• Published 20th Dec 2017
  • 5,136 Views, 1,024 Comments

Applejack: Marvelous - Dusty the Royal Janitor



Applejack awakens to find herself in a new world, in a body not her own. Her Earth Pony magic is intensified to dangerous degrees, and she's surrounded by threats of a like she's never imagined. She'll have to fight to return home... if she even can.

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The Avengers: Ch2

THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012 - 7:34 AM
SHIELD HELICARRIER HOLDING CELLS. TEN MILES OFF THE NEW YORK COAST.


“What do you make of her, Coulson?”

The two agents stood in a dimly lit room, watching the sleeping woman through a one-way mirror. Her chest rose and fell as she breathed, her eyes twitching behind her eyelids. Agent Phil Coulson watched her with a neutral, if curious expression, considering what he knew of her.

She was a big one, that was for sure. She stood a mighty six-foot-six with thick, corded muscles running through her limbs and core. What was most astonishing about her, though, was her sheer weight. Even a large woman like her shouldn’t have weighed more than 250 pounds or so, even with all that muscle. When they weighed her, she surpassed 400 pounds easily. It took three agents minimum to handle her at any one time if there wasn’t a gurney involved, and somehow she’d slept through every minute of the transition.

She was definitely the strangest case he’d had to deal with over the last few years.

After a moment, Coulson answered. “Asgardian probably. Agent Kirby’s reports stated that she was able to flip a fully loaded personnel truck from the inside, and that bullets bounced off of her like they were popgun corks. Kirby also reported that she managed to consistently outpace her, and Kirby was the champion runner in her university cross-country track team three years strong, so that says something. Especially so since she described Applejack’s running as clumsy and even ‘toddler-like.’”

Agent Maria Hill grunted. “You can’t possibly believe that her name is Applejack, can you? She might as well be calling herself Count Chocula.”

Phil shrugged, not looking away from the giant woman behind the glass. “She’s clearly not exactly human, Agent Hill. I’m not privy to alien nomenclature. And unless you’re taking night classes I haven’t heard about, I doubt you are either,” he said with a mild smirk.

Hill frowned. “Whatever her name is, we need to get to the bottom of this, and quickly.”

“Does she strike you as something we need to ‘get to the bottom of?’” Phil asked. “Who’s to say she wasn’t being genuine when she said she was lost and wanted to get home?”

She turned away from the window, scowling at him “She attacked our agents and fled the scene, leading Agent Kirby on a chase for nearly half an hour!”

“...after freeing herself from a crate she’d apparently been suspended in for quite some time, given the age of its numbering system,” he finished for her. “Who could blame her for being panicked and confused? And when Director Fury handed her an olive branch, she cooperated and came with us quietly.”

Agent Hill huffed. “I don’t like it. Something’s up.”

“Maybe,” He admitted, “Or maybe Director Fury’s right and we’ve drawn a lucky hand for once.” He looked away from the window, finally turning to her and raising an eyebrow. “What makes you so certain she’s a hostile?” He asked.

“Maybe the fact she started busting up SHIELD personnel not even ten minutes after Loki destroyed the research facility? The timing doesn’t strike you as fishy at all?” Hill turned back to the window, watching the woman shift in her sleep.

Coulson turned back to the window, shrugging a shoulder. “A year ago I’d have agreed with you. Then I met somebody who I was convinced was a foreign enemy operative that turned out to be a guy trying to get back his favorite hammer.” He shook his head. “There are more strange and bizarre things on this earth than we could have ever dreamed of, Maria... And they’re starting to come out of the woodwork. I’m hesitant to assume anything anymore.”

“When did you become so trusting, Coulson?”

He smiled wryly. “It’s not trust. And it started somewhere around the time a billionaire playboy decided to risk his own pampered skin and save the world by flying around in a glorified garbage can.”

Hill was silent for a moment before letting out a long breath and shaking her head. “I hope you and the Director know what you’re doing, Phil.”

