A/N: I could say this is a new story, but that would be a bit of a lie. I've had eight chapters of this done and uploaded on FIMfiction, but never got around to uploading it on here. But for those of you that don't like for whatever reason, here it is. It's gotten quite the positive response from readers, so I do hope you enjoy. As always, please R&R and let me know what you think.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters associated with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, nor the original story. Any and all OC's are owned by their respective creators.
Chapter 1: Chained
It truly is amazing how much you can adapt when you're forced to. Some people would even eat their own kind if it meant survival, and I suppose if things ever got that bad, I might do the same...
If there were any of my own kind around.
I was a minority in a world I didn't understand, though I didn't even know if being known as the only one of your kind could even be counted as being a minority. The fact of the matter is, I'm an alien from another place, and that alone has gotten me quite a bit of attention, some good, some bad.
Many months ago, I was a part of an experimental project to rip holes in space-time to create "portals" to other realms. It would have been nice had I been a researcher on the project or something similar, but no...I was just a paid slab of meat, ripe for use.
The truth was, I hadn't even known what the experiment was about. I just found it as an easy way to get quick cash for a mother's day present, but the confidentiality of it all meant I had no clue what I was getting into...and frankly, neither did the "experts". They weren't going to tell me that of course, because what person in their right mind would subject themselves to what I did if there was a breach of safety in the matter? I sure as hell wouldn't have...but then, I didn't know.
It was supposed to be a simple procedure. The portal-thingy was supposed to make sure I could pass through to this other world, and the (now useless) dimensional fabrication beacon (DFB) was supposed to ensure I could get back. The small piece of metal and plastic (that I still kept for some reason) was supposed to ensure the portal remained open long enough for me to take observations of my arrival point, and then leave. The problem was, observations of the place had only been made in a visual way...
It didn't account for what you couldn't see.
Magic...it was the basis of the entire world I now knew as Equis. It ran lights, cooled and cooked food, kept houses warm and cold, and even helped with the passing of days. This magic also ensured one other thing...the safety of the people that lived on the world.
I remember that first day when the planet itself fought back against an invader...against me. I didn't know it at the time, but I had later learned that the sentient magic of the planet had locked down the web of energies around it, keeping me from leaving and ensuring that nothing would ever come upon it the way I had.
This of course meant that I was likely stuck here for awhile.
Yes...it was something humans were not familiar with. An entire planet was sentient to a degree, actively adapting and evolving to protect those who lived upon it. I had been deemed an invader of unknown origin and of unknown intentions...and so, as any smart protector would, it isolated me from reinforcements and left me alone and helpless in a possibly-hostile world. Had I not been so fearful, I would have been impressed.
Instead, I was terrified and angry.
I mean, I wasn't a scientist, or a soldier, or anything that would be useful in this situation. I was just a regular guy that played football recreationally and was trained in survival on Earth...which with the flora and fauna being so different here, my survival training did me little to no good. Luckily for me, the piece of survival training that was useful, was the rule to take stock of your surroundings. Find shelter, hide, and observe and learn as much as you can...I found a few things about this place strange.
First of all were the inhabitants themselves.
They were small equines, the average being just a bit over four feet tall. Unlike horses from Earth, they were very flamboyant in their coloring, coming in literally every color imaginable, and the manes and tails were just as varied. Stranger still was the fact that not all of the ones I saw could be considered "normal"...even by fantasy's means. While most of them were perfectly fine trotting around (as an equine should), some had wings and could fly, while a few others had horns that allowed them to do all sorts of amazing things. It was the stuff of myths and legends on Earth, but here, it was apparently pretty normal.
Another thing I found strange was the speech. They spoke English...or at least whatever the counterpart language was called here. The written word was quite different, looking somewhat akin to runes and strange symbols, but I understood the spoken word perfectly. Obviously, I was quite surprised to find a colorful little horse talking (and took about a week on my own to come to terms with it), but was also excited that at the very least, if I could find a sympathetic and understanding ear, I might be able to get help.
The other things I found out were much later, on the day I'd come to call "falling into shit".
It was nearly two weeks after my arrival.
I was wet, cold, hungry, and tired...so it can be assumed I wasn't in my right state of mind. Most of the food these tiny horses ate, I couldn't...mostly because it was things like flowers and the like. Over the time I'd been there, I'd stayed close to the edge of a forest I'd found, surviving off of whatever small animals I could trap here and there, as I was too wary to attempt to try any of the vegetation. Eventually though, the hunger graduated to full-blown starvation, and I began to not care what I ate, so long as it took away the hunger.
That was how I met Applejack's hooves.
I had found a large orchard that grew what appeared to be apple trees, but as mentioned before, I was unsure whether they were edible or not. The equines ate them of course, but so much of this world was different that I simply couldn't chance it...not early on, however. As starvation hit me, I didn't care anymore, and snuck in the orchard in the middle of the night to gather what I could.
Being the careful one that I was, I tasted one of the fruits first, only to find that it was the juiciest, sweetest apple I'd ever tasted...and my stomach confirmed that yes, it was edible. In that regard, I'd also made a mistake and gorged myself on the fruit. With the hunger pangs gone, I had fallen asleep in the orchard...
Morning had come, as it always did, and I was awakened by a southern-style drawling voice, as well as a heavy hoof to my face by one orange pony. I remember thinking how strange it was that even with the pain, fear, and surprise that was dealt to me, I couldn't help but wonder how strange it was that all these equines had strange pictures on their rumps. I'd never been close enough to see them after all, so my run-in with the farmer had been my first experience in that manner. I'd only had a few seconds to wonder this though, as a swift kick knocked me out cold.
"What tha hay is it, Twi?"
"Hmm...I'm not sure. There's nothing in any of my books about something like this, so I'm sorry, but I have no idea. I think I should contact the princesses about this."
"What about tha rest of tha girls? Ya thinkin' Ah should go get 'em?"
