• Published 25th Aug 2019
  • 3,497 Views, 122 Comments

Post-Graduate - C_F_G

Twilight Sparkle seeks the companionship of her old friends, finally willing herself to once again step through the mirror portal.

  • ...

2 Decaying

The truck crawled to a halt at the end of a long dirt driveway. Applejack twisted the key before ripping it from the ignition, the engine sputtering into silence, metal slowly ticking in the swirling snow. Applejack briefly lit the front of her house with her high beams, before flicking them off. She then leaned against the horn in rapt succession. An arc of golden light spilled across the white on the lawn as the entryway crept open.

Applejack turned apologetically to Twilight. "Sorry, Twi, this is gon' be a might bit cold." Twilight gulped, nodded. She took a deep breath, and they flung the truck doors open. Twilight yelped at the sudden change in temperature, her burning skin liquefying the pelting flecks of crystalline ice, only serving to chill her further.

She crossed her arms and shivered, walking around the back of the truck, making a beeline for the welcoming light of the still open door. "Tw-Twilight!" Applejack grunted. Twilight snapped from her warmth-starved trance, and rushed over to her struggling friend. Applejack dumped an armload of beige paper bags into Twilight's arms, grabbing another bundle in one hand and a stack of steaming pizza boxes in the other. "We'd best get inside! I'll get this-" she thrust her jaw towards the open tailgate and topper window "-later."

Their cargo secured, Twilight eagerly followed in her friends bootprints as they stepped through the drift. The door banged shut as Twilight stepped through, the girl wobbling uncomfortably on one foot having just kicked it.

Applejack smiled as she entered her home. She marched over into the rustic dining room, sliding the pile of cardboard onto the center of the ancient oak table. She nodded toward the kitchen counter. "Thank ya kindly, Twilight. Jus' drop those over there, if ya could."

Twilight let the weight spill from her arms and rest on the counter before glancing around the room. Worn wooden furniture, stains and chips telling of their generations of use. An old TV hung loosely above the rough stone fireplace, tongues of heat already flickering as it slowly consumed a softly glowing pine log. The pleasant smell of smoke permeated the room, hazy fingers twisting up through the chimney. The lazily bundled rats nest of cables nailed in place just above the television exemplified the house’s age, a purposely-designed electrical outlet nowhere in sight.

"Wow, Applejack. Your place looks just like I remember!"

Applejack shrugged off her heavy winter coat, catching it before the garment spilled onto the floor and resting it on a cluttered coat rack above a small pile of soggy winter boots. "Thanks, Twilight. I try an’ keep it pretty traditional. Granny likes to visit, and if the place 'as changed too much she gets... confused."

Finally free of her heavy coat and dripping boots, Applejack wanders over to the old leather couch across from the crackling flame. She flopped down and gasped, her face the picture of comfort. Then she shot a pointed look to Twilight, who joined her. Applejack raised her hand to her mouth, bringing the pad of her thumb and middle finger together against her teeth.

An ear-splitting whistle tore through the house, replaced as Applejack's lungs deflated by the steady thundering of feet against wood. Twilight stared in wonderment as a clump of children rolled into the open area from the hallway at the end of the stairs. From among the whirling mass of youth, a little girl emerged, giggling joyfully as she rushed towards the dinner table, the two still-fighting boys slowly following. An older boy stared in bemusement, only trying to creep through the fray after the younger kids had cleared.

"Soup's on, ya'll. Daddy won't be home 'til after the storm."

The fight began again as the boys approached the table. The little girl had already stolen away back to her room, paper plate in hand, piled high with cheese and pepperoni. The older boy flinched, clearly intending to pounce into the fray. His gaze flickered quickly to the teenage girl sitting on his couch, and he froze and bashfully stepped aside to let his brothers have their turn.

"Applejack, why does Applebloom look so... small?"

"Twilight, we really do need to catch up! An that ain't Bloom- she's called Appleseed. My youngest," she proudly proclaimed.

"So then those two-"


Twilight contemplated this. Applejack, with kids? Her Applejack never had kids. Was this Applejack happy? Was her Equestrian friend happy, before the end?

"Mac Jr, grab Momma and Miss Twilight here a pair of cold ones."

The older boy sighed, set down his recently piled plate, and moved towards the refrigerator. Glass clattered as he awkwardly stepped over into the living room. Twilight noticed his stiff gate, his fixed gaze, the nervous sheen of sweat on his brow. He tried desperately to look anywhere but at the strange girl as he turned the two beer bottles over to his mother.

She tore off the caps of each with the flick of her thumb, stretching over to pass Twilight the brew. Twilight seized the drink, and as she went to tug Applejack didn't let go. She laughed self-consciously, finally letting the visitor take the proffered drink. "Sorry, Twi. Ah'm jus' used to tryin' to keep mah drank from the youngin's that I feel real strange passing one to ya."

Twilight took a drink. "Blegh. Bitter." She took another drink. "Well... not too bad."

