• Member Since 15th May, 2018
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mushroompone


enargeia or: the unbearable brightness of being

T

Pinkie's parents are missing, presumed dead.

Applejack is there to pick up the pieces.


Please heed the content warnings! This is a story very explicitly about grief, loss, and depression. Suicide is also an important recurring theme, and cannot be avoided!

Amazing coverart by my sibling, cereal (fimfic | twitter)

Preread by Otter and Sleps

For Bike's Applepie contest (folder | info)!! I love this ship and it's so so so rare, so I'm super happy to be contributing!

Chapters (6)
Comments ( 40 )

11245140
You're not helping.

Actual comment since I didn't want the reply to be the main focus:

Very well written introduction. This is definitely going to be a heavy one to follow, and I'm hoping to see more!

This is an incredible start to this story. The way you write AJ and Pinkie is phenomenal. Can't wait to see where this goes.

Oh, one chapter in and it's already fantastic. This one's gonna break my heart, huh?

Oh geez, this one's gonna hurt. None of them are taking this well...
Though I am interested in the romance side of things. Applejack and Pinkie Pie seem to be one of the least talked-about pairings out of the mane six, so I'm curious to see how that'll work.

Death in the family hurts. Death of a parent hurts worse. We all know we're going to outlast our parents, at least that's the hope, but when it actually happens... you never really expect it.

:pinkiesad2: My mom died when I was young so this hits in the feels pretty solidly.

I did not think this ship would work but this is beautiful. I've lost people and this is very resonant. Very accurate. Some really wonderful writing.

11246435
It's definitely a rarer pairing around these parts, but I'm thrilled to hear that you've enjoyed it :) I hope the rest of the story pays off for you!

This was definitely a hard one for me to write. I drew on a lot of loss I've experienced personally, as well as losses I've seen others through (both the Pinkie Pie and the Applejack perspective, I guess). I'm glad it's resonating with people, though I'd never wish this kind of pain on someone else.

That was a interesting story. Goodluck with the rest of it.

Dang, this keeps getting heavier in multiple ways.

this is some good writing

There are some fics that you can read without giving them much thought. This is not one of them. Not because of the word count, but the subject matter is not one to be taken lightly, it hits...a little too close to home tbh, especially when it's happening to Pinkie and AJ, two of the ponies I consider to be the most optimistic of the bunch and I wouldn't wish them ill will. This story is a cruel reminder that horrible things can happen to wonderful people, who absolutely don't deserve it, but (and I hate to say it because of how cliché but true it is) life isn't fair.

I'm definitely taking my time with this story, it deserves to be read carefully and with care.

11247811
Thank you. This means a lot, especially coming from someone who writes stories that should be enjoyed slowly and savored as long as possible. I hope you enjoy the conclusion!

“I’m always happy!” she yelled. “Do you know how hard that is, Jackie?”

Not gonna cry, not gonna cry...
*Reads the rest of the capture*

Dang it!

“Those aren't character flaws to her, they're familiarity.”

oh man how did you SO CONCISELY sum up one of my favourite aspects of applepie. also this chapter made me bawl my eyes out. i adored the sisterly relationships so much

Pretty sure Shotguns isn't a stage of grief, lmao.

11248595
Pretty sure there's only five stages of grief so maybe you should have seen this coming lmao

“He shot himself.” It was the first time I’d ever said those words, and they felt ugly and wrong in my mouth. Yet they came out again: “He shot himself. In the barn. With the shotgun we used to scare off timberwolves.”

OH MAN. all the foreshadowing with the guns and applejack’s reaction to em. “nothing ever good starts with a missing shotgun” i gotta reread this when im done and pick up on everything. i cant believe you literally checkov’s gunned us

11248597
Regardless, I've never read a romantic drama quite like this before. Gonna pull a FoME and thank you for the experience.

ouuuuuh this was such a good read!! i can’t wait to reread it every weekend lol

This story was one heck of a ride. You made me feel all kind of feels.

Once again, you've left me speechless. This story was just so well done I'm actually struggling to put it into words.

Well, I could at least say this: I think I'm gonna check out some Applepie fics now...

That was a marvelous story. There were so many incredible moments that I wouldn't even know where to begin discussing them.

Bravo, man. A real work of art!

So this was a fantastic, heart-wrenching ride through the grieving process, and not for the reasons that I thought it would be. I came into Six Stages of Grief expecting an exploration of Pinkie's normally perma-bubbly self when confronted with tragedy and that's exactly what you delivered, but what you also delivered was exactly that, but from Applejack’s point of view. The obvious choice was to pick one Sad Thing and stick to that, but this feels just as much like a story about AJ coming to terms with her past through Pinkie’s grief as it does Pinkie’s grief itself.

