Among a void of darkness nigh impenetrable to anything but their light, they alone stood out as bastions of what lay beyond the known reaches of the world. Every now and again, a ripple would roll across the black expanse, causing the pinpricks of light to flicker and waver like the dying flames of a midnight candle as its owner lay asleep on her desk, books as pillows. Slowly, the ripples would fade, and the stars would again sparkle and shine, light playing off of the land below.
Twilight stared into this black expanse, wondering what it would be like to walk among those stars. Her thoughts conjured a feeling not unlike that of silk, soft and flowing, light and cool. She imagined the ability to embrace the stars, feeling their warm glow against her lavender coat. Closing her eyes, she envisioned standing proudly beside Orion, The Great Hunter, and watching as he took down his prey. She felt herself swim through the vacuum with Pisces, and flow through the river of Eridanus.
Slowly opening her heavy lidded eyes, she gazed back down at the black pool before her. It was through this large, natural mirror that she was currently eyeing Luna’s night sky. Idly swirling a hoof in the water, she observed the way the ripples caused the stars to perform their dance. If not for her love of books and knowledge, she would be perfectly content to spend her days in this very spot.
Except for one minor detail; there had to be at least one other pony with her. A very special somepony.
It was in this same, secluded, little window to another world that she met this pony, and it was here that she most loved to meditate and remove herself from the outside world. It was here that she could fully relax and come into herself, allowing her mind free, flowing thought, untainted by the opinions of others.
The surrounding oak trees cradled her in their protective embrace, limbs reaching out to the water, reaching across the small pond to their brothers. As old as Ponyville itself, the trees held tales of history, ever silent unless one listened, unless one felt. Several times over the past few months, Twilight thought she could hear the whispers, thought she could feel the soft vibrations on the wind. An old mare’s tale though it may be, she could not deny that there was some magic that nopony could explain, not even Celestia herself.
She heard the soft hoofsteps approaching, saw as miniscule ripples raced away from the edge before thinning out into glass. Removing the tip of her hoof from the water, the unicorn gently lifted her head and took a deep breath of the country air through her nostrils. The scent of the pond filled her body, mixed in with the unmistakable smell of healthy grass with a soft undertone of the fleshy red fruit in the surrounding orchards.
Feeling the vibrations from each hoofstep slow at an increasing rate, Twilight turned her head ever so slightly, catching a glimpse of the approaching cause. A smile played across her lips, tail twitching from side to side as an ear flicked in the direction of the newcomer. The sound of hooves gently faded into the night, and the rustle of grass against a rough coat entered into it. The lavender mare quietly nuzzled up to her new companion, lingering upon his shoulder as he gratefully returned the nuzzle, a sigh of contentment slipping out of his body.
“Good evening, Mac,” whispered Twilight, brushing her lips against his ear. It gave the faintest of twitches, a psychological sign of acceptance.
“Good evening, Twilight,” Big Macintosh softly replied. “Ah’m sorry it took me so long. Granny needed help in tha kitchen.”
Twilight simply hummed into his coat, nuzzling him again. She had yet to discover what she did to deserve a stallion such as Big Macintosh. The workhorse was everything a mare looked for in a stallion; he was kind, caring, he loved his family, he was an honest worker, and he put others before himself. Attributes such as these only began to scratch the surface, however. There was much more to this member of the Apple family then meets the eye, as a certain unicorn had been discovering over the few months that they had been together.
“Don’t be sorry,” she said, softly. “I would have waited out here all night if I needed to. I always know you’ll be here eventually.”
Macintosh smiled at his studious marefriend, locking eyes with her before lowering his head to give her a kiss. She accepted his kiss gratefully, offering him a generous reciprocation. The couple stayed locked together for a moment, before breaking to gaze into each other’s eyes again. Another quick peck, and one was once again cuddled up against the other, Twilight resting her head on the spot where Mac’s yoke would normally reside.
Together, they examined the fabric of Luna’s night, catching the occasional shooting star, watching as the night’s waning crescent moon crawled across the sky. The pale celestial object was the only indication of the passage of time out here, where the couple had shared their first kiss. It was in the very spot that the earth pony stallion and unicorn mare now lay that they had declared feelings for one another, where the two had come together as a couple. It was here that the pair visited several nights a week, and it was here that the two shared their most intimate thoughts with each other.
The circumstance that brought about their coming together had been a humorous one, wrought with misunderstanding and undiscovered feelings that plagued the two before they each relinquished their secret to the other. It had been a magical moment, Twilight remembered, when she had first kissed Mac. It had been a terribly embarrassing moment immediately afterward, when she had realized what she did. After several drinks for Twilight, advice from her number one assistant and Applejack, and after a small nervous breakdown, she had come back to Sweet Apple Acres and discovered that the object of her affection had the same feelings towards her.
Since then, a whirlwind of events had unfolded. A party was held in their honor by Ponyville’s Premier Party Pony, Pinkie Pie, and semi-formal attire was custom made by Rarity for their first date. In the following weeks, Rainbow Dash had declared them the “Coolest Couple in Ponyville,” and Fluttershy had lent Twilight some of her romance novels for a better understanding of relationships. While the unicorn had found these of little practical help, she did enjoy the reads and thanked Fluttershy profusely for her gracious offer in the field of love. Applejack, being Mac’s sister, now shared a special bond with Twilight and they constantly chatted about the goings-on of the town, and frequently enjoyed swims in the family-owned pond that had become so central in Twilight’s life. Typically found locked in a room with books, Twilight was constantly discovered in the orchard, helping the Apples with their harvests for a few hours every week after Big Macintosh had taught her how to buck apples.
Only two months had gone by since their relationship began, but to Twilight, it felt like years. She had come to understand Big Macintosh better than herself, learning how he subtly interacted with his surroundings despite his typically soft-spoken nature. It went beyond her studious nature, however; over time, she had learned to understand deeper meanings to his words through the tone he used, and she had been able to dive deeper into his personality through shared private moments, like the one they were currently in at the pond.
Mac voiced the same opinion to her, of course, claiming to see her mild freak-outs from a mile away. Thankfully, due to his otherworldly foresight on this matter, Twilight had undergone less panic attacks because he would always be there to calm her down. Big Macintosh had also informed her that he was well aware when she needed his help on an emotional issue she was struggling with, and, realizing that he was, in fact, always there whenever she most needed him, questioned how this was. His reply would always be a low muttering with something about “Bein’ tha only stallion,” and “Knowin’ what gets under a mare’s coat,” usually in combination with a glance at his younger sisters.
Regardless of how he came into this knowledge, Twilight knew two things: she was very lucky to have a stallion like Big Macintosh, and she could never spend enough time with him.
Reigning her mind back into the present, Twilight once again became aware of the black expanse of natural beauty before her, as well as the strong, steady rise and fall of Mac’s shoulders. She nuzzled his neck again, feeling the warmth radiating off his body. It was getting on into late autumn, and while it had yet to get cold, it was definitely quite cool. Nightmare Night had passed, and winter was just around the corner. Twilight let out a sigh of contentment, and nibbled Mac’s ear.
“Hey, Mac?” she whispered.
“Hmm?” he replied, feeling her breath as it tickled the fur around his ears.
“I’m really glad I have you in my life.”
He smiled, then, turning her words over in his mind, replaying them several times over. “Hey, Twilight?” he said in kind.
“Yes, Big Mac?”
“Ah’m really glad Ah’ve got you in mah life, too.”
She chuckled, then, nibbling his ear again as she felt that familiar warmth across her cheeks. The feeling spread down her neck, through her spine, and to the tips of her hooves. It wasn’t a feeling that she ever experienced without her coltfriend, and it never failed to put her in a good mood, regardless of the stresses of her day.
It had been said for centuries before the Princess of the Moon’s banishment that her time was the most romantic, and even throughout the duration of her banishment, this statement held true. Since her return to Equestria, these nationwide feelings had come back tenfold, amplifying poetry, artwork, songwriting, and other artistic embodiments of the feelings discovered by ponies in the dead of night. Through these works, the general feeling of the populace towards romance had grown more secluded again, and ponies throughout the land reserved the nighttime as time with their loves. This feeling could not be more in evidence than it was at the Apple’s farm pond, as the two ponies there fell for each other all over again.
“Twi, Ah’ve got a little surprise for ya,” Big Macintosh said.
“You do? What is it?” Twilight inquired.
Mac gave her a small smile, and one of his teasing winks. “Ah believe you’ll really enjoy this one.”
As he reached over to his other side with his head, Twilight tried to glimpse what it was he had over his thick, muscular neck. It was no use, however; his hulking form was too large for her to see past.
“Ya ready?” Mac asked, voice muffled by some object in his mouth.
Twilight hummed an affirmative, nodding her head against his neck. Slowly, he turned to face her, the cause behind his muffled voice hanging from his teeth. It was none other than…
“Smartypants!” Twilight exclaimed, sitting up and retrieving the doll in her magical aura. “Mac, how did you find her? Where did you find her? I looked all over for her after…well, yeah. You know,” she finished, sheepishly. Glancing up at Big Macintosh, the deep pools of her eyes held her undying thanks for the return of her childhood friend.
“Let’s just say that Ah took a bit of a likin’ to her after yer ‘incident,’” he said, with a soft smile. “Ah meant to give her back a lot sooner, but Ah ‘spose I just plain forgot about her.”
“Oh, Mac,” Twilight breathed, hugging her doll and nuzzling her coltfriend once again. After a moment of silence, she spoke again. “You’re the best, Mac. And I mean that.”
The large red stallion felt a gentle glow on his cheeks at the praise, a reaction he always had to his marefriend’s words for him. No matter how many times she said it, those words never ceased to make him feel truly special.
“Ah’d agree with ya, Twi, except for one minor detail.”
“And what would that be?” she asked.
“Well, Ah think yer the best.” He kissed her on the forehead then, at the base of her horn. He knew this to be a sensitive area, and enjoyed taking advantage of that whenever he could. The light peck had its desired effect, as the lavender unicorn seemed to tremble in place, positively buzzing with pleasurable energy.
“Mac, I—“ Twilight stuttered. Her mind and heart, nay, her entire body was overflowing with nervousness. So many emotions were coursing through the mare that she was having trouble sorting through a million thoughts to create one, continuous train. She lifted her head along her coltfriend’s thick, corded neck, leaving a trail of kisses all the way up to his waiting lips. After a few quick pecks and a slightly deeper kiss, she stared deep into his green eyes, seemingly examining his very heart.
One more quick peck, and she said it.
“I love you, Big Macintosh.”
Her stomach flipped immediately, tail twitching with nervous anticipation, magic gathering at the base of her horn. She even swore she felt a petite spark across her cutie mark, but she chalked it up to imagination. An ear gave a start, followed by a little itch at the tip of her nose. So many feelings, and she had no idea how to handle them all. The only thing she could bring herself to do was to stare at her love, and await his response.
Silence reigned after those five little words. Five little words that, until now, Twilight had only ever thought of in minor passing or sarcastic bouts with her friends. Five little words that, until now, the lavender mare had only ever dreamt of saying, and, until now, had no idea of the sheer power that they carried. What little time seemed to pass in the small paradise seemed to halt, as even the moon held its breath. The pond was as still and unmoving as Mount Canterlot, and the surrounding wildlife appeared to be watching with suspense.
The silence only lasted a few seconds, but they were the longest seconds of Twilight’s life. Even her twenty-plus years of life seemed infinitesimal compared to the few seconds that seemed to rule her very existence at this moment in time. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest as it rushed to pump adrenaline through her system, and she began to feel very aware of the laws of gravity as it took effect upon her very soul. Finally, her mind caught up to everything that was happening, and prepared for its thousand-mile-per-hour journey from one thought to the next.
Fortunately for her, Big Macintosh was much calmer under pressure, and, once again, was able to halt a minor freak out before it had the chance to begin. He normally saw these from a mile away, but that distance was an understatement in this case. He saw this situation begin to brew the moment he asked her to be his marefriend, and he had begun to prepare for it immediately. He made sure each and every day that he was prepared for this moment, were it to make itself known before he decided it should be. That is to say that, if Twilight were to say those words first—and, undoubtedly, she would—that he would have his response ready before she had the chance to turn tail and run. The last thing he wanted was a repeat of their first kiss.
And finally, he delivered his answer, one that he had been contemplating since the moment their relationship began.
“Twi, I love you, too.” He closed his eyes, leaned forward, and captured his Twilight in a kiss, one that was deep and full of passion. She graciously accepted, pushing back into his kiss with gusto. It was minutes before the kiss broke, as the two lovers explored the other’s mouth with their tongues, tasting the unique flavors of personality and love that each one contained.
When they finally did break, Twilight was caught staring into those deep green pools she had come to love so much. She couldn’t help but let out a faltering, nervous chuckle. She was full of emotions, and without any other outlet, began to cry. It wasn’t a cry laced with sobs and sorrow, rather bolstered with silent tears, an ear-height grin, and repeated nuzzling of the object of her love.
Big Macintosh allowed the tears of joy that his marefriend was shedding to soak into his coat, feeling her honest love for him seep into his veins. He wrapped a foreleg around her, pressing her small lavender form tight against his chest. Through the next passing moments, the stallion would place a butterfly kiss on Twilight’s cheek, over the wet streaks that visibly showed the emotions that she could no longer contain. Each whisper of a kiss further fueled their moment, and she would nuzzle him more, trailing several kisses, wishing that she could be even closer than she already was.
The tears eventually stopped as Twilight’s raw emotion levels finally balanced out. What had transpired in only several minutes felt like hours, but Luna’s moon was a testament to the small passage of time. The couple didn’t even need words as they simultaneously looked out over the small expanse of water, calmly reflecting the night sky in all of its glory.
This one tiny patch of paradise had meant the world to the two, ever since the beginning. Several nights a week they would meet out here, talking about their days as they snuggled up, side by side. Occasionally, Twilight and Applejack would go for a light swim after several hours in the orchard applebucking, a task that the bookworm had taken up enthusiastically. She had improved tenfold since Big Macintosh had first taught her the technique, and she could feel strength beginning to form in her hind legs.
Every now and again, Big Macintosh would bring a book to the pond to read with his marefriend, so that they may share even more common interests. Like most ponies around town, he enjoyed a good book or the occasional series of books. Much to Twilight’s delight, however, he also enjoyed reading on the science of farming, a subject that she was just beginning to touch on, in large part due to her earth pony love.
To say that one could sum up their entire relationship with this one spot would be asinine, but to say that a large part of it could be explained with a mere glimpse into the moments spent here would be completely accurate. And after the last few moments that had transpired, the couple now had another moment to add to the growing resume that the Apple family pond owned.
Twilight’s mind raced over the last two months, how they began, where they went, and how they led up to the three important words she had just spoken to Mac. Gently stroking Miss Smartypants, she became aware once again of the grass beneath her, the fresh orchard air, and the soft rise and fall of her coltfriend’s breathing.
“Twilight,” he said softly, turning his head and nibbling her hear.
Her body shivered at his touch, as he knew all the most sensitive places on her body. Well, almost all of them. The pair hadn’t gone that far yet, and weren’t planning to for a while.
“Yes, Mac?” she asked, a bit shakily. She hadn’t spoken since those words, and after tears of joy and her thousand thoughts, she had almost forgotten she had a voice at all.
“Would ya like ta stay with me tonight? It’s gettin’ late, but Ah’m not ready ta leave ya yet.”
She smiled at this. Of course she knew they would hit his bed, cuddle up together, and drift off to a peaceful sleep. They had done it, once before. It was the most blissful experience of Twilight’s life, topping even that memory of the arrival of her cutie mark. The next morning had been quite humorous, when Applejack had come in to wake her brother up, instead finding two ponies rubbing sleep out of their eyes. It took Twilight the whole day to convince her that they had, in fact, just been too tired from a day of work to do anything but fall asleep.
Twilight looked up at Big Macintosh with a loving grin, nodding her head as she pecked him on the cheek. “I would absolutely love to,” she whispered. “I couldn’t think of a better end to this evening.”
Mac kissed her again as she rose, stretching from her stay on the ground. He followed suit soon after, feeling his joints and muscles pop as they relaxed from a day full of bucking and hauling. Without needed to speak, the couple turned and, leaning against one another, made their way back towards the Apples’ farmhouse. There, they would find a bed that would allow them an entire night together, snuggled up close, bringing about the perfect ending to, arguably, their favorite memory as a couple.
Pre-dawn light began to peek through trees as morning’s invisible sun began its ascent into the Equestrian sky. Yet to break the horizon, its rays could be seen stretching high into the air from below the curve of the land, continuing on into the eternity of the vast, purple-hued sky. This morning brought with it a frosty chill, a foresight of the winter to come. Animals around the small country slept in, keeping warm with their families tucked safely in trees and in underground passageways. Ponies local to the small town of Ponyville were just beginning to stir in their beds, stalling the inevitable departure from the warm embrace of the blankets they were wrapped in. Hot showers began to run, and a warm scent of coffee could just barely be detected on the light breeze that carried with it small wisps of chimney smoke.
Further on out from the town itself, in a humble orchard known as Sweet Apple Acres, frying pans were being heated up as eggs were collected from the various chicken coops surrounding the small homestead. Perched on a nearby fence, standing tall and proud, a rooster crowed. An ancient green mare looked in his direction, smiling with approval, before disappearing into the kitchen with a basketful of fresh, brown eggs.
In the second story of the farmhouse, an orange earth pony mare was carefully brushing out her long locks of blonde mane, before carefully tying it back with her signature red hair tie. Placing her iconic Stetson upon her head, she dutifully removed herself from her room, and bee lined to the door across the way. Knocking three times for good measure, she placed a hoof upon the doorknob and waited a moment for an answer. Hearing nothing but the gentle sound of soft snoring, she slowly opened the door and peered inside.
True to her belief, a large bulge lay under a handmade quilt of various pastel colors, rising and falling in time with the snores. Chuckling to herself, Applejack cautiously made her way towards her older brother’s bed to rouse him for the day’s work. Once she was within hoof’s reach, she noticed an irregularity to the rise and fall of the comforter. Wondering what could be causing said irregularity, she lightly folded back one corner of the blanket, heart stopping in surprise at what she found.
Lying in Big Macintosh’s bed, wrapped tightly in his hooves, was her dear friend Twilight Sparkle. This was the second time she had come to wake up her brother and found the two together, and still the discovery ground her mind to a halt. Of course Applejack knew that the two were dating, she had practically set them up! Why, if she hadn’t reassured her friend after the kiss-and-run, the happy couple may never have existed in the first place!
The orange mare had no issue with their relationship, of course. The only thing that bothered her was waking up in the morning to find this, of all things! And even at that, she wasn’t irked due to the act itself. It was simply the lack of information flowing her way that got under her skin. Then again, Twilight, Big Mac, and she were all grown ponies. They had the ability to make their own decisions, and if the couple wanted to sleep in the same bed, why should they be barred from that privilege?
No, the true source of irritation was most likely jealousy; Jealousy at the fact that she lacked a significant other with which to share a bed. Her grandmother, Granny Smith, was perfectly fine with the situation, as she had been looking for Big Macintosh to acquire himself a mare for quite some time. Applejack supposed she was expected to find a stallion soon, but her heart just wasn’t in it at the moment. As quickly as it had come, her irritation fled her mind to be taken over by another emotion.
A strong sense of pride and love welled up in her heart, pride at what the happy couple had managed to accomplish together in two months, and love for both of the ponies she was looking at. Of course, Big Macintosh had always been there for her as a filly, and Twilight, of course, was probably her best friend. Sure, her minor panic attacks could be troublesome at times, but Big Mac had significantly helped with that issue. Plus, that unicorn was getting pretty good at bucking apples.
She gently placed a hoof on her brother’s withers, and tried to shake him awake. After a moment, he stirred, lifting his head from his pillow to look at her.
“Oh, uh, good mornin’, AJ,” he mumbled, heavy eyelids drooping. “Ah didn’t sleep too late, did Ah?”
“No, Ah made sure ta wake ya fer the last big day. We got some ripe pumpkins to harvest, and Ah reckon if we get on it, we’ll be done by ‘bout noon.”
Mac’s eyes drifted around the room, before resting on the back of his marefriend’s head. “Aight, gimme a moment here and Ah’ll be down fer breakfast shortly.”
Applejack chuckled, walking out of the door as she softly called back, “See ya in a few, ya big lovebird.”
