• Published 21st Aug 2021
  • 695 Views, 95 Comments

Letting Go Of The Reins - applebatofalltrades

Applejack's rodeo career takes a turn. She must learn to adapt to her new life and the challenges that come with it.

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Lost and Found

Act Two
Hung Up


Time had come inadvertently in and out like a radio station with poor reception. Applejack wasn’t quite sure what had really happened and when, if it did. At the present, her eyes were heavy with sleep and her body weighed a thousand pounds, deeming her unable to move anything but her eyes around groggily.

She was sure of a few things. She had successfully completed her eight seconds (though her score was unknown to her), and she had then fallen off. Everything after that was a blur. There might have been pain, but that might have happened after. That, Applejack wasn’t sure of.

As she blinked away some of the grogginess, though, her stomach turned and sent a wave of nausea through her. In a partially subconscious attempt to make sure she didn’t vomit all over herself, the weight on her upper body disappeared as she twitched forward and the nausea was instantly replaced by pain.

She was then made sure of more things. A neck brace made its home atop her shoulders, and she was in a hospital room with Big Mac. Her face felt numb and tender and probably swollen in some parts. Applejack yelped in pain, her voice coming out like nails on a chalkboard. Her eyes clenched shut as Big Mac practically jumped out of his seat and came to her side, resting a strong hand on her shoulder for support.

“Now, hold on there, AJ,” he commanded firmly as he helped the blonde ease back into the soft back of the hospital bed.

Applejack grunted as she let her weight fall back against the cushioned backrest. Finally, she took in her surroundings. The room itself was blindingly white and smelled cleaner than any room she’d ever been in. Next to her were a couple of machines that she wasn’t quite sure what they were for other than the heart rate monitor. And of course, attached to Applejack’s forearm was an IV.

And just like that, reality came crashing down on her. Big Mac yelled for Granny Smith down the hallway, but that was muffled out by the very loud sound of Applejack’s blood roaring through her ears.

She couldn’t move her legs.

Her arms moved, although heavily, and she could feel the IV when she did move them, but her legs stayed still. She couldn’t wiggle her toes or even tense a muscle. It was as if the legs under the sheets in front of her were just props.

The beeping next to her grew faster. Big Mac turned back to her and frowned. “Hey, it’s okay,” he tried to tell her, but the words slipped right off. All she could think about was what had happened.

First, Applejack fell off of Barley. She hadn’t noticed it at first, but in hindsight, everything was a little off after that. Her first thought was to run away from the medical crew. She didn’t want them to tell her she had a concussion, but that was the least of her worries. She felt mostly stupid for not noticing; her balance was off and her legs had ached. Something probably happened in the bar, too, since she had woken up the next morning not only with an awful hangover but more pain in her back.

Next, she fell off of Harbinger’s Ghost. She actually completed the eight seconds but then let down her guard. She hit that metal fence and then fell to the ground. Clearly, Applejack had not gotten up. Her hands shook as she came to that realization. She had never gotten up, and she couldn’t get up. Everything spun around her as it hit her like a ton of bricks. Her throat, dry and scratchy, clenched almost painfully, but she couldn’t get anything out past a frown.

It took everything Applejack had to keep from yelling or crying. Instead, her neck stiffened and kept straight by the brace around it, she shut her eyes tightly and let out a sharp breath through her nostrils. Her hands tightened into fists as the door opened once more to allow Granny Smith to finally enter the room. Applejack’s eyes tore open as she watched the old woman make her way to her bedside. Big Mac followed closely behind, looming over her with a quietness that drew all noise from the room.

Applejack reached out for her grandmother with a slow, shaking hand. Quiet desperation dripped from her furrowed eyebrows and taut frown. She wanted to say something; to cry like a baby and be held in her loving, comforting arms, but all she did was hold out a miserable, pitiful hand and have it come only inches away from what she sought out the most.

Granny Smith met Applejack’s hand with her own, gently sandwiching it between her own wrinkled, firm hands. They might have been hardened by years of work, but to Applejack, they were the softest thing she could ever imagine.

She took a seat next to Applejack, still holding the blonde’s hand in her own. “Hey there, darlin’.” Her voice was smooth and brought a minute amount of solace to Applejack. Still, it was better than nothing. “It’s alright.”

“Granny,” Applejack whispered. It was all she could really say with the dryness of her throat. She furrowed her eyebrows and swallowed, though there wasn’t much saliva to swallow and it felt like she had just tried to drink a spur.

As if he could feel her discomfort, Big Mac reached around Granny and grabbed something off the table next to the bed. He held a cup in front of Applejack’s face. “Drink.” Applejack tried to reach for the cup with her own hand, but Big Mac pulled it away and shook his head. “Nope. Ya just woke up from surgery, best to keep still for a bit.”

