• Published 16th Jul 2012
  • 6,010 Views, 691 Comments

Pony POV Series Season Three: Butterflies - Alex Warlorn



Discord beaten. Reality restored. But invisible wounds must heal too. Time for butterflies to fly.

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Pony POV Series Episode 27: "AJ's Dreams Part 1 of 2"

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series Side Story Nights: AJ's Dreams
By Alex Warlorn

Mah hat? Mah hat was mah pa's. Mah parents left us the farm, but mah pa left me his hat. Darn tootin' it meant a lot to me! It held a lot for me! Memories, of him, of us together, of him and ma, before me and Big Mac had to take care of Sweet Apple Acres, Granny Smith, and Applebloom by ourselves. When the apples were shinier, and Granny Smith could dance, well on her own without Discord messin' with her. When Ah had it with me, I had him with me.

Are you crazy? Of course Ah hadn't told Fluttershy! Like Ah told Rarity, poor girl is beatin' herself up enough over what happened. Ah'd bet bits to donuts the filly is sobbin' herself to sleep each night! Learning I lost pa's keepsake while saving Equestria and 'Shy from herself? Girl would be crushed. Ah ain't gonna pour salt in the wound! That would be cruel.

Cruel but truthful? . . . Look Ah, Ah want ya to know, it's... it would be meaningless. 'Shy girl's already punishing herself, I got a replacement hat from Rarity: telling her would be pointless. There's a big differences between tellin' a painful truth cause it needs to be told and tellin' one when all it'll do is hurt somepony. 'Shy already apologized for hurtin' all of us, that's enough in my book. If she asks about mah hat I'm gonna say it wasn't as important as savin' a friend and the world. And that's gonna be the truth!

Huh? Now you wanna know why Ah think so many ponies can just forgive her for what she did? Ah'll admit, I'm the Element of Honesty and Ah didn't get it at first. Little Spike had to explain it. Princess Gaia, Fluttershy, all them ponies she turned into foals? She loved 'em, she was crazy but she loved'em dangit! An they loved her! You think feelin's care whether they're magical or not? All her magic goin' away did was give them ponies back the brains to see mama's plan was crazy. So let me ask you just one question. How easily would you forgive yer mama? If she went nuts? And when she was herself again she wouldn't stop sayin' how sorry she was? Would ya really tell'er you still hate'er?

Do ya really have ta wear them dang sunglasses? I swear that's gettin' annoying! Ya make it sound like Ah've got mind control eyes or somethin'! I just see truth, that's all. Now if you'll excuse me, mah apples ain't gonna sell themselves.

+++++

"Ya hear about Family Appreciation Day? I hear the school is sendin' out letters every which way to make sure no parent misses out. Applebloom's acting a little funny about it, but I know she'll see Granny Smith is an Apple to be proud of!" AJ happily and casually said to RD and her shadows who had stopped for a quick bite to eat.

"'Every which way'?" RD repeated. She and Scootaloo exchanged worried looks. Hovering slightly above the two ponies in his 'copter gear, Tank just looked between the two ponies bemused.

"Oh don't you worry none! I know you think Derpy's a bit on the ditzy side, but she can handle the extra work load."

"Huh?" RD looked at her confused.

"I mean Ditzy Doo! Ya know? I know you think she just messes up anything complicated. But I've never heard any pony complain about their mail deliveries from her!"

"Oh! Oh right! Heh. No skin off my flanks." Rainbow grinned. "You're right. I shouldn't be worried about that at all." Rainbow Dash unconsciously spread a wing around Scootaloo.

"RD, there somethin' you ain't tellin' me?"

"Nothing. Nothing -you- need to worry about I mean. Don't worry everything is fine. Nothing that's -actually- bad!" Rainbow quickly corrected herself in an almost panicked tone.

Rainbow clopped her back hoof in a short beat. Instantly Tank went into his shell and pulled out a pair of sunglasses that he put over Rainbow Dash's eyes.

Applejack growled in annoyance. "Now ya see here. Ah can appreciate there are some things a pony keeps private! And Ah ain't none appreciatin' that you think am gonna start flappin' mah gums every time I learn somethin' bad 'bout one of mah friends! Now take them sun glasses off and trust me!"

Rainbow Dash startled and Scootaloo actually hid behind her as steam started to come out of Applejack's ears. Reluctantly Rainbow Dash removed the sunglasses just as Scootaloo worked up the nerve to come between the earth pony and her idol.

"If it's nothing Applejack, I don't need to talk about it, if it isn't nothing, I don't want to talk about it, because it won't change what's gonna happen," Rainbow Dash said simply.

"Alright Dash, but if ya need something, ya come straight to me ya hear?"

Rainbow Dash just nodded and the small flock took off and took off FAST, like they were on a time table and zipped around several corners.

"Rainbow! Rainbow! Oh darn!" The Flutters flew by next, slowing to a landing a few feet from AJ's cart.

"Hey Flutters!" AJ spoke to her friends, "Where's the fire?"

"Oh!" Fluttershy said just noticing AJ. "It's, it's nothing, we just wanted to talk to Rainbow Dash, she's always around town so much with all her flying, and uh, er, we were, kinda sort of hoping she could help us with something."

"Oh? And what pray tell?"

The Flutters' body language and tone changed, her colors becoming darker. "If you have to ask. We got an unmarked letter under our door this morning, not even through the mailbox. Wasn't signed or anything. It said 'Be prepared to use Gaia's power on the purple pony at the mental ward for a day or she may be erased.' 'Shy's not taking it too well."

"'Gaia's power', wait are ya all sayin'-"

"Yes. Keep it under your hat, cowpony. You can guess 'Shy doesn't like it. And 'Shy put a 'Pinkie Proof' seal on it on plain view. And no, we're not telling you more."

'Ah REALLY hope this doesn't turn out to be another 'surprise reveal congo', dealin' with all that after savin' 'Shy was bad enough!' AJ thought more vexed then worried that Fluttershy might still have a fraction of the power that had nearly conquered Equestria. "Fine. I'm an honest pony but Ah ain't no gossiper. Ah ain't gonna go blabbin' it for no reason."

"I wouldn't have said anything cowpony if I didn't trust you," 'Cruel said like AJ was pointing out the annoyingly obvious.

"Well if ya really want ta find RD, she has Tank and Scoots with'em, so maybe you should check Sugarcube Corner."

'Cruel looked like she was about to say 'They actually finished rebuilding that place from 'Spikezilla'?' But then 'Shy nodded graciously and politely, "Oh thank you Applejack! Have a nice day! And-oh! My! Oh excuse me, please!" Fluttershy apologized.

"No problem Miss Fluttershy." Applebloom said though she seemed to stiffen a bit at the mare's presence until she had fluttered away. "Hiya, big sister!"

