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SteelEagle

Questioning Answers (Closed: Foxxy)

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Valen's mind was a marsh, a fog, and endless sea of grey it felt like. The last few days had been some of the most confusing, terrifying, and embarrassing of his life. It had started with his cousin and her friends discovering his other life and had cascaded one after another into Silver Spoon taking advantage of him and, somehow, magically enforcing her will. A metric ton of embarrassment later and she was off on some trip to another city. With time, the fog cleared enough for him to break through and want to talk to somepony about his experience. Obviously, somepony would be able to see through the charade she had built up around him, the facade so richly and quickly constructed to push whatever awful agenda she had in mind for him. Surely they would know what to do about it, have plans and punishments in mind, as well as succour for a failed soul.

 

The first pony to speak with would be Applejack. The Cutie Mark Crusaders were out on a filly guide trip so he knew they would not be there to sour his conversation with his elder cousin. Applejack was a mare of great wisdom, was she not? Okay, maybe not entirely. She was stubborn and assertive in far too many matters where wisdom decreed caution and allowance for being wrong. But her stubborn nature would prove most agreeable here. While they had a few conversations in the past, he doubted she would be as easily swayed by Silver as others. He had told her what he thought and felt before and he didn't think a few small incidents would change her mind. Hopefully not, anyway. In any case, when the coast as clear he made his way from the guest room if the barn house to the orchard, where he followed the sound of applebucking and a sweet breeze to find some help for a decidedly sticky situation.

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Applejack stepped back and mopped her brow while nodding at a job well done...on one tree at least!

 

"Whoo-wee!" She lifted up her stetson and settled it between her ears once more. "Yer lookin' mighty fine there!" She eyed the tree she had just bucked clean of apple before turning to the one next to it that was brimming with golden red beauties. "An' I might add that yer lookin' even finer!"

 

She trotted up to the fully laden tree and turned her hind end towards it. Her buckin' hooves got their trademark itch, wantin' ever so much to bring down another bushel of Apple family pride!

 

"Let 'er rip!" She smiled and loosed her hooves.

 

CRACK!

 

A solid buck connection saw the tree vibrating and two buckets full of apples ready to be turned into cider.

 

"Gonna be a good stock this time net year," She commented as she trotted towards the next tree. Her work satisfied her to no end and Applejack continued on, hardly aware of anything else.

 

The farm mare adored the feeling she got when working her farm. She could escape from all the goings on that usually taxed her mind. She could enjoy the feelings of pride and strength that came from a good yield. She could settle down into a work centered mind frame that brought order and peace. Yup! There was nothin' like doin' what was near and dear to one's heart. Apples were the soul of her heart and the soul of her family.

 

CRACK!

 

Another couple of buckets of Apple's finest down! 

 

It was a perfect day really. Early afternoon with the sun soon dropping lower. A sweet evening breeze beginning to build out of the east. Not hot but warm enough to keep the sweat rolling down her face and body. The orchards were healthy and life was good! She stepped back again, surveying where she'd buck next. A slight movement caught her eye right about then.

 

"Well! Look who the griffon dragged into the orchard!" Another country saying that only kinda made sense. Her demeanor showed she was happy to see her cousin. "Hey there sugar cube! What brings you all the way out here?"

 

Applejack found herself musing on many thoughts before Valen began his response. The last time she had seen her cousin she had almost entirely convinced herself that he would be better off living life as a female. Her heart went out to him, a member of the Apple family trying to find his way in the world. She also wondered if he was here to seek more advice from her even though he hadn't been convinced by her sage words last time.

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Valen breathed a sigh of relief. Applejack had a very calming influence on almost anypony she met. It was her mix of down-home country attitude and a sweetness of spirit that helped ensure you would be well taken care of. She could sometimes aggressively pursue her innate desire to help others, to set things right on behalf of her fellow pony. And many times it could be off-putting, though the underlying heart was pure in all instances. She was always putting in the work for you. Unlike the farm, where the sweet sound of her crushing hooves was always accompanied by the knowledge that her efforts were well placed, Valen knew for a fact that she could misplace her efforts in other areas.