"No...the less ponies know about this, the better. I don't want to risk anything until the princesses tell me it's not dangerous."
'Ponies,' I thought. So that was what they called themselves.
My face hurt like it had been stomped on, and I felt and tasted the blood on my face, as well as the fact that both my hands and ankles had been bound tightly. Unfortunately for me, as I woke, I also groaned loudly...so I couldn't very well just pretend I was asleep. So as I opened my eyes, I did the next best thing...
I played dumb.
I couldn't remember where I'd heard it before, but I remember some "specialist" saying that sometimes feigning ignorance was best, especially in the situation I happened to be in. I tried to act as much as possible in the ways that an animal would, though I realized later that perhaps my wearing of clothes dampened that effect. Still, I knew that if they thought I didn't understand them, they might reveal something useful.
One of them was a pony with a horn. She (I assumed it was a she by the tone of the voice) was a soft lavender color with an indigo mane and tail, with a single pink stripe in it. The pony had bright amethyst eyes, and though she was wary, she also seemed very confident of herself...confident she could deal with me if needed, and I was confident she could as well. After all, I'd seen some pretty amazing things be done with the power these horned ponies wielded, and I had no defense against it, really. I was weakened from nearly a week of bad exposure and starvation, and more than that, I was starting to lose the will to live.
She stepped close to me and eyed me curiously as I sat up, bringing my bound hands to rest in my lap. "Can you understand me?"
True to my act, I simply tilted my head and stared at her in what I hoped was confusion.
The two ponies sighed as the lavender one shook her head as she looked to her orange companion. "Well, I'm going to go and write a letter. It shouldn't take too long to get a response, but for the time being, just try and keep anypony from seeing it...it'll be less to explain."
"Ah gotcha, Twi." the orange pony looked me over, and I had to fight back a laugh when I noticed a cowboy hat on top of her head. She then turned back to her companion as she added, "Jus' hurry up...y'all know how AB can be, an' if she sees it, Ah'm pretty sure all of tha town'll know b'fore tha princesses even get here."
The lavender one nodded as she looked warily at me. "Alright then...hold down the fort. We'll be back as soon as we can."
The orange pony then looked at me and said, "Well, Ah guess it's just you an' me." She then turned around briefly and I heard running water, and then I watched as she turned to face me again with a damp rag in her mouth from the washbasin I hadn't seen behind her. She moved to sit in front of me before taking the rag in her hooves and saying, "Alright then, let's get you cleaned up. Ain't no good fer tha princesses ta see ya all mussed up. Let's get this blood off ya."
I found it somewhat surreal to be spoken to as if I were some clueless animal, but I had to remind myself that her current behavior was what I was shooting for. Whether I needed to escape or by some slim chance they weren't going to hurt me, I needed to gather every bit of information possible. Rational thinkers, whether they be ponies or humans, tended to feel more comfortable around an unknown variable if it was restrained and it couldn't understand them.
So, I allowed her to clean my face up.
As she did so, I couldn't help but notice certain things from her being so close. First of all, even being a farmer, she didn't smell like a horse. True that I'd never owned a horse of my own, but horses generally smelled really musky by comparison to a human. This pony on the other hand, seemed to smell only faintly of sweat and dirt, which I chalked up to her occupation. It hadn't been very difficult to figure out what she did for a living after all, what with the many farm tools around us, and the fact that she had found me on what I assumed was her farm. Still, her cleanliness put me a bit at ease, as generally good grooming went hand-in-hand with a higher-thinking society, that and the fact that the two ponies had been smart enough to tie me up.
The second thing I noticed was the fact that she was very gentle as she tended to me. She took care not to hurt me as she wiped the cloth across my skin, which meant that at the very least, she held no malicious intent against me...merely caution.
All of this worked to calm me as the pony continued to tend to me as we waited for the arrival of these "princesses".
A good deal of time had passed since the farmer pony had finished tending to me, but instead of leaving me alone in the barn (or at least I assumed that's where I was), she stayed with me. I couldn't speak to her of course, but it was somehow comforting having someone close by after such a long time in isolation. She was ignoring me for the most part of course, having brought some sort of papers with her as she looked over them, mumbling to herself.
An indeterminate amount of time passed further, and the next thing I knew, the large barn doors opened to reveal the lavender pony from before, who quickly shut the doors before her horn began to glow with a bright violet aura.
Moments later, a bright flash blinded me, followed by a crackling of energy and a rise in the temperature...and this in turn was followed by a pressure of some sort. I don't know how I knew, but at that moment I could tell someone else was in the room with us now. The air had become thicker somehow in a way I can't quite explain, and it felt like the air itself was actively pressing against me.
I kept my eyes closed, and for a long few moments, everything was silent.
Suddenly, a different voice spoke up, demanding, "Leave us."
The voice was powerful and commanding, leaving no room for anything but obedience, yet at the same time it was gentle. A soft shuffling was heard from beside me and across from me, and then I heard the sound of the doors opening and shutting again. I heard the soft clopping of hooves against the dirt floor until it stopped in front of me, and I gently opened my eyes.
At first I thought I was looking at the sun, because the sheer glare caused me to wince slightly as I cautioned to look, but after a few moments of squinting, the glare died down and I could see what I was looking at. It was another pony, though this one was significantly larger than any of the others. The mane and tail was also vastly different, as it was a sparkling rainbow of cyan, turquoise, aqua, and magenta, and both seemed to float in the air. The pony had both wings and a horn, which was the first of its kind that I'd seen. The coat was a brilliant white, and the eyes were also a soft magenta.
The pony towered over me, being about two feet taller than the other ponies I had seen, and looked even larger because of the fact I was currently sitting. It didn't help matters that the pony wore a small frown as it looked at me with scrutiny, and I had to fight to keep from squirming under its gaze.