Big Macintosh snorted quietly, knowing that his sister just liked to tease him. He laid his head back on his pillow, but it was no use. Throughout his life, once he was awake, he was up. He leaned over and placed a kiss on Twilight’s cheek, causing her to stir with life and twitch slightly.
“Twilight, it’s mornin’,” he whispered, mouth close to her ear.
A muffled moan came from her muzzle as she tossed slightly between his hooves.
She’s too cute, the large stallion thought to himself. Ain’t nothin’ better than spendin’ a night with her.
“C’mon, Twi. Granny’s got breakfast made.”
At the word “breakfast,” Twilight’s left eyelid creaked open and she glanced lazily at her stallion. Slowly rolling over to face him, she began to trail kisses up his chest until she reached his muzzle, sleepily embracing him in a deep kiss. After a moment, she broke the kiss and laid her head on his wide, barrel-shaped chest.
“That sounds good,” she breathed, tracing a hoof in small circles on his coat. Then, looking back up at him, “I love you.”
Big Mac smiled, kissing her forehead. “Ah love you too.”
A moment of shared silence passed before the lavender unicorn made a move towards the edge of the bed. “Well, if your Granny has breakfast on the table, we certainly don’t want to keep her waiting.”
“Eenope,” Big Macintosh replied, rolling out of the opposite side. After Twilight quickly made the bed with a burst of magic, the two migrated downstairs, Mac leading the way. They emerged into a kitchen full of flavorful scents, where the Apple family matriarch could be seen finishing up the last batch up eggs. Five plates were on the table, healthy portions of scrambled eggs and pancakes topped with apples adorning each.
“Twilight!” exclaimed Applebloom, in her young southern drawl. “Ah didn’t know you was here!”
“Neither did yer sister,” Mac answered, as Twilight smiled at the yellow filly.
Granny Smith made a few tsk sounds as she sat down at her place, looking at Applejack and Applebloom in turn. “Y’all ain’t never got no clue what goes on ‘round here, do ye?” she said, in a joking manner. “Both of ye got ta learn how ta see in yer sleep!”
All the ponies in the room started at the elder mare, lost for words as hers hung in the air. After a few moments of silence, Applejack slowly lowered her fork and dug in to her breakfast, with everypony soon following suit.
“So, did y’all sleep well last night?” Applejack asked her brother, in part addressing her guest.
“Eeyup,” replied Big Mac. “How ‘bout yerself?”
“Mhm,” she mumbled through a mouthful of pancakes. “Ah had to, we got ourselves quite a day today. And when we’re done, we can relax all we want.”
“Can’t say Ah ain’t lookin’ forward to it,” Big Mac commented, placing another forkful of pancakes into his mouth.
“Can I help out in any way?” Twilight asked, hopefully.
Applejack looked up at the ceiling, rubbing her chin while pondering the unicorn’s question. Eventually she shrugged, saying, “Ah don’t see any reason why ya can’t help out. Shoot, ya’ve gotten pretty good at applebuckin’.”
Twilight just barely caught an expression not unlike pride cross her coltfriend’s face, before it turned into a plain smile.
“Ah’m lookin’ forward ta havin’ ya out in the orchard, Twilight,” he said, giving her a wink.
Twilight felt her lavender cheeks tinge red, trying to hide her shyness behind a mouthful of pancake and egg.
“Thanks, y’all,” she said.
Suddenly, silverware could be heard clattering against a plate, and when the unicorn looked up, she saw Applejack staring at her in shock.
“What?” she asked, confused. “Is it something I said?”
Mac let loose a small chuckle as his sister nodded her head.
“Ya said ‘y’all’,” she said. “I ain’t never heard one of our friends say ‘y’all’.”
If Twilight had been blushing before, she definitely was now. “Oh, um, well, I ah…” she trailed off, unsure of what to say. Fortunately, her coltfriend decided that now would be a good time to jump in and assist her.
“Well, AJ, two months with us’ll do that to ya,” he said, laughing.
“I guess so,” she replied, lost in thought. “It’s just, it’s nice. Hearin’ one of mah best friends talk like Ah do, it’s nice.” After a few more seconds of looking at her plate, she finished off her eggs and rose to take the dish to the sink.
“Well, I’m glad, AJ. I didn’t think about it, really, but I’m glad it makes you happy. I have always liked, um, y’alls accent.”
Applejack chuckled again, turning to her friend and placing a hoof around her shoulder. “Ah think I could get used to that, Twi.”
The two shared a laugh as the whole family finished up breakfast. Once all the dishes were put up, Applejack, Big Mac, and Twilight stepped out into the cool, morning air.
“Sure is a good day fer pickin’,” Mac said, feeling his muscles loosen as he stretched. Applejack was following his lead, audible pops resounding around the front porch.
“Yep,” she said. “And it’s the last one, too. Ah always love a good hard day of work, but boy howdy, do Ah love when it’s time to take a break.”
Taking in a few precious more moments of the morning sunrise playing off the fading leaves of the orchard, the three ponies stood close together, enjoying one another’s company. Once several seconds had passed, Mac broke the calm by stepping forward.
“Welp, no time like tha present to get tha pickin’ done. C’mon, y’all.”
The three ponies walked side by side out into the farmland, soaking up the warmth of the rising sun to fight off brisk chill of the air. The walk out to the pumpkin patch was longer than any other in Sweet Apple Acres, as it was planted beyond all the apple trees. Twilight could feel her tired muscles beginning to awaken from their slumber as she worked to keep pace with Big Macintosh, whose long legs carried him forward faster than most mares of Ponyville. After several minutes of dead conversation and their warm up stroll, the group finally arrived at their destination.
The Apple family pumpkin patch is not a secret to those who live in Ponyville, as their crop is used every year on Nightmare Night. However, few ponies have ever seen the elusive field, as it lies so far off the beaten path. Those who have seen it cannot describe it and those who have yet to lay eyes on it will never know its full glory.
Twilight looked out on the large patch, taking in the perfect condition of what she saw. Pumpkins all the same size, spaced out at just the right intervals, and gleaming with a beautiful, ghostly, orange glow peered back at her. Easily twice the size of the Apples’ farmhouse, the patch was nothing short of a farmer’s paradise.
“What’s a matter, Twi? Opalescence got yer tongue?” Applejack joked, looking at her bewildered unicorn friend.
Twilight closed her gaping mouth and shook her head a few times. “I—I never knew just how perfect this place was! I mean, I had heard from Rainbow, but to see it? It’s, well, unreal, Applejack.”
True to her earth pony way, the female farmer tipped her hat and crossed her legs. “Eeyup, we get that a lot. She’s pretty, ain’t she, Mac?”
“Eeyup,” said Big Macintosh, though it was clear he wasn’t referring to the pumpkin patch.
“Well,” came the lecture-like tone of Twilight, “like you said earlier, Mac, these pumpkins won’t pick themselves. Let’s get started!”
The trio began working right away, cutting the pumpkin stems and loading it into one of two carts that had been brought out to the field the day before. Despite the cool temperature, Twilight began sweating quickly, foam forming a slick layer on the outside of her lavender coat. They continued on like this for several hours, both Applejack and Twilight cutting pumpkin stems while Big Mac piled them on his back to be loaded into the carts.
After what seemed like ages, the carts were finally full, and they could take their first break.
“Well, we only got ‘bout a third of tha patch left to go,” Mac said, sweeping his eyes over the field.
Applejack was leaning against a cart, letting the sweat drip down her neck as a breeze cooled her off. “Say, Twi, why haven’t ya used any magic yet? Remember when ya helped me out with that harvest last year, and ya picked all them apples just like that?”
Laying on her side from exhaustion, Twilight only managed to look up at her friend with her eyes. “Yeah, well, Winter Wrap Up kind of changed all of that thinking.”
“Whatta’ya mean?” the orange mare inquired.
“Well, it’s like this. I tried to use magic during that festival, but that’s just not how things are done. It’s an old tradition started by earth ponies, and after I learned just how wrong it was to use magic, I’m really hesitant to do something like that again. I mean, I’ve been holding my own in applebucking, and I always like doing things the way they were meant to be done.”
The two Apples shared a look, before busting out laughing.
“What? What’s so funny?” Twilight asked as she sat up, exasperated.
Once he recovered from the side-splitting bout of laughter, Big Macintosh wiped his eyes with a hoof, and moved over to his marefriend’s side. “Twilight, hon,” he said, still chuckling, “the only reason AJ yelled at ya in Wrap Up is ‘cause that’s a time-honored tradition ‘a Ponyville. Out here in tha orchard, though?” he gestured to the surroundings. “If it helps ya get tha job done, Ah don’t see any reason why ya can’t use yer magic.”
“Plus, we ain’t quite as old fashioned as some of our kin might be,” Applejack chimed in. “Now, some ‘a them ponies may be inclined ta toss ya off their land fer usin’ magic. Shoot, some of ‘em may throw ya off just ‘cause yer a unicorn.”
The lavender mare drew back into her coltfriend’s side, eyes going wide at her friend’s statement. “Some of your family has problems with unicorns?” she asked. “I thought that was settled long ago when Equestria was founded!”
“Fer most of tha earth ponies, it was,” Mac said. “But some of our folks are more, um, old fashioned. They hold to old traditions a bit tighter than most.”
“Were any of those ponies there when I first came to Ponyville? Your entire family seemed so nice!”
“Naw, they don’t hardly ever visit us,” Applejack said. “We only see ‘em when we’re out their way. Most of ‘em are real homebodies, and bein’ off ‘a their land makes ‘em all freaky and whatnot.”
Twilight stared at her hooves for a moment, shuffling them around in the grass of the orchard. She looked up at Big Mac, who gave her an affectionate nuzzle.
“What would they think of us?” the unicorn asked, to nopony in particular.
“Ah wouldn’t worry about that, Twi,” Macintosh said.
“Well, not now, anyways…” Applejack trailed off, making a face that reminded Twilight all too much of a certain Draconequus’ spell.
“What was that?” asked Twilight, narrowing her eyes at her orange friend.
“What was what? I don’t know what yer talkin’ about.”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about, Applejack. You only make that face when you’re lying, or there’s more to the story.”
During this time, Big Macintosh had discreetly pulled away from his marefriend by a few inches, looking in the opposite direction to hide his obvious blush.
“Mac?” asked the suddenly anxious unicorn. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothin’.” he deadpanned.
“You Apples are so bad at lying. Applejack, you’re the Element of Honesty, and Big Macintosh…well; I just know when you’re lying. Because I’m your marefriend. And marefriends always know when their coltfriends are lying.”
A moment of silence passed between the three, with Twilight looking expectantly between the two. After a moment, Applejack finally decided to speak up.
“Well, like Ah said, you wouldn’t have to worry ‘bout what our extended family thought until later.”
“How much later?”
“Spit it out!”
“Like, unless you were gonna become Twilight Apple.”
Twilight took in a deep breath and held it. The world seemed to stop around her, and it almost appeared as if time slowed. She cautiously glanced up at her horn to assure herself that she didn’t accidentally use one of Starswirl’s spells, and was relieved, for once, to find her horn lying dormant. She glanced back down at Applejack, and then to her coltfriend, whose face was now a shade of red so deep, Twilight may have thought that he had accidentally cut himself.
“But that’s later. Not now. So don’t worry,” Applejack stuttered.
Telling Twilight Sparkle not to worry was like trying to tell Rarity not to make dresses. Telling Twilight Sparkle not to worry was like telling Rainbow Dash not to fly. Heck, telling Twilight Sparkle not to worry was like telling Pinkie Pie not to laugh. If the possibility for chaos existed, and a certain lavender unicorn was aware of it, then she would worry. Even if the idea completely freaked her out and changed her entire way of thinking, she would worry. In fact, adding in the freak out would cause this particular mare to worry more.
And worrying she was, as she began to take long, deep breaths as her eyes remained wide open in shock.
“Twi, Ah apologize fer mah sister’s big mouth. She wasn’t assumin’ anythin’—“
“—Oh, shut it, Mac! I ain’t never seen ya like this, not even when ya had them crushes! Ya never know what’ll happen, an’ if it does, y’all are gonna have ta deal with it!”
“I—um, that is, it’s okay, Applejack,” Twilight breathed. Though she was speaking, her eyes were still as wide as dinner plates. “I know you were just talking about the possibilities. And she’s right, Mac.”
Now it was his turn to be shocked, as he looked at his lavender love with bewilderment. “Right about what, Twi?”
“Right about the possibility. I mean, we are dating. And taking it from Cadance and my big brother, any two ponies that are dating do have the possibility to get married. Now, I’m not saying we will, I mean, I know that isn’t even a thought yet—and it probably shouldn’t be—but if it does come to pass, AJ is right. We will have to look at that.”
Twilight was able to calm herself down through logic and reasoning. It’s how she survived all those exams at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, and it’s how she got through any other minor crisis in her life. Or at least tried to.
“But like Ah said, that’s a long ways off. Probably. Maybe.” Applejack finished.
Big Macintosh and Twilight simply stared at Applejack, both displaying looks of shock and confusion. Silence endured for a moment longer before the large stallion finally got his racing heart back to a normal pace.
“Welp, we better haul these pumpkins in an’ finish tha harvest. We got us a well-deserved break as soon as we’re done. C’mon y’all.” He quickly rose to his feet and strapped himself into a cart’s harness, and began hauling away before Twilight and Applejack had even risen to their hooves.
“Well, he sure was in a hurry,” Twilight said.
“Gee, Ah wonder why,” Applejack replied sarcastically. After strapping herself into the second cart, she followed her brother, and the three ponies went about their last chores before the winter break.
It was going to be an interesting one, beginning with a visit to a local fashionista.
Soon after the pumpkin harvest was finished, Twilight Sparkle made off for her library. At least, that’s what she told Applejack and her coltfriend. Although she had played it off cool, the nature of their recent conversation was, for lack of a better term, freaking her out. Ever since her all-too-honest friend said the words “Twilight Apple,” her mind had been moving at one hundred miles per hour, thinking of too many possibilities and too many outcomes for her future.
It’s been two months, for crying out loud! she practically shouted inside of her mind. Why in Celestia’s name would anypony bring up marriage?
The more she replayed the scene in her head, the more frantic her thought process became. Unfortunately for the lavender mare, when she was away from Big Macintosh, she had a much higher tendency to slip into irrationality.
How can marriage even be a topic right now? We’ve only even slept together twice! Actually, speaking of sleeping together, we haven’t even done that yet! What if we never do? What if this is just a fling and I’m wasting my time, or what if we aren’t really in love? We did just say it last night, was that too soon?
Throughout her mental tirade, Twilight had sped up to a trot, a canter, and was now almost at a full gallop towards her destination. There was only one pony she could think of to help her with her problems, the only pony she knew who constantly talked about romance. She hoped also that this pony could help talk some sense into her because she just knew everything her mind was telling her couldn’t be true. At least, that’s what she wanted to believe.
As the Ponyville librarian quickly rounded the corner to Carousel Boutique, she collided with a yellow pegasus, who had appeared so fast it seemed like teleportation had occurred. The two ponies tumbled onto the ground in a heap, Twilight groaning as she felt her horn scrape against the cobblestone pavement.
“Ow! Owowowowow!” she said, rubbing her horn furiously.
“Oh, um, I’m s-sorry, Twilight. I, um, didn’t see you there.” Fluttershy picked herself up off the ground, helping her injured friend in the process. “Are you okay?”
After a few more seconds of horn-rubbing and some pained hisses, Twilight was able to reply.
“Yes, I think so. Sorry I ran into you, Fluttershy. I was just in such a hurry to get to Rarity’s that I wasn’t really looking where I was going!”
“Don’t worry about it, Twilight. I’m just glad you’re okay,” Fluttershy said in her gentle voice. “What are you headed to Rarity’s for?”
“Well,” Twilight began, as the two mares turned towards the boutique, “I needed to ask her advice on some, um, things. A situation, I guess you could say.”
Fluttershy’s eyes lit up. “Oh, is it something with Big Macintosh?”
“Um…” Twilight was silent for a moment, zoning out as her mind returned to her previous thoughts.
“What? Oh, sorry. Yes, it is about Big Mac. I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“What exactly is going on?” asked the timid pegasus.
“It’s kind of a long story,” Twilight lied. She only wanted one pony’s opinion at the moment, and she didn’t have Fluttershy pegged as a romantic. “You probably wouldn’t want to hear it.”
Fluttershy giggled then, looking at her bookish friend. “I guess you haven’t really spent a day with Rarity and me at the spa, have you?”
“I—um, no, I haven’t. Why?”
“Well today is our weekly meet-up. I’m sure Rarity will want you to come along, especially if you have relationship business to talk about with her. That is, if you want to,” she said, hiding behind her mane at the tail end of her statement.
The two ponies approached the front door of the boutique as Twilight mulled over her friend’s proposal. Fluttershy opened the door for the lavender mare, and once she entered the little dress shop, she almost ran into Rarity.
“Oh, Twilight, darling!” the fashionista exclaimed. “I wasn’t expecting you! Not that it’s a problem dear, but what brings you by?”
Fluttershy let the door shut itself and trotted up next to her friends, speaking on Twilight’s behalf.
“Actually, Rarity, I think Twilight should join us this afternoon at the spa. I mean, if that’s okay with you. She, um, has some things on her mind.”
The white unicorn looked between her two friends, her mind putting different pieces together into one lovely, finished puzzle.
“Is—is it about Big Macintosh?” Rarity whispered, looking around her shop as if eavesdroppers were present.
Twilight’s ears flattened against her head, as she mimicked her friend’s gaze. “Yes, it is. But nothing bad, I promise! Just, I’m freaking out a little bit. I thought you might know what to do.”
“But of course, dear! Anything for a friend! And believe me, you’ve come to the right mare,” Rarity said, with a wink. “Give me just a moment to gather a few things and lock up, and we’ll be off to the spa in no time at all!”
Not twenty minutes later, the three ponies had arrived at Aloe and Lotus’ place, and were already receiving their hooficure portion of the visit. The trio had been engaged in small talk on the walk over, as well as in the lag time between arriving and the start of the spa day. Fluttershy informed them of a new family of bunnies she was caring for, and Rarity explained how she was coming up with a new line of fashion for the winter.
Twilight remained silent through what she could only guess was a routine for the girls by now, her mind constantly replaying that horrible conversation with Applejack and Big Mac earlier. She was so distracted by her own thoughts that she almost missed when she was asked to share them.
“So do tell, darling,” Rarity addressed Twilight, diving right into the issue. “What is it that you have on your mind?”
“Um,” Twilight began. A few moments of silence reigned then, as the lavender unicorn tried to come up with words.
“Take as much time as you need, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, softly. “It can be hard to talk about things like this, if you don’t mind me saying so.”
Shaking her head, Twilight replied, “I’m just trying to get my thoughts together. Today was a little crazy.”
“Start from the beginning then, darling. I can tell this is obviously a big deal to you. We have as much time as you need to tell us.”
Twilight took a deep breath, put a few more thoughts straight in her mind, and began speaking. “Well, it started last night, I suppose. I told Big Macintosh that I loved him by the pond.”
“You what?” Rarity gasped. Fluttershy’s cheeks tinged red, as she pressed back into the chair she was laying on.
“I told him I loved him, and he said the same thing back to me.”
The white unicorn’s mouth was agape, shock written across all her features. Only Aloe’s readjustment of her hoof brought her ability to speak back
“Twilight, dear, don’t you think it’s a bit early for statements of such resolve?”
As her lavender cheeks grew red, Twilight mumbled something off to the side.
“What was that?”
She looked back at her friend with her lower lip puckered out, an almost puppy dog look in her face.
“I didn’t think so,” she said in an almost mournful tone. “I just knew it was true, so I told him. Was that a mistake?”
“No,” said a small, timid voice. “If that’s how you felt, and you thought he should know, then it wasn’t too early. Love is never early, it only comes when it’s meant to.”
Both unicorns stared at their typically reserved pegasus friend. Once she noticed the strange looks she was getting, she turned her head to hide most of her face behind her mane.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“Fluttershy, that was…most impressive,” said Rarity.
“Very insightful,” agreed Twilight, becoming more comfortable with the conversation. “So like I was saying, we told each other that, and then we went back to the farmhouse to sleep.”
“You stayed with him?” asked Rarity, shocked more than before.
“Well yeah, I have before.”
“Did you...well, you know. Do that?”
“What? No! No, not at all! Why would you think that?” Twilight involuntarily jerked her hoof away from Lotus’ careful administrations, covering her mouth with a horrified look.
“Sorry dear, sorry. I just don’t hear of two ponies staying with one another without any, ahem, action.”
