Clear As Glass
A single apple tree stood on the top of a hill, overlooking the entire orchard. It practically shone against the dusk.
“Bloomberg, this is yer special day. Mama’s so proud!”
Applejack beamed at the now full-grown tree, Rainbow standing beside her. It seemed like only yesterday that tree had borne its first bushel of apples, with a tiny filly trying relentlessly to buck them down. Rainbow turned and smiled fondly at the orange mare.
She could still see the messy filly she first met behind those green eyes. If that silly tree had not shook and caught her eye, the two of them would never share such a memory. She took her eyes off the mare, and silently thanked Bloomberg for introducing her to such a pony. Such a stubborn, hardworking, beautiful pony.
Dash kicked herself in the shin and shook her head. She was doing it again. It was her loyalty, she insisted. She cared deeply for each of her friends, and that was all this is. Just normal friendly care.
She zoned back into reality just in time to see Little Strongheart wave their direction. Immediately she jumped off the ground with a smile and glided over to her friend, Applejack following close behind.
“Are you two ponies willing to go for a run?” Little Strongheart asked with a small smile.
“You bet!” Rainbow swung her hoof with enthusiasm.
“Yesiree!” Applejack winked and laughed.
With that, the three of them all turned and headed over the hill towards the now setting sun. The dirt road caused dust to billow up behind them as they ran, or flew, in Rainbow’s case. After the second hill, the road dropped and presented before them a beautiful western terrain with red rock basking in the sun set. It was quite the sight.
The girls ran down the path and through the golden desert as it turned a rose color, laughing and racing all the way. Finally, Little Strongheart slowed, and the other two did the same. The place they had stopped at was a small clear piece of land, closely surrounded by dried logs that looked like benches. A blackened pit sat dead center. It was a small campsite. The girls gathered around. Little Strongheart and Applejack sat down against a log, while Rainbow stood and leaned up against another.
“Huh,” Dash panted, “You are quite the runner, Strongheart.”
“And you are one swift flier!” Little Strongheart replied with a smile.
“Hey, what about me?” AJ joked.
The three girls laughed in unison.
“So, you come here often, sugar cube?” Applejack asked the buffalo.
“Yes.” She nodded. “I came here quite a bit when the Appleloosans started moving and settling here.”
“Well, Ah’m just glad that yer kin and mah kin are friends now,” AJ sighed as she leaned up against the log she was sitting in front of.
Rainbow smiled. AJ was so funny with that accent of hers. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but… Rainbow thought for a moment. It was just kinda cute how she’d say things. It was… something she could really get used to hearing.
“Yeah, you can say that again!” Dash smiled.
The trio sat in silence for a moment, until a very loud growl sound caused both Applejack and Little Strongheart to jump. Rainbow just blushed.
“Aw, horseapples,” Rainbow scratched behind her ear nervously. “I was so busy planting that tree I forgot to eat any dinner.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that sugar cube,” AJ jumped up. “Ah’m sure one of those apple pies are left. Ah’ll just grab you one.”
Rainbow’s blush worsened. “Um… no, you don’t have to do that—”
Applejack cut her off and looked over her shoulder.
“But Ah want to.”
With that, she ran off towards the town, calling she’d be back soon.
Rainbow’s knees weakened and she sat down, her blush worse than ever. She had been with AJ for the last few days. Fighting, arguing, getting along, working together, the usual. It was nice to be friends again. Yet, it felt like the Running of the Leaves all over again.
“I can see you like her.”
The voice made Dash jump as she whipped around towards Strongheart.
“Do you not?” the buffalo raised an eyebrow.
Rainbow turned away, half because she felt a little invaded, the other half to hide the blush.
“No.” She folded her hooves. “I don’t.”
“If you like her, why have you not told her?” The buffalo tilted her head.
“I don’t like her!” Rainbow’s face warmed up more.
Little Strongheart stood.
“Then why do I sense such a great deal of care towards her from you?”
“It’s… it’s my loyalty.” Rainbow huffed. “I care deeply towards all my friends. She’s no different.”
Strongheart giggled. “I am not sure I believe you, Rainbow Dash.”
“Well,” Rainbow swallowed hard, “It’s true.”
The buffalo walked up and put her face inches from the pegasus’.
“Do you believe that?”
Rainbow had no idea what to say. She wanted to say yes, but her tongue couldn’t form the word. Just then, Applejack walked up.
“Here’s yer pie, RD!” The farm pony slid it over.
Rainbow hurriedly grabbed a piece with her hoof right out of the center and stuffed it in her mouth.
