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Applenon's Anonfilly x Applejack Story

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Feb 8th, 2017
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  1. >Waking up was always a vulnerable time for you.
  2. >It probably had to do with how little sleep you elected to have. You thought that if you were stubborn in your efforts, your body would adapt to your desires. You read or heard something way back when that if you continually deprived yourself of rest, your body would begin to suffer. Then, after a period of this, you would slip into REM sleep faster. You would be more efficient, if you could just stomach the detrimental effects for a time.
  3. >Maybe you didn't wait long enough. Maybe you just weren't geared for this kind of training. Maybe the resource you gleamed this idea from was a mix of complete bunk and wishful thinking, but you never became the spry and attentive person you wanted to be.
  4. >No, you became a nacroleptic. You often awoke in places with your limbs sunken into whatever surface you were on, your new start in whatever day you were on would be almost always sore - and these naps were unpredictable, too. Unless you had the foresight to set an AJarm or it was somebody's responsibility to wake you, your period of unconsciousness could vary from a few minutes all the way into the next day. Given that you can't recall a damn thing and you seem to be on a bed, it was a next day scenario.
  5.  
  6. >You're on your stomach. You're warm, which you credit to some sort of unfamiliar thick covering over your body. A comforter? You mull for a second in silence about what you were doing last when you hear something that you swear makes your ears actually twitch: lips slurping a unseen drink.
  7. >There is someone else in the room with you.
  8.  
  9. >It isn't often that you wake up with more energy than what you went to bed with, which seems to be the case, but it's even less often that you wake up without a clue of where you could be at. You feel remarkably anxious knowing there could be eyes on you when you wake up, but it does narrow down your options of how you want to wake up this morning. You take a deep breath and open your eyes.
  10. -
  11. >The first thing you see is a mess of black hanging around your face and something bulbous, blurry and green jutting in front of your face. Instinctively, you raise a limb to bat it, and something else round and green pops you in the nose. You recoil as your eyes begin to sting, shutting them tightly as you rub at your nose with this.. thing, now feeling very alarmed.
  12.  
  13. "Agh! Mother f.."
  14.  
  15. >You hear a feminine yet rusty chuckle at your expense. You focus your ire in a glare at the direction of it.
  16. >It is a horse.
  17. >She is a freckled, orange horse with a blonde mane and tail. Her proportions seem off, and she's noticeably bigger than you. She's sitting like she's people in a chair, one of her hooves holding a bottle with an apple on it, and a straw poking out the top.
  18. >"Easy now, sugarcube. You must've had a wild night if y'all have ended up on the farm, no need mussin' yerself up before I take ya to yer folks."
  19.  
  20. >You're stunned, as a horse is talking to you. The world begins moving around you like the swimming feeling when you're drunk, and each of your breaths feel labored and heavy. A look of concern crosses her face as she notes your silence.
  21. >"Uh, y'all alright? Cat got'cher ton-"
  22.  
  23. >You scream. It is a very high-pitched, even girly scream in what is now a full-fledged panic. You flail, and these green things dance in front of you - it is then you realize that these rounded limbs are now your arms, and your scream gains another octave. The orange pony has leapt up and is hovering above you in her own panic, trying to soothe you as you're driven into higher hysterics.
  24.  
  25. >"Whoa nelly - It's alright! Just - just settle down, filly! Sun almighty, I -" She looks away a second as one of her large hooves presses against one of your..
  26. -
  27. >Your limbs are hooves. You gape at them as you bawl, and you distantly hear the mare call for someone else. You can hear a little better when your throat becomes sore, and you opt for just crying instead of howling your head off. The orange horse is in a doorway on the face side of the room, and she looks back at you to gauge. Again, her head whips back.
  28. >"..Yeah, I think we're gonna need Twilight for this one, Mac. Poor thing's in a fit."
  29.  
  30. >She pulls back into the room and begins to shut it when you hear another voice. Lighter, a lot more pep and the same twang. "Applejack, what was *that*?"
  31.  
  32. >Orange horse - you suppose her name is Applejack - takes a more firm tone, moving to shut the door. You see a yellow hoof tug in the edge of it. Is everything a horse, here? "Now, don't you fret none. Just get back up to yer room, okay?"
  33.  
  34. >"Ah heard somepony else screamin', though!"
  35.  
  36. >"Well, she's skeered, and another lil' filly ain't gonna make her any less skeered!"
  37.  
  38. >"Another filly? Kin ah see her when she's not bein' skeered?" The hoof begins wiggling from around the door, like she's somehow going to reach you.
  39.  
  40. >Applejack makes to stomp in frustration, but she takes a breath. "Y'all can, but.. later, awright? She needs some space to cool down."
  41.  
  42. >"..Promise?"
  43.  
  44. >"Applebloom, if y'ain't headed to yer room b'fore I count to three-"
  45.  
  46. >"Awright, awright!" The yellow hoof slinks away, and Applejack shuts the door. She rubs at her scalp with your hoof, and she looks at you. She looks like she's about to tread on a minefield, wondering where to start. You opt to start for her.
  47.  
  48. "Where the hell am I?"
  49.  
  50. >She looks taken aback, before her brows go down on those big green eyes. "No need for a pottymouth, missy."
  51. >Missy? She?
  52.  
  53. "I'm a GUY!"
  54. >The way your voice cracked just now didn't help your case, but it did make Applejack recoil. She tries offering a small smile, rubbing at the side of her head.
  55. -
  56. >"Oh.. Yer a colt. My fault, heh. Ah'd be pret-ty sore if somepony thought I was a buck.."
  57.  
  58. >You sniff, and you fix her with that initial glare you started with. Damn, is it hard to be gruff when they've already heard you squeal and sob. You rub one of your hooves at your face to wipe away some tears as you turn, staring down at your body.
  59. >.. You too seem to be a horse. This explains why she called you a filly, then a colt. You stare in wonder at this huge raven-black plume sticking out above your butt as Applejack answers you. "Yer in Apple Acres, and ah'm a mite curious as to how y'got here. Mah name's Applejack. What's yers?"
  60.  
  61. >You feel ridiculous, talking to a horse. You go to say your name, and..
  62. >...?
  63. >You feel that vulnerability again. That airy feeling of having the ground swept from under you. It's something that you shouldn't have to think about, like your favorite color, or your birthday, but.. It just isn't coming. You wrack your brain for a moment, trying to recall a friend calling for you, your name written in print and scribbled in cursive on legal documents, a pet name from a parent..
  64. >"Hey ____. Up to whup some ass on Dead or Alive?"
  65. >"Merry Christmas, ____. Wish you were here in person to celebrate, kiddo."
  66. >"Look.. We've been drifting apart for a while, now. I think we should see other people, ____."
  67. >"Thank you. By signing this document, Mister ____, you agree to pay $162.77 on the 2nd of each consecutive month.."
  68. >You can't recall your name in any of these instances. You remember them happening, vaguely the clothes you were wearing, the specifics of when and why for some of them, but..
  69. ".. I don't know."
  70.  
  71. >"..Y'all don't -know-?"
  72. >As incredulous as she sounds, she looks that close to saying "bullshit". She doesn't, but it's written on her face when she moves back to her chair, sits in it and folds her forelegs.
  73. >"Okay.. So what're your parent's names?"
  74. -
  75. [spoiler]I will also censor other things that Anons may insert their own variants with. They should not affect the story.[/spoiler]
  76.  
  77. " [spoiler]Doug[/spoiler] and [spoiler]Jen[/spoiler] , but.. Look, uh.. Applejack. There's no reason to get them involved."
  78.  
  79. >She looks interested now that you've said a complete sentence (aside from your expletive earlier), moreso since you gave her something to work with. When you say the last part, though, she narrows her eyes the slightest bit, and you instantly regret saying that. You sound like your hand caught in the cookie jar.
  80.  
  81. >"An' that would be..?"
  82.  
  83. >You take a deep breath.
  84. "Because I'm [spoiler]twenty-three[/spoiler], and calling my mom and dad is goddamned ridiculous."
  85.  
  86. >Applejack stares at you long and hard for a time. She adjusts her pose so that her chin sits in the frog of her hoof. In this time, you adjust so that you're sitting on your ass with your legs splayed out, hooves sitting in front of you like a dog on this bed. You experimentally knead your hooves at the comforter that once covered you, a poofy plaid thing, in silence.
  87. >Finally, she sits up from her chair onto all fours.
  88. >"Well.. Ah've got to check on a few things. In the meantime, though, what should ponies call ya?"
  89.  
  90. >Your head thinks of nicknames and placeholders from videogames. You imagine a horse calling you [spoiler]Mobius 1[/spoiler] or [spoiler]Vault Dweller[/spoiler], and it tickles your funnybone. You opt for what you feel is a more clever pseudonym.
  91. "Anonymous, Anon for short."
  92.  
  93. >"Anon. Huh. Awright, Anon, I'll be doin' this and that. One of mah friends should be comin' by, an' she'll help us sort this sitcheation out. Make yerself at home, an' holler if you need anythin', okay?"
  94.  
  95. "..Okay."
  96.  
  97. >She smiles, then slips out the door, shutting it. You're left alone on the bed, as a smaller-than-average horse. A horse that is also green, which you find very strange. Then again, there was a yellow one, so maybe that sort of color is.. okay?
  98. -
  99. >You are Applejack.
  100. >You are a twenty-two year old earth pony, whose entire schedule was thrown off by the weight of somepony else on your covers while you were sleeping last night.
  101. >Your initial response was to give them a good buck, but when you turned on the lights, it wasn't some miscreant rabble-rouser. It was a precious little green filly, curled up and snoozing as innocent as could be.
  102. >So, saving your questions for later, you tucked her in and slept on the couch. You thought after you would question her in the morning, you could settle this oddness once and for all.
  103. >Instead, you got a young mare of about six or seven pointedly tell you that she was just about as old as you, but not before she told you that 'she' was a 'he'.
  104. >You gave her the benefit of the doubt - it wasn't like you were searching for a twig and berries last night. But then, she splayed back, and.. well, she was definitely a 'she'.
  105. >But the worst part wasn't the fact that what she said wasn't true, or that you didn't even know this Anon's name - it was the conviction she said it with, the firm matter-of-factness that came with a know-it-all, like you about farming, Rainbow Dash with flying, and Twilight about.. well, plum near anything. You had a pretty good bead on when somepony was bluffing, but it looked like Anon was telling you the honest truth. This would mean one of two things:
  106.  
  107. >1. It's a bit more complicated.
  108. >2. Anon was a VERY good liar.
  109.  
  110. >You did a good job bringing up your younger sister, but she wasn't THAT troublesome of a filly - didn't have to deal with her lying much at all. You also might've been an Element of Harmony, but you were a farmer first and foremost. If something big was up, you would need your friends to figure this out. You didn't need to go mussin' with a little liar, a stallion in a filly's body, or one-a them trannies.
  111. >..Could you be a tranny that young? You'll ask Twilight.
  112. -
  113. >You are Anon again.
  114. >You started to crawl around the bed, then began to try and walk like you saw Applejack did ever so briefly. You get enough of a hang of it to be passable, but you weren't entering any races soon.
  115. >You made your way over to a window adjacent to the bed, standing up on your hindlegs and resting your front hooves on the windowsil. Now stable, you peer outside.
  116. >Snow blankets the sprawling landscape outside, and flakes still fall from a cloudy sky. You see hills roaming into the distance with legions of trees all around, their breadth encompassed with white. You see a wagon against a fence, both of them overcome with the slush of Winter. You guess it's six to eight inches of snow - you were by no means an expert on the stuff. All of this is far below you - you're on a second floor, you wager.
  117. >You guess your reference is very off, considering your scale. You presume you're about horse-child-size, which is comparable to child-sized here. The bed looks gargantuan to you, but it probably isn't anything special. Speaking of the furniture here, everything seems really solidly built, and you wonder if it was handmade. Hoofmade? Whomever the carpenter was, you commend them. Lord knows you've seen enough apartments with problems in the cities you've been in.
  118. >You lean more against the window, pressing one of your hooves against it. It feels kind of like if your palm was hard, and the rest of your leg like it was the top of your hand transitioning to your forearm in how sensitive it is. Your breath is hot against the window, and it fogs up immediately. It must be pretty cold outside.
  119.  
  120. >You've woken up in some pretty interesting places after your naps. Once, you recall falling asleep on a traincar home and woke up in the border of another state, with no one around and very little battery on your phone. It was a struggle to find an outlet to charge it and turn on GPS, find out where you were and call for a ride home.
