knew,” said Applejack, reflectively.
“Well, tell me! Whatever that thing was, I’ll remember it and I’ll remind you so you end up being just as fond of the name.”
“Name’s fine!” said Applejack, hastily. “Honey, I got a distant cousin named Tydeman’s Early Worcester. Ain’t none of these names woulda been a problem to us.”
Dash’s ears quirked. She’d been expecting a more specific reason. “But… you said there was a moment when you knew. Like, that it was a special name. The right name. Right?”
“Uh-huh,” said Applejack solemnly.
“So what was the moment?”
“It was when I watched you fall in love with a name I din’t even see, and you turned to me with your eyes all lit up. And I saw the look on your face… an’ I knew.”
Dash’s lip quivered—and then she was clinging to Applejack again, and Applejack wrapped her pegasus mare in a fierce and loving embrace, a tear coming to her eye.
“I knew,” she breathed, into Rainbow’s ear.
Then, her ear quirked, for there was a sound at the door. Their guests had arrived.
“Hi!” squeaked Pinkie Pie.
Fluttershy walked in, as Pinkie held the door. The demure pegasus didn’t look any more pregnant than Rainbow Dash did—perhaps a little heavier, nothing major—but she moved with a solemn deliberateness, as if every step was some litany celebrating pony motherhood, and at every moment she looked as if she was about to give in to a huge, smug smile.
Pinkie bounced along behind her, doting, dizzy with adoration.
“I see you’re getting cuddle practice!” began Pinkie—and then gasped, as did Fluttershy, for they saw Dash’s black eye and bruises. “Oh my gosh! Dashie!”
“It’s okay!” protested Rainbow. “It’s gonna be fine! Just a little scuffle, it was really my fault…”
“How can it be your fault, Dashie?” protested Pinkie Pie, her ears back.
“You didn’t!” gasped Fluttershy.
Dash looked at Fluttershy with chagrin. “Yeah—I kind of totally did. And I think you can guess why, too. Can’t you?”
Pinkie looked back and forth between them, dismayed. “Fluttywuttyprettybitty, what is she talking about?”
Fluttershy wasn’t listening. She stared hard at Rainbow Dash, who looked cornered. Then, Dash blinked, and grinned.
“Shouldn’t that be fluttywuttyprettyBUTTy, Pinkie?”
Fluttershy winced. “I told you not to say it, Pinkie. I told you, she’d say that. Didn’t I?”
Pinkie’s ears drooped. “Sorry, rubbylubbynubbykins.”
Fluttershy glanced back at her mate, eyes narrowed, and then returned her glare to Rainbow Dash. Dash pouted, thought for a moment, and then smirked even worse. Fluttershy winced.
“Sorry…” said Pinkie.
“Never mind that,” said Fluttershy. “Rainbow Dash, am I reading too much into this? Did you start a fight? I suppose you did. You just had to, didn’t you? It’s not like there is another pony who would understand your situation perfectly and be willing to listen to you express your feelings safely, no matter what they are. Oh, wait, she’s talking to you right now. Isn’t she?”
Rainbow’s look of sullenness was giving way to simple regret. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy. You’re right. I just lost my temper…”
“Your baby will play with our baby! You can count on that, Rainbow Dash!” insisted Fluttershy. She was fierce as they’d rarely seen her, outraged, her wings arching up aggressively. “We are embarking on this journey together, Rainbow Dash, you will not endanger your precious foal with roughhousing and fighting!”
“All right, all right! Sheesh! Do I have to get lectured by every pony in Equestria here? I’m sorry! And you can’t blame me, even though you’re totally blaming me and that’s okay, I get it…”
“I don’t care,” said Fluttershy. “You can remember your mate. You can remember your foal, that you will love more than anything. You can remember me. Never again, Rainbow Dash!”
Rainbow cowered a little. “Okay! I promise, never! You’re right, you’re totally right…”
Fluttershy held her eye for a moment, and nodded, and her wings lowered and folded. “Good. I would say I am sorry, Rainbow, if it weren’t so important…”
“Tell me about it,” sighed Dash. She perked up. “Oh, hey, that reminds me, we have something to tell you!” She scrambled to close the book that still lay on the floor, before either visitor could read the open pages.
Pinkie brightened, seeing that the conflict was over. “Whatcha telling us, Dashie?”
“Only that we have the name for our foal…”
Pinkie blinked, as did Fluttershy. “Golly! For a colt or a filly?”
“Both!” said Dash proudly, Applejack smiling behind her.
Pinkie glanced at Fluttershy. “Wow. It must be a heck of a name! We’re having some problems deciding, maybe you can help?”
Fluttershy winced at this suggestion, but it didn’t faze Rainbow Dash, who leaned forward, grinning ear to ear.
“Northern SPY,” she said.
Pinkie’s eyes widened, and her grin promptly matched Rainbow’s. “Oooh! Dashie! And look at how happy both of you are with it! That is completely awesome!”
Fluttershy looked more startled. “Gee… um…”
“What?” said Dash, challengingly.