Fluttershy looked as if she were trying to melt into her seat and become one with it at the moment.
“Have you never just cuddled with a stallion before, Rarity?” Twilight asked.
“Um, ahem, I—I actually have never had a stallion before, dear Twilight.”
Awkward silence permeated the room as realization hit the lavender unicorn. Rarity’s cheeks were a deep shade of red, embarrassment written across her face like a giant flashing sign. Fortunately, Fluttershy leapt in to save the day.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I haven’t—that is, I’ve never had a stallion either.”
Rarity visibly released a breath she didn’t know she was holding.
“Sorry, Rarity, I didn’t know,” Twilight said shamefully.
“No worries, darling. I suppose one would suspect me of having a deeply involved love life, but alas, I have not. A mare can dream, though.”
Aloe was putting the finishing touches on Twilight’s hooves, while Lotus was busy filling the baths. A certain white unicorn had been here enough that she was already moving in that direction. Once they were all in, and all the salts and soaps had been added, they resumed conversation.
“So do go on, dear. You stayed with Big Macintosh. What happened next?”
“Well, the next morning, after we ate breakfast, I helped the Apples with their pumpkin harvest, and—“
“Oh, dear! I’m so glad we got you into the spa today! What uncouth work that is! Why don’t you leave that job to the farmers?”
Twilight, mouth still open from being interrupted, was glaring daggers at her fashion-savvy friend.
Fluttershy, who had mostly been just a spectator, stepped in again.
“Um, girls, why don’t we let Twilight finish her story? Besides, I’m sure that farm work is much more enjoyable if you love the one you’re working with, right?”
“Exactly,” Twilight said, pointedly.
“I’m sorry, Twilight, you know how I am. I did have a crush on a prince, you know. Farm work doesn’t exactly fit in with my idea of a date,” said Rarity, giving her friend a sincerely apologetic look.
“Don’t worry about it, Rarity,” said the lavender mare, accepting her friend’s apology. “I know we both have different ideals when it comes to dating. But like I said, I was helping them with the harvest. Which, by the way, was great! Nightmare Night is going to have some delicious pumpkins this year!”
“Oh, wonderful! I love Applejack’s pumpkin pies!” Fluttershy said, clopping her hooves together excitedly.
“They’re simply divine aren’t they, dear? But please, Twilight, do continue.”
“So before we took the first load of pumpkins back to the barn, we took a break, and well, things got weird.”
“Oh do tell!” Rarity said, moving closer to Twilight. It was this kind of drama that the fashion queen lived off of.
Taking a deep breath and steadying her mind, the librarian continued. “See, I hadn’t been using my magic to harvest pumpkins because I didn’t think Applejack would want me to. I was thinking about Winter Wrap Up at the time, remember that fiasco?”
“Oh yes,” Fluttershy nearly whispered. “She was so mad when you tried to help plow the fields.”
“Exactly. Well, apparently it’s okay if I’m just helping them with a harvest. I still think I’d rather actually manually buck apples because I’m getting pretty good at that. But for pumpkin harvesting purposes, I guess I can use magic. Anyways, just as passing conversation, she and Mac casually informed me that if they were like some of their distant cousins or other extended family, then they would take major issues with me using magic of any sort because apparently they don’t even tolerate unicorns!”
“What,” Rarity deadpanned, eyes narrowing. She had a look in her eye that seemed to convey a feeling of ‘I’ll destroy them’ mixed with ‘Who in the hoof would have problems with unicorns?’ In any other situation, the expression would probably be rather humorous. “Have I ever met any of these ponies?”
“No, I asked the same thing when they told me. Apparently, those family members don’t come around here much. In fact, they hardly leave their farms.”
“But why are you freaking out about that?” Fluttershy inquired.
“I’m not freaking out!” Twilight replied in a high pitched voice, before sinking below the water slightly. “Okay, maybe a little, but not about that. What I’m about to tell you—“
“Oh do tell, do tell, darling!” Rarity could hardly stand it anymore moving right up next to Twilight, with her ear practically over her friend’s muzzle. The drama was almost too much for her, as she could be seen visibly shaking with excitement.
Pushing her friend away a little bit, Twilight continued. “Right. Well, obviously at first I was a bit concerned at what these ponies would think about me and Big Macintosh, but they quickly told me not to worry, since these ponies never come around. Of course, though, Applejack being honest as she always is, had to say something along the lines of ‘you don’t have to worry about this right now, but maybe sometime in the future.’ And when I asked her what she meant, she said—“
Here Twilight paused. Her words caught in her throat, and she found it increasingly hard to breathe. Her friends were both leaning towards her now, obviously on the edge of their seats. Even Fluttershy, the mare who usually never pushed for a pony to say more, looked eager to see where this was going. Finally, Twilight sucked it up, and said the dreaded sentence.
“She said, ‘Like if you were to become Twilight Apple.’”
Rarity’s eyes went wide, Fluttershy sank below the bath water again, and in the other room, Aloe and Lotus thought they felt the air thicken.
Aloe looked up from the paperwork she had on her desk, wondering why it was tough for her to breathe at the moment.
“Do you think I should turn the heat down?” she asked her sister.
“No, no. It’s fine,” Lotus replied. “Sometimes when Miss Rarity is here, this feeling comes up. It will go away, sister. Trust me.”
Aloe simply shrugged and went back to the contract for soaps she was looking over.
Back in the bath-room, Twilight’s expression was turning from hope for her friends to find Applejack’s statement completely normal, to exasperation that they were reacting exactly how she had wanted to the first time. She was beginning to wonder if Fluttershy had gills, when she finally emerged from underwater.
“She did not say that!” Rarity whispered. “Tell me you’re joking!”
Her lavender cheeks flushing red again, Twilight winced at her friend’s reaction. She could feel her heart rate rising as her mind began to rush with different thoughts.
“I wish I was, Rarity, truly. I—I don’t know what to think. I mean, Big Macintosh was just as embarrassed, or freaked out, or I don’t know! I don’t know, girls! This is why I wanted to talk to you!”
“There, there,” Fluttershy said, leaping out of her own embarrassment to wrap a comforting leg around her distressed friend. “Don’t worry about it; I’m sure this will all work out soon. They’ll probably forget about it in a few days.”
“But—but I told them it was a possibility!” Twilight wailed.
“You did what?” Rarity exclaimed, pulling back. “You said it was a possibility?”
Twilight could only nod, looking all too sorry for herself. “I said that Shining and Cadance were a prime example. They were dating, they got married. I said it could happen to us, too.”
“Well of course it could, darling! But you shouldn’t just say it like that! Getting married isn’t just something that ponies go around talking about like it’s an easy task!”
“I know! I know Rarity, I know!”
“Hush, Twilight,” Fluttershy cooed. “Rarity, she knows she messed up. Or, um, she thinks she did. I can’t say for sure, but I know that pointing out her mistake isn’t helping. Now, Twilight, you have a few options here. You can either let it rest, and it will probably become a non-issue. You could also bring it up with Big Macintosh. I’m sure he’ll understand that you were just freaking out a little bit when you said that, and you didn’t really mean it.” The timid pegasus didn’t know much about romance, but she had read enough novels to have a good idea of the practice.
“But—but I did mean it,” Twilight whispered. “It is a possibility. And one that I could see—but what am I saying? We’ve only been dating for two months! I shouldn’t even be thinking about…that.” She refused to say the “M” word. “Not to mention their family members that would totally hate me, and then Big Macintosh wouldn’t want me, and it would just be a completely screwed up situation!”
“Darling!” Rarity interjected, sensing her friend’s rising anxiety. “Calm down! Slow down for a moment, and just listen to us! You’re flipping out over nothing, dear. There’s no reason for you to be acting like this. How did the rest of the day go?”
Twilight was close to tears at the moment, lower lip quivering as she continued. “It was fine. We finished the harvest, I kissed Mac goodbye, and here we are.”
“Then you needn’t worry, dear. I’m sure he’ll go to sleep tonight and forget all about it. You know how stallions are.”
“You just need to go home and get some rest,” Fluttershy agreed. “This will all blow over quickly. Nopony’s getting married to anypony else for a long time yet!”
“Well, there’s always Pinkie Pie,” Rarity said off-hoof. “That pony does all sorts of things nopony would expect. Hay, I’d be inclined to believe her to walk in saying she has foals we didn’t know about.”
The three ponies laughed then, each thinking of their favorite pink party pony. After the laughter died down, Twilight looked between her two friends and took a deep breath of the aromatic air. She visibly reclined in the bath, seeming to finally be enjoying herself.
“Thanks, girls. I really needed this. I know I was freaking out there, and I can’t say I’m not anymore, but you definitely helped me.”
“What are friends for?” Fluttershy asked, smiling.
The three ponies continued talking about other goings-on in town, before their spa time came to a close and they were all standing outside in the late afternoon chill.
“And do remember, dear Twilight, not to fret over the small things. Like we said earlier, this will all pass soon. Do take care of yourself, okay?”
Twilight smiled at her friends, truly feeling how much they cared for her.
“Alright, girls. I’ll go home and get some sleep. I bet when I wake up I’ll feel just fine!”
“That’s the spirit, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, smiling. “And remember, if you need to talk again, you know where to find us.”
With that, the three ponies waved to each other and parted ways, Twilight eagerly awaiting a soft bed back in her tree home.
Once back at her library, Twilight stood in the center of the floor listening for her number one assistant. She didn’t hear anything to indicate that he was home, so she shrugged and made for her room.
He must be out with the Crusaders, she thought. I suppose I can take some quiet time to write a letter to the Princess.
She ascended the stairs and entered her bedroom. Her mentor’s sun was glowing deep orange through her open balcony doors, helping to warm up the otherwise chilly air. Gathering some supplies and her star-embroidered blanket, she walked out on her porch to enjoy the evening’s atmosphere.
As she took her seat, wrapped herself in her blanket, and looked out over her small town, Twilight thought about just how perfect her life was most of the time. She had wonderful friends, an amazing coltfriend, and a great job, to boot. She wouldn’t have had any of this if Celestia hadn’t sent her to Ponyville to prepare for the summer sun celebration.
Things always have a funny way of working out. She thought. Her mind was replaying the events of the day, but as she went back over the conversation she had with Big Mac and Applejack, she didn’t feel nearly as bad as she had at one point. She took a deep breath of the evening air, enjoying the scents that wafted into her nose.
I sure am glad my friends can calm me down. I could have gone off the deep end if not for them.
She smiled to herself, and picked up her quill and parchment in a lavender aura.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Sometimes you can worry yourself sick. There are many problems that a pony may face in their life, and with each one is paired with a unique reaction. Sometimes even the smallest problems can cause you to freak out because your mind makes it seem like a huge deal, even if it’s just a passing conversation. Fortunately, my friends were able to help me out today.
I had a discussion with Applejack and her brother (my coltfriend Big Macintosh) earlier, and some pretty scary stuff got brought up. I won’t lie—I wasn’t thinking straight after that conversation. After I left the farm, though, I talked it over with Rarity and Fluttershy, and they really calmed me down. If not for them, I might have had another Smarty—you know what, never mind. It would have been bad.
Like I said, friends can always help you out. They give you a different perspective on situations, and without them to clear things up for you, you can easily get lost in your own thoughts. I’m so thankful for my friends, and I think everypony should have somepony they can go to when they need help in life.
Your Faithful Student,
As she finished signing the letter, Twilight could hear the library door slam from downstairs.
“Twilight! I’m home!” Spike called.
Lighting her horn, an audible pop! resounded from below, before another sounded right next to her. A little purple dragon had appeared, wobbling on his feet.
“I hate when you do that,” he said, regaining his balance.
Twilight swept him up in a hug, squeezing him tight.
“Just in time!” she said, setting him down, and floating her sealed letter to him. “Can you send a letter for me?”
“I guess so,” Spike replied, a bit exasperated. He took the letter from Twilight’s magical grasp, and quickly burned it with his green fire. Once the deed was done, he asked, “How was your day today?”
“It was…how would you say, interesting. I was just writing the Princess about it, actually. How was crusading?”
Spike laughed, shaking his head. “They wanted to try Cutie Mark Crusader surfers, in a lake. And when that didn’t work, they tried to get cutie marks for holding their breaths for a long time. Then Applebloom said that she held her breath the longest, but Scootaloo thought she held it longer, and neither of them had a cutie mark. They gave up on those quests pretty quickly. After that, they wanted to try painting on Rarity’s boutique, but fortunately I talked them out of it. So I guess you could say it was an interesting day for me, too.”
Twilight laughed and shook her head. “When will they learn they just need to do what they’re good at?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure one day they’ll figure it out,” the baby dragon said. “Maybe it’s more about how they get there then actually earning their marks.” As he turned to walk back inside, he suddenly belched out a neatly rolled parchment, sealed with the Princess’ royal “C” seal.
Twilight cocked her head, and eagerly leaned forward. “What does it say?”
“I dunno, but that sure was a quick reply,” Spike said as he unrolled it. Quickly, he began to read it out loud to his curious friend.
Dear Twilight Sparkle,
The subject of marriage can make a pony think crazy things! I’m glad your friends could talk you through it.
“What?” Spike said, as he finished, flipping the paper over to try and find an explanation.
A thump could be heard echoing through the tree, as a certain librarian fainted on the wooden floor of the balcony.
Meanwhile, back at Sweet Apple Acres, a large stallion was relaxing on his front porch, chewing on a hay stalk as he gazed at the purple evening clouds.
“Hey, Big Mac!” shouted his sister, Applejack, from inside the house. “Guess what?”
Ever since she was a little filly, she always asked him to “guess what.” He always had many guesses he could give her, but normally when she asked, he just remained silent and waited for her to deliver the news.
“We got some family comin’ in ta town!” She walked out on the porch to join him, handing him a letter that the mailmare had delivered earlier that day. “Derpy misplaced this a few days ago. Said we shoulda gotten it ‘bout three days ago, but she just found it under a muffin in her bag, whatever that means.”
Mac quickly scanned the letter, which was simply informing them that their kin was passing through and would be staying with them for a few nights. He didn’t think anything of it until he reached the bottom line, where the ponies had signed.
Fuji and Devine Apple
Big Macintosh stared at those names for a few moments, thoughts racing as a previous conversation from that day came back to his mind. Actually, it had been on his mind all day, so more like resurfaced in full force. And of course, these Apples from the East were some of those kin his sister had mentioned to Twilight earlier today.
Oh, horseapples, he thought, as he stared out at the evening sky once again.
Music filled the air. Slow, sweet melodies flowed through the ears of the ponies gathered, and many of those present were swaying in time with the tune like so many life-sized metronomes. The source of the melodious delight came from a small, four-pony orchestra off in a corner of the area.
The ponies were gathered for a very special occasion, one that had been well on its way for years. Rows of spectators were quickly filling up, all friends and family of the ones they were gathered here for. They sat upon plush pillows that had been carefully laid out, so that there weren’t too many cushions, nor were there too few. Each spectator had on clothes or accessories of some sort, and although a sacred ritual was to take place, none had on formal attire.
The event at hoof was taking place at Sweet Apple Acres, out by the pond that the family loved so much. Or rather, that one mare in particular loved so much.
Twilight viewed the proceedings from her vantage point from within the branches of the lone willow tree that grew next to the pond, something that she had recommended Big Macintosh plant years before this day. All around her, three of her closest friends chatted amongst themselves merrily, occasionally making a comment to her respect. Meanwhile, Rarity couldn’t stop fussing with the dress Twilight was wearing.
“Now, darling, does it feel too tight? I know we double, and even triple checked the measurements, but I just want to make sure my friend has the very best on her big day!”
The lavender mare sighed for the umpteenth time. “Yes, Rarity, I’ve told you time and again, the dress fits just fine.”
Rarity deflated a little at Twilight’s obviously annoyed tone of voice, but smiled nevertheless. “Okay, dear. I’m sorry; I’ve just never made a dress like this for one of you girls. I suppose one could say that I’m nervous.”
Twilight’s expression softened as she embraced her fashionista friend in a tight hug. “I’m sorry too, Rarity. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m a bit nervous myself.”
“Applejack said you probably would be,” Rainbow Dash interjected. “Don’t worry though; you’ve got all of us here! It’s like when I was at the Best Young Flier’s competition all those years ago, you’ll do just fine!”
“Yeah! And we know you’re going to have a superiffic day today, Twilight!” Pinkie Pie said, her styled mane bobbing around as she bounced like a pogo stick. Fluttershy’s head moved in time with Pinkie’s jumps, conveying a sense of agreement with the party pony.
Smiling at all of her friends, Twilight said, “Thanks girls. I’m so glad you could all be here today. I love you all.”
“If only Applejack were with us,” Rarity said, with a huff.
“Yes, but she’s with her brother,” Fluttershy said. “After all, he needed somepony to help him, too.”
“It’s a good thing stallions only need one pony at these sorts of events,” Rarity responded, turning her nose up a bit. Her friends laughed then, the little motion having grown on them after all the years they had been together. “Alright girls, you all go on out. Twilight and I will join you at the appropriate time.”
“Okie Dokie Lokie!” Pinkie Pie said, as she settled down and acted as though she was a mare of class.
“Crazy how she can just change like that, isn’t it?” the white unicorn commented to Twilight.
“Don’t even get me started,” Twilight laughed.
A few moments after their friends departed, the music heard over the low din of chatting ponies changed. A song that every little filly dreamed of one day marching to started to play, and Twilight took a deep breath.
“That’s us, darling. Are you ready?”
“Okay then. Here comes the bride.”
Twilight stepped through the branches of the willow tree, and looked to the aisle where her father was waiting to walk her to her soon-to-be husband, Big Macintosh. Slowly, she put her front hoof forward, and began her journey towards…
…The floor. Twilight fell hard, her muzzle making a direct hit with the old loose floorboard next to her bed. She quickly jerked her head up and looked around, rubbing her nose and mumbling incoherently.
“Whazzat? Wha’ happened?”
Twilight had no idea where she was, or how she had gotten there, until she heard a loud snort from across the room as Spike rolled over in his basket. Gaining her bearings, she lazily glanced out of her window, and noted that it was the dead of night.
What happened last night? she thought. The last thing I remember is being…on the balcony…
Her eyes narrowed as her mind sluggishly brought forth the memory, bringing with it her latest letter from the Princess and the dream she had just awoken from. Twilight groaned as she remembered her mind’s wandering while she was sleeping. It had not been a peaceful few hours on her pillow.
I might as well do something while I’m up, she thought, as she rose to her hooves and moved towards her desk. Once she was seated at the cushion in front of it, she noticed that the letter from Celestia was sitting right on top of whatever it was she had previously been working on. Her eyes scanned over it several times, still in disbelief that the Princess just knew what was going on.
The subject of marriage can make a pony think crazy things!
Simply reading it again made Twilight a little dizzy.
“Not so hard to believe I fainted anymore,” she mumbled to herself. Her mind was replaying the scene of her dream again, and she caught herself smiling a bit. Realizing this, she shook her head violently to clear the cobwebs. “No. That’s bad, Twilight. You shouldn’t be thinking about that at all.” Still, she found her thoughts wondering back to it, and that goofy little smile playing across her lips as she pictured Big Macintosh in a tuxedo.
“No!” she huffed, rising from her desk. “I need a book to distract myself!” She quickly trotted down the stairs into the library proper, and began scanning the shelves for something on astronomy.
Astrophysics is Simple, Really! “No, it’s not, and that book doesn’t make it simple for an average pony, either.”
Luna’s Sky for Fillies and Colts. “I think I’m a bit older than a filly.”
Astronomy and Dreams: Magic of the Night. Twilight stared at the title for a few moments before deciding that it sounded interesting enough to keep her mind busy for a while. Pulling it off the shelf with her magic, she happily trotted up the stairs to her room, where she hopped up on her bed and hunkered down for a few hours of good reading.
Within seconds, the open book became a pillow as the overstressed mare fell back asleep.
Big Macintosh rolled over at the sound of the rooster crow. Celestia’s sun was slowly starting to creep its way into his room, even with the blinds closed.
“Darned things never blocked out much,” he muttered, trying to get comfortable again. Typically, when the large stallion first awoke, he was up for good. Now that he had finished all the harvesting for the year, however, he just wanted to go back to sleep. He had a headache that could put down a rhino, though.
Mac groaned as he turned, feeling the wee rays of the sun on his eyelids. His head pounded inside of his skull, reminding him of the night before. After getting the news that certain family members were visiting, he had broken into his stash of hard cider he kept in his room. The last time he had gone to that was two months before, when his marefriend had kissed him and run off.