  121. -
  122. >It's probably why you're still shaken up, but a lot calmer than you could've been. You climb down from the windowsil wondering about this Apple Acres you're in, and one of your hooves reach down your side subconsciously, feeling for a pocket. Predictably, you have none.
  123. >It now hits you that you are a *naked* green horse. Your tail swats against you in front, and you grasp at it with your hooves with the same instinctual movements.
  124. >No clothes, no pockets.
  125. >No pockets, no phone. A part of you feels stupid, assuming you could just flick on a newsfeed, GPS and call your way out of here. You don't think your rounded limb is made for pressing buttons that small, even if you did - it'd be like punching a keyboard.. Not to mention your ears. You reach up and feel at them - oh, they're soft. Facing sort of forward, too. Talking on the phone would be hard with a horse face.
  126. >You also lack everything else normally in your pockets. No ID, no debit card, no pocket-knife, no glasses-repair kit..
  127.  
  128. >...!
  129.  
  130. >You don't have your glasses. But.. you see fine. Really good, actually. You scramble back up to the windowsil and look outside once more, but with a pointed difference in mind. You focus on that wagon far in the distance, and.. Yes, you see every outline, no ridiculous blur that you're used to. You can see perfectly!
  131. >You find a grin on your face. No, you didn't have anything else, but 20/20 vision?
  132.  
  133. "Fuck yeah! This is awesome!"
  134. -
  135. >You hear movement past your room, not the way Applejack went. Then again, you wouldn't know for sure without exploring. You make your way from the windowsil to the edge of the bed and hop down - finding your hooves to be excellent landing gear, as well as getting a weird urge to hop up and down from everything you can. You shelve that desire when you get to the door, standing on your hindlegs and preparing to struggle with both hooves.
  136. >Instead, your hoof catches the doorknob, and it turns surprisingly easily. Huh.
  137. >You suppose that in a world presumably full of horses, their hooves would be great at opening doors.
  138. >On all fours again, you peer down a hallway to your left. There's an open door on the right where you can spot a sink, but there's no light there. On the left down this hallway, there's a door with some light peeking out from under it. You waltz on over, and rap on it a few times with your hoof.
  139. >There's a scramble of hooves, and it opens wide. A yellow pony stands before you at eye level with big, orange eyes. She's got this red mane, and you think her mane looks really crazy in back before you realize it's a big pink bow. It's kind of adorable, especially when she gives you the biggest grin you've ever seen on anything ever.
  140.  
  141. >"Well howdy there, Anon! Ah'm Applebloom. It's nice to meet'cha!"
  142. >She sticks her hoof out at you. With no shortage of confusion, you bump your hoof against her outstretched one.
  143.  
  144. "Hi. How did you know my name?"
  145.  
  146. >"The walls're not that thick, and ah had my ear pressed to the wall when mah big sis was talkin' to ya." That smile dims a little bit as she looks down, scuffing a hoof at the floor. "Um.. Y'shouldn't swear."
  147.  
  148. >..Were it any other adult or pony-adult, you would have given them a hearty "fuck off", but kids is where you draw the line. You just nod at her.
  149. "So.. You live here, I take it?"
  150.  
  151. >"Yup! Lived here all mah life. Where're you from?"
  152. -
  153. “Manhatten.”
  154.  
  155. >”Manehatten?!” She sits on her haunches and claps her front hooves. “Mah cousin Babs lives there! Y’all ever met her? Cola brown, red hair, scissors fer a cutie mark?”
  156.  
  157. “No, I’ve never met.. Uh, any pony like that. Or any ponies besides you guys, for that matter.”
  158.  
  159. >Applebloom gives you a queer look, cocking her head. The bow cocks with her.
  160. >”..Yer kiddin’, right? How could’ja live in Manehatten without ever seein’ anypony?
  161.  
  162. “...I don’t get out much?”
  163. >This pony seems to know what Manhatten is, and it’s true - you aren’t really that outdoorsy. You think you would’ve known about ponies walking the streets, though. You rub one of your hooves at your head abashedly.
  164.  
  165. >”Yeah.. Well, is that where you were last? How did’ja get all the way down here?”
  166. “I.. can’t say. I just sort of woke up here. Is Manhatten far from here?”
  167.  
  168. >Applebloom blows a raspberry, scrunching up her face a little. “Hay yeah. It’s waaay Northeast. We’re all the way in Ponyville, Anon.”
  169.  
  170. >Ponyville.
  171. >Ponies have been walking the streets, and have colonized a fucking *town*, and you’re just hearing about it.
  172. >Alright.
  173.  
  174. >You hear some movement behind you. You turn to see Applejack peeking from a flight of stairs, beckoning you over.
  175. >“Over here, Anon. Twilight’s here, so we’re gonna have a talk with ‘er. Applebloom, stay in yer room ‘til we’re done, awright?”
  176.  
  177. >”Mmkay. Don’t let her go without sayin’ goodbye, though.”
  178.  
  179. >” ‘He’, Applebloom. Anon’s a ‘he’.”
  180.  
  181. >Applebloom blinks, then gives you a once-over. “Um, are y-”
  182.  
  183. >”Yes, ah’m sure. Now skedaddle.”
  184.  
  185. >You leave the nice little horse to go to her room, and meander after the orange one down the stairs. Stairs are scary when you’re going down them with your face in front of you, but you manage after the first few steps.
  186. -
  187. >Much as you expect, there is more plain wooden furniture - An old sofa, a wooden bookcase, pictures of other ponies on the walls and that sort of thing. Sitting on the sofa is not one, but two new ponies.
  188.  
  189. >The first one is big and red, and you’ve suddenly got a hankering for cinnamon gum. He’s got got a dirty blonde mane, and his entire body looks a little damp. He’s at least three times as big as you, and he looks *ripped*. All that energy seems to be going to, however, is just dabbing at his damp face and coat with a towel to dry off from the melted snow.
  190.  
  191. >Next to him is something of a spectacle - You thought you were gonna stick out like a sore thumb being green, right? There’s a purple pony that looks about the same size as Applejack, maybe a teensy bit bigger, sitting next to the red one. Behind her, a set of wings are sticking out at half-mast. On her head, sticking out from a navy blue librarian cut with this punk streak of pink is a horn. In short, out of all of the ponies you’ve met so far, she takes the cake in being the most unbelievable. Still, she smiles at you, and you bite back the urge to call her out on how preposterous she looks.
  192. >Applejack clears her throat as she sits next to you, a hoof patting at your back with a little too much oomph. You stumble just a little.
  193. >”Twi, this here’s Anonymous. Or, well, we’re callin’ him that until we figger out his actual name. Anon, this is Twilight, but y’all probably already know that.”
  194.  
  195. >You blink up at the orange horse, shirking away from her whole hoof-pat thing.
  196. “Whyyy would I know that?”
  197.  
  198. >There’s a pregnant pause after you say that. Big Red is unreadable, the Twilight seems to be trying to read you, and AJ is somewhere between baffled and perplexed. She stumbles a minute.
  199. >” ‘Cause.. Everypony knows the princesses?”
  200. -
  201. “I don’t. Why would you bring a *princess* to deal with some lost dude?”
  202. >You’re a little anxious about talking with apparent royalty, even if it’s a big purple thing from your imagination. Still, you address her.
  203. “Don’t you have more important stuff to do? I mean, I’m grateful for anybody willing to help, but-”
  204.  
  205. >You see Twilight glance away in what looks like embarrassment when you feel a hoof pat your back again, softer this time.
  206. >”Settle down, sugarcube. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, awright? Twi’s my friend, and she’s always willin’ to help out a pony in need.”
  207.  
  208. “That’s actually what’s bugging me the most..”
  209. >You turn to face Applejack, raising both of your hooves in front of you and pressing the tips of them together.
  210. “Why am I a pony?”
  211.  
  212. >Again, there’s that silence. This time, Applejack scrunches her brows a little and Costanzas at you, one of her big hooves bumping at both of yours.
  213. >” ‘Cause yer mom and dad were, ya goofball. Speakin’ of, we really should be tryin’ to get a hold o-”
  214.  
  215. >You push at her hoof stubbornly.
  216. “No no no, Apple. My parents -weren’t- ponies, and neither am I.”
  217.  
  218. >All at once, AJ flashes her exasperation at the ceiling, slapping a hoof against her scalp.
  219. >”Consarn it, Anon! Ah can plainly *see* ya’ll are a pony. Ah can deal with not knowin’ yer name, how ya got here, or even yer.. Yer business, but yer tellin’ me y’ain’t a *pony* neither? This hooey is really startin’ ta tick me off.”
  220.  
  221. >Twilight frowns at her. “AJ-”
  222.  
  223. >”No, Twi, ahm riled. D’ya know what I’d do if Applebloom kept on spoutin’ lies like that?”
  224. >She waves a hoof upstairs, fuming.
  225. >”Why, ah’d tan her hide!”
  226.  
  227. >You’re getting a little steamed, yourself. You stomp your front hooves.
  228. “I’m telling the truth, you ass!”
  229.  
  230. >”Whoa,” The red one pipes up, his drawl as long as he is fuckoff huge. “Ladies, there ain’t no need to-”
  231.  
  232. >AJ’s nostrils flare. ”Oh yeah, ya lil’ brat? What’re you, then?!”
  233.  
  234. “I’m a HUMAN!”
  235. -
  236. >Applejack takes a deep breath, and her mouth opens at you. The world gets covered in this weird purple-magenta filter, and for a second you’re absolutely certain Applejack fucking Dragonshouted at you.
  237. >When she stops immediately after and looks just as surprised as you, you see her muzzle scrunch and she glares at Twilight. You follow her gaze, and you see that her horn’s glowing through your own purpley haze. The princess frowns at you and Applejack, stopping to focus on the bigger pony. The glow around her fades, and you hear the orange mare once again.
  238.  
  239. >”Twi-”
  240.  
  241. >”Applejack, what she’s saying makes sense.”
  242.  
  243. >”What? How?”
  244.  
  245. >Twilight points a hoof at you, and as an afterthought, her horn’s glow fades entirely. “Alright, let’s review. How did Anon get here?”
  246.  
  247. “I already said, I don’t know!”
  248.  
  249. >”Anon,” Twilight says with some pronounced restraint, looking at you. “You’re yelling. I’m on your side, okay?. Hay, we’re all on your side. So-”
  250. >She takes a deep breath, putting a hoof against her chest. Twilight then extends it out, exhaling slowly.
  251.  
  252. >She.. Has a point. You didn’t even notice until the quiet that your chest is heaving, and your adrenaline is pumping from even a few seconds of raising your voice. Begrudgingly, you sit on your haunches and repeat her movement.
  253. >In…
  254. >... Out.
  255.  
  256. >”Thank you. Now, she-”
  257.  
  258. >”He,” AJ corrects. You’re a little upset with her, but you’re grateful for that much.
  259.  
  260. >”He doesn’t know how he got here, but he ended up in your bed. Was the bed cold or wet when you woke up? From snow,” She hastily adds. Applejack shakes her head in the negative. “So, how does a foal end up in the middle of Apple Acres in Winter without being bundled up, much less not covered in slush?”
  261. -
  262. >”Ah was wonderin’ that,” Big red pipes up, scritching his chin. “Ah wouldn’t see much after snowfall this mornin’, but there ain’t any tracks to the house.”
  263.  
  264. “So..?”
  265.  
  266. >”So, you might’ve been teleported,” The purple pony states.
  267.  
  268. “Oh, of course.”
  269.  
  270. >All three adults give you a reproachful look for your tone, but Twilight continues, “He doesn’t know what telekinesis is, which makes me guess - Do you believe in magic, Anon?”
  271.  
  272. “In a young girl’s heart.. Hah, but seriously, no. Should I?”
  273.  
  274. >Twilight claps her hooves together, taking a second to give you a discerning look before going back to AJ. The more Applejack hears, she looks less mad - in fact, her ears are twitching down a little.
  275. >”When I went through the Crystal Mirror, the world was full of humans. Humans that didn’t believe in magic. A human that could wake up someplace they’ve never been, afraid and tired.”
  276.  
  277. >”...shoot.”
  278. >Applejack blows some air, closing her eyes and shaking her head.
  279. >”Now ah really do feel like a butt. Ah’m sorry, Anon. It just seems a bit far-fetched to me.”
  280.  
  281. >”It’s the most reasonable thing I can think of,” Twilight insists, rubbing at her chin in thought. “It even explains why you’re a pony. No idea why it would make you a filly, though..”
  282.  
  283. “W-what? I already told you, I’m a guy!”
