• Published 20th Jan 2013
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The Irony of Applejack - Mister Friendly



Applejack has never told a lie. Merely... omitted some details about herself...

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Chapter 1: The Secrets We Keep

Chapter 1: The Secrets We Keep

“More Apple Fritters, coming right up!”

The teal blue stallion’s declaration was met with a hearty cheer from several dozen other earth ponies, some of which were already eagerly scrambling to claim a plate or two.

Apple Split could only smile at the huge gathering splayed out before him; over a dozen family members, some of which he hadn’t seen since he was a tiny colt, were all present and accounted for. By the looks of it, not a single Apple had missed out on the event, and odds were ponies down in Ponyville were well aware of that fact, too, given the ruckus they were all making.

Hoedown was up on the farmhouse porch playing a banjo with an almost maniacal zeal while his little daughter, Fiddlestick, watched with utterly rapt attention.

Ponies were hooting and hollering and more than a few were up and dancing, and even Aunty Granny Smith was doing her darnedest to shake a hoof or two.

Nearby, Macintosh was peering into an aromatic vat of cooking fritters, his eyes uncharacteristically wide with intrigue.

Well, he was trying, anyway. The little colt just wasn’t quite big enough to get his nose over the lip of the pot to peer inside, but he certainly was getting a nose-full of the sweet, sugary seasonings.

Apple Split couldn’t help but chuckle. “Ya hungry, Mac?”

The little colt looked up slowly, but instead of saying anything, he just nodded.

Split chuckled to himself again. Well, he’s certainly got the silent part of ‘strong and silent type’ down…

The teal earth pony stepped a bit closer, glancing around in a conspiratorial sort of way and dropped his voice.

“Well, tell ya what. Since you’ve been such a big help, how bout Ah give ya a reward fer workin’ so hard?”

That got the red colt’s attention.

For the first time, his eyes lit up, and when he started furiously nodding his head, Apple Split could’ve sworn he heard a cowbell rattling.

“Ha, alright, alright, settle down now. Just sit down right there and give me a few. Just gotta get the next batch out fer coolin’ off.”

He was only halfway done before Mac had already claimed a chair and clambered into it. He may be a colt of few words, but he certainly was displaying his expectancy well enough without them.

Split shook his head, still laughing to himself before turning back to his duties.

With expert ease and precision, he quickly snatched one of the baskets hanging from a cauldron and dipped it into the boiling vat.

One swift motion later and out came his prizes; three fresh, steaming fritters, so moist they looked to be in imminent danger of disintegrating into a single mushy mass.

At the table, Mac was gazing over like a pony seeing for the first time. Any wider and his eyes might just fall out of his little head. It’d be a memory Apple Split never forgot; the sheer awe in his big eyes was truly something to see. The long tendril of drool, however, was not quite as charming.

“Stop teasin’ the poor boy, Split.”

The stallion in question turned to see a brown-coated mare trotting away from one of the other cauldrons, the handle of a fritter-filled net in one corner of her mouth. She shot her cousin a rueful grin that was somewhere between amused and admonishing.

“Keep pressin’ yer luck and ya’ll probably be walkin’ home minus a limb or two,” she teased. “The kid eats like a horse.”

Split rolled his eyes. “We’re all horses, Apple Seed.”

“Now yer just gettin’ insultin’,” his cousin chided back playfully.

“Just hurry up and get me a plate already, ‘fore we have to explain why Mac’s gnawin’ my leg off.”

Apple Seed laughed, very nearly spilling her own plate.

She, like Apple Split, was no stranger to fritter-making. It was almost a practiced dance for her; practically prancing forward in time with Hoedown’s hectic tune, and with an almost dainty buck of her hind quarters, she sent the Apple family specialties arcing through the air, straight onto an awaiting platter – all performed seemingly in a single swift motion.

It’d taken her years of practice, a couple wasted fritters and a black eye or four to achieve such a rhythm, and odds were that there’d never be another fritter-tosser like her again.

