"I'm sure that I've got a spare blanket in the library," Twilight declared as they exited Town Hall.
"We could always just lie on the grass, y'know," Applejack commented with a slight grin. She had a tired expression on her face and her eyelids were starting to droop, and Twilight felt a bit of sympathy for her.
"Even better," the purple unicorn replied simply. "We should probably go somewhere that isn't so crowded, though," she added with a shrug.
Applejack stopped, and after a moment Twilight did the same. It seemed that, for a few moments, she was lost in thought. "I know a place near Sweet Apple Acres;" Applejack agreed with a tired smile, "follow me."
With a nod from Twilight, the two were on their way to Applejack's farm. As they walked through the town, Twilight observed the busy ponies as they went about their rushed activities in the days before the festival. Ponies of all types were doing their part to get ready; Ponyville took pride in its events.
Pegasi were hanging banners and making weather plans, and Twilight noticed Rainbow Dash was bolting between buildings to give orders and to inspect clouds. She gave a wave, but the pegasus was concentrating on her flight too much to notice.
Earth ponies were making sure the paths within Ponyville were in pristine condition, and the unicorns were assisting with the heavy lifting with their magic. They were also setting up the fairgrounds that the festival would take place in. From what Twilight could see, it was absolutely massive in size. It seemed to be roughly half the size of Ponyville.
"Looks like everybody's got a job to do," Twilight commented with a curious fascination.
"Yep," Applejack replied. "When it comes to big events, I reckon Ponyville's got the best ponies around for the job," she finished, the end of the sentence slightly distorted by a yawn.
"Are you tired? Do you want to go back to the farm and rest?" Twilight asked with a concerned expression upon her face.
"Nah, I'll be fine," she replied with a smile that quivered, threatening to turn into another yawn. After she suppressed it, Applejack looked to Twilight and nodded. "I just gotta get movin', is all. Been in Town Hall all day; starts to wear a farm pony down after a while," she finished with another yawn and a quick shake of her head.
"Well, luckily Sweet Apple Acres isn't so far, right?" Twilight suggested optimistically, to which Applejack gave her usual, small smile and a nod. She looked to Twilight as if she were going to fall asleep while she walked. Luckily for both of them, they were nearing the farm. When Twilight veered to follow the main path to Sweet Apple Acres, she would have bumped into Applejack had she not been paying attention.
"Something wrong?" she asked when she noticed Applejack kept walking down the road, past Sweet Apple Acres' entrance.
"Just keep following me, don't worry," Applejack reassured her without looking back. She simply kept moving forward at a casual pace, and Twilight followed suit.
They kept walking, with Applejack smiling silently and Twilight surveying her surroundings, until they came to a portion of the farm's fence that was broken deliberately. "Here we are," Applejack announced as she came to a stop beside the fence.
Twilight looked around for a bit, looking for any sign of a camp or an area where they could rest, but all she saw was the broken fence, and a path of trampled grass leading into the forest.
She gave Applejack a skeptical look. "Here?" she asked after a moment's hesitation. "Are you sure you don't want to go back to the farm and sleep?" she suggested with a concerned tone in her voice.
After a short laugh, Applejack gestured towards the broken fence and climbed over it. "Come on, I'll show ya," she said calmly. After yet another confused look, Twilight followed after her friend loyally.
After entering the woods and maneuvering around a few dozen trees, they came to a large opening in the forest that made Twilight's jaw drop. It looked like somewhere Fluttershy would keep her most precious animals at. In the middle of the opening was a small pond, and a few ducks were swimming contently along the surface. There was just enough shade to provide the two mares with cover, and plenty of sunlight to keep them warm.
"This is a paradise!" Twilight exclaimed quietly, careful not to disturb the almost tangible peace that overwhelmed the forest, "I would never have guessed something like this was in Ponyville." After a moment's analysis, she couldn't resist adding, "Well I probably could have guessed, but it seemed pretty unli-"
"I know," Applejack said simply, cutting her off.
Twilight smiled and gave a nod. The orange mare moved over to a shady spot, lying down to rest. Twilight was worried she might fall asleep immediately, but she instead beckoned the purple unicorn over with a jerk of her head, to which Twilight complied by walking over and sitting beside her friend.
"Found this place a while back, maybe a few years ago," Applejack began. "Apple Bloom had gotten lost when she went chasin' after Winona. Must've seen a critter or somethin' 'cause I hadn't seen her bolt off like that any time before. Before I realized what was happenin', Apple Bloom ran into the woods. Mind you, she was young," she clarified with a shrug, "Wasn't fast, but she was hard to see with her size."
As she listened on, Twilight could see the caring glint in Applejack's emerald eyes. The one she'd seen when Applejack was comforting her back at Town Hall. The look gave her a warm feeling. Not the kind she got from sitting in the sunlight, but a different warmth.
"I went runnin' into the forest as fast as I could," Applejack continued contently, "chasin' the sounds of Winona's barking and Apple Bloom's calling after her. Eventually the callin' turned into giggling, and I stumbled into this place. Had I not been out of breath, I woulda held it when I first saw this place. Ever since then, I've been comin' here when I needed to take my mind off of things."
"Seems like Apple Bloom was pretty fearless, running into the forest like that," Twilight commented. With a knowing smile, she turned towards Applejack and added, "Must run in the family, hm?"
"S'pose so," Applejack replied, accepting the compliment modestly.
She looked exhausted for some reason, and Twilight knew it wasn't from working at Town Hall. She was a farm pony; labor came naturally to her. Judging it was best to just let her rest, Twilight thought of a solution.
When one came to her, she was proud of herself for having thought of it. "Get some sleep, Applejack," Twilight suggested calmly, looking the mare in the eyes.
"What? No, I couldn't," she protested, trying to hide her exhaustion by opening her eyes wide and shaking her head.
"You helped me back at Town Hall, now I'm helping you. Get some sleep," Twilight commanded with a kind overtone and a concerned smile.
Applejack stared back, trying to defy her with a look, but Twilight refused to back down. With a sigh, Applejack reluctantly complied, "Alright. But only for a little bit. You make sure to wake me up if I sleep for too long, ya hear?"
"Of course," Twilight agreed, though she had no plans to wake Applejack.
She watched as her friend crossed her forehooves and laid her head atop them, shutting her eyes. Almost immediately, Twilight noticed Applejack's back rising and falling rhythmically, showing that she was asleep. Deeming it safe to relax, Twilight moved a bit closer to Applejack and laid down, crossing her forehooves as she took in the peace of the forest.
For once, Twilight didn't have to think to hard about what was happening. She didn't have to think at all, in fact. And she had Applejack to thank for that.