Applejack tore her gaze away from the breathtaking sight of the orchard before her and, for only the fifth time in almost twelve years, turned to face her sister. She’d always thought, when she was small, that one day she’d be able to look her twin square in the eye again. And she’d always wanted to do it - to settle things between the two of them once and for all, and make it right. It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried, either: twice before she’d made the trip, and tried to talk things out so they could put what had happened behind them and move on. Neither time had gone so well, and both’d ended with Applejack screaming and hollering and driving them further apart. It wasn’t a mistake she planned to make again.
“It’s…sure been a long time hasn’t it, Hon?” There was no answer – no reaction at all. Honeycrisp didn’t even seem to know she was there. She’d been expecting that, of course – if they’d been in each other’s shoes she doubted she’d have much to say either. Still, she had to try. “I guess you already know why I’m here, don’t you? You always were good at figurin’ stuff out, and it ain’t like I’ve had much else to say to you since…what happened did.” She tried to chuckle, to poke fun at her own failings, and regretted it immediately – her sister would, without doubt, take the wrong idea from it.
Honeycrisp didn’t even have to say the words. Applejack knew just what she was thinking.
“Oh yeah, sure is funny how ma and pa are dead. Real laugh riot! And we didn’t even get to say goodbye to ‘em! Joke’s on us, I reckon.”
Then the tears would come, as they always did – except they didn’t, and Applejack almost wished they would. At least then she’d know her sister felt something, know that she was listening. But all she got was cold, indifferent silence.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered softly, turning her eyes back over their home – she found that she couldn’t look at her sister anymore. “I shouldn’t have said that. I wasn’t laughin’ about them, and you know that. I was laughin’ at me.” She felt a lump building up in her throat and swallowed it back down, “You ever hear o’ the elements of harmony, Hon?”
She didn’t get an answer, but she hadn’t really been expecting one. “They’re old magic, like in the stories ma used to tell us – real powerful. More powerful than Princess Celestia herself, I reckon. I met her, you know. She’s real nice – maybe one day you’ll get to meet her. Would you like that?”
After a long pause she sighed, and continued, “Yeah, that’s about what I thought. I know you always wanted to meet her though, when we were little. I told her all about you, last time we talked. She’s… actually the one who put me up to comin’ here. Not that I didn’t want to, you understand.”
This time she really did snort with laughter; it wasn’t much, but it was genuine. “On second thought, nah - you don’t. But you deserve to, and that’s kinda why I’m here. So let me explain, real quick - the elements are magic drawn from the hearts of ponies who embody certain virtues - Generosity, kindness, magic, loyalty, laughter and…well, honesty. Each of ‘em gets bearer, and that pony can use the power of their element to do some mighty impressive things. Like…did you hear Nightmare Moon came back? I guess you probably didn’t. But she did, and the elements stopped her. We stopped her. Me, and my friends…we’re the bearers.”
She could feel her sister staring at her, now. Feel the eyes boring into her like a bird glaring at its breakfast. But she pressed on. There was no going back now. “I’m the element of honesty. Yeah, I know - what a joke. That’s kinda how I felt about it to. The others all tell me there ain’t nopony more deservin’ or more honest - the girls, Big Mac, Granny Smith…and Apple Bloom.”
Her voice cracked, at the last word, and the tears began to flow. “Apple Bloom’s doin’ good. I know you’d want to know that. She…she doesn’t really remember you. She was too little, back then - but I made sure she knows all about you. Knows you loved her. Knows you…well, y’know…saving her. But you know that, I hope. I brought her to visit once, when she was real small. I…I didn’t tell her it was my fault. I couldn’t. I still can’t. She wouldn’t understand, and she needs a big sister she can look up to - one like I had. But I need you to know that I know it. I know I’m to blame, and I ain’t ever forgiven myself. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you, Hon.”
She turned back to the grave, really taking it in for the first time. It was nothing. It meant nothing. It wasn’t her sister, and it never would be. But it was the closest she had, and she just had to hope that wherever Honeycrisp was she could hear her. “I’m sorry, Hon. I’m so, so sorry. I always told myself I’d tell you that, when I was little. That I knew it was my fault. That I knew I’d done wrong. But I couldn’t face you. Always thought it’d be easier when I grew up - lies were somethin’ little ponies did when they needed something to hide behind. You told me that, and I believed you. It…it ain’t true, but I guess you know that by now. No way you could’ve back then - you were a few minutes bigger ‘n me yourself. Turns out, it doesn’t get any easier to stop lyin’ to yourself just because you get older.”
- Time -
She leaned down, and placed the brooch atop the grave - it was a beautifully carved golden apple, and she’d treasured it for as long as she could remember. “I dunno if you remember this. I bet you do. You never forgot anything. But this - you gave this to me, when I left for Manehattan. You said I had to give it back to you, so I’d have to come home. But by the time I did…”
She let out a long, shuddering breath and tried to keep her voice steady. “I know if you was here you’d tell me to keep it. But I promised I’d give it back to you, and the greatest pony I ever did know taught me that we gotta keep our promises. So I’m keepin’ this one.”
“AJ?” Big Macintosh spoke softly, from not all that far behind her, “Your friends are here. Parties about to start, I reckon.”
Applejack nodded her head without looking away from the gravestone. “I…I wish you could’ve met the girls, Hon. They’re my best friends. My sisters. I bet they’d have been yours, too. They’re part o’ me. But they ain’t my twins. You are - and I’ve neglected you for too long. So I just wanted to you to know - I love you, big sister. Sleep well, okay? I’ll never forget you. Never could.”
She turned, and began to walk away. She stopped just once, and whispered “Happy birthday, Hon.”
And then she was gone - but Honeycrisp stayed right where she was, her parents at her side, gazing out over the beautiful fields of Sweet Apple Acres.
Yes, Piggy, I know I deserve this. I made you write Applejack, I should have seen this coming. And speaking of things I should have seen coming, I actually believed Honeycrisp was Applejack’s estranged twin for a bit there before I twigged onto the truth. AJ just can’t get a break, can she? Her words here were very powerful; they moved me as only that sort of regret can. Nice work, Piggy.