Indeed, ever since the first time she had learned about Gilded Lilly, she had taken a stance on the issue. While most others talked to him to try and find out how he felt, Applejack had come to her conclusion and told Valen what he must want. To be a filly, obviously. She had been polite enough to listen, but he had only narrowly avoided being forced into that life by her by the confusion ignited by Rainbow Dash. Ever since that day the issue had been allowed to settle. A few comments here and there, but nothing too drastic. She was too full of earnest well-intentions, once she had taken a step back, to force the issues upon him.

That had been one of the worst aspects of the recent issues with the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Silver Spoon. While he didn't remember Applejack being directly involved or related in any of it, she had to have been told. In the battery of things that came up he'd rather her have been told simply about the filly stuff than the...foal...stuff, but he'd rather her have not been involved at all. Alas, she likely did, though she didn't let on yet. And for all the possible problems if he could get her on his side then the rest of the day would be much easier.

He trotted up next to her with hope in his heart. “Cousin Applejack, happy to find you here. Do you have time or am I interrupting you?” He said with a polite smile as he positioned himself next to her. “I need your help with stopping something before it goes any further,” he said as he sighed. “Have you heard anything from the Cutie Mark Crusaders or Silver Spoon?”


 

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AJ smiled as Valen trotted up, welcoming him to ask anything he wished. It would be nice to take a break from bucking for a while. Sweat beaded on her face and she used a hoof to absently wipe it away. The farm mare raised an eyebrow as her cousin asked if he was interrupting.

 

"Naw, yer not interrupting anything Lily! I was jus' about to take a break anyway," She nodded to the full apple baskets all around. "I reckon another hour or so an' this part of the orchard will be cleared." 

 

She continued to listen as Valen questioned her about the Crusaders and Silver Spoon. Stop something before it starts.... hmmmmm, she had a feeling she knew where this was going but she'd let him lead her there. Never helped to jump to conclusions before a pony was ready. She indeed was growing in her ability to advise others. There was a time when AJ would have immediately jumped at the chance to convince the colt that he'd be better off giving over to his true nature.

 

"Well, depends on what yah mean sugar cube." She moved to lean back against the apple tree she had just finished bucking. It was cooler under the shade of the big healthy tree. "I've heard mah share o' things from the Crusaders... 'specially Abby a'course. She's never short on talk," She chuckled. "Anything in specific yah got in mind? I might be able to recall on certain topics."

 

She left it at that. Giving Valen time to lay it all out before her.

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Lilly? Oh no. If she was throwing around Valen's stage name all willy nilly like, that could only mean one of three things. One, she was being a bit of a tease and knew why he was here. It wasn't like her to be the joking type over such matters, but it wasn't like she was humourless either. The fact he was hanging his hopes on her sense of humour homing in on a very specific element by coincidence gave him less confidence than he'd normally enjoy.

He let out a large sigh. “Well, recently the CMC discovered my work as Gilded, and- well, you know how excited they can get. Then Abby brought up the...” he looked around, leaned in, and whispered, “...bedwetting...and well...as I said, you know how excited they can get,” he said, allowing Applejack's knowledge to auto-complete the scenario. He'd rather not relive the nitty gritty of it, after all. "Silver Spoon used that, took advantage, and- well to make a long story short, and I'm absolutely not lying about this, I'm pretty sure she used magic or a potion or some chemicals to make me say and do some pretty silly things. About being a filly and all that other stuff, all of it. Pretty outrageous," Valen said with a wild blush. It was almost too embarrassing to put into words and he had even skated around the worst of it, if only because even he had his conversational limits. Some of what had happened or was said was hard for him now to come to terms with.

He smiled, shaken with confidence as it was. "So after the past few days I think I've recovered enough to take action and hopefully return everything to normal. Put all this salaciousness and malintent to rest and continue on with what I was doing before. I couldn't think of a mare who was better suited or more reliable, so I came to you first. Hopefully I can get you to talk sense into everypony! It has been a rather crazy several days, after all," he said with a shake of the head and a smile. "And in return, I'll try to help out more. Sound like a good deal?" Valen asked, extending a hoof. He knew he didn't have to but the way she called him Lilly told him he'd have to break through some barrier tonight and this may as well be a direct way of confronting it.

