Then Came an Apricot
Written by Ben Chambers
The weather was chilly, and the wind was blistering- but that didn't stop Rainbow Dash for keeping her promise to Applejack. The filly knew she wanted to talk to her about something important, and was hell bent on making it there to hear what she had to say. Over the past few months, the two had become much closer, best friends- possibly even more, but Rainbow Dash knew nothing like that would ever become of the two. They were friends... just friends, nothing more. Though Dash could always feel a slight heat in her cheeks every time Applejack would make some cheeky joke, she assumed her friend would never feel such feelings for another mare.
It was nearing the winter season, and the weather team had been busy getting it ready. It was all going to start with a big bang, a huge blizzard was being prepared so as to cover all of Ponyville with a blanket of white snow for the next morning. Night was approaching quickly, and Rainbow Dash had finally managed to break away from her busy schedule leading the team. Dark clouds filled the sky and the dull rumble of thunder in the distance could be heard. It was going to be a heck of a storm, so she began to fly faster. The cool wind felt good against Dash's face, but hurt her eyes. She rubbed them, then squinted through and continued across Ponyville as quickly as she could.
Soon, an orchard appeared just ahead, and Dash began to slow down for a landing. She watched as the barn door swung shut at the hooves of an orange pony with a cowfilly hat on, going in herself before it shut completely. Rainbow dash slowed and hovered in place above the ground for a moment before gracefully landing on all four hooves. She looked up and down the face of the barn. Every door was shut up and locked tight, even the loft door above. Every tree in the orchard stripped of apples and all the gardens harvested. The Apple family of Ponyville was prepared for the cold.
Rainbow Dash lifted a hoof and tapped it against the front of the big barn door. Almost instantly, a smaller door opened and the orange pony appeared in the opening. Her green eyes glowed in the dim light and the cold caused her hair to puff up some. Dash began to feel strange emotions, and blushed slightly. The freckles on her cheeks and the hat were just so cute... Dash shook the thoughts out of her head and stared, wide-eyed at her friend.
"Howdy, Dash. Ah knew you'd make it! C'mon in!" Applejack invited pleasantly with the same energetic spirit she always had.
With that, Applejack turned and entered the barn. Dash found it difficult to avoid staring at her flanks as she walked, once more shaking her head and blushing. What in the hay is wrong with me?! She thought angrily to herself.
In the barn, several carts of apples stood against the walls of the barn. Most of them had thick blankets over them, the rest were bare and cold. Applejack quickly bit down on the corner of another blanket and swung her head around, casting it over a large mound of apples in a cart. This was done to prevent the freezing cold from ruining the apples. The barn was pretty well insulated, Dash could tell because of how warm it was inside, despite it getting colder and colder outside.
"So, uh... what did you want to talk about?" Dash asked sheepishly, kicking at a few straws of hay on the ground.
Applejack turned to face her sky-blue friend, a slight smile across her face. "Oh, Ah just wanted to-" she said loudly before cutting herself off. She paused, all the excitement draining from her face as her eyes went wide and stared at the pegasus.
Applejack had a secret she was hoping to tell her friend that night, but truth be told, she was scared to. She knew the two were becoming good friends and were growing closer and closer with each moment they shared- it was like they were made for each other. They could either continue being friends, or move on to the next greatest thing. Applejack was all for this, but she was too worried it might end sourly and ruin what they have. She didn't want to admit her feelings, then be shot down by a straight Rainbow Dash causing each second afterward to be extremely awkward- possibly ending their friendship forever.
"You just wanted to..." Dash pushed on.
Applejack snapped out of it and returned her attention to her friend again, still unsure of what to say. Think, Applejack, think! She ordered, bringing a hoof to her chin. Either make something up, or spill the beans- those were the only two options. She had been preparing all day, steeling herself for this very moment since she woke up this morning- and here she was, blowing it. She had to say something, or it would be just as awkward.
Dash stared, waiting for a response. "Well... I guess if you don't have anything to say-"
"No! Ah got somethin' ta say... Ah just, uh... need ta think of how ta say it..." Applejack interjected, returning to her thoughts. "Ah, uh... just needed some, uh... help," she sputtered.
Dash raised an eyebrow. "Help?..." she wondered, sounding slightly disappointed. She had gotten her hopes up high that Applejack had by some chance, some random occurrence, by some miracle- that she felt the same way about her. But by now, most of that had been dashed to bits.
"Uh, yeah. Ah just need some help lockin' everything down fer the night," Applejack finished with a wide grin.
