“Applejack? Could I have a word with you?” said Twilight, rearing and putting her hooves on the fence.
Applejack wiped her brow with the back of a hoof and glared at the lavender intruder, and Twilight shied away stammering, “If, if that’s all right with you, and I don’t mean to distract you from your work—I’m sorry, I can see this isn’t a good time. Is this a good time?”
Applejack snorted. “Good time? Hah!”
“Are you okay, Applejack? You look really bad. Like, really, really bad…”
“Flatterer!” grumbled Applejack.
“You’re mad, I’ll go away,” said Twilight. Her voice was tremulous and small, like she’d had a flashback to the days when she had dated Applejack, and had fallen hard and created a huge mess of the whole thing. Her lip quivered. Applejack saw this, and sagged.
“Aw, hang on, Twilight? Gimme a minute. Yeah, I know. It’s pers’nal. Ain’t no concern of yours. We’ll handle it…”
“Um, okay,” said Twilight. She hesitated, and added, “…do you need a hug?”
Applejack’s eyes went wide, momentarily, and she stared at Twilight like she’d been slapped. She muttered, “That’s either th’ best idea in all Equestria, or th’ worst…”
“Nothin’,” said Applejack. She hesitated, and gave Twilight a hard look. “Kin I help you? I got somepony I’d like to be turnin’ to for such things. Cute lil’ blue pegasus pony, ya mighta seen her. What do YOU need from me?”
Twilight’s eyes widened at the gruffness, and she lifted her head. “Fine, we’ll do it that way. Fluttershy came and talked to me, Applejack, and she says Gilda the Griffin is back in town. What do you know about that? She says Gilda is staying with you, in fact.”
“An’ where’s the harm in that?” said Applejack. “You got a problem with Gilda? Suddenly it’s against th’ law to be a griffin in Ponyville?”
Twilight sighed in exasperation. “I didn’t say that. Did I say that? I only…”
“So what’s th’ damn problem, then?”
Twilight looked sharply at her friend. “I was going to say, we need to consider the feelings of some of the townsponies. I’m surprised you don’t know that, as it’s typically earth ponies who object to griffins. Historically, pegasi haven’t had a problem with them, and we unicorns defend ourselves with our magic, but earth ponies have been pretty helpless.”
“Oh, yeah?” challenged Applejack.
“Applejack, what is with you?” said Twilight in disbelief. “You haven’t been this bad since you tried to harvest an entire orchard by yourself. That isn’t happening again, is it?”
“Nope,” said Applejack unblinkingly. “Everythin’s jes’ fine, thanks fer askin’.”
“Big Macintosh is here to help you? I heard he was away. Apple Bloom was very excited on his return, I know that.”
“Off visitin’ a friend,” lied Applejack, looking Twilight directly in the eye with a skill born of pure desperation. Only a bead of sweat on her brow revealed the strain.
“Oh, good,” said Twilight vaguely. “Er… three of the flower ponies pulled me aside on my way here, Applejack. I guess I shouldn’t be calling them flower ponies, should I? It sounds better than ‘foolish earth pony mares constantly panicking about things’.”
“Know ‘em,” snorted Applejack. She did. They’d gone into hysterics over a stampede of cattle, of parasprites, and of bunnies. Dust motes seemed not out of the question.
“One of them wanted to know, if I fought a griffin, who would win. I wasn’t sure what to say, really. Uhh… I told her I would win,” said Twilight. “It’s probably true. Why didn’t she feel better? I was ready to protect her!”
“Gossipin’ fools!” blurted Applejack, her eyes wide in dismay. “There ain’t gonna be no fight! Everythin’s all fine here, thanks fer askin’, don’t you be startin’ no fight! Don’t you hurt Gilda!”
“I won’t, I won’t! I haven’t done anything, have I?” protested Twilight. “I just don’t understand why that wouldn’t comfort the earth pony. I mean, flower pony… oh, you know the ones! Roseluck or something. I get them mixed up.”
Applejack glowered at nothing. “It ain’t soothin’ her on account of she ain’t being attacked by no griffin in th’ first place. You can’t fight a thing in her own fool mind. Seem like a lot of us got that problem.”
Twilight waited, but Applejack wasn’t talking, just staring dully at the grass with a look of resentment. Finally, Twilight said in a soft voice, “Will you try to remember some of the townsponies aren’t comfortable around griffins? Please?”
Applejack made a face. “Ah noticed.”
That got a laugh out of Twilight. “I know it might be confusing, but a lot of ponies just aren’t as strong, or as brave, as you are! Bear that in mind, okay?”
Applejack was nodding frantically. “Oh, all righty! Ah sure will, an’ I guess it’s true what you say. Ain’t it? Now if you’ll excuse me, I got some pressin’ business to attend to…”
The tremor in her voice alerted Twilight, whose ears swiveled forward abruptly. “Something is wrong. I can hear it in your voice. Is something bad happening? Can I help?”
“Naw,” protested Applejack, off her guard and no longer evading Twilight’s interest. “That’s okay.”
