• 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: Ch6

“It speaks to your character.” Phil said.

Applejack found herself in an elevator with the agent as they ascended towards the upper deck of the ship. She turned, an eyebrow raised as Phil smiled his ever-genial trademark smile, though he looked straight ahead at the elevator doors. “Beg pardon?” she asked.

“I know this can’t possibly be easy for you,” he continued, eyes still front. “But even after Hill, Samson, and I recommended that you sit this mission out, you accepted it anyway.” He turned to look Applejack in the eye. “Maybe it wasn’t a strictly wise move, but I think it says a lot about who you are. You’re willing to put yourself in the line of fire... put your life on the line for people you barely know, even when you’re already hurting.” He reached out, placing a gentle hand on her arm. “The Earth could use more people like you.”

The corner of AJ’s mouth turned up a little. “Well, I hope I can live up to that lofty picture y’all have of me, Phil.”


FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2012 - 12:17 PM
SHIELD HELICARRIER FLIGHT DECK - APPROX. TWELVE MILES OFF THE NEW YORK COAST.


The two of them stepped out into the open air and Applejack immediately felt a horrible, biting chill as the wind tore past her. Her long, blonde hair whipped and flapped all over the place, getting in her eyes and face as the gusts blew by. Phil yelled something at her but she could barely hear it over the din. He made a motion as if to follow him, though, so Applejack did her best to keep pace, despite the frosty wind freezing her to the bone.

Phil quickly brought her over to a large, strange looking vehicle that Applejack didn’t recognize. It was big and black, with a huge pair of metal wings that didn’t look like they were made to flap like a bird. A smaller pair of secondary wings emerged from the back, capped with little fins and prominently showing off a huge pair of... what might have been turbines? Applejack hadn’t kept up particularly well with modern machinery back in Equestria. A ramp extended from the back, leading up to a roomy interior.

All in all, it reminded her nothing of the truck she’d woken up in the day previous.

Applejack followed Phil up the ramp and into the roomy interior. The deafening noise of the wind died down as soon as she stepped inside and she quickly brushed her hair out of her eyes, spotting Steve and Nat conversing in the corner.

Steve was…

“What are y’all wearing?” she blurted out before she could stop herself.

Steve and Natasha looked up at her. It was bright blue, with vertical red and white stripes streaking through its midsection. Big, bulky red gloves covered his hands and he wore similar boots upon his feet. The outfit had a cowl of some kind, with a big white letter ‘A’ emblazoned on the front (Applejack had managed to learn that letter, along with B and C, before she and Jen realized they didn’t have the time to teach her how to read before signing all her citizenship paperwork). On the sides of the cowl were painted a pair of little, white, feathered wings, and a big, white star sat in the middle of his chest. Slung on his back was a red, white, and blue circular shield with another star in the center.

Steve looked up at her with a savvy sort of smile. “My uniform,” he said simply, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Applejack was about to argue. Soldiers in Equestria wore armor into battle, and they carried more than just shields. Surely humans would want to do something similar, she reasoned.

Then she saw the curious little knowing smirk Steve was giving her from behind his mask and she sighed. It must be a human thing.

Natasha approached her then, handing her a small device. It was a little circular bud, with a strange, curved cord looping off the back of it. Applejack took it in her hands and turned it over, getting a better look at it.

“It’s an earpiece,” Natasha explained, lifting her own hair back a little and revealing that she had one in her ear. “It allows us to keep in contact with each other in the field.”

“Like a telephone?” Applejack asked, cocking her head.

Coulson nodded. “Something like that, but you don’t have to dial the person you want to talk to every time you want to use it. And more than one person can be on the line at a time.”

AJ nodded, feeling like she understood as best she was going to - which was hardly at all, honestly. “It’s so small though?”

“We’ve learned how to make pretty much everything smaller and more convenient to carry over time,” he said as Applejack looped the earpiece over her ear, settling the bud inside. “One of these days you’re going to have to help us get a handle on just where Equestria is technologically.”

Applejack shrugged. “When this is all over, I’ll tell you whatever you want to hear, Phil.”

He grinned. “I look forward to it.” He turned to Steve and gave him a friendly nod. “Captain Rogers,” he said. Steve gave him a small salute as he departed. As he stepped back out onto the flight deck, the ramp slowly started to rise, the wind outside getting quieter and quieter, until the back of the vehicle had sealed up, shutting the three of them inside.

“Miss Applewood,” Natasha said, getting AJ’s attention. “You’re going to want to strap in. It’s going to get a little bumpy.” She gestured to a row of seats lining the wall, each of them with little straps and buckles allowing one to strap themselves in.

Applejack nodded, sitting in the seat across from Steve and figuring out the buckle. Meanwhile, Natasha disappeared into the front of the vehicle, out of Applejack’s line of sight. AJ fidgeted nervously for a minute, when suddenly the room lit up with bright, red lights and the vehicle around her started giving off a low, droning hum. AJ jumped a little in her seat, grabbing onto the seat cushions next to her as she suddenly felt her stomach drop as the vehicle began hovering into the air.

“First time in a plane?” Steve asked from across the room.

