There was precious little light coming from the filly's room, but what illumination was still there allowed Applejack and Rainbow Dash a near-perfect view into the guest room that they had given over to Scootaloo. What they saw stunned them into speechlessness for a good moment. Scootaloo lay on her back on the bed, her head pressed deep into the pillow by Applebloom, who had curled her way on top of the other filly. In the dim light, Applejack and Rainbow Dash could only just make out the fact that they seemed to be kissing. Albeit clumsily and completely without regard whatsoever towards the finer aspects of such an experience, their lips were pressed together awkwardly all the same.
Applejack made to protest, but her words were denied entrance at the tip of her lips by a great barrier, that turned out to be one of Rainbow Dash's forelegs. Before she could even register her disapproval with a grunt, or make any sort of noise at all for that matter, Applejack found herself being pulled back further into the hall by her wife swiftly, yet silently. Once there, she spat her lover's limb out of her mouth and whirled around, ready to give her a piece of her mind, only to have Rainbow Dash cover her mouth with the end of her hoof. Applejack glared at her. Rainbow Dash shook her head and spoke in a low whisper: "Come on, we don't want them to know we're spying on them." She removed her hoof.
"That's mah little sister, Dash,'' Applejack hissed, "and Ah don't like this one bit."
"Oh, come on. Let them have their fun."
"Fun?" Applejack quickly glanced back at the door, which still hung slightly ajar, to make sure she wasn't heard. "You saw what they were doin' in there."
"Yeah. I don't see any harm."
"Any harm? But they were… they were… all over each other!"
"I'm not really that surprised, with the way they've been looking at each other these past couple days."
"But they were… they were kissin' and everythin'!"
"Hearing you talk, I'd think this was some sort of strange thing for you."
"Oh, come off it, Dash. They're just fillies!"
"They're not that young anymore, AJ."
"But she's mah little sister!"
"You should let them do what they want."
"Easy fer you to say. You ain't even a blood relation to either o' 'em!"
Rainbow Dash chuckled, throwing a foreleg across Applejack's shoulders and pulling her close for a tight hug. "Oh, AJ, you get so cute when you're all angry." Applejack pursed her lips in mock annoyance, but didn't make any attempt to pull away from her wife's loving squeeze. "You know what? Those two remind me of a certain couple of ponies…"
"Us?" Applejack smiled meekly.
"That's right!" Rainbow Dash kissed her wife on the cheek. "They're not much younger than we were when we started dating."
"They are by a few years, Dash."
"See! That's not much time at all!" Applejack sighed in annoyance, Rainbow Dash smirked. "Tell you what. I'll humor your over-protective big sister side." Applejack glared at her again. "We'll go check on them again." Rainbow Dash planted another kiss on her cheek before releasing her from the one-hoofed hug and trotting back down the hall. Frowning, Applejack followed closely behind.
Rainbow Dash peaked her head around the door, carefully making sure she wasn't spotted. "Aww. Come over here, AJ. Look, isn't that sweet?" In the ensuing minutes, both fillies had fallen asleep. Applebloom lay with her head resting against Scootaloo's chest. The latter lay on her side, facing Applebloom, with a hoof draped over her in a very loose sort of sleep-hug. Applejack joined her wife at the doorway, and couldn't help but smile. "Don't they look happy together? Besides, Scoots needs some more love in her life. Celestia knows she's been through plenty of hurt."
"Fine. Ah guess ya're right, but Ah still don't like it."
"Why not, AJ? What's the worst that could happen?"
"Ah… Ah… Ah don't know. Ah'm just… Ah'm just worried about AB. Ah don't wanna see her hurt."
"And you think Scoots would hurt her?"
"No… Ah just… Ah don't know. What if this doesn't work out? What if she loses her friend because they get into some fight?"
"Well, everything's a risk, AJ. I took a risk once, and I haven't lost you yet, have I?"
"Ah know… it just… it just scares me, Dash. Little Applebloom's growin' up, and Ah can't do a thing 'bout it. Ah can't protect her forever."
"Everypony grows up. I don't think you should be so worried. You know how long those two have been together; and Scoots is a great kid. I think their friendship will survive whatever this turns into."
"Ah hope so, Dashie. Ah hope so. It's just… it's just little AB's growin' up so fast…. And Ah… Ah don't want her to. Ah want her to stay mah little sister forever." Applejack couldn't take her eyes off the sleeping fillies. She edged even closer to her wife, concern etched into her face. "Ah'm… Ah'm scared, Dash."