Hopefully it would work?

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AJ listened intently as Valen laid out the basics before her. Sure it was an embarrassing scenario but the farm mare knew in her heart it was best if he spoke it out. Hopefully that would help him come to terms...at least a little... with who he really was. There would be some pretty tough barriers to cross in the life change Applejack knew was coming his way, and he needed to strengthen his resolve if he was going to make it.

 

Applejack prided herself of course on having a knowing about what ponies really wanted. Her honesty went beyond herself at points, making it so that she could see through the facade that many ponies put over their real wants and desires. Valen's was plain to her at this point. As easy to see as a filly up on the stage actually. He wanted to be a filly in his heart. She knew he did and this was part of coming to terms with that.

 

She raised an eyebrow when he spoke of things returning to normal. If there was one thing she didn't want it was for him to back step after coming so far. Some of the baby stuff might have been over the top. Wearing a pair of too tight diapers being at the top of the list. But, she figured it was part of his process. Going a little too far was normal and helped a pony figure out where the perfect happy medium lay.

 

The farm mare glanced at the offered hoof and took in a deep breath. She wasn't the pony to shake on loose terms. She knew she couldn't keep the end of the bargain he was offering. It was for his own good a'course. She wanted to make him happy and feel at ease in this difficult time but she herself knew from experience... fairly recent experience with a certain lovely unicorn... that getting to where you wanted to be often involved going to areas of discomfort and even mistrust in one's self was needed to get to what the heart really wanted.

 

She exhaled the breath and moved up next to Valen, her shoulder bumping his lightly in support. 

 

"Well now sugarcube," She nodded towards a couple upturned apple baskets and trotted over. Taking a seat, she offered the other to Valen. "Yah know I'm not one ta jus' shake on a deal until it's been thought all the way through." She eyed him softly. A look of almost motherly concern coming over her features. 

 

"Yah know I care about you. Yer part of the family and always will be." She paused, gathering her thoughts.

 

"An' I know ol' Silver Spoon went a bit too far with the recent turn of events," She raised her brows. "I'm sorry 'bout that a'course. I should have been able to see you didn't like being treated like that..." She too let the details fall away. 

 

"But, truth is Lilly,  I've never seen you more yerself than when yer dressed and behavin' like a filly." She moved to place a hoof on his shoulder. "I'm a mare who's always believed in being the best version of one's self an' when I see you as a filly, well, I think ya know that's the best version o' you." She didn't hitch on any of that. There was nothing to be embarrassed about when it came to living one's best life. This was no time to mince words.

 

"I'll a'course put a word out for ya, keep Silver away from you and calm down the CMC," She chuckled though it didn't help to cut the serious nature of her words. "They can be right precocious though I do believe it's from the goodness of their hearts. Fact o' the matter is, I'll support you in this life change you're going through, I'm yer cousin and I've never been one to let family down."

 

She took a moment to read his expression. Would he admit what he really felt? Would he finally succumb to her sense on the matter? She sure hoped so! 

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It started off very well for the little colt. Applejack was many things to many ponies but the one thing she was to everypony was the most reliable and trustworthy friend you could ask for, and doubly so for family. Valen could feel that love from her, the earnestness and honesty as she allowed for the recent events to be taken as they were: quite awful. She didn't excuse Silver or buy into the lie she had spread, even it was partially from his lips. This was going great, he was actually going to get through this rather awful time. After what seemed like a hundred little strikes against his sense of peace and a Ponyville experience tinged with disastrous misconceptions and foibles, somepony was finally listening to him!

And then it turned. It turned in the way only Applejack could make it turn, full of honesty and sweetness and kinship, but to Valen, it was awful. Valen had known for some time how Applejack viewed him and what he was meant to be and do. They had multiple conversations in the past about this and it seemed like it was a settled manner, even if they disagreed. She had voiced her opinion stronger in the past, but she had never refused to call him anything but Lilly. She was supportive, she was wonderful, she was the best cousin in the world, and she was wrong to the degree that it almost physically hurt him. False hope dashed, he sighed and looked down at the ground. He wasn't going to get the help he wanted, but he still had to talk it out, at least for a little bit.

