Due to a timely intervention by Princess Cadence and a generous portion of love magic, Silver was spared his expected mutilation and peppered with kisses instead. In the face of the chaos that a single dose of the poison joke had caused, he decided to forego the testing of the other two for the sake of his sanity, and perhaps safety. Twilight apologized profusely for scaring him in such a way, but after the initial shock wore off it became a fond memory, often discussed over a glass of cider. There was, however, another problem growing on the horizon, building under the surface out of sight. Specifically, at Carrot Top’s house, where she and several other eligible bachelorettes had gathered to discuss their growing frustration with two of the town’s most sought-after stallions being taken nearly simultaneously without a second thought to their feelings, mostly lust.
“Alright, quiet down, everypony. I think we all know why we’re here tonight,” Carrot Top started, looking out at the other ponies gathered around. Barring Rose Luck, every other mare she’d asked came without question: Aloe, Lotus, Lily, Daisy, and a host of others sat in her living room nodding as she vented. “It’s just not fair. Every single one of us have tried to catch the eye of the town's longest running bachelor, Big Mac, who is now, according to my sources, dating that slutty Crimson!” Cries of outrage and protest confirmed her gut feeling that these were the right mares for the job. “I know I myself tried such tactics more than once, to no avail. And Silver, the newest member, has cruelly shunned our cries for attention, all for that mare that nearly made him leave for good! I will not stand for this; we all deserve a chance with Silver! So I say we work together and force him to give us the notice we lonely mares deserve!” Aloe and Lotus grew wicked smiles as they relished the possibility.
“A chance with Silver?”
“A special somepony for me?
“And for me!”
“For the both of us?” The sister’s turned their eyes back to Carrot Top, clasping hooves and looking frighteningly alluring.
“We can help with that.”
“I may have lost Big Macintosh, but I think I’m ok with that. Instead, I gained a new friend, and Big Macintosh is actually paying more attention to me now, so really, I should thank you, Crimson.” While their pasts couldn’t have been more different, Crimson and Fluttershy had discovered a lot of commonalities since the scarlet mare’s change of heart, including a love for animals and a somewhat quiet disposition. Especially after their first foray into the activities of the night, hanging around Big Mac while he was working proved to be somewhat distracting, so Crimson had taken to hanging out with Fluttershy to pass the time. The usually shy pegasus readily accepted the company, and the help with the growing number of animals she took care of on a regular basis. They were just entering town, both with empty saddle bags to stow the food to be purchased to sustain the miniature zoo’s many residents and enjoying the spring morning to it’s fullest, entirely unaware of the agitation they had unwittingly stirred up.
“Don’t worry, Fluttershy. I’m sure you’ll find somepony someday, too. And he’ll make you even happier than Big Macintosh.”
“Oh, I don’t know if that is possible. You sounded, um, well, pretty happy the other night.”
“You... heard? But, your house is...”
“Sound carries really far, sometimes, I guess,” Fluttershy murmured, blushing profusely. “I wonder what it’s like. I mean, um, not that I’m, you know, in a hurry.”
“Fluttershy, I have much experience in that arena, but I will tell you this; it’s not the act, but who it’s with and why you’re doing it. I’ve bedded plenty of mares and stallions alike, but... when it’s born of love, it’s... different. Special. And that is worth waiting for.”
“I see. That, um, makes sense.”
How I landed Big Mac when this mare is so infuriatingly cute, I’ll never know. It’s a good thing I’m confident in how that stallion feels about me, or I’d be very scared of losing to you, Fluttershy. I’m glad I don’t have to view you like that... What the... Crimson’s thoughts were interrupted as she suddenly found a basket full of flowers dumped on her head.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I must not have seen you there, Crimson. Stallion thief!” She lifted the basket to see Lily trotting away in a huff, snout pointed in the air.
“Oh my goodness, that was really mean. Are you ok?”
“Fluttershy, they’re flowers. I’m fine, just a bit... confused.”
“Oh, I have an idea! Sit still a moment,” Fluttershy commanded, trotting over and examining the flowers. Selecting the best ones, she bit off the ends to an acceptable length and wove them into Crimson’s hair, leading her over to a mirror at one of the stalls so she could see. “Now all you need is a veil,” Fluttershy giggled, laughing as her friend became bashful, glancing away from the mirror and scoring the ground with a hoof. “You should go show Big Mac, Crimson. I bet he’ll love it.”
“But I promised I’d help you feed the animals.”
“Don’t worry, I can handle it. Go on, I want to hear all about it when you come to visit next.” Fluttershy’s cheerful countenance was soon shaken as Crimson departed and she was immediately assailed by a very angry Daisy and Lily.