At that moment, the speakers in the room crackled to life. The woman in the window shifted in her bed, the blankets sliding across her as she stirred. She groaned, wincing as she slowly pulled herself out of the mire of sleep and into wakefulness.

Phil turned to walk to the door, nodding as he passed Agent Hill. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.” he said.

---

--- --- ---

---

The first thing Applejack did upon waking up was immediately regret the decision.

Her head throbbed as awareness came to her. She felt slick and sticky from the dirt, sweat, and grime she’d accrued during her jaunt through the desert. The harsh light of the room seared her eyes as she blinked awake. She hissed, bringing an arm up and over her face to try and shield herself from the blinding light that seemed to seek out her face from every angle of the room. With a pained groan, she pushed through the ache in her back and shoulders, sitting up in the slightly-too-firm bed she’d been placed in, the blankets falling off of her and exposing her to the chilled, stale air.

The air was dry; so much so that it felt as if it sucked the moisture right out of her nose and throat. Breathing almost burned as she squinted around the room. Every single surface around her was a piercing, perfect white, reflecting the fluorescent glare. Her eyes welled up with pained tears as she blinked away the burning sensation, her eyes slowly adjusting to the brightness. She looked around, groggily attempting to get her bearings.

She was lying in a bed, just barely big enough to contain her, and covered by sheets that were warm, but a bit stiff and itchy, like they’d been washed with too much starch. She pushed the irritating cloth off her, only to shiver as the cool air chilled her, prickling against her furless skin. Rubbing her hands against her arms to warm them up, she continued to try and get a sense of her surroundings.

The floor was covered by a white carpet so clean it almost seemed to shine like tile. Looking to her right, she spotted a small table with a wooden chair next to it. Behind the table, she noticed a gleaming, silver door without any handles to speak of. Immediately that worried her. How would she open a door with no handles? She also noticed that one corner of the room was walled off, separated from her by another handleless door. Shelving the thought for the moment, she turned and looked down towards the foot of the bed. A white footlocker sat at its end and across the room from her, a couple of white armchairs sat around a low coffee table, with a mirror set into the wall behind her. She caught a look at herself in the mirror, giving her pause.

Slowly, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, shakily standing on two legs and carefully crossing the room, supporting herself with the chairs as she passed, until she stood not two feet away from the large mirror. The face that looked back was nothing short of alien. Her blonde mane was still matted with sweat and dirt, but that was relatively normal. The rest of her though had completely changed.

Her eyes were the same emerald green as always, but they were smaller than she remembered, taking up nowhere near the area on their face that they used to. Her muzzle had been replaced by a strange bump that looked sort of beak-like in shape, though when she poked it with one of her new fingers it bent and shifted. Not a beak then. Her face was much flatter than normal, her mouth no longer pushed out in a muzzle, but even with the rest of her face, save for a pair of full, pink lips. Her fur coat was gone, just as it was everywhere else on her body, replaced with pale, peachy pink skin. Her freckles still dusted her cheeks and not-muzzle, but they were darker on her pale skin rather than lighter like they used to be. Her ears, possibly the strangest looking things about her transformation, no longer poked through her mane, but rested flat on the sides of her head. There was no denying it; She’d become one of the strange creatures she’d met not a few hours ago.

Applejack was unsure what to think as she stared at the new girl in the mirror. In some strange, incalculable way, she could recognize the girl as herself. There was definitely an intangible sort of resemblance to her former pony self in her new face, though she would be hard pressed to quantify exactly what it was. The eyes were definitely the most strikingly similar thing about her new body, but it went deeper than that. Applejack wasn’t really sure she could verbalize it.

She reached out, touching the mirror with her new fingers, tracing them along the contours of her reflection. Curiosity, horror, and loss welled up inside her, but none of them could compare to the sheer level of confusion and shock that overshadowed all of them.

And the whole time, Maria watched from the other side of the mirror, studying her.