“What’s a plaaaAAAAAAAA--”

---

--- --- ---

---

Applejack decided she did not like planes.

At some point, Applejack’s internal organs managed to catch up with the rest of her and her teeth stopped chattering. She managed to let go of the armrest of her seat, having left clear indents where her fingers had gripped the metal with all her strength.

Once the initial shock wore off, though, Applejack managed to mostly settle in properly. The ride was actually surprisingly smooth, all things considered, even if their unthinkable speed caused butterflies to dance in her guts. Looking up from where she’d been shaking and sweating, she noticed Captain Rogers sitting calmly as ever, his arms crossed across his chest. Looking closer, she managed to spy that his eyes were closed behind his mask! Applejack couldn’t begin to fathom how anybody could manage to sleep while hurtling through the air at speeds that would make Rainbow Dash blush.

Eventually, though, Applejack managed to feel steady enough to unbuckle her straps and stand up, moving to a window to try and get a better look at the world she’d been dropped into. She stood, holding onto a railing that ran along the ceiling, and stepped forward so she could see into the cockpit.

Miles upon miles of lush, green fields stretched out in every direction, practically glowing in the waning light of day. Copses of trees dotted the meadows here and there, sometimes expanding into patches of wood and forest here and there. Snow-capped mountains dominated the horizon, their icy peaks gleaming in the sunset. The clear, darkening sky up above was dotted with starlight, just as the towns and villages below gleamed as people continued to bustle about their businesses, even under the encroaching blanket of night.

If Applejack didn’t know any better, she’d say it wasn’t so different from Equestria.

“Almost looks like the world isn’t under threat from an alien terrorist, doesn’t it?” Natasha cut in, wryly. AJ chuckled darkly. The dry humor was just what she needed to keep herself from falling down another spiral.

“How long until we get there?” Applejack asked.

“We’re about three minutes out.” Natasha said, punching in a few buttons on the console. “We should probably wake Sleeping Beauty back there and get ready to disembark”

“I’m already up,” Captain Rogers said, startling AJ a little as he sidled up behind her. “What’s the word on the hostile?”

“He hasn’t made any openly aggressive moves since we tagged him over four hours ago,” Nat explained. “We’ve been keeping an eye on him, but SHIELD has advised all local law enforcement to stay back unless he starts endangering civilians. He’s just been loitering there. Sometimes reading a newspaper. Sometimes window shopping...”

“He’s baiting us.” Steve said with a scowl. “Daring us to come and get him. He’s either more of a fool than we thought or he’s got something up his sleeve.”

“Isn’t this fella supposed to be the ‘god of mischief and trickery?’” Applejack asked, brow furrowing. “He sounds like the sort of snake who’d try and pull something funny on us.”

Steve shook his head. “I don’t like it,” he said, crossing his arms. “We should hang back; see if we can spot a trap or some kind of army or--”

“Wait…” Natasha said as a chirp came from a panel on the console. She quickly scanned the intel as it came in from the SHIELD HQ. “Loki was just spotted entering the Stuttgart Conservatory of Music and Performing Arts. We’ve lost eyes on him.”

“Drat,” Steve cursed under his breath. “He’s making his move.”

“We have to go in,” Natasha said as the jet decreased its altitude over the city. “I can hover us over a complex a block over. You can move in from there.”

“Right.” Steve said, clapping a hand on Applejack’s shoulder. “Ready to move out?”

Applejack steeled herself, clenching her fists and taking a deep breath. She nodded. “As I’ll ever be.”


FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2012 - 10:22 PM
STUTTGART, GERMANY - KULTUR UND KONGRESSZENTRUM LIEDERHALLE


Applejack hit the rooftop clumsily, falling to one knee as her feet nearly gave out from beneath her. She felt the roofing crack beneath her weight, but thankfully everything held as she managed to regain her balance. Behind her, she heard Captain Rogers perform a graceful roll, quickly getting back to his feet as the Quinjet circled away from them, moving to a new position where it might better help intercept Loki.

“Are you gonna be okay?” Cap asked, frowning.

“I’m fine,” Applejack assured him, steadying herself. “Just not quite used to moving around here yet.”

Steve’s brows knit behind his mask. “If that’s the case maybe you better let me take the lead. You’re strong, but if you don’t have all your coordination you’ll just be putting yourself in danger.”

“I can take care of myself!” Applejack snapped, brushing away dust and crumbled pavement from her knees.

“I know you can,” Steve said, unslinging his shield from his back. “But we don’t know what kinds of tricks Loki has up his sleeve. You should--”

That was when the screaming started.

It was faint at first, coming from down the street. Their budding argument forgotten, Steve and Applejack rushed over to the edge of the roof, looking down the street towards the conservatory entrance. Dozens, if not hundreds of people were screaming in terror, fleeing the building as fast as they possibly could. Upper class ladies tripped in their high heels and tottering old men struggled with their canes and walkers as the crowd stampeded into the street, emptying into a park square. A siren started wailing in the distance when a man wearing green robes and golden armor with a horned helmet emerged from the building.

Loki.

