By Conner Cogwork
What would you do, if you met a pony who was at once your brother, and yet not? Applebuck wishes to reunite with his 'Cousin JayJay', and braves the dimensional divide to reach his goal. But being a small foal, how will he deal with a world in which everything is flipped? His friends, his family, and even... himself?
Image credit to KtKat! Thanks!
Mum’s the Word
Again he found himself staring at all the townsfolk as they buzzed along down Carrot Street, making good time towards the bakery.
"So!" Applebloom called out over the din of buzzing wings. "What'cha think of Ponyville, Cousin Applebuck?"
"It's... it's different!" he replied, his orange eyes flitting over to a trio of flower-themed mares as they sat potted plants on a display. "Ah don't think Ah've ever seen so many mares in one place b'fore!"
"There aren't any mares in your town?" Sweetie Belle asked incredulously, an eyebrow arched.
"O-oh, we got 'em! Just not so many of them! In fact, ah'd say th'... whaddya call it, th' 'ray-cee-oh' of mares an’ stallions here is... heheh, switched, compared to mah hometown!"
"More stallions than mares at your place, eh?" Scootaloo added. "Now that'd be a place to visit!"
Visit an' then maybe get yer tail shocked off, Applebuck mused. If she an’ Scooteroll ever met, ah dunno what would happen! Same wit' Silver an' HIS double! Ah shoulda thought of this b'fore ah even went an' looked fer that spellbook! Ah shoulda planned better!
He found himself flinching slightly as the red mane of the filly in front of him flew into his face, brushing up against his muzzle. And then there's th' matter of me... and mahself.
Of COURSE there was gonna be a girl version of me here. Ah mean, Cousin JayJay is just Applejack as a mare, right? It makes sense that th' whole family would be here, just switched. Mahself included... Why didn't Ah take that into account? Why didn't ah think...
"We're here!" his filly-self announced, pointing a hoof. "Sugarcube Corner!"
He was jolted out of his thoughts. Indeed, it was the same bakery. Inwardly, he marveled that it was virtually identical to the same building in his home dimension, not a gumdrop or sprinkle out of place. As the Crusaders piled out of the wagon however, he was given yet another reminder that he was no longer in his home world, as a pegasus parted the doors leaving the establishment. A familiar grey-coated, blonde-haired, cross-eyed pegasus.
"Heya Miss Doo!" Sweetie greeted as they passed by. The mailmare's mouth was occupied with a bag of baked goods, so she simply smiled and waved a wing in reply, before taking off.
As the earth-pony and unicorn both entered the shop, Applebuck found himself lagging behind as he noticed that the orange filly had halted her steps, looking off in the direction that Ditzy had flown off in. She exhaled a quiet sigh before adding 'Eventually' under her breath.
He'd seen this many times before, from his own friend Scooteroll. In that instant, his wariness of this dimension's nature waned as he stepped up towards her. "Hey." he spoke softly. "Everythin' alright?"
Scootaloo looked to him before offering a wing shrug. "It's pegasus related. I dunno if you'd understand..."
He bit his lip before launching into a spiel. "Ah have a pegasus friend too, y'know. Ah've seen th' looks he gives other pegasi when they're flying. His wings haven’t grown very big yet, but... y'know, that doesn't keep him from tryin'."
Purple eyes gazed into his with a new level of appreciation before she turned away and looked back into the sky. "Good for him... I've been trying for a long while now. Just recently, I got Rainbow Dash as my own teacher... she's tough, but she's the coolest teacher a pony could ask for. Hopefully, my training will pay off, and I'll be as good a flier as she is, someday."
Rainbow Dash? he pondered. Dash? Wait... D! Agent D! Rainbow Blitz's double! Ho gosh, SHE knows me too! Ah'm gonna have tah keep a low profile if ah don’t wanna be found out...
"Hey." the orange filly suddenly spoke up, turning back towards the colt, startling him out of his thoughts. "Applebuck?"
"I just... I realized I haven't really apologized for almost running you over earlier. So, um... I'm sorry." She kicked at an errant rock on the ground, head slightly bowed. "I'm also sorry for callin' you suspicious and stuff. I didn't mean it. I was just... well, you know..."