"Hello Applejack." Sweetie Belle waved a hoof smiling. Both fillies were carrying bags over their shoulders.

"Whatcha doin' here little sister? Ah thought you and Sweetie Belle were hangin' out with, That Filly, at Rarity's today."

"Her name is Silver Spoon," Sweetie Belle said frowning.

Applebloom shrugged, "She says she got this note sayin' she should spend times with her folks today cause 'the folks she knows might be goin' away soon' . . . Ah think it's some sort of prank but it scared her good! So she's invitin' us to her house instead."

"If I ever meet the pony who did that sort of prank, I'm going to give her a piece of my mind!" Sweetie said striking a regal pose.

AJ sighed. "Look, Ah know it's the honest truth That Filly ain't being friends with ya to cause trouble. But Applebloom, just follow Sweetie Belle's lead around her folks 'kay?"

Slightly confused Applebloom replied, "Okay Applejack."

AJ leaned against her sales stand slightly. As she sold several barrels worth to Dr. Whooves who was mumbling something about the 'fate of the universe' she thought, 'Well how ya like that, all mah friends are comin' along right after the other like they're takin' turns. Wonder if Twili' is gonna show up next.'

+++++

"There!" Spike declared in victory, and with Owlowiscious snoozing, there was no to take it away from him! "House tree clean up complete! Isn't it great Twilight?"

"Yeah Spike it is." Twilight smiled politely as she looked about the place. 'At least he's not complaining about having to clean up for two unicorns now. Trixie, you really gotta learn to clean up after yourself. Though I gotta admit,' "Spike I got to say you've really made the library live up to my name today."

"Thank you thank you!" Spike bowed.

Twilight looked at the organized books and trotted over to her personal collection. There was a place with one empty slot. She reached out to correct it, but stopped, like it was some sacred marker. 'Why do I need proof Trixie was here? It's not like I'm going to forget she was here any time soon.' Twilight nearly laughed at the silliness of the thought. 'I've taught that unicorn way too much to forget her now.'

"Come on Spike, let's eat."

+++++

'The nerve of some ponies,' Rarity thought. As a matter of course she always kept copies of every design she made: including the design for Screwball, er, Miss Golden Tiara.

The strange thing this morning there was somepony asking to buy off every copy of the design she had out of the blue. The pony absolutely refused to give their name or their reason for wanting them. Rarity had staunchly refused of course. Those designs were private. The pony had left apparently disappointed.

Rarity wondered if the pony had been employed by Onyx Tiara. Rarity sighed, for Tiara's sake she really needed to talk to that stallion.

+++++

Pipsqueak nervously looked at his companion. "Are you sure we should be doing this Moonlight?"

Moonlight looked at him with an assuring smile and a gleam in her eyes. "Oh don't worry Pip. My big sister told me all about this. It's called a prank. It's nothing too harmful."

Pip shuffled his hooves. "Well, if you say so."

Moonlight put a hoof around the little colt's shoulder. "I promise Pip, we're not going to do anything bad." Moonlight let out a yawn and the two trotted over to AJ's apple stand.

"Howdy Pipsqueak!" Then AJ noticed the small filly with him. "Hey there little darlin'! Ain't see ya 'round here before! Where ya all live?"

"You don't need to ask where I live."

"Ah don't need ta ask where ya all live."

"Myself and Pipsqueak are the cutest couple you have ever seen."

"Yahself and Pipsqueak are the darn' cuten'nest couple Ah've ever done see."

"There's nothing strange about you repeating everything I say."

"There ain't nothin' strange 'bout me repeatin' everything ya say."

"Pipsqueak is the best pony in the whole wide world."

"Pipqueak is the best pony in the da whole wide world."

"You DO have an accent."

"Ah DO have an accent."

"You'll give me and Pipsqueak apples free of charge."

"No way doin'!"

"Hey!"

"Sorry, but free samples are fer family only."

"You should go and take a nap!"

"Ah should go an' take a nap-soon as mah shift's over of course."

Moonlight startled. Pain was like a railroad spike hammered into her brain one moment and was gone the next. At the same instant the image of a one armed clock ticking towards noon flashed in her mind. 'No.' Moonlight thought in dismay. 'Blast it why did events have to drag on for so long?'

++++

AJ had a really pleasant afternoon after the short visits by her friends and Pip and his play date. Nice to see the kid was making friends in town considering his family had to start over here in Ponyville. Her last surprise guest of the afternoon had been Zecora, who with a negative amount of stealth had informed AJ she was now in perfect mental health. She took it in stride that Zecora had a few more doctor visits set just to make sure she did not backslide.

She wanted to keep going, but the idea of needing to take a nap wouldn't leave her.

It would be just her and Granny Smith until the late evening. Applebloom was at That Filly's house, and Big Mac had a big job in Canterlot.

Apparently Sweet Apple Acres' reputation had finally taken off as the farm was requested by name to cater to a Stallions' Club in Canterlot. However the request had included a note that only male ponies were allowed inside. It was about as sexist as that 'No Colts Allowed' sign she stuck on her club house door as a filly, but Applejack was actually mature enough to accept this. If mares wanted private time, she was willing to give stallions their space too.

Big Mac wasn't all too happy about this, but a sale this big didn't happen every day! AJ just needed to give him a slight push out the door.

When AJ was trotting up to the farm house she saw a blue and black nightingale fly into her bedroom via an open window.

"Well that ain't good. Them poor critter's gonna make a mighty fine mess in there." AJ said to herself. She let herself in, said hello to her grandmother, and trotted upstairs.

She opened the door to her room so not to frighten the poor thing. She then let the door swing open and said,

"What the buck?"

"Charmed," Princess Luna said in a deadpan tone. "Greetings Abigail Jacqueline V. I apologize that we can never seem to see each other on positive occasions."

Four night guards hup-to. AJ eyed them, noticing that they were in the corners of the room with their eyes trained on her. AJ's body tensed.

The Night itself caught her eyes' movement, "They are not here to fight you Abigail Jacqueline. They are here to sacrifice their lives and sanity to buy me the precious few seconds I'll need to inform Celestia if you fall into black magic."

"SAY WHA?" AJ said her concentration breaking. "Black what-?! And what in tarnation are you doin' in mah house?! Er," AJ shook her head, "Your Majesty?"

"Allow me to answer your question with a question. What do you remember when you took your sister with you to meet with my sister? Just before she showed you the path to the Truth? Think Abigail. What contradiction exists between what was said and what is now?"

AJ couldn't help but grit her teeth, but kept her manners to her self imposed royal house guest. She hated riddles. She rattled her brain for an answer. Then Applebloom's voice echoed back to her. "WOW! Can I have it too-?!"