A police car rounded the corner, only for the mad god to fire a bolt of blue energy at it. The car flipped in midair, skidding on its front bumper as smoke poured out of its engine, sailing past Loki as he sauntered towards the mass of humanity struggling to flee the scene.

“We need to move!” Steve shouted as he leapt over the side of the building, grabbing onto a sturdy gutter pipe and sliding down the side of the building. Applejack didn’t hesitate either, opting instead to simply leap of the side of the building. Somewhere deep down, she knew she’d be fine.

Applejack impacted the concrete below with a mighty ‘thud,’ the pavement cracking and shattering beneath her. Behind her, Steve’s feet met the ground and he instantly took off at a run towards the distant crowd. Applejack stumbled, but managed to keep relatively close pace behind him as they darted through the streets. Steve dodged and leapt like a dancer over parked cars and around passersby, slaloming between parking meters and streetlamps. Applejack, clumsy as she was in this new body, opted instead to shout “Gang ‘way!” and “Coming through!” at any pedestrians that looked like they might get in her way.

Cap pointed at the smoking police car, now crashed into the side of a tree. “Help the officers!” he shouted, “Keep any other civilians from coming near! I’ll handle Loki!”

A small part of AJ wanted to argue, to say that she could take Loki herself, but it was quickly drowned out as she saw one of the officers dragging himself from the wreck. His leg was bent at an unnatural angle and he was pulling himself along the pavement with his hands.

So instead, Applejack nodded. “Got it!” she shouted.

Cap broke off from her, charging toward the park square, disappearing into a maze of hedges, fountains, and statues, leaving Applejack to charge towards the downed officers. A crowd of civilians had started to gather around the wrecked vehicle as Applejack drew near, all of them holding out strange devices with glass surfaces. “Outta my way! Lemme through!” she shouted, slowing her pace a little as she drew closer. Several people in the crowd turned as she spoke, their eyes widening as they watched a six-foot-six amazon barreling towards them. They backed off a little in shock, clearing the way for AJ to get through.

The downed officer jolted as Applejack skidded to a halt. He looked like he was about to panic for a second when AJ put a hand to his shoulder, helping the man onto his back. “Easy partner. We’ll get you out of here,” she said, trying to keep the man calm.

The officer blinked. “Sprechen Sie Deutsche?” he managed to utter, his voice dry and choking.

Something within Applejack briefly stirred. She recognized that language from somewhere, and she wasn’t sure she liked where. She quickly shook it off though. That was almost seventy years ago, in a war none of these people were a part of. They were innocent. Civilians.

“‘Fraid I can’t understand you, fella.” Applejack said, trying to be as calming as possible to the injured man. “Don’t worry though, we’ll get you out of here.” She turned to the crowd, still pointing their weird devices at her. “Anybody here talk normal?!”

One man, a thin, middle aged, balding fellow raised his hand. “Fräulein,” he said, “I speaking some English.”

Applejack nodded, pointing at the man. “Call this fella a doctor!” she said, gesturing to the officer. “Tell them to meet y’all a few blocks that way away from the ruckus!” she turned, pointing down a side street.

The man nodded, pulling out a device of his own and tapping at it. Applejack turned to a pair of startled looking students next. “Help me get him up. Don’t let him put too much pressure on that leg.”

The middle aged man translated for the two students, who nodded, reaching down to grab the officer’s shoulders.

“Mir wird es gut gehen!” The officer suddenly shouted, pointing to the smoking police car. “Bitte, hilf Ernst”

Applejack turned, peering into the police car’s windows. Another man hung from the inverted seat, tangled in his safety straps. He didn’t stir, blood leaking from a gash in his forehead. Applejack nodded to the officer. “I’ll get your friend, y’all just get to safety.”

The students, middle aged man, and officer all nodded. The two scholars helped the policeman up, holding him between them and helping him hobble away as fast as they could. Applejack turned to the rest of the crowd. “That goes for all y’all too!” she shouted. “GIT!”

That seemed to stir them. Most of the rest of the crowd took off running away from the park square as fast as they could, though there were still one of two stragglers pointing their weird bricks at her. Applejack snorted, not bothering with their foolishness as she turned to the car, wincing as she noticed flames were starting to lick from the hood. Quick as she could move, she approached the door, grabbing hold of the handle and pulling with all her might.

The car door ripped straight off in her hands.

That seemed to stir the bleeding officer from his daze. He turned, looking wide eyed in fright at applejack and let out a shout of alarm.

“Easy now!” Applejack shouted, raising her hands to try and get him to calm down. “I’m here to help!”

The man blinked, looking frightened and dizzy. “Amerikanisch?” He asked, his words slurring. “Speak English?”

“That’s right.” Applejack said, having long since figured out that ‘English’ was human for ‘Equestrian.’ She pointed to his safety straps. “Let’s get you outta those.”

The inverted man blinked, as if the statement took a moment to reach his brain, before fiddling with his buckle. It wouldn’t budge. The metal was twisted and bent. “Stuck,” he simply said.

Applejack frowned. “The hard way then.” she muttered. She reached up, grabbing hold of the sides of the seat the officer was trapped in, while simultaneously stepping down with one boot on the car’s roof. She dug her fingers into the leather of the seat, her fingers ripping holes in the fabric. And with a mighty heave...