The image before him was so textbook Scooteroll that he found himself letting his guard down, a smile going across his face. "It's alright, Scoots. Ah fergive yah. We all have our off-days an’ all. Apology accepted, Scooter- ack, um, Scootaloo."
She stared at him for a second or two after that before her snout crinkled with a *snerk*. The yellow pony tilted his head. "What? What'd ah do?"
"O-oh, nothing," the pegasus assured, taking to her hooves and walking past him. "It's just the way you said that. For a second there, you sounded just like Applebloom. Must be an Apple Family thing."
Silently he swore to himself before turning and following her inside. The aroma of fresh-baked cakes and pastries hit his nose, the familiar smells of the Corner. Just as good as how it smelled back in his world.
In the middle of the shop floor, Sweetie and Applebloom were waiting, the latter tapping her hoof impatiently. "What took th’ two of you so long?" she inquired. "Y'all didn't pick a fight now, did ya Scoots?"
"Oh, no, we were just talking," Scootaloo said, Applebuck nodding alongside. "Sorry for the hold up. Is Pinkie Pie around?"
"Oh, sorry, fillies." A voice piped up from behind them. "Pinkie's busy in the kitchen at the moment. But if you're willing to wait for a few minutes, I'll have her right out."
The colt lifted his head and spotted Mr. Cake. Or was it? He had to do a double-take. He sure looked like Mr. Cake, save that he was a bright yellow and orange instead of blue and pink, and had a trio of brownies for his cutiemark.
"Oh, that's okay, Mister Cake." Sweetie Belle piped up. "Is she making cupcakes again? Maybe we could go back there and help her!"
The tall stallion chuckled nervously. "I'm not sure that's such a good idea, girls. The Missus and I still remember what happened last time with the taffy-pulling machine."
They all remembered it. Three fillies and one colt bowed their heads as they let out an 'aww' of disappointment. Not that ah was that lookin' forward to goin' back there, Applebuck told himself. But he REALLY didn't have'tah bring that mess up.
"Oh hey!" Mr. Cake then stated, his eyes focusing on the newcomer. "Haven't see you around here before. Recruit another member into your club, girls?"
"You betcha!" Applebloom cheered, leaning over and patting her male doppelganger on the back. "Applebuck here's a cousin! He's here on a mission o' vital importance!"
"There's a pony in Ponyville somewhere called Dusk Blitz!" Scootaloo added. "Don't suppose you know who that is, do you? He's supposed to be an expert on cutie-marks!"
The baker made a humming sound as he thought. "Hmmm... name doesn't ring a bell, I'm afraid. But I guess that's why you came here to see Pinkie, isn't it? She knows every pony in town after all. Tell you what. I'll head back to the kitchen and see if I can't free her up for you. In the meantime..." He gained a mischievous glint in his eyes, before leaning his head over to a nearby glass dome, lifting it to reveal a piles of cookies. "Why don't you all treat yourself while you wait? One cookie per pony."
There was a chorus of 'Wow!'s and 'Sure!'s and 'Thank yah, Mister Cake!', as the foals all nabbed them some baked treats. With that, the stallion departed, leaving the Corner quiet, save for the muted munching of goodies. At length, Applebuck among them began thinking again.
Not what ah was expectin' ay-tall. Mister Cake's YELLOW here? Well... at least he still sounds and acts th' same. Ah dunno 'bout Miss Pie though... we met when she an’ Cousin JayJay and th' rest of her friends fell into our world. Will she recognize me? Ah sure hope t’ high horses she doesn’t. If she's anythin' LIKE Berry-
"Say," Scootaloo piped up. "What do you think the cutie mark of a pony specializing in cutie-marks looks like?"
Sweetie Belle rubbed her chin in thought. "That's a good question. It can't be like... a cutie-mark of a cutie-mark, can it?"
"Oh, Ah know!" Applebloom piped up. "Ah bet it's a funny-lookin' symbol that don't make sense, like one of dem Escher drawings!"
