• Published 10th Jun 2013
  • 3,968 Views, 285 Comments

When The Mare Comes Around - nanashi_jones



I woke up in a shallow grave off Highway 5. When I dug myself out, I was Applejack. And trouble followed with me.

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He'll Be A Friend

“Ma’am? Your change?”

The guy at the register snapped me out of my frozen shock. I looked up to see him holding cash at me, his expression curious.

Without a word, I wheeled on my rear hooves and banked around the side of the counter, my heart hammering. Out of immediate sight, I slammed my back against the door that let the cashier out from behind the register. I could feel Applejack was helping again- the move I’d just done was not easy.

“Everything okay?”

The guy had come around to look over the counter at me.

“Don’t look at me!” I hissed.

He straightened, annoyance crowding out his curiosity.

“Lady... Do you have some-”

“Him!” I whispered. “That dude out there!”

He turned out the window. “Pump five?” he said.

I nodded. “Yeah. He’s after me.”

“He... Is,” the guy responded.

“Yes! Do you have a back way?”

The guy shook his head. “Nope. Just front door.”

“Shit! Shit shit shit!”

He looked over at private investigator Not-Cop pumping gas. “Seriously, he’s chasing you? Why?”

“I woke up in the dirt off the side of the road,” I whispered, quickly. “Ever since then, my life’s been all pony this and pony that, and then this guy shows up pretending to be a cop, but he’s really a private dick and smells like drugs, and I’m panicking because not even the real cops have found me yet, and I don’t know what’s going on, and I’m just running!”

I blinked when I finished. I hadn’t meant to dump everything like that, but... When I did, I realized I was a) possibly nuts or b) way deeper than I thought.

The guy with the two piercings in his eyebrow nodded at me, impressed.

“For real?” he said.

“No, for-fucking-pretend!” I nearly shouted. “Yes! Real!”

The door opened with its dinging bell and my blood froze. I heard private investigator Not-Cop’s shoes clip across to stand at the register. He wasn’t more than three feet from me on the other side of this snack tray.

I was caught. He wouldn’t even have to look around. I’d just- I’d be there and there was nowhere to go. He’d already tried to lie to get me to go with him. He wouldn’t be nice this time.

Cold sweat broke out under my fur and my heartrate thundered in my tall ears. I had to get out. I had to escape! Maybe I could duck between his legs again...

“One second,” Pierced-eyebrow said over his shoulder. He looked down at me, his mouth sliding to the side in thought. Then, he hit the lock on the gate I’d been pressed against. The wall I was using fell inward, and I fell behind the register. Suddenly, I was safely hidden from private investigator Not-Cop’s view.

Sprawled on the floor, I stared up at the guy. He didn’t give me a second glance.

“Hey man,” Pierced-eyebrow said, ambling over to his register.

“Hey. Pump five and this.”

I heard something hit the countertop. My ears flinched at the noise, which sounded louder than it had any right to.

Pierced-eyebrow hit some buttons on his register. “Forty-eight, sixty,” he said, sounding as bored as a gas station guy in the boonies usually did. Laying as I was, I could see his jeans now- they were kinda ratty. His sneakers looked broken in a long time ago.

Above me at the counter, I watched a beefy hand I recognized waaaay too well appear, holding a credit card.

Just be his hand, just be his hand, don’t lean over the counter... I chanted.

Just relax, sugarcube, Applejack said. Keep quiet an’ we’ll get clear of this.

I swallowed. Very quietly.

“Hey, this is gonna sound weird,” private investigator Not-Cop said. “But... Have you seen a pony pass by? It’d look funny, kinda cartoonish. Bright orange, apples on its butt?”

Pierced-eyebrow looked at private investigator Not-Cop. I felt like he held the look too long. He was giving me away.

Stop playing with the guy and just get him out! I screeched.

Hush now, Applejack said. Let ‘im work.

Then, pierced-eyebrow guy laughed softly and swiped the card.

“Think I’d remember seeing something like that,” Pierced-eyebrow said.

