Applejack nudged open the lid of the guitar case with her snout. It tilted backwards, hitting the bed with a soft thump. She grabbed the guitar tenderly with her mouth and dragged it from its resting place. They were originally designed for unicorn ponies, but Applejack didn’t care. She finally wrenched it from the case, propping it up against the bed as she retrieved the custom guitar pick wrist strap Rarity had crafted for her. After some fidgeting, she managed to get it secured around her hoof.
She sat with her back against the bed, her legs splayed out awkwardly in front of her. She gathered up the guitar once more, trying to get it into a position where she could actually play it properly. This took quite a lot of fidgeting, but she eventually managed to do it. She could only hope it was properly tuned - it was a massive chore to tune a guitar without magic.
Applejack gave the strings a quick strum, allowing the chord a moment to resonate throughout the cabin. She took a deep breath, almost as if she were trying to inhale the sound of the music. She placed a hoof on the neck of the guitar, pressing one of the strings down. She gave the strings another quick pluck with the pick, producing a not all-together different sound. Applejack shut her eyes in contentment.
As Applejack lazily strummed the guitar, not paying a great deal of attention to any particular rhythm, Rainbow Dash smacked open the door to the cabin with an outstretched hoof, taking a quick glance around the room. Dash shook herself off in the manner of a dog, flinging snow all about the cabin. Applejack didn’t seem to notice, still lazily strumming the guitar as though in a trance. Dash cocked an eyebrow, trotting over to the bed.
“Hey, um, AJ?” Dash said as she dumped her saddlebags on the bed. Applejack didn’t look up. Her hat seemed to be sliding itself over her eyes. Dash chuckled quietly; it was kinda cute, really, when she thought about it. She gently nudged Applejack with her snout, trying to get her attention. Applejack jumped, nearly dropping the guitar. Her hat fell forward off of her head, exposing her bright blonde mane. Dash took a step backward, suppressing a giggle.
“Just what in tarnation do YOU want, Rainbow?” Applejack snapped testily.
“Oh, heh, nothin’. I was just wonderin’ if you were gonna come sled, is all!” Rainbow retorted.
Applejack grabbed the guitar by the neck and set it carefully down on the bed behind her, turning to face Rainbow Dash with a stern expression. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you to knock, Rainbow?”
“Why’s that, were you doing something... weird?” A sly grin spread across Dash’s face.
Applejack shook her head quite violently. “No, I wasn’t... I was just... um...”
Dash leaned in a little closer. “Yeeess..?”
“...I was practicin’.”
Dash snorted, finding it much harder to contain her laughter. “Well.. I think you need to practice a little more!” She burst into laughter, holding up a hoof to point at Applejack. “You’re terrible, AJ!”
Applejack lowered her ears, turning her head away with a frown. “I thought it was pretty good...” she said quietly, almost to herself. Dash couldn’t hear her over the sound of her own laughter, and Applejack turned back and shot a glare at her friend. “Rainbow... there ain’t no need to be rude!” she said angrily.
“Well jeez, if you wanted to play guitar badly why couldn’t you just do it at home where nopony has to hear it?”
“Rainbow... that’s my pappy’s guitar. I... I’m just takin’ care of it, is all.” Applejack moved the guitar into its case with a bit of a loving gesture, although she slammed the lid down rather rudely.
Dash tilted her head. She had no idea what a pappy was, but she could tell from AJ’s voice that it obviously meant a lot to her. “Doesn’t mean you have to play it...” Dash muttered, but there was some weakness in her voice.
Applejack turned her nose up, stomping towards the door of the cabin in a huff. She attempted to nudge open the door of the cabin, but it slammed shut in a flurry of snow. Wind roared throughout the cabin, causing Applejack to take a few steps back.
“What’s the matter?” Dash said with a smug grin. “Can’t handle a little bit of snow?” She turned towards the door, trotting over to the window to peer outside. In fact, it was quite the blizzard. It was hard to see more than a foot outside the window, and the snow was piling up at an alarming rate.
“Aw, horseapples,” Applejack said. “There wasn’t supposed to be a blizzard scheduled this week!”
“Relax, Apples, they probably just missed one over here, is all,” said Dash, ruffling Applejack’s mane.
