When Rarity must take a last minute business trip to Manehattan, it falls on Applejack to take care of Rarity's beloved pet, Opalescence.
There are two types of ponies in the world: dog ponies, and cat ponies.
Anyone with two eyes in their head could easily determine which categories both Applejack and Rarity fit in. But, when Rarity must take a last minute business trip to Manehattan, it falls on Applejack to take care of Rarity's beloved pet, Opalescence.
The problem is, Opalescence doesn't like Applejack.
She woke up even earlier when she wasn't in her own bed.
Even without opening her eyes, she knew something was amiss. Wherever she was bed was too warm, too soft … and too crowded. Slowly, Applejack opened her eyes. Sure enough, there she was: a gorgeous, white-coated unicorn, curled up happily against Applejack's side, still fast asleep.
As Applejack began to wake up, the little details of the previous evening came back to her: a last-minute delivery to the Cake's for some kind of catering order, an ahead-of-schedule and only slightly out of control rainstorm courtesy of Rainbow Dash, and Rarity's insistence that Applejack get in out of the cold.
Solid evidence that the previous night hadn't been a dream were scattered all across Rarity's bedroom. The cover to Rarity's record player was still open, even though they'd turned it off hours ago. Two empty teacups sat on the bedside table, faint traces of hot toddy at the very bottom . Given the amount of whiskey Rarity had put in them, Applejack figured they were a little more 'hot' than 'toddy.' Or was it the other way around?
And then there were a few selections from Rarity's 'private collection,' as she'd called it. Most of the filmy, gauzy things still hung in place, even if the last one Rarity had modeled was conspicuously out of place, still crumpled up at the end of the bed where Applejack had tossed it out of the way. She couldn't help but take a small measure of satisfaction at the sight.
Applejack briefly considered going to start breakfast (or at least coffee). It'd be polite, after all. Then again, starting breakfast would mean getting out of bed, which would mean prying herself out of the comfortable tangle of blankets and unicorn legs, which would be the most terrible thing that had ever happened.
Rarity stirred, and blinked her eyes open. She turned slightly, and rested her chin on Applejack's shoulder. “Good morning.” She said with a sleepy, satisfied smile.
“It's Saturday, you know.”
“So? You got someplace to be?”
“Quite the opposite, actually.”
Applejack blinked. “What's that s'posed ta-”
Rarity leaned up and kissed the side of Applejack's neck.
“Oh.” said Applejack. She blushed, but craned her head to the side in order to let Rarity explore further. Applejack closed her eyes and settled in, figuring that one lazy morning probably wouldn't hurt anything. It was a quiet, perfect moment of utter peace and contentment.
It was about three seconds before the cat showed up.
“Mwer.” Opalescence materialized mere inches from Applejack's face, hitting the mattress hard enough to make the springs squeak.
Startled, Applejack instinctively rolled away from the white poofball that filled her field of vision. Various sappy declarations of romance aside, Rarity and Applejack remained two separate ponies, and as such, they were unable to occupy the same space.
Rarity started with a naughty giggle as she felt Applejack shift her weight onto her. “About time you started being more assert-” her teasing trailed off into an incoherent “oof!” as Applejack inadvertently rolled her full earth pony weight onto Rarity. The unicorn fussed for just a moment, and then used Applejack's momentum against her. With a little assist from her telekinesis, Rarity shoved Applejack off of her- and off the side of the bed.
Applejack hit the hardwood floor with a heavy thump. There's no dignified way to fall out of a bed, and the way Applejack landed was just more proof of it.
“Ah. Sorry about that, darling.” Rarity stuck her head past the edge of the bed. “But what in the world were you doing?”
“That darn cat came outta nowhere! Damn near clawed my eyes out!”
“Mew.” Said Opalescence. She hadn't moved from the spot where she'd landed. In fact, the cat looked smug (well, smugger than usual) now that Applejack had vacated her immediate vicinity.
“Oh! I almost forgot! Opalescence gets very cross if she doesn't have her breakfast exactly how she wants it, exactly when she wants it. Isn't that right my darling little princess? Who's a good kitty? Yes you are! Yes you are!” Rarity cuddled the fluffy feline and trailed off into incomprehensible, infatuated gibberish.
“Mew.” Said Opalescence.
Rarity neatly stepped over Applejack's prone body as she slipped out of bed. “Now come, darling, it's time for breakfast! I just got some salmon pate' I absolutely know you're going to love.”
“Salmon whatnow?” Applejack kicked her legs, disentangling herself from the sheets she'd pulled off the bed with her.