"Do ya'll really not have beer over in Equestria?"

"Is that what this is called? No, we've mostly just got cider and wine, in some of the cities. I was introduced to this really spicy liquor by some parrots I met during a coupe. I've... uh... really liked that."

Applejack swallowed, gingerly clasping her bottle in both hands. "So what brings ya back, Twilight?"

Twilight shifted, uncomfortable. She hadn't really throughout about this part of the visit. She didn’t really conceive the possibility that time had progressed so far on this side of the portal. She knew there was a time dilation- but Sunset had been away from Equestria for decades before Twilight came to find her, only experiencing eight or nine years in the human realm. How exactly the time ebbed, flowed, she had no idea.

She knew that some time would have passed. But here was Applejack, with kids! She didn't know what the human reproductive timeline was, but she knew that they mirrored ponies in children- to have as many as she did, Applejack had to be fairly old. Not senile, like her friends, but... mature.

"I... I just wanted to see you guys. Back home, my friends-" she choked up a bit, swallowing a slight whimper that welled from her chest "The Equestrian versions of you are all... they are old. I've already lost Pinkie, and... you. The rest aren't doing too well. And I took over from Celestia, and I didn't spend enough time with them, and now they’re gone and I'm alone and even when I see them they don't recognize me every time and- and I just needed a break."

Applejack placed her drink onto the small table at her feet and pulled Twilight into a hug. "I'm sorry, Twi. I've lost people too." Her gaze flickered up from beside Twilight's head and focused on her son. "Mac got in a car wreck right after I married Carrot. He never had any kids, an' so ah named mah first after 'im."

They held each other, each thinking of what they had lost in front of the snapping fire as the wind whistled over the chimney top.

Twilight rose to a quiet home. The whistling was gone, and a weak sunlight peered in through the drawn curtains. The lingering buttery aroma of fried eggs permeated the house, its source evident as Twilight stood from her cramped spot on the couch and stretched her arms up, yawning. She wandered over to the plate piled high with eggs and bacon at the dinner table in the other room, and sat down to read the note scratched in Applejack's patent barely legible scrawl.

Morning, Twilight. Roads are alright here and the kids want to go to a friend’s house. Be back soon.


p.s. I couldn't remember if you eat meat over here. If not don't worry- just set the bacon on a napkin and Winona III will come find it.

Twilight smiled, carefully picking the glistening strips up with her fork and setting them down onto the letter, which she placed on the floor. As she slowly sat eating her eggs an older dog came bounding from one of the kids' rooms and pounced, eagerly lapping up the treat.

As Twilight's fork scraped against her plate, the front door swung open and Applejack stepped through. "Morning Twilight." She said, resting her coat on its’ hook and kicking off her boots. She picked up the two cups she had rested on the small table near the entrance, and stepped over to Twilight. "Coffee or tea?"

"Tea, please."

Applejack slid one cup across to her nubile friend, and brought the other to her lips as she sank into a chair. "So Twilight, ya' wanna talk with... everyone?"

Twilight sipped the tea, setting the cup against the old oak. "If I can. I've only got a little while, though. If I stay, I might... well... I don't want to be away from the Equestrian versions of you all for too long."

"Ah'd like to help, Twilight. A' really would. But I don't rightly know how to git in touch with the rest o' 'em."

Twilight's eyes went wide and latched on to Applejack's amber face. "You don't talk anymore?"

"I'm sorry to say it, but nah."

"But you guys were best friends! Forever! What happened?"

Applejack was stumped. She hadn't really given the matter much thought. It just... happened.

"Nothin' really. We jus’ graduated and everybody… drifted. It ain't like we had a honkin' fight or nothin'."

Twilight was silent, transfixed. Disbelieving. They were best friends. They were elements of harmony. They couldn't ‘just drift’. Even her friends- only now had they separated, and only then because age would claim the rest while Twilight lived on. If it was up to her, she would have gone with them. Reincarnated together, gone on together. Left as one.

Applejack’s sigh cut through the pensive silence. Clearly Twilight wouldn't accept such an explanation.

"That first summer was near exactly like every other. We got together ta’ hang out whenever they could get out of work and 'a could get off the farm. Sunset kept real good track o' all our schedules. But then that summer ended. Pinkie went full time at the bakery, spent most of her time in the city. She used ma’ truck when she decided to move to an apartment nearby. 'Cut the drive and be closer to the parties!' she said."

Twilight chuckled. "Well, that does sound like Pinkie. The city isn't too far, is it? I could probably go see her!"

Applejack forced a smile. "Yeah, she always did say stuff like that. But no, Twilight, I don' think ya could."

"What? Why not?"

"Bein' so close to the party wasn't... shoot, it wasn't healthy for her. She got a little too into the fun. We hear from her once in a while, between rehab and jail. She'll send a letter, say she's clean and we should all have some fun, only to disappear for a couple of months. And then ah get another letter."