“You do...” A different kind of card appeared in the same beefy hand. “You call. There’s a reward for information leading to her.”

“Reward, huh?”

The guy looked at the card and very pointedly not me.

Ohshitohshitohshit... I thought.

Give ‘em a chance, Applejack said.

“Cool,” he said, smiling and waving the card about. “I’ll keep that in mind. Need a receipt?”

“Yep,” private investigator Not-Cop replied. “I’m on the clock. Need every receipt I can get.”

“I hear ya,” Pierced-eyebrow said.

Private investigator Not-Cop finished his transaction and exited the store. I heard his car start up and away he went. So too, did my heartbeat.

The guy watched him go, then turned to squat down on his feet and smile at me. I looked up at him, too stunned to turn over. Though I really should have. I felt like I’d sweated a gallon of sweat and was just milling in the puddle of past fear.

“Reward for you, huh?” he said, upside-down from my point of view.

“He smelled like pot,” I said, my tone flat, shocked. “I doubt it was gonna be more than a dime bag for you.”

Pierced-eyebrow shrugged, looked at the card.

“James Matthews,” he read.

It rang a bell. Where had I- Oh. Right. That was the name Max texted me before... I...

I sighed and that took the rest of the tension out of me.

“Sounds right,” I said. I glanced, well, it would have been down if I’d been standing. I looked back at pierced-eyebrow guy and could feel an embarrassed blush on my cheeks. “Thanks for that.”

He shrugged again. “No problem,” he said.

“Rachel,” I said, offering a hoof.

“Jared,” he replied, shaking it.

“Well, Jared, this has been... Surreal, but I have a favor to ask.”

“Oh?” he said, with a smirk.
~
“This is Max,” came a familiar voice. He sounded tired, but still managed to put some light cheer in his greeting.

I sighed, biting the bullet. “Hey Max,” I said.

“Rachel?!” he exclaimed, the fatigue disappearing from his voice in a blink. “Shit! Is that really you?”

“You know anyone else who sounds like Miley Cyrus’s sister right now?”

He laughed. “Jesus, when you bolted- I don’t. I just don’t even.”

“I know,” I laughed. “I know. Look, Max, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m way the fuck down the road and I just saw the private eye again.”

“That Matthews guy?”

“Yeah, him. I just stopped to get some supplies for my trip and there he was. Freaked me out. My new best friend Jared saved my flank.”

Jared laughed as he flipped through a copy of Inked magazine.

“Tell your new best friend he is now an honorary brony.”

“Hey Jared, you’re an honorary brony. If you want.”

“Cool,” he said, still flipping through the magazine. “Do I gotta have sex with horses or anything like that?”

“Does he have to screw ponies?” I asked Max.

Max swore, laughing.

“That’s a no, Jared.”

“Bitchin’.”

It was my turn to laugh, but after it died down, I sighed.

“Look Max. I... I’m sorry I-”

“No, it’s cool,” he replied.

“What?”

“Dude. P.I. shows up pretending to be a cop? I’d bolt too.”

“Yeah, but I could’ve called you,” I said, half-relieved, half-annoyed at how this apology was going.

He snorted. “Yeah, look. No offense Rae, but that isn’t you. You’re Miss I Got This, Everyone Back The Fuck Off. Sometimes, yeah, that’s aggravating, but here? I’m not mad.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah. It’s scary shit. I figured you’d get back in touch. Didn’t think you’d vag out on me though.”

“Oh, fuck you,” I said, half-laughing, half-crying.

“No, really. It’s cool. You wanna talk about our feelings- I am so on with that. I watch Friendship is Magic for Christ’s sake. I’m just used to getting sensitive with my fellow bronies online, not my IRL bestie.”

I laughed, because that’s what Max did best. He made me laugh.

I talked for another few minutes, telling him about what I’d done so far. It wasn’t much, but it felt like longer. I was glad I was talking with him, like it wasn’t a big deal. He’d accepted me back without hesitation. As he brought me up to speed on what I’d missed in the last day, I realized I’d always kind of taken that for granted. Max was always there for me. I was for him, but it was different.

