• Published 29th Dec 2015
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Lost Time - bookplayer



When Rainbow tries to change the course of the zap apple harvest to keep her date with Applejack, she finds that ancient magic loves an ironic twist.

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Sooner or Later

There was a weird breeze blowing as Rainbow Dash banked to descend onto Sweet Apple Acres. It sent a shiver down her spine as she circled the farm. She flew low over the apple trees dotted with red fruit and the barnyard scattered with chickens, empty bushels, watering cans, and sacks of fertilizer before something different caught her eye: the scraggly zap apple trees had scraggly dark leaves today.

She headed in that direction, and sure enough there was Big Mac, hauling a cart heavy with stacks of bushels, while she found Applejack unloading a similar cart and placing the brown baskets around the bases of the crooked trunks.

Rainbow grinned and landed in the middle of the row. Applejack was turning away from a tree to get a new bushel, her careless ponytails just barely holding onto all that blonde mane and tail and the dust clinging to her damp, messy coat. Anypony who didn’t think AJ looked hot when she was working obviously wasn’t into mares—at least, not awesome mares. Applejack noticed her and smiled in return, but she didn’t pause on the way back to her cart.

“All ready for tonight?” Rainbow asked, using a hoof to casually smooth her mane.

“I’m glad ya came by, I was gonna send Apple Bloom with a note.” Applejack hoisted a bushel onto her back and headed to the next tree. “The timberwolves were howlin’ last night, so the zap apples are comin’ and I’m busy as a bee at a flower stall. I’m gonna have to reschedule.” She paused and looked up at the branches.

Rainbow’s face fell to an annoyed frown. “Come on, you can’t work all night!” She smiled again and trotted to where Applejack was carefully placing the bushel, then gave her a nudge with her shoulder. “You’ll need a break, and a date with Rainbow Dash is the most awesome way to relax!”

Applejack chuckled and shook her head as she turned to go back to the cart. “‘Rainbow Dash’ and ‘relaxin’’ ain’t exactly words I’d put together. Besides, I don’t wanna be dog-tired on our first date.”

“Planning on being pretty active, huh?” Rainbow smirked, leaning against the tree. A sharp shock from the bark jolted her standing again, and she glared at the thing.

“I’m plannin’ nothin’ of the sort.” Applejack smirked back. “We’re doin’ this to see how we like it, and if you can go three hours without drivin’ me crazy.”

“Three hours is easy! I bet I could go four and a half hours without driving you crazy!” Rainbow said, grinning as Applejack turned her back to get another basket. Rainbow Dash stuck a hoof out and moved the already-placed basket about a foot to the left.

“Prove it,” Applejack said over her shoulder.

“I will!” She eyed the basket she had moved, then silently snickered. “…Later. So if you can’t go out tonight, how about tomorrow?”

Applejack turned around and smiled at her, trotting to another tree with a basket on her back. “I’m gonna be busy all week, Dash. But I was thinkin’, if I work hard and everythin’ goes right, I could take off Saturday evenin’. That’d be the day before harvest, and there’ll be a meteor shower that night. It seems right nice for a date.”

“I was going to Canterlot Saturday night.” Rainbow frowned. “Sunday they’re doing fittings for flight suits for Wonderbolts reservists, and I wanted to be first in line.”

Applejack bumped the bushel to the ground. She turned to Rainbow and shrugged. “Then we’ll have to wait for next week. I’m gonna be neck-deep in zap apples ’til then.”

“You can’t be working the whole time!” Rainbow flapped into the air to cross her forehooves.

Applejack rolled her eyes. “I already told ya when I can catch a break, but you got Wonderbolts stuff.”

“This totally isn’t fair.” Rainbow waved a hoof. “You can’t ask me to choose between you and the Wonderbolts.”

“Who’s askin’ you to choose between that?” Applejack trotted over to Rainbow and laid a hoof on her foreleg. Rainbow slowly sank back to the ground. “It’s just a first date, sugarcube. Either we wait another week and you go to Canterlot Saturday, or we could go out Saturday night and you could fly out early Sunday for your fittin’.”

“Well, before I decide…” Rainbow smirked and looked Applejack over for the millionth time, taking in all her curvy muscles. “How many dates is it gonna be before we get to the good stuff? Is there a chance we’re making out on the first date, or do we need to get another date in before that?”