“Is something wrong with the barn? Or maybe you need help with Northern Spy?” guessed Twilight. “Come on! Applejack, where are you about to go, that’s got you so worried?”
Trapped, Applejack reverted to her most basic nature, and told the simple truth—or some of it, at least.
“Ah’m goin’ to talk to Dashie, in bed!”
Twilight stared for a moment, and then burst out laughing, missing the strange expression of mingled relief and misery on Applejack’s face. “Ahahahaha! I’d be worried too! Don’t be afraid. She’ll be gentle! …ish!”
“Okay. Okay,” said Applejack. “Okay…”
As Twilight trotted off, Applejack burst out, “Twi!”
“Yes?” blinked the unicorn, turning to face her friend again.
“How come you’re all speakin’ for the townsponies all of a sudden? You’re actin’ like they’re supposed to turn to you. Who tole you that, Twilight Sparkle?”
At that, Twilight dropped her gaze, bashfully. She dug at the dirt with a forehoof, and replied, “Nopony did. I thought I should get out in front of it. And I didn’t tell them to turn to me, they just do! It’s like they’re learning they have an exceptionally powerful unicorn in their midst, and they’re learning to make use of me. Two powerful unicorns, technically, as they have Trixie too, and we can magemeld to accomplish really big tasks.”
“Uh-huh,” said Applejack weakly.
“Trixie’s helped me understand better who I really am,” said Twilight. “I really think ponies should be taking care of things themselves. I’m proud they turned to me instead of running to Princess Celestia with this! It means we’re all a little more self-reliant, don’t you think?”
“It was probably going to be my responsibility to talk to you. So much is, these days! We’re really growing up as a community. I’m sure the ponies are going to ask me to do something about Gilda being here. When they do, I’m just going to tell them that you have the griffin situation under control, and to leave it to you and Rainbow. Okay?”
“Uhh… sure, you go ahead an’ do that!” said Applejack, rallying. She held her head high, her jaw a little too tight, her eyes mercifully dry for a few more seconds.
“I will!” said Twilight, and trotted off again, her cute rump bouncing in the noonday sun as she returned to her Ponyville and her Trixie.
Applejack watched her go, and then began walking unsteadily toward the house. She moved like she was, at the same time, desperate to go join Rainbow and afraid to. She dragged her hooves walking up the stairs, bumping them on the steps clumsily.
The room was dark. Rainbow had pulled the shades again. She was a dark lump under the covers, Northern Spy atop looking up curiously at Applejack as she entered.
“Rainbow?” said Applejack, hesitantly.
“Honey? Please talk t’ me. I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me. And I got to help you, somehow…”
Rainbow stirred, and pulled the covers even more over her head. Spy nosed at them, her little ears quirked to the side. She whacked Rainbow with a tiny forehoof, but the despairing pegasus did not respond.
Applejack couldn’t bear it. She stepped forward on trembling hooves, and took the corner of the bedspread in her teeth, and to the astonishment of Northern Spy, Applejack slowly drew the covers off the bed. Spy slid along with them, glancing this way and that in alarm. She gazed wide-eyed at Applejack, decided it was a game, and lit the room with a diminutive filly smile. Then, the mattress ran out, and Spy tumbled to the floor with a squeak, and bounced up, offended.
Applejack had no time or attention to spare. She was already walking forward, looking terrified.
“Rainbow? Please get up, Rainbow. Please!”
“Why?” replied Dash, leadenly.
“On account of we need you. Ah need you…”
Dash sniffled, rustling her wings slightly. Applejack’s heart lurched to see it—the same sleek body, the same silky mane, the same exquisite pegasus beauty as before, but gloom poured off Rainbow like a bath of poison.
“Please, my darlin’,” begged Applejack. “If you won’t get up, can ya talk a lil’? Can ya gimme a hint?”
“Big Macintosh was right,” mumbled Rainbow Dash.
Dash sighed, her eyes flooding with tears. “It’s just… dammit!”
Applejack moved closer. “Please! Let me help you feel better.”
At that, Rainbow shook her head helplessly. “That’s just it. There’s no way. I need to resign myself to it.”
Rainbow turned her head, and Applejack’s heart was wrung to see the agony in Dash’s eyes. “I… I thought I had a family…” she managed, and then the blue pegasus broke down completely, her face twisting, bawling in Applejack’s embrace while Spy looked on, startled.
“Oh, Rainbow!” sobbed Applejack. “It’s okay, honey, let it out…”
“Yeah, right!” wailed Dash. “That’ll help!”
Applejack was shaking, clinging to her beloved as if she too was drowning. “But maybe it will?”
Dash gritted her teeth. “DON’T try to sugar-coat it, okay? I can do this. I have to d… do this…”
“But… do what, darlin’?”
Rainbow’s head lifted. She looked into Applejack’s eyes with a bleak determination Applejack had last seen the day Rainbow Dash set off to distract a full-grown dragon, believing she would be killed doing so.