"Or MAYBE..." Now the young colt got into the conversation, a ghost of a smile on his face. "Maybe it's one o' dem fancy-schmancy high-detail marks! Y'know, like you can only get wit' oils an’ watercolors an’ th' like!"
"Oh hey, how 'bout this?" The orange pony spoke again. "What if it's just a cutiemark of a PONY? That has another cutie-mark of a pony, that also has one just like that, on and on, ecetera ecetera?"
"Hah, don't be so crazy Scoots."
"Hah, don't be so crazy Scoots."
Silence descended at that. Both yellow ponies blinked and looked at each other, realizing that they had just both said the same thing at the same time-
"HEYA, YOU SILLY FILLIES!" came a loud and cheerful voice, as a shot of pink suddenly exited the kitchen doors. "WHAT'S SHAKIN' IN YOUR BACON?"
Remains of a chocolate chip cookie went flying into the air as Applebuck dived behind Sweetie Belle, the unicorn blinking in confusion. That cookie never hit the ground though, for it was snatched straight out of the air by the agile tongue of Pinkie Pie herself.
"Pinkie Pie!" the three fillies exclaimed as she munched and swallowed. "Boy, are we glad to see you!"
"And I'm glad to see all of you!" the bubblegum mare crowed right back. "How's the Crusading going? You any closer to your Cutie-Marks yet?"
"We're hoping to be soon!" Scootaloo cheered. "Do you know of a pony named 'Dusk Blitz'? We heard he was an expert on Cutie-marks! If we could find him, maybe he could help us get ours!"
"Hmmm... Dusk Blitz, you say?" Pinkie repeated, her eyes rotating to look at the ceiling as she stuck her tongue out in contemplation. "I know of a 'Dusk’, and I know of a 'Blitz', but they're two separate ponies. And they don't live in Ponyville. At least not EXACTLY Ponyville, it's kinda like Ponyville but it's kinda-sorta different in a way that I don't know if you girls understand yet, I mean your sisters haven't told you yet, have they? Thought not. Either way, there's a probably a Dusk Blitz somewhere in Equestria, just probably not this Equestria, if you know what I mean?"
The Crusaders had no idea what she meant. But the news was enough to make them dip their heads low. "Well that was a bust," Applebloom murmured. "Y'all shore y' got th' name right, Cousin-... hey, Cousin, why you hidin'?"
"That's what I'd like to know." Sweetie Belle added, looking behind her at the cowering colt.
"So... much pink..." he stuttered. "Always knew... b-but never noticed-"
"Ahhh, it's the cooties thing, I'll bet." The pegasus rolled her eyes before leaning down and grabbing his tail, pulling him into the open. "C'mon, just cause we're all girls here, doesn't mean you're gonna turn into a lump of sugar dust."
Before he could respond to that statement, he was pulled onto his haunches by his filly-self, her holding him close as they turned to face the party pony. "Pinkie Pie, this is mah Cousin Applebuck! He's new in Ponyville, and he's helpin' us find our Cutie-marks!"
His eyes shot open as he beheld the femme form of a pink pony he was familiar with. Berry Bubble had always been the bouncy sort, and now that he was faced with his counterpart, he realized that the same energy had translated effortlessly into this dimension. On top of that, with her being a girl... he was again reminded why colts were attracted to fillies rather easily, a small blush rushing to his cheeks.
The pink filly's blue eyes stared at him, before they began to contract, irises shrinking into tiny pinpricks. At this, Applebuck couldn't help but cringe as he braced himself. She knows! She remembers me! She's about ta blurt it out all over th' place!
Finally, Pinkie spoke in a very quiet voice. "You're a new pony in Ponyville."
The colt nodded, knees starting to tremble somewhat.
"And since you're a new pony in Ponyville... do you know what that calls for?"