Pieces of crust and apple filling smeared all over her lips and even stretching onto her cheek as she indulged into the newly brought food. Glancing up from her meal, Dash saw a very happy AJ as to see her trip was not in vain, but Little Stongheart just shot her a look. It was the kind of look you wouldn’t normally see from the buffalo, but the look was the same nonetheless.
The unconvinced look.
Dash shut her eyes and continued to dig into the pie, making satisfying grunts and swallows all the way. It was very delicious, and the devouring was sincere, but the mess also tried to get her mind off of what Strongheart had said. She didn’t like it one bit. But as hard as she tried, the sweetness of the pie couldn’t get that uncomfortable taste out of her mouth. The one she got when she was wrong.
Far before she wanted it to, the pie was finished and she was licking the tin for the last crumbs. When there really wasn’t anything else left, she looked up, drawing a hoof across her mouth as to find any stray messes. Applejack was laughing, and that was enough to make RD turn bright pink.
“You enjoy that pie there, partner?” AJ chuckled.
Dash smirked sheepishly. “Uh, heh, yeah. It was really good.”
She sat up straight, pushing the tin away. With a deep breath, she tried to get her cool.
It didn’t help that both Applejack and Strongheart were laughing at her.
“What??” She huffed.
“Uhm,” AJ chuckled some more, “You got somethin’ right here.”
She touched her own cheek, modeling for Rainbow.
Rainbow, consequently, mirrored her action and touched the wrong cheek.
“No,” Little Stongheart piped up, “Other cheek.”
Dash touched the right cheek, but first too high then too low. By this point the other two girls were trying not to split their sides open from all the giggling.
“Where??” Dash panicked, still unable to find the defiant crumbs.
With another chuckle, AJ stepped forward.
“It’s alright, Ah’ll get it sugar cube.”
Dash tried to swat her away.
“No! I can get it myself!”
AJ just caught the hoof that was swung at her and pulled her close so she could reach.
“Hold still, Ah got it.”
Dash pouted, now defeated seeing as she was pinned between a rock and a hard place. She waited unhappily to be cleaned off from the crumbly mess on her face.
Applejack gently wiped off the crumbs with a little rubbing, causing them to lose hold on the fur and fall to the ground.
“Just a little more…”
Dash sat stiff and still, her ears pointing straight up, and her face completely flushed. It was a very awkward position, being so close to AJ. Applejack had a firm hold on Dash’s hoof with one of her own, her shoulder a breath away from Dash’s muzzle. She could feel the farm pony’s breath on her face as she leaned in to see better in the losing light. Her heart was pounding like it would surely explode. She couldn’t breathe. It was horrible.
Applejack sat back and inspected her work, still holding onto Dash’s hoof so she couldn’t get away.
She reached forward and brushed off the final crumb, and let go of her friend.
Dash shot into the air at top speed, zigging and zagging to shake off the blush.
More laughter came from below.
Dash stopped midflight, and looked down on the camp.
“Was it really that hard to sit still that long, Rainbow?” AJ called.
As to prove her point, she did a few loops and twirls in the air.
The action was replied with more giggles.
After Rainbow had safely landed on the ground, the other two were on their hooves.
“Hey. What’s up?” Rainbow tilted head.
“Little Strongheart says we should get a fire goin’. Ah agree, since the sun has set and all.”
Rainbow looked at the horizon in surprise.
“Yesiree. So, you comin’ to gather some firewood?”
Applejack smirked fondly, her eyes still sparkling from all the laughter.
The two didn’t have too much trouble finding what they needed, there was plenty of tumbleweed and dried wood. They were soon back to the campsite with enough wood to last the whole night. Little Strongheart was waiting for them.
“I see you have gathered plenty of wood.”
“Yep!” Dash dropped her load into the fire pit. “You got the fire?”
“Ya sure?” AJ tilted her head. “That looks like two normal rocks to me.”
“Oh, c’mon, AJ!” Rainbow did a front flip and landed next to the buffalo. “Tell me you’ve used flint and steel before!”
“Ah guess not.” Applejack sat down across the others, her eyes filled to the brim now with curiosity.
“Show me?” she asked.
Rainbow smiled at her friend as she looked downward to watch. Strongheart had the two rocks in the crevices of her hooves, ready to strike. But the buffalo didn’t move.
The pegasus looked up with irritation.
“Well? Are you gonna show her or what?” She asked the buffalo.
“How about you light the fire, Rainbow Dash?”
Dash eyed Little Stongheart with suspicion, and slowly took the rocks.
Dash didn’t have the same hooves as the buffalo, so she held one in her mouth and the other in her hooves. Tightly keeping the one in between her teeth stable, she firmly struck it with the one in her hooves. After several tries, a few sparks escaped the collision and landed on the dry twigs and tumbleweed, catching them in a golden glow as they began to burn.