Pity her accuracy wasn’t quite as good.

True, she got the treats onto awaiting plates with unerring accuracy. Unfortunately for the owner of one particular plate, however, the still-molten fritter was more than a little… well, molten. And he was rather hungry.

“Hot-hot-hot!” he screeched, somehow managing to play hot-potato with his own tongue.

To his credit, the stallion still swallowed the fritter whole, even as he dove for the only nearby source of relief; an apple bobbing barrel.

While nearly every Apple in the general vicinity had a laugh at their family member’s expense, Apple Seed neatly snatched up an unclaimed plate and deposited it on Split’s back in one pirouette, continuing her dance like nothing had even happened.

The stallion wasn’t sure if she was playing a joke on him or not, because she just winked and pranced away, barely contained snickers trailing behind her.

Ah swear I'll never get that mare...

Still, Apple Split made use of the plate to deposit his own cache of fritters before they dissolved on him.

While still casting an eye towards the clearly-still suffering family member – if the loud glug-glug sound was anything to go by – Split made his way back to the fritter table.

But that was when he made a rather unexpected discovery.

“Hey, where’d all them apple fritters go?”

Normally, the absence of apple fritters was not an unusual thing. Usually they were lucky to keep more than a plate or two filled, even at maximum production.

And that’s the way it’d been… up until a few seconds ago. Now there was only a flipped plate and a couple syrup smears, most certainly not the state they’d been in when Split had turned his back.

Now, initially, he had a pretty good idea who was responsible, having seen how… voracious… a certain red colt could be when hungry, and he was halfway around to glare an accusation at little Macintosh when a strange sound caught his attention.

He couldn’t be sure, but… it sounded almost like a child cooing, and… burping?

Following the sound, he stuck his head down beneath the table, and came across a rather unexpected sight.

“And… who’re you, little one?”

“I’m Appwejack! Mo appwe fwitter?”

Of all the things he’d been expecting to find, it was not a little baby filly sitting amid the carnage of what’d once been two plates-worth of fritters.

She was splattered with syrup – there was even some in her little mane – and her distended belly looked like it should’ve been painful. And yet she was all smiles and sunshine.

Apple Split couldn’t help but give the filly a huge smile.

“Aw, well ain't you the just the most precious little thing,” he laughed.

Applejack smiled back more than a little hopefully.

She reached behind her and grabbed hold of the plate lying toppled over on the dirt, and with a little effort, presented it to the adult before her.

“Mo fwitter pwease!”

The older pony chuckled under his breath before reaching down and scooping up the little filly.

“After we get ya cleaned up.”

With that, he set the gorged filly on the table.

To her credit, Applejack only pouted a little, perhaps still envisioning more sugary treats in her imminent future.

To Apple Split’s surprise, he found Macintosh leaning over the table at him, gazing towards the little filly with curiosity. “Howdy, Mac. Come to see what all the excitement was about?”

He nodded without looking away from the orange toddler seated in front of him.

“You two know each other?”

Mac finally looked away from Applejack, but before Split could see his response, somepony called out behind him.

“Hey Split! We got fritters ready fer… coolin’? What’s goin’ on here?”

The stallion in question turned towards Apple Seed, who was trotting over, a curious look on her face.

More specifically, she was aiming that curiosity towards a certain little orange baby pony.

“And… who’s this?”

“I’m Appwejack,” cooed the filly in question.

“Aw,” Apple Seed giggled, “well ain’t she just the cutest little thing. But…”

She paused, thinking for a moment. The longer she thought, the more her brow furrowed until she had developed quite the confused frown.

“Who is she?”

“I ain't got the foggiest,” Apple Split responded, scratching his head.

Both ponies exchanged bewildered looks, scratching chins in thought before turning to the only other pony present.

“Uh… Macintosh.”

The colt in question looked up, once more distracted away from the little orange filly in front of him, who’d worked her way around to regard him, too.