Applejack’s inner voice feels really genuine and consistent throughout. The little links she makes between Pinkie’s behaviour, and projecting her own past onto what Pinkie’s going through now… yeah, it’s genuine. It’s what people do, it’s how we cope, in a weird, not-quite-self-centred-but-not-quite-selfless-either way. And how you tie her inner voice into the events themselves made for some real tension come the climax of Shotguns – was ambiguity over whether they actually shot the bear (until the reveal in Acceptance, at least) your intention? If so, bloody good job – the repetition of that one word throughout the chapter was a genius touch.

I guess ultimately, what endeared me to this was how you nailed both of their characters. AJ’s stoic exterior hiding a tumultuous inner monologue and a fierce desire to take punishment for the sake of others seems spot-on, while you give Pinkie a surprising level of maturity and self-reflection that it sometimes seems even she’s not aware of. Meandering between hyperactive distraction and loping depression would’ve been the easy choice, but you gave them the complexity that only fan-works can really dig into.

Some parts of Six Stages of Grief were hard to get through. But, much like grief itself, it was worth it. Thanks.

I say it a lot---more than moving or gripping or even purely entertaining, I think the core purpose of fiction is to be honest. I think a story that says something and is earnest in saying it beats out every other kind, and for fan fiction in particular, that ideally means saying something about the world and/or characters being written about.

And more than any other I can think of now, this story says so many moving, gripping, devastating things about AJ and Pinkie both, and about death in Equestria and death in the real world and what it is to grieve in both places---how equally individual and universal an experience it is, how it's honest and intimate and overwhelming---kind of like love. Which this story says so many wonderful things about too.

Love this to pieces, and I'm so glad there are still writers here putting out work this good even in this post-canon day and age. Makes me want to stick around and see what else folks on FIMFic have to say.

11259326
I absolutely love it when a reader finds every breadcrumb and every scrap of meaning I left for them. You hit the nail on the head - this story is just as much about AJ's grief as it is Pinkie's, as well as the rest of the Pie family and a smidge of Big Mac. The manic-depressive cycle Pinkie gets caught in was important to me to portray, and I'm so glad it came through.

It is incredibly difficult to capture... Well, any of this, really. I struggled to put this story together, both because I needed to stay true to the characters through a depth of grief we haven't even glimpsed in the show, and because, yes, it hurt to revisit these times in my own life. What is most incredible about grief, to me, is how it can transform your relationships. The person that is with you through those times gains a new place in your life. I was worried readers would push back on the romantic pieces of this tale because, if you haven't been through this, these elements may seem at odds. I'm happy to see that it all came together, and that it rings true for those who are familiar with grief (from either perspective). Thank you so much for your comment!!

11266584
It's funny - this story actually sparked a long conversation between myself and a friend regarding truth in fiction. It has been my opinion for a long time that truth in fiction is not the same as truth in facts; fictional truth is not accuracy. It is a reverberation, a feeling of connection with the story, its parts, its author. Greatly exaggerated facts can be truth in fiction.

I wrote this story from experience. Not fighting-a-bear experience, but experience with grief. And I don't think it's dishonest to exaggerate and to embellish and to transform certain events, because it delivers a valuable *emotional* truth to my readers. It is so satisfying, and heartening, to hear that someone read it in exactly this manner.

Thank you so much for your comment. As a certified member of the old guard, your opinion of my work means the world to me. I do hope you stick around! I have seen incredible talent on this site in recent years, and I'd hate to see it go unread

Wanderer D
Moderator

That was a beautiful ending, alongside that feeling you get when life restarts after a huge loss. That... quiet momentum you've somehow picked from talking, from getting support, from letting go and yet holding on. Thanks for the story!

11272914
Thank you so much!! I've honestly been floored by the response this story has gotten.. I though it would vanish into the ether, but lately it's gotten a bit of a bump - all from folks I've looked up to and respected for a years! It's a great feeling. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment :twilightsmile:

Mac and I just quit talking altogether. It wasn’t a joint protest or anything, just what the two of us thought was the best way to handle everything that was going on inside us. I knew that if I talked I was gonna be honest, and if I was honest I was gonna say some ugly things. Mac, I think, couldn’t figure out how to put anything he was feeling into any words at all. Apple Bloom, bless her heart, was too young for any of it.

augh, this wraps up the three siblings' relationships to this tragic event so perfectly in just one paragraph. especially love Applejack's self-perception of her honesty here