“It ain’t a dream.” Applejack muttered to herself. “I keep thinking I’m gonna wake up but it ain’t a dream, is it?”

Almost as if in response, a sudden beep came from the handleless door she’d noticed earlier. Applejack turned and a moment later the two silvery doors ‘swooshed’ open revealing another creature. Like the rest of the creatures she’d come in contact with so far, he stood shorter than her, his eyes not quite coming up to the base of her new chin. He had short brown hair, though it seemed to be receding a little, and friendly blue eyes. In his hands he carried a cup and a pitcher of ice water.

She noticed that this one wore a suit, with a fitted jacket, collar, and a tie. Something she didn’t recognize hung from his breast pocket. Maybe this one was a noble? A quick look over him and his demeanor made her doubt that. Applejack couldn’t put her newfound finger on it, but there was something approachable about this one. He smiled genuinely at her, his posture relaxed, though she couldn’t help but notice a wariness in his eyes. “Good,” he said as he saw her standing there. “I’m glad to see you awake. Some of us were getting worried after you managed to sleep through the whole trip over.”

Applejack paused, taking the newcomer in. She eyed him suspiciously, trying to figure out whether or not he was genuine. Her senses were all telling her he was, but her world had been turned upside down so many times in what, to her, seemed to be just the past day or so. She wasn’t sure if she could trust anything, even her own senses right now.

“Where am I?” she asked, cautiously.

“Safe,” the newcomer replied, stepping closer. “Water?” he offered her, pouring a glass of ice water from the pitcher he held. He offered it to her and it suddenly struck Applejack just how incredibly thirsty she was. After a long day of fighting strange creatures and running across deserts, her throat felt like it was about to shrivel up. Still not particularly coordinated with her new limbs, she reached out, taking it in both hands before slurping at it greedily.

“Seems like you needed that,” the man said, smirking. He motioned to the chairs. “Why don’t we sit down? I think we have a lot to discuss, Miss…?”

“Applejack,” she said, finishing off the glass, tentatively trusting herself to hold it in one hand. “My name’s Applejack.”

“Agent Phil Coulson. I’m with SHIELD,” he replied, placing the pitcher of water down on the low coffee table and sitting in one of the seats.

Still wary, Applejack hesitantly placed her empty glass on the table, sitting down into the chair opposite him. Phil leaned over, refilling her glass before leaning back in his seat and smiling at her.

“Y’all didn’t answer my question, really, Mr. Coal Sun,” She said, raising a suspicious eyebrow. “Where am I?”

“It’s pronounced ‘Coulson,’” he corrected her, never losing the genial attitude. “And I’d like to tell you; honestly I would. Unfortunately, until I know a little more about you that’s going to have to remain classified.”

“Classified?” Applejack frowned, looking him up and down. “What are you, some kind of super spy from a Con Mane story?”

Phil tilted his head at the reference, but didn’t comment on it. “Something like that,” he said instead. “At the moment, though, I’d like to hope that I’m on your side. You’ve caused a lot of fuss in the past few hours, Applejack, and unfortunately this is just about the worst time for us to have to deal with anymore fusses.”

AJ scowled. “Hate to be inconveniencing y’all, but I ain’t exactly having the best day either.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Coulson said, never once breaking eye contact. “Which is why I’m hoping we can make each others’ days a little better. We’re hoping to get a better sense of who you are, where you came from, and if we can be trusted to let you out.”

Applejack’s scowl became fiery. “Am I in prison?” She asked, straining herself to keep calm, though her fist was clearly clenching.

“Not yet. And hopefully we won’t have to put you there. But that all depends on how this talk goes,” he replied. “Some of the other Agents are suspicious of you. You damaged a lot of SHIELD property and even injured some of our personnel, before what some people interpret as ‘fleeing the scene.’ What’s more, your timing in doing so was… unfortunate.”