Reluctantly, the blonde rolled her eyes and gave the tiniest nod the neck brace would allow her. Her brother brought the cup to her lips, and she greedily drank, the lubricating substance finally soothing her itchy throat until the little cup was empty and Big Mac pulled away. Refreshed, Applejack licked her lips and let out a deep sigh. “Thanks, Mac.” Her semi-relaxed state didn’t last long, though, as what Big Mac had said caught up to her. “Wait, y’all said something ‘bout surgery?”

Her family members looked at each other briefly before nodding, though it was Granny Smith who spoke next. “They took ya into surgery right when we got here, ’n that was about twelve hours ago. You’ve been out for five hours just restin’,” she explained tactfully. “They’ve been checkin’ on ya every now ‘n again, hun, but I’m glad yer up.”

“Eeyup,” Big Mac agreed. He walked back to the door. “I’ll go get someone now that you’re awake.”

As he left, Applejack took a moment to really take herself in. The most obvious thing, apart from her neck brace, were the tubes and other paraphernalia connecting her to the various medical devices around her. She couldn’t turn her head to see them, but she knew they were there thanks to the beeping. There was definitely at least an IV drip and a heart rate monitor, though. That much she knew.

Applejack made it her goal to ignore anything else – everything she couldn’t see or feel. Instead, she rubbed her hands on the blanket, feeling the smooth, yet slightly rough, surface of it, and took a deep breath in to allow that characteristic clean smell in. Her hands came together, and fingers interlocked in a familiar way, though she froze as she realized that the ring she often liked to fiddle with was missing.

Urgently, Applejack brought her hands up, ignoring the discomfort it caused, and stared at them. She knew it already, but she had to check. Her ring wasn’t there, and instead, the outline of it traced around her finger in a shade paler than her suntanned hands. Panic replaced the calm she was trying to build. She couldn’t have lost her mother’s ring! What would she even do if she lost it? There was no replacing that, not at all.

It was at that moment that the door opened with Big Mac leading the way and a doctor coming in behind him. Applejack’s eyes shot up to the new presence; a man with a doctor’s coat and a clipboard in hand. His skin was a soft brown, with light, grayed hair to contrast that. It was a bit strange; he did not look very old. Upon entering, he glanced at Applejack with a concerned frown as she became more visibly upset.

“Well, I’m glad to see you’re up now, Miss Applejack,” the doctor started as he approached the bed. Granny Smith made room for the man to pass and stand next to Applejack. “Are you alright, though?”

Applejack wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Obviously, she was not alright. The fact that the doctor had even asked such a ridiculous question almost made her angry. Why would he ask that? She had just gotten some kind of surgery and woke up to find her most prized possession gone and discovered that the loss of mobility in her legs was not, in fact, just a nightmare. How would he feel if he had gone through that? Surely not alright. Probably quite the opposite.

Though, with all the fire of emotions burning within her, all she could do was stare at her bare hands. She had to deal with things one thing at a time. She knew that; that’s what she had learned after the funeral. Even though she had just drunk water, her throat dried up all over again. “My ring,” she croaked out, somewhere between holding back tears and nearly failing to keep them inside. “My mother’s ring.”

Behind the doctor, Granny Smith held out a hand. “Oh, I meant to give it to ya earlier, hun! I got it right here,” she explained, reaching around the doctor to pass the aforementioned ring to Applejack.

Carefully, Applejack turned her hand over and felt the cool metal fall into her palm. Despite everything that she had just been forced to process, it came as quite a relief that she hadn’t actually lost it. Her fist tightened around the tiny object tightly as if she might lose it simply by gripping it too loosely. “Thanks.”

Granny Smith simply nodded and gave Applejack a tiny smile in response, then ushered herself and Big Mac out of the room. The blonde glanced down with her eyes and observed the silver ring. It had become a part of her, and it felt… wrong to not have it on, even briefly. She slipped the ring back on, covering the untanned skin beneath it once more, then toyed with it as the doctor cleared his throat. Emerald eyes traced back up to the doctor, who smiled at her. It was strange, but she knew he was just trying to be friendly, so she tried her best to smile in return.

“Well, I’ll start with an introduction. My name is Doctor Steady Ease, but you can call me whatever you wish.” He paused and looked down at his clipboard. “I know you must be confused and disoriented and probably scared. I heard you just woke up, and I understand that what you’re experiencing is a lot to take in. I’m here to answer your questions and put you at ease, as well as to check on you and make sure you’re progressing well over time.

“Needless to say, you and I will be well acquainted, as well as the nurse or nurses that will be assigned to you.” He cleared his throat and lifted a page from his notes to glance at the one underneath. “Do you have any questions before I begin my explanation?”

If Applejack was being honest, she was feeling mostly tired and a bit sleepy, but she wanted to know what was going on, so she did her best to stay alert. There was no shaking her head, not with the neck brace. “No, I think I’ll wait ‘til after,” she responded in barely a whisper.