Best thing for it is some breakfast, he decided. Rolling out of bed, and moaning as he did so, he moved out into the hallway and walked downstairs into the kitchen. Applejack was sitting at the table, with her head on the table and coffee in hand.
“Ain’t feelin’ too good this mornin’, AJ?” Big Macintosh asked, with a bit of a slur in his voice.
“Ah should ask ya tha’ same question,” she grunted. “Heard tha’ clink of the bottles last night. What had ya worked up, Mac?”
Her brother went to the stove and fired it up, cracking two eggs that had been brought in not moments before by Applejack. While beating them in a bowl, he replied, “Did ya read tha’ letter ya gave me last night?”
“Well of course Ah did!” Applejack said, picking her head up off of the table. “Did Ah miss somethin’?
“Eenope,” he replied, adding a few spices to his mix. “Just think about it.”
Silence reigned over the dawn-lit kitchen as the wheels in Applejacks mind turned. Before long, the sizzle of eggs was heard as Mac poured them over the hot cast-iron skillet he was using.
“Ah give up,” Applejack finally said.
“Think about who sent the letter. And tha’ conversation we had with Twilight yesterday.”
Sudden realization dawned upon the orange mare. Her green eyes grew wide as she took in a sharp breath. She quickly took a swig of coffee to calm her nerves, and scalded her tongue in the process. After breathing in and out for several seconds in a futile attempt to cool down her throbbing throat, she turned to her brother.
“Are ya gonna warn her?”
“Ah…don’t rightly know. Ah mean, what would Ah say, AJ?” His eggs had finished cooking, and, cutting off the stove, he joined her at the table with his own mug of coffee. Black, as usual.
“Ya could tell her that she might wanna steer clear of tha farm for a few days.”
Mac shook his head vehemently. “Absolutely not. I think she needs ta meet ‘em.”
Applejack’s mouth hung wide open for a moment. “That’s settin’ yerself up fer disaster, Mac! Ya know how she freaks out over tha littlest things! And impressions are huge ta that mare!”
“All the reason Ah know she’ll be just fine,” he said. He was silent as he took several bites of his breakfast, and drank some coffee. There we go, he thought, as a soothing sensation washed over his mind.
“Well, maybe with you there…” Applejack trailed off. “But Fuji and Devine?”
“Ya ain’t worried ‘bout what they’ll say?”
“Let ‘em say what they will, AJ. If they got badmouthin’ to do, then Ah don’t need ‘em.”
“But they’re family!”
“That we haven’t seen since we was fillies and colts!” Mac yelled, slamming his hoof on the table. His sister shrank back a bit. “Sorry,” he quickly said.
“Ah—Ah guess I’m worried ‘bout Twi,” Applejack muttered. “She don’t take well to criticism. And as far as Ah know, she ain’t never been exposed to ponies who just don’t like other types ‘a ponies. Ah’m worried how she’ll take it.”
Big Macintosh took a deep breath before releasing it in a long sigh.
“Yeah, Ah ‘spose Ah am, too. But what’s the worst that could happen, AJ? She gets upset, Ah talk to her ‘bout it, and then she’s fine.”
His sister shook her head, slowly. “Didn’t ya figure it out with the Smarty Pants incident? When there’s a problem, any problem, Twilight wants to fix it. Ah don’t wanna even get started on tha’ worst that could happen.”
The siblings sat in quiet as Mac finished his plate, and stared idly down at the black pool of bitter drink. He took a swig, and watched as the liquid swirled around the mug before coming to a still halt.
“Ah—guess Ah’ll warn her,” he said, finally. “See what she thinks. If she want’s ta come over an’ meet ‘em or steer clear.”
“That’s mah brother. When are the folks gonna be here?”
“Two days from now, by mah count. The letter said three days from when Ah received it, so Ah’m guessin’ that puts ‘em here in two days.”
“Best let her know as soon as ya can, then,” Applejack said. “She’ll wanna prepare no matter what, best to get her started early.”
Big Macintosh, of course, knew this. It was his marefriend they were talking about, after all. He just hated to even think of the look on her face when he told her, but he knew that it would be better than dropping it on her last minute. She would kill him if he did that, and between him and Celestia, he’d like to live many more years before going wherever it was ponies went after death.
“Yeah, yer right.” Taking a few last swigs of his coffee, Big Macintosh removed himself from the kitchen, and went to go shower off before starting his hectic day.
Something is inside of my ear.
The lavender mare twitched in her sleep.
Something is inside of my ear. And it’s…squirming?
She rolled just slightly, and her eyes creaked open just a touch.
“Ew! Ewewewewewewew!” Twilgiht immediately jumped out of her bed, horn flaring up with its purple aura as she performed a quick spell to remove all non-living skin cells on the inside of her left ear. It was a spell she normally used for exfoliation purposes, but dire circumstances called for dire measures.
“Spike! SPIKE! What in the hay is in my ear! Do we have a slug infestation?” Twilight was practically shouting as she ran towards her dresser mirror, checking her ear for a gooey intruder. Finding nothing but her normal ear, she heard laughter behind her. The librarian shifted her gaze in the mirror slightly, sighting two males cracking up at her expense.
“Good one, Big Mac!” Spike said, holding his stomach. “Bet she hasn’t ever had a tongue in her ear!”
Mac’s rolling laughter peeled through the room, and despite the circumstances, Twilight couldn’t help but smile.
“I wouldn’t say that, exactly,” she said, as she trotted up to her coltfriend and gave him a peck on his cheek. She then levitated her manebrush over to Big Mac, and rapped him on the back of his head a few times until his eyes were slightly crossed. “And that’s for waking me up in such a disgusting manner! It’s a good thing I’m not Rarity, or you would have been through the window!”
“That an’ other reasons,” Mac muttered, rubbing his head.
“What was that?” Twilight asked, raising the hairbrush again.
Spike was still recovering from his laughter. “You gotta admit, Twilight, it was pretty funny.”
“Yes, Spike. Ha ha, I’m dying of laughter. Now might I ask why you woke me up like that, smoochykins?” Twilight could almost feel herself die a little on the inside when she uttered that term of endearment, but it was all for a purpose.
“Ugh,” Spike said, pretending to put his finger down his throat. “I’m outta here. See you guys later!”
The two ponies watched as he exited the room, slamming the door as he went.
“I knew using a word like that would make him leave,” Twilight said, placing her brush back on her dresser.
“Why’d ya want him to leave?” Mac inquired. “Somethin’ wrong with Spike bein’ around?”
“No. I just…” Twilight trailed off as she walked up to Mac. She planted another kiss on his cheek, stretching out her neck and standing on the tips of her hooves to fully reach it. “…I like to have you to myself.”
Mac hummed in contentment as he turned his head to meet his marefriend’s lips. They held the kiss for a moment before Big Mac broke it.
“Twilight, there’s somethin’ Ah gotta talk to ya ‘bout.”
“Go ahead, shoot,” she replied, placing a trail of kisses on his neck.
“Ah—let’s be serious here a moment.” He used a hoof to push her away slightly, and he moved to sit beside her bed. Motioning for her to hop up on the mattress, he waited until she was in place to begin his news. “Ah got a letter yesterday.”
Twilight cocked her head slightly, giving him a confused look. “So? I get letters all the time,” she said. “What’s the big deal?”
“No, Ah got a letter that’s a bit—that is to say, it ain’t the best ‘a news. Dependin’ on how ya look at it.”
His marefriend placed a hoof over her mouth. “What happened?”
“Well, not what happened, ‘xactly. More like, what’s gonna happen.”
Mac took a deep breath, and looked out of the window before continuing. “Now, Ah don’t want ya ta freak out on me, aight? You remember tha conversation we had with mah sister yesterday, Ah’m sure?”
Twilight’s eyes narrowed as she nodded in agreement, the dream she had coming to the forefront of her mind once again. “Yes. Why?”
“Now, Ah’m a bit reluctant ta bring this up ‘cause it was kinda an awkward conversation, if ya know what Ah mean.”
“Y—you can say that again.” Twilight could feel her heartbeat begin to beat a little faster as the topic was brought back into light.
“Right. Well, this letter Ah got was from one ‘a them family members. Turns out they’re comin’ ta visit in a few days’ time.”
Nothing was said for minutes. Twilight was seemingly staring straight through Big Macintosh, at something that he could not see. He allowed her to process the information for a few seconds more before he decided he should try to calm her down. She had that look in her eye that said something along the lines of ‘Help me, I’m about to go off the deep end.’
“Now, Twilight, Ah don’t want ya to—“
“To what?” she asked, making eye contact. “I’m okay! That’s great news! I’m sure they aren’t that bad!” Her pupils had shrunken to pinpoints, and her left eye and ear twitched.
Mac’s mouth was hanging open. Eeyup. Ah may have just broken mah marefriend.
“Ah—ya know, you’re right. They ain’t that bad. Ah really just wanted ya ta know, so ya’d be prepared and whatnot.” Mac paused and glanced at Twilight from the corner of his eyes. “Ya aren’t ‘bout ta freak out on me, are ya?”
Twilight closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. Thank Celestia I’ve got him here. Only he can calm me down. “No, no I’m not. Just—stay with me today, please? For a little while, at least. I need to sort through all of this in my head. Mentally prepare, if you will.” She leaned her head against his as she said this, emphasizing her need for his support.
“Of course. But ‘Twi?”
“Ah think you’ll do jus’ fine. Ah’m sure mah family will like ya once they get ta know ya. After all, they are comin’ to mah farm, and that means playin’ by mah rules.”
Twilight giggled, earning a look of confusion from her coltfriend. “I thought it was Applejack’s farm?”
Mac raised an eyebrow. “Is that what she tells you?” His low laugh echoed throughout the small bedroom, filling Twilight’s chest with its warmth. “Ask ‘er next time ya see her who handles all tha finances. That’ll throw her through a loop.”
It was Twilight’s turn to laugh as she nuzzled Mac’s cheek, soaking in his positive demeanor. I just have to keep smiling, as Pinkie would say, Twilight thought. Mac won’t let anything bad happen.
“So by stayin’ with ya, did ya mean we had ta stay in tha library?”
“Oh! No,” Twilight said, ears folding back as she blushed. “We can go do something, if you’d like to.”
“Good, ‘cause you’ve had enough ‘a all this worryin’, and stayin’ cooped up in here won’t help ya none. Let’s go get some fresh air.” Big Macintosh smiled and rose from his spot next to the bed, and began making his way out of the little room, Twilight close behind.
Once they were downstairs, Twilight called out to her assistant. “Spike! Spiiiiiiike!”
“Yes, Twilight?” he asked from atop a ladder. His arms were laden with books all going in the same area. A really, really high up area.
“Mac and I are going out. Are you okay to run the library for a while?”
“Of course I am!” he said, with a little salute. Doing so caused him to wobble back and forth, almost falling off the ladder and landing in a heap upon the floor. Fortunately, Twilight gave a slight burst of magic to steady him once again.
“Be careful up there! You know what a fall like that could do!”
“Yes ma’am,” Spike grumbled. “Have fun while you’re out. And if you see Rarity—“
“I know, I know,” Twilight huffed, rolling her eyes, “give her your best wishes, and tell her you’ll probably be over tomorrow to see if she needs help with anything.”
“You got it! Thanks, Twilight!” Spike smiled and waved as the two ponies left.
“So, where do ya wanna go?” Big Macintosh asked Twilight once they had walked a good ways away from the library.
“Well, are you thinking about going to the farm, or into town?”
“It’s up to you, really.”
“No, no. You’re the one that wanted fresh air! You decide, honestly!”
“Ah—“ Mac narrowed his eyes. He knew this situation. The one where the mare has in mind exactly what she wants to do, but she wants the stallion to make the right decision. It was all a test. He groaned internally, hoping this was one exam that he could pass. “Ah think we should go—“ he paused as he heard Twilight’s stomach growl, silently thanking Celestia for this small victory. “—grab something to eat. What d’ya think?”
Twilight gave him a sheepish smile. “You know me too well. To town it is!”
The happy couple made their way through the Ponyville streets, tails intertwined together, as they talked about nothing in particular. They passed several friends of Twilight’s, including Lyra and Bon Bon, who were out looking for home décor items, as well as the town’s mailmare, Ditzy Doo. After several hellos and how-do-you-do’s, they reached their destination, which was one of the small cafes that sold Twilight’s favorite daisy sandwiches.
The couple took their seats at an outdoor table, the one that Twilight still remembered being at when Rainbow was trying to get a ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala. The waiter came by and collected their drink orders promptly, before leaving them to their own.
“You know, Mac, I don’t think we’ve been out to eat before, really.”
“No? Well Ah ‘spose Ah do eat most of mah meals at tha farm.”
Twilight giggled. “If I could cook half as well as your sisters and Granny Smith, I’d probably never leave my library.”
“Ah thought ya hardly did anyways,” Mac replied, poking fun at his bookish marefriend.
“Hey now, watch it! I’ve got magic, and I’m not afraid to use it.” Twilight lit her horn while giving him a playful look.
Before too long, their drinks were brought out and their orders were made, leaving the two in a comfortable silence. After a moment, Twilight had to ask a question that had been on her mind for a while.
“So, Mac,” she began. “These ponies that are coming to visit you, what are they like?”
Big Macintosh set his drink down, and rested his head on a hoof. “Well, they’re different, that’s fer sure. Fuji an’ Devine both come from tha eastern portion of Equestria, situated a bit between Baltimare and Fillydelphia. Their family’s been there a long time, so like Ah told ya yesterday, they’re real homebodies.”
“So why are they coming to visit?”
“They said somethin’ bout wantin’ to learn how Ah grow mah apples, said they been havin’ some real bad luck as of late.”
“I see. Did they say how long it’s been going on?”
“Naw. Just said they been havin’ issues. Apparently Sweet Apple Acres is a bit famous. Our Zap Apple Jam and our cider spreads tha word, or somethin’ like that. Ah try not to worry ‘bout it too much.”
“Yeah,” Twilight agreed, smiling, “you aren’t the sort of stallion that lets little things bother you. And that’s part of why I love you.”
“That, and Ah keep ya sane.”
“Hey! I’m a perfectly sane pony!”
Mac was laughing then, thoroughly enjoying himself as he joked with Twilight. It wasn’t something he did much, which made it all the better when he did. The unicorn waiter emerged at that moment with their food, and set it in front of them.
“Do you need anything else?” he asked, a bit of a Canterlot accent laced throughout the speech.
“Eenope,” Big Macintosh replied, recovering himself. “Thank ya, though.”
“Alright, you two enjoy your meal, and let me know if there are any problems.”
“Thanks!” Twilight said, before levitating her sandwich over for a bite. Both she and Macintosh were quiet as they took the first sampling of their meals, Mac having ordered a small vegetable pizza. Twilight moaned in satisfaction, eyes rolling in the back of her head. “What?” she asked, seeing Mac eyeing her.
“Nothin’. Yer just enjoyin’ that sammich a bit too much,” he said, grinning.
“Well, it tastes better than you,” she replied, hoping to give him a dose of his own medicine.
“Oh really, now?” he asked, his speech thick with his southern accent. “Ah’d beg ta differ, from what Ah’ve heard.”
“Um—I—uh.” Twilight’s mouth was full, and she couldn’t form a full response, so she just shrugged and continued eating. Mac chuckled at her expense, going back to eating his pizza.
Halfway through the meal, the two ponies heard the unmistakable sound of a gallop headed straight their way. Upon looking in the general direction, they discovered Applejack booking it for their table. The orange mare skidded to a halt right before crashing into said table, panting for breath as she recovered her stance.
“Thank Celestia Ah found ya!” she said, in one quick breath.
“AJ? What’s wrong?” Mac asked.
She was still trying to catch her breath as she relayed her news. “Th—that letter that,” huff, “you got yesterday,” huff, “gimme a sec.”
They waited until she had taken a few more breaths, and then one large one to finally calm herself down.
“What about tha letter?” Big Macintosh finally asked.
“It apparently was supposed to get here much sooner than it did. Fuji and Devine just arrived at tha farm.”
Nopony said anything. The only sound that could be heard was the clanking of silverware and chatter from other guests, mixed in with Applejack’s labored breathing. Big Macintosh looked at his marefriend, almost scared of what he’d find. Her pupils had shrunk to the size of pinpricks, and her ears were plastered back against her head. If he knew anything about Twilight, then Mac knew she was probably already playing out the worst possible scenarios of what would happen when she met them.
At that moment, the waiter was trotting by. Big Macintosh tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention.
Uneven hoofsteps were the only sounds echoing through the orange trees on the road out of Ponyville to Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack was leading the way, with her brother and Twilight trailing behind at a distance. No words were passing between either of the ponies present.
Twilight was staring at the ground, like a mare on her way to the scaffold. Big Macintosh plodded alongside her, keeping his gaze straight and steady. As soon as they had received the news, Twilight had begun to grow nervous. She wasn’t freaking out, per se, but she certainly wasn’t what one would consider calm. Her thoughts were racing with different scenarios, and if what Applejack had said about them disliking unicorns was true, she was in for a wild ride.
“Ah still think we could just go an’ see ‘em, an’ introduce Twi later,” Applejack called over her shoulder.
“Eenope,” Mac replied. “Ah ain’t gonna change mah plans with Twilight just on account of them.”
“Ya never were the stallion ta go rustlin’ yer schedule,” Applejack said under her breath. “Come up here fer a sec, Mac.”
Macintosh glanced at his lavender marefriend, who looked up and gave him a weak smile. She gestured with her head for him to go, leaving her to walk behind them. He reluctantly complied, pulling up alongside Applejack with a few quick trots.
“What’s up, AJ?”
“Are ya sure she ought to be comin’ right away? For both her sake and the family’s.”
“Any explanation there?”
Applejack sighed, removing her hat and rubbing her forehead. Replacing her trademark accessory, she said, “Ah just don’t know, Mac. This could all go real South, real quick.”
“Maybe, AJ, but two things. Ah ain’t gonna leave Twilight out ta dry, and if Fuji an’ Devine got issues, then that right there tells me jus’ how much Ah’m willin’ to help em with their little apple problem.”
“Ah’m worried about you, big brother. You act like yer bout ta go to war.”
Mac was silent for a moment, before whispering, “Maybe Ah am.”
Applejack just stared at him incredulously, unable to believe her ears. Before she could comment, though, a voice sounded from behind them.
“Guys?” came the weak voice of Twilight Sparkle. Both ponies stopped as she caught up. They were in the middle of the road, and the farm was just in sight on the horizon. They would be there in ten minutes, tops. “I just wanted to say you don’t have to keep worrying about me, really. I know this might seem, um, frightening for you, but I’m familiar with the feeling. It’s the same way I felt when Celestia first told me that I had to make friends in Ponyville.”
Applejack’s eyes softened as she wrapped an arm around Twilight’s withers. “Sugarcube, Ah understand what yer sayin’. Jus’ know that we’re right here backin’ ya up.”
“Thanks,” Twilight said, smiling. The trio began walking towards the farm once again. “I’m sorry I’m causing such an issue. I don’t mean to be a burden.”
“Ya aren’t, Twi,” Mac said. “We don’t even know what’s gonna happen yet. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen ‘em, after all. Maybe they’ve changed.”
Twilight perked up at that statement. Her eyes seemed to gain a bit more light, and her ears stood straight. “Really? Well you could have said that a long time ago. That definitely would have helped ease my nerves.”
Big Macintosh snorted. “Sorry, Twi. Ah didn’t even think about it. We got too focused on the negative, Ah s’pose.”
The lavender unicorn beamed up at her coltfriend. “No problem, Mac! I guess we’ll know more about it in a few minutes.”
As the ponies passed through the fence that marked the edge of the farmland, they spotted two small figures running towards them from the Apple’s homestead. One appeared to be Applebloom, and the other was a small filly the color of brown sugar, with a mane and tail that was as green as grass.
“Big Macintosh! Applejack!” Applebloom shouted, as she neared the group. “Family’s here!” She and the other filly started running circles around the three ponies, laughing the whole time. Finally, Applebloom stopped and looked up at Twilight. “Hey, Twilight! Ah didn’t know you was meetin’ our family today, too!”
Twilight couldn’t help but smile down at the small filly. She loved foals, not that she’d ever let that slip out around Big Mac. He’d probably be running for the hills. “I sure am, Applebloom. Who’s your friend?”
“Oh!” Applebloom gestured towards the other filly. “This is Broomsedge! She’s cousin Fuji and Devine’s daughter! Broomsedge, this is Twilight!”