Finally, the pony stopped inspecting me and gently sat down, asking, "Can you understand me? I ask that if you can, you don't play coy by pretending otherwise...it would be better if you cooperated."
I assumed that this had to be the princess I had heard about, and with her having at least two-hundred pounds on me and magic, I thought it better to do as she asked.
I nodded slowly, responding, "Yes...I can."
The pony smiled softly and exhaled. "Well, that's a relief. Things will be much easier now, so long as you are feeling cooperative." She then donned a rather disturbingly emotionless expression as she asked, "Now, who are you and why are you here?"
I gulped nervously before answering, "My name is Jamison Smith. I uh...I was sent here as part of an experiment to reach other worlds...and now I'm stuck here."
She nodded before asking, "And what are your intentions? Why were you sent here?"
I shrugged. "I was just told to come here, observe for a few minutes, and then leave. I don't know what the ones who sent me here were planning."
"Very well," she replied stoically, "and why can you not return?"
"I would show you, but my hands are tied...if you could untie them..." I suggested.
The princess pony shook her head. "I am not sure you can be trusted yet."
I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Fine...what I'm trying to show you is in the inside pocket of my jacket, on the left side."
The pony's horn glowed with a golden aura, and the aura opened my jacket and pulled the DFB out of my pocket. She held it aloft in her aura before asking, "And what is this?"
I shrugged. "I'm not sure how it works, all I know is that I was supposed to press the little red button on it and it was supposed to get me home."
The princess nodded a few times before putting the device down in my lap. "It appears Equis does not want you to leave."
I raised my eyebrow in confusion. "Who's Equis?"
"The planet we are standing upon." she replied simply.
My eyes widened a bit as I asked, "A planet can decide things?"
The pony nodded. "Of course. She watches over us...we are all her children. If she does not wish you to leave, you will not."
I felt a bit defeated at this and sighed. "Any idea why Equis wants me to stay here?"
The pony shrugged gently. "If it were me, it would be to learn from a new species and keep it from possibly bringing an army back. As for why Equis did so, I cannot say for sure, though I am nearly positive it is a preventative measure to ensure the safety of us all."
I nodded. "Makes sense...so what now?"
Again, the princess shrugged. "If you are asking if I can get you home, I do not know..I am sorry. In regards to what will change now, much will...though for the better, I think." The pony princess smiled as she said, "First off, we must get you shelter. Though a stranger you may be, I cannot sit idly by while one is exposed to the elements in an alien land. Secondly, we must find a way for you to contribute to the society as a whole. I am sure dear Applejack would wish you to pay her back in some way for the apples you ate, but it would also work in your favor to show the community that you are worthy of their trust and respect."
I nodded. "That seems to be appropriate. What did you have in mind as far as those?"
"Well," she began, her eyes turning toward the roof as she thought, "Twilight Sparkle is my personal protégé, and is also one of the most studious ponies I have ever known. I believe if I requested it of her and assured her you are safe to be around, she would be more than happy to have you...provided you would not mind her asking questions in an attempt to learn more about you and your kind." The princess then frowned. "Although, that and the other ponies may be difficult in itself. I have noticed that you have rather large canines, which I assume dictates you are a carnivore, correct?"
I subconsciously ran my tongue along the meat-tearing teeth, and shook my head. "Omnivore...I can eat plants and meat. And just so you know, I'm rather unusual by my own kind's standards...normally their canines aren't this large. I won't lie to you, I have to ingest some form of animal protein to be healthy, but the majority of my diet can be vegetables."
The princess seemed to relax a bit, and for the first time, I noticed as a genuine smile graced her features. "Ah, well we can work with that. You see, Twilight Sparkle lives with a young dragon by the name of Spike. His diet is much as you describe yours, although he can ingest gemstones as well."
I found it strange that not only did dragons exist but apparently they could eat gems too...for the moment however, I let the questions drop.
"Now," the princess began, her smile vanishing and a very serious expression taking hold, "we must talk about the terms of your stay here, however long that may be. Let it be said that I do not necessarily dislike you, simply that I do not know anything about you, and so must be wary on my subjects' accounts."
I nodded. "I understand."
"Good," the princess replied, "then you understand why I must warn you that should you have intent to harm any of my subjects, there is not a place you can hide and no distance you can run that will keep me from finding you and exacting retribution." She then stood tall, and the sun itself seemed to brighten through the rafters of the building. "I am Celestia, princess of the sun and the day, ruler of Equestria for the past three millennia. My subjects are my life, and to harm them is to harm me."
The nervousness again set in as I replied, "I wouldn't dream of it."
She smiled and replied, "For your sake, I hope not." She then used the strange aura she controlled to undo the ropes tying me up, and I rubbed my wrists as the bindings loosened. "Now, I will send Twilight Sparkle to fetch you after night falls. There is no curfew in effect, but generally speaking the streets in this town are rather empty after the sun sets. I will set up a assembly in a week's time to formally introduce you to the town so that you can be seen in public, but until then I must ask that you do not leave Twilight Sparkle's home except in the cover of night, and only with her escort. Is that understood?"
I didn't much like being treated as if I were plotting to overthrow the entire nation or something, but I also understood the princess' reasoning. So instead of showing my frustration, I simply nodded. "I understand, princess."
Satisfied, the pony stood back and nodded. "Good. I ask you simply be patient...I have promised Applejack, the farmpony that found you, a bit of coin for her trouble, so she will keep you company until nightfall. Get to know her well...she is a very influential and well-known pony in this town, and she would be a boon to you as an ally or friend. Sunset is in four hours, and Twilight Sparkle will arrive then to bring you to her home." The princess then shifted a bit uncomfortably. "Please be patient with her...she is rather excitable with situations such as this."
I nodded and allowed myself a smile, though dizziness threatened to drop me onto my backside again as I stood...likely from the hoof I took to the face. Once I had gotten my bearings by leaning against a wall nearby, I responded, "Thank you...really. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this."
