Twilight groaned. It was already midnight, and they'd only translated half of the inscription! Academic frustration wasn't usually something she had to deal with, as she picked up on most sciences rather quickly. She glanced over toward her couch, where Macintosh was slumped over, a book across his lap but not a conscious thought in his head. Twilight didn't want to wake him, so she removed the book from his lap (lest he stain it with any more drool) and gently wrapped a blanket around him. She kept the treehouse as cool as possible. It was better for studying that way.
Twilight found herself staring a bit longer than usual at her friend's significant stallion. He certainly was handsome, and with moral fiber to boot. It was a wonder he had managed to stay single for so long! Still, though a tinge of jealousy she may have felt, she was genuinely happy for Rainbow. She knew if anypony needed somepony to keep her naturally brash attitude in check, it was her.
Still, the jealousy she felt just wouldn't go away. When would a special somepony translate an inscription on an old piece of jewelry for her? Perhaps that was a bit specific, but the library certainly got lonely after Spike had gone to bed. The usual energy she had for studious activities quickly left her as her thoughts became occupied by her shortcomings as a mare. Twilight looked at the clock, realizing it was getting rather late. She blew out the candles lighting the living room, leaving Mac on the couch as she ascended her staircase to the loft where she slept.
I guess I could wake up and translate the rest... she thought as she flopped over onto her bed. Another night of sharing it with her usual companion; nothing. She had been sent to Ponyville to make friends, but what about the feelings that lay beyond friendship? When would it be her time to discover those? It seemed to be all around her, everywhere she looked there were pony couples eating, having fun, or just enjoying the fact that they'd found each other. Twilight buried her face in her pillow, the usual spot where she stored her tears.
One day Twilight... just keep holding out hope, she assured herself, though this assurance did nothing to stop a few tears from trickling off her cheeks and into her soft pillow.
After breakfast with her mom, Rainbow was ready to head back to Ponyville. Her mother stopped her at the front door.
"Rainbow, I know I haven't been very supportive of you lately, and I wanted to tell you, that whether you make the cut or you don't, that I'm proud of you, my little bluebird." she whispered sincerely. Rainbow ordinarily hated the nickname her mother had for her when she was a filly, but considering the context, she knew better than to complain. She smiled warmly back at her mother before giving her a hug.
"Thanks, Mom. It means a lot," she answered softly.
"Your father is proud of you too."
Rainbow sniffed back what looked like a tear, though she'd never admit if it had been.
"I know. I love you Mom, I'll let you know as soon as I find out."
A grimace from Rainbow interrupted her moment with her mother, followed by a sour taste rising in her throat from her stomach.
Her mother recognized the color draining from her daughter's face.
"Rainbow, are you feeling okay?" she asked, concern evident in her voice.
A small burp escaped Dash's lips as she tried in vain to settle her stomach. She had felt fine at breakfast, but now it was as though she had drank a whole gallon of sour milk.
"Ah... I think I just need to lay down for a second," she moaned, putting a hoof to her forehead. Her mother led her to the couch as she wrapped her in a blanket.
"Are you sure you're okay sweetheart?"
"Mom... I'm fine, I just—" Rainbow ended her own sentence with a rather obscene belch, before she realized what was about to happen. Her eyes darted frantically around the room before running to the kitchen and holding her head over a trash can as she released the breakfast she had just eaten rather violently.
After a few dry heaves, her stomach spasms calmed down, and she removed her head from above the fowl smelling receptacle. She spit a few times into the trash can before her mother gave her a glass of water to rinse her mouth out. Wave lifted her daughter's prismatic mane, putting a motherly hoof on her forehead.
"You don't feel hot..."
"I know... I think I've got a stomach bug or something... it couldn't have come at a worse time, but I usually get better in an hour or so," Dash explained, rinsing her mouth thoroughly before spitting into the sink.
"Please take care of yourself sweetie, I know you don't like doctors, but medicine might help you feel better."
"Thanks Mom, I'll keep that in mind."
