The campfire crackled with energy, sending tiny glowing embers floating up toward the starry summer sky. The orange glow from the fire threw itself onto the cabin and the treeline surrounding the two ponies. Owls could be heard who-ing in the distance, other animals making occasional noises to add to the evening atmosphere. Rarity sat on a fireside stump beside her friend, listening to Applejack tell her all about her previous days spent fixing up the cabin. They shared laughs, toasted apple cider, and made and ate a good amount of s'mores.
As the fire began to die down, Applejack gave her best friend an earnest smile.
"I can't thank you enough for coming out here and helping me," Applejack said happily, "I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for you. I was going a little crazy out here by myself!"
"Oh, darling, there's no need to thank me," Rarity replied, "I had a fabulous day with a good friend." Rarity leaned over and threw her hooves around her friend. "Thank you very much for having me, dear!"
Applejack hugged her friend back lightly, allowing herself to blush slightly with a big grin on her face. As the two pulled away from their embrace, AJ threw a calm look back on her face before her friend could notice the joy that hug brought her.
Applejack let out a big yawn, Rarity looking on with a slightly smaller smile. "It was a very nice day, Rare," Applejack said, "but I think it's high time we both hit the hay. It's pretty late and I'm tuckered out from all the work today."
"I know I need my beauty sleep as much as anypony," said Rarity, "but I was really hoping we could stay up just a bit later." Rarity looked expectantly at her friend, hoping she would agree to her proposition. Applejack looked at Rarity with intrigue as Rarity stood up from her stump. "We could talk some more by the campfire," Rarity suggested, "or we could go and catch fireflies." Rarity lifted her hoof and motioned toward the sky, "or we could just sit and stargaze for a while."
Applejack's eyes widened, but then her eyelids sagged back down as her fatigue returned. "I'm awfully sorry Rare," she said with a sigh, "that all sounds really fun, but I think I'm just too tired for that tonight."
Rarity frowned, lowering her head in defeat. Applejack stepped over to her quickly, putting her hoof on Rarity's chin and lifting it up gently. Rarity gave her friend her best puppy dog eyes, but Applejack just offered a gentle smile in return.
"I promise you we will do all of that and more next time," said AJ, "we can have another camping trip real soon. I promise."
Rarity's frown turned back into a small smile, Applejack's statement making her feel a little better. She took a moment to just look into AJ's deep green eyes before nodding her head in agreement. She turned around slightly to look at the fire, now only a pit full of glowing red coals.
"You go ahead and make your way to bed, darling," Rarity said softly, "I will put out the fire and be there in just a moment." She walked over to the other side of the fire pit and leaned her head down to pick up a small metal bucket with her mouth. Applejack had filled it with water from the lake.
"Alright sugarcube," Applejack said, nodding her head, "be sure to slosh the ashes around a bit after you douse it. You can use that branch right there." She pointed with her hoof at a medium sized branch leaned up against the side of the cabin. "Wouldn't wanna burn down my new cabin the first night she's finally ready!" Applejack said as she walked up the cabin steps.
Rarity poured the bucket's contents onto the fire, a loud hiss emerging from the coals as they gave off a small billow of steam. She placed the bucket back on the ground and smiled. "Not on my watch, darling," she said while walking toward the sloshing branch.
Applejack laid down in one of two adjacent cots in the cabin's bedroom, placing her hat on the nightstand. The room was dark, the only light coming from a small window in the middle of the room. Applejack glanced at the four diamonds of moonlight that said window cast onto the floor, mentally erasing the lowest one so that it resembled Rarity's cutie mark. She let out a quiet giggle at this, pleased with her thoughtfulness. Applejack let a final yawn escape her as she began to drift to sleep.
She awoke at the faint sound of hoofsteps entering the room. She glanced over and watched as Rarity looked out the window for a moment before turning around and walking toward the beds. AJ closed her eyes and did her best to breathe as if she was sleeping, not wanting her friend to think she wasn't tired. She listened as Rarity began to lift up her sheets and climb into bed, but then stopped suddenly and put her hooves back onto the cabin floor. For a good while, Rarity made no sound. "Why is she just standing there?" Applejack wondered, trying to maintain her facade.
