Like a Broken Vase (Applejack) by NoSpoon -- IN PROGRESS

Jul 7th, 2016
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  1. >You never did care much about others.
  2. >You had the usual family upbringing, childhood, relationships.
  3. >Somewhere, somehow, it all started slipping.
  4. >Slowly slipping until one day, it all fell apart.
  5. >Broken into so many pieces, it was hard to put back together again.
  6. >You slipped away from work, unable to face others around you.
  7. >You stopped caring about your room.
  8. >You started drinking, heavily.
  9. >Whatever that would help dull your mind each and every night.
  10. >But one night it was different.
  11. >You went out, bottle in hand to walk around the neighbourhood.
  12. >Too many unanswered messages.
  13. >Too many missed calls.
  14. >You needed to get away from it all.
  15. >As you wandered the dirty alleyways, your eyes caught sight of a van with its backdoors opened.
  16. >There was a crowd gathered there.
  17. >But it wasn't just your usual crowd.
  18. >It was full of trash, just like you.
  19. >You wandered over to see what the commotion was about.
  20. >"Look at that one, doesn't look too healthy."
  21. >"C'mon, it's worth nothing at this rate."
  22. >"What are you saying?"
  23. >"This is the last one."
  24. >Edging through the crowd, you spot it.
  25. >A brown pony.
  26. >It's coat was matted, covered in mud and filth.
  27. >It wasn't even standing, instead it looked like it was holding onto its foreleg.
  28. >Wait, that's not it.
  29. >You notice that it's scrunching up a dirty torn up hat.
  30. >You stupid animal.
  31. >You're ruining the hat you know.
  32. >It was pitiful.
  33. >You turn to leave.
  34. >Looking around you, you see it in many eyes.
  35. >The eyes you fear.
  36. >Contempt, arrogance.
  37. >Even lust.
  38. >These people are sick.
  39. >You shove your hands into your pockets.
  40. >You feel the cold hard steel in your hand.
  41. >Grinning, you know you're about to do something stupid.
  42. >You break through the crowd and straight up to the auctioneer.
  43. >"Hey man, get back and give me some space alright?"
  44. "Not happening."
  45. >"Hey listen-"
  46. >You swing an arm over his should and with the gun inside your pocket you press it up against his back.
  47. >"H-hey, let's not do anything stupid."
  48. "Same could be said about you."
  49. >He started to struggle.
  50. >"You're gonna get into trouble, you wanna go to jail?"
  51. "Like I said, same thing could happen to you."
  52. >You press your gun deeper into his side.
  53. "Or worse…"
  54. >The crowd was beginning to get restless and started shouting.
  55. "Say it, give it to me."
  56. >"N-no man, y-you can't do this."
  57. "No, you do."
  58. >The sweating auctioneer stopped struggling against you and looked at you.
  59. >"Alright! The pony is taken!"
  60. >Like a deflated balloon, the energy in the crowd dissipates.
  61. >There were several jeers before people started leaving.
  62. >You release the auctioneer, who rubs his sore side.
  63. >You've gotta act fast.
  64. >You look down the still pony, figuring out how to carry it back.
  65. >There's a collar and chain held by the auctioneer.
  66. >You yank it off him, and pull it like you would with a dog.
  67. >Instead, the pony is just pulled forward, scrapping the rough floor of the van.
  68. >You pull harder, this time the force is enough to pull the pony out back of the van and falling to the floor.
  69. >It hits the floor, lifelessly, before the brown bundle curls into a ball and starts shivering.
  70. >Shit.
  71. >You didn't mean to do that.
  72. >Did you hurt it?
  73. >You decide the next best thing to do is to quickly move it away.
  74. >Crouching down over it, you scoop your arm over and under it.
  75. >The pony doesn't move or resist, only clutching to that mangy hat with what life it has left.
  76. >You keep walking forward, past the van and further down the alleyway.
  77. >No way were you gonna head straight back to your place.
  78. >Not after the stupid thing you just pulled.
  79. >"Two wrongs don't make a right", right?
  80. >You begin to pick up the pace and head towards the abandoned docks.
  81. >There's a place there you used to go on your night outs when it was warmer.
  82. >You'd stay there too at nights, just when you think things were too unbearable.
  83. >Rounding corner after corner, you hear the slow running of water.
  84. >You find the fences that surround the docks and sneak in through your old cuttings.
  85. >There's a tunnel at the end of the docks, a place you've got some stuff.
  86. >You duck and enter into the darkness, stepping over cardboard and other junk.
  87. >You feel around for the cheap lamp you left around, and light it up.
  88. >The light glows a brightly, making the place look warmer than it really is.
  89. >You kneel down and place the pony onto the cardboard and take a better look at it.
  90. >It's a mare.
  91. >That would explain the lust in their eyes you saw earlier.
  92. >It was filthy, who would want to do something like that to it?
  93. >You held a hand over her nose, it was still breathing.
  94. >Moving up, you placed your hand over her head.
  95. >That wasn't right.
  96. >You moved your hand up against her torso and felt her temperature again.
  97. "Cold."
  98. >This wasn't good.
  99. >You didn't want to take her away from those others, only to die in a dark, abandoned place like this.
  100. >You look around your den and put together a steel kettle, bucket and gas cooker.
  101. "Stay here."
  102. >You quickly head back out of the tunnel with the bucket and fill it up with water from an old tap.
  103. >Back inside, you light the gas cooker and heat the water inside the kettle.
  104. >The pony stirs at the sound and light.
  105. >Once the water is hot enough, you some of it back out into the bucket, before putting it back on the gas cooker.
  106. >With what rags you could find, you rinse it through the bucket of hot water and start applying it onto the pony.
  107. "Sorry but this'll have to do."
  108. >The pony flinches and starts squirming against the heat.
  109. "Hey, hey stop it. It's alright."
  110. >You place another hand on top of her to stop her from moving around so much.
  111. >Soon enough, she relaxes from the warmth coming in through the rags.
  112. >The rag is filthy, it looks like her actual coat is orange.
  113. >You carry on the rinsing the rags in the bucket of hot water and wiping clean the little pony.
  114. >All you're left with is a bucket full of cold murky water and filthy rags.
  115. >The pony has regained some of its initial colours.
  116. >More importantly, she looks more alive.
  117. >You wrap a heavy rug around her and prop her upright away from the floor.
  118. >With what's left of the boiling water, you pour two hot mugs with some cheap instant chocolate.
  119. >You think back to the news, of how numerous, rainbow coloured ponies started appearing out of a portal.
  120. >It seemed so strange, so unrealistic.
  121. >But here you are, with one right in front of you.
  122. >You turn around and notice a pair of emerald green eyes staring at you.
  123. >Maybe it was dark, or perhaps it was the lighting coming off the cooker.
  124. >Her eyes were bright, but they looked dull, lifeless.
  125. >But she was looking at you.
  126. "Here."
  127. >You hold out a mug, half filled with some hot chocolate.
  128. >She doesn't move.
  129. "I said here. Take it."
  130. >You thought maybe she was deaf or dumb at first, but then she slowly moved.
  131. >Two worn hooves pull out from underneath the rugs and hold onto the mug.
  132. "Drink it."
  133. >She's hesitant at first, smelling the brew before lowering the mug.
  134. "I said drink it."
  135. >You stare at her.
  136. >This causes her to flinch, before she brings the mug up to her mouth and takes a sip.
  137. >Just what had happened to her?
  138. >She pauses, before greedily gulping it down.
  139. "Whoa easy, don't burn yourself on it."
  140. >She tips the entire mug down her mouth, before placing the mug back down in front of her.
  141. >Suddenly she starts coughing, almost retching.
  142. "Shit, what's wrong with you?"
  143. >You step over and wrap an arm over her shoulders and start rubbing her back.
  144. >You can tell that she's frightened of you by the look in her eyes.
  145. >Those bright wide green eyes.
  146. >She continues coughing, eventually emptying her stomach in front of her.
  147. >You carry on holding onto her, stroking her back until she calms down.
  148. >She tries to speak.
  149. >"Pu… puhlease…"
  150. >She's in a really bad shape.
  151. >She can't stay here.
  152. >You'll have to take her back to your apartment.
  153. "It's alright, I'm, I'm not going to hurt you."
  154. >You try your best to smile.
  155. >A fake smile, one you've practiced many times before.
  156. >But you're greeted by something completely alien.
  157. >She faintly smiles.
  158. >"Th-thank you."
  159. >
  160. >You're outside and stumbling through the streets again.
  161. >Easy now, otherwise your cover might get blown.
  162. >You shift the bundle on your back into a more comfortable position.
  163. >But it doesn't help.
  164. >For something so small, she's heavier than a dog.
  165. >A cold breeze blows past you.
  166. >It chills you, forcing you to momentarily stop.
  167. "Dammit."
  168. >You wrapped your jacket around the pony you were piggybacking.
  169. >Maybe you could've carried her on your front.
  170. >It's too late now.
  171. >You just hope to hell no one notices you.
  172. >You hear a car just turning around the corner.
  173. >You duck behind some dumpsters and watch the car lights go by.
  174. >And you wait.
  175. >It's late now.
  176. >There's hardly anyone on the streets.
  177. >All the more reason for you to not get careless.
  178. >Who knows what other scum is hiding around the next corner.
  179. >You hear her moving her head and moaning.
  180. "Hang in there, we'll be home soon."
  181. >Home.
  182. >That's what other people would call it.
  183. >But if it were up to you, you wouldn't even call it a home.
  184. >You step out of the corner and begin shuffling back to your apartment.
  185. >There are newspapers, empty fast food cartons strewn about.
  186. >It stinks.
  187. >She stinks.
  188. >But at least it should cover up the smell.
  189. >There's a noise behind you and you freeze.
  190. >"H-hey man, you got any spare change?"
  191. >You turn around and see what you thought was yourself.
  192. >His face is rough and filthy.
  193. >His beard is long and bushy.
  194. >His clothes are mismatched, jeans are too large, dirt all over the place.
  195. "I ain't got no money."
  196. >"S-sure you do, y-you got that horsey there right?"
  197. >Shit.
  198. "What the fuck you talking about?"
  199. >You face him full on.
  200. >"H-hey e-easy man. I just want some change."
  201. "Get lost."
  202. >"Don't you have any food at least? I haven't eaten in so-"
  203. "I don't care."
  204. >The man looks at you with those eyes.
  205. "Get lost."
  206. >He turns and stumbles away.
  207. >Once he's gone around the corner, you don't see him again.
  208. >You relax a little and carry on down back alleyway.
  209. >The sight of corrugated iron comes into view.
  210. >It's covered in patches of rust.
  211. >The windows are cracked and fogged over with mould and other stains.
  212. >You're at the foot of the iron staircase.
  213. >You think back to that man earlier on.
  214. >Yeah, you haven't eaten in a while too.
  215. >You take a step.
  216. >The iron staircase creaks and vibrates all over.
  217. >You would sure like to eat, but you can't afford to.
  218. >You take another step.
  219. >And now you've got this pony.
  220. >You're nearly at the top.
  221. >Your forehead is sweating.
  222. >So is your back.
  223. >But at least it's warm for her.
  224. >You reach the top and drop the pony down by the doorway.
  225. >Fishing out your keys you open up the battered door.
  226. >A dark, cold hallway presents itself to you.
  227. >You hear shuffling besides you,.
  228. >It seems like she's awake.
  229. >And trying to crawl away.
  230. "Hey, easy now."
  231. >You pick and wrap her up into your arms.
  232. >That's right, you're not going anywhere now.
  233. "We're home now."
  234. >You get in and put her in a comfortable position.
  235. >You need to get her warm.
  236. >She's lying on the sofa.
  237. >She's safe.
  238. >There was no way she was going to get out.
  239. >No, you should say there's no way of anyone getting in.
  240. >The bathroom is dark.
  241. >You didn't want to buy another lightbulb.
  242. >Useless thing.
  243. >A lamp on an extension cord lights up the bathroom on the floor by the doorway.
  244. >The white light casts an unnatural light on the green porcelain tiles.
  245. >You pull back your sleeves.
  246. >You cast a shadow on the wall as you fumble to turn on the bath taps.
  247. >Damn light.
  248. >You run your hand through the water.
  249. >It's cold.
  250. >Damn boiler.
  251. >You hear the boiler back in the kitchen kicking to life.
  252. >And you wait.
  253. >It takes a while until you have some hot water coming through the taps.
  254. "Let's see what else I can use."
  255. >There.
  256. >You empty what's left in a shower bottle, rinsing it through for extra measure.
  257. >It smells of soap and some kind of fruit.
  258. >Whatever.
  259. >It was the cheapest one you could get.
  260. >Leaving the tap water running, you walk back into the lounge.
  261. >She's still there.
  262. >She hasn't moved an inch since you placed her there.
  263. >You scoop up the bundle, jacket and all.
  264. >As you make your way to the bathroom she begins to stir.
  265. >Standing before the bathroom you unwrap and take your jacket off her.
  266. >Her eyes slowly begin to move.
  267. >Those green eyes lock onto yours.
  268. >As you begin to lower her into the bathtub, the sound of running water attracts her attention.
  269. >Her head quickly twists and her eyes are wide open.
  270. >Suddenly she starts panicking and kicking her legs out.
  271. "H-hey! What's gotten into you?"
  272. >You quickly turn off the tap water and try your best to hold onto her.
  273. >She's pretty strong despite how weak she seemed.
  274. "H-hold still!"
  275. >She's not listening to you and starts to cry out loud.
  276. >It's a horrible cry.
  277. >She manages to kick your shoulder, causing you to cry out in pain and lose grip of her.
  278. >The little pony falls backwards into the bath water, splashing water and bubbles everywhere.
  279. >She screams.
  280. >You've never heard anything like it.
  281. >She's screaming loudly.
  282. >You take a step back.
  283. >She's flailing in the water.
  284. >You can see her now.
  285. >She's petrified.
  286. >Scared out of her wits.
  287. >She's trying to jump out of the water, but she's weak and the bathtub wall is tall and slick.
  288. >"H-heeeelp! No-nooo!"
  289. >You snap out of your senses and kneel down at the bathtub.
  290. "Hey! Hey! I'm here for you."
  291. >You pick her up and hold onto her, soaking your body and clothes in the process.
  292. >But the pony keeps on kicking.
  293. "Hey you're out of the water now."
  294. >She's panting heavily and still trying to climb over you.
  295. >"H-heeelp…"
  296. >But your grip is stronger than hers.
  297. >You both stay there, in a locked struggle.
  298. >After a while, she's too tired to keep crying out loud.
  299. >Every effort she makes to get out of your hold is weaker.
  300. >She's calming down now.
  301. >Her fatigue must be taking over her.
  302. >All the while you're stroking the back of her neck.
  303. >Gently, in a slow fashion.
  304. >Holding onto her tightly.
  305. >When was it that you held someone like this?
  306. >You remember being held by your mother.
  307. >But it is only a fleeting memory.
  308. >You look down your shoulder at the shaking pony.
  309. "It's alright now."
  310. >You say to her.
  311. >You slowly grab a large towel nearby and wrap her up in it.
  312. >Slowly, you get up on your feet and bring her back into the lounge and plop her down on the sofa.
  313. >Looking down you inspect yourself.
  314. >Your clothes are soaked.
  315. >And you've got a few scratches from her hitting you.
  316. >You slump down on the floor beside the sofa, pulling out an old pizza box and throwing it into a corner.
  317. >Just what were you thinking.
  318. >Taking this pony back with you.
  319. >You couldn't even do anything right.
  320. >Letting out a heavy sigh, you realise what time it is.
  321. >You're too tired to change out of your clothes.
  322. >Too tired to move.
  323. >You don't care anymore and just want to sleep.
  324. >You shut your eyes.
  325. >
  326. >You wake up with a sore back.
  327. >Just what did you do?
  328. >Empty food cartons and drink cans lie scattered around you.
  329. >Yeah, that's right.
  330. >You gave up last night.
  331. >When you go to stand up you feel something press against your shoulders.
  332. >Turning your head, you're greeted by warm fur.
  333. >Is that…
  334. >Her?
  335. >You feel her body wrapped around your neck with her legs hanging off your shoulders.
  336. >No wonder your neck was so warm.
  337. >And so sore.
  338. >Looking down your side, you find her sleeping face, complete with her mangy hat.
  339. >Though…
  340. >There's crud all over her eyes.
  341. >It looks like she's cried herself to sleep.
  342. "Mm."
  343. >This troubles you.
  344. >You carefully lift her legs off you and then back onto the sofa, trying not to wake her up.
  345. >You gently twist her around so that she lies on her other side.
  346. >The orange pony stirs, whimpering.
  347. >Shit.
  348. >What time is it?
  349. >You look around for the clock in the darkened room.
  350. >It’s been knocked off the wall, leaning against the wall beside a bin.
  351. >6:37am.
  352. >Still early, but not early enough for you to fall back asleep.
  353. >You turn to look back down at her.
  354. >She's looking a lot less comfortable than she did before when she was sleeping on your back.
  355. >Rolling your shoulders, you get some movement back into them.
  356. >Feeling through your pockets, you find enough change to get something from the local shop.
  357. >The bakery should have stuff fresh out of the oven at this time.
  358. >Taking one last look at the still sleeping pony, you grab and throw a towel over her and quietly leave the flat.
  359. >You open the front door and scan up and down the apartment complex.
  360. >Empty.
  361. >You lock the front door and make your way down the iron stairs.
  362. >You yawned.
  363. >You were hardly awake at this sort of time.
  364. >Not to mention what had happened the other night.
  365. >The fresh morning air chills your lungs.
  366. >You shiver.
  367. >Shoving both hands into your pockets for warmth, you make your way quickly out of the alleyway and across the road.
  368. >It's open.
  369. >The shop door opens with a ring of the bell.
  370. >The reeking smell of bleach invades your nostrils.
  371. >You shuffle over to the bakery at the back of the store, and soon enough the smell of bleach is replaced by that of the freshly baked bread.
  372. >The plainest bone will do.
  373. >You grab and bag a loaf of bread.
  374. >The warmth from the bread soaks into your chest and arms as you bring it up to the counter.
  375. >There's an old man with a grey beard sitting behind the counter reading a newspaper.
  376. >He doesn't ask how your day was.
  377. >He doesn't even bother to look at you.
  378. >With another ring of the bell above the door, you quickly leave the store and head back to your own apartment.
  379. >
  380. >As you reach the last step up the iron staircase, you hear a noise.
  381. >Bang.
  382. >It sounds like someone is trying to break down a door.
  383. >Thoughts rush through your head.
  384. "It couldn't be."
  385. >You pick up a dislodged brick lying outside a barred up window sill.
  386. >You cautiously creep your way up and along the hallway, gripping the brick in hand.
  387. >Whoever it is that's doing that is going to wish that they never stepped foot here.
  388. >Then you stop.
  389. >Bang.
  390. >The sound is coming from inside your apartment.
  391. >You almost go into a sprint when you hear it.
  392. >BANG.
  393. >You hear something bashing against the door on the inside.
  394. >… BANG.
  395. >… BANG.
  396. >Whoever it is, they're ramming the door from the inside.
  397. >BANG.
  398. >But, judging from the sound and impact, it's way too low for a human person.
  399. >It dawns on you.
  400. "It couldn't be…"
  401. >You walk up to the front door, slide your key into the keyhole and turn the key.
  402. >The sound of the door unlocking freezes whatever's doing the ramming inside.
  403. >You slowly push open the door and look inside.
  404. >There's nothing but the darkened room.
  405. >Are they standing still?
  406. >Hiding?
  407. >You squint.
  408. >Your eyes gradually adjust to the lowlight.
  409. >Then you see it.
  410. >Looking down, you see a panting pony.
  411. >There are bruises along her legs and over her face.
  412. >You look into her eyes, but she's only looking past yours.
  413. >Her eyes are locked outside.
  414. >She's going to try and make a break for it.
  415. >As soon as you take a step forward, the orange pony makes a dash for the door.
  416. >Were it not for your size, or how weak she was, she might've gotten away.
  417. >You lower and drop down to your knees in time to grab a hold of her.
  418. >She tried to run and jump past and over you, but instead, she just ran into a trap.