Dash sighed. "Okay, guess I can help..."
"Good," Applejack said, looking about for a task for the pegasus to take care of while she bought some time, "Ah need the... rest of the blankets from the loft," she informed, looking up to the platform above.
Bales upon bales of hay sat up high, stacked neatly among other supplies, such as sucks of seeds and grain for feeding animals- and a tall stack of thick, wool blankets to cover crops during the winter season.
Dash looked up and took in the sight. There sure was a bunch of crud up there, but anything for her best friend Applejack. Dash quickly fanned out her wings and took off from the ground, stopping and landing high above. It would've taken Applejack a long time to work herself up the ladder, as ponies weren't exactly designed to go up ladders. Applejack had been kicking herself metaphorically all afternoon for not knocking the rest of the blankets down while she was up there earlier- it sure was a pain climbing up there.
The blankets tumbled over the edge and fell to the floor of the barn, mostly unfolding and flying off in all directions. One landed gracefully on top of Applejack. Under the blanket, her face shifted to a look of annoyance, but she shook it off and pulled the cloth from over her head, taking her hat off with it by mistake.
"Aw, shoot..." she grumbled, leaning over to pick the hat up with her teeth.
Dash landed before her and stood. "There, now what?" she asked, watching her friend pick up the hat.
Dash admired her for a moment again, it was rare she got to see Applejack with no hat on. She looked good without it, and wished she'd take it off more.
"What're you starin' at?" Applejack questioned though a mouth full of hat brim.
Dash then realized she was ogling the hay out of her, and snapped out of it hoping Applejack wouldn't have thought of it that way. Or, maybe that she would. Indeed, she had noticed- but chose not to react. Deep down inside she was still at war with herself, and seeing Rainbow Dash do this was like pouring gasoline onto the fire, only making the battle within more explosive. Half of her was now saying Rainbow Dash did feel the same way, and that she should just tell her how she feels- while the other half said it was nothing, and not to tell her if she wanted to keep their friendship in tact.
The uncertainty was tearing at her, though she thought she was strong enough to hide it. Her expression began to shift from that of a happy filly to a confused and distressed one. Her lower eye lids lifted as her eyebrows curled downwards. She still held the hat in her teeth, but it began to lower as she loosened her grip on it.
"Are... you okay, AJ?" Dash asked out of concern.
Applejack lifted her head and looked into the pegasus' magenta eyes, the bright lights of the lanterns in the barn glinting off her eyes and sparkling as the flames within danced and jigged in the heat they generated.
"Uh, yeah..." she assured, popping her chin up and flipping the hat on top of her head.
"Well, what else do we need to do?" Dash inquired, ready to do anything for her best friend.
Applejack looked around for a moment and noticed all the carts of apples, still with no blankets shielding them from the cold which was soon to arrive. "Well, we need ta finish coverin' all these carts or the apples'll freeze," she ordered.
"Right," Dash confirmed with a nod, fanning her wings again- ready to get to it.
About thirty minutes later, the two sat in the middle of an empty stall between two carts of apples. Time had completely gotten away from the two of them as whenever they were together was a time of fun and simplicity. They just enjoyed being around each other, and could always make the other laugh. The whole while covering the carts, the two joked, played, and even got into a wrestling match which had ended awkwardly with Dash looming over a pinned Applejack, the two staring deeply into the others' eyes before breaking the stare and getting up.
It was getting later and later, but the two hardly even noticed as time just seemed to fly when they were together having fun. The two of them laughed loudly before Dash finally came to her senses and realized she had to go before night came and the snow started. Applejack had just made a funny remark about how much of an egg-head Twilight was which both found hilarious. Then, mid laugh, Dash choked as her eyes shot wide- she had to go before it was too late. If they waited too long, Applejack might even be trapped in the barn by the snow blocking the door. Dash could always open the loft door and take off, but she doubted she would survive the cold all the way back to her house in the sky.
She rose to her hooves and galloped straight to the door. Applejack realized almost instantly what was going on and let out a gasp of her own. Oh, where did the time go?! Dash made it to the small barn door and pulled at the locks with her teeth as Applejack approached from behind. The locks released and the door flew open, knocking Dash in the side of the head with its sudden swing. A freezing wind blew in, blasting the pair with snow. Outside was nothing but pitch black, but before them on the ground they could see nothing but white. The snow was building up quickly, and the temperature was well below freezing.