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “Well… I reckon we could make out on the first date.” She cocked her head to the side, considering. “Shouldn’t take more than a week to get a weddin’ together after that. Then, of course, you can’t rush foals, so it’ll probably be next winter before the first of those comes along.”

Rainbow’s eyes shot open wide. “Foals?! I don’t want to marry you or anything, I just wanna kiss you!”

“I just figured you’re in such a rush…” Applejack said with a shrug.

“Yeah, to date you.” Rainbow shook her head clear. “We’re both awesome ponies who like doing awesome stuff, and there’s even more awesome stuff we can do if we’re going out. I mean, maybe someday we can get married and have a foal… when we’re old and already did all the awesome stuff.” She shrugged. “And when we figure out how two mares are gonna have a foal.”

Applejack chuckled and nudged her with her shoulder. “I’m messin’ with ya. The rooster’s got a lotta crowin’ to do before we get to that stuff, if we even get there. First we gotta have a first date, and I reckon we’ll find out then if I wanna kiss you.”

“Well, I wanna find that out as soon as possible.” Rainbow smiled. Applejack’s athletic body being so close to her made her think right now was a good time.

“Then that’s Saturday night,” Applejack said, trotting back to the cart.

“But the Wonderbolts…” Rainbow sighed, watching her trot away.

“I guess you can’t have your cake and find out if you’re gonna kiss it, too.” Applejack smirked over her shoulder. “Sometimes you gotta make the tough choices.”

Rainbow wrinkled her muzzle. “I hate tough choices.”

Applejack shook her head. “This really ain’t all that tough. It’s gonna be good either way.”

“It’s going to be good either way, but if you could go out with me tomorrow it would be awesome both ways,” Rainbow pointed out.

“I think you’re underestimatin’ how awesome good stuff can be,” Applejack said, bumping a basket onto her back and bringing it to another tree.

“Whatever. I guess…” Rainbow sighed. “We’ll go out next week. It’ll look really good to the team if I’m first in line.”

Applejack smiled. “That sounds just fine.”

“But you’ll let me know if you have time before then?” Rainbow asked.

Applejack walked past her. “I sure will, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Zap apples never hurried up for nopony before.” As she passed, she gave the basket near Rainbow a kick to the right, and raised an eyebrow at Rainbow.

Rainbow snickered for a moment. Then she took off, calling behind her, “I’ll see you later!”

As she flew over the gray zap apple trees, Rainbow frowned down at them. If it wasn’t for those trees, Rainbow would be going to get ready for an awesome date right now. A thought entered her head, the kind of great idea that she knew better than to tell anypony about because they always wasted a bunch of time telling her it wasn’t a great idea. Zap apples might not have hurried up for anypony before, but zap apples had never met Rainbow Dash. She adjusted her wings, caught an updraft, and headed in the direction of the Everfree Forest.

• • •

Over the Everfree, the clouds were churning in a slow, lazy circle a couple miles wide.

All weather had magic in it that pegasi could feel; normally it felt like pieces clicking together or snapping apart between the pony and the standard Cloudsdale weather components. As Rainbow Dash flew over the moving clouds she could feel the magic here shifting, changing shape, fighting against her own magic. She grinned. It reminded her of wrestling with the forces and magic just before a sonic rainboom, and winning that match always felt awesome.

Rule number one of the Ponyville Weather Patrol was “Do Not Mess With the Weather Over the Everfree.” Rule number two was “Especially Not the Zap Apple Weather.” There was a good reason for that. Weather magic was one part skill, one part physical prowess, and one part natural talent, and to try to mess with the untamed stuff a pegasus had better be sure they were on top of all three parts. While a lot of pegasi thought they could handle it, and even more of them would claim they could handle it, Cloudsdale knew better than to let them risk their tails with a wild magic thunderstorm.

But those pegasi had never mastered a sonic rainboom, and they didn’t have a wild storm keeping them from a date with Applejack.

Rainbow set her sights on one of the clouds and came in for a landing. As her hooves touched the surface it set off a crack of thunder, and a bolt of lightning shot down somewhere in the forest. Wind whipped her mane and tail as the cloud shifted and rolled beneath her until she set her jaw and willed the thing to stay in one shape. It still moved across the sky, but she was riding it comfortably… masterfully, even. She smirked out at the rest of the weather, ready to work some magic.

The magic had to follow some pattern, she figured. The zap apples came on schedule, controlled by the weather magic, so right now the weather was just slowly getting to where it would need to be in the next few days, to set off the zap apples.