“Pleased to meet you!” the little filly said, nodding her head. Her voice flowed like honey into Twilight’s ears, with a refined accent that resembled a rough-around-the-edge Manehattan dialect.
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Broomsedge!” Twilight beamed down at the adorable filly. There’s no way her parents are as bad as they were made out to be.
“Are y’all comin’, or what?” Applebloom cried, rising up on her back hooves before prancing a bit more.
“Yeah, yeah, we’re comin’,” Applejack said, ruffling her sister’s mane.
“Hey! Yer gonna mess up mah bow!”
Twilight giggled and watched the two fillies run back towards the house, where the family was no doubt waiting to see them.
“Broomsedge sure is cute,” Twilight commented, as they followed the excited hoofprints of the two little ponies.
“She’s a trip, too,” Applejack said. “Last time we saw her, she was just a foal, ain’t that right, Mac?”
“He ain’t one for talkin’ about foals.”
“Somehow I get that impression,” Twilight said, giving her coltfriend a sideways glance. As she, Applejack, and Big Macintosh neared the screen door of the kitchen, they could hear Granny Smith yelling inside.
“An’ tha’s when Ah took mah fryin’ pan, an’ Ah smacked that ole’ coot on tha head! He was tryin’a get at mah family makers, but Ah told that stallion, Ah did.”
Bewildered, Twilight entered the kitchen behind Applejack and Big Macintosh, only to see the Apple family matriarch perched on top of the kitchen table. She was standing on her two back hooves, with a frying pan outstretched in one of her forehooves.
“Granny!” Applejack yelled. “What in tarnation are ya doin’ up there? How are ya even standin’ like that?”
“Eh? Don’t ask questions ya can’t understand, girlie,” the green mare said as she gracefully jumped off the table, sticking the landing. She then grabbed her walker and leaned on it as though her life depended on the contraption.
Twilight simply stared, unable to understand how the elder mare did all the things she did.
“Have ya seen yer cousins yet?”
“That’s why we’re here, Granny,” Big Macintosh said.
“Well they’re right there!” yelled Granny Smith, pointing across the table. “Why don’t y’all get a move on an’ say somethin’!”
Twilight looked to where the matriarch was pointing. Across from her was a lovely earth pony couple. The stallion, who Twilight could only guess was Fuji, was a large pony, though just under Big Macintosh’s size. He had a blonde mane and tail, and a short beard that covered his jaw. His coat was nearly identical to Granny Smith’s, and his cutie mark was that of an apple tree. His wife, Devine, sported an alabaster coat with light brown curls atop her head, and a curly tail, to boot. Her cutie mark was a red barn.
“Howdy, Cuz,” Applejack said. She moved to embrace the two ponies.
“How do you do, Applejack! It’s been so long since I saw you last!” Fuji exclaimed, as he rose to embrace his cousin. “And Big Mac! Come here, you! I still remember when we used to wrestle at all the reunions. Bet you still can’t take me!”
Mac was laughing as he embraced Fuji, patting him on the back as he did. “Ah think Ah could take ya from here ta next Tuesday, Fuji.”
“Hello, Applejack,” chimed Devine. “It has been quite a while. Have you remembered any of your Manehattan learnings since the last time I saw you?”
“Shoot, no!” Applejack said. “Ya know Ah was happier than a bee on a flower when Ah got outta that town!”
Devine laughed as they hugged, knowing full well that her foalhood home of Manehattan was never meant for a member of the Apple clan. Well, a full-blooded Apple family member, at least.
“Of course you remember little Broomsedge,” Fuji said to the ponies present, gesturing to his daughter.
“Ah do,” Mac said. “She’s gotten big.”
“Still looking for that cutie mark of hers, though,” said Devine. Her eyes then fell on Twilight. “And who might this be?”
Until this point, Twilight had been watching the scene with a nostalgic expression, almost feeling the past connections that these ponies shared. As soon as Devine uttered those words though, her smile dropped like an anvil, and her ears twitched back ever so slightly. Fortunately, Mac came to her aid in an instant.
“This here’s Twilight Sparkle, Applejack’s best friend and mah marefriend,” he said wrapping his hoof around her and pulling her close. He stared straight at his cousin Fuji and put on his happiest, brightest smile.
“An’ she’s the best damned mare Ah ever did meet, Ah’ll have ya know!” yelled Granny Smith, shaking a hoof at the ceiling. “’Cept fer that princess lady, can’t remember her name fer nothin’…”
“Granny! T’ain’t no reason fer such language!” Applejack glared at her grandmother. When she turned her attention back to the scene at hand, she felt her blood run cold.
Devine was looking with horror at Fuji, who was staring a Big Macintosh. Mac, in turn, was staring back at Fuji, who kept switching his gaze between his cousin and Twilight’s horn. Meanwhile, the only unicorn in the room was staring at the floor, where there appeared to be something very interesting happening.
“Everythin’ alright with the floor, Twilight?” Granny Smith asked. “I done told you kids ta replace it, but no, ya gotta go an’ buy new plows an’ whatnot…not knowin’ nothin’.” The matriarch was mumbling to herself, seemingly unaware of the silence that pervaded the room. She started slowly making her way towards the living room door. “Ah’mma take me a nap.”
“That’s wonderful!” Devine finally said to Big Macintosh, cracking a smile. Her early city life had taught her more manners than her husband’s farm life. “It’s so very nice to meet you, Twilight!” She moved over to where the lavender mare was standing and embraced her.
“It—it’s nice to meet you, too,” Twilight squeaked out.
Fuji grunted, saying, “Nice to see Mac got himself a marefriend. ‘Bout time, even if she’s unicorn…” He trailed off at the end of his sentence, speaking from the corner of his mouth as he glanced sideways.
“What was that, cuz?” Big Macintosh growled.
Fuji’s eyes opened wide and he positively beamed at the threatening red stallion. “What was what?”
“Ya heard me, Fuji.”
“And you heard me, Mac.”
The two ponies were glaring daggers at each other. Mac’s eyes held the fires of Tartarus, and Fuji’s contained the Great Wall of Chineigh. Neither was willing to give.
Despite the growing tension in the room, Devine still had on her best smile. “Twilight, did you meet our daughter, Broomsedge, yet? She said she went out with Applebloom when they spotted you on the horizon.”
Twilight was finding her voice coming a bit easier now. “Oh yes, she’s so adorable! Have her and Applebloom been friends for a while?” She nervously glanced at Fuji, who was still locked in an eye battle with her coltfriend.
“Oh, since the two were foals! You should hear about the time when they first met, it’s a trip! Shall we retire to the living room? Applejack? Care to join? Girls?”
The Manehattan pony quickly turned tail and retreated into the living area, followed closely by Applejack, and then Twilight. The two fillies looked between the remaining stallions, sensing the tension that was obviously between them.
“Everythin’ alrigh’, big brother?” Applebloom asked.
“Eeyup. Go on in the livin’ room, me an’ Fuji just got some catchin’ up ta do.”
As she followed the older mares into the living room, Applebloom whispered to Broomsedge, “Ah know mah brother. Probably some sorta disagreement. Don’t worry none, they’ll sort it out.”
Broomsedge nodded. “I think I know what it’s about.”
“Yeah. Want me to tell you?”
“Absolutely!” Looking back at her brother, Applebloom said, “Actually, Mac, we’re gonna go play outside. That okay?”
“Sure, little sis. Just give us big ponies some time here in the kitchen.”
Normally, Applebloom would have protested being referred to as a little pony, but in this case, she wanted the information Broomsedge had for her as quickly as she could get it. “Thanks! See ya, cousin Fuji! See ya, Big Mac!”
The Apple’s living room is what one would consider quaint. There were two sofas set up in an L-shape across from the fireplace, and two plush rocking chairs on one side of the room. Various pictures and farm knick-knacks adorned the walls, and an ironically merry fire crackled in its hearth.
Devine walked across the fluffy carpet that decorated the wooden flooring and collapsed in the middle of a couch. She took a deep breath and sighed deeply, not even trying to hide her distress. A loud snore reached her ears, coming from Granny Smith, who was sleeping soundly as she rocked back and forth in one of the armchairs. Twilight sat across from Devine, and studied the ornately simple design of the carpet.
“I’m sorry about my husband,” Devine began after a moment. “He’s very backwards in his ways.”
“W—what?” Twilight stammered. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t act like you didn’t hear him, dear. It’s okay, I’ve been through this before. Just not—not with family.”
“I’m s—sorry. I really—I mean, I don’t mean to be a burden. I shouldn’t have come.” Twilight rose from the couch, ready to get the hoof out of dodge, but Devine held up her hooves.
“Please, dear, sit. They’ll work it out. Let’s just talk for a bit, hm?”
Applejack sat on the floor in front of the fire, keeping silent as the two mares talked. She removed her hat to the floor, and rolled to her side for comfort.
“O—okay.” Twilight sat back down, fidgeting with her hooves. A tinge of red touched her cheeks, as she was left practically alone with Devine.
“I really must apologize for his behavior. Just be glad Big Macintosh is family.”
“Why is that?” Twilight inquired.
“Well let’s just say, he can be rather unpleasant with ponies we don’t particularly know.”
“I see,” Twilight whispered.
Devine shifted on the couch slightly, watching Twilight as she looked everywhere but at her. “Did you know this was coming?”
Twilight snapped back to attention. “Huh?”
“Did the Apples warn you about my husband? About his, ah, preferences?”
“Um, s—sort of.” Fluttershy really is rubbing off on me, Twilight thought, rubbing her neck.
“Really, darling, it’s okay. I’m not one to get mad about such things. There are reasons, I suppose, why my husband is the way he is.”
Twilight took a deep breath, trying to steady herself. She wanted to have a genuine conversation with this pony. She seemed nice and extremely reasonable compared to her husband who, with just a few short words and eye contact, had already proven himself to be everything that Applejack and Big Macintosh had warned of.
“Why would that be? I mean, if you want to talk about it. I understand if you don’t.”
“Oh, nonsense, dear. You’re Big Mac’s marefriend, his first one at that. You deserve to know. The way the Apple family works, you’ll most likely be around for a good while.”
Applejack chuckled, but otherwise was silent.
Twilight gulped. There it is again, she said. What is it about these Apples and their future talk? Preparing herself for a story, she situated herself on the couch in a more comfortable position, though she was still on edge.
“He grew up outside of Manehattan, on one of the local farms,” began Devine, casting a look of remembrance at the fire as she drew in a deep breath. “Being so close to the city, his immediate family sold their products to markets and restaurants, and this was how they made their livelihood. Now, being that Fuji is an Apple, their best selling product was their cider, and many restaurants gobbled it up. Most of the apples they grew went into cider making, and he takes great pride in it, bless his heart. Now, Manehattan can be a rough city, Miss Sparkle. They mainly sold to middle class eateries.
“And just so you know dear, I did, in fact, grow up in Manehattan. I’m sure my accent gives it away. I come from a relatively high class of ponies, and they’re all unicorns, at that. I was born an earth pony. It’s funny how strange things like that can happen, is it not?”
Twilight nodded, thinking about Pound and Pumpkin Cake in particular. “I’ve actually done some research on it. There still isn’t any solid evidence that suggests why that happens.”
Devine laughed, a shrill sound of chimes and bells bursting from her throat. “Oh, darling, don’t I know it. Mother and Father had me checked several times to see if I didn’t have a horn somewhere in this old girl,” she said, tapping her forehead. “Alas, I did not. Anyways, one day Fuji came into town to market to higher class restaurants. As you may or may not know, only unicorns work at these places. Magic allows a much more subtle serving method. Well, he was refused. Profusely. Each location he went to, he was beat down more and more by the higher class of elitist unicorns. This, I suppose, was the start of it. He has this notion that all unicorns believe themselves to be better than the other races.”
“Just like Hearth’s Warming,” Twilight whispered.
“Precisely. That is a story that he whole-heartedly believes in. His whole family does, actually. You see, until he actually experienced it himself, he only had what his family told him of the upper crust of elitist unicorns. It’s a belief steeped in old traditions, I suppose. Fuji having to deal with my parents didn’t help much, either, with them being of that higher class and all. They were a bit more understanding than other ponies, but they always wanted me to marry a unicorn.”
Twilight thought over all that had just been revealed to her. “I—I suppose I can understand where he’s coming from,” she said. “Does he just instantly look down on any unicorn he meets?”
Devine sighed and nodded. “I’m afraid so,” she said. “I’ve calmed him down from how bad it used to be, though. He used to be completely unable to enter my house. Give him time, though. I’m sure that he’ll come around to you eventually. He’s even in good standing with my parents, though it still isn’t fully comfortable for him.”
“How often has he been to towns like Ponyville?” Twilight asked.
“Oh, hardly ever,” Devine chuckled. “If he never went before we were married, he certainly hasn’t been since.”
“So the only real interactions with unicorns he’s had is the high-class of Manehattanites?”
Twilight giggled, raising a hoof to her mouth. “Then this is all just a big misunderstanding! Once he sees how Ponyville unicorns are, he’ll come around! We’re not all like that!”
Devine joined in the giggling. “Oh, he knows, dear. He has a few unicorn friends that are of lower standing, mostly ones who run the small cafes and what-have-yous in the city. It’s just hard for him to get past unicorns being in the family, you know.”
“Well, I’m sure this will all turn out okay,” Twilight said quietly, smiling. “I always like to give ponies chances. And I bet Big Macintosh is explaining things to him right—“
Crash. The sound of glass breaking reached the living room, and Twilight’s ears twitched in the direction of the noise. Without a second thought, both her and Devine ran into the kitchen, with Applejack in close tow. What they saw was unbelievable.
Meanwhile, Granny Smith kept snoring.
The scene that played out before Twilight was many things. It was odd, it was terrifying. It was hilarious, and it was confusing. It would also go down as one of her favorite stories to tell her future foals. As she, Applejack, and Devine looked on, neither knew what to do.
Both Big Macintosh and Fuji were sitting at the kitchen table, with five mugs of cider lined up for each. Well, there had been five mugs of cider. The first of each lay shattered on the floor beside their respective owners. Fuji was almost through chugging his second, when Mac did something completely otherworldly.
Taking his empty mug from his lips, he quickly slammed it down to the floor and shouted “Two!” As the last mug was shattering, so was he beginning to take down the contents of the third. Fuji soon followed suit, shouting his own “Two!” and moving on to the next drink.
Twilight’s mouth hung agape, as she had no idea what was going on. She glanced to her side, seeing a similar expression on Devine’s face. Applejack quietly chuckled behind the perplexed ponies, covering her mouth with a hoof.
“Y’all are gonna need some explainin’, Ah reckon. This here’s an old, old, Apple family tradition. If two family members are havin’ a quarrel, this is how it’s settled. The first part’s simple; five mugs of cider. The first one to five wins, and the other’s gotta stop where he’s at. The point is to get as drunk as possible fer what comes next.”
Twilight’s heart dropped into her stomach, and she could feel her pulse race.
“What…comes next, Applejack, dear?” Devine asked with trepidation.
“Hoof fight.” She said it plainly, without a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
“W—what was that, Applejack?” Twilight asked. “It almost sound like you said hoof fight.”
Devine spoke up again. “So…so you’re saying that they’re going to get drunk an—and…”
“…beat the tar outta each other, yep,” Applejack finished. “Plain an’ simple. It’s old traditions, an’ that’s jus how we’ve always done it.”
“Four!” Big Macintosh bellowed, shattering his fourth glass and starting on his fifth. Fuji had just finished his third mug, slamming it down as fast as he could.
“Oh, no,” Twilight whispered. “No, no, no, no, no! This is not good!” She knew how strong Big Macintosh was. She had felt those muscles. And what pony that lived in Ponyville hadn’t seen him drag that house when the Crusaders had drugged him? He was going to crush Fuji!
“Don’t worry none, Twi,” Applejack said. “There’s a stoppin’ point. There ain’t no harm in it.”
“What’s the stopping point?” Devine asked.
“Knockout,” Applejack replied.
Devine almost fainted. In fact, if Twilight hadn’t caught her in a field of levitation, she may have just done that. As she righted the Manehattan pony back on her hooves, they heard another smash, and Mac’s guttural growl.
“Done!” he exclaimed. “Put ‘em down, Fuji. Time ta go to the yard.”
The other pony reluctantly lowered his fourth glass, which was three quarters of the way empty. “Lead the way, Mac,” he said.
Macintosh rose from the table, stumbling just a bit as he made for the door. As he passed through the frame, his back hoof caught it and the cracking of wood was heard. Nothing broke, but there was definitely a hairline fracture where the wood should have remained smooth.
The two mares whose counterparts were involved stared at each other, worry etched across their features. Applejack chuckled, following Fuji outside. “Come on, y’all. Ya don’t wanna miss this.”
Before either could start the walk, Devine turned towards her new, lavender friend. “Twilight, darling,” she began, “I do hope that, whatever happens, we can remain friends. I get the feeling that you’re a very nice pony, and I would hate for my husband’s insolence to ruin any potential friendship.”
Twilight smiled nervously. If there’s anything left of your husband after this, we’ll see just how friendly you want to be, she inwardly thought. “Absolutely,” she said, faking confidence. “This is between them, right? I mean, who are we to stand in the way of tradition, right? Right?” Her façade cracked, and she quickly turned and trotted out of the kitchen, Devine close in tow.
The two stallions were facing each other in the yard, foreheads pressed together as they stared each other down. Granny Smith had somehow snuck out of the living room, and now sat on the porch, perched on a rocking chair with a megaphone to boot.
Twilight did a double-take at her coltfriend’s grandmother. “How did she? When did she? Wha—but—physics?”
“Don’t think too hard, sugarcube,” came Applejack’s drawl. She was speaking out of the corner of her mouth, with a careful eye on the match that was about to take place. “She’s got a different kinda magic, Ah think.”
“Gimme jusht a minute, Twi!” Mac called. “Ah’ll ‘ave this shtallion knocked out cold, an’ we kin get on ‘bout our business!”
“Don’t bet on it, cous,” Fuji replied. “Devine, dear, help Applejack get some ice fer when I bruise ‘em up!”
“You will do no such thing!” Devine replied, a stern look on her face.
“Big Macintosh, you stop this right now! There’s absolutely no need for violence!”
Both of the stallions turned toward their romantic interests.
“Ah’ll have ye know tha’ Ah have ta beat his ass, darlin’,” Mac slurred out, swaying as he did so. He could take a lot of alcohol, but five pints in under two minutes was pushing it, even for him. “It says so.”
Twilight marched up to Big Mac and tapped his chest with her hoof. “Says so where, Mac? Where’s the book? I’d like to read it.”
“Says so’s in mah blood,” he said, nodding smugly.
“That’s no excuse! Now you get your flank back in the kitchen and you clean up all that glass!”
Applejack had approached Twilight and was currently trying to pull her off of her brother. “Come on now, Twi. They gotta fight. It’s part of bein’ an Apple.”
Twilight brushed Applejack’s hoof off. “I don’t care what your traditions say, this can be settled another way!”
Fuji had remained quiet until then. His southern accent only came out when he was drunk, and he was laying it on thick now. “See, cous? Told ya. Them damn unicorns don’t know nothin’ ‘bout actin’ like an earth pony.”
Twilight froze, as did Applejack and Big Macintosh, whose eyes just narrowed as he let out a snort.
“What—did you just call me?” Twilight asked, turning slowly towards Fuji.
“Called ya what ya are. A damn unicorn.”
Twilight had heard the term only once in her life. It was one day when she was misbehaving more so than usual, and her father had accidentally let it slip. When she asked her mother about it, her father had received quite the tongue lashing. Once she got older, she understood why. One just simply did not use that phrase.
“Mac,” Twilight said, turning back to her coltfriend, “I’ve changed my mind. Kick his flank.” She dusted off his chest where she had poked him, looked at Applejack and, with a nod, returned to Devine’s side.
“I hope that didn’t offend you,” Twilight told her new ‘friend.’
“Not in the slightest, dear,” the alabaster pony replied. “After using such language, I have half a mind to be out there myself. He doesn’t usually say things like that, what with being a father and all.”
Applejack returned to her spot next to the two mares, and sat down with them to watch the upcoming show of strength.
Big Macintosh was snorting and pawing the ground. “Ah hope ya know yer dead fer that,” he threatened.
“Bring it,” was all Fuji said, as he swayed onto his back hooves. Mac followed suit, both posed at the ready for their bout.