“I’m like… your wife, Applejack. I’m a mother. I’m gonna stay in this house, even though Big Macintosh is gone, even though Granny hates me. I’m gonna try and take care of what I can. I’ll take care of Spy. It’s just going to have to be that, okay? Not the other thing. I j… just thought I h… had a…”
Applejack stared at the wall, looking haunted, holding Rainbow as she wept.
“Rainbow, what mus’ I do? I’ll do anything. I can’t stand to see you this way. Maybe it ain’t so bad…”
She blinked. Rainbow was shaking her head violently. She mumbled into Applejack’s chest, “No, you can’t, you shouldn’t, you mustn’t…”
“What, beloved? What is it?”
Rainbow wouldn’t answer.
Applejack got a hoof under Rainbow’s chin. She lifted the adorable little face, to find it both despairing and raging, Dash shaking her head and trying to twist it away so she didn’t have to look in Applejack’s eyes.
“Rainbow Dash, you tell me what has you so upset, right now!”
“Fine!” wailed Dash, and fixed Applejack with a burning, tearful gaze. “This isn’t a family! It isn’t love and caring or anything like that, it’s been telling you how to live all your life and hurting you and now it’s driven your brother away for being different! It’s gonna screw up Spy to be around, you need to run away with me and Spy and we’ll go have a real family that knows how to be pony!”
Applejack’s jaw dropped in shock.
As she watched, Rainbow Dash’s stare crumbled away in a tide of self-loathing, first the anger breaking down, then the gaze dropping, and when her voice came again it was back to the crushed, spiritless misery as if that had never left.
“And I have no right even to suggest something like that. I am a stinking motherless pegasus who doesn’t belong anywhere and doesn’t even know what a family is, and this is probably all there is and all there ever was, or will be. Pretend I didn’t say anything. I’ll just deal, okay? I’ll… deal with it. Somehow.”
Applejack was shaking again. “Oh, Rainbow,” she said in a tremulous, soft voice. “Oh, Rainbow…”
“Shut up, shut up! It’s totally wrong of me to ask. It would be better if I just died, or never got born. Oops, too late!” Dash laughed raucously, falsely.
Applejack seemed frozen. She couldn’t look away, though Dash had turned her head. Eventually, the silence got to Dash, who looked up.
Applejack gulped. “Ah trust you…”
Rainbow Dash bared her teeth.
“Yeah, well… don’t!”
Dash shoved Applejack out of the way, jumping from the bed only to grab the bedcovers and drag them back. She buried herself beneath them, and became a cerulean lump once more, concealing herself from a world she could no longer bear even to look at.
Applejack gulped again. She spoke almost inaudibly, her mouth dry.
Applejack walked, blinking, out into the yard of Sweet Apple Acres. The world seemed to shimmer and vibrate, too real, echoing her shrieking nerves. She stood for a moment, staring at nothing and lost in thought.
“Hey babe!” The squawk shattered her bleak musings, and she leapt in the air and landed, legs splayed, shaking and wild-eyed.
Gilda swooped down. “Boy, am I glad to see you! I am so bored, cooped up in Dash’s place. Speaking of Dash, I haven’t seen her around, what’s she up to?”
“She’s in bed,” blurted Applejack, trying to get control of herself.
“Hot damn! Lead me to her!”
“No! Ah mean, she’s restin’. Yeah. Dashie needs her rest…”
“Don’t tell me,” winked Gilda, “she’s been having a little too much debilitating fun? You do know that pegasi can fly even after you’ve fucked ‘em so much they can’t walk, right?”
“Sump’n like that,” said Applejack. She wiped her brow with the back of a hoof, trying to figure out where to begin. If Big Macintosh wasn’t coming back, Granny wasn’t going to waver from her position: she was going to deny he ever existed. The idea terrified Applejack more than anything she’d ever known. She couldn’t blame him for not wanting to return. Rainbow claimed Granny hated her as well, but she was the one pony Granny would allow to talk to her when all hell broke loose. Of course, whatever she’d said to Rainbow had led to Rainbow’s emotional destruction, and a nosedive Applejack felt utterly helpless to protect her from. And then there was Apple Bloom, who still hadn’t registered what really happened, and whom Applejack would have to explain things to, because she was bound to ask why everypony was letting Granny be crazy. It hadn’t occurred to her that an Apple could become an un-pony for sexual misconduct. Maybe that was what Dashie knew about the private talk she’d had with Granny. It was a good thing Granny didn’t know the ways Applejack and Gilda got it on, then, because she was clearly next. It was just a matter of time…
“Hey. Hey!” squawked Gilda. “You okay? You look sick.”
“Ain’t nothin’!” protested Applejack. “Ah’m okay! Yeah. I’m th’ strong pony, ever’pony knows that.” She thought to herself, Apple Bloom could take over the farm—but she would be alone, with just Granny—who would likely be denying the existence of both her brother and her sister, at that point. She could get help for the farm work, Apple Bloom could, but that wouldn’t help on the lonely nights with half her family gone.