You can do them in any old order. You can get caught in a loop. You can spend eternity on one stage and never make it to the greener pastures of acceptance. The five stages is more a list of things that you might experience, but even then it ain't exactly exhaustive.

so wise, something to learn from experience

I remember being warm. Always sweating, a little sheen on my forehead. Always finding it hard to breathe. Everything was small and stuffy and hot. It didn’t help that it was the height of the summer. Not that I think losing my parents in the dead of winter would have helped.

and augh, it's nice to feel the atmosphere of the setting with all my senses. that little detail with the sheen really sells it

She shrugged as she turned back to the window. “I dunno. Hanging up posters, talking to the police… whatever it is ponies do when someone goes missing, right?” Then, much softer, she added, “I’ve never had someone go missing before.”

and augh, you just nail perfectly how Pinkie would be in such a serious and heavy situation like this. not herself as we are used to, but exactly herself if there isn't anything to smile about right now

Pinkie stared out the window.

And I stared at her.

I wondered how long it would take her to cry.

oof, and yeah, Applejack seeing where she was years ago in the Pinkie of now

To her credit, she didn't complain. Maybe she was just used to it.

that is an interesting contrast that Pinkie contains. she comes across as more unserious and immature than them, but had one of the least comfortable childhoods among her friends.

Despite my occasionally stubborn quirks of personality, I make it a point not to work myself silly in the dead heat of the summer. The buzzing in my ears and the sweat trickling down the back of my neck reminded me why that was.

aww, character growth from her younger self!

Somehow—despite all logical laws of the universe—the bags balanced on her back only bounced happily up and down, never in danger of falling.

That mare really does things her own way.

hehe, so true! just an unexplained Pinkie thing

I sighed. "I know I wasn't invited," I said, since this somehow felt like an interrogation. Maybe because I was sweating bullets and she was just staring at me without blinking. "I was just—"

"It wasn't a question."

I cleared my throat. "Oh."

ahaha, this is just so how ponies react to Maud. augh i love her

"They, uh… they didn't wanna overcrowd," I explained. "Small house and all. Pinkie seemed to think I'd be helpful."

Maybe it was the haze, but I could have sworn I saw Maud's cheeks tighten. Like she was squinting.

"On account of the farm?" I prompted.

aww, yes, they are both farm mares in the end!

"You're honesty," she said.

It seemed like a question, though she hardly said it like one.

"Y-yeah," I replied.

"Hm." She blinked. "Maybe that's why you're here."

I cocked my head. "What's that s'posed to mean?"

augh, this is such a great use of Maud! being both perceptive and cryptic, and imbalancing the newcomer Applejack because of it. so good!

I sure as sure know Marble wouldn't be saying a word as long as I was around, and Limestone seemed the type to seethe in quiet anger. A bit like myself, I suppose.

huh, something i haven't considered! Limestone and Applejack do have quite a few things in common with each other now that i think about it!

Pinkie nodded. "AJ's a farmer, too," she explained. "And I thought she could help until mom and dad come back."

That sent a wave of discomfort through her sisters. Limestone's face contorted all the more, Marble seemed to hold back even more tears, and even Maud seemed to at least stiffen.

Who really knows, though?

oof! so much left unsaid

Limestone snorted as she vaulted the fence. "Pinkie sure doesn't know how to pack light, does she?"

"She didn't know how long she was packing for," Maud said simply.

augh, that special understanding between Maud and Pinkie, love it

I couldn't say it wasn't familiar. Mac, Bloom, and I had certainly developed our own little dialect over the years. It felt weird to be on the outside of one, though.

Maybe that's what it feels like to be on the outside of any family.

aww, Applejack is getting a taste for how that feels!

The Pie sisters knew all the right spots to step on.

augh i adore this physical metaphor. and it's not just the steps in the family house, but also the ponies in it

She gasped. A little squeak like a toy.

aww, i can just about hear this

Pinkie sat down beside me. Her cutie mark touched mine, and I felt how warm she was. She only looked straight ahead.

auaugh their marks are touching...

She's the type to share. She makes her feelings known, good or bad, the second she feels them. It's a type of honesty, I guess. I can respect that.

But it makes the quiet moments with her kinda frightening.

yeah, that's another commonality the two have, i like how Applejack thinks of it

To fall, silken and flat, against the side of her face. Just like her sisters.

oof, with a lot more dramatic weight than if her mane just made the change by itself

"It's…" I swallowed the lie. "I'm here for you."

She didn't reply.