“I was talking to the cat.”
Opalescence only lingered on the bed long enough to shoot Applejack a haughty look (haughtier than usual, which is saying something) and then daintily prowled after Rarity, her tail swishing.
“Next time,” Applejack said, more to herself than anything, “we're stayin' at my place.”
While Rarity fussed with Opalescence's breakfast (“the fish must be diced just so, or else it shall give my poor kitty indigestion,” Rarity had noted), Applejack poked around the kitchen, and managed to scrounge up enough to prepare a basic breakfast of biscuits and applesauce. And coffee. Rarity at least had plenty of that.
“You shouldn't have!”
“I almost didn't. I swear, Rarity, I had to dig all the way to the back of the cabinet to find a baking sheet. Most of yer kitchen's filled with nothin' but fancy dishes n' teacups. How do you even eat?”
“I'm afraid my talents trend more towards couture than culinary. More often than not, all I need is a quick oat bar in the morning before I get on with my work. Although … “ Rarity dabbed at the corner of her mouth with a napkin, “A more … robust repast is certainly a nice change of pace. I could get used to this.” She finished her breakfast, and then floated her dish into the sink.
“Mmm, if you'll excuse me a moment, Applejack, I've just a bit of paperwork to attend to before I forget. And afterward, well … I may allow myself to get distracted again, if you've rested up enough. She winked at Applejack, and then trotted into her office with an extra sway of her tail.
The stack of envelopes were right where Rarity had left them the day before. By rote, Rarity began to sort through the mail. “Bills, bills, invitation to one of Pinkie Pie's Parties, bills, and … oh.”
“Is that a good 'oh,' or a bad 'oh?'” Applejack poked her head in from the kitchen.
“Bad 'oh,' then. Got it.”
Rarity's lovely features cycled through several expressions. Surprise, then fear, and then the righteous anger of an artist who'd been done wrong. “I can't believe this! After all the trouble I went through to source that fabric, my supplier in Manehattan has only now bothered to inform me that they've lost my initial order.” Fuming, Rarity shot a glance at the kitten-emblazoned calendar hanging from the wall. “Damn! Damn it all! Don't they know I'm on a schedule? At this rate, my Spring line won't be ready until Fall!
“That ain't no good.” Applejack frowned. “Anythin' I can do to help?”
“No, no.” Rarity shook her head. “Frustrating as this is, this isn't an insurmountable issue. It's nothing I can't fix … personally. I'll just need to make a quick jaunt to Manehattan. Immediately. I'll sort everything out with my distributor, and then haul the fabric back with me on the train. Shouldn't take longer than a day or two.”
“Glad ya got a plan. Want me to go with ya?”
“Oh darling,” Rarity smiled wanly, “I would love to spend more time with you, but once I reach Manehattan, I won't be able to spare a minute.” Rarity bustled from one end of her office to another, packing her saddlebags as efficiently as she could. “It'd be unfair, to leave you at loose ends while I'm playing businesswoman. You'd get bored, and quickly.”
“I've had worse.”
“I know, dear. But, the sad fact is, there's absolutely nothing you can do to assist me in this endeavor.” She paused, and then snapped her head upward. “Except, perhaps, for one small thing … “
“Opalescence. Someone will need to take care of her.”
“Huh.” Applejack narrowed her eyes and looked over to where the white cat was curled up on a corner of Rarity's couch. “You sure?”
“Honestly, I'd ask Fluttershy, if it weren't such short notice. And Twilight has too much on her plate already, with her new regal duties. Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash aren't … the most responsible sorts, as we both know. And as for my sister, well … I love Sweetie Belle, but I also love it when my shop is not on fire.”
“Got a point there.” Applejack said, recalling the last misadventure the Cutie Mark Crusaders had been up to. It'd taken a week before they were able to get the stains off the ceiling.
“All you have to do is make sure Opalescence is fed, twice daily. You just need to make sure she gets fed promptly between seven and seven-fifteen in the morning, and between six and six forty-five in the evening. She's likes her routine, you know. All you need to do is cut the fish so each morsel is just smaller than her mouth, but still big enough that she has to chew it thoroughly. It's absolutely vital that she chew each mouthful of food no less than five seconds, and no greater than thirty. Any slower, and she'll choke herself, and any further, and she'll give herself gas. Once she's eaten you'll need to make sure her litterboxes are properly cleaned, and by the time you've finished with that, I imagine little Opalescence may be in the mood for a little bit of exercise. She likes the feather on a string the most, except when she doesn't. You'll know when she doesn't like it because she'll get a tad … bitey. Regardless, whatever you do, and whatever Opalescence may try to tell you, do not, under any circumstances, give her any catnip. I am a proper lady, with a proper reputation, and I simply shall not abide any pet of mine lolling about in a drug-induced haze, like some poppy-brained layabout.” Rarity huffed, and buckled her saddlebags shut. “Did you get all that?”