Applejack’s eyes widened as she took in Coulson’s words. “I hurt somepony?” she muttered, her eyes trailing down to her new hands for a moment before looking back up at Phil. “Are they gonna be alright?”

“They are.” It was barely perceptible, but Phil Coulson seemed to relax, just a little, in that moment. “They’ll all make full recoveries.”

AJ let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “At least there’s that, I guess,” she muttered.

“Director Fury sees something in you, and that’s why we’re here,” Phil continued. “We really don’t want to have to lock you up - personally I think you’re just another victim in all of this - but if it comes to it we might have to. I know you’re just as confused about all this as we are, though, so here’s what I propose: You ask a question, then I’ll ask a question. Then you, then me, and so on until we reach an understanding. We’ll see what happens from there.”

“Director Fury…” AJ mused. “He was the fella with the eyepatch?”

“The same.” Coulson nodded.

Applejack paused and very carefully considered Coulson’s offer. Honestly, it didn’t sound terrible, all circumstances considered. She needed answers and now she could ask him just as many questions as she asked her. These people seemed at least a somewhat decent sort. They’d given her a bed and water, after all, which was more than she could say for the strangely dressed funny-talking ones that attacked her with muskets and pistols right out. And if she really did accidentally hurt somepony she supposed they had a reason not to trust her.

Also, if she refused they’d probably just lock her up anyway.

Applejack wasn’t stupid, though. Far from it. Simple? Perhaps. Uneducated? Probably. Uncomplicated? Almost certainly. But she was never stupid. Spies weren’t exactly common in Equestria, but even just from the occasional light action novel she borrowed from Twilight she knew they weren’t exactly always trustworthy.

At the same time, she also was aware enough to realize what her story would look like from Coulson’s perspective. As she considered Phil’s proposal it came to her that, when she told her story, it would probably come across as absurd. Equestria was a land of strange magic and confusing oddities sometimes, sure, but if a pony suddenly showed up on her farm and claimed that they were actually a pig-skinned monkey alien and needed help, she’d be hard pressed to believe them.

...well maybe not her. She was always good at telling when ponies were lying - almost supernaturally so. But any normal pony who wasn’t attached to the mystical embodiment of honesty probably wouldn’t believe them.

What was more was at this point she was having trouble ruling out the “alien” part of that comparison. She might not have been the most educated pony but she got enough primary schooling to know that the globe had been circumnavigated, and as far as she knew there weren’t any species like Coulson’s… and now hers... on Equus. Even if there was, Applejack was a good listener, and while she didn’t always fully understand Twilight’s magical rambles, over the time AJ had known her she’d been able to puzzle together that transformations like the one she’d been through were difficult, usually unsustainable, and never happened for no good reason.

The answer, horrifying as it was, started to become clear. She wasn’t in Equestria anymore. She probably wasn’t even on Equus anymore.

“Miss Applejack?” Coulson asked, quirking a curious eyebrow.

Applejack snapped back to attention with a small gasp. She must’ve been silent for a few straight minutes while he waited. “Sorry,” she muttered, her emotions threatening to bubble over. She took a long, slow breath as she considered the situation she was in. In all honesty, she'd faced worse if she really thought about it. Discord was a reality warper. Queen Chrysalis nearly conquered her country, and in the process nearly killed many of the ponies closest to her. King Sombra was the physical embodiment of hatred and misery. Right now, she didn't seem at risk of being attacked by an ungodly powerful foe again, and in all likelihood her friends were still safe back home. Compared to those events, this... well it wasn't a cakewalk, but it was comparatively less dire. Probably.

With a great amount of physical effort, she stifled her bubbling panic and anguish, bottling them away to deal with later. She took another long, deep breath, looking him in the eye and answering, “It’s a good enough idea, Mr. Coulson, but I have to get a couple promises from you before I can agree.”

Coulson’s smile flattened ever so slightly. “What promises?”