Twilight was quiet for a moment, registering the mood. "They're all far, aren't they?"


A moment pause as Twilight mulled over this information. "Thanks for helping, and thanks for talking to me, Applejack. If- if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to know how everyone else turned out, and then I'll get out of your hair."

"It's no trouble, sugarcube. Let's see... Rarity is, like, all kinds of famous. She bought some fru-fru clothes shop in the city, and sure enough everyone loved it. The girl's got stores all over now, and she's in all sorts of magazines and even on TV."

Twilight fought to hold back a laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"It's just so perfect. My Rarity did essentially the same thing!"

"Really? And ya'll kept together? Ah can't imagine Rarity has any time for friends. Uh, oh! Fluttershy! She's some kind of 'zoo-ologist'. She sends postcards some times, and ah send pictures of mah dog. She seems to get a kick out of that. She's studying somethin' or other about rhinos in Africa."

"Africa! Where is that?! If it's not to far I could stay a couple day's longer-"

"Ha! Sorry Twi. Africa's all the way across the world."

Twilight deflated, both sad and embarrassed. Basic geography. She had forgotten the basic geography of the mirror world. And it was a mirror world. 'Africa' was in the same place as 'Zebrica'. They even sounded similar!

"Rainbow is God knows where. Sunset helped her study real hard and she wound up at the Academy, got herself a seat in a F-15. She was on the news a few years back- won a purple heart and some kinda fancy medal for bravery for shooting down three chicom's to save a friend, ‘fore she went down herself. No clue whereabouts she is now- could be anywhere in Asia."

Twilight wasn't exactly sure what to make of all that, but she understood the gist. Rainbow clearly had clearly got herself into something fast and dangerous- exactly what she would have wanted. And wherever she was, she was still loyal to her friends to a fault.

"What about me- er, I mean, Twilight? Me? Whatever."

"I don't rightly know how our Twilight stacks up to you, Princess, but she's a downright genius. Hung out with us that last summer, before movin’ all the way up to Maresachusetts. The old girl got a full scholarship to MIT! By time she was slipping into a bridesmaid dress for mah weddin', I'se already callin' her 'Dr. Sparkle'. Pretty quick after that she was sucked up by DARPA and stopped writin' us none. Figured she was just really busy, or she's workin' on somethin' so big them spooks don't want her talkin' to nobody."

Of all her friends, she felt most strongly for the other Twilight, despite having so little contact with the girl. Twilight knew how hard she had had it when she had to be away from her friends- even studying her favorite magics, breaking new ground, being seen by future generations as the new Clover the Clever or Starswirl... If she had to cut all of her friends out like that, none of it would be worth it. She hoped that the other her was different- that the other her could be happy in her work, could move on from her friends, could make new ones wherever she was.

If Twilight could move on, everything would be so much easier. Her friends could pass, and she'd make more. She wouldn't sit, alone, in her silent castle. The pony she talked to the most wouldn't be Berry's son. Faust... Berry's son. She didn't even know the stallions name. Got her rum shipments from him every week, and couldn't even learn that much.

"What about Sunset?"

Applejack set down her tea and opened her mouth to speak. The words caught at her lips, and her mouth hung open. Her brow knit in a mess of lines and she subconsciously brushed a few strands of her blonde hair from her face. Finally she broke her glare and relaxed. "Ah honestly don't know. Which is a mite strange. She worked her darndest to keep us all together, ‘specially during that summer."

"When did she drop away?"

"Again, Twi, it wasn't a 'drop'. It was... gradual. But... when did she go?" A muffled scrape resounded as Applejack rose from the table and wandered over to a bookcase. She stretched, standing on her toes, to grasp an old bound book that rested against the top shelf. She shuffled back towards the table, the tome releasing a thunderous clap as its mass was deposited onto the table. Applejack settled back into place, and a curious Twilight slid to sit beside her, craning over the woman’s broad shoulder at the musty volume.

Applejack lifted the cover, and began rifling through the pages. She quickly found what she was looking for, leaving the book opened wide and leaning aside for Twilight to take a look. It was a well-loved photograph, very similar to the one that Princess still kept clipped to the mirror in her quarters. The beaming faces of her human friends rose from the page, each huddled, arms intertwined, around an eager Rainbow Dash. Dash was dressed in a crisp cadet’s uniform, and had a bundle of luggage abandoned at her feet.

“The last time I recall seein’ her was when Dash moved away.” Her orange finger gently caressed the faces of her friends as she talked. “Twi was already gone. Couldn’t make it. But everyone else was here. She-” Applejack tapped twice against the face of her bacoon-haired friend “made sure of that. Even grabbed Rarity somehow.”

“After Dash moved, Twi was already gone. Rarity was gettin’ famous, Flutters was in college. I honestly can’t tell ya if she’s talked to anyone else, Twi, cause I haven’t talked to any of ‘em much. But after this” she again gestured to the book “She jes’ disappeared.”