During the storm, Applejack, Rarity, and Fluttershy found shelter inside a hollow tree. It was irreguraly large enough to hold at least seven or eight more ponies, but they enjoyed the extra space. It gave the three room to spread out and rest comfortably on the soft soil. They waited patiently for the storm to end.
The wind had finally ceased its rampage. The cruel storm Discord had plagued the ponies with had broken. Unfortunatly, Rarity and Applejack still felt like their whole friendship was a complete waste of time. The hollow tree that they found shelter in felt more like a prison that kept them together with their insecurities. They couldn't look each other in the eye. Fluttershy could only watch as two of her best friends grew more distant from each other. It broke her heart and she wished she could help.
"I reckon that since the storm is gone, we could start lookin for the others in the morning," said Applejack.
"That sounds wonderful," replied Fluttershy still feeling glum.
Rarity just looked at the floor lost in thought. She loved Applejack, yet her heart was weighed down with doubts about their entire friendship. She wanted to be friends, but she couldn't help but feel it would only end up fruitless.
"Rarity...are you okay...if you don't mind me asking?" asked a concerned Fluttershy.
Rarity jumped the sound of her gentle voice. She had completely forgotten that she wasn't alone.
"Oh...well...I am quite alright," she answered unconvincingly.
Applejack caught how she felt and walked over to the other side of the tree. She laid down on the soft floor. A single tear fell down her cheek in a somber fashion.
I can't believe a slippery varmint ruined a good friendship. How can I fix this? she thought.
You can't. It is gone and you should forget about that stuck up pony, came a small voice.
Applejack's ears perked up and her alerted eyes darted back and forth. She knew she heard a voice, but couldn't figure out where it came from.
You know she always loathed you. Your sloppiness and country accent always annoyed her. You are nothing but a useless thing that she uses to amuse herself.
Applejack listened intently to what the voice was saying. Worse, she was starting to believe it.
She does complain about my down home ways. Why does she have ta be so snooty? Applejack thought. She shuffled uneasily. Rarity took notice and became concerned.
"Are you okay darling?" Rarity asked Applejack.
"I'm fine you snooty princess," was her response. Rarity and Fluttershy were shocked at the response that they got.
"Why did you call Rarity that aweful name?" Fluttershy asked fearful of where this was going.
"Cause it's the truth. She is a snooty pony. I can't stand her."
Rarity began to cry as she felt her heart shatter. "Why? Whatever did I do to you?" she said with a shakey voice.
SSShhe hatesss you. SSShe isss jealousss that you are so much classssier than her, said a disembodied voice. Rarity looked around trying to find the source of the voice. She found nothing, but she couldn't help but believe what the voice said was the truth.
"Well I never," Rarity said. "I'm sorry that you feel threatened by my sophisticated ways, but that's no excuse to be rude."
"I ain't threatened by anything of yours. Your just full of yourself," replied Applejack.
See what I mean dear Applejack. She is so agravating. You should do something to deflate her ego.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" asked Rarity. "Do I have something in my mane?"
"You're gonna have my hoof in your face, you sorry excuse of a friend!" exclaimed Applejack as she lunged at Rarity from her prone position.
Rarity was at a loss for words. She couldn't move, nor could she believe what was going to happen. Her best friend was about to crush her. Rarity could hold her own in a fight, but she mostly got away with being clever. Besides, only Rainbow Dash could ever beat Applejack in a fight. Rarity didn't have a chance.
I'm not goint to let this happen, thought Fluttershy as she ran to intercept Applejack.
She shut her eyes, awaiting the imminent blow. She felt a breeze pass over her. "Ahh," somepony said within the tree. When she opened her eyes, she saw Fluttershy on the ground in front of her. Applejack was shocked at what just occured and just stood there motionless.
"I'm sorry sugarcube. I didn't mean to hit ya," said Applejack frantically. "I was trying to hit that persnickety princess over there."
"How dare you hit my friend you ruffian!" exclaimed Rarity as she lunged at Applejack. You could feel the rage that radiated off the unicorn as she got closer to the bully she once called her friend. Fluttershy lept in front of her and stopped Rarity dead in her tracks.
"That's enough!" Fluttershy said strangely louder than usual. "You two are best friends. You shouldn't be treating each other like that."
Don't listen to her, came a whisper from the dark.
Sssshee'ssss lieing. Teach her a lessssson. came another.
"You two are different in may ways, and that's why I admire your friendship," continued Fluttershy. "You both have always had each other's back. Rarity, you got dirty to help Applejack remove a tree from Twilight's house. Applejack, you dressed up in Rarity's designs on many occasions. What changed between you two? Where did your faith in each other go?"
Applejack and Rarity looked at each other. Both of their cheeks reddened with embarassment. It got akwardly quiet as they gazed at each other.
I don't know what came over me. How can I call her mah friend if I just tried to hit her. This friendship is a waste, thought Applejack.