Right now his mind was too scattered to properly remember what it was Berry did for newcomers to the town. Grasping for something, he began to mumble "Uhm.. ah... a pa... a p-pa-"
"Aaaaa PARTY~!" she finished exuberantly, leaping into the air, her earlier quiet and suspicious mood now nowhere to be seen. "It's been a long while since I threw a Welcome-new-pony-to-Ponyville party! More new ponies need to come to Ponyville more often, or else I'll lose my edge! Nice to meet you Applebloom's cousin Applebuck! Oh, since you're her cousin, I bet you like apples, right? I mean seriously, what pony doesn't like apples? I mean if you're allergic to them, then yeah, I can see why you wouldn't like them, but that's not the point, the point is I need to make sure to have a lotta APPLE stuffs at your party! Bobbing for Apples, Apple punch, Apple pie, Apple chips, and Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Apple! Wait, do apples have tails?"
At this point, Scootaloo was rolling her eyes at the entire scene, while Sweetie chuckled nervously. Both apple ponies had frozen on the spot with identical looks of surprise plastered on their faces.
She... so she DOESN'T remember me! the boy thought, with no small amount of relief. Whoosh! That'll make this trip that much easier. Ah don't need those girls to go grabbin' me an' takin' me back b'fore ah find Cousin JayJay!
"Soooo, you don't know of a Dusk Blitz in Ponyville?" Sweetie asked, interrupting Pinkie's running monologue.
"Nope! Sorry girls, they're probably living FAR far away from here! But don't worry, there's always tomorrow! Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a party to plan!"
The four foals sighed as they got to their hooves and trudged towards the door, each one thanking the party pony in turn. "Sorry 'bout that," Applebuck apologized. "A-ah was so sure..."
"Meh, it's alright," the pegasus murmured, dragging her hooves. "It woulda been nice to've gotten our cutie-marks sooner than later... ahh well, there's always plan B."
The white unicorn cringed, but Applebloom couldn't help but chuckle. "That's always true, Scoots! Say Cousin, as long as yer in town, yer welcome ta join us in our quest fer Cutie-marks! Whaddya say?"
He paused to look up at his female self, into her open and inviting eyes. Ah led them on this silly li'l chase, he thought to himself. Ah didn't mean to really get their spirits down. Y'know... it's th' least ah can do. Findin' Cousin JayJay can wait a bit longer.
"Shore thing, Cousin," he replied with a smile. "Ah'd be honored to!"
This brought a smile of cheer to the trio of fillies, before each of them turned and exited the Corner. Before he himself stepped foot out however, a voice piped up from behind him.
"Hey wait! Cousin Applebuck, can I ask you a question?"
The capped pony turned and saw Pinkie Pie standing at the kitchen door, a simple smile on her face. "Uhm, shore Miss Pie," he replied. "What is it?"
She kept the same smiling, neutrally happy expression on her features as she asked "Did you bring Berry Bubble with you?"
He stared for a second longer, the words slowly registering in his mind, eyes shrinking as they did so. He then proceeded to dash outside, a panicked expression on his face, the unanswered question left hanging in the air.
"Hmmm..." the party pony hummed. "I guess that's a no..."
On the outskirts of Ponyville, a mystery was in the process of being solved. At least, the blue unicorn who was doing the investigating liked to think of it as being in the process of being solved.
"Oh, where WAS it?" she grumped to herself, tumbling through a stand of bushes. "I KNOW I felt that magic burst around here somewhere! But this is closer to Ponyville than I'd really like to go... not that the Great and Powerful Trixie couldn't handle herself, but still..." she scrunched her face in annoyance. "Town's more trouble than it's worth."
Okay, think, Trixie. Recount what you know. You were just passing by. You weren't even going to give anypony the time of day. And then you feel one of the most powerful onrushes of magical energy that you've ever felt from any other pony besides... HER. So what are you doing?
Well duh! she told herself. You've investigating! Seeing if it was really HER or not! And seeing what kind of spell she's using that needs that kind of energy!
Her horn glowed as she trotted down the path, the PKE residue becoming stronger as she closed in on the small ville. Thoughts still flowed through her mind, musing mixed with general fantasies as she imagined the scenarios that might come about.