  419. >Your arms clamp down onto her like a vice.
  420. >She lets out a scream.
  421. >No, a wail.
  422. >You cringe at the sound.
  423. >But you don't let go.
  424. >With a free foreleg, you can feel her reaching out over you.
  425. >Trying to grab hold onto that imaginary freedom that's outside.
  426. >But reality is sinking in.
  427. >Your real strength and weight holds her down.
  428. >She can only look on towards the overcast light from outside.
  429. >She continues to struggle.
  430. "Shhhh."
  431. >You whisper, applying more pressure onto her body.
  432. >She murmurs.
  433. >"Ah-ah."
  434. "Shh, it's okay. It's okay."
  435. >You don't let go.
  436. >"Ah-pul."
  437. >She's weakening.
  438. "Shhh."
  439. >"Ah-pul… bloom."
  440. >Her body goes limp.
  441. >Did she just call out a name?
  442. >Slowly you release her from your vice-like grip.
  443. >She lies there in your arms.
  444. >You raise a finger to her nose.
  445. >She's still breathing.
  446. "Good."
  447. >You lift her up and put her back down onto the sofa again.
  448. >Just like before.
  449. >Stumbling back out to the front door, you lean down to pick up your dropped bag of bread.
  450. >As you lean down, something on the inside of the door catches your eye.
  451. >Are those?
  452. >You trace your fingers over the dents in the door.
  453. >There's blood too.
  454. "Hm."
  455. >With a grunt you stand up and lock the door.
  456. >You make sure that the latch is on too.
  457. >Heading back inside you toss the bread onto the kitchen table and fill up a glass with tap water.
  458. >You stop by the kitchen table and decide to tear off a bit of bread loaf with your teeth, bringing it all back to the front room.
  459. >Kneeling down in front of the pony, with one hand you carefully inspect her face.
  460. >Her face is rough.
  461. >Self-inflicted injuries.
  462. >Guess she thought the metal would give way and that she could get away.
  463. >You tilt her head up ever so slightly and bring the glass of water to her lips.
  464. >After a moment she becomes responsive and takes a small sip.
  465. >The place has become quiet now.
  466. >Only the sound of the ticking clock fills the air.
  467. >She's sipping the water with more vigour now.
  468. >You pull the glass away from her, causing her to try and follow it.
  469. >You tear off a small piece of bread and press it against her lips.
  470. >At first she seems hesitant about eating it, but soon enough she takes it into her mouth.
  471. "Good girl."
  472. >You place the larger piece of bread onto your lap, tearing off small pieces to feed her.
  473. >You can't help but think about how frail she is.
  474. >How did she get like this?
  475. >What exactly was she trying to do?
  476. >If she had gotten out, someone else could've taken her.
  477. >She would've starved or froze out there.
  478. >Or worse, she could've been hit by a car.
  479. >You raise your hand up above her head and stroke her mane with the back of your hand.
  480. >She tenses up when she senses your touch.
  481. "It's okay."
  482. >You whisper into her ear.
  483. >She slowly relaxes with your gentle stroking and her eyes gradually open.
  484. >Seems like she's still in a bit of a daze.
  485. >But then she finally registers you and tries smiling again at you.
  486. >Perhaps she's just delirious, weak.
  487. >You return the smile as best as you could.
  488. >With a well-practiced smile.
  489. >
  490. >There she was, something that's only come into your life from just the other night.
  491. >There she was.
  492. >Smiling at you.
  493. >It's only when you smile back, her smile falters.
  494. >That's strange.
  495. >Did she see through you?
  496. "What's wrong?"
  497. >You ask.
  498. >For the first time, you manage to get a good look at her eyes.
  499. >The first thing that struck you were her eyes.
  500. >Those beautiful emerald green eyes.
  501. >She breaks the contact, looking back down at the floor.
  502. >Oh how you wished you could just look at those eyes for just a little while longer.
  503. >She opens her mouth to speak, but doesn't say anything.
  504. "What is it?"
  505. >Silence.
  506. >She doesn't answer you.
  507. >You know she can talk.
  508. >Well, that's not entirely true.
  509. >You've only heard her say a few words, but it seems like she understands.
  510. "Listen to me."
  511. >You take a good, long look at her and notice how dirty she still is.
  512. >Her mane was all tangled and knotted.
  513. >Her legs were tucked underneath herself, making herself look smaller.
  514. >An unsettling feeling wells inside you.
  515. >You tried to help her before.
  516. "Are you listening to me?"
  517. >Nothing.
  518. >You sigh and ask again.
  519. "Do you understand? Just nod or, just, do anything."
  520. >You get onto your knees before her.
  521. "Just do anything to let me know you do."
  522. >She slowly nods.
  523. >All the while trying to avoid eye contact with you.
  524. >You catch another glimpse of her eyes, but there's something else there.
  525. >Fear.
  526. >She's afraid of you.
  527. >You sit back down and let out a sigh.
  528. >This was too much.
  529. >No wonder she's so wound up, and you know oh so little about her.
  530. >You don't even know her name.
  531. >Maybe you should've asked the auctioneer that before taking her off him.
  532. >Not like it matters now.
  533. "What's your name?"
  534. >One of her ears flickers.
  535. >Still nothing.
  536. >You raise your hand and tap your own chest.
  537. >Putting on a gentle voice, you introduce yourself.
  538. "Me, I'm Anon."
  539. >Slowly she looks back up at you.
  540. >Like she's expecting more.
  541. >Struck again.
  542. >By those beautiful green eyes.
  543. >They pierce right through you.
  544. >You try and think about who you are.
  545. "I…"
  546. >… am a good for nothing.
  547. "I'm…"
  548. >… useless.
  549. "I mean I'm…"
  550. >… wasting my life away.
  551. >Shit.
  552. >This wasn't what you wanted to think about.
  553. >This isn't what you wanted to say.
  554. >But how can you be so sure?
  555. >When all these voices keep coming back in.
  556. >You shut your eyes and try to block out all those voices.
  557. >They're just opinions.
  558. >But, like dam about to burst, the memories, the thoughts, they all keep coming through.
  559. >Gushing through.
  560. >When a sudden tap on your legs brings you out of it.
  561. >The first thing you're greeted with are those emerald eyes.
  562. >Though there's concern mixed within her fearful expression.
  563. >"Ya…"
  564. >She's talking to you.
  565. >"Are ya alright?"
  566. >You want to throw your arms around her and bring her into a hug.
  567. >But you don't.
  568. "I'm, I'm alright."
  569. >You take a deep breathe.
  570. >She retracts her hoof and you feel her warmth leave your leg.
  571. "Sorry."
  572. >Why are you apologising to her?
  573. >She only looks at you.
  574. >You have a feeling, that perhaps, you could tell her how you weren't alright.
  575. >Perhaps you could, if only it's with her.
  576. >Don't do something foolish.
  577. >"Ah'm…"
  578. >Her voice is quiet and quivers.
  579. >"Ma name's Applejack."
  580. >Applejack.
  581. >You've heard how the ponies had strange names.
  582. >The ones with horns had magical powers, apparently.
  583. >But even that was never officially confirmed.
  584. >It happened last year when news of it broke out.
  585. >That mysterious, colourful ponies came from portals appearing all over the world.
  586. >They were all ragged, tired and looked defeated.
  587. >But instead of helping, it felt like the world powers just cast them aside.
  588. >It conflicted with everything we've ever known or understood.
  589. >Especially the so called magic.
  590. >Then there was that tattoo that they all had.
  591. >A 'cutiemark'?
  592. >What was it?
  593. >Pre-determination?
  594. >Fuck that shit.
  595. >Your eyes travel down to her flank.
  596. >Towards where you've seen their marks.
  597. >It's caked in dried in filth and mud.
  598. >It looks red.
  599. >She uncomfortably shifts her flank away from you.
  600. >Her action brings you back out of it again.
  601. >Was she…?
  602. >No.
  603. >That can't be it.
  604. >But this wasn't the first time.
  605. >She was also afraid when you were trying to bath her.
  606. >What is it that she's afraid of?
  607. "What's wrong?"
  608. >She cowers, covering her head with a hoof.
  609. >Standing up you startle her, causing her to cry out.
  610. >"A-ah!"
  611. >She starts frantically shifting herself away from you.
  612. >What is this.
  613. >She's afraid of you?
  614. >Despite how you took her in.
  615. >Away from all those other eyes.
  616. >Other eyes filled with lust and wrong.
  617. >She's wrong.
  618. "Applejack."
  619. >She's backed against the wall now.
  620. "Applejack!"
  621. >This time, she snaps out of it.
  622. >Her eyes dart open, looking back up at you.
  623. >You get down on one knee with an outstretched hand.
  624. "I don't know what happened to you, but I'm not going to hurt you."
  625. >It looks like it's working.
  626. "I…"
  627. >She looks back at you, then down to your hand.
  628. "I thought you might feel little better if you had a bath."
  629. >Her hoof slowly reaches out for your hand.
  630. "There's nothing to be afraid of, I'll be with you."
  631. >Her hoof stops mid-air.
  632. >What's wrong?
  633. >Maybe she needs some assurance.
  634. >You lift up your hand and grab hold of her hovering hoof.
  635. >It feels like Applejack wants to pull back.
  636. >But your firm hold stops her.
  637. "You'll be safe with me, alright?
  638. >You wait for her to nod.
  639. >Applejack slowly nods.
  640. "Let's get you cleaned up."
  641. >You go to pull her up, but she doesn't get up.
  642. "What's wrong?"
  643. >"Ah…"
  644. >"Ah ya gonna hurt me?"
  645. >Huh?
  646. >Despite how you've just told her that you weren't going to hurt her, she still had to ask.
  647. >This was getting tiresome.
  648. "No."
  649. >You can't fake a smile this time.
  650. "I've told you before, why do you ask?"
  651. >Silence fills in the gap.
  652. >The occasional police siren can be heard in the distance, but it doesn't bother you.
  653. >She speaks in such a low and quiet voice.
  654. >"It's nothin'."
  655. >You're tired.
  656. "Come on, we'll go together."
  657. >
  658. >You tug on her foreleg bringing her upright.
  659. "I'll go get things ready."
  660. >You make your way to the bathroom and pick up from where you left things off.
  661. >Puddles of old, soapy water lie across the floor.
  662. >A near empty bottle floats motionless inside the bathtub.
  663. >Reaching into the cloudy bathwater, you pull plug and start draining the water.
  664. >The drain is loud and jarring and fills the entire room.
  665. >You turn the tap and refill the tub with hot water, using your hand to measure the temperature.
  666. >You look down into the tub.
  667. >Seeing your own outline in the water, memories of what happened last night resurface before you.
  668. >Applejack's wide open eyes and gaping mouth.
  669. >Her frantic escape.
  670. >What was she so afraid of?
  671. >Was it something to do with the water?
  672. >You shake away the image and hope that you never see something like that again.
  673. >Without realising it, you find yourself tightly gripping the side of the bath.
  674. >You turn off the tap.
  675. >What would create such a reaction like that?
  676. >Hang on, she called out a name.
  677. "Apple Bloom."
  678. >Was it someone she knows?
  679. >You'll have to ask her about it.
  680. >As you turn around, something startles you.
  681. >A pair of unmoving green eyes stare at you from the corridor.
  682. "Applejack?"
  683. >You take a step.
  684. >You almost didn't catch her quiet voice.
  685. >"Ah-Anon?"
  686. "The bath is ready, come on in."
  687. >She raises a hoof as though to take a step backwards.
  688. >Standing aside, you wait for her to make her way to the bathroom.
  689. >Her head is kept low, facing down to the ground.
  690. >Her tail is rigid and frozen when she moves.
  691. >She comes to a stop just inside the bathroom, her ears are folded down.
  692. >You can't help but notice how still she's become.
  693. >How her eyes are darting to and fro.
  694. >Rather than let her run through whatever it is she's reimagining, you step in and scoop your arms around her.
  695. >"Ah-Anon! Wha-"
  696. "Easy now."
  697. >You hold her up to your chest, practically hugging her now.
  698. >Taking a step or so forward, you lean down so that she can look into the bathtub.
  699. >Her body becomes stiff and her ears shoot straight up.
  700. "Look."
  701. >You scoot one of your hands up behind her and pat her head for reassurance.
  702. >Something that reminded you of your own childhood.
  703. "See, you're okay."
  704. >"Ah, ah, guess, ah, am."
  705. "Okay I'm gonna lower you down-"
  706. >One of her hooves almost touches the water surface.
  707. >"Wait!"
  708. >You stop, somewhat awkwardly using one hand to support yourself on the edge of the tub.
  709. >She twists around in your arms and pressing up against your chest.
  710. >Looking down, you see Applejack burying her head into you with her eyes tightly closed.
  711. >Her forelegs are clamped down around you.
  712. >"Wait, wait, ah, ah can't, no, ah, no more."
  713. >She's violently shaking.
  714. >It scares you.
  715. >You can't even imagine what she's going through.
  716. >At the same time, you want to say something to her, to comfort her.
  717. >But you don't know what to say.
  718. >And so you do nothing but wait.
  719. >Your eyes wander to the cracked tiles on the wall.
  720. >How old age and mould ate away their pristine state.
  721. >Thinking back to those weeks after the ponies appeared, there was something strange happening in the news.
  722. >The news was always depressing, reporting on the latest murder or horrific car accident.
  723. >But any mention of the ponies was gone.
  724. >Day after day, you read the newspaper headlines at the stand.
  725. >Day after day, they faded away from the public awareness.
  726. >Only then did the rumours started coming out of the cracks.
  727. >Rumours that only made you question your humanity.
  728. >They were being treated like meat.
  729. >"Anon?"
  730. >You meet those green eyes again before she glances away.
  731. >"Ah'm, ready, ah guess."
  732. "Let's take it easy."
  733. >She lets go and you lower her down into the water until her hooves touch the bottom.
  734. >The water doesn't reach higher than her chest, but you can still see how uneasy she is.
  735. >You grab a wet cloth and turn her face towards you.
  736. >As you lean down to inspect her, a light blush appears over her face.
  737. >"Ah-Anon, wha-"
  738. "Hold still."
  739. >You lift her head higher and gently wipe away the dirt from her eyes.
  740. >Wiping her face, you trace your fingers delicately over her closed eyes.
  741. >Touching and feeling her features.
  742. >Her fur is bright and warm, highlighted by her freckles that were hidden by the grime and dirt.
  743. >Her eyes remain closed.
  744. >Her breathing is steady.
  745. >You stop cleaning her just to etch this scene into your memory.
  746. >There's just something so natural, beautiful and innocent about her.
  747. >Without a second thought, you bend down and kiss her gently on her forehead.
  748. >When you pull back, her eyes open in bewilderment.
  749. >There's shock and confusion in her eyes.
  750. >But there's no fear.
  751. >The blush only grows deeper as she realises what just happened and turns to face away from you.
  752. >But when she turns, the moment is ruined.
  753. >There's a long, deep scar going down along her neck.
  754. >And in that very moment, she raises a hoof to cover it from your eyes.
  755. >"It's, it's not what yer thinkin', it's, it's nothin'."
  756. >You rinse the cloth clean in the water and raise it up against her scar, squeezing the water out and down along her scar.
  757. >Slowly and gently you wipe down the area.
  758. >Bits of dirt, stains and loose fur come out with each stroke.
  759. >Over and over again you wipe at her side.
  760. >You wonder what sort of person could have done this to her.
  761. >Lost in the thought, you lean into the bathtub and put too much pressure onto her scar.
  762. >"Ahh!"
  763. >She cries out in pain.
  764. >Shit.
  765. "Applejack?"
  766. >She's down on her knees with her foreleg holding her scar.
  767. >Fresh tears flow down her cheeks.
  768. >You didn't think that scar would still hurt.
  769. "Sorry I didn't-"
  770. >She grimaces and cuts you off before you could finish speaking.
  771. >"Ah'm, ah'm alright."
  772. >Applejack slowly resumes her standing position, looking away from you again.
  773. >What was up with her?
  774. >You had conflicted feelings of guilt and fear.
  775. >If you had hurt her, you would've taken it back two fold.
  776. >But what if she wanted to leave?
  777. >You were keeping her here because it's safer than being outside.
  778. >Right?
  779. >No.
  780. >You had to take action and make it up for her.
  781. >Using this as an opportunity, you unbuckle your belt and drop your jeans.
  782. >They fall onto the bathroom floor with a thud.
  783. >"W-hat are-"
  784. >As you attempt to kick your legs free, you hear some splashing behind you.
  785. >"Are ya-"
  786. >Having freed yourself, you step inside the tub.
  787. >The pony has her back towards you, with her rump high in the air.
  788. >You crouch down over her and start scrubbing her back.
  789. >When you touch her, she nearly jumps.
  790. >"Gah."
  791. >You can't help notice how tense she's become.
  792. >She seems to find it really uncomfortable.
  793. >You'd like to get her to relax, but at the same time you needed to get her clean.
  794. >It's strange.
  795. >It dawns on you how you're beginning to change.
  796. >Perhaps talking to her will help make her feel relaxed.
  797. "You know."
  798. >You start awkwardly.
  799. "I've always thought baths were a waste of time and water."
  800. >One of her ears lifts up.
  801. "And yet here I am, having one with a pony of all things."
  802. >Scrubbing away at her back, you can feel her relax a little.
  803. "I guess some things are better shared together."
  804. >Her true colour, a bright, warm orange begins to shine through the dirt.
  805. >You begin to wonder how she would look once she was cleaned up.
  806. >No, how wonderful she would look.
  807. >With her back cleaned, three red apples appear on her flank.
  808. >Squeezing out some shampoo into your hand, you start working on her mane.
  809. >Working your fingers into her mane, you start working out the knots.
  810. >Like with her coat, washing away at her mane her original colour starts coming through.
  811. "Now close your eyes."
  812. >She does so with a nod and you rinse her mane through.
  813. >The mud and muck washes away revealing a light gold mane.
  814. >She shivers.
  815. >The bathwater is now cold and murky.
  816. >There were still areas that you haven't touched, but it would seem like you would need to leave it for another time.
  817. "Looks like we're finished."
  818. >"Huh?"
  819. >You fish out the plug and drain the water.
  820. "You coming out or what?"
  821. >The wet pony looks back at you and slowly turns.
  822. >Her forelegs cling onto the bathtub edge and she tries to jump.
  823. >She fails to get enough strength into her jump though and appears to hop on the spot.
  824. >It would look cute were it not for her weakness.
  825. "Sorry."
  826. >Grabbing a large towel you wrap and scoop her up into your arms.
  827. >She's still shivering in your arms.
  828. >Why couldn't she have said that she was cold?
  829. >Holding her in your arms as you move out of the bathroom, you consider putting her to sleep on the couch again but quickly dismiss it.
  830. >It wouldn't be good if she was left her out in the cold.
  831. >That leaves only one other place.
  832. >"Wh-where are we goin'?"
  833. "To my room."
  834. >"Yer room?"
  835. >You open the door and enter your room.
  836. >Magazines, books, old boxes and stuff were thrown about on the floor.
  837. >Everything was where you left it, even the curtains were drawn for as long as you remembered.
  838. >The bundle shifts around in your arms, trying to get a good look around the room.
  839. >You set her down on your bed and begin to dry her off as best as you can.
  840. >"Ah-Anon, slow, slow down."
  841. "You're gonna catch a cold if I don't."
  842. >Having gone through her tail and mane, you flip her onto her back to dry her underside.
  843. >The sight of Applejack, laying sprawled out on your bed, is in front of you.
  844. >You lift the towel up and start wiping her down from her front, when she says something.
  845. >She mumbles.
  846. "What?"
  847. >She looks away from you.
  848. >"Are, are, ya."
  849. >Her voice quivers and breaks.
  850. >She speaks again, in a clear, quiet voice.
  851. >"Are ya gonna, rut me?"
  852. >You stop moving your hand.
  853. >What was that?
  854. >She looks back at you, this time with her tail lowered on the bed, exposing her marehood.
  855. >"J-just that, whenever y'all, 'clean' me, y'all gonna, do, that."
  856. >You could hear the disgust in her voice.
  857. >But that doesn't even compare to what you're experiencing right now.
  858. >That deep, unsettling emotion flaring up inside you.
