• Published 18th Aug 2015
  • 7,626 Views, 156 Comments

Last Words - BlazzingInferno



Big Mac is going mute, and he has a lot to get off his chest before he does.

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One

Big Mac could feel his life slipping away as he sat on the exam table, rocking his legs back and forth for lack of anything better to do. Doctor’s offices were always depressing, somehow. He’d read the informational posters on the wall twice, and learned more about Hoof and Mouth disease in the process than he ever cared to know.

At least they didn’t have the same skeleton diagrams that’d graced the walls when he was a little colt. Watching that skeleton pony smile down at him had given him a fair share of nightmares, and led to his lifelong vow: no doctors unless it’s an emergency.

Granny Smith said otherwise.

The door opened, and Nurse Redheart stepped in. Big Mac put on a smile; a check-up wasn’t so bad when she was performing it.

She held up a clipboard loaded down with papers. “I have your test results, Big Mac. Would you like me to walk you through them?”

“Eeyup.” She could’ve asked him to donate a kidney. There wasn’t any arguing with a hard-working mare, as far as he was concerned. Not that she was the prettiest he’d ever seen, of course. That honor was reserved for a certain schoolteacher.

“Big Mac! Are you paying attention?”

He finally noticed her stern expression and nodded. “Eeyup!”

She tapped a hoof on the test results. She’d apparently walked him through two pages of it already. “Everything so far has been fine, but… I’m afraid the result of the throat swab is rather serious. If you’d come in sooner we might have been been able to do more, but…” She set the clipboard down, and her expression softened. “I’m afraid you’re going mute, Big Mac.”

He started at her, wide-eyed. “I’m what?” He’d said more during this visit than all of last week.

Nurse Redheart put a hoof on his shoulder. “You’re going to permanently lose your voice… rather quickly, too. By this time next week…”

Big Mac slid off the exam table. He’d never understand why sitting down for bad news was customary; sitting down meant defeat. “I’m… not gonna be able to talk anymore?”

She looked into his eyes and nodded. “We have some very well-trained counselors who can help you through this. Would you like me to arrange something?”

“Nope.”

“Denial is a common response in this situation, but—”

“Nope,” he said with more emphasis. He’d dealt with hard losses before, harder than most ponies ever had.

---

Granny Smith was in the waiting room, clutching her purse in her hooves, lest one of the wayward magazines on the end table next to her try to steal it. She gave the reading material one last dour look before turning to Big Mac. “There you are, youngin’. Got yourself clean bill ‘a health, just like last year?”

Big Mac slumped into the chair next to her. “Nope.” That word, one of his two favorites, felt the more valuable than ever.

Granny Smith slapped him on the back. “Well, out with it! What’s gone wrong? That mole on your hind leg need pruning?”

He shook his head. Words had never come easy to him, now least of all. “I’m… losin’ my voice, Granny… Doc says I’m gonna be mute within a week.”

Her frown was almost audible. “Oh… my…”

He hadn’t cried since Applejack did her fillyhood sojourn to Manehattan, but he felt like crying now. “It’s my voice, Granny. Can’t say I use it much, but… what am I gonna do?”

Granny Smith stood and dabbed his eye with a handkerchief. “Hey now, Big Macintosh. Save the water for the flowers. The Apples have gotten through worse, we’ll get you through this.”

“But—”

“It’s all in how you look at these things. Barely two words slip out ‘a your mouth per week anyway, is it really gonna be that different?”

He sighed. “Guess not, but… suppose I do have something to say? Barely spoken a word to half the ponies in this town since I was colt…”

She gripped his foreleg and pulled him to his hooves; a feat ponies half her age would be a hard-pressed to accomplish. “Well then, guess we’ll just have to make do on the farm without you for a few days.”

He stared into her warm smile. Maybe his hearing was going out, too.

“You’ve got a week, right? Go out there and say all those things you need to.”

As usual, he didn’t know what to say. As usual, Granny simply gave him a hug. “Now don’t just stand here in this germ factory with your ol’ Granny. Find those ponies that need an earful! Skeedaddle!”

