• Published 25th Aug 2013
  • 12,170 Views, 244 Comments

An Apple A Day - Esle Ynopemos

A collection of thirthy-minute short stories about the rootinest, tootinest farm-filly this side of the Everfree. There'll be a chapter a day for thirty days. I ain't no fancy arithmeticker, but that adds up to a whole month of good, health

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3: Change of Heart [Slice of Life]

((Prompt: Ship one of the Mane Six with someone who isn't a pony.))

Applejack groaned as she trudged up the stairs. After all the work she put into the fields today, every aching bone in her body begged her for sleep. But she couldn't fall into her bed just yet. She needed to check on Apple Bloom's homework. Miss Cheerilee had told Applejack that her sister was falling behind on her math studies. The farmer wished she had the time to really be there to support Apple Bloom, help her understand what she could, but with all the work that needed done in the orchard, checking up on her before bedtime was about the best she could manage.

She heard Apple Bloom's voice from behind the bedroom door. “What do I do next?”

A voice that sounded familiar, but very strange to hear from somewhere other than herself, responded. “Next, ya take that one, an' add it to the tens place. Now, instead of fifty, you got sixty up there. Ya see that?”

“Ohh! I get it! Hey, when did you get so good at numbers?”

The voice chuckled. “Don't tell nopony 'bout this, but I'm takin' night classes.”

Applejack pushed open Apple Bloom's door. Apple Bloom was lying on her bed, pencil tucked behind her ear as she stared down at her math homework. Next to her was what Applejack would have sworn was herself, if she didn't know better. The two looked up, eyes widening.

Apple Bloom glanced back and forth between the Applejack in her doorway and the Applejack on her bed. Bewilderment reigned over her face. “...Sis?” she asked, blinking. “What... what's goin' on?”

Applejack fixed a hard glare on her doppelganger, who shrank back under the stare. “Apple Bloom,” she said coldly, “go on downstairs.”

“B-but...” The filly's lip trembled.

The other Applejack placed a hoof on Apple Bloom's shoulders. “Do as yer sister says, hon.”

Apple Bloom slowly nodded and slipped off her bed. A few hesitant steps broke into a full gallop as she fled the room.

The orange pony on the bed winced as the door slammed shut. Her eyes danced with fear. “I-I'm sorry—”

“Don't use my voice, varmint,” Applejack hissed.

With a gulp, the false Applejack nodded. Green light lit the room up, and the changeling released her illusion of an orange earth pony. “I didn't mean any harm, I swear,” she said in a buzzing, chittery voice.

“How long?” Applejack's eyes remained locked on the changeling.

“I—I didn't think—” the changeling stammered.

“How long?” Applejack barked, slamming a hoof on the floor.

A pair of insectoid wings twitched nervously. “Three weeks,” she said, staring at the floor. “When you took the train to Appleloosa, I stepped in and claimed to have missed the train. I... seven hives, I was so hungry! I hadn't eaten so much as a kind word since Canterlot, and your sister... your whole family loves you so much.”

“An' when were you fixin' on stringin' me up in one of your cocoons an' replacin' me full-time?” Applejack asked, her eyes narrowing.

The changeling blanched. “No! I wouldn't ever... I was just going to move on, I swear!”

“Three weeks is a bit of a stretch for 'just passin' through,' don't you think?”

How compound eyes could shift to avoid her gaze was something of a mystery, but they did. “I... you're so busy all the time, and Apple Bloom needed help with her schoolwork. I thought maybe it was something I could do to give back to you and your family, if I just stuck around to help her a little bit. I just... lost track of time tonight.”

“Is that what ya thought?” Applejack snarled, advancing. “Ya figured that would make up for decievin' everypony, comin' in here uninvited an' takin' what ain't yours? Is that what you thought?”

The changeling scambled backwards to the corner of the bed, shielding her face with her legs. “I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! Please, just let me go, and I promise, I'll never bother your family again! I'll leave Ponyville and I won't ever come back!”

Applejack's hoof sank into the edge of the bed. A sheet of paper slid out from under Apple Bloom's books and brushed against her leg. Her eyes drifted down to read it. It was a recent assignment, corrected and handed back. There was a golden star on the top, and Miss Cheerilee had written 'Good job!' in the margin.

Her eyes raised back to the changeling. “Where'd you learn this stuff?”

The changeling trembled. “Basic education is standard in the hive,” she said. “I was one of the better mathematicians in my larva batch.”

Applejack stared long and hard at the gold star. She licked her lips. “You're gonna tell Apple Bloom what you are.” she said quietly. “You're gonna explain to her what you've done, and tell her which times it was really you there. You're gonna tell her everything, and then, if she decides she ever wants to see yer hide again... yer gonna stay in the spare bedroom.”

The changeling righted herself. “What? I... I don't understand.”

Applejack stood up and cleared her throat. “I'm a practical mare, miss. You ain't wrong; I am busy all the time. Apple Bloom needs a tutor. And you...” She offered a hoof to the chitinous creature, helping her off the bed. “You need a family.”