AJ said in realization, "Yer big sister said Ah wouldn't be gettin' 'truth vision.' "

Princess Luna sighed. "You were not supposed to look into The Gate of Truth as long as you did Abigail, and even that besides, nothing should have happened. We underestimated what your bond with, the Element of Honesty, would do to you. Honesty cries out to Truth. It calls out to truth, and truth answers back. You have become more. Your eyes are becoming open to greater things. Both wonderful and horrible. Things mortal ponies aren't supposed to bear." Luna looked at Applejack almost apologetically. "Sorry AJ, there are burdens an Alicorn DOES have to bear alone."

Applejack startled. That was the first time Princess Luna had ever called her by her nickname. She spoke calmly, almost pleadingly, "Princess, what is all this about?"

AJ would have found Princess Luna's speech long winded, but hearing Luna speak in singular person on business was jarring enough to keep her attention.

"The world we exist in is fact just one of several Applejack. You learned this already when you looked into The Gate of Truth. But what you didn't see was that our world and countless others are all tethered to a singular world whose reality all worlds born from it must bow to. When something in that heart world changes, then all others worlds must submit to that change, or have their connection broken.

"Some of these worlds become strong enough that their own truth can survive on its own without an umbilical cord to the heart world. Many do not. A deceptively significant event is due soon in this world and the heart world that could very well cut our timeline's connection to it. So far we've been able to prevent such a thing from happening. We were hoping our timeline would have had time to mature before something like this could happen. But this change could strain our link past the breaking point.

"Applejack. You were never supposed to have received the gift/curse to see truth. But it is now an integrated part of your being, in order for it to sleep you would have become unworthy of being the Element of Honesty, I doubt that I need to tell you the risk that would carry. Applejack, if our world loses its connection to the heart world. Your gift to see truth WILL become a curse."

AJ would have considered what Luna was saying was crazy, if it wasn't being said by a goddess and AJ's vision told her this was truth. So she quite scared inside. " . . . okay. How so?"

"The truth of this world, and that of the heart world will clash. To a pony who lacks your ability, this will pass without them knowing, but for you, it'll be very different. You will lose your ability to tell them apart. You will go completely mad. Truth should be unifying, not divisive. When you behold this divisive truth: your base nature will know only one desire. To make truth absolute. It'll be the only way you'll be able to endure the agony of simultaneous conflicting realities."

" . . . how do you know all this?"

"I've . . . been having dreams. Dreams of what then did happen, or could have happened. And I saw what YOU will become Applejack. There is only one solution."

'I ain't dying tonight.' AJ tensed every muscle in her body waiting for the first flicker from the goddess' horn.

"You must complete in one night what was supposed to take you a life time. You must embrace an opposing truth of yourself in your heart. And with the unification of two sides of yourself, you'll be able to remain sane if our link to the heart world snaps."

AJ startled so badly she nearly fell on her belly. "Wha?"

+++

Pinkie Pie panted, her hide covered in sweat. Her legs felt like lead as she dragged them along. The bag of paint, letters, and cupcakes now feeling like a boulder compared to this morning. She would apologize to Dr. Whooves for stealing the keys to his funny blue shed earlier. "Must-! Prevent-! Universe-! From, being, jossed!"

+++

AJ collected herself. "So, we're goin' ta be givin' that Truth fellah a visit again?" AJ steeled herself.

"Not quite. You will be looking into yourself Applejack. The image of Truth becomes Truth. Right here. Right now. There is, however, also the risk that these could cause you to fall into corruption now instead of later. Your brother is out of harm's way as insurance. If another Element of Honesty is needed to purify you, he is the safest bet as you know, he has taken your place in at least one other timeline."

"Bet-?! Wait-wait-wait, you got us that job so Big Mac wouldn't be here? This is all happenin' way too fast!" AJ had never felt so incredulous.

"We don't have TIME for a better plan!"

"Shouldn't we doing this in Canterlot then?"

"This is to protect Canterlot from you!"

"How about ya use them fancy smacy Alicorn magics and have us do it in the desert then-?!"

"Doing it here actually gives you the greatest chance of coming out whole. And you SAW what happened when Fluttershy fell to black magic in 'nowhere!' Even if I tell Celestia where you'll be ahead of time, having it happen -away- from those you love and places you are familiar with will only make your 'maturation' happen faster! This is for YOUR sake Abigail Jacqueline."

"Now hold on an apple bucking minutes! This happened to you! This happened to Fluttershy! And now yer sayin' unless ah go on some fancy 'spirit journey' or somethin' it's gonna happen to me too! Yer gonna tell me right now! What da hay is ah Nightmare anyway?!"

The original Nightmare lowered her head sadly, almost shamefully. "An Alicorn is a part of everything. A Nightmare is when a part of you, is the only part of you."

"Truth doesn't need no compromisin'." AJ said with finality.

Luna backhoofed her.

AJ gasped. When had any Alicorn actually hurt a pony? Her mind wobbled. "Wha'? Did Ah say something' mean ta Pip this time?" AJ asked her brain spinning.

" Listen to what you -said- Abigail Jacqueline V! Honesty has become your trusted companion ever since you and your friends cured me, Abigail. But as you are now, a mortal pony, this will ultimately run wild and devour you. As my night devoured me! And Fluttershy's kindness devoured her! I won't see another pony become a slave to that blackness if I can do something to stop it!"

AJ finally noticed the royal guards were as shocked by their Princess' act of violence as AJ was.

The Princess panted. AJ saw tears in Luna's eyes. "And that is a Nightmare."

"So yer sayin' if we don't do this right here and now, Ah will turn into a Nightmare, but if we do this then Ah might turn into one anyway."

"Yes."

"Then promise me somethin'. Or I'm just gonna just sit on mah flanks eatin' apple fritters till ya do. Yer gonna make sure mah granny and Applebloom are safe."

The goddess lowered her head to the mortal pony. "You have my Word. If you become a Nightmare, I'll protect them. I will honor the spirit of these words and not their dictation."

AJ tiled her head, "Wha was that last part?"

"I promise not to abuse the wording. It's ... a harsh lesson my sister learned and she passed it onto me. Now I suggest you take that nap now."

AJ blinked, the idea suddenly felt like her own.

"Tah thad nap now." AJ repeated in a drunken slur before falling on her side.

++++

AJ opened her eyes, but she couldn't move her body. She was completely limp. She must have been dreaming. She was laying on her back on her own bed. She felt something heavy on her hooves and moved her eyeballs. There were some long heavy metal rods standing on top of her hooves. AJ dully noted the rods were chained together at the top. Her legs were spread out making her feel like a bug on display.

A hoof gently pushed her head so she was looking out at the top of her bed.

"Abigail," The night Alicorn's voice whispered softly, "Do not panic, the restraints are merely to prevent you from harming yourself and to buy a few precious seconds incase of the absolute worst case scenario. Now listen carefully. You are now going to look into the truth that is a part of you. Your heart will seek out the version of you that is both complimentary and contradictory to you. But you'll also see many, many other possibilities and impossibilities along the way. Once inside your own soul, there will be nothing I can do for you. But you won't be alone. May My Parents grant you the understanding to grow, my little pony."