RRRRIIIP-CRUUUNCHH

Applejack stumbled backwards as the whole car seat came free from the car, the officer still strapped in, inverted in AJ’s hands.

Applejack quickly righted the dumbfounded officer, flipping him -and the seat- rightside up. There were gasps of alarm from both the policeman and the remaining stragglers behind her as she set the seat down on the ground, reaching over and crushing the seat buckle in her hands. The straps tore, then went loose, falling to the ground on either side of the bamboozled officer.

“Can you stand?” Applejack asked, reaching out a hand to help the man up.

The officer hesitated for a moment before taking her hand and standing on unsteady feet. “D-Danke…” he muttered, swaying from side to side.

Applejack set a steadying hand on his shoulder, turning and pointing down the street with her other hand. “Your friend is getting a doctor down that’a’way,” she said, turning back to him and nodding at the gash in her head. “Y’all should get away from here. Get that looked at.”

The officer was about to nod his thanks once again when a bellowing roar came from over the park square wall.

KNEEEEL!!

AJ whirled around at the horrible shout, before turning back to the officer and remaining stragglers. “Go!” she shouted. “I need to help my friend!”

As the officer and the remaining crowd members finally ran off, sufficiently frightened this time by the horrible bellowing terrorist, AJ darted in the opposite direction toward the park square. She skidded, nearly stumbling around a fountain, turning a corner just in time to see Loki fire a bolt of blue magic into the crowd. Applejack nearly gasped in horror when Steve suddenly leapt in from a nearby vantage point, blocking the shot and deflecting it back into Loki’s chest.

“You know, the last time I was in Germany...” he said, standing up straight and proud, holding his Shield before him stalwartly, “...and saw a man standing above everybody else,” he scowled at the downed Loki, “...we ended up disagreeing.”

Loki pulled himself to his hands and knees, gazing up at the Captain with a manic expression, somewhere between a psychotic grin and a snarl of frustration. “The soldier…” he sneered, propping himself up on his knees and climbing to his feet with a dark laugh. “The man out of time.”

The Captain smirked. “I’m not the one who’s out of time.”

There was a massive ‘WHOOSH’ as Natasha’s jet sailed overhead, Applejack instinctively ducking for an instant as it circled around before slowing to a halt, hovering over the street behind the square. There was a metallic ‘ka-CHUNK’ as a massive cannon emerged from its underside, aiming directly at their villainous target. There was a hiss of static as Natasha’s voice suddenly resounded through the square.

“Loki, drop the weapon and stand down!”

The madman didn’t miss a beat however. Before Natasha had even finished speaking, he’d raised his scepter once again and fired off a blast of blue magic at the jet. Nat swerved left, the magic bolt whizzing off harmlessly into the sky, but the shot was fired. Like greased lightning, Steve whipped his arm around, hurling his shield like a discus. It spun through the air, impacting Loki in the chest, forcing him back a step. The impact only managed to make him flinch, though, but it was enough of a window for the Captain to leap into the fray.

The crowd whirled into a panic, running every which way. People tripped and stumbled over each other as they stampeded, threatening to trample each other or get caught in Loki’s line of fire. Applejack quickly jumped out from behind the fountain and stuck two fingers in her mouth, blowing hard. The whistle resounded through the square, even over the noise of Cap and Loki’s battle, causing all heads but theirs to turn in her direction. She pointed towards a wide exit to the square, making a big “come here” gesture with her other arm.

“This way!” she shouted. “No dallyin’!”

It was enough direction for the crowd to follow. The mass of humanity cleared out of the square in moments, with significantly less chaos this time as Applejack kept an eye on Cap and Loki’s fight. Steve blocked two of Loki’s blows, but left himself open to a third from the butt of his spear. The weapon hit him in the gut, winding him and forcing him backwards several paces.

There was a lull as Steve caught his breath, but it only lasted a split second before he pulled his shield off his back and hurled it at Loki’s face. Loki was ready this time though, and he swiped it away with his spear, sending it clattering to the ground. Applejack growled, taking that moment to leap into action now that the crowd had cleared out, dashing across the square after the hefty metal disc.

Cap threw a jab at Loki’s face, but the asgardian deftly dodged it, using the motion to swing his spear in a wide arc. Cap ducked under the swing and dodged as Loki used his momentum to bring the spear up, then send it crashing down again in a hefty hammerblow that shattered the brickwork pavement beneath.

Applejack managed to grab the Captain’s shield off the ground just as she heard Steve grunt. She whirled around to see him sailing across the square before impacting in the pavement, skidding to a halt at the base of a concrete planter. AJ was already in motion as Loki advanced on Cap, putting his spear to his head.

“Kneel” Loki snarled through gritted teeth.

Hey, Pinhead!

Loki whirled around in alarm, only for Applejack to bring Cap’s shield down on the bridge of his nose. Loki tumbled backwards, banging the back of his head against the planter with a startled cry.