“Not just ponies know that,” smiled Gilda. She frowned, then. “You do look sick. Kid getting you down? They can be a talonful. Well, griffin chicks can.”
And then there was Spy. Rainbow was probably right about Spy. It wasn’t a healthy situation for a growing foal, was it? “Uhh…” said Applejack, “that’s it, yeah. Pow’ful exhaustin’, that filly. Chicks? Ain’t you griffins mostly big cats?”
“We go by the head,” said Gilda. “Want a break from all that?”
Applejack didn’t answer for a moment. Then, she said, “Gilda? You ever had a choice to make, that you can’t go back from no-how, an’ it’s a real tough choice?”
Gilda blinked at her. “Funny you should mention it. I live here now, in Ponyville, in Dash’s house. You could say I made my choice. I’m not sure it’s that I can’t go back, it’s more like why would I want to?”
“Ain’t sure I could go back,” breathed Applejack, as if to herself. “Somethin’ dies either way.”
“Sounds depressing. Want to not think about it for a while, and go do something else?”
Applejack trembled. “Aw, hell yeah!”
And, just like that, her body was seized in strong griffin arms, and the ground was dropping away beneath her as Gilda carried her off to the cloud house she’d turned into a griffin love-nest.
Applejack’s eyes were wide open and stayed wide open, and she gazed down at the toylike countryside, feeling nothing, expressionless.
That was new.
Gilda’s belly was soft. Gilda’s vagina was musky and feverish, already glistening with feline ooze.
“Oh, yeah, baby… nnnnh!”
Applejack tenderly licked the poor labia that couldn’t flip outward by themselves. Such alien parts, so strange and different. The strangeness felt right. For a moment, Applejack felt like the world didn’t exist. She was just there, a trembling and vulnerable mare, nuzzling and licking some pussy that happened to be griffin pussy, losing herself in the experience. All she had left was this oasis of strange alien sex, where she could find herself again through silently devoting herself, mare-ishly, to the vagina of her exotic lover…
“Hey! Hhhh… good warmup, now where’s that bit?”
Applejack blinked, yanked back to reality. “Huh?”
“The bit! Oh, crap, you didn’t forget it, did you? I’m gonna flip out in a few seconds if you keep doing that and I don’t get some dicking…”
Applejack’s eyes were wide. “Got it in m’hat. Been carryin’ it that way for a while now. Though I reckon it makes ya stalliony when ya do that.” She thought to herself, just like everypony needs from me, now. It’s the only thing that’s allowed anymore, either way…
…so something already died, din’t it?
Gilda licked her beak, her eyes gleaming. “Music to my ears. Whip it out.”
Her pony lover stared at her for a minute, and Gilda was about to ask what was the matter, but then Applejack bowed her head. It seemed like there was a tear in her eye, but it could have been a trick of the light. She doffed her hat, and the shiny metal bit fell out, and she took it in her teeth with a curious reluctance.
“Woohoo!” squawked Gilda. She made to flip onto all fours, a safer position for her partner, but before she could do so, a powerful equine foreleg caught her and flipped her onto her back again, spread-eagled under the now erect pony stallion Applejack had become.
Applejack flipped her hat back onto her head, a grim look in her eyes, and pounded it down firmly. She shifted her hind legs, her tail flicking, and snorted, baring her teeth around the bit.
Gilda’s beak gaped. “Whoa…” she breathed, all quivery at the sight. “Holy crap. Be gentle!”
Applejack’s nostrils flared, and her hips swung forward with inexorable force.
“GwwAAAHHH!” shrieked Gilda, as the equine cock-head rammed against her pubis, prying her wide and shoving in effortlessly. She reeled, her head exploding in fireworks, already near orgasm and driven hard by the fierce, stallionish entry. “Oh my fucking GAWWD be careful, aahhh!”
She felt Applejack’s body over her, and squirmed as pony weight came down on her, pinning her to the bed. Applejack was clinging to her tenderly, but shaking real bad, her tail flicking outrageously. Gilda felt something wet dripping on her. Tears?
“Hey what the nggYAAAHH!”
Applejack’s body doubled, tenderly nudging the swollen horsecock deeper, in to where it pressed Gilda’s cervix: that feline trigger that drove her into a berserker frenzy. Applejack knew this. Didn’t she? It had been explained, perhaps not in so many words.
Gilda fought for coherence. “Ahhh, baby! Just, just, if you could UHHHH!”
Between her legs, that pony body had doubled up again, as the forelegs strained her tight and the weight pinned her down. Applejack’s pony cock rammed deep, so deep, deeper than it had ever dared to go. Gilda writhed, vision whiting out, triggered still harder. Her pony was intentionally doing this! Why?
“Baby!” gasped Gilda. “Applejack! Careful, it YAAAHHH!”