“Think so?” Applejack said.
“Good, good!” Rarity beamed, and walked over to kiss Applejack, however fleetingly. “I am so, so sorry for the short notice. I promise, I'll make it up to you as soon as I get back.”
“What, you gonna look after Winona for awhile?”
“I'm sure I'll think of something.” Rarity winked at Applejack, and the cowpony felt her heart start to beat a little faster.
“Or, uh, that works too.”
“Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to hurry if I'm to catch the next train.” Rarity plucked an umbrella from the stand near her door, and set out into the drizzly morning. “Ta ta!”
Applejack watched Rarity leave, and sighed a little. Even if it wasn't as perfect as a morning as she'd hoped, it wasn't that bad, after all.
“Looks like it's just you n' me, cat.” Applejack said.
Applejack had just enough time to get back to Sweet Apple Acres and take care of a couple of chores before she started back towards Ponyville to take care of Opalescence. Even still, the clock mounted above Ponyville's city hall was chiming seven o'clock as Applejack trotted up to Carousel Corner. No sooner had she opened the door, Applejack began to regret agreeing to playing pet-sitter.
On the plus side, at least Rarity's boutique wasn't on fire.
And yet, over the course of those few hours, Opalescence had hit the boutique like the world's tiniest, angriest hurricane. Applejack could hardly believe that what had once been the fru-fru-iest place she'd ever set foot could now look like … this.
Great rents had been torn into Rarity's curtains, and into several bolts of cloth she'd left laying around, and even several items from Rarity's own wardrobe. Applejack glumly reflected on how the filmy black thing with the lacy bits was far less enticing once it'd been reduced to its component threads.
Opalescence had hit the kitchen, too. A bag of flour lay disemboweled on the tiled floor. The half-shredded label had read five pounds, but Applejack swore there must have been ten times that amount of white dust coating everything in the room.
Mostly, Applejack just swore.
Seizing on what silver lining she could, Applejack could at least track Opalescence's path through the boutique by the little white pawprints. She followed the serpentine trail through Rarity's house 'til they came to a halt beneath one of Rarity's wardrobes. Or was it an armoire? Or a portable closet? Applejack briefly wondered what the proper fancy-pants term was.
The important part was the flour covered, angry cat hiding beneath.
“Alright li'l critter.” Applejack crouched down to peer into the shadow beneath the heavy cherrywood wardrobe. “Y'all's made enough trouble. Let's get ya fed, and then let's get you cleaned u, and then- DAMMIT!” Applejack clutched at the quartet of little red gashes that Opalescence left across her nose.
“FFT!” Opalescene spat. She glared out from her hiding spot, dug in as stubbornly as any soldier.
“No good li'l varmint!” Applejack swept a foreleg beneath the wardrobe, only earning more flour-lined scratches for her trouble. She gritted her teeth against the pain, and pushed herself forward with her back legs. She wedged herself beneath the the heavy wardrobe. “Get out here!”
Opalescence shot out from her hiding spot and zoomed past Applejack in a powdery streak. The cowpony swore, and twisted around to follow. But, with her front leg still underneath the heavy armoire, Applejack found herself momentarily wedged in place. Without time to think of a better idea, she fell back on the oldest of earth pony solutions: brute strength.
The wood of the armoire pressed into Applejack's shoulder as she levered it upwards. She then realized, too late, that she'd pushed it too far. The heavy piece of furniture tottered precariously upon two legs, listing heavily to the side.
“Nononononono-” said Applejack.
“Yesyesyesyes,” said Gravity. Translated into English, it came out as more of a “CRASH.”
The doors of the armoire flew open as it hit the floor, and last winter's fashions spilled out like the brightly colored entrails of a fabric beast. There were lots of socks, for whatever reason. Applejack got back onto her four hooves, and winced as she looked over the damage.
Seeking higher ground, Opalescence leapt onto a set of curtains, and scrambled upwards. The delicate cloth tore beneath her claws. Applejack at least noted that the cat had shredded the bottom part of the curtains anyway, so it's not like a few more tears would matter. Optimism.
Opalescence perched upon the curtain rod and glared down at Applejack with hateful disdain.