The princess turned to leave, but looked back over her shoulder and said, "Do not make me regret it, Jamison Smith. I hope that if and when we do meet again, it is under better circumstances. Be well, and may the sun shine warm upon you."
The princess left the barn, and from just outside, I could hear muffled talking. A few minutes later, another flash of light accompanied crackling energy, and the strange pressure receded. I didn't have anything else to do and I didn't want to rock the boat so early in my stay here, so I waited patiently until I was addressed. A few minutes passed until the orange pony reentered the barn, closing the door behind her.
The pony walked over to me cautiously, and I noted that she just came up to my stomach when standing, and so in order to keep her from having to crane her neck up painfully, I kneeled so we could look eye-to eye.
"So, what are ya?" the mare asked after a few moments of silence.
I grinned and replied, "A human."
The mare rolled her eyes and said, "Y'all are gonna have ta be a little more clear 'n that."
I shrugged. "I'm basically a nearly-hairless ape that walks upright."
She nodded a few times before stepping forward and extending a hoof. "Name's Applejack."
"Jamison Smith." I replied as I reached out and enclosed her hoof in my hand, which was somewhat difficult seeing as how it was roughly the size of a closed fist. Still, I managed.
We released the hand/hoof-shake thing, and she smiled at me. "Well, it's nice ta meet ya finally. Why didn't ya talk when Twi and I found ya?"
I shrugged. "Nervous, mostly. I mean, I stole your food and you kicked me in the face." She started to protest, but I held up a hand and shook my head weakly. "It's okay, really. I gotta say that if I woke up one day to see a you rummaging through my fridge, I'd probably freak out too. I might not kick you in the face, but I wouldn't be above restraining you in some way." I realized what I'd said all too late, but thankfully this "Applejack" didn't take it as a threat.
Instead she smiled and chuckled a bit. "Yeah, Ah guess Ah can't really get mad atcha fer takin' a few apples anyway. Looks like yer starvin'."
I looked down at myself and realized just how pale and skinny I looked. For the first time in nearly a decade, I could see my hip bones, ribs, and collarbone. I had put on a bit of weight as I hit puberty and got a bit chunky with the desk job I got as a teenager, and tasty human food didn't help matters. So it was quite a shock to see myself thinner than I had been in a long time, though by starvation instead of diet and exercise.
Perhaps I could have a new beginning of sorts.
I looked back up at Applejack and nodded solemnly. "Yeah...it's been weeks since I've had a real meal. I've been too scared until recently to try any of the plants, and I certainly wasn't going to just waltz up to a pony and ask."
The mare quirked an eyebrow and asked, "And why not?"
"Because I was scared." I replied softly.
This just confused her even more. "Scared? Of a pony?" I nodded, and she frowned. "But...yer taller than most of 'em, and it's not like we're gonna eat ya or nothin'."
I stood again and said, "Do me a favor and stand up like me if you can."
The mare looked at me in confusion, but shrugged. "Ah'll try." The pony moved towards one of the beams near what looked like a horse stall, though I had a feeling that's not what it was. Anyhow, she brought her front hooves off of the ground and walked them up the wooden beam that separated the different pens until she was standing almost vertical. I assumed that because of the different body structures, it would be uncomfortable to go any further than she was, so I let it go. She looked back at me and asked, "Is this good?"
I walked over and nodded before looking her right in the eyes. Standing as she now was, she was nearly as tall as I was, shorter by only a few inches. I grinned and replied, "I figured as much. I'm only taller than you because I walk on only two feet instead of four."
Applejack dropped to the floor again and said, "Still, yer a big...umm..." She shifted awkwardly. "Ah'm sorry, but are y'all a stallion or a mare?"
It took me a few seconds to realize what she was asking, and when I did, I was honestly a little upset. I mean, I might not be Masculine McManly of Mustachia, but I figured that I was masculine enough to be able to tell...as if the voice wasn't enough of a clue.
I then had to remind myself that I didn't look like a pony, so it was likely that what Applejack would be looking for as far as masculine features, I probably didn't have...or they were in the wrong place. For example, I assumed that male ponies would be larger and more muscular than the females, but because of the malnourishment I'd suffered, I was little more than skin and bones...so that would not be the best way to classify me as male or female. Also, as much as it made me uneasy to think about, these equines were mostly naked. It would be rather simple to subtly check the "equipment" in case one was unsure, but I wore clothes.
"Can you really not tell?" I asked in mild offense.
She shook her head nervously. "Sorry."
I sighed and lowered my eyes as I said, "I'm a male...the voice should have made that clear enough, unless you have females around here that have a voice like mine, I guess."
Applejack's cheeks colored slightly as she looked away. "Sorry...Ah didn't think about that. Ah jus' figured maybe that was different about yer kind too."
I supposed I couldn't fault her for that, so I nodded. "Okay, I guess that makes sense. Anyway yes, I'm a guy."
She let out a sigh of relief and smiled, "Well that's a relief. Y'all smell like a stallion, so Ah'm glad ya are one, or else it'd be mighty confusin'."
I then lifted my arm and sniffed myself, and grimaced. "Um, you wouldn't happen to have some soap and maybe a basin or something that I could use to bathe, would you? I haven't used soap in a long time."
"Sure thing, sugarcube." she replied warmly before pointing to the corner of the barn. "Basin's over there, and Ah'll get ya some soap 'n shampoo. We should probably wash those clothes too, so take 'em off and Ah'll get'm cleaned for ya."
I chuckled nervously and said, "Um, you can come and get them after I'm already washing. My kind doesn't like to be seen without clothes on."
She raised an eyebrow and tipped her hat back as she asked, "Why the hay not?"
I thought for a few moments on this, as "just because" wasn't really a satisfactory answer. After a few moments, I perked up and said, "Okay, let me ask you a question first. Is there anything here that would be counted lewd for a stranger to do in public to you? Like staring at a certain part of your body or doing something...you know what I'm saying?"
