Unmasked

“Um…” came the little voice.

Applejack blinked. She looked behind her. She leapt two feet in the air and dropped her burden.

“Sour mash an’ sweet apples!” she cried. “Rock Candy, look at you! What in Equestria is the reason for that get-up?”

Rock pouted stubbornly. “Um, that’s why I’m here. I needed to ask you something.”

Applejack gawked at him. It wasn’t so much the rouged circles on his white cheeks, or the brightly colored green ribbons in his pink mane and tail, or the red rubber nose. The pointy candy-striped hat with big fluffy tassel was part of it. The blue and magenta swim flippers helped.

She gave him a hard look. “No, you can’t play in the irrigation creek. Not until you take a bath, young fella! We don’t want that clown makeup washin’ off and all gettin’ in the vegetables. Now one side, you lil’ scaper! I was carryin’ this rope to the barn. We’re gonna hoist some barrels of apples up to the second story an’ make room for the rest of the harvest.”

“It’s not that! I’m not trying to play in the creek,” protested Rock. “It’s important.”

“Well, all right,” said Applejack. “Shoot!”

Rock blinked. He nosed over toward his shoulder, where a blue rubber bulb dangled. He chomped it carefully with his teeth, and from behind his ear, a plastic flower shot a stream of water into the air, arcing cheerfully over his head and missing Applejack completely. He gave her a look like, ‘was that okay?’.

Applejack took a deep breath, reminding herself that this was Pinkie Pie’s kid. “I mean, ask me this important thing whatcha needed ta ask me.”

“Oh!” squeaked Rock. “It’s this. Is it okay for us superhero kids to, you know, dress up?”

“Is that what you’re doin’?” grinned Applejack. “Don’t see how I kin stop ya!”

“No, really!” pressed Rock. “It’s important! Can we dress up in our superhero costumes? Like, all the time? Please?”

Applejack’s eyes softened. “Aww. Rock, honey, you go ahead. I’m sure we’ll let you know if them things need a good old cleaning, so don’t you worry about it. Why, back when I was a little filly, I dressed up to go to Canterlot and be a fancy pony. Did you know that? And at the time, I was so excited I wanted to stay dressed up even when goin’ to bed. Took a while for me to learn what was right for me.” She looked pensive, gazing out across the farmland.

“Are you sure?” asked Rock, looking her in the eye.

“Dern tootin’ I’m sure! I had to give it up after a week, that stuff chafes ya in the personals! I’m much happier bein’ how I am!”

“No, I mean… Are you sure it’s okay for us to wear our superhero costumes all the time?” said Rock. “Even if it makes us look like different ponies than we used to be?”

“Rock Candy, I believe we can stand you in that crazy get-up for as long as you want to run around in it, which may not be terribly long but don’t you worry about that! A lil’ sweat and greasepaint ain’t gonna hurt ya. Go right ahead!” said Applejack, indulgently.

Rock drew himself up. “In that case… allow me to introduce… Bat-Pony!”

He hopped up and down, waving and gesticulating, the flippers flailing on his hooves. Applejack looked in the direction of his gestures, and broke into an immediate smile. Northern Spy had returned, peering truculently out from the darkness of the nearby shrubbery.

“Dang, honey!” marvelled Applejack. “You snuck into that bush so sneaky I din’t even hear nor see you! An’ look at you! Granny, come see, the kids are playin’ dress-up!”

“Whut’s that?” called Granny Smith, from indoors. In the distance, a prismatic streak blasted from the rough position of the Crusaders’ Clubhouse to a spot just inside the Everfree Forest, where it hooked a sharp turn and zipped off deeper into the forest, hugging the treetops.

“Huh, look at her go,” said Applejack. “Granny? Can you throw another tater in the pot? Rainbow’s gonna be hungry at dinner. An’ then come see our lil’ bat-pony!”

Reluctantly, Northern Spy began to emerge from the bush. Her head was wrapped in a dark cloth that covered her ears. Around her neck, another cloth served as a cape, draping her small body and not quite reaching to her powder-blue tail, which showed the signs of too much time spent crawling through bushes.