What if SHE'S been... weakened? Anything that requires a huge amount of magic like that is bound to leave a unicorn dry for a few days. This could be... this could be my big chance! A smile began to work its way across her face. I could challenge her in her weakened state, and nopony would be the wiser! Once they see my triumphant victory, everypony would have no choice but to accept the fact that the most powerful unicorn in Equestria is nopony else but ME! The Great! And Powerful! TRRRRRIXIE!
She paused for a second, before realizing that somewhere in the middle of her internal dialogue, she had begun prancing about on the road, finishing her thoughts with her traditional bipedal flourish. All she was waiting on now were the fireworks. Of which she had none right at the moment.
The magician let out a groan, looking back and forth to see if anypony had witnessed that. She had gone without her hat and cape this time around, in an attempt to be incognito. A futile effort, she mused to herself. But it had to be attempted. Nopony must know that the Great and Powerful Trixie has dared to show her face around this country bumpkin village once more-
Her horn's glow suddenly intensified as she crossed into a certain spot in the road. Nearby, birds chirped their greetings at her, though they went unnoticed.
It was HERE.
She paused, her purple eyes widening as she took in the scenery. In the middle of the dirt road, she could make out... something. It looked like all the loose dirt in the area had been blown away from a spot in the center. A circular pattern that made Trixie think of a small tornado.
And even curiouser was the small set of hoofprints that emerged from the center. There was no set leading in. But right there in front of her eyes, there was a set leading out, prints spaced apart in an even gait that suggested running, heading towards the quiet town of Ponyville.
Besides those prints, and her own, there was no evidence that anypony else had been here.
"How strange..." she whispered to herself. Again, she lit her horn to test the area's aura field. Any non-unicorn pony would have probably passed the area by without another glance, but to anypony who possessed a horn, the leftover magic residue was so thick that one could probably stick out one’s tongue and taste it.
On a whim, that's just what the showmare did. As silly as it looked, the motion did not go unrewarded.
"It's not her," were the first words immediately out of her mouth. I would know. SHE'S got a very distinctive magic field of her own. And this isn't anything like hers. Somepony else did this... this. But who? And what WAS it?
She paced around the perimeter of the road for a minute or so, scenarios running through her head. At one point, she levitated a scarf out of her tail, and paused to dab at her forehead for a bit. Investigation was hard, sweaty, and DIRTY work. I'll have to find a stream once I'm done here. The price of living on the road.
She made as if to tuck the handkerchief away, before she paused. Looking at it, she could sense her own magical field, holding it in place. On yet ANOTHER whim, she turned back to the PKE field inhabiting the center of the road... and made the comparison, tasting the both of them at the same time.
The results were a shock to her system.
"It's me," she whispered. "This magic... is MY magic! But... how?! That can't be possible, it doesn't make sense! I don't even know what kind of spell this is! It can't possibly be me!"
She looked up at the sky, her mind awhirl with disbelief, awe, and confusion. Her lavender eyes locked on the first evening star as it winked into existence, one question dominating her thoughts.
"Could it be...?"
To be continued...
Applebuck sat back against the wagon's rim as he thought. Heh. If it were up t' me... if ah were back in my world, an' had Crown an’ Ladle headin' mah way wit' a box of donuts, ah know EXACTLY what ah would do.
"Ah know EXACTLY what we're gonna do." his female double piped up, face full of determination. "We're gonna GET us a few of them donuts."
The pegasus looked up at her with a grin, while the unicorn could only gulp worriedly. The boy on the other hand, had to mentally facehoof as he realized Of course she's gonna think just like me! She IS me! Oh well, in fer a penny, in fer a pound!
"What's the plan, Bloom?" their driver asked, leaning in closer.
"Okay... okay, ah got it. Yesterday, ah overheard them talkin' 'bout colts at lunch. They were talkin' 'bout which ones were cute or strong an’ whatever. Ah think right now, they're both a li'l bit 'boy-crazy', if yah know what ah mean."
A giggle from the white one, and a disgusted face from the orange one. However, it was the yellow one that made Applebuck's skin crawl as she proceeded to turn and look at him, a sly smile and expression coming over her face.
"An' we just HAPPEN ta have a brand-new, well-mannered, handsome colt right here at our disposal."