But her rear hoof rubbed against mine.

you always do such an excellent job at making the weight of the heavy moments felt, and this is no exception.

And, just as you're about to convince yourself that it is, you remember that your parents are dead.

And you just don't care.

And you go back to sleep.

augh, the way that Applejack relates things back to her own experience with her parents to set the stage for each chapter is a really great structure. reminds me of a few of Otter's stories

She's quieter than a mouse in new-fallen snow, that filly.

aww, but she's the same age as Pinkie! and augh, love that comparison

Marble pulled her hooves into her lap and sort of cringed away from me when I came to sit across from her at the table. She did it in a way that showed she was trying hard not to, but I sure didn’t draw any attention to it.

aww, this is so Marble, i love it! just love these little character details in what is just a single moment

Another blazing hot day. I squinted, reached for my hat, and found that my head was in the nude this morning.

hehe, funny that Applejack is walking around naked but thinks of her hatless head as "nude". so pony!

It was probably something to do with digging up rocks. Or burying rocks. Who knows how any of that works at all.

aww, Applejack never read your other stories about how rock farming works, so she would not know

I don’t typically like guns. For a lot of reasons. But guns are a fact of farm life. I guess even rock farming.

I couldn’t for the life of me think what might be threatening the rocks that would need to be shot.

I thought it best not to ask.

honestly that is such an absurd thing that i really love it and instantly accept it as canon

“You ever do any fix-it type stuff around the house?” I asked Marble.

She shook her head.

“That’s okay. I’ll show ya what I do so you can help out your sisters, alright?”

A little smile.

really love this bonding moment between Applejack and Marble

Marble blinked. She raised her eyebrows and shrugged, not so much in the ‘I don't know’ way as the ‘you should go find out’ way.

this does make me think about how Applejack has at least some experience with siblings that don't have very many words to say

That quilt—the one I'd never seen before—was lumped up like a mountain range along her steadily rising side.

love the simile, and dang, that quilt is going to be important to the story, isn't it?

I chuckled. "A song my mama liked," I said. "Sorry. Sometimes I just get a songbird caught in my throat."

Pinkie sniffled again. I heard the blankets rustle around her, too. "I like it, too," she said. "It's nice."

augh, i mean, there's just so much character in how your characters do and say everything! they really come alive

She was right: there was a box of light bulbs up there. There was an unlabeled shoe box up there, too. I figured that's what she was avoiding.

so many things to pay off later!

She didn't wait for me to finish, just lunged at me and threw her hooves around me and started crying.

I almost said something, but I decided not to.

I just stroked her mane. Gently.

and yeah, this does bring up the fact that Pinkie's sisters are also going through the loss of their parents right now, but Pinkie does seem to be reacting to it differently than they are, and i understand her guilt for feeling like a burden on her sisters.

the shading on these characters' interactions and personalities are just so finely drawn, and it is an experience to read. i just wanted to end this chapter saying that.

And it hurts worse than if it'd just happened, because it's your fault now. You did this, you let this happen, you didn't try hard enough and your parents are dead.

oof, that is such an awful burden for anyone to carry, much less a child. poor Applejack and Pinkie

"Uh. I mean. You're up!" she tried again, more cheerfully.

ah, can't imagine Limestone being any good at hiding her real feelings

“Toast, comin’ right up,” I said, already whirring away to start the preparation. “With butter, right? A nice golden brown?”

and the Applejack thing to try to make things better by being as helpful as possible is really shining through here

Not that she’s picky, of course. She’s never been picky. She likes everyone and everything just as they are.

and that is one of the many things that is so wonderful about Pinkie!

When I pulled away, the Pie sisters were staring at me.

They quickly looked back down at their food or out the window.

oh yeah, i'd imagine the awkwardness here

“There is no suit for rock farming,” Maud corrected me.

I thought about making a frock-related joke, but decided to hold my tongue.

hehe, classic Maud literalness. and yeah, Applejack wouldn't be feeling secure enough in her connection with the Pie sisters to make jokes

Complete and total silence.

oof, yeah. this is that type of honesty Applejack was talking about earlier

“You’re Applejack, for crying out loud!” Limestone repeated. “The great, mythical Applejack. Fights the good fight, does no wrong, the best and the brightest and the only pony Pinkie ever talks about.”

oof! so much going on here in terms of family dynamics. the rock farm and her sad, gray sisters are the ones Pinkie left behind in order to live a more exciting and colorful life with her friends that just pop out of the fabric of the world, and this is what it looks like from the other side