“Do ya know who this here filly is?” Apple Split asked, gesturing towards Applejack.

Macintosh glanced between uncle and aunt, down to the filly, and then with very big eyes…

He shook his head.


~~***~~


Several years, a couple adventures and one wedding later…

It was a beautiful autumn day, the first in a while.

It was that magical period just before the Running of the Leaves where all the trees were filled with nothing but fiery reds, oranges and yellows, and the chill in the air was just enough to wake anypony up in a hurry, but not enough to warrant bundling up just yet.

In the sheltered, shaded places, the scent of rain water and wet earth still clung to the air, a byproduct of several days of backlogged weather, but otherwise it was a brisk, wonderful day that warranted at least a few minutes to appreciate.

Even at a certain apple farm, the orchards had become an almost magical place, each row almost glowing under the noon sun, and when the cold breeze picked up, one could almost imagine the trees were filled with dancing flames.

By any standards, it was a good day to stop and smell the roses.

And Rainbow Dash was not enjoying any of it.

In fact, to her, a ‘good day’ sounded like doing exactly the opposite of what she was currently doing; being out and about, and more importantly, awake.

“Twilight,” she groaned, hovering a few inches off the ground by the tips of her wings alone, “remind me again why I have to come with you?”

The purple unicorn in question trotted a few paces in front of her, looking rather absurd wearing yellow galoshes to ward off the thin layer of mud caking the country road.

“Come on, Rainbow,” Twilight said without turning around. “Aren’t you a little worried?”

In truth, she was more than a little worried.

Okay, so she may have asked Twilight to come with her to Sweet Apple Acres to check up on their friend. That’d been before she’d found out somepony in weather management forgot to log nearly a month’s worth of weather, and most certainly it’d been before the three long… long days of playing catch-up she’d just gone through.

To say Rainbow was dead on her hooves would be an understatement.

But she was worried. And she didn’t do worried.

“Maybe just a little,” Rainbow brushed off.

Twilight just rolled her eyes. She knew her friend well enough by now to tell when she was downplaying. “To tell the truth, I wanted to check up on her sooner, but… well, you know how things have been since the wedding.”

Rainbow just grunted.

Twilight seemed to take that the wrong way, because she threw a reassuring look over her shoulder at her friend. “I’m sure Applejack’s doing just fine. Hay, with Applebuck season over, I bet she’s having a nice, quiet day on the farm!”


~~**~~


“How in tarnation did y’all do that?!” Applejack cried, aghast.

She was staring at the Apple family barn, which had somehow developed a rather large hole in one of its walls – a pony-shaped hole.

A short ways off stood three little fillies, all covered in grime and dust, looking about as guilty as three fillies could get. The only Pegasus of the group – an orange filly with a purple mane – had bits of splinters in her coat, and seemed to be a little wall-eyed.

Now, Applejack had a very good idea about what had happened. But considering the Scootaloo-shaped cutout was very nearly encompassing the barn’s soaring roof, too, Applejack just couldn’t wrap her head around the sheer mechanics of it.

“We, uh, kinda… sorta… built us a catapult,” said Applejack’s sister, Apple Bloom.

Her big sister rounded on the little, bow-wearing filly with a truly astonished look on her face. “How?! No, scratch that – WHY?!”

This time, it was Scootaloo who responded, if not rather drunkenly. “Cutie Mark Crusader Astronauts, ya-ay,” she warbled, throwing a hoof up into the air before falling over onto her back.

Applejack was horrified. But, being Applejack, she reigned herself in before she could blow up. Instead of screaming at the fillies, she breathed in long and deep, put one hoof to her face, and counted to ten.

Her head was already throbbing something fierce, so she chose the short, succinct approach for laying down the law.

“Apple Bloom? Yer grounded,” she said tersely.

“Aw…”

“Sweetie Belle?”

The white, pink-maned unicorn stepped forward, head bowed apologetically.

“Yer grounded,” Applejack finished.

