Soft light started shining into Applejack’s face, and almost immediately, she huddled her body up and began shivering. Rarity must have either forgotten to get up and get a fire started, or she was still sleeping. As she thought about it, Applejack figured the most likely situation was that she was up and thought to make a fire, but didn’t want to start one out of getting dirt and splinters all over her hooves. As before, she was likely to pester Applejack until she started the fire.
With a deep breath to brace herself, Applejack threw off the covers and quickly jumped out of bed, dashing to the clothes she had set out for herself the previous night: a thick wool sweater, fleece pants, and cotton socks. They were the same clothes she had been wearing the past few days despite Rarity’s objections, but they kept her warm. They weren’t hers anyways, and she already felt bad about virtually living in one pair of somepony else’s clothes, so dirtying them up and then taking another outfit just seemed plain rude.
Once her clothes were on and her body felt slightly less frigid, she opened the door to her temporary bedroom and looked down the hall. The door to Rarity’s bedroom was open, so she was up. Knowing how the past few days had gone, she would likely be sitting in front of an empty fireplace, waiting for Applejack to come down and light it for her. As always.
When she walked downstairs, the air grew heavy and cold. “Applejack!” she heard Rarity call almost as soon as her hoof set foot on the ground floor. “I’m so glad you’re awake! Be a dear and come light the fire, would you?”
“You know where the matches are,” she grumbled as she walked into Rarity’s living room and saw, as she predicted, Rarity sitting on the floor, wrapped in Celestia knew how many blankets. “If you were that cold, why didn’t you do it?”
“You’re just so good at it,” she smiled. “I would probably still be trying to get the match lit if I started when I came down here!”
“You got magic, too,” Applejack pointed out. “Why don’t you just start a fire that way?”
“Oh, I’m no Twilight,” she shook her head. “I wish I could start a fire with my magic!”
“You can cast a spell that shows you where every gemstone within a mile radius is…but you can’t light a fireplace?”
“Well, those are two entirely different schools of magic, darling! I was never good at abstract conjuration, and even what little I’m capable of doing within it is nowhere near the raw force that needs to be harnessed in order to create such a stir in the—“
“Let me get the fire started,” she interrupted before dashing to the box of matches on the mantle and flipping one out. As she prepared to strike it, she looked down at the fireplace. Rarity had become good at stacking logs, but unfortunately, that was all there was. They had burnt up the last of her old papers yesterday, and they were similarly out of kindling. At this, Applejack smiled. She wasn’t the youngest pony in her Filly Scout troop’s history to get her firemaking badge for nothing, after all.
While striking the match, she looked over the log pile for what looked to be the most flammable sections. After identifying a few sections of drier, less dense wood, she used the small flame from the match to ignite them. Once all were lit, she extinguished the match and stepped back, confident that the fire would slowly build.
“How many matches do we have left?” Rarity asked tentatively, pulling her blankets closer to herself.
“Bout half a box,” Applejack replied as she placed it back on the mantle. “That should be fine, but to be safe I want us to find something to transport fire from this here fireplace to the stove if we want to use it. Probably smart to not use any matches when we don’t need to.”
“I knew I should have gone to the store,” she muttered to herself. “We don’t even have any food, we’re going to starve!”
“We got plenty of food,” Applejack sighed. “Half your fridge ain’t even gone bad cause we got it in the snow quick enough.”
“And the other half you won’t even let me eat!”
“We don’t know how long this is gonna last. And even when it’s done, we don’t know how long it is until your electricity comes back on, much less the store’s. You can have as much of the fruit as you want, though, cause it ain’t gonna be good after today.”
“Oh, just get me something. I’m starving, I don’t care what it is.”
Not wanting to bother with starting the stove to cook anything, Applejack simply grabbed a few wrinkly apples along with a small bunch of rapidly-browning bananas and returned to the living room before placing them all on the coffee table. Almost as soon as the food was set down, one of the apples was enveloped in the pale blue glow of Rarity’s magic and whisked over to her mouth. Instead of the sharp crunch she would have gotten from a better piece of fruit, they were instead treated to a sound akin to an unappetizing squish.
“These apples definitely are on their last legs,” Rarity commented as she wiped off the apple juice that started running down her chin.