The tempo was so sedate—Applejack would pause, seemingly lost in some kind of daze, but then the forelegs would tighten, squeezing Gilda ruthlessly, and that solid, equine body would just shove, harder and harder, no longer showing the slightest restraint. Horse cocks were too big to entirely fit inside a griffin, or indeed another pony. That was why they had such a devastating effect on the griffin cervix, something usually prodded only glancingly by the most impassioned griffin dicks. This was different. Gilda was ravaged beyond anything she’d imagined. That humongous bulk would tug partly out of her, teasingly, and then shove right to her depths with equine force, as if Applejack was trying to make her flip out in orgasm…
When Gilda recovered from the last languid thrust, and knew where she was, she saw a wall of orange, streaked with tears. It was Applejack’s neck. Applejack had been weeping, silently. Applejack was pressing her throat against Gilda’s beak. Suddenly, Gilda understood it all.
“No…” choked Gilda.
Applejack shifted her left rear hoof… and put her back into it, beginning to thrust in earnest.
Gilda screamed, her body responding with a storm of erotic overload that threatened to overwhelm her senses completely, and she fought for control even as she felt herself turned into a helpless fucktoy, that massive horsecock tugging nearly out of her in a dizzying seismic shift, and then swinging forward to brutally thud against her cervix and trigger her griffin responses. Her scream was muffled as Applejack pressed pony throat ever more firmly against the sharp-edged beak, seemingly lost in a mad and impulsive frenzy of her own. Applejack pounded Gilda in a tempo that built and built in speed and ferocity.
All Gilda could do was clamp her beak shut, leaking tears of her own, and hold it clamped shut, her head twisted to the side in desperate attempts to keep it clear of Applejack’s vulnerable throat, and she held her beak tightly shut even as the explosions blew her skull apart—and she screamed through that tightly shut beak as horsecock rammed her insides and blew all of her corks at once—and Gilda turned into a writhing, kicking wild animal under Applejack, exploding in violence in just a few incandescent seconds while Applejack squealed and gushed a geyser of hot horsecome into her, body shuddering in an explosive pony orgasm that exceeded anything Gilda had seen her experience. Applejack bucked into Gilda, convulsing in a savage climax and unloading in a massive spurt that flooded Gilda’s feline womb and spurted out around the edges, even as Gilda thrashed and clawed.
Applejack panted, not sure where or who she was, or anything. She had a sense she’d just gone way too far. She felt lightheaded, light all over in fact, and her back hurt, her chest hurt from squeezing Gilda—and that fantasy, if it was a fantasy, she surely got carried away there, imagining Gilda rippin’ her throat up. Her throat was fine, awful dry though. Her back hurt. No, it was her belly. She felt awful light…
Applejack looked under herself, as Gilda stirred and made a pitiful anguished chirping noise.
Applejack went very quiet, and very pale.
“Ah fucked up…” she said, softly, almost reverently.
Gilda was still holding her beak tightly shut. Her eyes were clamped shut, too, and she was shaking. She made another griffin noise.
“Uhh, Gilda? We got a problem.”
Gilda’s eyes popped open. Fearfully, they fixed on Applejack’s throat.
“Naw,” said Applejack, her own eyes beginning to glaze over. “Further down.”
Gilda’s eyes traced down, and her body stiffened as she looked at the dangling piles of pony gut. Applejack’s belly was torn open, spilling viscera onto Gilda’s body.
“Oh, no, no, no…” moaned Gilda.
“Ah really fucked up,” said Applejack, trembling as the pain began to flood her. “Ah guess it’s been good…”
“No!” wailed Gilda, and as Applejack began to collapse, she guided her over into a position lying on her side. “Oh my God! Oh, shit! I tried so hard, oh my God!”
“Changed m’ mind…” managed Applejack, her eyes starting to roll back in her head.
“Ah fucked up… don’t wanna go now… shit…”
Gilda, reeling, struggled free and whirled, lunging for Applejack’s belly. Applejack chuckled weakly, seeing it.
“Go ‘head… guess I get t’ know how that feels…”
“The fuck are you talking about?” hissed Gilda.
“Eat me, go on, I’m done for, it’s over…”
Gilda whirled again, raging at Applejack with tear-streaked eyes. “Fuck you! How dare you? Hold fucking still, I think everything’s still intact. Griffins have a thing called surgery, you might not be done, please tell me you’re not really done!”
Applejack’s eyes were stunned. “Uhhh… us too, a lil’. Not much call for it. Them ain’t th’ pink bits I’m used to seein’.” She shuddered, dizzy and blinded with pain.
Gilda was inspecting the damage. “Oh, fuck. Oh, man. I swear nothing’s torn open, it’s just out. Maybe I… Okay. This might feel weird, dude.”
Applejack jolted and bucked on the red-soaked bedspread as Gilda firmly thrust her insides back inside her, wadding up sheets and pressing them against the wound. Her eyes rolled back, and she went limp.
“Thread,” hissed Gilda. She tried to get up, and fell over, still too obliterated by her experience to support her own weight properly. She yowled in frustration. “Ponies! They have no fucking talons, they can’t sew… wait! That dressmaker pony, the unicorn!”