  859. >You didn't clean her just to do something like that to her.
  860. >It never even crossed your mind.
  861. >You knew, though, how badly she was treated.
  862. >The signs were all there.
  863. >Perhaps you were just kidding yourself.
  864. >Your hands rolled up into fists.
  865. >You abruptly tear away the towel, exposing her briefly before pulling the duvet back over her.
  866. >Then you start walking to leave the room.
  867. >"Ah'll do whatever ya want!"
  868. >You don't reply.
  869. >"Ah'll do anythin'."
  870. >Your hand grabs the door knob.
  871. >"Just, please, don't leave me alone!"
  872. >You stop.
  873. >"Don't leave me all alone."
  874. >"Ah'll do anythin' ya-"
  875. "Stop it."
  876. >You release your grip on the door knob and breathe out deeply.
  877. >You were starting to feel cold and tired too.
  878. >You walk on back over to your bed and, kneeling down, you come face to face with her.
  879. "I won't leave you alone."
  880. >You scoop your hands underneath and move her onto the other side of the bed.
  881. "Just go to sleep."
  882. >She looks at you all the while you move her.
  883. >Lifting the duvet to get in, you pause and look at Applejack.
  884. >She looks back at you with eyes peeping over the duvet.
  885. >You smile at her before sliding into the bed and turning away from her.
  886. >This should be fine.
  887. >Today will pass, just like any other day.
  888. >Lying there, you close your eyes and listen to the silence.
  889. >Your bedfellow breaks the silence by shuffling around.
  890. >Her breathing is quiet and shallow, unlike yours.
  891. >"Yer smile."
  892. >She speaks out to the dark.
  893. >"Yer hidin'."
  894. >She saw through it.
  895. >You don't say anything more, and neither does she.
  896. >
  897. >You wake up and open your eyes.
  898. >The pale morning sunlight filters in between the crack in the curtains.
  899. >Specs of dust float in and out of the light.
  900. >It seems like you've turned tossed and turned around in your sleep.
  901. >Your arm lies outstretched across the pillows with your fingers up like monuments in the light.
  902. >Your other arm rests close to your body, hidden underneath the duvet.
  903. >Feeling an itch coming across your stubble, you go to scratch it but something hitches onto your arm.
  904. >You become more awake with the obstruction and peer down at the little orange bundle sleeping against you.
  905. >Looks like you weren't the only one that tossed around in their sleep.
  906. >Applejack lies huddled against you, with a foreleg resting over your arm and her legs intertwined with yours.
  907. >Blissfully asleep, unaware that you were capturing this moment in every detail.
  908. >Slowly, you slip your arm free from her foreleg, doing your best not to wake her.
  909. >Sensing that your arm was missing, she bats her foreleg against your side to try find it again.
  910. >At the same time she rubs her head against your chest, burying it away from the light.
  911. >It reminded you of a time when you had your pet dog all those years ago, and how it would curl its head against you.
  912. >Her head digs into your chest once again, but instead flips back up and settles her neck against your chest.
  913. >She hums in her new position, perhaps as a sign of her comfort.
  914. >Her face paints a picture of peace and quiet.
  915. >With your free hand you trace your fingers along her features.
  916. >How large her eyes were.
  917. >How soft and sensitive her ears were and who they would involuntarily flicker when you touched them.
  918. >Trailing your fingertips down to her nose where you tap it with two fingers
  919. >She snorts immediately, scrunching her face at the same time.
  920. >Her eyes flutter open in a daze, slowly looking around the room before falling back down onto yours.
  921. >"Mmm."
  922. >She digs her head back down into your chest and pulls you into a tight hug.
  923. "Morning."
  924. >You break the silence.
  925. >Her eyes snap open and she kicks at you and scoots away to the other side of the bed.
  926. >The force of her kick is enough to send you out of the bed, hitting the floor with a heavy thud.
  927. "Ow!"
  928. >You rub your sore arse, only to see those green eyes peeping over the edge of the bed.
  929. >"Cornsarnit! Ah-Anon?"
  930. >You shoot her a glance, forcing her to slowly edge back over onto the bed.
  931. >You can barely see her eyes now.
  932. >"Are, are yer, alright, Anon?"
  933. >You get up and stretch out your back with an audible click, making Applejack flinch at the sound.
  934. "Peachy."
  935. >You grunt.
  936. >Truthfully you couldn't stay angry at her.
  937. >But you still had questions about her.
  938. >Like what she meant with her comment last night.
  939. >Pulling on some joggers you left lying around, you head to the bathroom to do your usual morning business.
  940. >Not too shortly after, you hear the sound of clopping following after you.
  941. "Applejack?"
  942. >"Anon? What are y-"
  943. >She turned the corner and instantly saw everything.
  944. >Her eyes fell and shrank.
  945. >A deep blush flushed across her face, followed by another adorable scrunching.
  946. >She dipped her hat, covering her face, and quickly backed out of the room.
  947. >Silence fell upon the room, all but the sound of a constant stream.
  948. >A grin grew on your face after realising what it was.
  949. >It's been so long since you've lived with another person.
  950. >Shaking off a few drops, you finish up and head out to the lounge.
  951. >You spot Applejack perched on top of a stool, with a slight blush still on her face.
  952. >Seeing where she was sitting, you take the spare stool and sit directly opposite her.
  953. "So what do you eat?"
  954. >Applejack bit her lower lip and mumbled out a reply.
  955. "I can't hear you if you mumble."
  956. >She turns away from you and then slumps into her hooves.
  957. >"Ah'll, ah'll be fine with whatever."
  958. "Hmm."
  959. >Dissatisfied with her reply, you turn around and look around the kitchen.
  960. >You've still got the bread from the other day, but that's not enough.
  961. >Looking through the cupboards and fridge there's hardly anything to eat.
  962. >There were a couple eggs, perhaps you could make some eggs on toast.
  963. >But can a pony have eggs?
  964. >Otherwise there was some old cereal packets with whatever milk you have left.
  965. >You can't decide.
  966. >You grab whatever you could find and lay them all out in front of Applejack.
  967. "I don't know what you can, have, so here, you pick."
  968. >Applejack slowly turns her head around and looks at the items.
  969. >She leans in close, tapping and taking a sniff out of each item.
  970. >It was like she's never seen them before.
  971. "You finished?"
  972. >"N-no, a-ah don't know what these are."
  973. "Well, this is some wheat cereal."
  974. >You open the box and push it in front of her.
  975. >She pushes her nose into and takes a couple sniffs, before pulling back and making a face with her tongue.
  976. "I'm guessing that's a no."
  977. >She moves away from the cereal box to a small one.
  978. >"What's this?"
  979. "Pop tarts, apple and cinnamon flavour."
  980. >Her eyes lights up.
  981. >"A-apple?"
  982. "Alright hang on."
  983. >You open up the small box and throw it into the toaster.
  984. >"W-what are you doing with it?"
  985. "Heating it up."
  986. >Her eyebrows roll up in confusion.
  987. >A moment later, you hear the toaster spring up.
  988. "Here you go."
  989. >You slide a plate with a hot pop tart on it.
  990. >"Is, is that it?"
  991. >Applejack's ears droop down at the sight of the peculiar item.
  992. >You nod and take your seat again.
  993. >She hesitates as she opens her mouth at various angles to take a bite.
  994. >You weren't sure if you would call it pathetic or cute.
  995. "Here."
  996. >You break off two pieces, popping one into your own mouth and holding the other out in front of her.
  997. >"Are yer sure it's apple?"
  998. >You shrug and take another bite.
  999. >"Doesn't smell like apple to me."
  1000. >She comes around eventually, taking the piece out of your hand and chews on it.
  1001. >She swallows after making a couple faces.
  1002. >"Mm, it's, eh, somethin'."
  1003. >Seems like she doesn't like it.
  1004. "Alright then."
  1005. >Taking what's left over to the kitchen top, you start fixing some scrambled eggs.
  1006. >It's nothing fancy but it works.
  1007. >Glancing back, you can still see the orange pony curiously looking over at you.
  1008. >You set down two plates of toast and scrambled eggs.
  1009. "Try this."
  1010. >You pour yourself a hot cup of cheap black coffee before taking your seat.
  1011. >Without waiting you sprinkle some salt and pepper on top before you start eating.
  1012. >However Applejack seems to be struggling with her meal.
  1013. >This one too?
  1014. >You settle your knife and fork onto your plate.
  1015. "You'll have to eat something, if you don't, it's gonna be trouble."
  1016. >You waited for her to eat.
  1017. >You needed her to eat something.
  1018. >Applejack's eyes looked up at yours then at the food in front of her.
  1019. >She closed her eyes and started taking down the scrambled egg and toast.
  1020. >Good, she's finally eating.
  1021. >The meal went by without much issue and you finish your piece of toast with some black coffee.
  1022. >Or so you thought.
  1023. >Taking the empty plates over to the wash basin, you heard her murmur something.
  1024. "You're mumbling again."
  1025. >She doesn't reply.
  1026. >Turning around you find Applejack on the floor beside the table.
  1027. >She must've jumped down off the stool while you were moving the dirty plates.
  1028. >But something was wrong.
  1029. >Her breathing was erratic.
  1030. "Hey."
  1031. >She stopped and looked up at you.
  1032. >There was an uneasy look in her eyes.
  1033. "What's wrong?"
  1034. >In that moment, her back arched up and down in quick jolts.
  1035. "Hey Applejack!"
  1036. >Before you could do anything, she had emptied her stomach all over the floor in front of you.
  1037. >Once, twice, thrice, she retched until she couldn't throw anything up.
  1038. >The acrid smell reached your nose, and what was once scrambled eggs was now a brown mess.
  1039. >Why couldn't she have said something?
  1040. >She didn't have to eat it if she didn't like it.
  1041. >Applejack rolled over on her side.
  1042. "Dammit."
  1043. >You couldn't blame her, could you?
  1044. >You didn't want to think about it anymore, it was a stressful morning as it already is.
  1045. >Thinking anymore would just get you angry.
  1046. >You started moving.
  1047. >Grabbing some dirty kitchen towels, you threw it over the mess.
  1048. >Tiptoeing around it, you reached the orange pony.
  1049. >You pull off her hat and stroke her mane, freeing some strands stuck around her lips.
  1050. >There were tears in the corners of her eyes.
  1051. >You needed to get something that she could eat.
  1052. >But first thing's first.
  1053. >You lifted her up with in your arms and gently place her back down onto the sofa.
  1054. "Don't move."
  1055. >A while later, you were sitting down by the sofa cushioning a tired pony.
  1056. >The floor was roughly cleaned up and the towels were filthy but the acrid smell was at least gone now.
  1057. >You guided another glass of water to the pony on the sofa.
  1058. "Drink, it'll help make you feel better."
  1059. >Her lips moved and sucked at the water.
  1060. >She lifted a hoof and pushed away your hand.
  1061. >"Ah, ah'm sorry, fer, fer-"
  1062. "It's fine."
  1063. >You keep telling yourself this.
  1064. "Here, try this."
  1065. >You lifted a spoon with some wheat cereal with watered down milk.
  1066. >Surprisingly, she didn't make a face when she tried it.
  1067. >"This is, some, weird tastin' wheat."
  1068. "Probably because it's not meant for you."
  1069. >She looks up at you, confused with one ear up and one ear down.
  1070. >"Ah, ah see, we weren't really meant to be here anyhow."
  1071. "You're right about that."
  1072. >You give her a couple more spoonful's before setting aside the bowl and glass of water.
  1073. >You find that stroking her mane and scratching behind her ears helps relax her.
  1074. >Time goes by undisturbed for a while.
  1075. >The sound of outside traffic creates a low, constant rumble.
  1076. "You better now?"
  1077. >Her eyes flicker open, as though caught in a state of confusion.
  1078. >"Y-yes mast- ah, A-Anon."
  1079. "So tell me, what can you eat?"
  1080. >"Any, anythin', really."
  1081. >Not this again.
  1082. "Okay, what do you like to eat? You seemed to be interested in apples."
  1083. >There was an apple in her name and apples on her flank.
  1084. >It couldn't be a coincidence.
  1085. >"Y-yeah."
  1086. "Apple crumble? Apple fritters? Apple turnovers?"
  1087. >Her eyes beamed at every mention of 'apple'.
  1088. >"Yer, yer got those here?"
  1089. "No I'd need to go out and buy them."
  1090. >She deflated slightly.
  1091. >"Yer don't make 'em yerself?"
  1092. "What? No, that'd be too expensive and take too much time."
  1093. >Not that you had any work to do.
  1094. >But money was a real issue.
  1095. >The food that you could only afford, the clothes you wore, even the state of the apartment was all up to money.
  1096. >Only rich people could do something fancy like bake their own stuff with their 'organic' ingredients and silver kitchenware.
  1097. >"Ah, ah see."
  1098. >She wasn't like that, right?
  1099. >You had to ask.
  1100. "So do you make yours, from scratch?"
  1101. >She smiles at the question.
  1102. >"Yessiree, made everythin' with these very hooves."
  1103. >So what's how it was.
  1104. >You remembered how one of the taller, white Pegasus ponies that came through was decorated in gold.
  1105. >"Why, we'd spent all day makin' anythin' an' everythin' we could, with the apples we grew."
  1106. >There was a genuine smile on her face now.
  1107. >"Granny Smith, bless her, couldn' even keep still as we made 'em, me, Big Mac an'-"
  1108. >Her smile falters and she quickly shakes her head as though to get rid of the thought.
  1109. >"Yea, we, we made 'em."
  1110. >Sounds like she had a big family.
  1111. "So what about this 'Applebloom'?"
  1112. >In an instance, her eyes became unfocused and distant.
  1113. >They shot wide open and her pupils had shrunk.
  1114. >Her face paled as she looked down.
  1115. >"Ah, ah don't know what, what yer talkin' about."
  1116. >She spoke slowly and in a very low voice.
  1117. "You called out her name. Sounds like she-"
  1119. >You were taken aback by her outburst.
  1120. >Her voice was loud and dry, filled with anger and tension.
  1121. >But just like that, she settled back down and turned away from you.
  1122. >"It's just, it's just a place."
  1123. >You don't say anything.
  1124. >"A place back home."
  1125. >You nodded.
  1126. >But you couldn't get your mind away from her outburst.
  1127. >How those green eyes filled with such emotions looked at you.
  1128. >How you were someone who had just hurt her again.
  1129. >You already wanted to put this behind you.
  1130. "Could you-"
  1131. >You try speaking out to her again.
  1132. >She looks up at you without any expression on her face.
  1133. "Could you tell me about your home?"
  1134. >She doesn't answer and shuts her eyes.
  1135. "Okay."
  1136. >You go to stand up which elicits a response from her.
  1137. >"Where, where are yer goin'?"
  1138. "I'm gonna go out to the shops, there's hardly anything around here for you to eat."
  1139. >She nods.
  1140. "Just stay inside and don't try and get out again."
  1141. >"O-okay."
  1142. >You leave the room and head back into your bedroom to put on your jacket and jeans.
  1143. >You check your wallet has enough notes before pocketing it, followed by your keys.
  1144. >A clopping noise follows you into the room.
  1145. >"What should ah do?"
  1146. "What should you do?"
  1147. >"While yer gone."
  1148. >She rubs her foreleg while covering her face with her hat.
  1149. >"Yer been lettin' me stay here, ah should be doin' somethin' in return, y'know?"
  1150. >You couldn't think of anything at the moment.
  1151. >But you could tell there was something else to her question.
  1152. >Honestly you wanted to get out right now.
  1153. "Do whatever you want."
  1154. >You walk to the front door.
  1155. "Just, stay inside."
  1156. >You unlock the front door and look back.
  1157. >Applejack was sitting down in the hallway on her hind legs.
  1158. >With one last look at her, you close and lock the door.
  1159. >With your hand still on the handle, you thought back to the time she was trying to get out.
  1160. >There's still so much you don't know about her.
  1161. >Trying to talk to her won't get you anywhere.
  1162. >Not with all the problems you keep hitting.
  1163. >What did you think?
  1164. >That it would be easy taking in a pony?
  1165. >Walking down the platform towards the stairwell, you think of the people you know you could turn to.
  1166. >Not friends, just people with the answers you needed.
  1167. >The dull sky looked down upon you from above.
  1168. >
  1169. >Once you're out in the streets again, you feel a sense of normalcy return to you.
  1170. >These were the streets that you were unwillingly thrown onto.
  1171. >The very streets that shaped you into who you are.
  1172. >If you did something stupid, or likewise, dangerous, you'd have to be lucky to not get hurt or end up dead.
  1173. >If you were weak or too soft, the street would cut you down.
  1174. >That's life out here.
  1175. >In all this chaos, pollution and crime.
  1176. >Something appears as you emerge around the corner.
  1177. >You find a person lying on some cardboard, someone you haven't seen before.
  1178. >You lean down over him, checking to see if he was awake or if he was even alive.
  1179. >Nothing.
  1180. >Pity.
  1181. >You start to pat him down, trying to find anything of use.
  1182. >He's kinda cold.
  1183. >You dig out only a few notes, coins, a lighter and a half empty box of Lucky 7 cigarettes.
  1184. >Lucky 7's.
  1185. >It's been a while.
  1186. >You take one out of its crumpled package and smell it.
  1187. >They still had their freshness, that blend of earth, wood and spice.
  1188. >Some poor sap would definitely buy these off you.
  1189. >You held the lone cigarette in a familiar manner in between your fingers.
  1190. >Just how long has it been you stopped smoking?
  1191. >You didn't want to start again, start wasting your money and slowly kill yourself.
  1192. >But something kept you from putting it back in with the others.
  1193. >You slide it into your jacket pocket, not wanting to overthink it.
  1194. >And just like that you leave the body alone on the cardboard and go about your way.
  1195. >Back out on the main street, it's not much different.
  1196. >People were few and far between on the streets.
  1197. >When there were, they were dressed in drab clothing, hunched over wherever they walked.
  1198. >Some were pushing trolleys carrying food, others were pushing trolleys carrying their own stuff.
  1199. >You approach the local rundown shopping market with an outdoor fruit stand.
  1200. >It was sparse, taking a closer look you find that it's only filled with some anaemic looking oranges and a couple of pale green apples.
  1201. >It was a poor excuse of a fruit stand.
  1202. >Nothing like the red ones on Applejack's flank.
  1203. >Now that you think of it, everything around her was bleak in comparison.
  1204. >An image of Applejack flashes before your eyes.
  1205. >She was sleeping in a curled bundle on the floor, where her side gently rises and falls as she sleeps.
  1206. >Her warm, soft fur illuminated by the warm sun.
  1207. >It warms your heart a little, just thinking about her.
  1208. >You snap back to the scene in front of you.
  1209. >The rotting, peeling wooden crates that are clearly too large for the fruit inside look barren and unwelcoming.
  1210. >It would be easy to take one and walk away.
  1211. >But the thought of Applejack stops you.
  1212. >You needed to get some more stuff inside for her.
  1213. >You grab a few of the best apples you could find before slipping inside the store.
  1214. >The store was practically empty on the inside.
  1215. >The air was stale and heavily infused with the pungent odour of exotic spices.
  1216. >The tiles along the floor have lost their shine over the years, while the fluorescent lights above cast their lifeless light above you.
  1217. >Some old foreign song plays in the air around you, masking what would otherwise be the uncomfortable silence.
  1218. >You stroll through, passing all the out of place, brightly coloured looking products to find some apple pastries.
  1219. >You find them, though they look dry, old even.
  1220. >Then, something catches your attention.
  1221. >You bag a few for Applejack regardless.
  1222. >You follow them in the corner of your vision, though it's not hard to miss them.
  1223. >A large woman pushes a pram with a kid shouting, pulling and hanging off her arm.
  1224. >But that's not the important thing.
  1225. >No the important thing was the open black handbag.
  1226. >You carefully look around the store, spotting only two old looking security cameras.
  1227. >One is at the back end corner of the store and the other at the front looking down at the counter.
  1228. >This was an opportunity for you.
  1229. >For Applejack.
  1230. >Thumbing the apple in your hand, you figure out a plan to distract the woman.
  1231. >You slowly walk up behind them, timing your distance.