“Other stuff’s gonna be good for a little while longer,” she replied while delicately trying to peel an overripe banana without crushing it. “Figure this ain’t gonna be edible tomorrow anyways, so may as well eat it today.”
“How do you even lose control of a snowstorm?” Rarity complained, putting her apple back on the coffee table. “And it’s been going for days now! Surely the weather patrol is able to get enough pegasi to stop this, so why are we still trapped?”
“I ain’t a Pegasus, so I dunno. All we can do is sit and wait.”
As the fire started picking up speed, the two sat and ate in silence, the only sounds being the crackling of the fire and the chewing of mushy fruit. Upon finishing her apple, Rarity delicately placed the core on the table and looked at Applejack out of the corner of her eye.
“Are we going to survive this?” she meekly squeaked out.
“We’re gonna be just fine,” Applejack groaned. “We still got food, and even when the perishables go bad, you got cans of soup and boxes of pasta. And your stove’s gas, so we can keep it lit. If your pipes freeze which I’m kinda surprised they haven’t already, we gather snow and ice and melt them for water. And if we run out of wood for the fire, we got blankets and warm clothes. We’re also inside, so we’re dry, and that’s the important part. So unless we’re stuck in here for months, we’re gonna be just fine, sugarcube. We might be colder and hungrier than normal at the end of it, but we’ll be fine.”
The two mares sat in silence for a few moments longer, before Rarity looked at Applejack and spoke up. “Do you think my parents are doing fine?”
“Your dad likes to camp,” Applejack pointed out, “so he probably’s got at least some know-how on how to get through this. And if not, you’d know better than I would because they’re your parents. Is Sweetie Belle with them?”
“Yes, thankfully,” she sighed. “She wanted to go to the park and play in the snow, but I told her that with as bad a storm as the pegasi were planning, she shouldn’t be out any longer than she needed to. She said she would walk straight to our parents’ house, but I know her too well to not recognize when she just says those things to get me to go away. Walked her there myself. Where are the rest of the Apples?”
“Back at Sweet Apple Acres. Apple Bloom wanted to come and help me with the cider delivery, but I told her it would be too hard in this storm. Caught her following me a few times, thankfully all near the start of this so I know she had enough time to get back home.”
Rarity silently giggled. “They really don’t listen to us, do they?”
“Two peas in a pod.” Applejack couldn’t prevent a smile from breaking out on her face. “Thick as thieves, those two are. And I don’t know who had the ‘not listening to your big sister’ first, but whoever had it clearly gave it to the other one.”
“I’m glad they have each other. Sweetie Belle never really had many friends before those three started the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and she’s much happier now than she used to be.”
“Yeah, same with Apple Bloom. Kinda makes me wish I had a group of friends like that when I was her age.”
“Did you not have friends?”
Upon being asked, Applejack began shifting herself in her seat, causing Rarity’s white face to turn a slight shade of pink. “Oh. I’m sorry for asking.”
“No, I had friends,” Applejack reassured her. “It’s just that…I dunno. I was around her age when my parents died, so it was just a rough time. Wasn’t really wanting to go out a ton, and even if I did want to, I had to stay back and help out at the farm because Granny was too old, Apple Bloom was too young, and Big Mac is only one pony.”
“I can empathize with that.” As soon as she finished speaking, Rarity quickly whipped around and put her hooves up defensively. “Not the having to lose your parents, I know I didn’t suffer as much as you did! But I was not exactly the most popular filly at school, so I didn’t have a group of friends either. Most ponies found me a little too…”
“…I would have said ‘overbearing’, but I suppose ‘prissy’ works just as well. It wasn’t until Twilight came to Ponyville that I had more than just a few scattered acquaintances here and there, so I suppose all of this is still a bit of a learning process.”
“Never woulda thought you and me of all ponies would be friends,” Applejack chuckled. “Everypony else I can see, but us? Still not sure how that one happened.”
“I admire you,” Rarity admitted softly, her voice gentle and warm. “We’re both perhaps a little too strong-headed for our own good, but beyond that stubborn and uncouth exterior is something worth looking up to. At times, I think I’m even glad that I’ve met you and don’t know what it would be like if I hadn’t.”
Unsure of how to react, Applejack simply looked off to the side. “Well thanks, I guess. Wasn’t really aware I was that important to you, to be honest.”