Applejack just smiled. “Got you know, critter!” She galloped across the room and seized the curtain in her teeth. With a single yank, she pulled the curtain rod out of its fasteners, and the whole lot (including Opalescence) clattered to the floor.
Applejack put her rodeo skills to good use. It took a bit of improvisation, but after a few frantic, hissing and clawing filled seconds, Applejack bundled Opalescence up in the remnants of the curtain, and tied the impromptu bag off at the top with a sturdy knot.
“That'll hold ya!”
Opalescence yowled her disapproval, and kicked a clawed paw against her curtain-based prison.
“-fer a li'l bit.” Applejack said. Improvising again, Applejack tossed the sack into the toppled armoire, slammed the doors shut, and jammed a ruler she'd found on Rarity's sewing table through the handles to bar it closed. “That's better.” Applejack concluded. She wouldn't put it past Opalescence to somehow claw through the thick cherrywood, but at least that would take her some time. Whatever winter fashions were left in the wardrobe would just have to be acceptable losses
“Okay, so … this ain't … too bad.” Applejack mused. “Just gotta get everythin' cleaned up. That's it.” She wondered briefly if she was talking to herself, or to the cat, and which of those was worse.
Opalescence's mournful yowl echoed from within the barricaded wardrobe.
“Right. Talkin' to myself 's better.”
The cat's imprisonment gave Applejack time enough to dab her wounds with iodine, and time enough to concoct a plan.
Cleaning Carousel Boutique would be a daunting task, but not an impossible one. There wasn't much Applejack could do for the shredded fabric and curtains, but knowing Rarity, the unicorn would take it as an excuse to redecorate. Applejack groaned a little, imagining the hours of minor adjustments and comparisons that she knew she'd get roped into. It'd happened several times before, even prior to when she and Rarity had become an 'item.' Applejack still wasn't sure what the difference between 'ivory' and 'pearl' was.
Applejack knew she'd have to deal with that later. She also knew it wouldn't do to clean up the Boutique only to have a flour-encrusted cat demolish it again.
Opalescence would need a bath.
Applejack filled the kitchen sink with soapy water, and, for good measure, she wrapped her front hooves in some strips of heavy fabric she found laying around Rarity's workshop as a sort of makeshift armor. She hoped the thick cloth would be enough to stop Opalescence's claws.
So equipped, Applejack carefully opened up the armoire. The cat hadn't yet clawed her way out of the impromptu sack she'd been imprisoned in, which made the transport over to the kitchen sink all the easier.
Applejack held the bag above the sink and shook the knot on the ragged bundle of curtain loose. Opalescence toppled out in a fury. Immediately, the cat lashed out with teeth and claws at everything within reach, but Applejack was ready for it, and leaned out of the way just in time to avoid more wounds.
“Huh. So that's what that sayin' means.” Applejack mused.
Opalescence's fit lasted just for only a split second. As she tumbled through the air, the flour-encrusted cat registered the gleam of water below her. With the sort of dexterity that would put circus acrobats to shame, Opalescence twisted around in midair, planting each of her paws at the four corners of the sink. She braced herself, keeping herself out of the water- though stretched out, there was no way to get anywhere else.
In a rare instance of self awareness, Opalescence realized her precarious position. Once the epiphany hit her, the cat did the only thing she could.
“Oh, c'mon! It's just soap n' water!” Applejack said. “Stop yer' whinin'!”
Opalescence stared at the cowpony, and yowled louder. It was a high pitched, mournful sound, the sort of lament natural to the unjustly bathed. Bereft of hope, Opalescence sang her own funeral dirge.
Applejack grit her teeth against the pain rising in her eardrums. “Stupid cat.” She placed a hoof on Opalescence's back, trying to push her down into the water. The cat turned her head to bite at Applejack in retaliation, but she couldn't twist around properly to sink her teeth into flesh. Denied the violent option, Opalescence only cried louder.
“C'mon!” Applejack leaned on the cat, but she stayed put. “Get. In!” In her own way, Applejack was trapped in her own conundrum. She had to get Opalescence into the water … but at the same time, if she used the full extent of her farm-honed, apple-bucking earth pony might, Applejack ran the risk of breaking Opalescence's spine in half.
For the briefest of moments, Applejack was tempted.
Applejack shook her head, however- she simply couldn't bring herself to hurt Opalescence, even if it was more out of affection for the cat's owner rather than sympathy for the feline herself. And so, pony and cat found themselves locked into a stalemate; Applejack couldn't force Opalescence into the sink without hurting her, and Opalescence couldn't hurt Applejack without falling into the sink.