  284.  
  285. >”...Macintosh, could you excuse us a minute?”
  286. -
  287. >Big red lifts up, then paces past you up the stairs. You watch him depart before your gaze flickers between the orange mare to the purple one. Twilight looks deep in thought before she makes a motion with her hoof at Applejack. Unsurely, she turns away from you as Twilight does.
  288.  
  289. >”Anon,” The princess says, “I want you to.. Check yourself. Is everything as you remember it, as a male?”
  290.  
  291. >You swallow. Admittedly, you haven’t actually looked. Besides the obvious signs of gender that you’ve done your best not to stare at, you don’t exactly have a large frame of reference as to what features are masculine or feminine for a horse. Your voice has been bizarrely high-pitched, though.. No matter the truth, this body is not yours - whatever truth you reveal will be false. Still, it’s necessary to see it. You hear your heartbeat thrum in your ears as tentatively, you bow your legs out. You count to three, then look down. Immediately, your face feels warm as you get the surreal sensation of staring at someone else’s privates.
  292.  
  293. >Between your awkward green hindlegs is what would make a mare a mare. Your hindlegs immediately push together, a burning in your cheeks as you look up. There’s a tremor in your voice that makes both of their ears twitch and Applejack’s tilt down.
  294.  
  295. “..N-no.. It’s, it’s not there. I’m - I’m a girl now..?”
  296. -
  297. >Your entire face burns, and there’s this growing chill spreading from your core. Your own hooves wrap around your midsection as your stomach turns at the thought. It isn’t so much that the thought of being female is revolting, per se, but you’ve had enough changes of identity today that would be jarring to anyone. You look down at those four green hooves as a few errant curls of black hang on the edge of your vision. It’s the thought that follows that really emphasizes how little you know and how little you can really do about the situation as a female child of another species:
  298. >You’re certain that you weren’t always green, but for the life of you, you can’t remember if your hair was always black.
  299.  
  300. ”This.. This is too fucking much..”
  301.  
  302. >Why are you here? Why are you this? Why do you know you were something, someone else but you can’t recall your own name?
  303.  
  304. >”Anon, deep breaths. We can figure this out, okay?”
  305.  
  306. >You feel gravity shift as you’re being lifted by a large orange hoof. One of them wipes across your eyes - you were crying again, didn’t even notice. You don’t resist, sinking forward and pressing one of your cheeks against her chest. You can sort of hear her heartbeat, but not as well as if your ears were on the side of your head.. More a testament to how strong her heart is than a pony’s sense of hearing, you think. You breathe very deeply and slowly, trying to regain a sense of calm.
  307. >You have several of these ponies willing to help you. One of them is apparently royalty, and has control over magic on top of that. You’re in good.. Hooves. You hope.
  308.  
  309. >”There, there.. It’ll be alright, sugarcube. C’mon - let’s go have somethin’ to eat, yeah? Y’all must be famished.”
  310. -
  311. >You remain silent as you’re lifted higher, draped carefully across Applejack’s upper back. Your eyes pass over more decor. You spy a few picture frames that feature Applejack, Applebloom, Macintosh and an elderly-looking green pony. In a few of them, there’s a yellow one with a cowboy hat, and a few with Applejack and a group of other ponies that you doubletake at. Twilight is in a lot of these group shots, and they’re all brightly colored as she is.
  312.  
  313. >...They all look really happy. You consider that you haven’t been really counting your blessings here - Not only did these ponies go to find help immediately, but Applejack went to someone of authority first and foremost. You got a full night’s sleep (which still feels incredibly strange for you), what truths you remember were validated, and as you’re gently settled into a homely wooden dining chair, you note that you will be served breakfast shortly. It could be a lot worse.
  314.  
  315. “..Um.. what do ponies eat?”
  316. >You do not look forward to the thought of dining on a hay bale. Applejack chuckles as she paces to a stove, standing on her hindlegs and turning a burner on with one of her hooves. You watch in fascination as she grabs a long match from a box with her teeth, strikes it against the wood and carefully lights the gas. She then shakes her head rapidly like a dog for a second to put out the match, tossing it in a nearby metal bin.
  317. -
  318. >”We’re vegetarians, for the most part.” Twilight seats herself next to you at the dining table, seemingly more than happy to answer your questions. “We use animal products like eggs, milk and stuff by themselves or for things like omelettes and cakes. When I was in the human world,” She says a bit shyly with some hooves poking against one another, “I noticed a lot of things we ponies have with cooked hay is meat, where you’re from. Ponies can’t really digest that, though Rainbow Dash told me a lot of pegasus ponies do, which makes me think other ponies can.”
  319.  
  320. >”Good luck findin’ somepony ‘sides Rainbow Dash willin’ to stuff themselves with fish,” AJ mumbles from the stove. She pauses, snerks, then shakes her head while opening a nearby fridge. “Heheh.. Hey Twi, imagine Rares with a big ol’ salmon hangin’ out her mouth.”
  321.  
  322. >Next to you, Twilight raspberries and goes into a gigglefit. She directs you to one of the photos you were looking at earlier. “The white one, Rarity. She’s one of our best friends,” She explains helpfully through her mirth. “But she’s very..”
  323.  
  324. >”Fancy?”
  325.  
  326. >”Posh?”
  327.  
  328. >”Frou-frou?”
  329.  
  330. >”Elegant?”
  331.  
  332. >”Uptight?”
  333.  
  334. >”Heh, a little. She’s the spirit of generosity in the flesh though, Applejack.” Twilight winks. “I bet if you asked nicely, she’d gladly share her trout with you.”
  335.  
  336. >AJ guffaws around an egg between her teeth that she’s cracking against the stove, and both of the ladies go into a laughing fit. You do not know what to make of these horse jokes. The sound of the stove sizzling makes you think twice about distracting Applejack while she’s cooking, so you turn your attention to Twilight.
  337.  
  338. “I appreciate you coming down to help me out, Princess Twilight. Thank you.”
  339.  
  340. >”Oh, just call me Twilight.” She smiles at you, then rests a chin in her hoof as her gears begin to turn. “So, you can’t recall anything leading up to your coming here at all, Anon?”
  341. -
  342. >You look down at the table and begin fidgeting with your hooves.
  343. “I remember some stuff, but there’s this sporadic gap between what I do and don’t recall.. I don’t know my name, but I know my parents’. I remember places I’ve lived, friends I’ve had, books I’ve read..”
  344.  
  345. >”What can you recall about you, specifically?”
  346.  
  347. >”He said he was in his twenties earlier,” AJ pipes up around a mouthful of spatula. You nod your affirmation, looking down at one of your hooves that belong to something more in the single digits of age. You wonder how explaining yourself could’ve gone if Applejack was just a little more close-minded, or Twilight had a case of royal cuntitude. Thankfully, neither seems to be the case.
  348.  
  349. “Yeah. I lived in Manhattan in this dingy apartment, all by my lonesome.”
  350.  
  351. >”Just you?”
  352.  
  353. “That is what lonesome means, princess. I was just reaching the two year mark of being out of the same state as my folks. Didn’t really like them much.”
  354. >Neither of the mares pry when you say that, though you can feel the burgeoning curiosity. Your hooves try to rest as flat as they can against the table, drumming them up and down soundlessly. Below, your hindlegs are dangling off of the edge of the table - you feel the ghost of a memory, the deja vu of being the little one seated at a dinner table. When Twilight doesn’t say anything, you meander on with your words aimlessly.
  355.  
  356. “My memory hasn’t been the best, except for.. Well, things that aren’t very helpful, usually. I always wondered if it was a byproduct of not getting much sleep.”
  357.  
  358. >You hear a sizzle and a scrape as Applejack flips something at the stove with her face. Your gaze strays to her, trying to see what she’s actually cooking; it smells like pancakes but not quite. Twilight has her hooves folded, listening to you with apt curiosity.
  359. “I’d stay up late. Real late, like.. One, two, three in the morning. I’m a real night owl.”
  360.  
  361. >”Doing what?”
  362. -
  363. >You deflate a bit in your seat, and your hooves are very interesting once more.
  364. “..Nothing special, honestly. Reading this and that.”
  365.  
  366. >”Y’all’re a bookish type, it sounds like.”
  367.  
  368. “I guess. I like to read, so I liked to.. You know, hole up and go through a stack of library books or just flip through pages on the internet.”
  369.  
  370. >Twilight gives you a knowing look, folding her hooves on the table. “That sure reminds me of somepony I knew a while ago.. You know, we don’t have any internets here in Equestria, but we’ve got plenty of books. Before I became a princess, I was kind of a librarian.”
  371.  
  372. “Huh. No kidding?”
  373.  
  374. >The purple horse nods as Applejack comes over, clenching the edge of one plate with her teeth while one of her hooves balance another with a third plate balanced on her back, doing this odd three-legged walk to come over. She sets one in front of you, then serves Twilight and herself.
  375.  
  376. >It looks like a small, sad breakfast burrito that smells strongly of cinnamon. You go to grab it, but your hoof bumps uselessly against it. You feel your pout as your ears flit down in displeasure, trying to scoop it up to no avail.
  377. >Looking at Twilight doesn’t help you, because her food is floating and shoving it within biting range whenever she’s ready for the next one. So, you try to mimic Applejack instead, scooping the wrap into both hooves and clumsily lifting it to your face to take a bite.
  378.  
  379. >The second you do, you’re immediately overwhelmed with pure cinnamon apple goodness. You’re actually overwhelmed - you recoil, smacking your lips.
  380. “Holy damn, is that good.”
  381.  
  382. >”Heh. Thank y’kindly, Anon. Crepes are one of my specialties,” AJ winks.
  383. -
  384. >Twilight mhm’s her agreement. “Take your time with it, Anon. So,” She floats the crepe away for a second and you give her your full attention. “I -think- we can get you back home. Like I said, some other ponies and I are familiar with a portal that can return you to the human world.”
  385. >”It’s gonna take a little bit to organize getting all the way to your home from where the portal would drop you off,” She concedes, but that doesn’t stop that rush of relief flowing through your extremities. “But I think we can do it. Until then, why not try taking it easy here? You can even meet some more ponies!”
  386.  
  387. >Meeting.. More ponies?
  388.  
  389. >Twilight sees your concern, even though you brilliantly or perhaps even unintentionally mask it behind a bite of delicious applefood. She seems to hesitate for a second, thinking of trying to word it just right. “I mean, if you wanted. I’m sure my friends would love to meet you though, Anon.”
  390.  
  391. “I.. don’t know..”
  392.  
  393. >An orange hoof comes up, ruffling your hair a little. “Well, if y’aren’t down for that, you’re still welcome to stay here as long as it takes.. Provided ya follow the rules.”
  394. >AJ holds up a hoof very solemnly, tapping it with every point she states.
  395. >”No cussin’, no fussin’, no mussin’.”
  396.  
  397. “Excuse me?”
  398.  
  399. >”No pottymouth, no throwin’ fits and no leavin’ messes for other ponies to clean up.”
  400.  
  401. “Oh.”
  402. -
  403. >You all go into a munching silence where you observe how both mares eat, so you have some idea of how to do it comfortably and in a royal presence. However, Twilight is not helpful in this regard right now. For one, she’s doing it with magic. For two, the vigor she eats make you wonder if ‘princess’ is more of an honorary title or something. Plus, they’re really good - enough to give you pause in your curiosity of taking the next leap home.
  404.  
  405. >”Actually, thinking about it.. Staying somewhat isolated might deter you from uncomfortable situations,” Twilight muses between bites. “Unless you don’t mind explaining that you’re male, and an adult at that.”
  406.  
  407. >”That sure sounds like a mouthful t’swallow each time. What kinda pony likes t’announce their,” AJ pauses and gesticulates with a hoof in a way that makes you almost laugh, “business every time they see a new pony?”
  408.  
  409. >You can think of a few.
  410.  
  411. >”Ah don’t look forward to explainin’ it to Granny, and it ain’t even -my- business.” Applejack huffs as her hooves pull her plate to be gripped between her teeth again. You’re on the last couple bites of yours, so she scoops up your plate in a hoof, then Twilight’s since she isn’t using it anyway, heading to the sink. “Infact.. Twi, could’ja turn Anon into a human while he’s here? A colt, at least? Might make things a bit easier.”
  412.  
  413. >That’s.. A good idea, Apple. You aren’t happy with how quick Twi’s ears go down and she smiles in a “I need to tell you something you aren’t gonna like” way. “I wish I could, but there’s a lot of things against that.. Bureaucratic, safety and physics.”