This has gone on long enough, thought Rarity as she extended her hoof towards her country friend. Applejack just stared at it with confusion.
"I apoligize for my rude behavior. Fluttershy is right. We have been acting like little fillies. We have been friends for years, and it was wrong of me to think of you like that. I wish with all my heart that it could all be taken back. Can we continue to be friends and put this behind us?" pleaded Rarity desperately.
Applejack was torn inside, as if some being ripped her heart in two. She couldn't decide if this is what she wanted, or still believed it was a waste to try and be friends.
It is just a trick. Don't do it, came the whispers again. They seemed more uncertain than before, but they were still ever present.
Ssstop before you do sssomething ssstupid. Remember, sssshe is not your friend.
Rarity's hoof was stil outstretched. Her eyes were watching Applejack's every move. Applejack gazed into them for a brief second. Inside her shining eyes was the determination that only Rarity was known for. She truly believed that they could go back to normal. Applejack's eyes shifted as the whispers continued to attack her with their barrage of doubt.
She will only break your heart. Take her down before she takes you down.
You are too smart to fall for her liessss again. Lissten to reassson. Dessstroy her.
Applejack's hoof began to rise from the ground. It shook as if a small earthquake was happening on her hoof. It inched closer towards Rarity's. Fluttershy could only watch and hope that what she said hammered some sense into the country pony's doubtful mind. Applejack's hoof almost met Rarity's, then Applejack pulled it back.
Rarity's face didn't change as she spoke. "I am also sorry for how I thought about you. I sometimes do think your a bit messy. Although, I kind of respect it. It means your not afraid to get your hooves dirty to get a job done...unlike me. I also find your accent entralling. It is one of your best qualities that I hope never changes. I have been a terrible friend, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. "
Applejack looked into Rarity's eyes once more before diving into her. Rarity was put into a state of shock and Fluttershy lept back at the sudden movement. Applejack embraced Rarity in a tight hug, too afraid to let go. The embrace felt warm and comforting. Neither of them wanted to let go of each other.
When it was over, Rarity looked at her friend with a mix of astonishment and confusion. "Applejack," she said. Why did you do that?"
The tears didn't stop rolling down her cheeks. Applejack said with a quivering voice, "I have always loved you like a sister. I felt that I could always count on ya for anythin. When that snake told me what ya thought of me, I felt like my heart split right in two. I didn't know how to go on." She paused for a breath. The cascade of tears only fell faster down her gentle cheeks.
"Then you gave me that speech and the look in your eyes made me feel like...like we can still be friends. Please don't stop bein mah friend. I don't want to lose ya. I...love ya," Applejack finished as she looked towards the ground.
Rarity placed her hoof on her friend's shoulder and spoke with a gentle tone. "Applejack...look at me." Applejack did what she was told and felt the white unicorn's hoof wipe away her tears. Applejack froze for a second, then excepted the sweet gesture. She gazed into Rarity's eyes intently.
"I have felt the same way about you since we met," she said as tears began to form in her eyes. "I do not want to lose your friendship. It means more to me than next year's fashion line." Applejack took that statement as a compliment. Rarity only put her greatest possessions in front of fashion, and Applejack was glad she was one of them.
They just embraced each other after that. They both cried tears of joy as the specters of their fears and doubts faded away. Fluttershy just blushed after wittnessing the whole experiance, but felt happy for her two friends.
"My my. What a heartfelt moment," came the voice. All the ponies turned to see Doubt and Distrust walking out of the shadows of the forest into their temporary home. "It is just a shame that we have to cut it short."
"If you won't dessstroy each other, then we will jussst have to do it oursselves," said Doubt. His fangs glinted with malice and dripped venom. Distrust erupted into a blaze. Her entire body was outlined in a fire as bright as the sun. She began to run around the hollow tree, causing it to catch fire and burn. The three ponies huddled in a corner as Doubt made his way towards them with his fangs ready to strike. His eyes burned with hate as he successfully cornered them at the end opposite the entrance.
"How did ya get a wet tree to burn you stinkin varmint?" Applejack asked still wary of the fiendish serpant and his venom-dripping fangs.
"Magic flames burn no matter the situation. Aren't they just beautiful," was her response. "Doubt, the job is done. We have to get out of here."
Doubt and Distrust retreated outside of the burning tree. They sat on the cool grass just a few feet from the tree, and watched their work with sadistic pleasure. The tree would soon be completely engulfed in flames, and the ponies would burn with it.
"Rarity," Applejack said as sweat and tears fell from her face, "if this is the end, I'm glad I'm with you."
"The feeling is mutual my friend," she replied as they embraced each other.
Fluttershy joined them in the embrace and said, "You are the best. I'm glad your my friends. I'm just sorry it's going to end like this."
The fire crackled menacingly as it continued to consume their once safe haven. Their hope that everything would be alright diminished as the fire quickly climbed farther up the tree.