“Fluttershy, how can you just act all happy? She stole Big Mac away from us!”
“Oh, I don’t mind, really. Big Mac is happy, so I can be too.”
“Traitor!” For her generous words, she received a basket of flowers atop her head. She was torn by indecision for a split second, deciding between releasing Ironwill Fluttershy or keeping the beast caged. Yelling would be a lot of work, so she instead simply thanked them for the gift, gave herself the same treatment that she had given Crimson, and cantered off amidst desirous stares from the other stallions in town.
Since the construction, Lemon had resorted to sleeping down in the lab to put himself as far away from Cerulean’s bed as possible. The distance, combined with a nightly noise cancellation spell, had allowed him to sleep peacefully, but he was normally up around the same time as Cerulean, between seven and eight in the morning. When it drew close to ten and Cerulean still hadn’t caught sight of him, he descended the stairs to find Lemon sitting on the edge of the bed that Twilight had teleported to the basement so he could be comfortable. A letter was held with magic in front of him, and he continued to stare at it as his long-time friend sat down next to him.
“Lemon, what’s going on? You look really dejected.” Without a word, the letter floated in front of Cerulean and he skimmed the contents. “I see... the distance has been hard on you two, hasn’t it.”
“More than I would have thought. Cerulean, I need to go back to Canterlot. I can’t stay here any longer, or I fear I may... end up losing her.”
“Lemon, it’s more than that, isn’t it.” He looked up with pleading eyes, hoping Cerulean wasn’t going to say it, but he knew he was. “It’s about Berry too, isn’t it.”
“I’m not trying to lead her on, but... I just wanted to show her a little kindness. But I can see the desire growing, for both of us. The distance is too much, Cerulean. I need to get out before... something happens that hurts everypony.”
“Do what you have to do, Dazzle. But at least do her the honor of telling her in person you’re going. She deserves at least that much.”
“Why do you think I’m so worried?”
“I’m not gonna lie, you kinda made a mess, being so dang nice,” he chuckled, slinging a hoof across his shoulders. “But don’t worry too much, ok? She’s got Silver and all the rest of us to help her out, and Ruby’s been doing a lot better since making new friends. It’ll be hard for a while, but we’ll pull her through it. Now, you,” he said, shoving him over onto the bed, “have some packing to do. Tonight’s your last night, so you’d best get ready. You have a mare to go home to.”
To call the full-lunged sigh that wheezed from Silver’s lungs “exasperated” would be putting it much too lightly as he stared at the doorstep of the tavern, where literally dozens of letters lay strewn about. It had happened in Manehatten, and it was happening again now; literary harassment known to most as ‘love letters’ that were little more than solicitations for a single night of fun.
“Honestly, I know my goatee is terribly charming, nearly a form of magic in itself, but this... this is just ridiculous.” Grabbing the wad with his magic, he stacked them neatly and trotted around the back to the dumpster, sifting through the names and, unsurprisingly, tossing every single one. He wasn’t the rude sort, he had read the first three or so from any one of the senders, but since they were all basically the same, added to the fact that he had never replied to any of them, eased the guilt about throwing away such a sizable stack. He had, however, brought some kind of curse upon himself with the action, as the hair on the back of his neck suddenly stood on end, causing him to look around. Seeing nothing but still slightly disturbed by the sensation, he returned back inside, giving one last glance around before shutting the door.
“He threw away my letter, Aloe!”
“And mine too, Lotus!”
“How could he just throw them away?”
“How could he not read them?” The consensus?
“We thought you said he was a gentlecolt, Carrot Top!”
“He’s not going to get away that easily, girls. Time to go on the offensive.”
Years breed wisdom, which in turn breeds both wonder and annoyance in the younger generation. Big Macintosh had barely started to talk when Granny Smith cut him off, smiling proudly as she made her way over to a set of drawers, searching around for a time before returning with a carved box of apple wood.
“You were gonna ask fer this, weren’t you, Big Mac? I was expectin’ to give this to Silver, but that pair is movin’ slower than molasses in the winter.” Big Mac accepted the box with gratitude, opening it to reveal the much cherished heirloom. Inside lay a simple band of gold with seven small gems cut and set to look like a zap apple, though none were particularly precious or valuable. “I can tell by the look in your eyes you remember it. That was your mother’s ring, Big Mac, mine too before she got it, and now I’m passin’ it on to you.” Just the thought of proposing made the massive stallion’s heart skip every other beat, but he was sure, and wanted Crimson to know it. Little did he know the opportunity would arise much sooner than he was expecting.