"Oh, AJ. You're the best." Rainbow Dash pulled her wife into another hug, kissing her forehead. "You always worry about everypony too much. Applebloom, little AJ, me. You spend too much time worrying about us." She pulled back so she could look into her wife's eyes, smiling warmly at her. "But you know what? I love that about you." Rainbow Dash leaned forward, pressing her own lips to Applejack's and keeping the both of them locked there for a long moment.
Applejack was blushing when she pulled away. "Aw, shucks, Sugarcube. Ya love everythin' 'bout me."
"True, true… except for the way you smell in the mornings." Applejack furled her brow, feigning anger. "Actually, I love that too." Rainbow Dash grinned, giving Applejack another quick kiss on the lips before releasing her. "Now come on, let's go have some of that hot apple cider!" She licked her lips exaggeratedly before trotting out towards the kitchen. Applejack shot one last furtive glance at the two sleeping fillies before turning to follow her wife.
The apple cider was stored for the winter in large jugs, and there was almost always one on hoof in the kitchen to suit the family's needs whenever they craved the sweet, satisfying drink during what seemed to be endless winter months. It was especially enjoyable on a cold day, and even more so on a cold night, when warmed up by the fire or stove. Rainbow Dash had become a massive fan of the warming, comforting drink, and while Applejack had always rather enjoyed it herself, she privately admitted that she enjoyed watching the pegasus clamor for it, and subsequently gulp it down with unfailingly flattering gusto, even more so. As such, she quickly had a kettle of the stuff heating up on the warm stove-top. As she stood by the stove, waiting for the cider to reach the proper temperature, Applejack couldn't help but notice Rainbow Dash intently watching the kettle, her eyes occasionally, and rather obviously, shifting to Applejack's rear. The earth pony smirked at this; she was not above giving a little wiggle for her wife.
This seemed to have the desired effect. Rainbow Dash, not a moment later, had crossed the kitchen. She nearly landed on top of Applejack, shifting herself to the side at the last moment to land next to her, just barely brushing up against her substantial flank. Applejack nearly lost her balance, but regained it quickly when Rainbow Dash caught her, hugging her neck from behind. Applejack startled, caught off guard by the pegasus, who had suddenly given her ear a loving nip. "Dash? What the hay?"
"Sorry, AJ. Guess I just couldn't stay off of you!" Rainbow Dash smirked, then planted a large kiss on her mare's cheek. Applejack smiled. Rainbow Dash nuzzled her cheek, leaning a bit too hard against the orange pony in the process. They both crashed to the floor unceremoniously. Rainbow Dash took to the air before she landed on top of her wife, and Applejack quickly rolled onto her back. She opened her mouth to protest, but was immediately cut off by Rainbow Dash, who had leaned down to kiss her from full-hover. Her eyes went wide for a mere split-second, before she acquiesced and let the eager pegasus's tongue into her own mouth, closing her eyes as they pressed closer together.
They could very well have continued like this for quite some time, but for the untimely interruption of a sudden low whistle. Startled, Rainbow Dash sat up, picking herself off of the previously-pinned earth pony, and looked around in confusion. The noise grew to a high-pitched whine, and Applejack bolted upright, both fearing they had woken a baby with their antics. "Aw shoot, Dash! It's the cider kettle!" Applejack jumped over to the stove, grabbing a rag to protect her mouth as she quickly lifted the boiling kettle from the flame. The noise died down instantly.
For several moments, both mares stayed absolutely silent, hoping against hope that the brief, yet loud noise had not woken anypony. After a while, they had heard nothing. Both breathed a sigh of relief, glad they had gotten away with it. Gingerly, Applejack poured a steaming mug of cider for both her and Rainbow Dash. She smiled as she sent them sliding across the table to where the pegasus had chosen a spot. She quickly joined her, sidling up next to her and pressing lovingly against her side, receiving a wing draped over her back in return. Rainbow Dash took a small sip, cringing as the near-scalding liquid met her tongue. Applejack snickered. "Careful there, Sugarcube. It's still hot."
"Really, AJ, you don't say?" Rainbow Dash retorted, grinning at her own foolishness. She leaned over to give Applejack another quick kiss, reveling as Applejack rubbed against her fur even more. "I have an idea."
"What's that, Sugarcube?"
Rainbow Dash teased Applejack's mane with a hoof. "We should go outside; we won't have to worry about waking anypony up out there."