“Hey, now, watch it, Rainbow!” Applejack tried to flail Dash’s hoof away. “And don’t you call me ‘Apples!’”
Dash ignored Applejack’s protests and continued on. “Why, by morning, I’m sure it’ll have blown over, and we’ll all go sledding together!” She said excitedly, running over to the bed and leaping on top of it. The guitar jumped slightly.
Applejack trotted over the window to look for herself. Snow was beginning to creep up over the bottom of the window, and Applejack could swear she could see it visibly rising. “Whatever you say, Rainbow... I guess you ARE the Pegasus pony.”
Applejack could only hope that Rainbow Dash was right.
The blizzard continued to rage outside. The wind outside threatened to blow the entire cabin away, howling as though it had endured some great offense. Rainbow Dash was getting antsy, pacing around in a circle in the room. She flitted her wings in aggravation. Applejack grabbed her guitar case, slipping it underneath the bed it had been sitting on. She turned her attention to Dash, who gave her a nasty flick of the tail in response.
“What’s wrong, sugarcube?” Applejack asked, although there was sarcasm lacing her voice. “Lemme guess. You didn’t plan on spendin’ the whole night holed up in my cabin, didja?”
“No way, Apples, you think?” Dash replied, coming to a halt next to the window. She glared at the snow outside, possibly attempting to spontaneously acquire heat vision and melt it.
“Maybe this is what they call karma, Rainbow. If ya hadn’t been so dang rude to me earlier, you coulda been in your own cabin by now.”
“Hey, I didn’t make this storm, okay!? I’m not the weather captain of Equestria, you know! I’m just the best flier, that’s all.”
“Best flier? Phooey! If’n I had wings I bet I could do loads better than you!”
Dash scoffed. “AJ, please, did you even SEE me in the Best Young Fliers competition? Why, I-”
“I don’t wanna hear none of it, missy! It’s probably your dang fault this whole business is happenin’ in the first place!”
“MY fault? Your lousy guitar playing probably stirred up a blizzard straight from the Everfree Forest itself!”
Applejack was taken aback, but she didn’t slack on the attack. “We ain’t even nowhere near the dang Everfree Forest! I oughta show you what fer, Rainbow Dash...”
“Fine, if you hate me that much maybe I’ll just leave!”
Rainbow Dash puffed out her chest, stomping her way to the door of the cabin. The wind was lapping angrily at the cracks of the door, threatening to burst its way in at any moment. Dash stared hesitantly at the door, a sudden feeling of dread overwhelming her. Applejack raised a hoof in meek protest, but lowered it soon after. Dash shook her head, slamming the door open with a mighty crash.
It was as if in an instant the raging maelstrom outside had been given its cue, and it barrelled inside the cabin, threatening to engulf whatever it could. The door almost seemed to be an accomplice in this, refusing to shut despite both of the pony’s muffled objections. Applejack decided to take a more levelheaded approach and started yelling as loud as she could for Dash to shut the door. Dash, however, was frozen in terror. The wind howling past her ears seemed to trigger a fight or flight response, and she had chosen to ‘not move at all and panic.’
Applejack shot her friend a look of concern, then also shot the entire room a look of concern as the wind continued causing a ruckus. Something shattered nearby, but Applejack couldn’t make out what it was. She steeled herself, placing a hoof firmly upon her hat as she fought against the unrelenting winds towards the doorway. She stumbled past Dash, and out into the blizzard.
The frost nipped at her fur, threatening to freeze each hair into a tiny icicle. Applejack looked around frantically for the door, finding it stuck in a pile of snow. It was a wonder how much snow Dash had managed to push away... she was stronger than Applejack gave her credit f... What was she thinking? She had to find the door handle. She made her way forcefully to the door, squinting roughly at where she expected the handle to be. There! She quickly grabbed onto the handle with her mouth, yanking back as hard as she could. In the struggle, she accidentally loosened her grip on her hat. In its greed, the wind seized the opportunity to whisk the hat from the orange pony’s head, far out of her grasp.
Applejack quickly let go of the handle, jumping up and making a futile swipe at her hat as she watched it float away. She landed with a gentle thud. The wind slowly died down. The deafening gale surrounding her became quieter and quieter until all she could hear was her steady breathing. She stared into the dark, foggy night that had just robbed her of that precious belonging. She might have felt the tears welling up in her eyes, had it not been for the piercing cold.