  414.  
  415. “Well, hit me. Why can’t you make me a real boy, Gepetto?”
  416.  
  417. >”Who?”
  418.  
  419. “Pinocchio? The doll that wanted to be a real boy?”
  420.  
  421. >”..You mean Ponicchio?”
  422.  
  423. “...Sure.”
  424. -
  425. >Twilight gives you an odd look, before shrugging and laying it out for you.
  426. >”Well, first of all, there are very strict laws about polymorphing spells and foals. Requiring a parent’s permission and the need for a permanent or semi-permanent polymorph spell to be supervised by a royal representative aren’t issues because you say you’re human, and I’m a princess. If you were an Equestrian citizen - specifically in somewhere urban in Manehatten,” Twilight adds in between a finishing bite of her crepe, “You would need to go to a public law office with your birth certificate.You would also need to clarify if it would be a permanent lifestyle change, or a temporary change if you were, say, trying to have a foal with your partner-”
  427.  
  428. >You blanche and wave your hooves rapidly.
  429. “Eugh, that does -not- apply to me.”
  430.  
  431. >Applejack comes back to the table, looking a mix between perturbed and morbidly curious. “How d’you know all of this, Twilight? Y’all.. Weren’t a buck before you came to Ponyville, right?”
  432.  
  433. >The princess would have spit out her food, if she had any in. Instead her eyes go big, face goes red and she does a skittish flap of her wings. “N-no! It just, just came up in conversation with Cadance with what she has to deal with.. Everypony usually goes to the Princess of Love for that sort of thing, but with me being a Princess now, I had to read up on it incase anypony came to me with that sort of request.” Applejack keeps squinting at her, and Twilight does a flustered shout, “I’m not a colt!” It makes Apple laugh. You too, a little.
  434. -
  435. >”A-anyway.. None of that applies here so much as the safety ones. A full physical and psychological evaluation needs to happen before the polymorph process can happen. If you just woke up like this the night before, unless you had a surgery or an implant while we weren’t looking, your physical health -should- be fine, unless whatever originally changed your body is still changing it. What worries me more is the psych evaluation, because you’re missing some very obvious memories. Whatever made you as you are affected your mind, too. So, adding another spell to the equation might interfere or at least complicate with what already happened to your memories.”
  436.  
  437. >You nod quietly, and you find your hooves fidgety once more. Twilight reaches out and rests a hoof on one of yours reassuringly, sighing.
  438. >”And here comes the sucky part. All of that I just said? I can bypass pretty much all of it with royal prerogative, if it really came down to it. It would make me a lot less worried and a lot more okay with the law if you could remember your name, but I could work with having evidence of your knowledge of a species, it’s customs and technology. As far as I’m concerned, you’re human. But that isn’t the issue.”
  439.  
  440. >You stare at her, and you feel your mirth and worry dissipate into thinly-veiled frustration.
  441. “What’s stopping you, then?”
  442.  
  443. >She squeezes your hoof with hers, swallowing anxiously. “All of the laws in the world don’t make an alicorn’s dispelling abjuration stronger. If it was as simple as reversing the spell, it would’ve happened when I tried undoing any spells on you while you were eating. You might not have even noticed if you changed back, it would be near-instantaneous and none the wiser. I’ve seen it happen before when I turned a frog into an orange and back again, and it seemed to show no signs of trauma. Polymorph spells are scary like that.”
  444. -
  445. >You feel a chill as Twilight says this, and you can almost feel your pupils kind of shrink.
  446.  
  447. >“So.. Hol’ up, Twi. Y’all already tried changing Anon back to how he was?”
  448.  
  449. >”Yes, and it failed.” The purple pony purses her lips, looking off in the distance while she holds your hoof tight. “I think.. The reason your body is different has to do with the means you came here, from a different dimension. The only ponies I know that would know about dimensional shifts are Princess Celestia and Sunset Shimmer. I’ll have to talk to them about this, see what they think.”
  450.  
  451. >The apple crepe was very good, but it isn’t good enough to make you not sour about the situation. You lay your chin on the table, dimly aware of a purple hoof stroking at your mane. “I’ll come by as often as I can to give you updates on everything. Applejack, you’re fine with her staying here?”
  452.  
  453. >”He, Twilight.”
  454.  
  455. “He, she, it doesn’t matter.”
  456. >Both mares turn to you, surprised.
  457. “I’d like to make as little waves as possible. If I’m gonna be a.. Filly, here, it would be easier to avoid explaining myself each and every time.”
  458.  
  459. >”Huh. Well, whichever. Yer still welcome to stay in the guest room fer as long as you’re here, provided y’mind yer manners.” Applejack nods warmly, and you feel that warmth.
  460.  
  461. “Something’s bothering me though. Princess, you said the culprit might be.. Dimensions?”
  462. >You point a hoof in the general direction of the living room and stairs.
  463. “Then why did Applebloom tell me that her cousin lives in Manhattan?”
  464.  
  465. >”Who, Babs?”
  466.  
  467. “That’s the one.”
  468.  
  469. >”She lives in *Mane*hattan.”
  470.  
  471. >”Ah, that’s right,” Twilight smiles mirthlessly. “I get your confusion. I noticed that in the other world, a lot of humans renamed our pony towns and cities into names that don’t make sense. Vancouver, Las Vegas. Minneapolis..”
  472.  
  473. >”Mini Apple Lis?”
  474. -
  475. >”Right? Really weird names. But no - ponies, griffons and stuff are in our world,” Twilight points a hoof to her left, then another to her right. “Humans, high schools and cars over in yours.”
  476.  
  477. “You guys don’t have high schools?”
  478.  
  479. >Both mares shake their heads; neither of them seem to be making a joke. Applejack tilts. “Unless.. D’ya have cities high in the clouds, too? If so, we’ve got flight academies.”
  480.  
  481. >You shake your head as Applejack lifts from her seat, then Twilight as well. You follow them into the living room, making your way over to a couch to hop and sit on. AJ takes a seat next to you in a way that reminds you of a cat or dog, and she’s looking at you a little queer.
  482. >”Huh. Yer sittin’ like that Heartstrings mare does.”
  483.  
  484. “Well, humans stand upright, so this is how they sit. Didn’t really account for the tail, though.. It is so weird having a black plume sticking from my butt.”
  485.  
  486. >Applejack snorts as you reach around and stick your tail to the side. Twilight’s stifling a small laugh, too.
  487.  
  488. >”Fair. Also, you might want to work on your feminine postures. You’re sitting kind of.. unladylike.”
  489.  
  490. >”Ah’m not one for frou-frou this’n that, but Twi’s got a point.”
  491.  
  492. “Huh?”
  493.  
  494. >The orange mare reaches over, and gently pushes your bow-legged stance until it’s closed. Your cheeks burn, and you rest your front hooves on your lap.
  495. “Ah.. right..”
  496.  
  497. >Twilight gets that thoughtful look again. For a Princess, she seems oddly relatable to the common - that’s an apt word to describe Applejack and even yourself, you think. You find yourself curious on her position, wondering how long she’s had this position of power. “You know.. You might want to consider your company, too.”
  498.  
  499. “My company?”
  500.  
  501. >”Well, you’re an adult where you come from, but right now you look like a filly - hay, for all intents and purposes, you *are* a filly. That would mean drinking, smoking, roughhousing, a lot of manual labor-”
  502. -
  503. >”Ah wouldn’t say -all- manual labor. Applebloom carries herself just fine for what she can do, Twi.”
  504.  
  505. >The purple pony looks skeptical at Applejack’s enthusiasm. To be fair, the orange mare seems more.. Built. She isn’t on the same level as Mac, but her bulky frame is very distinct from Twilight’s slim physique. You consider how different they are, and wonder how they became friends. As fascinating as that is, though..
  506. “No fun allowed, then? That’s a bummer. A shot of something strong would make this pill easier to swallow.”
  507.  
  508. >”Ah’m sorry for ya, Anon. We -kin- getcha some apple juice whenever the thirst strikes ya, though.” Applejack smiles, and you wave your hooves in exaggerated joy. She then makes a path to a closet, and-
  509.  
  510. “Holy hell, that’s a lot of bows and hats.”
  511.  
  512. >AJ chuckles as she begins to dig through the cavern of fabric and leather. Eventually she pulls something out with her teeth, coming over to drape it over you. It’s not a particularly heavy coat nor a very big one, you think, but for a little filly, it’s easy enough to cover you. The inside is lined with thick wool, and the outside is old denim with plenty of scuffs, but no glaring tears or anything major.
  513.  
  514. >You clumsily begin to slip inside of it, your hooves poking out just after the cuffs. Applejack tugs it down on you, smoothing out the wrinkles. “There y’go. Now, if y’all like, y’can go and frolic in the snow, too.”
  515. -
  516. >You try putting on your best dry look, and judging from how Twilight is trying not to laugh, you don’t think you’re very successful.
  517. “I dig the coat, and I’m flattered, but I dunno if I’m up for frolicking with you right now.”
  518.  
  519. >”Oh, not me. Ah got things to do, and ah think the best thing for a filly is to get that excess energy out.”
  520.  
  521. “Uh. Who did you expect me to do that with, the-”
  522.  
  523. >”Snow snow snow SNOW!”
  524.  
  525. >Applebloom is a yellow bullet going down the stairs in what appears to be some kind of pony parka. It’s more like a very thick cowl; it doesn’t have any sleeves like your own newfound garment. You are very much alarmed when Applebloom grabs you by the hoof, dragging you with her.
  526.  
  527. “J-jeezum Crow! Applebloom, what the hell?!”
  528.  
  529. >”Ah don’t know what hell is! C’mon, Anon, let’s make a SNOWPONY!”
  530.  
  531. >You are dimly aware of Twilight and Applejack guffawing as you are physically manhandled out the front door. Ponyhandled? You inhale shar[;y, closing your eyes as you cross the threshhold as you prepare for those harsh gusts you saw outside the window not too long ago..
  532.  
  533. >...
  534.  
  535. >It.. Isn’t that cold.
  536.  
  537. >You open your eyes. Sure, you feel the wind blowing on your face - blowing hard, at that. But the warmth of your body heat plus that which is trapped by the coat leaves you very comfortable. You find yourself marvelling as you dip one of your limbs into a sizeable mound near the front door, the result of somepony’s dutiful shoveling. Sure, it’s a little cold, but it looks way more intense than it really is. You’re shocked when you sink up to the foreleg into the white puff, only to find just a bit of chill near your pit.
  538.  
  539. >You look up with undisguised joy to question Applebloom with her thoughts on this Winter Wonderland, just in time to see her sprint, leap, cheer midair and heavily sink into an even bigger clump of snow.
  540. -
  541. >You hear Anon’s deep belly laugh from where you inside the house, even after the door was long shut. A few seconds later, you hear your little sister’s voice joining in, segueing into distant conversation lost to the winds of the wendigo.
  542.  
  543. >”Applejack?”
  544.  
  545. ”Hnh?”
  546.  
  547. >Twilight sits next to you on the sofa and peeks out of a window, spying the fillies not terribly far off. They seem to be saying something, shortly before Applebloom shakes rapidly, and the majority of all the snow gets all over Anon. Anon exclaims something, and the big sister part of you squints to see any telltale wincing to make sure there wasn’t any swearing while you weren’t readily available. There isn’t, and you relax a little.
  548.  
  549. >”Are you sure you won’t be held up by watching over her.. Him?”
  550.  
  551. >Your confidence answers before you think to, nodding your head up and down readily.
  552. “Darn tootin’. Watchin’ over fillies is a piece of cake.”
  553.  
  554. >”Well.. Alright, if you insist. But remember-” Twilight knows you’re very capable, but she does that thing where she emphasizes something that was bolded even a little bit in a book. "That’s not just a filly you’re watching over. That’s a grown stallion too, and from another species at that. Though..”
  555.  
  556. >Her lips work into a fine line. The girls were sprinting around in a way that made you rather impressed how easily Anon took to his new legs as they began bolting around one another, both fillies trying to peg the other with hastily made snowballs. Neither of them bothered to duck for cover, often leaping and sinking into the stuff they would be in such a rush to throw in the first place.
  557.  
  558. >”I’m wondering just how much. Clearly, a toll has been taken on her mind. She doesn’t remember her -name-, for pony’s sake. That and how quickly she’s willing to just.. Play, like any other girl her age.. You’re gonna have to deal with a little bit of both.”