Applejack leaned forward. “First, I don’t wanna hear no lies from you,” she said, firmly. “Y’all’re a spy. I get that. If y’all really, really can’t answer something, you can tell me it’s classified and…" she sighed, "I’ll try to understand. But I want you to be straight with me. No riddles, no half-truths, no clever dancing ‘round the questions, and no lying. I’m really good at telling when people are being dishonest with me, Mr. Coulson.”

Coulson nodded, taking all of her demands in stride, deciding them to be more than reasonable. “Fair enough.”

“And second…” Applejack trailed off, her eyes narrowing as she tried to put her thoughts into words. She leaned back and spoke with a sigh, “I’m getting the feeling that some of my answers are gonna sound like downright horseapples to you... So I want you to try and… I guess give me the benefit of the doubt.”

Coulson tilted his head, eyebrow raising again, though his smile seemed to return. “I was planning to do that anyway. I’ve seen enough lately that I’m a bit more flexible in what I’ll believe, Miss Applejack,” he said, leaning forward. “Plus, I’m not so bad at telling when somebody is lying myself.”

Applejack leaned forward, taking hold of the glass of water. “Alright then,” she said, taking a long sip of water before continuing. She looked him dead in the eye and asked, “What are we?”

Coulson blinked. His smile and posture didn’t change but he’d definitely blinked. “What do you mean, Miss Applejack?”

“Exactly what I asked,” she said. “What are we? What are y’all called?” she motioned up and down her body. “What are we called?”

Whatever Coulson had been expecting her to ask, it definitely wasn’t that. The sheer enormity of the question was a lot for him to take in, though he didn’t let it show. And the fact that she asked such a basic, fundamental question was incredibly telling about just how much of a fish out of water this young lady was.

“Humans,” Coulson answered. “Our species is called humans. Homo-Sapiens if you want to get technical about it.” He scratched at an ear. “I have to say, Miss Applejack, I didn’t quite expect that question,” He said, carefully. "In fact, it actually makes some of the questions I had prepared moot."

“I warned you,” she shrugged with something of an apologetic chuckle.

“I take it then that you’re saying you weren’t always human?” he asked. “You were something else?”

“That’s two questions, Mr. Coulson, but yeah.” Applejack nodded. “I ain’t a hyoo-man like y’all. I’m a pony.”

“A pony.” Coulson deadpanned.

“From Equestria,” she continued. “A country ruled by Princesses Celestia and Luna on the planet Equus. I don’t suppose ya’ll know maybe how to get back there?”

Coulson leaned back in his chair again, his eyes wandering for a split moment before locking with AJ’s again. “I… can’t say I do,” he trailed off. A moment later he chuckled lightly. “Well, that blows my ‘lost Asgardian’ theory out of the water.”

Applejack frowned curiously. She wanted to ask after that comment, but there were more important things to ask.

“Alright…” she muttered, frowning and looking down at her hands again, wringing them together. “Where am I?”

Coulson frowned. “I already told you-”

“Not what I mean,” she interrupted. “I mean… where are we? If y’all don’t know what Equus or Equestria is, then I’m clearly pretty far from home, Mr. Coulson. Where’d I get m’self stuck?”

“Ahh…” Coulson nodded. “You’re on Earth.”

Applejack frowned. “Earth?”

Coulson nodded. “Earth.”

Applejack stood up, glaring at him accusingly. “I thought we agreed on no half-truths or dancing around the question, Mr. Coulson. Of course I’m on earth. I’m pretty sure I can tell I’m standing on the ground.”

Coulson raised his hands placatingly. “No, no… Earth is the name of our planet.”

She blinked, the anger draining from her face. She paused a moment before speaking. “Y’all’re kidding me.”

“I agreed. No lies.” Coulson said simply.

“Y’all named your planet Earth?” she asked, snorting a little to muffle a befuddled chuckle. “Seriously? Earth. You’re telling me that all y’all basically went and named your planet ‘Dirt?’”