A large mirror was placed in AJ's line of sight. And AJ looked into her own eyes. And she saw herself looking into her own eyes. And she saw herself looking into her own in the reflection of looking into her eyes in her eyes' reflection of looking into her own eyes.

And Applejack realized she was looking into The Gate of Truth.

====

AJ was having a nervous break down! She had followed that witch Zecora into the woods all by herself to save Applebloom through those weird blue flowers and now AJ was a zebra?! Just wait until she got her hoofs on that witch! . . . As soon as her own friends stopped running in fear from her of course.

=

Prince Blueblood endured loop after loop of the same day of the Grand Galloping Gaia. The fear and confusion has long since worn off, along with the novelty of his actions have no consequences. He had married Sapphire Shores, he had set fire to Canterlot, he had committed suicide one thousand three hundred and ninety two different ways. All that was left now was trying to make one night for a white unicorn with a purple-curled mane utterly perfect, even if it would vanish into oblivion with the dawn.

=

"What's your name little filly?" Twilight asked kindly.

"I think, maybe, it's Nyx?"

=

Two images at once. Almost the same. Fluttershy was nursing someone back to health, ever so slowly teaching them empathy and how petty and small they had been. In one it was Trixie, in the other, it was Gilda.

=

All six bearers of the Elements of Harmony, weeks after the defeat of Discord, were all hotly debating how it was possible for the six of them to be pregnant when none of them had ever even been mounted!

=

"Pony Babies where make believe comes true!"

"ACH! NEXT! PLEASE!" AJ heard her own voice cry out!

=

"YA CAN'T WIN PONIES!" Gildar boasted in her giant war zord robot Grifclopsys.

"Let's keep it up!" Shouted Purple Pony Ranger in their Mega-Pony.

"Right!"

"Morphin'!"

=

Sunny Day panted in the giant blast crater. Around her neck was a golden lock and chain. Twilight and the others stood along side her, scorched but otherwise unharmed.

Hovering above them was an Alicorn stallion. His cutie mark was a chariot being pulled by two different colored creatures. Connected to one wing was a spear and the other a shield.

"Why you persist Celestia? The judgement is final. Stop this nonsense. You can't win. Nothing can defend against my spear and nothing can penetrate my shield. It is the very symbol of my loyalty, so it won't break!"

"I'm gonna show you loyalty!" Rainbow snapped, "I'm gonna break that stupid shield of yours!"

"Then come at me my little pony, show me this inner strength that drives my sister and that she believes in so readily that she'd stand against her own family!"

=

Twilight gasped in horror and shock. Wrapped around Zecora were transparent ghostly horse like creatures. They constricted around her unarmed left foreleg like snakes.

The others circled around her, Rarity was still thawing out Rainbow Dash from the surprise attack.

"Y-you're controlling the Windigos-?!"

Zecora shook her head slowly, the act seemed painful. "Controlling? No. We simply understand one another."

One of the Windigos reached out and grabbed Twilight by the leg and slammed her into a wall. Zecora shouted, "Twilight! This is the true Witch Of The Mare, you've been searching for!" The blades on three of Zecora's legs slashed across Twilight's midsection as Zecora tossed her across the room.

Zecora gasped out, "Twilight! Only you!"

=

Twilight could only gasp in horror, unable to even lift her keyblade. The ghostly feelings of hate and malice covered her like weight chains.

"The Windigos! Come from you-?!"

Nightmare Moon nodded in a simple act of triumph. "It happened when I first embraced my inner dissonance. The cold feelings took the shape of these monsters. They are what I feel. And what I feel is very much hate and anger! And the best part is, no matter how many times you destroy them, their dark feelings return to me. You never had a chance, Twilight."

=

"Who are you?!" Surprise snapped at the cyan pegasus.

"Does it matter? I'm here for the rest of Pinkie Pie's heart." Said the blindfolded mare, a gray and rainbow colored keyblade connected to one wing.

"PINKIE! PINKIE! PINKIE! I'm sick of hearing about Pinkie! I am me! And I . . . I just want to be with her again!"

"Her? You mean 'Minty'? It's a struggle just to remember her name now isn't it? Soon she'll fade from existence completely."

""Out of my way!" She summoned her's and Minty's Keyblades at the same time and charged. "I'll be with her again and freeing Kingdom Hearts is the only way to do that!"

"If you try to make contact with Kingdom Hearts, the last thing you'll get is Minty back. The Sisterhood will destroy you."

"SHUT UP!" She charged.

"HOPE YOU'RE FAST!" The cyan pegasus shouted and seemed to come at her from several directions at once before hammering her into the ground. "SLOPPY!"

=

"Everyone far and wide!" Mayor Mare shouted, "Let everyone welcome the newest Princess of Equestria! She who has helped bring peace and love to all ponies everywhere! She whose kindness and love is above question! She to whom we all admire as an inspiration to all Ponykind not only of today but all generations to come! Let us welcome her with open hooves! She who has risen above and become one with the gods themselves! We welcome! We welcome you! Princess Bubbles!"

A beautiful gray coated Alicorn humbly bowered her head at the cheering crowd of thousands. Her mane was like a golden waterfall. Her white harness and mantle gleamed in the daylight. Her cutie mark a spiral of bubbles. She eyed what were now her subjects as part of a trinity in two directions at once.

A pair of unicorns held up a sign in the crowding saying 'Love You Mom!' Or would have if they weren't standing alongside her in the most beautiful Gala dresses imaginable blushing as they stood alongside their mother. Behind them of course would be Equestria's biggest muffin.

=

"Okay," Said a violet dragon with a slightly nasal voice sounding resigned. "Let me get this straight, you're both named Spike too."

A blue dragon said in a cultured tone, "Technically my full name is Master Kenbroath Gillspotten Heathspike. But yes, I do go by simply 'Spike' normally."

A dark purple spike with pudgy belly and a round head said, "Yeah, that's me! And I gotta say I think I'm cuter than either of you! I can't see Rarity falling for either of you!"

"That is debatable," Said the blue Spike.

"Oh yeah?"

"Now hold on!" Said the light violet Spike getting between the two others. "You said someone important to you got taken to this place too right? Like Megan?"

"Yes my Princess Wysteria," Said the blue Spike nodded.

"Twilight," The dark purple Spike sighed.

"Then how about we don't argue till after we save'em?"

"That sounds quite logical. Of course I shall lead."

"Yeah?! Says who?"

"Says that I'm a thousand years older than you and I've read more book than most forests have trees!"

"Well I've . . I've organized more books than most countries have trees!"

The blue Spike crossed his arms, "I'll be sure to note that."

The light violet Spike waved his arms. "Look! I don't care whose in charge! We gotta move!"