“I do admire you,” she repeated. “But beyond that, you just…” Turning her eyes to the ceiling, she drifted off into thought.
“When I’m…shall we say, prissy, you don’t hesitate to point out my idiosyncrasies.”
“Your what now?”
“For lack of a better term, you’re willing to call me out when I’m being prissy. Of course it’s never fun and who are we fooling, we usually end up fighting because of it, but I appreciate that, Applejack. I think all my life, everypony was too afraid to do so, and maybe that’s why I was frequently so lonely. When you’re not told what annoys other ponies, you never learn how to not do them, or that you even should stop.”
Nervously, Applejack let out a few shaky laughs. “Uh, thanks? Honestly, I just point out your idio-whatcha-whomevers cause they can get kind of annoying.”
“You’re blunt,” Rarity giggled. “I like that in you.” When neither pony responded, the corners of Rarity’s mouth began twisting themselves into an almost guilty smile. “I like you.”
“I like ya too, Rarity,” Applejack smiled back. “I’m glad we’re such good friends.”
As she stood up, Rarity had to fight to conceal laughter behind her smile. “Applejack, that’s not quite the kind of liking I meant.”
A few seconds passed before Applejack’s eyes grew wide. “Oh. I, uh…sorry, I didn’t really get what you meant there.”
“I guessed as much.” She walked towards Applejack, stopping just a few inches from her face.
“I thought you liked stallions?” Applejack asked, scooting away from Rarity’s face. “There was Prince Blueblood, then Trenderhoof, and we’re trying to figure out what’s up between you and Spike. And didn’t you have a crush on Big Mac when you were a filly?”
“Doesn’t mean I also can’t fall in love with a mare. Applejack, if you don’t feel the same way, you can be honest with me and I’ll be fine with it. I just want to tell you how I feel, because you have done so much for me, even if you don’t realize it.”
“I…well, I don’t know what to say. Thanks?”
Rarity smiled, then turned around and started walking back to her blanket on the ground. “You’re welcome. I find we too infrequently tell the ponies around us what they mean to us, so I just wanted you to know that I do appreciate you, Applejack.”
“I appreciate you too, Rarity,” Applejack mumbled in response. “And…maybe I do like you too, I don’t know. You know, not to sound like a schoolfilly, but like like.”
“Well, what are you unsure about?” She stopped halfway between Applejack and her blanket on the floor, then turned around and began walking back to her. “We’re stuck in here and I have no electricity so my radio and record player won’t work, so I don’t think we have much else to be doing today. Uncertainty is never fun, and I don’t want you to continue being unsure of how you feel.”
“Just…” As Rarity sat down, Applejack shrugged. “I dunno. Just unsure. You’re a good friend and I like spending time with ya more than some of the others, but I don’t know if that’s love or just really good friendship.”
“Well, they’re not exactly exclusive. Think with your heart, Applejack. I know you don’t listen to it frequently or possibly ever, but it holds the answer to what it is you want. You have so much fire and passion and pride inside of you, yet you never let them speak. Don’t tell me what you’re thinking right now, darling, tell me what you’re feeling.”
Obeying her orders, Applejack took her eyes off Rarity and stared at the fire. Inside of her chest stewed both excitement and nervousness, swirling around her heart and stomach and making them heavy. But did she love Rarity? Or was she simply happy to be around such a good friend?
“I don’t know,” she muttered again.
The only response Applejack received was a hoof gingerly placed on her cheek and a pair of clean lips that tasted faintly of apple juice up against her own. She did nothing but sit there for what felt like an eternity, until the lips were removed from her own.
“Well?” Rarity asked.
“I still don’t know,” Applejack sighed after the swirling in her body stayed the same.
“Maybe that’s what we can work on,” Rarity thought out loud as she placed a hoof on Applejack’s sweater, right over her heart. “I want you to know how you feel. Not just about this, but about everything. There truly is so much inside of you waiting to get out, but you just don’t know how to. Whether I do this as a girlfriend or simply a friend, I want to see you in touch with all of this.”
Applejack blushed, then brought Rarity’s hoof off of her chest. “Thank you.”
Before Applejack could bring Rarity’s hoof down to the fabric of the couch they were sitting on, she readjusted to hold Applejack’s hoof in her own and smiled at her.
“It’s nothing you wouldn’t have done for me.”