Gilda staggered out of the room, barely able to walk. She charged out of Dash’s house, bouncing off the door-frame, and flung herself into space, power-diving towards the Carousel Boutique. After a while, in the distance, the sound of glass smashing could be heard. Applejack lay limp on the bed, breathing shallowly, the wad of bedsheets against her belly steadily becoming redder.
Applejack woke to a dull red roar of constant pain, that didn’t just stay steady but flared and flashed and stabbed.
She looked down to see an outlandish sight. Gilda had thread held in her beak, and a needle in her talons. She was bending over Applejack’s belly, and she was literally sewing it back together with neat little stitches, thrusting the needle through her skin like it was cloth. That was the stabbing pain—the other roar of pain was inside.
“Back with us?” said Gilda, concentrating. “Probably was a mercy you were out for so long. Don’t even fucking ask me to stop, it won’t happen. I looked real carefully and nothing in there was torn, which is some kind of miracle. I’d just changed the sheets and they were clean. I’m almost sure you’ll get through this, so hold still because I’m almost done here.”
Applejack shook, gritting her teeth. “Sweet Cel…”
“I bet she wishes she took me out when she had the chance,” snarled Gilda. “Or she would, if she knew. Holy crap. How the fuck am I gonna explain this?”
“Dunno,” managed Applejack. Even that took everything she had. She lay her head flat, shuddering as the bright sharp little pain stabbed and stabbed.
“That’s right. Relax,” said Gilda. “You’re gonna have to rest up for a while even if this goes incredibly well.”
Applejack winced as the needle pain moved to a new location. She craned her neck around, looking for a brief moment before she had to lay out flat again. “…y’ got Bucky, but tick… tickl…”
The edges of Applejack’s vision were getting dark and blurry. “M’ leg, Bucky. But Tickle and Softy… got away…”
The needle paused. Gilda was leaning over her, looking concerned. “Is this you going delirious on me? Who’s Bucky? Who’s Softy?”
Applejack struggled to explain. “Aw, hell, d… don’t tell anypony about that. Bucky, yeah, they know that part…” She breathed evenly for a few seconds, gathering her strength. “Names. Them legs is Bucky McGillicuddy an’ Kicks McGee. Bucky took a claw pretty good.”
“It looks worse than it is,” said Gilda. “It’s just messy, there’s not that much real damage. Your belly got the worst of it. Who’s Tickle and S… actually, I must be even more of a complete idiot than I thought, it’s not hard to guess, is it?”
Applejack nodded. “Pony tits.” She breathed for a while, her ears laid back, trying to get strength to respond. The strength came. “When I was a filly an’ started to git sexy, I thought th’ one liked bein’ tickled and th’ other seemed more softer? Please don’t tell nopony! I wouldn’t ever have said it… I ain’t myself right now. I ain’t never told nopony them soppy names.” Her voice rasped, dryly.
“Not even Dash?” blinked Gilda.
Applejack tried to lift her head and stare at Gilda, but she was still too weak. Her eyes turned to gaze, startled, at her savage lover. “Naw. Now that you mention it, that seems funny. Why din’t I ever tell her that? Her of all ponies? I got so used to stayin’ safe and hidin’ them feelin’s, I guess it never come up.”
“Are you okay with me finishing? It won’t be long.”
“Yeah, all right,” said Applejack, and looked away. The sharp little pains stabbed for a while, and then stopped.
“I’m gonna keep some pressure on it with these wadded-up sheets,” said Gilda, “and I want to let you rest. If you’ve got it in you, though, I… need you to explain what happened.” She slunk around, catching Applejack’s eye, and her expression was troubled. “It’s just that, if all I mean to you is something to sexually hurt you or k… kill you…”
Applejack’s lip quivered. “Oh, naw, that ain’t how it is, that ain’t it at all!”
Gilda didn’t look reassured. “You say that, but you did what you did, and I’m responsible for what happened then. It could’ve been even worse. I’m amazed that you survived what I did do to you. I realize I didn’t warn you except for, well, pretty much every fucking time we had sex, but if you didn’t know what could happen from a maddened griffin orgasm—why were you pressing your neck against my beak like that?”
She waited for an answer, and waited, and waited—watching Applejack’s startled, vulnerable eyes dart and blink at a series of thoughts that clearly passed through that pony brain while the lips remained sealed.
“Are you trying to think up an excuse, or a story?” said Gilda.
“Nope,” said Applejack. She looked shocked, perhaps awed, the luminous green eyes wide.
“What the hell is all this about, Applejack?”
“About? Ah am about love again,” said Applejack, with a quiet earnestness. “It’s good. I hope it’s not too late…”
“What are you talking about? Compared to what?”
“Fear,” said Applejack, simply.
Gilda stared. “I don’t understand you. You were about fear? You tried to kill yourself through fucking because of fear?”