With each nudge of Applejack's hooves, Opalescence screeched louder, and louder still, like the world's most horrible musical instrument. The cat spat and cried, while Applejack muttered and swore. The two might've been stubbornly locked into their back and forth for the whole night, if it weren't for the sudden interruption.
“Don't worry, kitty cat!” Fluttershy kicked in the door to Rarity's boutique with the urgent might of a pony twice her size. “I'm coming!” Her sides heaved with the effort as she dashed into the shop.
“Fluttershy!” Applejack blinked, and looked over her shoulder at her friend. “Thanks Celestia you're- OW!”
Seizing opportunity with all the instinct due to an ambush predator, Opalescence twisted around and pounced upon Applejack while she was distracted. Claws extended, she scrambled up the length of her foreleg, scurried over Applejack's back, and leapt off of her apple-emblazoned rump before streaking between Fluttershy's legs and out the door.
“Applejack?” Fluttershy skidded to a halt, shocked. “What're you doing here? You didn't hurt Opalescence, did you?”
Applejack rubbed at one of her fresh scratch marks, and shook her head. “I was tryin' to give that damn cat a bath, that's what!”
“Oh.” Fluttershy said, “that's all? Because from the sound of it, it sounded like someone was trying to hurt her. A lot.” The righteous fire in Fluttershy's eyes faded away, as if someone had flicked a switch. “You know I can't stand it whenever anypony's mean to animals, so I just had to help. Oh dear.” She looked over her shoulder at the shattered doorjamb. “Rarity's not going to be upset about the door, is she?”
“She's gonna be more upset that her lousy cat's done a runner!”
“Oh no! Opalescence has lice? No wonder you wanted to give her a bath!”
“That ain't what I-” Applejack shook her head, and ran for the open door. “Nevermind! You gonna help me catch Opalescence, or do I gotta do it by my lonesome?”
“You know I'll always help, Applejack. At least, you know, whenever there are tiny animals that need helping.”
“I was hopin' you'd say that. Now c'mon! We gotta get that critter 'fore she really gets into somethin'!”
“Welp.” Applejack said. “She really got into somethin'.”
While Opalescence's flour coating had been shaken off for the most part, the cat still left little traces of white powder, allowing Applejack to put her tracking skills to good use as she followed the faint trail. They'd almost caught her already a few times, but every time Applejack got too close, Opalescence would sprint away as fast as she could, only to disappear between the boards of a fence, or beneath the axles of a parked cart, like some sort of tiny, fluffy ninja.
And finally, Applejack and Fluttershy found a few flour-flaked footprints leading right into the Everfree Forest.
“As much as I 'preciate the help, Fluttershy, I can't rightly ask y'all to head into that damn scary forest on my account.”
“Oh, that's alright.” Fluttershy said, “I'm not doing this for you, I'm doing this for Opalescence! She's too sweet and delicate for the Everfree Forest!”
“Uh. Right.” Applejack rubbed at a scabbed over scratch on her foreleg. “Delicate.”
“I'll fly, so we can cover a bigger area.” Fluttershy said, already taking to the air. The pet emergency had dispelled her namesake shyness. “You stay at ground level, and just yell if you see her, okay?”
“Uh, sure.” Applejack said.
“Good. I'll be close!” With speed that would've made Rainbow Dash proud (or possibly jealous), Fluttershy zipped off, just above the treeline. Fluttershy could be quite the flyer if given the right motivation.
With polite company gone, Applejack allowed herself the luxury of a few choice swear words as she stomped into one of the most dangerous stretches of geography Equestria had to offer. She'd been into the Everfree before, and she knew she'd go into the Everfree again- but never on account of something so simple and infuriating as a lost cat. It made a lot more sense to risk life and limb when the fate of Ponyville was at stake.
It was already dark by the time Applejack and Fluttershy had made it to the forest, but as soon as Applejack stepped past the treeline, the long, grasping shadows of the tall oaks nearly blotted out the moonlight. Crickets chirped, owls hooted, and somewhere far in the distance something large and predatory-sounding let out a mournful howl.
Applejack gritted her teeth, wishing she was hearing Opalescence's horrible cries instead.
Without a good look at the moon and stars above, Applejack had no way to tell how long her search was taking her. Every now and again Fluttershy would stick her head down from the canopy to check in.