"Dash, it's winter. It's cold outside."
"Come on, AJ. You'll be nice and warm with me."
Applejack hesitated, glancing between her lover and the frosty kitchen window. "Alright, Sugarcube," she finally acquiesced.
Rainbow Dash smiled, scooping her mug into her clenched jaw, she quickly trotted for the door. Applejack followed closely behind, a few drops of cider hitting the floor as they swished over the lip of the vessel she carried. The biting chill of the outside air hit them like a wall as Rainbow Dash opened the front door. Undaunted, she trotted outside, putting her drink down carefully. Applejack joined her moments later, her favorite scarf wrapped tightly around her neck. Rainbow Dash embraced her. Their breath rolled from their mouths in thick, billowy clouds, twisting and fraying outward as they rose high up into the atmosphere above. The steam rising from their mugs of hot cider added to this, creating little wisps of smoky condensation that permeated the deep blue of the night sky as they rose. Tiny stars, pinpricks of light on the seemingly endless black canvas, twinkled down at them, disappearing every time a wisp of breath or steam cut in front of them, only to wink again as they came back into view.
Applejack sighed in amazement. It certainly wasn't the first night she and her wife had shared peaceful time alone outside recently, but she couldn't help but let herself be stunned by the beauty of Equestria's night every time. She could hear a slight wind whispering through the barren trees surrounding her home, blowing up little puffs of snow from the sparkling white ground as it whipped its way through the orchard. Somewhere in the distance, a lonely owl called, sounding its throaty bellow to the otherwise quiet night. Applejack suddenly became aware of a strange warm thing draped over her, and glanced to the side to see Rainbow Dash leaning against her, a wing fully wrapped about her back. Applejack smiled for the pegasus's benefit, snuggling against her happily.
Rainbow Dash now held her sufficiently-cooled drink in a single hoof. She took a sip, smacking her lips as the warming liquid raced its way down the back of her throat. Applejack grabbed her own mug and did the same, gasping as pleasurable warmth washed over her, emanating from her mouth and the deliciously sweet, yet slightly sour, cider. She reveled in the flavor.
They clutched each other close, sharing warmth to ward away the cold as they sat on the porch. The snow-covered yard glistened before them like a sea of diamonds, glinting in the light of the waning silver moon. "Beautiful, ain't it, Sugarcube?"
"Sure is." Dash nodded, taking another sip. She chuckled into her mug.
"What is it?" Applejack looked over towards her lover, "what's so funny?"
"Nothing. I was just thinking."
"Oh, just about you and me, Big Mac and Fluttershy, and now Applebloom and Scoots… I mean…" She paused, stifling more laughter with her mug, "What is it with you Apples and pegasi?"
Applejack was caught off-guard. She immediately felt her cheeks growing hot with a spreading redness, despite the chill of the night. She couldn't hide this from Rainbow Dash, who, upon seeing her mare's reddening face, could only laugh slightly louder and squeeze Applejack even tighter against her. Despite herself, Applejack couldn't help but smile. "Now, you hush up, RD."
Rainbow Dash just snickered and kissed her mare. "If I didn't know any better,'' she continued, ignoring Applejack's glare, "I'd say you were all just jealous of these babies." She unfurled her wings, letting them extend to their full glory and flexing them cockily."
"I mean, really, cooped up on the ground all the time, I'd sure be jealous if I were you. Haven't you ever wanted to fly AJ?" Applejack didn't humor her with a response. "Ok, that must be a yes!" Before she knew it, Applejack found herself grasped around the waist by the pegasus's fore hooves. She could feel the tell-tale beating of wings sending wave after wave of chilly air to wash over her back. She felt each pulse send a shiver racing down her spine.
"Dash, what's goin' on? What the hay?" Applejack tried to struggle uselessly as she felt her hooves lose contact with the solid surface of the porch. She dangled in mid-air from Rainbow Dash's grasp, wide-eyed and helpless.
"Come on. This'll be fun!" Without any further warning, Dash beat her wings to gain momentum and, securing pulling Applejack up into her chest, rocketed up into the night.
Applejack nearly screamed. She watched the ground as it spiraled down, further and further away from her. The spiraling glint of the white snow beneath her swirled through her vision. Soon, the house, barn, the trees and everything else about the farm was far below. Applejack was awestruck. She pulled her gaze from the ground below and let it wander. She could see for miles. She saw the snow-covered branches at the tops of every one of her orchard's precious apple trees. They stretched out far into the distance. They soared ever higher. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Rainbow Dash leveled off, holding Applejack below her securely. They flew out over the seemingly endless stretches of farmland. In the distance, a few lights, the last vestiges of but a few late-night ponies, showed them where Ponyville lay.