“Eeyup!” He nodded, but didn’t break their embrace. “Thanks Granny. Thanks for… for raising all us little Apples when we needed it.”

She batted a hoof dismissively. “Now don’t you waste another word on me, not when you could be out there seeing old friends, righting old wrongs… maybe talkin’ to a certain special somepony?”

Big Mac didn’t know a pony as red as him could blush. Still, she had a point. He couldn’t ‘eeyup’ his way into a date, especially not with the mare he had in mind. He could probably live with being a mute, but not a mute bachelor. “Granny…”

“I fully expect some more little Apples running around before I’m gone, you hear? Can’t put all my stock in Applejack settling down in time, now can I?”

“E…Eeyup.”

---

Big Mac trotted up the dirt path towards the farm. At least he’d had the good sense to have his check-up bright and early, before too much of the day could be wasted. He definitely didn’t need a whole week to pay his last verbal respects. An hour or two would probably suffice, although a couple more wouldn’t hurt if he found his way to the schoolhouse.

He crested a hill, and Sweet Apple Acres came into view. The rolling sea of apple trees looked best in the early morning light, or at least that’s what he’d always thought. Speaking wasn’t that important, in the grand scheme. Maybe he’d take up writing, like Pa used to.

That was all assuming he could write legibly, of course. He plucked a twig off a nearby tree with his teeth, and scratched his name in the dirt; he’d seen clearer messages in fallen leaves. If he could barely read what he called writing, penning his worldly wisdom for the benefit of future generations didn’t sound too likely.

The sound of tiny hooves, and a hummed country song, announced that he had a visitor. Apple Bloom looked as happy as could be as she headed up the path. Judging by her bulging saddle bag and the position of the sun, she was on her way to school.

She smiled when she saw her big brother. “Heya, Big Mac! Back from your doctor visit?”

“Eeyu—” He couldn’t just say that. Not to Apple Bloom, not to anypony else. He only had a week of speaking left, and the tail end of that would be nothing but condolences and crying anyway. Today was reserved for happy things; he could tell everypony the bad news later. “You… heading to school, Apple Bloom?”

She nodded vigorously. “Yup. Just two more weeks ‘til summertime, then it’s nothing but having fun and crusading for my cutie mark!”

“Need a ride there?”

She gave her own hooves a glance. “Thanks, but I can walk just fine. I figure you’ve got important stuff to do, anyway.”

He gave the farm a quick look. A day of apple bucking had never sounded better; much better than his current plan of going home just long enough to jot down a list of all the ponies he knew. “Yeah, but… could you help me with something real quick?”

“I guess, but I’d better keep it short. Miss Cheerilee doesn’t take kindly to anypony being late.”

He knelt down. “Hop on, I’ll have you there in no time.”

She was heavier than he remembered, although he really couldn’t recall the last time he’d needed to carry her anywhere. Pretty soon she’d be just as big as AJ. She was already just as independent.

“So, what can I help you with?” she asked.

“Well… I’m taking a little time for myself today, Apple Bloom. I wanted to go see a few friends of mine, but I want to make sure I don’t miss anypony. I feel like I ought to make a list, but my writing is awful bad, always has been. Think you could write it out for me?”

He could feel her opening her saddlebag and fishing out the necessary supplies. “Sure thing! Just start naming those ponies and I’ll write ‘em down.”

“Well… let’s see…” This was supposed to be the easy part.

Apple Bloom started writing anyway. “We’ll start with Miss Cheerilee. Haven’t heard you two say a word to each other in ages, even though everypony’s always talking about you and her.”

“Everypony?”

“Well… uh… some ponies… maybe. How about Spike? You two trade hoofball cards, right?”

“That we do. So what ponies have been talking about me and—”

“And if you’re gonna talk to Spike you just gotta put Princess Twilight on the list, too. She’s always got something good to say. Same goes for Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash, and Rarity, and—”

He started to laugh. “This startin’ to sound like all of Applejack’s friends, Bloom.”