“When we were younger, she'd drag home strays like they were her best buddies, which turned to having them at family dinners, which turned to sleeping over…” Limestone laughed lightly as she internally reminisced. “She's never actually dated anyone in so many words, but I think that's because her boundaries are blurry. She doesn't know the difference between family and friendship and romantic love. It's all the same to her. It's all a 10/10 on the love scale.”

augh this is such a perfect summary of Pinkie Pie! and why the way she is would cause friction with ponies who are not like her. it's something that's been bouncing around in my head for a long time now, but i've never been able to put it into words like this

Admirable though. I’d give her that. The world would be a better place if we were all a little more like Pinkie Pie.

and Applejack's conclusion is exactly what i think of her! i couldn't be like her myself, but i am glad that she can, and wish there were more Pinkies in the world

Limestone leaned back in her chair and folded her legs over her chest. “You're smart, strong, aloof, and you look like that,” she said. “Enough said.”

Marble actually snickered.

Maud seemed unfazed.

hehe nice

Rude, brash Limestone. Overly-direct Maud. Quiet, ever-listening Marble.

Now that they pointed it out, it was hard not to see it.

“Those aren't character flaws to her, they're familiarity.”

augh, this is just so amazing! i never made that connection before but now i cannot unsee it, either. wow, this is really fascinating to think about. dangit, Mush, i thought i loved ApplePie before but that was just based on my feelings about them, and this is really making me feel more like a connaisseuse about it

“She's a little nuts because this is the first time she's ever lost anyone,” Limestone added. “And now she's scared she's gonna start losing other ponies, too. And she's Pinkie, so she doesn't know how to cope with that.”

and oof, so true. her sisters do know Pinkie Pie

If I'd known then the sort of sickness my dad had, maybe it would have worked.

augh, and that ties back into the guilt she had about it earlier. it makes more sense why she would blame herself, and more tragic

I just looked at her. I let my own face do whatever I thought was best—a crooked, sympathetic smile and may or may not have looked sincere.

i can just picture this, so very Applejack. and loved the description of Pinkie here, just so much fine detail that really captures where she is in the story right now

Pinkie made a small sound and screwed her eyes shut. "I thought Marble was gonna be… just so sad. Like, holed up in her room crying sad. And Limestone gets so angry! I thought she'd be angry, but she just seems awkward," she said. "Maud is trying to be funny, which is just so… weird."

I furrowed my brows a bit.

Not exactly my read of the situation, but certainly a read.

and yeah, i can definitely understand why Pinkie would expect her sisters to act this way, but thanks to this fic i now myself cannot. it's really molding the way i think of the Pie sisters and how they understand each other. and of course, i love the disagreement on Maud here, very true to the Maud/Pinkie relationship

Jackie.

Pinkie was the only one who called me that. I honestly don't know why—it was a perfectly acceptable nickname, but only she ever seemed to use it.

It warmed me. A glimpse of the Pinkie I knew.

aww, and it warms me, too! it's such a wonderful little thing that i can only imagine Pinkie doing

"I remember my dad bought a rifle after he thought he saw a bear digging up rocks in the northern fields."

I scowled.

this Chekov's shotgun keeps coming up again and again! and given the way Applejack described her father's death earlier, i can guess why her first reaction was a scowl

I feel guilty no matter what I do.

I feel like everything I say is a mistake.

I feel like I'm not doing good enough at taking care of her.

oof, returning back to the start of the chapter, and the recurring theme that there is no magic way to fix things, and how each pony responds to that

I suddenly found myself wondering how all of this unraveled. Was it Marble who went looking for them? Limestone who found the blood and the fur and the missing rifle? Did they hear gunshots from bed? Did they start their day as usual only to sit at the empty kitchen table, wondering why their parents were getting such a late start?

so many different ways for these pieces to fit together in the end! and that it's a mystery to unravel alongside the emotional journey of the main characters does remind me of The Architect's Wings, and The Haunting of Carousel Boutique, and Radiowaves. it's like a mushroompone genre!

"Are…" she trailed off, thought about, then said: "are you sick, too?"

Was I?

"I don't really know," I said.

Hollow.

Shaky.

I didn't.

I didn't, and that was the first time I'd really thought about it.

oof, really feel this, and the sickening fear that must come with it. it blindsided me too as it does Applejack here, as i never considered this fear

"Promise?" she whispered, barely audible through the thickness of tears rising in her throat.