“Get’cher highfalutin toothpick away from my friend, y’overgrown billy goat!” she snarled

Loki growled, propping himself up on his elbows and wiping at his nose. His hand came away with a smear of blood as he glared daggers into Applejack’s eyes. “...You’re new.

The Captain stood, stepping up next to Applejack as the two of them bore down on Loki. “Stay down.” he said.

Loki’s eyes darted to him for only a split moment before they turned back towards Applejack. The corner of his mouth curled up in a smirk.

...And then suddenly he turned red.

Applejack couldn’t really explain it in words. In that split instant, Loki suddenly turned a hazy sort of red, his body going translucent and see-through. And yet, he was still there, plain as day. He was there but he wasn’t? ...No... Somehow, instinctively, she knew that the Loki in front of her was a lie.

“Get down!” She heard Steve shout. Instinctively, she ducked and dodged to her right. She managed to dodge out of the way just in time to see Loki’s golden spear whizz past her face. If she hadn’t moved, that spear would have been lodged right between her shoulder blades. She looked up to see the properly-colored Loki standing over her, a scowl on his face as he glared directly at her.

Trying to regain the upper hand, Cap swung out at the villain with his fists but it was too late. Nimbly, Loki leapt backwards and the fight was on once more.

Loki swept low with his scepter. Cap leapt over it and drove a foot into Loki’s chest. He stumbled back, though his armor took most of the blow. AJ chucked Steve’s shield at him but he managed to bat it away with his spear again. This time, though, Steve caught it before it could clatter away as he leapt through the air towards him, twisting around for a hook kick. Loki blocked it with the haft of his weapon, forcing him back. But Applejack didn’t give him room to breathe as she charged toward him, throwing a wild backhand his way. She telegraphed the attack too much, though, and Loki ducked under it, driving a fist into her gut. It didn’t hurt as much as it probably should have, but she still felt it as he forced the air from her lungs suddenly. AJ stumbled back, unsteady on her feet as she fell to one knee. Cap started in, throwing quick jabs at the maniac while she caught her breath.

That was when the music started.

Applejack looked up just in time to see Loki grab Steve by the arm and toss him bodily across the pavement when a crimson rocket screeched through the sky over the square. Nat’s jet began wailing out some kind of musical cacaphony that Applejack idly thought Dash might have liked. She looked skyward for the source of the music when a flash of light burst out from the man-sized missile. A shrieking, crackling beam of energy exploded through the air, impacting dead center into Loki’s chest, sending him flying across the lot before landing with a meaty ‘thud’ on a stairway. The mad god let out a guttural cry as his spine slammed into the brickwork.

Applejack hefted herself onto one knee as she looked up at the newcomer in awe. A gleaming, gold and scarlet suit of armor impacted the bricks in a perfect three-point-landing, shattering the pavement beneath him. Applejack boggled, trying to process what she was seeing. Was it really a suit of armor, or was it actually a robot?

The metal titan stood, its hands crackling with energy as it raised them toward the fallen god. Hatches and slots slid open on its arms and shoulders as armaments and devices that AJ didn’t recognize slid out with metallic clicks and clacks, pointing themselves at their downed enemy.

“Make your move, Reindeer Games,” it spoke, its voice metallic and synthesized. Steve approached the downed god, slinging his shield over his arm, glaring down at their mutual foe. Applejack stood, stepping up behind him.

Loki looked between the three of them, his eyes calculating and considering before he raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, his armor dematerializing into nothing in a flash of golden light, leaving him in only a dark green tunic and gold bracers with a dark, leather overcoat.

The armored titan’s weapons slid back into hiding as it lowered its hands. “Good move.”

There was a beat as Applejack and Steve caught their breath. “Mr. Stark,” Steve finally said, greeting the newcomer.

“Captain.” The armor replied with a slight nod.

Behind the three of them, there was a roar of engines as Agent Romanoff’s plane hovered above the square. The vehicle pivoted in the air a-hundred-and-eighty degrees so that its rear was facing the group, the rear hatch opening as it touched ground with a surprisingly gentle ‘thud.’ Natasha quickly emerged from the hatch, moving toward the trio. With her she carried a set of handcuffs.

“Get up,” she said as she approached their fallen enemy. “No funny business.”

Loki stood, cocking a bemused eyebrow as she roughly grabbed him by the forearm, slapping the cuff over his wrist in a practiced, efficient motion.

“They’re made of adamantium.” Natasha said as she clasped the other cuff over his other wrist. “We’ve used them to hold much bigger fish than you, so don’t even bother trying to break them.”

A playful smirk appeared on Loki’s face as she grabbed him firmly by the shoulder. “Good to know I warrant such critical attention,” he teased.

Natasha turned nodding toward Steve. “Captain,” she said, pushing their new captive toward him.

The Captain nodded, grabbing hold of Loki’s other shoulder, helping to lead him away. As he passed, he turned towards AJ and shot her a smile. “Good work,” he commended, pushing Loki away into the plane’s hold.

AJ grinned, blushing at the praise. Her legs started to shake a bit as the adrenaline from the fight began to wear off. She let out a long, slow breath of relief as she leaned forward, placing her hands on her knees, taking a moment to compose herself.