“I can’t help it if she knows all the nicest ponies around. Who else do you want?”

“Well… How about Mr. Cake? We play a friendly game of cards once in a—”

Apple Bloom gasped. “I almost forgot Pinkie Pie! She’s the nicest of ‘em all!”

He sighed. As woefully incomplete as the list was, a few hours just wasn’t going to cut it. “Guess I’ll start with them and see where the day goes… Thanks, Apple Bloom.”

“No problem! Guess this makes up for me and the Crusaders accidentally knocking down the barn last week, right?”

He rolled his eyes. “We’ll see.”

The schoolhouse was on the horizon, along with Ponyville proper. Apple Bloom tapped on his shoulder. “Mind if I walk from here, Big Mac? I like talking with you and all, but…”

He grinned. “You don’t want your friends to see you gettin’ hauled around like a baby.”

She grinned, albeit sheepishly. “Yeah.”

He nuzzled her behind the ear. “Fair enough. Say, think you could help me work on my own writing? I… think I’m gonna try and do more of it.”

She slid off his back. “Sure! Golly, can’t say I’ve ever heard you say this much. I like it!”

He forced a grin. “How about we talk more after school? It’s no fair that AJ’s always the pony helping you with your homework. I can do my share… so long as it isn’t fancy writing, or making lists.”

The school bell started to ring, and Apple Bloom gasped. “Sounds great, but I gotta run! See you tonight!”

Apple Bloom galloped into the distance, leaving Big Mac alone with his list of names. The farm didn’t need any more little Apples just yet. He needed to make up for lost time with the one that they already had.

---

Big Mac gave the list a quick read. Seeing these ponies would take him all over town. With any luck, he'd finish up just as the school ended for the day. Maybe Cheerilee would have a minute to spare. Then again, when would a mare like her ever have a minute, or even a second to call her own? Tending to a room full of little ponies like Apple Bloom sounded about as easy as herding cats.

A baby duckling darted out of the bushes next to the path and stared up at him. Another appeared, and then a third. Each one stopped as soon as they noticed the red behemoth standing in the roadway. The mother duck came last of all, announcing her presence with a fearsome quack worthy of a drill sergeant. The baby ducklings scurried into a line behind their mother, who promptly led them across the path and into the grass.

Fluttershy flew over the bushes a few seconds later. “Careful now, lots of ponies come this way in the morn—” The mother duck shot Fluttershy a withering glare, and led her brood onward and out of sight.

Fluttershy sank to the ground, right in front of Big Mac. “S-Sorry! I-I’ll keep up next time, I p-promise!”

Big Mac took a second look at his list. Maybe Apple Bloom was onto something. Even if he didn’t have something in particular to say to all of these ponies, maybe he could help them out a little. The thought of any pony, or duck, hurting such a kind soul as Fluttershy made his blood boil. “Morning, Fluttershy.”

She glanced up at him, not unlike one of the baby ducklings. “Hi, Big Mac. Sorry, I don’t mean to block the path… I’d better be going.”

“Just a minute, mind if we… have a few words?”

She ran her front hooves through her mane with ever-increasing speed. “W-words? What’s wrong? What did I do?”

“Nothing, I swear. Just thought I might help you out.”

She gave a deep sigh of relief and put her hooves back on the ground. “Oh. What about?”

“Well… What about what happened just now? That mother duck didn’t seem too grateful for you trying to help.”

Fluttershy stared at the ground. “Oh, that was my fault. I got caught up talking to a hummingbird, but Mrs. Duck insisted on getting to the pond right away. I shouldn’t have dawdled.”

Big Mac held back a grin. “Fluttershy… I understand helping animals is your special talent and all, but did you ever consider sticking up for yourself a bit more? No offense, but those little ducks looked like they had more backtalk in ‘em than you.”

She took to running her hooves through her mane again. “I don’t want to be rude…”

“Don’t mean they get be rude to you.”

“I-I tried taking an assertiveness class, once. It was awful, I just ended up being mean.”

“Didn’t say you have to act real different. Just start with… thinking different.”