I nodded. "Promise."

such a powerful chapter. i feel like i don't have the words for it, just want to say that i love how deep you dig into these characters and the tragedy of this awfully inevitable part of life

Pinkie looked over her shoulder at me. “Yeah. Rubies and sapphires,” she explained. “We need to plant some aluminum and aerate the soil.” I could hear the Maud in her.

aww, i always get a kick out of seeing your rock-farming worldbuilding. Applejack's disorientation at how absurd it is compared to the more understandable apple farming is a good stand-in for the reader, and a nice reminder that deep down, Pinkie has more in common with her sisters than it seems on the surface

“This one is aluminum,” she said, pushing me a little brown rucksack. “I’ll split the rock, and you drop the beads in.” I peered down into the bag. I was pretty sure these were just little balls of aluminum foil, but I didn’t say nothing about it. “

hehe, love this. what else would aluminum seeds be?

She swept the area clear (of what, I don’t know) with her silky tail, and turned to me.

these little bits of Applejack noticing the qualities of Pinkie's tail a lot, i do notice them, haha

And I’ll never forget how she said it. This little, chip-on-the-shoulder, brushing it off way. On an upswing. Like she was getting ready to ask a question, only to realize halfway through that she understood perfectly.

ah, the detail in this is so good. so much that is communicated in the subtleties of tone that get flattened to variants of "said" ; it takes descriptions like this to really communicate it in prose. def makes me want to up my game

crying.” Spitting. Venomous. “Even my little sister is treating me like a baby. Like I can’t handle it.”

ah, the poetic cadence in going from "crying" to "spitting" in the prose! and oof, that was possibly the worst way Pinkie could have heard the news

“I’m always happy—I’m the happy one!” she waved a hoof in the air, rolling her eyes at the idea. “I always keep everyone together. I always swoop in and cheer everyone up. I’m always nice, and I always explain my sisters to everyone else—oh, this is Limestone, she has anger issues! I know Maud’s too honest, it’s just how she is! Marble looked you right in the eye before running away? That means she likes you!”

augh, this is just heartbreaking. this is digging so, so deep into how the Pie sisters dynamic could hurt PInkie, with each sister trying her best for the others.

“Yeah.” I squeezed her a little tighter. “I do. ‘Cause I can be real pessimistic, y’know. It’s a problem of mine. I need a little sunshine now and then. Or… more like all the time, I think.”

augh, just everything about this! this is so beautifully ApplePie that it hurts. but it can only be unearthed through this kind of pain, not just good times

It was almost a nice memory. Almost a wish to be that innocent, to see the world that black and white.

and yeah, Applejack really is in a unique position to understand Pinkie here

Most of all, she can’t stand being rejected. Any part of her. Her happiness, but also her sadness. Her anger. All parts of her—non-negotiable.

this just lays out so clearly the other side of that edge, of being so full of love and understanding for others, augh

I had been sleeping on her floor. She liked me close.

aww, Applejack not thinking twice of this is so her

Her eyes were clear. Even as blank and late-night sleepy as they were, they had a clarity that I trusted. An honesty.

augh, that common ground of honesty again. and yeah, Pinkie didn't seem like she would be suicidal from where she was, but given Applejack's experiences it's very understandable that that is what she would fear.

She looked down at the ground. Her grip on the shotgun slackened and bit. “Jackie, everyone treats me like I… can’t. Or like I’m dumb, or too innocent, or too optimistic to get stuff.” She blinked forcefully. Thinking. “I know I’m a mess. I know I fall apart over the littlest stuff sometimes, and I know I make life hard for other ponies when I… y’know.”

i just really love this. it brings together so many things for Pinkie, and makes so much sense as what she would want in this moment, informed by the entire history of her character

It was the shadow of her parents. Ever-present in her mind, even if I couldn’t recognize it. I could now, though. I saw the thoughtful, tired eyes of her mother. The stoic and harsh jaw of her father. The way she held onto them, and them to her. Like ghosts.

i mean, do i have to tell you how beautiful this is? Pinkie's relationship with her family is played in the show for laughs, with the joke being the contrast between her and the rest of them, but in a way she only fully works as the character she is with this background running through her, and argh, i feel inadequate to even comment on this!