Applejack had just started crafting her apology/possible break up speech when she saw the cat curled up on the branch of a gnarled oak, at the top of a small ravine. Opalescence was damp and dirty, but looked otherwise intact. That same mad, hateful look was in the cat's eyes, so Applejack assumed she was alright.
“Welp.” Applejack pushed the brim of her hat up, and glared at Opalescence. “That was a hell of a chase ya done run, but it's the end of the line, cat. Now just c'mon down n' we'll get out of here.”
“FFT,” said Opalescence.
“Don't you hiss at me, ya li'l varmint! Can't ya see I'm tryin ta help you?”
“Why you no good, prissified, tuna-munchin', ratcatcher! I oughta just leave ya here!”
“Looks like we're gonna do this the hard way.” Applejack said, with no small degree of relish. As the cliche went, it usually took a firefighter with a ladder, or a passing superhero to get a cat out of a tree. Applejack, being the self reliant pony she was, needed no such assistance.
With practiced ease, she wheeled around and bucked both her rear hooves into the old oak, hard enough to make it shake. Opalescence yowled in surprise, and clutched herself to the bark.
“One way or 'nother, you're comin outta that tree!” Applejack kicked the tree again. “Way I figure, iffin' I can apple-buck a whole dang orchard, I can knock one lousy cat outta a tree.” The bark splintered a little beneath her hooves. Opalescence held on for a few more kicks before the inevitable happened, and she indeed fell out of the tree.
Right onto Applejack's neck.
Applejack swore as she felt the entirely too familiar sensation of tiny cat claws digging into her skin. She bucked and flailed, and soon felt the weight of Opalescence slip off of her back (leaving an octet of red scratches, of course).
The cowpony spun around, trying to catch sight of Opalescence once again. In her haste, Applejack's hooves slipped on a banana-peel slick patch of leaves. For a long, terrible moment, Applejack felt her stomach turn over- along with the rest of her as she hung in midair.
“Dangit!” said Applejack.
“Good to see you again!” said Gravity. Translated to English, it came out as more of a “THUD!”
Applejack bounced off the side of the ravine with tooth-jarring force, and began an entirely undignified roll down to the bottom of the ditch. By instinct, she clapped her hooves over her hat. Applejack had her priorities, after all.
She was able to save her headgear, but in doing so, she didn't see the patch of blue flowers at the bottom of the ravine. Spotted blue petals scattered in all directions as Applejack rolled head over hooves, until her undignified descent was halted by a thoughtful tree stump.
“Stupid cat.” Applejack said, and passed out.
Consciousness returned to Applejack in little bits. There was a moment of giddy elation as she realized she was still alive after that fall.
Soon after that, Applejack began to hurt. The tumble down the side of the ravine had bruised and bloodied Applejack in a dozen places, compounding upon the multiple scratches Opalescence had given her before that. Applejack couldn't feel any individual cut or scrape; they all just came together in a pervasive, general ache.
She'd felt worse, though she couldn't remember when.
Gingerly, Applejack stretched her legs one at a time, and then craned her neck. No bones broken, at least. That was a plus. She winced as she pushed herself up to her feet, and then opened her eyes. She was surrounded by enormous, alien greenery, as if she'd somehow been transplanted to a tropical jungle. Applejack looked up the length of a green stalk the size of her leg, and swore once she saw the spotted blue flower at the top.
The curse came out as a tinny squeak- and served as the last piece of a terrible puzzle.
“Poison joke!” Applejack stomped a tiny hoof. “Just had to be poison joke.” She shook her head, and began the long journey towards higher ground. “Timberwolves, hydras, dragons, all kind a nasty critters in this damn forest, n' I run across the one thing I can't kick. Rassumfrassum.”
Frustrated, Applejack pressed on. “Dunno how I'm s'posed ta even find-” Before Applejack could finish the thought, a large shadow loomed overhead, bringing a terrible realization with it.
At this size, there was little chance she would find Opalescence.
Opalescence had found her instead.
Slowly, Applejack turned- and sure enough, there the cat was, looming up above her. Pampered and spoiled as she was, Opalescence's primal feline instincts still ran strong. The recent trauma she'd been through had only served to amplify them.
“Uh. Nice kitty?” Applejack tried. From this new perspective, Rarity's cat looked entirely different. Claws that had once been a nuisance were now big enough to tear Applejack apart in one swipe. Breath that had once been merely unpleasant was now an unpleasantly warm wind, smelling of fetid meat.
Only the spiteful look in Opalescence's eyes was the same.
