Nothing much had changed in the months that passed since the incident of the fire. The wind had grown colder and the sun shortened its visits to the world above, providing little warmth through the heavy winter clouds that hovered in the sky. A light snow fell throughout all of Ponyville. Although the younger fillies and colts delighted in the joys of the icy powder; the older ponies sheltered themselves away inside the warmth by the fires inside their homes.
The trees of Sweet Apple Acres no longer bore the shining red fruit that the farm was so well known for, as they also had shed their golden autumn leaves in preparation for the long and cold season. The orchards were silent, as it always was whenever the winter approached. The critters that usually resided on the fields had fled for the upcoming months or were now resting in a deep slumber beneath the ground or within the trees inside their tiny burrows.
Most of the residents of the farmhouse had left to visit family outside of town for the holidays. However, two ponies had decided to stay behind. An orange earth pony and a sky blue Pegasus nuzzled each other on the small brown couch that had been there since the house had first been built. The room was dimly lit; there were no sounds, other than the occasional crackling of the embers sputtering from the fading fire that warmed the house.
The orange mare pressed herself against the blue Pegasus as she gazed into her partner's rose-quartz eyes. They always seemed to be in a state of sadness now, but behind all of that a single glimmer of hope always trailed right with it. Applejack ran her hoof gently through the Pegasus's frazzled rainbow mane, which smelled of the fresh air of grassy fields after a heavy rainstorm.
The two rarely had a chance to be alone together as they had yet to tell anyone other than their four closest friends about their relationship. They were scarcely ever apart and when they were, time seemed to creep forward painfully slow, their hearts longing to be close again. However, the two lovers always had to show their affection in secret, keeping it hidden from the rest of the world.
The embers finally started to give out and darkness filled the room. The two ponies still lay there, holding one another tightly, enjoying every moment of the other's warmth and loving embrace. As the darkness shrouded over them, so did a calming sleep, which the two welcomed, letting it take over as they cradled one another.
Rainbow Dash awoke on the sofa alone. She looked around for her companion, but instead spotted a small note on the table.
"R.D, I went to town to pick up a few things, didn't want to wake you. Be back soon, love you!"
The Pegasus stretched out her upper hooves, and sat up. The large white cast she once wore on her hind leg had been replaced with a sturdy black brace that wrapped tightly around her limb. She placed her hooves onto the wooden floor beneath her, taking extra care as she did so with her fragile hoof.
Rainbow Dash limped over towards a mirror down the hallway, examining herself. Her rainbow mane was sprawled in every direction, and her eyes still slightly glazed from the vacating sleep. She looked at her wing, and attempted to extend them. One of them, as always, had shot out with no difficulties.
The other, however, did not. A fading scar was visible just below where her wing where it attached itself to her body. Pushing herself harder, the wing nudged a little, as each day passed, it spanned out further, not noticeable at first, but after months of strain, she could see the change.
Rainbow Dash had not told any pony else of this yet, she didn't want to get any pony's hopes up in case this would be the extent of what her wing would be capable of for the rest of her days. Still, the feat she accomplished on a daily basis filled her with a small pride and hope that helped to keep her going each day.
After readjusting her mane into its usual hold, the Pegasus turned away from the mirror and headed past the fireplace towards the corner. Grabbing a fresh log with her teeth, she dropped it in and ignited it with the candle that sat atop the mantle. Satisfied with the growing flame, she approached the wall near the door, pushing a hoof down on each floor board, until she found the one that let out a creak.
She knelt down slowly trying to avoid as much pressure on her hind hoof as she could. Once close enough, she pressed down on one side of the loose board and it soon popped away from the others. Inside was a single dark blue box resting peacefully. Blowing away the gathering dust she let out a cough and removed the box.
She had been saving the bits she had managed to come by, mostly from earning them by performing simple tasks around Ponyville. Tipping open the lid gently she peered inside, making sure it's contents still remained. A silver anklet with tiny green emeralds encrusted its edges and in the center a diamond cut to the shape of an apple embedded deeply into the shining metal. On the inside of the anklet, there was a small custom made engraving that said nothing more than, "Eternal love".
The Pegasus had intentions to give this to Applejack as a gift for Heart Warming's Eve, which was now only a few weeks away. She returned the box into its hiding place and pushed the board back into place. As Rainbow Dash stood up the front door squeaked open. Soon an orange earth pony trotted inside, a strong cold wind blowing inside with her.
"Wooh-ee!" Applejack exclaimed when she spotted the blue Pegasus across the room. "Sure is getting a might cold out there. It's gonna be a tough winter to wrap up this year." She walked towards Rainbow Dash, and met her with a small kiss on the cheek, then reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a book. "Ah found this at the library, ah thought maybe yah would want tah read it."
"Daring-Do and the Journey through the Rotting River", Rainbow Dash read aloud, "Ohmygosh ohmygosh!" She said excitedly, snatching the book away with her teeth. She quickly hopped over to the couch the best she could. Applejack chuckled as she watched her mare-friend bounce away both clumsily and joyfully.
Rainbow Dash pried open the cover of the book and cast her eyes upon the first words of the page. She was hardly able to contain her excitement; she had been waiting for this to be in print for almost a year now. She had finished the others in the series quite quickly now that she found herself with an abundance of free time as she could no longer fly.
"Ah'm gonna go do some work in the barn if yah need me sugarcube!" Applejack called out, but her words fell on deaf ears as the Pegasus was already deeply absorbed into the pages of the book she had just received. She rolled her eyes and headed back outside into the cold.
As Applejack walked down the trail leading to the snow covered red barn, she couldn't help but glance across the farm at the dead forest. The place had haunted her sweet Rainbow Dash’s dreams most nights as she slept. The nightmares always causing her to wake up shivering in a thick cold sweat and would no longer able to sleep the rest of the night as her fears and memories filled her mind.
The orange pony wished so desperately that she could do more than just be a comforting hoof to Rainbow Dash. It pained her deeply whenever she witnessed the episodes and all she could do was reassure the Pegasus everything was fine. However, she found that was rarely enough.
Rainbow Dash had put up such a strong front but the blue pony let her guard down when she thought no pony was listening or watching. Many nights she heard the Pegasus sobbing into her pillow as she dreamed of returning to the sky that beckoned to her. It crushed Applejack to hear such sorrows and hurt her even worse that she was not be able to do anything to help.
Often times she found her companion staring into the sky trying to grasp at it as if she could capture it within her hooves and join with it once more. Nearly every day she would stare so deeply into the sky with those same helpless and defeated eyes she had seen for the first time when the Pegasus had awoken inside the hospital.
She sighed heavily and continued towards the barn. Rainbow Dash could love her with all her heart and she could love her back but she knew that would never be enough to fill the Pegasus's void inside her heart. She could never satisfy the pony’s craving for the sky and to return to it where she truly belonged.