Applejack through for a moment before nodding. "Ah think so. If Ah caught a pony starin' at mah rump or if a pony touched it without me askin'm to, Ah'd feel mighty embarrassed...and Ah'd probably buck 'em ta next Tuesday."
I nodded. "Okay, it's the same kinda thing with someone seeing me naked. So, how about this: I'll bathe myself first, and then I'll wash my clothes. If you can find me something big enough to cover myself, we can sit and talk while my clothes dry."
Applejack nodded before trotting away, so I set about dragging the large basin over to a water spigot on the wall, and started filling it. Normally even being seen in a towel around someone else would make me uncomfortable, but social contact after so long was far more valuable to me than being in my normal clothes. I'd never been the kind of person to be solitary, and at this point, I was willing to forego some privacy to have someone to talk to. Besides, ponies were pretty much naked all the time anyway, and we were different species too. I seriously doubt that a pony would see something like me naked and find it attractive, because it certainly hadn't happened to me with all the naked mares walking around.
Okay...too much nakedness for me to handle.
Regardless, the point still stood. There could be no attraction between us because of the fact that to them, I'm an alien, and to me, they're just little horses...and I certainly never had a thing for any animals in my life. Because of that, there shouldn't be any problem with a pony seeing me without clothes on...but civilized engineering was far stronger than that. No matter how I rationalized it, there was always going to be a part of my mind that would scream, "Keep your fucking clothes on, man!"
A moment after I thought this, Applejack reentered the barn with a bucket in her mouth. She trotted over and set it at my feet before looking up at me with a smile. "There ya go. Got some soap and shampoo in there, a scrub brush, and a big 'ol towel fer after yer done. Take yer time...I'll be back in an hour."
I nodded with a smile. "Should be more than enough time...and thanks for doing this."
She shook her head. "No problem, sugarcube."
The nickname she'd given me had an odd ring to it, but I passed it off as she trotted away, leaving me to wash. I looked at the now-filled basin and sighed happily, glad to be able to be clean after so long.
Bathing had felt better than I ever thought possible. The itchiness I'd felt the past month and the grubby feeling I'd had was washed away. The soap and shampoo had a strong, masculine scent to it as well, so I felt nice knowing my clothes and I would be smelling crisp and fresh for awhile.
I was hanging up my clothes on nails outside one of the stalls when a knock on the door sounded.
"Y'all finished in there?" I heard Applejack call.
I finished hanging up my socks before answering, "Yep, all finished. Come on in."
The barn door creaked open before it shut again quickly, with her on the inside. I pulled the towel tightly around my midsection as she trotted over, but didn't bother covering my top. It's not like there was anything to do so with anyway, and I reminded myself that to her, it wasn't like I was exposing myself.
Applejack stopped in front of me and stared at my bare chest before whistling. "Y'all weren't kiddin' when ya said you were hairless."
I chuckled and nodded. "Yeah. I'm pretty bald even by human standards, at least for my age. Usually guys my age have some chest hair." I then looked over the thin hair of my arms and legs and chuckled. Even as far as humans went, I was pretty sparsely-furred. I supposed that to a pony, I looked like someone shaved a monkey and taught it to walk upright and talk.
After standing there awkwardly for a moment, she grinned and replied, "Well for what it's worth, y'all look just fine. If y'all were covered in hair, you'd just look like a snub-faced diamond dog."
I raised my eyebrow and asked, "A what now?"
"Diamond dog." Applejack replied. "They're big dog things that stand on two feet, and they love jewels."
I nodded. "Ah...okay, I can picture that. Yeah, I wouldn't want to be looking like one of them."
She nodded as well. "Yeah. Anyway, Twi'll be by in about an hour and a half, so fer now, Ah guess we can jus' relax. Ah got tha rest of tha day off."
"Cool," I replied before pointing to the washbasin, "but can you give me some help? I need to tip the water out of this, but it's too heavy to do it by myself."
Applejack chuckled as she trotted over to it before turning her backside to face it. "Not too strong, are ya?" She then unleashed a kick with both of her rear hooves, and the heavy washbin easily tipped over, drenching the ground with the soapy, dirty water.
I stared in awe for a moment before saying, "Wow...I feel pretty flimsy now."
Applejack chuckled as she patted her own flank with one of her front hooves. "Earth ponies are tha powerhouses of ponies, with earth ponies like me an' mah brother bein' even stronger than most. Ya give me a pegasus or unicorn mah same size, an' Ah'll probably be twice as strong as them."
"Well you're obviously stronger than me." I commented dryly. I then looked to my lithe form and sighed. "Although I'm hardly at 100% right now. Just standing for longer than a few minutes makes me start to feel sore and tired."
"First things first, we gotta get y'all healthy again, so what do ya eat?" she asked excitedly.
I shrugged. "Pretty much the same things that you eat. The only things I can't eat from what I've seen are hay, grass, and flowers."
"Well you seem ta like my apples." Applejack observed with a grin.
I chuckled nervously. "Y-yeah, sorry about that. Speaking of, I'd like to make that up to you somehow."
She chuckled good-naturely. "Aw sugarcube, ya don' need ta be doin' that. Y'all were starvin and-"
I shook my head, interrupting her. "No, I want to pay you back somehow. It wasn't your responsibility to make sure some alien had food to eat, so you shouldn't have to put up with having apples eaten that you could have used to feed your family or sold. I want to pay you back, so please let me."
She squinted hard at me for a few moments before sighing. "Alright fine, Ah'll figure somethin' out. What are ya good at?"
I thought for a few moments. What was I good at? Just from having seen her a few times in the past month, I knew she didn't need help in the fields, and she was much stronger than I was anyway, so I had to think of something that I could do that I had an advantage with. Well, I had fingers and was far more dexterous than an earth pony because of it.