  1232. >The kid pulls on the woman with one hand and wildly swings his other arm in the opposite direction.
  1233. >In front of them to the side is a tower made out of stacked cereal boxes.
  1234. >That'll do.
  1235. >Sometime throughout his whining and pulling, he turns around and locks eyes with you.
  1236. >You falter, but he quickly dismisses you goes back to pestering the woman.
  1237. >He must've thought that you were unsuspecting.
  1238. >How wrong he was.
  1239. >You wait for the right moment and go for it.
  1240. >At that same moment, the kid turns around and looks back at you.
  1241. >You throw the apple at the base of the cereal tower which is now right next to him.
  1242. >The kid knows what you're doing.
  1243. >But it's too late.
  1244. >There's a loud crash as the pile of boxes comes falling down.
  1245. >The kid's mouth is wide open.
  1246. >Before he could do anything, he's instantly tugged back and slapped on the face by the woman.
  1247. >You roughly push past them as she turns her back on you, quickly grabbing whatever you can get out of her handbag and shoving them into your own pocket.
  1248. >You place the bags of apples and pastries onto the counter and quickly take out some notes.
  1249. "Just these, I'm in a hurry."
  1250. >The guy behind the counter is looking at the commotion behind you.
  1251. >"Sir? Hold on I need to-"
  1252. "Now."
  1253. >He looks at you quizzically before relenting and taking your money.
  1254. >As he gives you your change, he looks over again at the woman and then back at you.
  1255. >His eyes shoot down at your bulging pocket.
  1256. >"Did you just-"
  1257. >You leave without letting him finish.
  1258. >As soon as you're outside, you run.
  1259. >You could've sworn you heard him call out after you.
  1260. >But that's not going to stop you.
  1261. >Taking the first corner, you weave through the tight alleyways and large dustbins.
  1262. >Splashing on puddles, kicking away empty cans, stepping over old newspapers, you keep going.
  1263. >Further and further away into the city maze.
  1264. >After a good while, you slow down to stop.
  1265. >You're in some unknown alleyway.
  1266. >Taking in deep breaths of air you rest along some back doorsteps.
  1267. >You can feel your back drenched in sweat.
  1268. >A police siren hitches your breath but soon fades away into that industrial background noise.
  1269. >Even though you got away with it, you still messed up at the counter.
  1270. >It wouldn't be the first time either.
  1271. >Pulling out the stolen goods, you take a look to see what you got.
  1272. >It was a good grab.
  1273. >There was a smartphone, an Apple one at that too.
  1274. >Too bad the screen was cracked, otherwise you could've sold it for a lot.
  1275. >The thought of showing it to Applejack comes to mind and you wonder how she would react to it.
  1276. >You imagine telling her how you got an Apple phone and how she'd scrunch her face.
  1277. >Though she'd probably question you about how you got it.
  1278. >There was that certain way she looked at you.
  1279. >Like how she could see through you.
  1280. >Better not.
  1281. >You couldn't really tell if it was new or old.
  1282. >But first thing's first.
  1283. >You pull out the SIM card with a bent out paperclip and crush it.
  1284. >You turn it off and slide it into your pocket before moving onto the other item.
  1285. >A black purse.
  1286. >A Gucci one at that too.
  1287. >Perhaps it's real and not a fake, or so you would hope.
  1288. >Going through her stuff, none of then prove useful to you.
  1289. >An expired driver's licence along with various credit cards.
  1290. >But you find some paper notes, at least a hundred's worth of crumpled notes in there.
  1291. >Separating the notes from the purse and putting them into your own pocket, you decided what you were going to do next.
  1292. >You needed to go see him again.
  1293. >
  1294. >It took you a while to find the place again.
  1295. >Retracing your steps after so many months wasn't easy.
  1296. >Going through private carparks, access ways and through an abandoned construction site.
  1297. >Everything was just how you remembered it.
  1298. >The red painted steel door situated on the back side of a windowless building.
  1299. >The only things on the outside were a couple CCTV cameras high up on the corners.
  1300. >Otherwise there was nothing there that made it stand out from the others.
  1301. >You go up to the door and find an old intercom panel to the side of it.
  1302. >It's worn all over, the metal surface is dirty with grime and is beginning to show signs of rust.
  1303. >You press the call button and nothing seemingly happens.
  1304. >The speaker suddenly crackles to life.
  1305. >"Who is it?"
  1306. >You lean into the intercom and speak.
  1307. "I'm here to see Wire."
  1308. >You hear a buzz and the door automatically unlocks for you.
  1309. >There's no one there to greet you as you step into the dark, silent corridor.
  1310. >The door closes with a deafening bang and locks behind you.
  1311. >Only the dim hue of lone red light illuminates your path along the long stretch.
  1312. >Arriving at the end of the corridor, you find a door with blue light coming out from the gap below it.
  1313. >Entering the room the hum of fans and air conditioners surround you.
  1314. >In front of you is a desk with computer screen, keyboard and a near full ashtray.
  1315. >"Anonymous!"
  1316. >A young male voice calls out from behind you.
  1317. >Looking to the other side of the desk, a lanky looking guy wearing a loose cardigan and baggy trousers comes out behind another door.
  1318. >He raises his arms out towards you.
  1319. >"What no hug?"
  1320. "Knock it off Wire."
  1321. >"I thought you'd forgotten all about me."
  1322. >He laughs it off and goes into a stretch, arching his back in an wide motion.
  1323. >You cringe a little as you can hear a couple of loud clicks.
  1324. >"Well, ah, I'm glad you haven't forgotten me."
  1325. >Wire was younger than you, that's for sure.
  1326. >You’d almost call him pretty for a guy were it not for all those piercings and tattoos he had.
  1327. >That, and the weird shave he had on one side of his dyed blonde hair.
  1328. >"So!"
  1329. >He walks towards his desk and slumps down against the chair.
  1330. >"What brings you out of the blue after so long?"
  1331. >He motions towards your pockets.
  1332. >"You, uh, 'working' again?"
  1333. "Not really."
  1334. >You casually toss out the woman's purse and cracked iPhone into his open arms.
  1335. >His eyes light up.
  1336. >"Oh Gucci, very nice, that is, if it's not fake."
  1337. >He flips the purse around, opening it up and taking a sniff out of it before checking the seams with a finger.
  1338. >"Hmm it could pass."
  1339. >His attention then snaps to the cracked white phone.
  1340. >"Ah, you picked one up too, they're everywhere these damn phones."
  1341. >He goes to inspect the phone and begins muttering to himself.
  1342. >"So simple and yet so expensive."
  1343. >He quickly pulls out a cable and connects the phone to his computer.
  1344. >That was Wire for you, still the same as before.
  1345. >He seemed like he was always thinking, asking questions and looking out for anything strange.
  1346. >"I supposed you destroyed the SIM card already?"
  1347. "Yeah."
  1348. >"Dammit, fine, it's fine."
  1349. >It was no wonder that there were signs of drugs scattered all over his desk.
  1350. >A mirror, razor, glass pipe, lighter.
  1351. >You resorted to the same things at one point.
  1352. >"Did you check to see if it was unlocked?"
  1353. "Didn’t bother checking."
  1354. >"Why did I even bother with you people?"
  1355. >He clicks his tongue at you before pulling out the cards in the purse.
  1356. >"Guess I've gotta do everything myself."
  1357. >If there's anything, he knew his stuff.
  1358. >"There's always a demand for these, things, but that can wait for now."
  1359. >He unplugs the phone and puts it to a side along with the purse and various cards.
  1360. >Leaning forward and resting his elbows on the desk, he looks intently at you.
  1361. >"I thought you learnt your lesson from before, like I mean, that was some pretty stupid shit you pulled back then."
  1362. "I needed the money back then and I need it again now."
  1363. >It didn't make you feel any better saying that but it was true.
  1364. >There was nothing else you could've done.
  1365. >You grimace.
  1366. >"Man, you've gotta think of the bigger picture."
  1367. >He jumps out of the chair, startling you, and starts pacing up and down the room.
  1368. >"Money is just something that makes slaves of us all, look at the debt our country is in."
  1369. >"All those shitty loans and jobs people take on like idiots."
  1370. >"Like the money isn't even real, it's all just data, information held on some offshore servers."
  1371. >You're losing him at this point.
  1372. "So what?"
  1373. >He stops right in front of you.
  1374. >"So why do it?"
  1375. >"Why'd you come back again?"
  1376. >"Just so that you could pawn off some shit to me?"
  1377. >You're taken aback by his sudden aggressiveness towards you.
  1378. "What do you care what I do?"
  1379. >He studies you.
  1380. >"Harsh man, like I said, I know you."
  1381. >Wire feigns being hurt.
  1382. >"I thought you would've moved on, to be honest."
  1383. >He shrugs.
  1384. >"Moved onto a better place, a new chapter in your life, that sorta thing."
  1385. "I-"
  1386. >He wasn't wrong.
  1387. >But he wasn't right either.
  1388. >You stopped because you had given up.
  1389. >That you accepted the fact that you were a lost cause.
  1390. >You look away from him and sigh.
  1391. "Something came up."
  1392. >"Ah, there we go, 'something came up."
  1393. >He smiles and leans against his desk, pulling out a cigarette.
  1394. >"Do you mind?"
  1395. >You shake your head.
  1396. >"Not that you have any say."
  1397. >He lights it up and drags deeply on it.
  1398. >"So what is it?"
  1399. "I need you to check something out for me."
  1400. >"Well then you've come to the right guy."
  1401. >He lazily claps his hands together.
  1402. >"Anything for you, though there'll be a fee of course."
  1403. "That's what those are for."
  1404. >You motion over to the phone and purse.
  1405. >"Hm, that'll depends on what you want to know so we'll see."
  1406. >He looks back over to you and winks.
  1407. "What do you know about those, uh, ponies."
  1408. >The air around him changes.
  1409. >He frowns, taking out the cigarette from his mouth and quietly speaks.
  1410. >"Jesus, I can't believe it."
  1411. >He stubs out his cigarette by cramming it into the ashtray.
  1412. >His eyes narrow as he looks back up at you.
  1413. >"I didn't take you for a horse fucker Anon."
  1414. "What?"
  1415. >"Can't say I'm not disappointed in you, word is out on the streets that someone stole the last one at an auction."
  1416. "Fuck you I rescued her."
  1417. >"You're shitting me, you just 'rescued her'?"
  1418. >He looks at you, holding a stare.
  1419. >Would he even believe you?
  1420. >You let out a sigh.
  1421. "I was passing by and I, I saw her there, lying in her own filth with all those people around her."
  1422. >Not people, monsters.
  1423. >You didn't want to say anymore.
  1424. >"And you just thought you'd stage a rescue at gunpoint?"
  1425. >Wire still holds his stare at you before revealing a grin.
  1426. >"You fucking madman."
  1427. >He slams the table as he wildly grins.
  1428. >"You got guts, you know that right?"
  1429. "A whole lot of good it's done me so far."
  1430. >You shake your head.
  1431. >He laughs.
  1432. >"I knew you still had it in you."
  1433. "So what do you know about them?"
  1434. >Wire leans back in his chair and crosses his arms.
  1435. >"It's more of a question of what don't I know?"
  1436. >He types something on the keyboard before turning the monitor towards you.
  1437. >It has some obscure search engine results with various images of ponies inside an encampment.
  1438. >"You probably sensed it from the news, like how they weren't telling whole story."
  1439. >You nod.
  1440. "I followed it until they stopped reporting on them a while back."
  1441. >You forgot about them.
  1442. >Until you found her.
  1443. >"That's what I mean, did you know what else has been swept under the rug in the news?"
  1444. >You shrug.
  1445. "No."
  1446. >"Jesus, do you even watch the news?"
  1447. >"Actually scratch that it's fucking depressing."
  1448. >He turns his monitor back to do another search before turning it back to you.
  1449. >It's a reputable news website with a small article about an attempted hack on a government server.
  1450. "So what about it?"
  1451. >"That, Anonymous, is bullshit."
  1452. >"Thanks to a certain group, they've leaked the contents of that hack."
  1453. >"And what can I say, it's very interesting stuff."
  1454. >"The leaked documents belonged to a government military official, not some government social worker as they like to spin."
  1455. >"There are detailed reports on the arrival of what's been designated as P0-N315."
  1456. >"In other words, them."
  1457. >This was new.
  1458. "Show me."
  1459. >"By all means."
  1460. >Wire stands up and motions to the free seat in front of the desk.
  1461. >He turns the monitor towards you to read and then leans back into his.
  1462. >Wire gives you a brief rundown on their bodies, how the ponies were herbivores by nature.
  1463. >They had basic bodily functions, similar to horses here on earth.
  1464. >Though that's where the similarities end.
  1465. >What separated them from your regular horse was their sentience, varying mythical features like wings, horns, strength and that supernatural kinetic phenomenon.
  1466. >You could say it was magic.
  1467. >They had complex emotions like fear, pain, pleasure and joy.
  1468. >Next is some legal documentation with instructions to arrest and detain anyone who takes in a pony.
  1469. >You click to go on, but the next document doesn't show up.
  1470. "This, this can't be everything."
  1471. >All the information you've read so far was already out there.
  1472. "Where's the rest?"
  1473. >Wire looks away from you.
  1474. >"Maybe, perhaps maybe I shouldn't show you the rest of the contents."
  1475. "What?"
  1476. >You were dumbfounded.
  1477. "You're not going to help me?"
  1478. >He shakes his head.
  1479. "What is it, you want more money?"
  1480. >"Wrong again."
  1481. >"Look, I could show you the rest of the contents but you've, what, spent a couple nights already with your newly rescued pony friend, right?"
  1482. "Yeah, and?"
  1483. >He lights up another cigarette.
  1484. >"What do you know about her?"
  1485. >"Like, what do you really know about her?"
  1486. "What are you getting at?"
  1487. >He shrugs and shakes his head.
  1488. >Wire taps the ash off the end of his cigarette and waits for you to continue.
  1489. >Does he really want to go through with it like this?
  1490. >You look at him with a frown, but he doesn't budge.
  1491. >You sigh out of frustration and take a moment to think about Applejack.
  1492. "We both know that they're sentient, they think and have emotions."
  1493. >The memory of her enthusiastically talking about apples resurfaces.
  1494. "She seems to likes apples, and might've had a big family too from the sound of it."
  1495. >Other, unpleasant, memories begin to resurface.
  1496. >Her screams going into the water.
  1497. >That line across her neck.
  1498. "Signs of abuse, scarring, hates taking baths."
  1499. >Then there were the times she cried.
  1500. >Her cries echo in your ears.
  1501. "Applebloom, she mentioned a name, Applebloom, I think she called it a place."
  1502. >Wire nods.
  1503. >"Anything else?"
  1504. >You think it over.
  1505. >Nothing.
  1506. >You really didn't know anything about her.
  1507. >But you wanted to help her.
  1508. "She's scared and she needs help."
  1509. >Wire nods while keeping quiet.
  1510. "Nothing else."
  1511. >"I just wanted to make sure."
  1512. >"We all have secrets Anon, the so-called skeletons in our closets."
  1513. >"She probably has hers, question is, how much are you willing to unearth them?"
  1514. "You still need asking?"
  1515. >You raise yourself up in your seat.
  1516. >"Look, I'll level with you."
  1517. >He walks over to you and resting his arm on your chair and meeting you eye to eye.
  1518. >"You can't blindly trust others, like how can you tell she's not lying?"
  1519. >"Others have come here asking the same questions you did, do you know who they were?"
  1520. "There were others?"
  1521. >"Sickos, rapists, sadists, the bad lot, they've all had their fair share of fun with our new arrivals."
  1522. >There was a grim smile on his face.
  1523. >"So, as a friend, I'm asking you, no, I'm warning you-"
  1524. "Give me the info and stop wasting my time."
  1525. >His eyes flicker.
  1526. >"Okay, okay."
  1527. >He stands upright, shrugging his arms and takes over the computer.
  1528. >Moving away, he presents the screen to you again.
  1529. >There are now more documents, possibly hundreds there for you to read.
  1530. "There's so many."
  1531. >"All reorganised by yours truly."
  1532. >You tap down through the list quickly scanning the titles; initial and situational reports, profiles, photographic evidence, communication and email logs.
  1533. >There's a map on one of the thumbnails that draws your attention.
  1534. >Opening it, you realise it's a photograph of an actual map.
  1535. >It's map of a continent you've never seen before, decorated with a golden border, pastel paint marks out the lands while the names are written in beautiful cursive ink.
  1536. >It would look something like a work of art, a grand tapestry were it not for the scorch marks along its edges.
  1537. >What exactly happened?
  1538. >There were translations in the photographic copy.
  1539. >The castle built on a mountain is labelled as Canter-lot, with a small village or town nearby called Pony-ville.
  1540. >And next to it there was a farm called Sweet Apple Acres.
  1541. >Was that Applejack's place?
  1542. >You quickly scan the nearby places: Ever-free Forest, Clouds-dale, White Tail Woods, the names goes on.
  1543. >But there's no sign of a place called Applebloom.
  1544. >Something wasn't right.
  1545. >You close the map, going back to the directory and search for the profiles.
  1546. >Clicking on the tab, a long list of names automatically generates for you.
  1547. >Strange, odd names appear in a seemingly random order.
  1548. >You realised they were sorted out under 'processed date', which listed a Twilight as first.
  1549. >You come to grips with the system and adjust it to display an alphabetical order, and soon enough Applejack's name appears on the list.
  1550. >Your chest tightens as you hover the cursor over her profile.
  1551. >You open it.
  1552. >A document resembling a prisoner profile appears
  1553. >There's a small picture of Applejack.
  1554. >Faded, green eyes seemingly stare back at you.
  1555. >They're bloodshot.
  1556. >One of her eyes looks bruised all over.
  1557. >There are black marks covering her in patches and there are small bloody scratches all over her face.
  1558. >There's no sign of a neck injury, which confirms your fears that it must've been recent.
  1559. >Shutting your eyes, you rub your temples.
  1560. >It's okay.
  1561. >She's still okay.
  1562. >You carry on reading the profile.
  1563. >There's a dated statement about her being a farmer on Sweet Apple Acres.
  1564. >More details start coming out of the document.
  1565. "'The subject stated that it came through the portal with one other family member.'"
  1566. "'Big Macintosh.'"
  1567. "'Upon questioning about the survival of any other family members, the subject has stated that there were no other family members.'"
  1568. "Huh?"
  1569. >There was a huge gap in time.
  1570. >The next statement is several days after the previous one.
  1571. >"'Additional family member found and processed, transferred to the family unit.'"
  1572. >'Awaiting report.'
  1573. >The document ended after that.
  1574. >This can't be right.
  1575. >You go back to the profile list to look for Applebloom's profile but nothing turns up.
  1576. >You sort the documents by date modified and you skim the titles for her name.
  1577. >Nothing.
  1578. >The last entry is a communication log.
  1579. >'Immediate action to all personnel: Cease all operations.'
  1580. >'Terminate subjects on sight.'
  1581. "Wire, what happened here?"
  1582. >"From everything that I've read?"
  1583. >"I don't know, something went down the chain of command and then the ponies ended up going into hiding."
  1584. >"Maybe they couldn't hold them, maybe they released them, maybe the ponies were dangerous, who knows?"
  1585. >He stubs out another cigarette.
  1586. >"Either way, you're in dangerous position now buddy."
  1587. >He turns off the monitor.
  1588. >"It's disgusting really, once you piece it together from then on."
  1589. >You've seen enough.
  1590. >"It was right after that, that others went after them."
  1591. >He looked away, seemingly towards the other door.
  1592. >"They were taken in droves."
  1593. >"They thought they were safe but no, they were taken, used, played with, bought and sold and fulfilled whatever desires people had."
  1594. >"God knows how many of them are still out there."
  1595. >"And people are still looking for them."
  1596. >You've heard enough.
  1597. "I think it's time I leave."
  1598. >As you get up to go, Wire stares at you.
  1599. >"She might not want rescuing y'know, she might just want to be put out of her misery."
  1600. "You might be right."
  1601. >You had more unanswered questions than answers now.
  1602. >This was a waste of time.
  1603. >No, it wasn't.
  1604. >You found something about Applejack, and that was Applebloom.