Coulson chuckled. “Well when you put it like that…”

Applejack snorted back another laugh. “I mean don’t get me wrong, I got a fine appreciation for earth; wouldn’t be much of an Earth pony if I didn’t. I don’t think I’d be crazy enough to name my whole planet after it if I had the choice, though.”

“Earth pony?” Phil asked, thinking back over what she said. “Are you saying you’re some kind of… dirt pony, then?”

Applejack suddenly scowled. “Hey, now. Let’s not go bringin’ slurs into this.”

Coulson raised his hands placatingly again. “Sorry, I didn’t know.”

She pursed her lips. “No, I guess y’all couldn’t’ve.” She cleared her throat. “Yeah, I’m an earth pony. There are bunches of kinds of ponies in Equestria, but the ones ya’ll see the most are Earth ponies, Pegasi, and Unicorns. Earth ponies have a magic connection to the earth… er… soil, I suppose. Pegasi can fly and can control the clouds and weather, and unicorns can do fancy magic tricks with them horns a’ theirs. There are more kinds of pony, too, but y’all don’t see ‘em as often.”

Coulson couldn’t help but fold his arms under his chin, fascinated. “Interesting. It sounds like Earth ponies get the short end of the stick though?”

AJ scoffed. “Yeah, that’s what all them high-faultin’ pegasi and unicorns think, but we’re pretty good where we are. We’re a lot stronger and can take a lot more punishment than either pegasi or unicorns can. Tend to live longer too. And we can also sorta…” she trailed off, looking for the right word, “...coax plants to grow faster or in certain ways. Helps a lot, being a farmer and all.”

“You’re a farmer then?” Coulson asked.

“Born and raised! Sweet Apple Acres grows the finest apple orchards y’all ever did see!” She nodded proudly, beaming for a moment before suddenly scowling again. “Hey wait a minute! This was supposed to be one-to-one questioning and y’all have asked three!

Coulson blinked, again, looking surprised, though this time a touch embarrassed as well. “Oh, yes. You’re right. Sorry about that, Miss Applejack. You can go ahead and ask three of me.”

She nodded. “Alright. And y’all can call me Applejack, Mr. Coulson. Callin’ me ‘Miss’ all the time makes me feel like some hoity-toity noble-type.”

Phil nodded. “Of course, as long as you call me ‘Phil.’”

She smiled faintly, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Alright, Phil,” she asked, “How’d I get here?”

“You mean you don’t know?” Coulson asked before shaking his head. “I have no idea how you got to this world, Applejack.”

“No,” AJ clarified. “I mean… how’d I get on that carriage? Y’all said I broke your property, right? The carriage was one of yours. How’d I even get there in the first place? The last thing I remember was a bunch of nasty folks in funny outfits and screamin’ words in a language that made no sense. They started firing pistols and muskets at me and somehow I got knocked out. Then I woke up in your carriage. How’d I get from there to here?”

“Ah.” Phil said, leaning back and taking a deep breath. “We did some digging and it seems that you were probably taken captive by a group of people called Nazis. Terrible, terrible, people, but they’re… mostly gone now. Somehow they managed to keep you alive in a special gel of some kind. After they were beaten, SHIELD came and confiscated a lot of the weapons they’d collected and stored them away.” Coulson looked at her with a sympathetic frown. “I’m afraid we owe you an apology, Applejack. When we confiscated their weapons we must have gotten ahold of the capsule you were being kept in. Assuming you were a weapon of some kind you were… stored away in a SHIELD facility.”

Applejack’s face fell further and further into shock as Phil explained before twisting into an offended scowl and even into anger. “Y’all mean to tell me that I was shoved in a box and y’all didn’t open the box to check?”

Phil sighed. “Assuming this works out, we’d like to try and make it up to you. All I can offer is SHIELD’s most sincere apologies.”