I hummed to myself before answering, "Well I'm pretty good at repairs. Before I came here, I was a week away from graduating college as an engineer, so I'm pretty good with anything mechanical."
Applejack thought again for a minute before catching eyes with me and smiling. "Well that works great then." She motioned to the building we were in and said, "This barn is gettin' pretty old...much longer an' it's liable ta jus' come down on its own. So next week what we're gonna do is knock it down. We always end up jus' buckin' it 'til it comes down, but Ah can't help thinkin' there's gotta be a better way ta do it. Maybe y'all can think of a way ta do it so we can salvage the wood and such."
I nodded. "It's not exactly repair work, but I'm sure I can figure something out. If you've got blueprints or any basic layouts for how the barn is built, bring them to me as soon as you can, and I'll come up with a plan from there."
She nodded with a wide smile. "Ah'm sure Ah got'm packed away somewhere. Ah'll stop by tomorrow when Ah find 'em. And ahead of time, thank ya kindly fer helpin' out."
I nodded again, glancing at my clothes and noticing that they were no longer dripping. "Anything I can do to help, Applejack."
She looked me over before smiling. "Ah like ya already."
I slumped a bit and let loose a relaxed sigh. "Good. Your princess told me I should try to make good with you."
"And ya have so far. Yer polite, and willin' ta work fer what ya got. That's tha makin' of a good friend in mah book." Applejack replied with a warm expression. She then looked out of the window high up in the barn and added, "Anyway, it's gettin' ta be time fer supper. Ah gotta head off mah sis, an' after Ah've put her ta bed, Ah'll bring ya somethin' ta eat. Sound good?"
I smiled and nodded. "Sounds awesome...and thanks, again."
She smiled a toothy smile and trotted towards the barn door. "No problem, Jamison. Now you just wait here an' Ah'll be back as soon as Ah can. Maybe we can play cards while we wait for Twi."
The mention of a card game caused me to smirk and I nodded. "Sounds like a plan, Applejack."
"How tha hay do ya keep beatin' me?" Applejack growled in frustration.
I chuckled lightly. "I've had a lot of practice, and your game 'Luna's Moon' is just Blackjack with a different name."
She snorted and gathered up the cards. "Ah'm just glad we ain't bettin' nothin, or Ah'd end up homeless."
I chuckled at her frustration, and the fact that she'd vastly underestimated my skills with such a familiar card game. Even as she grumbled lightly to herself though, she was smiling gently, clearly pleased to have found I wasn't aggressive or something crazy like that. I was happy to have been allowed to live, but the kind pony that kept me company was nice too.
The food Applejack had brought me had been filling and tasty, and had included a slice of homemade pie, roasted potatoes, and amazing little things called apple dumplings. It was truly incredible the culinary skill these ponies had, and it was clear I'd vastly underestimated their acceptance of something like me. I was curious about it, so I had to ask.
"How are you so friendly towards something like me?" I asked bluntly.
She slid the cards back in their pack before turning and saying, "What do you mean?"
I shrugged. "I mean, you don't really know anything about me other than I'm not from around here. I could be dangerous, or an evil genius or something."
Applejack chuckled and shook her head. "Ah've wrangled a few bad eggs in mah time. You ain't one of 'em." I started up a rebuttal, but before I could speak, she held up a hoof to silence me. "However, iffin' Ah'm wrong, then Ah guess it's mah job ta deal with ya."
I raised an eyebrow. "You'll 'deal' with me?"
She chuckled again and nodded. "Ah don't mean ta make ya feel small or nothin', but Ah could take ya...easily."
"Well yeah, now." I defended. "I'm starved skin and bones, I haven't had a full night's sleep in almost a month, and you already have a head start on me with that hoof to the face...twice."
Applejack's ears fell and she bowed her head a bit at that. "Yeah...sorry 'bout that. Ah wasn't sure what ta think of some weird thing stealin' mah apples. How's yer face, by the way?"
I worked my jaw a bit and shrugged. "Nothing's broken thankfully, but I have a feeling I'm going to feel even worse tomorrow. It's alright though. You made me probably the best food I've ever had before, so you made up for it."
Her face brightened again as she cocked her head cutely. "I really do like ya, Jamison. Yer alright."
"Coming from the pony that found me and kicked me in the face, that's awesome." I said with a shit-eating grin. I then turned my head and reached to feel my pants, which were thankfully only slightly moist now...dry enough to put back on. "Alright, well do you mind giving me some privacy so that I can get my clothes back on?"
Applejack nodded with a grin as she began to gather the dishes before trotting out of the barn.
I sighed and began to pull my clothes on as I thought about the day as a whole, and how much more my life had changed in less than twenty-four hours. I had just started to get used to surviving in this new world, and now all of the sudden I'd been outed by my own stupidity and conversing casually with talking ponies.
Life's crazy like that.
"Hey Applejack, are you in here? I'm here to bring home...oh." called a voice from behind me, and I cringed as I heard it.
I pulled my pants up quickly about my waist as I felt the blood rush to my cheeks, and turned around to see the lavender unicorn from earlier, who I assumed was Twilight Sparkle.
"So that's what you look like without your clothes on." she commented, clearly not embarrassed in the least.
I cleared my throat nervously before grabbing my socks, shirt, and shoes and turning around. I opted to keep the rest off, seeing as how it was rather warm and they weren't dry yet, mostly the shoes. Still, I was covered enough to be decent as a human, but practically giving this pony a full view of my behind and my goods was enough to make me feel exceedingly awkward.
I turned my eyes to Twilight Sparkle's after a few seconds before saying, "Umm...I know a pony won't understand, but you seeing me without my clothes on has made me feel extremely awkward. Can we like...not talk about this? Ever?"
Her ears and smiled drooped as she levitated out a quill and parchment. "But I wanted to take initial observations! Nothing like you has ever been seen in Equestria before!"