Doing inventory was, perhaps, Silver’s least favorite activity pertaining to maintaining operations, but it was necessary so as to not run out of product. He was mid way through when a voice from outside the cellar gave him a much appreciated reason to walk away, but seeing that it was Carrot Top waiting for him, he suddenly had a strange urge to double check the barrels he had just counted. If she had simply been making a delivery, he may have indulged a few moments of idle banter, but the way she was leaning against the cart and caressing a rather large carrot with her tongue, it was all he could do not to hurl on the spot.
You’re really, really out of place here, Carrot Top. You should got to Manehatten, as I’m sure you’d like it there. “Good day, Carrot Top. Is that my delivery?” She set the carrot down and sauntered over, moving uncomfortably close and speaking in an intoxicatingly smooth voice, though it had more of a nauseating effect for Silver.
“For your pleasure, this one is... free.”
Mother, father, please excuse my extreme breach of etiquette. "I am not normally a rude stallion, but I am taken, tired of these letters, and have no patience nor interest in anything you have to offer. If you want something between your legs so bad, go use your carrots; I am not interested." Cantering a short distance away, he raised the wards and returned back inside the tavern, gleaning some satisfaction from the mare’s frustrated cries even while telling himself that he should rinse out his mouth. Some brandy ought to do it.
Crimson knew well the leer of desire, the hungry gaze of a lust filled stallion, but the way that Big Mac was looking at her as she strolled through the trees was like nothing she had experienced before. That was, in part, because it was something Big Mac had never given out, something meant only for the mare that was slowly making her way towards him. A small breeze caught her mane, teasing the petals of the many flowers and tossing her wavy locks playfully in the wind.
“I know it’s hard to see, but you’re making me blush, looking at me like that...” After several failed attempts at speech, Crimson grew worried as the stallion took off towards the house. “I didn’t say it was a bad thing, Big Mac... I was enjoying it,” she whispered, casting her eyes to the ground. The tremors in the ground caused her to look up, regarding the box held in his mouth with curiosity. Still struggling to find the words, he dropped it into a hoof and opened it, revealing the ring contained within.
“I never... thought that somepony would... ever want me to stay more than a night...” Big Mac’s worries over what to say as the words sprang unbidden from within as he moved closer and slipped the ring onto her hoof. It was a perfect fit. She was helpless to stem the tears or retract the smile from her lips as the hole within her heart began to close.
“Ah want you t’ stay every night, Crimson. Will you marry me?”
Snowdrift and Freefall were already getting started with the prep work for the evening when Lemon walked, donning his chef hat and watching the proceedings without a word. Yelling was something they had grown accustomed to, but this silence was something else entirely, and much more frightening. Perhaps even more disconcerting is that he said nothing about the mistakes that they began to make in their worried states. Snowdrift made as if to speak but was cut off.
“Stay focused. Get back to work.” He nodded and continued dicing the vegetables while Freefall tended to the various sauces used in the many and varied dishes offered at the tavern. Berry’s voice could be heard coming from the main room, no doubt enjoying her pre-serving cup of cider or whatever tickled her fancy that evening. Even if it got them a sound dressing down, both the pegasi dropped what they were doing as Lemon left, moving to the edge of the kitchen so they could hear more clearly what was being said.
“Berry? Do you... have a moment?”
“S-sure, Lemon. Ruby, could you go play upstairs for a little bit?”
“Sure, mom. Bye, Lemon! I’m sure I’ll see you later, but bye for now anyway!” Berry waited until her daughter was safely out of earshot before returning her attention to the unicorn who was still gazing towards the stairs.
“Is something... wrong, Lemon?”
“Berry... I’m sorry.” She wished she didn’t know what he meant, but she could sense it by his actions what was coming. “I’m not blind to the way you’ve been looking at me. And please, don’t misunderstand, if I were single, then I’d... likely be with you in a heartbeat.”
If he were single? But, then that means... “You have a fillyfriend?”
“Back in Canterlot.”
I’m such an idiot. I should never have let my hope up like that, but he... he seemed so nice, I just couldn’t... “Why, Lemon...”
“I was just trying...”
“You were leading me on!” she cried, slamming a hoof to the table and turning away. “Just... leave me alone. I was a fool to place my hope in you.” It was pointless to apologize further, the damage done was great enough. Lemon turned and walked back to the kitchen where he found Freefall and Snowdrift staring at him with shocked eyes. Their hardened, stubborn, drill sergeant of a chef, who had trained them and taught them their trade, was crying. The chef hat rose from his head and plopped onto Snowdrift as he turned and walked away, stopped at the doorway and looking over his shoulder before leaving, away from Ponyville and back to Canterlot.