With that, Rainbow set off toward Ponyville, ready to spend time with the one bright spot she knew would never disappoint. First however, she figured she'd pay her old flight school pal a visit, it'd been almost a week since she'd seen her, and Dash was certain she'd want to hear all about how she had done at the tryouts.
While visiting Fluttershy, she tipped her off to what Mac had been up to while she'd been gone. Apparently, he'd been spending considerable time at Twilight's while she was away. At first, she thought nothing of it, but as she let the idea fester, she became increasingly unsure of Mac's true intentions. After all, he had held on to Twilight's doll to 'start a conversation' with her, so she knew he at least thought she was attractive...
No! He's AJ's brother! His sister alone would whip him if she found out he was two-timing me! she thought as she flew over to Twilight's to see what exactly the two of them had been doing while she was gone.
It was early, but the sun was already up, so she figured Twilight would at least be puttering around the library looking for her morning tea. Too tired from tryouts to use her usual entrance method, she knocked on the door, waiting impatiently for a purple unicorn to answer it.
Mac's ears perked up as a knocking stirred him from his sprawled out position on Twilight's couch. The blanket had been wadded up on the floor during the night, Macintosh coming to the starling realization that he had fallen asleep at Twilight's! The sun was already shining through the windows, indicating he was very late on his morning chores. AJ wouldn't let him hear the end of it if she ended up having to do his chores and her own.
He scrambled off the couch, heading to answer the door and head back to Sweet Apple Acres when he discovered the identity of the caller to be none other than Rainbow. She was less than happy to see him answering Twilight's door.
"Rainbow! A-ah didn't expect ta see you here," he said nervously as she eyed him with suspicion.
"And I didn't expect to see you here either!" she shot back, "What are you doing here this early?"
"Ah... uhm..." he didn't want to spoil the surprise, but at the same time, he didn't want her to think anything indecent had gone on.
"Ah came over ta work on somethin' with Twilight, and it was gettin' pretty late, so Ah just spent the night over here."
"Fluttershy told me this isn't the first time you've been here while I was at tryouts," she added, her features sharpening into a glare as she began to connect the dots, whether they were there to be connected or not.
"Ah, well she's right, Ah've been here a few times before—"
"Rainbow, please let me explain. It ain't what you think, Ah was workin' on a surprise for you!" he pled, seeing her expression morph slowly between anger and betrayal.
"Really? What surprise?" she asked, regaining a bit of her lost calm.
"Ah... it's not ready yet."
That was the last straw. She had never felt this angry at him before. It was certainly an alien feeling, but she couldn't help but allow it to express itself in the form of a harsh glare and a few cold responses.
"So let me see if I have this right," Dash began, "You've been over here, multiple times, all while I was out of town for a 'surprise' for me?" she knew lies when they were told to her. Or at least, she thought she did.
"Ah know it sounds suspicious, but yeah," he answered, thinking surely honesty would be the best solution for her suspicion.
She didn't answer, Dash merely held a glare as she took off toward her house, leaving Mac calling for her to come back.
You know he would never lie to you, her conscience nagged.
She knew it was right, but the painful thought that Mac could have had relations with one of her best friends kept itself at the forefront of her mind.
Then why am I flying away?
"Dang. Well, Ah suppose Ah'd better come clean before this gets outta hoof," he said walking back into the library where he found Twilight happily bounding down the stairs with a slip of paper in her magic.
"Guess what I did last night, Mac!" she chimed happily, giving him the paper.
He read the words below the gibberish they had tried so hard to crack.
"You figured it out! Twilight, Ah knew if anypony could, it'd be you!" he said thankfully.
"That's right!" she beamed pridefully, "Who was at the door?" she asked, having heard the commotion from her room.
"Actually, it was Rainbow. She thinks we've been seeing each other behind her back."
Twilight laughed heartily at the assertion on the outside, but on the inside...
"You should tell her what you've been working on," she suggested, putting her teapot on the stove. "There's no way she could stay mad at you."