V: Shotguns

i couldn't let this pass without commenting on how great it is. i'm sure it is everyone's favorite stage of grief after this

I tried to hang onto that thought as we pressed through the forest. Who knew such dense woods were right on the rock farm’s outer edges? Maybe that’s what rock farming did to the landscape. Maybe rock farming killed things.

oof, a lot to think about in this sentence. and it's a nice touch that this is the first chapter that Applejack cannot relate to a memory of her own experience of grief

Ponies aren’t okay with it, I’d told them. Ponies call it the k-word, I’d explained. You can’t say it. Not even for a laugh. Not even when you mean it you can’t say it.

augh, love this bit of cultural worldbuilding that also takes an aspect of the show that is a result of its rating seriously. brilliant stuff

It was cool out here. That was… bracing. A break from the constant heat out in the fields, or even in the house.

augh, so fitting to the place we are in the story! love it

Maybe that’s all grief is. Maybe it’s a shape in the dark that you run from, cower from, only look at out of the corner of your eye. Maybe it’s a monster that takes your parents and roams the woods, waiting for another chance to strike. Maybe you have to run after it. Maybe you have to gun it down.

augh, beautiful

I picked at the thread in my brain and unraveled a memory of Winona, having stomped a shrew to death out behind the barn, taking a roll in the carcass before I could pull her off.

herbivorous ponies having to deal with what their omnivorous/carnivorous pets do is an interesting thing to think about

"Limestone?"

oof, so close to another tragedy piled on top

She was family. And I loved her. Oh, I loved her. I loved her anger. I loved her pride. I loved her stubbornness and her resilience and middle-sister outcast rebelliousness matched with pony-pleasing peacemaking perfectionism—I always had, hadn’t I? Ah, feathers. It hurt.

absolute chills here, augh

I wanted to stop it. But it just kept coming. I wanted to melt into the ground. But it just kept coming. I wanted to run away but I knew it would keep coming. I wanted to run.

it's interesting how the bear is described in terms that would be reserved for some sort of otherworldly monster or cryptid in human stories. this feels like tapping into the ponies' instinctual fear of predators as prey animals, and i love it

A pressure that said ‘I’m here and I’m staying until this is over’ but also was only hooves on flesh and maybe that’s all it felt like.

and augh, that this moment keeps happening again and again in the story between the two of them, always meaning the same thing despite the different stages each is in each time

BLAM

can't add anything to this. just love the way you pile on the emotional meanings onto these climactic moments

Acceptance is when, for a long time, nothing explodes. And it’s only late at night, when you remember how long it’s been since your mind blew up, that you think about it until you’re crying so hard you can’t breathe.

But even then, you can recover.

i am collecting so many ways to describe this process, like paintbrush strokes that come together to suggest an image that can never be fully captured

Maybe it was all the distraction. This was something of a party, after all.

I don’t know that she sees it that way.

there is something here, with Pinkie having last lived (rather than visited) in this place ending with a party in her fillyhood. and now, marking what is really a life stage of its own, as awful as it is

“Sure thing, sugar cube,” I say, reaching over her to pick up the tray. “In fact, I think I might join you. It’s getting a little stuffy in here.”

Pinkie looks at me.

“If that’s okay, a’course,” I add.

Pinkie smiles. “Yeah. That’s okay.”

augh, this feels like a moment. Applejack learning Pinkie more

Wakes are a funny thing--so many of the ponies here are just friends of friends, folks who don't even have the wherewithal to be sad, and yet feel guilty for being bored or uncomfortable or confused.

ah, love how this captures that social liminal space that is awkward to describe being in

Rarity is sticking by Maud, their odd little friendship bubbling up now as they chatter about… I dunno. Rocks, I guess. I still can’t read Maud so good, but she seems engaged, at least. Distracted.

aww, and yeah, of the rest of the five, Rarity definitely gets along with Maud the best.

She’s special like that. The rules don’t quite apply to her the way they do the rest of us.

ah, again, taking what is normally a gag in the show about Pinkie and giving it this wonderful depth! ah, to see Pinkie through Applejack's eyes, how lovely

Familiar to any farmer, rock or apple.

love this sentence

"Oh, it’s what everyone says," I mutter. "You could get that advice from dang near anyone."

“Well, then, it’s stupid when they say it,” she says. “But I believe you.”

love this, too

She looks pretty, but that’s a stupid thing to say, too.

I say it anyway.

“You look pretty today.”

auauaugh


there is just an incredible amount to digest here, and i feel like i need to be better at words myself to express my thoughts about this amazing story, but i'll try my best. and of course, this is more me speaking about what i got out of the story than anything else, and i may be being too much or something, just a warning!

“All three.” Pinkie hangs her head, partly in shame and partly to hide the embarrassed smile that twists up her face. “Yeah… it’s silly, but I wish I could go back and be like that again. There’s just so many rules when you’re a grown-up.””

this rings so true to the innocent misunderstanding of these concepts at this age. and this links up to Pinkie's sisters' characterization of how Pinkie relates to others: her lack of distinction in closeness and trust with strangers and friends and family alike is a sign of immaturity to grow past, making her not act like one would expect an adult to. and of course, their view of it is that adult realities must be kept from her, whether it be the death of her parents or that the "adult" thing to do is to be discerning with how you love and trust and commit emotional energy to others. (the comment on how friends of friends must feel at a wake is another example of this! the adult thing to do is grapple with the awkward contradiction and just get through it.)

