Applejack sighed as she finally passed through the entryway's arch. She smelled the sweet apple-scented air and spied the sun slowly reaching for the horizon, signalling that the day's end was coming a bit sooner than normal. Not that she was surprised, anyway. Princess Celestia had fought hard today, just like they all had, and deserved as good of a rest as everyone else.
Speaking of rest, Applejack yawned as she approached her family's home. She could already see it. Little Apple Bloom sitting at the door and staring up at her, asking about whatever adventure she went on with the others. Granny Smith rocking in her chair in the living room, knitting what was probably her thousandth quilt. Big Macintosh was probably still out in the fields making up for her absence, but he would be coming in soon after her. She'd have to remember to make it up to him tomorrow.
She approached the door and slowly edged it open, wondering if she could give them a little surprise. But to her surprise, all three of them were sitting on the living room couch facing the door, practically staring holes through it. Apple Bloom was the first to break out of her trance, jumping off and running towards her older sister. Big Mac was next, but he was slower than his younger sister, making sure to help Granny up off of the furniture.
The small filly missile finally impacted her leg. "Oof! Gosh darnit, Apple Bloom, ya could hurt yerself doin' that!"
The filly stared up at her with watered eyes. "A-Applejack! You're okay!"
"Ah course Ahm okay! What's gotten inta ya?"
"We saw the changeleens--"
"Changelings." Her brother corrected.
"Right, them! We saw the changelings attacking that huge bubble around Canterlot!"
Applejack's eyes widened. "Wait, how did y'all know about them?"
"Granny told us! She said that they could turn inta anypony an' eat your emotions! They sounded like monsters!"
"Apple Bloom!" Granny yelled. "I won't have ya callin' no changelin' a monster under this roof, y'hear me?"
Applejack's eyes widened, wondering where that had come from. "Er, what d'ya mean Granny? From the way that Queen o'theirs was spoutin' off--"
"I don't care about what no Queen said!" She interrupted. "I won't have any o' y'all insultin' our family name by callin' em monsters."
The sisters stared at Granny Smith in surprise, not knowing what to say to that. "W... what're you sayin', Granny?"
Granny sighed. "Come sit down, you two. S'about time I told y'all."
Now, yer Paw was a lil' troublemaker when he was younger, always flirtin' with every mare in town, stayin' out late, and causin' all kinds o' mischief. He calmed down a bit as he got older -- 'round Mac's age -- but was still a huge flirt. 'Course, every mare in town knew by then that he did it fer fun. Ah always bugged 'im about settlin' down with a mare and takin' over the farm.
"Sorry, Ma. Ah ain't lettin' no mare keep me tied down, 'specially one that can't keep up with me. 'Sides, Ah can take care o' the farm by myself, no problem." He swiftly turned around before bucking the tree, causing the apples to all fall into the buckets below.
"Tain't 'bout that, Appleseed. Don't tell me ya don't wanna few foals o' your own. Who's gonna take over for ya when ya start gettin' ol' and decrepit like me?"
Appleseed shrugged. "Ah'll adopt, ah 'spose. Plenty o' youngins lookin' for nice homes." He turned away from the next tree and bucked it, causing only half of the apples to fall this time. He looked up at the tree and grumbled before bucking it again, making the rest of them fall down.
I paused, not really sure how to respond to that. "Thas' admirable an' all, but don't ya want one o' yer own flesh 'n blood? Ya ain't gonna pass on yer looks to a colt that ain't even related to ya."
Appleseed laughed. "Nah, 'spose not. Might be a good thing, though. Don't know if the world could handle two o' me."
That got a smile out of me. "Heh, guess yer right there." I followed after him for a little longer before sighing. "I jus' don't want ya to miss out on the glories o' life." That got him to look back at me with a raised eyebrow. "Ah was a lot like ya when Ah was younger, thinkin' Ah could take on the entire world by myself. But then Ah met your Paw. He was stubborn as all get-out, even more than Ah was, and we used to fight all the time."
Appleseed stopped what he was doing, focusing on her story. "Why'd ya get with 'im, then?"
"All the other stallions treated me like Ah was some dainty lil' mare that had to be protected. He was the only one to treat me like a pony first, a mare second. Sure, we would fight an' yell and all that nonsense, but we respected an' loved each other. After we got married, we settled down on th' farm and had you. Why, marryin' your Paw and havin' you were the best decisions in my life."
Appleseed blushed and rubbed his forelegs together. I always knew how to get him all flustered.
"I just don't want ya to miss out on somethin' as magical as havin' a family." I finally conceded.
He sighed and gave me a hug. "Ah'll, well... Ah'll try Ma."
A couple months had passed since then. Ah started hearin' less 'n less about Appleseed's shenanigans, an' how some o' the mares were wonderin' where there flirty stallion had gone off to. Well, Ah heard that day from Miss Gumdrops that he'd caught the eye of the newest filly in town.