  1605. "Keep whatever you can get for the stuff, see you around."
  1606. >Wire doesn't more and stares at you.
  1607. >"Adios."
  1608. >The cold air outside breaths some life back into you.
  1609. >Another police siren blares through in the far distance.
  1610. >It only served to remind you how unsafe, how dangerous everything's become.
  1611. >You needed to get back and get some answers from her.
  1612. >It was the only way you could help her.
  1613. >Before anything else happens.
  1614. >
  1615. >You take a couple steps outside before coming to a stop.
  1616. >Something bugged you about Wire said.
  1617. >What was it?
  1618. >That people had come to him before to ask questions.
  1619. >Then, perhaps, one of them might know something about Applejack or Applebloom.
  1620. >They might've even have done something to them.
  1621. >You still wanted to go back and check on Applejack.
  1622. >But something stopped you.
  1623. >It was something you couldn't put your finger on.
  1624. >You turn and head back to Wire's.
  1625. >If you could get the names of the ones that know about Applejack, you could do a little snooping.
  1626. >Perhaps pay them a little visit.
  1627. >You didn't plan on killing them, no, but perhaps you could convince Wire to help.
  1628. >Hurting them might do them some good.
  1629. >You turn another corner and head back along the alleyway, nearing the red door when you see that it's slightly opened ajar.
  1630. >You could've sworn that the door had locked shut behind you when you left.
  1631. >Did someone else go in?
  1632. >Things weren't adding up.
  1633. >You enter the building, this time without presence of the buzzer.
  1634. >The corridor is still the same, red and quiet yet eerily different altogether.
  1635. >You listen out for any sounds, of anyone or anything else inside the building.
  1636. >But there was nothing.
  1637. >You approach the main room and open it, entering the sound of fans and air conditioners again.
  1638. >The smell of cigarette smoke still clings to the air though Wire is nowhere to be seen.
  1639. >You slowly walk up towards the desk again, hoping to find him jumping out from behind it to scare you as a prank.
  1640. >Then he'll laugh at you and slump back down into his chair.
  1641. >But he's not there.
  1642. >Where could he have gone?
  1643. >Looking down at the desk, you inspect it.
  1644. >There's a small sheet of glass with traces of white powder over it.
  1645. >It looks like he's done a couple lines since you left.
  1646. >Your eyes fall onto an opened pill bottle lying on its side, with several white pills spilled out.
  1647. >Picking one up and examining it, you're curious about its unique shape and size, and turn to the bottle.
  1648. >There are medical warnings all over it.
  1649. >One sticks out for you.
  1650. >'Not for human consumption.'
  1651. >Equine sedatives?
  1652. >Why would he have these?
  1653. >Something loud happens in another room.
  1654. >It sounded like something had fallen over or crashed into something.
  1655. >You turn to the direction of the sound, facing the door he originally came through.
  1656. >You could almost hear something else.
  1657. >You strain your ears against the fans in the room.
  1658. >Taking several steps to the door, you hold out your hand to grab the handle.
  1659. >While looking down, you notice it.
  1660. >White splotches on the floor.
  1661. >Leaning down you take a closer look, there's trail stretching from behind the desk and continuing on through under the door.
  1662. >You touch it with your fingertips, It's cold.
  1663. >Taking a sniff out of it told you all you needed to know.
  1664. >You stood up and faced the door.
  1665. >Leaning against it, you can just about make out the voices on the other side.
  1666. >You silently grip the door handle and slowly twist and push open the door.
  1667. >The door opens silently.
  1668. >It's another corridor, without any lights.
  1669. >Stepping inside, you leave the door open in case you need to get out quickly.
  1670. >The voices become louder and clearer as you approach the opening at the end of the corridor.
  1671. >Voices moaning and grunting.
  1672. >The air becomes heavy with the smell of musk.
  1673. >There's a rhythmic slapping sound.
  1674. >You sneak around the corner.
  1675. >The sight you find pulls you out from behind the cover.
  1676. >There's a naked figure, towering over something smaller.
  1677. >His back is arched as he forcefully thrusts forwards and backwards.
  1678. >You see a pair of yellow wings, flared open.
  1679. >Between his legs is a pink tail, lying flat on the floor.
  1680. >It was filthy, wet and unkempt.
  1681. >"Ah, nh, hah."
  1682. >You could the soft, gentle, female moans coming from the other figure.
  1683. >"Pl-please, ah, n-no, no more- nh."
  1684. >You snap out of it.
  1685. "Hey!"
  1686. >The figure stops and tilts his head back behind you.
  1687. >"Come back to join in Anon?"
  1688. "Wire?"
  1689. >You couldn't make out his features before, but now with his head tilted back, you could see his shaved side.
  1690. >You take a couple steps forward to get a good glimpse of the mare behind him.
  1691. >She's been tied up to the wall with leather straps tightly wrapped around her hooves.
  1692. "What are you doing?"
  1693. >Looking down her legs are outstretched.
  1694. >There's something silver and cold that shines in her wings.
  1695. >Following your eyes, Wire grins wildly and starts thrusting into her.
  1696. >"Nh- ah!"
  1697. >"Ah, allow me to introduce you to my new friend."
  1698. "Wire, stop it-"
  1699. >He traces his fingers along her wing tips and squeezes them, eliciting a moan.
  1700. >"Come now, I need you to focus for me."
  1701. >"Ah, I'm, I'm sorry! Please don't hurt me-"
  1702. "I said stop it!"
  1703. >You run up behind him and attempt to pull him off the mare.
  1704. >But you're frozen still.
  1705. >Half lidded, cyan eyes look back up at you.
  1706. >You could smell her warm, sweet breath as she pants.
  1707. >Her fur is drenched in sweat, saliva and precum.
  1708. >Her marehood glistens between her legs.
  1709. >Emanating heat, her folds are swollen and a line of warm seed slowly drips out of her.
  1710. "H-hey."
  1711. >Reaching out you try and free her from her restraints and touch something cold and hard.
  1712. >It vibrates and flickers, sending the mare into another spasm.
  1713. >"Gah, nh!"
  1714. >You finally realise what it was.
  1715. >Dozens of needles were protruding out of her wings.
  1716. >Her marehood winks violently at the intense sensation you just gave her.
  1717. >"Careful now."
  1718. >Wire's voice calls out behind you.
  1719. >You feel your legs give way as you're kicked and sent crashing to the floor.
  1720. >A knife presses itself against the back of your neck.
  1721. >Looking up above you, you see him smiling past his erection.
  1722. >"You don't want to give her too much pleasure, it'll kill her y'know."
  1723. >Then, as though to allow you to spectate, he guides his manhood back into hers.
  1724. >As his head enters her slick folds, she moans and lifts her hips up.
  1725. >"You have to be gentle with her, isn't that right?"
  1726. >The pony sobs in a quiet voice.
  1727. >"Pl-please st-stop, I'll, I'll do anything you say."
  1728. >He clicks his tongue and leans over to her ears.
  1729. >"I could stop it, but where's the fun in rushing?"
  1730. >Blowing hot air into one of her ears, he bites down onto it.
  1731. >The yellow mare tries to twist her head to escape, only to let another gasp escape her.
  1732. >His free hand dances across her chest and stomach.
  1733. >It pokes and draws circles in her fur, before sliding down to her teats and slit.
  1734. >She squirms as Wire starts playing with her, tears streaming down her face.
  1735. >You get up to push him off, but he stomps down onto your head.
  1736. >"Patience Anon, I know how much you're just dying to help her."
  1737. "W-why are you doing this?"
  1738. >"Why, it's the only merciful thing to do for her."
  1739. >He punctuates his sentence with a deep thrust into her and forcefully pulls on her clit.
  1740. >Her tongue sticks out into the air and she tries to take another breath.
  1742. >She shouts.
  1744. >Wire cups her muzzle with a gentle, wet hand.
  1745. >"But my dear, sweet little pony, with all that you've experienced so far-"
  1746. >He takes away the knife and moves his hand behind him so you can't see what he's reaching for.
  1747. >"-with so much pain, agony and despair."
  1748. >He leans in close to her with sincere eyes.
  1749. >"I can only hope to give you this as a parting gift, the ultimate pleasure."
  1750. >He takes out a syringe filled with a clear liquid and waves it in front of her.
  1751. >Her eyes dilate.
  1752. >"NO. NO. STOP. PLEASE STOP!"
  1753. >He reaches out for her hoof and brings it up to the syringe.
  1754. >She squirms and screams, but it's all for naught as he pushes the needle deep into her sole.
  1755. >As he injects the clear liquid into her, it becomes clear what it's supposed to do.
  1756. >Her eyes roll back as she shudders.
  1757. >Her protests and moans become unintelligible.
  1758. >But he doesn't stop there.
  1759. >"Time for the grand finale."
  1760. >He gives you a smile and winks.
  1761. >He starts pumping her with new vigour, pulling her hips down onto his rod.
  1762. >You could see a change in her breathing, from a slow pant to quickened breaths.
  1763. >She's gasping for air.
  1764. >The sounds of their sexual organs collide, filling the entire room.
  1765. >His pace quickens and she squirms harder.
  1766. >"I-I'm nearly-"
  1767. >His breath hitches as he pulls her needled wings downwards with both hands.
  1768. >He releases deep inside of her.
  1769. >"AH! AH! AH!"
  1770. >Rope after rope hits her insides.
  1771. >She shudders after each hit in agonising ecstasy.
  1772. >Then, her breath hitches.
  1773. >"Ah, ah, ah."
  1774. >And then it stops.
  1775. >Her eyes stay open, staring into the darkness.
  1776. >Wire is panting with his head bent high, his hands still gripping onto her motionless wings like tight reins.
  1777. >"Goodbye my dear."
  1778. >He gracefully dismounts and allows her to fall limp in front of you.
  1779. >Her eyes now falls onto yours.
  1780. >You look away but you can't.
  1781. >You're drawn to a new sight.
  1782. >A mix of white and red fluid drips down along her thighs from between her legs.
  1783. >"Now where were we-"
  1784. >You clamber on top of him and pull him down, pinning him against the cold floor.
  1785. >Rolling your hands into fists you bring them down onto his face.
  1786. >You didn't care how you were punching.
  1787. >You just didn't want to see his face anymore.
  1788. >That smile.
  1789. >Blood spurts out from his nose as smash his face in.
  1790. >You start to hone in on his eyes when his hands shields them.
  1791. >Your punches don't get through.
  1792. >Instead of punching, you now grab onto his head and squeeze, before pulling his head back up and then back down onto the hard floor.
  1793. >You repeat this violent motion a couple times, like you were trying to break through the floor.
  1794. >Then his legs pull up and wrap themselves around your waist.
  1795. >Before you could do anything, he pulls you back down and then onto your front.
  1796. >"Wow, I feel so woke right now."
  1797. >His hands reaches around your head as you struggle to free yourself from his sudden grip.
  1798. >He returns the favour and smashes your head against the floor.
  1799. >You try and struggle free but you're pinned down.
  1800. >Smash.
  1801. >The force rings through your entire head.
  1802. >You try shifting your body weight, but you're too weak, too disorientated at the moment.
  1803. >Smash.
  1804. >You think back to Applejack and how she was going to be left all alone.
  1805. >Smash.
  1806. >In a desperate attempt, you fumble and pull something off him.
  1807. >It's the knife.
  1808. >He pauses and releases you, quickly jumping off your back.
  1809. >"Now, we're even."
  1810. >You could hear him take out a cigarette and light it up.
  1811. >You stand up, staggering and turn around pointing the blade at him.
  1812. "What the fuck is wrong with you!"
  1813. >"I could say the very same to you, you should be grateful that I haven't smashed your head into the ground."
  1814. "You were raping her! And now she's fucking dead all thanks to you!"
  1815. >Wire shakes his head.
  1816. >"It was the only thing I could do for her, Anon."
  1817. "Bullshit."
  1818. >"It was the only kind thing anyone could do for her."
  1819. >"She was ill, Anon, better to have her die the way she did than for her to suffer."
  1820. "You didn't have to kill her like what."
  1821. >"What I gave her was the gift to forget everything, every sad thought or bad memory-"
  1822. >He grins.
  1823. >"-with pure, unadulterated pleasure."
  1824. "I should gut you right here."
  1825. >You thrust the knife into his direction.
  1826. >Wire, unthreatened by your action, brushes his hair back and spits blood out of his mouth
  1827. >"So, what brings you back?"
  1828. >"Was it because of Applejack?"
  1829. "What do you know about her?"
  1830. >"Like I said, what don't I know?"
  1831. >He looks over to the yellow pegasus pony on the side.
  1832. >You couldn't tell what he was thinking from his expression.
  1833. >"If you don't want Applejack to experience something like that, I suggest you quickly go back to her."
  1834. "What did you do?"
  1835. >He tilts his head at you.
  1836. >"That's just the thing, Anon, I didn't do anything."
  1837. >"When people are cruel, weak and twisted, you can't change them."
  1838. >You wanted to kill him right there, but the thought of something like that happening to Applejack made you think twice.
  1839. >You take one last look over to the pegasus.
  1840. >If what Wire said was true, there was no way you could've helped her.
  1841. >But it might not be too late for Applejack.
  1842. "I'm keeping this."
  1843. >You slowly step out of the room.
  1844. "If I see you again, I'm going to kill you."
  1845. >"You're too kind for that Anon."
  1846. >His smile is the last thing you see as you run outside.
  1847. >Outside, you run past people.
  1848. >Some of them called out after you in alarm, probably because of the bruises you had over your face.
  1849. >You didn't care, you wanted to get back.
  1850. >Why didn't you head back in the first place?
  1851. >You reach that familiar alleyway when you spot the body lying on the cardboard again.
  1852. >He's still there.
  1853. >And he's dead, just like-
  1854. >The sight of all those needles jammed into her wings sends a chill down your back.
  1855. >You only make a couple of steps before you retch and empty your stomach out into the gutter.
  1856. >That acrid smell fills your nostrils again.
  1857. >The acid burns against your dry throat.
  1858. >Looking up with teary eyes, you can see your apartment close by.
  1859. >Applejack.
  1860. >
  1861. >You arrive home and fumble for the keys in your pockets.
  1862. >Jamming the keys into your lock you turn and pull it open.
  1863. >The air inside your apartment is still.
  1864. >It's quiet
  1865. >Your heart jumps a beat.
  1866. >You regret not taking your gun with you.
  1867. >Bracing yourself, you take a step inside.
  1868. "Applejack?"
  1869. >There's no reply.
  1870. >Dammit.
  1871. >Where is she?
  1872. >She couldn't have gotten out, or maybe someone took her.
  1873. >No stop it.
  1874. >Focus Anon.
  1875. >You need to look out for Applejack.
  1876. >Perhaps you could make it to your room and get your gun.
  1877. >It's a plan at the very least.
  1878. >Thoughts of her gone creep in.
  1879. >You make it past the kitchen.
  1880. >It's empty.
  1881. >There's a kitchen knife lying out on top of kitchen worktop.
  1882. >You're reminded of the sharp needles.
  1883. >Focus Anon.
  1884. >You keep a look out for anything strange.
  1885. >Seemingly keeping it under control, you move on.
  1886. >When you step into the living room, you spot an orange bundle lying down on the floor with a hat obscuring her face.
  1887. >You feel your gut pull under.
  1888. "Applejack."
  1889. >Not caring about leaving yourself wide open, you rush to her, scoop her and pull her into your arms.
  1890. >The bundle seemingly comes alive with your touch.
  1891. >"Wha- Anon? Is that you?"
  1892. >Her southern accent is homely and sweet.
  1893. >She's okay.
  1894. "Thank god you're alright."
  1895. >Your hands wrap around her and hold her tightly in a hug.
  1896. >One of your hands finds itself resting on the back of her neck and your other hand finds itself pulling her in around her waist.
  1897. >"Ah-Anon?"
  1898. >You stay silent, slowly stroking her in your embrace.
  1899. >She smells a little of apples, but mostly sweat and dirt.
  1900. >Losing your composure, the nightmarish thoughts begins to resurface in your mind.
  1901. >You grip her tightly, afraid that if you were to let her go, you might never see her again.
  1902. >For the first time in ages you felt something that pull on your heart.
  1903. >And at the same time, it scared you.
  1904. >"Anon?"
  1905. >You're woken out of a trance and feel a hoof tapping you on your back.
  1906. >"Anon, yer kinda hurtin' me."
  1907. "Ah, sorry Applejack."
  1908. >You release her slightly, just enough to get a good look at her.
  1909. >You wanted to make sure that you could put her face to memory.
  1910. >She raises an eyebrow as she looks at you.
  1911. >Her reaction forces you smile.
  1912. >"Ah! Gid offa me."
  1913. >She quickly pushes herself off you and looks away.
  1914. >"W-what?"
  1915. >"Yer doin' it again, an', yer actin' kinda strange Anon."
  1916. >She moves away from you and jumps onto a stool over in the kitchen.
  1917. >"Ah know ah'm in no position to ask but, do ya have any food?"
  1918. >Rubbing her stomach, she looks over to you.
  1919. >"Ah'm kinda hungry."
  1920. >Yes, you remember now.
  1921. >You get up and walk over towards her, slinging the bag in front of her.
  1922. "Here."
  1923. >You take out and place the apples and the apple pastries in front of her.
  1924. >Her eyes instantly takes to the apples, tilting her head as she examines them.
  1925. >"What kinda apples are these?"
  1926. >They were just apples.
  1927. "I'm, uh, not sure."
  1928. >She rolls one around on the table top.
  1929. "Are they bad?"
  1930. >She turns at your with a distinct look in her eyes.
  1931. >Something that could've been pride or shock.
  1932. >"They're, they're fine, ah guess."
  1933. >It surprises you when she picks it up in her hooves and starts to eat it.
  1934. >She only glanced and sniffed at the pastries.
  1935. >She's almost like a small child.
  1936. >"Is, is there somethin' ya want from me?"
  1937. >You're taken out of your trance once again.
  1938. "I was just, uh, looking at you, eating."
  1939. >"Uh-huh."
  1940. >She finishes the apple whole and quickly goes through another one in silence.
  1941. >You want to strike up conversation but there's nothing you could start on for what you wanted to talk about.
  1942. >She wipes her muzzle with her hoof and turns to you.
  1943. >"Thank ya mast-"
  1944. >Applejack stops herself and ears fold down in embarrassment.
  1945. >"Ah mean!"
  1946. >She bites her lip.
  1947. >"Thank yer, Anon."
  1948. >You're beginning to notice this habit of hers, calling you 'master', which makes you curious.
  1949. >But your mind was already troubled.
  1950. >There was still the incident with Wire and that poor mare.
  1951. >You grimace and grit your teeth.
  1952. >You were unsure of Applejack's past.
  1953. >You had to keep her safe.
  1954. >And you had no idea what might happen.
  1955. >"Anon?"
  1956. >You look up at her.
  1957. >"If yer got somethin' yer wanna say, just say it."
  1958. >Jumping back onto the floor, she hunches her back.
  1959. >"Ah'm not used to bein' 'treated' like this.
  1960. "I, I don't know how to say it-"
  1961. >You pause.
  1962. >"As far as ah know, ah'm just a slave. So yer can quit pretendin'."
  1963. >"Yer keep smiling at me, like yer tryin' be all kind to me."
  1964. >"But ah've seen what yer kind do, ah know, ah've-"
  1965. >She becomes very still.
  1966. >Feeling worried you circle around her.
  1967. "Applejack?
  1968. >Crouching down to her level, you notice that she's trembling.
  1969. >She's tightly shut her eyes.
  1970. >You reach out to stroke her.
  1971. >They open at your gentle touch, revealing small tears in the corners of her eyes.
  1972. "Sorry."
  1973. >"Ye ain't"
  1974. >Shaking her head she looks at you with a frown.
  1975. >"So, what do yer want me to do?"
  1976. >"Yer told me to stay put, an' that's what ah did."
  1977. >"Ah, ah'm tired an' ah don't want any more trouble."
  1978. >She points a hoof to the kitchen.
  1979. >"Ah don't think ah'll be able to cook anythin' other than apples but if yer want me to, ah'll do it."
  1980. >"If yer want me to clean up the place, ah'll do what ah can."