“What? But… but you’re not my sister,” Sweetie Belle tried to complain, trying very hard not to sound petulant. She failed.

And Applejack was not in the mood for it.

Applejack gave her a look that instantly wilted her defiance. “Yer grounded.”

“Yes Miss Applejack, ma’am,” Sweetie Belle whimpered.

“Same goes fer you, Scootaloo,” Applejack growled, but when she turned around, she found the little filly still lying on her back, her legs in the air.

“Oh horseapples…”

That was the scene Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle made their grand entrance on – a damaged barn, an enraged Applejack, two cowering Crusaders and one unconscious pegasus.

“I feel like I missed something,” Twilight remarked, somewhere between bemusement and worry.

The unicorn’s comment caught Applejack’s attention, drawing her gaze away from the downed filly.

“Twi? What’re y’all doing here?” she asked, confused. Applejack only glanced towards the rainbow-maned Pegasus hovering in her wake, who was trying very hard not to laugh at the spectacle laid out before her. She was failing, but she was trying.

She’d seen Rainbow Dash around the orchard enough by now to not really care why she was there. If she had a tree for every time she found the ornery Pegasus napping in one of her trees, she’d have a whole other orchard by now.

However, the purple unicorn was something of an abnormality.

“Oh, I just came to visit,” Twilight said as she approached. Her eyes roved over the scene once more. “Um… is now a good time?”

Applejack frowned, but kept her comments to herself. Twilight “just visiting” never really happened, either. Call her crazy, but she was getting the sneaking suspicion that the unicorn wanted something…

And before anyone else could say a thing, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle chimed in.

“Oh golly, Scootaloo sure looks hurt!”

“Yeah, we better get her to the hospital!”

And without further explanation, the two grabbed their friend and bolted in a cloud of dust. The two newcomers watched them go, truly confused, before turning towards Applejack for an explanation.

Applejack’s frown deepened as she heaved a long-suffering sigh. “Cutie Mark Crusaders.”

No more questions were asked on the matter.

“And Ah’m sorry, Twi, but Ah ain't got time to chitchat right now,” she added, turning away.

Only to have her path immediately blocked by a cyan pegasus.

“Oh come on, AJ! You’re always busy.” Rainbow Dash griped.

She had a notorious – and almost infamous – habit of getting right in a pony’s face when she was frustrated or angry. That day, it didn’t do her any favors, especially with Applejack’s current mood.

“At least some of us are,” the tired farmer snapped.

Rainbow, being the explosive mare that she was, was only an instant away from pointing out the Tartaurus she’d been through these past few days in as loud a volume as equestrianly possible when Twilight intervened.

“Applejack, we’re just worried is all.”

that derailed her irritation, redirecting her attention back to Twilight.

“Worried? Whatever for?”

Twilight’s expression turned somewhat sheepish, but mostly she looked somber, like she was trying to be very careful with her choice of words.

“Well, ever since the wedding…”

Applejack shift uncomfortably and sighed. This was not the first time she’d had this discussion, and considering she knew it was going to end the same way, it probably wouldn’t be the last, either.

“Ah already told ya that ah’m fine, sugarcube.”

“You took a whole week off afterward,” Dash deadpanned, sounding as unconvinced as she looked, and considering she was hovering with her hooves crossed over her chest, that was very. “You never take time off.”

“Rainbow has a point, and now you’re working twice as hard as before,” Twilight said, taking a careful step forward.

“We all had some issues after the changeling –”

“Ah told ya, Ah’m fine,” Applejack interrupted, stamping her hoof.

Twilight flinched back half a step, which of course made Applejack feel lousy.

“Ah… Ah’m sorry, sugarcube. Today’s… taken it out of me.”

“Headache?”

Applejack blinked, then turned once more to Rainbow.

“Wha…?”

RD shrugged, playing at being aloof. She was even reclining on her back while still airborne – a feat only a Pegasus like her would ever think to try, let alone master to such a nonchalant degree.