She was certainly a strange one. Lil' earth pony mare with an orange coat an' the most gold mane y'all ever seen. She'd told somepony that she came from somewhere far out west, but that was 'bout it. Never really talked to anypony.
Well, imagine my surprise when Appleseed shows up for dinner and the mysterious filly herself is right beside him!
"And who's this lil' filly?" I shot a grin at him.
He blushed a little bit before straightening up. "This here's Sunny Day. Sunny, this is my Ma."
The nervous filly bowed. "H-Hello Mrs. Smith. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Ya don't have to bother with all that nonsense, darlin'. Everypony always call me Granny or Granny Smith." I smiled down at her.
She seemed to relax a bit from that. "T-Thank you, Granny."
"And what's this about not tellin' me we have company?" I glared at Appleseed.
"Ah, c'mon Ma, we always have so many leftovers. And if we don't, I can always share mine."
Sunny seemed to blush at that. "Oh, you don't have to do that. I'm, um, not that hungry anyways."
"Ah, don't be like that! He's right, though. Ah always cook too much for the two of us. Yer welcome to come eat with us."
After that, Ah invited her in an' we all sat down to eat. She was pretty nervous, but over the course of dinner, she started openin' up more and more to me. Appleseed seemed to really enjoy her company, an' I could tell by the look in his eyes that he loved her. It was the same look his Paw used to give me.
After dinner, we all sat in the livin' room and talked.
I sat on my rocking chair while the two of them shared the couch, lying down and cuddled in front of the fireplace. We were all just relaxing after our meal and enjoying the silence.
After a few minutes, I could hear them whispering to each other. I figured they were just telling each other some sweet nothings, so I ignored it and kept to myself.
"Mis-- er, Granny?"
I looked over to them. They were both sitting up now and looking over at me. Sunny had that nervous face back on while Appleseed was busy comforting her. "Yes, darlin'?"
"Um... there's something I need-- no, want to tell you." She sat up straighter. "You've been so kind to me even though you barely know me. I feel like I should repay you."
I was about to tell her that she didn't need to do any of that, but I saw the look in my son's eyes. He looked like he was gauging my reaction, so I stayed quiet.
"I'm.. not exactly from around here, as you've probably heard. I... ran away from home." She seemed to sag when she said that. "I came here to escape from that place."
"Well, yer always welcome here, darlin'. I won't have nopony homeless on my watch."
She fidgeted. "Well, that's the other thing. I'm... not exactly a pony."
That one got me. Not a pony? What was that supposed to mean? Was she really a zebra with a weird coat, or maybe one of the Saddle Arabians?
I couldn't think for long when she suddenly burst into flames. I... well, I screamed. I mean, it's hard not to react to a pony suddenly catching fire like that. As soon as it had appeared, though, it vanished, leaving a black, pony-looking creature in Sunny's place.
"I'm a changeling."
We spent the rest o' that night talkin' about what changelings were. They could transform inta just 'bout anythin', fed off of positive emotions -- mainly love, and lived off in the Badlands out west of Appleoosa. Apparently there was a huge disagreement back in their home. A lot of 'em were starvin'. Some of 'em wanted to reveal themselves to Princess Celestia to ask for help, but the rest of 'em said that the ponies wouldn't understand and jus' retaliate.
Ah could tell they had planned this whole conversation out. She told me how changelings would replace loved ones for small periods at a time to get some love before they left. In times of desperation, they could emit somethin' that would make a pony fall in love with 'em for a short amount of time. 'Course, they both spoke up after that and ensured that she would never do somethin' like that.
Ah could tell, though. They really loved each other.
After our little talk, Ah told her she could stay with us. 'Course she had to keep up being a pony outside, but she was always welcome to drop her act back home with us.
Little while later, they finally got married. When Ah asked if she was gonna give me some grandfoals to spoil, she just blushed. She told me that changelings could conceive with ponies if they kept their pony transformation up throughout the pregnancy, and the resultin' foal would be 100% pure pony. Had to keep up appearances, after all.
"And after that, they had lil' Mac right here." Granny stretched her forehoof over the large red stallion's neck. "Course, ya ain't so lil' anymore, but yer still my lil' grandfoal. And then they had to two o' y'all.
Applejack was practically speechless. "Wow... Ma, was a changeling? That's--"
"--so cool!" Apple Bloom interrupted. "Could she turn into anypony? Ooh, did she ever turn into a dragon?!"
Granny Smith laughed. "Naw, she never did nothin' like that. After she had Macintosh, she never really transformed into anythin' other than a pony. Ah always joked that maybe she forgot how to change back."
Applejack sat there, thinking. She remembered her mother a bit, back before they had Apple Bloom and... got into their accident. It was hard to imagine her being the same as one of the bugs that she was fighting not more than a day ago.
But, maybe that's because she wasn't. Sure, she was a changeling too, but she was her own pony. Just like her and her friends, Sunny was unique and had dreams and feelings of her own. She settled down with a stallion who knew what she was and still loved her for it.
Applejack smiled. She hoped that she could make her parents as proud of her as she was of them.