“Well, what if it’s a filly you’re having… and what if she is shy and nice, and maybe doesn’t want to be called a spy?”
The other three ponies looked at her for a moment, and then Applejack spoke up, kindly. “Uh, that’s real nice of you, Fluttershy. I understand your feelin’s. But you do realize you’re talkin’ about a little pony filly… that’s the child of Rainbow Dash, and myself? With an assist from a certain over-helpful numbskull…”
“Aw, c’mon,” said Dash, “we’ve been over that.”
“Guess it all worked out in th’ end,” admitted Applejack.
Fluttershy looked chastened. “You have a point, Applejack. Though you never can tell, maybe it’s possible that Rainbow Dash’s foal would be gentle? And please be kind to Big Macintosh. He helped us conceive too!”
Applejack smirked wryly. “That boy’s on a mission. I’mma have to tell Twilight to sleep with a cork in her.”
Rainbow Dash snickered, remembering their colorful history when they’d first discovered Trixie’s magic bit. “Runs in the family. And just who’s bagged ALL the elements of harmony, hmm?”
Applejack gulped. “No fair! That don’t count, Pinkie here bagged ME not th’ other way around! An’ Fluttershy was in terrible shape that one day an’ din’t take no for an answer, and… um… well… uhh… I reckon maybe you’re right?”
The friends—at times very close friends indeed—laughed, and they relaxed, comfortable how they’d ended up. Love conquered all, and sometimes it rampaged straight through lots of countries getting there. Not a pony present really regretted any of it, in the long run.
Pinkie still looked concerned, though. “If you got in a fight, Dashie, is the other pony gonna try and hurt you more?”
“Nah, I doubt it,” said Dash, with satisfaction. “I hit her first, and she wouldn’t have kicked me there if I wasn’t trying to rip her tail off with my teeth. I swear, I’ll be good—no more fighting.”
“But why would you even do that?” protested Pinkie.
Dash frowned. “Fluttershy can tell you later. Let’s not get into it now, okay? Tell me about the trouble you’ve been having with names. Maybe we can help!”
Pinkie regarded her skeptically, and then shrugged. “All righty! We have two main kinds of names. Pegasus names, and sweet names.”
Applejack blinked. “Don’t tell me. Fluttershy’s lookin’ to have pegasus names, and you’d like a sweet name?”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” cried Pinkie. “Nope! It’s the other way around! I want to support Fluttershy’s heritage and there are lots of cool names we could use, and she keeps telling me it’s okay if we use a name from a candy or a cake, and I don’t want to choose a candy name, I want to support Fluttershy! But she’s really stubborn!”
Fluttershy gave an apologetic little smile, batting her eyelashes, tilting her head coyly.
Applejack snickered. “You ain’t foolin’. Pinkie Pie, you may have to give in on this one…”
“Well, you didn’t give in, Applejack! Northern Spy is an apple name, I can see that’s a book of apples there on the floor! Maybe you can help us by telling us how you guys decided between pegasus names and apple names? Why did you not look at pegasus names, to support Rainbow Dash?”
Applejack blinked. “Uh. To be honest with you, darlin’… it never occurred to me. She’s an Apple now, one of the family, and I reckon I jes’ went from there. Rainbow honey, was I wrong to do that?”
Dash grumbled. “Oh, let’s get back into the other conversation again! We weren’t uncomfortable enough in our little get-together that’s supposed to be happy and fun!”
“What’s wrong, Dashie?” asked Pinkie Pie.
“I’m sorry, should I stop?” said Applejack.
Fluttershy fell silent, her lips sealed.
“No, it’s okay, I guess,” said Rainbow Dash. She sighed. “It’ll probably help to get it out, I just didn’t want to dump this on you guys. That fight I got into… it was about our foal.”
“What’s wrong with your foal?” gasped Pinkie.
At that, Dash glared at her. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with our foal! She—or he—is gonna be an awesome little pony! And there is nothing wrong with me giving birth to a pony like you, or like Applejack, or like tons of other ponies I know and love. End of story!”
Pinkie looked confused. “Bouncy? Athletic? Strangely obsessed with vats of pudding?”
Applejack cleared her throat. “Earth pony, Pinkie. No wings. So I hear.”
Pinkie blinked, twice. She glanced at Fluttershy, who returned her gaze levelly, with a tiny little nod. She stared at Applejack, she blinked at Rainbow Dash. “How can you be sure? What if it’s a pegasus, Dashie?”
“Nope,” said Rainbow Dash. “I told Applejack the same thing. If both the spirit and body sides are from an earth pony, there is zero chance of a pegasus. Wings are recessive, Pinkie.”
Pinkie’s eyes were wide, shocked. Dash went on.
“That’s why I got in the fight—and that’s why Fluttershy is mad at me for not turning to her instead. Our culture kinda has some opinions about that.”
“What do you mean, opinions?” squeaked Pinkie. “I don’t know about these opinions!”