Applejack gave her a sorrowful look. “Ah am so sorry. I din’t even see it happenin’ or nothin’. No faith, no hope, no love…” She trailed off, a tear coming to her eye. “Ah jes’ was bein’ attacked every which way and I couldn’t win, I couldn’t defeat th’ fear in everypony else. And it ain’t about fear beating fear. We got to save their hearts, calm them, make it safe and let everythin’ settle down and they’ll come to their senses like th’ good ponies they are.” Applejack gulped. “I hope it ain’t too late, I really do. It’s got to be not too late.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” demanded Gilda, her wings fluttering anxiously. “Maybe you’re delirious. Or maybe I am. You were fighting fear in everypony?”
“We are all flighty critters, we pony folk, Gilda. Even the best of us.” Applejack grew quiet and thoughtful.
“Even you, huh?” said Gilda.
“Even my ol’ Granny,” corrected Applejack. “We see somethin’ out of place an’ we panic and imagine all sorts o’ things and we’re off and runnin’, stampedin’. And you can run full tilt standin’ still. Or sittin’ in a chair denyin’ your grandfoal ever existed. Or hidin’ under the covers and not leavin’ your bed…”
“You’re a weird pony, Applejack,” said Gilda.
That got her a stern look from her wounded, but undaunted, pony.
“Ah am about love, Gilda. I AIN’T about fear. And I am going to bring th’ love back and help the ones I love. But I gotta think…”
“Rest, you mean!” protested Gilda.
“Think, I said. I’ll need to go find Big Macintosh, that’s for certain. We can’t heal with him missin’, Granny got to face him an’ see he’s still the same pony that ever he was. If I get Granny back, Dashie will follow, an’ Apple Bloom. An’ we got to have the Apple family solid if Twilight is tellin’ me the truth.”
“About what?” blinked the griffin.
Applejack’s gaze was sorrowful again. “She thinks the town is gonna panic, ‘cos of you. I know them ponies, an’ she’s prob’ly right. But what can she do all by herself? She’s a pow’ful magic unicorn sure enough, but the problem is, that won’t help. She’s a weapon, and they don’t need no weapon, they need to stop panickin’ an’ settle down. An’… oh dear. Twi’s thinkin’ her power will make th’ townsponies feel better, but when th’ threat ain’t a threat, except in their heads?”
Gilda’s face was a study. She stared at the lovely, injured pony who lay there nearly disemboweled yet claiming the griffin in town wasn’t a threat. She licked her beak nervously, lashing her tail. “You think they’ll come after me?”
“Ah’m sayin’ Twi probl’y can’t stop ‘em. She don’t understand such things.”
“What are we gonna do, then?”
Applejack stirred, and winced. “Ow. Kin I get up? Kin I walk? I got to write Dashie a note, she got paper or somethin’ around here?”
“I don’t think you should,” protested Gilda. “Maybe you can. What are you doing?”
“Get me a pencil or somethin’.”
Gilda whirled and leapt, rushing off only to return almost immediately with paper and a pencil held in her formidable talons. Applejack struggled for a moment, and then pulled herself off the bed, thumping heavily to the floor.
“Oh my God! Let me help you get back in…”
“Gimme that there paper!” demanded Applejack.
Gilda handed it over, and Applejack spread it out on the checkerboard-tiled floor and took the pencil in her teeth. Frowning with concentration, she scrawled out her message. Gilda read along as she wrote.
“Rainbow, come meet me in Appleloosa,” wrote Applejack. “It’s not what you think, you don’t have to bring Spy. I love you and we’re gonna get through this and save everypony, just get out here and help me!”
Finishing, she spat the pencil out, and struggled again, kicking her legs. “Hey, take it easy,” said Gilda, but the earth pony mare wasn’t listening. She got her hooves under her, and she stood, panting, eyes crossing with the pain. “How do ah look?”
Gilda stared at her. “How are you able to stand? That would be badass even for a griffin, dude. What the fuck are you doing? Where do you think you’re going?”
“Oh, come on…”
“I’m serious!” said Applejack. “Get me to Appleloosa. Except you best drop me outside town and let me go there on my own. I want you safe up here, there ain’t no tellin’ what’s going on in Ponyville. Swear you’ll stay inside until I git things under control out there.”
“But what the hell?” squawked Gilda. Applejack glared.
“I got to go get m’brother back, before he gets far. I think I know some places he mighta gone. There ain’t no time to dilly-dally, neither. I gotta go right now. You give that note to Dashie, maybe leave it at th’ house and fly straight back here, okay? Leave it in th’ mailbox and git back here right away! Understand?”
Gilda flinched at the intensity. “What do you think is going to happen?”
“I don’t know, but I want you SAFE. I’m about love, remember? We need th’ Apple family back in action to guide th’ town, not all twisted up and useless. I’ll get out to Appleloosa and meet up with Big Macintosh and Braeburn. Rainbow will come as soon as she reads my note, and she’ll help me convince Big Macintosh to come back, and we’re gonna dig up whatever’s worryin’ Granny so bad. Hell, we’ll get Rainbow to fuck him in front of Granny if that’s what it takes. I don’t even give a shit anymore, there’s things more important than whether my love is a slutty pegasus who loves earth pony dick, which ah knew anyways so there ain’t no sense in bein’ so damn fussy about it…”
Gilda’s eyes were wide. “Holy crap! Uh, yeah, I enjoy Dash being a slutty pegasus too. What’s going on down there at your place? Applejack!”