Both ponies put their heads into the center of the door from behind and pushed with all their strength against the wind. It was tough, but the two were plenty strong to beat it back and return the door to its rightful spot before locking it shut. The two shook the snow off their bodies and shivered in the cold air they trapped in.
"Well this sucks!" Dash complained.
"Yup, looks like we ain't gettin' out'a here 'til mornin' when the snow lets up," Applejack informed.
Dash began to pace, how could she let this happen to herself? She was suppose to report back to the weather team before the storm arrived- looks like that just wasn't happening. She also wasn't getting out of here until the blizzard stopped next morning, lest she be frozen to a popsicle in the storm. Then again, who better to be locked up in a barn all night with than her best friend Applejack?
Applejack was having similar thoughts, she knew Big Macintosh, Granny Smith, and Apple Bloom would all be in the house watching through the windows, worried- knowing they couldn't go out into the snow. But they knew Applejack was tough and innovative. If anypony could survive a blizzard in a freezing cold barn, it was Applejack- and still the same thought lingered in her head. What better pony to be locked up in a barn all night with than her best friend Rainbow Dash?
Then the both of them thought, maybe I could end up telling her how I feel... Maybe she secretly feels the same way I feel about her.
They both lay under a stack of blankets, huddled together before a single lantern. The warm air in the barn had finally been cooled off and was now freezing. They shivered in it, but embracing one another under a stack of blankets next to a single lantern was providing just enough warmth to keep the two from catching Pneumonia. This lantern was the last to have any fuel left, but like the others had already, was running low, and was about to flicker out.
"D-... Dash?" Applejack called through chattering teeth.
Dash looked up at her friend, her eyes weak and heavy. Her teeth weren't chattering, but her body shivered profusely. "Y-... yeah?" she answered.
"Ah... Ah'm cold..." She plainly stated, pressing her head into Dash's neck.
Dash felt a sudden warmth within as the two touched more intimately. Dash felt greatly honored Applejack was there with her, but still felt extremely disappointed in herself for letting this happen to the poor filly. At least she was there to share the punishment- even though Dash knew she shouldn't blame herself for getting the two into this predicament. She also found herself being even more attracted to her friend, now seeing a side of her she had never seen before. She seemed weak, and scared- this was something nopony ever got to see in Applejack. Dash felt very comfortable knowing this.
Dash leaned her head against her friend's and accepted her warmth. Applejack smiled through her chattering teeth, now slowing down as she felt the sudden heat build up in Dash. Applejack could feel a bond in the two growing stronger as they attempted to survive through this horrible condition together. Applejack knew this pony was her best friend, and even felt like she was more. Applejack's eyes opened and her expression became determined as she forced her jaw to stop. She lifted her head and looked into Dash's confused eyes- she had to tell her, it was now or never.
"Dash, Ah... Ah have somethin' ta say..." Applejack began.
Dash felt her heart rise in her chest, wondering if this could be it- if Applejack really did feel the same way about her and if she was about to tell her. "Yeah?" she asked.
"Its that, important thing Ah wanted ta tell you about earlier... but Ah was too shy."
Dash nodded slightly, continuing to listen, shaking slightly from the cold.
Applejack felt she was losing control of her jaw again as her teeth began to chatter through her demands not to. Once she had left Dash's warmth, she was no longer in control of it. "Ah... Ah'm not sure of how to say this- but... Ah love you."
Dash blinked. Was this seriously happening? Was she actually saying what she thought she was saying? Dash blushed slightly and smiled. "Yeah?" she asked joyfully.
Applejack nodded slowly, teeth chattering at full speed now. "Ah- Ah have for a while now, but Ah just couldn't figure out how ta tell ya. Listen, if ya don't feel the same way, just let me know... Ah don't want to ruin our friendship over something so childish..." she said, looking down at the ground.
Dash extended a hoof and pulled her best friend's chin closer, gazing into her cold, tearing green eyes, filled with pity, fear, shame, and pain. She was in pain, truly worried she had just ended everything they had. But that wasn't it- Applejack gazed back into Dash's magenta eyes, filled with happiness and excitement. Her cheeks glowed red and all the shaking seemed to have stopped as the warmth of her body defeated the freezing cold in the barn. Applejack returned a blush as she turned her head slightly to the side and peered at Dash through the corners of her eyes- flirting, smiling.
Then, Dash pulled her face closer until their lips met and the shivering stopped. The whole room melted away as every element around them vanished into thin air and the two's fiery, passionate heat filled the blankets. The lantern finally burned out and submerged the two in darkness as they continued to kiss.