Applejack broke in. “Dashie says it ain’t all of ‘em. It’s just that they don’t get more pegasuses without kinda stickin’ together. That’s why their names are the way they are. That’s why they’re all up in Cloudsdale and their cities are in th’ sky, that’s why they hang around with each other so much, why they’re so proud…”
“It does make sense,” said Rainbow Dash, sadly. “Honestly, I respect that. I’m glad there have been pegasuses all this time, that’s how me and Fluttershy can even exist in your lives in the first place. I’m grateful for my wings. I’m even sad I can’t pass them on—but there’s other pegasuses that can do that. It shouldn’t have to be my job. Even if wings are something precious…”
Pinkie was staring into space. “But… but I’m an earth pony, Dashie, and Big Macintosh who helped us, he’s an earth pony. So, if what you are saying is true, then Fluttershy…”
She turned slowly to look at her mate. Fluttershy looked back, her little jaw set, pouting in a look of adorable weapons-grade stubbornness.
Pinkie looked back at Rainbow Dash and Applejack. “We can’t have a pegasus? No matter what? I thought maybe it would be an earth pony, and maybe it would be a pegasus, and we’d better be ready to give it a pegasus name so it would also be comfortable playing with its pegasus friends…”
Rainbow Dash’s mouth was a hard line, and she wouldn’t meet Pinkie’s eyes.
Applejack gulped. “It’s possible that ain’t exactly how it’s gonna be, Pinkie.”
“It’s… not gonna have pegasus friends?” said Pinkie, in a small voice.
Rainbow Dash snarled. “Don’t say that! Don’t even start with that! I mean, yeah, with some of them, it wouldn’t even help if you gave the kid a pegasus name, but I’m telling you they don’t speak for everypony! Like, my boss at Weather Patrol, Cloud Chaser, I guar-an-fucking-tee you she’s solid. She’s gonna love our foals! You can’t judge all pegasuses by a few of them who are just too hung up on keeping pegasuses the greatest thing ever…”
“Calm down, Dashie,” said Pinkie Pie. “Don’t be upset?”
“I’m not!” yelled Dash. “I know I can count on my real pegasus friends! And I’m not the tiniest bit sorry, whatever they… might…”
She’d caught Applejack’s eye—and Applejack looked stricken. Rainbow Dash had always gotten madder at accusations with a grain of truth…
“No, listen,” begged Rainbow Dash. “You gotta listen. I love being a pegasus, you know that. I’m just gonna have to express it in other ways—like with my amazing athletic feats, the way I can… oh, horse-apples.”
Applejack put a foreleg around her, holding her close as Pinkie and Fluttershy watched helplessly.
“That’s right,” said Dash, “I can’t keep up the training while having a kid, can I? Not for long. That’s like, not my job, anymore. The thing is, Applejack, you gotta understand! Please understand. I do really want all the pegasuses to love me and think I’m totally awesome…”
“You are,” said Applejack softly. Pinkie nodded. Fluttershy remained very quiet.
Dash was tearing up a little, pleading. “No, listen! I keep saying it, and I mean it. I want your foal. I knew when I found out I was pregnant by you, that it’s an earth pony foal. I want you to know that if I have to pick between my people, and you, I’m gonna pick you. If they don’t like that… I don’t know. Maybe I can get back into training afterwards, make them understand that I can make whatever decisions I want and still be the amazingest pegasus ever…”
“You are,” said Pinkie Pie, loyally.
Dash gulped. “Thanks, guys. Fluttershy? Am I upsetting you? I don’t want to upset you, I know you’re kinda sensitive.”
The two earth ponies turned, startled, realizing what Dash meant. Their mega-pegasus friend was racked with strong feelings, asserting her loyalty to her mate and foal even while it tore her from her culture in some important ways. She swore she’d have loyal pegasus friends but wasn’t even going to pretend it wouldn’t cause her some problems, and they could tell it was frightening her. She’d got in a fight the first time anypony had criticized her about it, and she couldn’t and wouldn’t go back on her decision.
And what of their gentler, more easily frightened pegasus friend, who was in exactly the same situation as Rainbow Dash, but without the athletic skills and heroics to validate herself with other pegasi? What of the pegasus who’d wept, unable to summon the wing power to fly with her companions, who’d fled in shame? Applejack and Pinkie Pie turned, wide-eyed, to look at Fluttershy, fearing they’d raised the specter of a terrifying, hostile world.
Fluttershy looked back, with exactly the same stubborn pout she’d had all along, and her head held high.
“Fuck them,” said the gentle pegasus who’d never found a home in the sky, but had fallen in love with the ground instead. “Fuck them all, if they don’t like it.”
Her jaw was set. Dash, lip quivering a little, lifted her gaze to meet Fluttershy’s, and Fluttershy stared back as if staring down a dragon—defiant to her core.
Dash lifted a hoof, and Fluttershy followed suit, and their hooves met with a bold, rebellious clack—and then it was all hugs and drinking toasts of apple juice to the awesomeness of the two pegasi.
Eventually, they settled on Divinity if Fluttershy’s baby was a filly, or Rock for a colt.