Her hoof motions stopped, and she stared at him. “Thinking different?”

“Just because some critter thinks you ought to feel or act a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to.”

“Oh… well I know that, but…”

He knelt down so they were at eye level. “Bottling it up won’t help, either. How about this? Let it all out and give me your best right hook. Show me Fluttershy’s not afraid of what some busybody duck has to say.”

She gasped and backed away. “H-hit you? I-I’d never do that! I-I never hit anypony!”

He grinned. “I know, that’s why I’m offering so you can blow off a little steam. You won’t do me any harm, Fluttershy, Just let me have it.”

He tapped his jaw and winked.

She regarded her own hoof with abject terror, as if she was holding a lit stick of dynamite. “Are… are you sure?”

He nodded. “The biggest part of standing up for yourself is knowing what you’re capable o—”

Big Mac suddenly found himself sprawled on the side of the path with a throbbing pain in his jaw. “Wha… happened?”

Fluttershy was hovering over him, gnawing on her hooves. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh! A-are you okay, Big Mac? I-I really didn’t mean to! You just got me thinking about the way some of the animals have been treating me this week, and how I should’ve said something to them, and how I never do, and…”

For a moment, Big Mac didn’t see the kind and sweet pegasus he’d stopped to help. In her place was some sort of winged punching machine with bricks for hooves. “That’s… that’s okay, Fluttershy. Guess I asked for it, didn’t I? Just… uh… just remember to stand up for yourself in little ways… If you ever feel like hitting something, come buck a few apples with me and AJ. I’m pretty sure the trees can take it…”

She helped him to his hooves and hugged him. “Thanks, Big Mac. It… it felt good to let that come out. We should do this more often.”

He shivered. “You mean talk, right?”

She giggled. “Yes, talk.”

---

Big Mac stumbled into Sugar Cube Corner and found the nearest table. His head was still spinning. Maybe Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps were related. A milkshake would help, and would look less pathetic than a bag of ice. Not that he had to worry about being spotted, the bakery was deserted at this time of the morning. From the smell of things, the Cakes were in the back frosting cupcakes. He’d have to come back later to have a word with Carrot; all he had in mind for him was a “you’re on” for the next poker night, anyway.

Pinkie Pie appeared behind the counter. “Howdy there, stranger-pony!”

He had no idea what to say to Pinkie. Not that he ever did. Talking with the moon probably made more sense. “Howdy, Pinkie. Could you get me a—”

She disappeared through a door. “Coming right up!”

“But… you don’t know what—”

And then she was back, this time with a tray balanced on her head.

A moment later, a milkshake and a pair of cupcakes were in front of him. “What’s all th—”

Pinkie held a cupcake under his nose. “These are Mrs. Cake’s newest recipe: Double Apple Surprise!”

The cupcake found his way into his mouth as soon as he tried to speak. Pinkie leaned over to his ear. “The surprise is one of the ‘apples’ is a pineapple!”

Her laugh was sweet, and the cupcake was sweeter still.

“Thanks, Pinkie.”

She held up the milkshake next. “And this is my newest recipe, I thought of it just before you walked in!”

He dutifully took a sip. The milkshake somehow possessed the cool burn of an ice pack, a head-clearing jolt of energy, and a hint of coconut. “What do you call this?”

“Bucket of Ice Water.”

He took a second look at the concoction he was drinking, which was most definitely not just water, and then to the unpredictable mare who’d given it to him. “Thanks.”

She nodded. “I’m still working on the name. So whatchya doing here all bright and early and chatty?”

He took a long pull on the straw. “Just… here to say hi, I guess. Do you know if Mr. Cake still doing poker night this Tuesday?”

She nodded. “He sure is! I’m babysitting upstairs. Are you coming?”

“If there’s a spot at the table, I’ll be there.”

Pinkie held up a hooffull of cards. “Always, Big Macsie. Always.” She laid the cards on the table, revealing a full house.

“Where did—”

The second cupcake found its way into his open mouth.