I shook my head resolutely. "No...no deal. Not you nor any other pony is going to be seeing me in the nude again. I'll draw you out a diagram and label it with everything I can remember, but yeah...I'm not letting you study me that way. Clothes stay on."
She huffed and closed her eyes as the parchment and quill levitated back to the bag she had. "Fine." She then brought her eyes to mine again before trotting over to me and extending her hoof. "I'm Twilight Sparkle, and I'll be providing you with living space."
I tossed my clothes over my shoulder and kneeled, taking her hoof in my hand and shaking it. "Jamison Smith."
She nodded as we separated before asking, "So where's Applejack? She was supposed to meet me here."
I nodded towards the doors. "She left a few minutes before you got here. She should be back soon."
Twilight sat back onto her haunches and stared at me for a moment before asking, "So I notice you have fur on your head and face, and light fur on your arms, legs, and lower torso, but is there anywhere else you have it?"
I chuckled. "Yeah, but it's in one of the places that I'm not showing you."
She nodded before levitating out the quill and parchment, beginning to write. "Uh huh...and I've noticed that you have predatory characteristics." She stopped writing and looked up at me. "Do you hunt for sustenance?"
I shook my head. "Nah. I've already explained to your princess that I can supplement my diet with vegetables, mostly. She told me that you keep a dragon that has much the same diet."
She nodded before going back to writing. "Good, we can accommodate that." She then lifted her head and moved closer to me, sniffing slightly before moving away. "And I assume you're a male of your species, correct?"
I theatrically peeked down my pants before nodding. "I am."
She automatically nodded as she continued taking notes, and I couldn't help but mentally chuckle at just how right the princess had been about this pony. I had a feeling that she was going to be studying me as much as possible, and it was likely that it was going to cause us to butt heads at some point.
I wasn't looking forward to that last bit.
"Aaaand...how are your six senses?" she asked as she again looked into my eyes.
I raised an eyebrow. "Six? Apparently humans are different, because we only have five."
She squinted at me skeptically. "And what are your five senses?"
I held up my hand and began to count them off. "Sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch."
"Oh, I see." she muttered before scribbling on her parchment. "You don't have a sense for magic."
I shrugged. "My world doesn't have magic, so I assume I would be lacking that sense. What would that even feel like anyway?"
"A bit like a...pressure." Twilight explained before shaking her head. "It's rather difficult to explain to somepony who hasn't felt it before."
I gasped and blurted, "I've felt that! When the princess was here, I felt that!"
"Really?" she asked curiously, to which I nodded. She began writing again as she muttered, "Interesting." She wrote for a few more moments before looking up at me again. "It appears that you do have a sense for magic, but you've just never felt it before. If my theory is correct, you aren't able to feel my magic right now, are you?"
I shook my head. "No...I'm kinda wondering about that myself, actually."
She gained a slightly manic grin as she squealed like a little girl. "Oh, this is so exciting!"
"Hold up now, what's exciting? I have no clue what's going on." I stated in confusion.
Twilight Sparkle gathered herself and said, "Okay, it appears that even though your world doesn't have magic, somehow, you still have the potential for it. The only problem is I wouldn't be able to tell if this is something you were born with, or if it was something that changed from your body's exposure to magic. You see, a pony's magic sense, which is scientifically known as magistratum, is bestowed upon us by our Starswirl gland. The Starswirl gland secretes magical hormones that allows ponies to sense magic, and channel it in a multitude of ways. All ponies can handle objects in much the same way you can with hands. Earth ponies have a strong connection with the earth and plants, allowing them to grow crops and work the land in such a way that no other sort of pony could replicate...this is in addition to enhanced strength and stamina. Pegasus ponies use their magic for flight, as well as controlling the weather."
I raised an eyebrow and queried, "Flying ponies can control the weather?"
She nodded. "Yes. Lastly are unicorn ponies, like me. We can channel magic directly through our horns, using them for something so simple as levitating a quill, like so," she demonstrated by waving the feathery writing quill around, "or much more powerful spells, such as teleportation or even elemental spells. Unicorn ponies are generally the physically weakest of the three races, as we tend to rely on our magic more than our muscles."
I nodded. "Cool...but what does that have to do with this Starswirl gland thing?"
She giggled cutely and pointed to me. "I'm not sure how, but it seems that one of your organs is acting as a Starswirl gland." She she caught her tongue in her teeth as she continued to write, adding, "I'd like to study this in particular, if you don't mind."
I shrugged. "As long as it doesn't hurt me and I'm clothed, I'm cool with it."
The door opened from behind Twilight to reveal Applejack walking back in, with a wide smile. "Well, Ah see y'all are gettin' on pretty good."
"Oh, Applejack! I need to speak with you before we leave." Twilight Sparkle exclaimed happily. She then turned to me and asked, "Do you mind waiting here for just a few minutes?"
I waved my hand with a shake of my head. "Take your time, ladies."
A few minutes actually turned into nearly twenty, and while I made it a point not to eavesdrop, I could hear what sounded like Applejack either defending herself or me, which could only mean that Twilight Sparkle had said something accusatory. I was worried for two reasons, the first being why it was taking the two ponies so long. I mean, I seemed to have got on well with the both of them, so what could be the problem? Secondly, and more importantly, were the apparent accusations. Was this Twilight Sparkle throwing me under the bus? Had she found out something about me that could get me thrown in prison or something? Was she going to call the cops? Did they even have cops in this place?
"Okay, chill out dude. Calm down...it's o-kay." I mumble to myself, trying to keep from hyperventilating in fear.
"What's okay?" asked a voice from behind me.
I jumped a bit in surprise and tripped over my own feet, falling with a loud *THUMP* to the ground. I groaned as I pushed myself up to a sitting position, grumbling at how I was now covered in dust and dirt.