Doctor Steady nodded. “Okay, so I’ll begin by explaining briefly what’s happened since you arrived. I know you must be tired, so I’ll keep it simple. Once you arrived, you were put into emergency surgery. We tried to see what we could do about your back injury, but unfortunately, all we could do was remove some fragments of bone and try to stabilize your spine where it was injured.”

He paused, likely so that Applejack could take it in. His words came slowly, like molasses, and they ran through her mind even slower, but once she was able to make sense of them, her heart sank to her chest. “W-what are you sayin’?”

“I explained this to your family, and I will explain it to you.” The doctor frowned and ran a hand through his hair, pushing it back and away from his face. “It’s not certain if you’ll ever regain full mobility of your legs, and if you do, it’s likely you will not be able to walk again, not without aides.”

The words fell heavy on Applejack. She felt as if her insides had been thrown onto an anvil and crushed by a farrier’s hammer until there was nothing left. “Y-you mean…”

“I’m sorry. You’ll be admitted into physiotherapy, but we don’t know how much feeling, if any, will return to your legs,” he told her softly. “In the meantime, you’ll have to recover from your surgery here.”

It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be, she had to be dreaming or something. Right? All she had to do was wake up.

Applejack shut her eyes hard as her breathing became unstable. The beeping grew quicker, but she focused instead on waking up, balling her fists into balls so tight that they trembled with the effort. But none of that made it go away, and none of it made her able to get up from the bed and go about her day. Reluctantly, the lump in her throat grew until it felt restrictive, and she squeaked out something akin to a cry.

She wasn’t supposed to fail like this. But as it sunk in, the harder it was to keep those tears in, and soon enough, a small collection of warm tears slid down her cheeks, weighed down by the gravity of the situation. She wasn’t usually a crier, and so the handful of tears felt plentiful on her once dry cheeks. Applejack shuddered a breath as the doctor murmured a quiet apology and placed a hand on her forearm.

It was comforting, in a strange way, but all Applejack craved at that moment was something she could never have again. The feeling in her legs was gone, at least at the moment, and she wanted nothing more than the simple touch of her mother’s loving embrace. A memory she seldom thought about lest it bring forward the memory of the woman she’d rather remember in passing came upfront and she imagined herself as a child curled up in her mother’s tender hold.

But as she sniffled back her last tear, and wiped her face with a hand much bigger than that of her memory, her eyes slid open and she was no longer by a warm fire, and the song her mother hummed—one she could no longer remember the words to, just the melody—faded into the rhythmic beeping of her own racing heart. The whiteness of the room was almost blinding and the aching in her entire body became even more apparent as her body shook in the places it was able to from everything. All Applejack could do was stare straight ahead, wishing she could cry more, but it all balled up in the back of her throat and refused to come out.

The doctor’s hand tightened around Applejack’s forearm and she looked back at the man who was not her mother. Her blurry, traitorous eyes focused on his face. A frown of pity nestled upon his hardened features. Applejack thought about what her father had taught her about being strong, about getting back up and trying again. He wouldn’t have ruined it all like her, but she could do what she could to make up for it.

And maybe she couldn’t do that just yet, but she would, someday. She had to. It was best to push down her worries and push through her doubts. She could cry later, but for now, she had to be strong. Applejack swallowed the lump in the back of her throat, pushing it back down deep inside. A shuddered breath escaped her as a sigh. There was no time to mess around.

“How long ‘til I can get started?”

Author's Note:

so how long do you give her til she breaks?

this is my second time writing this A/N because idk it erased itself or something i dunno. anyway sorry if this chapter is a bit messy, i wrote the first half mostly while drunk (and this authors note too) :P but here is the official start of act two (or arc if you wanna call it that whatever), which i called “Held Up”, which is a rodeo term much like “Running the Cloverleaf” was. Both of these kind of fits what that act/arc is/was gonna be about. I had to rewrite some of this chapter like twice but I think I’m pretty happy with how it ended up.

I don’t know how often I’ll be updating this since i am in college rn and it really is taking up a lot of time (I'm in animation so like hoowee my sleep schedule is beyond messed up) but ill do my best. I have pretty much this whole act planned out (like generally, nothing in specific apart from like two very specific plot points) and I am so excited to get to some of the later stuff. I will say, AJ goes through some shit but... it’s fine. I have “teaser” art made for this act but idk if its worth sharing. I just wanted y’all to know it exists heeheee...

anyway so here’s another ease back into reins and some more applejack POV. kind of a short one, and we have some classic emotional repression here from our girl AJ. she’ll be in the hospital for a while. we won’t see strawb much for a while, but we will meet someone else while in the hospital ;)

hope you enjoyed! this one’s kinda a weird one.