Dash shook her head violently, coming to her senses. She noticed Applejack standing just outside the doorway, peering into the darkness as though it held some great mystery. She realized with some fright that the blizzard hadn’t stopped, and she hastily made her way outside.
“Applejack, what in the heck do you think you’re doing!?” She bellowed, quite a lot louder than she had expected, thanks to the near-silence. “You’re gonna freeze to death, you numbskull!”
Applejack couldn’t respond. She just kept staring into the night. Rainbow frantically moved to her front, headbutting her in the chest in a determined attempt to shove her inside the cabin.
“Ergh... get inside! Sheesh, you’re like an ice cube already...” Dash strained, finally pushing the frozen filly inside the cabin. She quickly whipped around to chomp down on the door handle, pulling it shut with tremendous force. The door slammed shut as quickly as it had opened, leaving Dash panting on the floor. Applejack didn’t take her eyes off the door.
Dash looked up at Applejack with a cocked brow, letting out an exhausted chuckle. “Come on, Apples, let’s warm you up,” she said somewhat sarcastically, making her way to the fireplace inside the cabin. Dash lit the fire, making her way back over to Applejack. She was beginning to grow a little worried; did AJ actually freeze out there? She shook her head and poked Applejack gently with the flat of her hoof.
“Yo, AJ... you okay, there?” she asked, trying to maintain a lighthearted tone.
Applejack didn’t respond.
“Er, alright, well, can you at least come over to the fire and warm up? You’re startin’ to scare me.”
“...right, I guess I’ll push you again.”
Dash trotted to Applejack’s side, gently pressing her head against the orange-coated pony’s side. With some effort, she managed to get Applejack to move sideways towards the fire. She stopped with Applejack standing just in front of the fire. Dash nudged her in the head slightly, forcing her to face the fire. She sat down on her haunches beside the earth pony, looking up at her with more obvious concern on her face.
As Applejack felt warmth spread across her body, so too did she feel creep into her mind the realization of what had happened. Slowly she lowered herself onto her haunches as well, tears forming in her eyes and spilling out onto the floor beneath her. Dash grew wide-eyed with surprise. She had never seen her friend like this. She was normally so... resilient.
“Er, you alright there, Apples?” Dash asked hesitantly.
Applejack gave no response.
“Um... is something wrong?”
The earth pony lifted a hoof up to her head, gently patting the mane where a hat had once been. Dash cocked her head, and it slowly dawned on her what it meant. Applejack could only stare at the ground, tears continuing to flow over her dampened muzzle.
“Did... did you lose your hat out there?” Dash said, but she knew. Applejack responded with a loud sniffle. The Pegasus pony draped her arm over the sobbing filly, trying to comfort her as best she could.
“M...mah pappy’s hat...” Applejack said between sobs. “Ah... ah lost mah pappy’s hat...”
Her accent was staggeringly more pronounced, and it almost caught Rainbow off-guard. She gave Applejack a gentle shake.
“Hey, don’t sweat it, Apples... we can um... get you a new one, it’s cool.” Dash attempted to give her a weak grin, but this seemed to only cause her to sob more intensely. Dash’s expression fell quickly, and she lowered her ears to her head in shame.
Applejack buried her face in Rainbow Dash’s shoulder, crying loudly into it. The Pegasus pony could only look down and wrap her other arm around Applejack, giving her some semblance of comfort.
Rainbow Dash let out a barely audible “sorry,” but her weak apology was quickly muffled by something quite different. Applejack was pressing her lips rather forcefully against Dash’s, causing the rainbow pony to blush quite deeply. Applejack broke the kiss after what seemed like only a second, wrenching herself from Rainbow’s grasp and staring into the fire.
The crackling embers danced across the logs in the fireplace, the firelight attempting to put on a jovial show for the two stunned ponies. The rainbow one was staring agape at the blonde one, whose face may as well have been as red as her cutie mark. Her sobbing had slowed considerably, and for that the light flickered generously.
“Applejack...” began Dash.
“Thanks a heap, Rainbow...”
The embers flickered their approval.