Applejack sputtered. “I… You…” She tried to form the words. She’d apparently been stuck in a box, asleep in a glorified basement? Nobody had even been bothered to check inside even once? “Why in the name of Celestia wouldn’t you check?!”

“It’s not a defense,” Coulson said, “but trying to investigate or understand some of the things we took from the Nazis… killed our agents. Sometimes painfully. Eventually we took the cautious route and decided to stop playing with fire.”

Applejack blinked. Trying to investigate the things they confiscated killed people? That was… a surprisingly better defense than Coulson claimed.

Didn’t make her happy about it though.

She was about to ask a final question when something struck her. Phil had said she’d been stored away in one of their facilities… but he’d neglected to mention something very important.

“...how long?” Applejack asked, her eyes suddenly wide with worry and a nervous sweat beading on her brow.

“I’m sorry?” Phil replied.

“How long was I in ‘storage?’” Applejack asked, a tremble in her voice.

Phil broke eye contact. “I’m very sorry…” he began.

“How long, Phil?” AJ demanded, clenching her fists.

“...based on the number of your crate,” Phil said solemnly, “Sixty-seven years.”

The air rushed out of Applejack’s lungs. All the emotions she'd bottled up started to roil to the surface. The world seemed to shatter around her as the words sunk in. It was as if everything around her had gone still as they continued to echo in her head. Her hands trembled and her eyes widened. “...Sixty seven… years?!

He leaned forward, reaching across the table and putting a hand on her knee. “I’m sorry, Applejack. I’m very sorry.”

Applejack didn’t acknowledge him. Time had stopped around her as her mind echoed that dreadful number over and over again. “Granny…” she muttered. “Big Mac and Applebloom… the girls…”

Phil was silent for a few minutes before quietly standing up. “I suppose… we should end this here. I have a lot more I want to ask you, but you should probably take some time.”

Applejack nodded, completely silent. Her face never once losing its stunned expression.

“There’ll be some more people coming to talk to you later.” He said. “You should get some rest. There’s a shower in the bathroom if you want to take one,” he offered, motioning towards the walled off area she’d observed earlier, “and some clothes we scrounged up for you in the foot locker,” he said, pointing at the chest at the foot of the bed.

“Alright…” Applejack said, softly.

Phil turned to leave, casting one last look over his shoulder as the doors whooshed open. “I really am sorry, Applejack. Try and take it easy.”

She nodded silently once more as the door closed behind him, then lapsed into silence.

---

--- --- ---

---

“So she’s not hostile, just insane.”

Phil frowned, looking back through the mirror at Applejack. “You’re just an endless fountain of sensitivity, aren’t you, Hill?”

“I can sympathize with her situation, Coulson,” Hill explained. “Nobody should ever be stuck in her position. Waking up to find everyone she's ever known and loved is probably dead and gone? It’s terrible.” She shook her head. “Doesn’t make her any less insane.”

“I’m not sure.” Coulson said with a curious frown.

“Really, Phil?” Hill looked at him, exasperated. “I get that you’re more open to outlandish stories these days, but that takes the cake, the ice cream, and the whole goddamn party table!” She motioned towards the woman in the window. “I mean… Ponies?! Seriously Phil? Unicorns and Pegasi prancing around a country of horse people called Equestria?! And somehow, conveniently, she’s been randomly transported to a new world and transformed into a human?!”

“We already established that we probably weren’t working with a human here.” He explained, sighing. "I'm just upset she asked the question I'd been dreading so soon. There was so much more I wanted to ask her."

Ponies, Phil! You can’t seriously be taking her story at face value.” Hill protested.

“I’m not,” Coulson insisted. “I’m aware of just how farfetched the story is. It tops anything that’s happened over the past few years.” He scratched his chin. “Maybe even the one about the merman from Atlantis who helped out during the War in the Pacific.”

Hill fumed. “Phil, be serious.”