Suddenly, I was really glad that Applejack had gotten on my case about him. He wasn’t just my best friend, he deserved me to be his best in return. Because that’s how I felt.

Wow, I really was vaging out on him.

“Your mom called me,” he said. “Matthews showed up at your house.”

“Dammit,” I replied, my voice hot.

“Don’t worry. She turned him on his ass,” he laughed. “From what I heard, she used her Teacher Look and scared him off.” His laughter died down and his voice grew somber. “She’s worried about you, Rae.”

I nodded, realized Max couldn’t see the gesture and said, “Yeah. I’m- I’m worried about her too. Look, call her back for me? Let her know I’m safe, just... I’m doing a thing.”

“Yeah, going to your destiny.”

I rolled my eyes. “No, Miss Melodrama,” I said. “Going to help...” And my voice softened. “A friend.”

“Whoa. A friend? What’ve you and AJ been getting up to?”

I snorted. “Just talking.”

Before I left the gas station, Jared hooked me up with a prepaid cell and activated it for me, giving me all the information in case I wanted to add minutes. I got his number and he got mine and I told him I’d hit him up if I was ever in the area again. I added Max’s number too. I wasn’t sure how good an idea it was to keep calling Max, but it was becoming pretty apparent I couldn’t do this whole trip alone. Even if the closest I got to “alone” included having Applejack in my head.

Another thing that was becoming apparent was the private eye, Matthews, was the only person following me.

Seeing him at Max’s place had been unlikely, but seeing him here? Now? I couldn’t possibly be that unlucky. Which meant he was tracking me somehow, and the lack of anyone else asking about me suggested he was doing it solo.

Granted, I could be messing that up and just keep bumping into Private Investigator Pain-In-My-Flank, but it didn’t feel right.

I shook my head at that. Nope. No. I didn’t do “feel right.” I did thinkin’. And I needed to think this through. I couldn’t afford to just freak out and hide every time I saw him and run on instincts the rest of the time

C’mon Rae. You’re a Sherlock buff, work this out, I thought.

Okay, so start with the tracking thing. Couldn’t be my phone- that was busted to hell. So, most likely, he was following my bank card. Yeah. That fit.

Fab. So, definitely can’t use that any more.

But... Matthews didn’t strike me as technical. I mean, sure, he had the gut for it, but not the bearing. All the guys in my company’s IT department were kinda spazzy- even the ones that were more customer service than tech smart. And their friends, who were even more technical were even more spazzy.

Of course, he didn’t have to be technical. He could just be hooked up. But, I’d only seen him going solo and he hadn’t exactly been checking back with “home base” any time I saw him. What little I did see of him. Plus, no bluetooth married to his ear. So, maybe not so hooked up with accomplices. That left technical.

But, again, Matthews didn’t act like a super spazzy technical guy.

He reminded me more of my Uncle Mark, who viewed cell phones as necessary evils. I also got an “old school” impression off of him. He did a “Here’s my card” rather than “Here’s my info” back in the gas station. Plus, he talked with Max and Jared face-to-face and didn’t come across awkward. Most technical guys I know don’t do much in the way of face time. They mostly do boob-check time. Not like I was going to have to worry about that any time soon.

Maybe I’d never have to worry about it again...

No! No. Back on track.

So, Matthews isn’t technical. Doesn’t fit with how he presented himself. He could be, I mean, maybe he’s that rare social and tech-savvy P.I, but I wasn’t getting that... Okay, let’s say I wasn’t getting that vibe.

He’s all old school, private shamus, talkin’ to the people.

Either Matthews was really, really lucky and we’d just crossed paths at the worst moment of my freaking life or he had a tech guy who could track stuff.

Yeah. Yeah, tech guy tracking stuff fits better. Maybe not a whole accomplice list- just a guy who was really smart and Matthews called him when he needed a direction hint. Like how there used to be a video game tip line you’d call for hints when you were stuck.