“My name is not Lilly or Gilded Lilly, Applejack. I am Valen. Cousin, we've talked about this before. I'm comfortable as I am! I don't want to be anyone other than Valen. But we've talked about that before, so I'm guessing your mind is settled on the matter?” He asked, half-knowing the response even as he asked it. His mind was already running ways to cope with it. He didn't have to acknowledge being called Lilly outside the farm, right? Back home in Manehattan, around town, he was certain to have some peace. As long as he could get help from the other leading citizens of town to ensure that Silver's other routes were blocked, it would be okay. His cousin was worth dealing with the fact that she was delightful, sweet, stubborn, and wrong

Maybe this would be isolated.
Maybe.
Hopefully.

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Applejack gave the colt a caring look as he stated what she could only be sure he had taught himself to say. Denying what he truly wanted in order to be accepted and liked by others around him. She didn't really fault him for this. It was natural for ponies to want to stick to the norm. She'd been around long enough to know that desire, even for herself. 

 

As he asked if she was settled on the matter she took in a breath and exhaled slowly. She mulled over all that she had seen and heard as it pertained to her cousin. Certainly the CMC had gone too far in dressing him up like an infant. Without a doubt it was obvious that he didn't feel anything Hearts and Hoovsie for Silver Spoon. But just as undoubtedly her cousin loved being Gilded Lilly. He adored dressing like a filly and behaving as one. There was absolutely no doubt in her mind that he would be happier by far and live the life he was destined for as himself truly, as a filly.

 

"Cousin," She gave him what could only be described as a motherly look. "yah know I support you to the moon and back. You know I'll stand up fer yah no matter what. I'll be happy to make sure the CMC stop treatin' you in ways you don't like and that they don't tell anypony else about the uh... incidents... from before. I'll also have a talk with Silver Spoon and git to the bottom o' whatever happened with that situation."

 

She stood and sauntered back over to the next tree that needed bucking. The farm make glanced at the bright red apples hanging from the boughs of the beautiful tree. "But you know," She turned to face him. "I see things like they are. An apple tree's an apple tree and it's got no problems showin' it!" She kicked a hoof back casually and a few apple fell into nearby baskets. "An' yer a filly at heart Lilly." She used the name again even thought he'd asked her not to. She was going to help him see what he really wanted. That wasn't always easy for a pony. Sometimes they needed tough love. "A filly's a filly, an' shouldn't have a problem showin' it."

 

She nodded once at her good common sense. She wouldn't be shifted on the matter, it was too important for her to hold strong. She had to stand up for him or who would? She could see him now, so much happier upon embracing his true self. Yep. This was too important to let it go, no matter how much he stood against her.

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Valen could only describe himself as feeling...well, indescribably awful. It felt like speaking with Applejack was having the opposite of the desired effect. She was set in her ways, set in her spirit, and set in her thoughts on the matter. Valen sighed. He had come here seeking aid and found that, while indeed he would get some basic aid against Silver and some help calming the CMCs down, the larger battle being waged was already lost on one front. It was the most important front and one he didn't really want to think about, but if...no, he had to remain on target.
“I see...” he started with a resigned sigh, “be that as it may, thank you for your help in dealing with Silver Spoon and the Crusaders. I have other ponies I must speak with. Have a good work morning, cousin,” he said firmly but politely, giving his traditional Manehattan sendoff of a courtesy bow before turning around and trotting quickly away from Sweet Apple Acres.

In short time he was out of Sweet Apple Acres and skirting around the town, because he had already decided who he was going to see next. So he had Silver Spoon under control a little, but could always use more help. She was very manipulative. Scootaloo listened to Rainbow Dash and while she was the only one of the three to have reservations about what was happening- as much as the second round had annihilated that- it was good to have an additional backup. Rainbow Dash also had Applejack's ear more than most, perhaps enough to speak to her. Doubtful, sure. But some progress was better than none and right now she was his current best hope. Valen trotted determinedly towards Rainbow's house, located about a mile away from Ponyville.