=

Pipsqueak cradled Luna's head in his tiny forelegs.

Blood coming from every orifice she whispered, "Pip, I'm sorry."

=

Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie pressed against each other in comfort. The red sphere pulsing with all of Equestria's inner demons and the Windigos themselves, all inside desperate for escape. But the pair wouldn't give it to them. Not now. Not ever. Not for the last thousand years, not for the next ten thousand years. This was their duty, this was their fate, it was their choice. Equestria only knew peace and happiness, as it should be.

A massive shrine had long since been built around the two, in honor of their sacrifice.

=

Princess Gaia trotted among her foals and knight. The red grief gem dangled around her neck. After a thousand years, the love and adoration of her children had reduced the heavy weight to the size of a marble.

'After so long, I'm still happy I took Applejack's advice. There's no telling what would have happened if I had kept this a secret from my children. Bottling up my own feelings like that.'

Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were in Ponyville for the yearly birthday of her children. Asking each one in turn if they were ready to grow up or would like to remain as foals with their friends for another year. With Princess Gaia's puppets allowing for grunt labor, it was a practical system.

The captain of her Nature Guard, Ditzy Doo, saluted her alongside her daughter Dinky Doo, now an adult mare in armor and butterfly wings like her.

Princess Gaia took a moment to just enjoy the sunlight and listen to the sound of her foals playing. Yes, what a wonderful world she and her children had made together.

=

Inside a spell circle, Applebloom pressed a black boney hoof against the invisible barrier. "Help me!" The fear and pain obvious in her hoarse voice.

The undead filly looked at her big sister pleadingly.

AJ glared hatefully at Twilight, "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST USE YOUR STUPID MAGIC HORN TO UNCURSE MY BABY SISTER ALREADY?"

"But curses aren't real!" Twilight wailed.

"DOES THAT LOOK REAL ENOUGH TO YOU!" AJ snarled taking Twilight head and pushing her muzzle against the barrier Twilight herself had made to quarantine the filly after a heartfelt hug to Sweetie Belle had put the poor filly into the emergency room.

"Plea-ea-ea-eassse!" Applebloom's red eyes would have been crying if they could. "It hurts so bad Applejack! Make it stop! Make it stop!"

"FIX HER DAMMIT!" AJ hissed in Twilight's face.

"I-I-I don't know how!"

AJ THREW her into a shelf of books, "THEN FIND OUT HOW YOU LAZY ASS GOOD FOR NOTHING BOOK WORM!"

Twilight slowly pushed herself off the floor, tasting the blood in her mouth. When was the last time any of her friends had hurt her besides time as Discord's pawn? She looked at AJ, but there was no apology in those eyes, only an overwhelming desire for Twilight, Celestia, Discord, Cheerilee, anypony to cure her little sister.

"Don't fight please!" The undead filly pleaded, seeing her sister like that, it was like she was a different pony.

AJ pushed herself against the barrier, not caring for the feeling of the warmth being pulled out of her, "Yer gonna be fine Applebloom, Ah promise. Yer gonna be just fine." Applebloom pressed against the barrier as well, she'd be crying rivers if she had tears to shed.

Outside the library Sweetie asked her own big sister, "Please let me in. She didn't mean it!"

Rarity sighed holding up the filly with her magic, "I'm sorry Sweetie, it's not, not safe for you to see Applebloom right now."

Back inside Twilight rambled to herself, "But-but, zombies and curses are just fiction, fantasy. They aren't real. This must be an illusion. A trick by some poison joke. Maybe this is all some collective dream."

"Yer blind." AJ seethed, "ALWAYS BLIND! Yer absurd! Ya won't see the truth unless it's forced on ya! Well okay then! Here's Miss Force. "

=

Nightmare Manacle roared across the sky, blindly hissing and cussing at any pony she laid her eyes on. The inverted spectrum colored Alicorn tore chains from her own body and threw them at various random ponies. The chains connecting themselves and burrowed into the flesh of pairs of ponies, who all suddenly found themselves able to hear the thoughts and feel the pain of the pony they were now chained to.

"THIS WORLD IS FILLED WITH NOTHING BUT BACK STABBERS! SELFISH PONIES DOING THEIR OWN SELFISH THING AND ONLY HELPING OUT WHEN IT SUITS THEM! WELL LET'S FIX THAT NOW SHALL WE-?!" Hissed the Nightmare with solid white eyes. "ONCE EVERYONE'S CHAINED TOGETHER YER GONNA HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER YOU BUNCH OF LOSERS!"

A home made grenade, not a pie, not a cake, but a very real hoof held -bomb- exploded to one side of the gray and inverted colors Nightmare's face.

"YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN AND LAUGH IT UP DASHIE!" Pinkie Diane said carrying a satchel of hastily constructed weapons. "You're making everyone miserable!"

"THERE IS NO 'DASHIE!' I AM NIGHTMARE MANACLE!" Eight chains sprung from the Nightmare coming down towards the Earth pony from all sides who agilely dodged the attack.

"PINKIE LOOK OUT!" Screamed Mr. Cake's voice as he came up from behind her with a meat cleaver. It cut off part of Pinkie's mane. The chains pulled the stallion's forelegs back for another slash. He was wearing a badly fitting Shadowbolt costume.

Fluttershy/Fluttercruel dove down to try and get at her from above but instead were too busy dodging rainbow colored lighting bolts.

"GOTTA PROTECT DASH! GOTTA PROTECT DASH! GOTTA PROTECT DASH!" Shouted Scootaloo like a broken record. She was moving too fast for Rarity or Twilight's telekinesis to catch her as she ran interference for the Nightmare. Scoots was wearing a Shadowbolt costume with chains around her neck and hooves.

"We've got to pull back!" Rarity shouted. "Get Celestia and Luna!"

"We can't abandon Dash!" AJ shouted.

"We're not abandoning! We're getting help!" Rarity protested. "If we get the Elements then maybe we can actually do something to save her!"

That was when Applebloom and Sweetie Belle from their hiding places jumped and grappled Scootaloo from two sides. "GOTTA PROTECT DASH! GOTTA PROTECT DASH!" The chains on her hooves snaked to life and wrapped themselves around Applebloom and Sweetie's necks. Their eyes bulged as they began to cough up the words, "Gotta, gotta protect, gotta PROTECT-"

"NO!" AJ and Rarity shouted as the costumes began to appear on the two fillies.

====

Rainbow flew at full speed towards the top of the circus tent that covered all of Ponyville. The insane laughter echoing in her ears from every direction.

"Pinkie Pie!!"

"Anger is dead-dead-dead! Pinkamena is dead-dead-dead! Bad foalhood memories are dead-dead-dead! Now there's only happy thoughts!" Said a squeakly high pitched voice.

Coming together to block RD's flight path where three fillies in clown costumes with completely insane looks in their eyes.