"Ah'm headed that way now, hopefully she'll still listen to me," he added as he took his leave, stuffing the paper into his saddlebag and galloping towards Rainbow's house.
He arrived to find the rope ladder he had been using rolled up on her porch.
Ah guess she's pretty upset. he thought, calling her name from the ground below.
After no response, he tried again.
"C'mon Rainbow, Ah didn't do anything wrong! You know Ah'd never do somethin' like that to you!" he pled, only to have a rock miss his head by a few inches from above.
"Will you please just let me explain myself?" he asked, staring idly at the base of her house, hoping for an answer besides another rock.
Nothin'. Well, this is my last shot... he removed the piece of paper and wrapped it snugly around the rock, walking around to the side of Rainbow's house to her bedroom window. With a hard toss, the rock shattered the glass, startling the occupant.
At first, Rainbow was furious. He makes time for another mare behind her back, and then has the gall to break one of her windows? He'd have gotten a smack in the face for this one if Dash hadn't noticed the paper around the outside of the same stone she had thrown at him to go away.
Rainbow unfurled the paper and glanced at the two lines written on it. One phrase she recognized, but the other...she couldn't believe it. She and Twilight had spent days trying to decipher it, and yet here it was, translated!
Don't let the bastards grind you down.
How oddly appropriate. Realizing this must have been the surprise he had mentioned, she quickly trotted to her porch.
Macintosh waited for a response, but got none. As he was about to turn back to his farm, he heard the rope ladder unfurl from her lofty home, granting him access.
He smiled, quickly scaling the ladder to where a teary eyed Rainbow waited for him.
"Mac... I'm... I..." she whimpered, at the mercy of her emotions.
He gave her the smile she had come to find such comfort in as he hugged her.
"Ah know you didn't mean it," he whispered as she tried to dry her tears. "You didn't think Ah'd ever cheat on you, did ya?"
"No... I mean... I did, but... I don't know why, I just..." she began crying, the tears now freely flowing. Mac had certainly never seen her like this before. In fact, he was fairly certain nopony alive had. Still, it was his duty as her coltfriend to comfort her in her time of need, even if she had been throwing rocks at his head a few minutes ago.
"I'm sorry Mac..."
He was certain he'd only heard those words once coming from her before, and it took nearly being killed and or imprisoned to get it out of her. "It's alright," he assured, "Ah know you're stressed from all this Wonderbolt trainin', it's probably worn on your nerves a bit."
Rainbow gave a smile through her tears as they began to dry up. "I've been all over the place lately... one second I'm pissed off for no reason, and the next minute I'm crying like a school filly," she lamented, noting how the stress of such intense training had been taking a toll on her normally stable moods.
"Well, you've never had to push yourself like this before, have ya?" he asked.
"No... you're right Mac, I'm just glad tryouts are over," she sighed, stepping towards her door, "I've got something to thank you for solving the mystery of my locket... it's inside." she smiled, beckoning him to follow.
Mac ears perked up. He would usually only get gifts on his birthday, and even then, most of the time it was new work equipment, or something that the farm needed, not so much him. A childlike smile crossed Macs lips as he followed her.
"Inside huh? Is it a new yoke?" he asked, his signature article of apparel meant the world to him, though it was showing its age after being worked for such a long time.
Rainbow shot her stallion a deadpan stare. "No Mac, think about it." She grinned, flicking her tail almost unnoticeably in anticipation of him connecting the rather obvious dots.
"Oh. Oh..." he answered, realizing where she was going with this. With a devilish smirk, he followed her inside for a little private time.
Rainbow rolled off from atop Mac, gasping for breath and basking in the afterglow of their afternoon delight. She could hear him catching his breath as well, laying next to her on her bed.
"Twice... in one afternoon... Ah guess you weren't kidding about th' mood swings, not that Ah'm complainin'."
Rainbow smiled, glad to have somepony to distract her from constantly worrying about whether or not she made the Wonderbolts.
"This whole week has just been so crazy," she admitted, still catching her breath and waiting for her wings to relax.