Like a giant dome, the infinite darkness of the night sky stretched over them and extended to each side. Everywhere she looked, Applejack could see the stars looking back at her. They looked close enough to touch. She reached out a front hoof subconsciously, as if attempting to do just this, only to extend her other fore hoof as well, spreading them both as if she, too, had wings and could enjoy the unparalleled majesty of pushing herself through the sky untethered. She looked up at Dash, her green eyes shimmering in the light of thousands and thousands of pure white pinpricks in the night's dark cloak. Rainbow Dash grinned back.
Despite their speed, their height and the winter air, neither of them felt cold, even as the wind did its best to nip at their faces.
Rainbow Dash flew in lazy circles all around the farm. They soared over snow-covered fields and orchards. Sometimes she followed the roads and paths across the land, sometimes she veered completely off course and flew in a random direction for a while. She soared over the house several times, once taking them low enough for Applejack to brush the roof with a hoof. They both giggled.
Through it all, Applejack loved it. She kept glancing up at her companion, watching the pegasus's strong, yet perfectly graceful body flex with every beat of her wings. She loved the way the air whipped at her lover's mane, blowing it into many waving strands of color. Her chest was held in place by Rainbow Dash's strong fore hooves securely, yet gently. She had hooked her own rear legs over Rainbow Dash's, so they both let their legs trail out behind them, their loose tails flapping incessantly in the wind. Sometimes, the rainbow of colors would mix with the pure gold, merging the two ponies together as literally as they were held together in their hearts. The night seemed to last forever.
All too soon however, Rainbow Dash was sweeping low over the front yard. Applejack could feel her front hooves skimming the drifting snow as they dropped closer and closer to the ground, slowing as they went. All of a sudden, Applejack felt herself catch against a particularly high, unseen drift. Rainbow Dash lost control, and they both found themselves crash-landing in the snow. They both tumbled head over hooves in the cool, wet snow for a good distance. Applejack came to rest in a soft snow bank, Rainbow Dash collapsed next to her. They both found themselves laughing riotously.
Rainbow Dash had landed belly-up, and Applejack quickly rolled over to take advantage of this, landing on top of her wife and kissing her deeply. They were both pressed deeper into the snow, although neither noticed as they continued to express their passion and love in a language only lovers can truly ever understand. They came up gasping for breath, clambering out of the snow bank, moments later.
Applejack smiled hugely, kissing her mare on the snout. "Cold yet, Sugarcube?"
"A little." Rainbow Dash shook herself, letting thousands of tiny ice crystals scatter themselves from her wings and body. Each drifted back down lazily to join its fellows in the blanket that covered the property.
"Let's head inside." Applejack nuzzled her wife briefly, and then both took off galloping across the white-covered yard.
They seemingly couldn't get back inside fast enough. They were both shivering by the time they stripped their scarves off in the entry, although neither had really stopped long enough to notice the cold while outside. They rushed, side-by-side, into the living room, where the remaining embers of the day's fire still gave off a weak, yet comforting glow, emanating from the fireplace. They stacked pieces of firewood as quickly as they could, and soon a full set of healthy flames was licking away at the edges of the hearth. Applejack and Rainbow Dash quickly snuggled into each other's embrace on the floor, lying not a few hoof-lengths from the lapping tongues of flame.
They held each other close, letting their shared space and the heat of the flames remove every last trace of the winter's mark. Showers of sparks flew up into the chimney, spiraling upward in a column of smoke. The fire snapped and hissed, filling the room with comforting sounds and a soothing orange glow as it danced back and forth. There were no other lights in the house. Rainbow Dash and Applejack rested in mutual embrace, letting the curtain of warmth spread over them like a blanket. In the glow of the fire, they kissed, letting waves of passion sweep over them just as easily as the waves of billowing heat.
The wood slowly burned, and the fire diminished even more as the two lovers, exhausted by a long day and an equally draining night spent together, retired to the couch opposite the fire. Applejack laid herself down on her back, allowing Dash to settle in on top of her. There they lay, in the waning glow of the slowly dying flames, wrapped in one another's love. They shared another kiss, just as they had done innumerable times before that night, before finally drifting off to sleep; as one.