“You’re new.”

Applejack froze as the armored titan repeated Loki’s words. She straightened, turning around just in time to see the armor’s faceplate split apart and shift away, retreating into the sides of the helmet, revealing the face underneath.

The man might have been handsome, if Applejack felt any sort of physical attraction to humans. His face was thinner than Steve’s, and just beginning to show signs of wrinkling around the eyes. His hair was a dark brown, with a cleanly shaven, matching goatee around his wide grin. Most striking, though, were his eyes. He had brown, inquisitive eyes that burned with a fire AJ found incredibly familiar - one that she’d often seen in the eyes of her friend Twilight Sparkle. They were the kind of eyes that observed and questioned everything they lay upon... though Applejack couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable just how long they lay upon certain parts of her anatomy.

“I thought Fury had spilled about everybody he was bringing on for his squad of super friends, but it looks like he’s still keeping secrets.” He said, approaching her casually, as if he wasn’t wearing two hundred and fifty pounds of whirring, clanking metal. “If he’d told me he was bringing on somebody as captivating as you, though, I might’ve agreed sooner.”

Applejack felt her mind go blank for a second. She blinked once, then twice before her thoughts managed to resume. “Are...” she sputtered. “Are y’all making a pass at me?”

“That depends. Is it working?” the newcomer said, somehow grinning even wider. Before Applejack could reply he held out a gauntleted hand towards her. “Tony Stark,” he said casually.

AJ felt her mind whirl a little bit as she took his armored hand. “Applewood,” she said hesitantly. “Jacelyn Applewood.”

She couldn’t help but be taken aback. Even when she was a pony, Applejack wasn’t particularly used to being hit on. She spent most of her time on the farm, and even when she went into town she was usually either surrounded by her friends or working at the apple stall. Stallions rarely gave her a second glance with lookers like Rarity and Fluttershy around, and for the most part she was fine with that. There was too much work to be done on the Acres to spend her time dallying with colts. Time and time again Rarity had desperately tried to gussy her up, insisting that if she spent hours doing up her mane and caking her face in cosmetics stallions would surely find her ‘ravishing,’ but she’d simply never felt the need.

So it felt sensationally weird to have a balding ape make a move on her.

As quickly as he made the move, though, Tony seemed to drop the subject. His eyes darted toward her hand and then back up to meet hers as they released the shake. “So what’s your schtick?”

“My… schtick?” Applejack asked, trying to keep up.

“Cybernetics? Genetic Engineering?” Tony asked, looking her up and down again. “Did they dope you up with some of Cap’s happy juice? Or are you really just six-six of all-American, corn-fed country gal?”

AJ blinked again. The man darted from topic to topic so fast her mind was tripping over itself trying to keep up.

“...Apples mostly” she finally managed to babble out.

For some reason, Tony seemed to find her reply amusing.

“Mr. Stark,” Natasha called from the bay of the jet, “Will you be joining us?”

“Of course, Agent Romanoff.” He replied, turning to the plane. “Somebody’s got to keep Prancer in line.” He turned back towards Applejack and, seemingly from nowhere, produced a small slip of paper. “Feel free to get in touch with me anytime, Calamity Jane.”

Applejack took the card, noticing that it was covered in more words she couldn’t read before the name registered. “Calama-what now?” she asked, only to see that he’d sauntered off towards the back of the jet. She looked back down at the card for a second, grumbling at her own inability to read, and pocketing it before following him back towards the plane. As she approached, Natasha put a sympathetic hand on her arm.

“He make a move on you?” she whispered.

“I… think so?” AJ replied, unsure what to say about the strange man.

Natasha nodded sagely. “Best to just ignore him. He’s like that with everybody.

AJ looked into the jet’s hold, spying Tony leaning against a wall casually. He was frowning now, gazing intently at Loki, who was now seated in one of the chairs along the side of the bay, looking all too comfortable.

With a sigh, AJ decided it was best to follow Nat’s advice. She had enough on her plate without having to deal with fancy-pants smooth-talkers in shiny suits.

---

--- --- ---

---

Minutes later they were in the air again. Applejack seated herself across from Loki, deciding it was best if she kept an eye on him. She wasn’t sure exactly what ‘adamantium’ was, but Loki was strong. She didn’t fully trust him not to stir up a fuss while they were up in the air and send them all crashing to the ground.

Loki seemed to take an equal amount of interest in her. Whenever he was addressed by Steve or Tony he looked downright relaxed, as if he somehow held all the cards. He never did anything to reveal his hand though, stalwartly refusing to talk about where the likes of ‘Agent Barton’ or ‘Doctor Selvig’ were, or what he was planning with the tesseract.

When his eyes met AJ’s, though, he looked downright venomous. Something about her was putting him on edge. She might have felt some measure of pride at that if she didn’t know from experience how dangerous an animal could be when they felt cornered.

“Well well well,” she suddenly heard Tony’s synthesized voice say from inside his helmet. She looked over to see the helmet shifting and whirring as he removed it from his head. “Somebody’s trending,” he beamed with a cheeky grin in AJ’s direction.