But if that weather got there faster, the zap apples would come faster. Heck, even if it just got there a day faster Applejack would be free on Friday night and they could go out then.

Taking off from her cloud, she made another sweep over the rough, tumbling sea of vapor below. The magic pushed and pulled in every direction, but there seemed to be something spinning it around a center point. That was just what she was looking for.

Rainbow flew to the center, working to keep control in the rough winds and unexpected shifts in the drafts. Once she found the spot, she dove down through the clouds, and through the winds and occasional lightning bolt under them, aiming for a clearing in the trees.

As she landed, the floor of the Everfree Forest was darker than ever, and wind shook the trees and brush, casting constantly moving shadows and reedy moans. The clearing wasn’t very large, and the movement around the edges could have been either shaking trees or horrific monsters waiting to eat her, but Rainbow Dash wasn’t that worried. The space was big enough for what she needed, and she’d be out of here in a few seconds.

Before she took off again, she spread her wings, feeling for the magic in the wind. The tumbling currents slipped through and around her feathers and her magic. Closing her eyes, Rainbow cleared her mind like she was pushing the force cone for a rainboom, her face twisted in effort. Her magic clamped onto the magic in the wind, and she was ready.

Rainbow started slowly flying in large circles around the clearing. It wasn’t a clean circle, thanks to the wind whipping around her, so she picked up speed. Moving faster let her cut through the currents more easily, dragging the magic she had grabbed behind her with the wind attached.

As she got her bearings, she tightened the circle, until she almost had a small tornado formed in the Everfree Forest. At that point she started moving up to the level of the canopy—the last thing she needed was a wild magic tornado to charge off toward Ponyville. At the treeline she was out of that danger, but the winds around her got even rougher, forcing her to increase her speed again.

The magic she was holding trailed after her, gathering more as she flew. It was turning from a strong breeze into a powerful gust of wind. If she let go now, there was no doubt it would sweep over her like a wave, tossing her like a foal’s pail in the ocean. She grit her teeth and held onto it with all of the magic inside of her.

Finally, when she was sure the magic was strong enough to hold up against the huge pool of magic above her, she flew in a tight corkscrew toward the clouds in the middle. As she burst through them, the winds behind her caught on the magic in the storm and it started spinning faster and faster.

Safely above the clouds, she had left most of the magic below, so she released what she had left. A sharp wind hit her from behind, but she was moving fast enough to hold steady. She looked down to see the sky below spinning quickly, the clouds darkening and rolling, lit up by the occasional flash of lightning.

She reached up to wipe her brow with her hoof and grinned as she shifted direction to speed over the storm toward Ponyville. That was what pegasus magic could do. Unicorns thought they were all cool—oh look at me, I can float stuff around in my glowy magic—but how many of them could take the reins of a mass of magic and energy miles across? None of them. Okay, well, maybe Twilight could’ve, but that’s why they made her a princess. Pegasi didn’t need horns to give the magic of nature a flying kick to the—

A sudden downdraft took her by surprise, sending her off course by at least twenty yards, where she found herself in the middle of a shifting system. She fought to regain control but the pressure was all over the place.

She descended to try to catch some wind, and she did, but it was a powerful blast left over from her magic that shoved her down into the clouds. Storm clouds gave off shocks and shot lightning bolts toward the ground as she tumbled through them. She couldn’t see in this mess, and with the constantly shifting winds she wasn’t even sure what direction she was headed.

Rainbow Dash reached out through her wings for the magic of the wind, to steady her and give her speed, but it just seemed to rip at her feathers and slip away.

Her heart starting to beat faster, she aimed for what she was pretty sure was up, and flew with all her might. Wings beating like mad against the wild magic and powerful winds, she prayed to Celestia she was moving in a direction that would take her out into the open sky.

As she approached the top, she could faintly hear the caw of crows above the wind and see fluttering shadows through the clouds. Her wings caught more familiar, steady magic and drove her faster until she finally broke free.

But she didn’t come out the top of the clouds. For just a second, Sweet Apple Acres spread out like a map in front of her.

Then she slammed into it, and everything went black.

• • •

As Rainbow opened her eyes, she was confused about why the sky had turned green. She could feel the soft grass under her back, so she was pretty sure she should be looking at blue.

She blinked, revealing that it wasn’t the sky, it was some number of blurry green ponies. Another few blinks and she decided it was a single, less-blurry pony. A colt with a green face and a red and orange forelock.