  1981. >Her head scans around the room.
  1982. >"Ah'm just an earth pony, so ah don't know what yer expectin' of me."
  1983. >"Ah'm better with hard work though ah don't expect yer got any apple trees that need buckin'."
  1984. >She tenses up.
  1985. >"An' if yer want, 'that', ah won't fight."
  1986. >Her voice is bitter.
  1987. >"Ah won't complain."
  1988. >"Not anymore."
  1989. >She shuts her eyes once again and looks to one side, as though she was expecting to be hit.
  1990. >She flinches when you move your hand.
  1991. >You reach up and gently stroke up cheek.
  1992. >You try and think of something to say but there's only one thing you could think of.
  1993. "Sorry."
  1994. >She's silent.
  1995. >"Don't be."
  1996. >You feel her warmth coming from her cheek.
  1997. >She doesn't move, seemingly adapting to the situation.
  1998. >"At least."
  1999. >Her voice is low, almost inaudible.
  2000. >"At least yer kind to me."
  2001. >"Ya ain't done anythin' bad to me just yet."
  2002. >"Though ah still don't know why ya don't."
  2003. >Slowly and surely, she leans into and nuzzles your hand.
  2004. >Just as Wire said, the pieces were slowly coming together.
  2005. >Her distrust of your kind, of you yourself.
  2006. >Her lack of hope and despair.
  2007. >And yet, you still wanted to help her.
  2008. >To somehow prove her wrong.
  2009. "It'll be okay."
  2010. >The next moment, you feel something touch your lips.
  2011. >Her hoof presses against them.
  2012. >Looking past it, there's a sad look on her face and just as quickly as it happened it was gone.
  2013. >"Thank fer trying."
  2014. "Listen."
  2015. >You clear your throat.
  2016. "I want to help you, but you've gotta help me."
  2017. "We need to be honest with each other, okay?"
  2018. >She seemingly nods.
  2019. "Tell me."
  2020. >You take another deep breath.
  2021. "Tell me about the time you came here."
  2022. >
  2023. >Applejack fell silent.
  2024. >She pulls back and scrunches her face.
  2025. >"Wh-why do yer wanna know?"
  2026. >She looks at you with a questioning glance.
  2027. "Because-"
  2028. >'I just witnessed someone killing one of your kind.'
  2029. >But you couldn't say that to her.
  2030. >You were paranoid that someone was outside, spying on the apartment.
  2031. >No one ever came over though, because you had no one to invite.
  2032. >Not in this place.
  2033. >The thought that she could be taken from you put you on edge, especially now that Wire knows.
  2034. >Your hands were already rolled into fists.
  2035. >You couldn't let it show that you were angry.
  2036. >That you were afraid.
  2037. >You were probably already failing to hide it.
  2038. >You just didn't want to scare Applejack.
  2039. >But perhaps, maybe, it was the only way.
  2040. >You let out a frustrated sigh and spoke to her.
  2041. "I was out looking for information on you."
  2042. >Your words seem to put her into a trance.
  2043. "But there was a lot that I didn't understand."
  2044. "About the portals."
  2045. "Or how you ended up on the streets."
  2046. >You pause.
  2047. "But I found a document on you."
  2048. >She doesn't respond.
  2049. "It didn't tell me much, only that you have a brother and that you used to work on a farm."
  2050. >You sneak a look at her when you speak again.
  2051. "The curious thing was that it mentioned that they found another someone else."
  2052. >She jolts and her expression drops.
  2053. >Anger swells behind her voice.
  2054. >"It ain't any of yer darn business!"
  2055. >She pushes back against your arms with a new strength.
  2056. >You wouldn’t have imagined it with her small stature but it was enough to topple you over.
  2057. >She slips away from underneath your grasp.
  2058. >Before you could get a hold of her, two hooves violently push you away.
  2059. >You fall over and land hard.
  2060. >What had set her off?
  2061. >What had gotten her all aggressive?
  2062. >Was it because of her family?
  2063. >She had only mentioned her grandmother, brother and-
  2064. >The pieces were falling into place.
  2065. >You remembered when she called out for a Applebloom, no matter how brief it was.
  2066. >And how she lied about it being a place.
  2067. >It was unique name, much like hers.
  2068. >The name didn't even show up on the map you saw at Wire's place either.
  2069. >It must have been her sister that they had found.
  2070. >But then-
  2071. "What happened Applejack? What happened to Applebloom?"
  2072. >Her eyes shoot wide open.
  2073. >She shakes her head side to side as though she was trying to dispel whatever thought or memory had taken over.
  2074. >There was no information as to what had happened afterwards.
  2075. >Not in the databases.
  2076. >But it couldn't have been something good.
  2077. "Applejack, answer me."
  2078. >"Ah, ah don't know."
  2079. "What do you mean you don't know?"
  2080. >"Ah, can't remember."
  2081. "Don't you remember anything?"
  2082. >She clamps her eyes shut and shouts.
  2083. >"Stop askin' me! Aren't yer listenin' to me? Ah can't."
  2084. >You fall silent.
  2085. >"Ah keep tellin' ya ah can't. An' yer keep askin'."
  2086. >She stares at you with still eyes.
  2087. >"Why won't yer leave me alone."
  2088. "I took you in, all I'm doing is asking questions. And this is how you treat me?"
  2089. >"An' ah didn't ask fer yer savin'. An' ah didn' ask fer this."
  2090. "Do you think any of those men from that night would care?
  2091. >She grits her teeth.
  2092. >"No."
  2093. "You'd be treated like a slave, beaten or worse, you'd be dead."
  2094. >"Don't ya think ah already know that?"
  2095. >Applejack lashes out at you, slamming her hoof onto the floor.
  2096. >"An' what do yer think ah should do?"
  2097. >"Ah pray to Celestia every night fer a new mornin'."
  2098. >"An' each day, it's been the same ever since we've got 'ere."
  2099. >"Ah, ah'm tired Anon."
  2100. >"Ah'm scared."
  2101. >She starts rubbing her cheek with her hooves
  2102. >Tears being to stain her fur.
  2103. >You, you probably deserved that.
  2104. >She's had a tough time, probably harder than you could imagine.
  2105. >Yet you want to help make things better, no matter how small.
  2106. "You, you still have me."
  2107. >"So is that why yer took me in?"
  2108. >She gives off a half hearted laugh.
  2109. >Did you just mess up?
  2110. >"Yer think ya some kinda knight in shinin' armour?"
  2111. >She places one hoof over towards you, prompting you to look her in the eyes.
  2112. >Her tone shifts.
  2113. >"Do yer want me Anon? Is that it?"
  2114. >What was once filled with fear, confusion and sorrow was now replaced with something else.
  2115. >Half lidded, sultry eyes.
  2116. >This was not the Applejack you knew.
  2117. >She took another slow but steady step towards you.
  2118. >"Yer can be rough with me, ah can take it."
  2119. "Applejack?"
  2120. >This wasn't like her.
  2121. >"Ah saw the way ya was smilin' at me."
  2122. >Before you knew it, she was on top of you.
  2123. >"Yer like them others, y'all sayin' them same things."
  2124. >Her hooves were resting on top of your shoulders.
  2125. >"But when it comes down to it, y'all just want one thing"
  2126. >Her face was now only inches away from yours.
  2127. >"Ah can make yer feel good."
  2128. >She pushes herself onto you, touching her lips touch with yours.
  2129. >You feel her warmth and can taste the sweetness of her lips.
  2130. >You resist her tongue trying to gain entry.
  2131. >Pulling back, she looks at you with an unsure smile.
  2132. >"This is what yer want, right Anon?"
  2133. >She goes back into the kiss, this time pushing her tongue into your mouth.
  2134. >For that brief moment, you give in and push your tongue against hers.
  2135. >Your tongues meld and play with each other.
  2136. >Her tongue is hot and wet.
  2137. >Your arms wrap around her small body and embrace her.
  2138. >No.
  2139. >None of this feels right though.
  2140. >You pull out of the kiss.
  2141. "Stop it."
  2142. >A look of shock and confusion spreads across her face.
  2143. >Her lust ridden eyes have disappeared, instead the fearful eyes
  2144. >"A-Anon?"
  2145. >You raise your hand which causes her to flinch and cower.
  2146. >She stops as your hand rests on top of her head.
  2147. "I don't want you doing, whatever, that was."
  2148. >The knot you felt in your stomach seems to loosen.
  2149. "I didn't save you because I wanted to do that to you."
  2150. >You couldn't quite put it into words, it wasn't any sense of justice but more an act of defiance.
  2151. "It was just the right thing to do."
  2152. >Applejack slowly nods.
  2153. >"Is that so."
  2154. >She bit her lower lip and looked to the side.
  2155. >"Anon, will yer really help out a complete stranger like me?"
  2156. >She pressed a hoof against her other foreleg.
  2157. >"Be honest with me, ah really need to know if ah can trust ya."
  2158. >Without speaking, you pull her into a hug and squeeze her.
  2159. >Words could only do so much.
  2160. "Yeah."
  2161. >You feel a shiver go through her body.
  2162. >"Yer, yer really mean that?"
  2163. >You give her another squeeze before letting her go.
  2164. "I do."
  2165. >You could see a few tears in her eyes as she looks up to you.
  2166. >"Yer quite the fella, y'know that?"
  2167. >A small smile escape her lips.
  2168. >A genuine expression, which sets something off inside of you and forces a cough out of you.
  2169. "I'm nothing really, otherwise I wouldn't be in a place like this."
  2170. >You gesture around your apartment.
  2171. >"Still, ah don't think ah've met anypony like ya."
  2172. >She looks down.
  2173. >"Not here anyway."
  2174. >You speak in quiet voice.
  2175. "Do you honestly not remember anything about Applebloom? After you arrived?"
  2176. >She remains in the same pose.
  2177. >She nods.
  2178. >You take a deep breath.
  2179. >Your chest still aches from before.
  2180. "Like where did you go? Who took you in? What did they look like?"
  2181. >Applejack doesn't flinch but instead looks towards the entrance.
  2182. "Anything, anything at all?"
  2183. >You could barely hear her voice.
  2184. >"Ah, ah meant it when ah said ah couldn't remember."
  2185. >You pat her on the back of her neck this time.
  2186. >"There was a place, a place that ah remember bein' with Applebloom."
  2187. >"An', it felt so real, like it this was all just a nightmare an' that we were really back together again, like home."
  2188. >"There was fields an' blue skies outside an' the sound of a lake outside."
  2189. >"She was right there Anon, ah could touch her an' hold her, like ah've always done."
  2190. >"An' then-"
  2191. >She froze.
  2192. >"An' then-"
  2193. "Applejack?"
  2194. >"An' then-"
  2195. >You stay silent, waiting to see if there's anymore.
  2196. >Her whole body shakes.
  2197. >Tears start fall down her cheeks.
  2198. >You try your best to snap her out of it.
  2199. "Applejack, it's okay."
  2200. >"An' then it ends there Anon. Ah, ah can't remember what happened next."
  2201. >She clamps her head in between her hooves.
  2202. >"No matter how much ah try, ah just can't."
  2203. >"Ah want to remember but ah can't!"
  2204. >"Ah'm worried sick about her, an' ah miss her so much."
  2205. "It's okay, you've told me enough for now."
  2206. >"Anon?"
  2207. "There's still time, perhaps."
  2208. >You stand up, prompting Applejack to also stand up.
  2209. >But she's unsteady and almost trips, clinging onto your leg for support.
  2210. >"Ah, wha-"
  2211. "Hey what's wrong?"
  2212. >"Ah, my legs."
  2213. "Seriously?"
  2214. >She shakes her head.
  2215. >Damn.
  2216. >You scoop her up into your arms.
  2217. "You were fine earlier on."
  2218. >"Ah, ah know, but ah-"
  2219. >You watch as Applejack tries to move her legs.
  2220. >You had a sinking feeling in your gut.
  2221. >This was some sort of psychological condition.
  2222. >You remembered reading up about dogs and how they could have been conditioned under abuse.
  2223. >But now things were getting worse.
  2224. >This is going to affect your chances of escaping with her if anything happened.
  2225. "Shit."
  2226. >"Anon?"
  2227. "Listen, something happened before I got back."
  2228. >You look at her dead in the eyes, for as long as you could bear.
  2229. "Something, horrible, happened."
  2230. >"Is that-"
  2231. >She looks at you with a slight hesitation.
  2232. >"Is that why yer face is so beat up?"
  2233. >You fall silent.
  2234. >So she did notice.
  2235. >You thought you were doing a good job of hiding it.
  2236. >Guess you weren't as strong as you thought you were.
  2237. >Probably not strong enough to look after yourself and her.
  2238. >Your hands were still tightly gripping onto her shoulders.
  2239. >Maybe she was hurt, scarred by her experiences.
  2240. >But denying the truth won't help either of you.
  2241. >Releasing your grip onto her.
  2242. "Listen, we might not be able to stay here anymore."
  2243. >
  2244. >You look out through the slit in the apartment window curtains.
  2245. >The sun was beginning to set outside.
  2246. >The sky was of an orange hue, dulled by the constant city smog drifting through the air.
  2247. >As the minutes went by, the darkness soon smothered the orange light until it was no more.
  2248. >You turn to the pony slave before you.
  2249. >Applejack.
  2250. >She was only a slave in name though, or so you'd like to think.
  2251. >Her history was, patchy at best, and what you know was a mess.
  2252. >She wasn't exactly free either.
  2253. >Not in this place.
  2254. >You've already spent too long talking with Applejack.
  2255. >There was no way you'd be able to make it safely out.
  2256. >Not at this time.
  2257. >You weren't sure whether or not there were any running trains heading out of the city by now.
  2258. >It was dangerous being out in the streets at night as it is.
  2259. >Who knows how many people were going to get mugged tonight.
  2260. >You look down at Applejack in front of you.
  2261. >There was no chance that you'd be able to take her outside, even if you put a leash on her, no one would mistake her for a dog.
  2262. >"Anon?"
  2263. >You turn to face the apartment's front door.
  2264. >She did a good number on it and left plenty of marks and dents on it, including smudges of her own dried blood.
  2265. >"Ah, ah we goin' be alright?"
  2266. >Her eyebrows are raised up.
  2267. "I don't know who we're dealing with, so we need to be careful."
  2268. >You speak out to Applejack.
  2269. >It was only a half-truth.
  2270. >You knew Wire, and that's what made you afraid.
  2271. >You don't want her to ever see him.
  2272. >"Do we hafta leave?"
  2273. >Her eyes look up at you, trying to discern any possible answer before you gave one.
  2274. >Her tail lay around her, wrapped around her hooves.
  2275. >You don't say anything to her as you think through your options.
  2276. >What can you do?
  2277. >If you stayed, you'd both be sitting ducks.
  2278. >Not even your gun could save the two of you.
  2279. >You've long thought that you'd end things with a bang.
  2280. >But not when things were beginning to look different.
  2281. >If you left, where would you go?
  2282. >No, that's not the right question.
  2283. >If the two of you left, where could the two of you go together?
  2284. >Renting motel rooms was out of the question.
  2285. >It would leave a trail, but not only that, all your money would quickly dry up.
  2286. >You could take her far away into the forest north of the city.
  2287. >But what then?
  2288. >You couldn't survive off a few days' worth of supplies.
  2289. >And you weren't much of a hunter gatherer.
  2290. >You weren't much of anything, actually, so you doubt you'd be able to help Applejack much.
  2291. >Maybe Applejack would do fine by herself.
  2292. >You imagined her left abandoned in the wilderness all by herself.
  2293. >How'd she'd handle herself by walking deeper into the forest and away from human civilisation.
  2294. >Away from human hands.
  2295. >Then, in all of that wondering and thinking, a place crept into your mind.
  2296. >A place so dark, so buried deep beneath your memories that you thought you'd have forgotten it entirely.
  2297. >That it was simply a thing left in the past.
  2298. >But it was there.
  2299. >And you wanted to be anywhere but there.
  2300. >Your focus snaps back to Applejack.
  2301. "If, if we stay, there's no telling when someone might break in."
  2302. >Applejack looks nervously towards the apartment door.
  2303. "And even if we went on the run, there's only so much time before we'd get caught."
  2304. >You kneel down, half in trying to get a better understanding from your pony friend and the other half in steadying yourself.
  2305. "Tell me Applejack, what do you want to do?"
  2306. >Your question surprises her.
  2307. >"Yer, yer askin' me?"
  2308. >Applejack leans towards you.
  2309. >"Ah, ah dunno 'bout anythin' Anon."
  2310. >Her voice is lacking in confidence.
  2311. >"Ah mean ah'm happy yer wanna help me out an' all."
  2312. >She turns to you this time.
  2313. >"Maybe ah'm just gettin' on an' ah should be grateful that ah met ya."
  2314. >In turn, you slowly look into her eyes.
  2315. >What was she getting at? "What are you trying to say?"
  2316. >"It's nice tah hear those mighty nice things yer said earlier an' all."
  2317. >One of her hoofs paws at the ground.
  2318. >"But ah, ah think yer done enough, ah'm just a slave after all."
  2319. >Her hoof stops moving.
  2320. >"Ah'm just a pony at that too."
  2321. "Are you saying you I shouldn't care?"
  2322. >Applejack doesn't reply, instead she looks afraid.
  2323. >Probably afraid that she's upset you, that she spoke back at you.
  2324. "If it were just me, it wouldn't matter what happens to me."
  2325. >One of her ears twists towards you, as though she was expecting some sort of reply.
  2326. >You spoke like it was matter of fact.
  2327. "That's the honest truth."
  2328. >You smirk to yourself.
  2329. "Perhaps we're walking down the same path. The destination is all the same."
  2330. >But her voice, no matter how small it was, spoke out to you.
  2331. >"It would."
  2332. >You pause.
  2333. >"It would matter tah me."
  2334. >She looks up at you with something in her eyes.
  2335. >Something glistens and shines.
  2336. >You grunt at her, half out of discomfort and embarrassment.
  2337. "We'll see about that."
  2338. >"If yer fine with me."
  2339. >She takes a moment to find strength in her words.
  2340. >"We can do this together, just you an' me pardner-"
  2341. >Applejack scrunches.
  2342. >"Ah, sorry, ah didn' mean tah say, it's not like that-"
  2343. >She cuts herself off and slumps back down.
  2344. >There's a slight blush running across her face.
  2345. "Well, thank you I guess? No one's really said that."
  2346. >At the same time, you felt something funny on the inside.
  2347. >It wasn't something you plan on getting used to though.
  2348. >Though, she called you her 'pardner'.
  2349. >Huh.
  2350. "I could use your help, with this little fella here."
  2351. >You make the shape of a pistol out of your hand and wave it in the air.
  2352. "Maybe we could have a great old stand off?"
  2353. >You smirk again.
  2354. >She looks at you with a somewhat perplexed look again.
  2355. >She probably didn't even understand the reference.
  2356. >Coughing you clear your throat.
  2357. "So what do you think would give us the best chance?"
  2358. >She thinks for a while before coming up with a reply.
  2359. >Even then, she's slow and hesitant in coming up with the words.
  2360. >"Is there, is there, anywhere that we can go?"
  2361. >You nod.
  2362. >So that's the answer.
  2363. >The odds were stacked against you.
  2364. >You really didn't want to go back there.
  2365. >But what choice did you have?
  2366. >What choice have you ever had?
  2367. >You somberly stand up and head back towards your room.
  2368. >You manage to find and pull out a rucksack and large duffel bag from the closet just as the following hoofsteps stop by the doorway.
  2369. >Looking back over your shoulder, Applejack silently watches you from afar.
  2370. >She reminds you of a dog.
  2371. >The way she sits like some sort of guard dog.
  2372. >But that's where the similarities end.
  2373. >Where one had confidence, she had none.
  2374. >If there was one thing, it was her eyes.
  2375. >Those haunting green eyes.
  2376. >Intently staring at you.
  2377. >Perhaps you were her only hope.
  2378. >Perhaps this was something that only you could do to help.
  2379. >You ignore her presence and go around the room, grabbing what little money you had secretly stashed about.
  2380. >Notes folded into old books, hidden inside old shoeboxes and cases.
  2381. >Along the way, you throw some layers into your bags, some shirts and some thick jumpers.