“...Trending?” she asked, briefly glancing at Steve for an explanation. The Captain shrugged, looking just as confused by the term.

“On Twitter?” he said, quirking an eyebrow. “You know, social media? Online? The Blogosphere?” At Applejack’s blank look he frowned. “Come on, I know they’ve got the internet deep in the heart of Dixie.”

“She’s not from around here Tony.” Natasha said coolly from the pilot’s seat.

At that Tony’s lips pursed and, if it were possible, he somehow looked doubly interested in Applejack. “Really now?” he mused, looking between her and Loki. “Are you…” he began to say only to be cut off.

“She is not of Asgard.” Loki cut in, a growl undercutting his words.

Tony turned back to Applejack with a bemused looking smirk. “Curiouser and curiouser then,” he contemplated before tapping a couple of buttons on his wrist. Suddenly the plane’s hold was lit with blue light as some kind of illusion erupted from Tony’s gauntlet and hovered in the air. Applejack nearly jumped back in surprise at the sudden display of what looked to her like magic, but managed to keep herself in her seat as she watched Tony scroll through dozens of white boxes on a light blue background. Applejack still couldn’t read any of the words, but she could clearly recognize what looked to be photos interspersed with the foreign writing.

There were pictures of her in Tony’s illusion.

The pictures showed her - in surprising detail - as she worked to get the police officers out of their wrecked vehicle. One of the pictures, to her utter astonishment, suddenly came to life when Tony gestured to it. Applejack watched herself rip the officer’s seat out of the twisted wreckage and turn it rightside-up again before the image suddenly replayed itself. Some more scrolling from Tony and another image started playing. This time it was her coming up behind Loki and slamming him in the face with Cap’s shield. She watched herself, enraptured, as she wound up her swing and then cracked Loki in the bridge of his nose with a resounding, metallic ‘clang!’

Behind her, she heard Loki growl something under his breath.

“It’s under the hashtag ‘Shieldmaiden.’” Tony suddenly said, looking up and meeting AJ’s eyes, looking smugly satisfied. “That’s what they’re calling you.”

“Shieldmaiden?” Applejack repeated, dumbfounded.

Tony suddenly grinned, scrolling over another moving image. “Look!” he said with a chuckle, “They’ve already remixed you decking One Direction in the face to the Mii Channel theme!” He gestured to the image and suddenly the clip of her hitting Loki with the shield was cut over and over again, so that it looked like she was hitting him in the face repeatedly. The clang’s pitch was shifted between the hits so that it sounded like it was playing a jaunty tune.

“Can we focus please?” Steve cut in sternly, placing a hand on Tony’s shoulder. The armored man closed his hand and the image suddenly disappeared. With a gesture, the two of them turned away and started whispering to each other.

There was quiet in the jet as the two of them whispered, consorting in the corner. The soft pitter-patter of rain began to drum against the hull of the jet, droplets beading on the windows.

“It seems the humans are quite taken with you.”

Applejack turned as Loki spoke, meeting his eyes and suppressing a shiver. She’d never seen eyes so cold and hateful before. She did her best, though, to keep up her composure, setting her face into a stolid frown. “What about it?” she asked, coolly.

“You really aren’t from around here, are you?” Loki pressed, suddenly grinning.

“And?” she crossed her arms, swinging one leg over the other and sitting back defiantly.

“You clearly know nothing of this world or the humans who inhabit it,” He continued, malevolent grin never once leaving his face. “You stumble around like a naive babe yet you fancy yourself fit to walk among their titans. You play at being their champion, yet you cannot begin to fathom how little that means to their fickle souls. Tell me, Applewood,” he sneered, her false name feeling slimy upon his tongue, “Do you imagine yourself their hero? Can you even begin to imagine how the humans treat their heroes?”

Applejack narrowed her eyes, scowling. “Listen here, varmint,” she snapped. “I may be new ‘round these parts, but I ain’t playing no games. I don’t imagine myself nothing.”

Loki hummed a little, leaning back in his seat with a devious, triumphant smirk. “I can tell.” he said mockingly. “Perhaps you aren’t as dimwitted as you seem-- you at least seem to be aware of your own lack of imagination.”

A peal of thunder suddenly rolled past and the triumphant smirk Loki wore suddenly vanished. Instead he suddenly started fidgeting, leaning over to try and get a look out the window. AJ puzzled at his sudden change of demeanor.

Apparently she wasn’t the only one, as Steve spoke up from behind her. “What’s the matter? Scared of a little lightning?”

Loki stifled his nervousness under a composed mask as he replied, “I am not overly fond of what follows.”

There was another flash and a rolling crack of thunder when all of a sudden the plane rocked and shook under a solid ‘THUD!’ Something heavy impacted the roof, leaving a visible dent in the ceiling as the four of them looked up at the noise.

Stark didn’t miss a beat, grabbing hold of his helmet and slipping it on over his head. The mechanized armor shifted and clicked into place, fastening itself over him and fitting to his form perfectly. Steve grabbed hold of his shield and slipped on his own mask as Natasha attempted to stabilize the plane. AJ tried to stand up only to stumble back into her seat, the turbulence making it hard for her to find her footing.