The lime-colored matriarch, perched atop her creaking chair, rocked towards her megaphone stand. “On yer mark,” she spoke, rocking away from it. Closing in again, she said, “Get set,” and on the third rock, contrary to what Twilight thought was going to happen, she managed to yell out, “Go!” Of course, however, the next time she rocked forward, the megaphone managed to poke her in the eye anyways. “Consarn it!” she cursed. “Darned thing gets me every time!”
The fight had begun. Big Macintosh instantly brought his right hoof forward, and Fuji copied his move. Both stallions stumbled backwards, each losing balance from the others blow. They came together again, trading punch for block for a few seconds. Finally, Mac got close enough and lashed out with his hoof, landing a hit across Fuji’s jaw. The receiving stallion stumbled backwards, but quickly regained and faked a punch at Big Mac’s face before catching him in the gut.
Doubled over in pain, Mac was barely able to dodge Fuji’s next blow, but retaliated with another shot to the Manehattan pony’s face with his left hook. Mac quickly swung his right hoof and connected again, giving Fuji a mean case of whiplash.
Twilight and Devine were both sitting on their flanks, mouths covered in horror at the scene that was unfolding. Even though she wanted Mac to beat Fuji down, she didn’t imagine it would be this violent. She had never even witnessed a fight, aside from her friends’ battle with the changelings. That, she reason, was okay. They weren’t ponies, after all.
Several times throughout the match, Twilight thought of intervening with her magic. However, with the way Applejack was watching the two stallions go at it, there was no way she get away with such a thing. Besides, she reasoned, wasn’t this whole ordeal happening because she had a horn in the first place?
“Come on, Mac!” yelled Granny Smith from her chair. “Show ‘em what for! That all ya got, Fuji? Show mah boy how to hit!”
Aside from being thoroughly confused by the matriarch’s fair-weather tendencies, Twilight was really hoping her coltfriend could end this soon.
The bout continued on for several minutes, each pony basically trading blow for blow. One of Mac’s eyes had already swollen shut, and Fuji had a trail of blood oozing from his mouth and nostril. Finally, Macintosh rounded on Fuji with a mean uppercut, catching him in the jaw with a blow that lifted him from the ground. He hit hard, unmoving for several seconds as Mac swayed in a boxer’s position. Devine and Twilight let out a little gasp, fearing the worst.
Fuji moved after a moment, slowly rising back to his back two hooves. He swung blindly forward, stumbling past Macintosh and face-planting in the ground.
“We got a TKO?” Applejack asked, leaning forward in anticipation.
Her suspicion was denied as Fuji rose once more. As soon as he was up and ready, however, Mac caught him in another uppercut that sent the Manehattan farmer flying into a nearby fencepost, all but splintering it with the force of gravity.
“Ya gonna shtay down thi’ time?” Big Macintosh slurred, swaying once again.
“Dun count me out jus’ yet, Cousin,” Fuji said, getting back to his hooves in a painfully slow manner. Half of his face was now covered with the blood from a cut that Mac’s hoof had delivered.
Twilight tapped Applejack on the shoulder. “Isn’t this far enough?” she asked. “I don’t want them to get hurt.”
“Honestly, darling, I had no idea my husband had such barbaric customs,” Devine commented.
Applejack laughed, brushing the two worrywarts off. “It’ll be over soon, one way or the other. Either one gives up, or one gets KO’ed. Mah bet’s on a KO in juuuuuust a second.”
Sure enough, she was right. Mac pulled a one-two-three with two to Fuji’s abdomen, and one more to his nose, sending the stallion back into the broken pile of fence, knocked out cold. Macintosh lowered himself to all four hooves, giving a little hoof pump before stumbling over to his marefriend. Applejack and Devine went to check on Fuji, who was quickly beginning to stir.
“Ah won,” Mac stated plainly, trying to plant a kiss on Twilight’s lips. She pushed him away with a hoof, giving her drunk coltfriend a stern look. “What?” he asked, with a big, stupid grin plastered across his purple and bloody muzzle. “Ah won!”
“Two things,” Twilight began. “One, you’re disgusting. Go take a shower because I am not kissing a stallion covered in blood. Two, that was horrible. I’m glad you won, honey, but I had no idea it was so…so bloody! And you know what, I’ve decided to add a third thing. You’re wasted. Go sober up.”
Mac still stood rooted to the spot, flashing her a goofy grin.
His grin dropped suddenly, and he turned and trudged back towards the house.
“Oh, and Mac?” Twilight said, getting the stallion’s attention. “Thanks for defending me. I love you.” She smiled at him, then ushered him forward with a hoof motion.
Grinning in his stupid, drunken joy, he quickly slurred out an “Ah love you, too,” before turning tail and stumbling into the kitchen. Twilight’s ears pricked as she heard the scattering of glass across the wooden floor, but she heard to cries of pain, so she went to check on Fuji.
“How is he?” she asked, approaching.
“Peachy,” Applejack replied, smiling. “A bit woozy, but whole.”
“Devine? Are you okay?” inquired Twilight.
There was a moment of silence as she held her husband’s head, looking into his distant eyes. She dropped his head, allowing it to make a solid thump on the wooden fence post. “Yes. He’s just…stupid. Downright stupid.” She stood, and looked down at her drunk and beat up husband. “You’re taking a shower, and not a moment after cousin Macintosh.”
Fuji only laughed, mumbling something about stars and how pretty they were.
Applejack cracked up, turning and trotting back towards the kitchen. “Come on, y’all,” she said. “We gotta clean up their glass, otherwise somepony will cut themselves.”
Several hours had passed since the bout, and the sun was beginning to set in the Equestrian sky. Glass shards had long been cleaned up, and both Big Macintosh and Fuji were passed out in separate beds. After the stallions had both showered off, Devine and Twilight had helped them under the covers, where they both promptly passed out drunk. This had, of course, led to increased social time for the mares present, which they gladly ate up.
“So that’s when Broomsedge realized that knocking down the beehive is not an effective way to get honey for dinner. Oh, you should have seen us run! We were screaming like little school fillies.” Devine paused in her story, placing a hoof to her chin. “Well, I guess one of us is a little school filly.”
Twilight, Applejack, and Applebloom laughed, leaving Broomsedge to pout at her mother.
“Mom! You know that story embarrasses me! Why do you always have to tell it!”
Devine wiped a tear from her eye as she hugged her daughter with her free hoof. “Oh, dearie, it’s because you’re so funny. One day when you’re older, you’ll think it’s as funny as I do!”
“I doubt it,” the brown filly growled.
All of the mares were sitting in the living room, relaxing as a warm fire crackled merrily in the hearth. Granny Smith was snoozing yet again, somehow managing to rock her chair in her sleep. Twilight decided that the ancient mare must have taught Pinkie Pie a few tricks, with all the sense she made. The researcher in Twilight wasn’t even going to attempt to explain the strange happenings around her.
With the stallions out for the evening, Twilight had gotten plenty of time to chat with Devine, and she found out what an interesting pony she was. As she had mentioned earlier, she had grown up in Manehattan. Her childhood had been drastically different from Twilight’s, but not just because the lavender mare was Celestia’s protégé.
Manehattan was a completely different city than Canterlot, riddled with petty crime and homeless ponies. The gap between the rich and the poor was quite large there, and Twilight was left wondering if Celestia knew about it. Most likely she did, but not even a benevolent princess can help everypony. Twilight made a mental note to mention the city’s issues in her next friendship report. After today’s events, that could be quite soon.
Devine was still hugging her daughter, the last of her laughter dying out. Wiping yet another tear from her eye, she said, “Oh, how I do love having foals.” She ruffled Broomsedge’s mane, and released her from the motherly grip which she had enacted like a punishment.
“Little farmers are tha best,” Applejack commented. “Applebloom does the funniest things, ya just wouldn’t believe it…”
Applebloom visibly cringed at her sister’s tone, sensing that if she didn’t move fast, she could be the subject of the next story.
“Come on, Broomsedge,” Applebloom said, lowering herself to the ground. “Let’s get outta here ‘afore Applejack starts tellin’ those stories about me!” The two fillies galloped outside to play in the last bit of light left from the waning sun.
Twilight smiled. “I can’t wait until I have my own. They’re so adorable.”
“Oh, and I bet yours would be strong, with a stallion like Big Macintosh,” Devine absently commented.
If Applejack wasn’t paying attention before, she certainly was now. “Say what now? Twi, is there somethin’ ya need to be tellin’ me?”
The lavender mare’s cheeks quickly flushed red as she held up a hoof. “Oh, no, no! Devine, we’re nowhere near that, yet!”
“Oh, dear!” the Manehattan mare exclaimed. “I’m so sorry! How long have you two been together?”
“Only two months!”
“Oh, my Celestia! I had no idea! Why, I thought it had been at least a year!”
Applejack laughed, breaking the tension. “Nope, just a few months, Devine. Though it does seem a lot longer, the way they act.”
“That’s what I’m screaming,” Devine said, using a figure of speech from her home city.
Twilight was flushed with color now, and she could swear it was slowly creeping down her neck. Regardless, though, she couldn’t help but picture what her and Mac’s foals would look like.
After a moment of silence, Applejack spoke up. “Do ya think, if they had a unicorn, it’d have some sort of, ya know, super horn?”
It was Twilight’s turn to laugh now, laughing so hard that she snorted a few times. “Applejack,” she exclaimed in short breaths, “that isn’t even possible! What the hay is a super horn?”
Devine was chuckling now, as Applejack tried to defend her reasons. “Well, the princesses have them! Really long ones!”
“That’s because they’re alicorns!” Twilight laughed.
“W—well, maybe y’alls foal would have a really, I dunno, muscle-y one or somethin’! Who knows!”
All three mares had now lost it, the day’s long hours and events catching up with their sanity.
“That’s like saying that you and a Wonderbolt would produce a foal with super wings!” Twilight snorted. “You—you know” she stammered through her laughter, “Soarin did really like your pies!”
“Oh, huh uh!” Applejack said, pointing a hoof at her friend. “Don’t even go there, pardner! Do Ah need to fill Devine in on just how you told mah brother ya liked him?”
Twilight choked on her laugh, sending Applejack into another fit of giggles. Devine, too, was wrapped up in the fun, with the lavender mare’s expression only serving to fuel it more.
“Ah, heh—no, AJ, I think that’s ok.”
After the three had settled down, Devine looked towards her new friend. Her alabaster coat was gleaming in the firelight, giving her a comforting glow. “Well, Twilight, I certainly won’t force it out of you, but…how did you and Macintosh ‘hit it off,’ as so many ponies are saying nowadays?”
“It’s a funny story, really,” Twilight began. She shot a glance at Applejack. “It’s kind of embarrassing, as well.”
“Nonsense, dear. It’s love. Nothing about it is embarrassing, we all experience it at some point.”
“Some later rather than sooner,” Applejack mumbled.
“Oh, AJ,” Twilight said, giving her friend a sympathetic look. “You’ll find somepony at some point. I promise. And if you don’t, I’m sure that I and the girls can help you find somepony!”
The orange mare smiled at her friend, mouthing a “thank you,” to which Twilight simply nodded. Then, looking back at Devine, she began the retelling of her story.
She told how she had gone to help the Apples organize a town effort to make cider season run smoother than before, and how she had wanted to learn to buck apples. She spun an intricate tale of working beside Big Macintosh as he delicately coached her on all the inner workings of bucking an apple tree, and how to feel through her hooves. She told Devine of the evening by the pond, how she had kissed Mac and run away right after, and she told of her return to the farm and her confrontation with the big red stallion. Devine “oohed” at all the right parts and “d’aww’d” at all the cute parts.
Referring to the past few days, Twilight said, “After he warned me about your h—husband, I kind of started to freak out. He’s really good at keeping me calm, though. I’m sure if it wasn’t for him, I may have gone ‘Smarty Pants’ again.”
Devine had a puzzled look on her face. “’Smarty Pants’?”
“’Nother story fer another day,” Applejack said, dismissing the tale with a wave of her hoof.
“She isn’t kidding,” Twilight reinforced. “But yeah. Big Macintosh is pretty much the greatest thing that’s happened to me since Celestia made me her protégé.”
“Aw, ain’t that cute,” teased Applejack. Twilight shot her a glare, but said nothing.
When she remained quiet for the next few seconds, the alabaster pony from Manehattan asked her an odd question. “So, dear, how much has Macintosh told you about the Apple family?”
The question caught Twilight off guard, and Applejack raised a brow.
“What do you mean?”
Devine reddened in embarrassment. “I mean—um, I mean, he told you about my husband, right? What did he tell you about…the others?”
Applejack’s pupils dilated as she looked towards her friend, who in turn felt like a lead weight had dropped into her stomach.
“Th—the others?” Twilight stammered. “Wuh—what others?”
“Sugarcube, don’tcha remember the first conversation we had about this? When we said some members of the Apple family? We wasn’t talkin’ bout just one.”
“O—oh.” That’s all Twilight could say. She thought that this was it. For some reason, she had it in her head that all she needed to do was get past this couple, and everything would be fine. She had foolishly believed that this was the finish line. “Well, does that really matter? I mean, will I ever even see these ponies?”
Oh, Twilight. Foolish, innocent Twilight. For a mare who was so, so, very smart, she could be surprisingly dim-witted at times. If she had never asked that question, the next words out of Devine’s mouth may never have come to be. They wouldn’t have startled the mare like her orange friend had not but so many days ago, and it wouldn’t have set in motion the next chapter of her life.
“Well, only if you plan on staying around for a while, of course,” the alabaster mare said. “Celestia knows I’ve met them all. It was…quite a trial.”
"You had to meet them?" Twilight asked.
"Oh yes, it's practically a requirement. Like the fight our two lovers had, it’s part of the Apple tradition for new members to meet everypony."
Twilight glanced at Applejack, who only gave a sympathetic, yet sarcastic, smile.
“Twilight Apple?” she asked Applejack.
“Twilight Apple,” the farmpony confirmed.
The lavender mare suddenly had a lot to think about, not the least of which was wondering if this relationship was worth all the trouble it would cause in the long run.
There was a soft knock at the door just as Twilight was coming to the end of a chapter. She placed a hoof where she had been reading before looking towards the door and yelling, “Just a minute!” Quickly scanning what was left, she marked her place, closed the book, and rose to trot towards the door. A quiet burst of magic pulled the barrier open, and revealed who was calling at her step.
A cool burst of autumn air rushed into the house, bringing with it a few colored leaves and one large stallion.
“Howdy, Twi,” Big Macintosh said, bending down to give her a small peck on the lips.
“Afternoon, hun,” the lavender mare replied. “How are you feeling?” She shut the door, but upon realizing how wonderful it felt outside, telekinetically opened several windows around the library. A light cross-breeze kicked in, rustling a few papers Twilight had out on her table.
“Ah’m fine. Had a bit of a headache earlier, but Ah’m over it. Face kinda hurts, but Ah’m sure Fuji is worse. He had an icepack on when Ah left.”
It had only been one day since the brawl between Big Mac and Fuji, and Twilight could only guess that Mac had just woken up a few hours before. He was mightily smashed the day before, and even for his size, she didn’t see how one pony could handle so much alcohol that quickly. That morning, she had sent Spike over to Sweet Apple Acres with a message for the red stallion to join her at the library at his leisure, and that she needed to speak with him. The prior evening had been a tad unsettling for her, and she wanted to bring up with her coltfriend before it was too late.
“How are ya?” Macintosh asked, as he sat on one of the cushions Twilight had out before the hearth, which contained a small fire crackling merrily.
“I’m fine, just finishing up some studying. It’s been almost three days since I’ve done any major research into magical theory; I feel so out of the loop!”
Mac chuckled a bit, finding his marefriend’s hardcore study habits difficult for anypony to mimic. “Well, that’s good. So what’d ya wanna talk to me about? Spike said it was pretty important.”
“You could say that,” Twilight said, taking a seat on a cushion next to him. She leaned against his bulky shoulder, feeling the raw muscle underneath quivering slightly from natural vibrations. The two lovers shared in each other’s company for a moment, both staring into the images that the fire was bringing up. Finally, Twilight answered his question. “I wanted to talk to you about something Devine said to me last night. About the rest of your family.”
“What about ‘em?” Mac inquired, raising a brow.
“Apparently, it’s part of some apple family tradition for new members of the family to meet everypony? She said she had to do it. Is that true?”
Silence permeated the room, save for the crackling hearth. Leaning against his bulk, Twilight could hear Mac’s breath catch. She felt the quickening of his heart through the muscle tissue, and knew his breaths were shallower than before. After a moment, he replied, slowly.
“Eeyup,” her stallion whispered. “It’s only for the males bringin’ in females, though. Whenever Applejack finds somepony, she won’t have ta do it. Ah will, though.” The next part came even quieter than the prior. “Why d’ya ask, Twi?”
Now it was Twilight’s turn to stop breathing momentarily. This was where she felt the “make it or break it” moment could come. Depending on what she said here, she could either chase Big Macintosh away forever, or bring him home forever. Either option scared the hay out of her, and she wasn’t even sure if there was a gray area.
“I—we—I’m…” she trailed off. How to put it? “Could you—and if you don’t want to answer this, it’s okay—but could you, Big Macintosh, see us going through that ritual? And be honest. If you can’t see that, I want to know.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but was instantly shut down by Twilight holding up her hoof.
“And I realize this is very early in our relationship to be asking questions like this. I realize it’s barely been two-and-a-half months. I get that, Mac, I do. But at the same time, I don’t want to waste time. I want to make sure that, if your family has all of these crazy traditions, then the time I’m spending with you is worth it. If it isn’t, I want to know. I don’t want to continue a relationship that’s doomed to fail, you know? I want to—“
She was cut off by a kiss from her stallion, one that was deep and longing, as he pushed her over on to her back. She squeaked in surprise at his force, seeing his eyes shut in pure concentration. Twilight relaxed into the kiss, wrapping her hooves around his bare neck, which was a rare feeling for her.
After a moment of passionate making out, Big Macintosh pulled back and stared down into his marefriend’s eyes hard. “Don’t ya ever think that this ain’t worth it,” he said. “Ah’ll make sure it is, and if ya had let me finish earlier, I’da told ya that yes, Ah can see us goin’ through that ritual. Ah saw us goin’ through it the moment ya first kissed me, ‘fore ya ran away thinkin’ tha world was endin’. Ah wouldn’ta gotten mahself into this mess if Ah didn’t think it was worth it. So don’tcha ever, and Ah mean ever, think it ain’t worth it, Twi, because Ah love ya more than Ah could ever tell ya in words.”
She had no words for what she had just heard. In just a few sentences, Macintosh had effectively dispelled all doubt within her mind, made her feel completely comfortable and confident in him, and given her the greatest gift she could ask for. She could feel his undying love for her, and it was a flame that burned hotter than the fire in her hearth. Smiling, and with a few tears leaking out of her eyes, she pulled him back down into their kiss. They soon rolled over, and she was lying in his arms, sprawled out on the cushions in front of the merry fire.
“I love you so much, Big Mac.” She whispered into his soft coat.
“Ah love you too, Twi. Ah know it hasn’t been that long, but I know Ah love you. And Ah’ll always love you.”
“R—really?” Twilight asked, starry-eyed.
“Absolutely,” he replied.
The two lovers sat in golden silence, listening to the breaths of the other, and the pops from the fireplace. Twilight nuzzled Big Mac’s chest, kissing it a few times as she stroked his hoof. He kissed the top of her head, rubbing her back while basking in her presence. After a moment, he asked her a question.
“Is that all ya wanted ta talk about?”
“Well—well, yes, really. Kind of.”
“Kind of?” Mac asked, brow furrowing.
“Yeah. There’s something else, now that you’ve put to rest some of my…doubts.”
The farmpony’s mind rushed. What now? he thought, trying to come up with an answer. He wanted to know what she was going to ask before she asked it. She don’t wanna go that fast, does she? But Ah did just say Ah’d love her forever…
“If this relationship is going the way I think it is, Big Macintosh,” Twilight let on, “then I think there’s something we need to go ahead and do.”
Oh sweet Celestia, thought the stallion, not that. Please, not that. Ah promised Granny Smith not ‘afore Ah was married. Ah don’t think Ah can keep that promise if Twilight asks. “Um—uh, sure, Twi. What’cha thinkin?” His voice wavered ever so slightly, but fortunately, the detail-oriented unicorn didn’t pick it up.
Twilight gave him a devilish smile, one that would reduce most any stallion to his knees, begging. Fortunately, Big Macintosh wasn’t “any stallion.”