  2382. >For reassurance, you reach underneath your pillow to make sure your handgun was where you left it.
  2383. >It was still there.
  2384. >You had another magazine with some extra ammo stashed in the closet, which you took and threw into your rucksack.
  2385. >You mentally go through everything.
  2386. "That's everything."
  2387. >Throwing the bags by the bedroom door, you turn to face your silent companion.
  2388. "You ok?"
  2389. >She seems distracted and almost comes out of a trance when you speak out to her.
  2390. >You watch her as she slowly comes over towards you, before gingerly placing a hoof onto your thigh.
  2391. >"Applejack?"
  2392. >"Ah, ah just wanna make sure, that you, that this, that this is real."
  2393. >Her hoof presses firmly onto your thigh.
  2394. >In return you step back and place her hoof into your hand.
  2395. "Of course I'm real, I'm right here."
  2396. >You thumb her hoof, feeling the smoothness of her sole.
  2397. >She shakes her head before letting off a small smile as she looks up at you.
  2398. >Then her ears fold down.
  2399. >Her smile disappears.
  2400. >You freeze.
  2401. >Your hand tightens around her hoof.
  2402. >Someone is knocking at the front door.
  2403. >You motion to Applejack with a raised finger to your lips to keep quiet.
  2404. >But you're not sure if she'll even understand you.
  2405. >Her eyes weren't in focus.
  2406. >She was in shock.
  2407. "Hey, Applejack, snap out of it."
  2408. >You give her a slight nudge with your hand which brings her back a little.
  2409. >"Ah-Anon? Wha-what are we gonna do?"
  2410. "Shhh. Keep quiet."
  2411. >You motion over to the closet.
  2412. "Hide in there and don't make a sound."
  2413. >You push her gently but firmly towards the closet.
  2414. "If something happens, run."
  2415. >"Wha-what about you?"
  2416. >You reach underneath your pillow and pull out your handgun.
  2417. "I'll make do."
  2418. >Standing up, you slide your piece behind your back.
  2419. >
  2420. >Applejack obediently hides at the back corner of the closet.
  2421. >Making sure that the closet door wasn't fully closed, you step out into the corridor.
  2422. >Applejack would be safe for a while.
  2423. >Now the question remains of who was at the front door.
  2424. >You wrack your brain thinking about who it could be.
  2425. >There was that hobo a while back.
  2426. >It couldn't have been him.
  2427. >You've only seen each other by coincidence.
  2428. >And each time you turned him away when he begged for scraps.
  2429. >Was this a consequence for your actions?
  2430. >You're filled with a growing sense of trepidation with each and every step you take.
  2431. >The apartment becomes deathly silent as you strain your ears to hear anything from beyond the front door.
  2432. >It was also the only safe way out of the apartment.
  2433. >The only other way was jumping out the apartment window.
  2434. >And that wasn't a very promising escape.
  2435. >Another series of knocks breaks your line of thinking.
  2436. >This time though, you can hear a single voice call out from behind it.
  2437. >"Anon."
  2438. >Wire.
  2439. >That's Wire's voice.
  2440. >That bastard was here.
  2441. >But why was he here?
  2442. >And how did he get here?
  2443. >You peer through the peephole.
  2444. >Sure enough, he was standing there on the other side.
  2445. >He looks rough though.
  2446. >What was he doing here.
  2447. >Was he here for Applejack?
  2448. >You feel your stomach tighten at the thought of what he did.
  2449. >You grit your teeth.
  2450. >He appears to be alone.
  2451. >But you can't be too sure.
  2452. >"Anon."
  2453. >He calls out to you again.
  2454. >"I know you're in there."
  2455. >Taking a final glance back down the corridor, you make a mental image of where Applejack and where your stuff was.
  2456. >You wanted to, no, you needed to protect her.
  2457. >But why would he have come here all alone?
  2458. >Taking a step back you pull out your handgun from behind your back.
  2459. >You imagine where Wire would be from behind the door and take aim.
  2460. >The door itself was hollow.
  2461. >You would be able to fire off a few rounds.
  2462. >Hopefully enough to end his life.
  2463. >Your hand grips tightly around the pistol grip.
  2464. >Your finger twitches at the trigger.
  2465. >The cold hard surface and heavy weight of the gun feels reassuring in your grasp.
  2466. >You could kill him right now.
  2467. >Wire, the very person standing outside, needed to answer for his actions.
  2468. >But a thought crosses your mind.
  2469. >You needed him to answer you directly, otherwise you might never know the truth.
  2470. >As to what had caused him to kill a mare.
  2471. >And, perhaps, with the answer, it would make things safe again.
  2472. >You needed to decide.
  2473. >Your hand trembles as you reach out towards the door handle.
  2474. >If you were wrong, however, everything you've done would be for nothing.
  2475. >Swallowing you make up your mind.
  2476. >You unlock the door and pull open the door.
  2477. >Wire is standing aloof, expressionless, as you aim the barrel at him.
  2478. >"Anon?"
  2479. >He's wearing the same clothes as he did earlier on and with the same undeniable smell.
  2480. >Though, there are fresh bruises across his arms and face.
  2481. >Dried patches of blood stain his collar.
  2482. >This doesn't look good.
  2483. "What are you doing here Wire."
  2484. >You don't care for any greetings.
  2485. >Wire flinches, then pass it off by smiling at you.
  2486. >"C'mon you know me-"
  2487. "Cut the bullshit."
  2488. >You push the gun forward.
  2489. >Wire falls back into his expressionless state.
  2490. "I told you before, if I see you again-"
  2491. >"You'll do what? Shoot me?"
  2492. >He stares at you, unafraid of your threat.
  2493. >You press the question again.
  2494. "What are you doing here."
  2495. >His eyes look down at the gun.
  2496. >"I, I need your help man."
  2497. >He was looking for help?
  2498. >You shake your head, why would he come to you for help?
  2499. >He tries to take a step forward but is stopped by your raised gun.
  2500. >You do not want him any closer to you.
  2501. "Help? Why should I."
  2502. >"I, it was pretty fucked up what happened earlier on."
  2503. "Fucked up? That's all you want to call it?"
  2504. >"Listen man."
  2505. >Wire starts scratching at his arm.
  2506. >"You know me, I don't do stuff like that."
  2507. "It's been years since I last saw you."
  2508. >"Listen, she, she was on her way to someone else, they wanted me to clean her up."
  2509. >They?
  2510. >"You weren't around man, you couldn't possibly know what they do to them."
  2511. >"They would've just, just used her until, until she-"
  2512. >He falls silent.
  2513. >But you notice his hand, his fingernails digging into his arm.
  2514. >Whatever it was, it really got to him.
  2515. >"They're a lost cause Anon. They should have never come here."
  2516. "You murdered her."
  2517. >He tries to take another half step towards you.
  2518. >"I did the only thing I could, I freed her!"
  2519. >You push the gun more forcefully into his chest trying to get him to back off.
  2520. >He almost sounded happy saying that.
  2521. >His smile, made you to grit your teeth together in disgust, in anger.
  2522. >Your finger started pulling the trigger, millimetre by millimetre.
  2523. >"N-now they're pissed, like fucking pissed off at me."
  2524. >"I, I need your help man."
  2525. >He tries to look past your shoulder and into the apartment.
  2526. >"It's Applejack, right? I saw you look her up on the computer."
  2527. >Shit.
  2528. >He smiles as he says her name.
  2529. "There's no pony here."
  2530. >"Anon, you're a terrible liar."
  2531. "Can't help you with that."
  2532. >He looks at you with something new in his eyes, was it new vigour or malice?
  2533. >You try to eye him up without batting an eye.
  2534. >"But okay, if you say so. If you won't help me, then just help me with this."
  2535. >Huh.
  2536. >His expression softens.
  2537. >"Here."
  2538. >He reaches into his pocket and pulls out something in his left hand, revealing a white folded note wedged between his two fingers.
  2539. >"You'll know when to call."
  2540. >He thrusts his hand towards your chest, pointing you with the note.
  2541. >You grab it without looking away from him.
  2542. "If you're planning anything, Wire I swear-"
  2543. >"You'll shoot me? Again, you keep saying the same thing."
  2544. >His smile cuts you off.
  2545. >"But I told you before Anon, you're far too kind for that."
  2546. >He takes a step back with his hands up in the air.
  2547. >"Say hi to Applejack for me and remember, whatever happens, don't lose that note."
  2548. >You follow him with your gun as he turns his back to you, feeling your finger on the trigger pull ever so slightly.
  2549. >You stand there at the front doorway, watching him make his way out down the staircase and out into the alleyway, until you couldn't see him anymore.
  2550. >His loud footsteps on the iron staircase fade away into that city background.
  2551. >He had a gait to his walk, something that only hinted that his injuries were more serious than you first thought.
  2552. >You close and lock everything on the door, sliding your back against it in exhaustion.
  2553. >The gun that once felt reassuring in your hand now pained it, your tight grip left impressions on your hands as though you were branded by it.
  2554. >You almost shot him.
  2555. >But would that have been a bad thing?
  2556. >You let out a large breath of air and as though on cue, your body starts shaking.
  2557. >A wave of nausea washes over you, making you feel sick to the stomach.
  2558. >You shut your eyes, hoping to ride out the moment.
  2559. >It was only when you felt a tapping on your shoulder that you opened your eyes up again.
  2560. >"Yer alright Anon?"
  2561. "A-Applejack?"
  2562. >
  2563. >You were somewhat surprised at seeing Applejack out of the closet.
  2564. >"Sorry Anon, ah, ah know what you said-"
  2565. "What if he had seen you!"
  2566. >Your mind races through the different scenarios of what could've happened.
  2567. >If she had left her hiding spot a minute earlier she would have been seen.
  2568. >And none of it was good.
  2569. "Did you hear what I said?"
  2570. >She flinches at your tone of voice.
  2571. >"But ah heard them noises, an' then ah saw you-"
  2572. >Her tail had become very still and her ears were folded back.
  2573. >"Ah was worried that somethin' happened to yer."
  2574. >You could see the start of tears appearing at the corner of her ears.
  2575. >You shouldn't be angry with her but you couldn't help it.
  2576. >In the end, she was just concerned about you.
  2577. >With a free hand, you slowly reach up and stroke her behind her ears.
  2578. >You sigh, quietly speaking.
  2579. "Thank you."
  2580. >She freezes from your touch, probably still nervous about your actions and of your touch.
  2581. >But she still stays beside you and doesn't run.
  2582. >You remain sitting on the floor as you stroke Applejack's ear.
  2583. >Feeling calm and relaxed, you shut your tired eyes again.
  2584. >You listen to your own breathing and focus on touching Applejack, feeling the warmth and the softness of her ear.
  2585. >After a while of quiet, you hear a loud rumble in the air.
  2586. >You open your eyes again to see a blushing Applejack.
  2587. >Her eyes dart between the floor and yours.
  2588. >"S-sorry Anon, ah'm, ah'm kinda hungry."
  2589. "I see."
  2590. >You didn't feel very hungry.
  2591. >Then again, you've developed an irregular diet of eating junk food, whenever and wherever you wanted.
  2592. >She most likely didn't get to eat much because of her situation.
  2593. >In contrast you were poor and didn't care to make your own food.
  2594. >You grunt as you stand up, your body feels heavy, tired and weak.
  2595. >You steady yourself by resting your arm against the wall, and soon enough something else helps you from the side of your leg.
  2596. >Applejack leans up and against your leg in an attempt to help you stay steady.
  2597. >She looks up at you with concern in her eyes.
  2598. "C'mon, let's go to the kitchen."
  2599. >You both head over to the kitchen where you then go to the fridge and pull it open.
  2600. >There's nothing in there that looks edible, at least for her.
  2601. >Remembering you might have some frozen stuff, you open the freezer door and sure enough find something.
  2602. >You pull out the only frozen pizza you had.
  2603. >'Hawaiian Delight'.
  2604. >Disgusting.
  2605. >Why did you pick this up and how long has it been in there?
  2606. >Though if you just took out the ham slices, Applejack could have this, right?
  2607. >It didn't take you long to unwrap it and throw it into the oven.
  2608. >While it was cooking, you sat down by the kitchen table.
  2609. >You reminded yourself of your latest encounter with Wire and pulled out the folded note from your pocket.
  2610. >Just what was on this note that was so important?
  2611. >You unfold it.
  2612. >There was a number written on it, but it wasn't anything that you recognised.
  2613. >His words rang in your mind.
  2614. >It just didn't add up.
  2615. >You spend a moment thinking back to the past, of people and places that you knew.
  2616. >You came up with nothing.
  2617. >Sighing, you pocketed it again and turned your attention to seeing where Applejack had went.
  2618. >You found her lying down over by the sofa floor by her hat, affectionately touching its brim.
  2619. >You take a moment and look at her, wondering she's been through.
  2620. >It felt like it was a part of herself that she was trying to mend.
  2621. >Like a bruise you would rub hoping that it would get better and not hurt.
  2622. >If only it wasn't in the terrible state it was in.
  2623. >The oven bell rings loudly from across the room.
  2624. "C'mon, the pizza's ready."
  2625. >You take the pizza out and roughly pull it apart into two slices, doing your best to separate out the toppings without burning your fingers.
  2626. >You present the one half with nothing but the pineapple topping to Applejack while you kept the other one with all the ham on it.
  2627. "Eat up."
  2628. >She looks at her meal with a little confusion and apprehension.
  2629. >"Thank you."
  2630. >Nevertheless she still thanked you for it.
  2631. >You go through your meal quietly and quickly.
  2632. >It was just some cheap pizza after all.
  2633. >Applejack, however, was quite the opposite.
  2634. >She was taking her time with her pizza, though she did seem to enjoy the pineapple slices.
  2635. >She'd pick up a single pineapple piece with her tongue and chew on it, though only having spent some time blowing on it to cool it down.
  2636. >Her eyes would light up a little from the sweetness.
  2637. "Do you like it?"
  2638. >She replies in a quiet voice.
  2639. >"It's alright."
  2640. >Not being able to hold the large pizza slice in her hooves, she bites onto the parts of pizza hanging off the plate.
  2641. >You wait for her to finish eating, resting your elbows on the table.
  2642. >Minutes pass by and her chewing becomes slower.
  2643. >She's starting to look sick.
  2644. >Eventually, she pushes the half-finished pizza away from her.
  2645. >"Ah, ah think ah'm done Anon. Sorry ah couldn't finish it."
  2646. >You look at how she tries to avoid eye contact with you.
  2647. >You sigh.
  2648. "It's okay, go get some sleep, we've got an early start tomorrow."
  2649. >She nods and hops off the kitchen bar stool and seemingly makes her way towards the sofa.
  2650. "No, not there."
  2651. >She stops hoof in mid-air.
  2652. "Go back into the closet."
  2653. >She'll be safer there.
  2654. >While you dump the unfinished pizza into the trash can you don't notice her when she quietly leaves the room.
  2655. >At least she wasn't kicking up a fuss.
  2656. >This was it, right?
  2657. >Your last night here.
  2658. >Looking around the room, you wonder if there was anything that you'd miss.
  2659. >You've never really left this place for an extended while.
  2660. >More importantly, you wonder if there was anything that would leave a trail or give a hint.
  2661. >Nope.
  2662. >It was all in your head, the only other person that knows about where you're going is six feet under.
  2663. >So much for a home.
  2664. >You go around the apartment to double check that all the windows and front door are locked.
  2665. >Still feeling unsettled, you cautiously open and peer out of one of the side windows facing out into the alleyway.
  2666. >It's quiet outside, despite the constant noise of the city.
  2667. >You've always found the sound kept you on edge, kept you on guard.
  2668. >Only the rich could afford safe places, better windows and security.
  2669. >And what did you have?
  2670. >What could you afford?
  2671. >Nothing.
  2672. >You pull your head back in and lock the window.
  2673. >It's even more quiet now inside the apartment.
  2674. >You turn off what kitchen lights were still working.
  2675. >The lack of lights never really bothered you before.
  2676. >You stumble over to the toilet to empty your bladder.
  2677. >Running water over your hands, you catch a glimpse of your own face in the bathroom mirror.
  2678. >You don't recognise the face in the mirror.
  2679. >A messy stubble and red, tired eyes of a stranger look back at you.
  2680. >Years of stress and neglect have cracked and broken down what should've been youth and happiness.
  2681. >What was there was not something you recognised.
  2682. >Uneasy feelings being to surface inside of you, forcing you to turn away and avoid looking at the mirror image.
  2683. >Better go get some sleep.
  2684. >You stagger back into your room and fall onto the bed, kicking off your shoes, socks and trousers onto the floor.
  2685. >The softness of the bed lures you into a false sense of calm, something that you consciously fight against.
  2686. >You need to wake up first thing tomorrow, as soon as daylight breaks.
  2687. >You hope you don't find yourself waking up dead.
  2688. >Just as you're about to laugh at the thought you feel something get onto the bed.
  2689. >You sit up and look around to find Applejack, standing at the base of the bed with one hoof on top of the mattress.
  2690. "What are you doing here?"
  2691. >"Ah, ah couldn't sleep."
  2692. "It's safer inside the closet."
  2693. >Her eyes waver but she doesn't move.
  2694. >You wait for her to say anything else.
  2695. "Well?"
  2696. >"Please."
  2697. >She lowers her head.
  2698. >"Please don't force me back in there."
  2699. >She doesn't move.
  2700. >"Ah don't want to be in that room anymore."
  2701. >There was something more going on here.
  2702. >"Ah'll be good. Just, just don't put me back in there."
  2703. >You get up to take a better look at her.
  2704. >She's visibly shaking now.
  2705. >Shit.
  2706. "Applejack."
  2707. >She doesn't hear your voice and carries on talking in a small, quiet voice.
  2708. >"Please, ah can't, ah won't cause any trouble, please, ah-"
  2709. "Applejack."
  2710. >"Just don't put me back into that room."
  2711. >You reach out and place a hand onto her shoulder.
  2712. "It's fine."
  2713. >Some life comes back in her eyes.
  2714. >"Anon?"
  2715. "Look, you'd be safer in the closet, I mean if anyone broke in they'd find me first."
  2716. >She nods and hangs her head.
  2717. >"Ah know, it's just, it's just, ah can't sleep in there."
  2718. "How come?"
  2719. >Her eyes look away from you.
  2720. >"Ah-"
  2721. >Her hoof rubs the same spot on top of the mattress.
  2722. >"Ah don’t like the dark. Ah-"
  2723. >You grip remains firm.
  2724. >"Ah-"
  2725. >This wasn't getting you anywhere.
  2726. >You sigh.
  2727. "Okay then, just cover yourself up."
  2728. >You go to lie back down, pulling the duvet back over yourself.
  2729. >You hear Applejack slowly get up onto the bed and then settle down, causing the bed to bounce a little.
  2730. >"Yer sure Anon?"
  2731. "It's fine."
  2732. >You reply.
  2733. >You stay awake, wondering if she's finally settled and gone to sleep.
  2734. >Not hearing anything, you close your eyes and try to get some sleep too.
  2735. >Just as you do so, you hear Applejack shuffling around under the duvet.
  2736. >She moves up through the duvet until her hooves finds themselves touching your back.
  2737. "Applejack?"
  2738. >"S-sorry Anon."
  2739. >You wonder what she's up to now.
  2740. "You ok?"
  2741. >She doesn’t speak straight away.
  2742. >"Could ah, could ah sleep with you."
  2743. "What?"
  2744. >"Ah, ah can't sleep so well on mah own."
  2745. >You're trying to think about what she meant.
  2746. >Wasn't she already in the same bed?
  2747. >"Anon?"
  2748. >You let out another sigh.
  2749. "It's alright."
  2750. >"Yer, yer sure Anon?"
  2751. >You grunt half in frustration, half in tiredness.
  2752. "Yeah."
  2753. >Hearing your voice of approval, she presses herself up against your back.
  2754. >Her head digs down against your back.
  2755. >You couldn't really say if you felt comfortable sleeping like this but you don't say anything to her.
  2756. >You try and shut your eyes again to sleep.
  2757. >"Anon?"
  2758. >Your eyes open again.
  2759. "What."
  2760. >"Could yer-"
  2761. >She mumbles something you could hear.