  559. -
  560. “It shouldn’t be too much trouble to watch ‘er, especially durin’ the Winter. Crops and trees are all snowed over. All ah gotta do is feed the livestock, an’ Anon could even help with that. Might even do that lil’ city pony some good.” When Twilight goes to protest, you beat her to the punch. “Ah’ve got quite a bit of experience with keepin’ fillies in line. Hay, I’ve been doin’ it since -ah- was a filly.”
  561.  
  562. >Twi finally relents, her wings fluttering behind her. “Alright, alright, I’ll quit pressing. You’re definitely the most qualified.” That makes your chest swell with pride, and your friend gives you a nod of approval. “I’ll get a jumpstart with Starlight, see what we can figure out. Don’t hesitate to call me over if you need help.”
  563.  
  564. “Fer sure. Later, Twi.”
  565. >And with that, your friend’s horn glows, and she blips away into a flash of unicorn magickery. You still stand there facing the spot where she teleported from, letting out a thoughtful sigh.
  566.  
  567. “Jeezum Crow..”
  568.  
  569. >It was a nonsense phrase, one of those expletives that you know probably had a meaning at some point but now meant little more than the breath it took to exhale it. You’re not sure what it meant, though you saw that green filly frame her mouth to say something different, pause and say that instead. You could tell foulness came from Anon’s mouth freely, and changing so readily for your family’s sake was just and fair. That phrase, the one that just left your lips and blurted from Anon earlier as easy as anything else could’ve played back in your head, but it was different ponies speaking. You exhale again, closing your eyes.
  570.  
  571. >You’re projectin’, cowgirl.
  572.  
  573. >Anon said she didn’t like her family. It ain’t your business what was going on with them. But still..
  574.  
  575. >You hope she gets the chance to see them again, and clear up whatever enmity was there. You know how precious those chances can be.
  576. -
  577. >You have no idea how long you’ve been playing with this little horse girl, but the fact that you aren’t dying of soreness and sputtering for air blows your mind. Still, your newfound boundless energy doesn’t make Applebloom cheating any less unfair.
  578.  
  579. >You slide your back half forward, letting yourself slide across the snow under one of the few mounds that were serviceable as cover. You hear two sets of four legs trot around, breath haggard.
  580.  
  581. >”Where’d she go?”
  582.  
  583. >”Check the trees. If I was green, I’d hide in the trees,” The new little pony suggests. She’s a cute, bright and white little unicorn that leapt to Applebloom’s aid in the form of a new launcher of snowballs that left you high and not so dry. Of course, it was a backhanded compliment - you always help out the underdog, after all.
  584.  
  585. >Plus, as spunky as they are, these girls are just that: Girls. You’ve still got that spirit within you that very much recalls the feeling of testosterone, that willingness to stick it out. You pop out, and peg Sweetie Belle in the back of the head with a nice big snowball, making her squeal.
  586.  
  587. >Not terribly far away and yet pointedly out of the line of fire, a white mare whom you can only assume is Sweetie’s mom winces, then chuckles good-naturedly. She watches bemusedly as you break into a deft sprint away from an icy barrage, then continues the trek up to the house. You let the lady go unimpeded, too busy trying to be agile - but to no avail. After you get struck a few times, the chill is enough to make you shudder. You wave one of your forelegs.
  588.  
  589. “Alright, alright! You scrubs beat me.”
  590.  
  591. >Some hovering snowballs that are lit by a yellow-green glow release, meeting their makers when they splat against the snow below. The girls cheer, and Sweetie does this little giddy run in place. You hug yourself awkwardly with your forelegs.
  592.  
  593. “What say you we go inside and warm ourselves up a bit?”
  594. -
  595. >”Oh, yeah! Rarity has chocolates!”
  596.  
  597. “You call your mom by name?”
  598.  
  599. >“Oh, no, that’s my big sister.”
  600.  
  601. “Ahhhh.”
  602.  
  603. >”Chocolates? Th’kind that she brought to Hearthswarming?”
  604.  
  605. >You trudge alongside the two fillies on the way back to the now very warm and cozy-looking countryhouse, marching in the center of either of them. Now that you’re not pumping with adrenaline, you get that soreness in your midsection and chest that makes the trek significantly more cumbersome. The girls don’t seem as phased, but they slip into walking at your gait anyway. It’s real considerate.
  606.  
  607. >”Yeah, those ones. She said they’re not for me, though. That means they’re probably not for you guys, either.”
  608.  
  609. >”Aw, what? Some Element of Generosity she is.”
  610.  
  611. “Is she gonna cram her face full of ‘em? She doesn’t look like the type.”
  612.  
  613. >”Oh, Rarity pigs out all the time when she’s upset,” Sweetie chirps matter-of-factly. “She goes through tubs of vanilla oat swirl every time she doesn’t feel pretty.” You snort, having to physically shove a hoof in your mouth to not crack up laughing. You stand up awkwardly, pressing your hoof against the handle and swinging it open. Of course, before you cross that threshold, you take a second to scrape your hooves at the welcome mat. Sweetie Belle and Applebloom do the same. The latter passes you after some lax hoof-wiping, and you hear AJ’s twangy but stern tone.
  614.  
  615. >”Applebloom, ah’m havin’ some grown-up talk with Rares. Mind givin’ us some space?”
  616.  
  617. >You feel your ears tilt of their own curious volition You can kind of.. Control how they tilt. You begin doing so like the ears to an old cable antennae, trying to overhear the best. “Oh, sure,” Applebloom answers with an unsure pause in removing her coat. This makes her face obscured and just her mane poking out the front of the hood, her voice muffled a little. “Nonny just wanted come in ‘cause she’s cold.”
  618.  
  619. >Nonny?
  620. >..Hmm. It rolls off the tongue.
  621. -
  622. >You like it.
  623.  
  624. >You peek through the doorway to see Applejack gently rocking in a.. Well, a wooden rocking chair. Across from her on that sweet sofa you sat on earlier, Rarity sits like a cat, shorn of her coat. You marvel at her mane and tail for a moment - you normally see an errant strand of hair on anybody, but that horse’s hair is professionally curled on one side and the other, even her tail is this elegant coil of fuschia lavishness. Your admiration is obvious from your face alone, apparently. She beams at you, and you feel passively intimidated - a part of you wonders if you’re talking to a supermodel.
  625.  
  626. “I-I’m not that cold..”
  627.  
  628. >”Darling, you’re -shivering-.” Rarity observes, and it’s only kind of true. AJ cocks an eyebrow at the unicorn mare, who summons her young sister with some clearing of the throat. “Sweetie Belle, take your friend upstairs and initiate snuggles. Be sure to use lots of blankets, too.”
  629.  
  630. >Sweetie appears next to you, snapping off a crisp salute. “Yes sir, ma’am sister sir!” She then begins to physically guide you to the staircase.
  631.  
  632. >Well, it seems you don’t have much of a choice.
  633.  
  634. >Crawling up the stairs is easier than crawling down, though Applebloom is in front of you and her tail keeps dusting at your face and that’s kind of annoying. The second the door shuts and you’re about to give Sweetie a piece of your mind for ruining what could’ve been a feasible plan to con her sister out of chocolate, but you pause when you see her press the side of her head against the floor with her tongue stuck out in concentration. Applebloom goes straight to a nightstand next to her bed, snagging an empty glass, then making her way over to Sweetie Belle. She mimics the little unicorn, except her ear is pressed against the glass.
  635.  
  636. “Uh.. The hell are you two doing?”
  637. -
  638. >”Don’cha remember what ah said about thin walls? Ah wanna hear what our sisters are gabbin’ about!”
  639.  
  640. “It’s probably just girly things. Who even cares?”
  641.  
  642. >Sweetie Belle gives you a baffled look.
  643. >”Just.. ‘Girly’ things? What does that even -mean-?”
  644.  
  645. >Applebloom just ignores you. Since both of the girls are so intent on hearing someone else’s business, you sigh and press your ear against the wooden floor to join them.
  646.  
  647. >...
  648.  
  649. >”..ou like them? Be honest, darling. You know I hate to give a bad gift.”
  650.  
  651. >”Mmm, pretty good. These the sampler thingies y’all ordered special from Whinnypeg?”
  652.  
  653. >”That’s right. Who knew Applejack would approve of fruit that aren’t apples in chocolate?” Rarity titters, and you can practically hear AJ’s eyeroll.
  654.  
  655. >”Hardy har har. Yer real funny, Rares.”
  656.  
  657. >You give Sweetie and Applebloom a dry look, mouthing ‘I told you so’. Sweetie sticks a hoof at you with a scrunch of her forehead, like she’s saying ‘wait a minute’, and you scathingly oblige.
  658.  
  659. >“I was going to share some with Rainbow Dash, but she seemed.. Moody.”
  660.  
  661. >”Was she, now.”
  662.  
  663. >”She was. I spotted the poor dear laying on a cloud, on the way to Apple Acres no less. I was certain she would come with me to visit, but she seemed content on just watching Applebloom and her little friend play..”
  664.  
  665. >You feel a chill go up your spine. Somepony was watching you?
  666.  
  667. >”But no, she just said ‘no’. Something about you and her not exactly being on good terms?”
  668.  
  669. >”Mmmhm.”
  670.  
  671. >There’s a tense silence, and you and the girls share a pondering look. Whether you know this horse or not, you can pick up on the conflict in the air. Rarity is being snoopy, sure, but something is definitely bugging Applejack. You’re still certain it’s something stupid and petty, though.
  672.  
  673. >”Annnd why would that be, Applejack? It’s not like you to leave a friend hurt, especially not one of your best friends.”
  674. -
  675. >”Here ah thought y’all wanted t’lift my spirits up, Rares.” AJ lets out a sigh. “Ah know ah gotta talk to her, but ah don’t wanna do it right now.”
  676.  
  677. >”But why, darling? Surely, there’s no time like the present?”
  678.  
  679. >”Because ah don’t *want* to, okay? She really.. Really peeved me off.”
  680.  
  681. >In a way that you would swear is simultaneous, both the fillies gasp as you hear a teacup clink downstairs. Applebloom looks mortified, clasping a hoof to her face.
  682. >”Mah big sister cussed..”
  683.  
  684. >... They had to be fucking kidding, right?
  685.  
  686. >Heads, including your own, go back down to the floor. There is more clinking of glass, and inwardly you hope nothing broke. It would suck having these brand new limbs, only to step on an errant piece of glass while you were here.
  687. >”Yes, well.. Try not to take too long, Applejack. Whatever she did.. You’re still friends, aren’t you?”
  688.  
  689. >”Of course. That’ll never change, Rares. Ah just..”
  690.  
  691. >”You just what?”
  692.  
  693. >”It’s.. Ah don’t wanna say nuthin’, cause ah’m not a hunnerd-percent sure on *what* ah’m feelin’. That’s why ah need time to work it out.”
  694.  
  695. >There’s a pause for a few seconds, and Applebloom adjusts her cup a little to try and hear better. You hear Applejack sound startled. “H-hey now-”
  696.  
  697. >”Applejack, shut up for a second. I remember very clearly what Pinkie said about you.”
  698.  
  699. >”What? What’d she say about me?”
  700.  
  701. >”That you cry on the inside. That means you get a hug.”
  702.  
  703. >Cute. You make a face, and you’re acutely aware of your cheek squished against the floor. You have to lead by example by not listening in so much. These girls are impressionable, and spying on your sibling isn’t cool. A distant thought comes to you - a sibling, one that looked up to you at times and despised your existence at others. A younger sibling that you find yourself wondering if they.. Ever spied on you..
  704.  
  705. >...
  706.  
  707. >Okay, you’ll keep listening. Rarity sounds kind of quiet, so you have to strain your ears to hear.
  708. -
  709. >”...When you’re able.. Please talk to her, Applejack. I’m sure she’s sorry for whatever happened.”
  710.  
  711. >”..Ah think ah should be the one who’s sorry. Shoot. First I start this fiasco with Rainbow Dash, an’ then ah started callin’ little Anon a liar.. Ah’m a big ol’ jerk.”
  712.  
  713. >”Anon?”
  714.  
  715. >”That little green gal upstairs.”
  716.  
  717. >”I thought she was cute as a button, but so does my sister, and I’ve seen what trouble she can make.” As Rarity giggles, Sweetie’s muzzle scrunches. “A liar, you said?”
  718.  
  719. >”Tall tales that turned out t’be true, it’s a bit of a story. Hey.. I know! D’ya have anything in her size I could loan from ya, while she’s here? She’s from.. uh.. Manehattan, and she’s used to wearin’ things. Nothin’ too frou-frou though, y’hear?”
  720.  