A few short hoofsteps broke the silence, positioning Rarity at the side of Applejack's bed. AJ heard the familiar spark of Rarity's horn as she felt her covers rise up to just below her chin. Applejack listened carefully as she heard the faint hum of Rarity's horn dissipate, but then resume once again as Applejack felt her blanket being tucked into the bed on the bottom and sides.
Applejack accidentally let out a small chuckle, amused at her friend's need to make her bed. Rarity's magic hum stopped suddenly, and Applejack heard her take a few steps back. Panicking, AJ let out a large fake snore. She could hear Rarity covering her mouth while giggling, trying not to wake her sleeping friend. Applejack felt an air of relief as Rarity once again approached her bedside. Applejack felt Rarity's breath on her cheek as she leaned over her. "What is she doing?" Applejack wondered. "I can feel her breath, she must be ri-"
"Goodnight my dear."
Rarity whispered somberly into Applejack's ear, and then reached her head in a little more and gave her a light kiss on the cheek.
Applejack's heart was racing as she kept her eyes tightly shut, listening as Rarity climbed into the other cot and pulled the covers over her. Butterflies welled up inside Applejack's stomach, her mind aflame with questions. "What was that? Does she feel something for me? What should I do?" She wanted nothing more than to talk to Rarity, but as quickly as this rush of questions had hit her she felt her fatigue engulfing her mind. "Goodnight Rare," she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
Applejack awoke suddenly, sitting up in her bed. She rubbed her eyes, glancing over at Rarity's bed. To her surprise, the covers were strewn about. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she could now see that there was in fact no Rarity present in the bed at all. Applejack wore a confused look as she scanned the room. Everything else was in place. The patch of moonlight from the window had moved a bit to the left, but that was the only difference. Applejack got out of her bed, yawning and stretching her back. She grabbed her hat off the nightstand, placing it back onto her head.
Applejack walked carefully into the main room of the cabin, gently waving her hoof in front of her to make sure not to run into anything in the dark. She made her way over to the kitchen table, reaching down and lighting a small glass lantern she had left on the table. The lantern threw an orange hue all over the room as Applejack glanced around, still not finding her friend. Frowning, she walked over and glanced out one of the front windows at the fire pit.
She let out a huff as she spun around, heading over to the back window. AJ peered out the back window toward the clearing that housed the lake. She could see a faint glow of light seeming to come from the dock's direction. Applejack raised an eyebrow in honest confusion, wondering what Rarity was doing at the dock in the wee hours of the morning. She walked back over to the table and grabbed the lantern with her teeth. She opened the front door with her hoof and ventured out into the night.
Applejack walked down the steps and looked around her campsite. Everything was dark, the trees now standing completely still without a breeze in the air. AJ glanced over at the fire pit, the coals looking as dark as the night sky above her. She grinned, mentally thanking Rarity for following her directions. As she was sending her mental thank you, a pair of fireflies hovered past her. Applejack watched as they floated gently, flying behind the cabin. AJ trotted around the cabin, following the fireflies as they headed toward the lake.
As Applejack approached the lake's clearing, she observed Rarity sitting alone on the dock. She had set the other lantern from the cabin beside her, and was looking up at the sky. The lantern illuminated her and the dock, creating a piercing spot of light in the middle of the dark forest. The light from the lantern cast out over the water, highlighting small ripples as they moved across the lake. The pair of fireflies had joined a multitude of them hovering gently around the grass just before the dock. Applejack traced Rarity's gaze up to the sky as she approached the dock. AJ held in a gasp as she looked up at the sky, marveling at a perfectly clear sky full of stars. She was able to pick out the summer triangle and a few constellations as she stepped onto the dock.
Rarity squeaked as Applejack sat down next to her, having been totally engrossed in stargazing. She put a hoof to her chest, catching her breath.
"You scared the daylight out of me Applejack!" she said, her mouth scrunched up in frustration.