Her cute little fangs glinted over her lower lip, which was stuck out in a sullen and cranky look.

Applejack beamed. “Awww!” she said, and cuddled her foal. “Yikes! Get out into the sun, girl, the shade don’t suit you—you’re chilly! Granny, come see this!”

Spy flinched as Granny Smith stuck her head out the door. The old mare blinked and did a double take. “Aaaah! Them vampire fruitbats done got our baby! Help! Help!”

“Granny!” snapped Applejack, as Spy cowered, on the verge of panicked flight. “Stop pullin’ her leg, they’re only playin’ with costumes!”

Granny gave her a long look, as Rock trembled, his lip quivering… and then, she smirked at her granddaughter and great-granddaughter together. “Well, I kin see that, you daft horse! Who’s a cute little bat pony, yes you are! Where’d she get them fake teeth, Applejack? They’re gosh dern amazin’. Ooo, look at the scary cape, all black an’ dark and such!”

“It IS scary,” said Northern Spy resentfully.

“Oh, yes it is, a woodgy woodgy woo!”

“It’s not a woo, not even a woodgy one!” argued Rock Candy, glancing nervously at Spy. “It’s our superhero costumes, which we’re gonna wear from now on, okay? I’m, uh, Big Top and this is Bat Mare. We fight crime and catch dangerous monsters!”

Spy skulked back into the bush, looking tense. Overhead, a rainbow streak split the sky, as Dash went to scan Ponyville from the air, pulling intense G forces as she followed the road. Her shadow briefly flickered across the group of ponies, including Spy in her half-hidden position. Spy flinched again, to a look of concern from Rock Candy.

“What the HAY is going on over here when things are supposed to be going on over THERE?” demanded Apple Bloom, trotting up to the motley group of ponies. “Applejack, I asked for one thing. One thing! And look, there, in the dirt, what could that be? It’s the one thing I asked for. Bring your rope into the barn, I said, this very rope here, and we’ll hoist some barrels and make room fer more. Well?”

Applejack stuck her lower lip out. “Aw, Apple Bloom! You jes’ run out there and you didn’t say ‘right this instant’, now did you?”

“I got three strong farm ponies waitin’,” said Apple Bloom, “so what do ya think you’re doin’ standing around out here?”

“Lookin’ at my foal’s superhero costume, that’s what!” retorted Applejack. “Ain’t it a beaut?”

Apple Bloom blinked. She looked at Rock. “Dang. There a circus in town?”

“No no,” said Applejack. “Spy’s. Scary, huh?”

Apple Bloom swung suddenly around, with the authority of a small but righteous Boss Mare, and stared at Northern Spy. Spy cringed further into the bush, and hissed, baring her fangs, her eyes gleaming in an uncanny way. Rock Candy’s eyes widened, and he let out a little whimper, shuffling his hooves in the dirt in anxiety.

“Huh,” said Apple Bloom critically. “What’s th’ occasion? That is good. Real lifelike, that is.”

“Now, Apple Bloom!” reprimanded Granny Smith.

“What?” blinked the diminutive Boss, taken aback.

Granny winked. “Be a sport, won’t you? Yer only young once. Good, you say? This is terrifyin’! Oh heavens ta Betsy, the scarey monster’s gonna bite us all to deeeth!”

“To death?” said Apple Bloom, skeptically. “She ain’t much bigger than a short pile of crabapples.”

“To deeeeeth!” vowed Granny. “I tole you! We’re all gonna hide under our beds!”

Apple Bloom glanced at Applejack. “Uh-huh. Well all righty then. You kin go hide now, an’ Applejack can go hide under her bed once she’s brought us that fine rope she’s got. Now, I know you might be sayin’, here you are, bring it yourself and leave us to our play-toyin’ and lollygaggin’… but I asked my sister to help and she done said yes, she would. So, if you please, Applejack, take a moment out of your afternoon and come with me, bringin’ the rope like you said you would, and then you can hide under all the beds in Ponyville if it pleases you…”

There was a crackling noise overhead. The prismatic streak had returned from circumnavigating Ponyville, but rather than continue back over the Everfree Forest, Dash’s flight abruptly stopped, as if she’d hit a wall. Spy, wide-eyed, stared up at the motionless speck that peered down at the little cluster of ponies. Then, Rainbow Dash swooped down with terrifying speed, and slammed into the ground right in the middle of the group. She rose to her hooves, exhausted, shaking, sweating, staring only and utterly at her Northern Spy, and that little cape, and that cloth tightly wrapping her head, and the little fangs.