  721. >”I’m sure I do, but you’ll have to bring her by to size her properl..”
  722.  
  723. >Oh! Fuckin’ A, thank you Applejack! Her voice fades out as you sit up some, giddy. You understand why she got so short - Some alien showing up in her world making outrageous claims when you’re already at the end of your rope, it drained what was left of her patience. She deserves more than you snooping on her business. You tap the floor, getting both fillies’ attention. You walk past them to what looks like a treasure chest in the corner of the room. True to your suspicions when you bap it with a hoof, it opens up, showing a strange array of toys.
  724.  
  725. “Come over here, girls. We’re gonna play.. Something.”
  726. -
  727. >You are Applejack. Rarity releases you from her hug, and beams at you happily. That smile makes you very certain that some feller is gonna be real, real lucky to have her one day.
  728.  
  729. >”I’m sure you’ll figure it out, Applejack.”
  730.  
  731. “Heh. Thanks, Rares.”
  732.  
  733. >”I’m always here if you need me, dear. You’ve just have to ask.” Rarity winks at you, just before she segues into this catlike position - laying on her stomach, folding her hooves and looking so.. Coquettish, that’s the word. Her eyes lid at you, and you feel your cheeks start to burn from her just looking at you like that. “Though, I would appreciate it if you indulged my prying.”
  734.  
  735. >You look down and muddle with your hooves. Would it feel better to get it off your chest?
  736. “It’s.. kinda between us, Rarity.”
  737.  
  738. >”I wouldn’t tell, cross my heart and hope to fly. Goodness, you look solemn.. You would think somepony di-”
  739.  
  740. >WHAM!
  741.  
  742. >Both of you jump. You don’t even start thinking when you bolt for the stairs, zooming right past Applebloom’s and the guest bedroom in an orange blur - straight to Granny’s. You slam the door open just before stopping short - the door slamming against the wall, narrowly clipping your grandma’s outstretched hoof. She recoils.
  743. >”Hydra eatin’ lost lovers! What in tarnation are y’all *doin’*, girl?!”
  744.  
  745. >You let out the breath that you found yourself holding, mind racing. “G-granny, ah thought-”
  746.  
  747. >And like that, your hooves act before you do. You take right back off to Applebloom’s bedroom, busting it open. You see three jumping fillies and.. Nothing broken. No blood, bruises or bedlam - just three girls staring at you with toy swords in their mouths.
  748.  
  749. “What was that sound?”
  750. -
  751. >Anon plucks the sword from his mouth, giving you a queer peer.
  752. >”I fell.. It wasn’t that bad, so I went back to playi- Hey!”
  753.  
  754. >You spin the filly around by her tail. You go into a sort of autopilot when adrenaline hits you, sometimes. You try to remind yourself that this isn’t just a filly and all that muckabout, but you can’t really help it. She pulls her hooves away after you grab her front ones to check for bruises.
  755.  
  756. >”I appreciate the concern, but I’m okay. Trust me, AJ - if I was hurting, I’d tell you.”
  757. >You exhale, closing your eyes. So many things, that slam could’ve been. Rainbow crashing into the side of the house, Granny breaking her hip or something worse, one of the girls falling down and scuffing themselves up bad.. You calm yourself relatively quickly, putting on a smile.
  758.  
  759. “Heh.. Sorry, partner. I just got worried.”
  760.  
  761. >”It’s cool. Would it be better if we played outside? Don’t wanna ruin your moment with Rarity down there.”
  762. >Anon’s eyes get big after she says that, and Applebloom grins at you. “She means, uh, yer privacy! Yeah - c’mon, girls, let’s go play someplace else!”
  763.  
  764. “But what-”
  765.  
  766. >The girls have evaded you, going down the stairs in a mess of green, yellow and white. You frown as a pink and purple tail disappears around the door frame.
  767.  
  768. “..fell.. Ugh. Fillies.”
  769. -
  770. “Hsss.. Goddamn it, that smarts.”
  771.  
  772. >”What?”
  773.  
  774. “Nothing, nothing.”
  775.  
  776. >Sweetie frowns at you, not buying it for a second. She turns and sits on her haunches, the three of you fifty, maybe sixty yards away from the Apple house. “You don’t have to lie,” She mumbles.
  777.  
  778. >You rub your lower back, pointedly not looking in the little unicorn’s direction. You say nothing as Applebloom circles around you, stopping behind. You can feel her eyes as your hoof leaves your own sore hide. You were actually really, really sore - more than you should’ve been, from biting it with what should’ve been lighthearted roughhousing.
  779.  
  780. >No - contrary to what you would assume higher knowledge would make up for, you were just as frail as any child you’ve seen. You always had a pet theory that children radiated broken precious things, and those things included their bodies rather often. You tumbled during a play swordfight, then played it off because it shouldn’t have hurt as bad as it did. It makes you feel.. More not-you than you’ve felt since you’ve been here.
  781.  
  782. >It doesn’t help when the children are being more mature than you. “Sweetie Belle’s right. Yer startin’ t’bruise like an apple when it’s startin’ t’turn,” Applebloom points out, coming in front of you. You see a striking resemblance to how exasperated AJ looked earlier. “Ah would like it if ponies said when we were playin’ too rough.. Scoots does the same thing when she’s tryin’ ta show off how tough she is.”
  783.  
  784. “It’s not about how tough I am. It-”
  785. >You give a sidelong glance to Sweetie, who peers at you curiously. Applebloom already knows your identity, so you play with the truth a little.
  786. “It’s.. a lot different than back home. I got in plenty of scraps and such, never really got banged up like this.”
  787. -
  788. >”In Manehattan? Babs made it sound like everypony there was really rough.” Applebloom’s face softens, and she looks away a little wistful. “Ah.. can see why you’d be embarrassed.”
  789.  
  790. >”But you don’t need to be embarrassed around us! We’re your friends, so we’ll always have your back.” Sweetie comes a little closer, and her hooves scoop up your tail. You watch her as she bats it between her hooves. “So you’re all the way from Manehattan, huh?”
  791.  
  792. “Yeah.”
  793.  
  794. >”What’s it like, where you live?”
  795.  
  796. >That’s.. A very open-ended question, and you’re not quite sure how to answer right away. You briefly consider dazzling them with the bright city sights that you can recall from memory. You can’t even begin the number of times you’ve heard the same old tale of some small-town rube looking to make it big - sometimes, they even do. But more often than not, they’re played for a fool. Crushed dreams, woe is me, all that sappy nonsense.
  797.  
  798. >On the other hand - well, hoof - being there meant something.. Different, to you. It’s signified opportunity that you never had at home, and..
  799.  
  800. >”Uh.. Anon? you okay?”
  801.  
  802. >You blink stupidly, then rub your cheeks a little. You’re overthinking it, and you were staring wordlessly at the girls for a solid thirty seconds. You hastily try to patch together something that wouldn’t condemn the place to hell while at the same time confiding your fondness for it.
  803. “Sorry, I was just.. Getting homesick. I.. Well, there’s lots of.. Um, pe-ponies. And..”
  804.  
  805. >Again, you flounder. Beauty? Cynicism?
  806.  
  807. >...You deflate, closing your eyes. The basics, then.
  808. -
  809. ”It’s... overcast, a lot of the time. Every now and then, you get a sunny day, but.. Most of the time, it’s rainy. I love the rain, it’s the nicest thing to fall asleep to. About a block away, there’s this big park with a trail that I walk during my lunch.” You find your eyes opening, a small smile spreading across your lips as you begin to lick them. “There’s this little cafe I go to, a.. Greek place? I think it’s Greek. They have these fruity cream sodas,”
  810. >You mime the glasses with your hooves, unable to keep the excitement from your voice.
  811. “I try to get ‘em every week, when I have the flow for it.”
  812.  
  813. >”Every week?! Luckyyy..” Sweetie Belle raspberries at you good-naturedly. You snigger at her, sticking your tongue out. “You must get really good grades if you’re getting a treat *every* week.”
  814.  
  815. “Well, they’re not ba.. Wait, what do my grades have to do with anything?”
  816. -
  817. >”My mom and dad give me treats when I get A’s on schoolwork,” The unicorn explains, turning to cock a brow at Applebloom. “Isn’t it the same for everypony?”
  818.  
  819. >”Yuh-huh. Well, except that it’s mah sister, brother or granny treatin’ me. What about you, Anon?”
  820.  
  821. >Oh, right. Little horse girl. You wrack your brain for how things were growing up while your gaze drifts to your hooves at your feet.. You kind of blocked a lot of those memories out. As you concentrate, though, you notice something.
  822. >At first, recalling the vague face shapes you’d see during your walks or dining, it was.. Fuzzy. That’s normal, you’re not going to remember every damned face you’ve seen, and you can easily imagine it being hard to recall what a face looks like if you haven’t seen a hint of a human being besides yourself all day.
  823. >Now, while you’re trying to remember.. You see your father and mother, but they’re.. What you presume they would look like if they were ponies, you presume. It’s very silly, yes - but it worries you. You can’t.. You can’t remember their real faces, and it makes your ears droop a little. A bitter part of you wonder if there’s anything to remember, anyway.
  824.  
  825. “I don’t really get an.. Allowance, per se. My family has always been very poor, so I try to do work for ponies as much as I can.” This used to be true, give or take the species. “Mowing lawns, gardening, cleaning around town to get money.”
  826.  
  827. >”Huh.. Wow.”
  828. -
  829. “Eh, it’s nothing special compared to what Applebloom here probably does.”
  830.  
  831. >”Huh? Me?”
  832.  
  833. “Yeah, you. I mean, you live on a farm.”
  834.  
  835. >She bristles. “What’s that supposed’ta mean?”
  836.  
  837. >You put your hooves up defensively.
  838. “I meant it as a compliment. What kind of chores do you do? Just from the top of your head.”
  839.  
  840. >Applebloom settles, still leering at you unsurely. “Well, ah gotta clean my room.. Set the table.. Vaccuum th’floor, feed the chickens and cows if Applejack didn’t already do it,” Her voice gets a little stronger as she becomes more certain, scratching her chin. “Shovel the porch since we’re in Winter, help pack th’hay into bales. That ain’t counting all the stuff in Summer..”
  841.  
  842. >Sweetie directs a pout at Applebloom, then you, then down at her own hooves. “You’re all making me feel lazy..”
  843.  
  844. >Both you and Applebloom both giggle, but that cutesy, upbeat little titter that escapes your lips dies in your throat not long after. Sure, it’s pleasant, but it isn’t you. You would be more fine with that if the whole “can’t remember your parent’s faces” thing wasn’t fresh in your head. You distract yourself by reassuring the unicorn.
  845. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try to be responsible when you can, but make time to have fun, too.”
  846.  
  847. >”Speakin’ of..” The little apple raises a hoof and squints in the various distances. “Ah could’ve sworn that Scootaloo was gonna meet us at th’farm. Ah know we haven’t done today’s Cutie Mark Crusader roll call, so she technically ain’t late -yet-, but..”
  848.  
  849. >”Rarity did say Rainbow Dash wasn’t far from the farm. I bet you she forgot the second she saw her,” Sweetie says in this coy way that you’re not quite sure what to take from it. You start with the first thing that made you curious.
  850.  
  851. “What’s a Cutie Mark Crusader?”
  852. -
  853. >You find yourself suddenly recoiling as the two girls attack you with their tails. Oh no, wait - they’re just shoving their butts in your face.
  854. >You are not sure if that is less weird than what you thought they were doing. Unlike Mac and AJ’s apple tramp stamps, these girls have some sort of red-pink-purple crest with only minute differences. You never thought you’d see the day where the tattoos of kids would be more badass than their guardians.
  855.  
  856. >”We’re the Cutie Mark Crusaders - Applebloom, Scootaloo and I are the main three, but we’re always accepting new ponies who need help finding them or figuring out what they’re good at,” Sweetie explains, and there’s a swell of pride in her chest. “It’s sorta what we do. Speaking of Cutie Marks,” The unicorn reaches over and prods your little green butt. “Do you need help finding yours?”
  857.  
  858. >You follow her hoof to your rear, and you feel a dumb sense of childish envy. All the other kids have one, of course you do, too. You also don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, even if you could make endless green thumb jokes. An inadvertently cool thing you figure out is the motor control in your tail, which you begin to curl around your flank self-consciously.
  859. “Maaaybe. What is a Cutie Mark? What do they do?”
  860.  
  861. >Both girls stare blankly at you.
  862.  
  863. >”Y’all.. don’t know what a Cutie Mark is.”
  864.  