Applejack looked down at the water, an embarrassed look covering her face. "I'm sorry Rare," said AJ. "I didn't mean to startle you, I just noticed you left the cabin and I went looking for you."
Rarity let out a deep sigh, then gently bopped her friend on the shoulder. "That's okay darling," Rarity said with a nervous smile, "I just couldn't seem to sleep, and it's just such a lovely night out..."
Applejack nodded. "I agree hun," she said with a smile, "these stars sure are somethin', aren't they?" Applejack looked up at the sky, the lantern casting a glow on her smile. Rarity smiled back, turning her head skyward as well.
For a moment, neither of the two friends spoke. The summer sky shone bright with stars, and the lake below them reflected their shimmering glow. It seemed as if the stars went on forever, a beautiful portrait of unknown places.
Applejack pointed up at a group of stars. "That there is called "Aquila the Eagle"," she stated proudly, "see, there is the wings, and that is the tail..." Applejack did her best to point to the separate parts of the constellation with her hoof, Rarity watching with an enormous grin on her face. Applejack lowered her hoof, laughing at how difficult it is to point to stars in such a small constellation.
"I see it!" Rarity said, reassuring her friend that she was doing a good job as star-spotter. Applejack closed her eyes and smiled as Rarity looked longingly back at the stars. Applejack opened her eyes as Rarity tapped her shoulder, Rarity looking up at the sky in amazement. Applejack turned her head skyward once more, opening her mouth in awe.
A shooting star shot across the sky, glimmering as if it were made of pure magic.
Applejack beamed with joy, turning to look back at Rarity. Rarity's eyes were shut, her head looking down and her hooves together as if in prayer.
"What did you wish for?" Applejack asked curiously. "I wished for a good harvest this year at the farm."
Rarity opened her eyes quickly, turning to face her friend. "Oh, well I can't tell you the wish," Rarity explained, "or it won't come true! That's how wishes work darling." Rarity smiled as she glanced back up at the stars.
"Heh, I bet you wished for your next fashion line to go over well," Applejack said with a chuckle. Rarity frowned, then gave out a small chuckle of her own.
"Yes, that was it," she admitted, a small grin present on her face, "I suppose we both just set ourselves up for some tough times." Rarity looked down at the lake, observing the star's reflections dance as ripples moved through the water. "Oh well," she said before letting out a sigh.
Applejack suddenly felt the butterflies return to her stomach. She looked at Rarity, looking somewhat distant as she gazed into the lake. Applejack felt a warmth inside her chest, as if her heart was trying to leap out of her body. She felt as if her body was trying to move on it's own, without her consent. She felt as if she needed to do something.
"It's now or never," she thought.
Applejack leaned over and gently kissed Rarity's cheek.
Rarity sat up straight, her eyes wide and mouth agape. Applejack leaned back to where she was sitting, waiting for a response. The two sat there, not making a sound. Applejack's heart felt like it was about to pound clear out of her chest as she kept her gaze locked to Rarity, waiting for what would happen next.
After what seemed like an eternity, Rarity gave out a small squeak. Tears began to run down her face.
Applejack's heart plunged into her stomach, regret immediately consuming her mind. "Aw, shucks Rare...I-I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to-"
Applejack's apology was cut short as her friend wrapped her hooves around her, Rarity now sobbing softly into Applejack's shoulder. Applejack was shocked by the sudden change of pace, but followed suit and wrapped her hooves around her crying friend. The two shared this embrace for a moment as Rarity's sobs began to slow.
"Feeling better hun?" Applejack asked gently, nuzzling her cheek against Rarity's hair.
Rarity said something lightly, but her voice was muffled by Applejack's shoulder. Applejack pulled her friend away from her shoulder, now looking at her face to face. Her eyes were still wet with tears, but she now wore a heartwarming smile on her face.
"What were you trying to say, sugarcube?" Applejack asked, wiping away her friend's tears.
Rarity placed her hoof over AJ's, looking at her with stars in her eyes.
"You made my wish come true."