Spy drew back further into the bush… and hissed, like a wild animal. Dash recoiled, visibly.

“Now, that’s the way,” said Granny with satisfaction. “You see that, Apple Bloom? More like that. Trust her mother to play along like she means it!”

Rainbow Dash gulped, her mouth gone dry, horror in her gaze.

“It’s okay,” she said. “We’re gonna… I don’t know, but we’re gonna do something. You’re safe, Spy.”

Granny frowned. “Well, o’ course she is you daft horse! What’s th’ matter with you?”

Applejack looked at Rainbow. She looked at Spy, cowering in the bush. She looked at Rock Candy, and the incongruous expression of horror and dismay on his cheerfully painted clown’s face. She looked back at Rainbow, and her gut did a flip.

“Rainbow Dash, what is this?” she asked.


Zecora looked at the Elder that sat across from her. She took a breath, dropped her gaze, studied the grass for a moment. She looked up again, but didn’t speak.

The Elder looked back. His ear twitched. He glanced around, as if gauging the quality of the stillness. He nodded.

“We begin again,” he said, calmly. “You leave. You return. Hm?”

The Elder next to him considered this for a moment, and nodded. “Yes. Begin at the beginning. We are here. You leave. You return.”

Zecora watched Dursaa think about this. Finally, he nodded. “To begin: we leave, we return.”

“No,” said Zecora, and Elder ears twitched all around the circle.

They considered this, too. Zecora looked at the ground, and didn’t rush into an explanation.

Finally, an Elder cleared his throat. “Er. No, we do not begin? No, you did not leave? No, you do not return?”

Zecora still looked at the ground, unchallengingly. “I do not return.”

“Yet here you are,” suggested the Elder.

“I do not return. My home is not here,” said Zecora.

The entire circle stirred, murmurs of zebra approval everywhere, though not shared by Dursaa.

“It is well,” said the Elder. “We begin. We are here. You travel from home to see us. You seek aid, though you have gone far away?”

Zecora nodded. “I seek aid. My vision is not clear.”

The Elder, who sported a herb-doctor’s cutie mark, gave a warning glance to another of his number, who’d opened his mouth with a snarky expression. The other zebra subsided, without comment, even about how a zebra mare exile with a cutie mark plainly had more obscure visions than anyone wished to hear about.

Zecora never looked up. The first Elder nodded, in satisfaction.

“It is well to seek aid,” he said, gently. “We restate: the stallion, he loves a pony?”

“She is a pegasus,” said Dursaa. “She is… so beautiful…” He trailed off, tragically, gazing into space.

The Elder lifted an eyebrow, surprised at the tremor in Dursaa’s voice. “Very well, then. The stallion, he loves a pegasus? And the… erm…”

“Mare,” said Zecora, still not looking up.

“Thank you. The mare, she too loves the pegasus?”

His tone betrayed disapproval: but this was an Elder circle, and they sat prepared to hear many more unsettling things, if need be.

Zecora nodded. Dursaa remained sunk in gloom.

“Yet,” said the Elder, after a quiet pause, “you journey together. The mare does not return, she only visits what once was home. Does the stallion… return?”

Dursaa trembled. He shut his eyes, and then stared not at the Elders, but their town beyond them.

“Does…”

“I do not know!” groaned Dursaa. “It hurts!”

Zecora winced, at his obvious pain. For a zebra stallion to carry on so, the torment had to be nearly beyond endurance. For all that he was a big crude testicle-swinging clod, it seemed he did actually love Fluttershy an awful lot.

Not only that: they’d sought out the counsel of Elders because they lacked any other solution. Zecora had been surprised even to get Dursaa’s cooperation, for the stallion’s place was to rule his household, even (or especially) one he had usurped: but this was another thing entirely. For him even to be considering a return to Zebrica spoke of things going unthinkably wrong at home.