“You’re going to overcook that sauce, Freefall. Get to it.”
“Great, that’s just fantastic. Now that they’re engaged, ah’m not gonna get any sleep ever! There’s gotta be somethin’ ah can do,” Applebloom muttered as she watched from afar. She wracked her brains and decided that the best place to start was likely the library, and after letting Granny Smith know where she was off to, she set out on her quest to learn the secrets of soundproofing walls. She made good time, and after knocking on the door a few times, Applebloom heard the pitter patter of tiny hooves followed by what could only have been another valiant attempt at opening the door manually by a certain indigo filly.
“Bad door. Bad!” Applebloom snickered quietly as the struggle continued. She saw the door knob glow briefly before being completely ripped through to the other side, Dawn comprehending the pulling motion but too frustrated to bother turning it. Still, it had its desired effect, and Applebloom gently nudged open to the door to see Dawn glaring fiercely at the obstinate contraption.
“Hey there, Dawn, is yer mother home?”
“Applebloom, is that you? Come on in,” Twilight called out from the kitchen.
“Ah gotta say, Twilight. Whatever you’re cookin’ sure smells nice.”
“Yes, well, Dawn has a bit of a sweet tooth, or a whole mouth of them, rather, so I do a lot of baking. Would you like a cupcake?”
“Yes, ma’am.” At the mention of “cupcake” Dawn came racing in, hopping onto her chair and looking all the world like the most well behaved foal in all of Equestria.
“Now then, what can I do for you, Applebloom?”
“Well, ah was wonderin’ if you had any books that talk ‘bout sound proofin’ walls.”
“I’m sure I do. But if you don’t mind me asking, why do you want to know?” she asked as Cerulean walked in, sniffing the air appreciatively and grabbing a cupcake for himself and Dawn.
“It’s really simple, Twilight. Mah brother is real noisy when he’s makin’ babies with Crimson, an’ ah’m losin’ sleep over it.” Dawn suddenly found herself covered in half chewed cupcake as her father dislodged the bite he had inhaled. Twilight couldn’t help but laugh as Cerulean sputtered, quickly pouring himself some water and attempting to reconcile the new information along with the matter-of-fact attitude with which it was delivered. His water, unfortunately, completed the invasion into his lungs that his cupcake had failed as she continued. “Ah don’t like hearin’ all that moanin’ an’ stuff, and it’s only gonna get worse now that they’re engaged!” Dawn was still glaring at her coughing father, not the slightest bit amused by the mess in her hair, while Twilight was simply trying to wrap her mind around the development.
“She... he... what now? Are you serious?”
“Why does everypony keep askin’ me that? It’s not like ah want t’ think ‘bout this stuff! Can’t you help me, Twilight?”
“Sure, Applebloom. Come on, let’s find that book. Cerulean? Where are you going?”
“Twilight, Big Macintosh is not only sleeping with my sister, but just asked her to marry him after less than two weeks, maybe even one! Where do you think I’m going?”
“Tell him congratulations for me! Oh, and I don’t think Crimson will be too happy if you freeze them off, just for the record.”
“Don’t tempt me.” And with that, he was off to Sweet Apple Acres, flying low and grinning on the inside while Applebloom learned the secrets that would save her ears, and as thanks offered to fix their broken door. Cerulean really had no misgivings about Big Mac being with his sister, but it was a little fast for him to be comfortable with. The only thing he had left to ascertain was that this wasn’t a decision made on a whim. He found Big Mac, not surprisingly, watering the trees in the field, and it brought Cerulean no small amount of amusement when the much larger stallion grew nervous and took a step back.
“Now, just hold on a minute ‘ere, Cerulean. Just calm down an’ let me explain.”
“No, that’s really ok. What you do at night is your own business.”
“So, you’re not...”
“Except for when it’s my sister. Big Mac, what’re you doing?”
“Ah don’t follow.”
“You’ve barely known my sister for, what, two weeks?”
“A little less, actually.”
“And yet you’re already rolling in the hay, shaking the house, and now I find out you’ve asked her to marry you? Without my permission, I might add. Can you see why I’d be worried?”
“Yer right. Ah know ah’m kind of contradictin’ mahself...”
“Um, kind of?”
“Ok, ah am. Ah just... ah wanted her to know she wouldn’t be alone again. That she was wanted by at least one pony, an’ not just ‘cause she’s pretty.” Cerulean let him stew a bit while he appeared to be deep in thought. “Ah’ll do whatever you want t’ prove this ain’t just somethin’ shallow, but ah ain’t lettin’ ‘er go, not even fer you.”