She got a fierce, stallionish gaze for her pains. “You stay out of it!” Applejack demanded. “Stay up here, stay safe! You don’t know what th’ ponies are capable of when they get together and get a lil’ stampedey. Let’s jes’ say things could get real dicey. I got to bring my family back. If anypony can steer a Ponyville stampede, it’s us! And ah fear we got us a Ponyville stampede brewin’.”
“Really?” said Gilda uncertainly. “I don’t know how to put this, Applejack, but I just nearly gutted you when I didn’t even want to. I’m having a hard time imagining how even the whole town could pose any threat to me.”
Applejack sighed, and the earnest tone she took next was not fierce or dominant, yet it shook the hapless griffin worse than any fit of rage. “Please! Don’t go runnin’ around town, okay? It ain’t safe for you. It ain’t! If the ponies are stampeding they won’t think or see reason and they will destroy anything that’s different from them.” She shuddered. “They’ll run right over you.”
Gilda’s beak dangled open in amazement. “You’re serious.”
“Stay safe! An’ hide them hoppin’ bunny dinners,” winked Applejack.
“I already do,” said Gilda, wide-eyed.
“Good!” Applejack took a few experimental steps, wincing. “I b’leeve this will work. Ow… Next thing is, you gotta fly me out to the edge of town without nopony seein’ me like this, an’ drop off the note for Dashie, and then you git your birdkitty butt right back here, understand me?”
Gilda swooped down upon Sweet Apple Acres, glancing this way and that. Applejack had been so dreadfully serious. It was insane, but all the same Gilda was thoroughly spooked.
She placed the letter in the Apples’ mailbox, and looked around again, and banged the door with a balled-up talon. Then, she leapt two feet in the air, looking behind her in a panic at an unexpected sound. It took Gilda several seconds to work out it had been the echo off the barn startling her.
She stood there, listening, and there was no response from inside, and every second her panic grew.
“Fuck this fuckin’ lame shit,” quavered Gilda, and with a spring and a bound, she was back in the air, racing for Dash’s house, where she would bolt inside, slam the door, and try to hide under the covers before realizing how much of a mess they were.
Behind her, a yellow form with a long, flowing pink mane peered out from behind a cloud, far above Sweet Apple Acres. Fluttershy bit her lip, fretting, trying to make sense of what she’d just seen.
Applejack walked steadily, fighting the urge to trot or gallop. Her body was already furious with her even for the walking, and she was getting dizzy. Earth pony tenacity was all that kept her upright. She ran over possible arguments in her head, walking just a little bit faster as the meadows of Mareheim began to give way to the scrub and brush of Appleloosa.
Then, suddenly, she trod on something soft and time stopped in a fracture of horror as the hiss rang out and a sharp rattle exploded into her ears.
Applejack leapt aside, whirling to face the danger, and it rose up and struck out at her as she flung herself back another few feet in a mad leap. It was still coming. She reared, and both forehooves came down in a sickening crunch…
Applejack panted. The deadly snake lay crushed under her hoof.
“Sheeit,” she muttered. Then, her eyes widened, and she peered fearfully under herself. It wasn’t just her imagination. She was leaking.
Applejack looked around frantically, but there was nothing but sagebrush and prairie. She pressed a forehoof to her injury, awkwardly, fighting through the pain. If she could get to Appleloosa, still… just get to Appleloosa, somehow…
She took a cautious step with Bucky, pain searing through her. Then, Kicks, gently. She thought to herself, maybe this will work—and pressing her reopened wound tightly, she hopped forward with her one good foreleg.
Sutures tore, weakened by the fight with the snake, giving way one by one. Applejack’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she collapsed, hitting the dirt only a moment after her insides did.
There was nothing but the rasp of her breathing for a moment, and then Applejack’s foreleg flailed, kicking the air. She lay on her side, struggling, trying to rise. When that proved impossible, Applejack dragged herself along, refusing to give up, her whole world at stake.
She got six inches. Another inch, as she poured sweat. Another few inches…
“…Dashie…” she croaked.
Applejack went limp, her mouth still forming the name of her beloved. Silence fell, as her breathing weakened and slowed.
And just as it was fading into nothingness, a costumed form appeared on the crest of a nearby hill, scanning the prairie. It cut a laughably overdramatic figure, swathed in green and blue silks like some Saddle Arabian out of an overly florid pony tale, if there had ever been a Saddle Arabian who wore a skintight ninja suit complete with superhero cape.
The cloaked figure gasped, and let out a little shriek of horror…
…and Lyra charged forward at a full gallop, her nub of a horn glowing brightly as she sounded her alarm.