It was about that time when the first raindrops fell from the sky, helping to accentuate his mood. “Great. I can't believe I forgot the weather schedule...” he sighed, picking up the pace. It was a small but violent storm front that was going to give the farmlands some dreadfully needed moisture. One of the many great things about Equestria was that you could look up weather schedules months in advance. He had no excuse except...okay, between the CMC, Silver Spoon, identity questions, and a busy work schedule not to mention school and helping cousin Applejack, he perhaps had good cause. Perhaps. Maybe. By now he was in a full gallop, and the rain was in full force. It didn't take much convincing for his hooves to bring him within eyesight of Rainbow's floating castle, self-made and as cocky as the mare who made it.

“Rainbow! Miss Rainbow Dash!” Valen yelled as his hooves started to find solid ground where once mood stood, standing as he was in the protective aegis of Rainbow's structure. He whipped his mane around and blinked the water out of his eyes, looking about for signs of the cyan mare. “I have need to speak with you, please, if you have the time!” He yelled while still keeping that proper tone well-equipped. No reason to start off on a bad hoof, even if Rainbow was unlikely to be deeply chagrined.

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AJ watched as her cousin pretty much literally deflated in front of her. It hurt her heart to know she'd not given him the answers he was looking for. She didn't like to see anypony, family or not, disappointed in her. But well, there was nothing to be done. In the end, honesty would always win out for the farm mare. Thankfully time and again honesty had paid off in the end, even when the journey to conclusions was difficult.

 

She let out a small sigh too as Valen gave a traditional Manehatten courtesy bow and trotted off. Applejack watched him go, wishing fervently he'd find the ability to be himself someday. Until he did AJ would be there, encouraging him to have the courage to be who he truly wanted to be.

 

"Yer welcome cousin," She spoke quietly and far out his earshot. "Hi hope yah find what yer lookin' for sugar cube." 

 

With that the farm mare turned towards the apple laden tree nearest to her and prepared her hind legs for some good old fashioned buckin'.

 

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"Yeah!" The pegasus hovered in place while she watched a group of new weather ponies adjust the storm clouds. "Yep! Just like that. Now give it a little push!" She grimaced. "No! Not that far! Get on the other side and move it back a little. Ok, yep perfect!" She whipped a wing across her face, dashing away rain water. "Now, just keep this up for at least an hour. After that we'll start clearing it away slowly." 

 

The group of pegasi nodded to what could only be considered a sage weather pony at this point. Sure she was also an accomplished Wonderbolt and a savior of all Equestria but Rainbow never forgot her roots. She'd had most of her early flight training moving weather patterns across the skies above Ponyville. 

 

"Um, time to not be out in a down pour," Rainbow muttered as she winged back to her home. The weather ponies could continue to train but RD had little need of that. Nope. She'd go home, have a hot shower and relax with Tank for an hour or so before going back out to direct the next weather change. "Speaking of out in a down pour," She spied somepony looking like they were calling up to her home.

 

Rainbow winged low, spraying rainwater as she went. When she got closer she could see who it was.

 

"Valen! Um, what are you doing out in the rain?" She knew by looking at him he wished to have a word and the rain was only increasing in intensity. She nodded to a nearby coffee shoppe. "Meet you over there ok?" She would have invited him in of course but he'd have fallen right through her house since he wasn't a pegasus and Twi wasn't around to cast any fancy spells. 

 

Rainbow landed with a clacking of hooves on cobble stones outside of the shop. There was an awning to stand under and dry off before entering. Water flew everywhere as the mare shook herself off not unlike a dog. As Valen made his way over she beckoned him.

 

"Let's get out of the rain!" 

 

Inside was warm but not stifling. RD could feel the rain evaporating from her coat and she sighed, knowing the hot shower and hang out with Tank time was going to have to wait. She was just too interested in what Valen might want to talk to her about.

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