“MEW.” Opalescence said. Her tail flicked languidly behind her as she padded towards Applejack. The tiny cowpony gritted her teeth, and backed up slowly. It would only take a pounce and a bite, and it'd all be over. Unless Opalescence decided to play with her food.
Opalescence crouched down upon her front paws and pushed her butt up into the air, all the better to peer at Applejack with smug, murderous superiority.
“Welp,” said Applejack, “iffin' you're gonna eat me, 'least I get to do this.”
That said, Applejack swung her back hooves around and slammed both of them right into Opalescence's nose.
“Damn that felt good.” Applejack said, and took off running. One had to find the little pleasures in even the worst of situations. Optimism. It'd make a good subject for a letter to Princess Celestia if she made it out of the Everfree Forest alive.
Opalescence shot off after Applejack. But, for all of the cat's murderous instincts, she lacked much in the way of practical experience, while Applejack had gotten used to running from horrible monsters or chaos gods every third Saturday or so.
As soon as Applejack felt the air shifting behind her, she jinked to the side, narrowly avoiding Opalescence's pounce. She'd put on an extra bit of speed to gain more ground as the cat recovered, but Opalescence's longer legs were able to cover the distance in no time at all. Applejack's lungs began to burn as she ran faster and faster. Sweat beaded on her coat, and stung the dozens of cuts covering her now-tiny body.
Applejack knew she couldn't keep the pace up forever. All it would take was one slip of the hoof, and Opalescence would be on her in a fury of claws and teeth. It wasn't the thought of dying that bothered her the most- it was how she was going to die. She didn't know if “Here lies Applejack, eaten by her girlfriend's cat” was the most embarrassing tombstone ever, but it was certainly up there.
“Hold up!” Applejack said, and skidded to a halt on her hooves. She stared at a stretch of enormous (to her, at least) minty-green plants. Applejack smiled a grim smile- if she was remembering correctly, and if she was fast enough, she just might make it out of the Everfree alive.
Applejack sprang out of the way of Opalescence's pounce, and then took off at a dead run. The cat followed, so close Applejack could feel warm feline breath wash over the very end of her tail. Applejack panted for breath, and plunged into the copse of serrated-leafed plants
Applejack forced herself to keep her eyes forward, to keep running. If she was wrong, if she faltered … Applejack forced the thought out of her her head, and pressed on. Her hooves kicked up chunks of dirt and loam as she ran. When she couldn't go any farther, Applejack let herself stop. She tensed, bracing herself for the feel of claws sinking into her flesh … a feeling that thankfully never came.
Sides heaving, Applejack turned around. Sure enough, Opalescence had abandoned the chase. She stretched out on her back and rolled from one side to the other, occasionally batting at the leaves surrounding her. Opalescence's deep purr reverberated through the ground like a localized earthquake.
“Tell ya what.” Applejack tottered closer on exhausted legs. “I won't tell Rarity ya got into the catnip iffin' you don't.”
Opalescence ignored Applejack, content to loll about in a drugged stupor.
“Heck, I won't tell Rarity 'bout any of this iffin' you don't.”
“You fell into some poison joke too?” Fluttershy said in a droll baritone.
“Eeeyp.” Applejack said from her perch on a still-intoxicated Opalescence's back. Once Opalescence had started to enjoy herself, it'd been simple enough for Applejack to construct an impromptu bit and bridle. Getting Opalescence to move, however, was considerably more difficult.
“Are you okay? Except, um, for the being tiny thing?”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“That's okay. I still have some antidote potion back at my house.”
One potion-bath, one box of adhesive bandages, and a quick raid of Fluttershy's fridge later, Applejack was back to her normal size and well on her way to recovery from the previous night's mayhem. Opalescence, on the other hand, was still in a dopey haze. This was just fine by Applejack- it was a lot easier to handle a fuzzy, boneless, cat-shaped pillow than the hellacious terror was Opalescence's default setting. Between Fluttershy's expertise with animals, and Opalescence's sedation, the gentle pegasus had even been able to bathe the normally murderous feline, and comb the burrs and leaves out of her silky fur without a fuss.
This done, Fluttershy took a shower, and Applejack sprawled out on the couch for a much needed nap. The sun was just rising as they got back to Fluttershy's cottage- Applejack figured she had earned a lazy morning. All she needed was a few hours of shut-eye (and possibly a glass or two of her namesake), and she could forget the previous night's mayhem entirely.
No sooner had Applejack tilted her hat over her eyes, Rarity burst through Fluttershy's front door.
“Applejack!” Rarity gasped, breathy. “There you are!”