“Uh, no. If it’s what Ah think yer sayin’, no. Ah can’t.”
Twilight pouted. “What? Why? You just said it was tradition.”
Macintosh screwed his face up in confusion, trying to put two and two together. “What? What’s tradition?”
“Meeting all the Apple family members! You just said you’d love me forever, and I’ll love you forever, so why don’t we go ahead and get started?”
Mac’s mouth hung open as he stared down at those beautiful magenta eyes, trying to process what he had just heard. No, she didn’t want to have sex with him, which was good in his book. However, she wanted to go ahead and get started on a tradition that was normally saved for a sure thing. As in, post-proposal type sure thing.
Twilight continued talking. “I’m sure it’s obviously a tradition that’s saved for later in the relationship, but if these relatives are going to be tough about a horn-head joining the family, don’t you think we could use all the time we could get?”
“Ah—ah s’pose so, but Twilight,” Mac stuttered. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, doing a pretty good impression of a screen door on loose hinges.
“Yes?” she asked, after a few seconds of this.
He took a deep breath, before reciting something his pappy had once told him. “The Apple family tradition is somethin’ that a stallion goes through when he’s good an’ ready ta settle down. After everythin’s been decided, an’ he knows what he wants outta life, an’ the mare he’s with is a part’a that life. He goes around tellin’ everypony about what he’s doin’, and who’s gonna be at his side for tha rest of his life.”
Silence once more hung in the air as Twilight absorbed the full meaning of his words. Once it finally hit her, she looked away, face as red as a beet, and shuffled her hooves. “I wasn’t aware of the implications,” she said.
“Eeyup. It’s pretty heavy stuff.”
Trying to dispel her embarrassment, Twilight made a joke. “As heavy as your yoke?” she asked, playfully punching Mac’s chest.
His deep chuckle rumbled through his body as he pecked Twilight on the cheek. “A bit heavier than that, Ah’m afraid.”
The librarian giggled with her coltfriend, thinking to herself how silly she was for asking such a question. Of course it would be that important. She was crazy if she thought otherwise. But then, her large red coltfriend asked her something she had to play back a few times to make sure she heard correctly.
“How badly do ya wanna meet ‘em, though?” Big Macintosh asked, with an inquisitive look.
“W—what do you mean?”
“Ah guess a better question would be why do ya wanna meet ‘em?”
“Well, for one, so I know who’s in your family. And two, so I can go ahead and get past all the bigotry, and try to be accepted by them. We’ve already done it with Fuji, and—wait, we have done it with Fuji, right? I haven’t talked to you about it since you…passed out drunk.”
Mac chuckled at his own expense. “Eeyup, Fuji’s alright. We fought, Ah won, an’ he’s ready ta talk to ya colt-ta-mare pretty soon to apologize an’ get ta know ya.”
Twilight’s ears folded back as she let out a proud smile towards her lover. “Thank you,” she said, kissing his cheek. “You’re the best.”
“Aw, shucks. Thanks fer lettin’ me whup his flank.”
Twilight giggled again. “Anyways, like I was saying, I’d like to go ahead and get a head start. Get it done, you could say.”
Big Macintosh contemplated her words. Thinking of only one good question, he asked it, albeit hesitantly. “Well, Twi, Ah gotta ask ya…”
“What?” she said, leaning towards him slightly.
“…What if we go on this journey, but we end up…ya know, not workin’ out? What then?”
Twilight was silent as she thought this over. It was a good question, one that warranted worry. Multiple times, though, only one thing came to mind. She tried to think up something else, tried to think around it. But one thought permeated all others, and she knew it was the answer she had to give. “It’s going to work out, Mac. I love you, and I’m not going to stop loving you. Ever. I don’t see how this could not work out, and I’ll do everything it takes to make it that way.”
Mac didn’t know what to say. The sincerity in her voice, the sincerity in her eyes…it was just too much. He still had to ask, though. “But what if something happ—mmph!”
Twilight pushed into him, rolling him onto his back and pressing him against the floor with the force of her kiss. She pulled away and stared into his eyes, and with the most sincere voice she could, said, “It’s going to work out. Trust me. I love you.”
“Ah love you too,” Mac whispered back, before being cut off by another kiss. After they finished, and were laying back on their sides, Mac came to a solemn conclusion. “Guess Ah better tell Applejack what we’re doin’,” he said. “She won’t be too happy.”
Twilight looked back in confusion. “Why not?”
“It ain’t traditional for a couple to go on this thing without sealin’ the deal. Just ain’t how it’s usually done.”
“Eeyup. Well, darlin’, Ah love ya, but Ah need ta get back and talk to AJ ‘bout all this while it’s still daylight. Wanna come out fer dinner?”
“Sure!” Twilight exclaimed, ears perking up.
“Good.” Big Macintosh rose from his position, stretching his limbs as he did so. “Well, Ah’m gonna head out and smooth this over a’fore it gets wrinkled. Come on out ‘round evenin’, Ah’m sure Granny’ll have somethin’ cooked up.”
Twilight rose with him, and walked towards the door. “Ok, Mac. I’ll be there. And, Mac?”
“Thank you. I love you.” Twilight leaned in and gave him a peck, which he gratefully returned.
“Ah love ya, too, Twilight.”
She smiled as he left the library, and as she shut the door, the cross-breeze caught her mane in a small vortex of wind. She went back to the table where her books and papers lay, but found herself completely unmotivated to do any more studying. Only one thing was on her mind, now, and it was a question that she didn’t have the answer for. Deciding to write a letter to the Princess about it, she retired to her balcony with a quill, inkwell, and some paper, ready to ask her mentor one of the hardest questions she didn’t know the answer to.
Of course, the last letter she received from Celestia, not but a few days before, pertained specifically to this subject, and therefore no backstory explanation was required. Priming her pen, and levitating the parchment over, she wrote her normal salutation, and one question.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Am I ready for this?
Your faithful student,
Satisfied with her penmanship, she rose from her relaxed position and trotted into her bedroom, where a certain number one assistant was sound asleep in his basket. Twilight gently nudge Spike awake from his midafternoon nap, and he was none too happy about it.
“Ugh, what, Twilight? It’s still daylight out, I’m tired!” the young dragon exclaimed, rubbing his eyes of sleep.
“Spike, could you send this letter for me real quick?” she asked, putting on her best puppy dog face.
“Yeah, sure, Twilight. Can I go to sleep afterwards?”
“You can do whatever you want afterwards!” she said, ruffling his scales. “You’re my number one assistant, and don’t you forget it!”
“Heh, I am pretty awesome,” Spike said, swelling at her praise. He quickly blew a stream of flame, sending the letter on its way. “There you go! Need anything else sent before I’m out cold again?”
The Ponyville librarian beamed at her dragon friend, before turning back towards the cool air of her balcony. “Nope! You’re free for the rest of the day. Thank you!”
“Sure thing,” he said, settling back down into his basket.
As Twilight lounged out on the balcony, observing her small town as it went about its business, she thought about her life over the last two months or so. She thought about how vastly her life had improved since Big Macintosh had come into the picture. It was almost the same percentage of improvement as making her first friends in Ponyville, who were now the best friends she could ever ask for. As she thought, she imagined a future that included that red stallion of hers.
Is it really so scary a thought? she asked herself. I could definitely see myself with him in the future. It’s not intimidating, it’s not weird. It just seems…normal. As Twilight thought over this and many other aspects of her life and relationship, all while observing the small town below her, she heard a belch from inside. Soon after, her ears flicked towards the sound of claws clacking on hardwood floor, and before long, Spike’s weary form was standing next to her with a letter.
“Guess whatever you told Princess Celestia was super interesting this time,” he said, nonchalantly.
“Oh, Spike,” Twilight giggled, “You have no idea.”
“Whatever. I’m going back to bed,” he said. “You don’t need to send anything else, right? Too many of those things makes my throat hurt.”
“No, Spike. This should be the last one for a while.”
The purple dragon grunted in approval, then spun on his heel and walked back towards his glorious basket.
Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Whatever Celestia said was probably going to decide it for her. She had never once doubted her mentor’s wisdom, and she didn’t see how she possibly could now. After all, Celestia had never steered her wrong before.
The lavender mare carefully removed the seal of Celestia’s cutie mark, and unrolled the sacred parchment. Taking one more deep breath, she read the extremely short note of the Princess of Equestria.
Dear Twilight Sparkle,
As long as you think you are, my faithful student, then you are. If it’s my own personal opinion you’re after, though, then I only have one thing to say.
“Y’all are doin’ what?” came the voice of an agitated mare. “Ya know what that means to tha family, brother! Ya can’t jus’ go an’ break tradition like that!”
“Ah can, AJ, an’ Ah will,” rumbled a response. “Ah’ve already told Twi ‘bout tha’ tradition, and we’ve decided to buck it. We’re gonna go ahead an’ get this outta tha’ way now.”
Big Macintosh had recently returned to the farm, only to find his siblings and kinfolk absent. As the farmpony tended to do during the fall, he busied himself by sitting on the porch of his homestead, observing nature at its finest. He swore he could actually see the leaves changing colors, but nopony ever believed him. It was alright though; he knew it was true, and that was all that mattered.
Not but an hour after his return, Applejack had trotted up from the direction of the Crusaders’ tree house, mumbling something about how good Applebloom was at fixing things. Of course, the two oldest Apple siblings knew what their younger’s cutie mark would most likely end up relating to, even if she herself didn’t.
When she had seen Big Macintosh sitting on the porch, she promptly sat down next to him in silence, removing her hat and placing it on the floor in front of her. They stayed like that for a while, a mutual respect for Mother Nature between them, until Mac had finally broken their introspective reverie. Needless to say, Applejack hadn’t been too receptive.
“Mac, if’n y’all go ‘round together all lovey dovey, introducin’ the family and whatnot, there’s gonna be a weddin’ happenin’, weather you or Twi like it or not! Is that what yer aimin’ for? A forced marriage?”
“Absolutely not,” Mac rebutted. “Twilight wasn’t sure if Ah could see us goin’ through this ritual, but Ah told her Ah could. Then, after we talked ‘bout it some more, we decided we’d always love one another. So we decided ta go ahead an’ start gettin’ this out of the way early.”
Applejack snorted halfway through his small speech, but let him finish. As soon as he concluded, she said, “Y’all’ll always love each other? Mac, there ain’t no guarantee there. Ah know yer an honest pony, an’ Twilight’s bout as good of a mare as they come, but ya can’t predict tha’ future. It ain’t all rainbows an’ cotton candy, though Celestia knows Pinkie wishes it were.”
“Now Ah ain’t bein’ unrealistic, AJ,” Mac drawled, patience running low. “Ah know this’ll be a tall task fer anypony ta complete. But Ah’ve just…got this feelin’, ya know? Somethin’ that tells me this is right. It’s in mah gut. Just says doin’ this is the right thing, an’ Twi’s the right mare to be doin’ it with.”
“Then why don’tcha just go ahead an’ propose to her then?” the orange mare asked, half as a dare, half as a serious suggestion.
“The poor girl’d freak out, AJ, an’ ya know that almost better’n Ah do.”
Applejack was silent for a moment as she considered several angles of reciprocation. Big Macintosh was looking at her expectantly, waiting for her next argument. Several times, she opened her mouth, only to close it when she found a flaw before her opinion could be voiced. Then, suddenly, her eyes went wide.
“Mac, have ya even thought—“
“Chances are, yes,” he interrupted.
“Ah wasn’t finished,” Applejack deadpanned. “What Ah was gonna say, was have ya even thought about her side of it?”
“AJ, Ah thought we’d been over her side of it when—“
“No, Ah mean her side of the ‘tradition.’ Like, if Twi’s got a bit of that herself.”
Big Mac looked puzzled. “What’cha mean, sis?”
“Ah mean, what about you meetin’ her folks? Ain’t ya thought ‘a that? Hay, her parents are Canterlot nobility. Her brother’s captain of tha Royal Guard, and her sister in law is a princess. Speakin’ of which, the princess of Equestria herself is practically a second mother to that filly. Have ya even given thought ta that, Mac?”
Big Macintosh’s eyes were suddenly shrunken to a microscopic scale. He had not, in fact, considered those implications. Of course, he had known about them, but throughout this whole controversy, he hadn’t given a second thought to it. Perhaps he was so worried about the trials that his own family would face, he didn’t even register the fact that even Twilight’s side of the family could be an issue. Perhaps, even, he just considered it as a win. Perhaps he didn’t think about it because in his mind, he had already won over her family. But neigh, it was not so. And this overlooked aspect gave his sister a smug grin.
“That’s what Ah thought,” she said. “Chew on that for a while, ya big lovehorse.” Applejack promptly stood up, having chalked up this conversation as a proverbial hoofsmack to her brother’s brain, but what he said next almost caused her to trip over herself.
“Bring ‘em on, then. Ah told ya Ah love Twilight, an’ Ah meant it. If she’s willin’ to meet all of our family an’ face their backwards, bigot views, then Ah’m willin’ to risk makin’ a fool of mahself in front of the most important ponies in this great country ‘a ours. Worst they can do is tell me Ah can’t be with mah mare, in which case Ah ain’t afraid ‘a the dungeon.”
Applejack stared at her brother in silence. For a minute, the only sound heard was the low moan of the afternoon breeze, and the crisp crunching of leaves rolling over one another. Slowly, ever so slowly, Applejack replaced her Stetson upon her head, adjusting it just so. She then deliberately moved over to her big brother, and gave him the tightest hug she could.
“Twilight deserves a stallion like you,” she whispered into his ear. “Ah know ya won’t let her down. Ya have mah blessin’, Mac. Go on about yer journey. Just don’t make us wait too long back here in Ponyville.”
“Don’t you worry none, sis,” said the massive stallion, patting her back. “We’ll be gone an’ back before ya know it.”
Pulling away from him, Applejack looked Big Mac dead in the eye, before giving a curt nod and disappearing inside to begin dinner.
Big Macintosh was once again left alone, staring at his magical leaves of change.
Wind whipped through the navy blue strands of Twilight’s mane as she trotted towards Sweet Apple Acres. There was a nip in the air, and as such, she had donned a light pink scarf, which Rarity told her “brought out her cutie mark.” Although she really didn’t have too much of a sense for fashion, Twilight did have to admit she looked pretty good in it.
As the Ponyville librarian rounded the last curve to the local farm, she spotted Applebloom, Broomsedge, and Scootaloo playing in the front yard. The three fillies were jumping in and out of piles of leaves, piles that had just been raked up by Big Macintosh and Fuji. The two stallions sat side by side, watching the fillies as they chatted amongst themselves. Twilight passed through the farm’s gate, and for the first time, she saw the aftermath of the brawl across Fuji’s face.
One side of his visage was purple and swollen, though it hardly seemed to hinder his mood. The closer Twilight got, the more she could see him laughing along with Big Macintosh as they watched the younger ponies play.
Mac noticed her suddenly, and raised a hoof in salutations. “Howdy, Twi!” he called, motioning for her to come over. His cry caused the two fillies to look up from their piles of leaves and come running over.
“Twilight!” Applebloom called. “Ya gotta come jump in these leaves! It’s so much fun!” She and her friends ran up to Twilight, stopping her progress as she was caught up in a tight hug from the youngest Apple family member.
“Hey, Applebloom,” Twilight said with a giggle, returning the hug. “Where’s Sweetie?”
“She’s with Rarity. Somethin’ bout a sister’s day out.”
“Well, it’s certainly good to see those two getting along,” the lavender mare commented.
“No kiddin’,” Scootaloo said. “They fight more than Rainbow and Applejack, I swear.”
Twilight noticed Broomsedge’s quiet demeanor. “How are you doing, Broomsedge?”
The little filly noticeably perked up, beaming up at Twilight. “I’m good!” she said. “How are you?”
“I’m well, thanks,” Twilight said with a smile. “You three run on along and get back to playing. We can talk at dinnertime, okay?”
“Okay!” the three fillies shouted, before running back towards the leaves, laughing the whole way there.
Satisfied that the young ponies were happy, Twilight made her way over to Big Macintosh. She noticed Fuji eying her, and though it made her a bit nervous, Big Macintosh had assured her earlier that he was okay now. When she finally got over to their location, she gave her coltfriend a peck on the cheek. “Hey there, Big Mac,” she said in a quiet voice. Then, looking towards Fuji, “And hello, Fuji. How are you?” She couldn’t say butterflies weren’t in her stomach as she addressed the green coated stallion.
“A might bit better than yesterday, thanks,” he said, all air of condescendence gone. “I’d like to apologize formally to ya, ma’am, for my behavior yesterday. It’s been my experience that unicorns are—that is to say, most of the unicorns I’ve run across in my time—are stuck up snobs. Your coltfriend here has explained to me that that is not the case.”
Although she was a bit shocked at Fuji’s sudden change of demeanor, Twilight hid a girlish giggle behind her hoof and glanced at Big Macintosh. “It’s okay, Fuji. Apology accepted. I’m glad you two worked everything out, even if it was in a rather…odd way. How are you feeling?”
Fuji chuckled at her sentiment, rubbing the swollen side of his face. “I’m feeling okay. A bit sore over here, courtesy of the big stallion’s mean right hoof, but I’m doing alright. Thank ya for asking.”
“Sure!” Twilight beamed at him. “So, Mac, what’s on the menu tonight?” She took a seat next to him, leaning on his shoulder while looking out at the fillies playing.
“Ah’m not quite sure, actually,” he said, looking up at some passing clouds. “Applejack wants it to be a surprise. Ah’ll put my bits on it bein’ somethin’ to do with apples, though.”
Twilight snorted in amusement. “Mac, I’d put every bit that I own on every meal that you eat for the rest of your life having to do with apples.”
Fuji laughed at her statement. “Got a sense of humor, ya do,” he said. “I like that. Guess you were right, cous. She ain’t all that bad.”
“Damn straight,” was all the stallion said. It was all that needed to be said. After a moment, he looked down at Twilight and asked her a question. “So, Twi, when were ya thinkin’ ‘bout goin’ on our trip?”
“Hmm? What ‘trip’? The one to visit your family?”
“I dunno, why? When were you thinking?”
“How ‘bout at the end of th’ week?”
Twilight sat bolt upright and stared at her coltfriend. “End of the week?” she exclaimed. “Mac, that’s so sudden!”
“Better sooner than later,” Fuji said.
“You know about this?” Twilight asked, leaning to get a better view of him.
“Yeah. Mac and I were talking about it earlier. It’s honestly to your benefit to go ahead and get it out of the way sooner rather than later. I’m ‘bout positive you’ll have to do it at some point in your life.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Twilight narrowed her eyes at Fuji.
“You know exactly what it means.”
There was a moment of silence as Twilight processed his words. She looked at Big Macintosh, who simply nodded at her. With a huff, she looked back towards the fillies, which were now just lying in one pile of leaves, watching the clouds overhead.
“What would I need to bring?” she asked Mac, without moving her gaze from the yard in front of her.
“Just some packed saddlebags, really,” he said. “Anything we’d really need’d be provided for us by th’ family.”
“Even if it’s me that shows up at their door?”
“Ah’m includin’ mahself in there. All you’d need ta bring, dear, is some packed saddlebags.”
Twilight was silent for a bit longer, until Fuji gave his own input of advice.
“Do it, filly,” he said. “The sooner you get it out of the way, the sooner you can—“
Mac put his hoof in Fuji’s mouth, silently telling him to shut up before he said something that would freak the librarian out.
“The sooner I can what?” Twilight inquired.
“Nothing,” said Fuji, glaring at Big Macintosh, as he spit dirt out of his mouth.
“Anyways, Twi, Ah figured we should go ahead an’ leave. If ya ain’t got no objections, Ah can get tha train tickets tomorrow. We’ll go ta Appaloosa first ta give ya a bit of an easy start.”
Twilight sighed. She looked up at the clouds, down at the fillies, and basically anywhere but at the big red stallion. Sure, earlier that day she had suggested going on this adventure, but now that it was actually here? She didn’t know why she was hesitant. Perhaps she was intimidated by the reality of the situation. Perhaps she was a bit scared. Finally, though, Big Macintosh raised his hoof to her chin, and turned her to look at him.
“Twi, if ya ain’t ready, that’s fine. Ah just thought Ah’d bring it up.”
Staring into his eyes did it. She could see there his honest intentions, his resolve at what they were going to undertake together. As soon as she saw it within him, she knew that she, too, could commit to this right then.
“Alright,” she said. “Alright. This weekend. We can leave on Saturday?”