Pinkie set the empty tray on her back. “Gotta run, Big Mac, there’s a whole lot more cupcakes that need baking before the lunch rush, and we’ve got a super-big catering job tonight for Rainbow Dash. Come by and talk again soon, ‘kay?”

She was out of the room before he could finish chewing.

He glanced around the empty room, secretly wishing for a bystander to compare notes with. Maybe Fluttershy had hit him harder than he thought. Maybe he hadn’t talked to Pinkie at all. He licked his lips and tasted pineapple; so much for that theory. Too bad he hadn’t said much of anything to her, unless cupcake-chewing counted. In Pinkie’s case, maybe it did.

Mr. Cake stuck his head through the kitchen door. His mane and ever-present cap were dusted with powdered sugar. “Did I hear a customer?”

Big Mac grinned. “I’m good, Carrot. Poker this Tuesday?”

Mr. Cake smiled and walked over. “That’s right, are you coming?”

“I reckon I am.”

“Good, the other guys and I missed you last time! Thunderlane almost cleaned us out.”

“You’re kiddin’ me, that pony hasn’t got a poker-face to save his—”

Mr. Cake winked. “I said almost; Davenport came out of nowhere and… are we actually having a conversation?”

“Eeyup.”

Mr. Cake pulled off his cap and held it over his heart. “I haven’t heard you say this much since we were foals. Is… is everything all right?”

“Eeyup.” Big Mac drank in Mr. Cake’s look of incredulity, which he suspected was the sort of reaction Pinkie saw all the time. Being on the receiving end was a welcome change.

“Well… the poker game is at seven like always. Are you sure you don’t want a cupcake or something?”

“Nope.” This just kept getting better.

Mrs. Cake appeared in the doorway next, covered in sugar and balancing a foal on her head. “Dear, could you come take Pound? He found his way into the butter again.”

Mr. Cake gasped. “I’ll be right there, honeybun! Sorry, Big Mac, duty calls.”

“Carrot?”

Mr. Cake stopped halfway to the kitchen door and looked back. “Yes?”

Big Mac’s grin was gone. Making Carrot second-guess his sanity was fun, but not as fun as taking his bits in a poker game. That was the closest he’d ever come to getting a piece of his home life. “You’ve got it really good, Carrot: wife, kids… don’t ever forget it.”

Mr. Cake smiled. “I never do.”

---

Applejack raced through Ponyville’s streets. “Big Mac, where in Equestria did you get off t—”

Suddenly Pinkie was in the road in front of her, wearing a hardhat and holding up a red stop sign. “Hold it!”

Applejack skidded to a halt, leaving a trail of dust in her wake and a burning heat in her hooves. “Pinkie, what’re you doing? Wait, forget that. Have you seen Big Mac?”

Pinkie nodded and held up a half-empty glass. “I sure did! That pesky pony didn’t finish off his milkshake, and I really needed to know what he thought of it.”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Do tell. Did you see which—” A straw hovered in front of her eyes, and Pinkie looked from her to the glass with her best pouty face. “—All right, all right. I’ll take a sip. Just tell me which way Big Mac went.”

Pinkie passed her the glass. “First, the taste test.”

Applejack put the straw in her mouth and took a drink. “Hmm. Pretty tasty, I’d say. Could use a touch more fruit.”

Pinkie pulled out a notepad and scribbled something. “More… fruit… Thanks, Applejack! Do you think Big Mac would like them at his wedding reception?”

Applejack spit out the milkshake. “What?”

Pinkie handed her a napkin. “His wedding, silly. Right after he left Sugar Cube Corner, I got a double-tail-twitch-back-leg-itch-dizzy-then-hanging-from-the-ceiling jolt from my Pinkie Sense, and that means there’s going to be a wedding!”

Applejack sighed. “There ain’t gonna be no wedding, at least not as far as I know… Could you just tell me which way? There’s been a big misunder—”

“Unless the back leg itch distracted me from a third tail twitch! That’d mean a medical misdiagnosis!” She giggled and shook her head. “But what are the chances of that?”

“Better than you might think.”