“You get headaches. That’s, like, the only time I ever see you take a break.”

Dash had been expecting a wide variety of emotions; astonishment, embarrassment if she was lucky.

She was not anticipating panic.

“Ya've been spyin’ on me?!”

Both mares once more found themselves backing away from Applejack a bit.

“No, no,” Rainbow said quickly, waving her hooves, “I just heard you tell Big Mac sometimes, then you’d go off somewhere to rest and – hey, why are you getting on my case? I’m trying to be considerate here!”

Applejack had to almost physically wrestle with herself to keep herself from exploding this time.

In the back of her head, her headache clenched down like a vice, squeezing…

It was making her short-tempered, she knew that, but as long as both Twilight and Rainbow lingered around, she couldn’t do a darn thing about it, and that was making her even more irritable.

She didn’t like snapping at her friends – made her feel downright lousy, in fact – and the fact that it was her friends that were making her irritated made her feel even worse.

“Why does it even matter, Applejack,” she heard Twilight ask.

“Ah-Ah just like some privacy sometimes, is all,” she said quickly.

Neither mares bought it, but they didn’t have the luxury of questioning further. They were interrupted by an immense red form appearing from around a tree like he’d been hiding there the whole time.

Stoic and passive as ever, Big Macintosh surveyed the scene with only his eyes. He stood nearly head-and-shoulders taller than anypony present, and that fact alone was enough to get their attention squarely onto him.

“Everythin’ alright?” he asked, turning to his sister.

“Yeah, Big Mac,” Applejack sighed, leaning her head against one hoof. “Just having a… talk.”

Both mares exchanged sheepish looks, but said nothing. So Applejack used the opportunity to press on.

“Look, it’s mighty kind of ya to be worried about me, but Ah’m tellin’ ya everythin’s fine. I just took the time off to clear my head, so quit sweatin’ the small stuff.”

She offered a weak smile; an apology of sorts. “Ah’m sorry fer yellin’ at ya. That wasn’t fair. But Ah got a lot of work to get done before we bring in winter, so… why don’t ya’ll come ‘round some other time?”

Twilight spent a couple seconds searching her expression, her frown only deepening. “O…kay, Applejack. Some other time then.”

“Ah’ll hold ya to that.”

Rainbow, however, didn’t look like she was ready to back down just yet. She had on that stubborn look Applejack knew almost too well – partly because she could mirror it almost perfectly – but luckily it didn’t have to come to an endless merry-go-round of arguing.

“Come on, Rainbow,” Twilight said. “Let’s go.”

When the Pegasus showed no signs of complying, Twilight sighed, lit her horn, and dragged her friend out by the tail, much to her chagrin.

“Hey! Twilight, we talked about this!”

“Arguing won’t do anything, Dash,” Twilight stated.

Rainbow fell silent until they were well out of earshot of the two siblings, but her glower remained in full force.

“You know she’s lying, right?”

“Of course.”

~~***~~

Applejack watched them go before breathing a sigh of relief. That sigh almost snarled up at the end when her head compressed painfully from the inside. But she cast it aside as best she could.

“Welp, back to wor-oof!”

It certainly wasn’t one of Applejack’s more graceful moments; turning and immediately colliding with a big red barrel chest.

“Big Mac, what in tarnation are ya – ”

“Nope.”

Applejack blinked, confused. “Nope? What’re ya –”

She was cut off when she saw the hard, meaningful glint in her brother’s eye.

“Yer not workin’ no more – not today,” he stated.

“Like hay Ah am!” Applejack snapped. “Don’t you start gettin’ on mah case, too!”

“Ah’m gettin’ on yer case cuz nopony else will,” Big Mac said flatly. It was the closest thing to a snap he was going to get, but the effect was the same; it made Applejack flinch a little.