She reached out to give him a reassuring pat, then froze. All around her, she sensed the quiet nods of the Elders: the mare was there to comfort and serve the stallion, even an overemotional fussy stallion such as this. It was a tacit acceptance of her role, and she was playing into it just by responding compassionately.

She withdrew her hoof, and stared fixedly at the grass again.

The Elders glanced among themselves, and then they sat and allowed the silence to deepen. It was Dursaa who broke it.

“I cannot return and make a home here. I do not return. I love her. I want to care for her.”

This was a surprising sentiment, on several fronts. Zecora’s immediate reaction was a frown, for it seemed a ridiculous claim. The big stripey clod had Fluttershy waiting on him mane and hoof! She openly prided herself on her subservience! Yet, thought Zecora, if that was true, then caring for her might mean playing along with these wishes.

The Elders’ reaction was simpler. Their heads drew back, their nostrils flared, as if he’d suddenly developed an odor. Stallions did not serve and care for mares. They provided the strength, the leadership, the valiant and hopelessly phallic treetrunk of power for mares to flock to, but stallions did not express sentiments as Dursaa had. How could one say so helplessly, ‘I want to care for her’? One took stallionly action to support and feed and seed the mare, without expressing such wavering, soppy, passive attitudes.

“Care, or not, sir!” replied one Elder. “If you return only to lament, like no real stallion, you should leave! Or do you return to die?”

Zecora’s eyes widened, and her jaw tensed, but she still didn’t interject. This was an Elder meeting. Dursaa would not be at risk of execution unless every single zebra present, including himself, agreed that there was no other course. She wasn’t sure, but thought that her voice might count as well, though she could not expect to carry as much weight as a stallion. It didn’t matter: if a desperate or troubled mare crashed an Elder circle, the solution had to also address her needs. She’d be able to protect him. Fluttershy would want her to.

Of course, no other zebra mare would likely be interfering in the plight of a sad and weak stallion who could not find his way. They’d abandon him in droves. It wasn’t their responsibility, and wasn’t in any way appealing when there were plentiful real stallions sparring every day for their favors.

One Elder muttered, “He probably doesn’t even nip her haughty pony rump…”

“Vampire,” said Zecora clearly. “He cannot do such a thing even if he wished. Do you not remember? Dursaa cannot act as you,” and her lip curled in an involuntary show of contempt, “want him to act.”

Silence fell, yet again. The first Elder narrowed his eyes, thinking hard.

“You,” he said. “Mare. Zecora. What is it you wish?”

Zecora remained completely impassive, to murmurs of approval from the circle. She considered the question.

“I wish Fluttershy… the vampire pegasus mare… to be happy. She is not happy, Elders.”

“What troubles her?”

“Herself,” replied Zecora.

They nodded, solemnly. “The darkness draws her?” said one.

Zecora hesitated. “I… have helped her. With enchantments.”

“How can that be?”

Zecora licked her lips. There would be no going back from this one.

“The Call of the Dead,” she replied.

Every single zebra Elder leapt to their hooves, as one. “WHAT?” “You cannot have that power!” “Whose ancestors do you dare to steal?” “Accursed!”

Zecora didn’t flinch, though Dursaa’s alarm was evident. She remained lying on the grass, staring down at it, her manner calm. She even waited for the Elders to stop ranting and huffing and puffing, and then she glanced up, a tinge of exasperation in her gaze.

“I steal nothing. No masks of yours are missing, nothing from Zebrica displaced,” said Zecora. She made no mention of zebra traveller souls found stranded in Equestria and given new homes. They’d not understand… and it had been vital practice.

“Then what…”

“I found her soul, this Fluttershy. It is a lovely soul. I drew it forth and bound it…” began Zecora.

“How could that help?” demanded the herb-doctor Elder. “It is no mercy! You’d only let her watch the actions of a monster, from her spot on the wall!”

Zecora’s eye flashed, her lip curled. “I bound it to HERSELF.”

His jaw dropped, and he was speechless.