"EVERYONE DANCE TO THE SONG OF NIGHTMARE GRANFALLOON!" They cheered in perfectly sync, staying in the air with balloons and tight rope wires.

"Don't make me hurt you!" RD hissed. She had no clue what was going on anymore than the others. All she knew was that she had worked up the nerve to finally confess her sin to the others today, and there was an EXPLOSION from Sugar Cube Corner or something.

"Out of the way!" Hissed a yellow pegasus who did a flying kick to Applebloom's gut and a pair of back hoofs to the other two clownified Cutie Mark Crusaders.

On a lower platform AJ found herself having to buck the entire cake family three ways from Celestia Day.

"Come on! We just wanna cut out yer eyes! Can't you see? HEHEHEH!" Laughed a completely insane Mr. Cake at his own joke. The clown dressed pony and his wife tirelessly stabbing at the Earth pony.

"PINKIE! THIS ISN'T MAKING ME HAPPY!" AJ shouted trying to reason.

The laughter echoed from all around and above, "HEHEHEHEH! But-but-but! You-see-see-see: Bad things! Bad things shouldn't be seen! Cause they don't make ponies happy! BAD EYES GO AWAY!"

"We've tried all the exits, they just lead back inside!" Twilight hissed as she used some circus props to try to harmlessly tie down the ponies who had been infected. The only thing any of them had in common was a balloon shaped locket around their necks, and being completely insane!

"WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?! HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?" Rarity shouted to anyone and everyone.

In the stands Derpy and ScrewBall fought like mad mares, fighting back to back to protect their fillies from the horde.

RD flew up higher and higher, finally at the top she found her. Grinning ear to ear. Wearing clown make up, in the most garish party dress imaginable. Wings and horn shone in the stage lights. She was now three times RD's size. "Heeellllooooo Daaashie! Let's play! Let's prank-prank-prank! This'll be the party that never ends!"

RD sighed, and blinked away tears, "Let's dance Pinkie."

+++

The giant tent collapsed, falling apart and disintegrating. Ponies blinked and began to cry, all across Ponyville, thousands of wails were heard. They fell to their knees as the makeup and costumes dissolved from the clumsy and crude non-instanteous magic.

Golden Tiara hugged Diamond Tiara, clarity in her eyes that they hadn't had in far too long. "It's alright Princess, mommy's here, mommy's here to stay this time, mommy promises."

Derpy hugged her children and leaned against Golden Tiara expressing similar words.

Rainbow Dash stood cradling a pink unmoving body, the dead Nightmare felt so light. "Dammit, dammit, dammit, DAMMIT! DAMMIT PINKIE! HOW COULD IT HAPPEN!? DAMMIT!"

The other Elements of Harmony gathered around her. RD stood up cradling Pinkie Pie's body. The Cakes looking on in grief.

That was when the piece of glass went straight into RD's brain. She fell over backwards dead before she hit the ground.

Everyone turned at once in horror at Rarity. Tears came down her face like a flood, but it was clear by the look in her eyes that something had just...snapped. "DON'T YOU SEE?! LUNA USED THE ELEMENTS OF HARMONY! SHE BECAME A NIGHTMARE! We used the Elements of Harmony! Pinkie Pie became a Nightmare! WE ARE THE SOURCE OF NIGHTMARES! WE ALL HAVE TO DIE!"

Twilight suddenly found herself and her horn wrapped up with pieces of cloth choking the life out of her as Rarity took aim with another glass shard. A crowbar struck Rarity in the side of the head, breaking her neck instantly.

Everyone turned to the thrown weapon's source. Fluttershy fell to all fours, crying as well. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. WE'RE SORRY! WE are so sorry! WE DIDN'T WANT TO! But she was going to kill-! WE didn't want to! It isn't fair! But we had to! It's just . . . we're sorry." Fluttershy sobbed.

=

It was a bright and sunny day in Canterlot, in all of Equestria really.

The six bearers of the Elements of Harmony sat around the round table.

"So what's for lunch today? I hope it's cupcakes! It's always great to have cupcakes!" Pinkie Pie said.

"Darling if it was up to you every meal would be cupcakes. And technically, they're desert dear, not a meal." Rarity corrected politely.

"Oh, okay." Pinkie nodded.

"Ah think Ah'll just go for some salad myself," AJ said.

"I think I'll try that new Veggie Burger they've been talking about," RD spoke.

"Uh, I'll just have whatever you girls are having," Fluttershy said.

"Just a daisy sandwich for me will do," Twilight said, not even thinking about it.

"So what's on the agenda today?" RD leaned back in her throne, covered in Wonderbolt's posters and sporting an eight speaker sound system and build in CD player and miniature TV and a soda dispenser.

"Well now that we've burned Everfree Forest to the ground dears, I'd say it's time for replanting," Rarity said elegantly in her golden and diamond encrusted throne with red plush.

"That was a great idea of mine wasn't it? Celestia should have done that forever ago!" RD said proudly. "That's why I'm Captain Of the Wonderbolts!"

Queen Fluttershy leaned forward a bit in her simple wooden kitchen chair, "Uh, aren't you captain because you told them to make you captain?"

"Like duh! But I did because I come up with great ideas like that!"

Queen Rarity said, "Not as good as my redistribution of wealth plan. It's finally done. There's not a pony in Equestria who has more or less bits than anyone else now."

"Uh, big sister," Said Sweetie Belle in a small voice, "I got the reports from the Reeducation School today. They had several new graduates today."

"Thank you Sweetie! Those school were my best idea for Equestria ever! Isn't that right Applebloom? Your friend Twist is much better now she has pretty hair and has finally gotten rid of that lisp isn't she? And let's not get started on the work needed to be done on Snips and Snails."

Applebloom just nodded, doing her hardest not to frown or think bad thoughts.

"It did wonders for my parents and it does wonders for everypony else I'd say," Queen Rarity said proudly.

"YEAH!" Queen Pinkie Pie hit a button on her own throne, today it was pink with polka dots. Confetti and sparkles exploded from several pipes on the garish monstrosity. "It calls for a celebration! What holiday is today?"

Applebloom looked at a note pad. "Uh none?"

"Oh! Well that's no good! We need to invent one! I got it! Donut Day!"

"That was last month your Pinkieness."

"Oh! Really? Too bad! Don't worry, just get the preparations ready! I'll think of something by the time they're ready."

"Yes your Pinkieness." Applebloom just bowed. "Big sister," Applebloom said, "A pony in Manehatten said he thought the food was okay at a restaurant when he really hated it."

"Burn down his house," Queen Applejack said without looking up from her lunch. She sat in a modest office chair.

"Okay Big sister."

"A mare slapped a stallion for saying a comment she didn't like." Sweetie Belle said looking at her list.