  2762. >You were tired, tired enough to lash out at her but you had to deal with this.
  2763. >You were doing this for her.
  2764. "What is it?"
  2765. >"Could yer, hold onto me?"
  2766. "What?"
  2767. >She remains silent.
  2768. >"Just, just fer tonight. Ah'm-"
  2769. >She bites her own tongue, before continuing on in a quieter voice.
  2770. >"Ah'm scared."
  2771. >You reply quietly and softly.
  2772. "Alright, come over here."
  2773. >You slowly turn over to face her.
  2774. >It's awkward at first.
  2775. >You've always slept alone, by yourself.
  2776. >You were used to sleeping with the whole bed to yourself, even though it always ended up in you taking up one corner of the bed.
  2777. >Applejack shifts her body towards you.
  2778. >You can feel her hooves touch you, feeling for your arms and chest.
  2779. >In likeness, your hands reach out and feel for her, sliding down onto her sides and brushing down along her soft fur.
  2780. >When you think she's comfortable with the new sleeping position, she shifts again, moving even closer towards you.
  2781. >Her forelegs reach out and brushes against your arm, forcing you to move your arm out of her way and let her foreleg rest against your side.
  2782. >She tucks her head up against your chest and in between your arms.
  2783. >Her hind legs intertwine and wrap around one of your legs, drawing her body close up to your lower half.
  2784. >The sudden closeness, the intimacy, made you feel uncomfortable.
  2785. >You wonder for an instance if she had planned to do this, if she had planned to keep on moving.
  2786. >People would do these things just to feel safe in desperate times.
  2787. >But over time the awkwardness wore off, you were sensing that she was just getting into a comfortable position.
  2788. >You hear her quietly speak out.
  2789. >"Thank you."
  2790. >With your free arm, you slowly bring it down to brush her mane in a slow, gentle manner.
  2791. >You could feel her tense up at your touch though you were really hoping that you could calm her and yourself down at the same time.
  2792. >Joined together, you felt a new warmth you hadn't felt in a long time, if at all.
  2793. >It was, pleasant.
  2794. >It was nice.
  2795. >And for that brief moment, you forget about all the horrible things that had happened.
  2796. >Wire.
  2797. >That mare.
  2798. >None of that matters anymore.
  2799. >Right now, there was just you and Applejack, wrapped up together.
  2800. >You opened up your tired eyes.
  2801. >Looking down at the small bundle wrapped up against your arms and body it made you realise just how small and close she really was.
  2802. >You can smell the sweet scent of apples coming off her mane.
  2803. >You can feel and hear her breathing against you in a slow, gentle pace.
  2804. >Without thinking why, you pull her in against her arms, enough to feel the limits of her body, enough to know that she was really there with you.
  2805. >You hold her in that firm yet gentle embrace.
  2806. >Knowing that she wouldn't be going anywhere soon and neither would you.
  2807. >Soon enough, sleep takes you.
  2808. >
  2809. >Everything feels so slow, so sluggish.
  2810. >You try and focus on where you were or what you were doing.
  2811. >But it slips away from you.
  2812. >It's all blurred, as though someone had given you a hard knock to the head, or given you glasses smeared with Vaseline.
  2813. >Everything was messed up.
  2814. >Your hands unfurl and you let go of her neck.
  2815. >You can still feel her warmth linger on your fingers.
  2816. >Her body lies still on the floor.
  2817. >Her eyes stare back at you.
  2818. >Those green eyes.
  2819. >You hear a door slam in the distance.
  2820. >Turning around, your eyes focus onto a painfully bright light.
  2821. >There's a bright flash and suddenly incredible pain sears throughout your body.
  2822. >Your head shoots back and your mouth splits wide open as you try to scream.
  2823. >It feels like your entire body was burning up.
  2824. >
  2825. >You wake up in a panic.
  2826. >You pull out your gun from beneath your pillow and point it at the doorway.
  2827. >No one's there.
  2828. >You swing your gun around to the window.
  2829. >There doesn't seem to be anything there.
  2830. >Your eyes are sore and they sting, so you can't be certain.
  2831. >You remain still.
  2832. >Nothing happens.
  2833. >You lower your gun back down.
  2834. >Get it together Anon.
  2835. >It was just a dream, a nightmare.
  2836. >Your mind was racing and so was your pulse.
  2837. >Taking deep, slow breaths, you try and calm yourself down but your body is slow to catch up.
  2838. >You scan the room again, afraid that you might've missed something.
  2839. >Everything still looks the same.
  2840. >Looking over to the gap in the curtains the lack of light tells you that the sun hasn't risen yet.
  2841. >It must still be early.
  2842. >That's right, you remind yourself.
  2843. >Today was the day.
  2844. >You go to get up when you feel something stir in your arms.
  2845. >Oh.
  2846. >That's right, she was still here.
  2847. >One of her forelegs is draped over your stomach.
  2848. >Applejack shifts and rests her head on top of your chest.
  2849. >Her eyes are still closed and she doesn't seem to be moving anymore.
  2850. >Guess she was still asleep.
  2851. >Seeing how peacefully she was sleeping made you hesitate.
  2852. >You needed to wake her up.
  2853. >You gently shake her shoulder.
  2854. "Hey, wake up."
  2855. >"Mmm."
  2856. >One of her ears twitches.
  2857. "C'mon Applejack, we need to get going."
  2858. >You start shaking her a little harder until you hear a sudden snort, prompting you to release your hold on her.
  2859. >Her eyes flicker open and she rolls over onto her back, looking at you upside down.
  2860. >"Mm is it mornin' already sugarcube?"
  2861. >Her words come out slow and slurred.
  2862. "It's me Applejack."
  2863. >She pauses.
  2864. >A steady blush creeps across her face as her eyes come into focus.
  2865. "Good morning 'sugarcube'."
  2866. >You grin and let out a small laugh at the cute gesture.
  2867. >"Ah, ah wasn't awake."
  2868. "Yeah, yeah, sure thing."
  2869. >You pull off the duvet covers, revealing your bare legs but also Applejack's body to the cold air.
  2870. >She scrunches her face and tries to cover her body.
  2871. >"Ah!"
  2872. "S-sorry."
  2873. >You were used to the cold, in fact it helped wake you up but you felt bad subjecting Applejack to the same experience.
  2874. >You can't help but notice how she's shivering now.
  2875. "Hang on."
  2876. >You turn your back to her and rummage through your wardrobe, remembering that you had it thrown in there somewhere.
  2877. >It was an old pullover you got from a charity store.
  2878. >You find it right at the bottom of a pile.
  2879. "Here we go."
  2880. >You shake it a few times to get rid of the dust and whatever else was on it.
  2881. >The pullover was looked like something an grandpa would wear.
  2882. >Not to mention the warm cream shade it had was too soft for your liking.
  2883. >You bring it over to Applejack before helping to put it on her.
  2884. >"Wh-what's this?"
  2885. >Taking a step back, you look over her.
  2886. >The pullover compliments her, despite how oversized it was for her.
  2887. "Warmer?"
  2888. >She looks down at the fabric.
  2889. >"Y-yeh, thank you."
  2890. >She raises a hoof to smell it, only to stick out her tongue.
  2891. >You let out a small laugh and go about getting changed.
  2892. >Once done, you pick up the two bags by the bedroom door and carry them to the apartment's front door.
  2893. >You quickly sneak a peek outside and to make sure it's all clear.
  2894. >A breeze of cold morning air blows in through the gap in the door.
  2895. >The sky was beginning to brighten up but it was still cold and dark outside.
  2896. "C'mon, we need to go."
  2897. >You stand by the front door, calling back out to Applejack.
  2898. >She follows you and slows down to a stop.
  2899. "What's wrong?"
  2900. >"Are yer sure it's goin' be safe outside?"
  2901. >You don't respond, knowing that there was always going to be some risk.
  2902. >"It's just that, it was safe here and ah've been to so many places already."
  2903. >She glances back up at you.
  2904. >"Do we really have ta go?"
  2905. >You sigh inwardly .
  2906. >You couldn't really blame her, you might be the only person to have shown her any sign of kindness.
  2907. >You kneel down to her level and comfort her.
  2908. "Yeah we do, it'll be dangerous if we stay here. I know a place that'll be safe."
  2909. >She looks at you with a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
  2910. >You take out the large duffel bag you brought with you and lie it down in front of her.
  2911. >You pull down the zip and open it up, revealing a large empty space for her to get in.
  2912. >"Yer, yer can't be serious."
  2913. >She steps back on her hoof and gives you that look.
  2914. "There's no other way, do you want to get spotted?"
  2915. >"Well, no."
  2916. "Then get in."
  2917. >"Is, is there any other way?"
  2918. >You shake your head.
  2919. >"Oh, oh okay."
  2920. >She slowly steps inside a hoof at a time.
  2921. "Are you gonna sit?"
  2922. >"N-no, w-wait."
  2923. >She turns around to lie on her back with her hooves up in the air.
  2924. "Alright I'm zipping it up"
  2925. >"W-wait ah sec Anon. Just, just let me take ah moment."
  2926. >She takes a look around the apartment one last time and freezes on one spot.
  2927. >You follow her line of sight.
  2928. >She's looking at the sofa where she first slept here.
  2929. >Perhaps she'll miss this place more than you'll do.
  2930. >"Thank yer Anon, I mean fer all that you've done."
  2931. >She looks back at your face.
  2932. >"Ah hope y'know what yer doin'."
  2933. >You shrug.
  2934. "Don't thank me yet, we'll see if anything happens first, then you can thank me."
  2935. >She raises her eyebrows at you, before sighing and relenting.
  2936. >"Guess it's now or never."
  2937. >You pull the zip up to her face.
  2938. "Just hold up in there."
  2939. >You pull up the zip so that it just covers her body and most of her face, leaving a little gap for her.
  2940. >You slip your backpack on before bending down and lift the large duffel bag with Applejack over your shoulder.
  2941. >You grunt in the process.
  2942. >It wasn't the most heaviest thing you've ever carried but it wasn't going to be easy.
  2943. >You hear a quiet voice speak out from below you.
  2944. >"Yer alright Anon?"
  2945. >You can see a lone green eye peeking up at you from the gap in the zipper.
  2946. "I'll be fine. Any problems you just tap alright?"
  2947. >You look out the doorway as you feel an affirmative tap against your side.
  2948. >With a small smile, you pull open the front door and step outside into the world.
  2949. >You lock the door and walk down the same tired path, down the iron stairs and out through the alleyway.
  2950. >The streets were quiet and calm.
  2951. >To your relief, it was light enough now that you could walk through the otherwise dangerous alleyways.
  2952. >Walking down the same streets for the last time didn't give you any sense of nostalgia.
  2953. >You remember the shops you've been into and the few faces that have been around, but none of them bring you any joy.
  2954. >The bus stop gradually comes into view.
  2955. >
  2956. >You slump down onto the bench, propping your duffel bag beside you as you wait for the first bus to arrive.
  2957. >The overground train station was a ways off.
  2958. >It would've been quicker to get there by the tube but that would've been just as dangerous.
  2959. >What with all those gates and changes.
  2960. >You exhale a breath of hot air out into the cold.
  2961. "You doing alright in there?"
  2962. >You speak out to the empty bus stop.
  2963. >Placing your hand nonchalantly over the duffel bag, you grin as you feel Applejack give you an affirmative tap.
  2964. "That's one tap for yes, two taps for no, right?"
  2965. >There's another tap.
  2966. >A short while later, you hear and finally see the bus coming along.
  2967. "Alright this is it."
  2968. >You wilfully slap the duffel bag, eliciting a gasp.
  2969. "Sorry."
  2970. >You step on and purchase a one way ticket to the station from the driver, though not without being scrutinised by him.
  2971. >"You going on holiday or something bud?"
  2972. >The driver asks as he hands you the ticket.
  2973. >He was an old man, pudgy and had an unflattering moustache.
  2974. >You decide to play along.
  2975. "You know, I just woke up today and thought, fuck it, I'm going to Hawaii."
  2976. >You walk past him and leave before he has a chance to reply to you only to hear his mocking laughter behind your back.
  2977. >There's no one else on board at this time, much to your relief.
  2978. >The less people that see you leave, the better.
  2979. >You decide to take a seat near the back, parking your duffel bag on the window side seat.
  2980. >There was no chance in hell that you were going to leave a space for that one passenger who will take the seat right next to you and talk to you.
  2981. >The bus roars back to life and drives on.
  2982. >It's a quiet journey, with frequently timed stops at empty bus stops and the occasional bump from the pothole in the road.
  2983. >You're immersed by the passing scenery for a while before something in the corner of your eye catches your attention.
  2984. >Looking back down at the duffel bag, you see an orange snout sticking out of the zipper gap.
  2985. >You can see her nose taking in deep breathes.
  2986. >It was adorable yet at the same time concerning.
  2987. >You pull open the zipper to reveal Applejack's uneasy face.
  2988. >Leaning down you talk to her.
  2989. "You doing alright?"
  2990. >"Ah, ah feel kinda sick."
  2991. >She speaks in a quiet voice.
  2992. >Not good.
  2993. >It looks like motion sickness.
  2994. "I can't let you out, do you think you can hold on without being sick?"
  2995. >She shakes her head with uneasy eyes.
  2996. >You needed to do something to help her out.
  2997. >You need to keep her hidden but you couldn't keep her stuck inside the bag otherwise she'll just be sick.
  2998. >An idea comes to mind.
  2999. "Then how about this?"
  3000. >You carefully lift up the duffel bag so that it sat upright against the side of the bus and then take off your jacket.
  3001. >"Anon? What are yer-"
  3002. >You pull the zipper down and pull Applejack halfway out of the bag, sitting her rump onto your lap and pulling her in against you.
  3003. >"Anon!"
  3004. >She cries out in a hushed tone.
  3005. >You shift over to the window side seat, leaning closer to your duffel bag and finish by wrapping your jacket around Applejack.
  3006. >Effectively you were shielding her away from view but also keeping her upright so that she wouldn't be sick.
  3007. >To another passenger, it would look like you were just covering yourself with your jacket.
  3008. >You'd have to be careful though and put her back into the bag before anyone catches sight of her.
  3009. >Looking down you take a peek at the pony leaning against your chest.
  3010. "You feeling better?"
  3011. >"Yeh, th-thank you."
  3012. >She rubs her face against your shirt.
  3013. "You're in for a long ride."
  3014. >"H-how long fer?"
  3015. >You take a moment to think about it, it's been a long since you've been back.
  3016. "It'll take a couple hours I guess, it's been a while but we should get back there before dark."
  3017. >"Ah, ah hope we get there sooner rather than later."
  3018. "Same."
  3019. >You stroke the back of her neck, something you've found time and again soothing and calming in both ways.
  3020. >She lets off a quiet moan and you feel her hoof press up against your chest.
  3021. >"Sorry, it's just that, we've been gettin' kinda close like this a lot lately."
  3022. >You briefly take a peek at her beneath your jacket and you could swear you could see her a slight blush over her muzzle.
  3023. "It's fine."
  3024. >"Really?"
  3025. "Yeah, really."
  3026. >What was she worried about?
  3027. >You didn't really want to overthink it.
  3028. >You were just helping her out, that's all.
  3029. >No ulterior motives.
  3030. >Unlike the others.
  3031. >Though there were still a few things that still confused you.
  3032. >Those moments when she got into that state, that intimate state with you.
  3033. >Exposing herself to you.
  3034. >Kissing you.
  3035. >You turn your attention back outside of the bus, breaking your spiral of thoughts.
  3036. >There weren't as many tall buildings in the outer reaches of the city.
  3037. >The streets here were cleaner and there was a clear lack of graffiti and dumpsters.
  3038. >There were a few weathered looking trees and shrubbery here and there that helped add some sense of nature to the place, unlike the environment back inside the city.
  3039. >No trees, no shrubs, not even a single flower.
  3040. >Nothing but a concrete jungle.
  3041. >The bus jolts and moves onto a ramp entering the highway road.
  3042. >There was a constant flow of traffic now.
  3043. >Guess everyone else was just waking up and going about their daily lives.
  3044. >Not like you had a job where you could relate to them.
  3045. >You hear a whisper.
  3046. >"Are yer gonna miss yer home Anon?"
  3047. >You shake your head without looking down at her.
  3048. >It was nothing worth speaking for.
  3049. >"Ah'd feel bad if it was because of me."
  3050. >You resume stroking the back of her neck, this time moving up behind one of her ears.
  3051. >She gasps a little at your touch.
  3052. >"It, it feels nice when yer do that."
  3053. "I know, just relax."
  3054. >You notice that she doesn't tense as much as she did when you first touched her.
  3055. >It's probably a sign that she's beginning to trust you.
  3056. >For the remainder of the bus journey the two of you remain in a state of calm and quiet.
  3057. >You were still keeping an eye on Applejack and the other people around you.
  3058. >There were a few other passengers on the bus by now, some were sleeping, others listening to their own music or just stuck in their own little world.
  3059. >The old train station comes into view with its large concrete block design, something that was popular way back before you were born.
  3060. >You couldn't mistake the eyesore of a building, it was that ugly and brutal.
  3061. "C'mon, we're nearly there at the station."
  3062. >"O-ok."
  3063. >You gently lift Applejack off your lap and set her back into the duffel bag.
  3064. "Just hang in there, it won't be long until we're on the train."
  3065. >She nods as you close the zip and leave a small peeping hole for her again.
  3066. >Turning back outside, annoyingly there's a queue of people waiting at the bus stop.
  3067. >That was going to make things harder.
  3068. >You pull your jacket back on and sling both bags onto your back, readying yourself for a quick departure.
  3069. >The bus shudders to a stop just outside of the train station and the door pulls open.
  3070. >You'd expect people to wait for passengers to alight first before trying to board the bus but that doesn't happen.
  3071. >Not here.
  3072. >You try and navigate around the others as they push forward for their seats.
  3073. >It wouldn't be this much trouble if you didn't have to shelter Applejack in the bag.
  3074. >You were nearly out of the bus when a man pushes past you and elbows the duffel bag hard.
  3075. >You feel Applejack squirm and hear her cry out in pain.
  3076. "HEY!"
  3077. >The guy turns with a stupid, arrogant look on his face.
  3078. >"What?"
  3079. "Watch where you're going dumbass."
  3080. >He gives you the finger and starts swearing at you while you step off the bus.
  3081. >You were holding yourself back.
  3082. >You had to.
  3083. >This was just going to cause you trouble, the last thing you needed was to waste time and attract unwanted attention.
  3084. >Paying no attention to the passenger nor to the driver's jeers you were clear from the bus and headed towards the station entrance.
  3085. >There were a considerable amount of people inside, especially since this was a large station with twelve platforms.
  3086. >But you were more concerned about checking up on Applejack, you couldn't do it inside the station where there were so many people about.
  3087. >You quickly take a detour round the station building, eventually finding a bricked off pathway leading round back.
  3088. >At the end of the pathway there was an old, weathered looking metal door where you fail to find any cameras or windows about.
  3089. >No one could see you here and you'll be able to hear someone coming up the pathway.
  3090. >Deciding that it was safe despite the feeling that you shouldn't be there, you settle your bags down and take Applejack out.
  3091. >There were some tears in her eyes and a red bruise on her nose that she tries covering up.
  3092. "You alright kiddo?"
  3093. >"Sorry ah was noisy, it hurt real bad when-"
  3094. >You cup your hand around her lower jaw and gently lift up her face.
  3095. >After a closer inspection, you're thankful that she didn't get a nose bleed or that anything was broken.
  3096. >Her nose was still rather red, though.
  3097. "I should be the one saying sorry."
  3098. >She blinks.
  3099. "I should've stopped him, or at least taken the hit."
  3100. >You don't notice the small smile growing on her as she listens to you.
  3101. "Sorry."
  3102. >"There was nothin' yer could've done, so it's alright."
  3103. >She wobbles as she stands up.
  3104. >You give her some space to walk about and stretch despite your worries.
  3105. >The station was only two hours away from where you left by bus, probably less going by car.
  3106. >The fact that it was still early morning meant that you still had a lot of ground to cover.
  3107. >You go to ask Applejack if she was ready to go when you hear the metal door begin to unlock.
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