Zecora demurely lowered her gaze and studied the grass yet again as, one by one, the Elders sat back down in the circle, thunderstruck at the strange mare’s story. “I made a false mane, a false tail, with hairs from her own abandoned body. The dark spirit did not take her, not then, for even her captured mind and body fled immediately to seek the aid of friends. Her need was dire.”

“Your danger was great,” reminded the first Elder. “Mind and body could not endure long without life and a soul, and when she succumbed, you would be defenseless against her evil.”

Dursaa crumbled, hearing these words, tears coming to his eyes. Zecora held her head higher.

“I made the Call of the Dead,” she said. “I tied her soul to her mane and tail extensions, and returned them to her. Fluttershy wears a mask, and it is a mask of herself. She even resembles the pegasus she once was, while she uses them.” She broke off, her gaze softening, as she remembered.

“You ran a risk,” said the herb doctor Elder gravely. “What if her soul had not come? What if it had been some stray Zebra spirit? You would be doomed.”

Zecora didn’t reply at first. Her eyes glinted, though her expression did not change. She refused to speak until her voice could be controlled, yet there was still a tremor as she said, “There was no risk.”

“No?”

“No,” said Zecora. “I love her. I never told her, yet she must have known. There was no sense pleading with her about it. She did not wish a zebra mare in that way. She was very kind… but I loved her, beyond reason, beyond death, and so there was no risk at all.”

Zecora was looking down at the grass again, but this time it was to avoid any zebra’s eyes as she got the story out.

“Before her poor, vampiric body even knocked on my door begging for my help… I felt her spirit. It woke me from a sound sleep. I had no choice. Elders, I had to try.”

Dursaa’s eyes were wide. “You mean, when she was bitten…”

“Yes! I love Fluttershy,” said Zecora. “And when she died to a vampire bite long ago, her soul came to me, knowing of my love for her. And I found a way to return it to her.” Her gaze dropped. “Well… I found a way for her to keep up appearances, anyhow. It is better than nothing.”

The Elders stared at Zecora, in awe and fear. Finally, the herb doctor Elder spoke.

“PLEASE do not return!” he said, his voice trembling.

Zecora snorted, her eyes glistening with refused, treacherous tears. “No fear! My home is Ponyville. I do not wish to stay here any longer than I must.”

“Zecora?” said Dursaa weakly.

Another Elder chimed in, addressing Zecora. “How can we help you return home as quickly as possible?” His lip quivered.

“Settle down,” she replied. “Maybe we erred, perhaps we should not have come at all!”

“Zecora?”

Zecora turned her head, and glared at Dursaa. “What?”

His eyes were puppyish, tragic, whipped. “I yield.”

“You what?” demanded Zecora, astonished.

“I yield,” said Dursaa humbly. “I will remain here. Fluttershy’s love should be yours.”

All the zebras stared at him for a moment, aghast.

“Um, that’s okay,” said the carpentry Elder. “Really.” He made a face.

“Maybe if she left his balls here as well?” suggested the herb doctor Elder.

“Too late…”

“Hush!” said Zecora, in exasperation. She turned to Dursaa. “We speak in truth, and without rhyme. This is our serious Elder time. How dare you use this time to sit and spout self-pitying horseshit?”

His lip quivered, and she realized she’d been harsh. Some big stallion he was! Zecora began to understand how this Dursaa had found his way to foreign lands, and why Fluttershy felt so safe submitting to his authority. The truth was out: he was a terrible wimp. She couldn’t leave him here with them.

“Sorry,” she said. “Wipe your eyes. We begin again.” She glared around at the Elders, and they didn’t argue.

“Why should I?” said Dursaa. “I can stay here.” He gulped. “Even if this is where my path ends. I saw beauty. I felt love. It is enough.”

“I’ll tell you why you must return with me,” said Zecora.

“Must I? I do not deserve her.”

Zecora set her jaw. “She loves you.”