“I think the most important thing in the world is to be with ponies who feel like family,” I say at last.

She looks at me.

“Is that what you meant?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, see?" I nudge her gently on the shoulder, and she sways. "I knew what you were tryna say.”

and this! that mutual understanding of something so easily misunderstood. of course what the family-minded mares would be looking for, consciously or not, would be ponies who are "like" family but not literally so.

and spoilers because this is just me rambling:

this contrasts with ponies like Rarity, who does not have any trace of this tendency at all in her. what she is seeking is an archetype to match her own search for meaning in the abstract space of ideas that her aesthetic mind arranges so well. Twilight i imagine the same way, though less emphasized. (much more room in the canon for her being aromantic, even, though i don't take her in this direction myself.)

but Pinkie and Applejack don't have or need such ambitions. Applejack's only goal is to reproduce her own family, since nothing would make her happier than the Apple Family being secured through another generational cycle through her own life. in her ideal, whoever she settles down with will be woven into the fabric of the Apple Family itself, and what better way to do that than for said pony to be made up of the threads of the Apple family reärranged, as expressed beautifully in the previous chapter. (and if not, it will always be a site of tension and compromise.)

Pinkie is more complicated! she doesn't want to exactly recreate the family she grew up in. she was different and misunderstood enough that she was better off living apart from them as a child. (augh, what a contrast! Applejack leaves home but finds out that she is better off where she started. Pinkie leaves home and never looks back.)

but the antithesis of her family doesn't feel right for her in light of this story (imagining, say, a Skystar-type). there will be romance and a relationship there, but what will distinguish it from being an intense friendship, in the end? a hardship like this to show the mettle inside, and augh, i'm sure there is a wonderful story to be told there. but here, Applejack feels perfect: a synthesis between the world she left and the world she sought. in the world she sought, she is a fixed quantity, everything about her defined by making others happy in a way that did not discriminate between strangers, acquaintances, and longtime friends.

but her bond with her sisters here is an odd specificity. they would have nothing to do with a pony like her were it not for them being family. so of course they are who she turns to when she's tried doing everything her own way and hasn't gotten anywhere. they can feed her back something that is not a reflection of the very specific type of relationship she cultivates with basically all creatures. (and augh, that is what "A Friend in Deed" was about, wasn't it? that Pinkie has a need to control her relationships with even newcomers to town to a degree that can be awful for all involved!) so, yeah, it must hurt Pinkie all the more that her sisters in this story are just feeding her own reflection back to her. understandable for them to do so, but not what she needed.

she needed Applejack, who combines the earthy qualities of her sisters with being "normal", which is seeing a reflection of herself and her experiences in Pinkie rather than a filly who never grew up.

and augh, i hope that was coherent in some way! it just feels like this story has deepened my understanding of these characters to the point that i cannot think of the relationships between Pinkie and her sisters, or Pinkie and how she understands herself, or how Applejack approaches grief, in any other way. and i know i started a whole ApplePie contest, but wow, it feels like i didn't truly understand what it meant to ship them until i read this fic.

and as a final personal note, i feel like i can see myself on the same journey as Pinkie when the time comes for me. that there is this bit of growing up that i have not faced yet but will face, after which i will never quite be the same again. and i will have to read this story again after then, to see it with a new level of understanding that goes deeper than my head. i just hope that i am blessed enough to have the love and support Pinkie found when i do. but in any case, thank you so much for this story, and for all the important and true things it says

I was following this story before I made an account: there were no comments then and only a handful of views, so can I say first? Pwease? :raritystarry:

This is a beautiful story. It handles the subject of grief beautifully, and I'll admit that the onion ninjas got me :fluttershysad: This is going straight into my favorites. Congrats on first place! You deserved it.

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No bc your rambling is exactly right!! Family seems like an easily-defined word, but it's so so so different to different people! Applejack ascribes to the common definition (anyone related to me, however distant, is my family), Rarity might have a more narrow view (Sweetie Belle, but not her parents), but Pinkie absolutely just collects family wherever she goes. I think it's because she feels like she needs it, honestly.

But fr. As usual you just get it. It's so rewarding to write something about concepts this abstract and then have you just pin it down exactly

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