“That looked bad, Mom. Are you okay? Does anything hurt?”

Rainbow shook her head, rolling over to stand up. Was ‘mom’ what the foals were calling older mares these days? That was totally uncool, she wasn’t that old. Her body was sore from the crash, but nothing seemed to be broken as she pulled herself to her hooves.

“Nah, I’m good.”

“Dash, you okay?” Applejack was trotting up fast, followed by a brown pegasus filly with an orange mane and tail streaming behind her. Somehow Applejack had ended up with a baby carrier with a little blue baby attached to her side. “I told you to be careful flyin’ during zap apple season, those storms’ll take you like a cat on a cricket.”

“Yeah, just a little banged up.” Rainbow tried her wings, flapping into the air. She looked around; she was surrounded by apple trees, so she was probably in the orchard at Sweet Apple Acres. But AJ hadn’t mentioned anypony else around. “Where’d all these kids come from?”

Applejack chuckled, nuzzling the baby’s green mane. “Sometimes it seems like they just wandered onto the farm, don’t it? But I kinda like ’em, so I guess they can stay.”

Rainbow tilted her head to the side, examining the kids. The colt seemed to be the oldest; he was about the age that Scootaloo and her friends were, but Rainbow had never seen him around. He was an earth pony, green with a mane streaked red, yellow, and orange, and no cutie mark yet. The brown filly seemed younger, and her orange mane was tied in a ponytail like AJ’s. She had freckles like AJ, too. Probably a relative, but Applejack had never mentioned being related to any pegasi. The little blue baby with the green mane was also a pegasus, and… probably a colt, as far as Rainbow could tell. Whatever it was, it was definitely too little to have just wandered onto the farm.

“Don’t they have parents or something?” Rainbow asked, raising an eyebrow. “Where’d you find them? I was just talking to you, like, fifteen minutes ago, before I crashed.”

Applejack stared at her, and her smile fell. Her eyes darted to the green colt and brown filly, then back to Rainbow as she said slowly, “Rainbow Dash, what day is it?”

“Wednesday?” Rainbow asked.

“No, it’s Saturday!” the filly corrected, giggling at her.

Rainbow furrowed her brow. “I was laying here for three days?”

“What month?” Applejack went on.

Rainbow raised her eyebrows. “June?”

Applejack nodded and seemed to relax a little. “Year?”

“1005,” Rainbow answered easily. Then she caught the mix of worry and skepticism on AJ’s face.

The green colt rolled his eyes at Rainbow. “Mom, stop fooling around.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes right back, and crossed her forelegs. “Why do you keep calling me Mom?”

“Okay, everypony, up to the farmhouse!” Applejack said suddenly, before the colt could respond. “I gotta have a talk with Mom.”

“Is she gonna be okay?” the colt asked.

“She’s gonna be fine,” Applejack said, nudging him to start walking and looking around to make sure Dash and the brown filly were moving too. “Just got her brain rattled around when she crashed. Celestia knows she’s probably done it enough in her life.”

Rainbow frowned, flying along with AJ down the row of trees. “My brain is—”

The little brown filly flew up next to her. “Do you need Mama to kiss an owie, Mommy?”

Whatever she had been about to say was lost in total confusion at that statement. “I… uh…”

“That’s just what she needs, half-pint,” Applejack said with a smile at the little girl.

“What if something is really wrong?” The colt trotted along with AJ on the ground, his brow furrowed in worry. “She could have a concussion… or brain damage! A lot of pros mess up their brains after too many crashes…”

“Then we’ll go see a doctor,” Applejack said, ruffling his mane. “Don’t you worry.”

“AJ, I don’t wanna have brain damage!” Rainbow darted down on the other side of Applejack. Her eyes were wide and there was a sudden twisting feeling in her gut.

“We’re gonna take care of it.” Applejack glared at Rainbow, then leaned over and whispered, “Dash, don’t get ’im worked up. Tell ’im it’s okay.”

Rainbow blinked, then looked over at the foal. He was looking really concerned, so she swallowed and smiled. “It’s… um… okay. It’s all cool.” She shrugged and tossed in a dashing grin. “Nothing to worry about.”

The boy didn’t seem convinced as they came to the farmhouse. “If you say so…”

Rainbow did say so, and as the small group made their way to the farmhouse she almost started to believe it herself. But she still found herself flying close to Applejack’s side.

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