  865. >”They didn’t go over it in school? Not once?”
  866. -
  867. >You feel yourself starting to clam up a little.
  868. “Uh.. Manehattan’s school system is really garbage. A lot of ponies there don’t have them yet, too.”
  869.  
  870. >”Oh, that makes sense.”
  871. >Little girls are gullible.
  872.  
  873. >”Y’never asked about yer mom and dad’s Cutie Marks?”
  874. >Applebloom stares at you dubiously. Okay, not so gullible. You rub one of your forelegs with the other.
  875.  
  876. ”My parents wore clothes.. I never got to see them all that much, either. Most of the time, it was just me, and occasionally my younger brother. He.. doesn’t have a Cutie Mark either.”
  877. >You technically didn’t lie once in that sentence, you clever filly. Unfortunately, both of your friends’ ears flit down.
  878.  
  879. >”Oh.. I’m sorry, I didn’t know..”
  880.  
  881. >Applebloom begins to slowly march, and you two fall in line behind her. Presumably, she’s headed towards where she thinks this Scootaloo would be, but it’s too tense right now to ask. “So, um.. A Cutie Mark is what appears when y’all found yer purpose in life. Sometimes they’re real literal, but some of ‘em are more symbolizin’ who you are as a pony.” She thinks for a moment, tilting her head as she paces. “...More ah think about it, yer pretty lucky. Y’might not have known what one was, but it didn’t sound like y’were ever teased for not knowin’, either.”
  882.  
  883. >You can certainly say you never got teased for not having a Cutie Mark. You nod. In the far distance among the ashen rolling fields, you see a cyan pony-shaped figure in front of a smaller, orange one.
  884. -
  885. >The girls run ahead of you as you come nearer, now able to make out the figures of the two new ponies. The smaller one is orange with a purple mane, and she’s rapt at the blue mare before her with a comparable hairstyle, minus the chromatic coloring. This has to be Rainbow Dash, the pony that Applejack isn’t happy with. You begin to make out Rainbow explaining something.
  886.  
  887. >”...oming in at angels ten, right? But at the last possible second, she tilts - “ She half-withdraws her wings, tilting some. “- and pulls off a falling leaf right into the hoop at, like, ninety to one-twenty degrees!”
  888.  
  889. >”That’s -” The filly struggles in thought for a moment, then makes a vague shape with her hooves. “This, right?”
  890.  
  891. >”Nah, more like-” Rainbow sits on her haunches in a flop, holding her hooves so they’re perpendicular. “Gold Dust is really good.. But I remember her issues with orders from my training, you know?” You spot uncertainty in those magenta eyes as they lift up, spotting the trio of you and your friends. “I don’t know if she’ll break cadet, but if we do, we’re down for a new ‘Bolt.. Hey girls!” She calls out, letting out an off when Applebloom and Sweetie leap and tackle her. Scootaloo rears around and gets in on it, all fillies (sans you) ponypiling on Rainbow.
  892.  
  893. >You have a moment of indecision - to be the odd one out by not joining in, or being cordial because you don’t know the chick. You opt for the latter, sitting politely as Rainbow wrestles with the young mares. She eventually sets them off of her, eyes draw onto the lime green thing that is you. “Who’s your new friend, girls?”
  894.  
  895. >”This here’s Anon! She’s stayin’ with us at the farm for a bit.” Applebloom is positively giddy to say this, though God knows why. She’s known you for all of, like.. A few hours.
  896. -
  897. >Rainbow processes that with a raised eyebrow, sitting up to pace over and introduce herself. She’s a little shorter than Applejack, and you wonder if that factors in how she could feasibly stay in the air with her wings. Are her bones hollow? “These crusaders showin’ you the ropes, kiddo?”
  898.  
  899. “Something like that. So you’re Rainbow Dash?”
  900.  
  901. >Her chest puffs out proudly. You’re reminded of a pigeon. “My reputation proceeds me!”
  902.  
  903. “You get around that much?”
  904.  
  905. >”Yeah, everypony knows me.” Rainbow does a little wing flutter thing as you practically hear the whooshing of it going over her head. “Residential hero, Element of Harmony and Wonderbolt!”
  906.  
  907. “Hell’s that?”
  908.  
  909. >The cyan mare double-takes, looking appalled. She dials it back a bit as she gives you a better once-over. “Everypony knows the Wonderbolts! I mean, if you’re not a pegasus they’re not in your face as much, but.. Come on. Wonderbolts!”
  910.  
  911. “No, no, the other thing.”
  912.  
  913. >”..Hero?”
  914.  
  915. “Element of Harmony. I hear that word getting tossed around a lot.”
  916.  
  917. >”Oh, that old thing.” Rainbow waves one of her hooves. “Me and my five best friends represent the different parts of Friendship.” Spurred by your clueless look, she fumbles and makes a rotary motion with her hooves. “Y’know.. Things that make it good.”
  918.  
  919. “...Sooo.. Element of Does the Dishes, or..?”
  920.  
  921. >Sweetie Belle uses a hoof to cover up her snickering as the mare sputters. “N-no! Loyalty, Generosity, stuff like that!”
  922.  
  923. “Better than Captain Planet’s schtick, I guess.”
  924.  
  925. >The pegasus’ head wrinkles as does her snout when she scrunches it. Offended horses look really cute.
  926. “I’m just giving you hell, Rainy. So, what brings you to this neck of the.. Uh.. orchard?”
  927. -
  928. >Rainbow Dash’s eyes dart away, and her ears start to go down as you see her mouth works for the right words to respond to you with. This mare has an extremely bad poker face, and you wonder if she even knows it - even the fillies with you give eachother a sidelong glance as the pegasus smiles uncomfortably, all too wide. “I gotta.. I came here to see AJ. Is your big sis around, Applebloom?”
  929.  
  930. >”A’course she is.” In contrast, the little yellow pony has mastered the art of subtlety, her face a mask of innocence. “Ah think she meant to go an’ see you today, actually.” Rainbow opens her mouth to interject, but Applebloom continues pseudo-obliviously, “If she ain’t outside yet, though, she’s prolly still helpin’ Granny get set up for the day.”
  931.  
  932. >You certainly understand that whatever business the mares have with one another is important, at least to them. What you don’t get is the monumental shift in attitude - the pegasus looks miserable when she’s told this, her ears pointed down, her entire figure hunched. From the little time you’ve seen her, you know her posture is more suited for having a chest swollen with pride. You’re curious, concerned and distantly amused at the tells you’re catching that a pony can have. They’re very similar to a human’s, but very different, as well. She’s a very good example of the different expressions for a pony, at least the negative ones.
  933.  
  934. >“I guess I could come back later..” She mopes.
  935.  
  936. >”But you just got here!” Scootaloo jumps when she talks, and there’s a whizz as her wings flap rapidly, not unlike the sound of a bee. “Don’t you want to hang out with us?”
  937. -
  938. >”Well, sure I do, but-”
  939.  
  940. “Why don’t you help her Granny get ready?”
  941. >Rainbow blanches and looks at you like you suggested something ridiculous, but you persist.
  942. “Applejack isn’t happy with you, right? Well, if you’re really sorry for whatever you did, you could show it by making her day go by a little easier.”
  943.  
  944. >That gives her pause, and Rainbow looks like she’s mulling it over. “Yeah, but.. I dunno if I’d be very good at that.”
  945.  
  946. “Yeah, you don’t. That’s why it means a lot more that you try.”
  947.  
  948. >The pegasus stares at you long and hard for a time, pensive. Finally, she sits up, shaking her head as she begins to meander towards towards the farmhouse.. But she stops after a few feet, peering back at you. “You know.. You’re very mature, for a filly. Your parents must be proud of you.”
  949.  
  950. >...
  951.  
  952. >Her words resonate even as she goes farther on, and the other girls sit next to you. You know she meant it a different way, seeing you as something so young - but hearing something, somepony say that - you begin thinking of those you don’t account for that often. Since you first tasted independence, you craved it, and stemmed farther from your roots with your family. There were various reasons to do so, and they were valid. Still.. You wonder if they would be proud of your actions, even if it was just.. Talking.
  953.  
  954. >”..Does she just stare off like that all the time?” You hear Scootaloo whisper. You hear Sweetie’s muted ‘uh-huh’, both of them straightening and looking away sheepishly as you glare at them, a fresh blush on your cheeks. The orange filly is remarkably quick to recover, making her way in front of you.
  955.  
  956. “Scootaloo, right? I’m Anon. What do you do for fun?”
  957. -
  958. >“Oh, lots of stuff! I like doing tricks on my scooter, but it’s hard to get through on the snow and ice, so I didn’t bring it.” She rubs a hoof at the back of her neck, and you get the feeling she tried. She looks you over, stopping at your flank before brightening. “Oh, are you a new Crusader?”
  959.  
  960. “Deus vult, so yes. That means you’re going to help me get my.. Cutie Mark, right?”
  961.  
  962. >”You bet!” You really like how spunky this filly is, taking an immediate liking to her. She beams at her two friends.. Your friends.
  963.  
  964. ...
  965.  
  966. >”Did’ja rinse mah dentures with warm water?”
  967.  
  968. “Yes, Granny.”
  969.  
  970. >Thank y’, dear.” The old mare stops rubbing her temples, taking the item in question and slipping them over her gums. Your hoof doesn’t leave the windowsil, and you feel a smile coming on as you spy your sister and her friends make their way to the barn. Anon seems to be getting along well.
  971.  
  972. >You do spot some cyan in the corner of what view the window allows you, though. That sours your smile a little, but.. This can still be a good thing.
  973.  
  974. >”Whosat ah heard earlier, with Applebloom?”
  975.  
  976. “That’s Anon. Ah think you’ll like her. She’s an odd duck, but she’s awright.”
  977.  
  978. >Granny comes next to you by the window, squinting out where you were looking. You aren’t completely certain she can see them that well. She chuckles, a hoof against the glass.
  979.  
  980. >”Green and spry.. Kinda like me at that age.” Well, that answers that. She looks a little wistful. “How long will she be stayin’?”
  981.  
  982. “We.. don’t know. It might be a bit of work, getting her back to her folks. They aren’t on good terms, Granny.”
  983.  
  984. >She nods, and the both of you enter a period of silence as you begin to make your grandma’s bed. It’s when you’re just about finished and go to leave to get started on her breakfast that she decides, “She’s welcome to stay as long as she needs, Applejack.”
  985.  
  986. “Ah’ll be more’n happy to tell her tha-”
  987.  
  988. >”AJ! Yer friend’s here!” Your big brother calls from downstairs.
  989. -
  990. >Well, at least it would be over with sooner than later.
  991.  
  992. “Ah’m comin’, ah’m comin’.”
  993.  
  994. >You leave Granny to her morning prepping to meander down the stairs with a small lump in your throat. About halfway down, you can spy through the spires of the railing at a familiar cyan mare on the couch, fidgeting with her hooves. She brightens when you come into view, but her ears dip in shame, too. It's a very rare sight to see the mare humble as she is, and she doesn't wear it very well.
  995.  
  996. “Howdy.”
  997.  
  998. >”Hey, AJ. I - uh,” She avoids your gaze, rubbing a hoof at her head. When she works up the moxie to look you in the eyes, she's still kind of shrinking before you. “There's.. Well, I was wondering if-”
  999.  
  1000. “Spit it out, Rainbow Dash.”
  1001.  
  1002. >She actually flinched when you said that. “Do you.. uh.. Need any help with Granny Smith?”
  1003.  
  1004. “....Come again?”
  1005.  
  1006. >She takes a deep breath, staring at you with her bright magenta orbs. “I wanna show you how sorry I am, for.. what I said. She's not doing well, so I want to make the day easier for both of you. But could you hear me out, first?”
  1007.  
  1008. >You squint at the pegasus in silence, and she squirms. You bet this is how unicorns feel when they’re doing things to somepony else with their mind. Eventually you let up, tilting your nose up decisively.
  1009. “Ah appreciate the offer, but ah’ll have to think on it. So.. Shoot.”
  1010.  
  1011. >”Okay. So.. When I said the ‘silver lining’ thing..” Your eyes narrow as she widens hers, and she waves her hooves. “H-hear me out! I love Granny, AJ, really! I would never ever EVER-”
  1012. -
  1013. “Lower yer voice.”
  1014.  
  1015. >”..ever, ever, ever want anything bad to happen to her. But..” Rainbow glances towards the floor above, then back at you with the same look of timidity that would suit another pegasus you know much better. “...We’ve had a lot of fun lately, haven’t we?”
  1016.  
  1017. >...