Big Macintosh smiled at her, dropping his hoof back to the ground. “If that’s what ya want, dear, then ya can have it.”
“And besides,” chimed Fuji, “that gives us all plenty of time to hang out and get to know each other better! We’re leaving on Saturday, too!”
Twilight laughed, looking at the bearded pony. “You sure are a happy pony today.”
“What can I say? Mac’s hoof has good reasons for what it does.”
The three ponies laughed, as Applejack came out on the porch. “Dinner time, y’all! Tonight, we got a soufflé with spiced apples on tha side, an’ fer dessert, cobbler!”
Big Macintosh looked at Twilight and winked. “What’d Ah tell ya?”
“What did I tell you?” she replied with a wink. “Apples for the rest of your life.”
“For the rest of your lives,” Fuji chimed in.
Twilight glared at the green stallion. “Okay, seriously. What is it with you Apples and all this future business? Did I enter into some blood contract when I got into this relationship?”
Big Macintosh laughed, rising to his hooves. “Come on, Applebloom,” he called. “Yer sis has dinner ready. Scootaloo, yer welcome ta stay, as well.”
“Thanks Big Mac!”Scootaloo yelled back. The three fillies made towards the door, followed by Mac, Twilight, and Fuji.
These ponies are just as crazy as I thought when I first moved here, Twilight thought, entering the kitchen.
And all throughout dinner, and all among her conversations with all of the Apples, the only thing she could truly focus on was the coming weekend.
The morning air was cool and crisp, as the smell of fresh apple pies wafted through the air. Lazy fumes of smoke from the evening before rose from chimneys all around town, and here and there tumbleweed drifted by. It was early, yet. Hardly anypony had risen from their slumber, and the normally bustling town was dead quiet. Far off in the distance, a low rumble could be felt as a herd of buffalo moved through a valley, on their traditional stampede across the great plains of Equestria. The town clock chimed a shrill Six AM, and the blanket of night slowly began to lift up. Celestia’s sun was just creeping up on the horizon, beginning to warm each grain of sand in the dusty, old town.
A train was chugging along several miles away, its destination this sleepy little town famous for its expansive apple orchards. Twilight had been here, once before. She remembered the occasion quite fondly; what started as an apple tree transplant culminated in a giant pie war, but ended in a peaceful reconciliation of a huge misunderstanding. It made for a wonderful friendship report to Celestia, as well. She was rubbing sleep out of her eyes as a low whistle from the train signaled their pulling into the station. She leaned back into the warm embrace of her lover, and lightly kissed his chin.
“Wake up, sleepyhead,” she whispered. Normally Mac was the one waking her up, but she had a knack for sleeping lightly on trains. She travelled on them enough that she should be able to sleep like a rock, but something about their motion kept her in a haze between sleep and wakefulness. She always had such realistic dreams on train rides, to boot.
The hulking red form of her coltfriend stirred at the touch of her lips, and the sound of her voice. What he said sounded something along the lines of, “Mmm we thur yet?”
Twilight giggled softly as the train lurched to a soft halt. “Yes, silly. We just arrived. Come on, we’ve got to grab our bags.”
Several minutes later, the two ponies were standing on the platform, saddlebags over their backs, stretching their stiff muscles. After several minutes of orienting themselves to their surroundings, and taking a few deep breaths of the fresh Appleoosan air, they set of in the direction where Mac’s cousin, Braeburn, lived.
The two were quiet as they plodded through the dry dirt towards their destination. Twilight used the time to reflect on how the week leading up to this journey seemed to take what seemed like nine months. Ever since she had talked Mac into taking this trip, she had been anticipating their departure so much, every minute felt like a day. Now that they were actually on it, her thoughts were all jumbled.
I’m not sure how the rest of the family will take this, she thought. I know Braeburn will probably be overly excited, but that could just be his personality. The other three stops, though…
Prior to their departure, Big Macintosh had laid out a plan for their trip. It included three stops besides Appleoosa. The three places held a large, historical portion of the Apple family, all of which were the ones that never made it to family reunions. These families were apparently the largest providers in the Apple clan in the early days, and as such, still retained a fair amount of respect from the rest of the family. Mac had told her that the tradition was established long ago, when the first apples branched out from these farms to grow their crops in different parts of the country.
It was these thoughts that were in her mind when she almost ran into the front of a homely wooden door, set into the porch of a humble little house on the edge of town.
“Ya alright there, Twi?” Mac asked, a tinge of humor in his voice.
“Yeah, yeah…” she said, distantly. “I just zoned out a little, is all”
“Well, ya might wanna wake up. Ya know how cousin Braeburn is!”
“Oh, I know! Full of energy!” Twilight gave a small gesture towards the door, urging Mac to knock on it. He did so, and the sound of hoofbeats came from within.
“Jus’ a minute!” came a muffled voice.
And a minute is what it seemed to take, so early in the morning when it was as if every living creature were a slug. The door creaked open to a confused, yet pleasantly surprised, Braeburn.
“Mac? Twilight?” he said, looking between the two. “What brings y’all here?”
Big Macintosh chuckled as the moved forward to embrace his cousin. “Not much, Brae. Just goin’ ahead an’ gettin’ somethin’ outta tha way!”
Braeburn accepted the hug, but still looked slightly dazed. “Somethin’? Wha’ kinda somethin’, cous?”
Twilight chose this time to step into the conversation. “Hello, Braeburn! Mac and I are….well, that is, we’re dating now. And a few conversations with him and Applejack brought up y’all’s whole tradition of ‘meeting the family’ and, well, here we are!” She beamed at Braeburn as a look of utter surprise, matched with total confusion passed over his features in a matter of two seconds.
“Wait, y’all are…hold on, Mac, yer….and Twilight said ‘y’all…’” finally he looked at his large red cousin. “Come on in. It seems there’s some ‘splainin’ to do, an’ it ain’t gonna be done on mah front porch half past the butt-crack of dawn!”
Twilight giggled at his remark as the trio made their way inside the dimly lit home, and the first rays of Celestia’s radiance were beginning to peek through the curtains. A fire could be heard crackling in the living room, and the bits of wood that were trailed in from the front door suggested that it had very recently been built back up from its dying embers.
“Jus’ stoked up the fire a few minutes ago,” Braeburn said. “Sorry ‘bout the mess!”
“It ain’t even a problem,” Mac said, with a chuckle.
“You should see my library on a normal day,” Twilight replied.
“Well, normally Ah’m not even here,” Braeburn said, as he motioned for everybody to take a seat on some western styled couches. “Usually Ah’m out in tha orchards workin’. It doesn’t really get too cold out here, so there’s always somethin’ that needs doin’.”
Twilight looked around the small room as she took her seat. Although she had visited Appleoosa once before, she hadn’t ever been inside Braeburn’s house. There were several pictures framed in what looked to be fletched sticks all around the room, along with some cowboy tack such as lassos and outerwear. It was a nice little escape from reality, she decided. It was only then that she noticed Braeburn looking directly at her.
“What? I-I’m sorry, I was admiring the decorations,” she said, gesturing around the room.
“Why thank ya, ma’am! They’re all jus’ stuff Ah’ve retired over tha years. Thought they migh’ look good hung up an’ all. But what Ah asked was, what’s all this about y’all datin’ and whatnot?”
Twilight felt heat instantly creep up into her cheeks, and she could tell Macintosh noticed her embarrassment. She hadn’t had to actually explain their relationship to another Apple before; It was just a well-known fact in Ponyville.
“Well,” she begain, “it started about two months ago, an—“
“Woah!” Braeburn exclaimed, leaning forwards a bit. “Ya mean ta tell me, Cous, that ya started datin’ this fine little lady two months ago an’ didn’t tell ole’ Brae?”
“Uh,” Mac started, looking around the room helplessly. “Well, ya see…”
Braeburn held up a hoof. “Aw Ah’m just pullin’ yer leg, Mac! Ah understand! Ah’m sure she takes up a lotta yer time!”
Mac glanced at Twilight with a small grin. “Ya could say that, Ah suppose.”
“So please, continue!” Braeburn said, excitedly.
Twilight began once again to explain how they got started as a couple. Throughout the better part of an hour, she wove a detailed story beginning with her first sparks of interests in Big Macintosh, flowing through the ordeal at the family pond when she kissed and ran, following up with how the situation was reconciled. Mac pitched in a few words here and there, but for the most part, let Twilight take control of the account. When she finally concluded with how it was they ended up on the journey they were now on, Braeburn just sat quietly for a moment, thinking.
“So,” he said, hesitantly, “lemme get this straight. Y’all ain’t getting’ married…yet…” he paused here for emphasis, “but y’all are still doin’ this thing. Don’t that seem to bring up more trouble than it’s worth?”
“Well, yeah, but—“ Twilight was cut off by Big Macintosh.
“We both believe that it needs to get done sooner or later. We both see it headin’ that way.”
Braeburn was silent, hoof to his chin, nodding as he thought on this statement. A moment and a deep breath later, he said, “Then Ah don’t see nothin’ wrong with it. Ya might have more trouble with them older family members you was talkin’ about. As far as Ah’m concerned, though, it’s all good.”
Twilight smiled. “Thank you, Braeburn.”
“S’no problem, Twi,” he said. Then, turning to Mac, he asked, “So, how long y’all plannin’ on stayin?”
“Jus’ the day, if that’s alrigh’ by you,” the stallion said.
“Ain’t no problem at all!” Braeburn exclaimed. “Y’all are welcome for as long as y’all need a place ta stay! But Ah understand that ya got stuff ya gotta take care of! Come on, lemme show ya were y’all can set yer saddlebags. Then I reckon we can get out an’ about ‘afore the town gets ta rustlin’ about!”
Twilight rose from her seat to follow her coltfriend and his cousin to their room, all the while thinking that this trip was already off to a wonderful start.
But she had no idea what was coming.
It had been a lovely trip to Appleoosa, Twilight decided as she and Big Macintosh were saying their farewells to Braeburn. The day had been spent touring through the little town, grabbing a bite to eat and dropping in on some of Braeburn’s friends. Twilight even saw a few ponies that she recognized from her previous stay in the town, and had a couple of pleasant conversations with them. The day ended with the three ponies strolling through Braeburn’s flourishing apple orchard. Due to the warm weather hanging around the area, his apples were still growing.
Of course, all things must come to an end, and that’s what brought the couple to the train station now. They grabbed their saddlebags from Braeburn’s house not but twenty minutes before, then moseyed on over to the station where the train had just arrived.
“Well, Brae, thanks fer showin’ us around all afternoon,” Mac drawled, as he embraced his cousin.
“Not a problem, cous, not a problem at all!” Braeburn replied, beaming. “Y’all take care, and eat some of them apples I packed for ya! They’re the pick of the harvest, I say!”
Mac laughed, and reassured him that they would do so. Twilight approached Braeburn next, and began the awkward hoofshake-into-hug maneuver. Giggling, she said, “Thanks so much, Braeburn! It was great to see you again!”
“You take care of my little cousin here, now, ya hear?” he said. “Ya gotta make sure he behaves himself on y’all’s little journey!” As they broke the embrace, Twilight gave him a reassuring nod, then moved back towards Macintosh.
“Alrigh’ now,” Braeburn said. “Get on the train ‘afore it leaves without y’all!”
The couple did as he said, and quickly took their seat and let open their window. “We’ll see ya next time, Brae,” Mac said. “Ya take care while I’m gone, aight?”
“Don’t you worry none, cousin,” he said. “’Ole Brae knows a thing er two.”
At that moment, the conductor yelled out of the train’s doorway, “All aboard’s comin’ aboard!” He took a quick look around to verify everybody was on the train, before waving to the engineer to go ahead and pull out. The two ponies waved their goodbyes to Braeburn before relaxing into their seats.
Their next stop was a ranch in between Baltimare and Fillydelphia, where Mac’s family had raised dairy cows and grown apples for decades.
“So about these ponies we’re going to meet,” Twilight asked after about half an hour on the train. “What were their names again?”
“The patriarch of tha family is mah Uncle Hampshire,” Big Mac said. “His wife is Roxbury, but we jus’ call her Rox fer short.”
Twilight hummed as thoughts buzzed around in her head. “So, your Uncle Hampshire is…your dad’s brother?” she asked, screwing up her eyes as she tried to remember the little bit of Apple family history that Mac had once imparted to her.
“Eeyup,” Mac confirmed. “They both grew up with mah Granny on tha farm we’ll be at last. That’s mah great-great grandpappy’s farm, an’ it’s been in tha family ever since he started it.”
“Was that the first Apple farm?”
At this time, an attendant came by wheeling a trolley full of in-transit goodies, and asked if they’d like anything. After both requesting just a cup of water, Twilight settled down into her coltfriend with a big sigh of content.
“I’m so glad we’re doing this, Mac,” she said. “It really means a lot to me.”
“S’not a problem, Twi,” he mumbled, nudging her into his chest more. “Ah mean, we may as well go on an’ get it outta tha way, right? Like ya said, if we’re gonna make it we gotta do this.”
“Mhm. That and…I don’t know, I feel like this trip will help us grow closer together. I know a lot about you, but…there’s just so much more to learn. And what’s better than spending several days meeting your family?”
Her stallion snorted and kissed her horn. “Ah tell ya what, if ya can handle meetin’ mah whole family and puttin’ up with all their nonsense, then Ah think there ain’t nothin’ ya can’t do in life, sweetheart.”
Twilight smiled as she gave him a peck on the cheek. “Thank you, Mac. That makes me feel even more hopeful for our future than I already was.”
“Of course, Twi. Now, why don’t we try to get some sleep? We still got about seven hours ta Baltimare, an’ tha sun’s settin’ fast.”
“That sounds like a great plan,” Twilight said. She immediately stretched out and lay her head against her coltfriend’s flank and was soon sound asleep.
Welp, Big Macintosh thought, looks like I’m on my own for a little while.
And with that, he settled in and peered out the window, and watched the dark landscape whizz by.
Twilight felt a lurch as she darted up from her sleeping position on Mac’s chest, which she must have changed to sometime during the train ride. Her quick gasp of air was enough to cause her coltfriend to stir, as she felt his breathing pattern change.
“We thur?” he mumbled, rubbing an eye with the only hoof that wasn’t trapped under Twilight.
“I-I think so? I can’t tell, it isn’t light out yet.”
Just as she finished her sentence, the train came to a full stop, causing the sleepy couple to lurch forwards once more.
“Guess that answers that question,” Mac said, with a tired chuckle. “C’mon, let’s get our bags an’ get off.”
After strapping into their saddlebags, the couple stepped off into a cool, predawn air that seemed to permeate their very bones. Twilight shivered, and leaned in further to Big Macintosh.
“Cold, sweetheart?” he asked, placing his leg around her withers.
“A bit,” she guiltily admitted.
Mac reached over his shoulder into his saddlebag and pulled out a wool blanket he had packed along with him.
“Here,” he said. “Put this on. We got a bit of a ways to go ‘afore we get ta where we’re goin’.”
“Thanks,” Twilight said with a little smile. She leaned up and kissed his cheek, and his coat changed to a darker shade of red for a second. He turned to her and reciprocated her kiss with a peck on her lips before motioning them forwards.
The train station was located a short ways out of Baltimare, and the city’s skyline was just barely visible as a dark outline against the grey sky. There were several lights on, but it was nowhere near as lit up as, say, Manehattan would be at this time. For the few times that Twilight had been there on friendship errands, she could have sworn that ponies in that city never took a break from anything.
There was a road leading towards the city lined with several stagecoach taxis. It seemed many of the drivers had moved inside to take a quick respite from the busy work they did during the twenty-four hours of each day, though a large portion were catching the attentions of ponies that had just disembarked the train. Going in the opposite direction of all this madness, however, was a small dirt road that seemed to lead to the edge of the dark world. There was a road sign pointing in this direction that had “Manehattan” painted on it, with a distance of 147 miles in neat, white lettering beside it.
“If ya walk far enough, ya do eventually get there,” Big Macintosh said, catching Twilight’s eye on the sign. “But really it’s just there for novelty. Ya’d be crazy ta go tha whole distance on foot.”
“It’d be hard to even teleport that far,” Twilight replied. “Train really is about the only way to get there quickly, unless you’re Rainbow Dash.”
The couple began walking through the chilly breeze, leaves from surrounding trees crunching underhoof as the Autumn set in more and more. Twilight leaned her head against Mac’s thick, corded neck, and lost herself in her stallion’s muscles moving under his surprisingly soft coat. After a moment, she decided to speak up.
“So, how are we going to do this?” she asked.
“You know…introduce me. In a way that won’t have you immediately disowned and me getting run off before I even get to say ‘hi’?”
Her coltfriend didn’t respond, at first. He kept his course, didn’t look left nor right, and didn’t make a sound save the clopping of his hooves. After a moment, Twilight moved her head off his neck to look at him.
“Maaaaac?” she said, this time very expectantly.
“Ah-ah don’t know,” he admitted. “Ah hadn’t really thought of that. Ah just figur’d we’d come on up here, an’ I’d introduce ya as mah marefriend, an’ then go from there.”
“That’s your grand plan?” Twilight asked sarcastically. “That’s it?”
“Well, yeah,” he replyed, sheepishly. “Ain’t no other way ta do it, really…”
“I’ll leave the judgment up to you, I suppose.”
A moment of silence passed, where only the lonely breeze and long-gone leaves spoke.
“If it means anything, Ah’m sorry,” Mac finally said. “It ain’t really these folks Ah’ve prepared fer.”
Twilight raised a brow. “Why didn’t you prepare for these ponies?”
“Cuz they ain’t as bad.”
“As bad as?” There was definite trepidation in her voice.
“As bad as the last ponies we gotta go see.” There, Mac thought. Ah said it. Hopefully she don’t kill me. He heard a big gulp, and looked at his marefriend. Her beautiful lavender coat seemed to have turned white, so he stopped and wrapped her up in a hug. “Don’t worry none, darlin’,” he said. “They may be bad, but Ah ain’t gonna let nothin’ happen to ya.”
“Thank you,” she almost whispered. She felt lips on her forehead, and turned to accept a full on kiss. After a moment, she broke the embrace and said, “Let’s keep going, shall we? It’ll be light, soon.”
Agreeing with her statement, Big Mac followed suit. The homestead they were headed to was just a little ways up the road, now, and had just begun to appear on the horizon.
A rooster crowed, and the long moo of a cow called out in response. Pigs began to shuffle around in their pin, and the hens were just finishing laying their eggs. The sun that embodied the great Princess Celestia began to show its face over the horizon, and the world seemed to be coming to life. Despite the bite in the air, and the browning leaves of the apple trees that no longer bore fruit, it was setting up to be a nice day.
Besides, thought the large, middle aged stallion on his front porch, mah little nephew is coming to visit today. How could it not be a good day?
And even as he thought this, he saw two silhouettes appear at the end of his road.
Ah, that must be them now!
Hampshire Apple was a large, russet colored stallion. He was even bigger than Big Macintosh, and it was always said that Mac got his size from this side of the family. When his brother told him that his wife was pregnant with Mac, Hampshire had said he would be a big one. And he was right, too.
“Rox!” he called over his shoulder into his home. “C’mon out, and bring the kids! Mac’s here with this marefriend he told us about!”
A mare’s voice called out in response as Hampshire placed a straw into his mouth and began chomping away.
Must be tha’ time already fer the lad. I remember when he was jus’ a foal…by Celestia how time does fly by. Can’t wait to meet this mare o’ his if she’s gettin’ him to settle down this fast.
At this moment, his wife, son, and daughter joined him on the porch. They all got into place just as Big Macintosh was crossing the threshold into his yard with…
“Howdy, Uncle Hampshire, Aunt Rox,” Mac called out over the short distance that now remained between them.
“Howdy, Mac,” Hampshire responded, with hesitation.
The couple got right up to the front porch and stopped. Mac was standing tall and erect, looking as proud as ever. This was in great contrast to Twilight, who was trying to appear as small and insignificant as she possibly could. In other words, she was very clearly uneasy.
“Uncle Hampshire, Aunt Rox, cousins,” Macintosh said, nodding at each in turn, “this here’s Twilight Sparkle, mah marefriend.”
Hampshire narrowed his eyes to bare slits. “Ya didn’t tell me, Macintosh, that yer marefriend was a spiral-headed spell-slinger.” He said this with all the venom he could possibly spit.
Mac’s gaze never hardened. It never changed. He held complete eye contact with his uncle the entire time. After an eon of silence, he brought Twilight into a half-hug, kissed her on the cheek, and looked back at his family.