“But…”

“Oh, she loves me in her way,” admitted Zecora, speaking slowly and deliberately. “But I have seen her eyes when she looks upon you. She loves you, Dursaa. Whatever we resolve here in our Elder circle, it must make sense of you. I love Fluttershy, but it does not make her happy. She loves you, yet even that does not truly satisfy her. She seeks strange outlets, entertains lovelorn griffins, keeps a menagerie of wild creatures and yet it does not soothe her. So little does! We will not lightly walk away from the stallion that pleases her so obviously. She loves you, and you will return to her once we have found our answers.”

The Elders stared, politely dumbfounded.

“Perhaps,” said Zecora, “it is this meekness in you that our beloved adores. You are far more fragile than I had believed possible, and your stallionish bluster is either the cowardly, cruel abuse of weaker ponies than you, or simply—as I suspect—all pretend and fake.”

Dursaa crumpled a bit under her stare, and Zecora suddenly realized she was sitting with her head held high, effortlessly dominating an entire ring of males with the sheer force of her personality, and on top of that she was expressing judgemental scorn towards her hapless stallion companion. She was bullying HIM for being effeminate and sentimental, no true stallion.

And, no part of her wished to persist in that behavior: she had no desire to come to Zebrica and out-male all the males, and she had no desire to bully this new Dursaa. She’d never actually seen him bullying Fluttershy or dominating her. It was said he carried her to Canterlot to foal under the care of Princesses and royal doctors. Even when she’d heard him command her to answer the door, it had been him that opened it. He WAS a fake bully, to assuage his stallion ego, and she was trampling this false pose into pitiful scraps of lost dignity before the Zebrican Elders of the town.

And they were buying it, hook, line and sinker.

And she’d come seeking another point of view… not to step back into the Zebrican value system, much less to blindly adopt it. Everything she spontaneously saw in Dursaa as unstallionly folly was actually the hidden inklings of a Dursaa she’d never known, but one that perhaps Fluttershy had seen all along.

The carpenter Elder cleared his throat, nervously. “Um… lovelorn griffins?” he asked.

Zecora sighed.

“We begin again,” she said gently. “We left. We returned, seeking aid. And we love a vampire pegasus, who keeps her soul in her mane extensions where it can guide and comfort her, and who keeps lovelorn griffins as violent rambunctious pets. Oh, and she is very fond of zebra cock… but might just consider her zebra stallion a sort of pet as well!”

The Elders blinked puzzledly at each other. The herb doctor reeled in his dangling jaw, and spoke.

“Where to begin?”

Zecora sighed again, and shut her eyes, and all the other zebras waited for her to collect her thoughts.

“Fluttershy is unhappy and needy. She speaks of wishing to be punished, but it is dangerous to subject her to the stallion’s nipping teeth for her vampirism could be passed on. Whatever we need for ourselves, we are at the mercy of Fluttershy’s dark thoughts. We cannot comply with all her wishes, even if we wanted to. I cannot stand idle and allow her to despair any longer. Can we lead her away from this darkness?”

The Elders boggled at her. Willing to try and help, they had no familiarity with any world where a powerful, unhappy mare needed to be coaxed and nurtured away from self-hatred, and they were stuck just trying to comprehend the concepts. It was all too alien to them.

Dursaa, however, had no such problem.

“I will do anything, Zecora. Please, can we do this? Tell me how. It is strange talk, but I like it.”

Zecora nodded slowly. “Perhaps we can. I hope the Elders can help us. I have an idea.”

“How, how?” he begged, his emotions taking over again—and then he gasped.

Zecora had winked at him, and not with her marehood, either.

“The power of stallion love, and mare-ish gentleness,” she said. “To heal Fluttershy, we may need a great deal of each. The odd thing is, we may end up relying on you for the gentleness…”


Rainbow Dash licked her lips, staring down her foal. Those ruby eyes, so like hers, had never seemed so luminous. But they would seem like that, wouldn’t they? Even in the dead of night, they would.

“I’ll tell you later, Applejack,” she said. “Spy? Come on. Let’s go inside.”

“Is she… not s’posed ta dress up like that?” said Applejack uncertainly. “Cause of some pegasus thing?”

“Um… yeah! Let’s go inside without all these ponies all over the place and talk, okay?”

“But we need to dress up like superheroes!” protested Rock. “Applejack said it was okay! Granny Smith likes it!”