Rainbow sat up and spat the rock out, satisfied by her job well done. Applejack sat mesmerized by the slowly growing fire.
“Well Ah’ll be.” She breathed.
Rainbow mused at how much this fascinated Applejack. Her eyes were huge, their green irises glowing in the new firelight, their centers reflecting the growing flames. The tingling sensation began to return, but this time Dash let it. She let herself fall into Applejack's eyes. There was a whole new world in those eyes. And she felt so happy when she went there. She’d only been in this position a hoof-ful of times, but that was enough to tell she enjoyed it. She couldn’t explain it, but she did.
And she’d never want to admit it.
The voice nearly made Dash jump out of her skin. She looked shakily over at Little Strongheart, who was smiling widely.
“What?” she asked half distracted, half irritated.
“Do you want to tell stories too?” Little Strongheart asked.
Confused, Dash looked up at AJ who was looking expectantly back at her.
They must have been talking while she was… busy.
“Oh, yeah, of course!” She quickly caught on. “Can I go first?”
“Sure,” said AJ, “Tell a good one.”
“Well…” Dash scratched her chin as she thought through all the stories she knew. She needed one to make up for her… daze. And she knew just the one.
“Oh! I got a good one…” A mischievous grin kept onto her face.
“Oh?” Applejack raised an eyebrow.
“It was the day I single-hoofedly saved Rarity’s life!”
“Oh, please tell!” Little Strongheart piped up.
Applejack let out a dramaticized groan as she used her hat to cover face.
Rainbow’s smile widened.
And so the stories began, the girls taking turns being the storyteller, their shadows fading as the fire burned on. The three laughed, gasped, and shivered story after story. Finally, Rainbow concluded her final tale, only to find half her audience asleep.
Applejack had curled up on her hat, softly snoring.
“It wasn’t that boring, was it?” Dash chuckled quietly.
Man, the farm pony had many words that described her, but ‘adorable’ wasn’t normally one Dash thought of. That is, not until now. She listened to the snores and blushed softly, a smile just shaping her lips as she looked at her friend. AJ’s hair was slightly ruffled, and coming out of its once secure knot, her chest moving up and down at a slow and steady rate, and her muzzle was tucked under one of her hooves. She looked pretty darn adorable.
“Rainbow Dash, clear as glass.” Mused Little Strongheart.
“Aw shut up.” Rainbow rolled her eyes.
“You cannot expect me to believe what you have said to be true,” the buffalo continued, “And that you believe it too?”
Dash sat back, knowing there was no way out this time.
“How… how can believe that it’s not?” She sighed. “How could I possibly admit that I like her? It… it’s wrong.”
The two sat in silence.
“How… how do I know if I even do?” Dash straightened up. “Maybe it is something else, and I’m just jumping to conclusions.”
“I do not think so,” the buffalo shook her head, “but I do know a way you could discover if your feelings are true for sure.”
Dash turned to her new found friend, her eyes filled with confusion and desperation.
“Service.” Strongheart answered.
Dash tilted her head.
“Serve her.” The buffalo repeated. “See how it feels. You help your friends out when in need, yes?”
“See if serving Applejack feels any different. Also,” she smiled, “service is a great way to disguise one’s feelings, while still expressing them.”
“What does that mean?” Dash folded her hooves in irritation.
“If your feelings are true, service is a great way to keep them hidden, without bottling them up, as you’ve done so far.”
Dash looked down at the once glowing fire, which was now just a bunch of glowing embers.
“Now, I suggest we get some sleep, before the sun rises.”
Dash let herself plop down on the ground, shifting until she got into a comfortable position. It wasn’t the first time she’d slept on hard ground, and after today, she could sleep on anything.
“Yeah, okay, whatever.”
“Ah remember that night,” Applejack blushed, “but Ah’ve never thought of it like that.”
“Well yeah, that was an interesting time.”
Dash looked over at the farm pony. A single tear ran over her freckles and dripped off her chin.
“Hey, you wanted me to tell you, remember?” Dash raised her voice. “Well now I’m telling you!”
“Ah know,” Applejack sniffed. “Ah just… it’s just hard.”
“Well, it’s hard for me too.” Dash gritted her teeth, trying hard to keep her cool.
“Do you want me to stop?”
“No.” Applejack wiped her eyes and looked up. “No Ah don’t. What’s next?”
“Well, after some consideration, I decided to follow Little Strongheart’s advice.”
“By serving? How in the hay did you pull that off?” Applejack chuckled.
“By destroying things.” Dash smirked.
“And if a certain crazy purple unicorn hadn’t scared the crap out of me, I might have learned something.”
Applejack chuckled, now remembering.
“Oh that’s right…”