"Well, Ah'm just glad Ah could help ya relieve some of your stress..." he answered, rolling onto his side and kissing her softly, eliciting a giggle from behind her occupied lips.
"Me too. As much as I'd love a round three, don't you have farm work or something to do?" she asked as she broke the kiss.
Mac's eyes shot wide in horror. In his haste to reconcile Rainbow's irrational assumptions, he'd forgotten all about his chores!
"Sweet Celestia!" he groaned, rolling out of her bed and throwing on his yoke. "See ya Rainbow, come by th' farm for supper if ya don't feel like makin' anythin'!" he called over his shoulder, sliding out of sight down the rope ladder.
Rainbow took a deep breath, her wings finally folding neatly by her sides. Her stomach began to rumble as she felt the overwhelming urge to eat the odd combination of a dandelion sandwich and some ice cream.
Mac galloped through the gates of the farm to find a rather upset Applejack waiting for him.
"Just where in the hay have you been?" she demanded, sweat dripping from her brow, hooves and coat dirtied from a hard day in the fields.
"Ah'm sorry Applejack, Ah fell asleep at Twilight's, then Rainbow saw me and, it's a long story."
The look of anger still held on his sister's face as he stepped towards her.
"Ah'll do all your chores tomorrow, and mine. Okay?" he promised, as she scoffed at his offer, though accepted it.
"You've been with Rainbow this whole time?"
Mac's cheeks ran red involuntarily, "Yeah."
"Must be nice..." she grumbled under her breath, turning to head inside and wash up.
"Is there somethin' you want ta tell me, Applejack?" Mac knew when his little sister had something on her mind.
Ordinarily, she'd have said no and moved on, but something compelled her to reveal her feelings. She paused on the porch, before turning around to face him.
"Ah'm not tryin' ta be a stick in th' mud, but the farm needs you. Ah can't plow the fields like you can, it'd take me all week what it takes you a day to get done!" she snapped, still upset she had tried and failed to accomplish Mac's chores, even though she was voted most valuable pony. She was certainly a strong mare, but she couldn't hold a candle to Mac's raw power.
"Rainbow needed me too. Ah can be there for both, Ah just need ta manage my time better," he reasoned, "Besides, ain't you the one that insisted Ah take Rainbow on that drive?"
"Yeah, I just wanted you ta find a nice mare ta take up your down time, not replace us!" she snapped, instantly realizing she may have let her mouth wander a bit too far.
"...Is that what this is about?" Mac asked, somewhat stunned by her quick retort.
Applejack sighed, "No, Ah didn't mean that, but the farm is all we have Mac. If we don't get the fields plowed and planted in time to give 'em enough sunlight ta mature, we ain't gonna have a farm next year!"
"What? How do you know that, Ah ain't even done the quarterly profit margins yet!"
"It don't take a genius ta figure out we're runnin' out of money Mac! The cattle sale only got us enough to get through the winter! We still ain't made repairs ta the barn, or removed the dead apple trees from the southern fields! We barely had enough ta fix the windows Rainbow broke!"
Mac sighed. If there was ever anything that caused undue stress in his household, it was money. Something they never seemed to be able to get enough of.
"Don't worry, the fields will get plowed, and we'll sell all our apples, just like we always have," he assured her, but if there was one thing he knew his sister had plenty of, it was fight.
"Ah'm just tryin' ta plan for the worst. If we have ta start sellin' off land, we'll lose th' farm!"
"L-lose th' farm?" A soft voice from behind the two of them stammered.
Both looked back in shock as Applebloom stood behind them, having just returned from school to find them arguing.
"We're gonna lose the farm?" the filly repeated, on the verge of tears.
"No, we ain't losing a thing, silly filly. Mac and Ah were just arguin' about nothin'. Go inside and start on your homework. Mac'll be up in a minute ta check it for ya," Applejack insisted in the most comforting tone she could manage.
"B-but y'all just said—"
"Applebloom," Mac added sternly. "Go on, now."
She trotted past them and into the house where Granny Smith greeted her from inside, leaving Mac and AJ standing alone.
