"But Where Do They Bury The Survivors?"
Slowly, the two elderly earth ponies trudged upwards through snow and ice. The hill stretched out in front of them imposingly, and the cold wind bit at their faces, but their pace never slowed and never faltered. They were tough, after all. They were survivors.
True, the farm pony's knees weren't as good as they had been in her youth, ravaged as they were by decades of hard tree bucking. Much as it injured her stubborn pride, she had to lean against her friend for physical support as they climbed. In turn, the baker's eyes had gone nearly white with cataracts, and she also leaned against her friend, so that the farmer could lead her in the right direction.
Neither complained, though. They were tough, after all. They were survivors. Besides, they'd made this trek dozens of times. They probably could do it in their sleep by now.
In relatively little time, they'd made it to the top of the hill. The wind was colder here, fiercer here. The farmer found herself reflecting on the appropriateness of that. Yes, it was somehow right that it was so cold and so fierce up on this hill. She carefully led her friend towards the lone tree on the hilltop, under which sat a small stone.
They approached the stone with their heads bowed low. The stone greeted them silently, as it always did, and they stopped to read the inscription chiseled into the rock even though they knew each and every word by heart.
"Here lies Rainbow Dash," Applejack recited aloud, partly for Pinkie Pie's sake and partly just to hear the words herself. "Never has Equestria seen a truer friend or a faster flier."
Pinkie remained silent for a moment. "I still wish we could've put something about pranks on there."
"Rarity would've just about killed ya if ya had. You know how uptight she was about the funeral arrangements bein' all perfect and reverent-like."
"But Dashie was the best prank partner ever!" The pink mare shook her head. "But now nopony will know that, after we're all gone."
Applejack tried not to dwell on that depressing thought. Instead, she gave Pinkie a small nudge and offered, "She really was somethin' else, wasn't she?"
"She was …" Pinkie paused, and she shivered a bit. "She was beautiful. She was absolutely beautiful."
Applejack felt a familiar ache tug at her chest. "She sure was."
"Do you think she knew, Applejack? Did she know how we … that we … " Pinkie trailed off and turned her pale eyes down towards her hooves.
"I dunno, sugar cube. Sometimes I think she must have, but other times? Other times, I think there weren't no way she knew." She laughed, but somehow the laugh twisted somewhere in the middle and ended in a sob. "She could be so smart and so stupid, and all at the same time."
Pinkie nodded in agreement. A small, teary giggle escaped her.
"No, I think she knew," Applejack said suddenly, decisively. The words felt true as soon as she'd said them, and that was good enough. "Maybe not all the little details, but she knew we loved her. That we all loved her."
"Oh, I hope so. I really, really, really hope so."
Applejack leaned against Pinkie Pie a little more, grateful for the warmth and the companionship. In return, Pinkie gently rested her snout on the top of Applejack's head. They stood in companionable silence for a few minutes, as the wind whipped around them, and the outskirts of Ponyville spread out down below like rows of tiny toy houses.
Finally, the farm pony muttered, "It wouldn't have worked out, anyhow. An earth pony and a pegasus pony? Just crazy foolish thinkin', that's all it was."
Pinkie grinned at that, and when she grinned, she almost looked like the boundlessly energetic and happy young pony Applejack had first met all those many years ago. "Speak for yourself, Applejack! I totally could've made it work. Don't you remember my Pinkie 'copter?"
"Oh, I remember, all right." Applejack snorted good-naturedly. "I remember that it crashed dang near every time you flew it. Thing was a death trap."
"Yeah," agreed Pinkie, with a wistful sigh.
Applejack leaned over and gave the other pony a quick nuzzle. "C'mon, sugar. Let's get back to town before we freeze ourselves to death."
"Okie dokie lokie." But the words were quieter now, slower now, than they would once have been. "I wonder if Twilight will make us hot chocolate if we drop by the library."
Applejack chuckled as she began leading Pinkie away. "Naw, she'll probably just lecture us for bein' out in the cold when we're such broken-down old mares. But Spike might, if we ask real nice."
"Good old Spike! I always knew I liked that dragon."
They paused as they reached the path down the hill and turned to glance back over their shoulders. The stone and the tree were still in view, just barely.
"So long, RD."
"See ya later, Dashie."
They made their way down the path much the same way as they'd come up it, but for some reason, it seemed to take twice as long. Once, Applejack slipped on a patch of ice, but Pinkie managed to catch her and hold her up until she could regain her bearings. With any other pony, it might have been an awkward moment, but she and Pinkie had too much shared history for there to be any awkwardness between them.
Thank Celestia for small favors, thought Applejack, a touch bitterly.
The farmer waited until they'd reached the bottom of the hill before she asked, more for the sake of ritual than anything else, "So … same time next year?"
Pinkie Pie gave a nod and a small smile. "Yeppers. Same time next year."