It was rare for her brother to ever get angry. Most of the time, he was careful not to step on anypony’s hooves, even when somepony deserved a good stomp or two, and while his current demeanor couldn’t really be considered furious in any capacity, it was how stern he spoke that drove the point home to the farmer mare who knew his moods.

“Ah can still work,” Applejack complained, but even to her it was starting to sound more petulant than defiant. “Ah… Ah don’t need to rest. Ah can muscle through it, just you see.”

“Ya never have before,” Big Mac pointed out.

His eyes softened, becoming almost sad. “An’ it’s hurtin’ me seein’ ya try.”

Big Mac never talked about his feelings. Hay, he rarely talked.

Hearing her brother actually voice his emotions on not one but two instances back to back made Applejack cringe… and finally cave. At least, in poor grace. She was a stubborn mare, after all.

“Ah… Ah don’t want to…”

“Ya need to.”

“Ah don’t want to need to…”

“Don’t matter.”

Applejack hung her head, the pain of her all-too familiar and much-hated headache pounding away at her ability to formulate arguments.

When she spoke next, her voice was barely even in the audible range.

“Ah… ain't one of them.”

Even though it was hardly a whisper, anyone could’ve heard the miserable quaver that shook through each word.

A hoof came to rest against her head, ruffling her mane through her hat.

“Ah know.”

When Big Mac removed his hoof from her head, Applejack looked up into her big brother’s face.

What she saw was a welcome sight; a small, yet heartfelt smile adorning his face.

“Go rest up,” he ordered. “Ya’ll feel better.”

He was right, of course. Applejack always felt better once the headache passed; not so prone to temperamental outbursts and irritation.

But still… she was more than a little reluctant. But what else could she do?

The answer was simple.

She sighed and nodded her head.

“Alright, you win. If ya need me… ya know where to find me.”

“Eeyup.”

Applejack could only heave a sigh at that before she trotted off, head held low, as she made her way not to the farmhouse, but to the edge of the property entirely – to the edge of the Everfree Forest.


~~***~~


The trek was a quiet one, through orchards that rarely got the attention of anypony but the farming family. Back here, the trees were older, more gnarled; some of the trees were older than Applejack, and possibly older than Ponyville itself.

While the ordered rows remained, the wild, unchecked sprawl of the trees made this part of the orchard feel more like a manicured extension of the dreaded woods that lay just beyond.

Tree canopies mingled overhead, creating a continuous mass of shade only broken up by the occasional dapples of autumn sunlight finding its way to the cool earth below.

As she approached, Applejack could just make out the boundary line; an ancient fence that barred off the Apple farm from the untamed wild that loomed within a stone’s throw from the fading wooden border.

And there, sitting amidst the oldest trees the farm had to offer, sat a run-down old shack.

Calling it dilapidated would be too harsh. Calling it rustic would be too kind. It was somewhere in between; a well-used, lived-in cabin that’d likely seen more winters and summers than anyone but the elderly matron of the Apple family herself, and it wore its age with grace.

It was a small, worn thing, whose paint had long since been stripped away by the ravages of time, leaving in its wake bleached wooden slats. The roof sagged, the windows were grimy and crusted, and the choice of locale was anything but ideal.

And to Applejack, it was home away from home.

She quietly marched up to the front steps, making the porch creak and pop in familiar ways as it took her weight, and carefully pried the front door open.

The house smelled of dust and ancient, ingrained notes of cinnamon; a nostalgic aroma that brought back years of memories. Most of the paint on the inside had faded, as well, but Applejack could just make it out – partly because she knew where to look, and what to look for.

Almost everything in the shack had been removed; furniture, mostly. Only a few old pictures hung from the wall – displaying family members Applejack had no personal memory of – a few cupboards adorned the kitchen, and in one of the four rooms of the house, a small bookcase, desk, and a lumpy cot were all pressed up against one corner, directly beneath a window.

Applejack headed for that cot, letting countless memories of days spent dwelling on that very mattress wash over her as she approached. She almost collapsed straight into it, her body begging for some form of rest.

But she hesitated.