  1018.  
  1019. >”-You’re really good at being a secret agent pony, Anon!-”
  1020.  
  1021. “-I learned from only the Biggest of Bosses. Keep your voice down, guys, okay?-”
  1022. >You get an adorable chorus of “-Okay!-”, and while not helpful, it’s really cute. Thankfully, it isn’t that loud, either. You look away from the brightly colored fillies crouching under the window to just looking inside, sitting in the center of a bush outside the window. Your coat, while bright, is pretty much camouflaged in this equally bright shrubbery. Being green is awesome, and has given you a front row seat to Applejack rolling her eyes.
  1023.  
  1024. >Rainbow Dash sits up from the couch in a huff. “So it *wasn’t* good, then. Do you want me to go?”
  1025.  
  1026. >”That ain’t what ah said.”
  1027.  
  1028. >”Well, maybe you should say something, ‘cause right now this conversation is really one-sided.”
  1029.  
  1030. >You watch both of the mares just sort of glare at the other. You see resolve crack in both of their faces, too. Rainbow tosses a look back at the front door like she’s thinking about leaving, and AJ won’t look at RD head-on. Finally, she sighs, shakes her head and steps forward. The pegasus looks very alert up until one of the orange mare’s hooves scoops up one of her blue ones, and their voices lower. You press your ear against the window to hear better.
  1031.  
  1032. >”Rainbow.. ah have been havin’ the time of mah life the past few days with ya, honest. Havin’ you stay over for a couple of nights.. Shoot, it’s been wonderful.”
  1033. -
  1034. >You tilt your head to see better. The mares are embracing a little, and you’re feeling some of the pieces click together. There’s a ‘but’ lingering in the air, and it’s written all over the freckled cowpony’s face as she wrings her lips. “..We shouldn’t be doin’ this.”
  1035.  
  1036. >”-Doing what? What’s Applejack doing?-”
  1037.  
  1038. >-”Applebloom, shush!-”
  1039.  
  1040. >You hush both of them as you strain to focus. The cyan pony breaks the embrace - oh wow, does she look hurt and angry. AJ fumbles for a second, swallowing. You press more against the frame incase she looks in your direction. “Granny.. She’d be so disappointed if she knew me an’ you-”
  1041.  
  1042. >”So what?”
  1043.  
  1044. >AJ’s face gets a little more firm. “Because she's my family, Rainbow, and how she feels is important to me.”
  1045.  
  1046. >The blue mare isn't having it. She crosses her arms - er, forelegs, incredulous. “So - what, you’re not even gonna try, for me?”
  1047.  
  1048. >”Why’re ya gettin’ so saddlesore? Ah flexed my moral compass a lot when-” The farmhorse looks about, and again you shrink against the frame a little more as she pointedly lowers her voice. “-when you.. stayed over.”
  1049.  
  1050. >RD scrunches her muzzle, leaning and mooshing it right against Applejack’s. Both of their noses are kinda squooshed. “Yeah, and so did I - because I thought I was more than just.. Just some dirty secret,” She huffs. Did her voice crack a little?
  1051.  
  1052. >”-Dirty secret..?-”
  1053. -
  1054. >”-Why would hanging out with Rainbow Dash be something you wouldn't want anypony to know about?-”
  1055.  
  1056. >”-Weren't y’all listenin’? They're keepin’ it from Granny. But.. Why?-”
  1057.  
  1058. >They're louder than the mares inside, overshadowing their own whispers. You give the fillies another glare.
  1059. “Guys, shh.”
  1060.  
  1061. >They ignore you, enthralled in the mystery.
  1062. >”-And why was she talking about a compass? Are they looking for something?-”
  1063.  
  1064. >”-Ooh, ooh! Do you think it's buried treasure?!-”
  1065.  
  1066. >”-We should get Petunia!1 She’s good at finding buried things!-”
  1067.  
  1068. “Guys, seriously, shut u-”
  1069.  
  1070. >”Well FINE!”
  1071.  
  1072. >Your attention is jarred back to the front door getting shoved open, the pegasus stepping outside and flaring her wings. The orange pony gives chase.
  1073.  
  1074. >”Rainbow, wai-”
  1075.  
  1076. >It’s no use. With a force that makes your filly ears ring, Rainbow Dash takes off like a dart into the sky.
  1077.  
  1078. >”..Dagnabbit..”
  1079. -
  1080. >“Rainbow Dash! Come back!”
  1081. >The dark orange filly sprints up to where Rainbow Dash ascended into the clouds, stopping short and frowning at the heavens, as if that alone could return her idol. Her small wings flap rapidly and give off that insect-like bug sound in promise of soaring the skies, but she gives a pessimistic look to both of of them, slumping and sighing.
  1082.  
  1083. >You follow after the other two Crusaders whom end up on either side of their pegasus friend, but you aim to make a detour. Unfortunately, Applejack seems to have made herself scarce. You consider going after her, but she might not appreciate your presence right now. Resigned, you flank the trio of fillies, watching Sweetie peer back towards the house thoughtfully. It seems she might’ve gotten the same idea, and you aim to nip it in the bud.
  1084.  
  1085. ”Sooo.. During the snowball fight, one of you mentioned a clubhouse? That sounds like a much better place to regroup in this quest for my Beauty Mark.”
  1086.  
  1087. >Sweetie blinks at you, cocking her head. “You mean your Cutie Mark? Yeah, I guess..” She pans over your haunches with unashamed curiosity, yet professional dignity, somehow. “I think you should keep trying at the spy thing though, Anon. You’re *really* good at it.”
  1088.  
  1089. >”Yeah!” Applebloom is surprisingly perky, clopping her front hooves together like a fist in an open palm. “Without you, ah wouldn’t have known that mah sister needs our help!”
  1090.  
  1091. >Uh oh.
  1092. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
  1093.  
  1094. >The excited grin is wiped off of the little Apple’s face immediately. Behind her, Scootaloo squints at you. ”What do you mean? It’s a great idea! We could help our big sisters out like they help us,” She counters, sticking a hoof out at you.
  1095.  
  1096. “This problem is a bit bigger than us. It’s also a, uh.. Private sort of thing.”
  1097. -
  1098. >”They were whispering,” Sweetie points out. “Before the shouting, anyway. Why were they being so secretive about just hanging out and having a sleepover?”
  1099.  
  1100. >You lapse into a pause as the girls stare at you, awaiting an answer. You mentally scramble for something clever, and nothing comes immediately. Telling the girls the obvious would ruin the entire point of it in the first place, not to mention jeopardize your standing with your guardian figure. Fuuuck.
  1101.  
  1102. “It doesn’t matter what they’re secretive about. You wouldn’t like it if another pony got in your private business, would you?”
  1103. >The girls share a guilty look, so you press on that vein.
  1104. “I didn’t think so. Let them work it out themselves.”
  1105.  
  1106. >”You’re right..” Sweetie admits, glumly. The girls fall in line behind you as you begin marching away from the house. Critical success, Anon! You commend yourself for your cleverness. Oh hey, that’s a nice name: Clover the Clever. It rolls off the tongue a lot better than Anonymous, though it is very pon-
  1107.  
  1108. >”Do you girls think Applejack is Rainbow Dash’s special somepony?” Scootaloo asks with just enough abruptness to make you stumble, whapping your face right against the ground. You recover quickly, wiping dirt from your snout as Sweetie gasps at the epiphany and Applebloom just kind of cocks her head.
  1109.  
  1110. >”Oh my gosh! That makes a lot of sense!”
  1111. -
  1112. >”But mares can’t be special someponies with other mares,” Applebloom mulls, but Scootaloo is quick to counter it before you can interject. Hell, what would you even interject with?
  1113.  
  1114. >”Why couldn’t they? Mares are waaay cooler than stallions! Can you think of any stallion as cool as Rainbow Dash, or Spitfire?”
  1115.  
  1116. >”Mah brother’s pretty cool.. Ah think..” Applebloom falters, scrunching her brows. “An’.. didn’t Silver Spoon get Diamond Tiara a card last Hearts n’ Hooves?”
  1117.  
  1118. >”I don’t think getting somepony a card means you want them to be your special somepony,” Scoot counters herself, thinking. “I mean, we did get Miss Cheerilee that big one, but that was just because she was the best teacher ever.”
  1119.  
  1120. >”Yeah, that’s true..” You think the conversation is going to die off until Sweetie is reminded, “But Tiara did give her a kiss, I thought.”
  1121.  
  1122.  
  1123. “Would it really matter if they were ‘special someponies’?”
  1124.  
  1125. >”What if Twilight married another mare? Would it be Princess and Princess?”
  1126. >The girls look overwhelmed at the thought, however out of the blue. You hesitantly agree.
  1127.  
  1128. “They.. would.. but-”
  1129.  
  1130. >”If Rainbow Dash married Twilight Sparkle, she would be a Princess AND a Wonderbolt! We’ve got to set them up!” Scootaloo jumps, and actually hovers for a few seconds with that weird insect buzzy-wing thing. The girls begin to squeal and hop in place, and you have the unshakeable feeling that you’re in over your head.
  1131. -
  1132. “But.. Applejack is with Rainbow Dash. Well, she was - er, I mean, she might’ve.. Been with Rainbow Dash, so..”
  1133.  
  1134. >”So they’ve gotta be with eachother..” Scootaloo frowns, lowering to the ground. The little pegasus gets another idea in her head before you can really catch up and get ground to defend your point. “Applejack makes the most sense for Rainbow Dash. They both live in Ponyville, they’re best friends already, they’re both really into being athletes.. Dang. If I knew mares could be with mares, I bet I could’ve been a good marefriend for Rainbow Dash.”
  1135.  
  1136. >Holy shit, whoa.
  1137. “I-I don’t think you’re old enough to be thinking about-”
  1138.  
  1139. >”When they get over their fight, I hope they get married soon,” Sweetie murmurs dreamily. “What do you think their foals will look like?”
  1140.  
  1141. “Well, they’ll probably do the normal lesbian thing and adopt, if they’re still a couple after this. Now, let’s go pl-”
  1142.  
  1143. >”What’s a lez-been?” Applebloom wonders.
  1144. >”Why couldn’t they have foals by themselves? Won’t the stork just deliver it,” Sweetie trails off, looking at something behind you.
  1145. >Scootaloo claps her hooves together, looking adorably, immeasurable levels of hopeful. ”Do you think they could adopt m-”
  1146.  
  1147. >”*What* are y’all yellin’ about?” A booming, masculine voice demands with enough authority to shut up the fillies in front of you, and bringing your damage control to an ass-grinding halt. You look up at the huge, freckled face of Big Macintosh. You fell on your back with the Crusaders getting all up in your face, and Mac kind of just.. Snuck up on you, looming over you like some sort of crimson guardian of apples or something.
  1148. -
  1149. >You feel sweat beading down your face, even though your back is sinking into the slow below you. It’s a little cold where it touches below your jacket, but you sweating is not a temperature thing. No, you work your mouth soundlessly at the giant red horse looking down at you lazily, then up at his little sister and her friends. Unfortunately, they are more than happy to answer.
  1150.  
  1151. >”We’re gonna help Applejack get married!” The girls answer in unison like some sort of prepubescent pony girl variant of the Borg. You shut your eyes, breathing slowly and carefully. Right.. There’s still a chance for damage control. How can you save this?
  1152.  
  1153. >”..Y’all done with chores yet?”
  1154.  
  1155. >Applebloom blinks. This was a question she did not expect. You shift awkwardly until you’re kind of sitting with your forelegs propping yourself up behind you, but not too high because Mac is still very much above you. He doesn’t see anything of it, though - just kind of expressionlessly peering at the lesser apple. “It’s still early in the mornin’, ah got time.”
  1156.  
  1157. >”But with yer friends here, y’could get them done three times as fast.”
  1158.  
  1159. >The little apple looks like the thought of contesting that crosses her mind, just before she brightens while looking at you in particular. “Ooh, ooh! With four of us, it’ll be faster than ever!”
  1160.  
  1161. >You force yourself not to recoil when a mighty hoof lowers, ever so delicately tapping on your shoulder below him - shortly before Mac eases himself back, and you crawl up to all fours. “Actually, ah need Anon for somethin’. You girls git tendin’ to the coop, an’ the rest of the day is free for playin’.” You marvel as the girls don’t bother to try and budge Big Red. They wordlessly nod in agreement, the trio meandering away from the two of you in a silence that lasts for a few seconds. During that silence, you ruminate on how artsy the scene is - small, green filly and a big, red stallion. Opposites, n’stuff.
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