Spy shook her head, as much to clear it as to express a ‘no’. “I need the costume,” she said. “Because it’s awesome. How is this not awesome?”

Hooves came trotting up from behind. “What’s going on over here, Applejack? Is it a parade?”

“Oh, hi, Carrot Top, Roseluck,” said Applejack. “Ain’t rightly sure, to be honest! Rainbow don’t like their costumes.”

“Oh, no, not flower ponies, not now…” moaned Dash, going pale.

“They’re cute!” said Roseluck, beaming at Rock Candy.

“It’s pretend!” insisted Rock, loyally, staring sidelong at Northern Spy.

“But if it was real,” said Spy, “that would be even more awesome and powerful, right?” Her lip quivered, then she stuck it out petulantly and it squished against the cute little fangs.

“Uh, yeah, right,” said Dash, trotting in place. “But then also maybe if it was real it would be a horrible incurable bad thing that ruined everypony’s lives, so how about we go inside and definitely don’t bite anypony and we can have a nice quiet evening…”

Spy stamped a hoof. “I am the night! Rar!”

“Hoo boy,” moaned Dash. “Uhhhh…”

“Rainbow, what are you suggesting?” said Applejack, who’d gone slightly pale. “What do you mean, maybe if it was real? Only vampony around these parts is Fluttershy and she wouldn’t hurt our baby!”

Roseluck startled, visibly. “But… Fluttershy doesn’t look like a vampony…”

“Oh, sorry,” said Applejack. “That’s right! Fluttershy doesn’t look anything like a vampony, don’t you fret! Pretend I din’t say nothin’!”

“Yeah,” said Dash, “but supposing when she was beating up Gilda, she bit her, and then Gilda turned out to be just a teensy bit vampirey…”

“The griffin!” whinnied Carrot Top. “Where? Where?”

“Aw, pony hell, really?” said Applejack. “What’s that got to do with… you know, when we all run into Fluttershy on the road, ol’ Gilda was actin’ real funny! She was Fluttershy’s vampire slave then?”

“Eeee!” squealed Roseluck, trotting in place.

“So,” said Rainbow Dash, “can you please help me get Spy inside where it’s safe for everypony? I mean, for her? And for everypony?”

Applejack locked gazes with her mate. “Gilda would not bite our Northern Spy! No way! Not even if she was a wild griffin vampire here in Ponyville! Thought you said she was in love, dammit! Don’t even hint such things, Rainbow Dash, there ain’t no such thing as a wild bitin’ vampire Gilda!”

“EEEEEEEEE!” squealed Carrot Top, out-panicking Roseluck, trotting in place too but staying in the safety of the little arguing herd of ponies.

Dash gulped. “No, of course not. But if Spy bit Gilda…”

Applejack went white, reading the desperation in Rainbow’s eyes. “Oh, no… No, Rainbow, that’s the worst thing ever, that’s jes’ horrible…”

Northern Spy was shaking. “Is not! I am totally awesome! Tell them, Rock, make them understand!”

Rock snapped. He burst into tears.

“I’m sorry!” he wailed. “I didn’t do it! I didn’t let her bite me either! I tried to make her be good! We were scared!”

Everypony froze, even Carrot Top and Roseluck, their pony brains shorting out as they tried to process the implications of what he’d said.

Rainbow Dash gave up on using words. She bent over, seized Spy’s cape, and began to physically drag her out of the bush and into the house.

All it did was pull the cape and head-covering off, revealing Northern Spy’s ears.

Spy’s scruffy, obviously different, wolfish and no longer foalish ears.

Spy’s suddenly flaring, glowing, red eyes.

Spy’s long sharp fangs as she hissed, baring her teeth…

“EEEEEEEEEEEE!”

And then the evening was full of madly fleeing ponies running in all directions, with Northern Spy in full tantrum mode chasing them and raging “HOW IS THIS NOT AWESOME?”

And Rainbow Dash, the cape dangling from her mouth, staring at her stricken mate Applejack—who could only stare back in shock.

Dash dropped the cape.

“Well, shit,” said Applejack.