As I turned around, I saw Applejack and Twilight Sparkle standing there, staring at me curiously for a moment before Applejack asked, "Ya alright there?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I'm good." I then shook my head with a sigh. "Actually no, I'm not. Are you two going to send me to prison or something? Because if you are, please just tell me now...I don't want to have any delusions on the matter."
Twilight Sparkle cocked her head as she curiously asked, "Prison? What's that?"
My nervousness left me as I raised my eyebrow at the question. "What's a prison? You know, a place where you put bad people...criminals."
Her eyes widened as she shook her head. "The Canterot Dungeons? By the sun, no! Why on Equis would we ever send you to the dungeons?"
I shrugged. "You two were taking a long time talking, and I started to get a little worried...alright, I started to get really worried." I sighed and explained, "I'm probably the only one of my kind here, and you all know little to nothing about me or my race. The princess has already told me that she doesn't even know if she could get me back home, so for assumption's sake, I might be stuck here. I have no idea about your cultural norms, social interactions, or anything else for that matter...and I can't even read your written word." I then dropped my eyes to the ground as I mumbled, "I'm scared..."
I heard as the two ponies moved closer to me, and then felt and saw as Twilight Sparkle laid a hoof gently on my leg. I looked up at her as she said, "You don't have to be scared, Jamison...we're not going to hurt you. The princess cares about me and the safety of her ponies, so if she really thought you were a threat, she wouldn't have left you here with us. So please, trust us to look out for you and keep you safe."
I took a few deep breaths before nodding. "Okay...and thank you."
Twilight Sparkle nodded. "You're welcome. Now, I've already explained the situation to Spike, the dragon that Princess Celestia told you about, but he's already asleep, so you don't have to worry about meeting him until tomorrow. I've cleared out a guest bedroom for you and furnished it accordingly, so I'm ready to go whenever you are."
I smiled at her before turning to Applejack and kneeling before her. "Thanks a lot for the help, Applejack. I appreciate the meal and keeping me company. You're awesome."
I noticed as a faint pink lit up her cheeks, and she looked away bashfully. "Aww, t'weren't nothin', sugarcube...but you're welcome." She then turned to me and smiled. "You take care of yerself Jamison. Get some rest...Ah'll be by midmornin' ta drop off the stuff ya need." Applejack turned to Twilight and explained, "He's gonna help me figure out a better way ta bring down this old barn."
Twilight Sparkle smiled at me. "Oh, well that's very kind of you, Jamison. Well I guess we should get going then...you're going to need the rest." She then turned to Applejack and crossed her neck with the earth pony, in what I assumed was the equivalent of a hug. "Goodnight Applejack, and thanks for looking out for him."
Applejack pulled away a few moments later with a wide smile. "No problem, Twi. Anyway, y'all should get goin'. It's gettin' late, and Ah know yer tired by now. So go get some rest, and Ah'll see y'all tomorrow."
I nodded to her as Twilight Sparkle and I walked away, heading towards what would be my new home for the time being.
The walk to Twilight Sparkle's home was mercifully uneventful, and the two of us traded small talk the whole way there. She was a rather interesting person...or rather, pony. She was very intelligent and curious about anything she wasn't familiar with. She reminded me a bit of myself when I was in middle school, before...
Well, before things changed.
As we trotted through the quiet town, I noticed a large tree looming in the distance, and the closer we got, I began to see that the tree was, in fact, also a home. The tree was also still alive, which I found amazing, and was larger than all of the other homes around it.
Twilight Sparkle smiled slightly as we approached, and announced, "Well, here we are. The Golden Oaks Library, which also happens to be my home...and yours now, for as long as you stay." She trotted up to the door as her horn began to glow, and a soft click issued forth from the door before it opened, and she motioned inside with a hoof. "Come on in."
I was much taller than she was, so I had to duck a bit to make my way through the front door, but once I was inside, I noticed just how large the home was. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases covered the entire bottom floor, and I had to fight from laughing at the sheer stupid amount of books there were.
Twilight Sparkle closed the door behind us and trotted ahead of me. "Follow me and I'll lead you to your room."
I nodded and followed her through a side hallway between two bookcases, taking in the beautiful craftsmanship of the home. Wood was used for every furnishing that I could see, and it was all stained perfectly with a soft reddish-pink color, which I assumed was the natural color of the wood of the tree.
I continued following my guide until we came to a slightly taller door, and she opened it to reveal a quaint room with a single window, a writing desk, a bookshelf, a wardrobe, and a bed. She motioned to the room and said, "Well, this is it. The bed is a lot larger than a normal pony's bed, so I had hoped it would better accommodate your size. The W.C. is back the way we came, and is the only other door in the hallway. Is there anything else I can get for you?"
I shook my head with a smile as I looked to her. "No, this is plenty. Thank you very much, Twilight Sparkle...I really do appreciate this."
She shook her head with a smile. "Please, just call me Twilight, Jamison."
I nodded. "Twilight then...and you can call me Jamie if you want."
She nodded. "Alright then, Jamie. Well anyway, we need to get up early tomorrow, so I'm heading to bed." She yawned as she trotted towards the door. "Sleep well, and I'll see you in the morning." The door closed behind her, and I let out a sigh of relief as she left.
The day as a whole had been stressful, but at the same time relieving. I was glad that I now had shelter and food, as well as a place to wash myself, but getting kicked in the face hadn't helped, and neither had accidentally exposing myself to a curious pony. All in all though, it had been a good day, and I was glad things had turned out the way it had. I mean, had this world been like Earth, it was likely I'd have been forcibly detained, drugged, interrogated, and then dissected. It went without saying I was very happy this world was different because of that, but at the same time I missed home.
Just because the princess didn't know if she could get me home didn't mean that it wasn't possible...right?
I forced the negative thought from my mind as I laid down on the fluffy bed, which was just large enough to be considered a double-size. I relished the feeling of a real bed after so long, and soon, I felt my eyes close as if of their own accord, and I fell asleep.