"We can talk about this later, Ah'm gonna get ready for supper," Applejack sighed as Mac followed her back into their farmhouse.
Macintosh ran a hoof through his mane as he sighed. Pulling those trees up would take weeks, and if he was doing that, then that meant nopony was plowing the fields. He'd need to hire some help, but he already knew their budget wouldn't allow it. It seemed he'd have to work himself to death to barely break even.
He cast a gaze over his orchards as the sun began its descent toward the horizon. His father worked these same fields with him when he was just a colt. He'd taken on a super-pony workload, and it still wasn't enough. He'd have to devote all his time to the farm, leaving very little time for anypony else, especially a certain pegasus.
He took a seat on the porch, leaning back against the house, trying to figure out how he could still work the farm, and have time for Rainbow. Unfortunately he wasn't coming up with anything. A shadow of doubt crossed his mind, but only for a moment.
What if Rainbow and I just aren't meant to be?
Try as he might to exile the thought, it persisted. First the inability to name something he liked about her in front of Fluttershy, and now this? He cared for Rainbow, more than he had ever remembered caring for any other pony that wasn't a part of his immediate family. He'd even been thinking about using the 'L' word to describe his feelings for her. However, the question still remained. Was it love? Or just infatuation? A simple lust that would run its course, and leave him alone again, just like the other mares he'd been with?
He couldn't be sure, but he knew he could not allow his ancestors legacy to be sold off to the highest bidder while there was still breath in his body. For all intents and purposes, he was the head of the family. Sure, Granny Smith was the elder, but she didn't really have much to do with the farm in her old age. She mostly cooked and looked after Applebloom when he or AJ weren't around.
Mac noticed the moon was out during the daytime, wondering why Princess Luna would allow such a seemingly odd occurrence when he got an idea. Equestria was the richest nation in the known world! Surely the princesses would be able to loan his family the money to hire extra hooves to remove the dead trees and ease some of the burden on himself and his sister! After all, she was one of the elements of harmony, and had saved the kingdom more times than he could remember.
Surely they'd be sympathetic to his plight?
That settles it, he thought, heading inside as the smell of Granny Smith's dinner beckoned him. He'd have to run it by AJ first, but he didn't see why she'd have any reason not to want to save the farm.
At the table, after they thanked Celestia for their meal, a knock at the door caused Mac to excuse himself.
"Howdy Rainbow." He smiled, noting she seemed to be in a much better (and stable) mood.
"Hey Mac, I haven't really had a chance to get to the store since tryouts and all, so I thought I'd take you up on your dinner offer. I'm not too late am I?" she asked hopefully.
"Not at all, we just sat down," he added, inviting her in as she greeted the rest of the Apple clan.
Applejack got up and hugged her friend, eager to hear how her tryouts had gone as Mac fixed her a plate from in the kitchen.
"How d'ya think you did?" AJ asked, sipping her Applewine while Rainbow debated bringing up her new rival.
"I think I did pretty good. There were five of us, and they can only accept two girls, so, hooves crossed," Rainbow answered hopefully.
"Those are pretty good odds, especially for a great flier like you, Rainbow!" Applebloom added happily.
"Thanks kid, how's Scootaloo doing?" Dash asked, seemingly out of nowhere, drawing Mac's attention as he returned with her plate.
"Uhm... she's fine. She likes ta crusade with us a lot more than usual though, it's like she don't want ta go home or somethin'." she responded innocently, as Mac and Rainbow exchanged nervous glances.
Mac sat down next to Rainbow as they began eating, before she nudged his leg beneath the table. She leaned in and whispered to him, while appearing to reach for the napkin she had dropped.
"Is your machete still in the barn?"
I'm sorry this was late, I had a bit of a miscommunication between my pre-reader and I. I thought I'd sent him this chapter, and it turns out I didn't. Anyway, if you're in the mood for a tragedy with what I've been told is a great ending, perhaps you'd like to give this oneshot I wrote a read? Eternal Lament.