Don’t ask about the tip line. My dad swears it was true. We watched The Wizard and I couldn’t believe people would waste money on that. I can’t believe people waste money on DLC, but that’s another bitch for another day.

Anyway. It made sense, given everything I’d seen about the guy. He didn’t mind impersonating a cop, he wouldn’t mind being lazy and like “I can’t find this pony on my own, tell me where to go.”

Yeah. Yeah, that really clicked. Matthews going solo to track me with occasional tech support. Now it didn’t just feel right, it thought out right. And that was more to my liking.

Going off that theory, I needed some rules. First one: don’t use my bank card if I can help it. Second rule: don’t be in the last place I used the phone.

On the plus side, if I had to ditch the phone, I’d only be out twenty bucks.

Not gonna bash this one up are ya? Applejack asked.

“No,” I said, rolling my eyes. “We all saw how well that worked out.”

Applejack chuckled in my head. Argh, that was never not creepy.

I like what you did back there, Rae.

“Because your opinion matters so much to me,” I said, tartly.

Nice try. I know I got under yer skin and I’m glad you took my words to heart. Don’t it feel good to know Max has your back?

“Yeah, yeah, Applejack, the ever-wise.”

She chuckled again. Not ever-wise, just know what I know. An’ call me AJ. All my friends do.

I sighed, admitting a smile. “Okay... AJ.”

I felt like I’d just seen someone smile at me. Seeing as no one was about, I figured that was AJ smiling in my head. When would this not be weird?!

So, you gonna call your folks too?

“Later,” I said. “Let’s put a little distance between us and the road.”

Fair enough.

I picked up my pace.

In a rush?

“Just... Feeling jittery,” I admitted. “That was... The opposite of fun back there.” I smiled. “Till Jared helped out.”

Yep. Nice of him to get ya some free food, ain’t it?

“Well, it’s only fair. I gave him my jerky.”

Told ya you wouldn’t like that.

“And now I know,” I said, shuddering. Seriously, if that’s what jerky was going to taste like, I did not want to think what a burger or steak would do to my mouth.

An’ knowin’s half the battle! Applejack joked.

“G.I. Joooooooe!” we said together, laughing.

As I snorted the last laugh out, I went back to AJ’s advice and how it had panned out. Max had taken me back without a cross word. Maybe she was right about the other stuff too. Maybe I do stick my head in the dirt a little too often.

I mean, I normally keep to myself, but how could I keep to myself now?

Some guy had come to my best friend’s house and brought trouble. I’d run and Max was cool with me running, but maybe I needed to do more than run. Like figure out why he’d shown up in the first place.

Okay, so, I’d woken up in a ditch as a pony. Why send a P.I. who looked ten pounds overweight and smelled like he was working off a high after someone like that? Disguised as a cop, no less. It stunk, yeah, but why did it stink?

I sighed, realizing I wasn’t just figuring out how to evade Matthews anymore. I was stepping up in case I saw him again.

I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it.

What I wanted was to go home, have my mom scold and hug me, then hide in my room while I RPed on message boards and was a general disappointment to my parents. Yet, here I was, on some jacked up adventure in a cowgirl pony’s body.

What had AJ said? I may not want to deal with something, but something wanted to deal with me?

Well, if it wanted to deal with me, then it would deal with me on my terms. Next time I saw private investigator James Matthews, I was going to find out why he was tracking me. I was going to find out what had gotten him on my trail and then I was going to go to New York and deal with all this pony stuff.

And after? Go home, hide in my room, and forget this ever happened.

“Hey AJ,” I said. “Can you put on some traveling music? I wanna make some headway today.”

Sure thing, sugarcube.

The opening chords for The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles started up in my mind and I groaned.

“You are not funny,” I said with a wry smile.

Maybe, maybe not. But I know you’re laughin’.

She had me there. I trotted in time to the music as I went through the forest.