“Uh, yep!” Applejack said, and rolled off the couch. “Here I am.” She tried not to sound guilty.
“Over there?” Applejack nodded to the cardboard box set up on Fluttershy's windowsill, where Opalescence dozed in the morning sun.
Rarity spared a glance for the cat, nodded, and then threw herself onto Applejack in a desperate embrace. “Oh, darling!”
Applejack probably would've enjoyed the sensation if it weren't for the fact that Rarity managed to squeeze at least three of Applejack's biggest bruises in her enthusiasm. Applejack bit back a pained squeak.
“I came over as soon as I saw my boutique- it was a disaster!”
“Yeah,” Applejack scratched at the back of her neck. “'bout that-”
“It must have been horrible! Some nefarious villain kicked in the door to my shop, and then they laid waste to the entire first floor! I'm just lucky that such a brave pony was there to stop them!” Rarity ran a hoof over Applejack's much-bandaged hide. “Gasp!” she said the full word. “Look at your wounds! They didn't hurt you, did they, darling? When I saw such destruction, I had feared the worst!”
“Ain't nothin'?” Applejack said.
“Pish posh! It is certainly something, or else you wouldn't be bandaged up like this! To think, my dearest friend, my amour, would shed her very blood not just for me, but for my beloved Opal!”
“Not a word!” Rarity held a hoof to Applejack's lips. “I can only imagine living through such a terrible ordeal once was enough! I will not have you reliving such trauma a second time, relating it to me! Besides, I don't think my delicate sensibilities would hold up. You'd get to some particularly gory part of the story, and I would absolutely faint! And I haven't even brought the proper furniture!”
“Hold up, that ain't-”
“It is!” Rarity said, “and that is the end of this discussion, do you hear me? Perhaps, someday, when this trauma is far behind the both of us, you can tell me the sordid details. But you must know, darling, that I have a lady's delicate sensibilities! Why, you need only look to my dearest Opal,” Rarity abandoned Applejack, and went over to cuddle with the mostly-comatose cat.
“Mwer,” said Opalescence. She flopped against Rarity with all the ambition of a tree sloth. Everfree Forest catnip was a potent thing.
“You see? The very trauma of last night has reduced poor Opalescence to a catatonic state! No pun intended, of course.”
“Of course.” Applejack said.
“Now then,” Rarity tilted her chin up, “I absolutely shan't let some attempt at robbery or sabotage hold me back! Now that I can see you're alright, I shall return to my shop take poor, dearest Opalescence, and begin rebuilding! In the meanwhile, I fully expect you to do everything needed to ensure your full and rapid recovery. Which means no rushing off to overwork yourself or brawl with the latest horrible disaster or monster or what have you!”
“Hmf!” Rarity hmfed. “You are entirely too correct in that matter. But, luckily for the both of us, I have a plan! You see, by my estimates, the time needed for you to properly recover is quite coincidentally the same amount of time I'll need to effect repairs and clean-up … and possibly make something new for my 'special collection,' hm?”
Applejack moved her mouth up and down a few times, but no words came out. For someone who had seen some of the choicest selections from Rarity's special collection, it was an entirely justifiable response.
“That's what I thought.” Rarity draped Opalescence around her neck like a stole, and shot Applejack a flirty smile. “Now then, as much as I'd love to stay and assist in your convalescence, I need to start reassembling my boutique. I just needed to make sure that Opal- I mean, I needed to make sure that you and Opal were both alright.” Rarity leaned in and planted a kiss on Applejack's freckled cheek. “Now please, do be careful, hm? I meant what I said about my special collection. I've been feeling … inspired.”
And with a swish of her tail and a whiff of perfume, Rarity sauntered off.
From her position around Rarity's neck, Opalescence looked up. She blinked a few times, and then, with a great deal of effort, she turned her head towards Applejack.
“Mew,” said Opalescence, smug and content. Applejack glared at the cat until Rarity delicately eased the cottage door shut with a hind hoof.
Fluttershy stuck her head out from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her head.
“Was that-” Fluttershy frowned, and coughed delicately. “Was that Rarity?”
“Oh dear. Has she been back to her shop yet?”
“Really?” Fluttershy said, “are you sure? Because it was kind of a mess when we left, and we didn't have to clean up. She wasn't mad about that?”
“Not … 'zactly?” Applejack shook her head. “To be honest, I ain't much sure just what happened myself. But I've learned that sometimes, ya just gotta shut up n' roll with it.”
“Wow.” Fluttershy said. “That sounds pretty profound. Are you going to write Princess Celestia about it?”