Queen Fluttershy said, "Please see the mare has an anti-violence geass put on her. And have a geass place on the Stallion's voice so he can't talk please. It's for their own good. Can you see that's done, please girls?"

"As you wish," Sweetie Belle said, doing her best not to sigh, not so much as twitch an eye. Keeping her face exactly as was expected.

"Miss Cheerilee was heard crying in her house last evening in Ponyville," Applebloom read off the report.

"Make her cupcakes." Queen Pinkie Pie said, "Make sure they're a kind she likes. She's not leaving the Happy House until she's eaten every last one, double the amount of Happy Sauce in them."

"Yes your Pinkieness."

"So Twilight, er, Queen Twilight," Spike said.

"Spike, it's okay, you can still call me Twilight, we're friends remember?"

"Oh, right yeah. Well... We finished burning those banned books from your newest list from every Library in Equestria. Including books on Alchemy, Zebra Voodoo, super-naturals, and styles of magic outside the main eight arts."

"Good. Everypony's going to be cheering now all that irrational and absurd nonsense is gone. And magic's progress can march forward WITHOUT fictional schools of magic to distract everyone. Have anypony found practicing it brought for reeducation. We need to free their minds of all those lies," Twilight said proudly, sitting on Celestia's old throne.

"Yes Twilight."

"Big sister," Sweetie Belle said, "Don't you think we should let mom and dad out of that . .. school now? They're doing much better! They sure look pretty to me!"

"Oh Sweetie Belle." Rarity patted her on the head. "You'll understand when you're a grown up. These things take time. They SAY they believe in beauty and equality, but they have to BELIEVE it too. Don't worry dear."

Queen RD took a can from the soda dispenser on her throne only to realize it was empty. "HEY! HALF-PINT! I TOLD YOU TO KEEP THIS THING FULL!" She threw the last empty can at Scootaloo, hitting her square in the head.

"Sorry Your Super-Duper-Awesome-Radicalness."

Another can hit her in the face. "YOU LEFT OUT ULTRA-COOLNESS!"

"OH! Sorry! Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" Scootaloo said getting on all four knees bopping her head up and down. Her court jester costume was orange and blacks.

"Oh dear, sounds like someone needs a strong dose of happy today." Queen Pinkie Pie said looking at Scootaloo. "Don't worry we'll fix you right up!"

Queen Twilight meanwhile looked behind the throne at a pair of silver and golden statues. "I'm sure you've changed your mind about our new system by now Princess. It's much better this way. No chance for Alicorns to fight among themselves. Everything working perfectly. And all the things you couldn't do without ruining your image or having to go through all the red tape. I know you've realized and accepted the new system by now. I know you have." Twilight said smiling at the golden statue set in a gigantic clockwork system of gears and cogs manipulating the Royal Pony Sisters' magic to keep the sky running in perfect order.

"Now let's get the important things out of the way." Queen Twilight said pushing a button next to her throne. This made a hole open up in the middle of the round table, bringing up a restrained Zecora and Lyra.

Queen Twilight was happy they had gotten much better control of their Elements since the old days. They had made sure Trixie, Blueblood, Upper Crust, and the Flim Flam brothers were all kept comfortable. The process had left Trixie so brain damaged in particular she was practically a wind-up doll. Twilight still took time out each day to apologize to them.

"Hello Zecora," Queen Twilight said politely. "Hello Lyra Heartstrings."

"Please. Just do to me what you have to the sun, do not act as if this is fun." Zecora said simply keeping her head held high.

"PLEASE! I Shouldn't be here!" Lyra begged.

"Don't worry," Queen Twilight said, "We do this every day to cleanse ponies like you of disharmonious thoughts and feelings!"

"And according to Bon-Bon," Queen Pinkie Pie said, "You've been cranky in the morning, telling lies about not being sad, AND this is your second reharmonization in two months! You should feel happy that Bon-Bon cares enough about you that she was willing to tell us."

Lyra just cried.


"Let's begin girls." Twilight said as the Elements of Harmony they all wore shone bright and became their rainbow that washed over the pony and zebra.

=

Twilight Tragedy pushed her horn harder and harder against Rarigreed's head, almost piercing her skull.

"Get out! GET OUT! THESE MEMORIES MEAN NOTHING TO ME NOW! I HAVE WHAT I WANT!" The dirty white mare hissed.