Before anybody could stop him, Tony had stepped over to a control panel on the wall and pulled a release lever. There was a hiss as the rear hatch suddenly came open.

“What are you doing?!” Steve managed to shout over the din. Before Tony could reply, though, another strange man landed in a crouch at the end of the hatch. A heavy clank of metal resounded through the plane as a dangerous looking hammer met the ramp of the hatch.

AJ managed to stumble to her feet, getting a split second look at the intruder. He was her equal in height, if not even taller, with long, blond hair that whipped about his face in the storm, matched by a trimmed beard. His eyes were a fierce, unearthly blue, and set into a furious, electric glare. Upon his chest he wore a metal breastplate, though his arms were bare, allowing all of them to see the thick, corded muscles that ran along his limbs. Behind him, a long, flowing red cape danced in the gale-force winds.

It all happened in an instant. Before Applejack could react, Stark had raised his glowing hand to fire a shot at the intruder, but the stranger moved like the lightning that heralded him, rearing back with his hammer and slamming him right in the chestplate. Stark hurtled across the floor, crashing into the Captain and knocking both of them prone.

Applejack leapt into action, swinging at the intruder with a wild haymaker. Her fist connected with a ‘CRACK’ and a lance of pain arced its way up Applejack’s arm. She winced, yelping as she drew her hand back in pain, though she managed to maintain focus on the attacker. The stranger looked stunned for a split second, reaching up to his face and wiping at his nose. His finger came away with a droplet of blood.

The stranger blinked once, then twice, looking back and forth between AJ and his finger, before his face set into fury once more. He opened his hand and the hammer he’d set on the floor rushed up into his grasp. Applejack didn’t even have a second to even look alarmed at the sudden display of magic, though. The stranger rushed her, reeling back with his hammer and swinging it forth into her--

*CRACKKK!!!*

And the world went dark.
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Author's Note:

I'm honestly not a huge fan of how this chapter turned out.

It's amazing how airtight of a movie it turns out the Avengers really is. I have mixed feelings about Joss Whedon as a creator, but he really did manage to outdo himself with the first Avengers movie (and I should know. I've probably watched it a couple of dozen times now, specifically so I could write this stupid-ass story). There are just some scenes that are so tightly written and timed and choreographed that I've found it really difficult to actually slip Applejack in to a lot of scenes.

Dialogue scenes really aren't an issue. AJ can slip in with a few comments here and there with little change to pacing or scene structure. Action scenes are another bag entirely.

The fight between Loki and Cap was tricky to write, but I found a few places that AJ could sneak her way in. I'm actually not TOO displeased with that scene, but the timing of everything that happens is a little weird. The way I've got it set up, the time between when Loki exits the music hall and when he starts his speech about how 'kneeling is humanity's natural state' stretches much longer than it did in the movie with how I've written it. Same goes for how long that speech goes on for.

Honestly, it's probably best not for y'all to think about it too much... and I probably shouldn't be actively pointing it out here.

The more difficult scene, though, is one that was scheduled to happen next chapter... and this is the reason this chapter took so long (along with general feelings of depression and hopelessness and a complete lack of motivation to write in the wake of Article 13 passing in the EU and I swear to God you guys better hope you're right about it not being as big a deal as I think it is).

The scene that was really giving me trouble was the fight between Iron Man, Thor, and Cap in the alpine forests of... what I presumed to be either France or Switzerland. I swear, I must have watched that scene a few dozen times, desperately trying to think of a way to fit AJ into that battle and... I just couldn't. That scene is so tightly written and choreographed that I couldn't begin to think of a way to include her.

The problem was that whatever was going to happen next chapter directly affected how I would write the ending of this chapter.

Originally I was trying to find a way to get AJ into that fight. Which meant she had to somehow get out of the plane. I considered her parachuting down with Cap. I considered her being bodily chucked out of the plane by Thor or Loki. I considered her parachuting down with Cap, but then the chute conveniently fails because AJ is a hefty girl and I've established that she's heavier than a parachute's normal weight limit. All of these different methods of getting to the ground (I'm assuming she wouldn't actually be hurt by a multi-thousand foot fall into a fucking mountain) would affect how she'd enter the following fight, what part she'd play in it, how she'd regard her allies and opponents, etc

But finally I just threw up my hands and said, "Fuck it. I've been sitting on this chapter too long anyway, and AJ just doesn't fit in the next fight, no matter what I try. I'mma knock her unconscious."

I don't particularly like the ending of this chapter. I really wanted to get Thor and AJ to tussle more than "AJ hits Thor once and then Thor KO's her." And it feels especially incongruent with how I've established time and time again that AJ's 'defense stat' is basically maxed out that she goes down in one hit... but then again I've also established that a tank shell to the head is enough to temporarily knock her unconscious and Thor can probably do way more damage with his hammer than a tank shell so... fukkit, I dunno. I'm done with this godforsaken chapter. After three months of writing and rewriting, nothing else has worked. We'll see if I can maybe fudge something interesting into the next chapter.

Hope y'all don't hate this chapter as much as I do. We'll see if I can't get back on track next time.

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