“Well said, Big Mac. I’ll be honored to call you my brother.”
“And Applejack will be yer sister.”
“Don’t... say that again, please. That’s just awkward. Suddenly, I’m having second thoughts...”
“Nnnope, too late.”
One final confrontation, one last attempt to wrest Silver from the vile temptress that stole his heart. Applejack and Silver were about to go for a leisurely stroll before the opening of the tavern that night but they were immediately surrounded by angry mares upon their exit. Carrot Top lead the pack, with Aloe and Lotus at either side and the rest filling in behind. Applejack, having not been informed of the letters nor having any knowledge of the groups activities that day, looked up at Silver expecting an explanation.
“Sugarcube, any particular reason all these ladies are at yer doorstep?” she whispered, her eyes darting from face to face, not finding a single one that looked happy.
“If I had to take a guess, I’d put my bits on my goatee,” he whispered back before meeting Carrot Top’s challenging gaze. “So, the carrots weren’t enough, then?”
“Applejack, it’s not fair for you to have Silver all to yourself, not so soon. We all deserve a chance to be with Silver!”
“You’re all out o’ yer bloomin’ minds, ah’m afraid. Ah got no intention o’ sharin’, so ya’ll best prepare fer a good buckin’ if you take a single step closer.”
“Applejack, where are your manners? Weren’t you ever taught to share?”
“Silver? What ‘n tarnation ‘re you talkin’ about?” Silver ignored her glare and adopted a winsome smile, causing several of the mares to swoon.
“Ladies, tell me, are you all gathered because you’d like to be my fillyfriends?”
“Yes!” came a chorus of shouts, along with excited chatter.
“I see earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi too. All mine for the taking? Applejack, I do believe I’m the luckiest stallion alive.”
“You ain’t gonna be alive much longer if you keep this up, Silver. You better cool it right now, or ah’m gonna have t’ find a different stallion fer mah children.” Silver knew he was dangerously close to pushing Applejack over the edge, so rather than continue his oration he brought things to a close.
“All right, ladies, who wants some of... this!” he shouted, tearing off his clothes and causing a stunned, horrified silence. He was tired of hiding, tired of the flirting, and all around fed up with everything he despised about shallow mares. For once, his scars were useful for something.
“Ah’ll take that offer, sugarcube.” He gave one last pointed glance at Carrot Top before pulling Applejack into a passionate kiss, disregarding decency and making no effort to keep his horn’s glow at bay. Finally understanding his ruse, Applejack took it a step further and drew a path with her tongue down his neck and to his chest. It was too much for the squeamish mares, and they fled the scene, giving her cause to pause. “Awww, dang. The show was just gettin’ started, too. Does this mean ah have t’ stop?”
Having finished feeding the animals and tidying up around the house, Fluttershy took a much needed break and made herself a nice cup of tea, laying back on the couch and closing her eyes. It was still about an hour before the tavern was open, and carrying all the feed herself had been exhausting. With Angel’s permission, peace pervaded the cottage. Were she not so thoroughly relaxed, she would have heard the swiftly approaching hoofbeats, but it was the slamming open of the door that wrenched her back to wakefulness as Crimson rushed in, leaning against the door as the voices of many angry bachelorettes disturbed her peace, with Daisy and Lily leading the pack.
“Um, Crimson? What is going on?”
“Apparently, you weren’t the only one in the Big Mac fan club, because there are a horde of angry mares out there after this!” she yelled, holding out her hoof so she could see the ring. For a moment, everything froze for Fluttershy as it was driven home that there really was no chance left for herself and Big Mac. It hurt, more than she dared admit, but right then, Crimson needed her help. If anypony was going to have Big Mac, then it was going to be her new friend, and she was not about to let anypony get in the way.
Crimson had seen Fluttershy happy. She had seen her sad. She had not, however, seen her angry. Angry Fluttershy was scary. Not “oh-brother-here-comes-a-lecture” scary, but “oh-dear-Celestia-have-mercy-before-I-cease-to-exist,” “there-is-no-escape,” “my-life-has-most-certainly-just-ended” scary. Thus, the scarlet mare fled to a corner of the cottage and plugged her ears as her cream colored friend threw open the door and shook Ponyville’s foundations with her powers of assertion. Nopony bothered Crimson on the matter again, though it did take awhile for her ears to stop ringing.
“And don’t forget what I told you, no means...” Iron Will shouted, about to wrap up his seminar in Fillydelphia when a chill ran down his spine. And not just his spine, but every other pony at the seminar. “You feel that, everypony? That’s the power of real assertion!”