Twilight snarled as she forced the memories of Sweetie Belle to the surface. Making the discorded pony gasp in shock. "A pony whose willing to throw away what's most important to her has no right to call herself Greed!"

~~~

Twilight Tragedy, Liarjack, Derpy Hooves, Apple Pie, and Greedity stared at the two Bearers of the Elements of Discord.

"The past is DEAD Twilight!" Angry Pie snarled. "AND SO ARE YOU!"

"I'm so happy to disappoint you Twilight dear, because I'm afraid the Fluttershy you remember ceased to exist a LOOOOONG time ago!" Fluttercruel grinned as she took two out bloody bladed weapon with her wings.

"If that's the truth. Then so be it. No more lies to myself anymore." Greedity said simply. "But Greed is straight foreword and honest. And what I want more than anything now, is to no longer be master's slave!"

=

The silver filly wore garish gray and pink armor made in the same style of the Royal Guards. her glasses gleamed like her armor. One of her wings was a bird's, the other was a bat. On the front of the armor where there was the symbol of the sun or the moon for the Day or Night Guard, there was a diamond. "For her Majesty!" She shouted as ponies likes her and creatures from the worst depths of imagination charged.

In response, ponies with pegasus, bat, and butterfly wings in golden, black, and platinum armor clashed with the horde. The armies of the Three Princesses of Equestria boldly sought to defend their home and their families from the reincarnation of their people's worst enemy.

++++

"OW!" The orange pony bumped her head. Her voice echoing. Where was she now? Wait. She WAS somewhere! The visions had stopped for now. "That's a relief." She said her voice still echoing. It looked like some was in some faint smoking black void. The 'floor' was kinda like water when she looked at it, but it wasn't wet in the least. "I hope that is the end of that." She said, her voice echoed again, but came back distorted.

The visions, those other worlds. What did the Princess call them? Possibilities and impossibilities? She had enough now to last a lifetime. The Princess was right. Seeing those all at once would drive anypony crazy. But what was this now? Was this where the 'contradictory truth' was? But what did that have to do with her?

"Gracious," She sighed.

"Dang," her voice echoed back.

Now she was agitated. "Now see here! That is nothing like what I just said!"

The echo replied. "No! Yer nothing like what Ah just said!"

She startled. Okay, rebate please, she'd like to check out now. "I spoke first!"

"No Ah did!"

"I won't argue with an echo!"

"You're the echo!"

She trotted back, and bumped right into another pony's rump. She startled, heard herself startle twice, and groaned. That echoed too.

She turned around and gasped.

"YOU!" They shouted together at the exact same time.

She looked at her. Cowboy hat, long pony tail for both her tail and mane, muscular, not a trace of poise or refinement, and a cutie mark of three apples. She even carried herself differently than her, with a less formal, more relaxed posture.

She looked at her. No hat but a business vest, short mane and tail, slightly pudgy, not as muscle toned, but moved with an air of sophistication and grace, and a cutie mark of three jeweled oranges. She carried herself with an precise, refined stance, like those Canterlot ponies did.

"NOT FAIR!" They shouted together again. Both let out a growl of frustration.

Orangejack spoke first, "You were supposed to be an uneducated, thuggish hillbilly who never accomplished anything in her life! You weren't supposed to save the world!"

"Well YA were supposed to be a heartless and miserable business nag still wearing that stupid hairdo and a blank flank! You weren't supposed to be HAPPY and NICE!"

"How could you get so many friends and I didn't-?!"

"How did ya find a stallion and have kids that both love ya when Ah didn't?!"

"How could you throw your future away?!"

"How could you throw away our roots?!"

The two 'Jacks pushed their skulls against each other.

"What are you doin' in my brother's vision quest you hayseed? And where is he?"

"BIG MAC'S VISION QUEST? What are you doin' mah vision quest anyway?"

"Yours-?! You arrogant, self-centered-"

"Yer the arrogant self-centered one!"

"At least I've APPLIED myself! You've done nothing but sit on your flanks staying in the same spot your whole life!"

"OH NO YOU DIDN'T! YER the one whose never worked a hard day of work in her life since leavin' the farm!"

Steam came out of Orangejack's ears. "You . . . you . . . you think books on economics and culture read themselves-?! You think businesses run themselves?! You know how many sleepless nights I've had keeping Aunt and Uncle's businesses from being eaten by corporate sharks?! . . ."

"Oh yeah?! Yah think a farm just runs itself? Yah think all those apples fall into baskets and ship themselves to market all by themselves? But Ah guess pushing papers sound so much harder than buckin' apples! Fatty!"

The slightly pudgy Orangejack turned red, "FAT? You wanna see what somepony with a personal trainer in karate can do, ugly!?"

"UGLY?! We'll be seein' whose ugly after Ah buck yah in the face! Oh it's on!"

The two ponies turned on a dime and bucked hooves.

"here OJ! I need these paper done about half an hour ago."
"Nice bucking AJ, now let's see you do the next tree."
"Sorry, but they offered me a better discount. Sorry, deal's off."
"Yes yes, I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner but we don't need the pies now."
"I'm going to make orange juice out of you aristocratic stiffs!"
"Your apple farm's gonna be apple cider by the time we're done!"
"Sorry Madam, Discord's airquake completely toppled the building."
" . . .those damn parasprites, Ah wish they DID eat the harvest instead of the barn, the farm house, and everything else!"

The two ponies panted and pushed themselves up. They were shaking and covered in sweat.

"H-hey," Applejack said first, sounding a little bit scared. "Nice . . . nice kick."

"Not . . . not as good as yours I guess," Orangejack replied in a similar tone. She sighed. "Why did you have and go and make something of yourself anyway?"

"Heh. Why did you have to go and be happy and be a good pony too?"

"I buckled down. It was my choice and I was going to make the best of it. I wasn't going to be a quitter and go back to Ponyville. But I was going to make my -own- mark, not just be put into a slot."

"Just because the farm was where Ah was the most happy didn't mean Ah was gonna stop . . . Ah dunno, Ah wasn't going to put all my effort to nothin'. The farm needed a smart business pony too."

"I actually began investing in Sweet Apple Acres when I had the income to spare."

Applejack startled, "So . . . you never forgot about them?"

"Don't tell me you never spoke to Aunt and Uncle again?"

Applejack blushed, "Not 'never'. . ." AJ quickly changed the subject. "Yer hubby, and Firebloom, and Orange Chance. You really love'em don't you?"

"Heart and soul. . . . Your friends, you really trust them don't you?"

"With mah life."

"You're . . . you're really HAPPY at the farm?"

"Yep."

Applejack startled as she saw OJ sniff.

"OJ?"

"It's not fair. I'd rather die than live without my family! He makes my life feel alive! And . . . my foals. I don't want to know there are worlds where they aren't around. But, you got to be happy, just turning around and walking back? I earned everything I have but . . . you just . . . you just gave up and-- you got it anyway!" OJ said with tears.

Applejack looked in awe. "OJ . . . Ah earned what makes me happy too. It wasn't just handed to me. And it's kinda funny, Ah thought going back to Apple Acres was proof Ah wasn't givin' up . . . Ta be honest, it hurts me to know there are worlds were Ah don't have my friends. So how 'bout we call it even any say neither of us gave up. And at least Ah know yer foals got a good mama."

"I hope I am."

"Eh?"

"Discord's day ... when he touched me. I treated my foals like rag dolls! Pulling them along like toys! I would play one game with them for less than a minute then drag them to another! I did not notice when Firebloom bumped her head against on the door frame! We always wanted to spend more time together! And, the devil made me a parody of it!"

AJ hugged herself, and herself startled, then hugged back. "And Ah know exactly how ya feel. Discord touched me too. He made see being honest can backfire, Ah didn't want to accept that, so Ah just began lying. Thanks to that, Ah lied and let him hurt my friends and nearly destroy our friendship for good. Twilight fixed Discord's taint, but it took some time to get me to accept truth's face. But OJ, the OJ that hurt yer kids, that -wasn't- you."

" . . . Big Brother Dearest told me the same. I couldn't be there for him. And I couldn't be there for Aunt and Uncle Dearest. I . . . I was weak."

"Ah feel sorry, Ah was weak too. Weak enough to fall for Discord's lies. Weak enough to not realize Ah was making my own fears come true. Too weak to admit Ah just didn't want to admit to bein' weak when Ah talked to the Princess and she let me see into Truth."

"You really are me."

"An' no matter how much Ah didn't wish it was so. Yer me too. Naw. Ah ain't sorry. Ah'm happy to know Ah could have made it anywhere!"

"And I'm happy to know . . . I can be a hero too if given the right chance."

"OJ, Ah think bein' a good mama to yer foals and a good wife to yer husband makes yah a hero too. There's more than one way to be a hero."

"...Thank you Applejack . . . Heh. We are quite the couple of stubborn donkeys are we not?"

AJ laughed. "That ain't all that proper and polite ta donkeys."

But then a thought hit OJ. "But where are the rest of us?"

"Huh?" AJ looked at her confused but not breaking their hug.

"There has got to be a million Applejacks and Orangejacks out there. So why us? Why just us? I saw a several versions of me. So why just us two? That does not make sense."

AJ's blood turned to ice at those word. "'Doesn't-make-Sense?!'"

"Because an army divided, is easier to stamp out."

The entire limbo rumbled.