“I’m deadly serious,” Phil said sharply, turning to Hill. “I’m not just going to believe every story I hear, but I trust my instincts. And I trust Director Fury’s instincts. And he thinks there’s something special about her, and she doesn’t strike me as insane.”

“Sometimes the craziest people out there don’t strike us as insane, Phil,” She said softly.

“I know,” Phil nodded, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a notepad and pen, writing something down. “Which is why I’d like you to call Samson in again for a second opinion. I trust his judgment in this situation over mine.”

“Leonard Samson?” she asked as he tore the paper off the pad and handed it to her. She looked it over briefly.

“One of the best. SHIELD called him in for eval after we pulled Rogers out of the ice.” He paused. “Also, on the off chance it turns out she’s not delusional, we should probably get a member of SHIELD legal in here. Somebody who can set her up with a new identity and paperwork for as long as she’s stuck in this world.”

“Do you have somebody in mind?” Hill asked, looking up from the paper.

Phil nodded. “Walters.”

Hill blinked. “Really, Phil? She scored high on the exams but she’s barely out of the academy.”

“I have a feeling about her.” He said with that infuriating smirk of his.

She rolled her eyes. “Of course you do. Admit it, you're just bringing her on because of her family.”

Coulson chuckled. “You think she won't be useful in helping reign her 'family' in?”

She opened her mouth to protest but after thinking for a moment closed it. Finally she spoke. “Alright, I suppose that’s fair.”

“Good.” He said, turning past her towards the door. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a phone call.”

“To whom?” Hill asked, turning back to the window.

“Our friend in Russia,” he said, slipping out the door. It closed behind him with a whoosh.

Hill frowned as he left. She watched the woman through the window. Sometime during her conversation, she’d broken down. Her face was in her hands and her body was wracked with sobs as she curled up in the chair.

She sighed, turning away and leaving the room, switching the light off behind her.
_
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Author's Note:

A lot of talking in this one.

Alas, the action probably won't start for a couple more chapters. Much as I'm itching to get to it, I can't bring myself to just skip ahead to it.

Sad times for Applejack in this one. Originally this chapter was going to be significantly longer, but I decided to split it in two. There'll be another "interview" type chapter after this one, and maybe even two of them given how the reaction goes once she finally meets the actual Avengers. There's a lot of setup needed to get this right, it turns out.

Hold tight, everybody. We'll get there. Eventually. Assuming I don't crap out of this story like every other one I've written >_>

Also, in case I didn't describe it well enough, here's a good idea of what the cell AJ is in looks like, except with a one-way mirror behind the couch area and a bathroom where the containment pod in the corner is:

Lastly, I'd also like to thank one of my readers for bringing something to my attention. There is yet another fanfiction that this one was inspired by, and it was, of all things, a crossover between Avengers and Frozen called "Cryomancy." In fact, this story, at least for the early chapters, is a far more direct inspiration. A lot of the earlier scenes in this story are directly inspired by that story, though I've taken lengths to expand and add a few variations on them to better fit AJ's situation as well as expand upon the emotional impact and reasoning that the characters have to go through.

It's like we learned in school! It's not plagiarism if you add to it! Right?
...right?

#DustyIsAHack
#DirtyCheater

Well, in any event, it's not going to continue being such a direct parallel for much longer. Obviously, the story will naturally follow mostly the same beats as the Avengers but after that the story will diverge. Once we get over the hump that is the first few chapters, it'll start looking different. Trust me. I'M NOT A HACK GUYS SRSLY. :raritydespair:

Also, because some people have raised concerns about it, I'd like to reiterate: The "Sex" tag is for Applejack's Non-Explicit nudity in the first few chapters, as well as perhaps a few dirty jokes down the line. There are no plans to have Applejack sex it up with Tony Stark or anything like that.

Frankly I don't feel like the sex tag is really needed, but I decided it's better safe than sorry. I know that the siterunners are skittish about what needs and doesn't need to get tagged and what is and isn't appropriate to put on the site from time to time.

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