Instead, her eyes drifted over to the corner of the room; towards a vanity mirror that’d stood there for as long as she could remember.

It was shaped almost like a horribly elongated apple; one stretched to be nearly twice Applejack’s height. The wooden frame still had a faint, faded coat of red paint, topped with two green leaves at the very top with a cobweb spanning between them and the wall behind it.

Even though the mirror was old and dusty, Applejack could still clearly make out her own form, silhouetted as it was by the cascading afternoon light flooding into the room from the window behind her.

She could easily make out the familiar orange coat and long blonde mane, the emerald eyes and the trio of apples stamped on her flank; all things she knew to be hers.

But she couldn’t help but stare at it with unease.

It was irrational – it was just a mirror, after all – but in her heart, she feared it.

Because she knew what would soon occupy it.

For just one more moment, she considered toughing out her near-debilitating headache. If she could… if she could just overcome this obstacle…

But it was hopeless.

With every passing second now, her head beat her down harder and harder.

Resigned, Applejack swept the hat from her head and dropped it to the floor in front of her.

She trained her eyes on the Stetson for a moment until, finally unable to restrain herself any longer and much to her guilty relief – she let go.

She closed her eyes against the bright emerald flash that tried to penetrate past her eyelids, and for a moment, she felt a heat comparable to the hottest summer day course over her body, tail to nose, starting from her hooves and working up her body as quick as a gust of hot air.

And for a moment, she basked in the sheer relief of having her headache disappear from her aching, wearing head.

It was as if an immense weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Tension she’d been unaware of loosened throughout her body. Already she felt lighter, more healthy.

She sighed in release and sagged a little… before opening her eyes.

The mirror was not reflecting her anymore.

Nowhere in its mostly clear surface was there an orange earth pony mare with bright green eyes and a long mane the color of freshly lain straw.

Instead, a monster dominated the mirror; a black creature with limbs full of holes like they were munched on by caterpillars. A creature with a fiery orange mane and a matching set of eyes – eyes ringed with not one, but two sets of irises around cat’s eye slits.

A creature with pointed fangs and gossamer, translucent wings and an amber carapace across her back and a gnarled horn upon its head.

A creature called a changeling.

Applejack stared at the monster in the mirror, and it stared back with forlorn eyes.

Up until recently, that creature hadn’t bothered her, hadn’t made her feel like her heart was shriveling.

But now, every time she saw it, all she could see was a mass of emotionless, merciless, icy eyes staring back at her, grinning and cackling without pity. Every time she saw that face now, she remembered the wedding; fighting monsters wearing the faces of her friends, challenging a queen so twisted and heartless that it’d nearly broken hers.

Every time she looked into her own eyes now, all she saw was the memory of that queen and the evil she’d nearly ushered into Equestria.

Was that what she was? All this time, all these years… had that been what she was?

Without really thinking about it, she found herself standing directly in front of the old mirror, facing the creature almost nose to nose.

She scowled at the creature, and it scowled back, hatred in its eyes.

Here, she saw her answer.

“Ah ain't one of you,” she told it quietly.

The creature mimicked her perfectly, speaking in time with her.

“Ah never was, and Ah never will be.”

She leaned in closer, so close that her nose was just barely kissing the cold mirror’s surface.

“My name is Applejack. Ah ain't no pony, but… Ah ain't one of you.”

Author's Note:

And so it begins...
This story was the byproduct of a night of drinking... followed by a morning of thinking.
I always found it weird that that pony at the Apple family reunion had no idea who AJ was. You'd think her parents would've introduced the family to her or something, and they were clearly alive back then, seeing as Apple Bloom couldn't have been born yet.
So my explanation? Changeling. Shut up, I was hammered.
Anyway, feel free to comment, critique and question my sanity. Lord knows I do it enough on a daily basis.
And before anyone asks, yes - I did take the end of the Canterlot Royal Wedding into consideration.
Let the hi-jinks ensue!